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Meeting the Holy Spirit in the Hallway

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 12:44

The latest in our series on "Pentecost and the Holy Spirit Today."

I’m blessed to have become aware of the reality of the spiritual world before coming to know the Holy Spirit. Because I knew the spiritual world was real, it was much easier to embrace the Holy Spirit as the real deal. 

Fascinated with New Age

In the years before I met my wife, I became fascinated with New Age. I hit the Psychic Eye book store the way other Californians hit In-N-Out burger. Had to get my regular fix. Astral projection? Why not? L.A. traffic is horrible. If there’s a way to get around without having to get in the car, sign me up.

Past-life regression? Why not? Maybe I was thinner in a previous life. Spirit-guides? Was it a Greek fisherman like one lady told me or a long dead Italian ancestor as another told me, who cares? I’d appreciate the company. White witchcraft? We Italians have just as rich a history as the Celts. How come they get all the press?

Then there were Tarot cards. I was enraptured. Read everything I could. Had “psychics” give me Tarot “readings” just for the fun of watching them do it. I became an expert. So good, I’d watch street psychics give readings in New Orleans or Venice Beach, and I’d be shaking my head. “Nope. Wrong. Wrong.”

I even ended up teaching some of the Psychic Eye people already paid to do “readings” how to read Tarot cards. (Including a young lady who got up to $300 an hour in Malibu.) Heck, I could do a reading using baseball cards. 

Through all the experiences and friendships I came to know the spiritual world is real. I became aware. (Ask me sometime about the terrified mafioso’s haunted beach house.)

The Dark Candle Magic

Yet through the sweet incense and lilting sounds of Lorena McKinnitt, darkness and malice soon pierced. I physically could not bear the occult section of the store. Drifting past, I’d recoil as if from a snarling, rabid dog. I progressed from “This is strange” to “This is bad” to “This is evil.” Evil was real. And evil was at work.

There was a woman who did readings at Psychic Eye. She was from a powerful family in Latin America. Very charismatic, very fun, very vivacious. Picture Modern Family‘s Sophia Vergara. One day, the “viva” was gone. Someone had tried to move in on her man. 

“That **** will pay,” she hissed with a menace that would make a mobster cower. Her eyes grew very dark. She detailed the dark candle magic spell she had put on her romantic rival. A cackle, then a matter-of-fact, “She may be dead already.”

Some of you might be thinking, “What nonsense.” Don’t fool yourself. I’ve stood close enough to the unholy fire to get singed and smell the ash. Nonsense is believing evil isn’t real, that the demonic is not at work.

Now the Good News

Now the good news. My wife came along and brought with her the Good News. Rusty is Charismatic. She would take me to Charismatic church services. People were speaking in tongues, people were laying on hands, people were speaking words of knowledge, people were being “slain in the Spirit.”

And THIS person did not freak out. Even two years earlier, such demonstrations and manifestations would have sent me sprinting down Ventura Blvd. Watching the tormented delivered, the sick healed, the truth revealed was so wonderful. So comfortable. So right. This is how things are supposed to be. 

The key word in that paragraph was “watching.” Of course, God isn’t much desiring of spectators. 

The Party and the Hallway

Rusty and I would have talks about my beliefs. Or as she says now, she just asked questions and let the Holy Spirit work. I’d never actually examined my beliefs. We’d take a drive down the coast and by the time we got to San Diego, I’d be arguing and defending her position.

“Well, with Tarot cards,” I’d say, “when it comes down to it, any card can mean anything at any time. And if something can mean anything, it means nothing. The Bible can be turned upside down, it’s books read in different order, and it still means the same thing.”

Still, one day my old job asked if I would do Tarot readings for the company Halloween party. I didn’t really want to do it, especially knowing Rusty wouldn’t approve. However, I also didn’t want to let my company down, leave them short on entertainment. And yeah, part of me still attracted to the thrill of watching stories emerge from the colorful cards.

So we hit on a solution. I would do it, but only as a huge joke. I was a comedy writer, after all. Making a big joke out of pretending to read fortunes would be easy, right?

But the Lord wasn’t in a joking mood. My attempts at funny failed. Instead, everything coming out of my mouth resonated with the people. I knew this guy was going to New York. I knew that lady was pregnant. On and on. A line started forming.

The Small, Still Voice

I began hearing a small, still voice. The Teacher started instructing, “You are on the wrong side. This is not for you to do.” For three hours this went on. Party was over, tables put away and still I was there. But by the end, the lessons was learned, “I’m on the wrong side. This is not for me to do.”

I knew I was done. Fighting was done. I knew what side I was supposed to be on. It was the side of light. The Light.

I was so drained and battered that walking back to my office, I collapsed against the hallway wall. The Comforter grabbed me. Wrapped his arms around me, kept me from falling to the ground.

“I’ve got you,” said the Holy Spirit. He hasn’t let go since.

FRC Pres. Appointed Commissioner of U.S. Commission on Int’l Religious Freedom

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 12:16

Tony Perkins was appointed as the new commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday.

Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, will serve as commissioner of USCIRF for a two-year term and remain president of FRC during that time, according to an FRC press release. President Donald Trump and bipartisan congressional leadership appointed Perkins. Senior fellow of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative Frank Wolf and Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, both hailed Perkins' appointment to the role.

"From my post at USCIRF, I look forward to doing all that I can to ensure that our government is the single biggest defender of religious freedom internationally. One immediate step our government can take in this regard is to make sure that the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act is fully and properly implemented," Perkins said in a statement, according to FRC.

The Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act established the independently operating USCIRF as well as the Department of State International Religious Freedom Office.

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Perkins looked forward to working with cooperative representatives from countries labeled as Countries of Particular Concern to help get their countries off of that list, the new commissioner stated.

Meriam Ibraheem, a Sudanese Christian freed from imprisonment on charges of apostasy along with her young son and newborn daughter partly due to Perkins' help, was also pleased with Perkins' appointment, she said.

"If it wasn't for God, Tony and those working for religious freedom, I wouldn't be free today. I am excited that Tony will be serving in this new role," Ibraheem said, according to FRC.

Ibraheem now lives in the U.S. with her husband and children.

Critics like the Southern Poverty Law Center decried Perkins' appointment to the role, accusing him of "anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT views."

Jasser, who has worked with Perkins for several years, was "confident that his clarity and courage in the advocacy of religious freedom and universal human rights will be an outstanding addition to the mission of USCIRF and its vitally important work across the world in these difficult times," she said.


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Trump Backs 2 Successful US Senate Nominees in Primaries

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 11:57

President Donald Trump backed two successful U.S. Senate nominees in Pennsylvania and Nebraska, which were among four states holding primaries Tuesday.

The primaries began to settle swing state Pennsylvania’s chaotic congressional landscape after a court fight ended with redrawn districts just three months ago. Amid the redistricting, Republican Rick Saccone recorded his second loss in two months in two U.S. House districts.

Among the more unusual results of Tuesday’s primaries was the loss by Pennsylvania’s Democratic lieutenant governor, Mike Stack, who was ousted by mayor John Fetterman.

Oregon and Idaho also held primary elections.

Here’s a look at some of the other interesting races:

Trump’s Picks Prevail

Two of the president’s favored candidates, Lou Barletta in Pennsylvania and Deb Fischer in Nebraska, won their U.S. Senate primaries.

Barletta, currently a congressman, was heavily favored over state Rep. Jim Christiana to become the Republican challenger for Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, who is seeking a third term in November.

Barletta was a Trump supporter before the 2016 presidential nomination was settled. Trump asked Barletta to run for Senate, and the president is expected to visit Pennsylvania to campaign for him. The president also recorded telephone calls last weekend backing Barletta “fully, strongly and proudly.”

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Fischer, the incumbent, defeated four GOP challengers and will be the strong favorite to win re-election in deep-red Nebraska. Her Democratic opponent is Lincoln City Councilwoman Jane Raybould.

Early Tuesday afternoon, Trump tweeted: “Nebraska – make sure you get out to the polls and VOTE for Deb Fischer today!”

Last week, Trump urged GOP Senate primary voters to support Rep. Jim Renacci in the Ohio Senate and oppose former coal company executive Don Blankenship in West Virginia. Renacci won and Blankenship lost.

Women Rule in Redrawn Districts

Pennsylvania could send at least three women Congress next year, breaking the all-male hold on the state’s 18-member U.S. House delegation.

Mary Gay Scanlon won a 10-way Democratic primary and Madeleine Dean won a three-way Democratic primary on Tuesday night for two suburban Philadelphia seats that are likely to flip to Democrats following a court-ordered redrawing of the state’s congressional district boundaries.

Meanwhile, Chrissy Houlahan is the uncontested Democratic nominee for another suburban Philadelphia seat where she’s heavily favored in November.

Women won contested Democratic primaries in three other seats in Pennsylvania, although two of those seats are in solidly Republican districts and another is considered a toss-up in November.

Incumbent Lieutenant Governor Falls 

Mike Stack became the first holder of the Pennsylvania lieutenant’s office to lose in a primary election.

John Fetterman, the Braddock mayor, won the five-way Democratic Party primary race for lieutenant governor Tuesday, meaning he will run on a ticket with Gov. Tom Wolf in the fall. Pennsylvania first started allowing lieutenant governors to serve a second term in the 1970s.

Fetterman had made a failed bid in 2016 for the U.S. Senate.

Stack, a former Philadelphia state senator, has had a chilly relationship with Wolf in their first term together.

Wolf last year ordered an investigation into the treatment of state employees by Stack and his wife and stripped Stack of state police protection.

Second Loss in Two Months for Saccone

Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone, who lost a special election two months ago to Democrat Conor Lamb for a congressional seat, has now lost a two-way Republican primary for a different U.S. House seat.

Saccone lost Tuesday’s 14th Congressional District primary election to state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler for the open seat in a heavily Republican, newly drawn district.

In March, Lamb narrowly beat Saccone in a district that President Donald Trump won in 2016 by about 20 percentage points. The president campaigned in the district twice and sent several tweets on Saccone’s behalf. The White House later contended that it was Lamb who had had embraced the president’s policies and vision.

Political Newcomer Wins in Nebraska 

Social worker and political newcomer Kara Eastman has won the Democratic nomination for Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District.

Eastman defeated former Rep. Brad Ashford in Tuesday’s primary election with a campaign that cast her as a champion of liberal ideals, including supporting a single-payer health care system.

Eastman contrasted herself against Ashford, a centrist and former Republican who focused on his legislative experience and willingness to work with conservatives.

She will now face Rep. Don Bacon, a first-term Republican who defeated Ashford in the 2016 election.

Ashford had been the first Democrat in two decades to win the district, which encompasses much of the Omaha metro area. Although Omaha’s strong Democratic core is balanced out by more conservative suburbs, the district gives Democrats a fighting chance of capturing a congressional seat in a state that is otherwise overwhelmingly Republican.

Oregon Chooses GOP Candidate Among 10 Gubernatorial Hopefuls 

State Rep. Knute Buehler has emerged from a crowded primary to capture the Republican nomination for Oregon governor.

Buehler, who ran for secretary of state in 2012, was the most centrist of the Republican front-runners. He was among 10 GOP candidates in the primary.

However, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown remains the favorite to win in November. Brown became governor in 2015 upon the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber following an ethics scandal, and she won a special election in 2016.

Oregon is among eight states where Democrats control the governorship and both houses of the state legislature. Voters who identify as Democrats also outnumber their Republican counterparts by more than 9 percentage points.

In Idaho Governor’s Race, a Democratic First 

When former state Rep. Paulette Jordan, 38, won her primary, she became the first woman to be the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Idaho. If she wins the general election, Jordan, a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, would not only be the first woman to serve as Idaho governor but also the first Native American woman to serve in that position in any state.

But she faces a difficult race: Idaho hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 1990, and the Republican Party now controls a supermajority on all federal, state and legislative seats.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little, 64, a rancher who has spent the past 16 years in elected office, secured the GOP nomination. He’s the pick of Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, who decided not to seek a fourth term.


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

Yes, Make Catholicism ‘Weird’ Again. But Not Stupid and Tribalist.

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 11:26

In a column reflecting on the trainwreck that was the Met fashion gala featuring half-clad actresses dressed up in Catholic vestments, Ross Douthat tries to squeeze some lemonade out of lemons. Yes, we weep that New York's Cardinal Dolan arranged for this scandal. (Big donors to the archdiocese serve on the Met’s board, you see.) But Douthat dries his eyes and tries to see something deeper. A crowd full of campy, secular New Yorkers wanted to gawk at copes and chasubles. That tells us something. We need to "make Catholicism weird again."

I agree. We Catholics should stop dumbing down the liturgy. Watering down doctrines. Apologizing for every aspect of the Faith that makes us stand out from other post-modern Americans. We should be marching Corpus Christi processions down New York's Madison Avenue. Make it complete with Gregorian chant and silk canopies. Solid-gold monstrances that display the Body of Christ. We should scrutinize ourselves, see all those times when we deep-sixed devotions and customs that once powerfully passed on the Faith. Everything from question-and-answer catechisms to praying grace in restaurants should be back on the table.

Embracing the Strange

All that is true. I devoted a series of Bad Catholics' Guides to promoting just such a project. I cover the wackiest saints' days, the most outrageous customs, and the many types of alcohol that monks have made over the centuries. And I don't soft-pedal doctrine. Quite the contrary.

By all means, let's embrace those "weird" externals that edify believers and transfix outsiders. For one thing, most of them are intrinsically worthy. For another, they counter a culture that is dying anyway and mostly deserves to: a secular West that has abandoned not just faith but reason and even beauty.

Catholicism as an Angry, Incoherent Ideology

Alas, a column by Matthew Walther to which Douthat linked as an example of "making it weird" does something quite different. In it, Walther questions the value of Catholics cooperating politically with evangelical Protestants. He claims that this alliance is responsible for Catholics abandoning their principles. The result?

Forty years of infanticide, economic exploitation, and spoliation of the Earth as the forces of capital and technology disrupt all our settled customs, habits, convictions, and affections, at an increasingly rapid pace.

He pounds on the table claiming that Catholic politics should be guided by the construct he calls a "social Magisterium." Which in fact does not exist as he imagines it. It’s just a myth.

Reading Walther reminds us that there are aspects of old Catholic culture that aren't worth digging back up. We can make the Faith "weird" again without making ourselves bigoted, mindless tribalists. And that was part of the mix in the past, make no mistake. When I helped organize traditional Latin Masses in New York City, I'd run across people who clung to old outrages against reason, common sense, or simple charity. That's the dark shadow cast by the wholesome desire to recover what's good that we lost.

Real Catholics share far more in common with Robert Jeffress than we do with liberal Jesuits.

Most people I met at those beautifully chanted, reverent Masses were earnest, bourgeois believers. Others were delightful eccentrics. Still others were cranks. They would urge me to read the books of Fr. Denis Fahey. He's the Irish conspiracy theorist from the 30s who warned that "organized Jewry" is the "synagogue of Satan." Others would press on me the broadcasts of pro-fascist radio celebrity Fr. Charles Coughlin. Or the works of E. Michael Jones, who today talks of Jews as "the mystical body of Antichrist."

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Contempt for Fellow Christians

I also found in such circles an easy, unthinking contempt for Protestant fellow Christians. By this I don't mean considered criticisms of Luther, Calvin, or even contemporary Pentecostalism. No, I heard constant, flippant, lazy rejection of people who sincerely live their faith. Who agree with orthodox Catholics on 80-90 percent of traditional Christian doctrine, compared to the 5 or 10 percent we share with the Jesuits at Georgetown. Protestants, by the way, do much of the heavy lifting nowadays defending innocent life, the family, and basic American liberties. Too many bishops are busy replacing the 40 percent of U.S. Catholics who apostatize with shiny new immigrants. Or chasing federal contracts for their "charities," while equating the sale of aborted baby parts with Medicaid cuts.

Getting drunk on mindless tribalism is a great way to get key facts grossly wrong. And to keep Christians helpless, divided among themselves just long enough for the secularists to silence us.

From brainier types at the Latin Mass coffee hour, I'd hear arguments like Thomas Pink's. He suggests that Catholic bishops have the right to use force to "coerce" every baptized Christian into repeating Catholic doctrine or staying silent. Or Fr. Romanus Cessario's, who wrote in First Things, defending Pope Pius IX for using such authority to kidnap a baptized Jewish child and raise him in the Vatican.

Tribalism Makes You Stupid

None of this is "weird" in the amiable sense that Douthat meant it. No, it's repugnant, on a profound and visceral level. It offends what natural law theorists call the "deep conscience." That's the foundation of every moral insight. It's the part of your mind that tells you that Jewish children belong with their parents, who should guide their religious education. That terrorizing people with prison for their deepest beliefs is evil. Whether it's done by the Spanish Inquisition, Elizabeth I, Iranian mullahs or Chinese commissars.

Worst of all, perhaps, such attitudes make you stupid. They let you breeze past complex arguments, avoid serious questions, and cling to faith's externals like some comforting tribal totem. You can spurn real allies and rally around real enemies, just because they check some comforting boxes.

Walther did just that when he demanded the reinstatement of House Chaplain Fr. Patrick Conroy. That's the guy whom conservative Catholic Rep. Paul Ryan, with the support of other conservative Christians, sought to remove. And, as it turns out, Fr. Conroy is a pro-LGBT activist who politicized his ministry. Stream columnist Joseph Sciambra (a Catholic) wasn't too blinded by sectarianism to find out Conroy's views. But in an eruption not of Catholic citizenship but blind tribalism, Catholic groups rallied to Conroy, and now he's back. The Catholic League embarrassed itself by weighing in reflexively for Conroy. It demanded that Ryan’s chief of staff  be fired for opposing him, and requesting a Protestant chaplain for a change. Pro-choice House Democrats ate it all up.

Tribalism makes you stupid. It lets you breeze past complex arguments, avoid serious questions, and cling to faith's externals like some comforting totem. You can spurn real allies and rally around real enemies, just because they check some comforting boxes.

Mainline Protestant Catholics

Real Catholics share far more in common -- believe more of the same things I mean -- with Franklin Graham or even Robert Jeffress than we do with the likes of Conroy. That's just a fact. Conservative Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox have disagreements, of course. Important ones. But nothing like the yawning gap that divides us from the post-modern posers we variously label "Mainline" Protestants or "progressive Catholics."

Getting drunk on mindless tribalism is a great way to get such facts grossly wrong. And to keep Christians helpless, divided among themselves just long enough for the secularists to silence us. Giving into that isn’t "weird" or countercultural. It's just lazy and scandalous.

Planned Parenthood, ACLU Sue Iowa Over ‘Cruel’ 6-Week Abortion Ban

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 00:01

Two pro-abortion groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday over Iowa's new law banning abortion after six weeks, alleging the law is cruel and reckless.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed their lawsuit against Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Board of Medicine in an attempt to strike down Iowa's newly passed law banning all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. A heartbeat typically manifests at about six weeks into a pregnancy. The new legislation also bans the sale of all fetal tissue in the state.

"We've moved quickly to challenge this cruel and reckless law because it cannot be allowed to take effect," ACLU Iowa legal director Rita Bettis said, according to The Associated Press.

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Iowa's attorney general Tom Miller indicated that he would not defend the law because it "would undermine rights and protections for women," The AP reported.

The lawsuit follows reports of increased pro-life protests and advocacy outside of abortion clinics across the country, The AP noted.

South Carolina nearly passed a law banning all abortions except those performed in the case of rape, incest and to save the mother's life, but the bill died in the state's Senate.

Iowa's law will take effect July 1 pending Planned Parenthood and the ACLU's lawsuit. No other state limits abortion access as strictly.


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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

North Korea Threatens to Cancel US Summit

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 22:50

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea on Wednesday canceled a high-level meeting with South Korea and threatened to scrap a historic summit next month between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over military exercises between Seoul and Washington that Pyongyang has long claimed are invasion rehearsals.

The surprise declaration, which came in a pre-dawn dispatch in North Korea’s state media, appears to cool what had been an unusual flurry of outreach from a country that last year conducted a provocative series of weapons tests that had many fearing the region was on the edge of war. It’s still unclear, however, whether the North intends to scuttle all diplomacy or merely wants to gain leverage ahead of the planned June 12 talks between Kim and Trump.

The statement was released hours before the two Koreas were to meet at a border village to discuss how to implement their leaders’ recent agreements to reduce military tensions along their heavily fortified border and improve their overall ties.

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The North’s Korean Central News Agency called the two-week Max Thunder drills, which began Monday and reportedly include about 100 aircraft, an “intended military provocation” and an “apparent challenge” to an April summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, when the leaders met on their border in their countries’ third-ever summit talks since their 1948 division.

“The United States must carefully contemplate the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit amid the provocative military ruckus that it’s causing with South Korean authorities,” the North said Wednesday. “We’ll keenly monitor how the United States and South Korean authorities will react.”

Annual military drills between Washington and Seoul have long been a major source of contention between the Koreas, and analysts have wondered whether their continuation would hurt the detente that, since an outreach by Kim in January, has replaced the insults and threats of war. Earlier -- and much larger -- springtime drills, which Washington and Seoul toned down, went off without the North’s typically fiery condemnation or accompanying weapons tests.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department emphasized that Kim had previously indicated he understood the need and purpose of the U.S. continuing its long-planned exercises with South Korea. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. had not heard anything directly from Pyongyang or Seoul that would change that.

“We will continue to go ahead and plan the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un,” Nauert said.

Army Col. Rob Manning said this current exercise is part of the U.S. and South Korea’s “routine, annual training program to maintain a foundation of military readiness.” Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said the purpose of Max Thunder and exercise Foal Eagle -- another training event -- is to enhance the two nations’ abilities to operate together to defend South Korea.

“The defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed,” said Manning.

Washington and Seoul delayed an earlier round of drills in the spring because of the North-South diplomacy surrounding February’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South, which saw Kim send his sister to the opening ceremonies.

Kim told visiting South Korean officials in March that he “understands” the drills would take place and expressed hope that they’ll be modified once the situation on the peninsula stabilizes, according to the South Korean government.

South Korea didn’t immediately make any official response to the North’s announcement.

The North’s statement Wednesday comes amid a slew of surprising moves from the North in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s military said North Korea was moving ahead with plans to close its nuclear test site next week, an assessment backed by U.S. researchers who say satellite images show the North has begun dismantling facilities at the site.

The site’s closure was set to come before the Kim-Trump summit, which had been shaping up as a crucial moment in the decades-long push to resolve the nuclear standoff with the North, which is closing in on the ability to viably target the mainland United States with its long-range nuclear-armed missiles.

Despite the North’s moves, some experts were skeptical about whether Kim would completely give up a nuclear program that he had pushed so hard to build. Kim has expressed his intention to negotiate over his weapons, but he still uses a long-contentious term, “the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The North previously has used this phrase when demanding that the United States pull its 28,500 troops out of South Korea and withdraw its so-called “nuclear umbrella” security guarantee to South Korea and Japan as a condition for its nuclear disarmament.

Wednesday’s threat could also be targeted at showing a domestic audience that Kim is willing to stand up to Washington. Kim has repeatedly told his people that his nukes are a “powerful treasured sword” that can smash U.S. hostility.

North Korea also has a long history of launching provocations or scrapping deals with Seoul and Washington at the last minute.

In 2013, North Korea abruptly cancelled reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War just days before they were held to protest what it called rising animosities ahead of joint drills between Seoul and Washington. A year earlier in 2012, the North conducted a prohibited long-range rocket launch weeks after it agreed to suspend weapons tests in return for food assistances. 


AP writers Lolita Baldor and Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.


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

Christian Teen Leah Sharibu Turns 15, Still a Captive of Boko Haram

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 22:00

Leah Sharibu has been a captive of Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram for over 80 days. On Monday, she turned 15 in their clutches.

Leah was kidnapped with over 100 schoolmates in February. Today, she’s the last of the Dapchi girls in captivity. According to reports from her now-freed friends, she was given a chance to go home. The condition? She must convert to Islam. The only Christian of the group, she refused.

Nigerian Government ‘Completely Ineffective’

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said last month he is working “quietly” with Boko Haram to free Leah.

“We are collecting as much intelligence as possible,” Buhari said, according to WorldWatch Monitor. He said he’s working with international organizations like the Red Cross. “That was how we got the Dapchi girls back, and the Chibok girls.”

Close to 300 schoolgirls from the village of Chibok in Nigeria, a majority of them Christians, were captured by Boko Haram in 2014. Many were finally returned to their families. But over 100 are still missing.

In April, Buhari announced that disagreements between Boko Haram members caused “unexpected setbacks” in negotiations for their release.

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Nathan Johnson is International Christian Concern’s (ICC) Regional Manager for Africa. He said that whatever Buhari is doing for Leah, it “has proven completely ineffective.” ICC advocates for persecuted Christians around the globe.

“Just like with the Chibok girls, the Nigerian government has been unable to successfully work with Boko Haram in freeing Christians in a timely manner,” he said in an email to The Stream. “It took Buhari and his government less than three months to secure the release of more than 100 Muslim girls from the same abduction as Leah.” He said the government has failed to give updates about Leah’s possible return.

Worry at Home

Rebecca Sharibu, Leah’s mother, told a CNN reporter that no government official has visited her. “Only Christian organizations have been coming to see us,” she said. “No one from government. We are on our own.”

According to the report, CNN’s Chika Oduah was the first journalist to visit Rebecca. When the other Dapchi girls returned, she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital upon learning Leah was not with them. She’s at home now. But she’s worried.

“When my daughter comes back, I will not allow her to go to that school again,” she said. Leah and the others were originally kidnapped from a school for girls in Dapchi. Boko Haram’s name is loosely translated to mean “Western education is a sin.” ICC’s Johnson told The Stream Leah’s brother is continuing school after being moved to a safer location.

Free Leah

Johnson previously told The Stream that awareness is a key factor in securing release of captives like Leah. He noted the Chibok girls were only freed after the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign made news.

Now, activists are urging people to use the hashtag #FreeLeah. Christian Solidarity Worldwide is asking social media users to post photos holding signs with the same message. ICC president Jeff King previously asked people to call the Nigerian embassy in their country to ask for Leah’s release.

ICC previously stated that Leah was 15. A statement from Christian Solidarity Worldwide as reported by The Guardian claimed Leah turned 15 on May 14, 2018.

Haspel Now Has Clear Path to Become CIA Director

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 20:12

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner announced Tuesday afternoon that he will vote "yes" on the nomination of Gina Haspel to become the next CIA director.

"Gina Haspel has served our country with dedication for 33 years. In many ways, her story is representative of the thousands of people at the Agency and throughout the intelligence community who serve quietly, without recognition, and often at great personal risk, in order to keep our nation safe from those who wish to do us harm," Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, wrote in a statement Tuesday.

My statement on the nomination of Gina Haspel to be CIA Director: pic.twitter.com/eEgyBXC1tW

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) May 15, 2018

"I'm going to support Gina Haspel's nomination to be the Director of the CIA. I also respect my colleagues who have made a different decision," Warner wrote.

Haspel sent Warner a letter early Tuesday detailing the agency's post-9/11 interrogation methods and its treatment of detainees. Haspel depicted the period as a mistake, but that the agency was able to obtain "valuable" information during that time.

"While I won't condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world," Haspel wrote Warner.

Warner's vote is crucial for Haspel, given that GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is likely to vote against her and GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona is absent. Three other Democratic senators have come out in favor of Haspel -- Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

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Senators on the intelligence committee grilled Haspel earlier this month regarding her role in the post-9/11 interrogations and the 2005 destruction of video evidence of CIA agents waterboarding terrorist suspects. Haspel served as the chief of staff to Jose Rodriquez, the director of operations for counterterrorism, when he ordered the destruction of videotapes of waterboarding sessions. Haspel was reportedly in favor of destroying the evidence.

The CIA declassified a review that found "no fault with the performance" of Haspel in the destruction of the videotape evidence, which could help clear the air for senators who are troubled by her involvement in the matter.

Haspel said that if she was given the order again, she would not support it.

Haspel, if confirmed, will replace Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the next director of one the nation's top intelligence agencies. She would be the first female director in the agency's more than 70-year history.


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School Bans Student From Saying ‘Jesus’ and Bible Verse in Speech Until Nonprofit Got Involved

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 19:06

A Colorado university reversed its ban on a graduation speaker's references to Jesus and the Bible after a Christian conservative nonprofit got in touch, according to a Tuesday report.

Colorado Mesa University previously told nursing graduate Karissa Erickson that her speech must be "free of any one religious slant," but changed its tune after receiving a letter from the Alliance Defending Freedom, according to Campus Reform.

"I find comfort in Jesus's words and I pass them on to you. John 16:33," Erickson had planned on saying. "'These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.’"

Assistant professor Lucy Graham first told Erickson to take out her mention of Jesus and the Bible. After the student inquired whether those remarks infringed upon a school policy, nursing program director Karen Urban told Erickson that Colorado Mesa prohibited references to the Bible or any particular religion after students took offense several years ago at the distribution of Bibles on campus. Urban allegedly said that Erickson would experience "repercussions" if she did not purge the references from her piece and said that the school was "tired of dealing with this and has no more energy to spend towards it."

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"As these officials misunderstand what the First Amendment means, we write to inform you that they are on the verge of engaging in viewpoint discrimination and violating the Establishment Clause," ADF legal counsel Travis Christopher Barham wrote in a May 4 letter to the school. "Thus, we insist that you allow Miss Erickson to deliver her desired remarks without further interference."

Urban said in a May 8 letter that students speaking at Colorado Mesa's nursing ceremony should do so "uncensored" and that faculty will not review the students' speeches. School spokeswoman Dana Nunn characterized the school's demand that Erickson remove her references to Jesus and the Bible as a "mistake."

"As soon as it came to the attention of CMU President Tim Foster, he recognized the faculty member's error and sent word to nursing faculty and the graduating student that she way free to include those references in her remarks," Nunn told Campus Reform.


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Little Tikes Not Welcome Here: Where’s the Lawsuit?

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 18:30

Do businesses have the right to refuse service to a particular group of customers? For any reason?

Chris Shake, owner of Old Fisherman’s Grotto restaurant in California, says he has that right. There’s a specific clientele that Shake does not wish to serve.

Oddly enough, he has not yet been sued into bankruptcy or ordered by the state to submit to “retraining.”

Unlike Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop, Chris Shake has suffered no catastrophic legal or financial consequences for his decision, even though he isn’t making a principled decision to withhold his creative services based on faith or moral beliefs.

So just who is unwelcome in Chris Shake’s establishment? Children. Noisy, disruptive children, to be precise. Young children.

Not Welcome Here

Shake’s "Children's Policy" reads like this:

No Strollers. No Highchairs. No Booster Chairs. Children crying or making loud noises are a distraction to other diners, and as such are not allowed in the dining room.

Says Shake, “We have never refused families with children but often times they do not come in because we are very clear about our policy. If their children become disruptive in the dining room, they will be asked to leave.”

Now, as far as I know it’s not illegal to be a jerk, so if Shake wants families with young children to feel they are not welcome in his restaurant, I suppose he can do that. He wants an atmosphere of undisturbed quiet, and a crying baby or a wound-up toddler or a merely lively family would shatter the desired vibe, so that’s it. No kids. Fine.

I thought it was discrimination to refuse to serve a particular group of people? Why is he not fighting his case at the Supreme Court right now?

Personally, I would do an about-face at his door and take my family of six somewhere else. I have no desire to patronize a restaurant that snarls at young children.

But I wouldn’t sue him for emotional distress or discrimination or call him a hateful bigot. I may think his policy makes him a jerk, but so what? He wants a perfectly quiet atmosphere, and I can allow him the freedom to make business decisions to that end. (Come to think of it, I wouldn’t go there with my adult family members either, since we tend to laugh and make joyful noise together.)

Still, he is openly stating that people meeting a particular criteria will be asked to leave his restaurant and will not be served. Drunkards? Vandals? Violent, threatening types? No, just “disruptive” children.

I thought it was discrimination to refuse to serve a particular group of people? Why is he not fighting his case at the Supreme Court right now? I guess because he picked on exactly the “right” group of people.

Children are People, Too

If he had a policy about asking loud women to leave his restaurant, or loud black men, or -- gasp! -- loud homosexuals, well, we all know how that story would end. He’d certainly be facing ginormous lawsuits already. He’d be undergoing his mandated “sensitivity training” by now.

But children are easy and acceptable to pick on.

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Let’s not be mistaken here: children are people. They deserve respect. They have behaviors that are typical and unique to them. It’s “who they are.” I’m not here to defend children behaving badly in public or parents who allow it. I’ll be the first to agree that children can and should learn to behave themselves appropriately in public, and there’s no reason a child of a certain age can’t sit still at a table and eat.

But guess what? Babies cry. Toddlers cry. They don’t have volume buttons, however much we might wish they did. They also don’t have an On/Off button. Then again, neither do you.

They are part of the human family, and their presence should not be considered undesirable.

Some Refusals are Perfectly Acceptable

Interestingly, many people support Shake’s policy and are even drawn to his restaurant for that very reason. One diner commented, “Just the thought that I would be able to have a peaceful meal with no kids yelling, sometimes it's needed. In all seriousness, people need to not get so hurt by this.”

Shake says, “The policy has worked out very well for our guests and our employees. Many of our guests comment that our policy is the reason they dined with us.”

Phillips has been vilified and his livelihood severely threatened. Shake is free to refuse. Guess it's all about who you refuse.

Go figure. I thought a policy that intentionally declined to serve a certain group of people was supposed to be abhorrent. Yet people are applauding Shake’s policy and chiding those who might feel hurt by it.

So why again is Jack Phillips fighting for his right to decline to participate in a same-sex wedding? Why is he being sued into ruin and compelled by the State to undergo “sensitivity training”?

Phillips didn’t want to be forced to participate in something that violates his religious beliefs. He refused to promote a message that violates his conscience.

Shake is openly and proudly sending the message that children aren’t welcome and will be asked to leave. Not for reasons of conscience or faith. Just because they’re noisy.

Phillips has been vilified and his livelihood severely threatened. Shake is free to refuse. He's cheered by many, and he’s battling no lawsuits.

Why is Shake's atmosphere sacrosanct, but Phillips' conscience and faith repugnant?

Guess it's all about who you refuse.

Pray for Mali: Albino Child Ritually Murdered for Magic Body Parts

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 18:16

A group of armed men kidnapped and beheaded a 5-year-old albino girl Sunday morning in Mali in an alleged ritual murder to harvest magic parts.

The unidentified men kidnapped Djeneba Diarra around 2:00 a.m. local time on Sunday while she slept with her mother and sister in the courtyard of their home in the village of Fana, according to Yahoo. The girl's mother attempted to pursue the kidnappers as they scaled the courtyard wall with Djeneba in tow, but turned back to protect her other daughter, who is also albino. Villagers took up the search for Djeneba and later found her headless body.

"We searched for the little girl everywhere. We found her body beside a mosque, but she had no head," village school teacher Oumar Diakite told AFP.

The murder of albinos in Mali is unfortunately not uncommon and, within hours of the grisly discovery of the girl's body, locals had already labeled the crime: ritual murder.

"We demand justice. Her head was taken. This is a ritual crime," Mamadou Sissoko, general secretary of the Federation of Associations of Persons with Albinism in West Africa, told AFP.

The hunting and ritual killing of albino people is a common practice not only in Mali, but also in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, and West Africa. Kidnappers will abduct albino individuals in their home towns, traffic them to one of the aforementioned countries, slaughter them, and will often remove their bones to then sell to witch-doctors as items of supernatural power believed to bring fortune and good luck, according to CNN.

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Amnesty International has investigated and campaigned against ritual violence against albino people specifically in Malawi, which the organization says is fueled in part by similar beliefs about albinos and demand for their body parts in other African countries. Poverty also plays a role in the ritual kidnapping of albinos, according to Amnesty International, due to rumors that the bones of albino people sell for high prices and the mistaken belief that they also contain gold.

"Thousands of people with albinism are at severe risk of abduction and killing by individuals and criminal gangs in Malawi, where their body parts are allegedly sold for use in rituals. Graves of people with albinism have also been targeted by criminals who remove bones in order to sell them. The bones are allegedly sold to practitioners of traditional medicine in Malawi and Mozambique for use in charms and magical potions in the belief that they bring wealth and good luck. The macabre trade is also fuelled by a belief that the bones of people with albinism contain gold," reads a 2016 report from Amnesty International.

Witch doctors also perpetuate a negative stigmatization of albino people that is furthered by a lack of education about the rare genetic condition. When asked by albino activist Josephat Torner of Tanzania whether he had seen practitioners of witchcraft pray for help in capturing an albino person, a Tanzanian witch doctor said yes, because of the belief that white people are demons, according to CNN.

"We call you a spirit because a white person like you is the devil," the witch doctor said, according to CNN.

"You're saying I'm a white demon? We are demons?" Torner asked.

"Yes, because you're white," the witch doctor replied.

The ritual murder of albino people in Mali is linked to political events as well, according to Sissoko, as people will use albino body parts in rituals to try to influence the outcome of elections. In Djeneba's case, her murder and mutilation may be connected to Mali's upcoming July 29 presidential election.

"Every time there are elections, we become prey for people who want to make ritual sacrifices. This is not the first time this has happened in Fana. The state needs to take up its responsibilities," Sissoko told AFP.


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LGBT Persuasive Strategy: Using ‘Aww, So Cute’ To Keep You From Thinking

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 16:50

Aww, the little kid is just so cute! And Jesus supports people who are marginalized, regardless of right and wrong. Therefore boys should be allowed in girls’ bathrooms, and vice versa, right?

That, my friends, is the persuasive strategy being employed in this video. That’s what’s supposed to convince Texas to toss out decades of common sense and good thinking.

Don’t believe it. You might be tempted to do so, since it’s an amazing piece of persuasive theater. It’s had 3 million views in about 48 hours. And it works. It works, that is, unless you think about what you’re watching; but thinking isn’t so easy with all that’s going on here. The music, the little kid, the pleading mom -- none of it is designed to stimulate your brain to work. Only your aww, so cute sensor.

But that sensor is a bad guide to public policy. So let’s turn it off a while and think about this together. There’s a whole clinic in LGBT strategy here for those who will take time to study it.

There’s a whole clinic in LGBT strategy here for those who will take time to study it.

Fear vs. Aww, So Cute

Let’s start by tamping down our automatic response to cute little girls in their moms’ laps. “She’s” actually a boy. It’s hard to see a boy in that dress and curls, but that’s okay: You’re allowed to use your brain here. Recognize how that girl-image plays with your emotions. Then remember: Emotions are great, but relying on them for public policy can be hazardous.

Note next how the emotional appeal continues with the appeal to fear: “My daughter’s not a threat to your daughters … but your sons are definitely a threat to my daughter.”

They’re aiming for your gut, not your head.

That’s pretty convincing. In fact I think it’s probably true -- for a little 5-year-old, as this child appears to be. But certainly the law that Texas is considering applies to more than innocent little kindergarteners. Imagine a 16-year-old sitting next to this mom instead, with the obvious facial appearance of a boy, but wearing a dress. Could that boy’s mom get away with saying, “My daughter’s not a threat to your daughters -- and therefore we should allow boys in the girls’ room”?

No, there’s a reason they chose this mom and this girl. They don’t want you thinking about how this law would apply to older kids. They’re aiming for your gut, not your head.

It’s a canny strategy when you think about it -- but you have to think about it. Otherwise you’ll find yourself gushing aww, so cute, and, “My goodness, let’s not let those mean boys hurt her at school!”

“Intolerance and Prejudism”

Going on, the mom plays on our desire to do what’s right in society: “Especially those of you who are teaching intolerance and prejudism [sic].” Well, of course, teaching intolerance and prejudice is bound to produce social problems. That doesn’t mean transgender ideology is right. It means a certain type of intolerance is wrong.

Be careful about what “intolerance” means, though. The implication here is that it means disagreeing with this mom’s opinions. But she’s likely just as “intolerant” toward your views and mine -- because “intolerance” is too often misused. It’s a dogma dressed up as a virtue. That misuse of “intolerance” is wrong, too.

This is as good a time as any to point out how the mom’s pro-transgender prejudice is most likely doing her son lifelong harm. Besides using him shamelessly to further her own prejudices, she’s urging him into a life of gender confusion, when science says he would very likely grow up to accept and appreciate his male body in time, given the chance. He would be very, very likely to learn to live as a whole male person, rather than split between two personas -- if his mom will only give him time to get there. 

“Jesus Christ Is In Favor of Transgender”

This is a distorted view of Jesus; for while He certainly defended marginalized persons, He did not support their sin.

Okay, she doesn’t come right out and say Jesus is for men dressing and living as women, or vice versa. She’s too savvy for that. Instead she says, “Jesus the Christ always defended the marginalized against the religious politicians of his day.”

And then she layers the religious message on as thick as she can.

But this is a distorted view of Jesus; for while He certainly defended marginalized persons, He never supported sin. He told the woman taken in adultery to “go and sin no more.” He affirmed the tax collector Zacchaeus’s repentance. In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, it was the tax collector’s humility He affirmed. Meanwhile He also affirmed one of the least marginalized persons of all -- an officer in the occupying Roman army -- for his great faith.

This business of Jesus “defending the marginalized” is badly distorted. He came preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, a message of repentance and salvation. Christians must likewise pay close attention to the marginalized, but without losing focus on what’s right and what’s wrong. His support for the marginalized was real -- see Luke 4:18-19 for one example -- but it was always aimed toward righteousness.

Is transgender ideology righteous, then? This mom shows us it can be cute. She shows us how the sham-virtue version of “intolerance” can be used to goad people into agreeing with her. She’s shown us how to misunderstand Jesus’ mission. But somehow she left out the part about whether it’s actually right or wrong. Is there any doubt as to why?

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LGBT Persuasive Strategy At Work

Still, it’s effective. A person has to work hard to turn his thinking brain on, to see what’s really happening here in terms of persuasive strategy. It’s the same technique LGBT actvists have been perfecting since at least the late 1980s: “Portray gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers. ... Give protectors a just cause. ... Make gays look good. ... Make the victimizers look bad.”

Or as the authors of that linked paper spell it out:

These images [of “ranting and hateful religious extremists”] should be combined with those of their gay victims by a method propagandists call the “bracket technique.” For example, for a few seconds an unctuous beady-eyed Southern preacher is seen pounding the pulpit in rage about “those sick, abominable creatures.” While his tirade continues over the soundtrack, the picture switches to pathetic photos of gays who look decent, harmless, and likable; and then we cut back to the poisonous face of the preacher, and so forth. The contrast speaks for itself. The effect is devastating.

This video may not do that with literal images, but the same effect is there via word pictures, complete with thoughts of George Wallace barring schoolhouse doors.

Cuddly squirmy cute kids make great theater. We have to think with our heads, though, not our aww, so cute sensors.

Tom Wolfe, Pioneering ‘New Journalist,’ Dead at 88

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 16:41

NEW YORK (AP) -- Tom Wolfe, the white-suited wizard of “New Journalism” who exuberantly chronicled American culture from the Merry Pranksters through the space race before turning his satiric wit to such novels as The Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full, has died. He was 88.

Wolfe’s literary agent, Lynn Nesbit, told The Associated Press that he died of an infection Monday in a New York City hospital. Further details were not immediately available.

An acolyte of French novelist Emile Zola and other authors of “realistic” fiction, the stylishly-attired Wolfe was an American maverick who insisted that the only way to tell a great story was to go out and report it. Along with Gay Talese, Truman Capote and Nora Ephron, he helped demonstrate that journalism could offer the kinds of literary pleasure found in books.

His hyperbolic, stylized writing work was a gleeful fusillade of exclamation points, italics and improbable words. An ingenious phrase maker, he helped brand such expressions as “radical chic” for rich liberals’ fascination with revolutionaries; and the “Me” generation, defining the self-absorbed baby boomers of the 1970s.

Wolfe was both a literary upstart, sneering at the perceived stuffiness of the publishing establishment, and an old-school gentleman who went to the best schools and encouraged Michael Lewis and other younger writers. When attending promotional luncheons with fellow authors, he would make a point of reading their latest work.

“What I hope people know about him is that he was a sweet and generous man,” Lewis, known for such books as Moneyball and The Big Short, told the AP in an email Tuesday. “Not just a great writer but a great soul. He didn’t just help me to become a writer. He did it with pleasure.”

Wolfe scorned the reluctance of American writers to confront social issues and warned that self-absorption and master’s programs would kill the novel. “So the doors close and the walls go up!” he wrote in his 1989 literary manifesto, “Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast.” He was astonished that no author of his generation had written a sweeping, 19th century style novel about contemporary New York City, and ended up writing one himself, The Bonfire of the Vanities.

His work broke countless rules but was grounded in old-school journalism, in an obsessive attention to detail that began with his first reporting job and endured for decades.

“Nothing fuels the imagination more than real facts do,” Wolfe told the AP in 1999. “As the saying goes, ‘You can’t make this stuff up.'”

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Wolfe’s interests were vast, but his narratives had a common theme. Whether sending up the New York art world or hanging out with acid heads, Wolfe inevitably presented man as a status-seeking animal, concerned above all about the opinion of one’s peers. Wolfe himself dressed for company -- his trademark a pale three-piece suit, impossibly high shirt collar, two-tone shoes and a silk tie. And he acknowledged that he cared -- very much -- about his reputation.

“My contention is that status is on everybody’s mind all of the time, whether they’re conscious of it or not,” Wolfe, who lived in a 12-room apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, told the AP in 2012.

In 1978, Wolfe married Sheila Berger, art director of Harper’s magazine. They had two children, Alexandra and Tommy.

He enjoyed the highest commercial and critical rewards. His literary honors included the American Book Award (now called the National Book Award) for The Right Stuff and a nomination for the National Book Critics Circle prize for The Bonfire of the Vanities, one of the top 10 selling books of the 1980s. Its 1998 follow-up, A Man in Full, was another best-seller and a National Book Award nominee. Wolfe satirized college misbehavior in I Am Charlotte Simmons and was still at it in his 80s with Back to Blood, a sprawling, multicultural story of sex and honor set in Miami.

A panel of judges organized in 1999 by the Modern Library, a Random House imprint, picked The Right Stuff as No. 52 on its list of the century’s 100 best English-language works of nonfiction. Another panel of experts, listing the best journalism of the century, cited Wolfe three times on its list of 100, for The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby and The Right Stuff.

Wolfe, the grandson of a Confederate rifleman, began his journalism career as a reporter at the Springfield (Massachusetts) Union in 1957. But it wasn’t until the mid-1960s, while a magazine writer for New York and Esquire, that his work made him a national trendsetter. As Wolfe helped define it, the “new journalism” combined the emotional impact of a novel, the analysis of the best essays, and the factual foundation of hard reporting. He mingled it all in an over-the-top style that made life itself seem like one spectacular headline.

“She is gorgeous in the most outrageous way,” he wrote in a typical piece, describing actress-socialite Baby Jane Holzer.

“Her hair rises up from her head in a huge hairy corona, a huge tan mane around a narrow face and two eyes opened -- swock! -- like umbrellas, with all that hair flowing down over a coat made of … zebra! Those motherless stripes!”

Wolfe traveled during the ’60s with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters for his book on the psychedelic culture, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. One of his best-known magazine pieces, “Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s,” took a pointed look at fund-raising for the Black Panther Party by Leonard Bernstein and other wealthy whites. And no one more memorably captured the beauty-and-the-beast divide between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones: “The Beatles want to hold your hand,” he wrote, “but the Rolling Stones want to burn down your town!”

Wolfe had many detractors -- including fellow writers Norman Mailer and John Updike and the critic James Wood, who panned Wolfe’s “big subjects, big people, and yards of flapping exaggeration. No one of average size emerges from his shop; in fact, no real human variety can be found in his fiction, because everyone has the same enormous excitability.”

But his fans included millions of book-buyers, literary critics and fellow authors.

“He knows everything,” novelist Kurt Vonnegut once wrote of Wolfe. “… I wish he had headed the Warren Commission. We might then have caught a glimpse of our nation.”

Thomas Kennerly Wolfe Jr. was born in Richmond, Virginia. As a child, he did rewrites of the Authurian legends and penned biographies of his heroes. He became co-editor of his high school newspaper before moving on to Washington and Lee University, where he graduated with honors and was remembered by fellow student, the novelist Tom Robbins, as holding the very highest status: the big man on campus.

Wolfe had an unsuccessful pitching tryout with the New York Giants before heading to Yale University, from which he earned a Ph.D. in American studies. His career didn’t immediately take off; Wolfe once took The Associated Press writing test and “dismally failed,” he later recounted, noting that he was faulted for embellishing the test material, a primal sin at the AP.

But in 1957, he joined the Springfield paper and instantly fell in love with journalism. Two years later he jumped to The Washington Post, where he won Washington Newspaper Guild awards in 1960 for his coverage of U.S.-Cuban affairs and a satiric account of that year’s Senate civil rights filibuster.

New York was his dream and by 1962 he was working at the now defunct New York Herald-Tribune, with colleagues including Jimmy Breslin and Charles Portis, who later wrote the novel True Grit. The next year, Wolfe was assigned to cover a “Hot Rod & Custom Car” show. He completed a story, the kind “any of the somnambulistic totem newspapers in America would have come up with.”

But he knew there was a much richer, and longer story to tell, one about a thriving subculture that captured the post-World War II economic boom and the new freedom to “build monuments” to one’s own style. No newspaper could contain what Wolfe had in mind, so he turned to Esquire magazine, wrote up 49 pages and helped give birth to a new kind of reporter.

“For the who-what-where-when-why of traditional journalism, he has substituted what he calls ‘the wowie!'” according to a 1965 Newsweek story.

That same year, his first book appeared: The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, a collection of 23 Wolfe articles that included the title piece, his seminal work on custom cars. In 1968, another collection -- The Pump-House Gang -- appeared, as did his book on the Pranksters.

It wasn’t until the early ’80s that Wolfe turned his attention to fiction. His topic: New York City in the late 20th century, a melange of sexual tension, class struggles and racial animus. The Bonfire of the Vanities first appeared as a serial in Rolling Stone magazine in 1984-85, with Wolfe writing the book one chapter at a time. When it was released as a novel in 1987, Bonfire became an immediate sensation even as it was criticized for its portrayal of blacks. One black character, the publicity-seeking Reverend Bacon, was based on a then-little known Al Sharpton. But a film version starring Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis was so disastrous that it inspired a nonfiction account of the wreckage, Julie Salomon’s The Devil’s Candy.

A Man in Full turned Wolfe’s smirk to Atlanta society. His 2004 novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, looked at life on a fictional elite college campus rife with drinking, status obsession and sex. The book received poor reviews and was a commercial disappointment, leading Wolfe to switch publishers in 2008 from Farrar, Straus & Giroux -- where he had been for 40 years -- to Little, Brown and Company. Other recent works, including the nonfiction The Kingdom of Speech, were not well received. But he was never without ideas for future projects.

“There are still so many things I don’t know about the city and I’d just like to see what’s out there,” he told the AP in 2012. “The Latin American population has increased enormously since Bonfire and Wall Street has changed enormously. I’ll follow my usual technique of just taking in a scene and seeing what happens.”


Former Associated Press writer Larry McShane contributed to this report.

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

Cornell Student Presents Senior Thesis in Her Underwear

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 13:42

The most remarkable thing about the title of this column is that not one reader will think it’s a joke. That, my friends, is further proof of the low esteem in which most Americans hold our universities.

The left has rendered our universities, in the description of Harvard professor Steven Pinker, laughingstocks.

An Unusual Thesis Presentation

As reported in The Cornell Daily Sun and then around the world, this is what actually happened last week at Cornell University, one of our “Ivy League” universities: Senior Letitia Chai presented a trial run of her scholar senior thesis wearing a blue button-down shirt and cutoff jean shorts. Her professor, Rebekah Maggor, asked her, “is that really what you would wear?”

The professor went on to say that Chai’s shorts were “too short” -- that as a speaker she was making a “statement” with her clothes. As reported in the newspaper, “The class does not have a formalized dress code, but asks students to ‘dress appropriately for the persona (they) will present.'”

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Offended and hurt by the professor’s suggestion, Chai decided that she would present her thesis in even less clothing. She appeared before her fellow students in her shirt and shorts and then removed them. As she stripped down to a bra and panties, she explained: “I am more than Asian. I am more than a woman. I am more than Letitia Chai. I am a human being, and I ask you to take this leap of faith, to take this next step -- or rather, this next strip -- in our movement and to join me in revealing to each other and to seeing each other for who we truly are: members of the human race. … We are so triumphant, but most importantly, we are equals.”

Twenty-eight of the 44 audience members followed suit, stripping down.

Chai’s presentation was livestreamed.

The Students’ Statement

Eleven students who were present wrote a long statement defending both the professor -- who apologized profusely -- and Chai. It read: “As students who firmly believe in the tenants” -- that Cornell students do not know the word is “tenets,” not “tenants,” is not surprising -- “of justice and the commitment to fair representation, we feel that it is our duty to make the following statement. We support Letitia’s commitment to the cause of women’s rights. … We strongly support and identify with Letitia’s fight for equality in the treatment of all people, regardless of race, gender, color, creed, sexuality, or appearance. The majority of us are students of color, from multiethnic backgrounds, who very much relate to Letitia’s frustration with systemic oppression that is part of the fabric of this country. … Our recollection of that day is as follows:

Letitia stood up to give her speech. Before she began, our professor asked Letitia if she would wear ‘those shorts’ to her actual presentation on Saturday. Our professor regularly asks all of the students, male and female, such questions to clarify appropriate attire for public speaking. Our professor went on to say that what you wear and how you present yourself make a statement. She noted that if you were to wear jean shorts to your thesis presentation, that is a statement. Her focus on attire was a means of noting the importance of professionalism in certain public speaking situations. … Throughout the semester … We have also had several meaningful dialogues on privilege, discussed how to avoid (white) savior narratives. … Our professor … often illustrates the ways to us in which society can institute a socialized behavior (for females, acting apologetic for opinions) due to systematic oppression.

The Degraded State of Cornell

It’s hard to know which aspect of this story is the most ludicrous and the most disturbing. Is it the students stripping down to their underwear? That delivering a senior thesis in one’s underwear before fellow students, most of whom also stripped down, is acceptable -- even honored -- at Cornell University tells you just about all you need to know to understand the degraded state of Cornell and most other American universities. And if delivering a senior thesis in one’s underwear is a blow for women’s equality, why wear underwear? Why not deliver the thesis naked?

Is it the pervasive assumption of America’s “systemic oppression” of women and ethnic minorities? If there are luckier young women in the world than those who attend Cornell and other American universities, it is hard to imagine who they might be. Yet they have been so effectively indoctrinated by their left-wing instructors in elementary school, high school and college they walk around thinking of themselves as victims of “systemic oppression” in what is probably the freest and most opportunity-giving society in human history.

Or is it the apparent absence of any criticism of Chai by even one of the 1,650 faculty members of Cornell University? It is inconceivable that even at Cornell, there is not one faculty member who found this young woman’s behavior an insult to Cornell and the once-exalted field of higher education. Yet they so fear their left-wing colleagues and left-wing students that they have said nothing.

This story reconfirms what I regularly tell parents: Sending your child to college is playing Russian roulette with their values.


Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, published by Regnery in April 2018, is The Rational Bible, a commentary on the book of Exodus. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.


Is God Finished With Israel?

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 13:23

Is God finished with Israel? Is He done with the Jewish people as a people? Heaven forbid. All of Scripture and history shouts a loud "No" to this question.

Paul addressed this directly, asking, "So I ask, did they [speaking of the Jewish people as a whole] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means!" (Romans 11:11). Or, in the words of the King James Version, "God forbid."

So, despite Israel's rejection of Jesus as Messiah, Israel has not fallen beyond the point of recovery. Rather, as Paul writes in Romans 9:4 (speaking, again, of non-believing Jews), "They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises."

Notice carefully those words, all in the present tense in Greek: the divine promises still belong to Israel. And one of those promises is that, whatever Israel does as a nation, even falling under divine discipline, God will preserve them as a nation.

Irrevocable Promises

As written in Jeremiah 31:35-37,

Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar --  the Lord of hosts is his name: “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” Thus says the Lord: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord.”

That's why the Jewish people still exist today: We have been miraculously preserved by God, not because of our goodness, but because of His goodness. Thank God that He keeps His promises! Thank God for His grace and mercy and longsuffering! (To all of my non-Jewish, Jesus-loving friends, remember: The Church does not have a monopoly on grace.)

What about the fact that the vast majority of Jews do not believe in Jesus? What about the fact that some militantly oppose faith in Jesus?

That is tragic, and that is why Paul mourned in Romans 9:1-3. Jews without Jesus are lost, just as Gentiles without Jesus are lost (see Romans 2:6-11).

Yet, despite my people's rejection of our Messiah, we remain loved and chosen by God. As Paul stated so clearly, "As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:28-29).

Israel, the Nation

Some would argue that when Paul said "Israel" in these verses, he meant only the believing remnant, the Israel within Israel, Jews who believe in Jesus (see Romans 9:6-8). But to argue for this is to do violence to the Word of God.

First, after making this point about the Israel within Israel (the believing remnant) in Romans 9:6, Paul used the word "Israel" 10 more times, culminating in Romans 11:26. In every case, he meant the nation as a whole, not just the believing remnant.

The idea that a New Testament writer could reverse all these promises with a single stroke of his pen -- as some claim Paul or others did -- is to deny the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament.

Second, as New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce pointed out in his commentary to Romans 11:26, "It is impossible to entertain an exegesis which takes 'Israel' here in a different sense from 'Israel' in v 25 ('blindness in part is happened to Israel')." In other words, the Israel that has been temporarily blinded is the Israel that will be saved.

As Bruce explained, "Temporarily alienated for the advantage of the Gentiles, they are eternally the object of God's electing love because his promises, once made to the patriarchs, will never be revoked."

Restoration Will Come

That's why Jesus spoke about the time of future "regeneration," with the twelve tribes of Israel playing a central role (Matthew 19:28).

That's why Peter spoke about the time of the restoration of all things, in accordance with the words of the Old Testament prophets (see Acts 3:19-21).

And what did those prophets speak about? They spoke of the time when the Messiah would reign from Jerusalem, when Israel would be exalted, and when the nations would stream to Jerusalem to learn from Israel's God (see, for example, Isaiah 2:1-4).

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The idea that a New Testament writer could reverse all these promises with a single stroke of his pen -- as some claim Paul or others did -- is to deny the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament. After all, Jesus the Messiah came to fulfill the Hebrew Scriptures, not abolish them (see Matthew 5:17-20). He came to confirm the promises to the patriarchs, not cancel them (see Romans 15:8-9).

And, as Paul also wrote, the Sinai covenant, which came 430 years after the promises to Abraham, cannot annual those promises (Galatians 3:17-18; this includes the promises to the Land of Israel; see also Psalm 105:7-11).

God Isn’t Finished

That alone explains the history of the Jewish people. Without a homeland for many centuries, scattered around the earth, yet preserved through generations of unspeakable suffering, only to be regathered to our ancient homeland. Nothing even remotely close to this has happened to any other people. It is only because of the Lord!

And so, both history and Scripture demolish the idea that God is finished with Israel. Not a chance!

(For those wanting to do further study, I recommend the following titles: Brock David Hollett, Debunking Preterism: How Over-Realized Eschatology Misses the 'Not Yet' of Bible Prophecy; Gerald R. McDermott, ed., The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land; by the same author, Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land; Barry E. Horner, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged and Eternal Israel; Michael Vlach, Has the Church Replaced Israel; David Harwood, For the Sake of the Fathers: A New Testament View of God’s Love for the Jewish People; Michael L. Brown, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the 'Church' and the Jewish People.)

Summer Rains and Record Crop Output: No Room for Climate Lies

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:45

It's raining. It's been raining nonstop for five hours. Heavily. It's done that for four straight days. Farmers all over southern India, where I live, are rejoicing.

And the rainy season has not even begun!

According to climate-change alarmists, none of this should be happening. They have predicted increasing drought for India from man-made global warming. They've also predicted declining harvests because of it.

That has created panic. Farmers in southern India were already nervous about rainfall this year. Media hype about climate apocalypse fed their fears. In our mostly agrarian society, especially its poor farmers, rain can decide between life and death. But the truth about India's climate history contradicts the climate alarmists.

An Optimistic Reality

Average monthly summer monsoon rainfall in India increased by 2.5 inches in the last 16 years. This change is due to a changing relationship between temperatures over land versus over sea.

The improving land/sea temperature relationship isn't due to man-made global warming. The same computer models that predicted warming (exaggerated by two or more times) failed to capture this change.

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It is pre-monsoon season here in India. Rainfall is usually scarce now. The summer monsoons begin in June.

Scattered pre-monsoon rains have arrived in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu had been short of water for irrigation. The recent rains have given ample water for farmers for the next two months. After that, the summer monsoon will bring even more.

The intense pre-monsoon rains this year run counter to climate alarmists' claims. So do the past three years' crop data.

Earlier this year, vegetable prices dropped steeply in some southern provinces because of surplus production. Some farmers found it more economical to dispose of their vegetables than to sell them.

Wake Up and Smell the Rain

If the monsoons are normal this year, the pre-monsoon's excess rains will increase our harvests. That's good news for consumers. All will benefit from lower prices, especially the poor.

It is still too early to predict the fruits of this year's monsoons. But the Indian Meteorological Department forecasts an average summer monsoon season, for the third straight year.

Based on that, the government has set its food grain production target for 2018-19 at 283.7 million tons. That's up from the previous year's 277.49 million. That itself was an all-time high and is a testimony to the strength of India's agricultural system. It also undermines alarmists' predictions that climate change should already be reducing India's agricultural yields.

If the monsoons are normal this year, the pre-monsoon's excess rains will increase our harvests. That's good news for consumers. All will benefit from lower prices, especially the poor.

Climate alarmists' propaganda thrives on scare mongering. Their aim is to get people to submit to policies that will slow economic growth and prolong poverty. The world should wake up.


Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Coimbatore, India.

YouTube Restricts Video of Man Assaulting Irish Pro-lifer as He Posts a #SaveThe8th Sign

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:30

YouTube is developing a reputation for censoring or restricting conservative videos. Videos exposing assaults on conservatives, for instance, may be censored for “violence.”

On May 25, voters in Ireland will decide whether to legalize abortion. Those who want the law to protect the unborn formed an opposition campaign called “Save the 8th,” referring to the Eighth Amendment which bans abortion. They are facing censorship by the big tech companies. Google has banned all ads related to the referendum. Facebook banned groups outside of Ireland from running referendum ads. 

Then, on May 3, a campaigner with Save the 8th was assaulted by an opponent. The entire confrontation was caught on video. The campaigner tries to use a ladder to put a sign on a pole. The opponent starts swearing at him profusely. He tells him he will not let him mount the sign. Finally, the opponent shoves the ladder, knocking the campaigner down flat on his back.

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The video was uploaded to YouTube on May 4. However, YouTube slapped a restricted content label on it. This prohibits those under age 18 from viewing it, and everyone else must login using a Google account. 

Since children are often involved in pro-life demonstrations, shouldn’t they be allowed to see what is happening? There is violence portrayed every evening on the nightly news. YouTube’s policy states, “It’s not okay to post violent or gory content that’s primarily intended to be shocking, sensational, or gratuitous.” The video doesn’t fit that description. It is meant to be educational and to create awareness about the hate on the side that supports abortion. It is news. The man was caught on video committing a misdemeanor.  

Warning: profane language


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Ireland Lowered Its Corporate Tax Rate. Here’s What Happened.

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:20

Many U.S.-based multinationals are finding luck with Ireland's low corporate tax rate -- and that 12.5 percent rate has been a pot of gold for the Irish economy as well.

In 2015, the Irish economy was estimated to have grown by 26.3 percent through foreign companies opening operations and providing high-paying jobs, including about 700 U.S. companies currently operating in the country.

The Irish corporate tax rate is about half the average for other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which comprises 34 developed nations.

Ireland's rate is less than half of what some other European countries' corporate tax rates are: Belgium, for example, has a rate of 33.9 percent; Austria's rate is 25 percent; and Greece's is 29 percent.

It's also still lower than the U.S. corporate rate, despite the latter being slashed last year from 35 percent to 21 percent.

"Ireland's internationally low corporate tax rate is something to be admired," Adam Michel, economic policy analyst for The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. "The flood of foreign investment into Ireland from the U.S. and around the world shows how an attractive business environment benefits the whole economy."

Michel said the 20-plus percent economic growth statistics are exaggerated and based largely on artificial income shifting. But, he added, big increases in research and development jobs, new business headquarters, and traditional manufacturing are clearly real.

"In the U.S., we largely have Ireland to thank for the increasing pressure placed on the U.S. to lower our corporate tax rate," Michel said. "The pressures of tax competition and competition for global investment is a force for good policy and helped give U.S. policymakers a nudge in the right direction."

Ireland's 12.5 percent corporate tax rate became effective in 2003.

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The low corporate tax rate is not without controversy, as European Union officials are seeking "tax harmonization," meaning similar rates, and accused Ireland of "stealing" revenue and jobs from other European nations.

Ireland ranked fourth on the Tax Foundation's 2017 International Tax Competitiveness Index of 35 countries for corporate tax rates, and 16th overall for its entire tax environment. Estonia ranked first overall with a corporate tax rate of 20 percent. But that rate is only applied to distributed profits, which are earnings shared with shareholders as a dividend, according to the Tax Foundation.

Only Hungary has a lower corporate tax rate at 9 percent, the Tax Foundation says. The other countries with rates below 20 percent are Latvia at 15 percent and the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom, which all have a 19 percent rate.

But Ireland's economy is too reliant on the low rate to raise it, argues Eamon Delaney, director of the Hibernia Forum, an Irish free-market advocacy group.

"Let's face it. There was a clear reason why we brought Apple and others to Ireland and why we have a low corporate tax rate," Delaney wrote in an Irish Times op-ed in January. "It is the lifeblood of our economy, and in the past, we even had a lower tax model to bring jobs to our rain-washed shores."

He explained a region of the country had a temporary zero percent corporate tax rate in the 1950s and 1960s to spur development.

Delaney further noted that Ireland has more exports to the United States as a percentage of its economy than any other EU country, and actually rivals Canada and Mexico in selling products to the United States.

One of Ireland's best-known exports, Bono, the lead singer of U2, is a staunch defender of the tax rate.

"We are a tiny, little country. We don't have scale, and our version of scale is to be innovative and to be clever, and tax competitiveness has brought our country the only prosperity we've known," Bono told The Guardian in 2014.

"Tax competitiveness has brought our country the only prosperity we've known," @U2 says.

"That's how we got these companies here," he said. "We don't have natural resources. We have to be able to attract people."

The Irish tax rate also has been good for the world, contends Chris Edwards, an economist with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

"Ireland's lower rate has had an excellent effect globally, including on the United States, because it created an incentive for other countries to lower their rates," Edwards told The Daily Signal.

Bono's and Edwards' views are backed up by research.

All else being equal, lower corporate tax rates increase the attractiveness of one EU country over another. However, market size and low production costs can play an even bigger role, according to a 2016 analysis by the Economic and Social Research Institute, an Irish research organization.

The analysis contends, if Ireland lost this competitive advantage, it would have a sweeping impact on its economy -- whether that change resulted from increasing its corporate tax rate or nearby countries decreasing theirs.

So, a 1 percent point increase to 13.5 percent would reduce the likelihood of a foreign company choosing Ireland by 4.6 percent, the analysis said.

The Irish tax law's rules for companies with significant "intellectual property" -- namely, technology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies -- allow them to pay between zero and 3 percent. Among the companies that have taken advantage of that are Google, Microsoft, Pfizer, and Boston Scientific.

However, the company that has gotten the most attention in recent years has been Apple.

EU vs. Ireland

The European Union's litigation against Ireland over Apple is poorly timed, Cato's Edwards said.

"This is the wrong time for the EU to persecute low-tax countries," he said. "The U.S. already slashed their rates, and it's more competitive than Europe on a number of other fronts."

In a test case for competitive tax systems across the world, Ireland and Apple are appealing a European Commission ruling to force Apple to pay 13 billion euros (about $15.5 billion), because the EU determined in August 2016 that the tech giant got unfair tax treatment from Ireland.

Apple employs 4,000 people at a manufacturing plant in Cork, Ireland.

The 2016 ruling by the European Commission, the EU's administrative body, contends that because of the "intellectual property" specifics of the deal, Apple ended up paying less than 1 percent of its Irish profits in taxes. Aid or subsidies are prohibited under EU rules as giving some companies an unfair advantage.

"What is the public good of the EU going after $15 billion from Apple?" Edwards asked. "Shouldn't Europeans be glad to have an innovative company like that operating in Europe?"

For the EU to push for "tax harmonization" among member countries would be similar to forcing a unitary tax policy for states in the United States, said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

"This would be like New York or California and other loser states trying to impose their tax policies on Florida," Norquist told The Daily Signal.

In an Apple statement issued in November, the U.S. company asserted:

When Ireland changed its tax laws in 2015, we complied by changing the residency of our Irish subsidiaries, and we informed Ireland, the European Commission, and the United States.

The changes we made did not reduce our tax payments in any country. In fact, our payments to Ireland increased significantly, and over the last three years, we've paid $1.5 billion in tax there -- 7 percent of all corporate income taxes paid in that country.

Our changes also ensured that our tax obligation to the United States was not reduced.

An April 2017 report by The Heritage Foundation on the Ireland-EU tax dispute warned of the potential harm attempting to impose higher taxes on sovereign countries could have on the global economy. The report said:

Efforts to suppress tax competition or to harmonize taxes are generally an effort to create a "tax cartel" among like-minded governments to keep taxes high.

The European Union's Apple ruling, similar to other recent EU investigations of tax reductions, might have the effect of discouraging beneficial tax competition among European nations.


Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of “The Right Side of History” podcast. Send an email to Fred@FredLucasWH

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

Voters Cast Ballots in 4 States; In Pa., Redrawn Map in Play

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:02

Tuesday’s primary elections will begin to settle swing state Pennsylvania’s chaotic congressional landscape after a court fight ended with redrawn districts just three months ago.

Pennsylvania primary voters will also decide the fate of President Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Senate. Idaho voters are set to pick their Republican gubernatorial nominee, while heavily Republican Nebraska and Democratic-leaning Oregon are also holding primaries Tuesday.

A look at some of the key races:

Pennsylvania Scramble

Republicans outnumber Democrats in Pennsylvania’s House delegation, though a new congressional map is making the state a focal point of Democrats’ effort to reclaim House control in November.

Eighty-four candidates are running in 18 House districts in light of new court-ordered redrawn congressional district maps in February. That’s more than any time since 1984, when Pennsylvania had 23 seats in the House.

Five of Pennsylvania’s 13 GOP House members have quit or are not running again, helping create seven House vacancies, the most in Pennsylvania since 1976.

Moderate Charlie Dent is abandoning Pennsylvania’s new 7th District, where Hillary Clinton received more votes than Trump, who carried Pennsylvania. Six Democrats are running in this district, which reunified Democratic-leaning cities in the east and cut out some of Republican-leaning central Pennsylvania.

Ten Democrats are running in suburban Philadelphia’s 5th District, where Rep. Patrick Meehan resigned last month amid allegations he sexually harassed a former employee and where Clinton also beat Trump.

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Barletta, Trump’s Pick for Senate

Rep. Lou Barletta is hoping Trump’s recent run of successful election suggestions continues in the Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary.

Barletta is heavily favored over state Rep. Jim Christiana to become the Republican challenger for Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, who is seeking a third term in November.

Barletta was a Trump supporter before the 2016 presidential nomination was settled. The loyalty won Barletta Trump’s early support in the Senate race, as well as recorded telephone calls last weekend featuring the president backing Barletta “fully, strongly and proudly.”

Last week, Trump urged GOP Senate primary voters to support Rep. Jim Renacci in the Ohio Senate and oppose former coal company executive Don Blankenship in West Virginia. Renacci won and Blankenship lost.

Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are all seen as key to the 2018 Senate election landscape as states where Trump won in 2016 and Democratic senators are seeking re-election this year.

First For Nebraska Democrats

Democrats seldom have the luxury of choice in Nebraska, where Republicans have dominated for 80 years. But, for the first time, Omaha-area Democrats have options for the state’s lone urban House district.

Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, dominated by Omaha and its suburbs, features moderate former Rep. Brad Ashford fighting for his old seat and Kara Eastman, a children’s nonprofit administrator, running to Ashford’s left.

Ashford, a former Republican, served one term in Congress as a Democrat before Republican Don Bacon beat him for re-election in 2016. Ashford, 69, has the endorsement of the Democratic establishment, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and is portraying himself as the one who can win in a swing-voting district in November.

Eastman, 46, is arguing that Democrats have lost by not offering voters a distinct choice and is campaigning on devoutly Democratic themes such as single-payer government-run health insurance, gun control and reducing climate change.

Labrador Aims to Dodge Anti-Washington Mood                                           

It was a rough night for Republican members of Congress a week ago. Two lost in Indiana’s Senate primary, while one fell in the West Virginia Senate primary. North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger lost the primary to keep his own seat.

Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador hopes the trend ends there.

The four-term Republican House member and founding member of the conservative House Republicans’ Freedom Caucus is one of three GOP candidates for governor in Idaho, a state so heavily Republican that the primary goes a long way to determining the general election.

Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is not seeking re-election after three terms.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little is seeking the GOP nomination, with Otter’s endorsement, while Tommy Ahlquist, an emergency room doctor turned developer, hopes his outsider status carries him as it did Indiana businessman Mike Braun in last week’s GOP Senate primary.

GOP Governor Primary in Democrat-Heavy Oregon

Ten Republicans are vying for Oregon’s nomination for governor -- the most in more than a century. The interest among candidates belies the uphill climb for the party in the Democratic-leaning state.

Of the 10, businessman Sam Carpenter, state Rep. Knute Buehler and retired Navy pilot Greg Wooldridge have emerged as leaders in fundraising and GOP straw polls. However, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown remains the favorite to win in November. Brown became governor in 2015 upon the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber following an ethics scandal, and she won a special election in 2016.

Oregon is among eight states where Democrats control the governorship and both houses of the state legislature. Voters who identify as Democrats also outnumber their Republican counterparts by more than 9 percentage points.


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

American Heritage Girls: An Answer to the Moral Relativism in the Girl Scouts

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 11:36

For 12 years Patti Garibay was a Girl Scout leader for all three of her daughters’ troops. She was also a troop organizer and a delegate. She was very involved and loved the Girl Scouts. But when she noticed changes that did not align with biblical teaching, she started her own organization for girls. Now American Heritage Girls (AHG) has 52,000 members and 1200 troops.

Moral Relativism and the Beginning of AHG

In the early 90s, Garibay came to a moral dilemma. The Girl Scouts changed their oath. The oath was to God, but the scouts pulled it. Now you can make an oath to whatever god you desire -- or to no God at all. As a very involved mom, Garibay questioned why the Scouts would do that. “There’s more to it than just tolerance and diversity,” said Garibay in an interview with The Stream. “I started to look at the curriculum and said, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s just filled with moral relativism.’ There’s no right or wrong written in the Brownie handbook.” Then she began seeing the homosexual agenda. It was “very prolific in the Girl Scouts in that more of our administrators and paid staffers were from that bent.”

Although Garibay tried to raise the alarm within the Girl Scouts, “it was way too late.” So she decided to start a Christ-centered organization for girls. 

The plan started at her kitchen table with other moms and dads. The hope was just to get her third daughter through the adolescent years. “It was never going to be anything like it is today, in my mind, but God had a bigger plan.” Garibay looks back over the 23 years since and is astonished to see how God used the AHG “not just to keep the promises that he has, and that he had for us, but also to maintain truth -- a moral barometer -- based around biblical principles.”

To me, character development has to be, for Christians, Christ-centered,” said Garibay. “Any other way will potentially be contradictory to your values, because if you’re going after social norms, it will definitely be contrary.”

Using AHG’s scouting methods made a girl’s faith concrete. It gave her faith “legs.” AHG “was founded because I believed scouting needed to be based on a moral foundation. And when you don’t do that, I don’t know how you can develop character.”

The Difference

There are several ways that AHG is different from Girl Scouts. The biggest difference between AHG and the Girl Scouts is that AHG is Christ-centered. “The girls really learn about who they are and whose they are. A girl’s identity comes from the fact that she’s made in the image of God and that she is enough. We can always strive to be better and more like Jesus, but he created us uniquely and perfectly. And boy, what a message for today’s girls.”

“To me, character development has to be, for Christians, Christ-centered,” said Garibay. “Any other way will potentially be contradictory to your values, because if you’re going after social norms, it will definitely be contrary.”

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AHG was created for girls by women who know the struggles of girlhood. Although AHG promotes leadership and understanding girls’ roles in leadership, their focus is not on girl power. “The Holy Spirit’s power in the girl is our mantra.”

AHG is also different from the Girl Scouts in that it’s chartered with churches and private schools. The girls are also held to a higher standard for behavior. Finally, the AHG is decidedly pro-life.    “[T]hat to me is not a political issue, that’s a moral issue, one that does affect girls.”

The program allows girls to discover God’s will for their lives. They do that through learning life skills culminating in a badge. Garibay is proud of AHG’s strong community service program. That’s where the girls find out what they really care about. “So there’s just a variety of different passions that the girls find that they have. When they see that their skills are matched, it’s an amazing thing.”

A Success Story

One success story involves a fourth-grade girl named Esther. Esther fell in love with aviation. Since she lived in Colorado Springs, she was able to visit the Air Force Academy. During her time there, she met some elderly men who allowed her to listen in on their conversations about their experiences. She earned an aviation badge from AHG. Garibay explained:

When it came time for her to earn her highest award, which is the Stars and Stripes in AHG, she decided to do a project for the national archives, a living history project which was trying to get all the WWII vets' testimonies into an audio recording. And so she recorded these gents and she learned so much. It was a phenomenal project, one of the best I've seen. But she didn't just stop there. She also decided that the Lord was calling her to do mission work. And so today, Esther is a missionary aviator in Uganda. And that all started with earning an aviation badge. 

Garibay doesn’t equate numbers with success. For her, success means “To do exactly what God has called us to do [and] to go through the doors that he’s opened. … anything short of that is not success.”

For parents who are thinking about putting their daughters in Girl Scouts, Garibay said they should scrutinize every activity that they choose for their daughters. “As Christians, we are called to life a life like Christ and it’s important that we choose activities that are aligned, not [in] contradiction to His Word. … I believe God honors organizations that honor Him.”

If parents are called to start a troop with AHG, God will equip them. “The Lord does not call the equipped,” Garibay noted. “He equips the called. … Whenever I go out speaking I want to affirm women to let them know that [they] can, if He calls [them], [they] can because of Him. I hope that … all the glory goes to God for what we’re doing here, and that He wants more workers in the field because the harvest is ripe.”