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Military Photo of the Day: Detonating a Timber Charge

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 08:00

U.S. Marines detonate a timber charge during a demolition and explosive training exercise at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on January 11, 2018.

Wow! Thank you to Pfc. Ginnie Lee for capturing this remarkable image.





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Senate GOP, Dem Leaders Say It’s Time for Immigration Deal

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 01:30

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate’s two top leaders put on a show of comradery Monday as their chamber launched its immigration debate, but also laid down markers underscoring how hard it will be to reach a deal that can move through Congress.

“We really do get along, despite what you read in the press,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., at a previously scheduled appearance alongside his counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at the University of Louisville.

There was even ribbing when Schumer presented McConnell with a bottle of bourbon made in his home New York City borough of Brooklyn. McConnell, whose state knows a thing or two about bourbon, proclaimed, “There’s no such thing as Brooklyn bourbon.”

But just days after the two leaders brokered a bipartisan $400 billion budget agreement and helped shepherd it into law, both men made clear that an immigration agreement will be tough.

“The time for political posturing is behind us,” McConnell said later Monday on the Senate floor. He said while Democrats have called for “swift action” on immigration, “Now’s the time to back up the talk with the hard work of finding a solution.”

That, he pointedly said, would mean passage by the Senate and the House of a measure “which the president will sign.”

McConnell expressed his support for a wide-ranging proposal by President Donald Trump that the Senate is expected to vote on this week. It would pave a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million young “Dreamer” immigrants in the U.S. illegally, a lure for Democrats that many Republicans oppose.

Trump also wants $25 billion for Trump’s border wall with Mexico and other security measures, as well as curbs on legal immigration -- a must for many Republicans. Many Democrats consider some of the proposals, including limiting the relatives that legal immigrants can bring to the U.S., to be non-starters.

In his own remarks on the Senate floor, Schumer expressed opposition to such a sweeping approach.

“The only enemy here is overreach,” Schumer said. “Now is not the time nor the place to reform the entire legal immigration system. Rather, this is the time for a narrow bill” -- which Democrats have said would help the Dreamers and provide some money for border security.

The comments came as the Senate voted 97-1 -- Ted Cruz, R-Texas, provided the sole “no” vote -- to plunge into an open-ended immigration debate that’s been promised by McConnell. Both parties’ leaders hope debate can be concluded this week, but it’s unclear if that will happen or what the product, if any, will be.

“This is going to be done or not done this week,” No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas told reporters.

Lawmakers’ focus will be the Dreamers, hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who have lived in the U.S. illegally since being brought here as children.

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They had been given temporary protection from deportation by President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Trump has said he’ll end that program March 5, though a federal court has temporarily blocked him from scuttling it.

Trump’s overall immigration plan, opposed by many Democrats, stands little chance of prevailing because any measure will need 60 votes. That means proposals will need substantial bipartisan support since the GOP majority is 51-49, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been absent in recent weeks battling cancer.

Highlighting the partisan gap, there was plenty of finger-pointing Monday.

Trump put the onus on Democrats, saying, “I hope the Democrats are not going to use it just as a campaign” issue.

No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois said the key impediment to a bipartisan deal was Trump’s history of switching positions on the issue.

“Nailing the president down has been next to impossible,” he said.


Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.


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

Huckabee: Do Americans Really Understand the Bill of Rights?

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 01:00

Gov. Mike Huckabee is a very close friend and, in my opinion, a true American statesman. He worked for me for more than four years and set up the meeting that helped propel Ronald Reagan into the presidency. Huckabee served as a pastor in Arkansas for 12 years, and later became governor of that state.

Now he is hosting a great program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Titled Huckabee, it airs at 7 p.m. CT on Saturdays, and re-airs on Sunday night.

Here is the opening monologue from his most recent program on Saturday, Feb. 10. What he said is worth watching. Gov. Huckabee declared we are, indeed, in a constitutional crisis. “The crisis is that a lot of Americans, including the media, seem to have flunked 9th grade civics,” he says, “They have no clue what the Constitution provides and protects.” 

Watch it and share:

Frances ‘Fanny’ Crosby — America’s Hymn Writer

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 23:30

Fanny Crosby, one of America's most prolific hymn writers, died 103 years ago Monday. Her lyrics grace every hymnal as she wrote upwards of 9,000 hymns. Some of her most famous works are Blessed Assurance, All the Way My Savior Leads Me, To God Be the Glory, and Safe in the Arms of Jesus.

Frances Jane Crosby

Fanny Crosby was born Frances Jane Crosby in 1820 in New York. At six weeks of age, Crosby lost her sight. A man who pretended to be a doctor told her mother to place hot mustard poultices on her eyes to treat an infection. By the time her mother and father realized she was blind, the fake doctor was long gone.

A year later her father died. Crosby's 21-year-old mother found work as a maid and Crosby was left in the care of her grandmother, Eunice, during the day. The two became very close, so much so that Crosby once said, "My grandmother was more to me than I can ever express by word or pen."

Eunice spent hours walking through the meadows with Crosby and describing in detail what she saw around her. The two also spent hours together in the Bible. Eunice noticed that the little girl could memorize scripture very quickly. Eunice encouraged her to memorize passages of scripture, which Crosby did. Eunice also taught her granddaughter about the importance of prayer and a close relationship with God.

Crosby loved poetry and wrote her first verse when she was eight years old:

Oh, what a happy soul I am,

although I cannot see!

I am resolved that in this world

Contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy

That other people don't,

To weep and sigh because I'm blind

I cannot, and I won't!

Just before she turned 15, her mother enrolled her in the newly founded New York Institute for the Blind, where she stayed for 23 years. Crosby spent 12 years there as a student and taught at the Institute for another 11 years.

In 1858, Crosby married a former pupil of the Institute, Alexander van Alstyne. Their only child died in infancy.

Crosby’s Hymn Writing Career

Around 1864 Crosby began her hymn writing career, with Van Alstyne writing much of the accompanying music. Crosby wrote so many hymns that it’s difficult to know the exact number. She even wrote under pseudonyms so hymn books wouldn't be filled with her name. 

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She was under contract from her publisher to write three hymns per week. She often wrote more than that. Many of those hymns would become popular. However, when evangelist Dwight L. Moody and singer Ira Sankey used them during their crusades, they gained much more attention.

In addition to her hymns, Crosby published four volumes of poetry, a cantata and two autobiographical volumes.

A well-meaning preacher once told her, "I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you." Crosby replied, "Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind?" When asked why, Crosby replied, "Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”


Fanny Crosby died February 12, 1915 in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

President Trump’s ‘Executive Time’ Is Time Well Spent

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 22:01

Recent news reports, commentators and senators have criticized President Trump for blocking off a number of hours on his calendar for "Executive Time.” The implication is that blocking this time is not really executive behavior. Certainly not presidential. Some are arguing that his Executive Time is a waste of time.

Is this fair?

In fact, blocked-off Executive Time may be the most important time of the day for the manager. 

Journalists, consultants and academia are often confused about the differences between the way an individual contributor and the manager spend their time.  The staffer, who does the work assigned by his supervisor, gets graded on his efficiency -- getting more work done in fewer hours and a lower cost. 

But the manager, from the first-line supervisor, to CEO, to President of the United States should not get graded on "efficiency." The manager should get graded on effectiveness.

Effectiveness is the accomplishment of organizational goals. Here is the, yes, genius, of President Trump. He is steadily and effectively advancing his agenda. He is working toward increased employment, a stronger stock market, a more conservative judiciary, and greater national security. 

Action vs. Progress

The amateur observer confuses action with progress. Perhaps the busiest man to occupy the White House was President Jimmy Carter. But no one would claim he was effective.

The new, young manager, or a Jimmy Carter (who personally scheduled the White House tennis courts) is busy-busy-busy. The new supervisor still focuses on the staffer's scorecard of his previous life: taking action and being efficient. 

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But the manager's 'work' is getting things done -- through other people. 

The work of the boss is to plan, organize, lead and control. He can accomplish this managerial work only with the active support of his staff. The successful individual contributor must be efficient. The good manager is effective. 

“Effective executives do not make a great many decisions,” wrote the great management guru Peter Drucker. “They concentrate on what is important. They try to make the few important decisions on the highest level of conceptual understanding.”

Time to Reflect

To be effective later, the most important use of Executive Time is sometimes … to do "nothing." To think. The most common complaint from executives is, "If only I had an hour to think about a problem." The boss needs discretionary, uncluttered time to think.  

General "Red" Newman, a World War II hero, wrote advice to a young officer in a book entitled Follow Me III. In the chapter "’Think Time' is Vital in Command," he explains:

Stop. Look out the window now and then, and let your mind stand away from problems to see them in perspective, to select those areas to which you will direct your efforts.

... The most important duty ... is not just to work skillfully, even selectively, at matters [needed] for resolution or coordination, but to reflect on matters ...

The only way that kind of reflection happens for a harried CEO is if he schedules it on his calendar, and fiercely protects that time. 

These days, they might even label it "Executive Time."  


Jack Yoest is an Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America in The Busch School of Business and Economics, in Washington, DC.  He is the author of The Memo: How the Classified Military Document That Helped the U.S. Win WWII Can Help You Succeed in Business.

Trump Says ‘Up To’ Congress to Act on Infrastructure Plan

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 21:10

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump sent Congress a sweeping plan Monday to rebuild the nation’s depleted roads and bridges.

“If you want it badly, you’re going to get it,” Trump told state and local officials during a meeting at the White House. “And if you don’t want it, that’s OK with me too.”

Trump suggested that his proposal -- aimed at spurring $1.5 trillion in spending over a decade -- was not as important to him as other recent administration efforts to cut taxes and boost military spending.

“If for any reason, they don’t want to support to it, hey, that’s going to be up to them,” Trump said of the Republican-controlled Congress. “What was very important to me was the military, what was very important to me was the tax cuts, and what was very important to me was regulation.”

Speaking of infrastructure, Trump added: “This is of great importance, but it’s not nearly in that category. Because the states will have to do it themselves if we don’t do it. But I would like to help the states out.”

The administration’s plan is centered on using $200 billion in federal money to leverage more than $1 trillion in local and state tax dollars to fix America’s infrastructure, such as roads, highways, ports and airports. The administration released a 55-page “legislative outline” for lawmakers who will write the legislation.

With the plan heavily dependent on state and local dollars, Democrats warned it would raise tolls on commuters, sell off government-owned infrastructure to Wall Street and eliminate critical environmental protections.

The proposal lists Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport as examples of assets that could be sold.

Convening a roomful of state and local leaders, Trump listened as governors and mayors pitched individual projects in their states and described the challenges involved with gaining federal permits.

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“It seems to me that the pyramids in Egypt were built faster than some of the projects that we’re contemplating,” said Esteban Bovo, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission in Florida.

Trump vowed repeatedly that the federal permitting process would be streamlined but said it would be up to state and local leaders to ensure that local permits don’t hold up worthy projects.

“Washington will no longer be a road block to progress. Washington will now be your partner,” Trump said.

The proposal features two key components: an injection of funding for new investments and to speed up repairs of crumbling roads and airports, as well as a streamlined permitting process that would reduce the wait time to get projects under way. Officials said the $200 billion in federal support would come from cuts to existing programs.

Half the money would go to grants for transportation, water, flood control, cleanup at some of the country’s most polluted sites and other projects.

States, local governments and other project sponsors could use the grants -- which administration officials cast as incentives -- to cover no more than 20 percent of the costs. Transit agencies generally count on the federal government for half the cost of major construction projects, and federal dollars can make up as much as 80 percent of some highway projects.

About $50 billion would go toward rural projects -- transportation, broadband, water, waste, power, flood management and ports. That is intended to address criticism from some Republican senators that the administration’s initial emphasis on public-private partnerships would do little to help rural, GOP-leaning states.

The remaining federal dollars include: $20 billion for expanded loan programs and private bonds, $20 billion for “transformative projects” that are seen as visionary and $10 billion for a capital financing fund and office-building by the federal government.

“This plan recognizes what everyone in America knows firsthand: America’s infrastructure is in disrepair, and it’s long past time we start building again,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.


Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed reporting.


Follow Thomas on Twitter at


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

Police: Donald Trump Jr.’s Wife Taken to Hospital After Exposure to White Powder

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 20:29

NEW YORK (AP) -- Donald Trump Jr.’s wife was taken to a New York City hospital as a precaution Monday after she opened an envelope addressed to her husband that contained an unidentified white powder, police said.

A preliminary test indicated the substance wasn’t dangerous, police said.

Vanessa Trump, 40, opened the letter addressed to the president’s son Monday morning at their midtown Manhattan apartment, investigators said. She called 911 and said she was coughing and felt nauseous, police said.

The Trump Organization didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the president’s son has now tweeted about the incident.

Thankful that Vanessa & my children are safe and unharmed after the incredibly scary situation that occurred this morning. Truly disgusting that certain individuals choose to express their opposing views with such disturbing behavior.

— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 12, 2018

Detectives from the New York Police Department’s intelligence division and Secret Service agents are investigating.

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“The Secret Service and our law enforcement partners in New York City are investigating a suspicious package addressed to one of our protectees received today in New York, New York. This is an active investigation and we cannot comment any further,” Secret Service Special Agent Jeffrey Adams said in a statement.

Vanessa Trump, a former model, and Donald Trump Jr. have five children, none of whom were home at the time of the incident.

In March 2016, police detectives and FBI agents investigated a threatening letter sent to the Manhattan apartment of Donald Trump Jr.’s brother, Eric, that also contained a white powder that turned out to be harmless. Envelopes containing white powder were also sent to Trump Tower, which served as Trump’s campaign headquarters, twice in 2016.

Hoax attacks using white powder play on fears that date to 2001, when letters containing deadly anthrax were mailed to news organizations and the offices of two U.S. senators. Those letters killed five people.


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

BreakPoint: America’s Reversal on Gay ‘Marriage’

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 17:45

The fight over same-sex "marriage" already seems like a distant memory. But the way it was fought is the mother of all worldview lessons.

According to recent surveys, Americans -- especially younger generations -- are more supportive of gay "marriage" than ever before. One Gallup poll revealed that a strong majority -- 64 percent -- approve of the rights invented and bestowed on same-sex couples by the Supreme Court in the Obergefell decision.

And the Barna Group recently reported that teenagers today are at least twice as likely as American adults to identify as LGBT.

All of this, despite the fact that in 2011, a vast majority of U.S. states had defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. How could it be that, in just the next four years, state after state would strike down those marriage amendments, public opinion would shift by ten points and finally, in 2015, the Obergefell decision would make everything official?

At least part of the answer is found in how entertainment reshaped our collective imaginations. From Will and Grace, to Glee, to Modern Family, Hollywood spent years, and millions, portraying homosexuality as funny, normal, natural, and even wholesome.

Around the same time, in another sphere of culture, politicians like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton "evolved" on the issue, and their base -- which was already largely pro-gay -- responded with a fast and radical leftward swing.

In a cultural moment, political liberals went from tolerating disagreement on marriage to demonizing anyone who still affirmed "one-man-one-woman," as bigoted, hateful, homophobes.

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Business, too, played a major role in this shift. The success of the Human Rights Campaign in pressuring companies to actively promote LGBT causes is, well, incredible. And government leadership in state after state, with rare exceptions like North Carolina, caved to the corporate financial leverages that were being threatened against them.

But decades before all that happened in entertainment, politics, and business, there was something else that made same-sex "marriage" basically inevitable: the formal divorce of marriage and procreation.

As University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus has convincingly argued, "the pill" alone was enough to sever the link between sex and procreation, changing how Americans thought about love and marriage. No longer did those two things necessarily lead to that "baby in the baby carriage." Protestants, evangelicals, and the Catholic laity mostly accepted that change without a peep of protest.

The divorce of marriage and procreation led to all kinds of unintended consequences. Marriage was popularly transformed from being a nest for children to being an expression of adult feelings. And once it was no longer "about the children," "no-fault divorce" legally redefine marriage in the law.

Fast forward a few decades, removing any remaining stigmas on sexual behavior, and then terms like "husband and wife," "mother" and "father," and ultimately, "male and female" lost their defining power. Same-sex unions were then just a very short step away.

Which brings us to today and the news that an up-and-coming generation may be the most pro-LGBT in history. Those of us who believe in God's design for sex face a daunting task. Reversing Obergefell and rebuilding the shattered consensus on natural marriage won't happen quickly. But here's what we can do ...

First, we can help our children understand what went wrong, especially the wrong ideas about sex, marriage, happiness, and procreation that permeate our society. Second, we can help them know what's right about God's design for marriage, sex, and procreation.

But remember, this battle was lost, not by argument, but in the imagination. And so we must embody God's design in our marriages and in our communities.

And finally, we should repent of the ways in which we embraced the deadly wrong ideas of this social revolution.

Resources Get Ready, Youth Group Leaders: Teens Twice as Likely to Identify as Atheist or LGBT

Kate Shellnutt | Christianity Today | January 23, 2018

In U.S., More Adults Identifying as LGBT

Gallup News | January 11, 2017

Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage

John Stonestreet, Josh McDowell | Baker Publishing | July 2014


G. Shane Morris contributed to this article.

Originally published on BreakPoint Commentaries, February 12, 2018. Re-published with permission of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

What the Alt-Right Gets Right — and What It Gets Wrong

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 17:19

First Things just ran a deep and valuable essay on the Alt-Right. The author, Matthew Rose, dug beneath the crust on that movement's surface: the outbursts of vile anti-Semitism, crude expressions of racial animus and thuggish tribalism. As the author notes, there's much that lies beneath. In fact the Alt-Right has ideas at as least serious and grounded as the Marxist tradition. We wouldn't wave off every insight claimed by Marxists by pointing to Pol Pot's killing fields. (Except maybe on Twitter.) Nor does it work to dismiss the Alt-Right's assertions by talking about the Holocaust.

It doesn't work, in the same sense and for the same reasons: It doesn't adequately persuade people. And if we see (correctly, with the author) that the Alt-Right is as hostile to Christianity as Marxism still is, then we have to work a lot harder.  Not everyone drawn to the Marxist left has genocidal fantasies. (Though we might rightly point out that Marx's ideas seem to point to that.) The same is true on the racialist right, however deeply misguided its advocates are.

Every Heresy Has a Grain of Truth

We need to untangle the partial truths submerged in Alt-Right arguments. Every heresy has some. And if we don't dig them out and show how orthodoxy can account for them, the heresy will just keep on growing. And we'll be tempted to create an opposing, exaggerated error of our own, blowing past the truth in our zeal. That's how some of the most zealous Christians over the centuries ended up heretics themselves. Some who fought the Arians for denying Jesus' divinity ended up obliterating His humanity, and so on.

Rose's essay does a fine job of showing what Alt-Rightists object to in Christianity, as they perceive it:

A radical universalism that undercuts the concrete loyalties that make life meaningful. This acid eats at everything from ties of kin to local traditions and national sovereignty. It demands that we treat everyone, finally, as interchangeable. (Hence we shouldn't defend our own families against the impact of illegal immigrants. That would be "selfish.") A fetish for the weak and the vulnerable that sneers at health and excellence. (See the headlong embrace of "transgender" fantasies, and disgust at military parades and sports culture.) An aversion to the healthy enjoyment of earthly life, which leads people to neurotically torture themselves and others. (I've known couples who felt guilty having their own children, when there are so many in foreign countries who need adoption.) A hysterical perfectionism, which encourages utopian politics. Even as evidence mounts that such policies are backfiring, the true believer clings to them. He's more concerned with keeping his intentions pristine than their actual effects in the world on other people. (See European churchmen who insist that importing intolerant, often violent Muslims is our Christian duty.) A kind of proud masochism, which measures one's moral goodness by the extent of his radical altruism -- and sneers at those who mind their own business but defend their legitimate interests. (Hence the addiction of liberal Christians to counter-productive welfare programs and wealth redistribution.) The Brimstone Test

Now this picture of Christianity is indeed repulsive. If this were what the Church had historically taught, I would persecute it myself. No need, though. These false inferences from the Gospel launched one gnostic movement after another over the centuries. And the Church itself fought them, sometimes to the point of persecution. (See the Albigensian Crusade.) If the Alt-Right were right about what Christianity “really” is, we should reject it energetically. The answer wouldn’t be Odinism, though. It would be orthodox Judaism.

If the Alt-Right were right about what Christianity “really” is, we should reject it energetically. The answer wouldn’t be Odinism, though. It would be orthodox Judaism.

As I've written here before, such gnostic distortions of Christianity fail the "Brimstone Test." They paint the New Covenant of Jesus as the utter inversion of the First Covenant with the Jews. Sorry, but God taught the Jews to defend their borders, welcome prosperity and large families as gifts from God, and perpetuate their own people in their own land. If the next revelation that comes flips all that on its head, and teaches us that all our earthly instincts are corrupt and evil, then it's not from the same God.

That's what the heretic Marcion decided. He embraced pacifism, voluntary communism, and radical asceticism for all. He couldn't make such a radical religion gibe with the Old Testament. So much the worse for the Old Testament, then! He concluded that YHWH was in fact an evil, bumbling lesser god or angel, from whom Jesus came to free us. On that theory, the Jews worshiped a kind of devil. Marcion hacked off large pieces of the New Testament as well, calling them "inauthentic" because they contradicted him. Here we see the first instance of "higher" biblical criticism.

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Just Another Marcion

It's only by treating the Church's historic synthesis of natural goods in a fallen world with supernatural aims that we can find authentic Christianity. If someone comes along and tells you that he has found in the New Testament a new and more "radical" version of Christianity that avoids such a synthesis, he's not a prophet. He's just another Marcion.

Tragically, large swathes of the Christian church have embraced Marcionite distortions. The Alt-Right is right to reject all that as worse than most forms of paganism. (Or Judaism, of course, though they never say that. Did I mention that they’re prone to irrational bigotry, as the left is to sneering envy?)

It is dead-wrong to grant the claim of open-borders, socialist or pacifist Christians to be the "authentic" interpreters of scripture. That's the Church's job, guided by the Holy Spirit across centuries. And on each of these issues across the denominations, the Church has spoken through word and deed. She has embraced nationhood, love of family and a wholesome embrace of earthly life -- so long as we live it with the next life firmly in view.

If you know people tempted by Alt-Right arguments, remind them of all of this. More likely, you know liberal Christians who are drawn to Marcionite madness. Tell them that they're just making life far too easy for radical racists and pagans. Because that's exactly what they're doing.

A New Face of Hope

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 17:08

ROME -- I left the country the other day, and the talk on Facebook ever since I logged on across the pond seems to be the new algorithms that limit the number of people you see on your newsfeed. But, in all due respect to all the people I am missing, I can handle what I've been seeing most: nonstop images, videos and commentaries on the new Gerber baby, Lucas Warren. He has Down syndrome, and with his smiling face, he says more about life and love and hope than any words ever put together.

The New Gerber Baby

Lucas, from Georgia, was one of 140,000 entries in a contest to become the new face of the venerable baby food company. His mother, Cortney, told Today: “He's very outgoing and never meets a stranger … He loves to play, loves to laugh and loves to make other people laugh."

Lucas’ smile seems instantaneous and contagious. It's hard not to look at him and think of all the pain that the world might see in store for him, and how his innocent love is only what he has to offer you. It's as if his message to the world is: “Lighten up and love already! That's my approach! I'm enjoying it! You should try it.” He has no idea how the world looks on him or that there are countries that would have had him eliminated before having the chance to live.

‘We All Fall Short of Perfection’

A few weeks ago, I talked to Patricia Heaton, star of the prime-time sitcom The Middle, who has been an outspoken advocate for the rights of people with Down syndrome. Speaking in response to a news story about Iceland "eliminating" Down syndrome, she told me in an interview for Angelus magazine: "They are not eliminating Down syndrome; you would have to have some kind of genetic maneuver in order to eliminate Down syndrome. What they are doing is eliminating people who happen to have Down syndrome. It's a very different prospect … We have to start telling the truth about what is happening, and not try to use semantics to deceive or sugarcoat what's happening."

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Heaton told me about the first time she was pregnant, when a prenatal blood test showed her firstborn might have Down syndrome. As she faced a wave of emotions, she says that she started thinking about Down syndrome on a spectrum: "[W]hen God looks down on all of us, we all fall short of perfection."

Heaton is quick to say we cannot "sugarcoat" the challenges of disabilities, but that we have to start looking at people as people, as creatures of infinite possibility, not liabilities.

‘Champions of People With Disabilities’

As Heaton said to me: "I feel that along with standing up for the right of disabled people to be born, we have to focus also on support for families who have family members with disabilities -- whether they're funded by state or federal programs, or whether it's charitable programs, or the community does it … We need to have more programs … to integrate people with disabilities into the community, and to make sure … families get the support that they need, because it is more difficult for some families, depending on the level of disability, and the intensity of the disability … If we are going to be champions of people with disabilities, we also need to be champions of the support systems that need to be around them and their families."

While the Gerber spokesbaby is a corporate mascot on the surface, the position can mean so much more this year. Looking in the eyes of Lucas, we might see a better way to live. A way free of some of the anxieties that hold us back from freely living and radically loving. I'm not far from Pope Francis here in Rome, and am reminded that he often talks about the need for a "revolution of tenderness." If this isn't what such a revolution looks like, I don't know its face.


Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at

‘Glorify God’: Christian Olympic Skaters Credit Their Faith to Overcoming Debilitating Illness

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 17:00

Husband and wife pairs figure skaters Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim were all smiles Thursday night after taking part in the team competition at the Winter Olympics. Though they skated well, and helped the U.S.A. score a bronze, the smiles weren’t over their score. 

The Knierim’s have overcome a potentially deadly illness that left Alexa weighing only 80 pounds. Just competing at this year’s Olympics is a victory for the couple. And for that victory, they give all credit to their faith. 

Life -- and Skating -- Put on Hold

In April of 2016 Alexa became ill at a competition. She was diagnosed in August of that year with a serious intestinal illness that required immediate surgery. She would undergo three operations in total. 

The couple withdrew from all competition for the first half of 2017. "My life, our life, changed drastically in that time period -- life was on hold and we weren't really sure what life would be for the two of us," Alexa told People.

The illness left her very weak. "The very first time I stepped back on the ice after my surgeries, Chris had to hold me up because my body was not capable of standing on its own."

How far Pyeongchang must have seemed from the training rink.

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“You Lead the Way”

On Sunday, Alexa and Chris spoke to reporters  about how their Christian faith sustained them. "It's the reason I was able to get back on the ice," said Alexa."I stopped worrying and stopped trying to control life, because I couldn't. In the moment, you know, I was so sick and didn't really know where things were going to go for me, whether it was skating or life in general. So I finally just threw my hands up and said like, 'You lead the way,' and it's my testimony and I stay true to it."

She said being at the Olympics it isn’t about her. "I have fans out there who know that I am a true believer in the Lord and I'm trying my best to shine his light and let people know that it's okay to promote him and do things for him, because in the Christian life that's kind of what we're supposed to."

Alexa added that being at the Olympics was an opportunity to "glorify God, and my followers know that's my purpose and it makes me happy. I'm living my dream, and if that's the way that I have to go about it, I'll keep doing it."

The husband and wife team participate in group prayers before their competitions and regularly meet with other Christian athletes in Colorado, reported People.

Faith has taken a big role in the couple’s lives, said Alexa. “I truly believe that's why we were able to get here."

Chris added that being at the Olympics was the "cherry on top." "We've had a tough couple of years, and this is just something really special."

Changes in Abortion Legislation are Sweeping the Country. Here’s What You Need to Know

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 13:32

Abortion legislation has historically been a hot-button topic among liberals and conservatives alike, and 2017 was no exception, with a remarkable number of abortion restriction increases and changes in legislation across the United States.

Conservatives and pro-lifers should feel encouraged after 2017 saw more wins for pro-life legislation than pro-abortion legislation. Including those adopted in 2017, states have enacted 401 abortion restrictions since January 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Legislators in 30 states have introduced abortion bans, with six states enacting new laws in 2017.

A Mississippi House committee approved a bill Tuesday that seeks to outlaw most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. House Bill 1510 would ban women from having abortions after said time stamp, unless the unborn baby is not expected to survive outside the womb or if the woman's life would be jeopardized by continuing the pregnancy.

Mississippi already outlaws most abortions after 20 weeks gestation. The measure will head to the full House for debate. No state currently bans abortion before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Twenty other states ban abortions after more than 20 weeks gestation.

A Missouri judge ruled in October that the state's 72-hour waiting period is constitutional, rejecting Planned Parenthood's emergency motion for a temporary restraining order on Missouri's abortion laws. Missouri is also considering a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks gestation.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, signed House Bill 214 in December, effectively banning doctors from aborting babies testing positive for Down syndrome. The law penalizes doctors for performing abortions on pregnant women who receive a positive test that their baby will have Down syndrome, but does not fine or punish a woman who aborts her baby after receiving a positive test for the congenital disorder. The doctor who performs the abortion would be held responsible and would receive a fourth-degree felony charge, according to The Associated Press.

Down syndrome abortion bans have also been introduced in Oklahoma, Missouri, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Utah.

The Iowa state senate voted Thursday to approve Senate Study Bill 3143, that outlaws abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected upon ultrasound. A heartbeat typically becomes detectable between six and nine weeks gestation. Any doctor who performs or attempts to perform an abortion on a woman after a heartbeat is detected will be charged with a Class D felony and subject to five years in prison and a fine of $750 to $7,500. The bill does, however, allow abortion in cases where the mother's life is in danger. No exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities are included in the bill.

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"This may be what our culture is ready for," said state Sen. Jason Schultz, an Iowa Republican. "Stopping a beating heart is never health care." The Iowa House of Representatives is currently reviewing a similar bill, H.F. 2163.

The U.S. House approved the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in January, requiring health care practitioners to give the same care to a child born alive after a botched abortion as they would provide to any other child birthed at the same gestational age. They must also ensure that babies born after botched abortions are immediately admitted to a hospital.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, issued an executive order in August to exclude abortion providers from the state's full-benefit Medicaid program. Nine states have taken steps to exclude abortion providers from either their full-benefit Medicaid programs or Medicaid family planning expansions since 2011.

The Ohio Supreme Court also revoked the license of an abortion clinic in Toledo, Ohio, Tuesday after years of inspection violations and a failure to meet the state's abortion clinic standards. The state's Supreme Court upheld the Ohio Department of Health's order revoking the license of Toledo's Capital Care abortion clinic because it repeatedly failed to produce a written transfer agreement with a hospital for emergency cases where women undergoing abortions need immediate transportation to a nearby hospital. State inspectors also found 24 violations at the abortion clinic in the past 10 years, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Toledo now hosts no abortion clinics.

"Efforts to be ready to protect life at the state level is exactly the kind of ground game that policy leaders should be championing across the country," a Students For Life of America spokesperson told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement, applauding 2017's pro-life legislative efforts.

Abortion advocates, however, have seen wins in other legislative areas. The U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation in January that would prevent doctors from performing abortions on women who are 20 weeks pregnant or more. Fifty-one lawmakers voted for the measure and 46 voted against it, but the bill failed to pass the Senate requirement of 60 votes necessary for a debate on the bill.

Other states are also pushing for increased abortion access, even on college campuses. The California Senate approved a bill in January requiring the state's public universities and colleges to offer abortion drugs at their health centers. Senate Bill 320, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Connie Leyva, requires the state's community colleges and public universities to provide women with abortion pills for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy so that they don't have to travel to get the pills. San Francisco's Tara Foundation and an anonymous donor have agreed to cover implementation costs estimated between $14 million and $20 million, ABC reported.

In sum, 2017 saw a large number of legislative successes for pro-lifers. Nineteen states adopted 63 new restrictions on abortion access in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute's Jan 2, 2018 report. That total is the largest number of abortion restrictions enacted in a year since 2013. Twenty-one states, however, adopted proactive measures to expand access to or protect abortion in 2017.

Guttmacher senior manager, Elizabeth Nash, notes that 2017 saw a "dramatic upsurge in proactive efforts to expand access to abortion, contraception, [and] other reproductive health services," but that many of those efforts have been unsuccessful. Those efforts have largely been a "reaction to all of the abortion restrictions that have been moving," Nash added, according to The Hill.

Twenty-nine states were "hostile or extremely hostile" to abortion in 2017, according to Guttmacher.


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Wind, Ice and Cold are Making This Olympics Too Wintry

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 13:11

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) -- The Winter Olympics are supposed to be cold, of course. Just maybe not this cold.

Wind and ice pellets left Olympic snowboarders simply trying to stay upright in conditions that many felt were unfit for competition, the best ski jumpers on the planet dealing with swirling gusts and biathletes aiming to shoot straight.

All around the games, athletes and fans are dealing with conditions that have tested even the most seasoned winter sports veterans.

Low temperatures have hovered in the single digits, dipping below zero with unforgiving gusts whipping at 45 mph (70 kph) making it feel much colder. Organizers have shuffled schedules, and shivering spectators left events early.

The raw air sent hundreds of fans to the exits Sunday when qualifying was called off after women’s slopestyle devolved into a mess of mistakes, and Monday’s final started 75 minutes late. Of the 50 runs, 41 ended with a fall or a rider essentially giving up.

American Jamie Anderson won the gold medal by watching most of her competitors struggle, and then completing a conservative run that paled in comparison to her winning performance at the X Games just two weeks ago.

“It has to be absolutely petrifying, terrifying, being up that high in the air, and having a gust 30 mph coming sideways at you,” said United States Ski and Snowboard Association CEO Tiger Shaw.

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Many of the snowboarders didn’t think they should have been out there.

“You’re going up the chairlift and you see these little tornadoes,” said Czech snowboarder Sarka Pancohova, who finished 16th, “and you’re like, ‘What is this?'”

At ski jumping, giant netting was set up to reduce the wind that can blow at three times the optimal velocity for the sport. Didn’t help all that much, though: The men’s normal hill final on Saturday was pushed back repeatedly and eventually finished after midnight.

“It was unbelievably cold,” said Japan’s Noriaki Kasai, competing at his record eighth Olympics. “The noise of the wind at the top of the jump was incredible. I’ve never experienced anything like that on the World Cup circuit. I said to myself, ‘Surely, they are going to cancel this.'”

Alpine skiing, meanwhile, still hasn’t been able to get started at all, leaving stars like Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway waiting for their turn in the spotlight. Each of the first two races on the program -- the men’s downhill Sunday, and the women’s giant slalom Monday -- were called off hours before they were supposed to begin. Both of those have been moved to Thursday, when things are supposed to become slightly more manageable.

The forecast calls for more high winds Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I am pretty sure that soon,” men’s race director Markus Waldner said, “we will have a race.”

Until then, he and other officials are left trying to come up with contingency plans and ways to get the full 11-race Alpine program completed before the Olympics are scheduled to close on Feb. 25.

As it is, logistical complications are real concerns.

Waldner pointed out that he needs to figure out a way to get three men’s races -- the combined, downhill and super-G -- completed by Friday, because there is only one hotel right by the speed course at the Jeongseon Alpine Center. The male skiers need to vacate their rooms to make way for their female counterparts, whose speed events are supposed to begin Saturday.

“Now, it’s getting tight,” he said.

Even those attending indoor events have been tested. Long, cold waits for buses have left workers, media and fans complaining.

Those involved in winter sports are used to this sort of thing, of course.

At the 2007 Alpine world championships in Sweden, for example, strong winds wiped out first three days of competition. At the 1993 world championships in Japan, the men’s super-G was never contested.

Can happen the other way, too. At the 2010 Vancouver Games, the first two Alpine races were postponed because of rain and too-warm temperatures in the 40s (below 10 Celsius). The entire Alpine world championships slated for Spain in 1995 were rescheduled for a whole year later because of a lack of snow.

“That’s a piece of the puzzle that, I guess, fortunately or unfortunately is part of our world,” U.S. Alpine men’s speed coach Johno McBride said. “You’re dealing with Mother Nature.”


AP Sports Writers Jim Armstrong, Pat Graham, Eddie Pells and Jake Seiner contributed to this report.


More AP Olympic coverage:

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

London City Airport Shuts Down Due to Unexploded WWII Bomb

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:56

LONDON (AP) -- All flights in and out of London City Airport were canceled Monday after a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) unexploded World War II-era bomb was found nearby in the River Thames.

The Metropolitan Police service cleared an area within 214 meters (700 feet) of the bomb, including several residential streets, as officers worked with specialists from the Royal Navy to remove the device.

Police said the bomb was discovered Sunday at the George V Dock during pre-planned work at City Airport. They described it as a 1.5-meter (5-foot) shell that was lying in a bed of dense silt.

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“The first stage of the removal operation is to free the shell from the silt so that it can be floated for removal,” police said in a statement.

Local officials offered emergency accommodations to residents and said work to remove the bomb would continue into Tuesday.

Airport CEO Robert Sinclair said he recognizes that passengers will be inconvenienced but said the airport is cooperating fully with authorities “to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”

London City, the smallest of London’s international airports, handled 4.5 million passengers last year. Popular with business travelers, it’s located in east London’s docklands, an area that was heavily bombed during World War II.


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

Trump to Unveil $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Monday

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 00:39

President Donald Trump will unveil a plan to spend $200 billion on infrastructure over a decade Monday, days after signing one of the largest budget increases in recent memory.

The long-awaited infrastructure plan is supposed to generate $1.5 trillion of total investment in roads, bridges, waterways, electrical grids and other projects, but despite widespread support for improving America's public works, some in Congress remain skeptical.

"This is the start of a negotiation -- bicameral, bipartisan negotiation -- to find the best solution for infrastructure in the U.S.," a White House official told reporters Saturday.

"I think [the budget deal] does hurt the chances for an infrastructure package to get done, unless you use the money we're just now spending," House Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina told Axios. "I think there's not going to be the appetite to continue to add additional monies without real offsets."

Half of the $200 billion would be doled out through competitive program, allowing local and state authorities to apply for federal support. Projects that already have dedicated non-federal funding sources would be more likely to receive taxpayer money.

A quarter of the appropriated funds would be invested in rural projects, like broadband, through block grants distributed by the states with little federal involvement.

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It's unclear where the $200 billion is to come from, but the White House noted it would be pulled from "existing government spending," cut from the federal budget. Half of the money would go toward partnerships with state and local governments and private businesses, and the plan also would prioritize projects that make use of revenue streams like tollways.

"It could be anything," an administration official said of the non-federal funding sources. "What we're saying to states is, we would like you to increase your investment in infrastructure."

The other problem facing infrastructure development that the White House hopes to fix with its plan is "the broken permit system," that is part of the reason the U.S. has fallen behind many other developed countries in infrastructure.

The federal government has to approve 100 percent of infrastructure projects, however, it only funds 14 percent, one official said, and the amount of hoops localities and companies have to jump through is both costly and time-consuming.

The Trump administration plans to simplify the process, and allow agencies to act more decisively. "For every decision that needs to be made, find the agency that has the best expertise in terms of making that decision, give them the authority to make that decision, and then have other agencies partner with them and execute on that decision that's been made," said White House official.

Trump will also release his budget for 2019 Monday, which is largely a wish list, but indicates priorities for the executive branch. After passing legislation that fiscal conservatives widely panned Friday, finding additional money even for something with bipartisan support like infrastructure could be a daunting task.

The federal debt is a "moral problem, not a financial problem," North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Walker reportedly told members at a meeting Tuesday, before Congress voted on the $400 billion spending plan.

"This is not a partisan issue," a White House official said. "The time is right. It's been a lingering problem."

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Franklin Graham: Trump May Not be the Best Example for Christians, But at Least He’s ‘Defending the Faith’

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 00:20

Christian evangelist Franklin Graham said Sunday President Donald Trump may not be the most exemplary Christian, but the president is doing his part "defending the faith."

"This president is defending Christians and he is very open about the Christian faith. … Many people can condemn that he is not an example of the Christian faith," Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said on Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday. "Well, he may not be the greatest example; well, neither am I. But at least he's defending the faith and he's standing strong on that."


.@Franklin_Graham: "Many people can condemn [@POTUS] that he is not an example of the Christian faith. Well, he may not be the greatest example; well, neither am I. But at least he's defending the faith and he's standing strong on that."

— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 11, 2018

Graham went on to say that he thinks the president can withstand what he feels is a constant onslaught of negative media coverage for another six to eights years -- the length of time Trump would be in office if he served a full two terms.

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The media has taken issue with the fact that the president and his administration has given the Christian Broadcasting Network a great deal of access, providing the outlet with a number of interviews with Trump and others in his circle.

The Atlantic wrote a story after the president spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 1 that called his speech a vision for "Religious Nationalism."

"Freedom of religion is a sacred right," Trump said at the prayer breakfast and noted his administration will do everything to protect that right.


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Why Did Jesus Fast for Forty Days and Forty Nights? And Should We?

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 00:00

This is the second piece in a series on fasting. Read part 1 here.

The most dramatic fast in Scripture is Jesus' fast of forty days and forty nights. Matthew, Mark and Luke all report the event.

Matthew writes that Jesus "was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." (Matt. 4:1) Huh? Why would the Holy Spirit want Jesus to be tempted? The gospel writers are stingy with the details. But they provide hints.

Preparing for Battle

This isn't a stand-alone event. It comes right after Jesus is baptized by John, and right before His public ministry, which would end in His violent death. His time in the desert, it seems, was like physical and spiritual basic training to fortify Him for the onslaught to come. The Greek word for “tempt” in the text means something like “test” or “attempt.” He was going to be taking on Satan and his many minions. This called for the mother of all boot camps.

And what did Jesus do? Get lots of sleep in a cave? Lift weights? Carb load? Do high intensity interval training? Drink protein shakes? Uh, no. "And he fasted forty days and forty nights,” Matthew writes, “and afterward he was hungry." (Matt. 4:2)

Why forty? Why not thirty-nine or forty-one? Because forty has special meaning in God's plan of salvation.

In the time of Noah, it rained for forty days and forty nights. Moses spent forty days and forty nights fasting on top of Mt. Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments from God. And the Hebrews -- God's chosen people -- spent forty years in the desert after they left Egypt.

In every case, the forty days/nights/years come just before something new. God cleansed the earth of sin before starting a new covenant with Noah. The Hebrew's long sojourn in the desert was part punishment (for grumbling and building a golden calf), and part preparation before they entered the Promised Land. While in the desert, they had to depend day-by-day on water from rocks and God's miraculous bread from heaven -- manna -- plus the occasional quail.

So, too, with Jesus in the desert. As Marcellino D'Ambrosio puts it, this was the prelude for "the birth of a new Israel liberated from sin, reconciled to God, and governed by the law of the Spirit rather than a law chiseled in stone." The first Adam failed the test. The second Adam passed it.

Don't Explain It Away

It might be tempting to explain away the whole episode. "Well, sure," one might think. "Jesus is the Son of God. He can multiply fish and loaves of bread. I'm a mere mortal who could no more fast for forty days than I could raise up a guy who's been dead in the tomb for four days. What's this got to do with me?"

At least that's what I vaguely thought for a long time. It didn't occur to me that what Jesus did is, in some ways, a model for us as well. Note that the gospel writers go out of their way to tell us that Jesus didn't use miracles to get through the fast.

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As Luke writes, "And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry." (Luke 4:2) That's the primary meaning of a fast. Fasting means not eating.

Then, after the fast, "the tempter came and said to Him, 'If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.'" (Matthew 4:2) Satan's taunt to make bread from stones only make sense if Jesus was feeling the hunger of his all-too-human body.

Notice that Satan appealed to Jesus' hunger, but not to His thirst. We can assume that Jesus drank water because, without a miracle, no one could survive without water for forty days and nights.* But, believe it or not, a healthy person can fast from food for forty days. He just needs enough energy stored as fat on his body. There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. So, thirty pounds of extra fat would be enough -- not all that much for a well-fed man -- as long as his body was able to access the fat stores. (That’s the kicker. I’ll explain how to make that happen without torture in later installments.)

The angels do arrive to minister to Jesus, but only after his long fast and triple-testing from Satan.

What's This Got to Do With Me?

This doesn’t mean you should do a forty-day, water only fast, even though you could do so -- with careful practice and planning. But we miss part of what God intends for us if fasting is not a central part of our life.

But if so, why didn't Jesus command us to fast? Because He took it for granted that His followers would do so. In the very next chapter of Matthew, Jesus speaks to the crowds in His Sermon on the Mount. He tells them that God cares about what we do, and also why we do it. "When you give alms," for instance, you should try to do it discreetly, rather than seeking credit for it. "When you pray," do it privately rather than trying to get attention. "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men." (Matthew 5:16)

You see? Jesus assumed that His followers would give alms, pray and fast. He focused on explaining how best to do all three.

One of the Best Reasons to Fast

Jesus' example helps put shorter fasts in perspective. It also gives us one of the best reasons we should fast: to prepare for spiritual battle. If it's good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us.

This, by the way, is why hundreds of millions of Christians set aside the forty days leading up to Easter, as a special time of preparation, fasting, and prayer: Lent.

Here’s how Pope Benedict XVI describes it:

Lent is like a long “retreat” in which to re-enter oneself and listen to God’s voice in order to overcome the temptations of the Evil One and to find the truth of our existence.

It is a time, we may say, of spiritual “training” in order to live alongside Jesus not with pride and presumption but rather by using the weapons of faith: namely prayer, listening to the Word of God and penance.

In this way we shall succeed in celebrating Easter in truth, ready to renew our baptismal promises.

Many Christians give something up during Lent, and may partially fast on Fridays. But Christians used to do a lot more than that. We’ll discuss that in the next installment in this series.


*When Moses was with God on Mt. Sinai, he neither ate nor drank. (Exodus 34:28) We can assume that God miraculously sustained him.


Jay Richards is the Executive Editor of The Stream and an Assistant Research Professor in the Busch School of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America. Follow him on Twitter.

Bishop Declares Nun’s Supernatural Healing From Four Decades of Being Crippled an Official Miracle

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 22:52

A nun who was crippled for nearly forty years totally recovered after making a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, prompting a bishop to declare it a miracle.

Bishop Jacque Benoit-Gonin of the Beauvais diocese in France declared the healing of Bernadette Moriau an official miracle on Sunday, according to The Associated Press. Moriau's healing took place 10 years ago and is now the 70th instance of divine healing at Lourdes that the Catholic Church officially recognizes.

Moriau claimed that, on her return from the shrine at Lourdes, she heard a voice that told her to take off her leg braces. She did so and found that she could suddenly walk without any assistance. Lourde has been known to Catholics as a place of miracles since 1858, when a 14-year-old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous claimed that she saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in a cave at Lourdes. The church constructed a shrine at the site, near the southwest mountains of France, and since then thousands of pilgrims have claimed to receive miraculous healing after visiting the shrine, though the church has only officially recognized 70 of these instances, according to The Guardian.

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The Vatican's Miracle Commission decides whether or not a claim of miraculous healing actually meets the church's criteria to be considered a true miracle. Michael O'Neill, who runs the website Miracle Hunter, told Live Science that according to the Vatican the healing must be "spontaneous, instantaneous and complete healing. Doctors have to say, 'We don't have any natural explanation of what happened.’"

Monsignor Jacques Perrier, the former bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, tried to institute reforms for the criteria of miracles in 2006 in order to give recognition to potentially thousands of other cases of healing in which God may have intervened. His reforms would have accounted for and acknowledged God's hand in modern medicine and medical advances, and would have created new categories for miracles, such as unexpected healings, confirmed healings, and exceptional healings. Perrier said this would allow for the church to recognize miraculous healings from cancer in cases where the subjects have also had medical treatment for the cancer. So far, however, the Vatican has remained resolute on its criteria for official miraculous healings.


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Keep Calm and Have Kids: The Climate Can Handle It

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 22:30

“I don’t want to give birth to a kid wondering if it’s going to live in some kind of Mad Max dystopia.” So says one of the subjects recently interviewed by The New York Times in an article titled, “No Children Because of Climate Change? Some People Are Considering It.” What does she fear will bring on a Mad Max dystopia? The title tells it all: “Climate change.”

She’s not alone in her fears. “Animals are disappearing. The oceans are full of plastic. The human population is so numerous, the planet may not be able to support it indefinitely,” says another interviewee. “I’m so glad I’m not going to bring a brand-new baby into this world to suffer like these kids suffer,” says one more.

What are we to make of these “women and men, liberal and conservative” folks “from many regions and religions” who all share this fear of having children and thereby hastening the world’s end?

They worry for nothing.

Overpopulation? Not So Fast

I’m no scientist or climate expert. But even I know scientists and climate experts argue the world will not turn into a Mad Max dystopia any time soon. Even though the Times claims “the effects of global warming are no longer theoretical,” there are actually quite a lot of scientists still studying, researching, debating and theorizing -- and arriving at different conclusions.

Another thing: We’re not in serious danger of overpopulation and running out of resources.

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In fact, many developed countries are underpopulated. Judging by their birthrates, they’re at risk of dying out, unless enough immigrants move in. Some governments are even providing incentives to adults to have children. Not long ago Denmark launched a “Do It for Denmark” campaign. The government encouraged citizens to procreate. Unsurprisingly, Denmark didn’t want to cease existing.

So overpopulation is a fear people can put to rest, if they care to look at the evidence.

What if the Crisis Were Real?

Now, let’s assume for a moment that we are indeed headed for a major climate crisis. We still shouldn’t stop having kids. 

There have been many other times in history when humanity faced major crises. Plagues, wars, financial ruin. You remember history class. People thought the world would end. But it didn’t. Part of the reason is that people continued to procreate. You want a surefire way to end the world? Just stop having babies! Judging by declining fertility rates, perhaps we’re headed for a Mad Max dystopia after all. 

Perhaps there are better ways to steward the earth’s resources. If so, let’s figure that out and act accordingly. Discontinuing the human race isn’t the answer.

Another reason the world didn’t end every time there was a crisis is that people -- you know, the ones who are born as babies -- came through. They won the war. Changed society. Saved the day. Invented new ways to feed the world. Thanks to people who were born and did things, the world has kept on spinning. In many ways, it greatly improved.

What if that child you were planning to have, but are now thinking about taking a pass on for the sake of Mother Nature, was one who would turn out to be a great scientist who would discover major breakthroughs in feeding hungry populations and better caring for the earth’s resources? I guess you wouldn’t know unless you had the kid.

Rule the Earth With Wisdom. Don’t Be Ruled By Fear

What about God’s call for us to be stewards of the earth? More and more religious folk cite this as yet another reason to not have kids. As a Christian, I take God’s mandate to steward the earth seriously. But it’s important to remember that God gave us dominion over the earth.

Yes, we must use our responsibility wisely. But we are the rulers, stewarding the earth for God. It’s not the other way around. If we stop having babies for the sake of the earth, we’re no longer the rulers. We’re being ruled. Remember that God also said to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”

Perhaps there are better ways to steward the earth’s resources. If so, let’s figure that out and act accordingly. Discontinuing the human race isn’t the answer, though. God loves all of his creation. But He loves us humans most. Made in His own image, we’re meant to steward the the rest of His creation -- and win human souls for Christ -- until our Lord returns. 

The world will end someday. But we humans don’t get to decide when that will be. And we don’t get to bail in the meantime. We need to take care of all God’s living creatures, be mindful of the environment and make wise decisions. But to reject having kids for fear of a future “Mad Max dystopia” is not wise or caring. It’s living in needless fear, and letting that fear control us.

UK Official Warns Oxfam to Hand Over All Info on Sex Case

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 22:29

LONDON (AP) -- Sex predators are targeting aid organizations because of the chaotic environments in which they work, Britain’s top development official warned Sunday as she threatened to pull public funding from Oxfam unless it came clean about a sexual misconduct scandal in Haiti.

Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt excoriated the leadership of Oxfam for its handling of allegations that some of the anti-poverty charity’s staff in Haiti used prostitutes, including Haitians who might have been minors at the time.

Oxfam demonstrated a “failure of leadership” when it failed to fully inform authorities and because it didn’t prevent the alleged perpetrators from going to work for other charities, she said.

Mordaunt made clear that all aid agencies must show “moral leadership” in tackling sex abuse or risk losing their taxpayer funding.

“What is so disturbing about Oxfam is that when this was reported to them, they completely failed to do the right thing,” Mordaunt told the BBC on Sunday. “That’s what we need to focus on, and that’s what ultimately will stop predatory individuals from being able to take advantage of vulnerable people.”

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Oxfam announced seven measures Sunday designed to strengthen its handling of sexual abuse allegations. The package includes improving the vetting of employees, creating an external complaint line for whistleblowers and working with other charities to overcome the “legal difficulties” that kept them from sharing information on sexual misconduct cases.

“We will continue to address the underlying cultural issues that allowed this behavior to happen,” Caroline Thompson, the chair of Oxfam Great Britain’s board of trustees, said in a statement. “We also want to satisfy ourselves that we do now have a culture of openness and transparency and that we fully learn the lessons of events in 2011.”

The Times of London reported last week that seven former Oxfam staff members who worked in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country were the subject of misconduct allegations that included the use of prostitutes and downloading pornography. Oxfam’s investigation into the charges was hampered by a “determination to keep it out of the public eye,” the Times said.

The newspaper’s sister publication, the Sunday Times, said the problem goes beyond Oxfam. More than 120 people working for British charities were accused of sexual abuse in the past year, the newspaper reported, though it did not specify the exact dates or the source of the information.

Oxfam had 87 cases, the largest number of any charity, but the Times also mentioned Save the Children, the British Red Cross and Christian Aid.

In response, Save the Children said it investigated 31 cases of sexual harassment last year, which resulted in 16 people being fired and 10 being referred to police or other authorities. None of the cases involved children and all of them occurred abroad, the charity said.

The British Red Cross said it hasn’t dismissed staff members working overseas for sexual abuse, harassment or pedophilia in at least the past five years. There were a “small number” of sexual harassment cases last year in the U.K., and the Red Cross said that “appropriate was taken” in all cases, though it did not specify what the actions were.

Christian Aid said it investigated two sexual misconduct cases in the last 12 months, resulting in the dismissal of one worker and less severe disciplinary action in the other.

Oxfam has said it dismissed four people and allowed three others to resign after an internal 2011 investigation revealed that sexual misconduct, bullying, intimidation and a failure to protect staff hampered the charity’s Haiti operation. Allegations that staff members had sex with minors were “not proven,” it said.

The charity said it reported the findings to Britain’s charity regulator and to major donors, including the Department for International Development, the department Mordaunt heads. The department gave Oxfam 31.7 million pounds ($43.8 million) last year.

Mordaunt took issue with the notion that her department had been fully informed, saying the charity didn’t disclose that the Haiti case involved sexual misconduct. Oxfam also incorrectly told the government that no aid beneficiaries were harmed, she said.

When asked by BBC interviewer Andrew Marr whether the statement about no harm coming to Haitians was “a lie,” Mordaunt replied: “Well, quite.”

She said she would meet Oxfam leaders Monday to discuss the case.

“If they do not hand over all the information they have from their investigation and subsequently to the relevant authorities, … then I cannot work with them anymore as an aid delivery partner,” Mordaunt said.


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