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Updated: 1 hour 13 min ago

Trump, Putin Shake Hands at Summit in Vietnam

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 17:39

DANANG, Vietnam (AP) -- The Latest on President Donald Trump’s trip to Asia (all times local):

2:09 a.m.

It may be an offbeat photo, but it’s no joke.

World leaders, including President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, donned matching silk button-down shirts at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit Friday in Vietnam. Since 1994, the summit included a “family photo” in local attire an annual display of cooperation among world leaders.

It was a departure for Trump, who’s rarely photographed in anything but a suit and tie or a golf shirt.

President Barack Obama tried to end the custom when he hosted the summit in Hawaii in 2012, when leaders wore suits, but that proved temporary. Previous APEC shirts have included ponchos in Peru, colorful batik shirts in Malaysia, and overcoats called durumaki in Korea.

U.S. news organizations weren’t given access to the event, unlike previous summits.

___

9:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have shaken hands at a summit in Vietnam.

The two leaders were spotted on video greeting one another ahead of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit gala dinner in the coastal city of Danang.

Trump and Putin were expected to hold a formal meeting on the sidelines of the summit. But as Trump was about to land on Friday, the White House announced no meeting would take place.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders blamed scheduling conflicts.

But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said earlier this week that the pair would not meet unless they had something substantive to discuss.

___

8:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is attending a welcome event and gala dinner as part of a trade summit in Vietnam.

Trump arrived at a Danang hotel Friday evening for the events for world leaders and their spouses. The first lady had stayed in China and planned to return to Washington after touring the Great Wall.

Trump is attending annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam. It is one of several summits he is planning to attend during a five-country Asian tour. Formal talks are set to begin Saturday.

Earlier in the day Friday, Trump used a speech in Vietnam to denounce multilateral agreements embraced by the region and deliver what appeared to be a rebuke to China, railing against trade practices he says have put Americans out of work.

___

4:10 p.m.

U.S. first lady Melania Trump toured China’s famed Great Wall at Mutianyu, two hours north of Beijing city center.

She rode a cable car to a watchtower, signed a guestbook and strolled along a stretch of the wall for about half an hour with a small group of aides and security officers.

Mrs. Trump received a scroll as a gift and chatted with her Chinese hosts before she departed.

The first lady stayed in China as President Donald Trump flew to Danang, Vietnam, to participate in a regional economic and security conference.

She planned to return to Washington after touring the Great Wall. The president tweeted that his wife will first stop in Alaska “to greet our AMAZING troops.”

Earlier Friday, she went to the Beijing zoo to check out the pandas.

___

3:30 p.m.

Chinese President Xi Jinping says nations need to stay committed to economic openness or risk being “left behind.”

Xi made the remarks in a speech to a business conference in Danang, Vietnam, Friday. He spoke shortly after President Donald Trump told the same group that “we are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore.”

The Chinese president urged support for the “multilateral trading regime” and progress toward a free-trade zone in the Asia-Pacific, drawing loud applause. He said that “self-seclusion leaves one behind.”

In his remarks, Trump reiterated his preference for country-to-country trade deals.

The leaders were speaking on the sidelines of the annual summit of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

___

3 p.m.

President Donald Trump is signing a proclamation saluting the veterans of the Vietnam War.

Trump is in Danang, Vietnam, the site of an American air base that was used during the Vietnam War.

The president on Friday stood with seven veterans and praised their service. Some of the veterans spoke and praised Trump’s support of the military. One began to cry as he talked about fallen veterans and Trump hugged him.

Trump is in the midst of a lengthy Asia trip and is in Danang to attend an international summit.

___

2:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump is continuing his tough talk against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Trump told an audience of CEOs at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang, Vietnam that the region’s future “must not be held hostage to a dictator’s twisted fantasies of violent conquest and nuclear blackmail.” He was referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump referenced his address in South Korea earlier this week when he called on countries to unite against North Korea. He said “every single step the North Korea regime takes toward more weapons is a step it takes into greater and greater danger.”

Trump also says civilized people must “come together” to drive out terrorists and extremists from our societies.

___

2 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he won’t let the United States be “taken advantage of anymore” on trade and add that he’ll always “put America first.”

Trump is speaking Friday to a gathering of CEOs at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang, Vietnam. He says: “we can no longer tolerate these chronic trade abuses and we will not tolerate them.”

Trump says the U.S. will seek trade relationships that are rooted in the principles of fairness and reciprocity. He says the opposite has happened for “too long.”

Trump says the United States has lowered market barriers but “other countries didn’t open their markets to us.”

He adds: “Simply put we have not been treated fairly by the World Trade Organization.”

___

1:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the whole world is being lifted by America’s economic renewal.

Trump is telling a gathering of CEOs at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang, Vietnam that a “new optimism” has swept across the United States since his election.

He’s reciting statistics about economic growth, low unemployment and stock market highs.

Trump says he’s had the pleasure of sharing the “good news from America” everywhere he’s been on his first official visit to Asia.

Says Trump: “The whole world is lifted by America’s renewal.”

___

This version corrects the 8:30 a.m. item to note that first lady Melania Trump did not travel to Vietnam with President Trump.

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

Resolved: The Welfare State Should Be Abolished

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 17:29

I was honored to be the guest speaker of the Yale University Political Union last week, addressing the need to abolish the welfare state. The structure of the union breaks down students into "parties" based on political ideology. The guest speaks and then the students challenge. This is followed by minor speeches and challenges from students. The entire event lasts two hours, and the guest gets the final word.

A word on the students themselves: I was amazed at the erudition, decorum, and adult-like collegiality among them. It seems almost out of some movie I've seen, something set in the 1920s. I'm not entirely sure the students fully realize just how special they are. With a student body like this, I suspected that they learn more from engagement with each other than from their classes. Several students confirmed this. And, to be clear, this was true regardless of political outlook.

I, of course, was speaking on behalf of the pure free-market position on the welfare state, going further even than F.A. Hayek to say that the whole thing ought to be scrapped. There is nothing that the welfare state contributes to our lives that couldn't be replaced by the normal operations of the market and civil society. In the end, I lost the debate, two to one, which is not a surprise, but I hope I planted plenty of seeds of doubt about the merit of the welfare state.

Command and Control

This whole topic is widely misunderstood. People think of the welfare state as a system of redistribution to help the poor improve their lot in life. Those who oppose it, we are told, are greedy advocates for the interests of the rich.

My contention is that this is just a story we tell ourselves that has nothing to do with the history and current reality of the welfare state. The welfare state is a system of command and control, imposed by the political elites, that targets politically marginalized groups in a way that, through both bad and good intentions, excludes them from participation in mainstream society.

The grim history is undeniable. Going back 100 years, controls on wages, working hours, marriage, migration, and professions were heavily influenced by eugenic and white supremacist ideology and pushed forward with the intention to mold population demographics in a way approved by political elites.

Where do we get this idea that the welfare state is designed to help people live a better life?

This is not the story anyone is taught in class. Mostly this history is suppressed, especially by champions of the welfare state. We are supposed to believe that the purpose of the welfare state was to help people. But I explained that the US already had a huge and growing structure of private welfare in place, particularly as provided by religious institutions dedicated to helping widows, orphans, and new immigrants.

A great example is Mother Cabrini of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They opened orphanages all over the East and West Coasts, managing hundreds of properties including hospitals and schools. But for the "Progressive" intellectuals of the period, these institutions were considered unprofessional and entirely too undisciplined, and they sought to displace these institutions with secular and publicly funded services. They succeeded.

Between 1905 and the mid-1930s, the welfare state was built and came to replace private provision. Funding sources dried up following the double blow of the income tax and estate tax, together gutting the fortunes that had been so generous to charitable institutions. Public provision did not make up the difference. But the big change was regulatory. A great example of early efforts is the minimum wage. When it was first presented, it was designed not to raise the wages of the poor but to raise the bar of entry into the workforce as high as possible so as to exclude "unfit" portions of the population (for more on this, see my full article.)

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The same story can be told about maximum hours legislation, immigration restriction, marriage licenses, public schools, business regulation, and so much more. The rationale was slightly different in each case but the main goal was the same: to control and manage the population through coercion.

Where do we get this idea that the welfare state is designed to help people live a better life? It began to emerge during the New Deal, but that was just a cover. The New Deal was really about creating large-scale business cartels. The story repeats itself: the people who construct and manage the institutions of the welfare state are not the poor; they are privileged intellectuals working with power elites in industry and government. It has always been so.

Not What We Think

But let's look today at the workings of the modern welfare state. The idea that it actually helps the poor is unsupportable. It is funded by vast payroll and excise taxes that harm the poor and middle class disproportionately (the rich pay most of the income taxes). Of the more than $1 trillion of spending that today constitutes what people call the welfare state, most of the dollars end up in the hands of the cartelized medical industry, which results in higher prices, less competition, and lower quality service.

There is a reason why obtaining medical insurance and service is so difficult as compared with buying groceries or software. It is precisely because of so much state involvement. It has ended up restricting, not expanding, access.

Consider food stamps. These aren't for the poor.

Or consider food stamps. These aren't for the poor. The program is administered by the Department of Agriculture to create a guaranteed market for big agriculture. Imagine if the big three automakers could back "car stamps" so that taxpayers were forced to pay for cars for people in a certain demographic. It's nice work if you can get it.

I concluded my speech by calling for a complete end to the welfare state as a necessary part of ending the hegemonic control by the ruling class. If you want to see what the state really does to the poor, visit the traffic court, the jails, the prisons, or see how policing works in poor communities. The state is not the friend of the poor.

The Responses

As you can imagine, my presentation confounded many of the people on the left -- which probably constituted fully two-thirds of the people present. Following my speech, speaker after speaker pleaded for the need for the state to take from the rich and give to the poor as if this had never been tried. It's like a narrative that some minds just cannot shake, despite all the evidence.

Still, I found their speeches fascinating because of the pervasive mistakes in their thinking.

First, not one speaker on the left seemed to connect the issue of poverty alleviation with the solution of wealth creation. Failing to address the issue of where wealth comes from -- the zero-sum mindset here is pervasive -- they have yet to learn the basic lesson that Adam Smith tried to explain two and a half centuries ago. He explained that wealth comes from the expansion of the division of labor, trade, innovation, and a flourishing commercial society. The dramatic decline in poverty around the world over the last 20 years comes not from more welfare but from expanding markets.

Not one speaker on the left seemed particularly interested in the real history and experience of the welfare state as it has been practiced.

Second, not one speaker on the left seemed interested in the problem of granting the state power over people's lives, which is very strange. An underlying assumption of their comments was that the state is a benevolent institution that is wise enough to pass and implement legislation that promotes social justice. It seems to be completely lost on these people that political establishments operate according to self-interest and end up advancing themselves most of all. Certainly, no state is interested in the precise political vision of Yale students.

Third, not one speaker on the left seemed particularly interested in the real history and experience of the welfare state as it has been practiced. Indeed, they seemed unwilling to defend any aspects of the status quo, even though policy has been striving for 100 years to implement precisely what they claim to favor. Why the lack of interest in the failures of the past? I suppose it is somewhat analogous to how today's socialists are uninterested in the history of the Soviet Union or Mao's China.

Welfare, Diversity, and Fascism

In my concluding remarks, I drew attention to the complex political dynamics between welfare and diverse population groups living under the same regime. People genuinely resent having their money taken and transferred to groups with which they feel no integral relationship. The welfare state, then, ends up exacerbating religious, racial, gender, and language conflicts, giving rise to populist movements that trend fascist. The advocates of the welfare state bear some responsibility for the rise of authoritarianism around the world.

These remarks were obviously unwelcome by the "social justice" crowd in attendance. Though I faced a lot of opposition, I do have to credit the students for not shutting me down and instead keeping the debate civil. As I mentioned, I was voted down by a margin of 2 to 1, but my hosts were thrilled with this result.

Your speaking appearance yesterday evening at Yale was memorably phenomenal! I was so very grateful for all of the substantive content and energetic explanations which you provided to our Yale Political Union assembly! Having brought in [other speakers], I can say proudly that in terms of intensive argumentation you topped the list!

In my perspective your arguments at yesterday evening’s debate were unrivaled; none of the opponents of your views who spoke during the debate actually provided convincing ideas and arguments that could match your own....This afternoon you were the subject of many campus conversations.

This is what it is all about: advancing good ideas, furthering the conversation, promoting engagement, and encouraging people to rethink the ideologies of top-down social management.

I had a wonderful experience. In some way, I lived my dream: to advocate the abolition of the welfare state at one of the places where the ideology of welfarism was born.

 

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, economics adviser to FreeSociety.com, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books, most recently Right-Wing Collectivism: The Other Threat to Liberty, with a preface by Deirdre McCloskey (FEE 2017). He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

 

Originally published at FEE.org

Tensions as Mayor Near Paris and Residents Try to Stop Muslim Street Prayers

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 17:28
CLICHY-LA-GARENNE, France (AP) -- Tensions erupted Friday as French officials and residents of a Paris suburb tried to block Muslims from praying in the street -- a dispute that reflects nationwide problems with mosque shortages. No one was hurt in the skirmishes in Clichy-la-Garenne, but both sides appeared to be digging in their heels in the dispute over prayer space in the town.Carrying a large banner reading “Stop Illegal Street Prayers,” Mayor Remi Muzeau led more than 100 demonstrators Friday in a show of force to dissuade Muslims from praying on the town’s market square. Worshippers have been praying there every Friday for months to protest the closure of a prayer room.A few dozen worshippers tried to pray anyway but sought to avoid confrontation with the protesters and retreated to a less visible spot. But the demonstrators squeezed them toward a wooden wall.

As worshippers chanted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic, the larger group of demonstrators loudly sang the French national anthem. Some held French flags and a crucifix aloft.

Amid pushing and shoving, a banner the worshippers were carrying reading “United for a Grand Mosque of Clichy” was torn down.

Police with shields then formed a human barricade between the groups and Muslims eventually unrolled their rugs on the pavement, took off their shoes and held their prayers.

When the incident was over, the worshippers clapped, and the mayor pledged to come back again next week -- as did the Muslim worshippers.

“We’ll do it every Friday if necessary,” said Muzeau.

“I must assure the tranquility and freedom of the people in my city,” he said. “We must not allow this to happen in our country. Our country, the French Republic is tarnished.”

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Hamid Kazed, president of the Union of Muslim Associations of Clichy, who led the prayers, said, “We are going to continue until there’s a dialogue for a definitive venue.”

“That’s what they want. To divide the citizens,” he said. “We are not fundamentalists. We are for Islam of France.”

The demonstrators were joined by the president of the Paris region, Valerie Pecresse, and officials and residents of other Paris suburbs

While Islam has long been France’s No. 2 religion, the country has a chronic shortage of mosques for its estimated 5 million Muslims. Muslims in several towns have resorted to praying in the streets, fueling the anti-immigrant sentiment of far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

Clichy Muslims had been renting a prayer hall from City Hall. But the town’s mayor decided to turn that space into a library for the town’s 60,000 residents, and the prayer hall was shut down in March following a court battle.

City Hall says Muslims can worship at a new Islamic cultural and prayer center, already used by hundreds, that the town inaugurated last year. However some Muslims say the new facility is too small, remote and doesn’t meet safety standards.

 

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

Don’t Mock Prayer. Pray

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 16:00

While the unspeakable massacre in a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, brought the best out of people there, it triggered the worst in certain others who see everything through their tainted political lenses.

House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted: “Reports out of Texas are devastating. The people of Sutherland Springs need our prayers right now.”

Leftist screamer Keith Olbermann responded, “Speaker Ryan, bluntly: shove your prayers up your a** AND DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE BESIDES PLATITUDES AND POWER GRABS.”

It wasn’t just Olbermann. Another God hater exclaimed: “They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.” Another said: “The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive, you worthless sack of s***.”

Militant Gun Control Zealots

Mass shootings invariably enrage militant gun control zealots at Second Amendment supporters, who they see as the repository of evil, and perhaps more responsible for these massacres than the gunmen themselves. I wish I were exaggerating.

Some of my favorite leftist Twitter stalkers ridiculed me for defending Ryan, expressing their contempt for Christians who call for prayer after these tragedies. When challenged, they insist they are mainly outraged that we won’t take “real” action to stop the killings.

But we don’t oppose reasonable restrictions designed to protect society from the evil and the insane -- the kind that were already in place but not implemented in the case of the wife-abusing, God-hating perpetrator Devin Patrick Kelley.

Prayer as Action

Christians don’t use prayer as an excuse for inaction. We don’t believe our petitions to the Almighty relieve us of our duty to do good works. Christian theologian James Montgomery Boice said, “A strong prayer life is not the least bit inconsistent with vigorous and fervent service for the Lord. … Prayer warriors are needed. But this does not mean that those who are active in Christian work (or any kind of work) do not also need to be strong in praying for God’s direction and blessing.”

Truth be told, the critics aren’t wrestling with such philosophical questions, and they aren’t calling for just any action. No. The only actions that will satisfy them are extreme gun control measures, which they wrongly believe will prevent these shootings.

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In their anger, they lash out at prayer and God, mainly because they associate prayer with the type of person who blocks their gun-grabbing crusade.

Many have already answered their fallacious gun control arguments, so I want to briefly address their mocking of prayer.

In their tweets, you feel their rage at the God they deny exists. You sense their sneering hostility at the supposed futility of prayer, and their fury regarding their conceited assumption that Christians are only offering their “thoughts and prayers” to dodge the moral imperative of gun control.

Can they really misunderstand us that much? Do they think we believe we’re off the hook if we throw up a few insincere sound bites to the God we actually believe in -- and fear (revere and respect)? Heaven help us if that’s what we’re about.

Why Pray?

So, why do we pray?

Why would we pray to an omniscient, sovereign God who knows our requests before we think them? Foremost, it’s a matter of obedience. God commands us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Colossians 4:2). Scripture tells us that God listens to our prayers (Psalm 139:1-4; 1 Kings 8:52) and responds to them. James 5:16 reads in part, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” In fact, we’ll fail to receive certain things simply by not asking for them (James 4:2).

Besides, prayer is not simply a one-way communication -- a series of petitions to an omnipotent God with the expectation that He’ll grant our wishes like a genie from a bottle. In prayer, we are conversing with the God of the universe to whom we have instant access. Yes, we ask God for things, but we also pray to express adoration to Him, to confess our sins, to seek His guidance, to praise Him and to give Him thanks.

But we can’t expect that He will grant every request. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if billions of imperfect people were to have their contradictory prayers answered by an omniscient, omnipotent God? We should remember that we must pray in accordance with God’s will -- a will that we can’t always perfectly discern.

Relationship, Not Religion

Our triune God is relational and models His loving relationship for His church. Accordingly, Christians rightly believe that prayer strengthens the Christian community, and that with prayer there is power in numbers. Few things exhibit the spirit of Christ like congregations of believers lovingly praying for one another.

If you believe prayer is a pointless exercise, perhaps you’ll sober up when you recall that Jesus Christ Himself, God Incarnate, continually prayed to the Father and directed us to do the same.

In fact, at the time of His greatest distress, before His imminent crucifixion, Jesus selflessly prayed for His people. One of the most moving passages of Scripture is the high priestly prayer related in John 17:1-26. In His spiritual agony, Jesus anticipated the Father’s separation and wrath for his substitutionary sacrifice for mankind’s sins; nevertheless, he pleaded with the Father for our joy, and for the Father to protect us from the evil one. He asked that we all be united as one, just as the Father and Son are united as one. “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one.”

Of course we must pray for those suffering among us. Only God knows precisely what they need. We are encouraged and mutually lifted up by one another’s faith and prayers. As the Apostle Paul told the Romans, “I remember you in my prayers at all times … that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

How about a little less pride and cynicism, and a little more faith and prayer as we confront these horrible human and societal evils?

 

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

COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

A Storm is About to Hit the Nation’s Capital, But Which Way is it Blowing?

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 15:58

“Behold, the storm of the LORD has gone forth in wrath, Even a whirling tempest; It will swirl down on the head of the wicked.” (Jeremiah 23:19)

The Storm is coming. A whirling political tempest the likes of which Washington, D.C. has never seen. Or so the skies and barometer are suggesting.

In the past few days some 33 sealed indictments have been filed with the same D.C federal court handling the indictments of Paul Manafort and two others. Unusual? According to Hot Air, before October 29, only 60 of the 188 criminal cases filed with the court this year were sealed.

To have 33 sealed in a matter of days is astonishing. When there were even only a handful of sealed indictments, speculation soared. More Trump gooses were going to be cooked. George Padaopoulos, the speculation went, had worn a wire and Special Counsel Robert Mueller had captured a handful of Trump aides on obstruction. Or perhaps the indictments involve Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. NBC News reported this week Mueller has enough evidence to bring charges against Flynn, who was briefly Trump’s National Security Advisor.

Then the number of sealed indictments kept rising and rising.

Democrats can salivate over the possibility this spells Trump’s pending doom. Should they be? The Storm is heading straight for the White House. Or is it?

Trump Tower or Foggy Bottom?

Special Counsel Mueller’s effort is billed as an investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election. But that’s not what Paul Manafort’s indictment is about. The indictment concerns money laundering and foreign influence peddling in the Swamp.

Does that fact push the Storm toward Trump Tower or Foggy Bottom? (Hillary’s old stomping grounds at the State Department.)

Keep in mind Mueller was the FBI director when Russia’s bribery, kickback, extortion, blackmail scheme to grab US uranium was uncovered. Democrats insist Mueller is above reproach. Okay then. What if the honorable Mueller wasn’t too happy to see the Obama DOJ kick the Russian bribery scheme under the rug? What if the former Marine saw the Uranium One deal and saw red?

If he’s dusting off that file, which he must if his focus is Russian influence on American policy and politics, which way does the Storm blow? Toward the woman whom Russia wanted to influence by pouring $145 million into her Foundation? Toward the woman whose husband pocketed $500,000 speaking fees from the bank pushing the Uranium One deal? Or does it blow towards the guy who at the time was sparing in prime time with Dennis Rodman?

Tony Podesta

Remember Tony Podesta. He’s the Clinton bundler, brother of her campaign manager, and co-founder of the lobbying group tight with the Clinton Foundation. He stepped down from The Podesta Group because of the Mueller investigation. It’s this Podesta Group, not some real estate partner of Trump’s, that pocketed at least $180,000 to lobby for the Uranium One deal. (And did not file as foreign agents in the process.)

By the way, Podesta’s hand-picked successor Kimberly Fitts announced yesterday she’s leaving to start her own firm, and taking clients and some staff with her. Sometimes you ride out the bad weather. Sometimes you evacuate as soon as possible. (Or is it because the Podesta name doesn’t carry weight around town since Hillary lost? Just like Clinton Global Initiative foreign donations plummeted after the election.)

Further, what’s the allegation against Lt. Gen. Flynn? It’s not the election or Trump. The issue is foreign influence peddling in the Swamp. NBC News reports this morning Mueller is focusing on whether Flynn made a secret deal to represent Turkey’s interests in the White House.

One more flag to put in the wind: Just a day before being named Special Counsel, Robert Mueller was meeting with White House officials. He’d been meeting previous days with DOJ officials. We were told Mueller was interviewing to replace James Comey as FBI director. Except, Robert Mueller could not be named FBI director again. He had served his ten year term, was given a special extension by Congress. And as NPR reported, “That law stated that lawmakers had made a one-time exception and made it clear that Mueller ‘may not serve as Director after September 4, 2013.'” Perhaps FBI director wasn’t the job the President had in mind for Mueller.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Whiff of Corruption

In addition to the 33 sealed indictments filed in DC in recent days there is word another 50 have been filed in Virginia.

What’s Virginia have to do with anything? Maybe nothing. Maybe prosecutors are just in a hurry to get their paperwork in before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Then again, if I’m Governor Terry McAuliffe, longtime Clinton operator, am I anxious this morning?

I put $700K in the hands of the guy leading the Hillary email investigation via his wife. FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe did not report his wife’s lucrative connection to McAuliffe. It’s just come out the FBI’s original draft in the Hillary email investigation accused her of “gross negligence,” the exact wording of the criminal statute. However, someone (Comey? McCabe? Both?) changed the wording to the more benign “extreme carelessness.” And then Comey and McCabe turned around and let Hillary skate.

When there’s a prosecutor examining Clinton-connected money laundering and influence peddling and you’ve been knee deep in it for decades, you’d be a little nervous.

“But Al, you were talking about foreign money influencing American politics!” Good point. McAuliffe was under investigation last year by the Department of Justice over $120,000 in donations to his gubernatorial campaign from a Chinese businessman named Weng Wialang. CNN reported the investigation was also poking around McAullife’s work with the Clinton Global Initiative.

And what of this guy Weng? He gave $2 million around the same time to the Clinton Foundation. According to the Washington Free Beacon, Weng’s company website puts the donation as high as $5 million, all while hiring lobbyists to plug their interests in DC. He’s also hung out with Hillary herself. The Daily Mail shows him attending at least one fundraiser at Hillary’s home.

Why would a Chinese billionaire be at Hillary’s house for a campaign fund-raiser? Had to be the wine and cheese.

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FBI Field Offices

Go back a year to October 2016. The Wall Street Journal reported that FBI field offices in New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Little Rock and Miami were investigating the Clinton Foundation over allegations of pay-to-play financial and political corruption.

What’s curious today about those five cities? Since we’re talking sealed indictments, an internet sleuth claims to have uncovered this little gem:

I found another 141 Sealed Indictments from 11/2 thru 11/9

NY Southern: 36AK Eastern (Little Rock): 7FL Southern (Miami): 6CA Central (LA): 93

Common denominator?

FBI was said to be investigating the Clinton Foundation from these offices last year.

— StormWatcher (@damartin32) November 9, 2017

Perhaps it’s coincidence all five are tossing up sealed indictments like holiday decorations.

What’s It Mean?

One thing you learn growing up in the Washington, DC area: Storm forecasts this time of year are rarely right. Weathermen would proclaim a storm was coming, schools were likely to close, and you’d wake up to a sunny day. The storm had formed elsewhere or was pushed out to sea. Other times, when the forecasters would say “no worries,” we’d get buried in two feet of snow. It is a fool’s errant in the Nation’s Capital to strut confidently about the path of any storm.

For months, the media and Capitol Hill Democrats have told us that the investigations into Russia were going to slam Trump. Mueller was going to lay waste to the President and his team like Harvey did the Texas Gulf Coast.

Could be. We don’t know.

But here’s what we do know:

The Storm has been slowly building. In recent days it has rapidly, dramatically, increased in intensity. It’s starting to look like a Cat 5. It could uproot and flatten the Washington political landscape. However, with each passing day and revelation, it doesn’t seem on course to hit where forecasters projected.

Move slowly, carefully — and then strike like the fastest animal on the planet!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2013

A Tax Reform Tweak With Big-Time Benefits

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 21:41

A generational opportunity to reform taxes should update the tax code for the next generation economy. Well-meaning legislators should tweak their bill by adding the New Gig Act, which would aid millions of Americans. The bill would bring the tax code up-to-date for those who work in the "sharing" or "gig" economy -- people who drive for Uber or Lyft, work for Grubhub, Postmates and other millennial enterprises.

This would be true tax reform at no cost to American taxpayers. It would simplify taxes for these workers -- who currently have to do multiple filings and often just don't bother. It would also help the companies who have to file.

Tax Reform for the “On Demand Economy”

This amendment would classify these "on demand economy" workers as independent contractors -- which is what they are. They're not simply employees of any one company.

According to the Aspen Institute, 45 million Americans say they've worked in this growing new economy. What’s more, 85 million Americans say they've been customers of these companies and contractors. According to J.P. Morgan Chase, 2.5 million Americans work for on-demand economy entities in any given month, representing between 20 and 30 percent of their income. And this group of contractors is only going to grow.

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This is just plain common sense. This amendment reflects where our country's economy is going, and gives workers more incentives and choices to find jobs and earn a living. It also gives more flexibility and more opportunities to find out what career path they want to pursue -- especially for young people just starting out.

This addition to the tax reform bill is sponsored in the House by Congressman Tom Rice, R-S.C., who himself is a Certified Public Accountant and tax attorney. This is how Congress is supposed to work: citizen legislators crafting bills that benefit the public based on their personal experiences in private life. A companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Senator John Thune, R-S.D., who has an MBA.

Simple is Good

So many Americans have become disillusioned with their government. This would be one effective way to show them that someone is listening.

One of the goals of tax reform -- as outlined right from the beginning by the White House, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and other congressional leaders -- was to simplify the process by which Americans pay their taxes. If it's a noble goal to get the filing procedure for most Americans down to a single page of paper, then let's simplify things for this growing number of American workers as well. The New Gig Act would allow these workers to:

File less forms. Have the requisite amount of their income and payroll taxes withheld instead of their having to make quarterly payments. And, Ensure they comply instead of risking legal exposure and penalties because the process is too complex and time consuming.

More compliance means more money coming in without raising taxes on anyone. This likely means the New Gig Act might actually get bipartisan buy-in.

So many Americans, especially young people, have become disillusioned with their government. This would be one effective way to show them that someone is listening. That someone is working to make their lives better — giving them more opportunities to succeed and prosper.

 

Mr. Blackwell, the former State Treasurer of Ohio and mayor of Cincinnati, was a senior domestic policy adviser to the Trump/Pence Transition Team.

When it Comes to Guns, The Left Fails at Logic

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 21:30

Here we are again. Another horrific mass shooting. Another opportunity for the Left to prove how woefully ignorant they are -- or choose to be -- on the topic of firearms.

Late Show host Stephen Colbert on Monday night was a perfect example. His three minute monologue was heartfelt and no doubt well-meaning. But its logic left a hole wide enough for the entire gun control lobby to walk through shoulder-to-shoulder.

Guns Are Literally Tigers

In his spiel, Colbert compared guns to tigers, as Slate highlighted: “Stephen Colbert on Mass Shootings: ‘If Your Village Had a Tiger Eating People Every Day, You Wouldn't Do Nothing’.”

According to Colbert, if this tiger scenario happened in your village, “you would move the village. You would build a fence. Or you would kill the tiger.”

So guns are tigers now? With functioning brains? Driven by savage instinct? Eating people at will whenever they get hungry? As crazy as that sounds, it’s not far from how the left views guns. After all, right after every mass shooting, they target the gun itself, rather than the person who used it.

We seem to have forgotten that just last week, an ISIS-inspired terrorist drove a pick-up truck through a crowd of people in New York City, killing eight.

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In a way, Colbert’s right. We would kill the tiger. Because it’s not much use pulling out his claws if he still has his teeth, or knocking out his teeth if he still has his claws. Heck, even the tiger’s tongue can rip the skin off its prey.

The problem isn’t the claws or the teeth. It’s the animal using them.

“A Vicious Cycle” Indeed

But the most ludicrous part of Colbert’s monologue had to be this moment:

I actually think there are some people out there, some truly evil people out there, who want you to feel powerless, just for a buck. Because if you feel powerless enough, you know what might make you feel more powerful? Going to buy a gun. It’s a vicious cycle.

Really, Mr. Colbert? The very people who want Americans to feel powerless want to then make them powerful by putting a gun in their hands?

This logic proves once again that when it comes to gun violence, the left wants to blame everyone and everything but the actual criminal. Gun rights activists and organizations like the NRA don’t want you to feel powerless just so you’ll purchase a firearm. They want you to be empowered -- for your own safety.

You know who does want you to feel powerless? Criminals. Because the burglar who breaks into your home feels powerful. The kidnapper threatening you with a knife feels powerful. The mass shooter spraying bullets feels powerful. The moment you pull out your own weapon, the burglars scat. The would-be kidnapper relents (see here also). The mass shooter high tails it to his truck and speeds away.

Seems the only vicious cycle here is fear-mongering and misplaced blame after every mass shooting.

The Left Wants Policies That Will Do Nothing

Colbert’s chief complaint Monday was that after mass shootings, “nothing gets done.” But that’s only because Democrats mean one thing with their calls to “do something”: more gun control that won’t work.

The arguments have been rehashed many times and are easy to find. For instance, the Australia gun buy-back program wouldn’t be practical for the U.S. because of the sheer number of guns already here. (Over 300 million, in case you were wondering.)

As Colbert acknowledged, Devin Kelley, the man who killed 26 people in Sutherland Springs, wasn’t supposed to be able to purchase a gun because of past domestic violence. But “he could,” Colbert explains -- not because the Air Force failed to report his crimes to the NCIS, which is the real problem. But because guns are “on the market.”

The left must stop spreading fear and outright lies regarding guns and law-abiding gun owners.

But we already know the majority of criminals who use guns obtain them illegally. What do you think will happen to the 300+ million guns in America once they become illegal to own? The government isn’t competent enough to take them all (and would the left really want them to? Colbert and his kind compare the current administration to Hitler, even ISIS). So where will those guns end up? On the market. The black market.

Colbert also admits that most people killed by gun violence in America each year do not die in mass shootings. And as statistician Leah Libresco recently wrote for The Washington Post, those victims -- people who commit suicide, die from street or gang violence, or women in abusive relationships -- wouldn’t be helped by gun control measures pushed by the left.

Colbert did say one thing I agree with: “I don’t know what to do, but I know that hopelessness is not the answer. You cannot give up in the face of evil.”

He’s right. Hopelessness is not the answer. But before we can do anything to make a dent in the evil around us, whether that evil comes from a terrorist with a truck or a deranged citizen with an AR-15, we have to use logic.

Alas, when it comes to guns, much of the left has abandoned logic.

Bill Would Protect Pro-Life Nurses Like These 3 Women

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 18:30

Pro-life members of Congress have introduced legislation to protect health care providers from being compelled to provide abortion under threat of losing their jobs.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., held a press conference on the House Triangle outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to promote the Conscience Protection Act. The bill is designed to "end discrimination against people, [insurance] plans and providers for choosing not to be involved in abortion," according to a statement from Smith.

"Health care, my friends, is about saving lives," Smith said. "It is about eradicating disease. It's about mitigating disabilities, not taking the lives of unborn children. At the very least, health care providers should have the right not to be coerced into facilitating abortion."

Since the 1970s, it has been illegal for public authorities to force individuals or entities to perform or assist in the abortion process. But Smith said the law isn't enforced, and people like the three nurses who joined Smith at the press event had their livelihoods threatened for seeking to avoid performing abortions.

"My faith in God and the Catholic Church's teachings about the sanctity of all human life further inspired my career in nursing," said Cathy DeCarlo, one of the three nurses.

DeCarlo said she moved from the Philippines to the U.S. to expand her opportunities in the medical field. In 2004, she served as an operating-room nurse at a New York hospital. For five years, her bosses assured her that she wouldn't be compelled to assist in or perform abortions.

But that changed in May 2009, when she was ordered to perform an abortion on a 22 week-old unborn child. Despite pleading with her supervisor, she was told she either needed to comply or be charged with insubordination and abandoning her patient.

"[I] watched in horror as the doctor dismembered and removed the baby's bloody limbs," said DeCarlo, trying to hold back tears. "And I had to account for all the pieces. I still have nightmares about that day."

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The two other nurses, Sandra Mendoza and Fe Vinoya, faced similar threats to their careers if they didn't comply with their facilities' new requirements; namely, to assist in taking the lives of unborn babies.

Smith said the legislation will provide "a right of private action, so they can take those ... rights of conscience into a court of law" and win their cases.

"Being American has always been experiencing the freedom to live by the dictates of one's deeply held beliefs," said Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., who was one of the authors of the Conscience Protection Act.

"We are not seeking to change anyone's minds on abortion," she said, "though I would hope one day they could. We are simply asking to protect the fundamental rights of Americans. No one, ever, should be forced to participate in killing an unborn child."

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who co-wrote the Conscience Protection Act with Black, was also on hand for the bill's rollout.

"Federal funds do not extend to forcing or compelling individuals to participate in abortion," Lankford said. "That's already settled law."

Lending bipartisan support, Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., defended his fellow congressmen and their statements about people's rights to live by their beliefs.

"If we cannot uphold these freedoms," he said, "[then] this is really a great detriment to our nation. We have to live up to our principles."

 

Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal

For Higher Ed, the Tax Reform is a Mixed Bag

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 18:16

The House of Representatives has released its long-awaited Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. As expected, it lowers tax rates and simplifies the tax code. But while that sounds great, tax credits and deductions are often popular. They can affect the choices people make. For example, many Christians have pointed to the importance of the adoption tax credit as a tangible pro-life measure.

Similarly, the education community is concerned about changes that might make it harder for students to remain enrolled, either at the undergraduate or at the graduate level. Financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz has a great run-down of education tax benefits that are either cut or changed by the GOP bill. Two items stand out.

No More Student Loan Interest Deduction

For now, low- and middle-income taxpayers can exclude up to $2,500 in interest paid on federal and private student loans. They can do so even if they don't itemize. How much do people actually save this way? According to an analysis from AEI, the average benefit per tax return for this deduction is just $202.

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And if you're truly poor, you're probably not paying federal taxes anyway. The only way to take advantage of this deduction is to have a positive income tax liability. Also, borrowers today can get income-based repayment plans. These plans set the monthly repayment figure at 10 percent of a borrower's discretionary income. Whatever isn't paid after 20-25 years is forgiven. These repayment plans weren't available when the student loan interest deduction was enacted back in 1997. If we're going to guarantee borrowers affordable payments, why also give them a deduction? Even the Obama White House considered repealing the student loan interest deduction.

Would the elimination of this deduction make students less likely to attend college? I doubt it. It's not a lot of money. And as it is, student borrowing is down for the 6th straight year. Adults on the fence about college are probably going to weigh other factors.

No More Tuition Waivers for Graduate Students

Graduate students often support themselves through teaching or research assistantships. Their tuition is waived by the university, and they get a modest stipend for their services. Currently, the tuition waiver is not taxed as income, but the stipend is.

The GOP plan would change that by making the tuition waiver taxable to the recipient. That's a big change. Glassdoor lists the average graduate research assistant salary at just under $30,000. Tuition is in the $20,000-$30,000 range (less at public schools, more at private ones). Even with the increase in the standard deduction, we're talking about graduate students paying $2,000-$3,000 more in taxes.

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor for higher education at Seton Hall University, doesn't think the loss of tuition waivers will stop people from pursuing Ph.D.s. Kelchen points to the high lifetime benefits of obtaining an advanced degree.

Claus Wilke, the department chair of integrative biology at the University of Texas Austin, is more concerned. He posted a Twitter thread arguing that if grad students had to pay taxes on $50-60K of income, "a PhD would not be a viable choice anymore, except for the independently wealthy."

It's worth noting that 60 percent of graduate students who take advantage of tuition waivers are in STEM fields.

CUPA-HR: College and University Professional Association for Human Resources

That matters for a couple of reasons. One, there's bipartisan agreement that we need more high-skilled workers in science and engineering. The economy of the future will demand it. Two, we're talking about people who don't need graduate school. These people can make good money with a bachelor's degree -- more than their peers in other fields. And more than the measly $30,000 stipend they stand to earn as RAs.

As it is, our STEM graduate programs are loaded with top students from India, China and other countries with rapidly developing economies. If we make it harder for American students to choose grad school, will we produce enough master's- and Ph.D.-level scientists and engineers? I'm not talking about more academicians per se. I'm talking about future employees for Apple, Amazon, Google, IBM, Chevron, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

I get that a simpler tax code means that we can't pick winners and losers. If universities want to attract STEM graduate students, they can "gross up" the stipend so that the students' take-home pay is unaffected. If this means accepting fewer students, maybe that pushes lower quality students out the academic scene and into the private sector work force. That could be a win in other ways I suppose.

Either way, the tuition waiver elimination strikes me as a bigger deal than the loss of the student loan interest deduction.

 

Dr. Alex Chediak (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) is a professor and the author of Thriving at College (Tyndale House, 2011), a roadmap for how students can best navigate the challenges of their college years. His latest book is Beating the College Debt Trap. Learn more about him at www.alexchediak.com or follow him on Twitter (@chediak).

VP Visits Victims of Church Shooting and Attends Prayer Vigil: ‘We Do Not Grieve Like Those Who Have No Hope’

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 17:29

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence met with victims and their families of the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting Wednesday to offer condolences and attend a prayer vigil. The largest mass shooting in Texas history took the lives of 26 people and left more than 20 injured.

Pence tweeted earlier in the week that he and his wife would meet with families of the fallen, injured and law enforcement. He added, “We are with you Texas.”

Karen & I will travel to #SutherlandSprings on Wednesday to meet w/families of the fallen, injured & law enforcement. We are with you Texas

— Vice President Pence (@VP) November 6, 2017

The couple first went to Brooke Army Medical Center to visit with victims. Pence then met with law enforcement in Sutherland Springs for a briefing. Shortly after the briefing, Pence and his wife, along with Governor Greg Abbott, spoke at a press conference. Sen. Ted Cruz was also present. 

Pence said the people of Sutherland Springs are “well-grounded” in their faith. “They've been through a trauma that few people will ever experience in their lives,” he said. “But they're coming through it because they're guided by the strongest power that exists, and that's the power of God.” He told those in attendance that “The Bible tells us that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted,” adding that he and Karen were inspired by the “community of faith.” He asked for Americans to pray for the “precious families” impacted by the shooting. “Prayers make a difference,” he said.

The Vice President also spoke at an evening prayer vigil at Floresville High School. “We mourn with those who mourn and we grieve with those who grieve but we do not grieve like those who have no hope, because our faith gives us hope,” he told the crowd. “We find hope in [this] community of faith.” 

Pence mentioned Rev. Frank Pomeroy, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Pence said he marveled at the pastor’s faith:

All of America marveled when the devoted pastor of First Baptist Church still grieving the loss of his own precious daughter, somehow found it in his heart to say to the world, and I quote, ‘Lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding,’ he said. ‘I don't understand but I know my God does.’ Like millions of Americans I was humbled and inspired by that expression of faith and I will never forget. ... If the attacker's desire was to silence their testimony, he failed.

Pence told the crowd that on Sunday, “evil descended on this small town and on this small church.” But there was something stronger than fear. “Faith is stronger than evil. We live in troubling times … faith is the antidote to fear and despair.”

Karen Pence led the crowd in prayer:

Lord, thank you for being here, right now with us. Father, sometimes the burdens just seem too heavy to carry. The loss too great. But your word says 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light.' So Lord, today, we need you to come and carry this load. The Bible says, 'let the little children come unto me.' Lord, help this precious community to cling to that image, of all of these beautiful children. All of the victims are children of God, so that all of these beautiful children would be in your arms today. Help us to hold that vision of them in your arms close to us. And give comfort Father, give your peace -- the peace that passes all understanding because we don't understand. So come and hold this community in your hands. Help them to draw closer to you and to each other. And in this dark hour Heavenly Father, help these precious believers know how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ who conquered death. And we pray all of these things in your precious name, amen.

Gov. Greg Abbott has proclaimed Sunday, November 12 a Day of Prayer in Texas.

Proclaiming November 12 as a Day of Prayer in Texas following Sutherland Springs tragedy. https://t.co/hvQ84dJgC2 pic.twitter.com/JwiA1Vff49

— Gov. Greg Abbott (@GovAbbott) November 9, 2017

Carl Lentz, The View and Abortion

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 17:01

After his appearance on The View on October 30, Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong Church in New York City, was blasted for what appeared to be a total cop-out answer on national TV.

When asked by Joy Behar if abortion was considered a sin in his church, he replied, "That's the kind of conversation we would have finding out your story, where you're from, what you believe. I mean, God's the judge," at which point the audience broke into raucous applause. "People have to live to their own convictions," Lentz continued. "That's such a broad question, to me, I'm going higher. I want to sit with somebody and say, 'What do you believe?'"

"So it's not an open and shut case to you?" Behar asked. "Some people would say it is," Lentz responded. "To me, I'm trying to teach people who Jesus is first, and find out their story. Before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I'd like to know your name."

For this answer, he was taken to task on the Federalist ("Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz Provides Moral Cover for Abortion on 'The View'"), the Daily Wire (Lentz wouldn't answer "a slam-dunk of a theological question that a two-year-old could answer correctly"), and Life News ("Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz Refuses to Say If Abortion is Sinful: 'Live to Your Own Convictions"). The popular blogger Matt Walsh called for him to resign on Twitter (see also here.)

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To be perfectly honest, if I didn't know Pastor Lentz personally, my response would have been just as strong (and swift). It appeared that he dodged a very simple question, one that required a very simple answer.

Really now, is there any ambiguity when it comes to abortion? We're talking about taking the life of a preborn child. What is unclear or uncertain about that?

I absolutely wish that Pastor Lentz had replied directly and said something like, "Of course abortion is sinful. If you recognize that it is a baby in the womb, then to slice it up or poison it or kill it in any way is wrong in God's sight. But having an abortion is not an unforgivable sin, and there is hope for every woman who has aborted her child. Jesus died for that sin too and he offers forgiveness through the cross."

What Lentz Said Before -- And What Happened on The View

But because I have found Pastor Lentz to be both approachable and teachable, rather than comment on his interview first, I reached out to him directly.

What I learned is that he is passionately pro-life and feels this is something he needs to address much more in the future. (I was not aware of this because we never discussed it before.)

He also pointed me back to an extensive, 2015 article in GQ magazine, in which he told journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner this when asked about abortion:

If you sit down with me and you say, “Carl, I'm having an abortion,” I'm going to say, “I think that you can have this child. I don't know how hard it's going to be. I could never imagine. I do know that my prayer is that God will give you peace to stand on this side with me. Should you choose another option, I will not turn my back on you. I will not vilify you. I will not hate you. I will not, I cannot, live your life. I love you regardless, but my prayer is that somehow, some way, you will see my view on this.”

(This particular comment was featured as well in a Cosmopolitan magazine article titled "10 Things to Know About Hillsong Church.")

Why, then, did he give such an ambiguous answer on The View?

Reading between the lines, it appears that he was told to expect one thing during the interview and when Joy Behar decided to change direction, he refused to play into her game. He chose to make clear that before he talks to a lost person about abortion, he wants to get to know them personally. As he said, "Before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I'd like to know your name."

Again, do I wish he did things differently? Absolutely, but he gives account to God not to me.

Pastor Lentz’s Statement

That being said, in the uproar after the interview, Pastor Lentz issued this statement on Twitter:

Recently in an interview, I was asked directly if abortion was sin. I did not answer the question directly for a number of reasons and that has caused some confusion about our stance as a church on this matter. I do believe abortion is sinful. Our prayer is that we can continue to help and love those that deal with the pain of regret from personal choices, rather than cast further shame and guilt on those already carrying so much and create a church that can teach people how to form convictions based on God's word, that will be the driving force in all their decisions. I will continue to point people to Jesus, above all else, every opportunity I get. The story of God's redemptive grace, available to all, is the best news available.

I know that many remain disappointed in Pastor Lentz and some believe his Twitter post was too little too late. But since he had made his position clear in 2015 (in a totally secular context) and has now reiterated that he believes abortion is sinful, I suggest that we pray for him and encourage him rather than throw him under the bus.

My prayer is that God will make Carl Lentz a champion in the pro-life movement, a clear voice of grace and truth, and one who also helps many of those who have had abortions to find new life in Jesus. To the best of my knowledge, Pastor Lentz would warmly welcome such prayers.

Why are Republicans Killing the Adoption Tax Credit?

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 13:56

The tax overhaul proposed by House Republicans stands to cut tax credits for adoptions, and adoption advocates on both sides are asking why.

The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act proposed by House Republicans last week will, if passed, kill several tax credits for specific activities, the adoption credit among them, which has been available to families who may not have otherwise been able to afford adoption for the past 20 years. Adoption advocates among Republicans and Democrats blanched at the prospect of killing the adoption credit, but Rep. Kevin Brady, the adoptive father of two who spearheaded the creation of this bill, says he believes that doing away with the adoption credit in favor of the Family Credit and increased tax credits will actually help middle to lower income families better afford not only adoption, but also the long-term costs of raising children, according to CNN.

Here's why.

The Current Adoption Credit

The adoption credit available to families in 2017 was first established in 1997, but did not become permanent until the passing of the 2012 American Taxpayer Relief Act. The credit available to families who adopt in 2017 totals to $13,570 per adopted child, and applies to international adoptions, domestic agency and private adoptions, and foster care adoptions.

However, the adoption credit comes with limits. The maximum available tax credit starts lessening when a family's modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) rises above $203,540, and becomes completely unavailable when the MAGI reaches $243,540.

Some adoptive parents, like Denise Bierly of Pennsylvania, found the tax credit indispensable. An adoption case worker asked Bierly if she would be able to adopt a 6-year-old girl who had been in and out of foster care homes. Denise, who had already raised two sons, one of whom was adopted, said the tax credit featured heavily in her decision to adopt the girl.

"I don't know what I would have done without the credit," said Bierly told CNN. "It was in the calculation for me, as a middle-class person practicing law."

Pro-life organizations and adoption advocates have praised the tax credit and urged Congress to keep it, saying that it has helped many families provide stable home lives for adopted children.

#ProLife #AdoptionTaxCredit #TaxReform pic.twitter.com/Lul6WJ4yu7

— Susan B Anthony List (@SBAList) November 3, 2017

Tax Bill is strong but needs to include adoption tax credit. Providing a home for a child that is unwanted or special needs is pro-life!

— Rep. Mark Walker (@RepMarkWalker) November 3, 2017

It is shameful that the House tax reform plan still includes the removal of the adoption tax credit.

Funding Planned Parenthood, but taxing adopting families.

This is not pro-life, by any definition of the word.

Let's fix this.

— Russell Moore (@drmoore) November 8, 2017

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri also came out strongly against the move, allying herself with Save The Adoption Tax Credit, a national coalition of activists working to turn the tide fully against any version of the tax overhaul that removes the adoption credit.

"The notion that they're doing away with the adoption tax credit. I mean really? On what planet is that a priority?" McCaskill said, according to USA Today.

Brady says the removal of the adoption credit is not a blow against adoption or against the pro-life cause, as the proposed bill will, according to him, actually provide more money for families.

What The GOP's Tax Overhaul Offers Instead

Brady, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, has adopted two children himself, but never used the adoption tax credit to do so. He claims that the tax credit, as it stands today, is ineffective in helping families who don't face large tax bills or who don't itemize their deductions. The proposed bill, says Brady, not only creates a new $300 credit for each parent and non-child dependent in the form of a Family Credit, but also doubles the standard tax deduction available to both individuals families. The bill would also increase the current child tax credit of $1,000 to $1,600.

"The call is this: Do we want a tax code that has special provisions that you may need once in your life, or do we want a tax code that lowers rates every year of your life?" Brady said, according to USA Today.

Brady also provided a written statement to CNN explaining how he believes the proposed tax overhaul could actually help families afford adoption even better than the current adoption tax credit.

"I'm convinced that if we give tax relief to families every year -- they can use their paychecks for what matters most to them -- including adopting children," Brady wrote. "We are working to give families not only help when they're adopting but every year when that child is growing up, by making sure they have more in their paychecks to raise kids."

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Brady, though, said that he as a pro-life advocate and adoptive father understands peoples' reticence to get rid of the adoption tax credit. The debate, according to Brady, is not about whether to help adoptive families or to leave them out in the cold, but it is about which manner of help would best serve adoptive families.

"This really is a debate between the old approach and a newer approach that can help more people," Brady told The Hill. "So we're going to have the discussion in the Ways and Means Committee, and with Republicans on do we want to stick with the old credit ... or do we go with the tax cuts that provide about $2,000 dollars a year, and the new family credit that helps you with your child every year of their life?"

Vice President Mike Pence, for whom tax credits for abortion were a top priority when he served as governor of Indiana, also expressed support for the removal of the adoption tax credit in context of the tax overhaul.

"When you increase the per child tax credit, families already have a running start on real tax relief," Pence told Fox News.

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The University of Notre Shame

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 13:52

Notre Dame University in Indiana has long been one of the flagships of Catholic education in America. But that school just made a shameful, scandalous, but most of all ludicrous decision. The issue? Contraceptive coverage for employees of the school.

The Catholic Church teaches that we can know by reason alone that contraception is evil. It also points to a long, unanimous and ecumenical consensus on the issue. Right up through the early 20th century. If you believe that teaching, you think that buying someone else contraceptives is wrong. 

Standing Up to Uncle Sam

In light of that teaching, Notre Dame had joined a high-profile lawsuit against the U.S. government. The goal? To avoid the Obamacare mandate that it pay for employees' contraceptives. The Trump administration has suspended that mandate. Religious orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor had already won exemptions.

Now the point was made. So the University has decided to go ahead and pay for employee contraception anyway. Why? Supposedly because its insurer said so.

As the National Catholic Register noted:

Just over a week ago, the university notified its employees that the cost-free coverage, which was initially introduced through the Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate, would end Jan.1. But Nov. 7, the university said it would provide the coverage.

"Notre Dame, as a Catholic institution, follows Catholic teaching about the use of contraceptives and engaged in the recent lawsuit to protect its freedom to act in accord with its principles," the university informed its employees in a Nov. 7 email.

"Recognizing, however, the plurality of religious and other convictions among its employees, it will not interfere with the provision of contraceptives that will be administered and funded independently of the university."

In an email message responding to the Register's request for further clarification, Paul Browne, Notre Dame's vice president of public affairs and communications, explained that the university changed its policy after it received updated information from Meritain Health/OptumRx, the insurance provider that manages health benefits for Notre Dame's employees.

Do we really believe that a school with the financial heft of Notre Dame can't find another insurer? There are even religiously-based "health share" companies. Believers founded them to protect their 1st Amendment right not to act against their conscience, especially on abortion. Such companies would get a much-needed boost for their worthy missions if large customers such as Notre Dame contracted with them. They certainly deserve the help. They have every right to expect it. Progressive, leftist, and gay organizations make sure to support the companies that adopt their favored policies. But Catholics? Nah, that’s too much to ask.

Cowering Before an Insurance Company

Notre Dame has decided to twist itself into a contortionist yoga pose. It affirms the (official, if unpopular) Church teaching that contraception is intrinsically evil. From that, what logically follows? That it's wrong for the university to choose an insurance company that funds contraception. Especially when there are alternatives. Think something is evil in itself? Then you think that it's bad for anyone. Even if he doesn't know it. To help someone do what you know is wrong is wrong. It's bad for his soul, whether he knows it or not. But since you know better, it is deadly for yours.

Imagine a pagan emperor demanding that Christians worship him. Then he relents. But the Christians instead kneel down to worship ... an insurance broker.

When the U.S. government demanded this course of action, Notre Dame said no. Now a measly private contractor issues a memo and the university backs down. Imagine a pagan emperor demanding that Christians worship him. Then he relents. But the Christians instead kneel down to worship ... an insurance broker.

The Innocence of Serpents, the Wisdom of Doves

There are only two logical possibilities here.

The first is this: Notre Dame believes that if there is one level of remove between it and an evil action, its hands are clean. Let's test that out. Notre Dame rightly would not practice racial discrimination. Would it choose a contractor that did? Even if the school could avoid any legal liability? Of course not.

The second is: Notre Dame does not in fact consider the Church's teaching on contraception true and binding on Catholics. For instance, its administrators. It won't come out and say that. That would be yet another black eye for its Catholic "identity." And that appeals to donors, parents, and students. But it’s just for public consumption. Red meat for the rubes.

The school's choice to wink at its founding Church's teaching is already winning it praise. The Los Angeles Times just lauded it for "re-entering the 21st century."

Hiring Old Podesta Pals

None of this should surprise us. As Catholic educational watchdog group the Cardinal Newman Society reported just this summer:

The University of Notre Dame has named Denis McDonough, former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, as an executive fellow of the Global Policy Initiative in the university's new Keough School of Global Affairs where he will teach graduate students, The South Bend Tribune reports.

McDonough has called Obama "our most Catholic of presidents," despite his strident support of abortion, same-sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research, the HHS contraception mandate, and transgender policies.

Before becoming chief of staff, McDonough was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, John Podesta's infamous leftist lobbying group that was exposed in leaked emails to be attempting to undermine the Catholic Church.

McDonough once wrote a piece arguing against excommunication for pro-abortion politicians, and in another one, he argued that Catholic bishops should not support criminalizing abortion.

Branding

Can we imagine Notre Dame hiring, say, Steve Bannon? Perhaps to teach about immigration policy? On that topic, Bannon is actually in line with the official teachings of the Catholic church. 

Remember when Notre Dame honored rabidly pro-abortion President Barack Obama? Notre Dame is still straddling the fence between heaven and hell. It wants the lingering prestige that comes with the Catholic academic heritage. It just doesn't want the pesky moral reasoning that's central to it. Apparently, Catholicism for Notre Dame is now mostly a branding opportunity.

10th Grade Girls Prove Jack Could Have Floated on Door With Rose … Maybe

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 13:42

Passion. Self-sacrifice. Tragic death. 

The scene toward the end of Titanic is heartbreaking -- and maybe even more romantic because of the heartbreak. As the iconic ship sinks into the depths of the Atlantic, fictional Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) lets Rose (Kate Winslet) float atop the freezing water on a door from the ship, indicating the door can’t hold both of them. 

But could Jack have actually fit on the door? Sobbing fans of the 1997 flick have asked this question for two decades. And a group of 10th grade Australian girls recently proved the answer is yes.

How? If Jack had placed their life jackets under the door.

Abigail Wicks, Christy Zhang and Julia Damato won an award at the National Maths Talent Quest for the mathematical theory behind their claim, The Sun reported

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“We looked at how buoyant the door would have been, and how that would have changed if there were people on top of that,” Wicks said. “There was a lot of exploring and testing, and we had to fiddle with different buoyancies and look at what materials were realistic for that time.”

Damato said they also calculated how the saltwater would have affected the buoyancy. 

While the idea works in theory, Titanic director James Cameron isn’t so sure, The Sun notes. In 2012, Mythbusters also explored the life-jacket-under-the-door theory. But in an interview with Daily Beast in January, Cameron maintained it wasn’t practical.

He notes that the water in the scene is 28 degrees. It would have been too difficult for Jack to swim under the door and secure the life jackets, he said. Let alone survive hypothermia afterward.

Perhaps the debate isn’t really settled, after all … 

Trump, Xi Present United Front Despite Differences

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 13:34

BEIJING (AP) -- President Donald Trump sought to present a united front with Chinese President Xi Jinping following two days of meetings Thursday, despite lingering differences over trade and North Korea.

On trade, Trump criticized the “very one-sided and unfair” trade relationship between the U.S. and China. But he stopped short of castigating Xi, saying he doesn’t blame the country for having taken advantage of the U.S. in the past.

Trump said China “must immediately address the unfair trade practices that drive” what he said is a “shockingly” large trade deficit, along with barriers to market access, forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft. “But I don’t blame China,” he said. “After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens?”

To applause, Trump said: “I give China great credit.”

His Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered a blunter assessment of China’s trade surplus with the United States, which in October widened by 12.2 percent from a year earlier, to $26.6 billion. The total surplus with the United States for the first 10 months of the year was $223 billion.

“I think the best way to characterize it is that while we appreciate the long hours and the effort that our Chinese counterparts have put into those trade discussions, quite frankly in the grand scheme of a $3- to 500 billion trade deficit, the things that have been achieved are pretty small,” Tillerson told reporters in Beijing.

He said that, that, “in terms of really getting at some of the fundamental elements of why this imbalance exists, there is still a lot more work to do.”

Tillerson also acknowledged that there were differences “tactics and the timing and how far to go with pressure” on North Korea. But he insisted that the two countries were on the same page.

“There is no disagreement on North Korea,” he said.

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Trump and Tillerson’s comments came during Trump’s second and final day in China and after lengthy meetings with Xi. The day included announcements that the U.S. and China had signed agreements valued at more than $250 billion for products including U.S.-made jet engines, auto parts, liquefied natural gas and beef.

Such contract signings are a fixture of foreign leader visits to Beijing and are intended to defuse foreign complaints about China’s trade policies.

Trump had made narrowing the multibillion-dollar U.S. trade deficit with China a priority for his administration. During the presidential campaign, he accused China of “raping our country” on trade and pledged to minimize the countries’ trade imbalance.

For his part, Xi promised a more open business environment for foreign companies in China and said his country was committed to further opening its economy to foreign investment.

“China will not close its doors” and will open them “even wider,” he said, pledging that foreign companies in China, including American ones, would find the market “more open, more transparent and more orderly.”

The United States and other trading partners have been pressing Beijing to give their companies more access to its state-dominated economy. But it remains unclear how far China will go to fulfill its pledges. Previous U.S. administrations have hailed market-opening promises only to be left disappointed.

North Korea remained a focus of the talks. Before arriving in China, Trump had delivered a stern message to Beijing, using an address in South Korea to call on China, North Korea’s biggest trade partner, to do more to confront and isolate the antagonistic nation. That included urging China to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at depriving the North’s government of revenue for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Trump on Thursday appeared far more conciliatory, thanking China for its efforts and saying he’d been encouraged by his conversations.

“China can fix this problem easily. And quickly. And I am calling on China and your great president to hopefully work on it very hard,” Trump said. “If he works on it hard it will happen.”

Before the meetings, China rolled out the red carpet for Trump, treating him to an elaborate welcome ceremony on the plaza outside the Great Hall of the People before the leaders turned to their private talks.

Trump looked on approvingly as a Chinese honor guard played the national anthems of both countries, cannons boomed and soldiers marched. He clapped and smiled as children waving U.S. and Chinese flags and flowers screamed and jumped wildly.

Trump said the welcome “was truly memorable and impressive and something I will never forget.”

Trump was also feted at a state dinner that featured a video montage of the president’s visit, as well as footage of his granddaughter, Arabella, the daughter of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, singing a traditional Chinese song in Mandarin.

On Friday, Trump heads to Danang, Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference -- the first of two conferences he’ll attend on his trip to Asia.

While Trump had told reporters he expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the conference, Tillerson said the two sides had never agreed to hold a formal one-on-one meeting. He said the two sides were still discussing whether they had “sufficient substance” to talk about.

___

Associated Press writers Christopher Bodeen in Beijing and Darlene Superville and Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Follow Colvin on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@colvinj and Lemire at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire

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

Pence, Abbott Attend Vigil for Victims of Church Shooting

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 13:18

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) -- Vice President Mike Pence joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at a memorial service for the victims of Sunday’s massacre at a small-town Texas church.

Pence told the crowd Wednesday evening that the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs was the worst mass shooting at a church in American history and called the gunman “deranged.”

“Whatever animated the evil that descended on that small church, if the attacker’s desire was to silence their testimony of faith, they failed,” the vice president added.

Abbott began the service by praying “for healing and for help.”

The governor said Texans come together at times of crisis and tragedy. “It’s what we do,” Abbott said. People in the crowd responded “amen.”

He also proclaimed Tuesday a statewide day of prayer.

Authorities have reviewed video from inside the church where a gunman killed more than two dozen, including footage that shows the assailant shooting victims in the head during Sunday services, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

The official’s account of the video is consistent with statements made by survivors of the attack. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

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The same U.S. official confirmed that the attacker’s cellphone was an iPhone and that the FBI had not yet asked Apple for help obtaining data from the device.

The church regularly recorded its services, and the footage investigators have seen shows several minutes of the attack because there was “no one to turn it off,” according to a law enforcement official who has seen the video. The official also spoke on condition of anonymity because that person was not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.

The law enforcement official was among those who went inside the First Baptist Church after the attack and said several of the pews were overturned, although it was unclear if that was from the attack or from rescue efforts. Bullets had splintered the walls and pews, leaving shards of wood all over the floors.

Pence arrived in Texas on Wednesday, visiting wounded victims at a San Antonio hospital and later meeting families of the dead in Floresville, not far from Sutherland Springs.

Pence went from table to table at a high school library attempting to console devastated family members.

“The whole country is praying over you,” he told one man who lost his sister-in-law.

He stopped to talk with John Holcombe, whose family was decimated by the shooting. Holcombe, who suffered shrapnel wounds, lost his wife Crystal -- who was pregnant with their first child -- three of her children, his parents, a brother and a toddler niece.

Pence hugged 7-year-old Evelyn Holcombe, who managed to survive by running out of the church during the attack.

Earlier Wednesday, Pence said President Donald Trump had ordered federal agencies to provide extensive help to the investigation, including 100 on-site FBI agents.

The agent in charge of the FBI’s San Antonio division said Tuesday that agents had not been able to retrieve data from Devin Patrick Kelley’s cellphone.

In a statement Wednesday evening, Apple said it’s offered the FBI technical advice after learning the bureau was trying to access the phone. The company said the FBI had not requested its assistance.

Depending on the model of iPhone and what security features it had, FBI agents might have had a short window to use alternative methods to access its data.

For instance, if the iPhone used Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensing system, agents could have tried placing the dead gunman’s finger on the phone to unlock it. But that would only have worked within 48 hours of the last time the phone was locked.

Meanwhile, more details emerged about the gunman’s past. School records showed that Kelley had disciplinary problems in high school.

In fall 2006, Kelley’s sophomore year, he was suspended and sent to an alternative school for two months after an unspecified drug-related incident.

He was suspended twice as a junior and three times as a senior for reasons including “insubordination,” “profane language/gestures” and “dishonest/false records.”

With each passing year at New Braunfels High School, his grades slipped as well, according to the records.

A B-student overall as a freshman, he failed several classes by his senior year and ended up ranked 260 out of 393 students in his graduating class in 2009. He finished with a 2.3 grade-point average.

The records also listed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as one of his medical conditions.

A former friend said Kelley asked her for sexual favors and prevented his first wife from communicating with her friends. Kelsey Huckaby told Austin television station KTBC that Kelley was “kind of controlling of his girlfriends” in high school.

Huckaby said she lost contact with Kelley until he responded to a Facebook post she made in April asking for a place to stay for her and her boyfriend. She said Kelley offered to let them stay in a trailer on his property if she performed weekly “sexual favors” for him.

Also Wednesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety released an official list of those killed in the rampage. The eight male victims and 17 female victims ranged in age from 1 to 77. Eight of the fatalities were children or teenagers. The oldest of them was 16.

Authorities said the 26 dead also included the unborn baby of a woman who was killed.

All the victims died at the scene, except for one child who died at a San Antonio-area hospital.

Eleven people remained hospitalized with wounds they suffered in the attack.

___

Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles and Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.

___

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

ISIS Militants Evacuate Last Stronghold in Syria to Government

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 13:01

BEIRUT (AP) -- Islamic State militants withdrew Thursday from their last stronghold in Syria, a strategic town near the border with Iraq, following a government offensive that has effectively left the extremist group’s fighters dispersed in villages and small towns in the desert.

The Syrian military declared the town liberated after intense battles that killed a large number of militants, including leaders. The military said they are still chasing other ISIS militants in different directions in the desert.

“The liberation of Boukamal is of great importance because it is a declaration of the fall of this group’s project in the region generally and the collapse of its supporters’ illusions to divide it, control large parts of the Syria-Iraq borders and secure supply routes between the two countries,” said Army spokesman Gen. Ali Mayhoub in a televised statement.

Syrian pro-government media said Syrian troops had clashed with remnants of ISIS militants in the town after they entered it late Wednesday. On Thursday, they reported the town clear of ISIS fighters.

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Pro-Syrian media reported the town was liberated. Al-Ikhbariya TV’s journalist reported from the road to the town, joyfully breaking out on camera: “Daesh is finished. Live.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces and allied troops, including Iraqi forces who linked from across the border, are combing through Boukamal after ISIS militants withdrew.

With the collapse of ISIS in Boukamal, Islamic State militants have no major territorial control in Syria and Iraq and are believed to have dispersed in the desert west and east of the Euphrates River. U.S. officials estimated that there were between 2,500 and 3,500 ISIS militants around Boukamal and that leading members of the group were also believed to have taken refuge in the town. The group has a small presence near the capital Damascus.

ISIS has suffered consecutive defeats at the hands of separate but simultaneous offensives in Iraq and Syria by the Russian-backed Syrian forces and allied militias as well as U.S.-backed Iraqi and Syrian fighters.

Despite its fall, the group’s media apparatus has remained active and its fighters are likely to keep up their insurgency from desert areas.

The swift fall of Boukamal in eastern Deir el-Zour province was accelerated after Iraqi forces seized Qaim, the town across the border last weekend, also controlling a strategic crossing between the two countries.

A senior Iraqi official said there was an agreement Tuesday to send Iraqi paramilitaries to Syria to take part in the Boukamal operation, adding that the Syrians were to supply them with weapons and gear. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

An Iraqi spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Forces has told The Associated Press last week that his forces, part of the Iraqi security forces, will participate in the operation and will head north to protect the borders and secure the road from Iran to Lebanon.

Boukamal is the last urban center for the militants in both Iraq and Syria where Syrian troops -- backed by Russia and Iranian-supported militias -- and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are vying for control of the strategic border town.

Washington is wary of increasing Iran influence in the area and has backed the SDF in their bid to uproot ISIS from the borders with Iraq. The proximity of forces in the area has raised concerns about potential clashes between them as they approach Boukamal from opposite sides of the Euphrates River, and now from across the border with Iraq.

It was not clear if the government seizure of the town means the end of the race for control of territory previously held by ISIS.

So far the Kurdish-led SDF have focused on the area east of the Euphrates, seizing a number of oil and gas fields and securing large swathes of areas along the border with Iraq, as well as the newly liberated Raqqa city.

__________

Associated Press writer Sinan Salah in Baghdad contributed to this report

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

Would Jesus Carry a Gun?

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 12:17

Seen on Facebook recently: Would Jesus carry a gun?

This is the kind of question a gun-control supporter would expect to hit hard against Christians who support the Second Amendment. And the answer seems obvious: No, Jesus wouldn't carry a gun.

So Christians who want to follow Jesus' example shouldn't carry, right?

Not so fast.

We're Not Called To Follow Jesus' Every Example

Christians are called to be like Jesus, but not to follow His every detailed example.

First, Christians are called to be like Jesus, but not to follow His every detailed example. His calling was unique. For instance, when he spoke, he relied on himself as the authority. When He did it the crowds were "amazed," because He spoke with authority, not as the scribes did. (Matt. 7:28-29) Try that way in your church. If the church has any brains, it’ll throw you out.

Jesus Had Other Good Solutions

Jesus was different. That difference matters for at least two of the reasons Americans own guns: for hunting and for self-defense.

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As far as we can discover from Scripture, Jesus didn’t hunt but relied on others to provide food. The only exceptions were when He miraculously fed the 4,000 and the 5,000. And I don't know where He found the fish He was grilling in John 21:9, but He certainly didn't go to work looking for money to buy it. Three verses earlier (John 21:6) He’d showed He could find food when and where it was needed. He didn't need to go hunting.

Self-Defense

Regarding self-defense, His needs were different from ours, too. Luke 4:28-30 tells of the first time his life was in danger:

Luke 4:28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.

He just passed "through their midst," as if it were simple -- which it was -- for Him! It sure wouldn't be for you or me. If we got caught in a mob trying to throw us over a cliff, we'd have to do something to defend ourselves. I don't know how I'd handle it if I were caught in a mess like that, but the point is, Jesus had unique methods of His own. He was safe.

He just passed "through their midst," as if it were simple -- which it was -- for Him!

In fact Satan was right -- though he wanted to use it the wrong way -- when he reminded Jesus, "He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" (Luke 4:10-11)

Jesus really was under unique divine protection in his earthly ministry. In John 7:30, we read that the Jews were seeking to arrest Him, but "no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come."

When the hour finally came to die for us, He knew it and He accepted it. He had come to die, but in a manner and for reasons that had been prescribed centuries before. He had no need to defend Himself from violence before that time. Even then he could have called down legions of angels to defend him (Matt. 26:53); He just chose not to.

An Example We Literally Can't Follow

So it would be fair to say His life is an example of how to preserve yourself when you can simply slip out of a dangerous crowd, when you know how to call legions of angels to your aid, and when you know you're being preserved for a death to come at a set time in the future.

Or in other words, this is one of the cases, in which Jesus' example doesn’t fit us directly.

Freedom To Take Care of Our Needs

Would Jesus carry? No. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't.

Jesus really didn't intend us to follow His example in every way. We shouldn’t preach the way He did (on our own authority). We can't supply our food the way He did, and none of us can defend ourselves from danger the way He did.

So, the next time someone asks, “Would Jesus carry a gun?” you could ask them whether He'd be an organ transplant donor. He wouldn’t do that either. Some examples aren't meant to be followed.

Delaware Considers Letting Students Decide Race, Gender Without Parents’ Permission

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 01:44

"White boys could soon self-identify as black girls in Delaware." So begins one of the latest columns of Fox News' Todd Starnes, reporting on what parents probably wish was fake news. Unfortunately for the families in The First State, reality may soon be optional for kids in Delaware public schools.

In one of the more incredible headlines of the year, local officials in the state's Department of Education are actually debating a regulation that would let students choose their race and their gender.

If it sounds unbelievable, that's because it is. For the last few years, families have been shocked that they'd have to defend traditional biology in places as sacred as restrooms, showers, locker and changing rooms. Now, the proponents of this government-sponsored make-believe are trying to make everything self-subjective.

It's the campaign for these "protected characteristics," local liberals argue, that would give children the ability to redefine their most defining traits. And without ever calling home. Under "Regulation 225 Prohibition of Discrimination," students can make these determinations without letting their parents know.

 "Prior to requesting permission from a parent or legal guardian, the school should consult and work closely with the student to access the degree to which, if any, the parent or legal guardian is aware of the Protected Characteristic and is supportive of the student, and the school shall take into consideration the safety, health, and well-being of the student in deciding whether to request permission from the parent or legal guardian," the proposal states.

"Literally," Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis told Starnes, "if a parent affirms their child's biological sex, and now race, they are [considered] discriminatory through policies like Regulation 225. These policies are setting parents up as ... unsupportive, even abusive, if they affirm their child's biological realities ... "

Of course, the irony is that someone's being abusive, according to the American College of Pediatricians -- and it isn't parents. This is exactly the kind of agenda they classify as "child abuse." This is calling on people across the state to get involved in stopping state officials from putting kids in dangerous situations -- and keeping parents in the dark about it.

By law, the people of Delaware have 30 days to "comment" about the regulation, but the agency is under no obligation to change it. Hopefully, parents can apply enough pressure to force the governor to back away from the idea. Join Theis and other concerned citizens by pushing back on this madness. If you're from Delaware, click here to speak up.

 

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

Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal

Here’s Why An Unborn Baby Was Counted As A Person In The Texas Massacre

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:58

The sheriff deputies who assessed the fatalities at the bloody crime scene at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, counted the death toll as 26, because one of the victims was a mother carrying an unborn child inside of her.

The federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 recognizes unborn children as separate victims for federal and military crimes. Texas law also defines a human being to include "an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth," and recognizes an unborn baby as a potential crime victim.

"This has been a longstanding priority for us, and something we were instrumental in pushing," said National Right to Life director Jennifer Popik according to The New York Times. "The principle here is that there's two victims. For a family already invested in the child, for the grandparents, this is a loss."

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Abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America defends harsher penalties for perpetrators who commit crimes against pregnant women, however, the group strongly opposes crime-victim laws and "personhood" laws that give unborn babies separate legal status from the mother. These laws are an attempt to prevent women from getting abortions, according to NARAL.

"We need tougher laws on the books that increase criminal penalties for individuals who target pregnant women, and we stand with our allies in support of meaningful legislation to prevent future acts of gun violence," said NARAL spokesperson Kaylie Long.

President Donald Trump's administration has also defined life at conception. The Department of Health and Human Services "accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception," according to a draft plan from the agency.

Even New York's World Trade Center memorial includes the words "and her unborn child" after the names of the pregnant women who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Thirty-eight states currently have fetal homicide laws.

 

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