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Updated: 3 hours 27 min ago

Smuggling Boat Sinks in Mediterranean, 64 Feared Dead

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 19:20

ROME (AP) -- As many as 64 African migrants, including a mother whose surviving 3-year-old child desperately clung to her as she drowned, are feared dead after a traffickers’ overcrowded rubber dinghy from Libya started sinking in the Mediterranean Sea, officials said Monday.

The Italian coast guard rescued 86 people from the boat Saturday morning, after it took on water and started deflating, a U.N. migration agency official said.

Specially trained rescue divers leapt into the water to pull dozens to safety, including those who managed to stay aboard the half-submerged dinghy as well as others already flailing in nearby cold waters.

Eight bodies were recovered on Saturday. Officials at the time said the corpses were all women, but U.N. migration officials who met the rescue ship when it arrived Monday in Catania, Sicily, said two of the eight dead were adult men.

Since trafficking dinghies are often crammed with far more than 100 migrants, fears quickly arose Saturday that dozens more could be missing in the sinking. An Italian coast guard search that went through the night didn’t find any more survivors or corpses.

Flavio Di Giacomo of the International Organization for Migration said in a tweet Monday that survivors interviewed by the agency in Catania said 150 people had been aboard the dinghy when it set out from a Libyan beach east of Tripoli.

“Sixty-four migrants lost their life in the shipwreck (which) occurred last Saturday,” Di Giacomo said, saying “probably 56 missing migrants” perished at sea.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Di Giacomo said the dinghy was packed and made of poor quality rubber. Some eight hours into the Mediterranean crossing, “water started pouring in, panic ensued, the migrants all moved to one side, and the boat lost its balance and was deflating.”

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Some migrants managed to cling to the portion of the dinghy that wasn’t submerged, but many others fell into the sea, he said, adding that the Italian coast guard arrived quickly, about a half hour after being spotted by a European naval aircraft.

Catania Mayor Enzo Bianco told Italian Radio Radicale that among the survivors was a child who lost her mother.

“I watched a 3-year-old girl while she was starting to play at the port here. She was saved, grabbed at the last second by the coast guard in the sea,” the mayor said. “She was clinging to her mother and she saw her drown.”

Bianco said the child is now with her aunt, who was among the survivors.

All of the missing are adults, Di Giacomo said, adding that three other children survived, boys aged 2, 9 and 10.

The migrants came from Mali, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Senegal and Nigeria, he said.

A doctor said some of the survivors needed cardiopulmonary resuscitation when they were brought aboard the rescue ship.

“We can proudly say that many among those we resuscitated are now alive,” said Dr. Maria Rita Agliozzo, who was aboard the coast guard rescue ship with a paramedic. “Unfortunately some of them did not make it.”

She said the surviving children are in good condition.

“We still have to reconstruct their personal stories, because the children are shocked and didn’t answer our questions. It’s a step-by-step process, hopefully they will work through what happened,” Agliozzo said.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants have been rescued at sea and taken to southern Italian ports in the last few years, including nearly 119,000 last year. Another 3,100 drowned along the way in 2017, the IOM says.

Di Giacomo said the Libyan coast guard in recent days rescued 250 other migrants from traffickers’ boats and recovered the bodies of two women, while survivors said another 10 migrants were missing.

Those putting themselves at the mercy of smugglers and the sea include refugees fleeing wars or persecution who hope to receive asylum as well as economic migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, who aren’t eligible for permission to live in Europe.

___

Gino Maceli contributed to this report from Catania. Frances D’Emilio can be followed on www.twitter.com/fdemilio.

 

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

The Days of Our Trump: The Madness of 2018’s First Week

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 18:18

So I was off for a few days at the start of the year. Did I miss anything?

I’m joking, of course. Hang out in the DC area when it’s too cold to do anything outside. It feels like sitting smack dab in the center of a three-ring circus.

Fire and Fury (Signifying Nothing)

The main act, at least in the media’s mind, has been a trashy, campy account of the Trump campaign and White House. Fire and Fury was written by admitted tale-spinner and proven falsifier Michael Wolff with a hefty dose of scoop from ex-White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon. Bannon apologized Sunday for his role in the semi-factual farce. Kind of like Deniro apologizing for The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Bannon’s comments had even admirers sputtering: “What on earth was he thinking?!?!”

Liberals and the media are panting over the book like Fifty Shades of Grey. Knock yourselves out. Americans are too busy applying for the jobs that are opening up.

Sure, chunks have already proven to be fake news. But it’s also old news. Who is surprised the early days of the Trump White House were filled with chaos and backstabbing, colorful antics and attacks on the President? Forget that the daily leaks that already made that clear. Or that there were people who joined Trump who had no love for Trump, but loved the access to power. Forget those who thought they could handle this blustery, billionaire political neophyte or who hungered for his approval.

It’s Donald J. Trump. The Donald. His life is always a double-diamond run played out on a mountain of material. You want to talk “Fire and Fury”? His first wife confronted his mistress (and second wife) high on an Aspen ski slope one Christmas with tabloid cameras catching all the action. And still the skyscrapers and resorts got built.

What we’re reading about now is popcorn stuff. Not serious. I mean, think of the Clinton Administration. Their early months had a body count.

Meanwhile, just like a tabloid flipped through while waiting in the grocery store line, Fire and Fury is available for quick, free read. Wiki Leaks released the full book on PDF on Sunday for all to enjoy. (The release gives credence to the rumors Trump and Julian Assange are working out a deal. But that leads down another rabbit hole.)

The Mental Health of Trump or “Using the 25th to Destroy 45”

More serious: the concerted, coordinated effort to attack the mental fitness of President Trump. CNN’s hapless Brian Stelzer thinks it’s “fair” to question Trump’s mental facilities. He cites all the media reports quoting other media reports.  The New York Times is among them. (Understandable, given its collusion with Comey, Fusion GPS, et al, and the daily disintegration of the Trump Russia narrative.) This Week‘s George Stephanopoulos couldn’t even bother to ask U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley about Iran on Sunday. He was too busy questioning the President’s marbles.

Democrats even paraded a Yale psychiatrist around Capitol Hill for two days to declare the President as Mad as a Hatter.

It’s not just an echo chamber, but one walled with Marshall Amps cranked to 11. We see here how coups are made. As liberal Harvard law legend Alan Dershowitz pointed out this morning: 

The psychiatrizaton of political difference is much more dangerous. It's what they did in Russia, it's what they did in China, it's what they did in apartheid South Africa. If you don't like a candidate first lock him up. If you can't lock him up, commit him to a mental hospital.

And day by day, bit-by-bit, the maneuvers of the “Destroy Trump” Band and “Insurance Policy” Players come to light, the more desperate that effort will become. It ain’t just politics at this point. It’s self-defense. 

Yet, here’s the funny thing. This “Trump is unstable” meme also plays into Trump’s hands. Haley alluded to it when asked about Trump’s “big button” North Korea tweet: “I think that he always has to keep Kim on his toes.” This goes for other foes around the world. Said Haley, “I think they don’t know what the U.S. is going to do at any given time, and so for that reason they’re getting much more cautious and they’re paying attention to how they work with us.”

Secretary of Defense Mattis put the same idea another way the other day. When asked his concerns for 2018, Mad Dog replied, “I don’t have concerns. I create them.”

Uncle Sam’s Work Out

Things are good. The economy is thriving, ISIS is dying, the Koreas are talking, taxes are falling and hope is rising. 

Maybe it helps to summarize the scene this way: For eight years, Uncle Sam grew fat, week and whiny. However, now we see him hitting the gym, getting fit, getting firm, getting his mojo back. While he’s pumping away on that exercise bike, he’s watching this D.C.-based soap opera called Days of Our Trump. It gives him some laughs, lends him some intrigue, makes the hard work of shaping up a nation breeze by.

And coming soon to Days of Our Trump, the “Fake News Awards.” Trump tweeted Sunday that his “Fake News Awards” originally scheduled for Monday have been pushed to Wednesday, January 17 because interest exceeded expectations.

The Fake News Awards, those going to the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media, will be presented to the losers on Wednesday, January 17th, rather than this coming Monday. The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2018

So many questions: When does balloting close? Is Trump drawing massive attention to the event only to pull a bait-and-switch? What happens if he draws higher ratings than the Golden Globes? Finally, can we laugh at the fact that as Hollywood award shows grow more political, political events are becoming far more entertaining?

And we still have 51 weeks to go ….

 

Al Perrotta is the Managing Editor of The Stream. He is also co-author, with John Zmirak, of the upcoming book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration. Coming May 21, 2018 from Regnery Publishing.

What’s Next for Iran After Protests? 4 Elements to Watch

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 16:50

After backing the protesters standing up to the Iranian dictatorship, President Donald Trump will decide this week on whether to again waive sanctions -- part of the Obama-era nuclear deal he has long criticized.

The peaceful uprising, which began in late December in the city of Mashhad, has spread to cities such as Tehran, Qom, and Shiraz.

The protesters objected to the Iranian government concentrating much of the windfall from the $100 billion in unfrozen Iranian assets -- resulting from the U.S.-led multilateral nuclear deal -- to expand regional influence in the Middle East instead of dealing with domestic economic problems. Among the reported chants was "Leave Syria, think of us."

Here's what experts say could be next as the Iran drama unfolds.

What Else Can or Should the U.S. Do?

"Trump and Pence have been very good with rhetoric in comparison with the failed Obama approach of saying nothing in 2009," Michael Makovsky, president of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, told The Daily Signal.

"But the administration needs to pivot beyond rhetoric," Makovsky continued. "Iran wants to clamp down on demonstrations. They might win this round, but the administration can raise the cost. The administration is playing defense if they are playing at all."

That doesn't mean combat boots on the ground, Makovsky said. Rather, it means providing money, advisers, and perhaps even weapons to groups opposing Iranian expansion in the Middle East. He added that the U.S. should push for a "loose confederation" of groups to make up a government in Syria -- replacing the Bashar Assad regime being buttressed by Iran.

"The Reagan doctrine was about supporting anti-communist forces," Makovsky said. "The Trump administration should take a page from Reagan's book about raising the cost of Soviet expansionism."

Other experts are more cautious about direct involvement, but all agree on the need to increase dissent internally in Iran against the ruling Islamic regime.

Even as the Iranian regime seeks to block social media, the U.S. government should continue promoting their message on Radio FARDA, said Jim Phillips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation. Radio FARDA is the Iranian branch of the U.S. government's Radio Free Europe, which was used to help fight Soviet Union censorship during the Cold War. It broadcasts from the Czech Republic.

Phillips said the U.S. should also impose more sanctions on the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite division of the military charged with protecting the Islamic Republic system and carrying some political power.

End of Regime?

The protests prompt speculation about whether this is the beginning of the end of the government's rule that first began with the Islamic revolution in 1979. That's not yet likely, Phillips said.

"I doubt the regime will crumble from this protest but it will weaken the foundations of the regime," Phillips told The Daily Signal. Noting the failure of the larger 2009 protest, he added, "Unless there is a big increase in the number, it's not likely to succeed."

The government crushed student demonstrations calling for freedom in 2003. After a disputed presidential election, the even larger "green movement" began in 2009, with protesters demanding free and fair elections.

Still, the new protests have another dimension missing from the previous protests that involved mostly young, urban, and educated Iranians.

"The difference with this one is that it's centered on the rural poor. Up to now, that has been the pillar of support for the regime," Phillips said. "That's where much of the Revolutionary Guard is pulled from. So, perhaps, down the line, the Revolutionary Guard will not be as dependable."

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Eventually, the government is doomed, but the timing is unpredictable, Phillips said, drawing a historical parallel.

"With the Soviet Union, once the people's loyalty to an idea was shattered, the government had to fall back on coerced repression," Phillips said. "When that happens, a regime's days are numbered. I just don't know the number."

What Happens to the Obama-era Nuclear Deal?

The 2015 U.S.-led multilateral nuclear deal with Iran lifted sanctions on the regime in exchange for a temporary halt in development of nuclear weapons. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, included Britain, Russia, China, France, and Germany.

In October, Trump announced the United States would not exit the deal entirely, but would decertify it under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, or INARA, by asserting the deal isn't in America's best interest.

While the Iran deal was never a treaty ratified by the Senate, critics say the 2015 INARA law, sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., helped codify in a congressionally-passed law that would otherwise be an executive action easily overturned by a future president.

By Jan. 12, Trump must decide whether to renew temporary waivers to U.S. sanctions against Iran -- waivers he has previously issued.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was unclear about the president's intentions when asked about the waivers on Jan. 2.

"We certainly keep our options open in terms of sanctions," Sanders said. "In terms of signing a waiver later in January, the president hasn't made a final decision on that, and he's going to keep all of his options on the table in that regard."

More than likely, Trump will continue the waivers, said Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior Iran analyst for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

"This [support for the protesters] should not be mixed with a debate about pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal," Taleblu told The Daily Signal. "The decision on granting another waiver comes up next week. I expect he will waive. Even before the nuclear deal, the U.S. could impose non-nuclear sanctions. They can continue non-nuclear sanctions now."

With that waiver should come action from both Trump and Congress, Taleblu said. He said Trump must continue to show the will to support protesters, call for Congress to make changes to INARA to make it stronger, and put pressure on European allies to demand that Iran change its behavior.

Will the Global Response Change?

Many experts agreed the bulk of European allies and the United Nations offered a muted response, even as the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Canada have criticized the Iranian regime.

"Europeans are trailing far behind because they are less concerned about security and ideas and more concerned about business and commercial interests," Taleblu said. "Canada has been more responsive than Europe."

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said this week, "Canada will continue to support the fundamental rights of the Iranians, including freedom of expression."

French President Emmanuel Macron called for the Iranian government to show restraint against protesters, but later followed up with comments accusing the governments of the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel with using rhetoric that "would lead us to war."

France at least seems to be saying more than most European allied, Phillips said. He said U.S. leadership is likely needed.

"Washington needs to do more to pressure Europe. Most of Europe has glossed over the Iran regime's abuses and concentrated on commercial priorities," said Phillips. "Europeans operate under the misconception that trade will help open up the country, but it won't evolve into a European-style democracy."

 

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

A Different Way of Living and Dying

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 16:41

YULAN, NEW YORK -- A family member -- I think one of James Joseph Hanson’s sisters -- held up 6-month old baby Lucas for all the packed church to see. They were standing right in front of the baby Jesus in the creche scene on the altar, still out during Christmas season. The church, St. Anthony of Padua, a bulwark of this small community about 100 miles from New York City, was filled with poinsettias. Baby Lucas was a physical testimony to faith, endurance and love.

Never Give Up

More than three years ago, J.J. Hanson, Lucas’ father, was given a diagnosis of four months to live. Lucas is living testimony to why you don’t give up, even when experts say it’s over. It’s not over, Hanson might say, until God says it’s time. J.J. was 35 when he died just days after attending Christmas Eve Mass.

I put those words into his mouth after hearing his parish priest talk about J.J. When the priest was first assigned to the church, as he explained, J.J. was driving himself to church, sometimes with family. Then he would be in church, walking with a cane. Eventually, he would be in a wheelchair, letting himself be taken care of by family and friends. “As his body deteriorated, his spirit never did,” the priest said.

There was something so remarkable about the people who packed the overflowing church for J.J.’s funeral. The bomb cyclone snowstorm (a seemingly rhetorical meteorological battle for attention with politics) was hitting in earnest, and yet people didn’t stay away. And they came from California, Florida and D.C., to name a few.

It was hard not to think about recent stories about people celebrated for having taken their own lives in the face of grave conditions, including Brittany Maynard, who had the same cancer that J.J. Hanson had. The 29-year-old moved to Oregon in 2014, where assisted suicide is legal. What tender mercies could she have experienced -- what graces could her friends and so many others have encountered -- if her life was lived through to its natural end? That’s how people talked here.

‘Every Day is a Gift’

It was hard not to walk away from the events of that snowy, prayerful day without wanting to be better and believing it was possible. One friend recalled how on their last visit, even as J.J.’s body was deteriorating, he asked: “What can we do to help people?” He wanted to install a walking trail around a local lake, so people in this rural part of the state could safely exercise and appreciate the beauty of creation. (The assemblywoman present at the celebration of his life committed to moving the idea along.)

The beginning of J.J.’s “public ministry” came when he was diagnosed. At the same time, his native New York was facing some choices -- and financially backed pressure -- to make physician-assisted suicide legal. J.J. saw another way. As the priest at St. Anthony’s put it, minutes after those gathered heard a scripture reading in which Jesus offers himself as the model for living, “J.J. wasn’t very different from Jesus.” Jesus, after all, “was giving hope even at the last minute,” to his doubting friends. And like Jesus, J.J. knew when he began his public ministry that he was leaving. He wanted to fulfill the purpose for which he was sent here.

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When asked, J.J. would report, “Every day, I am doing better.” Or, “I’m getting better every day.” He could say that because the weakening of his body only strengthened his spirit. He could say that because he saw the world and his life through the eyes of faith. And he saw what a difference it made. What more could any of us ask for than to say, in all gratitude, “I’m getting better every day.” You can say that when you persevere in “pure love,” as many described how he lived.

Sometime in 2016 in an interview, Hanson told me “Every day is a gift. I love my family and treasure the time that I get to spend with them.” His priest described him as ready. He knew his work here was done. It continues, though, in the legacy of hope left by his life and its example.

And could it be mere coincidence that J.J.’s son Lucas was held up in the waning days of the Christmas season in which J.J. died? A child who gives testimony to hope. A child who is in many ways hope itself.

 

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

The Only Way to Guard Against Infanticide is Protecting Life From Conception

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 14:15

You may have heard about the student at the University of Tennessee who approved killing children up to age two. Why? Because he can’t communicate with two-year-olds. 

“The fact of the matter is without communication, we have no way of knowing of you are sentient or not,” the student said, his disturbing thought process captured on video. “It's no different than this tree. It's alive, but is it sentient? I don't know. I cannot communicate with it.”

"Can the two year old talk to me?” he continued. In some cases yes, “but generally speaking the child still has the inability to communicate. And until we determine that as such at what point does sentience become an issue."

This student’s opinion is vile. But it’s not that far-fetched -- if you accept abortion as moral. Because the next logical step after abortion is infanticide.

Yes, Babies Can Communicate

First, let’s help this student out with a few facts. He claims two-year-olds can’t communicate. Anyone who’s known a toddler knows that they communicate quite well.

And communication is possible at far earlier ages. Babies as young as six months old can begin learning basic sign language. Even though they haven’t developed the ability to speak yet, simple signs can give babies the ability to convey needs and desires. 

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This student says he doesn’t know if the children are sentient. Let’s remind him that babies can feel pain as early as 20 weeks gestational age -- unlike the trees he compares them to.

Obviously, a baby or a toddler think differently than an adult or even an older child. Does that mean they have no value?

Of course not. And that’s what’s wrong with his argument. Gauging human value based on the ability to communicate or be completely conscious opens quite the can of worms.

Basing Human Value on Communication and Sentience 

Let’s say the cut-off age for this so-called “after birth abortion” is two. By the time they turn two, most toddlers can say simple words expressing needs or desires. “Dada.” “Mama.” “Bite.” “No!” As the months go by, they learn more words and start speaking in complete sentences.

Many may not be able to enter into complex conversations with you, even by the age of three or four. Sure, they can tell you that their tummy hurts. But can they explain why? Is it a sharp pain? A dull pain? Do they feel gassy? Are they constipated? Do they feel like they are about to throw up? They don’t know. So you could argue that by simply whining, “Mommy, my tummy hurts,” they aren’t really communicating. 

We’re always changing. But the fact that we are human never changes. From conception to deathbed, we’re living human beings.

In fact, depending on where you set the bar for “communicate,” they might not be able to “communicate” with you for several years to come. At what age do you consider their conversational abilities adequate enough for them to earn the title of human being with value? 

And what of sentience? The three-year-old who whimpers “my tummy hurts” may have no real awareness of anything besides her present discomfort. Another three-year-old, however, may be quite aware herself in relation to the world she knows. Who gets to decide what level of sentience warrants continued existence?

And what about people with mental disabilities? Adults unable to communicate? Has their life no worth? 

Always Human

Of course it has. And this is the problem with abortion. It ignores the science of when life begins and therefore has value. It lets others determine when a life has value, based on arbitrary factors such as “sentience,” convenience, health and whether the parents want that life.

From the moment of conception, human beings constantly change. But the fact that we are human never changes. From conception to deathbed, we’re living human beings.

Many abortion advocates tells us a baby isn’t really a baby until she’s met some criterion besides being human. That she’s made it out of the womb, for example. Life doesn’t really begin until it’s no longer housed inside a mother’s body.

If you start coming up with arbitrary rules about when life begins or when it matters, eventually you’ll start sliding the bar, so that fewer and fewer people will have a right to live. You’ll say that aborting a baby who could survive outside the womb is okay. You’ll argue that killing the baby after it’s born is okay. 

Then you’ll start arguing that it’s okay to kill any born person who is disabled or mentally ill. Or any elderly person displaying mental or physical decay.

The only safe, right way to value human life is to value it at all stages in all forms, starting at conception. Otherwise, we start down a slippery slope to a brutal world of euthanasia, eugenics and the selfish taking of innocent life. In fact, we’re basically there. 

UN Envoy Says No Change in US Position on North Korea Talks

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 12:59

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump’s U.N. ambassador said Sunday the administration isn’t changing its conditions regarding talks with North Korea amid growing tensions over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

Nikki Haley made clear that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would first need to stop weapons testing for a “significant amount of time.”

Trump had said on Saturday that he was open to talking to Kim. Last year, Trump lectured Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that it would be a waste of time “trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump’s nickname for Kim.

But Haley insisted that Trump was reiterating his past position in his comments from Camp David over the weekend.

“There is no turnaround,” she said. “What he has basically said is ‘yes, there could be a time where we talk to North Korea,’ but a lot of things have to happen before that actually takes place. They have to stop testing. They have to be willing to talk about banning their nuclear weapons.”

“It’s a dangerous situation,” Haley added.

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Trump’s comments came as the first formal talks between North and South in more than two years are set to take place in a border town Tuesday; the rivals are trying to find ways to cooperate on the Winter Olympics that begin next month in the South. Tensions are high because of the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

Haley said it was her understanding that the two sides were limiting their talks to the Olympics, “but you know, those two countries have to get along.”

“That’s good for the United States that they can at least start getting back into talks,” she said.

The Trump administration has agreed to delay joint military exercises with South Korea until after the Olympics. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis insisted the move was a practical necessity to accommodate the Olympics and was not a political gesture.

In recent weeks, Trump and Kim have traded barbs about their arsenals and the “nuclear button” on their desks.

On Sunday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo stressed his view that an attack from North Korea was not imminent, though the North appeared to be a few months away from reaching the capability of putting a U.S. city at risk of a nuclear attack. Pompeo defended Trump’s tweets as appropriate and “consistent” with U.S. goals of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

“The president has made very clear that were going to do everything we can to do that in a way that doesn’t involve military action,” Pompeo said, “but has equally made clear that we’re not going to stand for allowing Kim Jong Un to hold Los Angeles, or Denver, or New York at risk.”

Expressing skepticism that North Korea was sincere in trying to improve relations, Pompeo added: “We’ll just have to wait and see how the conversations go Tuesday.”

Haley spoke on ABC’s This Week and Pompeo was on Fox News Sunday and CBS’ Face the Nation.

 

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

5 Bible Verses That Give Me Great Hope for 2018

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 10:00

Another year has come. A year of promise -- and a year of unknowns. Unknowns make me anxious. But I feel hope even in the face of all the unknowns because of what God tells me through five Bible verses I hold in my heart. 

Lamentations 3:22-23

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. 

This is the first verse I turn to for the new year. Everything I’ve done, everything I wish I hadn’t done -- all of it is washed away with His great mercy and forgiveness. It’s a clean slate every morning! God is faithful and just. How much more should we expect a clean slate for this new year? Let’s embrace the fullness of His wonderful mercy.

Proverbs 16:9

A man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. 

I plan my path -- I like to know where I’m going. But here’s the thing: only the Lord directs my steps. I may think I’m going one way, but then the Lord picks me up and turns me in another direction. And that’s okay, because He knows which direction I’m supposed to take. If things don’t go our way, we know that God may have something else in mind for us, and we know that He is good.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things in him who strengthens me. 

There will be days -- many days -- when I will think, “I can’t do this!” I’ll have demanding school assignments or a cranky toddler or an article I just can’t get right. I’ll have work to do that feels overwhelming. This verse reminds me that I don’t do it alone -- I can do all things through Christ. He is able to do anything.

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2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 

Many readers here know of the struggles I’ve had with depression. I’m weak. Vulnerable. Hopeless by myself. I could wallow in self-pity like an immature child. I could think, “God could never use me like this.” But that isn’t true. God can use each of us just as we are, with what we call our weaknesses. It is because of my weaknesses that I rely on God -- and His power is made perfect in it. He’s in control.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. 

Isn’t it the best feeling in the world to know that we will never be alone? Never! God has promised us that He will never leave us or forsake us. No matter what. When we struggle with fear or loneliness or anxiety, He is there. And He always will be. Let’s lean on Him during our times of struggle.

Hold these verses in your heart, and I will, too. Let’s hold onto these promises together in 2018. May God bless you as you seek Him in the new year.

The (Grand Old) Party Ain’t Over

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 10:00

The Democratic Party is feeling gleeful. "Some Democrats see a 40-seat pickup in the House" in 2018, reports CNN. "Democrats predict a 2018 wave election," cries the Miami Herald.

Really? Have they been inhaling helium or taking No-Doze with their Pepsi?

Democrats’ Gains

Virginia's November election provided statewide gains for the Democrats. Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore. And a Democrat took the governorship of New Jersey.

And ... that's about it. As to Virginia, Hillary Clinton carried the state by over five percent in 2016. Virtually the entire state is red except for the sea of big government profiteers in suburban DC. That concentration of liberal voters in pricey enclaves has pushed the state into the "lean blue" category. 

As to Doug Jones, he did not win. Roy Moore lost. The old truism, "Wait 'til next time," is pretty apt for Alabama.

And New Jersey: This uber-blue state elected Chris Christie after years of Democratic scandal and mismanagement. And then came "Bridgegate" and a state weary of Christie's ambition.

There have been four (yes, four) Democratic "seat flips" in state legislatures since the 2016 Republican sweep. This is not exactly a trend, especially given that in 2016, Republicans picked up nearly 50 state legislative seats.

The Trend

Overall, "Republicans control 67 chambers, while Democrats are the majority in 32 chambers" (Nebraska has a non-partisan, unicameral legislature). In total, there are 4,144 Republicans in the nation's state legislatures, and 3,122 Democrats.

Put this in context: "The Democratic Party suffered huge losses at every level during Obama's West Wing tenure," explained Fox News last month. "The grand total: a net loss of 1,042 state and federal Democratic posts, including congressional and state legislative seats, governorships and the presidency."

Over the past decade, millions of Americans have seen through the smoke-and-mirrors of the Left.

When more than 50 million voters in 31 of the 33 states that enacted laws on same-sex marriage were told by the Left's last refuge for political sleight-of-hand, the Supreme Court, that their voice didn't matter, those voters got angry.

When people are told they are bigoted and hateful just for believing marriage is what it's always been, they get disgusted.

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When the Left touts abortion-on-demand as a moral good that should be subsidized by the taxpayers, voters grind their teeth.

When the Supreme Court declares the Obama health care mandate -- buy health insurance or the federal government will fine you -- is a "tax," citizens are not so stupid as to not understand fascism when they see it.

When "red lines" are crossed with no penalty and our President is caught telling the Russian strongman that he would get more "favorable terms" after his election, patriots cringe. And when America's weakness creates vacuums the world's despots are only too eager to fulfill, the voters become troubled -- and fed-up.

Of course, not all voters feel this way. But enough have, consistently and for many years, that the swing toward the GOP has been and remains potent.

America’s Electorate

With all this said, the respected Pew Research firm has shown that the demographics of America's electorate are changing. However, it remains to be seen how these changes in the racial, ethnic and age components will affect future elections.

This argument bucks some of the conventional wisdom (for example, younger people vote more Democratic than older whites). But I stand by it: People don't stay the same age forever. Once they own homes and have kids, they tend to like the idea of safe neighborhoods and economic growth and other, traditionally conservative attitudes toward life and politics.

As to race and ethnicity, there has never been a riper time for the GOP to talk with and listen to the concerns of minority voters. We need to make our case persuasively -- and that means repetitively and clearly. We cannot assume that our core convictions about faith, family, work and human dignity are understood.

Simple Proclamations

People think in broad terms. It is the big brush stroke that controls the canvas. Republicans tend to paint with smaller brushes, giving a lot of detail when most people just look at bold colors.

Ronald Reagan understood this. He spoke in simple, declarative propositions. He did so over and over again, giving the same speech to different audiences in state after state. His radio messages are models of big ideas captured in bite-size sentences. He was not out to impress the intelligentsia but to convince ordinary Americans.

He was mocked for this by the elites. "An amiable dunce" he was called by one.

Yeah. Well, he also won two terms as governor of the nation's largest state and two landslides in his races for the presidency. And, in the process, changed modern history.

It's true that conservatives have a lot against them in the communication wars. The liberal media, the education establishment, people distracted by the common events of busy lives.

But simple proclamations that capture great truths, spoken earnestly and repeatedly by credible spokespeople, can eventually penetrate the fog of modern life. Minds can be changed and, with them, so can votes.

Reports of the demise of the Republican Party are greatly exaggerated. But conservatives have much work to do. And no time to lose.

Military Photo of the Day: A Snowy Thunderbolt in Georgia

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 08:00

Snow covers an A-10 Thunderbolt II in the George W. Bush Air Park on Moody Air Force Base in Georgia on January 3, 2018.

Stay warm this week, everybody!

 

 

 

 

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5 Key Numbers From Planned Parenthood’s New Annual Report

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 01:08

Planned Parenthood's recently released annual report shows the organization is providing significantly more abortions than adoption referrals.

According to its 2016-2017 annual report, Planned Parenthood performed 321,384 abortions but only 3,889 adoption referrals.

Planned Parenthood also provided 7,762 prenatal services in 2016-2017, down from 9,419 in 2015-2016.

The abortion giant's excess revenue increased from $77.5 million in 2015 to $98.5 million this past year, and received $543.7 million in taxpayer dollars in 2016.

Melanie Israel, a research associate for the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email that the organization should not be receiving money for its services from the government.

"Planned Parenthood's latest annual report underscores why taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize the abortion giant. Planned Parenthood performs 83 abortions for every one adoption referral," Israel said, adding:

Meanwhile, fewer and fewer women are turning to Planned Parenthood for care like cancer treatment and prevention services, contraception, and prenatal services. The half a billion dollars currently flowing to Planned Parenthood could instead be directed to the thousands of centers that provide health care for women without entanglement in on-demand abortion.

In a statement included in the 2016-2017 report, Planned Parenthood said it is proud of its work.

"Every day, doctors, clinicians, and staff open the doors of Planned Parenthood health centers across the country," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Naomi Aberly, board chair of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a joint statement. "Every day, more than 8,000 people walk through those doors to get birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing, and treatment, and safe and legal abortion. They don't come to us to make a political statement. They come to get compassionate, expert care."

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Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, says Planned Parenthood's focus is abortion.

"Planned Parenthood's latest annual report demonstrates that the abortion giant's bottom line is, as always, its bottom line," Foster said in a statement. "Critical patient services such as prenatal care are dropping like a rock, while when it comes to abortion, Planned Parenthood continues to push aggressively to corner the market." 

The report states that the organization has had 2.4 million patients and has provided 9.5 million services.

It also states that it has tested 706,903 individuals for HIV and diagnosed 222,365 individuals with sexually transmitted infections.

 

Rachel del Guidice is a reporter for The Daily Signal. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Forge Leadership Network, and The Heritage Foundation's Young Leaders Program. Send an email to Rachel.

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury Will Do More to Polarize Than to Analyze

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 01:03

Michael Wolff's new book attacking the Trump White House has taken the nation by storm. It the bestselling book in the nation (judged by sales on Amazon). It also surpassed 1,000 reader reviews on Amazon within the first few days it was released. What will the lasting effects of this salacious, tell-all book be?

Fire and Fury

In my view, the book will do nothing more than deepen the polarization surrounding our president.

His critics will find detailed proof of their very worst imaginations. There is a dangerous, ignorant monster in the White House!

His defenders will find detailed proof that the president's enemies will do whatever they can to remove him, backed by the left-wing media.

But first, a disclaimer: I haven't read Wolff's book, nor do I plan to.

But I didn't read any of the "hit-piece" books attacking Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama either. They're not my style, and my plate is already full.

But I've read enough excerpts from the book and followed enough news coverage of the book. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve watched how the "average person" is reacting to the book. (By "average person," I refer to people responding online who are not professional media or part of the political crowd.)

Trump’s Critics

For Trump's critics, their worst suspicions are confirmed. He is not fit to be in the White House.

According to the story put forth in Wolff's book, he didn't even want to win, let alone expect to win. That explains a lot of his failures.

William Saletan, writing on Slate, makes sense of it all. "Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff's book about chaos in the Trump administration, tells some curious tales. It suggests Trump didn't know who former House Speaker John Boehner was, even after Trump had golfed with him and had repeatedly tweeted about him. It says Trump used to offer hookers to men while letting their wives listen in on speakerphone. Stories like these sound too juicy to be true, and Wolff has a history of embellishment. But there's good reason to believe Wolff's thesis: that Trump and his campaign aides never expected him to be president. That theory explains nearly everything about Trump's disastrous tenure."

For Saletan, "the unifying theory that Donald Trump never actually wanted to win" is, as the headline states, "What Michael Wolff Got Right About Trump."

So, Saletan recognizes there are blatant falsehoods in the book. (Indeed, in a remarkable admission, Wolff himself tells us at the beginning of the book that some of the quotes and stories in the book are patently false. He doesn't identify which ones he's referring to.) Yet he believes Wolff's narrative that Trump never wanted to be president and certainly never expected to become president. His campaign was just another ego-driven, PR move.

Saletan makes sense of Trump's alleged incompetency: He was completely unprepared to be president because he never expected to be president.

As for Trump's most extreme critics, every word of Wolff's book is gospel truth. The more salacious, the more certain!

Trump’s Supporters

For Trump's most ardent defenders, not a word of the book is true. In fact, the book is just an exaggerated picture of the left-wing, anti-Trump media. It's all fake! And since his opponents cannot defeat him fairly, they will lie and defame in order to destroy.

But for many supporters of Trump, this is not simply an emotional response. It is a rational response.

How can an incompetent fool accomplish so much in one year? How can he do so much good when he is so bad?

Writing on Breitbart, John Nolte states that, after Trump's highly successful first year, Wolff's book "gives off the unmistakably stale aroma of last season's fake news." He adds that the narrative it puts forth of dysfunctional chaos "in no way corresponds with actual results, with the rubber we have already seen meet the road, to a little thing I like to call ... reality."

Indeed, "A mentally unsound man-child overseeing an administration crippled by anarchy will not see a record number of his appellate judges confirmed, will not oversee the successful passage of the most important tax reform in 30 years, will not annihilate ISIS without adding a single boot on the ground."

Precisely so.

Trump’s Results

Yes, "In just 365 days, Trump has turned around a stagnate economy, exploded the number of manufacturing jobs; seen black and Hispanic unemployment drop to record lows; opened up two oil pipelines (and all kinds of exploration); enjoyed victory after victory in the Supreme Court in pursuit of his immigration priorities; seated a spectacular Supreme Court justice; negotiated a $250 billion trade deal with China; brought North Korea to the negotiating table from a position of strength; expertly managed the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital; untangled us from stupid deals known as TPP and the Paris climate accord, and a whole lot more.

"These are not the achievements of a lunatic as portrayed by an immature and irresponsible media still bitter over losing a presidential election."

Nolte's words will resonate with Trump's supporters. Trump's sometimes ill-advised tweets and responses provide additional fuel for his critic's fire.

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In the end, while Wolff will make a lot of money, his book will not help us understand President Trump and his administration any better.

We have no way of knowing who's telling the truth and who is not. (Do we believe Wolff or do we believe the people who are coming forward now and saying he made up stories about them or misquoted them in his book?) And because of this, we gain no real insight into the man and his White House.

The net result, then, of Wolff's bestseller will be further polarization and deeper distrust. Trump's critics will further distrust him and Trump's supporters will further distrust his opponents.

Had Wolff given us an accurate and reliable account, be it one that criticized or one that commended, he would have done us a great service. But my mixing truth with fiction -- by his own admission -- he has only deepened the divide.

The New York Times Speaks Ill of the Dead

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 21:00

When a prominent religious leader dies, how should secular media treat the event? The New York Times, America's "newspaper of record," gives us some lessons. On what to avoid.

This past week Thomas S. Monson died at age 90. He was the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). Since the group has 16 million members (some 6 million in the U.S.), Monson was certainly a figure important enough for a major newspaper to note. Whatever we think of his church's doctrines, he’s a man who’d given decades of service. Millions loved and admired him.

Accentuate the Divisive

Here's how The New York Times led off its obituary:

Thomas S. Monson, who as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2008 enlarged the ranks of female missionaries, but rebuffed demands to ordain women as priests and refused to alter church opposition to same-sex marriage, died on Tuesday at his home in Salt Lake City. He was 90. …

Breathless Praise for Hugh Hefner

Pretty tendentious, no? Is that the standard Times policy for obituaries? Not consistently. On September 27, Hugh Hefner died. He was the founder of Playboy magazine. His life and lifestyle modeled hedonism for several generations of American men. He made hundreds of millions commodifying women. Here's how the paper began its remembrance:

Hugh Hefner, who created Playboy magazine and spun it into a media and entertainment-industry giant -- all the while, as its very public avatar, squiring attractive young women (and sometimes marrying them) well into his 80s -- died on Wednesday at his home, the Playboy Mansion, in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles. He was 91.

The Times celebrated Hefner, while slamming Monson as a stick-in-the-mud unwilling to lead his flock into modern times.

Integrity or Kellerism?

Two days before the Monson obituary, the paper's new publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, introduced himself to readers. He quoted his great-great-grandfather Adolph Ochs. When Ochs bought the then-failing Times in 1896, he pledged the newspaper would be "dedicated to journalism of the highest integrity."

The Monson obituary is not that. Instead, it’s a piece of "Kellerism." Veteran religion reporter and media critic Terry Mattingly coined that term. He named it for Bill Keller, a former Times executive editor. In a 2011 syndicated column, Mattingly quoted Keller's response to the question of whether the newspaper is "liberal":

"We're liberal in the sense that ... liberal arts schools are liberal," Keller noted. "We're an urban newspaper. ... We write about evolution as a fact. We don't give equal time to Creationism."

Little Potted Liberal Sermons All the Time

Given that prevailing attitude at the Times, should its treatment of the late Mr. Monson surprise us? Right after announcing Monson's death, the Times declared:

Facing vociferous demands to recognize same-sex marriage, and weathering demonstrations at church headquarters by Mormon women pleading for the right to be ordained as priests, Mr. Monson did not bend. Teachings holding homosexuality to be immoral, bans on sexual intercourse outside male-female marriages, and an all-male priesthood would remain unaltered.

You don't have to be a member of the LDS Church -- and I'm not one -- to see how caustic this is. Monson's faith wasn't in keeping with the worldview of The New York Times. So they took potshots at the dead.

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Why the News So Often Seems Fake

Many folks who had a different picture of Monson in their minds took to Twitter to denounce the tone of the Times' obituary. This near-instant reaction from readers suggests yet another reason why confidence in American journalism is low. Only 27-percent have "a great deal" of trust in newspapers, according to a 2017 Gallup survey.

It's perfectly possible to write about the famous and note controversies. I had the privilege of writing an obituary of Monson published by Religion News Service. It also appeared on USA Today’s website. My article discussed the issue of gays and the Mormon faith. But without deriding either side.

Does A.G. Sulzberger want to truly honor his ancestor's wishes for The New York Times? To publish "journalism of the highest integrity"? Then a conversation with his editors and reporters might be in order. Advocacy journalism inserted into an obituary of a dedicated leader doesn't suggest integrity at all.

Yes, Marriage Is Better

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 18:00

I was shopping in a bookstore at the Orange County airport one day years ago, when a man about 30 years old, dressed in California creative style, sidled up to me. "Hey, man,” he said. “You should buy one of those Playboy magazines on that rack over there.” (Strange, yes, but true.)

I declined. He said, "Oh, but you don't know what you're missing."

Maybe so.  Actually I had a clue what I was missing -- enough to know I'd rather not find out more. For the reality is, he didn't know what he was missing.

Neither do a lot of other people. Recent sex scandals are just the latest reminder of the sad fact that many people have got sexual fulfillment all wrong. For some it's all about physical pleasure, nothing more. For others it's also about the conquest. For some it's a moment when the loneliness seems to go away.

The reality is, he didn't know what he was missing.

Missing It

I understand the pull toward physical pleasure, for obviously it's a common enough human experience. That's by God's design, by the way; but by itself, it's far less than what He intended.

In a way I can also understand the desire for conquest -- and I reject it utterly. It's an evil way to treat another person. Human beings aren’t made to be trophies, proof of our prowess, evidence of our mastery or any such thing. We’re not made to be used.

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For those looking for relief from loneliness, my heart goes out in empathy. The need they feel is real, and they've actually caught part of the truth: Intimacy is for, well, intimacy. But they’ve only understood part of it. If they think a night or two will meet their relationship needs, they're missing it badly. And I am quite sure they know they're missing it, probably better than I.

But still, what is it they're missing? What's the real thing they're reaching toward, but falling short? Simply this: Two people uniting as whole persons, without show, without hiding, without pretense; with the kind of trust that only comes through the lifelong commitment called marriage.

Flat, Two-Dimensional Experience

Let me explain by describing it the wrong way. I've traveled a lot in my career. Many times I could have driven up the freeway a few exits to visit a "gentlemen's club," as these tawdry places are misnamed. (I suppose I could have chosen to do something even worse than that.)

I’ve never done that, for many reasons. It would be wrong in God's eyes, first of all. It would be a massive betrayal of people I love, especially my wife, but also my children; there's absolutely no way I could or would do that to them. And obviously it would be a huge risk to my reputation, besides.

One more reason: I wouldn’t do it because it would be boring.

But there's one more reason, which gets to the heart of my point here: I wouldn’t do it because it would be boring. I really can’t imagine it being interesting at all -- not compared to what God designed for men and women.

The man in the bookstore wanted to interest me in flat two-dimensional pictures. Harvey Weinstein had flat two-dimensional relationships (if we can even call them that) with all the women he mistreated. What God intended was way better than that.

God's Multi-Dimensional Plan

 God’s plan is for two people to connect as whole persons, uniting in every dimension: not just bodies, but also stories and histories, futures and dreams, projects and plans, hopes and hearts.

The Bible uses the word "know" for sexual unity. I don't think that's a mere euphemism. It's certainly a better word than "having sex,” although come to think of it, "having sex" actually does describe the act as so many choose to do it. For them, that's all there is to it: just two-dimensional physicality.

How much better to be united in open, trusting, knowing love with one who is fully devoted to you for all your lives long -- the whole you, the good and the bad. How much better to be with the person with whom you can really be you!

That's what the man in the bookstore was missing. Harvey Weinstein, too. And everyone who thinks there's a better way to physical fulfillment than through marriage.

To the unmarried I say there are better ways to handle your loneliness. I was single until age 30, and I kept myself for my future wife, even long before I knew who she would be. There's incredible freedom -- and incredible trust, too -- in being able to say, "You only, and never anyone but you!"

Marriage is good. Personal intimacy God's way is good; better than any other way. Sure, I’ll admit I don't know "what I'm missing," but I don't want or need it. For I'm absolutely certain it's nowhere near as good as what God has provided for.

Bannon Tries to Make Amends as Trump Team Defends President’s Fitness for Office

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 16:09

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Steve Bannon is trying to make amends.

President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist released a statement Sunday reaffirming his support for the commander in chief and praising Trump’s eldest son as “both a patriot and a good man.”

Bannon infuriated Trump with comments to author Michael Wolff describing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York between Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

Bannon said his description was aimed at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who also attended the meeting, and not Trump’s son.

“I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency,” according to the statement, first obtained by the news site Axios. Bannon said his support for Trump and his agenda was “unwavering.”

Hours before the statement came out, administration officials used appearances on the Sunday news shows to rally behind Trump and try to undermine Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House which portrays the 45th president as a leader who doesn’t understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides.

Chief policy adviser Stephen Miller, in a combative appearance on CNN, described the book as “nothing but a pile of trash through and through.”

He also criticized Bannon, who is quoted at length by Wolff, saying it was “tragic and unfortunate” that Bannon “would make these grotesque comments so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive.”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who said Trump was “completely fit” to lead the country, said he paused before answering because it was such “a ludicrous question.”

“These are from people who just have not accepted the fact that President Trump is the United States president and I’m sorry for them in that,” Pompeo told Fox News Sunday. He gives Trump his regular intelligence briefings.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that she is at the White House once a week, and “no one questions the stability of the president.”

“I’m always amazed at the lengths people will go to, to lie for money and for power. This is like taking it to a whole new low,” she told ABC’s This Week.

To Miller, “the portrayal of the president in the book is so contrary to reality, to the experience of those who work with him.”

Miller’s interview on CNN’s State of the Union quickly grew heated, with Miller criticizing CNN’s coverage and moderator Jake Tapper pressing Miller to answer his questions.

Tapper abruptly ended the interview, saying: “I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time.”

Soon after, Trump tweeted: “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!”

Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to defend his fitness for office, insisting he is “like, really smart” and, indeed, a “very stable genius.” He pressed the case again on Sunday as he prepared to depart Camp David for the White House.

“I’ve had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President. Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author,” he tweeted.

Wolff’s book draws a derogatory portrait of Trump as an undisciplined man-child who didn’t actually want to win the White House and who spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed, watching television and talking on the telephone to old friends.

The book also quotes Bannon and other prominent advisers as questioning the president’s competence.

Chatter about Trump’s mental fitness for office has intensified in recent months on cable news shows and among Democrats in Congress.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders this past week called such suggestions “disgraceful and laughable.”

“If he was unfit, he probably wouldn’t be sitting there and wouldn’t have defeated the most qualified group of candidates the Republican Party has ever seen,” she said, calling him “an incredibly strong and good leader.”

Trump and some aides -- along with journalists and non-administration figures mentioned in the book -- have attacked Wolff’s credibility, pointing to the fact that the book includes a number of factual errors and denying that the author had as much access as he claimed.

“He said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House. It didn’t exist, OK? It’s in his imagination,” Trump said Saturday.

Wolff told NBC on Sunday that “I truly do not want to say the president is a liar,” but that he had indeed spoken with Trump for about three hours during and since the campaign.

 

Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report. Follow Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj

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

How Do We Know Our Faith is True? Look at the Evidence

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 16:00

Jesus calls His followers to "make disciples of the nations" (Matt. 28:19). Christians who want to obey Him must care about the evidence for Christianity. Here's why.

When we reach out to a lost and needy world, we're bound to meet people from a variety of spiritual backgrounds. Many of them are incredibly sincere about their faith. Unfortunately, sincerity is no test for truth. Many people have been sincerely wrong about many things.

So for example, if a Mormon and an (orthodox) Christian asked each other, "How do you know your faith is true?" both of them might pin their answers on their religious experience. Mormons say their certainty comes through the heart confirming through what is already true in the mind. Christians might say it's the internal witness of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. The two sound awfully similar, don't they?

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So how do we know our faith is true? Before we go there, let's look at what some of the major world religions say about Jesus Christ:

Five Views of Jesus

Orthodox Christianity/Messianic Judaism: Jesus is both God and man. Jesus is an uncreated being (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17), the Jewish Messiah as foretold in the Jewish Scriptures, and the second person of the Godhead, equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 1:1; Col.1:15-19; Phil.2: 5-11).

Other religions contradict all that:

Islam/Traditional Judaism: Jesus was man but certainly not God. Traditional Judaism says Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah as foretold in the Jewish Scriptures. He may be regarded as a prophet or teacher but not divine. Islam agrees, based on its teachings in the Qur'an, which was written six hundred years after Christ. Islam also says Jesus was never crucified, and therefore never risen from the dead.

Mormonism claims to be founded on divine revelation. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, claimed to have received personal revelation from God on the basis of two visions, in 1820 and 1823. The Mormon claim is that Jesus is a created being.

The Watchtower Society/Jehovah Witnesses agree with Mormonism that Jesus is not God, but a created being instead.

Buddhism/Hinduism: are not monotheistic faiths, meaning they either don't believe in God, or they take a polytheistic (many gods) view. That alone makes them extremely different from Christianity. Buddhism teaches that Jesus was an enlightened man, but not God. Hinduism typically says that Jesus was a good teacher and perhaps an incarnation of Brahman, who is an impersonal, supreme being. He is one of 330 million-plus personal manifestations of the one impersonal ultimate.

Making the Choice

There are certainly similarities among these faiths. They all believe there's such a thing as truth, right and wrong, and a spiritual purpose for life. Most believe there is a God and that we can somehow commune with Him.

However, they all also have glaring differences regarding Jesus Christ. They also differ on what God is really like, the afterlife, the nature of mankind, the chief problem mankind faces, and how to solve it for now and for eternity.

After examining the differences in these faiths, in a book called Life's Most Important Questions, John P. Newport sums up the issue nicely:

No sane person tries to accept as authoritative revelation from God all writings which are self-declared to be such. However eager we may be for harmony and tolerance, we cannot be intellectually honest unless we face the fact that there is a real contradiction between conflicting truth claims. As we reflect on how we are created in the image of God, we need to remember that we are creatures of both will and mind, of faith and reason. We are called to think as well as act and feel; therefore our faith will always have a rational element to it.

Why Christians Actually Do Use Evidence

So then how can we know which faith to believe? How can we explain it to others? We really have to go with what the evidence tells us.

Frankly, when Christians say, "What we believe is a matter of faith and not evidence," they sound inconsistent. After all, they expect other belief systems to put forth evidence and good reasons. If a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon came to your doorstep, wouldn't you ask them why anyone should believe what they are telling you? Wouldn't you reject their faith if they could give you good reasons? I assume so. Christians shouldn't scorn those who demand the same of us.

Historical research tells us the apostle Paul wrote his famous statement about Jesus' resurrection in 1 Cor. 15: 3-8 not long after the death of Jesus.

Frankly, when Christians say "What we believe is a matter of faith and not evidence," they sound inconsistent.

The Qur'an tells us He neither died nor rose again -- but it was written about six centuries later. Which one would you rather trust as the one that's telling the straight story? Historians prefer earlier evidence. The choice here is clear.

Mormonism and the Watchtower Society (Jehovah's Witnesses) also contradict the Christian claim, but they came much later, in the 1800s. What's the evidence that they had a better picture of Jesus than the Bible did?

Of course I'm only scratching the surface here. There are libraries-full of more things we could talk about regarding evidences for faith. I'm convinced it all lines up solidly in favor of Christianity, but that's not my main point here. My main point is that if we want to obey Jesus Christ and share his message, we need to be able to explain why people should believe in Him, rather than believing in some other religion or even atheism. We really can't do that without knowing good reasons and evidence for our own faith.

 

Adapted from an article at Think Apologetics. Used by permission.

1 Killed, 1 Injured in Reported Grenade Explosion in Stockholm

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 14:24

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- A man was killed and a woman injured near a Stockholm subway station Sunday after the man picked up an unidentified object from the ground that detonated in his hand, Swedish police said.

The incident took place just outside the Varby Gard subway station in Huddinge -- a residential district that is part of greater Stockholm -- about 11 a.m., said Stockholm region police spokesman Sven-Erik Olsson.

“The man was seriously hurt injured after he picked up something from the ground and this device exploded,” Olsson said, adding that experts were examining the object.

The Swedish tabloids Aftonbladet and Expressen claimed the device may have been a hand grenade but Olsson dismissed that as speculation.

The man, in his 60s, was rushed to hospital with serious injuries while the woman, in her mid-40s, received “minor wounds” to face and both legs, Olsson said. The man subsequently died.

Police initially were investigating the incident as an attempted murder, but later said there is no reason to believe that the couple was targeted. Olsson said nothing has indicated that terrorism was involved.

Olsson said police were scanning and sweeping through the area the subway station to make sure no additional explosive devices were around.

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

 

Report: Wife of Pulse Night Club Terrorist Knew of Plot, Yet Did Nothing

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 14:10

The widow of the man who shot and killed nearly 50 people at a gay night club in 2016 told federal investigators that she was aware he was "going to attack the Pulse night club."

Noor Salman refused to believe that her husband, Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at the gay night club in the name of ISIS, could hurt or kill other people when he left their home with a fully stocked arsenal, Salman said in a signed statement to the FBI, according to a report Saturday from the Orlando Sentinel.

"I knew on Saturday, when Omar left the house about 5 p.m. that this was the time that he was going to do something bad. I knew this because of the way he left and took the gun and backpack with ammunition," said Salman, who faces charges of aiding a terrorist organization and obstructing justice. She is slated to stand trial in March

"I knew later, when I could not get ahold of him that my fears had come true and he did what he said he was going to do," she added. "I was in denial and I could not believe that the father of my child was going to hurt other people."

Mateen was obsessed with violence in the Middle East and ISIS recruitment videos in the two years leading up to the shooting, Salman said during a grueling 18-hour interview with investigators. He began looking at places and making comments about attacking areas around Orlando, according to Salman. He and his family drove around Pulse a week before the shooting.

"'How upset are people going to be when it gets attacked?’" Mateen said, according to Salman's testimony. "I knew he was talking about himself doing the attack on the Pulse," she said, according to the statement.

He spent thousands of dollars in the weeks before the shooting on a rifle, jewelry for his wife and toys for their son, Salman said. He added his wife as a beneficiary to his checking and savings accounts about two weeks before the shootings "in case something happened to him."

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Mateen's attack garnered several false reports speculating on the motivations for the killings.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, for instance, called the Orlando nightclub shooting a right-wing plot shortly after the attack, putting Mateen on a list of right-wing extremists; ACLU lawyers blamed the "Christian Right" for the shooting; Salon equated evangelical Christians with ISIS regarding LGBT people, and the Sentinel suggested the ISIS claim was just a justification for Mateen to lash out as a repressed homosexual.

But federal court documents described Mateen as a Muslim separatist, who shouted "Allahu Akbar" during the shooting and was on the FBI's radar as an Islamist sympathizer before the attack. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack.

 

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Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Trump, Bannon, and the Future of Populist Outrage

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 14:00

The split between Donald Trump and his former strategist Steve Bannon might signal the "normalization" of Trump’s politics. Or so NeverTrumpers hope. Mitch McConnell could not be more delighted. In fact, he helped set the trap that helped sink Bannon in Alabama. (McConnell spent more than $10 million of Republican donors’ money meddling in the Alabama primary attacking Mo Brooks, a solid conservative whom Bannon first backed -- creating the grim choice between Luther Strange and Roy Moore. I hope losing a Senate seat was worth it to Sen. McConnell.)

But most of the venom that emerged in the exchange between the President and Bannon seems personal. It centers on one man’s frustration with his colleagues inside the White House. None of that matters in the long run. Voters didn’t back Trump against Bush, Rubio, and Christie because of Steve Bannon. He channeled something real. He didn’t invent it.

What ought to interest us is how much of the populism / nationalism that Bannon amped up in the Trump campaign will survive. More importantly, how much of it should?

My old friend Jeffrey Tucker thinks that none of it should and hopes that none of it does. As he wrote recently

What has gone completely missing here is a burning philosophical and ideological dispute between two wings of Trumpism. One seethes with right-wing Hegelian longings for an overthrow of the modern world and a resuscitation of tribalist nationalism (in short, fascism). The other is quasi-liberal at its best, seeking mostly to get government off our backs and unleash merchant-driven enterprise and economic recovery.

I share Tucker’s passion for personal and economic liberty -- the maximum of both that can be sustained in the long run. I think that hundreds of years of Western experience suggest that a limited government in a nation-state is the best formula for ordered liberty that lasts.

As an anarcho-capitalist, Tucker doesn’t think governments or borders should exist at all. He favors completely open immigration, even into America as it stands today -- complete with massive social programs, which recent immigrants overwhelmingly support. It was mass immigration that turned California from Reagan country into a place so dominated by immigrant voting blocs that it is defying federal law -- along the same lines that South Carolina did in 1860. Since the welfare state isn’t going anywhere, it seems obvious that more such immigration will continue to erode, not advance, economic and individual liberty. To put it differently: Why are libertarians moving to New Hampshire for their "free state" project, and not California? It can’t be the weather.

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Let’s say we dismantled the welfare state somehow, and put it beyond the reach of voters to restore it. (Hard to see how.) Then it might be safe to have open borders. People would come for work, and if they didn’t find it, go home. That’s what happened in the 80 years or so that the U.S. accepted almost unlimited immigration. One third of Italian immigrants, for instance, didn’t find work and went home. We didn’t have a welfare state to serve as a kind o fglue trap to keep them here. But now we do. So mass immigration simply guarantees a permanent voting majority for pro-choice, big-government leftists.

Back to Bannonism. There were three key aspects to populist nationalism as Bannon laid it out in the campaign and various statements at Breitbart. Let’s lay them out and see how they’re doing or seem likely to do under Trump, without Bannon’s influence:

A Jacksonian, America-First Foreign Policy

By this we mean a "realist" policy that seeks to maximize American interests. This instead of pursuing various ideological projects (global democracy, for the neocons; reparation for Western sins, for Obama-style internationalists).

And this policy seems to be alive and well. Trump avoided the bottomless pit of a U.S. occupation of Syria, as favored by most of the GOP establishment candidates. Instead of pouring our blood and treasure into installing the (mostly fictitious) "Syrian moderate rebels" in power in Damascus, Trump made a deal. Yes, with the unsavory Assad regime, via Russia. But also with the Kurds and their Christian allies.

There is no centralized, tolerant U.S. democracy in Damascus, but then that was never possible -- any more than it was in Iraq. But there is also no ethnic cleansing of Christians and other religious minorities. U.S. soldiers aren’t coming home every week in flag-draped coffins. We haven’t spent $1 trillion, or a fraction of that. Meanwhile, Muslim regimes in Riyadh and Tehran are either considering reforms or being pressed to advance them by their people. Amazing what a realistic foreign policy can do to promote our ideals. The Golden Eggs come quicker when you remember to feed the Goose.

An Attack on Free Trade for the Sake of Boosting American Workers’ Wages

This was always the weakest plank in the populist platform. As Jeff Tucker himself has demonstrated (and most economists agree), big tariffs would hurt ordinary workers more than help them. Yes, some manufacturing jobs would be saved for a few more years. But the vast majority of the products that ordinary people buy every day would get more expensive. A trade war could make them prohibitive. Wealthy and upper middle class people could afford to take that hit much better than ordinary workers. It’s a weird kind of populism that hurts the people more than elites. Just as well that this part of populism seems mostly dead in the water.

In fact, until the mid-1990s, most Democrats favored sensible immigration policy and enforcement. That wasn’t a right-wing or populist position. It was just a patriotic one.

Enforcement of Our Border Laws and a Cut in Low Skill Immigration

We’ve already seen the importance of such a move for our other political goals, from protecting unborn children to defending religious liberty. We must keep likely future Democrats out of our country. It’s just that simple.

Beyond electing Democrats, admitting large numbers of low-skill immigrants into our welfare state causes other evils. Radical imams. Terrorist refugees.  Members of MS-13.

The influx of the unskilled taxes our public services, our social programs, and exerts a constant downward pressure on the wages of lower-income American workers. Indeed, cut low-skill immigration and there will still be plenty of jobs for less-advantaged Americans, without an attack on trade. Leave the borders essentially open, and no trade war however savage would do much good.

In fact, until the mid-1990s, most Democrats favored sensible immigration policy and enforcement. That wasn’t a right-wing or populist position. It was just a patriotic one. The Democrats abandoned it for nakedly political reasons. Many Republicans with globalist leanings and cheap-labor donors collaborated with them. Now it’s up to Donald Trump to right the balance on this issue.

But will he? Signals are mixed. Trump likes to make deals, and he’s under significant pressure from family members and establishment GOP leaders to abandon his firm promises on immigration. But a recent report from Breitbart suggests that Trump is standing tall. He’s demanding something real as the price of amnesty for DACA kids and so-called "DREAMERs": an end to chain migration, funding for a border wall, and other crucial reforms.

Will the president weather the storm, and insist on these sane, patriotic policies? If he does, then there’s no room for a populist insurgency to his right. There will be no need for one. Steve Bannon can go back to producing movies.

But if Trump dumps the core of the platform on which he ran -- getting control of America’s borders -- then all bets are off. The sense of betrayal that millions of voters will rightly feel could fuel a new nationalist movement that could get really ugly, and live up to Tucker’s worst fears. Let’s pray that the president gets this right.

Bernie Supporters Love the Republican Tax Plan

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 13:40

Documentary filmmaker Ami Horowitz recently took to the streets of New York’s East Village to see how Bernie Sanders supporters feel about the GOP’s new tax bill.

Sanders supporters initially expressed distaste towards the bill. But Horowitz was curious to see what they would think if they approached it with an open mind. So he pitched several of the bill’s provisions under that guise that they were part of a plan proposed by Sanders. Only later did Horowitz reveal that he’d actually been describing the GOP’s bill.

“I definitely am going to look into this,” one person said. “Thanks for opening my mind to that.”

Another said, “This would be the first time I would sit here and say, ‘Well the Republicans might be doing something well.'”

Be sure to watch the video to see the reactions for yourself, and visit Prager University on YouTube for more great content.

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Trump Says He’d Be Open to Talks with North Korea

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 13:03

THURMONT, Md. (AP) -- President Donald Trump, shelving comparisons about the size of a “nuclear button,” said Saturday he is open to talking with the North Korean leader he’s called “Little Rocket Man” and hopes some progress results from upcoming talks between the Koreas.

Trump, who last year lambasted his chief diplomat for talking about negotiations with the nuclear-armed North, told reporters at Camp David that some dialogue or direct conversation with Kim Jong Un was not beyond the realm of possibility.

“Sure, I always believe in talking,” Trump said. “Absolutely I would do that, I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all.” But he was quick to add that any talks would come with conditions, which he did not specify.

The first formal talks between North and South in more than two years are set to take place in a border town Tuesday as the rivals try to find ways to cooperate on the Winter Olympics in the South and to improve their ties. Tensions are high because of the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

“Right now they’re talking Olympics. It’s a start, it’s a big start,” Trump said during a question-and-answer session after meetings with GOP leaders in Congress and Cabinet members on the administration’s 2018 legislative agenda.

Kim “knows I’m not messing around. I’m not messing around, not even a little bit, not even 1 percent. He understands that,” Trump said.

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Assessing next week’s discussions, Trump said “if something can happen and something can come out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity. That would be a great thing for the world.”

The president also said that he had spoken with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, who “thanks me very much for my tough stance.”

“You have to have a certain attitude and you have to be prepared to do certain things and I’m totally prepared to do that,” Trump said, contending his tough words have helped persuade the North to sit down with the South.

Trump had tweeted last week: “Does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North.”

His administration on Thursday agreed to delay joint military exercises with South Korea until after the Olympics. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis insisted the move was a practical necessity to accommodate the Olympics and was not a political gesture.

Trump and Kim have traded barbs recently about their nuclear arsenals.

In a New Year’s address, Kim said he has a “nuclear button” on his office desk and warned that “the whole territory of the U.S. is within the range of our nuclear strike.”

Trump soon responded: “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

 

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

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