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Our Lives as Reality TV

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 17:32

Facebook Live videos now appear in my newsfeed almost as often as fake news. I didn’t think much of this until I read an article in The New York Times called “Keeping Up, on Camera, Is No Longer Just for the Kardashians.” It explains that “a small but growing number of entrepreneurs … [are turning] their lives into do-it-yourself reality shows. They pay videographers, editors and producers thousands of dollars a month to shadow them and create content for their social media platforms.” And they often get thousands of viewers.

I used to joke with friends that “our lives should be a reality TV show.” Usually I’d make this joke after some especially embarrassing escapade, the blow of which I wish could be softened by looking into a nearby camera and shrugging it off like Jim Halpert in The Office.

Now, it’s not just a joke. What the Times calls “do-it-yourself reality shows” are becoming, well, reality. And not just for the entrepreneurs who can afford a crew.

Facebook isn’t the only platform with a “live” function. Instagram has it too. Twitter has for a while. While Snapchat doesn’t allow live videos, it does allow you to post a string of short videos on your “story.” Watched one after another, they can feel like a reality show-type glimpse into someone’s day.

So what’s the deal with these live streaming and video functions? Why do people use them to share so much, so often? And do they really help us build authentic communities?

Our Lives as a Story

Live-streaming on social media validates a feeling we already have: that our lives are a story and we are the main character. “The default mode of human cognition is a narrative mode," a psychology expert told The Atlantic in 2015. It makes sense that we’re drawn to the idea of actually starring in our own life story, by way of home videos shared instantly with acquaintances. 

Some people, like the entrepreneurs in the Times piece, use their life stories as motivational tools. As the Times writes, “They ‘star’ as part motivational speaker, part life coach, as they dispense advice and speak enthusiastically about the hustle.” Other people may just want to tell a part of their story they feel deserves sharing. Of course, everyone hopes that people will watch. Watching the story indicates it has meaning. And to some, it means not feeling alone.

Gerard Adams of Elite Daily told the Times, "The more vulnerable you are, the more you will build trust and a real community and people who will take the ride with you.”

Different Kinds of Community

But will they really? In 2016, Robin Dunbar of Oxford University examined whether Facebook friends were real friends. It turns out that out of an average of 150 friends, only around 5 were “close friends.” Only around 15 could be counted on “for emotional/social support in times of crisis.” The numbers confirm what Dunbar’s previous research revealed. We generally need about 15 people, including friends and family, as part of our real life support system. In fact, those people are necessary to our health.

They’re the ones who will “take the ride with you.” Your Facebook friends, Instagram followers and live stream viewers will watch the ride. But they won’t be sitting next to you through all its twists and turns. 

Live-streaming on social media validates a feeling we already have: that our lives are a story and we are the main character.

Here’s the danger of DIY reality TV by way of social media: It can give us the illusion that they will. And as we become more consumed with our online community, we risk failing to reach out to the people who, in Adams’ words, will actually “take the ride” with us.

As Holly Shakya, who authored a study on the negative effects of Facebook, says: “Where we want to be cautious … is when the sound of a voice or a cup of coffee with a friend is replaced with ‘likes’ on a post.” Shouldn’t that go for views on a Facebook Live video as well?

Not All Bad

That doesn’t mean that live-streaming functions are all bad. When not used as the sole means of communication between friends, they can help us stay in touch with a wider circle of friends and acquaintances.

Live-streaming can also be part of a less personal, but still helpful community. Partaking in national holiday traditions and tweeting about a popular show at the same time as other fans can make you feel like you’re a part of a bigger movement. This unifies vast groups and helps form social cohesion. We can build these types of groups around social media-driven DIY “reality shows.”

But like any use of social media, we should see our ability to stream our lives for what it is. Otherwise, we risk further isolating ourselves from the real people that we all need.

Trump Signs Russia Sanctions Bill

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 15:41

President Donald Trump signed a sweeping sanctions bill intended to punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election Wednesday.

The bill limits Trump's autonomy with respect to Russia policy as it includes a provision that requires Congressional approval for any revisions to the legislation. The bill also levies sanctions against North Korea and Iran.

The Trump administration initially objected to the bill's constraint on executive power making it unclear whether Trump cooperate.

"The action by the Congress to put these sanctions in place and the way they did, neither the president nor I are very happy about that," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters during a press briefing at the State Department Tuesday.

Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that Trump would sign the bill, almost one week after the bill cleared Congress by a wide margin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin preemptively responded to the sanctions bill Sunday by expelling 755 American diplomats.


Copyright 2017 The Daily Caller News Foundation

My Journey Through, and Deliverance From, the Gay Life and Lie

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 15:15

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I examined the bizarre political orthodoxy that the world is imposing on the church. We're supposed to believe that gender is fluid and shifting, but sexual desires are inborn and fixed. My own story, and what I learned about myself through my conversion back to Christ, gives that the lie. So permit me to talk a bit about myself.

I was a lonely child. I thought I was different, but I didn't want anyone else to know. The harder I tried to hide these strange inner feelings, the more obvious they seemed to become. I presumed that every man in my life rejected me. There was something wrong. I didn't fit in with the other boys and they sensed this peculiarity. Like a school of piranha, they instinctively honed in on the lop-sided straggler. At recess, these boys circled me and pecked me apart, piece by piece.

I recoiled and found solace in fantasy and make-believe. I became obsessed with The Wizard of Oz. It let me dream of somewhere just "over the rainbow" where even the misfits, like a Cowardly Lion, could find acceptance, peace, and joy. For those brave enough to begin the journey down the yellow-brick-road, the culmination of our suffering was the eventual realization of our true self. That hope was always there.

I finally got to be friends with boys like the ones who had teased me. Sex forged a keen, if fleeting, bond. It often seemed that I traded sex for acceptance and affection. I put up with physical and emotional pain, for the sake of connection.

But for many years, I struggled with myself. I didn't want these strange feelings. I certainly didn't want to act differently or look conspicuous. So I tried to conform. It never worked. I wondered why I was made this way. In the era of AIDS, I wondered if a malevolent God had predestined some of us to an early grave.

When my male relatives began to date women and marry, I looked at those men with revulsion. They were alien to me. They were like other boys. And yes, they were -- like our fathers. I didn't want to be like them. (In hindsight, however, I usually ended up yearning for men who subconsciously reminded me of them.)

Is “Coming Out” Redemptive?

At age eighteen, I thought my only hope was to "come out." Yes, I was afraid of contracting an incurable disease (which was then also untreatable.). But I was much more afraid of living alone. So out I came.

For a while, I thought I'd made the right decision. Freely expressing my sexuality turned a secret source of shame into the center of my joy.

At first, I couldn't believe it. Incredibly handsome and masculine men wanted to be with me. To be near me. To touch me. Since I was extremely insecure and suspicious, at first I thought it was a cosmic joke. Soon they'd turn and reject me.

I never forgot an incident in high school: An older boy whom I'd adored from what I thought was a discreet distance approached me one day. He grinned, and spoke in a kind and welcoming voice. As we talked to each other, we walked for a few feet and then rounded a corner. His friends were waiting there. He shoved me away and began to berate me.

Surely that's what would happen again, wouldn't it?

But it didn't.

With gay men, I finally got to be friends with boys like the ones who had teased me. Sex forged a keen, if fleeting, bond. It often seemed that I traded sex for acceptance and affection. I put up with physical and emotional pain, for the sake of connection.

Still Playing Out Childhood Traumas

A decade passed. I wasn't eighteen any more. But I was still desperate for other boys to like me. In my own mind I decided that this was pathetic. I didn't know what to do.

I don't know exactly why. Maybe God was working on me. But I began to question everything that I'd convinced myself to believe. When I was a kid, why did I feel so different? Was it because I'd been "born gay"? Or just because I was afraid and alone?

At the same time, sex changed. It had always been painful. (The parts don't ... fit.) Now it became excruciating. It turned from a moment of long-sought healing to an aggravation of old wounds.

The reproachful God whom I'd feared had been humanized through His sacrificial love for all mankind. It had already happened, in Jesus.

For a long time, I couldn't talk about my childhood or even admit to myself what dynamics had formed me. It was just too painful. Then I could no longer avoid it. I was becoming self-protective and reclusive. I was alone again. My new isolation was greater than the dread of facing my past.

Almost blindly, I reached out for help and stumbled onto Courage. It's a Christian support group for people with same-sex attraction, people who have made the conscious decision to no longer act upon their desires. At first, it was an immense revelation to learn that other men shared a similar story. I'd already heard countless tales from friends of vicious near sadistic schoolyard persecutions. Vulnerable half-drunken confessions about a distant and unloving father who never hugged them. But here, at least, some men were willing to admit that the pain never went away. That gay sex didn't cure it.

Self-Deception About Gender

Yet, this setting was limited so I sought out the help of a man whose book I'd previously read: Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. In A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, Nicolosi wrote:

Self-deception about gender is at the heart of the homosexual condition. A child who imagines that he or she can be the opposite sex -- or be both sexes -- is holding on to a fantasy solution to his or her confusion. This is a revolt against reality and a rebellion against the limits built into our created human natures.

That was me.

And I had been living a lie. Or rather, an honest but deeply misguided mistake. I'd spent my life trying to make sense out of my uncontrollable yearning to receive acceptance and affirmation from other men. So I'd agreed with and integrated the core LGBT claim: that these emotions were not only inborn, but they determined my identity. I had been "born gay."

The Love of the God-Man

Now I began to see that none of that was true. It fell away like a false religion. In its place, true faith could flower. The reproachful God whom I'd feared had been humanized through His sacrificial love for all mankind. It had already happened, in Jesus.

At the same time, men appeared surprisingly less distant and judgmental. I was less attracted to them. For the first time in my life, I could have a healthy Platonic relationship with another man. I found aspects of their personality that I admired. And I wanted to be like them. Most astonishingly to me, my greatest respect emerged for ... married family men. Those guys whom I'd previously loathed (and secretly craved). I got to know them. Slowly, I absorbed what was central to these good husbands and fathers, what they had in common. They habitually renounced their selfish wants to more fully protect and provide for those assigned to their care. That is what masculinity meant to them.

I was attracted to the noble aspects of these men, but I didn't want to have sex with them. What they could give me I received through friendship. Pure friendship, in every sense of both words. I didn't consider myself "gay" any longer. But the LGBT world says that I don't have the right to do that.

In Christ, I discovered pure friendship, in every sense of both words.

I may not be anything but what I was born to be, they insist. It's "heroic" when some renounce the "incorrect gender" assigned to them at birth. I cannot escape my “sexual orientation,” they say. I was "born gay."

The Last Moral Absolute: “Born This Way”

In a community that often scoffs at moral absolutes as hopelessly archaic and discriminatory, there remains just one unforgivable sin. That is, to say you are no longer "gay." It's the ultimate betrayal. And many good people, mostly Christians, have been unfairly caricatured and ridiculed for daring to say that. To the LGBT dogmatists, someone like me is hopeless, beyond treatment or help. I am a straight man trapped in a gay man's body. I was "born this way," and there's nothing I can do.

But Jesus, who made me and died for me, knows better. It's His view of things that interests me.



Joseph Sciambra is author of Swallowed by Satan: How Our Lord Jesus Christ Saved Me from Pornography, Homosexuality, and the Occult.

How Hillary Bullied Tiny Bangladesh to Help Clinton Foundation Donor

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 14:24

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attempted to bully tiny Bangladesh to force it to end a corruption investigation of Mohammad Yunus, a long-time Clinton family friend and Clinton Foundation donor, according to documents The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group obtained.

The information comes from two Bangladeshi government documents generated as part of a request from the U.S. Congress. They shed new, disturbing light on Clinton's use of hard-ball tactics against the poorest country in South Asia in order to help her millionaire friend and foundation donor.

The documents show Clinton deployed an array of high-powered Department of State, U.S. Embassy and World Bank officials to rescue Yunus, who faced financial mismanagement charges at a state-owned bank called Grameen Bank. He was eventually removed from the bank.

Yunus' net worth is estimated at $10 million and his own U.S.-based nonprofits donated up to $300,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to the foundation's website.

In 2010, as a Grameen Bank managing director, Yunus faced multiple charges of financial improprieties, including accusations in a Danish documentary that he diverted $100 million from Grameen and transferred them toward his own entities. The charges sparked an immediate uproar in the impoverished country where the per capita annual income is about $1,000.

Clinton repeatedly and directly threatened Bangladesh on behalf of Yunus, warning Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that the World Bank could revoke a previously approved $1.2 billion loan to build a key bridge over the Padma River.

The U.S. has been the largest donor to the World Bank and in 2011 contributed $1.5 billion to the bank. Clinton, as secretary of state, wielded tremendous influence over it.

Clinton's action on the bridge was designed to undermine and humiliate Hasina, one of the only female heads of state in the Muslim world. The Wall Street Journal described the Padma River project as "a centerpiece" of Hasina's pledge to improve infrastructure in the country.

She hoped to build a road-rail bridge over the river to link undeveloped regions of the country to Dhaka, the capital city, which would generate new business investment and create thousands of jobs.

The report of Clinton's brass knuckle tactics and her use of the World Bank on behalf of a Clinton foundation donor could widen an ongoing investigation by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which is examining pressure tactics she used against the small South Asian country.

On June 1, Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee's chairman, asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to respond to reports that Clinton tried to pressure Hasina by threatening her son with an IRS tax audit while he was living in the United States, as The DCNF previously reported.

"I'll continue to press for answers from the State Department on whether anyone suggested an IRS audit or used other pressure out of special consideration for a Clinton Foundation donor," the Iowa Republican told The DCNF.

Clinton's opening salvo came in early 2011 when U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh James Moriarty visited Dr. Dipu Moni, then the country's female foreign minister.

Citing Moni, the document said Moriarty "made it very clear that if we fail to do this [end the Yunus investigation], we'll have to face a few consequences, i.e. withdrawal of the Padma Bridge funding by the World Bank."

"How can we, as an elected government, a people's government, not look into the matter when there were so many serious allegations against Dr. Yunus as MD [managing director]?" Moni asked the U.S. Ambassador.

Moriarty repeated a Clinton claim that Grameen Bank was an "independent" non-governmental organization (NGO) designed to help the poor, mainly women, through an experimental program called "micro-financing." Micro-financing allowed borrowers to set up small businesses with loans as small as $25.

But the foreign minister retorted that Grameen was a state-chartered and government-funded bank, not an NGO. Publicly available documents show it is a state-owned bank

Clinton escalated her attacks. The documents report a March 2011 meeting in the Prime Minister's office with top U.S. officials. Joining Moriarty for the meeting was Robert O. Blake, who was Clinton's Assistant Secretary for South Asia and Central Asia.

In the encounter, "both the Ambassador and the Assistant Secretary of State were very insistent" that Bangladesh end its investigation, according to the documents.

Moriarty also demanded the government "remove immediately" Mozammel Huq, Grameen's new government-appointed chairman of the board.

Also accompanying Blake and Moriarty was former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton. "During this conversation, Mr. Wolfensohn looked a bit embarrassed," according to one document.

The DCNF contacted Wolfensohn's office, seeking his recollection. His press representative screamed at The DCNF, yelling "No comment!"

Assistant Secretary Blake also tried to enlist the country's elites to lobby for Yunus in order to put additional pressure on the government, according to the documents.

At a reception at Ambassador Moriarty's official residence, the assistant secretary "emphatically" declared Yunus should remain head of Grameen Bank. Otherwise, Blake said it could trigger Washington actions that "may adversely affect our two countries' bilateral relations."

The foreign minister continued talking to Blake, but she said in the document that "It seemed that somehow, they were not ready to listen to anything that we had to say."

In one phone conversation, "he was very, very insistent and it was made very clear that there would be consequences if we did not oblige," she said.

Blake did not reply to a DCNF inquiry on his interactions with Bangladesh leaders. He now directs the India and South Asia practice for McLarty Associates. The co-founder of the firm, Thomas McLarty, formerly served as President Clinton's White House chief of staff.

Hillary Clinton directly raised the issue of Yunus each time she met with Moni and repeated her demands to the prime minister in a face-to-face meeting in Bangladesh in May 2012. "The message was given and understood by all," the document stated.

"We explained each time that Grameen Bank was not an NGO. It was a statutory body and must be run according to its own statute as well as other relevant laws governing it, including our Constitution, which it was apparently violating," Moni told Clinton.

"Everything fell into deaf ears," she concluded.

Moni said "it was apparent" Clinton wanted to keep Yunus at the bank regardless of "what illegal and irregular acts had been done as MD [managing director]," the document stated.

The document recounted how Allen Goldstein, a local World Bank representative, repeated Clinton's language that unless the probe ended it "might jeopardize the relationship of the government with the donors and there might be consequences," in a letter to the foreign minister.

Moni said she "was given the impression that the World Bank would even retaliate by withdrawing its funding from our important projects if the government were to continue the work of that [Grameen] committee. The World Bank representative and the U.S. Ambassador in Dhaka were using the same language."

The World Bank charged a Canadian company with "corruption" and revoked the $1.2 billion Padma River Bridge loan in June 2012.

The Ontario Superior Court dismissed all the corruption charges this February.

Bill and Hillary Clinton originally became friends with Yunus when Bill was governor of Arkansas. Both were enchanted with his vision of micro-finance, and Bill is credited with lobbying on his behalf to secure Yunus the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Yunus also has been a regular fixture at the Clinton Global Initiative meetings. A search of the foundation's website shows it issued 41 press releases praising Yunus.


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Copyright 2017 The Daily Caller News Foundation

White House to Announce Bill to Overhaul Legal Immigration System

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 13:38

President Donald Trump will join two leading Republican senators at the White House on Wednesday to formally introduce a bill that would slash legal immigration levels in half and implement a merit-based system for potential migrants, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

GOP Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas will reintroduce an updated version of the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, a bill they originally proposed in February that failed to gain traction in the Senate.

The legislation seeks to curtail the current practice of family chain migration and move to a points system that would "tailor the immigration system to meet the needs of our economy," a spokeperson for Perdue's office told The DCNF.

The updated RAISE Act, which has also been reported by the Washington Examiner, moves the focus of Trump's immigration agenda from cracking down on illegal immigration to reducing the number and types of people allowed to immigrate. Trump has previously couched support for the bill in terms of protecting American workers, who he says are hurt by the current immigration system.

"Instead of today's low-skilled system -- which is a terrible system where anyone comes in, people who have never worked, people that are criminals, anyone comes in -- we want a merit-based system," he said at an Ohio rally last week. "One that protects our workers, protects our taxpayers, and one that protects our economy."

The RAISE Act establishes a points-based merit system that gives priority to high-skilled immigrants and potential job-creating entrepreneurs. The changes are modeled on the Canadian and Australian systems, according to Perdue's office.

In what will likely prove to be the most controversial provision, the bill would dramatically reduce overall immigration levels by doing away with chain migration. Current immigration law allows U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their parents, siblings and married adult children for immigrant visas. Under the RAISE Act, only spouses and minor children could apply for admission based on family ties.

The bill also caps annual refugee admissions at 50,000 and completely eliminates the diversity visa lottery, a Department of State program that awards immigrant visas to people from countries with historically low levels of immigration to the U.S.

While Perdue's office says the bill does not include a "hard and fast cap" on the number of family-based visas that would be issued, it does seek to bring overall immigration levels to "historic norms." Previous reports have indicated that number could fall to 500,000 legal permanent residents per year over the next decade.

By contrast, the U.S. took in an average of about 1.1 million legal immigrants annually from 2000 to 2015, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Perdue and Cotton have criticized those historically high levels of immigration, saying they flood the U.S. labor market with low-skill workers who drive down wages for poor and working-class Americans. As Cotton noted when the original RAISE Act was introduced in February, just one in 15 green cards are granted for employment purposes.

Even with Trump's support, the bill faces an uphill climb in the GOP-controlled Senate. On top of expected Democratic opposition, some Republican senators have expressed skepticism abut cutting legal immigration levels.

GOP Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina all dismissed the RAISE Act in February, exposing deep divisions within the GOP over the issue of legal immigration.

"Over the next 20 years, one thing I can say for certain is America is getting older and the number of workers coming up in the system is not where it has been in the past," Graham said at the time. "We're going to need to replenish our workforce."


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Copyright 2017 The Daily Caller News Foundation

The Best Short Defense of Religious Liberty I’ve Heard

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 11:45

As John Stonestreet and I argue in our book Same-Sex Marriage, we are going through one of the most sweeping social revolutions in world history. Virtually every culture in the world has understood marriage as a union of a man and a woman. Then came the Obergefell v. Hodges SCOTUS decision in 2015. Now this has changed.

Marriage has been redefined. The law, our schools, and other social customs have begun to change as well. As a result, there’s a great tension between religious liberty and claims of discrimination. Can Catholic adoption agencies work according to their convictions that marriage is the union of a man and a woman? Or does this discriminate against gay couples who want to adopt? Should the law force people to use others’ preferred gender pronouns?

Is Liberty Worth Protecting?

At the heart of this debate is whether or not religious liberty is worth protecting. Does the state have an interest in preserving religious liberty? In my experience, few people (including religious people) understand why religious freedom is so valuable for both the government and society.

I recently read Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination. It's a thoughtful and respectful dialogue between Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis on the one side, and John Corvino on the other. In their opening remarks, Anderson and Girgis offer a brief case for the state's interest in preserving religious freedom. It’s the best I have heard.

While this certainly won't end debate, it’s the starting point of an argument that must be heard. Here it is:

A Simple Case for Religious Liberty

For all their differences, [a] splendid range of people from every corner of every culture across thousands of years [Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Muslims, etc.] would agree that much hangs on exploring religious questions and living by the answers. Even those who end up atheists or agnostic are compelled to search by a sense of the value of achieving harmony with whatever ultimate source of meaning there might be.

As a basic human good, religion consists of efforts to align your life with the truth about whatever transcendent source (or sources) of being, meaning, and value there might be. It's about efforts to honor or find harmony with that source -- call it the "divine." Relationship with the divine, like human friendship, must be freely chosen to be authentic. To coerce is to produce a counterfeit. So respect for your basic interest in religion demands respect for your freedom in pursuing it. For this basic good, religious liberty is a precondition.

And hence the state, which exists to protect the ability of people to pursue all the basic goods, must never directly attack this freedom. It must never require or forbid an act on religious grounds -- for example, on the ground that its religious rationale is true or false, or that the associated religious community should shrink or grow. But the same basic good also requires the state to avoid needless incidental limits on religious freedom. These arise where your faith calls for you to shape your whole life by the divinity's demands: in preaching and conversion, pilgrimage and prayer, building and worship, ritual and ascetical struggle, charitable work and Sabbath rest. All of these might conflict with legitimate laws. The state can't avoid a conflict every time. It has to protect the wide range of basic goods for all of society, even at the expense of some instances of them, religion included. But because religion, like moral integrity, is itself one of the basic goods to be protected, the state should avoid imposition on wherever reasonably possible.



Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog:

Adapted with permission from

Military Photo of the Day: A Star-Lit Night off the Coast of Australia

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 07:00

The amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland patrols waters off the coast of Australia under a star-lit night in July 2017.

Thanks to Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Clay for capturing this stunning image!

White House, Fox News Push Back on Allegations in Seth Rich Investigator Lawsuit

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 00:32

The morning was greeted with a bombshell tweet from NPR: “Exclusive: Lawsuit alleges Fox News and wealthy Trump supporter worked with White House to concoct fake news story.” By afternoon, the White House, Fox News and the GOP donor were pushing back hard.

The gist of the story, now splashed far and loud across mainstream media: Fox News teamed up with an enthusiastic President Trump to concoct a false tale that Seth Rich was the real DNC leaker and possibly murdered for it. The goal: deflecting attention from the Russian collusion story.

This narrative, timed to wipe aside coverage of the unfolding scandal around ex-DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz, sidesteps a crucial fact: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange himself suggested Rich was murdered because he was the DNC leaker shortly after it happened. Other researchers have also ripped apart the official story since day one. But let’s hold that for another time.

Wheeler’s Lawsuit Against Fox News

The accusation that Fox News teamed with the White House stems from lawsuit filed Tuesday by Ron Wheeler. He’s a private investigator, former D.C homicide cop and former Fox News contributor. He had reported on the Rich case for Fox News. Wheeler was then hired by GOP businessman Ed Butowsky on behalf of the Rich family to investigate the murder himself. He later told  George Webb that the evidence was pointing him away from a random street crime and toward a possible connection with Rich’s work. 

In May 2017, Fox News ran a Seth Rich story by Malia Zimmerman that featured Wheeler and what he was uncovering. This included the push-back he was getting after then-DNC head and former Clinton aide Donna Brazile started asking the police about him. The report also alleged that the FBI had uncovered 44,000 emails Rich had sent to WikiLeaks.

In the broadcast version of the story, Wheeler is heard talking about elements of the case. At other times he is quoted. After the story aired, Wheeler said Zimmerman misquoted him. The FBI and Metropolitan Police Department also denied elements of the story. A week later Fox News pulled it, and allegedly blamed Wheeler.

The Rich Family, which by now had Democrat crisis manager Bob Bauman as their spokesman, dumped Wheeler. They also demanded he stop talking about the case. 

Now Wheeler has filed suit against Fox News, claiming defamation. 

His suit alleges Fox News defamed him by manufacturing two false quotations, attributing them to him and ruining his reputation by blaming him as the deceptive story fell apart.

Wheeler, an African-American, is also suing the network for racial discrimination. He alleges that he failed to advance as quickly as white counterparts. His lawyer represents several former Fox News staffers making a similar charge. 

Taking Apart Fox News to Avoid the Real News 

The NPR article goes to great length to untangle exactly how the story evolved at Fox News. How the few questionable lines came and went, and why. It’s so into the weeds one loses track of the real issue in the suit: who’s to blame for the PR debacle. Even the truth of what Wheeler uncovered in his investigation is lost. Fox News isn’t even conceding yet there was anything wrong with the story.

Jay Wallace, Fox News President of News, has issued this statement:

The accusation that published Malia Zimmerman's story to help detract from coverage of the Russia collusion issue is completely erroneous. The retraction of this story is still being investigated internally and we have no evidence that Rod Wheeler was misquoted by Zimmerman. Additionally, Fox News vehemently denies the race discrimination claims in the lawsuit -- the dispute between Zimmerman and Rod Wheeler has nothing to do with race.

It has nothing to do with Seth Rich either. The NPR account is about how a Seth Rich story ended up on one network in 2017. It’s not at all about how Seth Rich ended up shot dead on a DC street in 2016.

But how does the White House figure in?

The White House

According to the lawsuit, Spicer met at the White House with Wheeler and Butowsky to review the Rich story about a month before it aired on Fox News. Spicer said Monday, “They were just informing me of the [Fox] story.” He added he’s not aware of any contact between Butowsky and Trump.

However, a Butowsky tweet to Wheeler 36 hours before the story broke referred Trump.”Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you.” 

The story came out right after the firing of James Comey and the height of Russia collusion fever. So, the theory goes, the President wanted the story that Rich was likely the source of the WikiLeaks published to counter the Russian narrative. 

Butowsky now says he never shared drafts of the story with Trump or his aides -- that he was joking with a friend. He also calls the lawsuit “bull****.” 

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denies President Trump played any part. “The President had no knowledge of the story,” she said, “and it's completely untrue that he or the White House had involvement in the story. Beyond that, this is ongoing litigation, and I'd refer you to the actual parties involved, which aren't the White House.”

Even if Trump knew about the story, why wouldn’t he want the story out there ASAP?

Easy for Killer to Walk Free When Others are Targeted

However, Trump did have a role to play. Dragging the President into the lawsuit and story is designed to create the illusion of impropriety, and put more pressure on Fox News. Most of all, it allows the click bait tweet you’re seeing everywhere today in various forms: “Trump Colluded with Fox News for Fake Seth Rich Story.” 

If only NPR, Washington Post, CNN and others trumpeting this lawsuit today had as much interest in hunting Rich’s killer as they do hunting Trump and Fox News. 

Perhaps the Rich family will allow Rod Wheeler to fully share what he found. Then we’ll see how quickly NPR and friends again forget the name “Seth Rich.” 

Saving Karamdes: The Knights of Columbus Raising $2M to Resettle Christian Refugees in Iraq

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 22:04

The Knights of Columbus (KoC) announced today that they will donate $2 million dollars to rebuild the Iraqi town of Karamdes, a predominately Christian area in the Nineveh Plain, which was reclaimed from ISIS late last year. Without donations and the KoC's help, some are concerned that a culture and almost 2,000 years of Christian history will disappear.

"We've been hearing from the people in Erbil -- the church running the refugee camps -- that the next two months are critical," said KoC Vice President Andrew Walther in an interview with The Stream. The refugee camps house hundreds of Christian families, most of who have been in the camps for three years now. In 2003, there were approximately 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Now Walther places the estimate at about 200,000.

Without help rebuilding their homes and town, the refugees may lose hope altogether and leave Iraq. That would be a tragedy on multiple levels, Walther said. "It would be the end of a culture, the end of faith in the region." 

One thing to remember, said Walther, is that “these people were targeted simply for their faith -- because they professed Christianity.”

Seeing Hungary's donation of $2 million save another predominately-Christian town, Teleskov, gave the KoC the idea of raising money to save Karamdes. "We looked at that and thought, 'That's something we can do,'" said Walther. About 1,000 people have moved back to Teleskov, giving the KoC hope that the resettlement model works.

For $2,000, groups, churches and even individuals can help resettle one family. "They can help maintain pluralism and help move the refugees back into their town," said Andrew. The amount of $2,000 includes sorting out burn damages, rebuilding their home, cleaning up and making the place habitable. The families will be working with the church's structural engineers to make sure their homes are safe. And the church is working with the government to turn the power and water back on.

Walther estimates that, with donations, hundreds of refugee families will be back in Karamdes by the end of the month.

"The hardest thing I've seen with the refugees is the loss of hope and anxiety not knowing when they'll get home," he noted. By donating money, people are giving the refugees the means to restart and sustain their lives. "It's the beginning of a real solution to the problem of getting people back home."


To donate or learn more about how to help resettle the Christian refugees in Iraq, go to

Judge, Not Jury, Finds Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio Guilty of Criminal Contempt

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 21:39

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton found former Sheriff Joe Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt. This was related to the Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff’s efforts to enforce laws against illegal immigration. He will be sentenced in October for the misdemeanor.

She had denied his request for a jury trial. This is odd since it was a criminal charge.

Left-wing activists have been targeting Arpaio through the legal system. They are unhappy with his efforts to reduce illegal immigration. He began them in the mid-2000s. He helped pass four ballot measures targeting illegal immigration in 2006. At the same time, he started arresting illegal immigrants under Arizona’s felony human smuggling law. They “conspired to smuggle themselves,” he said.

Melendres v. Arpaio and Judge Murray Snow’s Role

In 2008, activists filed a lawsuit against Arpaio, Melendres v. Arpaio. They charged him with racial profiling. U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow told Arpaio to stop racially profiling illegal immigrants at the sheriff’s office. He was charged with criminal contempt when he supposedly did not do so.

Arpaio asked Snow repeatedly to recuse himself from the case due to bias. Snow refused. In 2013, a woman told Arpaio over Facebook that she overheard Judge Snow's wife saying that Snow hated Arpaio and didn't want him to be re-elected.

Snow said he wanted to make Arpaio pay personally out of his own pocket..

The American Bar Association has an ethical rule that discusses when a judge should recuse him or herself due to their spouse. It mentions a spouse's bias or involvement four times.

Arpaio apologized for racial profiling. He donated money to an Hispanic civil rights group. He admitted that he committed civil contempt of court for not complying. This wasn’t enough for Snow. He said he wanted to make Arpaio pay personally out of his own pocket. Arpaio is 84 years old. Any appeal could go on for years.

What is Racial Profiling?

Illegal immigrants are more likely to commit traffic infractions than the general population.

As a result of Melendres, the DOJ began probing Arpaio for racial profiling in 2008 under Obama. Arizona has a large number of illegal immigrants. They commit crimes at a higher rate than the general public. For example, in 2007, illegal immigrants made up nine percent of the adult population in Maricopa County. Yet they received 20 percent of all felony DUIs.

They are more likely to commit traffic infractions. A large number of them have not learned U.S. traffic laws. They have less money, so are more likely to have something wrong with their cars. This prompts the police to pull them over.

Judge Snow refused to consider these facts. Instead, he chose to believe instead that the men and women of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office -- many who are Hispanic and other minorities -- pull drivers over because they are targeting illegal immigrants. He wrote in his 2013 Melendres opinion, “Those saturation patrols all involved using traffic stops as a pretext to detect those occupants of automobiles who may be in this country without authorization.”

Even after an illegal immigrant has been pulled over for a traffic violation, Snow said the officers can’t take any action to determine if they are illegal. He reasoned, “It is not a violation of federal criminal law to be in this country without authorization in and of itself. ”

The Lost Election

Arpaio lost reelection last year in part due to the bad publicity. He also lost in part because left-wing billionaire George Soros poured $2.3 million into the election to defeat him.

Arpaio is expected to appeal the conviction. He will likely cite Snow’s refusal to recuse himself and Bolton’s refusal to provide him with a jury trial as grounds for reversal.


Rachel Alexander briefly represented Sheriff Arpaio as one of his attorneys in 2010. Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.

The Witness of Forgiveness: Grace Displayed in the Midst of the Opioid Epidemic

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 21:11

The opioid epidemic is delivering tragedy and pain to families across the country. Here's how one such family has responded in Christ.

On January 30, 2016, Ashlynn Bailey, a twenty-year-old from Pelham, Alabama, died from a drug overdose.

As John and I have said on BreakPoint many times, America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic -- one that kills more people every year than the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s.

This means that thousands of families endure the kind of anguish and pain that Bailey's parents have gone through.

Yet, in the midst of their pain, Bailey's family reminded us of the difference faith can make, even when the world has ceased making sense.

In the aftermath of her death, her parents established the Ashlynn Bailey Foundation, whose mission is to help addicts and their families. Part of that assistance is sharing their own story.

Ashlynn Bailey grew up in a Christian home. She "grew up in the church, learned about God, and became a Christian at an early age." Sadly, as many Christian parents know from painful experience, this isn't always enough.

Bailey began experimenting with drugs in high school and within a few years was using heroin. On January 30, 2016, she bought what she believed was heroin from a dealer in Birmingham.

Instead it was fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and which is often mixed with heroin. It is so potent that a policeman in East Liverpool, Ohio, accidentally overdosed after brushing fentanyl residue off his uniform following a drug bust.

Federal prosecutors charged the dealer who sold Bailey the drugs that killed her, Rodrigus Lee Pearson, with a series of drug-related offenses, and were able to increase his sentence because of the link between his actions and Bailey's death.

The pain that the Baileys are feeling is unimaginable for most. But the grace they’ve demonstrated should not be.

At Pearson's sentencing hearing, Mike Bailey, Ashlynn's father, approached Pearson, and offered him his hand. He told Pearson "We extend forgiveness to you for the wrongs against our family in the same way that Christ has forgiven our wrongs, even without asking for that forgiveness."

Afterwards, he told reporters that "I think [Pearson] needs to be held accountable … But I don't want him to feel any less of a person in God's eyes."

He added, "I hate drugs, I hate the effects of drugs, I hate the pain that they bring, I hate how it affects families … It's one of the largest demonic forces in our nation right now, just sent to break a family apart. I hate all that, but I don't hate the individuals."

The pain that Mike Bailey and his family are feeling is unimaginable for nearly all of us. But the grace they have demonstrated should not be. It is what’s expected of those who have experienced grace in their own lives.

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," Jesus taught us to pray. The Apostle Paul urged us in Ephesians chapter 4 to "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

This forgiveness is not optional.

That's not to say it's easy. It's a work of the Holy Spirit.

It's also the most powerful Christian witness imaginable. While there are many counter-arguments, some better than others, against specific Christian ideas, there is no argument against the kind of grace and mercy Mike Bailey displayed. It's a reminder of what sets Christianity apart.

As I said, I can't imagine the pain the Bailey family is feeling. But I can thank them for reminding us that the light of grace shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.



Originally published on BreakPoint Commentaries. Republished with permission of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

Google and YouTube Briefly Banned Prof Who Refuses to Use Gender-Neutral Pronouns

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 20:35

A professor in Canada who refuses to use gender-neutral pronouns and criticizes social justice issues was banned from using his Google and YouTube accounts Tuesday, regaining access hours later with no detailed explanation provided.

Professor Jordan B. Peterson of the University of Toronto disputed Google and YouTube's decision to lock him out of his accounts, according to correspondence obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

"Please tell me what principle I have violated," said Peterson in his email to Google upon discovering that he was locked out of his account. "I have not violated any terms that I am aware of and have not misused my account."

The psychology professor has over 350,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, which he uses as a platform to post his lectures, interviews and Q&As.

"We understand you've recently been unable to access your Google account, and we appreciate you contacting us," said Google in a response. "After review, your account is not eligible to be reinstated due to a violation of our Terms of Service."

But Google did not provide any details regarding which rule the professor violated.

When emailed at his Google address, Google returns an "Address not found" error message.

"I've had that account for the last, say, 15 years," said Peterson to TheDCNF. "All of my correspondence is in that account. It's hundreds of thousands of emails from people all over the world."

The professor said he initially thought it was just a mistake.

"But the fact that they reviewed it and then decided that my account is not eligible to be reinstated indicates to me either that this is quite a curious mistake or that there's something that's political going on that is associated with censorship."

Peterson reiterated that he had not violated the terms of service, stating that he had only recently posted a video detailing his plans for the future.

"This is just another example of these big companies that either [kowtow] to pressure ... or [decide] on their own accord who gets to communicate and who doesn't," he told TheDCNF.

Peterson's YouTube videos criticizing social justice regularly obtain tens or hundreds of thousands of views. The professor came under scrutiny in 2016 after criticizing a bill which could potentially criminalize using the wrong gender pronoun to identify someone. That bill is now law.

(UPDATE: Peterson reported that he regained access to his Google and YouTube accounts shortly after the publication of this piece, but the company still has not provided the professor with specific reasoning for his ban.)



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Copyright 2017 Daily Caller News Foundation

Why Loving God With All Your Mind Matters

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 20:00

I know a pastor whose study contained a desk, a kneeler and a couple of chairs.

The desk and its chair were well worn from hours of study. Most of the books that lined the shelves around the room had been opened and carefully studied.

The kneeler was not far from the desk and faced a window overlooking trees and rolling hills in a country setting. It also was well worn from many hours of use. Sometimes the pastor would study something that led him to praise God, give thanks, or feel a need to repent. He would quickly move from the desk to the kneeler.

Knowing (study), feeling (piety) and doing (ministry) are integrally related. If you neglect any one, you will in effect lose all three.

In the study, there were also a couple of soft chairs often used for counseling, mentoring or spiritual direction. After such sessions the pastor would often move to the desk to study questions and issues raised or to the kneeler to pray for the people and the situations of concern.

Study, piety and ministry as pictured in the desk, kneeler and chair are connected. Remove one, and you damage the other two.

If you get rid of the desk, you lose depth in prayer (kneeler) and substance in ministry (chairs). If you get rid of the kneeler, you may have deep knowledge (desk) and consistent practice (chairs), but you will lack passion and joy, perhaps ending up with a cold, passionless legalism and moralism that will inevitably become weary in well doing. If you get rid of the chairs, you end up with theoretical thought (desk) or piety (kneeler) that makes little difference in peoples' lives.

If you neglect any one of these -- study, piety or ministry -- you will in effect lose all three.

One problem in our world, including the church, is the failure to see the connection between what we do, what we think, and what we feel. In other words, we don't understand the relationship between knowing, feeling and doing. Thus, we fail to manifest wise, passionate practice that would demonstrate to the world the truth we profess.

Here, I will tackle the critical place of knowing (the desk).

How We Can Know Objective Reality

The Bible gives a solid basis for knowing and doing, grounded in an infinite, personal God who exists and who reveals himself in scripture. The world God created is real and good. We are created in God's image with a capacity to reason, feel and act. We are also created to respond to a real God, respond to real people and exercise dominion over a real creation. We are created to respond to reality. Sin certainly does distort our perception of reality, and we have limits on the extent of our knowledge; but there is nevertheless that which is true, good and real objectively, and we can know it, at least in part.

The problem is not loving God too much with your mind but, perhaps, loving God with your heart and soul too little.

Why We are Given Reason

God gave you the ability to know and reason for a purpose. In Matthew 22:37, Christ calls us to love God with all of your heart, with all your soul, and with all of your mind. Unfortunately, not only is the mind devalued within the culture but also surprisingly within the church.

Perhaps some think that you can love God too much with your mind. Yet, can you love God too much with your heart or soul? I think not. The problem is not loving God too much with your mind but, perhaps, loving God with your heart and soul too little.

In 2 Corinthians 10:5, we are called to "destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God" and "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." The first part of this verse emphasizes a more negative or critical task of refuting objections to faith or alternative systems of thought. The second part stresses a positive task of taking every thought captive to Christ.

Biblical knowing involves more than mere cognition. It involves intimacy and responsibility.

A big problem in the church is that we have not emphasized loving God with our minds. The failure to pursue this task has led to a loss of influence in academia, media, science, government and the arts. Books such as The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, No Place for Truth, and Passion for Truth document this problem in contemporary society. 

Where Biblical Knowledge Leads: Intimacy and Obedience

Biblical knowing involves more than mere cognition. It involves intimacy and responsibility.

The Hebrew word for knowing is Yatha. When Genesis speaks of Adam knowing his wife, it uses this word. This knowing is more than sexual intimacy. In Psalm 1:6, it says that "the Lord knows the way of the righteous." Notice it does not say earlier that the Lord knows the way of the wicked, although of course he knows about them. The phrase the "Lord knows" means cares for, gives approval to, has regard for, or loves the way of the righteous. In Matthew 7:23, Jesus says of those who say, "Lord, Lord" -- "I never knew you," although again, he knew about them. He didn't know them in the sense of an intimate personal relationship. Our knowing is to lead to personal intimacy with God.

The Greek word for "hear" is Akuo, while the Greek word for "obey" is Hupakuo -- which literally means "to hyper hear" or really hear. So, to really hear is to obey. There are those who hear yet fail to understand. There are those who see yet don't perceive. No wonder the biblical writers often say, "Let him who has an ear to hear, let him hear." It’s one thing to allow a truth to go into one ear and out the other. It’s another to allow God's word to go into your ear, down into your heart, and out into your hands and feet.

Dedicate yourself to intimately knowing God in a way that results in enjoying Him (feeling) and happily laboring in the work of his kingdom (doing).


  This article is adapted with permission from the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics ( The original article appears here. IFWE is a Christian research organization committed to advancing biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society. Visit to subscribe to the free IFWE Daily Blog.

Catholics First, Americans Second?

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 18:25

Archbishop Charles Chaput is often cited as the standard-bearer for American Catholic conservatives. And on many issues, he serves that role. See his fine response to La Civilta Cattolica's oafish attack on prolifers, Protestants, Trump voters and frankly Americans. He has written and spoken well on the need to distinguish issues of basic principle, such as abortion and religious freedom, from quibbles over optimal funding levels for Medicaid. He has proven fearless in defending deeply unfashionable views.

On immigration, however, Chaput seems to follow the official U.S. bishops' party line: de facto open borders. 

Americans First?

Chaput also says interesting things about the need to set our priorities as citizens and as Christians. A quote of his is being widely shared on social media:

We're Catholics before we're Democrats. We're Catholics before we're Republicans. We're even Catholics before Americans Archbishop Chaput

-- CoCatholicRadio (@CoCatholicRadio) July 29, 2017

This seems like a truism. When there’s a conflict between a true religious belief and an immoral government policy, any good Catholic -- in fact any good Christian -- should opt for his religious belief. But does that mean faithful Catholics must follow any and every policy of the Bishops Conference? It doesn’t. And it courts trouble to suggest otherwise.

Dual Loyalty?

In the 19th century, Catholics stood under suspicion of dual loyalty in Protestant America. Why? In part because of a bunch of nasty stereotypes and outright lies. Those were invented by Enlightenment philosophes. But most Protestants had swallowed them -- not realizing that they'd originated with enemies of Christ.

There was a tiny seed of merit in Protestants' suspicion of a church that rejected religious freedom in principle. American bishops defused that by eagerly embracing America's First Amendment. The U.S. changed its citizenship oath such that Catholic immigrants had to renounce any political allegiance to foreign princes (i.e., the pope). Catholics shrugged and asked, "Sure, where do I sign?" U.S. bishops led the charge at Vatican II to press the church to clearly embrace religious liberty.

Nature’s God and Natural Law

By accepting that principle, the church made it clear how Catholics should practice politics. If it's true that the state should not impose its religion or hobble the faith of dissenters, some other things follow:

We should never try to make coercive laws based purely or primarily on religious authority. Nor use the government to favor our church's institutional interests at the expense of other citizens and their churches. We should make arguments over public policy based on what can be known by reason about the laws of "nature and Nature's God." When it comes to political issues, we should not see the church as a tribal faction which claims our loyalty -- and trumps our duty to our neighbors or the common good.

Nor should we pretend that there is somewhere out there an official “Catholic” political platform, which bravely cuts across left and right. That very idea is a pernicious, but sadly persistent, myth.

Our Lady of Good Fortune Casino Night

When I grew up in Queens, New York, the local Diocese of Brooklyn made up its financial deficits the old fashioned way. It ran large-scale illegal gambling. Under the cover of legal "Las Vegas Nights,” parishes all across Queens would allow high-stakes poker games, week after week. I know, because my mother (sadly, a compulsive gambler) lost tens of thousands at them over the years, nearly destroying my family.  (My dad, a hardworking letter carrier, couldn’t keep up with the debts she ran up with small-time hoodlums.) Those poker games were clearly against the law. But friendly Irish cops would not enforce that law. In fact, they sometimes volunteered to serve as free security guards outside the doors. No doubt those cops thought that they were acting as "Catholics" before "Americans.”

I think we can agree that they were wrong. So was Bishop Francis Mugavero, who let his pastors rake in (collectively) tens of millions via such shenanigans.

Sanctuary Churches?

Likewise, bishops are wrong when they promise to use Catholic church facilities to frustrate the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. But 24 U.S. bishops did just that in their recent Message from Modesto, sponsored by the Soros-funded quasi-Marxist organization PICO.

U.S. immigration laws are not unjust. What’s more, such laws are subject to change via democratic vote. Any time that bishops as citizens want to increase U.S. immigration quotas, they’re free to call their congressmen and urge them to vote that way. They are not free to flout those laws, override those quotas, and claim that the church has the right to offer "sanctuary" to lawbreakers.

When it comes to abortion, the issue is different, because that law is clearly and without question completely unjust. Furthermore, judges snatched it out of the reach of realistic democratic change. So if bishops want to back Operation Rescue in peaceful demonstrations at abortion clinics, that seems reasonable, within limits.

But would we back bishops who went a good deal further -- as far as some are going on immigration? Would we want bishops helping people to vandalize clinics? To produce phony documents that would close clinics down over trumped-up health violations? To hide pro-lifers who committed such crimes, so they couldn't be prosecuted? At a certain point, backing a high principle doesn't excuse aggressive attacks on law and public order. If that's true on abortion, it certainly is on immigration.

Catholic First, American Second?

So let's return to the question. Should U.S. Catholics see ourselves as "Catholics first, Americans second”? Yes, whenever:

The government attacks our religious liberty, as in the Obama administration's efforts to make the Little Sisters of the Poor pay for abortion pills. Our fellow Catholics in other countries are being persecuted, and the U.S. government is ignoring it, as in the ethnic cleansing of Christians from Iraq since 2003. A law is unjust because it violates the "law of Nature" and of "Nature's God," such as laws permitting abortion or same-sex marriage.

It’s not true that we should act as "Catholics first" in other cases, for instance when:

The pope or our bishops exceed their authority on issues like climate change or immigration policy. Those same authorities go way beyond their expertise to demand specific policies from our government, in the name of Catholic principles -- which the church teaches it’s up to the laity, not the clergy, to implement. Those leaders act or ask us to act as if Catholicism were some self-interested political tribe, rather than a world religion that claims to speak universal truth.

In other words, I wish more cops in Queens had said to pastors: "Er, no Father. I won't work security for your illegal poker games. In fact, you're under arrest."

The Socialist Revolution Devours Venezuela

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 15:02

Venezuela is a woeful reminder that no country is so rich that it can’t be driven into the ground by revolutionary socialism.

People are now literally starving -- about three-quarters of the population lost weight last year -- in what once was the fourth-richest country in the world on a per capita basis. A country that has more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia is suffering shortages of basic supplies. Venezuela now totters on the brink of bankruptcy and civil war, in the national catastrophe known as the Bolivarian Revolution.

The Chavezistas

The phrase is the coinage of the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, succeeded by the current Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro. The Western Hemisphere’s answer to Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Maduro has instituted an ongoing self-coup to make his country a one-party state.

The Chavezistas have worked from the typical communist playbook of romanticizing the masses while immiserating them. Runaway spending, price controls, nationalization of companies, corruption and the end of the rule of law -- it’s been a master class in how to destroy an economy.

The result is a sharp, years-long recession, runaway inflation and unsustainable debt. The suffering of ordinary people is staggering, while the thieves and killers who are Chavezista officials have made off with hundreds of billions of dollars. At this rate -- The Economist calls the country’s economic decline “the steepest in modern Latin American history” -- there will be nothing left to steal.

Any government in a democratic country that failed this spectacularly would have been relegated to the dustbin of history long ago. Maduro is getting around this problem by ending Venezuela’s democracy. The Chavezistas slipped up a year or two by allowing real elections for the country’s National Assembly, which were swept by the opposition. They then undertook a war against the assembly, stripping it of its powers and culminating in a rigged vote this week to create a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution.

‘Constitutional Reforms’

The goal of Maduro’s alleged constitutional reforms is to no longer have a constitution worthy of the name. All you need to know about the spirit of this exercise is Maduro’s threat to jail the opposition leaders who boycotted the vote (outside observers estimate less than 20 percent of the electorate participated, despite the regime’s absurd claim of a popular wave of support).

Denied the ordinary means of dissent via the press and elections, the opposition has taken to the streets. Already more than 100 people have been killed in clashes over the past several months. Worse is yet to come. Lacking legitimacy and representing only a fraction of the populace, the Maduro regime will rely on the final backstop of violent suppression. It is now the worst crisis in a major country in the Western Hemisphere since the heights of the Colombian civil war in the 1990s and 2000s.

More Sanctions

There is no easy remedy to Venezuela’s agony. If meditation were the solution, the country never would have gotten to this pass. Endless negotiations between the government and the opposition have gone nowhere -- the organized crime syndicate that has seized power under the banner of revolution knows it has no option but to retain its hold on power by any means necessary. The U.S. needs to use every economic and diplomatic lever to undermine the regime and build an international coalition against it.

We should impose more sanctions on specific officials and on the state-run oil company; we should advertise what we know about the details of how Chavezistas park their ill-gotten gains abroad; we should nudge our allies to further isolate the Venezuelan government by pulling ambassadors and breaking diplomatic relations. The hope is that with enough pressure, the regime will crack, and high-level officials will break with Maduro, weakening his position and making a negotiated restoration of democratic rule possible.

In the meantime, the Bolivarian Revolution is proceeding according to its sick logic -- and there will be blood.


Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail:

Copyright 2017 by King Features Syndicate

Can a Conservative Conduct an Orchestra?

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 14:00

Most Americans are at least somewhat aware of what is happening at American (and European) universities with regard to conservative speakers. Universities disinvite conservative speakers, never invite them or allow the violent (or threatened violent) prevention of them. No non-left-wing idea should be permitted on campus.

But we may have hit a new low.

Let me explain.

For years, I have been conducting symphony orchestras in Southern California. I have conducted the Brentwood-Westwood, Glendale and West Los Angeles Symphony Orchestras, the Pasadena Lyric Opera and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. I have studied classical music since high school, when I first began playing piano and studying orchestral scores.

I conduct orchestras because I love making music. But I also do so because I want to help raise funds for local orchestras (I have never been paid to conduct) and I want to expose as many people to classical music as possible.

After I conduct a symphony, I then conduct select parts of the piece in order to show the audience what various sections of the orchestra are doing. After that, I walk around the orchestra with a microphone and interview some of the musicians. Everyone seems to love it.

After intermission, the permanent and professional conductor conducts his orchestra in another symphony.

This is a new low for the illiberal left: It is not enough to prevent conservatives from speaking; it is now necessary to prevent conservatives from appearing even when not speaking. Conservatives should not even be allowed to make music.

About half a year ago, the conductor of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra, Guido Lamell, who is also a longtime member of the violin section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, asked me whether I would be interested in conducting his orchestra. I said yes even before he added the punchline -- at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

For those not up to date on concert halls, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which opened less than 15 years ago, is one of the preeminent concert halls of the world. Being invited to conduct a superb orchestra at that hall is one of the great honors of my life.

However, about a month ago, a few members of the orchestra, supported by some Santa Monica city officials, decided to lead a campaign to have me disinvited.

As I said, this is a new low for the illiberal left: It is not enough to prevent conservatives from speaking; it is now necessary to prevent conservatives from appearing even when not speaking. Conservatives should not even be allowed to make music.

To its great credit, the board of directors of the orchestra, composed of individuals of all political outlooks, has completely stood by its conductor and his invitation to me.

But the attempt to cancel me continues. It is being organized by three members of the orchestra, each of whom has refused to play that night. Readers will not be surprised to learn that two of the three organizers are college professors. Michael Chwe is a professor of political science at UCLA, and Andrew Apter is a professor of history at UCLA.

I have devoted this column to this subject to expose the latest attempt of anti-liberal leftists -- the real haters -- to shut conservatives out of every form of intellectual and artistic endeavor.

In an open letter to the symphony’s members posted on the Slipped Disc website, the three wrote, “A concert with Dennis Prager would normalize hatred and bigotry.”

One example of my hatred and bigotry includes my belief that in giving a child over for adoption, adoption agencies should prefer a married man and woman before singles and same-sex couples. Another -- my favorite -- is my having said that if there is no God, ethics are subjective, which will offend atheist members of the orchestra.

These are the types of academics who are giving universities their reputation for illiberal closed-mindedness -- which not only ruins the universities as educational institutions but also hurts them financially. The New York Times recently published an article on how many alumni are no longer donating money to the colleges they attended because of the war on diverse thought on their campuses.

Now they want to do to orchestras what they have done to universities.

I hereby extend an invitation to Chwe and Apter to come on my radio show to explain to my listeners why my conservative positions render me a hateful bigot and explain why people with conservative views should not be allowed to conduct classical music. I hope they accept -- people will then be able to assess who is and who isn’t a hater.

Not to be outdone by these professors, a former mayor of Santa Monica and current council member, Kevin McKeown, was quoted on Slipped Disc as saying: “I personally will most certainly not be attending a concert featuring a bigoted hate-monger. The judgement (or lack of) shown in inviting Prager may affect future community support for the Symphony.”

Here is a rare opportunity to combine a terrific evening (especially if you’ve never attended a classical concert) in one of the world’s greatest concert halls with a chance to defeat the illiberal left.

However, there are other voices. The Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole does not agree with the former mayor. “This City supports the arts,” he said when asked by the Santa Monica Lookout whether the symphony’s invitation presented difficulties. “It appears that Dennis Prager supports the arts. The City, in funding a season of musical performances, does not choose what music is played or who plays it at any particular concert.”

I have devoted this column to this subject to expose the latest attempt of anti-liberal leftists -- the real haters -- to shut conservatives out of every form of intellectual and artistic endeavor.

Another reason is to ask readers in Southern California to attend the concert. Here is a rare opportunity to combine a terrific evening (especially if you’ve never attended a classical concert) in one of the world’s greatest concert halls with a chance to defeat the illiberal left. The more people who attend on Aug. 16, the greater the message that music must transcend political differences. And it rewards the Santa Monica Symphony board and conductor for their moral courage.

I will be conducting Haydn’s Symphony No. 51. Like Haydn, I think music is one of those few things that can bring people together. Clearly, not everyone agrees.


Dennis Prager’s latest book, The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code, was published by Regnery. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of


The Evil Empire Collapses: Reagan and John Paul II, 1989 – 90

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 12:58

The following is the fifth and final article in a five-part series of excerpts adapted from Paul Kengor's new book, A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century.

Anyone who witnessed the events of November 9, 1989, will not soon forget them. That day, East Germans confidently climbed the Berlin Wall. To have done so on any previous day since August 13, 1961, would have been unthinkable. East German guards would have shot them on the spot. But this time, those who scaled the wall were safe.

That was because communist authorities for the first time had permitted the free flow of people through East German border crossings. And the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

November 9, 1989, did not simply mark the fall of the Berlin Wall. That physical barrier manifested the Iron Curtain in concrete and barbed wire. Its collapse rang the death knell on an empire. Communist regimes throughout the Eastern Bloc would soon fall -- as would, eventually, the Soviet Union itself.

Ronald Reagan's Triumph

Ronald Reagan took deep delight in the events of November 9, 1989.

He had been calling for the fall of the Berlin Wall for decades. His first public statement to that effect came in his high-profile 1967 debate with Robert F. Kennedy. Most famously, he had called on Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" in 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate.

Now, the wall had fallen, less than a year after Reagan left the presidency. He could kick back and watch the collapse of the wider Communist Bloc with delight.

Just before he left the Oval Office, Reagan had met with Natan Sharansky. That dissident Russian Jew had first read Reagan's warnings of an "Evil Empire" from a Soviet prison camp. Sharansky felt inspired that "the leader of the free world had spoken the truth." He'd spread news of Reagan's statement through Permanent Labor Camp 35. How? By tapping the message on the walls of his prison cell. Then, in 1986, Sharansky was among the political prisoners that Gorbachev released -- after Reagan and his administration had applied intense pressure.

Once Poland held those elections, Gorbachev knew the communist game was over.

By January 1989, Sharansky was a guest at the White House, where President Reagan presented him with a Congressional Gold Medal. During the ceremony, Sharansky took Reagan aside. He told the soon-to-retire president if he was ever saddled by any "sad moments," he should think about Sharansky's "happy family." He should remember all the people "who are free today not because of some good will of Soviet leaders but because of their struggle and your struggle."

Poland Frees Itself

By the spring of 1989, something astounding was unfolding in Karol Wojtyla's Poland. On April 4, after two months of negotiations with Solidarity and other opposition groups, Poland's Communist Party countenanced something that was once inconceivable: free and fair parliamentary elections. The agreement:

abolished the position of general secretary in favor of a president, officially recognized Solidarity as a political party, and created a new upper chamber of the legislature to which all 100 seats would be put up for open election.

The elections happened on June 4, nearly a half century after Stalin had promised free and fair elections in Poland and FDR had put faith in the assurances of "Uncle Joe." In effect, this Polish agreement marked the death of Warsaw's communist regime.

As Poland's June elections approached, Ronald Reagan, enjoying retirement in California, welcomed some Polish visitors at his Century City office near Hollywood. Chris Zawitkowski is an ethnic Pole who, after the Cold War's end, became head of the Polish-American Foundation for Economic Research and Education. He brought along another Polish American and two Solidarity members who had come a long distance to meet their presidential hero. They came to express their gratitude and to ask for some advice. Zawitkowski asked Reagan, the master campaigner, whether he had any words of wisdom for the two Solidarity members as they readied for the June elections.

Reagan’s Best Friend

No doubt these gentlemen expected Reagan, who had won landslide political victories, to give political advice. Reagan, however, dug deeper. In a John Paul II-like affirmation, Reagan counseled the Polish campaigners, "Listen to your conscience, because that is where the Holy Spirit speaks to you."

The men nodded appreciatively. They understood a little more about the man who'd helped free their nation.

Then the former president pointed to a picture of Pope John Paul II that hung on his office wall. "He is my best friend," Reagan told the Poles. "Yes, you know I'm Protestant, but he's still my best friend."

Ronald Reagan's best friend -- Pope John Paul II.

One of Reagan's guests, Solidarity member Antoni Macierewicz, offered the former president a gift. Like many Poles, Macierewicz once had been thrown in jail by the communists. While there, he busied himself with carving a special Madonna. The persecuted Solidarity member wanted Reagan to have the image of the Mother of Christ that he had carved under duress imposed by evildoers. Reagan accepted. He held the Madonna in his hands and said that he and Nancy would be proud to have it in their home.

Solidarity’s Victory

Reagan was likewise proud of what the Solidarity men and their colleagues achieved once they got back to Poland. In the June 4 elections, Solidarity candidates claimed every one of the roughly one-third of seats in the lower chamber of the legislature that the communists opened to balloting. And in the newly created upper chamber, Solidarity claimed 99 of the 100 new seats.

In short, Solidarity won more than 99 percent of available legislative seats. Communists did not claim one.

“As is always the case, once people who have been deprived of basic freedom taste a little of it, they want all of it.” --Ronald Reagan

In December 1990, Lech Walesa put a capstone on the victory over communism by emerging as Poland's freely elected president.

The Dominoes Fall

The elections in June 1989 had repercussions far beyond Poland. Mikhail Gorbachev later said that once Poland held those elections, he knew the communist game was over. He had grasped that the emergence of Solidarity threatened not only "chaos in Poland" but also the "ensuing break-up of the entire Socialist camp."

Both Ronald Reagan and John Paul II had seen Poland as "the linchpin in the dissolution of the Soviet empire" (in Bill Clark's words). They were right. The dissolution began in Karol Wojtyla's Poland, months before the Berlin Wall fell.

And it was just the start.

In Warsaw, Berlin, Budapest, Prague, and even Bucharest, a series of inconceivable events would occur in 1989. Then, on February 7, 1990, the unthinkable happened again, this time in Moscow: the Community Party's monopoly ended in the USSR.

That day, the Communist Party Central Committee agreed to Mikhail Gorbachev's proposal to strike Article 6 from the Soviet constitution. That article had guaranteed the Communist Party's iron grip on power for more than seventy years. The party leadership also accepted the plan for a Western-style cabinet system and presidency. General Secretary Gorbachev would become President Gorbachev.

An Answer to Prayer

It is crucial to understand that Gorbachev, still to this day, insists he was trying to preserve the Soviet Union. He wanted a better, kinder, gentler, non-Stalinist Soviet Union, but an intact Soviet Union nonetheless. And yet, by ending the Communist Party monopoly on power, Gorbachev was, whether he knew it or not, edging the Evil Empire closer to its tomb.

Ronald Reagan did know it. On December 5, 1990, a year after the Berlin Wall fell, Reagan spoke in Cambridge, England. There he demonstrated a shrewd understanding of what Gorbachev's taste of freedom would bring. "As is always the case," said Reagan, "once people who have been deprived of basic freedom taste a little of it, they want all of it. It was as if Gorbachev had uncorked a magic bottle and a genie floated out, never to be put back in again. Glasnost was that genie."

Reagan said this a full year before Gorbachev's resignation and the official dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The implosion of atheistic Soviet communism thrilled Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. It was no doubt an answer to prayer.

The Final Meeting

More than a decade earlier, Ronald Reagan had identified John Paul II as "the key." Eight years earlier, the two leaders had met in the Vatican and agreed that their lives had been spared for the purpose of ending Soviet communism. Now, as that Marxist-Leninist empire collapsed, Reagan had the opportunity to reconvene with the pope.

Reporters at the time, and historians since, missed this meeting almost completely.

In September 1990, the former president made a victory lap of sorts, a trip to the former communist world to which he and Pope John Paul II had helped bring liberty.

Reagan embarked on a ten-day, four-country European tour. Fittingly, the trip started at the Berlin Wall. Cameras captured the former president with a hammer in hand, smashing the symbol of cold, dead atheistic communism. "It feels great," he told reporters. "It'll feel better when it's all down." He added: "I don't think you can overstate the importance of it. I was trying to do everything I could for such things as this."

Most press coverage of Reagan's European trip was confined to his visit to the Berlin Wall. As a result, the cameras and microphones were absent for what was perhaps an even more powerful encounter: Reagan's visit with John Paul II at Castel Gandolfo.

Happy Memories

This fifth meeting between Reagan and the pope was the first with Reagan out of power. It was a friendly and personal visit, not a state visit. USA Today was one of the only Western sources to bother reporting on the meeting. It ran only these three sentences: "Former president Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, finished up their European tour by visiting with Pope John Paul II at the papal summer palace outside Rome. The pope ended the 30-minute meeting with the words 'God bless America,' the Vatican said. No other details were released." A UPI report added this: "Vatican sources said Reagan probably told the pope of his favorable impressions of changes in the Soviet Union."

That was pretty much the extent of Western media coverage. But two decades later, in August 2012, I interviewed one of the people who went on the trip with the Reagans. Joanne Drake was longtime personal aide to Mrs. Reagan. Via Drake, I also asked Mrs. Reagan about the visit with the pope. Drake and Mrs. Reagan remembered that the meeting, which only the Reagans and Pope John Paul II attended, took place at 11 a.m. It lasted about an hour.

Mrs. Reagan recalled it as "a warm and wonderful meeting."

The Reagans had just come from Berlin, Warsaw, Gdansk, Leningrad and Moscow, conferring with Lech Walesa and the Gorbachevs, among others. I asked Mrs. Reagan whether her husband and the pontiff celebrated the collapse of communism and all that had transpired over the past year. She recalled that they "did discuss all of these people and places with the pope." But more than two decades later, she simply could not recollect significant details beyond the fact that this was a warm, personal, friendly conversation. She reiterated that she had only happy memories of all their meetings and relationship.

This fifth meeting between Reagan and John Paul II would turn out to be their last. It is a shame that virtually nothing is known or recorded of this meeting, aside from Vatican notes that will remain sealed until 2065.

To God the Glory

We know from Mrs. Reagan that they did discuss the blessed events that had occurred in Europe over the past year. Surely these two men -- Ronald Reagan and his "best friend" -- acknowledged and thanked God for all that had happened since they took bullets more than nine years earlier.

This must have been a poignant moment. If only we knew more, and if only they knew it would be the last time they would see each other.

The Last Laugh

Many Western observers had laughed at Ronald Reagan for calling the Soviet Union an Evil Empire. But high-level Soviet officials confirmed exactly what he said.

But at least the two men knew that they would no longer see the Evil Empire loom over the world. Once the communist collapse came, Russian government officials were eager to finally talk openly about their erstwhile empire. Andrei Kozyrev, President Yeltsin's foreign minister, was quick to explain that it was a mistake to use the name "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics": "It was, rather, [an] evil empire, as it was put."

Arkady Murashev, a young leader in Yeltsin's Russia, told reporter David Remnick: "He [Reagan] called us the 'Evil Empire.' So why did you in the West laugh at him? It's true!"

Sergei Tarasenko, the chief assistant to Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, offered a similar take: "So the president said, 'It is an evil empire!' Okay. Well, we [were] an evil empire."

Genrikh Trofimenko was once director of the prestigious Institute for U.S. and Canada Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He added a slight adjustment to Reagan's description. What was his objection? Reagan's "Evil Empire" label, said Trofimenko, "was probably too mild."

Many Western observers had laughed at Ronald Reagan for calling the Soviet Union an Evil Empire. Or they had reprimanded him for his "primitive" analysis. But high-level Soviet officials confirmed exactly what he said. People also laughed at Reagan when he said that "the march of freedom and democracy" would "leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history."

Just nine years later, he had been proven right. The Cold War was history, and so was Soviet communism. Both were finished -- dispatched to the ash-heap of history.

Australia Weather Bureau Caught Tampering With Climate Numbers

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 12:51

Australian scientists at the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) ordered a review of temperature recording instruments after the government agency was caught tampering with temperature logs in several locations.

Agency officials admit that the problem with instruments recording low temperatures likely happened in several locations throughout Australia, but they refuse to admit to manipulating temperature readings. The BOM located missing logs in Goulburn and the Snow Mountains, both of which are in New South Wales.

Meteorologist Lance Pidgeon watched the 13 degrees Fahrenheit Goulburn recording from July 2 disappear from the bureau's website. The temperature readings fluctuated briefly and then disappeared from the government's website.

"The temperature dropped to minus 10 (13 degrees Fahrenheit), stayed there for some time and then it changed to minus 10.4 (14 degrees Fahrenheit) and then it disappeared," Pidgeon said, adding that he notified scientist Jennifer Marohasy about the problem, who then brought the readings to the attention of the bureau.

The bureau would later restore the original 13 degrees Fahrenheit reading after a brief question and answer session with Marohasy.

"The bureau's quality -control system, designed to filter out spurious low or high values was set at minus 10 minimum for Goulburn which is why the record automatically adjusted," a bureau spokeswoman told reporters Monday. BOM added that there are limits placed on how low temperatures could go in some very cold areas of the country.

Bureaus Chief Executive Andrew Johnson told Australian Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg that the failure to record the low temperatures at Goulburn in early July was due to faulty equipment. A similar failure wiped out a reading of 13 degrees Fahrenheit at Thredbo Top on July 16, even though temperatures at that station have been recorded as low as 5.54 degrees Fahrenheit.

Failure to observe the low temperatures had "been interpreted by a member of the community in such a way as to imply the bureau sought to manipulate the data record," Johnson said, according to The Australian. "I categorically reject this -implication."

Marohasy, for her part, told reporters that Johnson's claims are nearly impossible to believe given that there are screen shots that show the very low temperatures before being "quality assured" out. It could take several weeks before the equipment is eventually tested, reviewed and ready for service, Johnson said.

"I have taken steps to ensure that the hardware at this location is replaced immediately," he added. "To ensure that I have full -assurance on these matters, I have actioned an internal review of our AWS network and associated data quality control processes for temperature observations."

BOM has been put under the microscope before for similar manipulations. The agency was accused in 2014 of tampering with the country's temperature record to make it appear as if temperatures had warmed over the decades, according to reports in August 2014.

Marohasey claimed at the time that BOM's adjusted temperature records are "propaganda" and not science. She analyzed raw temperature data from places across Australia, compared them to BOM data, and found the agency's data created an artificial warming trend.

Marohasey said BOM adjustments changed Aussie temperature records from a slight cooling trend to one of "dramatic warming" over the past century.


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