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Updated: 11 hours 39 min ago

Husband Praises ‘Amazing’ Chick-Fil-A Staff After Wife Gives Birth in Restroom

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 23:54

A man praised the "amazing" Chick-fil-A staff after his wife gave birth in the restroom, he told Fox & Friends Sunday.

Robert Griffin commended the Chick-fil-A staff who helped them after his wife Falon Griffin gave birth to their daughter Gracelyn in a bathroom in one of the company's Texas locations Tuesday night, he said on Fox and Friends.

The couple was heading to a San Antonio hospital when Falon rushed into Chick-fil-A to use the restroom, according to KSAT12. Falon's water broke while in the restroom and she gave birth to her baby standing up over a toilet.

"And Chick-fil-A staff, they were just amazing," Robert said. Chick-Fil-A store director Brenda Enriquez handed the couple towels to help with the delivery. Paramedics then took the mom and baby to recover at the hospital. Gracelyn's birth certificate says "born in Chick-fil-A."

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Gracelyn was promised free Chick-fil-A for life.

"They've guaranteed her a job. They gave her a certificate of a job when she turns 14 or 16. It's all from the owners of that store right here in our little hill country town," Robert said. The franchise owners are planning a Chick-fil-A celebration for Gracelyn's first birthday.

The proud dad also used his "Trump 2020" shirt as a towel to wrap his newborn baby following her delivery, according to his Facebook post.

 

Follow Gabrielle on Twitter. Send tips to gabrielle@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Copyright 2018 Daily Caller News Foundation. 

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

Gala Opens Countdown to 50th Anniversary of 1st Moon Landing

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 23:26

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin was noticeably absent from a gala kicking off a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, even though his nonprofit space education foundation is a sponsor and he typically is the star attraction.

Aldrin said he didn’t attend Saturday’s Apollo Celebration Gala because of objections over the foundation’s current aims and ongoing legal matters associated with the foundation.

The former astronaut is locked in a legal battle with family members who say he is suffering from mental decline. The black-tie event, held under a Saturn V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center, featured a panel discussion by astronauts, an awards ceremony, and an auction of space memorabilia.

Hundreds of people attended the sold-out event, including British physicist Brian Cox, who presented Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson with the ShareSpace Foundation’s Innovation award.

Branson, whose company is developing a new generation of commercial spacecraft, said in a recorded video that the Apollo missions influenced his generation.

“Space is still hard, really hard. It still really matters,” Branson said. “There would be no Virgin Galactic, no Virgin Orbit and no spaceship company had it not been for Apollo astronauts and the thousands of talented people who made their mission possible.”

Dr. Carolyn Williams of the nonprofit From One Hand To AnOTHER received the foundation’s Education award, and former Johnson Space Center director Gerry Griffin, a flight director for all of the crewed Apollo missions, was honored with the Pioneer award.

“It’s very humbling, it kind of came out of the blue,” Griffin said. “It is so neat to know that we’ve passed the torch that will let this next generation take us to this next step.”

That next step, Griffin said, is a return of Americans to the Moon and, eventually, Mars -- something former Apollo astronauts Walt Cunningham, Harrison Schmitt, Rusty Schweickart and Tom Stafford discussed during a conversation with Cox.

“We’re sort of going through a second door here. The door isn’t all the way open -- we haven’t gone all the way through it -- but it’s cracked open,” Schweickart, who flew as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 9, told The Associated Press. “Space is going to be much less expensive to go to, and that’s going to open up not just opportunities for people to fly, but because of the decreased cost, real opportunities for innovators to generate new ideas and to do things that have never been done before.”

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Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation is one of the sponsors of the annual gala, which raises money for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics -- or STEAM education -- and Astronaut Scholarship Foundation scholarships.

Renowned Brazilian pop artist Romero Britto donated artwork from his “Buzz Aldrin Space Series” for the auction, which also included a behind-the-scenes tour of Virgin Galactic in California and autographed space memorabilia. Tickets for the event ranged from $750 to $2,500 per person.

The former astronaut’s expected absence comes just a month after he sued two of his adult children and a former business manager, accusing them of misusing his credit cards, transferring money from an account and slandering him by saying he has dementia. Only weeks before the lawsuit, Andrew and Jan Aldrin filed a petition claiming their 88-year-old father was suffering from memory loss, delusions, paranoia and confusion.

Andrew and Jan Aldrin, as well as business manager Christina Korp, are on the foundation’s board and attended the gala. Aldrin’s oldest son, James, isn’t involved in the legal fight.

Andrew Aldrin acknowledged his father’s absence during the gala.

“We’re sorry dad can’t be here, I know some of you are disappointed,” Aldrin said. “Ultimately, what we’re about is creating the first generation of Martians.”

Buzz Aldrin said in a statement that he didn’t attend the gala “due to the present course of events related to my space initiatives, also current legal matters linked to the ShareSpace Foundation.”

“I formed ShareSpace Foundation in 1998 for the promotion of individual space voyagers,” Aldrin added. “The Foundation is, in my view, now being used to promote quite different objectives.”

Buzz Aldrin, along with Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, was part of the Apollo 11 mission which landed the first two humans on the moon on July 20, 1969.

___

Follow Alex Sanz at https://twitter.com/AlexSanz and Mike Schneider at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

Donald Trump is Literally Worse Than the Bubonic Plague!

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 23:00

Congratulations, Trump haters. You have accomplished what was long thought impossible. Like breaking the speed of light. Like making 2 +2 equal 5. Like making chocolate better for you than broccoli.

You have managed to out-hyperbole Donald J. Trump.

For Trump every deal is the worst deal ever. Each bit of economic news is the greatest economic advancement ever. Every new critic is horrible. Every new event is huuuuuge. An exaggerator? He won honorary membership in the Fishermen’s Hall of Fame. His every utterance is inflated like a teen’s praise for Taylor Swift’s latest. Hype is as much a part of his make up as that hair.

And yet … and yet. His critics make Trump sound as reserved and stoic as a Finnish night watchman. As a golf announcer on Xanax.

A Press Conference Gets Compared to 9/11? Pearl Harbor?

Take the reaction this week to Donald Trump’s press conference with Vladimir Putin. I don’t say the “summit” because nobody knows what really went on in the actual summit. I wrote about the initial hysteria, but things grew even worse.

Take Rep. Eric “I’m Not a Congressman But I Play One on Capital Hill” Swalwell of California. He called Trump “Prime Minister of Russia.”

Take Jill Wine-Banks … please. She went on MSNBC, and declared the press conference the equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis. History buffs will remember that the Missile Crisis left us one wrong move away from ending the entire planet.

But that wasn’t enough. Wine-Banks sent the hype into hyper-speed, comparing Trump’s Helsinki remarks -- his words -- to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor.

It is nearly impossible to describe the grotesqueness of that declaration. On 9/11 we saw more than 3,000 people perish. They burned to death. Some leaped from buildings to escape the flames. Hundreds of heroes got pulverized into dust. A group of brave citizens nosedove a plane into the ground at hundreds of miles an hour to save the lives of others. Terrified staffers at the White House and Congress fled the streets of the Nation’s Capital, convinced the next plane was targeting them. Pentagon workers tried to reach colleagues as the latter burned alive. Survivors are still haunted by their screams. It ignited a war in Afghanistan that still claims American lives today.

Ask the families of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz and Cpl. Joseph Maciel, killed in action in recent days in Afghanistan. Ask them if burying their loved ones is like listening to Trump misspeak on the subject of how much he trusts the FBI and CIA.

There are no words.

Pearl Harbor? Nearly 3,000 servicemen and women died. Tens of thousands more would die fighting in the Pacific. In a brutal, slogging war that would not end until we dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.

Think of it. Picture the carnage at Pearl. Those burning in the oil-soaked harbor. Those entombed alive in their sinking ships. Imagine the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then the suffering of those who survived the blast only to rot away from radiation poisoning.

Then picture the Trump Putin press conference. A stinking press conference! And ask “Is there any shame left?”

Treason, Treason, Treason … Traitor Traitor Traitor

All week long we heard the cry of “Treason! Treason! Treason! Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!”

USA Today reported in a front-page story those calling Trump a “traitor.” The New York Daily News screamed “OPEN TREASON" on its cover page.

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What grieves me is the cankered, cynical souls of those throwing those words around. Clearly, they’re not motivated by love of country, but of retweets. By an unhinged loathing of the current president. Or feigned loathing. You don’t get return gigs on MSNBC or CNN by saying, “Let’s speak rationally.” (Or reminding their viewers it was Obama who repeatedly mocked the notion of Russia being a threat and took no steps to stop the election meddling.)

Calling for anything less than the personal and physical destruction of Donald Trump gets you drummed out of the liberal cult.

Problem is, those drums sound familiar.

This is the poster someone had plastered around Dallas on November 22, 1963.

“Sic Semper Tyrannis!” -- Thus always to tyrants.

That’s what John Wilkes Booth shouted just after putting a bullet in President Lincoln’s head.

Booth was convinced he would be cheered as a hero. And history’s dirty little secret? Given much of the media coverage of Lincoln leading up to the assassination, Booth had good reason to think so.

The MSM and the Congressional Camera Hogs are playing for ratings and retweets. But they are playing with fire. Pray for the safety of the President. His life is in danger. And that is no hype.

  Al Perrotta is the Managing Editor of The Stream and co-author of the new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration. You can follow him on Twitter at @StreamingAl.

‘She Hates Me’: Evangelicals Reveal to WaPo Why They Jumped Onboard the Trump Train

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 22:02

The Washington Post asked locals at a southern Baptist church in Alabama why they voted for President Donald Trump despite that the former reality TV star's conduct. Their answer was short and to the point.

Members of the First Baptist church of Luverne, Alabama say former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign for president was a no-go for them, according to a report Saturday from WaPo.

"She hates me," Terry Drew, a member of the church, said of Clinton, who lost Alabama by almost 700,000 votes.

"She has contempt for people like me, and Clay, and people who love God and believe in the Second Amendment. I think if she had her way it would be a dangerous country for the likes of me," he said, referring to people like the church's pastor, Clay Crum. Trump has demonstrated a willingness to hang tough with Christians, Drew said.

Drew weighed Trump's character with what he thought is Clinton's willingness to destroy his way of life. The choice was clear, he told WaPo reporters, who attended one of Crum's sermons to get a lay of the land. Trump's "going to stick to me," while Clinton will look the other way, Drew added.

"I hate it," he acknowledged. "My wife and I talk about it all the time. We rationalize the immoral things away. We don't like it, but we look at the alternative, and think it could be worse than this."

Other members of the church shared similar sentiment.

Jan Carter, another parishioner, said supporting Trump was the only moral thing to do.

"You can say righteously I do not support him because of his moral character but you are washing your hands of what is happening in this country," she said, adding that America is slipping toward "a civil war on our shores."

Crum, for his part, said supporting Trump is not easy, especially when the president does not demonstrate a keen understanding of Biblical law.

"There are times when Christians have to stand up," he said.

Trump is an immoral person doing what Crum considers moral: nominating conservative judges and pushing anti-abortion policies. The president's victory over Clinton convinced Crum and other members of something else, too. "It encouraged them that we do still have some political power in this country," said Crum.

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Recent polls suggest that Crum's sentiment is prevalent in other states that tilted heavily toward Trump.

More than 6o percent of South Carolina Republicans said Trump was moral in a Winthop University poll conducted in April. Only 51 percent of evangelicals said that term was "somewhat" inaccurate in describing the president.

"The fact that fewer than half of evangelicals overall would describe Trump as 'godly' or 'moral' suggests that his strength with these groups comes not from modeling pious behavior, but from them viewing him as a bulwark against a culture that they feel is increasingly hostile to them," Winthrop Poll director Scott Huffmon said in the poll.

Follow Chris White on Facebook and Twitter

Copyright 2018 Daily Caller News Foundation

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

The Clinton State Dept. Major Security Breach Everyone is Ignoring

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 21:43

Peter Strzok's testimony about the email server scandal involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised headlines because of his defiant, disrespectful, and unapologetic attitude about the bias revealed in his text messages that permeated his work at the FBI.

Then, there was the verbal combat between him, Republican members of the two committees holding the joint hearing, and Democratic members who were running interference for Strzok and acting as his defense counsel.

The news media jumped on an exchange in which Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, asked Strzok if he lied to his wife about his affair with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page in the same way as he was in testifying to Congress. That was too much for the Democrats and the media, who leaped to Strzok's defense.

The Real Story Was Missed

The media, however, virtually ignored another exchange between Gohmert and Strzok that revealed a potential bombshell. Gohmert asked Strzok about his meeting in 2016 with Frank Rucker and Janette McMillan, an investigator and lawyer, respectively, for then-Intelligence Community Inspector General Chuck McCullough (an Obama appointee).

McCullough sent them to see Strzok, who was the FBI's deputy assistant director for the Counterintelligence Division, to brief him and three other FBI personnel about an "anomaly" that their forensic analysis had found in Clinton's server.

According to Gohmert, the IG discovered that, with four exceptions, "every single one" of Clinton's emails--more than 30,000--"were going to an address that was not on the distribution list."

In other words, according to the information Gohmert received from the intelligence inspector general, something was causing Clinton's server to send copies of all of her email communications outside of the country "to an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia."

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If true, this means that Clinton's email communication with her top aides, department leadership, ambassadors, and other officials, including President Barack Obama, may have been read by an alien entity, perhaps a foreign power hostile to the United States. That could include confidential, sensitive, and even classified information about our foreign policy or our allies.

Gohmert's exchange with Strzok doesn't reveal who the foreign entity is, but if not the Russians, the likely culprit is the Chinese government, which has a special unit of hackers within its military that has long targeted the U.S.

Our intelligence agencies have identified the Chinese as responsible for the biggest data breach to ever hit the federal government, the 2015 hack of the Office of Personnel Management that stole the files, including security-clearance applications, of 21 million current and former federal employees.

How Strzok Should Have Responded

Here is how Strzok should have responded to Gohmert's question about the briefing that Strzok received from the intelligence inspector general's staff:

As the FBI's lead counterintelligence agent, I understood that this  was a major security breach, with widespread implications over the disclosure of sensitive and classified communications.

I immediately implemented protocols to investigate the extent of the problem; to notify all agencies and government officials whose communications had been compromised; to assess the damage that may have been done to specific operations, assets, programs, and personnel; and to prepare recommendations on how to remedy the problems caused by this disclosure.

Unfortunately, Strzok actually said that while he did "remember meeting Mr. Rucker on either one or two occasions," he did not "recall the specific content or discussions."

In other words, the FBI's main counterintelligence director doesn't remember being told that the secretary of state (his preferred candidate for president) had a breach in her computer system that forwarded all of her internal communications -- including emails containing classified information -- to a foreign entity.

Since he claimed not to remember being told about something that serious, he obviously did nothing about it.

Which Scenario is More Likely True?

The question is which of two scenarios is more likely true. Either (1.) Strzok was completely incompetent, or (2.) his pro-Clinton bias displayed in the thousands of text messages between him and Page caused him to downplay this security issue and ignore it, because it could hurt his favored presidential candidate if it came to light.

Strzok's anti-Trump, pro-Clinton bias was overwhelming. The texts between him and Page are direct and damning evidence in and of themselves. But there is more. His body language and attitude during the hearing also showed bias against Trump and for Clinton.

His lack of prudent action as an agent when he was briefed about this massive security breach suggests that he may have abandoned his role as a law enforcement officer, and skewed the results of a politically sensitive investigation to serve his own political leanings.

Horowitz Never Returned the Call

One of the other disturbing bits of information that came out of this exchange was that, according to Gohmert, the office of the intelligence inspector general called Michael Horowitz, the inspector general of the Department of Justice, "four times" because they wanted to brief Horowitz about this forensic analysis and this security breach. But, according to Gohmert, Horowitz "never returned the call."

According to Horowitz's recent report on the Clinton email server investigation, the FBI "did not find evidence confirming that Clinton's email server systems were compromised by cyber means," but they could not definitively determine that her servers had not been compromised.

Obviously, if the Intelligence inspector general has information to the contrary, that would be significant.

If this is true, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the intelligence inspector general have an obligation to disclose to the public and to lawmakers the foreign entity that hacked into Clinton's server and received all of those communications.

That disclosure would be similar to the way they revealed that it was the Russians who hacked into the Democratic National Committee and Clinton's campaign.

They also need to disclose what steps have been taken to investigate the extent and depth of the problems caused by this potential security breach.

And those in the political arena who have been painting Strzok as some kind of hero who deserves a Purple Heart need to stop insulting our intelligence and our veterans.

If this is an example of how Strzok did his job, he should have been fired long ago, and he is certainly no hero.

 

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

‘Deep Fake’ Technology is a Threat to National Security, Politics and the Media, Says Marco Rubio

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 16:00

Sen. Marco Rubio says so-called "deep fakes"--the ability to use artificial intelligence video tools to swap a person's face on another person's body, with little indication of manipulation--is a threat to national security.

"One of the ironies of the 21st century is that technology has made it cheaper than ever to do that ... . In the old days, if you wanted to threaten the United States, you needed 10 aircraft carriers, and nuclear weapons, and long-range missiles," the Florida Republican said in a speech Thursday at The Heritage Foundation about the danger of deep fakes, the ability to manipulate audio and video of real people to have them do or say things they never said or did.

"Today, you just need access to our internet system, to our banking system, to our electrical grid and infrastructure, and increasingly, all you need is the ability to produce a very realistic fake video that could undermine our elections, that could throw our country into tremendous crisis internally and weaken us deeply," Rubio said.

The New York Times reported that "a community of hobbyists has begun experimenting with more powerful tools, including FakeApp--a program that was built by an anonymous developer using open-source software written by Google."

The app, easy to use and free of charge, allows ordinary people to make seamless face swaps and could be used to harm the character of public figures, to frame people for crimes, or to create so-called "revenge porn," The New York Times reported.

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Rubio said that deep fakes, while a threat to the U.S. as a whole, pose a particular threat to the American political system and the media.

"The vast majority of people watching that image on television are going to believe it, and if that happens two days before an election, or a night before an election, it could influence the outcome of your race," he said. "The capability to do that exists now, and a culture that would perpetuate and instinctively believe that stuff exists now, because the nature of our political coverage today is driven by conflict."

The Florida senator, who was a contender in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, said it is likely that nations that want to do the U.S. harm could use the deep fake technology to destabilize the U.S.

"This all sounds fantastic. It all sounds exaggerated. It all sounds hyperbolic, but the capability to do this is real. It exists now. The willingness exists now. All that is missing is the execution, and we are not ready for it," Rubio said.

"We are not ready for it, not as a people, not as a political branch, not as a media, not as a country. We are not ready for this threat. Maybe it will be Russia. They are the likeliest culprit, but it could be anybody," he said.

In remarks to reporters Tuesday at the White House, the Associated Press reported, President Donald Trump said he accepts the findings of his intelligence officials on Russia's meddling during the 2016 election, walking back a comment he made Monday during his press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

At the press conference, Trump appeared to fault both sides.

Rubio says he's certain Russia played a role in interfering with the 2016 election, and said that America must be ready for similar and even increasing interference in the future.

I know for a fact that the Russian Federation at the command of Vladimir Putin tried to sow instability and chaos in American politics in 2016; not necessarily, as some might report, for purposes of electing one candidate over another, but the primary goal was to ensure that the next president of the United States, whoever won, would be facing a cloud of controversy for weeks and years to come in order to weaken them and to weaken us.

While Rubio said he does not have all the answers to address this newest threat to America's security, he said the country must always remain on the offensive.

"I know awareness is part of it. I know educating people, including producers and editors, but also political figures and others, about this capacity, is important," he said of the deep fake threat. "I know that one of the answers is just that this threat exists and from it, we can talk about how we can balance the right to privacy, free speech, and all the other things that come with our constitutional protections, with our obligation to protect our country ... our Constitution, and our republic."

 

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

Loneliness is Real. But Christ Offers Hope … and an Example

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 14:00

"The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me."

Sounds like something a senior citizen living hand-to-mouth might say, right?

Maybe. But when Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway -- beautiful, wealthy, and famous -- said that a few years ago, it's safe to guess she wasn't any too content. 

Sadly, her feelings reflect a growing trend in our culture. A survey of 20,000 Americans, released in May by CIGNA, found that almost "half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent)."

The loneliest are not the neglected elderly in nursing homes or aged shut-ins. "Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations," the CIGNA survey shows.

Why are We More Lonely Than Ever

Why? We are busier than ever, with more conveniences and "toys" and opportunities than any people at any time. Shopping malls, concerts, restaurants, movies, clubs of all kinds are available to the great bulk of people.

None of these things go to the heart. They occupy but don't fulfill. Moments of enjoyment and a deep sense of well-being are different things.

Social media don't help. While the various platforms can be good ways to stay connected, they are no substitute for being with someone, making eye contact or hearing a laugh or seeing a frown. And you can't get a hug from a smartphone.

A recent British study of the effects of social media use found some alarming trends:

"Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol." "Rates of anxiety and depression in young people have risen 70 percent in the past 25 years." "Social media use is linked with increased rates of anxiety, depression and poor sleep."

Then there are such things as family breakup. When moms and dads reject each other, they're also rejecting joint parenting of their children. Kids need married parents -- a mom and a dad -- to gain the highest levels of emotional, physical, social, and intellectual health.  

There are some cases where, due to adultery, abuse, or abandonment, legal separation or divorce are needed. But in the era of "no-fault" divorce, those cases are more the exception than the rule.

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Pornography also puts barriers between the richness of marital intimacy and a debasing obsession with online immorality. Dr. Gary Brooks, a psychologist with three decades of helping people addicted to pornography says, "Any time (a person) spends much time with the usual pornography usage cycle, it can't help but be a depressing, demeaning, self-loathing kind of experience."

Shyness, fear of rejection, and actual rejection all play roles, as well. Being bullied or denied entry into a clique of friends can be devastating.

Serving Those With Lonely, Broken Hearts

This is where mature Christians in the body of Christ come in. They need to notice people who are on the downside of friendship and draw them in. That might come at a cost in time, emotional energy, or even other relationships. But serving those with broken hearts is what the Savior did, day in and day out.  We are to imitate Him.

Some people who suffer from depression and the pain of loneliness might need medical help. If you have a broken leg, you get it treated by a doctor.  If your brain is malfunctioning, don't "gut it out" or think that through prayer alone you can heal a physical condition. Get checked out. Get medicine if you need it. And get Christian counseling along with the medicine.

Parents: Your kids don't need to live their lives with thumbs and screens. Be prepared for a fit (and for some more faint-of-heart than others, gird up your loins for adult-child conflict), but putting your son or daughter on a social media "fast" might be the biggest favor you can do them.  Reducing their electronic cravings will foster creativity, conversation, and that greatest social blessing of all, actual time with their family and friends.

Imagine Jesus

Finally, those Christians who feel alone and isolated should consider Jesus. The Messiah was He was "despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," and was "as one from whom men hide their faces" (Isaiah 53:3).

"Imagine what his childhood was like," writes Jon Bloom. "He would have been odd, sticking out morally like a sore thumb, never quite fitting in with any group, even his own family.  Even his loving parents wouldn't have fully understood him. Nor would they have been able to protect him from others' stinging remarks and maybe cruel mocking over his unsullied strangeness."

On the cross, the Father turned His back on the eternal Son. Pure and eternal love they shared was shattered as Jesus became sin for us (II Corinthians 5:21). Jesus is near to the grieving, the lonely, the sad. You can open your heart to Him, knowing He understands. The Light of the world offers the hope for which the loneliest long, whatever one's age or condition. 

"I am with you always," said Jesus to His disciples, "even to the end of the ages" (Matthew 28:20). That's as true now for all who call on Him, whether an Anne Hathaway or someone living in the most obscure hut in the most remote village on earth.

Israel Evacuates Syrian ‘White Hat’ Volunteers Stranded on the Golan Heights

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 13:01

JERUSALEM (AP) --The Israeli military evacuated hundreds of Syrian rescue workers known as White Helmets from the volatile frontier area on the Golan Heights and transported them to Jordan, following a request by the United States and its European allies, officials said Sunday.

It was the first such Israeli intervention in Syria’s lengthy civil war, now in its eight year.

Jordan confirmed the Syrian citizens entered its territory to be resettled in Western countries in weeks. Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the total number of evacuees was 422, even though the initial request was to evacuate 800. It was unclear what happened to the remainder.

Safadi later tweeted that Jordan approved the evacuations after a pledge from Britain, Germany and Canada that the Syrian evacuees would be resettled in three months.

The White Helmets and their families had been stranded along the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights following the Syrian government offensive in southwestern Syria which began in June.

The group, which operates in opposition-held areas, is often targeted in Syrian government attacks on its members and facilities. The Syrian government considers the group a “terrorist” organization because it works in areas controlled by its opponents, where state institutions and services are non-existent.

The Israeli military said the overnight operation was an “exceptional humanitarian gesture” done at the request of the United States and its European allies due to “an immediate threat to the (Syrians’) lives.”

The military said its actions did not reflect a change to Israel’s non-intervention policy in Syria’s war, where all the warring parties are considered hostile.

The British International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Syrian volunteers and their family “have been able to leave Syria for safety” following a joint diplomatic effort by Britain and its international partners.

“The White Helmets have saved over 115,000 lives during the Syrian conflict, at great risk to their own,” the two officials said in a statement Sunday. “We judged that, in these particular circumstances, the volunteers required immediate protection. ”

The evacuees are being assisted by the U.N. refugee agency in Jordan, pending international resettlement, they said.

Jordanian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Mohammed al-Kayed said the Syrians would remain in a closed area in Jordan for three months before moving on to Britain, Germany and Canada.

Raed Saleh, head of the Syrian Civil Defense as the White Helmets are also known, said a number of volunteers and their families were evacuated from a dangerous, besieged area and had reached Jordan. He did not elaborate on the numbers of those evacuated.

The Syrian government and Russia view the White Helmets as “agents” of foreign powers and have regularly accused them of staging rescue missions or chemical attacks. Syrian state TV Al-Ikhbariya reported the Israeli evacuation of the White Helmets, calling it a “scandal” and saying “terrorist groups” now have “zero options.”

The Associated Press first reported on Friday that U.S. officials were finalizing plans to evacuate several hundred Syrian civil defense workers and their families from southwest Syria as Russian-backed government forces closed in on the Quneitra province, along the Golan Heights frontier.

The officials said the White Helmets, who have enjoyed backing from the United States and other Western nations for years, were likely to be targeted by Syrian forces as they retook control of the southwest. Evacuation plans were accelerated after last week’s NATO summit in Brussels.

Since the Syrian government offensive began in June, the area along the frontier in the Golan Heights has been the safest in the southwestern region, attracting hundreds of displaced because of its location along the disengagement line with Israel, demarcated in 1974 after a war. Israel has occupied the Golan Heights since 1967. Thousands of civilians had taken shelter near the frontier to escape the government offensive.

The Syrian government is unlikely to fire there or carry out airstrikes for fear of an Israeli response.

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Meanwhile, Syrian forces kept up their offensive, pounding the southern tip of the southwestern region where an Islamic State-affiliated group still holds territory.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the bombing -- 130 airstrikes since Saturday -- displaced 20,000 civilians while an estimated 10,000 remain trapped in the area controlled by the militants, with their fate unknown.

Over the last month, Syrian government forces aided by Russian air power have swept through southwestern Syria to consolidate government control over this strategic corner of the country that straddles the border with Jordan and the frontier with Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

With its new advances, government forces are, for the first time since the civil war began in 2011, retaking this territory from the rebels and restoring their positions along the disengagement line in the Golan Heights.

Since the offensive began, Jordan said it will not open its borders to the newly displaced Syrians. Jordan hosts at least 650,000 registered Syrian refugees, according to the U.N., but Amman says a similar number of undocumented Syrians are also in the kingdom.

During the latest Syrian government offensive, which began on June 19, around 300,000 Syrians have been displaced, heading toward the sealed Israeli and Jordanian borders in what the U.N. said was the largest single displacement since the Syrian civil war started in 2011.

Some Syrians have opted to be evacuated to northern Idlib province, where the opposition still holds territory. Thousands of armed men and their families were evacuated over the weekend. The Observatory said two buses carrying evacuees were held up by a pro-Syrian government militia, apparently after they went off road.

Panicked passengers, fearing for their lives, posted pictures of the militia surrounding their buses on social media.

Israel has been sending aid into Syria for several years and has provided medical treatment to thousands of Syrians who reached the Golan Heights frontier. In the past two years, the Israeli military says it has delivered more than 1,500 tons of food, 250 tons of clothing and nearly a million liters of fuel.

The Israeli military said it will continue to aid those in need but won’t allow a massive influx of refugees into the country.

___

El Deeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Fares Akram and Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.

 

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

Black Millennials More Likely to Be Religious Than Other Millenials

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 11:56

Black millennials are more likely to be religious than other millennial racial groups, according to a June 20 Pew Research Center study.

Black millennials are significantly more likely to be "absolutely certain god exists" at 75 percent. Under half of millennials who weren't black were not certain of God's existence at 48 percent, according to the study.

Over half - 61 percent - of black millennials pray daily. Only 39 percent who aren't black pray daily. And 38 percent of black millennials "attend religious services weekly or more", compared to just a quarter of millennials of other races.

Still, black millennials are less religious than older black Americans; 64 percent are overall "highly religious" compared with 83 percent of older black Americans. The greatest difference between them is their use of meditation - 60 percent of older black Americans meditate, compared to 37 percent of black millennials.

Black millennials may be narrowing the religious income gap. Of Americans who have a household income of less than 30 percent per year, 58 percent say religion is "very important," according to a 2014 Pew study. For those who make $100,00 a year, that number shrinks to 42 percent.

Adults with a household income of less than $30,000 are 15 percentage points more likely to pray "at least daily" than households with $100,000 or more - 60 to 45 percent.

But Black American employment is on the rise. The unemployment rate for white Americans was 3.5 percent in June, compared to 6.5 percent for black Americans, a three percent difference.

That difference has been steadily narrowing since 2010, according to data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve. While wage gaps remain, the decreasing unemployment gap could help get black Americans' average income up compared to white Americans.

 

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UK Faces Calls to Liberalized Northern Ireland Abortion Laws

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 11:44

LONDON (AP) -- The British government is facing rising calls to liberalize abortion laws in Northern Ireland.

More than 170 politicians called Sunday for action to be taken. The group included legislators from political parties in Britain, Ireland and Northern Ireland. They sent a letter to the Sunday Times to urge Britain to repeal the 19th- century laws that make it a crime to seek an abortion in Northern Ireland.

They say nearly 1,000 women and girls from Northern Ireland traveled to the British mainland last year to get abortions while others took illegal abortion drugs at home.

The Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in May to ease its abortion laws, but that vote does not affect Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland’s power-sharing assembly is not operating, leaving the British government in control.

 

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

Missionaries Left Gospel Message on the Field at World Cup

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 11:33

Perseverance in the face of the impossible is a message preached both in church and on the soccer field. But how often do the two meet on that field?

Consider the World Cup frenzy of the past month. Soccer found its way into the hearts of the most passionate fans alongside those who haven't kicked a ball in years.

And perhaps that camaraderie is just what Christianity in Russia needed to kick start a revival that rises above oppression. Christianity in Russia currently faces repression. The 2016 Yarovaya Law bans Christians from evangelizing outside of government-approved churches. Current regulations means arrest, criminal prosecution and even deportment. 

Yet something incredible occurred during the FIFA World Cup 2018. Something which Russia hasn't seen in years.

Evangelization in the Heart of the Motherland

Mission Eurasia used the World Cup as a method of evangelization, reported FaithWire. Throughout the four weeks of the tournament, missionaries went out into the cities and spread the Gospel.

The Illinois-based organization paired with local churches to screen the matches in nearly 400 locations across 50 cities in Russia. At the viewing parties, they also hosted youth soccer competitions and passed out literature promoting the Gospel. An estimated 10,000 people attended these screenings. Yet close to 500,000 felt the impact.

Mission Eurasia passed out half a million items during World Cup. These varied from full Bibles to "specially designed Scripture resources," says Mission Eurasia’s president Sergey Rakhuba.

Opportunities and Seeds Planted

Similarly, the missionaries in Russia during the World Cup brought a message of unity and love. This led to many unforeseen opportunities. A flash mob of preaching touched many in Red Square. Missionaries from South Africa led an altar call. Others shared the Gospel with locals after games.

The Mission Eurasia teams met very little resistance, reported Christian Today. A few local authorities gave warnings, but took no real action. One team was briefly detained and their literature confiscated, but they experienced no personal harm.

"Many Christians have found a new courage and boldness for sharing their faith," said Pavel Tokarchuk, director of Mission Eurasia's Russia office."We are praying they will continue to be encouraged to spread the good news."

God is using the perseverance and fearlessness of teams like these to open doors and change lives. Russia will see the fruit of their efforts long after the World Cup cheers fall silent.

Meanwhile Over in Egypt

While soccer has proven to be the ignition driving community in many places, it can also be a cause for division.

Christian discrimination and persecution is a very real threat in many of the countries represented at the World Cup, according to OpenDoors. Sports, which should bring people together, sometimes serve as a UV light to illuminate ugly stains beneath the surface.

Take Egypt. Soccer dreams there are easily thwarted by prejudice. One former player is working to change that. Twenty-two-year-old Mena El Bendary, a Coptic Christian in the Muslim nation faced prejudice in the sport because of his faith. The Cairo Scene reported how he was asked to change his name, which reflects his Coptic background. Like many young Coptic players, Bendary left his team shortly after.

But he hasn’t quit the sport. Instead Bendary has stepped up to the challenge of using soccer to beat discrimination. He left his playing ambitions behind and started his own soccer academy in Alexandria. There, he trains over 300 younger players.

Though Bendary formed the academy for rejected Copts, it now fosters community between Copts and Muslims. The academy emphasizes unity and shared experiences above differences.

You can say that is a noble “goal.”

 

Why We Need the Wise Counsel of Good Friends

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 09:00

Not long ago a good friend of mine came over to enjoy some warm spring weather. As the evening drew to its close, my friend helped put everything away, and was soon off. I turned to look at my whiskey glass, which I thought had plenty of liquor left -- it was empty, its contents poured down the drain.

I realized what my friend had done. He figured I had reached my limit, and had disposed of the liquor before it could cause me harm. Momentarily annoyed, I checked myself and thanked God for this friend, a true gentleman, who possessed the virtue and integrity to quietly, yet determinedly, take action to help me avoid sin. These are the kinds of friends we need: friends whose wisdom, spiritual maturity and virtue challenge us.

Wisdom

We need wise friends. I've been blessed with developing friendships with those wiser than myself, often unintentionally. When I met my best friend the second week of college, I had no idea that a religiously indifferent pre-med student would eight years later be my intellectual guide into the Catholic Church. I owe this friend, in a very real sense, my life.

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We may be tempted to enjoy the feeling of thinking ourselves the wisest among our peers. Yet when we need guidance or advice, where will we turn? Throughout the Bible, wise, capable men of God advised kings -- consider Joseph in Egypt or Daniel in Babylon. Wiser friends not only elevate our own intellect, they save us from foolish choices. Despite their many failings, the Apostles had Jesus. They preserved enough of the wisdom of their greatest friend to be the early Church's wise men.

Spiritual Maturity

We also need exemplars of spiritual maturity. Not long ago, I wrote an article critical of a Christian social media celebrity. It elicited a response on her YouTube channel, which has been viewed tens of thousands of times. I was tempted to "up the ante" and pick apart all her errors and inconsistencies. Yet several close friends urged caution. They suggested that my pugilistic tendencies could cause unhelpful strife among Christians. Moreover, they reminded me, this celebrity was sincere, serious about her faith and even willing to accept some of my criticisms.

The safer route, my friends urged me, was caution, prayer and a humble acceptance of the ad hominems launched at me by her fans. I took their advice.

He who walks with wise men becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. -- Proverbs 13:20

Surrounding yourself with sophomoric friends is a recipe for disaster. Solomon's son, Rehoboam, inherited the kingdom of Israel at the peak of its political power. 2 Chronicles 10 tells us, "he forsook the counsel the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him."

He didn't lighten the load of the Israelites, who had suffered hard labor at the hands of Solomon. On the advice of his buddies, he doubled down instead: "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." The result was a rebellion that tore the kingdom in two. If we allow ourselves to be influenced by immature friends, we will likewise find our lives torn apart.

Virtue

We also need friends whose virtue will challenge us to be saints. My friend who ensured I didn't drink more than I should is an easy illustration of this. St. Basil of Caesarea and St. Gregory Nazianzus, two fourth-century Church Fathers known for their deep theological reflections and devotion to orthodoxy, provide another example. They enjoyed an intimate life-long friendship, so much so that Gregory wrote of Basil,

Then not only did I feel full veneration for my great Basil because of the seriousness of his morals and the maturity and wisdom of his speeches, but he induced others who did not yet know him to be like him. ... The same eagerness for knowledge motivated us. ... This was our competition: not who was first but who allowed the other to be first. It seemed as if we had one soul in two bodies.

Their mutual love for Christ gave them the substance of a deep spiritual friendship. The two men sought each other out precisely because of that desire to grow in faith. If we seek the same passion for godliness in our friendships, the results will transform our lives.

Friendships Change Us Forever

The widely-hailed Russian novel Laurus tells of a departing exchange between two close friends, a Russian Orthodox holy man and a Catholic friar. The Russian slaps his Roman comrade on the back and says:

You know, O friend, any meeting is surely more than parting. There is emptiness before meeting someone, just nothing, but there is no longer emptiness after parting. After having met someone once, it is impossible to part completely. A person remains in the memory, as a part of the memory. The person created that part and that part lives, sometimes coming into contact with its creator. Otherwise, how would we sense those dear to us from a distance?

This is what I look for in friendships: a deep, lasting bond of spiritual communion that changes me, leaving an indelible imprint that makes me wiser, more mature and ultimately holier. This is humbling, but it is essential. As Christians, we already have the greatest example in our Savior. Indeed, he is our first and greatest friend, one who will never leave or forsake us. As Christ Himself declares to his disciples, "I have called you friends" (John 15:15).

Military Photo of the Day: Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 07:00

Vietnam War 1970 – Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord.

The Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord was a 23-day battle between elements of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division and two reinforced divisions of the North Vietnamese Army from July 1, 1970 until July 23, 1970. It was the last major confrontation between United States ground forces and North Vietnam of the Vietnam War. Three Medals of Honor and six Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded to participants for actions during the operations.

 

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California Gains a Mere 800 Jobs in June as Economists Search for Answers

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 23:18

California gained a few hundred jobs in June, a number representing a significant pullback from May and April, according to data released Friday from the state's Employment Development Department.

The state produced a mere 800 jobs in June as economists worry President Donald Trump's trade tariffs are having an effect in California. The state added 7,200 jobs in May and 26,000 in April. Economists are at pains to explain the drop off in payroll.

June's disappointing figures "warrant attention" but are not cause for "undue alarm at this point," Lynn Reaser, chief economist of the Fermanian Business and Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University, told reporters at the Los Angeles Times. "June's weak performance could be temporary," she added.

Four of California's largest industries made payroll gains in June. The education and health services sector gained 8,000 jobs, with the information sector following close behind. Tech companies and Hollywood studios and grew by 4,600 jobs.

Michael Bernick, an attorney with Duane Morris and a former director of the Employment Development Department, believes the slowdown was bound to happen sooner or later.

California's economy remains healthy despite the poor numbers, he noted, adding that federal trade policy could hamper further job growth. "A widening trade war is the main threat to California's continued employment expansion," Bernick said. Sky high taxes and prices are also hurting the state's economics.

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California's high housing prices and rising gas prices are driving away what remains of the state's low-income citizens. Those migrating from the coastal state are making way for places like Las Vegas and Arizona, where housing prices are relatively cheap compared to California.

The state saw a loss of more than 138,000 people over a 12-month period, according to a CNBC report in March, while Texas experienced an uptick of over 79,000 people. Arizona and Nevada, meanwhile, gained more than 63,000 and 38,000 residents, respectively. California's extraordinarily high gas taxes are another reason for the mass exodus.

 

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Federal Court Hands Trump a Win, Brings Rogue Agency Under Tighter Control

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 23:11

"You're fired."

President Donald Trump will soon be able to use his famous catch phrase against the head of a troubled federal agency, the Fair Housing Finance Agency, which is led by a single Obama appointee with no meaningful oversight from the president.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the agency's structure is unconstitutional.

In Collins v. Mnuchin, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit issued a per curiam opinion holding that Congress unconstitutionally "insulated the [Fair Housing Finance Agency] to the point where the executive branch cannot control the [agency] or hold it accountable."

The judges sent the case back to the district court, ordering it to strike down a statutory limit (in 12 U.S.C. ? 4512(b)(2)) on the president's power to remove the agency's director.

This is an important decision for our government's separation of powers and for keeping the executive branch agencies accountable to the president.

An Unaccountable Agency

In the wake of the housing market collapse, Congress created the Fair Housing Finance Agency as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, hoping it would rehabilitate two government-sponsored entities that had become insolvent: the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, more commonly known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Congress designed the Fair Housing Finance Agency to be a politically independent entity empowered to create and enforce rules, while also overseeing operations at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and nursing them back to financial health.

But Congress also adopted some specific provisions that made the agency partisan and unaccountable to the president -- unconstitutionally so, according to the 5th Circuit's opinion.

Specifically, Congress authorized the president to appoint a single agency director for a five-year term who picks three deputy directors, and who would be removable by the president only "for cause."

The Fair Housing Finance Agency does not get its money through the normal appropriations process, as other agencies typically do. Instead, it receives its operating expenses through an annual assessment of its "regulated entities."

Moreover, its director takes only advice, not orders, from the president and two of his Cabinet members who sit on an advisory board -- the secretary of the treasury and the secretary of housing and urban development.

All of this leaves the director too independent from executive oversight.

The Lawsuit

Under the Fair Housing Finance Act's care, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reached "sustainable profitability" as early as May 2012 and were required to begin gradually repaying the government bailout they had received to the Treasury Department.

But soon after they showed profits, the Treasury Department demanded they pay 100 percent of their profits, in perpetuity.

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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may have government charters, but they also have private shareholders, and several of them sued the Fair Housing Finance Agency, its director, the Treasury Department, and its secretary, claiming that the government caused them financial harm by taking (literally) all of the value of their shares.

The plaintiffs argued that the structure of the Fair Housing Finance Agency "undermines the separation of powers" because "the executive branch cannot adequately control the agency," and challenged "the cumulative effect of Congress's agency-design decisions."

The court agreed, concluding that even if it rectified the government's so-called "net worth sweep," the agency could not properly regulate the plaintiffs or any other entity because it is "an unconstitutionally constituted body."

Congress vs. the President

In its decision, the court noted that the Supreme Court has "not hesitated" to strike down laws that amass too much power in any one branch of government, or undermine their "authority and independence." And Congress' design of the Fair Housing Finance Agency pitted the "powers and obligations" of Congress against those of the president.

Congress may establish agencies under the necessary and proper clause of the Constitution, and it has done so with gusto. As the court noted, "dozens of independent agencies responsible for performing executive, regulatory, and quasi-judicial functions ... wield[] vast power and touch[] almost every aspect of daily life."

The Supreme Court has long allowed Congress to create agencies that are somewhat independent from the president, ostensibly so that they can create beneficial policies sheltered from the changing winds of politics. The president cannot clean out the Augean stables of the federal bureaucracy by firing agency officials, for example, if those officials cannot be removed at will and can only be removed "for cause."

But the president does have a constitutional duty to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed," and he is responsible for overseeing subordinate executive officers who fill up those Augean stables.

Thus, as the Supreme Court wrote in 2010, the Constitution is "understood to empower the president to keep these officers accountable -- by removing them from office, if necessary."

In this case, the court found that Congress insulated the Fair Housing Finance Agency too much from "meaningful executive oversight," to the point that the president "could not fulfill his Article II responsibility to ensure the faithful execution of the nation's laws, thus undermining the separation of powers."

While the government defended the agency's constitutionality by relying on a long list of independent agencies that have withstood constitutional challenges before -- including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Office of the Independent Counsel -- the court found the Fair Housing Finance Agency's "unique constellation of insulating features offends the Constitution's separation of powers"

Restored Authority

At the 5th Circuit's direction, the district court will now have to strike the provision of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 that limits the president's power to fire the Fair Housing Finance Agency director, thus "restoring executive branch oversight to the [agency]."

As a result, the president will soon be able to tell the agency's director, "You're fired."

 

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

More Universities Adopt Guide on ‘Anti-Transmisia’ and Coping With Trump as President

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 23:07

Simmons College published an anti-opression guide in March to help students and community members combat their tendencies to be racist, sexist, islamophobic and politically incorrect, and now other colleges and universities are adopting the guide.

Beloit College and Lesley University have adopted the "Anti-Oppression Guide," which is "intended to provide some general information about anti-oppression, diversity, and inclusion," the guide's introduction reads.

The guide examines a number of topics containing elements that fall under the umbrella of oppression, which it identifies as the combination of power and prejudice. The resource points to anti-transgender sentiment, or "Transmisia," as one hierarchy of oppression and defines it a "systemized discrimination or antagonism directed against transgender/nonbinary/genderqueer/agender persons."

"Transmisia and cissexism are rooted in a desire to maintain the gender binary," the guide also posits, providing a link to "4 'Compliments' Cis People Give Trans Folks That Are Actually Hella Cissexist."

The resource shuns heterosexism for being built around marriage, raising children and owning property. "Trans folks can be agents of transmisia as well ... by perpetuating the notion of gender binary or 'passing' superiority and using it to discriminate against other transgender people," the guide also notes.

The anti-oppression resource also delves into issues of race, identifying white privilege, white fragility and racial microaggressions as some of the factors that play into racism. The resource condemns white people because, "ALL white people benefit from white privilege in various ways."

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It includes a link to a workbook, "A Practice Guide for White People Working for Racial Justice," as well as a document intended to help people cope with President Donald Trump's presidency.

The work, "How To Talk To Your Loved Ones About A Donald Trump Presidency," offers advice about how to handle the "terrible thing has happened." Included in the list of topics on coping with Trump's presidency are immigration, the Supreme Court, Obamacare, climate change, race, lgbtq rights, gender roles and Hillary Clinton.

Campus Reform wrote a Wednesday piece about the guide.

 

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When Society Shuns Faith, This Rabbi Points to Our Core Common Truths

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 17:00

When speaking on issues of faith and values, U.S. public officials often lay claim to the nation's "Judeo-Christian heritage." Yet the former religious traditions have far less visibility than the latter.

According to Pew Research Center, the current American population comprises 70 percent Christians and two percent Jewish believers. The two faiths share a common text in the Hebrew Bible, including the Torah (the first five books) and the rest of what Christians call the Old Testament.

American history reveals deep ties between these faith communities. In 1790, President George Washington visited a Hebrew congregation and affirmed Jewish faith as integral to public life. Today, Rabbi Nitzan Bergman, an Orthodox Jewish teacher in Baltimore, Md., notes that all "people of the Book" face increasing hostility.

"Some people are convinced the Bible is an antiquated document which has no relevance," Bergman tells The Stream. "Yet it contains universal truths wherein we can find a common language with Christians and even non-religious people." In recent years he has joined the staff of Project Aseret, an educational movement centered on the Ten Commandments.

Visiting the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., Rabbi Bergman admired its high-tech exhibits on the sacred text. In an interview, he tells why the Ten Commandments are vital in modern society -- and how he responds to those who scoff at the faithful.

New Views Into Ancient Truths

The Stream: When did your team begin teaching the Ten Commandments through Project Aseret?

Rabbi Nitzan Bergman

Rabbi Nitzan Bergman: About seven years ago, Rabbi Shalom Schwartz was on a quest to find a way to bridge the Jewish-Israeli society. It is very split on religious and irreligious lines. He was speaking to many people.

He consulted with Sharon Portugali, who lives on a kibbutz. She said, "Shalom, you don't have to recreate the wheel. The foundation is there -- it's called the Ten Commandments." She had an idea to get people today to see these ten statements as relevant.

She said, "Don't start teaching it from, I am the Lord your God. In this secular society, you'll lose a lot of people in the beginning." What if we started teaching from the last one, Do not covet? Then go to Do not be a false witness, and on down. By starting there and eventually getting to explicit truths about God, they'll be more open-minded and accepting.

Rabbi Schwartz embarked on a mission to create this. From a Jewish standpoint, that term "the Ten Commandments" is a mistranslation. The word in Hebrew is Aseret HaDibrot, or ten utterances that encompass several meanings. It's better understood as the Ten Declarations. Each declaration has a broad meaning and is meant to be seen that way.

Professing the Wonder of Every Life

The Stream: Could you give an example of the deeper truths these teachings uncover?

Rabbi Bergman: The project evolved into looking at what's underlying each declaration. Out of the ten, seven are "do not's." But each one is much more than simply a negative statement. For example, when we teach Do Not Murder, this is obviously very relevant to the world we live in. When we explore it, we find deeper meaning.

When you get to the portion of the Torah where it talks about Noah coming out of the ark, it's almost like a repetition of what God said to Adam when he created him. I'm giving you the world, and use it wisely. But there is one difference. Adam was only given the inanimate and vegetable world, rather than the animal world. Adam was a vegetarian. He was definitely not allowed to kill animals for his use, to eat.

God says to Noah, Whereas I only gave Adam the vegetables, I am giving you the animals. Then he says: Be careful, because your fellow man I am not giving you. Man is made in the image of God. Underlying God's command not to murder is a truth about human dignity, from which all human rights come. Each person created in the image of God has rights that need to be respected.

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We do not murder because each life is precious and beautiful. To take it further, how does God call us to choose life in all things? We are to nurture spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional and social life. The Talmud tells us, If you embarrass someone in public, it's as if you've killed them. In our social lives, there are ways to nurture human dignity and respect.

What may initially seem like a "do not" message for some people is so relevant for each one of us. In the secular environment we live in, remember God's message. It gives us a whole new view on the value and precious nature of human life, and how we should relate to it.

The Stream: Where have you had success with teaching the Ten Commandments?

Rabbi Bergman: Project Aseret is in about 40 secular schools in Israel and about a dozen religious schools in the U.S. currently. We are starting to expand into online learning. Many people desire to study the Ten Commandments in their time and at their pace.

Some participants in my classes whom you wouldn't call "observant" are really engaging with it. Core values are part of what make us human. We are above animals. We don't just do what we always instinctively feel like doing, which is a human quality. You have to stand for something.

These ideas are not often complicated, yet very profound. It's really helping people. The word is where it starts. Dig deeper into it and it's never-ending.

Reaching Across Lines That Divide

The Stream: How do you respond when you encounter people who are hostile to faith?

Rabbi Bergman: When I start speaking to them about these declarations and what's included in them, they say: Of course, I agree with that! It's the rest of it I disagree with.

What's the rest of it? The rest of it are details on how to live out these values. All people have minute-to-minute lives where we have moral decisions presented to us. It's easier to just “follow your heart's desires," rather than work to overcome instincts.

There is a real sense among everyone for the need to live a moral life, for the meaning that gives people. To some degree, we've shown how the biblical text is completely relevant.

The Stream: You've shown how Jews and Christians share common ground in the biblical text. Have you ventured into building friendships across faith lines?

Rabbi Bergman: In the past, I have been fearful of it. Coming to the Museum of the Bible today is a big step, and it's an encouraging one.

I love the mission of this museum: to help people engage with the Bible. That's what Project Aseret is doing too -- giving people an opportunity to engage with these divinely ordained core values. It's what life is about!

There is a definite Jewish message in the Ten Commandments. And there is a definite universal message. Most people understand we need core values. That discussion can start with the Ten Commandments. Let's see where it goes.

 

Explore Project Aseret to learn more about their Ten Commandments curriculum and online classes. Discover The Stream's in-depth coverage of Museum of the Bible.

Putin Idea for Ukraine Referendum Rejected by White House

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 16:36

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House has rejected a Vladimir Putin-backed effort to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine on the region’s future, distancing itself from the idea in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s controversial summit with the Russian leader.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, said the two leaders had discussed the possibility of a referendum in separatist-leaning eastern Ukraine during their Helsinki summit.

But Trump’s National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said Friday that agreements between Russia and the Ukrainian government for resolving the conflict in the Donbas region do not include any such option and any effort to organize a “so-called referendum” would have “no legitimacy.”

The back-and-forth came as the White House outlined the agenda for a proposed second summit between Trump and Putin -- in Washington this fall -- that would focus on national security. Moscow signaled its openness to a second formal meeting between the two leaders as criticism of Trump over his first major session with his Russian counterpart kept up in the U.S.

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Trump left the White House for his New Jersey golf club for the weekend. Once he got there, he returned to Twitter to complain about news coverage of Monday’s meeting.

“I got severely criticized by the Fake News Media for being too nice to President Putin,” he tweeted. “In the Old Days they would call it Diplomacy. If I was loud & vicious, I would have been criticized for being too tough.”

A White House official said the next Trump-Putin meeting would address national security concerns they discussed in Helsinki, including Russian meddling. The official did not specify if that meant Russia’s interference in U.S. elections. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss planning, said the talks would also cover nuclear proliferation, North Korea, Iran and Syria.

One stop Putin almost surely won’t make is Capitol Hill.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to make clear that Putin wouldn’t be invited to address Congress if he visits Washington.

She said Trump’s “frightened fawning over Putin is an embarrassment and a grave threat to our democracy.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a sunnier view of the likely second get-together.

He said at the United Nations he was “happy that the two leaders of two very important countries are continuing to meet. If that meeting takes place in Washington, I think it is all to the good. Those conversations are incredibly important.”

It was not clear whether such a meeting would take place before or after the November congressional elections in the U.S.

A White House meeting would be a dramatic extension of legitimacy to the Russian leader, who has long been isolated by the West for activities in Ukraine, Syria and beyond and is believed to have interfered in the 2016 presidential election that sent Trump to the presidency. No Russian leader has visited the White House in nearly a decade.

U.S. officials have been mum on what, if anything, the two leaders agreed to in Helsinki during a two-hour, one-on-one meeting. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Thursday he had yet to be briefed on the private session.

The Russian government has been somewhat more forthcoming.

“This issue (of a referendum) was discussed,” Antonov said, adding that Putin made “concrete proposals” to Trump on solutions for the four-year, Russian-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 10,000 people. He did not elaborate on what Putin’s solutions would be.

The move may be seen as an effort to sidestep European peace efforts for Ukraine and increase the pressure on the Ukrainian government in its protracted conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region.

In a sign of support for the Ukraine government, the Pentagon said Friday it would provide $200 million in additional training, equipment and advisory assistance to Ukraine’s military.

Trump tweeted Thursday that he looked forward a “second meeting” with Putin and defended his performance at Monday’s summit, in which the two leaders conferred on a range of issues including terrorism, Israeli security, nuclear proliferation and North Korea.

“There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems … but they can ALL be solved!” Trump tweeted.

In Moscow, Antonov said it is important to “deal with the results” of the first summit before jumping too fast into a new one. But he said, “Russia was always open to such proposals.”

The White House is still trying to clean up post-summit Trump statements on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump’s public doubting of Russia’s responsibility in a joint news conference with Putin on Monday provoked withering criticism from Republicans as well as Democrats and forced the president to make a rare public admission of error.

Then on Thursday, the White House said Trump “disagrees” with Putin’s offer to allow U.S. questioning of 12 Russians who have been indicted for election interference in exchange for Russian interviews with the former U.S. ambassador to Russia and other Americans the Kremlin accuses of unspecified crimes. Trump initially had described the idea as an “incredible offer.”

The White House backtrack came just before the Senate voted overwhelmingly against the idea.

___

Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Moscow, Deb Riechmann in Aspen, Colorado, and Lisa Mascaro, Matthew Daly, Darlene Superville and Susannah George in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Follow Miller on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@ZekeJMiller and Thomas at http://twitter.com/@KThomasDC

 

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

Mitch McConnell Is Ready to Play Hardball to Get Kavanaugh Confirmed

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 16:24

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told senior Republicans that he will schedule Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation vote on a date just before the November elections if Democrats demand access to the full scope of records the judge produced in the George W. Bush administration.

Democrats are leveraging the access dispute to slow Kavanaugh's nomination, as it is one of the few mechanisms they have to delay progress on the appointment.

Politico reports that McConnell believes scheduling a confirmation vote in immediate proximity to the midterm elections will exacerbate political pressure on embattled Democrats from red states to support Kavanaugh.

"To me, it's in their best interest to have that vote done for a lot of their red-state senators who are facing their voters," GOP Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.

Democrats want access to a massive body of work Kavanaugh generated during his time in the Bush White House. The judge entered the administration as associate White House counsel, then became staff secretary in 2006. In these capacities he advised senior officials on a range of legal issues and managed the president's paper flow. He left the executive branch following his confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

All told, Kavanaugh's Bush-era paper trail is believed to span one million pages. He's also written some 300 decisions on the D.C. Circuit, and an untold number of documents for Ken Starr during his tenure as independent counsel.

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GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned Democrats against turning the Kavanaugh confirmation into a fishing expedition, and said lawmakers would review a "relevant and proportional" sample of his work product.

"Many Democrats announced their opposition to this nominee before the vetting process ever began," Grassley said. "They've made clear that their plan will be to obstruct and delay at every corner, and reviewing Judge Kavanaugh's record will be no different. Rest assured, this process will be fair and thorough. At the same time, I will not allow taxpayers to be on the hook for a government-funded fishing expedition."

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Elena Kagan, and Justice Neil Gorsuch worked in the executive branch before their elevation to the high court. The judiciary committee reviewed less than 200,000 records in connection with their nominations, just one-fifth of the work product Democrats are now seeking access to for Kavanaugh.

Democrats argue a thorough review is warranted because his service coincided with critical, and highly controversial, policy decisions about detention of enemy combatants and torture. Liberals in the Senate are particularly aggrieved by the 2003 confirmation of Judge Jay Bybee to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- lawmakers discovered he helped author the so-called torture memos, which provided legal justification for Bush-era enhanced interrogation techniques, only after his confirmation.

Judiciary Committee Democrats have accused Kavanaugh of deception on this point before. He told senators during his 2006 confirmation hearing that he was not involved in the formulation of rules for combatant detention, though a 2007 news report revealed he had at least one conversation with administration officials regarding Justice Anthony Kennedy's receptiveness to such policies.

No Democratic senator has yet met with Kavanaugh. Supreme Court nominees typically pay courtesy calls on lawmakers in advance of their confirmation hearings to discuss issues of interest to senators. The leadership of both parties typically meets with a nominee at the beginning of the process, though Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has not yet received Kavanaugh in his Capitol Hill offices.

Democrats are not expected to set meetings with the judge until the document dispute is resolved.

 

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Hamas Accepts Cease-Fire After Massive Israeli Gaza Strikes

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 14:29

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers said Saturday they had accepted a cease-fire ending a massive Israeli onslaught on militant positions after a soldier was shot dead, once again pulling the sides back from the brink of a full-fledged war.

Israel and Hamas have fought three such wars over the past decade and Hamas agreed to the second such cease-fire in a week under heavy Egyptian and international pressure.

Even after last week’s cease-fire ended the fiercest exchange of rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes since the 2014 war, incendiary kites and balloons continued to float from Gaza into Israel setting off damaging fires to farmlands. Israel has stepped up strikes since then to signal its new threshold for engagement after months of largely refraining to act.

Israel says it has no interest is engaging in another war with Hamas, but says it will no longer tolerate the Gaza militant campaign of flying the incendiary devices into Israel.

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On Friday, a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier along the border -- the first casualty it has sustained in four years -- and Israel unleashed an offensive it says destroyed more than 60 Hamas targets, including three battalion headquarters. Four Palestinians were killed, of which three were Hamas militants.

“The attack delivered a severe blow to the Hamas’s training array, command and control abilities, weaponry, aerial defense and logistic capabilities along with additional military infrastructure,” the Israeli military said in a statement, adding that the strikes “will intensify as necessary.”

Israel’s top leadership convened late into the night Friday at military headquarters to discuss potential actions.

In a brief statement early Saturday, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the movement accepted the cease-fire brokered by Egyptian and United Nations officials and that calm had been restored. Later, the Israeli military announced a return to civilian routine along the volatile border.

The recent outburst of violence comes after months of near-weekly border protests organized by Hamas aimed in part at protesting the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza. Over 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began on March 30.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on Gaza for over a decade in an attempt to weaken Hamas. The blockade has caused widespread economic hardship. Israel says the naval blockade is necessary to protect its citizens from weapons smuggling.

Israel says it is defending its sovereign border and accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover for attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli civilians and soldiers.

“Hamas terrorists opened fire today on Israelis. Those are not ‘protesters,'” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon wrote Friday on Twitter. “We will not tolerate attacks endangering Israelis. Under no circumstance.”

The Israeli retaliation Friday to the soldier’s killing was fierce, but Hamas’ response was far meeker with just a few projectiles launched that were intercepted by Israel.

 

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