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the thinking everyman’s national daily—championing freedom, smaller government and human dignity.
Updated: 4 hours 10 min ago

First-Ever Biopic of Military Chaplain Reveals Life-or-Death Struggles at Home and Abroad

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 22:00

With pressures of work, school and relationships, most Americans rarely consider the realities faced by those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. These 1.3 million military service members in a nation of 325 million people often seem forgotten and their sacrifices disregarded.

Independent director David G. Evans believes shining light on a soldier's complex troubles at home and abroad can help close that gap. For the past seven years, he has worked with decorated U.S. Army chaplain Darren Turner and his wife Heather to tell their remarkable story.

Turner deployed to Iraq in 2007 as part of the troop Surge. Coming back home, he faced the same pattern of depression, anger, and broken relationships he had sought to help soldiers escape.

"I was in the Surge and it was much tougher than I expected or prepared for," Turner told The Stream last month. "Our Battalion lost a lot of great men, but also they did a lot of great work. Peace is not without cost, as the Cross of Christ demonstrates."

Now Indivisible will open in theaters on October 26, recognized as National Day of the Deployed. Director Evans shares how he started making movies, why this story matters, and some unexpected partners his team gained in their mission to create a meaningful film.

An Eye for Filmmaking

The Stream: What was the genesis of this project?

David Evans: I'm an eye doctor, and I never went to film school. Similar to my mentors the Kendrick brothers, who made movies when they were growing up, I did the same thing with my brother. I always dreamed of making a film and never thought it would be possible.

David G. Evans

For 15 years, my home church has done a Passion play during Easter season which I wrote and directed. One night after we finished a show, the cast and crew did an outing to see Fireproof. I wept through the whole movie because I never realized that a church could make a film.

Walking out of it, I turned to these folks who worked so hard every year on our Passion play and said, This is what God has been training us to do. Now my wife stopped speaking with me for a few days -- no, I'm kidding. She also felt called to do what Sherwood Church was doing.

God put on my heart the story of The Grace Card, which is about a white cop and black cop both working together in Memphis. A couple of patients of mine inspired that story. My wife and I formed our own production company, I wrote the script and we funded the entire project. That's a huge risk, as filmmakers who've been through the process will tell you.

We screened the movie for Provident and Sony's Affirm Films one time. They loved the film so much, they said, We want this to be in theaters. It was a miracle how all that happened. A short time after it opened in theaters, back in February 2011, I felt the call to do a story about an Army chaplain. That's what gave birth to Indivisible.

The Stream: Could you share about the themes in this story?

Evans: The heart of this story focuses on marriage. For couples where hope seems lost, Indivisible lets them know there is a solution in offering forgiveness to one another. From Ephesians 6, we know the armor of God can protect your marriage.

This story is so unique in that it comes from a chaplain, someone who is a pastor to the troops. The fact that this can happen to he and his wife, and they can overcome it, serves as an encouragement to the military -- and to everyone who has a relationship that needs healing.

Dedicated Talent Silences Derision of Critics

The Stream: Some criticize faith-centered films as nothing more than cheap sermons. How do you respond?

Evans: As a tribute to our troops, we didn't want to make a project that would feel anything less than top quality. That all starts with a compelling story as well as great actors. Once someone experiences this film, they'll understand we're all trying to raise the bar.

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Yes, some critics say the acting is really cheesy in Christian films. That's the reason why we hired experienced SAG [Screen Actors Guild] actors. After seeing them in action, they are not only passionate about this story but really talented.

We have Sarah Drew, who has starred for nine years on Grey's Anatomy, along with stars from NCIS, Black Lightning and Without A Trace.

The Stream: Where did your team film this story, which recreates scenes of combat in Iraq?

Evans: One of the hardest parts of this project was finding sets that would emulate Iraq without us having to go anywhere outside the country. We visited multiple sets trying to find something that might work. Then someone told us about Blue Cloud Ranch in Santa Clarita, California.

They have incredible operating bases and an entire Middle Eastern village. Now these were present a few years ago, but when Clint Eastwood came in to do American Sniper he expanded many of the sets. They're still used for TV shows, and it worked out perfectly that those sets were available when we were filming last June.

"As a tribute to our troops, we didn't want to make a project that would feel anything less than top quality." – David Evans

Then this incredible stunt supervisor based in Los Angeles, along with several stuntmen, heard about our project. They were willing to help us out for a few days because of the great cause behind this movie. It all brought greater accuracy and believability to the film.

Awareness and Action to Support Service Members

The Stream: Why do you believe Americans should seek to understand the experience of military families?

Evans: It's important for people outside the military to see this film. The reason is it gives such a better appreciation for what our troops face in deployment and what's going on back at home. When the moms, dads and children are left behind, what struggles do they face?

It's great to welcome your service member back home, but we underestimate the reintegration process sometimes. There are troops who need so much help in this area. We hope to offer help not only through the themes in the movie, but also the groups we are partnering with for follow-up.

 

Rated PG-13 for war violence and mature themes, Indivisible opens in theaters everywhere on October 26. This weekend in Washington, D.C, an advance screening of the film comes to the Values Voter Summit. Explore The Stream's complete coverage of military issues.  

With the Church in Crisis, Let’s Recover the Ember Days Fasts

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 19:48

On August 18th, Madison, Wisconsin Bishop Robert Morlino wrote a powerful letter decrying "all the sins of sexual depravity committed by members of the clergy and episcopacy." He pledged to offer a public Mass of Reparation, which was held on September 14th. He also said he would be keeping the traditional Ember Days fasts near the end of September (starting tomorrow, September 19th), and invited the Catholic faithful in his diocese to do the same.

If you heard about this, you probably thought: Ember what? Even though I'm working on a book on fasting, I first learned about these fasts only a few months ago.

What Are They?

Ember Days were communal fasts that Christians held four times a year at the beginning of the four seasons. "Ember" doesn't refer to burning coals -- though that image seems especially apt these days. It's fromthe Anglo-Saxon ymbren, meaning a circle or revolution; which may itself be a corruption of the Latin phrase quatuor tempora, meaning "four times."

We don't know just when these fasts started. The prophet Zechariah does mention four fasts and feasts (Zechariah 8:1), but that's at best a hint. We do know this: Already by the fourth century Christians in Rome were keeping Ember Days. It was only in the eleventh century, though, that Pope Gregory VII fixed the dates in the liturgical calendar.

These fasts were so common by the thirteenth century that when St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about fasting in his Summa Theologica, he mentioned two fasts: Lent and Ember Days.

Think of these as seasonal reboots of your spiritual life. They are fixed times set aside to pray, thank God for His abundant blessings, identify with Christ's suffering, help the needy, and renew the spirit of repentance from sin. Emphasis on "should." Because we are all fallen, we tend to grow lax in doing the things we ought to do every day. That's why it helps to have special, scheduled times to awaken us from our sloth and boredom.

Where Did They Go?

So, what happened to Ember Days?

As you might have guessed, they were a casualty of the 1960s. The bishops of the Second Vatican Council retained them, but thought there should be more flexibility. After all, seasons varied in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.  In Argentina, for instance, Christmas comes at the beginning of their summer! Surely fasts fixed to earthly seasons should take account of this local diversity.

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In light of this, Pope Paul VI handed the scheduling of Ember Days over to national bishops conferences, who, for the most part, dropped the ball. The US bishops never got around to picking dates, which had the effect of causing the fasts to go the way of rotary dial phones.

Some older die-hards still keep these fasts in their private lives. Most of those who came of age after the 1960s have never even heard of them.

Recovery

Until now. The current crisis in the Church has many Catholics searching for solutions. It's obvious that we've lost our way. There's an overwhelming sense that in a desire to be hip and modern, too many -- especially many in the Church hierarchy -- have abandoned truths and practices that, if anything, we should be doubling down on.

Bishop Morlino has the right impulse. Rather than counsel despair, he's calling the faithful back to a long-standing practice that was only recently abandoned -- and abandoned about the time things really started to go off the rails. I'm not sure that’s a coincidence.

Morlino is not the only one. Over the last few weeks, there has been quite a lot of talk about these fasts among Catholics. I've been planning to write a piece about these fasts for the last couple of months. And while I was working on this piece, my friend (and Stream contributor) Austin Ruse sent me and several other Catholic writers an email, asking us to join him in keeping the Ember Days.

 

Calling all Catholic men. This week live the Ember Days. Fast and abstain on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday for the sins of our fellow Catholics, for our own sins, and to revive an old custom that never should have been dropped in the first place.

-- Austin Ruse (@austinruse) September 17, 2018

 

Great minds think alike and all that.

Try It. It's Not that Hard.

The Ember Days sound like three days of fasting with a Lenten Friday in the middle -- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. But Catholics universally abstained from meat on Friday until, well, the 1960s. This makes the whole thing a bit confusing. In any case, the Ember Days for this fall are Wednesday, September 19, Thursday, September 20, and Saturday, September 22.

Don't worry. The fasts are really abstinences. You're not expected to give up food all day -- or even to eat fewer meals. To follow the pre-1960s custom, you just need to eat less than you normally would for two meals, while giving up meat (the flesh of land animals) that would otherwise leave you feeling satisfied. You still get to eat one normal-sized meal with meat. Only on Friday would you abstain from all land animal meat and eat only fish. Otherwise, Friday isn't really a fast day.

Honestly, given our current crisis in the Church, this seems a bit effeminate to me. If you want to do more, try eating only one meal a day on the Ember Days. You still won't have to go all day without eating (baby steps), but you'll spend most of the time during those days in a fasted state.

We do know that God wants us to fast and pray. Who knows what might happen if millions of faithful laity and clergy decided to do this for three days, four times a year? What if Christians from every tradition suddenly took up the practice and prayed in unison? What would happen if we channeled our extra time and hunger into fervent prayers to the Lord to renew His Church and to deliver us from evil?

We'll never know unless we try.

Unbroken: Path to Redemption Interview With the Director and Producer

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 17:00

At the red carpet premiere of Unbroken: Path to Redemption, The Stream's Nancy Flory sat down to discuss the movie with director Harold Cronk and producer Matthew Baer.

Cronk is best known for directing the surprise box office hit God’s Not Dead. 

Given the success of Unbroken and a much smaller budget, Cronk, Baer, cast and crew had their work cut out for them. The two discuss how they were able to recreate post-World War II America and do due justice to the story and life of Louis Zamperini.

Watch the video above and check out Nancy's interview with Will Graham and Luke Zamperini. Graham plays his grandfather, Billy Graham, in the film, while Luke is the son of Louis Zamperini. 

You can also read Nancy’s story of Unbroken: Path to Redemption here.

 

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Is Ayn Rand Writing Our Headlines from Hell?

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 16:17

The George Soros-funded, self-proclaimed socialist, and gun-grabber Andrew Gillum hopes to be the next Florida governor. If he wins, he plans to jack up taxes some 40 percent, to fund a Cuban-style single-payer health plan. In other words, he wants to take a state whose economy keeps growing as people flee dying "blue" states, and give it the Venezuela treatment. He wants to "monkey up the economy," as Ron DeSantis said -- and no, of course that's not a racist term, as The Stream's Rev. Bill Owens explained.

But you knew all that. What you didn't know is this: For help raising money, Gillum has turned to Sheriff Scott Israel. That's right, Gillum has brought Israel into his campaign.

“Amazing Leadership”

Remember Sheriff Israel? He's the guy whose four deputies cowered outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, while Niklaus Cruz hunted students and teachers. Some unarmed students showed a lot more courage and saved their classmates' lives. But the deputies whom Israel had hired and trained obeyed his rules of engagement. They waited outside, where it was safe, for the cavalry to arrive. (That is, other cops unafraid to do their duty.)

The brazenness of bringing a disgraced figure like Israel into Gillum's campaign might have been shocking once. These days we shrug. We might call it "Peak 2018."

Instead of firing those deputies immediately and then resigning himself, Israel brazened it out. He boasted of his leadership skills. Commenting on the slaughter in his city and on his watch, Israel was truculent. "I can only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercised my due diligence. I have given amazing leadership to this agency," he said.

Shifting the Blame

Israel wouldn't apologize, wouldn't explain. He joined with cherry-picked student "leaders" like David Hogg in shifting the blame. This wasn't a comprehensive failure of law-enforcement from top to bottom. Of the school system, which covered up Cruz's violence and whitewashed his previous outbursts, to massage its statistics. Of the FBI, which ignored Cruz's online boast -- using his real name -- that he would be "the next school shooter." Then blew off a warning to its tip line. The failure of Israel and his deputies, such as Scot Peterson -- whom Israel tried to scapegoat as the only villain.

Nope, it's the law abiding citizens who exercise their Second Amendment rights. They're the ones at fault. That was the message of the media circuses, such as CNN's carefully stage-managed "Town Hall." In the wake of it, the lonely pro-Constitution spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, was hosed down with abuse, rape threats, and threats against her family.

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Read Mark Smith's short book Duped, a scathing account of how gun-grabbers hijacked and manipulated the Parkland tragedy. Gillum seized upon it to call for a ban on so-called "assault weapons.”

Adding Insult to Injury

Now Gillum has brought Israel into his campaign. I learned that when Andrew Pollack, whose daughter died thanks to the cowardice of Israel's men, complained about it:

The people of Broward need to get out and vote @RonDeSantisFL.

The disgraceful sheriff that is partially responsible for the death of my daughter is out Campaigning for Andrew Gillum.

Desantis will hold failed 'leaders' like Israel accountable. #FixIthttps://t.co/tA75c4rVC7

-- Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) September 17, 2018

  The brazenness of bringing a disgraced figure like Israel into Gillum's campaign might have been shocking once. These days we shrug. We might call it "Peak 2018." But we'd know that some equally insane event would quickly top it. Within a news cycle or two.

We’re Trapped in a Bad Netflix Series

I've seen people snark on Twitter that the past two years of history haven't been real events. Instead, we're living through the waning seasons of some House of Cards knock-off TV show. And the writers are getting desperate. That’s why the plot twists are so dang ludicrous. What self-respecting writer would try to get away with inventing a political campaign that included all of the following:

Donald Trump hinting that Ted Cruz's dad was involved with Lee Harvey Oswald. An FBI conspiracy to stop Donald Trump's election, and stifle the probe into Hillary Clinton's crimes. That conspiracy unraveling because New York FBI field agents rebelled. That happened thanks to the classified emails they found on Anthony Weiner's laptop -- which they seized for illegal sexting with a teenager. Trump almost losing the race because of his Access Hollywood comments a decade before. Clinton actually losing the race because she ignored key battleground states. The Democrats blaming their loss on Russians hacking our voting machines. Then on unspecified, unproveable "Russian collusion." The same FBI agents who conspired to stop Trump's election helping to gin up an endless witch hunt against the president.

Can't you see the TV producer hurling such scripts back at his writers? Asking them if they'd switched from cocaine to something stronger, like crystal meth?

None of it is plausible. None of it can be real.

I've seen people joke that we're living in some unhinged alternative timeline. Or a comic-book "bizarro world," where up is down and down is some sideways diagonal fifth dimension.

It’s Ayn Rand’s World. We’re Just Living in it.

But I have another theory: That Ayn Rand is writing our headlines, from her cubicle down in hell.

Think about it. What could be more cartoonish than an arrogant, bumbling sheriff who shrugs off blame for murdered children? Ayn Rand would know, and she would double down on his wickedness. She'd also make him a gun-grabber. Someone who used the slaughter on his watch to justify disarming honest citizens. So that they'd be even more helpless the next time some maniac (long ignored by police) came to murder them. But that wouldn't be quite villainous for Rand. She would also make that sheriff a socialist, who wanted to grab the citizens' property, along with their freedom. She'd have him collude with a ludicrous figure like Gillum. He in turn would be funded by some utterly implausible international banker/socialist who hated nationhood, borders, capitalism, and even the State of Israel. (George Soros, if you're keeping score.)

None of it is plausible. None of it can be real. I ask Ms. Rand in the name of all that is holy, to please cut it out. We apologize for calling your characters one-dimensional caricatures. You have proven your point. Collectively, we cry "Uncle!" You have your revenge.

Judge Kavanaugh Update: The Real and the Fake

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 15:45

If the letter from Kavanaugh's accuser had been made public, say, in July, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein actually received it, we wouldn't have to quickly try to make sense of the crazed rush of stories about it RIGHT NOW, before the committee vote scheduled for just a few days away. 

This calculated delay -- we know that's what it was -- practically ensures there will be so much fake news, we won't know what to think about it all and will therefore just have to delay the Senate vote.

Kavanaugh Defends Himself

But first, the real news: Now that the accuser has identified herself, Kavanaugh has released a statement. It reads,

This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes -- to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.

The accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, now a professor of sociology at Palo Alto University in California, has said she wants to speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The White House supports that.  "She should not be insulted; she should not be ignored," Kellyanne Conway said.  "She should testify under oath and she should do it on Capitol Hill."  Currently, a hearing is scheduled for Monday. However, it is unclear whether Ford will, in fact, show.

The Alleged Witness Mark Judge Defends Kavanaugh

As long as they're taking testimony, they really should include Mark Judge. He’s the other man (then a boy) identified in Ford's letter as someone else who was in the room at the time and would have been a witness to the "attack."  "I never saw anything like what was described," he told The New York Times. He said it would have been out of character for Kavanaugh.  "It is not who he is," said Judge, calling him a "brilliant student" who played sports and was not "into anything crazy or illegal."

When asked, he couldn't even remember an incident of rough-housing that a girl might interpret as being aggressive. "I never saw Brett act that way," he said, according to The Daily Caller.  He said the incident never happened and, in fact, was "just absolutely nuts."

On Monday, Ford's attorney Debra Katz called the incident "attempted rape," which reportedly was not the way it was originally described in Ford's letter. More details here.

Feinstein Not Cooperating

Something else that's real news: Sen. Chuck Grassley has released a statement about trying to set up questioning of Ford; he says Feinstein's office is refusing to cooperate.  It reads in part,

Sen. Feinstein … has had this information for many weeks and deprived her colleagues of the information necessary to do our jobs. … Over my nearly four decades in the Senate I have worked diligently to protect whistleblowers and get to the bottom of any issue. Dr. Ford's attorney could have approached my office, while keeping her client confidential and anonymous, so that these allegations could be thoroughly investigated.  Nevertheless, we are working diligently to get to the bottom of these claims."

But Ford's attorney didn't do that, and Feinstein held the letter until just a few days before the scheduled vote. If the reason Feinstein didn't act was to protect the identity of the woman, well, that's now been blown, anyway. The goal here doesn't seem to be "getting to the bottom of these claims"; it seems to be delaying or preventing the Kavanaugh vote. That's what Senate Democrats really care about.

A Few Stories Debunked

So much for what we can be reasonably sure is the real news. There were also a few fake stories going around that got played up quite a bit before being discredited. A story about Ford's parents' foreclosure case being presided over by Kavanaugh's mother turned out not to be relevant; that case was dismissed before the judge would have ruled. A story about Ford's horrible teacher evaluations turned out to be about another teacher coincidentally named Christine Ford; it was retracted. Yes, Ford's brother did work for the law firm that reps Fusion GPS, but that was seven years before Fusion GPS was formed, so there appears to be no connection.

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We as conservatives need to be careful about jumping too quickly on stories that may not have been verified for accuracy and/or relevance. That's what liberals do -- the Steele "dossier" comes to mind as perhaps the ultimate example -- and they're the ones, by and large, who keep "fake news" in business. 

On the other hand, when Democrats deliberately throw last-minute firebombs that send everyone scrambling, it's understandable that stories such as these catch a spark. They soon burn out, because we (unlike some I could name) are looking for truth.

 

The Brutal Truth About Persecution of Christians in China

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 14:31

In recent months, there have been increasingly disturbing reports about the persecution of Christians in China. Last week, I received some firsthand information from very reliable friends who have lived in China for years. The news is not good at all.

After much research, these friends informed me that there were over 240,000 recorded examples of persecution in China in 2017, up from roughly 48,000 in 2016. This represents a very concerning spike in hostile activity.

According to my friends, "The government wants the world to see that China has reformed since the days of Mao. But there are other aspects of communism that that they do not want us to see. It isn't just about how the economy works."

Specifically, "By 2020, the Communist Party will attempt to monitor its citizens through a massive surveillance system called China Skynet.

"China's Skynet combines mobile phone GPS tracking, text message collection, 170 million security cameras, to make sure everyone is harmonious to make sure no one does anything illegal.

"China also controls the media.  There is the state-run media but private networks are censored. So, while China, today, barely resembles the Communist State of the 1950s and 1960s in terms of economic structure, it still retains almost all if the other aspects of Communism.: state control, censorship and mass surveillance."

The 14-Year-Plan

According to the detailed report sent to me, the government has implemented a three-phase, 14-year plan:

"During the first 2-year phase, 2012-2014, it further eased persecution of the underground church, enticing more of them to surface and be identified." (This would correspond with the time I was in China at the invitation of Franklin Graham. See here for my reflections.)            

"During the second 2-year phase, 2014-2016, it invited and then pressured the identified underground churches to register and become Three-Self government churches.                                                               

"In the current third, 10-year phase, the gloves have come off as both the remaining underground churches and even Three Self churches are being persecuted using Mao-era brute-force, as well as mass surveillance, artificial intelligence, and big data."

The Persecution

What, exactly, has been taking place? According to the report:

Over 2,000 crosses already have been burned or ripped down from church buildings. Many churches have been demolished. Thousands of pastors already have been arrested, beaten, tortured and/or sentenced to years in prison. By 2020, 600 million CCTV cameras – nearly one for every 2 Chinese citizens – will blanket China. They are being forcibly installed inside church buildings to record 24/7 the entrances, stairwells, offering boxes, and Bible counters to monitor who attends church, buys Bibles, and where those Bibles are taken. The Chinese government’s new “social credit system” has begun to assign social credit scores to its citizens for not loitering, not jaywalking and other compliant behaviors, which eventually will include not attending “illegal” underground churches. Chinese Christians will only be able to purchase the Communism-friendly version of the Bible that the Communist Party is presently translating. In February of 2018, the Chinese Communist Party also drastically increased its penalties and restrictions targeted against Christians. The government will also tighten up control over religious activities in schools, religious postings online, and trips overseas for religious training. Recently, the State Council endorsed the penalties, adding that anybody providing a venue for an "illegal religious event" will face a fine of between 20,000 yuan ($2,900.00 USD) and 200,000 yuan ($29,000.00 USD).

Also, in September of 2017, the Chinese government announced that: "Anyone who organizes an unapproved religious event will be fined 100,000 to 300,000 Yuan ($14,500 USD to $43,500 USD)." And, "Anyone who rents or provides the venue for such an event will be fined 20,000 to 200,000 Yuan ($2,900 to $29,000 USD)."

In addition to this, there are nationwide efforts to exalt the rule of President Xi (this has been reported in the west as well; see here), even in Mao-like terms. Xi has said that religion must be guided by the party to adapt to socialist society, and with that, the government-run churches have announced plans for the "Sinicization of Christianity." Specifically, this refers to "bending Christianity to submit to the will of the Chinese Communist Party."

What Church Leaders are Doing

In light of this ongoing crackdown on religious freedom in China, house church leaders are going back to underground practices and decentralizing their meetings. But the arm of the Chinese government is very strong, as a result of which my friends received this heart-rending letter from some of their Chinese colleagues (I have changed or removed names for obvious reasons):

Things are getting tighter here now, everywhere is facing persecution now. Brothers and sisters are facing difficulties and suffering for their faith. My sister and her husband along with three others were put in jail for their gathering together with about 30 people and their stuff has been taken way with a few big trucks. They were beaten and shocked by the electronic sticks with head bleeding and arms in painful position. David their son saw what happened and cried and fainted there when it happened.

"We visited them four days after they were in jail. They were sick; my sister almost had a heart attack and her husband had gout which almost killed him. They were suffering physically and mentally.

They were released after 10 days and told by local authorities they had to leave their city and district. All this for holding Christian meetings in China.

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I'm aware that China can give the appearance of allowing religious freedom, and I've been told that the situation varies from province to province.

But what is clear is that millions of our brothers and sisters in that vast and important country are really suffering. Let us pray for them and for their government. And let's ask our government to address this humanitarian crisis today.

This is the very least we can do.

Happy Birthday, Air Force!

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 14:09

On September 18, 1947, the United States Air Force was officially formed. 

The U.S. military first purchased planes in 1909, just six years after the Wright Brothers had their first successful flight. According to Military.com, the air element of our military existed under a series of distinctions: Aeronautical Section, Signal Corps (1909); Aviation Section, Signal Corps (1914); United States Army Air Service (1918); United States Army Air Corps (1926), and United States Army Air Forces (1941).

The Air Force came into being as a separate and equal branch of the military when President Harry Truman signed the National Security Act. And the Air Force has been flying high ever since.

Enjoy this hard-driving tribute, called “The Warrior Song.”

 

For those with more traditional tastes, here’s a flash mob of the United States Air Force band performing the official Air Force Anthem, “Wild Blue Yonder.”

 

Thank you to all who have served in the Air Force these 71 years!

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Korean Leaders Meet in Pyongyang for Potentially Tough Talks

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 11:38

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in began his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday with possibly his hardest mission to date -- brokering some kind of compromise to keep North Korea’s talks with Washington from imploding and pushing ahead with his own plans to expand economic cooperation and bring a stable peace to the Korean Peninsula.

Kim gave the South Korean president an exceedingly warm welcome, meeting him and his wife at Pyongyang’s airport -- itself a very unusual gesture -- then riding into town with Moon in an open limousine through streets lined with crowds of North Koreans, who cheered and waved the flag of their country and a blue-and-white flag that symbolizes Korean unity.

The made-for-television welcome is par for the course for Moon’s summits with Kim.

Hours after his arrival, Moon began an official summit with Kim at the ruling Workers’ Party headquarters. The two were joined by two of their top deputies -- spy chief Suh Hoon and presidential security director Chung Eui-yong for Moon, and Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, and senior Workers’ Party official Kim Yong Chol for the North Korean leader, according to Moon’s office.

At the start of their meeting, Kim thanked Moon for brokering a June summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

“It’s not too much to say that it’s Moon’s efforts that arranged a historic North Korea-U.S. summit. Because of that, the regional political situation has been stabilized and more progress is expected,” Kim said, according to South Korean media pool reports.

Moon responded by expressing his own thanks to Kim for making a “bold decision” in a New Year’s speech to open a new era of detente and send a delegation to the South Korean Winter Olympics in February.

The results of the talks weren’t immediately available. Seoul officials earlier said they would focus on how to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, decrease military tensions along their border and improve overall ties. The North’s media said the talks would reaffirm their commitment to Korean peace, unity and prosperity.

During a conversation at the Paekhwawon guest house where Moon was to stay, Kim said North Koreans hope diplomacy will yield positive results. “I think it was our people’s wish that we come up with good results as fast as we can,” Kim said, according to the media pool reports.

Moon responded that “Our hearts are fluttering, but at the same we have heavy hearts,” and added, “We have built trust and friendship between us, so I think all will be well.”

The two are to meet again on Wednesday.

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More than in their previous encounters, when the mere fact of meeting and resuming a dialogue was seen as a major step forward, Moon is under pressure to leave Thursday with some concrete accomplishments.

One of Moon’s objectives -- and one that also interests Kim -- was clear from the people he took with him. Traveling on Moon’s government jet was Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong and other business leaders, underscoring Moon’s hopes to expand cross-border business projects. Currently, however, all major joint projects between the Koreas are stalled because of U.S.-led sanctions.

But the nuclear issue was sure to cast a shadow over negotiations on joint projects.

Before leaving Seoul, Moon vowed to push for “irreversible, permanent peace” and for better dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington.

“This summit would be very meaningful if it yielded a resumption of North Korea-U.S. talks,” Moon said Tuesday just before his departure. “It’s very important for South and North Korea to meet frequently, and we are turning to a phase where we can meet anytime we want.”

But as Moon arrived, the North’s main newspaper lobbed a rhetorical volley at Washington that could make Moon’s job all the more delicate, blaming the United States alone for the lack of progress in denuclearization talks.

“The U.S. is totally to blame for the deadlocked DPRK-U.S. negotiations,” the Rodong Sinmun said in an editorial, using the initials of the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It said Washington is “stubbornly insisting” that the North dismantle its nuclear weapons first, an approach “which was rejected in the past DPRK-U.S. dialogues,” while failing to show its will for confidence-building “including the declaration of the end of war which it had already pledged.”

While signaling his willingness to talk with Washington, Kim’s strategy has been to try to elbow the U.S. away from Seoul so that the two Koreas can take the lead in deciding how to bring peace and stability to their peninsula. North Korea maintains that it has developed its nuclear weapons to the point that it can now defend itself against a potential U.S. attack, and can now shift its focus to economic development and improved ties with the South.

Rarely do the North Korean official media even mention the word denuclearization.

Talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled since Kim’s meeting with Trump in Singapore in June.

North Korea has taken some steps, like dismantling its nuclear and rocket-engine testing sites, but U.S. officials have said it must take more serious disarmament steps before receiving outside concessions. Trump has indicated he may be open to holding another summit to resuscitate the talks, however.

For Kim, the timing of this week’s summit is good.

North Korea just completed an elaborate celebration replete with a military parade and huge rallies across the country to mark its 70th anniversary. China, signaling its support for Kim’s recent diplomatic moves, sent its third-highest party official to those festivities. That’s important because China is the North’s biggest economic partner and is an important political counterbalance to the United States.

To keep expectations from getting too high, Moon’s chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, said it’s “difficult to have any optimistic outlook” for progress on denuclearization during the summit. But he said he still expects the summit to produce meaningful agreements.

Some progress along those lines is already underway.

South Korea last week opened a liaison office in the North’s city of Kaesong, near the Demilitarized Zone. Another possible area of agreement could be on a formal statement on ending the Korean War, which was halted in 1953 by what was intended to be a temporary armistice. Military officials have discussed possibly disarming a jointly controlled area at the Koreas’ shared border village, removing front-line guard posts and halting hostile acts along their sea boundary.

Moon is the third South Korean leader to visit North Korea’s capital for summits, but the first since 2007.

___

Kim reported from Seoul. AP journalists Kim Tong-hyung and Foster Klug contributed from Seoul. Talmadge is the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter: @EricTalmadge

 

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

Showdown Between Kavanaugh, Accuser Scheduled for Next Week

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 11:17

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are forging ahead with plans for a Senate hearing on a woman’s claims that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when were high schoolers, hoping to salvage the judge’s endangered Supreme Court nomination with a risky, nationally televised showdown between him and his accuser.

Republicans agreed to the hearing in the face of growing demands by GOP senators to hear directly from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, now a psychology professor in California. Their sworn testimony, certain to be conflicting and emotive, will offer a campaign-season test of the political potency of a #MeToo movement that has already toppled prominent men from entertainment, government and journalism.

“Now the whole nation’s trying to figure out something that’s not really evident,” said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. “It is a political dialogue on a very, very painful subject for a lot of people.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said his panel would hold a hearing next Monday with both Kavanaugh and Ford “to provide ample transparency” and “give these recent allegations a full airing.”

Ford says that at a party when both were teenagers in the early 1980s, an intoxicated Kavanaugh trapped her in a bedroom, pinned her on a bed, tried to undress her and forced his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. She said she got away when a companion of Kavanaugh’s jumped on him.

Kavanaugh, 53, has vehemently denied the accusation. He said in a statement Monday that he wanted to “refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.”

Shortly before Grassley’s announcement, the senator said there would be private, telephone interviews of Kavanaugh and Ford conducted by committee staffers. Democrats refused to participate, saying the seriousness of the charges merited a full FBI investigation.

Republicans had also displayed no willingness to delay a Judiciary panel vote that Grassley had planned for this Thursday to advance the nomination, setting the stage for full Senate confirmation of Kavanaugh by month’s end, in time for the new Supreme Court session. Thursday’s vote will not occur.

President Donald Trump telegraphed earlier Monday that that schedule might slow. He told reporters at the White House: “If it takes a little delay, it will take a little delay.”

If the Judiciary committee’s timetable slips, it would become increasingly difficult for Republicans to schedule a vote before midterm elections on Nov. 6 elections, when congressional control will be at stake.

With fragile GOP majorities of just 11-10 on the Judiciary committee and 51-49 in the full Senate, Republican leaders had little room for defectors without risking a humiliating defeat of Trump’s nominee to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.

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Among the GOP defectors was Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Judiciary Committee member who has clashed bitterly with Trump and is retiring from the Senate. Flake said he told No. 2 Senate Republican leader John Cornyn of Texas on Sunday that “if we didn’t give her a chance to be heard, then I would vote no.”

There was enormous pressure on GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two moderates who have yet to announce their positions on Kavanaugh and aren’t on the Judiciary Committee.

Collins said that in a telephone conversation with Kavanaugh on Friday he was “absolutely emphatic” that the assault didn’t occur. She said it would be “disqualifying” if Kavanaugh was lying. Murkowski said Ford’s story “must be taken seriously.” Neither Collins nor Murkowski faces re-election this fall.

Some Democrats raised questions about whether Grassley’s planned hearings were sufficient.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, said in a statement Monday night that she was disappointed the FBI and White House “are failing to take even the most basic steps to investigate this matter” and that the process was being rushed. She said President George H.W. Bush had asked the FBI to investigate Anita Hill’s allegations against Thomas.

Another Democrat on the panel, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, said staging the hearing without the FBI investigation would make it a “sham.”

Underscoring the raw political divisions prompted by the Kavanaugh fight, Feinstein said she’d only learned of the hearing on Twitter.

The Justice Department said in a statement late Monday that the accusation against Kavanaugh “does not involve any potential federal crime.” It said the FBI had forwarded to the White House a letter, evidently from Ford, describing alleged misconduct in the 1980s by Kavanaugh. The statement seemed to suggest that the FBI was not currently investigating it.

Kavanaugh and Ford had each indicated earlier Monday a willingness to testify to the Judiciary committee. Debra S. Katz, Ford’s attorney, said on NBC’s “Today” that Ford was ready to testify publicly to the Judiciary panel, but she did not respond Monday evening to efforts to learn whether she would appear.

Kavanaugh went to the White House on Monday, but Trump said he did not meet with his nominee. He declined to say whether Kavanaugh had offered to withdraw, dismissing the question as “ridiculous.”

Ford, now a psychology professor at California’s Palo Alto University, gave her description of her encounter with Kavanaugh to The Washington Post in an interview published Sunday.

Kavanaugh is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, widely viewed as the nation’s second-most-powerful court.

___

Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey, Mary Clare Jalonick, Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

 

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

Military Photo of the Day: A USAF Fighting Falcon Soars Over Ohio

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 09:00

A U.S. Air Force pilot performs precision aerial maneuvers in an F-16 Fighting Falcon during the Cleveland National Air Show over Ohio on September 2, 2018. 

Happy 71st birthday to the United States Air Force!

 

 

 

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Trump Declassifies Much of Page FISA Warrant, Plus Texts and Other Docs

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 01:00

Was Donald Trump colluding with Russia? Or were officials of the Obama Justice Department and FBI colluding to spy on and sabotage the President? Today, we are a step closer to finding out.

At the request of Congress and “for reasons of transparency,” President Trump has ordered the immediate declassification of a whole raft of documents. These include:

Pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 FISA warrant on Carter W. Page. All 12 FBI reports of interviews with Bruce Ohr in connection with the Russia investigation. All FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

We’re also going to learn a lot more about the texting habits of fired FBI director James Comey. And of fired Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. President Trump has also ordered the Justice Department to publicly release all texts messages relating to the Russia investigation -- without redaction. That means texts by and to Comey, McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

Read the full statement from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders here.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devon Nunes had urged Trump to make the move on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures.

If the president wants the American people to really understand just how broad and invasive this information has been to many Americans and unfair it has been, he has no choice but to declassify.

Congressional sources told Fox News that Nunes was ecstatic at today’s news. “Wow!” he reportedly said. “This is a direct order!” Releasing the texts was a “bonus.”

Transparency

Republicans have long insisted the FBI lied in the FISA warrants against Page. Getting those warrants against the one-time campaign adviser let the FBI surveil the Trump campaign.

McCabe’s and Comey’s texts could tell us just how high the attempted deception campaign against Trump went.

The FBI did not tell the FISA courts that the basis for the Page warrant -- the so-called Steele dossier -- was funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Nor did the FBI admit it had fired Christopher Steele. Nor why: for sharing information on the dossier with the media. The FBI kept from the court the facts about Bruce Ohr. The former assistant director at the DOJ was continuing to funnel information from Steele to the FBI. Nor was the court told that Ohr’s wife had been hired by Fusion GPS to work on the dossier.

Imagine what America will discover in the now-declassified parts of the dossier.

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Remember the texts between former FBI counter-intelligence honcho Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer (also his lover) Lisa Page? They have served as the soundtrack for the ongoing unraveling of the Russia Collusion narrative. Getting the full, unredacted texts will be like… getting the complete studio recordings (with outtakes) of Sonny & Cher.  If they had been aiming to destroy President Nixon.

McCabe’s and Comey’s texts could tell us just how high the attempted deception campaign against Trump went. One small example: It was in McCabe’s office where the “plan” to stop Trump was discussed.

As for Comey, his secret meeting with then-President-elect Trump on the allegations of the dossier was leaked to CNN. This gave CNN what it needed to run with the dossier story.

According to a new text released last week, Strzok wanted to use the CNN story as a “pretext to go interview some people.”

Shortly after, the FBI approached George Papadopoulos at his mother’s house for a chat that quickly turned rough.

This is consistent with other newly released texts indicating Lisa-n-Peter were part of a “media leak strategy.” Information was being leaked to the press about targets, including Carter Page. The press reports blowing up Carter Page’s alleged ties to Russia and Trump would then “justify” further investigation.

The Bombshell: Lisa Page Knew There Was No There There Too

What’s scary? They knew there was no there there.

Today’s declassification news comes in the wake of a John Solomon’s bombshell report. Lisa Page testified to Congress that even after nine months of investigation, the FBI had found no decent proof that Trump had colluded with Russia in the slightest.

“As far as May of 2017, we still couldn’t answer the question.” In fact, Page told Congress, “it still existed in the scope of possibility that there would literally be nothing” to connect Trump and Russia. Even after Mueller and FBI are done investigating.

Somehow, with no evidence of a crime, let alone evidence to make a case, a Special Counsel is appointed.

Somehow, with no evidence of a crime, let alone evidence to make a case, a Special Counsel is appointed. That’s sparked by James Comey leaking privileged information on his meetings with Trump. The Special Counsel just happens to be Comey’s friend and mentor Robert Mueller.

And who appointed Mueller? Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein. One of those who signed off on the June 2017 Carter Page FISA warrant that President Trump just declassified.

It may be closing in on autumn, but the Swamp just got a lot hotter.

 

Al Perrotta is the Managing Editor of The Stream, and co-author of the still relatively new and always timely book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration.

Justice Ginsburg Calls Kavanaugh Hearings a ‘Highly Partisan Show’

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 00:11

Speaking on September 12th before the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association at the George Washington University Law School, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked how she would compare her Supreme Court nomination process to Bret Kavanaugh's.

The 85 year old Justice minced no words when she said, "The way it was, was right. The way it is, is wrong."

She went on to lament how the process has become so politicized and shared some anecdotes reveling in the simplicity of her confirmation.

Ginsburg explained that even while litigating under the auspices of the ACLU, nobody had questioned her about her political leanings during her nomination hearings. She spoke with a nostalgic smirk on her face while recounting her 96-3 confirmation vote.

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Regarding her process, Ginsburg said, “That's the way it should be, instead of what it's become, which is a highly partisan show.”

She concluded with a statement, by which some may share the same sentiment: “I wish I could wave a magic wand, and have it go back to the way it was."

It should also be noted that these remarks were made before Christine Blasey Ford came forward with her allegation against Kavanaugh.

 

Originally appeared at FEE.org.

The Washington Post’s Slander on Hurricanes and Climate Change

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 23:00

The Washington Post editorial board has accused President Trump of being "complicit" in Hurricane Florence, because "he plays down humans' role in increasing the risks" of "extreme weather," and "he continues to dismantle efforts to address those risks."

Such weather, they say, is fueled by manmade global warming that creates "unusually warm ocean water" that worsens hurricanes. The board finishes by declaring that Trump and Republicans are guilty of "reality denial" on this issue. However, their editorial is the antithesis of reality.

Trump hasn't been in office nearly long enough for his policies to alter the earth's greenhouse gas levels. In fact, his plan to repeal Obama's "landmark" climate change regulation has not yet been implemented.

Furthermore, Charles McConnell, a former assistant secretary of energy under Obama and the director of Rice University's Energy and Environment Initiative, estimated that this regulation would decrease global temperature by only 0.01 degree Celsius by 2030. Thus, to blame Trump for Hurricane Florence or any other hurricane in the past or future is absurd.

More importantly, the Post's narrative is at odds with the scientific facts of the matter. These show that from as far back in time as reliable data extends:

global hurricane frequency, hurricane intensity, hurricane duration, and general rainfall trends have been level. Atlantic hurricane frequency and intensity trends have been level. hurricane strikes, major hurricane strikes, and flood trends have been level. Cyclone and Hurricane Trends

Contrary to the Post and other media outlets, cyclones and hurricanes have not become more common or intense. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported in 2012: "There is low confidence in any observed long-term (i.e., 40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity (i.e., intensity, frequency, duration), after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities." This also applies to hurricanes, which are tropical cyclones with winds exceeding 73 miles per hour.

Likewise, the datasets graphed below show that the global number and intensity of cyclones, hurricanes, and major hurricanes have been roughly level for the past four-to-five decades. These data were originally published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in 2011 and updated this year:

Records of Atlantic hurricanes -- which stretch back for more than a century -- also show stagnant trends. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory recently assessed these data and concluded that "the historical Atlantic hurricane record does not provide compelling evidence for a substantial greenhouse warming-induced long-term increase."

Similarly, the IPCC reported in 2013: "No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin."

In spite of all those facts, a national scientific poll commissioned by Just Facts in 2017 found that 69% of U.S. voters believe that the global "number and intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms have generally increased since the 1980s," including 90% of Democrats and 46% of Republicans. This disconnect between perception and reality accords with a mass of global warming-related misinformation spread by the press.

A common thread among much of this misinformation is a focus on local conditions, anecdotes, and short-term trends. Because the earth is vast and its climate varies widely over time and place, it is easy to paint a misleading picture by highlighting certain aspects of it.

For example, the popular narrative that global warming is causing more U.S. hurricane strikes crumbles in the face of long-term data. As detailed by the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, the full record of U.S. landfalling hurricanes actually shows "a slight negative trend beginning from 1900 or from the late 1800s." Counting only major hurricanes, the trend has been generally flat for 165 years:

Because of the timespan involved, no one could possibly know these facts from life experience, even if they had perfect memories. Yet, a 2008 survey of Virginia residents found that the most common answer people give for believing or disbelieving in global warming is their personal experience of the climate. This makes them easy marks for those who mislead by using half-truths.

Even if this data showed rising numbers of hurricanes, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory emphasizes that one cannot logically assess hurricane trends based only on those that reach land, because they are "much less common" than the full number of hurricanes that form at sea. This highlights the importance of not drawing conclusions from narrow data.

The U.S. contains only 1.9% of the world's surface area. Yet, media outlets and global warming activists often argue that the sky is falling based on local trends and events. This is called "cherry-picking," which is reporting only information that accords with a certain view while ignoring everything that does not. It is the equivalent of lying by omission.

The Trenberth Study

To support its claim that Hurricane Florence is "feeding off unusually warm ocean water," the Post cites a 2018 paper in the journal Earth's Future. Its authors studied the infamous Hurricane Harvey that flooded Houston in 2017 and concluded that "record high ocean heat values not only increased the fuel available to sustain and intensify Harvey but also increased its flooding rains on land."

The paper was coauthored by Kevin Trenberth, whom the Post quotes to reinforce its argument. A decade ago, Trenberth, a lead author for the IPCC, grossly misrepresented the facts about global warming and hurricanes during a press conference. Consequently, Chris Landsea, a research scientist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center, quit the IPCC and stated, "I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound."

Trenberth's new paper follows that pattern and begins by stating that:

"human-caused climate change is supercharging" hurricanes. the "Atlantic hurricane season in 2017 broke numerous records," and its "accumulated cyclone energy was 225% of normal." "several aspects of the 2017 season were not 'natural.' The first was the role of human-induced climate change...."

This is a classic example of cherry picking, because it singles out one year from one area of the world. In contrast, the comprehensive data provided in the charts above show that global cyclone energy and frequency trends have been about level.

The authors also write that "increases in Atlantic hurricane activity in the 20th century have been attributed mainly to the increases" in sea surface temperatures, which are "primarily driven by human increases in greenhouse gas concentrations...." Once again, the IPCC and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory have found no detectable increase in Atlantic hurricane activity over the 20th century.

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Moreover, the study that forms the basis of the paper does not prove what its authors claim. It merely finds that Hurricane Harvey traveled over warm ocean waters while absorbing a specific amount of heat, and this heat "likely matches" the amount of heat that it released via rainfall. That's no surprise given that energy cannot be created or destroyed, and 10 pages into the paper, the authors admit that these findings "unsurprisingly, reflect strong energy exchanges during the hurricane."

From that mundane result, the authors jump to the assumption that record-high ocean temperatures "likely" increased Harvey's "size and intensity" and "contributed substantially to the flooding caused by rainfall on land." This is irrational, because there is a significant difference between: (a) finding that a storm absorbed and released a certain amount of heat from the ocean, and (b) concluding that the storm absorbed more heat than it otherwise would have because the ocean was warmer than normal.

The authors don't empirically justify that leap of logic. Instead, they repeatedly assert that warmer oceans create more cyclone activity. However, at the end of one paragraph, they reveal that this conclusion comes from "global modeling experiments" and "dynamically downscaled experiments." These are computer models that predict what will happen -- not what has actually happened.

Unlike those models, real-world data shows that cyclone activity has been level. The academic serial work Flood Geomorphology stresses the danger of relying on computer models instead of hard data:

True science is concerned with understanding nature no matter what the methodology. In our view, if the wrong equations are programmed because of inadequate understanding of the system, then what the computer will produce, if believed by the analyst, will constitute the opposite of science.

The authors also declare that "a warming ocean will" cause "more rainfall and flooding, which is well supported by the Harvey case." Concrete, comprehensive data also deflates that assertion:

A 2015 paper in the Journal of Hydrology analyzed rainfall measurements "made at nearly 1,000 stations located in 114 countries" and found "no significant global precipitation change from 1850 to present." The authors noted that previous studies had analyzed shorter timeframes and found rainfall changes that some people had attributed to global warming, but those results were generally not statistically significant and "not entirely surprising given that precipitation varies considerably over time scales of decades." A 2015 paper in the International Journal of Climatology studied extreme rainfall in England and Wales found that "contrary to previous results based on shorter periods, no significant trends of the most intense categories are found between 1931 and 2014." A 2012 paper in the Hydrological Sciences Journal examined U.S. flood trends from 200 water gauges with records extending from 85 to 127 years ago. This study found "no strong empirical evidence" for increased flood magnitudes across any of the four major regions of the United States. In the Southwest, the study actually found a decrease in flooding, and in the Northeast, it found results that are "suggestive" of increased flooding but not statistically significant.

Nonetheless, Trenberth, his coauthors, and the Post's editorial board ignore such facts while touting anecdotes, model predictions, and leaps of logic.

Storm Speeds

The Post cites one other source to support its argument, writing:

Scientists also warn that climate change may be slowing the wind currents that guide hurricanes, making storms more sluggish and, therefore, apt to linger longer over disaster zones. Tropical cyclone movement has slowed all over the planet. Harvey's stubborn refusal to leave the Houston area was a decisive factor in its destructiveness. Florence may behave similarly.

The hyperlink in the quote above leads to an NPR article, which links to another NPR article, which names the author of a study "published Wednesday in the journal Nature." None of these publications provide a link to the study or its title, thus ensuring that the vast majority of readers will never lay eyes on it. Except for its abstract, the paper itself is locked behind a paywall, providing another barrier to the primary source.

Three pages in, this paper reveals that it did not determine the causes of the slowdown:

The analyses presented here do not constitute a detection and attribution study because there are likely to be many factors, natural and anthropogenic [manmade], that control tropical-cyclone translation speed.

This study calculates the speeds at which tropical cyclones moved over each of their lives by using data on their positions at different points in time. The data covers the globe from 1949 to 2016, and the calculations show that their overall speed declined by 10% during this period "in which global-mean surface temperatures increased by about 0.5 ?C." The paper also says that "the slowdown varies substantially by region and by latitude, but is generally consistent with expected changes" caused by manmade greenhouse gas emissions.

Beyond the fact that the study does not determine causation, the timeframe it covers is short enough to produce illusory trends. For example, the above chart of U.S. hurricane strikes begins in 1851 and shows generally level trends. However, if the data only went back to 1941, it would seem that hurricanes and major hurricanes are trending downward:

Furthermore, the study's findings are at odds with data on U.S. floods. The study states "there is a substantial and significant slowing trend over land areas affected by North Atlantic tropical cyclones (20% reduction over the 68-yr period)," and this has "almost certainly increased local rainfall totals" in this region. However, the above-cited 2012 paper on U.S. flood trends found "no strong empirical evidence" for increased flood magnitudes across any of the four major regions of the United States.

Climate scientist Roy Spencer aptly summarizes the implications of this study for climate change: "But like most claims regarding global warming, the real effect is small, probably temporary, and most likely due to natural weather patterns. Any changes in hurricanes over 70 years, even if real, can easily be part of natural cycles -- or incomplete data."

Potential Harms

In addition to slandering the president of the United States, the Post's deceptive editorial has the potential to cause serious harm in at least three ways.

First, it may spur voters to support policies that can increase hunger. For instance, a 2018 study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that "by 2050, stringent climate mitigation policy, if implemented evenly across all sectors and regions, would have a greater negative impact on global hunger and food consumption than the direct impacts of climate change. The negative impacts would be most prevalent in vulnerable, low-income regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where food security problems are already acute." Note that this study, like all studies that project such effects of government policies, should be taken with a grain of salt.

Second, it can sow fear and hopelessness, which can have debilitating effects on people. For example, the World Health Organization found that the areas surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear accident received very low doses of radiation, and local populations show "no evidence of any effect on the number of stillbirths, adverse pregnancy outcomes, delivery complications or overall health of children." However, these people are suffering because "persistent myths and misperceptions about the threat of radiation have resulted in 'paralyzing fatalism' among residents of affected areas."

Third, it could fuel violence against Republican lawmakers by falsely charging them with deaths caused by hurricanes. This is ironic, given that many news outlets recently declared that Trump was endangering the safety of journalists by calling the "fake news media" the "enemy of the people."

 

James D. Agresti is the president of Just Facts, a think tank dedicated to publishing rigorously documented facts about public policy issues.

The Judge and the Professor: Kavanaugh Accuser Comes Forward

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 21:06

Broadway’s best musicals have nothing on the Swamp when it comes to choreography. Yes, we are talking about the Kavanaugh allegations. Last week, we told you what was going to happen:

As sure as the Carolina coast is wet, that letter or the allegations themselves will be public. Kavanaugh will be painted as a pervert of the highest order. Or hypocrite. Certainly, Feinstein is suggesting he is a criminal.

The Accuser's name will be known to the world. Her wish to stay out of it is irrelevant. Right now, every yearbook of every high school near Kavanaugh's all-boys school is being combed. Emails and texts and Twitter messages are being sent. The woman will be revealed. She will be forced to come forward. She will have her name tattooed on TV screens for weeks.

Her name is Christine Blasey Ford. That name will be tattooed on TV screens for weeks. Ford came forward in an interview with the Washington Post. Her lawyer Debra Katz says she made the decision after -- surprise, surprise -- details of her allegation began to leak. Surprise, Surprise, Democratic senators are calling for a delay in Kavanaugh’s vote. Surprise, Surprise. Ford’s a Trump hater.

And no surprise, Kavanaugh is desperate to defend his name and honor.

The Allegation

Ford told the Post that at a teen party in high school:

Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," said Ford.

Ford says she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Prep, Mark Judge, jumped on top, “sending all three tumbling.”

Kavanaugh vehemently denied the story when The New Yorker detailed the alleged incident. "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time."

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Now that Ford has come forward, Kavanaugh is even more adamant in his denial. “This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes -- to her or to anyone, because this never happened. I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.” (Update: Kavanaugh has hired top defamation lawyer Beth Wilkinson.)

Judge says the story is “absolutely nuts.” He never saw Kavanaugh behave in such a fashion.

Sixty-five women who knew Kavanaugh during those teen years released a statement of support:

Through the more than 35 years we have known him, Brett has stood out for his friendship, character, and integrity. In particular, he has always treated women with decency and respect. That was true when he was in high school, and it has remained true to this day.

The Problem

Read Ford’s Washington Post article carefully. You’re going to notice something curious.

She doesn’t know the date, the week and the month. She isn’t even sure about the year. She doesn’t remember how the party came about. She doesn’t remember where the party was. She doesn’t know who owned the house. She doesn’t know who invited her. She doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know how she got home.

She does remember drinking.

It was only decades later, during psychotherapy, that the story emerged. According to Ford, this is when she realized the impact the alleged incident had on her life and relationships.

Obviously the vagueness puts the veracity of the story in question. However, there’s a bigger problem. As noted in this Twitter thread, how in the world can Kavanaugh defend himself?

5/ The allegation is so vague that it is literally impossible for Kavanaugh to prove he is innocent.Even if Kavanaugh WANTED to shoulderthe burden of proof and prove he is innocent, the allegation isn't specific enough to disprove.

— yikes run! (@yikes_run) September 17, 2018

The Professor

Christine Blasey Ford is a clinical psychology professor connected to Stanford University. If you want to know what students have to say about her, you’re out of luck. RateMyProfessors.com has locked out access. (Her Facebook and LinkedIn account also seem to have been scrubbed.)

Even with the social media clean-up job, there’s still plenty of evidence she’s anti-Trump. According to Breitbart, Ford generated a stir at an anti-Trump protest last year wearing a custom version of the “p**** hats” worn during the Women’s March. She also signed a letter fighting Trump’s efforts to secure the border.

(And let’s throw this into the hopper. There are reports Kavanaugh’s mom ruled against Ford’s parents in a foreclosure suit. Awaiting confirmation of that.)

All told, we’re talking about an allegation filtered through the haze of 35 years, the fog of booze, the manipulations of psychotherapy, and the political fantasy of stopping Trump. An allegation that allows the accused no way to prove his innocence.

No wonder the FBI had no interest in investigating.

Despite all this, we’re still going to have to play out the rest of the Democrat’s “Stop at All Costs” script.

What Now?

Ford is willing to testify publicly, according to her lawyer. As for Kavanaugh, he is desperate to race back to the hearing room to defend his name and honor. Said Kavanaugh, “I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.”

The White House is also saying, in effect, “Bring it!” President Trump says “if it takes a little delay” to clear the matter up, no problem. “We want to make sure everything is perfect.” 

Although Republican swing-vote Sen. Susan Collins questions the timing of the allegation as “political,” she tweeted, “Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh should both testify under oath before the Judiciary Committee.”

That works for Sen. Lindsay Graham. He wants to quickly hear both out and get to the confirmation vote.

Not so fast, say Senate Democrats. Sen. Dick Durbin wants to stop the confirmation process and postpone any vote. Sen. Coons wants the FBI to “fully” investigate. Sen. Kamala Harris demands a “thorough investigation” -- of information the Democrats have had in their back pocket for two months.

Meanwhile, Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley says Sen. Dianne Feinstein is stonewalling efforts to do follow-up with Ford and Kavanaugh. 

Still, assuming Ford doesn’t recant or change her mind about testifying publicly, chances are we’ll soon witness a hearing with the Professor and the Judge. 

An Ugly, Tragic Show

We’ve seen this show before. A show as ugly as it is tragic. It ran in October of 1991, starring Judge Clarence Thomas and Professor Anita Hill. This will be worse. This will be much more bloody. The Thomas-Hill hearings involved fairly mild allegations of workplace harassment between adults blown into a national circus.

This involves the behavior to two people as teenagers. An allegation of sexual assault. At stake, the balance of Supreme Court. UPDATE: An earlier version of this story cited an American Thinker article quoting student reviews of Christine Ford. American Thinker has retracted those quotes, saying they reflect a different professor Christine Ford. They apologize for the error and we apologize as well for passing it on. Meanwhile, as of 6 PM Central, Rate My Professors still has Christine Blasey Ford’s profile closed. 

Florence Flooding Spreads as Storm Heads Northeast

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 19:53

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) -- Throwing a lifeline to a city surrounded by floodwaters, emergency crews delivered food and water to Wilmington on Monday as rescuers picked up more people stranded by Hurricane Florence and the storm’s remnants took aim at the densely populated Northeast.

The death toll from Florence rose to at least 32, and crews elsewhere used helicopters and boats to rescue people trapped by still-rising rivers.

“Thank you,” a frazzled, shirtless Willie Schubert mouthed to members of a Coast Guard helicopter crew who plucked him and his dog Lucky from atop a house encircled by water in Pollocksville. It was not clear how long he had been stranded.

A day earlier, Wilmington’s entire population of 120,000 people was cut off by flooding. By midday Monday, authorities reopened a single unidentified road into the town, which stands on a peninsula. But it wasn’t clear if that the route would remain open as the Cape Fear River kept swelling. And officials did not say when other roads might be clear.

In some places, the rain finally stopped, and the sun peeked through, but North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned that dangerously high water would persist for days. He urged residents who were evacuated from the hardest-hit areas to stay away because of closed roads and catastrophic flooding that submerged entire communities.

“There’s too much going on,” he told a news conference.

About two dozen truckloads of military MREs and bottled water were delivered overnight to Wilmington, the state’s eighth-largest city, officials said.

The chairman of New Hanover County’s commissioners, Woody White, said three centers would open by Tuesday morning to begin distributing essentials to residents.

“Things are getting better slowly, and we thank God for that,” White said.

Mayor Bill Saffo said he was working with the governor’s office to get more fuel into Wilmington.

“At this time, things are moving as well as can be in the city,” he said.

Crews have conducted about 700 rescues in New Hanover County, where more than 60 percent of homes and businesses were without power, authorities said.

Compounding problems, downed power lines and broken trees crisscrossed many roads in Wilmington three days after Florence made landfall. The smell of broken pine trees wafted through damaged neighborhoods.

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At the White House, President Donald Trump said almost 20,000 military personnel and federal workers were deployed to help with the aftermath.

“We will do whatever it takes to keep the American people safe,” Trump said.

Preliminary statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed Florence had the fourth-highest rainfall total of any hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since 1950, with 35.94 inches (91.2 centimeters) at Elizabethtown, North Carolina. Harvey’s total of 60.58 inches (60.5 centimeters) last year in Texas is No. 1.

Desperate for gas to run a generator at home, Nick Monroe waited in a half-mile-long (more than half-kilometer) line at a Speedway station even though the pumps were wrapped in plastic. His power went off Thursday before Florence hit the coast, but he couldn’t recall exactly when.

“It’s all kind of a blur,” Monroe said.

At another gas station, a long line of vehicles followed a tanker truck that pulled in with 8,800 gallons (33,000 liters) of fuel.

Downgraded from a tropical depression, the deadly storm still had abundant rain and top winds around 25 mph (35 kph). Forecasters said it was expected to continue toward the Northeast, which is in for as much as 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain, before the system moves offshore again.

The death toll climbed to 32, with 25 fatalities in North Carolina, as authorities found the body of a 1-year-old boy who was swept away after his mother drove into floodwaters and lost her grip on him while trying to get back to dry land. Elsewhere in North Carolina, an 88-year-old man died after his car was swept away. Authorities in Virginia said one person was dead after an apparent tornado.

Flooding worries also increased in Virginia, where roads were closed and power outages were on the rise. In all, about 420,000 homes and businesses in three states were in the dark. Most of the outages were in North Carolina.

Florence, once a fearsome Category 4 hurricane, was still massive. Radar showed parts of the sprawling storm over six states.

Fears of what could be the worst flooding in the state’s history led officials to order tens of thousands to evacuate, though it was not clear how many had fled or even could.

Emergency officials had difficulty keeping up with the scope of the spreading disaster. In Lumberton, where the Lumber River inundated homes, Fire Chief John Paul Ivey couldn’t even count how many calls authorities had received about people needing to be rescued.

“We’ve been going so hard and fast we don’t have a number yet,” he said.

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Waggoner reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Associated Press photographer Steve Helber in Pollocksville, North Carolina, and AP writers Jonathan Drew in Lumberton, North Carolina; Gary Robertson in Raleigh; and Jay Reeves in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc.

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For the latest on Hurricane Florence, visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes.

 

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

Faith and Forgiveness: An Interview With Will Graham and Luke Zamperini

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 17:00

Unbroken: Path to Redemption, the dramatic sequel to Unbroken, opened in theaters this weekend. You can read Stream writer Nancy Flory’s story on the film here.

Nancy got a chance to speak with Will Graham, grandson of the late Billy Graham, and Luke Zamperini, son of Louis Zamperini, during the recent red carpet premiere in Dallas.

Graham describes how it felt to portray his grandfather and play a role in relating what God was doing in the life of Louis Zamperini during his time after the war. Luke Zamperini shares his take on the movie's representation of his father's story.

Enjoy the video above and check back tomorrow for Nancy's interview with the director and producer of the film.

 

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Should Your Past Sins Disqualify You Today?

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 15:03

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman more than 35 years ago, a charge which he "categorically and unequivocally" denies. Also implicated was Kavanaugh's teen friend at that time, Mark Judge, who also denies the accusation. But what if the charges are true? Do they disqualify Kavanaugh today?

To be perfectly clear, an accusation is just that: an accusation. It is not proof of guilt. And despite our desire to give alleged #MeToo victims the benefit of the doubt, Justice Kavanaugh remains innocent until proven guilty.

But what if he is guilty? Should the Senate Judiciary Committee vote against his nomination?

Let's put our past sins into four different categories, responding to each category in turn.

Foolish Things

The first category consists of the foolish things we did as teenagers and young people. But these transgressions are known, open, and a distant part of our history.

For example, my personal testimony, "From LSD to Ph.D." is well-known.

It is well-known that I was a heroin-shooting, LSD-using, hippie rock drummer before coming to faith in Jesus at the age of 16 in 1971.

It is well-known I broke into a doctor's office with a friend and stole drugs.

It is well-known that I was a proud, angry rebel.

As our daughters grew up, I shared my story with them. Now my grandkids know my story.

My story is known and out in the open, and it's a testimony to God's grace.

Since 1971, I have not used an illegal drug or abused a legal drug. And, despite drinking heavily at times in my teen years, I have not had a sip of alcohol since 1971.

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If Brett Kavanaugh got drunk with his friends and assaulted another teenager that would be grave and ugly. But if this was something that was known, open, and unrelated to his behavior and conduct ever since then, it should not disqualify him from service today. (To be "known and open" would also mean that he had made things right with his alleged victim.)

Lots of us did stupid things when we were kids and teenagers. But as we became responsible adults, we put those things behind us.

Recognizing this, those who voted for Barack Obama to be president forgave him for his pot-smoking days. (In his words, marijuana use was "what teenage kids did at that age when I was growing up.")

Some of us even did reprehensible things as adults. But we made proper restitution, we were completely rehabilitated, and we have made something worthwhile out of our lives.

Such stories are noble and inspiring.

Past Behavior Honestly Addressed

The second category consists of sinful behavior in our past that we covered over, hoping it would never be discovered.

What happens when these old skeletons are suddenly discovered in our closet? If the behavior was totally uncharacteristic, if it did not lastingly wound or injure someone else, and if it was never again repeated, you can make a case for overlooking it -- but only if the response today was proper.

In other words, if it came to light that, when you were a 16-year-old boy, you had consensual sex with your 16-year-old girlfriend, but since then, your moral behavior was impeccable, you shouldn't be disqualified from public service today. But only if you responded properly when confronted.

A proper response would require full acknowledgment of guilt, not lying about the incident, and pointing to the changes you made to live rightly ever since.

To say that these sins of our youth make us unfit to serve today is to render unfit a vast percentage of the population. How many of us have an unblemished past?

Cover-ups

The third category consists of lying today when confronted with sinful behavior from the past. That would be the bigger issue to me with Justice Kavanaugh.

Did he do something reprehensible as a drunken teenager? Perhaps he did, but again, that is just an accusation at this point.

The big question for me is: Is he telling the truth today?

We're not looking to confirm teenager Kavanaugh. We're looking to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.

His present behavior is far more important to me than his teenage behavior. Can the man be trusted?

When Past Becomes Present

The fourth category consists of sinful behavior in the past that still carries over until today.

If Kavanaugh did, in fact, sexually assault his accuser more than 35 years ago, does that reflect his attitude towards women ever since? Is he an abuser? Does he view women as sexual objects? Does he look on his alleged past transgressions as just a bunch of guys having fun?

Obviously, there are major reasons to question the validity of the accusations, given today's political climate. (And given the glowing testimony of those who knew Kavanaugh in those days.) On the flip side, Kavanaugh's accuser is herself a professor today, which adds credibility to her story. May the whole truth come to light.

But let's also remember that President Obama joked with students at the University of Chicago this past January, saying, "If you had pictures of everything I'd done when I was in high school I probably wouldn't have been president of the United States."

In the case at hand, the charges are more serious and more concerning, since they involved alleged sexual assault. But even if they were true, they do not, ipso facto, rule out present effective service today, even in the Supreme Court.

It all depends on which category, outlined above, these past (alleged) transgressions fall into.

House Intel Committee To Release Transcripts Of Trump-Russia Witness Interviews

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 14:00
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said Sunday that he plans to release transcripts of interviews with around 70 witnesses in the Trump-Russia probe within the next few weeks.

"We believe that the depositions that we took, I think for nearly about 70 people those need to be published, and they need to be published I think before the election," Nunes said in an interview on Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures.

"By published I mean put out for the American people to review, so that they can see the work that we did and they can see all of the people that were interviewed by us, and there are answers to those questions. I think full transparency is in order here so I expect to make those available from our committee to the American public here in the next few weeks," continued Nunes.

South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, a member of the Intelligence panel, told The Hill Wednesday that the committee should release transcripts of interviews conducted during the investigation.

The committee conducted 73 witnesses as part of its investigation, which began its investigation in January 2017. Members of the Trump campaign, FBI officials, and various intelligence community officials from the Obama administration were all interviewed as part of the probe. Republicans on the committee released a 253-page report on April 27 which found no evidence of collusion between the campaign and Kremlin.

Nunes said that between 70 and 80 percent of the transcripts do not contain classified information. The remaining transcripts would have to be reviewed by the office of the director of national intelligence. Nunes said that review process "would only take a matter of days."

Nunes and other House Republicans have also led a push to get President Donald Trump to declassify and release documents related to the FBI and Justice Department's collusion investigation. Trump is expected to release portions of an FBI application for a spy warrant against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

 

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Hope Fades in Philippines for Dozens Trapped in Landslides

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 13:55

ITOGON, Philippines (AP) -- A Philippine mayor said Monday that it’s unlikely any of the dozens of people thought buried in a huge landslide set off by Typhoon Mangkhut will be found alive, though rescuers were still digging through the massive mound of mud and debris covering a chapel where they had sheltered.

Mayor Victorio Palangdan of Itogon town in Benguet province, among the worst-hit by the typhoon that struck Saturday, said at a news conference that of the 40 to 50 people thought buried, there’s a “99 percent (chance) that they really are all dead.”

Mangkhut has killed 65 people since it tore through the Philippines. The storm killed another four people in China, where Mangkhut weakened to a tropical storm as it churned inland Monday.

Palangdan said rescuers have dug out 11 bodies from a the slide, which is covering a former miners’ bunkhouse that had been turned into a chapel. Dozens of residents sought shelter there during the storm despite warnings it was dangerous.

“They laughed at our policemen. They insisted,” he said. “They were resisting when our police tried to pull them away. What can we do?”

Hundreds of rescuers, including police and soldiers, scrambled to search for the missing as grief-stricken relatives waited nearby, many of them quietly praying.

“We will not stop until we recover all the bodies,” Palangdan said.

Most of those buried in the slide are thought to be poor miners and their families. In order to prevent such tragedies going forward, Environmental Secretary Roy Cimatu said the government would deploy soldiers and police to stop illegal mining in six mountainous northern provinces, including Benguet.

Philippine officials have said in the past that gold mines tunneled by big mining companies legally or by unauthorized individuals and small outfits have made the hillsides unstable and more prone to landslides. Tens of thousands of small-time miners in recent years have come to the mountain provinces from the lowlands and established communities in high-risk areas like the mountain foothills of Itogon.

Mangkhut on Monday was still affecting southern China’s coast and the provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan and rain and strong winds were expected to continue through Tuesday.

On Monday afternoon, Mangkhut was about 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of the city of Nanning in Guangxi region, traveling in a northwesterly direction and weakening as it progressed. There were no additional reports of deaths or damage.

Life was gradually returning to normal along the hard-hit southern China coast, where high-rises swayed, coastal hotels flooded and windows were blown out. Rail, airline and ferry services had been restored and casinos in the gambling enclave of Macau had reopened for business.

In Hong Kong, crews were clearing fallen trees and other wreckage left when the financial hub felt the full brunt of the storm on Sunday.

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“This typhoon really was super strong … but overall, I feel we can say we got through it safely,” Carrie Lam, the territory’s chief executive, told reporters.

The Hong Kong Observatory said Mangkhut was the most powerful cyclone to hit the city since 1979, packing winds of 195 kilometers per hour (121 mph).

The typhoon struck Asian population centers as tropical weather also was devastating the southern U.S. Florence has dumped historical levels of rain on North Carolina.

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Associated Press journalists Jim Gomez and Cecilia Forbes in Manila contributed to this report.

 

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

The Catholic Church Should Follow the Protestants

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 12:00

The Catholic Church is bleeding from a thousand self-inflicted wounds. Not just because clergy abused minors and many others, including vulnerable seminarians. Because bishops covered up their abuse -- especially when the abusers were fellow bishops -- and didn’t stop them when they could have.

How do we ever come back from that? How can the Church ever restore its credibility after what we now know? One way. Don't wait for Caesar to come to you. Go to him first.

Go to Caesar

One Protestant church has already shown the way. In its recent special report on how Protestant churches have dealt with sexual abuse, World Magazine highlighted one church that "offers a model of how to respond to abuse accusations."

When confronted with an accusation of abuse by a former minister, Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington, KY, understood seven things. (The emphasis is mine.)

1) They understood that when you have credible evidence of a crime, you remove the suspect from his position and report him to the authorities: "The presbytery removed him from office and sent his confession to law enforcement."

2) They understood that you don't keep your own members in the dark: "Even though Waller had been gone for 12 years, Tates Creek immediately had a meeting of elders, hired an attorney to go through the process, and emailed its congregation about what happened."

3) They understood that it is better to go to law enforcement first instead of making them go to you: "Tates Creek elders unanimously voted to begin an independent investigation and to report findings to the police."

They Understood

4) The church understood the importance of transparency and repentance: "Senior Pastor Robert Cunningham released an extensive public statement, answering three major questions: Is this really sexual abuse? … Was anyone in leadership aware this was taking place? … What steps are we taking in response?"

5) They understood the effect these actions would have on both the abusers and their victims: A sexual predator will leave the church. "No predator is going to stay in a church like that, because they know that they'll be caught. By that same token, a survivor or victim will be able to come forward to a leadership like that because they've handled it right."

6) They understood the importance of humility: "The last thing we want to do is 'pat ourselves on the back' and then the investigation reveal that we have much to confess,' he [the pastor] wrote. He promised 'transparency' when the investigation is over."

7) Perhaps most important of all, Tates Creek understood the importance of placing righteousness over reputation: "Cunningham asked his congregation to 'resist the temptation' to be concerned about the reputation of the church: 'I am determined that we prioritize righteousness over reputation. ... And above all, remember that our God is faithful to bring beauty from ashes, redeeming what sin has laid waste."

Tates Creek's Amazing

Everything that Tates Creek did when faced with an accusation of clergy abuse is amazing. And by amazing I mean normal. And by normal I mean not normal. That is, what Tates Creek Church did is what every church should do. It should be common sense. Anything else gives you the current Catholic catastrophe.

And some Catholic bishops get that. According to a Catholic News Agency story, "Archbishop Robert J. Carlson has invited the Missouri attorney general's office to conduct an inspection of its files related to allegations of sexual abuse and to produce an independent report."

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Two things stand out about Archbishop Carlson's action. First, he went to the AG first, rather than the other way around. Second, he didn't have to. According to the CNA story, "In Missouri, the state attorney general does not have the power to convene a grand jury such as the one" in Pennsylvania.

The St. Louis Archdiocese was never in any danger of being forced to hand over its internal files to state authorities against its will. And yet Archbishop Carlson did so willingly. He even asked the authorities to issue a public report on its findings.

Go and Do Likewise

If every bishop in the United States did this, it would have three positive effects.

First, it would restore trust with the Catholic laity. It would rebuild confidence with the public at large.

Second, it would aid the work of good bishops who are otherwise powerless to root out networks of abusers that exist among their own diocesan priests. Not sure whom to trust, your Excellency? Invite law enforcement in to help you sort it out. If the abusers don't fear you, they will at least fear exposure and possible arrest.

Third, it would preserve the Church’s freedom. The Church retains its right to govern itself if it asks for the state intervention, rather than against its will.

That’s how you do it. That’s how you come back from such a scandal. And that’s how you restore credibility. Full transparency and in cooperation with law enforcement.

Whatever grief you think you are saving yourselves by not doing it that way, dear ecclesiastics, well … look around you. It’s not working. It’s doing the opposite of working.

Having already tried everything else, dear churchmen, how about you now try doing the right thing? Tell the truth. Call in Caesar to help.

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