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Updated: 4 hours 27 min ago

Military Photo of the Day: Marines Fire Way During Exercise in Syria

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 09:25

U.S. Marines fighting ISIS in northeast Syria fire an 81mm mortar during an exercise in Hajin on August 4, 2018.

Thousands of brave American troops will risk their lives this week in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other global hotspots. We pray for their safe and swift return.

 

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Christianity Works Only in Its Most Radical Form

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 09:00

After 30 excruciating minutes of expressing deep frustration with his personal life, Peter confessed, "I gave up on Christianity during college days. It just didn't work." He went on to describe how hard he tried to stay inside the moral boundaries as outlined in the teaching of the Christian church he attended, but never could. In an effort to be authentic, he decided to abandon the standards and live like most of his friends.

Peter is an example of the thousands of former churchgoers who now identify on religious surveys as "nones." The now have no affiliation with a church. Some wear that identity as a badge of freedom from religion.

A Broken Form of Christianity

It is now coming to light that the form of Christianity that has been promoted for several generations is not the form that Jesus taught and lived. From the Roman Catholic's sex abuse scandal to the slowly dying Protestant congregations, to the garish consumer-driven spectacle affecting Evangelicalism, the evidence seems to suggest that something isn't working.

Disciples like those who brought transformation to cultures in the early days of the church are few today -- and rarely noticed by the church culture. The model disciple today seems more interested in gaining and maintaining relevance to the culture, rather than offering an alternative to the steady march toward meaninglessness.

The agenda of secular society is gaining momentum while we Christians try not to be perceived as contrarians. We must not offend. We must not confront. We must lose or ignore our convictions. We must change our core beliefs. All the while, millions are fraught with life-destroying addictions, dysfunctional relationships, and twisted identities.

Only Full Abandonment Satisfies

When the popular brand of Christianity eliminated the power of transformation from its core, multitudes were doomed to live in their spiritually defective condition with nothing stronger than willpower to confront their afflictions. It is no wonder we have normalized behavior that is prohibited by both Scripture and common sense. If we can't change, we must adapt. We now call that progress.

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Early Christianity offered radically changed lives, as evidenced by the apostle Paul's comments:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

-- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)

The early church was not a gathering of good people trying to be better. They were captivated by the One who was raised from the dead. They had been transformed by him.

But radical Christianity is not just for the extreme outcast of society. Even regular church attendees are often beset by disappointment with their level of spirituality. They are discovering that a partial buy-in cheats the seeker. Any hold-back denies the bounty of grace. Only full abandonment to God's love satisfies the yearning of the human soul, which was designed to be loved fully.

Living By the Spirit

Jesus describes a life far beyond external standards and man's ability to achieve them. He spoke of forgiving your enemies. Turning your cheek to insults. Eliminating hatred, anger, lust, greed and vengeance. He described disciples as lights in the darkness, salt in society, and houses built on a foundation that no storm can topple.

He commanded people to do things they couldn't so he could do those things for them and through them. "Stretch forth your hand," he commanded a man with a withered hand. "Lazarus come forth," he said to a dead man. Later, his apostles followed suit, giving instructions that can only be obeyed by those born of the same Spirit that raised Jesus from death. "Love without hypocrisy," "outdo one another in showing honor," "bless those who persecute you," "live in harmony with one another." The implication is that when a Christian does these things, it is coming out of his new life -- the one he shares with Jesus by means of the indwelling Spirit.

Those who are born of the Spirit are infused with a radical love that demonstrates a radical alternative kingdom.

These displays of love have death-defying power in them. This kind of love cannot be defeated. It annihilates hate. It exterminates fear. It will not stop at the edge of human hardness. It will still be reigning when all the ideologies of history lie bankrupt in the pit of shame.

It Took a Radical Act of God to Redeem Us

The form of Christianity that settles for theological propositions, transcendent principles, altruistic projects, and moralistic practices doesn't work!

It took a radical act of God to redeem us. It required a costly death, a miraculous resurrection, and a glorious ascension. Nothing short of that would have solved our problem. The radical act of grace demands a radical response of faith. God's grace toward us does not produce a half-hearted moralist who is trying to get better. Those who are born of the Spirit are infused with a radical love that demonstrates a radical alternative kingdom.

Our world desperately needs the hope that comes from the One who offers his life now and forever. Those who abandon themselves to that hope find that it works.

Gratitude: We Have It Awfully Good

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 09:00

Is the "middle class" on the ropes? That’s what the mainstream media tell us. Wages have stagnated. People cannot afford the cost of living. The middle class is shrinking as people slip into poverty. Fewer middle class people can reach the American dream. The 1% has it all.

Do a web search using the phrase, "middle class dying." Your reading portfolio will suddenly become very full.

But the idea that the middle class is dying is simply not true. Our economy has a remarkable future. That is, as long we don't panic and talk ourselves into some variety of a socialist/fascist "paradise."

Middle Incomes Rising

According to federal data, more than half of all American adults live in middle-income homes. The great majority of our fellow citizens are doing better than ever. Here are some facts about income, compensation, and "life in the middle."

Real median household income in the U.S. was $61,372 in 2017, according to the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis. In 1984, it was $50,511 (adjusted for inflation).

That's not a huge jump, but it's not stagnation, either. And it doesn't account for the fact we have so many more goods, of higher quality, and at affordable prices.

For example, many prices have, in real terms, fallen. Don't like the price of gas? Well, don't look back too far. Adjusted for inflation, gas in 1980 was close to $4.00 per gallon. I'll take $2.50 today, thanks. And according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food as a percentage of our take-home incomes has dropped from about 17 percent in 1960 to about 10 percent today.

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But dollars don't tell the whole story. Think about that car in your driveway. How often does it need a tune-up? Does it have a Bluetooth feature? Satellite radio? You have radial tires, steel-belted, right?

And how about the fuel it burns? Did you know that "new passenger vehicles are 98-99% cleaner for most tailpipe pollutants" as opposed to cars in the 1960s? Or that over the past 50 years, "lead has been eliminated, and sulfur levels are more than 90% lower than they were prior to regulation"?

Dissatisfaction in an Age of Plenty

But we still complain. So, take a stroll in your neighborhood supermarket. Fruits and vegetables from all over the world. Fresh, to boot. Ethnic foods galore. Dozens of shampoos. Scores of cheeses. So many types of snack foods, soups and sodas you'd need a notebook to catalog all of them. This amazing array is affordable as well as safe to eat.

Want to take a vacation? Good thing it's not 1941. Then, "the average flight from L.A. to Boston was worth $4,539.24 per person in today's money, and it would have taken 15 hours and 15 minutes with 12 stops." What did a nonstop flight cost in 2015? $480.89. And it took only six hours.

Wages now rise almost three percent annually, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The inflation rate is just over two percent. But other forms of compensation (retirement investment plans, health insurance, paid vacations, etc.) add to the way we get paid, too.

Dissatisfied? With some things, sure. But the American cup is more than half full. Don't let naysayers and professional carpers drag you down with their stories of impending disaster for ordinary Americans.

Bernie Sanders and America's "Democratic Socialists" have never had it so good. Neither have most of the rest of us.

Five Rules For Success at School

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 03:39

You may hate teachers who make you write. A lot of people hate writing. Heck, I often hate it and I do it for a living. But — this is the way the world works, kids — you will learn skills you won’t learn any other way. Those skills will make a difference to your whole life.

Here are five rules to help you do it well. I’m mostly writing for the high school and college student. But the rules apply even if you’re 63 and your boss tells you to write a report on advances in widget-making.

First, do what the teacher tells you

Well, of course! you say. But lots of students do something else. They want to write more than he wants them to write, for example. They think they have to say this, that, and the other thing. So they hand in a five-page paper for a two-page assignment. They tell themselves the teacher won’t mind. 

Thinking Well and Wisely

Want some great insights into Christian thinking? A theologian named A. D. Sertillanges wrote The Intellectual Life about 70 years ago, and it’s still the best thing of its sort. It’s more than a little academic, though. For some easy insights from the book, see Five Unexpected Lessons About Thinking. 

Here’s one. Sertillanges warns us against the idea that we have to know everything. It’s easy to feel that, especially when you’re around really smart people. We don’t want to be half-informed. He explains:

“The half-informed man is not the man who knows only the half of things, but the man who only half knows things. Know what you have resolved to know; cast a glance at the rest. Leave to God, who will look after it, what does not belong to your proper vocation.”

In other words: Do your job. Don’t try to do everyone else’s. God’s in charge.

As Sertillanges says: “Do not be a deserter from yourself, through wanting to substitute yourself for all others.”

The teacher will usually have a good reason for telling you to do what he’s telling you to do. He may want you to write just two pages because he wants you to learn to focus, to figure out the main point and select the best evidence, and present it efficiently. Or maybe he just doesn’t have time to read a lot of long papers, because he’s teaching other courses. Maybe he’s lazy or has three small children at home.

If he has a good reason, you won’t learn what you should learn if you ignore his instructions. Even if he doesn’t have a good reason, it’s his class — but your grade.

Second, go small

Pick the narrowest subject you can. A lot of us want to make the big, all-encompassing, solves-the-whole-problem point. You imagine your teacher smacking his forehead and saying, “Wow, this student really gets it! Give this kid a full scholarship.” This pretty much never happens.

Find a subject you could put your finger on if you found it. Don’t begin with your theory, meaning you’ll write more of an argument and less of an exposition. You probably don’t know enough to argue your theory well. Write about a person or a book instead, or compare two people or two books. Present what important people have said about your subject. Describe an event drawing upon different sources. That kind of thing.

To put it another way: Don’t over-reach. Don’t say what you can’t say with confidence. Accept the fact that at your age, you can’t say all that much with confidence. That’s why you’re in school.

As a teacher, I’m much happier with the students who tell me something they know, that they can describe well, than with those who submit Big Thoughts. The great minds can do that, sure, but most of us mere mortals need to do what we can. That’s our contribution and a necessary one it often is.

Third, decide what you want to argue before you start writing

You may be the kind of person who works out what he thinks by writing. I’m that way. But don’t let that fool you into writing before you have your basic idea. You do that, you waste a lot of time noodling around and tossing up a lot of stuff you can’t use. It’s way too easy to type instead of write.

Writing for Publication

These rules apply to people who want to write for publication as well. Just put in “editor” where I’ve written “teacher.”

People hoping to be published should follow the rules even more closely than students. The teacher has to read students’ papers, but editors don’t have to read submissions. And they often don’t want to. Because, let me be honest here, most things an editor gets either aren’t very good or they don’t fit the publication.

Always always always search the publication’s website for its writer’s guidelines. Sometimes they’re called “submission guidelines.” You can usually find them under the “About Us” tab.

Get at least a bumper-sticker version of your argument. You might only have a reaction or a gut feeling or a really simple idea. Go with that. Then ask yourself what you mean by it and what evidence you have for it.

This also helps a lot when you’re stuck. You stare at the computer screen feeling you have nothing intelligent to say. But you do. Okay, usually. It’s just stuck in your head somewhere. Start with that reaction or gut feeling.

Your first bumper-sticker might be your reaction to one of the assigned textbooks. You might think: “This is a great book.” That’s not much, but you can do something with that. You’d ask yourself: “Why is it a great book? Why do I like it so much? Who should read it? What would I tell my roommate about it?” Then you might find yourself saying something like “It deals with this problem better than these famous books I’ve read.” and then you’d lay out your reasons.

Fourth, share your writing with critical readers and listen to them

You need someone to tell you what you’re missing. Almost everyone does. I make much of my living editing academics and professional writers and even they need help putting their argument together and conveying it most effectively. They know too much to see what they don’t know and aren’t saying.

This will be true for you as a student. You need people to tell you they don’t see your point or they can’t follow your argument or your evidence doesn’t convince them. Don’t react — as it’s so, so easy to do — but hear them. Usually you’ll need to rewrite till they’re happy. You may indeed be perfectly clear — to you and to people like you. But if you’re not clear to them, you’re not clear enough.

Fifth, when you’re stuck, leave your computer and write by hand

When I said this to my seminary students, the younger ones always laughed. Out loud. In class. It’s not magic, but something good happens when you physically write. You see what you want to say better. You don’t burble out lots of stuff you can’t use. Your mind kicks into gear in a way it doesn’t always when you’re typing.

Just Do It

These five rules will make your life as a student easier. And remember when you’re muttering to yourself about having to write a paper, your teacher’s giving you a blessing. And at some sacrifice. He’s the one who has to read all those papers and — as you may guess — 

 

This article is adapted from David Mills’ weekly column for Aleteia, which you can find here. He came to the rules from teaching writing at a seminary and mentoring young writers, and from editing hundreds of people as editor of Touchstone and executive editor of First Things, which he still does freelance.

 

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Serena Williams and Sportsmanship

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 00:00

Serena Williams' 2018 U.S. Open Final loss was a surprise. But the way it unfolded -- with three code violations, including a game penalty -- was an even bigger surprise. Social media erupted in debate as the events unfolded. The discussion extended to whether women receive equal treatment in sports, given Williams' claim of sexism.

The larger lessons, though, deal with the value of sportsmanship.

What Happened

The U.S. Open is one of four Grand Slam events in tennis. These are the biggest tournaments in the sport. Code violations at the U.S. Open come with specific penalties. The first one results in a warning. The second, a point penalty. The third, a game penalty. The umpire does not chose these penalties. They're laid out in the official rule book.

The rule book forbids coaching: "Players shall not receive coaching during a match (including the warm-up)." So when Chair Umpire, Carlos Ramos, noticed Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou making hand gestures, he called a code violation.

It's not clear whether Williams saw her coach's hand gestures. But that doesn't matter according to the rule book. Mouratoglou was coaching, as he later admitted. Perhaps other umpires would have let it go. Or given a "soft warning" as former champion Martina Navratilova has suggested. But Ramos is known for being a stickler.

As the match progressed, Williams smashed her racket after losing a point. Racket abuse is a code violation. Because this was Williams' second violation, she was assessed a point penalty.

This seemed to take Williams by surprise, as if she hadn't realized that the prior warning had been official. After that prior warning, Williams had told Ramos that she'd "rather lose than cheat" and that she could "see why he thought she was getting coaching." It had been a civil dialog. But now that a point penalty was assessed, things took a nasty turn.

Williams' angry remarks to Ramos occurred over a period of time, with some tennis played in between, after which Williams would reengage Ramos on the subject. Williams demanded an apology for "accusing her of cheating." She ultimately called Ramos a liar and a thief. That got her a third code violation: A game penalty. Soon after Williams lost the match.

Sexism?

Does sexism occur in a fallen world? Sure. It's unfortunate. It's wrong. It should be opposed. But was this an example of sexism? I'm convinced that any male player in today's game, if he behaved as Williams did, would have received the same treatment from Carlos Ramos. There's nothing in Ramos' history to suggest otherwise. He's been a tough cookie on men, too. All three code violations were real.

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The question shouldn't be: If men can get away with abusive behavior, why can't women? Instead, let's not let either of them get away with it. Let's call athletes to honor their sport and to recognize the responsibilities that come with competing on the highest stages.

Sportsmanship

We are God's image bearers in this world. We admire great athletes because they reflect something of God's greatness. The power, the strength, the beauty they display in their sport is awesome to see -- and it points us beyond the athletes to the God who fearfully and wonderfully made us (Psalm 139:14).

There's also a measure of self-control in athletic greatness. In tennis, you can't just hit the ball, you have to hit it in the right place. It's a game of inches. Miss by a little and you're likely to lose the point. Baseball players have to avoid chasing pitches that veer well outside the strike zone. You can sack the quarterback, but if you rough the passer, it's a stiff penalty. Power must always be mixed with restraint.

Self-control is needed in handling setbacks. A missed point, a missed shot, a missed tackle, a strikeout -- you have to shake it off and keep going. Mental toughness. What's odd about the Serena Williams thing is that she simply would not let it go. She took the coaching violation so personally. It had just been a warning. Maybe it was nit-picky. Leave that to the analysts to discuss later. You are the most accomplished athlete in the history of your sport. Let it go.

Athletes need to remember that millions of fans are watching. They're watching not just whether you win or lose but how you compete. They will imitate you, for better or for worse. In sports, being a role model is not something you choose. It's something that chooses you if you're lucky enough to compete on the highest stages.

When I watch sports I'm hoping to see not just athletic greatness but greatness of character. Self-mastery, humility, respect for authority, respect for opponents, a desire to lift-up teammates rather than just promote self. Someone who understands that there's more at stake than winning or losing.

Because here's the thing: Try as a might, I will never play a sport as well as the athletes I watch on TV. Is it too much to ask that they behave in ways that I can and should imitate?

 

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

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Florence Latest: Complaints of Price Gouging, Rivers Rising Higher Than Even Flood Gauges

Sun, 09/16/2018 - 22:59

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) -- The Latest on Tropical Depression Florence (all times local):

5:55 p.m.

North Carolina’s chief lawyer says he’s looking into accusations that retailers are bilking customers through exorbitant prices as Hurricane Florence and the storm’s remnants have crossed the state.

Attorney General Josh Stein said Sunday his office has received 500 complaints so far alleging price-gouging for essentials like gas and water, as well as excessive hotel prices for evacuees. Stein says investigations of gas stations have already begun.

The price-gouging law took effect when Cooper declared a state of emergency more than a week ago. It prevents retailers from charging “unreasonably excessive” prices for goods used in an emergency. The law allows Stein’s office to stop the high pricing and seek refunds for consumers. Civil penalties also are possible.

Stein also warned citizens to be careful about finding reputable businesses to perform home repairs or tree removals following the storm and about choosing reputable charities for recovery donations.

___

5:20 p.m.

Officials have confirmed a 16th death attributed to Florence.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety says a pickup truck was traveling east on a road near Gilbert, South Carolina, around 6 a.m. Sunday when it drove into standing water on the roadway.

Officials say the driver, identified as 30-year-old Rhonda R. Hartley, lost control and went off the side of the road, hitting a tree. The driver died at the scene.

Officials in South Carolina are warning about dangerous flash flooding throughout the state as rains from the remnants of Hurricane Florence continue.

The driver’s name wasn’t immediately released.

___

5:20 p.m.

Flood waters fueled by Florence’s heavy rains have submerged instruments used by the federal government to monitor river levels in North Carolina, causing at least two of them to stop working.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Sunday that a gauge on the Cape Fear River near Chinquapin stopped transmitting after hitting its limit of 24.2 feet (7.38 meters). A gauge on the Trent River in Trenton, North Carolina, stopped working when water levels hit 21.5 feet (6.55 meters). Major flood stages at those sites occur when the rivers reach 15 or 16 feet (4.6 or 4.9 meters).

Supervisory hydrologist Douglas A. Walters says more gauges are likely to become submerged and stop working. The gauges are normally installed well above the heights floodwaters are expected to reach. USGS crews have been working in the field over the weekend to raise some gauges even higher.

___

5:05 p.m.

Tropical Depression Florence has picked up speed as it continues dumping heavy rains over the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center says Florence is moving north at 14 mph (22 kph) -- a brisk pace compared to its sluggish crawl across the region since Thursday, when it barely topped speeds at which most humans can walk.

Florence’s top sustained wind speeds held at 35 mph (55 kph). By 5 p.m. Sunday, Florence was centered about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south-southeast of Greenville, South Carolina, and about 60 miles south-southeast of Asheville, North Carolina.

Forecasters say Florence is still expected to produce excessive rainfall as it turns from the Carolinas over the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England early this week.

___

5:05 p.m.

Motorists who would ordinarily travel through North Carolina are still being asked to stay out because of poor road conditions in the aftermath of Florence.

Bill Holmes, a state spokesman, said Sunday the message is: “Please don’t come through here if you can avoid it.”

Authorities say flooding is widespread, conditions are changing constantly and the roads need to be kept clear for first responders. High water has led to closures on Interstates 40 and 95, two major arteries.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation posted a map online of what it acknowledged was an “extremely long detour” through Tennessee and Georgia for travelers heading south on Interstate 95. It also warned that GPS systems are routing users into areas the department doesn’t recommend for travel.

A map with real-time road conditions is available online .

___

4:35 p.m.

Floodwaters from Florence are lapping at doorsteps of some homes in the town of Bennettsville, South Carolina, where firefighters used an inflatable boat to get some residents to dry ground.

Heavy rain from the remnants of Hurricane Florence caused the street to flood Sunday on Talon Drive where Mildred Smith lives across the street from her niece, Jovanaka Smith.

Water had seeped to their front porches Sunday afternoon when firefighters came to the neighborhood, wading door-to-door through ankle-deep water and asking residents to leave.

The Smiths packed some spare clothes and medications before getting into a rescue boat. They didn’t have to go far. Firefighters dropped them off at the neighboring home of a relative that remained on dry ground.

___

4:15 p.m.

Duke Energy says the collapse of a coal ash landfill at a closed power station near the North Carolina coast is an “ongoing situation,” with an unknown amount of potentially contaminated storm water flowing into a nearby lake.

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Sunday that a full assessment of how much ash escaped at the Sutton Power Station outside Wilmington can’t occur until it stops raining. She said there was no indication that contamination from Sutton Lake had drained into the nearby Cape Fear River.

The company initially estimated on Saturday that about 2,000 cubic yards (1,530 cubic meters) of ash were displaced at the landfill, which is enough to fill about 180 dump trucks. Sheehan said that estimate could be revised after a further examination of conditions at the site.

___

4:15 p.m.

Rivers are rising to dangerous levels and city parks have become submerged in water as unrelenting rain brought by Tropical Depression Florence continues to come down on Fayetteville, North Carolina, and the surrounding area.

The Cape Fear River, which passes through the city, continued to rise Sunday. The National Weather Service says the river had reached 41 feet (12.5 meters) by 2 p.m., 6 feet (2 meters) above flood stage. The river is expected to crest at 62 feet (19 meters) Tuesday, prompting a mandatory evacuation for areas within 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) of the river.

Fayetteville resident Charles Jockers says the slow rise may lull people into complacency. He says despite an evacuation order, in-town traffic has been increasing over the past few days.

Heavy rain continued to fall in Fayetteville on Sunday, and the national weather service predicts 1 inch to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) of rain will fall overnight. Rain is forecast to slow to a trickle of less than a tenth of an inch by Tuesday night.

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___

3:45 p.m.

Officials in southwest Virginia are urging residents to evacuate ahead of potentially “life-threatening” flash flooding.

The city of Roanoke is asking residents who live in a flood plain to leave their homes ahead of heavy rains expected to begin Sunday afternoon as Florence moves out of the Carolinas and heads north.

Roanoke said they expect potentially deadly flash flooding could continue through Monday afternoon. The Red Cross has opened a shelter in the city.

The National Weather Service said Florence could bring as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain in the region and lead to major river flooding that could last for several days.

The Floyd County Sheriff’s office said on Facebook that the majority of creeks and rivers that officials surveyed Sunday were “at or just outside of their banks.”

___

3:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service has declared a flash-flood emergency for part of the county that is home to North Carolina’s biggest city.

The emergency was put into effect Sunday afternoon for central and southeastern Mecklenburg County. The weather service says streams and creeks are running very high in south Charlotte, Matthews and nearby areas.

The weather service warns some bodies of water have risen to record stages and impacts may be “unprecedented.”

The city of Charlotte tweeted that residents should stay off the roads.

A flash-flood emergency also was declared for adjacent Union County, where the weather service says several water rescues were underway and emergency management officials reported as many as 70 flooded roads.

___

3:30 p.m.

South Carolina officials are warning residents about flash flooding as rains from Florence continue to pelt the state.

Gov. Henry McMaster told reporters on Sunday that it will be days until the cresting of rivers in the area of most concern, along the state’s border with North Carolina.

Officials have been warning for days that flooding could be disastrous in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River basin, into which several swollen rivers that originate in North Carolina flow.

National Weather Service officials noted that as much as 16 inches (40 centimeters) of rain have fallen in Chesterfield County, with other nearby areas marking similar rainfall totals from Florence..

Transportation Secretary Christy Hall says workers are still working on projects along two roadways to divert rainwater to keep U.S. 378 and U.S. 501 Bypass passable.

___

3:20 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump has spoken to the mayors of New Bern, North Carolina, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as he monitors the response to Florence.

The White House says Trump was also briefed Sunday on the storm’s aftermath by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz and Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Trump and Mayors Dana Outlaw of New Bern and Brenda Bethune of Myrtle Beach discussed rescue-and-response efforts in those communities.

The White House says Outlaw thanked Trump for immediately authorizing an emergency declaration to help speed the delivery of federal assistance.

___

2:05 p.m.

A small town in northeast South Carolina is getting flooding rains from what’s left of Florence.

Downpours overnight flooded main roads in the town of Cheraw early Sunday and brought water to the doorsteps of some low-lying homes.

Cheraw Police Chief Keith Thomas says about 12 people were evacuated from four homes. Police rescued five others from cars that stalled out in floodwaters. Thomas says no one was injured.

The flooding largely receded from the town of about 6,000 people by Sunday afternoon. But Thomas said rain could fall until midnight.

Debbie Covington was nervously watching water rise in a drainage ditch near her home. She evacuated her elderly parents from their house next door, which sits directly beside the overflowing ditch.

Covington said roads blocked by water and fallen trees were making it difficult to drive.

___

2 p.m.

The death toll from Florence has risen to 15.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol says a pickup truck was traveling west on Interstate 20 in Kershaw County on Sunday morning when it went off the roadway. Troopers say the truck struck an overpass support beam, and the driver died at the scene.

Kershaw County Coroner David West says the driver’s name has not been released because all relatives have not yet been notified.

Heavy rain has fallen on portions of central and eastern South Carolina after former hurricane-turned-Tropical Depression Florence moved onshore.

___

1:10 p.m.

Some officials rely on the “Waffle House index” to determine how serious a storm is. If the Waffle House is closed, the storm is really, really bad.

In Fayetteville, North Carolina, it’s the “Rude Awakening index.”

Bruce Arnold owns the downtown coffee shop by that name that has been in business in the city for 20 years.

Arnold says the shop only shuts down if it loses power, which it did in 2016 during Hurricane Matthew.

But as of Sunday afternoon, the shop still had its lights on and was open for business -- even as others nearby were boarded up and had sandbags piled in front of their doors.

Meanwhile, long lines were forming at gas stations Sunday as a persistent rain fell. Many of the city’s stations are out of fuel.

Debbie Randolph says she and her husband called one station that said they had 5,000 gallons (19,000 liters) -- and 60 people waiting to fill up.

___

12:50 p.m.

The city of Wilmington, North Carolina, has been completely cut off by floodwaters and officials are asking for additional help from state law enforcement and the National Guard.

Woody White is chairman of the board of commissioners of New Hanover County. He said at a news conference Sunday that additional rainfall Saturday night made roads into the city of 120,000 impassable.

White says officials are planning for food and water to be flown to the county, although new distribution centers will have to be found because of all the rain in the northern part of the county. He also noted that patients on oxygen and dialysis are being moved from the New Hanover Regional Medical Center to a high school where a new shelter has opened.

Earlier Sunday, officials from the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority had said they were almost out of fuel for the water plant and might have to shut down. The utility later issued a release saying it had found additional fuel.

White says officials have asked Gov. Roy Cooper for additional aid.

___

12:50 p.m.

North Carolina officials say large-scale search-and-rescue operations are underway in coastal areas as floodwaters from Florence spread across the state and road conditions worsen.

Michael Sprayberry is director of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management. He said at a news conference that more than 1,000 responders were working with more than 200 boats to rescue people Sunday afternoon.

Officials are also delivering food, water and rescue vehicles to hard-hit areas.

The state’s transportation secretary says 171 primary roads are closed, 100 more than a day earlier. Officials warned that problems would spread westward Sunday along with the remnants of the storm.

Gov. Roy Cooper says the storm has “never been more dangerous” than it is now for areas extending from Fayetteville and Lumberton, across the Sandhills, to the central part of the state and into the mountains.

Around 15,000 North Carolinians are in shelters and about 700,000 were without power Sunday.

___

Noon

North Carolina state regulators and environmental groups are monitoring the threat from hog and poultry farms in low-lying, flood-prone areas.

These industrial-scale farms typically feature vast pits of animal feces and urine that can pose a significant pollution threat if they are breached or inundated by floodwaters.

In past hurricanes, flooding at dozens of farms also left hundreds of thousands of dead hogs, chickens and other decomposing livestock bobbing in the floodwaters.

___

11:45 a.m.

North Carolina’s transportation secretary says one of his top priorities is to find a way to get into Wilmington after damage from Florence closed major roads into the city.

Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon told The Associated Press on Sunday that U.S. 74 into Wilmington is impassable and Interstate 40 into the city also is closed.

Trodgon spoke as he flew with Gov. Roy Cooper over some of the damaged areas. During the flight on a U.S. Coast Guard cargo plane, they flew from Raleigh and to some of the hardest-hit areas, including Fayetteville, Lumberton, Jacksonville and New Bern. Weather conditions prevented them from getting as far east as Wilmington.

___

11:45 a.m.

The manager of a southeastern North Carolina county says about 90 people have been rescued from high waters due to flooding.

Columbus County Manager Mike Stephens said late Sunday morning that rivers and streams have been rising due to large amounts of rain from Florence and power is out in a large swath of the county. Stephens says the county’s secondary roads are “almost impassable” and water is covering part of one main highway, U.S. 74.

Stephens says some of the people were rescued from vehicles that ran into deep water.

He says there have been no reports of injuries or fatalities in Columbus County from the storm.

___

11:20 a.m.

Former hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Florence has claimed a 14th victim: a man who drowned when a pickup truck flipped into a drainage ditch in South Carolina.

Georgetown County Coroner Kenny Johnson says 23-year-old Michael Dalton Prince was a passenger in the truck, which lost control on a flooded two-lane road early Sunday.

Johnson says the driver and another passenger escaped after the truck ended upside down in the flooded ditch north of Georgetown.

Prince is the fourth person killed by the storm in South Carolina.

Authorities say a Horry County couple died of carbon monoxide poisoning running a generator inside and a Union County woman died when her vehicle hit a tree branch.

___

10:30 a.m.

One of the authorities leading the response to Florence says the storm is causing “historic and unprecedented flooding.”

Michael Sprayberry is director of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management. He told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that Florence’s combination of heavy rainfall, extreme storm surge and high winds makes the storm “one for the record books.”

Both Sprayberry and Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz say they are getting all the support they need from the federal government.

Schultz has a lead role in responding to Florence. He notes that the storm is moving very slowly and that some of the affected areas haven’t seen the worst of it.

He also notes that the affected areas are looking at a “long-term recovery.”

___

9:45 a.m.

The mayor of a Fayetteville, North Carolina, suburb says about 100 people in her community have been urged to evacuate to higher ground over flooding concerns.

Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner said Sunday morning that the warning went out to neighborhoods around Hope Mills Lake because the water there is expected to rise significantly. She says fire and police officials were going door to door in the affected neighborhoods Sunday morning to make sure people are aware.

Warner says a complete dam failure is not expected. So far, she says the lake hasn’t overflowed its banks.

___

9:45 a.m.

The mayor of New Bern, North Carolina, says his city has imposed a curfew. He says there are 30 roads still unpassable, 4,200 homes and more than 300 commercial buildings damaged, 6,000 customers without power and 1,200 residents in shelters because of hurricane-turned Tropical Depression Florence.

Mayor Dana Outlaw told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that many of the creeks in the area are “increasing by the hour” and there’s concern about trees falling due to the saturated ground conditions.

Outlaw says officials are “urging residents to stay inside and to not travel,” especially so as to not interrupt utility workers trying to restore power.

___

9:45 a.m.

The head of the U.S. government’s disaster relief agency says Florence is unfortunately delivering the damage that was predicted as it sweeps across the Carolinas.

Brock Long told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working to meet the demands of North Carolina officials “as they’re coming up to us.”

Long noted that “recovery is always a very frustrating process for people when they’ve lost their livelihoods, but we’re going to be OK.”

Long says the agency’s immediate focus is on search-and-rescue efforts and meeting the needs of people who are in shelters.

___

9 a.m.

Authorities say a couple have died in South Carolina after using a generator inside their home during Florence.

Horry County Chief Deputy Coroner Tamara Willard said 63-year-old Mark Carter King and 61-year-old Debra Collins Rion were killed by breathing in carbon monoxide.

Willard said in a statement their bodies were found in a Loris home Saturday afternoon, but they likely died the day before as the heavy rains and winds from former hurricane-turned-Tropical Depression Florence were moving onshore.

___

5:10 a.m.

Florence has weakened into a tropical depression but flash flooding and major river flooding are expected to continue over significant portions of the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center says in its 5 a.m. update Sunday that excessive amounts of rain are still being dumped in North Carolina and the effect is expected to be “catastrophic.” An elevated risk of landslides is now expected in western North Carolina.

Forecasters say heavy rains also are expected early in the week in parts of West Virginia and the west-central portion of Virginia. Both states also are at a risk of dangerous flash floods and river flooding.

At 5 a.m. Sunday, Florence was about 20 miles (35 kilometers) southwest of Columbia, South Carolina. It has top sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph) and is moving west at 8 mph (13 kph).

____

2:06 a.m.

Tropical Storm Florence is expected to weaken into a depression soon but flash flooding and major river flooding are expected to continue over significant portions of the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center says excessive amounts of rain are still being dumped in North Carolina and the effect is expected to be “catastrophic.” In its 2 a.m. update Sunday, the center also says an elevated risk of landslides is now expected in western North Carolina.

Forecasters say heavy rains also are expected early in the week in parts of West Virginia and the west-central portion of Virginia. Both states also are at a risk of dangerous flash floods and river flooding.

At 2 a.m. Sunday, Florence was about 25 miles (45 kilometers) southeast of Columbia, South Carolina. It has top sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and is moving west at 6 mph (9 kph).

___

1:05 a.m.

North Carolina is bracing for what could be the next stage of the still-unfolding disaster: widespread, catastrophic river flooding from Florence.

After blowing ashore as a hurricane with 90 mph (145 kph) winds, Florence virtually parked itself much of the weekend atop the Carolinas as it pulled warm water from the ocean and hurled it onshore. Storm surges, flash floods and winds have spread destruction widely and the Marines, the Coast Guard and volunteers have used boats, helicopters, and heavy-duty vehicles to conduct hundreds of rescues as of Saturday.

The death toll from the hurricane-turned-tropical storm has now climbed to 11.

Rivers are swelling toward record levels, forecaster warn, and thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate for fear that the next few days could bring some of the most destructive flooding in North Carolina history.

___

This story corrects wind speed in first entry to 35 mph not 25 mph.

___

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

 

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

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sports Streetfashion travel Bigdata business Fashionshow fitness health lifestyle Smalltools Therecipe Abadgirl appetite attitude movies rendezvous sex toys catering health outdoors Reduceweight science stretch training business cookbook fashion fitness health magazine news sports Streetfashion travel art fashion health music photography sports Therecipe tourism travel Fitnessequipment fitness nutrition Nutritiousfood routine training video Yoga Classiccars evaluation technique transact business Fashionmagazine Fashionshow Femalemodels fitness health lifestyle Smalltools Therecipe travel animation car games Motorcar movies music news Scienceandtechnology tutorial catering health Loseweight outdoors Reduceweight science stretch training Abadgirl appetite attitude movies rendezvous sex toys business fashion fitness health lifestyle news Smalltools Streetfashion Therecipe travel hygiene industry invest markets medical Motorcar Realestate technique Fitnessequipment fitness Nutritiousfood 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Big Tech Censorship of the Right Becoming a Regular Thing

Sun, 09/16/2018 - 21:00

They help people in distress. The ministry gives people emergency crisis support and financial assistance, food or clothing, through their 24-hour crisis outreach hotline. They council people feeling suicidal. Yet Facebook repeatedly censors Warriors for Christ.  

Most recently, Facebook told Warriors for Christ that a prayer for the protection of children violated the site's rules on hate speech. Site admin Adam Guidry posted this prayer: "I command the demons of perversion and witchcraft to leave the minds of those precious children right now in the mighty name of Jesus."

That’s just one example of what seems to be social media’s increasing effort to suppress conservative sites.

Against Their Standards

The prayer "goes against our standards on hate speech so no one else can see it," Facebook said. The site banned Guidry. Pastor Richard Penkoski, who runs the site, contacted Facebook about the ban. Facebook promptly overturned it.

It will happen again. Penkoski claims Facebook banned him for 30 days over posting a picture of a warrior angel in armor. He told The Stream they also banned him for referring to a transmission as a tranny. The site banned him or sharing a screenshot of someone telling him to kill himself, he says, as well as for sharing Fox News articles and his own trademarked logo.

The tech giant took down the entire Warriors for Christ page in December.

The tech giant took down the entire Warriors for Christ page in December. Facebook put it back up only after Penkoski complained.

Penkowski received numerous death threats through the Facebook page. Facebook did nothing about it. 

Warriors for Christ is fighting back. How? By beating Facebook at its own game. The ministry is starting its own Christian social media site. Social Cross has 20,000 members already. And it’s not even finished. 

‘Illegal Aliens’ Ad Banned

Other conservative groups face the same thing. It’s not just Facebook. Twitter acts just as aggressively.

The Center for Immigration Studies reports that Twitter won’t let it promote ads that contain the phrase “illegal aliens.” Twitter considers the phrase “hateful content.” However, it is a phrase officially used by the US government. Twitter rejected four ads from CIS.

1/ Twitter is not allowing us to promote any tweets including the phrase "illegal alien(s)", citing it as Hateful Content. However, the phrase "illegal aliens" has been used in both federal law and by the Supreme Court.

— Center for Immigration Studies (@CIS_org) September 11, 2018

One of the ads merely repeated facts put out by ICE.

ICE recently completed a massive multi-state enforcement operation targeting criminal aliens that resulted in the arrests of 364 individuals. Of those, 187 (51%) had prior criminal convictions and 97 had been previously removed from the United States.https://t.co/PSWsBNlmCU

— Center for Immigration Studies (@CIS_org) September 6, 2018

Facebook suspended Jaimie Glazov for 30 days for posting an article titled "9 Steps to Best Counter Jihad." A few years ago, it took down a site the Canadian columnist helped run, the Counter Jihad Coalition. The tech giant gave him no reason. 

The site protects the wrong people. It suspended Glazov in April for posting screenshots of abuse he’d received on Facebook. In one exchange, Facebook user Muhammad Irfan Ayoub said, "I will break your mouth." Only after a massive online protest did Facebook remove the ban.

Twitter suspended him for 30 days after he tweeted Islamic texts. He violated their rules against “hateful content.” In his tweets, he referenced Sahih Bukhari's texts discussing Mohammed's marriage to Aisha when she was six years old. Another tweet referred to the Qur’anic Suras that sanction sexual slavery.

Amazon, Instagram and Reddit Bans

The Second Amendment is still under attack by the big tech companies. The latest is a ban on instructions to make 3D guns. CodeIsFreeSpeech.com, has been blocked by Facebook and removed from Amazon's web-hosting servers. Facebook also blocked it from Messenger and Instagram.

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The social bulletin board site Reddit recently banned the subreddit Great Awakening. With over 70,000 members, it was a key place to discuss the anonymous author QAnon. QAnon claims to be an insider reporting on the Deep State. A spokesperson for Reddit told the Daily Dot that they banned the subreddit for regularly "posting content that incites violence, disseminates personal information, or harasses." Many of its members got around the ban by moving to the subreddit Conspiracy.

Bias

The leadership of big tech leans to the left. A video caught Google co-founder Sergey Brin comparing Trump supporters to fascists during a meeting. He said like other extremists, Trump voters were motivated by "boredom." He said in the past that led to fascism and communism. It also came out that Google tried to help Hillary Clinton win the election by pushing Latinos to get out and vote. 

A video caught Google co-founder Sergey Brin comparing Trump supporters to fascists.

President Trump denounced the big tech companies.

Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices. Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won't let that happen. They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others…….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2018

…..Censorship is a very dangerous thing & absolutely impossible to police. If you are weeding out Fake News, there is nothing so Fake as CNN & MSNBC, & yet I do not ask that their sick behavior be removed. I get used to it and watch with a grain of salt, or don't watch at all..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2018

….Too many voices are being destroyed, some good & some bad, and that cannot be allowed to happen. Who is making the choices, because I can already tell you that too many mistakes are being made. Let everybody participate, good & bad, and we will all just have to figure it out!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2018

Big tech now acts like the town square. People used to go there to engage in free speech. they are private companies, not government entities subject to the First Amendment. But they have a near monopoly on online speech. Facebook asserts it’s not a content provider. But it is behaving like a content provider by censoring content under the guise of “hate speech.”

People on both sides increasingly call for a social media or internet bill of rights. Congress could provide the same kind of consumer oversight the government provides with food products. It could keep Twitter from shadowbanning conservative users. The tech giants would treat political speech fairly. But would this constitute unwanted regulation of the free market?

 

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Kavanaugh Accuser Goes Public in WaPo Interview

Sun, 09/16/2018 - 20:57

The writer of a confidential letter alleging Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her at a high school party identified herself in an interview with The Washington Post published Sunday.

Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University in California, says Kavanaugh and a friend accosted her at a house party in Montgomery County, Maryland, one summer in the early 1980s.

While the friend watched, a "stumbling drunk" Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes and bathing suit, Ford told WaPo.

Ford further claimed she was able to escape when the friend in the room, Kavanaugh's Georgetown Preparatory School classmate Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling off the bed. Ford escaped and locked herself in a bathroom for a brief period before fleeing the house, she said.

Ford's public revelations come two days after The New Yorker reported the contents of the letter but did not name her as the accuser. Ford had previously sent the letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, through her congresswoman's office in July.

Earlier that month, Ford contacted WaPo through a tip line when she saw that Kavanaugh was on the shortlist of possible nominees to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, according to the WaPo report. By August, Ford had decided not to go public with her allegations because of the intense public scrutiny it would invite, she said.

Ford said she changed her mind after the story leaked and reporters began closing in on her as the author of the letter. Ford also felt the need to correct misinformation about the allegations, she told WaPo.

"These are all the ills that I was trying to avoid," she said. "Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation."

Ford claims she told no one of the alleged assault "in any detail" until 2012, when she and her husband were in couple's therapy. The therapist's notes, which Ford reportedly provided to WaPo, do not identify Kavanaugh by name.

However, the notes report that Ford said she was attacked by students "from an elitist boys' school" who went on to become "highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington."

The notes say four boys were involved in the alleged assault, a discrepancy Ford attributed to an error on the part of the therapist. There were four boys at the party but only two -- Kavanaugh and Judge -- in the room, she said.

In response to the WaPo story, the White House reiterated a statement that Kavanaugh issued Friday after details of Ford's allegation became public.

"I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation," Kavanaugh said in a statement. "I did not do this back in high school or at any time."

Judge has also denied that the incident described in The New Yorker report occurred, telling The Weekly Standard on Friday that the allegations were "just absolutely nuts."

"I never saw Brett act that way," Judge told TWS.

 

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Unbroken: Path to Redemption: The Louis Zamperini Story of Hope and Forgiveness

Sun, 09/16/2018 - 17:00

This weekend, Universal Pictures, along with Pure Flix and The WTO Group, released the sequel to Unbroken (2014). Unbroken: Path to Redemption continues the remarkable story of American Olympian and war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini. It is a story of hope and forgiveness. 

The War’s Not Over

Unbroken: Path to Redemption picks up where Unbroken left off. Following World War II, Louie, played by Samuel Hunt, struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. In order to cope with the nightmares brought on by the trauma and torture he endured, Louie began to drink heavily.

Just as his marriage was on the rocks, Louie’s wife Cynthia, played by Merritt Patterson, attended a Billy Graham tent revival. After she came to know Christ at the revival, she asked Louie to go. 

“My mom forced him to go hear [Billy Graham]. She actually tricked him into going,” Louie’s son Luke told The Stream. “She goes, ‘Oh, you’ll like this guy, he talks about science.’ My dad was interested in science. So he went there. Not a word about science! So he left, he stormed out. He was angry and said, “Don’t ever take me to a place like that again.'”

But Louie did go back. After the second time he went, something Billy Graham said got through. Louie became a Christian. “It changed his life forever,” said Luke. (In the new film, Graham is played by his grandson Will Graham.)

It wasn’t until Louie experienced forgiveness himself that he was able to forgive his former captors. Once he gave his life to Christ, the nightmares ended. 

A True Story

Luke said the movie represents his father’s life well. “You would always have those concerns, but the movie did stay true to my father’s story. Both the original Unbroken and Unbroken: Path to Redemption started off with -- it doesn’t say ‘based on a true story,’ it says ‘a true story.’ And it is. From what they could tell of it, they were telling the truth.”

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Director Harold Cronk said that Louie’s life is a great example of redemption. “I think that his struggle in the camps was just crazy. Unbelievable. I remember watching the first film and it was hard to watch. It just went from bad to worse and from worse to terrible. And to see somebody go through that sort of torment and torture, who at the end of the day, finds his redemption at a Billy Graham tent revival is just miraculous. I think it's just proof that God's got a plan for our lives and sometimes those plans are going to be rough and there's going to be challenges, but … there's always hope.”

One of Graham’s favorite scenes in the movie is when Cynthia asks Louie to attend the tent revival. “He’s really wrestling with his demons and his wife says, ‘Louie, I want you to come,’ and he finally says, ‘Yes, dear.’ And it was that moment right there that he decided, ‘You know, I’m broken, I need help and I can’t fix it myself, I’m going to church.’ I love that part.”

The scene where Louie returns to meet with his former captors in Japan meant a lot to Luke. “For me, seeing my dad wade into the room of former prison guards and start forgiving them, shaking their hands and telling them, ‘It’s okay, it’s alright.’ That was a big moment for me.”

There is Hope

Luke’s father would’ve told other post-war vets who struggle with PTSD that there is hope. “He’d tell them that there’s healing in the work and person of Jesus Christ. He’d also tell them, ‘You need to talk about your experience, it helps. It helps to be able put it into words that which is going through your mind.’ …They need to learn how to forgive the people that have wronged them, they need to learn how to forgive themselves for what they may have done. His message would be ‘Talk about it, forgive those that have harmed you, come to faith in Jesus Christ.'”

Unbroken: Path to Redemption is now playing.

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AZ Senate Candidate’s Anti-War Group Portrayed Our Soldiers as Skeletons Waging ‘US Terror’

Sun, 09/16/2018 - 12:19

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Arizona, led an anti-war group that portrayed American soldiers as skeletons waging "terror" in the Middle East.

Local to Global Justice, a group Sinema co-founded, promoted a 2003 anti-Iraq War protest using flyers that read: "You can help us push back U.S. terror in Iraq and the Middle East."

The flyers depicted three menacing skeletons, including a gun-toting soldier, looming over a crowd of protesters.

I was thinking, "oh, how bad could it b-oh, man, that's bad." pic.twitter.com/4noL133v3t

-- Jim Geraghty (@jimgeraghty) September 15, 2018

A local anarchist group also participated in the protest, according to CNN, which first reported on the inflammatory flyers.

"Kyrsten comes from a military family and is very proud of her record supporting Arizona's servicemembers, veterans, and their families," Sinema spokeswoman Helen Hare told CNN.

Sinema is running against Republican Rep. Martha McSally to replace outgoing Republican Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake in a key race for control of the Senate.

Sinema has already come under fire for fighting to protect a loophole for men caught with child prostitutes, on the grounds that some 12-year-old children can look like adults.

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While serving in the state legislature, Sinema argued against proposed legislation that would prevent men caught with child prostitutes from claiming that the child looked older as a defense.

"As a former social worker at an elementary school, there were children at my school, 12, 13-year-old, and some of these children look older than me. They were much more, I mean, definitely sophisticated, developed," Sinema said in a 2007 hearing.

"If I had seen a number of my former students at a place outside a classroom, I would not have known that those children were 12 instead of 19 or 20," Sinema said.

She claimed it was "not fair" to get rid of the loophole.

 

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Pope Makes Thinly Veiled Attack on Accusations in Bid for Christian Populism

Sun, 09/16/2018 - 12:10

Pope Francis denounced accusations and quarrels Saturday during Mass in a bid for a Christian kind of populism that supports open immigration.

Francis made the comments in response to ardent criticism from Italian politicians over his support for for migrants. The pontiff denounced country-based populism and argued for a Christian populism that does not include shouting, accusations or quarrels.

"The only possible populism," Francis said, is a Christian kind that "listens to and serves the people without shouting, accusing, stirring up quarrels,"according to The Associated Press.

While the pope's comments came in response to criticism over his support for open borders and the plight of migrants, they also came as part of a recent series of homilies in which Francis denounced those bringing accusations of sexual abuse against Church leaders as doing the work of Satan. The pontiff said that the only proper response for a Christian toward wrongdoing, even in the face of systematic abuse and cover-ups perpetrated by church leaders, was forgiveness and silence.

"Only the merciful resemble God the father. 'Be merciful, just as your father is merciful.' This is the path, the path that goes against the spirit of the world," Francis said in a Thursday homily.

"Among us is the great accuser, the one who will always accuse us in front of God to destroy us: Satan. He is the great accuser. And when I enter into this logic of accusing, cursing and looking to do evil to others, I enter into the logic of the 'Great Accuser' who is a 'Destroyer,' who doesn't know the word 'mercy," he added.

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Francis also urged Christians to accuse themselves instead of accusing church leaders, saying that it would help them contemplate the Father's mercy.

The pontiff's rebuffs of accusatory attitudes come in response to rising furor over revelations of sexual abuse and cover-ups in both the American, Irish and Chilean Catholic churches.

Francis has also long admonished western nations to be more open to migrants, despite their security concerns over majority Muslim migrants who refuse to integrate culturally and the possible threat of terrorist attacks coming from within the migrant population.

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Military Photo of the Day: Young Brothers in Vietnam

Sun, 09/16/2018 - 09:00

Vietnamese Brothers Follow a Marine Protecting Their Village in September 1968.

“Comfort: Brothers display companionship as they follow a 3d Marine Division Leatherneck protecting their village from communist terrorists. Close family relationships are common to the South Vietnamese. Although years of war have destroyed homes and villages, strong family ties remain intact (official USMC photo by Sergeant J. G. McCullough).”

From the Jonathan F. Abel Collection (COLL/3611) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division.

 

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Walking in God’s Wisdom: Proverbs 28:13

Sun, 09/16/2018 - 09:00

“No one who conceals transgressions will prosper, but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” – Proverbs 28:13

Here is the way of mercy for a guilty and repenting sinner. He must cease from the habit of covering sin. This is attempted by falsehood, which denies sin; by hypocrisy, which conceals it; by boasting, which justifies it; and by loud profession, which tries to make amends for it.

The sinner’s business is to confess and forsake. The two must go together. Confession must be honestly made to the Lord himself, and it must include within itself acknowledgment of the wrong, sense of its evil, and abhorrence of it. We must not throw the fault upon others, nor blame circumstances, nor plead natural weakness. We must make a clean breast of it and plead guilty to the indictment. There can be no mercy till this is done.

Furthermore, we must forsake the evil; having owned our fault, we must disown all present and future intent to abide in it. We cannot remain in rebellion and yet dwell with the King’s majesty. The habit of evil must be quitted, together with all places, companions, pursuits, and books which might lead us astray. Not for confession, nor for reformation, but in connection with them we find pardon by faith in the blood of Jesus.

Charles Spurgeon

English Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834 – 1892)

Committed Christians Are Now a Minority — And Your Kids Need to Know It

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 14:30

I grew up in a smallish town in Arizona (about 25,000 people at the time). Almost everyone I knew fit into one of four buckets: 1) committed Christians, 2) nominal Christians, 3) those who didn't call themselves Christians but accepted "Judeo-Christian" values, and 4) Mormons.

In my view of the world at the time, believing in God -- and being a Christian specifically -- was the default for most people. There were certainly a few kids who fell into other buckets (atheist or New Age). But they were the exception; there was something different about them.

My beliefs were "normal."

Oh, how things have changed.

According to Pew Forum research on the religious landscape of America, Christians statistically are still the majority. But those statistics are highly misleading because religious categorization is based on self-identification, and the "Christian" category includes a wide range of beliefs and commitment levels.

The Pew Forum, however, just released an eye-opening new method of categorizing America's religious beliefs, and it reveals a more realistic picture:

Less than 40 percent of Americans are "highly religious" (seriously committed to their faith; this includes non-Christian religions such as Judaism and Islam). About a quarter of the "highly religious" are what researchers call "diversely devout," meaning they mostly believe in the God of the Bible but hold all kinds of views inconsistent with Christianity, such as reincarnation.

From the publicly available data, I don't see a way to break down the remaining 30 percent of highly religious people into those who hold beliefs consistent with historic Christianity. So for our current purpose, we'll just have to say that committed Christians represent some portion of that 30 percent.

In other words, a minority.

Not Like the World We Grew Up In

I've noticed lately that my subconscious assumption that this has become the case has had a number of implications for how I talk with my kids. For example, some phrases that have worked their way into our daily conversations are "the world tells us," or "the world would like us to think," or "the way the world is." In other words, I find myself constantly placing an emphasis on making sure my kids know that what they are learning to be true about reality is literally opposite of what the world around them -- the majority -- believes.

This is so different than how I -- and many of you -- grew up. We were part of a pack. We moved along without having to think much about our beliefs versus those of "the world." Our parents didn't have to coach us on why we were so very different -- because we weren't very different. Sure, there were probably some great differences between our homes in how prominently faith actually played out. But we didn't readily see that on the playground. We didn't have social media to make the differences abundantly clear. We didn't have the internet to give us access to the many who are hostile toward our beliefs.

In a world where your beliefs will constantly rub up against opposing views, however, children need parents who will give it to them straight:

Our entire view of reality is unlike the view most others have. We. Are. Different. And that will affect your life in profound ways.

I don't say this merely  to suggest this as a conversation we should have with our kids at some point. I say this believing it's a critical part of how we approach our parenting every single day.

It has to become a way of life.

Here's why. When you raise your kids to understand they have a minority worldview, it does three important things:

1. It sets expectations.

This is, perhaps, the most important function of all.

If kids expect that their views will be like those of others, they will be shocked when they consistently see how different they actually are.

If kids expect that holding a minority worldview won't result in sometimes being treated poorly by others, they will be wounded by what they weren't prepared for.

If kids expect that divergent worldviews won't lead to heated debates about how our society should best function, they will be frustrated by lack of agreement between Christians and nonbelievers.

But when we help them understand that their worldview will clash frequently with the world around them, they will begin to have very different expectations. That, in turn, will lead to healthier outcomes.

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They will expect to be different, and not be surprised when they don't fit in.

They will expect that the world will hate them for their beliefs, and understand that has always been part of what it means to be a Christian (John 15:18).

They will expect that divergent worldviews will often affect their relationships with others, and be motivated to learn how to navigate those differences with both truth and love.

Action point: Find ways to regularly compare and contrast what others believe and what Christians believe. Make sure your kids understand how different their beliefs are, and, importantly, the implications of that. Make sure they see its effect on how we see where we came from, why we're here, how to live while we're here and where we're going. It's no small matter.

You can point this out in movies, song lyrics, news stories, things that friends say, things that other parents say, signs you see, billboards, messages on clothing and much more.

2. It allows us to emphasize that different isn't (necessarily) wrong.

Humans have a tendency to assume that there is truth in numbers. My twins are in fourth grade and are getting to the age where they notice what their peers do a lot more. They tell me, for example, that everyone else has their own phone, that everyone else gets to go to sleepovers and that everyone else plays Fortnite. They assume that if the majority gets to do something, then that must be what's right.

Similarly, when kids eventually see that most people believe something very different about reality than what they do, it's natural to wonder if their minority view must be wrong. Here's the conversation we should be having with our kids from the time they are very little: Different doesn't mean wrong.

It doesn't necessarily mean right, either.

The question we must plant firmly in our kids' hearts and minds is, What is true? The truth about reality isn't a popularity contest. It's a question of which worldview is the best explanation for the world around us.

These books should be required reading for every kid in this age range.

Action point:  Find ways to regularly compare and contrast why others believe what they do and why Christians believe what we do. If we don't want our kids to assume that different is wrong, they need good reasons to believe that their different view is right. They need to hear regularly from their parents that Christianity is a worldview based on evidence, and that faith is not blind.

If you have kids in the 8-12 range, J. Warner Wallace has three kids books that are amazing for helping them start to think evidentially about their faith: Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God's Crime Scene for Kids and Forensic Faith for Kids (this one JUST came out this month and is a perfect place to start). Even if your kids are a little younger, they can benefit tremendously from reading these with you. My 7-year-old is reading Forensic Faith for Kids and is super excited about doing the corresponding worksheets and watching the videos available for free at www.casemakersacademy.com/forensic-faith/. Honestly, these books should be required reading for every kid in this age range.

3. It fosters worldview vigilance.

It's our job to help our kids swim faithfully against the tide.

Talking regularly about "the world" versus Christianity leads kids to keep their worldview radar up. Because they expect to constantly see ideas that clash with the Christian worldview, they become vigilant about sorting everything they see into "consistent with Christianity" or "inconsistent with Christianity."

This is extraordinarily important today, as kids so often quietly absorb secular views into their thinking without even realizing it. But the more they know that most of what they will see and hear will not fit with Christianity, the more they learn to vigilantly separate Christian ideas from others.

Action point:  Encourage your kids to spot the "secular wisdom" all around them. Examples are everywhere, but they are, of course, never marked with worldview labels. The more you point out examples, the more kids learn to think critically. When this becomes a habit in your family, your kids will see it on their own and show you examples.

Good Teaching Makes a Real Difference

We were at a store the other day and my 9-year-old son came around the aisle carrying this sign:

He looked at me with a big, disappointed sigh and said, "Mommy. Look. Love is all you need."

He recognized this as bad “secular wisdom” as soon as he saw it. I asked him to explain what was wrong with it, and he said, "There's no moral setting." As I pushed him to explain what he meant, he said there's no context for making this statement. If God doesn't exist, then what love means is just a matter of personal opinion -- and no one has the authority to state that anything is all you need. I concurred and (gently) hit him on the head, saying, "I could claim that love means hitting people on the head in that case!"

But if God exists, then He defines what love is. When we follow the greatest commandment -- to love God -- it informs what it means to follow the second great commandment -- to love others. It's no longer up to us to define the word. This sign means nothing outside of a worldview context -- a "moral setting" as my son put it.

It's clear that being a Christian (or even holding Christian values) is no longer the default. Whether we like it or not, it's the reality of the world in which we're parenting. It's our job to help our kids swim faithfully against the tide so they can be constantly aware of the waves around them and know how to respond.

Trump, Pompeo Bash Kerry for ‘Actively Undermining’ US Policy with Iran Talks

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 12:07

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has unloaded on his Obama-era predecessor John Kerry for “actively undermining” U.S. policy on Iran by meeting several times recently with the Iranian foreign minister, who was his main interlocutor in the Iran nuclear deal negotiations.

In unusually blunt and caustic language, Pompeo said Friday that Kerry’s meetings with Mohammad Javad Zarif were “unseemly and unprecedented” and “beyond inappropriate.” President Donald Trump had late Thursday accused Kerry of holding “illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people.”

Pompeo said he would leave “legal determinations to others” but slammed Kerry as a former secretary of state for engaging with “the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror” and telling Iran to “wait out this administration.” He noted that just this week Iranian-backed militias had fired rockets at U.S. diplomatic compounds in Iraq.

“You can’t find precedent for this in U.S. history, and Secretary Kerry ought not to engage in that kind of behavior,” an agitated Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “It’s inconsistent with what foreign policy of the United States is as directed by this president, and it is beyond inappropriate for him to be engaged.”

Kerry, who is promoting his new book “Every Day is Extra,” tweeted a response to Trump that referred to the president’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who agreed on Friday to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

“Mr. President, you should be more worried about Paul Manafort meeting with Robert Mueller than me meeting with Iran’s FM. But if you want to learn something about the nuclear agreement that made the world safer, buy my new book,” said Kerry.

He has been harshly critical of the president and his decision in May to withdraw from the Iran deal but denies “coaching” Tehran.

In a statement, his spokesman, Matt Summers, said: “There’s nothing unusual, let alone unseemly or inappropriate, about former diplomats meeting with foreign counterparts. Secretary (Henry) Kissinger has done it for decades with Russia and China. What is unseemly and unprecedented is for the podium of the State Department to be hijacked for political theatrics.”

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Pompeo also took to task former Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz and ex-Iran deal negotiator Wendy Sherman for joining Kerry at a meeting with Zarif and other Iranian officials earlier this year at a security conference in Munich -- though Sherman said Friday she wasn’t with Kerry and Moniz when she met Zarif there. Along with Kerry, Moniz and Sherman played key roles in negotiating the 2015 agreement between Iran and several world powers that lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

“I wasn’t in the meeting, but I am reasonably confident that he was not there in support of U.S. policy with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.

“Former secretaries of state -- all of them, from either political party -- ought not to be engaged in” this kind of activity, he said. “Actively undermining U.S. policy as a former secretary of state is literally unheard of.”

Meetings between a private U.S. citizen and foreign official are not against the law and not necessarily inappropriate or a violation of federal regulations, but Trump, Pompeo and several GOP lawmakers say they are evidence Kerry and former Obama administration officials are trying to subvert Trump’s hard line on Iran.

“John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people,” Trump tweeted late Thursday. “He told them to wait out the Trump Administration! Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!”

The law Trump invoked -- the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA -- requires registration and transparency by people or companies acting on behalf of foreign governments, political parties or individuals.

But Josh Rosenstein, a partner with the Washington law firm Sandler Reiff and a specialist in lobbying compliance, said there are too many unanswered questions to know whether the law applies to Kerry’s interactions with Zarif. FARA’s provisions don’t extend to activities conducted entirely overseas, so where Kerry interacted with him matters. Also unclear is whether any Iranians specifically asked Kerry for advice.

“The devil’s always in the details,” Rosenstein said. “Simply offering advice to a foreign government doesn’t make you a foreign agent.”

When reports of Kerry’s ex-officio contacts with Zarif first surfaced in May, Trump tweeted similar thoughts. “John Kerry can’t get over the fact that he had his chance and blew it! Stay away from negotiations John, you are hurting your country!” he said on May 8. A day earlier, he tweeted: “The United States does not need John Kerry’s possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal. He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!”

Trump and Pompeo’s criticism came after Kerry told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that earlier reports of his meetings with Zarif were correct: They had met three or four times since Kerry left office but not since Pompeo took the job in April. One of those meetings took place in Oslo, Norway, and another in Munich, he said. A third is reported to have occurred at the United Nations headquarters, which is not technically on U.S. soil.

Kerry told Hewitt that he was not coaching the Iranians on how to deal with the Trump administration.

“That’s not my job, and my coaching him would not, you know, that’s not how it works,” he said in the interview. “What I have done is tried to elicit from him (Zarif) what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better.”

___

Associated Press writer Richard Lardner contributed to this report.

 

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

I Know How Brett Kavanaugh Must Feel. I Was the ‘Witch’ They Hunted Once.

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 12:00

"When you were accused, it was news but it wasn't true. Now you're cleared -- that's true, but it isn't news." -- Washington Post Ombudsman

We’ve just seen a last-minute smear of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It bears all the marks of the Deep State and the MSM smear machine. It’s anonymous, uncheckable, and comes at the last possible moment. It’s not a legitimate story, but a dirty bomb designed to poison the water.

But there's nothing new under the sun, the Good Book says (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and this serial sabotage syndrome isn't new either. In fact, it's been going on since almost the night Donald Trump was elected.

In the past 16 months alone the "Special Prosecutor's Office" has subpoenaed countless individuals for questioning. Each one of them, however remote he has been from Trump, Russia, or the 2016 campaign, is required by law to show up.

When he does, he has to have a lawyer. Which means that he has to come up with fifty to one hundred thousand dollars quick. Criminal lawyers who specialize in that sort of thing are extremely well-paid. If you try to play it cool, show up alone, and plead the Fifth, Mueller's team will just throw a bunch of sham criminal charges at you. And then, you'll really need a lawyer.

One after another of those subpoenaed have had to move, or mortgage their house, or remove their children from private school, or to beg from friends and family money that they know they might never be able to pay back.

Mueller doesn't care. You're road kill on his campaign to overturn the election of President Donald Trump.

But I care. Because I've been there. I know what these guys are going through.

Declared Guilty as Charged

Thirty-one years ago, when I was a staff member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, working for Chairman Jesse Helms, a Reagan State Department official accused me of treason.

Well, that's what it amounted to. He told the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that I had leaked information with the highest secrecy classification. And that I had leaked it to the government of Augusto Pinochet, of Chile. Whereupon the Chairman and the senior Democrat on that committee asked the FBI to investigate me.

Of course, I learned about all this from the newspapers. While the news surprised me, the media loved it. Jesse Helms was a pro-life conservative for whom the media had little love -- and he had often defended Pinochet against his communist opponents. So Orwell's "Two Minutes Hate" began in earnest.

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Within hours, leaks about my "leak" had appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and picked up around the world. The press surrounded my house and my office, and of course I could say nothing. Day after day, the Washington Post declared me guilty as charged (but they never called me). Friends around the world wrote me -- one had even laughed when he saw my picture on the front page of the Bangkok English-language newspaper.

But this charge was no laughing matter. If I had been convicted, I would have been in federal prison for at least thirty years, and possibly for life. Two FBI agents became my constant companions. Months went by, as they interviewed everyone I had ever known. My phone was tapped, my life was an open book. I thought at the time that it was sort of a dry run of the Last Judgment.

‘We Don’t Clear People’

When the story hit front pages, one of Washington's top criminal lawyers volunteered to defend me. "I don't need a lawyer," I said. "I don't have any money, and, anyway, I'm innocent."

"That's why you need a lawyer," Terry O'Donnell laughed. He represented me brilliantly, and never sent me a bill.

Finally those FBI agents interviewed me in my Senate office. At a tense and critical point in the interview, I said, "Look, I've done a lot of things wrong in my life, but I didn't do this."

The lead agent, William Chornyak, said flatly, "We know you didn't do it. We're trying to find out who did."

My lawyer almost fell off his chair. I stood up, slammed my fist on the conference table and said, "I've been smeared on the front page, how about clearing me on the front page?" Their response: "We don't clear people."

In retrospect, seasoned interrogators have told me that my response was a sign that often indicates innocence. But he'd already told me I was innocent! When do I get cleared?

Cleared With the Help of Sen. Boren

Well, then strange things began to happen. The Republican Senate went Democratic in the 1986 elections. David Boren of Oklahoma became Chairman of the Intelligence Committee. And suddenly the two senior senators who had accused me of leaking were removed from that Committee -- for leaking! Meanwhile, I was, to use a popular phrase of that era, "left twisting slowly in the wind." Most of my classmates from days of old probably thought I was already in jail. (Maybe they think I still am).

I found out much later that Sen. Boren had gone quietly around town for months -- to the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department -- demanding they clear me publicly.

And then stranger things came to pass. A senator quietly advised me that Chairman Boren was going to bat for me. Yes, he was from the other party. Not only that, several of his Democratic colleagues were celebrating my plight. After all, Jesse Helms was their nemesis. But that fact actually made it easier for Senator Boren. No one could accuse him of partisanship in defending me. Quite the contrary. A lot of Democrats were just plain shocked.

Senator Boren was outraged that the now-former members of his committee had broken the rules when they accused me. Suddenly I had a champion. When I saw him on the Senate floor, I thanked him. "I'm going to make sure you get a fair shake," he said, putting his hand firmly on my shoulder. "That's all."

"That's all." After thirty-two years, that memory still brings tears to my eyes. I found out much later that Senator Boren had gone quietly around town for months -- to the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department -- demanding that they clear me publicly. And finally, a year later -- thirty-one years ago next month -- they did. "No leak occurred," the joint statement read, signed by the heads of virtually every legal and intelligence agency in Washington.

News to Me

All adventures bring irony, I suppose, and so did mine. The Washington Post hated my boss. From the outset, they had virtually convicted me in countless articles. When I was cleared, they would not report it. I called their ombudsman and asked why. "When you were accused, it was news but it wasn't true. Now you're cleared -- that's true, but it isn't news," he purred.

Turn the page.

Well, it was news to me, and welcome news at that. Instead of going to jail for thirty years, I was cleared.

But why had it all happened? Only later did I discover the reason.

The ‘Back-Door Leak’ Attack

In February 1986, President Reagan had nominated my brother Dan to serve on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate had a Republican majority at the time, and at first the nomination seemed safe. But my brother’s conservative credentials made his nomination a target for the Left. Pro-abortion leader Ted Kennedy even called Father Ted Hesburgh, Notre Dame President, and asked, "Father, can you help us get Dan Manion?" Fr. Hesburgh replied (as he told me later), "Sorry, Ted, he's family."

I was cleared 15 months later because of Democrat David Boren -- who had voted against my brother!

On June 26, 1986, Dan’s nomination survived a close procedural vote on the Senate floor. GOP Majority Leader Bob Dole put off the final vote to await a sure majority, and opponents knew that delay might last for weeks, even months. Given that breathing space, the schemers began stage two -- the now-familiar "back-door leak" attack.

The State Department official and Ted Kennedy both hated Pinochet as much as they hated Helms. Both wanted to "get Manion" -- any Manion. Nailing me for leaking would be a double-barrel win -- defeating my pro-life brother and sending me to jail. But it didn't work -- Dan was confirmed on July 23, 1986. And I was cleared 15 months later because of Democrat David Boren -- who had voted against my brother!

But It’s a Story of Forgiveness

Alas, that kind of honor in Washington has all but disappeared.

A couple of years later I left Washington for a college teaching job. About the same time, the State Department official who had accused me pleaded guilty to several federal charges of lying to Congress. He was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush, but he wrote a whole book oozing with bitterness and denial. He and his wife couldn't sleep at night. Their stomachs churned, she wrote.

I wrote him a personal letter. And I forgave him for falsely accusing me. Urged him to forgive his tormentors. I never heard from him again.

In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens's boy hero Pip reflects, "Pause, you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day."

Pause, you who read this, and give thanks. If a chain binds you because there's somebody you can't forgive, sunder your fetters, throw them away, and forgive them. You'll never lose another minute of sleep.

 

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Strzok Sought to Capitalize on Clapper-Leaked News Reports as Excuse to Interview Targets

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 11:40
A new text message shows that Peter Strzok wanted to use reports about the release of the Steele dossier as an excuse to interview witnesses in the Trump-Russia probe "We're discussing whether, now that this is out, we use it as a pretext to go interview some people," Strzok wrote to FBI lawyer Lisa Page Weeks later, the FBI approached former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos under the guise of interviewing him about his contacts with an alleged source for the dossier

A newly revealed text message suggests that former FBI official Peter Strzok sought to capitalize on news reports in January 2017 that President Donald Trump had been briefed about allegations in the infamous Steele dossier.

Strzok wanted to use a CNN report related to the dossier as a reason to interview witnesses as part of the FBI's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government, according to the text message.

"Sitting with Bill watching CNN. A TON more out," Strzok, a former FBI counterintelligence official, texted to FBI lawyer Lisa Page on Jan. 10, 2017.

"Hey let me know when you can talk. We're discussing whether, now that this is out, we use it as a pretext to go interview some people," continued Strzok, according to a CNN report published Friday.

Just before Strzok sent the message, CNN had reported that top government officials, including then-FBI Director James Comey, briefed then-President-Elect Trump on Jan. 6, 2017 about some of the salacious allegations in the dossier, which was authored by former British spy Christopher Steele and financed by Democrats.

Hours after CNN reported about the briefing, BuzzFeed News published the unverified dossier in full.

It is not clear why Strzok needed the CNN report as a pretext to conduct interviews.

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Strzok took part in some of those interviews as the FBI's lead investigator on the probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. He and another FBI agent interviewed then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on Jan. 24, 2017. Flynn has since pleaded guilty to lying in that interview about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Strzok's text would seem to be at odds with FBI leaderships's concerns ahead of publication of the dossier.

Comey wrote in a Jan. 7, 2017, email to FBI leadership that he told Trump that he was providing the briefing about the dossier because "media like CNN had [the dossier] and were looking for a news hook."

"I said it was inflammatory stuff that they would get killed for reporting straight up from the source reports," Comey continued.

[Note: Sara Carter and others have reported news of the White House meeting was leaked to CNN by James Clapper in order to give them that news hook they were sinking.]

On Jan. 8, 2017, then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe wrote to senior FBI leadership that "CNN is close to going forward with the sensitive story ... The trigger for them [CNN] is they know the material was discussed in the brief and presented in an attachment."

McCabe, who was Lisa Page's boss, also emailed then-deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and then-principal deputy Attorney General Matthew Axelrod, saying, "Just an FYI, and as expected, it seems CNN is close to running a story about the sensitive reporting."

The FBI may have used the dossier as a pretext to interview George Papadopoulos, another Trump associate who has pleaded guilty to the special counsel for lying to the FBI.

According to Papadopoulos's attorneys, the FBI approached the former Trump aide at his mother's home in Chicago on Jan. 27, 2017, claiming to be interested in discussing Sergei Millian, a Belarus-born businessman who had been identified just days earlier as a major source for the dossier.

"George thought the agents wanted to ask him about Russian businessman Sergei Millian. Wanting clarification, he asked the agents, '... just so I understand, I'm going there to answer questions about this person who I think you're talking about,’" Papadopoulos's lawyers wrote in an Aug. 31 court filing.

The lawyers said that the FBI agents "assured" Papadopoulos that Millian was the topic of the discussion.

Millian approached Papadopoulos out of the blue in late July 2016. The pair met multiple times during the campaign.

Papadopoulos's lawyers said in the court filing that the FBI agents began asking Papadopoulos about Millian but quickly changed the subject to other topics.

"The agents asked how they first met, what they discussed, how often they talked or met in person, if George knew whether Mr. Millian was connected to Russia or a foreign intelligence service, and who else on Mr. Trump's campaign may have been in contact with Mr. Millian. George answered their questions honestly," the filing states.

But the lawyers claimed: "Less than twenty minutes into the interview, the agents dropped the Millian inquiry and turned to recent news about Russian influence in the presidential election."

The lawyers asserted that one of the agents who interviewed Papadopoulos confirmed that the questions about Millian were "just a rule" to "get [Papadopoulos] in a room.

They then quoted the agent as saying that "the reason we wanted to pull you in today and have that conversation because we wanted to know to the extent of your knowledge being an insider inside that small group of people that were policy advisors who, if anybody, has that connection with Russia and what, what sort of connections there were."

Papadopoulos was sentenced to 14 days in jail on Sept. 7 for lying to the FBI during that interview about his contacts with a Maltese professor who claimed to have information that Russians had "thousands" of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails.

Papadopoulos told the FBI about meeting the professor, Joseph Mifsud, but he lied about the timing and extent of their contacts.

 

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‘Girl, Wash Your Face’? What Rachel Hollis Gets Right — and Wrong

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 10:00

Rachel Hollis is taking the world by storm -- and I get it. She’s beautiful, smart, ambitious, funny and a crazy good writer. I mean, the girl can tell a story that will have you crying one minute and shooting Diet Coke out of your nose the next.

She’s carved out a nice little corner of the internet for herself, cultivating a community over a million strong and growing. She cooks, decorates, gives advice and is known for her no nonsense honesty and humor. “I love Jesus, and I cuss a little. I love Jesus, and I drink alcohol. I love Jesus, and some of my best friends are gay,” she recently posted on Facebook. She and her husband invite couples of all stripes (unmarried, married, same-sex) to take part in their couples conference, where the participants are encouraged to “learn some tangible advice … and make-out like a couple of teenagers.”

To be honest, I hadn’t heard of Rachel Hollis until last week when a Facebook friend wrote to ask if I had read Girl, Wash Your Face. She expressed some confusion over the messages in Hollis’ book and and on her social media, so I bought the book and read it over the weekend.

Hollis is a self-proclaimed Christian, and the book is published by Thomas Nelson (a Christian publisher). It’s a New York Times bestseller and currently #1 in the Religion & Spirituality category on Amazon. References to the Bible, Jesus, her faith and Christianity are peppered throughout the book. It’s safe to say that this is not intended to be read as a purely secular self-help book. I won’t kid myself into thinking this is some kind of devotional -- but it is marketed as Christian. 

Connecting Well

It’s no shocker that Hollis connects deeply with her audience. Having survived a tough childhood and the suicide of her brother when she was still in her early teens, the advice she gives has not come cheap or easy.

There was that time her boyfriend continually treated her poorly. After dumping her and smashing her heart into pieces, he called to see how she was doing. When she calmly said, “Hey. I am done with this. I am done with you. Don’t ever call me again,” and shut off her phone, I was sending high-fives and a hearty, “You go girl!” Sadly, she didn’t attribute this wisdom to knowing who she is in Christ. She credits self-love.

You see, someone can hold to false premises and still land on truth from time to time. Should we take care of our bodies and our hearts? Should we set goals and work hard to accomplish them? Of course. But as Christians, the why and the how are crucial. Hollis has bought into five common lies that seem to be the starting point for all her advice.

Lie #1: You come first, and your happiness depends on you.

Make no mistake, sisters. This book is all about YOU. In chapter one, she writes, “You are meant to be the hero of your own story," and "You, and only you are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are." She plainly states, “You should be the very first of your priorities.” The book is littered with references to “self-love” and “self-care.” In fact, this theme is so pervasive that it forms the infrastructure for how she responds to everything from hardship to trauma to parenting to working out.

In all of these scenarios, the answer is always something like picking yourself up by your bootstraps and striving and trying and running a marathon and getting therapy and reciting mantras and reading a good blog post  and seeing a guru and drinking wine and not drinking wine and relaxing and taking a vacation and keeping the promises you make to yourself and … and literally anything but surrendering your life to Jesus and putting your trust in Him.

Your happiness, your success, your everything -- it’s all up to you, ladies. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s very good news. Jesus offers us true joy and peace, but only after we realize that we are not the center of our own lives and we are no longer in charge. He said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

Lie #2: You should never give up on your dreams.

Assuming you have a big dream to not give up on, Hollis spills quite a bit of ink trying to convince you that no matter what it is … you should never let it go. Her advice is to not take no for an answer. But instinctively, we all know this doesn’t work, don’t we? This is confirmed every time we cringe at the tone-deaf American Idol contestant screeching his way through the audition, only to be told he stinks. We wince when he cries and angrily promises to come back when he’s sold more records than Justin Timberlake.

We all know he should give up on his dream. We all know it’s not realistic.

What is Rachel Hollis’ dream? I felt actual sadness when I read it:

I'm a big fan of displaying visuals inside my closet door to remind me every single day of what my aim is. Currently taped to my door: the cover of Forbes featuring self-made female CEOs, a vacation house in Hawaii … and a picture of Beyonce, obvi.

Jesus never called us to chase after power, money, and fame (and He actually had quite a bit to say about those things). He called us to lay our pursuit of all that stuff down and follow Him. He said, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

Lie #3: Religious Pluralism is true.

Religious Pluralism is basically the idea that all roads lead to God. There is no right way or wrong way to think about God, and my religion is no better or more “right” than yours. This is a message Hollis shouts from the proverbial rooftops. One little problem: It’s an exclusive worldview. It’s an actual religious belief about God that claims to trump all others.

What do I mean? If you claim that all religions are equally valid and true, then you are excluding all religions that don’t affirm that.

Hollis writes,

Just because you believe it doesn't mean it's true for everyone. … Faith is one of the most abused instances of this. We decide that our religion is right; therefore, every other religion must be wrong.

Logically, this sentiment can’t be true -- because all religions contradict each other at some point. And Christianity is, by nature, exclusive. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) Religious Pluralism is a dogmatic religious belief -- and it contradicts Christianity.

Lie #4: Judgment is bad

Every time you tell people to never judge, you are automatically committing the very misstep you’re railing against. Just by saying, “Don’t judge,” you are judging those who (by your standard) are being super judgmental. This is highlighted in a particularly shocking section of chapter one in which Hollis gives a hypothetical example.

She asks you to imagine a friend named Pam who has started several diets, only to fail two weeks in and gain back all the weight she lost. She writes,

Y’all, would you respect her? Would you count on Pam or the friend who keeps blowing you off for stupid reasons? Would you trust them when they committed to something? Would you believe them when they committed to you? No.

So, if you fail at a diet and gain your weight back, you can’t be trusted? I actually had to read that section three times just to be sure I wasn’t misunderstanding her. I wasn’t. Can you see how judgy this is for someone who has a zero tolerance policy for judgment on her Facebook page?

When giving practical advice on meeting new people and making friends, she advises that from the first handshake, “We pay attention to things like character and heart and wisdom and experience.” But how can anyone evaluate those things in another person without judging? I’m not pointing this out to criticize, but to illustrate why “not judging” is not only impossible, but to preach it is self-defeating. We all make judgments -- and what’s important is that we judge rightly. Jesus said, “Judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)

Lie #5: Sin is not the problem.

This is the deepest and most pervasive lie that coils its way around the book like a python choking its prey. I saved it for last because it’s the bedrock of what all the other lies are built upon.

I can’t state this plainly enough. Sin is your enemy, and you absolutely cannot save yourself from it. You are not in control of that situation.

That may sound harsh, but it’s actually the best news ever. You see, you and I are sinners. We can’t get around it. Everything that’s broken in our lives is because of sin. Sin must be paid for. There is no peace between God and sin. Justice must be done.

The True Good News

But this is where the good news comes in. God sent His Son Jesus to live a sinless life so that He could take the punishment of our sin on Himself. He paid for it. He took the punishment. Justice was done. If we put our faith in Him, we can be made right with God. That doesn’t mean we won’t still have our struggles, or that we’ll magically have the power to never sin again. It means we don’t have the same relationship with sin we had before. It means we’ve been declared “righteous,” which means we have peace with God. The Bible even takes a step further -- it says that God “adopts” us into His family.

Adopted by God Himself? That means I am not a failure -- even if I never lose the baby weight (my “baby” is seven -- don’t judge). Even if I never successfully complete a diet. Even if I have a bad day and yell at my kids. Even if I never reach my financial goals or climb the ladder at my dream job. Even if my life consists of nothing more than living in quiet and humble service to God.

I'll be honest. Reading this book exhausted me. It's all about what I can be doing better and what I'm not doing good enough. How to be better at work, parenting, and writing. How to be less bad at cardio, sex, and you know, changing the world.

But knowing the good news of who I am in Christ brings true rest.

Rest from striving, my friend. Yes. Wash your face. Take care of yourself. Make good choices. But know who you are in Christ. If you let this truth become the foundation of how you see the world, you will be content to glorify Him in every situation, whether you’re cleaning bathrooms or relaxing at your beach house, changing diapers or crushing your career goals.

 

Originally published at AlisaChilders.com. Used by permission.

Military Photo of the Day: Jewish High Holy Day Service

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 09:00

Jewish High Holy Day Service, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Sept. 12, 1942.

Jewish High Holy Day Service held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Those identified in the photograph are Leon Kamern, David Slater, Selden Goldstein, Paul Ross, and Rabbi Joshua Goldberg, Chaplain, 3d Naval District.

From the David Slater Collection (COLL/1578), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections.

 

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Praise Report: Gym Owner’s Ad Containing Cross Returned to High School Football Field

Fri, 09/14/2018 - 17:45

Army vet Billy Weatherall knows something about fighting in battle. So when a local school decided to remove his gym’s logo from their football field because it contained a cross, Weatherall knew it was a battle he had to fight. Although Weatherall was prepared for a drawn-out legal case, it didn’t take long. Weatherall gives all the praise to God.

Christ Fit Gym

Weatherall’s business, Christ Fit Gym, in Bossier City, Louisiana, started in his garage in 2009. After a few years, Weatherall was able to open a $1 million facility. But it’s not an ordinary gym. Christ Fit Gym is free of charge and only accepts donations to keep the doors open. The gym has Bible studies and devotions before every class. And it sports a cross and a Bible verse on its logo.

For years, Weatherall has been advertising his gym on school football fields, on banners and in school programs. He’s never had a problem until now.

Last week, Weatherall signed a contract to buy space in the end zone of Benton High School’s football field. But on Friday, the day of the homecoming game, Weatherall got a call from the school telling him that the logo would be removed because of complaints. He was asked to take his money back and go away quietly.

‘Our Parents Can’t Handle It’

“They just said, ‘Billy, please, just take the money. Don’t make a big stink about this. Our parents can’t handle it, we can’t afford this fight, please just take it back and let’s not make a big deal,'” said Weatherall in an interview to The Stream. “I just could not do that. In every sense it’s wrong. If I allow that to happen, why am I doing ministry work? I’ll give up the keys to Christ Fit Gym to somebody else and let somebody else run it. Maybe I’ve just been blind to everything, but I’ve really realized in the last week just how much and how corrupted the system is.”

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He pointed out how supportive the community has been through the ordeal. “Ninety-nine percent of the community is for this,” he explained. On a Facebook post, Weatherall talked about his parish. “Everyone has bent over backwards -- they always have for Christ Fit Gym. From the day that I opened up the doors at this gym, this community has supported, it has prayed and guys, without a doubt, I live in one of the best communities in the United States.”

The Enemy is Satan

He’s made it clear that the people who were going to erase the ad were not the enemy. In a Facebook post that he asked people to share, Weatherall wrote, “The enemy IS NOT the booster club, faculty or administration. THE ENEMY IS SATAN!!!”

Christian rights are being stripped away locally and nationwide, Weatherall pointed out. “My stance was, this is it. This was all we really had left in the schools. A logo of a cross on a field.” He spoke to his staff. “I said, ‘Guys, if I allow them to take that, we have nothing. That’s it.’ I just kind of led the charge and I said, ‘enough is enough.'”

A Unanimous Vote

Although he had planned to bring a lawsuit on advice from his attorneys, it was never filed. The school board voted unanimously Tuesday to repaint the logo on the field. “It’s already over, can you believe how fast that was? I mean, I was prepared to fight this thing for 2 to 3 years and it was over in four days.” A Facebook post reads: “The vote was unanimous, the logo is going back on the field. A huge thank you to this community for standing behind what is right. God always wins!! #christfitgym.”

But for Weatherall, the fight isn’t over. Not by a long shot. He’s getting a group of people together to start taking back religious freedom in this country. “You know, I really feel like this is where God wants me to be right now. I’m getting a team together. We’re going to figure out what we have to do because we’re going to start taking our rights back. We’re not going to stop here. We’re going to keep on moving forward.” He said he has a legal team of godly Christian men to help him along the way.

His first step? “I’m going to pray and see where God leads us next.”

Weatherall realizes that having the logo back on the field was a “big win for Christianity across the nation. We didn’t cower down, we stood our ground firmly. It scared the enemy.” He said there’s one message all Christians can take from his case:

“The battle’s already won. And whether we won this or lost this, God’s still in control.”

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