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Updated: 7 hours 56 min ago

Trump Endorses Raising Minimum Age to 21 for More Weapons

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 19:23

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday endorsed a higher minimum age for buying certain rifles and tighter background checks for purchasers, saying “there’s nothing more important than protecting our children,” amid a public outcry for action after the Florida school shooting.

Trump said he spoke Wednesday night with many members of Congress and “they’re into background checks.” The president commented as he opened a school safety discussion at the White House with state and local officials from around the country.

Early Thursday, Trump tweeted his strongest stance on gun control one day after an emotional White House session where students and parents poured out wrenching tales of lost lives and pleaded for action.

Trump said on Twitter, “I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks!” The president did not immediately offer more details.

Trump’s focus on gun violence came as leaders of the National Rifle Association offered a vigorous defense of gun rights during the Conservative Political Action Conference, urging enhanced -- and armed -- security at schools. An armed Broward County sheriff’s deputy, the regular school resource officer, was on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, at the time of the shooting.

“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” said NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre. “The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.”

The NRA officials didn’t address whether the federal government should raise the age limit for young adults to buy weapons, accusing Democrats and media outlets of exploiting the Florida shooting. The NRA on Wednesday announced it opposes raising the age limit.

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings, you guys love it,” said NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch at CPAC. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”

The current federal minimum age for buying or possessing handguns is 21, but the limit is 18 for rifles including assault-type weapons such as the AR-15 used by a former student in last week’s attack in Florida that killed 17 students and staff members.

“We’re going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18,” Trump said at the White House, adding that he thinks the NRA will back it -- despite the group’s stated opposition.

In another tweet, Trump repeated his urgent call for trained teachers or others in schools to carry guns as a deterrent to attacks.

“If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!” Trump tweeted.

He has previously expressed an interest in efforts to strengthen the federal background check system. It was not clear if he would back closing loopholes that permit loose private sales on the internet and at gun shows.

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The National Rifle Association on Wednesday quickly rejected any talk of raising the age for buying long guns to 21.

“Legislative proposals that prevent law-abiding adults aged 18-20 years old from acquiring rifles and shotguns effectively prohibits them for purchasing any firearm, thus depriving them of their constitutional right to self-protection,” the group said in a statement.

Trump, despite his new push for at least some gun-control changes, stressed his backing for the NRA on Thursday, tweeting that “the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Speaking at CPAC, Vice President Mike Pence said that in a meeting with governors at the White House next Monday, Trump and the state leaders will “make the safety of our nation’s schools and our students our top national priority.”

On Wednesday, Trump listened intently at the White House as students described the horror of the shootings in Parkland, Florida. The students and their parents appealed to him to press for stricter gun laws.

“I turned 18 the day after” the shooting, said tearful student Samuel Zeif. “Woke up to the news that my best friend was gone. And I don’t understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war. An AR. How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon? How do we not stop this after Columbine? After Sandy Hook?”

Trump promised to be “very strong on background checks.” And he indicated he supported allowing some teachers and other school employees to carry concealed weapons to be ready for intruders.

The president had invited the teen survivors of school violence and parents of murdered children in a show of his resolve against gun violence in the wake of last week’s shootings in Florida and in past years at schools in Connecticut and Colorado.

Trump asked his guests to suggest solutions and solicited feedback. He did not fully endorse any specific policy solution, but pledged to take action and expressed interest in widely differing approaches.

He largely listened, holding handwritten notes bearing his message to the families. “I hear you” was written in black marker.

Besides considering concealed carrying of weapons by trained school employees, a concept he has endorsed in the past, he said he planned to go “very strongly into age, age of purchase.” And he said he was committed to improving background checks and working on mental health.

Most in the group Wednesday were emotional but quiet and polite.

But Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed last week, noted the previous school massacres and raged over his loss, saying this moment isn’t about gun laws but about fixing the schools.

“It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it and I’m pissed. Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again,” said Pollack. “King David Cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.”

A strong supporter of gun rights, Trump has nonetheless indicated in recent days that he is willing to consider ideas not in keeping with National Rifle Association orthodoxy, including age restrictions for buying assault-type weapons. Still, gun owners are a key part of his base of supporters.

The people assembled for the White House meeting on Wednesday included parents of students killed in massacres at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Students and parents from the Washington area also were present.

Trump later tweeted that he would “always remember” the meeting. “So much love in the midst of so much pain. We must not let them down. We must keep our children safe!!”

___

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Ken Thomas, Darlene Superville and Sadie Gurman in Washington, Zeke Miller in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and Mark Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Alina Hartounian from Phoenix contributed to this report.

 

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

Stricter Gun Laws Would Not Have Stopped the Florida School Shooting

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 18:01

The audience at last night’s CNN “Stand Up” Town Hall had nothing but boos and jeers for anyone suggesting solutions other than new gun laws could stop the next school shooting.

For that matter, that’s all CNN itself had to offer. Colton Haab, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting wanted to ask about armed guards. CNN said no and handed him a “scripted question” instead. Haab refused to play along.

Perhaps he understood what serious students of the issue understand.

Plenty of laws are already in place that should have stopped Nikolas Cruz from walking into Haab’s school and killing 17 students and teachers. Gun-controllers point out that the 19-year-old Cruz legally purchased at least 10 rifles within the past year. Their answer is to make buying guns even harder.

But few if any of the laws they propose would have stopped him.

Way Too Many Warning Signs

They call for toughening up federal background checks, including expanding firearm background checks in internet sales. They also want to close the gun show "loophole,” which allows people to buy firearms from each other without conducting background checks. But nothing in Cruz’s background formally flagged him a “prohibited possessor,” a person who legally can’t have guns. He reportedly bought his guns from regular firearms dealers who ran background checks on him. (See below for reasons why he wasn’t flagged.)

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Democrats want to ban assault weapons. Such a ban was tried before and rejected because it did not work. Congress passed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. It was so ineffective that Congress did not renew it in 2004.

One reason it failed: criminals could simply use another kind of gun. If Cruz had been prohibited from purchasing an assault weapon, he still could have legally purchased a regular semi-automatic rifle, pistol or revolver. He could have done the same amount of damage with them as he did with his AR-15.

Conservative Solutions

Many conservatives propose restricting guns. Even President Trump is talking that way. But their solutions would not have stopped Cruz.

Trump asked the Justice Department this week to take steps to ban “bump stocks.” (Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, used bump stocks.) Conservative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) agreed. Bump stocks convert a semi-automatic so it fires at a faster rate and so more like an automatic. But Cruz did not use a bump stock. A law prohibiting them would not have stopped him.

Conservative David French, writing at National Review, believes one new gun control law could have stopped Cruz. He proposes a gun violence restraining order. That would have allowed Cruz’s relatives or someone living with him to petition the court to have his gun rights temporarily taken away.

But even this may not have stopped Cruz. Would those around him have done it? They sure didn’t take steps to commit him to a mental institution. As shown below, no one who knew Cruz’s problems used available programs already in place.

Second, scheming people would abuse the law and hurt others. It’s a blunt tool. This is a problem with regular restraining orders. They usually require the defendants to surrender their firearms.

Third, would the restraining order have lasted long enough? Probably not. French admits that of the 86 gun violence restraining orders granted in California in 2016, the vast majority were only ordered for 21 days.

Cruz’s Warning Signs

If changes to gun laws wouldn’t have stopped Cruz, what about programs to flag possible dangers? Would French’s have worked? Probably not. The programs in place didn’t work.

Cruz has a long history of warning signs. School officials cited him in at least 41 disciplinary incidents from May 2012 to January 2017. Reasons included fighting, minor assaults, kicking doors and profane insults. The school banned him from carrying a backpack on campus after officials found bullets in his backpack. But despite the facts practically screaming “Danger! Danger!” down the hallway, the most serious action taken against Cruz was a brief transfer to an alternative school.

Cruz’s school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, never reported him to law enforcement. In 2013, the Broward County School Board decided not to refer students to the police for non-violent offenses. (Read more on the deadly “Broward County Solution.”)

Social workers and mental health investigators evaluated Cruz in late 2016. He has autism, depression and ADHD. He admitted to depression and cutting himself. But the Florida Department of Children and Families released him, citing earlier decisions by counselors that he was not a threat to himself or others. (Yeah. “Huh?!”)

The FBI, the top law enforcement agency in the world, was notified about Cruz twice. Someone close to him warned the agency about his “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” The agency failed to act.

The police had been called to the family’s home “more than 30 times in the past seven years, records show,” the Miami Herald reported. “The complaints ranged from petty domestic disputes to a time Cruz threw a vacuum cleaner at his mom.”

The FBI should have taken action after being told someone this troubled was reportedly considering shooting up a school.

The family who took Cruz in after his mother died required him to keep his firearms in a safe. But the father believes Cruz had a secret second key to the safe.

Realistic Solutions

What could have been done to prevent Cruz from killing so many people? One obvious solution is to place armed security at schools. Rush Limbaugh observed that nearly every public building has armed security except schools. “For some reason, they are a gun-free zone and everybody that wants to shoot up a school knows that they are going to be the only one armed." He also said we need concealed carry in schools.

Laws don’t deter all bad people.

A second obvious solution would be to let teachers arm themselves. Donald Trump campaigned on allowing teachers to arm themselves for self-defense. On October 8, 2016, The Washington Post quoted him saying, "I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools." He mentioned it again at yesterday’s extraordinary White House “listening session.”

Polk County, Fla., Sheriff Grady Judd calls letting teachers carry firearms a “game changer.”

A third solution would be installing metal detectors in schools. That would prevent people like Cruz from bringing guns into the school buildings.

Other conservatives point to deeper problems that require deeper solutions, many beyond the reach of the law. Columnist Suzanne Venker observes that most of these school shooters are young men from fatherless homes. Cruz’s adoptive father died when he was young, and his mother had a tough time raising him. Society needs to return to emphasizing the importance of fathers in their children’s lives.

Congressional candidate Steve Lonegan (R-N.J.) says the shooting is a sign we need to return prayer to schools.

Steps We Can Take

Laws don’t deter all bad people. Many of the previous mass shooters in U.S. history broke multiple laws in order to obtain firearms. Other mass killers used other methods of lethal force such as bombs they made from materials they legally acquired.

Piling on more gun control laws that just makes it harder for law-abiding Americans to obtain firearms for self-defense or sport will not prevent these mass shootings. What would prevent them is if the people with the responsibility to protect others would do their jobs more rigorously.

People who saw the warning signs should ask themselves why they didn’t step in. The FBI should find out why agents didn’t follow up warnings about Cruz. Everyone should ask himself whether he’s doing what he can to identify and befriend vulnerable people.

Let CNN point to guns. Ultimately, we must point to ourselves.

 

Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC. She is the former editor of a gun magazine.

NRA CEO Calls for Heightened School Security in CPAC Address

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 17:58

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Thursday morning in National Harbor, Maryland. Just eight days after a school shooting left 17 dead in Parkland, Florida, LaPierre responded to the relentless criticism of the NRA. He also offered potential solutions to the problem of mass shootings.

“Each and every member of the National Rifle Association mourns the loss of the innocent,” he said. “We share a goal of safe schools, safe neighborhoods and a safe country.” 

LaPierre called out “opportunists” who he said exploited the Parkland tragedy by immediately calling for gun control and blaming the NRA. Specifically, he called out national media and Democrats. He claimed the Democratic Party is now controlled by “European-style socialists.” 

“The elites don’t care one wit about America’s school system and school children,” he said. “If they truly cared, what they would do is they would protect them. For them, it’s not a safety issue. It’s a political issue.” 

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To stop more school shootings, LaPierre argued “we must immediately harden our schools.” He also blamed failures of the family, the nation’s mental health system and the FBI. Last week, the FBI acknowledged the bureau received a tip about the Parkland shooter last month. The statement said “protocols were not followed,” and investigative steps should have been taken.

LaPierre also noted how many places in America are protected by armed security. Meanwhile schools are labeled “gun free zones.” He said this makes schools “wide open targets” for mad men.

“It should not be easier for a mad man to shoot up a school than a bank or a jewelry store or some Hollywood gala,” he said. “Do we really love our money and our celebrities more than we love our children?”

LaPierre noted that any American school can take advantage of the NRA’s free “School Shield” program

Watch the entire speech below:

Billy Graham ‘Most Influential Evangelist Since Apostle Paul,’ Says Trump Spiritual Adviser

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 15:58

This week, the world mourns the death of Reverend Billy Graham. He preached the Christian gospel to more than 215 million people worldwide during his lifetime. Graham also met with and advised every U.S. President since the World War II era.

Several Christian ministries Graham founded remain active, notably Christianity Today and his own evangelistic association. He mentored and encouraged several next-generation leaders -- Reverend James Robison among them, founder and publisher of The Stream.

One evangelical Latino leader has spoken for decades of his regard for Billy Graham. "I will never stop being grateful for the impact he has had on my life," says Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

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Aspects of Graham's ministry can be seen in Rodriguez. While he preaches weekly at an evangelical church in California, Rodriguez also advises President Trump as a member of the White House Faith Leaders Initiative. He spoke in an interview after having traveled to Israel with one of Graham's 19 grandchildren.

Evangelist to America -- and All the World

The Stream: How did Billy Graham make such an impact on so many people?

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez: Billy Graham was the most influential evangelist since the Apostle Paul. No one else has done more to advance the gospel of Jesus than he did. He did so because not only did he preach the word of God, but he lived the word. The words integrity and character are synonymous with Billy Graham.

In a day and age where we are so driven by the number of likes and followers, Billy Graham was not defined by the number of likes. He was defined by the love of one: Jesus. He was not defined by the number of followers he had. He was motivated and driven by the message to follow Christ, to give him and only him the glory.

“Billy Graham was not defined by the number of likes. He was defined by the love of one: Jesus.”

You saw Jesus when you heard him preach. In such a clear and engaging manner, he reflected humility, authenticity and transparency. You could sense the spirit of Jesus upon him and through him. That's how he changed the world

The Stream: When did you have the opportunity to meet Reverend Graham?

Rodriguez: Growing up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the two most influential figures in my life were Billy Graham and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today for me is as personal a loss as one can possibly have.

I met him through the conduit of serving at Christianity Today, the magazine he founded. I have been serving on the board there for nearly a decade and continue to. We spent some time together and it was one of the highlights of my life. His children Franklin Graham and Anne Graham Lotz are ones whom I consider dear friends.

Only 24 hours ago, I was with his granddaughter Cissie Graham Lynch in Jerusalem. I spent the last five days with her in Israel, along with ten other influential evangelical leaders. Cissie and I were talking about Billy, her grandfather. She was relating how, on occasion, he would communicate with her. Those moments with him were a great privilege.

Unifying Force Among Christians

The Stream: There is so much division among Christians today. How did Dr. Graham reflect Christian unity in his ministry?

Rodriguez: Billy Graham arguably did more to bring the church together in the name of Jesus than anyone else over the past 100 years. He embodied the spirit of Christian unity in America and globally.

When it wasn't culturally acceptable in certain geographic regions to have white and African American followers of Christ together, Billy Graham demanded integration in his crusades. He would repudiate every vestige of segregation. He was a powerful, prophetic civil rights advocate. At a time when some were silent, Dr. Graham was not.

He facilitated the spirit of John 17:21, the prayer of Jesus: Father, let them be one as you and I are one. He brought the church together in America. Now we have Latinos, African Americans, Asians and all ethnicities worshiping together in many churches. Not only that, Baptists and charismatics both point to Billy Graham as a unifying force.

While divides still exist in certain theological quarters, he saw a larger global evangelicalism. Billy Graham was a bridge builder across the board.

The Stream: Could you give an example of him crossing lines that divide?

Rodriguez: When he was interviewed for his 95th birthday, he spoke about when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's. It was 1989, if I'm not mistaken. They asked him, What does that mean for you in ministry? He said, "At the end of the day, here's what I know. The Lord gave me this so I can be completely dependent on Him."

“Billy Graham arguably did more to bring the church together in the name of Jesus than anyone else over the past 100 years. He embodied the spirit of Christian unity in America and globally.”

"I may need some help reaching the podium," he continued. "But once I reach it, I know for certain the power and presence of the Holy Spirit will fall upon me." These are words that are common among charismatic-Pentecostal pastors.

Dr. Graham resonated with this. He spoke the language of "being filled with the Holy Spirit." He spoke about the power of Pentecost. Billy Graham never rejected, alienated or marginalized the Pentecostal-charismatic community. Quite the opposite, he embraced it.

Legacy of a Prophet

The Stream: Dr. Graham served as a spiritual adviser to twelve U.S. Presidents. Some scholars note his regrets regarding his relationship with President Nixon. How do you see his role on the national stage?

Rodriguez: Now this is only my perspective as a student of history and an uber-admirer of Dr. Billy Graham. I would speculate that he never regretted his God-ordained assignment to speak prophetically into the highest corridors of power.

As it pertains to his relationship with President Nixon, some conversations took place with Nixon that were tolerated. I would not be surprised if Dr. Graham looked back and thought, Maybe I could have sternly rebuked the President or responded in a different way. He apologized for some words he regretted. I don't think Dr. Graham ever regretted that God gave him access to the highest corridors of power.

One thing I admire about him is that he never endorsed a political ideology. He never, ever embraced one party over the other. This has inspired me to write about what I call The Lamb's Agenda, defined by Billy Graham and Dr. King. My life's mission has been to reconcile Billy Graham's message of salvation exclusively through Christ with Dr. King's march for justice.

The Stream: In tribute to Dr. Graham, today Christianity Today published articles from Christian leaders worldwide. How does the ministry continue to carry that spirit of Christian unity?

Rodriguez: The ethos of Christianity Today is centered on beautiful orthodoxy and truth. It is, to this day, one hundred percent Billy Graham.

As a member of the board, I can tell you firsthand that there is an unbridled commitment to continue the legacy, mission and vision of Dr. Billy Graham. They live every day at Christianity Today with that purpose.

 

Watch Dr. Billy Graham's final sermon, delivered on his 95th birthday:

The Essential Pro-Life Argument: Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 14:39

Joe found the young girl unconscious in her upstairs closet. By the time he got there, the structure was a raging inferno. No one else dared go inside. Scooping up the girl, he took his only exit, straight out the second story window and into the bushes below.

The girl lived. Joe sustained three cuts and two sprained ankles -- and an avalanche of questions. The media wanted to know how he planned to pay for the girl's food, clothing, and health care now that he'd rescued her. A pastor asked if time spent saving the girl from temporal flames might be better spent saving people from eternal ones. The social justice coordinator at a local parish insisted that if Joe truly cared about saving lives, he'd care about all life and spend equal time rescuing poor workers from rich corporations. The local Congressman asked if Joe supported tax hikes aimed at reducing fire risk.

Joe just kept looking at the girl.

The above story is contrived, but it's played out in the real world every day. Only the issue is abortion. The minute you state your pro-life convictions, foes attack.

The Truly Pro-Life

Pastor John Pavlovitz is a case in point. According to Pavlovitz, you are not truly "pro-life" unless you engage a host of other issues "as vigorously, passionately, and loudly" as you do abortion. He wishes pro-lifers "actually gave more of a damn" about kids once they are born and that all human beings mattered to us "as much as Caucasian embryos do." If you were truly pro-life,  "you would want to do more than prevent abortions."

The Essential Pro-Life Argument

Suppose John Pavlovitz is right that pro-lifers don’t care about kids once they’re born. What follows? Certainly nothing that refutes the essential pro-life argument. That argument goes like this:

Premise 1: It is wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings.

Premise 2: Abortion intentionally kills innocent human beings.

Therefore,

Conclusion: Abortion is wrong.

All that is required to be "truly pro-life" is to speak and act as if abortion is wrong. That's enough for me and it should be enough for any pro-life organization.

Pavlovitz's attempt to equate all the issues is mind-boggling. Are we to believe that denying someone a bigger paycheck is morally equivalent to dismembering a pre-born human being? If you think that, your moral compass is broken.

Of course abortion isn't the only issue, any more than slavery was the only issue in 1860 or killing Jews the only issue in 1940. But both were the dominant issues of their day.

Abortion intentionally kills a million innocent human beings every year. It’s the dominant issue of our day. Given the brutal reality, pro-lifers are right to put greater emphasis on the lives of the unborn than the paychecks of the born. Demanding they do more is like telling an abolitionist in 1860, "You can't be against slavery unless you address its underlying causes."

Slavery is wrong. Abortion is wrong. Neither statement requires further qualification.

"You'd want to prevent hunger and poverty. You'd want to prevent illiteracy and child mortality and forced prostitution. You'd want to prevent racism and bigotry and homophobia,” he says.

You'd want kids in the "bad neighborhood" to have great schools and teachers just like your kids have there in the "good neighborhood." You'd want to support single parents and the terminally ill and the mentally ill by helping them carry their oversized burden. … You'd want people of color not to have to fear law enforcement and not to be disproportionately incarcerated. You'd want fewer guns in the hands of kids and criminals and those with mental illness. … You'd want a living wage for all people who work hard, and healthcare for their children that won't have to replace their daily meals."

Pavlovitz presents no argument for why pro-lifers must do more. Instead, he equivocates. He twists "pro-life" to mean quality of life for those outside the womb instead of protection of life for those still in. Then, he attacks pro-lifers as hypocrites for not exhausting their scarce resources fighting every injustice imaginable.

A Slanderous Charge

This is slanderous. Why should anyone believe that because you oppose the intentional killing of an innocent human being, you must therefore take responsibility for all societal ills? Imagine saying to the American Cancer Society, "If you were truly against disease, you'd fight other illnesses as vigorously, as passionately, as loudly as you do cancer."

Or, consider the gall of telling Black Lives Matter, "You don't care about Black lives, only those killed by police brutality. If you gave more of a damn, you'd actively defend all black lives, including those harmed by Islamic slave traders, drunk drivers, abortion, gang violence, black-on-black crime, malnutrition, and suicide. But you don't. You only care about what's easy for you -- picking on white cops."

Indeed, why is Pavlovitz's "whole-life" argument never used against other groups who target specific forms of injustice? If an after-school daycare program only receives inner-city kids from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, will Pavlovitz blast them for only caring about people during those hours That he won't is proof that he doesn't believe his own argument. He just picks on pro-lifers.

Moreover, Pavlovitz is wrong when he says pro-lifers don't care. According to Philanthropy Roundtable, religious conservatives are very generous. Meanwhile, pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) outnumber abortion clinics by large margins. They provide single moms abortion-alternatives, parenting classes, and baby clothes. According to research published in The Public Discourse, 2,300 PRCs serve 1.9 million women and their children every year. Unlike Planned Parenthood, PRCs can't count on government money. They are funded largely by generous pro-lifers.

The Pro-Life Essence

Opposing the intentional killing of innocent human beings in the womb is the very essence of what it means to be pro-life. As my colleague Dr. Marc Newman points out, "Individuals and organizations that make it their exclusive mission to save these human beings from a culture hell-bent on butchering them have nothing to apologize for. They don't need additional causes; they need additional support."

I wish pastor Pavlovitz had the heart to step up and give it.

  Scott Klusendorf is president of Life Training Institute and the author of The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture. Scott has taught pro-life apologetics at the graduate level at Biola University and Trinity Law School, and lectured at over 80 colleges and universities including Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Johns Hopkins, MIT, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

US Women Beat Canada for Gold in a 3-2 Shootout Thriller

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 13:25

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) -- Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson skated slowly back and forth toward the net, showing forehand, then leaning quickly to the left to fake a backhand that pulled Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados out of the crease.

On the sport’s biggest stage, against the Americans’ greatest rival, with all her teammates leaning eagerly over the boards watching her every move, the three-time Olympian came back to her forehand to finish off a dazzling, triple-deke move by sliding the puck into the net past the outstretched glove of Szabados for the deciding goal in the sixth round of a shootout thriller.

“I knew when that went in that Maddie was going to stop the next one,” Lamoureux-Davidson said.

That would be 20-year-old goalie Maddie Rooney, who stuffed the last two Canadian shooters to wrap up a 3-2 victory Thursday that snapped the Americans’ 20-year gold medal drought and ended Canada’s bid for a fifth straight title in the first shootout in an Olympic women’s final.

The Americans piled over the boards, throwing gloves in the air before piling on top of Rooney on the ice -- 20 years after their last gold medal in women’s hockey and 38 years to the day after the men’s famous “Miracle on Ice” victory over the Soviet team in group play at Lake Placid.

“Joy’s the only word that comes to mind,” said Gigi Marvin, a three-time Olympian and at 30 the oldest American on the roster.

This victory capped a year that started with the Americans threatening a boycott of the world championships to secure more money and the same kind of treatment that USA Hockey gives to the men’s team.

“They should make a movie on it,” forward Hilary Knight said. “We had all the drama and everything. It’s sort of a storybook ending to an incredible series of accomplishments.”

Nothing was more incredible than the move by Lamoureux-Davidson, who decided to use the deke called “Oops, I did it again ” -- something she had practiced uncounted times in practice, skating around tires set up on open ice to mimic defenders.

“I’m just thrilled beyond words,” the beaming Lamoureux-Davidson said with a U.S. flag draped around her shoulders and gold hanging on her chest. “I’ve butchered it a thousand times, just ran into tires, tripped over tires just working on my hands. Just glad it worked out this time.”

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Her twin, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, said coach Peter Elander, now at Ohio State, had taught the sisters the shootout move when the three were at the University of North Dakota.

“Not everyone can take the pressure like that, and she took it like a champ,” she said.

Marvin and Amanda Kessel also scored in the shootout, another nail-biter ending four years after Canada won its fourth-straight gold medal in Sochi after rallying to stun the Americans in overtime.

Knight gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead with 25.4 seconds left in the first, redirecting a shot from Sidney Morin through Szabados’ pads to give the Americans a jolt of energy.

That lasted only 2 minutes into the second when Haley Irwin tipped a midair pass from Blayre Turnbull over Rooney’s left leg for Canada. And when Morin lost the puck, Melodie Daoust grabbed it and passed to Meghan Agosta who hit Marie-Philip Poulin for the wrister into the left side of the net at 6:55 for a 2-1 lead.

Lamoureux-Morando tied it up with a breakaway with 6:21 left in regulation. Knight also had a goal and Rooney was spectacular, making 29 saves for the win. Rooney stopped the last two Canadian shooters in the shootout in Brianne Jenner and then Agosta on her second attempt.

Pressure? Rooney’s grin was clear to see throughout the shootout.

“Right before she came down, I just looked over at the bench and saw my teammates like pointing at me, just one more,” Rooney said. “And to have their support made it a whole lot easier. I just reacted to her, and then everything kind of went into a blur.”

It was sweet redemption for the 10 Americans who watched the Canadians snatch gold away in Sochi. Not only did the Americans end the Canadians’ stranglehold on Olympic gold, they ended a skid of five straight against their rival coming into this game, including a 2-1 loss in the tournament a week ago.

“It is everything for our country,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said. “I am just so thankful for the outcome. It was a thrilling final. It was unreal.”

Poulin and Irwin each scored goals for Canada. Agosta and Daoust scored in the shootout.

The Canadians, who had pushed the Americans around for much of the game and taken penalties for it, wept on the ice as they accepted their silver medals. Jocelyne Larocque took hers off immediately and held it in her hands as the Americans stood nearby awaiting their gold.

“It’s just hard,” Larocque said. “You work so hard. We wanted gold but didn’t get it.”

The Canadians said they didn’t like the shootout format, preferring overtime to settle a game of such magnitude.

“We’ve trained so hard,” Agosta said. “It’s unfortunate this had to come down to a shootout. When it comes down to a shootout it can be anybody’s game.”

Added Canada coach Laura Schuler: “There’s not a lot of words that can describe how you feel. It was a great game of hockey. It’s what we expected: back and forth hockey.”

The Americans had dominated the women’s game in non-Olympic years, winning the last four and eight of the last 10 world championships, including a 3-2 overtime victory over Canada last spring.

It only made the lack of gold at the Olympics all the more noticeable, and Canada has been in their way since losing the inaugural gold in Nagano in 1998. Canada had won 24 straight Olympic games to go along with those four consecutive gold medals -- a streak of success in a women’s team sport second only to the U.S. basketball team’s current streak of six straight gold.

This was the eighth time these North American rivals had met in the Olympics and the fifth with gold on the line. None has been decided by more than two goals.

Stauber went with Rooney in net after she won the only three games the U.S. took from Canada last fall during a pre-Olympic exhibition tour.

And like Lamoureux-Davidson, the youngster delivered in the biggest moment.

“Everything got into a blur, seeing my teammates sprinting at me,” Rooney said. “It’s an indescribable feeling.”

___

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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

Shooting Town Hall: Rubio on the Defensive on Gun Control

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 13:06

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -- Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was put on the defensive by angry students, teachers and parents who are demanding stronger gun-control measures at a town hall after the shooting rampage that claimed 17 lives at a Florida high school.

But Rubio, the lone Republican at CNN’s “Stand Up” town hall Wednesday night, did say he would support laws barring those 18 and under from buying guns, support changing the background checks system and getting rid of bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic guns to mimic fully automatic fire.

One of those confronting the Florida senator was Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed on Feb. 14 with 16 others. Rubio was the only Republican at the nationally broadcast gathering after Florida’s GOP Gov. Rick Scott and President Donald Trump declined invitations to appear at the event in Sunrise, Florida.

Guttenberg told Rubio his comments about the shooting “and those of your president this week have been pathetically weak.”

People stood up and cheered Guttenberg as he challenged Rubio to tell him the truth, to acknowledge that “guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids.”

Guttenberg added, “And tell me you will work with us to do something about guns.”

Rubio responded that the problems laid bare by the shooting rampage “cannot be solved by gun laws alone,” drawing jeering whistles from the crowd. He said that if he believed an assault weapons ban “would have prevented this from happening, I would have supported it.” That drew jeers. Visibly angry, Guttenberg responded: “That is a weapon of war.”

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Sen. Bill Nelson and Congressman Ted Deutch, both Democrats from Florida, also were present on a dais.

Nelson said he grew up on a ranch and hunted all his life.

“I still hunt with my son but an AK-47 and an AR-15 is not for hunting, it’s for killing,” said Nelson to applause.

Ryan Schachter, whose brother Alex, was fatally gunned down at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was among those questioning the lawmakers.

“I’m supposed to go back to school in the upcoming week,” said Schachter. “Me and my friends worry we are going to be murdered in our classrooms.”

Student Cameron Kasky did not mince words telling Rubio, “It’s hard to look at you and not look down the barrel of an AR-15 and not look at Nikolas Cruz” before asking squarely, “Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?” The room erupted in cheers as Rubio replied that people buy into his agenda and that he supports laws to keep guns out of the hands of deranged people.

Rubio said he does not support arming teachers and Nelson agreed saying Trump’s suggestion on arming them was “a terrible idea.”

Shortly before the town hall event opened, the sheriff of the Florida county torn apart by the rampage spoke to the cheering audience, drawing them to their feet as he exhorted them to press on for stricter gun controls.

Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County declared the U.S. has had enough of deadly shootings. He said the young people should hold lawmakers accountable for making their schools and other community places safer or they won’t be re-elected.

“Never again!” he declared of the Parkland attack, exhorting the young people to press on: “America’s watching you … there will be change.”

 

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

Montenegro Police Working to Identify Attacker on US Embassy

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 12:57

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) -- Police in Montenegro said Thursday they are “working intensely” to identify an assailant who threw an explosive device into the U.S. embassy compound in the capital, Podgorica, before killing himself.

Police said in a statement that the man threw a bomb into the embassy yard and then committed suicide by activating another one around midnight Wednesday.

The blast created a crater but caused no other material damage to the embassy property, the statement said.

Police sealed off the area around the embassy after the explosion.

Officers came to the scene after receiving reports about an explosion and found a lifeless male body in the area of the Moraca river that runs through Podgorica, the statement said.

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The U.S. State Department has said embassy officials are working with police to identify the assailant. The embassy in Podgorica said Thursday all staff are safe and accounted for after the incident.

Montenegro borders the Adriatic Sea in southeastern Europe. It joined NATO last year despite strong opposition from its traditional Slavic ally Russia.

Several people, including two Russian secret service operatives, are on trial in Podgorica on charges that they wanted to overthrow Montenegro’s government in 2016 because of its pro-Western policies.

The U.S. established diplomatic ties with the tiny Balkan state in 2006 after it split from much larger Serbia.

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Associated Press writers Dusan Stojanovic and Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, and Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.

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

From Propaganda to Folk Music: North Korea Changes Its Tune at the DMZ

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 11:57

With an unsteady peace hanging over the Korean Peninsula, things are changing at the tense border that divides North and South Korea.

North Korea has decided to change up its playlist, exchanging depressing propaganda music and militaristic speeches for choral and folk music, according to ABC News. "Instead of a lot of the hard-line speeches, it has gotten softer," Lt. Cmdr. Daniel McShane, a U.N. Command duty officer, told reporters. "We've been hearing a lot more music, and a lot of it has been more classical, especially at night."

North Korea is apparently not the only one switching things up at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). South Korea has turned down its loudspeakers blasting counter-North Korean propaganda, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The DMZ, a heavily-fortified stretch of land that separates the two Koreas, has been described as the "scariest place on earth." At the border, dueling loudspeakers blare propaganda at all hours of the night. The South regularly, as part of a psychological warfare campaign, uses its loudspeakers to blast news and information into the North.

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Some of the military personnel at the DMZ claim they can recite North Korean speeches by memory because they have heard them so many times over the years.

But, the situation is a little different now that North and South Korea are talking again.

After a year of ignoring South Korea's requests for dialogue and testing ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs, the North Korean dictator suddenly offered to engage the South in dialogue during his New Year's address last month.

The two sides have since met multiple times at the border and restored dormant diplomatic hotlines. North Korea agreed to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the two sides not only marched together in the opening ceremony while carrying a unified Korea banner but also fielded a unified Olympic team.

While the South Korean government sees the Olympics as an opportunity for engagement and peace, North Korea's intentions are a little less clear. Some observers suspect that North Korea's peaceful overtures are decidedly less than friendly.

 

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Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Abandoned by the U.S., Syrian Christians and Kurds Seek Help from Pro-Iran Militias

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 11:00

For weeks, the world has watched, mostly with indifference, as Islamist Turkish autocrat Tayyip Erdogan waged a vicious war against U.S. allies. Turkey funded ISIS for years by buying its oil. Now it is shelling and bombing the Syrian Democratic Forces in Afrin, Syria. The SDF is the Kurdish/Christian/ Arab alliance that defeated ISIS on the ground, so U.S. troops wouldn't have to.

The region of Syria controlled by the SDF is one of the only places in the Middle East with religious freedom for Christians. Where women take part in government, and even in the army. Where Muslims are free to convert to Christianity if they wish to. And thousands have. The Stream featured an anguished video of Kurdish evangelicals praying for deliverance from this conflict.  

Kurdish Christian Praying for Deliverance from The Stream on Vimeo.

Turkey Wants to Strangle Kurdish Autonomy in the Cradle

But Turkey fears that any rise of Kurdish autonomy anywhere is a threat to its national unity. So Erdogan unleashed his NATO-equipped army, and thousands of al Qaeda jihadists. It invaded Afrin a month ago. The Stream has been reporting on the attack. We chronicled the mounting civilian casualties, as Turkish forces indiscriminately attack residential areas.

For weeks, our Kurdish allies have hoped that the U.S. would call a halt to this attack. We could have done that straightforwardly, by shifting U.S. forces a few miles to the northwest. But the U.S. didn't act. So now the Kurds felt forced to make an unsavory deal. The Assad regime’s harsh dictatorship helped spark this civil war. But it doesn’t want to lose territory to Turkey. And it has thousands of militiamen at the ready. Most are Shiite Muslims, aligned with Iran.

By international law, the Syrian government ought to be protecting the borders of the country it claims to govern from outside attacks like this one. The SDF emerged in an act of rebellion against that regime. However, its first job is to protect the lives of the civilians in its region. Since no one else would help, it turned to its old oppressor.

Now Pro-Iran Militias Will Protect Syrian Christians

After tortured negotiations, the Assad regime agreed. As The Independent reports:

Pro-Syrian government forces have entered the contested canton of Afrin to help Kurdish forces defend against a Turkish offensive – a further escalation in Syria's already complex civil war.

Footage broadcast by Hezbollah and Syrian regime-allied outlets showed convoys of tanks carrying Syrian flags and soldiers brandishing weapons entering the northwestern part of the country from Aleppo on Tuesday. Syrian state media reported they had been targeted by Turkish shellfire.

The new forces are mostly believed to be made up of the Shia Iranian-backed Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU).

America Left a Vacuum, and Our Enemies Marched In

No sane person can blame the Kurds. They turned to the legal government of their country for help against a foreign invasion. However unsavory that government is.

The Stream's Syria expert, Johannes de Jong, commented on this development:

The agreement is limited to a military defense against the Turkish invaders. This situation is clearly limited to Afrin only and does not include any agreement on civilian governance. The reason for the regime to have this simple agreement is that the regime fears (rightly) that Turkey would take Aleppo after taking Afrin.

The increasing escalation Turkish aggression leading to killing of ever more civilians in the last week made this agreement necessary as no NATO member was prepared to help the people of Afrin.

But the entry of soldiers allied with Iran into this conflict makes things uglier and more complicated for America. These Shiite soldiers helped save Assad's regime from conquest by al-Qaeda backed jihadists. But these Shiites are themselves allied with Iran. That government is no better than Assad's. We saw that in Iran’s crackdown on protesters for reform in January. Even worse, Iran’s regime seeks the destruction of Israel. It launched drones from Syria to attack Israel proper early this month.

Will America or Russia Get Involved?

So now the U.S. neglect of Afrin has pushed a firm, moderate ally -- the SDF -- partly into the arms of an outright enemy, Iran. If Israel, with U.S. backing, attacks Iran, what will happen to Syrian Christians? Will U.S. Christians choose sides in such a conflict?

So now the U.S. neglect of Afrin has pushed a firm, moderate ally -- the SDF -- partly into the arms of an outright enemy, Iran. If Israel, with U.S. backing, attacks Iran, what will happen to Syrian Christians?

Russia backs the Assad regime. Turkey is playing every side against the other. Its goal? To crush the Kurds and keep Erdogan in power. Meanwhile, Turkey blackmails the European Union, demanding membership privileges or else it will dump another million or so migrants over the EU border.

Even worse, Turkey's threatening war against its fellow NATO member Greece. As the Gatestone Institute reports:

In an incident that took place less than two weeks after the Greek Defense Ministry announced that Turkey had violated Greek airspace 138 times in a single day, a Turkish coast guard patrol boat on February 13 rammed a Greek coast guard vessel off the shore of Imia, one of many Greek islands over which Turkey claims sovereignty.

Most of the areas within modern Greece’s current borders were under the occupation of the Ottoman Empire from the mid-15th century until the Greek War of Independence in 1821 and the establishment of the modern Greek state in 1832. The islands, however, like the rest of Greece, are legally and historically Greek, as their names indicate.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), however, and even much of the opposition seem intent on, if not obsessed with, invading and conquering these Greek islands, on the grounds that they are actually Turkish territory.

Does the Trump administration really want to put America first? Then it ought to stop leaving our allies, like the SDF, at the mercy of al Qaeda and Turkey. Now the Greeks, for instance, have every reason to worry what the U.S. will do if Turkish aggression assaults its shores. At what point will we confront the Erdogan regime, which endangers the lives and freedom of Christians from Syria to Greece, to the streets of immigrant-inundated European democracies?

Who Will Lead Evangelical Christianity Now?

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 02:00

The passing of Billy Graham marks the end not only of an era but of an epoch. Graham may have been the last of a line of standout, world-recognized Protestant leaders. It is a very long line, going back as far as Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Whitefield and Edwards, and then closer to our time, Spurgeon, Moody, Warfield, Schaeffer, Stott and many others I couldn't begin to name. But they’re gone. Who will lead evangelical Christianity now?

20th-Century Spiritual Giants

Leadership within Protestantism has never been a matter of position but always of influence. And influence Graham had in abundance. Thus if you'd asked anyone in the late 20th century, "Who is most shaping evangelical Christianity at this time?" you could easily count on Grahams' name coming up first in reply.

There were other “giants of the faith,” of course. I think of Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru, in the U.S.), who led a ministry that's been involved, either directly or through partnerships, in planting millions of churches around the world. Or I think of Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries and BreakPoint. Once infamous for his part in the Watergate scandal, he became later perhaps Christianity's strongest spokesman for humanitarian care uniquely combined with solid biblical thinking.

Bright passed away in 2003, Colson in 2012. And now Billy Graham, the standout leader among standouts.

What Does Leadership Even Mean?

Who will lead us now? What does leadership even mean among Protestants? We've long been fractured into multiple denominations, but these have been growing less relevant over recent decades. Much more urgent now are all the heated disputes over the authority of God's word, and God's moral expectations; and on these issues, much of mainline Protestantism has stepped outside historic Christianity altogether -- at least in the Western world.

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Still the question remains: Who will lead evangelicalism?

No single name leaps to mind. Timothy Keller? I keep meeting evangelicals who have never heard of him. Tony Evans? Many believers look to him for leadership, but many others wouldn't even recognize his name. John Piper? Same answer. Russell Moore? Same again. I could continue, but you get the point.

Worldwide Diversity

By now, though, you should have noticed that this has all been very British- and American-centered. That's way too narrow a view. The typical Bible-believing Protestant is no longer a Baptist in Birmingham. Rather, he's a Pentecostal living in a high-rise in Lagos or Guangdong. Or she's a mother attending an independent church in rural Brazil or Uganda. Or he's a converted former Muslim meeting secretly with a small house church in Morocco.

Time was once that evangelicalism's center of gravity was easily located in the English-speaking world, first Britain, then America. Its leading institutions -- especially its seminaries -- were likewise easy to identify. Now there is no easily definable center of gravity. Instead it's a highly distributed, worldwide movement of men, women and children united by a common belief in the resurrected Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Unity Beyond our Divisions

And where then is the leadership? It's just as widely distributed. This is a mark of Protestant Christianity's dynamism, and perhaps also of its potential for chaos and even error; for the great religious cults of the Western world (and beyond) have virtually all been offshoots of Protestantism. From that perspective -- not to mention all the widely-discussed political issues bedeviling the movement -- it's astonishing that evangelicalism has held together at all.

Still there is unity in the faith that supersedes our divisions. Every few weeks or so I enjoy breakfast with an evangelical friend whose politics are considerably different than mine. I've had great fellowship with believers whose countries have been sworn enemies of America. I've prayed with Christians when neither of us understood each other's language, yet we knew we were of one heart. For all our differences there's still something holding us together anyway.

I pray that in describing Bright, Colson and Graham this way, I've also described your pastor -- and you.

Leadership Through Character

And I believe the past generation's leaders provide a clue to what that is. I had the privilege of working with both Bill Bright and Chuck Colson. Both were men of incredible giftedness but deep humility. Both were sold out to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Both were committed, right to the core of their beings, to the Word of God. Both were men of highest integrity. Both sought the Lord urgently in prayer. Both were students, not just of the Word but also of the world they'd been called to reach. Both knew they were on mission to reach as many as possible with the truth and the love of Jesus Christ.

I miss them both. Badly. From what I've read and heard, the same things were true of Billy Graham. We're all going to miss him. But along with many, many others down through the ages, these men have left us a legacy. It's in their character and their commitment, which anyone may follow, wherever we may be.

“Who Will Lead? Will I?”

So no, I can't name one standout, "giant-of-the-faith" evangelical leader today, as I could have once. Yet I pray that in describing Bright, Colson and Graham as I have, I've also described your pastor. I pray that I've described you.

That's why I say to my fellow evangelicals today, let's pick up their mantles. Wherever God has placed us, in whatever spheres we circulate in, let's lead as they did, with the same depth of commitment to God, to His Word, and to His mission here on Earth. Our influence won't be as broad as theirs, but it could be just as deep.

Our most important question, after all, isn't, "Who will lead?" It's, "Will I?"

Do Something! Trump Hears Emotional Students, Parents

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 00:30

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Spilling out wrenching tales of lost lives and stolen safety, students with quavering voices and parents shaking with anger appealed to President Donald Trump on Wednesday to set politics aside and protect American school children from the scourge of gun violence. Trump listened intently as raw emotions reverberated at the White House.

Faced with the personal anguish wrought by the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead, Trump pledged action, saying: “We don’t want others to go through the kind of pain you’ve been through.”

He was faced with grieving families looking for answers. Few had concrete suggestions, but a few spoke in favor of raising age limits for buying assault weapons.

Parkland student Samuel Zeif said he’s heard of 15-year-olds buying rifles. Cary Gruber, father of a Parkland student, implored Trump: “It’s not left and right,” adding: “If he’s not old enough to buy a beer, he should not be able to buy a gun.”

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed in the shooting, noted previous school massacres and raged over his loss, saying the moment wasn’t about gun laws but about fixing the schools.

“It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it and I’m pissed. Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again,” said Pollack. “King David Cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.

Trump solicited suggestions from the group. He promised to be “very strong on background checks,” adding that “we’re going to do plenty of other things.” He also indicated interest in the idea of concealed weapons for trained teachers, saying it was something his administration would be “looking at it very strongly.”

A strong supporter of gun rights, Trump has nonetheless indicated in recent days that he is willing to consider ideas not in keeping with National Rifle Association orthodoxy, including age restrictions for buying assault-type weapons. Still, gun owners are a key part of his base of supporters.

Over 40 people assembled in the State Dining Room. Among the group were six students from Parkland, including the student body president, along with their parents. Also present were Darrell and Sandra Scott, whose daughter was killed in the Columbine, Colorado, shooting, and Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden, who lost children in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Students and parents from the Washington area also were present.

The student body president at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Julia Cordover, tearfully told Trump that she “was lucky enough to come home from school.”

She added: “I am confident you will do the right thing.”

Not all the students impacted by the shooting came to the White House.

David Hogg, who has been one of the students actively calling for gun control was invited but declined, said his mother Rebecca Boldrick.

“His point was (Trump needs) to come to Parkland, we’re not going there,” she said.

Television personality Geraldo Rivera had dinner with Trump at his private Palm Beach club over the weekend and described Trump as “deeply affected” by his visit Friday with Parkland survivors. In an email, Rivera said he and Trump discussed the idea of raising the minimum age to purchase assault-type weapons.

Trump “suggested strongly that he was going to act to strengthen background checks,” Rivera said.

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said they will introduce a bill to raise the minimum age required to purchase rifles from gun dealers, including assault weapons such as the AR-15.

“A kid too young buy a handgun should be too young to buy an #AR15,” Flake said on Twitter. The bill he and Feinstein support would raise the minimum purchase age for non-military buyers from 18 to 21, the same age required to purchase a handgun.

The NRA did not respond to a request for comment. Trump embraced gun rights on his campaign, though he supported some gun control before he became a candidate, backing an assault weapons ban and a longer waiting period to purchase a gun in a 2000 book.

Throughout the day Wednesday, television news showed footage of student survivors of the violence marching on the Florida state Capitol, calling for tougher laws. The protests came closer to Trump, too, with hundreds of students from suburban Maryland attending a rally at the Capitol and then marching to the White House.

Daniel Gelillo, a senior at Richard Montgomery High who helped organize the protest, said students were hoping to pressure lawmakers to act. He said that “up ’til now nothing has quite fazed them.”

On Tuesday, Trump directed the Justice Department to move to ban devices like the rapid-fire bump stocks used in last year’s Las Vegas massacre. The White House has also said Trump was looking at a bill that would strengthen federal gun background checks.

But those moves have drawn criticism as being inadequate, with Democrats questioning whether the Justice Department even has authority to regulate bump stocks and arguing that the background check legislation would not go far enough.

Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lacks authority under current law to ban bump stocks.

“If ATF tries to ban these devices after admitting repeatedly that it lacks the authority to do so, that process could be tied up in court for years, and that would mean bump stocks would continue to be sold,” said Feinstein, of California, calling legislation the only answer.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment about how it might implement Trump’s order or how an ongoing bump stock review would be affected. ATF reviewed the devices and approved them in 2010, finding they did not amount to machine guns that are regulated under the National Firearms Act that dates to the 1930s.

As calls for ATF to ban bump stocks mounted after the Las Vegas shooting, the agency initially said it could only reconsider their lawfulness if Congress amended existing laws or passed new legislation. An effort to pass legislation last year fizzled out.

On background checks, Trump has suggested he is open to a bipartisan bill developed in response to a mass shooting at a Texas church. It would penalize federal agencies that don’t properly report required records and reward states that comply by providing them with federal grant preferences.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said the bill is “a small step,” stressing that Democrats want to see universal background check legislation.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said Wednesday that he’ll probably reintroduce bipartisan legislation that would require background checks for all gun purchases online and at gun shows. He said he planned to discuss the idea with Trump.

That bill first emerged with backing from Toomey and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia following the 2012 slaying of 26 children and adults in Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. It failed then and at least one more time since.

___

Associated Press writer Sadie Gurman contributed from Washington, Marc Levy from Harrisburg and Alina Hartounian from Phoenix.

 

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

4 Reasons Congress Doesn’t ‘Act’ on Gun Violence

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 21:51

The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, has again created a debate over whether or not the country needs additional gun control laws. Rather than wading into that debate, perhaps we should explore why so little progress is made on this issue.

After each of the recent mass shootings or school shootings we have seen over the past few years, there has been an initial outcry demanding greater restrictions on gun purchases or ownership. These proposed ideas include more stringent background checks, regulations of certain types of firearms, and prohibitions on allowing the mentally ill to purchase firearms.

After much is written to support such "common sense" reforms, politicians begin debating them, and then nothing seems to occur. Why? There are four basic reasons I believe there has not been greater action by Congress to address this issue.

Democracy

The most common answer is the National Rifle Association's powerful lobbying efforts. The NRA is constantly vilified as favoring 2nd Amendment rights over the lives of children. But this is an overly simplistic explanation.

When we blame the NRA, or any other interest group with which we disagree, we are really saying that millions of our fellow citizens are advancing an agenda with which we disagree.

Who is the NRA? It is an organization of millions of gun owners across the country. It's not some monolithic entity that operates outside of human will. It is a human institution, with people who are highly active and engaged on an issue of importance to them. So when we blame the NRA, or any other interest group with which we disagree, we are really saying that millions of our fellow citizens are advancing an agenda with which we disagree.

That's fine. But in a democracy, that's how things work. Democracy doesn't require having a majority of the people supporting you, it requires having an active number of engaged citizens that support your cause and will vote, donate, and spend time in order to advance that cause.

The fact that those who support greater restrictions on gun ownership have not convinced a large enough number of their fellow citizens to take up their cause in a more participatory manner is not the fault of those who disagree with them.

Federalism

Despite the name, we really aren't the "United States." The people of each state have a unique culture, history, and perspective on the role of government. These differences are what give rise to different laws on a wide range of issues. Just as we have seen states take different approaches to marijuana laws and immigration enforcement, we should expect that they would also take different approaches to gun laws.

We refer to the state governments as "laboratories of democracy" for a reason. It's time to recognize that in the gun control debate there doesn't have to be a "one-size-fits-all" solution imposed by Congress. Each state should be free to enact the gun laws it feels will be most effective in protecting its citizens while remaining consistent with the Supreme Court's protection of gun ownership as expressed in its Heller decision.

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Similar to marijuana legalization and immigration, gun control is a perfect test case for federalism. Allowing states to experiment with their gun laws and comparing the results is the appropriate solution to this issue. Attempting to force the people of North Dakota to accept the demands of citizens from California, on the other hand, is simply counterproductive.

Important Terms Do Not Have Agreed-Upon Definitions

Just as we have differences in culture and histories, we also have significant differences in how we define certain concepts.

What constitutes an "assault weapon"? What event qualifies as a "school shooting"? These are just two of the important concepts that people use and assume that others agree with their definitions. For example, one prominent gun control group produced information that supposedly showed there have been 18 school shootings in the U.S. in 2018 alone.

However, it counted events such as a suicide in aclosed school building, the accidental discharge of a security officer's firearm in which no one was hurt, and a criminal who ran on school property to flee police as school shootings. These are clearly not the same types of events as a mass school shooting such as occurred in Parkland, Florida, or at Columbine High School in Colorado. Yet many media outletsreported the claim without bothering to note the distinctions.

Until we can all get on the same page regarding how we define important terms, it will continue to be virtually impossible to reach an agreed upon solution. Significant disagreement exists on these and other terms. Because of this, a "national" approach to this issue is likely to remain elusive.

We Don't All Agree on the ‘Solutions’

The calls for congressional action come most often from those wishing to restrict gun ownership. However, not everyone agrees that this is the correct approach. For example, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are sixteen states that ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus, ten states that allow concealed weapons on college campuses, and 23 states, including my home state of Oklahoma, which leave this decision in the hands of each institution.

the appropriate solution to this issue would be for states and communities to continue to develop those policies their citizens most support.

The fact that so many states disagree as to whether greater restrictions or greater freedom is the right course clearly demonstrates that there is significant disagreement on what should be done.

The Most Reasonable Approach

Given the above reasons for inaction at the federal level, it seems fairly obvious that the appropriate solution to this issue would be for states and communities to continue to develop those policies their citizens most support. Such an approach would align public policies with the preferences of majorities in each state and avoid the obstacles mentioned above.

Also, the burden of action should not rest solely on the shoulders of elected officials. Individuals should find out what the security measures and policies of local schools are. They should familiarize themselves with the gun laws of their states. If they believe any of these are inadequate, they should advocate for change to officials at the local and state level who most likely share those concerns and who will be responsive to those efforts. In short, citizens need to practice self-government.

The fact is, mass shootings, and especially school shootings, are the results of a variety of complicated factors. Simplistic solutions will not solve these problems and have little likelihood of national action. However, if the parents, teachers, and students of any state or community want some legislative action to address this issue, let them advocate for it with their state and local government officials.

The reality is Congress isn't, and can't be, responsible for anyone's personal safety. That responsibility has to fall on individuals, communities, and state governments. If you're not advocating for real change there, you're not likely to get the results you're seeking -- whatever those may be.

 

This article was originally published on FEE.org.

Winter Olympics: Bjoergen Becomes Most Decorated Winter Olympian

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 21:00

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) -- The Latest on the Pyeongchang Olympics (all times local):

12:25 a.m.

Marit Bjoergen is now the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time after her Norwegian team took bronze in the women’s cross-country skiing sprint relay, increasing her career tally to 14 Olympic medals.

Jessica Diggins and Kikkan Randall won the gold, the first ever for the United States in an Olympic cross-country skiing in one of the highlights on Day 12 at the Pyeongchang Winter Games.

U.S. Alpine star Lindsey Vonn turned in a bronze-medal performance in the last Olympic downhill of her career.

In figure skating, Russian Alina Zagitova performed a flawless “Black Swan” routine for a world-record score in the short program and a shot at gold after Friday’s free dance.

In the speedskating team pursuit event, Norway won for the men while Japan took gold for the women.

Germany’s Mariama Jamanka took the gold in women’s bobsledding despite never having won a World Cup race.

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11:30 p.m.

Germany has reached the men’s hockey semifinals at the Olympics for the first time after beating top-seeded Sweden, 4-3.

Patrick Reimer scored in overtime to send Germany to Friday’s semifinals against Canada, which shut out Finland 1-0.

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11:20 p.m.

Canada has advanced to the Olympic men’s hockey semifinals for the third consecutive time after shutting out Finland 1-0. Canada will face Germany on Friday.

The two-time defending gold medalists got a combined shutout from Ben Scrivens and Kevin Poulin and a goal from Maxim Noreau.

Poulin had to come in cold after Scrivens left with an upper-body injury early in the second period.

The team from Russia plays the Czech Republic in the other semifinal on Friday.

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Driver Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz of Germany take a curve in their first heat during the women’s two-man bobsled competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.

10:50 p.m.

Mariama Jamanka has won the gold medal in women’s bobsledding, giving Germany its fifth gold in eight sliding events so far at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

She’s a surprise winner. Jamanka has never even won a World Cup race. To win Olympic gold, she had to beat the three drivers who combined to sweep the medals at the Sochi Games four years ago.

Jamanka’s time was 3 minutes, 22.45 seconds over four runs. Elana Meyers Taylor of the U.S. was second for her third consecutive Olympic medal, missing the gold by 0.07 seconds.

Kaillie Humphries of Canada, the two-time defending gold medalist, won bronze.

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10:30 p.m.

Norway has beaten South Korea to win the men’s team pursuit title in speedskating at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The Netherlands took bronze, beating New Zealand in the B final on Wednesday.

In a thrilling seesaw battle, the Norwegian trio won in 3 minutes, 37.32 seconds, and held an edge of 1.20 seconds after eight laps.

It was the second gold medal for Norway in three days at the Oval. They’ve had their best performance on the ice since the 1994 Lillehammer Games.

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10:25 p.m.

The Netherlands has claimed a speedskating bronze medal in the men’s team pursuit at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The Dutch team of Sven Kramer, Jan Blokhuijsen and Patrick Roest led all the way against the New Zealand threesome, steadily building its lead on every lap before crossing the line with a time of 3 minutes, 38.40 seconds on Wednesday.

Peter Michael, Shane Dobbin and Reyon Kay finished 5.14 seconds behind. New Zealand was denied what would have been only its second medal in Winter Olympics history.

The Dutch grabbed two medals on the night, also taking silver in the women’s team pursuit.

Sven Kramer, Jan Blokhuijsen and Patrick Roest of the Netherlands compete during the Speed Skating Men’s Team Pursuit Semifinal 2 on day 12 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Oval in Gangneung, South Korea, Feb. 21, 2018.

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10:20 p.m.

Canada’s starting goaltender has left its quarterfinal game against Finland at the Pyeongchang Games with injury.

Ben Scrivens left the game with the score tied 0-0 about four minutes into the second period Wednesday.

Canada forward Eric O’Dell checked Finland’s Veli-Matti Savinainen into Scrivens, and the former NHL goalie went into the goalpost.

Scrivens tried to skate it off. He spoke with a trainer and stayed in the game until the next whistle, when he was replaced by Kevin Poulin.

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10:10 p.m.

World-record holder Japan has beaten defending champion the Netherlands with an Olympic-record performance to take gold in the women’s team pursuit speedskating event.

The Dutch settled for silver, and the United States beat Canada in the North American battle for bronze at the Pyeongchang Games.

In a spectacular gold-medal race, Japan set out fastest, lost the middle part to the Dutch and hit back in the final two of six laps to win.

Miho and Nana Takagi and Ayano Sato set an Olympic record of 2 minutes, 53.89 seconds to beat the Dutch by 1.59 seconds.

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10:05 p.m.

The U.S. has finally won a long-track speedskating medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The team of Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe and Mia Manganello earned bronze with a win over Canada in the women’s team pursuit B final.

It’s the first long-track speedskating medal for the U.S. since the 2010 Vancouver Games. The Americans were shut out four years ago in Sochi.

Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe, Mia Manganello and Carlijn Schoutens of the U.S. celebrate after winning the bronze medal in the Speed Skating Ladies’ Team Pursuit Final B against Canada on day 12 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Oval in Gangneung, South Korea, Feb. 21, 2018.

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10 p.m.

A Russian curler who failed a drug test at the Pyeongchang Olympics will have his case heard Thursday.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s anti-doping division says it will hear the case of mixed doubles bronze medalist Alexander Krushelnitsky at 2 p.m. local time.

Krushelnitsky’s case has taken on extra importance since the International Olympic Committee is due to decide on whether to formally reinstate Russia for Sunday’s closing ceremony following a suspension for a doping scheme at Sochi.

That decision would allow athletes to march under the Russian, rather than the Olympic, flag.

Russian curling officials have suggested that Krushelnitsky could have been dosed with the banned substance meldonium without his knowledge. They suggested the culprit could be Russia’s political enemies or a jealous athlete who didn’t make the Olympic team.

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8:30 p.m.

The spokesman for the International Olympic Committee is hinting that its longest-serving member should think about stepping down for criticizing fellow members and calling some of them “old farts.”

Canadian Dick Pound has harshly criticized the IOC for not banning Russian athletes from the Pyeongchang Olympics despite a massive doping scandal.

Pound referred to some fellow members as “old farts” in a British newspaper interview. Pound suggested athletes could stay away from the Olympics if the IOC didn’t get tougher on doping.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams says, “In the end, if you don’t like the coffee that’s served at a coffee shop, if you don’t like the decor, if you don’t like the prices, then you maybe go to another coffee shop.”

Pound couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

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Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby, left, and Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo celebrate after winning the gold medal in the men’s team sprint freestyle cross-country skiing final at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.

8:05 p.m.

Norway’s Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo and Martin Johnsrud have captured gold in the men’s team sprint, giving Norway a 13th medal in cross-country at the Pyeongchang Games to tie an Olympic record.

A team of Russians took silver Wednesday, and France edged out Sweden for bronze.

It was the third gold medal for Klaebo, tying him with French biathlete Martin Fourcade for the most at the Pyeongchang Games.

The 21-year Klaebo became the fourth male athlete to win three gold medals at the Winter Games before turning 22. He joins American speedskater Eric Heiden, Austrian Alpine skier Toni Sailer and KoreaN short-track speedskater Ano Victor.

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7:55 p.m.

Ester Ledecka’s quest for the second half of the rarest of Olympic doubles will start two days later than expected.

Olympic officials juggled scheduling at the action park because of heavy winds that are expected on Friday.

Ledecka, the Czech skier and snowboarder who won the super-G in Alpine in a shocker, is also entered in snowboarding’s parallel giant slalom, where she is top-ranked. Qualifying runs were originally set for Thursday but have now been moved to Saturday and will be run the same day as the final rounds.

Women’s skicross qualifying was moved up a day to Thursday. The elimination rounds for that event were moved from Friday afternoon to the morning, before the winds are expected to hit.

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7:25 p.m.

The United States has won its first Olympic gold medal in women’s cross-country skiing, and Norwegian skier Marit Bjoergen has become the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time by taking bronze at the Pyeongchang Games.

The Americans posted the fastest time in the semifinals to start on the front row in the finals Wednesday. Jessica Diggins passed the Swedes and the Norwegians on the final lap to make history in a major upset.

Sweden took silver.

Bjoergen and teammate Maiken Caspersen Falla won the bronze medal.

Bjoergen now has won 14 career medals at the Winter Olympic Games, passing Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjourndalen for the most ever. The 37-year-old previously took gold in the women’s 4×5-kilometer relay, silver in the 15-kilometer skiathlon and bronze in the 10-kilometer freestyle at Pyeongchang.

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Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva competes in the women’s single skating short program of the figure skating event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, South Korea, Feb. 21, 2018.

7:15 p.m.

K-pop band EXO will play at the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Organizers on Wednesday announced the performance by the South Korean-Chinese group, which has a vast following among teenagers.

Among them is Russian figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva, who is in second place in the women’s figure skating competition heading into the free skate Friday.

Medvedeva, 18, said she listened to Exo before her stunning short program in the team figure skating event last week. Russia won silver and she set a record, though she surpassed it in Wednesday’s individual competition before teammate Alina Zagitova surpassed her.

She said after the team competition that she has autographs and letters from the members of EXO and they provided inspiration.

Organizers also said K-pop artist CL will perform at the ceremony, which is Sunday.

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7 p.m.

Noora Raty has stopped 20 shots to lead Finland to a 3-2 victory over the Russians in the women’s hockey bronze medal game at the Olympics.

Petra Nieminen, Susanna Tapani and Linda Valimaki scored for Finland, which can claim to be the best of the rest in a sport dominated by North Americans.

Following up their bronze medals in 1998 and 2010, the Finns beat Russia 5-1 in pool play but had a tougher go in the medal round. The teams were even in shots -- 22-22 -- but the Russians never led after falling behind 2-0 off the opening faceoff of the second period.

Canada and the U.S. will play for the gold medal on Thursday.

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6:45 p.m.

The Russian men’s hockey team has swept aside Norway 6-1 to set up a semifinal against the Czech Republic.

Russia charged to a 3-0 lead at the end of the first period, outshooting Norway 19-2, and remained in control throughout the game as chants of “Red Machine” and “Russia” echoed around the half-empty Gangneung Hockey Center.

Nikita Gusev finished with a goal and two assists, while Slava Voynov had a goal and an assist.

After the disappointment of losing in the quarterfinals at home in Sochi four years ago, the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” -- as they’re called due to International Olympic Committee sanctions over doping -- are now guaranteed to play for a medal.

No Russian hockey team has won a medal since 2002.

Sergei Kalinin #21, Olympic Athlete from Russia, scores a goal on Lars Haugen #30 of Norway in the second period during the Men’s Play-offs Quarterfinals at the Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, South Korea on Feb. 21, 2018.

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5 p.m.

If there was a positive that the Americans took away from the two-man bobsled competition at the Pyeongchang Olympics, it’s that they now know what not to do.

But knowing what to do is still a work in progress. The U.S. men returned to the ice Wednesday for the first day of official training for the four-man competition. They’re desperate to figure out a course that has largely befuddled them to this point.

Four-man is the final sliding event in Pyeongchang, with two runs on Saturday and two more before the cauldron gets extinguished on Sunday.

U.S. pilot Codie Bascue says they had two really solid runs that will give them confidence for the rest of the week.

Any confidence boost would be helpful. The U.S. placed 14th, 21st and 25th in the two-man competition.

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3:05 p.m.

Brady Leman has earned gold for Canada in men’s skicross, beating Switzerland’s Marc Bischofberger in a wild final at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Leman took the lead early during Wednesday’s last round and then held off Bischofberger in a two-man duel after Canada’s Kevin Drury and Russian athlete Sergey Ridzik collided early on.

Ridzik picked himself up and raced down for bronze.

The elimination rounds included a handful of frightening crashes that forced several men to leave the course wrapped up in a medical sled.

The worst came when 2011 world champion Chris Del Bosco lost control late in the run. The right side of the Canadian’s body slammed hard into the snow and he lay motionless for several minutes before emergency personnel carefully placed him on the sled.

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2:50 p.m.

Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States men’s hockey team with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation Wednesday for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shootout. The Czech Republic’s Pavel Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

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Olympic Athlete from Russia Alina Zagitova competes during the Ladies Single Skating Short Program on day twelve of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, South Korea on Feb. 21, 2018.

2:30 p.m.

Alina Zagitova’s record-setting short program has given the 15-year-old Russian the lead over her friend, training partner and two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva heading into Friday’s free skate.

Zagitova scored 82.92 points, breaking the mark of 81.61 that Medvedeva had set about 15 minutes earlier. Both scores topped the short program record Medvedeva set earlier in the Pyeongchang Games.

Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada was third with 78.87 points.

The American trio of Mirai Nagasu, Karen Chen and Bradie Tennell struggled with early mistakes in each of their programs. Nagasu was ninth with Chen and Tennell right behind her.

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2:15 p.m.

The injuries are starting to pile up in men’s skicross at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Three skiers left the course on medical sleds during the first round of eliminations following scary wrecks Wednesday.

Canadian Chris Del Bosco’s right side slammed violently into the ground at Phoenix Snow Park after he lost control in the air over one of the final jumps in the race that sends skiers side-by-side down the mountain.

France’s Terence Tchiknavorian landed awkwardly after a jump and appeared to injure his right leg. Austria’s Christoph Wahrstoetter became tangled up in the fence after colliding with Sweden’s Erik Mobaerg.

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More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org.

 

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

Shooting Survivors Issue Call for Action at Florida Capitol

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 20:53

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Survivors of the Florida school shooting descended on the state’s Capitol on Wednesday with one overarching message: It’s time for action.

The students entered a gun-friendly political climate in Tallahassee, where lawmakers have rebuffed gun restrictions since Republicans took control of both the governor’s office and the Legislature in 1999.

The students received attention and a warm reception, but politicians did not offer specific answers. The students’ biggest wish -- banning assault-type weapons such as the AR-15, the weapon used by suspect Nikolas Cruz -- was taken off the table the previous day in the House.

The students also addressed reporters, offering scathing words for lawmakers while thousands of others rallied outside.

“We’ve spoke to only a few legislators, and, try as they might, the most we’ve gotten out of them is ‘We’ll keep you in our thoughts. You are so strong. You are so powerful,'” said Delaney Tarr, a senior at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. “We know what we want. We want gun reform. We want commonsense gun laws. … We want change.”

She added: “We’ve had enough of thoughts and prayers. If you supported us, you would have made a change long ago. So this is to every lawmaker out there: No longer can you take money from the NRA. We are coming after you. We are coming after every single one of you, demanding that you take action.”

The teens split into several groups to talk with lawmakers and other state leaders about gun control, the legislative process, and mental health issues. Some tearfully asked why civilians should be allowed to have weapons such as the one fired in the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one week ago.

When Florida’s Senate President Joe Negron heard the question, he did not answer directly: “That’s an issue that we’re reviewing.” When another lawmaker said he supported raising the age to buy assault-style weapons to 21 from 18, the students broke into applause.

The Florida Senate opened its session by showing pictures of all 17 victims in the attack.

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“There are some really harrowing tales here,” said Democratic Sen. Lauren Book of Broward County, who helped organize busloads of students who arrived at the Capitol late Tuesday. She stayed overnight with the students in Tallahassee’s Civic Center and said they stayed up until 5 a.m., researching, writing and preparing to talk with politicians.

“It has been a very, very difficult, tough night. It’s in those quiet moments that the reality of this stuff, without all the noise sets in. In any given moment, there’s tears. It’s raw and it’s there.”

About 100 students from the high school made the 400-mile (640-kilometer) trip on three buses. They told the 500 students and parents waiting for them that they were fighting to protect all students.

“We’re what’s making the change. We’re going to talk to these politicians. … We’re going to keep pushing until something is done because people are dying and this can’t happen anymore,” said Alfonso Calderon, a 16-year-old junior.

Despite their determination, the students and their supporters are not likely to get what they really want: a ban on AR-15s and similar semi-automatic rifles. Republican lawmakers are talking more seriously about some restrictions, but not a total ban.

Instead, they are discussing treating assault-style rifles more like handguns. That could mean raising the minimum age to purchase the weapon to 21, creating a waiting period and making it more difficult for people who exhibit signs of mental illness to buy weapons even without a diagnosis.

Democrats attempted to get a bill to ban assault rifles and large-capacity magazines heard on the House floor on Tuesday. Republicans, who dominate the chamber, dismissed it.

Scott organized three committees to look at school safety, mental health and gun safety issues. The committees met Tuesday and vowed to make changes. While Scott told reporters several times that “everything is on the table,” he did not answer whether his proposal would include any bans on any type of weapons.

Instead, Scott said he is interested in making it harder for people who are temporarily committed to obtain a gun. He also pledged to increase spending on school safety programs and on mental health treatment.

Authorities said Cruz, 19, had a string of run-ins with school authorities that ended with his expulsion. Police were repeatedly called to his house throughout his childhood. His lawyers said there were many warning signs that he was mentally unstable and potentially violent. Yet he legally purchased a semi-automatic rifle.

Diego Pfeiffer, a senior at the high school, was realistic about achieving changes in the law before the Legislature goes home March 9, but he said anything is a good first step.

“The best-case scenario is we move a step forward and that’s all we’re asking here. We’re asking to help save student lives,” he said. “Whether it’s funding or mental health or gun safety or any of that sort of stuff -- I am pro any of that.”

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Lush reported from St. Petersburg, Florida. Associated Press Writer Sadie Gurman in Washington contributed to this report.

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Follow the AP’s complete coverage of the Florida school shooting here: https://apnews.com/tag/Floridaschoolshooting.

 

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

A Plea for Good Shepherds

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 20:50

The leaders of God's people in the Old Testament are called shepherds. They are commissioned to protect the sheep and lead them to nourishment. The sheep, in turn, produce the wool that contributes to the flourishing of the family and society. In the New Testament, Jesus calls himself the "good shepherd" (John 10:11). He demonstrated what true leadership looks like. Since his ascension to the right hand of the Father, he works through his delegated and empowered leaders to equip his people (sheep) (Ephesians 4:11-16). When these shepherds neglect their calling or confuse their assignment, the sheep are confused and malnourished. They are vulnerable to the wolves.

The Dangers of Wolves

Both shepherds and wolves love sheep. The wolves love them to consume. They use the sheep for their own purpose. They care more about what the sheep provide for them than they do for the sheep. Sadly, there are many wolves in shepherd's disguise. Too many leaders have been more interested in the acquisition of names and addresses, tithing units, seats in the pew, and donors than the wholeness of the sheep. Insecure people trying to shepherd have a hard time, because they tend to find their identity in the applause of the sheep rather than in the pleasure of their master.

When the angels appeared to shepherds at the time of Jesus' birth, they were appearing to the lowest rung of free society. Not even the best shepherd was invited into polite society. Just imagine a lowly shepherd trying to make a name for himself among those outside the shepherd community, or even more ridiculous trying to elevate his status by listening to the sheep praise him. Good shepherds get their pleasure in well-protected and well-equipped sheep who stay healthy enough to produce good wool. It is the owner's pleasure that matters.

"The world is too dangerous to live in -- not because of the people who do evil, but because of the people who sit and let it happen." -- Albert Einstein

Passive shepherds allow the wolves to devour the sheep. We must not be fooled into believing all the wolves died in Bible days. There are many voices trying to deceive and allure the vulnerable sheep. We suffer in a culture torn by "spin." The news we hear can't be trusted. Bias has become the norm. Walter Cronkite is dead, and so is trust in the Media, in the Congress, in the Presidency, and too often in the church. The sheep don't know where to find refreshing water and green grass. They are afraid to lie down beside still waters. The shepherds are busy with their own agendas while the wolves lick their chops. (The Stream seeks to be a place where sheep can come and get the news from trusted sources.)

Good Shepherds, Step Up and Lead

Step up, shepherds! Please!

Help us interpret the issues of our day from a Christian worldview. Abortion, immigration, freedom of conscience, and free speech are not just political issues to be left to the politicians. They are moral issues stemming from spiritual reality. Misunderstanding these issues is deadly. We need a trustworthy perspective that is above political parties. Don't just tell us to vote. Tell us why it is moral to vote. Don't tell us how to vote. Tell us how to think from a gospel-perspective. We can't spend all day researching all the issues. We have jobs and families. Lead us to good sources where we can learn to engage issues beyond talking points. We are grateful for the years of study you have invested in theology, philosophy, and political science. Please use it now to equip us to think, to believe, and to act as children of light facing a dark world.

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Jim Denison in a recent blog quoted Albert Einstein. "The world is too dangerous to live in -- not because of the people who do evil, but because of the people who sit and let it happen."

Please, shepherds. Don't neglect your calling. Equip us. Mobilize us. Inspire us with truth and love. Our present lives and the future of our families are at stake.

What a Glorious Day — My Friend Billy Graham’s Homegoing

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 19:13

In the above picture you see Betty and me having lunch with Billy Graham in his home in Montreat, North Carolina. His daughter Ruth (named after her mother who went to be with the Lord in 2007) had asked us to come visit Dad. She said, "James, you know how much he loves you and Betty and it's difficult for him to hear, but your voice is strong and he'll be able to hear you well. You will be such an encouragement to him."

What a joy it was to be with Billy. He shared several times that day how anxious he was to go to be with his wife Ruth and the Lord Jesus. He was ready to go!

This morning when I texted a message of comfort to his daughter Ruth, she responded with this text: "It's a glorious day! He (Dad) is seeing Jesus and my mother!"

Indeed, he is! He is experiencing the eternal life found only through the Christ and the Cross he preached faithfully for over 75 years.

This is the kind of man Billy Graham was. Not just a powerful, famous preacher, but an individual who cared deeply about others.

Why Would He Take an Interest in Me?

I am grateful to say that I not only knew Billy Graham and the power of his message and ministry, but he was indeed my very good friend. He took an interest in me during that first year Betty and I were married 55 years ago. He actually helped set up our evangelistic association as a 501c3 that he said would be essential for me to have as the ministry grew.

I was still only a teenager. Often I wondered, "Why would he take such an interest in me?"

I had the privilege of visiting with him many times. Over and over he said, "James, God has anointed you. He has given you a gift. I will be praying for you." This is the kind of man Billy Graham was. I not only knew him as a powerful, very famous preacher, but as an individual who cared deeply about others.

The Prodigal Teen

In my early 20's, Billy asked me to witness to his teenage son Franklin who at that time was rebelling against God.

Franklin attended Letourneau College and I was attending what is now East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, only 20 minutes away from Longview. I made many appointments with Franklin to go fishing or hunting so I could talk with him about Jesus. Every time, he failed to meet me at the agreed time.

A few years later when I was in my early 30's, Billy and I played golf together. Out on the course, Billy shared some joyful news. While overseas, Franklin had given his life to Christ. What a miracle it was!

And what a miracle Franklin's ministry has become.

The Life-Changing Lesson

Billy would call often and ask me to pray with him about getting pastors together in a more cooperative spirit, especially in the Bible Belt. I said, "Yes, it seems to be difficult sometimes to get them to come together in supernatural unity, even for evangelism." He said, "It breaks my heart."

Interestingly, I had become a very forceful preacher who in a way added to some of the dissension and division among believers. I found myself targeting individuals or groups who simply didn't agree with our "Baptist point of view."

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I called Billy on one occasion and scolded him for cooperating with so many different Christian groups. He said something to me then that led to an amazing change in my life.

He said, "Do you know these Christians you are telling me to avoid?" I said, "No I don't." He said, "Well I do, and I have found them to be in love with Jesus." And then the sentence that triggered what I believe was a miraculous and very important change. He said, "I suggest you spend time with those you've been taught to avoid."

Wow!

I did it. This Baptist evangelist began to spend time with Pentecostals and Charismatics, and even went to some of them and asked forgiveness for the unkind way I might have addressed some of the differences we seemed to have.

The miracle? Not only were those individuals I befriended impacted by the fact I came at Billy's suggestion, but I was impacted. Iron began to sharpen iron. Essential friction took place with the powerful aid of Holy Spirit oil.

Today, I am watching major church leaders from various denominational groups come together in supernatural unity, praying for the great awakening we must witness.

Billy Graham was used of God to birth that in my heart.

The Towering Example of Humility and Meekness ... and Principle

Billy walked in such great humility that I used him numerous times as an example when meeting with national, world and church leaders as a perfect illustration of humility and meekness. He's the preacher who preached to more people than anyone in history. Without a doubt -- apart from the New Testament apostles and a few leaders in church history -- he is as famous and influential as any preacher who ever lived. Yet, he walked his long road in total humility until he went to be with the Lord this morning.

Everyone who knew Billy Graham saw the good news of the Gospel demonstrated through his life, his character and consistent commitment to the Cross.

I think it's important to know, however, that although Billy was non-partisan politically, he was very principled and he held high a biblical worldview that I think is critical to the survival of freedom. He agreed it was critical as well.

I've detailed on several different occasions a prayer meeting called by Billy in 1979 that I believe impacted the course of history and gave freedom in America an extension. I share that in detail in the book Living Amazed. (pages 135-140)

Everyone Who Heard Billy Graham Heard the Gospel

When God spoke to Billy -- and, yes, that's the exact terminology he used -- numerous times he'd call me and say, "James, the Lord spoke to me. God told me..." And what he shared impacted history in a dynamic, profound and transforming way.

Everyone who ever heard Billy Graham heard the Gospel. Everyone who knew Billy Graham saw the good news of the Gospel demonstrated through his life, his character and consistent commitment to the Cross.

In my last visit with Billy, he made it very clear that Christ is our hope and that repentance is essential for the necessary spiritual awakening. He lived until he left us excited about seeing Jesus at His return or at his own homecoming which he was blessed to experience early this morning.

Thank You for Being a Blessing

I know you join me praying comfort for the Graham family. But you can rest assured they are rejoicing because they know exactly where their father is. He and his wife Ruth are rejoicing together in the presence of our Lord and heavenly Father!

I have an idea Robin (our daughter) is going to find a way to Billy and say, "Sir, thank you for being such a blessing to my daddy and our family."

Billy Graham: A Life in Pictures

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 18:44

Early Wednesday morning, Rev. Billy Graham passed away at the age of 99.

As tributes pour in from around the world, we take a look back at the remarkable life of the humble man being called by some “the most important evangelist since the apostle Paul.” 

 

Billy Graham points heavenward as he preaches, early 1950s.

 

 

Billy Graham says goodbye to his wife Ruth and their five children Jan. 15, 1958 before departing on a crusade tour that would take him to eight Latin American countries. The children are from left: Nelson, four days old, Franklin, 5, Ruth, 7, Virginia, 12, and Anne, 9.

 

Billy Graham is shown with children during a visit to a village in Ghana, Jan. 1960.

 

US President John F. Kennedy sits with Billy Graham at the National Prayer Breakfast, Washington DC, February 9, 1961.

 

Billy Graham talks with President Lyndon B Johnson at the Annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast, Washington DC, February 5, 1964.

 

Billy Graham shaking hands with admirers in 1966.

 

Billy Graham talking to a group of children during a visit to Brixton Parish Church, London, June 12th 1966.

 

Billy Graham speaks a crowd of more than 5,000 U.S. troops at Long Binh, Vietnam, December 23, 1966.

 

The Reverend Billy Graham talks with President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan at the White House July 18, 1981.

 

APR 19 1987: Billy Graham in the backyard of his home in Montreat, North Carolina. His home was made from two old log cabins.

 

Billy Graham with son Franklin in 1987. 

 

Billy Graham and his wife Ruth smile as they meet Chinese inhabitants of Ruth’s birthplace in Huaiyin, Jiangsu province, China in April, 1988.

 

Billy Graham poses in front of the Brandenburg Gate, March 8, 1990. Graham stayed in Berlin for a rally he held by the Berlin Wall in front of the Reichstag.

 

Billy Graham and President George H. W. Bush at the White House, January 19, 1991.

 

A hug for former first lady Nancy Reagan during the gala dedication of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC.

 

President Bill Clinton bows his head as Rev. Graham gives the invocation at Clinton’s second inaugural ceremony on January 20, 1997 at the U.S. Capitol Building.

 

Republican Presidential candidate Texas Governor George W. Bush and his wife Laura stand beside the Rev. Graham as Graham announces his support for Bush on November 5, 2000.

 

British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer presents Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham with an honorary knighthood 06 December, 2001 in recognition of his services to civic and religious life in a ceremony at the British Embassy in Washington, DC.

 

Billy Graham preaches during his New York Crusade at Flushing Meadows Park on June 24, 2005 in Queens, New York.

 

Billy Graham preaches during the Metro Maryland 2006 Festival on July 9, 2006 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. Son Franklin Graham led the three-day-program filled with music, prayers and gospel messages.

 

Franklin Graham, Billy Graham, and former U.S. Presidents George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton bow their heads in prayer during the Billy Graham Library Dedication Service on May 31, 2007 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

 

President Barack Obama meets with Billy Graham, 91, at his mountainside home in Montreat, N.C., Sunday, April 25, 2010.

 

Stream founder James Robison and his wife Betty visiting with their longtime friend in 2009.

 

 

Please share your own memories below, and/or express your condolences at the “Remembering Billy Graham” web page set up by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conflict of Interest? World Relief, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Debate

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:30

Recently, immigration reform has been front and center on Capitol Hill. Last Monday evening, the U.S. Senate voted 97-1 to proceed to debate specific proposals. On Thursday, four separate immigration bills all failed to get the needed 60 votes to proceed.

Some Senate leaders still see an opportunity to pass a targeted bill that could pass both chambers. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program expires on March 5. More than 700,000 immigrants, many brought to the U.S. as children, will face potential deportation. Senator James Lankford, R-Okla., vowed to keep working in coming weeks towards a solution.

Very disappointed we failed to pass immigration legislation this wk. This was a unique opportunity to protect #Dreamers & secure borders. It's also disappointing that Dems would't consider our bill simply because the Pres. supported it. Immigration is hard, but we can't give up.

— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) February 15, 2018

Lankford appeared recently at a press conference convened by World Relief. He spoke alongside faith leaders who advocate the cause of immigrants and refugees. In interviews with The Stream, some questioned World Relief's role in the coalition.

"I don't doubt that these groups have sincere convictions," states Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. "But World Relief and various Catholic relief groups get government dollars for refugee resettlement while lobbying for immigration causes. So there is a seeming self-interest."

Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy at World Relief, responds in an interview. "Money has never been a driving factor," she says. "Our staff members feel it is part of their missional calling to reach the nations for Christ by loving their immigrant neighbors. They make minimal amounts of money in doing this work."

World Relief operates as one of nine voluntary agencies with contracts under the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Since last year, the inflow of refugees into the U.S. has been drastically cut. Interviews with leaders on both sides reveal divisions -- even when values are shared.

Debating Dollars and Displaced Persons

World Relief has become one of America's largest faith-based aid groups. Their staff and volunteers have served in over 100 nations. The group is an outreach of the National Association of Evangelicals. World Relief has long held a top four-star rating from Charity Navigator.

Often on Capitol Hill, Yang's role is to advocate for human rights and religious liberty. "Any time we speak up on an issue, it really is out of knowing people personally in relationship," says Yang. "Whether we're speaking out on the food crisis in South Sudan or other parts of Africa, or we're speaking up for immigrants in the U.S., it's because these are individuals we know and serve in our ministry."

Kelly Kullberg has been a volunteer missionary in seven nations. In the early 1990's, she served at a World Relief project in Central America. "We helped reclaim a San Salvador garbage dump," she recalls. "The project won a U.N. award as a redeemed home for 8,000 people."

Since 2013, Kullberg has headed up Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration. The loose coalition critiques what it calls "pro-amnesty evangelicals."

Today, she asserts a troubling agenda drives the venerable aid agency. "World Relief once did great Christian gospel work around the world -- both in word and deed," says Kullberg. "Perhaps World Relief should explain how they've received more than $256 million in U.S. government grants for resettling immigrants and refugees."

The funding figure comes from official government sources at USASpending.gov. "While they still do work overseas, it seems that the priority has become refugee work in the U.S," states Kullberg.

Yang, who has served with World Relief since 2006, responds. "We are a Christian ministry that, yes, receives some public funding," she says. "To argue or insinuate that this is somehow lining the pockets of individuals, I think is an insult actually. I challenge people who think or believe that to meet any one of our staff."

"Most of the people who work for World Relief, either in our international offices or in the U.S., have been missionaries for decades," she explains. "We serve people whom Jesus specifically calls his followers to serve -- the most vulnerable."

How Faith Groups Navigate Aid Guidelines

Concerns for Christian witness are at the heart of her criticisms, Kullberg claims.

"By taking federal money, World Relief and other voluntary agencies cannot legally share the gospel of Jesus Christ, verbally, with those they are serving," she says. "World Relief should consider the whole counsel of Scripture, the long-term consequences of their work and get back to their original mission."

Yang notes that such views misconstrue their ministry model. "We are unabashedly Christian," she says. "Empowering local churches in some of the most desperate places around the world is a real key way to lead to transforming relationships."

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"We also adhere to strict humanitarian policies and guidelines. In our international and U.S. programs, we don't engage in proselytism. We serve any and all based on need -- regardless of faith," continues Yang. In 2015, evangelical leaders including Pastor Rick Warren joined scholars to affirm that development aid should never be conditioned on religious conversion.

World Relief president Scott Arbeiter also spoke at last week's press conference. "We've had the privilege, over the years, of investing in over 300,000 refugees' lives," he said. "We know their stories, their dignity and the power they have brought to our nation."

The way Kullberg sees resettling refugees stands in contrast. "We [should] continue to personally help vulnerable foreigners," she says. "But let's stop tearing apart the fabric of our own culture and nation. I'm not sure that anyone wins. We've dismembered families abroad, and created tension at home."

Others see embracing those in need as a net gain. "We have a unique and distinctive mission, which is working through the local church," says Yang. "We learn as much from the people we serve as much as we feel like we give them."

Crisis, Fear and Prudent Policies

With the rise of radical Islamic terrorism in recent years, 66 million people are now displaced and 22 million refugees have left their home nations. "The victims of ISIS are running for their lives," said Arbeiter. "In a time of the greatest refugee crisis in history, we are taking in fewer refugees than ever."

He clarified further in his remarks on Capitol Hill. "The U.S. has committed to settling one half of one percent of those refugees," he said. "In 2017, we resettled less than 34,000. At our current pace, we will resettle less than 24,000."

Some conservative media outlets have been decidedly upbeat in coverage of this crisis. "Refugee advocates [...] were hopeful that a slight monthly increase in refugee admissions that had occurred from October to December might continue into January," stated one Breitbart article. "But they were sorely disappointed."

Jenny Yang speaks to the fear that underlies such headlines. "This idea that refugees are a national security threat is not true," she says. "Since 1980, the U.S. has resettled three million refugees. Not a single refugee has taken the life of an American in a terrorist attack. Not a single one." Experts note that refugees are highly vetted.

Some experts in Congress see improvements that can be made. A native of Puerto Rico who grew up in Nevada, Congressman Raul Labrador, R-Ida., has introduced a bill to enhance refugee screening. "Our refugee program needs to be reformed to keep pace with the security challenges of today's world," said the former immigration lawyer when introducing his bill. The bill has yet to receive a House vote.

"None of the work we're doing is necessarily partisan in nature," states Yang. However, World Relief has publicly opposed Labrador's bill. Other critics are quick to describe World Relief's work in starkly political terms. "World Relief has become an arm of the Obama-era refugee agenda," says Kullberg.

"Under President Obama, they began to take hundreds of millions in U.S. government funding to resettle refugees in America," she explains. "These include many refugees who do not intend to assimilate and come as a blessing. Democrats are interested in future voters. They clearly don't mind breaking up families for their permanent progressive majority."

While sympathetic to hardline views, Tooley does not view supporting refugees in such a partisan light. "It's facile to project political views on persons not yet born," he states. "Likely consequences 50 years from now of immigration today will be very different than commonly imagined."

World Relief began its refugee resettlement work in 1979. Two missionaries who had served in Vietnam sought a means to help families seeking refugee. The State Department recommended they connect with World Relief to navigate complex policies.

Their work for refugees has expanded since then. Nonprofit groups file Form 990 annually with the IRS, which are accessible online. Examining the past 15 years, "Refugee Assistance" has been consistently listed as part of World Relief's work. Their government grants were comparable during the Bush and Obama years, peaking in 2016.

Calling the Faithful to Common Ground

Through the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Mark Tooley daily connects evangelical leaders with policy expertise. "Very few Christians addressing immigration are carefully integrating humanitarian interests with national interests," he laments. "Immigration is almost always more complicated and unpredictable than commonly portrayed."

Prior to his current role, he worked at the Central Intelligence Agency. Tooley often urges deeper thinking on both sides. "Mostly the Christian conversation on immigration is very superficial and simplistic," he states. "Some pretend a few Bible verses are sufficient for crafting policy. It's rare for Scripture to give definitive counsel on contemporary political issues, so we should use it modestly."

He perhaps refers to the World Relief press conference, where the Bible was often quoted. More Scripture may yet be heard on the Senate floor in days ahead. Jenny Yang sees a path forward in the heated immigration debate to come.

"Support for refugees and immigrants in the U.S. is a bipartisan issue," says Yang. "There are members of both parties who are very strong on human rights, religious freedom and the need for robust foreign assistance. World Relief works with any and all who support the principles we adhere to."

"Being measured and in the middle is what we're ultimately looking for."

Presidents, Faith Leaders, Public Figures React to Billy Graham’s Passing

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:15

Billy Graham died Wednesday morning at age 99. The evangelist had personally preached to more than 200 million people around the world, inspiring and leading many to faith in Jesus Christ. In the wake of his passing, public figures took to social media to remember Graham and the impact he had on their lives. Here are some of their reactions. 

Presidents

Graham spent decades of his ministry counseling and praying for presidents, Democrat and Republican alike. His ministry to the White House earned him the nickname “America’s Pastor.” 

President Donald Trump wrote this morning “there was nobody like” Graham, noting, “he will be missed by Christians and all religions.”

The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2018

Vice President Mike Pence sent two tweets, with condolences to Graham’s family and reflections on his ministry. “Billy Graham’s ministry for the gospel of Jesus Christ and his matchless voice changed the lives of millions,” Pence wrote. “I know with absolute certainty that today he heard those words, ‘well done good and faithful servant.'” 

Billy Graham's ministry for the gospel of Jesus Christ and his matchless voice changed the lives of millions. We mourn his passing but I know with absolute certainty that today he heard those words, "well done good and faithful servant." Thank you Billy Graham. God bless you(2/2)

— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 21, 2018

Former president Barack Obama tweeted that Graham “was a humble servant who prayed for so many” and “gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.” 

Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many – and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 21, 2018

Former president George H. W. Bush issued a statement, noting his personal friendship with Graham. He recalled Graham visiting Bush and wife Barbara in Maine. “He loved going really fast in my boat.”

“I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man,” Bush said. 

Former President George H.W. Bush on death of Rev. Billy Graham: "I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man." https://t.co/y6bOC3xq09 pic.twitter.com/qf9KipNPPG

— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 21, 2018

Former president Jimmy Carter also issued a statement after Graham’s death, saying he and wife Rosalynn “are deeply saddened.” 

“Broadminded, forgiving, and humble in his treatment of others, he exemplified the life of Jesus Christ by constantly reaching out for opportunities to serve,” Carter said. He added that Graham “had an enormous influence on my own spiritual life.” 

NEW: Former U.S. Pres. Jimmy Carter releases a statement on the passing of Rev. Billy Graham, calling him "broad-minded, forgiving, and humble in his treatment of others." https://t.co/sxmw3RYoXA pic.twitter.com/D1uOvq1PPP

— ABC News (@ABC) February 21, 2018

Faith Leaders

Christian leaders celebrated Graham’s life and ministry Wednesday. 

Graham’s son Franklin Graham, who oversees the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, tweeted that his father had proclaimed faith in Jesus for 80 years.

My father @BillyGraham was once asked, "Where is Heaven?" He said, "Heaven is where Jesus is and I am going to Him soon!" This morning, he departed this world into eternal life in Heaven, prepared by the Lord Jesus Christ--the Savior of the world--whom he proclaimed for 80 years.

— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) February 21, 2018

Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, noted that Graham was a member of his church for over five decades. He also called him “the most impactful evangelist since the Apostle Paul.”  

We celebrate the home-going of Billy Graham--the most impactful evangelist since the Apostle Paul.

Dr. Graham was a member of our @firstdallas church for more than 54 yrs. I'm sure the first words he heard upon his arrival in heaven were, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

— Dr. Robert Jeffress (@robertjeffress) February 21, 2018

Author and speaker Joyce Meyer, president of Joyce Meyer Ministries, tweeted after Graham’s passing that she is “rejoicing that he is now home in heaven.”

While it was sad to hear the news of Billy Graham passing, I am rejoicing that he is now home in heaven. Billy was a great man of God who made a tremendous impact all over the globe. His love for people and integrity had a great impact on my life and so many others! pic.twitter.com/m1KshXeSw4

— Joyce Meyer (@JoyceMeyer) February 21, 2018

Christian apologist Sean McDowell tweeted that Graham lived “a faithful and remarkable life for the Lord.”

Billy Graham has passed away at 99. Truly a faithful and remarkable life for the Lord.

— Sean McDowell (@Sean_McDowell) February 21, 2018

Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called Graham “the most important evangelist since the Apostle Paul.” Graham was also a member of the Southern Baptist denomination. Russell continued, “He preached Christ, not himself, not politics, not prosperity.” 

Billy Graham was, in my view, the most important evangelist since the Apostle Paul. He preached Christ, not himself, not politics, not prosperity. When many saw evangelicals as just so many Emer Gantrys, he carried unimpeachable personal integrity.

— Russell Moore (@drmoore) February 21, 2018

Beth Moore, author and founder of Living Proof Ministries, called Graham “a gift of God to this world.” 

There simply will never be another Billy Graham. What a gift of God to this world.

— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) February 21, 2018

Rev. Jesse Jackson noted Graham’s ministry during years of segregation and systemic racism. As the Associated Press reported Wednesday, Graham ended segregated seating at his crusades in 1953.

Blessed with length of years and service, Rev. Graham helped a lot of people against a backdrop of Southern culture. He's on the plus side of history. May his soul Rest In Peace.

— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) February 21, 2018

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Public Figures

Early Wednesday, it wasn’t just politicians and Christian leaders singing Graham’s praises. Other public figures, including several media personalities, reflected on Graham’s life.

Kay Cole James, political activist and President of the Heritage Foundation, said “God used Billy to reach so many -- including me when I was a high school student.” 

We mourn the passing of a true friend and leader, Rev. Billy Graham. God used Billy to reach so many--including me when I was a high school student.

— Kay Coles James (@KayColesJames) February 21, 2018

Country singer Reba McEntire’s words for Graham were, “thanks for all your guidance and love.” 

Billy Graham. What an incredible life you had. Thanks for all your guidance and love.... https://t.co/9cVgU5xh60

— Reba (@reba) February 21, 2018

Conservative author and radio host Mark Levin called Graham “a wonderful man.” 

RIP, Billy Graham. A wonderful man. https://t.co/9Gsg4An5qa

— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) February 21, 2018

Kathie Lee Gifford, co-host of the Kathie Lee and Hoda Show on NBC, said Graham was “the finest man I ever knew.” She added, “I am among the millions that he led to faith in Jesus.” 

Rejoicing with my precious friend, Billy Graham. Without a doubt, the finest man I ever knew. So grateful that I am among the millions that he led to faith in Jesus and the promise of eternal life.

— Kathie Lee Gifford (@KathieLGifford) February 21, 2018

Wednesday morning on NBC’s Megyn Today, host Megyn Kelly asked Gifford about her relationship with Graham. During the segment, Gifford recalls her last visit with the evangelist, and how his ministry brought her family to faith.

.@kathielgifford remembers her friend, Rev. Billy Graham, on @MegynTODAY pic.twitter.com/WM15oifG4n

— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 21, 2018

Jonathan Merritt, a journalist for The Atlantic, tweeted that Graham’s legacy “will live on for generations.” 

Billy Graham, America's most famous preacher, has died at 99. A legacy that will live on for generations.

— Jonathan Merritt (@JonathanMerritt) February 21, 2018

Ryan McGee, a writer for ESPN, tweeted that Graham “was willing to admit mistakes and was willing to civilly talk with and learn from those with whom he likely disagreed.” McGee said that made Graham a role model for anyone.

Billy Graham, the man, was willing to admit mistakes and was willing to civilly talk with and learn from those with whom he likely disagreed. No matter what your faith, that's a role model to follow. pic.twitter.com/m2GrNaShqE

— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) February 21, 2018

Thom Rainer, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian stores, recalled Graham saying “he missed his wife, Ruth, and he missed heaven. Now he is present for the great reunion.” Ruth Graham died in 2007.

Last time I was with Billy Graham, he said he missed his wife, Ruth, and he missed heaven. Now he is present for the great reunion. May we remember his legacy and may we follow his passion for evangelism.

— Thom Rainer (@ThomRainer) February 21, 2018

Autria Godfrey, anchor for ABC’s Good Morning Washington, tweeted that Graham made Gallup’s “Most Admired Men and Women” list 60 times, “more than any other individual in the world.” 

Did you know? Rev Billy Graham has been on Gallup's list of Most Admired Men & Women 60 times, more than any other individual in the world.

— Autria Godfrey (@ABC7Autria) February 21, 2018

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