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BreakPoint: Communism’s Failed Promise

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 19:33

This week marked a century since one of the darkest chapters in human history began, and a truly evil worldview was put into practice.

‘A Different Universe’

One hundred years ago, Bolshevik revolutionaries stormed the Winter Palace in Petrograd, the seat of the Provisional Government of Russia. They also seized post offices, train stations, and telegraphs in the dead of night. When the people of Russia's capital city awoke, they were in what Rhodes Scholar David Satter described as "a different universe."

That universe was a communist one. Vladimir Lenin's so-called "October Revolution," which took place in November on the Gregorian calendar, sought to establish the first-ever Marxist state. After a lengthy civil war, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics emerged, marking one of the greatest setbacks Western Civilization has suffered since the fall of Rome. Communism would eventually rule one-third of the planet, condemning one-and-a-half billion people to lives under brutal, totalitarian governments, and leaving behind a trail of over 100 million corpses.

So many people died because, as Satter explains in The Wall Street Journal, the communist worldview sees the state as supreme, replacing God, Himself. It's infallible, it transcends morality, and it demands absolute loyalty from its citizens.

Karl Marx taught that only such a state, acting for its people, could break the chains of economic oppression and private property, creating a "new man." This type of person, depicted in Soviet propaganda posters with bulging muscles and steely eyes, would work willingly for the common good, seek only to advance the interests of his comrades, and usher in a worker's paradise.

The Communist Ideal

The communist ideal was nothing short of a godless eschatology -- a Heaven on earth.

What we got instead was hell on earth. Through political purges, forced population transfers, manmade famines, gulags, and a so-called "Great Leap Forward," dictators like Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot presided over some of the worst mass murders in human history, all directly motivated by the desire to bring about that communist paradise.

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It wasn't until Christmas 1991 that the darkness which had fallen on Russia in 1917 began to lift. The Soviet sickle and hammer descended over the Kremlin for the last time, quietly announcing the end of what President Reagan had dubbed the "evil empire."

But for millions of people the world over, this godless worldview remained and remains a political reality. China's forced abortions, Cuba's political repression, and North Korea's persecution of Christians are just some of the atrocities that have continued in communist countries since the fall of the Soviet Union.

And here in the United States, communist ideology enjoys a kind of immortality in our universities, where many professors openly identify as Marxists, and students sport those ever-popular Che Guevara t-shirts.

One recent survey by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that half of millennials would rather live in a socialist or communist country than in a capitalist democracy. More than 20 percent have a favorable view of Marx, and thirteen percent think of Joseph Stalin as a "hero."

The only good news is that 71 percent of those surveyed couldn't identify the correct definition of communism. They don't understand what they're praising.

As we look back on the aftermath of that October revolution, we should commit ourselves to teaching our kids, our friends, and whoever else will listen where communism belongs: squarely in the dustbin of history.

Perhaps the best way to commemorate communism's 100th birthday is to pray that we can fully and finally bury this evil worldview in our lifetimes.

 

Originally published on Breakpoint.org: BreakPoint Commentaries, November 20, 2017. Re-published with permission of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

Disagree With Family on Politics? Here’s the Only Advice You Need for Thanksgiving

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 18:45

The holidays are upon us. Along with headlines like How to maximize your leftovers and How to avoid 10 extra pounds, this gem always reemerges: How to talk about politics with your family.

Is that last kind of article really necessary? Its readers are rational beings, presumably. Aren’t they capable of navigating their own clan without step-by-step instructions?

It’s not that such articles are all bad. One piece, for instance, advises that we regulate contentious conversations to a “politics zone.” Remember that your family members are, well, your family. Appoint a mediator who can keep things civil between clashing kin.

But things might be simpler if we remembered just three principles when charging into familial political warfare.

1. That’s a Person You’re Talking To

Their ideas are insane. Their understanding of the system is all wrong. And their assumptions about you are offensive, proving how little they know.

But before you hurl that killer comeback, wait! The relative you’re talking to -- that cousin, that step parent, that boyfriend no expected and who now requires a makeshift place setting -- is a person. They have fears and dreams, just like you. A favorite TV show, just like you. A life outside their voting habits, just like you.

In short, they’re human … just like you.

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So maybe that mic you wanted to drop would be better off tucked away. Instead, try to forge a new bond with them over something non-controversial, like pie. Speaking of which, would they like a slice?

2. God Loves Them

Okay, it’s true. Sometimes not even pie and shared humanity are enough to dam up your animosity. Especially if you think what they stand for is truly despicable. So can you toss the pie and hurl that comeback now? No. Because God loves them. Even after they voted for that scoundrel. After they joined that social movement. Right now, in all their polar-opposite-from-youness, God loves them enough to die for them.

If they don’t know Him yet, your behavior could have eternal implications. Will your love, despite your differences, point them to the Savior they need? Or will your hostility give them an excuse to write Christianity off?

One reason modern culture is so divided is because people have forgotten how to set politics aside.

If they do know God, there’s another imperative: to love them as a brother or sister in Christ. Perhaps you think they’re a disgrace to the faith because of their politics. Perhaps they think the same of you. But the love for God you both profess trumps everything else. If you share that, what you don’t share doesn’t matter. Not at Thanksgiving, anyway.

So why not talk about God instead? At the least, remember that He’s there, in your midst.

3. Politics Aren’t Everything

Often, we can’t get through one scroll of social media without seeing something political, and usually divisive. But politics aren’t everything.

Last weekend Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was interviewed by reporters at a “Celebrate the Family Banquet” in Des Moines, Iowa. He shared some critical insights regarding this point.

“Lots and lots of people differ on policy debates, they just don’t think policy defines the line between good and evil,” he told reporters. “They think that raising your kids to play sports right, with honor and integrity and respect, and to get your math homework done on time, and to be the kind of neighbors that people want to have living next door to you, all of those textured, communal things are more important than our political tribes.”

Unexpected press gaggle with @BenSasse at #CelebrateTheFamily. I was late to the party. #iapolitics pic.twitter.com/J0miiQNsCh

— Shane Vander Hart (@shanevanderhart) November 19, 2017

Sasse is right. One reason modern culture is so divided is because people have forgotten how to set politics aside, even during designated family time, like Thanksgiving dinner. Why not buck that trend? You can start this year by focusing on the “communal things” Sasse mentions.

This holiday season, you might be faced with the person you couldn’t agree with less. But remember, you only need three principles to survive: That person’s a person. God loves them. And politics, including your disagreements, aren’t everything. Happy Thanksgiving!

Robert Mugabe Resigns as Zimbabwe’s President After 37 Years

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 18:29

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe resigned on Tuesday, succumbing to a week of overwhelming pressure from the military that put him under house arrest, lawmakers from the ruling party and opposition who started impeachment proceedings and a population that surged into the streets to say 37 years in power was enough.

The capital, Harare, erupted in jubilation after news spread that the 93-year-old leader’s resignation letter was read out by the speaker of parliament, whose members had gathered to impeach Mugabe after he ignored escalating calls to quit since a military takeover. Cars honked and people danced and sang across the city in a spectacle of free expression that would have been impossible during his rule.

“Welcome to the new Zimbabwe,” people chanted outside a conference center where the lawmakers met.

“Change was overdue. … Maybe this change will bring jobs,” said 23-year-old Thomas Manase, an unemployed university graduate.

Mugabe, who was the world’s oldest head of state, said in his letter that legal procedures should be followed to install a new president “no later than tomorrow.”

“My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire for a smooth, non-violent transfer of power,” Mugabe said in the message read out by parliamentary speaker Jacob Mudenda.

Recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa would take over as the country’s leader within 48 hours, said a ruling party official, Lovemore Matuke. Mnangagwa, who fled the country after his firing on Nov. 6, “is not far from here,” Matuke said.

Mugabe can participate in a formal handover of power “so that Mnangagwa moves with speed to work for the country,” Matuke said.

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Mugabe’s resignation brought an end to impeachment proceedings brought by the ruling ZANU-PF party after its Central Committee voted to oust the president as party leader and replace him with Mnangagwa, a former ally of Mugabe who served for decades as his enforcer with a reputation for being astute and ruthless, more feared than popular.

Before the resignation, crowds rallied outside the parliament building, dancing and singing. Some people placed photos of Mugabe in the street so that cars would run over them. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC party said the culture of the ruling party “must end” and everyone must put their heads together and work toward free and fair elections. His party had seconded the impeachment motion.

Earlier Tuesday, Mnangagwa said in a statement that Mugabe should acknowledge the nation’s “insatiable desire” for a leadership change and resign immediately.

Mnangagwa, a former justice and defense minister, added to the pressure on Mugabe to quit after a long rule during which he evolved from a champion of the fight against white minority rule into a figure blamed for a collapsing economy, government dysfunction and human rights violations.

“Never should the nation be held at ransom by one person ever again, whose desire is to die in office at whatever cost to the nation,” said Mnangagwa, who has a loyal support base in the military.

Zimbabwe’s polarizing first lady, Grace Mugabe, had been positioning herself to succeed her husband, leading a party faction that engineered Mnangagwa’s ouster. The prospect of a dynastic succession alarmed the military, which confined Mugabe to his home last week and targeted what it called “criminals” around him who allegedly were looting state resources -- a reference to associates of the first lady.

Grace Mugabe has not been seen since the military stepped in.

Mnangagwa was targeted by U.S. sanctions in the early 2000s for undermining democratic development in Zimbabwe, according to the Atlantic Council, a U.S.-based policy institute. However, J. Peter Pham, an Africa expert at the council, noted that some Zimbabwean opposition figures have appeared willing to have dialogue with Mnangagwa in order to move the country forward and that the international community should consider doing the same.

“We’re not saying whitewash the past, but it is in the interests of everyone that Zimbabwe is engaged at this critical time,” Pham said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Zimbabweans simply enjoyed the moment.

“Today’s a good day,” said Eric Machona, a Harare resident. “People are very happy.”

___

Follow Christopher Torchia on Twitter at www.twitter.com/torchiachris

 

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Stupid Party Gets Smart

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 16:43

Republicans have long been known as “the stupid party.” They do stupid things, such as waiting until mid-November to push a must-pass tax cut that should have been done by April.

But in recent weeks the GOP is finally showing some brains and some backbone on taxes. They are using their majorities in Congress to roll back and roll over the left, and it’s about time. In a more rational world, tax reform could have been bipartisan. But once Democrats declared they would be unified obstructionists on tax reform, there was no reason to throw a bone to the “resistance movement.” Playing nice with Chuck Schumer won’t buy any votes, so why bother?

A Smart Tax Bill

It’s hard not to be impressed with how Republicans have instead suddenly gotten very smart on the “pay fors” in their tax bill. Three of these revenue raisers are welcome policy changes, and they help defund the left.

Start with the elimination of the state and local tax deduction. Congress shouldn’t subsidize flabby and inefficient state and local services and bankrupt public pension programs. Just as one would predict, the states with the highest taxes are Democrat-controlled states. There is no evidence that higher taxes in these states lead to better schools or safer streets. New York spends around $7,500 per person on state and local government, while New Hampshire spends less than $4,500. Yet public services are better in New Hampshire than in New York.

The big blue states must cut their taxes and costs, or the stampede of high-income residents from these states will accelerate. The big losers here are the public employee unions -- the mortal enemies of Republicans. This all works out nicely.

Next is the decision by Republicans to offset the cost of the tax cut by eliminating the individual mandate tax imposed mostly on moderate-income Americans. About 3 of 4 people who pay the tax earn less than $50,000 a year. The purpose of the tax is to force low-income Americans to purchase insurance they either don’t want or can’t afford.

Isn’t it amazing that Obamacare provides subsidies to Americans if they buy the insurance and imposes penalties if they don’t, yet at least 13 million Americans still refuse to buy it? What a great product this must be.

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Eliminating the individual mandate will allow poorer and younger Americans to buy less expensive forms of coverage, such as health savings accounts. These additional options will lead to the slow death of Obamacare. Smart.

Finally, there is the proposed tax on college endowments. These are massive storehouses of wealth: Harvard and Yale combined sit on a nest egg of almost $60 billion, enough to give every student free tuition at these schools from now until forever. Instead these university endowments act like giant financial trading dynasties, with very little of the largesse going to help students pay tuition. The GOP plan would put a small tax on the unspent money in the endowments if they don’t start spending the money down. My only complaint is that the tax is way too low. But the first shot against the university-industrial complex has finally been fired.

The productivity of American universities, as Richard Vedder of Ohio University has documented, continues to decline. Vedder also found that university tuitions don’t go down when these schools have bigger endowments. They go up. These endowments subsidize the six- and seven-figure salaries of pompous, tired, and tenured professors (who teach four or five hours a week) and administrators. Bravo to Republicans for starting to turn off the spigot.

‘Tax-Bill crybaby Caucus’

The best indication that this is all working is the rise of what I call the “tax-bill crybaby caucus.” This group consists of health insurance companies, Obamacare supporters, public employee unions, state and local officials, the welfare lobby, municipal bond traders, lobbyists and, most of all, the liberal politicians who are funded by all of the above.

Not only are we getting pro-growth tax policy but also Donald Trump and the GOP are finally draining the swamp. It doesn’t get any better than this.

 

Stephen Moore is a senior fellow in economics at the Heritage Foundation. His latest book is Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy. He served as an economic adviser to the Trump campaign. 

COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

Price Theory Explains the Opiate Crisis

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 16:41

The American opioid epidemic reaches new highs every year. Last year, the number of Americans killed by overdosing on opiates surpassed the number of those killed during the duration of the Vietnam WarThe proliferation of fentanyl -- a synthetic opiate primarily used in medical care and in tranquilizing large animals -- and years upon years of medical professionals prescribing opiate painkillers for everything from a debilitating injury to a stubbed toe take the spotlight for the recent spike.

Popular policy response attacks both buckets. Against proliferation of fentanyl, considerably more dangerous and potent than heroin, some municipalities decide to charge dealers whose drugs killed users with manslaughter or even murder. Against the prescription of opiate painkillers, everybody from 60 Minutes to neighborhood moms wants it to be harder for doctors to prescribe painkillers and for it to be easier to prosecute those who recklessly do so.

This will not solve the opiate crisis. A basic exploration of economic concepts shows this.

The Economics of Addiction

The idea that most heroin and fentanyl users get started by abusing prescription painkillers is not entirely wrong. Painkillers did indeed become more common through the late 20th century and the early 21st century, peaking in 2010. The development of new drugs like OxyContin and Dilaudid and a better understanding of the anatomical features of pain in the brain gave reason for medical professionals to treat pain rather than simply trying to help clients get through it. A concentrated marketing and sales effort by pharmaceutical companies propped up by subsidies and with a long record of lobbying the government exacerbated their prescription.

This is how many opiate abusers get their start.

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But how do they end up going from abusing painkillers prescribed to housewives and those with chronic pain to buying heroin and fentanyl supplied by Mexican drug cartels?

One of the first concepts taught in an ECON 101 course is that of elasticity of demand. The concept is simple. Some consumers of products show elastic demand -- they will not buy (either the product or the specific brand) if the price changes even a dollar. Airline tickets are a good example of this. Most people just buy whatever the cheapest airline ticket is for their specific route, even if the slightly-more-expensive ticket may just cost a few dollars more.

Some consumers show inelastic demand -- they will buy the product (or find a substitute) no matter how expensive the product gets.

The example given in nine out of ten econ courses?

Hard drug-users, like those addicted to opiates.

It’s Not Enough to Remove the Drug

When the cost (including non-monetary costs like legal costs and disapprobation) of getting painkillers rises, addicts are not dissuaded from getting their hands on these painkillers. Instead, they search for substitutes -- like heroin and fentanyl.

Cutting off the ability of those addicted to painkillers -- whether for chronic pain or for a hedonic rush -- only pushes these people from the risky-but-safer-than-heroin world of painkillers like OxyContin and Dilaudid into the blacker markets of heroin and fentanyl.

Once the addiction pathway in the brain is established, breaking that dopaminergic pathway requires building alternate pathways through deeply meaningful work and activities (this is why religious programs like 12 Step work when they do work -- they help the individual tie into a deeply meaningful set of values and reward that pathway in the brain). If the pathway is merely deprived of engagement -- through prohibition and then withdrawal -- but not then supplemented with a pathway that overwhelms the addiction pathway, the user is just one quick decision or hit of an opiate away from falling back into the same addictive behavior.

Reducing the market in painkillers at the user-level just pushes more existing users into the black market to get their fix.

A proper response focuses on alternatives to opiate-based pain management -- through less-addictive prescriptive medicine and through psychotherapy in appropriate cases -- and treatment for existing addicts, not expanding prohibition.

Removing the drug from the market and from the user's body is not enough and threatens to exacerbate existing problems. Users must be able to find meaning in their lives and in their work. They must learn and be taught how to craft significant meaning for themselves and know where to find people to help them with that. They must be prepared to not merely integrate themselves back into mainstream society but go above and beyond mainstream society through seeing themselves as meaningful people through work, contribution, and education.

But that does not look good for an election campaign.

 

Originally published at Fee.org. Republished with permission.

California Judge Blocks Trump’s Sanctuary City Order

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 15:12

A federal judge in California blocked President Donald Trump's executive order reducing funding for sanctuary cities Monday, limiting the administration's ability to punish municipalities that violate federal immigration law.

The permanent injunction follows a preliminary ruling, issued in April, in a suit filed by the city of San Francisco and Santa Clara county.

"The Counties have demonstrated that the Executive Order has caused and will cause them constitutional injuries by violating the separation of powers doctrine and depriving them of their Tenth and Fifth Amendment rights," U.S. District Judge William Orrick for the Northern District of California wrote in his order.

The DOJ argued in April that the executive order would have a relatively limited financial impact on the municipalities and later appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after Orrick ruled against the administration.

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"The District Court exceeded its authority today when it barred the President from instructing his cabinet members to enforce existing law," Department of Justice spokesman Devin O'Malley said in a statement late Monday. "The Justice Department will vindicate the President's lawful authority to direct the executive branch."

Orrick argued statements made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump indicate the executive order was intended to impact a broad swath of funding, up to $2 billion according to the plaintiffs.

At issue is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy of asking municipalities to detain suspected illegal immigrants for up to 48 hours so the individual can be picked up. Numerous cities in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have drawn the ire of the Trump administration over their insistence on requiring a valid criminal warrant in order to detain someone until the federal authorities arrive.

Chicago also sued the administration in August due to similar threats of reduced funding in response to non-compliance with immigration law. A federal judge ruled in favor of the city in September, issuing a preliminary injunction preventing the administration from cutting off public-safety grants.

 

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Copyright 2017 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Justice Department Asks Supreme Court to Protect Trump’s Enhanced Vetting Policy

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 15:07

The Department of Justice (DOJ) asked the U.S. Supreme Court late Monday to lift an injunction barring enforcement of President Donald Trump's proclamation on enhanced vetting, the third iteration of his ban on refugee and migrant entry.

The request places the president's contentious immigration policy back before the justices, who have previously signaled a preference for avoiding the issue altogether.

The president issued the proclamation in late September when the second version of the travel ban expired after a 90-day enforcement period. Federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii issued orders forbidding enforcement of key provisions of the proclamation shortly after it was issued. Those orders were partially upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, that concluded any national from six of the eight countries named in the order with a significant connection to the United States may still enter the country.

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In the new filing at the high court, DOJ argues the proclamation was the result of consultation with cabinet officers and a deliberative inter-agency process, that identified eight countries failing to meet U.S. security mandates. The argument is meant to address allegations that the proclamation was animated by anti-Muslim bigotry. The filing reads:

The proclamation differs from the president's prior executive orders both in process and substance. It is the product of a review process undertaken by multiple cabinet officers and government officials, none of whose motives has ever been questioned. And it is based on express findings of inadequacies in the information-sharing practices, identity-management protocols, and risk factors for certain countries, as well as a presidential determination that tailored entry restrictions will both protect the nation and encourage those countries to improve.

The department also argues the Hawaii court's ruling relies in significant part on a 9th Circuit decision that was subsequently vacated by the Supreme Court in late October, and is therefore no longer precedential case law. The lower court injunctions are "vastly overbroad," they argue.

The justices lifted lower court orders barring enforcement of a previous version of the travel ban in late June. Though arguments were scheduled for early October in that case, the expiration of the 90-day travel ban and 120-day ban on refugee resettlement led the court to conclude the case was "moot," warranting dismissal.

 

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Copyright 2017 The Daily Caller News Foundation

On Surprise Russia Trip, Assad and Putin Talk Post-War Syria

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 13:20

MOSCOW (AP) -- On a surprise trip to Russia, Syria’s Bashar Assad discussed potential new peace initiatives for post-war Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin who declared that Russia’s two-year military campaign in Syria is wrapping up, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

Moscow released footage of Assad warmly embracing Putin, who hosted him in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday, ahead of a summit between Russia, Turkey and Iran and a new round of Syria peace talks in Geneva later in this month.

The meeting was unannounced and the Kremlin did not make it public until Tuesday morning.

“I passed to (Putin) and all Russian people our greetings and gratitude for all of the efforts that Russia made to save our country,” Assad told Russia’s top brass in televised remarks.

Assad has only ventured outside his war-ravaged nation twice since the conflict began -- both times to Russia. This week’s visit to meet Putin is his second since the crisis began in March 2011 leading to a civil war that has killed some 400,000 people and resulted in millions of refugees.

The first was in October 2015, weeks after Russia launched its military campaign in Syria to shore up Assad’s forces, which turned the war in favor of Assad.

The meeting in Sochi, which lasted three hours, preceded a summit between the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey set for Wednesday at the same venue. Iran and Russia have been Assad’s main backers while Turkey supports the opposition.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian president had previously assured the leaders of Turkey and Iran that “Russia will work with Syrian leadership to prepare the groundwork for the understandings that could be reached in Sochi on Wednesday and to make sure that agreements that could be reached would be viable.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if the Kremlin put any pressure on Assad to accept a new deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran -- or whether that deal would involve Assad staying on as president once the war is over -- but Assad signaled his intention to hold his ground in future Syria peace talks.

“We count on Russia’s support to keep foreign players from interfering into the political process,” he said during the talks with Putin. Assad is believed to have left Sochi after the meeting and returned to Damascus.

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Asked whether Putin and Assad have talked about the Syrian president’s future in post-war Syria, Peskov said “possible options for political settlement have been discussed” and added that “only the Syrian people could determine Assad’s role.”

Despite pressure from other nations that Assad step down, Moscow has insisted that it is up to the Syrian people to vote him in or out.

The Kremlin said Putin would phone President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman to discuss the situation in Syria on Wednesday.

To prepare for Wednesday’s mini-summit, military chiefs of Russia, Turkey and Iran met in Sochi on Tuesday and agreed to coordinate their efforts in Syria.

Russia’s defense ministry said the three military chiefs discussed in Sochi “concrete steps to complete the elimination of the remaining IS and Nusra Front formations” in Syria, referring to Islamic State fighters and Syria’s al-Qaida affiliate as it was formerly known. The three also agreed to improve coordination in a safety zone in the Idlib province in Syria’s northwest.

Russia, Turkey and Iran earlier this year brokered a truce between Syria’s government and the rebels in four areas in Syria, including Idlib.

On Sunday, Syrian troops and their allies captured the eastern town of Boukamal, the last major urban area held by the Islamic State group in Syria, leaving the militants to defend just strips of desert territory and a besieged pocket outside Damascus.

With the Syrian government controlling most of the country and Islamic State fighters in disarray, Putin said during the talks with Assad that Russia’s military campaign in Syria is wrapping up -- though he made no mention of the Russian presence in Syria, which Moscow is not likely to give up.

“As for our joint work to fight terrorists in Syria, this military operation is coming to an end,” he told Assad in televised remarks. “I note with pleasure your willingness to work with everyone who wants peace and settlement.”

Putin declared in March 2016 that Moscow will scale down its presence in Syria, but the Russian military has remained heavily involved in the conflict.

Russian television showed footage of Putin and Assad entering a meeting with the top brass of Russia’s defense ministry and the General Staff.

“I asked the Syrian president to stop by,” Putin told the Russian generals. He then referred to Assad and said: “I would like to introduce you to people who played a key role in saving Syria.”

Assad’s office quoted him as thanking Russia and its military, which he said “gave martyrs and made efforts in Syria.” He added: “I was very happy to know that you are here since you are the officers who directly took part in the battle in Syria.”

Assad said the Russian Air Force helped Syrian troops in the fight against insurgents, helping many Syrians to return to their homes.

“In the name of the Syrian people, I greet you and thank you all, every Russian officer, fighter and pilot that took part in this war,” Assad said.

___

Mroue reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Doctor Pleads Guilty in $30 Million Medicare Fraud Case

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 13:02

A Brooklyn doctor and four co-conspirators plead guilty in the past week to defrauding Medicare and Medicaid of $30 million, after it was discovered they were billing patients for unnecessary services.

Elderly patients were charged for inessential tests and medical supplies, then provided with financial kickbacks to assure their silence and compliance.

Dr. Mustaky U. Vaid, 44, falsely signed off on the medical documents and was listed as the owner of one of the clinics, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Vaid's co-defendants are medical executives: 54-year-old Marina Burman, 49-year-old Asher Oleg Kataev, 47-year-old Alla Tsirlin and 37-year-old Ivan Voychak. They were directly involved in the kickbacks and helped run eight fraudulent clinics, according to a Tuesday press release from the DOJ.

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Burman was the owner of "Universal Supply Depot" and billed Medicaid for over $3 million in fraudulent charges. Despite not having a medical license, Burman found a way around the law by hiring doctors to "own" each clinic. Vaid was just one of the physicians she recruited.

Tsirlin and Kataev are siblings and were involved in paying off patients while submitting false claims to the government.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim called the defendants "corrupt" and was disturbed by their willingness to take advantage of the poor and elderly. Kim said:

These five defendants bilked Medicare and Medicaid out of millions of dollars for unjustified medications, procedures, and supplies. Medicare and Medicaid were established to assist the elderly and economically disadvantaged, not to serve as cash cows for corrupt professionals.

There are five more defendants involved in the case who remain under indictment, according to the DOJ press release. The case is slated for trial in April 2018.

Vaid ended up pleading guilty to "falsely holding himself out as the owner of one medical clinic, and falsely signing medical documents stating that he had provided medical services that he had not," according to the DOJ.

All five of the defendants plead guilty to conspiring to commit health care fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud. This carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

 

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Copyright 2017 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Trump Administration Announces Sanctions Against North Korea

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 12:50

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Trump administration is due to announce new sanctions on North Korea on Tuesday after declaring it a state sponsor of terrorism in the latest push to isolate the pariah nation.

North Korea on Monday joined Iran, Sudan and Syria on the terror blacklist, a largely symbolic step as the administration already has the authority to impose virtually any sanctions it wants on Kim Jong Un’s government over its nuclear weapons development.

As part of its “maximum pressure” campaign, President Donald Trump said the Treasury Department would impose more sanctions on North Korea and “related persons” starting Tuesday, without hinting who or what would be targeted. It is part of a rolling effort to deprive Pyongyang of funds for its nuclear and missile programs and leave it internationally isolated.

“It will be the highest level of sanctions by the time it’s finished over a two-week period,” Trump said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday the pressure campaign was starting to bite in Pyongyang, which is already facing unprecedented U.N.-mandated sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. Tillerson said anecdotal evidence and intelligence suggests the North is now suffering fuel shortages, with queues at gas stations, and its revenues are down.

The United States has been applying sanctions of its own as well.

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In Tokyo, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed the move, telling reporters Japan supports the step as a way to increase pressure on North Korea.

In September, Trump opened the way for the U.S. to punish foreign companies dealing with North Korea. He issued an executive order expanding the Treasury Department’s ability to target anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with the North, and to ban them from interacting with the U.S. financial system.

Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow on Northeast Asia at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Treasury could be preparing more designations against North Korean entities related to the terrorism listing, or possibly Chinese or other companies violating the September order.

A potential target would be Chinese banks that serve as North Korea’s conduit to the international system. Such a move would irk Beijing, whose help Trump is counting on to put an economic squeeze on Pyongyang. China recently sent its highest-level envoy to North Korea in two years to discuss the tense state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula.

Tillerson urged China, which accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s external trade, to take unilateral steps to cut fuel supplies to its wayward neighbor. China, which is calling for dialogue to ease the nuclear tensions, is reluctant to exert economic pressure that could destabilize the North.

Tillerson acknowledged a two-month pause in the North’s rapid tempo of nuclear and missile tests and said there was still hope for diplomacy. With tougher sanctions in the offing, he warned Kim, “This is only going to get worse until you’re ready to come and talk.”

The terror designation, however, is likely to exacerbate sour relations between Washington and Pyongyang that have turned uglier with name-calling between Trump and Kim. North Korea shows no interest in talks aimed at getting it to give up its nukes.

North Korea has been on and off the terror list over the years. It was designated for two decades because of its involvement in international terror attacks in the 1980s, then taken off in 2008 to smooth the way for nuclear talks that soon failed.

 

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Human Dignity or Sexual Exploitation: We Can’t Have Both

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 18:22

Sexual predation is evil.

This should go without saying, but apparently has been lost on lots of rich and powerful men. Long calloused to the God-given consciences with which they were endowed, harassing, assaulting, and even raping women has become for many a habit. Sort of like brushing one's teeth or expecting change at a grocery counter.

But we cannot condemn sexual predation without also condemning our broader culture.

We say women deserve respect. They do. But all around us, women are hyper-sexualized. Objectified. Dehumanized, reduced to outlets for male sexual pleasure. Let’s count some of the ways:

"Cheerleaders" who ape the routines of strippers. College spring break rituals which elevate indiscriminate sex to a sort of rite of passage. "Dating" sites on which men and find attractive young women willing to be used sexually in the (vain) hope of finding a boyfriend or even a mate. No comment needed. Sex trafficking. Again, ditto. Elective abortion, on demand and federally subsidized. Women are told, and tell themselves, the unborn child has all the personhood of a turnip. So why not take care of "the problem" at a local abortion center and get on with life, right?

We cannot debase women -- and women cannot invite debasement -- while heralding dignity, decency, and equality at the same time. 

Cultural Incoherence

To be clear: Nothing justifies the harassment or abuse or threatening of a woman by a man. Period. No qualifications.

What I'm talking about is cultural incoherence. Messages so obviously contradictory and yet continuous in all facets of our culture.

The confusion bred thereby is only increased by the absence of good fathers in homes across the nation. According to the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, "the percentage of (all) U.S. teenagers aged 15 to 17 who have grown up with both biological parents always married is 46 percent."

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Broken homes, with all their many painful effects on the children whose parents leave one another, augment the vulnerability of adolescence. Boys lack proper role models and gravitate toward the uglier angels of their nature. Yearning for love, girls surrender to the promises of young men whose concept of relationship is informed by the pornography on his smartphone.

We create mire and demand purity. We bathe in filth and expect cleanliness. We replace decency with barely checked desire and wonder at its horrid fruit.

The Law on Our Hearts

I have sat through any number of training sessions on how to treat women in the workplace. My colleagues and I sit through videos of men "hitting" on women in various ways and are told that this should not be. 

The guys I have worked with get it. The training films are so bumpy and poorly acted that they invite more laughter than conviction. But the great majority of men I know in the white-collar secular workforce understand that putting sexual pressure on a woman is wrong.

Power, opportunity, and a lack of accountability foster predation. So does a culture that portrays women more as objects of gratification than persons.

Why? Because they have a law written on their hearts, to use the Apostle Paul's phrase. Their consciences are not so dead they don't understand that intimidating or using a woman is disgusting.

But that doesn't mean that they won't do this, at least some of them. Power, opportunity, and a lack of accountability fuel their predation.

And so does a culture that portrays women more as objects of gratification than persons. As human beings with all that term implies. With minds and souls, longings and joys, interests and hopes -- and bodies, too.

We Can’t Have it Both Ways

We cannot have it both ways. Our families are frayed and fraying more and more, even to the point that the very foundation of family -- one man and one woman, married and faithful, for life -- is being denigrated and redefined, both. Our society exalts sexual intimacy like the ancients exalted temple prostitution. Sex becomes a form of worship -- worship of the self, a worship expressed in the employment of another solely for pleasure. 

Our society proclaims equal dignity even as it strips women of it.

In Christ, there is hope. Hope in the respect shown in abstinence. Hope in the fulfillment found in fidelity. Hope in the beauty of marital intimacy and its fruit, children -- children who are raised in a loving and stable and permanent home.

Looking to Him, we can model how beauty and sexuality can be found in marriage. How modesty exalts rather than restricts. How femininity is found in self-respect far more than physical self-exposure. 

Trump Says US Will Declare North Korea a State Sponsor of Terror

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 17:32

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump announced Monday that the U.S. will designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terror amid heightened nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Trump said the designation will impose further penalties on the country. He called it a long overdue step and part of the U.S. “maximum pressure campaign” against the North. North Korea would join Iran, Sudan and Syria on the list of state sponsors of terror.

“In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism including assassinations on foreign soil,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting.

U.S. officials cited the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half brother in a Malaysian airport earlier this year as an act of terrorism.

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The designation had been debated for months inside the administration, with some officials at the State Department arguing that North Korea did not meet the legal standard to be relisted as a state sponsor of terrorism.

U.S. officials involved in the internal deliberations said there was no debate over whether the slaying of half-brother Kim Jong Nam was a terrorist act. However, lawyers said there had to be more than one incident, and there was disagreement over whether the treatment of American student Otto Warmbier, who died of injuries suffered in North Korean custody, constituted terrorism.

The officials were not authorized to speak publicly about the deliberations and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The move returns North Korea to the ignominious list for the first time since 2008, when the North was removed in a bid to salvage a deal to halt its nuclear development. In the years since, the North has made advanced leaps in both its nuclear and missile programs, proving the capacity to reach U.S. territories with the devastating weapons earlier this year.

Trump has faced pressure from congressional lawmakers to relist the country amid its advancing nuclear missile program, though some fear it could increase already heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.

___

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Washington.

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Murder Cult Leader Charles Manson Dead at 83

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 16:18

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Charles Manson, the hippie cult leader who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after masterminding the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, died Sunday night after nearly a half-century in prison. He was 83.

Manson died of natural causes at a California hospital while serving a life sentence, his name synonymous to this day with unspeakable violence and depravity.

Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County, reacted to the death by quoting the late Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who put Manson behind bars. Bugliosi said: “Manson was an evil, sophisticated con man with twisted and warped moral values.”

“Today, Manson’s victims are the ones who should be remembered and mourned on the occasion of his death,” Hanisee said.

A petty criminal who had been in and out of jail since childhood, the charismatic, guru-like Manson surrounded himself in the 1960s with runaways and other lost souls and then sent his disciples to butcher some of L.A.’s rich and famous in what prosecutors said was a bid to trigger a race war -- an idea he got from a twisted reading of the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.”

The slayings horrified the world and, together with the deadly violence that erupted later in 1969 during a Rolling Stones concert at California’s Altamont Speedway, exposed the dangerous, drugged-out underside of the counterculture movement and seemed to mark the death of the era of peace and love.

Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Manson maintained during his tumultuous trial in 1970 that he was innocent and that society itself was guilty.

“These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them; I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up,” he said in a courtroom soliloquy.

Linda Deutsch, the longtime courts reporter for The Associated Press who covered the Manson case, said he “left a legacy of evil and hate and murder.”

“He was able to take young people who were impressionable and convince them he had the answer to everything and he turned them into killers,” she said. “It was beyond anything we had ever seen before in this country.”

California Corrections Department spokeswoman Vicky Waters said it has yet to be determined what happens to Manson’s body. It was also unclear if Manson requested funeral services of any sort.

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Prison officials previously said Manson had no known next of kin, and state law says that if no relative or legal representative surfaces within 10 days, then it’s up to the department to determine whether the body is cremated or buried.

The Manson Family, as his followers were called, slaughtered five of its victims on Aug. 9, 1969, at Tate’s home: the actress, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, Polish movie director Voityck Frykowski and Steven Parent, a friend of the estate’s caretaker. Tate’s husband, “Rosemary’s Baby” director Roman Polanski, was out of the country at the time.

The next night, a wealthy grocer and his wife, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, were stabbed to death in their home across town.

The killers scrawled such phrases as “Pigs” and a misspelled “Healter Skelter” in blood at the crime scenes.

Manson was arrested three months later. In the annals of American crime, he became the personification of evil, a short, shaggy-haired, bearded figure with a demonic stare and an “X” -- later turned into a swastika -- carved into his forehead.

“Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969,” author Joan Didion wrote in her 1979 book “The White Album.”

After a trial that lasted nearly a year, Manson and three followers -- Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten -- were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Another defendant, Charles “Tex” Watson, was convicted later. All were spared execution and given life sentences after the California Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1972.

Atkins died behind bars in 2009. Krenwinkel, Van Houten and Watson remain in prison.

Another Manson devotee, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975, but her gun jammed. She served 34 years in prison.

Manson was born in Cincinnati on Nov. 12, 1934, to a teenager, possibly a prostitute, and was in reform school by the time he was 8. After serving a 10-year sentence for check forgery in the 1960s, Manson was said to have pleaded with authorities not to release him because he considered prison home.

“My father is the jailhouse. My father is your system,” he would later say in a monologue on the witness stand. “I am only what you made me. I am only a reflection of you.”

He was set free in San Francisco during the heyday of the hippie movement in the city’s Haight-Ashbury section, and though he was in his mid-30s by then, he began collecting followers -- mostly women -- who likened him to Jesus Christ. Most were teenagers; many came from good homes but were at odds with their parents.

The “family” eventually established a commune-like base at the Spahn Ranch, a ramshackle former movie location outside Los Angeles, where Manson manipulated his followers with drugs, oversaw orgies and subjected them to bizarre lectures.

He had musical ambitions and befriended rock stars, including Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. He also met Terry Melcher, a music producer who had lived in the same house that Polanski and Tate later rented.

By the summer of 1969, Manson had failed to sell his songs, and the rejection was later seen as a trigger for the violence. He complained that Wilson took a Manson song called “Cease to Exist,” revised it into “Never Learn Not to Love” and recorded it with the Beach Boys without giving Manson credit.

Manson was obsessed with Beatles music, particularly “Piggies” and “Helter Skelter,” a hard-rocking song that he interpreted as forecasting the end of the world. He told his followers that “Helter Skelter is coming down” and predicted a race war would destroy the planet.

“Everybody attached themselves to us, whether it was our fault or not,” the Beatles’ George Harrison, who wrote “Piggies,” later said of the murders. “It was upsetting to be associated with something so sleazy as Charles Manson.”

According to testimony, Manson sent his devotees out on the night of Tate’s murder with instructions to “do something witchy.” The state’s star witness, Linda Kasabian, who was granted immunity, testified that Manson tied up the LaBiancas, then ordered his followers to kill. But Manson insisted: “I have killed no one, and I have ordered no one to be killed.”

His trial was nearly scuttled when President Richard Nixon said Manson was “guilty, directly or indirectly.” Manson grabbed a newspaper and held up the front-page headline for jurors to read: “Manson Guilty, Nixon Declares.” Attorneys demanded a mistrial but were turned down.

From then on, jurors, sequestered at a hotel for 10 months, traveled to and from the courtroom in buses with blacked-out windows so they could not read the headlines on newsstands.

Manson was also later convicted of the slayings of a musician and a stuntman.

Over the decades, Manson and his followers appeared sporadically at parole hearings, where their bids for freedom were repeatedly rejected. The women suggested they had been rehabilitated, but Manson himself stopped attending, saying prison had become his home.

The killings inspired movies and TV shows, and Bugliosi, the prosecutor, wrote a best-selling book about the murders, “Helter Skelter.” The macabre rock star Marilyn Manson borrowed part of his stage name from the killer.

“The Manson case, to this day, remains one of the most chilling in crime history,” veteran crime reporter Theo Wilson wrote in her 1998 memoir, “Headline Justice: Inside the Courtroom -- The Country’s Most Controversial Trials.” ”Even people who were not yet born when the murders took place know the name Charles Manson, and shudder.”

___

AP writer Michelle A. Monroe contributed to this report. This story contains biographical information compiled by former AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch. Deutsch covered the Tate-La Bianca killings and the Manson trial for The Associated Press and has written about the Manson family for four decades.

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. That material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Why the Mike Pence Rule is as Christian as it is Wise

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 14:17

In a New York Times op-ed piece titled "A Christian Case Against the Pence Rule," Katelyn Beaty argued that, "It's time for men in power to believe their female peers when they say that the rule hurts more than helps." Based on my own experience, scriptural principles, human nature, and the unanimous testimony of all my female peers, I would argue strongly that the Pence rule (or, in the past, the Billy Graham rule) is both Christian and wise.

Beaty is correct in noting that the Pence rule does not directly relate to the conduct of alleged sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein. No one is assuming that most men try to rape and abuse the women they meet.

Still, she writes:

The Pence rule arises from a broken view of the sexes: Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away. Offering the Pence rule as a solution to male predation is like saying, “I can't meet with you one on one, otherwise I might eventually assault you.” If that's the case, we have far deeper problems around men and power than any personal conduct rule can solve.

But this is a complete misunderstanding of the Pence Rule.

Being Mindful of Appearances

First, there is the issue of appearance.

Let's say you're a married man in your 50s. Your executive assistant is an attractive woman in her 30s. On a regular basis, you're doing work together over meals, sometimes over lunch and sometimes over dinner.

Do you think it might look a little suspicious to see the two of you together in restaurants day after day? Not just talking but also laughing and appearing to enjoy your time together? Do you think it would be unnatural for people to notice and wonder, "Are they getting a little too close? And isn't he married?"

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And what if you had to dismiss this woman from her job because of incompetence, embittering her towards you? If she launched an accusation against you years later, claiming you had a clandestine sexual relationship with her, many might say, "Well, they did seem a little too close. In fact, he seemed to spend more time with her than with his wife. Maybe something was going on."

Beaty cites a situation that baffled her:

A former colleague at a Christian nonprofit threw her back out while on a business trip. Lying in pain in her hotel room, she asked her co-worker to carry her suitcase from her room. He refused to enter the room. One wonders what he thought was going to happen. In this and other cases, personal purity seems to take precedence over the command to love your neighbor.

But she's missing the point entirely. The reason I wouldn't go into a woman's hotel room alone is primarily because of appearance (with awareness of the potential of a false accusation). Second, because of precedent (if I did it in this case, why not in another case?). The simple solution is that the door is open at all times and that the two people aren't left alone in the room together. This way, the man can carry the woman's suitcase without making anyone uncomfortable.

These days, with new scandals hitting the Internet every day, is this too much to ask? Is this really a hardship and burden?

And what about the idea of setting an example for others? Perhaps you are totally disciplined. In 100 years, you would never be unfaithful to your spouse. The fact is that plenty of others aren't that strong. They might be emboldened by your example, thereby opening the door to their own downfall.

Christian leaders are called to be above reproach. With rampant sexual immorality everywhere to be found, both inside and outside the Church, you really can't be too careful.

Acknowledging Attraction

Second, there is the issue of attraction.

Males and females are naturally attracted to each other, both physically and romantically. And while men might be drawn more to outward appearances than women -- or, more moved by sexual lusts -- emotional attraction comes to all.

These days, we can be in almost constant communication with co-workers and employees via email and text. So there's already a steady flow of interaction taking place. Add to that spending time alone together -- working in a building late at night (which also raises the question of bad appearance), having meals together, driving in a car together -- and you're almost guaranteed to spend more time with that opposite-sex co-worker or employee than with your own spouse.

Christian leaders are called to be above reproach. With rampant sexual immorality both inside and outside the Church, you really can't be too careful.

And what if you're going through a rough stretch at home? What if your wife is stressed out, caring for yet another child while finances are limited. You are consumed with your job. What if you and your spouse have lost the romantic spark? But that co-worker or employee of yours find your jokes funny and your stories interesting?

To deny the possibility of emotional or romantic attraction is to deny reality. That's why Beaty completely missed the point when she explained the Pence Rule as saying, "Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away."

Guarding Against Adultery

Third, there is the issue of adultery.

There's a reason "Do not commit adultery" is included as one of the Ten Commandments. There's a reason some of the great leaders in the Bible fell into sexual sin. There's a reason Paul constantly warned against sexual immorality. And there's a reason that the porn industry is so pervasive and powerful to the point that many Christians struggle with addiction to porn.

There is a strong sex drive in human beings, especially men. Women feel pressure to make themselves sexually attractive. (And yes, some women struggle with porn and sexual addiction as well.)

The Bible addresses this time and time again. Not because it is a sterile rule-book designed to take away our fun. But because it is a user's manual drafted by our Creator. And if we play with fire, we will be burned.

In years past, I watched some of my colleagues (or leaders) destroy their lives and ministries through sexual sin, and I'm aware of my own human weakness. That's why I wholeheartedly affirm the Pence Rule. And that's why I've sought to live by it for decades as well. Better safe than sorry.

WH: Trump Not Stumping for Moore Due to Discomfort With Bid

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 14:07

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump isn’t campaigning for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore because of “discomfort” with the sexual misconduct allegations made by several women but isn’t calling on the controversial judge to drop out of the race because the state’s voters should decide, the White House says.

Ultimately, Trump doesn’t know who to believe following decades-old allegations made one month before the Dec. 12 election, according to his aides.

One Republican senator urged Alabama voters to reject Moore in the special election even if that could mean ceding the seat to a Democrat and narrowing the GOP’s 52-48 Senate edge. A second GOP lawmaker suggested there was “a strong possibility” that a write-in candidate -- “a proven conservative” -- could win, though no name was mentioned.

“We are uncomfortable with the explanations that Roy Moore has given to date,” said White House legislative director Marc Short. Speaking of Trump’s position, Short said: “Obviously if he did not believe that the women’s accusations were credible, he would be down campaigning for Roy Moore.”

Still, Short added the “38-year-old allegations” were virtually unprovable. “At this point, we think he has been a public figure in Alabama for decades, and the people of Alabama will make the decision, not the president, not the leader of the Senate, not members in Congress.”

Moore, a former state Supreme Court justice twice removed from office, has denied the accusations that have surfaced only recently, and pledged to remain in the race. The special election will determine who fills the remainder of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ term, until January 2020.

Before the allegations emerged, Trump had backed current GOP Sen. Luther Strange in the Sept. 26 primary to determine Sessions’ successor and campaigned in the state, a Republican stronghold.

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After Moore’s victory, Trump made clear he would back the anti-establishment candidate enthusiastically promoted by former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon. But since the allegations aired, the White House has said Moore should drop out if they were true. Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones, a former prosecutor, in the Dec 12 race.

Budget director Mick Mulvaney said while the White House had “serious concerns,” it was hard to weigh in against Moore. Moore’s name cannot be removed from the ballot before the special election even if he withdraws from the race, though a write-in campaign remains possible.

Trump “doesn’t know who to believe. I think a lot of folks don’t,” Mulvaney said.

Short, pressed repeatedly about whether Trump still supported Moore, said: “I don’t think you have seen him issue an endorsement. You have not seen him issue robocalls.” Short added, “I think you can infer by the fact that he has not gone down to support Roy Moore his discomfort in doing so.”

Moore has forcefully denied the charges as “unsubstantiated” and “fake” even as more women have come forward to make complaints of sexual improprieties. Two women by name have said Moore molested them in the 1970s when one was 14 and the other 16 and he was a local district attorney in his 30s, and three others said he pursued romantic relationships with them around the same time.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., are among the many national Republicans who have urged Moore to step aside. Sessions told Congress last week he has “no reason to doubt” the women.

“I hope that the voters of Alabama choose not to elect him,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “I don’t know Doug Jones at all, but I’ve never supported Roy Moore. And I hope that he does not end up being in the United States Senate.”

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said “it is in the best interest of the country, as well as the state of Alabama, from my perspective, for Roy Moore to find something else to do.” Scott said he thinks there was “a strong possibility with a new candidate, a new Republican candidate, a proven conservative, that we can win that race.”

Moore’s candidacy has left GOP officials in a bind, especially after GOP Gov. Kay Ivey said she will not postpone the election and will vote for Moore. The Alabama Republican Party has also thrown its support behind Moore.

A Moore victory would saddle GOP senators with a colleague accused of abusing and harassing teenagers, a troubling liability heading into the 2018 congressional elections.

McConnell has said Moore would almost certainly face a formal ethics complaint in the Senate if he were elected. Such an ethics complaint could lead to a Senate vote on expelling him.

Short appeared on ABC’s This Week, Mulvaney spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press, Collins was on ABC and CNN’s State of the Union and Scott spoke on Fox News Sunday.

___

Follow Hope Yen on Twitter at https://twitter.com/hopeyen1

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

White House Open to Striking Health Provision From Tax Bill

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 13:43

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House says it’s willing to strike a health-care provision from Senate legislation to cut taxes and overhaul the tax code if the provision becomes an impediment to passing one of President Donald Trump’s top legislative priorities.

The provision would repeal a requirement that everyone in the U.S. have health insurance or pay a fine, but has emerged as a major sticking point for Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, whose vote the White House needs. Collins said Sunday that the issue should be dealt with separately.

Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said the White House is open to scrapping the provision, which would repeal a key component of the Affordable Care Act health law enacted by President Barack Obama. Trump had pressed for the provision to be added to the bill, partly to show progress on the GOP goal of undoing the health care law following Congress’ failed attempts to repeal it earlier this year.

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“I don’t think anybody doubts where the White House is on repealing and replacing Obamacare. We absolutely want to do it,” Mulvaney said Sunday. “If we can repeal part of Obamacare as part of a tax bill and have a tax bill that is still a good tax bill that can pass, that’s great.

“If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, then we’re OK with taking it out,” Mulvaney added.

Legislative director Marc Short said Sunday that the White House “is very comfortable with the House bill,” which does not include the so-called individual mandate. But Short also said the White House views the mandate as a tax and “we like the fact that the Senate has included it in its bill.”

At issue is a provision to repeal the requirement that everyone in the U.S. have health insurance or pay a fine. Eliminating the individual mandate would add an estimated $338 billion in revenue over 10 years that Senate tax-writers used for additional tax cuts.

Collins said Sunday that the tax advantage that some middle-income consumers would reap under the tax bill could be wiped out by repealing the mandate. She said they would face higher insurance premiums coupled with the loss of federal subsidies to help them afford coverage.

“The fact is that if you do pull this piece of the Affordable Care Act out, for some middle-income families, the increased premium is going to cancel out the tax cut that they would get,” Collins said.

Collins said she hasn’t decided how to vote on the bill because it will be amended before it reaches the Senate floor. But her vote is crucial in a chamber where Republicans hold a slim 52-48 advantage.

Last week, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin became the first Republican to declare opposition, saying the plan wouldn’t cut business taxes enough for partnerships and corporations. GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Rand Paul of Kentucky have also expressed concerns.

Republicans can lose just two senators on the final vote, which would allow Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking 51st vote in his capacity as president of the Senate. Democrats are not expected to support the bill, as was the case when the House passed its version last week.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the mandate amounts to “an unfair tax on poor people.”

“The president thinks we should get rid of it. I think we should get rid of it,” he said, but added: “We’re going to work with the Senate as we go through this.”

Mulvaney and Collins were interviewed on CNN’s State of the Union. Mnuchin spoke on Fox News Sunday. Collins also appeared on ABC’s This Week, as did Short.

___

Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

France Seeks to Ban Muslim Street Prayers in Paris After Clashes

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 13:40

Muslims won't be allowed to hold mass prayers on the streets of a Paris suburb where protesters and worshipers have clashed in recent weeks, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said Sunday.

Weekly street prayers have taken place in the suburb of Clichy-la-Garenne every Friday since the local mosque was shut down by authorities in the spring. Local politicians and protesters have tried to stop the street prayers and the national government is ready to take action.

"They will not have prayers on the street, we will prevent street praying," Collomb told Franceinfo in an interview published Sunday. "We will make sure we resolve this conflict in the next few weeks."

Collomb emphasized that "Muslims must have a place of worship to pray" while acknowledging that the current solution doesn't work.

Dozens of French politicians sang the national anthem Nov. 11 as they marched into a gathering of around 200 Muslims in the area. A mayor, members of parliament, local councilors and civilians walked under a banner reading "Stop Illegal Street Prayers"as they tried to push worshipers out of the town's market square.

Riot police had to separate the groups to avoid a potentially violent confrontation.

#Clichy Toujours plus loin dans le surrealiste : ce sont bien des elus avec leurs echarpes qui ont tente d'aller bousculer les fideles. Mouvement de foule, bousculade, chutes… Les gendarmes s'interposent. pic.twitter.com/I131eryIMq

— Theo Maneval (@TheoManeval) November 10, 2017

Populist leader Marine Le Pen also weighed-in and showed support for the protests.

"The Republic must go on the offensive in the face of Islamist provocations," Le Pen said in a tweet. "What is the Minister of the Interior waiting for to restore public order and secularism? Laxity is not an option."

Laxity, or lacite, is the French tradition of keeping religion out of public activity.

 

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Copyright 2017 The Daily Caller News Foundation

The Hope of Women

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:53

“It seems undeniable at this point that Hugh Hefner’s death broke open some sort of seal.” My former colleague at National Review magazine, Ian Tuttle, tweeted this the other day, referring to the avalanche of accusations and confessions of men behaving badly in some of the highest echelons of power that has occurred since the death of the Playboy founder. A reckoning appears to be occurring in Hollywood, accompanied by a widespread acknowledgment that something has gone very wrong when it comes to men in power and sex.

Powerful Men and Sex

Why is it that men would ever presume to take what is not theirs? Why is it that women have been too afraid to speak up? Could it be that the expectations of the culture have forced both men and women into untenable positions? Could it be that we’ve been breathing an air that has us believing the other gender exists for gratification rather than awe and reverence?

There was something in that Donald Trump infamous hot-mic incident -- where he described this profane mindset of men in power -- that was clarifying and almost set the stage for all these recent stories. The now-first lady dismissed it all as “what boys do.” One gets the impression that she’s trying to raise her son otherwise. So why would Melania Trump or anyone else tolerate it or otherwise explain it away?

The Catholic Church’s Prediction

When the U.S. Catholic bishops gathered in Baltimore for their annual meeting this past week, there was a presentation noting, among other things, the upcoming 50th anniversary of “Humanae Vitae,” a document that in 1968 seemed to do what my own magazine’s founder was inspired to do vis-a-vis the Cold War, among other things: “Stand athwart history, yelling ‘Stop,'” as it says in the 1955 National Review mission statement. Paul VI, the author of “Humanae,” saw a radical revolution afoot that was going to make the world worse, for women in particular.

Speaking before his brother bishops, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan highlighted prophetic passages from Paul VI’s letter, including: “(A) man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

And so it happened. And so we live among the ruins.

The Value of Women

While there are men who have come out to accuse prominent actors of assault and other boorish behavior, the majority of the #MeToo movement testifying to abuse of power has been women, talking about men. Some 30 or so years ago, Pope John Paul II wrote about the role of women in changing the world. He focused on two things in particular, as Mary Rice Hasson, founding director of the Catholic Women’s Forum at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, put it in a talk:

“The first is to bring ‘full dignity’ to the ‘conjugal life and to motherhood.’ The second and related task is that women are called to ‘assure the moral dimension of culture … a culture worthy of the person.'”

Hasson issued a challenge to her sisters in the faith:

Women must be front and center in evangelizing the culture because, as a Church, we must live that truth of complementarity. We believe that there’s something of value created when men and women work together, and we know that the Church needs us -- men and women -- to witness to the love of God in a powerful way, together. And the world needs that witness from us as much, if not more, than it needs the actual work that we do.”

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I’ll add this: Everyone is welcome to join in leading a way out of the misery of seeing others merely as means to instant pleasure or another selfish gain.

Besides “Humanae Vitae,” Paul VI also issued this message that has resurfaced in recent years:

Women, you do know how to make truth sweet, tender and accessible, make it your task to bring the spirit of this council into institutions, schools, homes and daily life. Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.

With this light shining on the darkest places in Hollywood and elsewhere, there’s a tremendous opportunity to turn the ship around. Women can save the peace of the world, by expecting better for themselves, their sisters, their daughters -- and the men who ought to love them (thank you, those who do!) for all the beauty they bring to existence.

 

Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at klopez@nationalreview.com.

 

James Robison: High Taxes Hurt the Poor

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:00

Stream founder James Robison has a message for those who insist on calling for higher taxes on the rich: “Wealth doesn’t create poverty, it is an answer to poverty.”

In a new Facebook video posted Sunday afternoon, Rev. Robison, explains the need to cut taxes. High taxes, he argues, hurt those in needs. “We’re not helping the poor, we are keeping them in bondage.”

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WATCH:

Your Purpose is Revealed in God’s Design and Desire for Creation

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 10:00

Deep within each one of us is a hunger to live a life of significance and purpose. The key to satisfying our hunger for meaning is understanding one basic principle: We are stewards of everything we have.

Many Christians would agree with this concept of stewardship. But few are able to articulate how they are to steward. This is because they don't know God's original design and desire for creation. Without knowing that blueprint, it's easy to get lost as stewards.

Theologian Ken Boa writes:

God has entrusted us with certain resources, gifts and abilities. These things rightfully belong to him. Our responsibility is to live by that trust by managing these things well, according to his design and desire.

We at IFWE believe the "why" of our work, both paid and unpaid, is to bring about biblical flourishing (shalom) in the world. That is God's design and desire for His creation. In order to effectively bring shalom in our families, churches, communities and vocations, we must first understand the difference between God's design and His desire.

Shalom in the Original Blueprint

God made everything based on His perfect design. By the power of His own will, that design will be realized:

For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased (Rev. 4:11, NLT).

...He makes everything work out according to His plan (Eph. 1:11, NLT).

The Bible teaches us that from the very beginning, shalom was part of God's design in creation. Scott Kauffmann writes,

Shalom bookends our existence: it characterizes both the Garden and the eternal City, and so provides the vision for our existence in between.

Shalom existed at the beginning of creation, and it's still where God wants us to be focused today.

Shalom in Our Original Job Description

Think about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. There was perfect shalom in the garden -- everything worked just as God designed it to. Shalom was built in to the design of creation. Making more shalom also becomes part of the job description of Adam and Eve -- God's desire for creation.

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When God articulates this job description, the reason Adam and Eve were created, He tells them to "subdue the earth" (Gen. 1:28). In this context, the word subdue, according to scholars Barry Asmus and Wayne Grudem, literally means to go out and make the earth "useful for human beings' benefit and enjoyment," a place for human beings to flourish. In other words, their purpose was to go and work at making more shalom.

If God's desire for Adam and Eve was to create more shalom in a perfect world, how much more does He desire us to cultivate and "reweave" shalom in our broken world?

Equipped to Reweave Shalom

This idea of shalom in the Bible stands apart from all worldly versions of flourishing. It provides not only a vision but also the means by which a person can achieve flourishing:

God reveals through His word His design for our flourishing. Then He equips us to pursue it through His Holy Spirit, who empowers, restores and reforms us by grace. The gospel of Jesus Christ, the "Prince of Shalom" (Isa. 9:6, OJB), shows us what real shalom is.

This gospel calls us back to fulfill our lost and forfeited calling in Gen 1:28. Thus it gives us a taste of shalom in this world and guarantees our experience of shalom in its fullness in the world to come.

Confidence in What We Hope For

Martin Weber writes that this longing for shalom is written on our hearts:

Biblical Shalom is the utopia for which Western civilization has yearned since the days of Plato. It is the failed promise of ancient empires and contemporary politicians, the frustrated dream of formerly love-struck newlyweds.

Yet there is One who has promised us shalom. He will be faithful to deliver on that promise. He made the ultimate sacrifice that we might experience God's shalom both in part in the present world and in its fullness in the world to come. This is what we all long for.

As the Apostle Paul writes, "...we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28). It is the good work of His grace that equips and enables the work of our hands to reweave biblical shalom -- bringing flourishing to the communities we serve. And that work is motivated by nothing more than our love for him:

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us--yes, establish the work of our hands (Ps. 90:17).

Editor's Note: Be one of the first to hear about Hugh Whelchel's upcoming booklet on this topic of "reweaving shalom" by signing up for the IFWE blog.

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This article is republished with permission from the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (www.tifwe.org). IFWE is a Christian research organization committed to advancing biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society. Visit https://tifwe.org/subscribe to subscribe to the free IFWE Daily Blog.

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