"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"
Father God, thank you for the love of the truth you have given me. Please bless me with the wisdom, knowledge and discernment needed to always present the truth in an attitude of grace and love. Use this blog and Northwoods Ministries for your glory. Help us all to read and to study Your Word without preconceived notions, but rather, let scripture interpret scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit. All praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
The New Normal - Denmark at Christmas
© Global Look Press
Parents of local children, education officials and leading Danish politicians have criticized a primary school after it chose to cancel the traditional Christmas service, due to the presence of students of immigrant backgrounds.
"We took the decision because we have children who are not Protestant,” Marianne Vederso Schmidt, the head of Gribskolen in Graested, a town of fewer than 5,000 people in eastern Denmark, wrote in an intranet posting earlier this month.
Schmidt noted that the decision may have been overdue, as the education law forbids preaching “and it must be left to the individual families whether they want to privately attend a service.”
Syria Week at the same school back in 2016 © syriensuge / Facebook
Ten parents complained to the primary school, and the story was immediately picked up by national media, which speculated that the move was aimed at appeasing the sensitivities of Muslim students.
Some accused Gribskolen of double standards, considering that last year it staged a 'Syria Week' in which Danish children immersed themselves in Middle Eastern culture, and were given lessons by immigrants.
“I don’t see why our tradition has to be taken away from us, just because someone else at the school believes in something else,” Mette Brüel-Holler, a parent of two enrolled daughters, told TV2. “I come from a small community, where the church is important, and these traditions are beautiful. I remember enjoying them myself as a child, and they are a fundamental part of Christmas.”
The cancellation has also been condemned by the local church pastor, who was due to perform the service and complained that Christmas was being “drained of its deeper meaning” and the mayor of the Zeeland town, who called it a “misguided decision.”
Politicians from across the ruling center-right coalition have joined in the chorus of criticism.
“Danish primary schools have a duty to spread education – and teaching the cultural values and knowledge connected to Christmas is an essential part of that,” Health Minister Ellen Trane Norby wrote on her Facebook page. “What benefits from this decision? Not the culture or level of integration within the country.”
“We have a critical lack of self-esteem. We are a Christian country with our own traditions. We should not sacrifice this in the name of multiculturalism,” wrote Marie Krarup, of the Danish People's Party, asking social media users whether similar initiatives had been undertaken by other institutions.
The chairman of the School Leaders Association, Claus Hjortdal, has said that there is no provision that there must be a church service at Christmas at the end of term, and pointed out that many schools do not have one at all.
Meanwhile, the local school board has called an emergency meeting for the upcoming Thursday, where a compromise may be suggested. The board pointed out to the media that they have no means of forcing Gribskolen into a decision.
The most famous native of Graested, current Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who himself attended Gribskolen as a child, waded into the debate when he took to Facebook to plead with his alma mater for a “re-do.”
Astonishing Corporate Greed
© Global Look Press
Following the lead of pharma-bro Martin Shkreli, a US drug company has hiked the price of a prescription version of vitamin B3 pills by over 800 percent. A drug used to treat respiratory ailments also got a price hike of nearly 2,500 percent.
Avondale Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Niacor, a prescription-only version of niacin (vitamin B3), by 809 percent last month. This means a bottle of 100 tablets went from costing $32.46 to $295, according to figures sent to the Financial Times.
While the drug is available over the counter, some doctors prefer to prescribe a version that has US Food and Drug Administration approval. The drug is used to lower cholesterol to reduce the chance of having a heart attack.
Doctors need to stop prescribing Niacor and recommend over the counter versions of B3.
The company also acquired another generic, SSKI, and increased its price by 2,499 percent, taking a 30ml bottle from $11.48 to $295.
The Birmingham, Alabama-based company raised its prices shortly after acquiring the rights to the drugs in a “buy-and-raise” deal made notorious by Martin Shkreli, the hedge fund investor recently convicted of securities fraud.
Shkreli became mired in controversy when he raised the price of a drug used by cancer and HIV patients by 5,500 percent.
The price hikes by Avondale were first noticed by Truven Health Analytics, according to The Independent.
According to the Financial Times, Avondale Pharmaceuticals was set up in August by a registered agent, Acrogen Pharmaceuticals, seemingly for the sole purpose of drug acquisition. Acrogen was started in 2016 by Mark Pugh, an executive behind several pharmaceutical companies.
“This is the latest example of an inefficient US market where the consumer, payer, and doctor don’t have all the information available to make a financially sound choice,” Michael Rae, CEO of Rx Savings, told FT. “They are caught in a web of inefficiency and are being taken advantage of.”
Price gouging is a controversial but established strategy whereby firms buy up the rights to a drug that faces little or no competition, before massively inflating the price and enjoying the profits.
It can't be that difficult to make this spectacular expression of greed illegal. These companies buy up rights, probably at inflated prices, and then dramatically raise their prices without adding anything to the product. Don't monopoly laws apply?
At least, there should be a special tax, a dramatically inflated tax on the profit from the increase in prices of these drugs. The entire increase should be considered profit and therefore taxable.
At best, these people should be thrown in jail and never allowed to work in the industry again. It is people like these who give the free-market system a black-eye and give ammunition to countries where there is no free-market system to criticize America and maintain their own forms of corruption.
Monday, December 11, 2017
By Ray Downs
The Bermuda Flag flies in Sandy's Parish, Bermuda, on May 30. This month, Bermuda's Parliament voted to ban gay marriage just months after the Supreme Court voted to allow them.
File Photo by CJ Gunther/EPA-EFE
UPI -- Just months after gay couples in Bermuda were allowed to marry under a Supreme Court ruling, the island country's government reimposed a ban under a new law.
Member of Parliament Lawrence Scott said the Domestic Partnerships Act of 2017 helps the LGBTQ community by giving gay couples "benefits it has been asking for," while keeping traditionalists happy because it doesn't change the the "traditional definition of marriage."
"As it stands now, they can have the name marriage but without the benefits. But after this bill passes, they have the benefits and just not the name marriage. The benefits are what they really want," Scott said, the Royal Gazette reported.
Is it? Or is it recognition, acceptance, and moral justification?
The bill passed Bermuda's Parliament 24-10.
According to Pink News, Bermuda became the first country to re-ban gay marriage.
Shadow Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons, who voted against the bill, said it marked a step backwards for Bermuda.
"This is a human rights issue. We are taking away marriage equality rights from the LGBTQ community," Gibbons said, according to the Jamaican Observer.
Gay marriage has been a controversial topic in Bermuda.
In 2016, 69 percent of voters rejected a referendum to approve gay marriage. But less than 50 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, making the vote invalid.
But in May, Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, won a legal ruling in Bermuda's Supreme Court to allow gay marriages to take place in the country. That paved the way for gay marriages until Friday's vote.
Those already married before Friday will not be affected by the new law.
Saturday, December 9, 2017
Iraqi government: Islamic State 'completely defeated' in countryBy Allen Cone
Iraqi soldiers hold up the Iraqi national flag after totally liberating central Mosul on July 10. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi on Saturday announced the remaining Iraqi region under Islamic state control, near the Iraqi border with Syria, was now under complete control of Iraq's armed forces. Photo by EPA
UPI -- Iraq's prime minister announced Saturday that the country's defense forces completely liberated the nation from the Islamic State.
"Our heroic armed forces have now secured the entire length of the Iraq-Syria border," Haider al-Abadi posted on Twitter. "We defeated Daesh [Islamic State] through our unity and sacrifice for the nation. Long live Iraq and its people."
Last month, Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed militias began a final campaign against the militants along the country's Syrian border. The targeted area, largely desert, was about 11,000 square miles.
In all, the Islamic State controlled more than 34,000 square miles from the Mediterranean coast to south of Baghdad. Rawa was the last liberated city since the Islamic State took control in 2014.
More than 3.2 million people were displaced from the country, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
In a post on Twitter, the government said that the armed forces have secured the west desert and the entire Iraq-Syrian border. "This marks the end of the war against Daesh terrorists who have been completely defeated and evicted from Iraq," the post said.
Desert offensive Maj. Gen. Abdul Amir Rashid Yarallah said the forces liberated the desert between the provinces of Nineveh and Anbar. "And, thus, the liberation of all Iraqi territory has been completed from the rule of the [Islamic State] gangs," Yarallah said in a statement.
The Global Coalition conducted about 25,000 airstrikes during military operations there.
Thousands of ISIS fighters left Syria in secret deal with U.S., defector says
By Dominic Evans and Orhan Coskun Reuters
Then Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Talal Silo speaks during a news conference in Hukoumiya village in Raqqa, Syria, June 6.
REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo
A high-level defector from Kurdish-led forces that captured the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State has recanted his account of the city’s fall, saying thousands of ISIS fighters – many more than first reported – left under a secret, U.S.-approved deal.
Talal Silo, a former commander in the Syrian Democratic Forces, said the SDF arranged to bus all remaining Islamic State militants out of Raqqa even though it said at the time it was battling diehard foreign jihadists in the city.
U.S. officials described Silo’s comments as “false and contrived” but a security official in Turkey, where Silo defected three weeks ago, gave a similar account of Islamic State’s defeat in its Syrian stronghold. Turkey has been at odds with Washington over U.S. backing for the Kurdish forces who led the fight for Raqqa.
Silo was the SDF spokesman and one of the officials who told the media in mid-October – when the deal was reached – that fewer than 300 fighters left Raqqa with their families while others would fight on.
However, he told Reuters in an interview that the number of fighters who were allowed to go was far higher and the account of a last-ditch battle was a fiction designed to keep journalists away while the evacuation took place.
He said a U.S. official in the international coalition against Islamic State, whom he did not identify, approved the deal at a meeting with an SDF commander.
At the time there were conflicting accounts of whether or not foreign Islamic State fighters had been allowed to leave Raqqa. The BBC later reported that one of the drivers in the exodus described a convoy of up to 7 km long made up of 50 trucks, 13 buses and 100 Islamic State vehicles, packed with fighters and ammunition.
The Turkish government has expressed concern that some fighters who left Raqqa could have been smuggled across the border into Turkey and could try to launch attacks there or in the West.
“Agreement was reached for the terrorists to leave, about 4,000 people, them and their families,” Silo said, adding that all but about 500 were fighters.
He said they headed east to Islamic State-controlled areas around Deir al-Zor, where the Syrian army and forces supporting President Bashar al-Assad were gaining ground.
If this is true it is a deliberate attack on Syrian forces by sending 3500 armed men to Deir al-Zor to counter the Syrian offensive. It didn't work, Deir al-Zor fell anyway, but it was obviously a hostile act intended to prolong the war in Syria.
For three days the SDF banned people from going to Raqqa, saying fighting was in progress to deal with militants who had not given themselves up.
“It was all theater,” Silo said.
“The announcement was cover for those who left for Deir al-Zor”, he said, adding that the agreement was endorsed by the United States which wanted a swift end to the Raqqa battle so the SDF could move on towards Deir al-Zor.
U.S. at odds with Turkey
It was not clear where the evacuees from Raqqa ended up.
The Syrian Democratic Forces deny that Islamic State fighters were able to leave Raqqa for Deir al-Zor, and the U.S.-led military coalition which backs the SDF said it “does not make deals with terrorists”.
“The coalition utterly refutes any false accusations from any source that suggests the coalition’s collusion with ISIS,” it said in a statement.
However, a Turkish security official said that many more Islamic State personnel left Raqqa than was acknowledged. “Statements that the U.S. or the coalition were engaged in big conflicts in Raqqa are not true,” the official added.
He told Reuters Turkey believed those accounts were aimed at diverting attention from the departure of Islamic State members and complained that Turkey had been kept in the dark.
Ankara, a NATO ally of Washington’s and a member of the U.S.-led coalition, has disagreed sharply with the United States over its support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters who spearheaded the fight against Islamic State in Raqqa.
Turkey says the YPG is an extension of the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency in southeast Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the United States and European Union.
Silo spoke to Reuters in a secure location on the edge of Ankara in the presence of Turkish security officers. He said the security was for his own protection and he denied SDF assertions that he had been pressured into defecting by Turkey, where his children live.
A member of Syria’s Turkmen minority, Silo said his decision to speak out now was based on disillusionment with the structure of the SDF, which was dominated by Kurdish YPG fighters at the expense of Arab, Turkmen and Assyrian allies, as well as the outcome in Raqqa, where he said a city had been destroyed but not the enemy.
The Raqqa talks took place between a Kurdish SDF commander, Sahin Cilo, and an intermediary from Islamic State whose brother-in-law was the Islamic State “emir” in Raqqa, Silo said.
After they reached agreement Cilo headed to a U.S. military base near the village of Jalabiya. “He came back with the agreement of the U.S. administration for those terrorists to head to Deir al-Zor,” Silo said.
The coalition said two weeks ago that one of its leaders was present at the talks but not an active participant in the deal which it said was reached “despite explicit coalition disagreement with letting armed ISIS terrorists leave Raqqa”.
ISIS re-enters Syria’s Idlib after clashes: monitor
Civil defense members inspect the damage at a site hit by airstrikes on Tuesday, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib. (File photo: Reuters)
The ISIS group has seized territory in Syria’s Idlib province after clashes with rival militants, nearly four years after being expelled from the region, a monitor said on Friday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS had captured the village of Bashkun after clashes with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a force dominated by a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The capture comes after days of fighting between ISIS and HTS in neighbouring Hama province, during which ISIS captured a string of villages in the northeast of the region, the Observatory said.
The capture of Bashkun puts ISIS back in Idlib nearly four years after it was first expelled from the province in northwestern Syria after battles with rival militants and rebel groups.
ISIS has seen the so-called “caliphate” it declared in 2014 across parts of Syria and Iraq crumble in recent weeks, losing key cities such as Raqa and Mosul.
It now holds just a few patches of territory in Syria, and on Saturday Iraq’s prime minister declared the war against the jihadist group in his country was now over.
More than 340,000 people have been killed in Syria’s multi-faceted war since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011.
American's, allegedly, have 2000 troops in Syria - 4 times as many as previously reported, and an unknown number of 'contractors'. All are there, allegedly, fighting ISIS. The middle report above makes it clear that the Americans are not just fighting ISIS, but are attempting to ensure that Assad does not win back control of Syria.
There are a couple of possible reasons for this: 1. They want to reduce Iran's influence in the region; 2. Saudi Arabia wants to reduce Iran's influence in the region; 3. They want to prolong the fighting for commercial reasons.
Whatever the reason, Europe should be screaming blue murder at the prolonging of the civil war. Many a Syrian migrant in Europe would go home if it was safe to do so, even to a destroyed country. At least, the flow of war refugees would slow. Is it the BS report that Assad was responsible for using chemical weapons in Khan Sheikoun that has them refusing to allow Assad to be part of a Syrian solution?
Friday, December 8, 2017
Corruption is Everywhere - Certainly in de Kirchner's Argentina
By Daniel Uria
A judge in Argentina issued an arrest warrant for former president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, accusing her of treason. Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI | License Photo
UPI -- A judge in Argentina issued a warrant for the arrest of former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Thursday on charges of treason.
Judge Claudio Bonadio accused Kirchner, 64, of seeking to negotiate a deal with Iran to obtain trade concessions in exchange for covering up Tehran's role in a 1994 terror attack on the AMIA Jewish center that killed 85 people.
"There's no crime, there's no case. Bonadio knows it. The government knows it. President [Mauricio] Macri also knows it," Kirchner said.
Her arrest warrant stems from a 2015 investigation by federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found dead at his home less than a week after accusing Kirchner of the coverup.
Kirchner previously called the accusations "absurdity" and claimed they were part of a conspiracy to undermine her presidency.
Kirchner was granted legal immunity after being sworn in as a senator in October. Bonadio has also asked lawmakers to remove her immunity, which would require a two-thirds majority vote by Congress.
The judge also called for the arrest of Kirchner's former aide, Carlos Zanni, social activist Luis D'Elia and Muslim cleric Jorge Alejandro Khalil, all of whom were arrested in raids Thursday morning.
Hector Timerman, the former foreign minister, was held on house arrest due to health issues.
Kirchner faces trial in several other cases of corruption and money laundering during her time as president.
The treason charge is the most serious and carries a potential prison sentence of up to 15 years.
Soros and left-wing organizations don't seem to have any respect whatsoever for a country's laws. It is one thing to oppose a law, and something else altogether to break another law in order to oppose the first. Yet they claim the high moral ground.
© Amnesty International Ireland / Facebook
Amnesty International Ireland could face criminal charges after an Irish regulatory body found that it broke the law by accepting a donation from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation for an abortion rights campaign.
Ireland’s Standards in Public Office Commission informed the human rights organisation that it had breached Irish law by accepting funds from a foreign donor and may face criminal investigation, Amnesty International Ireland said in a statement.
The organisation says the €137,000 grant received from the Open Society Foundation (OSF) last year was used to support a campaign to ensure abortion laws in Ireland comply with human rights.
Abortion is a 'human right'???? "Life' is a human right; the most basic and fundamental of all human rights! Abortion is the death of a human - the opposite of a human right! What lunacy!
Amnesty has blasted the law as draconian and defiantly stated it would not comply with the order to return the funds.
“Amnesty International will not be complying with the instruction from the SIPOC and will deploy every means at its disposal to challenge this unfair law,” Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman said.
O’Gorman claimed on Twitter that Irish law was “being weaponized by those opposed to our work.”
The Electoral Act 1997, as amended in 2001, forbids overseas donations of more than €100 to “third party” organisations for “political purposes”. Violation of this law can carry a penalty of up to three years imprisonment.
Earlier this year, it emerged that three organisations including the Abortion Rights Campaign and Amnesty International had received funds from the Open Society Foundation.
The Abortion Rights Campaign were ordered by SIPO to return the funds or face criminal investigation – an order they duly complied with, however, no such order was made against Amnesty International.
The organization said it was using the grant to carry out opinion polling and “research into models of abortion law reform that might bring Ireland into compliance with its international human rights obligations” – an explanation apparently accepted at the time, reported The Irish Times.
O’Gorman says it is unclear why the body reversed its decision, but noted that some groups and media have been framing their campaign to reform Ireland’s abortion law as ‘controversial’ or ‘too political.’ “They have also portrayed foreign funding as somehow sinister,” he said.
If it comes from Soros, it probably is sinister!
Amnesty International is now calling on the Irish government to urgently amend the Electoral Act so that civil society groups are not so “punitively” restricted in their access to funding.
'Punitively'??? Aren't both sides restricted by the same law? How then can it be punitive to one side?
Soros’ Open Society Foundation is the second largest charity in the US and said to be the most influential around the globe. It has been accused of undermining democracy in several countries – a charge denied by the NGO.
And if it is true, it's justified. Many a liberal believes that the end justifies the means, regardless of how illegal or onerous those means.
Chief Investigator Names Police and Municipal Clerks as Most ‘Corruption Prone’ Professions in Russia
But also investigated anti-corruption officials for corruption
Corruption is Everywhere - Certainly in Russia
© Global Look Press
The head of the Russian Investigative Committee has revealed the latest statistics on corruption crime, which show that most cases involve law-enforcement agents, military servicemen, municipal clerks, teachers and doctors.
“Representatives of law-enforcement agencies, officials from municipal bodies and enterprises, people working in the spheres of education and healthcare, and also the military,” said Aleksandr Bastrykin, listing the professions most often involved in cases of corruption.
In an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the chairman of Russian federal agency that deals with high-profile crimes said that there were currently more than 7,000 people facing corruption charges. Of these, 845 worked for the Interior Ministry, 571 occupied posts in state and municipal bodies, 490 were military servicemen, 227 worked in science and education, and 221 worked in healthcare.
“Another 400 suspects are people to whom we had to apply a special mode of criminal trial. These used to work as prosecutors, judges, investigators, legal attorneys and the like. Some of them are quite senior officials, I don’t think that it makes sense to name them all, as we know their names from mass media,” Bastrykin added.
Corrupt anti-corruption officials
Russia was hit by several major corruption scandals in 2016. Among them was the arrest of Economy Minister Aleksey Ulyukayev on suspicion of taking a $2-million bribe from the CEO of the state-owned oil giant Rosneft. Also in 2016, investigators detained several top officials from the anti-corruption directorate of the Interior Ministry, following an incident in which they found over $122 million in cash in an apartment linked to one of the officials.
No reference here to the systemic doping scandal that got Russia kicked out of the next Olympic Games. It is both hopeful and alarming that 7,000 people have been charged and that some are even senior officials. But the corruption at the highest levels of Russian society and government is not likely to be cleaned up in my lifetime.
Is this a consequence of 70 years of godless communism, or was there this much corruption before the revolution?