"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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Nigeria Considering Charges Against Diplomat Who Brought Ebola to Port Harcourt

The Nigerian diplomat attached to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Olubukun Koye who escaped from quarantine in Lagos after testing positive to Ebola virus and travelled to Port Harcourt for treatment, an action that resulted in the death of the doctor who treated him (Iyke Enemuo) may face manslaughter charges.
Olubukun Koye ECOWAS
This is coming on the heels of report that the number of persons under surveillance in the state (Rivers State) for Ebola Virus Disease has increased from 100 to 160.
 Late Dr. Iyke Enemuo
According to Thisday, Sources said that the issue of Koye (a primary contact of the index case, late Liberian Partick Sawyer) who defied instruction not to leave Lagos after being placed in the isolation unit, was discussed at the Federal Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday and that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation Mohammed Adoki was directed to look into the Nigerian laws and see how he could be sanctioned for his action that resulted in the death of Enemuo.

Ukraine Activist Relives Humiliation Horrors - Prayed for Death

Iryna Dovgan says pictures of her beating in public saved her life

A pro-Ukrainian activist accused of spying for the Ukrainian army in Donetsk has endured hours of public humiliation orchestrated by the armed rebels in the centre of the eastern city.
Iryna Dovgan
Freed with the help of foreign journalists, Iryna Dovgan was on her way out of the rebel held area when the BBC's Dina Newman spoke to her.

Ms Dovgan is a gently spoken 52-year-old resident of Yasynuvata - a town just outside Donetsk. Before the war she ran a beauty salon.

When the conflict started, she decided to help the Ukrainian army. So she collected donations from local residents - she said there were plenty - and delivered food and medication to an army unit stationed in the region.

One day, she decided to take photos of the supplies on her tablet in order to account to her donors for the money she spent on their behalf. Those photos turned out to be a very bad idea.

"This was my mistake. Someone must have found out what I was doing, and informed the separatists," she said.

"Fighters from the rebel Vostok battalion came to my town, Yasynuvata, and detained me in the garden, while I was watering my plants. Most of our neighbours had fled by then, so no-one noticed when I went missing."

Iryna was blindfolded and taken to the battalion's base.

During the first interrogation, she revealed the passwords for her online accounts but refused to name those who helped her.

The fighters got frustrated with her and sent her to another group of interrogators, whom she believes came from North Ossetia in the North Caucasus.

"Those guys had an altogether different approach. They beat me, they threatened and tortured me, they shot pistols next to my ears, so I lost most of my hearing, they made me shout Sieg Heil.

"They threatened to rape me in the most sadistic ways they would describe to me in detail. I was crawling on the floor, begging them to shoot me."

'Praying for death'
But the rebels did not want to kill her, yet. Instead, they came up with another elaborate torture.

"They wrapped me in a Ukrainian flag, they hang a poster around my neck saying: 'She kills our children.' And they took me to the centre of Donetsk".

The rebels accused Iryna of providing the Ukrainian army with information on targets in Donetsk. Many residential areas in the city have been shelled, so this is a strong accusation in the eyes of the locals - even when it comes without any proof.
Re-enactment of Iryna's treatment in Donetsk
"I stood there, holding to lamppost, in order not to collapse. I was in tears. One woman squashed two tomatoes against my face, and tomato juice was running into my eyes so I couldn't see much.

"Passers-by were curious. People would drive up in nice cars, come over and pose for photos with me. Young men came with their girlfriends. Men did not hit me, but local women were vicious. One elderly woman hit me on the head and shoulders with her walking stick."

Iryna said she stood there for three hours, guarded by armed Ossetian fighters. They would hit her every time she started to collapse.

She says she heard them laughing and discussing what else they could do to her. She was praying for death the whole time. She was scared of what they could do to her afterwards, in private.

"Eventually, some strangers came up to me, they were calm, and that's how they stood out from the crowd. They turned out to be photographers. They took a few pictures and left. These pictures saved my life."
Rebel Leader Alexander Khodakovsky ordered Iryna to be freed
It's strange to hear of a rebel commander with some integrity anymore.
Foreign journalists who had witnessed Iryna's plight, got in touch with the commander of Vostok battalion, Alexander Khodakovsky.

The commander, a former military man, said he had not been aware of the story and was outraged by the cruelty of his fighters.

Iryna was released with apologies. Today, fleeing eastern Ukraine, she doubts that any of her tormentors will ever be punished.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Ebola Hits Nigerian Seaport of Port Harcourt - Dr Dies, Hospital Closed, 200 Quarantined

Just like a Nurse who was suspected to have contracted the Ebola virus escaped from Lagos to Enugu some weeks back, another woman, this time the sister of the Doctor who died of Ebola in Port Harcourt has escaped. It was gathered that the woman escaped to Abia State to avoid being quarantined along with others who came into contact with the late doctor.

The good news is that one of her siblings, who is also a Medical Doctor, has forced her to return to the quarantine center in Port Harcourt.
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Port Harcourt is a city of more than a million people and is Nigeria's main seaport.

The woman, whose action would have further endangered the lives of more Nigerians, helped care for her brother, the late Doctor, before it was discovered that he died of the deadly Ebola.

At least 200 people who came in contact with Dr. Enemuo, who died last Friday in Port Harcourt, and most of those who visited his hospital and the hotel where Dr. Iyke Enemuo treated the ECOWAS (The Economic Community Of West African States) staff that took the disease to Port Harcourt have been quarantined.

The ECOWAS diplomat who had had contact with late Patrick Sawyer flew to Port Harcourt the same day he died, and met up with Dr. Enemuo. Possibly aware of the deadly nature of the disease the diplomat was suffering from, Dr. Enemuo opted to treat him secretly at a local hotel.

After recovering, the ECOWAS staff flew back to Lagos to seek clearance to travel out of Nigeria.
Quarantined and checked for Ebola in Lagos, he was found to be free of the virus. However, a few days after he left Port Harcourt, Dr. Enemuo took ill and was hospitalized at Good Health Hospital in Port Harcourt where he died of Ebola.

The hospital has now been closed down, until further notice.

The good news is that antidotes are being discovered in several countries; the bad news is that they haven't been properly tested, and there seems to be little cooperation between different countries involved resulting in a lot of duplicated work and probable delays.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Complex, Crazy World of Middle-East Politics and Warfare

ISIS, and Obama's dilemma: Would he be helping Assad in Syria airstrikes?

Around this time last year, U.S. President Barack Obama's secretary of state, John Kerry, was calling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a "thug and murderer" after evidence indicated chemical weapons were used against his own people.
Secretary of State, John Kerry
The way the White House was talking, it seemed airstrikes to punish Assad were inevitable, but then Obama diverted the final decision to Congress, saying he wouldn't act without approval. In the end, a Russian proposal to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons resolved the debate about whether the U.S. should drop bombs on the war-torn country.

Sometimes I think Putin is 3 times smarter than anyone else. It was he who warned the world quite some time ago that something far worse than Bashar al-Assad could come out of the Syrian war.

Now the airstrike debate is back, and the summer is once again wrapping up with Obama weighing his options on Syria. But this time, the target of the bombs wouldn't be Assad — it would be the Islamic State, the militant extremist group known as ISIS.

The administration won't officially confirm it, but senior officials have told reporters that Obama authorized surveillance flights over Syria to gather intelligence, which can be viewed as a precursor to airstrikes.

The U.S. has been conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq for weeks now, and pressure has been mounting on Obama to expand the action into neighbouring Syria. If you really want to destroy ISIS, the argument goes, you can't stop at the Iraq border; you have to hit them where they are based — in Assad's territory.

Demands for a larger ISIS strategy grew louder last week after the group released a video of American journalist James Foley's beheading. He was kidnapped in Syria in 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama, at an event with veterans in North Carolina on Tuesday
"Justice will be done," Obama vowed Tuesday during a speech in North Carolina. The U.S. will "do what's necessary" to go after those who harm Americans, he said, and will "take direct action where needed" to protect Americans at home and abroad.

If that means going into Syria, Obama is put in a somewhat awkward position. If he uses the U.S. military to root out ISIS in Syria, he could actually be doing Assad, the "thug and murderer" whom the U.S. wants out of power, a favour. Although a recent report said that Assad warned the US not to bomb ISIS in Syria. Of course, to do so would be an act of war against the country and regime that it would benefit. Weird, huh?

Experts in the area say Assad has allowed ISIS to flourish in his country because initially it was fighting the rebel groups that were trying to displace him. But more recently, ISIS has been turning its weapons on the regime, and now Assad is looking to contain the group that could threaten his power. His foreign minister said on Monday that Syria is ready for "co-operation and co-ordination" with the U.S. to fight the militants.

Obama's administration, however, is dismissing any notion that the U.S. and Syria are united in the same fight against ISIS.
James Foley parents John and Diane
Diane and John Foley devastated following word their son, American journalist James Foley, was killed recently by ISIS militants after he was kidnapped in Syria in 2012. Demands for a larger ISIS strategy by the U.S. grew louder last week after the group released a video of Foley's beheading. (Jim Cole/Associated Press)

"It is not the case that the enemy of my enemy is my friend," Benjamin Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said in the New York Times on Tuesday.

While not confirming any intention to go into Syria, the White House has signalled it won't work with Assad or seek his permission if it does proceed with airstrikes.

It's not a surprise that Assad is seeking co-operation with the U.S. to fight ISIS, said Paul Salem, vice-president of policy and research at the Middle East Institute.

"The Assad regime wants to use this as an opportunity to rebuild its relations and legitimacy with the West which it lost three years ago," he said in an interview. "They would like that because it would legitimize them — and the U.S. is not going to go there politically."

The U.S. might give a heads-up to Syria about where and when airstrikes would be carried out so that its planes aren't shot down by Assad's forces, but that would likely be the extent of any co-ordination, Salem said.

Assad will try to portray the U.S. and Syria as being on the same side of a fight against ISIS, but it's simply not the case, Salem and others say.
A man holds a roll of pictures of Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad during a rally in Damascus in 2011.
"To say that the U.S. and the Assad regime are on the same page with ISIS — only on the surface. In effect, they are not," Salem said.

Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, holds the same view.

"Some days [Assad] fights them and other days he gives them a free pass because he would like them to take on the Syrian rebels. To view him as an ally in the fight against ISIS is, I think, wrong. He's been playing both sides," Abrams said.

Obama was calling a year ago for Assad to go, and that hasn't changed.

 "What has changed is ISIS," said Abrams.
Some of the arguments for not bombing Syria last year included concerns over the capabilities of its Russian-supplied air defence system and over the skills of the opposition rebels.

"All of this has been swept away by the growing power of ISIS," said Abrams. The calculations have changed and you now have senior officials calling ISIS a serious threat to U.S. interests.

But there is a key difference for the U.S. when it comes to targeting ISIS in Iraq and targeting them in Syria.

The U.S. says it is conducting the airstrikes in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government, and on top of that, there is an Iraqi army and a Kurdish force in the North for the U.S. to arm and assist.

In Syria, Assad is an enemy who won't give the U.S. free reign in conducting military operations there, and the U.S. of course doesn't want to provide assistance to his forces to ward off ISIS.

Obama has long resisted getting drawn into the Syrian conflict and didn't want to get involved in Iraq again either, but ISIS has forced the U.S. to revisit its policies in the region.

"If there are any airstrikes in Syria, that would be another very significant change in American policy," said Abrams.

It's a change that Obama will have to handle delicately given his past resistance and the fact that Assad, whom he has called a ruthless leader that needs to step aside, isn't going anywhere and could stand to benefit from the U.S. action.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

5 Dangerous & Ridiculous Sex Myths Spread by the Liberal Left

This article (from SALON) originally appeared on AlterNet.

It was Tweeted by Vicki Beeching, Christian singer, celebrity, and recently uncloseted lesbian. Although, really, she should be embarrassed at having her name mentioned in such a dreadful piece of pseudo-journalism.
The very beautiful Vicki Beeching
I reproduce it here to show that the 'liberal left' is every bit as absurd as the 'religious right'. As an evangelical Christian, I feel I have the right to speak in generalities for other conservative Christians.

Christianity’s shame game: 5 dangerous & ridiculous sex myths spread by the religious right

Despite the fact that people have been having sex since literally before there were people, the religious right never stops acting like sex is some great conspiracy to bring about the end of human civilization. This sentence is much closer to being ridiculous than clever.

You have to give them credit for coming up with endlessly creative ways to go into full-blown panic at the idea that people are still having sex. This is definitely ridiculous!

Here’s five of the latest and silliest myths and legends about sex being floated by the religious right. I suspect they are the 'latest' myths because the writer just made them up.

1) Sex education is an attempt to get kids “hooked” on sex, (I have never heard this before) which is apparently an addictive drug now. Right Wing Watch found this video from the Christian right group Alliance Defending Freedom that is attempting to scare people about a proposed sex education curriculum in Tempe, Arizona. Even though Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with the curriculum in question—outside of being mentioned in its materials, accurately, as a place where one can go to receive sexual health care— ADF is valiantly trying to imply that they’re the secret masters behind this sex education curriculum. Planned Parenthood has a powerful lobby and strongly influences sex education. Apparently, the writer doesn't understand that.

“The question now is, is Planned Parenthood simply seeking to develop future customers and make a profit akin to tobacco companies providing cigarettes to kids?,” the video narrator asks. You start to get the impression that religious conservatives think that Planned Parenthood invented sex itself, just to trick kids into getting pregnant and getting abortions. Another ridiculous sentence! 

It is worth pointing out that Planned Parenthood cannot “profit”, because it is a non-profit and all of its money goes right back into the organization so that it can better serve the health needs of the various communities it serves. 

The writer has obviously never worked for the government. Government departments and agencies, for instance, are always trying to build their empires. I would be shocked if PP wasn't trying to increase its influence. However, the accusation made in the video is just as absurd as the comments that follow it.

Also, sex—and abortion—existed long before Planned Parenthood and will continue on even if the anti-choice movement was successful in wiping Planned Parenthood out.

2) Gay rights activism is a conspiracy to steal women away and turn them feminist. Fanatical misogynist blogger Robert Stacy McCain put up a post that was bizarre even by his remarkably low standards recently, arguing that feminism is run by “academic radicals who relentlessly strive to teach girls that lesbianism is the feminist ideal” and that the “one purpose of education now is to prepare young people for their lives as gay adults”. Are you (writer) denying that there are lesbians in academia who present lesbianism as the feminist ideal? I don't know what context the "one purpose..." statement was made in but I seriously doubt that it was a stand-alone statement.

It’s a garbled, pretentious mess, but a wonderful encapsulation of a bunch of right wing myths and fears: Anger about women getting education, accusations that gay people are trying to recruit, fear that feminist arguments really are compelling.

Anger about women getting an education? Seriously? This is America not the Islamic State or northeastern Nigeria. Good grief! 
Gay people do recruit! The foremost genetic researcher into homosexuality; the guy who started the lie that gays are born gay, Dean Hamer, now has stated that the majority of gays are NOT born gay. If being gay was inherited it would have bred itself out of existence long ago.

But above all else, you get the strong impression (no, you got the 'strong impression', I doubt very much that I would) that McCain and his male readership are deeply afraid that if women are allowed to have choices, they won’t choose men like McCain and his readers. Not an unreasonable fear—the only evidence-based one they probably have—but certainly not a legitimate reason to rail against higher education for women or gay rights.

3) Planned Parenthood is trying to push your kids into having kinky sex! Lila Rose, with her organization Live Action, is single-mindedly obsessed with trying to take down the Planned Parenthood. Her ostensible reason is that the health care organization offers abortion, but it becomes clear, when engaging with her work, that the real objection is that Planned Parenthood offers support to people who want to have happy, healthy sex lives, and Rose really does not want people to have those happy, healthy sex lives. 

By now I'm getting the 'strong impression' that the writer of this article is incapable of rational thinking. Lila Rose and others like her are not concerned about 'people's' sex lives, they are concerned about children's sex lives. They are concerned that PP is giving advice to children that may contradict their parents beliefs and teaching which undermines parent's authority and influence on their own child's values.

This became exquisitely clear in her latest “sting” operation on Planned Parenthood, where she had volunteers go into Planned Parenthood offices, present themselves as people asking for information and advice on sex, and then filming the workers—and this is supposed to be shocking— answering the questions asked of them. The volunteers pretended to be young, sexually active people who had been reading Fifty Shades of Gray and wanted to know what bondage and S&M were. 

By and large, the sex educators responded to a direct question asking about a sexual practice with accurate, warm-hearted responses, with an emphasis on practicing bondage safely. Apparently Rose thinks they should have pretended to be shocked and thrown their patients out. Offering help to people who ask for it? Next thing you know, they’ll start letting people read about stuff they are curious about and then where will we be? Apparently, the writer thinks that bondage and S&M are normal sexual practices. 

4) Lesbians can’t be pretty! The Christian singer Vicky Beeching has come out as lesbian, a process that was extremely stressful for her, considering her conservative background and her current conservative Christian fan base. Ed Vitigliano of the American Family Association reacted by being confused about how it could be that someone who is pretty to him might not be into men. “I think most men would think that Vicky was a very pretty lady, and those sorts of appraisals are usually made without thinking,” he writes. “This makes the subject of sexual orientation rather difficult to understand at times.” I suspect Mr Vitigliano was referring to primal urges responsible for procreation and how having an attractive woman who attracts men but rejects them goes against nature. I'm sure this is too deep for the writer to understand.
He then goes on to explain, at length, how women really do it for him, as if this were information that anyone cares about at all. “I don’t know what it’s like to feel that way toward a man,” he adds. Okay, well, it seems that’s true of Beeching as well, making his attempts to make this seem stranger and more alien than it is even sillier. See above!

Vitigliano reluctantly accepts that gay and lesbian people must feel the way they say they do—an admission he treats like it’s a huge favor he’s doing them—but concludes that they must therefore be “broken”, because “the human race is clearly designed as male and female”. In other words, pretty ladies are put here for men, and if you pretty ladies want something else for yourself, well, your mistake for thinking you belong to yourself. In other words - women's rights trump human nature!

"Lesbians can't be pretty!" is the only 'myth' of the 5 she mentions that I have actually heard. I heard it about 40 years ago and not since, so it hardly qualifies as the 'latest'.

5) Contraception is a conspiracy to ruin the family. Anti-choicers used to try to bother to keep up the pretense of being “pro-life” by sticking to picketing clinics that offer abortion, but those days are over. As Robin Marty chronicled for Cosmopolitan, anti-choice activists in Minneapolis are desperately trying to shut down a new Planned Parenthood there, even though it doesn’t offer abortion. Their reason? Contraception itself is an evil that must be stomped out. Anti-choicers have blanketed the area neighborhoods with flyers “urging residents to avoid the new Planned Parenthood, which they say offers ‘dangerous contraception,’ ‘promotes and encourages sex without limits,’ and is ‘destroying families.’” They argue that sex should only happen with no “medication or barrier devices” and only for couples “open to new life”.

‘Dangerous contraception,’ ‘sex without limits,’ ‘destroying families'. See my comments on Lila Rose above. The last sentence in the paragraph above I suspect is taken out of context as I know of no-one who believes that. I have been a member of several different congregations in several different denominations and I have never met anyone who thinks like that. It may be part of Catholic doctrine, but very few Catholics actually practice Catholic doctrine.

In reality, contraception is actually quite good for families and marriages. Cristina Page accumulated the historical evidence showing that greater contraception use correlated strongly with lower incidence of child poverty and happier marriages. In contrast, religious conservatives and people who live in communities controlled by religious conservatives have higher rates of divorce, no doubt in part because their ambivalent or hostile attitudes towards birth control and abortion cause a lot of hasty commitments that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

What communities are we talking about here? Amish? How many communities in America are 'run by' religious conservatives to the point where it influences birth control? Where that does occur, there are certainly a lot more things going on that 'no doubt, in part' are responsible for higher divorce rates.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

PM Warns of IS Threat to UK as Church Leaders Break Media Silence on Christians in Iraq

Islamic State militants could grow strong enough to target people on the streets of Britain unless action is taken, David Cameron has warned.

The PM, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, said a "humanitarian response" to IS was not enough and a "firm security response" was needed.

It comes as Church leaders expressed concern that the UK had no "coherent" approach to tackling Islamic extremism.

IS has seized large parts of northern Iraq and Syria over the summer.

There are also continuing reports of massacres of non-Muslims by the extreme Sunni group, which is seeking to build a new Islamic state spanning Iraq and Syria.

Kurdish forces, supported by US air strikes, said they had recaptured part of Mosul dam from IS fighters in northern Iraq on Sunday. The Pentagon says it destroyed or damaged 19 IS vehicles and a checkpoint near the dam.
An IS video purports to show Reyaad Khan (c) and Nasser Muthana (r)
from Cardiff as two of an estimated 400 Britons fighting with the group

By Robin Brant, BBC political correspondent

The language is very strong - "a battle against a poisonous ideology" - and the warning is stark - "a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean" - as the prime minister seeks to make the case for Britain returning to Iraq.

After a week that has seen UK military aircraft drop humanitarian aid, David Cameron makes it clear that alone is not enough to defeat IS. He talks repeatedly about Britain using its "military prowess" and military action, alongside diplomacy, to defeat the group.

The talk is tough, but Downing Street insists this is not an escalation. The Ministry of Defence has been reminding people that the UK has played no role in supporting the latest round of US air strikes on IS targets across northern Iraq.

The prime minister's message is as much about home as well as abroad. People walking around with an Islamic State flag "will be arrested", he says. That is a nod to the growing concern about Britons who have gone to fight jihad, in Syria or Iraq, returning home with the intention of carrying on the struggle.
British PM David Cameron
'Terrorist state'
Mr Cameron said: "True security will only be achieved if we use all our resources - aid, diplomacy, our military prowess - to help bring about a more stable world.

"If we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain."

He warned that if IS was able to "carve out its so-called caliphate", the UK would be "facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a Nato member".

The UK has made aid drops to people stranded in northern Iraq but the prime minister warned a "broader political, diplomatic and security response" was needed, in addition to humanitarian action.

"We need a firm security response, whether that is military action to go after the terrorists, international co-operation on intelligence and counter-terrorism or uncompromising action against terrorists at home," he wrote.

In Britain, the prime minister suggested, anyone "walking around with Isil flags or trying to recruit people to their terrorist cause" should be arrested.

Mr Cameron also made clear that he did not see this as a "war on terror" but as "a battle between Islam on the one hand and extremists who want to abuse Islam on the other". He's being diplomatic here in order not to fan an anti-Islam backlash in Britain.

Moral obligation
Speaking on Radio 5 live, communities minister Stephen Williams said any British citizen encouraging people to join IS should face "the full force of the law". Is there a law against recruiting for Jihad?
A Yazidi refugee girl in Dohuk, northern Iraq
Mr Cameron's remarks come as the Bishop of Leeds warned "many" senior clergy in the Church of England were seriously concerned about Britain's approach to the handling of the Iraq crisis.

The Right Rev Nicholas Baines has written to Mr Cameron asking about the government's overall strategy in response to the humanitarian situation and to IS.

"Behind this question is the serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism as it is developing across the globe," he wrote, in a letter published on his website and backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Breaking media silence on Christian refugees
He criticised an "increasing silence" about the plight of tens of thousands of persecuted Christians in Iraq, and questioned whether they would be offered asylum in the UK.

Speaking to Radio 4's Sunday programme, the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev David Walker, said the government had a "moral obligation that it is repeatedly failing to rise to".

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said the letter from Church leaders had raised "serious questions" about the government's approach to the Middle East and the plight of Christians facing persecution in Iraq and it was "right that [Mr Cameron] now responded".

"The UK government rightly took steps to help avert humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq and Labour has welcomed decisions to now offer support to the Kurdistan regional government and assist Kurdish forces with technical and logistical military equipment.

"But alongside steps to support the Kurdish forces, the UK must now work to engage regional partners to help build a more inclusive and stable government in Iraq.

"That regional approach must focus on supporting and stabilising Jordan, which now shares a border with the ISIS-held areas, as well as bringing countries like Turkey into efforts to secure regional stabilisation," he said.

'Plotting attacks'
Earlier this year, Mr Cameron warned that fighters from IS - then named Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) - were plotting terror attacks against the UK.

It is estimated the group has up to 400 recruits from the UK, and some 69 people suspected of Syria-related jihadist activities have now been arrested in the UK.

In late June this year, IS declared that it had created a caliphate, or Islamic state, stretching from Aleppo in Syria to the province of Diyala in Iraq.

IS-led violence has so far driven an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis from their homes.
Christian refugee camp in Dohuk
Whole communities of Yazidis and Christians have been forced to flee in the north, along with Shia Iraqis, whom IS do not regard as true Muslims.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Human Rights Activist Slowly, Torturously Destroyed by Chinese Government

From the office of Jared Genser, international lawyer for Gao Zhisheng


Wife Geng He Calls on President Obama and Secretary Kerry to Press for Allowing Gao to Come to the United States for Medical Treatment
Gao Zhisheng

As China opens up becoming a powerful player on the world financial scene, its human rights record, like an old 33LP keeps skipping back to the hardcore communism of Mao Zedong where civil rights are an affront to the Party and Christianity is a western conspiracy.

Because of his Christian faith, Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer, often represented people abused by the government and often won. He was so good that the government called him one of China's 10 best lawyers in 2001. He even fought for the rights of Falun Gong, a non-Christian religious sect.

Before long his political enemies had made it difficult for him to practice and his activism became more overt. There were many threats and at least one attempt on his life. He was first arrested in 2006 and has been in and out of prison ever since - more in than out. When out he was usually under house arrest, often at his sister's. 

Each imprisonment came with torture. During one arrest he endured ten days of torture that involved appalling beatings, abuse with electric batons, and the insertion of toothpicks into very sensitive parts of his body, followed by weeks of emotional torture.

Oft times he would simply disappear as government officials claimed they knew nothing about him. Sometimes he was missing for a year or more. I find this to be disturbingly immature for a world power in the 21st century.

This week comes this unfortunate word from China Aid News:

Washington, D.C.: On August 7, 2014, Chinese authorities released renowned Chinese human-rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. He is now staying with his wife's sister in Xinjiang, under a round-the-clock watch by Chinese security officials.

Since his release, the family has now learned some terrible details about how he was treated in prison. From the time of his reappearance in Shaya prison in December 2011, Gao was held in a small cell, with minimal light, 24-7-365. Guards were strictly instructed not to speak with him. He was not allowed any reading materials, television, or access to anyone or anything. He was fed a single slice of bread and piece of cabbage, once a day; as a result, he has lost roughly 22.5 kg (50 pounds) and now weighs about 59 kg (130 pounds). He has lost many teeth from malnutrition.

It is believed he was also repeatedly physically tortured. Unfortunately, it is hard to get much more than basic information from him. Gao has been utterly destroyed. He can barely talk — and only in very short sentences — most of the time he mutters and is unintelligible. It is believed he is now suffering from a broad range of physical and mental health problems; he has not been allowed to see a doctor since his release.

After speaking with him and hearing from her family about Gao's immense suffering, Geng He commented: "I am completely devastated by what the Chinese government has done to my husband. The only thing I feared more than him being killed was his suffering relentless and horrific torture and being kept alive. 

My children and I have been lucky to have had the protection of the United States since we arrived here in March 2009. We desperately need help from our adopted country and from President Obama and Secretary Kerry personally to demand the Chinese government to allow my husband to come to the United States for medical treatment. If President Xi Jinping has any sense of decency or humanity, after crushing my husband both physically and psychologically, the least he could do is allow me as a devoted wife to care for him."

Gao’s international lawyer Jared Genser further added: "I am heartbroken for Geng He and her family. We knew that if Gao wasn’t killed, he would have suffered immensely. But the situation is far worse than my limited imagination enabled me to contemplate. While China is a great power in the 21st century, the inhumanity and brutality that it has demonstrated by the torture of Gao Zhisheng shows its profound insecurity and fear of anyone in its population who stands up to its repression."

Such insecurity and fear are the hallmarks of communism. It was built on national paranoia that keeps leadership constantly in fear of some non-communist state coming in and waking up the masses.

Please pray for Gao and his family.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Christian Family of 8 Massacred by Isis for not Converting to Islam

With Islamic extremists’ ongoing purge of Christians from northern Iraq, horrific news reports continue to capture the intense abuse and persecution that believers face. And a story recently shared by Canon Andrew White, the vicar of Baghdad, shows just how brutal the tragic crisis is.

White, an Anglican faith leader at St. George’s Church in Baghdad, posted on his Facebook page August 1 that he saw a photo “too awful to show” — an image that depicted the horrors being perpetuated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an extremist group that has taken control of Mosul, among other regions.

“You know I love to show photos but the photo I was sent today was the most awful I have ever seen. A family of 8 all shot through the face laying in a pool of blood with their Bible open on the couch,” he wrote. “They would not convert it cost them [their] life. I thought of asking if anybody wanted to see the picture but it is just too awful to show to anybody.”

In this Tuesday, July 22, 2014 photo, a sign is posted at a checkpoint belonging to the Islamic State group, captured from the Iraqi Army, at the main entrance of Rawah, 175 miles (281 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. Arabic reads,”Islamic State, the Emirate of Anbar, City of Rawah.” (AP Photo)

He continued, “This is Iraq today. The only hope and consolation is that all these dear people are now all with Yesua in Glory.”

The graphic story surrounding this photo is only one of the latest to come from a region that is being overtaken by extremists bent on creating an Islamic state known as a “caliphate.”

White, who is also founder of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, an organization that promotes interfaith relations, told his followers that they can help by praying “for the protection of … all the Christians” in Iraq. He also encouraged donations to his organization, which is working to help afflicted Iraqis.

“Pray for our Perseverance that we and our people will not give up the spiritual fight before us,” White added.

As previously reported, believers in Mosul were given an ultimatum last month: convert to Islam, pay a tax or be put to death. It is possible that the family White saw in the photo paid the price for their refusal to comply.

Last month, His Beatitude Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan, overseer of Assyrian Christians around the globe, also spoke out about the crisis, accusing many in the West of turning a blind eye to their plight.

“We are so saddened that the civilized world doesn’t really care,” Younan said. “Surely there are other dramatic problems — wars around us in the Middle East… Gaza or Syria but here it’s … genocide … just because they are Christians.”
An Iraqi displaced family, who fled violence in the northern city of Tal Afar, walks past tents at Khazer refugee camp near the Kurdish checkpoint of Aski kalak, 40 km West of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq on July 27, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED)

The Agence France Presse and Lebanon’s The Daily Star reported Wednesday that extremists are waging fresh attacks on Christians in north Iraq.

According to the outlet, sources claim that the towns of Tal Kayf, Bartella and Qaraqosh — some of the locations places where displaced Christians from Mosul fled last month — have now come under attack by ISIS. Indeed, Qaraqosh has fallen and Christians are fleeing.

Christian leaders in Iraq have reportedly selected August 9 as a day of prayer for those suffering at the hands of the radical terror group. Please join us in prayer, and include the Yasidi people as well who are trapped on a mountaintop and are dying from exposure. (See link just above).

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Humanitarian Catastrophe in the Making as Christians and Yazidis Flee Their Homes

This is a duplicate of a post by the same name on my other blog.

Up to a quarter of Iraq's Christians are reported to be fleeing after Islamic militants seized the minority group's biggest town.

The Islamic State (IS) group captured Qaraqosh overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces.

IS has been gaining ground in northern Iraq since June, and also controls some of Syria.

The US has warned that the situation for Iraq's minority groups threatens to become a "humanitarian catastrophe".

``We are gravely concerned for their health and safety," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

But he refused to confirm a New York Times report that the US is considering air strikes to help the Yazidi community, another minority group in northern Iraq that has been targeted by IS.

About 50,000 Yazidis are thought to have been trapped in the mountains after fleeing the town of Sinjar - although the UN says some of them have now been rescued.

The United Nations Security Council is due to meet in emergency session later on Thursday to discuss the situation.

Tens of thousands of religious minorities have been forced to flee since IS, a Sunni Muslim group formerly known as Isis, launched its onslaught.

IS says it has created an Islamic state in the territory it controls.

In other developments:

A suicide bombing in a Shia Muslim area of Baghdad killed at least 14 people
IS said it had captured the strategic Mosul dam on the Tigris river - a claim denied by Kurdish forces who insist they are still in control
At least six people died in a car bomb attack near a Shia mosque in the northern city of Kirkurk

A majority of Nineveh inhabitants left their homes overnight, according to Fraternite en Irak, an international Christian organisation based in Paris.

As many as 100,000 people are believed to be fleeing toward the autonomous Kurdistan Region.

Pope Francis has made an impassioned appeal to the international community to do much more to address the crisis.

A Vatican statement said the Pope had appealed for "all necessary help" to be given to those forced to flee their homes, "whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others".

And Minority Rights Group International has warned that Iraq's multi-ethnic future is now at grave risk.

Kurdish forces, known as the Peshmerga, have been fighting the IS militants' advance for weeks.

The Peshmerga's commander in Qaraqosh reportedly told the town's archbishop late on Wednesday that the forces were abandoning their posts.

Several senior clergymen in Nineveh confirmed the town had fallen.

"It's a catastrophe, a tragic situation: tens of thousands of terrified people are being displaced as we speak," said Joseph Thomas, the Chaldean archbishop of the northern city of Kirkuk.

Eyewitnesses in Qaraqosh said IS militants were taking down crosses in churches and burning religious manuscripts.

The town - referred to as Iraq's Christian capital - is located 30km (19 miles) south-east of the city of Mosul, which was captured by IS in June.

Last month, hundreds of Christian families fled Mosul after the Islamist rebels gave them an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or be executed.

Iraq is home to one of the world's most ancient Christian communities, but numbers have dwindled amid growing sectarian violence since the US-led invasion in 2003.

The majority are Chaldeans, part of the Catholic Church
Numbers have fallen from around 1.5 million since the US-led invasion in 2003 to 350,000-450,000
In Nineveh, they live mainly in towns such as Qaraqosh (also known as Baghdida), Bartella, Al-Hamdaniya and Tel Kef


Secretive group whose origins and ethnicity are subject to continuing debate
Religion incorporates elements of many faiths, including Zoroastrianism
Many Muslims and other groups view Yazidis as devil worshippers
There are estimated to be around 500,000 Yazidis worldwide, most living in Iraq's Nineveh plains

Yazidi eyewitness: 'They want to slaughter us'
Iraqi volunteers have joined government forces to fight against IS militants
Iraqi volunteers who joined government forces to fight against Sunni jihadist militants of the Islamic State (IS) hold a position at a checkpoint in Udhaim.

IS is also thought to be behind a string of car bombs in Baghdad on Wednesday
Iraqi civilians gather the morning after a string of car bombs tore through busy shopping streets in several neighbourhoods in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.
Tens of thousands of people from the ancient Yazidi community
 have left their homes due to the IS offensive
An Iraqi Yazidi woman who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, cries as she stands among others at a school where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk, 05/08/14

Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the village of Qaraqush, 07/08/2014
IS views both Christians and Yazidis as infidels
Meanwhile, the UN said it was mobilising resources to assist Yazidis rescued from Mount Sinjar over the past 24 hours.

Members of the ancient Kurdish ethno-religious community sought refuge there at the weekend.

Almost 200,000 civilians have been displaced from Sinjar town, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has warned.

Those trapped on the mountain are facing dehydration, and 40 children are reported to have died already.

"This is a tragedy of immense proportions, impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people," said UN spokesman David Swanson.

"Many of the displaced are in immediate need of essential life-saving humanitarian items, including water, food, shelter and medicine."

Why is God allowing such suffering to occur? Perhaps He is removing all the Christians and Yazidis from Iraq before Babylon is destroyed again? 

Please pray for these people who are obviously in great physical and emotional distress. Ask your prayer group, if you have one, to pray for them.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Republicans Lie More Than Democrats…And The Credibility Gap Is Widening

The nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University has released findings from a new study that reveal Republicans are significantly more likely to lie than Democrats.

This is confirmation of the theory I've had for a few years now, that in the 1970s and 1980s and part of the '90s, left leaning people were more likely to exaggerate or lie than conservatives. But in the 1990s that began to change, possibly with the advent of Fox News and right wingnuts doing radio talk shows.

The right-wingnuts, or Republicans have been lying to conservative people for 20 years now and their lies are getting worse and worse. And the Worse thing about it is that Christian people do not question the unholy rhetoric. They actually believe what is mostly untrue. What a sad state of affairs.

Their lies mean that the liberals can refute what they say without making up stuff or even exaggerating. This makes the Democrats look morally superior, morally superior to Christians. How can that be allowed to stand?

Christian, challenge questionable statements made by Hannity and his like. Don't allow the right wingnuts to brainwash you with lies. God hates liars!

This isn’t the first time such a study has been completed.  The University released a study last May which found Republicans were three times as likely to lie than Democrats.

But what this study distinguishes two very important trends.

Republicans more likely to lie than Democrats.
The credibility gap between Republicans and Democrats is actually widening during Obama’s presidency.

Using data gathered by Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-check site PolitiFact.com, the study compares the veracity of 100 statements involving factual claims made by the parties at different periods through the lifetime of the Obama Whitehouse.

 In the first four months of President Obama’s second term 46 of the claims were made by Democrats, and 54 were made by Republicans.  While 32% of Republican claims were “false” or “pants on fire,” just 11% of the Democratic claims were rated as such.  Furthermore, a paltry 11% of Republican statements were found “entirely true,” compared to 22% on the Democratic side.

This means almost 9 in 10 things that Republicans stated as facts during this period were likely complete fairy tales.

Or, as CMPA President Dr. Robert Lichter put it:

“While Republicans see a credibility gap in the Obama administration, PolitiFact rates Republicans as the less credible party.”

But while Republicans have been breaking every code of conscience in efforts to link Obama to a series of scandals, they have actually widened that credibility gap, their percentage of false claims rising to 60%.

PolitiFact editor Bill Adair responded to the study in an email to Politico’s Dylan Byers:

PolitiFact rates the factual accuracy of specific claims; we do not seek to measure which party tells more falsehoods.

The authors of this press release seem to have counted up a small number of our Truth-O-Meter ratings over a few months, and then drew their own conclusions.

We’ve rated more than 7,000 statements since we started in 2007. We are journalists, not social scientists. We select statements to fact-check based on our news judgment — whether a statement is timely, provocative, whether it’s been repeated and whether readers would wonder if it is true.

So, it’s official: Republicans lie more than Democrats…and their credibility is dwindling away over time.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Awkwardness of Being on Both Sides of a War

"Today we declare the end of the split and regaining the unity of the homeland," PA President Mahmoud Abbas said in televised remarks Monday.

The unification of the Palestinian Authority governing the West Bank and Hamas governing the Gaza strip has essentially paved the way for the PA to support Hamas. This is a problem for the USA.
In a post last week I reported (The Ugly Complexities of Political Prostitution) on the awkwardness of the US selling billions of dollars worth of weapons to Qatar, an American ally in the Persian Gulf but also committed to the destruction of Israel. 

The USA also supplies Israel with weapons, so there is a serious possibility that one day a war between Israel and Qatar could be fought entirely with American weapons. This is pure bliss for American arms manufacturers - they must be smiling all the way to the bank.

Now, with the PA-Hamas merger, the USA has again put itself in the absurd situation of funding both sides of a war, not a possible war or a future war, but a current war. America funds the Palestinian Authority to the tune of more than $400 million.

Abbas has appointed an interim government over Gaza with no significant links to Hamas. Obama is gambling that this government is real and will take over power and authority from Hamas. That looks seriously doubtful right now though it may have some validity in the long term. 

It seems very unlikely that Hamas would simply hand over control of Gaza with no way to significantly influence the new government. I am pretty sure they still have considerable influence though it may not be obvious.

In any event, it is quite probable that some of that $400 million dollars will seep into Gaza and be used against Israel. Some reporters, unfortunately, make it sound like President Obama is buying weapons and shipping them to Gaza. Hyperbole, if not outright lies, are an unfortunate habit of the anti-Obama movement. Truth seems to have no place in politics anymore, if it ever did.

Is the PA likely to become more like Hamas, or is Hamas more likely to adopt Mahmoud Abbas' pragmatic ways? Let me put it this way; if a clean man jumped on the back of a filthy pig, would the pig suddenly become clean?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Meriam - Alive and Well and Living in New Hampshire, Nightmare Over

A SUDENESE woman jailed and sentenced to death for marrying a Christian arrived in America this morning (Aug 1) to start her new life.
ALL SMILES: Meriam Ibrahim arrives at an airport in Manchester,
New Hampshire, with husband Daniel Wani
Meriam Ibrahim, 27, arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire, with husband Daniel Wani and her two children Martin and Maya and was greeted by a huge crowd of supporters.

It brought to an end an 18-month ordeal which began when she was denounced to the authorities by her family for having abandoned Islam.

She was also accused of adultery for marrying Daniel, a Christian Sudanese man with US citizenship who lives in Manchester.

Ibrahim was sentenced to death by hanging and 100 lashes on May 15, 2014 while eight months pregnant after a Sudanese court, enforcing Sharia law, concluded that she must be Muslim because her father is Muslim.

She strenuously denies this and insists she was raised a Christian.

After the conviction Ibrahim was given three days to renounce her faith or face death. She refused to do so. She gave birth to her youngest child, a daughter, while shackled to the floor in a Sudanese jail cell.

Her treatment by the Sudanese authorities in Khartoum triggered global outrage.

It took prolonged negotiations to secure Ms Ibrahim’s release, initially involving South Sudan, where she was born.

The cause was then taken up by the Italy, the holders of the EU presidency, and backed by the Pope.

She was taken to Rome where, after being greeted by Pope Francis in the Vatican, she was allowed a few days to recuperate.

"It is an exciting day, we are really happy," said Lual Deng, president of the Sudanese Community in Manchester.

In New Hampshire, Manchester's close-knit 500-strong southern Sudan community was overjoyed at her return.

Ms Ibrahim was finally released on June 23, but detained when she tried to leave Sudan three days later.

Welcome to your new home, Meriam. I pray much joy and many blessings on your new life. Thank you for being such a great example of faith and courage. Hope you are not too disillusioned with the pettiness and absurdity of American politics and the politicization of the church.

Friday, August 1, 2014

6 Months Later, Iran Still Enriching Uranium

A senior Iranian nuclear negotiator has dismissed allegations of Iran’s consent to scale down its uranium enrichment program.

“Any agreement about Arak or Fordow [nuclear facilities] is denied. No agreement has so far been reached about the issues under discussion [with six world powers], including these two sites, and the differences still remain,” ISNA quoted Abbas Araqchi, who is also a deputy to the Iranian foreign minister, as saying.
Wendy R Sherman
He was reacting to July 29 remarks by the US lead nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about “tangible progress in key areas, including Fordow, Arak and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) access.”

“It [Iran] promised not to fuel or install remaining components at the research reactor in Arak…. It allowed inspectors to have daily access at the Natanz enrichment facility and the underground plant at Fordow,” said Sherman who is the deputy US secretary of state.

Araqchi said, “The only criterion for the Islamic Republic of Iran has been the country’s needs and throughout negotiations [with the world powers], decisions will be made only based on the country’s needs.”

Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China – plus Germany are to resume their negotiations to discuss ways to reach a final agreement over Tehran’s nuclear energy program in September.

The right to enrich uranium, the Arak heavy water reactor and sanctions against Tehran are among the bones of contention between Iran and the six countries.

What is the point of negotiating with these people. You will come to an agreement and they will deny it just like they did in January - US Side Deal with Iran Being Denied. Meanwhile, they keep enriching their uranium and will soon have an atomic bomb to drop on Israel. 

Is the US Playing into the Hands of Iran?

Constitutional Court Strikes Down Uganda's Controversial Anti-gay Law

Uganda's Constitutional Court has annulled tough anti-gay legislation signed into law in February.

It ruled that the bill was passed by MPs in December without the requisite quorum and was therefore illegal.

Homosexual acts were already illegal, but the new law allowed for life imprisonment for "aggravated homosexuality" and banned the "promotion of homosexuality".

Several donors have cut aid to Uganda since the law was adopted.

Uganda is a deeply conservative society where many people oppose gay rights and the sentence for homosexual acts has always been life imprisonment.

Earlier drafts of the anti-homosexuality act made it a crime not to report gay people - which would have made it impossible to live as openly gay - but this clause was removed.

However the legislation that was passed in parliament was "null and void", the presiding judge at the Constitutional Court said, as not enough lawmakers had been present to vote on the bill.

The law, which was signed by President Yoweri Museveni in February, toughened up existing laws.

Lesbians were covered for the first time and those found living in a same-sex marriage could have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

The challenge to the law was brought by 10 petitioners, including academics, journalists, both ruling and opposition MPs, human rights activists and rights groups.

"The retrogressive anti-homosexuality act of Uganda has been struck down by the constitutional court - it's now dead as a door nail," the AFP news agency quotes prominent journalist Andrew Mwenda, one of the petitioners, as saying.

Ugandan human rights activists stand at the packed
Constitutional Court in Kampala , Uganda - 30 July 2014
Kosiya Kasibayo, a lawyer for the state, said a decision had not been made on whether to appeal against the ruling in the Supreme Court, the Associate Press news agency reports.

The BBC's Catherine Byaruhanga in the capital, Kampala, says supporters of the anti-gay laws have been angered by the ruling of the five judges.

They wonder whether their decision has anything to do with the president's visit to Washington next week for the US-Africa Summit, she says.

In June, the US imposed sanctions on the East African nation, including travel restrictions on Ugandan officials involved in serious human rights abuses.

The White House also cut funds to a number of programmes it is running with the Ugandan authorities.

Several European nations - including Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden - had earlier cut aid.

But the Ugandan authorities have defended the law in the past, saying President Museveni wanted "to demonstrate Uganda's independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation".

Pastor Martin Ssempa, a vocal backer of the anti-homosexuality legislation, told the BBC his supporters would be asking parliament to investigate the impartiality of the judiciary.

Uganda's anti-homosexuality act:
Life imprisonment for gay sex, including oral sex
Life imprisonment for "aggravated homosexuality", including sex with a minor or while HIV-positive
Life imprisonment for living in a same-sex marriage
Seven years for "attempting to commit homosexuality"
Between five and seven years in jail or a $40,700 (£24,500) fine or both for the promotion of homosexuality
Businesses or non-governmental organisations found guilty of the promotion of homosexuality would have their certificates of registration cancelled and directors could face seven years in jail.