"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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Maine Drops 9000 From Food Stamps After Refusing To Comply With Work Requirement

This is interesting

Republican Gov. Paul LePage recently began enforcing Maine’s volunteer and work requirements for food stamp SNAP recipients to keep their benefits. The end result was more than 9,000 non-disabled adults getting dropped from the program.

The rules prevent adults who are not disabled and do not have dependents from receiving food stamps for more than three months, unless they work at least 20 hours a week, participate in a work-training program, or meet volunteer guidelines for 24 hours out of the month. Any one of those three getting met will not result in the loss of their SNAP food benefit.

Let me emphasize. The least difficult of those three, is fulfilling an approved volunteer work load of just 24 hours out of an entire month. The hardest, is doing at least 20 hours of on the job work per week. Hey, only volunteering 24 hours per month is a seriously good deal to receive hundreds of dollars of free food. The average SNAP monthly benefit is approximately $477.88 per month for a four person household size. In most cases it’s even more. For 24 hours of volunteering, that’s making about $19.91 per hour. Nice!

In Maine, 9,000 so-called able-bodied people who are too poor to feed themselves couldn’t handle that. Even more of a drastic measure, people in Maine who lose their benefits in such a manner can’t regain assistance for three years.

It is not clear if 'able-bodied people' includes mentally or emotionally challenged people. I would hope they fall under the 'disabled' category, but many such people have probably never been diagnosed. Who can afford to see a doctor in the US?

I like the concept of this program, but I'm concerned that many of the 9000 will fall through the cracks, and suffer unnecessarily. Without food stamps they are likely to eat less or poorer quality foods and require medical attention more than ever, but be even less able to afford it.

Maine should immediately commission a study to find out why those 9000 have refused; it might be very enlightening. It would also be nice to know what proportion of 'not disabled' food stamp recipients the 9000 represents.

Liberals have sold government dependence so deliberately well, that even doing 24 hours of approved volunteer work a month for a capable adult became too much for more than 9,000 people. If it seems like I’m parroting these numbers again and again, you must realize the implications are staggering. Who in their right mind would turn down such a deal? Actually wanting a member of society to be productive in some reasonable way shouldn’t be too hard to meet!

Maine’s State Rep. Scott Hamann (D) has introduced a bill that would direct the administration to seek a waiver for certain counties with high unemployment or a lack of jobs… but wait one damned minute! That is what doing approved volunteer work is all about. If the jobs or training programs simply aren’t there because the economy is a superior mess, then why is it too hard to do 24 hours of volunteer work per freaking month?

LePage’s administration probably won’t support Hamann’s legislation, and with good reason. There should be plenty of volunteer community work in even the most economically depressed regions. Either the Liberals have truly brain washed the voting masses into droning zombies, or they’re really not that needy for food. Either way, the taxpayers who do have to work their butts off won’t have to support such mediocrity any longer.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Germany May Soon Have 8 Million Muslims, Islamic Political Party

by Raheem Kassam
Professor Jürgen W. Falter
Political scientist Jürgen W. Falter: German Chancellor Angela Merkel's statements on immigration sound "like an invitation to the entire world [that] unlimited refugees are welcome."

A German political expert has warned that a successful Islamic political party is not a far off thought given Germany's rapidly changing demographics. In an interview with the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper, Professor Jürgen W. Falter, who specialises in political extremism, noted that Chancellor Angela Merkel's position on immigration may soon change, claiming "Pandora's box is opened too far".

Professor Falter said: "I do not think that the position of Mrs. Merkel, with time, will be held. Her words are rowing forward, but below the surface, back already... certainly this has something to do with the fact she sees that she has to get the genie back in the bottle... a Pandora's box is opened too far."

"[Her migration policy] was probably not meant the way it has arrived. But it sounded like an invitation to the entire world, unlimited refugees are welcome."

His views on the rise of the Alternative fur Deutschland are also worthy of note, claiming that it was destined to become a small, regional party before the migrant crisis, but that now it can flourish without really doing much at all.

Alternative fur Deutschland is a right wing party founded by those who were fed-up with Germany bailing out southern EU countries. It has become a populist party wanting a tougher approach to the EU and to immigration - similar to UK's UKIP.

But it has now become the first anti-euro party to win seats in a German regional parliament, receiving almost 10% of the vote in the eastern German state of Saxony, taking even the party's bosses by surprise.

And he warned about the rise of an Islamic political party in Germany – small versions of which may already have been witnessed elsewhere in Europe, such as with Tower Hamlets First in East London and the Respect Party in Bradford, both in the United Kingdom.

He posits that despite Mrs. Merkel's kind welcoming of many Muslims, it is unlikely they would vote for a party with the word "Christian" in its name:

There's doubt, first of all against the [Christian Democratic] Union (CDU), because it still bears "Christian" in its title. Even reduced to their basics, the CDU and CSU [Christian Social Union] are relatively strong names. This is naturally, for devout Muslims, not the party of first choice.

Currently a large number of [Muslims] are believed to be active in rather simpler professions. In addition once they are integrated into the working life, they are more likely to vote for left-wing parties or possibly even for an established Islamic party.

Currently, we have about five million Muslims living in Germany. Suppose there comes another million, plus family reunification. Then there will be between seven and eight million. This is not an entirely fanciful number. That would be in far enough for a minority party.

In context: Angela Merkel's party achieved 18 million votes in the 2013 federal elections, with the second party, the SPD, receiving 11 million votes. The third largest party, the Left Party (Linkspartei), got 3.7 million votes, the Greens 3.6 million, and the more libertarian FDP 2 million.

While there may be seven or eight million Muslims in Germany in the next few years, a significant percentage of these will be under the voting age, so any Islamic political party would be unable to acquire that number of votes. It may, however, have the capacity to outperform the FDP, the Greens, and even the Left Party, maybe even making itself large enough to force itself into a governing coalition.

And then...

Raheem Kassam is a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum and editor-in-chief of Breitbart London.

Swedish Politician Says Country ‘Facing Collapse’ Due to Mass Influx of Refugees

Passengers among them migrants and refugees, exit the German ferry terminal
in Goteborg, Sweden. © Scanpix Sweden  / Reuters
Some just can't help but be adorable
A leading Swedish politician says the country is facing a refugee catastrophe, which will lead to the “country collapsing.” The bold claims were made by Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, who adds the EU needs to do more to take the strain off Stockholm.

The northern European country expects to accommodate around 190,000 by the turn of the year, but this is putting a strain on the country both economically and socially. Wallstrom says that Stockholm needs more help and intends to put pressure on European Union member states to take a greater share of the burden the continent is facing from the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Africa.

“I think most people feel that we cannot maintain a system where perhaps 190,000 people will arrive every year – in the long run, our system will collapse. And that welcome is not going to receive popular support,” said Wallstrom, who is also a member of the Social Democrat party. (The ruling left leaning party).

However, not everyone in Europe is wanting to follow Sweden’s lead, while along with Germany, the Scandinavian nation is one of the most popular destinations for refugees, due to its generous benefits system.

“I have to admit that there have been moments recently of very great disappointment. I have heard statements from member states that have been completely astonishing and very discouraging,” the foreign minister added in an interview with Dagens Nyheter, which was cited by The Local.

Closer to home, Wallstrom has also highly critical of the far-right Sweden Democrats, who have been “creating fear and are becoming the trigger for attacks.” Sweden has been rocked by a number of arson attacks against refugee centers and the foreign minister says a worrying trend is being repeated.

Hmmm. She just said the country is going to collapse, and she's accusing the Sweden Democrats of spreading fear. I don't see any hypocrisy there. Pfft!

“We also had fires when we received refugees from the Balkans. This is a pattern that is being repeated. The Sweden Democrats have a responsibility,” she said speaking to the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. Wallstrom was referring to the mass number of immigrants the Scandinavian country accepted following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

The foreign minister has called on the Sweden Democrats to condemn the crimes saying more must be done to try and stop the arson attacks. Wallstrom noted that Swedish Democrat activists in the university town of Lund had been spreading addresses of planned refugee sites.

“It’s time for a referendum in Sweden on our immigration policy,” party leader Jimmie Akesson told supporters during an annual summer speech, AFP reported. His party, the Sweden Democrats, has recently come in at the top of a Swedish opinion poll for the first time.

Since they are now leading the polls, can they  still be considered 'far-right'? If the majority of people support them, they are no longer 'far-anything'! If anything, the governing Social Democrat Party is becoming far-left - not that they have moved, but the country is shifting to starboard.

Having accepted 80,000 refugees last year, Sweden has taken on the burden of accommodating the largest number of migrants in the EU as a percentage of the native population. Sweden’s migrant-friendly policies have long made it one of the most favored destinations among asylum-seekers.

Sweden should consider tightening up its welfare program to make it less attractive and more sustainable.

Sweden experienced five arson attacks against refugee centers in the space of two weeks in October. All the buildings were apparently set on fire on the eve of opening their doors to migrants and refugees, who have come to Sweden from countries in the Middle East and North Africa devastated by domestic conflicts and outside interventions.

The Swedish authorities say that, in view of the suspected arsonists’ tactics, they are keeping secret the exact plans to welcome new groups of asylum seekers for fear of new attacks. However, so far the locations of some centers are apparently being discovered or leaked, with 14 suspected arson attacks on refugee centers in Sweden since the start of the year.

Poster found the next day were a thinly veiled threat of more attacks.
Authorities don't believe they are credible.
Meanwhile Swedish police say a man who killed two people at a school in Trollhattan, in the south of the country “was driven by racist motives.”

The 21 year-old went on a rampage on October 22 with a sword, before he was shot by police and died of his wounds in hospital.

"We are convinced that the assailant was driven by racist motives when he carried out the act," he said. "We have reached this conclusion based on what we found when we searched his apartment and his behavior during the act, and also on the basis of how he selected his victims,” Police Chief Niclas Hallgren said on October 23.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

‘Game-changer’: European Parliament Votes in Favor of ‘Dropping Charges’ Against Snowden

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
© Vincent Kessler / Reuters
The majority of European Parliament members have voted in favor of asking constituent states to grant protection to whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who has described the move as a ‘game-changer’ and a ‘chance to move forward’.

MEPs have urged EU member states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender,” a European Parliament press release stated.

The call was not unequivocal, however, with 285 MEPs voting for the motion and 281 against, showing just how divided the European political elite remains on the issue.

Still, it’s a victory for Snowden, who sees the result of the voting as a “game-changer.”

“This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward,” he wrote on Twitter.

Even a slim majority voting in favor of Snowden means a lot, according to Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s lawyer in Russia.

“The resolution of the EU parliament is recognition of Edward’s [Snowden] merits to the mankind, his courage and honesty of his position,” he said as cited by the Interfax news agency.

The European Parliament thoroughly studied Snowden’s leaks and in March 2014 adopted a resolution to protect the personal data of EU citizens.

“The European Parliament's inquiry into Edward Snowden’s revelations of electronic mass surveillance was the most comprehensive investigation completed to date. This work needs to continue to ensure that civil liberties are defended on the internet too,” Claude Moraes of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee and rapporteur on mass surveillance said.

The MEPs now say they are dissatisfied with the lack of action taken following their inquiry. The Thursday resolution, which said that not enough had been done to tackle mass surveillance, received a wider backing with 342 voices for it, 274 against and 29 abstentions.

“EU citizens' fundamental rights remain in danger” and “too little has been done to ensure their full protection,” the MEPs said.

The Parliament has also called on the European Commission to “immediately take the necessary measures to ensure that all personal data transferred to the US are subject to an effective level of protection that is essentially equivalent to that guaranteed in the EU”.

The EU’s parliament is worried about “recent laws in some member states that extend surveillance capabilities of intelligence bodies” – including in France, the UK and the Netherlands.

It is also concerned about “revelations of mass surveillance of telecommunications and internet traffic inside the EU by the German foreign intelligence agency (BND) in cooperation with the US National Security Agency (NSA)”.

The MPs also called on EU bodies to elaborate a strategy aimed at increasing levels of technological independence, improving online privacy, democratizing control over intelligence activities and rebuilding trust with the EU.

The problem of personal data protection has been in the spotlight since 2013, when former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, disclosed mass surveillance programs used by the US intelligence services. Snowden was granted asylum in Russia. He is facing a number of charges in the US, including theft of government property and violating the Espionage Act.

So, how can the US charge Snowden with theft of government property, when that property was obtained illegally. Does a thieve's booty become his property? 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

US Signals Shift in Syria-Iraq Campaign Against Islamic State

A US-led coalition has been conducting air strikes against IS
since last year
File photo of US fighter jet after carrying out air strikes in Syria, Sept 2014 AFP
From BBC Middle East

The US has indicated a shift in its campaign against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria, including the use of direct ground raids.

Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said there would also be more air strikes against "high-value targets".

Observers say his comments reflect acknowledgment of the lack of progress in defeating the militant group.

How long have the US and allies been bombing IS? A year now? And they are just realizing that it isn't working? Well, I just have to ask the question, "Was it supposed to work?" If it was, why did it take you a year to figure out that it wasn't? It must have been obvious; it was obvious to everyone else. Yet you kept it up with no serious change in plan. Is it any wonder why I question whether you actually intended to defeat IS? 

A cynic might suggest that a continuous bombing campaign was good for American bomb manufacturers - keeps the inventory moving. Isn't that what most American military interventions are about? Well, good thing I'm not a cynic!

It was only after the immediate and dramatic success of the Russian bombing program that it became glaringly obvious that the American campaign was either a dismal failure or a sham. In any event, Americans do not like to be shown-up by Russians - not in hockey and not in war. So they have to do something dramatic like rescuing captives. Couldn't they have rescued captives a year ago?

There are a lot of questions to be answered about what the Americans have been doing in Syria and Iraq for the past year. I wonder if anyone other than me will ask them?

Separately, Iran says it is considering whether to attend international talks in Vienna this week on Syria's war.

Earlier, the US said Iran - an ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad - was being invited to the talks for the first time.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said "Iran's participation is under discussion", Iranian news agencies reported.

Mr Carter's comments, made to the Senate Armed Services Committee, come a week after US-Iraqi forces rescued dozens of hostages held by IS in Iraq.

Analysis by Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence correspondent

Russia's intervention in Syria has changed the military and diplomatic dynamic in the crisis and left Washington struggling to catch up.

Whatever the inconsistencies in Moscow's own policies, it has highlighted the deficiencies in Washington's approach - not least the collapse of its ailing train-and-equip programme for Syria that was largely going nowhere.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter wants a more active US strategy, but this inevitably runs counter to the prevailing mood in the White House.

Barack Obama, after all, has cast his presidency as one that will withdraw US troops from foreign wars, not engage in new ones. There is talk of deploying a small number of Apache attack helicopters to Iraq.

That could involve hundreds of extra US personnel. But US success still requires effective local allies on the ground and they are in short supply.

"We won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground," Mr Carter said, using an alternative acronym for IS.

"We expect to intensify our air campaign, including with additional US and coalition aircraft, to target ISIL with a higher and heavier rate of strikes," he said.

"This will include more strikes against ISIL high-value targets as our intelligence improves."

Free Syrian Army fighters (27 Oct 2015) AP
The US says that it wants to work with partners including the Free Syrian Army
A US-led coalition began air strikes against IS positions in Iraq and Syria last year. President Barack Obama said the objective was to "degrade and ultimately destroy" IS.

Although President Obama has not committed ground forces to Iraq, the US has about 3,500 troops in the country who have been helping to train Iraqi forces and also have a limited combat role.

Russia started its own air strikes in Syria at the end of last month, saying it wants to help President Bashar al-Assad defeat IS and other extremists.

But Washington has strongly criticised the Russian campaign, arguing that it has been focused on rebel opposition fighters and that it will only fuel more extremism.

Russian air strikes have enabled President Assad's land forces to advance
A Syrian tank fires in Harasta, northeast of Damascus, Syria (22 Oct 2015) AP
Mr Carter said the fight against IS would now concentrate mostly on Raqqa, the militants' declared capital in Syria, and Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province in western Iraq.

He did not divulge the circumstances under which the US might carry out operations on the ground on its own.

"[But] once we locate them, no target is beyond our reach," he said.

Foreign ministers from the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are due to meet in Vienna on Thursday evening, a Russian diplomatic source said, with Iran possibly joining further talks on Friday.

Friday's talks could also include officials from Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called for a "widening of the dialogue" on Syria, when he spoke to reporters on Wednesday.

Iran is believed to have spent billions of dollars over the past four years propping up President Assad's government, providing military advisers and subsidised weapons, as well as lines of credit and oil.

It is also thought to have been influential in the decision of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement to send fighters to Syria to assist pro-Assad forces.

Syria's Western-backed opposition and the US's Gulf Arab allies have long opposed Iran's role in the Syrian war.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins says that while Washington is certainly not welcoming Iran to the Syria talks, it will now tolerate Tehran's involvement.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Another Global Financial Crisis Likely Within Next 5 Years – Economist

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

The world hasn’t fully recovered from the problems of 2008 which means another crisis is possible, says Director-General of the China Banking Regulatory Commission Min Liao.

"It is likely that the world will face another global financial crisis in the next five years. The reason lies in the fact that many of the problems behind the 2008 crisis remain unsolved. The fragility is still there, for instance in shadow banking, high indebtedness, a lack of structural reform, the sustainability of emerging markets, and high leverage," Liao said in an interview at the Summit on the Global Agenda of the World Economic Forum.

He said the super low-rate environment delayed structural reforms, and market discipline was breached.

“The real economy cannot recover to the pre-crisis level in the foreseeable future, and it remains uncertain whether the intensified regulation can control risks from shadow banking and disruptive technologies. Therefore, the next crisis will probably catch us unprepared once more,” said the economist.

Liao urged the tightening of international regulations for shadow banking, which he sees as a threat to the global economy.

"China’s recent stock market turmoil testified to the risk amplifying effect of shadow banking, which is armed with new technologies. The concern is the same in the US and Europe," he added.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

More Archaeological Discoveries Prove Old Testament To Be Accurate

Ancient tablets discovered in Syria in the 1970s, 
verify Old Testament stories
by Madeeha Shakeel
Christians in Pakistan
The Ebla tablets prove Bible right
For many years, the critics of the Old Testament continued to argue that Moses invented the stories found in Genesis. The critics contended that the ancient people of the Old Testament times were too primitive to record documents with precise details.

In doing so, these critics basically claimed that there was no verification that the people and cities mentioned in the oldest of Biblical accounts ever really existed.

The discovery of the Ebla archive in northern Syria in the 1970′s confirmed that the Biblical records concerning the Patriarchs are spot on. It was during the excavations in northern Syria that the excavating found a large library inside a royal archive room. This library had tablets dating from 2400 -2300 BC.

The excavating team discovered almost 15,000 ancient tablets and fragments which when joined together accounted for about 2,500 tablets. Amazingly, these tablets confirmed that personal and location titles in the Biblical Patriarchal accounts are authentic. These tablets are known as the Ebla Tablets.

For a long period of time, the critics of the Old Testament used to argue that the name ‘Canaan’ was used wrongly in the early chapters of the Bible. They claimed the name Canaan was never used at that specific time in history. They further accused that the name was inserted in the Old Testament afterwards, while the earliest books of The Holy Bible were not written in the times that are described.

However, with the discovery of the tablets from the northern Syria, the word the word “Canaan” does appear, contrary to the claims of the critics. The tablets proved that the term was actually used in ancient Syria during the time in which the Old Testament was written.

Additionally, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were also thought to be pure fiction by Bible critics. These cities are also identified in the Ebla tablets, in addition to the city of Haran. Haran is described in Genesis as the city of Abram’s father, Terah. Previous to this discovery, ‘scholars’ suspected the actual presence of the ancient city.

It appears that not trusting in the accuracy of the Old Testament is unscientific.

In addition to this, countless other archaeological findings confirm the Biblical records to be real and accurate. Some of these findings are listed below:

• The campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak (1 Kings 14:25-26) is recorded on the walls of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, Egypt.

• The revolt of Moab against Israel (2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27) is recorded on the Mesha Inscription.

• The fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17:3-6, 24; 18:9-11) to Sargon II, king of Assyria, is recorded on his palace walls.

• The defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II (Isaiah 20:1) is recorded on his palace walls.

• The campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib against Judah (2 Kings 18:13-16) is recorded on the Taylor Prism.

• The siege of Lachish by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:14, 17) is recorded on the Lachish reliefs.

• The assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons (2 Kings 19:37) is recorded in the annals of his son Esarhaddon.

• The fall of Nineveh as predicted by the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah (2 Kings 2:13-15) is recorded on the Tablet of Nabopolasar.

• The fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-14) is recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles.

• The captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, in Babylon (2 Kings 24:15-16) is recorded on the Babylonian Ration Records.

• The fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:30-31) is recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.

• The freeing of captives in Babylon by Cyrus the Great (Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-4) is recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Imprimis to Save World from Price-Gouging, Soulless, Big Pharma

by John Prager 

As is well-known by now, one of the side effects of Daraprim, a medication needed by many AIDS and cancer patients, is uncontrollable rage — not because of any chemical properties of the drug itself, but because Martin Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price by more than 5,000 percent immediately after purchasing the rights to the medication. Until Shkreli’s greed caused the price to very quickly inflate, the lifesaving pill, which has been on the market longer than Shkreli has been alive, sold for just $13.50 per pill.

Shkreli provided numerous excuses for the price increase, the unfairness of which made headlines for weeks after the rather transparent attempt to effectively hold patients at gunpoint and rob them blind. While “Pharma Bro” ultimately promised to lower prices to an undefined amount at an unspecified point in time — something that has still not happened — another company has taken it upon themselves to completely embarrass the former hedge funder, who described the price increase as necessary.

San Diego-based Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, Inc announced on Thursday that it will be providing an alternative to Daraprim that costs a fraction of the pill’s pre-Shkreli price. The drug will be sold at as low as $99 for a 100-pill supply. Yes, that’s just about a dollar per pill.

“While we respect Turing’s right to charge patients and insurance companies whatever it believes is appropriate, (I don't) there may be more cost-effective compounded options for medications, such as Daraprim,” Imprimis CEO Mark L. Baum said in a press release. ARS Technica points out Imprimis’ alternative is not the same as Daraprim, but it is close:

“Daraprim’s active ingredient is pyrimethamine, which has been available since 1953 for the treatment of parasitic diseases (namely malaria and toxoplasmosis). Imprimis’ alternative also contains pyrimethamine as well as leucovorin, which the company said helps to reverse pyrimethamine’s negative effects on bone marrow.

Until now, Turing was the sole producer of a pyrimethamine-based drug, which is often prescribed to patients with compromised immune systems such as those suffering from AIDS and cancer.”

“This is not the first time a sole supply generic drug – especially one that has been approved for use as long as Daraprim – has had its price increased suddenly and to a level that may make it unaffordable,” Baum said. ” In response to this recent case and others that we will soon identify, Imprimis is forming a new program called Imprimis Cares which is aligned to our corporate mission of making novel and customizable medicines available to physicians and patients today at accessible prices.” He added:

“Today, some drug prices are simply out of control and we believe we may be able to help control costs by offering compounded alternatives to several sole source legacy generic drugs. Imprimis Cares and its team of compounding pharmacists will work with physicians and their patients to ensure they have affordable access to the medicines they need from the over 7,800 generic FDA-approved drugs.  Imprimis Cares, available in all 50 states, will work with all third party insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and buying groups to offer its patient specific customizable compounded drug formulations at prices that ensure accessibility and that provide a reasonable profit for Imprimis.  We are here to serve our patients and their physicians.  We believe that when we do a great job serving our customers, our shareholders will also benefit.”

Recently, Shkreli attempted to bribe Bernie Sanders to meet with him so the Turing CEO could attempt to justify the need for the massive price hike of Daraprim, even throwing a well-publicized tantrum when Sanders gave his campaign donation away to charity. Of course, that meeting is no longer necessary, as Imprimis is doing a very good job of showing that a drug company can turn a profit while still providing patients with lower-cost medication.

This is so awesome! I had been waiting for a pharmaceutical company to step forward and address the issue of spectacular greed within the industry. Imprimis has done it, and they are my heroes today. God bless you Mark Baum.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sex, Gluttony and Golf: Chinese Communist Party's Deadly Sins

China's ruling Communist Party has adopted new rules on clean
governance and discipline, according to state media
China's Communist Party has banned its members from "extravagant eating and drinking", engaging in "improper sexual relationships with others" and playing golf, state media reported Thursday.

The ruling party's Political Bureau adopted new rules on clean governance and discipline earlier this month, the official Xinhua news agency said, describing the measures as "a moral ethical code that members must abide by".

Party members were already barred from "keeping paramours and conducting adultery" but the new rule on sexual activity was stricter, Xinhua said.

Hmmm. I wonder what is included in 'improper sexual relationships'? Is this an attack on homosexuality? I don't hear the western media screaming yet?

Playing golf and excessive eating and drinking were explicitly listed as violations of discipline for the first time, it added.

OK, excessive eating and drinking I can probably live without, but 'no golf'! This could destroy the Communist Party from within!

The regulations -- which apply to everyone in the 88-million-strong Communist Party -- also forbid forming cliques within the party and nepotism.

I'm surprised that there are only 88 million Communists in China; I thought it would be 10 times that number. I believe that if you want to work and advance in any government position, you probably have to be a Communist.

Since ascending to the party leadership in 2012, President Xi Jinping has launched an austerity drive and a sweeping crackdown on corruption, with thousands of officials falling from power.

China's Communist Party has 88 million members (AFP Photo/Liu Jin)
But critics of the campaign liken it to a political purge targeting Xi's opponents.

Spending on luxury goods and in high-end restaurants has plummeted amid the crackdown, with government officials intimidated by high-profile corruption prosecutions.

The document did not detail punishments for violating the new rules, but the party maintains its own feared internal disciplinary system, which operates without judicial oversight.

Party discipline superseded criminal law, Xinhua said.

The Communist Party has long had an ambivalent relationship with golf, which is a lucrative opportunity for local authorities and a favoured pastime of some officials, but is also closely associated with wealth and Western elites. 

This is Communist paranoia. They see anything western as an attempt by western powers to destroy China, including western religion. Wherever Communism exists, or has ever existed, paranoia is/was extremely prevalent.

Central authorities ordered a nationwide moratorium on new golf courses in 2004, but development continued as revenue-minded local officials went their own way, even offering tax breaks for operators of new courses in places such as Hainan province.

The number of courses in China has grown from fewer than 200 at the time of the ban to more than 600 this year, according to Xinhua.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Robert Menard: France's Strongest Far-Right Mayor

Mayoral outlier, or a prototype of mayors to come?
By Lucy Ash
BBC News, Beziers
Robert Menard  Mayor of Beziers, France AFP
A mayor in the south of France has been accused of turning his city into a laboratory of the far right. But what is driving Robert Menard and why is he becoming the most controversial mayor in the country?

Robert Menard used to be a journalist, a socialist and the outspoken founder of an international press group, Reporters Without Borders. But 18 months ago he caused shockwaves by winning the town hall of Beziers, a city of more than 71,000, on a far-right ticket.

Although he is not Front National himself he came to power with the party's support, and this is now the biggest extreme-right stronghold in France. There are plenty of opponents trying to tear the stronghold down though.

The evening I attend a council meeting, protesters jump up and unfurl posters. "Menard, Beziers doesn't belong to you!" reads one. "We Welcome Refugees!" says another. Many more people are trying to squeeze their way through the heavy wooden doors into the chamber, but policemen hold them back.

Unable to bring the meeting to order, the mayor calls a vote on excluding the media and members of the public. It passes and I am obliged to leave, but fierce arguments are continuing in the courtyard outside.

One of the reasons for the anger is the latest issue of the municipal magazine, which carries on its front cover a news agency photo of refugees in Macedonia and a train with a sign saying "Beziers 3,865km". Another sign in the train window says, "Free schools, accommodation, and benefits for all" and the headline screams "They Are Coming!"

Municipal magazine of Beziers AFP
Agence France-Presse sued the mayor and the town hall in Beziers for misusing its photograph, and accused the mayor of scaremongering. Outside the council meeting copies of the magazine have been torn to shreds and strewn all over the floor like confetti.

When I next catch up with Robert Menard in a flower market on Beziers' main street he seems unperturbed. "We didn't get a chance to chat the other night", he laughs. "It was all a bit rock 'n roll wasn't it?"

Just before World War One Beziers grew "fabulously rich" thanks to the surrounding vineyards, he says, because they proved resistant to a disease that ruined the grape harvest elsewhere.

But Beziers is now one of the poorest cities in the country - one third of the population lives below the poverty line - and Menard has vowed to return it to its former glory.

A lot of his efforts have focused on petty crime and immigration.

He has doubled the number of municipal police, and issued them earlier this year with semi-automatic pistols - even though their main concerns are minor offences and traffic violations, and they leave serious crimes and investigations to the police nationale.

At the same time, the town was plastered with giant posters of handguns boasting "From now on police officers have a new friend". "A police force which is armed gets respect," Menard tells me.

"A few years ago we had non-stop anti-social behaviour," says a passer-by clutching a briefcase. "There were fights, people taking drugs on those benches. And for years no-one did anything. Since M. Menard has come, all that's disappeared, and the tourists have come back."

Menard is also responsible for a Singapore-style ban on spitting and a curfew on children in the streets at night. But some accuse him of "social cleansing" and say his initiatives target the poor.

And there has been ban on satellite dishes, and hanging out washing in the town centre. "This is the south of France!" says Sofia, a young web designer. "What does he expect people to do with wet clothes? Not everyone can afford a tumble dryer."

Menard's tough line on immigration is illustrated not only by the "They are coming!" headline but also by a now notorious video.

It shows Menard marching into an apartment block in one of Beziers' most deprived neighbourhoods, La Deveze. He has a blunt message for some newly arrived Syrian families (squatting) there - they're not welcome in his town.

La Deveze
At first sight the video looks like a spoof. The diminutive mayor is wearing his red, white and blue sash, flanked by burly police in bulletproof vests. There is also a bespectacled translator who speaks a strangulated English reminiscent of the TV comedy Monty Python.

But Menard is not joking. He berates a dazed-looking young Syrian man in a yellow T-shirt for breaking into the flat and "stealing the water and electricity".

"If you don't leave, the police will make you," Menard tells the man, his wife and a small child before moving on to other flats where seven other Syrian families are squatting.

Ultimately the mayor's attempt to expel the refugees was blocked, as evictions must be ordered by a court. What's more the rent-controlled flats aren't under his jurisdiction. And he said the Syrian children wouldn't be allowed into local schools - if this happened it would be a violation of French law.

The video went viral in France. Some approved while others were appalled and accused him of heartlessness - an accusation he rejects. He says his twinning of Beziers with the largely Christian community of Maaloula near Damascus proves he is not against helping Syrians.

"I liked what you did in la Deveze," one stallholder told Menard as he and I walked through the flower market. "I watched it four times!"

At the same block of flats, a few weeks after the video was filmed, I meet Hakim, the first man who opened the door in the video. He tells me he was bewildered as well as frightened.

"I told him I have children - where are we supposed to go?" he says.

Karim Zenouti, the vice-president of the Beziers mosque, says the flats occupied by the Syrians have been empty for several years.

"We know that the mayor is trying to seduce his electorate, the Front National supporters," he says. "And what are the Frontistes doing? They are spreading fear."

Of course they are, and well they should be. There's not enough fear in France for its headlong rush into cultural suicide.

Menard portrays himself as a straight-talker, fighting what he sees as a hypocritical political establishment. His sense of being an outsider may come from his roots in a pied-noir family - the name given to European settlers who once lived in North Africa.

He was nine in 1962 when Algeria became a sovereign state and the family had to leave for France.
Jean Michel du Plaa, who heads the socialist group in Beziers, argues that Menard has moved even further to the right than the Front National and its leader.

"Marine Le Pen tried to detoxify the Front National," he says "but Robert Menard on the contrary is very comfortable with the extreme of the extreme right."

Beziers has become a political laboratory, he says, and citizens feel "like guinea pigs or lab rats".
Some complain Menard is publicity mad and only cares about le buzz or making headlines. They now call him "the mayor of Buzziers".

Others say there's method in his madness and that his in-your-face, far-right policies may help to make the Front National look moderate on issues like security and immigration. And that just might boost Marine Le Pen's chances in her 2017 bid for the French Presidency.

That's asking a lot of one small city mayor.

Monday, October 19, 2015

One-World Government if Harper Loses Election - Margaret Thatcher Advisor

Monckton: Harper defeat in Canada election will allow 
“world government” win at UN Paris climate meet
 Lord Christopher Monckton giving 2014 presentation in Australia titled
"Our Last Year of Freedom?"
Andrew Smith, Australian correspondent
 and Steve Jalsevac
Life Site
BRISBANE, Australia, October 18, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) According to Lord Christopher Monckton, a former policy adviser to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Monday's Canadian election will decide if Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whom he calls the last man standing against the establishment of a 'one world government', will remain against a deliberate international effort to remove him. 

The second last, Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott, was overthrown, as predicted by Monckton in 2014, in order to clear the way for this international scheme. 

With Harper out of the way, warned Monckton, world governance will finally begin with a successful December, 2015 Paris Climate Conference. Another major factor for the Climate treaty’s likely success this time, after many past failures, is the unprecedented, strong public support of the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Francis.  

The Harper Conservative government has consistently opposed these binding international agreements that impose dramatic limits on the sovereignty of nations in order to resolve still-much-disputed, environmentalist claims of dangerous man-induced climate change.

Organizers of the Paris summit are proclaiming that “for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations,” they “aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate.” At risk, according to Monckton and many other critics of the “fraudulent” climate change movement, is democracy, its associated freedoms, and the Christian way of life worldwide.

In September 2014, Monckton spoke in Brisbane, detailing his claims of the fraud behind the global warming 'science'. Monckton exposed what he says are the true intentions of what has been presented to the world as a noble environmentalist cause that demands urgent action. 

One of my biggest problems with global warming deniers is their claim that it is all a fraud. I could never see the motive behind committing such a fraud until now. If the UN is able to get all countries to agree to climate goals with penalties for failure, they will, in effect, have formed the basis for a one-world government. Spreading from the innocuous climate portfolio into more substantial areas of our lives will be so much easier.

This concealed push for a one-world government began at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009, with a treaty draft containing “The scheme for the new institutional arrangement under the Convention will be based on three basic pillars: government; facilitative mechanism; and financial mechanism …” (UNFCCC draft of the Copenhagen Treaty, Annex 1, Para. 38, 15 September 2009)  (emphasis added)  It was blocked by China.  The Copenhagen conference also included an emphasis on population control as the final solution.

As Monckton points out, “This (environmental treaty) process has nothing to do with the weather.  It has nothing to do with man's impact on the weather.  It has everything to do with establishing the socialist international at the heart of the UN and making every nation bow the knee to this new dictatorship, and the climate is merely a fig leaf to cover what they are trying to do.”

"We'll make sure (Harper) is removed"

Monckton recounted a conversation when Sir David King, William Hague's United Kingdom “climate change ambassador” was asked by the Environmentalist Committee of the House of Commons in May 2014 “whether all the nations of the world were in principle ready to sign their peoples rights away in such a treaty,” to which he replied “Oh yes, but there are two stand-outs.  One is Canada, but don't worry about Canada.  They've got an election in the spring of 2015 and we and the U.N. will make sure that the present government is removed.”  Monckton recalled his absolute bluntness about the matter.

The other holdout was Australia which was in an arguably stronger position as there was no election until after the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference.  With Tony Abbott as leader there was no chance that Australia would be signing the treaty.  In 2014, Abbott had taken the unusual step of sending an additional minister to accompany foreign minister Julie Bishop to ensure that she did not vote for the treaty at the 2014 Climate Change Conference in Lima.

Monkton predicts Abbott's fall

Monckton warned of the need to protect Abbott and the danger from the Turnbull faction, in conjunction with the United Nations, doing their best to remove him ahead of this year’s Climate Change Conference. 

In February this year, barely five months after Monckton's warning, Abbott survived a first attempt on his leadership from the Turnbull faction.  However, incessant negative and biased media coverage influenced the perception of Turnbull by the Australian population, and hence depressed his polling figures. Consequently, a substantial number of government MPs became anxious with an election less than a year away.  In September, as reported by LifeSiteNews, Abbott was replaced by Turnbull 54-44 in a leadership spill ballot.

The outcome of the Canadian election remains to be seen, but the aim of any behind the scenes involvement by the UN and other climate extremists would be to effect a change of government so that Canada's vote at the December climate conference will be changed.

Monckton has urged people to write to their MPs and ask them to ensure that any treaty draft or treaty that is signed has a clause added that enables a country “when it eventually comes off the Kool-aid and wakes up” to withdraw at a later date after giving sufficient notice.  He provided a previously used example from Article 27 if the Kyoto protocol which Canada itself has used to withdraw from that treaty.

“At any time after three years from the date on which this Protocol has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Protocol by giving written notification to the Depositary.”
By default, the 2015 Paris treaty agreement will not have this.  According to Monckton, we need to “make sure that the nations of the world are not locked into something which in due course they would very nearly all bitterly regret.”

Mr. Monckton was Special Advisor to Margaret Thatcher as U.K. Prime Minister from 1982 to 1986. In 1986 he was among the first to advise the prime minister that “global warming” caused by carbon dioxide should be investigated. Two years later she set up the Hadley Centre for Forecasting: but she, like him, later changed her view. On leaving 10 Downing Street, he established a successful specialist consultancy company, giving technical advice to corporations and governments. His two articles on global warming in The Sunday Telegraph in November 2006 crashed its website after attracting 127,000 hits within two hours of publication.

A speech by Mr. Monckton to 1,000 citizens of St. Paul, Minnesota in October 2009, in which he drew public attention to a then little-known draft plan by the U.N. to establish an unelected world government at the (now-failed) climate summit at Copenhagen in December 2009, received 1,000,000 YouTube hits in a week – thought to be the fastest-ever YouTube platinum for a political speech. Some five million have now seen the presentation on various websites.

Look-out Canada, Tomorrow's Going to be Different Than Today

Election Day in Canada (Democracy in action, or Trudeaumania 2.0)

National party leaders (today). Left to right: Stephen Harper, Conservative;
Elizabeth May, Green; Justin Trudeau, Liberal; Tom Mulcair, NDP
A marathon 11 week federal election campaign ended yesterday as Canadians vote for a new government today. 11 weeks is twice the normal duration for an election; Prime Minister Stephen Harper gambled that his two main opponents would shoot themselves in the foot somewhere along the way, however, both emerged with all toes still wiggling. Harper also thought he had an advantage because the Conservative election vault was much more full than those of his opponents. That 'advantage' hasn't really materialized in any noticeable form, nor has it resulted in tipping the polls.

Change (Doesn't matter if it's good or bad)

The theme for this election campaign has been 'change'. Both the Liberals and the NDP convinced Canadians that change was needed. They had the assistance in this endeavour of the CBC - Conservative Bashing Corporation - Canada's public broadcaster whose budget was frequently a victim of Conservative budget cuts. But it wasn't just the CBC who were tired of Harper, Canada's 2 other national TV networks also wearied of the distance Harper put between them and himself, making it difficult to get interviews or inside information. Harper deemed this necessary to control the message, but it certainly did not win him any friends in the national broadcasters.

There are, at least, a dozen other areas where Stephen Harper could be soundly and justifiably criticized, and perhaps twice that many. So 'change' would certainly be a good thing in the minds of most Canadians. The environment, indigenous missing women, smothering scientific research by government researchers, First Nations, etc., etc., are all areas where it would not be difficult to improve on Stephen Harper's record. And while these are all important issues, are they worth 'change' in other areas?

Canada survives 2 global downturns

Canada survived the 2008 economic crash better than any major economy. We were the envy of the G7 and received many accolades because of it. It may have been Stephen Harper's destiny that the crash in oil prices happened when it did. The resultant downturn in employment and investment in the oil fields threw Canada into a brief and very limited recession from which it is already emerging.

The Liberals and the NDP, however, blame Harper for every aspect of that downturn, as if he controlled global oil prices. They also blamed him for all the effects of the 2008 downturn caused completely by American recklessness in mortgage and banking areas. I thank God a Liberal or NDP government was not in control for either of those downturns or this country would have been bankrupt long ago.

So prudent financing, if it were to suffer change would become reckless spending resulting in increased taxes. Canadians pay fewer taxes than we have for many years, but that is also liable to 'change'. A Liberal government would leave us at the mercy of foreign whims and failures even more so than now.

Election results 3 possible scenarios (none of which are good)

The most likely scenario for election results is a minority Liberal government. The Liberals and the NDP are both left-leaning parties and should have little difficulty working together for a couple years. A Harper minority is also possible. That would be an interesting situation since all the other political parties are left-leaning, so it would be a great challenge for Harper to work with any of them. In that case, either another election would be called, or the Governor General may turn to one of the other leaders and ask him to try and form a government.

Trudeaumania 2.0 (God save us)

There is also the possibility of a Liberal majority government. In spite of polls have all three major parties in nearly a statistical dead-heat for most of the campaign, the Liberals and their leader, Justin Trudeau, have been surging in the past two weeks to move very clearly ahead of the others. The surge is almost completely based on the popularity of Trudeau. This, should it continue today, could be called Trudeaumania 2.0.

Being old enough to remember Trudeaumania 1.0, I have to tell you that this is very disconcerting. TM 1.0 was the wave that Justin's father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, rode to become Prime Minister, some 50 years ago. He was, almost certainly, Canada's first rock star. He became more popular than the Beatles. 

Keynesian lunacy (or loonacy)

Trudeau, the senior, however, was a disaster for Canada. His Keynesian economics has left Canada in a position where it may never be able to pay off the debt he incurred. Canada's national debt is nearly $613 billion dollars and increases by 2 million dollars per day. Why is it increasing if the budget has been balanced? Because we are paying $86 million per day in interest on the debt. That's $31 billion per year. What a spectacular waste of money, and Trudeau wants to increase that considerably over the next 3 years, by the end of which we will likely be paying $100 million per day in interest. What could we do with an extra $36.5 billion dollars in our yearly budget?

Trudeau, the junior, seems to have adopted his father's economic philosophy. Keynesian economics is basically spending the money you expect to make next year because of the growing economy. It's kind of like running out and buying a new truck on payments because you are expecting to get a raise. It's all good if the raise come through, but if it doesn't, you're in trouble. You could end up selling the truck at a loss because you can't afford the payments, and then have to make payment on a debt with no truck to show for it.

NEP (Father of the Reform Party)

Keynesian economics makes no provision for possible downturns in the economy. The raise has to come through or our debt just gets bigger and bigger. Trudeau, the senior, used this same idiotic logic when he sent Marc Lalonde, his right-hand man, to negotiate the National Energy Program with Alberta. The policy laid out how much Ottawa would get out of the Alberta oil revenues. The amount was set on an ever-increasing scale with no provision for a drop in oil prices. Astonishing stupidity! So when oil prices dropped, Ottawa was collecting most of the profits from Alberta oil. It was estimated that the program cost Alberta between 50 and 100 billion dollars in the 6 years that it ran.


So, go out and vote Canada. But please, vote with your head, not your heart. Selecting a Prime Minister is not a romantic adventure, nor is it an entry-level job. God bless, and help, Canada.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Germany’s Police Chief Calls for Border Fence to Cope with Refugee Crisis

Police concerned about the rate of migrant influx
even if the Chancellor is not

© Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters
Germany should build a fence along its border with Austria to stem the influx of asylum seekers, the German police union chief said, according to Welt am Sonntag. He added that other EU countries will follow Berlin’s example.

EU refugee & migrant influx
With more than 710,000 refugees having crossed EU borders so far this year, according to EU border agency Frontex, and with most of them heading to to Germany, the country's police union chief has proposed the construction of a fence along the country's border to tackle the inflow of migrants.

"If we want to conduct serious border controls, we must build a fence along the German border. I am in favor of our doing this," Rainer Wendt, head of the German Police Union told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.

Rainer Wendt - Outspoken German police union chief
Wendt reasoned that if Germany closed its borders, Austria would shut its borders with Slovenia adding that "we need precisely this effect."

Wendt has voiced support for the creation of temporary migrant transit zones to filter out refugees seeking asylum in Germany, but added that it would only work if the border has a new fence.

He called on Germany to lead the rest of the EU in adopting harsher anti-migrant measures, saying, "someone must pull the emergency brake now — 
that can only be [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel."

It is highly unlikely that the police union chief's proposal will materialize as the Merkel government has strongly criticized the erection of a similar 3.5 meter fence in Hungary, along its 175 kilometer border with Serbia . Hungarian officials meanwhile announced that no migrants have breached the second fence erected along the Croatian border, since the border was closed on Saturday.

Love the 'Do not enter" sign
Merkel's approach instead focused on efforts to secure EU external borders, something that was agreed between EU member states on Friday. The EU and Turkey agreed on an “action plan” that might give Ankara up to €3 billion ($3.4bn) in aid, visa privileges and new talks on Turkey-EU membership in return for its help in stemming the flow of refugees to Europe.

Visiting Istanbul on Sunday, Merkel spoke of the "mutual interests" of Germany and Turkey in finding "legal ways for coping with refugee flows," when she met with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The chancellor also commended Turkey for coping with the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis despite receiving less international assistance in comparison to other countries.

Meanwhile the Polish President, Andrzej Duda, warned that migrants will bring “possible epidemics” as he called for more measures "to ensure that Poles are well protected against epidemiological risks".

"The security of citizens is the most important question... financial and physical security as much as health," Duda told the TVN24 channel.

Duda is not the only Polish political figure that is worried about a possible disease outbreak. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Law and Justice party and former Polish prime minister brought up "cholera in the Greek islands" and "dysentery in Vienna" when accusing the refugees of spreading all “kinds of parasites which are not dangerous in their own countries but which could prove dangerous for the local populations" in Europe on Tuesday.

Poland agreed to accept about 5,000 refugees in September out of the 120,000 people to be shared out between the 28-member EU states. Germany is due to receive upwards of one million refugees by the end of the year.

N.Y. Church Descended into Fear Before Teen's Fatal Beating

Many current members fear talking publicly about ultraconservative Word of Life Christian Church
The Associated Press 
A teenager was beaten to death and his brother sent to hospital with severe
injuries following a 'counselling' session at the Word of Life church
in New Hartford, N.Y. (AP file photo)
Former members of the upstate New York church where two teens were viciously beaten, one fatally, paint a picture of a once vibrant and joyous house of worship that had declined into a place of fear and intimidation under new leadership.

"When I first arrived, it was warm and welcoming. It was encouraging. It was helpful," said Chadwick Handville, a massage therapist in Phoenix, Ariz., who left the Word of Life Christian Church in June 2000 after 10 years that included a stint as a worship leader and trustee.

Things went downhill after founder Jerry Irwin returned from some time away and reclaimed his position as pastor, Handville said.

"What was off the wall was his attitude toward others," Handville recalled. "It wasn't happy. He accused every male of lusting after his wife."

Personal attacks

Handville said Irwin's preaching was filled with personal attacks on parishioners, whom he forced to work long hours renovating the Irwin family's apartment on the third floor of the former school building that houses the church in New Hartford.

"He did have good points," Handville said. "Through him I was able to memorize half the Bible. He taught me a lot. What he failed to teach me was how to use what I read — how to treat people."

Church Killing

Bruce Leonard has been charged with first-degree manslaughter in the beating death of his son, Lucas, 19. (New Hartford Police Department/AP)

Deborah Leonard is also facing a first-degree manslaughter charge in the beating death of her son, Lucas. (New Hartford Police Department /AP)

Handville said many current and former church members are afraid to talk publicly about the church for fear of recriminations.

In a letter to the Post-Standard of Syracuse, former congregant Nathan Ames said the church started out as a fast-growing Pentecostal church, but declined after Irwin reclaimed leadership. Ames described Irwin as controlling and intimidating.

Since Irwin's fatal stroke several years ago, his wife, Traci, and their children — Tiffanie, Daniel and Joseph — have been in charge. Ames said they continued in the style of the founder.

Six church leaders and parishioners now face charges including manslaughter and assault for a brutal beating in the sanctuary last Sunday that left Lucas Leonard, 19, dead and his brother Christopher, 17, in hospital.

Church members Bruce and Deborah Leonard, parents of the victims, face the most serious charge of manslaughter. Deborah Leonard's daughter, Sarah Ferguson, and Joseph Irwin, both face assault charges.

Police say the beatings arose out of a "counseling session" that may have been related to Lucas Leonard wanting to leave the church.

The New York Times reported Daniel Irwin told investigators that his sister Tiffanie, the pastor at Word of Life, told the church congregation that some members were practising witchcraft. The paper reported that Irwin said Lucas Leonard was one of them and that he was going to make a voodoo doll of a church leader.

New Hartford police said there is "no evidence that we are aware of that supports that Lucas Leonard was engaged in any such activity."

The roughly 30-year-old church has declined to about 20 members from 40, police Chief Michael Inserra said. Remaining members are devoted to their pastor and often "wait to be told what to do," Inserra said.

Unreasonable devotion to the pastor has been the ruin of many a church. Parishioners, particularly Board members or Trustees have to be able to hold the pastor's feet to the fire when he or she does not behave in a Christ-like manner. They have to be able to remove that pastor if he continues in said manner. Failing to do so leads to tyranny and serious error endangering the whole congregation both physically and spiritually.

If there is anyone left in the church after charges have been laid, they either need to disband the church or get rid of the Irwins, all of them.

Traci and Tiffanie Irwin haven't been charged and haven't commented.

David Bromley, professor of religious studies and director of the World Religions and Spirituality Project at Virginia Commonwealth University, said there are thousands of similar small, independent Christian churches around the country. They're typically very conservative, following a very strict fundamentalist theology with a literal interpretation of the Bible.

"Every now and then, one pops up that has gone awry," Bromley said. "That's statistically not shocking because there are so many of them."

Thanks for confirming that the vast majority of these churches are not a threat to themselves, and may well be of benefit to their community and beyond.

'Charismatic leaders'

The trend toward independent, conservative churches coincides with a decline in membership in mainline Christian churches. "A lot are forming in reaction to the liberalization of mainline churches," Bromley said.

The churches generally start with a pastor, sometimes branching out from an existing congregation, who starts out with a group meeting in a home or rented storefront. Many disband after a few years, but some flourish. As with any organization, leadership may take a bad turn, Bromley said.

"There are certainly cases of charismatic leaders who abuse their power," Bromley said.

The theology of a congregation may lead to strong resistance to a member's wish to leave the group. Nevertheless, Jesus never restrained any of His disciples from leaving, and many did. He even encouraged some who were not committed to Himself. The idea that you can keep someone in the congregation against their will is simply absurd.

"If you get into a very conservative group where there is only one way and God's wrath is about to be unleashed on humanity and we're the faithful remnant, then leaving the group is a very serious condition from the point of view of members," Bromley said. "Essentially, if you leave you're walking into Satan's dominion and your soul is lost."

There are cases where groups use physical restraint to prevent a person from leaving, he said.

"These cases look very bizarre to outsiders," Bromley said. "To scholars, they look like rare, radical events that occur in groups that are tightly organized and very conservative."

Friday, October 16, 2015

Brand Merkel Comes Under Pressure Over Migrants

Katya Adler
Europe editor
From BBCn Europe

It didn't much look like a protest.

Lots of casually dressed, smiley very middle-class Germans - some with children, others with dogs, chatting animatedly in beautiful parkland on the outskirts of Hamburg on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

But this was indeed a protest group, putting together a petition in an attempt to stop a new refugee centre being built on the green.

Syrian refugees Wael Al-Awis, 31, right, his wife Reem Haskour, 30, and their
son Ali Al-Awis, 6, visit the harbor October 10, 2015 in Hamburg,
Germany. Getty Images
Germany could see more than a million refugees this year
 - and Hamburg is a popular destination

People here were keen to emphasise that they were not anti-immigrant. Their main aim, they said, was to protect an area of natural beauty. But once we got talking, broader worries soon surfaced.

Birgit said finding a home was difficult enough for Germans. Hamburg has an acute housing shortage at the best of times. With the arrival of tens of thousands of immigrants, the port city threatened to burst at the seams.

In desperation, the authorities have been turning shipping containers into refugee homes and repossessing empty commercial properties and open spaces to build new migrant centres.

"I don't think Angela Merkel has any idea what she started," Birgit concluded.

Hanno kept shaking his head when he said, "I just don't think Germany can integrate this number of people. It's a real worry. A real worry."

This was no demonstration of the minority anti-immigrant far right in Germany, so adept at grabbing headlines.

These were Angela Merkel's core voters: the comfortable middle classes. Now plagued by doubt and insecurity.

To be clear: most Germans don't question a duty to help those fleeing war or human rights abuses but they do find the huge number of arrivals unsettling.

More than a million refugees are expected here by the end of the year. Some experts we spoke to told us the figure could reach 1.5m.

Like the captain of a football team, Chancellor Merkel keeps repeating: "Wir schaffen es!" ("We can do it!").

It's her version of Barack Obama's "Yes We Can" - but increasingly Germans are asking: How?

Lea, 12 (L), gives lollipops to Syrian refugee children at a welcome festival
(Willkommensfest) for migrants on September 19, 2015 in the
Karolinenviertel neighborhood of Hamburg, Germany Getty Images
Groups of people have welcomed migrants to Hamburg 
- but many worry about how the country will cope

Only one in three here say they agree with Mrs Merkel's migrant policy, according to the most recent poll. And she's slipping in popularity ratings.

The joke used to be that she was a politician of 'little steps' who made decisions only once she'd studied the opinion polls.

But a summer of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean and desperate crowds thronging at the gates of Europe seems to have changed all that.

Mrs Merkel completely surprised her countrymen a month ago by unilaterally declaring all Syrian refugees welcome and refusing to put an upper limit on how many Germany would take in.

It seemed like a passionate outburst, a spontaneous throwing of caution to wind by a woman traditionally admired by Germans for her stable, strong and stoic disposition. All sought-after attributes here.

'Hers is a solid brand'

Florian Juerg, a branding consultant, wonders whether Angela Merkel is now expressing her "other self".

"Until now she has acted like the sensible scientist that she is," he told me (Mrs Merkel is a trained physicist). "But suddenly she's transformed back into the moral-driven pastor's daughter of her youth."

Hamburg is the German hub for marketing and brand imaging.

I asked Florian if "Brand Merkel" would be dented by the migrant crisis.

"Not in the long-term," he told me. "Building up a brand takes a long time and the last 10 years of Merkel as Chancellor have been good for Germans. Hers is a solid brand."

For now. But if her refugee policy backfires, it will stain her political legacy.

Mrs Merkel's nickname here is Mutti, or Mummy.

Election after election, Germans have put their trust in her to decide what's best for them. She's seen as key in making Germany the success story it is today.

'Merkel must go' reads one sign in the city of Magdeburg
The way she's handling the migrant crisis is the biggest gamble of her political career.

Brand Merkel may have helped make Brand Germany great but she could now inadvertently damage her country.

The arrival of so many asylum seekers in one go will impact Germany's economy, its society and its politics.

Already there are well-chronicled splits within Mrs Merkel's own conservative bloc.

"We have to get the balance right," said Lorenz Caffier, CDU Interior Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

"The German constitution demands that we look after refugees but the benefits we give them are too generous.

"Frankly, I'm amazed at any migrant who doesn't choose to come to Germany. Our benefit system acts like a travel agency. We must put the well-being of our own people first."

Cucumbers, bananas - or greater matters?

German newspapers are full of reports about the benefits refugees receive compared to German citizens on welfare, leading, in some quarters, to a sense of injustice.

There's also a more widespread worry about strains on the national health and education systems.
"Germany can't take everyone in," Mr Caffier told me. "Up till now we had no choice. Angela Merkel didn't open the door to the refugees. They were already at the door.

"What was she going to do - send tanks to the Austrian border? Actually it's impossible to close borders. Any politician who suggests that is lying."

Excuse me, Hungary just did!

He insisted vehemently that the rest of Europe play its part.

"We Germans can't do this alone. Brussels has to decide whether it's going to focus on the curvature of cucumbers and bananas or tackle European issues of importance."

In the meantime, other European leaders are not queuing up to take in asylum seekers by the hundreds and thousands. Or, hundreds of thousands.

Chancellor Merkel's lead role in the migrant crisis is as controversial in the rest of Europe as it is at home.

The queen of consensus politics is no more.