"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
Monday, July 31, 2017
In total, 114 third parties poured $6 million into influencing the election outcome and many of those third parties were funded by the U.S.-based Tides Foundation
And those are just the ones we know about. There were possibly many millions more in pre-election donations.
International interference in the Canadian election was predicted by the UK's Lord Monkton in 2014 (see below).
This expose of Tides Foundation is just the tip of the iceberg. But our far-left government in Canada is afraid of ice-bergs and there is no way a full-scale investigation into the funding of the 2015 election will occur, although there should be, as there should also be an investigation into the funding of the 2017 British Columbia elections - they smell just as fishy.
Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press, Postmedia News
Foreign money funnelled towards Canadian political advocacy groups affected the outcome of the 2015 federal election, according to a document filed last week with Elections Canada and obtained in part by the Calgary Herald.
The 36-page report entitled: Elections Canada Complaint Regarding Foreign Influence in the 2015 Canadian Election, alleges third parties worked with each other, which may have bypassed election spending limits — all of which appears to be in contravention of the Canada Elections Act.
The Canada Elections Act states that “a third party shall not circumvent, or attempt to circumvent, a limit set out . . . in any manner, including by splitting itself into two or more third parties for the purpose of circumventing the limit or acting in collusion with another third party so that their combined election advertising expenses exceed the limit.”
“Electoral outcomes were influenced,” alleges the report.
The Canada Elections Act also states: “No person who does not reside in Canada shall, during an election period, in any way induce electors to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate” unless the person is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident.
“Yet the outcome of the 2015 election was skewed by money from wealthy foreigners,” alleges the complaint, submitted by Canada Decides, a registered society with three listed directors — including Joan Crockatt, a former Conservative MP for Calgary Centre, who lost her seat to Liberal Kent Hehr, now the MP for the once long-held Tory riding and the Minister of Veterans Affairs. The other two directors include Chad Hallman, a University of Toronto political science student.
The number of third parties registered during the 2015 general election more than doubled, to 114 compared with 55, in the 2011 election.
Much worse than Russian/US interference
Americans are rightly concerned about Russia hacking into U.S. government emails. Well, this appears to be much worse
In total, the 114 third parties spent $6 million and many of those third parties were funded by California-and New York-based Tides Foundation — which is known in Canada for holding numerous anti-Canadian oil campaigns.
In 2015, Tides Foundation donated $1.5 million of U.S. money to Canadian third parties in the election year, according to the report.
Crockatt’s seat was one of the 29 targeted by an organization called Leadnow through its “largest ever campaign” called Vote Together. The complaint by Canada Decides alleges that foreign money “spawned” Leadnow and helped fund an elaborate campaign to oust the ruling Conservative Party.
Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt says Canadians should be concerned about any kind of foreign involvement in our elections.
“The whole concept and idea of foreign influence in an election is an important issue and is something that Canadians should not tolerate,” Bratt said Monday.
Tides Foundation and Leadnow representatives did not return repeated phone calls and emails from the Herald to respond to concerns raised by Canada Decides.
A December 2015 Leadnow report, Defeating Harper, discusses how effective its campaign was in the 2015 general election. “The Conservatives were defeated in 25 out of 29 ridings, and . . . in the seats the Conservatives lost, our recommended candidate was the winner 96 per cent of the time.”
Leadnow’s Defeat Harper report also states: “We selected target ridings with field teams run by paid Leadnow organizers….”
Crockatt lost her Calgary Centre seat by 750 votes.
Conservative MP Lawrence Toet lost his Manitoba seat of Elmwood-Transcona to the NDP’s Daniel Blaikie by just 61 votes.
THE CANADIAN PRESS / Adrian Wyld
Former Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver lost his seat to Liberal Marco Mendicino with a margin of 5,800 votes. Only six per cent of voters in that riding voted for the NDP candidate, who complained of Leadnow’s tactics on Twitter.
Leadnow staff members flew around the country on numerous occasions, as Facebook postings and photographs show, to distribute flyers and put up signs. Also, 57 local polls were commissioned across 37 ridings urging citizens to strategically vote for the most winnable, left-of-centre candidate in order to defeat the Conservative candidate.
There is an $8,788 spending limit per riding for the election. NDP candidates and even CUPE complained about Leadnow’s activities being anti-democratic.
“This is not a partisan issue or a case of sour grapes by Conservatives,” insists Hallman, 20.
“This is a Canadian issue. This affects all Canadians whether you’re an NDP, Green, Liberal or Conservative. You should be very concerned about foreign money being spent in Canada during an election campaign.”
Most Canadians would be very alarmed by this. This happened in the 2015 election
Crockatt, who prior to becoming a Member of Parliament was a journalist, including a stint as an editor with the Calgary Herald, said researchers from Fredericton to Nanaimo worked for 18 months gathering information on this issue.
“Foreign money meddled in a big way in our election and that’s not right,” she added. “Americans are rightly concerned about Russia hacking into U.S. government emails. Well, this appears to be much worse — foreign money, in many cases by very wealthy people — was donated and arguably changed the outcome of our Canadian election. It needs to be taken seriously and investigated.”
In the 2015 annual report of the California-based Online Progressive Engagement Network (OPEN) where Ben Brandzel, one of Leadnow’s founders, currently works, he said: “We ended the year with . . . a Canadian campaign that moved the needle during the national election, contributing greatly to the ousting of the conservative Harper government.”
Just how greatly these foreign organizations and money contributed to interfering in the Canadian election needs to be investigated by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, states Canada Decides.
“The threat to Canadian election sovereignty is real and must be eliminated by the Commissioner as quickly and decisively as possible,” adds the report.
It appears as though Yves Cote, commissioner of Elections Canada, is considering doing just that.
Cote admitted during an April 13 Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee that an investigation needs to be launched following questions by Conservative Senators Linda Frum and Bob Runciman.
“Issues of significance have been raised . . .” said Cote, during the senate committee hearing, “which in my view deserves Parliament taking the time to looking at the situation, trying to understand what has happened, what is likely to happen and then taking measures . . . to make sure there is compliance.”
Cote added that “the Supreme Court of Canada said the objective of maintaining a level playing field is, for them, a very important objective.”
Senator Frum is planning to introduce a private member’s bill updating the Canada Elections Act to prohibit third parties from accepting foreign funding for domestic political activity.
Canadians can only donate $1,550 to political parties and candidates. Union and corporate donations have been banned completely, and yet in the Senate hearing, Commissioner Cote said that as long as foreign money is donated to a third party six months prior to the election writ being dropped, the amount that can be donated is endless.
Frum made the following observation during the April 13 senate hearing: “I could take a cheque for $10 million from Saudi Arabia, from Iran, from China — I could take any amount of money from a foreign contributor so long as I, a Canadian citizen, am receiving it?”
Cote said as long as funds are received six months before an election “the third party is free to use that money.”
“Most Canadians would be very alarmed by this,” added Frum. “This happened in the 2015 election.”
So, the interference by the American liberal lobby groups may actually pale in comparison to money that might have come in to Canada from other international interests.
In 2014, only Canada and Australia stood in the way of a global climate accord to be signed in Paris in December, 2015. That year, Lord Christopher Monkton overheard Sir David King, William Hague's (Home Secretary) United Kingdom “climate change ambassador” who was asked by the Environmentalist Committee of the House of Commons (UK) in May 2014 “whether all the nations of the world were in principle ready to sign their people's 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. 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 (2015), 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 above is documented on a post on the eve of the Canadian elections in Oct. 2015: One-World Government if Harper Loses Election - Margaret Thatcher Advisor.
The implication is that this has much less to do with actual climate change and more to do with the UN assuming authority over every country in the world. It would start with climate change but the end result would be 'One-World Government!' At least, that's the theory. And there are arguments to support that theory.
This is one of the reasons Trump's presidency has upset so many people - it is delaying the inevitable, One-World government. It also contributes to the numbers of the many working to undermine Trump and get him impeached. Lest you get a false impression - I despise Trump and many of the things he is doing or trying to do. But not giving the UN authority over the USA is not one of them.
Kenyan election manager Chris Msando
found dead days before electionBy Ed Adamczyk
The body of Chris Msando, IT manager of Kenya's Information and Boundaries Commission and spokesman for Kenya's electronic voting system, was found dead on Saturday, days before a presidential election. Screenshot courtesy of IEBC
UPI -- A co-developer of Kenya's allegedly hackproof voting system was found dead with one arm cut off, police said, days before a federal election.
Chris Msando, information technology director for the Kenyan government's regulatory agency known as the Independent Electrical and Boundaries Commission, had been missing since Friday. His body, and that of an unidentified woman, was found on the outskirts of Nairobi, the capital, on Saturday.
In anticipation of an Aug. 9 presidential election, expected to be a close contest between incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta and challenger Raila Odinga, Msando was a frequent guest on Kenyan media. He aimed to assure voters that IEBC's new electronic voting machines could not be hacked or that vote counts could not be duplicated. Msando was one of the few people in Kenya who knew the location of the IEBC's servers.
Problems with electronic voting in the closely contested 2013 election led to accusations the vote was rigged. Over 1,200 people died in ethnic, post-election violence in 2007.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
© Simon Belcher / Global Look Press
The UK has stripped more than 150 suspected jihadists and criminals of their citizenship as part of counter terrorism efforts aimed at curbing extremism and preventing returning ISIS militants from embedding themselves in civil society.
“There’s an awful lot of people we have found who will never be coming home again. Our number one preference is to get them on trial. If we don’t think that’s possible, we use disruption techniques,” an unnamed senior security source told the Sunday Times.
The so-called "deprivation orders” bans any jihadists who fought alongside Islamic State from returning to the country.
More than 40 suspects have had their right to passports revoked so far in 2017, including the so-called "jihadi brides" who had travelled to Syria.
However, the punishment only applies to suspects with dual nationality, as the UK cannot leave people stateless.
The clampdown comes after intelligence chiefs warned the Home Office that more than 300 IS-affiliated militants could soon return to the UK amid the impending collapse of the so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
“Prosecution and conviction is always our preference for dealing with terrorists,” security minister Ben Wallace told the Sunday Times.
“Tpims (terrorism prevention and investigation measures) are one of a range of powers at our disposal to disrupt terrorism-related activity where prosecution is not possible.”
Temporary exclusion orders, which impel suspected extremists to attend deradicalization programs, have been used in the past to deal with jihadists who cannot be stripped of their citizenship.
“We have planned and prepared for the risk posed by British returnees as Daesh [Isis] is defeated in Iraq and Syria and we are using a range of tools to disrupt and diminish that threat," Wallace added.
A major review of British anti-terrorism measures is scheduled for the autumn. Proposals include tighter controls for anyone suspected of terrorist sympathies, as well as a ban on accessing encrypted social media apps that have been used to plan terrorist attacks in the past.
UK security services are currently monitoring roughly 23,000 extremists, so the deprivation of citizenship is a means to limit any significant increases in that number.
In other words, it will not make Britain safer, just limit the degree to which it becomes even less safe.
“Citizenship of the UK is not an absolute right, nor should it be,” Richard Walton, the former head of counter terrorism at Scotland Yard, said.
“It is good to see these powers being used more frequently — for too long terrorists have been able to engage in terrorism abroad then return home without hindrance.”
2 political figures killed as Venezuela holds
unpopular vote for new assembly
President Nicolas Maduro vows to go after political foes
after election with aim to rewrite constitutionThe Associated Press
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters in Caracas on Saturday.
(Miraflores Palace/Handout via Reuters)
Gunfire has killed a candidate in Venezuela's controversial election for a new assembly tasked with rewriting the country's constitution, as well as an opposition activist, officials said Sunday.
Jose Felix Pineda, a 39-year-old lawyer described as a popular candidate for the Constituent Assembly, was shot in his home in Bolivar City on Saturday night, a tweet from the country's public ministry said.
A group of people broke into his residence and "fired several shots," it said.
Ricardo Campos, a youth secretary for the opposition Democratic Action party, was shot and killed during a street protest in the same city early Sunday, said Henry Ramos Allup, a deputy in the National Assembly and the party's national secretary general.
Two other men were shot and killed during a protest on Saturday night in the town of Chiguara in Merida State in the country's northwest, Venezuelan newspaper El Universal reported.
The violence came before voting began in an election held after four months of political upheaval, which has left about 100 people dead and thousands injured and detained.
President casts pre-dawn vote
President Nicolas Maduro asked for global acceptance on Sunday as he cast an unusual pre-dawn vote for an all-powerful constitutional assembly that his opponents fear he'll use to replace his country's democracy with a single-party authoritarian system.
Accompanied by close advisers and state media, Maduro voted at 6:05 a.m. local time — far earlier and less publicly than in previous elections.
In one of the latest clashes between protesters and the government, a 61-year-old nurse was shot and killed by men accused of being pro-government paramilitaries during a protest at a church, close to the school where Maduro voted.
Maduro and his socialist administration deny links to violent paramilitaries and say the political opposition is responsible for the violence that has left at least 113 dead and nearly 2000 wounded in four months of protests.
"We've stoically withstood the terrorist, criminal violence," Maduro said. "Hopefully the world will respectfully extend its arms toward our country."
Venezuelans living in Bogota, Colombia, demonstrate against the constitutional assembly promoted by President Nicolas Maduro's government. The sign reads, 'Out with Maduro, no more dictatorship.' (Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters )
The opposition is boycotting Sunday's vote, contending the election has been structured to ensure Maduro's socialist party continues to dominate; all 5,500 candidates for the 545 seats in the constituent assembly are his supporters and the vote's success is being measured by turnout.
The government is encouraging participation with tactics that include offering social benefits like subsidized food to the poor and threatening state workers' jobs if they don't vote.
'Hoping for housing'
Opinion polls say more than 70 per cent of the country is opposed to Sunday's vote and by mid-morning, turnout appeared light in a dozen sites visited by The Associated Press, with dozens or hundreds of voters lining up at polling sites that saw thousands by the same time in previous elections. Some were frank about their motivations for voting: staying in the government's good graces to receive aid.
"I'm here because I'm hoping for housing," said Luisa Marquez, a 46-year-old hairdresser.
Others said they were there out of conviction that the constitutional assembly would help the government fend off what they called an international capitalist conspiracy to undermine Venezuela's socialist system with the help of the domestic opposition.
Communist paranoia, apparently, stems from socialist paranoia.
"The crisis, the shortages of food and medicine, that isn't the government's fault," said Luis Osuna, a 42-year-old private bodyguard. "Those who are attacking us to kill us with hunger and blame the government are the same enemies the government's always had."
Once one of Latin America's wealthiest nations, Venezuela has spiraled into a devastating crisis during Maduro's four years in power, thanks to plunging oil prices and widespread corruption and mismanagement. Inflation and homicide rates are among the world's highest and widespread shortages of food and medicine have citizens dying of preventable illnesses and rooting through trash to feed themselves.
The special assembly being selected Sunday will have powers to rewrite the country's 1999 constitution but will also have powers above and beyond other state institutions, including the opposition-controlled congress.
Opponents have 'prison cell waiting'
While opinion polls say a vast majority oppose him, Maduro made clear in a televised address Saturday evening that he intends to use the assembly to govern without limitation, describing the vote as "the election of a power that's above and beyond every other. It's the super power!"
He said he wants the assembly to strip opposition legislators of their constitutional immunity from prosecution and indicated he is eager to prosecute many more members of the opposition parties that control a handful of state governments along with the National Assembly, providing one of the few remaining checks on the power of the socialist party that has ruled this OPEC nation for nearly two decades.
A demonstrator looks on during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas on July 28, 2017. (Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters)
"The right wing already has its prison cell waiting," the president said. "All the criminals will go to prison for the crimes they've committed."
And the number one crime in Maduro's eyes is, not supporting Maduro.
Saying the assembly will begin to govern within a week, Maduro said its first task in rewriting the constitution will be "a total transformation" of the office of Venezuela's chief prosecutor, a former government loyalist who has become the highest-ranking official to publicly split from the president.
There is no room in Maduro's Venezuela for an honest bureaucrat.
The Trump administration has imposed successive rounds of sanctions on high-ranking members of Maduro's administration, with the support of countries including Mexico, Colombia and Panama.
Vice-President Mike Pence promised on Friday that the U.S. would take "strong and swift economic actions" if the vote went ahead. He didn't say whether the U.S. would sanction Venezuelan oil imports, a measure with the potential to undermine Maduro but cause an even deeper humanitarian crisis here
Maduro's supporters on the Supreme Court set off the protests and clashes between police and demonstrator when they tried to strip the National Assembly of its powers in April.
The opposition has organized a series of work stoppages, as well as a July 16 protest vote that it said drew more than 7.5 million symbolic votes against the constitutional assembly. It called Saturday for roadblocks to start before dawn Sunday and a mass march on Caracas' main highway.
"A new stage in the democratic struggle starts tomorrow," Julio Borges, the president of the National Assembly, said at a news conference called by Democratic Unity, a coalition of some 20 opposition groups. "This new stage will need more courage ... street protests will get stronger."
This deplorable situation will certainly get much worse before it gets better; if it ever gets better.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
A policeman stands on a street that has been blocked after Australian counter-terrorism police arrested four people in raids, Australia, July 29, 2017. © David Gray / Reuters
Four people have been arrested in late night raids by Australia's counter-terrorism task force over an alleged plot to blow up a passenger plane, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed.
Police have obtained information that “some people in Sydney were planning to commit a terrorist attack using an improvised devise,” Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin told reporters.
The plot is believed to be related to “Islamic-inspired terrorism,” Colvin said. He did not specify if any terrorist groups, such as Islamic State, have been linked to the foiled attack.
The federal police are “investigating information indicating the aviation industry was potentially a target of that attack,” Colvin added.
He said there was no indication that airport security was “compromised” at any time.
"Four men have been taken into custody and are assisting police with their enquiries," the Australian Federal Police said in a statement.
"The public should be reassured that our security and intelligence agencies are working tirelessly to keep us safe," PM Turnbull said in a statement as cited by Reuters.
A Qantas Airways Airbus A330-300 jet takes off from Sydney International Airport over the city skyline © Jason Reed
Security at Sydney airport was stepped up Thursday in anticipation of a potential attack, with similar measures implemented at airports across the country.
Australia's terrorism threat remains at the same “probable” level as it was prior to the raids.
Turnbull advised travellers to expect delays due to increased airport security but said there was no imminent danger.
"Some of the measures will be obvious to the public, some will not be — those travelling should go about their business with confidence," Turnbull said, as cited by Reuters.
"The office of transport security has advised security screening will take longer, and travellers should arrive at terminals at least two hours before flights to allow ample time for screening.
"They should limit the amount of carry-on and checked baggage, as this will help to ensure that security screening is efficient."
Last week, Turnbull released an online video statement in which he announced major reforms of Australia’s counter terrorism agencies.
The following dissertation by a brilliant journalist is well worth the few minutes of listening to, or reading. It's about free speech on American campuses.
Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire
He states 3 premises made by those who advocate that violence is justified against free-speech:
1. The validity or invalidity of an argument can be judged solely on the ethnic, sexual, cultural, or racial identity of the person making the argument.
2. They claim those who disagree are engaging in 'verbal violence'.
3. They conclude that physical violence is sometimes justified to stop such 'verbal violence'.
Why is this important? Because the end of free speech is the end of democracy. The country is ripe for the beginning of autocracy whether it is right-wing extremism, neo-liberalism, or something we cannot yet conceive, it leaves America open for such things as theocracies.
Only one theocracy will ever work in this world and that is when Jesus Christ returns.
Friday, July 28, 2017
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions © Aaron Bernstein / Reuters
In an unprecedented move, the Justice Department intervened in a private New York employment discrimination case to remind the court that gay employees are not protected from discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a 36-page friend-of-the-court brief on Wednesday, telling the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that Title VII, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, should not extend to include sexual orientation.
“The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination. It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts,” the Justice Department wrote.
The brief was out of the ordinary since the department, which had no previous involvement in the case, does not usually get involved in private employment lawsuits.
The discrimination case was filed by Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor who accused his employer of terminating him for his sexual orientation. Zarda said he lost his job after he told a customer that he was gay and the customer’s husband made a complaint to the company.
In their brief, the Justice Department argued that sex discrimination only occurs when employers treat male and female employees differently.
“The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect,” the department wrote. "Of course, if an employer fired only gay men but not gay women (or vice versa), that would be prohibited by Title VII, but precisely because it would be discrimination based on sex, not sexual orientation."
The department also said that the decision to add sexual orientation to Title VII should be left to the courts, saying that despite “notable changes in societal and cultural attitudes” every Congress since 1974 has declined to add a provision to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“When adopting Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination in 1964, and especially when amending it in 1991, Congress was well aware of the distinct practice of sexual orientation discrimination and chose not to ban it also,” the department wrote.
Devin O'Malley, a spokesman for the DOJ, told The Hill that the brief “reaffirms the Department’s fundamental belief that the courts cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided.”
“This Department remains committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals and will continue to enforce the numerous laws Congress has enacted that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Under US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the department has changed course from the previous administration.
In 2014, former Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo, telling attorneys that Title VII “encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.”
On Thursday, Holder noted that the department's brief was filed the same day that President Donald Trump announced that the military would ban transgender people from serving.
In 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was illegal. The decision did not bind the courts, however, many courts have based their rulings on that decision.
In the brief, the DOJ said that the EEOC, which oversees enforcement of Title VII and filed court papers supporting Zarda, was “not speaking for the United States.”
Thursday, July 27, 2017
Inside Justin Bieber's Hillsong Church: Child abuse cover-up claims, rinsing its followers for money and facing 'cult' accusations
The Despacito singer may have denied cancelling his remaining Purpose World Tour dates in connection with his 'spiritual awakening' - but here's a look inside Bieber's religion of choice
BY EMMELINE SAUNDERS
Emmeline Saunders is a self-professed muck-raker in the UK and I would bet has never set foot in a Hillsong Church, if she's ever set foot in a church at all. It's a pity the Daily Mirror has reduced itself to this level of 'journalism'.
Celebrities have always raised eyebrows over their religion of choice – for Tom Cruise and John Travolta it's Scientology, while the likes of Madonna and Ashton Kutcher were proud followers of Kabbalah for a long time.
And now it's Justin Bieber's turn to spark controversy with his reported closeness to Hillsong Church, a global strand of Christianity that looks to recruit followers with music, dancing and community care projects.
Egad! Not music, dancing and community projects!
But Hillsong has also faced accusations that it acts as a cult, as well as allegedly having attempted to cover up the child abuse allegations levelled against its founder's father.
It is also accused of pushing its congregations to donate cash and of using Bible verses selectively to set its own agenda.
So what is Hillsong Church? How is Bieber involved? And why do so many of its detractors believe it's a modern-day cult?
Justin Bieber has been involved in the Hillsong Church for years (Image: Splash News)
He recently cancelled the rest of his Purpose world tour, reportedly after a 'spiritual awakening' thanks to Hillsong (Image: Splash News)
Hillsong and child abuse
Brian Houston, who founded the Pentecostal Christian movement in Australia, (that's not really accurate) stood down his own father, William 'Frank' Houston, as a preacher in 1999 after hearing an allegation that Frank had sexually abused a seven-year-old boy.
In a letter sent to church leaders in 2001, Brian claimed that there was no reason for the information to be spread any further afield, prompting claims of an attempted cover-up when the letter was leaked.
"Sadly there are always one or two people with their own agendas who will try and get mileage from other people's pain," Brian's missive told ministers.
Frank would go on to leave Hillsong and died of a stroke in 2004. Fresh allegations that he'd molested six other children in New Zealand in previous decades continued to dog the organisation.
An investigation by Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found none of the allegations against Frank Houston were ever reported to police.
The commission's report found Frank had sexually abused the seven-year-old boy, and had later admitted it to an assembly of church executives.
The real story - Frank confessed to sexually abusing a boy in New Zealand, some 30 years earlier. He never confessed to, nor was he ever accused of molesting children in Australia. Should Brian have reported his father? Would you? He certainly should have encouraged his father to report himself and suffer the consequences in New Zealand. Whether he did or not, who knows.
But having followed the Royal Commission with some interest, I can tell you two observations that almost always happened in instances of child sex abuse in institutions:
1. They were almost never reported to police before the 21st century.
2. Firing his father immediately upon his confession was the strongest action taken by the leader of any institution that I have read about from the Commission's hearings.
Hillsong 'using selective Bible verses' to encourage hefty donations
Justin and Hillsong super-pastor Carl Lentz are close friends (Image: Splash News)
Those who have been to Hillsong services report that leaders are swift to imply followers must give as much money as they can to the church.
Obviously, she hasn't been to a Hillsong service so she has to use other people's impressions.
In Hillsong's own FAQs, there are six different ways to donate money listed - including using the church's own app to transfer money immediately. There are also calls on its website to set up a direct deposit or have an online account so cash can be sent electronically.
This is true of any modern church anywhere in the world. It is convenient and why wouldn't they?
As with many other churches, Hillsong followers will find empty envelopes left on their chairs ahead of services to be filled with money or standing order forms, which are collected up by staff. Collection buckets are also sent around the church during a service, with the congregation urged to dig deep.
Hillsong also uses Bible verses, such as Proverbs, to encourage its followers to donate generously. "The godly love to give," its own site quotes.
The movement is big on "the Biblical principle of tithing", which requests that believers donate the first ten per cent of their income to the church.
Many church denominations are. I think it is becoming less emphasized in recent years in many evangelical churches, but many still think it is important and with lots of scripture to base that opinion on.
"Tithes and Offerings received at Hillsong fund the vision and activities of our church," says Hillsong.
The 2016 Hillsong Church annual report found donations made up over half of its revenue - with another 19% stemming from the dozens of Christian rock albums it produces.
In most churches, donations make up virtually all the revenue.
Hillsong and homosexuality
Hillsong does not believe in homosexuality, in line with the Old Testament, (and the New Testament) nor does it agree with equal (read, gay) marriage. When a director of one of its church's choir was found to be in a committed gay relationship, Hillsong's founder issued a statement clarifying that the news came as "a complete surprise". ???
In a blog post, Brian Houston told his followers: "Hillsong Church welcomes ALL people but does not affirm all lifestyles."
"Put clearly, we do not affirm a gay lifestyle and because of this we do not knowingly have actively gay people in positions of leadership, either paid or unpaid."
Justin Bieber was accused of homophobia in 2016 after reportedly turning down a role in Uber Girl, reportedly because his character would have a sex scene with another man, the film's co-writer Pete O'Neill claimed.
However, Bieber's rep said at the time there was "no truth" to his being offered the role in the first place.
Again, the muckraker resorts to rumors here. But why does not wanting to engage in a sex scene with a man make someone homophobic? Personally, I can't think of anything more disgusting than kissing or having sex with another man, but it is not out of fear (phobia), it's out of disgust.
Speaking in tongues
The act of speaking in tongues - or in a language that needs a special person to interpret - has long been associated with the Pentecostal churches.
"We believe that in order to live the holy and fruitful lives that God intends for us, we need to be baptised in water and be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit," the church states on its site.
"The Holy Spirit enables us to use spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues."
I have been baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit and I do not speak in tongues and never have. My wife has the gift of tongues, which the Apostle Paul wished everyone would have.
But many Christians believe it amounts to 'false worship' and 'showmanship', including members of a Facebook group who claim to be former followers of Hillsong.
Very conservative Christians believe tongues is not a valid 'gift' for today and there are certainly churches and occasions where tongues is used inappropriately. But all spiritual gifts are valid today, not just tongues.
One member, who said they had been involved in Hillsong for a few years in their early twenties, said church elders believed those who had been 'saved' would be given the gift of speaking in tongues.
They also claimed to have been disturbed by one pastor's 'healing' service.
"A visiting pastor performed a 'healing' show, calling out people wanting healing to the stage," they recalled.
"Some people went up and were 'healed'. This didn't sit right with me because there was a wheelchair bound person in the room who was ignored. Was this beyond God's power? Could God only heal afflictions that have no visible sign of it actually being healed? How must that wheelchair bound person have felt? I imagine he'd be thinking 'my faith must not be good enough yet'."
Did the wheelchair bound person go forward? Did they want to go forward? There is an element of 'coming to God' that is often, though not always, part of healing. Jesus said to the woman who touched His garment, "Your faith has healed you!"
Bieber spent six weeks in 2014 living with Pastor Carl - one of the church's lead pastors who is frequently compared to a rock star thanks to his charismatic brand of teaching - and grew close to the minister's family.
According to GQ, the troubled pop star moved into Carl's home after a period of car-crash media stories and reputational crisis. While he was there the two "worked through some stuff" and Bieber cried that he "wanted to know Jesus" before begging on his knees to be baptised.
He's since attended Hillsong services and conferences - and was even suspected of cancelling the rest of his Purpose world tour in July 2017 so he could found his own branch of the church.
The change in Bieber has been astounding and it has everything to do with Hillsong Church and Pastor Lentz. yet, the muckraker can only see something sinister in this instead of celebrating a man getting free, apparently, of drugs and alcohol.
Pandering to celebrities
Justin's ex Selena Gomez walking to a Hillsong service in New York (Image: Splash News)
Kendall Jenner was spotted leaving a Hillsong service (Image: Splash News)
It's not just Bieber who's known to follow Hillsong - his friends Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin and ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez have also been linked to the religious movement.
While it attracts a cool, millennial-focused crowd, Hillsong believes all souls need to 'know Jesus' - but celebrities appear to have a special place in its pecking order.
"People say we cater to celebrities and I say, yes, we do," Pastor Carl told GQ.
"Celebrities deserve a relationship with God. Celebrities deserve a place to pray."
Is Hillsong a cult?
The church elders have batted away accusations that the movement is a cult - certainly, its followers seem to have made up their own minds about it.
But many of the movement's detractors claim Hillsong's focus on charismatic preachers, music and song-based performances, and its push for funds and donations give the church a sinister spin.
I think the only sinister spin comes from the unfortunate writer of this article. It seems obvious that she had a sinister attitude and has looked far and wide to find some reason for it. But the reason doesn't lie in Hillsong; it lies in Emmeline Saunders own heart. It is truly in need of a makover.
However, Bobbie Houston, who helped husband Brian found Hillsong, has previously denied any cult claims, insisting followers simply wish to worship their god.
Hillsong has produced some of the best contemporary worship music ever written. It has been leading many a Christian into deeper worship of Jesus Christ for about 25 years. No church is perfect! That will have to wait for the Lord's return. But this criticism is quite simply small-minded and naive.
This is a real cult and it is exploding in popularity all over the world.
It is not true Christianity; it has many similarities, but many great differences.
They infect my Twitter feed from time to time with their propaganda
and I have to remove them.
Please familiarize yourself with these people so that you know
how to answer someone who becomes interested in them.
When Jesus returns to Earth, everyone will know.
It will not be as a little Chinese woman in New York who wants your money.
Chinese police detained 18 members of a banned religious cult which believes Jesus has returned to grace the earth in the form of a woman.
The Church of Almighty God, or Quannengshen, believes Jesus was resurrected as a woman in China, and that she will wreak the apocalypse.
Zhao Weishan founded the cult in the 1990s and his wife, Yang Xiangbin is believed to be the ‘female Jesus.’
They both fled China in 2000 and claimed political asylum in the US.
The arrests were made in Zhejiang Province on Wednesday following an investigation into the cult, Xinhua reports.
"The cult's 'leaders' imposed spiritual control over the members," Changxing County police officer Dong Jianfeng said. "They were told that as long as they gave donations, the Almighty God would keep their illness at bay."
"Every member was willing to donate their money, and the amounts ranged from 10,000 yuan (US$1,481) to tens of thousands of yuan," he added.
Police seized computers, hard drives, 150 books and 460 pamphlets used by the cult, China News reports. They said eight of the suspects have been “re-educated” and denounced their cult beliefs.
That's a frightening term, 're-educated'. Many good people have been 're-educated' in China and have become little more than vegetables. I hope this is not the kind of 're-education' they are referring to.
The group came under fire in 2014, when its members were caught beating a woman to death in a McDonald’s when she refused to give them her phone number as they attempted to recruit her.
One of the murderers Zhang Lidong said in an interview: 'I beat her with all my might and stamped on her too. She was a demon. We had to destroy her.'
Two members, Zhang and his daughter, were executed for the murder in 2015.
The Church of Almighty God is accused of isolating members from family and friends and pressuring followers to give money to get salvation. Like Scientology, the more members donate, the higher they progress in the cult’s ranks.
The cult’s headquarters are now in the US.
Channel 4 news spoke with a member just after the McDonalds attack and claimed that there were at least a million members in the country.
The Church of Almighty God refers to the ruling Communist Party as the 'great red dragon'.
On its website, where one section is headed 'The Maturer the People Become, the Sooner the Great Red Dragon Will Collapse', the group describes the authorities as 'the persecutor of God and the enemy of God'.
China has previously cracked down harshly on groups it labels 'cults', most notably the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which was banned in the late 1990s.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Trump made his announcement in a series of tweets Wednesday morningBy Jeremy Diamond, CNN
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving "in any capacity" in the US armed forces.
The decision reversed a policy initially approved by the Defense Department under President Barack Obama, which was still under final review, that would allow transgender individuals to openly serve in the military. Defense Secretary James Mattis announced last month that he was delaying enactment of the plan to begin allowing transgender individuals to join the US military.
"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," Trump said in a series of tweets Wednesday morning. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." "Thank you," he added.
Ash Carter, the Defense secretary under Obama, ended the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military in 2016, but allowed for a year-long review process to allow the Pentagon to determine how it would accept new transgender recruits into the military.
On the eve of that one-year deadline, Mattis announced that he was delaying the implementation of the new policy, saying he needed more time.
"Since becoming the Secretary of Defense, I have emphasized that the Department of Defense must measure each policy decision against one critical standard: will the decision affect the readiness and lethality of the force?" Mattis said in a memo late last month. "Put another way, how will the decision affect the ability of America's military to defend the nation? It is against this standard that I provide the following guidance on the way forward in accessing transgender individuals into the military Services."
A 2016 Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a "minimal impact" on readiness and health care costs, largely because there are so few in the military's 1.3 million-member force.
The study put the number of transgender people in the military between 1,320 and 6,630. Gender-change surgery is rare in the general population, and the RAND study estimated the possibility of 30 to 140 new hormone treatments a year in the military, with 25 to 130 gender transition-related surgeries among active service members. The cost could range from $2.4 million and $8.4 million, an amount that would represent an "exceedingly small proportion" of total health care expenditures, the study found.
Trump's decision marks a setback for LGBT rights groups who have expressed concerns that the Trump administration could chip away at progress the community has seen in recent years on the backs of a series of landmark decisions in recent years that have included the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide and a repeal of the ban on gay people openly serving in the military.
Trump's decision is also another setback for the transgender community following his decision several months ago to reverse an Obama administration policy allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.
The announcement was immediately criticized by LGBT leaders and civil rights groups.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the decision "outrageous and desperate" and said it was exploring ways to fight the policy shift.
"Let us be clear. This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country. The President is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country," said Joshua Block, the senior staff attorney with the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project.
Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, the vice chair of the congressional LGBT caucus, called Trump's decision a "slap in the face to the thousands of transgender Americans already serving in the military" and said it "undermines our military's readiness."
"Anyone who is willing to put on the uniform of the United States and risk their life in service to our country should be celebrated as patriots, regardless of their gender identity. This short-sighted and discriminatory policy will make America less safe," said Kildee.
He seems to be unaware that transgenders have an attempted suicide rate well above 40%. How can this be anything but a threat to a combat group? Of course, this is a CNN report which is in full support of the LGBTQ community at the expense of the military, or anybody else.
The Obama administration faced heated criticism from conservatives last year when it announced the repeal of the ban, and several Republican members of Congress have urged the Trump administration to reverse the decision, saying that the decision does not serve the US' defense interests.
The President's decision flies in the face of his 2016 campaign rhetoric, when he said he would be a strong defender of the LGBT community -- and even claimed he would be a better president for LGBT Americans than his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Trump seized on the terrorist attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, as an opportunity to reach out to the LGBT community and promised he would be a better friend to the community than Clinton.
"I will tell you who the better friend is and some day I believe that will be proven out big league," Trump said.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
© Sergey Pyatakov / Sputnik
The number of Russians who describe themselves as atheists has fallen from 26 to 13 percent in just three years, according to recent research. The share of those who back the Church’s involvement in state politics has increased slightly.
The poll, conducted by the Russian independent research center Levada in late June, showed that majority of Russians (62 percent) describe their attitude to atheists as “good and respectful,” with only 8 percent stating negative feelings towards this group. These figures remain virtually unchanged since 2014.
At the same time, the share of those who describe themselves as atheists fell sharply over this period – from 26 percent in 2014 to 13 percent today. Nine percent of participants in the poll said that they considered themselves “very religious” and 44 percent said they were “partly religious.”
That would leave 34% as 'religious'.
In the same poll, 28 percent of respondents said that they were confident that the Church must influence the decision-making process in the upper echelons of state power. This is up from 26 percent three years ago.
The share of those who oppose such actions remained unchanged at 36 percent, while 39 percent said that in their minds the influence of the Church on state politics was “exactly at the necessary level.”
When researchers asked the Russian public about their attitude to representatives of various popular religions and confessions, Orthodox Christianity came out as the most popular with the approval of 92 percent of respondents. Just under three-quarters (74 percent) said that they had positive feelings towards Catholics and 61 percent said they felt respect towards Protestants.
The share of those who reported positive feelings towards Muslims is now 59 percent – which is unchanged since 2013. Seventeen percent described their feelings towards Muslims as “controversial” and 13 percent as “fear and hostility.”
Just over half (55 percent) of Russians said they had a good attitude to Jewish people, with 17 reporting controversial feelings and 11 percent stating they had negative sentiments.
Analysts from the Levada Center noted in comments published on the group’s website that while the share of religious people in the country was on the increase, the strength of their faith was apparently getting weaker.
“The increase in the number of believers is not accompanied by sincere faith or understanding of importance of the religion for spiritual life,” the comments read.
“Indirectly, the weakness of Orthodox Christian norms can be confirmed by growing opposition to restrictions imposed during major fasts – such as the restrictions on entertainment, alcohol or sex. The number of people who say that they are not ready to bear this burden has increased up to two times over the past few years.”
The Russian Orthodox Church expects partial fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays, plus they have a plethora of other fasts that vary from forbidding a few things to not eating from Monday morning until Wednesday evening. While many of the fasts are aimed at monks and clergy, it seems devout Orthodox believers often try to follow them as well.
Fasting is a powerful tool in the church, but it seems to me that it should always be volunteered, not imposed. Fasting, while resenting the fast, is not only ineffective but is probably quite a negative experience. Jesus disciples shocked the religious establishment when they picked a few ears of corn to eat on the Sabbath. They had that freedom in Christ as do all who believe in Him.