July 31, 2012 – FINLAND – The mercury rose to over 30 degrees Celsius for the first time this summer in eastern Finland as meteorologists warned of severe thunderstorms later in the day. The temperature exceeded the 30-degree mark in Tohmajärvi, Lieksa and Juuka in North Karelia, close to the Russian border. But the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) says that a cooler weather front has already arrived in western Finland and will start moving eastwards soon, making the current heatwave quite short-lived. Severe thunderstorms are expected to whip up very strong wind gusts on Monday, warns the FMI. Winds may reach speeds of 25 meters per second in North Ostrobothnia and western Finland, and elsewhere in the country gusts of some 15 m/s are expected. Additionally, heavy rainfall is forecast for various parts of Finland on Monday. Thunderstorms left thousands without electricity in different parts of Finland on Sunday. Most of them had been fixed by Monday afternoon. At 1pm, some 200 Fortum customers were still without power. Elenia (formerly known as Vattenfall) had about 1,200 customers without service at that time. -YLE
Italy battles heat wave: The heat wave affecting much of Italy has resulted in an average 10% reduction in national milk output, according to the Italian agricultural union Coldiretti. In some regions, more severely affected, this is as high as 50% down. Dairy farmers are taking steps to cool their cows, including the use of fans in barns and sprinkling the animals with light jets of water, it said. Corn, tomato, beet and sunflower crops have been damaged across the country and some areas have received no rain for months, the Rome-based agricultural union said in an e-mailed statement today. –Agra Net, Bloomberg
Romania: The National Weather Forecaster has extended a Code Yellow warning of heat till Monday for southern and eastern Romania, Bucharest included, while downpours and thunderstorms are expected in the country’s West, Centre and North starting Sunday night. According to a weather warning issued by the Forecaster on Sunday, the high temperatures at between 35 and 37 degrees Celsius will keep on in southern and eastern Romania and will even hit 38 C in some cities. –Act Media
July 31, 2012 – MOSCOW – Russia is currently in the grips of an extremely strong heat wave. City and town residents are suffocating from the sweltering heat. For example, it is about 30 degrees in Moscow with prospects of the thermometer going up in the next few days. The heat wave situation is aggravated by wild fires producing clods of poisonous smoke. The wood rich Siberian taiga near Krasnoyarsk is fighting 83 fires on the territory of 12.130 hectares. As for rural Russia, that only last year was the world’s third-biggest grain producer, it suffers colossal damages. It threats to destroy a significant part of the crops. If last year’s harvest amounted to 94 million tons, this year it is a predicted at 80 to 85 million. Given the situation, earlier in July the Agriculture Ministry had to revise its harvest predictions. As Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes, the hardest hit are the important grain-producing areas including Kuban, Stavropol, Volgograd, Volga, Rostov-on-Don, Lipetsk, Penza, Ulyanovsk, Kurgan and Altai. Nevertheless, Arkady Zlochevsky, president of the Russian Grain Union thinks that “The risks are there, but then there is a chance to avoid them.” Zlochevksy added that there will be 85 million tons of crops and the size of the harvest would depend on the weather. With the leftover stocks from previous harvests, the export potential will then be about 18-20 million tons. Although this is less than last year, when the country exported more than 26 million tons, it is still better than 2010, when the droughts and wild fires in Russia ruined about a third of all the grain harvested and the country had to impose an embargo on grain exports. The area of Russia’s irrigated fields is about 2.5 million hectares, and Russia has 44 million hectares of land under spring crops this year. “The biggest losses are not caused by the weather, it is rather the failure to comply with production rules in bad weather,” said Zlochevsky. On the other hand Oleg Sukhanov, head of the market analysis unit at the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies, thinks that Russia may gather in only 77 million tons of grain. And, Sukhanov said, “that is not the worst-case scenario.” His forecast is worrisome as Russia’s annual domestic consumption amounts to 67 million to 72 million tons. As is expected this year Russia may consume up to 68.5 million tons of grain and so, considering the remaining stocks from previous years, Sukhanov’s institute colleagues are putting the Russian grain export potential this year at a mere 13.5 million tons. –VOR
Margaret Besheer, Lisa Schlein (31 Jul)
There were widespread clashes reported across Syria Tuesday, but the fiercest battle remained in the country’s commercial heart of Aleppo.
Syria’s official news agency reported that the army ambushed between 400-500 terrorists – the word the government uses to refer to the rebels – in 30 pick-up trucks in the suburbs of Aleppo. The report said many were killed and wounded and several of their trucks destroyed.
Meanwhile, Rami Abd al-Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said in an interview that the Free Syrian Army had successfully attacked a police station in the city.
”The rebels, they attacked some police station in two areas in Aleppo, and they killed at least around 40 people from the police,” he said. “And also there are clashes in many areas in Aleppo and shelling from the Syrian regular army, and they are using the helicopter and they are using the mortar.”
The fighting comes as the Syrian opposition movement further splintered when some exiled Syrian activists announced in Cairo that they had formed a new political alliance, one that will challenge the rival Syrian National Council in moves to head a transitional government.
Calling itself the “Council for the Syrian Revolution,” the group is led mainly by dissidents who left the National Council which, they said, “had failed to help the Syrian revolution.” Activist Haitham al-Maleh said the new alliance would offer more support to rebel fighters.
The United Nations estimates some 200,000 civilians have fled Aleppo and surrounding areas in recent days. The U.N. refugee agency said thousands more remain displaced in Aleppo without the means to leave or are prevented from doing so by armed gangs.
Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said thousands of frightened residents are seeking shelter in schools, mosques and public buildings. She said the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other groups are registering about 300 displaced families a day in need of help.
“For example, there are 32 schools in Aleppo that we have identified and in each of those schools we have heard or witnessed that 250 to 350 people are packed inside,” Fleming told reporters in Geneva.
“Many of these families [have] kids,” she said. “And then in university dormitories there are a total of some 7,000 people staying in the dormitory rooms, hoping to seek safety from the continuing shelling and the continuing violence in the streets of Aleppo.”
Despite the difficulties of moving around in the city, Fleming said U.N. staff members are working with other aid organizations to assess needs. She said the agency’s office in Damascus is sending household items including mattresses, blankets and kitchenware to Aleppo.
Iraqis Seek Help
U.N. staff members in Damascus are receiving phone calls from refugees, many of them Iraqis, who fear for their safety in Syria. Callers say they lack access to food, water and sanitation. They are asking the agency to help them move to safer areas and away from the fighting.
At the peak of the Iraq war, Syria hosted about one million refugees from Iraq. An estimated 80,000 remain in Damascus and many of those are seeking to return home.
In addition to the Iraqis, the U.N. said about 8,000 Somali and Afghan refugees are living in Damascus, many without documents. Fleming said they are afraid of being physically harmed and targeted.
Since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, Fleming said the Somalis and Afghans are becoming less accepted in Syria than refugees from Iraq.
“Somalis and the Afghans lived quite peacefully and were able to work and feel that they could raise their families in Syria,” she said. “However, now that things have turned violent, this is the group that feels like they stick out, particularly. And, thus, feel more at risk and many feel directly targeted.”
Fleming said up to 25,000 Syrians reportedly fled to Algeria. And she predicts that as Syrians in Algeria become increasingly financially-strapped, they will turn to the U.N. refugee agency for assistance.
WHAT WILL BE ILLEGAL WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS LEGAL
JULY 31, 2012
(David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Note: In this article you may notice some run-on words and strange spellings . This is necessary in order for this email to pass through internet filters so that it can be delivered.
If homosexuality is fully legalized and homosexual activists are given every right they demand, citizens in western nations will be robbed of many liberties they have heretofore enjoyed. This is not a guess; it is a judgment based on current facts. The right to free speech and the right to the free exercise of religion, in particular, will be effectively destroyed.
WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS FULLY LEGAL, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO SAY ANYTHING THAT MIGHT APPEAR BIASED AGAINST HOMOSEXUALITY.
In 1997 Jo Ann Knight was fired by the Connecticut Department of Public Health after she counseled a homosexual couple from the Bible about salvation and about the necessity of repenting of sin. Knight’s job was to supervise the provision of medical services by Medicare agencies to home health care patients, and in that capacity she interviewed patients. The homosexuals filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights. A district court upheld Knight’s dismissal, claiming that her religious speech caused her clients distress and interfered with the performance of her duties.
In 2000 Evelyn Bodett was fired by CoxCom Cable for expressing her biblical views against homosexuality to a lesbian subordinate. They claimed that she was thereby “coercing and harassing” the lesbian contrary to company policy. The lesbian, Kelley Carson, had sought Bodett’s advice in regard to a recent breakup with her homosexual partner, and Bodett gave her biblical counsel that homosexuality is a sin. Carson complained about the matter to a supervisor. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Bodett’s religious discrimination suit.
In 2001 Richard Peterson was fired by Hewlett-Packard after he posted Bible verses condemning homosexuality. Peterson, who had worked for HP for nearly 21 years, posted the verses in response to the company’s diversity policy that requires acceptance of homosexuality. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2004 that Peterson was not discriminated against because of his religious beliefs. Commenting on the case, Stephen Crampton, chief counsel for the American Family Association’s Center for Law & Policy, said: “The new rule in the workplace seems to be: The Bible is out; diversity is in” (“Using Caesar’s Sword,” AgapePress, March 19, 2004).
In 2002 homosexual activists tried to get the Ferndale City Council in Michigan to fire volunteer police chaplain Tom Hansen for stating his biblical views against homosexuality. The organization Soulforce claimed that Hansen, the pastor of a Baptist church, was committing “spiritual violence” against homosexuals by saying that it is sinful. The divided city council opted not to dismiss the pastor, but it did issue a resolution condemning him for his “anti-gay” views.
In 2002 Rolf Szabo was fired by Eastman Kodak for objecting to the company’s diversity policy. The program, which is called “Winning & Inclusive Culture,” allows no “negative comments” toward “gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered” employees. After the company sent out an email memo in October 2002 announcing “coming out” day for homosexual employees and demanding that they be given full acceptance and encouragement, Rolf replied to the same mailing list (1,000 employees), “Please do not send this type of information to me anymore, as I find it disgusting and offensive. Thank you.” For refusing to apologize and submit to diversity sensitivity training, Rolf was fired. He had worked for Kodak for 23 years.
In 2002 in Saskatchewan, Canada, the StarPhoenix newspaper of Saskatoon and Hugh Owens were ordered to pay $1,500 to three homosexual activists for publishing an ad in the newspaper in 1997 quoting Bible verses regarding homosexuality. The advertisement displayed references to four Bible passages (Romans 1, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) on the left side. An equal sign (=) was situated in the middle, with a symbol on the right side comprised of two males holding hands with the universal sign of a red circle with a diagonal bar superimposed over the top. Owens bought the ad and the StarPhoenix merely printed it. The Human Rights Commission’s ruling was appealed to the courts. In February 2003 the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatchewan refused to overturn it, with Justice J. Barclay saying the advertisement was an incitement to hatred. But in April 2006 the r uling was overturned by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeals.
(“Court Reverses Ruling,” WorldNetDaily, April 14, 2006).
In 2003 the city of Oakland, California, labeled a flier posted on a workplace bulletin board as “homophobic” because it used the terms “the natural family and marriage” (Suit to Decide Workplace ‘Hate Speech,’” The Washington Times, June 11, 2007). The flier, which was posted by Regina Rederford and Robin Christy, was removed after a lesbian complained to the city attorney’s office that it made her feel “excluded.” When Rederford and Christy sued the city, claiming their First Amendment rights had been violated, they lost at the local, state, and federal level, with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against them. The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court.
In June 2004 Pentecostal Pastor Ake Green in Sweden became the first pastor in the European Union to be charged under hate crimes. He was convicted for denouncing homosexuality as “abnormal,” “something sick,” and “a deep cancerous tumor in the body of society” and sentenced to one month in jail. The conviction was overturned by an appeals court.
In October 2004 eleven Christians with the Repent America organization who were protesting a homosexual “Outfest” in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were arrested and charged with a laundry list of crimes. In February 2005 four members of the group stood trial on three felony and five misdemeanor counts and the judge dismissed all charges. Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Dembe said, “We cannot stifle speech because we don’t want to hear it, or we don’t want to hear it now” (“Judge Drops Charges,” Baptist Press, Feb. 18, 2005). (Homosexual activists claim that the group was disrupting their program and refusing police requests to move, but the judge ruled that they did nothing illegal.)
In 2005 in Alberta Fred Henry, Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was subject to two complaints before the Alberta Human Rights Commission after publishing a pastoral letter defending the traditional definition of marriage earlier that same year. (“Canada’s Human Rights Beef with Catholics,” Zenit, Feb. 5, 2008). Bishop Henry told Zenit: “The social climate right now is that we’re into a new form of censorship and thought control, and the commissions are being used as thought police.”
In January 2006, Catholic city councilman John Decicco of Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, was fined $1,000 and required to apologize for saying that homosexuality is “not normal or natural” (LifeSiteNews, Jan. 19, 2007). In his remarks, which were made in a city council meeting, DeCicco was expressing the official doctrine of his church. The fine goes to two homosexual activists who brought the complaint. DeCicco was also forced to issue a public statement that his comments were “inappropriate and hurtful to some.” DeCiccco told LifeSiteNews, “I’m not against lesbian and gay people, but I don’t agree that I should have to endorse it.”
After he preached against homosexuality at a fellow officer’s funeral in September 2006, Sgt. Eric Holyfield of the Los Angeles Police Department was removed from his position in community relations, moved back to patrol duty, and passed over for promotions and pay raises (“Police Office Sues LAPD and Los Angeles, Alleging Religious Discrimination,” Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2008). In his euology, Holyfield, who is also a pastor, quoted Bible verses proving that homosexuality is an abomination before God and said that one must repent or be condemned to hell. Holyfield’s commanding officer, Charlie Beck, who was present at the funeral, filed a formal complaint against him.
In February 2007 complaints were brought before the Human Rights Commission in Canada targeting Catholic Insight magazine and priest Alphonse De Valk, a well-known pro-life activist, for quoting from the Bible and church documents to refute “sameSex marriage.” The complaint was brought by homosexual activist Rob Wells, a member of the Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Pride Center of Edmonton. He accuses the magazine of promoting “extreme hatred and contempt” against homosexuals. De Valk says, “The basic view of the Church is that homosexual acts are a sin, but we love the sinner,” adding that opposing sameSex marriage is not the same as rejecting homosexuals as persons (“Canada’s Human Rights Beef with Catholics,” Zenit, Feb. 5, 2008).
In 2007 the Christian Heritage Party of Canada and its leader Ron Gray were investigated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) after a homosexual activist complained that he was offended by material on the party’s web site. The activist, Rob Wells, has also launched complaints against Craig Chandler in Alberta and Alphonse de Valk and Catholic Insight magazine. One of the articles that Wells complained about was an April 29, 2002, report published by WorldNetDaily in America citing a study that found that pedophilia is more common among homosexuals (http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=27431). Another article, written by Ron Gray, protested Canada’s bill to legalize sameSex marriage.
Gray told LifeSiteNews: “Christians are probably the best friends homosexuals have in the world because we want to see them delivered from an addiction that will shorten their lives in this world and condemn them in the next. I’m not motivated by hate at all. I would guess that very few if any real Christians are motivated by hate in their response to these issues. It’s a question of compassion. Who truly loves you, someone who tells you the truth even when it hurts, or someone who will tell you you’re okay even when you’re headed down the wrong road. The Scripture says, ‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend, and deceitful are the kisses of an enemy’” (“Christian Political Party before Human Rights Commission,” LifeSiteNews, Nov. 27, 2007).
He added: “I really think this is a crucial case because if an agency of the government, which the CHRC is, can tell a political party what it may and may not include in its political statements we have gone way down the road to totalitarianism.”
In June 2007 a coalition of protestant churches in Brazil was ordered to halt their campaign “In Defense of the Family” and to remove billboards that said, “Homosexuality: God made them man and woman, and saw that it was good!” “A court order decreed the removal of the billboards and the cancellation of a public event scheduled by the coalition to further the defense of family values, claiming that it was ‘homophobic’” (“Brazil Attacks against Family Defenders,” LifeSiteNews, July 30, 2007).
In June 2008 Stephen Boisson, an evangelical youth pastor, was banned from expressing opposition to homosexuality in any public forum and ordered to pay $7,000 “damages for pain and suffering” to the homosexual activist who brought the complaint. The trouble began in 2002 when Boisson wrote a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate newspaper in Alberta and denounced the advance of homosexual activism in the schools. Printed under the heading “Homosexual Agenda Wicked,” the letter said: “Children as young as five and six years of age are being subjected to psychologically and physiologically damaging pro-homosexual literature and guidance in the public school system; all under the fraudulent guise of equal rights.” This offended a homosexual teacher named Darren Lund who complained to the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal.
In May 2008, Crystal Dixon was fired as associate vice president of human resources at the University of Toledo after she wrote an editorial to the Toledo Free Press expressing her views on homosexuality. She disagreed that “gay rights” can be compared to the civil rights struggles of black Americans. She wrote: “As a Black woman, I take great I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are ‘civil rights victims.’ Here’s why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a black woman. I am genetically and biologically a black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended” (“Homosexuality Editorial Puts 1st Amendment on Trial,” WorldNetDaily, Dec. 2, 2008).
Dixon was fired by the university president, Lloyd Jacobs, who condemned her statements. Robert Gagnon, author of “Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views,” condemned the university, saying that such actions “come out of the Stalinistic, Soviet state. This is the kind of elimination of any expression of differences of opinion.”
In December 2008 the Advertising Standards Authority in Ireland banned a newspaper ad by a Belfast church, claiming that it was offensive and indecent. The ad, entitled “The Word of God against Sodomy,” was run by the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church to coincide with Belfast’s Gay Pride parade. “The Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints from seven members of the public who felt the ad was homophobic, ruling that it had ‘caused serious offense to some readers’” (“Church Ad Banned,” Christian Post, Dec. 3, 2008). This government agency has therefore ruled that the Bible is offensive and indecent and that its statements can be banned if they cause “offense” to some.
Also in December 2008, Graham Cogman was fired from the police force in Norfolk, England, for sending e-mails to colleagues quoting Bible verses and “suggesting that homosexual [sexual acts] was sinful” (“Office Force to Quit after 15 Years,” Daily Mail, Dec. 6, 2008). Cogman, 50, had been on the force for fifteen years and had three commendations. He told the Daily Mail: “In the service in general there is a feeling of fear. There is a definite bias against faith–any faith–if it takes a critical view of homosexual sexual activity. The easy option for me would have been to keep quiet but when there is such prejudice towards one point of view, how can that be right? That doesn’t sound like equality and diversity to me. I don’t have any worries with what people do in their private lives–if they are gay, that’s fine. I haven’t gone after anyone maliciously.” He is appealing the verdict.
In August 2009, Peter Vadala was fired by the Brookstone Corporation for telling a lesbian co-worker that his Christian faith did not accept sameSex marriage. Two days after she contacted the Human Resources department, his job was terminated (“Massachusetts man Fired from Corporation over Christian Belief in Traditional Marriage,” MassResistance.org, Oct. 30, 2009). The company told Peter that “in the State of Massachusetts, sameSex marriage is legal” and his actions were deemed to be “inappropriate” and “harassment.” He was accused of “imposing his beliefs upon others.”
In April 2010 Ken Howell was fired as adjunct professor by the University of Illinois for telling his Catholicism class that he agrees with the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality (“Firing Follows Anonymous ‘Hate Speech’ Complaint,” OneNewsNow.com, July 14, 2010). Howell had taught at the university for nine years, and the complaint was made anonymously by a friend of a student who attended the class.
WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS FULLY LEGAL, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO WORK IN THE FIELD OF COUNSELING
In July 2008 Marcia Walden was fired from her counseling job with Computer Sciences Corporation after she referred a homosexual patient to another counselor for sameSex relationship advice (“Counselor Fired over Christian Beliefs,” OneNewsNow, July 18, 2008).
In 2010, Jennifer Keeton was told by Augusta State University in Georgia that she would have to change her Christian beliefs or be expelled from the school’s graduate counseling program (The Christian Post, July 22, 2010). She was enrolled in the School Counselor masters degree program since 2009. “She expressed her Christian beliefs in class discussions and written assignments, but it was her views regarding gender and sexuality that particularly irked the faculty.
According to the filed complaint, ‘She has stated that she believes sexual behavior is the result of accountable personal choice rather than an inevitability deriving from deterministic forces. She also has affirmed binary male-female gender, with one or the other being fixed in each person at their creation, and not a social construct or individual choice subject to alteration by the person so created. Further, she has expressed her view that homosexuality is a lifestyle, not a state of being.’ A Remediation Plan required that Keeton attend workshops on diversity sensitivity training toward working with GLBTQ [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Queer] populations, work to increase exposure and interaction with gay populations by attending such events as the Gay Pride Parade in Augusta, and read more on the topic to improve counseling effectiveness with GLBTQ populations.
When Keeton asked why her biblical ethical views would disqualify her competence as a counselor, Mary Anderson-Wiley [an associate professor who oversees student education and discipline] at one point responded, ‘Christians see this population as sinners.’” The Alliance Defense Fund filed suit against the school on July 21, 2010, but in June 2012 a judge of the Southern District of Georgia ruled against her.
On July 26, 2010, a federal judge ruled that Eastern Michigan University was within its rights to dismiss a graduate student, Julea Ward, from its counseling program “because she chose not to counsel a homosexual patient” (“Christianity, ‘Gay Rights’ Clash,” Baptist Press, July 30, 2010). “Ward wanted to refer him to another counselor, but the school found her action insufficient. She was given three options: 1) going through a ‘remediation program,’ 2) voluntarily withdrawing, or, 3) going before a university panel. She chose to appear before the panel, which found she had violated the ACA’s code of ethics. The panel, made up of three faculty members and a student representative, even asked Ward if she viewed her ‘brand of Christianity as superior to that of other Christ ians who may not agree with her.’”
WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS FULLY LEGAL, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO CONDUCT MINISTRIES TO HELP HOMOSEXUALS LEAVE THAT LIFESTYLE
The following is excerpted from “Now It’s EX-‘gays’ getting pummeled,” WorldNetDaily, May 28, 2008:
“Regina Griggs, the executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, said her organization and staff members repeatedly have been attacked simply because of their message: that there are such individuals as former homosexuals. Some attacks have been physical, such as the 2007 incident at the Arlington County Fair. …
“Griggs said at the time, ‘The gays became infuriated when our ex-gay volunteers testified about leaving homosexuality. … One gay man went so far as to hit our ex-gay volunteer because he refused to recant his ex-gay testimony.’
“The fair was one of the events to which PFOX was admitted. Several other major influences in America today, including the National Education Association, and the Parent-Teachers Association, simply refuse to allow PFOX to appear at their events.
“Those who condemn homosexuality also face electronic badgering. When Sally Kern, an Oklahoma lawmaker, vocally rejected the homosexual lifestyle choice as a threat, she was inundated with tens of thousands of e-mails in a coordinated attack on her beliefs. Some of the e-mails threatened her. …
“Griggs told WND the movement is becoming more aggressive in teaching that homosexuality is something people are born with, not something they choose for whatever reasons.
“‘We have a school board teaching homosexuality is innate. We have judges ruling schools are not required to teach fact-based [sexEducation] information. Basically they are silencing anyone who holds a different opinion. Their sole concern is about advancing that homosexuality is normal, natural and healthy and should have all the equal benefits of marriage. If you come at it from a Christian perspective, that makes you a homophobe,’ she said, citing the case of a University of Toledo administrator who was fired for expressing her personal Christian testimony regarding homosexuality. ‘They’re not seeking equality; they’re seeking total control,’ she said. …
“‘Each year thousands of men and women with sameSex attractions make the personal decision to leave homosexuality by means of reparative therapy, ex-gay ministry or group counseling. Their choice is one only they can make. However, there are others who refuse to respect that choice, and endeavor to attack the ex-gay community. Consequently, ex-gays are subject to an increasingly hostile environment where they are reviled or attacked as perpetrators of hate and discrimination simply because they dare to exist,’ Griggs said.”
In Brazil, where the homosexual rights movement is very advanced, the Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgender People (ABGLT) filed a suit against Rozangela Alves Justino, a psychologist who offers therapy to homosexuals who want to change their orientation (“Flurry of Lawsuits,” LifeSiteNews, Aug. 29, 2007).
WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS FULLY LEGAL YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO USE THE TERMS FATHER/MOTHER, HUSBAND/WIFE
The legalization of homosexuality is already beginning to destroy the concept of father and mother, husband and wife.
The new marriage licenses in California replace “husband and wife” with “Party A and Party B.”
In Scotland, teachers in some major cities have banned Father’s Day cards this year so as not to offend students who live with single mothers and lesbians. The London Telegraph reports, “The politically correct policy was quietly adopted at schools ‘in the interests of sensitivity’ over the growing number of lone-parent and sameSex households” (“Father’s Day Cards Banned,” June 20, 2008).
Last year Scotland’s National Health Service approved a policy for hospital workers mis-titled “Fair For All.” In fact, the policy is “fair” for no one, because it destroys the right of free speech and forbids the use of historic and biblical terms such as “mother” and “father” (since some patients might have two mothers or two fathers) and “husband” and “wife,” labeling this “homophobic language.” Such terms must be replaced with “partner” or “they/them” (Ed Vitagliano, “There is only one acceptable way to talk about homosexuality — SILENCE!” OneNewsNow.com, May 31, 2007). The policy is to be strictly enforced.
In May 2007 the California state senate passed bill SB 777. If approved by the state assembly and signed by the governor, it will ban any speech in the public school system that “reflects or promotes bias against” homosexuality, transgenders, bisexuals, or those who “perceived” gender issues. The ban would apply even to discussions. Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for Children and Families warns that references to “mother” and “father” would probably be banned if this idiotic policy becomes law (“Lawmakers Pass Redefinition ofSex_” The Berean Call, June 8, 2007).
WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS FULLY LEGAL, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO REFUSE TO SERVE HOMOSEXUALS IN YOUR BUSINESS.
In 2001 in Toronto, Ontario, printer Scott Brockie was fined $5,000 for refusing to print homosexual-themed stationery for the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archives. The human rights commissioner in this case was Heather MacNaughton.
In 2001 a Christian gynecologist at the North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group in Vista, California, was sued by a lesbian for refusing to provide in vitro fertilization treatment due to his religious convictions. Dr. Christine Brody has religious objections to pregnancy and childbirth outside of marriage, but a fellow physician referred Benitez to an outside specialist and the clinic agreed to pay any cost involved in the fact that the specialist was not covered by the lesbian’s health insurance (“Another Type of Conscientious Objector,” American Civil Rights Union Blog, April 30, 2007).
In spite of that and in spite of the fact that she became pregnant and bore a healthy son, Guadalupe Benitez sued. In May 2008 the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case. “Legal experts believe that the woman’s right to medical treatment will trump the doctor’s religious beliefs. One justice suggested that the doctors take up a different line of business” (“When Gay Rights and Religious Liberties Clash,” National Public Radio, June 13, 2008).
In 2005 a British Columbia Knights of Columbus council was ordered to pay $2,000 to two lesbians, plus their legal costs, for refusing to allow its facility to be used for their “wedding.” The human rights commissioner in this case was Heather MacNaughton.
In 2007, after a Methodist organization in New Jersey refused to rent its facility to a lesbian couple for their civil union ceremony, a complaint was filed with the state Division of Civil Rights. It ruled against the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, saying that since the property was open for public use, it could not discriminate against homosexuals. The state revoked their tax exemption for the property. Pastor Scott Hoffman, administrator for the Association, says they refused to rent the facility because of the theological principle that marriage is between a man and a woman. They are appealing to the state court system. The complaint came soon after New Jersey legalized sameSex civil unions.
In April 2008 the New Mexico Human Rights Commission fined a Christian photography studio $6,600 for discriminating against homosexuals. Elaine Huguenin and her husband Jon, co-owners of Elane Photography in Albuquerque, politely refused to photograph a lesbian couple’s “commitment ceremony.” One of the lesbians, Vanessa Willock, filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission claiming the Huguenins discriminated against her because of her “sexual orientation.” Jordan Lorence, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund that is representing the Huguenins, said: “This decision is a stunning disregard for religious liberty and First Amendment freedoms of people of faith, of Christians, and those who believe in traditional marriage defined as one man and one woman.
This shows the very disconcerting, authoritarian face of the homosexual activists, who are using these non-discrimination laws as weapons against Christians in the business world and Christians in their churches” (“New Mexico Commission Orders Fine,” OneNewsNow, April 11, 2008). Lorence warns this is how similar laws in 19 other states, and the proposed federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, can be misused to silence biblical beliefs. In June 2012 the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled against Elane Photography, rejecting their appeal. The judge plainly stated that the state could discriminate against religious belief, writing, “The owners of Elane Photography must accept the reasonable regulations and restrictions imposed upon the conduct of their commercial enterprise despite their personal religious beliefs that may conflict with these governmental interests.”< /span>
Due to civil rights complains and lawsuits brought by homosexuals, the eHarmony online dating service was forced to establish a sameSex service and pay heavy financial penalties. A settlement with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights requires the company to establish a matching service for homosexuals, give the first 10,000 registrants a free six-month subscription, advertise the new service, and pay $5,000 to the homosexual who brought the complaint and $50,000 to the state for legal expenses (Christian News, Nov. 19, 2008). This does not include the hundreds of thousands of dollars that the company spent to defend itself against the unjust charges over a three-year period. You would think that the homosexuals would be satisfied, but that is far from the case.
They want to bleed the company even more, and the confused judges in the state of California are their abettors. The Los Angeles Superior Court ruled on November 20 that a class action lawsuit against eHarmony can go forward. Thus, every “gay, lesbian, and bisexual individual” that has attempted to use eHarmony since May 2004 can seek damages, and Judge Victoria Chaney said they do not need to demonstrate actual injury. They only have to assert that they visited the company’s web site to see a sameSex match and were turned away (“Class Action Lawsuit,” Online Dating Magazine, Nov. 20, 2008).
WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS FULLY LEGAL, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO TURN DOWN A HOMOSEXUAL FOR A JOB.
In January 2002 the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal levied a fine of $7500 against the Vancouver Rape Relief Society for its refusal to allow a male-to-female “transsexual” named Kimberly Dawn to train as a rape and abuse hotline counsellor. In an article at its web site dated April 16, 2000, the society argued that it operates as a women-only society and that it is not wrong to exclude an individual who has grown up as a man and who its clients might not accept as a woman. The original complaint was brought in 1995. The tribunal commissioner who imposed the heavy-fisted sentence was Heather MacNaughton.
In July 2007 a homosexual man won a job discrimination claim against the Church of England. After John Reaney was turned down for a youth worker’s post in Cardiff, Wales, he complained to the government that he was being unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of his sexual orientation. The employment tribunal agreed. Homosexual activists rejoiced at the ruling. One said that the “church must learn that denying people jobs on the ground of their sexuality is no longer acceptable” (“Gay Christian Wins Job Tribunal against Church of England,” Daily Mail, July 18, 2007).
WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS FULLY LEGAL, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO ENFORCE PUBLIC NUDITY LAWS.
In June 2008 transgender activists removed their clothing in a public rally in Northampton, Massachusetts. The chose Northampton, because it is one of three cities in Massachusetts that have ordinances forbidding discrimination against transsexuals. Amy Contrada, a leader in the pro-family movement MassResistance, explained:
“With anti-discrimination ordinances in place, there’s no way a policeman would arrest a woman for being shirtless, because she could say she’s not a woman, and under the ordinance, she gets to determine whether she’s female or not” (“Transgender Activists Remove Clothing in Public,” WorldNetDaily, June 17, 2008).
Already in some American cities the public nudity laws are overlooked during homosexual fests. This is happening in San Francisco, for example. There are acts not only of public nudity but also of public sexual activity during the annual Folsom Street Fair and other “gay pride” festivals, and the police simply stand by and observe.
“Nude men engaged in multiple instances of public [sexual-activity] on a municipal street while police officers, on foot and bicycle, congregated nearby making no attempt to enforce public indecency regulations, according to a report on the latest homosexual-fest in San Francisco.
“The behavior was documented in photographs of an event called ‘Up Your Alley,’ which is sponsored by the same group that organizes the city’s fall ‘gay’-fest, the Folsom Street Fair, on which WND has reported.
“‘Consider how liberal government authorities like Mayor [Gavin] Newsom have corrupted the men in blue by stipulating that police not prosecute public nudity and indecency at homosexual festivals,’ said a report from Americans for Truth on the graphic activities documented at the event.
“‘What honor can there be in protecting the public practice of heinous perversions and nudity in the city’s streets? The shame of pandering politicians is transferred to the cops who were intended to be guardians of the law and public order,” said the organizer’s chief, Peter LaBarbera” (“San Francisco Fest Features PublicSex with No Arrests,” WorldNetDaily, Aug. 7, 2008).
WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS FULLY LEGAL, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT THE MORAL DEGRADATION OF HOMOSEXUALS
The Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgender People (ABGLT) filed a flurry of lawsuits against websites that exposed the fact that the leader of Brazil’s homosexual movement, Luiz Mott, is a promoter of pedophilia and pederasty (“Flurry of Lawsuits,” LifeSiteNews, Aug. 30, 2007). “The sites, Media Without a Mask, the Christian Apologetics Research Center, and Jesussite, are accused of ‘charlatanism, infamy, defamation, and calumny,’ for having quoted Mott’s numerous statements endorsing sexual acts with children and adolescents. The Association is asking for criminal prosecution as well as monetary damages.”
WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS FULLY LEGAL, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO HAVE WOMEN ONLY PUBLIC RESTROOMS.
In June 2008 Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado signed a law making it illegal to deny a person access to public accommodations, including restrooms and locker rooms, based on gender identity or even the “PERCEPTION” of gender identity (“Biblical Message Now Criminalized,” WorldNetDaily, June 12, 2008). James Dobson said: “Who would have believed that the Colorado state legislature and its governor would have made it fully legal for men to enter and use women’s restrooms and locker-room facilities without notice or explanation? Henceforth, every woman and little girl will have to fear that a predator, bisexual, cross-dresser or even a homosexual or heterosexual male might walk in and relieve himself in their presence.”
This type of thing is already happening in Massachusetts. Consider the public hearing at the State House on March 4, 2008. The hearing was of the Joint Committee of the Judiciary on the “transgender rights and hate crimes bill” and it was dominated by homosexual activists. MassResistance reported: “We watched as a parade of men dressed as women going into the State House ladies’ restroom, and women into the men’s room–while inside the hearing the activists were unusually honest about their belief that transgender ‘rights’ will trump the public’s comfort with their behavior” (“When the Wicked Seize a State,” http://www.sliceoflaodicea.com). ;
WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS FULLY LEGAL, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO REFUSE TO PLACE CHILDREN WITH HOMOSEXUAL COUPLES.
“Catholic Charities in Massachusetts refused to place children with sameSex couples as required by Massachusetts law. After a legislative struggle–during which the Senate president said he could not support a bill ‘condoning discrimination.’ Catholic Charities pulled out of the adoption business in 2006” (“When Gay Rights and Religious Liberties Clash,” National Public Radio, June 13, 2008).
“A sameSex couple in California applied to Adoption Profiles, an Internet service in Arizona that matches adoptive parents with newborns. The couple’s application was denied based on the religious beliefs of the company’s owners. The couple sued in federal district court in San Francisco. The two sides settled after the adoption company said it will no longer do business in California” (National Public Radio, June 13, 2008).
WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS FULLY LEGAL, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO STOP HOMOSEXUALS FROM HAVING PUBLIC SEXUAL ACTIVITY.
When the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, proposed in July 2007 that the city spend $250,000 on robotic toilets for the beach to curb homosexual sexual acts in public restrooms and parks, homosexual activists were up in arms. (The doors of the toilets automatically open after a certain period.) The homosexuals accused Mayor Jim Naugle of “hatred” and demanded an apology.
In response he did apologize, but not to the homosexuals. He said: “I was not aware of how serious the problem was of the sexual activity that’s taking place in bathrooms and public places and parks in Broward County and particularly the city of Fort Lauderdale. I’ve been educated on that, and I want to apologize to the parents and the children of our community for not being aware of the problem. This to me is totally unacceptable. I don’t think that in the name of being inclusive or tolerant any of us in the community should tolerate this” (“Fort Lauderdale Mayor Criticized,” Florida Baptist Witness, Aug. 2, 2007).
This further enraged the homosexuals, and they held a rally at city hall. Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called the mayor a “bigot” and said he should be “shunned everywhere he goes and not allowed at any gathering where decent people are.” City Commissioner Carlton Moore shouted, “We as a community must unite against hatred.”
Some public parks are listed on homosexual websites as recommended locations for immoral liaisons. In June 2008 Pennsylvania state park rangers arrested three men at such a park and accused them of lewd acts (“PA Park Rangers Crack Down,” OneNewsNow.com, June 18, 2008).
If homosexual activists get their way, and homosexuals are given license to act out their “lifestyle” as they please, the response given by the Fort Lauderdale mayor and the actions of the park rangers will be illegal.
WHEN HOMOSEXUALITY IS FULLY LEGAL, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO RECOMMEND BOOKS THAT CRITICIZE HOMOSEXUALS.
In 2006 a librarian at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus was condemned by the faculty for simply recommending that the book The Marketing of Evil be placed on the required reading list for incoming freshmen. The librarian, Scott Savage, made the recommendation while holding serving on the First Year Reading Experience Committee. After a homosexual professor, J.F. Buckley, reacted to Savage’s recommendation by sending out “an obscenity-filled diatribe” in which he claimed that he felt threatened and intimidated, the faculty voted 21-0 to open a formal investigation of “sexual harassment” against the librarian (“Judge Rebuffs Christian,” WorldNetDaily, June 8, 2010). Though the university backed down and informed Savage that he was not guilty, the climate of intimidation continued and Savage felt it was necessary to resign.
In a nutshell, the thing that will be illegal when homosexuality is fully legal is Bible-believing Christianity, but none of this is surprising to the Bible believer. The Lord Jesus Christ likened the last days to that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:28-30). And the apostle Paul prophesied:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
We are not surprised at the wickedness that is sweeping across the world, but it is our responsibility to take a stand for God’s Word until Jesus comes.
If we take freedom of speech and religion for granted and do not use it to proclaim God’s Word, we don’t deserve it.
And no matter how evil the hour is, we must not despair. We have all of the glorious promises of a God that cannot lie. Any trouble we face in this life is very brief and fleeting. Eternity is what matters.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
“But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed” (Luke 17:29-30).
“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.”
“For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming. The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked” (Psalms 37:1-16).
CHICAGO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The severe drought in the U.S. Midwest wreaked more havoc across the country on Thursday, forcing barges on the Mississippi River to lighten loads for fear of getting stuck and raising concerns about higher prices for food and gasoline.
Damage to crops in the most extensive drought in five decades and the pressure of the November elections sparked some action in the U.S. Congress to bring relief to farmers and make progress on a generous farm bill.
“I do believe the House will address the livestock disaster program that unfortunately in the last farm bill was only authorized for four years,” Boehner said.
Rain in the northern Midwest overnight improved corn and soybean crop prospects, and grain prices eased back a bit from near-record highs. But only light rains fell over parched areas of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois overnight, and more heat and dryness in the southern Midwest was forecast.
“There should be some improvement in areas like the Dakotas and Minnesota,” Andy Karst, an agricultural meteorologist for World Weather Inc, said. “They have had some good rains of up to an inch or more and there should be more rain and more improvement over the next week.”
At the Chicago Board of Trade, corn for September delivery closed 12-1/2 cents lower at $7.82 a bushel, down 5 percent from last week’s record high. August soybeans closed 38-1/4 cents lower at $16.56, down 7 percent from last week’s record high. September wheat closed 18-1/2 cents lower at $8.84-3/4, down 7 percent from last week’s four-year high.
Crop scouts on Thursday reported corn yield prospects down about 27 percent from last year in central Iowa, the largest producing state. But dousings from recent night-time rains had helped soybeans. Early planting also may be helping soybeans survive the worst effects of the drought, scouts said.
A tour of Minnesota and North Dakota spring-planted wheat fields was also encouraging due to early plantings, scouts said. Yield potential was expected about 8 percent above last year.
“The only thing that can hurt this crop is a hail storm,” said Ben Handcock, a Wheat Quality Council tour official.
BARGES IN A BIND
The effects were literally being felt downstream.
One year after its waters swelled to historic proportions, the lower Mississippi River now sits so low that barge operators hauling some $180 billion in goods must lighten their loads for fear of getting stuck.
If water levels drop any lower, industry insiders say, prices could rise on the raw commodities commonly shipped by boat — coal, grain, petroleum and steel, to name a few.
“The main thing that they’re doing now is voluntarily reducing the size of their tows … so they’re having to take more trips to carry their normal volume of commodities,” said Ann McCulloch, spokeswoman for American Waterways Operators, a national trade association representing tugboats, tow boats and barges.
“This will drive up transportation costs if it continues over a long period of time,” she said.
Kirby Corp, the largest U.S. inland tank barge operator, said Thursday it is adding more capacity to its fleet that carries petrochemicals, gasoline and fertilizers.
FOOD AND FIRES
In Washington, temperatures boiled on both sides of the aisle. A new five-year, $491 billion farm bill is stalled in the House on concerns there are not enough votes in the Republican-controlled chamber to pass a bill.
“We’re seeing all across the country dried-up, parched land,” said Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow. “This is a very serious issue for our farmers and ranchers, so we need a farm bill.”
The farm bill has been attacked by Democrats for cutting too much from food stamps for the poor and by Republicans for doing too little to reform farm subsidies.
There is little more than a week before Congress moves to a recess that lasts until September 10. Democrats have lambasted Republicans for lack of action ahead of the November elections.
“If they actually try to do disaster next week, it’s just to inoculate members for the month of August,” said Ferd Hoefner, a small-farm activist. “We want the real bill and we want it this year.”
Scattered rains in the Midwest this week have come too late for many crops, government drought specialists said, and the worst drought conditions since 1956 worsened over the last week.
Almost 30 percent of the nine-state Midwest was suffering extreme drought as of July 24, nearly triple that of a week ago.
The United States is the world’s largest exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat. Markets around the world are growing worried that local food costs will soar because imports will be expensive, food aid for countries from Asia to Egypt will not be available, and food riots could occur as in the past.
Drought and scorching temperatures in Eastern Europe from Poland to Romania also have burned up crops, causing alarm about stockpiles and soaring prices. Russian wheat harvests will also be cut by drought and Indian harvests will be cut by the poorest monsoon rains in four decades, officials said on Thursday.
The U.S. Agriculture Department said U.S. food prices are likely to rise as much as 3.5 percent this year and as much as 4 percent in 2013, with higher feed costs driving up meat and dairy products. By comparison, the overall U.S. inflation rate is estimated at 2 percent this year and 1.9 percent in 2013.
Wildfires in drought-hit areas were also a growing problem. Firefighters in three Nebraska counties battled expanding wildfires, and Ola, Arkansas, a town of 1,300 people, was evacuated because of an approaching fire.
(Writing by Peter Bohan; editing by Mary Milliken; Desking by Andrew Hay)
U.S. Drought 2012
The mayor donned priestly regalia – in spirit if not physically – when he declared his outrage over the support for traditional marriage voiced by Chick-fil-A‘s president, Dan Cathy. The establishment media choir howled as usual in the same key that Cathy’s position is “anti-gay,” and the Chicago mayor-high priest rose to the pulpit.
He would work to block Chick-fil-A expansion in Chicago, said Emanuel. “Chick-Fil-A’s values are not Chicago values,” the mayor said, as quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times. “They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.”
It took a chicken chain to bring Emanuel’s priesthood into focus. There was once another named Emanuel, or “God with us.” Maybe the Chicago mayor is confused about which Emanuel he is.
Welcome to what I have termed elsewhere the Globequake Age, in which the tectonic plates of whole cultures are shifting so fast the whole world is topsy-turvy. That means among other things that the mayors of great cities can start defining what the values of the city are and what they are not.
German businesses owned by Jews who did not fit into the values of the nation’s governing powers were infamously assaulted on Kristalnacht – the “night of broken glass” from shattered shop windows – on November 9-10, 1938. Now that Emanuel has issued the dictum that Chick-Fil-A has strayed from the propaganda line of the cultural elites and the politicians they heft into power, will there be a purge of all non-conforming companies, starting with Chick-fil-A?
I was recently in Chicago and spent the good part of a day at Moody Bible Institute. This great school in the heart of downtown, just off Chicago Avenue, was founded in 1886. It is a primary center for teaching the values Emanuel says are not part of Chicago’s values. Will the mayor-high priest shut down Moody, deny its expansion permits, conduct background checks for political correctness of its faculty members, and run the rebels out of town?
Will the constituents of Chicagoland institutions like Wheaton College, Christianity Today magazine, Willow Creek Church, Total Living TV Network, Youth For Christ International, the Slavic Gospel Association, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Trinity Seminary, The Salvation Army Training Center, Emmaus Bible Institute, and many others now have to go through an internal control point where their alignment with the mayor’s “Chicago values” must be confirmed before they are permitted into the city itself?
Are all the citizens of Chicago who agree with the Bible’s view of marriage and Dan Cathy’s support of it, and, therefore, disagree with the mayor’s declaration of “Chicago’s values,” now non-Chicagoans?
The mayor and his supporters rightly decry discrimination. But they go too far in attempting the equivalency maneuver in which they try to compare opposition to same-sex marriage to the repugnant discrimination of black people in pre-civil rights places like Alabama.
I grew up in Birmingham, and later was a reporter for The Birmingham News covering much of the civil rights revolution there. As a boy in the late 1940s and 1950s, I saw the “Whites Only” signs, deacons at white churches standing guard to prevent black people from attending, and those Neanderthal banners noting that Negroes would not be served in certain business establishments.
Dan Cathy’s restaurants have no such signs banning homosexuals, or anyone who disagrees with his position on marriage. To the contrary, Chick-Fil-A has a declared policy of serving anyone and everyone, and that extends to hiring as well.
Ages ago Zechariah saw the vision of two olive trees separated by a lampstand. Ultimately he understood that the lampstand in the center symbolized the presence and authority of God, and the olive trees the jurisdictional powers in culture, the “two anointed ones.” Both the high priest and the civil ruler were empowered of God to serve and lead in the jurisdictions to which He appointed them – a truth affirmed in Romans 13 and other New Testament passages.
However, the high priest was not to step over into the role of the civil ruler, nor was the civil ruler to usurp the position of the high priest. The state was not to be the church, and the church was not to be the state – which is why a theocracy is inappropriate for governance of civil society. King Saul tried to take over Samuel’s role at one point, and Saul lost his kingdom.
If anyone has the right of choosing values, it is the individual. People can do so only in an economic environment where there is a diversity of values. There are joints in my community that most definitely do not reflect my values. But their very presence means I have the freedom to choose by not patronizing them. Give the people the right to choose to buy chicken wings at a gay bar or Chick-fil-A, or both. God, after all, put two trees in the Garden.
Chicago is a great city – one of my favorites – but it’s not a church, and doesn’t need a high priest for mayor.
Over the past couple of years, Europe has muddled through a long series of crunch moments in its debt crisis, but this September is shaping up as a “make-or-break” month as policymakers run desperately short of options to save the common currency.
Crisis or no crisis, many European policymakers will take their summer holidays in August. When they return, a number of crucial events, decisions and deadlines will be waiting.
“September will undoubtedly be the crunch time,” one senior euro zone policymaker said.
In that month a German court makes a ruling that could neuter the new euro zone rescue fund, the anti-bailout Dutch vote in elections just as Greece tries to renegotiate its financial lifeline, and decisions need to be made on whether taxpayers suffer huge losses on state loans to Athens.
On top of that, the euro zone has to figure out how to help its next wobbling dominoes, Spain and Italy – or what do if one or both were to topple.
“In nearly 20 years of dealing with EU issues, I’ve never known a state of affairs like we are in now,” one euro zone diplomat said this week. “It really is a very, very difficult fix and it’s far from certain that we’ll be able to find the right way out of it.”
Since the crisis erupted in January 2010, the euro zone has had to rescue relative minnows in Greece, Ireland and Portugal as they lost the ability to fund their budget deficits and debt obligations by borrowing commercially at affordable rates.
Now two much larger economies are in the firing line and policymakers must consider ever more radical solutions.
If Spain, the euro zone’s fourth biggest economy and the world’s 12th, loses affordable market financing the next domino at risk of falling is Italy – the euro zone’s third biggest economy and a member of the G7 group of big wealthy nations.
A bailout of Spain would probably be double those of Greece, Ireland and Portugal combined, while Italy’s economy is twice as large as Spain’s again.
The European Union has already agreed to lend up to 100 billion euros to rescue Spanish banks. One euro zone official said Madrid has now conceded that it might need a full bailout worth 300 billion euros from the EU and IMF if its borrowing costs remain unaffordable.
European officials have spent the past few days issuing a series of statements declaring they will act to halt the crisis.
In the latest, issued on Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Mario Monti “agreed that Germany and Italy would do everything to protect the euro zone”.
The wording was similar to remarks by European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi last week prompted buying in financial markets on the expectation that the bank would take steps to lower the cost of borrowing of Spain and Italy.
DEFLATING LIFE RAFT
The euro zone does not seem to have enough cash in the current setup to deal with a scenario of Spain and Italy needing a rescue, and a sense of doom is growing among some policymakers. Fighting the crisis, said the euro zone diplomat, is like trying to keep a life raft above water.
“For two years we’ve been pumping up the life raft, taking decisions that fill it with just enough air to keep it afloat even though it has a leak,” the diplomat said. “But now the leak has got so big that we can’t pump air into the raft quickly enough to keep it afloat.”
Compounding the problems, Greece is far behind with reforms to improve its finances and economy so it may need more time, more money and a debt reduction from euro zone governments.
If Greek debt cannot be made sustainable, the country may have to leave the euro zone, sending a shockwave across financial markets and the European economy.
September 12 is a crucial date in the European diary. On that day the German Constitutional Court is scheduled to rule on whether a treaty establishing the euro zone’s permanent bailout fund, the 500 billion euro European Stability Mechanism (ESM), is compatible with the German constitution.
A positive ruling is vital, because Germany is the biggest funder of the ESM, and the euro zone would be powerless to protect Spain or Italy without the ESM.
On the same day, parliamentary elections are held in the Netherlands where popular opposition to spending any more money on bailing out spendthrift euro zone governments is strong. The Dutch vote may complicate talks on a revised second bailout for Greece, which also has to be agreed in September.
Athens wants two more years than originally planned to cut its budget deficit to below 3 percent of GDP, so as not to impose yet more spending cuts on a country which is already in a depression.
This would mean Greece’s 130 billion euro second bailout package may need to be increased by 20-50 billion euros, according to estimates by some euro zone officials and economists, and there is no appetite in the euro zone to give Greece yet more extra money.
More importantly Greece needs to bring its debt, which is equal to 160 percent of its annual economic output, under control. This means euro zone governments, which own roughly two thirds of it, may need to write part of it off.
Private creditors have already suffered a huge writedown in the value of their Greek debt holdings but so far euro zone taxpayers have not lost a cent on any of the bailouts.
LAST CHANCE OPTIONS
Policymakers are working on “last chance” options to bring Greece’s debts down and keep it in the euro zone, with the ECB and national central banks looking at also taking significant losses on the value of their bond holdings, officials said.
If governments swallowed the bitter pill by also accepting a cut in the value of their contributions to loans already made to Greece, this would break a taboo and could provoke demands for similar treatment from Ireland or Portugal.
Peter Vanden Houte, chief economist at ING bank, said euro governments might be forced to accept a halving of the value of their Greek debt – known in the business as haircut.
“If Greece is to be saved, we must see some debt forgiveness from euro zone governments in the coming years because otherwise Greece is never going to come out of the situation it is in now,” he said. “We are talking about potentially a 50 percent haircut, which would still mean the Greek debt would be (proportionately) around the euro zone average.”
The euro zone would want concessions from Athens. “Most probably in exchange, euro zone partners will be more strict on Greek compliance with structural reforms and may ask Greece to give up some sovereignty,” said Vanden Houte.
While no official discussions are underway on another Greek debt restructuring, euro zone officials say privately it may be necessary if Greece is to have a fighting chance.
“The Greeks might say they are in such a mess that to survive they we need to ease up the austerity a bit, and to still regain debt sustainability they will have to default on 30-40 percent of the loans,” one euro zone official said.
“There would be a lot of people saying this is understandable, so maybe this makes sense and maybe we could have a reasonable discussion among the member states on how Greece can move forward,” the official said.
The official speculated that euro zone debt forgiveness for Greece could be made dependent on progress in structural reforms or that it could be reviewed once Athens has to start paying back the capital of the loans in 10 years.
“Maybe we could agree to give debt relief of, say, 25 percent to make possible some changes in the program. Then we implement that for six months or a year and maybe we find out that we need to give them another 25 percent and at the end of the day we might get to a stable situation,” the official said.
The situation will become clearer once international lenders produce a new debt sustainability analysis for Greece at the end of August.
THE BATTLE OF SPAIN
Preventing Spain and Italy from losing debt market access may require the crossing of another red line – ECB help in keeping down governments’ borrowing costs.
Draghi signaled last Thursday the bank was ready to act, indicating it may revive its program of buying bonds of troubled governments on the secondary market.
“Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough,” Draghi said. “To the extent that the size of the sovereign premia (borrowing costs) hamper the functioning of the monetary policy transmission channels, they come within our mandate.”
However, Germany has always been hostile to the idea and the Bundesbank said on Friday that it continued to view it “in a critical fashion”.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble dismissed suggestions Spain will ask the bailout fund to try to lower its borrowing costs by purchasing its bonds.
Spain faces high borrowing costs because investors fear they will not get their money back. The Spanish economy is shrinking, many of its autonomous regions need bailouts from Madrid and banks need the recapitalization of up to 100 billion euros.
Madrid still has to raise about 50 billion euros on the market by the end of the year. This may be impossible if its funding costs stay well above 7 percent for 10-year bonds.
Draghi’s remarks knocked yields down by more than 40 basis points to below 7 percent on Thursday, but they could quickly climb back if the market does not see firm ECB buying soon.
The ECB also seems to be softening its stance on another taboo – giving the ESM a banking license so the fund can borrow from the ECB against euro zone government bonds.
If Spain or Italy applied for euro zone help in bringing down their borrowing costs, the temporary European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) bailout fund or the ESM could help.
But with their combined firepower, under current agreements, of 459.5 billion euros until July 2013 and at 500 billion from July 2014, the funds do not have enough to impress markets.
If the ESM could refinance itself at the ECB, however, it would have virtually unlimited firepower for bond market intervention without causing inflationary pressure.
Discussions on the banking license for the ESM have been going on in the background for many months, officials said, with France openly calling for such a solution, but Germany, Finland and the Netherlands strongly against.
For most Americans, nowhere are the repercussions of their nation’s increasingly insecure and outdated national identity systems more apparent than when they pass through security at the airport. In contrast to America’s struggles to adapt its decades-old systems to handle modern challenges, India is undertaking one of the grandest technology experiments ever attempted. In a massive, nationwide project, the government is attempting to collect the demographic information, fingerprints, and iris scans of all 1.2 billion residents.
With this information, the government hopes to issue a unique 12-digit “Aadhaar” (which means “foundation”) identity number to every man, woman, and child. If successful, India will build a major new piece of technological infrastructure for a modern economy, while fundamentally transforming the way residents interact with their government.
There are enormous logistical difficulties associated with the Aadhaar plan, as well as serious privacy and security risks. Doubts remain as to whether India’s people and institutions are prepared to handle the program’s massive enrollment process and dramatic impact.
Identifying the Problem
Proponents of the plan argue that it will lead to a fairer and more equitable distribution of public benefits. Currently, each governmental department works in isolation, maintaining its own separate databases and records. Over time, systematic corruption and mismanagement have populated these databases with fraudulent information. The Indian departments handling social support programs are often the most abused.
India’s federalist system of strong state governments, in addition to its national government, has resulted in each state and municipality exhibiting drastically different e-government capabilities. It is often in the poorest states where the worst abuses occur. Hundreds of millions of Indians rely on the help of the state, but there are still many places where most of the goods allocated for the poorest of families are stolen before they even reach them–and the social costs are enormous.
Aadhaar may prove to be the most far-reaching and large-scale technology system ever to be implemented in a democratic nation, and it was done with almost no debate.
There is a major issue at the root of these problems—large portions of the population lack even the most basic verifiable identity documents. There are countless millions living on the margins of society who have yet to receive any official recognition from their state or national government. As a result, access to financial services remains extremely limited for most of the country, especially in rural areas.
For the poorest and most vulnerable groups, this lack of access is devastating; they are unable to receive their fair share of benefits, make investments, or accumulate savings. These families are just one disaster away from being entirely wiped out.
Reshaping and Reforming
Innovative banking technologies capable of reaching these marginalized groups could be built atop the national ID system, presenting an opportunity to reshape the nation and help lift hundreds of millions from poverty. Developers aim to create sophisticated Aadhaar-linked bank accounts that could allow for a system of digital payment, such that two villagers could send each other money with just their identity numbers and an Internet connection. The mobile phone market could offer a gateway for India’s masses into the financial system. With almost a billion cell phones in the country, more than twice as many Indians have access to a cell phone than a toilet.
India is a land of small businesses—and from every indication, mom-and-pop shops can’t wait to reap the benefits that Aadhaar has to offer. Residents’ ability to shop will no longer be limited by the amount of cash in their pockets. Additionally, unique identity numbers are the key to bringing multiple different personal records together. They can serve to facilitate beneficial services such as health insurance and background checks.
Though well-intentioned, Aadhaar could facilitate surveillance and digitized discrimination of whole segments of the population, grouped by their undesirable characteristics.
These technologies will also enable government agencies to directly target their benefits. Instead of the current inefficient cash distribution system, agencies will be able to electronically transfer money directly into a resident’s account. Residents will be free to choose where to buy their subsidized goods, and thus will gain purchasing power. This will create major incentives for distributors to adopt competitive, customer-oriented practices.
Aadhaar will allow for rigorous digital audit trails. For that reason, its supporters claim that it will lead to billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers and a greater degree of accountability in public distribution.
For India, Aadhaar represents not only a chance to better serve its people but also an opportunity to showcase its nascent technology prowess.
The prime minister of India selected Nandan Nilekani—a respected IT executive and the former CEO of IT outsourcing giant Infosys—to head the authority responsible for designing and implementing the new system. An unelected official, Nilekani has received the rank and status of a cabinet minister. A private executive involved in this level of Indian government is unprecedented.
Yet little about this program is business as usual. Government contracts in India are sometimes handed out based on connections or bribes. But when it came time to choose vendors for the first biometric enrollment phase, vendors had to compete with each other to see who could provide the cheapest, most accurate verifications. With a model rarely seen in government, three companies have been chosen and given 50 percent, 30 percent, and 20 percent of the duties—with the caveat that they will be continually reassessed and reassigned based on their performance.
Hundreds of millions of Indians rely on the help of the state, but there are still many places where most of the goods allocated for the poorest of families are stolen before they even reach them–and the social costs are enormous.
Nilekani is looking to leverage India’s biggest public and private institutions in a partnership model, where dozens of different agencies will assist in the enrollment process. Post offices, banks, hospitals, agencies, and local NGOs—to name a few—will all serve as hubs where residents can go to enroll for their identity numbers. Those with no reliable documents can be “introduced” by a trusted party who can vouch for the person in question.
Nilekani’s stated goal is to enroll 600 million people in four years, an ambitious target that could become a reality if he can trigger a new standard for excellence in Indian government. As one of India’s most accomplished private executives, Nilekani has proven himself as a capable and ethical leader in the past. Yet he will face considerable infrastructural, technological, political, and cultural challenges along the way.
Immense Challenges Ahead
Of all the issues that a successful implementation will face, perhaps the single largest challenge is the colossal scale of the data involved.
The system needs to account for every single birth and death in a country where there are 1.8 million babies born every month. It needs servers capable of handling millions of identity verifications every day. The possibility of human error looms large over every step of the process: For example, there are reports that in some areas, enrollers have accidentally submitted their own biometrics when trying to demonstrate to others how the technology works. Due to a lack of coordination, some populations have had their biometric data collected by multiple different vendors and agencies.
Many question India’s ability to securely store such massive amounts of sensitive data. Developers are encouraging the nation’s largest public and private agencies to create their own extensive Aadhaar-based databases and smart cards, including biometric information. Unlike a credit card number or name, a person can never change his fingerprints or iris patterns. If stolen, his security may be forever compromised.
Although it has quickly become a technology powerhouse in the private sector, India lacks the types of data protection laws needed to handle modern-day technological security issues. The country’s institutions are years away from developing effective enforcement mechanisms, even though more than 200 million Aadhaar numbers have already been issued.
On top of these daunting challenges, parts of the country still lack reliable electricity, let alone an Internet connection. A national format for addresses and names does not exist. The powerful and entrenched Indian bureaucracy is made up of hundreds of different entities that will be required to update their systems and comply with procedures.
‘Big Brother’ in Hindi?
Although enrollment is described as voluntary, in practice, residents will find it to be virtually obligatory. Many important public and private services have agreed to require an Aadhaar number for participation. If a resident chooses not to enroll, he will be denied the basic rights and entitlements he would have previously received.
Unique identity numbers can serve to facilitate beneficial services such as health insurance and background checks.
Several of the most important public departments rely on the collection of sensitive data—like race, religion, caste, income, and health—in order to carry out their core functions. States use income information to allocate public goods, and poverty alleviation programs often target marginalized groups. Though well-intentioned, Aadhaar could facilitate surveillance and digitized discrimination of whole segments of the population, grouped by their undesirable characteristics.
For its part, the Indian government is already distributing state-of-the-art surveillance technologies to its military and police forces. It is unclear what can be done to prevent abuses of information by authorities—especially with so many different entities having access to portions of the information.
India’s politicians have been quick to show off Aadhaar as a symbol of progress in their commitment to fight corruption. Although its developers should be commended for their commitment to some levels of transparency, the program itself was created quickly and quietly. In the world’s biggest democracy, a program to collect personal, sensitive information from every individual was introduced and implemented with barely any public debate. It continues to exist without parliamentary sanction or judicial oversight.
Aadhaar may prove to be the most far-reaching and large-scale technology system ever to be implemented in a democratic nation, and it was done with almost no debate.
An Unresolved Matter
India faces a situation that may sound familiar to many Americans. The country has a group of states that share a porous border with an impoverished neighbor. For decades now, illegal immigrants have been coming across the border and inhabiting the border states or moving into the mainland cities. The local population is furious with the national government for allowing the influx of immigrants, and smuggling and ethnic violence have become increasingly intense. A border fence is being built, but it is insufficient and has largely been a failure.
The system needs to account for every single birth and death in a country where there are 1.8 million babies born every month. It needs servers capable of handling millions of identity verifications every day.
India must decide how to handle the approximately 20 to 30 million illegal immigrants that have come from its northern neighbor, Bangladesh. In the last 50 years, India’s northeast front—a small group of eight states wedged between Myanmar and China—has experienced rapid demographic changes. Residents of the area have grown increasingly frustrated with New Delhi’s inability to stop what they have called a “foreign invasion.” This tension has led to brutal massacres, frequent strikes, and widespread instability.
Meanwhile, the trafficking of illegal goods has taken hold as the primary economy. Border security forces have found themselves consistently outnumbered and outmaneuvered. Maoist guerillas, local insurgents, and Pakistani-linked terrorist groups are thought to be recruiting and training in the area, actively plotting attacks on mainland cities. The ruling Congress Party is accused of aiding illegal immigrants with protective laws in exchange for a “vote-bank.” With the help of corrupt local officials, Bangladeshis reportedly have been able to secure rights and entitlements and move to other parts of the country.
The census data collection exercises include a question asking each resident his nationality. Alarmingly, the enumerator must accept the resident’s answer without challenge. Illegal immigrants all over the nation will be allowed to “declare” themselves Indian in the government’s primary information database. Once an “Indian” in the main, central database, it becomes much easier for an illegal immigrant to obtain other documents and services, many of which are used as proof in obtaining an Aadhaar number.
There are major concerns that this provision may inadvertently serve as a backdoor route to citizenship and voting rights for tens of millions of illegal immigrants. In many parts of the country, especially the northeast, this type of large-scale disruption may provoke more violence and further resentment. With no way to physically distinguish between citizens and legal and illegal immigrants, it is hard to envision any type of lasting stability in the region.
All Eyes on India: The Global Implications
Any system that is able to overcome India’s abundance of challenges is likely to be studied and replicated all over the world. Security and development experts from many governments will be paying close attention to how India handles the difficulties posed by religious fundamentalists, foreign infiltrators, and corrupt, ineffective governance. The Obama administration has recently explored several ways to improve America’s outdated identity systems in an attempt to curb illegal immigration, improve national defense, and encourage commerce.
The Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT entry program is currently the largest biometric database in the world. In Aadhaar’s first enrollment phase, two of the three main providers of biometric technology to India are American companies. If this technology proves to be effective for wide-scale use, it may become commonplace for high-level transactions across the developed world, as well.
Much like in India, the issues of importance to concerned citizens in the United States should be the quality of public debate, the security and storage of personal data, the enforcement of a limited mandate, and the maintenance of personal liberties to the greatest extent possible. History has shown that the selective salesmanship of a program’s advantages without an honest admission of its dangers is bound to lead to a program that is viewed with suspicion, limited in use, and one data breach away from a full-blown scandal.
With its massive population, booming economy, and entrepreneurial spirit, India may offer to the world the ultimate case study for digital identity technologies. As these systems become ubiquitous, they are changing the definition of citizenship to include, for the first time, an electronic component. The historic Aadhaar identity program puts India at the forefront of a technological revolution that is quietly reshaping the world.
Some military analysts and human rights groups say that the Syrian civil war may soon be over – but that reassurance isn’t enough to prevent the country’s Christians from fleeing from the violence.
Dutch journalist and human rights analyst Martin Janssen reports from Jordan that Christians are fleeing Syria in record numbers. Janssen says the Christian refugees first fled because of an ultimatum.
“An exodus of Christians is taking place in Western Syria,” Janssen said. “The Christian population has fled the city of Qusayr, near Homs, following an ultimatum issued by the military chief of the armed opposition, Abdel Salam Harba.
“This is what local sources told Vatican news agency Fides, pointing out that since the conflict broke out, only a thousand of the city’s 10,000 faithful, were left, and they are now being forced to flee immediately,” Janssen said.
Janssen says the city’s mosques have reissued the ultimatum for the Christians to leave.
“Some of the city’s mosques have issued the message again, announcing from the minarets: ‘Christians must leave Qusayr within six days, ending Friday,’” Janssen said.
Open Doors USA spokesman Jerry Dykstra confirms the Christians’ desire to flee the violence but says there are few places to which they can go.
“Although Christians in Syria and leaders do not desire or want to leave, yet the question still prevails, ‘What is the free world doing to prepare for that exodus?’ a Christian from Syria asks,” Dykstra said.
“Who is going to welcome the Syrian Christians?” Dykstra asked. “One Syrian source says that the churches in Syria know very well what happened to the Iraqi Christians.
“They were in many countries not really welcome, so we are afraid that the same will happen to Syrian refugees, and that would be a disaster,’” Dykstra said, quoting the Syrian source.
Dykstra says the pressure to flee comes in many forms.
“Protests, assaults, bombings, thefts [and] kidnappings are all part of daily life in Syria,” Dykstra said. “The almost 10 percent Christians of the Syrian population fear for the future, many are already thinking of leaving the country.
“Christians in Syria wonder what will happen with their daily life, when a new government will come to power,” Dystra continued. “This uncertain and unknown future might lead to an exodus of Christians from Syria (like what happened to Iraqi Christians), and that is what Syrian Church leaders do expect.”
Dykstra compares the Syrian Christians’ plight to the Iraqi Christians who fled Iraq after Saddam Hussein was overthrown.
“In Iraq hundreds of thousands Christians left that country due to all the violence targeting them. But where will a Syrian exodus lead to? Which country will welcome hundreds of thousands Christian refugees in a period where borders seem to become more and more closed borders?” Dykstra asked.
Terrorism and foreign policy think tank Gerard Direct stated in a report recently released that the battle for Syria’s second largest city could determine whether Assad’s regime stands.
“The battle for Syria’s second city, Aleppo, is a crucial fight that could determine the direction of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad,” the report said.
Reports coming from Aleppo say the rebels survived an offensive by the Syrian army.
Janssen believes the fight for Aleppo is key in Assad proving that his government can stand. Janssen adds that Assad’s problems are being compounded by large numbers of fighters coming from outside Syria.
“At this moment the biggest problems are in Aleppo. I heard that more than 5,000 rebels entered the area across the Turkish border,” Janssen said.
Janssen also says ethnic Kurds are entering the fight: “It seems that the Kurdish Democratic Union party (the Syrian branch of the PKK) controls great swaths of land in Syrian Kurdistan. They are at the same time fighting with the Syrian Army and the Free Syrian Army.”
“There is some talk about the presence of Peshmerga fighters from Iraqi Kurdistan,” Janssen said.
Janssen adds the outside support signals that the rebellion has become a “holy war.”
“Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia invented the idea of in indirect military intervention in Syria and the West followed and approved. Money and weapons poured from across the borders into Syria and with them thousands of foreign fighters,” Janssen said. “This last development changed the nature of the Syrian crisis profoundly. The crisis became a full-blown, internationally-sponsored, civil war.
“These foreign fighters consider themselves to be holy war warriors, jihadists fighting against an atheist regime. They are not interested in democracy and human rights for minorities. It paved the way for a dangerous and growing presence of al-Qaida inside Syria,” Janssen said.
Christian human rights group Open Doors USA confirms Janssen’s conclusion, saying that al-Qaeda has joined the fight.
“According to Reuters News, the rebels include the Free Syrian Army, al-Qaeda-style jihadists, the Muslim Brotherhood and local pro-democracy Sunni liberals,” the Open Doors report said.
The Open Doors report also says that while Assad is unpopular, Christians aren’t supporting Assad’s overthrow.
“While the defeat of Assad and the military would be welcome news to most, the sizeable Christian community of over 1.5 million is fearful for its future,” the Open Doors report said.
“Under Assad, Christians enjoyed a measure of freedom to worship in Syria, which is 90 percent Muslim. In fact, Christians were granted a degree of religious freedom not seen in most other Middle Eastern countries – before and after Arab Spring,” the Open Doors report also said.
“If Assad falls, Christians in Syria are fearful of what will happen when a new government – probably a radical Islamic one – will come into power,” says Open Doors USA President and CEO Dr. Carl Moeller,” the report said.
“Will their freedom to worship end? Will persecution increase? Will they have to flee Syria with their families as have thousands of believers in Iraq?” the report asked, quoting Moeller.
Reports of an end to Assad’s regime, however, may be premature. Janssen reports from Jordan that Assad still controls Damascus.
“Currently the situation in Damascus seems to be under the control of the Syrian army despite some fighting in certain neighborhoods,” Janssen said.