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Is domestic law enforcement paranoia turning the US into a police state?


(Posted by Bryana Johnson on November 7th, 2013)

Judging by the way the Department of Homeland Security is spending your money, domestic unrest may be coming soon to a city near you. The DHS has been making purchases lately that seem to signal a federal fear of riots across the nation in the coming months. The obvious question is, what do they know that they American people don’t? A more enduring and chilling question is what will be the end result of America’s increasingly militarized police force?

PressTV reported this morning that the DHS has stated its intentions, via the Federal Business Opportunities website, to spend half a million dollars on 240,000 pepper spray projectiles, 100 pepper spray launchers and 36 “riot expansion kits.”

PressTV explained,

“The PepperBall TAC-700 pepper spray launcher ‘features full auto, semi-auto, or 3 round burst providing up to 700 rounds per minute, and is accurate to 60 feet with area saturation up to 150 feet.’ According to a video demonstration, the TAC-700 has a ‘strong psychological influence’ on the people it is being used against because it is so loud and sounds like an automatic machine gun.”

The equipment was designed for use in riot control situations, although the contract on the website states that the purchases are being made for training purposes.

The recent controversy is only the latest in a string of far more alarming incidents involving what many see as paranoid behavior on the part of the federal agency.

In February a ruckus was caused when it came to light that the DHS was training officers with practice targets featuring photographs of children, young mothers, pregnant women, and disabled elderly people who were depicted as armed with handguns.

The No More Hesitation campaign was supposedly designed to break down stereotypes associated with generally non-threatening figures, for the purpose of saving officers’ lives. However, judging by the ensuing outcry, the American people seem to feel there are good and noble reasons why civilization has erected these constraints around the lives of the young and the aged and the vulnerable. Furthermore, they don’t want those constraints shot down by the domestic task force that has been constructed to protect them.

Last week, it was revealed that the DHS is set to spend $80 million dollars on hiring armed guards for use at “public demonstrations” and “civil disturbances” in upstate New York. The information was acquired via another posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

But it’s not just the policy-makers at the DHS who seem to be developing paranoid habits and an irrational fear of the American people. In recent months, local law enforcement personnel all over the country have drawn fire repeatedly for actions that many insist constitute severe violations of civil liberties.

In August, Sarah Boaz, a Texas resident of Richland Hills, was ticketed for running a stop sign. The New York Daily News reported Boaz lost the ticket and failed to pay it on time. She expected to receive a late fee, but was shocked when a city marshal handcuffed her outside of her house one morning and carted her off to jail, where she was unexpectedly subjected to a strip search that left her overwhelmed and confused – and not a little indignant.

In a similar story, accompanied by outrageous surveillance cam footage, Dana Holmes is suing officers who she claims illegally strip-searched her after jailing her for a DUI arrest. However, the only thing that isn’t entirely certain is whether the search was illegal, since video evidence shows it clearly occurred. In the seriously disturbing clip, three male officers and one female officer jerk Holmes off of wall and onto the ground, drag her into a padded cell and then proceed to remove all of her clothes.

“I just felt helpless and degraded… I was actually afraid they might come in and try to rape me,” Holmes told the local news station. “I just had all kinds of things going on in my head. I was scared and I lay there crying.”

Holmes’ experience is not the only instance of its kind. The Houston Chronicle reported in August that two Texas women are suing after they were subjected to cavity searches at traffic stops. The women were pulled over for speeding and considered the searches completely unwarranted and inexplicable. Thousands of Americans agreed, and Angela Dobbs, one of the plaintiffs, said she has received worldwide support.

Dobbs also said she’s heard from numerous other women who have experienced cavity searches after being stopped by state troopers, but who were too afraid to come forward. Clearly the outrage that Dobbs and Hamilton suffered was not simply a poor decision made by a rookie officer.

In an article for The Guardian earlier this month that raised questions about the 1033 program, an initiative that allows the Defense Department to donate surplus military equipment to local police forces, Michael Shank pointed to the mounting evidence that suggests the police force in America is looking more and more like the military. 

The growing militarization of the United States appears to be occurring at home as well as abroad, a phenomenon which is troublesome and sure to continue without decisive action,” he wrote, warning of, “the blurring line between military forces and the local police who are meant to protect and serve.”

Someone is training law enforcement officials in this heavy-handed behavior. The question is why? And what will become of civil liberties in a nation that tolerates these abuses at the hands of domestic officials?

(First published at the The Washington Times Communities)
 
 
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Are American taxpayers funding the persecution of Christians and murder of civilians in war-torn nations?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 25th, 2013)

Russian President Vladimir Putin made headlines earlier this month when he called on world leaders to unite in fighting anti-Christian persecution. Putin has made significant efforts in recent days to underscore the importance of Christian virtues to the Russian people, and his latest statement condemned the violence that has been perpetrated against Christian people in the Middle East and in North Africa.

President Obama didn’t respond in agreement. Indeed, shortly afterwards, he cancelled a scheduled summit with the Russian President. However, Putin’s statement resonated deeply with many Americans who have been working to call attention to the plight of Christian minorities worldwide.

The trouble is that, far from doing our part to end these atrocities, extant American foreign policy seems calculated to exacerbate them. Rather than making an end of the bloodshed, our influence has been making things worse.

Last week, Syrian rebels opened fire on a Christian village during the celebration of a feast day and killed 9 Christian villagers and 2 others. Women and children were among the dead.

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population, know this is no isolated incident. Since the beginning of the conflict between Sunni Muslim rebel forces and Syrian President Bashar Assad, thousands of Christians have been forced from their homes or brutally murdered. Several Catholic priests and clerics have been beheaded or gunned down in their churches.

Radical Muslim groups, who back the rebel Free Syria Army, see Christians as supporters of Assad’s regime and enemies of their religious belief system, even though many Christians who have been targeted took no active part in supporting Assad.

Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra warned in July that young, Christian women are bearing the brunt of the civil war, with widespread reports of rape in Christian communities. Of the war’s 100,000 casualties since 2011, as estimated 5,000 have been children under 16. A disproportionate number have been Christian women and girls.

Earlier this week, a disturbing video surfaced, purporting to show the execution of two young boys by Syrian rebel forces. The boys, who were accused of supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, are shown blindfolded on their knees beside each other as a masked man hastily reads off what sounds like a list of charges behind them. The video then continues to roll as the boys are riddled with bullets and left lying prostrate and immobile on the ground. Viewer discretion is advised.

In another incident in June, a 14-year old boy in the Northern Syrian city of Aleppo, who was accused of blaspheming the Muslim prophet Muhammad, was flogged and executed by rebel forces. Reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claim the boy was first taken by the rebel gunmen to an unknown location where he was beaten and tortured. He was returned with his body slashed with the marks of a whip and a shirt tied around his head. He was then shot repeatedly in front of a crowd. Grisly photos were released of his bloodied body, a gaping hole all that remains of his nose and mouth.

The Islamists claim that the shockingly violent acts which have been committed by their army are nothing compared with the “genocide,” that has been conducted by Assad’s regime, but it seems the gap is narrowing, as the rebels continue to stack up more and more incidents against themselves. And, obviously, these are only the incidents that have been reported to western news outlets. Who can know what is really going on in the dark recesses of the war-torn nation? 

Of course, the last thing anyone would expect is that a civil, respectable, tolerant, and progressive society would be willing to fund such a malicious, vengeful war, or take any part in providing assistance to either side of such a vicious conflict. You wouldn’t expect America, a nation already trillions of dollars in debt, to be giving $250 million in defensive combat supplies to Islamist rebels who violate Christian girls and torture young boys and shoot them up in front of their parents.

But you would be wrong.

Catholic Franciscan Friar Pierbattista Pizzaballa warned Vatican Radio in June,

“Unfortunately Syria has now become a battleground not only between Syrian forces, but also between Arab countries and the international community. And those paying the price are the poor, the young and the Christians. The international community must put a stop to all this. The world must know that the support of gunmen by the west is helping extremists in killing Syrians.”

Syria isn’t the only place where “Arab Spring” violence has resulted in increased persecution of Christians. Following widespread violence in Egypt this week, CNN reported over 52 churches have been torched and looted by Islamists since Wednesday, along with uncounted Christian homes and businesses.

The unrest began when supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi launched a protest against the military-imposed state of emergency. The protest, which is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, culminated in a “Friday of Rage” yesterday, which left over 600 people dead and over 4,000 injured.

What we’re seeing right now in Egypt is literally a pogrom,” said Middle East expert Eric Stakelbeck, “where Christians are systematically being targeted. Right now there is a bulls-eye on the back of every Christian living in Egypt.”

One lawmaker in DC has come to the conclusion that what is occurring is unacceptable. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a longtime critic of US foreign policy and foreign aid spending, introduced a bill at the end of July to redirect approximately $1.5 billion in foreign aid from Egypt and use it to rebuild US infrastructure. “In our hour of need in our country, why are you sending money to people that hate us?” Paul asked.

His remarks are reminiscent of another speech he made in June, when he called for an end of foreign aid to countries that persecute Christian people.

"It angers me to see my tax dollars supporting regimes that put Christians to death for blasphemy against Islam, countries that put to death Muslims who convert to Christianity, and countries who imprison anyone who marries outside their religion," Paul said in June, at a conference in DC.


"There is a war on Christianity, not just from liberal elites here at home, but worldwide. And your government, or more correctly you, the taxpayer, are funding it."

The bill failed to pass, with only 13 Senators voting in favor of it. Senator John McCain argued that cutting the foreign aid to Egypt would harm Israel, and that other nations would quickly step in to fill the “vacuum” left by the cuts. The ponderous list of things Sen. McCain doesn’t understand just got a lot longer. Added to it is the fact that choosing to support a murderous society for the reason that someone else will be sure to step in and do it if you don’t, is no reason at all.


The web of the world is a great, impenetrable mass of humanity, ideology, corruption, violence and faith. To attempt to summarize in a few short paragraphs the state of the planet is more than a trifle arrogant. Who of us, out of our limited understanding, can say who is responsible for all of the deaths and the decapitations of the past few months in nations seething with sectarian differences, and violent values systems? Who can tell which side is more evil in a conflict where unspeakable atrocities are being perpetrated by both sides?

Thankfully, it is not the place of the American people or elected officials to make these judgments, or to choose which murderous regime to depose, which to support, and which to instate. When our government does step in to make these kinds of calls, one outcome is guaranteed: the American taxpayer comes out of it with blood on his hands. The blood, perhaps, of young children, of uninvolved bystanders, of peaceful Christian families. The American taxpayer doesn’t want that.

When Americans all across the country found themselves in eager agreement with Putin’s call for an end to the persecution of Christian people, did they realize one of the first steps towards achieving that end might be cutting the funding that we give to the persecutors?

It’s time to realize it.

As a closing note, for those that remain unconvinced of the evils of indiscriminate US foreign aid to troubled war zones and terrorist organizations, one final piece of evidence is shrieking loudly, demanding to be heard.

America doesn’t have any money.


 
 
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Putin calls on world leaders to unite to end persecution of Christians, while President Obama condemns Russian defense of traditional marriage, cancels summit with Putin

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 10, 2013)

The evangelical Christian community that still identifies Russia with communism, Cold War tensions and the chilling brutality of Stalinism, is in for a big, painful shock this week. The world has changed, and not only is the USA no longer the cheery western beacon of homely virtues, but one of her traditional enemies is standing in to defend the sacredness of the ideals she no longer cherishes.  

While attending a meeting with Orthodox Christian leaders in Moscow last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin vaulted into headlines by making comments urging the international community to take steps towards preserving the rights of Christian people worldwide and preventing the violence that they suffer routinely in dozens of nations around the globe. Putin said he observed “with alarm” that “in many of the world’s regions, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa, inter-confessional tensions are mounting, and the rights of religious minorities are infringed, including Christians and Orthodox Christians.”

Presumably, Putin was referring to the recent violence against Christians that is ongoing in Syria and has occurred in the Sudan during the decades-long Sudanese Civil Wars and the continuing unrest. In Iran, Christian pastors like Saeed Abedini and Youcef Nadarkhani have been undergone beatings and torture in deadly prisons over the past two years, and have been threatened with execution. In a recent interview with CBN, Eritrean torture survivor “Philip” shared graphic stories of his own experience suffering as a kidnapping victim in torture camps in the Sinai desert. "In some cases, we were tortured simply because we were Christians," he said. “I was hanged up from the ceiling for three days, the blood was cut off from my hands and the flesh started to literally drip from my hands.”

These kinds of stories are nothing new. Horrific persecution of Christian people has been widespread since new converts were fed to the lions in the Roman Empire. What is surprising is that these are the kinds of stories that were coming out of Russia not long ago, when atheism was the official doctrine of the Soviet Union and twenty-year-old Ivan Moiseyev was beaten to death in the Red Army.

What’s changed since then? Putin hinted at it when he said the church in Russia had been a “moral compass” to many who were looking for help, hinting at the recent century of misery and struggle that the Russian people have endured. He also acknowledged the role that the church has played in “culture and education,” adding, “The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland.”  

Why is the Russian leadership suddenly recognizing the priceless value to their nation of the Christian virtues they condemned for so many years? It’s simple. The Russian people have learned the hard way about the cultural devastation and decline that results from the rejection of the happy principles that have bolstered the western world for so many centuries.

Russia is a nation that has tasted of the fruit of the self-destructive anti-ethical policies that so much of the western world has come to label “progressive.”

They already tried dismantling the natural institution of family, and replacing it with state control and regimentation. As a result, they are suffering a demographic crisis, with the highest abortion rate in the world. Russians have more abortions than live births.

They already tried out the scheme of deconstructing the faith of individuals and replacing it with a collectivistic, subservient society where people owe nothing to an eternal, unchanging God, but everything to a transient, ever-evolving state. This didn’t serve as any kind of cultural liberation.

Today, Russia is ravaged by alcoholism, with an annual per capita alcohol consumption of 15.76 litres, one of the highest in the world, and a shockingly low life expectancy. According to a U.N. National Human Development Report, Russian males born in 2006 had a life expectancy of just over 60 years. Russia has a suicide rate of 27.1 per 100,000 people. In 2008, suicide claimed 38,406 lives in Russia. Russia has been repeatedly rated the most corrupt European nation, tied with Iran, Guyana, and Khazakstan.

Russia is also a significant destination and transit country for persons trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation from regional and neighboring countries. A 2006 World Vision report claimed Russia is becoming a new destination for child sex tourism, and estimated 2 to 2.5 percent of Russian sex workers are minors.

With all of these sorry statistics to show for their experiment in statism and rejection of Christian virtues, is it any wonder that Putin is extending an olive branch towards the Russian church and seeking to reinstate what has been lost?

The meeting was held with the leaders of all 15 Orthodox Churches to celebrate the 1,025th anniversary of the official adoption of Christianity by Prince Vladimir in 988 A.D. Orthodox leaders spoke out against what they consider the growing secularist suppression of Christian freedoms in Western nations like the UK and France, where “gay marriage” has just been instated, and Christian business owners have been threatened with jail time and forced to pay fines for refusing to participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s chief ecumenical officer, Metropolitan Hilarion, warned of  “secularization in disguise of democratization” and of a “powerful energy today [that] strives to finally break with Christianity, which controlled its totalitarian impulses during 17 centuries.”

“Eventually,”
Hilarion said, “it unconsciously strives to set up an absolute dictatorship that demands total control over each member of society. Don’t we move to it when ‘for the sake of security’ we agree to obligatory electronic passports, dactyloscopy [fingerprint identification] for everyone, and photo cameras occurring everywhere?”

These remarks come as Russia attracts global attention for its law banning homosexual propaganda directed at minors, and continues each year to pay fines to the European Court of Human Rights for prohibiting Gay Pride parades in Moscow.  In June 2012, Moscow courts enacted a hundred-year ban on gay pride parades.

Do Putin’s recent comments signal a Christian transformation of character? Probably not. What they do signal is a fear that grows as Russia slips deeper and deeper into the vicious results of the black hole of creedlessness. And perhaps they signal a growing friendliness towards the virtues of Christian culture.

While Western Europe and the US are slanting slowly towards the neutralization and ultimate rejection of classical and Christian ethics, Russia and Eastern Europe rushed into this chaos of amorality years ago and, it seems, are coming out on the other side a little wiser, a little steadier.

But are they even growing wiser than us?


This week, President Obama announced a planned summit with President Putin had been cancelled, and that US relations with Russia had moved from a "reset" to a "pause."

(First posted at the Washington Times Communities)
 
 
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What's wrong and what's right about the #RoyalBaby celebrations: who can say which are the children that will change the world by being in it?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on July 24th, 2013)

Let’s face it: the media buzz and twitterverse hype over the #GreatKateWait and the subsequent #RoyalBabyBoy has been a bit ridiculous, a little over-the-top. From CNN’s Victoria Arbiter calling the Duchess of Cambridge “brilliant,” for delivering a boy on the first try, to Pampers seizing the moment for some timely advertising by tweeting, “Every baby is a little prince or princess. SHARE pics of yours at http://www.pamperslovesleepandplay.com,” the celebrations seem a little out of balance. Thousands were glued to their screens to watch the livefeed of the royal couple leaving the hospital. “Here’s the important question,” tweeted self-titled “royalty blogger” Brooke. “Will they give us a name when they leave? #RoyalBaby.

But even if the virtual chatter about the baby seems a little out of whack, on the whole all this talk and joy is a good thing. Because a child was born and our shallow, confused culture somehow decided to called it good.

We live in a culture where respected senators can wave wire coat hangers high over their heads in demand for unabridged abortion rights and thousands will march to protect the legality of late-term abortions that end the lives of fully-viable babies. It’s a country that elected a president who voted for the infanticide of partial-birth abortion, and a country where family planning agencies will defend the right of a doctor to kill children born alive and breathing.

But when Prince William and the Duchess walked through the swinging glass doors of the hospital Tuesday evening, cradling their frail and blanketed, unnamed baby in their arms, the spectators lining the streets erupted with a volley of wild cheering.

Is it possible the western world does know, however shallowly, something of the beauty and intrinsic preciousness of new life?

We must ask another question. Was this cheering a celebration of the fact that a new man has entered the world and, like every other man and woman already here, and yet distinct from them, has the opportunity to work his one precious life to inconceivable glory? Or was it a celebration of the supposed fairytale life that this one remarkable human has been born into?

There is a young woman is China who is not so lucky today as the world’s darling Kate. ChinaAid reports Li Fengfei, at 18 months pregnant, was dragged to the office of Family Planning officials on July 9th and beaten so that her front tooth was knocked out. Her fingerprint was forced onto an abortion consent form and she was given a dose of labor-inducing medications.

An estimated 35.9% of Chinese citizens are still living under China’s infamous one-child policy, and Fengfei was just one of these. In her case, however, everything didn’t go as planned, and her body did not immediately respond to the abortifacient drugs. 72 hours later, she was given another dose. Several days afterwards, it was reported she was in critical condition with her dead baby still inside her. According to a doctor who examined the report, she had been given a fatal dose of the drugs. Her fate is still unknown at this time.

In June, another victim of the brutal one-child policy, Feng Jianmei, was photographed lying stunned on a hospital bed with her aborted seven-month old baby beside her. The woman was reportedly taken from her home and beaten while her husband was at work. When her family did not pay the fine required by family planning officials, the child was forcibly aborted. The photos are graphic and horrible.

But these women aren’t Kate. Their babies aren’t royalty. They don’t live in palaces and wear chic clothing and dodge cameras and get featured on magazine covers. Their children wouldn’t have been third in line for any throne anywhere. They would, perhaps, have lived their whole lives in relative poverty, and known few material comforts.

But they might have been happy.

They deserved that chance, at least. At least they deserved a chance.

Until our culture makes as much fuss about the brutal murder of a poor woman’s child as we do about the happy birth of a wealthy woman’s son, we do not know anything that really matters.

Maybe Pampers did get it right after all: Every baby is a little prince or princess. Glad congratulations to William and Kate on the child they have brought into the world! And glad congratulations to the parents of every naked, squalling baby birthed yesterday in half-lit, sweltering hovels in the slums of India or Brazil. Who can say which are the children that will change the world by being in it?


First posted at The Washington Times Communities.

 
 
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From "Hail Satan" chants to violent protests, Texas abortion bill drama shows demonstrators’ true colors


(Posted by Bryana Johnson on July 13, 2013)



If the question is, “how dumb can you be?” the response of pro-choice protestors in Texas over the past few days has been, “pretty darn.”

The heated and emotionally-charged debate started at the end of June, when a bill went before the Texas Senate which had the potential to close down all but 5 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics. The bill, which was ultimately passed at midnight on Friday, will make an end of all abortion procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for the life of the mother, and will require abortion clinics to meet the same requirements as all other surgical centers. It will also require abortion providers to have permission to admit patients at a hospital within 30 miles of the provider's facility.

These new requirements come as more and more abortion horror houses have been revealed throughout the nation, from Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia butcher-shop to doctor Douglas Karpen’s Houston “clinic.” Concerned advocates of women’s health feel that tighter restrictions could help to prevent the continued mistreatment of young women in these hellish facilities. The fact that those restrictions will shut down 37 abortion clinics in Texas doesn’t seem like a point for the pro-choice side.

Be that as it may, rowdy pro-choice protestors didn’t seem to think it ill-advised to show up at the Texas Capitol last month and make a ruckus so loud it prevented the bill from being signed. Calling their actions a “people’s filibuster,” the unruly mob postponed the vote long enough that even after Democratic Senator Wendy Davis had been forced to end her 10 hour filibuster, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said he could not sign the bill.

At twenty weeks, a human fetus is about 10 inches long, and weighs 10 and ½ ounces. The unborn baby is swallowing regularly, feels pain, and has a fully-formed uterus of her own, with ovaries containing 7 million primitive eggs, if she is a girl. So much for those ridiculous signs proclaiming, “Give me my uterus or give me death!”

Although the protestors managed to achieve their objective of stalling the bill’s passage, a few basic math skills would have been sufficient to demonstrate the ultimate uselessness of their actions. The vote, which was held after the filibuster, but was judged by Dewhurst to have taken place too late to be valid, showed a clear victory for the bill’s supporters. Two weeks later, it was passed by both the House and the Senate, in a special session called by Texas Governor Rick Perry.  

However, even supposing the odds had been in their favor, the damage done by these folks to their cause is incalculable.

Some bizarre photos of the demonstrators have elicited complaints from both sides of the aisle. Such as the ones showing young children toting explicit and vile signs, and the many profanity-laced poster-boards flaunted along the streets. Additionally, pro-choice protestors filing into the gallery for last night’s final vote were relieved by security of various interesting articles they were attempting to carry on their persons.
Such as bricks. Such as jars of paint. Such as jars of urine and feces. Such as packs of tampons and other feminine hygiene items. Such as contraceptives. The protestors were reportedly planning to attempt to obstruct the vote by throwing these items down from the gallery at the pro-life lawmakers.

Oh yeah. That’s a sure way to win friends and influence people.

But perhaps the most foolish and inexplicable form of protest utilized by the abortion supporters in Austin last week was something else entirely.

It shouldn’t take a whole lot of brains to figure out that chanting “Hail Satan,” as a crowd in a public place is probably not the best PR move imaginable. Especially when your opponents are singing Amazing Grace in a cheerful group around you. But then, as a wise scarecrow once said, “some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t they?”

Predictably, this ill-considered move on the part of wrathful pro-choice protestors was considered very offensive by many. Indeed, in a grimly amusing turn of events, even the UK Church of Satan was offended, tweeting,

“Unfortunate to see Satan's name used in such a diabolical manner. Another example of what 'Satanism' doesn't represent.”

However, on this one point at least, the pro-choice protestors may actually be correct. A quick dictionary check would have reminded the Church of Satan that the term “diabolical” has its roots in the Spanish word for “devil.” If Satan’s fan-club wanted to suggest that violently dismembering 10-inch unborn humans is unacceptable, perhaps “diabolical” wasn’t the best word choice?


(First posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
 
 
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NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden and national intelligence director James Clapper both broke the law. What's the difference?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on June 27, 2013)

Whistleblower and former National Security Administration (NSA) employee, Edward Snowden, has been making headlines since he stunned the citizens of the United States three weeks ago with one of the most significant data leaks in the history of US classified intelligence.

After months of planning and preparing, Snowden abandoned his girlfriend, family, comfortable lifestyle, salary and job to flee the US and release from hiding in Hong Kong a collection of shocking documents revealing massive federal wiretapping programs operative in the US.

The documents revealed the existence of a project called PRISM, which has been utilized by the NSA for years to monitor internet and telephone communications between the US and foreign nationals. According to the Prism PowerPoint slide, the data it can collect is essentially unlimited. For just $20 million a year, the agency is able to monitor “email, chat (video, voice), videos, photos, stored data, VoIP [internet phone calls], file transfers, video conferencing, notifications of target activity – logins etc, online social networking details” and a mysterious category called “special requests.”

Other disturbing details revealed by the leak include the court order that compels Verizon to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis, all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls,” and forbids Verizon from disclosing the existence of the order to anyone.

Snowden also divulged information that he claimed showed hacking by the NSA into computers in Hong Kong and mainland China.

After capturing public notice by releasing the sensitive documents, Snowden has eluded captivity and set out on a dubious globe-hopping venture that continues to attract worldwide attention.

And not all of that attention is positive. The 29-year-old fugitive’s actions were illegal, after all. Some are calling the leak that disclosed NSA bullying of private companies like Verizon, “treasonous.” Kentucky Republican Representative King said Sunday that he thinks it is, “important for the American people to realize that this guy is a traitor, a defector, he’s not a hero.”

But when asked for his own thoughts on the criminality of his actions, Snowden told The Guardian, “We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me.”
  
One Senator seems ready to agree with Snowden’s charge of hypocrisy. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said Sunday that it remained to be determined how Snowden’s memory would go down into history, but gave an insightful warning regarding the opinions of generations to come.

"They're going to contrast the behavior of James Clapper, our national intelligence director, with Edward Snowden," he said. "Mr. Clapper lied in Congress in defiance of the law in the name of security. Mr. Snowden told the truth in the name of privacy."

Paul was referring to an incident that took place in March, when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, asked Clapper whether the NSA collects "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans."

"No sir," Clapper responded. "It does not. Not wittingly.”

“He [Clapper] said they were not collecting any data on American citizens,” Paul said, “and it turns out they're collecting millions of data on phone calls every day. So it was a lie. What I'm saying is that by lying to Congress, which is against the law, he severely damaged the credibility of the entire intelligence community."

"I would say that Mr. Snowden hasn't lied to anyone,” Paul continued.

"He did break his oath of office, but part of his oath of office is to the Constitution, and he believes that, when James Clapper came in March, our national director of intelligence came and lied, that he [Snowden] was simply coming forward and telling the truth that your government was lying. This is a big concern of mine, because it makes me doubt the administration and their word to us when they talk to us, because they have now admitted they will lie to us if they think it is in the name of national security."

Snowden and Clapper both broke the law, thus undermining our nation’s system of government. The difference is that one of them did so in the name of truth-telling and honesty and the other through lies and for the sake of keeping hidden what the American people have the right to know. One did so in the name of correcting the ills of the system of government he breached, and the other for the sake of protecting those ills by burying them deeper yet into the gaping well of classified information.

 
 
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Whistleblower who revealed NSA wiretapping activities speaks out from hiding in Hong Kong: "you are not even aware of what is possible."

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on June 16th, 2013)

In a scene like a nightmare, the US government confirmed on Thursday night the existence of a mass-scale federal wiretapping project called Prism. The confirmation from the feds came after an anonymous whistleblower leaked the relevant documents. What the materials disclosed was horrifying.

For years now, Prism has been utilized by the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor internet and telephone communications between the US and foreign nationals. And, according to the Prism PowerPoint slide, the data it can collect is essentially unlimited. For just 20 million a year, the agency is able to monitor "email, chat (video, voice), videos, photos, stored data, VoIP [internet phone calls], file transfers, video conferencing, notifications of target activity – logins etc, online social networking details" and a mysterious category called "special requests.”

Major companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Youtube, Skype, Google, and Yahoo are involved, although it is not yet known whether they participated knowingly or involuntarily.

Earlier this week, it also was revealed that the NSA has been collecting telephone data and phone records from millions of US Verizon customers under a classified court order. The order directs Verizon Business Network Services to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” the “following tangible things”:

“All call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

To add insult to injury, the order forbids Verizon from revealing this fact to anyone, including, obviously, their own customers. There is also nothing is the order telling the NSA when this information must be destroyed.

Amy Davidson of The New Yorker, writes,

“The government seems to have a list of all the people that Verizon customers called and who called them; how long they spoke; and, perhaps—depending on how precise the cell-phone-tower information in the metadata is, where they were on a given day…And the customers of other providers shouldn’t be reassured: it is likely that this order is simply one of a type—the one that fell off the truck.”

This starkly alarming data leak discloses only the latest incident in a string of deceitful and abhorrent acts perpetrated by the current administration. But it is one of the most significant, as it reveals the tip of the wide iceberg of federal espionage that fetters the freedom of the every American citizen.

Today, the 29-year-old NSA whistleblower responsible for the leak has come forward. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” said Edward Snowden, who is a former technical assistant for the CIA and has been working with the NSA for four years now.

In an interview with The Guardian this morning, he explained his decision to disclose the explosive information,

"The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards…You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place…I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under."

Snowden, who says he’s had a comfortable life with a salary of around $200,000, a home in Hawaii with his girlfriend and a loving family, chose three weeks ago to leave his former existence behind. Perhaps forever.

“I am willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building," he said.

After copying the last set of pertinent documents for the leak, Snowden boarded a plane for Hong Kong and took up residence in a hotel, where he is still residing. His lifestyle may seem paranoid to some, but Snowden understands the capabilities of the government that is hunting him. He used to be one of them. Having observed the Obama’s administration’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, he realizes that his situation is precarious at best. He also had some comments to make about President Obama’s marked policy shift on personal liberties, saying,

“A lot of people in 2008 voted for Obama. I did not vote for him. I voted for a third party. But I believed in Obama's promises. I was going to disclose it [but waited because of his election]. He continued with the policies of his predecessor."

Snowden says he fully expects the US government to do everything in its power to seek him out and punish him for the remainder of his life, however long that may prove to be.
 
"I am not afraid,” he says, “because this is the choice I've made."

Snowden’s biggest fear is that the revelation of his identity will distract attention from the issues at hand. "I don't want public attention,” he said, “because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."

 
 
PictureJanet Napolitano
FBI terrorism task force targets a pro-life leader & people begin to wonder if the Obama administration needs to learn a thing or two about religious liberty

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on May 31, 2013)

When US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in 2009 that the “opponents of abortion" are likely to engage in extremism, and included pro-life activists on a list of possible terrorist threats, she engendered a wave of backlash. Many religious groups felt not a little trepidation at the prospect of being lumped together with violent suicide bombers simply for planting their feet on the opposite side of the Obama administration regarding the issue of abortion. Some felt that the statements made by Napolitano were indicative of a growing tendency on the part of the administration to heavy-handedly counter traditional Christian virtues.

This opposition to their work was keenly felt by those involved with crisis pregnancy centers, (CPCs) of which there are an estimated 2,500 in the US today. These clinics offer varied services to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Some provide medical assistance like ultrasounds and pregnancy tests, free of charge, while others offer only resources and counseling. All are dedicated to promoting the value of life, discouraging abortion, and educating women about parenting and adoption options.

Sadly, it seems that Napolitano’s threatening tone towards the non-profit work of CPCs was only the precursor to a steady wave of intimidation tightening around the pro-life movement. The latest in a string of incidents involving pro-life leaders being harassed by government agencies, it was revealed this week that the FBI terrorism task force has called in the national director of a chain of CPCs “for questioning.” According to LifeSiteNews,

“Agents of Joint Domestic Terrorism Task Force told Chris Slattery, national director of Expectant Mother Care (EMC) FrontLine Pregnancy Centers, only that they wanted to meet him ‘for a mutually beneficial relationship.’

‘In other words, if I don't meet with them, it will not be beneficial for me,’ Slattery joked. ‘I'm not sure what I'm going to get out of it.’ ”

The summons from the FBI comes as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has subpoenaed Slattery’s group for not abiding by the standards of a consent agreement that Slattery says he believes expired more than 20 years ago.

Why does an FBI terrorism task force feel the need to go after peaceful, non-profit, domestic, religious, care groups? Slattery says he doesn’t know, but that “if the President orders them to do something, they have to do it.”

Last spring, the Justice Department was forced to drop charges against pro-life counselor Susan Pine and pay $120,000 of taxpayer money in attorneys’ fees when a judge ruled she had been wrongly accused of trespassing on property belonging to an abortion clinic. Her attorneys argued that Pine, a post-abortive pro-life activist was being targeted in a concerted effort by the Obama administration to silence sidewalk counselors. It seems they managed to convince Judge Kenneth Ryskamp, who wrote,

The Court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and the [abortion clinic], which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct.”  

One particularly interesting case involving a pro-life activist facing government pressure is that of AbortionWiki founder Andy Moore, who was visited by FBI agents last summer after the administrators of a late-term abortion clinic complained about his use of a bullhorn on the sidewalk outside of their facilities. Moore claims the agents pressured him to expose the inner workings of the pro-life movement and made indirect threats to separate him from his wife and family through imprisonment or deportation.

Aside from the horrendous impropriety of the FBI’s alleged actions, the soul of the controversy can perhaps best be realized by a video of the incident that provoked the initial complaint. The footage shows Andy standing on the sidewalk, reading off a list of facts describing the gestational growth of a human fetus. He concludes his reading by saying, “I just want everyone in there to know that I have nothing but love for you in my heart.”

After a time, Andy is called aside by police, who inform him that a city ordinance prohibits the use of a megaphone within 150 feet of a hospital. A trifle embarrassed, perhaps, Andy puts his megaphone away and resumes his activities without it. In his strong New Zealand accent, he says, “I just want you all to know that there are other options available, even in this last minute. I believe sincerely that women deserve better than abortion.”

How strongly do you have to believe in something to be willing to stand alone on the street and proclaim it through a megaphone to a crowd that actively disagrees with you and will almost certainly be extremely offended by your words?

What if you really do believe in it that strongly?

What if you really do believe that abortion is murder and that every woman who walks through the doors of the clinic in front of you is going in to take part in the murder of a child and will be coming out with a wound that will haunt her for the rest of her life? And if you really do believe that, how unloving to do you have to be to refuse to do everything within your power to prevent those abortions from occurring?

Atheist Penn Jillette, perhaps, says it best in a moving video about Christian evangelization. “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize,” he says. “If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell and that people could be going to hell, or not, and having eternal life…how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”


Regardless of how you feel about abortion, or the existence of God, or any other system of belief, it is a self-evident truth that faith is morally compelling. There are things that, if you sincerely believe them, compel you to take certain actions. It is for this reason that religious liberty and freedom of conscience are foundational American principles. Unfortunately, they are principles that the Obama administration doesn’t seem to understand.  

(First posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
 

May 21st, 2013

05/21/2013

 
PictureThe Romeike Family

The German homeschooling family that fled to America in order to homeschool their children has
been denied asylum by the Obama administration

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on May 21, 2013)

The verdict on a massively significant case in the Sixth Court of Appeals has been returned. In a shocking development, the court has upheld the Obama Administration’s bid to deny asylum to the Romeike family, who fled to the US in 2008 after persecution in their native Germany for homeschooling their five children. The decision was announced Tuesday by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). The HSLDA has been representing the Romeike family throughout a seven-year struggle to educate their children in the way they think best.

Uwe Romeike and his wife Hannelore are music teachers and evangelical Christians who withdrew their children from German public schools in 2006, after becoming concerned that the educational material employed by the school was undermining the tenets of their Christian faith, and that the school was not providing their children with an ideal learning environment.

“As we were confronted with opposition to our choice we began to feel more and more that our faith required us to homeschool our children,” Uwe explained Wednesday.

Unfortunately for the Romeikes, homeschooling has been illegal in Germany since it was outlawed by Adolf Hitler in 1938. According to the German Supreme Court, the purpose of the homeschooling ban is to, “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”

The family accrued the equivalent of around $10,000 in fines, and faced police visits to their home and the forcible removal of their children from the home. On one occasion, their children were dragged away and taken to school in police vans. Uwe explained in an interview with The Blaze that current German law does not require police to obtain a court order before removing children from parental custody.

In 2008 the Romeikes fled Germany to seek asylum in the land of the free and the home of the brave. In 2010, the HSLDA helped them to become the first family ever granted asylum in the US for the protection of their homeschooling rights. Federal immigration judge Lawrence Burnam, who initially granted the Romeikes political asylum, ruled that they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned to their homeland. He called the German policy “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.” 

However, it seems the Obama administration doesn’t concur. In 2012, the Board of Immigration Appeals tossed Judge Burnam’s ruling, forcing the family to head back to court, where Attorney General Eric Holder sought to revoke their asylum and force them to return to Germany.

HSLDA’s Mike Farris explained, “The U.S. government contended that the Romeikes’ case failed to show that there was any discrimination based on religion because, among other reasons, the Romeikes did not prove that all homeschoolers were religious, and that not all Christians believed they had to homeschool.”

In Farris’ opinion, this shows that, “the US government does not understand that religious freedom is an individual right. Just because all adherents of a particular religion do not abide by a certain standard does not mean that individuals who feel compelled to abide by this standard do not have the right to do so. Religious decisions must be made by individuals, not by groups.”

A crowd of the American people agree with Farris and have rallied around the Romeike family by signing a formal petition on the White House website. Part of the petitions reads,

“Every state in the United States of America recognizes the right to homeschool, and the U.S. has the world’s largest and most vibrant homeschool community. Regrettably, this family faces deportation in spite of the persecution they will suffer in Germany. The Romeikes hope for the same freedom our forefathers sought. Please grant the privilege of liberty to the Romeike family.”

The number of signers has exceeded the threshold necessary to earn a response from the White House, and the response is still being eagerly awaited. However, the verdict from the court has created a major setback for the Romeikes and makes their status in the US uncertain. The family may be faced with deportation.

Michael Donnelly, an attorney for the Romeikes, told ABC News the family remains hopeful.

"They feel very comfortable that, in the end, things are going to work out for them," he said. "There is a lot of support for this family in Congress, it is possible that Congress might take some action."

Farris expressed his indignation at the verdict, stating, "You can't look at the lenient attitude to 11 million people who came here for economic opportunity, why we would not treat people who come here for economic freedom on par with people who came here for religious freedom I don't understand.”

Farris said the family is planning to appeal the decision first to the entire Sixth Circuit Court and then to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

READ MORE:
Deportation of German homeschool family affects US homeschool freedom
Interview with the Romeike Family
 
 
Picture

A mentally handicapped woman who narrowly escaped a forced abortion in Nevada has delivered a healthy baby

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on May 13, 2012)

In November of last year, the case of mentally-handicapped Elisa Bauer attracted nationwide attention when a Reno, Nevada judge asserted that he had the right to force the Catholic woman to undergo an abortion and sterilization against her will.

Elisa Bauer of Washoe County is a 32-year-old woman who suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. Adopted by William and Amy Bauer in 1992, Elisa is an epileptic who reportedly has the mental and social capacities of a six-year-old. Her parents, who retained their guardianship over her and had legal authority to make final decisions concerning her health and welfare, sympathized with Elisa’s insistence on carrying the baby to term, and had six qualified couples lined up, who were eager to adopt the baby, even if he or she turned out to be a special needs child. The parents were also providing Bauer with appropriate pre-natal care for a high-risk pregnancy.

However, when Washoe County Social Services expressed their concern that Bauer’s pregnancy would be detrimental to her health and that of her then-unborn baby, the case went to court, where Judge Egan Walker reportedly asserted, “I have inherent authority to [override the wishes of Elisa’s parents] because the court appointed the guardians and they are agents of the court.” The court-summoned doctor recommended abortion and sterilization in no uncertain terms, stating, “End this pregnancy and tie her tubes.”

Fortunately for the Bauer family, the story prompted outrage across the nation, as readers scrambled to file petitions and place phone calls and express their views in strong terms. Kirsten Anderson of LifeSiteNews, who originally broke the story, writes,

“The stories we posted about the case spread like wildfire around Facebook and Twitter.  Readers were understandably horrified that something like this could happen in America.  They wanted to know what they could do to stop it. Rebekah O’Brien, our social media coordinator, suggested they call the judge’s office and make their voices heard.  She provided his contact information.  Our readers filled his voicemail box with messages until the system couldn’t store any more.  After that, they called the governor. That was about the time the court started changing its tone.”

Elisa’s adoptive father, William Bauer, wrote on the facebook support page, Save Elisa’s Baby,

“Even though the judge proclaimed that our religious views were of no effect in his courtroom; even though the judge clipped our statements and said he wanted only expert opinions; even though he brought in several experts, including lawyers, who wanted death for the baby; even though the judge treated us parents as if we sat on the stoop of our trailer eating pork and beans out of the can and watching re-runs of He Haw... Elisa's baby won a right to be born. Our attorney, supplied by the Thomas More Foundation and by another pro-life group, arranged a mediated conclusion to the treachery planned. We gave up our guardianship in trade for the life of our grandchild. The due date is May 11, 2013. The baby appears normal, and, since Elisa's retardation is not genetic, the baby will probably have normal intelligence.”

On May 2nd, Elisa Bauer gave birth to Cierra Marie, a healthy, full-term baby. The Bauer family’s lawyer, Jason Guinasso, wrote, “She is sweet and good natured.  By all measures, she is perfectly healthy and sublimely beautiful.”  Guinasso said that a loving adoptive family has been identified for baby Cierra, adding, “I can't adequately express how seeing her face makes my heart full.”


(This article first posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
 

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