PictureSyrian Rebel forces training

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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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."

 

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
 
 
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Why has the Mexico Permanent Commission voted to ask the US Senate for a registry of guns in border states?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on Feb 21, 2013)

— In the wake of a tense national clash regarding the issue of gun control, Mexico has taken an action sure to fan the flames of controversy. In January, the Mexico Permanent Commission reportedly voted to formally ask the United States Senate for a registry of all commercialized firearms in the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

According to Informador, the proposition was introduced by Senator Marcela Guerra, who stated he introduced the resolution in hopes that it would make it easier to trace guns used in violent crimes. InsightCrime explains,

“Close to 60,000 people were killed during the six-year presidency of Felipe Calderon, who left office in December. The US Southwest is a significant source of weaponry for Mexico's criminal organizations, who typically purchase firearms from US gun stores via a middleman or ‘straw buyer.’ ”

Given these facts, it might not seem surprising that the Mexican government is interested in taking action to curb the acquisition of weapons by violent criminals on their side of the border. However, given the recent history of government-initiated gun trafficking on our side, neither is it surprising to hear the comments of enraged gun-owners who feel that the Mexican request is absurd.

“It’s an infringement, on its highest level,” said one Arizona gun-owner interviewed by KPHO TV.

“My first reaction is, I don’t like it,” said another. “In light of what happened, with, you know, all the weapons, the assault weapons, that went over there.”  

He was referring to the national ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms) gun-walking scandal, Fast And Furious, in which US government agents allowed guns to pass into the possession of suspected gun smugglers in order to track them up to high-level Mexican crime rings.

Over 2,000 weapons unfortunately did end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartel members, but rather than leading to any arrests or information, the guns were somehow lost. They are in the process of being recovered, of course. Each time another innocent like US border agent Brian Terry or Mexican beauty queen Maria Gamez, is victimized, we discover the final landing place of another Fast and Furious weapon. The price, however, for the failed operation, has been high. With an estimated 150 deaths, some say too high.

Not surprisingly, law-abiding gun-owners are balking at the idea of being tracked as a potential threat to Mexican lives when their own government is responsible for causing so much of the problem. If there needs to be action taken on the issue of gun-smuggling, they say, start with the smugglers! They don’t feel that’s them.

And under the administration of a President who persists in treating gun ownership like a malicious cancer in American public life, they’re not sure they feel comfortable having their names entered into a national registry of cancerous cells, which is periodically being delivered to foreign governments. Who can blame them?  

 
 
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Obama waives sanctions on four of six nations that use child soldiers in their armed forces, including Libya and South Sudan

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on October 5th, 2012)

“When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world. Now, as a nation, we’ve long rejected such cruelty.”

President Obama uttered these stirring words at the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York last week. He was making reference to the appalling practice of recruiting young children to serve in military action, a practice that has long been prevalent in various African and Middle Eastern countries. From the infamous Joseph Kony of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army to the Libyan youths recruited by both sides in the recent rebellion in Libya, to middle-school aged boys conscripted into the Free Syrian Army, the plight of child soldiers has gained widespread attention over the past few years, with humanitarian organizations working hard to keep the issue in the public eye.

In 2008, Senators Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., introduced the Child Soldier Prevention Act, (CSPA) a bill to restrict the US government’s military support of nations that fail to stop recruiting child soldiers into their armed forces. This bill passed both houses of Congress unanimously and was signed into law by former President Bush, making it a federal crime to recruit or use soldiers under the age of 15. The law also gave the US authority to “prosecute, deport or deny entry to individuals who have knowingly recruited children as soldiers.” Needless to say, international human rights organizations applauded the bill enthusiastically.

On Sunday afternoon, President Obama signed a Presidential memorandum waiving the sanctions that the CSPA imposes on the nations of Libya, Yemen and South Sudan, and partially waiving the sanctions imposed on the Congo, thus authorizing the US to sell weapons to four nations that would not be eligible to receive military aid from the US under the CSPA. Four of only six nations on the State Department's list of foreign governments that recruit and use child soldiers. That’s two-thirds.

President Obama states in the memo,

I hereby determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Libya, South Sudan, and Yemen; and further determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive in part the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to allow for continued provision of International Military Education and Training funds and nonlethal Excess Defense Articles, and the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of U.S. origin defense articles; and I hereby waive such provisions accordingly.

Jesse Eaves, a senior policy advisor for child protection at World Vision, expressed disappointment over this action by the President, saying,  “At a time when Congress is locked in one of the most difficult budget battles I’ve ever seen, it is shameful that a portion of federal funding continues to help support governments who are abusing children. At its core, this is a missed opportunity to show leadership on this issue and protect thousands of vulnerable children around the world. Frankly, we expected more from our nation’s leaders.”

Given his statement earlier this week hotly condemning child soldiery and branding it “slavery,” it does seem odd to find the President taking this action which seems to betray his own ideals.  Unfortunately unbeknownst to many, this is in fact the third straight year that President Obama has granted waivers to countries using child soldiers. When Obama granted the waivers in 2010, his administration explained that they were a one-time deal, but when he again granted them in 2011, humanitarian organizations were incensed. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry tried to pass new legislation requiring Obama to notify Congress before issuing the waivers again, and called the decision an "assault on human dignity.”

Every now and then, some absurdity enacted behind closed doors in Washington is uncovered which should leave the people of the US with the uncanny feeling that all is not as it appears to be on the surface of things. Some actions are simply too inexplicable – or point to horrible and frightening explanations. Some decisions on the part of our leaders and lawmakers make it all too obvious that what they are saying is not what they are doing and that what they are doing cannot be explained by what they are saying.

We like to think of America as a nation dedicated to ideals. Liberty, justice, freedom. Unfortunately, the bitter truth is that the majority of our nation’s leaders allow pragmatism to eclipse their ideals on most occasions when the two come into conflict. Principles are only good until they get in the way of allowing the US to take action. If Libya is working to overthrow Gadhafi and our leaders don’t like Gadhafi, they are going to back his attackers regardless of whether they employ child soldiers or not.

Rand Paul’s lonely foreign aid filibuster on the Senate Floor last week showed us that most of our supposedly conservative senators cannot necessarily be expected to vote for foreign aid restrictions to Islamic countries that disrespect our ambassadors and our flag. President Obama’s disturbing memo of Sunday shows us that US weapons sales for controversial rebellions in Islamic countries are more important than curbing our own national bankruptcy and more important than putting an end to the nightmare of child soldiery. And that is an assault on human dignity.

 
 
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KY Senator Rand Paul



Senator Rand Paul's lonely foreign aid filibuster shows Senate Republicans' true colors

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on September 26th, 2012)

Dr. Shakil Afridi, the CIA informant sentenced to 33 years in prison for his role in hunting down Osama Bin Laden, spoke to Fox News in an exclusive interview earlier this month, describing the brutal torture and interrogation he has undergone at the hands of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Dr. Afridi stated that he was burned with cigarettes and subjected to electric shocks while in the custody of the ISI. He was also blindfolded for eight months and handcuffed with his hands behind his back for 12 months.

In addition to providing these disturbing details, Dr. Afridi made some sobering claims regarding the ISI’s attitude about America. “They said ‘ The Americans are our worst enemies, worse than the Indians,’ he told Fox News. “I tried to argue that America was Pakistan’s biggest supporter – billions and billions of dollars in aid, social and military assistance -- but all they said was, ‘These are our worst enemies. You helped our enemies.’ It is…indisputable that militancy in Pakistan is supported by the ISI. Pakistan’s fight against militancy is bogus. It’s just to extract money from America,” Afridi said.  Pakistan has received over $20 billion from the US since the 9/11 attacks.

This is a state of affairs that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wants to remedy. On the day that Afridi’s interview with Fox News was released, Sen. Paul issued a statement declaring that he meant business.

"I will continue to work tirelessly to keep this issue front and center. America should not give foreign aid to a country whose government is torturing the man who helped us kill Osama bin Laden. We should not be giving foreign aid to any country that is not clearly our ally. This must end, and this week I will renew my push for a vote on this issue, including holding up Senate business to accomplish this goal.”

Sen. Paul also sent a letter to Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, asking Reid to work with him on scheduling a vote for his bill S.3576, which would have placed restrictions on foreign aid and effectively cut aid to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan in the event that those countries do not agree to abide by terms set forth in the bill. The terms for Pakistan included the release of Dr. Afridi.

Sen. Paul, however, was not able to get what he wanted without a filibuster. The result was twofold. A skewed schedule for the Senate, which ended up holding a midnight vote in the dark hours of Saturday morning. And an epic, hour-long speech on the Senate floor for Sen. Paul, who delivered a compelling and resounding address exploring the disastrous failures of unconditional foreign aid, and tugging at the hearts and minds of Americans who stayed up late to watch the performance on c-span.

This fascinating and eloquent speech began with the tragic story of Zairian dictator Mobuto who embezzled billions of dollars from his own government throughout the course of his 32-year reign and yet was funded by U.S. taxpayers. Mobuto subjected many of his personal enemies to horrific tortures and took elaborate shopping trips to Europe while his own nation was without basic energy provisions.

Paul then went on to cite similar examples of dictators who were supported by the US in their oppression of their own people, including that of Saddam Hussein

“It’s sad to contemplate what despots and dictators have done and are doing to their people,” said Sen. Paul. “It’s sadder still to realize that they’re being subsidized in this behavior with your money. Those who say, ‘Oh, I just simply want to help people. I want to help poor people around the world by sending them money,’ – it is stolen by their leaders. It doesn’t get to the poor people. And besides, you may have heard, we’re a trillion dollars short in our own budget here. How are we sending money overseas?”

Paul said that while supporters of foreign aid assert the aid is necessary to ensure good behavior on the part of foreign powers, he doesn’t see that unconditional aid is bringing about those results or can even be reasonably expected to. Instead, he suggested that aid, when it is provided at all, should be a reward for loyal allies of the US.
 
In further remarks that seemed calculated to appeal to the patriotism of fellow conservatives, he stated,

“I think the real question and the image that you have to have in your mind is, when you see ten thousand people outside the embassy in Pakistan, burning the US flag, can you imagine that we would send them more money? Can you imagine that we would not place restrictions on this money?”

Despite the magnificence of this impassioned speech, Paul didn’t seem to be harboring any illusions as to how his bill would be received by his colleagues in the Senate.
 
“Foreign aid is a bipartisan project,” he said near the beginning of his talk. “If I get this vote, you watch, the vast majority of the Senate is going to vote for unlimited, unrestricted foreign aid. I will probably lose this vote. But if you go home and ask your friends, ‘should we be sending money to countries that disrespect us? To countries that burn our flag?’ I think you’ll find that eighty to ninety percent of the American people wouldn’t send another penny. But that may also be why congress has about a ten percent approval rating…in fact, many people who claim to be conservatives are for foreign aid.”

When it came time to hold the vote, Senators John Kerry and John McCain stood to oppose Paul’s bill, while South Carolina Senator and Tea Party leader Jim Demint rose to speak on behalf of S.3576. Demint was particularly incensed at what he considered shockingly unfair treatment of Sen. Paul by Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Demint explained that earlier in the day he had met with Paul to discuss some of his misgivings about the wording of the bill. Demint shared that Paul had been very willing to accommodate him and had spent some hours re-writing the bill to make it even narrower in scope. However, when the two had come up with an amended bill that they were both pleased with, Reid refused to allow Paul to amend the bill. Demint said that Senators had always been allowed to amend their own bills and that the practice was common in the Senate. He said that although he didn’t think the bill without the amendments was perfect, he would still be voting for it and encouraged his colleagues to join him. 

Only nine of his colleagues joined him in the vote to support the bill, one of these being Sen. Paul himself. Only nine votes for the American taxpayer, for fiscal conservatism, for sanity in foreign affairs. Only nine votes for ending aid to the sworn enemies of the American people. Only nine votes for cutting payments to oppressive rulers in third-world countries, for removing the burden of foreign dictators’ debts off of the backs of American children. Only nine votes for justice, for political prisoners suffering in confinement, for friends of freedom serving jail-time in their homelands. Only nine votes for Dr. Shakil Afridi.

It sounds to me like there 90 seats in the US Senate that are in need of new owners.


(First posted at the Washington Times Communities.)
 
 
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The United Nations Flag

The controversial UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities is pushing for a September vote in the US Senate

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on September 20, 2012)

At the end of July, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved a controversial UN treaty: The Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD), which has been fought by family rights groups and defenders of US sovereignty for months. What exactly are the concerns being raised by the opponents of the UNCRPD? The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) summarizes them succinctly in a helpful list which breaks down the most disturbing elements of the treaty’s wording.

While one of their main concerns is the sovereignty issue raised in Article 4(1)(a), which demands that all American law on the subject be conformed to the standards of the UN, implied threats to parental rights are their biggest fear.  They explain on their website,

“Article 7(2) [which states that ‘in all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration’] advances the identical standard for the control of children with disabilities as is contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This means that the government—acting under UN directives—gets to determine for all children with disabilities what the government thinks is best.


Additionally, under current American law, federal law requires public schools to offer special assistance to children with disabilities. However, no parent is required to accept such assistance. Under this section the government—and not the parent—would have the ultimate authority to determine if a child with special needs will be homeschooled, attend a private school, or be required to accept the program offered by the public school.”

At the bottom of this heap of words lies a question hidden like a neon-orange hunter’s jersey walking around in a green field. Whose responsibility will it be to determine what is in the best interests of a disabled child? This is the question with the frightening answer that changes everything.

The HSLDA has also called attention to Article 4(1)(e), which demands that “ every person, organization, or private enterprise” must eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability. “On its face,” warns the HSLDA, “this means that every home owner would have to make their own home fully accessible to those with disabilities. If the UN wants to make exceptions, perhaps they could. But, on its face this is the meaning of the treaty.”

There were nine total witnesses at the July hearing which was held by Sen. John Kerry. Only two people opposed to the treaty were permitted to testify. These were Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation and Michael Farris of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. 


Farris expressed his concern, calling the hearing “a carefully-orchestrated attempt to get this treaty ratified without any serious consideration, adding,It appears some in the Senate are counting on citizens’ ignorance of the Constitution. [They are] trying to downplay the impact of this treaty by arguing that ‘a treaty is an empty promise with no actual substance.’ Wrong. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution overrules State Laws if it is ratified.”

Judging by the extensive video footage of the hearing, Sen. Kerry did indeed imply that the treaty would not place legal restrictions on the US, stating, “since the treaty is not self-executing in the United States, it’s hard for me to understand, given the reservations and declarations and understandings, there would be a change needed.” 

However, Mr. Farris’ understanding of the matter appears to be the correct one, under this provision of the US Constitution:


“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

It’s hard to see how that very lucid passage leaves any room for further debate regarding the binding nature of the UNCRPD, if ratified by the US Congress – even if it could be shown to make any ethical or logical sense to sign treaties that we don’t intend to abide by in the first place.

Following the Senate Committee Hearing and the subsequent ratification of the treaty by the Committee, there ensued a period of rest for the embattled partisans on both sides of the UNCRPD debate. This week, however, the issue reared its head again, with Tim Lambert of the Texas Homeschool Coalition sending out an alert warning that the convention is pushing for a September Senate vote on the treaty and urging defenders of liberty to not only contact their senators’ offices via phone but to visit them in person in order to stress the magnitude of the situation.


(This piece was first posted at The Communities at the Washington Times)

 
 
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Is Ron Paul anti-Israel or does he have a new and improved stance on the Jewish Nation?

(Posted by Bryana Joy on February 01, 2012)

_ (First posted at The Washington Times Communities)

He’s right on,” say many Republican voters of Presidential Candidate Ron Paul, “--except on foreign policy.” Among social conservatives, who tend to be in favor of extensive defense spending and to be staunch supporters of Israel, this take on the Texas Congressman’s campaign is all too common. Members of this large and very important electoral block appreciate Paul’s fiscal sanity, his dedication to Austrian economics, and his determination to cut $1 trillion in his first year in office. They embrace his pro-life position and concern for homeschooling rights. Some of them are beginning to understand his opposition to an unaccountable central bank and call to end the Federal Reserve. He also receives accolades because he respects the U.S. Constitution so stalwartly. But they just can’t get over his approach to foreign policy, which they see as dangerous and anti-Israel. The question we need to be asking is whether this disconnect is really a result of Dr. Paul’s policies or only of how these voters perceive them.

One of the biggest complaints against the Congressman is that he advocates cutting foreign aid to Israel. That fact alone makes many unwilling to consider supporting him or even taking time to learn more about his position. This knee-jerk reaction prevents many voters from coming to an understanding of Paul’s beliefs or even of the particulars surrounding his statements.

To me, foreign aid is taking money from poor people in this country and giving it to rich people in poor countries, and it becomes weapons of war –” said Paul at the Western Republican Presidential Debate.

Congressman Paul, would you cut foreign aid to Israel?” interrupted the moderator.

I would cut all foreign aid,” the candidate responded. “I would treat everybody equally and fairly.

Paul’s aim then is not to cut foreign aid to Israel specifically, but to cut foreign aid to everybody the US currently supports abroad. As he explained in an interview with Newsmax last month, Israel would actually come out on top in such a scenario.

“Stop and consider America’s policy,” the congressman said, “We give $3 billion a year to Israel in loans; and we give $12 billion or more in assistance to Israel’s self-declared enemies. Some of these are countries that say they will drive Israel into the sea.”  

“What should our relationship be with Israel?” asked Newsmax contributor Doug Wead.

“We should be their friend and their trading partner,” said Paul. “They are a democracy and we share many values with them. But we should not be their master. We should not dictate where their borders will be nor should we have veto power over their foreign policy…. I say [to Christian evangelicals who want foreign aid to Israel to continue] that our aid in the region is out of balance and it is wrong. Foreign aid does not help Israel. It is a net disadvantage. I say to them that “the borrower is servant to the lender” and America should never be the master of Israel…we should stop interfering with them. We should not dictate what she can and cannot do. We should stop trying to buy her allegiance. And Israel should stop sacrificing their sovereignty as an independent state to us or anybody else, no matter how well-intentioned.”

Paul then went on to talk about previous conflicts in which he had shown support for the sovereignty of Israel.Unbeknownst to many, the candidate stood by Israel three decades ago when she was heavily criticized by most politicians in congress at that the time.

“In October, 1981, most of the world and most of the Congress voiced outrage over Israel’s attack on Iraq and their nuclear development. I was one of the few who defended her right to make her own decisions on foreign policy and to act in her own self-interest.”


Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic recently wrote that Ron Paul’s position is actually the closest to a Zionist of all the Republican candidates, because, “a true Zionist is a believer in two core values of the Jewish liberation movement: Jewish independence and Jewish self-reliance.”

It would seem that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also feels strongly about the importance of Israel’s independence and self-reliance – values that Paul insists are crucial to the Jewish nation. Said Netanyahu in his 2011 address to the U.S. congress,

“My friends, you don't have to --you don't need to do nation-building in Israel. We're already built. You don't need to export democracy to Israel. We've already got it. And you don't need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves."

Israel certainly does defend herself. It has been estimated that the nation possesses from 75 to as many as 400 nuclear weapons.In addition to concerns about undermining Israel’s national sovereignty through interference with their policies, Paul has offered another major reason why the foreign aid spending has to go. “We’re in bankruptcy,” he says, referring to the United States, a country with a $15.2 trillion national debt.  We’re not going to be there forever, we’re going to come home.” Thus, he maintains that dependence on U.S. money is “a bad risk” for Israel. “I think their dependency on us is very, very harmful to them,” he stated.

Perhaps social conservatives and Israel-supporters should take another look at Ron Paul and determine based on the full import of his statements whether he really is as anti-Israel as some of the media networks are making out. Before holding him up to their standards of what support for Israel is meant to look like, should they perhaps be double-checking their own policies? With his concern for her long-term interests and condemnation of the substantial U.S. funding extended to her enemies, could it be that Dr. No really has the best stance on Israel, one that will provide her with the strongest national defense and the most wholesome relationship with the US?

 

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