Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Today's Posts

Adoption. What a Beautiful Choice!

Hillary Clinton's Arrogant Performance...and Why It Should Scare You to Your Socks

"The terrifying mindset of Secretary Clinton" -- Joseph Curl writing in the Washington Times:

Her words are already long gone from the daily flow; in fact, they never really resonated at all, were all but ignored by the mainstream media, and were characterized more as a feisty in-your-face comeback than what they truly were.

And what they truly were was horrifying — but at the same time a deep insight into the Democratic mindset, as well as a peek at what may be coming in 2016…

But Mrs. Clinton made clear at the hearing that she didn’t have to answer to anyone — certainly not elected lawmakers, let alone the American people. “What difference does it make?!” she bellowed. Now, this hearing was in fact a hearing intended to find out why the administration said the attack came after an impromptu protest over a video. Senators made clear in the days preceded the hearing that they planned to ask just that, get the answer to that most pressing unanswered question.

“You know, to be clear,” the secretary explained, as if to children, “it is, from my perspective, less important today, looking backwards, as to why these militants decided they did it [sic], than to find them and bring them to justice.”

So, from her perspective, there doesn’t need to be any investigation into why the administration said what it said. It’s like a child breaking a lamp, lying about it to his parents, and then saying, “Look, we could go on and on about who said what about breaking the lamp, but fixing the lamp now is really all that’s important — let’s move on.”

And that is terrifying. The secretary of state said simply, “The ends justify the means.” The Obama administration had lied about what happened in Benghazi to help secure a second term for the president, buried the murder of Americans in a private investigation, then, when finally questioned, said, “What difference does it make!?” what we said way back then.

The tactic is, of course, how Democrats operate. They feel that what they are doing is morally superior; thus,  however they can achieve their goals is above question or reproach. In fact, in this case, they can lie about it — bald-faced — and then dismiss lawmakers’ questions with an indignant huff.

It is, as we know, exactly how the Clintons operate. Bill Clinton lied for weeks and months over his sexual dalliance with an intern only a few years older than his daughter — even under oath — and Democrats decried the probe as a witch hunt. Remember when Mrs. Clinton made $100,000 through spurious cattle futures contracts? Of course not: By the time it all came around, the Clintons said, “Oh, that old stuff?” Or the time the Clintons announced they had suddenly found papers demanded by investigators for years? And don’t even ask about Vincent W. Foster Jr.

This is what’s coming in 2016. A politician running for president who need not answer questions from anyone.

And that truly is horrifying.

Freedom, Economy and Moral Sanity Under Fire

Here's just a few dispatches from the culture wars. (And please note, I use the term "culture wars" in a hopeful sense; that is, I HOPE someone is daring to fight back against the forces of decadence and tyranny.)

* The U.S. economy posted a stunning drop of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, defying expectations for slow growth and possibly providing incentive for more Federal Reserve stimulus.

* Chicago murders top Afghanistan death toll -- This is the city whose strict gun control laws Barack Obama thinks should be the model for every city in the country.

* George Will: Obama "Lives In Parallel Universe Where A Dollar Spent On A Can Also Be Spent On B."

* Obama Appointee: There’s Too Much Freedom, Censor the Press

President Obama recently nominated John Brennan for the office of Director of the CIA but is he the right man for the job? One might worry that “no” is the answer to that as we’ve since found out that in the 1980s Brennan thought Americans could have “too much freedom” and suggested that the press should be censored. He also felt the citizenry’s rights should not be considered sacrosanct.

So, a man that thinks freedom should be restricted because there’s too much of it has just been named to America’s premiere secret policing agency, one that is supposed to interact with the rest of the world? How can anyone think this is a good idea?...
(Read more of Warner Todd Huston's column at Liberty News right here.)

* Democrat Senator's sex scandal unreported by the press for more than a week finally gets some coverage...when the FBI raids the office of his buddy!

Colorado Democrats yesterday killed a bill that would add the state to the list of more than 25 states that provide justice and protection for pregnant women and unborn children.

* Dereliction: 60 Minutes Ignores Benghazi for Obama/Clinton Love-Fest

* Boys Scouts Ready to Cave In to Homosexual Pressure

Facing diverse and ceaseless protests, the Boy Scouts of America is signaling its readiness to end the nationwide exclusion of gays as scouts or leaders and give the sponsors of local troops the freedom to decide the matter for themselves.

If approved by the Scouts' national executive board, possibly as soon as next week, the change would be another momentous milestone for America's gay-rights movement, following a surge of support for same-sex marriage and the ending of the ban on gays serving opening in military...

* The Largest Extortion Attempt in Commercial History...and the Obama Administration Doesn't Care a Whit.

The Chevron case is an inexplicable mess of nested fraud schemes and bribery, the sort of thing that would be an international scandal if the victim were any entity other than a multinational oil company. Chevron simply is not a sympathetic defendant. Never mind the rule of law — the Chevron-Ecuador fiasco is a case study in the rule of P.R.

But the United States government still has a Department of State and a Department of Commerce, both of which ought to be keenly interested in the fact that corrupt representatives of a foreign power are trying to shake down the shareholders of a U.S.-based firm for tens of billions of dollars. The major shareholders of Chevron are not monocle-wearing plutocrats, but regular-guy mutual-fund investors and retired schoolteachers from San Bernardino. Surely this government has a responsible to protect them from theft?

The Obama administration is of course nowhere to be seen in this. We can dole out billions to vaporous “green energy” companies but we do nothing when somebody is trying to plunder billions of dollars from an oil company...

* Now They Tell Us: Obama's Tax Promises Were Bogus

Remember all those mainstream news reports before the election about how President Obama's expansive spending plans would require massive tax hikes on everyone, not just millionaires and billionaires? Neither do we. But somehow after the election, reporters are finally admitting that Obama's budget numbers simply don't add up and that new taxes on the middle class — including a European-style value added tax — are "inevitable."…

Wednesday Tea Break (Broadway)

First a performance of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables sung by Judy Kuhn for President and Mrs. Reagan.

Then Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson reprise their wonderful hit from Chess, "I Know Him So Well."

And finally, Cliff Richard and Sarah Brightman, though backed by some cheesy special effects, deliver a terrific version of "All I Ask Of You" from Phantom of the Opera.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Today's Posts

Protecting Women: Yet Another Obama Administration Hypocrisy

New "Futile Care" Trick: Doctors Keeping Patients in the Dark

This Is What It's Come To -- Abortion by Vending Machine?

The Woes of the Abortion Advocate

Significant Court Decision: "No, Justice Department. You Can't Just Take Whatever You Want."

Protecting Women: Yet Another Obama Administration Hypocrisy

The Obama administration has scored high points for irony, hypocrisy and gall on many, many occasions. Nevertheless, last week was a doozy even for the President's team.

For in the same week that they were pushing Capitol Hilll to reauthorize a boondoggle bill titled the "Violence Against Women Act," they were 1) announcing that from now on, women would be sent into combat, and 2) zealously celebrating the 40th anniversary of legalized abortion which cruelly, brutally kills millions of female babies every year.

Can you say disconnect?

As is usually the case in Washington, things are not what they seem to be with this "Violence Against Women Act." For though the concept of protecting women is extremely important to Republicans, they are withholding support for this particular bill because of the extraneous stuff the Democrats have shoved into it.

Stuff like allowing Native American tribal courts to conduct prosecutions and render judgments (even on non-Native Americans). Stuff like granting special categories for homosexuals and others. Stuff like increasing visa privileges to illegal immigrants.

No, the simple truth is that Barack Obama and his ilk do not have a serious regard for women at all. The lapdog media refuses to highlight these things but they are a matter of record. For instance, his administration has fewer women in responsible positions than ever. And they are paid less than their male counterparts. President Obama certainly isn't troubled by denying millions of American women their religious freedom or by creating a heartless medical system that would deny women necessary medical care. Nor has his administration stretched itself to effectively oppose the forced subjugation and tortures being experienced by women in countries ruled by Islam and Hinduism.

But now Barack Obama can add to his record of gross hypocrisy the plaintive cry for protecting women in the very week in which he requires they be sent into harm's way...and in which he pals it up with Planned Parenthood and other abortionists as they applaud the ongoing slaughter of innocents.

I ask again, can you say disconnect?

New "Futile Care" Trick: Doctors Keeping Patients in the Dark

Medical ethicist Wesley J. Smith is always on point.

Futile Care Theory claims that doctors and hospital bioethics committees should be empowered to refuse wanted life-sustaining treatment based on their beliefs that the patient’s life is not worth living or too expensive to maintain (or both).  But this flies in the face of patient autonomy, supposedly a prime directive of bioethics theory.

Over the years I have noticed that autonomy receives the most robust respect in mainstream bioethics when it leads to death, e.g. refusing unwanted treatment (which I support) and euthanasia (which I oppose). But it is impolitic to say autonomy is a one-way street, so futilitarians are always looking for ways to justify withholding treatment they don’t think should be provided without getting their metaphorical hands caught in the cookie jars.

Latest example, an article in the Journal of Clinical Ethics, arguing that doctors could simply withhold information that patients or surrogates need to make an informed choice about life-extending treatment…

Medical “futility” is not an objective concept. It is a value judgment. In other words, the treatment isn’t stopped because it won’t work, but rather, because it will or might–in circumstances where that is not wanted. (More details here.)  In other words, futilitarians want to change the fundamental purpose of medicine away from maintaining life when that is what the patient desires, to only medically supporting lives of a sufficient quality (to them).

So, we have come full circle to the bad old paternalistic days when doctors decided–only instead of forcing people to live hooked up to machines as in days of yore, they will now deny machines when possibly wanted–but only “for the good of the family” (of course)...

And don’t think that such withholding of information needed for informed consent or refusal would be limited to the extremes. Once the principle was accepted that doctors could keep relevant information to themselves–and given their increasing role as cost containment gatekeepers–lying by omission could seep into other areas of care.

Imposing Futile Care Theory by stealth would be even more dangerous than current approaches to denying wanted treatment–which have the virtue of being imposed openly, some might say brazenly–at least allowing families to fight back in court or the media. But imposing futility by withholding relevant information would deny families and patients even that dignity. It would return us to a time when doctor knows best–when you should die. No thank you!

This Is What It's Come To -- Abortion by Vending Machine?

Here's the Associated Press report from last week as printed in the Washington Post.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration won't take any regulatory action over a vending machine at a Pennsylvania college that dispenses the morning-after pill.

FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson said Friday that officials looked at publicly available information about the Shippensburg University vending program, spoke with university and campus health officials, and decided no action was necessary.

The pill is available for $25 at a health center vending machine that's accessible to students and university employees. That raised questions about how accessible emergency contraception should be.

The vending machine at the school of about 8,300 students provides the Plan B One Step emergency contraceptive along with condoms, decongestants and pregnancy tests. Administrators said the idea for the machine came from a student survey and was endorsed by the student government.

The Woes of the Abortion Advocate

The abortion lobby today is a little like the old Soviet bloc that looked invincible … right up to the day it collapsed under the weight of its own stagnation.  The old guard of the Kremlin were on the wrong side of history, science, and the truth in much the same way that Big Abortion is today. 

Cecile Richards, the chic Manhattan-based president of the world’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, is considerably more stylish than Mikhail Gorbachev, but they have in common a dependence on the power and money of the state to prop up a failed ideology.

(From Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, in "The Coming Collapse of the Abortion Lobby," Fox News Opinion column.)

Significant Court Decision: "No, Justice Department. You Can't Just Take Whatever You Want."

This brief video clip sets the stage. Then, below the clip, are 1) excerpts from the story of the impressive victory that the Caswells and the Institute for Justice were able to win; 2) excerpts from a related story in the Christian Science Monitor.

Important stuff.

In a major triumph for property rights, a federal court in Massachusetts dismissed a civil forfeiture action against the Motel Caswell, a family-run motel in Tewksbury, handing a complete victory to owners Russell and Patricia Caswell.  In one of the most contentious civil forfeiture fights in the nation, Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts concluded, based on a week-long bench trial in November 2012, that the motel was not subject to forfeiture under federal law and that its owners were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing…

“This outrageous forfeiture action should never have been filed in the first place,” said Larry Salzman, an IJ attorney.  “What the government did amounted to little more than a grab for what they saw as quick cash under the guise of civil forfeiture.”

Caswell said, “I couldn’t have fought this fight without the help of the Institute for Justice.  It is hard to believe anything like this goes on in our country, but the government goes after people they think can’t afford to fight.  But with IJ’s help, we put up a heck of a fight and have won.  The public needs to stand up against these abuses of power.”

The Problem of civil forfeiture is widespread.  In 1986, the year after the U.S. Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Fund was created—the fund that holds the forfeiture proceeds from properties forfeited under federal law and available to be paid out to law enforcement agencies—it took in just $93.7 million.  Today, it holds more than $1.6 billion…

“Civil forfeiture is a draconian power that is too easily abused,” said Darpana Sheth, an IJ attorney.  “This case epitomizes what an aggressive U.S. attorney wielding these laws can do to a small property owner like Russ Caswell.”

IJ President and General Counsel Chip Mellor said:  “The Institute for Justice has documented time and again that civil forfeiture invites a lack of accountability, a lack of due process and a lack of restraints on government authority.  Civil forfeiture needs to end."

From "Aaron Swartz and Motel Caswell: Book ends to prosecutorial reform?" by Patrik Jonsson.

A judge this week struck down a US government scheme to seize a Tewksbury, Mass., motel because it had become a haven for drug dealers, bolstering concerns about whether US prosecutors in some cases have too much power.

The decision in the long-running forfeiture case comes as the US attorney in Boston, Carmen Ortiz, is already under fire for her role in the death of Internet hacker Aaron Swartz, who killed himself on Jan. 11 as he faced a potentially long prison term for what many in the technology field have noted was nothing more than a breach of a contract involving Internet documents.

The two cases are feeding a simmering groundswell among constitutional law professors and others about the inherent discretionary powers of federal prosecutors, especially in an era of books like attorney Harvey Silverglate's "Three Felonies a Day: How the feds target the innocent."

"[M]ost of the time, prosecutors can be expected to exercise their discretion soundly," writes University of Tennessee constitutional law professor Glenn Reynolds, in a Jan. 20 paper called "Ham Sandwich Nation: Due process when everything is a crime."

“Unfortunately, these limitations on prosecutorial power are likely to be least effective where prosecutors act badly because of politics or prejudice,” professor Reynolds writes…

In fact, one member of Congress, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D) of California, has filed legislation that she calls "Aaron's Law," which would limit prosecutorial power to level felony charges in computer fraud and abuse cases that amount to contract breaches.

Rep. Darrell Issa, (R) of California, chair of the House Oversight Committee, has also vowed an investigation into the Swartz case.

“I’ll make a risky statement here: Over-prosecution is a tool often used to get people to plead guilty rather than risk sentencing,” Mr. Issa told the Huffington Post on Dec. 16. “It is a tool of question. If someone is genuinely guilty of something and you bring them up on charges, that’s fine. But throw the book at them and find all kinds of charges and cobble them together so that they’ll plea to a 'lesser included' is a technique that I think can sometimes be inappropriately used.”

Friday, January 25, 2013

Today's Posts

Have You Checked Out The Latest Book Den Posts?

The Book Den is again open! And there's four new entries there this week. 1) Music of Beauty, Music of Meaning. Announcing Little Bird Studios. 2) 21 Top Western Films 3) The Most Successful Book Club I've Ever Heard Of... 4) Currently Reading

And, in case you missed them, here's the items posted there last week: 1) Spin the Wheel, Wickham 2) The American Revolution's Frontier War: "Drums Along the Mohawk" 3) Looking for a Good Book? Start with a Good Review. 4) Study Project for 2013? How About Norm Geisler's Latest?

The Best Article on Home Schools In a Long While

Bill Flax has one of the best, most hopeful and most entertaining articles on homeschooling I've ever read over at Forbes. Go check it out. I'm betting you'll pass the link along to friends and, quite possibly, print off a copy for future reference. It's that good.

Oh the title of the article? You'll like that too. "Want To Tell The State To Stick It? Homeschool Your Kids!"

Liberals Always Think Supporters of the 2nd Amendment Are Pushovers...Until They Push!

A massive boycott backed by the NRA and outdoorsmen and women outraged that the nation's largest outdoors show banned the exhibition of assault weapons has caused the show's organizers to abruptly cancel the week-long event in Harrisburg, Pa.

The successful boycott, started by the website, was the biggest demonstration of support by the outdoors industry yet against gun control efforts being pushed in Washington and in several states…

The show is the biggest in the nation and features several outdoors groups, hundreds of exhibitors and the most popular TV hunting show stars. It draws thousands from the Washington-Baltimore area. As the assault rifle ban became known, exhibitors, sponsors and the TV stars withdrew by the dozens…

Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino said he was disappointed in the cancellation, and blamed Reed Exhibition's gun ban. "The decision represents yet another attempt to undermine protections guaranteed to all Americans under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and it restricts the ability for law-abiding citizens to purchase legal firearms that are increasingly being used for hunting in a number of states. I encourage Reed Exhibitions to swiftly reverse its decision and for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to take steps to ensure that all future events of this nature held at the Farm Show Complex are held in a manner that respects the Second Amendment rights of all Pennsylvanians."

Will the U.S. Even Have an Air Force When Obama's Done Downsizing?

There's more on this important matter in an enlightening report from Michaela Bendikova over at The Heritage Foundation.  But first, watch this quick video clip.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars

* Ooops. Democrat smokers are sure smokin' over this development. But remember, Dems -- you trusted Nancy Pelosi when she told you that the bill had to be passed before you could know what was in it.

Millions of smokers could be priced out of health insurance because of tobacco penalties in President Barack Obama's health care law, according to experts who are just now teasing out the potential impact of a little-noted provision in the massive legislation.

The Affordable Care Act — "Obamacare" to its detractors — allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1.

For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums.

* Feinstein Gun Control Bill to Exempt Government Officials

* As with many other "triumphs" of political correctness (the sexual revolution, no-fault divorce, legalized abortion, the welfare state), this latest move will end up hurting women, not empowering them. But that's not the only reason that this move by the Obama administration is a despicable one.

Here's the opening paragraph of the FRC report, G.I. Jane: Reporting for CombatIn another triumph of political correctness over common sense, the Pentagon is lifting its ban on women in combat and direct combat units. Senior officials leaked the news yesterday during the House's Benghazi hearings, making the timing even more suspect. If Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was hoping to distract the country from Hillary Clinton's Libyan testimony, he succeeded. According to leaders, even Congress wasn't warned.

* D.C. man who shot dogs biting boy could face charges

* In malpractice case, Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren’t people

* You certainly wouldn't know this from the mainstream media but it's true --- Al Gore Is Richer than Mitt Romney.

* Pro-Abortion Congresswoman: Abortion is Still Good for Children

Remember Democrat Congresswoman from Wisconsin Gwen Moore? Hers was the absurd voice that defended Planned Parenthood and applauded abortion by insisting that children were better off killed by abortion than having to grow up poor, eating Ramen noodles and mayonnaise sandwiches.

Well, the sad, mean, and foolish attitudes of Ms. Moore continue in force. Here's part of her remarks the other day as she celebrated 40 years of legal abortion. "This is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the ability for women to have a safe and legal abortion. But it really is 40 years of affirming motherhood. And to say, as we’ve said in our oath of office that we take, it should be done willfully without purpose of evasion and that we go into it mindful of the responsibility that is ahead of us. Parenting is difficult on your best day. And it doesn’t serve children, and it certainly doesn’t serve women to be forced into parenthood. And I think this is what the public has come to understand. That safe, legal abortions are very important for the health of children, women, the institution of motherhood, family, and ultimately to our society."

* Here's an interesting followup to yesterday's post, Amid the Democrats' Economic Disaster, Nebraska Gov. Is Trying to Move Forward.

A couple of groups are planning protests of Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman’s recent decision to approve a route for the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska. The protesters will participate in "a round dance, pound Native drums and light wish lanterns to raise awareness about what they describe as attacks on indigenous sovereignty and lands."

* Court: Obama appointments are unconstitutional

* Biden's lie couldn't be more obvious but the media will not, under any circumstances, even notice it...let alone expose it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Today's Posts

Even at UNMC, They're "Seeing" the Light on Adult Stem Cells

From yesterday's Lincoln Journal/Star, Mark Andersen reports:

Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center on Tuesday announced a significant step in adult stem cell research that could take science closer to cures for glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

A team led by Iqbal Ahmad, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, used adult stem cells from the cornea, the clear window at the front of the eye, and reprogrammed them to act like cells in a developing baby’s retina.

The retina, located at the back of the eye, transforms light into neural signals that can be interpreted by the brain, an essential part of vision.

Ahmad said the team’s work built off that of Drs. John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka, who won this year’s Nobel Prize in science after they genetically altered adult stem cells to mimic embryonic stem cells.

Before the pair's discovery, scientists believed embryonic cells, which have far greater potential to develop into different types of cells, could come only from embryos…

[My note -- Let's be a bit more honest here. Actually, it has only been some scientists who have believed there was "far greater potential" with embryonic stem cells. And that's because all of the research thus far has pointed to adult stem cells being the most successful course. Indeed, millions of people have already been helped by treatments using adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cell research, on the other hand, has been but a dead end.]

The article continues…

In a coming experiments, he said, researchers will try to discover whether the new cells truly integrate in ways that could restore sight.

The group’s approach might be adapted to resolve other problems that cause blindness, he said, such as age-related macular degeneration.

In that case, the adult stem cells could be reprogrammed by a different chemical environment to resemble the eye’s photoreceptors, cells that react to light. Those cells are very similar in makeup to retinal ganglion cells.

Such modified cells also can be studied to see what genes are responsible for sight degeneration and what genes fight vision loss. This could lead to drugs that block the degenerative genes or bolster genes that fight vision loss, Ahmad said.

“We’ve shown that changing the environment around these adult stem cells can change the cells themselves,” Ahmad said. “We now seek more efficient ways to create these transformative environments to cultivate these powerful cells that may offer hope to so many.”

Science is incremental, Ahmad said, and many more steps remain before those developments can be used to create medical treatments.

The group’s work has shown enough promise to secure a $1.48 million, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Uh, It Ain't About the Kids, After All

The Inauguration Prayer: America's Old Heresy Is New Again

Over at Juicy Ecumenism (The Institute on Religion & Democracy's Blog), Bart Gingerich talks about the elements of New Age-style Transcendentalism that was rife in the inauguration's opening prayer. As you read it, I think you'll become more aware of just how big a comeback transcendentalism has made in the American psyche of the last few decades. It's a very good piece.

Just How Monstrous Is the Abortion Industry?

“Snipping” Spinal Cords: This is the Naked Evil of Abortion  -- This is the column which author and the new voice of BreakPoint, Eric Metaxas, uses to express the horror and outrage that the whole Church (and, for tat matter, any person of good will) should feel at the injustice and gross cruelty of the abortion industry. And he uses the column too to highlight the new documentary "3801 Lancaster." He urges readers to see it and pass it along. I do too.

...Yes, Dr. Gosnell specialized in late-term abortions, but that’s a rather antiseptic description compared with the grisly reality. Walls and beds were stained with blood. Jars were filled with what are gingerly called “fetal remains”—arms, legs, you get the idea. It gets worse, and I hate to be so graphic.

But Gosnell specialized in what he called “snipping”—which occurred when the baby Gosnell was trying to kill was nonetheless born alive. When that happened, the abortionist would “snip” the spine with a pair of scissors. Again, that sounds pretty clinical and straightforward, but the reality—again, that word—is far different.

“Snipping” a spine is not like “snipping” a piece of paper. It takes time and hard work. And it’s obviously painful to the baby. Gosnell is now in jail and awaiting trial for seven such “snippings,” although one of his “colleagues” may have performed up to a hundred of them.

Gosnell is also being charged with third-degree murder in connection with the death of a 41-year-old patient. One newspaper reported that “this was not a back-alley operation.” Gosnell and company, according to one Pennsylvania state senator, were allowed to “butcher babies, butcher women, and nobody did a [darn] thing about it.”

How, you might well ask, did authorities allow this carnage to go on for so many years? According to the grand jury report, the Pennsylvania state department of health, in order to remove “barriers” to abortion, had stopped inspecting abortion clinics. And no one cared anyway, because most of the women were poor and members of minority groups...

Gay Victory: The Significance of Stonewall in the President's Speech

Barack Obama's inauguration speech certainly revealed that the national disaster which was his first term wasn't going to deter him a bit from pressing even harder to implement the most extreme ideals of his post-Christian liberalism. The forced redistribution of wealth? It was there. Dismantling our national security structure to make us more like other countries in the world? It was there. Scaling back the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution to individuals and states? It was there.

And also there in his speech (even in the prayer that followed it) was his insistence that sexual behavior that the Bible refers to as unnatural and an abomination, extremely dangerous sexual behavior that has been condemned by Western civilization for millennia, will from now on be protected, praised and promoted.

Michael Brown's latest column in Charisma magazine provides insightful commentary on the implications of the President's speech. Brown is the host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show "The Line of Fire" on the Salem Radio Network and the author of several books, including A Queer Thing Happened to America.

Here are some excerpts from that column:

The president declared it. A pastor prayed it. And woe betide those who differ with this new reality announced at yesterday’s presidential inauguration: Gay is now an official social category as defined and tangible as black or white. Put another way, romantic attraction and sexual desire are now viewed as being as innate and immutable as skin color.

Make no mistake about it. Another significant step was taken yesterday at the inauguration, and what was once associated with the extremist views of radical gay activists is now as American as apple pie...

Earlier in the festivities, and framing his speech in historic, Constitutional terms, President Obama said, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall . . . .”

Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall? By Seneca Falls, Obama was referring to a watershed moment in the women’s rights movement that took place in the mid-1800s in Seneca Falls, New York. By Selma, he was referring to the pivotal Civil Rights marches and protests that took place in Selma, Alabama in the mid-1960s. And by Stonewall, he was referring to the Stonewall Riots that took place in New York City in 1969 when drag queens and their gay friends fought back against the police who raided their bar.

So, the president spoke of Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall in the same breath, and in front of the whole nation at his inauguration, thereby equating women’s rights, black civil rights, and “gay rights” – which include bisexual, transgender, and other categories as well – also putting the women of Seneca Falls, the blacks of Selma, and the drag queens of Stonewall in the same category.

Do we realize just how significant this is? Do we grasp the implications?…

To repeat my opening comments: woe betide those who differ with this new reality announced at yesterday’s presidential inauguration. The war is on against people of conscience and people of faith who do not affirm homosexual practice, no matter how loving and fair-minded they may be...

Amid the Democrats' Economic Disaster, Nebraska Gov. Is Trying to Move Forward

 On top of his announcements last week to seek the elimination of corporate income taxes on individuals and corporations, to end the tax on all retirement income. and to make up for that revenue by ending a lot of sales tax exemptions -- as well as attracting new citizens and businesses, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has made another significant move towards proving that sound conservative policies are the real "forward" for America.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman notified the Obama administration Tuesday that he has approved the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline to traverse his state, marking a significant step toward reviving the project after President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sidelined it.

The Republican governor approved a revised route for the Canada-to-Texas pipeline which his office said would avoid environmentally sensitive areas.

"Construction and operation of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, with the mitigation and commitments from Keystone would have minimal environmental impacts in Nebraska," he wrote in a letter to Obama and Clinton.

The decision on final approval now rests with the Obama administration. The State Department is expected to decide within the next several months whether to permit the project to go forward -- Heineman's approval puts Obama in a difficult political spot...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Today's Posts

Roe v Wade: Was It All About Choice?

The 40th anniversary of Roe V Wade has me thinking a lot about "choice" today.

For instance, I'm wondering just what choice the preborn boy or girl whose life is about ready to end via an abortionist's suction machine would make. Does anyone really think the child would say, "Well, I certainly don't want my mother to be unencumbered by the likes of me. So, let the dismemberment begin."

Of course not.

I'm wondering too why a movement which has taken for itself the very title "pro-choice" would be so adamantly, aggressively against those things which would allow a woman considering abortion to know the full range of choices before her, not to mention all of the relevant data about abortion.

I mean, how irrational and hypocritical can one be to insist that "choice" is the supreme right and yet oppose such common-sense, choice-heavy opportunities as being informed of the possible effects of abortion (just as the medical profession is legally obligated to do with all other surgeries and medications), being shown an ultrasound image of the baby growing inside her uterus, having access to the various alternatives to abortion, and so on.

And why are people who so proudly wear the word "choice" on their sleeves so dead set against parental consent (even parental notification) laws? Why would they oppose the state's inspection and regulation of the health standards in an abortion clinic? Why wouldn't "pro-choice" advocates applaud the operation of pro-life pregnancy centers since they do, in fact, offer an amazing array of pro-woman, pro-baby, pro-family services free of charge?

Given the publicity surrounding ObamaCare and its mandates, here's another problematic question for those insisting they are "pro-choice" on abortion. It's just this -- why shouldn't citizens who have deep convictions against the needless taking of innocent human life (because of the Bible's revelations and two millenia of church teaching) have the choice to refrain from participating in and/or paying the costs of an abortion?

Where is there any degree of consistency from the "pro-choice" lobby on any of these questions? The answer, obviously and sadly, is there is none.

No, "pro-choice" advocates haven't been exposed as much by the arguments of pro-lifers as they have been by their own glaring hypocrisy. What they are zealous for turns out not to be "choice" at all. Nor are they even genuinely focused on women, freedom or health.

It's all about abortion.

Obama's Worker Bees Get Bird Food

They knocked on doors for him and helped him win re-election, but when Obama supporters put on their tuxedos and ball gowns to celebrate the start of his second term in office, they feasted on pretzels, peanuts and Cheez-its.

'This is the food? I'm not too thrilled about it. It's for the birds,' said Ben Shelly, who helped mobilize support for Obama on the Navajo reservation in Arizona...

I suggest Mr. Shelly get used to being disappointed by the effects of re-electing Barack Hussein Obama to the presidency. Indeed, if Mr. Obama's future mishandling of the nation's economy is anything similar to what he did the first time around, Mr. Shelley may relish the memory of having anything at all to eat.

Faith Bible Church Shines at Pro-Life Walk

Saturday at the Walk for Life down in Lincoln (an hour away from Omaha), there were 25 people from Faith Bible Church. That's right; our small, inner-city church sent almost half of our congregation to the Walk! Plus, there are at least another 8 or 10 who would have been present if they were physically able to do so.

Given the shameful lack of involvement of evangelicals in this annual event (a critically-important pro-life witness to our state legislators, not to mention the whole of the state), the representation of Faith Bible Church is even more remarkable.

But this isn't the only Christian service for which this little church gets high marks. They're involved in neighborhood mercy ministries; they generously support several missionaries around the world; they have several ongoing Bible studies; they reach out to the needy; they have a great AWANA outreach to neighborhood kids; they open their gym for neighborhood kids; and, in several other ways, they shine Christ's light in the public square as well as in their own homes and workplaces. Oh yes, they also love and respond well to solid Bible teaching. Claire and I are really honored to be involved in this dedicated group.

And if you don't have a church home -- or if the one you have is more into playing it safe, being hep with the surrounding culture, and providing the right kind of emotional effect from the "worship team" -- then you might find it the right church for you too!

(By the way, the above photo was taken Saturday morning by veteran pro-life leader Chuck Conrad. It shows a portion of the crowd from the north entrance of the State Capitol before the Walk began. Thanks, Chuck. And thanks to Julie Schmit-Albin and the Nebraska Right to Life team for putting on one of the most efficient, impressive Walks for Life ever.)

Thanks, Mr. President

A gallon of gas cost $1.84 on the day Barack Hussein Obama was sworn is as the President of the United States. Yesterday, as Barack Obama (he dropped "Hussein," by the way) was sworn in for a second term, a gallon of gas costs $3.26. Thanks, Mr. President.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in Barack Obama's first term as President, the number of Americans age 16 or older who decided not to work or even to seek a job increased by 8,332,000, making the total an astounding 88,839,000. Thanks, Mr. President.

Indeed, after Obama's 4 years in the White House, the U.S. economy is in an utter state of collapse. So too is the nation's security, military capabilities, reputation in the world, traditions of individual freedom, justice system, and our moral strength.

Thanks, Mr. President. Thanks a lot.

A View From Outside the Abortion Clinic

"How is allowing abortion standing up for women’s rights? How is taking the lives of countless female babies supporting women?…How does it help [a woman] when society denies her the truth by protecting her from information that would help her make an informed decision? How is she being cared for when she isn’t told of the life-altering consequences that will most likely follow her for the rest of her life?"

Kathy Norquist is the Executive Assistant to best-selling author and Director of Eternal Perspective Ministries, Randy Alcorn. And in this guest column published at Randy's blog, Kathy shares a particularly wise, winsome and memorable article which brings to the subject her personal experience as a sidewalk counselor.

A very provocative piece.

Dear Phil Mickelson, How About Moving to Nebraska?

An open note to champion golfer Phil Mickelson:

Dear Phil,

I just read about the possible shake-up in your life in response to the latest hike of taxes coming your way. And you're right in believing that a tax rate of 63% is ludicrous, dangerous and unacceptable.

Of course, President Obama, the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate, California Governor Brown, and the entire Democrat Party believe differently. In fact, they will not stop at 63%. They are truly insatiable when it comes to confiscating the wealth of productive citizens. They want (and unless stopped, they will take) more and more and more.

I don't know what you're contemplating to protect your family from these government raiders. You were teasingly obscure in your remarks this weekend. You may be thinking of some kind of semi-retirement like Steve Stricker. You may be considering finding some kind of tax shelters to be able to pass on to your kids what will otherwise be taken by government clerks. Perhaps you are even considering taking a more active role in fighting the corrupt and counter-productive policies of Democrat government…as in setting up a PAC or running for political office yourself. I don't know. Whatever is on your mind, though, I'd like to jump in with one important suggestion.

Get out of California! Every productive American is being ground down by unjust, penalizing taxes. But living in deep blue states like California will cost you a lot more and a lot faster than if your business and property was headquartered in say, Texas or Nebraska. And though Texas has the sun I know you love, there's an awful lot to be said for Nebraska too. We have (right now) a relatively responsive government, low tax rates and cost of living, terrific sports fans, and the best steaks in the country. And, most important, the family values you've demonstrated as being very important in your life are deeply treasured here in the Cornhusker State.

So please consider the invitation a sincere (and reasonable) one. Come live the Good Life in Nebraska.

Denny Hartford

P.S. I've even got a great church to recommend here!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Today's Posts

Vital Signs' "Fifth Dimension" in Cyberspace -- The Book Den.

Did you know that Vital Signs Blog is only one of five cyberspace platforms for Vital Signs Ministries? They include this blog and Facebook (our busiest boulevards) and the official Vital Signs Ministries site where discriminating visitors can investigate a wide variety of topics. For instance, if they wanted information on the Church's teachings on abortion throughout history, RU-486, or "brain death," they could find it.

They could also look up this month's schedule for "When Swing Was King," learn the details of our "3 for 5" prayer program against Planned Parenthood, or examine a diary of the unborn child.

At that site, a visitor might be looking for tips on effective letter-writing, a copy of the latest LifeSherer letter (or previous editions too), or just some general descriptions of Vital Signs' history, strategies and doctrinal beliefs.

They can find all that...and a lot more.

But, if you're counting, that's only three cyberspace sites. What are the other two?

Well, one of them probably isn't for you -- except as a motivation to pray -- for the 4th cyberspace platform is our Russian-language site, VSM Resources. There we post articles for our friends in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan‎, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Moldova, Estonia, and other countries. We provide material on pro-life issues, Bible study material, marriage and family guidance, sermon helps, etc.‎

And finally, our fifth internet outreach is The Book Den, a blog site where we concentrate on literature -- with occasional forays into music, cinema and other elements of the arts. We host that site for two reasons: 1) By interest, by academic and lay training, and by our previous professions, we're into that stuff! And 2) We well know that building a culture of life requires renovation of a lot more than just politics. Indeed, the principles of biblical stewardship require us to bring our Christianity into all expressions of life: theology, philosophy, family, work, service, economics, leisure and, yes, the arts too.

Interested in a sample? Here are this week's posts from The Book Den:

Hagel's Nomination: Just a Continuation of Obama's Contempt for Israel

You really cannot, in fairness, blame President Obama for naming “Chuck” Hagel, one of the most clearly anti-Israel, anti-Semitic members of the Senate (or ex-members in his case) to be Secretary of Defense. President Obama has not changed his views on Israel since his first speech at the Democrat convention in 2004, when he made it clear that his sympathies in the Middle East lay with the Palestinians. In a way, you have to admire his consistency. Of course, he has to pay lip service to Israel when he visits Miami Beach, but how he must laugh at the audiences that applaud him.

He is a charter member of the Chicago angry black man entity, and they — including former pals Jeremiah Wright and Minister Farrakhan — have little love for the Jews. So, again, his contempt for Israel and for Jews is not a surprise…

Read the rest of "Obama, Israel, and Chuck Hagel’s nomination" by Beb Stein over at the American Spectator.

Let's Make Obama's Hypocrisy On Defending Children a Tipping Point

A promotional film using the language of Barack Obama as commentary? Yes! Thanks, Blackstone Films -- the film clip I post below is a real winner: 1) a very important illustration of the crying need to protect kids (born and preborn) and 2) an extremely telling expose' of the audacious hypocrisy of our current President.

After all, look at the way Obama used kids as a propaganda backdrop for his Executive Orders against the 2nd Amendment even though his zealotry for abortion shows how little he truly cares for kids. Ugly. Tragic. And dripping in Pharisaical phoniness.

Let's start today to remind friends, family and neighbors constantly of the "grand canyon" between Obama's rhetoric regarding children endangered from violence via guns and the thousands of children whose lives are being snuffed out every single day from violence via curettes, suction machines, and chemical poisons. Let's make Obama's disgusting stagecraft event a tipping point.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Today's Posts

News You're Probably Not Hearing About

Here's a bit of the news that's important for you to know but (because of bias, political correctness, and an insistence on using journalism merely as leverage for pet social causes) you probably don't know.

Well, you don't know it yet.

* Senator Ted Cruz on President Obama's "gun control" actions of yesterday: It’s sad to see the President of the United States trying to exploit the tragic murder of children as an excuse to push his own extreme anti-gun agenda.

None of these proposals would have stopped the massacre at Newtown, but they would restrict the constitutional rights of every American. We should use every available means to deter and to punish mass murderers, but the federal government should not be trying to ban gun ownership for law-abiding Americans.

The Second Amendment is a fundamental part of the Bill of Rights--the 'palladium of the liberties of a republic,' as Justice Joseph Story put it--and I intend to help lead the fight in the U.S. Senate to preserve our individual right to keep and bear arms.

* Uh, global warming is over. Here's a Daily Mail story (the American media just doesn't report this stuff) that gives the real data. And that data shows as clearly as can be that "global warming has stalled."

* An Iranian-born U.S. citizen, sitting in a Tehran jail, will face what his lawyers are calling a "sham trial" next week on charges of apostasy.

The American Center for Law and Justice says Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor, is charged with "actions against the national security of Iran" for his work leading an underground house church movement in Iran.

Abedini, who became a U.S. citizen in 2010, will face trial Monday in front of one of Iran's so-called "hanging judges," branded so because of the tough sentences he hands down, including execution by hanging.

The charges, lawyers for the family said, stem from the year 2000 when Saeed, now 32, converted from Islam to Christianity...
(Here's more from KLTV.)

* Michael Medved column -- Hollywood stars call for gun control but make millions off violent films…The timing of the contradictory messages exposed the hideous heights of Hollywood hypocrisy in especially embarrassing terms.

* Did you know that yesterday was Religious Freedom Day in America? It didn’t get a lot of attention, since President Obama was busy signing executive orders, but he also put out a proclamation on religious freedom.

“Because of the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose,” the President wrote. “As we observe Religious Freedom Day, let us remember the legacy of faith and independence we have inherited, and let us honor it by forever upholding our right to exercise our beliefs free from prejudice or persecution.”

That’s one heck of a proclamation from an Administration whose actions have attacked religious liberty for Americans…
(Read more of Amy Payne's column here at The Foundry.)

* Ilyse Hogue is the new president of NARAL and though she doesn't have much experience in championing abortion, she is a dedicated veteran of revolutionary change having been involved in leadership positions with many radical leftist groups -- Greenpeace; Rainforest Action Network; Director of Political Advocacy and Communications for; Senior Adviser to Media Matters for America (where she focused on advocacy programs to undercut the power of right-wing media); co-founder of Friends of Democracy PAC; Center for Corporate Policy; etc. She also writes for The Nation and Huffington Post listed her as one of 50 women “who made the 2012 election.”

* The Obama administration's record in cases litigated so far involving the contraceptive mandate is at 10 losses and only four wins, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, which released a "scorecard" of the more than 40 cases so far over the Health and Human Services requiring employers, including religious organizations, to provide insurance that cover contraception, sterilization and some abortifacient drugs. (Read more here.)

* Allen West on President Obama's "gun control" actions of yesterday: There's not a single directive the President announced today that would have prevented the tragedy at Sandy Hook. This is all about extending government control over the lives of law-abiding American citizens.

The administration is focused on "gun control," but what about "spending control?" Naturally, there's no acknowledgement of the damaging debt out-of-control spending puts upon the next generation.

The tentacles of tyranny are slowing extending and strengthening their hold on this nation - and too many Americans are oblivious. At this rate, we will not recognize the nation our next generation will inherit.

Women's Right to Know: Nebraska RTL Priority Bill

Julie Schmit-Albin, Executive Director of Nebraska Right to Life

LINCOLN---Nebraska Right to Life will make passage of LB 300 its priority for the 2013 Nebraksa Unicameral session. LB 300, Womens' Right to Know: 4-D Ultrasound, was introduced today by Senator Bob Krist of District 10 from Omaha.

"Nebraska's public policy since 1993 provides women with informed consent information prior to abortion. We thank Senator Krist for his desire to improve and expand upon that information by directing the Department of Health & Human Services to set up a dedicated web page within the DHHS web site that brings all of the informed consent information to one spot and enhances it by adding links to 4-D moving ultrasound images of unborn babies developing in the womb." said Julie Schmit-Albin, NRL Executive Director.

The 1993 statute provided for a written booklet with drawings of fetal development as well as a list of abortion alternative agencies and the risks and complications that can result from abortion.

"What was state-of-the-art in 1993 is not the same for 2013." said Schmit-Albin. "LB 300 will bring the informed consent for abortion information current with the way people search for information these days; via their smart phones, laptops and tablets rather than having to request a booklet from DHHS that had to be mailed out. Women and young girls considering an abortion appointment can pull up 4-D moving ultrasound images of babies developing in the womb and have that information immediately as they consider their decision."

Under LB 300, abortion facilities must provide a link on their web sites to the DHHS dedicated informed consent for abortion web page.

"By having abortion providers link to the DHHS web page on informed consent, those considering abortion will have at their fingertips information that previously was difficult to access due to abortion providers only giving out a 1-800 number for DHHS in the past." said Schmit-Albin. "Hopefully more women considering abortion will have better access to the information that our public policy is to provide to them."

It's not too early to start praying about the passage of this bill right now and to start talking it up to friends, family and church members. Also go ahead and contact your state senators and ask them to support this common sense, pro-woman legislation. (For contact info, check here.)

By the way, you can read the text of the bill (it's quite short) right here.

The Millennials On Abortion -- Who Cares?

We pro-lifers have frequently expressed hope that society was turning against abortion, especially because of the "window to the womb" which increased knowledge created: advances in fetology, ultrasound imaging of the preborn child, stories about successful fetal surgery, etc.

Well, it turns out that knowledge of the fact doesn't necessarily translate to appreciation of the value.

Sixty-three percent of respondents did not want to see Roe overturned (those who were ignorant of what it was subsequently had it explained to them by the pollster), and 53 percent said that abortion is “not that important compared to other issues,” up from 32 percent who felt that way in 2006. (Katherine Connell, National Review.)

We have a lot of work yet ahead of us, guys.

(One question that I can't help but thinking is very relevant here...To what extent is this "big deal" attitude due to the failure of preachers, youth leaders, "ministers of music," Sunday school teachers, Christian school teachers, seminary professors, and Christian media press to effectively address the humanity of the preborn?)

Family Is Adoption

Family is fun. Family is love. Family is awesome.

Family is adoption.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Today's Posts

Making the Rounds

Things are popping around here today. We started off with a quick hello to Claire Nicole and then headed down to Lincoln for a meeting at the Governor's Mansion with several pro-life colleagues and about...oh, 20 or more state senators. It was a splendid meeting. Organized by Americans United for Life, Family First, the Bishop's Conference on Pro-Life Activities, FreedMen, the Lincoln CPC, Nebraskans United for Life, and Nebraska Family Council, the purpose was to showcase to the senators the winsome ethics, relevant policies, unity, and wide range of services represented by the Nebraska pro-life community.

And it acheived that purpose very well.

The speakers took only a few minutes each but they were all on point and very persuasive. The breakfast remarks included descriptions of services provided by pro-life pregnancy centers and Project Rachel; a call from our old friend Stan Parker with Mission Nebraska and My Bridge Radio about Christians embracing the wide-open field of ministry to orphans that exists in the foster care system; and two very moving personal stories of adoption from Nik Schreiner and Gaye Tillotson. Gaye provided what Claire and I both received as the take-away line of the day -- "Birth mothers do not give their children up; they give their children...parents!"

Then it was a quick stop for gas and back up to Omaha where Claire did some shopping while I blogged.

Next, we're loading up for this afternoon's "When Swing Was King" presentation at an assisted living facility in Ft. Calhoun. It's our smallest audience of all 12 or 13 we do a month but then it's a pretty small place. And, after all, since we often draw almost half of all the residents at the place, we can't gripe! But in terms of enjoyment? Well, in that category, these folks are second to none.

Tonight's schedule? Well, I'm not sure. Both Claire and Claire Nicole have been working awfully hard so I may treat them to a dinner out. And then it will be a bit more work -- Claire on the booth for the NRL Walk for Life in Lincoln this Saturday morning, Claire Nicole on her class prep for her student teaching duties, and me on Sunday's sermon. (But I'm sure I'll also find some time tonight for the Bob Greene book I just started. It's Duty, his personal memoir of his Dad and Paul Tibbets. Good stuff.)

What Do They Mean By the Word, "Choice"?

Count us in for the 3rd Annual Ask Them What They Mean By “Choice” Blog Day.

We'll be having some posts on that day (and leading up to it) which take on the challenge given by pro-life blogger extraordinaire, Jill Stanek, and her team of champions.

Look for 'em.

In fact, let's start right now with this illustration I recently read on the FaceBook page of Scott Klusendorf, the President of Life Training Institute. The story makes a vivid emphasis of how inane are all demands for "choice" which refuse to address what choices are being made, what's at stake, and what values, if any, are in competition. Great stuff.

Joe found the girl unconscious in her upstairs closet. By the time he got there, the structure was a raging inferno. No one else dared go inside. Scooping the girl up, he took his only exit, straight out the second story window and into the bushes below. 

Joe broke the fall with his legs and the girl lived. 

For his part, Joe sustained three cuts and two sprained ankles—and an avalanche of questions. 

The media wanted to know how he planned to pay for the girl’s food, clothing, and health care now that he’d rescued her. 

The evangelical pastor asked if the time spent saving the girl from temporal flames might be better spent saving people from eternal ones.

The social justice leader of the Catholic parish insisted that if Joe truly cared about saving lives, he’d care about all life and spend equal time rescuing poor workers from corrupt corporations. 

The local Congressman asked if he supported tax hikes to support federal programs aimed at reducing fire risk. 

Joe just kept looking at the girl.

1,000 Plus English Priests Sign Letter for Religious Freedom

In one of the biggest joint letters of its type ever written, they raise fears that their freedom to practise and speak about their faith will be “severely” limited and dismiss Government reassurances as "meaningless".

They even liken David Cameron’s moves to redefine marriage to those of Henry VIII, whose efforts to secure a divorce from Katherine of Aragon triggered centuries of bloody upheaval between church and state.

They claim that, taken in combination with equalities laws and other legal restraints, the Coalition's plans will prevent Catholics and other Christians who work in schools, charities and other public bodies speaking freely about their beliefs on the meaning of marriage.

Even the freedom to speak from the pulpit could be under threat, they claim.

And they fear that Christians who believe in the traditional meaning of marriage would effectively be excluded from some jobs – just as Catholics were barred from many professions from the Reformation until the 19th Century.

The comments are contained in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, signed by 1,054 priests as well as 13 bishops, abbots and other senior Catholic figures.

They account for almost a quarter of all Catholic priests in England and Wales...

Read more of "Gay marriage could signal return to ‘centuries of persecution,’ say 1,000 Catholic priests" by the Telegraph's John Bingham.

Russian Girl Challenges Putin's Cruel Anti-Adoption Law...and May Pay the Price.

A blind Russian high-schooler's impassioned criticism of the ban on adoption by Americans has added a new and compelling voice to the chorus of condemnation of the law.

Since her Jan. 6 blog entry complaining about the ban, written as an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, Natasha Pisarenko has attracted the wide attention of Russian media and, she fears, drawn the disapproving notice of authorities.

The adoption ban, which went into effect Jan. 1, is one of the most controversial moves of the first year of Putin's third term in the Kremlin. It was enacted as part of a bill retaliating for a new U.S. law that calls for sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators. But critics say it punishes innocent children by denying them a chance of escaping Russia's often-dismal orphanages…

Pisarenko wrote sarcastically that by signing the law, Putin was "saving children from American evil" and said that Russians rarely adopt disabled children because the country's medical system is backward and can't take care of them.

"They die because Russia doesn't have modern medicine," she wrote.

Pisarenko, blind from birth, writes that she has painful personal experience with Russia's medical inadequacy. She says that although her father detected her blindness within days of her birth, Russian doctors were unable to diagnose it for months. But, she says, she received precise diagnosis and the hope of treatment from German and American doctors.

"For Russian doctors, I am a child with an illness of unknown etiology ... but in Germany and America I am a patient whose sight the doctors are trying to restore," she wrote...

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by a local radio station as saying "Of course we will pay attention to such a statement. "This girl is well known to us, she's known by the regional authorities and by the health ministry," he said.

Pisarenko and her parents have challenged authorities before, according to Russian media, notably when her parents agitated to have her educated at a regular school in her native Rostov-on-Don, rather than sending her away to a school for the blind. She's now in 10th grade, one year short of graduation under the Russian system.

In a later post, she expressed worry that her letter would cause her parents to be called in for questioning by regional authorities.

When The Associated Press on Monday asked her father, Nikolai, if Natasha could be interviewed, he said he had been ordered not to comment to news media, but declined to say who issued the order.

"Probably, I will regret that I wrote what I think," Natasha wrote in her blog on Saturday.

Related stories (and excellent ones, at that) are: "Russian Orphan Adoption Ban Protests May Be Harbingers of Instability" by Ariel Cohen at The Foundry over at The Heritage Foundation; "The Blind Girl vs. Putin: A Plea for Russia’s Handicapped Orphans" by Simon Shuster at TIME Magazine; "Putin adoption ban a 'death warrant'" by Tom Dalton at The Salem News.

Let's do what we can to stand up for Natasha and the cause she so eloquently and bravely argued. Pray for her and her family to be spared the anger of an embarrassed tyrant. And pray for Vladimir Putin to reverse his cruel and vindictive anti-adoption law.

In addition, you may want to contact one of the 5 Russian consulates in the United States and ask them to pass along to Mr. Putin your opinions of his anti-adoption law. In my case, the consulate with "jurisdiction" over Nebraska is...

Russian Consulate
600 University Street, Suite 2510,
Seattle, WA 98101

And here's my simple appeal:

Dear sirs,

Will you please pass on to Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak and President Vladimir Putin the strong desires of the American people -- indeed, of people all around the world who love children, cherish freedom, and advocate humane standards of medical and social care for those in need -- that you please remove the ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

Please act in the cause of genuine liberality, understanding and justice by removing this ban as soon as possible. Please do what would ennoble Russia in the eyes of the world. Please do the right thing for the kids.

Thank you for registering my concerns and passing them along.