Over the last couple of decades it seems like we’ve had more than our fair share of non-traditional office seekers. Kentucky voters can add one more name to that list: Drew Curtis, founder of the snarky aggregate news site Fark.com.
Curtis announced his candidacy – where else – on his blog at Fark.com on Monday. He also announced his wife Heather for lieutenant governor. He promises a completely different paradigm – completely removing the influence of so-called “special interests” from governance.
The 41-year-old Curtis is part the Citizen Candidate movement in which members pledge to make “data-driven” choices without party affiliation, which they argue makes them not beholden to special interest money.
Though political history is full of candidates who tried to win office by playing outside the prescribed rules, Curtis insists he’s unlike many of them.
“I’m not some wealthy person who calls himself an outside candidate,” he told FoxNews.com on Monday.
At his blog, Curtis laments the influence of big money in politics and proposes himself and other independent candidates as the answer.
The only way to fix this is from within. So I’m taking my shot. I’m running for Governor because if I get elected, the vicious cycle of influence money in politics grinds to a halt. Corporations are remarkably predictable – they won’t spend money on politics unless it has a chance of creating a beneficial return. Why would any corporation spend money on legislation in a state where they can’t buy the Governor? The game would be completely disrupted.
So that’s what this is about – trying something new. And proving that normal people can run for elected office and win. If one million people can call the FCC and back Net Neutrality, surely I have a chance. The best part is, win or lose, I’m going to help produce the blueprint to allow other people to run for office and win without party support.
In terms of where Curtis stands on issues – well, he’s made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t really stand on any issues at all.
One thing that people have been asking is where I stand on “the issues”. I’m still working up a response to that, mainly because I think it’s the wrong question. Political parties use “the issues” as weapons of mass distraction. If any of the really difficult political questions were solvable we’d have done it already. Besides, I’ll be an unaligned Governor with no ability to submit legislation. And Kentucky’s Legislature is currently split, which I think is a great thing.
I really want people to think in terms of solutions. For example, someone asked me where I stood on the issue of equal pay for women. Who would be against that? However the problem there is what’s the mechanism? What law could we pass that would solve that problem? I would much rather people provide me with solutions – preferably ones that have worked in other states.
I don’t have “beliefs” on issues of economics. I’m more or less agnostic on social issues. And I’m far more excited about retooling the executive branch to better interface with customers than anything else. The boring stuff is the most important stuff. It doesn’t grab headlines but it’s the part of being Governor I really want to sink my teeth into.
The only fringe idea I have is that Government could work better.
Curtis talks a good game, but the question that remains to be seen is whether his data-driven, third way political style will work. Will voters buy his apparent pragmatic approach, or will they find themselves turned off by a candidate with little-to-no stance on issues? It looks like Kentucky may become the first big test of a whole new approach to politics.
Featured image courtesy of Business Lexington
New technology that allows scientists to remove the glue from the masks of mummies without damaging the ink on the paper used to make the mask has yielded an exciting discovery: a piece of papyrus that may contain the oldest known copy of one of the gospels.
The finding, a fragment of the Gospel of Mark, which dates back to the year 90, is one of several fascinating texts that archaeologists are discovering in the masks of mummies.
This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy. Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue. Given how expensive papyrus was, people often had to reuse sheets that already had writing on them.
The first-century gospel is one of hundreds of new texts that a team of about three-dozen scientists and scholars is working to uncover, and analyze, by using this technique of ungluing the masks, said Craig Evans, a professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
“We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters,” Evans told Live Science. The documents include philosophical texts and copies of stories by the Greek poet Homer.
Lest you worry that scientists are destroying valuable antiquities, the discoveries in the papyrus fragments yield more thrilling finds than these particular mummies are worth.
Evans emphasized that the masks that are being destroyed to reveal the new texts are not high-quality ones that would be displayed in a museum. Some are not masks at all but are simply pieces of cartonnage.
Evans told Live Science, “We’re not talking about the destruction of any museum-quality piece.”
The technique is bringing many new texts to light, Evans noted. “From a single mask, it’s not strange to recover a couple dozen or even more” new texts, he told Live Science. “We’re going to end up with many hundreds of papyri when the work is done, if not thousands.”
Naturally, Bart Ehrman, the leftist “Biblical scholar” that Kurt Eichenwald cited in his hit piece on the Bible in Newsweek, expressed his disdain for the find.
This complete disregard for the sanctity of surviving antiquities is, for many, many of us not just puzzling but flat-out distressing. It appears that the people behind and the people doing this destruction of antiquities are all conservative evangelical Christians, who care nothing about the preservation of the past – they care only about getting their paws on a small fragment of a manuscript. Can there be any question that with them we are not dealing with historians but Christian apologists?
Archaeologists are finding not just biblical texts, but fragments of writings by Homer and other Greek writers, as well as documents that capture slices of everyday life in that time period. The destruction of some masks that are less than museum quality is a small price to pay for such rich discoveries.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Patryk Kosmider
Two weeks ago, I wrote here about the outbreak of measles that had its genesis at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The disease has now mushroomed to nearly 50 cases, over four states and south of the border.
As the first measles patients create new clusters of disease, “I think we’ll see some satellite outbreaks,” says William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and professor at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine in Nashville. “It’s going to take a while to control.”
The first group of patients to develop measles had visited the parks from Dec. 15 to Dec. 20, according to California health officials. The officials have not yet identified “patient zero,” the person who started the outbreak. People can develop measles three to 21 days after being exposed.
At least 42 cases of measles related to Disney have been diagnosed in California, plus three in Utah, two in Washington, one in Colorado and one in Mexico. The Mexican case is a 22-month-old girl.
Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, says the Disney outbreak “has the potential to develop into one of the worst outbreaks since 1989.”
Experts lay the blame for the outbreak at the feet of the anti-vaccine movement that has taken hold in pockets of the country, particularly in Southern California.
Measles was declared eradicated in the USA in 2000, meaning that it no longer spreads routinely like the common cold. The country continued to experience a few dozen cases a year as travelers from abroad were diagnosed here.
Last year, though, measles infected 628 people, according to the CDC.
The recent surge in measles cases reflects the impact of huge measles epidemics around the world. In 2014, there were more than 57,000 cases in the Philippines and more than 17,000 in Vietnam, according to the World Health Organization.
The increased rate of measles also reflects the influence of the anti-vaccine movement, Schaffner says.
Vaccination rates in the USA are generally high. But measles can spread quickly among children of “vaccine-resistant” parents, who sometimes cluster together, living near like-minded parents with doubts about vaccine safety, Schaffner says.
California health officials say Disney did nothing wrong.
The outbreak has become so severe that officials in Orange County, where Disneyland is located, are not allowing children who have not received a measles vaccination at school or daycare for 21 days. Authorities in California and throughout the West Coast and Southwest are urging parents to vaccinate their children.
Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle pediatrician, notes that some children are at higher risk of measles than others, including those who are immune-suppressed or who are too young to be fully vaccinated.
“We can’t forget that we have responsibility for our community,” Swanson says. “Not only are unvaccinated children at risk for measles right now, we have to remember that they are also at risk for spreading it, too.”
The law finally caught up with a pair of Kentucky teens on the run in an alleged crime spree that spread up and down the South on Sunday.
Grayson County Sheriff officials said in a statement that 18-year-old Dalton Hayes and his 13-year-old girlfriend, Cheyenne Phillips, were arrested without incident about 12:10 a.m. Sunday in Panama City Beach. The two had eluded police in multiple states while raising concern about their increasingly bold behavior.
Authorities said the U.S. Marshal’s Service and local law enforcement in Panama City Beach discovered Hayes and Phillips asleep in a 2001 Toyota Tundra that was stolen in Georgia. The vehicle was surrounded by law enforcement and both Hayes and Phillips were taken into custody. Authorities plan to extradite the pair back to Kentucky where they are expected to face felony charges.
Hayes’ family did not realize that Phillips was only 13 until the two had been dating for months.
Cheyenne “would go in and write checks, and she would come out with cigarettes and stuff, so I didn’t have any reason not to believe she wasn’t 19,” Martin said. “Because normally you can’t buy cigarettes when you’re 13 years old.
By the time her son realized she was a mere 13, “he was already done in love with her,” Martin said.
Hayes was no stranger to legal trouble when he and Phillips fled their hometown two weeks ago.
When he hit the road, Hayes was running away from trouble back home. He faces burglary and theft charges in his home county, stemming from an arrest late last year, according to Grayson County court records.
He was planning to be at the local judicial center on Jan. 5 to find out if a grand jury had indicted him on the charges, his mother said. His case did not come up, but by that time the teens were gone.
After leaving Grayson County, where the first truck they allegedly stole crashed, Hayes and Phillips were spotted at a Walmart in South Carolina, where authorities suspect they passed off stolen checks. The two then fled to Georgia, where they allegedly stole another truck in Henry County, a few miles south of Atlanta, before fleeing further south to Panama City Beach, where authorities arrested them.
In 2014, in the midst of a slew of lawsuits cropping up over whether businesses could refuse to bake cakes or provide flowers for same-sex weddings for religious reasons, a group of Georgia lawmakers proposed a religious freedom act in the state legislature. The measure failed, largely due to pressure from the business community.
This legislative session, the theme of religious freedom has reared its head again, this time for a different reason — the firing of Atlanta’s Fire Rescue Department Chief Kelvin Cochran over a book Cochran wrote in which he makes his views on homosexuality and adultery known.
Cochran has since become what one local columnist calls “the face of ‘religious liberty’ bills“:
Last month, Cochran was brought before the executive committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention, the state’s largest denomination and a supporter of a religious liberty bill already on file in the House. Cochran was greeted as a hero, though his appearance, while a formal city investigation was underway, made him no new friends at City Hall.
The Georgia Baptist website has put audio excerpts of Cochran’s speech online, as well as a sales link to his book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” at Amazon.com. A Georgia Baptist online petition in support of Cochran now has 4,452 signatures.
But supporters of the bill currently before the legislature argue that a religious freedom act is about more than one man — it’s about protecting the rights of people of faith in an era in which those rights are increasingly precious.
Opponents argue this legislation is unnecessary, that religious freedom is well protected by the First Amendment. But in 1990, the Supreme Court limited that protection, which was the very reason Congress passed the federal RFRA. That law restored the protection Americans had enjoyed for decades before the unfortunate Supreme Court decision. Many states have followed suit to ensure religious freedom is similarly guarded against state and local assaults.
Opponents also deny faith-based speech and activities are ever disfavored in Georgia. But students of faith at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and other universities would disagree. Christian student organizations at Georgia universities and public schools have been denied the recognition and funding routinely granted to non-religious student organizations. Tech prohibited students from engaging in “intolerant” faith-based speech. At Savannah State, a Christian student club was expelled from campus for “hazing.” The offense? Engaging in a foot-washing ceremony at a discipleship retreat.
Though many examples of discrimination against faith-based activity arise in the context of public schools and universities, the problem isn’t restricted to academia. In DeKalb County, a church that had been renting a recreation center for weekly services was suddenly told it was no longer welcome, pursuant to a new (unwritten) policy against renting the center to churches. A Christian in Pine Mountain was prohibited from placing free Bibles in a library that allowed distribution of other community materials. Rockdale County required churches — alone among all other organizations — to have at least three acres of land. In case after case, people of faith have been singled out for more burdensome treatment.
A group of pastors, rabbis, and other people of faith have stepped out to oppose the measure, as have the same corporate interests who helped defeat the bill last year.
Critics say its passage, regardless of Teasley’s intentions, would open the door for private business owners to discriminate against gays and other minorities — by citing religious beliefs — and make the Peach State a national laughingstock and economic pariah.
It’s early in the legislative session, and it remains to be seen whether the bill has enough support to pass this year. Stay tuned, and we’ll see what happens under the Gold Dome.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / f11photo
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached nonviolence and finding the civil way to solve problems between people. Now, his children are at odds over what should happen to two of his most prized possessions – his traveling Bible and his Nobel Peace Prize — and they’ve taken the fight to court.
King’s sons – Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King – run his estate, and want to sell the relics to a private buyer. It is thought the Bible could fetch between $200,000 and $1 million, while the medal could go for more than $10 million.
However, King’s daughter, Bernice, controls their mother’s estate and contests that King gave the medal to his wife as a gift and therefore belongs to her. She opposes the sale.
Bernice King has said publicly that selling the items would be ”spiritually violent” and “outright morally reprehensible,” and some of Dr King’s contemporaries agree. Rev. Joseph Lowery, who marched alongside King in the 60s, said:
“I don’t even want to admit there’s a discussion about putting those items on the market,” he said.
“They are sacred items, not only are they sacred to the family but they’re sacred to the community. They represent Martin’s life work and commitment to justice and serving God.”
Rev. Timothy McDonald, who served at Ebenezer Baptist Church in the 80s, agreed.
You don’t sell Bibles and you don’t get but one Nobel peace prize. There are some items that you just don’t put a price on.
The items currently reside in a safe-deposit box controlled by the court, and after a January 13 hearing, the case will go before a judge. King’s sons have indicated that they would not necessarily sell the items but that they merely want to clarify the question of ownership of the Bible and medal.
One Atlanta judge has stated that the Martin Luther King Jr. estate, led by his sons, would likely win the case if it were to go to trial.
Featured image from Shutterstock / Olivier Le Queinec
Mike and Kelli Hopkins never thought they’d ever leave their hometown. After raising four children in Covington, Georgia, the Hopkins family had deep roots in the community, among friends, and at church. Three of the Hopkins’ children have suffered from separate genetic disorders with one factor in common — seizures.
When they found out about a strain of cannabis oil that offered a proven track record of curtailing seizures without the “high” associated with marijuana, they held out hope that Georgia would make the medicine legal. After a bill to make the oil legal failed to pass the legislature in 2014, the Hopkins family made plans to move to Colorado, where the oil is legal.
Kelli and the children would move to Colorado full-time, while Mike would fly back and forth from their home in Covington, where he serves as director of the local water authority, and Colorado to spend time with the family. But the move came too late for two of the Hopkins children, as 21-year-old Mary Elizabeth and six-year-old Abe passed away just a few months apart.
Mike and Kelli vowed to fight again in 2015 to make this near-miraculous oil legal in their home state. Meanwhile, in Colorado, Kelli has tried the oil with 17-year-old Michala, and the family has seen dramatic results.
HB1, The bill in this year’s legislative session, has 84% support, according to WSB in Atlanta – however, Governor Nathan Deal vowed to veto the current bill but would support a compromise version that offers immunity from prosecution to anyone who transports the oil into Georgia.
To Mike Hopkins, such an option is too risky for his family to move back home.
“Well, you know when we received the oil in Colorado we signed a document saying we would not leave the state of Colorado with this medicine. That makes it illegal to leave the state of Colorado,” he said.
The legislator behind the bill, Representative Allen Peake, has considered engaging in “a little civil disobedience.”
“I’m ready and willing to risk going to jail to be able to go get the product, (and) bring it back to Georgia so that these families can have access to it,” he said.
In the meantime, the Hopkins family, along with around 16 other Georgia families, will remain in Colorado until the Georgia legislature can clear the way for them to come home with the medicine that is making a difference in their children’s lives.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock / urbans
There’s hardly any place more magical than the Disney Parks at Christmastime. However, this holiday season a handful of guests at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, got a souvenir they didn’t bargain for: measles.
Nine people with confirmed cases of measles were at Disneyland or the adjacent Disney California Adventure Park in Orange County between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20, according to the California Department of Public Health. Three more people with suspected measles also visited Disney during that time.
Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said, “We are working with the health department to provide any information and assistance we can.”
If you’re thinking, “I thought measles was practically eradicated with those shots we had to get as children,” think again. The anti-vaccination subculture deserves the blame for this outbreak.
Measles was once a nearly universal disease of childhood. Thanks to vaccines, however, it was declared eradicated in the USA in 2000. Since then, the country has seen 60 to 70 cases a year, usually people who were infected in other countries and diagnosed here.
The disease has returned in recent years, as more parents skip or space out their children’s vaccines because of misguided concerns about vaccine safety, [Paul] Offit [chief of infectious disease at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia] says. Dozens of studies have found vaccines to be safe, with no link to autism or other serious conditions.
Still, fears stoked by misinformation from celebrities and the Internet have done a lot of damage, Offit says.
The majority of these cases involve people who were never vaccinated, including two babies too young for the shot, but in one case, the patient had received all vaccinations.
Health officials have expressed concern over this particular outbreak, especially since it centers around a popular tourist destination.
The Disneyland outbreak is disturbing, Offit says, because it affects people who are likely to get on planes, where measles can spread easily. Two of the confirmed cases linked to Disneyland were Utah residents.
Disneyland is safe as of now, but for those nine guests, this Christmas trip was more than they bargained for.
Image via Shutterstock / Hatchapong Palurtchaivong
Let’s face it – local politics can be boring, even in your own hometown. So it’s not often that a local political story makes waves nationwide. Frederick, Maryland has brought us a rare local political story that’s not only interesting, but downright hilarious.
Kirby Delauter, a city council member in the town located in the center of Maryland, published a Facebook post on January 3 in which he threatened to sue the local paper, the News-Post, if they used his name again without permission:
In a Facebook status posted Saturday, Delauter said he was upset with reporter Bethany Rodgers for “an unauthorized use of my name and my reference in her article” published Jan. 3 about his and Councilman Billy Shreve’s concerns over County Council parking spaces.
“So let me be clear…………do not contact me and do not use my name or reference me in an unauthorized form in the future,” Delauter, R-District 5, said in a Facebook status update.
Delauter, a Republican, has expressed his disdain with bias at the paper on other occasions – in fact, one of his fellow Republicans on the council agreed with him in the article – but the paper’s response was priceless: an editorial using his name as often as they could:
Kirby Delauter, an elected official; Kirby Delauter, a public figure? Surely, Kirby Delauter can’t be serious? Kirby Delauter’s making a joke, right?
Round about then, we wondered, if it’s not a joke, how should we now refer to Kirby Delauter if we can’t use his name (Kirby Delauter)? Could we get away with an entire editorial of nothing but “Kirby Delauter” repeated over and over again — Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter? OK, imagine we agreed because of temporary madness or something funny in the water that week, how would we reference “Kirby Delauter” and do our job as journalists without running afoul of our lack of authorization?
You know, Delauter could be right about the bias (and he and I are on the same side politically), but the paper is right to stand behind what it calls “that whole First Amendment thing.” After all, arrogant politicians of any political stripe need someone to take them down a peg or two.
Thankfully, the News-Post figured out how to do it with a dose of laughs.
Newsweek made its way back into print with a bang, ringing in 2015 with a lengthy cover article about the Bible. In the 8,500 word piece, business writer Kurt Eichenwald barely hides his disdain for evangelicals and those who interpret the Bible through a theologically conservative lens:
They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.
They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.
The Bible is not the book many American fundamentalists and political opportunists think it is, or more precisely, what they want it to be. Their lack of knowledge about the Bible is well established.
Eichenwald sets out to rip apart just about every mainstream belief about the Word of God, relying almost exclusively on liberal scholarship to prove his points.
The article probably ticked off plenty of theological conservatives, but one evangelical leader found himself angry enough to refute Eichenwald. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, mounted his missive in a post on his website.
When it comes to Newsweek‘s cover story, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” Eichenwald appears to be far outside his area of expertise and knowledge. More to the point, he really does not address the subject of the Bible like a reporter at all. His article is a hit-piece that lacks any journalistic balance or credibility. His only sources cited within the article are from severe critics of evangelical Christianity, and he does not even represent some of them accurately.
Eichenwald demonstrates absolutely no attempt to understand traditional Christian understandings of the Bible, nor ever to have spoken with the people he asserts “claim to revere [the Bible] but don’t read it.” What follows is a reckless rant against the Bible and Christians who claim to base their faith upon its teachings.
In a predictable move, Eichenwald claims to base his research on “works of scores of theologians and scholars, some of which dates back centuries.” But the sources he cites are from the far, far left of biblical studies and the most significant living source appears to be University of North Carolina professor Bart Ehrman, who is post-Christian. Even so, he makes claims that go far beyond even what Bart Ehrman has claimed in print.
Mohler muses aloud whether “some fundamentalist preacher [ran] over young Kurt Eichenwald’s pet hamster when the reporter was just a boy” and accuses the journalist of raising arguments “that could only impress a ten year old.”
Yet, most impressively, Mohler refutes nearly all of Eichenwald’s points and blows holes in the writer’s logic before concluding that Eichenwald “has an axe to grind, and grind he does.”
Anyone who has read the Newsweek screed would do themselves a favor to read Mohler’s response. It’s nice to see him stand up to the flimsy scholarship and agenda-driven writing Eichenwald puts on display.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Natykach Nataliia
If you’ve ever walked around an area known for its nightlife, you’ve seen them: handwritten signs outside bars on chalkboards or whiteboards with clever sayings designed to draw patrons in. Folks who walked past Bar Bar at City Market in Savannah, GA, on Friday night may never forget the sign they saw — or the controversy it has caused.
Someone took a photo of the sign, which read, “We like our beer like we like our violence, DOMESTIC,” and sent it to Cheryl Branch, director of Savannah’s Safe Shelter, Inc., and that’s where the firestorm began.
“I have 18 years of really bad stuff in my head,” she says. “I think it was just really poor judgement and bad taste.”
Her staff members sent her the photo.
“…as much domestic violence has been in the news, and then to see a sign…” she feels such a message has the potential to be damaging for domestic violence survivors.
So, she took to Yelp to post a review of the bar.
Bar Bar’s owner, David Thorne, emailed Branch directly and informed her that the sign was meant as a joke and that he didn’t personally approve of the sign but that he stood by it nonetheless.
He wrote: “It is obvious that you are reactionary, oversensitive, and can’t recognize the First Amendment rights of our staff.”
In the email, the owner says his bar had no intention of promoting domestic violence, and he would not have approved the sign but a female staff member wrote it without asking.
The bar had taken the sign down by Saturday, but the controversy remained, as Bar Bar dealt with plenty of complaints on social media from others who saw the sign. Thorne would not talk directly to the media, but by Monday morning, Bar Bar came back with its own defiant response.
In response, the bar posted this on their Facebook page: ”To everybody who has a problem with the sign that was put up Friday night and have never been to, or won’t return to the Bar Bar: How about instead of wasting your time whining about a sign at a bar you take your TIME and MONEY and DONATE to SAFE Shelter! Stop the Violence by DOING something……not whining about it!”
Obviously, Bar Bar stands behind its employees’ First Amendment right to make dumb statements, but it may be too early to tell how much patrons will exercise their right not to spend money at the establishment.
In a moving message on Facebook, Canon Andrew White, the Anglican vicar of Baghdad, writes that Christians in Baghdad have nothing left but the “refugee child” Jesus this year.
White writes movingly: “I will never forget the day in Baghdad when we had some visitors. They had come to see what it was really like for Christians in Iraq. They were so surprised by how happy the thousands of people were in our congregation. ‘How can you be so happy when you are surrounded by suicide bombs, mortar rockets and such violence?’ One of our young people answered the statement. ‘You see when you have lost everything, Jesus is all you have got left.’
“All you have got left is the love of that refugee child. That to us in the Middle East is all that matters this Christmas.”
White, who had to relocate to Bethlehem after threats to his life, also writes about the refugee tents the church has set up to care for Christian suffering at the hands of ISIS.
Christians have been dismissed from their hometowns in there hundreds of thousands. They have fled in their masses to the very North of Iraq fleeing the onslaught of the terrorist group known as ISIS. There for weeks my staff team have fed and clothed, provided mattresses and cradles for the thousands and thousands of internally displaced people.
This Christmas season, we who celebrate in the safety of the West, let us not lose sight of the true meaning of this special holiday. To quote Canon White’s closing statement:
Christmas is a time when we should never lose the meaning of this Christ Child who came to us so that by simply trusting in him we will have a life filled with hope and purpose and love. He is still with us 2000 years after he first came. This Christmas let us not forget that he so loves us that we must love him and in response our life will be changed forever.
This post uses an image from Shutterstock.
Around the same time that Mississippi State University’s football team found themselves at the top of the college football rankings, an archaeological team from the school was getting ready to go public with some key finds from their three-year project at Khirbet Summeily, a site in southern Israel.
These finds shed light on life in the Old Testament era. One of the finds, a series of clay seals called bullae, lends credence to the Biblical accounts of the reigns of Kings David and Solomon.
Jimmy Hardin, associate professor in the MSU Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, said these clay bullae were used to seal official correspondence in much the same way wax seals were used on official documents in later periods.
“Our preliminary results indicated that this site is integrated into a political entity that is typified by elite activities, suggesting that a state was already being formed in the 10th century B.C.,” Hardin said. “We are very positive that these bullae are associated with the Iron Age IIA, which we date to the 10th century B.C., and which lends general support to the historical veracity of David and Solomon as recorded in the Hebrew biblical texts.
“These appear to be the only known examples of bullae from the 10th century, making this discovery unique,” he said.
“Some text scholars and archaeologists have dismissed the historic reliability of the biblical text surrounding kings David and Solomon, such as recorded in the Bible in the books of Kings and Second Samuel, which scholars often date to the Iron Age IIA or 10th century B.C,” Hardin said.
Other finds in and around the dig site help clarify what everyday life was like in Israel during that era. Jeff Blakely, another archaeologist involved in the Hesi Regional Project, notes that these finds change the way scholars have viewed economic life at that time.
From the start of the project, archaeologists have tried to determine what people were doing in the region of Khirbet Summeily, Blakely said.
“Generations of scholarship have suggested farming, but over the past few years, we have slowly realized that humans rarely farmed this region,” he said. “It was a pasture. Shepherds tended sheep and goats under the protection of their government. Finding the bullae this past summer strongly supports our idea that Khirbet Summeily was a governmental installation.”
This post includes an image from Shutterstock.
So your exhausting search for the ideal Christmas present for that hard-to-shop-for friend has taken you to the package store. You browse the aisles looking for the perfect bottle — something that reflects good taste at the best price — when suddenly you’ve found what you’re looking for.
Not so fast. A new Consumer Reports poll has found that a quarter of Americans surveyed see hard liquor as the least desirable holiday gift.
One in four Americans surveyed cited whiskey, vodka, brandy, rum, and other spirits as the least desirable gift to receive; 23 percent identified flowers and plants as the biggest buzzkill, while 13 percent singled out candles, picture frames, and other home décor items as the most unwanted presents. Even socks would be a better choice.
The same poll showed that consumers are much more comfortable with the idea of receiving wine as a present.
Wine, however, proved a different story. It was far more acceptable—and desirable. Only 6 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t want to receive a bottle for the holidays.
Just outside of Charleston, SC, the assistant manager of package store Bottles says she doesn’t see the aversion to the giving of booze that the poll reflects.
“I was like, ‘hmm, I guess they’re not in South Carolina’,” Sara Capparelli says of her initial reaction to the finding. “We’re selling out of gift sets.”
…liquor remains popular with Christmas shoppers in Charleston. More than 100 gift givers this weekend attended a bottle-engraving that Capparelli called the most successful such event in the Mt. Pleasant store’s three-year history.
However, Capparelli says she does understand why many people might prefer wine to liquor as a gift.
The gulf between wine and liquor makes sense to Capparelli, who points out that most Cabernet drinkers could probably be coaxed into trying Merlot. But it’s significantly harder to persuade a whiskey drinker to sip vodka, no matter how nicely the bottle is wrapped. Additionally, Capparelli says, wine offers a better value for the gift giver.
“You don’t want to give someone a $5 bottle of value liquor,” she says, whereas many well-made wines are relatively inexpensive.
So the bottom line is this: unless you really need to buy the liquor for yourself, put it back and walk over to the wine section for a better gift-giving experience.
This article contains an image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Atlanta police have charged 34-year-old Aeman Presley with a September murder days after charging him in three deaths that rocked the city over Thanksgiving and the week after.
Authorities had already charged Presley in conjunction with the shooting deaths of two homeless men while they slept on the streets of Atlanta, as well as with the murder of a popular hairstylist in Decatur, a suburb just east of the city.
Presley is accused of firing multiple times — “overkill,” police say — while the two homeless men were wrapped in blankets, sleeping on the sidewalk in Atlanta. Dorian Jenkins, 42, was killed Nov. 23, followed by Tommy Mims, 68, on Nov. 26.
Additionally, Presley now faces charges in the September shooting of a mentally ill man who police believe was homeless at the time of his murder.
Presley, 34, shot Calvin Gholston, 53, to death Sept. 27 at a shopping center outside Atlanta, police said. They believe Gholston was homeless and was shot multiple times as he slept — like two of the other victims, though his death came about a month earlier.
The woman who found Gholston’s body told officers he had been living in an alleyway near the shopping center for at least two months, according to a police report.
Police officers for MARTA, Atlanta’s transit system, apprehended Presley when he entered an entry gate without paying the fare. They found a loaded gun with more ammunition on Presley when they searched him, and a weapons expert with MARTA noted that the ammunition matched photos of the bullets police believed the gunman used in the November murders.
By putting out the information on the weapons, “I compromised all of my evidence, knowing that if we could just save one more homeless person” it would be worth it, Atlanta police Detective David Quinn said.
Police declined to give many details from Presley’s interviews with investigators but called him cooperative and forthcoming.
“I wouldn’t even say it was an interrogation. It was a conversation,” Quinn said. He later added: “After the interview, we had enough evidence to charge these four murders, I’ll put it that way.”
Police consider Presley a serial killer.
The term “serial killings” means a series of three or more killings, having common characteristics such as to suggest the reasonable possibility that the crimes were committed by the same actor or actors, according to the FBI.
Image provided by Fulton County Jail.
In the 1800s, London became a haven for tens of thousands of Russian Jews fleeing their czarist homeland. Today, a similar scene takes place in the United Kingdom, but this time the refugees are Muslim converts to Christianity fleeing persecution in England or the Middle East.
Many Muslims who convert to Christianity face threats of death and harm, and friends and family turn them away. One organization in particular, Christian Concern, is helping converts find safe haven in homes, churches, and other places in the UK.
Christian Concern believes thousands of Muslims are anxious to convert and in need of housing so they can get back onto their feet after suffering verbal — and sometimes physical — attacks from families, friends and co-workers.
“We are motivated by a deep sense of love and compassion for those that feel trapped in a situation from which they cannot escape,” said Andrea Williams, the group’s chief executive.
“The penalty for converts at best is to be cut off from their family; at worst they face death,” she added. “This is happening not just in Sudan and Nigeria but in East London. The government has failed to deal with the rise in anti-Christian sentiment.”
Some of these converts are like Shokit Ali Sadiq, whose wife is also a Christian. He and his family received safe haven thanks to members of their church. Sadiq now works to convert others from Islam to Christianity, and he says that many Muslims want to convert but are afraid to do so.
“There are hundreds of people out there who want to leave Islam,” said Sadiq. “But they’re frightened of making their desire known.”
Others are like a woman who went unnamed for her interview. She faced physical attacks from other women after becoming a Christian. She prays that “one day my own family will have me back.”
Twenty-three-year-old Ali, whose former friends stabbed him and left him for dead when he converted in Pakistan at age 17, fled to England, where these same young men from his hometown tracked him down and threatened him again. He now works at a store and lives essentially in hiding,but he is hopeful that he can return to Pakistan one day to do the same work that saved his life.
“My life’s ambition,” he said, “is to return and start a charity that would provide safe houses for Muslims who convert to Christianity.”
This post uses a modified image from Shutterstock.
The Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial may have been in progress since September, but this week it has taken some bizarre twists and turns that more resemble a soap opera than a courtroom trial.
This week alone, we’ve learned of teachers who continued changing answers on standardized tests because no one explicitly told them that their actions were wrong, along with teachers who threatened and insulted students when it came to the test cheating.
On Monday, one teacher testified that she and other teachers erased answers on the Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) in order to elevate scores for their school:
Former Dunbar Elementary School second-grade teacher Rose Neal testified that she saw second-grade teacher Diane Buckner-Webb and first-grade teachers Pamela Cleveland and Shani Robinson cheat on Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests in the spring of 2009. Neal said she too cheated.
Buckner-Webb, Cleveland and Robinson all face charges of racketeering and making false statements. A statewide analysis found an abnormally high number of wrong-to-right erasures on standardized tests taken by their students in 2009.
No one in the room — including former Dunbar testing coordinator Lera Middlebrooks — suggested cheating was wrong or that they should stop, Neal said in response to a prosecutor’s question.
“I wish they had, but no,” she said.
On Wednesday, another school system employee testified that certain teachers insulted their students’ intelligence while those same students went on to perform too well the CRCT:
Certain fourth-grade teachers at Dobbs Elementary School told their students things like “You all just dumb. You can’t learn anything,” former Dobbs teaching coach Lori Revere-Paulk testified in the Atlanta test-cheating trial Wednesday.
But many of those students went on to ace state tests, even though results from other tests suggested they would fall short, Revere-Paulk said.
On Thursday, students testified that teachers threatened them when they witnessed or reported cheating:
“If I lose my job, I’m ’a beat your ass,” former Dobbs Elementary School teacher Derrick Broadwater told one fifth-grader after the boy reported possible cheating to a school employee, according to the student’s account, which Broadwater disputes.
Then Broadwater came closer to the child and shared another message.
“He was going to kill me,” the student testified.
The boy, now a broad-shouldered 17-year-old in his Atlanta high school’s ROTC program, said he was too scared to report the threats until recently.
Two other former Dobbs students testified that [teacher Angela] Williamson told them and other students the answers on fourth-grade state tests.
But the girls didn’t tell anyone about the cheating at the time. Williamson told them not to, they said.
“If you tell anyone, it’ll be the last person you tell, I promise you that,” Williamson told the class, one of the girls testified.
The cheating scandal came to light when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution questioned unusually high scores on the CRCT between 2002 and 2009 at certain Atlanta schools. Indictments went all the way to the top, including to former superintendent Beverly Hall, who will not testify because she is gravely ill with cancer.
Stay tuned as we bring you more unusual details from the trial as they unfold.
The defeat of Mary Landrieu, Louisiana’s newly lame-ducked senator, over the weekend led the news cycle. But the untold story of Louisiana’s election day came from St. Bernard Parish, just east of New Orleans, where voters rejected measures for over $6 million in property taxes.
Voters struck down most of the proposed renewals Saturday by at least 60 percent, a percentage that Parish Council Chairman Guy McInnis McInnis called “a serious message to government.”
“We have to seriously look at the budget, and we need to look at cutting the budget,” McInnis said. “Regardless of whether we put them on the ballot again, we have to prepare ourselves for not having that money because they may fail again.”
And the tax rejection came as the costs of maintaining services rise for the parish’s smaller post-Hurricane Katrina population.
There are roughly a third less people, homes and jobs in St. Bernard now than before Katrina, and those who returned are paying about 30 percent more in taxes, including 35 new mills added to the tax rolls in 2013 for firefighting and the policing.
This isn’t the first time voters in the parish have spoken up — in April, 80% of voters rejected a $9 million tax increase to benefit the county’s hospital.
Residents blame an unusually large levee tax proposal for spearheading the anti-tax sentiment, while others claim the timing of the vote – just after property tax bills arrived in the mail – for fanning the flames. One local educator coined a phrase that hits the nail on the head.
Ron Chapman, a Nunez Community College history professor, said he blamed the “administration and the council for not educating voters.”
“If you don’t know what something is, you vote against it,” Chapman said.
He also said there is post-Katrina tax fatigue in the parish.
“We have a real problem here. We are stuck having to pay for infrastructure that is too big for the people in it,” he said. “It’s like old people who own a large home and then their children move out and it is just too big for them to maintain.
Chapman added, “The parish really should have shrunk its footprint after the storm. Because, how are we going to pay for it? We are finding out now that we can’t.”
Republican lawmakers in Tennessee have filed two separate bills for the upcoming legislative session which would do away with Common Core educational standards and replace them with a system developed within the state. One bill would have new standards in place by the 2016-17 school year, while the other would implement new standards sooner.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell filed legislation Monday that would establish a Tennessee Standards Commission that would later recommend changes to the State Board of Education. It would also “cancel” Tennessee’s memorandum of understanding regarding Common Core standards in English language arts and math.
New standards to replace Common Core, which has phased into Tennessee classrooms for the past four years, would be ready by the 2016-17 school year.
Meanwhile, Rep. John Forgety, R-Athens, has introduced a separate House bill that would require the state board of education to adopt new Tennessee-developed standards before July 1, 2016. It would halt future Common Core expansion beyond this school year, establish teams of educators to review and recommend new standards and create what would become known as “Volunteer State Standards.”
This legislative groundswell puts Republican lawmakers at odds with Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslam, himself a member of the GOP who has overseen the state’s implementation of Common Core. Haslam, who some call a potential 2016 candidate for the White House, recently did an about face and called for a public “vetting” of Common Core, via a website where citizens can voice concerns.
Haslam said he was not surprised that the legislature is considering rolling back Common Core.
“I’ve said all along: We’re here to do a full review of the standards,” Haslam said. “I don’t know how to say that any other way. The good news is people are engaging — 15,500 people have already commented on the standards. That’s great news.”
He said he’s willing to be a part of any discussion that maintains high standards and takes a “realistic view” of the current standards.
“I’ve always said it’s not about what we call the standards. Let’s talk about what the standards are. My commitment is to make certain we have the very best standards we can,” Haslam said.
Multiple bills last year failed to gain traction, but growing opposition to Common Core leaves GOP lawmakers hopeful they can defeat it this legislative sesson.
An inmate in Cobb County, Georgia, north of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to charges of filing a false report for claiming he had visited Ebola-stricken countries after developing a fever and flu-like symptoms in custody.
Police pulled over 35-year-old Virginia native Harry Randall Withers, Jr. for DUI on October 3. While in custody, he fell ill, and he told jailers he had traveled to Africa. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution breathlessly reported the story back in October:
Withers developed a fever, had flu-like symptoms, and when questioned acknowledged that he had recently traveled to Africa, the Georgia Public Health Department and Cobb County officials said at a press conference Friday afternoon,.
Withers had been to Kenya and Nigeria, and had spent a few hours in Liberia, a country at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He flew into the United States through the Washington, D.C., area and landed at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
It remains unclear what he was doing in Cobb.
He was immediately placed into isolation at the jail and the Cobb-Douglas Heath Department was notified. He was then transferred to WellStar Kennestone Hospital.
The jail area where he was held was sanitized twice.
After Withers tested negative, officials learned that he had not been out of the country since 2005. His lie led to Ebola precautions taken at the jail, the hospital where he was transported, and for the ambulance company that transported him. They also led to three felony counts of filing a false report.
“We will not tolerate anyone manipulating the system like this and preying on our worst fears,” Deputy Chief ADA John Melvin, who prosecuted the case, said in a news release Thursday. “When you put the county and law enforcement through such a useless exercise as this, we will find out the truth.”
Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert E. Flournoy III sentenced Withers to 10 years, with one year to serve, though that sentence will be suspended upon Withers’ successful completion of a six-month inpatient drug rehabilitation program in Virginia. He was also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to the Cobb Sheriff’s Office.
Kennesaw, Georgia, a growing suburb northeast of Atlanta, ginned up controversy over 30 years ago with its law requiring every household to possess a gun. The college town created a new stir this week when its city council voted 4-1 to deny a request to a Muslim group wishing to open a mosque in a strip mall on a crowded stretch of highway.
The Suffa Dawat Center at Kennesaw petitioned to use the retail space for about two years while they built a permanent structure. The space would have been used for five daily 10-15 minute prayers and a 40-45 minute weekly prayer service with an expectation of 60-80 members at each service.
The city council had voted unanimously to allow a Pentecostal church to meet at a separate location, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
“I believe it’s a retail space. It’s as plain and simple as that,” [council member Debra] Williams said.
Mayor Mark Mathews did not allow the public to comment on the mosque proposal at the Monday meeting. He said the vote on the church didn’t set a precedent because each application needs to be considered on its own.
“This is not anything that the city ever takes lightly for a land use permit, regardless of what it’s for. We are charged with honoring the law, the laws within the city and the ordinances within the city,” Mathews said before the vote.
A few city residents attended the meeting, while a handful of protesters took advantage of the warm weather and stood outside waving flags and signs that read, “No Mosque.” Alex Rowell at Peach Pundit petulantly compared the meeting to the “war on Christmas” (his quotes) and described the protesters in sneering terms:
Those wondering whatever could be the difference-maker between the church application and mosque application might want to look to the anti-Islamic protestors outside Monday’s meeting. Without a hint of irony, one protestor explained that she “wanted to exercise [her] First Amendment rights while [she] still can,” protecting her community from “infiltration by the enemy who has gone on record with the goal to destroy everything we stand for.” Another described his protest against allowing Kennesaw Muslims to open a place of worship as “turning the other cheek.”
However, the Marietta Daily Journal took a more sober approach:
Chad Legere of Mableton stood outside City Hall while the council discussed the issue waving signs in protest. He said he doesn’t want the United States to become the next Europe.
“There’s a way to stop Shariah law from getting into our country, and that’s what we’re doing,” Legere said.
Legere, who held a flag bearing the Star of David, said he thinks a mosque will bring radical Muslims to the community who will make the area unsafe.
Attorney Doug Dillard, who represents the Islamic group, hinted that the group may sue. Dillard successfully took a similar case in nearby Lilburn, Georgia, to court in 2011.
So, while the city of Kennesaw has had their say, this fight may not be over. But, with the threat of ISIS looming in the back of most everyone’s mind, will the pro-mosque forces have as easy a fight as they did just a few years ago?
A recent Washington Times article about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has stirred up a firestorm 600 miles away. The piece by Valerie Richardson draws comparisons between the Ferguson case, which led to rioting and violence, and a 2012 case in which a black police officer at the University of South Alabama shot and killed an unarmed white teen.
A two-year-old case involving the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old white man by a black police officer is gaining attention on social media in the wake of this week’s protests and rioting in Ferguson, Missouri.
Gilbert Collar, a white, unarmed 18-year-old under the influence of drugs was shot and killed Oct. 6, 2012, by Officer Trevis Austin, who is black, in Mobile, Alabama. Despite public pressure for an indictment, a Mobile County grand jury refused to bring charges against Officer Austin, concluding that the officer acted in self-defense.
The discrepancy in the reaction to and coverage of the two grand jury decisions has not been lost on social media, where critics are citing the Collar case to counter those who say Brown was the victim of racism in both law enforcement and judicial system.
On Thursday, the website Conservative Tribune headline trumpeted the case: “Unarmed White Teen Gunned Down by Black Cop … Where’s the Outrage?”
The real outrage is taking place in Mobile, Alabama, where the university makes its home. Local officials there don’t like the comparison between the horrendous events in Ferguson and their older case.
According to local officials, the two cases were handled radically differently, and the fundamentals were dissimilar.
“Communication was the key to it,” Sheriff Sam Cochran told AL.com.
“We put out more information, we called the news media and we showed the video from the eyes of the officer,” he said.
Members of the media watched the tape twice and were able to report on what they saw. “I think the communication calmed people down,” Cochran said.
Mobile County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lori Myles said that a strong relationship with the media is central to eliminating speculation.
Myles added that one key element in the Ferguson case was absent.
“They’re focusing on race, this was never that,” she said of the USA shooting.
It’s worth noting that, though many people still characterize the South as a racist region, the Gil Collar case did not turn into a debate over black vs. white.
Much of the blame for the tragedy that nearly destroyed the city of Ferguson lies at the feet of the media. I’m sure the fine folks in Mobile want to heap a double portion of blame on certain members of the media for painting their dissimilar — but equally sad — case with the same brush.
Leave it to Ann Coulter to get the Left’s panties in a wad over the latest trendy expression of concern: hashtag activism. The pundit tweeted her parody of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag craze, in which several high-profile figures, including First Lady Michelle Obama, have released photographs of themselves with stern visages holding up signs bearing the hashtag. Coulter’s photo features a pouty face and the hashtag #BringBackOurCountry.
Needless to say, the Left is up in arms over Coulter’s satire. From Talking Points Memo:
Coulter posted a photo to Twitter with her own iteration of the hashtag, in an apparent attempt to ridicule some of the high profile people, including First Lady Michelle Obama, who took part in the original campaign.
However, her attempt backfired with a slew of people tweeting images of Coulter holding the same sign but photoshopped with messages that turned the tables on her. Gawker curated many of them, including some of the crudest.
Naturally, the Left has missed the point. No one doubts the sincerity of those who are concerned, and nobody is making light of the plight of these poor girls. Instead, Coulter and others like Rush Limbaugh have aimed their daggers at the emptiness of such awareness-raising gestures. No one at Boko Haram is saying, “Look at their photos. They must really be serious. We should let the girls go.”
Over at Taki’s, our very own Kathy Shaidle said it memorably:
Ah, details, schmetails. Within living memory, Westerners at least paid lip service to the ideal that “justice must be seen to be done.” Today, ain’t nobody got time for that. What “must be seen to be done” instead is trendy, risk-free, bumper sticker level moral preening that burns as few calories as possible.
In a society that valorizes conspicuous exertion—by the steroid-powered professional athlete, the 80-hour-a-week attorney, the Christmas morning jogger—it’s revealing that this is what passes for compassionate, socially aware “activism.”
For people obsessed with “raising awareness,” it sure takes leftists a long time to get outraged about stuff that actually matters.
Coulter’s parody photo distills the real behavior of the Left: sincere intentions trump decisive action. Like the red AIDS ribbons of yesteryear, a photo with a hashtag and the right facial expression shows that you care, regardless of how little you actually do -- and that’s all that matters. We’re all aware of the terrible plight of these girls. The real question is: what are we going to do about it?
Updated: Here are two more Michelle Obama hashtag parodies, courtesy of Lisa De Pasquale.
New hashtags trending from the White House! pic.twitter.com/nLE0Ph0N8c
— John Phillips (@Johnnydontlike) May 14, 2014
The White House is catching Twitter by storm! pic.twitter.com/vqxccirZeQ
— John Phillips (@Johnnydontlike) May 14, 2014
Updated again: And here are some more, courtesy of Ann herself.
— Jim Hughes (@TheJimHughes) May 15, 2014
— Jim Hughes (@TheJimHughes) May 15, 2014
— Jim Hughes (@TheJimHughes) May 15, 2014