In 2013, the eyes of Atlanta fell on 15-year old Anthony Stokes when Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta refused to put him on a heart transplant list due to his prior behavior. Less than two years later, Stokes would die, not from heart problems, but from a car crash while attempting to evade police after an attempted burglary.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta informed Stokes’ family in an August 2013 letter that they would not place him on their heart transplant list.
The family of Anthony Stokes on Sunday released to the media an Aug. 7 letter that states, in part, “the decision was made that Anthony is currently not a transplant candidate due to having a history of non-compliance, which is one of our center’s contraindications to listing for heart transplant.”
“As we discussed today with Anthony’s mother, we will not place Anthony on the heart transplant waiting list at this time due to this decision,” the letter continues.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta released a statement to Channel 2 Action News on Sunday that read, “The well-being of our patients is always our first priority. We are continuing to work with this family and looking at all options regarding this patient’s health care. We follow very specific criteria in determining eligibility for a transplant of any kind.”
Family members told Channel 2 that doctors are afraid that Anthony, who has been diagnosed with an enlarged heart, wouldn’t follow the strict regimen of medications and follow-up treatments necessary for a transplant to be successful.
Public outpouring led the hospital to change its mind, according to an August 13, 2013 report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“We met with hospital officials about 30 minutes ago,” family spokesman Mark Bell said this afternoon. “After reviewing the situation, they said Anthony would be placed on the list for a heart transplant and that he would be first in line, due to his weakened heart condition.”
After his surgery and recovery, Stokes continued to live the life of a troubled teen. And this week, he committed the crime that would end his life.
Police say a burglary suspect being chased by police struck a pedestrian and then crashed his car.
Police say the man kicked in the door of a home and then shot at a woman during an attempted burglary on Alpine Drive in Roswell Tuesday afternoon.
They said the driver died Tuesday night.
They said the pedestrian who was struck is Clementina Hernandez, 33, of Roswell.
Hernandez was taken to North Fulton Hospital. She is stable in good condition.
Crews had to cut Stokes from his car, which was nearly cut in half by the pole. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died.
In the face of criticism from many areas of society, Indiana’s governor Mike Pence is seeking clarification on a religious freedom bill he signed into law last week.
Pence made the announcement Tuesday, acknowledging his state has a “perception problem” over the law designed to protect religious liberty.
Since Pence signed the bill into law last week, critics have hit the streets and social media saying it discriminates against gays and lesbians. The objections to the law stretch from the White House to Hollywood.
The governor has since been meeting with lawmakers to address those concerns. Pence is still defending the bill.
“I don’t believe for a minute that it was the intent of the General Assembly to create a license to discriminate. It certainly wasn’t my intent,” he said.
“I can appreciate that that’s become the perception, not just here in Indiana but all across the country. We need to confront that,” Pence added.
The law has drawn the ire of companies like Apple, and others have called for a boycott of the state. University of Connecticut basketball coach Kevin Ollie has said he will not attend the Final Four this weekend in Indianapolis over the law, despite the fact that his team is the reigning champion going into the tournament.
It has been customary for the winning coach from the previous season to appear at the Final Four, as well as the annual convention of the National Association of Basketball Coaches that coincides with the crowning of a new champion. Ollie had been scheduled to attend the coaching summit, which organizers said is expected to draw 3,500 people to Indiana’s capital city.
Nineteen other states have enacted similar laws, which echo a bipartisan bill signed into law by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Pence and other Republicans are quick to state that the intent of the law is not to discriminate, but to protect people of faith.
In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, Pence penned an op-ed saying the law is not a license to discriminate. Republican lawmakers in Indiana echoed that sentiment.
“What we hoped for with the bill was the message of inclusion — inclusion of all religious beliefs. What has come out was the message of exclusion and that was not the intent and hopefully not the effect,” state House Speaker Brian Bosma said.
Bosma said lawmakers are looking to clarify through legislation that the law does not discriminate.
Advocates for religious freedom have expressed concern that people of faith are vulnerable to attacks from the government. A similar measure has passed in Arkansas, while an initiative in Georgia looks not to pass this year.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / PromesaArtStudio
On March 30, the Supreme Court declined to review a case involving which groups can meet after hours in New York City’s public schools. The Bronx Household of Faith, a small congregation, sued the city over its policy.
The city permits groups to rent school facilities for extended periods of time for “social, civic and recreational meetings and entertainment, and other uses pertaining to the welfare of the community.” There are few limitations on extended use, but one prohibits using school buildings for “religious worship services” or as a “house of worship.”
Lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom argued that excluding worship services from “a broadly available public forum” discriminates against religion. The church, which has outgrown its own building, needs more space for special occasions and the nearby public school is the only place large enough that they can afford.
The appeals court, however, said the reason the space is affordable is because of taxpayer subsidies, and the school board is taking reasonable precaution against liability for appearing to unconstitutionally advance a particular religion.
“The Free Exercise Clause does not entitle Bronx Household to a grant from the board of a subsidized place to hold religious worship services,” the appellate court ruled. Further, the court found no evidence the rule was “motivated by hostility to religion.”
Naturally, opponents of the policy have expressed their disdain, and they are appealing to an unlikely ally to assist them in their fight.
Fernando Cabrera, a council member and pastor leading opposition to the policy said he was “profoundly disappointed” that the Supreme Court won’t be hearing the case.
“We cannot ignore the immense contribution to society that religious organizations and institutions have made throughout our nation’s history and continue to make across the U.S. today,” he said in a statement.
“Churches meeting in New York City public schools for worship services have fed the poor and needy, assisted in rehabilitating drug addicts and gang members, helped rebuild marriages and families and provided for the disabled.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom called on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to use his power to revoke the policy. De Blasio said last year he opposes the policy and believes “that a faith organization playing by the same rules as any community nonprofit deserves access.”
What’s next for the Bronx Household of Faith and other churches? That of course remains to be seen, but if De Blasio intervenes, he may create an interesting alliance.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / VICTOR TORRES
We know that ISIS will stop at nothing to take as much land as they can and claim it for Islam. Now the Tunisian town of Tataouine, where George Lucas filmed part of Star Wars (and for which he named the film’s planet Tatooine), has reportedly fallen under ISIS control.
This struggling town on the fringes of the Sahara still draws a few fans of the movie but now finds itself part of a real conflict, as a way-station for jihadists crossing the Libyan border 60 miles to the east.
Earlier this month, before the gun attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis, three young men were arrested here as they allegedly made plans to cross into Libya to join a terrorist network. A local official told CNN they had since been taken to Tunis for questioning.
Two arms caches have also been found in the region this month, one of which included rocket-propelled grenade launchers and more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition, thought to have been removed from a Libyan armory in the aftermath of Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster in 2011.
Tunisians worry about the frail state of neighbor Libya and the presence of ISIS all over North Africa. The country recently celebrated the anniversary of its independence from France, but now the mood among residents is less than celebratory.
The mood among many Tunisians seems much harder and more pragmatic than it was four years ago. A shopkeeper in a small village between Tataouine and Remada said there needs to be a security crackdown. He said people in the area led simple lives — but they knew each other and noticed strangers.
Bassim, a taxi driver on the island of Djerba, some 60 miles to the north of Tataouine, was of a similar view.
“The people need to be the third eye of the security forces” he said. “And we need to think of the safety of visitors like we think of the safety of our families.”
Tunisians say their country is at a crossroads as it tries to fend off the jihadist contagion seeping across North Africa. Their democracy is young and vulnerable.
“We want to be the hope of the Arab world,” said Bassim, “like we were four years ago.”
“We still have hope, but now we have fear too.”
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Adisa
Dozens of “medical refugees” from Georgia could make their way back home soon as the state Senate passed a bill allowing cannabis oil for certain medical conditions on Tuesday. The only hurdle between the bill and the desk of Governor Nathan Deal is a vote in the House, which may come this week.
Senate supporters have handed over legislation likely to make that happen — especially since it is already supported by the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon.
The compromise was made last week, after Senate Health and Human Services Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, rewrote HB 1 as a way to merge a restrictive medical marijuana measure already approved in the Senate and a much broader effort already approved by the House.
The new version would allow cannabis oil to be used to treat eight of the nine disorders sought by the House in that chamber’s own medical marijuana proposal: cancer, Crohn’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizure disorders and sickle cell disease.
And it would set a higher bar for what type of oil would be allowed: The oil could contain no more than 5 percent THC — the high-inducing chemical associated with recreational marijuana use — and must include at least a matching amount of cannabidiol to ensure better purity and quality of the drug.
The initial Senate version of the bill restricted usage to children under 18, which the bill’s supporters found unacceptable. Deal also faced considerable pressure from proponents of the measure before finally agreeing to sign a bill when it passed. This news obviously comes as welcome relief for the families who sought hope for their children but had to leave home to do so.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / urbans
The idea of American exceptionalism has become a topic of debate in the Obama years. Both sides in this often heated debate dig their heels in and stand firm in their convictions. But regardless of one’s political convictions, it’s hard to argue against the idea that the United States is unique among nations. In the 19th century, French historian and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville recognized this and was among the first to recognize that America was an exceptional nation.
A recent Pew Research survey demonstrates that, nearly two centuries after de Tocqueville, the United States stands out from other nations in some surprising ways.
One area where Americans rank well above citizens of other countries is in the notion of individualism.
When Pew Research Center surveyed people in 44 countries last spring, 57% of Americans disagreed with the statement “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,” a higher percentage than most other nations and far above the global median of 38%.
The American work ethic stands far above that of other nations as well.
True to the stereotype, surveys showed that Americans are more likely to believe that hard work pays off. When asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, about how important working hard is to getting ahead in life, 73% of Americans said it is was a “10” or “very important,” compared with a global median of 50% among the 44 nations.
Americans are exceptional among wealthy developed nations as a people of faith who place their moral convictions within the context of religious belief.
In general, people in richer nations are less likely than those in poorer nations to say religion plays a very important role in their lives. But Americans are more likely than their counterparts in economically advanced nations to deem religion very important. More than half (54%) of Americans said religion was very important in their lives, much higher than the share of people in Canada (24%), Australia (21%) and Germany (21%), the next three wealthiest economies we surveyed from 2011 through 2013.
People in richer nations tend to place less emphasis on the need to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values than people in poorer countries do. While the share of Americans holding that view is far lower than in poorer nations like Indonesia and Ghana (each 99%), the U.S. stands out when compared with people in other economically advanced nations. In the U.S., 53% say belief in God is a prerequisite for being moral and having good values, much higher than the 23% in Australia and 15% in France, according to our study of 39 nations between 2011 and 2013.
Finally, Americans tend to be far more optimistic than their counterparts in wealthier nations — a fact researchers discovered almost by accident.
Americans are also more upbeat than people in other wealthy nations when asked how their day is going. While we ask this question to help respondents get more comfortable with the interviewer, it provides a glimpse into people’s moods and reveals a slightly negative correlation between those saying the day is a good one and per capita gross domestic product. About four-in-ten Americans (41%) described their day as a “particularly good day,” a much higher share than those in Germany (21%), the UK (27%) and Japan (8%).
These findings ought to lead some politicians to rethink their conceptions of American exceptionalism. The statistics prove that the United States is truly unique among its peers.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Rawpixel
For years when I’ve heard of ridiculous political correctness run amok in American academia, I’ve breathed a sigh of relief that it hasn’t happened at my alma mater, the University of Georgia. Until now.
Sororities and fraternities at UGA have banned the use of hoop skirts at events over concerns of the appearance of racism.
Victor Wilson, UGA’s vice president for student affairs, explained that the ban was due to concerns over what kind of “message” the skirt might send, and compared it to a previous ban on Confederate uniforms, according to an article in the Athens Banner-Herald.
In other words: The fact that people wore hoop skirts during the era of slavery in the U.S. makes them symbols of racism. “The student leadership, staff and advisors agree that Antebellum hoop skirts are not appropriate in the context of some events,” read an e-mail sent out Tuesday by Ashley Merkel, president of UGA’s Panhellenic Council, and Alex Bosse, president of the Interfraternity Council.
Students had previously worn them to events such as the “Magnolia Ball.”
The Banner-Herald elaborated on the ban, which comes on the heels of racial controversy involving fraternities at other schools.
The hoop skirt ban came after UGA Student Affairs administrators met Monday with some UGA fraternity and sorority leaders, including representatives of the UGA chapters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Kappa Alpha fraternities, both of which have deep roots in the South.
The ban comes a week after the University of Oklahoma expelled two SAE fraternity members and shut down the university’s SAE chapter because of a racist video made by members. In the video, SAE members chant about lynching, and using a racial slur, vow that there will never be a black member of the fraternity. The video went viral on the Internet and soon found its way to University of Oklahoma administrators. Talk during Monday’s UGA meeting at UGA was about presenting the university and Greek organizations in a good light, and not inviting negative attention, said Victor Wilson, UGA’s vice president for student affairs.
Part of the talk was about dress at such events as KA’s “Old South Week” and SAE’s “Magnolia Ball.” The discussion included hoop skirts, and the messages conveyed by such dresses or other articles of clothing, Wilson said.
“The discussion was about more than dress, but about how you present yourself, and dress was part of that,” he explained.
The university does not make the call on bans like this one — rather, the decision comes from the Greek organizations themselves. Earlier bans at UGA include prohibitions on Confederate uniforms and other symbols and insignia.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Sean Pavone
This time of year, thousands of people make their brackets for the NCAA college basketball tournament, but not many of them go to jail for it. In the suburb of Alpharetta, Georgia, just north of Atlanta, police from four jurisdictions detained over five dozen people at a private party at a bar and grill who were gambling on March Madness games.
Law enforcement from Alpharetta, Milton, Johns Creek, and Roswell all took part in the raid at Pepperoni’s Tavern on Old Milton Parkway. Police say 65 people were inside the restaurant, including employees and the owner. A large amount of cash and a few handguns were confiscated.
A total of 23 were arrested and hauled off to jail. They’ll likely face illegal gambling and possible weapons charges. We’re told more arrests could be made later.
Investigators originally said the operation centered around the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, with bets being made on games. Alpharetta Police maintain the so-called “private party” was less about basketball and actually more about organized gambling.
Alpharetta Police Detective George Gordon gave more details to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Alpharetta authorities had previously gathered intelligence regarding the planned operation of a large gambling event,” Gordon said in an email.
“Tonight, authorities moved against the gambling operation and detained approximately 65 people,” Gordon said, adding that police found “a large gambling operation in progress based upon the NCAA basketball tournament.”
Gordon said 23 of those detained were charged with illegal gambling, and the others were interviewed and released, but could face future charges.
He said police confiscated several handguns and an undisclosed amount of cash.
Pepperoni’s Tavern advertises March Madness contests on their website offering free food and drinks to winners. Many of the defendants claimed that they weren’t doing anything worse than the countless people who bet on March Madness games in office pools and other contests.
In an update from the Alpharetta Police Department, nine were charged with gambling, six were charged with commercial gambling and keeping a gambling place, and one was charged with disorderly conduct. Authorities interviewed several others, and they may face charges later on.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / SAJE
The northeast has been grateful to Al Gore for warning us all of the dangers of global warming for so many years. The city of Boston in particular has witnessed the horror of
global warming winter first hand, having set a record for the most snowfall in a winter in the historic city.
The latest storm in an epic winter edged the total just over the 9-foot mark. Sunday’s storm dropped 2.9 inches at Logan International Airport, pushing the seasonal accumulation to 108.6 inches and surpassing the previous record of 107.6 set in 1995-96.
Forecasters said Monday that the city could get more snow later in the week – a bleak outlook for Bostonians who have had more than enough.
Reaction around Beantown has ranged from snarky and cynical…
“Is this the part where we all get to say, `I’m going to Disney World?’” said Justin O’Brien, a Boston attorney, capturing the sense of cynicism and sheer snow fatigue.
“I wished I would have blocked the numbers from friends back in Southern California texting me screenshots of the 80-plus degree weather there,” said Matt Guerrieri, a wine distributor who moved to Boston a few weeks before the first snow fell.
…to handling the season with good humor:
Mayor Marty Walsh tweeted that the Boston yeti – a local who’s been dressing up as the abominable snowman and walking around the city drawing laughs – would be taking over as interim mayor.
Bruce Mendelsohn, a Cambridge public relations executive, quipped, “Boston has a rich tradition of leading the nation in the pursuit of liberty, freedom, sports titles and snowplows.”
The news for Bostonians doesn’t get much better, even with spring around the corner. Forecasts show the potential for more snow later on in the week.
Computer models indicate a coastal storm could develop Friday, but they differ on its track. The storm could bring little to no precipitation to southern New England, or it could bring “a decent slug” of rain and snow to the region, the weather service said.
One thing is for sure — many Boston residents will be glad to see the onset of spring.
Paula MacPhee, struggling to walk her dog through Monday’s fresh drifts, said she’s just relieved that winter’s nearly over.
“I’m glad the spring is coming, that’s for sure. I think we’ll enjoy it a little bit more this year,” she said.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock /Svitlana Grygorenko
Hollywood loves to portray pastors and church leaders as men with dark secrets lurking behind their work for God, and sometimes a story comes along that fits that narrative. This week, a Boston pastor and school administrator shot a 17-year-old in the back of the head in an apparent dispute over the pastor’s drug dealing operation.
To the kids at Boston’s English High School, where the Rev. Shaun O. Harrison Sr. was considered the dean of students, the pastor and prominent antigang activist was known by the nickname that adorned his office door: “Rev.”
And that, police say, is how a 17-year-old student found bleeding from a bullet fired into the back of his head identified the man who shot him Tuesday.
“Rev,” police and prosecutors say, was leading a double life.
Arraigned in Roxbury District Court on Thursday, Harrison, 55, is accused of attempting to execute a student he had been mentoring at English, but was also allegedly selling marijuana as part of the pastor’s drug operation.
Through an attorney, Harrison denied the charges.
In court, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney David Bradley described the alleged attack as an “execution-style shooting” of a teen who survived despite being shot behind the ear.
The Boston Globe describes a scenario that reads like a movie plot featuring henchmen with matching tattoos doing the bidding of their dealer, a man who led anti-gang efforts within his community.
Naturally, news of Harrison’s arrest brought out a chorus of incredulity from people who served alongside the pastor.
“I was stunned beyond description,” Rev. Dr. Gregory Groover, pastor of the Charles Street AME Church where Harrison attended services, told Fox2Now. “He seemed to consistently care with a deep heart for saving young people who were in the streets or gang related, prison-involved. That was the population that his life seemed to center around.”
“It doesn’t sound like our Shaun,” Rev. Opal Adams, an associate pastor at the Roxbury church, told the Boston Globe. “It’s not the character of the man we knew.”
The school system released Harrison from his position at the school.
Image courtesy of the Boston Globe.
The unspeakable barbarism of ISIS reared its ugly head again when the group kidnapped 220 Catholics in northeastern Syria on March 1. The terrorists have threatened to murder all of them if they do not convert to Islam. The hostages are members of the International Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Sister Monique states, “Late Sunday afternoon on 1 March 2015, I received a message from M. Francoise, a delegate of the International Society of St. Vincent de Paul [in Rome], and I managed to reach her by telephone.
“She was leaving for Paris, and collapsed at the news she had just received: members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Syria were kidnapped, along with their wives and children.
“The children were isolated and put into cages. Adults who do not deny their faith will be decapitated, and their children burned alive in the cages.
“M. Francoise had been in regular contact with several of them before all this occurred. She asked me to transmit the news and make a fervent appeal for prayers for these people, and all who are held hostage.
“Let us remain fervently united in prayer, and have as our intention the welfare of all brothers and sisters in our Christian faith who are being held hostage.”
The terrorists released 19 of the hostages a few days later, and the Associated Press reports that all those who were released were 50 years of age and older.
It was not immediately clear why the Islamic State group freed these captives.
Saedi said all those released were around 50 years of age or older, which suggests age might have been a factor. The Assyrian Human Rights Network, meanwhile, said the captives had been ordered released by a Shariah court after paying an unspecified amount of money levied as a tax on non-Muslims.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / ChameleonsEye
A group of pro-life activists plan to stage a sit-in at the office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) over the GOP leadership’s handling of a recent bill banning abortions after a fetus has been in the womb for 20 weeks.
Activist Jill Stanek and a group called the Christian Defense Coalition has planned the protest for March 25.
At issue is the GOP leadership’s handling of the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy but includes exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
The bill was supposed to be voted on Jan. 22 in conjunction with the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion and while Washington was filled with pro-life activists for the annual March for Life. Stanek said the concept is very simple.
“It is a ban on abortion past 20 weeks,” she explained.
“It is known that by 20 weeks, and probably before, children feel pain. When they are aborted at 20 weeks, they are literally drawn and quartered. They’re just ripped apart, limb by limb. So this ban would make it a federal offense [and] ban abortions past 20 weeks.”
But the bill, which sailed through the House with a smaller Republican majority in the previous Congress, never received a vote.
Stanek says the resistance to the bill lies in a provision that allows for abortions for victims of rape and incest, provided the mother can provide a police report of the crime. She blames the GOP’s skittishness on the public relations disasters the party has suffered over candidates’ controversial statements on rape in the past few years.
Stanek also claims that Republicans have “taken advantage” of the pro-life movement by dithering over the bill.
“They don’t take us seriously. They don’t respect us or fear us.”
Pro-life dissatisfaction swelled after the bill was pulled. In response, the House passed legislation to ban taxpayer funding of abortions that same day. Many members also promised that the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would be revived shortly.
Stanek said there has been neither noticeable progress toward fulfilling that promise nor any explanations for why it hasn’t happened.
“There have been no excuses made,” she said.
“They did promise to bring the bill up right away, and they haven’t. That is precisely the reason that after two months of waiting, we are going to Washington, D.C., and we are going to force them to address this.”
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Katherine Welles
He has only been on the throne in Saudi Arabia for a few weeks, but King Salman is boldly reaching out to other Sunni Muslim leaders to unite in the fight against Iran and ISIS.
“The Saudis think maybe, if the Sunnis are on good terms, we can confront this. Salman is trying to consolidate the Sunni world and put differences over the Muslim Brotherhood on the back burner,” said an Arab diplomat in the Gulf.
Riyadh’s bigger concern is Shi’ite Iran. Its fears about the rising influence of its main regional enemy have grown recently as Tehran’s Houthi allies seized swathes of Yemen and its commanders have aided Shi’ite militias fighting in Iraq.
Prospects are also growing of a deal between world powers and Iran on Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, which might lift pressure on the Islamic republic. Saudi Arabia has watched nervously as its key ally, the United States, has reached out to pursue an agreement with Tehran.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reassured the Saudis on Thursday that he was seeking no “grand bargain” with Iran, but Riyadh’s worries over Washington’s long-term commitment to the region underpin its desire for more Arab unity.
The second overarching concern for Riyadh is Islamic State. IS has called on Saudis to stage attacks inside the kingdom and some of its sympathizers assaulted a Shi’ite village in November, killing eight.
Riyadh fears the group’s strong media messaging and appeal to strict Muslim ideology could appeal to disaffected young Saudis and challenge the ruling family’s own legitimacy, which partly rests on its religious credentials.
But in seeking broader unity across the Arab world on the issue of political Islam, Saudi Arabia must address a deep regional rift. It runs between Sunni states who accept a Muslim Brotherhood presence, such as Qatar and Turkey, and those such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates who, like Riyadh, describe it as a terrorist organization.
Those differences have come in the way of building a coherent response to regional crises, as attempts to address one problem after another have been diverted into arguments over Islamism.
Salman has sought to renew relations between Saudi Arabia and nations such as Turkey, while assuring allies like Egypt that new alliances would not come at the expense of older ones. The monarch has even expressed a willingness to recognize the Muslim Brotherhood in arenas outside of politics, as long as the organization agrees to speak out against Shiite groups like ISIS and the leadership in Iran.
Salman has already proven to be more conciliatory than his predecessor, King Abdullah, but it remains to be seen whether this new approach will help stem the tide of the most pernicious evil emanating from the Middle East.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Jiri Flogel
Temple activists were euphoric Monday after a precedent-setting ruling by Magistrates’ Court Judge Malka Aviv in the case of Yehuda Glick vs. the Israeli Police, a day earlier. The judge ruled that the police “must make sure that Jews are able to pray on the Temple Mount” – in a ruling replete with harsh criticism of the police’s policies on the Temple Mount.
Activists were quoted on a Temple activists blog as saying: “This day will be remembered for generations in the annals of the struggle for the return of Jews to the Temple Mount.”
The police are legally bound “to ensure that Jews are able to pray on the Temple Mount, and not to act sweepingly to prevent Jews from praying on the Temple Mount,” the judge determined.
Attorneys for Rabbi Glick pointed out the historic nature of the ruling.
Attorney Aviad Visoly, who represented Glick said Tuesday that the verdict “has made prayer on the Temple Mount ‘kosher’. In essence, the court took the Supreme Court’s rulings about the Jews’ right to pray on the Temple Mount, and implemented them.”
“This is almost the first ruling – and certainly the most sweeping – in which the court implements the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. From today, every Jew is allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. The prayer itself is not an offense.”
Prior police policies had barred Jewish prayer at the site for fears that such actions would spark Palestinian violence. Judge Aviv ruled the policy “arbitrary” and “without appropriate consideration” and awarded Glick roughly the equivalent of $125,000 in damages and $37,700 in legal fees.
Temple Mount is considered to be one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. Jews, Christians and Muslims all consider it sacred, making it one of the most contested sites in the world. Among Christians and Jews, there is some dispute as to whether it is the biblical Mount Moriah or Mount Zion.
According to Jewish tradition, it is the place where God’s presence is most manifested, and followers of rabbinic Judaism believe it to be the site where God gathered dust to create Adam.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Mikhail Markovskiy
At the end of a circus of a trial in the case of alleged cheating within the Atlanta Public School System, a key figure in that case, former Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall, has passed away, according to WSB-TV in Atlanta. She lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 68.
Hall has been battling breast cancer as dozens of educators stand trial for a cheating scandal that happened during her tenure as head of the school district.
Hall faced racketeering and conspiracy charges but has not been well enough to stand trial.
The former administrator, who received an award as National Superintendent of the Year in 2009, resigned her post in 2010 following a report from the State of Georgia which stated that Hall ignored widespread cheating on standardized tests throughout the system. Hall denied involvement and placed the blame for the cheating on others on her staff.
Hall first received a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2004. Last summer, her attorneys argued that she was unfit to stand trial because the stage 4 cancer had spread throughout her body.
Her legal team issued a statement that read, “Dr. Hall fought this disease with great courage and dignity. For the last year and a half, Dr. Hall’s directions to her doctor have been simple: get me well enough to stand trial; and to her lawyers: see to it that I get a fair trial. She was never concerned about the outcome of such a trial, only that the process be fair. She never doubted that in a fair trial, with the jury hearing the state’s contentions and her rebuttal, to include her own testimony, she would be acquitted. In the end, she was not strong enough to go to trial although that had been her earnest hope.”
“I’m just saddened by her passing and my condolences to her family,” defense attorney Gerald Griggs told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot.
Griggs said he thinks Hall’s death will have some impact on the jury, but “I think we have to look past that at this point,” he said.
In all, 20 educators stood trial in the case. Testimony in the trial wrapped up last week, and closing arguments will begin on March 16.
Featured image courtesy of YouTube.
As ISIS suffered a couple of setbacks in their conquest in the Middle East and as leaders in the region gear up to fight them, the terrorist group captured at least 90 Assyrian Christians, and many people in that part of the world are wondering the same thing many Americans are: where is a response from the West?
Juliana Taimoorazy, with the Assyrian Philos Project, described the situation.
“These women were sobbing, saying, ‘What is our fault? Why is the West silent? Why is the Church not talking about our persecution?’” Taimoorazy said.
“And they’re asking, they’re questioning the foreign policy of America and also other world powers and Europe, saying, ‘Why is it that there’s nothing; there’s no agenda.’ There’s really nothing being done to help the persecuted in the Middle East,” she continued.
Arab Americans are getting involved in the act, questioning their leaders as to why their response has been so tepid.
On Tuesday, a group of Egyptian-American Coptics gathered near the White House, demanding the Obama administration do more to protect Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraqi Christians.
“Obama, Obama, did you see? Christian blood in the sea,” they chanted.
Featured image is a modified image courtesy of Shutterstock / Steve Allen
On Tuesday, testimony concluded in the trial of 20 educators in the Atlanta Public School system who are accused of cheating on standardized tests. The defense called its final witness, and the Judge Jerry Baxter gave instructions to the jury and attorneys. Closing arguments will begin on March 16 after a longer-than-usual recess.
Prosecutors also say the teachers on trial prompted students as they struggled to answer test questions. Administrators for the district and at several schools allegedly threatened teachers if their students were failing and punished anyone who reported cheating.
Former Atlanta schools Superintendent Beverly Hall is also charged with racketeering, but she did not go on trial because she is being treated for Stage IV breast cancer. She will be tried once she is healthy enough.
If the jury finds the defendants guilty of racketeering, they could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. The defendants also face lesser charges that could bring prison sentences.
None of the 12 defendants testified, and eight of them called no witnesses.
In total, four defense attorneys called 31 witnesses in the past two weeks. In contrast, the prosecution called 133 witnesses, two in rebuttal.
The mood in the courtroom was jovial and giddy, as prosecutors posed for photos and Baxter dropped his usual hard-edged persona and addressed the courtroom in a more folksy manner.
“Y’all are fantastic,” Baxter told the jurors who first came to the Fulton County Courthouse for the trial more than six months ago. “I have never seen anything like this. The most striking thing is your diligence. We’re not over yet. The ultimate decisions will be in your lap and that’s coming soon.
“I want you to try to get back to what you were doing. Relax. You need to get in shape mentally and physically. Work out. Do the Rocky thing,” Baxter said.
Once the jury had left on Tuesday, Baxter, who has been testy throughout the trial, apologized to attorneys for his “gruff” behavior.
“If I have made anybody mad, I’m sorry. Sincerely,” Baxter said. “It’s been a long, long journey.
“I’m not perfect. Right, Evelyn?” he said to the court reporter.
“Right,” she answered.
“I have the highest respect for all of you. You battled for your clients and you’ve been professional,” Baxter said. “This trial turned out to be a lot better than I thought it might be. I had visions of nightmares. They have not come true. … I tried to give everybody a fair trial and I hope I have.”
Closing arguments will put the finishing touches on a truly bizarre trial, with accusations of teachers insulting and even threatening students and holding parties where they would change the answers on standardized tests. The trial took on the air of a soap opera many times, so we’ll see if the conclusion of the trial will bring the same kind of excitement.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Matthew Benoit
Iran’s Supreme Leader Seyyed Ali Khamenei recently told a group of religious minority leaders in the country that they are safe and have always been under Iran’s watch.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, stated that based on Islamic teachings, followers of other religions should be treated with justice and fairness.
He went even further and added, “Muslims in Europe and America face death threats. There is a great propaganda campaign against them, and their places of worship are under constant attack.”
He claimed, “Such treatment of non-Muslims is nonexistent in the history of our Islamic regime. Even our hotheaded conservative youth do not allow themselves to attack a non-Muslim.”
Naturally, Khamenei’s statements hold no water whatsoever when stood up against the facts.
Such claims of tolerance of non-Islamic faiths by the Iranian Supreme Leader are made while a large number of religious minorities have been imprisoned and executed since the establishment of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Even religious minorities that are recognized in Iran’s constitution have been harassed, persecuted and marginalized since the early days of the Islamic Revolution, which has led to a mass migration of many religious minorities, especially Jews and Christians.
In 1979, when the Islamic Revolution took place, the Armenian-Iranian population was around 180 thousand. Comparing this number to the new census of the community, 60 percent of Armenian-Iranians have left the country. There has been a significant drop in the Iranian Jewish population as well.
Several United Nations special reports and resolutions have condemned the violation of Human Rights, especially the violation of the rights of religious minorities.
Also, Ahmad Shaheed, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Iran, wrote in his report, “At least 307 religious minorities are being held in Iran’s prisons for their faith, including 136 Bahai’s, 19 Dervishes, 50 Christians, 90 Sunni Muslims, and two Zoroastrians.
In addition, Open Doors’ 2014 World Watch List ranked Iran among the ten countries where Christians are persecuted the most. Its 2013 list put Iran in the 9th spot, but in 2014 Iran was moved to the 7th spot.
Christians face persecution and death, while practitioners of the Baha’i faith lose all social rights and face execution. Sunni Muslims may not build their own mosques in Tehran.
There’s no word on what, if any, statistics and facts Khamenei attempted to use to back up his claims.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Bruce Stanfield
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally broken his silence on attacks by Hindu militants against Christians and other religious minorities. He made a promise to protect these minorities at an event honoring two new Catholic saints from India.
“I condemn all incidents of violence where religious minorities were targeted,” Modi told an event organized by the Christian community to celebrate the beatification of two Indians by Pope Francis late last year.
“No religious group can incite violence … my government will ensure there is complete freedom of faith.”
Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, rarely attends events organized by minority communities.
His decision to appear among Christians followed a drubbing for his party in elections to the Delhi local assembly last week, where it won just three of 70 seats, raising concerns that it could face setbacks in other state elections on the horizon.
The poll took place against the backdrop of a clash between police and priests, nuns and parishioners who were protesting over a series of vandalism and arson attacks on churches.
In a nation with a large Hindu majority – nearly 80% of Indians identify as practicing Hinduism – Modi’s remarks represent a shift toward protection of those who practice other faiths, and it’s a welcome change to critics of the Modi administration.
In January, Christian leaders criticized Modi for his previous silence on the attacks on churches in Delhi. The series of incidents in the region led Christian leaders to believe there was pattern in the attacks on Christian churches, motivated by religious radicals in the country.
“These are not isolated events. It is the fourth attack on a church in Delhi archdiocese since December 1,” Father [Savarimuthu] Shankar said in January, according to UCA News.
Christian leaders previously stated that Modi’s denouncement of the attacks will help strengthen the relationship and ease tensions between Christians and Hindus.
“The prime minister owes an answer to all. … In fact his silence is eloquent and disturbing,” opposition Congress Party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said to UCA News.
Militants have targeted converts from Hinduism to other religions in particular, but Modi vows that his administration will not tolerate such violence.
Religious conversions have become a sensitive issue in recent months after hardliners with links to the BJP said Hinduism was under threat and started a campaign to convince Christians and Muslims to change their faith.
“My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly,” Modi said.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock /Nisarg Lakhmani
When Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed dismissed fire chief Kelvin Cochran over a book the latter wrote, he ignited a firestorm of controversy that led to a renewed call for a religious freedom law in Georgia. And now, six members of the state’s congressional delegation have gotten involved in the fight, siding with Cochran.
In a move that escalates the fight between Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and supporters of Kelvin Cochran, lawmakers led by Rep. Barry Loudermilk this week said the firing robbed the former chief of his religious freedom to speak and write his view.
“Your action against Chief Cochran appears to violate fundamental principles of free speech and religious freedom,” they wrote to Reed. “As fellow Georgians, we are extremely troubled that a capable and long-standing public servant in our state can be targeted for retaliation and dismissed solely because of his religious views,” they added.
While the city said Cochran’s religious beliefs had nothing to do with his November suspension and eventual firing last month, he and his supporters claim it was retaliation for a book he published over a year ago that, among other things, equates homosexuality with bestiality.
The letter from the six House members raises the political element in the controversy. In it they said Cochran’s belief in the Bible is at stake.
“Chief Cochran relied upon religious text from the Bible to express his opinions in his personal writings. The only way Chief Cochran cold avoid his views would be to disown his religion,” they wrote. “What could be more intolerant and exclusionary than ending a public servant’s 30 years of distinguished service for his religious beliefs?”
Cochran has filed suit against the city of Atlanta and Reed with assistance from the non-profit group Alliance Defending Freedom. The former chief’s firing has become a cause célèbre among certain circles in Georgia, with multiple petitions popping up on his behalf and supporters such as Ralph Reed and Erick Erickson. One local pundit on the other side of the issue referred to Cochran as “the face of ‘religious liberty’ bills.”
Reed, a Democrat, issued a statement of his own, stating, “It was a decision that was not made lightly because I appreciated Chief Cochran’s service to the City of Atlanta.”
In the meantime, a group of lawmakers have introduced SB129 into the Georgia legislature, a bill designed to “provide for the preservation of religious freedom” in the state. Erickson has already issued a call to action for his listeners to voice their support to their state senators.
Will Cochran’s firing and the firestorm surrounding it be the catalyst for Georgia to pass a religious freedom bill? That remains to be seen, but we’ll stay on top of it and report it here.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Sean Pavone
The measles outbreak that has spread like wildfire across the United States has now made its way to Canada, and, according to Yahoo News, it may have spread at a Christian youth conference in Toronto.
Canadian health officials warned Monday that a person with measles may have spread the virus at a recent large gathering of Christian youth in Toronto.
An outbreak with at least one case linked to a flare-up of the virus in the neighboring United States has so far struck three Canadian provinces.
The latest case of a person who attended the “Acquire the Fire” event at the Queensway Cathedral in Toronto on February 6 and 7 brings the Canadian total to 22.
Local health officials are warning the conference’s attendees to monitor themselves.
Ontario province’s acting chief medical officer, Robin Williams, said the Toronto event attracted “a large number of youth from all over Ontario, as well as performers, volunteers and speakers.”
He said the person with a newly-confirmed case of measles had attended the event during the infectious period.
Williams urged anyone who was in attendance to keep an eye out for symptoms over the next two weeks. These include fever, cough, runny nose, and inflammation of the eyes or rash.
Canada has been free of endemic measles since 1998, except for an outbreak in 2011 in Quebec province that reached 700 cases.
The outbreak began to draw international attention when California health officials discovered that the infections had spread due to one or more infected individuals attending Disneyland during the holidays last year.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Kiev.Victor
State politics can be pretty boring sometimes, but once in a while we run into stories that sound stranger than fiction. One of those cases involved a bill in the Georgia legislature that comes across as bizarre on the surface but raises some intriguing ethical questions – a proposed law to ban human-animal hybrid embryos.
Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Gainesville) says such research is already being done in the United States and he’s heard possibly even in Georgia.
“It deals with the banning of mixing of those two different types of species and creating this Frankenstein science,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
It’s not hard to find images on the internet of glowing cats, pigs, rabbits, and monkeys that were injected with a DNA from jellyfish as embryos. The research is done to help scientists map the genes that can cause devastating diseases in humans such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes.
Kirby wants to make sure none of the research is ever done on human embryos in Georgia.
“Just because we’re capable of doing it doesn’t mean it’s the right way to go,” he says.
Kirby’s bill brings to mind some wild, and even creepy, images, but the ethical concerns are pretty obvious and easy to see: as science advances and scientists experiment more boldly, could experiments on actual human embryos be too far behind?
The bill has its opponents, naturally from the other side of the aisle.
But some lawmakers are skeptical of the legislation, calling it a solution without a problem.
“It invokes a chuckle, but at the same it’s a waste of precious time when we could be dealing with education, transportation, and jobs,” says Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta).
The question remains: is a law necessary to curb such experimentation, or is Kirby’s bill so far-fetched as to be a waste of time? The Georgia legislature may make that decision this term.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / SUWIT NGAOKAEW
The Church of England launched its own credit union this week, with two objectives in mind: to create a trustworthy place for Britons to bank and to help lift people out of poverty.
The foundation of the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union is part of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s drive to promote access to responsible credit and savings.
“It could transform the way retail finance is done in this country,” Archbishop [Justin] Welby said, adding that it will put an ethical basis back into the industry and help forge community links back into the sector.
The credit union was launched by leaders of member churches with a video of a ship being launched in the background, emotive music and the slogan: “God bless the CMCU and all who save with her.”
It is currently open to about 60,000 church workers, charities, clergy and volunteers such as church wardens and members of the parochial church council, but will eventually be rolled out to every church member in the country. This could be more than one million people in the Church of England alone, with many hundreds of thousands more in the ecumenical partner churches; the Methodists, Church of Scotland, Scottish Episcopal Church and Church in Wales.
Welby is the first archbishop to come from a financial background, and he refers to the unprecedented launch as “putting our money where our mouth is” to both fight poverty and hold up high ethical standards for the financial marketplace.
Rather than preaching at the problem, the Church is becoming part of the solution.
“Credit unions are essential. We are trying to build a new financial sector in this country,” the Archbishop added. The new credit union was a “major step” in this direction, he said.
Canon Antony MacRow-Wood, president of the new credit union, said: “Of immediate interest to many, especially ordained ministers, will be our plans to provide a competitive car loan scheme (APR 5.54%). The Church forms an obvious community with many shared interests and as such it has a natural fit with the idea of a credit union. The recycling of capital within the community, not least for mission, will be of benefit to all.”
Rev Ken Howcroft, president of the Methodist Conference, said: “The gap between rich and poor seems to be widening and leaving people without the resources to do new things, or even pushing them into crippling debt. When we recognise your interdependence we can share our resources to help each of us meet our needs.”
CMCU treads much of the same ground as American faith-based credit unions like America’s Christian Credit Union and Christian Community Credit Union, but it may well be the first credit union run directly by a church. Its success or failure should make for an interesting story in the years to come.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / yurchello108
It sounds like the stuff of movies, but a real-life crime of passion may result in the first execution of a woman in Georgia since 1945. The state of Georgia has set a date of later this month for the execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner, but the Board of Pardons and Paroles will hold a clemency hearing the day before Gissendaner is set to be put to death for murdering her husband in 1998.
The board said in a statement Tuesday that the clemency hearing for Kelly Renee Gissendaner will be held Feb. 24. Gissendaner is set to die Feb. 25 at the state prison in Jackson.
If the execution happens, Gissendaner will be the first woman executed in Georgia since 1945.
The Parole Board is the only entity in Georgia with the authority to reduce a death sentence to life without parole.
After Gissendaner’s conviction and appeals, the Georgia State Supreme Court upheld her death sentence in 2000, with her first execution date set for January 2001.
Gissendaner and her lover, Gregory Owen, plotted to kill her husband, Doug Gissendaner, in 1997.
Prosecutors said Gissendaner, a mother of three from Auburn, wanted her husband dead so she could profit from two $10,000 life insurance policies and the couple’s $84,000 house.
She dropped off Owen at her Auburn house before going out with friends on Feb. 7, 1997. Owen surprised 30-year-old Doug Gissendaner and forced him at knifepoint to drive to a remote area in eastern Gwinnett near the Walton County line.
Owen forced the victim to walk 100 yards into the woods and get down on his knees. He beat him in the head with a nightstick, stabbed him in the neck and back several times and left. The wife later helped her boyfriend set the car on fire to destroy evidence.
The last woman to be executed in Georgia, Lena Baker, died on March 5, 1945. She claimed self defense, and the state of Georgia granted her a posthumous pardon in 2005.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Charles Knowles
It’s been a great week for parents who are figuring out the best way to discipline their kids. The day after a suburban Atlanta barber went viral with his embarrassing haircut method of discipline, the ever controversial Pope Francis has said that he thinks parents have the right to “smack” their child for bad behavior.
The Pope recalled a conversation he had had with a father, who told him that on occasion he hits his children if they have been naughty.
The Pope, smiling and miming the action of slapping a child on the bottom, said: “One time, I heard a father say, ‘At times I have to hit my children a bit, but never in the face so as not to humiliate them.’
“That’s great. He had a sense of dignity. He should punish, do the right thing, and then move on,” he told around 7,000 people gathered in the Pope Paul VI Hall on Wednesday.
Naturally, the anti-spankers jumped out in full force to condemn the pontiff.
“It is disappointing that anyone with that sort of influence would make such a comment,” said Peter Newell, the coordinator of the Global Alliance to End Corporal Punishment of Children.
Peter Saunders, the founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told The Telegraph: “I think that is a very misguided thing to have said and I’m surprised he said it, although he does come up with some howlers sometimes.”
Others came to Pope Francis’ defense.
But the remarks were defended by Father Antonio Mazzi, a priest well-known in Italy for his television appearances.
“This Pope is always astounding us because he uses the same language we use. Naturally there will be psychologists who protest, but they make me laugh,” he said.
The pope has a history of controversial statements. Most recently, he remarked that that he would punch anyone who insulted his mother.
In other news related to Pope Francis, House Speaker John Boehner announced that the Pope will address Congress in September, making him the first pontiff to address a joint session of Congress.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / giulio napolitano
It’s a parent’s nightmare and an age-old problem. Mom and dad find out their son has gotten in trouble. Or his grades are dropping. Or he’s showing disrespect.
Parents resort to so many different tactics to enforce rules and enact discipline. One barber in metro Atlanta thinks he has the solution – right there in his shop.
Three days a week, parents can take their misbehaving kids to A-1 Kutz and ask for the “Benjamin Button Special,” which Russell Fredrick and his team of barbers are offering — free of charge — to parents who want to try a novel form of discipline.
The cut involves shaving hair off the child’s crown until he begins to resemble a balding senior citizen, inviting that unique brand of adolescent humiliation that can only come from teasing classmates and unwanted attention.
Supporters say it’s the perfect punishment for misbehaving kids who want to “act grown.”
Fredrick, the A-1 Kutz co-owner and a 34-year-old father of three, said he decided to advertise the cut after he used the unique disciplinary measure on his 12-year-old son, Rushawn, last fall — and saw immediate results. Rushawn’s grades, which had fallen, “dramatically skyrocketed” after he got his old-man haircut, Frederick said.
The boss barber said he has already had one parent take him up on the offer.
On one local newscast, Fredrick also referred to the cut as the “George Jefferson,” and the, um, style has gone viral.
Fredrick said he was surprised by the attention the photo garnered, but he thinks he knows why his alternative disciplinary measure struck a chord: Cases like the one involving Adrian Peterson – the NFL star who was charged with child abuse after spanking his 4-year-old son with a tree branch — have forced many parents to reevaluate they way they bring order to their households, Fredrick said.
“I hope that most people won’t have to do this unless it’s an extreme circumstances and nothing else is working,” he said. “First, you talk or implement your restrictions. But when the conventional ways don’t work these days, you have to get creative.”
As much support as Fredrick has gotten for his unique discipline — and clever marketing — idea, there are plenty of naysayers as well.
Xanthia Bianca Johnson, a Washington-based psychotherapist who works closely with adolescents and families, told The Post that in her experience, using shame as a disciplinary tool is often counterproductive. When children misbehave, she said, they’re letting parents know that they’re in distress. The goal of effective discipline, she said, is giving children an opportunity to reflect on their mistakes; that, she said, becomes increasingly hard to do if they’re “distracted” by blame and shame.
Douglas Gotel, a clinical social worker and credentialed play therapist, said different communities rely on different disciplinary measures, but in his experience shame and humiliation build resentment and erode self-esteem over time.
What do you think? Are offbeat disciplinary ideas effective, or do they simply serve as an embarrassment?
Image courtesy of Instagram/rusty_fred
Thousands of high school students in Los Angeles are hearing positive messages of faith thanks to the efforts of one outreach organization.
About 2,500 students at 15 high schools hear the gospel each week through campus Christian clubs, which invite One Voice representatives to speak, [coordinator Allan] Giglio says. Kids have been saved from drugs, violence, sexual sin, and hopelessness.
Teachers and students alike have found themselves amazed at the effectiveness of the clubs.
Roosevelt teacher Samuel Alba acts as a teacher advisor for the Christian club. Both his father and grandfather ministered in Mexico and the U.S., where they saw extraordinary things happen. But he has seen nothing like the current outpouring of the Spirit.
“This is a whole new thing,” Alba says. “This is something extremely new to the students. Many days you see kids with tears asking Christ to come into their hearts.”
Hugo Aguilar started a Christian club at Kennedy High School in Granada Hills last year called “the Love Club.” When he heard about One Voice, he invited them to speak. From 30 students, the group skyrocketed to 60 at the next meeting and then to 140 at the third, he says.
“It was nuts. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life,” Aguilar said. “It was just amazing to see so many people responding to Jesus.”
The Los Angeles school system allows students to run Bible studies and Christian clubs. Administrators monitor the meetings from time to time, but for the most part the clubs meet with little resistance because teachers and principals see the positive effects of students turning away from drugs and gang violence.
Leaders often lure students in with free pizza, but the life-changing message of Jesus Christ keeps them coming back.
Today, Aguilar leads youth leaders in lunch-time prayer on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. “It’s just awesome to see God bringing in people,” he said.
Winfield, Alabama, is a sleepy little town not far from Birmingham where about 5,000 people work, live, and worship – a city where the year’s biggest event is Mule Day every September.
Winfield has also become the site of a fight over religion. Because the greatest defense against theocracy is an attack on a tiny Southern town, militant atheists have targeted the town over a proclamation the mayor and city council issued back in December of last year “acknowledging the blessings of God and expressing a desire to seek Divine guidance.”
Over the next several weeks, the city received blistering letters of condemnation from the American Civil Liberties Union and Freedom From Religion Foundation decrying the alleged violation of separation of church and state. The FFRF letter was particularly harsh, suggesting that God was the mayor’s “imaginary friend” and that, if God did exist, he probably did not care about the small Alabama town.
The Pacific Justice Institute has come to the defense of Winfield, citing recent rulings that support the town’s proclamation and its decision to stand behind it.
In response, PJI sent a letter to Mayor Randy Price late Friday, pointing out the proclamation’s consistency both with recent cases and historic American traditions. The PJI letter noted the omission in either the ACLU or FFRF letters of failed attempts by those groups to mount similar legal challenges. Within the last few years the FFRF lost a legal challenge to President Obama’s continuation of the National Day of Prayer proclamation, and the ACLU lost a case where it had sued over Ohio’s state motto, “With God all things are possible.” Court decisions in this area have also allowed local proclamations and resolutions to voice anti-religious sentiments. For instance, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the right of San Francisco officials to issue scathing denunciations of religious groups and the Catholic Church, in the name of free speech.
PJI’s president, Brad Dacus, weighed in:
This proclamation does not compel or coerce anyone to do anything. As with any governmental action, not everyone is going to like it, but that doesn’t make the proclamation unconstitutional.
Here’s hoping that, in the end, Winfield will prevail against the forces trying desperately to be the squeaky wheel against the First Amendment.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley
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