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On Watch in Washington October 10, 2012

THE TOP TEN SENATE RACES TO WATCH

Arizona – Democrats stand a good chance of pulling an upset in this red state. Polls continue to show physician Richard Carmona in a close race with GOP Rep. Jeff Flake. Carmona, who was surgeon general under George W. Bush, was recruited by Obama to run for the Senate. Flake is a fiscal conservative who has earned a reputation for bucking his party.

Maine – Independent former governor Angus King started this race as the heavy favorite. Neither party put up any big-name opponents against him, and Democrats seemed to be hoping that he would win and caucus with them in the Senate. But negative GOP ads against King have moved Republican GOP Secretary of State Charlie Summers into serious contention.

North Dakota – This one is really close. Former state attorney general Heidi Heitkamp has turned into one of the best Democratic recruits of the year, putting in play a state that was thought to be solidly in the GOP’s column. The GOP nominee, freshman Rep. Rick Berg, isn’t getting such sterling reviews. Heitkamp’s early support for Obamacare has not hurt her much.

Virginia – The shape of this race has changed a little in recent weeks, with polling showing Democrat Timothy M. Kaine jumping to an eight-point lead over former senator George Allen (R). The GOP plan was to attach Kaine to Obama, but with polls showing the president a slight favorite to carry the state, that strategy has paid limited dividends.

Montana – This has been close from the beginning and is expected to stay that way. Sen. Jon Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) have always been within a few points of each other. Republicans have tried to tie Tester to Obama, while Democrats have attacked Rehberg as a lobbyist and for suing his local fire department after a wildfire damaged his property.

Indiana – Richard Mourdock’s upset of Sen. Richard G. Lugar in the state’s GOP Senate primary opened the door for Democrats in a state that is expected to go Republican at the presidential level. Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) has won in a tough House district before. If the GOP somehow finds a way to lose this one, it can likely say goodbye to its majority hopes.

Massachusetts – The country’s most high-profile Senate race pits former Obama adviser Elizabeth Warren (D), a liberal hero, against Sen. Scott Brown (R), a popular senator with a moderate, everyman vibe. For a while, Brown’s appeal seemed to be winning the day. But this is Massachusetts, and his party affiliation is a liability. Recent polls show Warren with a small edge.

Wisconsin – Former GOP governor Tommy Thompson’s attempted political comeback was looking good until a few weeks ago. He survived a tough primary and was leading Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) in early general election polls. But as Obama has risen in the polls here, so has Baldwin. Look for Republicans to focus on Baldwin’s record as one of the most liberal members of Congress.

Nevada – Appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R) appears to be a slight favorite to retain the seat forfeited by disgraced former senator John Ensign (R), but it won’t be easy. But Nevada is a swing state at the presidential level, and Democratic nominee Shelley Berkley is a favorite of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D), who will do plenty to help her down the stretch.

Connecticut – Linda McMahon (R) is a different candidate from two years ago, when she lost an open-seat contest by double digits. Almost every recent poll shows a close race with Rep. Chris Murphy (D), despite Connecticut’s Democratic tendencies. But for McMahon, whose wrestling empire has been tainted by scandal, the game is to build a personal brand separate from her wrestling identity. (Contributor: Aaron Blake for The Washington Post)

Ask our Heavenly Father to impart insight to all voters in this coming election. Pray that there will be increased understanding in what is at stake and risk by this election. Pray for righteous leadership to spring forth from these senatorial elections.

“When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2)

THE PATH TO AN IRANIAN NUKE WARHEAD 2-4 MONTHS AWAY

Iran now could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to arm a nuclear bomb within two to four months but would still face serious “engineering challenges” – and much longer delays – before it would be able to use the material in an atomic warhead, a respected U.S. think tank said Monday.

While Iran denies any interest in possessing nuclear arms, the international community fears it may turn its peaceful uranium enrichment program toward weapons making – a concern that is growing as Tehran expands the number of machines it uses to enrich as well as its stockpile of enriched uranium. And as apprehension increases, so does anxiety that Israel will make good on threats to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities before that nation reaches the bomb-making threshold.

In a strident call for an internationally drawn “red line” on what he said was Iran’s move toward nuclear arms, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sept. 28 the world has until next summer at the latest to stop Tehran before it can build an atomic bomb. Flashing a diagram of a cartoon-like bomb before the U.N. General Assembly, he said Iran was ready to move to the “final stage” of making such a weapon by then.

For now, U.S. military and intelligence officials say they don’t believe Iran’s leadership has made the decision to build a bomb, while also warning that the country is moving closer to the ability to do so.

The Institute for Science and International Security did not make a judgment on whether Iran plans to turn its enrichment capabilities toward weapons making. But in its report made available to The Associated Press ahead of publication Monday, it drew a clear distinction between Tehran’s ability to make the fissile core of warhead by producing 25 kilograms (55 pounds) weapons-grade uranium from its lower enriched stockpiles and the warhead itself.

“Despite work it may have done in the past,” Iran would need “many additional months to manufacture a nuclear device suitable for underground testing and even longer to make a reliable warhead for a ballistic missile,” the report said.

Additionally, ISIS – which often advises Congress and other branches of U.S. government on Iran’s nuclear program – said any attempt to “break out” into weapons-grade uranium enrichment would be quickly detected by the United States and the International Atomic Energy, which monitors Tehran’s known enrichment sites. With Washington likely to “respond forcefully to any “break-out” attempt, Iran is unlikely to take such a risk “during the next year or so,” said the report.

Still, the report suggested a narrowing window as Iran positions itself to increase enrichment.

Iran now has more than 10,000 centrifuges enriching uranium at its main plant at Natanz, about 225 kilometers (140 miles) southeast of Tehran, making low-level material. Additionally it has about 800 machines turning out 20-percent enriched uranium at Fordo, a bunkered structure fortified against air attack near the holy city of Qom, as well as about 2,000 more installed but not yet running.

Uranium enriched to 20 percent can be turned into weapons-grade material much more quickly than low-enriched uranium. If the centrifuges at Fordo that now are idle also start operating and are used to make 20 percent material, Iran – using its total enrichment output of low and higher grade uranium – could produce enough weapons grade uranium for a warhead within three or four weeks, said the summary.

Olli Heinonen, who stepped down as the IAEA’s deputy director general in charge of the Iran file in 2010, said the ISIS report contained “good and technically sound estimates.”

He said Fordo will nearly double its production capacity of 20 percent enriched uranium to up to 30 kilograms (more than 60 pounds) a month, if an when all machines there are operating. (Contributor: Associated Press)

Pray that national world leaders will be given godly wisdom in handling the situation with Iran, especially in the matters of nuclear weapons development. Pray that the Iranian development plans will be stopped before it is too late. Pray that righteous reasoning will prevail.

“He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.” Job 5:12

20% LIST RELIGION AS “NONE”

One-fifth of U.S. adults say they are not part of a traditional religious denomination, new data from the Pew Research Center show, evidence of an unprecedented reshuffling of Americans’ spiritual identities that is shaking up fields from charity to politics.

But despite their nickname, the “nones” are far from godless. Many pray, believe in God and have regular spiritual routines.

Their numbers have increased dramatically over the past two decades, according to the study released Tuesday. About 19.6 percent of Americans say they are “nothing in particular,” agnostic or atheist, up from about 8 percent in 1990. One-third of adults under 30 say the same. Pew offered people a list of more than a dozen possible affiliations, including “Protestant,” “Catholic,” “something else” and “nothing in particular.”

For the first time, Pew also reported that the number of Americans identifying themselves as Protestant dipped below half, at 48 percent. But the United States is still very traditional when it comes to religion, with 79 percent of Americans identifying with an established faith group.

Experts have been tracking unaffiliated Americans since their numbers began rising, but new studies are adding details to the portrait.

Members can be found in all educational and income groups, but they skew heavily in one direction politically: 68 percent lean toward the Democratic Party. That makes the “nones,” at 24 percent, the largest Democratic faith constituency, with black Protestants at 16 percent and white mainline Protestants at 14 percent.

By comparison, white evangelicals make up 34 percent of the Republican base.

The study presents a stark map of how political and religious polarization has merged in recent decades. Congregations used to be a blend of political affiliations, but that’s generally not the case anymore. Sociologists have shown that Americans are more likely to pick their place of worship by their politics, not vice versa.

Some said the study and its data on younger generations forecast more polarization.

Americans have been fleeing institutions in general, Putnam wrote in his bestselling book “Bowling Alone,” about the decline of such institutions as hobby clubs and alumni associations. The culture is also more secular, with prayer in schools and the closing of businesses on Sundays fading along with traditional religious norms on marriage and sex.

For the presidential campaigns, the data reflect a simple fact on the ground. Three-quarters of unaffiliated voters voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Today, the unaffiliated break like this: 65 percent for Obama, 27 percent for Republican nominee Mitt Romney. (Contributor: Michelle Boorstein for The Washington Post)

Pray for revival in this nation. Pray for His hand to be stretched out over this land and redeem us. Pray for opportunities to proclaim His Lordship over our leaders and governmental affairs.

“Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else–not only in this world but also in the world to come.” (Ephesians 1:21)

EX-SECURITY TEAM LEADER IN LIBYA: “MULTIPLE PLEAS” WERE MADE BY SECURITY STAFF

The former head of a Special Forces “Site Security Team” in Libya tells CBS News that in spite of multiple pleas from himself and other U.S. security officials on the ground for “more, not less” security personnel, the State Department removed as many as 34 people from the country in the six months before a terrorist attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.

Lt. Col. Andy Wood will appear this week at a House Oversight Committee hearing that will examine security decisions leading up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi.

Wood headed a site security team in Libya. He is among three witnesses who will speak at Wednesday’s hearing.

Speaking to CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, Wood said when he found out that his own 16-member team and a six-member State Department elite force were being pulled from Tripoli in August – about a month before the assault in Benghazi – he felt, “like we were being asked to play the piano with two fingers. There was concern amongst the entire embassy staff.”

He said other staffers approached him with their concerns when the reduction in security personnel was announced.

“They asked if we were safe,” he told Attkisson. “They asked… what was going to happen, and I could only answer that what we were being told is that they’re working on it – they’ll get us more (security personnel), but I never saw that.”

Wood insists that senior staff in Libya, including Ambassador Stevens, State Department Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom, and himself, all wanted and had requested enhanced security.

“We felt we needed more, not less,” he tells Attkisson.

Asked what response their repeated pleas got from the State Department in Washington, Wood says they were simply told “to do with less. For what reasons, I don’t know.”

“We tried to illustrate… to show them how dangerous and how volatile and just unpredictable that whole environment was over there. So to decrease security in the face of that really is… it’s just unbelievable,” Wood tells CBS News.

State Department officials have told CBS News that Wood was not part of the security assessment in Benghazi and that his assignment to Tripoli means he was unfamiliar with the local situation in the smaller port city in the country’s east.

Lt. Col. Wood, Nordstrom and State Department official Charlene Lamb, based in Washington, will offer some of the key testimony at this week’s House Oversight Committee hearing, led by committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan reports that the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Management, Patrick Kennedy, will be the highest ranking official from the State Department to testify before the committee.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, has been conducting its own investigation into the safety of the Benghazi consulate. Sources said to be familiar with the Libya operation told lawmakers that 13 threats were made in the six months leading up to the Benghazi incident, with repeated requests made for additional security that were denied.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the State Department is cooperating fully with the congressional investigation, according to Brennan. (Contributor: IB Times, CBS News)

Pray that the full truth of the Benghazi security failure that led to the death of Ambassador Stevens are brought to light and that all necessary steps are taken to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again.

“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23-24 KJV)

LAWMAKERS SEEK TO BLOCK CHINA’S HUAWEI TELECOM IN U.S.

U.S. telecommunications operators should not do business with China’s top telecom gear makers because potential Chinese state influence on the companies poses a security threat, the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee said in a report on Monday.

The report follows an 11-month investigation by the committee into Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp. The companies have been fighting an uphill battle to overcome U.S. lawmakers’ suspicions and expand in the United States after becoming key players in the worldwide market.

The House Intelligence Committee’s concerns are bound to set back the companies’ U.S. prospects and may also lead to strains in ties between the United States and China, the world’s two biggest economies.

Committee Chairman Rogers, at a press conference to release the report, said the panel was stopping short of urging a U.S. boycott of mobile phones and other handheld devices made by Huawei and ZTE.

The panel’s warning pertains only to devices that involve processing of data on a large scale, Rogers said in reply to a question.

Employee-owned Huawei is the world’s second-biggest maker of routers, switches and other telecommunications equipment after Sweden’s Ericsson. ZTE ranks fifth.

The committee warning comes as Huawei considers a possible initial public offering, sources said, as part of an effort to overcome suspicions that have all but blocked its U.S. efforts, including business tie-ins.

Huawei spokesman William Plummer rejected the committee’s allegations in a statement emailed to Reuters.

“Baseless suggestions otherwise or purporting that Huawei is somehow uniquely vulnerable to cyber mischief ignore technical and commercial realities, recklessly threaten American jobs and innovation, do nothing to protect national security, and should be exposed as dangerous political distractions from legitimate public-private initiatives to address what are global and industry-wide cyber challenges,” he said.

For its part, ZTE released a copy of a letter it sent to the committee last month, stating it “profoundly disagrees” with allegations that it is directed or controlled by the Chinese government.

“ZTE should not be a focus of this investigation to the exclusion of the much larger Western vendors,” it said.  ZTE’s Hong Kong-listed shares fell as much as 3.4 percent early on Monday.

It was not immediately clear whether the committee warning would curb mobile phone sales that Huawei and ZTE do with customers such as Verizon and Sprint.

The panel’s report faulted both companies for failing to fully satisfy the committee’s requests for documents to allay its security concerns, including detailed information about formal relationships or regulatory interaction with Chinese authorities.

U.S. companies weighing purchases from Huawei should “find another vendor if you care about your intellectual property; if you care about your consumers’ privacy and you care about the national security of the United States of America,” Rogers said in comments broadcast Sunday night on the CBS News program “60 Minutes.”

The panel said it had received credible allegations from unnamed current and former Huawei employees suggesting Huawei may be guilty of bribery and corruption, discriminatory behavior and copyright infringement.

Such allegations will be referred to the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security for investigation, the panel said.

“U.S. network providers and system developers are strongly encouraged to seek other vendors for their projects,” it said.

It cited what it called long-term security risks supposedly linked with the companies’ equipment and services. It did not provide any hard evidence to back up its concerns, at least not in the unclassified version of the report.

A classified annex provides “significantly more information adding to the committee’s concerns,” the report said. “The information cannot be shared publicly without risking U.S. national security.”

Based on classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE, which are both based in Shenzhen, China, “cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems,” it said.

Huawei and ZTE are rapidly becoming “dominant global players” in the telecommunications market, the report said. It noted that telecoms are intertwined with computerized controls for electric power grids; banking and finance systems; gas, oil and water systems and rail and shipping.

ZTE’s US telecom infrastructure equipment sales last year were less than $30 million.

In contrast, two of the larger Western vendors alone had combined U.S. sales that topped $14 billion, ZTE told the committee, an apparent reference to Espoo, Finland-based Nokia Siemens Networks NOKI.UL and Paris-based Alcatel Lucent.

“It seems self-evident that the universe of companies examined by the Committee is so small as to omit most of the equipment actually employed in the U.S. telecom infrastructure system,” ZTE said in a September 25 letter to the panel.

Huawei and ZTE may not be the only companies that present a risk to U.S. infrastructure, the committee’s report said, but they are the two largest Chinese-founded, Chinese-owned companies seeking to market critical network equipment in the United States. Beijing has the “means, opportunity and motive” to use them to its own ends, it added.

Top executives of both told a committee hearing on September 13 that their companies would never bow to a hypothetical Chinese government effort to exploit their products for espionage, saying such a move would be corporate suicide.

“Huawei has not and will not jeopardize our global commercial success nor the integrity of our customers’ networks for any third party, government or otherwise,” senior vice president Charles Ding testified at the time.

The committee is calling on an interagency government group that reviews national security implications of foreign investments to block acquisitions, takeovers or mergers involving Huawei and ZTE.

In addition, it said Congress should give thorough consideration to legislation seeking to expand the role of the interagency group, known as the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, to include purchasing agreements.

U.S. intelligence officials have publicly denounced China as the world’s most active perpetrator of economic espionage against the United States.

Huawei has marketed its network equipment in the United States since last year. It has sold to a range of small- to medium-sized carriers nationwide, particularly in rural areas. It has marketed mobile phones through a broader range of U.S. carriers for the last four years. (Contributors: Reporting By Jim Wolf; editing by John Wallace for Reuters, Intelligence Committee – U.S. House)

Pray that any agreements with other nations be met with the integrity of both nations. Pray that full disclosures are made with each nation and corporation regarding issues of national security. Give thanks for the discoveries that have been made regarding communication insecurity thus far.

“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37

HIGH SCHOOL CHEERLEADERS BARRED FROM DISPLAYING BIBLE

This past summer, a group of cheerleaders at Kountze High School in Kountze, Texas, decided to change their behavior towards opposing teams during sporting events. Instead of carrying banners with messages like “Kill the Lions” or “Pluck the Eagles,” the cheerleaders wanted to encourage both Kountze High School’s teams and the opposing teams. They wanted to be examples of good sportsmanship to the athletes and the parents in the stands. The cheerleaders decided that the banners that their athletes run through at the beginning of each sporting event would display encouraging Bible verses or messages.

The cheerleaders used their new run-through banners at the first three football games of the season. Players and fans of all the teams loved the encouraging messages. Then the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an anti-religion organization in Wisconsin, found out that the cheerleaders had committed the sin of displaying religious messages at high school football games. With one letter to the school district superintendent, the cheerleaders’ experiment in good sportsmanship was stopped. Kountze High School’s PA system blared that no student group could display any religious message at Kountze High School games. This ban was so broad that it would prevent many students sitting in the bleachers from wearing religious shirts or jewelry.

The cheerleaders and their parents, however, had a different idea. We at Liberty Institute looked into the case and found that not only were the cheerleaders’ messages acceptable at public high school football games, but that the school had violated the cheerleaders’ rights by prohibiting the signs. With this information, the cheerleaders and their parents asked us to help stop the school district’s censorship of the positive messages. Two days after the announcement had been made over Kountze High School’s P.A. system, Liberty Institute got a temporary restraining order, preventing the school from censoring the free speech and religious expression of the cheerleaders.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (and some outside observers who have opined on the merits of the cheerleaders’ case against the school district without first learning the facts of the case) pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, which held that school-sponsored prayer at a public high school football game violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. They figured that settled the matter. The issues, however, in the Kountze cheerleaders’ case, Matthews v. Kountze Independent School District, are not the same. In fact, the two cases are nearly opposite.

Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe involved a school-sponsored prayer, given by a school-selected student, over the school’s public address system, pursuant to a policy that explicitly encouraged prayer. Matthews v. Kountze Independent School District, on the other hand, involves the private speech of the cheerleaders, displayed on signs bought with private money, pursuant to a school policy declaring that student speech at football games is private speech not endorsed by the school district.

As the Supreme Court noted in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe itself, “[T]here is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect….The Religion Clauses of the First Amendment prevent the government from making any laws respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. By no means do these commands impose a prohibition on all religious activity in our public schools. Indeed, the common purpose of the Religion Clauses is to secure religious liberty.”

Securing liberty is also the purpose of a Texas state law that declares student speech at football games to be the students’ private speech, not endorsed or compelled by the state.

The distinction between the two situations is clarified by one observation: In Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, the school district wanted prayer; in Matthews v. Kountze Independent School District, the cheerleaders want to display a religious message against the wishes of the school district. One is government speech; the other is protected, private speech.

America is a land of religious liberty and free speech; government censorship of the cheerleaders’ messages at Kountze High School violates both. The cheerleaders are not school officials demanding that their students engage in religious conduct; rather, the cheerleaders are students freely speaking to their peers and parents and freely practicing their religion. Not defending them would be a travesty to the Constitution. (Contributors: Mike Johnson is senior counsel at Liberty Institute. Justin Butterfield is an attorney at Liberty Institute – Washington Times)

Pray that this current issue blocking freedom of expression by high school students be struck down by righteous adjudication. Give thanks to the Lord for youth who desire to take a stand for God’s Word and His righteous desire for blessing.

“So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

OHIO SCHOOL HOPING TO SCRATCH FREE SPEECH ARGUMENT

Attorneys for an Ohio school district have asked the state Supreme Court to strike down the First Amendment portion of an appeal briefing in the ongoing case of a middle school science teacher who was fired over concerns that he was injecting religion into the classroom.

When Ohio’s high court agreed last month to hear the case, John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute told OneNewsNow it was taking John Freshwater’s case “very, very seriously.” The teacher was terminated from Mount Vernon Middle School in 2008 for discussing evolution vs. creationism. But the school is trying to get the Supreme Court to discount a key element of the case.

Whitehead, John (Rutherford Institute)”When the Supreme Court of Ohio decided to hear this case, they particularly noted the First Amendment issue being one issue they were going to consider, and I think that’s why you’re seeing the school filing a motion to strike that portion of the case out,” Whitehead suggests.

He is not surprised by the request from the school district’s attorneys.

“These are delaying tactics as well as a way to gut a case that could actually open up debate on an important topic, and that’s origins,” the attorney explains.

Whitehead believes the court will retain the First Amendment portion of the appeal briefing, because that is one of the issues it wishes to consider. (Contributor: One News Now)

Give thanks to the Lord for His hand in establishing our governmental structure with the precious gift of “free speech.” Pray that every aspect of this principle be preserved and protected.

“‘Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!’ But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:28, 29)

U.S. CONTRIBUTIONS TO U.N. UP 142% SINCE 2001 – $4.5 BILLION

The financial contribution that the United States makes to the United Nations has increased sharply over the past decade, rising by $4.5 billion between 2001 and 2010 – a 142 percent rise — according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Since 2006, the OMB has presented Congress with an annual report detailing the U.S. contributions to the U.N. system for each fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

The total money contributed from all federal agencies to the United Nations, as reported by OMB, since 2001 are as follows:  FY 2001 — $ 3,183,166,000.00 -> FY 2002 — $ 3,934,814,000.00 -> FY 2003 — $ 3,841,323,000.00 -> FY 2004 — $ 4,115,155,000.00 -> FY 2005 — $ 5,327,276,000.00 -> FY 2006 — $ 4,546,120,000.00 -> FY 2007 — $ 4,158,641,000.00 -> FY 2008 — $ 6,090,242,000.00 -> FY 2009 — $ 6,347,415,000.00 -> FY 2010 — $ 7,691,822,000.00

The total increase in funding is $4,508,656,000.00, or a 142 percent rise over nine years.

Prior to 2006, the total financial contribution from the United States to the U.N. was not easily assessed because of the multiple sources of funding.

Brett Schaefer, a Jay Kingham Fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, has written extensively about U.S. funding of the U.N.

“Most everyone knows the United States is the largest contributor to the United Nations and its affiliated funds, programs, and specialized agencies,” Schaefer wrote in the National Review Online last month. “But nailing down precisely how much we pay into the U.N. system every year is no easy task.”

“Although most U.S. contributions come from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, hundreds of millions of dollars also flow into the U.N. system from other parts of the federal government,” Schaefer said.

Tracking of the expenditures changed in 2006 when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) asked the OMB to prepare a report detailing the cost from 2001-2005. The OMB, because it is in charge of overseeing Obama’s budget, can require all segments of the government to report on information that it requests.

“The first report was an eye-opener,” Schaefer said. “The OMB calculated that U.S. contributions totaled $4.115 billion in 2004 and $5.327 billion in 2005.”

Schaefer also revealed in his article why the latest data from OMB is for FY 2010. The OMB has prepared the report for FY 2011 but will not issue it without a congressional mandate, which was not included in the Continuing Resolution that Congress passed before adjourning until after the November elections, according Schaefer.

“Congress neglected to renew the reporting requirement,” Schaefer said. (Contributor: By Penny Star for  CNS News)

Pray that the coming administration assess what should be supported in the U.N. and what should not be supported. Pray that our financial legislators be given godly wisdom in appropriating funds to any work by the United Nations. We need to exercise righteous stewardship with what we have been blessed with by our living God.

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.” (Deuteronomy 6:10-13)

CASE COUNT RISES TO 91 IN FUNGAL MENINGITIS OUTBREAK

At least 91 people have been infected with an unusual type of meningitis caused by contaminated steroid injections, federal health officials said Sunday, with seven deaths. The drugs were given starting May 21, much earlier than previously suspected, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

They are urging anyone who has had an injection for lower back pain to watch for symptoms of meningitis, which include a stiff neck and balance problems.

Cases have been identified in nine states and health officials fear the numbers will rise as doctors check patients for the symptoms. Doctors and patients alike may not know to look for the unusual infection, which can takes weeks to develop after an injection.

“Several of these patients have had strokes related to the meningitis,” the CDC said in a statement posted on its website. “In several patients, the meningitis was found to be caused by a fungus that is common in the environment but rarely causes meningitis. This form of meningitis is not contagious. The source of the fungus has not yet been identified, and the cause of infections in the other patients is still being assessed.”

The drug is question is called methylprednisone and is used mostly to treat older patients for lower back pain.

The contaminated drugs have been traced to a single pharmacy in Massachusetts, the New England Compounding Center. The pharmacy has closed voluntarily and recalled its products, which include steroids, painkillers and dozens of other drugs. At least one sealed vial of drug has been found to have fungus growing in it, the Food and Drug Administration said. The FDA does not regulate pharmacies like the one in Massachusetts but can be called in when contamination is suspected.

Compounding pharmacies usually make drugs to order, and the steroids suspected of causing the infections did not contain preservatives that can keep fungi and bacteria from growing.

The pharmacy sent products to clinics in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, and West Virginia, the CDC says.

In this case, the patients appear to have had contaminated drugs injected directly into their spinal fluid. CDC says the clinics do not appear to be to blame. The CDC said it has found fungus, including Aspergillus and Exserohilum, in specimens from nine patients.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Bacteria or viruses are the usual cause, but meningitis can also be caused by fungi and parasites. “In addition to typical meningitis symptoms, like headache, fever, nausea, and stiffness of the neck, people with fungal meningitis may also experience confusion, dizziness, and discomfort from bright lights. Patients might just have one or two of these symptoms,” CDC said. (Contributor: By Maggie Fox for NBC News)

Pray for those who are stricken with this illness and pray for those charged with removing this threat to citizens who may be unknowingly stricken with this fungal infection. Pray for God’s healing hand upon those already stricken and upon those families grieving the loss of their loved ones.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)

KEEPING OUR MILITARY TRAINING STRONG

Brigadier General John Adams (Ret.) recently argued that we don’t go into war with the army we have, “we really go to war with the army we decided to have 30 years ago.” This idea is especially relevant today, considering the effects that sequestration will have on the U.S. Armed Forces in the future.

At a recent House Armed Services Committee Hearing, Pentagon Comptroller Robert F. Hale and other military officials discussed the Office of Management and Budget Sequestration Report. They made clear that if sequestration is enacted on January 2, 2013, the military will be forced into a dangerously decreased state of readiness. Excluding military personnel, sequestration will cut defense across the board by 9.4 percent. These cuts will be made indiscriminately and without attention to strategy, affecting everything from weapons modernization to research and development, procurement, maintenance, and overseas contingency operations.

Each of the men testifying at the hearing echoed the same sentiment, that support of forward-deployed troops would remain their top priority. However, as Hale explained, to reduce the cuts to wartime operating budgets (which are subject to the 9.4 percent cut under sequestration), “that will mean greater cuts in the base budget portion, especially of the operation and maintenance accounts…and that will result in reductions in training.” Admiral Mark Ferguson said that “nondeployed forces will see a disproportionate share of reductions under sequestration.”

Cutting the budget for training will have a direct effect on America’s servicemen and women. Troops who are not adequately trained can be faced with dire consequences when in combat. Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA)of the House Armed Services Committee warned, “When you say that we will be cutting back on training, that can cost lives and that to me is over the top. We’ve gone way too far.” In addition, training cuts will erode military readiness and have a formidable impact on the ability of the United States to adequately respond to future contingencies and conflicts.

We do not know when or where our Armed Forces will be engaged next. However, we do know that “recent history tells us to expect the unexpected. The last four U.S. presidents…have each sent America’s military into harm’s way for wars that were not anticipated.” Right now, the United States is facing a destabilized Middle East, China’s growing military forces, and an Iran on the brink of gaining nuclear weapons—all while our service members are still engaged in Afghanistan. Now is not the time to reduce flight hours for our Air Force pilots, steaming days for our sailors, or training for any of our service members—it is dangerous and irresponsible. As General Joseph F. Dunford, U.S. Marine Corps, stated at the HASC hearing, “We have a readiness challenge today. It’ll be exacerbated.”

Providing the correct amount of training to successfully complete a mission is imperative to troop safety and morale, as well as military readiness as a whole. It is the government’s job to make sure our troops are prepared and able to get the job done. Congress must work to stop sequestration before it goes into effect on January 2. As Comptroller Hale stated, “If you’re driving into a brick wall at 60 miles an hour, let’s find a way to avoid the wall, not figure out a way to pick up the pieces after we hit it.” (Contributor: Bianca Falcone for Heritage.org)

Pray for wisdom for those who make military supply decisions. Our Lord knows what we have need of in the future, so let us pray that He would instill His counsel as our military strategists consider future procurement needs.

“Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)

ASIA’S UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

A scholar and author credits the efforts of many brave souls for the fact that a growing number of North Koreans have been able to escape the brutal dictatorship and reach sanctuary in South Korea and even the United States.

Kirkpatrick, Melanie (Hudson Institute) Melanie Kirkpatrick, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, has done extensive research on what has become the modern-day version of the Underground Railroad.

“North Korea is the world’s most repressive state. It is truly hell on earth,” she asserts. “The Kim family regime controls every aspect of a person’s life, even whether or not they eat. Food is distributed by the state, and the elites get to eat, and the ordinary people sometimes don’t.”

Consequently, desperate North Koreans have made their way into China, hoping to connect to an underground railroad to the West.

“This underground railroad was set up about 12 or so years ago. And it is run by two groups of people: by brokers who are in it for the money, and then more importantly and perhaps more effectively, by humanitarians — mostly Christians who are in it to serve God,” the author details.

Kirkpatrick estimates that 24,000 North Koreans have made it to safety in South Korea since 1953, and more than half have gotten there in the past ten years. A core group of North Korean refugees now live in South Korea. (Contributor: By Chad Groening with One News Now)

Pray that the “Asian Underground Railroad” continues to bless and bring many into the safety of a free society. Pray that there would be an increase in those who desire to be set free from Communist oppression.

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14, 15)

CONGRESSIONAL PRAYER CAUCUS – CURRENT ISSUES FOR PRAYER

God and Country: My First Term in Congress

In thinking about all that has been accomplished in the past two years, it’s been a fight, but it’s always been one worth fighting for the good of our nation. I will be honest with you; my first term in Congress was not what I expected. I have found that my faith in God and the strength of my family have helped me make the right decisions.

With many in Washington who seem to have forgotten the many ways that faith and Judeo-Christian values shaped our great country, it is easy to become discouraged. I find hope in knowing that God is watching over everything we do, and I am reminded of that when I participate in my weekly Bible study on Capitol Hill with other like-minded members.

Last week I introduced H. Res. 789, a resolution reaffirming the importance of religion in the lives of Americans and their freedom to exercise those beliefs peacefully. It seems as though religion has been under attack in recent years, and I fear we will soon forget that everyone is free to practice or not practice any religion they choose. The First Amendment to the Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This is a nation with freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. No faith should be silenced in the United States. That goes against the idea of freedom of religion, which we hold so dear and is the spirit of our country.

Faith is simply part of our heritage through the convictions and decisions made by our first settlers, founding fathers, and lawmakers today. This in mind, I introduced this resolution as a reminder that we are fortunate in this country to have the freedom to choose our religion. It does not change the Constitution, state or federal law, or in any way affect our rights of freedom. It is simply a statement recognizing that many Americans value faith and make it an important part of their lives.

It is important to me that my constituents know where I stand when it comes to God and Country. My faith will always serve as a guidepost for how I make everyday decisions, as well as my voting record. Remember to be thankful that we live in a country where we are free from religious persecution. Remember that prayer still is the strongest weapon we have against evil of all kinds.  God Bless, Stephen L. Fincher

Opposing hostility towards faith in the Air Force – Congressman Randy Forbes joined Congressman Diane Black and Congressman Todd Akin in sending a letter signed by 66 Members of Congress urging Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to investigate a pattern of hostility towards faith in the United States Air Force.  Over the last year, the Air Force has repeatedly capitulated to pressure from outside groups to remove religious symbols and references to faith from the service.  The letter calls on Secretary Panetta to issue clear Department of Defense policy guidance, consistent with our Constitution, to preserve the place of religious expression in the military at large.

Urging the President to preserve religious hiring rights – Congressman Randy Forbes and Congressman Mike McIntyre sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to maintain current policies that allow faith-based organizations that consider religious criteria in their employment decisions to perform contract work for the federal government.

Supporting legislative prayer at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit – Thirteen Members of the House of Representatives have joined the Family Research Council (FRC) in submitting an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in support of legislative prayer.  The Lakeland City Commission in Florida had a policy of inviting clergy to offer invocations at the beginning of its meetings.  The Atheists of Florida sued, arguing that because most of the prayers were offered by Christian clergy, the prayers were “too sectarian” and thus violated the Establishment Clause.  The brief submitted by the Members argues that courts do not have the jurisdiction to delve into the inner workings of a deliberative body’s meetings because of the constitutional separation of powers between the branches of government.

Supporting the freedom of school boards to open meeting with prayer – Members of the Prayer Caucus are supporting a resolution introduced by Congressman Tim Walberg that supports the freedom of school boards to open meetings with prayer.  H.Res.662 expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that school boards are deliberative bodies similar to city and county councils and state legislatures, and should be treated as such for purposes of analyzing the constitutionality of their prayer policies.

Working to protect the symbols and traditions of Christmas – Members of the Prayer Caucus are supporting H.Res.489, introduced by Congressman Doug Lamborn, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those that celebrate Christmas.  Each year during the Christmas season, there are increasing efforts to remove religious symbols and references from the holiday.  H.Res.489 emphasizes that the First Amendment does not require bans on religious references to Christmas, and supports the use of these symbols by those who celebrate Christmas. (Contributor: Congressional Prayer Caucus)

On Watch in Washington – October 10, 2012 in PDF Plain Text Format

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