Be Alert!

Moriel Ministries Be Alert! has added this Blog as a resource for further information, links and research to help keep you above the global deception blinding the world and most of the church in these last days. Jesus our Messiah is indeed coming soon and this should only be cause for joy unless you have not surrendered to Him. Today is the day for salvation! For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, - Psalms 95:7

Saturday, July 26, 2008

AP IMPACT: Relatives of televangelist prosper

ASSOCIATED PRESS - By Eric Gorski - July 26, 2008 Here in the gentle hills of north Texas, televangelist Kenneth Copeland has built a religious empire teaching that God wants his followers to prosper. Over the years, a circle of Copeland's relatives and friends have done just that, The Associated Press has found. They include the brother-in-law with a lucrative deal to broker Copeland's television time, the son who acquired church-owned land for his ranching business and saw it more than quadruple in value, and board members who together have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for speaking at church events. Church officials say no one improperly benefits through ties to Copeland's vast evangelical ministry, which claims more than 600,000 subscribers in 134 countries to its flagship "Believer's Voice of Victory" magazine. The board of directors signs off on important matters, they say. Yet church bylaws give Copeland veto power over board decisions. While Copeland insists that his ministry complies with the law, independent tax experts who reviewed information obtained by the AP through interviews, church documents and public records have their doubts. The web of companies and non-profits tied to the televangelist calls the ministry's integrity into question, they say. "There are far too many relatives here," said Frances Hill, a University of Miami law professor who specializes in nonprofit tax law. "There's too much money sloshing around and too much of it sloshing around with people with overlapping affiliations and allegiances by either blood or friendship or just ties over the years. There are red flags all over these relationships." Copeland, 71, is a pioneer of the prosperity gospel, which holds that believers are destined to flourish spiritually, physically and financially — and share the wealth with others. His ministry's 1,500-acre campus, behind an iron gate a half-hour drive from Forth Worth, is testament to his success. It includes a church, a private airstrip, a hangar for the ministry's $17.5 million jet and other aircraft, and a $6 million church-owned lakefront mansion. Already a well-known figure, Copeland has come under greater scrutiny in recent months. He is one target of a Senate Finance Committee investigation into allegations of questionable spending and lax financial accountability at six large televangelist organizations that preach health-and-wealth theology. All have denied wrongdoing. But Copeland has fought back the hardest, refusing to answer most questions from the inquiry's architect, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa. Copeland's church also has invited an Internal Revenue Service audit, which would keep information private, and has launched a sophisticated Web site, Believers Stand United, to "help set the record straight." The Senate committee didn't set out to determine whether Copeland or the others broke the law, although it could provide information to the Internal Revenue Service if something seems flagrantly wrong, a committee aide said. The main goal, Grassley has said, is to figure out whether existing tax laws governing churches are adequate, which could carry sweeping implications for all religious organizations. The committee could subpoena Copeland if he remains uncooperative. Neither he nor John Copeland, his son and the ministry's chief executive officer, responded to interview requests. But Lawrence Swicegood, spokesman for Kenneth Copeland Ministries, said in written responses to questions that no Copeland family members receive improper benefits through their ties to the church. All revenue from the church's business interests — including an oil and natural gas company it owns — go into the church, Swicegood said. He said that Kenneth Copeland has never exercised his veto power over board decisions, a provision meant for emergency use. Even so, Swicegood said, the board is scheduled to meet in August to vote on taking away that ability. ____ Kenneth Copeland has always dreamed big. Growing up in West Texas next to an Army air base, Copeland wanted to fly. He also wanted to sing pop songs. He realized both ambitions and didn't stop there. In 1957, when he was 20, Copeland scored a Top 40 hit called "Pledge of Love" and sang on "American Bandstand." The journey that led to the pulpit began several years later. Copeland had a born-again experience and enrolled at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla. He worked as a pilot and chauffeur for Roberts himself. Copeland was greatly influenced by Tulsa prosperity preacher Kenneth Hagin, locking himself in the garage with Hagin's tapes for seven days before moving back to Texas to start his ministry in the late 1960s. Now a 500-employee operation with a budget in the tens of millions of dollars, Kenneth Copeland Ministries has won supporters worldwide through its crusades and conferences, prayer request network, disaster relief work, magazine and television program. Kenneth Copeland Ministries is organized under the tax code as a church, so it gets a layer of privacy not afforded large secular and religious nonprofit groups that must disclose budgets and salaries. Pastors' pay must be "reasonable" under the federal tax code, a term that gives churches wide latitude. Copeland's current salary is not made public by his ministry. However, the church disclosed in a property-tax exemption application that his wages were $364,577 in 1995; Copeland's wife, Gloria, earned $292,593. It's not clear whether those figures include other earnings, such as special offerings for guest preaching or book royalties. Another 13 Copeland relatives were on the church's payroll that year. In the 1980s, Copeland's church purchased land on the shores of Eagle Mountain Lake from the estate of a Texas oilman. Afterward, it discovered added value underground: an oil and gas field. Grassley, the senator leading the televangelist inquiry, has quizzed Copeland about Security Petrol Inc., a wholly owned — and for-profit — subsidiary of the church created in 1997 to manage that resource. Swicegood said Security Petrol was established to protect the church from the liability risk of oil and gas production and to minimize interference with the church's religious activities. No company officials — including John Copeland, its president — has received compensation or profits from the company, and all revenue goes to the church for general operations, Swicegood said. Reserves from gas wells in the church's name were valued at $23 million last year, county records show. Speaking at a ministers' conference in January, Kenneth Copeland accused Grassley of twisting reality to make it look like the natural gas "was making us rich off of the ministry's property. Bull. That's stupid." It's not the only business venture tied to the church. While natural gas platforms sprouted on church land, John Copeland, a self-described "cowboy at heart," pursued a side business in cattle and horses. Beginning in 1993, John Copeland leased church land to run his business, El Rancho Fe, Spanish for "Ranch of Faith." Five years later, the church separately sold John Copeland land for his ranch and residence, Swicegood said. Swicegood said appraisals were done to determine fair market value for leasing and selling the land, adding that the lease benefits the church. John Copeland must improve the land, and county officials confirmed the church gets a roughly $100,000 annual tax break for putting it to agricultural use. The church board approved the transactions. While the purchase price is not public record, the 33-acre property would have been worth about $93,000 that year, said John Marshall, executive director of the Tarrant Appraisal District. The land is now valued at $554,160 by the district. Until recently, El Rancho Fe sold registered American Quarter Horses and three other horse breeds. On its Web site, convenient location and the integrity of the Copeland name were used as selling points. "We are a family you know and a family you trust," it said. John Copeland and his wife, Marty, no longer sell horses but continue to operate the cattle business, Swicegood said. Ellen Aprill, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a former U.S. Treasury Department official, said leasing and selling land to the church's top executive raises concerns. Under IRS rules, nonprofits can be penalized or lose their tax-exempt status if an executive, board member or other insider receives an economic benefit above and beyond what the organization gets in return. "The church and its board must take great care to make sure the payments are fair to the church," Aprill said. "The church says it does. But is not clear how we can know." ___ Located in an office complex in a north Dallas suburb, Integrity Media is the kind of company that plays a little-known but important role in the world of televangelism: negotiating the purchase of television time for Christian ministries. Douglas Neece, the company's president, said Kenneth Copeland Ministries is Integrity Media's biggest client, accounting for just over 50 percent of its business. Neece is Kenneth Copeland's brother-in-law. Neece's son, Joel, also works for the company. The church's board was informed of Neece's relationship to the Copelands, Swicegood said. Their television time is bought at market rates and the ministry gets a discount from Integrity Media, he said. Douglas Neece said his company charges a "deeply discounted" commission below the industry standard of 15 percent. "We earn our money," Neece said. "That's just the way it is. "We have nothing to hide." The money involved is substantial. In a 1997 filing in Tarrant County, Copeland's church said it paid a "related party" $22 million for "telecast and mass media expense" that year and received a discount of $1.7 million on the transaction. Similar figures were cited for 1996. Integrity Media, meanwhile, is the parent company to a horse-breeding operation and real estate company that owns a Learjet, records show. Although they are wholly owned subsidiaries of Integrity Media, Neece played down the connections. "The subsidiaries don't have anything to do with the media-buying corporation," he said. "We've had several through the years, and these things are not connected with the Copeland ministry." Whatever the venture — whether it's buying TV time, land deals with a church executive or natural gas wells — Kenneth Copeland Ministries cites its 11-member board of directors as an important check on the organization's integrity. Kenneth Copeland serves as board chairman, and his wife, Gloria, is a board member. Records show other members include or have included fellow televangelists Jesse Duplantis, Mac and Lynne Hammond, and Jerry and Carolyn Savelle; Oklahoma architect Loyal Furry; retired Texas pastor Harold Nichols; and Arkansas businessman John Best. As chairman, Copeland has veto power over any resolution he deems "not in the best financial or operational interests of the Church or not in furtherance of the nonprofit religious purposes of the Church," church bylaws say. Such veto power is highly unusual, say academics who study nonprofits. Swicegood said the provision was meant to give Copeland emergency power to prevent the church from doing anything "repugnant to its Christian purposes and mission" — although the bylaws don't lay that out. Swicegood said the church plans to remove that provision and adopt others that "reflect contemporary best practices in nonprofit governance." Board member Best, in a written response to questions, said he's received "100 percent accessibility to anything I wanted to see and have always seen the highest level of integrity and honesty." Other board members either declined comment, did not respond to interview requests or could not be located. The church has emphasized that board members act in the church's best interest. Some board members, however, receive a perk that experts like Hill, of the University of Miami, said undermines their independence. While board members don't get salaries, some who are ministers get paid for speaking at church events through offerings and honorariums, Swicegood confirmed. The sums involved are usually kept secret. But in seeking tax exemption for its aircraft fleet in the late 1990s, the church revealed that it paid board members a total of $87,000 in "cash contributions" and almost $1 million in honorariums and "benefit purposes" in 1996 and '97. Swicegood said the church's independent compensation committee approves all payments to board members. Marilyn Phelan, a Texas Tech University law professor and author on nonprofit law, said the practice could pose problems in an IRS audit. Both the IRS and Texas state law prohibit benefits beyond reasonable compensation for insiders, including board members, she said. If violations are found, nonprofits can lose their tax-exempt status and board members can face penalty taxes. As the Senate Finance Committee considers its next step, Copeland is not backing down. His ministry is portraying the inquiry as an attack on religious liberty. At the same time, it is moving forward with a big fund-raising project: soliciting donations for new television equipment so Copeland can be broadcast in high-definition. ___ Eric Gorski can be reached at egorski(at) AP researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this story.

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Tony Blair's Leap of Faith

TIME [Time Warner] - By Michael Elliott - May 28, 2008 BETHLEHEM -- In 1910, when Bethlehem was a town in a sleepy province of the Ottoman Empire, a local man built a magnificent house on the main road from Jerusalem to Hebron. Made from the region's limestone-whose shades, from pale honey to dazzling white, give the Holy Land its distinctive palette-the house was built around courtyards and fountains in the Ottoman style; frescoes and mosaics graced its walls and ceilings. In the 1930s, the man's family went bankrupt. The house was later used as a prison by the British, when they governed Palestine under a League of Nations mandate; it then did service as a police academy and a school. But in 2000 the old house was converted into a hotel. Closed during the second intifadeh, the Jacir Palace InterContinental reopened its doors in 2005. On the evening of May 21, hundreds of business leaders from the region and beyond flowed through the halls of the hotel, past banks of honeysuckle and jasmine, into the garden, where cooks grilled chicken on giant charcoal burners and served baba ghanoush, tabbouleh and baklava. Participants at a conference on investment opportunities in Palestine, they talked up the prospects of the local information-technology industry (whose products, which can be whizzed to markets electronically, are not subject to the whims of Israeli border guards) and bragged about the performance of the Palestine stock exchange. At the center of the crowd-trim, smiling and looking a lot more relaxed than he did a year ago, when he resigned as Britain's Prime Minister after 10 years at the post-was Tony Blair, the special envoy to the Middle East of the U.S.-Russia-European Union-U.N. "Quartet" of powers. On May 30 in New York, Blair, 55, formally unveils The Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which, among other things, is dedicated to proving that collaboration among those of different religious faiths can help address some of the world's most pressing social problems. A quick look around the crowd at the Jacir Palace, and you might think that Blair's work was already done-here were Jews, Christians and Muslims working together to make life better for ordinary Palestinians. A more measured assessment would lead to a different, more depressing conclusion. The Jacir Palace is a few minutes' walk from a checkpoint at the looming security wall that Israel built after the second intifadeh, to physically separate the Jewish state from the West Bank. In Bethlehem, a long-established Arab Christian community is shrinking in the face of growing Islamic militancy. Even the Church of the Nativity (carved up by the Orthodox, Catholic, Assyrian, Coptic and Armenian denominations, a symbol of the divisions within Christianity) has not been immune to the clash of faiths. In 2002 Palestinian militants took refuge there, and together with civilians inside the church, were besieged by Israeli soldiers for 39 days. Blair understands very well that the Palestine-Israel conflict is about land, about culture, about competing narratives of history-but that it is also about faith. "Muslims often say of extremists," he says, "It's really got nothing to do with religion. And I say to them, These people say that they're doing it in the name of God, so we can't say that it doesn't matter. It does matter." In two long conversations with Blair recently, I explored his conviction that religion matters-that it shapes what people believe and how they behave, that it is vital to understanding our world, that it can be used to improve the lot of humankind. But if not engaged seriously, Blair thinks, faith can be used to induce ignorance, fear and a withdrawal of communities into mutually antagonistic spheres at just the time that globalization is breaking down barriers between peoples and nations. "Faith is part of our future," Blair says, "and faith and the values it brings with it are an essential part of making globalization work." For Blair, the goal is to rescue faith from the twin challenges of irrelevance-the idea that religion is no more than an interesting aspect of history-and extremism. Blair and those working with him think religion is key to the global agenda. "You can't hope to understand what's happening in the world if you don't know that religion is a very important force in people's lives," says Ruth Turner, 37, formerly a top aide to Blair in 10 Downing Street, who will head the foundation. "You can't make the world work properly unless you understand that, while not everyone will believe in God or have a spiritual life, a lot of people will." Blair, she says, has been thinking about these issues "for decades and decades and decades." Over time, says Blair of the foundation's work, "this is how I want to spend the rest of my life." Doing God In Blair's home country (which is also mine), that comment will be met with a snort of derision. Blair is deeply religious-the most openly devout political leader of Britain since William Ewart Gladstone more than 100 years ago. He handles questions about religion deftly. He doesn't back down. His longtime press secretary and consigliere, Alastair Campbell, remembers Blair in 1996 at a school in Scotland where a gunman had killed 16 children and a teacher. In a bloodstained classroom, Campbell asked Blair, "What does your God make of this?" Blair, says Campbell, stopped and replied, "Just because man is bad, it does not mean that God is not good." There was, says Campbell, a force, a sense of conviction in Blair. All of which would be fine if Blair were, say, a U.S. politician-and so expected to profess his faith even if he didn't have much of one. But, at least in its public aspect, Britain is one of the most aggressively secular societies on the planet. Though Blair went to lengths not to make a big deal of his faith when in office ("We don't do God," Campbell once said, though he now insists he did so only to get rid of a journalist who had overrun his allotted time), that did not stop the British from making fun, or worse, of Blair for his religious beliefs. For many Britons, the fact that Blair led them into a deeply unpopular war in Iraq is reason enough to question his sincerity. And the supposed "God is on our side" messianism of George W. Bush-Blair's geopolitical partner-is widely loathed in Britain. But long before Iraq or his association with Bush, Blair's faith was a source of something like contempt. For many in the British media, there is no fault worse than to be a sanctimonious "Creeping Jesus." During Blair's time in office, the satirical magazine Private Eye ran a regular (and very funny) column in the form of a parish newsletter, with Blair cast as the cloyingly earnest vicar of St. Albion church. Over the years, I have been struck by the vehement unwillingness of people in Britain to accept that Blair's faith is genuine or that it might provide genuine insights into our global condition. His religiosity was "incomprehensible," one well-known intellectual sniffed recently; I have heard Blair's recent conversion to Catholicism, a faith that has long had a following among posh Brits (think Brideshead Revisited), explained on the grounds of "snob appeal." This is nonsense. Blair's parents were not churchgoers. But John Rentoul, Blair's first biographer, pointed out years ago that Blair's faith had been noted by those around him since he was a small child. Blair "rediscovered" his Christianity, he told me, while a student at Oxford in the 1970s. He was part of an informal late-night wine-and-cigarettes discussion group led by Peter Thompson, a charismatic Australian student and Anglican priest then in his 30s. (Thompson, who now lives in Melbourne, does not talk about his relationship with Blair.) I went up to Oxford just before Blair did; it was absorbed with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, with a sprinkling of student politics on top, and to espouse religion of any sort was to mark yourself as something of a freak. (My own family was deeply religious, something I successfully hid from my Oxford friends for years.) Those in Oxford's "God squad," Blair remembers, were at "the cutting edge of weirdism." Thompson, by contrast, Blair told me, was "an amazing guy-the first person really to give me a sense that the faith I intuitively felt was something that could be reconciled with being a fun-loving, interesting, open person." In 1974 Blair was received into the Church of England at his college chapel. Blair's faith took on an extra dimension when he met and married Cherie Booth-like him, a young lawyer-after graduating. Blair's wife is a devout Catholic; not a posh Catholic, but a Liverpool-Irish, working-class, convent-educated girl with cousins who became priests. In her recent memoir, Cherie makes plain the centrality of religion to their relationship. Of the young Blair, she says, "Religion was more important to him than anyone I had ever met outside the priesthood." She and Blair would spend hours "talking about God and what we were here for. I don't think it would be too strong to say it was this that brought us together." Their four children have been brought up as Catholics, and Blair has worshiped at Catholic churches for more than 20 years. But Britain, for all its secularism, is still nominally a Protestant nation with an established Protestant church; when Princess Anne's son Peter Phillips-11th in succession to the throne-married on May 17, his Canadian wife had to renounce her Catholicism. It was not until Blair left office that his long spiritual journey reached a destination that many had long anticipated, and he was received into the Catholic Church. What Came Before Blair says he converted to catholicism to fully share his family's faith. But he plainly enjoys being part of a worldwide community with shared values, traditions and rituals. And why not? In a sense, the Catholic Church has long embodied the attributes of globalization that now engage Blair. Long before there were multinational companies, long before there were global NGOs like M�decins Sans Fronti�res, long before there were international organizations like the U.N., there were religions-communities of faith with a global reach, whose adherents tramped from one end of the earth to the other, saving souls. To be sure, in their zeal to convert, missionaries often mixed faith with cruelty, as Spain's blood-drenched conquest of Mexico in the name of God abundantly proved. But as Nayan Chanda of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization argued in his recent book Bound Together, the great religions were also intimately associated with the growth of trade and human contact. "For all the horror it visited upon people," wrote Chanda, "missionary activity had the effect of shrinking the world. The spread of proselytizing faiths brought dispersed communities into contact." Coffee, for example, traveled with Islam (which forbade the consumption of wine), spreading from Yemen throughout the Arab world, then into Turkey and Europe. The constant back-and-forth of Buddhist scholars between India and China nourished the Silk Road as an avenue of commerce. Sometimes religious divines explicitly advanced the process of globalization long before anyone knew of the word. I collect maps of the provinces of China drawn by Martino Martini, a 17th century Italian Jesuit missionary whose exquisite cartography revealed China to the world-and, indeed, to the Chinese themselves. In the past decade, however, this old connection between religion and globalization has been augmented in a surprising way. Faith-based groups and social activists, two communities that long treated each other with distrust, thinking themselves poles apart politically, have come together to tackle issues of global poverty and health. For once, you can date precisely when a movement took off: it was in June 1999 at the G-8 summit of industrial democracies, in Cologne, Germany. I vividly remember arriving in town, expecting debate to be dominated by a rehash of the Kosovo war, which had ended that week. But Cologne had been hijacked by tens of thousands of supporters of Jubilee 2000, a campaign to forgive debts owed by the world's poorest countries. With its roots in Europe's churches, Jubilee 2000 brought together, in a great ring around the city, hymn-singing, sandal-wearing nuns, teenage kids and veterans of progressive politics. As Bono of the rock band U2 puts it, the movement saw "activists, punk rockers and priests marching in step." In Cologne, Bono and his fellow Irish rocker Bob Geldof had an audience with Blair. Bono says that Blair was "the first head of state with whom we didn't have to argue that debt cancellation was not about charity, but justice." (Campbell remembers the meeting a little differently. Blair, he writes in his diaries, said debt relief was like Mount Everest. Bono replied, "When you see Everest, Tony, you don't look at it, you f___ing climb it.") I had breakfast with Blair in his hotel room the next morning, anxious to know how the talks on Kosovo had gone. In hindsight, I'd missed the key point of the weekend; in its Cologne communiqué, the G-8 countries committed themselves to debt relief, proof that a new and powerful alliance had been born. Blair now wants to tap into the global links that have been built between development activists and people of faith. "Faith," he says, "can be a civilizing force in globalization," which will doubtless be the theme of the course on the topic that he will be teaching at Yale this fall. His foundation will seek to partner with organizations to advance the U.N.'s eight Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000. Blair's first target is malaria, which kills around 850,000 children each year; many of these deaths could be easily avoided by prophylactic bedding. "If you got churches and mosques and those of the Jewish faith working together to provide the bed nets that are necessary to eliminate malaria," says Blair, "what a fantastic thing that would be. That would show faith in action, it would show the importance of cooperation between faiths, and it would show what faith can do for progress." In its work in support of the Millennium Development Goals, the foundation will use its funds-it aims to build up a war chest of several hundred million dollars-to work with others active in the developing world. Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, for example, uses church-based clinics to provide basic health care in Africa. (Warren will serve on the foundation's advisory board.) I spoke by phone recently to Ari Johnson, 25, a Harvard medical student now working in Mali, West Africa, with Project Muso Ladamunen, a small Washington-based organization, who made Blair's point for him. "We've seen how potent the involvement of communities of different faiths can be," Johnson says, describing an international fund-raising effort around the Jewish festival of Sukkot to raise bed nets for Mali. But inspiring though such tales may be, Blair will not find his work easy. Religion is not an uncontroversial matter in the developing world-witness the Catholic Church's doctrine on abortion and contraception or the discrimination that women face in many Islamic societies. Moreover, in many nations, the legacy of the "war on terror" and the invasion of Iraq-both of which Blair is deeply associated with-have soured the environment for anything that looks even remotely like Western Christian proselytizing. That is why the foundation stresses that it hopes to work with groups from six faiths: the Abrahamic trinity of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, together with Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs. But Blair's history as a partner of Bush-and hence the skepticism with which his good faith is held-means he has high hurdles to leap if he is to turn his fine words into action. Coming Together Blair says his foundation will try to ensure that faiths encounter one another "through action as much as dialogue." But the dialogue is important. In our conversations, Blair kept harking back to the idea that people of different faiths need to learn more about one another and understand where they can work in common. The alternative, he thinks, is that religious people will be tempted to define themselves in exclusion to others rather than in cooperation with them-with potentially disastrous results. Says Bono: "I think he wants to dedicate the rest of his life to decrying the concept of a clash of civilizations." Bono told me that Blair once gave him a copy of the Koran, at a time when Blair was reading a passage from the holy book every night to try to understand Islam better. Eboo Patel, a young Muslim from Chicago who is the founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, hopes Blair will bring a new dynamism to an interfaith movement that can sometimes seem to consist of the same people meeting endlessly to discuss the same issues. One senses, however, that it is not just relations among faiths that Blair wants to influence. It is also the relationship between those who rejoice in their faith and those who think religion is something quaint, the stuff of history books. And here Blair's religious agenda intersects another of his concerns: the growing distance between U.S. and European attitudes toward the world. Blair has enough old-fashioned British reserve to have his doubts about the way religion is used in the American public square. Whenever Blair was on a foreign trip, says a close aide, his staff had to find him a church in which to worship each Sunday-and then try to make sure that the press didn't learn of it. By contrast, says this aide, "Bush and Clinton are always photographed coming out of church holding a Bible." But at the same time, Blair insists that Europeans need to understand the importance faith has in American life-and recognize that in its all-pervasive secularism, it is Western Europe, not the U.S., that is out of step with much of the rest of the world. "Europe," says Blair, "is more exceptional than sometimes it likes to think of itself." That is true. But it is also true that if Blair's foundation is to take off, it will need support from Europe-and especially from his home country-as much as from the U.S. That is by no means assured. By the time he left office, Blair was deeply unpopular in Britain, and not just because of Iraq; Britons were tired of what they saw as a government of constant spin, tinged, toward the end, with sleaze. Though Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, has seen his own popularity plummet, there is no sign yet that Blair's reputation in the U.K. has been rehabilitated. Blair is always careful to downplay the role his faith played in complex matters of life and death, such as the invasion of Iraq. "You don't put a hotline up to God and get the answers," he says. At the same time, he plainly thinks his faith has helped him make tough decisions. "The worst thing in politics," he says, "is when you're so scared of losing support that you don't do what you think is the right thing. What faith can do is not tell you what is right but give you the strength to do it." But in a nation like Britain, where cynicism is a way of life, that distinction-between faith as a guide to action and faith as an aid to decision-is almost bound to be lost. Blair, the chattering classes of London will say, is the same smug, self-satisfied politician, immune to criticism, that he always was. In nearly 25 years of watching Blair, I've never thought that was a fair judgment, and having spent time with him in the past few weeks, I'm more persuaded than ever that it's wrong. Blair is not without faults. In the Middle East, where he has so far achieved little concrete success as the Quartet's envoy, it is uncomfortably common to hear the claim that he spreads himself too thin. He can, no question, come across as a bit cocksure in the rightness of his judgments. But he swims in deep waters. He is convinced, he told me, that in the rich world, "without spiritual values, there is an emptiness that cannot be filled by material goods and wealth." He understands that faith is what gives meaning to the lives of billions, and he passionately believes that the world would be a better place if people of faith harnessed their talents together in aid of the common good. Perhaps most important, his faith is not exclusive. Blair has a generosity of spirit that enables him to see that beliefs other than his can contribute to mutual goals. "I think he knows he has a steep incline ahead on a long journey," says Bono. "And I don't think it will be his considerable powers of persuasion or his winning smile that will have him seated at a table breaking bread, or taboos. It will be the true respect in which he holds the other pilgrims.",8816,1810020,00.html FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Francis Schaeffer's son: Dad 'worse' than Obama's pastor

Charges black minister's 'anti-America' rhetoric mild by comparison WORLDNETDAILY - By Art Moore - March 21, 2008 The anti-America rhetoric of Barack Obama's Chicago pastor is mild in comparison to pronouncements made by Francis Schaffer in the 1970s and 1980s, charges the late evangelical thinker's son. Frank Schaeffer, who has written a book distancing himself from his evangelical roots, asserts in a newspaper column that Obama has been unfairly "smeared" by his association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., the Illinois senator's self-described spiritual mentor and moral compass. Schaeffer, writing in the Baltimore Community Times, charges "the far-right Republicans and the stop-at-nothing Clintons are using the 'scandal' of Obama's preacher to undermine the first black American candidate with a serious shot at the presidency." "Every Sunday thousands of right-wing white preachers (following in my father's footsteps) rail against America's sins from tens of thousands of pulpits," Schaeffer writes. "They tell us that America is complicit in the 'murder of the unborn,' has become 'Sodom' by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children." . . . . In his column, Frank Schaeffer, meanwhile, argued "right-wing preachers" say, "as my dad often did, that we are, 'under the judgment of God.' They call America evil and warn of imminent destruction. By comparison Obama's minister's shouted 'controversial' comments were mild. . . . He argues that "while Dad and I crisscrossed America denouncing our nation's sins, instead of getting in trouble we became darlings of the Republican Party." "We were rewarded for our 'stand' by people such as Congressman Jack Kemp, the Fords, Reagan and the Bush family," Schaeffer writes. "The top Republican leadership depended on preachers and agitators like us to energize their rank and file. No one called us un-American." 'Christian Manifesto' The highly influential Francis Schaeffer, who died in 1984, is known for his intellectual defense of Christianity and challenge to secular humanism, which he described as a worldview in which "man is the measure of all things." He was featured in two film series produced by his son that were widely viewed in evangelical churches in the 1970s and 1980s, "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?" and "How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture.' An ordained Presbyterian minister, Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith, also an accomplished author, came to Switzerland from the U.S. in the 1950s and established L'Abri Fellowship, which became a crossroads for many spiritual seeker and now has branches around the world. Many evangelical leaders today regard him as an important influence on their thinking, and he is credited with helping inspire political activism by evangelicals, particularly the pro-life movement. Schaeffer's "A Christian Manifesto" in 1981 - a response to the communist and humanist manifestos - spoke of a decline of commitment to objective truth in society's institutions that had come about "not because of a conspiracy, but because the church has forsaken its duty to be the salt of the culture." In his column, Frank Schaeffer referred to "A Christian Manifesto," calling it an "immensely influential America-bashing" book that "sailed under the radar of the major media who, back when it was published in 1980, were not paying particular attention to best-selling religious books." He points to a passage in the book in which his father wrote: "If there is a legitimate reason for the use of force [against the U.S. government] ... then at a certain point force is justifiable." Frank Schaeffer writes that when his father purportedly "denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush Sr." Francis Schaeffer did say Christians had an obligation at the time of Hitler to defy the state, just as they do now to stop abortion. But he made it clear he was not advocating theocracy. "State officials must know that we are serious about stopping abortion," he wrote. " … First, we must make definite that we are in no way talking about any kind of theocracy. Let me say that with great emphasis. Witherspoon, Jefferson, the American founders had no idea of a theocracy. That is made plain by the First Amendment, and we must continually emphasize the fact that we are not talking about some kind, or any kind, of a theocracy." Frank Schaeffer points to another passage as purported evidence of his father's "anti-American" rhetoric. "In the United States the materialistic, humanistic world view is being taught exclusively in most state schools. ... There is an obvious parallel between this and the situation in Russia (the USSR). And we really must not be blind to the fact that indeed in the public schools in the United States all religious influence is as forcibly forbidden as in the Soviet Union. ... " When "A Christian Manifesto" came out, Frank Schaeffer argues, "no conservative political leader associated with his father" was "running for cover." Instead, he says, his father was a guest at the White House, "a hero to the evangelical community and a leading political instigator." If his father's words were put in the mouth of Obama's pastor or any black American preacher, "people would be accusing that preacher of treason," he contends. "Yet when we of the white religious right denounced America, white conservative Americans and top political leaders called our words 'godly' and 'prophetic' and a 'call to repentance,'" says Frank Schaeffer. He declares the "hypocrisy of the right denouncing Obama, because of his minister's words, is staggering." "They are the same people who argue for the right to 'bear arms' as 'insurance' to limit government power," he says. "They are the same people that in the early 1980s roared and cheered when I called down damnation on America as 'fallen away from God' at their national meetings where I was keynote speaker, including the annual meeting of the ultraconservative Southern Baptist convention, and the religious broadcasters that I addressed." Today, he says, "we have a marriage of convenience between the right-wing fundamentalists who hate Obama, and the 'progressive' Clintons who are playing the race card through their own smear machine." - - - - FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Terrorists' assignment: Protect Barack Obama

'Maybe the Israelis will try something,' hints militant bodyguard WORLDNETDAILY - By Aaron Klein - July 20, 2008 JERUSALEM - Members of the most active West Bank terror organization are set to serve in security forces being deployed to protect Sen. Barack Obama during his trip to the West Bank tomorrow, WND has learned. Obama is due to visit Israeli officials in Jerusalem and leaders of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank city of Ramallah as part of a wider Middle Eastern and European tour that includes Jordan, France and Germany. According to security officials coordinating deployments of forces with the PA for Obama's Ramallah visit, members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah's declared military wing, have been called upon by the PA to participate in the protection of Obama, particularly in securing the perimeter during a scheduled meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. . . . Brigades leaders, speaking to WND on condition of anonymity, confirmed they will participate in protecting Obama as official members of the PA's security forces. Many Brigades members, including the group's chiefs, serve openly in Fatah's Force 17 presidential guard units and the Palestinian Preventative Security Services; hundreds of Force 17 and Preventative officers are slated to secure Ramallah during Obama's visit there. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades members are slated to serve in a third ring of security forces patrolling the periphery of Abbas' Ramallah compound during the Palestinian leader's meeting with Obama. . . . Various high-profile Al Aqsa Brigades terrorists serve in Fatah's security forces, including those in Ramallah. The current chief of Fatah's Force 17, Abu Hayyet, is accused by Israel of planning or involvement in at least 10 deadly terror attacks, according to Israeli security officials. - - - - FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

A Mystery in the Middle East

STRATFOR - By George Friedman - April 10, 2008 The Arab-Israeli region of the Middle East is filled with rumors of war. That is about as unusual as the rising of the sun, so normally it would not be worth mentioning. But like the proverbial broken clock that is right twice a day, such rumors occasionally will be true. In this case, we don't know that they are true, and certainly it's not the rumors that are driving us. But other things - minor and readily explicable individually - have drawn our attention to the possibility that something is happening. The first thing that drew our attention was a minor, routine matter. Back in February, the United States started purchasing oil for its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The SPR is a reserve of crude oil stored in underground salt domes. Back in February, it stood at 96.2 percent of capacity, which is pretty full as far as we are concerned. But the U.S. Department of Energy decided to increase its capacity. This move came in spite of record-high oil prices and the fact that the purchase would not help matters. It also came despite potential political fallout, since during times like these there is generally pressure to release reserves. Part of the step could have been the bureaucracy cranking away, and part of it could have been the feeling that the step didn't make much difference. But part of it could have been based on real fears of a disruption in oil supplies. By itself, the move meant nothing. But it did cause us to become thoughtful. Also in February, someone assassinated Imad Mughniyah, a leader of Hezbollah, in a car bomb explosion in Syria. It was assumed the Israelis had killed him, although there were some suspicions the Syrians might have had him killed for their own arcane reasons. In any case, Hezbollah publicly claimed the Israelis killed Mughniyah, and therefore it was expected the militant Shiite group would take revenge. In the past, Hezbollah responded not by attacking Israel but by attacking Jewish targets elsewhere, as in the Buenos Aires attacks of 1992 and 1994. In March, the United States decided to dispatch the USS Cole, then under Sixth Fleet command, to Lebanese coastal waters. Washington later replaced it with two escorts from the Nassau (LHA-4) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), reportedly maintaining a minor naval presence in the area. (Most of the ESG, on a regularly scheduled deployment, is no more than a few days sail from the coast, as it remains in the Mediterranean Sea.) The reason given for the American naval presence was to serve as a warning to the Syrians not to involve themselves in Lebanese affairs. The exact mission of the naval presence off the Levantine coast - and the exact deterrent function it served - was not clear, but there they were. The Sixth Fleet has gone out of its way to park and maintain U.S. warships off the Lebanese coast. Hezbollah leaders being killed by the Israelis and the presence of American ships off the shores of Mediterranean countries are not news in and of themselves. These things happen. The killing of Mughniyah is notable only to point out that as much as Israel might have wanted him dead, the Israelis knew this fight would escalate. But anyone would have known this. So all we know is that whoever killed Mughniyah wanted to trigger a conflict. The U.S. naval presence off the Levantine coast is notable in that Washington, rather busy with matters elsewhere, found the bandwidth to get involved here as well. With the situation becoming tense, the Israelis announced in March that they would carry out an exercise in April called Turning Point 2. Once again, an Israeli military exercise is hardly interesting news. But the Syrians apparently got quite interested. After the announcement, the Syrians deployed three divisions - two armored, one mechanized - to the Lebanese-Syrian border in the Bekaa Valley, the western part of which is Hezbollah's stronghold. The Syrians didn't appear to be aggressive. Rather, they deployed these forces in a defensive posture, in a way walling off their part of the valley. The Syrians are well aware that in the event of a conventional war with Israel, they would experience a short but exciting life, as they say. They thus are hardly going to attack Israel. The deployment therefore seemed intended to keep the Israelis on the Lebanese side of the border - on the apparent assumption the Israelis were going into the Bekaa Valley. Despite Israeli and Syrian denials of the Syrian troop buildup along the border, Stratfor sources maintain that the buildup in fact happened. Normally, Israel would be jumping at the chance to trumpet Syrian aggression in response to these troop movements, but, instead, the Israelis downplayed the buildup. When the Israelis kicked off Turning Point 2, which we regard as a pretty interesting name, it turned out to be the largest exercise in Israeli history. It involved the entire country, and was designed to test civil defenses and the ability of the national command authority to continue to function in the event of an attack with unconventional weapons - chemical and nuclear, we would assume. This was a costly exercise. It also involved calling up reserves, some of them for the exercise, and, by some reports, others for deployment to the north against Syria. Israel does not call up reserves casually. Reserve call-ups are expensive and disrupt the civilian economy. These appear small, but in the environment of Turning Point 2, it would not be difficult to mobilize larger forces without being noticed. The Syrians already were deeply concerned by the Israeli exercise. Eventually, the Lebanese government got worried, too, and started to evacuate some civilians from the South. Hezbollah, which still hadn't retaliated for the Mughniyah assassination, also claimed the Israelis were about to attack it, and reportedly went on alert and mobilized its forces. The Americans, who normally issue warnings and cautions to everyone, said nothing to try to calm the situation. They just sat offshore on their ships. It is noteworthy that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak canceled a scheduled visit to Germany this week. The cancellation came immediately after the reports of the Syrian military redeployment were released. Obviously, Barak needed to be in Israel for Turning Point 2, but then he had known about the exercise for at least a month. Why cancel at the last minute? While we are discussing diplomacy, we note that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney visited Oman - a country with close relations with Iran - and then was followed by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. By itself not interesting, but why the high-level interest in Oman at this point? Now let's swing back to September 2007, when the Israelis bombed something in Syria near the Turkish border. As we discussed at the time, for some reason the Israelis refused to say what they had attacked. It made no sense for them not to trumpet what they carefully leaked - namely, that they had attacked a nuclear facility. Proving that Syria had a secret nuclear program would have been a public relations coup for Israel. Nevertheless, no public charges were leveled. And the Syrians remained awfully calm about the bombing. Rumors now are swirling that the Israelis are about to reveal publicly that they in fact bombed a nuclear reactor provided to Syria by North Korea. But this news isn't all that big. Also rumored is that the Israelis will claim Iranian complicity in building the reactor. And one Israeli TV station reported April 8 that Israel really had discovered Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, which it said had been smuggled to Syria. Now why the Bush administration wouldn't have trumpeted news of the Syrian reactor worldwide in September 2007 is beyond us, but there obviously were some reasons - assuming the TV report is true, which we have no way of establishing. In fact, we have no idea why the Israelis are choosing this moment to rehash the bombing of this site. But whatever their reason, it certainly raises a critical question. If the Syrians are developing a nuclear capability, what are the Israelis planning to do about it? No one of these things, by itself, is of very great interest. And taken together they do not provide the means for a clear forecast. Nevertheless, a series of rather ordinary events, taken together, can constitute something significant. Tensions in the Middle East are moving well beyond the normal point, and given everything that is happening, events are moving to a point where someone is likely to take military action. Whether Hezbollah will carry out a retaliatory strike or Israel a pre-emptive strike in Lebanon, or whether the Israelis' real target is Iran, tensions systematically have been ratcheted up to the point where we, in our simple way, are beginning to wonder whether something has to give. All together, these events are fairly extraordinary. Ignoring all rhetoric - and the Israelis have gone out of their way to say that they are not looking for a fight - it would seem that each side, but particularly the Americans and Israelis, have gone out of their way to signal that they are expecting conflict. The Syrians have also signaled that they expect conflict, and Hezbollah always claims there is about to be conflict. What is missing is this: who will fight whom, and why, and why now. The simple explanation is that Israel wants a second round with Hezbollah. But while that might be true, it doesn't explain everything else that has happened. Most important, it doesn't explain the simultaneous revelations about the bombing of Syria. It also doesn't explain the U.S. naval deployment. Is the United States about to get involved in a war with Hezbollah, a war that the Israelis should handle themselves? Are the Israelis going to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad - and then wind up with a Sunni government, or worse, an Israeli occupation of Syria? None of that makes a lot of sense. In truth, all of this may dissolve into nothing much. In intelligence analysis, however, sometimes a set of not-fully-coherent facts must be reported, and that is what we are doing now. There is no clear pattern; there is no obvious direction this is taking. Nevertheless, when we string together events from February until now, we see a persistently escalating pattern of behavior. In fact, what we can say most clearly is that there is escalation, without being able to say what is the clear direction of the escalation or the purpose. We would like to wrap this up with a crystal clear explanation and forecast. But we can't. The motives of the various actors are opaque; and taken separately, the individual events all have quite innocent explanations. We are not prepared to say war is imminent, nor even what sort of war there would be. We are simply prepared to say that the course of events since February - and really since the September 2007 attack on Syria - have been startling, and they appear to be reaching some sort of hard-to-understand crescendo. The bombing of Syria symbolizes our confusion. Why would Syria want a nuclear reactor and why put it on the border of Turkey, a country the Syrians aren't particularly friendly with? If the Syrians had a nuclear reactor, why would the Israelis be coy about it? Why would the Americans? Having said nothing for months apart from careful leaks, why are the Israelis going to speak publicly now? And if what they are going to say is simply that the North Koreans provided the equipment, what's the big deal? That was leaked months ago. The events of September 2007 make no sense and have never made any sense. The events we have seen since February make no sense either. That is noteworthy, and we bring it to your attention. We are not saying that the events are meaningless. We are saying that we do not know their meaning. But we can't help but regard them as ominous. FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Media in love with Obama?

Recent polls, McCain agree: Press is twitterpated WORLDNETDAILY - July 22, 2008 A new poll demonstrates Americans believe by a more than three-to-one ratio that the news media is trying to help Sen. Barack Obama win the presidential election this fall, a perception that John McCain has now taken advantage of in a humorous new feature on his website. McCain's front page invites visitors to vote for their favorite of two YouTube videos that feature clips of reporters gushing in affection over the presumptive Democrat candidate and confessing a media bias. Meanwhile, a Rasmussen Reports telephone survey taken even before Americans raised their eyebrows over the New York Times' acceptance of an Obama op-ed piece and rejection of McCain's, found that 49 percent of voters believe most reporters are trying to help Obama with their coverage. Similarly, only 14 percent believe the media is helping Sen. John McCain, and a mere one in four voters (24 percent) believes most reporters offer unbiased news coverage. McCain's website is now poking fun at the media for creating this perception with its new "Media Love" campaign. "It's pretty obvious that the media has a bizarre fascination with Barack Obama," the site reads. "Some may even say it's a love affair. We want you to be the judge. Click here to watch the new video and vote today!" You can view the video that was leading the voting when WND went to press below: [See link below for video] A second, related report released by Rasmussen shows Americans see bias not only in coverage of the candidates, but in major issues as well. A full 50 percent of Americans polled believe the media is making economic conditions seem worse than they really are, and 41 percent believe reporters are trying to make news of the Iraq war seem unfairly negative. Only 25 percent think most reporters present fair coverage of the economy, with the same percentage believing the American people are getting an unbiased picture of Iraq. The poll that asked about candidate coverage found self-described Democrats to be far more trusting of the media than their Republican counterparts. A plurality of Democrats (37 percent) see news coverage as unbiased in the presidential campaign, while 27 percent perceive a slant toward Obama and 21 percent a slant toward McCain. Among Republicans, 78 percent believe reporters are giving Obama a boost, and a mere 10 percent judge the coverage unbiased. Independents, it seems, tend to agree more with the Republicans. Half of the unaffiliated respondents (50 percent) believe reporters are helping Obama, 21 percent perceive unbiased coverage, and a mere 12 percent see a pro-McCain slant. Coupled with the perception of bias is an underlying mistrust of the media, with less than one in three (30 percent) doubting most reporters would hide information hurtful to their preferred candidate, while 25 percent were unsure and 45 percent stating they believed reporters would cover up news that didn't fit their bias. The mistrust of the media, also heavier among Republicans than Democrats, seems to correlate with the way Americans perceive economic issues. Republicans, for example, who are more likely to see media as bashing the economy, are also more likely to view the economy positively. Democrats – who trust the media more and see less of an unfair negative slant – view the economy more negatively. Of those polled, 59 percent of Republicans affirmed the United States has the world's best economy, while a mere 18 percent of Democrats would make the same judgment. The poll also showed Republicans are far more likely to trust a stockbroker than a reporter for their economic news. FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.