WORLD News Service – June 6 2014
Seattle Pacific University Student Stopped Gunman, Saved Lives
Should Truancy Officers Be Keeping Track of Teachers?
Anti-Mosque Today, Anti-Church Tomorrow?
Standing Against Pediatric “Pseudo-science” A conservative pediatrics association is defending kids—and psychotherapy for unwanted same-sex attraction—in court
Second Opinions: Liberal policies at major medical associations are hard pills for conservative doctors to swallow, and some are fighting back with alternative groups
Get Ready for an Economic Doomsday
Muslim Militants Storm Church, Kill 30 in Central African Republic
Seattle Pacific University Student Stopped Gunman, Saved Lives
By Leigh Jones
(WNS)--Officials are hailing a Seattle Pacific University student as a hero for his role in subduing a 26-year-old gunman who came to the small Christian college campus Thursday afternoon to kill as many people as possible.
Friends describe Jon Meis as quiet, gentle, outdoorsy, and deeply committed to his faith.
When Aaron Ybarra entered the Otto Miller Hall at about 3:30 p.m., armed with a shotgun, knife, and rounds of ammunition, Meis was working as a building monitor, sitting at a desk near the door. When the gunman paused to reload his weapon, Meis unleashed the can of pepper spray he always kept with him. While Ybarra was disoriented, Meis tackled him to the ground and restrained him in a choke hold until police arrived and put him in handcuffs.
Police say Ybarra, who was not a student at Seattle Pacific, was obsessed with the Columbine High School massacre, in which two students killed 15 classmates and injured 21 others in 1999. He had even visited the Colorado school.
Neither Meis nor his family are talking about Thursday's incident, but his friends took to Twitter last night to praise his quick thinking and selfless disregard for his own safety. “I'm so proud to know Jon Meis,” Joe Schenck tweeted. “He’s always been an incredible friend. Now he’s a hero. A selfless, courageous man whom I admire greatly.”
Meis is a senior engineering student from Renton, Wash. A family friend told The Seattle Times he’s getting married this summer. “He is very quiet, very devoted to his family,” Melissa Engstrom said. “He had a lot to lose.”
The shooting at Seattle Pacific University has left one person dead and three injured. The suspect is in custody after university staffers disarmed him as he paused to reload his weapon.
Police say the lone gunman entered the Otto Miller building and began shooting. The Christian college of about 4,270 students is located in a residential neighborhood about 10 minutes from downtown Seattle.
A Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman said the victim who died was a man in his 20s. Another victim, a 20-year-old woman, is in surgery with critical injuries. The other two victims, a 24-year-old man and a 22-year-old man, are in satisfactory condition.
Police have not released any details about what happened, including whether the suspected gunman might be among the injured. Shortly after the attack, the university issued a statement online saying the campus was on lockdown. According to police, SWAT teams are continuing to clear each building on the 40-acre campus.
Officials initially said they were looking for a second suspect but later said they had called off that search.
Should Truancy Officers Be Keeping Track of Teachers?
By Emily Scheie
(WNS)--Public school teachers are absent from their classrooms an average of 6 percent of the time, according to a recent study released by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).
“We may be missing one of the most obvious ways to improve teacher quality,” Nancy Waymack from the NCTQ told me. Schools could improve education simply by ensuring regular teachers show up for work.
Of the teachers in the 40 districts surveyed during the 2012-2013 school year, 16 percent were “chronically absent.” This means they missed 18 days or more, equaling about one in 10 days of a normal school year.
Teachers in Cleveland averaged 15.6 absences per year. In Indianapolis, they missed an average of six classes. According to the Center for American Progress, paying for substitute teachers adds up to at least $4 billion annually.
Most teachers took days off for sickness or personal business. But one in every five missed days was for school business and professional development. (This doesn’t include long-term leave for illness or pregnancy, which was excluded from the study.)
Pulling teachers out of the classroom for training is a cost-saving tactic, even though schools must hire substitutes. It can cost more than $2 million a day to train teachers while school is not in session, according to Segun Eubanks, director of teacher quality for the National Education Association. Waymack acknowledged that cost more than hiring substitute teachers. “But then there’s the cost of student learning … [which] often gets missed when you’re doing those cost benefit analyses,” she said.
Many states allow substitutes to have nothing more than a high school diploma. More importantly, studies have shown that regular teachers’ frequent absences hinder student learning. When a teacher misses more than 10 days of school, Waymack said, student learning substantially decreases.
A 2007 National Bureau of Economic Research paper reports that 10 days of teacher absence can have the same disruptive effect on students as changing schools entirely.
The NCTQ study acknowledged that teachers have demanding and stressful jobs, with long work hours in addition to the normal school day. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, applauds teachers for teaching as much as they do: “An overall 94 percent attendance rate shows the extraordinary dedication of teachers across the country.”
But the NCTQ report says districts need to re-examine teacher attendance incentives and policies because “teachers who are missing 10 percent of the school year, regardless of the legitimacy of their reasons, short-change their students.”
Anti-Mosque Today, Anti-Church Tomorrow?
By Ryan Hill
(WNS)--Residents of Murfreesboro, Tenn., will have to get used to crescent moons crowning the two white minarets and emerald green dome of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the mosque’s neighbors who first tried to stop its construction in 2010.
The neighbors claimed their Rutherford County Planning Commission failed to give enough public notice before approving the center’s site plan. They enjoyed brief success when County Judge Robert E. Corlew III ruled in 2012 that the county planning commission had violated Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act. The law requires government bodies to advertise scheduled meetings to the public.
A federal district court, though, ordered the county to allow construction on religious freedom grounds. Arsonists and vandals apparently tried to take the law into their own hands, but to no avail. A fire fizzled out, and Muslims replaced “Future Site of Islamic Center” signs that graffiti and vandalism ruined. The center celebrated its grand opening on Nov. 18, 2012.
Some neighbors did not give up. The center’s plan for a cemetery produced another local lawsuit. Muslim burials typically include shrouds, not caskets. Nearby residents say the exposed bodies could taint their water supply, but the county zoning board approved the cemetery in January.
But what if the mosque’s opponents had been successful? If state law strikes down Islamic mosques, what happens to houses of worship for Jews, Universalists, Christians, and Baha’is? If followers of Muhammad can’t have their minarets, will Christ’s disciples lose steeples? Could law-backed attacks on the faith of our neighbors strip the Bible Belt off America’s waist?
Standing Against Pediatric “Pseudo-science”
A conservative pediatrics association is defending kids—and psychotherapy for unwanted same-sex attraction—in court
By Daniel James Devine
(WNS)--The American College of Pediatricians (ACP), established in 2002, is earnest in its mission to provide a conservative, science-based perspective of childhood health—an alternative to the liberal policies of the influential American Academy of Pediatrics. Besides publishing policy statements in favor of two-parent homes, with a mother and father, and opposing the sale of emergency contraceptives to adolescents over the counter, the ACP has filed more than a dozen amicus briefs since 2006 in cases involving issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, and adoption.
In February 2013 the ACP filed one such “friend of the court” brief in Welch v. Brown, a prominent case challenging California’s Senate Bill 1172, the law that prohibits state-licensed mental health doctors from treating patients under the age of 18 with “sexual orientation change efforts.” Under the law, pediatric psychotherapists cannot provide counseling intended to change a patient’s unwanted same-sex attractions.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law in January in an opinion that consolidated Welch v. Brown with a similar case, Pickup v. Brown. The law is on hold while opponents appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In its brief, the ACP argued the orientation therapy ban intrudes on the physician-patient relationship and dictates what type of treatment is appropriate, even though mental health professions are already capable of dealing with unprofessional conduct. It noted homosexuality is not determined by genes, or fixed at birth, but develops under the influence of multiple factors, sometimes including childhood trauma like sexual abuse.
The ACP said mental health specialists who affirm adolescents as “gay” are making a premature judgment and risking harm: “Among adolescents who claim a ‘gay’ identity, the health risks include higher rates of sexually transmitted infection, alcoholism, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicide.” In one prominent study, 3 out of 4 young people who felt some same-sex attraction between the ages of 17 and 21 later confirmed themselves as exclusively heterosexual.
Other research found for every year adolescents delayed “coming out” as homosexual or bisexual, their risk of suicide decreased, another reason not to pressure kids to accept a label.
The ACP pointed to research from the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) concluding that unwanted same-sex attractions can be successfully treated in patients, without any known risk of harm greater than other forms of psychotherapy.
The pediatric group took critical aim at the American Psychological Association, which established a “task force” that determined sexual orientation change therapy could harm patients. But their evidence was based primarily on interviews in which former patients claimed to have been harmed by such therapy, rather than on tangible evidence of harm. (The task force’s report even noted, “Because of the lack of empirical research in this area, the conclusions must be viewed as tentative.”)
In addition, the ACP said the American Psychological Association’s task force tried to distinguish “sexual orientation identity” (defined as changeable) from “sexual orientation” (defined as unchangeable), but without any objective way of distinguishing the two.
“This is pseudo-science,” the ACP wrote in response.
On May 20, the ACP filed another brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the California law as unconstitutional for infringing on free speech. It argues the law violates the First Amendment by prohibiting doctors from providing verbal counseling for the purpose of changing an unwanted sexual orientation.
“Any licensed therapist who defies this audacious attempt to dictate what a therapist may and may not say to a young patient struggling with unwanted [same-sex attraction] faces discipline for ‘unprofessional conduct,” the brief says.
The Supreme Court is expected to decide by September whether to take up the case.
Liberal policies at major medical associations are hard pills for conservative doctors to swallow, and some are fighting back with alternative groups
By Daniel James Devine
(WNS)--Last year in June, one of the largest medical societies in the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), published a policy statement describing how doctors should treat “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.” Pediatricians, the organization warned, should guard themselves against “homophobia and heterosexism,” which it claimed could contribute to “higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation, higher rates of substance abuse, and more sexually transmitted and HIV infections.” It added that doctors should never refer such patients for “conversion” or “reparative therapy.”
Quentin Van Meter, a pediatric endocrinologist from Atlanta and a 37-year member of AAP, was outraged: There was no evidence the health risks linked with LGBTQ lifestyles were primarily driven by social stigmatization. After nearly four decades of heavy involvement in the AAP—including serving as chairman of the Uniformed Services West chapter—Van Meter decided not to pay his $650 annual dues.
When a member services employee called, Van Meter told her the AAP no longer represented his views. She answered, “Yeah, we’ve heard a lot of that,” the doctor recalls.
For Van Meter, the LGBTQ policy was one overdose too many. Back in 1976—the year he became a member—the organization had been more ideologically balanced. But by the late ’80s and ’90s, he says, AAP leaders were appearing in photo ops with Democratic politicians and promoting gun control across the United States.
“Whatever the Democrats wanted, the AAP said, ‘How high should we jump, and what should we say?’” says Van Meter. “I’m saddened that something that could have turned out to be very beneficial for kids has actually turned out to be a political slimeball.”
AAP is one of several mainstream medical associations founded decades ago that appear to have trended leftward in recent years. They were created to represent and further the interests of the medical field and local doctors, but increasingly, conservatives who belong to them believe their views are no longer represented among leadership.
The stakes are high: Groups like the AAP, the American Medical Association, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists spend hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying lawmakers in Washington, D.C., pressing for changes to healthcare insurance, abortion laws, sex education funding, and more. They publish regular policy statements intended to reflect best practices in their fields. Doctors, lawmakers, and even judges use the statements to guide their own decisions.
Conservatives see the leftward lurch and want to push back, but as Van Meter says of the AAP, “If you don’t believe in the political views of the leadership … you are shunned.” Instead, some are joining smaller, distinctly conservative medical associations that are acting as an antidote to their liberal counterparts.
ONE OF THEM is the American College of Pediatricians (ACP), where Van Meter serves as a board member: “We are all about science. We are all about proofs.” The organization is not religiously affiliated, but Van Meter describes members as “moral people who are like-minded, and want truth, and want what’s best for children.”
Den Trumbull, the president of the organization, became fed up with AAP in 2002, when the organization issued a controversial policy statement in favor of allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.
“They said it was based on science,” says Trumbull. But he and many of his colleagues found it to be shaky science: In the technical report accompanying the statement, the AAP argued children of same-sex couples were emotionally and socially well-adjusted. Yet, they admitted of their research, “the small and nonrepresentative samples studied and the relatively young age of most of the children suggest some reserve.”
That year, Trumbull and three other doctors—including former AAP president Joseph Zanga—founded the ACP as an alternative pediatric association. “All of us were members of the AAP,” says Trumbull, a pediatrician from Montgomery, Ala. “We felt like the AAP was increasingly placing its social issue policy on political correctness and not on science.”
The ACP promotes abstinence before marriage, respects the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, and recognizes the “father-mother family unit, within the context of marriage, to be the optimal setting for childhood development.” Citing scientific studies, it opposes same-sex parenting as potentially harmful to children, and calls it “unethical” for doctors to withhold psychotherapy as an option for adolescents questioning their sexuality. (Some research suggests as many as 75 percent of youth who experience same-sex attraction ultimately declare themselves heterosexual.)
Since 2012, by contrast, AAP has issued policy statements in support of gay marriage, in favor of providing teens with emergency contraceptives and condoms, and in opposition to parents keeping guns in their homes.
AAP policy doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the members it claims to represent. The organization’s policy statements are written by committees (appointed by elected board members), and its 62,000 member pediatricians do not vote on them. In a statement, AAP told me, “Each policy statement is reviewed extensively by internal AAP expert bodies and approved by the board of directors.” It added it has “no political affiliation.”
Trumbull said ACP submits all its policy statements to a member vote: Policy does not become official unless three-quarters of the membership approve. (ACP does not publish its membership size but has members in 46 states. Its current-year budget is about $70,000, it said.)
Even without a lobbying arm, ACP has waded into big controversies, filing amicus briefs in cases like Welch v. Brown, in which it defended the right of California doctors to offer sexual orientation change therapy to adolescents.
“When we take a look at the amicus briefs that are filed … we find ourselves as the only secular group speaking on behalf of the child,” said Trumbull. “Our focus has to be on the well-being of the child, not the wants of adults.”
GOVERNMENT-CONTROLLED healthcare has been a noticeably polarizing force among doctors. In a surprise move in 2009, the American Medical Association (AMA), representing about 1 in 5 U.S. doctors, endorsed Obamacare. The move sparked an exodus of about 12,000 from the organization, or 5 percent of its membership. (Its ranks have recovered since then.)
Some of those frustrated doctors presumably joined other, smaller medical associations, such as Docs4PatientCare, formed in 2009 specifically to oppose nationalized healthcare.
Around that time, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons saw an uptick in membership. It was the first medical society to sue to overturn the Affordable Care Act. “We believe that physicians should work for patients and not for third parties, including government,” says Jane Orient, a doctor from Tucson, Ariz., and a spokeswoman for the group, which was founded in 1943. It has about 5,000 members, and its budget is a fraction of the AMA’s: Officers and directors attending the group’s meetings pay for their own plane tickets.
By comparison, AMA is a giant: Along with state affiliates, it has spent nearly $300 million on lobbying efforts since 1990, and last year it was the nation’s eighth most active Washington interest group. It has traditionally supported Republican efforts toward malpractice reform and opposed government control of healthcare, even opposing Medicare in the 1960s. “Since that time the AMA has drifted farther and farther to the left, and actually seems to be one of the primary advocates of government medicine,” says Orient.
THIRTEEN DOCTORS founded the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in 1951. Now based in Washington, D.C., the association calls itself “the nation’s leading group of professionals providing healthcare for women,” with over 58,000 members. (The group’s companion 501(c)(6), the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, formed in 2009 to take over lobbying activities and also uses the ACOG acronym.)
In 2012, ACOG encouraged doctors to recommend intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants to adolescents, endorsed over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptives for young girls, and said doctors should “support media campaigns clarifying that emergency contraception will not terminate an established pregnancy.” (Doctors who believe life begins at fertilization would dispute that claim.)
In September last year, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, ACOG issued a statement endorsing homosexual marriage.
ACOG’s “progressive” tendencies began early on. In 1971 ACOG issued a statement saying doctors should be legally free to provide contraceptives even to an unmarried adolescent “who refuses to involve her parents.” In 1972, ACOG said minors should have access to legal abortion with or without parental consent. Just a few months later, in January 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade.
A week after the Supreme Court decision, a Florida obstetrician and gynecologist named Matthew Bulfin got on the phone and began asking colleagues about starting a pro-life special interest group within ACOG. By April, the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) was born.
Today, AAPLOG is a nonprofit entity with 2,500 associates and members, many of whom remain members of ACOG because of the professional benefits provided. “We exist to give a second opinion,” says Donna Harrison, AAPLOG’s executive director. On its website, the organization has posted documents addressing subjects ranging from surgical abortion to emergency contraception to breast cancer.
The second opinion is needed: Fact sheets on ACOG’s website describe abortion as a “low-risk procedure,” claim there is “no evidence that having an abortion increases the risk of getting breast cancer,” and claim “most experts agree that one abortion does not affect future pregnancies.”
But Harrison points out studies have linked abortion to breast cancer, depression, suicide, and alcohol abuse. And women who have abortions are more likely to have a subsequent premature birth, she says: “This association is well known and well documented, and yet ACOG, in their publications, refuses to acknowledge it.”
For Harrison, the final overdose came in November 2007, when ACOG published “Committee Opinion Number 385.” It said doctors who morally object to “reproductive services” like abortion or emergency contraception “have a duty” to refer patients to doctors willing to provide them—or in an emergency, are obligated to provide them themselves, “regardless of the provider’s personal moral objections.”
“I told ACOG that I would no longer be a member when they put out ethics statement 385,” says the Michigan doctor, who has not paid her dues since then.
ACOG spent $1.5 million on lobbying efforts in 2013 alone, according the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks publicly reported political spending and contributions from individuals, businesses, and organizations. According to lobbying records ACOG was legally required to file, the organization has weighed in on issues related both to women’s health and to abortion. Between 2006 and 2009, ACOG lobbyists pressed their case on abortion access, emergency contraception, international family planning, stem cell research, and the pro-abortion Freedom of Choice Act. Records from 2010 to 2013 indicate pro-life bills, such as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, were also on their political agenda. (The records don’t always say whether they lobbied for or against a bill.)
A 2008 filing noted an ACOG lobbyist worked to “urge House and Senate to shift federal funding from abstinence-only sexuality education to fund comprehensive sexuality education.” Toward the end of the year, ACOG weighed in on the “Mexico City Policy” (pro-abortion groups called it the “Global Gag Rule”), a ban on using federal funds to provide or promote abortion overseas. President Bush had upheld the ban throughout his two terms. But near the close of 2008, an ACOG lobbyist “communicated with the Office of the President-Elect on the Global Gag Rule.” Newly inaugurated President Barack Obama repealed the ban as one of his first orders in January 2009.
ACOG did not return my request for comment on its lobbying records and fact sheets.
AAPLOG has sometimes succeeded in halting actions that could threaten the rights of pro-life doctors: In 2008 the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG), an organization that certifies ob-gyns to work in hospitals, updated its certification standards to require doctors to “adhere to ethical standards outlined by ACOG and sanctioned by ABOG.” The move could have forced pro-life doctors to provide abortion referrals or lose their certification, and consequently, hospital jobs.
“They changed their wording very subtly,” says Harrison. “So we screamed.” The Bush administration listened and months later issued rules to strengthen doctors’ conscience rights. ABOG soon after deleted the problematic language.
Looking to the future, Harrison is concerned the new healthcare law’s cost-cutting measures could make it harder for doctors who refuse abortions to get hired at cash-strapped hospitals. The fight, she says, will be tough: “It feels kind of hostile for those of us who practice Hippocratic medicine.”
Get Ready for an Economic Doomsday
By Warren Cole Smith
(WNS)--Kevin Freeman recommends you buy gold, store bottled water in your basement, and get a generator so you can live off the power grid if the United States ever comes under attack. He sounds like a candidate for the reality television program Doomsday Preppers, but some of America’s top national security officials take him seriously.
The Pentagon has used Freeman as a consultant on the impact of cyberattacks on the American financial system. That consulting work became the basis for his 2012 book Secret Weapon, a New York Times bestseller. His new book is Game Plan: How to Protect Yourself from the Coming Cyber-Economic Attack.
What does it mean that the U.S. dollar is the reserve currency in the world? What does it mean to be a reserve currency? … What would it mean if it was no longer the U.S. currency? The U.S. dollar is the primary currency used for global trade. If Brazilians want to buy oil from Saudi Arabia, they convert their currency to dollars. They buy the oil in dollars, and the Saudis than convert back to their own currency. … Any nation that wants to hold excess capital they have [been] saving, they put it in dollars and buy Treasury bonds. That has allowed us to finance our debt and grow our debt at a trillion dollars a year without, really, the serious consequences other nations face. To be the reserve currency means that when people want to hold extra money, other nations and other individuals outside the country, they hold typically in dollars.
There are more than 200 nations on the planet, and none of them are the reserve currency, and some of them are doing pretty well. Why should the United States be concerned about no longer being the reserve currency? Imagine if you were an individual, and you were given a credit card with an unlimited spending capability. You used up an enormous amount of it, and you woke up and you realized, “Oh! Wow! I owe all this money.” The other nations are benefited by not having the reserve currency to the degree that means they are not able to go out and spend up their credit card. If we go back 30 years and not do all the outrageous spending that we have done, then, I would say, we would be better off. … We have been fortunate because we have had the reserve currency. It has allowed us to continue the bad spending without all the consequences, but there is always a day of reckoning. It would be bad if we lost that status. It would be like having our credit line cut off and we still owe all this money.
Let’s talk a little bit more about consequences. At some point, if our credit line does get cut off because we are no longer the reserve currency and we do have to pay all this money back, that could create a crisis here at home. What would that look like? If you have money in FDIC-insured accounts, and the banks failed, there is a possibility that you have $250,000 and you used to have $1 million. You lost $750,000. … I’m not saying that any of these are going to happen, but I’m saying that we should have a game plan. We need a game plan, and that is, again, why I wrote the book—to identify what it would look like to explain the consequences to individuals and jobs, 401K, saving accounts, and things like that.
Let’s talk about Game Plan. What are some of the things that our listeners could do to protect themselves if the worst-case scenario came to pass? I list several worst-case scenarios. One of those would be a cyberattack that would wipe out the electric grid. What you need to do is have access to backup power generators, and you need to have some water, food, and so forth. … If there was a cyberattack on the stock market and you lost access to your online statements, you should have paper copies of the statements so that you can prove that you own what you own. You should have paper copies of your bank statements. If there is a collapse of the stock market, which is possible, you should be broadly diversified. If there is a collapse of the dollar, you don’t want to have all your assets all in dollars. You may want to have some gold or silver. You may want to have some foreign stocks. So, I walk through all of the things, and I also say there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Don’t just put everything you own in gold, sit in your basement with a shotgun, and fear the end of the world. That’s not a good solution either. We walk through and say, if they do this, if this happens, this is what you could consider doing, and this is what you should think about.
Muslim Militants Storm Church, Kill 30 in Central African Republic
By Rob Holmes
(WNS)--Muslim gunmen rampaged through a Catholic church compound in the capital of Central African Republic on May 28, killing up to 30 people with gunfire and grenades.
Witnesses said the attack happened at the Church of Fatima, where several hundred civilians had sought refuge from mob violence now ravaging Bangui’s streets.
“We were in the church when were heard the shooting outside,” the Rev. Freddy Mboula told the Associated Press. “There were screams and after 30 minutes of gunfire there were bodies everywhere.”
Another priest at the scene, Rev. Paul Emile Nzale, confirmed about 30 people were killed in the attack.
An AP reporter counted at least 20 bodies at one city hospital, where they were taken because the morgue was closed. A second hospital confirmed another three bodies.
The church attack is blamed on Muslim fighters whose Seleka coalition was ousted from political power about five months ago. The brutal Muslim rebel regime seized power by force in March 2013.
Such Boko Haram-style violence—storming a house of worship—has been rare in CAR. Catholic churches have made themselves sanctuaries for Christian and Muslim civilians since the latest period of bloodshed erupted in December.
The media have characterized the CAR crisis as ethnic cleansing—a battle fueled by mutually harbored religious animosity. Local church leaders say it is a political armed hijacking of religious sentiments. Now a refugee in Chad, Mahamat Khalil, 25, shares the view taken by many Muslims who have left CAR this year: The conflict flared because Christians were jealous since “90 percent of the economy is run by Muslims,” he said. But that simplistic explanation ignores the context of Islamic violence before, during, and after the Seleka regime. Certainly fear and anger escalated over Seleka tactics: In most Seleka rampages—still occurring—Muslim civilians have been spared as rebels raped and killed Christians and looted their homes.
Khalil, a Chadian and son of a former transporter in Bangui, saw a turning point for Muslims in December: Operation Sangaris soldiers from France and UN-backed, African-led peacekeepers arrived to help stem violence, and the city’s Muslim minority began leaving.
Khalil made it to Chad in January, just after the Seleka were forced from power and Christian militiamen began retaliating in tit-for-tat violence in Bangui. Following this week’s church attack, Christian fighters began putting up blockades on roads around Bangui to prevent the perpetrators from escaping.
Interim President Catherine Samba Panza’s transitional government has been tasked with organizing elections by February 2015. But a viable voting process could prove impossible because of the ongoing violence, and because Seleka rebels destroyed scores of voting lists as they ransacked town after town across the country.
The CAR crisis has displaced nearly 1 million people. Up to 100,000 have sheltered on the grounds of the Bangui airport over the past six months, guarded by French and other European peacekeepers. Since May 11, CAR’s northern border with Chad has been closed to non-Chadians by Chadian presidential order. But the UN estimates nearly 100,000 refugees already live in camps in southern Chad, along with thousands more Chadian returnees airlifted since December to the Chadian capital, N’djamena.
Obama Administration Orders Medicare to Pay for Sex Change Surgery
(WNS)--Taxpayer dollars could soon pay for sex reassignment surgeries for elderly or disabled Americans on Medicare, thanks to a May ruling from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency’s Departmental Appeals Board lifted a three-decade-old ban on using Medicare funds for transsexual surgeries. The decision means the government considers the surgeries medically necessary and effective treatment for some individuals who do not identify with their biological sex. The policy reversal came in response to a request from 74-year-old Army veteran Denee Mallon to have Medicare pay for genital reconstruction. Mallon, from Albuquerque, N. M., was born a man but has been diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” a state of distress about one’s biological gender. Medicare denied Mallon’s request for surgery two years ago, but the appeals board overturned that decision.
Houston Tramples Religious Liberty with New Anti-Bias Policy
(WNS)--In what some are calling a sham proceeding, Houston leaders in May approved an Equal Rights Ordinance that adds the LGBT community to the city’s nondiscrimination laws. Supporters claim it provides necessary protections for the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered residents. But religious liberty experts warn it could be used to force churches, colleges, and Christian-owned businesses to act against their biblical beliefs about sexuality. The ordinance, which takes effect in 30 days, passed the Houston City Council 11-6, and local television news broadcast the LGBT supporters’ jubilation. Reports said fewer than 30 people out of more than 200 in attendance spoke against the measure, but they failed to mention that more than 150 pastors and pro-family advocates felt so disrespected by the proceedings that they staged a walkout early in the meeting.
Colorado Baker Ordered to Make Same-Sex Wedding Cakes
(WNS)--Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission ordered a Christian baker to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, ruling his religious objections did not trump the state’s anti-discrimination statutes. The unanimous ruling from the seven-member commission upheld an administrative law judge’s decision in December that Jack Phillips violated the state’s civil rights law when he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012. The couple sued. Phillips, a devout Christian who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, said the decision violates his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise. “I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” he told reporters after the ruling.
Hawaiian Churches Win Partial Victory in Fight Over School Rentals
(WNS)--A judge in Hawaii gutted a new lawsuit on June 3 filed by two atheists against churches that rent space from public schools. The lawsuit is a renewed effort to prove the churches acted illegally after the same judge threw out their first attempt at a conviction late last year. In March 2013, Holly Huber and Michael Kahle, founder of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State, filed a lawsuit against five churches who met in public schools, claiming they collectively owed the state’s Department of Education $5.6 million in unpaid or underpaid rental fees and utility charges for the prior six years. Under the state’s False Claims Act (FCA), the duo claimed they had inside information that would expose fraudulent billing.
Groups Mobilize to Save Ukranian Orphans
(WNS)--The day before Ukraine’s presidential election on May 25, dozens of orphans and foster families arrived in Kiev, eager to find out where their temporary residences would be. Evacuated from the eastern town of Mariupol near the Russian border, they were the latest group to arrive as part of a growing effort to remove at-risk orphans from a region that has attempted to declare independence from Ukraine. Ukrainians hope the election of a new president, billionaire candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko, will usher in a new era of stability and end the separatist takeover of Donetsk and Luhansk, two crucial regions in the east. So far, Moscow has not given orders to annex the regions as it did with Crimea in March. But should the standoff between Russian separatists and Ukraine’s military continue in the east, NGOs and local churches are armed with a plan to protect orphans from a Russian system that has shunned American adoptions.