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Israel Concerned About Syria's Weapons Stockpiles →

January 17, 2012

Israel has serious concerns about what will happen to "huge stockpiles" of chemical and biological weapons in Syria when the Assad regime collapses, a senior military official said on Tuesday. Major-General Amir Eshel, head of the Israeli military's planning division, said the working assumption was the regime of President Bashar Assad would eventually fall. "That's a major concern because I don't know who is going to own those the day after. Up till now, what has been transferred to Hezbollah? What will be transferred to Hezbollah? What will be divided between those factions inside Syria? What is that going to create?" asked Eshel.
- AFP

US Supreme Court Won't Hear Board Prayer Cases →

January 17, 2012

The justices today left intact a federal appeals ruling that said a North Carolina county board was violating the constitutional separation of church and state by opening most of its sessions with a Christian prayer. The high court also refused to review a separate decision that barred prayers at meetings of a Delaware school board. In the North Carolina case, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners used private religious leaders to deliver its prayers, each year inviting members of various faiths to sign up on a first-come, first-served basis to deliver an invocation. The result tended to be prayers that were predominantly Christian. From May 29, 2007, to Dec. 15, 2008, almost 80 percent of the prayers referred to Jesus.
- Bloomberg

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ARTICLES AND COMMENTARY

HEALING FROM ROE - (Print)

The National Mall will be packed on Monday, January 23, as thousands of pro-life advocates march to commemorate the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  The Jumbo video screen between 4th Street and Constitution Avenue in Washington DC will run the film Created Equal, demonstrating the painful reality and injustice of abortion.  A rally will start at the mall at noon followed by the march to the Supreme Court starting at 1:30pm.

Abortion has had a massive tearing effect on America during the past 39 years. Not only has this emotional issue polarized the nation, and not only has legalized abortion removed millions upon millions of faces from family photos, but it has ripped apart the hearts of those countless women who have regretted the choice they made.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, one third of all women in America will have had an abortion by age 45. Many never tell their families and bear this burden in silence, suffering through every Sanctity Of Life Sunday in churches, feeling too much shame to seek help for the grief and guilt they still feel. While abortion is allegedly about freedom of choice, a significant number of women are coerced into the decision by boyfriends or relatives. Many think that they can never be forgiven - they think that while God can forgive them for other sins, they cannot be forgiven for this one. Abortion is a double-tragedy; it destroys an unborn life, and it can seriously damage the lives of those left behind.

There are many things that people can do to help, to not only stop abortion in the future, but to also help these women (and men too) who have been damaged by abortion. The Elliot Institute, an organization dedicated to post-abortion healing, suggests the following steps that can be taken to foster abortion healing in our churches and communities.

-Pray for those who have suffered from an abortion. Pray for those men and women who give post-abortion counseling. Pray for organizations that help people to find healing after an abortion.

-Encourage your pastors and church leaders to foster abortion healing, from teaching about the harms that abortions have caused women, to the hope and forgiveness that can be found through Jesus Christ.

-Support a crisis pregnancy or post-abortion healing ministry – through finances, prayer, or by volunteering yourself.

-Donate books on post-abortion healing to your local library.

-Educate community and pro-life leaders about the need for helping post-abortive women. Keep up on research and provide them with the information they need to be informed on this issue.

-Write to your legislators and encourage them to not only promote pro-life policies, but pro-women policies that recognize the harm that abortion has on women.

Abortion is promoted as a freedom that strengthens women and gives them control of their lives. Instead, it has weighed many women down with emotional and spiritual chains that they would gladly trade away if they could. As a community that cherishes the life of the unborn, let's remember to care for their mothers as well.

2011 - A Year For Life:
A record number of state laws and provisions to limit abortion went up for debate during 2011, and a significant number passed.  The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute notes that  five states (AL, ID, IN, KS and OK) passed bills with provisions that effectively ban the abortion of fetuses beyond 20 weeks’ gestation. Nebraska passed a similar ban in 2010.  Texas and North Carolina both now require a 24-hour waiting period and counseling before a woman gets an abortion, joining 24 other states that also have waiting periods.  Arizona, Kansas, Florida, Texas, and North Carolina passed provisions requiring abortion providers to offer an ultrasound to women before an abortion. Both the Texas and North Carolina provisions were blocked by federal district courts, but just last week the 5th Circuit appeals court lifted the ban in Texas, and the ultrasound law there is now in effect.

Few American lives have been untouched by abortion during the past 39 years.  We all know somebody who has had an abortion, or somebody that could have been aborted.  Some of us are that person ourselves.  The issue has come up in family after family, and we are no longer naiive about the reality of the life inside the womb or of the true nature of the abortion business.  We have far fewer illusions about the reality of "choice."

Keep praying for the millions of young lives in jeopardy even today. And keep praying for their precious mothers, many of whom feel like they have no good options. 

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US MARRIAGE RATES THE LOWEST EVER - (Print)

In some parts of the world, a man can go find a wife for the price of two she-camels or several goats. He is then expected to provide for her and she is expected to honor him and produce children for him. Getting married and staying that way can be a bit more complicated elsewhere. These days, men and women alike are less likely to choose marriage than at any other time in history, with many opting for the single life or cohabitation.

According to a recent Pew Research study, the marriage rate in America has declined to its lowest point across the board, for those who are young and for the more mature, for all ethnic and racial groups. While those who have more education are likelier to embrace marriage than those who are less educated, the marriage rate has still dropped in almost every category.

Matrimony was the norm in 1960, when 72 percent of all adults ages 18 and older were married. Today, only 51 percent of adults are bound in legal marital union, and just 20 percent of adults ages 18-29 are thus committed. Divorce rates are higher than they were in the 1960s, but they've leveled off for the past two decades. Adults are simply waiting longer to get married, while some are choosing not to get married at all.

Weddings are less frequent than they were even five years ago. There were an average of 41.4 newlyweds per 1000 unmarried and newly married adults in 2008, 40.1 in 2009, and 37.4 in 2010. The numbers did not only drop for young adults aged 18-24, but also for adults in the 25-34 and over 45 brackets. Among adults ages 25-34, a mere 44 percent were married in 2010, compared with 82 percent in 1960. The marriage rate remained stable for adults 35-44.

And yet, people have not stopped having sex. It has just become culturally acceptable to move sexual intimacy outside of the commitment of marriage.

Marriage V. Cohabitation:
Johnny Depp and his partner Vanessa Paradis have been together for 14 years and have two children together. Whether their relationship is deteriorating as nosy tabloids have rumored, they have still been together longer than the average 7-8 years of today's marriages. Depp once told Extra, "I never found myself needing that piece of paper. Marriage is really from soul to soul, heart to heart. You don't need somebody to say, OK you're married."

Does marriage really matter? Isn't sex an act of love between two consenting adults, something not regulated by a ceremony or a document filed at the court house? Sex isn't evil. God invented it. Besides, isn't it foolish to commit to "til death do us part" with somebody when you've never even shared a bathroom?

Actually, it does make a difference. If people move in together for any reason than true commitment to each other, the situation tends to fall apart, both before and after marriage. People might move in with somebody whom they would never have originally chosen as wife or husband, but because of the "inertia effect" after enough time, marriage seems like the next appropriate step. One partner might have more commitment to the relationship than the other, so that while one partner thinks they're in love and going places, while the other thinks they just have a comfortable situation until a true soul mate is located. It may simply be that those who are the "cohabitating type" – the kind that are more likely to live together before marriage – are also the kind to be less committed either way.

Whatever the reasons, Rutgers University's National Marriage Project indicates that couples who live together before marriage are 46 percent more likely to divorce and significantly more likely to experience domestic violence within their relationships.

Even while they last, cohabiting relationships are statistically less fulfilling than marriage relationships. People who cohabit are more likely to be depressed and financially unstable. Their children also suffer. Kids of cohabiting couples are less likely to do well in school and more likely to suffer abuse. 

Fearing Divorce:
It is not that people no longer value marriage. According to the National Survey of Family Growth by the US Centers for Disease Control, most adults would rather get married than stay single, and men more so than women, contrary to popular belief. Of those interviewed, 50.6 percent of women and 66.0 percent of men 15-44 either agreed or strongly agreed that marriage was better than an eternally single life. Those are not large majorities, but they do show that a desire for marriage still rests in many people's hearts. Most also disagreed or strongly disagreed (50.6 percent of women and 53.9 percent of men) that divorce was a good solution for marital problems. At the same time, a mere 34.7 percent of women and 32.1 percent of men thought that people should not live together until they are married. 

Still, sexually active single Americans experience a series of little divorces that can be easier financially and emotionally than the legal ones, but that still take a heavy toll. People move from one relationship to another, bonding and breaking up, bonding and breaking up, not recognizing the true nature of a sexual relationship or its original purpose.

True Marriage:
In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus said, "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, 'For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?' Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

The Word of God is clear: "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge," (Hebrews 13:4).

Sexual relationships were never meant to be transitory.  They were meant to make two people one, to bind them together in a close, mutually loving relationship.  That was their purpose.  They also represent the bonding relationship that Christ has with the Church as Paul describes in Ephesians 5. 

"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,"  (Eph 5:28-30).

Nobody enjoys having to wait for the things we want, the things for which we long.  Sometimes, though, patience is necessary.  Remember, the marriage supper of the Lamb has not yet come.  We're still waiting for the groom to arrive to take His bride to the eternal Home He has prepared for her. 

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US DESTROYS LARGEST CHEMICAL WEAPONS STOCKPILE - (Print)

The largest stockpile of toxins, blister and blood agents in the United States has been burned away, as part of an international convention to rid the world of chemical weapons. While America has elimainted 90 percent of its chemical weapons stockpiles, Russia is not even halfway there, and it is uncertain how many tons of chemical agents Libya still has.

Goodbye Mustard Gas:
The U.S. Army has been finishing the last of its work destroying stockpiles of chemical agents left over from the Cold War. This week, twenty-three final projectiles were heated to 1500 degrees and baked for two hours to render harmless the last of the mustard agent on them. The final two-ton containers of Lewisite, a skin, eye, and lung irritant, were being burned away at the Area 10 Liquid Incinerator, ending a 16-year process of emptying The Army's Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah, where the largest stockpile of the weapons was held.

The weapons destroyed represent 90 percent of the chemical stockpiles in the country. Ten percent remains of the 31,500 tons of chemical weapons that America declared in 1985. The U.S. expects it could take until 2021 to finish eliminating that final 10 percent at depots in Colorado and Kentucky. Destruction of the full 100 percent was originally set to be accomplished by April 29, but the U.S. expects that the job could last until 2021. America is doing better than Russia, which has only eliminated 48 percent of its chemical weapons.

An international tribunal agreed not to hit the U.S. with sanctions for missing the deadline, voting instead to submit the U.S. and Russia to inspections. The U.S. and Russia are supposed to submit plans by April 29 detailing how they will finish the job in their countries. Libya is also behind; the fall of Gaddafi’s regime revealed more chemical weapons in that country than previously suspected.

A small drop of nerve agent can kill a human within minutes of exposure, and the process of dying is generally excruciating. Doses that do not immediately kill can still cause extreme and long-term suffering.

Chemical Weapons Convention:
The United States signed the Chemical Weapons Convention on 13 January 1993 along with 129 other states, and the CWC went into effect on April 29, 1997, 180 days after it had been ratified by 65 of them. (The U.S. ratified it April 25, 1997.) According to the agreement, every state that is party to the CWC must willingly destroy its chemical weapons and avoid making any more. The original timeline to finish was ten years; by April 29, 2002 the nations of the world were to have eliminated 20 percent of their chemical weapons, and all chemical agents were supposed to have been rendered inert by April 29, 2007 – with no extensions past 2012.

Just seven countries, the U.S., the Russia Federation, Libya, Albania, India, Iraq, and an unnamed State Party (possibly South Korea), declared that they had chemical weapons. Albania, India, and the State Party have eliminated all of them. As of November 30, 2011, 50,619 metric tons of chemical agent, or 71.10 percent of the originally declared 71,195 metric tons, have been verifiably destroyed.

Thirteen states declared chemical weapons production facilities, and of the 70 declared sites, all have been inactivated and 67 have been inspected.

Now it is 2012, and there are still aging chemical weapons stockpiles lingering in the U.S. and Russia, with who-knows-how-much piled away in Libya. According to the CWC, any state party can petition the Director-General to send an inspection team to any other state party at any time. Even the United States agreed to submit to these inspections "any time, anywhere", and sensitive information is supposed to be kept locked away at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at the Hague in the Netherlands.

Whether it’s necessary or beneficial or remotely desirable for an international tribunal to send inspectors to the United States, the U.S. signed and ratified the convention. In the meanwhile, it will be a long time before the chemical agents are safely destroyed in Russia and Libya.

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MEMORY VERSE OF THE WEEK

For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and [without] teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.
- Hosea 3:4-5 KJV

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