Settlement Building No Great Obstacle To Peace →

December 20, 2012

Colin Rubenstein writes, "Claims that Israeli settlement building has made a two-state outcome impossible are completely untrue. Settlements are only one of many contentious issues that must be addressed - along with water, Jerusalem, refugees and security arrangements - and far from the most difficult to resolve... It is also not true that any current or likely future settlement growth will substantially affect the size, contiguity or viability of a future Palestinian state. Settlements currently take up less than 2 percent of the West Bank... While one may question the timing or wisdom of Netanyahu's recent decision to allow planning to move forward for more Jewish housing in east Jerusalem and the area known as E1 in the Jerusalem suburb of Ma'ale Adumim - as even many Israelis do - the proposition that they make a two-state outcome impossible is ludicrous. Claims that construction in E1 would cut the West Bank in half or cut off the West Bank from Jerusalem are demonstrably incorrect and the New York Times recently ran corrections of these false claims..."
- The Australian

Systematic Leadership Failures In Benghazi Death →

December 19, 2012

An independent panel charged with investigating the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans has concluded that systematic management and leadership failures at the State Department led to "grossly" inadequate security at the mission in Benghazi. "Systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," the panel said.
- AP

Gene Therapists Treating Children With Deadly Brain Disease →

December 19, 2012

Children born with a rare, genetic brain disorder that causes severe atrophy and often leads to death within three years, are still alive 7 to 10 years after being treated with an experimental gene therapy, a study showed. The findings, published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine, described the procedure of inserting a virus containing healthy genes into the children's brains through holes drilled into their skulls. The 13 children, the youngest of whom was 3-months-old and diagnosed with the disorder while in the womb, were treated at the Cell and Gene Therapy Center at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Stratford. The children are among only about 600 people in the world with the disorder, called Canavan disease, a nerve cell-destroying condition marked by brain atrophy, seizures, vision loss, physical disability and ultimately death. There is no treatment or cure.
- Bloomberg

U.S. National Debt Nears Dangerous Levels →

December 18, 2012

The national debt clock is spinning faster every year. At last check, it was approaching $16.4 trillion. Just four years ago, it was $10.6 trillion. As of today, every household in the United States owes about $140,000 of this debt. The country is borrowing roughly $6 billion every day, and $239 million every hour. This year, for every dollar in revenue the federal government brought in, it spent two dollars and six cents. John Taylor, a Stanford University economist, said because of the interest on the debt, time is running out to deal with the problem. "There's lots of people that will lend to us so far as long as our debt doesn't get so large they become suspicious that we'll pay it back," he said. "If we don't correct this problem, interest will tend to dominate our whole spending - it'll be greater than defense or Social Security. We have history to guide us. When debt gets too high, people are skeptical about lending, then you run into a crisis like we've seen in Greece and many other countries. So it's dangerous when it gets too high, and we are moving close to that dangerous level every day."
- Fox News


2016 Strategic Perspectives Conference

by Various Speakers

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2016 Strategic Perspectives Conference by Various Speakers


Finding Safety After Sandy Hook - (Print)

Students in Newtown, Connecticut returned to class on Tuesday, excepting the ones who once attended Sandy Hook Elementary. Those students will resume classes in January after Christmas break, but they will still not be attending the building where the shooting occurred. Eight miles away, Chalk Hill School - closed just last year - has been reopened and is being prepared for their arrival. The smell of fresh paint will greet the children, along with their old desks and crayon boxes, offering them a fresh start away from the terrifying memories of December 14th.

December 14th? Has it been only four days?

Since Friday, the United States and its neighbors have wrestled with the implications of the shooting - have grasped at possible ways to approach the issue, to prepare themselves so that nothing like this ever happens again. Gun control? Greater help for the mentally troubled? Banning violent video games? Hiding in the mountains away from all society?

How do we handle this?

Adam Lanza not only caused damage by murdering 27 people last Friday and killing himself, he blew holes in America's sense of security. Sandy Hook Elementary existed in a nice, quiet town in Connecticut, not in the inner city, not in a war zone. Lanza caused parents across the entire country to question whether they should ever send their little children to school again.

No Safe Place:
A series of massacres have taken place over just the past two years in a wide variety of locations, increasing the sense that there is no place free from danger.

Shopping Mall in Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands: On April 9, 2011, Tristan van der Vlis, 24, shot and killed six people at the Ridderhof mall, making it the deadliest attack in the Netherlands since the royal family was attacked in 2009.

Summer Camp on the island of Utoya in Tyrifjorden, Buskerud, Norway: On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik shot at least 179 people at a youth camp, killing 69 of them. This was hours after Breivik detonated a car bomb in Oslo that killed eight and injured another 209 people.

Hair Salon in Seal Beach, CA: On Oct 12, 2011, Scott Dekraai, 41, shot eight people both in and outside a hair salon where his ex-wife worked.

Christian School in Oakland, CA: On April 2, 2012, One L. Goh, 43, shot and killed seven students at Oikos University, a small Korean Christian college.

Movie Theater in Aurora, CO: On July 20, 2012, James Eagan Holmes, 24, killed 12 people and injured 58 others during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.

Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI: August 5, 2012, Wade Michael Page shot six people a Sikh temple.

Now, we have an attack on an elementary school.

Each murderer had his own motivation. Breivik had extreme nationalistic, racist views. Dekraai had anger over a custody battle with his ex-wife. Goh felt he had been disrespected by other students. Nobody truly knows what motivated Adam Lanza to murder 20 children and their teachers, but it doesn't really matter. No reason is good enough.

How do we fight this then? How do we stop future murders from taking place?

Blaming The Guns:
The Sandy Hook shooting has led many to push for greater gun control.

Californian Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein wants to ban new assault weapons sales and outlaw the sales of big clips, drums and strips that contain more than 10 bullets. White House Press Secretary Jay Carn said stricter gun control laws would be only one part of the solution.

Increasing the red tape around gun sales won't solve the problem, though. Adam Lanza broke a multitude of laws that day, including the state's gun laws. He didn't have a permit for the guns he'd stolen from his mother, who had obtained them legally. At 20-years-old, he wasn't even old enough to legally own a gun. Gun control laws have rarely kept guns out of the hands of those who want to use them. They merely make it trickier for people to own them legally, and honest people still do use guns to protect themselves against intruders and attackers.

Even if every gun were removed from the planet, though, that wouldn't solve the problem. The evidence indicates that men like Breivik, Holmes, and Lanza planned their destruction in advance. They plotted and strategized. Their goal was to slaughter other human beings, and guns are not required to do that.

To underline this point, the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting wasn't the worst massacre at an elementary school in U.S. history. It was the second most deadly. In 1927, at a time before today's gun control laws, the school board treasurer Andrew Kehoe felt grieved over losing the 1926 town clerk election in Bath Township, Michigan. He spent the next year collecting and hiding dynamite and pyrotol in preparation for his perceived revenge.

On May 18, 1927, massive amounts of explosives detonated under the north wing of the Bath School, killing 38 children and six adults and injuring 58 others. Hundreds of pounds of explosives were found in the basement under the south wing as well, revealing Kehoe's plan to blow up the entire school and everybody in it. After the school explosion, Kehoe drove up and detonated himself inside his shrapnel-filled truck, killing and injuring additional people.

Blaming Mental Health And Insanity:
The school shooting has also brought mental health issues into the public discussion. In the next session, Connecticut state lawmakers will likely consider legislation to improve mental health care for children thought to be a danger to themselves and others. State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said he expects the state legislature to consider "enhanced mental health intervention" for troubled individuals in the state.

"The discussion really has to come around to how are we going to begin to look at mental health services as something that are necessary and valuable and how are we going to fund them," said George Estle, CEO of a Grand Rapids-based treatment facility for behavioral and psychiatric disorders.

Adam Lanza allegedly had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a relative of autism, and the possible neglect of persons with mental disorders has been considered a possible remedy to public violence. The Autism Society has issued a statement rejecting any connection between autism and violence, however, reiterating that children with autism-related conditions may be socially awkward, but are more prone to be victims than victimizers. Regardless of whether or not he had autistic tendencies, the assumption here is that Lanza murdered those children because he was mentally ill. Certainly nobody would slaughter a classroom of first graders if they were fully sane.

We should certainly seek to help people struggling with severe emotional and psychological struggles. Absolutely. It is important to remember, however, that plenty of sane people do evil things every day, and plenty of depressed, angry people reject murder as an option. It is also important to remember that millions of struggling but perfectly sane women choose to murder their children every year. They do it before the little innocents ever get a first school picture taken, and nobody suggests the mothers are nuts because they do it.

At the same time, the fact that Lanza committed suicide indicates that he knew he had done a horrific, unlawful thing. Had he truly been out of his mind - had he believed he were actually killing Nazis or dangerous space aliens - he would have expected approval from society. But, he didn't. He was sane enough to believe that death was the best way out for him.

True Safety:
In the end, there is no safe place in this world. Between earthquakes and hurricanes, fires and tornadoes, poor engineering and math errors and, worst of all, evil decisions made by us and our fellow humans, we're all in constant danger. This planet is not a safe place.

With one exception.

There is a God in Heaven who loves us, who deeply, powerfully, constantly loves us, and in Him alone we can find safety. He doesn't promise that we won't have troubles, but He does promise to be with us (Heb. 13:5-6). He doesn't say we won't be attacked or slighted, that we will win every custody battle or like how our local politics is working, but we do know He's overcome the world (John 16:33).

Paul, who faced many struggles throughout his life, reminds us in Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

To them that love God. Nothing will get to us without His permission. Nothing can hurt us that He doesn't filter. "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler." - Psalm 91:4

He won't drop us. Not on our lives. Unconditionally trusting Him is the key. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:" Job said (Job 13:15). People who rest their hearts in God's love and faithfulness, entrusting their lives to Him, these are the ones that can go to the mall and movie theater and elementary schools, drive through snowstorms or walk through the jungle, and be truly secure.

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Ain't No Good Mutations Here - (Print)

Most of the mutations in our DNA are only 5,000-10,000 years old, according to a study by the Exome Sequencing Project at the National Institutes of Health. That's a good thing, then, because a recent article in the American Journal of Human Genetics says we're all rife with genetic mistakes, and it's hard to find any that have benefited us at all. We might not have been able to handle many more years of DNA deterioration.

Researchers on the 1000 Genome Project used genetic data from 179 individuals and found that all had between 40 and 110 potentially disease-causing mutations in their DNA. The individuals had 281-515 actual substitutions each, but the trouble only really started when both parents had passed on a mutation in the same gene. The researchers, estimated, "[about]400 damaging variants and [about]2 bona fide disease mutations per individual."

Not every damaging mutation shows up immediately. Some might increase one's chances for heart disease. Another might simply weaken the kidneys or slow the production of insulin. The body is also good at covering for an improperly functioning gene, using backup systems or compensating in some way when a gene isn't doing its job right. When all else fails, though, mutations tend to cause disease.

The researchers have been working to develop and fill out the Human Gene Mutation Database with the more dangerous genetic defects, giving doctors a tool in diagnosing inherited diseases. It is distinctly noticeable that while some mutations are not as destructive as others, the researchers are not developing a database of all the improvements made by random changes in the genetic code.

Mutations and Evolution:
In order for evolution to work on a grand scale, changing one family of creatures into another family of creatures, beneficial mutations must appear to add new information to the genetic code. Without mutations, there are no major evolutionary steps. Yes, the genetic information already existing within a species can vary due to natural selection, but this always strains out information; it never adds new, previously non-existent coding to the genome.  Yet, while Darwinists claim that rare, beneficial mutations do exist, the math shows that random mutations result in the net removal of functional programming from the genetic code rather than adding to it.

Beneficial Mutations?
Beneficial mutations in any sense are extremely rare in our world today.  Those that can be considered "beneficial" in specific situations always involve the loss of some function and  generally result in the deterioration of the creature's overall health. For instance, sickle-cell anemia is considered a beneficial mutation because it protects many Africans against malaria, yet sickle-cell anemia itself is a very serious disease.

Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder in which the red blood cells take a long, thin, sickle-like shape instead of the round donut shape of a healthy red blood cell. While this deformity prevents the body from carrying malaria, protecting people in high-malaria areas from dying from the disease, the sickle cell anemia is itself dangerous.  Sickle cell blood cells carry less oxygen than normal cells. The misshapen cells also tend to clump up and get stuck in blood vessels, leading to infection and organ damage.  Sickle-shaped cells often die after only 10-20 days, while healthy red blood cells live an average of 120 days before they die. 

People with the mutation from only one parent can live normally because they have the genes from the other parent still producing correctly-shaped blood cells. The sickle-shaped cells are also produced, but the body doesn't have to depend on them. Those with the sickle cell mutation from both parents, however, have a problem. Their body functions in a state of constant oxygen deprivation, and it struggles to produce enough red blood cells to replace the dying ones, greatly reducing general health. The life expectancy for men with sickle-cell anemia is only 42 years. 

If sickle cell anemia is the best beneficial mutation out there, our hopes for evolving through mutations are empty and doomed to disappointment. It is true that bacteria that develop a specific dysfunction may survive in the presence of antibiotics, but those same bacteria are still weaker and quicker to die when exposed to the outside world. A person with no arms may be less likely to contract a virus, because he can't rub his nose with infected fingers, but few people will argue that it's better to go around in life without arms. The fact is, examples of truly beneficial mutations are massively lacking.

Loss Of Information:
The real trouble with mutations takes us down to the DNA level. We learn in high school biology that our genetic code is made up of DNA, long strands of the nucleotide bases adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytocine – A G T and C for short. These four bases provide the digital code for our system, similar to the way 0s and 1s make up binary code for computers. In the cell, during the process of translation, these nucleotides get read in groups of three, called codons. Each codon is like a little train car of three letters that code for an amino acid, which go on to make up proteins. For instance, the codon AAA codes for the amino acid lysine and TGG codes for the amino acid tryptophan.  (During transcription, thymine is replaced with uracil - U - to make the codon UGG.)

There isn't just one code for many amino acids, though. Lysine can also be coded by AAG. Cysteine can be coded by both TGT and TGC, and the amino acids serine, arginine, and leucine all have six possible codes. Other proteins on the other hand, like tryptophan, only have that single code available to make them.

This causes a problem for the statistics of mutations. If there are errors in the transcription process and letters are not copied correctly (a source for mutations), certain amino acids are going to be favored over others. For instance, if AAG is accidentally transcribed as AAA, it won't necessarily harm the body because AAA still codes for lysine (provided the cell has high enough levels of tRNA for the alternate codon).  If TGG for tryptophan gets changed to TTG, though, it will cause leucine to be made. If TAA gets changed to TTA, it will also make leucine and if CAA for Glutamine gets turned to CTA, again leucine benefits. Statistically, an error is highly likely to accidentally make leucine and highly unlikely to make tryptophan.

If we have been evolving for millions of years, we would expect to see a high ratio of serine, arginine, and leucine codes, because statistically mutations would favor making these three amino acids. As mutations accumulated over the generations, we'd expect these codes to dominate, making it rare to ever see tryptophan and leading to a loss of information in the genetic code.  Dr. Jerry Bergman writes:

‘This disparity would have worked against producing the code by natural selection in the first place. An example of this method of degradation is illustrated by the words "amino acid" which would be changed to "amano acad," then to "amaao aaad," and finally to "aaaaa aaaa" if the letter "a" dominated. Another mutation can change the "a'" back to an "m" or another letter but, in this illustration, the overall trend would be to the letter "a'" and would eventually stabilize largely at a set of "a" letters with a few converting back to the other letters from time to time.'

Creature Coding:
There are built-in mechanisms to correct errors, at least, and mutations do rarely slip through. The human race has fought through the past 5,000-10,000 years of slow disintegration fairly well. The self-correcting mechanisms would have had to have been in place at the beginning, else the gene code's deterioration would have been rapid and destructive before these self-correcting mechanisms evolved.

It is also valuable to note that organisms considered closely related can favor different codes for the same amino acid. E coli uses AAA to code for lysine 75 percent of the time, but only uses AAG one fourth of the time.  Another bacteria, Rhodobacter, uses AAG 75 percent of the time - just the opposite. These two organisms, which are supposed to be more closely related, don't use codes in the same proportions, while the human being and fruit fly (not closely related) both use CTG to code for leucine just over 40 percent of the time.

Studies have also shown there to be far more deletions than insertions into the DNA code. In their article on the DNA loss in Drosophila (fruit flies) in the journal Gene in 1997, Petrov and Hartl found a "virtual absence of insertions and a remarkably high incidence of large deletions." In their article on nucleotide substitution, insertion and deletion in the human genome in Nucleic Acids Research in 2003, Zhang and Gerstein found the mutational deletion rate of base pairs to be three times as high as the insertion rate. Once again, this results in a net loss of information rather than the net gain necessary for us to have evolved from lower lifeforms. 

Mutation Hot Spots
Mutations also do not occur randomly throughout the DNA code, but are generally localized in certain spots. For instance, the CG dinucleotide has a much higher chance of being involved in a mutation than any other dinucleotide – 12 times as high according to Jorde, Carey and White in Medical Genetics(1997). Of 400 codon mutations mapped on the human tumor suppressor antioncogene gene just over 91 percent occurred in four specific codons. Some of these "hot spots" result from passing around the same mutation through inheritance, but most are truly hot spots in which certain parts of the genetic code are more prone to mutation than other parts.

The basic point is this: mutation is not evenly, randomly distributed throughout the genome, which we'd expect if mutations had brought about all the precise structures in living things today.

Genome Deterioration:
Mutations are well known to cause diseases like cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, inherited osteoporosis and literally more than 1000 others. Finding descriptions of deleterious mutations takes less than half a minute. Finding truly beneficial mutations is a headache, and even the so-called beneficial mutations are due to net loss of information that, while helping an organism survive in a very specific situation, also lead to the weakening of the organism's overall health.

If the evolutionary model of origins were reality, we should expect to see a number of beneficial mutations that were the result of added information. Instead, it appears that we each receive a damaged, deteriorating version of a once excellently engineered, fully functioning genetic code.

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The Names Of Jesus Christ - (Print)

Names have great significance in the Bible. A name was not just the label that differentiated one person from another, but it often described something about the person. The name Abraham is translated "Father of a multitude," Ezekiel means "God strengthens," and David is "beloved". The most important names in the Bible, however, describe God Himself. Through His names, God expresses the reality of who He is. Our Creator does not cloak His identity and distance Himself from His creation. Instead, we have a Heavenly Father who desires to be known:

"... But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD." -Jeremiah 9:24

As we rush through the Christmas season burdened with busy schedules, may we take time to seek the man whose birth Christmas celebrates. Who is Jesus Christ? Was he simply a good man, a teacher, or a revolutionary? Through his names, the Bible gives us great insight into the identity of the baby that was born in Bethlehem in Judea over 2000 years ago;

: From the name Joshua, or Yehoshua, which means "Yahweh is salvation".

"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins"
. -Matthew 1:21

The Word: Logos in the Greek - God's living, breathing message of who He is, by whom He created all things.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." -John 1:1,3

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
- John 1:14

Son of David
: The Messiah the King, the rightful heir to the throne.

"Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this."
-Isaiah 9:7

"He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:"
- Luke 1:32

"And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest."
- Matthew 21:9

The Lamb of God
: Innocent and pure, sent to die in our place.

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world"
. - John 1:29

"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold...But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you..."
- 1 Peter 1:18a,19-20

: The very name of the God of Moses, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Creator:

"Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."
- Exodus 3:14

"Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I Am."
- John 8:58

Emmanuel: From the Hebrew words Immanu - "with us" - and El - "God". Jesus is everything that the Father is, made into human flesh so that we can know what the Father is like through Jesus Christ. He truly is God with us.

"Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." - Matthew 1:22,23

"Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth...all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." -Colossians 1:15-17

"Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" - John 14:9

He is the Son of Man and the Son of God. He is the Rock, The Good Shepherd, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. May God be blessed for his goodness toward us, for "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved," (John 3:17).

That is who Jesus is.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
-Isaiah 9:6

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