Current Events

Dictatorial Governmental Restrictions in the UK

BBC News published an extremely disturbing report on January 24, showing the controlling and intrusive involvement of Western governments (in this case the UK) in private affairs and jeopardizing privacy and individual freedom, which terrible violations are normally only known in dictatorial countries. Let the reader beware as to what Satan’s world has still in store for us:

“Some HSBC customers have been prevented from withdrawing large amounts of cash because they could not provide evidence of why they wanted it, the BBC has learnt.  Listeners have told Radio 4’s Money Box they were stopped from withdrawing amounts ranging from £5,000 to £10,000…

“Stephen Cotton went to his local HSBC branch this month to withdraw £7,000 from his instant access savings account to pay back a loan from his mother. A year before, he had withdrawn a larger sum in cash from HSBC without a problem. But this time it was different, as he told Money Box: ‘When we presented them with the withdrawal slip, they declined to give us the money because we could not provide them with a satisfactory explanation for what the money was for. They wanted a letter from the person involved.’

“Mr Cotton says the staff refused to tell him how much he could have: ‘So I wrote out a few slips. I said, “Can I have £5,000?” They said no. I said, “Can I have £4,000?” They said no. And then I wrote one out for £3,000 and they said, “OK, we’ll give you that.”’

“He asked if he could return later that day to withdraw another £3,000, but he was told he could not do the same thing twice in one day. He wrote to complain to HSBC about the new rules and also that he had not been informed of any change. The bank said it did not have to tell him…

“Mr Cotton cannot understand HSBC’s attitude: ‘I’ve been banking in that bank for 28 years. They all know me in there. You shouldn’t have to explain to your bank why you want that money. It’s not theirs, it’s yours.’

“Peter from Wiltshire, who wanted his surname withheld, had a similar experience. He wanted to take out £10 000 cash from HSBC, some to pay to his sons and some to fund his long-haul travel plans…

“Money Box asked other banks what their policy is on large cash withdrawals. They all said they reserved the right to ask questions about large cash withdrawals…

“Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP for Clacton, is alarmed by the new HSBC policy: ‘All these regulations which have been imposed on banks allow enormous interpretation. It basically infantilises the customer. In a sense your money becomes pocket money and the bank becomes your parent.’”

This is truly outrageous. The next step might be that banks will begin to confiscate (steal) the money of their customers, or the state will come in to impose a tax on bank accounts to rob their citizens of some of their savings… as did happen in Greece. Such conduct is ungodly and without any justification whatever. Bank executives and government representatives enacting such abominable rules should be ashamed of themselves… and will have to give account for it when their day of reckoning comes and they have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ to “justify” their ungodly conduct.

British Royal Household Living Beyond Their Means

NBC wrote on January 28:

“Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has just £1 million ($1.6 million) left in financial reserves after the royal household overspent on its budget last year, according to a report by British lawmakers released Tuesday. The royal household had to dip into its reserves after overspending £2.3 million ($3.8 million) on the £31 million ($51.4 million) it was given by the taxpayer in 2012/13.

“The report by the Public Accounts Committee said the amount was ‘historically low’ and that it was ‘concerned that the household has reduced its balances to such an extent that it could be unable to cover its expenditure on any unforeseen events.’

“This paltry figure of £1 million is in contrast to 2001 when the royal household had £35 million ($58 million) in its reserves. The royals spend the money on costs such as staff wages, maintaining their palaces and travel… The report also criticized the royals’ ‘complacency’ in allowing some 39 percent of royal buildings and land to slip into a state of disrepair. It said the 60-year-old heating system in Buckingham Palace alone will cost between £500,000 and £1 million to replace.”

Royals should not set such a bad example, lest citizens follow it.

Circumcision Divide between Denmark and Israel

The Copenhagen Post reported on January 24 about another example of potentially ungodly governmental intrusion in the affairs of minority private citizens, following the high level of approval of their citizens, which is ungodly. In this case, Denmark is the culprit, but other European states might follow suit. One is reminded of Shakespeare’s famous words that there is “something rotten in the state of Denmark (and Europe)”:

“Denmark may soon be the first country in the world to issue a ban on non-therapeutic circumcision of boys… In two fresh statements, Danish doctors express deep concern over ritual circumcision of boys. The Danish Society of Family Physicians, whose 3,000 members include two thirds of all general practitioners in Denmark, announced in December that circumcision of underage boys with no proper medical indication is nothing short of mutilation. In a separate statement, the overarching Danish Medical Association recommended earlier this week that non-therapeutic male circumcision should wait until the boy or young man is old enough to provide informed consent.

“An editorial in Jyllands-Posten, the second largest national newspaper in Denmark, urged the Danish government yesterday to ban ritual circumcision of underage boys, and a result poll among readers of BT, another large national newspaper, showed that 87 percent of well over 26,000 votes were in favour of such a ban.
“Not surprisingly, Israel has a quite different view on this matter. In December 2013, an Israeli delegation of Knesset politicians travelled to Paris in an attempt to overturn a visionary, human rights-based resolution that was passed by a comfortable majority of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 1 October  2013. The PACE resolution 1952 recommends that member states start moving towards abolishing all kinds of physical assaults on children, including non-therapeutic circumcision of boys and girls.

“The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organization with a current total of 47 member states, each of which has signed the European Convention of Human Rights. Israel is neither a member, nor has it signed the European Convention of Human Rights but, since 1957, Israel has held observer status in the Council of Europe…

“To most Europeans circumcision is an ethically problematic ritual that is intrinsically harmful to children…”

Of course, the left-liberal article goes on to try to defend such a ban, without any regard whatsoever for the Bible and God’s view point. This world is drifting farther and farther away from the truth and godly standards.

Another Deep Freeze in the USA

The Associated Press wrote on January 28:

“Parents brought kids to work or just stayed home because schools were closed, again. Office workers hailed cabs to ride a block — or less. And companies offering delivery services were inundated with business as [Arctic] air blasted the central U.S. on Monday for the second time in weeks, disrupting the lives of even the hardiest Midwesterners. As temperatures and wind chills plummeted throughout the day, even simple routines were upended by the need to bundle up, with anyone venturing outdoors being well advised to layer up with clothing, coats, hats, scarves and gloves.

“And there’s no quick relief in sight as subzero highs were expected to dominate across the region into Tuesday. ‘This is similar to what we had three weeks ago’ in terms of life-threatening conditions, said Sarah Marquardt, a National Weather Service meteorologist. ‘With wind chills in the minus 30 to minus 40 range, you can get frostbite within 10 minutes on exposed skin.’

“In Chicago, temperatures had fallen below zero by Monday afternoon with wind chills in the negative double-digits… Residents of Minnesota and Wisconsin faced similar if even somewhat more severe weather. Wind chills in the minus 40s were expected in Minneapolis, while in Milwaukee the chill hit minus 23 by mid-afternoon. Elsewhere, wind chills of minus 18 were expected in Dayton, Ohio, minus 14 in Kansas City, Mo., and minus 3 in Louisville, Ky.”

Edward Snowden Speaks to German TV Audience

Deutsche Welle reported on January 27:

“Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has told German public television what motivated him to go public, has asked whether NSA tapping stopped at Chancellor Merkel’s phone, and has said his return to the US is unlikely.

“German public broadcaster ARD showed a half-hour interview with Edward Snowden on Sunday night, the ex-NSA contractor’s first television interview since gaining temporary asylum in Russia last year. The 30-year-old fugitive whistleblower said there was ‘no question’ that the NSA conducted industrial espionage  and also alluded to a recent BuzzFeed article quoting unnamed US security officials as saying they wanted Snowden dead.

“Hubert Seipel, a journalist for ARD’s regional member NDR who conducted the interview in a Moscow hotel room, also asked Snowden what convinced him to go public with his information on global intelligence practices. ‘I would say sort of the breaking point was seeing how Director of National Intelligence James Clapper directly lied to Congress when under oath,’ Snowden said. ‘There’s no saving an intelligence agency that believes it can lie to the public, and to legislators, who need to be able to trust it and regulate its actions.’…

“When asked about the tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, and whether previous governments might have been similarly monitored, Snowden said this was ‘a particularly difficult question for me,’ saying it pertained to as-yet unpublished information which he ‘very strongly’ believed to be in the public interest. Snowden instead formulated his answer as a series of rhetorical questions, repeatedly asking ‘how reasonable’ it was to assume that the monitoring of Merkel would not extend to other European leaders, or to Merkel’s advisors or other prominent German politicians like ‘heads of ministries, or even local governments.’

“The relationship between the NSA and its German equivalent the BND was described by Snowden as ‘intimate.’ He alluded, among other things, to the BND’s ability to access the NSA’s ‘X Key Score’ database, which Snowden described as a ‘one-stop-shop for access to the NSA’s information… If I am a traitor, who did I betray? I gave all of my information to the American public, to American journalists,’ Snowden said.

“Asked where he had applied for asylum in Europe, Snowden said he no longer remembered the entire list, but numbered Germany, France and Britain among the European countries to turn him down.

“Hubert Seipel’s last questions were about the possibility of Snowden returning to the United States, either as part of an amnesty arrangement or to face trial. Snowden said he was unwilling to return if he was to be tried under the 1918 Espionage Act, because he would not get the chance ‘to convince a jury that what I did was in their benefit. So it’s, I would say, illustrative,’ Snowden said, after a lengthy pause before picking his adjective, ‘that the president should say, “come and face the music,” when he knows that “the music’ is a show trial.’”

The Local added on January 27:

“In his first TV interview since fleeing to Russia, Snowden told German broadcaster ARD: ‘If there’s information at Siemens that’s beneficial to US national interests, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with national security, then they’ll take that information nevertheless.’  The former NSA contractor also spoke about how he feared for his life. ‘These people, and they are government officials, have said they would love to put a bullet in my head or poison me when I come out of the supermarket, and then watch as I die in the shower,’ he said in the interview which was filmed in Moscow…

“Snowden is wanted by US authorities on treason charges for disclosing details of a vast intelligence operation that monitored millions of phone calls and emails across the world. He received temporary asylum in Russia in August – a move that infuriated the United States and was a key factor behind President Barack Obama’s decision to cancel a summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin last year.”

NSA and GCHQ Are Tapping Smartphones

Fox News reported on January 27:

“The NSA and its British counterpart [GCHQ] are tapping popular smartphone apps such as [the] Angry Birds [game] to peek into the tremendous amounts of very personal data those bits of software collect — including age, location sex and even sexual preferences, according to new reports from the New York Times and The Guardian… Both spy agencies showed a particular interest in Google Maps, which [are] accurate to within a few yards or better in some locations and would clearly pass along data about a phone owner’s whereabouts

“… surprising is the wide range of apps that the agencies cull for data, including innocent-seeming apps such as Angry Birds. One document in particular from GCHQ listed what information can be extracted from which apps, citing Android apps but suggesting the same data was available from the iPhone platform… Mobile photo uploads appear to be a particularly rich source of information for the spy agencies as well. Metadata in the photos — which is often ultimately stripped from pictures by social media sites like Facebook and Twitter — is briefly available.”

The Guardian added on January 27:

“Many smartphone owners will be unaware of the full extent this information is being shared across the internet, and even the most sophisticated would be unlikely to realise that all of it is available for the spy agencies to collect… The means of interception mean GCHQ and NSA could obtain data without any knowledge or co-operation from the technology companies. Spokespeople for the NSA and GCHQ told NBC all programs were carried out in accordance with US and UK law.”

NSA Will Continue to Spy on Germany

The EuObserver wrote on January 27:

“Major economic deals, which look as if they could cause ‘difficulties’ for the US, are a legitimate reason to spy on EU leaders, a US intelligence oversight panelist has said. ‘If Germany were making an economic deal for a gas pipeline in a way that would cause large international difficulties, that might be a reason to try to prevent a bad outcome,’ Peter Swire, a professor of law and ethics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told journalists in Brussels on Friday… He noted that he was speaking in a personal capacity.

“But his remark sheds light on US President Barack Obama’s thinking about the future of the National Security Agency (NSA) in light of Edward Snowden’s revelations. The professor is one of five authors who recently drafted 46 recommendations on how to reform US intelligence. The panel’s ideas formed the basis of Obama’s speech and presidential directive of 14 January on NSA regulation.”

Merkel Rebukes US and UK Over Spying

While President Obama made only a passing comment about the spying activities of the NSA in his disappointing State of the Union Address 2014 on Tuesday “without vision or any new ideas” (Die Welt, dated January 29), “having reached a new level of emptiness” (Politico), The Local reported on January 29 the following about Angela Merkel’s major speech to the German Parliament:
“Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a strong rebuke to the United States and Britain on Wednesday over sweeping surveillance and spying activities reported by fugitive IT contractor Edward Snowden. In a major speech to parliament… Merkel said that Western powers sacrificing freedom in the quest for security were sending the wrong signal to ‘billions of people living in undemocratic states. ‘Actions in which the ends justify the means, in which everything that is technically possible is done, violate trust, they sow distrust,’ she said…

“Merkel… also conceded that the allies remain ‘far apart’ on the ‘ethical question’ of freedom versus security in state surveillance. ‘Is it right that our closest partners such as the United States and Britain gain access to all imaginable data, saying this is for their own security and the security of their partners?’ asked Merkel. ‘Is it right to act this way because others in the world do the same?’ she added before also touching on alleged British spying at international talks. ‘Is it right if in the end this is not about averting terrorist threats but, for example, gaining an advantage over allies in negotiations, at G20 summits or UN sessions? Our answer can only be: No, this can’t be right. Because it touches the very core of what cooperation between friendly and allied countries is about: trust.’”

Please make sure to view our new StandingWatch program on the topic of the widening rift between Germany and the USA and the increasing influence of the Eurozone members, titled, “The Prophetic Rise of the Eurozone.”

Difficult Time in Trans-Atlantic Ties

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 29:

“US Secretary of State John Kerry plans to visit Berlin on Friday in an attempt to repair the damage done by the NSA spying scandal. German officials aren’t expecting any official apology, and the trip comes at a difficult time in trans-Atlantic ties.

“United States Secretary of State John Kerry wants to step in personally to smooth out trans-Atlantic relations that have deteriorated as a result of the NSA spying scandal…

“German diplomats are already warning against high expectations for the meeting. Already the way in which the visit has been planned suggests that the US government isn’t giving the secretary of state’s Germany visit its highest priority. American officials didn’t alert their German counterparts of the details of when they could expect Kerry in Berlin until Wednesday.

“Diplomats say they aren’t expecting the secretary of state to provide any formal apology for spying by the NSA. Instead, the trip will address more general working issues. Hopes for a formal no-spy agreement between Germany and the United States have also largely vanished…

“It has been alleged in SPIEGEL reporting that the NSA spied on the data of Germans millions of times and that it eavesdropped on the chancellor’s mobile phone… Kerry’s trip also coincides with a phase of new tensions in German-American relations. This week, members of the Bundestag, the federal parliament, want to submit a petition for the creation of a special committee to investigate the NSA affair…”

Separate Parliament for Eurozone Member States?

Bild Online reported on January 27 that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (who is presently Germany’s most popular politician) recommended in Brussels the creation of a parliament for the Eurozone member states. He stated that Germany and France had recommended in May to connect the EU parliament closer to decisions of the Eurozone members. He said that could be easily accomplished if the Eurozone member states had their own parliament.

The EUObserver added on January 29:

“German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has laid out ideas on how the single currency area should evolve, including having a eurozone parliament. Schaeuble’s plans – aired just four months ahead of EU elections – are likely to be controversial. They raise questions about how the existing EU parliament would function alongside a new euro-focused institution. They are also likely to heighten concerns, particularly in non-euro Britain, that the eurozone is the political heart of the EU.”

The Bible shows that out of the EU, ten nations or groups of nations will evolve financially, politically and even militarily, to lead Europe.

Germany on a New European Policy Course?

Der Spiegel wrote on January 28:

“Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen want Germany to assume a greater role in world affairs, including military missions abroad. Their stance marks a break with Angela Merkel’s policy of restraint.

“Last Tuesday’s meeting between German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius could hardly have been more harmonious… Relations between Berlin and Paris are better than they’ve been in a long time, and that’s evident not just in the effusive exchanges of pleasantries. The French now want to follow the German example in economic policy, after two years of resisting it. Berlin in turn wants to provide Paris with stronger support in military missions in Africa in future…

“That’s a big step not just for France, but for Germany as well. The new German government, inaugurated just a month ago, is charting a new course in foreign policy. The central question under Steinmeier’s predecessor, Guido Westerwelle, was: ‘How can we keep out of armed conflicts?’ Westerwelle favored a culture of military restraint, which meant leaving unpleasant tasks up to others.

“Now, two ministers from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new coalition, which pairs her conservatives with the center-left Social Democrats, have set about abandoning Westerwelle’s legacy. Steinmeier and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen believe that an economic powerhouse like Germany can’t continue to stand on the sidelines. They want to show Germany’s allies that the country can be relied upon…

“The new approach has already led to concrete policy changes. Germany plans to dispatch more troops to support France’s campaign against Islamists in Mali. The government is also considering providing military aircraft for transport and medical evacuation in the Central African Republic…

“Germany gained a reputation as a moralistic nation keen to wag its finger, but unwilling to get involved when things got dangerous. Steinmeier and von der Leyen want that to change…

“In her eight years in office thus far, Merkel has lost faith in the notion that military intervention can bring about improvements. She was particularly disillusioned by the German army’s mission in Afghanistan. In addition, she tends to be influenced by opinion polls, which show that Germans are skeptical about the army engaging in combat missions…

“Steinmeier would also like to become more involved in Europe than his predecessor was. French Foreign Minister Fabius could hardly hide his contempt for Westerwelle when the two met. Now, he has expressed his willingness to join Steinmeier on trips. ‘The Foreign Ministry has realized that the key to the European project is to be found in French-German relations,’ says Ulrike Guérot from the Open Society Initiative for Europe…

“Steinmeier would like to strengthen European institutions while von der Leyen, in her previous role as labor minister, voiced her support for a ‘United States of Europe.’… the two plan to present themselves as representatives of a changed Germany at the Munich Security Conference, which begins on Friday.

“In recent years, Berlin has been in the uncomfortable position of having to defend its passivity at the conference. This year, the Germans want to change the narrative. It is a message that German head of state, President Joachim Gauck, plans to deliver as well. In his opening speech, Gauck plans to call on Germans to recognize their place in the world, according to plans from his office…

“Defense Minister von der Leyen is not only interested in improving Germany’s image among its allies. Rather, she would also like to develop a joint European defense policy worthy of the name… Von der Leyen would like to increase Germany’s credibility and has even broached the topic of a joint European army. Just one year ago, her predecessor Thomas de Maizière rejected the concept at the Munich Security Conference.

“Just how far Steinmeier and von der Leyen get with their new policy ideas depends to a large degree on Merkel. In recent years, the Chancellery was not always happy about Westerwelle’s choice of words, but it supported his policy of military restraint. Merkel believes that Germany’s foreign policy role should be primarily that of enabling allies in difficult regions to solve crises themselves. To that end, she has authorized substantial exports of German weapons to authoritarian countries like Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

“Last week, during a cabinet retreat near Berlin, Steinmeier and von der Leyen presented their vision of a new German foreign policy, with the foreign minister focusing on Mali and the defense minister speaking about Central Africa. When they were finished, Merkel said: ‘I am not now going to say yes or no to the mission.’ One could hardly come up with a more precise formulation or her approach to policy.”

Ukraine’s Prime Minister and Government Resign

BBC News wrote on January 28:

“Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych has accepted the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet amid continuing anti-government protests. Mykola Azarov had offered to step down as prime minister to create ‘social and political compromise’. The move came after the Ukrainian parliament voted overwhelmingly to annul a controversial anti-protest law…

“Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at an EU-Russia summit in Brussels, said all the agreements reached with Mr Azarov would remain in place despite the resignation even if the opposition formed the next government. [He later stated that he wants to wait with giving financial aid until a new government is formed.] The loan was to ‘support the people of Ukraine, not the government. It’s the people, the common people that suffer’, he told a news conference after talks with EU leaders…

“Despite the president accepting their resignations, the cabinet can remain in their posts for 60 days until a new government is formed…”

The Guardian wrote on January 30:

“Ukraine’s embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, has accused the opposition of escalating the situation in the country and insisted that his government is doing all it can to solve the crisis. Yanukovych’s defiant statement – released on the presidential website – followed an announcement that he is taking sick leave due to an acute respiratory illness and high fever. There was no indication of how long he might be on leave or whether he would be able to do any work. The chief medical officer said the president was suffering from a ‘severe cold with a high temperature’”.

While the USA has imposed sanctions against Ukraine, the EU has refused to do so; in verbally “condemning” the violence in Ukraine, the EU is trying to please the government and the people. That approach will backfire, and Ukraine is going to become more strongly aligned with Russia.

EU-Russian Summit—“No Good News from Moscow”

The EUObserver wrote on January 28:

“This week’s summit has already been downgraded to a brief encounter between the European Union and Russian leaders and will not be able to overcome the deep rift which is widening between the EU and Moscow. The political reality is far from the ‘strategic partnership’ we mutually pretend to have established.

“The Russian Federation under Putin, despite the media charm offensive in the run-up to the Winter Olympics, has backtracked on democracy and the rule of law, and is run and governed by a regime more interested in feathering its own nest than improving the lives of Russian citizens and modernising its country…

“In 2013 we witnessed Russia pursuing a combination of hostile economic and political measures towards the countries that were actively seeking a closer association and integration with the European Union. Russia succeeded in blowing the Vilnius Eastern Partnership summit off course… Russia imposed a series of targeted sanctions against Ukraine’s exports…

“In parallel with a new EU-Russia policy framework, it is clear that the EU can and should play a stronger and more pro-active role in the search for political solutions to the frozen conflicts in its eastern neighbourhood and the EU’s External Action Service should come forward with an action plan for a renewed EU engagement in finding political solutions to these conflicts…

“We have recently celebrated the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Pussy Riot and [Arctic] Rise activists. These individual cases should not distract our attention from the systematic and worsening crackdown on human rights defenders, civil society and political dissent… the EU has leverage and influence and soft power to influence developments abroad. However, for soft power to work, our engagement must be backed up by more robust measures when provoked or challenged.”

And so, the EU will become more influential and asserting… but ultimately, that will not be good news for the world….

Attack on Pope’s Doves Symbolic for Pope’s Failed Policy?

The Washington Post wrote on January 27:

“Pope Francis called for peaceful dialogue in Ukraine on Sunday, concluding his remarks by having adorable Italian children release two white doves from the window of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The magical and touching symbol was quickly attacked by the harsh reality of bird-on-bird violence, with one seagull and one black crow attacking the doves. The crowd, inspired and blessed only moments earlier, watched in helpless horror as the crow and gull pecked and pulled at the doves.

“What better symbol could there be for the world in 2013, its many setbacks and disappointments, and in particular for Pope Francis’s well-intentioned but, so far, frequently unsuccessful attempts to improve it. Since taking  office last March, the pope’s high-aiming campaigns and grand gestures have often, and tragically, been overtaken by the cold, hard realities on the ground…

“One of Francis’s most significant forays into world affairs may have been his campaign against U.S. offshore strikes against Syria as retaliation for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. In September, the pope went on a fast and led a global prayer vigil to oppose the strikes. Where this rankled many Syria activists and observers was Francis’s declaration that he was rallying against war and for peace by opposing U.S. strikes – a puzzling assertion given that both the Syrian regime and rebels had killed, and were continuing to kill, far more people than any U.S. cruise missiles would have done…

“Other papal doves have fallen less spectacularly… His forays into the U.K.-Argentine dispute over the Falkland Islands (a British colonial possession whose population has voted overwhelmingly to

Industrial Hemp in New Farm Bill

The Washington Times wrote on January 28:

“It’s not marijuana legalization, but the massive new farm bill includes a pilot program that would allow universities and state agricultural departments to legally grow industrial hemp. Pot advocates have long pushed for hemp legalization, touting it as a miracle plant that can be used for making rope, paper, clothing and a number of other products. But industrial hemp’s production has been illegal under federal controlled substances laws, since it is a cultivar of the same plant species that produces marijuana. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has been fighting for a change, and they said Tuesday that they’ve managed to get the relaxed rules written into the farm bill, which the House will vote on this week…

“Some states have legalized hemp but growers have still had to face the federal ban, which has required obtaining a permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Industrial hemp plants contain less than 1 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical at work in marijuana. Marijuana plants typically contain between 3 percent and 15 percent THC by weight. But federal authorities say that in the field it’s impossible to distinguish between the two plants, which some critics argue makes it easy to hide marijuana plants in a hemp plot.

“The marijuana debate has undergone a major shift in recent years. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized personal marijuana use, while a number of others have legalized it for medicinal purposes. It is still considered a controlled substance under federal law, but President Obama and Justice Department officials have said they don’t intend to go after users in states where it has been legalized.”

Politico wrote on January 29:

“The research title of the farm bill conference report, released Monday, allows for colleges, universities and agriculture departments in states that have legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp to grow the crop for research purposes. Industrial hemp is defined by the bill to contain no more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol — the mind-altering ingredient contained in its even more controversial cousin, marijuana…

“Hemp is bred to contain far less tetrahydrocannabinol than marijuana and was widely grown in the United States until the mid-1900s. The plant, which historians say was grown by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, was cultivated mainly for rope fibers, paper and textiles that were often used as ship sails. Farmers abandoned hemp in the mid-1900s due to stringent federal restrictions. And lawmakers failed to include an exemption for hemp in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, sounding a death knell for domestic production of the crop.

“But interest in industrial hemp has grown in recent years, following the discovery of its potential nutrition benefits in food and as a component in composite materials and biofuel source material. Sales of hemp products in the U.S. reached $500 million in 2012, according to Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, which lobbies for the legalization of the product. ‘All of that’s coming from imported material,’ Steenstra said. ‘It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that really all our trading partners can grow these crops [but U.S. farmers can’t]. I think there is no question that hemp could be a multibillion-dollar market [in the United States].’

“Already 10 states have legalized cultivation of hemp — including Kentucky, Colorado and California — and 11 more are set to consider bills on the issue during their 2014 legislative sessions. The initiatives follow an August 2013 Justice Department memo in which the Obama administration left policing the cultivation of industrial hemp off a list of marijuana enforcement priorities. Since then, states have been quick to interpret that as a green light to move ahead with laws allowing the crop.

“However, it’s not quite that simple. Hemp and hemp seeds are still considered a controlled substance and cannot be imported…”

Medical Marijuana—Does It Really Work?

Fox News reported on January 27:

“A Florida measure that would allow the use of medical marijuana has cleared its final hurdle and will be on the November ballot. The state Supreme Court on Monday approved the language for the proposed constitutional amendment. The justices gave its approval by a 4-3 vote just three days after a petition drive reached the required number of signatures to place the measure on the ballot. The decision is a defeat for Attorney General Pam Bondi, who challenged the ballot language by saying it’s misleading.”

CBS Denver wrote on January 24:

“There’s a medical marijuana plant that has parents moving to Colorado to help their children. The strain of marijuana is called ‘Charlotte’s Web’ [named after Charlotte, a young girl suffering from epilepsy]… The strain, converted into oil, has drastically changed Charlotte Figi’s life for the better. Now advocates claim hundreds of families are moving to Colorado in a last ditch effort to help their suffering children…

“The Jay family hails from Minnesota, but they have now been Coloradans for about two weeks. It was a move solely to help their daughter Jenna. ‘Jenna has extractible epilepsy due to brain malformation,’ Marie Jay said. Jenna’s smile is bright, but her past is filled with years of suffering — 20 different medications and a surgery. Right now she takes 15 pills a day, but still has up to 500 seizures a month. Marie and Jason Jay are done guessing with doctors… They are one of many families turning to Colorado…

“The Harmons came from Amarillo, Texas, to help 8-year-old Jillian, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy… Charlotte’s Web has less than .03 THC… Currently about 300 patients are on the marijuana oil, a number that tripled in only a few months after its name-sake gained notoriety. ‘(Charlotte) is amazing. She’s the same two years into this. Now off all her pharmaceuticals,’ Charlotte’s mother Paige Figi said… Paige Figi now works with Realm of Caring, a nonprofit that educates parents, patients and even other state legislatures on the drug that changed her daughter’s life. ‘She has her life back again. She can do things like a 2- to 3-year-old child can do,’ Paige Figi said.

“Just this month state health officials have offered $7.1 million in research grants to look into the helpful properties of marijuana and its derivatives.”

The Website of added on January 24:

“A Frederick, Md., mother wants to give her 3-year-old twin boys medical marijuana to help ease their severe seizures, and now she is working with state lawmakers to help make it happen. Nicolas and Byron Deliyannis were born with a rare disorder called Miller-Dieker syndrome. It is a condition that [has] brought on almost daily seizures. Their mother, Shannon Moore, says nothing her family and doctors have tried is helping her little boys. ‘The medicines that they’re on, in addition to having really negative side effects, have really stopped working for them,’ she says.

“Moore wants to give her kids medical marijuana to help calm their seizures. She says she learned about the therapy and its success while watching a news report. The problem is marijuana isn’t legal in Maryland where Moore and her family live. ‘Medical marijuana is helping to save lives of children with catastrophic epilepsy in other states where it’s legal, and I want it to be legal here,’ Moore says.

“Last year, the state legislature passed a bill that only made medical marijuana available through academic medical centers. None is taking advantage of the new law.

“Now, Moore is working with local and state lawmakers, including Frederick County Delegate Patrick Hogan, to craft a better law…

“There has been some push back by those concerned about the potential for abuse. But a recent poll shows 90 percent of Maryland residents support medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor. Moore says even if it can’t save Nicolas and Byron’s lives, it is worth it to help other kids who may be just as severely sick. Studies show that medical marijuana works for about 85 percent of kids with epilepsy. It is usually administered dietarily, but can also be used with a vaporizing apparatus…”

The Las Vegas Sun reported on January 16:

“Several Nevada municipalities are issuing moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries, but [US Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid really thinks they should be moving in the opposite direction – toward making medicinal pot legal… Reid, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is not one who normally rushes to embrace controversial substances…

“But Reid described his evolving opinion on medical marijuana by citing the stories of individuals whose ailments found no other relief… people he’s heard about on the news, and people he’s known personally. There was one case in particular, about the only son of a Las Vegas elected official whom Reid did not specify by name, who had severe kidney failure, losing not just one, but two kidneys while a college student…

“Reid cited CNN and NPR reports about children suffering from seizures as well, to make the case that over the past several years, he’d come to think that marijuana seemed a sensible and humane treatment for people suffering from particular conditions with no other treatment or cure… Reid stressed that his opinions only pertain to medical uses of marijuana…”

BBC News reported on January 5:

“The US state of New York is planning to relax its marijuana laws to allow limited use by seriously ill patients, reports say… The drug is still illegal under federal law. New York’s new policy is expected to be far stricter than in California or Colorado, which had already loosened rules around the use of medical marijuana.

“In California, people suffering from mild medical complaints can obtain prescriptions for the drug. But in New York, the drug will be made available in only 20 hospitals across the state for people with cancer, glaucoma or other serious diseases that meet standards to be set by the state department of health.”

If it is true that medical marijuana—especially those products in the form of oil with a greatly reduced or eliminated amount of THC (the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana)–help patients who are suffering from serious and otherwise “untreatable” diseases, such as cancer, kidney failure or epilepsy, then the federal law’s all-encompassing universal prohibition of the same seems to be highly suspect. Sadly, the desire of many to allow and legalize marijuana for “recreational” improper personal purposes has clouded or even suppressed the recognition of a need for research regarding a potentially beneficial medical use of certain marijuana products with virtually no THC.

Do Cold and Flu Meds Spread the Flu?

The website of reported on January 27:

“Could cold and flu drugs help spread the flu? Some researchers think so. Over-the-counter cold and flu drugs contain ibuprofen, acetaminophen or other drugs that can reduce fever. When patients’ fever is down, they tend to feel better. But researchers at Canada’s McMaster University concluded that when some patients reduce their symptoms with cold and flu medications, they feel better and return to work or school while still infected. While patients feel fine, they are still able to infect others, according to the study…

“NBC News reports that it’s a controversial study, but it suggests as many as 1,000 more people a year may die from flu because of people taking over-the-counter medicines that make them feel good enough to get out of their sick beds and back into the swing of things, infecting others. ‘We aren’t saying don’t take medication. That’s not the message,’ David Earn, who specializes in mathematics and disease, said to NBC News. ‘Be aware that if you take this medication, there is this effective increase in transmission.’

“Just because you have a mild case of flu doesn’t mean the person you infect will get a mild case, too. Influenza kills anywhere between 3,000 and 49,000 people a year, NBC reports. Earn says a flu that may make a child feel bad, could be more serious for the elderly.”

The State vs. Individual Beliefs Against Vaccinations

KPBS wrote on January 2:

“A new state law went into effect Jan. 1 making it a little harder for California students to skip required vaccinations. The law says parents can now only claim a personal belief exemption from vaccines if they have a signed form from their doctor… California law requires students be vaccinated against diseases like polio, measles and whooping cough before they can attend school. But parents have been able to skip these requirements by signing a personal belief exemption, which says immunization is contrary to their way of thinking.

“Under the new California law, parents will still be able to do that. But they have to get a signed form from their pediatrician saying they’ve been informed of the ‘benefits and risks of immunization.’ Although the law took effect at the start of 2014, students only need this new form when they start kindergarten or middle school or move to California from out of state. Otherwise, their existing exemption will still apply.

“The new form also has a box that says the family belongs to a religion that prohibits ‘seeking medical advice or treatment.’ If parents check this box, they don’t need a doctor’s signature to exempt their children from vaccinations. This religious exemption was added by Gov. Jerry Brown when he signed the law. Catherine Flores Martin, the director of the California Immunization Coalition, told NPR she worries the additional box on the form will weaken the law, because parents don’t have to provide proof of their religion to check it…”

The new California form is available under

In Colorado, similar developments can be observed.

As Fox 31 reported on December 11, 2013, “Soon it may not be as easy to get vaccination exemptions for your child. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released a new report with recommendations on improving immunization rates among children Tuesday… The rate of parents claiming ‘personal belief exemptions’ to get out of school and daycare immunizations requirements triggered the report… 3,000 kindergarteners last year were not immunized. Ninety-three percent for personal beliefs—not religious or medical. The state says the exemptions can put other children at risk…”

It is the position of the Church of the Eternal God and its international affiliates that it is a personal decision of their members whether or not to immunize their children, but the Church recognizes the convictions of those who refuse immunization, and it supports such requests for exemption, as everything which is not done from faith and out of (godly-permissible and approved) conviction is sin (Romans 14:23). The Church recognizes the biblical validity and rationale of such conviction as it very well understands that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that immunizations may not be harmless and could cause serious side effects.

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