Gaines, others see God at work amid SBC’s trials

Despite turmoil related to terminations and resignations of "several" Southern Baptists "from key positions of leadership," Southern Baptist Convention President Steve says, there are signs "the Lord is going to come upon us powerfully in Dallas" at next week’s SBC annual meeting.<br>

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Four Takeaways From The Latest Round Of Gaza Clashes

It began with an attempt by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to plant an improvised explosive device on the security fence separating Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and ended with a near full-scale conflagration on a scale not seen since the summer of 2014. Tensions for the time being have tapered off but the recent fighting demonstrates why the Israeli Army (IDF) maintains a constant state of readiness along its volatile borders. 

On Sunday, security forces monitoring the Gaza border detected an object attached to the border fence. Upon closer examination, it turned out to be a bolt cutter of the type used by Palestinian rioters to breach the fence in weeks prior. A remote controlled robot was sent in to inspect and remove the object utilizing a long cord. During the course of removal, the bolt cutter exploded. Fortunately, no one was injured but the situation could have just as easily resulted in casualties.

PIJ terrorists who planted the IED were then spotted manning a nearby observation post. An Israeli Merkava IV tank fired at the OP instantly killing two PIJ operatives. A third was mortally wounded and died soon after. Islamic Jihad swore vengeance.

Two days later, southern Israeli border towns and communities came under intense indiscriminate rocket and mortar bombardment. A kindergarten was hit but fortunately, the children had not yet arrived. Over the course of 22 hours, Hamas and PIJ fired over 100 rockets and mortars, 25 of which were shot down by Israel’s anti-rocket defense system, Iron Dome. According to military sources, the system also succeeded in intercepting incoming mortar rounds, a first in the annals of warfare. There were no fatalities but there was some property damage and three IDF soldiers were wounded, two lightly and one moderately. A civilian was also lightly injured.

The unprovoked attacks inevitably drew Israeli retaliatory strikes which came in two waves. Some 65 Hamas and PIJ positions were targeted including a U-shaped, two-kilometer long tunnel that extended into both Egypt and Israel. It was to be used for smuggling contraband as well as for facilitating terrorist attacks. Rocket and weapons storage facilities were also hit and destroyed. A Hamas naval armory which the army said contained “advanced, unmanned submarine vessels, capable of maritime infiltration and carrying out maritime terror attacks,” was hit and destroyed as well.

Israel informed Hamas through intermediaries that if it continued its attacks, the IDF was prepared to conduct a large-scale military operation, similar to those conducted in 2009 and 2014. Hamas, still smarting from the defeats of 2009 and 2014, understood that Israel meant business and ordered its operatives as well as the PIJ to cease fire. The question is how long will the cease fire hold? The answer to that is anyone’s guess.

Nevertheless, the recent round of fighting highlighted several interesting takeaways. First, the discovery of a Hamas tunnel in Egypt is likely to further strain relations between Egypt and Hamas. Egypt has accused Hamas of aiding Islamist terrorists in northern Sinai and the revelation of a Hamas-dug tunnel in Egypt further erodes Hamas’s credibility in the eyes of the Egyptian government.

Second, the Iron Dome system continues to impress. In 2014, Iron Dome succeeded in shooting down rockets but had yet been incapable of downing mortar rounds. In 2014, a mortar round fired from a Gaza school killed a four-year-old Israeli boy named Daniel Tragerman, who lived in a kibbutz near the border. Modifications and software upgrades to Iron Dome have enabled the system to now have the ability to intercept incoming mortar rounds. This is an unprecedented development in warfare.

Third, during the Obama years, Israel received equivocal support at best, when it carried out anti-terror operations against Islamist terrorist groups. Europe, taking cue from Obama, was downright hostile. But in the latest round, Israel received unequivocal political support from both the United States and the European Union, while Hamas was roundly condemned. This positive development signals a seismic shift in favor of Israel and may have been a contributing factor in Hamas’s decision to call it quits. Hamas recognizes that in any confrontation with Israel, it will lose both militarily and politically, whereas in the past, it at least had a chance of scoring political points.

Fourth, the malevolent role of the Iranian regime in stoking the recent round of violence cannot be overlooked. Iran has its fingerprints all over this one. Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders have readily and publicly acknowledged that they receive aid in the form of cash, training and weapons from Iran. For years, the Iranians have been cultivating proxies to do their bidding and these Palestinian groups are willing participants. Iran has recently been on the receiving end of some sharp blows from Israel, and the mullahs were looking for a way to strike back but without engaging Israel in direct confrontation. Gaza appeared to be Iran’s venue of choice. Nevertheless, despite Hamas’s dependence on Iran, the group still exercises some independent thought, and they wisely cried uncle for they recognized that this was a battle they had no hope of winning.         

    

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It Took #metoo for Congress to Stand Up to Sexual Harassment

From former Senator Al Franken even all the way up the President himself, #metoo has put many males in positions of power under fire. For good reason too. Many men have taken advantage of their power, and our government is no different. Now this is not to …

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NC School Safety Bill Would Arm Volunteer Teachers

While the airwaves and social media have had plenty of teachers saying that they sure don’t want to be armed, they don’t speak for all teachers. Not by a long shot. They’re trying to do just that, mind you, but they don’t.

You see, there are plenty of teachers who would gladly carry a firearm so they could defend not just their own lives, but the lives of their students.

North Carolina is considering a bill that will allow them to do just that.

Republican lawmakers have a new plan to address school safety in North Carolina.

The School Security Act of 2018 would allow teachers to apply to become undercover School Resource Officers.

Participants would be required to undergo basic police training and would be sworn officers with guns in the classroom.

The position would also come with a 5 percent pay increase.

“The two problems that the bill tries to address is, one, we really don’t have enough money to put enough School Resource Officers into schools if we just pay them for a separate position,” said Senator Warren Daniel (R-46). “And two, even if you had the funding, we wouldn’t have enough applicants to fill those positions. It would provide a cost effective way to get School Resource Officers into the school.”

Senator Warren Daniel is one of the bill’s sponsors, along with Senator Ralph Hise and Senator Dan Bishop.

“Hopefully their skills and services would never be needed as a resource officer and they would be able to focus on their teaching 99.99 percent of the time. But there’s just that small fraction of a possibility that something tragic could happen and that they would be ready,” Senator Daniel explained.

Of course, not all teachers are onboard. In particular, one is quoted prattling on like anyone is considering making this mandatory, which is typical for anti-gun zealots.

You see, in almost every aspect of life, those who oppose guns also tend to believe that anything not forbidden should be mandatory. With that mindset, they see a bill like this and automatically jump into the idea that this is somehow going to require teachers to be armed, which it isn’t. They don’t want the facts. More importantly, though, they don’t want the voters of North Carolina to have the facts.

Instead, they want to pretend that the apocalypse is upon us because a handful of teachers who want to will be armed.

I’m not crazy about requiring specialized training since a concealed carry permit should be all that is needed, but that’s a compromise I’m willing to make so that there will be more responsible adults armed in our schools.

With this law in place, don’t expect to see another Parkland or Santa Fe happen in North Carolina.

And to those teachers who think the idea of carrying a gun is a disaster, all I can say is, “Then don’t.” No one will make you carry a firearm. Frankly, if you’re stupid enough to think a bill that will allow someone to carry will require someone to carry, then I don’t want you to have a gun anyway.

The post NC School Safety Bill Would Arm Volunteer Teachers appeared first on Bearing Arms.

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Has the Iraqi presidency become a PUK slush fund? – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Political jockeying is well underway in Baghdad, as Iraqi political leaders seek the magic political formula which will enable formation of the Iraqi government. While a Shi’ite will take the premiership, Iraq’s most powerful post, the jockeying is on for other plum positions. Beyond key ministries—Foreign Affairs, Oil, and Defense, for example—two of the top prizes are the presidency and speakership of the parliament.

PUK Iraqi elections

Kurdish supporters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) celebrate after the closing of ballot boxes during the parliamentary election in Kirkuk, Iraq, May 12, 2018. Reuters

For nearly a decade after post-Saddam Iraq’s first elections in 2005, Jalal Talabani held the presidency. While the speakership is more powerful, the Kurds wanted the presidency for two reasons: First, was its symbolic value given the efforts by Arab nationalists in general and Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in particular to deny Kurds’ cultural identity and their place as equal citizens in Iraq. And, second, a Kurdish presidency for Iraq neatly bypassed one of the bigger problems in Iraqi Kurdistan: the rivalry between Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani and Talabani, who broke away from the KDP in 1975 to form the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). If Talabani was in Baghdad, then Barzani could be the undisputed leader in Kurdistan.

That division continued after Talabani’s incapacitation and eventual death. Fuad Masum, a co-founder of the PUK and a long-time PUK functionary, succeeded Talabani as president in 2014. While Talabani made the most of the position—serving as a much needed intermediary among Iraq’s disparate political groups at a time of much tension and violence—Masum has largely been quiet and, on the Iraqi political scene, a complete non-entity.

His quiet, however, is expensive: In the last year, the Iraqi budget allocated the presidency about 51 billion Iraqi dinars, almost $43 million. While some of that covers salaries for immediate staff, at a time of austerity in Iraq caused by years of war and depressed oil prices, it is not clear how that money has been spent. In theory, the presidency is subject to annual audits of its spending and must provide receipts and open its books, but many Iraqis say this has not been done in several years, if ever. Instead, they accuse the PUK leadership of now using the presidency as a cash cow. While Iraqi politicians are prone to exaggeration, some Kurdish officials say that Masum takes home a $50,000 per month salary and Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, Talabani’s widow and controller of PUK finances, assumes control over the rest. In effect, the Iraqi presidency then becomes a slush fund to support the extravagant lifestyle of PUK leaders at a time when many Iraqi Kurds still do not receive full salaries or back pay.

What does this scheme mean for Iraq and the Kurds? Most Kurds voted on May 12 in the hope of achieving the most favorable partnership with the federal government in Baghdad. PUK negotiators, however, appear less interested in legislative influence and power than access to finances. This is why Kurdish negotiators seem so dead-set against swapping the presidency and speakership with members of the Sunni Arab community.

But even if the Kurds decide to push for the presidency, access to what has become a slush fund may be the primary motivation for the position, rather than the best position and a figure able to transform the honorifics of the post into a catalyst for communal peace and reconciliation. The KDP has put party above all else in its apparent push to put Fazil Mirani, a man with a checkered legal and moral past. But Mirani’s nomination is likely more a negotiating ploy than a serious push; Barzani can then extract concessions from the PUK elsewhere conceding. The PUK, meanwhile is reportedly pushing for Latif Rashid, Talabani’s brother-in-law, a move that would put the presidency’s budget even closer under family control.

Corruption is endemic in Iraq, and the election system makes it worse. While most Iraqis condemn corruption and seek to punish the corrupt at the polls, it is the corrupt party leaders which then put together a government based on the numbers of seats won. Instantly, their motivation shifts from change to protection of the status quo.

It is against this backdrop, then, that the Iraqi parliament, integrity commission, and all party leaders should insist that the right to audit be exercised, not only for the forthcoming administration but forensically for the Masum and Talabani administrations. Certainly, not even Qubad Talabani, younger son of the late president, should disagree given his frequent rhetoric about transparency. Simply put, the discrepancy between the official budget and the salaries of staff (at least those who are not ghost employees) appears too high by an order of magnitude. The Iraqi presidency should be about more than lining pockets of relatives or party leaders.

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Phi Sig Interns Join Ihq for the Summer

Phi Sigma Kappa is proud to announce the hiring of two undergraduate Phi Sigs for the 2018 IHQ summer internship positions. Jon Fix and Danny Rojek will gain experience in the areas of chapter management, marketing and communications, fraternity programs, an improved understanding of the Greek life landscape and experience, and knowledge of the non-profit industry.

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Iraq Elections: Will Sadr Seek a New Beginning With Turkey?

Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s coalition scored major points in the recent parliamentary elections with Sadr’s positions against virulent influence peddling and the presence of foreign military forces in the country.

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