An hour or so before the Justice Conference was set to kick off its first main session, I stepped outside of the Orpheum Theatre to soak in one last bit of warm Los Angeles sun and "fresh" air. The red badge dangling from my neck caught the attention of a nearby elderly Hispanic man with smudges on his face, who inquired, "You a tourist?"
I've called the L.A.-area my home for the past 9 years, but I suddenly became acutely aware of how out-of-place I must have looked to this man. Inside the theatre, I was just one of the many hipster-looking young adults who gathered together because we knew that calling Jesus our Savior also meant some sort of tie with justice. Outside of the theatre, I was a tourist - a foreigner - disconnected with the downtown L.A. surroundings and its impoverished residents.
While the Orpheum Theatre was noted by the Justice Conference's website as "one of L.A.'s most venerable landmarks," the truth was that we were located less than two blocks away from Skid Row, an area synonymous with poverty and homelessness. While stories of international injustice boomed from 12-foot high speakers, we were sitting just steps away from factories in the Fashion District with "sweatshop-like" labor conditions. more >>
The religious persecution in Syria deepened this week, as evidenced by a written ultimatum purportedly distributed by the rebel jihadist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to Christians in the northern provincial capital of Raqqa. Rejecting conversion to Islam or death, some 20 Christian leaders of that city held firm in their faith and submitted to the Islamists' demands to live by as dhimmis.
Under this arrangement, in exchange for their lives and the ability to worship as Christians, they must abide by purported seventh-century rules of the Caliph Umar. According to the Raqqa ultimatum, these include bans on renovating and rebuilding churches and monasteries, many of which need repair because they've been shelled and blown up over the past three years, and bans against the public display of crosses and Christian symbols and the ringing of bells. They are forbidden from reading scripture indoors loud enough for Muslims outside to hear, and the practice of their faith must be confined within the walls of their remaining churches, not exercised publicly (at, for example, funeral or wedding processions).
They are prohibited from saying anything offensive about Muslims or Islam. The women must be enshrouded, and alcohol is banned. more >>
While the Olympics were taking place in Sochi, Russian president and autocrat Vladimir Putin was starting to invade Ukraine. Last Wednesday, Putin put 150,000 troops on high alert for battle near the border with Ukraine. On Saturday, the upper house of the Russian parliament (Duma), the Federation Council, unanimously approved Putin's request to use force in Ukraine and deploy additional troops to the Crimean peninsula.
Putin claims the troops are being sent there to stabilize the socio-political situation in the country. However, many believe that Putin is deliberately stirring up unrest, in order to justify sending in the military. Masked men dressed in black carrying AK-47s have been spotted in the streets, but it's not clear whether they are real protesters or a plant from Putin to create the appearance of a crisis.
Putin originally became Russian president as part of the new, non-communist era Russia, but has proven that he is not a real reformer, reverting to many of his KGB thug ways. Putin worked for the KGB for 16 years under communism. His grandfather was a cook for previous communist leaders Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Putin's father is described as a "model communist." Putin has said he spent the best part of his life with the KGB, which made it a difficult choice to leave the KGB when the organization turned on Soviet president and reformer Mikhail Gorbachev. more >>
Former GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin predicted in 2008 that Russia might invade Ukraine if then-Sen. Barack Obama became president and "high-brow" Foreign Policy magazine mocked her for it.
But as concerns continue to mount over whether or not Russia intends to launch an assault on Ukraine's besieged new government, Palin is making no apology for her recent "Told-Ya-So" response to critics who dismissed her as a "stupid," "insipid woman" when she made the comments.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has called the growing crisis in Ukraine the "biggest in Europe in the 21st Century" as 6,000 Russian troops took control of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine on Monday.
"Clearly we are very concerned about any possibility of a further move by Russia in other parts of Ukraine but that does not mean the position in the Crimea is stable," Hague told BBC.
"This is a very tense situation and dangerous situation that Russia's intervention has now produced." more >>
The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear an appeal from the Romeikes, a German homeschooling family that had asylum in the United States. The U.S. Justice Department sought to deport them back to Germany where they could lose custody of their children due to their religious beliefs.
"Today, the United States Supreme Court declined to review Uwe and Hannelore Romeike's asylum case," Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, wrote in a letter to supporters. "We knew it was an uphill battle since the Court only accepts 80–100 out of nearly 10,000 requests each year. While we are disappointed, the court's decision in no way changes our commitment to fight for the Romeikes and homeschooling freedom."
The Romeikes chose to homeschool because they believed the public schools were teaching their children values inconsistent with their Christian views. HSLDA helped the Romeikes flee Germany after they were threatened with jail time and losing custody of their children. HSLDA has also represented the Romeikes in court. more >>