Saturday, January 31, 2015

Contraception Causes Brain Cancer

Since its creation, science and the Church have warned of the dangers of chemical birth control. From heart related problems, hormonal problems, blood clots and cancer; birth control does more harm than the supposed good some feminists and others posit.  Well there is now a new harm: brain cancer.  According to a new study found in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, prolonged used of hormonal contraceptives by younger women can lead to a significant risk for glioma.  Glioma is a tumor that grows in the spine and brain.  Glial cells mutate and effect the nervous system.  Symptoms of this tumor are headaches, vomiting, nausea, seizures and visual loss.  Over 2,000 women were part of the study ranging from ages 15 to 49.    

Hopefully this study will further persuade women not to harm their bodies with these unnatural forms of birth control.  Anything that alters the hormones of the body will disrupt the body's mechanism.  This disruption can cause all kinds of problems. The human body is a complex collection of cells, tissues, hormones and genes directing all the above. If we tamper with this harmony of chemicals and tissue, then expect the body to react negatively.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Gospel of Mark Find

A new discovery has atheists nervous. This discovery may add further validity to the Gospels in an academic sense. For decades, atheists, skeptics, and some scholars have cast doubt on the Gospels. This doubt would eventually lead to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is nothing more than a myth or a story created in the 2nd or 3rd centuries.

So What Happened?
In Egypt of all places, a funeral mask made of (papyrus) paper was discovered to have a fragment of the Gospel of Mark.  Why is this significant?  Well, the fragment is said to date from the 1st century or 80/90 AD.  The Gospel texts available now are of the 2nd century.  This time discrepancy is one of the reasons why atheists and others believe Jesus never existed.  Why would the story of someone appear centuries after he/she allegedly existed?

Who Cares?
With this new fragment, we can tell that the Gospel was in fact written during or even shortly after Christ walked this Earth.  Since this fragment is a copy, then that means there is an original one that is even older out there. This is big news! The discovery of this fragment gives hope to the possibility that we may even find older copies or even originals.  Not only was this fragment discovered, but also documents such as Classical Greek literature, poems, business documents, letters, even stories and poems from Homer.  Craig Evans, a professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia said:

“We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries.” 

Why Was The Fragment In a Funeral Mask?
At the time, papyrus was extremely expensive.  People recycled sheets that already were used or were written upon. Egyptian royalty had golden masks, but the poor had to resort to using used written paper.

Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman seemed a bit upset at the discovery. He took to Facebook to complain that the mask was being destroyed in favor of recovering ancient texts.

"This complete disregard for the sanctity of surviving antiquities is, for many, many of us not just puzzling but flat-out distressing. It appears that the people behind and the people doing this destruction of antiquities are all conservative evangelical Christians, who care nothing about the preservation of the past – they care only about getting their paws on a small fragment of a manuscript. Can there be any question that with them we are not dealing with historians but Christian apologists?" -

"Disregard for the sanctity of surviving antiquities..." seriously?  Ehrman seems paranoid in his post. What academic would ignore the wealth of texts found in these funeral masks?  There so much we can find in them.  Scientists have found a way to remove the papyrus and the glue used in a way that does not destroy the papyrus and its content.  However in doing so, the mask is destroyed since it is made of this papyrus. Nevertheless, if we continue finding more evidence that Jesus was, in fact, a real person, then this is a good thing.  What will atheists have to say now?


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Christian Lies- A lot of Malarkey

"And Jesus answered them, 'See that no one leads you astray.'" - Matthew 24:4

In 2004, Alex Malarkey, 6 years old would be in a traffic accident that would change his life.  He would suffer severe injuries to his spine, neck and even brain trauma.  After it was said it done, he became a quadriplegic.  However, Malarkey said that he saw angels catching his father in mid-flight as he was ejected from the vehicle.  He went to heaven and met Jesus as well as Satan. His account was so powerful that it was published in 2010 by Christian publisher, Tyndale House in the book, "The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven."

The book became an instant hit selling over 1 million copies and was on the best-selling list.  Many people described being moved by the boy's story.  It increased their faith.  The audience of this book is mostly Evangelical Protestants and some curious readers looking to read on what is now coined as "Heaven Tourism" stories.

This is not the first time a book of this nature has ever been written.  Many people claim to have died and "gone to heaven." They recall vivid images of watching themselves on operating rooms aas well as their travels to other dimensions and even heaven. Malarkey's story touched even more because it came from a young boy.  However, there is a problem.  The story is a lie.

Alex Malarkey wrote an open letter to Christian stores stating that he never died nor went to heaven.  The letter was posted on the blog, blog.

“An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.”

Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.
I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.
I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth.

Anything written by man cannot be infallible.
It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible…not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.

In Christ,
Alex Malarkey.”

Immediately, bookstores stopped selling the book and have pulled it off their shelves.  A spokesperson for Tyndale House stated that the book will no longer be produced.  The family of the boy claimed that they have complained about the book as having inaccuracies and exaggerated claims.

My Thoughts:

Every time I heard of these death experiences that result in a person meeting God or getting a tour of heaven, I am extremely skeptical.  While I am not saying that these events may not happen -I was not there - what I am saying is that there are psychological explanations for these events.  In many cases, the stories and things told to these people who have "died" contradicts revelation.  Jesus already gave us what we needed.  We have Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church to guide us.  There is no need to go and buy these books regarding people who claimed to have died and gone to heaven unless you are reading them as you would read a novel or something as entertainment.

Because of this retraction, many atheists and others are now collectively attacking all Christians believe all to be liars.  This is unfortunate indeed.  This is why the Catholic Church is not quick to approve alleged stories of apparitions or other events.  She investigates thoroughly each claim made. Even if she does approve of an apparition or event, she reminds the flock that these apparitions are not necessary and should point us to what has been revealed in the Sacred Deposit.

66 "The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.
67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. 
Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations."  
 - Catechism of the Catholic Church

Please be careful with whatever you encounter out there in God's, Mary's or the Church's name. There is not need to go flock to view sites where people claim to have seen Mary or to anyone who claims to have the stigmata or any other supernatural gift.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

HIV Deleted

Since it has surfaced, HIV has been a mystery. HIV enters the body via blood or other fluids during sexual activity or drug use. It can even be passed on to unborn children if the mother has it. HIV takes over a human cell and attaches its genome to the DNA of the infected person. The virus begins to turn off the immune system of the person rendering him or her vulnerable to other infections.  At this state, it becomes AIDS; or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

While there is no cure yet, scientists at the Temple University School of Medicine were able to find a way to "erase" HIV by using the enzyme nuclease which disconnects nucleic acids. The nuclease goes directly to the gRNA and removes the genome of the HIV virus where it had attached itself. Once removed, human cells begin their natural repair function and restore themselves back to normal. This can lead to a person being completely free of HIV.  However, there is much to be done before biologists can shout, "we have a cure!"  Nevertheless, the research is promising.  Dr. Kamel Khalili who is Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Temple remarked,  "This is one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS."  The research can be found here: RNA-directed gene editing specifically eradicates latent and prevents new HIV-1 infection.

Millions worldwide have succumbed to HIV-AIDS since the 1980's.  This research shows promise. However, since the human immune system does not know how to fight and kill HIV, then it will be difficult to eradicate the virus within the body even with reprogrammed nuclease enzymes.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Coma Awareness

The brain is still an organ with many mysteries yet to be solved.  It controls our very lives and allows us to have consciousness. However, what happens when it is injured, forcing the person with the injury to become comatose or in a vegetative state? Are they clinically "dead?"  Are they aware of anything in that state?  Well the events surrounding Godfrey Catanus who was a youth pastor in Southern California may shed some light.

Catanus was in a very bad accident.  Doctors had to remove over 3 feet of his intenstine.  However, that was not his only issue.  His brain was hemorrhaging forcing him to endure nine hours of surgery.  He was medically-induced into a coma in order to keep him stable; however, doctors did not guarantee if he would every wake out of it. Unfortunately this was the case.  Catanus did not come out of his medically-induced coma.

He would then be part of a study by the Northwestern Medicine and Hine VA Hospital which tested to see if patients in a comatose state are indeed aware.  He along with 15 other coma patients had their brains scanned after being separated into two groups.  The first group heard only silence or unfamiliar voices.  These showed little or no brain activity.  The second group with eight patients heard via headphones pre-recorded stories or messages from relatives or loved ones.  Brain scans for the latter showed a lot of brain activity.  Moreover, these patients showed a significant increase in recovery.  The study showed that those in comatose states are aware and do hear.  When they are visited and addressed by relatives via speech, they recovery faster according to the study.

This study is interesting indeed and shows that people are still persons even in a comatose state. Ten
years ago, Terri Schiavo was starved to death after her husband -who claimed she wanted to die- was granted an order from Circuit Court Judge, George W. Greer of the Pinellas-Pasco's Sixth Judicial Court.  She was left for 13 days without any food and died due to complications of starvation and dehydration. Father Frank Pavone and others tried hard to prevent her death, but the Judge saw it differently and did not value the life of Terri.  This case brought about a big debate especially in philosophical circles.

  • What is a person?  
  • Does a person cease to be when in a coma or when "brain dead?"  

Years later another interesting case occurred which got little media attention. Scott Routley was in a serious car accident that left him in a vegetative state.

For all intent and purpose, he was "dead." However, neuroscientist Adrian Owen was able to determine via MRI scans that Routley was communicating with him via the MRI.  Owen stated:
"Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind. We have scanned him several times and his pattern of brain activity shows he is clearly choosing to answer our questions. We believe he knows who and where he is."
The discovery was so astounding that Owen remarked that medical textbooks would have to be rewritten in regards to patients in vegetative states.  Routley's own doctor, Prof Bryan Young from University Hospital in London stated that the results from the scan has "overturned all the behavioral assessments that had been made over the years."

In one of the episodes of AMC's "The Walking Dead," a character, "Milton Mamet" who was a
scientist, studied an elderly patient who was dying of cancer.  He used Pavlov's Classical Conditioning format by having the elderly patient associate an old record with music from his era along with a sound he made by banging a metallic cup that made a soft bell sound along with a humming vibration.  As he did this, he showed the elderly man photos of his wife and other loved ones.  "Milton" was testing to see if the consciousness remains even after a patient dies and turns into a "walker/biter" or zombie.  His experiment showed otherwise as the elderly patient tried to bite him and showed no sign of consciousness of memory.

Consciousness is a concept that is often debated in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and even theology.  No one really understands fully what it is or how it works.  It is believed to be the work of biochemistry via neurons firing synapses in the frontal lobe.  Some philosophers and theologians believe the biochemistry is just part of it and that in reality an ethereal immaterial metaphysical soul ("mind stuff" colloquial term for Descartes' theory) is what drives the biochemistry.  This new study along with previous ones may one day give us a complete scientific answer as to what consciousness is since so far, these studies have shown that consciousness can survive even if the brain - which houses it - is damaged.

Hopefully Catanus' and Routley's stories will help prevent any future Schiavo scenarios where the appearance of a vegetative state is equated to the person being dead or having ceased to be a person.  The Catholic Church teaches that in these cases, those who are deemed not able to make a full recovery during a comatose or vegetative state can be deprive of extraordinary means of life support (medication, treatment, therapies).  However, he or she may not be deprived or ordinary means of life support (food, water, bathes, being placed in comfortable physical position).   Saint John Paul II as Pope stated this during a speech to physicians:

"I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering. 
The obligation to provide the "normal care due to the sick in such cases" (1) includes, in fact, the use of nutrition and hydration (2). The evaluation of probabilities, founded on waning hopes for recovery when the vegetative state is prolonged beyond a year, cannot ethically justify the cessation or interruption of minimal care for the patient, including nutrition and hydration. Death by starvation or dehydration is, in fact, the only possible outcome as a result of their withdrawal. In this sense it ends up becoming, if done knowingly and willingly, true and proper euthanasia by omission. 
In this regard, I recall what I wrote in the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae making it clear that "by euthanasia in the true and proper sense must be understood an action or omission which by its very nature and intention brings about death, with the purpose of eliminating all pain"; such an act is always "a serious violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person" (n. 65).  [Pope John Paul II, To the Congress on Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State, 20 March 2004)
(1) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Iura et Bona, p. IV
(2) cf. Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", Dans le Cadre, 2, 4, 4; Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers,Charter of Health Care Workers, n. 120."       


Monday, January 26, 2015

Asteroid 2004 BL86 Passing By Earth

An asteroid is coming to Earth!  Run for your life!  
Just kidding.

There is an asteroid named 2004 BL86 which is about the size of a large mountain (1,800 feet) passing by Earth today, but it is over 700,000 miles away from us which is relatively 3 times the distance between the Earth and its satellite, the Moon. This will be the last time until 2027 when another asteroid gets too close to the Earth.  Asteroid 2004 BL86 will not come back to visit us until another 200 years.

Astronomers and others are excited by this "visit" as it will be a great opportunity to study an asteroid "up close."  We have little knowledge on asteroids, so having one in our "back yard" will bring add more information to what we have already.  The asteroid can be viewed with a telescope and even binocolars, so get them out and clean them up!  Unfortunately, most of the northeast will not be able to see it as we are in a Blizzard warning and will have cloud cover.

The asteroid will not hit Earth, so do not panic.  Enjoy the show in space if you can view it!    


Asteroid 2004 BL86 has just passed Earth and was discovered to have its own moon! It is estimated to be about 230 feet.  Unfortunately, those of us in the northeastern part of the United States were not able to view the asteroid due to blizzard Juno.




Sunday, January 25, 2015

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time - Repent and Follow Me

Today's readings call us to repentance.

In the first reading from the book of Jonah, the word of the Lord God sends Jonah to Nineveh.  There, he is to go warn the people that God would destroy the city if they do not change their ways.  We are told that he took 3 days to do this and that in forty days if they did not heed the warning, Nineveh would be destroyed.

In the Bible, numbers do not necessarily represent numerical value in the mathematical sense.  They are part of a symbolic system called the gematria. Each number represents something. The number 3 represents totality or completeness.  It is used over 400 times throughout the Sacred Scriptures.  The forty days means a long period or a period of preparation or transition. Nineveh was a city that had it all in regards to sin.  We read more details in Nahum 3.

In this city, thievery is rampant, sexual licentiousness, drunkenness, death, merciless killing etc etc. Notice how God gives a warning before He acts.  He sends out Jonah to warn the people. Atheists often like to make claims that the "Old Testament God" is this evil deity who is sadistic and enjoys killing or having others kill in His name.  This is far from the truth and a poor understanding of literary genres in Sacred Scripture. If God was this "evil deity" that did not care, why would He send out Jonah to warn the residents of Nineveh?  Here we see that God is not only just, but merciful (Psalm 86:5, Psalm 145:9, Ephesians 2:4).  He prefers all be saved than destroyed just like any responsible father would not sit back and let his kids do whatever they want.  A father sets rules and enforces them justly.  This is love.

The responsorial Psalm responds to the first reading with the statement: "Teach me your ways, O Lord."  What does this mean?  Well once we repent of our sins and commit to change, then we must learn how to do so. Simply repenting is not going to show us how to continue on the path to holiness. Only God can teach us this since He is perfection (2 Samuel 22:31, Psalm 18:30, Matthew 5:48).

In the second reading, we are reminded that time is running out. We are told by St. Paul to behave as such we are not living our daily lives on Earth. In other words, we must not focus too much on the things of this world, for they will pass. Our world will pass.  Science even agrees with this statement. However, this does not mean all life will disappear with it, nor are some going to go floating in the air in some "rapture."  Rather, God will return like a "thief in the night" and will judge us all (1 Thessalonians 5:2).  We will be judged based on how we loved God and others (Matthew 7:2).  This means we are to love God above things and our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27).  We must not love God only on Sundays and Holy Days, but all the time.  This applies to our neighbors as well. We must not love them only during Mass, but all the time; yes, including those who get on our nerves (Matthew 5:44). We must teach our neighbors the truth and not water it down because it may offend their sensibilities (John 17:17).  It would be a sin against charity to lead others to believe that abortion is moral, that same sex unions is love and valid, that contraception is ethical, or that we should mind our own business and not admonish the sinner so as not to offend them.

Finally in the Gospel, we learn of John's arrest. The last prophet is arrested and will be beheaded.
Jesus continues after Him by preaching the Gospel of God.  He reminds the people then and now that "The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the Gospel."  Like in the first reading, He warns the people which is what John also did.

However, Jesus continues from that warning into the actual teaching of the Gospel in order to teach the people the way of the Lord as the responsorial Psalm states.  Then He proceeds to call the other disciples by name, Simon, Andrew, James and John. He uses an interesting phrase, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Notice how Jesus is very observant. He sees that these men are fishermen.  Today, the Pope wears the "fisherman's ring" as a reminder that He must go out into the deep and fish men.

Furthermore, Jesus then uses that fact to connect the work of God with.  He also calls each by name which shows that He focuses on individuals.  We are not in some cosmic college class where God is a professor who does not know the names of His students.   He engages us directly on a first name bases because He knows us ever since we were forming in our mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5).  God does the same today. We do not have to be fishermen to do God's work. A doctor, nurse, lawyer, teacher, police officer, fireman, politician, scientist, librarian, school crossing guard, home maker, businessman etc; are all called to bring people into the Church using their own talents which will be guided by God's grace (Psalm 48:14). Never feel as if you cannot do God's work on Earth.

St. Therese of Lisieux reminds us, "Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love." God in many cases does the opposite of what we expect an omnipotent being to do by choosing those who are weak, uneducated or outcasts to shame the arrogant and those who see themselves as strong or powerful (1 Corinthians 1:27).  Let us listen to God's call to repent, ask him to teach us how to live and go do what He asks of us with faith, love and hope.  


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jersey Police Shooting

Back in December of 2014, Jerame C. Reid who was 36 years old was killed by police after being pulled over with another passenger.  There is a dashboard video of the stop. Police officers from Bridgeton, New Jersey followed a Jaguar vehicle which has passed a stop sign.  The vehicle was ordered to pull over.  Immediately the police officers went to investigate. One of the officers is seen shouting that there is a gun. The officer seems to know the man in the passenger side since he calls him by name and apparently had arrested him before.  During the encounter, the officer tells Reid not to move.  Reid continues to move despite the officer telling him not to and to show his heads. The officer warnings him not to move or he will kill him. Despite the warnings, Reid exits the vehicle with hands up and is gunned down by the police officer.

The debate is now ongoing with some saying the shooting was justified, while others state that it was not.  I have seen the video several times and have mixed feelings.  Reid should not have moved or come out of the car. When an officer gives someone instructions, it is important that he/she follows them. However, the officer who shot Reid seemed a bit paranoid and emotional. He was shouting hysterically even as Reid came out of the car with his hands up. I would have to see more evidence before I comment further.

Jerame C. Reid


Friday, January 23, 2015

Michael Sam Engages at Vatican

Just when you think you have seen it all, new things pop up. The NFL's first openly gay player, Michael Sam did something very disrespectful to us Catholics.  While on vacationing in Italy, he got on his knees before his boyfriend Vito Cammisano atop of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City to propose to him.  Out of all the places to propose to his partner, Sam picks the center of the Catholic Church where the remains of St. Peter, St. John Paul II and other holy people are buried!  If this does not say, "in your face Catholics" then I do not know what does.

Where were the Swiss Guards at?  Why didn't anyone stop this?  The intention was clear: insult Catholics.  I dare Michael Sam try to do the same at Mecca. He will get a response he will not like which may be his last.  Luckily, he knows the Catholic Church is about mercy and we are not out to stop people even if they slap our faces or treat us with disrespect.  The whole image of  him atop of St. Peter's Basilica kneeling before another man is just offensive. Based on the size difference between Michael Sam and his boyfriend, I'm assuming Sam is the "man" of the relationship since he dwarfs Cammisano physically and the latter does look effeminate.

God help us all...  Had I been at the Vatican and witnessed that, rest assured Michael Sam would have been tackled in a way he has never experienced!  Catholic should storm his Twitter feed with their disapproval of his actions at our Holy See.  


Thursday, January 22, 2015

King Abdullah Dead At 90

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud has just passed away at the age of 90.  According to state television, Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz will not take his place as king of Saudi Arabia.  Abdullah passed away from complications of pneumonia which he has been suffering from.  As Islamic traditions call for, he will have his funeral and burial services done within 24 hours.  Many heads of states will visit Saudi Arabia to pay their respects.  Vice President Joe Biden will be representing America and will be accompanied by others.

Abdullah was one of America's greatest allies in the Middle East and has made attempts to modernized his nation.  Considered a moderate, he broaden certain freedoms and used his nation's wealth amounted from oil to fun education and infrastructure projects. He did his best considering he was surrounded by ultra conservatives who often hindered his plans.   All eyes are on Saudi Arabia as it makes this transition of power to Abdullah's half-brother. The nations accounts for about 16% of the world's oil, according to statistics from the Energy Information Administration in the United States of America.    

May Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud rest in Allah's peace.

O Allah, surely [name the person] is under Your protection, and in the rope of Your security, so save him from the trial of the grave and from the punishment of the Fire. You fulfill promises and grant rights, so forgive him and have mercy on him. Surely You are Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Reference: Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud 3/211. See also Al Albani, Sahih Ibn Majah 1/251.


March For Life 2015

Over half a million are expected to participate in this year's March For Life.  I will update this post as news of the event comes in.  Stay tuned

Update *  6PM EDT

Nearly a million marchers braved the cold in our nation's capital for the 42nd annual March for Life. The march was founded to call attention to the evils of abortion and protest the Supreme Court's decision of Roe v. Wade that made abortion legal and on demand in the nation. Since this case, generations of children have been killed in order to make the lives of those who sought abortion more "convenient."

On this same day, Republicans tried to pass bills restricting abortion.  However, president Obama has vowed to veto any bills that restrict abortion. Nevertheless, the attempt to pass the bills served the purpose to give publicity to the pro-life cause and send the message that it is not going away.

The march today went well but was disrupted near the Supreme Court by pro-abortion advocates who blocked the road and harassed pro-life marchers. Some of these hecklers were arrested for "crowding, obstructing and incommoding." Some officers refused  to remove the hecklers.  One pro-life marched ask an officer, "isn't it about time you cleared this road? He replied, "That's way above my pay grade."

As usual, the presence of young pro-life marchers was evidence. The Verizon Center was filled to capacity with young people, including seminarians, postulants, novices and aspirants to the priesthood.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Blogger Flogging

January 2015 has begun with the theme of freedom of speech. First the office of Charlie Hebdo was attacked killing 12 cartoonists and now a young Saudi is being flogged for blogging.

Yes you read that right.  Raif Badawi, 31 years of age was sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes, 50 every Friday for the next several months until the 1,000 lashes are completed.  His crime: blogging and using the forum to criticize the Saudi government and Islam. Here are some of his statements:

"As soon as a thinker starts to reveal his ideas, you will find hundreds of fatwas that accused him of being an infidel just because he had the courage to discuss some sacred topics. I’m really worried that Arab thinkers will migrate in search of fresh air and to escape the sword of the religious authorities."

Secularism respects everyone and does not offend anyone ... Secularism ... is the practical solution to lift countries (including ours) out of the third world and into the first world. -

"I’m not in support of the Israeli occupation of any Arab country, but at the same time I do not want to replace Israel by a religious state ... whose main concern would be spreading the culture of death and ignorance among its people when we need modernisation and hope. States based on religious ideology ... have nothing except the fear of God and an inability to face up to life. Look at what had happened after the European peoples succeeded in removing the clergy from public life and restricting them to their churches. They built up human beings and (promoted) enlightenment, creativity and rebellion. States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear."

"Actually, this venerable preacher has drawn my attention to a truth that had been hidden from me and my dear readers – namely, the existence of the so-called “Sharia astronomer”. What a wonderful appellation! In my humble experience and in the course of my not inconsiderable research into the universe, its origins and the stars, I have never once come across this term. I advise NASA to abandon its telescopes and, instead, turn to our Sharia astronomers, whose keen vision and insight surpass the agency’s obsolete telescopes. Indeed, I advise all other scholars the world over, of whatever discipline, to abandon their studies, laboratories, research centres, places of experimentation, universities, institutes etc. and head at once to the study groups of our magnificent preachers to learn from them all about modern medicine, engineering, chemistry, microbiology, geology, nuclear physics, the science of the atom, marine sciences, the science of explosives, pharmacology, anthropology etc. – alongside astronomy, of course. God bless them! They have shown themselves to be the final authority with the decisive word in everything, which all mankind must accept, submit to and obey without hesitation or discussion." -

It is just absurd that this young guy is sentenced to get an @$$ beating just for voicing his opinion and using the gift of language and expression.  While I do not agree with some things he states such as exaggerated praise of secularism; to sentence him to get lashings is just cruel and inhumane. What is also troubling is that in the march in France where different heads of states participated, among them were Saudi officials!  How can they dare march in support of free speech when they do not permit it in their own land?

This young man did not draw vulgar cartoons or write anything vulgar. He merely gave his opinion on things around him.  Anyone who would get offended at this is just insecure and really moronic, in my opinion.  I am also saddened that the west has pretty much remained silent on this abuse.  Perhaps this is because Saudi Arabia is too intertwined with their economies that they do not want to risk ruining any business deals.

Badawi is currently hospitalized and probably would not be able to handle anymore lashings. Nevertheless, the Saudi state insists that he has to face his punishment.

Here are some petitions asking this abuse to stop:


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Obama is back! State of the Union Address 2015

President Obama just gave his State of the Union address to the other two branches of government and the American people.  Tonight's speech was more optimistic than previous ones.

It seems like the Obama of 2008 is back. The president spoke of the nation coming out of a recession with the economy bouncing back and new jobs being created. "We have turned the page" Obama remarks.  Unemployment as it stands is at 5.6% and the GDP increased by 5% in 2014 during the third quarter and then 4.6 % in the fourth.  Moreover, gas prices have dropped significantly and have not been as low as they are now since 2009. He also spoke with pride at the fact that more Americans have health coverage.

Obama presented his case before Congress regarding paid family leave, equality in pay for women, free community colleges, investing in infrastructure, increase in minimal wage, repairing the tax system with its loopholes and insisted on Republicans to work with him where they agree with him. With both the House and Senate under the control of Republicans, it is going to be extremely difficult for Obama to get anything done in the last years of his presidency. Since his first election, Republicans have made it a mission to stifle the president forcing him to use his executive power to do things without Congress. This of course angered Republicans even more.  It is interesting to note that Obama also spoke on Global Warming and even mentioned the Holy Father Pope Francis.

Most of the ideas Obama has are good, in my opinion. Today's families are struggling to make ends meet. Paid family leave would help these struggling families as they deal with the everyday happenings of life. Men are paid more than women.  This is a known fact.  According to statistics that I have read, women make just 80 cents to the dollar of what a man makes.  In many cases, for the same job position!  This is unfair and shows that there is indeed a salary inequality that needs to be addressed. Moreover, the idea I like best is free education. I think it is great to have community colleges available to anyone free of charge granted they are serious about academia and work hard to earn an associate's degree. While not as prominent as a bachelor's degree or master's, an associate's degree can help many people find good jobs that will help them achieve the American dream. With these jobs, they can possibly even move forward and earn a four year college degree. As a graduate of the CUNY system, I was shocked to learn from one of my professors years ago that she studied at CUNY for free!  Meanwhile, I was using financial aid, scholarships, loans and my own money to pay for school!  Had I been born in her time, I probably would have two or three doctorates now!  This is why the idea of free community colleges makes sense to me.  Repairing our infrastructure is also important. New technologies must be applied to our roadways and structures in order to make them more efficient.  In regards to taxes, it is not news that the whole system is a mess and needs to be either thrown out or "taped up" where the loopholes are at.  There is a big problem when the poor are taxed for all they have and the wealthy are taxed little.  Then when you add the fact that many Americans are living off a $15,000 a year salary, the situation becomes even more "hairy." No one can live on that salary.  Wages that match or exceed market costs must be instituted if we are to keep Americans from dipping below the poverty line.  A recent report stated that over 50% of children in American are at or below the poverty level.  This is a tragedy!

President Obama mentioned Pope Francis in his speech in reference to Cuban.  According to the president, the Pope said that it takes "small steps" to have successful diplomacy.  Furthermore, the president also spoke on Global Warming. While the data on Global Warming is not concise, there is clearly a warming of the planet taking place.  Whether this is due to nature or man is not too clear as there have been episodes of Global Warming even before man developed his machinery and chemicals that have plagued our environment.  Nevertheless, Earth is our home and we must pay close attention to any effects that are out of the norm before they get out of control.

Here is the text of the speech:

Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address | January 20, 2015

U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C.
9:10 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

We are 15 years into this new century.  Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world.  It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page.  Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.  (Applause.)  Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis.  More of our kids are graduating than ever before.  More of our people are insured than ever before.  (Applause.)  And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.  (Applause.)

Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.  (Applause.)  Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today, fewer than 15,000 remain.  And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe.  (Applause.)  We are humbled and grateful for your service.

America, for all that we have endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:  The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.  (Applause.)

At this moment -- with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy production -- we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.  It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years and for decades to come.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?  (Applause.)

Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing?  Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?

Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another?  Or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?

In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan.  And in the months ahead, I’ll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas.  So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.

It begins with our economy.  Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds.  (Laughter.)  She waited tables.  He worked construction.  Their first child, Jack, was on the way.  They were young and in love in America.  And it doesn’t get much better than that.  “If only we had known,” Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”

As the crisis worsened, Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time.  Rebekah took out student loans and enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career.  They sacrificed for each other.  And slowly, it paid off.  They bought their first home.  They had a second son, Henry.  Rebekah got a better job and then a raise.  Ben is back in construction -- and home for dinner every night.

“It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”  We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.

America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story.  They represent the millions who have worked hard and scrimped, and sacrificed and retooled.  You are the reason that I ran for this office.  You are the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation.  And it has been your resilience, your effort that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.

We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing and draw new jobs to our shores.  And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.  (Applause.)

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet.  And today, America is number one in oil and gas.  America is number one in wind power.  Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.  (Applause.)  And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.  (Applause.)

We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world.  And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record.  Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high.  More Americans finish college than ever before.  (Applause.)

We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition.  Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices.  And in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.  (Applause.)

At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits.  Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years.  (Applause.)  This is good news, people.  (Laughter and applause.)

So the verdict is clear.  Middle-class economics works.  Expanding opportunity works.  And these policies will continue to work as long as politics don’t get in the way.  We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns.  We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got to fix a broken system.  And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it.  It will have earned my veto.  (Applause.)

Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives.  Wages are finally starting to rise again.  We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007.  But here’s the thing:  Those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t screw things up; that government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making.  We need to do more than just do no harm.  Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.  (Applause.)

Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help.  She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but they’ve had to forego vacations and a new car so that they can pay off student loans and save for retirement.  Friday night pizza, that’s a big splurge.  Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota.  Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.

And in fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot.  We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity.  We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the Internet -- tools they needed to go as far as their effort and their dreams will take them.

That’s what middle-class economics is -- the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everyone plays by the same set of rules.  (Applause.)  We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success, we want everyone to contribute to our success.  (Applause.)

So what does middle-class economics require in our time?

First, middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change.  That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement.  And my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.  (Applause.)

Here’s one example.  During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority -- so this country provided universal childcare.  In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever.  (Applause.)

It’s not a nice-to-have -- it’s a must-have.  So it’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or as a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.  (Applause.)  And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available and more affordable for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America -- by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.  (Applause.)

Here’s another example.  Today, we are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.  Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave -- 43 million.  Think about that.  And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.  So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own.  And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington.  (Applause.)  Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.  It’s the right thing to do.  It’s the right thing to do.  (Applause.)

Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages.  That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.  (Applause.)  It’s 2015.  (Laughter.)  It’s time.  We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.  (Applause.)  And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this:  If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it.  If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.  (Applause.)

Now, these ideas won’t make everybody rich, won’t relieve every hardship.  That’s not the job of government.  To give working families a fair shot, we still need more employers to see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company’s long-term interest.  We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice.  (Applause.)

But you know, things like childcare and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage -- these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families.  That’s a fact.  And that’s what all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, were sent here to do.
Second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.  (Applause.)  America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, trained the best workforce in the world.  We were ahead of the curve.  But other countries caught on.  And in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to up our game.  We need to do more.

By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education -- two in three.  And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need.  It’s not fair to them, and it’s sure not smart for our future.  That’s why I’m sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college -- to zero.  (Applause.) 

Keep in mind 40 percent of our college students choose community college.  Some are young and starting out.  Some are older and looking for a better job.  Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market.  Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy without a load of debt.  Understand, you’ve got to earn it.  You’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time. 
Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible.  I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.  (Applause.)  Let’s stay ahead of the curve.  (Applause.)  And I want to work with this Congress to make sure those already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.  (Applause.)

Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics.  Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships -- opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.

And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend.  Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care.  We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need.  And we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs.  And Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden -- (applause) -- thank you, Michelle; thank you, Jill -- has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get a new job.  (Applause.)  So to every CEO in America, let me repeat:  If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done and done right, hire a veteran.  (Applause.)

Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.  Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined.  (Applause.)

Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs.  Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming.  But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist 10 or 20 years ago -- jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.

So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future.  But we do know we want them here in America.  We know that.  (Applause.)  And that’s why the third part of middle-class economics is all about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.

Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure -- modern ports, and stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet.  Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this.  So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.  Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.  (Applause.)  Let’s do it.  Let’s get it done.  Let’s get it done.  (Applause.)

Twenty-first century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas.  Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages.  But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region.  That would put our workers and our businesses at a disadvantage.  Why would we let that happen?  We should write those rules.  We should level the playing field.  That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but are also fair.  It’s the right thing to do.  (Applause.)

Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense.  But 95 percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders.  We can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities.  More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking to bring jobs back from China.  So let’s give them one more reason to get it done.

Twenty-first century businesses will rely on American science and technology, research and development.  I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine -- one that delivers the right treatment at the right time.  (Applause.)

In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable.  So tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes, and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.  We can do this.  (Applause.)

I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community -- (applause) -- and help folks build the fastest networks so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.

I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs -- converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kids again.  (Applause.)  Pushing out into the solar system not just to visit, but to stay.  Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a reenergized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars.  And in two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space.  So good luck, Captain.  Make sure to Instagram it.  We’re proud of you.  (Applause.)

Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber.  Members of both parties have told me so.  Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments.  As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes as long as everybody else does, too.  But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight.  They’ve riddled it with giveaways that the super-rich don’t need, while denying a break to middle-class families who do.

This year, we have an opportunity to change that.  Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest here in America.  (Applause.)  Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and to make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home.  Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford.  (Applause.)  And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth.  We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college.  We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together.  (Applause.)  We can achieve it together.

Helping hardworking families make ends meet.  Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy.  Maintaining the conditions of growth and competitiveness.  This is where America needs to go.  I believe it’s where the American people want to go.  It will make our economy stronger a year from now, 15 years from now, and deep into the century ahead.

Of course, if there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work here at home from challenges beyond our shores.

My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America.  In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how.  When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military -- then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world.  That’s what our enemies want us to do.

I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership.  We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents.  That’s exactly what we’re doing right now.  And around the globe, it is making a difference.

First, we stand united with people around the world who have been targeted by terrorists -- from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris.  (Applause.)  We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we have done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.  (Applause.) 

At the same time, we’ve learned some costly lessons over the last 13 years.  Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who have now taken the lead, and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition.  Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America.

In Iraq and Syria, American leadership -- including our military power -- is stopping ISIL’s advance.  Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.  (Applause.)  We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism.

Now, this effort will take time.  It will require focus.  But we will succeed.  And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.  We need that authority.  (Applause.)

Second, we’re demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy.  We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small -- by opposing Russian aggression, and supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies.  (Applause.)

Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, as we were reinforcing our presence with frontline states, Mr. Putin’s aggression it was suggested was a masterful display of strategy and strength.  That's what I heard from some folks.  Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters.  That’s how America leads -- not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.  (Applause.)

In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date.  (Applause.)  When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new.  (Applause.)  And our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere.  It removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba.  It stands up for democratic values, and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.  And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo.  (Applause.)

As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.”  These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba.  And after years in prison, we are overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs.  Welcome home, Alan.  We're glad you're here.  (Applause.)

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.  Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our allies -- including Israel, while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict.  There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran.

But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails -- alienating America from its allies; making it harder to maintain sanctions; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again.  It doesn’t make sense.  And that's why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.  (Applause.)  The American people expect us only to go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.

Third, we’re looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in the past to shape the coming century.  No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids.  (Applause.)  So we're making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism.

And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.  That should be a bipartisan effort.  (Applause.)

If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable.  If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.

In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses, our health care workers are rolling back Ebola -- saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease.  (Applause.)  I could not be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts.  But the job is not yet done, and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.

In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules -- in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief.  And no challenge -- no challenge -- poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.  (Applause.) 

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.  Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does:  14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.
I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act.  Well, I’m not a scientist, either.  But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and at NOAA, and at our major universities.  And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe.  The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security.  We should act like it.  (Applause.)

And that’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy to the way we use it.  That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.  And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts.  I am determined to make sure that American leadership drives international action.  (Applause.)

In Beijing, we made a historic announcement:  The United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution.  And China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions.  And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that this year the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.

And there’s one last pillar of our leadership, and that’s the example of our values.

As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I have prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained.  (Applause.)  It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world.  (Applause.)  It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims, the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.  That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  We do these things not only because they are the right thing to do, but because ultimately they will make us safer.  (Applause.)

As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice.  So it makes no sense to spend $3 million per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit.  (Applause.)  Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of Gitmo in half.  Now it is time to finish the job.  And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down.  It is not who we are.  It’s time to close Gitmo.  (Applause.)
As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties, and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks.  So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I have not.  As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse.  And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.

Looking to the future instead of the past.  Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely.  Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities.  Leading -- always -- with the example of our values.  That’s what makes us exceptional.  That’s what keeps us strong.  That’s why we have to keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards -- our own.

You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America or a conservative America; a black America or a white America -- but a United States of America.  I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home -- a state of small towns, rich farmland, one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.

Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision.  How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever.  It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws -- of which there are many -- but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, na├»ve, that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.

I know how tempting such cynicism may be.  But I still think the cynics are wrong.  I still believe that we are one people.  I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.  (Applause.)

I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best.  I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California, and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, New London.  I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown, in Boston, in West Texas, and West Virginia.  I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains, from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard.  I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in 10 Americans call home.  (Applause.)

So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who every day live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.  And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.

So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes.  I’ve served in Congress with many of you.  I know many of you well.  There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle.  And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for -- arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.

Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns.  Imagine if we did something different.  Understand, a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.  A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.  A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues and values, and principles and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.  (Applause.) 

A politics -- a better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up with a sense of purpose and possibility, asking them to join in the great mission of building America.

If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments, but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.  We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care that she needs.  (Applause.)

Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is snatched from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  I’ve talked to Republicans and Democrats about that.  That’s something that we can share.

We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many -- (applause) -- and that on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.  (Applause.)

We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York.  But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed.  And surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift.  (Applause.)  And surely we can agree that it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves all of us.  (Applause.)

That’s a better politics.  That’s how we start rebuilding trust.  That’s how we move this country forward.  That’s what the American people want.  And that’s what they deserve.

I have no more campaigns to run.  (Applause.)  My only agenda -- (laughter) -- I know because I won both of them.  (Applause.)  My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol -- to do what I believe is best for America.  If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, I ask you to join me in the work at hand.  If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree.  And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.  (Applause.)

Because I want this chamber, I want this city to reflect the truth -- that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, to help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.

I want our actions to tell every child in every neighborhood, your life matters, and we are committed to improving your life chances as committed as we are to working on behalf of our own kids.  (Applause.)  I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we’re a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen -- man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino, Asian, immigrant, Native American, gay, straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.  Everybody matters.  I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true:  that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.  (Applause.)

I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story that sums up these past six years:  “It’s amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who’s made it through some very, very hard times.”

My fellow Americans, we, too, are a strong, tight-knit family.  We, too, have made it through some hard times.  Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America.  We have laid a new foundation.  A brighter future is ours to write.  Let’s begin this new chapter together -- and let’s start the work right now.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless this country we love.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

10:11 P.M. EST



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