Sydney Celebrates New Year's Eve

First pictures of 2015 from around the world

Source: AP


Newlywed man, 95, dies after wife taken away

WASHINGTON — A 95-year-old newlywed Virginia man has died just weeks after his 96-year-old wife was taken away by family members to Florida.

Rebecca Wright, who was caring for the couple in their Alexandria, Virginia, home, says Eddie Harrison died Tuesday in a hospital after suffering from influenza. Wright says Harrison was distressed after his wife and longtime companion, 96-year-old Edith Hill, was taken away. Wright is Hill’s daughter.

Harrison and Hill’s marriage was disputed this year in court. Another of Hill’s daughters contested the marriage, saying it complicates the eventual distribution of Hill’s estate. A judge appointed a new guardian for Hill but left the marriage intact.

Wright says the guardian took Hill away to her other daughter’s Florida home on Dec. 6 with help from police.

Source: AP


Church of God Convention Oklahoma City June 22–25

Author Francis Chan. Recording artists Shane & Shane. Comedienne Anita Renfroe. Award-winning recording artists Selah.

These are just a few of the reasons you won’t want to miss the 2015 Church of God Convention in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Make plans to join us June 22–25. To get your tickets today.

Not convinced? Steve Rennick. Steve Southards. Gillian Grannum. The music of the Crossings Venue Band. We’ve got something for everyone, but you’ve got to be there to experience it!

More than ever before, the world needs Christ. Jesus is the subject. The convention will awaken and inspire our passion for doing amazing things in His name—freeing the captives, seeking the lost, loving the brokenhearted. Together, we will take back all that Hell has stolen. Be Bold. Reclaim.


2015 Southern Baptist Annual Conventeion Great Awakening

Becoming a Church Messenger

The Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention consists of representatives, or “messengers,” as they are called, from cooperating churches, who gather to confer and determine the programs, policies, and budget of the Convention. Each church may be represented by up to 10 messengers, depending on church size and Cooperative Program giving amounts, ensuring equal accessibility for small and large congregations alike.

Messenger cards which certify the information required by Article III of the SBC Constitution and SBC By-Law 8 can be obtained by any church from the state convention with which they are affiliated.

Members interested in becoming messengers should contact their pastors for information on the appropriate process of approval applicable in their church.

Article III from the SBC Constitution
Article III. Membership: The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of missionary Baptist churches cooperating with the Convention as follows:

1- One (1) messenger from each church which: (1) Is in friendly cooperation with the Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work. Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. And, (2) Has been a bona fide contributor to the Convention’s work during the fiscal year preceding.

2 – One (1) additional messenger from each such church for every two hundred and fifty (250) members; or for each $250.00 paid to the work of the Convention during the fiscal year preceding the annual meeting.

3- The messengers shall be appointed and certified by the churches to the Convention, but no church may appoint more than ten (10).

4- Each messenger shall be a member of the church by which he is appointed.

From the SBC ByLaws

8. Messenger Credentials and Registration:

A. Each person elected by a church cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention as a messenger to the Southern Baptist Convention shall be registered as a messenger to the Convention upon presentation of proper credentials. Credentials shall be presented by each messenger, in person, at the Convention registration desk and shall be in the following form:

(1) A completed, properly authorized, official Southern Baptist Convention registration document, certifying the messenger’s election in accordance with Article III. Membership, of the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention; but if the messenger does not have the messenger registration document,

(2) A letter from the messenger’s church, signed by the pastor, clerk or moderator of the church, certifying the messenger’s election in accordance with Article III. Membership, of the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention; or

(3) Some other document (which may include a fax, email or other physical or electronically transmitted document) from the messenger’s church which is deemed reliable by the Credentials Committee or qualifies under guidelines approved by the registration secretary and the Credentials Committee.
Messengers registered in accordance with this section shall constitute the Convention.

B. The president of the Convention, in consultation with the vice presidents, shall appoint, at least thirty (30) days before the annual session, a Credentials Committee to serve at the forthcoming sessions of the Convention. This committee shall review and rule upon any questions which may arise in registration concerning the credentials of messengers. Any such ruling may be appealed to the Convention during business session. Any contention arising on the floor concerning seating of messengers shall be referred to the committee for consideration and the committee shall report back to the Convention.

C. The registration secretary shall be at the place of the annual meeting at least one (1) day prior to the convening of the first session of the Southern Baptist Convention for the purpose of opening the registration desk and registering messengers. The registration secretary also shall convene the Credentials Committee at least one day prior to the annual meeting and shall assist the committee in reviewing questions concerning messenger credentials. The registration secretary shall report to the Convention the number of registered messengers.



Erica Campbell Educates People On The Difference Between God and Satan’s Voice

Erica Campbell may be known for her gospel music, but the Mary Mary group member is also using social media to educate people about learning the difference between the voice of Jesus and Satan.

Campbell, the 33-year-old “HELP” singer, took to Twitter and Instagram to give fans insight about telling the difference between the voice of God and Satan’s voice.

“No heart is an empty heart! Either Jesus is in control or Satan is in control,” Campbell wrote. “Who’s in control Gods way gets Gods results! Stop letting Satan talk to you!”

She went on to speak about the importance of avoiding negative thoughts.

“Those negative thoughts aren’t yours they’re his! U been listening so long, you can’t hear God anymore,” she wrote. “Who’s been in your ear? Who do you listen to?”

The singer explained how her followers could get to know the voice of God.

“Read the Bible today to learn God voice There’s no excuse not to, it’s on your phone, there are different versions of the bible so you can understand and comprehend and apply it to your life #seekHimfindHim #Satanwantsyourcompleteattention,”

she wrote.

Earlier this year, the singer announced that she would add church leader to her resume with The California Worship Center. Erica and her husband Warryn Campbell III have decided to become church leaders after hosting Bible studies in hotel rooms.

Warryn, the My Block Records CEO, who has produced music for his wife and her sister Tina in their group Mary Mary for years, has inspired a direction for the church.

“Warryn is real serious about ministry and wants to make sure that, above all, it is God-centered,” she said on The Yolanda Adams Morning Show earlier this year. “We kind of take the approach of [reaching out to] the broken, wounded people who have kind of been jaded by church and don’t want to go no more.”



Arsenal forced to sweat after late Olivier twist

LONDON (Reuters) – Olivier Giroud’s rush of blood almost ruined Arsene Wenger’s Christmas on Friday as the France forward’s red card left Arsenal sweating towards the end of their 2-1 defeat of Queens Park Rangers.

Giroud lost his cool and appeared to thrust his head into QPR defender Nedum Onuoha’s forehead in the 53rd minute when Arsenal were leading 1-0 thanks to Alexis Sanchez’s first-half goal.

Tomas Rosicky doubled the lead soon after the sending-off but the hosts were left hanging on when Charlie Austin converted a penalty 11 minutes from time.

QPR, who have now lost all nine of their away league games this term, came close to an equaliser when Eduardo Vargas had a header cleared off the line while Bobby Zamora also had a penalty appeal turned down.

Arsenal survived to give Wenger his 600th victory in charge of the north London club and take them back into sixth position in the Premier League, two points behind fourth-placed Southampton.

Wenger, who looked less than pleased with Giroud when he was dismissed, said the red card changed the game.

“From the moment of the sending-off we knew we were in a battle,” the manager told the BBC. “It was a deserved red card, Olivier didn’t control himself.

“It completely changed the dynamic of the game, we were completely in control at that stage and it was quite comfortable. Olivier is a guy who, when he makes mistakes, he stands up and admits it.”

Arsenal are 15 points behind leaders Chelsea but can climb higher in the table on Sunday when they face fifth-placed West Ham United.

“We find ourselves detached from the teams above us at the moment with a bit of ground to make up so we can’t get too carried away with trying to make up that ground at the moment, we must just concentrate on what we’re doing,” Wenger said.

Source: Reuters


Facebook apologizes for ‘Year in Review,’ Twitter sees ‘war on Christmas’

Does it ever feel like Facebook is doing its desperate best to keep you engaged? Urging you to connect with new “friends,” play online games, watch puppy videos, follow “trends” (like actor Patrick Stewart reacting to a singing Christmas hat).

The next thing you know, it’s a half hour later and you’re still in your jammies.

The latest Facebook gimmick is a customized timeline labeled “Year In Review.” It’s a collection of your photos most “liked” by fellow Facebook travelers, put into a sort of album with the default tagline “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.”

Recommended: Are you savvy about social networks? Take our quiz to find out.

There’s no actual human picking those photos, let alone asking you which photos you’d like to include. Instead, like so much in the online world of social media and news aggregators, it happens algorithmically via computer programs designed, launched, and operating on their own.

Lots of people are playing the game, happy to let the social media giant pick the photographic high points of their 2014.

The problem is, not everyone had a great year. For some, the most memorable event may have been depressing or even tragic, and their Facebook-generated “Year in Review” can be a distressing reminder.

Web design consultant, speaker, and writer Eric Meyer had such an experience. His daughter Rebecca died last June on her sixth birthday, and it didn’t help to have her photo shown so prominently on Facebook – surrounded by jolly balloons and dancing cartoon figures.

“This inadvertent algorithmic cruelty is the result of code that works in the overwhelming majority of cases, reminding people of the awesomeness of their years, showing them selfies at a party or whale spouts from sailing boats or the marina outside their vacation house,” Mr. Meyer wrote on his blog. “But for those of us who lived through the death of loved ones, or spent extended time in the hospital, or were hit by divorce or losing a job or any one of a hundred crises, we might not want another look at this past year.”

“The design is for the ideal user, the happy, upbeat, good-life user. It doesn’t take other use cases into account,” he writes. “Just to pick two obvious fixes: first, don’t pre-fill a picture until you’re sure the user actually wants to see pictures from their year. And second, instead of pushing the app at people, maybe ask them if they’d like to try a preview – just a simple yes or no…. It may not be possible to reliably pre-detect whether a person wants to see their year in review, but it’s not at all hard to ask politely – empathetically – if it’s something they want.”

In Meyer’s case, Facebook did apologize.

“[The app] was awesome for a lot of people, but clearly in this case we brought him grief rather than joy,” Jonathan Gheller, the product manager for Facebook’s “Year in Review” app, told The Washington Post. “We can do better – I’m very grateful he took the time in his grief to write the blog post.”

Over at Twitter, it was not so much the medium as the message, specifically astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s tweets generating a sort-of “war on Christmas” backlash.

Among his jabs regarding Christians’ holy day: “QUESTION: This year, what do all the world’s Muslims and Jews call December 25th? ANSWER: Thursday … On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642 … Merry Christmas to all. A Pagan holiday (BC) becomes a Religious holiday (AD). Which then becomes a Shopping holiday (USA).”

In no time at all, Tyson’s rhetorical pokes had been retweeted thousands of times, bringing a sharp backlash: “Only a small & uncharitable man would take time on Xmas morning 2 take shots but Merry Christmas to you anyway Neil…. This is disrespectful to Christians. Jesus created the science you cherish so much. Everyone finds God eventually, you will too…. Looking fwd to witty jabs during the spiritual days of Islam, Buddhism, Judaism etc. Or is it reserved for the easiest target?”

“The result is likely to further spark conservative anger at Tyson, who has long been reviled by some on the right for what is perceived as a know-it-all attitude towards organized religion,” writes Ben Jacobs at The Daily Beast. “Ironically, this was an attitude not shared by Isaac Newton who devoted much of his later life to theology and trying to interpret biblical prophesies.”

Source: Yahoo
image: Washington Post


Russia forecasts economic slump as bailed-out bank gets more funds

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Slumping oil prices have put Russia’s economy on course for a sharp recession and double-digit inflation next year, government ministers said on Friday, as authorities scaled up a bailout for the first bank to succumb to this month’s ruble crisis.

The economy is slowing sharply as Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis deter foreign investment and spur capital flight, and as a slump in oil prices severely reduces Russia’s export revenues and pummels the ruble.

The government has taken steps to support key banks and address the deepening currency crisis in the past week, including a sharp and unexpected interest rate hike, but analysts are pessimistic on the outlook for both the economy and the ruble.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told journalists on Friday the economy could shrink by 4 percent in 2015, its first contraction since 2009, if oil prices averaged their current level of $60 a barrel.

Siluanov also said the country would run a budget deficit of more than 3 percent next year if the oil price did not rise.

“Next year we will, without doubt, have to bring the Reserve Fund into play,” he said, referring to one of Russia’s two rainy-day funds intended to support the economy at times of crisis.

Crude prices have almost halved from their June peak amid a global glut and a decision by producer group OPEC not to cut output. Saudi Arabia said on Friday it was prepared to withstand a prolonged period of low prices.

“We need to have our budget break even at $70 per barrel by 2017,” said Siluanov.

Russia’s government imposed informal capital controls this week, including orders to large state-controlled oil and gas exporters Gazprom and Rosneft to sell some of their dollar revenues to shore up the ruble.

Russians have kept a wary eye on the exchange rate since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Hyper-inflation wiped out their savings over several years in the early 1990s and the ruble collapsed again in 1998.

The ruble’s latest fall will inevitably lead to higher inflation next year, which after years of stability threatens President Vladimir Putin’s reputation for ensuring Russia’s prosperity.

“The inflation forecast is tough, high. We forecast the level of 10 percent at the end of the year (2015),” Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said on Friday.

Inflation would remain in double digits throughout 2015, peaking at the end of the first quarter or in the second quarter, he added.


The Russian currency slipped on Friday after hitting its strongest levels in more than three weeks earlier in the day.

The ruble traded at 53.9 per dollar during the evening, a sharp rebound from its recent all-time lows of 80 but still far weaker than the 30-35 range it was trading at in the first half of 2014.

“If oil goes down to (per barrel)… I don’t think our authorities will be able to artificially maintain the (ruble) rate even with higher sales by exporters,”

said the head of treasury at a major Russian bank, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to media.

On Friday, Russian authorities also significantly scaled up rescue funds for Trust Bank, saying they would provide up to $2.4 billion in loans to bail out the mid-sized lender, the first bank to fall victim to the crisis.

The falling ruble has prompted panic buying of foreign currency in Russia and a spike in deposit withdrawals, heaping pressure on a vulnerable banking sector whose access to international capital markets has already been restricted by Western sanctions.

Siluanov said on Friday that authorities would provide additional capital to the country’s second-largest bank, VTB, and fellow state lender Gazprombank.

VTB could receive 250 billion rubles and Gazprombank 70 billion rubles to help fund investment projects, including those planned by Russian Railways, he said.

It was not clear whether this support would be in addition to the 1 trillion ruble capital boost the banking sector is set to receive as part of legislation recently approved by parliament.

Credit agency Standard & Poor’s said this week it could downgrade Russia’s rating to junk as soon as January due to a rapid deterioration in “monetary flexibility” in the country.

“Practically this (a downgrade) may mean the increase of capital outflow from Russia, which would be necessary to replace with instruments we have,” Ulyukayev said.

Russia may repurchase corporate bond issues, especially denominated in foreign currency, if needed, he added.

Meanwhile Russian gold and forex reserves have fallen to their lowest levels since 2009 as the central bank has spent billions to prop up the currency. Last week, reserves dropped by as much as $15.7 billion to below $400 billion, down from over $510 billion at the start of the year.

(Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Dmitry Zhdannikov, Yelena Fabrichnaya, Alexander Winning, Polina Devitt and Anton Zverev; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Alexander Winning; Editing by Hugh Lawson, John Stonestreet and Peter Graff)

Source: Reuters


How Many Calories the Average American Eats on Christmas

The average person eats more than 7,000 calories on Christmas day, research carried out by Associated British Foods recently found. That’s more than three times the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended daily caloric intake.

Since that sounds like a lot of calories, ABC News asked Mary Hartley, the registered dietician in residence at to break down what a typical day of eating on Christmas might look like.

A hearty family breakfast consisting of two pancakes with butter, syrup and sausage links kicks the day off with a total of 600 calories, Hartley noted, mapping out a plausible holiday meal. Many people will add a glass of orange juice — that’s an extra 110 calories.

And because it is a seasonal treat, they might also add a few sips of eggnog at a whopping 394 calories per serving, bringing the breakfast total up to 1110.

While most people will skip lunch in favor of an early dinner, Hartley said they will typically spend the day noshing. If they nibble on a few cookies and sneak another glass of eggnog, that’s an additional 775 calories, she said.

Just before dinner, the appetizers come out. Hartley said it’s more likely most people will consume several handfuls of chips and nuts, some crudité with dip, and a couple of appetizers totaling 1190 calories.

Christmas dinner is often a feast that includes turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, veggies, salad, rolls, butter and gravy. It usually includes several glass of wine or beer, bringing the meal’s calorie count to 1730.

The calories continue to pile on with dessert. As Hartley pointed out, “who eats just one dessert?” Assuming two servings of sweets plus another small glass of eggnog, that’s an additional 1158 calories.

Those feeling a bit peckish later that night might put together a sandwich with some trimmings from the leftovers to end the day with an additional 600 calories.

Based on this scenario, the day totals up to 6,560 calories, according to Harley who used the U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional database to estimate calorie counts.

Cedric Bryant, the chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise, said these estimates seem plausible except for perhaps the breakfast.

“Most people make the mistake of skipping breakfast thinking they’ll save up their calories for later,” he said, adding this is a strategy that often backfires, causing people to eat even more.

But even if you subtract the first calories of the day, that still leaves 5450 calories consumed on Christmas. Combining information about today’s eating habits with historical data, the British study estimated that this number is still nearly twice the number of holiday calories people ate on Christmas during World War II.

Source: ABC


Delta baggage handler accused of smuggling guns on flights

Atlanta (CNN) — A baggage handler for Delta Air Lines moved a lot more than just luggage, authorities say — he also helped smuggle firearms.

And his accomplice managed to board a flight with 18 guns and ammunition in his carry-on bag, an affidavit states.

Eugene Harvey, who worked for Delta at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, is accused of trafficking firearms and entering an airport area in violation of security requirements.

According to Harvey’s arrest warrant affidavit, here’s how the operation worked:

– Harvey used his security clearance to help provide guns to a passenger named Mark Quentin Henry after Henry cleared security.

– Henry allegedly brought the firearms in his carry-on luggage on at least five flights from Atlanta to New York between May 1 and December 10.

– During that time frame, Henry supplied a total of 129 handguns and two assault rifles to co-conspirators in New York, the affidavit states.

– One of those co-conspirators ended up selling the firearms to an undercover New York police officer.
Henry was arrested in New York on December 10 after landing at JFK airport with 18 handguns in his bag — seven of which were loaded, the affidavit says.

“During the post-arrest interview, Henry informed the investigating agents that he had flown from Atlanta to New York with the 18 firearms and associated ammunition in his carry-on bag,” FBI task force agent George Taylor wrote in the affidavit.

So how could a man get more than a dozen guns on a flight in his carry-on backpack?

“Had the eighteen firearms been inside the Oakley bag when Henry passed through TSA screening, the firearms would have been discovered,” Taylor wrote.

“Accordingly, I reasonably believe the eighteen firearms bypassed security.”
Transfer in men’s restroom?

On the morning of December 10, the affidavit says, baggage handler Harvey used his security clearance to enter Delta’s employee parking lot and then the secure area of the airport.

“Employees entering this area are not subjected to screening by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), neither at the time of entry into the employee parking lot, nor upon entry to the internal secure/restricted area at Hartsfield-Jackson,” the affidavit states.

Surveillance video showed that on the same morning, the passenger Henry cleared security with a black Oakley backpack. He then went to sit down at the airport’s Concourse B.

According to Taylor, that’s when Henry started texting Harvey. Moments later, Harvey entered a men’s restroom in Concourse B. And Henry followed.

After one minute, the affidavit says, Henry walked out of the restroom with the backpack.
The criminal complaint also says on several occasions this year, Harvey used his security clearance to enter the secure Delta employee parking lot — even though he was supposed to be off or on sick leave.

And on each of those dates, Henry boarded a flight from Atlanta to New York.

Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant told CNN the airline is cooperating with authorities in the investigation.
“We take seriously any activity that fails to uphold our strict commitment to the safety and security of our customers and employees,” he said.