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When we dress provocatively, we dishonor God and display a lack of regard for His holiness. We can also become a distraction for our brothers in Christ.

I’d been traveling all weekend, and my flight from California to the East Coast got in at midnight. All I wanted to do was go home, drop my suitcases and hit the sack.

But the story my husband had waiting for me made me drop my jaw and want to hit—well, not the sack!

“She was just visiting our church service this morning,” he began haltingly.

He didn’t notice her at first, he said. But then came “greeting time.”

“Bob, I’d like you to meet John’s cousin,” a friend said as he introduced her.

That’s when my husband’s mind began to whirl. He’d heard about her. She was the one with the perfect—well, let’s just say she qualified to be a fitting model for Victoria’s Secret. You figure out what was perfect!

Through the rest of the service he was restless. Intrigued. Annoyed.

He wasn’t the only one; I asked.

Many of our friends were introduced to her that day, and like us, they had heard about her unique career. I asked all the men the same question: “What did she look like?”

The funny thing is, none of them could quite remember her face. But they all remembered her skin-tight leather pants with the lace-up fly.

Please understand that my husband, Bob, is a godly man in full-time Christian ministry. Like most men, though, he is subject to visual temptation.

Christian psychologist Mark Laaser estimates that 30 percent of Christian pastors and leaders struggle with pornography. Among Christian men in general, more than 60 percent are estimated to struggle with continual sexual compulsions of some type.

Those are scary numbers. I wouldn’t share them with you if they hadn’t been substantiated repeatedly.

My husband’s ministry involves helping men of all ages live lives of mental purity—a battle he himself wages daily. Bob gets into the faces of other men and asks them to name the specific distractions they need to remove from their lives in order to live in sexual integrity.

You’d expect them to name temptations such as the Internet, R-rated movies, magazine covers, even the giant Victoria’s Secret display ads in the mall. But sadly, they often point to a surprisingly different pit—and they fall into it every Sunday.

“I’m struggling with the way women dress in church,” they groan. They are specific in adding those two words—in church—because the location is what makes them feel so vulnerable.

After all, isn’t church supposed to be a place where they can go to be free from temptation? What’s a guy to do when the woman in his Sunday school class keeps showing up in a tight shirt and miniskirt, announcing it was a little cold in the parking lot?

I suppose he could sit on the front row every week. But come on, sisters! It’s time we accept some responsibility for this predicament.

Many of us are sinning where the men in our churches are concerned—and in the process, we’re sinning against God.

As Christian women, our greatest desire should be to please God in everything we do. First Peter 3:3 reminds us, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment. … Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (NIV).

But some of us are getting up on Sunday mornings and adorning ourselves in ways that aren’t pleasing to God. The outfits we choose are intended to cause all eyes—especially men’s eyes—to be on us.

For the sake of our brothers in Christ, not to mention the health of our personal relationships with God, we need to do four things:

1. We need to understand the power of certain kinds of visual images.

Have you heard of the Gestalt theory? It’s a visual design theory that teaches designers to control the attention of their viewers by forcing the viewers to mentally complete a visual image.

According to the theory, the challenge of completing an image that is incomplete intrigues the human brain. Our minds will always pause to finish an unfinished picture.

Try it yourself by checking out this trio of circles. What else do you see?

You think you see a triangle, don’t you? That’s because a triangle is the most common image that your brain can come up with to complete this picture.

Now let’s apply the Gestalt theory to the issue at hand. What happens when a man sees a woman walk by wearing a low-cut blouse or a long, tight skirt with a slit all the way up the sides? He pauses—maybe even does a double take—because he sees something in part, and his brain wants to complete the picture.

He can’t help it. It’s a simple fact of visual science!

2. We need to understand the special weakness of men for a woman’s beauty.

The power of the Gestalt principle is multiplied by the fact that men have a God-given craving for a woman’s beauty. Proverbs 5:18-19 says, “Rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always. May you be ever intoxicated by her sex.”

I italicized two of the last four words in that verse because I changed them to better reflect the actual Hebrew meaning of the passage. The God of the universe looks down at woman, created to be a physical masterpiece, and man, created to enjoy the view, and actually encourages man to be fully intoxicated by her sexuality. Wow!

When a guy gets “intoxicated,” his body can’t help but react. Physiologically, many of our bodies’ responses are activated by something called the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This system is controlled not by the will but by the environment.

For example, have you ever lost one of your small children at the mall, if only for a moment? Do you remember the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach? The rapid pulse?

Your body reacted automatically to the situation. You cannot control such reactions by choice. That’s how the ANS works—it forces the body to respond to the environment.

Sexual arousal operates the same way. Certain things in the environment—what we see, what we hear, what we smell—work together to tell the brain that the time is right for sexual response. The ANS takes over, and the brain reacts by sending specific chemicals through the body.

In a man this reaction is particularly strong since God created him to be visually stimulated. If he sees a woman walk by wearing revealing clothing, his pulse may increase; his body temperature may rise. Other changes may take place as well.

Of course, all this is beautiful and even celebrated by almighty God when the woman responsible for the arousal is the man’s wife. But too often that’s not the case.

Our culture constantly bombards us with sexual content in movies, magazines, advertisements and more. It’s enough to overwhelm even the most godly man.

And though he can choose how to act upon this arousal, he frequently cannot control that it occurs. The environment controls it.

Exposing a man to continual visual stimulation is like hanging a noose around the neck of his spiritual life! Yet many Christian women contribute to the hanging Sunday after Sunday.

3. We need to call immodesty what it really is.

The Bible is emphatic: We must never do anything to cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble (see 1 Cor. 10:32). That’s an uncomfortable challenge for those of us who’ve been lulled into thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just fashion!”

We may squirm even more when we read Ephesians 5:3: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”

Get that? Not a hint of sexual sin! But aren’t we hinting at sin when we wear a low-cut blouse, a tight T-shirt or a super-short skirt?

According to its Hebrew and Greek definitions, sin means missing God’s intended purpose for our lives. So what is God’s purpose when it comes to our sexuality? Proverbs 5:18-19 says that it’s to intoxicate one man with our beauty.

We are no doubt quite capable of getting many stares. But God says that the unique characteristics of our sensual beauty are to be treasured secrets—secrets kept for one man. When we dress immodestly, creating arousal in many men, we miss the purpose of the carefully crafted masterpiece that is our body.

Is it just a matter of fashion? No. Immodesty is sin.

4. We need to develop a righteous response to the crisis immodesty has created in the church.

As you read this, maybe you feel a twinge of guilt. I know I felt one as I worked recently on a new book for teenage girls on the subject of modesty. Perhaps you need to clean a few things out of your closet, as I did.

Maybe you see a reason for concern in your church. Don’t be afraid to ask a women’s Bible study leader or perhaps even your pastor to address the issue. God’s call for purity in the lives of His people is worthy of the tremendous effort it will take to break through the strongholds of denial in this area of sin.

If you’re married, be ready to help your husband walk through a visually tempting world. When I came home to the news that a Victoria’s Secret model had unexpectedly visited my husband’s mind, I didn’t condemn him or react with jealousy or hurt. Rather, I thanked him for sharing his struggle with me.

We talked about it until 2 in the morning. As Bob opened his heart, I was able to erase the shame that had been caused by this woman’s indiscretion. We agreed to work together to make sure visual temptation is treated with a zero-tolerance policy in our home.

Whether you are married or not, it’s important to set a good example. Make certain the clothes you pull out of your closet on Sunday morning—and every day of the week—are a statement of your commitment to live a godly life.



Why Are “Christian” Women Watching ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’?

The unavoidable truth is that many are becoming desensitized. When the Holy Spirit no longer fills hearts and minds with a passion for purity and holiness, there is a general lack of conviction.

Compromise in this area can be well illustrated through a story that I heard years ago.

Eskimos in the barren North often kill wolves by taking a razor sharp knife and dipping it in blood. They allow the blood to freeze to the blade. Then they bury the handle of the knife in the snow with the blade exposed. As the wolf begins to lick the blade, his tongue becomes numb and desensitized due to the cold. As he continues, his tongue begins to bleed, and he licks even faster—unaware that he is consuming his own blood and slowly killing himself.

Within time, the Eskimos return and bring the dead animal home. In the same way, the enemy numbs us through compromise. Within time, we, like the wolves, don’t realize that we are dying—dying spiritually. The enemy desensitizes us until we are numb to the things of God.

A famous quote resounds with clarity for us today: “All the water in the world, no matter how hard it tries, can never sink a ship unless it gets inside. All the evil influence of the world, no matter how hard it tries, can never sink a Christian’s soul unless it gets inside.”

The greatest battle we will ever fight is within. Our mind is where the battle is either won or lost: “As a man thinks in his heart so is he” (Prov. 3:27). Galatians 5:17 says that the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what our sinful nature desires, and that these two forces are constantly fighting against each other.

As a result, our choices are rarely free from this conflict. Don’t be alarmed. The fact that there is a fight confirms the value of our commitment to Christ and His standard of holiness.

There is a very troubling trend toward moral compromise in the evangelical church. I’ve witnessed soft porn images on Christian websites, questionable movie clips during PowerPoint sermons, and youth pastors talk about their favorite sexually charged TV show or movie with the youth, all under the guise of “relating” to the culture.

Most walk away from Christ not because He fails them, or because the Word of God proves to be untrue, but because of the love of this world (gratifying the flesh). We cannot overlook the seriousness of this issue. Jesus said that the worries and desires of this world, along with the deceitfulness of wealth, come in and choke the Word of God, making it unfruitful (cf. Mark 4:19).

The passion we once had for the purity of God’s Word can easily be exchanged for the pollutants of the world. For this reason, I take every opportunity to write about making wise entertainment choices. What we put into our mind affects our relationship with God at a very deep level.

1 John 2:15-17 says, “Love not the world [the worlds mindset], neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

What we watch and listen to affects the heart—it’s impossible to separate the two. If we would make it our goal to know Christ more personally, we would preach Christ more powerfully. For example, if a pastor (or Christian leader) fills his mind with the world all week and expects the Spirit of God to speak boldly through him from the pulpit, he will be gravely mistaken. E.M. Bounds said, “The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead men give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill. Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher.”

Carnal Christians give God “His due” (a few hours on Sunday), but they forget His call to “come out from among them (the world) and be separate.” Every day of the week is the world influencing you? What does your mental media diet consist of? Who do you hang out with? What, and whom, do you listen to? Is your heart set toward the things of God or the world’s influence? A quick peruse of your “likes” and posts on Facebook reveals what we truly value.

Compromise also deceives. James 1:22 reminds us that if we listen to God’s Word without doing it that we are fooling ourselves … we are deceived. The power of God’s Word lies in the application. In addition to non-Christians, it is Christians who are moving sexually explicit and violent movies to the Top 10 by not applying purity to their lives. It is Christians who are addicted to porn and supplying the revenue to fuel the industry.

We cannot love both Christ and this world. Carnality destroys our relationship with Christ and genuine fellowship with other believers. It destroys our prayer life as well. A carnal Christian does not pray, really pray and seek the heart of God. A deep prayer life exposes facades and crushes hypocrisy. Carnality also destroys spiritual power and hinders the infilling of the Spirit. It also affects our home life. In short, everything that God calls us to be is compromised.

Being selective with what we watch and listen to has nothing to do with legalism; it has everything to do with wisdom. We are to recognize what glorifies Christ and what clearly does not then choose accordingly. Grace does not relieve us of responsibility. We actually live under a higher standard when grace guides our decisions, not rules. It’s not about following rules. Let your freedom in Christ, and a relationship with Him, guide you. We’ve all watched questionable material and have made wrong choices; don’t live with ongoing regret. But don’t justify wrong behavior by thinking that God doesn’t care about what you watch or listen to, He does. We serve and love God with our mind. (See Romans 7:25.)

Watch my sermon, “Are You Wheat or Tare?”

Shane Idleman is the author of the “What Works” book series and “One Nation Above God.”

Unless otherwise specified, the opinions expressed are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Charisma Media.



Beyoncé Releases Mini-Documentary Highlighting Racial Injustice (VIDEO)

Reactions from Beyoncé’s Grammy performance of notable gospel song, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” has drawn a great deal of attention from fans on social media. And while some may feel the international pop star slighted Ledisi from performing the track, who sang the song in the movie “Selma,” Beyoncé has revealed how personal the tune is to her family lineage.

On Monday, via her official website and YouTube channel, “Queen Bey” released an exclusive 8-minute documentary titled, “’Take My Hand, Precious Lord’: The Voices” highlighting rehearsal footage of her performance and interviews with her background singers sharing their thoughts on racial injustice.

In addition to the Grammy Award-winner recollecting childhood memories of her mother, Tina, playing Mahalia Jackson’s original version of the song, she also discussed singing the ballad in honor of black men including her father and former manager, Mathew.

“I wanted to find real men that have lived, that have struggled, cried, have a light and a spirit about them,” Beyoncé said in the clip. “I felt like this is an opportunity to show the strength and vulnerability in black men.”

“My grandparents marched with Dr. King and my father was part of the first generation of black men that attended an all-white school,” she continued.

“My father has grown up with a lot of trauma from those experiences. I feel like now I can sing for his pain, I can sing for my grandparents’ pain. I can sing for some of the families that have lost their sons.”



HSBC helped conceal $100 billion in Swiss accounts – report

Documents obtained and analyzed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reveal how HSBC (HSBC) used the secretive Swiss banking system to conceal the identities of accounts holders, and in many cases, help depositors avoid paying taxes.

ICIJ’s findings are based on data turned over to French authorities by former HSBC employee Hervé Falciani in 2008. The files were later obtained by the newspaper Le Monde and shared among other media outlets.

ICIJ said the leaked documents show that HSBC “repeatedly reassured clients that it would not disclose details of accounts to national authorities” and even “discussed with clients a range of measures that would ultimately allow clients to avoid paying taxes in their home countries.”
In a statement provided to ICIJ, HSBC said that its Swiss private bank has undergone a “radical transformation in recent years,” including reforms that will make it more difficult for clients to evade taxes or launder money.

“We acknowledge that the compliance culture and standards of due diligence in HSBC’s Swiss private bank, as well as the industry in general, were significantly lower than they are today,” the statement said.

Shares in HSBC fell 1.5% in London on Monday.

According to ICIJ, HSBC “served those close” to regimes including that of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, former Tunisian President Ben Ali and current Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad.
Other clients included former and current politicians from Britain, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Romania, India, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Senegal, among others. (Explore the data here.)
HSBC, in its statement, said that it has drastically reduced the number of accounts at its Swiss private bank. In 2007, the bank had more than 30,000 accounts. It now has around 10,000.

Source: CNN

Granddaughter of TBN Founder Claims She was Threatened with a Gun to Keep Silent about Finances

The granddaughter of the late Trinity Broadcasting Network founder is suing her uncle, the now vice president of programming at the network, after she says he threatened her with a gun.

Brittany Koper, the granddaughter of founder Paul Crouch, was promoted to Chief Financial Officer of TBN in 2011. She became the corporate treasurer soon after, Christian News Network reports.

“Koper learned through specific instructions from Defendant Trinity Broadcasting, Defendant Jan Crouch, Defendant Matthew Crouch, and Defendant John Casoria that the requirements of Plaintiff Brittany Koper’s new job included active participation in numerous illegal schemes that were disclosed to Plaintiff Brittany Koper following her promotion,” her husband Michael wrote in a new lawsuit filed on Jan. 29.

Just two months after she was promoted, Koper, her husband and father were fired from the network.

Koper also claims that during a meeting about the issue, her uncle, Matthew Crouch, threatened her with a gun.

Koper first filed a legal complaint in 2012, saying that TBN officials were using donations for personal expenses and her job was to “find ways to label extravagant personal spending as ministry expenses.” This new lawsuit claims that her confidential communications with officials had been disclosed without her consent.

TBN attorneys have claimed that Koper stole $1.3 million from the network, but returned $500,000. She has since admitted that she took loans from TBN with permission.

Publication date: February 6, 2015


Ford plans to beat Ferrari

While DeLorean is famed for its time-travelling sports car, Ford aims to bridge a half-century of history with the GT, unveiled at the Detroit auto show on 12 January.

June 2016 will mark 50 years since Ford prevailed against the Ferrari juggernaut in the premier Le Mans endurance-race category.

To commemorate that feat, the company will build a new, 600-plus horsepower GT road car and race it at the legendary French event in 2016.

This road-going, carbon-fibre wonder features a race-rated version of the company’s signature EcoBoost turbocharged engine technology, with a mid-mounted 3.5-litre V6 matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission driving the rear wheels.

ford2 (Ford)

For the company’s 100th anniversary in 2003, it introduced a GT whose styling was a tribute to that of the ’60s racer. This new car, however, looks resolutely forward, with contemporary styling that eschews so-called retro-futurism, a design language championed by J Mays, Ford’s former chief designer.

The bodywork looks shrink-wrapped over the cockpit and powertrain in the manner of the latest sports prototype racers, lending it a focused, track-ready look.

As the car that proved Ford’s ability against the world’s established sports car companies the GT holds a special place in Ford history.


“For students of racing, this seems to me the coolest story to come along in years,” said AJ Baime, author of Go Like Hell, an account of Ford’s attack on Le Mans, in a telephone interview. “It’s got everything in it: history, a hugely important brand, American pride and the most important sports car race on earth, all wrapped up in a new car. The stakes are huge.”

The original Ford GT enjoyed association with drivers who are icons of the sport. “The Ford GT at Le Mans in the 1960s is the story of Henry Ford II, Carroll Shelby, Bruce McLaren, Lee Iacocca, Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt, among so many others,” Baime added, noting just some of the drivers and craftsmen who helped stoke the car’s legend. “This new programme will be the impetus to celebrate it all again, on the 50th anniversary of Ford’s first Le Mans victory.”

ford3(Jonathan Schultz)

Indeed, the GT is a halo car, the kind of machine that casts its glow down the product line. And Jim Farley, Ford of Europe’s leader, expects to see a “GT effect”.

“Even if people don’t buy a GT, they would be talking about it as they buy their ST,” he said, referencing initials bolted on a higher-performance Fiesta whose pricing begins around $21,000. It is safe to say that pricing will be significantly higher for the GT, though the final figure will not be announced until closer to the car’s June sale date.



7 Signs People Dislike You

Although you may think you are making a great first impression, or if you have met with someone on numerous occasions, and are trying to appeal to them, there are a number of things you can spot in their behavior, and the way they respond to you, which will let you know they do not like you. Although many signs are quite obvious, there are also less subtle signs that people give off, if they are not really a fan of you, or do not get along with you too well. These are some signs to look out for, which you will notice when people are uncomfortable around you, or simply do not like you for one reason or the other.

1. The way they look at you

It might be that simple. If a person always gives you the “evil eye,” or stares are you with disgust, even if you have not done anything to upset them, this is a clear sign that they do not like you much. It might not have been anything you have personally done, in some cases you are just going to butt-heads with others, and this is one of the most obvious signs they do not like you too much.

2. Always blamed

If you are always blamed for things going wrong, this is another sign that your co workers, or people at school do not like you. If you are not part of a project, or if you are only a small part of it, yet you are being blamed for the errors in a project, and are always blamed when something goes wrong, this is a clear indicator that you are not liked by those around you.


3. Gossip –

This is another sign that you are not liked. Whether it is at work or school, sports teams, or any other location, if you notice idle gossip each time you walk around a group of people, it is highly likely that they do not like you too much in this location either.

4. You are left out –

If you are always left out, this is an indication you are not liked. If it is a holiday party where all other employees are hired, or if there are small gatherings with co workers on the weekends or after work each day, but you never get an invite, it is a sign that your co workers are not fond of you. If it has only happened once or a few times, it might be a sign that only certain people do not like you, but if it is to every event or gathering, then it is possible you are disliked by the entire group.

5. Last man out –

If you are never picked for the team, or are the last person picked at work for a work assignment, this is another sign you are not liked. Whether it is on the playground for baseball or kickball teams, or whether it is at school where you are being chosen for group projects, or at work, where co workers are going to work together, when you are always the last person to be chosen, it is a clear sign that you are not the most favorable person in a group.

6.Things are accidentally broken –

This might occur in a work or office location. If you always have things “accidentally” broken on your desk, or around your work space, this is another clear cut sign that someone in the office is not a fan of yours. If this is the case, it is in your best interest to report it if it is an ongoing thing, or if you want to avoid further confrontation, simply don’t bring expensive items in to the work place with you each day

7. People stare –

If you always receive the strange looks or stares, for no warranted reason, you might not be liked by the person or group staring at you. Like the idle gossip, if people just stare at you with disdain or disgust, it might not have been something you did, but it may just be a personal vendetta or a clash of personalities, and is a simple way for you to spot someone who does not like you.


Flag of France

Opinion: I’m not Charlie

(CNN)- In the aftermath of the heinous attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in France, many are tweeting and writing in solidarity: Je suis Charlie. But I’m not. Because I am not Charlie.

Of course, I unequivocally support the right to free speech. Period. And I also believe in choosing to exercise that right responsibly and respectfully. That’s why I would not have published cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed, insulting 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide in the process (and no, I wouldn’t have published many of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons insulting Judaism and Christianity, either).

In no way should this be taken — as it has been by some on Twitter — to suggest that I somehow condone the killings of Charlie Hebdo’s staff. That’s a ridiculously insulting idea and just plain wrong. It’s possible to honor and protect the free speech rights of publications like Charlie Hebdo while simultaneously believing such cartoons are unnecessarily disrespectful and offensive.

As others have pointed out, in the wake of the Paris attacks we’ve conflated support for free speech with support for the actual speech in question. But while I unquestionably support the free speech rights of the KKK and “god hates fags” protesters, for example, that clearly doesn’t mean I would support, never mind join in, their hateful messages. Some on the right insist that media should have to re-print Charlie Hebdo’s anti-Islam cartoons or else they’re cowardly. However, this is a fundamental perversion of free speech, to say the least. There is no inconsistency between supporting free speech for Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists and finding the content of some of their cartoons offensive and disrespectful.

I don’t profess to be a scholar of Islam. But it’s plain that some branches or interpretations of the faith view any depictions of the Prophet Mohammed as blasphemy. That doesn’t mean that all Muslims who see such depictions as blasphemy think the appropriate response is violence; far from it. But a radical few do, and, as Middle East commentator Juan Cole has argued, they exploit such defamations against the prophet to try to radicalize others in the faith.

Unfortunately, there are some in the West who think all of Islam is tainted, and who — despite there being plenty of violence and intolerance in the texts and histories of Judaism and Christianity — believe Islam is somehow uniquely violent and intolerant. But when we mistakenly believe that a narrow and violent interpretation of Islam is the only true version, we play right into the hands of the radical zealots who want the world, including all Muslims, to believe precisely that.

The reality is that the Muslim world isn’t just the leadership of Saudi Arabia and Iran, but also Indonesia and Mali. And it’s worth pointing out that several Muslim countries have elected or appointed female heads of state, something the United States has yet to manage. And also that while much remains to be done on advancing gay rights, gay bars do still exist in Lebanon and in Jordan. Unfortunately, about 60 percent of Americans don’t know a single Muslim, and so may only know about Islam what the media reports about terrorists.

It is important to remember that there are a wide variety of interpretations and practices of Islam worldwide, including an active debate on those interpretations among scholars and spiritual leaders.

Sadly, I have to wonder if Charlie Hebdo had been attacked for cartoons insulting Christians, whether there would be a similar outpouring in support of the magazine, especially in the United States. After all, many of the same people outraged just a month ago about the alleged “War on Christmas” have no qualms about launching a “War on Islam” because, well, it’s not their religion being mischaracterized and insulted. It unsettles me to think that the reason so much of the outpouring of support for Charlie Hebdo is driven not just by the violence suffered or a defense of free speech, but by the opportunity to implicitly support jabs at Islam. But judging by some of the coverage, it seems a fair assumption to make.

Indeed, on the same day of the attack in Paris, a bomb was placed outside the offices of an NAACP chapter in Colorado. Thankfully, no one died in that attack, but it was still a bomb on U.S. soil and yet the story was absent from much of the mainstream media. Had Muslims been the suspects, I think it’s fair to say there would have been much more attention paid.

As someone with a public voice, my free speech benefits from an extra megaphone, and while the principle of free speech means I can say what I want whenever I want it, in practice I try to think carefully about the impact of my words — and how they might be felt among others whether or not they share my belief system.

Personally, I believe in not saying something just because I want to speak, but because I want to be heard. So, for instance, I don’t casually condemn or denigrate people’s religions because I want people of faith to hear me. All religions face the struggle of progressing from rigid tradition to evolving modernity, and so I want my voice to be clear and constructive in supporting that progress.

Put another way, when I open my mouth, I don’t want to be part of the problem, I want to be part of the solution. I want to help Islam and Christianity and Judaism and society in general become more open and inclusive and democratic and liberated. Free speech is fundamentally essential to that project. So is respect. In the aftermath of the heinous attacks in Paris, it’s important we remember that free speech and respect can go hand-in-hand.

Source: CNN
Picture source:


Scientists find new Earth-like planets in space

WASHINGTON (AP) – Earth has a few more near-twin planets outside our solar system, tantalizing possibilities in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Astronomers announced Tuesday that depending on definitions, they have confirmed three or four more planets that are about the same size as Earth and are in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold “Goldilocks Zone” for liquid water to form.

These planets are likely to be rocky like Earth, and not gas giants or ice worlds. They get about the same heat from their star as we get from the sun, according to the latest results from NASA’s planet hunting Kepler telescope.

But don’t book your flights yet.

They may be close to Earth in size and likely temperature in the gargantuan scale of the universe, but they aren’t quite close enough for comfort.

Consider two of the new planets, the nearest to Earth discovered to date. If they have atmospheres similar to Earth’s – a big if – one would be a toasty 140 some degrees and the other would hover around zero, said study lead author Guillermo Torres, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Life conceivably could evolve and adapt to those temperatures, he said.

Oh, and they aren’t actually within commuting distance of Earth. Those two are 500 and 1,100 light years away; a light year is 5.9 trillion miles.

What’s important, said SETI Institute astronomer Douglas Caldwell, a study co-author who presented the findings at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, is that astronomers are a bit closer to finding twins of Earth and answering the age-old question: Are we alone?

“These planets do exist; we didn’t know that before,” Torres said in a phone interview from Cambridge, Massachusetts. “What we’re really looking for is signs of life eventually. We’re not there yet. It will take many years but this is the first step.”

Torres’ team confirmed earlier discoveries and added new ones, bringing the total known number of planets that are no bigger than twice Earth’s size and in the habitable temperature zone to eight or nine. But that’s only from a short search of a small part of our galaxy, so Torres believes that Earth-like planets are common throughout the cosmos, though he cannot prove it yet.

Torres likes to include one planet that would bump the new findings from three to four, but Caldwell said that planet may or may not be habitable.

It doesn’t matter much. “We do not need to talk about the one or two exoplanets that could be like Earth, we are finding so many,” said Lisa Kaltenegger, director of Cornell University’s Pale Blue Dot Institute. She wasn’t part of the study.

Torres and Caldwell highlighted the two new planets that are closest in size to Earth. The closest, called Kepler 438-b, is only 12 percent larger than Earth and gets about 40 percent more energy from its star than we do from the sun, so it would probably be warmer, Torres said. It tightly circles a small cooler red star with its year lasting only 35 Earth days and the sun in its sky would be red, not yellow.

It may hot, but “there are bacteria on Earth that live very comfortably in those temperatures, no problem,” Torres said.

The other, Kepler 442-b, is about 34 percent bigger than Earth but gets only two-thirds of the energy from its sun as we do, Torres said.

NASA also announced that its planet-hunter telescope confirmed its 1,000th planet outside the solar system, most quite unlike Earth and not in the habitable zone. Added to those discovered by other telescopes, astronomers have now discovered more than 1,800 planets that are outside the solar system.

Source: AP

Barack Obama, Malia Obama, Michelle Obama, Sasha Obama

Malia & Sasha Obama’s Travel Style Is On Point

The First Family flew back to DC on Sunday after vacationing in Hawaii over the holiday. They go every year, but this time around something was different: Sasha and Malia Obama displayed seriously enviable vacation style. From the minute they left DC, the teenagers set an example for all travelers—even those who aren’t flying Air Force One. (And with athleisure so on-trend, there’s really no excuse not to pull yourself together pre-flight.) Walking across the lawn of the White House to Marine One on December 19, both donned black leggings with cute coats — layering is key, especially when traveling to a warm location — and carried roomy hobo bags (leave your Jansport backpack in your locker).

obamavacation2014The Obamas arrive in Hawaii having already changed into their island clothes. Photo: Corbis

Flying on Air Force One has its privileges (beds, showers, fax machines —at least, that’s what I learned from West Wing), making it easier to pull of a wardrobe change at 20,000 feet. Upon arrival at Pearl Harbor, Sasha, 13, wore an acid-washed light denim mini-dress with Dr. Scholls-like sandals. Her 16-year-old sister wore a black polka-dot dress with Mary Jane flats.
President Barack Obama and Malia Obama eating shaved ice. Photo: Corbis

Throughout the trip, the girls managed to look polished and island-ready, a tough balancing act for anyone, let alone a teen in the public eye. Arriving back in Washington on Sunday the girls wore similarly styled looks, with Sasha’s red converse and topknot and Malia’s green socks peaking out of her boots. Less than a week into 2015, it feels safe to say the under-20 set has at least two fashionistas to look up to this year.

Source: Yahoo
Featured Picture: AP Photo