Report: 2015 Saw ‘Most Violent’ Persecution of Christians in Modern History

Report: 2015 Saw ‘Most Violent’ Persecution of Christians in Modern History

The brutal, worldwide persecution of Christians during the past year makes 2015 “the most violent and sustained attack on Christian faith in modern history,” according to a watchdog organization that has been monitoring Christian persecution for decades.

Open Doors, an organization founded in 1955 to assist persecuted Christians, publishes an annual “World Watch List,” documenting attacks on Christians and ranking the most hostile national environments for believers.

“The 2016 World Watch List documents an unprecedented escalation of violence against Christians, making this past year the most violent and sustained attack on Christian faith in modern history,” Open Doors CEO David Curry said at the rollout of the list.

Persecution in “continuing to increase, intensify and spread across the globe,” he said.

At the top of the Watch List, for the 14th consecutive year, stands North Korea, where an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in labor camps. Carrying on as one of the last holdouts of Communist totalitarianism, North Korea bears a particular hatred for Christians, who are a constant reminder of accountability to a higher power than the state.

“Christianity is not only seen as ‘opium for the people’ as is normal for all communist states,” the report says. “It is also seen as deeply Western and despicable.” During 2015, thousands of Christians living in North Korea were forced to renounce their faith or flee under threat of death.

As in the case with last year’s report, the vast majority of countries experiencing acute Christian persecution are Muslim nations. In 2015, nine out of the top ten countries where Christians suffer “extreme persecution” had populations that are at least 50 percent Muslim, a phenomenon replicated in 2016.

The 2015 report found that “Islamic extremism is by far the most significant persecution engine” of Christians in the world today and that “40 of the 50 countries on the World Watch List are affected by this kind of persecution.”

The 2016 list places Iraq in second place, immediately after North Korea, with horrific Islamic violence dominating news headlines during 2015. Throughout the year, Christians were forced to flee their homes by the thousands or be killed.

Just this week, the United Nations released an extensive report on Islamic State violence in Iraq, and estimates that ISIS currently holds some 3,500 people, mostly women and children, in the country.

The report, jointly issued by U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq and U.N. human rights office in Geneva, declared ISIS atrocities in Iraq to be “war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”

Some of the crimes described in the report include executions by shooting, beheading, bulldozing, burning alive and throwing people off the top of buildings.

The other nations making the top ten in Christian persecution are Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Libya, all of which have Muslim majorities.

The report underscores the geographical extent of Christian persecution, and Curry highlighted the global nature of the problem, noting that it has become more acute not just in a few isolated regions, but “in every continent in every country.”

“The levels of exclusion, discrimination and violence against Christians is unprecedented, spreading and intensifying,” Curry added. “Christians, longing to stay in their home countries, are being forced to flee for their lives and for their children’s lives,” he said.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome

Part 2: It was never about equality.

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Part 2: It was never about equality

3) LGBT Activists Say So Themselves: The Goal is to Abolish Marriage
“Gay marriage is a lie,” announced gay activist Masha Gessen in a panel discussion last year at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. “Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we’re going to do with marriage when we get there.”  [Applause.] “It’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist.”
Gessen was merely echoing a message from an LGBT manifesto of 2006 called Beyond Same Sex Marriage. The manifesto is a blatant rallying cry to bring about a post-marriage society, one in which there is no room for state-recognized marriage.
“It’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist.”
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Ethics and Public Policy Institute scholar Stanley Kurtz wrote extensively about this document in two National Review articles, entitled The Confession and The Confession II. Kurtz noted that the intent of the sponsors of the manifesto – which as of 2006 had hundreds of prominent signatories, including Cornel West, Barbara Ehrenreich, Martha Fineman, and Gloria Steinem – was “to dissolve marriage by extending the definition to every conceivable family type.”

Sunstein needn’t have “ducked the issue” of more than two parties in a domestic contract because legalizing polygamy is central to the manifesto. And there can be no doubt that the legalization of polygamy would result in the abolition of all state-recognized marriage. Polygamy — repackaged in the now trendy term “polyamory” – comes with an array of configurations too dizzying and with too many moving parts to be sustained as state-recognized marriage.
Despite the existence of the manifesto, the official line of the LGBT community still seems to be that gay marriage is only about equal rights for couples who love one another. Their spokespersons have been disciplined – with a friendly media running cover for them – in maintaining the official line so as not to provoke a debate about the real agenda to abolish marriage.
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Supposedly conservative gay activists like Jonathan Rauch have also run cover and protected the timing of the agenda by claiming that the manifesto was merely a “fringe” of the LGBT movement. It’s irrelevant whether or not Rauch really believes his own propaganda that gay marriage will somehow strengthen a marriage culture by bringing loving gay couples into it. The main effect of the Rauch meme is to accelerate the abolition of civil marriage by hastening a legal framework for genderless marriage that will pave the way for total abolition of  civil marriage, and with it private family life.
It’s clear the gloves are coming off and timing has entered a new phase. The push for polyamory has gone mainstream, right on schedule. Supportive puff pieces on it are popping up in places like Atlantic Monthly and the erstwhile women’s magazineRedbook. In the end, polyamory serves only as a transitory way station between the legalization of same sex marriage and the abolition of civil marriage.
4) Growing Dominance of Singles
Recent decades have seen a sharp upsurge of unmarried households. According to theU.S. Census Bureau, in 2012 there were 103 million unmarried people 18 and older. That’s 44 percent of all US residents over 18. And 62 percent of those 103 million had never been married. Unmarried individuals represented 56 million households in 2012. The rise in singles has had an undeniably huge impact on the electorate. In the 2012 election 39 percent of the voters were unmarried, compared to 24 percent of the voters in the 1972 election.
The “Communication League for Unmarried Equality,” is a coalition of singles’ rights organizations which argues that government benefits for marriage – including tax breaks and survivor benefits in social security — amount to marital status discrimination. Its advocates argue that civil marriage unjustly awards financial, social, and cultural benefits to married individuals at the expense of unmarried individuals who end up subsidizing marriage and children, without compensation.  In addition, proponents of “unmarried equality” insist that the existence of these privileges serve to perpetuate prejudices and stereotypes about singles that inflict harm on them. (Sounds like a Supreme Court case brewing.)
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Bella DePaulo spearheaded the movement as a blogger and author of Singled Out andSinglism:  What it is, Why it Matters and How to Stop It.” According to DePaulo, the discrimination she calls “singlism” may seem more subtle than racism or sexism, but is just as damaging. She has tip-toed to the edge of advocating for the abolition of marriage, with a professor of feminist philosophy Elizabeth Blake, by saying that marriage should be “minimized” (for now) so that singles have the same benefits as married individuals. Which, naturally, means abolishing marriage.
“Singlism” itself is not yet considered a form of illegal discrimination. But DePaulo believes it should be:

“Because singlism is built right into American laws, it is not possible to be single and not be a target of discrimination. If you have followed the marriage equality debate, then you probably know that there are more than 1,000 federal laws that benefit or protect only those people who are legally married. Even if same-sex marriage becomes legal throughout the land, all those people who are single — whether gay or straight or any other status — will still remain second class citizens.”

 

5) Morphing of the Memes – from Marriage Equality to Marriage Ambivalence to Marriage Hostility
“Why would anyone get married?” That’s a quote from Nancy Pelosi in a Valentine’s Day interview last month, downplaying the importance of marriage. While some might say she’s simply courting the singles demographic, she’s mostly reinforcing and echoing a narrative that marriage is irrelevant or perhaps even harmful. She is contributing to the drumbeat to abolish civil marriage.
Let’s not forget Julia, the mascot of Obama’s reelection campaign who serves as a Stepford wife to the State.

Major cultural forces – the media, academia, and Hollywood – have already adopted an increasingly hostile view of marriage. We can see it in the use of the term “greedy marrieds” from a recent New York Times feature “The Changing American Family“: “Single people live alone and proudly consider themselves families of one — more generous and civic-minded than ‘greedy marrieds.’”

And look at NBC Sports in its coverage Olympic gold medalist skier David Wise. It described him as living an “alternative lifestyle” because he happened to be young and married with children.  The clear inference was that he was abnormal.
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The promotion and glorification of single parenting which got its start with the Murphy Brown TV series of the 1990s has gone into hyperdrive now. Check out online services such as Modamily, that matches people with “parenting partners,” with whom they can draw up a contract, arrange for artificial reproductive technologies, and forgo marriage.
And let’s not forget Julia, the mascot of Obama’s reelection campaign who serves, with more than a bit of irony, as a Stepford wife to the State. The narrative was clearly hostile to the idea of marriage and supportive of policies to abolish it.
6) LGBT Push for Same Sex Marriage in Developing Countries
The rush by LGBT activists and the Obama administration to lift bans on gay marriage in all 50 states is peculiarly fast and furious. Oddly so for a movement that seems to be gaining steam and social compliance. A reasonable question would be: What’s the rush if things are going so swimmingly your way? The only answer seems to be one of fragile timing.
The sudden LGBT push globally, especially in Africa, should give us pause as well. Why the abrupt shove into poor countries, threatening to cut off aid unless they comply with such a massive cultural shift and adopt the Western LGBT agenda? Why the laser focus on Uganda and Malawi instead of places like Iran where abuses of homosexuals are likely just as common?
We are witnessing a major strategy to export gay marriage – and all it entails for the abolition of marriage — worldwide. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have made an example of Uganda by threatening to cut off its aid over the existence of its anti-sodomy laws. Other developing nations are expected to take note and fall into line, creating a cascade effect until any other nation who resists will feel the noose tightening.
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We might reasonably ask why this particular agenda is getting so much attention while the world goes to hell in a hand basket. Syria is overrun with vicious terrorist gangs at least as bad as its president. Russia is flexing its muscles, having just invaded the Ukraine and Crimea. Christians are being exterminated in record numbers throughout the Middle East. We’re looking at nuclear weapons in Iran. There’s a nuclear threat from North Korea, which not only starves its own people but is run by a guy who, it was said, feeds his political enemies to starving dogs. And yet President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have been spending special quality time focusing on the LGBT agenda in in the poor countries of Africa?
Clearly the Western LGBT agenda represents a new brand of cultural imperialism that is not content to shape life at home, but intends to propagate itself – and all it entails –worldwide.

Ending Marriage Leads To A Centralized All Powerful State

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The hard push for marriage equality was never about marriage. Neither was it about equality. It’s a convenient vehicle to abolish civil marriage, whether to rid the world of paternalism, evade responsibility for children, “privatize” relationships, or whatever. Abolishing marriage strips the family of its autonomy by placing it much more directly under the regulating control of the state.
Once the state no longer has to recognize the marriage relationship and its presumption of privilege and privacy, we all become atomized individuals in the eyes of the state, officially strangers to one another. We lose the space – the buffer zone – that the institution of the natural, organic family previously gave us and that forced the state to keep its distance.
Isn’t it ironic that feminists would replace the “paternalism” of marriage (what happened to strong women?) with the new paternalism of state regulation of personal relationships? Isn’t it ironic that singles in this scheme of things simply end up marrying the state?
At some point, we must conclude that freedom of association has its source in state acceptance of the core family as the primary buffer zone between the individual and the state. There is no escaping this fact, no matter a particular generation’s attitude or public opinion polling, or advances in medical technology, or whatever else comes our way.
Marriage Is The Template For Freedom Of Association
Without state recognition of – and respect for – marriage, can freedom of association survive? How so? On what basis?
Civil marriage provides the entire basis for presuming the rights and responsibilities of biological parents to raise their own children. It also assumes the right of spouses to refuse to testify against one another in court. It presumes survivorship – in guardianship of children as well as inheritance of property. If we abolish civil marriage, these will no longer be rights by default, but rights to be distributed at the pleasure of a bureaucratic state.
When a couple enters into a civil marriage, they are not inviting the government into their relationship, but rather putting the government on notice that they are a family unit. It’s the couple – not the state – that’s in the driver’s seat.Otherwise, they needn’t marry. Otherwise, central planners wouldn’t be so intent on abolishing marriage as a private and autonomous association from which the state must keep its distance, unless one partner wishes to exit by divorce.
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Children – i.e., all of us born into a family – inherit that presumption of autonomy and broadcast it into society. We do so whether or not we ever get married ourselves. The presumption of family autonomy and privacy informs our right to freely associate with others – through romances, friendships, business contracts, and so on. It would be catastrophic to freedom if we threw it away.
State recognition of this autonomy cannot exist without state recognition of marriage. In fact, traditional marriage — just like traditional oxygen if you will – helps all of society breathe more freely.
If civil marriage is abolished, you can say hello to the government at your bedroom door because that comfortable little meme about “getting the state out of the marriage business” will have flown out your bedroom window while you were sleeping.
Stella Morabito can be followed on Twitter here.  She blogs at www.stellamorabito.net

Bait And Switch: How Same Sex Marriage Ends Family Autonomy

Bait And Switch: How Same Sex Marriage Ends Family Autonomy

The goal isn’t equality – it’s abolishing an institution.

Abolishing all civil marriage is the primary goal of the elites who have been pushing same sex marriage. The scheme called “marriage equality” is not an end in itself, and never really has been. The LGBT agenda has spawned too many other disparate agendas hostile to the existence of marriage, making marriage “unsustainable,” if you will. By now we should be able to hear the growing drumbeat to abolish civil marriage, as well as to legalize polygamy and all manner of reproductive technologies.
Consider also the breakneck speed at which the push for same sex marriage has been happening recently. The agenda’s advocates have been very methodical in their organization, disciplined in their timing, flush with money, in control of all information outlets, including media, Hollywood, and academia. And perhaps most telling is the smearing of any dissenter in the public square, a stigma made de rigueur by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in his animus-soaked opinion that repealed the Defense of Marriage Act.
We’ve seen also how the Obama Administration’s push for same sex marriage has occurred in lockstep with policies that are hostile to marriage, such as the severe marriage penalty written into Obamacare.
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Activist judges have taken their cues from Attorney General Eric Holder who used the DOMA repeal to proclaim open season on any state that recognizes marriage as an organic (i.e., heterosexual) union of one man and one woman. In their crosshairs are state constitutions, businesses, students, communities, churches, and all of those bogus “conscience clauses” that were written into same sex marriage legislation in order to sway wavering state legislators to vote “aye.”
The tipping point came soon after certain big name conservatives and pundits swallowed the bait on same sex marriage. Folks like Michael Barone, John Bolton, George Will, S. E. Cupp, and David Blankenhorn have played a huge role in building momentum for this movement, which, as we will see, is blazing a trail to the abolition of state recognized marriage. And whether they know it or not, advocacy for same sex marriage is putting a lot of statist machinery into motion. Because once the state no longer has to recognize your marriage and family, the state no longer has to respect the existence of your marriage and family.
Without civil marriage, the family can no longer exist autonomously and serve as a wall of separation between the individual and the state. This has huge implications for the survival of freedom of association.
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The notion of marriage equality was never about marriage or about equality. It’s all about the wrapping paper. It’s been packaged as an end in itself, but it is principally just a means to a deeper end. It is the means by which marriage extinction – the true target — can be achieved. If marriage and family are permitted to exist autonomously, power can be de-centralized in society.  So the family has always been a thorn in the side of central planners and totalitarians. The connection between its abolition and the limitless growth of the state should be crystal clear. So anyone who has bought into this movement, or is tempted to do so, would want to step back and take a harder look.

Six Indicators We’re Headed Directly for Abolishing Civil Marriage

 

We can sort out six developments that indicate we’re on the fast track to abolishing civil marriage. They include: 1) The blueprint for abolishing family, developed by the founder of feminist legal theory, Martha Fineman; 2) support and advocacy of  Fineman’s model by facilitators and regulators in the Obama Administration; 3) the statements of prominent LGBT activists themselves, including their 2006 manifesto which in effect established the abolition of marriage as the goal of the same sex marriage movement; 4) the demographic shift to single rather than married households; 5) the growing shift in social climate from marriage equality to marriage hostility; and 6) the recent push to export the LGBT agenda globally, particularly targeting poor and developing nations of Africa.

removing family

1) The Gender Theorist Model: Replace civil marriage with government-regulated contractual relationships
Collectivist style parenting may still seem like the stuff of science fiction to a lot of folks, but the ground for it has softened a lot since Hillary Clinton’s 1996 treatise It Takes a Village and American Federation of Teachers president Sandra Feldman’s 1998 op-ed “The Childswap Society.” We now have MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perrydeclaring open war on traditional families by announcing “We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.”
She envisages that the State will fill the vacuum left by the abolition of family

The abolition of marriage and family has been a longtime project of gender theorists. Among them is internationally renown feminist law theorist Martha Albertson Fineman whose 2004 book The Autonomy Myth argues strenuously for “the abolition of marriage as a legal category.” Her treatise is breathtaking in its brazen approach to ending family autonomy and privacy.

Fineman advocates for a system that would unavoidably result in the regulation of personal relationships through legal contracts. “Contract,” she writes “is an appealing metaphor with which to consider social and political arrangements. It imagines autonomous adults” hashing out the terms, etc. Yet she envisages that the State will fill the vacuum left by the abolition of family [emphasis added]:

“. . . in addition to contract rules, I anticipate that ameliorating doctrines would fill the void left by the abolition of this aspect of family law. In fact, it seems apparent to me that a lot more regulation (protection) would occur once interactions between individuals within families were removed from behind the veil of privacy that now shields them.”

Fineman operates on the apparent assumption that family privacy serves no purpose other than to afford institutional protection for men behaving badly. Her prescription is sweeping: “Once the institutional protection [is] removed, behavior would be judged by standards established to regulate interactions among all members of society.” [emphasis added]
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There you have it. All of your social interactions judged by certain standards. Standards established by whom? The state. And lest our eyes glaze over at mention of it, we ought to think of the State for what it really is: a hierarchy of cliques, with one dominant clique at the top. (Think mean girls in charge of everything and everyone.)
Fineman replaces the word “spouse” with the term “sexual affiliate,” because, she professes, what we think of as “family” should be defined by its function, not its form. In other words, only “caretaker-dependent relationships” would be recognized in the sense that “family” is recognized today.
So the abolition of marriage, according to Fineman:

“would mean that sexual affiliates (formerly labeled husband and wife) would be regulated by the terms of their individualized agreements, with no special rules governing fairness and no unique review or monitoring of the negotiation process.”

Feel better?  Fineman also states approvingly that:

“if the family is defined functionally, focused on the caretaker-dependent relationship, the traditionally problematic interactions of sexual affiliates (formerly designated “spouses”) are not protected by notions of family privacy.”

Indeed, no interaction could be protected by “notions of family privacy” in Fineman’s model. She elaborated further and more recently on all of this in an October 2013 article in the Chicago-Kent Law Review.
2) Friends in High Places promote Fineman’s Model of State-Regulated Contracts
Cass Sunstein, who served as President Obama’s regulatory czar from 2009 to 2012, has advocated strongly for the abolition of civil marriage and its replacement with contracts that would negotiate the terms of personal relationships.
In 2008 Sunstein published an article in the Cardozo Law Review arguing that there is no constitutional right to marry and suggesting that “states may abolish marriage without offending the Constitution.” And an entire chapter of a popular book Sunstein co-authored with Richard Thaler in 2008 is devoted to arguing for the abolition of civil marriage. This is from Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

“Under our proposal, the word marriage would no longer appear in any laws, and marriage licenses would no longer be offered or recognized by any level of government.  . . . Under our approach, the only legal status states would confer on couples would be a civil union, which would be a domestic partnership agreement between any two people.*(*Footnote:  We duck the question of whether civil unions can involve more than two people.)”

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Sunstein and Thaler dub their approach “libertarian paternalism,” an odd jargon which seems contrived to win over readers by evoking a strange juxtaposition of moderation and a heavy touch of the archaic.
Clearly, Sunstein has been laying the groundwork for the abolition of civil marriage. He purports that this would get the government out of a “licensing scheme,” but his specious phrasing is a fig leaf covering up the predictable effects of his approach: greater government regulation of personal relationships. His popular writing on the subject comes in the guise of “privatization” of relationships – even as gender theorists like Fineman argue against America’s “obsession” with privacy and individualism. But this is not a difficult circle to square. Thaler and Sunstein argue, pretty much in line with Fineman, that people ought to make use of contracts to define the terms of their relationships. And contracts invite – indeed, for Fineman, they demand – that the government function as an intimate partner in this legal ménage a trois.
3) LGBT Activists Say So Themselves: The Goal is to Abolish Marriage
“Gay marriage is a lie,” announced gay activist Masha Gessen in a panel discussion last year at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. “Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we’re going to do with marriage when we get there.”  [Applause.] “It’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist.”
Gessen was merely echoing a message from an LGBT manifesto of 2006 called Beyond Same Sex Marriage. The manifesto is a blatant rallying cry to bring about a post-marriage society, one in which there is no room for state-recognized marriage.
“It’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist.”

Ethics and Public Policy Institute scholar Stanley Kurtz wrote extensively about this document in two National Review articles, entitled The Confession and The Confession II. Kurtz noted that the intent of the sponsors of the manifesto – which as of 2006 had hundreds of prominent signatories, including Cornel West, Barbara Ehrenreich, Martha Fineman, and Gloria Steinem – was “to dissolve marriage by extending the definition to every conceivable family type.”

 

Sunstein needn’t have “ducked the issue” of more than two parties in a domestic contract because legalizing polygamy is central to the manifesto. And there can be no doubt that the legalization of polygamy would result in the abolition of all state-recognized marriage. Polygamy — repackaged in the now trendy term “polyamory” – comes with an array of configurations too dizzying and with too many moving parts to be sustained as state-recognized marriage.
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Despite the existence of the manifesto, the official line of the LGBT community still seems to be that gay marriage is only about equal rights for couples who love one another. Their spokespersons have been disciplined – with a friendly media running cover for them – in maintaining the official line so as not to provoke a debate about the real agenda to abolish marriage.
Supposedly conservative gay activists like Jonathan Rauch have also run cover and protected the timing of the agenda by claiming that the manifesto was merely a “fringe” of the LGBT movement. It’s irrelevant whether or not Rauch really believes his own propaganda that gay marriage will somehow strengthen a marriage culture by bringing loving gay couples into it. The main effect of the Rauch meme is to accelerate the abolition of civil marriage by hastening a legal framework for genderless marriage that will pave the way for total abolition of  civil marriage, and with it private family life.
It’s clear the gloves are coming off and timing has entered a new phase. The push for polyamory has gone mainstream, right on schedule. Supportive puff pieces on it are popping up in places like Atlantic Monthly and the erstwhile women’s magazine Redbook. In the end, polyamory serves only as a transitory way station between the legalization of same sex marriage and the abolition of civil marriage.
Tomorrow we will present part two of this urgent article.

Exclusive: Germany, Brazil Turn to U.N. to Restrain American Spies.

Posted By Colum Lynch, Shane Harris, John Hudson  Thursday, October 24, 2013 – 8:18 PM  Share

Brazil and Germany today joined forces to press for the adoption of a U.N. General Resolution that promotes the right of privacy on the internet, marking the first major international effort to restrain the National Security Agency’s intrusions into the online communications of foreigners, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the push.

The effort follows a German claim that the American spy agency may have tapped the private telephone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of other world leaders. It also comes about one month after Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff denounced NSA espionage against her country as “a breach of international law” in a General Assembly speech and proposed that the U.N. establish legal guidelines to prevent “cyberspace from being used as a weapon of war.”

Brazilian and German diplomats met in New York today with a small group of Latin American and European governments to consider a draft resolution that calls for expanding privacy rights contained in the International Covenant Civil and Political Rights to the online world. The draft does not refer to a flurry of American spying revelations that have caused a political uproar around the world, particularly in Brazil and German. But it was clear that the revelation provided the political momentum to trigger today’s move to the United Nations. The blowback from the NSA leaks continues to agonize U.S. diplomats and military officials concerned about America’s image abroad.

“This is an example of the very worst aspects of the Snowden disclosures,” a former defense official with deep experience in NATO, told The Cable, referring to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. “It will be very difficult for the US to dig out of this, although we will over time. The short term costs in credibility and trust are enormous.”

Although the U.N.’s ability to fundamentally constrain the NSA is nil, the mounting international uproar over U.S. surveillance has security experts fearful for the ramifications.

“The worst case scenario I think would be having our European allies saying they will no longer share signals intelligence because of a concern that our SigInt is being derived from mechanisms that violate their privacy rules,” said Ray Kimball, an army strategist with policy experience on European issues. He stressed that he was not speaking for the military.

Although the Germans have not indicated such a move is in the works, they do have a game plan for making their surveillance complaints heard. The International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights was written in 1966 and came into force in 1976, decades before the internet transformed the way people communicate around the world. A provision in the international covenant, Article 17, says “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation.” It also states that “everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

“The covenant was formulated at a time when the internet didn’t exist,” said a diplomat familiar with the negotiations. “Everyone has the right to privacy and the goal is to this resolution is to apply those protections to online communications.”

Brazil and Germany are hoping to put the resolution to a vote in the U.N. General Assembly human rights committee later this year. The draft resolution, which has not been made public and which is still subject to negotiation among U.N. states, will seek to apply the those protections to online communications. “This is not just about spying,” said the diplomat. This is about ensuring that “privacy of citizens in their home states under their own home legislation.”

“It calls on countries to put an end to violations of that right,” the official said. “People have to be protected offline and online.”

Anyone who thinks this issue will only resonate in BrazilMexico, FranceItaly, and Germany — where the Snowden leaks recently revealed NSA datamining — isn’t paying attention.

According to the latest internal NSA memo leaked to The Guardian, the list of targeted nations is even longer, which could give this U.N. effort additional momentum.  The NSA monitored the communications of 35 unnamed “world leaders,” whose phone numbers were given to the intelligence agency by a U.S. government official, according to the report. The agency has been collecting phone numbers, email addresses, and residential addresses of foreign officials from the people in the U.S. government who are in touch with them. The U.S. official, who is not named, personally handed over 200 phone numbers about the people he or she was in touch with.

It’s hardly a secret, or a surprise, that the NSA spies on foreign governments, including those friendly to the United States. Two former intelligence officials told The Cable that contact information like this is a regular source of intelligence for the NSA. And the memo acknowledges that the agency looks for officials’ contact information in open sources, such as the Internet.

But the revelation that U.S. officials are facilitating spying on the people they do business with to this extent has created the impetus for U.N. action, a first-of-its kind development.

“There’s a mixture of hypocrisy and feigned outrage along with real objections here,” said a former senior intelligence official. “I don’t know where the line is. The idea that political leaders are out of bounds for foreign intelligence is amusing. But on the other hand this business about trusting allies is a big thing. My guess is there’s a real annoyance here” on the part of foreign allies.

Merkel was so outraged by the news that her phone had been monitored that she called President Obama to discuss it. The White House issued a carefully worded statement, assuring that the German leader’s phone would not be tapped now or in the future, but not saying whether it had been.

It’s not clear whether the NSA is still collecting information from the address books of U.S. officials. The memo was written in 2006. But at least at the time, such collection was a regular occurrence.

“From time to time, SID [the agency’s signals intelligence directorate] is offered access to the personal contact databases of U.S. officials,” the memo states. It doesn’t specify who those officials are, or where in the government they work. But, the memo goes on to say, the information provided by the one U.S. official was sufficiently helpful that the agency decided to go around asking for more such contacts from the NSA’s “supported customers,” which include the Departments of Defense and State, as well as the White House. (None of them are listed by name in the memo.)

“These numbers have provided lead information to other numbers,” the memo states. In the case of the one U.S. officials, the 200 numbers included 43 that previously weren’t on the NSA’s radar.

“This success leads S2 [part of the signals intelligence directorate] to wonder if there are NSA liaisons whose supported customers may be willing to share” their contacts, as well. “S2 welcomes such information!”

Apparently, though, success was measured not so much in secrets learned but just in having the data itself. The memo acknowledges that analysts “have noted little reported intelligence from these particular numbers, which appear not to be used for sensitive discussions.”

From this we might conclude that NSA’s targets are not fools. Why would anyone in the senior ranks of a government or military have sensitive conversations or discuss classified information over the phone number or email on his business card? But, the NSA seems to have concluded, what could it hurt to find out?

Time will tell. In a statement, a spokesperson for Merkel said she told Obama that tapping her phone would represent a “grave breach of trust” between the two allies. “She made clear that she views such practices, if proven true, as completely unacceptable and condemns them unequivocally.”

With the latest news from the U.N., it appears the U.S. might be in store for more than just a slap on the wrist.

At U.N., Brazil’s Rousseff blasts U.S. spying as breach of law

At U.N., Brazil’s Rousseff blasts U.S. spying as breach of law

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2013. REUTERS-Shannon Stapleton

By Daniel Trotta

Tue Sep 24, 2013 12:14pm EDT

(Reuters) – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff used her position as the opening speaker at the U.N. General Assembly to accuse the United States of violating human rights and international law through espionage that included spying on her email.

Rousseff had expressed her displeasure last week by calling off a high-profile state visit to the United States scheduled for October over reports that the U.S. National Security Agency had been spying on Brazil.

In unusually strong language, Rousseff launched a blistering attack on U.S. surveillance, calling it an affront to Brazilian sovereignty and “totally unacceptable.”

“Tampering in such a manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and, as such, it is an affront to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations,” Rousseff told the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

She also proposed an international framework for governing the internet and said Brazil would adopt legislation and technology to protect it from illegal interception of communications.

“Information and telecommunication technologies cannot be the new battlefield between states. Time is ripe to create the conditions to prevent cyberspace from being used as a weapon of war, through espionage, sabotage, and attacks against systems and infrastructure of other countries,” Rousseff said.

U.S. President Barack Obama was en route to the United Nations while Rousseff spoke. Speaking immediately after Rousseff, he avoided direct reference to her criticism.

“We have begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so as to properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies, with the privacy concerns that all people share,” said Obama, who concentrated mostly on the crisis in Syria and the prospects for a diplomatic opening with Iran.

Rousseff rejected the U.S. government reasoning that the NSA surveillance was aimed at detecting suspected terrorist activity and she accused the agency of engaging in industrial espionage.

Rousseff said she had asked Washington for explanations, an apology and promises the surveillance would never be repeated.

Postponing the state visit was a rare and diplomatically severe snub by Brazil. While foreign leaders frequently visit the White House, state visits are reserved for special occasions and include an elaborate state dinner. No new date has been set.

Rousseff’s state visit was conceived to highlight cooperation between the two biggest economies in the Americas and Brazil’s emergence over the past decade as a regional power.

Ties between the United States and Brazil had been improving steadily since Rousseff took office in 2011. The cancellation could harm cooperation on trade, regional affairs and other issues at a time of growing influence from China, which has surpassed the United States as Brazil’s leading trade partner.

The trip had been seen as a platform for deals on oil exploration and biofuels technology, and Brazil’s potential purchase of fighter jets from Chicago-based Boeing Co.

A report by Brazil Globo’s news program Fantastico on National Security Agency spying was based on documents that journalist Glenn Greenwald obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, was one of the journalists to first report Snowden’s leaks of classified information on previously secret U.S. telephone and internet surveillance efforts.

The report also said the United States intercepted communications of Brazilian state oil company Petrobras and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto before he assumed office.

“Personal data of citizens was intercepted indiscriminately,” Rousseff said in her U.N. speech.

“Corporate information, often of high economic and even strategic value, was at the center of espionage activity. Also, Brazilian diplomatic missions, among them the permanent mission to the United Nations and the office of the president of the republic itself, had their communications intercepted.”

Time to stop the stupid

Blog gun

Time to stop the stupid.

U.N. passes sweeping international arms regulation viewed by some as Second Amendment override

By David Sherfinski

The Washington Times

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

 . The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday signed off on a sweeping, first-of-its-kind treaty to regulate the international arms trade, brushing aside worries from U.S. gun rights advocates that the pact could lead to a national firearms registry and disrupt the American gun market.

The long-debated U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) requires countries to regulate and control the export of weaponry such as battle tanks, combat vehicles and aircraft and attack helicopters, as well as parts and ammunition for such weapons. It also provides that signatories will not violate arms embargoes, international treaties regarding illicit trafficking, or sell weaponry to a countries for genocide, crimes against humanity or other war crimes.

With the Obama administration supporting the final treaty draft, the General Assembly vote was 154 to 3, with 23 abstentions.

American gun rights activists, though, insist the treaty is riddled with loopholes and is unworkable in part because it includes “small arms and light weapons” in its list of weaponry subject to international regulations. They do not trust U.N. assertions that the pact is meant to regulate only cross-border trade and would have no impact on domestic U.S. laws and markets.

Critics of the treaty were heartened by the U.S. Senate’s resistance to ratifying the document, assuming President Obama sent it to the chamber for ratification. In its budget debate late last month, the Senate approved a nonbinding amendment opposing the treaty offered by Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, with eight Democrats joining all 45 Republicans backing the amendment

Connecticut lawmakers announced a deal Monday on what they called some of the toughest gun laws in the country that were proposed after the December mass shooting at a school in Newtown. Some highlights from the proposal:

—Ban sales of high-capacity ammunition magazines;

—Background checks for private gun sales;

—New registry for existing magazines that carry 10 or more bullets;

—Statewide dangerous weapon offender registry, which lawmakers said is the nation’s first;

—Immediate universal background checks for all firearms sales;

—Expansion of Connecticut’s assault weapons ban;

—Safety training and other requirements to buy any rifle, shotgun or ammunition;

—Increases minimum age eligibility for purchase of some semi-automatic rifles to 21;

— Expands requirements for safe storage of firearms;

— Increases penalties for firearms trafficking and illegal possession offenses.

And it gets even more stupid…

California lawmakers consider regulating, taxing ammunition

By Josh Richman

Photo of .22-long rifle cartages taken at The Gun Works in Pleasant Hill,… (DAN ROSENSTRAUCH)

Gun control advocates in Sacramento are putting a new twist on an old NRA slogan: “Guns don’t kill people — bullets kill people.”

Democratic lawmakers are pushing like never before to regulate or tax ammunition sales. They say the logic is simple: A firearm is nothing but an expensive paperweight without ammunition.

“We regulated gun sales because of our concern about safety, (so) by logical extension we should do so with bullets,” said state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, whose AB48 will be heard Tuesday by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Gun-rights advocates are preparing a counter-offensive, arguing that ammunition-control bills are a not-so-back-door assault on the Second Amendment.

“It’s a way to red-tape the right to bear arms to death,” said Chuck Michel, the California Rifle and Pistol Association’s attorney, promising to sue if any such bills pass. “It’s all part of a campaign of shame, the fight to make it as difficult as possible for law-abiding citizens to make the choice to have a firearm for self-defense.”

As lawmakers mull how to curb gun violence in the wake of December’s massacre of school children in Newtown, Conn., some note that California and federal laws also forbid those who aren’t allowed to own firearms from owning ammunition — but there’s no way to tell who’s buying it.

Skinner’s bill would require all ammo dealers to be licensed and all ammo buyers to provide

identification information that would go to a state registry. The registry could then be compared with a state database of people prohibited from owning guns and ammo because of crimes, mental health issues or other reasons. It also would tip police to massive purchases. Another bill, SB53 by state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, would require a background check and an estimated $50 fee for a one-year permit to buy ammunition. Bills in Congress similarly would require dealer licensing or buyer background checks, but those are no doubt dead on arrival in the Republican-led House.

Only Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the District of Columbia now require some sort of license to buy ammunition. New York passed a law in January requiring background checks for ammo purchases, but it hasn’t taken effect yet.

So even in California, where guns are heavily regulated, you can walk into a store, show ID to prove you’re at least 18 (or for handgun ammunition, 21), plunk down your money and walk out with a box of cartridges. Easier yet, you can buy all you want online.

Gun shops report ammo is flying off the shelves as gun owners worry about proposed new laws.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta said his AB187 — a

Photo of rifle cartridges taken at The Gun Works in Pleasant Hill, Calif., on Wednesday, March 27, 2013. National lawmakers ponder bills to regulate or tax ammunition. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Staff) ( DAN ROSENSTRAUCH )

10 percent tax on ammunition to fund crime prevention — might merge with another lawmaker’s proposed nickel-per-round tax to fund mental-health screening for children. Bonta, D-Oakland, said his tax is mostly about generating money to “combat the gun violence in our communities,” but could have the “secondary benefit” of stemming “rampant sales.” Yet he acknowledged it won’t be easy to pass, even with Democratic legislative supermajorities and recent Field Poll findings that 61 percent of California voters favor ammunition taxes and 75 percent favor background checks and permits for ammo purchases.

Because a new tax faces the hurdle of a two-thirds vote, “it’s a heavy lift,” Bonta said.

Some Democratic state lawmakers aren’t eager to discuss the bills. Of eight — five assemblymen and three state senators — who scored above zero on the National Rifle Association’s 2012 scorecard, only state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, would be interviewed for this story.

Beall said he’s not yet very familiar with the legislation but sees little reason for a state ammunition bureaucracy that would cost taxpayers money to create and maintain. “A lot of those bills probably won’t get through the Appropriations Committee” while education is a funding priority, he said.

California’s 2009 law requiring dealers to record all handgun ammunition sales remains in limbo after an appeals court ruled that it’s too ambiguous because some rounds can be used both in handguns and rifles. The bills now pending would affect all ammunition.

Mike Smith, co-owner of The Gun Works in Pleasant Hill, said the proposed bills would drown sellers in paperwork but have “zero” effect on crime because “criminals don’t buy ammunition; they steal it.”

As for the proposed ammo tax, he said, gun owners shouldn’t be compelled to pay extra for crime prevention.

“Bonta replied that firearms and ammunition taxes date back to 1919 and are “a perfectly responsible way to fund emergency services.”

“AB187 is on the right side of history.”

Proposed ammunition laws

In the California Legislature:

AB 48 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley — Would require ammunition sellers to be licensed; ammunition purchasers to show identification; ammunition sellers to report all sales to the state Justice Department, which would create a registry of ammunition purchases. First hearing: April 2.
AB 187 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland — Would impose a 10 percent tax on all ammunition sold in the state, with the revenue directed to a fund for crime-prevention efforts in the state’s high-crime areas. No hearing date set.
AB 760 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento — Would impose a 5-cent tax on each bullet sold in California, dedicating the revenue to an existing program to screen young children for mild to moderate mental illness — and intervene with strategies to address their problems. First hearing: April 15.
SB 53 by state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles — Would require anyone buying ammunition to first pass a background check and receive a one-year permit, for an estimated $50 fee, from the state Justice Department. First hearing: April 16.

In Congress:

S.35, the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2013, by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. — Would require face-to-face purchases of ammunition, require licensing of ammunition dealers and reporting of bulk purchases of ammunition. A companion bill in the House, HR142, is sponsored by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y.
S.174, the Ammunition Background Check Act of 2013, by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. — Would require an instant background check for the purchase of ammunition and would restore pre-1986 requirements that sellers track their inventory and keep records of their customers. Purchases of 1,000 rounds or more, or thefts of large amounts of ammunition, would have to be reported to law enforcement.

Time

Mario’s note:  The stupidity is not in the lawmakers.  They already know that none of these laws will prevent another Sandy Hook, or Batman shooting.  They know that they cannot waste a good crisis that can be used as an excuse to enlarge their control of the people.

Stupidity is in the willful ignorance of the general public on this and so many other power grabs that are going on right now.  People can get the facts and arm themselves with information.

Stupidity believes the Government defends rights.  Not a day goes by where we do not lose another right.  Government has no other skill but to invent rights in order to take away even more rights and to make sure that the right they are defending is not a right at all.  In the name of freedom, government takes away freedom and leaves a false freedom in its place.

Stupidity believes that government agencies today are looking out for our good.  Obamacare will make insurance worse, doctors worse, patient care worse and add misery to the poor.  From this point on everything that comes out of Washington is going to cost you more and give you less in return.   The only condition that is going to improve is the power and control of government.

Stupidity is supposing that either political party today is committed to your welfare.  Both sides of the aisle have caved into the larger momentum of government regulation of the everything we watch on television, hear on radio and soon they will tax and control the internet.

Stupidity is when Christians believe that a minister should not be speaking out because it is political .  What is happening to America left the world of politics on September 11, 2001.  At the very least a preacher of conscience would be calling the nation to repent and the believer to be strong against real enemies and not the imagined ones they blather about in their pulpits.

Wisdom gathers information, speaks up and fears not because God is in us and He will work through us.  Wisdom demands that every Christian demand that their church confront the issue of America and what is happening to our freedoms.er

UN affiliate to monitor conservatives during U.S. elections

UN affiliate to monitor conservatives during U.S. elections

The Black Panthers are supporters of Barack Hussein Obama in his quest for reelection as President.
The Black Panthers are supporters of Barack Hussein Obama in his quest for reelection as President.
Credits:
NBPP

United Nations-affiliated Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will deploy election monitors from Europe and central Asia to polling places around the U.S. looking for voter suppression activities by conservative groups, a concern raised by civil rights groups during a meeting this week, according to a report on Saturday.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), among other groups, warned this month in a letter to Daan Everts, a senior official with OSCE, of “a coordinated political effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans — particularly traditionally disenfranchised groups like minorities.”

“This is almost comical on its face. Did conservative groups stand outside polling places dressed like Storm Troopers with clubs intimidating voters the way the Black Panthers did in 2008? Are groups who registered illegal aliens and deceased people conservative groups or are they organizations such as ACORN with whom Obama once worked?” asks political strategist Mike Baker.

“If anyone is being disenfranchised — a word the far-left loves to use — it’s the American conservative whose vote is canceled-out when an illegal voter casts his or her ballot on Election Day,” Baker contends.

While the Democrats and their news media echo chamber are telling Americans that the notorious and disgraced activist group, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), is a thing of the past, a Washington, D.C.-based public-interest organization claims it blew the lid off that myth. Truth be told, ACORN still exists under the guise of new agencies doing business in new locations, Sirius XM Patriot radio talk show host and Fox News political analystDavid Webb told the Law Enforcement Examiner.

Webb is best known for exposing, among others, Fox News contributor Jehmu Greene as being a former director at Project Vote, one of the spin-offs of ACORN.

“As Americans deal with the fallout of having an ACORN community organizer running the country, the scattered ACORN alums continue to infiltrate other trusted institutions. Jehmu Greene, former National Director of Project Vote currently spends her days undermining Conservative principles from her position as a Fox News contributor,” stated Webb.

In addition, Judicial Watch, a well-known non-profit that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, released “The Rebranding of ACORN,” a special report regarding the “ACORN network,” following an extensive investigation of the organization’s transformation into various “spin-offs” and affiliated organizations earlier this year.

After several scandals involving ACORN staff, including a case covered by this writer for Accuracy in Media, the organization quickly dissolved, or so the American public was told.

In this writer’s AIM column, in November 2010 “a supervisor for the now defunct political advocacy group ACORN, has entered into a plea bargain with prosecutors in a case alleging that canvassers were illegally paid to register Nevada voters during the 2008 presidential campaign.”

“Amy Busefink, 28, pleaded no-contest in a Nevada court to two misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit the crime of compensation for registration of voters. Her nolo contendere plea acknowledged the state had sufficient evidence for a conviction if the case went to trial.”

Obama’s spokespersons claimed he had a limited relationship with ACORN. However, the record shows that: “[Obama] says he is drawn to politics, despite its superficialities, as a means to advance his real passion and calling: community organization. In 1992, Obama took time off to direct Project Vote, an ACORN program said to be the most successful grass-roots voter-registration campaign in recent [Chicago] history.”

ACORN officials admitted to submitting fraudulent voter registration forms in Ohio and press reports confirmed that ACORN submitted hundreds of fraudulent voter registration forms in Kansas City, forcing local officials to wade through fraudulent voter registrations, potentially disenfranchising legitimate voters.

The ACORN-affiliated groups existing today are ACORN in all but name. These groups tend to occupy ACORN’s former offices, are staffed in many cases with former ACORN employees, and remain committed to ACORN’s mission. Overall, Judicial Watch attorneys have documented 17 ACORN-affiliated organizations in the following states/regions: Arizona, Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New England, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.

At its peak, ACORN had upwards of 400,000 members and 1,200 chapters in more than 100 cities. Linked to serious scandals involving misuse of taxpayer funds, embezzlement, intimidation tactics, employee abuse, questionable hiring tactics, and fraudulent voter registrations, ACORN’s corrupt activities finally caught the attention of the American public and members of Congress, the final blow coming after explosive journalists’ videos were released showing ACORN employees advising undercover reporters on how to evade immigration, housing, and child prostitution laws, as well as taxes.

After the videos created a media feeding frenzy in October 2009, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Defund ACORN Act which effectively prohibited the federal government from funding “ACORN and any ACORN-related affiliate.”

ACORN subsequently filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 2, 2010. However, long before its bankruptcy filing, ACORN’s leadership implemented a plan to ensure the survival of ACORN as independent state corporations and affiliated organizations. The Judicial Watch report provides details on the individual organizations and their officers.

“As this report clearly shows, rumors of ACORN’s demise are vastly overstated. ACORN and its partner in crime Project Vote are both alive and well and operating across the country,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “Given the corrupt activities of these organizations, there is no question they pose a threat to clean and fair elections in 2012. And the fact that the Obama Justice Department will take no action to address the corrupt activities of ACORN and its thinly disguised spinoffs is a scandal in and of itself.”

Barack Obama served as the Illinois executive director of the ACORN partner Project Vote in 1992. His presidential campaign paid more than $800,000 to an ACORN organization to help “get out the vote” in his successful primary campaign against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2008.

In November 2007, then-Senator Obama addressed ACORN and thanked the organization for its work. “I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career,” Obama boasted.

“Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drives in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work,” he said.