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Rev. Franklin Graham Praises Putin for Stance Against Homosexuality.


Image: Rev. Franklin Graham Praises Putin for Stance Against Homosexuality(AP)

By Todd Beamon

The Rev. Franklin Graham has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for his stance against homosexuality and slammed President Barack Obama’s “shameful” embrace of gay rights.

“To be clear, I am not endorsing President Putin,” Graham, the son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham, said in the March issue of Decision magazine.

The magazine in published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, based in Charlotte, N.C. Franklin Graham is the association’s president and CEO.

“To survive in the KGB and rise to power in Russia, you have to be tough,” Graham said of Putin. “His enemies say he is ruthless. To some, he is a modern version of a czar. His personal life has its own controversies.

“Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue — protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda — Russia’s standard is higher than our own?

“Putin is right on these issues,” Graham continued. “Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”

Last year, Putin banned the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” Graham said. The restriction was highlighted by the Russian president’s critics leading up to the Winter Games in Sochi last month.

“American media and liberal activists were outraged that the Olympics would be allowed in such an ‘intolerant’ culture,” Graham said. “Even though Putin said that gays and lesbians would be allowed at the Olympics, the fact that he took a stand — simply to protect children — ignited a worldwide cultural firestorm.

“He further explained the law by saying, ‘We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia,’ ” Graham said.

The evangelist called the American response to Putin’s crackdown “sadly predictable,” noting that President Obama sent gay and lesbian athletes to Sochi. He also mentioned Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement last month that his office would push forrecognition of same-sex marriage in all 50 states — “even in the 33 states that outlaw those marriages.”

Graham then charged Obama and Holder with having “turned their backs on God and his standards, and many in the Congress are following the administration’s lead. This is shameful.

“The world used to look to America for moral leadership,” Graham said. “But those days are long gone.”

He said that the United States has “abdicated our moral leadership” — at home and abroad.

“We defeated Communism, only to relax and see secularism and progressives take over our country,” Graham said. “Secularism is as godless as communism. Secularists and progressives have taken over our schools, media, and local and federal government. And it has all happened in the twinkling of an eye.”

He ended by quoting portions of Matthew 25:34 from the New Testament.

“But the Bible makes it clear that one day, ‘all nations will be gathered before [God]’ for judgment, and that ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,'” Graham wrote.
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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Merkel Gets Tough as Russian Troops Hold War Games.


Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, showing no sign of backing down on plans to annex its neighbour’s Crimea region despite a stronger than expected drive for sanctions from the EU and United States.

In an unusually robust and emotional speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of “catastrophe” unless Russia changes course, while a man was killed in Ukraine in fighting between rival protesters in a mainly Russian-speaking city.

At the U.N. Security Council, the United States circulated a draft resolution that would declare illegal Sunday’s planned referendum on independence for Ukraine’s Crimea region.

But Russia, one of the Security Council’s five veto-wielding permanent members, made clear it opposed the draft.

“Russia announced they will kill it,” a senior Western diplomat told Reuters.

In Berlin, Merkel removed any suspicion she might try to avoid a confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We would not only see it, also as neighbors of Russia, as a threat. And it would not only change the European Union’s relationship with Russia,” she told parliament. “No, this would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said serious steps would be imposed on Monday by the United States and Europe if the referendum on Crimea joining Russia takes place on Sunday as planned.

Merkel, a fluent Russian speaker who grew up in communist East Germany, has emerged in recent days as a leading figure in threatening tough measures against Moscow.

Her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said that over the weekend, European states would draw up a list of Russians who will face visa restrictions and asset freezes.

Putin declared Russia’s right to invade its neighbor on March 1, as Russian troops were already seizing control of Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula with a narrow ethnic Russian majority and a Russian naval base.

Events have moved rapidly, perhaps signalling an effort by Moscow to turn the annexation into a fait accompli before the West can coordinate a response.

In the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, a young man was stabbed to death and more than a dozen people were in hospital after pro-Russian and pro-European demonstrators clashed. The violence was the worst since last month’s overthrow of the Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovich.

But in an apparently conciliatory move, Russia backed deployment of an OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, including Crimea, the Swiss chairman of the European rights watchdog said.

The leader of pro-Moscow separatist politicians in Crimea, who took power there after armed men seized the regional parliament on Feb. 27, predicted a strong vote in favor of union with Russia in Sunday’s referendum.

“We have a survey by renowned Ukrainian and Crimean polling experts showing clearly and plainly that more than 80 percent of people in Crimea are ready to join the Russian Federation,” Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov told Reuters.

Aksyonov, whose election in a closed session of the regional parliament is not recognized by Kiev, dismissed opponents’ accusations he will fix the referendum on Moscow’s orders. “We guarantee that all aspects of European law will be followed, including security for voters,” he said in an interview.

Western countries dismiss the vote as illegal. “The referendum on Sunday will have no legitimacy, no legal effect, it can have no moral effect. It is a piece of political theater that is being perpetrated at the barrel of a gun,” Daniel Baer, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, told reporters in Vienna.

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said time was running out for a peaceful solution. She urged Russia to listen to the “remarkably unified” voices of its 14 fellow members of the Security Council and the Ukrainian people.

Diplomats said the one-page resolution would urge countries not to recognize the results of the vote in Crimea. A vote on the draft was postponed until Saturday at the latest to allow time for more negotiations.

Russia has taken territory from its former Soviet neighbors in the past with no serious consequences — in 2008 it invaded Georgia and seized two breakaway regions. But if Putin was hoping for a similarly tepid response this time, he may have misjudged.

In particular, he seems to have alienated Merkel, the Western leader with whom Putin, a German speaker who was once a KGB spy in East Germany, has had the closest relationship.

Merkel was initially more cautious than other Western leaders on the Crimean crisis, but in recent days she has pushed the European Union to match U.S. sanctions. EU action is critical because Europe does 10 times as much trade with Russia as the United States, buying most of its gas and oil exports.

The prospect that EU measures could be implemented as soon as Monday has weighed down the Russian economy.

Goldman Sachs revised its prediction for Russian economic growth this year down to 1 percent from 3 percent, blaming the tension over Ukraine for capital flight that would cripple investment. It said $45 billion had already left Russia this year, mostly Russians stashing money abroad.

The Russian stock market hit a 4-1/2-year low on Thursday and is down 20 percent since mid-February. The cost of insuring Moscow’s debt against default rose to its highest level in nearly two years.

The crisis has already forced several Russian firms to put plans on hold for public offerings to raise cash abroad.

Yet none of that appears to have slowed down Putin, who told officials of the Winter Paralympic Games he is hosting in Sochi that Russia was “not the initiator” of the crisis.

The Russian Defense Ministry said 8,500 troops were taking part in new military exercises near the Ukrainian border, testing artillery and rocket launchers.

It was the second big exercise Moscow has ordered since the crisis began; the first, involving 150,000 troops, started a few days before Russian forces seized Crimea.

In a gesture of support for NATO’s eastern members, U.S. F-16 fighter jets landed at Poland’s Lask air base on Thursday.

Among efforts by the West to isolate Russia politically, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a 34-member rich nations’ club, announced it was suspending membership talks with Russia, under way since 2007.

Moscow has pledged to respond in kind to any Western sanctions. The prime minister of Lithuania, a former Soviet republic that is now an EU member state, said Russia had suspended food product imports through its port of Klaipeda.

But European leaders appear to be calculating that the damage to Russia would be far worse than to Europe. EU-Russian trade makes up 15 percent of Russia’s economy and just 1 percent of Europe’s. Although EU countries depend on Russian gas imports, storage tanks are full after a mild winter.

Diplomatic lines have been open between Russia and the West throughout the crisis: Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke on Thursday, as they have nearly every day. They are due to meet in London on Friday.

Russia’s top general discussed Ukraine with the chairman of NATO’s Military Committee by telephone on Thursday, the Interfax news agency said.

The crisis over Crimea began after Yanukovich fled Kiev and pro-European politicians took charge, following three months of demonstrations.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

US, France Warn Russia of ‘New Measures’ Over Ukraine.


President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande warned Saturday of “new measures” against Russia if it fails to work toward defusing the crisis in Ukraine, the French presidency said.

In a phone call on Saturday, Obama and Hollande insisted on the “need for Russia to withdraw forces sent to Crimea since the end of February and to do everything to allow the deployment of international observers,” it said.
Obama’s conversation with Hollande was one of a half dozen telephone conversations he had with world leaders Saturday about Ukraine, the White House says.

He  also spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and held a conference call with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The new warnings come in the wake of Russia’s insistence that any U.S. sanctions will have a boomerang effect on the United States and that Crimea has the right to self-determination as armed men tried to seize another Ukrainian military base on the peninsula.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

In a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned against “hasty and reckless steps” that could harm Russian-American relations, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

“Sanctions…would inevitably hit the United States like a boomerang,” it added.

It was the second tense, high-level exchange between the former Cold War foes in 24 hours over the pro-Russian takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after an hour-long call with U.S. President Barack Obama that their positions on the former Soviet republic were still far apart. Obama announced the first sanctions against Russia on Thursday.

Putin, who later opened the Paralympic Games in Sochi which have been boycotted by a string of Western dignitaries, said Ukraine’s new, pro-Western authorities had acted illegitimately over the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions.

“Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law,” he said.

Serhiy Astakhov, an aide to the Ukrainian border guards’ commander, said 30,000 Russian soldiers were now in Crimea, compared to the 11,000 permanently based with the Russian Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol before the crisis.

On Friday evening armed men drove a truck into a Ukrainian missile defence post in Sevastopol, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene. But no shots were fired and Crimea’s pro-Russian premier said later the standoff was over.

Putin denies the forces with no national insignia that are surrounding Ukrainian troops in their bases are under Moscow’s command, although their vehicles have Russian military plates. The West has ridiculed his assertion.

The most serious East-West confrontation since the end of the Cold War – resulting from the overthrow last month of President Viktor Yanukovich after protests in Kiev that led to violence – escalated on Thursday when Crimea’s parliament, dominated by ethnic Russians, voted to join Russia.

The region’s government set a referendum for March 16 – in just nine days’ time.

JETS, DESTROYER

Turkey scrambled jets after a Russian surveillance plane flew along its Black Sea coast and a U.S. warship passed through Turkey’s Bosphorus straits on its way to the Black Sea, although the U.S. military said it was a routine deployment.

European Union leaders and Obama said the referendum plan was illegitimate and would violate Ukraine’s constitution.

The head of Russia’s upper house of parliament said after meeting visiting Crimean lawmakers on Friday that Crimea had a right to self-determination, and ruled out any risk of war between “the two brotherly nations”.

Obama ordered visa bans and asset freezes on Thursday against so far unidentified people deemed responsible for threatening European Union leaders Ukraine’s sovereignty. Earlier in the week, a Kremlin aide said Moscow might refuse to pay off any loans to U.S. banks, the top four of which have around $24 billion in exposure to Russia.

Japan endorsed the Western position that the actions of Russia constitute “a threat to international peace and security”, after Obama spoke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

China, often a Russian ally in blocking Western moves in the U.N. Security Council, was more cautious, saying economic sanctions were not the best way to solve the crisis and avoiding comment on the Crimean referendum.

The EU, Russia’s biggest economic partner and energy customer, adopted a three-stage plan to try to force a negotiated solution but stopped short of immediate sanctions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded angrily on Friday, calling the EU decision to freeze talks on visa-free travel and on a broad new pact governing Russia-EU ties “extremely unconstructive”. It pledged to retaliate.

“GUERRILLA WAR?”

Senior Ukrainian opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko, freed from prison after Yanukovich’s overthrow, met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin and appealed for immediate EU sanctions against Russia, warning that Crimea might otherwise slide into a guerrilla war.

Brussels and Washington rushed to strengthen the new authorities in economically shattered Ukraine, announcing both political and financial assistance. The regional director of the International Monetary Fund said talks with Kiev on a loan agreement were going well and praised the new government’s openness to economic reform and transparency.

The European Commission has said Ukraine could receive up to 11 billion euros ($15 billion) in the next couple of years provided it reaches agreement with the IMF, which requires painful economic reforms like ending gas subsidies.

Promises of billions of dollars in Western aid for the Kiev government, and the perception that Russian troops are not likely to go beyond Crimea into other parts of Ukraine, have helped reverse a rout in the local hryvnia currency.

In the past two days it has traded above 9.0 to the dollar for the first time since the Crimea crisis began last week. Local dealers said emergency currency restrictions imposed last week were also supporting the hryvnia.

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said Ukraine had not paid its $440 million gas bill for February, bringing its arrears to $1.89 billion and hinted it could turn off the taps as it did in 2009, when a halt in Russian deliveries to Ukraine reduced supplies to Europe during a cold snap.

In Moscow, a huge crowd gathered near the Kremlin at a government-sanctioned rally and concert billed as being “in support of the Crimean people”. Pop stars took to the stage and demonstrators held signs with slogans such as “Crimea is Russian land”, and “We believe in Putin”.

IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said no one in the civilised world would recognise the result of the “so-called referendum” in Crimea.

He repeated Kiev’s willingness to negotiate with Russia if Moscow pulls its additional troops out of Crimea and said he had requested a telephone call with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov ridiculed calls for Russia to join an international “contact group” with Ukraine proposed by the West, saying they “make us smile”.

Demonstrators encamped in Kiev’s central Independence Square to defend the revolution that ousted Yanukovich said they did not believe Crimea would be allowed to secede.

Alexander Zaporozhets, 40, from central Ukraine’s Kirovograd region, put his faith in international pressure.

“I don’t think the Russians will be allowed to take Crimea from us: you can’t behave like that to an independent state. We have the support of the whole world. But I think we are losing time. While the Russians are preparing, we are just talking.”

Unarmed military observers from the pan-European Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe were blocked from entering Crimea for a second day in a row on Friday, the OSCE said on Twitter.

The United Nations said it had sent its assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, to Kiev to conduct a preliminary humans rights assessment.

Ukrainian television has been replaced with Russian state channels in Crimea and the streets largely belong to people who support Moscow’s rule, some of whom have harassed journalists and occasional pro-Kiev protesters.

Part of the Crimea’s 2 million population opposes Moscow’s rule, including members of the region’s ethnic Russian majority. The last time Crimeans were asked, in 1991, they voted narrowly for independence along with the rest of Ukraine.

“With all these soldiers here, it is like we are living in a zoo,” Tatyana, 41, an ethnic Russian. “Everyone fully understands this is an occupation.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

Airlines Warned of New Shoe Bomb Threat.


The Homeland Security Department has warned airlines that terrorists could try to hide explosives in shoes. It’s the second time in less than three weeks that the government has issued a warning about possible attempts to smuggle explosives on a commercial jetliner.

Homeland Security said Wednesday it regularly shares relevant information with domestic and international partners, but it declined to discuss specifics of a warning sent to airlines.

“Our security apparatus includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, informed by the latest intelligence and as always DHS continues to adjust security measures to fit an ever evolving threat environment,” the department said in a statement.

A U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press that DHS released a notice to airlines reiterating that liquids, shoes and certain cosmetics were of concern, all of which are covered under existing Transportation Security Administration security policies.

The latest warning was focused on flights headed to the United States from abroad.

The official said “something caused DHS concern, but it’s a very low threshold to trigger a warning like this.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

Earlier this month Homeland Security warned airlines with flights to Russia to be on the lookout for explosive devices possibly hidden inside toothpaste. The Transportation Security Administration then banned passengers from bringing any liquids in their carry-on luggage on nonstop flights from the U.S. to Russia. That warning became public just days before the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

It is unclear if the latest warning, first reported Wednesday by NBC News, is related to the earlier threats to Russia-bound flights.

Air passengers in the United States have had to take off their shoes at airport security checkpoints since shortly after Richard Reid tried to ignite explosives hidden in his shoes on a Miami-bound flight in late 2001. Reid pleaded guilty to terrorism charges and is serving a life sentence.

The traveling public has grown increasingly impatient with expanding security checks at airports.

TSA in recent years has changed some security procedures to allow young children and passengers 75 and older to keep their shoes on. The security agency has also launched a fee-based program that allows willing flyers to submit to background checks and avoid having to remove their shoes, jackets and small amounts of liquids packed in carry-on luggage.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: NEWSmax.com

Journalists Tweet Tales of Woe About Sochi Hotel Rooms.


Western journalists who have descended on Sochi, Russia for the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics have taken to Twitter regaling followers with tales of unfinished and substandard hotel rooms and posting amusing photos.

Tens of thousands of tweets have been sent using the hashtag #SochiProblems, and the Twitter account @SochiProblems has more than 61,000 followers.

One journalist tweeted, “My hotel room has no internet, no hot water, no curtains and no furniture. On the plus side, three of the four lights work.”

Another Twitter user posted a photo of orange-colored tap water, adding, “Water restored, sorta. On the bright side, I now know what very dangerous face water looks like.”

International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams addressed the issue at a news conference.

“It’s a bit premature to say it’s been a failure. They have delivered 24,000 rooms,” he said, according to NBC News. “Surely there have been some issues, but we are really doing our best.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Melanie Batley

Olympics-Bound Airlines Warned of Toothpaste Bombs.


Airlines bound for Russia and the Winter Olympics in Sochi are being warned to be on the lookout for toothpaste tubes that could contain bomb-making ingredients and may be smuggled aboard by terrorists, reports said Wednesday.

“Out of an abundance of caution, [the Department of Homeland Security] regularly shares relevant information with domestic and international partners, including those associated with international events such as the Sochi Olympics,” says an agency statement obtained by ABC News, NBC News and CNN.

“While we are not aware of a specific threat to the homeland at this time, this routine communication is an important part of our commitment to making sure we meet that priority,” the statement says.

“As always, our security apparatus includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, and DHS will continue to adjust security measures to fit an ever-evolving threat environment.”

Earlier Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN that “anybody who wants to go to the Olympics, which are just a great event, should go. And we’re not telling people not to go.”

Kerry’s comments came before the advisory was reported, however.

A federal law enforcement source told ABC News the advisory is aimed at foreign airliners — and doesn’t relate to the United States. The Russian government has been informed.

But New York Republican Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence, told CNN the threat should be a heads-up for U.S. travelers, the airlines and officials at the Olympic Games.

“Any type of explosive, concealed explosive, can be extremely damaging,” he said. “It could be enough to bring down a plane . . . This is the type of threat that we’re very concerned about.”

Security in Sochi has been tightened for months, with an eye on Islamic militants in the region. Last month, Russian authorities announced that no liquids would be allowed on planes to Sochi, ABC News reported.

The Games begin Friday.

Sochi is 300 miles from the north Caucasus region, where Islamic militancy is well known.

ABC News reported that Doku Umarov, known as “Russia’s Osama bin Laden,” reportedly told followers last summer that they should do what they could to disrupt the Games, which he called a “satanic dance” on the bones of their ancestors, ABC News reported.

On Tuesday, counter-terrorism official Matthew Olsen spoke before Congress on whether those Muslim fundamentalists could attack selected targets, CNN reported.

“There are a number of specific threats of varying degrees of credibility that we’re tracking,” he said. “And we’re working very closely with the Russians and with other partners to monitor any threats we see and to disrupt those.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy BurkeMuslim

NBC: Americans Hacked, Monitored in Sochi.


Thousands of athletes and visitors to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are having their phones and computers hacked, NBC News reports.

Nightly News host Brian Williams revealed on Tuesday night that the private information on tourists’ electronic devices is being stolen by the Russian network the moment they turn on their devices.

“As tourists and families of athletes arrive in Sochi, if they haven’t been warned, and if they fire up their phones at baggage claim, it’s probably too late to save the integrity of their electronics and everything inside them,” said Williams. “Visitors to Russia can expect to be hacked…and it’s not a matter of if, but when.”

LIGENT Exclusive: Insider Series Reveals Putin’s True Ambitions at Winter Games 

Reporting from the Russian coastal resort of Sochi, Richard Engel said that the State Department has warned that travelers should have “no expectation of privacy,” even in their hotel rooms.

“And as we found out, you are especially exposed as soon as you try and communicate with anything. One of the first thing visitors to Russia will do is log on. Hackers here are counting on it, ” Engel said. “Malicious software hijacked our phone before we even finished our coffee, stealing my information, and giving hackers the option to tap and record my phone calls.”

Hundreds of U.S. athletes competing in the games are likely to have their phones hacked, along with their coaches and training staff, as well as family members and friends who arrive to watch them compete.

The spectacular opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is being held on Thursday night, with the first events starting on Friday.

LIGENT Exclusive: Insider Series Reveals Putin’s True Ambitions at Winter Games

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Drew MacKenzie

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