Daily Briefing: April 20, 2017

Posted by    |    April 20th, 2017 at 6:36 am

T O P   N E W S

Rob Gronkowski makes cameo at White House press briefing (Fox News)

Nick Note: Watch ‘Gronk’ interrupt Sean Spicer’s White House briefing here. The New England Patriots were at the White House yesterday to celebrate their title with Mr. Trump, but Gronk was everywhere. Here is a picture of him fist bumping President Trump in the Oval Office. But you won’t see him on the south sidewalk. Yesterday, the Secret Service announcedthey are enlarging the protective bulwark around the White House complex by closing access to the entire fence-line along the mansion’s south lawn. The Secret Service is protecting the sidewalk and Ivanka Trump is protecting her name. Bloomberg reports this morning that as part of her intellectual property strategy, Trump’s company filed a series of applications to trademark just the word Ivanka in China. In the U.S., she is also moving to block anyone who would seek to profit from her name. Besides deodorant companies, no one is trying to protect Pitts. Was that a bad joke? Did it fail? Well not as much as the Iran nuclear deal according to some. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson described the landmark Iran nuclear deal as a failure on Wednesday, only hours after the State Department said Tehran was complying with its terms. The nuclear deal “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran,” Mr. Tillerson said. “It only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state.” Iranian leaders have said in the past that they want to destroy Israel, push it into the sea. As strong allies of Israel, a nuclear Iran is bad news for Israel. Bad news for Israel is bad news for the United States. We have a strong bond, similar to the bond Christians have with one another. When one rejoices, we all rejoice. When one suffers, we all suffer (1 Corinthians 12:26). Like Joab to Abishai, we encourage each other, speak truth to one another, and fight for holiness together (2 Samuel 10:9-12, Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25). Essentially, we have each other’s backs – like Gronk with Spicer.

Ann Coulter vows to speak at Berkeley despite cancellation (ABC News)

“I WILL BE SPEAKING NEXT THURSDAY,” the right-wing commentator tweeted, calling the move to cancel her planned event on April 27 a ban on free speech.
“We have been unable to find a safe and suitable venue,” said the letter from Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton. “Given current active security threats, it is not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully.”

Nick Note: In a shocking twist, Ann Coulter is going against the grain. A Gallup poll showed that sixty-nine percent of college students said they would be in favor of prohibiting “intentionally offensive” speech on campus. But who defines offensive? Relative to Americans 35 and under, 41 percent think “the First Amendment is dangerous.” George Washington noted, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” French writer Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.” Is this a smart move for Coulter? Should she heed security warnings or not cower in fear? Perhaps the better question for Coulter to answer is this: what is the purpose of her event? To encourage her base or reason with the opposite side – who appear to be unreasonable since they are using their free speech to limit her speech? All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23).

Bill O’Reilly Won’t Return to Fox News, Company Says (WSJ)

“While the company initially defended him, the emergence of more complaints against Mr. O’Reilly during an internal probe by law firm Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP became the deciding factor in the Murdoch family’s decision, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” 21st Century Fox said in a statement Wednesday.”

Nick Note: Here are a few memorable moments from O’Reilly’s career at Fox. Here is Kirsten Powers, formerly of Fox News, speaking to Anderson Cooper last night about her past experiences with Mr. O’Reilly. Fox is responding to past allegations, but Indiana is going one step further. Indiana’s university and athletic department have implemented a new policy that bans any athletes with history of sexual or domestic violence from participation in any of their athletic programs. As Christians, we should not delight in the downfall of someone, nor should we be willing to turn a blind eye to such accusations (1 Corinthians 13:6-7, Luke 6:31).

Aaron Hernandez reportedly found with ‘John 3:16’ written on his forehead (WaPo)

“Authorities said that Hernandez, 27, did not leave a suicide note and was not under suicide watch at his Massachusetts prison, where he had been since his 2015 conviction of the 2013 death of Odin Lloyd. On Friday, a Boston jury found Hernandez not guilty of the 2012 deaths of two men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.”

Nick Note: His death is tragic but becoming increasingly prevalent. The suicide rate has risen by a quarter, to 13 per 100,000 people in 2014 from 10.5 in 1999. The rate is at the highest level in nearly 30 years. Have you seen the new show 13 Reasons Why? The popular show centers around the suicide of Hannah. Two weeks after her tragic death, a classmate finds a box on his porch. Inside the box are recordings made by Hannah in which she explains the 13 reasons why she chose to commit suicide. The thief does wrong by taking what is not his, but in his actions he reveals the value of the very thing he takes (Exodus 20:13, Romans 8:38-39). Suicide is absolutely tragic but it is not the unpardonable sin.

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Creativity Makes You Seem More Attractive (The Atlantic)

“To Christopher Watkins, a professor of psychology at Scotland’s Abertay University and the author of the study, the results show that creativity can help boost the romantic and social prospects of average-looking men. Creativity, Watkins says, is a proxy for intelligence, and it signals the ability of your potential future mate or friend to solve tricky problems.
“In the first two studies, a high creativity rating made the less-attractive women seem even uglier, and “less-creative but attractive women were preferred relative to creative but less-attractive women.” In other words, if you’re female, the only thing men care about you sculpting are your eyebrows.”

Nick Note: It may be just my imagination, but The Temptations are prophets if this research is correct. But what constitutes attractiveness? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder or is there some objectivity? In the Scriptures, we read that God shines forth in perfect beauty from Zion (Psalm 50:2). He shines to such an extent that David said he just wanted to gaze at this beauty all the days of his life (Psalm 27:4). As Christians, we are to be creative. Specifically, we are to create heaven down here on earth (Matthew 6:10). Instead of heeding John Lennon’s lyric to Imagine there’s no heaven, we should use our imagination to make little bits of heaven here on earth. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m really just a son of the King…

A Fitness Empire Quietly Rises on YouTube (WSJ)

“Fitness Blender’s YouTube channel and corresponding website feature more than 500 workout videos, most of them filmed in the Segarses’ garage north of Seattle. Against a plain-white background, they sweat through basic but challenging moves, including the occasional stumble.
“These people look normal,” says Haley Wilson, a 20-year-old fan in Fort Erie, Ontario, who last year had Fitness Blender’s logo tattooed on her left arm. “They’re like your fit best friends who can help you be healthy, too.”
“It’s not about being bikini-ready,” Ms. Segars says. “It’s about not dying of a heart attack.”

Nick Note: This is the 2017 version of Richard Simmons Sweating to the Oldies. Samson was known for his strength, but I don’t know if he had a workout plan (Judges 16). Nevertheless, in the Scriptures, we are encouraged to steward our bodies well (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Why Being Grumpy at Work is Good For You (QZ)

“For one thing, researchers from Munich’s Technische Universitaet have found that women were less likely to be promoted to management positions if they appeared too cheerful. And research has also shown that a pessimistic outlook can lead to higher productivity, fewer mistakes, and better communication skills. In other words: Grumpy workers of the world, unite.”

Nick Note: Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go. But should you be the Grumpy Dwarf? Daniel Powter sung about his Bad Day and this research seems to indicate that you should embrace the bad day. But what about if you work from home? Working from home has its benefits, with research showing that it generally increases happiness and productivity. But a new study also shows 40 percent of employees who were working from home feel disconnected from the company’s strategic direction. In the Scriptures, we read very little on being grumpy but we are not be rude or irritable (1 Corinthians 13:5). “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back (Proverbs 29:11).”

The world’s largest assessment of teenage students suggests happiness is crucial to learning (QZ)

“Rather than concentrating on academic scores alone, the findings explore the critical connection between wellbeing, belonging, and achievement.
“If you feel good, you learn better,” said Gabriela Ramos, chief of staff at the OECD. “It’s not about promoting high achievement or not; it’s how you do it with the other sets of skills we need to develop in children.”
“The data show that to do well in school it’s not just cognitive skills, it’s a cocktail of all the things that influence a child’s life,” said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children. On average, the most motivated students scored the equivalent of more than one school year higher in PISA than the least-motivated ones.”

Nick Note: Bobby McFerrin tells us to Don’t Worry Be Happy. Sheryl Crow, in a passive aggressive manner, sang If It Makes You Happy. No word on what it is. And then there is Pharrell who is just Happy. Nevertheless, are you familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?  It is a motivational theory in psychology comprising of a five tier model of human needs, depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. Maslow believed that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and some needs take precedence over others. One might argue that in order to learn (or according to Maslow have a “feeling of accomplishment” or “achieve one’s full potential”), you would first need to satisfy your need of “belongingness and love.” In the Scriptures, we read often of Jesus meeting felt needs before addressing spiritual needs (John 4).

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

Doughnut-filled campaign video by Iowa police departments goes viral

Nick Note: Watch it here. I love this. They are willing to laugh at themselves all the while work to combat the negative stereotypes by going above and beyond the call of duty. In the biblical narrative, we read of something similar in the story of Zacchaeus.

Young Cubs fan gets emotional after receiving surprise tickets to Wrigley Field

Nick Note: Watch it here. He worked hard and then was richly rewarded. May the same be said of us. “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master (Matthew 25:23).’”


Leonardo DiCaprio was King of the World in Titanic and I was Captain of the Oregon Trail in second grade. You can tell a lot about a person by how quickly they traveled the Trail. A steady pace meant you were borderline boring and would probably one day love NickelBack. A grueling pace meant you cared more about securing glory on the trail than completing the trail. But a strenuous pace was perfect – like eating Dunkaroos while watching “Reading Rainbow” and “Arthur” after school. However, Mrs. Duke was better than Dunkaroos. Her optimism looked for best in me and her love put up with the worst of me. There were no obstacles, only opportunities. Going back and reading her notes on my report card proved this. She saw energy in me, not rebellion. She encouraged my questions, just not while she was teaching. Oregon Trail wasn’t just a video game, but an opportunity for students to laugh with one another and learn to share with each other. Thank you, Mrs. Duke. In a way, you modeled love for me—looking for the best and seeking to redeem the worst.#TeachingNickWasThePitts

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