Daily Briefing: May 16, 2017

Posted by    |    May 16th, 2017 at 6:32 am

T O P   N E W S

Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador (WaPo)

“President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
“The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.”

Nick Note: Your past does not define you but it does explain you. Relative to this latest story, is the media trying to take down President Trump? Or has President Trump shared too much information? Who do we trust? A President with a 38 percent approval rating or a media with a 32 percent trust rating? In their statements, White House officials emphasized that Trump had not discussed specific intelligence sources and methods. Mr. Trump did as well on Twitter this morning. Officials did not address whether he had disclosed information drawn from sensitive sources. Here is National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s response. Watch article author Greg Miller’s response to McMaster. White House officials insisted that the president did not discuss intelligence sources and methods or continuing military operations that were not public. But the article insists that the contents of the intelligence were discussed. As the NY Times wrote: “The concern is that knowledge of the information about the Islamic State plot could allow the Russians to figure out the sources and methods.” If there was no issue, then why did the National Security Council think it was necessary to contact the CIA director and the director of the NSA to alert them as to what Mr. Trump said? According to the article: “The Post is withholding most plot details, including the name of the city, at the urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said President Trump’s White House must reverse the “downward spiral” it finds itself in. “The White House has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and in order.” One White House official said: “It never stops…basically chaos all the time.” Another adviser leaked last night: “He [Trump] doesn’t really know any boundaries. He doesn’t think in those terms…He doesn’t sometimes realize the implications of what he’s saying. I don’t think it was his intention in any way to share any classified information. He wouldn’t want to do that.” What do we know he said? “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.” Senate Republicans have started to break with the Mr. Trump, openly questioning him and not coming to his aid as quickly. And speaking of not quickly, White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to offer any clarity yet again on whether the President is taping phone calls he makes and receives. “The President has nothing further on that.” Time will tell whether Mr. Trump revealed classified information or the press (Reuters, NY Times, WaPo, and even WSJ specifically) are trying to take down Trump. But this we do know right now: your past does not define you but it does explain you. God’s abounding grace forgives you of your past, washing you white as snow (Ephesians 2:8-9, Psalm 51:7). But God’s immeasurable wisdom is available to you, allowing you to be shrewd as a snake (James 1:5, Matthew 10:16).

U.S. Accuses Syria of Mass Executions, Running Crematorium (WSJ)

“The State Department’s top Middle East diplomat, Stuart Jones, said the U.S. estimates the Syrian government is hanging as many as 50 detainees a day at the prison and burning some of the remains.
“Mr. Jones faulted Syrian allies Russia and Iran for backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad despite its abuses, including operating the crematorium. “These atrocities have been carried out seemingly with unconditional support from Russia and Iran,” Mr. Jones said.”

Nick Note: The tragedy in Syria continues to intensify the more we learn about the circumstances. The situation epitomizes what James Joyce wrote in Ulysses: “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” The more we uncover from the past the darker our understanding of it truly is. We may be slow in unearthing these horrific acts, but nothing escapes the Lord. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13).”

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Millennials are skipping expensive weddings and going on group honeymoons (QZ)

“Brides and grooms (and their parents) are shelling out more than ever for their big day. The average cost of a wedding in the US rose to a record $35,329 last year, according to the wedding site TheKnot.com.
“Millennials spend an average of $600 for wedding-related events, the survey found. More than a third of respondents said their accommodations were their biggest cost.
“Crashing the honeymoon is another option, though no less pricy. Some of your closest friends might be willing to join you and your beloved on a trip after the wedding. Around 12% of respondents said they attended a “buddymoon” in the last five years, with two-thirds of them spending more than $800.”

Nick Note: Randy Newman said You’ve Got a Friend In Me, Queen believed You’re My Best Friend, and Vitamin C went so far as to speculate that we would be Friends Forever. But is the buddymoon taking friendship too far? According to a contingent of millennials, no. Millennials may not be getting married at the pace of previous generations, but they are maintaining friendships unlike any other generation. They have grown up in a broken world: Enron, Catholic Church, prevalence of divorce, Iraq, etc. The world may be breaking, but their friendships won’t if they have anything to do with it. They prefer more time off over money. They will travel for weddings and associated festivities. This is a generation of David and Jonathans (1 Samuel 18).

Better jobs won’t lead to more marriage (Axios)

“The decline in marriage rates among less-educated Americans has been a trend of concern for both the left and the right in recent years. Progressives have generally seen these data as the result of a lack of economic opportunity, while conservative thinkers have argued the reverse: that economic inequality is being driven by a decline in cultural affinity for the institution of marriage.
“A new study published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research argues against the first interpretation, showing that between 1997 and 2012, areas that experienced fracking booms — and therefore increased wages and economic opportunity for the less-educated — experienced a spike in birth but not marriage rates.
“Though there is some evidence that falling working-class marriage rates were in part caused by shrinking economic opportunity, these results poke a hole in notion that better job opportunities will lead to more marriage.”

Nick Note: In his book Gross National Happiness, Arthur Brooks reviews a number of social science studies on happiness. He finds there are four commonalities necessary to secure happiness: a worldview that can account for joy and sorrow, a vocation (reason for getting up and going to work), a family (a group to share life with), and friends (humans to go through life with).Marriage is not required for happiness, but “he who finds a wife finds a good gift (Proverbs 18:22).”

ESPN Retools ‘SportsCenter’ for Mobile Viewers (Bloomberg)

“Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN, battling falling ad sales and a shrinking subscriber base, is rejiggering its news programs, adding more airtime and online reports from the network’s most popular correspondents.
“The on-air personalities will also host short, “fast-paced” news segments called “SportsCenter Right Now” that run during ESPN’s daytime commentary programming and during halftime in games. They’ll contribute spots designed for mobile viewing that run multiple times per hour on the website and app.”

Nick Note: We are living in a personality-driven age. In his book All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes, Ken Myers posits that celebrities are authority figures in our day. More so than in previous generations, we gravitate toward them, listen to them, and seek to emulate them. So it only makes sense that ESPN would accentuate and highlight such personalities in their new iteration. In the biblical narrative, there are a multitude of personalities featured within the 66 books. But Jesus noted that John the Baptist was the greatest (Matthew 11:11). Why? Perhaps because of his axiom, “He must increase and I must decrease (John 3:30).”

Parents Don’t Want to Name Their Kids Mike Anymore (WSJ)

“Michael had been one of the most popular male monikers in American history, having held the No. 1 spot on the federal list of top baby names for 43 out of 44 years, the longest boys reign of the 20th century.
“New federal figures show Michael losing fashion, with fewer than 14,000 U.S. baby boys getting the name last year, the lowest level on record since 1940. It clocked in at No. 8 on the Social Security Administration’s annual top baby names roster, a list where Noah took the No. 1 boys’ spot, and Emma topped the girls’ rankings.
“Few names rival Michael’s historic dominance. The Generation X juggernaut Jennifer held No. 1 from 1970 to 1984, and sits at No. 273 in the most recent rankings.”

Nick Note: Have you heard about the Star Wars bump? In 2014, there were 239 Reys, and only 8 Kylos born in the US. At the end of 2015, The Force Awakens came out and in 2016 those numbers rose to 317 and 245. In the biblical narrative, there is much to a name. From the land, God made man. He made Adam (Earth). From his side, there was Eve (mother of all). You lived into a name. In Christ, we are a new creation with a new name and we are to walk and live in light of that new name (Revelation 2:17, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 5:8). “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).”

Mean drunk? You may not be able to blame it on the alcohol (USA Today)

“The study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, found that participants reported that their personality drastically changes when they are drunk, but observers reported less drastic differences between the person’s “sober” and “drunk” personalities.
“While participants noted changes in their personality after consuming alcohol, observers noted only a change in the personality factor of extraversion. The researchers note that extraversion is the most outward personality factor, so it’s no surprise that observers and the participants noticed a change in that factor.”

Nick Note: Jamie Foxx and T-Pain blame it on the alcohol but the biblical narrative warns you about alcohol. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:18-20).”

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

‘Hangry’ passenger has pizza delivered to stalled Amtrak train

Nick Note: Watch it here. When life gives you lemons…order pizza. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12).”

Kitten spies lonely dog in pet store, scales glass to make friends.

Nick Note: Watch it here. Love among the most unlikely of animals. Love always desires closeness. Shakespeare, in Romeo and Juliet, wrote: “See how she leans her cheek upon her hand. O, that I were a glove upon that hand That I might touch that cheek!” In the Scriptures, we have been commanded to love both our friends and our enemies (Matthew 5:44). May your love for them cause you to draw close to them in order to serve them (Matthew 20:28).

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