Daily Briefing: August 8, 2017

Posted by    |    August 8th, 2017 at 5:13 am

T O P   N E W S

U.S. Plans to Sanction More Venezuelans Tied to Maduro (Bloomberg)

“The U.S. is preparing to expand sanctions against Venezuela by freezing assets of 10 to 20 additional people tied to the government of President Nicolas Maduro, according to two people familiar with the matter.
“The action could come as soon as Tuesday, though it may be delayed as the Trump administration seeks a coordinated international response in imposing penalties on the Maduro regime for undermining democracy in the South American country, the people said.
“The U.S. is pressing to enlist European and South American countries — including neighboring Colombia — to match the sanctions and may hold off taking unilateral action if necessary for a coordinated announcement. The people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the step before its formal declaration.”

Nick Note: Experts speculate that Venezuela could be on the brink of civil war if military support for Maduro continues to erode. Over the weekend, Venezuelan authorities arrested seven men whom they claimed took part in an attack on a military base outside of Valencia, the country’s third-largest city. Here is videoof their calling for rebellion. A group calling itself “The Binary Guardians” hacked into 40 government websites yesterday in protest against Maduro. According to the International Monetary Fund, inflation is expected to soar 720 percent this year and over 2,000 percent next year. A hamburger costs the equivalent of $178. Three out of four Venezuelans lost an average of 19 pounds as a result of the food shortage. Would you pray for the people of Venezuela (Romans 15:30)? And if you feel so led, consider supporting the work Samaritan’s Purse is doing down there.

Kids as Young as 4 Find Safe Space at Transgender Day Camp (NBC News)

“At check-in each day, campers make a nametag with their pronoun of choice. Some opt for “she” or “he.” Or a combination of “she/he.” Or “they,” or no pronoun at all. Some change their name or pronouns daily, to see what feels right.
“The camp in the San Francisco Bay Area city of El Cerrito caters to transgender and “gender fluid” children, ages 4 to 12, making it one of the only camps of its kind in the world open to preschoolers, experts say. Enrollment has tripled to about 60 young campers since it opened three summers ago, with kids coming from as far as Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. — even Africa. Plans are underway to open a branch next summer in Colorado, and the camp has been contacted by parents and organizations in Atlanta, Seattle, Louisiana and elsewhere interested in setting up similar programs.”

Nick Note: Back in 1898, Abraham Kuyper wrote: “Modernism, which denies and abolishes every difference, cannot rest until it has made woman man and man woman.” (Matthew 19:4, Mark 9:42)

Google Fires Employee Who Dared Challenge its Ideological Echo Chamber (National Review)

“Alphabet Inc.’s Google has fired an employee who wrote an internal memo blasting the web company’s diversity policies, creating a firestorm across Silicon Valley. James Damore, the Google engineer who wrote the note, confirmed his dismissal in an email, saying that he had been fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” A Google representative didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
“Google is a private company and has wide legal latitude to discipline its employees for their speech, but make no mistake — this is a direct assault on the American culture of free speech. It’s a sad fact that your economic opportunities depend not just on your skills, talents, and the way you treat employees or customers but also on your political opinions.”

Nick Note: Here is the full ten-page document. I mentioned this yesterday but Google took it another step late last night. Do you think the author exhibits a type of Isaiah 1:18 spirit? Does Google really value diversity if they silence thoughtful dissent? As he notes at the forefront: “People generally have good intentions, but we all have biases which are invisible to us. Thankfully, open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow, which is why I wrote this document.”

Prof lets students choose own grades for ‘stress reduction’ (Campus Reform)

“University of Georgia professor has adopted a “stress reduction policy” that will allow students to select their own grades if they “feel unduly stressed” by the ones they earned.
“According to online course syllabi for two of Dr. Richard Watson’s fall business courses, he has introduced the policy because “emotional reactions to stressful situations can have profound consequences for all involved.”
“As such, if students feel “unduly stressed by a grade for any assessable material or the overall course,” they can “email the instructor indicating what grade [they] think is appropriate, and it will be so changed” with “no explanation” being required.”

Nick Note: I wish my Hebrew professor would have adopted this policy. If you thought #TeachingNickWasThePitts was entertaining, just imagine my Southern accent reading Jonah 1 aloud in Hebrew class. I digress. This may reduce stress but does it benefit the student? The professor gives a grade to convey to the student their progress or understanding of the subject.Essentially, is the professor lying to the student in order to reduce potential stress in the student (Proverbs 12:22)? 

New device can heal with a single touch, and even repair brain injuries (USA Today)

“The technology, known as Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT), has the potential to save the lives of car crash victims and even deployed soldiers injured on site. It’s a dime-sized silicone chip that “injects genetic code into skin cells, turning those skin cells into other types of cells required for treating diseased conditions,” according to a release.
“In lab tests, one touch of TNT completely repaired injured legs of mice over three weeks by turning skin cells into vascular cells. And, it not only works on skin cells, it can restore any type of tissue..For example, the technology restored brain function in a mouse who suffered a stroke by growing brain cells on its skin.”

Nick Note: Jesus demonstrated creativity when he was healing the blind man. To one, he touched his eyes. To another he spit on the ground, mixed the mud, and applied it to his eyes. And one person was healed because Jesus spoke it into being. The end goal of restoring sight never changed, the way in which sight was restored did. Could the same Lord who used mud be using this new device?  “Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. (Jeremiah 17:14)”

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Frustrated with your spouse? These scientists suggest a specific kind of prayer (WaPo)

“Frank Fincham at Florida State University’s Family Institute, along with several collaborators, has conducted a series of empirical studies of how prayer can impact romantic couples.
“Praying daily for one’s partner has been linked to numerous positive outcomes: increased relationship satisfaction, greater trust, cooperation, forgiveness and marital commitment. “Many of these benefits apply both to the prayer as well as the one being prayed for.
“But to experience these benefits, not just any kind of prayer will do—it has to be praying specifically for one’s partner. Of course, prayer can take many forms: ritual, petitionary, colloquial and meditative, among others. The form studied by the researchers was petitionary, making specific requests during prayer.
“Compared to these control groups, those who prayed for their partners consistently saw the greatest positive impact on their relationship.”

Nick Note: I find 1 Peter 3:7 one of the heavier verses in the Scriptures. “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Emojis help software spot emotion and sarcasm (BBC)

“Researchers used 1.2 billion tweets containing at least one of the most popular 64 emojis to develop DeepMoji. The algorithm learned first to predict which emoji was likely to be used and then to recognise sarcasm, allowing it to spot hate speech faster than humans.
“It could also be used to assess how people really feel about different brands or to improve human interaction with smart programs such as chatbots. “Because we can’t use intonation in our voice or body language to contextualise what we are saying, emojis are the way we do it online,” Prof Iyad Rahwan told MIT’s Technology Review magazine.

Nick Note: Have you seen the Emoji Bible? The way we communicate is changing – like it always has. In a study conducted by psychologists from Binghamton University, participants were found to be significantly more likely to view period-punctuated texts less genuine than unpunctuated texts. The more you punctuate, the less real you are. For today’s Christian, we live and move in a world in which the language is changing, but our desire to connect is not. Though we have heard from the lion (Amos 3:82 Peter 1:19), we must listen to his sheep (James 1:19). Only when we listen can we best understand how to communicate the message that even the angels yearn to hear (1 Peter 1:12).

Why this Taiwanese man is the dream husband of so many women in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China (Quartz)

“He is Joseph Chang Hsiao-chuan, a 33-year-old Taiwanese actor known as the “national husband” across the Chinese-speaking world. More important than his looks, Chang’s Mr. Nice Guy image gives hope to women who have lost faith in men. In Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China, where cheating and keeping mistresses is common, a loyal and honest man seems to many to be a dying breed.
“The number of mainland mistresses of Hong Kong men was big enough to turn certain areas in southern China into “concubine villages” in the 1990s…A 2011 Durex survey indicated that nearly 30 percent  of Hong Kong men admitted to cheating.”

Nick Note: It may be Raining Men according to The Weather Girls but Bonnie Tyler is Holding Out For a Hero and she is not alone. In the Scriptures, we read that women deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and purity (1 Timothy 5:2, Luke 6:31). Fashioned and gifted by the Lord (Genesis 1-2), a woman deserves a man who will love her sacrificially and sanctify her blessedly (Ephesians 5:25-27). This guy doesn’t need to be a knight in shining armor, because the dullness of his armor testifies that he has been battle tested and worthy of her love. Knights in shining armor are not to be trusted because the shine indicates that they have not endured battle. A knight in shining armor is more like a guy who has been to a Halloween party.

How to Thrive in an Empty Nest (NY Times)

“Although college drop-off is a moment of triumph and pride, it can also be one of the most painful transitions in parenthood. Perhaps the sadness and anxiety come from the seemingly contradictory emotions of wanting your child to have independence and yet remain close as a family.”

Nick Note: This article offers great tips, but Michael Gerson’s column three years ago will tug at your heart. “Parenthood offers many lessons in patience and sacrifice. But ultimately, it is a lesson in humility. The very best thing about your life is a short stage in someone else’s story. And it is enough…Well, 18 years is a window that closed too quickly. But, my son, those days have been the greatest wonder and privilege of my life.” (Proverbs 22:6)

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

Struggling runner crosses finish line with competitor’s help

Nick Note: Watch it here. Life is a race (Hebrews 12:1-2). “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. (Romans 15:1)”

These dads have lightening fast reflexes.

Nick Note: Watch it here. Just as these dads carefully watch after their children, our Heavenly Father does the same. “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. (Psalm 121:3)”

Huge alligator walks up to family’s front door to sell them insurance

Nick Note: Watch it here. Flee temptation…and alligators (2 Timothy 2:22).

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