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Atheists, Secular Groups Up in Arms Over State Department Boosting Pompeo’s ‘Christian Leader’ Speech

Atheists, Secular Groups Up in Arms Over State Department Boosting Pompeo’s ‘Christian Leader’ SpeechJoe Raedle/GettyThe U.S. Constitution protects the separation of church and state—but evidently not church and State Department, which came under fire for promoting a “Being a Christian Leader” speech Monday on its website.The speech, delivered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a meeting of American Association of Christian Counselors on Friday, saw Pompeo discuss the influence of his faith on his work as a U.S. official. On Monday, the State Department shared the speech at the top of its website, ahead of more pressing department issues, like U.S. involvement in Turkey’s invasion of Syria. The speech and the State Department’s promotion of the video breached the divide between church and state, leaders from secular and atheist communities say.“Secretary Pompeo’s speech was pure proselytization,” Sarah Levin, director of governmental affairs at the Secular Coalition for America told The Daily Beast. During the speech, which he gave in his capacity as Secretary of State, Pompeo stated that “I know some people in the media will break out the pitchforks when they hear that I ask God for direction in my work.”His personal faith isn’t the problem, Levin said. It’s when it dictates his actions as Secretary of State, or when those beliefs top the State Department website.“To be clear, we don’t judge Secretary Pompeo for being a Christian or for connecting what he’s achieved to his faith, but it’s unacceptable and a violation of separation of church and state for him to take those beliefs and apply them to policy that affects the American public,” Levin said, “and it’s just as wrong from him to elevation Christianity above other faiths as it is to elevate Christianity above non-faiths.”Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, echoed Levin. “It’s perfectly fine for Secretary Pompeo to be a leader who is Christian,” Laser said in a statement. “But he cannot use his government position to impose his faith on the rest of us—that is a fundamental violation of the separation of religion and government. Secretary Pompeo’s speech on how being a Christian leader informs his decision-making and the posting of the speech on the State Department website send the clear message that U.S. public policy will be guided by his personal religious beliefs.”Pompeo has previously indicated that his religious beliefs factored into his policy decisions as a government official. In a March interview with Christian Broadcasting Network, Pompeo was asked whether President Donald Trump had been raised by God “to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace.”“As a Christian, I certainly believe that's possible,” Pompeo answered.The secular website Patheos has tracked Pompeo’s comments for years, including a 2015 speech in which he opposed same-sex marriage and stated that “we will continue to fight these battles, it is a never ending struggle… until the rapture.”In a 2014 speech at a Kansas church, Pompeo cast Islam as the greatest “threat to America” and urged that “we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ our savior is truly the only solution for our world.”Nick Fish, president of American Atheists said Pomeo’s Friday speech wasn’t surprising, given his record.“As disappointing as it is to see the State Department parroting Christian nationalist talking points, it isn't a surprise. But this goes above and beyond the obvious problem of Secretary Pompeo promoting one religious worldview on taxpayers' dime,” Fish told The Daily Beast. “The bigger issue is that the State Department is being led by a man who genuinely believes that politics is ‘a never-ending struggle… until the rapture.’”Levin said the Trump administration has consistently pushed at the boundary between church and state. “This administration has pursued an agenda of Christian nationalism,” she said. She pointed to two other questionable incidents this weekend. On Friday, Attorney General Bill Barr gave a speech blaming “the growing ascendancy of secularism” for depression, mental illness, violence, and the opioid epidemic. On Saturday, Trump gave a speech to religious leaders proclaiming that “forever and always, Americans will believe in the cause of freedom, the power of prayer, and the eternal glory of God.”Levin called the trio of speeches a “triple threat.”“This is not unusual rhetoric we’ve seen from officials,” she said, “but it is unusual to see Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, clear-cut abuse, these officials violating the separation of church and state.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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Israel says Iran boosting bid to set up Hezbollah precision-missile plants in Lebanon

Israel says Iran boosting bid to set up Hezbollah precision-missile plants in LebanonIsrael accused Iran on Thursday of stepping up efforts to provide the Hezbollah militia with precision-guided missile production facilities, a warning to Beirut that Israeli counter-strikes could escalate. “Dir balak,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in public remarks directed at Lebanon, using the Arabic for “watch out”. Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which last fought a war in 2006, are on high alert after drones were used at the weekend to attack what a security official in the region described as a target linked to precision-guided missile projects.



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Air strike on Pakistan sparks celebrations in India, seen boosting Modi support

Air strike on Pakistan sparks celebrations in India, seen boosting Modi supportThe reaction may be a sign that support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi is surging months before a general election, pollsters said. India said air force jets hit a training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the militant group that claimed credit for a Feb. 14 suicide bombing attack that killed Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir, a mountainous region also claimed by neighboring Pakistan. Pakistan said there had been no casualties at all.



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Democrat: Trump's 'deranged' behavior is boosting bill to create panel that could remove him from office

Democrat: Trump's 'deranged' behavior is boosting bill to create panel that could remove him from officeRep. Jamie Raskin says he is gaining support for legislation to create a panel that could remove the president from office.



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North Korea Boosting Nuclear Fuel Production At Secret Sites: Report

North Korea Boosting Nuclear Fuel Production At Secret Sites: ReportNorth Korea has been secretly increasing production of enriched uranium for



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Antarctica is losing billions of tons of ice each year, sharply boosting sea levels

Antarctica is losing billions of tons of ice each year, sharply boosting sea levelsEarth-orbiting satellites are watching Antarctica thaw.  Eighty scientists from over 40 earth sciences agencies, including NASA and the European Space Agency, used satellite data from between 1992 to 2017 to find that Antarctica has lost three trillion tons of ice to the oceans over this 25-year period. Their research, published Wednesday in the journal
Nature, confirms a troubling trend, as much of the world's fresh water is frozen away in Antarctica. It's accelerating melt will likely play a primary role in swelling Earth's oceans two or three feet higher this century, or perhaps as much as six feet. SEE ALSO: Arctic sea ice is loaded with plastic litter from cigarettes and paint The most vulnerable masses of ice are in West Antartica, where NASA has already witnessed an accelerating melt. "They're melting like gangbusters," Josh Willis, an oceanographer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in an April interview. "These are massive rivers of ice that are dumping just huge amounts of ice into the oceans." Image: imbie/Planetary VisionsPerhaps most worrying, said Willis, is that this melting is unprecedented. Scientists are watching this thawing for the first time. They can see the melt is already accelerating — and it's unknown what's exactly to come. "We have long suspected that changes in Earth’s climate will affect the polar ice sheets," Andrew Shepherd, a climate scientist and one of the study's lead authors, said in a statement.   "Thanks to the satellites our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea level contribution with confidence," said Shepherd. "According to our analysis, there has been a steep increase in ice losses from Antarctica during the past decade, and the continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years."  Over this 25-year period, scientists measured around 7 and a half millimeters of sea level rise from the ice-clad continent. This might not seem like a lot, Robin Bell, a marine geologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said over email. But, the more recent rapid loses in Antarctic ice "indicates Antarctica can change faster than we thought," said Bell. In fact, 40 percent of the total rise, or about 3 millimeters, came in the last 5 years. That's when things really started to change. Until 2012, the study's researchers found that Antarctica had been shedding 84 billion tons of ice into the sea each year, incrementally boosting sea levels by around 0.2 millimeters annually.  But beginning in 2012, Antarctica began to lose nearly 240 billion tons per year, largely from two giant West Antarctic glaciers, Pine Island and Thwaites.   The West Antarctic ice is particularly vulnerable because these massive ice sheets sit over the ocean, and even slightly warmer ocean waters can eat away at them from the bottom.  The locations of the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which alone have enough ice to raise sea levels by 4 feet, says NASA.Image: Nasa"The largest mass loss is observed where relatively warm ocean waters are melting floating ice shelves from below," Steve Rintoul, a study coauthor and physical oceanographer from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center, in Australia, said in a statement.  These masses of ice, which sit on the edge of the continent, act as a plug, holding the continent's thick sheets of heavy ice back.  "As the ice shelves thin and weaken, they provide less resistance to ice flow from the continent to the sea," explained Rintoul. "This increases the rate of mass loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet and therefore the rate of sea level rise." This leads to a foreboding future. Once these melting ice sheets on the coast go, nothing is left to hold West Antartica's ice back. And as the authors note, "The ice sheets of Antarctica hold enough water to raise global sea level by 58 meters." Certainly, no one is suggesting this will all dump into ocean — not nearly. But only an insignificant amount needs to melt into the sea for coastal dwellers, where billions reside and many more are expected to live, to be impacted by rising seas, flooding, and surges of stormwater. Around 40 percent of Americans, for example, live directly on the shoreline.  To better grasp exactly how much ice is lost each year — and more critically, how fast these losses are accelerating — space agencies will continue to peer onto the thawing continent. And down on Earth, scientists will even depend on seals, fitted with data-collecting devices, to dive under this melting ice.  WATCH: Ever wonder how the universe might end?



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China eyes petrol car ban, boosting electric vehicles

China eyes petrol car ban, boosting electric vehiclesChina is gearing up to ban petrol and diesel cars, a move that would boost electric vehicles and shake up the world’s biggest car market in a country that is plagued by pollution. The government did not give a date for the ban, but the announcement drove up the shares of automakers and lithium battery makers in Asia, with Chinese electric car leader BYD closing 4.07 percent up in Shenzhen and Toyota up 1.22 percent in Tokyo. Xin Guobin, vice minister of industry and information technology, told a weekend forum in the northern city of Tianjin that his ministry has started “relevant research” and is working on a timetable for China.



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Pro-Kurd party rallies against boosting Erdogan powers

Pro-Kurd party rallies against boosting Erdogan powersTurkey’s pro-Kurdish party Thursday launched its campaign for a “No” vote in April’s referendum on whether to give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more powers as its two leaders remained imprisoned. Hundreds of people turned out for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) event in Istanbul where the party’s spokesman described the proposal as “the greatest scourge in the history of our Republic”. Turkey is to vote April 16 on changing the constitution to give Erdogan an executive presidency along the lines of that in France or in the United States.



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