Earlier in July, Maxine Fookson and her husband, Ned Rosch, were watching a PBS Newshour segment about displaced Iraqis in Fallujah when they saw Mustafa Ahmed Abed, a 13-year old boy they helped eight years ago.
In 2008 Maxine and Ned established their own Portland chapter of No More Victims, a nonprofit that helps to bring children wounded by war to the U.S. for treatment. One of these children was Mustafa, who lost his leg at the age of 2 in a missile strike in Fallujah in 2004.
A Fallujah doctor reached out to No More Victims, and at age 5 Mustafa came to Portland with his father Ahmed. Mustafa received treatment and was fitted for a prosthetic leg at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Shriners Hospital.
Mustafa remained in Portland for over three months and was received warmly during his stay. He “embodied the tenacity to keep on going after horrific things that had happened to him,” said Ned.
The plan was for Mustafa to return every couple years to be fitted with a new leg, but by 2010, Ned and Maxine had lost contact with Ahmed because of the limited resources for communication in his family’s village just outside Fallujah.
Ned and Maxine feared the worst, especially since ISIS took control of Fallujah in January 2014. “For the last two years we’ve of course been hearing of ISIS in Fallujah with this horrible feeling,” Maxine said. “A horrible feeling on a geopolitical, big world level and a horrible feeling because there’s somebody there that I know and love. I don’t think we knew how to begin to find him.”
However, reporter Jane Arraf met Mustafa in the camp where he and 30,000 people are currently living outside the city. ISIS has barred people from traveling to other provinces within Iraq and they are unable to return to the city, which is heavily damaged. With Jane’s help and Ahmed’s passport and old travel documents, Mustafa was able to reconnect with the couple that had helped him.
Maxine, Ned and an Arabic-speaking couple to help translate sat down and were able to finally contact Mustafa over the phone. The connection was poor and their conversation was brief, but they could hear one another again.
“We just kept saying ‘We love you, we love you,’ and he said, ‘I love you,'” Maxine said.
Unfortunately Mustafa has had to go without the medical supplies that he desperately needs in the bleak conditions many are now facing. Ned and Maxine are fundraising through Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility to get medical supplies to Mustafa in the camp.
When Nazi forces occupied Austria in 1938, George Weidenfeld had only just turned eighteen. Without the help and generosity of Christians during World War II, Weidenfeld would probably not have lived to see his 95th birthday this year.
One of many other Jewish youths, Weidenfeld was evacuated from Nazi-occupied Austria through Christian-led programs and sent to England. Upon arriving in England, Weidenfeld was given food and clothing and help finding a place to live.
With Christian persecution on the rise all over the globe, Weidenfeld is making an effort to repay the kindnesses done to him during World War II. Weidenfeld has started a new program, the Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund, aimed to rescue persecuted Christians from the Middle East.
Over the next two years, the program plans to rescue a projected 2,000 Christians from Iraq and Syria.
In an interview with The Times of London, Weidenfeld stated, “I had a debt to repay. It applies to so many young people who were brought on the Kindertransports. It was the Quakers and other Christian denominations who brought those children to England. It was (a) very high-minded operation, and we Jews should also be thankful and do something for the endangered Christians.”
The program has already completed its first rescue, transporting 150 Syrian Christians to Poland on a privately chartered plane.
In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama attempted to show progress and national solidarity, while taking his agenda for the year to the far left. However, the attempt at unity largely fell flat, leaving politicians and citizens frustrated and disappointed.
Shortly before giving the speech, the president repeated his threats to Congress; namely, cooperate with my agenda or I will veto your bills.
“I think this was a tremendous missed opportunity for this administration,” said Senator Richard Burr. “When you start out with multiple veto threats and you show no willingness to even meet somewhere in the middle on issues that have been percolating for some time, it gives you very little hope that there’s going to be a breakthrough.”
“Finding common ground is what the American people sent us here to do, but you wouldn’t know it from the president’s speech tonight,” said John Boehner, Speaker of the House. “While veto threats and unserious proposals may make for good political theater, they will not distract this new American Congress from our focus on the people’s priorities.”
“True to form, the President in his State of the Union speech is more interested in politics than in leadership,” Mitt Romney, former Republican presidential candidate, said. “He ignores the fact that the country has elected a Congress that favors smaller government and lower taxes. Rather than bridging the gap between the parties, he makes ‘bridge to nowhere’ proposals. Disappointing. A missed opportunity to lead.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were more optimistic. “Great speech, Mr. President,” Massachusetts senator Warren said. “Looking forward to working with the WhiteHouse to build an economy that works for all our families.”
“[Obama] pointed [the] way to an economy that works for all,” Clinton wrote. “Now we need to step up & deliver for the middle class. #FairShot #FairShare.”
Clinton’s addition of #FairShot #FairShare echoes hints in Obama’s speech of their shared philosophy of wealth redistribution. While Obama does not directly say so in the address, he indicates that he plans to tax wealthier citizens and businesses more, while providing free community college and aid for middle class families to “pay for childcare.”
“It’s unfortunate President Obama wants to use the tax code to divide us — instead of proposing reforms to create economic opportunity for every American,” former Florida governor Jeb Bush said. “We can do better.”
While the president covered such topics as the economy, making community college free, trade deals, infrastructure, research, taxes, climate change, and pulling out of the Middle East, he neglected to discuss his plans for combating terrorism at home or overseas.
“So when Barack Obama, like the rest of us, hear these bad guys, these terrorists, promising that they will raise the flag of Allah over our White House, for the life of me I don’t know why he does not take this serious[ly], the threat,” said Sarah Palin, former Republican vice presidential candidate. “Because yes, it’s more than a vision. They’re telling — just like Hitler did all those years ago, when a war could’ve been avoided, because Hitler, too, did not hide his intentions. Well, ISIS, these guys aren’t hiding their intentions either.”
Palin also felt compelled to apologize that she and her running mate did not win the 2008 election. “As I watched the speech last night…the thought going through my mind is, ‘I owe America a global apology,’” Palin said.
Apparently, the president was more concerned with “reject[ing] offensive stereotypes of Muslims,” “condemn[ing] the persecution of…people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender” (because it “make[s] us safer”), and “agree[ing] on a woman’s right to choose” than defending America, her citizens, and people around the world from extremists who kill anyone who disagrees with them.
“Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns,” Obama said towards the end of his address. “Imagine if we did something different.”
“Tonight, America saw a powerful demonstration that it is time to move on beyond President Barack Obama,” said Senator Ted Cruz.
“We need someone in the White House with the experience to navigate our national security challenges and the fortitude to be straight with the American people on how to tackle them,” said former senator Rick Santorum. “Inauguration Day 2017 cannot come soon enough.”
“A few moments ago, we heard the President lay out his vision for the year to come,” said Senator Joni Ernst in her response to the State of the Union address:
Even if we may not always agree, it’s important to hear different points of view in this great country. We appreciate the President sharing his. Tonight though…I’d like to talk about your priorities. I’d like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected, and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again. We heard the message you sent in November — loud and clear. And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country. There’s a lot we can achieve if we work together. Let’s tear down trade barriers in places like Europe and the Pacific. Let’s sell more of what we make and grow in America over there so we can boost manufacturing, wages, and jobs right here, at home. Let’s simplify America’s outdated and loophole-ridden tax code. Republicans think tax filing should be easier for you, not just the well-connected. So let’s iron out loopholes to lower rates — and create jobs, not pay for more government spending. The President has already expressed some support for these kinds of ideas. We’re calling on him now to cooperate to pass them. You’ll see a lot of serious work in this new Congress. We know [terrorist] threats…can’t just be wished away. We’ve been reminded of terrorism’s reach both at home and abroad; most recently in France and Nigeria, but also in places like Canada and Australia. The forces of violence and oppression don’t care about the innocent. We need a comprehensive plan to defeat them.
Ernst goes on to advocate honoring America’s veterans, repealing Obamacare, cutting wasteful spending, creating a balanced budget, and defending life, among other priorities.
“Congress is back to work on your behalf, ready to make Washington focus on your concerns again,” Ernst said. “We know America faces big challenges. But history has shown there’s nothing our nation, and our people, can’t accomplish.
Christian soldiers triumphantly replaced the black ISIS flag above Bakufa with their own white standard after overthrowing the militants. The small village, once home to 500 people, was reclaimed by Kurdish peshmerga fighters.
After a bought of house-to-house battling, the Kurdish fighters expelled the ISIS militants and remained long enough to establish a volunteer-based village militia. Approximately 70 volunteer men comprise the group known as Dwekh Nawsha, or “self-sacrifice.”
Most of the region’s 12,000 Christians fled the initial ISIS onslaught earlier this summer. Dwekh Nawsha members faithfully patrol their village streets, while praying for the return of their families.
“We must depend on ourselves to defend our land for now and the future,” Caesar Jacob, a deputy of to the Christian militia’s commander, told the Associated Press.
An electrician, Jacob recalled working “side-by-side” with the peshmerga fighters before Dwekh Nawsha adopted command of Bakufa.
Home to a 200-year-old monastery, Bakufa and its neighboring villages echo the historical prominence of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization.
“It is the priority of Dwekh Nawsha to protect the sons of this region, as well as the region itself – including its monasteries, churches, artifacts,” the militia’s commander, Albert Kisso, told the Associated Press.
Sorely lacking funds, the group’s volunteers must provide their own guns. With more supplies, the soldiers estimate they could outfit a force of 250.
ISIS and al Qaeda are allegedly combining forces. Additional reports claim ISIS plans to begin creating its own money to “change the tyrannical monetary system that enslaves Muslims.”
Wounded ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Bagdad now denies any injury and is encouraging henchmen to “erupt volcanoes of jihad.”
Leaders from both terrorist organizations claim they met in a farmhouse, called a truce, and decided to gang up on the rest of the world.
For the first time, a Senior Intelligence Official commented on the reports. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper discussed whether ISIS and al Qaeda have joined forces in Syria. He did not appear overly concerned.
“We don’t see that,” he said. “There have been tactical accommodations on the battlefield, on occasion, where local groups have united in the interest of a tactical objective, but broadly, I don’t see those two uniting, at least yet.”
Other American officials are likewise showing minimal concern. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress that headway has been made against the terrorists since September.
“We are seeing steady and sustainable progress along DOD’s two main lines of efforts,” Hagel said.
However, American defense is not entirely discounting the threats.
“As you know, last week, the Defense Department announced we will expand the support to Iraqi forces by deploying up to 1,500 additional military personnel,” Hagel told legislators.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, added during the same hearing that the U.S. would consider sending a limited force to support Iraqi troops.
“I’m not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by U.S. forces, but we’re certainly considering it,” Dempsey said.