LISTEN: Urban Christian News Weekend Report #105

1. According to World Magazine, Called by the plaintiffs’ attorney as a hostile witness, Mayor Annise Parker gave short, sometimes curt, answers during three hours of questioning in the trial over an LGBT equal rights ordinance she championed. Since the first day of the trial, a small group of plaintiffs’ supporters—members of a racially diverse coalition of pastors and civic leaders—have attended the proceedings, sitting in the small 50-person gallery. But Parker’s appearance brought the coalition out in force. About 25 people, mostly Houston pastors, filled the seating behind the plaintiffs and into the area behind the defense desks. They sat in silent objection to the mayor’s equation of race with sexual orientation and gender identity and the city’s attempt to suppress a vote on the controversial ordinance. Parker defended city attorney David Feldman’s review and subsequent dismissal of tens of thousands of voter signatures on the petition to put the ordinance on last November’s ballot. She repeated the city’s argument that the petition form was flawed, invalidating many signatures. The validity of the remaining signatures is an ongoing a point of contention crucial for the plaintiffs as they seek to convince the jury to reverse enough signature disqualifications to breathe life back into the referendum.

2. According to the AP, Nigeria’s electoral commission will postpone Feb. 14 presidential and legislative elections for six weeks to give a new multinational force time to secure northeastern areas under the sway of Boko Haram. Millions could be disenfranchised if next week’s voting went ahead while the Islamic extremists hold a large swath of the northeast and commit mayhem that has driven 1.5 million people from their homes.

3. According to CNN, Brian Williams is stepping aside from his “NBC Nightly News” show amid mounting questions about the accuracy of a story he told about an Iraq War mission in 2003. He said in a memo to colleagues, “I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days.”

4. According to ABC News, an American Muslim activist has said that the young American hostage who ISIS says was killed in a Jordanian air strike this week was actually condemned to death by the militant group last year. ISIS seized aid worker Kayla Mueller in 2013 in northern Syria and initially gave her a “life sentence” in retaliation for the jailing in Texas of a Pakistani woman whose case is a well-known cause among Islamist militants. The militant group said Ms Mueller, a 26-year-old from Arizona, was killed when Jordanian fighter jets bombed a building where she was being held. Jordan expressed doubt about the claim and US authorities said they could not confirm it.

5. According to Charisma News, Samantha Jones, a high school student in New Jersey, successfully protected the right of all her fellow students to continue reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in its entirety. After hearing Samantha and her family’s case for the words ‘one nation under God,’ a state judge has decided to dismiss the American Humanist Association’s latest effort to take “under God” out of the Pledge. This is the second time a state court has stopped the American Humanist Association from outlawing the federal Pledge. Their first?state-level?suit, raising identical claims, was?unanimously rejected?by Massachusetts’ highest court earlier this year.

6. According to the AP, the job market remains a frustrating place for America’s 9 million unemployed — perhaps more so as hiring has accelerated along with job postings. The pace of job growth over the past three months was the fastest in 17 years. The gains spanned nearly every industry, and some employers have finally had to dangle higher pay to attract or retain top talent. And yet millions of job seekers still can’t find work. Some businesses remain slow to fill their openings, awaiting the ideal candidate. Many job seekers lack the skills employers require. The plight of the unemployed also reflects an economic reality: Even in the best times, the number of job seekers is typically twice the number of job openings. The number of openings has reached nearly 5 million, the most since 2001. Yet that’s barely more than half the number of people the government counts as unemployed.

7. According to the AP, a group of Gulf countries denounced the Shiite rebel takeover of Yemen as a “coup”on Saturday, calling for the United Nations to take action as thousands demonstrated in the streets against their power grab. The rebels, known as Houthis, have taken over state institutions, dissolved parliament and installed a new committee to govern the Mideast’s poorest country — which is also home to what Washington considers al-Qaida’s most dangerous franchise. The six Arab countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, led by Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, issued a statement Saturday calling for the U.N. Security Council to “put an end to this coup.” They said, “The Cooperation Council sees Houthi coup as an escalation that cannot be accepted under any circumstances.”

8. According to Reuters, Iranian officials say the country’s foreign minister has warned the United States that failure to agree to a nuclear deal would likely herald the political demise of pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, raising the stakes as the decade-old stand-off nears its end-game. Mohammad Javad Zarif pressed the concern with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at several meetings in recent weeks, according to three senior Iranian officials, who said Iran had also raised the issue with other Western powers. Zarif’s warning has not been previously reported. In a statement posted on the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s website, Zarif later denied discussing domestic issues with Western officials.

9. According to Reuters, Pro-Russian separatists have intensified shelling of government forces on all front lines and appear to be amassing forces for new offensives on the key railway town of Debaltseve and the coastal city of Mariupol. Five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 26 wounded in fighting in the past 24 hours. Separatist gains against Kiev government forces in eastern Ukraine, particularly a rebel advance on Debaltseve to the northeast of Donetsk, have given impetus to a Franco-German initiative to try to end the Ukrainian crisis.

10. According to BBC News, Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that doctors may help patients who have severe and incurable medical conditions to die, overturning a 1993 ban. In a unanimous decision, the court said the law impinged on Canadians’ rights. The case was brought by a civil rights group on behalf of two women, Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, with degenerative diseases. Both have since died. The government now has a year to rewrite its law on assisted suicide.

As you go throughout this day, keep this word in mind. Psalm 97:10 says, “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.”

As always, we want you to know that God loves you. He loves you so much that the Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, why don’t you get to know Him today. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose by the power of God for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening. May God bless your day.

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