LISTEN: President Obama Approves Expansion of International Religious Freedom Act; Christian Performance Artist Jon Jorgenson Partners With One Campaign to Save Lives In Sub-Saharan Africa (BCNN1, 12/18/2016)

1. According to Christianity Today and Baptist Press, President Obama has approved legislation promoted by religious freedom advocates that should strengthen the United States’ effort to combat persecution of Christians and other faith minorities. The House of Representatives approved the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), H.R. 1150, on December 13 to complete congressional action on the proposal. That action came only three days after the Senate amended and passed an earlier House-approved version. Both the House and Senate endorsed the amended bill without opposition. Bill supporters were optimistic that Obama would sign the measure, named in honor of Congress’ longtime top religious freedom advocate, into law. He did so on Friday.

2. According to the Christian Post, Christian performance artist Jon Jorgenson can write a spoken word piece in 15 minutes and snag 6 million views on YouTube. Getting those viewers to join in the fight to help alleviate the scourge of AIDS and extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa — a cause to which he is devoted — can be a more difficult task. But he’s up for the challenge. In Jorgenson’s latest performance piece titled, “Raise Your Voice,” he outlines the staggering figures behind the suffering in Africa’s sub-Saharan region with the goal of introducing the masses to the continent’s epidemics, and inspiring them to take action. Suffering, like the 17,000 women who are infected with HIV every week, goes largely unnoticed. The artist has partnered with the One Campaign, a nonprofit organization focused on taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable diseases in Africa.

3. According to CNN, President Barack Obama on Friday harshly accused the Syrian regime, along with Moscow and Tehran, of slaughtering civilians in Aleppo. During a year-end news conference, Obama said: “We have seen a deliberate strategy of surrounding, besieging and starving innocent civilians. Responsibility for this brutality lies in one place alone: the Assad regime and its allies Russia and Iran. The blood for these atrocities are on their hands.” He added, “The Assad regime cannot slaughter its way to legitimacy.” Asked about the fact the US didn’t get involved, Obama said, “Because I am president of the United States, I feel responsible.”

4. According to the Hill, President-elect Donald Trump responded Saturday to first lady Michelle Obama’s statement that the country does not currently feel it has hope. Trump said in Mobile, Ala., on the final stop of his “thank you” tour: “We have tremendous hope, and we have tremendous promise and tremendous potential. And I actually think she made that statement not meaning it the way it came out.” Trump noted that he met with President Obama and Michelle Obama following his Nov. 8 victory, saying of the first lady, “She could not have been nicer.”

5. According to Mail Online, the Obamas touched down in Hawaii for their final Christmas vacation as the First Family, leaving ongoing trouble with Russia and chilly weather behind in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama waved as he arrived on Friday night at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, adjacent to Honolulu, for the annual family vacation on the island of Oahu. Obama had the islands on his mind as he capped off his final news conference with a ‘Mele Kalikimaka’ – Merry Christmas in Hawaiian – and couldn’t help but smile as he descended the steps of Air Force One around 11pm. The vacation will likely include plenty of rounds of golf, as well as hikes, trips to restaurant Alan Wong’s and eating shaved ice.

6 . According to People, Cam Newton is going to be a dad — again! The Carolina Panthers quarterback, 27, is expecting his second child with longtime love Kia Proctor, his parents Jackie and Cecil Newton tell NBC Charlotte. Newton’s baby on the way will join the couple’s 11-month-old son Chosen Sebastian, who will celebrate his first birthday on Dec. 24. The Newtons were in Charlotte to accept an award on their son’s behalf. Charlotte Magazine named Newton Charlottean of the year for his work in the community.

7. According to the J Hardy Agency, Houston based recording artist Cheryl Fortune is set to embark on her solo recording career with the release of her Lucius B. Hoskins produced debut single “Fighters” set to impact gospel radio January 2017. Cheryl states, “With this single I created an anthem for women that would offer a sense of hope, strength and boldness.” Cheryl Fortune is widely known throughout the gospel music industry as a former member of GRAMMY-nominated and Stellar Award winning recording group James Fortune & FIYA. Most recently she toured with Kirk Franklin on the 20 Years In One Night World Tour.