Sky Links, 3-24-18

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he kept on talking until midnight.
-Acts 20:7

The Only Reason We're Examining Facebook's Sleazy Behavior is Because Trump Won
-Michael Krieger

The more I read about the recent Facebook scandal, it’s clear this sort of thing’s been going on for a very long time. The major difference is this time the data mining was used by campaign consultants of the person who wasn’t supposed to win. Donald Trump.

To get a sense of what I mean, let’s take a look at some excerpts from a deeply troubling article recently published at the Guardian, ‘Utterly Horrifying’: Ex-Facebook Insider Says Covert Data Harvesting Was Routine:

Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.

Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach…

Parakilas, whose job was to investigate data breaches by developers similar to the one later suspected of Global Science Research, which harvested tens of millions of Facebook profiles and provided the data to Cambridge Analytica, said the slew of recent disclosures had left him disappointed with his superiors for not heeding his warnings.

“It has been painful watching,” he said, “because I know that they could have prevented it”…

Asked what kind of control Facebook had over the data given to outside developers, he replied: “Zero. Absolutely none. Once the data left Facebook servers there was not any control, and there was no insight into what was going on.”

Parakilas said he “always assumed there was something of a black market” for Facebook data that had been passed to external developers. However, he said that when he told other executives the company should proactively “audit developers directly and see what’s going on with the data” he was discouraged from the approach.

He said one Facebook executive advised him against looking too deeply at how the data was being used, warning him: “Do you really want to see what you’ll find?” Parakilas said he interpreted the comment to mean that “Facebook was in a stronger legal position if it didn’t know about the abuse that was happening”.

Breaching the Public Trust – Facebook is the Beginning
-Tom Loungo

Last night I was chatting with a friend while waiting for my daughter. She told me her phone now informs her when her bills are due. Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but it is when you realize that she never told her phone to do that.

Her phone is scanning her emails and letting her know her when her electric bill is due.

I told her Google likely pushed down an update which she agreed to without realizing it (or getting the opportunity to opt-out of) which authorized them to not only scan her inbox but set up alerts for her.

She was angry about it, and rightfully so.

This is why I don’t use any of the Google apps on my Android phone. Outlook for email, Opera for my browser. Office for my productivity apps. It was a conscious choice. I moved to Android under protest because Microsoft willfully destroyed Windows Phone.

Subtweeting Our Righteousness Before Men
-Kaitlyn Schiess

When former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador, former FBI director James Comey tweeted from Amos: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Whether that was merely coincidental timing or a skillful subtweet, we may never know.

Pulling out a Bible verse as a response to any given situation is appealing to the user for the same reason it’s so aggravating to everyone else: it mixes plausible deniability with external authority. “Don’t blame me, the Bible said it!” It doesn’t require careful interpretation of Scripture to fire off a verse that (without context) perfectly responds to some argument, event, or cultural trend. (Or maybe it was just coincidental.)

We pull quotes out of context to justify or support any argument, often with little care to how the larger narrative (of Scripture or of Dr. King’s life and work) would help us interpret the one little snippet we want to use.

It turns out that we don’t just use the Bible this way, either. During this year’s Super Bowl, Dodge ran an advertisement that played portions of one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons over shots of American workers. Dr. King is one historical figure that receives this treatment quite often and most egregiously. We pull single lines from his inspirational and lengthy sermons, letters, or speeches and creatively interpret them to fit whatever point we’re trying to make.

Dodge’s advertisement was a particularly troublesome example for many viewers. It was played during the largest event for a sport that has become the source of much controversy over issues of racial justice, particularly concerning “appropriate” or effective forms of protest and activism. King frequently criticized consumerism; the use of his words to sell cars was quickly deemed tasteless and even exploitative.

I Remember
-Duane Arnold

I remember Sharon.

I received a telephone call from a student at the university where I was a chaplain. “Duane, my cousin’s dying from cancer. She wants to talk to a priest and be baptized. Will you see her?”

I really wanted to say, “No”, to refer the young man to the hospital chaplain. I was tired. I had a class to prepare. In the end, however, more from guilt than from compassion, I said, “Yes”. God, however, works even through guilt and, unknown to myself, I embarked on a journey that led through the waters of baptism and death to the release of souls and the glimpsing of rainbows.

I met Sharon on a dark afternoon in February. Lent was about to begin. She was slumped on a chair in her room – swollen feet propped on a stool, legs covered with a blanket, a bathrobe draped over skeletal shoulders, a bandana wrapped around a bald head – a forty-six year-old divorced mother of two, with only days to live.

As I walked in, she smiled. In that moment, one of the quiet miracles in my life took place. A peace that only comes from enduring unspeakable pain flooded the room with light and warmth. In an instant, her smile erased all my seminary-learned strategies of care for the dying. Before we exchanged names, I was conscious that she was to teach and I was to learn about dying and living.

-Jen Murphy

Buettner has distilled his findings into articles for National Geographic and in a bestselling series of books titled The Blue Zones. In a nutshell, he says, the world’s longest-living people move naturally, eat wisely, connect with community, and have a positive outlook. We asked Buettner about his work and play habits and how he incorporates his happiness findings into his own life.

On His Job Description: “I make complex ideas simple.”

On His Hours: “One could argue that I work all the time or that I screw off all the time. It depends on how you define work. If work is defined by something you don’t like to do, then I work one hour a day. If it’s defined as engaging the brain and moving a goal forward, then I work 12 hours a day. I usually write all morning until noon. Those are my sharpest hours.”

On His Workspace: “Consummately portable and thus perfect. I always have my laptop with me. I work better on a plane or sitting cross-legged outside.”

...On What He Eats for Breakfast: “I’m a huge believer in oatmeal, but today I had dal with coconut and chiles. People in blue zones mostly eat a savory breakfast. The four pillars of the longevity diet are whole grains, nuts, greens, and beans. That last one is the most important longevity food anywhere. I’ve become quite a bean virtuoso. Americans have no idea how to make beans taste good. They’re cheap and take on a lovely, meaty flavor if cooked right. People say they can’t afford to eat healthy, and it makes my eyes roll. At Costco, a 25-pound bag of pinto beans costs $8.97. I can eat for year off that bag.”

Scandal Questions Never Asked, Much Less Answered
-Victor Davis Hanson

Sometimes the hysteria of crowds causes them to overlook the obvious. Here is a series of 12 questions that do not seem to trouble anyone, but the answers to these should expose why so many of the people today alleging scandals should themselves be considered scandalous.

1) Had Hillary Clinton won the election, would we now even know of a Fusion GPS dossier? Would assorted miscreants such as Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Lisa Page, Glenn Simpson, Christopher Steele, or Peter Strzok now be under a cloud of suspicion? Or would they instead have been quietly lionized by a President Clinton grateful for noble services in the shadows rendered during the campaign?

2) If Clinton had won, would we now know of any Russian-supplied smears against Donald Trump? Would a FISA judge now be complaining that he was misled in a warrant request? Would likely Attorney General Loretta Lynch be reassigning Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr for his consultations with Fusion GPS operatives? Or would Russian operatives alone be likely, at an opportune moment, to threaten to leak to the media that they had given salacious material to Clinton operatives to ensure her election, and thus they were to be owed for their supposed help in ensuring a Clinton victory? Would anyone be now listening to a losing candidate Donald Trump making wild charges that he had been smeared in the closing days of his campaign by leaks of a Clinton cabal that drew on Russian help?

As His Plot to Destroy Trump Backfires, His Squeals Grow Louder
-George Neumayr

It was the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky who coined the phrase the “dustbin of history.” To his political opponents, he sputtered, “You are pitiful, isolated individuals! You are bankrupts. Your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on — into the dustbin of history!”

It is no coincidence that John Brennan, who supported the Soviet-controlled American Communist Party in the 1970s (he has acknowledged that he thought his vote for its presidential candidate Gus Hall threatened his prospects at the CIA; unfortunately, it didn’t), would borrow from Trotsky’s rhetoric in his fulminations against Donald Trump. His tweet last week, shortly after the firing of Andrew McCabe, reeked of Trotskyite revolutionary schlock: “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America… America will triumph over you.”

America will triumph over a president it elected? That’s the raw language of coup, and of course it is not the first time Brennan has indulged it. In 2017, he was calling for members of the executive branch to defy the chief executive. They should “refuse to carry out” his lawful directives if they don’t agree with them, he said.

Trump has said that the Russians are “laughing their asses off” over the turmoil caused by Obamagate. No doubt many of the laughs come at the sight of Brennan, a supporter of Soviet stooges like Gus Hall, conducting a de facto coup from the top of the CIA and then continuing it after his ouster. Who needs Gus Hall when John Brennan is around? This time the Russians don’t even have to pay for the anti-American activity.

-Jeffrey Lord

Let’s recall that what got us to this point is that when to their horror, the friends of Hillary in various government agencies like the FBI, the CIA and the DIA realized she had lost and Donald Trump was in fact set to be the next president, they set to work. The critical part is the Trump/Russia collusion narrative would not have worked unless the likes of Brennan/CIA, Clapper/DIA/ and Comey/McCabe/Strzok from the FBI started feeding leaks to various friendlies in the media. Everybody leaked to the media and they had their constituency with this or that favorite reporter. The question now: Is this still going on? Based on the evidence, the answer is yes.

Pray For Leah: Boko Haram Refuses to Release Christian Teen
-Liberty Mcartor

A 15-year-old Nigerian schoolgirl remains in Boko Haram captivity after the release of her classmates, International Christian Concern announced Thursday.

On Wednesday Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” released almost all of the 110 girls they kidnapped from a boarding school in the town of Dapchi last month. But they refused to release one — Leah Sharibu — because of her Christian faith. The girls they released are Muslim.

The Associated Press confirmed the news, along with one girl who was released. “One girl, Leah, is still with them because she is a Christian,” student Khadija Grema told The Punch.

Walking, Prayer, and C.S. Lewis
-Matt Brough

Last spring, I had an eleven week sabbatical. It was so refreshing, and helped me discover so much about faith and life. But something really surprised me about my time off. Something completely unexpected became a major theme for me and is still sticking with me half a year later.


That’s right – Walking.

The first three weeks of my sabbatical were intended to disconnect from the realities of the congregation, to read or re-read a number of C.S. Lewis books in preparation for the course I would be taking in week 4, and to spend time in prayer.

I had decided that I would use Canadian Mennonite University as a place to study, and for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to walk there each day from home. I discovered that the walk was about 90 minutes. On the way, I would generally listen to audio book versions of Surprised By Joy and Mere Christianity, as well as spend time praying. Some time was spent walking through the dust kicked up by the wind and the speeding cars along Roblin Blvd., but the best time was spend on the trails of the Assiniboine Forest (largest urban forest in Canada, by the way).

Why We Should All Be Reading Aloud to Children
-Rebecca Bellingham

Three Reasons to Teach on The Fear of The Lord
-Bob Sorge

What is the fear of the Lord? Consider this definition: A trembling zeal to obey every word of His mouth. It’s a treasure He gives His favorites (Isa 33:6).

The fear of the Lord was a powerful component in the atmosphere of the early church in the book of Acts. It preserved the integrity of the church in an era of explosive growth. In contrast, we don’t hear much about it today.

Why do we tend to minimize or overlook teaching on the fear of the Lord? When we neglect it, it’s for all the wrong reasons. It’s time to dig up this doctrine, dust it off, and equip today’s believers and also our own children in this essential ingredient to a healthy Christian walk.

I’d like to suggest three reasons to teach the fear of the Lord to this generation.

  1. We don’t understand it as we should.
  2. Since Jesus taught it, so should we.
  3. The benefits of the fear of the Lord are too marvelous to forfeit.

Global Warming: The Evolution of a Hoax
-Dale Leuck

The only real proof of the scientific theory was computer models, programmed to assume that increasing carbon dioxide was the most important factor driving climate. One of those who objected to the "predetermined" conclusions of such models was Dr. Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His 1992 paper pointed out that the models ignored other important factors that would have had cooling effects – namely, water vapor, cloud cover, and oceans. Lindzen also noted that global temperatures had risen in the 1920s and 1930s, when carbon dioxide emissions were comparatively low, but fell back between 1940 and the 1970s, when emissions were rising much more steeply. He also concluded that the models would have predicted a 20th-century warming four times more than actually recorded. Some of Lindzen's criticisms are demonstrated in the chart below, from NASA GISS data. One should note that the GISS frequently "adjusts" its data to be consistent with warming, so the data in the chart do not reflect those available to Lindzen at the time.

Lindzen also focused on how an "illusion of a consensus" had been used to dominate public debate by marginalizing credible scientists who evaluated the same data and disagreed with the prevailing conclusions. He described how influential interest groups had fervently joined the cause of global warming, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the World Wildlife Fund (itself funded by Maurice Strong). Many of these had formerly lobbied against nuclear weapons during the Cold War, which had just ended. While the UCS submitted a petition to combat global warming, only "three or four of them, according to Lindzen, were qualified climate scientists." Frank Press, the president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), stated that "overt advocacy ... tended to delegitimize ... independent advice on science and policy."