LISTEN: Urban Christian News Network Weekend Report (01/03/15)

1. According to Reuters, New York City police guards saluted as Mayor Bill de Blasio entered a Brooklyn funeral home on Saturday with his police commissioner for the wake of the second of two patrol officers killed in an ambush last month. Ahead of the wake for Wenjian Liu, believed to be the city’s first Chinese-American officer killed in the line of duty, Commissioner Bill Bratton told his force to refrain from the “act of disrespect” seen at the funeral of Liu’s partner, when some of those in uniform turned their backs on de Blasio. On Saturday, a few hundred mourners, a majority of whom were police officers in dress blue uniforms, lined up on a frigid and snowy afternoon outside the funeral home to pay respect to Officer Liu. The killing of Liu and another police officer — Rafael Ramos who was laid to rest last week — has strained the already frayed relations between the rank and file and De Blasio, who was a critic of police policies when he ran for office in 2013.

2. According to the Associated Press, the United States says its new round of sanctions against North Korea is just the opening salvo in its response to an unprecedented cyberattack on Sony. Yet there may be little else the U.S. can do to further isolate a country that already has few friends in the world. Even the latest sanctions, handed down by President Barack Obama in an executive order, may not sting quite as badly as U.S. would have hoped. After all, North Korea is already under a strict sanctions regime imposed by the U.S. over the North’s nuclear program.

3. According to the Christian Science Monitor, a seven-year-old Illinois girl was the only survivor of a prop-plane crash in Kentucky on Friday, joining a short list of people who have walked away from tragic airline disasters. Authorities have not yet named the girl, whose immediate family, including her parents, a sister and cousin, died in the crash. The girl walked several miles before she found an occupied house.

4. According to the Associated Press, Masked gunmen in central Libya kidnapped 13 Coptic Christians on Saturday after seven were abducted days earlier, in a new wave of assaults against Egypt’s Christians working in the war-torn North African nation plagued with Islamic extremists. A witness said that the gunmen in the Libyan city of Sirte went room to room in their residence at 2:30 a.m. Saturday and asked for identification papers to separate Muslim workers from Christians. Aziz says the gunmen handcuffed the Christians and drove away with them. Abu Makar, a Coptic priest in the workers’ hometown in southern Egypt, confirmed the abduction took place.

5. According to The Guardian, Iran has denied striking a deal with the U.S. to reduce Tehran’s potential ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, following earlier reports that an agreement had been reached. The Associated Press said on Friday that Tehran and Washington had agreed the outline of a deal under which Iran would ship its surplus enriched uranium to Russia. It also said negotiators had drawn up a catalogue outlining areas of potential agreement and differences in the long-running dispute. Iran’s foreign ministry spokeswoman said, however, that “no agreement on any nuclear topic” had been reached.

6. According to the New York Times, Israel is withholding $127 million in tax revenue it collects for the Palestinian Authority in response to its move last week to join the International Criminal Court, further escalating tensions with a step that could have serious repercussions for both sides. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said Saturday that the Israeli move could lead to the disintegration of the 20-year-old authority because it would be unable to pay government workers or provide public services. He vowed to retaliate by expediting the petitions to join the court and other international agencies and said Israel “will be held accountable for everything.”

7. According to The Associated Press, Thousands of Australians fled their homes as wildfires raged across the nation’s south on Saturday, with firefighters struggling to contain the blazes fanned by strong winds. Six homes were destroyed by the fires in South Australia and Victoria states, officials said, though no serious injuries have been reported. Dry conditions and temperatures in the upper 30s Celsius (around 100 degrees Fahrenheit) were causing headaches for firefighters battling the blazes. Officials said it would likely take days to get the fires under control.

8. According to The Washington Post, Indonesian officials have said that AirAsia was not authorized to fly from Surabaya to Singapore the day that one of its passenger jets attempted the route and crashed into the Java Sea amid poor weather conditions. Transportation Ministry Spokesman J.A. Barata told the Wall Street Journal that the air carrier was only allowed to make the flight four days of the week, but not on Sunday. He said, “AirAsia has committed a violation of the route that has been given to them,” noting that the company’s flights from Surabaya to Singapore were suspended as a result on Friday.

9. According to the Times of Israel, In initiating a war crimes probe against Israel with the International Criminal Court, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may fall afoul of US legislation that would mandate defunding the Palestinian Authority. The US funds the PA to the tune of some $400 million per year. An unidentified Palestinian source claimed that Abbas signed a request Thursday asking the ICC to investigate war crimes allegedly “committed in Palestine” since the summer. This action may tip the scales in Washington, where there is already bipartisan frustration with Abbas’s decision to put a Palestinian statehood resolution before the United Nations. Aaron David Miller, a former presidential advisor and a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said, “I think the odds of defunding are higher than they ever were before.”

10. According to Bloomberg, President Barack Obama’s administration has been working behind the scenes for months to forge a new working relationship with Russia, despite the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown little interest in repairing relations with Washington or halting his aggression in neighboring Ukraine. This month, Obama’s National Security Council finished an extensive and comprehensive review of U.S policy toward Russia that included dozens of meetings and input from the State Department, Defense Department and several other agencies. At the end of the sometimes-contentious process, Obama made a decision to continue to look for ways to work with Russia on a host of bilateral and international issues while also offering Putin a way out of the stalemate over the crisis in Ukraine.

As you go throughout this day, keep this word in mind. Titus 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”

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.