Christian Coalition

President Obama’s claim last spring that 8 million people had enrolled in ObamaCare recently got a significant downgrade from the head of the agency overseeing the plan.

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told a congressional committee that "as of August 15, this year, we have 7.3 million Americans enrolled in Health Insurance Marketplace coverage and these are individuals who paid their premiums."

A key part of her statement was Tavenner's reference to those who paid, because just signing up isn't enough to be counted as enrolled.

As Doug Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, explained, "it’s not enough to sign up. You have to sign up and pay on a regular basis to really be enrolled."

That is one reason both state and private insurance officials have been saying their enrollments were shrinking.

"They've deteriorated quite a bit, this was anticipated to some degree, but I think it's exceeded expectations in some cases," said Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

For instance, state officials in Florida say their enrollments are now 220,000 lower than the administration's count in April, going from some 983,000 to just over 762,000, a drop of more than 20 percent.

A state official said some may have been duplicate enrollments because of website problems on Healthcare.gov. The others, he said, just didn't pay their premiums and lost their coverage, a problem insurance companies are also reporting.

Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, said, "I've talked to a number of insurance companies around the industry and they're indicating that they're down as low as 70 percent of the original enrollments they had."

In fact, Mark Bertolini, the CEO of Aetna, the nation's third largest insurer, said recently that his company had 720,000 people sign up for exchange coverage as of May 20, but only 600,000 turned out to be paying customers.

He added he expects that number to fall to "just over 500,000" by the end of the year. That would leave Aetna's paid enrollment down some 30 percent from its original sign-up numbers.

Many analysts think enrollments across the industry will continue to erode.

"So the enrollment that the administration was touting in March and April," Capretta said, "I think you could bring that down by at least 20 percent going into the end of the year."

The Congressional Budget Office is predicting 13 million total enrollments at the end of the next open enrollment in February 2015. So the number they're starting from makes a big difference:

"If we've got closer to 6 million enrolled," Laszewski said, "they'd have to enroll more people in 2015 than they did this past year."

Panelists at a recent congressional hearing on religious freedom criticized the Obama administration for failing to protect or promote religious freedom around the world.

The United States "has had no impact on the global rise of religious persecution," Dr. Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, told  the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security.

"The reality is we have nothing in our religious freedom policy to respond to what's going on in the Middle East now -- nothing, except speeches, words and reports," Farr said.

"We need a strategy that has action as a part of it," he continued. "But here I'm not talking about just talking about strategies, [but] a presidential directive to develop a strategy on religious freedom and national security that will put us in a position to be able to do something."

The panelists encouraged the Senate to approve the recent nomination of Rabbi David Saperstein to serve as the next ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

Thursday marks 13 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Around the country, many are pausing to remember those lost in the tragedy.

At New York City's ground zero, family members read the names of each victim lost more than a decade ago.

"I'm just waiting for the pain to go away," one grieving loved one said.

In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at the Pentagon in Virginia, and at the nation's capital, leaders of the House and Senate presented Congressional Gold Medals honoring the fallen heroes of 9/11.

"With these medals we honor the heroism of first responders and ordinary citizens," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

"We remember the perseverance of the loved ones they left behind and the advocacy of the 9/11 families who turned their grief in to action to make our nation safer," she said.

Meanwhile, in the midst of memorials and ceremonies, another battle rages in the U.S., with many sounding the alarm about the continued threat of terrorists around the globe.

"Thirteen years after 9/11, it's still a dangerous world," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said.

"That threat remains; it is constantly there," NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says it is time to get back on the offense in the war on terrorism.

"The terrorist threat, far from receding like a tide, has been advancing and multiplying. ISIS is now attracting thousands of radicals from Europe and potentially hundreds from the United States eager to join in the slaying of non-believers," Cheney warned.

"A fair number are doubtless eager to return home to Britain, France and elsewhere," he continued. "These are but a few of the features that make the situation today one of the most dangerous we have faced certainly in my lifetime."

Meanwhile, many changes surround the 9/11 anniversary, with One World Trade Center is near completion.

"This buildings success and height is a sign of the revival and resurgence of downtown Manhattan and the city and the state and the region to the events of 9/11," Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, said.

In addition, the National September 11 Memorial Museum has opened and the fences have come down around the memorial plaza.

And in Shanksville, a memorial has been set up marking the spot where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed.

All of these monuments represent efforts to make sure the nation never forgets.

Obamacare's HealthCare.gov website was hacked in July, according to federal health officials.

The Wall Street Journal reports someone hacked into part of the site and uploaded malicious software.

But investigators didn't find any evidence that anyone's personal information was compromised.

"Our review indicates that the server did not contain consumer personal information; data was not transmitted outside the agency, and the website was not specifically targeted," Department of Health and Human Services officials said. "We have taken measures to further strengthen security."

Security was a major issue for HealthCare.gov after the disastrous early rollout.

And analysts say the latest hacking, along with thefts of consumer information from major businesses as well as celebrities' iPhones, shows that personal information still isn't always safe online.

A federal judge in Louisiana has upheld the state's marriage amendment, saying that states have the right to define marriage.

It's the first federal court victory for traditional marriage in more than a year, breaking a string of 20-plus court wins for gay marriage supporters since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said that same-sex marriage advocates failed to prove that the Louisiana amendment violates equal protection or due process provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

He also rejected their contention that the amendment violates the First Amendment by effectively forcing legally married gay couples to state that they are single on Louisiana income tax returns.

The state of Louisiana argued that the Supreme Court decision upholds the rights of state voters and legislatures to define marriage and that the federal government must recognize the right of the states to do so. Feldman sided with the state.

Byron Babione, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative non-profit legal organization, applauded Feldman's decision. 

"The district court in this case was right to conclude, as the U.S. Supreme Court did in its Windsor decision last year, that marriage law is the business of the states," Babione said.

Forum for Equality Louisiana spokesman John Hill says an appeal is planned.

Louisiana voters adopted their marriage amendment in 2004 with a statewide vote of 78 percent.  It defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was among the keynote speakers at a Texas-Americans for Prosperity Summit over the holiday weekend.

The senator took the opportunity to energize his grassroots Tea Party base at the event.

Cruz talked about hot topics, such as the president's Affordable Care Act and how Republicans will target it in 2016.

"In the year 2017, a Republican president in the Rose Garden is going to sign a bill that is going to repeal every word of ObamaCare," he said.

Cruz also told the crowd President Barack Obama needs to respond to the greatest terror threat now facing the free world.

"Isis says they want to go back and reject modernity," he said. "Well I think we should help them; we ought to bomb them back to the stone age."

Cruz elaborated as he delivered one jab after another to the Obama administration.

He criticized the president for not visiting the U.S.-Mexico border during the child immigration crisis. And he called on the United States to stand strong in its defense of Israel.

Texas Governor Rick Perry also spoke at the event. Like Perry, he's considered a top contender for the 2016 Republican presidential candidacy.

"The good news is there are exactly 128 days left until the next Congress convenes with a Republican house and a Republican Senate," Perry told summit participants.

Protests took place outside while Perry spoke, calling on the Texas governor to expand Medicaid in the state and accept the $100-billion in federal funding by adopting some Obamacare provisions.

The mood inside stayed positive.

"The American people are rising up to take our country back, to the restore the American Dream [and] to get back to the free market principles and constitutional liberties this country was built on," Perry told an enthusiastic crowd.

JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation Wednesday evening for the first time since the Egyptian-mediated open-ended ceasefire took effect 24 hours earlier.

The government has already come under fire from Israelis and politicians for not going far enough in the battle against Hamas. But Netanyahu said despite all the blather from Hamas, Israel dealt a heavy blow to the terrorist organization.

Flanked by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, the prime minister explained why he believes Operation Protective Edge met its two primary goals: to decimate the terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip as much as possible and to achieve long-term quiet for Israel.

"I can say that Hamas was indeed hit hard," Netanyahu said.

As to whether the quiet will last, it's too early to tell, he said. But Israel is prepared for "all possibilities" and will respond more harshly than ever to even a "drizzle" of rockets.

Despite the raucous victory celebration in Gaza City Tuesday evening, Hamas walked away from the ceasefire agreement virtually empty-handed, failing to achieve any of its goals, Netanyahu told Israelis in the televised speech.

Outside of Egypt agreeing to open the Rafah border crossing, Israel agreeing to transfer building material and extend the boundary for Gaza fisherman, none of its earlier demands were met, he said.

"There is no connection between reality and the celebrations in Gaza," Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad told Israel's Channel 2 news, Arutz Sheva reported.

Gilad, a member of the Israeli negotiating team in Cairo, said Hamas agreed to the ceasefire because Israel defeated its fighting forces and not for any other reason.

"In the end Hamas did not get anything and agreed to the [ceasefire] deal against its will," he said.

Boasting by Hamas leaders, including Ismail Haniyeh, Mahmoud al-Zahar and Sami Abu Zuhri, who emerged from their hiding places to appear at Tuesday night's rally, doesn't change the group's severely depleted rocket cache, smashed tunnels, or thousands of houses reduced to rubble.

The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and the massive rocket salvos on Israeli citizens sparked the 50-day war that left an estimated 300,000 Gazans homeless.

Israel lost 65 soldiers and five civilians in the conflict, including a four-year-old boy. Israel estimated it had killed 1,000 terrorists, including at least three senior Hamas commanders.

Gazan civilian casualties, about the same number, were noncombatants, many of whom Hamas apparently deliberately put in harm's way as fodder for its media campaign against the Jewish nation-state.

But despite the usual international backlash against Israel, Hamas suffered such a huge setback that its leaders felt compelled to accept the ceasefire proposal, Gilad said.

"Hamas agreed to a [ceasefire] deal because we broke them militarily, not for any other reason," Gilad said. "In the end, Hamas did not get anything and agreed to the deal against its will."

JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel is literally the West's frontline in confronting radical Islamic groups, former Israeli National Security Advisor Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror said.

Less than a day after Israel agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas, following 50 days of fighting in the south, an Israeli army officer was moderately wounded along Israel's northern border on the Golan Heights by gunfire emanating from Syria.

Israel responded with artillery fire at a Syrian army post. Israel said it holds the Syrian army responsible for all cross-border fire.

Amidror, currently with the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, told journalists in a conference call on Wednesday that Israel may find itself leading the Western war against radical Islam.

"Israel might be literally the front of the West toward the radical Islam[ic] movements," Amidror said. "It is true about Gaza, relating to Hamas, and it might be true about al-Nusra [Front] if they succeed to take control on the Golan Heights."

But Amidror said it's not just a threat to Israel; it's a threat to the West.

"And I think that this is a very important issue to remember because those threats of radical Islam are not going to stop on the frontiers of Israel, but the West and democratic countries and others will have to face it near home sooner or later," he said.

"In many cases in history they begin with the Jews and they continue with others," he added.

The Syrian army has been fighting rebel forces, including the al-Nusra Front for control of southern Syria, along Israel's northern border for the past two years.

Earlier Wednesday, some reports said al-Nusra had actually taken control of the Quneitra border crossing, normally manned by United Nations peacekeeping forces.

And it may not stop with the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front on its Golan Heights border. The Islamic State (ISIS) may not be far behind.

The Israeli daily Ha'aretz referred to unnamed officers of the IDF's northern command, saying the Islamic State "is already knocking on the door of the Golan Heights."

Amidror said Israel needs to make its position very clear on the northern border.

"As in the previous battles between the regime and the rebels, we are not in a position to determine the process in Syria, and we are not the one who should be [doing] the dirty [work] for the Assad regime," Amidror said.

"We should be very clear about our red lines. No one will cross the border. If someone will try, we will kill him. And if someone will launch rockets or artillery toward Israel, our retaliation will be immediate whether it's the Syrian regular army or the rebels," he said.

"We should not interfere on the other side of the border to save one side or the other," he added.

At the same time, Israel should continue to help in a humanitarian way by treating injured Syrians. Israel has already treated hundreds of wounded Syrians who have mysteriously crossed the border.

The Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday forecast that the U.S. economy will grow by just 1.5 percent in 2014, undermined by a poor performance during the first three months of the year.

The new assessment was considerably more pessimistic than the Obama administration's, which predicted last month that the economy would expand by 2.6 percent this year even though it contracted by an annual rate of 2.1 percent in the first quarter.

The economy did grow by 0.9 percent during the first half of 2014.

Looking ahead, the CBO said it expected the economy to grow by 3.4 percent over 2015 and 2016, and predicted that the unemployment rate would remain below 6 percent into the future.

The economy went into reverse at the beginning of this year, reeling from an unusually harsh winter that disrupted consumer spending, factory production and other business activity.

Growth in the gross domestic product, the economy's total output of goods and services, recovered in the second quarter, advancing at an annual rate of 4 percent, according to the government's first estimate. That forecast will be revised on Thursday.

Even with the rebound, economists have lowered their outlook for the entire year, given the weak start. Economists at JPMorgan Chase are forecasting that the economy will grow by 1.9 percent this year, when measured from the fourth quarter, down from 3.1 percent in 2013.

The CBO also projected that the government would run a deficit of $506 billion for the budget year that ends Sept. 30. That would be the lowest level of Barack Obama's presidency.

The CBO foresees a slight increase from its earlier $492 billion projection of this year's deficit but also modest improvement over the coming decade.

Obama inherited a recession and a trillion-dollar-plus deficit picture when he took office in the aftermath of the 2008 fiscal crisis. The economy has recovered more slowly than hoped; some of the recent drop in the jobless rate is due to frustrated job-seekers leaving the labor market.

The report confirms a trend of short-term improvement in the deficit but an unsustainable long-term fiscal path if Washington doesn't cut spending or raise additional revenue.

Over the long term, the CBO said "the large and increasing amount of federal debt would have serious negative consequences" including the risk of a crisis that could raise interest rates.

The latest numbers come as the GOP-controlled House and Obama are taking a break from the budget, debt and tax battles that have flared up several times since Republicans won back the House in 2010.

Obama did not see attacking the deficit as a priority during his first term. Republicans forced him to the negotiating table in 2011 and extracted more than $2 trillion in spending cuts over the following decade, though little of that savings came from big benefit programs such as Medicare.

A traitor is a person, country or group that betrays and is disloyal to another by helping or supporting its enemy.  Yes, there are groups of Jews and Christians, including the liberal base of the U.S. Democrat Party, which can be labeled as traitors to Israel.  Europeans who were exposed to Nazism and Fascism before and during WWII are now participating in anti-Semitic protests.  Israel has been suffering terrorizing rocket attacks over the past decade and decided to defend her citizens.  Israel needed to destroy Hamas terror tunnels and Hamas’ ability to rain rockets down on Israeli towns and cities.  Astonishingly, the traitor protesters are favoring Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, but not Israel!  How is this possible?

Question:  how does the elevation of Hamas and its unscrupulous barbarian dictators who harm, oppress, mistreat and show no justice towards their own innocent people, jive with groups who say they want “justice and freedom for all” under the umbrella of democracy?  Either their democracy means something different from our democracy, or these groups are blatantly betraying Israel and their own “so-called” cause of freedom. 

Do the traitors not know about the huge numbers of Jewish scientists, scholars, teachers, pastors and leaders who were slaughtered in the Holocaust?  Do they not recognize the monumental impact for technological advancement today’s Israelis have been consistently bringing to the world for the benefit of all humanity?  Do they not recognize that Western values match Jewish values?  For example, Israel is a Jewish nation which preserves and protects the religious freedom of all, without discrimination, to practice their religion and this includes secularism.  The ultra-Orthodox do not run the Israeli government unless a majority elects them.  Israel promotes free speech.  The liberality of custom and religion are obvious on Israel’s streets.  Israel identifies with her European counterparts and is the total opposite of Middle East Muslim fundamentalist religion-based totalitarian rule.  Arabs actually serve in positions of authority within Israel’s government.  Israel’s technological advancements and cultural achievements are not reflective of the gene pool but rather of the culture of freedom.  So, how is it possible to have sympathy for terrorists and condemn Israel?

North Korea and Iran display goose-stepping hooded troops on parade for all the world to see.   Islamists parade with plastic bombs strapped to their side.  Have you ever seen Israeli troops with sunglasses and chests full of tawdry metals parade like that in Israel?  No!  Israel’s soldiers are warm, friendly (men and women) who seem to enjoy one another’s company.  Their officers are more like the army of the United States than of tyrannical dictators and Mullahs.  Again, how can anyone who values freedom and democracy possibly have any sympathy at all for Hamas and other terrorist organizations?

Before I get to the crux of the issue, nestled in with the anti-Semitic headlines is this glimmer of hope: “Hundreds of young American Jews arrive in Israel…young American and Canadian Jews have arrived…ready to join the Israeli army despite the ongoing conflict in Gaza.”   God bless those who stand true to Israel and her democratic and spiritually positive leadership.

The question is, what is the “why” behind these headlines:   “True Torah Jews are Against Zionism,” or “French Jews Stand Firm as Anti-Israel Voices Grow Louder, and boast that hate crimes against Jews are on the rise in Europe.”  In the U.S., Jews were reported to march in a NYC rally against Israel’s war in Gaza. This disturbing announcement caught my attention: “Christians Against Jews.”  A July 15, 2011, article reported the World Council of Churches, a collection of some 347 Protestant churches and denominations with more than 500 million Christians world-wide, during a conference held in Jordan in 2007, called for a crusade to end the Jews’ occupation of their Biblical land. Also, consider this bite from the Democratic National Convention in 2012:  many of the pro-Israel delegates were disturbed that the party platform committee eliminated traditional language recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; they couldn’t muster a simple majority.   Thankfully, the Republican leaders and most Americans stand solidly with Israel and the Jewish people.

It is a given that moderate Arab states merely tolerate Israel, and Islamic states are violently against Israel.  Add into the mix of countries (and people groups) openly or secretly fighting for, or yearning for, Israel’s demise, such as some Christians, the U.S. liberal Democrats, Europeans and even Jewish groups, and we see an extremely disturbing trend.  These groups are striking matches to light up anti-Israel/Jewish fires that conjure up visions of the conditions which led up to WWII.  Shouldn’t protesting traitors (who enjoy freedom that came from the sacrifices of others) be locked arm-in-arm with Israel in pursuit of democracy and justice and freedom for all?

Or does Shakespeare’s “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” …that the word democracy doth another meaning have in the minds of, and according to, the intentions of the traitors who doth protest and agitate!   The “Mission Statement” of “Socialism and Democracy online” reads:  “Socialism and Democracy is committed to showing the relevance of socialist politics and vision… the perspective is broadly Marxist…”   Oh dear.  Marxist?  Socialist?  That’s not my view of democracy.  Is it yours?

“To what end do you seek?” we ask the World Council of Churches.  Perhaps, assuming the demise of Israel to be the ultimate goal of anti-Semitic protesters, Israel’s traitors should experience living among the barbarians and under heathen Hamas to get a big taste what it will feel like to live under their thumbs before they push Israel, and others who value real freedom and democracy, over the cliff.