As cities up and down the East Coast were preparing for the worst from Hurricane Sandy, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders were preparing for a large-scale SBDR response once the storm clears, reports Baptist Press. “This has the potential to be an unusual storm,” said Fritz Wilson, disaster relief team leader for the North American Mission Board. Wilson said SBDR leaders began preparation for response last week. “We worked through the weekend to make sure we have a solid plan in place,” Wilson said. “And not only a plan, but we have already begun to make sure the people to work the plan will be in place to respond and meet needs. This storm could bring a hurricane response and a winter storm response in the same event.” Wilson transported one of NAMB’s recovery units to Harrisburg, Pa., Monday. The Pennsylvania-South Jersey state convention’s mission house in Harrisburg will serve as the area command center for the storm response. Given the wide range of possible damage and the potentially large area affected, Wilson said he fully expects multiple incident command centers to be established for the response. Also, the Salvation Army National Capital Area Command was preparing to respond to Hurricane Sandy as it slowly made its way up the eastern seaboard toward the National Capital region, the Christian relief organization announced. In working with the National Capital and Virginia Division, local Emergency Disaster Services Teams made up of officers, staff, and volunteers will deploy to areas affected by the storm. The Salvation Army is staging a small fleet of mobile kitchen units capable of providing 1,500 meals each. The Salvation Army said it would provide continuous updates to local media as well as on a local website, and on both Twitter and Facebook. The Salvation Army National Capital Area Command assisted more than 73,000 individuals and families throughout the year by providing a diverse range of social services. This includes disaster relief for first responders and residents, feeding for the hungry, providing assistance for the disabled, an outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing, nutrition and shelter to the homeless, and opportunities for underprivileged children.

Other news:

  • A new ad by the Obama campaign featuring HBO Girls star Lena Dunham talking about her “first time” has drawn the ire of conservative women, reports The Christian Post, who are offended by the ad’s sexual nature, saying that it belittles women by portraying them as caring only about reproductive services. Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America issued a statement following the release of the ad. “I’m saddened to see the liberal women of this country allow themselves to be painted into a corner and portrayed as single-minded and only concerned about getting free stuff,” Nance said. “I’ve traveled across this country and women of all backgrounds are telling me that this election is not just about their ovaries, they’re thinking about the overall picture of the economy.” CWA’s recently launched a campaign called “She Votes ,” which is designed to educate women on the importance of voting, focusing on the economy and security of their families. The group has held a series of bus tours in key swing states and led voter registration drives at every stop. Nance said she wants women to vote to protect their interest and rights as well, but says, “Most women in the country understand that this presidential election does not revolve around reproductive services and free contraceptives. It’s about the future of women and how they can help protect their families and secure their economic future at the same time.”
  • Legalizing gay marriage will lead to it being taught as normative in elementary schools, according to new TV ads in three states where the issue is on the ballot, reports Baptist Press. The 30-second advertisements in Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota all feature a couple, David and Tonia Parker, who live in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal. “After Massachusetts redefined marriage, local schools taught it to children in second grade, including the school our son attended,” David Parker says to the camera. “Courts ruled parents have no right to take their children out of class—or to even be informed when this instruction was going to take place.” In the Maryland version of the ad, Tonia Parker then says, “If Question 6 passes, same-sex marriage could be taught in local Maryland schools, just as it was in Massachusetts. Don’t make the same mistake and think that gay marriage won’t affect you.” The Parkers’ story is true, notes the report. In 2006, two years after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, the teacher in their son’s second-grade class read the students King & King, a story about a prince who searches for a wife, only to choose another prince as his husband. The Parkers and another couple filed a lawsuit in federal court against the school, but a lower court ruled against them, asserting that “diversity is a hallmark of our nation” and that such diversity “includes differences in sexual orientation.” An appeals court upheld the decision. Maryland residents are voting on Question 6 while Maine voters are considering Question 1. Passage of either one will legalize gay marriage; traditional groups are urging a “no” vote. Out West, Washington State citizens will vote on Referendum 74, which also would legalize gay marriage if passed. In Minnesota, pro-family groups are urging a “yes” vote on Amendment 1, which would amend the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Meanwhile, President Obama—who supports same-sex marriage—has endorsed the pro-gay marriage initiatives in Maine, Maryland, and Washington.
  • The next conflict involving Israel will not be another skirmish, according to a terrorism analyst for the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, reports WorldNetDaily. “They [have] been saying that in the next war, the stakes will be much higher,” says Benedetta Berti. “It will be a decisive war.” That the stakes are high was affirmed by a statement from Hezbollah on an English-language website that in the case of war the Galilee region of Israel will be targeted. Hezbollah has its sights on Galilee because military strategists say it is a key location between the Golan Heights to the east and Lebanon to the north and west. Berti adds that the rhetoric has become more intense since the 2006 war. “After 2006 they’ve been talking a lot about the escalation of the next conflict. [Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan] Nasrallah said to me that in the last war, there were limited rockets in the north. In the next war they’ll be aiming for all of Israel. He’s giving the idea of rockets in the Golan and trying to create the idea of strategic parity. Talk of the Galilee in this context, trying to say Hezbollah is much more powerful, and they’re trying to say they can inflict a much greater blow in the next round.” Middle East Forum Executive Director Daniel Pipes says he believes Hezbollah’s claim is more than an empty threat. “Hezbollah attacked the Galilee in 2006 and did considerable damage. There is every reason to think that its capabilities have increased since then,” Pipes said.
  • A report from a California-based research group on the third quarter earnings of Chick-fil-A has shown that the company experienced growth in its business during the fallout from this past summer’s controversy. According to Sandelman & Associates of San Clemente, the evangelical Christian-led fast-food chain experienced a 2.2 percent increase in visits from customers from July to September. Paul Clarke, spokesman for Sandelman & Associates, provided The Christian Post with a press release regarding the data from the group’s Quick Track Study. “Despite protests and predictions that the fast-food chain would be hurt by the publicity, Chick-fil-A appears stronger now,” reads the statement. “When compared with the same period 2011, Chick-fil-A in Q3 broadened its past-month user base (chain ‘regulars’) in 28 of the 35 U.S. media markets where the fast-food restaurant chain is monitored in Sandelman & Associates’ Quick-Track study.” Sandelman & Associates, which describes itself as a “market research firm that tracks attitudes, awareness and usage for the restaurant industry,” noted other trends positive towards Chick-fil-A.
  • A new book authored by Eric Foley of Colorado Springs–based Seoul USA chronicles three generations of one family who kept the faith in spite of North Korea’s hostile and deadly approach to Christianity among its citizens, reports These Are the Generations starts with the Bae family (not the family’s real name) beginning with the inception of the North Korean state. In the 1960s Christianity was purged from the country and believers were executed, Bibles were burned, and churches torn down. A remnant, representing about 100,000 people, still exists in a  underground church. Foley was able to interview Mr. Bae about his grandfather and mother raising their own children very quietly as Christians. Foley recounts the story of Bae spending a year in prison after a coworker observed that Bae and his wife had a successful marriage while the coworker did not.
  • Republicans are touting a list of newspapers that have switched their endorsements from then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008 to Gov. Mitt Romney in , reports Their list is topped by the Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in swing-state Iowa. But it also includes five Florida papers—Florida Today, the Orlando Sentinel, the Pensacola News Journal, Naples Daily News, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel—plus the Quad City Times, on the border between Iowa and Illinois. Other newspapers in Republican Texas and Democratic New York, California, and Illinois have also flipped to the Republican presidential contender from 2008, when they endorsed Obama. In other news, Fox News reports that President Obama declined to answer directly whether a CIA annex was denied urgent requests for military assistance during the deadly attacks last month on U.S. outposts in Libya. The president did not give a yes-or-no answer Friday when asked pointedly whether the Americans under attack in Benghazi, Libya, were denied requests for help during the attack.
  • A leading secular humanist died at his home in Amherst, N.Y. Philosopher Paul Kurtz, 86, was called many unflattering names during his long career, including “Satanic free-thinker” and “dangerous corrupter of young minds.” But the name some of his critics considered most damning was the one he most prized. They called him a secular humanist. “You can call me a skeptic, a non-theist, an atheist, an agnostic, a skeptical, agnostic atheist, but the best term,” Kurtz, a champion of science and debunker of religions and the supernatural, told the Associated Press years ago, “is secular humanist. I have a philosophy, a point of view, and I express it.” Kurtz was born in Newark, N.J., on Dec. 31, 1925, the son of a free-thinking businessman and a homemaker. He was not raised Jewish and for a time affiliated with the Unitarian Church. He left when he realized “you can lead a good life without being a member of a church,” according to a 1987 Chicago Tribune interview. He wrote or edited more than 45 books, the last of which is a work on planetary ethics scheduled to be released by Prometheus next year. Jonathan Kurtz said his father was not afraid of death and spent a “joyful” final day telling jokes and discussing his favorite football team. “His true religion,” his son said, “was the NFL and the Buffalo Bills.” He took, not surprisingly, a philosophical approach to death. “If I went to heaven or hell,” he once said, “I’d try to create a revolution. I’d immediately pass out pamphlets, asking God to change the furniture in the universe and reorder it in a more just way.”
  • An analysis of public records by the National Legal and Policy Center has found more than $20 million in federal stimulus funds benefiting real estate projects financially tied to Joseph Shepard, husband of Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, reports Earlier this month, the AP published an analysis stating, “businesses affiliated with the husband of Senator Claire McCaskill have received almost $40 million in federal subsidies for low-income housing developments during her first five years in office.” The NLPC analysis released today showed more than $20 million in financial benefits from the federal stimulus law to real estate projects associated with McCaskill’s husband, with all of the $20 million benefiting projects different than those identified by the AP story. There is no question that Senator McCaskill was deeply involved in the policies and politics of the stimulus bill signed into law by President Obama on Feb. 17, 2009, said the report. The public record shows Senator McCaskill speaking in favor of it on the Senate floor, supporting amendments, voting for it, and issuing press statements about it.
  • Egyptian authorities confiscated some 1.7 million documents reportedly proving Jewish ownership of land and assets in Cairo, reports Worthy News. The documents were reportedly about to be shipped out of the country to Israel, in what the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram is calling “the most dangerous case of security breach in history.” The documents were found in 13 large cases, ready to be transported to Jordan and from there to Israel, Egyptian media reported Sunday. Elaph, a Saudi-owned news site, reported that Egyptian police received notice that the packages were being held at a shipping company in the Nasser City district of Cairo. Upon arriving at the scene, police found over 1.7 million documents dating back to the 19th century, dealing with Jewish ownership of assets in Cairo. The documents, according to the security source speaking to the Saudi site, weighed over two tons. According to Elaph, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is personally following the case. Preliminary investigations have revealed that the documents were supposed to be used in an Israeli lawsuit involving Jewish property lost in Egypt’s 1952 revolution, the site reported. According to Elaph, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is personally following the case, which it said affects Egypt’s national security. The documents were reportedly stolen on Dec. 16, 2011, from a Cairo research institution, the Institut d’Égypte, during public riots that erupted following president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.