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Weekly Briefings with Dr. Nick Pitts

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1. White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up In Syria Chemical Attack
“A four-page report drawn up by the National Security Council contains declassified United States intelligence on the attack and a rebuttal of Moscow’s claim that insurgents unleashed the gas to frame the Syrian government. Instead, the White House asserted that Damascus and Moscow had released “false narratives” to mislead the world.

“The release of the dossier at a White House briefing on Tuesday marked a striking shift by President Trump, who entered office praising President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia but now appears bent on pressuring him. The accusations came as Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state, was preparing for meetings in Moscow on Wednesday, and as Congress and the F.B.I. are investigating potential ties between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia.”
Nick Note: There is a lot of news out of Washington and a lot of value out of United Airlines (around $255 million off its market capitalization) this morning, but let’s not drag out the United story (pun intended). The White House’s top spokesman Sean Spicer issued an apology on Tuesday after saying that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad committed atrocities worse than Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Here is the video clip.  Sean Spicer made a mistake, and many knew what Spicer meant, but this is our new political world – where political events are more for entertaining purposes than informing audiences. Another example might be the dramatic following of Steve Bannon’s status with President Trump. Many are talking about the NY Post piece by Michael Goodwin this morning citing the president’s comments, or lack thereof, concerning his senior advisor. “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.” But there is some information coming out of Washington. A senior US official said President Donald Trump signed off on a policy approach to North Korea that involves increased economic and political pressure while military options remain under consideration longer term. Not only is working being done on the international front, but there are also significant policy changes happening domestically as well. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling on Tuesday unveiled changes to his proposal to roll back Obama-era financial rules, promising regulatory relief for banks if they hold enough capital and provisions aimed at spurring more companies to go public. In essence, easing a number of heightened regulatory standards enacted through the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law. Hensarling is proposing less regulation and more freedom. Famed economist Friedrich Hayek noted: “Our faith in freedom does not rest on the foreseeable results in particular circumstances but on the belief that it will, on balance, release more forces for the good than for the bad.” In the free market and in our free society, we have the opportunity to give our attention and money however and to whoever we would like to a large degree. Use your freedom wisely (Galatians 5:1).

2. San Bernardino Elementary School Shooting
“Police responding to a call at 10:27 a.m. found the suspected gunman, Cedric Anderson, 53, and his wife, teacher Karen Smith, 53, dead, Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said. Anderson had fired a large-caliber revolver and hit not only his wife, but Jonathan Martinez and another child.
“Burguan said there were two aides and 15 children in the classroom at the time of the shooting. North Park has about 500 students.”

Nick Note: This story reminds us that we live in a broken world (Psalm 14). In such a world, hurt people often hurt people because they think it brings about some degree of healing (Genesis 37). But in reality, they amplify the hurt onto a now shocked and saddened world. In the immediate aftermath, we often try to make sense of it, get to the bottom of it, because we are now affected by it. But perhaps our first instinct shouldn’t always be to get to the bottom of it, but to feel the weight of it – to grieve over it instead of trying get over it. Before John 11:38, there was John 11:35.

3. Old Brains Need as Much Sleep
“Scientists are starting to think that that our own brains might get in our way of sleeping as we age. In a review paper published April 5 in Neuron, neuroscientists from the University of California, Berkeley argue that older brains are worse at recognizing the brain signals and patterns that generate deep slumbers.

“First, they noticed the kind of deep sleep where we store away memories, called non-rapid eye movement sleep, doesn’t happen as well when we’re older…. On top of that, scientists have found that older adults have fewer of the neurons that send out the chemical signals that tell us when to sleep and when to make up.

“Sleeping pills that knock us out don’t generate the kind of sleep the brain creates on its own, and research on the effects of electrical brain stimulation to enhance deep sleep and memory formation is still budding.”

Nick Note: The Lion May Sleep Tonight but the Beastie Boys are insistent that there will be No Sleep Till Brooklyn. Americans currently average 6.8 hours of sleep at night, down more than an hour from 1942. Some people think they only need five or six hours of sleep a night. They are known as “short sleepers.” They consist of 3 percent of the population.  In the Scriptures, God commands us to rest (Mark 2:27, Exodus 20:8-11). What does rest look like for you? Mark Buchanan notes: “Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest.”

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