Midday Roundup: Deadly storms tear through the South

by Leigh Jones
Posted 12/24/15, 11:30 am

Unseasonable. Unusual, spring-like storms ripped through the South last night, leaving at least seven people dead. A tornado skipped across the ground in northern Mississippi for about 10 minutes, demolishing homes and tossing cars like tin cans. One man in Holly Springs, Miss., huddled with relatives in his house when the storm hit. It tore off the back of the building, leaving crumbled walls in its wake. Mulester Johnson, 67, credited the chimney with saving the family. “This right here is a mess, but I can’t complain because we’re blessed,” he said, noting everyone survived. The storms, which stretched across Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, are part of an unusually warm weather pattern gripping much of the country. High temperatures in the area are expected to stretch into the mid-70s today.

Praying for the persecuted. President Barack Obama issued a statement yesterday acknowledging the plight of persecuted Christians this Christmas. “In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL,” he said, referring to the Islamic State terror group that has driven many Christians from the region. U.S. Christian groups have criticized the president for so far refusing to classify the widespread persecution as genocide. Yesterday’s statement suggests he understands the severity of the campaign against Christians, renewing questions about why he won’t classify it as a genocide. “We join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations,” Obama concluded.

Prayer warrior. Campus Crusade for Christ co-founder Vonette Bright died Wednesday after a battle with acute leukemia. She was 89. Bright and her late husband, Bill, began the college campus ministry now known as Cru, at UCLA in 1951. Bright also established the National Prayer Committee and successfully petitioned Congress in 1988 to set aside the first Thursday of May as the National Day of Prayer. She served for nine years as chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. She also authored more than a dozen books on topics that included prayer, evangelism, walking with God, and hospitality. In a 2011 letter, Billy Graham praised her focus on prayer as an encouragement to him and a model for the church: “Heavenly records will one day reveal the full impact of your prayer life and the teaching ministry in the lives of countless persons who have come to faith in Christ.”

Competency questioned. The man who attacked a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., in November, killing three people, told a judge yesterday he wants to defend himself at trial. Robert Lewis Dear, 57, previously said he thought his public defense team was conspiring against him. Attorney Daniel King, who also represented Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, asked the judge to slow the legal proceedings because of questions about Dear’s competency. The judge ordered a mental evaluation to establish whether Dear is fit to waive his legal counsel and represent himself. The evaluation could take up to nine months to complete, but Dear said he would refuse to cooperate.

Federal oversight? Congress continued funding for Planned Parenthood in last week’s budget deal—but that’s not stopping an inspector general probe into fetal tissue research. The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wants to know whether federal oversight of research projects using tissue from aborted babies is sufficient. The probe comes after undercover videos showed abortion giant Planned Parenthood executives apparently bartering over the remains of aborted children. A bipartisan group of senators requested the probe in October, questioning whether HHS is turning a blind eye to abuses.

WORLD Radio’s Mary Reichard contributed to this report.

Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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