Signs of the Times

U.S. now only 2 States away from Rewriting Constitution

WorldNetDaily — A public policy organization has issued an urgent alert stating affirmative votes are needed from only two more states before a Constitutional Convention could be assembled in which “today’s corrupt politicians and judges” could formally change the U.S. Constitution’s “‘problematic’ provisions to reflect the philosophical and social mores of our contemporary society.” “Don’t for one second doubt that delegates to a Con Con wouldn’t revise the First Amendment into a government-controlled privilege, replace the 2nd Amendment with a ‘collective’ right to self-defense, and abolish the 4th, 5th, and 10th Amendments, and the rest of the Bill of Rights,” said the warning from the American Policy Institute. “Additions could include the non-existent separation of church and state, the ‘right’ to abortion and euthanasia, and much, much more,” the group said. The warning comes at a time when Barack Obama, who is to be voted the next president by the Electoral College Monday, has expressed his belief the U.S. Constitution needs to be interpreted through the lens of current events.

Tom DeWeese, who runs the center and its education and grassroots work, told WND the possibilities stunned him when he discovered lawmakers in Ohio are considering a call for a Constitutional Convention. He explained that 32 other states already have taken that vote, and only one more would be needed to require Congress to name convention delegates who then would have more power than Congress itself. “The U.S. Constitution places no restriction on the purposes for which the states can call for a convention,” the alert said. “If Ohio votes to call a Con Con, for whatever purpose, the United States will be only one state away from total destruction. And it’s a safe bet that those who hate this nation, and all She stands for, are waiting to pounce upon this opportunity to re-write our Constitution.”

USA‘s Warming Due to both Man-Made and Natural Causes

USA TODAY — Climate change – due primarly to human-produced greenhouse gases but also because of natural variability – is the cause of most of the temperature increases observed in the USA since 1951, according to a new report released Thursday by the federal U.S. Climate Change Science Program. The report found that average surface temperatures over the USA have increased about 1.6 degrees since 1951, nearly all in the last 30 years. More than half of the warming averaged over all of North America is probably the result of human activity, the report states.

  • JJ Commentary: This is significant because it’s the first time the scientists have admitted in a major study that natural causes have anything to do with global warming. Now they say it’s a little less than half the cause. Soon they’ll see that it’s the primary cause, with human activity the secondary cause.

Regulator: Mortgage Rates could slip Below 4%

WASHINGTON — Government efforts to provide easier credit to consumers and jump-start flagging home sales could push mortgage rates “well below 4%,” a federal regulator says. Treasury Department officials have been considering a program to lower mortgage rates, which would not apply to refinanced loans. Real estate agents and builders have been lobbying intensely in Washington for government efforts to spur home sales to try to stem the severe decline in the U.S. housing market. Rates fell sharply after the Federal Reserve announced plans late last month to buy up to $600 billion of mortgage-related securities and other debt issued by Fannie, Freddie and the Federal Home Loan Banks. Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee about half the $11.5 trillion in U.S. outstanding home loan debt. On Wednesday, the national average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 5.49%. Lower mortgage rates also could prevent housing prices from dropping as much as they otherwise would.

Auto Bailout Talks Collapse in Senate over Union Wages

WASHINGTON — A $14 billion emergency bailout for U.S. automakers collapsed in the Senate Thursday night after the United Auto Workers refused to accede to Republican demands for swift wage cuts. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was “terribly disappointed” about the demise of an emerging bipartisan deal to rescue Detroit’s Big Three. He spoke shortly after Republicans left a closed-door meeting where they balked at giving the automakers federal aid unless their powerful union agreed to slash wages next year to bring them into line with those of Japanese carmakers. Republican Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio, a strong bailout supporter, said the UAW was willing to make the cuts — but not until 2011. The implosion followed an unprecedented marathon set of talks at the Capitol among labor, the auto industry and lawmakers who bargained into the night in efforts to salvage the auto bailout at a time of soaring job losses and widespread economic turmoil.

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — World stock markets plunged Friday as the U.S. Senate’s rejection of a $14 billion deal to rescue Detroit’s ailing automakers stoked concerns that the recession in the world’s largest economy will be even longer and deeper than projected. U.S. stock index futures pointed to a big sell-off later on Wall Street as well. The bankruptcy of any of the big American automakers would deal another blow to the world’s largest economy, already in recession. Hopes for the U.S. auto industry now appear to rest with President George W. Bush agreeing to tap the $700 billion Wall Street bailout fund, or TARP, to aid the carmakers.

Federal Share of Economy Soaring

USA TODAY — The government’s spending surge to ease the financial crisis and a worsening recession is increasing the federal share of the nation’s economic activity close to $1 out of every $4, the highest level since World War II, an analysis of current and projected payments shows. Emergency rescue plans for financial institutions and increased benefits for needy individuals are mounting, as Congress considers President-elect Barack Obama’s call for a massive public works program that could exceed $500 billion and a $14 billion bailout of the auto industry. Economists warn that the fast pace of government spending could spell trouble in the future: slower economic growth, higher interest rates, and the likelihood that tax increases or spending cuts will be needed to tame a budget deficit headed toward a record $1 trillion. The government reported Wednesday that the deficit for the first two months of the 2009 fiscal year was more than $400 billion.

  • JJ Commentary: Egads! $400 billion in two months! Welcome to the land of socialism.

New Unemployment Claims Reach 26-year High

WASHINGTON — New claims for unemployment benefits reached their highest level in 26 years last week, as companies cut workers at a rapid pace. The Labor Department said Thursday that initial applications for jobless benefits in the week ended Dec. 6 rose to a seasonally adjusted 573,000 from an upwardly revised figure of 515,000 the previous week. The four-week average, which smooths out fluctuations, was a seasonally adjusted 540,500, highest since December 1982, when the economy was emerging from a steep recession. The number of people continuing to claim jobless benefits also jumped much more than expected, increasing 338,000 to 4.4 million.

Bank of America to Slash 35,000 Jobs over 3 Years

NEW (AP) — Bank of America said Thursday it expects to eliminate 30,000 to 35,000 jobs over the next three years, as it faces a deteriorating economic environment and tries to absorb Merrill Lynch. It said the cuts will affect workers from both companies and all types of businesses. Thursday’s announcement of job cuts was hardly unexpected, considering the merger and the wave of job losses seen in the banking industry and in other sectors over the past few months. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch have already eliminated thousands of investment banking jobs over the past year, as have other banks, in an effort to lower costs as they face increasing defaults in mortgages, credit card debt and other loans.

Sales, Inventories Plunge in October

WASHINGTON — Sales at the wholesale level plunged 4.1% in October, largest decline on record As a result, wholesalers cut back their inventories by the largest amount since the period following the 2001 terrorist attacks. Analysts predict more grim news in months ahead as the recession deepens. The huge declines in inventories and sales provided further evidence that the economy is in a steep recession. Many analysts believe the recession, which has already lasted 12 months, will drag on until the middle of next year. If it lasts past April, it will be the longest recession in the post-World War II period, surpassing recessions in the mid-1970s and early 1980s that both lasted 16 months.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Retail sales fell for the fifth straight month in November as mounting job losses last month curbed consumers’ ability and willingness to spend money in stores. The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales fell 1.8% last month, compared with a revised 2.9% drop in October, the worst monthly sales on record. November is a crucial sales month for retailers since it marks the start of the important holiday shopping season. Combined sales for November and December can account for as much as 50% of merchants’ annual profits and sales.

With Loans Elusive, Debt Levels for Households Fall for First Time

WASHINGTON (AP) — Households, hit by declining net worth, have cut back on their debt levels for the first time on record as loans remain scarce. The Federal Reserve on Thursday released its latest quarterly look at consumer and business finances showing that households reduced their debt levels 0.8% at an annual rate in the July-September period, the first drop on records that go back more than 50 years. The decline in household debt levels is evidence of the severe credit squeeze that is occurring as banks, saddled by billions of dollars of losses in mortgage debt, have tightened lending standards and made it harder for people to get loans. Mortgage debt fell at an annual rate of 2.4% in the third quarter, the largest decline on record. Mortgage debt had fallen at an annual rate of 0.1% in the second quarter. Those two quarterly declines are the first such drops in the Fed survey that dates back to 1952. The Fed report also showed that households’ net worth fell 4.7% in the third quarter, the fourth consecutive quarterly decline.

Foreclosure Numbers Tumble to Lowest since June

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of American homeowners dragged into the housing crisis fell last month to the lowest level since June as new state laws lengthened the foreclosure process, RealtyTrac reported Thursday. “We’re going to have a pretty significant spike in January,” said Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac’s vice president for marketing. Nationwide, more than 259,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice in November, down 7% from October, but 28% higher than a year ago, RealtyTrac said. More than 78,000 properties were repossessed by lenders last month, said the company. The Federal Reserve predicts that new foreclosures this year will reach about 2.25 million, more than double pre-crisis levels.

Homeless Turn Foreclosures into Shelters

USA TODAY — For Max Rameau, a vacant, boarded-up home is more than just a symbol of the national housing crisis. It’s an opportunity to house the homeless. Rameau, a homeless advocate, runs a controversial program in Miami that helps families squat in homes vacated because of bank foreclosures. Using Internet listings and a team of volunteers, Rameau and his Take Back the Land foundation matches homeless families with empty homes. Take Back the Land is just one of several grass-roots efforts — some legal, some on the borderline — that are emerging to confront the sprawling housing crisis. As the federal government tries to stem the growing problem, non-profit groups and advocates are taking matters into their own hands. Advocates in Cleveland are trying to use city money to buy abandoned homes and rent them to the homeless. Homeowners in Atlanta pay homeless residents to sleep in their foreclosed homes to safeguard the houses. And in Boston, protesters have joined arm-in-arm in “eviction blockades” against sheriff’s deputies. With 44% of the nation’s 744,000 homeless unsheltered, it’s not surprising that people want to take over homes, says Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Obama, Others to Blagojevich: Resign

CHICAGO — President-elect Barack Obama called on Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to resign Wednesday as U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. denied involvement in the Democratic governor’s alleged attempt to sell Obama’s open Senate seat. Obama agrees that “under the current circumstances, it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois,” spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement. Blagojevich was charged Tuesday with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Obama, soliciting money from people with state business and pressing the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers who had criticized him. Jackson, son of the civil rights leader and one of several Illinois Democrats vying for the job, told reporters in Washington on Wednesday he did not offer to raise money for the governor in exchange for the Senate appointment. Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan said Obama “should immediately disclose” communications between his transition team and the governor’s office. “Obama’s promise of transparency … is now being tested,” he said.

Businessmen with ties to both Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson discussed raising $1 million for Blagojevich to help persuade him to appoint Jackson to President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat, according to a published report. Citing unnamed sources, the Chicago Tribune reports in a story for Friday’s editions that businessman Raghuveer Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi told attendees at an Oct. 31 meeting that they needed to raise the money for the governor to ensure Jackson’s appointment. Jackson spokesman Rick Bryant told the Tribune that while Jackson discussed the Senate seat with Nayak, he never asked him to do anything.

Oil Imports Push Trade Deficit Up Again

WASHINGTON (AP) — The USA’s trade deficit unexpectedly rose in October to $57.2 billion as a spreading global recession dampened sales of U.S. products overseas and oil imports surged by a record amount. The deficit with China jumped to an all-time high. The average price for a barrel of crude oil did drop a record amount, but that was offset by a record surge in the volume of oil imports. That sent the total oil bill up by 3% to $37.7 billion.

More Brigades to Afghanistan by Summer

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — The Pentagon is moving to get three of the four combat brigades requested by commanders into Afghanistan by summer, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday as he traveled here to meet with military leaders. In his most specific comments to date about how soon he will meet the call for up to 20,000 more troops in Afghanistan, Gates said he will not have to cut troop levels further in Iraq to free up at least two of those three brigades for Afghan duty. At the same time, Gates said a key “course correction” in the Afghanistan war for the administration of President-elect Barack Obama will be to build the Afghan army and better cooperate with Kabul on security operations.

Greek violence spreads across Europe

TIMES ONLINE — Suspected anarchist protests which have dogged Greece for the last week spread outside the country today, with mobs causing violent scenes in Italy, Spain, Russia, Denmark and Turkey. Greek diplomatic missions were vandalised in the attacks, while police, local authority and media representatives were also targeted in what appeared a co-ordinated escalation. Today, mobs pelted 20 police stations with rocks and bottles, overturned cars and blocked streets in central Athens. Police responded with tear gas as sporadic violence persisted amid Greece’s worst rioting in decades. In Denmark, a total of 32 people were arrested in Copenhagen after protests turned violent while, in Madrid and Barcelona, several police officers were injured and 11 people were arrested following clashes. The violence also spread to Turkey, where a dozen protesters were reported to have painted the Turkish-flag red on the Greek consulate. In Moscow and Rome, meanwhile, petrol bombs were reported to have been aimed at Greek Embassies.

Nigeria: Six Pastors Killed, 40 Churches Razed

Compass Direct News reports that he murderous rioting sparked by Muslim attacks on Christians and their property on Nov. 28-29 left six pastors dead, at least 500 other people killed and 40 churches destroyed, according to church leaders. More than 25,000 persons have been displaced in the two days of violence, according to the National Emergency Management Agency. What began as outrage over suspected vote fraud in local elections quickly hit the religious fault line that quakes from time to time in this city located between the Islamic north and Christian south, as angry Muslims took aim at Christian sites rather than at political targets. Police and troops reportedly killed about 400 rampaging Muslims in an effort to quell the unrest, and Islamists shot, slashed or stabbed to death most of more than 100 Christians killed.

Violent Storms Batter Southeast

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A night of unseasonably warm weather generated torrential rains and tornadoes that damaged two schools and dozens of homes in the Southeast, and some states were bracing for snow and sleet as temperatures drop Wednesday. Sleet was possible in areas of Louisiana and the National Weather Service issued a winter weather watch for parts of Mississippi, warning that a rare snowfall accumulation was possible. The winter precipitation threatened to hit before many people could clean up the mess left by powerful storms and likely tornadoes that damaged at least two schools and dozens of homes in Alabama and Mississippi a day earlier. There were reports of damaged homes and trees on roadways across Mississippi and reports of large hail. At least three tornadoes touched down in the Alexandria area on Tuesday

NEW ORLEANS — The Big Easy awoke Thursday to a rare sight: a blanket of fresh snow. An early winter snow shower fell across New Orleans and surrounding communities, dropping up to 2 inches of snow across the city and as much as 8 inches in parts of southern Louisiana. By Thursday afternoon, southern Louisiana had accumulated more inches of snow this winter season than Boston, Philadelphia and New York City — combined. “Definitely an unusual situation,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Wagner in Slidell, La.

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