Signs of the Times (posted Mon/Weds/Fri)

He Who Has an Earmark, Let Him Receive …

OneNewsNow — President Obama has reneged on his promise of keeping the economic stimulus package free of earmarks. In early January, then president-elect Barack Obama promised there would be no pork in the stimulus package, vowing “We are going to ban all earmarks.” However, last week during his speech to the House Democrats’ retreat in Williamsburg, Obama changed his tune. “[T]here’s the argument, well, this is full of pet projects. When was the last time that we saw a bill of this magnitude move out with no earmarks in it? Not one,” he said, answering his own question. “So then you get the argument, well, this is not a stimulus bill — this is a spending bill. What do you think stimulus is?”

Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, says it is difficult to identify who is inserting various earmarks into the stimulus bill for things like honeybee insurance and the removal of fish passage barriers. He notes $70 million is earmarked for a supercomputer to research global warming in Maryland, under the auspices of Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski. Schatz says even though some pork-barrel spending projects may not necessarily be identified with a certain member of Congress, they are still earmarks.

Trillions Aimed at Financial Recovery

WASHINGTON — The White House unveiled a sweeping proposal Tuesday to spend as much as $2 trillion in public and private funds to prop up the nation’s financial system as the Senate narrowly approved an $838 billion stimulus intended to jump-start the failing economy. Even as President Obama and Congress worked to wrestle their way out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, stock prices plunged on Wall Street. Major indexes skidded by more than 4%, and the Dow Jones industrial average fell 382 points. After more than a week of debate, three Republicans joined all the Democrats and two independents in the Senate to approve the stimulus 61-37. Congressional leaders must resolve the differences in competing bills passed by the House and Senate while retaining its fragile support. Obama and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., have said they would like to restore some spending cuts made by the Senate, specifically money for school construction. But senators, noting that the bill barely received the 60 votes it needs to overcome a Republican filibuster, warned against many changes.

After weeks of anticipation, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Tuesday outlined a plan to deliver as much as $2 trillion in public and private funds to the beleaguered financial system. But the plan landed with a thud on Wall Street, where stock markets dived as traders decided the proposal simply did not deliver the details and direction needed. The reception was not much better on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers complaining that Geithner gave them too few specifics and failed to craft a promised companion plan to slow record home foreclosures. It was not an auspicious beginning for a program that administration officials have touted as crucial to restore battered confidence, repair the banking system and clear the way for credit to start coursing through the troubled economy. Most problematic for many analysts was that Geithner apparently failed to solve a problem that vexed the Bush administration — how to price trillions of dollars of “toxic assets” weighing down bank balance sheets. The new proposal calls for the government to partner with private investors to buy up as much as $1 trillion in assets but doesn’t say exactly how.

Ø JJ Commentary: Government “partnering” with private investors and banks is just a politically correct term for socialism, the New World Order’s prescription for America.

Lawmakers in 20 States Move to Reclaim Sovereignty

WORLDNETDAILY — As the Obama administration attempts to push through Congress a nearly $1 trillion deficit spending plan that is weighted heavily toward advancing typically Democratic-supported social welfare programs, a rebellion against the growing dominance of federal control is beginning to spread at the state level. So far, eight states have introduced resolutions declaring state sovereignty under the Ninth and Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, including Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington. Analysts expect that in addition, another 20 states may see similar measures introduced this year, including Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nevada, Maine and Pennsylvania. The various sovereignty measures moving through state legislatures are designed to reassert state authority through a rollback of federal authority under the powers enumerated in the Constitution, with the states assuming the governance of the non-enumerated powers, as required by the Tenth Amendment. The Tenth Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Ø JJ Commentary: States’ rights have been trampled by the Federal Government rendering them almost nonexistent. It’s high time that the 10th Amendment was enforced.

New Continental Congress to Meet in Philadelphia

NewsWithViews.com — Early this year, selected delegates representing the People of each of the fifty states will convene in Philadelphia to debate our constitutional crisis and establish practicable strategies the People can take, en masse, to peacefully reclaim Liberty and restore Constitutional Order. These historical proceedings will be known as the “Continental Congress 2009.” Taking a page from the history of America’s Founders, the Delegates will convene in Philadelphia across from Independence Hall for a period of several weeks to begin the virtuous tasks of organizing to resist tyranny and imposing, once again, the yoke of Law upon our servant federal government. A series of promotional meetings is currently being held across the country to advance public interest in the initiative and to expose potential donors to this most important cause in the defense of Liberty and the Constitution.

According to the group, the US faces a grave constitutional crisis including: Endless armed Middle East conflicts without congressional Declarations of war; Economic catastrophe resulting from a privately-owned central bank (Federal Reserve) and a debt-based fiat dollar; Deprivations of privacy and an emerging police state via the “USA Patriot Act”; Deprivations of the Rights to a People’s Militia and to Keep and Bear Arms; the North America Union, the Fed/Treasury bailouts, uncontrolled borders & immigration, electronic voting, etc.

JJ Commentary: Right on! It’s about time for the people to make a stand against the Godless tyranny of the federal government and the New World Order.

Big Cuts Loom for Education: 574,000 Jobs at Risk

USA TODAY — The first look ever at how the USA’s economic downturn could affect education finds that states probably will cut an estimated 18.5% of spending over the next three years, an $80 billion drop that could eliminate 574,000 publicly funded jobs. The new analysis “obviously confirms what we have feared: that there is so much at stake now and we’re really trying to stave off catastrophe,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. The projection doesn’t account for the effect of stimulus money, but Roza says the reality could actually be worse than she predicts, because she didn’t include dropping local funding; it’s too difficult to track at the moment.

GM to Cut 10,000 Salaried Jobs, Cut Salaried Pay

DETROIT FREE PRESS — General Motors, staying afloat with the help of a $13.4 billion federal rescue package, said Tuesday that it is cutting its worldwide salaried workforce by 10,000 this year and temporarily cutting the pay of most of its U.S. white-collar workers. The Detroit automaker is racing to put together a long-term restructuring plan to present to the government Feb. 17. It has said it needs to cut its U.S. workforce by as much as 31,500 people through 2012. In the USA, GM’s salaried workforce of 29,500 will be cut by about 3,400 by May 1. Globally, GM says the cuts will vary by region depending on staffing and market conditions. The company said executive employees in the United States will have their base pay cut 10% and “many other” salaried employees will see reductions of 3% to 7%.

Detroit to Thin the Herd of Dealers

GM wants to shed 1,675 of its more than 6,000 dealers by the end of 2012. Some will disappear because there are too many bunched together in a particular city for all to stay in business at a time of declining sales. Others would close if GM cuts its brand lineup to concentrate on what the automaker says are “four core brands.” Those are Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. GM is considering selling Hummer and Saab. GM North America President Troy Clarke said in an interview at the Detroit auto show last month that Pontiac would “become a boutique brand, like Corvette.” He declined to explain. Asked about Saturn’s future, he shrugged his shoulders. Chrysler, by contrast, is pressuring its dealers to take more inventory, even though sales were down 55% in January alone and dealers — just like buyers — are having trouble borrowing money to buy cars. Dealers also are being asked to shoulder costs previously borne by Chrysler. Ford Motor, the other member of the Detroit 3, is a little better off. It hasn’t taken government loans — yet — despite an increasingly precarious cash situation. But it, like the others, has aggressively tried to cut dealers over the past couple of years to reflect how foreign brands have eaten into market share.

Intel to Invest $7B on Factory Upgrades

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Intel Corp. plans to spend $7 billion upgrading its U.S. factories over the next two years, a sign that the recession hasn’t extinguished chipmakers’ lust for cutting-edge equipment and engineering talent. The Santa Clara-based company’s investment, announced Tuesday by Intel CEO Paul Otellini at a speech in Washington, speaks to the need in the semiconductor industry to keep investing heavily, regardless of the economic climate. That will likely be a boon to companies that produce chip-making equipment, like Applied Materials Inc. and KLA-Tencor Corp., and is another example of how Intel’s deep pockets have kept smaller rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. at bay. AMD, having lost nearly $7 billion over the past two years, wants to break off its factories into a separate company to unload some debt and save money.

Stamp Prices to Go Up 2 Cents to 44 Cents in May

WASHINGTON — The post office will get an extra 2-cents worth when you mail a letter starting in May. The U.S. Postal Service announced Tuesday that the price of a first-class stamp will rise to 44 cents on May 11. That gives plenty of time to stock up on Forever Stamps, which will continue to sell at the current 42-cent rate until the increase occurs. They will remain valid in the future regardless of rate hikes. “The Postal Service is not immune to rising costs which are affecting homes and businesses across America today,” said Postmaster General John Potter. “Even with the increases, the Postal Service continues to offer some of the lowest postage prices in the world.”

Obama to OK Embryonic Stem Cell Research

WORLDNETDAILY – In a closed-door meeting with House Democrats at their retreat at the posh Kingsmill Golf Resort in Williamsburg, Va., President Obama gave his “guarantee” he will sign an executive order overturning President Bush’s executive order restricting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Obama’s reversal of Bush’s policy comes in the face of scientific evidence that more than two decades of embryonic stem cell research have failed to produce medically valuable results, while adult stem cell research has resulted in successful medical treatments for a wide range of illnesses. By using an executive order to approve embryonic stem cell research for human therapeutic uses, the Obama administration plans to bypass congressional discussion and debate, seeking instead to reverse the Bush executive order without introducing any new legislation, the Washington Times reports.

Salazar Slows Offshore-Drilling Plan

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration’s controversial plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling was delayed at least six months by the Obama administration. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggested that some drilling will eventually be allowed. But he said the agency will give the public until Sept. 23 to comment, instead of the Bush administration’s deadline of March 23. The agency will hold public meetings before a decision is made. Salazar’s announcement hinders the drilling schedule announced by the Bush administration on Jan. 16, the last federal workday of its term. That plan, which would have allowed drilling on up to 300 million acres off the U.S. coast, was to have taken effect in mid-2010. It allotted 60 days for public input.

Secularist Group posts ‘Praise Darwin’ Billboards

GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado (AP) — A secularist group is observing the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin with billboards that urge people to “Evolve Beyond Belief.” The Freedom From Religion Foundation placed “Praise Darwin” billboards in Grand Junction; Dayton, Tennessee; Dover, Pennsylvania; and Whitehall, Ohio. They feature stained-glass designs and a picture of the evolutionary theorist born on Feb. 12, 1809. The Tennessee and Pennsylvania towns had landmark court cases about the teaching of evolution. Many in the religious right believe in “intelligent design” — a literal interpretation of the Bible that questions Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Ø JJ Commentary: All these billboards prove is that Secular Humanism is indeed a religion, with evolution one of their prime distinctives. Therefore, in the name of religious freedom, Secular Humanism should be banned from schools and government.

Judges Orders Release of Thousands of Calif. Inmates

SACRAMENTO (AP) — A special panel of federal judges tentatively ruled Monday that California must release tens of thousands of inmates to relieve overcrowding. The judges said no other solution will improve conditions so poor that inmates die regularly of suicides or lack of proper care. The panel said it wanted the state to present a plan to trim the population in two to three years. “There are simply too many prisoners for the existing capacity,” they wrote. “Evidence offered at trial was overwhelmingly to the effect that overcrowding is the primary cause of the unconstitutional conditions that have been found to exist in the California prisons.” The proposed targets would require the state to reduce the prison population by between 36,200 and 57,000 inmates. The state can change parole and other policies to cut the population of its 33 adult prisons without endangering the public, the judges said.

Some Municipalities Revisit Immigration Laws

USA TODAY — Some states, cities and counties that plunged into the immigration debate are having second thoughts. In Texas, Alabama and elsewhere, lawmakers have repealed or modified measures that cracked down on illegal immigrants or made English the official language. In Iowa and Utah, legislators are proposing similar reversals. They cite various reasons, including the time and expense of fighting legal challenges, the cost of implementing the measures while tightening their budgets and the barrage of publicity and accusations of racism that come with such laws. Most state and local laws that passed as federal reform failed remain in place, and some communities have mounted expensive campaigns to keep them.

Ø JJ Commentary: As economic woes are now the primary concern, immigration issues have slipped to the back burner. Interestingly, the financial meltdown has sent a lot of illegal immigrants packing for home as low-end jobs are often the first to go.

Inconclusive Election puts Israel, Peace in Limbo

JERUSALEM (AP) — Inconclusive election results sent Israel into political limbo Wednesday with both Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and hard-line leader Benjamin Netanyahu claiming victory and leaving the kingmaker role to a rising political hawk with an anti-Arab platform. Livni’s Kadima Party won 28 seats, just one more than Netanyahu’s Likud, in Tuesday’s election for the 120-member parliament, according to nearly complete results. With neither party winning a clear majority, neither can govern alone. Gains by right-wing parties give Netanyahu a better chance of forming a coalition with his natural allies. The results set the stage for what could be weeks of coalition negotiations. Such paralysis could dampen prospects for Egyptian-led attempts to broker a truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers after Israel’s devastating offensive in Gaza last month.

Saudi Arabia: Only Mosques Allowed

GENEVA (AP) — A Saudi Arabian official says mosques can be the only places of worship in his country, rejecting pressure to change heavy restrictions on religions besides Islam. Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, implements a strict version of Islamic law. It told a United Nations meeting that the kingdom allows other religions in private. But the vice president of the Saudi human rights commission said Friday that establishing houses of worship for non-Islamic religions was too sensitive an issue. Other countries have urged Saudi Arabia to abolish laws that breach basic human rights such as freedom from discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.

Mugabe Swears in Rival as Zimbabwe Prime Minister

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe swore in his longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister Wednesday, ushering in a unity government in an extraordinary concession after nearly three decades of virtually unchallenged rule. There had been pressure for Mugabe — who remains president in the coalition — to step down altogether, and questions remain about whether a partnership can work after a long history of state-sponsored violence against Tsvangirai and his supporters. Neighboring leaders who pushed for the coalition said that once the two men had joined in the unity government, they would overcome mutual mistrust and work together for the good of their country. The country’s economic collapse — for which Tsvangirai holds Mugabe responsible — has led to the world’s highest inflation rate, left millions dependent on international food aid, and caused a cholera outbreak that has killed some 3,400 people since August.

Birds Shifting North; Global Warming Cited

WASHINGTON (AP) — When it comes to global warming, the canary in the coal mine isn’t a canary at all. It’s a purple finch. As the temperature across the U.S. has gotten warmer, the purple finch has been spending its winters more than 400 miles farther north than it used to. And it’s not alone. An Audubon Society study released Tuesday found that more than half of 305 birds species in North America, a hodgepodge that includes robins, gulls, chickadees and owls, are spending the winter about 35 miles farther north than they did 40 years ago. The purple finch was the biggest northward mover. Its wintering grounds are now more along the latitude of Milwaukee, Wis., instead of Springfield, Mo. Over the 40 years covered by the study, the average January temperature in the United States climbed by about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. That warming was most pronounced in northern states, which have already recorded an influx of more southern species and could see some northern species retreat into Canada as ranges shift.

At least 8 Dead as Tornadoes lash Oklahoma

LONE GROVE, Okla. — An unusual cluster of February twisters touched down across Oklahoma, ripping off roofs, littering roads with downed power lines and killing eight people in a town in the southern part of the state. Emergency responders searched into the night in the hardest-hit community of Lone Grove, where eight people died and 14 people sustained serious injuries on Tuesday. Lone Grove residents woke up Wednesday to scenes of destruction. Along U.S. 70, the main road into town, a furniture store had been destroyed along with nearby houses. Debris was lodged in high power lines. The roof was blown off a post office. Structures have been damaged or destroyed throughout the town.

January Ice Storm killed 33 in Kentucky

LOUISVILLE (AP) — Kentucky officials say the number of deaths from a massive ice storm that struck the state last month has risen by 3 to 33. Since the ice storm struck on Jan. 27, some 101 counties and 75 cities have declared states of emergency, and President Barack Obama has issued a major disaster declaration for Kentucky.

Maine‘s Bone-Numbing Minus-50 Sets State Record

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — When it comes to cold weather, Mainers have something new to brag about. Scientists say a minus-50 reading in northwestern Maine last month was accurate, making it the coldest temperature ever recorded in the state. It beats Maine’s old record of 48 below zero set in 1925, and ties the record for coldest temperature recorded in New England. That reading was made in 1933 in Bloomfield, Vt.

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