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

‘Gays’ Put ‘Terrorist’ Label on Christians

A leader of a homosexual faction of Republicans is lobbying the new party chairman, Michael Steele, to ignore the suggestions of a pro-family Christian group to support traditional marriage, because the Christians are “terrorists.” The attack comes from Jamie Ensley, president of the Georgia “Log Cabin Republicans,” who also compared the Illinois-based Americans for Truth to Germany’s Nazi party. Ensley’s comments followed a request by Americans for Truth that the GOP rebuild its conservative base by defending a definition of marriage limited to  one man and one woman.

Hard-Line Hindus Still Forcing Conversions in Orissa

Compass Direct News reports that hard-line Hindus in Kandhamal district have forced nearly half of 40 Christian families in one village to convert under threat of death, area Christians said. Bareka village resident Goliath Digal, 58, told Compass that since last year, the Hindu extremists have taken 18 Roman Catholic families to a Hindu temple and performed Hindu rituals on them, forcing them to sign statements that they had converted of their own will. “During the riots, all our belongings had been taken away and we were left with nothing,” Digal said. “Now they are threatening to murder us if we do not become Hindus.” In G. Udayagiri refugee camp, 55-year-old Vipin Nayak of Piangia Budaripura village said that all 400 Christian families from the hamlet have remained in the camp except for five families who were allowed to return after being forced to become Hindus.

Eleven GFA Missionaries Arrested

Eleven Gospel for Asia missionaries were arrested and several Christians were beaten February 17 in Chhattisgarh, India. The incident took place while the missionaries were leading a three-day meeting for believers in Chhattisgarh’s Korba district. On the second day of the meeting, an anti-Christian extremist group, along with local politicians and police, attacked the crowd. They severely beat the missionaries who were leading the convention, as well as several Christians in attendance. They also destroyed the sound system and the tent where the meeting was being conducted. The missionaries were arrested at the conclusion of the attack. Chhattisgarh has an anti-conversion law, which outlines several steps that must be taken in order to change one’s religion. The law is vague and offers wide leeway in arresting and punishing those charged with violating it. Chhattisgarh’s governor has twice blocked attempts to increase fines levied on those converting Hindus to Christianity.

Most Fertility Clinics Break Rules

NEW YORK (AP) — The California fertility doctor who implanted the octuplet mom with lots of embryos was no lone wolf: Fewer than 20% of U.S. clinics follow professional guidelines on how many embryos should be used for younger women. The furor over Nadya Suleman and her octuplets has brought scrutiny to U.S. fertility clinics and how well they observe the guidelines, which are purely voluntary. The controversy had led to talk of passing laws to regulate clinics, something that has already been done in Western Europe. The 20% figure is contained in reports filed by clinics with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fertility doctors say there are many reasons clinics skirt the guidelines: pressure from patients who want to use more embryos to improve their chances of getting pregnant; financial concerns from those who are paying for their treatment out of their own pockets; and the competition among clinics to post good success rates.

Top Philadelphia Newspapers File for Bankruptcy

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The newsroom union says the owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News is filing for bankruptcy. Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. is owned by Philadelphia Media Holdings. It is the second newspaper company in two days, and fourth in recent months, to seek bankruptcy protection. The Journal Register Co. filed for Chapter 11 on Saturday. The Chicago-based Tribune Co. sought bankruptcy protection in December, and The Star Tribune of Minneapolis followed suit last month.

Obama: Tax Cuts will Take Affect by April 1

WASHINGTON (AP) — The notoriously slow Congress passed the $787 billion economic stimulus package in a matter of weeks. President Obama signed it into law less than one month into his presidency. So, just how soon will Americans start reaping the benefits of tax cuts in it? By April 1, according to the president. “Never before in our history has a tax cut taken effect faster or gone to so many hardworking Americans,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. The $400 credit for individuals is to be doled out through the rest of the year. Couples are slated to get up to $800. Most workers are to see about a $13 per week increase in their take-home pay. In 2010, the credit would be about $7.70 a week, if it is spread over the entire year.

In sheer size, the economic measures announced by President Barack Obama to address “a crisis unlike we’ve ever known” are remarkable, rivaling and in many cases dwarfing the New Deal programs that Franklin D. Roosevelt famously created to battle the Great Depression. In all, the plans would raise the federal portion of the U.S. economy to about 31 percent, more than twice the level after eight years of FDR’s historic New Deal spending.

Obama Has Plan to Slash Deficit, Despite Stimulus Bill

NEW YORK TIMES — After a string of costly bailout and stimulus measures, President Obama will set a goal this week to cut the annual deficit at least in half by the end of his term, administration officials said. The reduction would come in large part through Iraq troop withdrawals and higher taxes on the wealthy. Mr. Obama’s budget outline, which he will release on Thursday, will also confirm his intention to deliver this year on ambitious campaign promises on health care and energy policy. The president inherited a deficit for 2009 of about $1.2 trillion, which will rise to more than $1.5 trillion, given initial spending from his recently enacted stimulus package. His budget blueprint for the 2010 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, will include a 10-year projection showing the annual deficit declining to $533 billion in the 2013 fiscal year, the last year of his first four-year term.

Ø JJ Commentary: Given the state of the economy and the bailout measures, there’s not even the remotest chance that the Obama Administration will be able to shrink the deficit at all, let alone by a billion dollars. Throw in universal health care and deficits are likely to continue increasing.

EU Leaders back Sweeping Financial Rule Changes

BERLIN (AP) — European leaders mounted a united front against the global financial crisis Sunday, proposing sweeping new market regulations, but it remained unclear whether economic giants like the United States and China would go along. Heads of government and finance ministers from Europe’s largest economies joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin to lay the groundwork for a common European position on economic reforms before an April 2 summit of the Group of 20 nations in London. Leaders from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic agreed to press for sanctions on tax havens, caps for managers’ bonus payments and a stronger role and increased funding for the International Monetary Fund. However, analysts say other G-20 members, including the U.S., China, Japan and developing nations like India and Brazil, might not share Europe’s zeal for blanket global regulations.

Ø JJ Commentary: This entire economic crisis has been fostered by the New World Order to increase globalization and socialism. They are succeeding.

Obama Backs Bush Policy on Detainees’ Rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Obama sided with the Bush administration Friday, saying detainees in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights. In a two-sentence court filing, the Justice Department said it agreed that detainees at Bagram Airfield cannot use U.S. courts to challenge their detention. The filing shocked human rights attorneys. “The hope we all had in President Obama to lead us on a different path has not turned out as we’d hoped,” said Tina Monshipour Foster, a human rights attorney representing a detainee at the Bagram Airfield. “We all expected better.” After Obama took office, a federal judge in Washington gave the new administration a month to decide whether it wanted to stand by Bush’s legal argument. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd says the filing speaks for itself.

Obama Widens Missile Strikes Inside Pakistan

NEW YORK TIMES — With two missile strikes over the past week, the Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the Central Intelligence Agency inside Pakistan, attacking a militant network seeking to topple the Pakistani government. The missile strikes on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud represent a broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan, which has been largely carried out by drone aircraft. Under President Bush, the United States frequently attacked militants from Al Qaeda and the Taliban involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but had stopped short of raids aimed at Mr. Mehsud and his followers, who have played less of a direct role in attacks on American troops. The strikes are another sign that President Obama is continuing, and in some cases extending, Bush administration policy in using American spy agencies against terrorism suspects in Pakistan.

Activists Express Shock at Clinton’s Stance on China Rights

ASIA PACIFIC NEWS — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faced a storm of criticism from human rights activists on a maiden visit to China on Saturday after saying she will not let rights concerns hinder cooperation. China had given a nervous welcome to US President Barack Obama, fearing the Democratic leader will press the world’s most populous nation harder on human rights and trade issues than his predecessor George W. Bush. Clinton said that while the United States would continue to raise longstanding rights concerns with China, “our pressing on those issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis”.T. Kumar of Amnesty International USA said the global rights lobby was “shocked and extremely disappointed” by Clinton’s remarks.

Ø JJ Commentary: Political expediency always triumphs over promises and platitudes.

Pakistan, Taliban Agree to Cease Fire

MINGORA, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani official says the government and the Taliban have agreed to a “permanent cease-fire” in the restive Swat Valley. Syed Muhammad Javed, commissioner of the Malakand region which includes Swat, made the announcement at the Swat Press Club in Mingora. Both sides had agreed to the decision, he said, but would not give more details. The Taliban on Sunday declared a 10-day cease-fire in a show of good will meant to bolster ongoing peace talks between the government and a Taliban-linked group. The government has already agreed to impose Islamic law in Swat if the militants stop fighting.

Burma Junta: 6,300 Convicts to be Freed

Rangoon, BURMA (AP) — Burma’s military government announced an amnesty Friday night for more than 6,000 prisoners but did not mention whether any political detainees will be among those released. State radio and television announced that the convicts from various prisons would be released starting Saturday. The brief announcement said that 6,313 prisoners were being freed in recognition of their good conduct and so that they would be able to participate in a general election planned for next year. Human rights groups estimate that the regime holds more than 2,100 political detainees, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention without trial.

Snowstorm cuts power to more than 100K in Northeast

A late-February storm has brought more than a foot of snow to much of Maine, leaving nearly 100,000 homes and businesses without power and canceling classes at hundreds of schools. Central Maine Power said that at least 83,800 homes and businesses were without power as of 5 a.m. Monday. Bangor Hydro Electric said more than 12,200 of its customers had lost power as of 4 a.m. Heavy snow was still falling across most of the state Monday morning, with some places reporting rates of 3 to 4 inches per hour.

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