Archive for April, 2009

April 28, 2009

Praise Reports

There’s a secret in Hollywood that most folks haven’t heard yet. But studio executives, agents and lawyers know all about it. It turns out that R-rated flicks aren’t the ones that make the big money. In 2008, PG and PG-13 films took in more than $8 billion for the entertainment industry, while R-rated movies brought in just under $2 billion. The top 10 money-making films in 2008 were all either PG or PG-13 movies.

Barack Obama’s presidency seems to be altering the public perception of race relations in the United States. Two-thirds of Americans now say race relations are generally good, and the percentage of blacks who say so has doubled since last July, according to the latest New York Times/ CBS News poll. Despite that, half of blacks still say whites have a better chance of getting ahead in American society, the poll found. Black Americans remain among the president’s staunchest supporters; 70 percent of black respondents now say the country is headed in the right direction, compared with 34 percent of whites.

Swine Flu

The death toll from suspected swine flu cases in Mexico, the country at the center of the outbreak spreading into the USA and around the world, rose to 149, with 1,614 sickened. Spain on Monday became the first nation outside North America to confirm a case of swine flu. The health minister in New Zealand says they have 11 confirmed cases of swine flu, the first in Asia region. Canada has six confirmed cases. The number of confirmed swine flu cases worldwide rose to 73.

Five states have confirmed 50 cases swine flu. The largest cluster is emerging in a New York City Catholic school, where more than 150 students became ill. New York City on Monday reported 28 confirmed cases of swine flu, all among students from St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows, Queens. Several students there spent spring break in Mexico. California has 13 confirmed cases. Texas has six confirmed cases. New Jersey health officials say they’ve identified five probable cases of swine flu in people who recently traveled to Mexico.

The World Health Organization raised its pandemic-alert level to 4 from 3 on a scale of 6, meaning the likelihood of a pandemic has increased but is not yet inevitable.

  • Keep in mind that pestilence is a strong player in the end-time scenario

Swine Flu a Militarized Weapon?

There is some speculation that the swine flu could be a genetically altered, human-produced virus that either escaped a lab by mistake or on purpose. GeoStrategic Trends reports that scientists and virologists are baffled because the genetic makeup of the virus contains elements of human, swine and bird flu from three geographic regions: North America, Europe and Asia. Until now, this has been unknown in nature, but not theoretically impossible.

Swine Flu Could Paralyze Travel Industry

For an ailing global travel industry, swine flu couldn’t have erupted at a worse time.. The U.S. government Monday urged Americans to cancel travel to Mexico if not essential. The European Union health commissioner urged Europeans to postpone nonessential travel to parts of the United States and Mexico affected by the potentially deadly flu and holiday tour operators from Germany and Japan canceled charter flights to Mexico. Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan said visitors returning from flu-affected areas with fevers would be quarantined, while countries from New Zealand to Israel quickly instituted new security measures at airports and put sick travelers under observation.

Swine Flu Vaccine Would Take Months to Develop

World Health Organization officials say we are more prepared for a potential flu pandemic than we were five years ago. Yet, if the decision is made to create a vaccine for this flu strain, it will still likely take months before it’s available. The current vaccine-making processes are multi-step recipes that begin in the molecular biology labs of international and national health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “To have vaccines ready, you really have to be preparing six to eight months in advance,” disease specialist P.J. Brennan says.

Pandemic-Preparedness Money Stripped from Stimulus Bill

Congress stripped nearly $900 million to combat an influenza pandemic from the economic-stimulus package earlier this year as part of last-minute negotiations to gain GOP support for the plan. Now, with the spread of a potentially deadly strain of the swine flu, public-health advocates and liberal bloggers are sharply criticizing the move. “It was a short-sighted decision,” Robert Pestronk, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said of the cut. The lack of federal funds and recession-fueled budget cuts at the state level have “reduced the ability of state and local governments to cope” with spreading swine-flu infections, he said.

U.S. Regulatory Czar Nominee Wants Net ‘Fairness Doctrine’

Barack Obama’s nominee for “regulatory czar” has advocated a “Fairness Doctrine” for the Internet that would require opposing opinions be linked and also has suggested angry e-mails should be prevented from being sent by technology that would require a 24-hour cooling off period. Obama’s friend from the University of Chicago Law School and nominee to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs also has argued in his prolific literary works that the Internet is anti-democratic because of the way users can filter out information of their own choosing. “A system of limitless individual choices, with respect to communications, is not necessarily in the interest of citizenship and self-government,” he wrote. “Democratic efforts to reduce the resulting problems ought not be rejected in freedom’s name.”

  • This is almost too absurd to believe. If true, our decline into totalitarianism is becoming more and more likely.

Mexican Illegals Do a U-Turn

A stumbling U.S. economy, along with increased enforcement aimed at illegal aliens and companies that employ them, is causing many Mexicans to head back south for good, experts say. The sea change has Mexican officials inundated with requests from their countrymen looking for instructions on how to ship their property back to Mexico and secure Mexican citizenship for children born in America. “We estimate that the U.S. population of illegal aliens dropped by about 11% [last year], adding up to about 1.3 million fewer illegal aliens in the United States,” Steven A. Carmarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies told Newsmax. “If this trend were to continue, we expect the population of illegal immigrants would be cut in half in five years.”

Economic News

Consumer confidence soared in April amid hopeful signs that the U.S. economy is starting to stabilize. The Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose 12 points to 39.2, from a revised 26.9 in March. The reading marks the highest point since November. The expectations index, which measures how shoppers feel about the economy over the next six months, skyrocketed to 49.5 from 30.2 in March. A score of 100 is considered normal.

Earlier Tuesday, a housing index showed that home prices dropped sharply in February, but for the first time in 25 months the decline was not a record — another sign the housing crisis could be bottoming. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 major cities was down 18.6% from February 2008, slightly better than the 19% in January.

Pakistan

Pakistan warned militants Tuesday to leave a district just 60 miles from the capital or face military action, an indication that the government may be willing to expand an offensive in the Afghan border region covered by a much-criticized peace deal. Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s stern comments came amid heightened U.S. pressure on the nuclear-armed Muslim nation to root out militants on its soil, though he and other Pakistani leaders have denied bowing to outside influence. The peace deal with Taliban militants covers the Swat Valley. It imposes Islamic law in Swat, Buner, Dir and other districts that make up the Malakand division, a vast tract not far from Afghanistan. U.S. officials fear the deal creates a sanctuary for al-Qaeda allies.

Strong Earthquake Near Mexico City

A strong earthquake struck central Mexico on Monday, swaying tall buildings in the capital and sending office workers into the streets. The 6.0-magnitude quake was centered near Chilpancingo, about 130 miles southwest of Mexico City and 50 miles from the resort of Acapulco, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Weather

The National Weather Service says a tornado has damaged more than 20 buildings north of Austin, Texas. Winds between 85 and 95 mph downed trees that fell onto the homes. Another tornado collapsed a roof at a school building in Corsicana. School was in session but no one was hurt.

April 27, 2009

World Races to Contain Swine Flu

Governments are racing to find and contain pockets of swine flu around the globe, seeking to stem both the threat of a pandemic and public panic. The European Union, meantime, urged Europeans on Monday to postpone nonessential travel to the United States or Mexico due to swine flu. EU Health Commissioner Andorra Vassiliou met with the EU foreign ministers on the subject as Spain reported the first confirmed case of swine flu in Europe. In Mexico, the outbreak’s epicenter, soldiers handed out 6 million face masks to help stop the spread of the virus that is suspected in up to 103 deaths. Most other countries are reporting only mild cases so far, with most of the sick already recovering. The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that 40 people in five states have been sickened with swine flu.

In New York, tests confirmed that eight students at a private Catholic high school had contracted swine flu. Some of the school’s students had visited Mexico on a spring break trip two weeks ago. In Mexico City, museums are closed, sporting events are canceled, and a nervous population is holed up at home because of a deadly outbreak of a new strain of swine flu. Even churches in this heavily Roman Catholic city canceled Mass on Sunday. People are wearing blue hospital masks on their faces to guard against the virus. Bars and restaurants are closed. Pharmacies report shortages of alcohol, antibacterial soap and other disinfectants.

Presbyterians Reject Homosexual Clergy Again

Efforts to allow homosexual men and women to serve as clergy in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have been defeated again. Last summer, the 2.3 million-member denomination’s General Assembly voted to drop a constitutional requirement that would-be ministers, deacons, and elders live in “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.” Any such change requires approval by a majority of the nation’s 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies. Those votes have been trickling in for months, and on Saturday enough “no” votes had been recorded to clinch the measure’s defeat. Previous efforts to delete the “fidelity and chastity” provision failed in 1998 and 2002.

Poll Explores Why Americans Change Religious Affiliation

A new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that Americans change their religious affiliation early and often, and the reasons they give for changing — or leaving religion altogether — differ widely depending on the origin and destination of the convert. The Poll found that most people who change their religion leave their childhood faith before age 24, and many of those who change religion do so more than once. Many people who have left a religion to become unaffiliated, the group that has grown the most from religious switching, say they did so in part because they stopped believing in the teachings of their childhood faith. Many also cite disillusionment with religious people and institutions as reasons for becoming unaffiliated.

Many people who have left the Catholic Church say they did so because they stopped believing in Catholic teachings. This is true for half of Catholics who have become Protestant as well as two-thirds of Catholics who have become unaffiliated. Many fewer say they left because of the clergy sexual abuse scandal. In contrast with other groups, Americans who have switched from one Protestant denominational family (e.g., Baptist, Methodist) to another tend to do so because of changes in life circumstances, such as marriage or moving to a new community. The report, including a detailed executive summary, methodology and topline questionnaire, is available online (http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=409).

Nation’s Talk Who Hosts Meet on ‘Imminent Threat’

Putting aside their own competitive interests, representatives of more than two dozen of the nation’s top talk shows held an unprecedented private meeting over the weekend to brainstorm strategies against what they agreed are government plans by to squelch critical political speech on radio. The group chose one attendee to be spokesman and chairman of the coalition – syndicated host Roger Hedgecock of San Diego. A daylong discussion today focused on what was described as the “imminent threat” of so-called “localism” requirements that will subject radio programming to the review by panels of community activists who will evaluate station content. These panels will be empowered to make recommendations for programming changes and challenge at the Federal Communications Commission the licenses renewals of stations that don’t heed their advice.

  • How can a government and society built upon the foundation of free speech even be considering such Big Brother measures?

U.S. Government Spending Reaching Historic Highs

Data emerging from the Congressional Budget Office and various international agencies, including the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, or OECD, indicate the Obama administration’s $3.6 trillion federal budget will dramatically increase government spending as a percentage of gross domestic product, or GDP, on a scale that rivals even the European Union social welfare states of France, Great Britain and Germany. Before President Obama took office, the OECD projected total U.S. government spending to be 39.9 percent of gross domestic product, or GDP, by 2010, compared to 47.1 percent in the Eurozone, a gap of less than an 8 percent. With all the bailout money and associated interest payments, the Congressional Budget Office now estimates that federal spending will hit 41.8 percent of GDP in 2050 and 75.4 percent by 2082.

Newspaper Circulation Decline Accelerates

The Audit Bureau of Circulations said Monday that total average daily circulation declined 7.1% in the October-March period from the same six months in 2007-2008. The latest figure represents data from 395 daily U.S. newspapers that reported in both the current and year-ago periods. The most recent drop was faster than the 4.6% fall in April-September 2008, and the 3.6% fall in October 2007-March 2008. USA TODAY remains the No. 1 newspaper, though it suffered the steepest circulation drop in the publication’s history. Circulation sank 7.5% to an average 2,113,725 after several periods with little change. The Wall Street Journal, the second-largest newspaper, was the only one in the top 25 to show an increase in daily circulation. It increased less than 1% to an average 2,082,189. The New York Times‘ daily circulation fell 3.6% to 1,039,031, while the Los Angeles Times saw a drop of 6.6% to 723,181. Other newspapers in the top 25 had daily circulation declines ranging from less than one-tenth of 1% at the Chicago Sun-Times to 20.6% at the New York Post.

GM to slash dealers, 21,000 jobs, Pontiac Brand

General Motors says it will cut 21,000 U.S. factory jobs by next year, phase out its storied Pontiac brand and ask the government to take company stock in exchange for half GM’s government debt as part of a major restructuring needed to get more government aid. The company also said it plans to slash its dealership ranks 42% from 2008 to 2010, cutting them from 6,246 to 3,605. GM is living on $15.4 billion in government loans and faces a June 1 deadline to restructure and get more government money. If the restructuring doesn’t satisfy the government, the company could file for bankruptcy protection.

Iraq: U.S. ‘Crime’ Broke Security Pact

Iraq‘s prime minister denounced a deadly U.S. raid on Sunday as a “crime” that violated the security pact with Washington and demanded American commanders hand over those responsible to face possible trial in Iraqi courts. The U.S. military, however, strongly denied that it overstepped its bounds and said it notified Iraqi authorities in advance — in accordance with the rules that took effect this year governing U.S. battlefield conduct. The pre-dawn raid in the southern Shiite city of Kut ended with at least one woman dead after being caught in gunfire and six suspects arrested for alleged links to Shiite militia factions. In an attempt to tone down the dispute, the six detainees were released.

Worldwide Civil Unrest Imminent

GeoStrategic Trends reports that Germany is a social powder keg as the banking crisis continues. In Jamaica, the police and army are on high alert to prevent expected and widespread violence following the government’s announcement of tax increases. These tax increases come as a result of Jamaica not being able to borrow money anywhere in the world. France is experiencing almost daily protests and disturbances, many of them of a violent nature. Corruption throughout Mexico, open warfare on the U.S. border and drug cartels out of control all point to an impending collapse of the Mexican government. In the U.S., police and troops are being militarized against citizens in anticipation of violent civil unrest. Their expectations may be baseless, but the Pentagon, DHS and FBI all have released reports warning against such unrest.

Iran: 2-state Solution Possible

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose government has long refused to recognize the state of Israel, now says Iran could support a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that calls for two sovereign states. The comments were significant because Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be “wiped off the map.” He also has questioned whether the Holocaust actually occurred. Iran supports Hezbollah and Hamas, two militant groups that have targeted Israeli civilians. The U.S. State Department lists both groups as terrorist organizations.

  • Whether to believe him is another issue, since Islamic militants encourage lying to achieve their objectives

Pakistan Kills 20 Militants; Peace Pact in Doubt

Taliban militants said Monday their peace deal with the Pakistani government was “worthless” after authorities sent helicopters and artillery against hide-outs of Islamist guerrillas seeking to extend their grip along the Afghan border. A collapse of the pact would likely please Obama administration officials pressing Islamabad hard for more robust action against extremists threatening stability in Pakistan and U.S. and NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan. President Asif Ali Zardari called for more foreign support for cash-strapped Pakistan to prevent any danger of its nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of al-Qaeda and its allies.

Weather

Strong thunderstorms packing possible tornadoes battered parts of the Midwest on Sunday for a second straight day, damaging at least half a dozen buildings and a campground in Iowa and two Oklahoma homes. Tornadoes were reported in eastern Iowa, western Oklahoma and south-central Kansas, but there were no immediate reports of serious injuries. In Kansas, a possible tornado touched down in the Lake Afton area southwest of Witchita. Two people were injured when the camper they were in was flipped by the storm.

April 26, 2009

Churches that Staged Pulpit Protest Still Await IRS Response

Nearly seven months after defying a prohibition on endorsing candidates from the pulpit, 33 churches across the country are still waiting to learn whether the Internal Revenue Service will take action against them. The goal of “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” was to trigger a legal fight and ultimately overturn regulations that prevent places of worship from supporting or opposing candidates for office. But a conservative legal group that organized the effort says the IRS has yet to notify the churches of any investigation. Legal experts suggest a number of possibilities: The IRS has nothing to gain from a costly and mainly symbolic battle; it has limited resources; or it could still be deciding how to respond.

Southern Baptist Baptisms at Lowest Level since ’87

Southern Baptist churches baptized fewer people in 2008 for the fourth year in a row to reach the lowest level since 1987, and membership in America’s largest Protestant denomination fell slightly as well. Baptisms dropped just over one percent to 342,198 last year. Total membership of U.S. Southern Baptist churches was 16,228,438 last year, down nearly 38,400 from 2007. The continued decline in the number of followers reflects a trend in other mainline Protestant churches. Non-denominational churches are gaining and the ranks of those unaffiliated with a church are growing.

Promise Keepers to Include Women

The evangelical men’s organization Promise Keepers waived conference admission fees and brought in standup comics trying to recapture its mid-1990s influence. The unprecedented move it’s trying now: opening an event to women. After 20 years of men-only events, Denver-based Promise Keepers is urging men to bring “the women in their lives” to a July 31-Aug. 1 conference marking the group’s anniversary. “It’s time for Promise Keepers men to step up and honor women,” Raleigh Washington, the group’s president, said Monday. “We’re going to heal the gender divide that exists in America. “What better way to challenge a man than nose to nose with his wife, his mother, his sister?” he said. Promise Keepers filled football stadiums and boasted a $117 million budget in the mid-1990s, but has struggled to find an identity since. Revenues declined for several years to about $10.9 million in 2007, according to its tax forms. This year’s budget is $7.5 million, Washington said.

Swine Flu Spreading

Mexican authorities said 81 people have died from a swine flu virus in Mexico, and world health officials worry it could unleash a global flu epidemic. Mexico City has closed museums, libraries, and state-run theaters as well as schools on Friday in hopes of containing the outbreak that has sickened more than 900. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says tests show some of the Mexico victims died from the same new strain of swine flu that sickened eight people in Texas and California. It’s a frightening new strain that combines genetic material from pigs, birds and humans. The swine flu outbreak continued to spread Saturday, with new cases reported in Kansas and New York City. In New Zealand, 22 students and three teachers who traveled to Mexico may have been infected.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that students at a New York high school were infected with swine flu. New York health officials said more than 100 students at the St. Francis Preparatory School, in Queens, recently began suffering a fever, sore throat and aches and pains. Some of their relatives also have been ill. Some students recently went to Cancun on a spring break two weeks ago and probably brought the flu back with them.

Drug-Cartel Kidnapping Hurting Phoenix Reputation

Outside Arizona, the Valley of the Sun is losing its shine. Phoenix’s bright image as a Mecca for golfers, conventioneers and snowbirds is being clouded over by dark tales of brutal Mexican drug cartels snatching rival smugglers from Valley homes and holding them for ransom. The result is anxious travelers faced with frightening headlines and worried politicians and tourism officials trying to cope with what they call exaggerated tales of violence. Almost every congressional hearing that mentions Phoenix invokes the city’s unwelcome new moniker as “the kidnapping capital of America,” a title repeated in newspaper headlines from Los Angeles to London. Although the 725 kidnappings-for-ransom reported in Phoenix during the past two years have been mostly bad guys abducting other bad guys from drophouses full of smuggled immigrants and drugs, congressional leaders are publicly warning that that could change. “Innocent victims are at risk of being caught in the crossfire,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., during a recent meeting of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Obama Coronated Messiah

On his 100th day in office, President Obama will be “crowned” in messianic imagery at New York City’s Union Square. Artist Michael D’Antuono’s painting “The Truth” – featuring Obama with his arms outstretched and wearing a crown of thorns upon his head – will be unveiled on April 29 at the Square’s South Plaza. Even the title of the piece, “The Truth,” suggests a play on biblical themes, as Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

  • This is the kind of over-the-top “worship” that we will see for the anti-Christ

Republicans Push Nuclear Energy

The U.S. should build 100 more nuclear plants rather than spend “billions in subsidies” for renewable energy if it is truly committed to lowering electric bills and having clean air, the Republicans say. In the party’s weekly radio and Internet address, Sen. Lamar Alexander said the United States should follow the example of France, which promoted nuclear power decades ago. Today, nuclear plants provide 80% of France’s electricity, and the country has one of the lowest electric rates and carbon emissions in Europe, he said.

  • We should do both nuclear and renewable energy

Obama Asks for Ideas on Curbing Federal Spending

Think you can do better than your federal boss? President Obama wants to know how. Obama on Saturday announced a plan for federal workers to propose ways to improve their agencies’ and departments’ budgets. The president said employees’ ideas would be key as his Cabinet officials cut millions from the federal budget and trim the deficit. “After all, Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers, not just management,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

  • This is a good idea, but it will be interesting to see if any such ideas are actually implemented.

GM Gets another $2B in Taxpayer Loans

General Motors got another $2 billion emergency loan, the U.S. Treasury department said Friday, and is expected to announce soon it will kill its slow-selling Pontiac brand as it scrambles to slice underperforming units. Treasury said it made the loan Wednesday, bringing taxpayers’ investment in GM to $15.4 billion. GM has until June 1 to complete restructuring plans that satisfy the government’s auto task force. The first quarter, Pontiac sold just 40,887 cars and trucks, according to industry tracker Autodata. Only GM’s Saturn, Hummer and Saab brands did worse, and they’ve been up for sale for months.

Economic News

World finance officials are bickering over the best way to get the International Monetary Fund more money for its revitalized role in helping shore up capital-starved countries. About 100 protesters clashed with police outside. On the agenda at the IMF meeting is how to supply a portion of the $1.1 trillion increase in resources for international lending institutions. That was a goal that President Barack Obama and other leaders set at the Group of 20 nations summit in London on April 2.

Regulators have shut down American Southern Bank in Georgia, boosting the number of failures this year to 26 — more bank closures than in all of last year. The Federal Reserve says the government is prepared to rescue any of the banks that underwent “stress tests” and were deemed vulnerable if the recession worsens sharply. The Fed says the 19 companies that hold one-half the loans in the U.S. banking system won’t be allowed to fail.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says $500 million in federal stimulus money will go to American Indian tribes across the United States for schools, housing, infrastructure improvements and job programs on reservations.

Italian Cruise Ship Fends Off Somali pirates

An Italian cruise ship with 1,500 people on board fended off a pirate attack far off the coast of Somalia when its Israeli private security forces exchanged fire with the bandits and drove them away, the commander said Sunday. None of the roughly 1,000 passengers and 500 crewmembers were hurt. Domenico Pellegrino, head of the Italian cruise line, said Msc hired the Israelis because they were the best trained security agents.

A German-owned ship, however, has been hijacked in the pirate-infested waters between Somalia and Yemen. Pirates seized the cargo ship early Saturday in the Gulf of Aden.

Pakistan Persecution

Taliban Islamic radicals have attacked a community of Christians, executing two of them following a rally that protested Muslim graffiti in their neighborhood that ordered them to accept Islam or die, according to an international Christian organization. The Christians protesting the Islamic slogans say: “We were protesting peacefully and all of sudden, a few militants carrying the latest weapons rushed in. Some of the attackers entered homes and pillaged money and jewelry and abused the women and burned their properties. The elderly were injured and one child fell to the ground and died in my friend’s arms.”

North Korea

North Korea has restarted its nuclear facilities to harvest weapons-grade plutonium, an official said Saturday, just hours after the U.N. imposed new sanctions on the communist state for its recent rocket launch. The move is a key step away from a 2007 disarmament deal — signed after a 2006 nuclear test — that called for North Korea to disable its nuclear facilities in exchange for much-needed energy aid and other concessions. Harvesting weapons-grade plutonium “will contribute to bolstering the nuclear deterrence for self-defense in every way to cope with the increasing military threats from the hostile forces,” the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka‘s rebels declared a unilateral cease-fire on Sunday as a top U.N. official pressed Sri Lankan leaders to let aid into the northeastern war zone where tens of thousands of civilians are trapped. Sri Lanka’s Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa rejected the call, saying the rebels were “running” from government forces, who have pushed deep into the Tamil Tigers’ strongholds in the north in recent months, surrounding the beleaguered rebels and vowing to end the quarter-century war. The United Nations and others have been pushing for a negotiated truce to allow civilians to escape, as reports have grown of starvation and casualties among those trapped by the fighting.

Weather

Severe thunderstorms raked parts of the Midwest on Saturday, killing a motorcyclist, spawning tornadoes that damaged several homes and sent NASCAR race fans fleeing, snarling air traffic and knocking out power. Tornadoes touched down in southern Leavenworth County, Mo., northwest of Linwood, and in Butler County, Kan. Storms packing hail and lightning led the Kansas Speedway to suspend the NASCAR truck race 52 laps into the race.

April 23, 2009

Will White House Observe National Day of Prayer?

Every year between 2001 and 2008, former President Bush’s calendar was cleared on the first Thursday in May to mark the National Day of Prayer in the White House East Room with prominent evangelicals. Now the Obama White House is facing questions of inside-the-Beltway etiquette: Should Obama maintain the open door to conservative critics like James and Shirley Dobson, and if so, should they accept? Or, will the White House have an official observance at all? With those questions unanswered less than three weeks before the annual observance, the National Day of Prayer Task Force headed by Shirley Dobson is moving ahead with other plans. In years past, Toon said, a White House liaison has contacted the ministry at least a month in advance to ask about their participation in the White House event. This year, without such prior notification, Dobson’s task force has opted to hold its annual event on Capitol Hill in the morning — at the same time when its representatives are usually at the White House.

FBI Spies on Tea Parties

Well-informed sources are saying that the FBI spied on 750,000 Americans as they attended some 600 Tea Party rallies on April 15. Working independently of local law enforcement agencies, FBI agents collected videotape footage and information on the leaders of the rallies. This precedent is ominous. If you are critical of the globalist policies being continued by the Obama administration, you will be tagged for future reference. Will Obama use this information to intimidate his critics and squelch free speech? The wholesale shifting of intelligence community focus toward U.S. citizens shifted into high gear under the post-9/11 Bush administration, and is further accelerating under Obama.

Teen Pregnancy Still a Growing Trend

Out-of-wedlock births have reached a record high. Bill Albert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy says roughly four out of ten births now occur outside of marriage. He believes the more it becomes normative behavior, the more teens will not see it as out of the ordinary. There seems to be little interest in what is best for a baby, Albert contends. “What we’ve lost in part here is the notion of, first, what constitutes a healthy relationship to begin with, and most importantly what is best for children,” he adds.

Girls 17 to Get Plan B Pill

Seventeen-year-olds will be able to buy the “morning-after” emergency contraceptive without a doctor’s prescription, a decision that conservatives denounced as a blow to parental supervision of teens but that women’s groups said represents sound science. The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that it will accept, not appeal, a federal judge’s order that lifts Bush administration restrictions limiting over-the-counter sales of Plan B to women 18 and older. U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ruled last month in a lawsuit filed in New York that President George W. Bush’s appointees let politics, not science, drive their decision to restrict over-the-counter access.  Korman ordered the FDA to let 17-year-olds get the birth-control pills. He also directed the agency to evaluate clinical data to determine whether all age limits should be lifted.

  • Science without moral direction can lead to many bad decisions.

Hate Crimes Vote Postponed, Dems Caught in ‘Lie’

A conservative activist closely monitoring the hate crimes” legislation pending before a House committee says although the measure still poses a threat to the religious freedom of Christians who speak out publicly against homosexuality, the foundation of the bill has been removed. Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee had planned on holding a vote on the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act yesterday, but due to a large amount of Republican amendments to the bill, the vote was postponed till Thursday. The bill would add homosexuals and transgender people to the list of protected categories under federal hate crimes law. Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, notes that Democrats were forced to eliminate a key portion of the bill — the findings section. “We exposed that they have fraudulent claims that there was an epidemic of hate against homosexuals and drag queens, transgenders — and that claim was the foundation of the bill,” she notes. “They claimed that homosexuals are fleeing across state lines to avoid persecution, and that perpetrators are crossing state lines to commit crimes against these gays, lesbians, and transgenders, and that they have trouble purchasing goods and services or finding employment. We nailed them on the fact that that’s a lie.”

Miss California Takes Stand Against Gay Marriage

While many in Hollywood ridicule her, scores of Americans are now applauding Miss California’s stance against same-sex marriage. At Sunday night’s Miss USA pageant, Carrie Prejean was asked the one question she dreaded most, “Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage; do you think every state should follow suit?” Her answer, which suddenly has made her the center of both praise and scorn, included the words, “In my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.” Openly homosexual blogger and judge of the Miss USA pageant Mario Armando Lavandeira, also known by alias Perez Hilton, a self-described “queen of all media,” launched into a full-blown attack on the Christian contestant. He admitted to giving Prejean, a student at San Diego Christian College, a zero score. She was first runner-up, primarily due to Hilton’s vote.

  • Hate against homosexuals is a crime, but hate by homosexuals is becoming the norm

Door still Revolving between Capitol, Lobbyists

Despite congressional pledges to stop the revolving door between Capitol Hill and the lobbying industry, 16 of the 62 lawmakers who left Congress last year have landed jobs with groups that seek to influence policymakers, a USA TODAY analysis has found. Former House members are barred from lobbying their former colleagues for a year after leaving office and former senators must wait two years. But nothing prohibits former lawmakers from immediately starting to advise clients on how to navigate the congressional process, having contacts with administration officials, or working as a state lobbyist.

  • The influence of lobbyists and money have way too much influence on our government. Those doors need to be closed.

National Parks to Get $750 Million in Stimulus

National parks get $750 million in federal economic stimulus money Wednesday to chip into a to-do list that includes repairing historic buildings, constructing trails and increasing renewable energy use from Independence Hall in Philadelphia to Yosemite in California. “This is probably the most significant investment made in more than a generation,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in an interview before the Earth Day announcement. More than 750 projects in 48 states are expected to create 30,000 to 40,000 jobs starting this summer. That includes 15,000 jobs in a proposed 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps.

U.S. Banks will Lose almost $3T in Global Crisis

The International Monetary Fund says U.S. financial institutions will suffer $2.7 trillion in losses from the global credit crisis, part of a worldwide total expected to top $4 trillion. The $2.7 trillion estimate for the United States is nearly double the IMF’s projection from just six months ago. The IMF also warned that governments must take decisive policy actions to contain the fallout. The agency said governments have made progress getting extra money into the banking system, but added more needs to be done to deal with toxic assets on banks’ books and on shutting down insolvent financial institutions.

GM, Chrysler to Get $5.5B More in Taxpayer Loans

A federal report says the U.S. government will lend General Motors up to $5 billion more to make it through June 1, and Chrysler could get up to $500 million more by April 30. The report on the TARP bailout program released Tuesday by a special inspector general says the money will be made available for working capital as both companies try to meet government restructuring demands. GM already has received $13.4 billion in taxpayer loans, while Chrysler has received $4 billion. The government’s auto task force rejected both companies’ restructuring plans March 30 and gave Chrysler until April 30 to make further cuts and take on a partner, or face liquidation. GM has until June 1 to complete its restructuring or face reorganization in bankruptcy.

General Motors started firing 1,600 white-collar workers Monday, continuing its effort to slash costs and qualify for more government loans on the same day it revealed it spent $2.8 million in the first three months of this year to lobby federal lawmakers. In what appears to be a record voluntary shutdown, General Motors plans to essentially quit making cars and trucks in the U.S. for nine weeks from mid-May through July. The plan is to shut 15 of GM’s 21 North American car and truck assembly plants, most of them in the USA.

Economic News

New jobless claims rose more than expected last week, while the number of workers continuing to filing claims for unemployment benefits topped 6.1 million. Both figures are fresh evidence layoffs persist amid a weak job market that is not expected to rebound anytime soon. The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims for unemployment compensation rose to a seasonally adjusted 640,000, up from a revised 613,000 the previous week.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that home sales fell 3% in March from February, to an annual rate of 4.57 million, from a downwardly revised pace of 4.71 million units in February. The median sale price plunged to $175,200, down 12.4% from $200,100 a year earlier, but up from $168,200 in February..

Other Business News

Delta Air Lines, the world’s biggest airline operator, said Tuesday it was hit hard in the first quarter by the weak economy and bad bets on fuel hedges, but narrowed its net loss to $794 million. Delta said the loss for the three months ended March 31 was 96 cents a share, and compares to a loss of $6.39 billion for the same period a year ago. Delta, like other airlines, has been cutting jobs and capacity to weather the global economic downturn. United Airlines said Tuesday it lost $382 million during the first quarter.

US Airways said its first-quarter loss shrank as some of its old fuel hedging contracts turned positive. AirTran Airways the discount carrier, provided a bright spot Wednesday for a beleaguered U.S. airline industry. It posted a profit for the first three months of the year. JetBlue Airways on Thursday posted a first-quarter profit after it paid less for fuel and reined in other costs.

The iPhone is a recession-defying powerhouse, fueling strong quarterly results for both AT&T and Apple. AT&T, which pays Apple about $300 for every device sold, added 1.2 million wireless subscribers, ending the quarter with 78.2 million. That propelled its first-quarter profit of $3.1 billion. Apple had its best non-holiday quarter: a 15% jump in second-quarter profit that beat Wall Street expectations. Sales of iPhones more than doubled, to 3.79 million, from a year ago.

Caterpillar  the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment, reported its first quarterly loss in 17 years Tuesday, and slashed its full-year earnings and sales forecast. The company was pulled into the red by more than half a billion dollars in charges from its wave of recession-triggered layoffs. Caterpillar, which has eliminated about 25,000 full-time and contract positions the past few months, posted a first-quarter loss of $112 million vs. a year-earlier profit of $922 million

The New York Times Co. fell into a deeper financial hole during the first quarter as the newspaper publisher’s advertising revenue plunged 27% in an industrywide slump. The owner of The New York Times, The Boston Globe and 15 other daily newspapers said Tuesday that it lost $74.5 million in the opening three months of the year. That compared with a loss of $335,000 a year ago The disappointing performance was driven by a nearly $124 million decline in the Times Co.’s ad revenue from the same time last year.

McDonald’s said Wednesday that its first-quarter profit climbed nearly 4%. The home of the Big Mac has seen sales rise as consumers opt for cheaper food. In the first quarter, global same-store sales, or sales at locations open at least a year, rose 4.3%.

Cuba

Fidel Castro says President Obama “misinterpreted” his brother Raul’s remarks regarding the United States and bristled at the suggestion that Cuba should free political prisoners or cut taxes on remittances from abroad as a goodwill gesture to the U.S. Raul Castro touched off a whirlwind of speculation last week that the U.S. and Cuba could be headed toward a thaw in nearly a half-century of chilly relations. The speculation began when the Cuban president said leaders would be willing to sit down with their U.S. counterparts and discuss “everything,” including human rights, freedom of the press and expression, and political prisoners on the island. Obama responded at the Summit of the Americas by saying Washington seeks a new beginning with Cuba, but he also said Sunday that Cuba should release some political prisoners and reduce official taxes on remittances sent to the island from the U.S.

Pakistan

Taliban militants from Pakistan’s Swat Valley are tightening their grip on a neighboring northwest district closer to the capital — patrolling roads, broadcasting sermons and spreading fear in another sign that a government-backed peace deal has emboldened the extremists to spread their reign. Pakistan’s president signed off on the peace pact last week in hopes of calming Swat, where some two years worth of clashes between the Taliban and security forces have killed hundreds and displaced up to a third of the one-time tourist haven’s 1.5 million residents. But critics, including U.S. officials, have warned that Swat could be the first domino to fall to the Taliban — and that Islamabad, capital of the nuclear-armed nation less than 100 miles away, could eventually follow.

Ø Peace deals with extremists, especially Islamic militants, will never achieve peace. Instead they only give the militants greater latitude to continue their goal of a full takeover

Pakistani authorities have deployed paramilitary troops Thursday to a district only 60 miles from the capital, Islamabad, where Taliban militants appeared to be consolidating their hold after this week’s land grab. The takeover of Buner brings the Taliban closer to Islamabad than it has been since the insurgency started.

Somalia

Somalia‘s government wants the international community to help it create a coast guard to fight piracy along the country’s lawless coastline. Foreign Minister Mohamed Omaar says his government plans to create a coast guard because it is needed to re-establish the rule of law along Africa’s longest shoreline. Omaar spoke with The Associated Press ahead of an international conference aimed at pledging donor support for the interim government’s nascent security forces and for the African Union peacekeeping contingent deployed in the volatile nation.

Wildfires

A coastal wildfire spread early Thursday toward one of the busiest tourist stretches in South Carolina after destroying more than three dozen homes. The fire jumped a state highway near North Myrtle Beach and destroyed about 40 homes early Thursday. In North Myrtle Beach near the North Carolina state line, officials began evacuating about 2,500 people in a four-mile stretch west of Highway 17.

Alligator Alley, a main link between Florida’s east and west coast, remains closed due to a 1,000 acre wildfire burning in the Big Cypress National Preserve and drivers must seek alternate routes. The Florida Highway Patrol shut down the highway in both directions about 8 p.m. Wednesday.

California is bracing for another year of bad wildfires as a thin mountain snowpack, parched vegetation and an early heat wave signal a third consecutive year of drought. Record high temperatures from 93 in San Francisco to 100 in Los Angeles earlier this week, has dried out vegetation even more. Several fires have already cropped up this spring.

Signs of the Times

April 20, 2009

Most U.S. Christians Don”t Believe Satan, Holy Spirit, Exists

U.K.-based Christian Today reports that six out of 10 American Christians believe Satan is a “symbol of evil” rather than actual “living being,” a new Barna study found. Only 35 percent said they believe that Satan is a living and real force of evil. Similar numbers said the Holy Spirit is a “symbol of God’s power and presence” but not a “living entity.” “Most Americans, even those who say they are Christian, have doubts about the intrusion of the supernatural into the natural world,” said George Barna, founder of The Barna Group. “Hollywood has made evil accessible and tame, making Satan and demons less worrisome than the Bible suggests they really are,” he said. “It’s hard for achievement-driven, self-reliant, independent people to believe that their lives can be impacted by unseen forces.”

  • It’s  getting quite scary and discouraging to see how many supposed Christians are making up their own beliefs instead of adhering to God’s Word.

Drug Violence Halts Church Trips to U.S.-Mexico Border

Christianity Today reports that short-term mission trips to a once-popular destination have begun to dry up. Trip coordinators for Juarez, Mexico — just two miles south of El Paso, Texas — have canceled planned trips due to the sharp spike in violence from a drug-cartel war. More than 1,800 people in the city of 1.6 million have been killed since January 2008, some in public shootouts, and thousands more have been threatened. “Ministry partners have experienced threats of extortion,” said YouthWorks regional director Jason Atkinson in a memo. “Our own staff were victims of armed robbery and carjacking.” Peggy Kulesz of First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said her church has been sending members to the city for 30 years, but cancelled this year’s trip. “When you feel a real sense of calling and then the door is shut, you… wonder what God has in store and how he is going to work in this time of crisis with Christians in the area.”

Buddhist Mobs Attack Sri Lankan Churches

Compass Direct News reports that Buddhist mobs attacked several churches in Sri Lanka last week, threatening to kill a pastor in the southern province of Hambanthota. On April 8, four Buddhist extremists approached the home of pastor Pradeep Kumara in Weeraketiya, Hambanthota district, calling for him to come out and threatening to kill him. The men phoned Kumara with direct threats later that day, and appeared outside his house again that night. “My children were frightened,” Kumara said. “I tried to reason with him to go away, but he continued to bang on the door and threaten us.” Earlier, on Palm Sunday (April 5), another group of men broke into the 150-year-old Pepiliyana Methodist Church in Colombo after congregants concluded an Easter procession. Witnesses said they saw them load valuable goods into a white van parked. “They removed everything,” said the Rev. Surangika Fernando.

Violence Hits India’s Poll Stations

The Christian Post reports that India’s monthlong elections have begun in violence. Maoist rebels attacked 14 polling stations, killing 17 civilians and security personnel. In spite of threats of violence, over half of people eligible to vote risked the polls, while 90 percent of the 3,000 Christians in a Kandhamal relief camp voted. Officials temporarily left recovery and rebuilding efforts in terrorized areas of Orissa state, the Christian Post said, to provide better polling station security. “I think they [anti-Christian politicians] are going to hear the voice of people that they’re not in favor of this kind of abuse and hurting the minorities, especially the Christians. This election is going to bring some changes to the state of Orissa, and we’re praying for that,” said KP Yohannan, founder of Gospel For Asia.

Concerns Raised on Pace of Stimulus

The federal government has only committed $60 billion so far for projects from the $787 billion economic stimulus package President Obama signed two months ago, prompting concerns that the money isn’t moving fast enough to halt the deepening recession. The money — nearly $1 billion a day — has gone mainly toward highway repairs, financial aid for states, nuclear waste cleanup and other public works, the reports show. The government wants most stimulus aid to be spent by September 2010. The Obama administration has emphasized the need to move quickly.

Homeland Security Leaders Defend Memo on Veterans

Top Department of Homeland Security officials on Sunday defended an agency intelligence assessment warning that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could be susceptible to recruitment by right-wing extremists, though one said it should have been “more tightly written and presented.” Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano said on CNN’s State of the Union that she regrets that some people took offense over the report, but added that “a number of groups far too numerous to mention” were targeting returning veterans to carry out domestic terrorism attacks. The report cited Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh, a decorated Army veteran convicted of detonating an explosives-laden truck in front of the federal building, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds. McVeigh was executed in 2001, and his former Army buddy Terry Nichols is serving multiple life prison terms for his role in the attack.

U.N. Racism Meeting to Open Without U.S., Others

The United Nations opens its first global racism conference in eight years on Monday with the U.S. and at least five other countries boycotting the event out of concern that Islamic countries will demand that in denounce Israel and ban criticism of Islam. The administration of President Barack Obama announced Saturday that it would boycott “with regret” the week-long meeting in Geneva, which already is experiencing much of the bickering and political infighting that marred the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa. But he said the language of the U.N.’s draft declaration “raised a whole set of objectionable provisions” and risked a reprise Durban, “which became a session through which folks expressed antagonism toward Israel in ways that were often times completely hypocritical and counterproductive.”

The opening of a United Nations conference in Switzerland on anti-racism was marred by chaotic scenes Monday as protests and a walkout by delegates disrupted a controversial address by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Dozens of delegates walked out of the chamber as Ahmadinejad accused Israel and the West of making “an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering … in order to establish a totally racist government.” He said Zionism, the Jewish national movement, “personifies racism,” and accused Zionists of wielding economic and political resources to silence opponents. He also blasted the United States-led invasion of Afghanistan. Ahmadinejad has also said that the Holocaust is a myth.

Obama Reaches Out to U.S. Antagonists

President Obama wrapped up a weekend summit with Latin American leaders Sunday by offering olive branches to adversaries from Cuba to Venezuela — a signal of U.S. courtesy, he said, not capitulation. The gathering of 34 elected leaders from the Western Hemisphere at Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, took on extra meaning after Obama’s overture to a former member, Cuba. Obama went a symbolic step further over the weekend by shaking hands and grinning with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who once likened George W. Bush to the devil. And he met with Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and Bolivia’s Evo Morales as part of his outreach effort. At a news conference Sunday before returning home, Obama defended his willingness to talk to anti-American leaders — a pledge he extended to Iran in last year’s presidential campaign.

The president also objections to his hearty handshake with Chávez. Before the weekend was out, the fiery Venezuelan leader told Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he will reinstate his country’s ambassador to the United States. “It’s unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chávez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States,” Obama said.

  • It remains to be seen how our country’s enemies perceive such politeness. Of course, Obama has more in common with socialist/communist leaders since he leans in that direction himself.

Bin Laden Deputy Slams Obama Plan for Afghanistan

Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 leader has ridiculed President Barack Obama’s plan to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan in a new Internet audio recording released Monday. Al-Zawahri’s comments were posted on a militant website Monday and came as the Obama administration plans to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and start withdrawing forces from Iraq. Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant also criticized Pakistan’s U.S.-allied government for its attempts to make deals with Muslim fundamentalists along its border with Afghanistan in hopes of draining support for extremists. He accused Obama of encouraging Pakistan’s government to make such deals, calling the strategy “a delusion.”

Signs of the Times

April 18, 2009

Brewer Administration Reverses Napolitano Decision – Requests Abstinence Funding

The Arizona Department of Health Services announced it has applied for federal funding for abstinence until marriage education programs. This decision reverses former Governor Napolitano’s refusal last year to request available federal dollars funding several Arizona abstinence education programs. State abstinence education providers will provide the required matching funds. Abstinence education proponents including CAP, Arizona Catholic Conference, and Arizona Partners for Abstinence Education had requested Gov. Brewer reverse Gov. Napolitano’s decision. Thank you, Governor Brewer!

European States to Join Growing Durban II Boycott List

Several European countries were expected to announce on Friday that they will be joining Australia, Canada, Israel, Italy and the US in boycotting the Durban II conference on racism which opens in Geneva on Monday, over concerns with its anti-Israel, pro-Islam agenda. German officials indicated today that they will likely join the boycott list, while Britain, France and the Netherlands are also reported to be leaning that way. In addition, the Czech Republic  – which currently holds the rotating EU presidency – has indicated it may stay away as well to signal overall European dissatisfaction with the draft text being prepared for the UN gathering.

Led by such flagrant human rights abusers as Libya, Iran and Cuba, the preparatory committee was forced by the threat of an EU-wide boycott to abandon draft provisions in the conference communiqué that would have condemned Israel for its apartheid practices and “crimes against humanity,” while also shielding Islam from criticism by banning “defamation of religion.” Some countries are concerned that this objectionable language may make its way back into the final declaration. The current document is also problematic in that it reaffirms the Durban I declaration from 2001, which singled out Israel for censure as a “racist” state. It also now concludes with a reference to “foreign occupation,” seen as an implicit criticism of Israel.

Bipartisan Team Stunned by ‘Extremism’ Allegations

Members of both sides of the aisle in Congress are expressing outrage and seeking an investigation into a new Department of Homeland Security report on “extremism” that targets U.S. military veterans, opponents of abortion and supporters of other conservative causes. According to the Washington Times, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said he was “dumbfounded” that the report was, in fact, released. U.S. Rep Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., was horrified at what he described as a “shoddy, unsubstantiated” document that was delivered to law enforcement across the nation. “This report appears to raise significant issues involving the privacy and civil liberties of many Americans – including war veterans,” Thompson told DHS chief Janet Napolitano in a letter.

  • The dark underbelly of the New World Order is showing itself a little prematurely

NIH Prohibits Stem Cells from Embryos Created for Science

The National Institutes of Health will fund human embryonic stem cell research on cells donated by fertility clinic patients, but won’t underwrite studies in which embryos are created solely for producing cloned cells for treatments, the federal agency said Friday. NIH also will not fund any cell research mixing human and animal embryonic cells, so-called “chimeras,” under the guidelines. Following a 30 day-comment period, the new guidelines would come into force on July 7, 2009.

  • Some limitation is better than none, but it still represents an ethical morass.
EPA to Rein in Fossil-Fuel Climate Threat
Capping years of work by U.S. government scientists, the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday declared that the heating of Earth’s climate from fossil-fuel use threatens human health and the environment. The decision paves the way for the EPA to order the nation’s first mandatory reductions of emissions believed to cause global warming, which likely means cars, power plants and factories could all face much tougher pollution limits. Congress is working on legislation that also would require emissions reductions. President Barack Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said they would prefer using a new law, rather than EPA rules, to make the reductions and spur renewable energy.

Democrats praised the EPA’s conclusions while Republicans predicted they would destroy jobs and harm consumers. If passed, it would the first major environmental protection law in almost two decades. If Congress balks, the Obama administration has signaled a willingness to use decades-old clean air laws to impose tough new regulations for motor vehicles and many industrial plants to limit their release of climate-changing pollution.

  • Another excuse for more government regulation
IMF Warns over Parallels to Great Depression
The International Monetary Fund has warned of “worrisome parallels” between the current global crisis and the Great Depression, despite the unprecedented steps already taken by central banks and governments worldwide. This recession is likely to be “unusually long and severe, and the recovery sluggish,” said the Fund, releasing two advance chapters from its World Economic Outlook. However, it warned there is a risk that it could spiral down into a full-blown slump unless further action is taken to stop “feedback effects” gathering force.
  • The IMF is a key player in the New World (Dis)Order, so it has a vested interest in promoting “further action” which is code for socialism and one-world government

Regulators Shut Down 2 More Banks

Regulators on Friday shut down two more banks, boosting the number of failures this year to as many as in all of last year. The tally of 25 bank failures this year all but guarantees the number that fall into the arms of regulators will surpass what was seen in 2008. Last year’s total was more than in the previous five years combined and up from only three failures in 2007.

Stocks Extend Rally to 6 Weeks

Stocks ended another winning week, their sixth, with a modest advance Friday as earnings from Citigroup and General Electric came in ahead of the market’s meager expectations. However, the Dow is still down over 7% for the year and over 40% since its peak two years ago.

Obama Pledges ‘Equal Partnership’ in the Americas

Venturing into an unfamiliar region of the world, President Obama made a splash on a stage of leaders from across the Americas on Friday and promised to offer them a new style of U.S. politics: more pragmatism, less arrogance. “We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms,” the president told the heads of every democratic government across the Western Hemisphere. “But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership,” Obama said. “There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations.” Such an idea — that the United States is equal, despite being keeper of the world’s most powerful military and leader of an economy that helps steer the globe — was telling. Obama’s drive to reshape the image of the United States as a humble, cooperative partner is perhaps his most significant mission in the Western Hemisphere.

  • Sounds good, but it’s all part of the New World (Dis)Order’s agenda to bring down the last remaining superpower.
North Korea: Sanctions a Declaration of War
North Korea said Saturday any sanctions or pressure applied against it following its rocket launch earlier this month will be considered a “declaration of war.” North Korea said Saturday any sanctions or pressure applied against it following its rocket launch earlier this month will be considered a “declaration of war.” In an announcement on state-run television, the country said it was ready to step up efforts to develop nuclear weapons and poised for a military response to any moves against it.

Iran Convicts U.S. Journalist of Spying

An Iranian court has convicted an American journalist of espionage and sentenced her to eight years in prison. That’s according to Roxana Saberi’s lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi. He told The Associated Press on Saturday that he’ll appeal the verdict. The American-Iranian citizen was arrested in January. The U.S. has called the charges baseless and demanded her release.

NATO Chases Down Pirates

Somali pirates attacked a tanker in the Gulf of Aden on Saturday, and NATO forces chased them down and ended up freeing 20 Yemeni fisherman the pirates were holding on another hijacked boat. A Dutch frigate from the NATO force spotted the pirates fleeing “on a small white skiff, which tried to evade and proceed toward a Yemeni-flagged fishing dhow” that had been sized by the pirates Sunday. The pirates were using the Yemeni vessel as a “mother ship,” a boat that allows the pirates’ tiny skiffs to operate far off the Somali coast.

Weather Signs

The mayor of a flood-threatened North Dakota town asked all residents to leave Friday after the sewer system backed up, flooding buildings in a four-block area with murky water. “We had a major main collapse in our sanitary sewer system. When it collapsed, the river came in and it overloaded the sewer system,” Mayor Mary Lee Nielson said. Nielson urged those of the town’s 7,000 residents who had not already cleared out to leave, but she stopped short of a mandatory evacuation. She said the sewer system would be temporarily rebuilt above the ground and the city will, for now, pump its sewage into the swollen Sheyenne River. The mayor said 222 portable toilets will be stationed around town.

Thunderstorms moved through North Texas on Friday while folks in West Texas were busy assessing the damage from hail damage the previous night. Hail was so heavy that a stretch of Interstate 27 between Lubbock and Amarillo was shut down so snowplows could clear the way. At least four tornadoes touched down in West Texas on Thursday.

More than a foot of wet, heavy snow closed highways and canceled flights in parts of Colorado and Wyoming on Friday, snarling traffic and forcing school closures and flight cancellations. More than a foot of wet, heavy snow closed highways and canceled flights in parts of Colorado and Wyoming on Friday, snarling traffic and forcing school closures and flight cancellations.

Signs of the Times

April 17, 2009

Praise Reports

During the apartheid era, the whites who governed South Africa used to justify their grip on power by claiming black majority rule would plunge the country into chaos and tribal bloodshed and open the door to communism. So far, history has confounded them. Fifteen years after Nelson Mandela became president, the country is heading into its fourth parliamentary election, and next month it will get its fourth post-apartheid president. Since 1994, over 3 million houses have been built for 14 million people. In the townships where blacks were confined and neglected under apartheid, schools have been built and roads paved. The poor get free water and electricity. Soweto, Johannesburg’s biggest township, is a hive of construction sites and road works. The economy has grown at an unprecedented 5% in the past three years, and next year comes a crowning act of international respect when South Africa hosts the soccer World Cup, the most-watched sporting event on the globe.

Baptist Press reports that despite popular reports that young people aren’t interested in spiritual matters, newly released survey data shows the opposite to be true. LifeWay Research and the Center for Missional Research found that 73 percent of unchurched 20- to 29-year-old Americans consider themselves “spiritual” because they want to know more about “God or a higher supreme being.” That figure is 11 percent higher than among unchurched individuals who are age 30 and older. Sixty-one percent of 20somethings also said they would be willing to study the Bible if a friend asked them to — that’s about 20 percent more than older generations. “They are interested (in spiritual things), but they are looking for spirituality often in every place except the church,” Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research.

One Million Attend Tea Parties in All 50 States

An estimated 1 million Americans participated in at least 1,000 tea parties, according to reports by organizers tabulating the nationwide numbers, with documented protests held in 50 states. Tax Day Tea Party national event coordinator Amy Kremer told WorldNetDaily she has confirmed that more than 850 parties took place. She has at least 100 more reports in her e-mail inbox that have not been posted. Asked how many people attended the events, she responded, “I would estimate it at over 1 million. I’m waiting on more numbers to come in from organizers right now. I can tell you it is absolutely over 750,000 right now.” The largest protests occurred in Atlanta, Ga., with 15,000 participants. As many as 10,000 protesters participating in Sacramento, Calif., and Overland Park, Kansas. An estimated 20,000 attended Tea Party events in Arizona, with 10,000 at the state capital in Phoenix, 3,000 in Tucson and 2,000 in Prescott.

Perhaps it’s a new “If you can’t beat ’em, bad-mouth ’em” strategy on the part of some news anchors to denigrate the grass-roots Tea Parties that blanketed the United States this week. Yesterday, anchors for MSNBC and CNN repeatedly used a sexually suggestive term commonly associated with homosexual sex to deride the “tea party” theme adopted by hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens protesting a federal government they say is grabbing more authority, spending more money and proposing to collect more taxes than ever before. Media Research Center President Brent Bozell released a statement asserting the coverage was biased and the language egregious. He called on the networks to apologize. “What an utterly embarrassing and crude display by MSNBC and CNN. It appears they’ve decided that since they can’t be any more biased in their coverage, they’ll ramp up the vulgarity instead,” he said.

  • While the nationwide mainstream media outlets (except for Fox) ignored or slandered the story, the Tea Parties made large impacts in local media. Perhaps this time the public will wake up to the obvious liberal bias.

Cloner’s Ark

Researchers in Dubai made news this week by announcing the arrival of the world’s first cloned camel, a singular achievement in a region where top racing camels are prized. Iran followed two days later with the birth of the country’s first cloned goat, though many other cloned goats have been born elsewhere. Most cloned mammals now lead regular lives, but as recently as 10 years ago they often died young of lung malformations, a problem that appears to have been largely overcome. Healthy cloned dogs and cats are the most recent significant achievements. Many researchers are getting closer and closer to human cloning by trying to clone monkeys. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, all attempts at cloning monkeys from adult donor cells have failed, with one researcher deeming the resulting embryos “a gallery of horrors.”

  • They might clone a human body, but never the soul and spirit thereof.

Obama Surprises on Gun Control

In a visit to this country racked by drug-related violence, President Obama said Thursday that he would not seek a U.S. ban on assault-style weapons, but instead will push better enforcement of existing laws to stop guns from being taken across the border. Mexican President Felipe Calderón has been urging the United States to renew the ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004 and prohibited sales of certain semiautomatics with military features. Calderón says such gun sales are arming Mexico’s increasingly violent drug cartels. “I have not backed off at all from my belief that the assault weapons ban made sense,” Obama said at a news conference with Calderón. “But none of us is under the illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy. So what we have focused on is how we can improve our enforcement of existing laws,” Obama said.

  • So he still believes in greater gun control, but isn’t pushing it now because it would be hard to do right now, presumably because he’s still struggling with opposition to his socialistic, big government economic plans. Perhaps the Tea Parties had some unexpected fallout.
Are You a Rightwing Extremist?
According to news reports, the Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in “rightwing extremist activity,” labeling citizens opposed to new firearms restrictions, returning veterans and conservatives as “rightwing extremists” and associating them with white supremacists and violent antigovernment groups. it appears that the Obama Administration, and especially the DHS under Janet Napolitano, is trying to demonize political dissent. And it’s no big surprise who’s directly in their crosshairs: supporters of the Second Amendment, including veterans and gun owners.

Why are they worried? Because since November, more than 7 million people have applied for criminal background checks in order to buy weapons. And as far as the Obama administration is concerned, buying guns equals “weapons stockpiling,” buying ammo equals “hoarding of ammunition,” and expressing concern about Congress passing gun control legislation qualifies someone as part of an “extremist group.”

Texas Governor Raises Secession Thought

Texas Gov. Rick Perry warned that people in his state could become so frustrated with the federal government that they could demand that Texas secede from the union. Speaking at a rally at Austin City Hall on Wednesday — “Tax Day” — Perry charged that Washington officials have abandoned the nation’s founding principles of limited government and said the federal government is burdening Americans with taxation and debt. The Republican said when Texas, an independent republic, entered the union in 1845, it was with the understanding that it could secede — a right held by no other state. Despite Perry’s comment, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission says Texas negotiated the power to divide into four additional states at some point, but not the right to secede. Perry spurned $550 million in federal economic stimulus money aimed at aiding the state’s unemployment trust fund, saying the money would come with strings attached that would force Texas to pick up the tab if the federal money ran out.

Al Gore in Stem Cell Venture

Former vice president Al Gore is entering the stem cell arena with an announcement today of a $20 million biotech venture in the hot area of “induced pluripotent” stem cells. Induced cells are attracting interest from researchers and biotech firms as an alternative to embryonic stem cells. Induced cells are made by inserting four genes into ordinary skin cells, and they offer a new path for “regenerative” medical treatments. Human embryonic stem cells are controversial because their creation requires the destruction of early-stage embryos. Induced cells do not, making them attractive test beds for analyzing the effect of new drugs on diseased cells.

  • Imagine that, Al Gore leading the way away from embryonic stem cells.
Obama Releases CIA Interrogation Material
Baring what he called a “dark and painful chapter in our history,” President Barack Obama on Thursday released a collection of secret Justice Department documents that provided graphic guidance to the CIA on how far it could go to extract information from terrorism suspects. The memos provide the most detailed account to date not only of the interrogation methods the CIA employed against suspected al-Qaida captives in secret prisons around the world but the legal arguments that the Bush administration constructed to justify their use. At the same time, Obama assured CIA employees and other U.S. operatives that they will be protected from prosecution or other legal exposure for their roles in the nation’s counterterrorism efforts over the past eight years. “This is a time for reflection, not retribution,” Obama said in a message delivered to CIA employees Thursday, explaining his decision to release a collection of documents.

The former head of the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush warned Friday that the release of documents detailing harsh interrogation methods holds major risks for U.S. security. “Whenever you release material that secretly relates the way we conduct operations against terrorists you run two risks. One is that you’re giving terrorists insights into things they need to prepare for, and they do prepare. And the second thing is you’re sending a message to our allies that we’re not reliable in terms of safeguarding confidential information,” former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Budget Woes Sharpen Political Differences in States

Democrats in state legislatures are seeking to raise taxes on the rich, and Republicans are trying to cut taxes for business — a replay of the fierce budget battles that have divided Congress. The classic fight over taxes is especially stark this year because states are struggling to balance budgets during the recession. More than 40 states are working on budgets for fiscal years that start July 1 in most states. New York took the lead this month, hiking its top income-tax rate from 6.95% to 8.98% on incomes of $500,000 and above. A dozen other states have proposals to raise taxes on the affluent. Georgia’s Republican Legislature used a different strategy. It cut business and capital gains taxes in an effort to generate jobs. “We’re trying to create a contrast to the overspending and overtaxing in (Washington,) D.C.,” says Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers. Stagnant budgets have sharpened philosophical differences about how to distribute limited funds.

Business News

General Electric, which has a stake in almost every sector of the economy, from light bulbs to locomotives, said Friday its first-quarter earnings fell 36% on sharply lower profits at its troubled finance arm.

General Motors Chief Executive Fritz Henderson says bankruptcy isn’t the company’s preferred option, but it’s probable given the restructuring goals GM must meet to get more government loans.

Citigroup’s problems are far from over, but Friday it reported its smallest quarterly loss since 2007. The bank posted a first-quarter loss to common shareholders of $966 million after massive loan losses and dividends to preferred stockholders. However, before paying those dividends, which were tied to the government’s investment in Citigroup, the bank earned $1.6 billion. A year ago, Citigroup suffered a loss of more than $5 billion, or $1.03 a share.

The sky isn’t falling at Google. While the search giant’s first quarter revenue of $5.51 billion slipped 3% compared to the last quarter of 2008, year over year revenue rose 6%. And first quarter net profits hit $1.42 billion, an 8% climb over the same year-ago period. “People are searching more but buying less,” CEO Eric Schmidt said.

Gannett Co. the nation’s largest newspaper publisher, posted a 60% drop in first-quarter profit Thursday on lower advertising revenue, kicking off what might be one of the worst quarters yet for newspaper publishers.

Once relentlessly profitable Southwest Airlines reported its third-consecutive quarterly loss Thursday. The discount airline reported losing $91 million, or 12 cents a share, in the first three months. It ordered a hiring freeze and offered employee buyouts.

Nokia Corp. on Thursday said its profits plummeted 90% in the first quarter as demand for mobile phones continued to weaken amid a slump. Sales fell 27%.

Arizona Jobless Claims Swamp Agency
As the ranks of Arizona’s unemployed swell, state officials find themselves falling further behind in processing the thousands of new claims for jobless benefits. The unemployment rate jumped to 7.8 percent in March and could hit 10 percent by the end of the year. Arizona has added staff, and employees have worked nights and weekends, but a processing backlog persists. Last week alone, the DES received 13,722 new claims for new and extended unemployment-insurance benefits, on top of 12,356 claims the week before. The department almost doubled its staff to 232 last year and is now hiring an additional 95 by July.
  • Fewer private sector jobs, more government jobs. Not a good equation.

Somali Government Knows Details on Pirates

Somalia‘s prime minister says his government has identified many pirate leaders but needs more resources and the help of other countries to go after them. Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said he was willing to share that information and work with other governments including the United States. “We have information on who is behind this, who is involved,” Sharmarke said. “There is a lot of money flowing in … we are following very closely how money is distributed here.” He was referring to the fact that Somali pirates can earn $1 million or more in ransom for each hijacked ship. Forty-two ships were hijacked by Somali pirates last year, and so far 19 have been taken this year.

Donors Pledge $5B to Stabilize Pakistan

International donors, led by the United States and Japan, pledged more than $5 billion Friday to stabilize Pakistan’s troubled economy and fight the spread of terrorism in the Islamic nation and neighboring Afghanistan. The U.S. and Japan started off the one-day conference by pledging $1 billion each. Saudi Arabia added $700 million and the EU $640 million. The total pledged was $5.28 billion, according to Pakistan’s foreign minister. The donors said their contributions would be focused on improving the economic climate in Pakistan through infrastructure and other projects, and stressed that stability in Pakistan is key to averting the growth of terrorism throughout the region.

Earthquake Signs

Two earthquakes shook eastern Afghanistan early Friday, collapsing mud-brick homes on top of villagers while they slept and killing at least 21 people. The quakes hit four villages in the high mountains of the eastern province of Nangarhar, about 30 miles from the Pakistan border. The quakes destroyed or damaged an estimated 100 houses in the four villages in Sherzad district.

Weather Signs

The Earth’s temperature from January-March 2009 was the 8th-warmest on record, according to data released Thursday from the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The global temperature of 55.04 degrees for the year’s first three months was almost a full degree above the 20th-century average of 54.1 degrees.

Peru‘s civil defense says a mudslide has buried 25 homes in two towns in the northern highlands. As many as 30 people are missing. The region has been battered by heavy rains.

Signs of the Times

April 16, 2009

Tax Deadline Brings out Thousands of Protesters

Thousands of protesters, some dressed like Revolutionary War soldiers and most waving signs with anti-tax slogans, gathered around the nation Wednesday for a series of rallies modeled after the original Boston Tea Party. Americans took to the streets to protest wasteful government spending Wednesday, with estimated crowd sizes of 5,000 to 15,000 in Atlanta, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Olympia, Wash., Lansing, Mich., and Sacramento. The demonstrations are part of a larger grassroots movement against government spending called Taxed Enough Already, or TEA — giving name to the Tax Day Tea Parties — and come more than 235 years after the original Boston Tea Party revolt against taxes. They chose the income tax filing deadline to express their displeasure with government spending since President Barack Obama took office. There were several small counter-protests. One million tea bags delivered to Lafayette Park were reloaded and sent away because tea party organizers did not have the proper permit.

Army Prepares for U.S. Social Chaos

As reported by Human Events news, the threat of social meltdown and chaos is so large a domestic law-enforcement arm of the U.S. military (referred to by The Army Times as the “Consequence Management Response Force”) has been created to deal with what U.S. officials believe to be a coming, unprecedented wave of massive social chaos. A new report by the Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute states flatly the U.S. military must prepare for “a violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States” that could be provoked by “unforeseen economic collapse” or “loss of functioning political and legal order.” Late last year, The Washington Post noted the incoming Obama Administration is going to “earmark” at least 20,000 troops returning from Iraq to deal with “domestic emergencies.” Since then, the Army Times has broken the story that the domestic emergency army unit has been increased to 80,000 troops, who are being trained right now in Georgia.

  • What does the government know that they’re not telling us? Is this part of the New World Order plan to impose more socialistic control over our formerly free society?

Canadian Believers in a God Down To 71 Percent

All Headline News reports that 13 percent fewer Canadians believe in God today than in 2000, according to a new survey by Ipsos Reid. Ipsos vice president John Wright, quoted by Canwest, said, “One wants to say that faith is constant… But I think it is transient for the majority of people.” The study found that even fewer people believe in the existence of an afterlife; only 20 percent say they believe in some kind of life after death, and only 1 in 5 believed in heaven and hell. The study of 1,000 respondents also showed a sharp contrast between men and women on the questions. In 2000, 82 percent of women said they believed in God, compared to 79 percent today. By contrast, 86 percent of men believed in a God in 2000 – today, that percentage dropped to just 63 percent, plunging more than 20 percentage points.

  • The “great falling away” is well underway

Banks Repaying Some Bailout $$

A trickle of banks, large and small, are lining up to repay the government’s bailout money. On Tuesday, Goldman Sachs raised $5 billion by selling more than 40 million shares for $123 apiece. To cheers from lawmakers, the New York investment bank said it would use the money to pay back the $10 billion the government gave it at the height of the financial crisis last October as part of the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Goldman would be the largest bank to do so, following six smaller banks, including Signature Bank and IberiaBank, who have already repaid the government with interest. But analysts are cautioning that the repayments should not be viewed as an indication that the economy is rebounding; rather as a sign of how worried bankers are about legislation that imposes limits on banks that take TARP money.

Bank lending to consumers and businesses for many types of loans fell in February despite the billions of dollars in government support the banks received. While the median level of activity in mortgage lending rose 35.4% and home equity lines of credit grew 17.7%, lending to businesses for commercial and industrial loans plunged 47%.

Economic News

Industrial production fell an unexpectedly sharp 1.5% in March, Federal Reserve data showed, capping a brutal quarter as businesses pared orders and cut inventory in a deepening recession. For the first quarter as a whole, output dropped at an annual rate of 20%, the largest quarterly decrease of the current recession, which began in December 2007.

The number of workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, government data on Thursday showed, but the number of people continuing to receive benefits rose to a fresh record. Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits fell 53,000 to a seasonally adjusted 610,000 the week ended April 11. It was the second straight week of decline in new claims, from a peak of 674,000. But the number of people remaining on benefit rolls rose 172,000, topping 6 million for the first time since records began in 1967.

The Commerce Department said housing starts fell 10.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 510,000 units, second lowest on records dating back to 1959, from February’s downwardly revised 572,000 units. New building permits, which give a sense of future home construction, dropped 9% to a record low 513,000 units.

The number of homeowners facing foreclosure surged in March as lenders lifted temporary moratoriums and resumed legal actions against delinquent mortgage payers. Foreclosure filings — default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — were reported on 341,180 properties in March, 46% more than a year ago and 17% above February’s total.

A key gauge of consumer prices fell unexpectedly in March and recorded its first annual drop since 1955, government data showed Wednesday, as slumping demand pushed down energy and food costs. The Labor Department said its closely watched consumer price index fell 0.1%, after increasing 0.4% in February. On a year-over-year basis, consumer prices were down 0.4%, the first 12-month decline since August 1955.

General Growth Properties, owner of more than 200 malls, including Fashion Show in Las Vegas and Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston, declared bankruptcy Thursday in the biggest real estate failure in U.S. history.

The Los Angeles Board of Education has voted to lay off as many as 5,400 teachers and support personnel for the upcoming school year. Arizona announced layoffs of about 4,500 teachers and staff.

Officials say the owners of ground zero have proposed indefinitely putting off building two of three skyscrapers planned at the World Trade Center site, citing real estate market conditions. The Port Authority says real estate market conditions should determine if and when the other skyscrapers are built.

At a time when most retailers are begging for customers, second-hand shops are thriving as the laid-off, and those worried they will be, turn to them for less expensive clothes, furniture and household items. But many thrift shops are also running low on merchandise as fewer people are able to donate.

Most Illegal Immigrants’ Kids are U.S. Citizens

Nearly three-quarters of illegal immigrants’ children were born in the USA and are citizens, according to a report released Tuesday. Those 4 million children muddy the immigration debate, raising questions about enforcement and public services for illegal immigrant families. Of the 5.5 million children of illegal immigrants, 73% were born here, up from 63% in 2003. Because more families are made up of both legal and illegal residents, immigration enforcement becomes trickier.

$250M Effort to Secure Ports Lags

A six-year, $250 million anti-terrorism effort to secure the nation’s ports is delayed for at least two more years because the government lacks machines to read fingerprint ID cards issued to more than 1 million workers. Truckers, deckhands and others requiring access to secure areas at ports paid $132 apiece for the high-tech ID cards that have their fingerprints embedded in them. But the Homeland Security Department, which is overseeing the program, says it still lacks fingerprint readers that can be used reliably in harsh weather. Congress ordered the cards in late 2002 based on concerns that terrorists might try to blow up busy seaports or smuggle bombs, weapons or operatives into the country inside cargo containers. Homeland Security was supposed to issue orders this month requiring ports to install card-reading machines, under a 2006 law. The order will not be issued until late 2010 and it may exempt low-risk ports from having card readers.

  • We can always trust the government to be late, inefficient and ineffective. Why would we want more of it?

Justice Dept. Reins in Surveillance Program

The Justice Department has reined in electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency after finding the agency had improperly accessed American phone calls and e-mails. The problems were discovered during a review of the intelligence activities, the Justice Department said in a statement Wednesday night. The Justice Department did not elaborate on what problems it found. Once corrective measures were taken, Attorney General Eric Holder sought authorization for renewing the surveillance program.

  • The balance between privacy and safety is a difficult one to determine. Below the surface, however, is the looming threat of Big Brother tactics employed against those who stand up for freedom and God as our country sinks deeper and deeper into godless socialism.

Mexico Focused on Guns, Guns, Guns

When President Obama lands in Mexico City Thursday, there will be one main subject on Mexican officials’ minds. “For Mexico, the No. 1 priority is guns. The No. 2 priority is guns. The No. 3 priority is guns,” Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora told USA TODAY. The Mexican government wants Obama to take more steps to stop arms sold in the USA from flowing across the border, where they are frequently used by cartels in Mexico’s drug war. That issue and other contentious subjects, including a brewing trade dispute, will be on the agenda as Obama makes his first official trip south.

  • So, Mexico will provide the excuse for Obama to move on greater gun control. After all, the North American Union needs to get its laws coordinated for the coming merger. The New World Order knows that armed citizens remain a dangerous threat to their plans for socialism and globalization.

Drought Threatens Iraq’s Garden of Eden

A severe drought is threatening Iraq’s southern marshes — the traditional site of the biblical Garden of Eden — just as the region was recovering from Saddam Hussein’s draining of its lakes and swamps to punish a political rebellion. Marshes that were coming back to life a few years ago with U.N. help are again little more than vast expanses of cracked earth. The area’s thousands of inhabitants, known as Marsh Arabs, are victims of the debilitating drought that has ravaged much of Iraq and neighboring countries the last two years. The Marsh Arab culture existed for more than 5,000 years in the 8,000 square miles of wetlands fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The marshes boasted hundreds of species of birds and fish, and periodic flooding created fertile farm lands.

  • As promised, God has ensured that we will never enter the Garden of Eden again on our own, except through His Son

Somali Pirates on Hijacking Spree

Somali pirates have launched a series of attacks on international ships this week, apparently undeterred by the U.S. Navy’s daring rescue of an American sea captain that left three pirates dead. The hijackings come only days after the rescue and vows by U.S. officials to redouble efforts on combating pirates, who have roamed the seas with near impunity. The continued attacks highlight the difficulty in combating pirates who have used Somalia, a largely ungoverned country in east Africa, as a base of operations.

Somali pirates fired grenades and automatic weapons at an American freighter loaded with food aid but the ship managed to escape the attack and was heading Wednesday to Kenya under U.S. Navy escort. In defiance of President Obama’s vow to halt their banditry, pirates have seized four vessels and over 75 hostages off the Horn of Africa since Sunday’s dramatic rescue of an American freighter captain.

The French Navy captured 11 suspected pirates off the coast of Kenya Wednesday. The Navy tracked the pirates overnight after they attacked a ship called the Safmarine Asia. The French launched a helicopter from the frigate Nivose to head off the attack Tuesday night, then seized the suspected pirates Wednesday morning.

America is going after the pirates’ loot. The Obama administration announced plans Wednesday to freeze assets belonging to the pirates operating off Somalia’s coast, which could make it harder for them to collect million-dollar ransoms until more sweeping diplomatic or military action is taken. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged that the pirates’ assets could be difficult to locate, but said that targeting their finances could stop them from acquiring faster boats and surveillance equipment.

  • What’s so hard about this? Use our satellites to track them and shoot the pirates’ boats with air-launched missiles when they drive away with the ransom money.

Will Israel Attack Iran’s Nuclear Plants?

Iran‘s president on Wednesday sent the clearest signal yet that the Islamic republic wants warmer ties with the U.S., just one day after Washington spoke of new strategies to address the country’s disputed nuclear program. Taken together, the developments indicate that the longtime adversaries are seeking ways to return to the negotiating table and ease a nearly 30-year-old diplomatic standoff. President Barack Obama’s administration has sought to start a dialogue with Iran, a departure from the Bush administration’s tough talk.

  • Just as North Korea has done, Iran will try to gain incentives all the while scheming to keep its nuclear program going.

Israel‘s president dismissed talk of attacking Iranian nuclear facilities in talks with the U.S. Mideast envoy Thursday, saying there is no military solution to the nuclear threat from Tehran. Shimon Peres told President’s Barack Obama’s representative George Mitchell that progress with Iran depended on international cooperation. Peres said the international community must explore whether dialogue is a real opportunity or Iran is just stalling. Israel sees a nuclear Iran as the most serious threat to its existence. Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction and Iran has tested long-range missiles that could strike Israel.

Jerusalem Report says that Israel will be forced to launch a massive air strike lasting a few days at most against Iran’s nuclear sites “if President Obama decides on a policy of engagement that leaves the Iranians with a viable nuclear option.” If the Russians step up the delivery date for large numbers of S-300 missiles, it could foment an earlier attack. Even without a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, Israel has the capability to completely disrupt the Iranian economy by targeting strategic oil production plants. This would severely hamper an Iranian counterstrike. Could this be why Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator called the EU’s foreign policy chief on Monday and indicated that Iran was open to such talks and that the discussions should be aimed at “construction cooperation” between Iran and the West?

  • Netanyahu is a lot more hawkish than Peres and is unlikely to let Iran get away with diplomatic obfuscation

N. Korea Ousts Inspectors, Reviving Nuclear Facilities

The International Atomic Energy Agency says North Korea is expelling its inspectors. The North has also told the U.N. nuclear watchdog that it is reactivating all of its nuclear facilities. The moves reflect North Korea’s anger at U.N. Security Council criticism of the country’s latest missile launch. The White House, meantime, said North Korea’s vow to restart its nuclear reactor and boycott international disarmament talks is a serious step in the wrong direction.

Strong Quake Rattles Hawaii’s Big Island

Officials say a strong earthquake shook parts of Hawaii’s Big Island but no damage has been reported. U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says a temblor with a magnitude of 5.0 struck Tuesday at 12:44 p.m. local time about 8 miles (12 kilometers) southeast of volcano Kilauea’s summit. The observatory says it caused no apparent changes in volcanic activity at Kilauea, which began erupting in 1983. It also says 11 quakes with magnitudes of 4 or greater have hit the area in the past 25 years.

Weather

A 17-mile stretch of Interstate 40 was closed Wednesday near Winslow, Ariz. due to a dust storm. The Arizona Department of Public Safety says the highway was closed in both directions between Winslow and the Meteor Crater rest area east of Winslow. It’s the third time in as many weeks that high winds and blowing dust have forced closure of I-40 in the Winslow area.

Signs of the Times

April 14, 2009

Praise Reports

The Christian Post reports that thousands of high school and college students are using their spring breaks to help someone else. Many of them are choosing to head to areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, or areas in the Midwest affected by flooding. “This week is different because these students have a choice,” said Torey Kittleson, a Disaster Response Services staffer for the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. “They’re free for a week of vacation — and they choose to help people in need rather than go to the beach and lie out in the sun.” College ministry Campus Crusade for Christ led a trip of 2,600 students to Panama City Beach to share the Gospel with people out on the sand.

Christian Post also reports that one charity and one megachurch are forming a unique partnership — actually, a merger. Gleaning for the World, a little-known but highly effective supplier for humanitarian projects, will merge with the 22,000 member Thomas Road Baptist Church, founded by the late Jerry Falwell. Both groups are based in Lynchburg, Va. “We expect to double the organization and supplies we’re placing in the field,” said Davidson, who left his position as pastor of a 1,200-member church to start GFTW in 1998. “That’s what this merger means to us. We’re simply going to reach a lot more people.” Both sides said they hope the move generates more awareness, enthusiasm and support of the charity. Last year, the group “gleaned” $42 million in medical and essential supplies to distribute worldwide.

China issued a human rights action plan for the first time Monday with pledges that range from curbing the torture of prisoners to boosting the number of female officials. The two-year plan for the communist nation long known for denying basic rights to citizens, promises better living standards, stronger legal rights and expanded channels to complain about the government. Human rights groups welcomed China’s new initiative but complained it lacks concrete targets to improve civil and political freedoms in the one-party state where political opposition isn’t tolerated.

  • Words are nice, action is better. It remains to be seen whether China follows through on its limited commitments

As political leaders debate President Obama’s decision Monday to significantly alter U.S. policy toward Cuba, the wide-ranging order wipes out the restriction that limited Cuban Americans to one trip every three years to the island. They can now fly down as often as they want. Also under the new policy, Cuban Americans can send unlimited amounts of money to relatives in Cuba. The Bush policy limited these remittances to $1,200 a year.

  • Whether this turns out to be a good move or not will depend on what direction the new government in Cuba takes in the future

Rick Warren’s ‘Backsliding’ on Marriage Damages Church

Rick Warren said Monday on CNN’s Larry King Live that he has “never been and never will be” an “anti-gay marriage activist,” and made a point to inform the program’s host that he apologized to his homosexual friends for comments he made in October to his church in support of Proposition 8 in California. Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., with the High Impact Leadership Coalition, a Washington, DC pastor and outspoken opponent of same-sex “marriage” says California mega-church pastor Rick Warren has done “tremendous damage” by apologizing for his support last fall of California’s marriage protection amendment. “This man who’s been called the next Billy Graham, who I really respect with all my heart and love what he’s doing in Africa, is falling into a trap that is emblematic of the problem that the entire church is facing in this generation,” Jackson states. “And that is that we love the applause of men more than we love the work of God and the gospel. Jesus…told us that we are to honor God first, and that we are not to fear men but we’re to fear God.”

  • As I’ve pointed out before, Rick Warren is the anointed pastor of the New World Order, so this is no big surprise.

Media Ignoring Other Side of Same-Sex Marriage Story

The Center for Arizona Policy reports that the media is ignoring the real trend in same-sex marriage. Thirty states have constitutionally protected one-man, one-woman marriage and a total of 43 states have some form of legal protection for one-man, one-woman marriage. No state has legalized same-sex “marriage” through a vote of the people, and each state that has asked its voters to define marriage has successfully defined marriage as between one man and one woman.

Economic News

Retail sales fell unexpectedly in March, delivering a setback to hopes that the economy’s steep slide could be bottoming out. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that retail sales dipped 1.1% in March. It was the biggest decline in three months and a much weaker showing than the 0.3% increase that analysts expected. A big drop in auto sales led the overall slump in demand. Sales also plunged at clothing stores, appliance outlets and furniture stores.

Regulators have shut down Cape Fear Bank — the first North Carolina bank to collapse since 1993, and the 22nd U.S. bank to fail this year, nearing the total for all of 2008, when 25 U.S. banks were seized by regulators.

The unprecedented glut of vacant homes — one in nine homes across the USA, according to the Census Bureau — will change the real estate landscape for years. Already, rock-bottom prices in the hardest-hit markets are attracting first-time home buyers who could not afford a home during boom times. Some areas may see real estate values stabilize by the end of this year, as buyers seeking bargains begin to reduce the backlog of homes for sale. At the same time, the availability of rental housing will widen, potentially pushing down the cost of renting. “We overproduced by 1 million new units,” says Edward Glaeser, economist at Harvard University. “Now we have to work our way through the stock.”

States Slashing Social Assistance Funds

Battered by the recession and the deepest and most widespread budget deficits in several decades, a large majority of states are slicing into their social safety nets — often crippling preventive efforts that officials say would save money over time. President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package is helping to alleviate some of the pain, providing large amounts of money to pay for education and unemployment insurance, bolster food stamp programs and expand tax credits for low earners. But the money will offset only 40 percent of the losses in state revenues, and programs for vulnerable groups have been cut in at least 34 states, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a private research group in Washington.

Perhaps nowhere have the cuts been more disruptive than in Arizona which has one of the nation’s highest deficits in relation to its budget. Arizona expects a $3 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year out of a $10 billion budget. As revenues sank late last year, forcing across-the-board cuts this spring, the child protection agency stopped investigating every report of potential abuse or neglect, and sharply reduced counseling of families deemed at risk of violence. Some toddlers with disabilities like autism and Down syndrome are not getting therapies that can bring lifelong benefits. And here, as in other states, the drive to help disabled people live at home has been set back.

A ‘Tsunami’ of Boomer Teacher Retirements Coming

More than half the nation’s teachers are Baby Boomers ages 50 and older and eligible for retirement over the next decade, a report says today. It warns that a retirement “tsunami” could rob schools of valuable experience. The report by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future calls for school administrators to take immediate action to lower attrition rates and establish programs that pass along valuable information from teaching veterans to new teachers. Over the next five or six years, we could lose over a third of our teachers, the report says.

Calls Mount for Solutions to Somalia

President Obama basked in the success Monday of the naval operation that freed an American hostage from Somali pirates, and a key senator and several regional experts urged his administration to tackle piracy’s root causes by helping Somalia’s weak government gain control of its territory. Somalia’s government, which came to power after Ethiopia invaded in 2004 and deposed an Islamist regime, doesn’t control the capital, Mogadishu, let alone the northern regions from which pirates operate. About 1,000 African Union troops are deployed in Mogadishu, but that didn’t stop insurgents from firing mortars at a plane carrying Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., as he was leaving the country Monday. He was unharmed. “A modest amount of assistance from the world community could do a great deal to help stabilize this government,” said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a leading voice in Congress on Africa.

Undeterred by U.S. and French hostage rescues that killed seven bandits, Somali pirates brazenly hijacked three more ships in the Gulf of Aden, the key waterway that’s become the focal point of the world’s fight against piracy. The latest trophy for the pirates was the M.V. Irene E.M., a Greek-managed bulk carrier sailing from the Middle East to South Asia On Monday, Somali pirates also seized two Egyptian fishing boats in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia’s northern coast, according to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, which said there were 18 to 24 Egyptians onboard at the time.

Iran Tries U.S. Journalist behind Closed Doors

A jailed American journalist charged by Iran with espionage stood trial behind closed doors and a verdict is expected within weeks, Iran’s judiciary spokesman said Tuesday. Roxana Saberi, a 31-year-old dual American-Iranian citizen, was arrested in late January and initially accused of working without press credentials. But an Iranian judge leveled a far more serious allegation against her last week, charging her with spying for the United States. Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said Saberi was tried Monday in Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which handles national security cases. It was unclear why the trial was moving at such a fast pace — especially because the charges leveled against her were so serious.

Pakistan Puts Area under Islamic Law

Pakistan‘s pro-U.S. president signed a regulation to put a northwestern district under Islamic law as part of a peace deal with the Taliban, going along after coming under intense pressure from members of his own party and other lawmakers. Asif Ali Zardari’s signature late Monday was a boon for Islamic militants who have brutalized the Swat Valley for nearly two years in demanding a new justice system. It was sure to further anger human rights activists and feed fears among the U.S. and other Western allies that the valley will turn into a sanctuary for militants close to Afghanistan.

Pakistan could collapse within months, one of the more influential counter-insurgency voices in Washington says. The warning comes as the US scrambles to redeploy its military forces and diplomats in an attempt to stem rising violence and anarchy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “We have to face the fact that if Pakistan collapses it will dwarf anything we have seen so far in whatever we’re calling the war on terror now,” said David Kilcullen, who was a specialist adviser for the Bush administration and is now a consultant to the Obama White House.

N. Korea to Boycott Nuclear Talks

North Korea vowed Tuesday to restore nuclear facilities it has been disabling and boycott international talks on its atomic weapons program to protest the U.N. Security Council’s condemnation of the country’s rocket launch. North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “resolutely condemns” the action by the United Nations, which it said infringes upon the country’s sovereignty and devalues the dignity of its people. “We have no choice but to further strengthen our nuclear deterrent to cope with additional military threats by hostile forces,” the statement said.

Thailand Unrest

Leaders of demonstrations that plunged the Thai capital into chaos said Tuesday that they were calling off their protests following rioting and clashes that left two dead and more than 120 injured across Bangkok. The unrest had continued after demonstrators forced Thailand to cancel an Asian regional summit, another humiliating setback for a country that markets itself as a friendly tourist destination. Just five months ago, another series of protests shut down the new Bangkok airport, stranding thousands of travelers for a week. Thailand is bitterly divided between supporters and opponents of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin is beloved by Thailand’s rural poor, upon whom he lavished inexpensive medical care and subsidized loans. During his first term, poverty rates dropped dramatically — from 21.3% in 2000 to 11.3% in 2004, according to the World Bank. But Thaksin is detested by the Bangkok middle and upper classes, who see him as corrupt and authoritarian.

Weather Signs

A swath of severe weather moved across a storm-weary South on Monday, killing at least two, downing trees and cutting power to thousands of homes. The storm system that hit Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and northern Florida brought torrential rain, flooding, hail and gusty winds to states still reeling from strong storms and tornadoes last week.

April 11, 2009

Praise Reports

Easter services are planned at one of Baghdad’s biggest churches for the first time in two years as Iraqi Christians return to homes they had deserted because of violence. Saints Peter and Paul Church had been closed since mid-2007 as insurgents and sectarian militias targeted Iraq’s 800,000-strong Christian community. The number of Christians in southern Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood, their onetime stronghold, dwindled to a few dozen families as many were killed or fled the country. Thanks to improving security, as many as 800 Christian families have returned to Dora in the past six months. By reopening the church starting with Sunday’s Mass, Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni hopes to send a message to other Christian families that it is time to come back to Baghdad.

Weather Signs

A tornado killed a woman and her 9-week-old infant and also injured dozens Friday in central Tennessee as a line of storms lifted homes, ripped off roofs and dumped hail in the Southeast. Elsewhere, a tornado touched down in southwestern Kentucky, injuring two people and destroying homes. A possible tornado was reported in northeast Alabama. And large hail began falling in several North Carolina counties. At least 41 people were hurt in Rutherford County, Tenn., four of them critically.

The sirens sounded three times across this western Arkansas hamlet, and residents watched several funnel clouds pass harmlessly over the town. The fourth siren was for another twister that ended up being a killer. While many took cover immediately Thursday night in the basement of the county courthouse, others stayed home, only to glance out their windows just in time to see the black funnel descend on the community just east of the Oklahoma line. At least three people were killed, at least 30 others injured and 600 homes were damaged or destroyed. An initial survey of tornado damage at Mena suggests the community was hit Thursday night by a twister packing winds of at least 136 mph.

  • As the end-times unfold, weather will becoming more and more extreme

Wildfire Signs

Residents of small towns in Oklahoma and Texas found themselves homeless Friday, in some cases returning to find whole communities had been charred by the deadly, wind-driven wildfires that raged the day before. Three people died Thursday and well over 100 homes were lost in the fires — at least one of them suspected arson — in western and central Oklahoma and in Texas. The blazes eased Friday as winds of up to 70 mph diminished. One couple died when fire overtook their home and another woman died after calling for an ambulance as a fire spread through an unincorporated part of the county.

Through Friday, there have been 24,126 wildfires this year in the U.S. compared to a ten-year average of 17,507, a 38% increase.

  • With higher winds and localized droughts, end-time wildfires will also be on the increase

U.S. Becoming Subservient to ‘Global Governance’

The American Center for Law & Justice is urging Americans to sign a letter of protest (www.aclj.org/Petition/Default.aspx?sc=3425&ac=1&Zip=*Zip) to President Barack Obama, expressing concern about the administration’s new strategy of internationalism — embracing foreign and economic policies that may very well put U.S. sovereignty at risk. The ACLJ is concerned about the nomination of Harold Koh to serve as the top legal counsel in the U.S. State Department. Koh, who is dean of the Yale University Law School, endorses an “international-first” philosophy that puts the interests of the global community above those of the United States. Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, says Koh has coined the phrase “transnationalism.” “What [that philosophy] basically says is this: that the U.S. Constitution is subservient to international standards, and is not to be the standard upon which U.S. courts are even to interpret our Constitution — that international norms should be the highest standard,” he explains.

President Wants $83.4B for Wars

President Obama asked Congress on Thursday for $83.4 billion for U.S. military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, pressing for special troop funding that he opposed two years ago when he was senator and George W. Bush was president. Obama’s request, including money to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, would push the costs of the two wars to almost $1 trillion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the Congressional Research Service. The additional money would cover operations into the fall. Obama is also requesting $350 million in new funding to upgrade security along the U.S.-Mexico border and to combat narcoterrorists, along with another $400 million in counterinsurgency aid to Pakistan.

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, acknowledged that Obama has been critical of Bush’s use of similar special legislation to pay for the wars. He said it was needed this time because the money will be required by summer, before Congress is likely to complete its normal appropriations process.

  • When are we going to learn to ignore campaign promises?

Stimulus Red Tape

Seven weeks after President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion spending bill into law, many officials still don’t know how it all works. Although some of the stimulus money is beginning to flow, it seems there are still more questions than answers. Last week, the state of Arizona learned it must drop a rule that required more frequent eligibility checks for Medicaid recipients because it runs afoul of the stimulus law. It’s a $1.6 billion disagreement that took weeks to uncover and hash out. State officials are still working on a legislative fix. Karen Peters, Phoenix’s intergovernmental-affairs director and chief lobbyist, said the city wants to apply for certain grants, but the rules won’t be posted by the federal government for months.

Government Benefits Increase

The pay gap between government workers and lower-compensated private employees is growing as public employees enjoy sizable benefit growth even in a distressed economy, federal figures show. Public employees earned benefits worth an average of $13.38 an hour in December 2008, the latest available data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says. Private-sector workers got $7.98 an hour. Overall, total compensation for state and local workers was $39.25 an hour — $11.90 more than in private business.

  • We must think of government as an organism whose sole objective is to grow and prosper. We need to stomp on this parasite before it kills us for good.

Economic News

New jobless claims fell more than expected last week but are stuck at elevated levels, while those continuing to receive unemployment insurance set a record for the 11th straight week. The Labor Department said Thursday that the tally of initial jobless claims fell to a seasonally adjusted 654,000, from a revised 674,000 the previous week. But the total number of laid-off Americans receiving unemployment rose to 5.84 million, from 5.75 million.

In another report, the Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit plunged unexpectedly in February to the lowest level in more than nine years as the steep recession pushed imports down for a seventh straight month while U.S. exports managed a small rebound. The trade deficit dropped a sharp 28.3% to $25.97 billion, the smallest gap since November 1999.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso unveiled a new stimulus package Friday, calling for 15 trillion yen ($150 billion) in government spending to lift the world’s second-largest economy from a painful recession. Japan has been battered by an unprecedented collapse in global demand and now faces its deepest recession since World War II. The country’s GDP shrank an alarming annual rate of 12.1% in the October-December quarter.

Healthcare Professionals Support Conscience Rules

Medical workers have made a strong statement against the Obama administration’s plans to withdraw or revise conscience rules. The Christian Medical Association (CMA) and 35 other medical organizations have announced results of a survey on the conscience rules, which allow medical professionals to opt out of procedures and dispensing medications on moral grounds. “We actually polled the general public and found out that, two-to-one, people support conscience protection regulations to protect faith-based healthcare professionals,” explains CMA leader Dr. David Stevens. “And in fact, two out of three oppose the administration rescinding those rules.” In addition, 87 percent said they wanted medical professionals who shared their moral values, and two out of three said they would be less likely to vote for their congressman or senator if they knew they were trying to strip the constitutional rights of conscience away from healthcare professionals.

  • Yeah, but it’s not government by/for the people, it’s government by/for government. Public attitudes matter little anymore.

Pirates Still Hold U.S. Captain

U.S. warships are trying to stop Somali pirates from sending reinforcements to a lifeboat where an American captain is being held hostage as the high-seas standoff off Africa’s eastern coast entered a fourth day Saturday. The pirates have summoned assistance but at least two American ships and U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft are deterring pirate ships and skiffs from contact with the lifeboat. The pirates have threatened to kill their American hostage, Capt. Richard Phillips, if the U.S. attacks them, according to a Somali who has been in contact with the pirates.

Asian Summit Thwarted

The storming of the Asian summit in Thailand on Saturday prompted its immediate cancellation and the evacuation of leaders by helicopter. They were lunching at an adjacent hotel and not caught in the melee, which was a mix of mob rampage and frolicking fun. Hundreds raced up and down escalators in a chaotic scene that combined young men wearing ski masks and goggles alongside elderly women waving Thai flags. Hundreds of soldiers were in the vicinity outside but made no effort to stop the protesters or remove them from the building. The protesters are supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 military coup for alleged corruption and abuse of power. They say Abhisit was not elected by the people and should step down so new elections can be held.

Fiji in Turmoil

Fiji’s military chief returned to power as this troubled country’s prime minister Saturday, a day after the president suspended the constitution and fired the judges who had declared the military’s leader’s government illegal. President Ratu Josefa Iloilo also declared a 30-day state of emergency, limiting freedom of speech and giving police expanded powers. The radical moves ensure that military chief Frank Bainimarama retains control over this South Pacific country despite the court ruling Thursday that the 2006 coup in which he seized power — and therefore his government — was unlawful.

Iran’ Nuclear Capability Complete

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran now controls the entire nuclear fuel cycle — from extracting uranium ore to producing nuclear fuel pellets. Production of nuclear fuel pellets is the final step in the long chain of nuclear fuel cycle. The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its nuclear program is merely geared towards power generation.

Georgian President Rejects Calls for Resignation

About 20,000 people urged Georgia’s president to resign Friday in a second day of protests, but Mikhail Saakashvili rejected their demands and called for dialogue with his critics. The crowds were thinner than on Thursday, when three times as many protesters jammed the capital’s main avenue. Opposition leaders vowed the protests would continue until the president stepped down. Their most bitter criticism is directed at the president’s handling of the brief August war with Russia. The Georgian army was humiliated and the country lost territory as separatists and their Russian allies took full control over two breakaway Georgian regions.