Signs of the Times

Praise Reports

The White House mail office has confirmed it received a “deluge” of as many as 2.25 million red envelopes symbolizing the empty promise of live s snuffed out in abortion in a massive campaign that was larger than most White House mailing movements in the last 35 years. The Red Envelope Project is an idea sparked in the mind and prayers of a Massachusetts man, Christ Otto, who envisioned in January thousands of red envelopes sent to the White House, a visual expression of moral outrage over the president’s position on abortion. On the backs of the envelopes, senders wrote a message Otto composed: “This envelope represents one child who died in abortion. It is empty because that life was unable to offer anything to the world. Responsibility begins with conception.”

Tax Day Tea Party rallies have been scheduled in nearly 1,500 cities in all fifty states. As more fed-up taxpayers learn about the event, it is shaping up to be a unique occurrence in American political history. Spontaneous “tea party” protests have been occurring in different spots almost weekly — 2,000 people in St. Louis, 3,000 people in Cincinnati, 6,000 people in Orlando. The symbolism refers back to the original tea tax protest of revolutionary days. For more information, go to www.taxdayteaparty.com

OneNewsNow reports that one man’s 38,000-mile, 40-year journey bearing the cross will soon make the silver screen. Arthur Blessit, who carried a 12-foot cross across the U.S. in 1969, didn’t have plans to go further. Since then, however, he’s walked across 315 nations, territories and islands around the world. That walk took him through 52 war zones and thousands of deserted highways, meeting presidents, citizens, and even firing squads along the way. “The Guinness Book of Records says it’s the longest walk in documented human history,” he shares. “But I didn’t just walk — I carried a cross. So that suddenly gave purpose and meaning to every person who saw it. [They knew] he’s on a mission, and the cross is about Jesus.” Titled “The Cross,” the film’s wide release is April 10.

Vermont Overrides Gay Marriage Veto

Vermont on Tuesday became the fourth state with gay marriage when lawmakers voted to override a veto by the governor. It is the first state to legalize gay marriage with a legislature’s vote rather than through a court ruling. The House recorded a dramatic 100-49 vote — the minimum needed — to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto. Its vote followed a much easier override vote in the Senate, which rebuffed the Republican governor with a vote of 23-5. Vermont was the first state to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples and joins Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa in giving gays the right to marry. California briefly allowed gay marriage after its highest court approved the practice, but it was reversed after a public vote.

Obama Brings Rivals to Faith-Based Advisory Panel

A Pentecostal bishop who has challenged Democrats on abortion and a representative of a national gay rights group are among nine new members of a White House advisory council. Also newly appointed to the panel was Harry Knox, director of the religion and faith program at Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based gay rights group. An expanded and tweaked version of a faith-based office begun by President George W. Bush, the office is charged with administering federal grants and advising the White House on policy. The White House office enlists faith and community groups to address four priorities: economic recovery, reducing abortions, encouraging responsible fatherhood and improving interfaith relations.

Economy

The Congressional Budget Office has released preliminary deficit numbers, which indicate that for the first half of 2009 the deficit has already hit $1 trillion, $640 billion more than the comparable 2008 period, when the deficit was $313 billion. While the outlays can be explained by the massive TARP spending and other stimulus programs, the scariest piece of information is that receipts for March were $125 billion, $54 billion lower than the previous March.

  • These are frightening numbers. Any short-term recovery is doomed in the long-run.

Nearly three-quarters of CEOs in the Business Roundtable expect to cut workers in the next six months as sales sag, a survey showed Tuesday, suggesting further deterioration in the job market is likely at least through the end of the year. Seventy-one percent of CEOs said they expect to cut workers in the next six months, up from 60% from November, when the quarterly survey was last conducted. Sixty-seven percent said they expect their sales to drop, up from 45% in the last survey, while 66% said their company will likely cut spending on equipment and other capital goods, up from 52%.

A steep decline in global trade that is alarming economists and sending shivers through major port communities as shipping berths sit empty. “Global trade is collapsing. … The whole global economy continues to tank, from China to Europe to the United States,” says Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund. As debt-laden U.S. consumers stop spending freely, factories in China, South Korea, Taiwan and elsewhere are shuttering assembly lines. In January, the dollar value of U.S. trade fell more than 20% compared with the same month in 2008. New trade barriers in the USA, Europe, Russia, India and elsewhere — including domestic content requirements for some government purchases — threaten to exacerbate an already dire situation.

Consumer borrowing plunged more than expected in February as Americans cut back their use of credit cards by a record amount. The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that consumer borrowing dropped at an annual rate of $7.48 billion in February, or 3.5%, from January. That is the sharpest drop in dollar terms since federal records began in 1968.

Standard & Poor’s said Tuesday that a record number of companies cut their dividend during the first quarter. It was the first time since S&P started tracking dividends in 1955 that dividend decreases outpaced dividend increases.

Obama Visits Troops in Iraq

President Obama’s surprise five-hour visit here Tuesday highlighted some of the challenges facing the U.S. and Iraq, as Iraqi forces take on more responsibility for security and Obama pushes to withdraw all U.S. combat troops by next summer. On his way home from his first trans-Atlantic trip as president, Obama dropped in on Baghdad as the capital is experiencing an uptick in violence. Several hours before his plane touched down here, a car bomb exploded in the Shiite district of Kazimiyah, killing at least eight people. The Kazimiyah blast came one day after six car bombs exploded in several Shiite neighborhoods, leaving at least 34 dead in one of the worst days of violence in the last two years.

Though Obama acknowledged the recent violence, he was resolute that the time had come for Iraq to become self-reliant. “I remain convinced that our shared resolve and commitment to progress is greater than the obstacles that stand in our way,” he said after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. Obama also briefly addressed about 600 U.S. servicemembers at Camp Victory, a sprawling base near Baghdad International Airport. He thanked the cheering crowd for its sacrifice and praised the troops for their “extraordinary achievement” as Iraq moves toward democracy.

  • President Obama is really walking the tightrope here. If we were never supposed to be in Iraq, how can their be an “extraordinary achievement?”

Chavez says China Part of ‘New World Order’

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says his two-day visit to Beijing this week is part of the creation of a “new world order.” The frequent U.S. critic, who met with China’s president and Communist Party leader Hu Jintao on Wednesday, told reporters that power in the world was shifting from America to countries such as Iran, Japan and China. “We are creating a new world, a balanced world. A new world order, a multipolar world,” Chavez said after arriving Tuesday evening. Chavez continued his theme in his meeting with Hu, telling the president that “no one can be ignorant that the center of gravity of the world has moved to Beijing.”

  • Chavez is more right than he knows.

Earthquakes

At least 260 people died in the powerful quake that devastated part of central Italy, and 15 people remain missing. At least 100 of the roughly 1,000 injured people are in serious condition. The magnitide-6.3 quake struck 26 towns and cities around L’Aquilaearly on Monday morning, leveling buildings and reducing entire blocks to a pile of rubble and dust. A strong aftershock sent firefighters and rescuers scrambling Tuesday morning from a collapsed dormitory. The quake damaged large swaths of one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities.

Spring Snowstorm Wallops Midwest

Heavy, wet snow knocked out electrical service to thousands of customers and snarled morning traffic Monday in northern Indiana and southeast Michigan. Michigan’s CMS Energy Corp. and DTE Energy Co. reported 101,000 homes and businesses lost power and Indiana’s Indiana Michigan Power said about 1,100 customers had been blacked out as the weight of the snow snapped branches and power lines. Indiana State Police reported numerous slide-off accidents on the Indiana Toll Road, but no serious injuries.

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