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.

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