Praise Reports

The gunman who shot Pope John Paul II says he would like to convert to Christianity at a baptism ceremony at the Vatican after his release from prison in January. Mehmet Ali Agca shot and seriously wounded John Paul on May 13, 1981. The late pope met with Agca in an Italian prison in 1983 and forgave him for the shooting. Agca served 19 years in an Italian prison for the attack and is currently serving a prison term in Turkey for killing journalist Abdi Ipekci.

Abstinence-Only Funds Cut

President Obama’s new budget would eliminate most money for abstinence-only sex education and shift it to teen pregnancy prevention — a U-turn in what has been more than a decade of sex education policy in the USA. The proposed budget, sent to Congress last Thursday, “reflects the research,” says Melody Barnes, director of the team that coordinates White House domestic policy. Abstinence-only sex education programs, which emphasize a no-sex-until-marriage message, received almost $1.3 billion in federal dollars from fiscal years 2001-2009, according to the Office of Management and Budget. At the same time, studies of abstinence-only programs have shown little success; the most often-cited study, released in 2007, was congressionally mandated and federally funded and found that abstinence-only programs don’t prevent or delay teen sex.

  • The real problem is that teens receive their sex education from TV, movies, etc. The vile media trumps all other efforts.

Tea Party ‘Extremists’ to Reload July 4

The American Family Association is now sponsoring Independence Day tea parties in more than 640 U.S. cities in all 50 states. The Taxed Enough Already, or TEA, parties will be held at 12 p.m. in front of city halls across the nation. AFA is hosting a Tea Party Day website so volunteer organizers may register their protests. The recent Tax Day protests were extremely popular and successful. A new poll reveals many Americans support beliefs of tax protest organizers. According to a Zogby poll commissioned by the O’Leary Report that was released April 28, the survey of 3,937 voters in the last election shows a full 57.1 percent of respondents somewhat or strongly support beliefs of tea party organizers, while 39.3 percent somewhat or strongly opposed them.

N.Y. Assembly Passes Same-Sex Marriage Legislation

The state Assembly passed legislation Tuesday night that would allow same-sex marriages in New York, but the measure faces an uncertain future in the state Senate. The Democratic-led Assembly voted 89-52 after nearly four hours of debate on whether New York should join five other states in allowing gay couples to receive marriage licenses.

‘Gay’ Gene Claim Suddenly Vanishes

A publication from the American Psychological Association includes an admission that there is no “gay” gene. The statement from the American Psychological Association came in a brochure that updates what the APA has advocated for years. Specifically, in a brochure that first came out about 1998, the APA stated: “There is considerable recent evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person’s sexuality.”

However, in the update: a brochure now called, “Answers to Your Questions for a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality,” the APA’s position changed. The new statement says: “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles. …”

Swine (H1N1) Flu

With about 2,600 cases of swine flu reported in all but seven U.S. states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is changing its focus from identifying cases of H1N1 to a comprehensive, longer-term perspective. Though not ignoring people still falling ill, researchers say they have enough understanding of the outbreak to begin looking ahead at what the new strain of influenza will do during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter flu season, which is just beginning, and how H1N1 may have evolved when it comes back to the Northern Hemisphere next fall for the regular flu season. The World Health Organization reports 5,916 cases of H1N1 flu in 33 countries and 63 deaths as of Monday. The outbreak is still classified as Phase 5, just below a pandemic.

With swine flu still spreading, the U.N. health agency is warning countries to limit their use of antiviral drugs to only high-risk patients to ensure adequate supplies in case the virus should mutate and become more dangerous.

Formaldehyde Linked to Common Cancers

New research raises additional concerns about the harmful effects of formaldehyde, a common chemical found in everything from plywood to nail polish, car exhaust and cigarette smoke. The study — the largest to date on workplace exposures — provides further evidence linking formaldehyde with cancers of the blood and lymphatic system. These cancers affect nearly 140,000 Americans a year. Dangerously high formaldehyde levels have been found in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Gulf Coast residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. A March report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, an environmental advocacy group, also found formaldehyde in more than 80% of bath and shampoos tested.

Arizona Trails in Wind Energy

Thirty big wind machines rising off a little-used highway between Holbrook and Heber are a curiosity for now in a state that lags its neighbors in alternative energy. Of the 19 states west of Texas, only Arizona and Nevada still lack operating wind farms to help meet growing energy demands. But that soon will change. The 412-foot turbines, Arizona’s first, will begin sending energy to Salt River Project customers later this year, and many more turbines are on the way. Utilities are rushing to develop alternative energy because of state requirements mandating more renewable sources and because of federal taxes being proposed on activities tied to fossil-fuel burning and global-warming pollution.

Recession Worsens Social Security, Medicare Problems

The financial health of Social Security and Medicare, the government’s two biggest benefit programs, have worsened because of the severe recession, and Medicare is now paying out more than it receives. Trustees of the programs said Tuesday that Social Security will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes in 2016, one year sooner than projected last year, and the giant trust fund will be depleted by 2037, four years sooner. Medicare is in even worse shape. The trustees said the program for hospital expenses will pay out more in benefits than it collects this year and will be insolvent by 2017, two years earlier than the date projected in last year’s report.

Economic News

Retail sales fell for a second straight month in April, a disappointing performance that raised doubts about whether consumers were regaining their desire to shop. A rebound in consumer demand is a necessary ingredient for ending the recession. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that retail sales fell 0.4% last month, following a 1.3% drop in March.

The number of U.S. households faced with losing their homes to foreclosure jumped 32% in April compared with the same month last year, with Nevada, Florida and California showing the highest rates, according to data released Wednesday. More than 342,000 households received at least one foreclosure-related notice in April.

With the economy performing worse than hoped, revised White House figures point to deepening budget deficits, with the government borrowing almost 50 cents for every dollar it spends this year. The deficit for the current budget year will rise by $89 billion to above $1.8 trillion — about four times the record set just last year. The unprecedented red ink flows from the deep recession, the Wall Street bailout, the cost of President Obama’s economic stimulus bill, as well as a structural imbalance between what the government spends and what it takes in.

  • The “unprecedented red ink” has put the final nail in the U.S. economy, but a lingering death will continue to raise false hope.

Both were initially billed as temporary government loans, but the multi-billion-dollar bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors are not likely to be paid back to American taxpayers. The Obama administration’s admitted last week that Chrysler will not repay taxpayers the more than $7 billion bailout it received earlier this year.

The U.S. trade deficit rose in March for the first time since July, but the global recession cut sharply into sales of American exports. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the deficit widened to $27.6 billion in March, 5.5% higher than February’s revised $26.1 billion trade gap. However, the politically sensitive deficit with China increased.

U.S. Warhead Disposal in 15-year Backlog

President Obama plans deep new cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal at a time when the government faces a 15-year backlog of warheads already waiting to be dismantled and a need for billions of dollars in new facilities to store and dispose of the weapons’ plutonium. The logjam of thousands of retired warheads will grow considerably based on a promise made in April by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to get their stockpiles far below levels set by current disarmament pacts. Yet much of the infrastructure needed to dispose of those weapons don’t exist yet, according to federal audits and other records reviewed by USA TODAY.

U.N. Security Council Calls for a Palestinian State

The United Nations Security Council on Monday called for “urgent efforts” to create a separate Palestinian state and achieve an overall Mideast peace settlement. In a statement by all 15 members read at the end of an open ministerial meeting, the council stressed that “vigorous diplomatic” action was needed to reach an overall settlement and a two-state solution. It encouraged the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers — the U.N., the United States, Russia and the European Union— to continue their efforts to promote a comprehensive Mideast settlement. While Israel’s previous government, led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was committed to the goal of Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peaceful independent states — as called for in several Security Council resolutions — his hawkish successor, Netanyahu, has expressed misgivings about an independent Palestinian state.

  • This apparent solution won’t quench Islamic intentions to eradicate Israel – it just makes it easier.

Afghanistan

Ninety-five Afghan children are among the 140 people said to have died in a recent U.S.-Taliban battle in western Afghanistan, according to a list drawn up by Afghan officials, a lawmaker said Wednesday. The U.S. military disputed the claim. Afghans blame U.S. airstrikes for the deaths and destruction in the villages of Gerani and Ganjabad in Farah province. Sixty-five of the reported victims on the list were female, either adults or children, said lawmaker Obaidullah Helali, a member of the government’s investigative team. If the Afghan toll is correct, it would be the largest case of civilian deaths since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban.

A suicide bomb attack killed seven people and wounded 21 Wednesday outside a U.S. military base in the same part of eastern Afghanistan where militants stormed government buildings a day earlier, police said. Eleven Taliban suicide bombers struck government buildings in a bold, day-long assault in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday, sparking running gunbattles with U.S. and Afghan forces that killed 20 people and wounded three Americans  The militant attacks in Khost, a city within sight of the tumultuous border with Pakistan, comes as the U.S. makes leadership changes in Afghanistan that demonstrate a clear break from Bush-era appointees.

Pakistan

Pakistani commandos dropped from helicopters behind Taliban lines in the Swat Valley on Tuesday in a widening offensive that the military said has pushed the number fleeing fighting in the northwest to 1.3 million. Farther south, a suspected U.S. missile attack flattened a house and killed at least eight people in another militant stronghold near the Afghan border. Officials have identified Piochar as the rear-base of an estimated 4,000 Taliban militants. It is seen as a possible hiding place of Swat Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah. Pakistani authorities launched a full-scale assault on Swat and surrounding districts last week after the Taliban pushed out from the valley on the back of a now-defunct peace deal and extended their control to areas just 60 miles from the capital, Islamabad.

Rising violence, including a string of attacks on NATO and U.S. supplies, have fed concern that more of Pakistan’s border region is slipping from government control and into the hands of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Italian Parliament Criminalizes Illegal Immigration

Italy’s lower chamber of parliament has passed a hotly debated measure making it a crime to enter or stay in Italy illegally as Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative forces continue cracking down on illegal migration. It would make it a crime to enter or stay in Italy illegally, punishable by a fine of $6,840-$13,670, although no prison penalty would be imposed. In addition, the legislation imposes a prison term of up to three years for anyone who rents an apartment to an illegal immigrant.

Wildfires

Florida is ablaze with eight wildfires that have burned over 7,800 acres and destroyed eight structures so far. Most of the state is under severe to extreme drought conditions.

Weather

Brazil intensified efforts to get food and other aid to people isolated by severe flooding as waters continued rising Monday in a jungle state nearly the size of Alaska and the number of homeless rose to 308,000. At least 40 people have died in the worst flooding in northern Brazil in at least two decades.

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