Archive for June, 2009

June 29, 2009

Victories at Arizona Capitol!

Six CAP-supported bills passed the last hurdle in the Arizona Legislature last week. All six should reach Gov. Brewer’s desk early this week where we are very hopeful she will sign them into law. These bills, if passed into law, collectively accomplish the following:

Ø      Provide women considering an abortion access to accurate information about the risks and alternatives to the procedure and at least 24 hours to consider her decision.

Ø      Protect the rights of parents whose minor daughters seek an abortion.

Ø      Guarantee that students in the public schools cannot be denied their religious freedom.

Ø      Protect patients who are unable to communicate their wishes.

Ø      Continue the scholarship tax credit beyond its current expiration date of 2011.

Ø      Prohibit the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure.

Ø      Simplify the charitable tax credit for donations to charities that are helping low-income Arizonans.

YouTube Spikes Pro-Life Video

The Internet giant YouTube has spiked a video that revealed Planned Parenthood telling a prospective abortion patient that those online images of mangled bodies aren’t real. Word of the action comes from Live Action Films, which sent volunteers under cover into Planned Parenthood facilities in several states to record their statements about abortion. The videos have revealed, among other things, Planned Parenthood officials apparently advising a “patient” to lie to a judge about her boyfriend’s age to avoid possible felony charges against him. Lila Rose, the 20-year-old president of Live Action, said YouTube should re-instate the video in accordance with its own rules: “Since the video we posted does not violate any terms of use, we expect YouTube to re-instate it immediately. YouTube’s own ‘Community Guideline Tips’ advise that intense or disturbing imaging should be ‘balanced with additional context and information,’ which is exactly what Live Action has done.” Google spokesman Scott Rubin said there is a company policy against commenting on individual videos.

  • YouTube is owned by Google which is a notorious supporter of all things secular, gay and anti-Christian.

Chicago School Children March in Gay Parade

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Chicago’s Nettlehorst Elementary School will be the first public school in the community to march in the city’s gay pride parade. According to the Tribune, the school’s fence is adorned with thousands of green, blue, purple, and red strips of fabric — each hand-tied by a student. A sign by the gate stated that the elementary school will “be the first Chicago public school to march in the city’s gay pride parade.” The sign also stated that the school believes that family means everybody.

  • Separation of church and state? Seems like the religion of Secular Humanism and its gay rights agenda is government sponsored.

Generation Gap Largest Since ’60s

American adults from young to old disagree increasingly today on social values ranging from religion to relationships, creating the largest generation gap since divisions 40 years ago over Vietnam, civil rights and women’s liberation. A survey being released Monday by the Pew Research Center highlights a widening age divide after last November’s election, when 18- to 29-year-olds voted for Democrat Barack Obama by a 2-to-1 ratio. Almost 8 in 10 people believe there is a major difference in the point of view of younger people and older people today, according to the independent public-opinion research group. That is the highest spread since 1969, when about 74 percent reported major differences.

Asked to identify where older and younger people differ most, 47 percent said social values and morality. People age 18 to 29 were more likely to report disagreements over lifestyle, views on family, relationships and dating, while older people cited differences in a sense of entitlement. Those in the middle-age groups often pointed to a difference in manners. About two-thirds of people 65 and older said religion is important, compared with just over half of those 30 to 49 and 44 percent of people 18 to 29.

House Passes Major Energy-Climate Bill

In a triumph for President Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed sweeping legislation Friday that calls for the nation’s first limits on pollution linked to global warming and aims to usher in a new era of cleaner, yet more costly energy. The vote was 219-212, capping months of negotiations and days of intense bargaining among Democrats. Republicans were overwhelmingly against the measure, arguing it would destroy jobs in the midst of a recession while burdening consumers with a new tax in the form of higher energy costs.

The legislation mandates reductions in greenhouse gases, puts emission limits on industry, and puts tighter restrictions on coal. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it will cost $175 a year per household. At the White House, Obama said the bill would create jobs, and added that with its vote, the House had put America on a path toward leading the way toward “creating a 21st century global economy.”

  • A “global economy.” That’s what the New World (Dis)Order folks are after and why they’re sinking ours with Captain Obama at the helm.

Republicans Asking ‘Where are the Jobs?’

Republicans concerned about the Obama administration’s big spending on economic stimulus, energy and health care are asking, “Where are the jobs?” “The president and Democrats in Congress claim this spending binge is necessary to put Americans back to work,” House Republican leader John Boehner said Saturday in the Republican radio and Internet address. “They promised unemployment would not rise above 8% if their trillion-dollar stimulus was passed. But our nation has lost nearly 3 million jobs this year. Unemployment has soared above 9%. And now the president admits that unemployment will soon reach double digits. After all of this spending, after all of this borrowing from China, the Middle East, our children and our grandchildren, where are the jobs?” Boehner said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said early this week that the president expects the nation will reach 10% unemployment within the next few months. In January, President Obama’s economic team predicted unemployment would rise no higher than 8% with the help of $787 billion in new government spending.

Swine H1N1 Flu

A potential fall swine flu immunization campaign may involve an unprecedented 600 million doses of vaccine, but health officials are still trying to figure out how to find enough workers to administer all those shots. Officials are also looking at how to keep track of side effects if it’s given at the same time as the seasonal vaccine. That could make it difficult to figure out which vaccine was causing the side effects.

Non-Profit Income Drops while Need Grows

More than one-quarter of Arizona non-profit organizations reported that they laid off employees in 2008 or planned to do so in 2009, according to an Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits survey released in February. That could put about 5,000 non-profit employees out of work by the end of this year. Many organizations are struggling to deal with falling income and still provide vital services as demand from the needy continues to rise. Demand for food spiked by 70 percent at St. Mary’s Food Bank this year. Many Arizona non-profits expect revenue to continue to decline through 2009 and have little choice but to scale back operations.

Economic News

Regulators on Friday shut down five small banks, boosting to 45 the number of failures this year of federally insured banks. More are expected to succumb in the prolonged recession. The 45 banks closed nationwide this year compare with 25 in all of 2008 and three in 2007.

Pump prices fell every day this week, easing off a summer peak near $2.70 a gallon as storage facilities swelled with unused gasoline. The national average for gasoline dropped to $2.66 a gallon Friday.

Inflation is as dead as the Wicked Witch of the West in a waterfall. The consumer price index has actually fallen 1.3% in the past 12 months. So why is everyone so worried about soaring prices? In a word: debt. The government owes the world $11.4 trillion — $37,000 for every person in the U.S. In the next fiscal year, the government will add $1.8 trillion to the deficit. The government casn simply print more dollars to pay off our debts with cheap currency — a tempting but inflationary solution. Until, of course, the currency collapses, interest rates soar and the economy craters. Some on Wall Street are betting on just that scenario. Respected hedge fund managers are raising millions to bet on soaring price increases. If inflation does hit, however, it won’t be this year.

NATO, Russia Resume Ties

NATO and Russia agreed to resume military ties Saturday in their first high-level meeting since Russia’s war with Georgia disrupted their relations 10 months ago. NATO’s outgoing Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced that the so-called NATO-Russia Council, a panel set up in 2002 to improve ties between the former Cold War rivals, was operational again. Relations between the alliance and the Russian military were frozen after the five-day Georgian war last August. Although political ties have thawed considerably over the past five months, there had been no formal military contacts since then.

Iraq Violence Trending Upward

Motorcycle bombs killed at least 20 people in separate attacks in Baghdad Friday, at least 19 of them in a crowded bazaar, part of an apparent trend toward increased use of motorcycles to thwart stepped-up security measures. The attacks were the latest in a week of violence that has killed more than 250 people, with just four days to go before the deadline for U.S. combat troops to withdraw from cities. The spike has raised fresh doubts about the ability of Iraqi forces to provide security and fight a stubborn insurgency as their American partners become less visible.

Iraq has declared Tuesday a national holiday, calling it National Sovereignty Day, with feasts and festivals to mark turning over control of the cities, towns and villages to Iraqi forces. Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said on Sunday that U.S. forces are already out of the cities in Iraq, ahead of the deadline. “It is time for them to take responsibility inside the cities,” Odierno said on Fox News Sunday about the Iraqis. Tuesday’s deadline for American troops to leave Iraqi cities gives U.S. commanders a new focus: securing rural areas that they say insurgents are using as hide-outs to plan attacks.

Meanwhile, a heavy sandstorm has blanketed Iraq’s capital. Visibility is only a few yards and most of the few people on the streets are wearing surgical masks. Doctors at the city’s hospitals said Sunday that people were coming in complaining about shortness of breath and other problems. Sandstorms are a regular occurrence in Baghdad although it is shielded from the desert by a thin strip of arable land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Iranian Turmoil Spoils Obama’s Plans

Several thousand protesters — some chanting “Where is my vote?” — clashed with riot police in Tehran on Sunday as Iran detained local employees of the British Embassy, escalating the regime’s standoff with the West and earning it a stinging rebuke from the European Union. Witnesses said riot police used tear gas and clubs to break up a crowd of up to 3,000 protesters who had gathered near north Tehran’s Ghoba Mosque in the country’s first major post-election unrest in four days. Some described scenes of brutality, telling The Associated Press that some protesters suffered broken bones.

President Barack Obama acknowledged Friday that his hopes for a direct U.S.-Iranian dialogue, one of his signature foreign-policy initiatives, have been dashed for now by the Iranian government’s violent quashing of protests over the disputed June 12 election. Obama’s proposed direct outreach to Iran dates to the 2008 presidential campaign. Even last week, well after Iranian police began beating and shooting at mostly young protesters, the president and his aides insisted engagement was still possible. On Friday, however, Obama said that there was “no doubt that any direct dialogue or diplomacy with Iran is going to be affected by the events of the last several weeks.”

Nevertheless, Obama said Washington will continue to take part in multination talks with Tehran over its suspected nuclear-weapons program “because the clock is ticking,” a reference to the possibility Iran in the coming years will acquire enough fuel to build a nuclear weapon. That’s the same approach President George W. Bush adopted during his last six months in office. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Saturday to make the U.S. regret its criticism of Iran’s postelection crackdown and said the “mask has been removed” from the Obama administration’s efforts to improve relations.

  • You can’t negotiate rationally with Islamic militants who want to destroy Israel and take over the world.

U.S. Shifting Afghan Drug Policy

The U.S. has announced a new drug policy for opium-rich Afghanistan, saying it was phasing out funding for eradication efforts and using the money for drug interdiction and alternate crop programs instead. The U.S. envoy for Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, told The Associated Press on Saturday that eradication programs weren’t working and were only driving farmers into the hands of the Taliban. Afghanistan is the world’s leading source of opium, cultivating 93% of the world’s heroin-producing crop. The United Nations has estimated the Taliban and other Afghan militants made $50 million to $70 million off the opium and heroin trade last year.

Pakistan War Against Extremists Continues

Pakistani security forces raided a Taliban hideout in the southern city of Karachi Saturday and pounded suspected militant training camps in the northwest, killing at least 20 people and underscoring the nationwide challenge of eradicating insurgents. Police officials said the foray in Karachi thwarted plans for terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s largest city, while the bombing and shelling of targets in South Waziristan on the border with Afghanistan further weakened the Taliban as the military prepares for a new offensive there. The government is confronting militants on two fronts in the volatile northwest, and Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud has responded with a series of attacks across the country that have killed more than 100 people in the past month.

Honduras President Ousted by Military

Honduras is now torn between two presidents: one legally recognized by world bodies after he was deposed and forced from the country by his own soldiers, and another supported by the Central American nation’s congress, courts and military. Presidents from around Latin America were gathering in Nicaragua for meetings Monday to resolve the first military overthrow of a Central American government in 16 years. There is a deep rift between the outside world — which is clamoring for the return of democratically elected, but largely unpopular and soon-to-leave-office President Manuel Zelaya — and congressionally designated successor Roberto Micheletti. Micheletti said the army acted on orders from the courts, and the ouster was carried out “to defend respect for the law and the principles of democracy.”

Village Christians in Hiding after Clash in Egypt

Compass Direct News reports that nearly 1,000 Coptic Christians are hiding in their homes after clashes with the village’s majority-Muslim population Sunday. The crisis began Sunday morning when a group of 25 Christians from Cairo stopped in Ezbet Boshra-East, a village of about 3,000 people three hours south of Cairo. The Christians were beginning to enter a three-story building owned by the Coptic Church, where the priest lives with his family, when Muslim neighbors approached the group outside. A Muslim woman walked up to one of the visiting women, he said, and slapped her. Soon village youths gathered and started throwing stones at the visitors and the building, and according to Castor within minutes hundreds of villagers, Muslims against Christians, were fighting each other in the streets of Ezbet Boshra-East.

Weather

The searing heat of the last 10 days, preceded by a long wet spring, has caused road pavement around Missouri to buckle or blow up. When pavement temperatures rise, concrete slabs expand, push up against each other and either heave up or crumble. Temperatures around the state have been in the 90s for 10 days, giving Missourians an early burst of summer.

June 26, 2009

Stimulus Dollars Only Trickling Out

Less than one-half of 1% of the money set aside for highway repair and construction has been distributed since President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus package in February, Transportation Department figures show. The top Republican on the House Transportation Committee, John Mica of Florida, says stimulus funding is trickling to states too slowly because of excessive federal regulations. “It’s not a pretty picture,” he says. “There should be no reason why, with the economy in dire straits, that we can’t get the money out there. It’s tied up in red tape.” States have received only about $132 million of the stimulus package’s $27.5 billion in road construction funding, department figures show. As of May 31, the 13 states with double-digit unemployment rates received only about $22 million of that highway money.

Federal spending meant to jump-start the economy slowed last week, two weeks after President Obama vowed to “ramp up” the pace of that aid. Last week, federal agencies allocated about $5.2billion in new stimulus aid for projects across the country, according to disclosure reports the agencies released Thursday. “If my boss came to me and told me to ramp something up, I’d do it,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “If the president says it, you’d definitely expect something to happen, so I don’t know why it isn’t happening.”

  • Why do people keep believing that more government can solve our problems?

Production of Heroin, Cocaine Decline

Markets for cocaine and opiates such as heroin are leveling off or declining, but stimulants are growing popular in the Middle East and Brazil, the United Nations reports. After several years of record growth in Afghanistan’s opium crop, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime reported Wednesday that the number of acres devoted to opium there dropped 19% in 2008. Cultivation of opium poppies declined in parts of the country with more government security, the report said. Afghanistan produces more than 90% of the world’s opium supply. The opium crop in Laos and Burma — the other major producers of the drug — held steady. The U.N. also reported an 18% decline in Colombia’s coca crop, the plant used to produce cocaine. The Colombian government has a robust program to destroy the coca plants and dismantle processing labs. Colombia grows most of the world’s coca. Crops in Peru and Bolivia, the other significant coca producers, increased slightly from 2007.

Swine H1N1 Flu

Health officials estimate that as many as 1 million Americans now have the new swine flu. Lyn Finelli, a flu surveillance official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, voiced the estimate at a vaccine advisory meeting Thursday in Atlanta. The estimate is based on mathematical modeling. Nearly 28,000 U.S. cases have been reported to the CDC, accounting for roughly half the world’s cases. The U.S. count includes 3,065 hospitalizations and 127 deaths. The percentage of cases hospitalized has been growing, but that may be due to closer scrutiny of very sick patients.  An estimated 15 million to 60 million Americans catch seasonal flu each year. The average age of swine flu patients is 12, the average age for hospitalized patients is 20, and for people who died, it was 37.

Health Suffers in Recession

As the recession continues and unemployment climbs, surveys suggest many Americans are cutting costs by delaying or forgoing preventive health care. A survey of family doctors released last month by the American Academy of Family Physicians reports that six out of 10 respondents said they were seeing more health problems as a result of skipped preventive care, such as screenings, or unfilled prescriptions. One survey respondent wrote about a 46-year-old patient who cut back on his pills for type 2 diabetes, Epperly says. The man’s blood sugar got out of control, and he ended up having a fatal heart attack. Another respondent wrote of a patient with bipolar disorder who tried to save money by not filling his prescription for an antipsychotic medication. Within a week to 10 days, he spun out of control and lost his job, his family and his house.

Companies Rethink 401(k) Plan Contributions

About a quarter of companies have either suspended their 401(k) plan match or are considering doing so because of the economic downturn, according to a recent survey by CFO Research Services and Charles Schwab. The list of companies that have suspended matches includes Hewlett-Packard, Sears Holdings, Starbucks and Eastman Kodak. The average company match is 50 cents on the dollar, up to 6% of pay. But a quarter of companies that plan to reinstate their company match said the amount of the new contribution will vary, depending on profits, according to the Watson Wyatt survey. Companies believe this option will give them more flexibility to respond to lean times, says Robyn Credico, national director for Watson Wyatt.

California to Issue I.O.U.s

Signaling that California is slipping deeper into financial crisis, the state’s controller said Wednesday that his office would soon be forced to issue i.o.u.’s to scores of the state’s creditors, as lawmakers failed at their first attempt as a body to close the state’s multibillion-dollar shortfall. “Next Wednesday we start a fiscal year with a massively unbalanced spending plan and a cash shortfall not seen since the Great Depression,” the controller, John Chiang, said in a written statement. He added, “Unfortunately, the state’s inability to balance its checkbook will now mean short-changing taxpayers, local governments and small businesses.” The issuing of the i.o.u.’s would reflect the state’s lack of cash flow and its Legislature’s inability to agree on a way to close the roughly $24 billion budget gap, as tax revenues have continued to fall.

Economic News

The Labor Department said the number of workers filing new claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 627,000 — a measure of the strain still faced by hard-pressed consumers. Several states reported more claims than expected from teachers, cafeteria workers and other school employees, a department analyst said. The number of people continuing to receive unemployment insurance rose by 29,000 to 6.74 million. Claims remain far above levels associated with a healthy economy. A year ago they were 392,000.

General Motors won approval Thursday to use up to $33.3 billion to pay for its bankruptcy, after making a few changes to settle technical objections. The step marks another major milestone in GM’s dash through bankruptcy court, which it and President Obama’s auto industry task force hope to complete with the creation of a new, government-owned GM by the end of the month.

The epicenter of the U.S. financial crisis remains the contracting value of real estate across the board. The latest S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Index indicates the rate of housing value decline is getting worse – the first quarter of 2009 showed the biggest quarterly decline in the index’s 21-year history.

Households pushed their savings rate to the highest level in more than 15 years in May as a big boost in incomes from the government’s stimulus program was devoted more to bolstering nest eggs than increased spending. The Commerce Department said Friday that consumer spending rose 0.3% in May, in line with expectations. But incomes jumped 1.4%, the biggest gain in a year and easily outpacing the 0.3% increase that economists expected. The savings rate, which was hovering near zero in early 2008, surged to 6.9%, the highest since December 1993. Last month’s savings rate was far above recent annual rates, which dipped below 1% from 2005 through 2007 as a booming economy and soaring home prices pushed Americans to spend most of what they earned. Investors are nervous about the savings rate outpacing spending, sending the stock market down.

  • It used to be that Americans were chastised for not saving enough. Now we’re undermining the economy by not doing our patriotic duty to spend, spend, spend. Such is life under the god of materialism and greed, which is the real culprit in the economic crisis.

Iraq Violence Escalates

A massive bomb exploded Wednesday in a busy market in the heart of the capital’s Shiite slums, killing at least 69 people and wounding more than 100. On Thursday, a booby-trapped motorcycle loaded with nails and ball-bearings exploded in a crowded bazaar Friday in Baghdad, killing at least 15 people. Also on Thursday, a bombing at a bus station in a Shiite neighborhood in southwest Baghdad killed at least seven people, less than a week before U.S. combat troops are scheduled to withdraw from Iraq’s cities. A series of bombings since Saturday have killed around 200 people. President Jalal Talabani said the bombing would not be a setback for the change-over.

Iran Election Protests Continue

Protesters and riot police clashed in the streets around Iran’s parliament Wednesday as hundreds of people converged on a Tehran square in defiance of government orders to halt demonstrations demanding a new presidential election, witnesses said. Police beat the protesters gathered on Baharestan Square with batons and fired tear gas canisters and rounds of ammunition into the air, the witnesses told the Associated Press. They said some demonstrators fought back while others fled to another Tehran plaza, Sepah Square, about a mile to the north.

The Obama administration is moving forward with plans to fund groups that support Iranian dissidents, records and interviews show, continuing a program that became controversial when it was expanded by President Bush. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which reports to the secretary of state, has for the last year been soliciting applications for $20 million in grants to “promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Iran,” according to documents on the agency’s website. The final deadline for grant applications is June 30. U.S. efforts to support Iranian opposition groups have been criticized in recent years as veiled attempts to promote “regime change.”

Weather

Cities in Wisconsin and Michigan and all the way down to Texas and Florida have been smashing heat records this week. Concrete roads buckled, one person was found dead and seven show dogs died. A wide swath of the country is experiencing temperatures ranging 10 to 15 degrees above average. Some record-setting temperatures set on Wednesday: 96 degrees in Grand Rapids, Mich.; 95 in Traverse City, Mich.; 105 in Austin; 104 in Houston; and 106 in Waco.

Storms spawned two tornadoes in southwest North Dakota Thursday, and as many as five in southeast South Dakota. Hail hit both states, strong winds downed power lines in South Dakota and a twister in North Dakota’s Stark County destroyed several farm buildings.

A tropical storm whipped up tornadoes, triggered landslides and overturned boats as it cut across the central Philippines, leaving at least eight dead and eight more missing amid widespread flooding, officials said Thursday. Nearly 10,000 people were stranded aboard hundreds of ferries and motorboats, which were ordered to stay docked for safety Wednesday.

June 24, 2009

Arizona Senate Approves Abortion Restrictions

The Arizona Senate voted 16-12 Tuesday to require a 24-hour waiting period for abortions and to increase penalties for a controversial late-term procedure the bill calls “partial-birth abortion.” In addition to the waiting period, the bill would require physicians performing abortions to inform their patients about risks and alternatives to the procedure. The bill would also give doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals the right to refuse to participate in an abortion or to prescribe emergency contraception Led by the Republican majority, the Senate voted to pass the new restrictions on abortion and send them to the desk of Gov. Jan Brewer. Brewer has a very consistent pro-life track record, suggesting the bills could be headed for approval. Passing further restrictions on abortion has been a priority of Republican leadership for years, but former Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed every bill on the subject that came to her desk.

Senators Get 75,000 Letters Opposing Hate Crime Bill

A special Fed Ex campaign to warn U.S. Senate members of the dangers of the “hate crimes” plan scheduled for a hearing this week dispatched more than 705,000 letters to senators. But opponents of the proposal say while the letter campaign has concluded, voters still need to be aware of the dangers of the legislation that will be the subject of a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday at 10 a.m. The letter-writing effort was organized by WND columnist Janet Porter, who also heads the Faith2Action Christian ministry. It allowed citizens to send individually addressed letters to all 100 senators over their own “signature” for only $10.95.

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 would provide special protections to homosexuals, essentially designating them as a “protected class.” However, it would leave Christian ministers open to prosecution should their teachings be linked to any subsequent offense, by anyone, against a homosexual person. Sources working with senators opposing the legislation say the letter campaign has shaken up the dynamics of the debate. “This bill was supposed to sail through the Senate, but it suddenly has become much more controversial as a result of all these letters,” one source said.

Rick Warren to New Anglican Church: God Loves Everyone

Christians must show love to all people, even if they don’t support their values, evangelical megachurch pastor Rick Warren on Tuesday told breakaway Episcopalians and other Anglicans splitting from their national church over gay clergy and other issues. “We are to love the people of the world no matter what they believe; we are to not love the value system of the world. And the problem today is lot of Christians are getting that reversed. They love the value system and hate the people,” Warren told the crowd of 800 under a large tent on the lawn of St. Vincent’s Episcopal Cathedral Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Bedford. “God has never met a person he didn’t love.”

This week’s meeting is the first national assembly for the Anglican Church in North America, formed by theological conservatives as a rival to the U.S. Episcopal Church. On Monday, delegates approved a constitution and church law for the new group. Warren has extended support before to conservative Episcopalians and Anglicans and has offered space to seceding Episcopalians at his Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Episcopalians have been arguing for decades over how to interpret what the Bible says about issues ranging from salvation to gay relationships. The rift blew wide open in 2003 when Episcopalians consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The new church includes four breakaway Episcopal dioceses, individual parishes in the U.S. and Canada, and splinter groups that left the Anglican family years or decades ago. Leaders estimate the new entity includes 100,000 members in 700 parishes.

  • Speaking the truth in love, as the Bible exhorts, is a difficult tightrope to walk, but Warren is right. We must first love our neighbor, including our enemies, and then stand boldly against increasingly immoral standards and behavior in the world.

Survivalism Growing in Phoenix Area

As the recession lingers, some Phoenix-area residents are shifting attention from their financial troubles, including falling home values and shrinking retirement savings, to stockpiling food and ammo. They worry the economic turmoil could lead to skyrocketing inflation, food scarcity, even violence. To prepare, they are forming social-networking groups to discuss how to store grains, purify water, plant gardens and, if needed, shoot guns. These people are joining thousands nationwide who are studying survival tactics far from the backwoods bunkers associated with “survivalists.” At least two survival-related groups have formed in Phoenix since December, and groups with varying outlooks and politics have sprouted nationally from Kentucky to New York. The newbies stand out from the military personnel and outdoor enthusiasts who used to be the only ones shopping for rugged clothing, rations or canteens.

ABC News Airing Day-long ObamaCare Infomercial

President Obama is trying to put our nation on the fast track to socialized health care, and on Wednesday, June 24, the ABC network will help him sell this bill of goods to the American people.  ABC News will transform the White House into their newsroom for what has been described as an unabashed infomercial promoting the Democrat agenda—more specifically, government-run health care. ABC News has abandoned all pretense of journalistic integrity in its bid to be the administration’s official salesman for ObamaCare. ABC flatly rejected Republican National Committee Chief of Staff Ken McKay’s request to add opposition views to ensure all sides of the health care debate were represented in the “town hall” forum. Not only that, ABC News Vice President Kerry Smith responded by saying, “ABC News alone will select those who will be in the audience asking questions of the President.”

  • Mainstream media is controlled by the New World (Dis)Order folks, and Obama is their chosen messiah, so what else would we expect?

Strong Disapproval of Obama Growing

More Americans now “strongly disapprove” of Barack Obama’s performance as president than “strongly approve,” according to the most recent Rasmussen poll. The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 33 percent of respondents “strongly approve” of Obama’s performance on the job so far, but 34 percent “strongly disapprove.” Overall, 45 percent of voters disapprove, while 54 percent say they at least somewhat approve.

  • There will continue to be those who blindly adore Obama, but the luster is fading for those who have their eyes open to the damage he is inflicting on our once free, Christian nation.

Employer Use of E-Verify Rising

The voluntary federal E-Verify program has seen a rapid growth in use this year, Department of Homeland Security records show. More than 1,000 employers are signing up each week on average, and employment checks are approaching 200,000 a week. Halfway through this year 5.5 million worker checks have been made by employers through the E-Verify online service. In 2008, 6.6 million checks were made, twice the number in 2007. The approximately 129,000 participating employers, representing half a million business locations, remain a tiny portion of the national total, however. In all, about 6 million businesses employ more than 115 million people in the USA.

1 in 5 Teens ‘Sext’ Despite Risks

A new survey on kids in cyberspace finds that one in five teens have “sexted” — sent or received sexually suggestive, nude or nearly nude photos through cellphone text messages or e-mail. Most teens who sexted sent the photos to girlfriends or boyfriends, but 11% sent them to strangers, according to the study made public today by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Cox Communications. Of teens who sext, 80% are under 18, the survey found. Most teens are online: 91% have an e-mail address, and 60% have an instant-message screen name. Nearly three-quarters have a cellphone, and 72% have profiles on social networking sites. Although teens say they recognize the dangers of sharing personal information online, they do it anyway. One in four teens say they know someone who had a bad experience because of information posted on the Internet. A bad experience can range from having a sext forwarded around school to being sexually victimized.

Judge Orders Teen to Continue Chemotherapy

A 13-year-old boy with cancer who fled Minnesota last month to avoid chemotherapy must continue getting the treatment because it appears to be working, a judge ruled Tuesday. The ruling came as court documents showed that Daniel Hauser’s tumor had shrunk significantly after a recent round of chemotherapy. Daniel’s parents are still concerned about the risks of chemotherapy, which they initially had rejected for religious reasons, saying it harms the body. Rodenberg ruled that the boy from Sleepy Eye is still in need of child protection services, agreeing with Brown County prosecutor James Olson that the case should stay in court.

E. Coli in Nestle Cookie Dough Stumps FDA

Federal officials plan to stay in a Virginia food plant associated with a national food-borne outbreak “as long as it takes” to solve this mystery: How did E. coli O157:H7, most commonly associated with raw hamburger, get in refrigerated cookie dough? The outbreak appears to be linked to consuming uncooked Nestlé refrigerated and frozen Toll House cookie dough products. It has sickened 70 people nationwide, 30 of whom have been hospitalized. Nestlé has recalled all product produced at the plant and suspended operations there. But cookies made from refrigerated dough are safe to eat, Nestlé says. The company notes that the instructions “clearly state that the raw dough must be baked before consumption.”

Swine H1N1 Flu

The Philippine House of Representatives suspended operations Tuesday for five days after news that the country’s first swine flu-related fatality worked at the legislature. Australia reported its second swine flu-related death — the third for the Asia-Pacific region. Malaysia shuttered another school in efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic flu virus.

French police say 24 children in primary school and pre-kindergarten at two southwest Paris schools have swine flu. The statement says the first cases turned up Thursday in a class of 10- and 11-year-olds that recently traveled to Britain. France has had relatively few swine flu cases, with 150 cases nationwide confirmed as of Thursday, and no deaths.

First Lady Launches Summer Volunteering Initiative

First lady Michelle Obama fired up about 4,500 of America’s volunteers in San Francisco Monday, telling them, “We have an administration that understands service is the key to achieving our national priorities.” The first lady asked those attending the National Conference on Volunteering and Service to join the United We Serve initiative she and the president officially launched Monday. The program will run through Sept. 11, a new national day of service and remembrance of those who died in the 2001 terrorist attacks. And while the summer of service is a beginning, the first lady said, “it is really just a preview of what’s to come — a new era of civic engagement.” Obama called on those in attendance to lead the nation into the new era.

  • Laudatory goals, but sheer rhetoric thus far.

Lost Jobs Forcing More Out of Homes

The nation’s foreclosure crisis — once largely confined to only a few corners of the country — is spreading to new areas as the economy teeters. The foreclosure rates in 40 of the nation’s counties that have the most households have already doubled from last year, a USA TODAY analysis of data from the listing firm RealtyTrac shows. Most were in areas far removed from the avalanche of bad mortgages and lost homes that have hammered the U.S. housing market. Unlike the foreclosure wave that began in 2007 and was driven by risky subprime loans, the latest increases are the result of the recession, which brought a sharp rise in unemployment across the country. Nationwide, RealtyTrac says the number of default notices, auctions and repossessions was nearly 18% higher last month than in May 2008, though it dropped slightly from April.

States Turning to Last Resorts to Resolve Budget Crises

With state revenues in a free fall and the economy choked by the worst recession in 60 years, governors and legislatures are approving program cuts, layoffs and, to a smaller degree, tax increases that were previously unthinkable., The New York Times reports. All but four states must have new budgets in place less than two weeks from now — by July 1, the start of their fiscal year. But most are already predicting shortfalls as tax collections shrink, unemployment rises and the stock market remains in turmoil. In Hawaii, state employees are bracing for furloughs of three days a month over the next two years, the equivalent of a 14 percent pay cut. In Idaho, lawmakers reduced aid to public schools for the first time in recent memory, forcing pay cuts for teachers. And in California, where a $24 billion deficit for the coming fiscal year is the nation’s worst, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed releasing thousands of prisoners early and closing more than 200 state parks. Meanwhile, Maine is adding a tax on candy, Wisconsin on oil companies, and Kentucky on alcohol and cellphone ring tones.

  • While Obama hasn’t directly increased taxes, his policies are forcing states to do it for him. With the unprecedented debt levels and the refusal to shrink government programs, increasing taxes is the only option left.

Economic News

Sales of previously owned homes in the United States rose at a slower-than-expected pace in May, an industry survey showed Tuesday, pointing to a sluggish recovery from the severe economic recession The National Association of Realtors said sales rose 2.4% to an annual rate of 4.77 million units from 4.66 million pace in April. Sales increased for a second straight month, first back-to-back monthly gain since September 2005. The median price of homes sold in May was just $173,000, a 16.8% year-over-year drop.

Orders to factories for big-ticket manufactured goods rose sharply for a second straight month in May. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that demand for durable goods rose 1.8% last month. It matched the rise in April, with both months posting the best performance since December 2007, when the recession began. The back-to-back monthly gains in orders for durable goods, or items expected to last at least three years, were further evidence that a dismal stretch for U.S. manufacturers may be nearing an end.

Ford Motor, Nissan and Tesla were awarded a combined $8 billion in loans Tuesday under an Energy Department program aimed at preserving jobs and improving vehicle fuel efficiency. The low-interest loans will be used for U.S.-based projects in Tennessee, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. For Ford, with its bonds at junk status, the loans offer financing at an interest rate that is much lower than it could get on the open market.

General Motors has notified its U.S. white-collar workers that it plans to cut about 4,000 more jobs by the end of the year. GM already has cut about 2,600 salaried jobs this year. It plans to reduce its salaried work force from just over 27,000 to 23,500 by Dec. 31.

Social-networking site MySpace said Tuesday it plans to cut 300 jobs, or two-thirds of its overseas work force, in an effort to rein in costs and focus on countries where it has many users and better business opportunities. MySpace has 34 localized versions in 28 countries.

Burqas Not Welcome’ in France

French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Monday that the Islamic burqa is not welcome in France, branding the face-covering, body-length gown as a symbol of subservience that suppresses women’s identities and turns them into “prisoners behind a screen,” some of the strongest language against burqas from a European leader at a time when some Western officials have been seeking to ease tensions with the Muslim world. But there was a mixed message in the tough words: an admission that the country’s long-held principle of ethnic assimilation — which insists that newcomers shed their traditions and adapt to French culture — is failing because it doesn’t give immigrants and their French-born children a fair chance. France is home to Western Europe’s largest population of Muslims, estimated at about 5 million. A top official with the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella organization for British Muslim groups, accused Sarkozy of “divisive politics,” and said his comments could fan an “Islamophobic reaction” in Europe.

U.S., Kyrgyzstan Agree on Airbase Deal

The United States has agreed to more than triple the rent it pays for use of a key air base in Kyrgyzstan to ship non-lethal military supplies to Afghanistan under a deal approved Tuesday by a Kyrgyz parliamentary committee. The accord to use the Manas base as a “center of transit shipments” comes four months after the Central Asian nation ordered the eviction of U.S. troops. It falls short of U.S. hopes of maintaining the base as a full-fledged military facility. But it would provide a much-needed logistical support base as the U.S.-led coalition ramps up operations against increasingly bold Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.

Iran’s Elections Foment Discord

Iran’s top electoral body said Tuesday it found “no major fraud” and will not annul the results of the presidential election, closing the door to a do-over sought by angry opposition supporters alleging systematic vote-rigging. Government warnings to the protesters have intensified. At least 17 people have been killed in near-daily demonstrations, including at least one demonstration that drew hundreds of thousands. Iran’s most powerful oversight council announced on Monday that the number of votes recorded in 50 cities exceeded the number of eligible voters there by three million, further tarnishing a presidential election that has set off the most sustained challenge to Iran’s leadership in 30 years. Even as the powerful Guardian Council acknowledged some irregularities in the June 12 election, it insisted that the overall vote was valid.

The wife of Iranian opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi called for the immediate release of detained protesters as her husband was to appear at a mass protest outside the country’s parliament. Rahnavard has raised eyebrows in Tehran for campaigning alongside her husband in the conservative state, and emerged as an important asset in her husband’s campaign.

Iraq Violence Increases before Troop Withdrawal Deadline

Bombings and shootings killed at least 33 people in Baghdad and surrounding areas on Monday, including a group of high school students on a bus headed for final exams, as violence intensified before a planned withdrawal next week of U.S. troops from urban areas. Overall violence has declined drastically over the past two years, but the recent attacks have raised concerns about the Shiite-dominated government’s ability to provide security around the country without the immediate help of the U.S. troops remaining in Iraq. More than 100 people have died in three days of bloodletting, mostly from bombings but also from shootings.

N. Korean Cargo Ship Tests U.N. Sanctions

An American destroyer was tailing a North Korean ship suspected of transporting weapons toward Burma. The sailing sets up the first test of a new U.N. Security Council resolution that authorizes member states to inspect North Korean vessels suspected of carrying banned weapons or materials. The sanctions are punishment for an underground nuclear test the North carried out last month in defiance of past resolutions. The North has said it would consider any interception “an act of war.”

Somalia Declares State of Emergency

Somalia’s president declared a state of emergency Monday as his fragile, U.N.-backed government struggles to quash a deadly Islamic insurgency. Somalia’s government is under attack by militants who want to topple the administration and install a strict Islamic state. A surge in violence in recent weeks, which diplomats said is a major push by the insurgents to force the government out of its Mogadishu strongholds, has killed nearly 200 civilians. Last week, the national security minister and Mogadishu’s police chief were among those killed.

Sudan Faces Permanent Humanitarian Emergency

The Christian Post reports that Sudan may not physically recover from its catastrophic past for years to come, according to a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations. “Sudan faces a lot of challenges,” Catholic Bishop Eduardo Kussala of Tombura Yambio said. “There is an ongoing humanitarian crisis. People don’t have access to healthcare, education, water and protection from high levels of violence.” Malnutrition in south Sudan is at 16 percent, and hundreds of thousands of refugees rely almost exclusively on aid groups for food, shelter and medical care. The country also has the world’s highest maternal mortality rate. “We need to be very vigilant … and make sure the live-saving gaps are filled,” said John Holmes, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.

Sri Lankans Face Long Road to Normalcy

Christian Today reports that Sri Lanka’s refugee population will face difficult situations for some time, as aid agencies struggle to provide bare essentials. An estimated 300,000 people were displaced by Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, most of whom remain in refugee camps. The massive numbers have forced overcrowding, poor diet and water shortages within the camps. Tony Senewiratne, National Director of Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka said, “I believe that the people in the camps are having a really tough time despite all that people are doing to alleviate the situation.” A World Concern worker reports that the dry season has brought new challenges in water distribution as the country’s wells dry up. “This is not going to change in the short term,” Senewiratne said.

Indian Central Government to Block Anti-Conversion Bill

ASSIST News Service reports that the Indian central government is planning to block anti-conversion bills cropping up throughout the states, but the response is not uniform. The bills have been introduced by nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state governments throughout India. P. Chidambaram, the Home Minister of India, has decided to take a firm stand against the controversial anti-religious conversion bill. But the response is different for various state governments. The bills’ broad provisions ban conversion by “force or fraud or inducement” and make it punishable. But all this, the central government says, is a violation of the freedom of religion as laid down in the constitution.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake jolted urban areas of Alaska on Monday, sending people diving under desks and huddling in doorways. The U.S. Geological Survey said an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.7 struck near the town of Willow at 11:28 a.m. Monday. The epicenter was 58 miles from the state’s largest city, Anchorage, where the rumbled continued for several moments. There are no immediate reports of damage or injury. Aftershocks were shaking the area, with one about a half-hour later measuring 4.1.

Weather

Hundreds of motorists may have to wait till Wednesday to retrieve their cars from the Ionia County fairgrounds, where the flooding Grand River enveloped a parking lot during a music festival. Western Michigan got up to eight inches of rain during the weekend thunderstorms that spawned three tornadoes and knocked out power to at least 135,000 homes and businesses.

State highway officials say a two half-mile sections in the left lane of Interstate 55 southbound between Hammond and Independence, Louisiana, have been closed after the road buckled under continued “excessive heat.”

The tropical tempest Andres strengthened into the Pacific season’s first hurricane Tuesday, flooding homes, toppling trees and killing at least one person as it swiped Mexico’s southwestern coast with wind and rain.

June 22, 2009

N.Y. Times Reporter Escapes from Taliban

A New York Times reporter known for making investigative trips deep inside dangerous conflict zones escaped from militant captors after more than seven months in captivity by climbing over a wall, the newspaper said Saturday. David S. Rohde was abducted Nov. 10 along with an Afghan reporter colleague and a driver south of the Afghan capital, Kabul. He had been traveling through Logar province to interview a Taliban commander, but was apparently intercepted and taken by other militants on the way. The Times reported that Rohde and Afghan reporter Tahir Ludin on Friday climbed over the wall of a compound where they were held captive in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. The two then found a Pakistani army scout, who led them to a nearby base.

Obama’s FCC Nominee: ‘I Don’t Support Fairness Doctrine’

Julius Genachowski, President Barack Obama’s nominee for chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, told a Senate panel that he does not favor reinstatement of the so-called Fairness Doctrine.  The doctrine requires broadcasters using the public airwaves to give equal time to opposing political views. Some Republicans have expressed concern that the Obama administration might try to reinstate the doctrine to stifle conservative talk radio. “I believe strongly in the First Amendment. I don’t think the FCC should be involved in censorship of content based on political speech or opinion,” Genachowski said. The Fairness Doctrine was originally instituted in 1949 by the FCC and repealed in 1987.

Former Gitmo Detainee Suspected of Terrorism

The fate of three of nine foreigners abducted in Yemen last week is known — their bodies were found, shot execution style. The whereabouts of the other six — including three children under the age of 6 — remain a mystery. But terrorism experts say their abductors and killers are almost certainly not a mystery. They say the crimes bear the mark of Al Qaeda, and they fear they are the handiwork of the international terror organization’s No. 2 man in the Arabian Peninsula: Said Ali al-Shihri, an Islamic extremist who once was in American custody — but who was released from the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And if al-Shihri is behind the gruesome murders and abductions, they say, it raises grave concerns that the scheduled January 2010 closing of the Guantanamo prison and the release of most of its prisoners to foreign countries will galvanize Al Qaeda and compromise American national security.

No one has claimed responsibility for the abductions and murders, but experts say killing women and children is considered off-limits among many jihadist groups — though not to al-Shihri, a Saudi national who was released from Guantanamo in November 2007 and sent to a Saudi Arabian “rehabilitation” program for jihadists. It wasn’t long before a “cured” al-Shihri was released from the program, crossed into Yemen and rejoined Al Qaeda, with whom he quickly rose to deputy commander.

World Hunger Reaches 1 Billion

The global financial meltdown has pushed the ranks of the world’s hungry to a record 1 billion, a grim milestone that poses a threat to peace and security, U.N. food officials said Friday. Because of war, drought, political instability, high food prices and poverty, hunger now affects one in six people, by the United Nations’ estimate. The financial meltdown has compounded the crisis in what the head of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization called a “devastating combination for the world’s most vulnerable.” Compared with last year, there are 100 million more people who are hungry, meaning they consume fewer than 1,800 calories a day, the agency said.

Pot Smoke Causes Cancer

Marijuana smoke has joined tobacco smoke and hundreds of other chemicals on a list of substances California regulators say cause cancer. The ruling Friday by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment likely will force pot shops with 10 or more employees to post warnings. Final guidelines are expected by the time warning requirements take effect in a year. Spokesman Sam Delson says the state agency found marijuana smoke contains 33 of the same harmful chemicals as tobacco smoke.

Technology Aids Protest Movements

As demonstrators throng Tehran’s streets, cellphones, Facebook and Twitter have emerged as key players in the political battle there. “Flash mobs” organized by such “social networking” tools have also played into political unrest in Estonia, and even in the U.S. presidential election, in which candidates’ fans triggered turnout for events from their computer screens, rather than from old-fashioned door-to-door canvassing.

Drug Companies to Narrow Medicare Gap

The pharmaceutical industry agreed Saturday to spend $80 billion over the next decade improving drug benefits for seniors on Medicare and defraying the cost of President Obama’s health care legislation, capping secretive negotiations involving key lawmakers and the White House. “This new coverage means affordable prices on prescription drugs when Medicare benefits don’t cover the cost of prescriptions,” Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement announcing the accord.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday that the latest cost estimates for Democrats’ health care overhaul amount to a “death blow” to calls for a government-run plan.  The influential South Carolina Republican was responding to estimates this past week from the Congressional Budget Office, which tagged one plan at $1.5 trillion over 10 years and another at $1 trillion over 10 years. The CBO predicted that the latter plan would only cover 16 million uninsured — or about one-third of those who currently lack coverage.

Effectiveness of $196B U.N. Health Programs Tough to Prove

In the last two decades, the world has spent more than $196 billion trying to save people from death and disease in poor countries. But just what the world’s gotten for its money isn’t clear, according to two studies published Friday in the medical journal Lancet. Millions of people are now protected against diseases like yellow fever, sleeping under anti-malaria bed nets and taking AIDS drugs. Much beyond that, it’s tough to gauge the effectiveness of pricey programs led by the United Nations and its partners, and in some cases, big spending may even be counterproductive, the studies say. They found some benefits, like increased diagnosis of tuberculosis cases and higher vaccination rates. But they also concluded some U.N. programs hurt health care in Africa by disrupting basic services and leading some countries to slash their health spending.

Do Schools need More PE Time to Fight Obesity?

In the fight against childhood obesity, getting kids moving is one of the most effective ways to combat the problem. But only Illinois and Massachusetts require P.E. classes for all kids in kindergarten through 12th grade. But those rules have not prevented Illinois kids from getting heavier. Illinois mandates gym class but does not have a standardized P.E. curriculum, meaning what counts as phys ed can vary widely. An estimated 20.7% of 10- to 17-year-olds in Illinois are obese, according to a 2007 survey released last month by the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. That’s the fourth-highest rate in the country, behind only Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky. Nationwide, an estimated 32% of American kids ages 2 to 19 are overweight, including 17% who are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Health experts recommend 30 minutes of daily physical education for elementary school students, and 45 minutes for those in junior high and high school.

U.S., Switzerland Agree to Crack Down on Tax Evaders

The United States and Switzerland have agreed to increase the amount of tax information they share to help crack down on tax evasion. The Treasury Department said Friday that the two nations concluded negotiations on an amended tax treaty. The discussions took place as U.S. legal authorities conduct investigations into allegations that giant Swiss bank UBS helped thousands of U.S. customers evade taxes. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the Obama administration is committed to reducing offshore tax evasion.

Budget Crisis Forces Deep Cuts at Calif. Schools

California’s historic budget crisis threatens to devastate a public education system that was once considered a national model but now ranks near the bottom in school funding and academic achievement. Deep budget cuts are forcing California school districts to lay off thousands of teachers, expand class sizes, close schools, eliminate bus service, cancel summer school programs, and possibly shorten the academic year. Without a strong economic recovery, which few experts predict, the reduced school funding could last for years, shortchanging millions of students, driving away residents and businesses, and darkening California’s economic future.

Funds Going to Districts of Key Lawmakers

Most of the $2.2 billion in economic stimulus money for Army Corps of Engineers construction projects will be spent in the home districts of members of Congress who oversee the corps’ funding, a USA TODAY analysis found. Two-thirds of the money will be spent in states or districts represented by members of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees that direct how the Corps of Engineers spends its money, the analysis found. The corps is spending its stimulus money on construction projects in 43 states for building or fixing water and sewer lines, dams, reservoirs, levees and harbors.

President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress say the $787 billion stimulus package didn’t contain any money for projects requested by members of Congress. However, the stimulus law directs the corps to spend its extra funding on current projects — which were all selected by Congress in past spending bills. The states getting the most money — California, Mississippi, Illinois, Texas and Florida — all have lawmakers serving on the appropriations committees. The seven states getting no corps stimulus funding include Michigan, which has the nation’s highest unemployment rate but no members on the energy and water spending panels in either chamber.

  • Good times or bad times, politics trumps everything else.

Economic News

The housing bust sent the unemployment rate in the West bolting past 10% in May — the first time in more than 25 years that a region of the United States has suffered double-digit joblessness. A Labor Department report released Friday showed the West absorbing the worst of the recession, which is now the longest since World War II. The official unemployment rate in California hit 11.5% last month.

The Obama administration warned states it may withhold millions of dollars if they use stimulus money to plug budget holes instead of boosting aid for schools.

The World Bank has cut its 2009 global growth forecast, saying the world economy will shrink 2.9% and warning that a drop in investment in developing countries will increase poverty. “The global recession has deepened,” the multilateral lender said in a report. Global trade is expected to plunge 9.7% this year, while total gross domestic product for high-income countries will contract 4.2%, the bank said.

Gasoline markets exhibited the first signs that an extended rally in pump prices is nearing an end after 52 straight days on the rise. Gasoline futures started falling midweek after a government report showed a huge surplus. Already, wholesale gasoline prices in key markets like the Gulf Coast and Chicago had begun to fade.

Russia Ready for Deep Nuclear Cuts

Russia is ready for deep cuts of strategic nuclear weapons in a new deal with the United States if the U.S. eases Moscow’s concerns about plans for a missile defense system, President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday. Medvedev lifted hopes for progress when President Obama visits Moscow July 6-9 for talks focusing on replacing the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in December. Launching the talks was part of Obama’s efforts to improve ties with Russia, which plunged to a post-Cold War low under the previous U.S. administration. U.S. and Russian arms negotiators have met several times in the last two months to prepare for the Moscow summit, with much of the discussion revolving around the missile defense system the U.S. had planned to install in Poland and the Czech Republic. Medvedev, speaking to reporters after meeting Dutch leaders, stopped short of demanding the system be scrapped, but indicated it remains a strong irritant.

Iran

An eerie calm settled over the streets of Tehran Sunday as state media reported at least 10 more deaths in post-election unrest and said authorities arrested the daughter and four other relatives of ex-President Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of Iran’s most powerful men. The reports brought the official death toll for a week of boisterous confrontations to at least 17. State television inside Iran said 10 were killed and 100 injured in clashes Saturday between demonstrators contesting the result of the June 12 election and black-clad police wielding truncheons, tear gas and water cannons. Iran’s regime continued to impose a blackout on the country’s most serious internal conflict since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard threatened Monday to crush any further opposition protests over the disputed presidential election and warns demonstrators to prepare for a “revolutionary confrontation” if they take to the streets again. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in a public square Monday in Iran’s capital city, despite the stern warning by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Riot police and Basij militia dispersed large crowds from congregating in Haft-e Tir and arrested at least eight people.

Mission News Network reports that many Christians in Iran are hoping the post-election tumult will end with new elections that put Mir Hussein Mousavi in power. “We cannot generalize our observations to all Christians,” said John Fox with Open Doors, “but we asked 29 Christians from Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan and all voted for Mousavi. One of them says, ‘For us, bad is better than worse. Mousavi also promised more religious freedom, so I hope he does not lie.'” Current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, widely suspected of fixing last Friday’s election in his favor, has stepped up the presence of “morality police” and tightened the ability to dissent from government policy or Islamic custom during his time in office.

Iraq

Police and rescue crews sifted through the rubble of a mosque and dozens of flattened mud-brick homes on Sunday looking for survivors of the worst attack in Iraq this year — a truck bombing blamed on al-Qaeda that killed 72 people. The bombing, which wounded 163 people, came as U.S. troops have been withdrawing from Iraqi cities as part of a security agreement that requires all troops to leave the country by the end of 2011. There are concerns that violence will spike after U.S. troops fully pull out of the cities by a June 30 deadline.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s government welcomed Saturday a U.S. report accepting blame for a bombing run that killed dozens of villagers, saying it confirmed that international military forces were not doing enough to safeguard civilians. The investigation into a May battle against Taliban militants that killed at least 26 civilians was released Friday in Washington. The report prepared by U.S. Central Command recommends tighter controls — including how airstrikes are conducted — to limit the civilian deaths that risk turning Afghans against the U.S war effort. The report comes as President Barack Obama funnels thousands of new troops into Afghanistan to combat a strengthened Taliban insurgency which is claiming growing numbers of American lives too.

A rare rocket attack on the main U.S. base in Afghanistan early Sunday killed two U.S. troops and wounded six other Americans, including two civilians, officials said. Bagram Air Base, which lies 25 miles northeast of Kabul, is surrounded by high mountains and long stretches of desert from which militants could fire rockets. But such attacks, particularly lethal ones, are relatively rare.

Pakistan

Military jets and artillery pounded suspected militant hide-outs in two towns in Pakistan’s northwest on Sunday, killing 27 fighters, officials said. Elsewhere in the volatile region, a citizens’ militia killed seven suspected militants. This is the area where the country’s top Taliban leader is believed to be entrenched with thousands of his fighters, officials said Saturday. They were the first known militant casualties in South Waziristan — where Pakistan Taliban head Baitullah Mehsud and al-Qaeda figures are believed to be hiding — since the military started pounding the area with artillery about a week ago. Mehsud is blamed for a series of suicide attacks that have killed more than 100 people since late May. Although the army has not announced a formal start of full-scale operations in South Waziristan — an offensive that Washington has been pressing Pakistan to undertake — officials said troops are already occupying strategic positions in the region.

Weather/Wildfires

Rain, rain, everywhere… except the southwest. In Bismarck, N.D., heavy rain swamped streets, stressed storm sewers and stalled vehicles. Roads were shut down, and the roof of a bowling alley collapsed under the weight of water. Rainfall has totaled 5.32 inches so far this month in New York’s Central Park, more than double the normal 2.17 inches for the period. The City of Brotherly Love has sloshed through 3.40 inches of rain so far this month, far above the 1.81 normal reading. Storms that moved across the central part of the U.S. caused delays at Chicago airports, with record rainfall at O’Hare International Airport. About a thousand concertgoers in Michigan were forced to ditch their cars Saturday as rising floodwaters led to a mass evacuation in Grand Rapids.

A dry, scorching June for much of the South will likely remain this week with high temperatures expected to be as much as 10-15 degrees above average. As the first day of summer arrived Sunday, cities across the South and parts of the Midwest were monitoring near-record highs.

The Earth’s temperature in May was the fourth-warmest May on record, with a reading almost 1 degree warmer than the long-term average. For the year to date, the NCDC says the world’s temperature was tied with 2003 for the sixth-warmest January-May period on record.

Nine wildfires are burning in Alaska, having consumed around 17,000 acres already (about 28 square miles. A wildfire in the Tucson District has burned 23,440 acres, or about 35 square miles).

June 19, 2009

Great Response to Obama

When President Obama declared that the United States of America is not a Judeo-Christian nation, there was a hue and cry raised from many quarters, but little of it made it into the mainstream media. One of the best responses was given by Congressman J. Randy Forbes, as recorded in the following YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpQOCvthw-o

Gay activists: Obama Reneging on Promises

President Obama extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers Wednesday but left out the key benefits of health insurance and pensions. The move did little to quell frustration among gays who say he has reneged on campaign promises to champion their priorities. Obama said the action “paves the way for long-overdue progress in our nation’s pursuit of equality.” Still, he said, “Under current law, we cannot provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.” He urged Congress to do that. Obama’s move allows domestic partners of federal workers to get long-term-care insurance and requires supervisors to approve sick leave for employees caring for partners and non-biological children they have not adopted.

Towleroad.com, a popular gay website, headlined, “Damage control: Obama to throw bone” to gay community. To many gay activists, it was a baby step for a president who vowed big strides. Obama has not ended the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, under which more than 250 gay troops have been ousted since he was sworn in.

  • Obama’s honeymoon is beginning to erode as he plays the political game of fence-straddling. However, he is still likely to advance the gay rights agenda to some degree, and any degree is too much.

New Poll Shows Doubt Over Obama Policies

A substantial majority of Americans say President Obama has not developed a strategy to deal with the budget deficit, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, which also found that support for his plans to overhaul health care, rescue the auto industry and close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, falls well below his job approval ratings. A distinct gulf exists between Mr. Obama’s overall standing and how some of his key initiatives are viewed, with fewer than half of Americans saying they approve of how he has handled health care and the effort to save General Motors and Chrysler. A majority of people said his policies have had either no effect yet on improving the economy or had made it worse, underscoring how his political strength still rests on faith in his leadership rather than concrete results.

Government Control Expanding to Ridiculous Levels

President Obama isn’t just rewriting rules regulating the environment and the financial markets — he is also going after the food industry. Target and example No. 1: Cheerios. “Based on claims made on your product’s label,” the FDA said in a letter to manufacturer General Mills, “we have determined (Cheerios) is promoted for conditions that cause it to be a drug because the product is intended for use in the prevention, mitigation and treatment of disease.” If the government’s enforcement action against Cheerios were to hold up, the cereal would be pulled from grocery shelves and consumers would need a prescription to buy a box of those little oats. That’s unlikely, but experts say the message is clear: There is a new sheriff in town and when it comes to false, misleading and exaggerated labeling, you had better clean up your act.

  • Soon, Big Brother will be regulating every aspect of our lives under the assumption that we are too dumb to look after ourselves.

Police Raid Pastor’s Home

Last Thursday, a swarm of police officers descended on Michael Salman’s northwest Phoenix home. Armed officers herded Salman, his wife Suzanne, their five young daughters, and their visiting friends into the living room — and kept them under watch for 90 minutes while other city officials searched the grounds. And here’s the crazy part: The officials weren’t looking for drugs, weapons, or stolen property. They were looking for evidence that Michael and Suzanne Salman are holding church services in their backyard. Police were summoned by zoning officials to help serve an administrative warrant. Typically, the city would take that step only if it had previously been denied access by the homeowner, Michael Salman. But Salman says he never turned city officials away from his home — a fact that a city spokesman ultimately confirmed. That makes the warrant, and the police presence, reek of overreach.

To the city, the question is simply whether the Salmans are holding services in a building that’s permitted only for residential use. The services, they say, hold a genuine safety risk. But for the Salmans, the questions are as big as the Constitution itself. What exactly is a church? And what is a group of people who meet once a week to celebrate their faith? Should the government really be in the business of delineating? After all, if it’s okay to have friends over every week for game night, why isn’t it okay to have them over to worship God?

  • Just the tip of the iceberg folks.

U.S. to Pay old Debt to U.N.

The House of Representatives passed a war-funding bill Tuesday that includes about $900 million for U.N. peacekeeping missions and related activities. That funding includes $175 million in arrears accrued since fiscal year 2005, according to the United Nations Foundation, a charitable group that promotes U.N. causes. The United States is the United Nations’ biggest donor, but Congress capped payments for peacekeeping and didn’t pay its bill in full. “This is a strong indication of the Obama administration’s commitment to working with the U.N.,” U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said.

  • Just another indicator of Obama’s commitment to forming a one-world, socialistic government

AG Holder: 50 Gitmo Trials Possible

Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday there may be 50 or more trials of Guantanamo Bay detainees as the Obama administration works to shut the detention center by early next year. Holder discussed the plan before the Senate Judiciary Committee. A separate group of detainees would be sent to foreign countries; a third group, the most difficult, would not be released or put on trial. Holder said officials were discussing how to handle such suspects and whether new legislation would be required to hold them. He said even without a trial, a judge would have to review the basis for holding such detainees.

Congress Sends Obama $106 billion War Funding Bill

Congress on Thursday sent President Obama a massive spending bill aimed at ensuring that the military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan won’t run out of money in the coming months. The Senate passed the measure on a one-sided 91-5 vote despite complaints from several senators about the add-ons that pushed the total more than $20 billion above the funding request Obama made two months ago. The $106 billion emergency war bill also branches off to provide money for programs ranging from pandemic flu preparedness to a “cash for clunkers” initiative. The House approved the bill on Wednesday by a much closer 226-202 vote.

The White House and its Democratic allies insisted that this will be the last time Congress will be compelled to pass an emergency war bill, or supplemental, that is outside the normal budget process and thus goes directly to an increase in the national debt. Congress has passed such bills every year since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and with enactment of this legislation the amount will near $1 trillion, with about 70% going to the conflict in Iraq.

  • Last one? Where have we heard that before?

Alcohol Abuse by GIs Soars

The rate of Army soldiers enrolled in treatment programs for alcohol dependency or abuse has nearly doubled since 2003 — a sign of the growing stress of repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Army statistics and interviews. Soldiers diagnosed by Army substance abuse counselors with alcoholism or alcohol abuse, such as binge drinking, increased from 6.1 per 1,000 soldiers in 2003 to an estimated 11.4 as of March 31, according to the data. Marines who screen positive for drug or alcohol problems increased 12% from 2005 to 2008, according to Marine Corps statistics.

Energy-saving Bulbs Recycling Woes

More states are moving to establish safe recycling programs and address the mercury content of the popular curly, compact fluorescent light bulbs. The bulbs, known as CFLs, generally use less power than incandescent light bulbs. CFLs use trace amounts of the toxic metal mercury to produce light. If a bulb breaks, he says, there is a a risk from exposure to mercury, which can damage the lungs and central nervous system if inhaled. In May, Maine became the first state to pass a law requiring manufacturers to limit mercury levels in the bulbs and pay for recycling them safely. The Illinois Legislature passed a law in May that requires recycling information on CFL labels. In Nevada, a special committee is working on regulations that would require utilities to inform consumers on how to recycle CFLs. In California, a bill regarding CFL recycling has passed the State Assembly and awaits Senate approval.

  • This is a case where the solution is worse than the problem. Even with posted recycling information, how many people do you think will read those instructions much less follow them? Our landfills are going to become Mercury contaminated in a few years when these bulbs start dying out and people throw them in the trash. That contamination will then leech into water supplies.

Cell Phones in the Classroom

One-fourth of teens’ cell phone text messages are sent during class, a new survey finds, despite widespread classroom bans on cell phones at school. The survey of 1,013 teens — 84% of whom have cell phones — also shows that a significant number have stored information on a cell phone to look at during a test or have texted friends about answers. More than half of all students say people at their school have done the same. The poll found that teens send 440 text messages a week on average — 110 of them during class. That works out to more than three texts per class period. The findings also reveal a split in perception between teens and parents: Only 23% of parents whose children have cellphones think they are using them at school; 65% of students say they do.

Cash-for-Clunkers Bill Passes

The Senate passed a pared-down version of the so-called cash-for-clunkers program Thursday that will give rebates to new car buyers who turn in older, less fuel-efficient models and that supporters are hopeful will kick-start the anemic car market. The program, offering $3,500 or $4,500 cash vouchers, was inserted into a war-spending measure. As passed, program spending is limited to $1 billion and expires Oct. 1. The program would take effect within 30 days of being signed by President Obama, which he has said he will do. Passenger cars from 1984 or newer with combined miles per gallon ratings of 18 or less are eligible. Owners could get a $3,500 voucher if they trade for a new car rated at least 4 mpg higher or $4,500 if they buy a car that gets 10 mpg more.

Budget Omits Grants for School Drug Programs

President Obama’s first budget proposes to end state grants for school drug programs that he and Vice President Biden fought for as senators. Last year, when President Bush asked Congress to stop funding the grants under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities program, Obama, Biden and 35 other senators protested. They signed a letter calling it “the backbone of youth drug prevention” that was “making a difference” for 37 million children. They signed similar letters in 2006 and 2007. Obama’s latest budget calls the program “poorly designed” and cites a 2001 study by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center that found it “profoundly flawed.”

  • Rightly or wrongly, Obama is starting to fall short of all his campaign promises

Foreclosures Grind On as Lenders Fail to Modify Loans

The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to reduce foreclosures has been beset by backlogs and delays. Details of the plan were unveiled in early March. The goal is to prevent up to 4 million foreclosures by having banks modify loans into more affordable monthly payments. Since its debut, the plan has led to offers of more than 190,000 mortgage modifications with lower monthly payments, according to the Treasury Department. During that time, lenders either have started or advanced foreclosure proceedings against more than 1 million homes, according to RealtyTrac. About 20% of those were foreclosed upon and repossessed. The Center for Responsible Lending says 2.4 million Americans are at risk of foreclosure in 2009, and 8.1 million could be over the next four years.

Homeowners who apply for mortgage modifications are finding that banks typically are taking 45 to 60 days to respond to inquiries. Some homeowners who applied for mortgage modifications five months ago still have no answer on whether they will be able to arrange smaller monthly payments, leaving them uncertain whether they’ll keep their homes or lose them shortly.

  • Will we ever learn that government programs within the private sector are ineffective, only creating more red tape and bureaucratic snafus?

Economic News

The number of people on unemployment insurance rolls dropped in the latest week for the first time since early January, while new claims for benefits rose slightly. The Labor Department says unemployment insurance rolls fell 148,000 to 6.69 million in the week ended June 6, a sign the jobs picture might be improving. The drop breaks a string of 21 straight increases, the last 19 of which were record highs. The department says new claims rose 3,000 to 608,000 the week ended June 13. The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, fell 7,000 to 615,750. The four-week average of claims has dropped about 40,000 from nearly 659,000 in early April, its peak for the current recession. Before the recession, new claims were less than 300,000.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading economic indicators — designed to forecast activity in the next three to six months — rose 1.2%, the biggest gain since March 2004. The New York-based group said activity in the six-month period through May also rose 1.2% — the first time that measure has grown since April 2007. “The recession is losing steam,” said Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein. “If these trends continue, expect a slow recovery beginning before the end of the year.” However, Goldstein said the job market will take longer to rebound.

Ten of the largest U.S. banks said Wednesday they repaid more than $66 billion of taxpayer bailout funds, as they race to extract themselves from government restrictions on pay for top executives. Banks are returning money taken from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, which was once intended to spur lending but is now viewed as a sign that recipients are too weak to survive on their own. In most cases, the banks issued preferred shares that carried 5% dividends in exchange for the money.

  • Had they known that accepting TARP money meant restrictions on top executive pay, they never would have taken the handout. Meanwhile, lending has barely increased.

Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cut ratings on 18 banks amid concern about further weakening in the financial sector on Wednesday. S&P said the changes reflected its assessment that volatility will remain in the financial sector and that the industry is expected to face tighter regulatory oversight. S&P also said loan losses, which have plagued the industry for more than a year, are likely to continue to increase and could grow beyond expectations.

Employers who offer health insurance coverage could see a 9% cost increase next year, and their workers may face an even bigger hit, according to a report Thursday from consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. Costs will rise in part because workers worried about losing their jobs are using their health care more while they still have it. The report also said rising unemployment is driving up medical costs. Businesses confronted with increases will likely pass some of the burden to employees via higher premiums, deductibles or copays.

Child support payments are falling as parents lose their jobs. States report that more parents are failing to pay and more are going to court to reduce their obligations. Some custodial parents are asking for higher payments because their income is down. And more parents are using unemployment checks to pay child support. Most child support goes through state agencies. States collect and forward payments ordered by judges in divorces and other court actions, and they track payments to families on public assistance.

Thousands of firefighters across the country face possible layoffs this year, prompting concern that deep local government budget cuts will delay emergency response times. Since late last year, cities have been forced to shutter local fire stations, reduce services at others and cut the number of firefighters dispatched on emergency calls. Up to 5,000 firefighting jobs could be in jeopardy, according to an IAFF survey of members, which includes 292,000 firefighters.

Chrysler plans to restart seven assembly plants at the end of June after silencing all of its factories during its six-week stay in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and Fiat’s buyout. Inventories of vehicles made by the eight plants have started to shrink. When the factories come back on line, their work will be done under a different manufacturing system, one used in Europe by Fiat called “World Class Manufacturing.” Union officials say training in the new manufacturing methods got underway early in June, with workers learning a more detail-oriented, data-driven process that is similar to but less bureaucratic than Chrysler’s system.

Iran

Iran’s supreme leader said Friday that the country’s disputed presidential vote had not been rigged, sternly warning protesters of a crackdown if they continue massive demonstrations demanding a new election. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sided with hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and offered no concessions to the opposition. He effectively closed any chance for a new vote by calling the June 12 election an “absolute victory.” Hundreds of thousands of protesters wearing black and carrying candles filled the streets of Tehran again Thursday, joining opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to mourn demonstrators killed in clashes over Iran’s disputed election. Pro-Mousavi websites had no immediate reaction to Khamenei’s warning and no announcement of any changes in a protest planned for 4 p.m. Saturday.

Women, regarded as second-class citizens in Iran, have been noticeably front and center of the massive demonstrations that have unfolded since the presidential election a week ago. “Women have become primary agents of change in Iran,” said Nayereh Tohidi, chairwoman of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at California State University, Northridge. The remarkable images show women with uncovered heads who are unafraid to speak their minds and crowds that are not segregated — both the opposite of the norm in Iran, Tohidi said. She said a long-brewing women’s movement may finally be manifesting itself on the streets.

Pakistan

Suspected U.S. missile strikes pounded the hide-outs of a Taliban commander in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least eight people, government officials said. A training center of Taliban commander Malang Wazir between the two villages of Gharlamai and Nandaran was the target. U.S. missiles fired from unmanned drones have repeatedly struck the district of South Waziristan, most recently on Sunday after nearly a one-month lull. The strikes have generated a backlash over civilian casualties.

Somalia

An explosion that witnesses said was caused by a suicide bomber killed at least 20 people Thursday in western Somalia, including the country’s national security minister. The explosion occurred in the town of Belet Weyne outside the Medina Hotel, which is frequented by Somali government officials. Somalia’s president says al-Qaeda is behind the suicide bombing. Somalia has not had an effective government for 18 years after warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and plunged the country into anarchy and chaos. The lawlessness has also allowed piracy to thrive off the country’s coast. Islamic insurgents have been trying to topple Somalia’s weak, Western-backed government for more than two years. The U.N. says the conflict has displaced more than 122,000 people.

Hostage Killings Reflect Yemen’s Tensions

Baptist Press reports that three aid workers in Yemen were killed and another six, including three children, are missing after they were kidnapped June 12 while on a picnic. Aid groups suspect a rebel group in an area where al-Qaida has a foothold is responsible. Worldwide Services Foundation, a Dutch aid group, said the workers had been serving with them at hospital in the north of Yemen largely devoted to prenatal and maternity care. Shepherds found the bodies of the three female aid workers on Monday. “The news of the killing of the three women will be a shock also for the local people, with whom a warm relationship exists that has been strengthened by the humanitarian efforts of so many years,” Worldwide Services said.

Colombian Pastors Threatened by Paramilitary Group

Christian Today reports that Columbia’s weak rule of law continues to affect pastors in the northern Córdoba region. Over the past six months, at least 10 pastors have been threatened by men claiming to represent a paramilitary organization in the region, insisting on collaboration. After refusing, one of the pastors said he was kidnapped and beaten, while another said a live grenade was thrown at his home one night. All of the pastors report being told that they are now considered “legitimate military targets” by the Black Eagles group, Christian Post reports. Complaints to the police have gone uninvestigated. “We are seriously concerned for the safety of church leaders living and working in the Cordoba region,” said Stuart Windsor with Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Weather

Heavy rain pounded flood-weary North Dakota again, setting records in Bismarck and pushing the Red River above flood stage in Fargo. The National Weather Service said runoff was expected to put the Red above its 18-foot flood stage in Fargo by Thursday.

Powerful storms that rolled across the Midwest brought heavy rain, strong winds and spawned several apparent tornadoes, damaging homes and businesses, tossing railcars off their tracks and knocking out power to thousands.

June 17, 2009

Christian Conservatives Fight Expansion of Hate-Crimes Law

Conservative Christian leaders are fighting a bill that would provide federal hate-crimes coverage to gays and lesbians, prompting questions of who, if anyone, should be protected by such laws. To stop the legislation, a few Christian leaders have suggested repealing all hate-crimes law, which would undo historic protections for race and even religion. “The entire notion of hate-crimes legislation is extraneous and obsolete,” said Matt Barber, director of cultural affairs with the conservative nonprofit Liberty Counsel, adding that he believes hate-crimes laws are unconstitutional. “All violent crime is hate crime,” said Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs at Family Research Council here in the capital. A number of Christian conservatives have raised fears that pastors would be prosecuted for inciting hate crimes if they had preached against homosexuality, despite assurances that the law only targets physical violence. Convictions for hate crimes carry harsher sentences because the victimization goes beyond the individual targeted.

  • Expansion of hate-crime legislation to the gay/lesbian community would set a precedent for including behavioral acts, especially ungodly acts.

Survey Shows Grave Concerns by Americans about Big Brother

Nearly half of all adults in America believe there has been a decrease in personal freedom under the Obama administration, which signals a significant degree of alarm across a wide swath of the population, the World Net Daily “Freedom Index” Poll finds. Significant percentages of Americans see their personal freedom diminishing under President Obama and even fear speaking their minds, expressing their political and religious views and freely associating with others because of potential retribution by government, the scientific survey conducted by Wenzel Strategies found. Overall, 37 percent of respondents to the scientific survey said they saw big decreases in personal freedom under Obama, while 31 percent said they perceive a big increase. Democrats, by 54.7 percent, said they saw a big increase in freedom, while 60 percent of Republicans said they saw a big decrease. Among independents, 40.4 percent see a big decrease in personal freedom, while 22.4 see a big increase. There was also a significant racial split in the results, with 56.4 percent of African-Americans seeing a big increase in personal freedom and 42.5 percent of whites seeing a big decrease.

Independence Day Tea Party Tally Explodes

The tea party movement is showing fresh signs of momentum as the national tally is once again exploding. Amy Kremer, national organizer for the Tea Party Patriots, told WND her organization is expecting more rallies on Independence Day weekend than were held on April 15 this year. Tea Party Patriots is organizing more than 220 national tea parties scheduled for Independence Day weekend that will focus on the following three principles: fiscal responsibility, limited government and free market. In addition to protesting excessive government spending, Kremer said the organization will also emphasize citizen opposition to government-run health care.

  • An astonishing 45% of the total U.S. gross domestic product is government spending, and there is every indication that the bureaucracy will do nothing but continue to expand

Most Americans Know of Obama Eligibility Questions

It may be the issue few in the media dare address, but a new scientific public opinion survey of a cross-section of Americans shows they are not only aware of questions about Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility for office, but almost half are either “troubled” by the questions or believe he should release all relevant documents including his long-form birth certificate. Asked if they are aware of the questions raised about Obama’s constitutional eligibility for office, 51.3 percent answered affirmatively, while only 18.7 percent said no. “Our polling shows that the questions surrounding Barack Obama’s eligibility to serve as president clearly strike a nerve across America, probably because it is a problem that everybody understands,” said pollster Fritz Wenzel. “Every American citizen has a birth certificate, and once in a while we all have to produce them to get a drivers license or gain entrance to school. Everyone understands the simple rules – if you don’t produce it, you don’t get in. And while Obama did get in to the White House, nearly half the country’s adults – 49 percent – are troubled by this issue and still want him to produce his official long-form birth certificate.”

Support in the U.S. House for a proposal that would require presidential candidates to provide documentation of how they meet the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that the person who occupies the Oval Office be a “natural born citizen” suddenly has quadrupled. There now are four cosponsors to H.R. 1503 from freshman Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., an amendment to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. Support for the bill is developing at the same time there is a national campaign to raise funds to erect billboards asking the four-word question: “Where’s the birth certificate?” The campaign has also raised more than $75,000 in contributions from the public so far, and several billboards have been put up.

U.S. and Mexico Agree to Work Together on Border Security

The U.S. and Mexico formalized an agreement Monday to work together to secure legal travel and trade across the countries’ shared border. The agreement expands a 2007 agreement and formalizes plans announced earlier this year to search vehicles at border crossings for bulk weapons and cash being smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico where more than 10,800 people have been killed by drug violence since December 2006. The cooperation will include sharing information such as data about stolen cars. The U.S. will train Mexican customs agents and dogs and use more technology along the border.

Immigrant-Owed Businesses Suffering

Immigrant-owned businesses — a key part of the U.S. economy — are being threatened by the recession. About 1.5 million immigrants own U.S. businesses, according to a study for the Small Business Administration by Rob Fairlie, an economics professor at the University of California-Santa Cruz. He found that immigrants are 30% more likely to start a business than non-immigrants. They account for 11.6% of all U.S. business income. Many immigrants started with nothing and built businesses that support them and their extended families and communities.

Swine H1N1 Flu

Schoolchildren could be first in line for swine flu vaccine this fall — and schools are being put on notice that they might even be turned into shot clinics. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday she is urging school superintendents around the country to spend the summer preparing for that possibility, if the government goes ahead with mass vaccinations. The U.S. is pouring money into development of a vaccine in anticipation of giving at least some people the shots.

Argentina’s health minister says a 3-month-old infant has died of swine flu, the country’s first fatality from the disease. Four other patients are in intensive care. A health ministry statement Monday said there were 89 more confirmed cases, bringing Argentina’s total to 733. Neighboring Chile has 2,335 swine flu cases. The World Health Organization says about half of the more than 160 people worldwide killed by swine flu so far were previously young and healthy.

  • Swine flu is being used to generate panic and promote the need for more global cooperation and enforcement, a prime objective of the New World Order.

House Health-Care Proposal Adds $600 Billion in Taxes

Health-care overhaul legislation being drafted by House Democrats will include $600 billion in tax increases and $400 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel said. Democrats will work on the bill’s details next week as they struggle through “what kind of heartburn” it will cause to agree on how to pay for revamping the health-care system, Rangel, a New York Democrat, said today. The measure’s cost is reaching well beyond the $634 billion President Barack Obama proposed in his budget request to Congress as a 10-year down payment for the policy changes. Asked whether the cost of a health-care overhaul would be more than $1 trillion over a decade, Rangel said, “the answer is yes.” Some Senate Republicans, including Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, say the costs will likely exceed $1.5 trillion.

  • Egads! This is on top of all the bailouts, etc. These people are absolutely crazy if they think we can carry that much debt.

Obama Unveils Overhaul of Financial Market Regulations

President Obama on Wednesday unveiled the most sweeping overhaul of financial market regulation since the 1930s in response to a Wall Street crisis that sent the economy into an epic tailspin. His plan would give broad new powers to the Federal Reserve, abolish the Office of Thrift Supervision, establish a new watchdog agency to protect consumers, and more tightly regulate hedge funds and derivatives, according to a senior Treasury Department official. Aggressive marketing of subprime mortgages and their packaging into securities helped undercut financial systems and trigger a deep recession.

  • These things always sound reasonable on the surface, but more regulation equates to more government control in an accelerating pathway into socialism. And more power to the Federal Reserve (not federal, but private and global) means more control by the New World (Dis)Order.

Arizona’s Governor Sues State Legislature

Saying she won’t be tricked, Gov. Jan Brewer on Tuesday asked the Arizona Supreme Court to force the Legislature to send her the budget they approved nearly two weeks ago. In filing her lawsuit, Brewer said she believes lawmakers are playing games with their spending plan, keeping it from her until June 30, the last day of the budget year. The governor said she believes they want to put her in the impossible position of having to agree to their plan, which she finds unacceptable, or force the shutdown of state government. Senate President Bob Burns, who is holding the package of 10 bills that make up the budget in his office, insisted he was not trying to “trick’ the governor. But he acknowledged that he is hanging on to them for political leverage.

  • No tricks but leverage. Political semantics, while they play with our well-being.

Economic News

Construction of new homes jumped in May by the largest amount in three months, providing an encouraging sign that the nation’s deep housing recession may be bottoming. The Commerce Department says construction of new homes and apartments jumped 17.2% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 532,000 units, up from a record low rate of 454,000 units in April. In addition, applications for building permits, seen as a good indicator of future activity, rose 4% in May to an annual rate of 518,000 units.

The Labor Department said its producer price index, which tracks wholesale prices, increased a seasonally adjusted 0.2% from April. The department says wholesale prices fell 5% the past 12 months, largest annual drop in almost 50 years. Consumer prices rose less than expected in May, fresh evidence that the recession is keeping inflation in check. The Labor Department reported Wednesday that the consumer price index rose a seasonally adjusted 0.1% last month.

A report from the Federal Reserve said industrial production fell more than expected last month as the recession crimped demand for a wide range of manufactured goods. The Fed report says production at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities fell 1.1% in May and has declined for seven months.

The trade deficit plunged sharply in the first three months of the year as the country’s deep recession depressed imports of oil and other goods. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the current account trade deficit dropped to $101.5 billion in the first quarter, a 34.5% decline from the fourth quarter. It was the lowest current account deficit since the final three months of 2001, when the country was mired in the last recession. The gap for the fourth quarter was also revised up sharply to $154.9 billion, from an original estimate of $132.8 billion.

Goldman Sachs says in a letter to high-ranking lawmakers that it is ready to repay a $10 billion U.S. government investment Wednesday. Goldman is one of 10 large U.S. banks that obtained approval last week to pay back a total of $68 billion they received as part of the government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Morgan Stanley is also expected to repay on Wednesday the $10 billion it received.

The airline industry stands to lose $9 billion or more in 2009. First quarter premium tickets (first- and business-class) were off 40 percent. The problem in a depressionary economy is revenue. Merely cutting costs cannot compensate for shock-losses like this, no matter how deeply you cut.

More Than 30 House Chinese Church Leaders Arrested in Sichuan

Christian News Wire reports that more than 30 house church leaders were arrested at a house church gathering in Langzhong city, Sichuan province, on June 9. Thirteen leaders were given 15 days of administrative detention, and five of the leaders were placed under criminal detention. The other leaders were released. Pastors Gao Guofu, Pastor Li Ming, Zhang Guofen, Gu Lianpeng and Yu Zhipeng, the five leaders who received criminal detention, are likely to face a formal criminal indictment or up to three years of re-education through labor. Pastor Li Ming was sentenced to three years of re-education through labor in recent years because of his Christian faith. Parts of Sichuan province are still recovering from a devastating earthquake that hit that region last year.

Iran

In a massive outpouring reminiscent of the Islamic Revolution three decades ago, hundreds of thousands of Iranians streamed through the capital Monday, and the fist-waving protesters denounced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim to victory in a disputed election. Standing on a roof, gunmen opened fire on a group of protesters who had tried to storm a pro-government militia’s compound. One man was killed and several others were wounded in the worst violence since the disputed election Friday. The huge rally — and smaller protests around the country — reinforced what has become increasingly clear since the election: the opposition forces rallying behind Mousavi show no signs of backing down.

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi issued a direct challenge Wednesday to the country’s supreme leader and cleric-led system, calling for a mass rally to protest disputed election results and violence against his followers. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has told Mousavi to pursue his demands through the electoral system and called for Iranians to unite behind their Islamic government, but Mousavi appears unwilling to back down.

Weather/Wildfires

America’s two coasts are experiencing vastly different springs, with a hot, dry West worried about an intense wildfire season and parts of the East Coast soaking in a rare months-long deluge. The Western drought is most intense in California, where more than 97% of the state is either abnormally dry or in some form of drought condition. The dry, hot conditions spell bad news for wildfires in California, Nevada, Arizona, Washington and other Northwestern states. Parts of Texas also are enduring a historic drought. The coastal bend area of the state — including Corpus Christi and Brownsville — have broken records for lack of rainfall for the past nine months. As Westerners brace for the fires, the eastern third of the country is virtually drought-free after an extremely soggy May. Three months ago, more than 70% of Florida was under a drought condition, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Now, following the rainiest May on record, it’s at 0%.

Meanwhile, there are ten wildfires currently burning: four in Arizona, three in New Mexico, one in south Texas and two in Alaska. So far this year, wildfires have consumed over 1.7 million acres, up 33% over the ten-year average.

June 15, 2009

Why are Young People Leaving the Church?

What does the age of the Earth have to do with the exodus of young people from American churches? Ken Ham, known for his Answers in Genesis creation-science ministry, says a major study he commissioned by a respected researcher unveils for the first time in a scientific fashion the startling reasons behind statistics that show two-thirds of young people in evangelical churches will leave when they move into their 20s. The study, highlighted in Ham’s new book with researcher Britt Beemer, “Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it,” finds church youth already are “lost” in their hearts and minds in elementary, middle and high school – not in college as many assume. The survey found, much to Ham’s surprise, a “Sunday School syndrome,” indicating children who faithfully attend Bible classes in their church over the years actually are more likely to question the authority of Scripture. “This is a brutal wake-up call for the church, showing how our programs and our approaches to Christian education are failing dismally,” Ham writes in the book.

The book explores a number of reasons for the findings, but Ham sees one overarching problem that is related to how churches and parents have taught youth to understand the Genesis account of creation. Ham – who believes in a literal six-day creation that happened 6,000 to 10,000 years ago – says the church opened a door for the exodus of youth, beginning in the 19th century, when it began teaching that “the age of the Earth is not an issue as long as you trust in Jesus and believe in the resurrection and the Gospel accounts.” In previous generations, young people could live with this inconsistency, he said, but with an increasingly secular and atheistic public education system – where some 90 percent of church-going youth are trained – today’s youth find it hard to see a connection between what they are taught in church and what they learn at school.

  • The watered-down gospel is not only impacting youth through Sunday School, but also adults through compromised truth from the pulpit.

Bill Clinton: U.S. no longer Dominated by Christians and Jews

Former President Bill Clinton has told an Arab-American audience of 1,000 people that the U.S. is no longer just a black-white country, nor a country that is dominated by Christians and a powerful Jewish minority In a speech to the group on Saturday, Clinton said that given the growing numbers of Muslims, Hindus and other religious groups here,  Americans should be mindful of the nation’s changing demographics, which led to the election of Barack Obama as president. Clinton said by 2050 the U.S. will no longer have a majority of people with European heritage and that in an interdependent world “this is a very positive thing.”

  • And thus are false gods raised above the One True God, the primary objective of the globalists and New World Order folks.

Jeremiah Wright’s anti-Semitic Comments Draw Ire

A leading Christian Zionist says if President Obama wants to be consistent in his condemnation of anti-Semitism, he should speak out against the latest anti-Semitic rant by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Pastor Wright told the Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia, on Tuesday that “them Jews” were keeping him from speaking to President Obama. He also criticized the president for not sending a U.S. delegation to the World Conference on Racism, saying Obama chose not to for fear of offending Jews and Israel. Pro-Israel activist Gary Bauer, who serves on the executive board of Christians United for Israel, says Wright’s comments were yet another jarring reminder that he is an “open, unrepentant anti-Semite of the worst kind.” Although the White House would not comment on Wright’s incendiary remarks, including his claim that Zionists were carrying out “ethnic cleansing” in Gaza, Bauer says President Obama needs to be asked how much of his Mideast policy was formulated by the two decades of teaching he received from Wright.

  • Although Obama left the church during his campaign for the presidency, he did so only because of political expediency. He was a member who sat for years through such preaching/teaching and never objected to all kinds of inflammatory, anti-Biblical rantings.

Obama wants New Cuts in Federal Health Spending

President Obama is seeking to help pay for his health care plan by sharply reducing the government’s medical spending, mainly by trimming payments to prescription drugmakers, hospitals and other care providers. His ambitions are thick but the details thin; the president and his aides said specific ways for achieving the cuts will be decided later. The negotiations could trigger fierce political battles between powerful industries trying to protect their profits. Overhauling the nation’s health care system is one of Obama’s biggest ambitions, and lawmakers are working on a variety of plans. A top goal is to reduce costs in the government’s largest medical programs, Medicare and Medicaid, which cover millions of elderly and low-income Americans and involve thousands of doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions. Obama’s plans would provide $948 billion over a decade in savings and/or tax increases to help cover the millions of Americans who lack medical insurance and to slow the rate of soaring health care costs.

The American Medical Association, the largest U.S. doctors group, is wary of President Barack Obama’s call for a public health insurance plan. It doesn’t want government meddling in their jobs. But these days, most U.S. doctors aren’t members of the group, and just how much that body can sway Obama’s health reform efforts will be a test of its once mighty clout. Representing barely one-fourth of U.S. physicians, it’s tough to call the AMA the true mouthpiece of American medicine. However, it still spends large sums of money on efforts to shape health policy in one of the few industrialized countries without nationalized health care.

The largest medical insurers and drug companies spent 41% more on lobbying this year as Congress began debate on an overhaul of health care, which may include a public insurance plan the industries oppose. Despite an overall decline in lobbyist spending this year, a USA TODAY review of disclosure reports found 20 of the largest health insurance and drug companies and their trade groups spent nearly $35 million in the first quarter of 2009, up more than $10 million from the same period last year.

  • Who do you trust more, the government, the AMA, insurance or drug companies? Let’s put our trust in God instead.

80% Oppose Health Care for Illegals

An overwhelming 80 percent of U.S. voters oppose proposals for government-backed health-care plans for illegal immigrants, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Friday. That compares to only 11 percent who think providing illegal workers with a government health-care plan is a good idea. The strong opposition to health-care coverage for illegals, is based on a national poll of 1,000 likely voters. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 10 million illegal immigrants in the United States lack health insurance. That’s about 22 percent of the 46 million people in America who are without insurance. Excluding the illegal alien issue, American voters continue to strongly favor the idea that all legal Americans should have quality health-care coverage. Sixty-five percent say that every American should have access to quality health care. Only 22 percent disagree.

3 Gitmo Detainees Sent to Saudi Arabia

U.S. officials say three Guantanamo Bay detainees have been sent home to Saudi Arabia. The Justice Department say the trio will be subject to judicial review in Saudi Arabia before they participate in a rehabilitation program administered by the Saudi government. ith the latest transfer, the U.S. has removed 10 detainees from Guantanamo in the past week, sending four to Bermuda, one to Chad, one to Iraq, and one to face trial in New York City. That leaves 229 detainees still at the U.S. military detention center in Cuba.

The European Union agreed on Monday to help the administration of President Obama “turn the page” on Guantanamo, saying individual EU nations will take detainees from the American prison in Cuba. It did not name the countries or how many detainees would be resettled across the 27-nation bloc, but that Washington was ready to pay toward the costs of their resettlement. The United States seeks a home for those cleared for release from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility without trial but who cannot go to their own country for fear of ill-treatment. About 50 detainees left on Guantanamo fall in that category. At one point there were 778 detainees at Guantanamo. The first arrived in early 2002 as the United States widened its global war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against New York and Washington.

Economic News

Vice President Biden said Sunday that “everyone guessed wrong” on the impact of the economic stimulus, but he defended the administration’s spending designed to combat rising joblessness. Biden said inaccuracies in unemployment predictions shouldn’t undercut the White House’s support of the $787 billion economic revival plan that has not met expectations. “The bottom line is that jobs are being created that would not have been there before,” Biden said. But they are not coming at the pace first estimated.

Consumer sentiment rose only slightly in June, remaining at a low level, according to a report Friday by the University of Michigan and Reuters. The consumer sentiment index rose to 69 in mid-June from 68.7 in May, the latest survey showed. The index hit a 28-year low 55.3 in November, and has averaged 88.2 the past 10 years. However, future expectations fell to 65.4 from 69.4. Friday’s report indicates higher prices for gasoline and continued job losses are dampening optimism about consumers’ present circumstances.

School districts across the nation are facing similar financial crunches, but many have avoided painful layoffs with the help of federal stimulus funds. California, however, is mired in a budget crisis and, despite the influx of federal money, is still moving to lay off thousands. The National Education Association estimates that some 34,000 teaching jobs will be eliminated this year. California — with Los Angeles Unified in the lead — faces the largest loss of nearly 18,000 teachers. The city’s schools have roughly 40,000 teachers. Some inner-city middle and high schools could lose up to 40% of their teachers.

The amusement park company Six Flags is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, saying it needs to reorganize and shed $1.8 billion of debt. The move won’t affect the operation of its 20 theme parks in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Six Flags says it actually had a great year in 2008. It saw 25 million visitors and posted record revenues. But executives are trying to lighten a $2.4 billion debt load that they say is unsustainable.

Netanyahu Calls for Creation of Limited Palestinian State

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state beside Israel for the first time on Sunday, dramatically reversing himself in the face of U.S. pressure but attaching conditions the Palestinians swiftly rejected. A week after President Obama’s address to the Muslim world, Netanyahu said the Palestinian state would also have to recognize Israel as the Jewish state — essentially saying Palestinian refugees must give up the goal of returning to Israel. “Netanyahu’s speech closed the door to permanent status negotiations,” senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said. “We ask the world not to be fooled by his use of the term Palestinian state because he qualified it. He declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, said refugees would not be negotiated and that settlements would remain.”

  • How long will it be before it is recognized that the Islamic world will not rest until Israel is completely and permanently eliminated?

Iran Declares Ahmadinejad Winner

Iran’s supreme leader ordered Monday an investigation into allegations of election fraud, marking a stunning turnaround by the country’s most powerful figure and offering hope to opposition forces who have waged street clashes to protest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. State television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directing a high-level clerical panel, the Guardian Council, to look into charges by pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has said he is the rightful winner of Friday’s presidential election. Election results must be authorized by the council, composed of clerics closely allied with the unelected supreme leader. All three of Ahmadinejad’s challengers in the election — Mousavi and two others — have made public allegations of fraud after results showed the president winning by a 2-to-1 margin.

The results touched off three days of clashes — the worst unrest in Tehran in a decade. Protesters set fires and battled anti-riot police, including a clash overnight at Tehran University after 3,000 students gathered to oppose the election results. Security forces also have struck back with targeted arrests of pro-reform activists and blocks on text messaging and pro-Mousavi Web sites used to rally his supporters.

The apparent re-election of hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad underscores the growing threat posed by Tehran and its nuclear ambitions, two senior Israeli politicians said Saturday, urging the world not to engage in dialogue with Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has argued that Iran’s nuclear ambitions, not Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, should occupy the world’s attention. Friction has been growing between Israel and the U.S. over Netanyahu’s refusal to endorse the idea of Palestinian statehood and a settlement freeze, as sought by the Obama administration.

N. Korea Says it will ‘Weaponize’ its Plutonium

The U.N. Security Council has imposed tough new sanctions on North Korea, punishing the country for its second nuclear test. Pyongyang responded to the resolution Saturday by vowing to “weaponize” all its plutonium and will consider any blockade “an act of war.” The Security Council agreed Friday to expand an arms embargo and authorize ship searches on the high seas, with the goal of derailing the isolated nation’s nuclear and missile programs. North Korea responded with a defiant statement and its Foreign Ministry also acknowledged for the first time that the country has a uranium enrichment program, and insisted it will never abandon its nuclear ambitions. Uranium and plutonium can be used to make atomic bombs. In a sign of growing global anger at North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons in defiance of the council, the North’s closest allies Russia and China joined Western powers and nations from every region in unanimously approving the sanctions resolution.

The Obama administration said Friday it is prepared to confront ships believed to be carrying contraband materials to North Korea but will not try to forcibly board them, in accordance with new U.N. sanctions. White House officials said they expect North Korea to act “irresponsibly” to the sanctions. Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said U.S. officials would seek permission to board such ships to inspect them. If they refuse, she said, the United States will try to work with the ship’s home nation “and others to direct that vessel to an appropriate port for the mandatory inspection” outlined in the U.N. sanctions. North Korea’s communist regime responded by warning of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula.

June 12, 2009

Arizona Legislature Limits Abortions

Two bills restricting abortions advanced on Wednesday, increasing the likelihood Republican lawmakers in Arizona will achieve one of their highest legislative priorities by the end of the session. The Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee recommended approval of bills that would require a 24-hour waiting period for abortions and would increase penalties for a controversial late-term procedure the bill calls “partial birth abortion.” The bills, which Republicans have been trying to pass for years, have a better chance of becoming law because Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who took office in January, has supported abortion restrictions. Brewer’s predecessor, Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, vetoed the nine anti-abortion bills that came to her desk. The Abortion Consent Act (SB 1206) and Partial-birth Abortion Ban (SB 1138) will be up for full Senate vote early next week.

Sotomayor: Never Thought about Rights of Unborn

President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee has made an astonishing admission — she has never considered whether an unborn child has any rights. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) says he had a “good meeting” with Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday that covered a broad range of issues. DeMint, chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, says Sotomayor — a Catholic — also indicated she does not share her church’s commitment to protecting the unborn. “When I asked if an unborn child has any rights whatsoever, I was surprised that she said she had never thought about it,” he says.

  • Apparently she’s not much of a deep thinker, or she’s being very cagey about her positions.

Study Finds Religious More Liberal on Immigration Issues

The Houston Chronicle reports that those who attend religious services at least once a week are more likely to support a more liberal immigration position. According to a new analysis of a 2006 Pew Hispanic Center survey on immigration views, regular churchgoers were more likely to support some kind of amnesty over immediate deportation. Support increased at much as 7 percent depending on the specific policy. Overall, the Pew survey found 53 percent of people surveyed said illegal immigrants should be required to go home, while 40 percent said they should be granted some kind of legal status that allows them to stay here. The new analysis will be published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Pro-Life ‘Smear’ Suspected in DOJ’s Tiller Inquiry

One pro-life leader is questioning the motive behind the Justice Department’s announcement of a probe to determine if others were involved in the murder of abortionist George Tiller. Is it a legitimate investigation — or a political payoff from the Obama administration to the pro-abortion movement? Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, believes politics could be a motive. But she suspects there may be more behind the announced investigation than meets the eye. “This may be more of a nefarious effort than it appears on its face,” she exclaims, “that in fact, the Department of Justice may be trying to smear pro-lifers, as if we all belong in the same camp, as if we all advocate violence, when it’s [actually] just the opposite.”

Darwin-Loving Museum Shooter Hates Bible, Christians

James von Brunn, the man who allegedly shot and killed a guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., was a Darwin-lover who hated the Bible and Christians, and defies media efforts to classify him as a stereotypical “right-winger,” according to reports. The Moonbattery blog revealed von Brunn advocated the socialist policies espoused by Adolf Hitler and used Darwinian theory to support his anti-Semitism. And in statements that later were stripped from an anti-religion website, he wrote, “The Big Lie technique, employed by Paul to create the CHRISTIAN RELIGION, also was used to create the HOLOCAUST RELIGION … CHRISTIANITY AND THE HOLOCAUST are HOAXES.”

  • The media will always try to blame things like this on the dreaded “right-wingers” which lumps conservatives and Christians together. Isn’t that a hate crime?

Senate Passes Sweeping Tobacco-Control Bill

Cigarettes marketed as “light,” “low” tar or “mild” will be banned within a year as part of a historic bill the Senate passed 79-17 on Thursday. The legislation, approved by the House in April, is the most sweeping tobacco-control measure ever passed by Congress. It goes now to President Obama, who has said he will sign it. The bill, which gives the Food and Drug Adminstration the authority to regulate tobacco products, comes after more than a decade of congressional debate and a half-century since the U.S. Surgeon General’s 1964 landmark report linking smoking to lung cancer. The bill will dramatically affect how tobacco is marketed as the bill’s provisions are phased in: Within three months, candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes are banned, which are used to lure youth into smoking; Within 12 months, new warning labels will be placed on smokeless tobacco products; Within 15 months, tobacco companies must disclose the ingredients in their products; Within two years, the FDA must issue rules on graphic warrnings for cigarettes that will cover half the pack.

Swine H1N1 Flu

The World Health Organization raised the swine flu alert Thursday to its highest level, saying H1N1 has spread to enough countries to be considered a global pandemic. Increasing the alert to Level 6 does not mean that the disease is deadlier or more dangerous than before, just that it has spread to more countries, the WHO said. As of Wednesday evening, the virus had spread to 72 countries, the health agency said. There were 25,288 confirmed cases and 139 deaths. The United States had 13,217 cases and 27 deaths.

Hong Kong’s government on Thursday ordered all kindergartens and primary schools closed for two weeks after a dozen students tested positive for swine flu in the territory’s first local cluster of cases. Territory leader Donald Tsang said 12 students at a local secondary school tested positive for the virus and that authorities have not been able to immediately determine how they contracted the sickness, indicating it likely has spread locally within the community. The new infections bring the total number of cases in the city to 60.

4 Gitmo Detainees Resettled in Bermuda

Four Chinese Muslims who were detained for years at Guantanamo Bay have been released and resettled in Bermuda. It’s the first time since 2006 that the U.S. has successfully resettled any of Guantanamo’s population of Chinese Muslims — or Uighurs — whose fate has been wending through the courts for years. The U.S. government had determined that they weren’t enemy combatants and should be released. But China resisted their release and it had been unclear where they would go free. Thirteen other Uighurs remain to be freed from Guantanamo. Arrangements are being made for other Uighurs to be sent to the nation of Palau.

More Students on Free Lunch Programs

Nearly 20 million children now receive free or reduced-price lunches in the nation’s schools, an all-time high, federal data show, and many school districts are struggling to cover their share of the meals’ rising costs. Through February, nationwide enrollment in free school lunch programs was up 6.3% over the same time last year. Demand in some states has climbed at an even greater rate: Enrollment in free lunch programs jumped almost 17% in California, and several states — Arizona, New Jersey, Utah and Vermont — also saw more than 10% growth. School systems are trimming lunch menus, buying more food in bulk and delaying purchases of kitchen equipment to offset the increased costs.

Obama Plan Limits Bonuses, Golden Parachutes

The Obama administration unveiled a plan Wednesday to help rein in executive compensation at all publicly traded companies, as part of its response to widespread criticism of high executive pay at firms that had to be bailed out by the U.S. government. The Treasury proposed legislation giving shareholders a say on the salary and bonus packages of executives with a non-binding vote, which will likely bring more transparency to the process. The legislation also aims to give the Securities and Exchange Commission power to ensure that companies’ compensation committees have greater independence setting executive pay.

  • On the one hand, executive compensation (much like sports stars) seems out of line. However, having government step in to control private practices is a worse solution, yet another step deeper into socialism. Stockholders should have been doing this on their own. It is ultimately our fault, our problem.

Budget Deficit hits Record for May of $190 Billion

The federal budget deficit soared to a record for May of $189.7 billion, pushing the tide of red ink close to $1 trillion with four months left in the budget year. The rising deficit reflects increased government welfare spending due to the recession, and billions of dollars spent on bailouts for banks and other troubled companies. The administration is projecting the deficit for the budget year that began Oct. 1, will total a record $1.84 trillion. That would be more than four times the amount of last year’s record deficit. As a share of the overall economy, the deficit this year would be the highest since 1945, when the government was borrowing heavily to win World War II. Because of the recession, spending has increased for benefit programs such as unemployment compensation and food stamps. At the same time, the economic downturn has cut into tax revenues, down 18% from last year.

Lawmakers Target Health Insurance Tax Break

The biggest tax break in America — tax-free health benefits from employers — could be scaled back to pay for President Obama’s overhaul of the nation’s health care system. Tax-writing committees in Congress are considering a cap on the tax break, so that higher-income employees or those with generous insurance policies would pay taxes on part of their value. Many lawmakers as well as liberal and conservative health-policy experts say slashing the current tax break is the only way to come up with enough revenue to pay for the overhaul, now expected to cost $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Much of that money is needed to cover up to 46 million people who have no health insurance.

  • Hold on to your hats and your wallets, because the only way to pay for the increased debt load, let alone an expansion in health care, is to find more ways to rob taxpayers.

Hard Times Burying Treasured Landmarks

Hard times are shortening the shelf life of many venerable local and regional institutions, including restaurants, bars, clubs, furniture stores, car dealers, lumber yards, publications and arts organizations. Like a predator stalking a herd, the bad economy is culling the weak, the lame and the old — places that were just hanging on to begin with. The Cedar Crest, for instance, had been losing business for years as patrons died or moved to the suburbs. For such places, says Harvey Green, a Northeastern University social historian, “the recession is the tipping point.”

Economic News

The economy delivered two upbeat reports Thursday: New claims for unemployment benefits dropped more than expected in the most recent week, to 601,000 and May retail sales rose by the largest amount in four months. The Labor Department says initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped last week by 24,000. Still, the levels are far above what is customary in a healthy economy- claims stood at 388,000 a year ago. Continuing claims for the unemployed receiving benefits rose 59,000 to 6.8 million, the highest on records dating to 1967. Continuing claims have risen to record levels for 19 straight weeks. In the retail sales report, the Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.5% after falling a revised 0.2% in April.

People who still have jobs are faring worse than at any time since the Great Depression, a USA TODAY analysis of employment data found. Furloughs, pay cuts and reduced hours are taking a toll on workers who so far have escaped job cuts. The employed worked fewer hours in May — an average of just 33.1 hours a week — than at any time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began counting in 1964. Part-time work is at a record high. Overtime is at a record low.

The pace of foreclosures remains at a historic high and mortgage demand is tumbling as interest rates climb, reflecting a wobbly housing recovery that could falter if rates continue to rise. While foreclosure filings dipped 6% in May compared with a month earlier, the overall pace of foreclosures was still the third-highest month on record. Foreclosure filings were reported on 321,480 homes during May, an increase of 18% from May 2008. One in every 398 homes received a foreclosure filing last month. The high number of foreclosure filings comes despite efforts by the Obama administration to get banks to modify the loans of troubled borrowers into more affordable monthly payments.

Airline executives said Thursday that a significant turnaround in the industry’s fortunes is unlikely any time soon, and they will continue to slash fares, reduce seats and prod grounded business travelers to return to the air in order to withstand the crisis. Fewer people are flying for business or pleasure as the nation remains mired in recession.

Gasoline prices are blowing past recent estimates, saddling consumers with higher costs just as the summer driving season shifts into high gear. Pump prices are following the rise in crude oil, which set an 8-month high Thursday on a falling dollar and brighter economic outlook. Gas prices are not expected to approach last summer’s wallet-busting $4 per gallon, but they could eat into consumer spending just as the recession is showing signs of easing. The nationwide price for a gallon of regular gasoline averaged $2.64 Friday, up 58 cents since the end of April and $1.01 since pump prices bottomed at about $1.62 at the end of last year. Analysts say investors have been piling into crude as an alternative to a falling dollar.

Heavy Turnout Predicted as Iranians Vote

Iranians packed polling stations from boutique-lined streets in north Tehran to conservative bastions to choose Friday between keeping hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power or replacing him with a reformist, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who favors greater freedoms and improved ties with the United States. The fiery, month-long campaign unleashed passions that could bring a record turnout. The mass rallies, polished campaign slogans, savvy Internet outreach and televised debates more closely resembled Western elections than the scripted campaigns in most other Middle Eastern countries. With the race considered too close to call, a top election official predicted the turnout could surpass the nearly 80% turnout in elections 12 years ago. A strong turnout could boost Mousavi. He is counting on voters younger than 30, who account for about a third of Iran’s 46.2 million eligible voters.

Suicide Bombers Strike Pakistan

Suicide bombers attacked a mosque and a religious school in two Pakistani cities within minutes of each other after traditional Muslim prayers, killing at least two people and wounding dozens, officials said. A prominent anti-Taliban cleric was among the dead. Pakistan has been rocked by a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks in recent weeks blamed on militants taking revenge for a military operation against the Taliban in the Swat Valley region.

The CIA believes Osama bin Laden is still in Pakistan, and the spy agency is hoping to close in on him as that country’s military cracks down on the northwestern tribal area where he is thought to be hiding. CIA Director Leon Panetta told reporters after a speech in Congress on Thursday that finding bin Laden remains one of the CIA’s top priorities.

Afghanistan Violence Peaking

The violence that has surged for two years in Afghanistan reached a new high last week, and more difficulty lies ahead, the commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East said Thursday. Gen. David Petraeus said the number of attacks in Afghanistan over the last week hit the highest level since the December 2001 fall of the Taliban. There were more than 400 insurgent attacks last week, including ambushes, small arms volleys, assaults on Afghan infrastructure and government offices, and roadside bomb and mine explosions. In comparison, attacks in January 2004 were less than 50 per week.

Iraqi Government Says more Violence Likely

Iraq’s government warned Thursday that more violence is likely as Iraqi security forces gear up for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from urban areas by the end of this month. Several high-profile bombings have eroded public faith in Iraqi security forces as the Americans face a June 30 deadline to pull back to bases outside the cities. The warning came as the Interior Ministry unveiled plans for securing the country after the withdrawal. The June 30 deadline has been set as part of a U.S.-Iraqi security pact that also calls for a withdrawal of American forces from the entire country by the end of 2011.

Sudan Allows Expelled Aid Groups Back

The Sudanese government is allowing four aid organizations expelled from the country after its president was accused of war crimes to return under slightly different names, the U.N. humanitarian chief said Thursday. The Sudanese government is allowing four aid organizations expelled from the country after its president was accused of war crimes to return under slightly different names, the U.N. humanitarian chief said Thursday. Four of the expelled aid groups have applied for new registration under slightly different names and been allowed back in.

New Tough Sanctions against N. Korea

The U.N. Security Council is expected to approve tough new sanctions against North Korea on Friday, U.N. diplomats said. The draft resolution, which would impose new sanctions on the reclusive communist nation’s weapons exports and financial dealings, and allow inspections of suspect cargo in ports and on the high seas, was put in a final form late Thursday. The draft resolution, which would impose new sanctions on the reclusive communist nation’s weapons exports and financial dealings, and allow inspections of suspect cargo in ports and on the high seas, was put in a final form late Thursday.

China Defends Net Filtering Software

Chinese state media on Thursday issued an unprecedented defense of newly required Internet filtering software that must be packaged with every computer sold in China starting next month, after a public outcry at home and abroad. Although the government says the software is aimed at blocking violence and pornography, users who have tried it say it prevents access to a wide range of topics, from discussions of homosexuality to images of comic book characters such as Garfield the cat. Chinese authorities rarely feel compelled to justify their tight controls on the world’s largest population of Internet users. They are quick to block content challenging the ruling Communist Party’s positions on democratic reforms, religious freedom and policies toward Tibet. Put on the defensive, state broadcaster CCTV announced on its noon news program Thursday that a “vast number of parents and experts” had endorsed the filtering software that must be packaged with all computers sold in China starting July 1.

Weather

A series of powerful storms packing heavy rains and frequent lightning strikes grounded dozens of flights, left about 245,000 North Texans without power and made for a chaotic Thursday morning rush-hour commute through flooded streets without working traffic lights. No deaths or injuries were reported from the storms, which began whipping the Dallas-Fort Worth area with winds up to 70 mph Wednesday night and continued the next day.

June 10, 2009

Pedophile Protection Act Stalls in Senate

Could more than 560,000 letters sent to the U.S. Senate by WorldNetDaily readers to protest “The Pedophile Protection Act” have resulted in second thoughts among Democrats? Sources working with senators opposing the legislation say the campaign has shaken up the dynamics of the debate.  “This bill was supposed to sail through the Senate, but it suddenly has become much more controversial as a result of all these letters,” one source said. Even activists favoring approval of the bill are puzzled over why the Senate has taken so long dealing with the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which easily passed the House last month by a vote of 249-175. For several weeks, the Senate companion bill, S. 909, has been sitting in committee without action.

  • Keep up the pressure folks, and the prayers

What the Mainstream Media Didn’t Report from Obama’s Cairo Speech

While the media focused on President Obama’s outreach for reconciliation with Muslim nations, here are two items they didn’t report. One of the Koranic references Obama used was a verse dedicated to Islamic Jihad, in which Muslims are required to kill infidels–meaning those who are not Muslims. Secondly, Obama said, “Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail.”

  • Either Obama is a fool, or he is the chosen Messiah of the New World Order. He appears quite intelligent, so…..

Vatican Meets ‘Big Bang’ Machine

A senior Vatican delegation visited the world’s biggest nuclear physics laboratory, proclaiming that true faith has no problems with science. The Roman Catholic Church was represented by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican City’s governor, as it toured the CERN facility and its 17-mile proton accelerator this week. It welcomed any breakthroughs physicists could provide on understanding the basis of the universe, and said they would also advance religion. “The Church never fears the truth of science, because we are convinced that all truth comes from God,” Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican City’s governor, said Thursday in Geneva.

  • Science is merely uncovering how God created the universe – and how Satan corrupted it.

Appeals Court says Ten Commandments Monument Endorses Religion

A federal appeals court has ruled that a Ten Commandments monument outside Oklahoma’s Haskell County Courthouse “has the primary effect of endorsing religion.” A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to federal Judge Ronald White so he could issue a new ruling consistent with theirs. White previously rejected arguments that the monument promotes Christianity at the expense of other religions.

  • Of course the Ten Commandments promotes the Judeo/Christian religions, because that’s what this country, its constitution and its laws are based on.

Megachurch Crowds Tend to be Younger

Despite their reputation as symbols of baby-boomer America, Protestant megachurches attract a younger crowd and more singles than the average Protestant church, according to large-scale study released Tuesday. The survey also found distressing news for a movement that took off in the 1980s and remains influential in evangelical Christianity: megachurch-goers volunteer less and give less money than other churchgoers. Conducted by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary and Leadership Network, the survey of nearly 25,000 people who attend 12 U.S. megachurches was conducted from January through August 2008. It is billed as the largest representative national study of that religious demographic to date.

An estimated 5 million Americans a week attend roughly 1,300 U.S. megachurches, defined in the study as Protestant churches with attendance of 2,000 or more. To compare the megachurch data to Protestant churches of all sizes, the study relied on the U.S. Congregational Life Study of 2001. Among the megachurch report’s highlights: The average age of megachurch attenders is 40, compared to nearly 53 at a typical Protestant church. Nearly two-thirds of megachurch attenders are under 45, double the numbers in Protestant congregations of all sizes. Nearly a third of megachurch attenders are single, compared to 10% in a typical Protestant church. They also tend to be wealthier and better educated. Nearly a quarter hadn’t been in any church for a long time before coming to the megachurch. Nearly 45% of megachurch attenders never volunteer at the church and 32% give little or no money to the congregation.

  • Many nominal Christians attend megachurches precisely because they don’t want to be active members, preferring to slip in and out unseen in order to assuage their guilt about not attending church. However, “faith without works is dead.”

Kids in Gay Families 7 Times More Likely to be Homosexual

A licensed psychologist with both clinical and forensic practice outreaches is warning that it appears children of homosexual couples are seven times more likely to develop “non-heterosexual preferences” than other children, but lawmakers establishing policy often don’t know that because the researchers have concealed their discoveries. “Research … although not definitive, suggests that children reared by openly homosexual parents are far more likely to engage in homosexual behavior than children raised by others,” said the online report by Trayce L. Hansen. Studies she reviewed suggest children raised by homosexual or bisexual parents “are approximately seven times more likely than the general population to develop a non-heterosexual sexual preference.” The “studies thus far find that between 8 percent and 21 percent of homosexually parented children ultimately identify as non-heterosexual,” the psychologist wrote. “For comparison purposes, approximately 2 percent of the general population are non-heterosexual.”

Alternative Medicine becoming Mainstream

Alternative medicine has become mainstream. It is finding wider acceptance by doctors, insurers and hospitals. Consumer spending on it in some cases rivals that of traditional health care. An Associated Press review of dozens of studies and interviews with more than 100 sources found an underground medical system operating in plain sight, with a different standard than the rest of medical care. People turn to unconventional therapies and herbal remedies for everything from hot flashes and trouble sleeping to cancer and heart disease. They crave more “care” in their health care. They distrust drug companies and the government. They want natural, safer remedies. But often, that is not what they get. Government actions and powerful interest groups have left consumers vulnerable to flawed products and misleading marketing. Contrary to their little-guy image, many of these products are made by big businesses. Ingredients and their countries of origin are a mystery to consumers. They are marketed in ways that manipulate emotions.

U.S. World’s Greatest Garbage Producer

Just how much garbage does the USA produce? About 4.6 pounds per person per day, according to a USA Today analysis of 2007 data. That’s about the weight of the Empire State Building. Every day.

  • Such is the consequence of worshiping the god of materialism and making idols out of stuff. Our throw-away society is polluting our ground and water, and running out of places to dump the waste products of over-indulgent excess.

Swine H1N1 Flu

The World Health Organization said Tuesday a spike in swine flu cases in Australia may push it to finally announce the first flu pandemic in 41 years. It also expressed concern about an unusual rise in severe illness from the disease in Canada. Some flu experts think the world already is in a pandemic and that WHO has caved in to country requests that a declaration be postponed. WHO said the virus has infected 26,563 people in 73 countries and caused 140 deaths.

Another four students and a faculty member at the American University in Cairo have contracted swine flu, said Egypt’s health minister, bringing the total number of those infected at the school to seven. The dorm, which the ministry said houses 234 people including 110 students from 10 different countries, is under quarantine for seven days. Egypt’s government has come under criticism from international animal rights groups for its decision to slaughter the nation’s 300,000 pigs in response to the swine flu problem.

First Gitmo Detainee Arrives in U.S.

U.S. authorities have brought the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to the United States, flying him into New York to face trial for bombing U.S. embassies, the Justice Department said Tuesday. Ghailani’s trial will be an important test case for the Obama administration’s plan to close the detention center at Guantanamo in seven months and bring some of the suspects to trial. Ghailani was indicted in 1998 for the al-Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, attacks which killed more than 224 people, including 12 Americans.

The tropical Pacific island nation of Palau announced Wednesday it will accept up to 17 Chinese Muslims who have languished in legal limbo at Guantanamo Bay despite a Pentagon determination that they are not “enemy combatants.” China’s Foreign Ministry had no immediate reaction to the decision by Palau to grant Washington’s request to resettle the detainees from China’s Uighur minority who had been incarcerated at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba. Palau is one of a handful of countries that does not recognize China and maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan. A federal judge last year ordered the Uighur detainees released into the United States after the Pentagon determined they were not “enemy combatants.” But an appeals court halted the order, and they have been in legal limbo ever since.

Local Bailouts

Following the federal government’s lead, cities and states increasingly are handing out financial support to struggling businesses. The federal government has committed $2 trillion in financial help to Citibank, AIG, General Motors, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other large corporations and financial institutions. Now, the same thing is happening locally. Prominent businesses are seeking — and in some cases getting — cash, tax forgiveness, loans, loan guarantees and other types of aid to help survive the recession. Supporters call the deals crucial economic development programs that will create jobs and generate taxes. Critics call the deals bailouts and “developer welfare.” Developers of luxury real estate projects started during the real estate boom are the most aggressive at seeking help, which puts governments in the uncomfortable position of directing taxes to businesses that cater to the wealthy.

  • The line between the public and private sectors is rapidly disappearing, and taxpayer indebtedness continues to rise inexorably.

Foreclosure Crisis Spreads to Prime Mortgages

The pace of prime borrowers going into foreclosure is accelerating, especially in states with mounting unemployment or property values that saw a big run-up during the housing boom. It’s a marked shift from earlier this year, when foreclosures were driven by defaults on subprime loans. And it has major implications — ravaging the credit scores of borrowers who once had unblemished records and dragging down property values in more affluent neighborhoods. It also threatens to undermine the housing recovery. In the first quarter, almost half of the overall increase in the start of foreclosures was due to the increase in prime, fixed-rate loans, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

Economic News

Treasury officials Tuesday gave 10 of the nation’s biggest banks approval to repay a combined $68 billion of taxpayer money they received to avert a financial meltdown. The Treasury Department didn’t name the banks, but many of them are likely to announce they are making repayments. Many banks have chafed at the restrictions on executive pay that accompanied the injections of taxpayer money.

The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for Chrysler to sell itself to Fiat, the Associated Press is reporting early Wednesday. The Supreme Court on Monday slowed down the sale of Chrysler to Fiat when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a one-line order that temporarily blocked the move and could put Chrysler’s future in question. Italian automaker Fiat says it has closed a deal to take over Chrysler’s good assets, forming a new company, Chrysler Group, and clearing the way for the struggling Chrysler to emerge from bankruptcy protection. The deal means Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne will take control of Chrysler.

Gasoline prices shot past $2.60 a gallon for the first time in almost eight months after rising another 10 cents over the last week, the Energy Department said Monday. The national price for regular unleaded gasoline averaged $2.62 gallon, the most expensive since Oct. 27, but still down $1.42 from a year ago. The pump price has jumped 55 cents in the last five weeks as oil traders speculate that the economy is beginning to recover.

The House has approved the “cash for clunkers” bill to boost lagging auto sales. The bill would allow consumers to turn in their gas-guzzling cars and trucks for a $4,500 voucher for more fuel-efficient vehicles. President Obama has encouraged Congress to approve consumer incentives for new car purchases as part of the government’s work to restructure General Motors and Chrysler.

The U.S. trade deficit edged up in April as exports weakened again in a reflection of waning global demand. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that total exports fell 2.3% to $121.1 billion, the lowest level for foreign sales since mid-2006. Exports have dropped in eight of the past nine months. The monthly deficit on goods trade with China climbed to $16.8 billion from $15.6 billion in March and was the largest with any single country. Exports to Japan plummeted to a 15 year low of $3.9 billion, while exports to the European Union dropped 9.9% to $17.8 billion.

Israel Thwarts Major Terrorist Attack

Israeli troops thwarted a major terrorist attack along the Gaza border early Monday morning when they intercepted a group of 10 Palestinian gunman, believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda, as they approached the Karni crossing on several trucks and at least five horses loaded with explosive devices and mines. The gunman approached the border and fired at the soldiers who returned fire, killing four of Palestinian militiaman. The skirmish quickly escalated with both sides calling in reinforcements before the Palestinians retreated. Both Jerusalem and Cairo accuse Iran of using Hizbullah to train and fund rival militias in Gaza and paying them to launch rocket and terror attacks against Israel. The presumed purpose of these actions is to divert attention away from tehran’s renegade nuclear program.

North Korea

North Korea said Tuesday it would use nuclear weapons in a “merciless offensive” if provoked — its latest rhetoric apparently aimed at deterring any international punishment for its recent atomic test blast. It appeared to be the first time that North Korea referred to its nuclear arsenal as “offensive” in nature. Pyongyang has long claimed that its nuclear weapons program is a deterrent and only for self-defense against what it calls U.S. attempts to invade it.

Pakistan

Hundreds of Pakistani villagers, who have formed an anti-Taliban militia, battled for the fourth day Tuesday to remove the Islamic militants from a region of northwest Pakistan. Outraged over a suicide attack on a local mosque during Friday prayers, about 400 residents formed the militia early Saturday and began battling Taliban militants. The attack on the anti-Taliban mosque killed at least 40 people and wounded 80 others.

Investigators searched a wrecked luxury hotel in northwestern Pakistan for evidence Wednesday after a bold suicide bombing killed 11 people, including aid workers, in what the U.N. condemned as a “heinous terrorist attack.” Elsewhere in the volatile region, security forces killed 70 suspected militants in an area close to two major Taliban tribal strongholds.

Iraq

Iraqi officials have raised the casualty toll in a car bombing in a mainly Shiite area in southern Iraq to as many as 35 killed and 45 wounded. Wednesday’s blast ripped through a market district in the town of Bathaa, near Nasiriyah. It’s the latest in a series of high-profile explosions that have raised concerns about a resurgence of violence as the U.S. military faces a June 30 deadline to withdraw from urban areas in Iraq.

Afghanistan

An explosion in a crowded bazaar near a convoy of U.S. troops in northeastern Afghanistan killed one Afghan child Tuesday and wounded about 50 people, many of them children, officials said. Three U.S. troops were wounded in the blast. Initial reports indicated that an insurgent threw a grenade into the crowd.

June 8, 2009

Bishop Punished for Ringing Church Bells

A Phoenix bishop has been sentenced to jail for ringing church bells. For years, the bells at the Cathedral of Christ the King have rung hourly from eight in the morning until eight at night. That was until recently, when Bishop Rick Painter was sentenced to a suspended sentence of ten days in jail and three years probation for violating a city noise ordinance. Neighbors complained the bells are too loud and ring too often. But Dale Schowengerdt of the Alliance Defense Fund says a local television station conducted an independent test to see how loud the bells were. “A local TV station did a story on it, checked the level, said it was barely above road noise, the sound of road noise.” The attorney says Painter plans to appeal the case.

  • A relatively minor incident, but one which reveals the depth of increasing anti-Christ attitudes

N. Korea Sentences U.S. Journalists to 12 Years in Prison

North Korea convicted two American journalists and sentenced them Monday to 12 years of hard labor, intensifying the reclusive nation’s confrontation with the United States. Washington said it would “engage in all possible channels” to win the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters for former Vice President Al Gore’s San Francisco-based Current TV media venture. There are fears Pyongyang is using the women as bargaining chips as the U.N. debates a new resolution to punish the country for its defiant May 25 atomic test and as North Korea seeks to draw Washington into direct negotiations. The journalists were found guilty of committing a “grave crime” against North Korea and of illegally entering the country, state-run media said.

Conservatives Gain in EU Elections

Conservatives scored victories in some of Europe’s largest economies Sunday as voters punished left-leaning parties in European parliament elections in France, Germany and other nations. Some right-leaning parties said the results vindicated their reluctance to spend more on company bailouts and fiscal stimulus to combat the global economic crisis. Right-leaning governments were ahead of the opposition in Germany, France, Italy and Belgium, while conservative opposition parties were leading in Britain and Spain. Greece was a notable exception, where the governing conservatives were headed for defeat in the wake of corruption scandals and economic woes.

Pro-Western Bloc Declares Victory in Lebanon

Lebanon’s pro-Western coalition declared victory early Monday, as local television stations reported the faction had successfully fended off a serious challenge by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and its allies to grab the majority in parliament. Official results for Sunday’s election were not expected until later Monday, but the winners were already celebrating by shooting in the air, setting off fireworks and driving around in honking motorcades. The election was an early test of President Obama’s efforts to forge Middle East peace. A win by Hezbollah would have boosted the influence of its backers Iran and Syria and risked pushing one of the region’s most volatile nations into international isolation and possibly into more conflict with Israel.

U.N. Report: Nature Best for Controls Climate Gases

Nature’s way is best for controlling the gases responsible for climate change, the U.N. Environment Program said in a report Friday. The report said better management of forests, more careful agricultural practices and the restoration of peatlands could soak up significant amounts of carbon dioxide, the most common of the gases blamed for global warming. Millions of dollars are being invested in research on capturing and burying carbon emissions from power stations, but investing in ecosystems could achieve cheaper results, the report said. It also would have the added effects of preserving biodiversity, improving water supplies and boosting livelihoods. Agriculture has the largest potential for storing carbon if farmers use better techniques, such as avoiding turning over the soil and using natural compost and manure rather than chemical fertilizers, it said.

Pilots in Crashes had Failed Multiple Tests

In nearly every serious regional airline accident during the past 10 years, at least one of the pilots had failed tests of his or her skills multiple times, according to an analysis of federal accident records. In eight of the nine accidents, which killed 137 people, pilots had a history of failing two or more “check rides,” tests by federal or airline inspectors of pilots’ ability to fly and respond to emergencies. In the lone case in which pilots didn’t have multiple failures since becoming licensed, the co-pilot was fired after the non-fatal crash for falsifying his job application. Pilots on major airlines and large cargo haulers had failed the tests more than once in only one of the 10 serious accidents in this country over the past 10 years, according to a USA TODAY review of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident reports. At a time when fatal aviation accidents have become increasingly rare, regional carriers have had four since 2004, compared with one by a major airline. Regional airlines fly roughly half of all airline flights, carrying about 20% of passengers.

Mattel Fined $2.3M for Lead Paint on Toys

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has imposed its first penalty resulting from a chain of toy recalls in 2007. Toymaker Mattel and its Fisher-Price subsidiary have agreed to pay a $2.3 million civil penalty for importing and selling toys with excessive levels of lead. The penalty stems from a series of recalls by Mattel and Fisher-Price in 2007, when the companies recalled nearly 2 million popular Big Bird, Elmo, Dora and other toys because of excessive levels of lead found in the paint on the toys. Barbie doll accessories and “Sarge” toy cars were also part of the recalls. Mattel and Fisher-Price were among dozens of manufacturers that yanked millions of Chinese-made toys from store shelves.

Seniors Hurt Most by Foreclosures

More than 600,000 seniors are delinquent or in foreclosure, according to AARP. A separate report by AARP found that 25.5 million seniors ages 50 and older have a mortgage. Unlike younger people, many are on fixed incomes and lack the money or job opportunities to catch up on payments when they fall behind. Some seniors have been victimized by predatory lenders or made bad financial decisions, taking on adjustable-rate mortgages that reset to payment levels they couldn’t afford. For others, their mortgage problems grew out of other financial pressures, such as staggering medical bills or helping adult children through financial difficulties. Even those who own their homes free and clear are finding they can’t rely on equity as a retirement nest egg because home values have dropped severely, especially in retirement-rich areas such as Florida, Nevada and California.

Banks Hope to Start Repaying TARP Loans

Several large banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and American Express, hope they’re about to get clearance to begin returning $65 billion of taxpayers’ money. Monday marks the 30-day deadline for banks to release plans on how they’ll raise the capital set by federal regulators after the stress tests conducted on the USA’s 19 largest banks. It also is the start of a process that clearly differentiates between stronger and weaker banks. On one side are banks that are able to repay Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds and return to running their businesses without the increased oversight that came with the bailout money. On the other are the weaker banks still scrambling to raise capital and left with no choice but to comply with the additional government regulation. The Federal Reserve and top bank regulators that conducted stress tests found that 10 of the 19 largest banks had to raise a total of $75 billion in capital to withstand losses from a further drop in the economy. Those banks have since raised money via stock and debt offerings and asset sales.

Economic News

Regulators have shut down Bank of Lincolnwood, a small bank in Illinois, marking the 37th failure this year of a federally insured bank. More are expected to succumb amid the pressures of the weak economy and mounting loan defaults.

Borrowing by consumers fell by $15.7 billion (7.4%) in April as U.S. households continued to trim spending and put away their credit cards amid a severe recession. The Federal Reserve said Friday the April decline was the second largest ever in dollar terms following March’s drop of $16.6 billion. Analysts believe consumers will remain cautious as long as the unemployment rate keeps rising, which it did again in May.

The Obama administration plans to require banks and corporations that have received two rounds of federal bailouts to submit any major executive pay changes for approval by a new federal official who will monitor compensation, according to two government officials. The proposal is part of a broad set of regulations on executive compensation expected to be announced by the administration later this week.

Canada Refuses to Take in Gitmo Detainees

Canada has refused a request from the Obama administration to take 17 Chinese Muslims cleared for release from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo. “Canada is not looking to take any detainees from Guantanamo,” said Kory Teneycke, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Teneycke said they have no connection to Canada and there are security concerns.

Gaza

Despite its fearsome reputation elsewhere, Hamas is known here for its cradle-to-grave welfare programs for the poor. It is a cornerstone of its political support in Gaza, where poverty is deepening as Israel and Egypt maintain an almost two-year blockade of the Hamas-run territory. Now, the group is branching out into matters of the heart. Applications from 287 from single women for a husband are being handled by Hamas, and the loyalists running the association are intent on finding a man for each.

  • This is why it is impossible to separate out the terrorist organizations from the fabric of Muslim life. Jihad is just another aspect of Islamic culture.

Iraq

The U.S. military says insurgents are increasingly using youths to stage attacks against American and Iraqi security forces. The military says at least five teenagers ranging in age from 14 to 19 have been involved in grenade and suicide attacks in recent weeks in northern Iraq. The military has frequently said it believes al-Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent groups are recruiting children and women because of their ability to avoid scrutiny and evade heightened security measures. It says insurgents “are capitalizing on the fact that children do not draw as much attention and soldiers do not want to harm them.”

Afghanistan

Some 7,000 of the new U.S. troops ordered to Afghanistan are fanning out across the dangerous Afghan south on a mission to defeat the Taliban insurgency and to change the course of a war claiming American lives at a record pace. The Marines represent the first wave of 21,000 troops ordered to Afghanistan this summer by President Barack Obama. Helmand province— the world’s largest opium poppy-growing region — is also Afghanistan’s most violent. Taliban militants and the drug lords they protect are believed to reap hundreds of millions of dollars from Afghanistan’s drug trade. U.S. and NATO troops have stepped up attacks this year on drug labs after concluding the drug trade and the insurgency are intertwined.

Philippines

Government troops seized a Muslim separatist rebel camp Saturday following three days of fighting that left 30 guerrillas dead. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front camp that was taken in southern Maguindanao province housed 20 bunkers that could accomodate about 200 fighters. Troops recovered ammunition and four improvised explosive devices. The rebels have been fighting the Philippine government since the early 1970s. The 2003 cease-fire between the government and the 11,500-strong rebel group has been undermined said a rebel leader.

Weather

The National Weather Service says at least five tornadoes hit Colorado, and one damaged a mall in Aurora on Sunday. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries. Many spots in the Denver area also were pelted with hail, some as big as baseballs.

June or not, it’s been getting pretty cold lately in northern Michigan, and that has some fruit-growers worrying about the effects of frost. Farmers and agricultural experts say the spring’s nagging cold hasn’t yet created any widespread damage to northern Michigan’s fruit and field crops. But they say some harvests will be delayed and yields will be lower for early season hay and wheat.

Wildfires

Four wildfires are currently burning in Arizona, two near the Grand Canyon. They have consumed 1,880 acres thus far (almost 3 square miles).