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).

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