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.

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