Methodists Defeat Gay-Related Membership Policy, Episcopalians Face Test

United Methodists have defeated amendments that would have made church membership open to all Christians regardless of sexual orientation and furthered the creation of a new, U.S.-only governing body, according to the denomination’s news service. Delegates at the United Methodist Church’s General Conference last year approved the sexual orientation amendment, as well as several others that would have changed how the international church is governed. But the amendments failed to gain support from two-thirds of the denomination’s annual conferences, as required by church law. The complicated amendments to church polity in the UMC, which counts 8 million members in the U.S. and about 3.5 million more in Asia, Africa and Europe, was seen by some as a way to make it easier for Americans to pass pro-gay resolutions.

An openly gay priest and an openly lesbian priest are among six nominees for assistant bishop positions in the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Los Angeles. The vote will be a test of new church legislation passed at July’s general convention in Anaheim that repeals a de facto ban on consecrating openly gay bishops. In 2003, the election of openly gay bishop Rev. V. Gene Robinson prompted four dioceses and numerous parishes to leave the denomination, which claims 2.1 million members in the U.S.

Airports Removing Christian Symbols from Chapels

While U.S. airports often have chapels, many of them no longer display crosses or other symbols that would make them specific to a particular faith. The chapel at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport features a silhouette of a person kneeling and a generic stained-glass window. It also has a library stocking everything from Gideon Bibles to Jewish mystical texts, and a large floor mat provides a cushiony spot to kneel for prayer. A large compass on the chapel floor helps guide Muslims who pray toward Mecca.

  • While America is still a Christian country, contrary to what President Obama thinks, our government is slowly but surely marginalizing and eliminating our Christian foundations in an effort to establish tolerance and inclusiveness as the foundation for secular humanism, the religion of the New World (Dis)Order.

Unabated Use of Groundwater Threatens Arizona’s Future

Thirty years after Arizona tried to stop cities and towns from using up their groundwater, the state still can’t shake its thirst for one of its most finite resources. The steady drain on underground reserves grows out of two realities: Canals and pipelines don’t reach far enough to deliver surface water to everyone, and laws don’t reach far enough to stop people from drilling. If the groundwater addiction continues unabated and under-regulated, the effects will be broad and potentially disastrous: Scarcer supplies could push rates higher and create uncertainty about water availability, discouraging new business and slowing economic growth. If wells start to run dry and aquifers collapse, the landscape could be dotted with fissures and sinkholes.

Lawmakers adopted some of the nation’s most progressive water-protection laws to avert such crises, but the laws excluded rural areas and allowed changes that let cities and subdivisions resume well-drilling, further depleting exhaustible aquifers. Meanwhile, the renewable resource intended to replace groundwater – surface water fed by the annual runoff of mountain snow – can’t meet the demand of urban areas too far from the delivery canals. The result is holes in the state’s water bucket that are spreading as fast as the holes in the ground. And looming over it all are the separate threats of drought and climate change, which could strain surface-water supplies at the same time that groundwater resources are shrinking.

  • Lack of water will be a major problem in the entire southwest, with the Colorado River being depleted faster than it is replenished.

King Salmon Vanishing in Alaska

One Alaska river after another has been closed to king fishing this summer because significant numbers of fish failed to return to spawn. The dismally weak return follows weak runs last summer and poor runs in 2007, which also resulted in emergency fishing closures. King salmon spend years in the Bering Sea before returning as adults to rivers where they were born to spawn and die. Biologists speculate that the mostly likely cause was a shift in Pacific Ocean currents, but food availability, changing river conditions and predator-prey relationships could be affecting the fish. People living along the Yukon River think they know what is to blame — pollock fishery. The fishery — the nation’s largest — removes about 1 million metric tons of pollock each year from the eastern Bering Sea. King salmon get caught in the huge pollock trawl nets. Since 2000, the incidental number of king salmon caught has skyrocketed, reaching over 120,000 kings in 2007. A substantial portion of those fish were bound for western Alaska rivers.

  • Environmental crises and disasters are going to become more frequent as the end-times roll on

Obama Officials: No Guarantee on Taxes

Two of President Obama’s economic heavyweights said middle-class taxes might have to go up to pare budget deficits or to pay for the proposed overhaul of the nation’s health care system. During his presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly pledged “you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime.” But the simple reality remains that his ambitious overhaul of how Americans receive health care — promised without increasing the federal deficit — must be paid for. “If we want an economy that’s going to grow in the future, people have to understand we have to bring those deficits down. And it’s going to be difficult, hard for us to do. And the path to that is through health care reform,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said. “We’re not at the point yet where we’re going to make a judgment about what it’s going to take.”

  • Are we surprised any longer when Presidents promise no more taxes and then do so anyway, citing circumstances beyond their control? Well, in this case, it’s even worse, because they’re the ones increasing the deficit. And then, to imply that health care reform is the “path” to reducing the deficits is outright lunacy if not bold-faced lies. Health care reform is only going to increase the deficit and/or our taxes.

Housing Begins Slow Rebound

By every measure, except foreclosures, the housing market has stabilized and many areas are recovering, according to a spate of data released in the past two weeks. Nationwide, home resales in June are up 9% from January, on a seasonally adjusted basis. Sales of new homes have climbed 17% during the same period. And construction, while still anemic, has risen almost 20% since the beginning of the year. From the frenzied peak of the real estate boom in 2005-2006 to the recession’s trough earlier this year, home resales fell 38% and sales of new homes tumbled 76%. Construction of homes and apartments skidded 79%. And for the first time in more than four decades of record keeping, home prices posted consecutive annual declines. A staggering $4 trillion in home equity was wiped out, and millions of Americans lost their homes through foreclosure.

  • The bursting of the absurd real estate “bubble” was long over due. The recovery will be slow because unemployment continues to climb.

Snafus Nearly Broke ‘Cash for Clunkers’ Program

This was one government stimulus plan that yielded quick results. Maybe too quick. Far more drivers signed up for the ‘cash for clunkers’ program than anyone thought, overwhelming showrooms, blowing through the initial $1 billion set aside by Congress and leaving dealers panicked over when or if the government would make good on the hefty rebates. Confusion reigned, even as dollars flowed into dealerships starved for business for months. The government website set up to process rebates of up to $4,500 per new car could not keep up with demand. Washington scrambled to come up with more cash and sent mixed signals about how the program would unfold. The House voted Friday to replenish the program with $2 billion, setting up likely Senate action next week. The Obama administration will suspend the “cash for clunkers” program unless the Senate provides $2 billion more for the popular car incentive plan, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Sunday.

Economic News

The stock market’s best July in 20 years is giving investors reason for hope about the economy. The Dow surged 8.6% for the month, with most of the gains arriving in bursts in the final 15 days. The extraordinary run shaped July into the best month for the blue chips since October 2002 and the best July since 1989.

Two-thirds of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 have reported second-quarter earnings, and more than 74% have beat expectations. That’s welcome comfort in what was another horrible quarter for corporate profits: Earnings of S&P 500 companies so far are down 36.8% from a year earlier.

Over the coming months, as many as 1.5 million jobless Americans will exhaust their unemployment insurance benefits, ending what for some has been a last bulwark against foreclosures and destitution. Because of emergency extensions already enacted by Congress, laid-off workers in nearly half the states can collect benefits for up to 79 weeks, the longest period since the unemployment insurance program was created in the 1930s. But unemployment in this recession has proved to be especially tenacious, and a wave of job-seekers is using up even this prolonged aid.

A huge influx of federal stimulus money to state and local governments more than offset a sharp drop in tax collections, helping to put the brakes on the nation’s economic decline, new government data show. The stimulus funds helped reverse six months of spending declines, pushing state and local government expenditures up 4.8% in the second quarter, reports the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Federal cash is now the No. 1 revenue source for state and local governments.

  • This may seem like good news, but when Federal cash becomes the states primary source of revenue, the states’ rights championed by our Constitution are seriously compromised. Yet another step along the path of socialism.

The manufacturing sector continued to shrink in July but at a slower pace than the previous month, according to an industry report released Monday. The Institute for Supply Management said its index of national factory activity rose to 48.9 in July from 44.8 in June. A reading below 50 indicates contraction in the manufacturing sector.

Regulators on Friday shut down banks in Florida, New Jersey, Ohio and Oklahoma, boosting to 68 the number of federally insured banks to fail this year amid the pressures of the weak economy and mounting loan defaults. The 68 bank failures nationwide this year compare with 25 last year and three in 2007.

Military-Civilian Prison Eyed for Gitmo Detainees

The Obama administration is looking at creating a courtroom-within-a-prison complex in the U.S. to house suspected terrorists, combining military and civilian detention facilities at a single maximum-security prison. Several senior U.S. officials said the administration is eyeing a soon-to-be-shuttered state maximum security prison in Michigan and the military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as possible locations for a heavily guarded site to hold the 229 suspected al-Qaeda, Taliban and foreign fighters now jailed at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, the latest effort to comply with President Obama’s order to close the prison camp by Jan. 22, 2010, and satisfy congressional and public fears about incarcerating terror suspects on American soil. The White House considers the courtroom-prison complex as the best among a series of bad options, an administration official said.

  • So, moving them from one prison to another “solves” the problem? Only in a politician’s mind.

State Dept Website Says Jerusalem is Palestinian

In this day and age, an organization’s web page tells a lot about its owner. The words and the pictures present the images and the message of the sponsoring organization.  That is why the U.S. State Department’s web site for the American Consulate in Jerusalem is so disturbing. The site can be accurately described as a newsletter for all things Palestinian. It announces U.S. taxpayer grants to the Palestinian Authority. It provides tickets for Palestinian youth to summer camps and movie theaters. It announces a grant to preserve Palestinian Heritage. What is not mentioned is anything about Jews or Israel. There is a link to an Arabic version of the site but none to a Hebrew version. One Jerusalem has repeatedly warned that the Obama Administration is intent on taking Jerusalem away from the Jewish people. Unfortunately the evidence supporting this proposition continues to pile up.

  • Take a look at this piece of propaganda brought to you by the Obama Administration. After you look let Obama know what you think, let your elected Representatives know as well.

Schools Reopen in Pakistan’s Battle-Scarred Swat Valley

Scores of eager children headed back to school in northern Pakistan‘s battle-scarred Swat Valley on Saturday, many taking classes in buildings damaged during recent fighting between Taliban militants and security forces. But attendance on the first day of the new academic year was low, with hundreds of students staying away. Many families have still not returned home to the valley’s main town of Mingora, where the Taliban once held sway. Reopening schools in Swat, a former tourist haven, is just one piece of the puzzle for authorities trying to rehabilitate the valley, but it may be the most symbolic and psychologically important step yet, as destroying schools — particularly those teaching girls — was a key part of the Taliban’s reign in the valley.

U.S. Deaths Up in Afghanistan

The deaths brought to 42 the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan in July — the bloodiest month for U.S. and international forces during the eight-year Afghan war. A Taliban ambush on a NATO convoy in western Afghanistan left nine insurgents and a policeman dead, a police official said Friday. A U.S. servicemember died in the south of the country

Iran Begins Trial of Postelection ‘Rioters’

Iran‘s state media reports that a group of opposition political activists and protesters are standing trial in Tehran on charges of rioting after the disputed presidential election. The semi-official Fars news agency says there are more than 100 defendants at the court, in what is Iran’s first trial of people detained following the June 12 election. Fars said the defendants included several prominent reformist opposition activists. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians marched in days of protests after the election denouncing official results that declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner.

U.S. Now a ‘Coalition of One’ in Iraq

The war in Iraq was truly an American-only effort Saturday after Britain and Australia, the last of its international partners, pulled out. Little attention was paid in Iraq to what effectively ended the so-called coalition of the willing, with the U.S. — as the leader of Multi-National Force, Iraq — letting the withdrawals pass without any public demonstration. At its height, the coalition numbered about 300,000 soldiers from 38 countries_ 250,000 from the United States, about 40,000 from Britain, and the rest ranging from 2,000 Australians to 70 Albanians. But most of the United States’ traditional European allies, those who supported actions in Afghanistan and the previous Iraq war, sat it out.

A string of bombings targeted Shiite worshippers in the Baghdad area during Friday prayers, killing at least 29 people in an apparently coordinated attack against followers of an anti-U.S. cleric who were blamed for some of Iraq’s worst sectarian violence. The blasts shattered a recent calm and underscored warnings that suspected Sunni insurgents would step up efforts to stoke sectarian violence as the Americans draw down their forces. Despite the violence, July remained one of the calmest months for Iraqis and the least deadly for American forces.

Nigeria Police Claim Victory over Radical Islamic Sect

Five days of fighting between government forces and a radical Islamist sect left dirt roads soaked with blood, buildings scorched and about 700 dead, including the group’s leader, but revenge attacks were feared even as the national police claimed victory. Mohammed Yusuf, head of the Boko Haram sect, was killed on Thursday after he was found hiding in a goat pen at the home of his in-laws, but the circumstances grew murkier on Friday. Emmanuel Ojukwu, spokesman of the national police, said Yusuf’s death spelled the end of his group which espouses anti-Western views and had been gathering disciples for years. “This group operates under a charismatic leader. They will no more have any inspiration,” Ojukwu told AP. “The leader who they thought was invincible and immortal has now been proved otherwise.”

Earthquakes

A minor earthquake rattled the mountainous area of southeastern Tennessee, western North Carolina and northern Georgia on Saturday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The 3.2-magnitude temblor happened about 11 a.m. Saturday. Its epicenter was located about 55 miles east of Chattanooga. Becky Cearley, a dispatcher with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, described the incident as “pretty intense.” “It shook the whole entire building for what seemed like forever, but it was just a matter of seconds,” she said. She said she received no reports of damage or injuries.

Wildfires

Five wildfires are burning in northern Arizona, and have consumed 6,162 acres (or 9.6 sq. mi.) through Sunday. Twenty-two other wildfires of 100 acres or more are burning in the Western U.S.

Strong winds fanned forest fires on the Canary Islands for a second day Sunday on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma, and firefighters were forced to retreat as flames raged out of control near two towns. Around 500 firefighters have been deployed along with seven water-dropping aircraft. Some 4,000 residents were evacuated from the area Saturday. Flames have so far destroyed some 50 homes.

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