Lutherans to Allow Gay Clergy

Leaders of the nation’s largest Lutheran church voted Friday to allow sexually active gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy. Gays and lesbians are currently allowed to serve as ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America only if they remain celibate. The proposal to change that passed with 68% approval. At 4.7 million members and about 10,000 congregations in the United States, the ELCA is one of the largest U.S. Christian denominations yet to take a more gay-friendly stance on clergy.

  • Apparently the Bible is no longer the foundation for Lutherans

$2 Trillion Higher Deficit Projected

The Obama administration expects the federal deficit over the next decade to be $2 trillion bigger than previously estimated, White House officials said Friday, a setback for a president already facing a Congress and public wary over spending. The new projection, to be announced on Tuesday, is for a cumulative 2010-2019 deficit of $9 trillion instead of the $7 trillion previously estimated. The new figure reflects slumping revenues from a worse economic picture than was expected earlier this year.

Americans Losing Confidence in Obama

Yet another new poll says that Americans, concerned over the future of health care reform and anxious about the growing federal budget deficit, are losing faith in President Obama. The Washington Post-ABC News survey found that less than half of Americans — 49% — say they believe the president will make the right decisions for the country. That’s down from 60% at the 100-day mark of the Obama presidency. The Washington Post-ABC News survey found that less than half of Americans — 49% — say they believe the president will make the right decisions for the country. That’s down from 60% at the 100-day mark of the Obama presidency.

Obama Calls for ‘Honest Debate’ on Health Care

President Obama is challenging his critics on a national health care overhaul, accusing them of making “phony claims” about the legislation. “This is an issue of vital concern to every American, and I’m glad that so many are engaged,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. “But it also should be an honest debate, not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are.” Obama said illegal immigrants would not be part of the health care overhaul, taxpayers would not be mandated to fund abortions and he does not intend a government takeover of health care — all claims that critics have made at contentious town hall-style meetings with members of Congress.

  • Obama believes that anyone who disagrees with him is not being “honest.” Since he didn’t read the original health plan, he can claim these things he’s accused of were not his intention. What he’s really upset about is that his intentions were unmasked, no matter how he now retreats, obfuscates and lies. Socialism is his intent.

White House Sets Up Interrogation Unit

President Obama has moved more forcefully than ever to abandon Bush administration interrogation policies, approving creation of a special White House unit for questioning terrorism suspects, as Attorney General Eric Holder weighs a Justice Department recommendation to reopen and pursue prisoner abuse cases. A senior administration official told The Associated Press Monday that Obama has approved establishment of the new unit, to be known as the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which will be overseen by the Naitonal Security Council. A U.S. intelligence official said Monday that the CIA welcomes the change, saying the agency does not want to be in the long-term detention business.

  • More centralized control for Obama

U.S. Flies Migrants Caught in Arizona to Mexico City

The U.S. government has begun flying illegal migrants caught in the Arizona desert back to Mexico under a voluntary repatriation program. Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department says the twice-daily Tucson-to-Mexico City flights began Friday. Authorities say the goal is to save lives and discourage repeat crossings by transporting migrants closer to their homes in Mexico, instead of simply deporting them across the border.

H1N1 Flu Virus Hasn’t Mutated

The H1N1 flu strain doesn’t appear to be mutating as it makes its way through the Southern Hemisphere, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today in a briefing. One of the biggest fears has been that the virus, which first appeared in April in the U.S. and Mexico and which people don’t have any built-up immunity to, might mutate into an even more dangerous form. Health officials have been keeping a close watch on the Southern Hemisphere, which is in its winter season now, to see what form of the virus is likely to travel north as fall comes to the U.S. and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. Flu viruses are unpredictable, so the fact that this one hasn’t mutated is “somewhat reassuring” said Jay Butler, director of CDC’s H1N1 Vaccine Task Force. Case numbers in the Southern Hemisphere appear to be dropping, he said.

Existing Home Sales Surge 7% in July

The U.S. housing market is rebounding quicker than expected, with home resales in July posting the largest monthly increase in at least 10 years as first-time buyers rushed to take advantage of a tax credit that expires this fall. The National Association of Realtors said Friday that home sales rose 7.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.24 million in July, from a pace of 4.89 million in June. It was the fourth-straight monthly increase and the highest level of sales since August 2007. Sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties made up about a third of all transactions last month, down from nearly half earlier this year. First-time buyers must complete their sales transactions by the end of November to take advantage of a tax credit of 10% of the purchase price, up to $8,000. The real estate industry is lobbying Congress to get the credit extended.

Economic News

The nation’s factory output is growing for the first time since early last year, bolstering the case for an economic recovery. While the improvement is modest amid weak consumer spending, some leading manufacturers and economists believe it can be sustained and eventually set off a more robust upswing. Behind the resurgence: Manufacturers cut production so sharply during the slump that they depleted inventories and must now ramp up output to meet demand and eventually replenish stocks.

Millions of older people face shrinking Social Security checks next year, the first time in a generation that payments would not rise. The trustees who oversee Social Security are projecting there won’t be a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the next two years. That hasn’t happened since automatic increases were adopted in 1975. Monthly payments would drop for millions of people in the Medicare prescription drug program because the premiums, which often are deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled to go up slightly.

From Vermont to California, exhausted but appreciative car dealers watched their lots grow empty as crowds rushed to trade in gas guzzlers during the final weekend of the popular Cash for Clunkers program. The hectic pace of the $3 billion rebate program accelerated in the final weekend, after the government announced the program would end at 8 p.m. ET Monday, two weeks earlier than expected.

One upside of a weak economy is showing up on the stickers of new cars: lower prices. Automakers are cutting prices on selected 2010 models. In some cases, the all-new version of a vehicle may be introduced with a lower sticker price than the version it replaces. With new car demand the lowest in decades, cutting prices can move slow sellers or generate buzz on updated models.

Reader’s Digest Association Inc. said Monday that it has filed for prearranged Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as part of its restructuring plan. The privately held publisher of the popular monthly magazine and dozens of other titles said the filing only affects its U.S. operations. Reader’s Digest is looking to cut its debt from $2.2 billion to $550 million, giving lenders control of the company in return.

Brazil Finds Huge Oil Field

An enormous offshore field in territorial waters — the biggest Western Hemisphere oil discovery in 30 years — has Brazilians saying, “Drill, baby, drill,” while environmentalists fear the nation will take a big leap backward in its hunt for crude. There has been virtually no public debate on the potential environmental costs of retrieving the billions of barrels of oil, a project one expert said will be as difficult as landing a man on the moon. Home to the bulk of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil for decades has developed alternative energy as an issue of national security following severe energy shortages in the 1970s. It uses hydroelectric power for more than 80% of its energy needs, is the world’s largest exporter of ethanol, and nine out of every 10 cars sold in the nation can run on ethanol or a combination of ethanol and gasoline. But since the national oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, discovered the massive Tupi field off the coast of Rio de Janeiro two years ago — estimated to hold 5 to 8 billion barrels — it is the development of oil fields that has gone into overdrive.

North, South Korea Hold First High-Level Talks in Two Years

Top South and North Korean officials in charge of inter-Korean relations held talks Saturday for the first time in nearly two years amid a series of conciliatory moves by North Korea after months of tensions on the divided peninsula. The meeting lasted about 80 minutes, but no further details were made available. The talks came a day after six senior North Koreans flew to Seoul to pay their respects to the late Kim Dae-jung, a former South Korean president beloved on both sides of the border for his pursuit of closer ties between the divided states.

Baghdad Bombings Possible Inside Job

Iraq’s foreign minister said Saturday that those who carried out bombings that targeted government buildings in the Iraqi capital received help to pull off the attacks, possibly from Iraqi security forces. The comments come as anger mounts over the bombings that have lead lawmakers to scrutinize the readiness of Iraqi security forces and raised questions about the loosening of security measures in Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered security tightened and concrete blast walls to remain around potential targets in the aftermath of the attacks, reversing an order earlier this month to remove the walls in Baghdad by mid-September.

  • Iraq will never be stable as long as Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds war against one another, which will likely be till the end of this age

Vote Fraud Allegations Increase in Afghanistan

There are no hanging chads, but Afghanistan‘s electoral process is starting to resemble the Florida recount effort in 2000 even before preliminary results are announced Tuesday. Afghanistan’s second presidential election since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001 has created political uncertainty as officials attempt to count the votes amid fraud allegations from all sides. Election officials say it will take weeks to sort through the ballots and investigate the allegations before knowing who the next president is. About 225 complaints have been filed with Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission, including 35 serious enough to sway the results if confirmed, the commission announced Sunday. The serious allegations concern intimidation and stuffing of ballot boxes. Many more complaints, from voters and campaigns, are likely to be filed as ballot boxes come in from around the country.

Earthquakes

A small earthquake has shaken central Alaska. The Alaska Earthquake Information Center says a magnitude 3.6 temblor struck at 9:46 p.m. Friday about 45 miles southeast of Cantwell and 53 miles southeast of Denali National Park. The quake followed a magnitude 5.0 earthquake that rattled buildings Wednesday in Anchorage and other communities in Alaska, but didn’t result in any damage.

Wildfires

Fire burned through suburbs north of Athens early Sunday, destroying homes and forcing thousands to flee in nighttime evacuations. Authorities announced they were evacuating the suburb of Agios Stefanos, 14 miles northeast of Athens, as flames closed in on the town center. Low-flying planes were seen pouring water on burning houses. Shortly after 1:30 p.m., police with loudspeakers directed the suburb’s nearly 10,000 residents to leave immediately on the main road to Athens. Panicked residents gathered at the town’s main square while others tried desperately to save their houses, using hoses, buckets and even tree branches to beat the flames. With gale force winds driving the flames, the spread of the fire has not been checked, as of Sunday morning.

Weather

The remnants of Hurricane Bill moved out into the Atlantic Monday, a day after the storm’s powerful winds churned up waves that were blamed in the deaths of at least two people on the East Coast. The system still had tropical-storm strength winds near 70 mph early Monday. Its center was about 190 miles off the coast of Newfoundland and is moving east-northeast near 43 mph.

Climate change will lead to an increase in heavy rainfall events across most of the world, according to a study published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Caltech. The computer models used in the study predict that areas such as North America can expect a significant increase in heavy rain. The study suggests that precipitation in extreme events will increase by about 6% for every 1.8 degree rise in global temperature. A global temperature increase of anywhere from 2 to 11 degrees is expected by 2100, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

  • Global warming is real, but not primarily due to human causes. It is an end-time cycle of nature programmed by God.

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