63 Years of Christmas Tradition Banned
A Michigan man has filed a federal lawsuit claiming his constitutional rights were violated when he was ordered to remove a Nativity scene from the median of a public road — a creche that his family has displayed at the location for 63 years. John Satawa, of Warren, Mich., filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Friday in an attempt to be allowed to put back the 8- by 8-foot nativity scene his late father built in 1945. After receiving a complaint by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation last December, the Road Commission of Macomb County told Satawa to remove the holiday display, citing incomplete permits. Satawa’s permit application was later denied because it “clearly displays a religious message” and violated “separation of church and state,” Macomb County Highway Engineer Robert Hoepfner wrote.
Skin Cream Contains Fetal Proteins from Aborted Babies
A pro-life organization is blasting a Switzerland-based cosmetics manufacturer whose website openly admits some of its products were developed from the tissues of an aborted baby. Children of God for Life is a non-profit organization focused on the bioethics of embryonic tissue use in medicine and manufacturing. One of its current campaigns includes petitioning pharmaceutical companies to produce safe, effective alternatives to vaccines derived or cultivated from aborted fetal tissue But the organization’s attention has now turned Neocutis, a company with offices in San Francisco which has developed a line of anti-aging products that include an ingredient the company has trademarked as Processed Skin Cell Protein, or PSP, developed from skin cells harvested from an abortion. “It is absolutely deplorable that Neocutis would resort to exploiting the remains of a deliberately slaughtered baby for nothing other than pure vanity and financial gain,” said Debi Vinnedge, executive director of Children of God for Life, in a statement. “There is simply no moral justification for this.”
Pink Slips 2.5 Times Higher than Washington Monument
The congressional pink slips campaign has already generated almost a three-foot-tall stack of paper in the Capitol office of each individual senator and representative, says Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WND and one of the organizers of the effort to rein in spending and Washington power grabs. If the 4 million pink slips were piled on each other, the stack would be two and a half times as high as the Washington Monument. If the 4 million pink slips were placed end to end, they would reach from the District of Columbia to Detroit, Mich., or Portland, Maine. But don’t expect to read, hear or see anything about this elsewhere in the “mainstream media,” warns Farah. “This is an unprecedented program, but the rest of the news media seems determined to downplay it – even spike any mention of it,” says Farah. “It’s just like the tea parties and the massive rally in Washington and the town hall coverage – non-existent.”
- The mainstream media is growing increasingly out of touch and irrelevant.
Companies Get ‘Gayer’ as U.S. Economy Plummets
Despite an economy languishing in high unemployment and low consumer confidence, more American companies are jumping on the bandwagon to provide support for homosexual and transgender employees. More than 300 firms have now received perfect 100 percent scores in this fall’s Corporate Equality Index, produced annually by the Human Rights Campaign which ranks businesses on their “treatment” of employees who have chosen homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lifestyles, a 20% increase this year. Many companies, such as financial leader Morgan Stanley, are thrilled with their top ranking and use it as a public-relations tool.
- Hmmm. Godlessness up, economy down. Sowing and reaping?
Pelosi Unveils Health Bill With Government-Run Insurance Option
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a retooled $894 billion health care overhaul plan Thursday intended to bridge differences among Democrats and open a history-making floor debate on extending health insurance to nearly all Americans. Pelosi said the House’s version of a health care reform bill will include a government-run insurance option and extend coverage to 36 million uninsured Americans. She said the bill will lower patient costs and reduce the national deficit. Pelosi wants to have the legislation on the floor next week — with a final vote before Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — which would give President Obama a bill to sign by year’s end. The bill would require nearly everyone by 2013 to sign up through their employer, a government program or a new kind of purchasing pool called an exchange. Tax credits would be available for most of those buying coverage through the exchange. They would have the option of picking a new government plan or private insurance. During the transition years from 2010-2013, a temporary government program would help people turned down by private insurers because of medical problems, lawmakers said. After that, insurers no longer could refuse to provide coverage to the sick, nor could they charge more because of poor health of the insured. The plan also calls for a significant expansion of Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income people. And it would impose a requirement on employers to offer insurance to their workers or face penalties.
- Reduce the national deficit? Only through smoke and mirrors.
Fox News reports that the health care overhaul bill produced by House Democrats would impose an array of new taxes, fees and government mandates on major players in the health industry, including insurers, doctors and drugs and medical devices makers. In most cases, the pain has been meted out with an eye toward raising the money needed to finance President Barack Obama’s plan for reshaping the health system but also with careful regard for gaining the votes that will be needed to pass a final bill. Among the industries targeted in the bill are medical device makers — one of the few that failed to cut an early behind-the-scenes deal with Obama and Democrats to help pay for an overhaul. The House added $20 billion in taxes on sales of medical devices like artificial hips and heart stents to the legislation Democratic leaders unveiled Thursday. The measure is less kind to drug makers, an industry that did strike a deal with Obama and key senators to hold down its costs. Pharmaceutical companies agreed to cough up $80 billion in the health overhaul. While precise figures were not immediately available, it appeared the House legislation would target the industry for much more. America’s Health Insurance Plans, said the so-called public option would “bankrupt hospitals, dismantle employer coverage, exacerbate cost-shifting from Medicare and Medicaid, and ultimately increase the federal deficit.” She said the result would be that many people, including seniors, would lose coverage or face higher costs.
- Insurers, device makers, etc. will be sure to pass along all their increased costs to us. Thus, it is the taxpayer who will foot the bill. Government can claim deficit reduction by pushing the deficit down on the lowly taxpayer
Abortion Funding is in Healthcare Bill
A national pro-life group is warning members of Congress that a vote in favor of the 1,990-page House healthcare bill is a vote to establish a federal government program that would directly fund abortion-on-demand with taxpayer dollars. Page 110, lines 17-22, refer explicitly to federal funding of abortions. Page 110 of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, authorizes a new government health insurance program to pay for all elective abortions. Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, notes: “So all of these assurances that some prominent Democrats, including President Obama, have given that there won’t be federal funding for abortions, that’s not what’s in the bill.”
- The devil is in the details, which most legislators won’t bother to read.
Obama Signs Defense Bill
Trumpeting a victory against careless spending, President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a defense bill that kills some costly weapons projects and expands war efforts. The $680 billion bill authorizes spending but doesn’t provide any actual dollars. Rather, it sets guidance that is typically followed by congressional committees that decide appropriations. Obama hailed it as a step toward ending needless military spending that he called “an affront to the American people and to our troops.” Still, the president did not win every fiscal fight. He acknowledged he was putting his name to a bill that still had waste.
- Eliminating waste is every president’s stated goal, but the federal bureaucracy is so entrenched that nothing short of an atom bomb will change anything by very much.
Hate Crimes Legislation Approved
Hate Crimes legislation was attached to the Defense Bill and was therefore approved indirectly. The law makes it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation. The measure expands current hate crimes law to include violence based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. To assure its passage after years of frustrated efforts, Democratic supporters attached the measure to the must-pass defense policy bill over the steep objections of many Republicans. The measure is named for Matthew Shepard, the gay Wyoming college student murdered 11 years ago. The expansion has long been sought by civil rights and gay rights groups. Conservatives have opposed it, arguing that it creates a special class of victims. They also have been concerned that it could silence clergymen or others opposed to homosexuality on religious or philosophical grounds.
- This tactic makes it easier for controversial legislation to be passed. Attaching unrelated measures to another bill should be banned. It’s unethical and nonsensical. However, our bureaucrats love such clandestine tactics because it gives them an excuse to grant their approval.
A Christian evangelist who was once arrested, jailed, and charged under Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law says the federal hate crimes bill signed into law by President Obama is one of the most dangerous laws in the history of the United States. Michael Marcavage, director of Philadelphia-based Repent America, was one of 11 Christians who were jailed and charged with a hate crime for carrying Bible verse banners and preaching at a 2004 homosexual pride event in Philadelphia. The charges were later dismissed — and in 2008, the state’s Supreme Court ruled the law had been passed illegally by the Pennsylvania legislature. Marcavage says the new federal hate crimes law is yet another move by the federal government to “silence Christians.” “What this bill does is [seek] to shut down those who dare to speak against the sin of homosexuality with the hope and freedom that is found in Jesus Christ,” says the Christian activist.
Obama Revives Military Trials at Gitmo
President Barack Obama brought back Bush-era military trials for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay on Wednesday by signing into law new rules that will give detainees stronger legal rights in court. Obama approved the rules, most of which he proposed in May, as part of a $680 billion defense policy bill that cut some pricey and overlapping military weapons programs. More than 220 detainees remain at Guantanamo as the Obama administration decides how to prosecute some in U.S. courts and turns over others to nations that are willing to rehabilitate or free them. Additionally, the administration is grappling with how to keep in prison a small handful of remaining detainees who are considered too dangerous to release or put on trial. The old system limited detainees’ legal rights to defend themselves at trial, in part by allowing the use of hearsay and coerced statements to be used against them. Civil rights and constitutional law advocates said the changes that they called improvements still fell far short of guaranteeing detainees’ rights.
Senate Agrees on Extending Home-Buyer Tax Credit
Senators agreed Wednesday to extend a popular tax credit for first-time home buyers and to offer a reduced credit to some repeat buyers. The tax credit provides up to $8,000 to first-time home buyers but is set to expire at the end of November. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new home sales fell 3.6% in September, and some industry representatives blamed uncertainty about the tax credit. Senators agreed to extend the existing tax credit for first-time home buyers while offering a reduced credit of up to $6,500 to repeat buyers who have owned their current homes for at least five years. The tax credits would be available to home buyers who sign sales agreements by the end of April. They would have until the end of June to close on their new homes. Senators in both political parties were hoping to add both tax provisions to a bill that would give people running out of unemployment insurance benefits up to 20 more weeks of federal aid. The Senate could vote on the overall bill as early as Thursday.
Cash for Clunkers Cost $24,000 per Vehicle
Taxpayers ended up paying an average of $24,000 per vehicle for the Cash for Clunkers program over the summer when sales that would have happened anyway are taken into consideration, says car buying research site Edmunds.com. The program, which cost taxpayers $3 billion, gave car buyers up to $4,500 in incentives to trade in their gas-guzzling clunkers to buy new fuel thrifty cars. It was intended primarily to spur sales, and the economy. But Edmunds.com says a lot of those sales would have happened anyway, with or without the clunkers program. Of more than 690,000 vehicles sold, only about 125,000 of the sales were entirely due to the government’s added inducement, Edmunds.com says. The rest of buyers just got lucky by getting the government to kick cash into deals that they would have proceeded with anyhow. When the cost of the program is spread over just those extra incremental sales, the total is $24,000 per vehicle.
- Government programs always cost more than expected and more than reported
Stimulus Jobs in U.S. Overstated
More than 650,000 jobs have been saved or created under President Barack Obama‘s economic stimulus plan, the White House said Friday, saying it is on track to reach the president’s goal of 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year. New job numbers from businesses, contractors, state and local governments, nonprofit groups and universities were released Friday. White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein says officials have been told the figures. When adding in jobs linked to $288 billion in tax cuts, Bernstein says the stimulus plan has created or saved more than 1 million jobs. The data will be posted on recovery.gov, the website of the independent panel overseeing stimulus spending. But the job market has yet to show signs of recovery, putting pressure on the White House to show that the stimulus was worth its hefty price tag.
The government’s first accounting of jobs tied to the $787 billion stimulus program claimed more than 30,000 positions paid for with recovery money. But that figure is overstated by least 5,000 jobs, according to an Associated Press review of a sample of stimulus contracts. The AP review found some counts were more than 10 times as high as the actual number of jobs; some jobs credited to the stimulus program were counted two and sometimes more than four times; and other jobs were credited to stimulus spending when none was produced. There’s no evidence the White House sought to inflate job numbers in the report. But administration officials seized on the 30,000 figure as evidence that the stimulus program was on its way toward fulfilling the president’s promise of creating or saving 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year. The reporting problem could be magnified enormously in these new, higher number.
- Unfortunately, it is more common than not for government statistics to be exaggerated and fudged. Corporations would be prosecuted for such actions, why not government officials?
Stimulus Helps Fill State Coffers
A historic nosedive in state tax collections extended into the third quarter of the year, and only an infusion of federal stimulus money has averted widespread program cuts and worker layoffs. Tax collections from July through September dropped an average of 8.3% from a year earlier in the eight states that release up-to-date monthly tax figures, including 13.2% drop in Arizona and 8.9% in New York. Federal stimulus money has protected states from making big cuts in the number of government workers, in aid to schools or in spending on Medicaid, the health care program for the poor. But most federal stimulus money ends in December 2010.
- All the federal government accomplished was shifting the immediate problem to the state level which will soon begin hemorrhaging jobs and programs.
The economy grew at a 3.5% pace in the third quarter, best showing in two years, fueled by government-supported spending on cars and homes. It was the strongest signal yet that the longest, deepest downturn since the Great Depression is ending. But a second report out Thursday showed the number of people claiming jobless benefits for the first time droppped only slightly in the latest week, evidence that the labor market remains weak. The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment insurance fell 1,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 530,000 last week. The “normal” level is closer to 300,000.
Consumer spending fell in September for the first time in five months as the boost from a government auto incentive faded, data showed Friday, adding to fears that consumers may be pulling back as they head into the last quarter of the year. The Commerce Department said spending fell 0.5%, the largest decline since December. Consumer spending, which normally accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, was bolstered in August by the popular “cash for clunkers” program that gave discounts on some new motor vehicle purchases.
ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Eni dashed hopes of an imminent turnaround for the oil industry, saying a sluggish economic recovery is weighing on energy demand and prices. The three posted big drops in quarterly earnings on Thursday, after crude oil and natural gas prices plummeted and refining margins were squeezed to at times negative levels. Exxon (XOM), the world’s largest oil company by market value, said net income fell a larger-than-expected 68%.
The average domestic airfare in the second quarter was nearly identical to ticket prices back in 1998. The average fare for a domestic trip from April to June was $301, down 13% from a year earlier and the steepest year-over-year dip in nearly 15 years.
More than $180 million in U.S. foreign aid to promote democracy in Egypt over the past four years has produced few measurable results, in part because the Egyptian government has stymied the effort, a newly released government audit says. The “impact of (American-funded) democracy and governance programs was unnoticeable” in Egypt, said the report by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s inspector general. USAID auditors based their conclusions on international indexes of press freedom, corruption, civil liberties and political rights. Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel, having garnered $69 billion in military and economic assistance since 1948, according to the Congressional Research Service. President Hosni Mubarak has ruled the country under a “state of emergency” since Anwar Sadat was assassinated by extremists in 1981.
Iran has given an “initial response” to the International Atomic Energy agency on a plan that calls for Tehran to ship much of its enriched uranium abroad, the IAEA said Thursday. The wording of the IAEA statement appeared to dash Western hopes of a quick deal that would delay Tehran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon. The U.S. and allied countries were seeking Iranian agreement to ship out 70% of its low-enriched uranium to Russia in one shipment for further enrichment and conversion into fuel for a Tehran research reactor. Sending that amount in one batch would not leave Tehran with enough material to make weapons-grade uranium should it decide to make a warhead.
Iraq announced the arrests of dozens of military and security personnel over the attacks on government buildings in Baghdad that killed 155 people, the Iraqi capital’s military spokesman said Thursday. Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi told the Associated Press that 11 army officers and 50 security officials have been taken into custody over Sunday’s bombings — the worst attacks in Iraq in more than two years. The massive blasts at the Justice Ministry and the Baghdad Provincial Administration caused outrage among many Iraqis, who question the ability of the government to protect its people ahead of parliamentary January’s elections and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
A car bomb struck a busy market in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing 105 people — many women and children. More than 200 people were wounded in the blast, the deadliest in an increase of attacks by suspected insurgents this month. The government blamed militants seeking to avenge an army offensive launched this month against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in their stronghold close to the Afghan border. The bombing was the deadliest since October, 2007.
The European Union says the second round of presidential elections in Afghanistan must be fair for the new government to win international acceptance. In a draft statement on the last day of a two-day summit Friday, EU leaders have praised U.N. work in coordinating international efforts in Afghanistan. The EU urged transparent voting in a runoff election Nov. 7, after the first round in August was marked by widespread fraud by supporters of incumbent President Hamid Karzai.
A record-setting snowstorm that dumped nearly 4 feet of snow across parts of the Rockies by Thursday will threaten parts of the Midwest and South Friday with heavy rain and flooding. The powerful fall storm forced hundreds of flights to be canceled in Denver and closed schools and major highways. Heavy snow fell as far west as northern Utah‘s Wasatch Front to western Nebraska‘s northern border. In South Dakota, snow shut down the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. A blizzard warning was in effect until morning in northwest Kansas. The heaviest snow was reported in the foothills west of Denver, near Pinecliffe, Colo., with 43.8 inches by midday Thursday. The snow and windy conditions, which began late Tuesday, closed part of Interstate 70 through Colorado, plus other highways.Cheyenne, Wyo., has had 2 feet of snow this month, shattering its previous October record, set in 1906. The average October snowfall in Cheyenne: 4.9 inches.
One man is dead and a landmark church steeple toppled onto a car in Louisiana after a line of thunderstorms spawned several tornadoes there and in neighboring Arkansas. At least three tornadoes touched down in northwest Louisiana. Roads were flooded in parts of southwest Arkansas.
Arizona is the only state in the nation that is fully under drought conditions, with 54% of the state in extreme drought. 91% of California is in drought, with 9% of the state under severe drought. Arizona also is the only state with a wildfire burning. The Twin Peaks fire along the southern border has consumed 5,737 acres as of Thursday.