Over 350 Public Schools Teaching the Bible

The Christian Post reports that Bible has returned to more than 350 schools in 43 states this school year, at least as an academic study. According to the Bible Literacy Project, which publishes “The Bible and Its Influence” textbook, more than 50 of those schools are in Texas. The state mandated Bible literacy in 2007, but the vague requirement just took effect for the 2009-2010 school year. Georgia, California and Indiana also include courses on the Bible using the textbook. Outside of Texas, however, less than 10 percent of these states’ schools offer an elective course, though their popularity is rising.

In Defense of Arizona’s Pro-Life Laws

The Alliance Defense Fund has filed to intervene in lawsuits designed to bar several pro-life laws passed in Arizona. Two major pro-abortion groups, including Planned Parenthood, have filed the lawsuits. ADF senior legal counsel Steven Aden tells OneNewsNow the Arizona laws under attack are common-sense protections for women and the unborn. “By promoting abortion-on-demand for the last 35 years across the country in lawsuits and in public policy declarations, Planned Parenthood has always gone against the public will,” he contends. “Planned Parenthood has always tried to impose abortion-on-demand on a public that is really and truly pro-life and always has been, I believe.”

Jesus Temporarily Banned from Christmas Tree

Just one day after WND reported that rules for the 2009 Capitol Christmas Tree program prevented children from submitting decorations with themes such as “Happy Birthday, Jesus” and “Merry Christmas,” state and federal officials are confirming the policy has been rescinded. WND’s report came after a letter was sent by the Alliance Defense Fund to officials in Arizona who are assembling thousands of ornaments from children for the annual holiday tree that is erected in front of the White House. The change was confirmed both by officials in Arizona who have a steering committee to run the program and from officials in the office of the Architect of the Capitol, who administer the program in Washington.

  • It boggles the mind to see the lengths secularists are going to banish all things Christian. Satan has blinded them to the truth and the absurdity.

Recession Hurting Religious Institutions

Organized religion was already in trouble in the U.S. before the fall of 2008. Denominations were stagnating or shrinking, and congregations across faith groups were fretting about their finances. The Great Recession made things worse. It’s further drained the financial resources of many congregations, seminaries and religious day schools. Some congregations have disappeared and schools have been closed. In areas hit hardest by the recession, worshippers have moved away to find jobs. “In 2010, I think we’re going to see 10 or 15% of congregations saying they’re in serious financial trouble,” says David Roozen, a lead researcher for the Faith Communities Today multi-faith survey, which measures congregational health annually. The sense of community that holds together religious groups is broken when large numbers of people move to find work or if a ministry is forced to close.

Domestic Partnership Certificates Issued in Nevada

Nevada began issuing domestic partnership certificates on Thursday as a state law providing many of the same legal rights as marriage to gay and straight partners went into effect. Nevada joins 16 other U.S. states that have laws recognizing domestic arraignments outside of marriage. While Nevada’s constitution bans same-sex marriage, the domestic partnership law extends rights similar to those held by married couples — including community property and the right to seek financial support after a breakup — to cohabitating couples. Nevada’s law permits, but doesn’t require, employers to extend insurance benefits to domestic partners.

Major Test for Gun Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to hear a Second Amendment challenge to Chicago’s handgun ban could open the door to similar lawsuits in cities and states across the nation. At issue is whether the right to keep and bear arms is a full-fledged constitutional privilege that can be invoked by individuals against the government at all levels or a freedom that applies only as it concerns the federal government. Last year, the justices in a 5-4 ruling said for the first time that the Second Amendment protected an individual’s right to have a handgun at home for self-defense. Though that ruling struck down a handgun ban in the U.S. capital, which is a federal enclave, it did not decide whether the right extended to states and cities. Legal experts have said that gun-rights advocates are likely to prevail in the Chicago case. The five justices who ruled against the District of Columbia handgun ban, led by Antonin Scalia, are likely to extend that right to states and municipalities.

Supreme Court to Consider Fate of Mojave Cross

Religion News Service reports that the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the fate of a cross-shaped World War I memorial that sits in California’s Mojave National Preserve when it hears arguments on the matter next Wednesday (Oct. 7). The case has landed in the high court’s hands eight years after Frank Buono, a former assistant superintendent of the preserve, first filed suit, saying he was offended that other religions beyond his own Christian faith were not represented near the memorial site. As Buono’s case wound its way through the courts, Congress passed laws preventing the cross’ removal, naming it a national memorial and, lastly, calling for a transfer of the surrounding property to the private ownership of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who first erected it in 1934. An appeals court ruled that that transfer did not solve the church-state problems at the heart of the case.

1 in 4 Pregnant Women Who’ve Contracted H1N1 Have Died in U.S.

A stark reminder about how deadly the new H1N1 virus can be. During a news briefing Thursday, U.S. health officials said the virus has hit pregnant women especially hard. Since it first surfaced in April, 28% of pregnant women have died from the new strain. Since the virus was first recognized in late April, early May, 100 pregnant women across the country have been hospitalized due to the novel H1N1 flu and 28 have died. Pregnant woman have an immune system that is slow – it’s like their immune system is on standby – and it’s not as reactive as a non-pregnant person’s.

  • Anti-life Satan is now trying to kill off babies by killing the pregnant mother

Prescriptions Biggest Cause of Fatal Drug Overdoses

Addiction to prescription painkillers — which kill thousands of Americans a year — has become a largely unrecognized epidemic, experts say. In fact, prescription drugs cause most of the more than 26,000 fatal overdoses each year, says Leonard Paulozzi of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of overdose deaths from opioid painkillers — opium-like drugs that include morphine and codeine — more than tripled from 1999 to 2006, to 13,800 deaths that year, according to CDC statistics released Wednesday. In the past, most overdoses were due to illegal narcotics, such as heroin, with most deaths in big cities. Prescription painkillers have now surpassed heroin and cocaine, however, as the leading cause of fatal overdoses, Paulozzi says. And the rate of fatal overdoses is now just as high in rural areas.

Programs Changing to Require Healthier Meals

Rising obesity rates are prompting federal and state officials to take steps to overhaul two of the nation’s largest nutritional programs to encourage the poor to eat more healthful meals. The two programs – food stamps and Women, Infants and Children, or WIC – serve nearly a million Arizonans each month, and enrollments have soared during the recession. For the first time, participants will get a WIC voucher specifically for fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. There will be new limits on how much juice and high-fat milk women can purchase and a requirement that they buy breads and cereals containing whole grains. The new food packages, which went into effect Thursday, are the first major revision to the program in 30 years.

In Washington, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which pays for the food purchased by SNAP and WIC recipients, is working to create pilot programs that would offer incentives to food-stamp recipients who bought healthier items.  Although the obesity epidemic cuts across all gender, socioeconomic and ethnic lines, there is much evidence to suggest that low-income families are at greater risk. Healthful, nutritious foods, including fish, lean meats, and fruits and vegetables, are far more expensive than pre-packaged, carbohydrate-rich items. An Ohio State University study released in August determined that the average users of food stamps had a higher body-mass index than those who did not.

Distracted Driving ‘a Menace to Society’

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called distracted driving a “menace to society” Wednesday, kicking off a two-day meeting on preventing drivers from using mobile devices behind the wheel. Nearly 6,000 people were killed and a half-million injured last year in vehicle crashes connected to driver distraction, a striking indication of the dangers of talking on cell phones and texting while driving. LaHood told more than 300 participants at the government’s “distracted driving summit that,” “Distracted driving is an epidemic and it seems to be getting worse every year.” LaHood said he would offer recommendations Thursday that could lead to new restrictions on using the devices while driving.

Distracted Pilots also a Menace to Society

Airline pilots regularly violate federal law by chit-chatting or joking during critical phases of flight — the kind of distractions that may have played a role in several recent fatal crashes. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has cited violations of the “sterile cockpit rule” in six crashes since 2004, a USA TODAY review found. In addition, the pilots of a commuter plane that crashed Feb. 12 near Buffalo were casually talking minutes before the accident that killed 50 people. More than half — 11 out of 20 — of the cockpit recording transcripts released in serious accidents during the past decade contain evidence of violations, USA TODAY found. Pilots need to improve their discipline, according to some safety advocates.

Social Security Recipients Up 19%

The number of retired workers who began collecting Social Security benefits jumped by a record 19% in the 2009 fiscal year that ended Wednesday as aging Baby Boomers and the unemployed chose to retire early. More than 2.6 million retired workers entered the Social Security system, up from 2.2 million in fiscal 2008. “There are just not enough jobs for older people,” says Richard Johnson, senior fellow at the non-partisan Urban Institute. The number of disabled workers receiving first-time benefits also soared to nearly 1 million, an increase of 100,000 over the previous year. “They have no choice but to go on Social Security.” Those two factors are putting new pressure on Social Security’s finances. The program paid out $6 billion more in August than it took in.

  • This is just the tip of the wave of Baby Boomers. With Social Security really a Ponzi scheme wherein current workers pay retirees, it is in real trouble with workers declining and retirees increasing.

States’ Quarterly Tax Revenue Plunges

State tax revenue in the second quarter plunged 17% from a year earlier, according to Census Bureau. It was the sharpest decline since at least the 1960s. The biggest drop was in state income taxes, which were down 28% in the second quarter from a year earlier. Some of the sharpest tax declines were in states that have been among the hardest-hit by the recession, in particular those with high concentrations of jobs in the battered housing sector. In Arizona, overall tax revenue fell 27% in the second quarter from a year ago. Tax revenue fell 12% in Florida and 14% in California.

Treasury Kicks Off Toxic-Asset Program

The Treasury Department’s long-delayed initiative to purchase toxic assets from financial firms launched Wednesday, nearly a year after Congress authorized the government to tackle what once was billed as the most critical problem facing the banking system. With the financial crisis abating, the government’s first foray into buying troubled assets totaled around $4.5 billion, a quarter of which came from private investors. Treasury officials said the initiative could eventually expand to $40 billion, a fraction of what was initially envisioned by the Obama administration. Even at that amount, it is unclear how much impact the program would have on the markets for mortgage securities and other assets, which reach into the trillions of dollars. The effort was scaled down significantly in recent months as banks became less interested in selling off mortgage securities at bargain prices just as they were beginning to recover their value. But the assets can still weigh down banks, constraining their ability to lend and contribute to an economic recovery, said Wilbur Ross, one of nine Wall Street financiers selected by the Treasury to manage the program.

Economic News

The International Monetary Fund said Thursday that the global economy is recovering faster than expected — but warned governments against premature withdrawal of stimulus efforts. According to the twice-yearly World Economic Outlook, the world is poised to grow by 3.1% in 2010 with much of the recovery driven by emerging economies such as China and India. That is up from the 2.5% in the IMF’s previous set of estimates. And for 2009, the IMF now finds a 1.1% decline of global GDP instead of the 1.4% contraction it predicted in July.

The U.S. economy produced mixed signals in reports Thursday, providing the latest evidence that a recovery is likely to be rocky. Consumer spending, propelled by a temporary government incentive program for auto sales, shot up in August by the largest amount in nearly eight years even though personal incomes continued to lag. The number of workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, but continuing claims slipped. The manufacturing sector expanded in September for a second consecutive month, although at a weaker-than-expected rate. Construction spending unexpectedly rose at its fastest pace in nearly a year in August, with investment in private residential construction notching its biggest increase in almost 16 years.

Employers cut a deeper-than-expected 263,000 jobs in September, lifting the unemployment rate to 9.8%, according to a government report Friday that fueled fears that a persistently weak labor market could undermine economic recovery. Adding to the weak jobs news, new orders to U.S. factories fell in August by the largest amount in five months. The official jobless rate stopped short of topping 10 percent only because the Labor Department doesn’t count people who have given up looking for work or settled for part-time jobs. More than a half-million unemployed people gave up looking for work last month. If laid-off workers who have settled for part-time work or have given up looking for new jobs are included, the unemployment rate rose to 17 percent, the highest on record.

Unemployment is rising around the world as the recession leaves few corners untouched. Unemployment rates in the 30 wealthy countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development range from a low of 3.2% in the Netherlands to 17.6% in Spain. And European Union figures for the 16 countries using the euro show a rate of 9.6% for August, about the same as the U.S. South Africa, is in the grips of its first recession in 17 years and about a quarter of the population is officially without work. The OECD expects the jobless rate in its 30 members to approach 10% in the second half of next year, meaning 57 million people out of work.

The auto industry staggered through September, suffering from a massive cash-for-clunkers hangover that left sales down 41% compared with clunker-fueled August. September’s sales were down 23% compared with September 2008. General Motors said Wednesday it will stop making Saturn vehicles this year and wind down the brand by the end of 2010. Saturn’s last hope, a sale to Penske Automotive Group, fell apart Wednesday afternoon.

More than 50% of homeowners with loans modified in the first half of last year had missed at least two months of payments a year later, the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision said Wednesday. About one in three borrowers whose monthly payments were reduced 20% or more had fallen behind again within a year. High rates of redefault have typically plagued loan modification programs, and critics argue that there is little point to modify loans that will fall into trouble again.

The average rate on 30-year U.S. home loans fell in the past week to retest record lows, helping stimulate housing demand, Freddie Mac said Thursday. The most widely used long-term mortgage dropped 0.10 of a percentage point in the week ended Oct. 1 to 4.94%. A year ago, before government interventions aimed at cutting borrowing costs to stimulate housing and the economy, the rate was 6.10%.

Delinquency rates for three key consumer loan categories hit record highs in the second quarter, according to data released Thursday by the American Bankers Association. Rising unemployment and falling incomes were the main culprits for the higher delinquency rates for bank cards, home equity loans and home equity lines of credit, the ABA said. Bank card delinquencies rose to a record 5.01% of all accounts. For home equity loans, 4.01% of accounts were delinquent, while 1.92% of home equity lines of credit were delinquent.

Natural gas prices tumbled nearly 8% Thursday after the government reported consumption has dropped so low that the U.S. is storing more than at any other time on record. The Energy Information Administration reported Thursday that underground aquifers and caverns in the lower 48 states stored 3.589 trillion cubic feet of natural gas last week, topping the previous all-time high. One of the coolest summers in 10 years, a deep recession that sharply cut industrial demand and strong gas production, particularly earlier in the year, helped lift inventories to record high levels this year.

Iran

Iran and six world powers put nuclear talks back on track at a landmark session that included the highest-level bilateral contact with the U.S. in years. The meeting ended with a pledge to meet again this month, but disputes surfacing shortly after its conclusion indicated a rough road to agreement ahead. Iran accepted a demand Thursday at the talks in a villa outside Geneva to allow U.N. inspectors into its covertly built enrichment plant, in a move that appeared to defuse tensions that had been building for weeks. But Mehdi Saffare, Iran’s ambassador to Britain, and a member of the Iranian delegation at the talks told The Associated Press the issue had “not been discussed yet.” Asked if Iran had accepted, he replied: “No, no!” President Obama and other leaders called on Iran not to use negotiations as a delay tactic while it pursues its nuclear ambitions.

Iraq

The number of attacks in Iraq has dropped 85% over the past two years, the top U.S. commander testified Wednesday before a Congressional panel. Gen. Ray Odierno said security has continued to improve in the three months since American forces withdrew from cities as part of a agreement to remove all American forces by the end of 2011. The level of attacks has dropped from 4,064 in August 2007 to 594 this August, Odierno told the House Armed Services Committee. “We have already begun deliberately drawing down our forces — without sacrificing security,” he said. There are about 124,000 American troops still in Iraq.

Iraq‘s budget shortfall due to low oil prices presents a challenge to building up the country’s army and raises questions about whether it will be able to protect itself when U.S. troops leave, a top American commander said Wednesday. Iraq’s security plans have been derailed because of the drop in oil prices, hampering efforts to buy ships, planes and weapons and slowing down the construction of the necessary national supply chain. With a looming deadline for American troops to pull out of Iraq by 2012 under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact, the clock is ticking on U.S. training efforts. President Barack Obama has ordered all combat troops out of Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010, leaving up to 50,000 troops to train and advise until the end of 2011.

Afghanistan

President Barack Obama is confronting a split among his closest advisers on Afghanistan, reflecting divisions in his own party over whether to send in thousands more U.S. troops and complicating his efforts to adopt a war policy he can sell to a public grown weary of the 8-year-old conflict. With top military commanders and congressional Republicans pushing for a troop increase, Obama pressed key members of his national security team Wednesday for their views during an intense, three-hour session in a packed White House Situation Room. Defense Secretary Robert Gates now worries that counterinsurgency might no longer be a viable approach for countering the Taliban violence roiling once-stable parts of north and west Afghanistan. “Even 40,000 more troops don’t give you enough boots on the ground to protect the Afghans if the north and west continue to deteriorate,” the official said.

Earthquakes

A second powerful earthquake rocked western Indonesia on Thursday as rescuers struggled to reach survivors of the previous day’s quake, which killed more than 500 people and left thousands trapped under collapsed buildings. The death toll from Wednesday’s 7.6-magnitude earthquake off Sumatra island was expected to rise as rescuers dig through the rubble, sometimes by hand, in heavily populated cities. The latest, 6.8-magnitude quake damaged hundreds of additional buildings, and communications remained cut in some areas. As the death toll climbed Thursday — to 1,100 by one U.N. estimate — others looked for survivors, with thousands of people missing and feared trapped in the wreckage of shattered buildings.

The towering walls of water that slammed into the Pacific island nations of American Samoa and Samoa on Tuesday left a swath of mud, misery and death that appears to be the worst natural disaster on U.S. soil since Hurricane Katrina. Stunned Samoans combed through the sodden wreckage of their lives and told of the terror of being trapped underwater or flung inland by a tsunami that ravaged towns and killed at least 150 people in the South Pacific. It may take a week, two weeks or even three weeks” to complete the search for the many people still missing.

Weather

Asia had little respite Thursday from an already brutal storm season as warnings were issued that the next tempest was en route to the Philippines and three nations counted their dead from the previous typhoon. The toll reached 386. Officials were preparing compulsory evacuation plans for tens of thousands of people in the Philippines as they watched Typhoon Parma track toward the country with winds gusting up to 130 mph.

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