Relativism on the Upswing

A new study offering a year-end perspective on the current state of American churches has been released revealing that Americans are more interested in faith and spirituality than they are in Christianity. George Barna, president of the Barna Group, explains that Americans are “more interested in feeling like they belong to a community of faith” than they are with feeling like they belong to a particular church. “They’re more interested in having a faith system that addresses the needs and issues and struggles that they’re dealing with than they are necessarily [with] working through a whole body of beliefs, activities, and practices that might be part of that larger faith entity,” he says. “It’s an interesting time.” “In some ways,” he states on his website, “we are creating the ultimate ecumenical movement, where nothing is deemed right or wrong, and all ideas, beliefs, and practices are assigned equal validity.”

  • Relativism, tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness, all goals of the New World Order to minimize Christianity and the One True God.

Bible Is Most-Stolen Book during Holidays

Christian bookstores are seeing theft increase in the down economy, and the most often target is – surprisingly – the Bible. “I can see the need people have, but don’t have the means to do it,” said Maria Obregon, store manager for Noah’s Ark Christian Bookstore in San Antonio, Texas. Obregon looks at the thefts with optimism. “So I just bless them that they can [use it] and read it,” she said. The store’s Bibles range in price from $10 to $70, but Obregon says she often gives discounts on Bibles, even handing them out for free to new believers.

Terrorist Databases have Issues

The terrorist watch lists at the center of what President Obama called the botched handling of intelligence on a plot to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day is under scrutiny once again. “It was just one database failure after another,” said Clark Kent Ervin, former inspector general at the Homeland Security Department. Before the 9/11 hijackings, intelligence and law enforcement agencies kept different lists, and information sharing among them was spotty. Significant enhancements have been made since then. However, lawmakers and security experts began calling this week for more revisions.

Weeks before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, allegedly touched off explosives on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, his father raised suspicions about him to U.S. officials in Nigeria. That prompted Abdulmutallab’s name to be entered into the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) database, a catch-all repository for even the most raw intelligence. The TIDE is administered by the National Counterterrorism Center, an arm of the nation’s intelligence agencies, and contains about 560,000 entries, the agency says. His name was never elevated into the nation’s consolidated terrorist watch list which has 400,000 names. To be included on that list, the government has concluded there is a “reasonable suspicion” the person is linked to terrorism. Names are shared across the government, but the list plays no role in whether a person may board a flight.

  • We can fiddle all we want with the databases, but the terrorists know who’s on them and so they recruit others who are not on the list and do not fit our profiling criteria.

Extra Airline Screening Coming

A TSA directive that took effect at midnight ET targets people flying from or through 10 “countries of interest” as well as the four nations that are considered sponsors of terrorism. The countries of interest are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen. The State Department lists four countries that sponsor terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. The new directive will be in place indefinitely. The TSA plans to maintain some extra security at all overseas airports by increasing the use of pat-downs and body scanners over the level at which they were used before Dec. 25,, Passengers will be selected for the tighter screening both at random and based on expanded intelligence information.

Democrats Join Calls for Napolitano to Step Down

Democrats have joined the ranks of those calling for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to step down following the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight a week ago.  Though the CIA and an agency under the Director of National Intelligence have been under particular scrutiny in the preliminary review of possible missteps, Napolitano so far has taken the most heat from lawmakers. Not only does her department oversee the Transportation Security Administration, but her initial claim Sunday that “the system worked” was widely ridiculed and interpreted by critics as a sign that she’s in over her head. Some Republicans, who’ve taken issue with her in the past for calling terrorist acts “man-caused disasters” and other remarks, started calling for her ouster in the spring. The failed bombing on Christmas Day revived those calls. Now Democrats have joined the chorus. New Jersey State Senate President Richard Codey, a Democrat, wrote a letter to Napolitano this week calling on her to step down. He said Napolitano, an attorney and former Arizona governor, does not have the experience for the post she is in.

Obama Gives Interpol Free Hand in U.S.

No presidential statement or White House press briefing was held on it. In fact, all that can be found about it on the official White House Web site is the Dec. 17 announcement and one-paragraph text of President Obama`s Executive Order 12425, with this innocuous headline: “Amending Executive Order 12425 Designating Interpol as a public international organization entitled to enjoy certain privileges, exemptions, and immunities.”In fact, this new directive from Obama may be the most destructive blow ever struck against American constitutional civil liberties. No wonder the White House said as little as possible about it. Obama has given an international law enforcement organization that is accountable to no other national authority the ability to operate as it pleases within our own borders, and he has freed it from the most basic measure of official transparency and accountability, the FOIA.

  • Our representative in the New World Order (Obama) may not be accomplishing his campaign promises, but he is doing all he can to further the goals of globalists and undermining U.S. sovereignty.

Homeland Security Blinks Over Real ID

The Department of Homeland Security has indefinitely lifted its January 1 deadline to allow federal agencies to accept state driver’s licenses and ID cards before allowing people to board commercial airplanes or enter federal buildings and nuclear power plants. From 46 of 56 US states and territories said that their state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards will not meet federally mandated security enhancements by the new year. None of the 50 states had met the first deadline for compliance in May 2008, and several adopted resolutions opposing the measure as an intrusion on states’ rights and the privacy rights of their citizens. The agency did not issue a new compliance date but has said that it will continue to work with the states on the issue.

Wide Gulf Between House & Senate Health Bills

As they begin to marry competing health care bills passed by the House and Senate, lawmakers face profound differences on key issues — from taxes to abortion. The high-stakes process of reconciling their differences and moving legislation to a final vote will take weeks. Despite unanimous Republican opposition, the Senate passed a health care bill last week that would cost $871 billion in the first 10 years and cover 31 million Americans who wouldn’t otherwise have insurance. A $1.1 trillion bill approved by the House in November would cover 36 million people. Merging the two bills, which will begin when senators return to Washington on Jan. 19, will center on how to pay for billions of dollars in proposed subsidies to help low- and moderate-income families afford premiums, McClellan and others said. Finding middle ground is complicated by President Obama‘s pledge that the health care legislation will not add to the deficit, meaning that any reduction in a proposed tax must be offset with savings or some other tax.

Attorneys General Threaten Suit over Nebraska Health Deal

Republican attorneys general in 13 states say congressional leaders must remove Nebraska’s political deal from the federal health care overhaul bill or face legal action, according to a letter provided to The Associated Press Wednesday. “We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed,” South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and the 12 other attorneys general wrote in the letter to be sent Wednesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about the estimated $100 million deal dubbed the “Cornhusker Kickback.”

Taxpayer Funds for Abortions ‘Extremely Unpopular’

The use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions has been one of the most contentious issues surrounding the healthcare reform debate, but the position of the great majority of Americans is clear: They oppose it. A new Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters found that 72 percent do not approve of allowing abortions to be paid for with public funds under any healthcare system created by the federal government. Only 23 percent said they support the idea.

Health Bills Could Expand IRS Role

Internal Revenue Service agents already try to catch tax cheats and moonshiners. Under the proposed health care legislation, they would get another assignment: checking to see whether Americans have health insurance. The legislation would require most Americans to have health insurance and to prove it on their federal tax returns. Those who don’t would pay a penalty to the IRS. In addition, the IRS would collect hundreds of billions of dollars in new fees on employers, drug companies and device makers, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The agency also would distribute as much as $140 billion a year in new government subsidies to help small employers and as many as 19 million lower-income people buy coverage.

  • This alone is reason enough to reject these bills. We need less IRS, not more.

Swine Flu Less Contagious than Other Pandemic Strains

How contagious is swine flu? Less than the novel viruses that have caused big world outbreaks in the past, new research suggests. If someone in your home has swine flu, your odds of catching it are about one in eight, although children are twice as susceptible as adults, the study found. That’s less than the “spread” rate during earlier flu pandemics in 1957 and 1968, when 14% to 20% of household members were infected. Swine flu has sickened an estimated one-sixth of Americans since the virus was first identified in April. The second wave of cases now seems to have peaked, and health experts do not know if another surge lies ahead.

  • Estimated cases of swine flu are higher than actual because virtually no testing is done to determine whether the illness is H1N1 or just seasonal flu

Montana to Allow Doctor-Assisted Suicide

The Montana Supreme Court said Thursday that nothing in state law prevents patients from seeking physician-assisted suicide, making Montana the third state that will allow the procedure. The Montana Supreme Court opinion will now give doctors in the state the freedom to prescribe the necessary drugs to mentally competent, terminally ill patients without fear of being prosecuted, advocates said. Oregon and Washington state allow assisted suicides for terminally ill patients, with Oregon adopting the nation’s first “death with dignity” law in 1997.

$340 Million Blitz Launches 2010 Census

The government’s unprecedented $340 million promotional blitz of the 2010 Census launches Monday with the debut of the Census Portrait of America Road Tour in New York City‘s Times Square. A 46-foot trailer, to be unveiled on NBC‘s Today show, and 12 smaller cargo vans with 14-foot trailers will crisscross more than 150,000 miles nationwide through April to promote the benefits of responding to the 10-question Census. They will stop at more than 800 events from local parades and festivals such as New Orleans’ Mardi Gras and San Francisco’s Chinese New Year celebration to national sporting events from the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500 to the NCAA Final Four.

In addition, $140 million will be spent on TV, radio, print and outdoor advertising, including $2.5 million for two ads in the Feb. 7 Super Bowl pregame show and a 30-second spot directed by Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap, Best in Show) and starring Ed Begley Jr. Roughly $80 million spent on ads will target racial and ethnic groups and non-English speakers in 28 languages. Seats in the House of Representatives are based on state population counts collected by the Census every 10 years. The Census is also used to redraw state and local political districts and allocate about $435 billion a year in federal money to states and local governments.

Economic News

Manufacturing activity grew at the fastest pace in more than three years, a private trade group said Monday. The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said its manufacturing index read 55.9 in December after 53.6 in November. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

The number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits dropped unexpectedly last week, a sign the job market is healing as the economy slowly recovers. New jobless claims have dropped steadily since the fall, raising hopes that the economy may soon begin creating jobs and the unemployment rate could fall. The Labor Department said Thursday that new claims for unemployment insurance fell 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 432,000, the lowest since July 2008. The number of jobless workers continuing to claim benefits, meanwhile, dropped by 57,000 to 4.9 million.

Christmas will stretch into 2010 for apartment renters, who are benefiting from an epic collapse in the rental market and generous concessions. Landlords are offering tenants up to six months of free rent, flat-screen TVs and new appliances. They’re also slashing monthly rates and easing application standards. Rents fell a record 3.5% in 2009 after factoring in freebies. Prices are expected to fall an additional 2% next year.

Oil prices ended 2009 with a bang, surging about $10 a barrel in the final two weeks as the country cut into its hefty crude supply. Prices have rallied since March, moving opposite the dollar. Oil is priced in dollars, and when the dollar slumped this year, crude contracts became easier to buy for investors with foreign money. Oil got an additional boost in December as temperatures dropped and homeowners cranked up the heat. The country’s oil stockpile, which ballooned in May to the highest level since 1990, shrank this month by 10.1 million barrels.

The government on Wednesday provided a fresh $3.8 billion cash infusion to stabilize GMAC Financial Services as the financing company struggles with hefty losses in its home mortgage unit. The Treasury Department said the new aid, which comes from a taxpayer-financed bailout fund, is less than the roughly $6 billion the government had earlier thought GMAC would need to stabilize the company. The fresh infusion is on top of $12.5 billion in taxpayer money Detroit-based GMAC has already received from the government. The new agreement will boost the federal government’s ownership in GMAC to 56%, from 35%.

  • Why was the General Motors financial services division dabbling in home mortgages to being with? Now we have to pay for its greedy shortsightedness.

Former Gitmo Detainees Help al-Qaeda in Yemen

As a prisoner at Guantanamo, Said Ali al-Shihri said he wanted freedom so he could go home to Saudi Arabia and work at his family’s furniture store. Instead, al-Shihri, who was released in 2007 under the Bush administration, is now deputy leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group that has claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day attempted bomb attack on a Detroit-bound airliner. Like other former Guantanamo detainees who have rejoined al-Qaeda in Yemen, al-Shihri, 36, won his release despite jihadist credentials such as, in his case, urban warfare training in Afghanistan. His involvement in the terrorist plot has raised new opposition to releasing Guantanamo Bay inmates, complicating President Barack Obama‘s pledge to close the military prison in Cuba. It also highlights the challenge of identifying the hard-core militants as the administration decides what to do with the remaining 198 prisoners.

Yemen

President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser said Sunday an active threat from al-Qaeda led the U.S. to close its embassy in Yemen. Despite the threat, the U.S. does not plan to open a new front in Yemen in the global fight against terrorism, said the aide, John Brennan. Security officials say Yemen has deployed several hundred extra troops to two mountainous eastern provinces that are al-Qaeda’s main strongholds in the country. Yemeni forces raided an al-Qaida hideout and set off a gun battle as the government vowed to eliminate the group that claimed it was behind the Christmas bombing attempt on a U.S. airliner. The fighting took place in an al-Qaida stronghold in western Yemen, haven for a group that attacked the U.S. Embassy here in 2008, killing 10 Yemeni guards and four civilians. A government statement said at least one suspected militant was arrested during the clashes.

Afghanistan Far Deadlier than Iraq in 2009

The head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan said Sunday that parliament’s rejection of most of President Hamid Karzai‘s nominees for a new Cabinet will delay efforts to establish a functioning government that can focus on badly needed reforms. Lawmakers rejected 17 of Karzai’s 24 picks. Karzai will now have to spend time submitting new Cabinet nominees.

More than twice as many U.S. troops died in Afghanistan in 2009 than in Iraq, U.S. casualty records show, and Afghanistan is likely to become an even deadlier place for American forces as reinforcements are rushed there to battle insurgents. More than 300 U.S. troops died in Afghanistan in 2009 compared with 148 in Iraq. This is the first year since the war in Iraq began in 2003 that more troops died in Afghanistan, Pentagon records show. The peak in Iraq was 903 in 2007. There were just 153 deaths in Afghanistan last year.

The Associated Press has learned that the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees at a remote outpost in southeastern Afghanistan had been invited onto the base and was not searched. All eight Americans killed by a suicide bomber at a military base in Afghanistan on Wednesday were civilians, U.S. officials said. Although they are civilians, they have been working as military contractors or for U.S. intelligence services. An attacker wearing a suicide vest caused the explosion at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost province, near the border with Pakistan.

A roadside bombing killed four U.S. service members, the first American combat deaths of the year in Afghanistan, while a British soldier died during a foot patrol elsewhere in the volatile south of the country, officials said Monday.

Iraq

December was the first month since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq nearly seven years ago in which no U.S. forces died in combat in the country. Gen. Ray Odierno called it a significant milestone and said it speaks to how the violence in Iraq has diminished. Odierno is the commanding general in Iraq.

A pair of roadside bombs killed three people in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, including two of the city’s police chief’s guards While violence in Iraq has dropped off dramatically since the height of the sectarian tensions of 2006 and 2007, smaller attacks such as those in Kirkuk continue.

Iran

Iran‘s opposition leader on Friday pledged to remain defiant in the face of new threats — including calls by hard-liners for his execution — and said he would sacrifice his life in defense of the people’s right to protest peacefully against the government. Mir Hossein Mousavi‘s remarks come after the worst unrest since the immediate aftermath of the disputed June presidential election. At least eight people died during anti-government protests on Sunday, including Mousavi’s nephew.

Pakistan

Authorities arrested a senior Pakistani Taliban commander who led the group’s network in the key central province of Punjab, where violence has been increasing in recent months, police said Thursday. The arrest strikes a blow as militants have stepped up their efforts to wage attacks far from their sanctuary in Pakistan‘s lawless tribal area near the Afghan border.

A northwest Pakistani village that tried to resist Taliban infiltration struggled with grief Saturday as families mourned 96 people killed in an apparent revenge suicide bombing at an outdoor volleyball game. The attack on Shah Hasan Khel village was one of the deadliest in a surge of bombings that have killed more than 600 since October.

Roadside bombs that struck two vehicles in Pakistan‘s volatile northwest Sunday have killed a former irrigation minister and three others in one of the attacks and two anti-Taliban tribal elders in the other.

France

The Interior Ministry says police detained nearly 400 people in France overnight — many of them linked to car-burnings that often accompany New Year’s revelry. Dozens of cars are burnt every night in France, but the number traditionally spikes during New Year’s festivities. Such vandalism is generally attributed to marauding youths from tough neighborhoods in immigrant-heavy areas, and evokes the three-week wave of riots and other violence that shocked the country in late 2005.

Hong Kong

Thousands of Hong Kong residents marched to the Chinese government’s liaison office on Friday demanding that Beijing grant full democracy to the semiautonomous financial hub. Chanting “One man, one vote to choose our leader” and clutching signs reading “Democracy now,” the demonstrators set off from a crowded street in the heart of the Central financial district. Dozens of the protesters tried but failed to breach a police cordon at the Chinese government compound. Five pro-democracy legislators plan to resign later this month, hoping to turn the special elections they will trigger into a referendum on democracy.

Earthquakes

A tsunami unleashed by a major earthquake plowed into the Solomon Islands on Monday with the crashing waters devastating at least one village. The tsunami devastated a village on Rendova Island, some 188 miles (300 kilometers) from the capital Honiara. A series of major quakes have rocked the South Pacific region since Sunday, with three powerful temblors striking Monday, including a 7.2 magnitude tremor. The tremors were centered beneath the ocean floor near the town of Gizo, which was badly damaged in April 2007 when a 8.1-magnitude quake sent a tsunami crashing into the coast, killing more than 50 people.

A magnitude-5.8 earthquake in northern Baja California rocked the U.S.-Mexico border region Wednesday, causing buildings to sway more than 100 miles to the west in downtown San Diego. The main quake was centered about 20 miles southeast of the Mexican border city of Mexicali, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was followed quickly by a 4.9 quake and other aftershocks. There were no immediate reports of damage or injury.

Weather

Bitterly cold air and howling winds spread across the USA — from the Dakotas to Florida— over the weekend, breaking weather records in the upper Midwest, the Great Lakes and New England. The wintry blast even shocked International Falls, Minn., the self-described “Icebox of the Nation,” where temperatures bottomed out at 37 below zero Saturday and Sunday mornings, breaking records that have stood since 1979. Sioux Falls, S.D., was 30 below on Saturday morning, the coldest temperature recorded since 1974. The cold air marched all the way down the East Coast into south Florida by Sunday, where freeze warnings were issued for nearly the entire state for today.

Snow was the main issue over the weekend in much of New England and the interior Northeast, where nearly 3 feet blanketed Burlington, Vt. The 31.8 inches of snow recorded as of Sunday afternoon represented the city’s all-time biggest snowstorm in 120 years of recordkeeping.

Seoul residents battled the heaviest snowfall in modern Korean history after a winter storm dumped more than 10 inches Monday, forcing airports to cancel flights and paralyzing traffic in South Korea‘s bustling capital. The snowfall, which began about 1 a.m. and continue through Monday afternoon, was the worst since Korea began conducting meteorological surveys in 1937.

San Carlos Lake in Arizona is nearly empty, the water levels behind Coolidge Dam so low that federal officials have shut off deliveries to downstream farmers in an attempt to avert massive fish deaths. Dry conditions last year reduced the incoming flow from the Gila and San Carlos rivers and kept demand high from the farmers who rely on the reservoir, about 25 miles east of Globe. The water stored now sits at less than 5 percent of what it was a year ago and is nearing its lowest point in nearly 20 years.

A rain-soaked slab of hillside collapsed on three houses and an upscale waterfront lodge after New Year celebrations on an Sao Paulo, an island resort in near Rio de Janeiro, killing at least 19 people, authorities said. Another mudslide elsewhere in the city killed 11. Ten people were injured by the resort slide early Friday, and about 120 rescuers scrambled through mud and around toppled trees and large rocks to search for more survivors.

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