Governor Brewer Asks Arizona to Pray

In response to a request by more than 40 pastors and ministry leaders throughout Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer has issued an historic proclamation for a Day of Prayer for Arizona’s economy and state budget on January 17th, 2010. The proclamation states: “Throughout this day of prayer, we ask for God’s favor, blessing, wisdom, and guidance to rest upon our state government, businesses, and our citizens … that God would aid and empower the citizens and businesses in our state ….” You can read the rest of Governor Brewer’s proclamation here. Pray that the churches of Arizona answer the call to prayer. Check to see whether your church is aware of this Proclamation.

Earthquakes

As the scope of the devastation from a magnitude-7.0 earthquake became clearer Wednesday, survivors spoke in terms of all that has disappeared. Most hospitals, houses, schools, roads and grocery stores — virtually every necessity of basic life — were transformed into piles of rubble. Thousands were dead, President René Préval said, and one of the world’s poorest countries had become almost entirely dependent on outside help to survive. Piles of bodies lined the streets. The parliament and presidential palace were destroyed. Even the main prison crumbled, unleashing hundreds of inmates. Aid organizations were beginning what they said may be one of the biggest, most complex relief efforts in recent history. The absence of clean water, electricity and medical supplies could result in more deaths in the days ahead unless dramatic action is taken, they said. “We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Curt Welling, president and CEO of AmeriCares, an aid organization. “Pretty much all the vital infrastructure in Port au Prince seems to have been destroyed. This could all take years to repair.”

The earthquake Tuesday evening hit an impoverished, often dysfunctional country that has dealt with more than its fair share of tragedy. Since just 2004, Haiti has faced floods, food riots, mudslides, at least five hurricanes and a rebellion that left it briefly without a functioning government, forcing United Nations peacekeepers to take charge. The succession of calamities — made worse by decades of dictatorship and political mismanagement — has led to a country where most people survive on $2 or less a day. Even before the earthquake, Haiti relied on foreign aid for most of its food.

  • Haiti is the voodoo capital of the Western Hemisphere even as New Orleans is the voodoo capital of the USA. Severe earthquakes will become more common as these last days unfold (Matthew 24:7)

Weather

Throw a Category 3 hurricane at Florida and the state is ready. But brush it with 20-degree weather for a few days, and millions of fish turn up dead, power companies beg customers to ease up, winter vegetable crops are decimated, and iguanas start falling from the sky. The Sunshine State routinely gets brief snaps of cold in the winter, but a prolonged arctic blast that finally started easing Tuesday broke records across the state. Florida accounts for about half of the aquarium fish sold in North America.

The Florida Tropical Fish Farms Association estimates that up to 90% of their fish — numbering in the millions — died in the past two weeks. The cold has killed wild fish across the state: Hundreds of people have called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to report mass fish kills, spokeswoman Carli Segelson said. She said about 300 dead sea turtles were found off Florida’s shores, and 1,500 live ones were taken to rehabilitation centers. In South Florida, the cold has placed thousands of iguanas into a comalike state, said Ron Magill of Miami Metrozoo. He said the iguanas, which are not native to the state, go into a type of “suspended animation” and have been falling out of trees.

  • We will continue to see greater weather extremes during this time period Jesus called the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8, Rev. 8:7)

Obama Wants $33 Billion More for War

The Obama administration plans to ask Congress for an additional $33 billion to fight unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, on top of a record request for $708 billion for the Defense Department next year, The Associated Press reports. The extra $33 billion in 2010 would mostly go toward the expansion of the war in Afghanistan. Obama ordered an extra 30,000 troops for that war as part of an overhaul of the war strategy late last year. The request for that additional funding will be sent to Congress at the same time as the record spending request for next year, making war finding an especially difficult pill for some of Obama’s Democratic allies.

Repeated Deployments Wearing Down U.S. Troops/Wives

American soldiers of the 21st century are quietly making history, serving in combat longer than almost any U.S. soldiers in the nation’s past, military historians say. For many, the fighting seems without end, a fatalism increasingly shared by most Americans. The cycles of combat have been so long and so frequent that nearly 13,000 soldiers now have spent three to four cumulative years at war in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Army records. About 500 GIs have spent more than four years in combat, the Army says. Suicides are at record levels. The divorce rate among enlisted soldiers has steadily increased during the war years. Rates of mental health and prescription drug abuse are on the rise.

Wives of soldiers sent to war suffered significantly higher rates of mental health issues than those whose husbands stayed home, according to the largest study ever done on the emotional impact of war on Army wives. Those rates were higher among wives whose husband deployed longer than 11 months, according to findings published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. When soldiers were deployed 11 months or longer, their wives had a 24% higher rate of suffering from depression.

Students More Stressed than During Great Depression

A new study has found that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues as youth of the same age who were studied in the Great Depression era. The findings, culled from responses to a popular psychological questionnaire used as far back as 1938, confirm what counselors on campuses nationwide have long suspected as more students struggle with the stresses of school and life in general. Mental health professionals speculate that a popular culture increasingly focused on the external — from wealth to looks and status — has contributed to the uptick in mental health issues. Overall, an average of five times as many students in 2007 surpassed thresholds in one or more mental health categories, compared with those who did so in 1938.

Black Optimism Rises

Despite high unemployment and shrinking incomes, black Americans are more satisfied with their situation than at any time in the past 25 years, and more than half say life will get better for them. A poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, which studies American attitudes and trends, found that 39% of blacks say things are better for them than they were five years ago — almost twice the percentage that said that in 2007. Twelve percent said things are worse. More than half of blacks surveyed, 53%, say they think life will get better, compared with 44% two years ago. The reason: the “halo effect” of electing the first black president, says Paul Taylor, the Pew center’s executive vice president, a co-author of the study.

Most Americans Support Ethnic Profiling

Americans are divided over whether President Obama’s response to the foiled bombing of a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day went far enough, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds: 42% say Obama’s measures didn’t go far enough; 38% call them “about right” and 4% say they go too far. However, there was broad support for the controversial practice of ethnic profiling in airline security. By 3-1, those polled favor the idea of subjecting airline passengers to more intensive security checks if they fit a profile of terrorists based on age, ethnicity and gender. The findings could fuel an already heated debate about whether profiling is appropriate or effective.

Some Patients Willing to Pay Extra for ‘Boutique’ Doctors

Primary care physicians are increasingly offering exclusivity to those willing to pay for it. These practices, known as concierge, boutique or retainer practices, typically charge annual fees that range from $1,500 to $10,000 or more. The fee allows the doctors to prosper with a far smaller roll of patients than has become the norm under the traditional system. Patients like the extra attention and lack of crowded waiting rooms. Doctors say they need alternatives to a payment system that forces them to cram their schedule with appointments. But the growth comes with concerns about doctor access, particularly since a bill moving through Congress could cover millions of uninsured people and flood doctor offices with new primary care patients.

Hepatitis B, C Overlooked

They’re the overlooked viruses: Hepatitis B and C together infect three to five times more Americans than the AIDS virus does, and most don’t know it. In the next 10 years, these two liver-damaging infections will kill about 150,000 people in the U.S. alone, says a new report Monday from the prestigious Institute of Medicine. It calls for a major public health push to decrease the stigma of these simmering viruses, which are to blame for nearly half the liver transplants performed every year. People at highest risk for hepatitis B include those born in parts of Asia and Africa where the virus is particularly widespread, infants born to infected mothers, sexual partners of the infected, and injecting drug users. At-risk adults can seek vaccination. Those at highest risk for hepatitis C include current or former injecting drug users and people who received a blood transfusion before 1992.

Public Universities Becoming ‘Far Richer, Far Whiter’

The follow-up to a 2006 analysis of federal data concludes that 50 flagship public universities, one in each state, “continue to enroll students who are far richer and far whiter” than most in their states, says Kati Haycock, director of the non-profit Education Trust, which released both reports. The report says the schools are less generous to needy students than they could be; it calls “obscene” the $761 million spent in 2007 on students with family incomes over $80,000 — nearly as much as on those with incomes under $54,000. And even as the representation of minorities improved slightly, gaps in enrollment and graduation rates persist.

Economic News

The federal budget deficit hit an all-time high for the month of December, and the red ink for the first three months of the current budget year is rising at a more rapid pace than last year’s record clip. The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit last month totaled $91.85 billion, the largest December deficit on record. For the first three months of the current budget year, which began on Oct. 1, the deficit totals $388.51 billion, 16.8% higher than the $332.49 billion imbalance recorded during the same period a year ago. Last year’s deficit surged to $1.42 trillion, more than three times the record of the previous year.

Retail sales fell in December as demand for autos, clothing and appliances all slipped, a disappointing finish to a year in which sales had the largest drop on record. Meanwhile, the number of newly laid-off American workers requesting unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week as jobs remain scarce amid a sluggish economic recovery.

Foreclosure filings increased 14% in December from November, the first monthly increase since foreclosure activity peaked in July, according to a RealtyTrac report out Thursday. Foreclosure filings were reported on 349,519 properties in December, which were also 15% higher than in December 2008.

President Barack Obama is expected to announce a new fee Thursday on the country’s biggest financial firms to recover up to $120 billion in taxpayers’ money used to prop up corporations during the economic crisis. Obama is targeting an industry whose political deafness has vexed his administration. Banks once threatened by the undertow of a Wall Street collapse are now posting profits and proposing robust bonuses for their executives. The $120 billion recovery goal is the most that administration officials expect to lose from the government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program that bailed out banks, automakers and other financial firms.

Recession pain has hit widely and deeply among U.S. churches — driving down contributions and limiting budgets, according to surveys from two groups specializing in Christian research. A national survey of 1,002 Protestant pastors in November by Nashville-based LifeWay Research found: 57% said the poor economy was hurting their church; 70% reported increased requests from people outside their congregation for assistance.

19 Christians Arrested in Xinjiang, China

ASSIST News Service reports that Han and Uyghur Christians faced a new wave of persecution recently in the religiously-charged Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. On Dec. 25, 2009, farm leaders and police broke into the home of Wang Qiyue, a 71-year-old widow, disrupting the Christmas gathering and ransacking her home. According to ChinaAid, these “People’s Police” burned Ms. Wang’s furniture, as she was thrown against a police car by the Korla Chief of Security, Yu Fagan. ChinaAid goes on to say that six farm leaders next barged into the home of 69-year-old hemiplegic He Cuiying, and confiscated more than 30 Bibles and Christian books. The leaders then burned the materials in a bonfire outside her home, as a means of public humiliation. Later, five elderly Christians were arrested with no cause and fined 5,000 Yuan each.

Yemen

A Yemeni governor says security forces killed a suspected al-Qaeda figure in a raid in a remote mountainous province. Security officials also say two members of the security forces were killed and four wounded when suspected al-Qaeda fighters attacked their patrol Wednesday elsewhere in Shabwa province, east of the capital. Shabwa’s governor, Ali Ahmadi, says the militant, Abdullah Mizhar, was killed Tuesday night in the raid on a house in the Maysaa region. Ahmadi says Mizhar was the leader of a local group of al-Qaeda fighters. Security officials say four others with Mizhar were arrested, while the rest fled.

Afghanistan

A suicide bomber apparently planning to attack a meeting of NATO and tribal officials blew himself up in a busy market district Thursday in central Afghanistan, killing at least 20 people, officials said, making it the deadliest attack against civilians in more than three months. Two U.S. service members died and four Afghan soldiers were killed in separate explosions Wednesday in eastern Afghanistan, an area of the nation rife with violence, officials said. Nine members of the Afghan National Police were injured Wednesday in other incidents.

Pakistan

U.S. missiles killed at least 12 alleged militants Thursday in a compound formerly used as a religious school in Pakistan‘s North Waziristan tribal region, officials said, the eighth such attack in two weeks. The strike illustrated the Obama administration’s unwillingness to abandon its missile campaign against insurgent targets along Pakistan’s northwest border with Afghanistan. Despite Pakistani protest, the attacks have surged in number in recent days.

Iraq

A Baghdad court on Thursday sentenced 11 Iraqis to death for their roles in a series of deadly attacks that rocked the country’s capital last August. The attacks were a major blow to Iraq‘s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is seeking to reassure Iraqis his government has security under control ahead of crucial March elections. A criminal court in Baghdad’s eastern Risafa district found the 11 defendants guilty of financing, planning and participating in the Aug. 19 bombings that devastated the foreign and finance ministries.

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