Ten Commandments on Winning Streak

The head of Liberty Counsel, a firm that litigates on civil and religious rights issues, says a decision from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has extended a winning streak for the Ten Commandments that dates back to 2005. The organization successfully argued on behalf of the legality of a display in a public building in Kentucky that included the Ten Commandments among other historical references. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling in the case brought by the ACLU that reversed a lower court’s opinion that said the Ten Commandments were impermissible. “The Ten Commandments are as much at home in a display about the foundation of law as stars and stripes are to the American flag,” said Mathew Staver, Liberty Counsel’s founder and chairman. “The Ten Commandments are part of the fabric of our country and helped shape the law. It defies common sense to remove a recognized symbol of law from a court of law. “The ACLU might not like our history and might run from it, but the fact remains that the Ten Commandments shaped our laws and may be displayed in a court of law. I am sure the ACLU will not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review this case. The ACLU has been running from the Supreme Court since 2005 and has taken loss after loss on the Ten Commandments,” he said.

Canadian Policy Targets ‘Homophobia’

Opponents of “hate crimes” legislation, who have frequently pointed to Canada as an example of how such laws are used to increasingly suppress moral objections to homosexuality, now have more fuel for their fire in the form of the “Quebec Policy Against Homophobia.” The policy, released last month by Quebec’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General Kathleen Weil, assigns the government the task of eliminating all forms of “homophobia” and “heterosexism” – including the belief that homosexuality is immoral – from society as a whole. “An inclusive society such as ours must take the necessary steps to combat homophobic attitudes and behavior patterns and move towards full acceptance of sexual diversity,” states the Premier of Quebec Jean Charest in a letter that serves as the policy’s introduction.

Critics, Christians Condemn Robertson’s Haiti Remark

Christian leader Pat Robertson continued his tradition of incendiary remarks last week, saying that Haiti’s deadly earthquake happened because the country’s people once “swore a pact to the devil.” Referencing colonial times, Robertson said, “Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another.” His comments sparked widespread outrage from critics and Christians alike. “It is absolute arrogance to try to interpret any of God’s actions as a judgment against this person or that person,” Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “Our duty as Christians is to try to help these people pray for these people and to help them.” At least 46 Christian relief organizations are working to get aid into Haiti, according to Christian News Headlines.

  • Voodoo and other ungodly practices have indeed cursed Haiti through the law of sowing and reaping

Haitian Earthquake

The worldwide effort to rescue battered Haiti entered its second week Monday with thousands of frustrated Haitians saying they are still waiting for food, water and medical care and are worried about violence. As the United States and other nations stepped up their efforts Sunday to get aid to millions of people in need, some aid groups said the effort was in disarray. Throughout the country, injured victims still await the arrival of doctors and medical supplies. Doctors Without Borders teams are working in five Port-au-Prince hospitals, but only two are fully functional. Those lucky enough to escape injury face the rising threat of disease and death while awaiting food, water and medicine.

Conditions in Haiti grew worse Sunday as thousands of residents begged for food and water, and bodies were dumped in mass graves. Bulldozer after bulldozer dumped buckets full of bodies and debris into a grave at the Port-au-Prince cemetery downtown. Voodoo priests in Haiti  have objected to the use of anonymous mass burials to remove the thousands of dead from the streets of Haiti, Reuters reports. Haitian officials say so far at least 50,000 bodies have been dumped in mass graves outside the quake-ravaged capital, Port-au-Prince. “The conditions in which bodies are being buried is not respecting the dignity of these people,” Haiti’s main voodoo leader, Max Beauvoir said.

Informed U.S. State Department sources tell WorldNetDaily that Washington has taken de-facto control of earthquake-ravaged Haiti. “USAID has now taken control [of Haiti],” said one source. “We [the U.S.] are the only ones who can get things done.” Vice President Joe Biden told reporters at Homestead Air Force Base, Fla., where relief efforts are underway, that Haiti is a nation “that has totally collapsed.” U.N. relief efforts, however, have been criticized as “disorganized” and “haphazard” by U.S. sources. The U.N.’s Haiti operations center was destroyed in last week’s quake. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative, Hedi Annabi, who remained “missing” more than four days later, was found dead Saturday. Annabi was believed to be in the complex at the time of the quake.

Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told the Associated Press that a final toll of 100,000 dead would “seem to be the minimum.” Relief workers warned that unless supplies are quickly delivered, Port-au-Prince will degenerate into lawlessness. There were signs that the desperate — or the criminal — were taking things into their own hands. A water delivery truck driver said he was attacked in one of the city’s slums. There were reports of isolated looting as young men walked through downtown with machetes,

Celebrities, companies, sports teams and regular Americans are mobilizing to help Haiti with an outpouring of generosity that could exceed private donations made after Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Asian tsunami. “We’re hearing that this is breaking all records,” says Sandra Miniutti of Charity Navigator, an independent group that evaluates U.S. charities. After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, private donations by Americans totaled $6.47 billion, says Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy. Almost $2 billion was given by private U.S. donors after the Asian tsunami.

H1N1 Swine Flu

About 1 in 5 Americans have been vaccinated against swine flu, according to the government’s first detailed estimates of vaccination rates against the new pandemic. Two government surveys concluded that an estimate 61 million people — or about 20% of the population — got a shot or nasal spray vaccination against swine flu since the vaccine became available this fall. Vaccination rates were a bit higher for people deemed to be especially vulnerable to the new influenza, including pregnant women, children and people with underlying health conditions. About 28% of the 160 million in those targeted groups got vaccine. Hundreds of thousands of children are overdue for a second dose of H1N1 vaccine that’s needed to fully protect them from swine flu, a USA TODAY review of data from 10 states shows.

Drug Recall/Kickbacks

Johnson & Johnson issued a massive recall Friday of over-the-counter drugs including Tylenol, Motrin and St. Joseph’s aspirin because of a moldy smell that has made people sick. It was the second such recall in less than a month because of the smell, which regulators said was first reported to McNeil in 2008. Federal regulators criticized the company, saying it didn’t respond to the complaints quickly enough, wasn’t thorough in how it handled the problem and didn’t inform the Food and Drug Administration quickly. The recall includes some batches of regular and extra-strength Tylenol, children’s Tylenol, eight-hour Tylenol, Tylenol arthritis, Tylenol PM, children’s Motrin, Motrin IB, Benadryl Rolaids, Simply Sleep, and St. Joseph’s aspirin. The smell is caused by small amounts of a chemical associated with the treatment of wooden pallets, Johnson & Johnson said.

Federal prosecutors said Friday that health care giant Johnson & Johnson paid tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks so nursing homes would put more patients on its blockbuster schizophrenia medicine and other drugs. In a complaint filed Friday, prosecutors said J&J paid rebates and other forms of kickbacks to Omnicare, the country’s biggest dispenser of prescription drugs in nursing homes. Prosecutors allege Omnicare pharmacists then recommended that nursing home patients with signs of Alzheimer’s disease be put on the powerful schizophrenia drug Risperdal, which was later found to increase risk of death in the elderly.

Confidence About Race Relations Down in U.S.

When Barack Obama was sworn in as the first African-American president nearly a year ago, gray-haired veterans of the civil-rights movement wept and talked of their joy at seeing Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream realized. For many, it was a euphoric moment, and polls reflected an overwhelming optimism by both Black and White Americans that the election of the nation’s first Black president would improve America’s race relations. Today, many Americans aren’t quite so confident. A new survey of racial attitudes by the Pew Research Center indicates that 54 percent of Blacks and 32 percent of Whites believe Obama’s election has improved race relations. But that is down considerably from the numbers in a Pew poll taken just after Obama’s election, when nearly three-quarters of Blacks and almost half of Whites said they expected to see race relations improve.

Mortgage Plan Falls Short

The Obama administration’s mortgage relief plan provided help to only 7% of borrowers who signed up last year, another black mark for the struggling program. As of last month, only about 66,500 homeowners of the 900,000 enrolled had received permanent relief last year, the Treasury Department said Friday. Another 46,000 have been approved and should be completed soon. The plan was announced with great fanfare 11 months ago, but has done little to stem the foreclosure crisis or its drag on home prices. A record 2.8 million households were threatened with foreclosure last year, up more than 20% from a year earlier, RealtyTrac reported this week. Home prices, meanwhile, are down 30% nationally from the peak in mid-2006.

Economic News

Regulators on Friday shut down two small banks in Illinois and Minnesota, the second and third bank failures of 2010 following 140 closures last year amid the weak economy and mounting loan defaults. As the economy has soured, with unemployment rising, home prices tumbling and loan defaults soaring, bank failures have accelerated and sapped billions out of the federal deposit insurance fund. It fell into the red last year. The 140 bank failures last year were the highest annual tally since 1992, at the height of the savings and loan crisis. They cost the insurance fund more than $30 billion last year. The failures compare with 25 in 2008 and three in 2007.

Consumer inflation was tame in 2009, with prices rising 2.7%. Yet families felt squeezed as their spending power sank in the face of falling wages, job losses and higher prices for energy, medical care and education. A surge in energy prices last year offset the biggest drop in food costs in nearly a half century. Inflation-adjusted weekly wages for the 12 months ending in December were down 1.6%.

Over 100 Christian Teenagers Arrested in Egypt

ASSIST News Service reports that Egyptian State Security has intensified its intimidation of Christians in Nag Hammadi and neighboring Bahgoura by carrying out random arrests of Christian youth. Numerous members of families have been arrested, mostly at dawn, without warrants since Jan. 7. More than 100 Christian youth have been arrested without charge. The arrests of rests of Copts after every crime is the usual scenario as a pressure card in the hands of Egyptian State Security to force the church and Copts to accept “reconciliation,” in which Coptic victims give up all criminal and civil charges against the perpetrators. Bishop Kyrollos was reportedly asked to issue statements downplaying the negligence of State Security in the Jan. 5 drive-by shootings that killed six Christians and a security guard.

Afghanistan

Taliban militants struck in the heart of the Afghan capital Monday, launching suicide attacks on key government targets in a clear sign the insurgents plan to escalate their fight as the U.S. and its allies ramp up a campaign to end the war. At least five people, including a child, were killed and nearly 40 wounded, officials said.

A suicide bomber killed 20 people — including three children — in a market in central Afghanistan in the deadliest attack against Afghan civilians in more than three months. Suicide bombings and other attacks have become the No. 1 killer of Afghan civilians in the intensifying war between U.S.-led forces and the Taliban. A United Nations report released this week found that the number of Afghan civilians killed in war-related violence rose last year to its highest level of the 8-year-old war — with nearly 70% of the deaths blamed on the Taliban and their allies.

Afghanistan‘s parliament Saturday rejected more than half of President Hamid Karzai‘s second list of Cabinet nominees — including two of three women — dealing him a fresh political blow as his government struggles to face the growing Taliban threat.

Pakistan

Five Americans arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of terrorism told a court Monday that they had been tortured by police — charges that could add to political sensitivities surrounding the case. The men made the allegations during a hearing before a special anti-terrorism court in Sargodha. The session was held in order for police to submit a charge sheet alleging that the suspects had conspired in a terrorist act, a formal legal step that brings them closer to a possible indictment. Prison authorities and police denied any ill-treatment. A U.S. Embassy spokesman said he had no immediate comment about the torture allegations, but noted consular officials have visited the men.

U.S. unmanned aircraft fired on a house in Pakistan‘s volatile tribal region Sunday, killing at least a dozen people in an area hit by a surge of such strikes since the beginning of the year, intelligence officials said. Four missiles slammed into a building in the Shaktoi area of South Waziristan that intelligence officials said was used by Uzbek militants fighting with the Pakistani Taliban. At least one suspected U.S. drone fired on a house in Pakistan‘s volatile tribal region, killing 20 people in the 11th such attack since militants in the area orchestrated a deadly suicide bombing against the CIA in Afghanistan, intelligence officials said.

Philippines

Fire raced through a slum near the main port in the Philippine capital, killing a 5-year-old girl, gutting hundreds of shanties and leaving 4,000 people homeless, an official said Sunday. Fires in Manila’s overcrowded slums are common, with the tight living conditions allowing flames to quickly spread through houses made of light materials. Saturday’s fire destroyed 500 shanties.

Earthquakes

The island of Hispaniola, home to both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, sits on the Enriquillo fault, the boundary between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates. It is a slip-strike fault, where two portions of the Earth‘s crust are sliding past each other. Tuesday’s 7.0 Haiti earthquake, which centered just 10 miles southeast of the capital of Port-au-Prince in the southern portion of the island, was not unexpected,. But while the scientific community was aware there was a potential problem, little was done by Haiti to prepare.

Earthquake monitors say a 6.3 magnitude temblor has shaken the ocean floor between South America and Antarctica, too deep and far from land to cause any damage. The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake hit at 8 a.m. Sunday in Drake Passage, about 220 miles southeast of Ushuaia, Argentina, at a depth of 13 miles.

Weather

Residents of canyons and foothills braced for possible mudslides as a series of powerful storms is forecast to begin pounding the West Coast today with heavy rain and snow, strong winds and high surf. National Weather Service meteorologist Jamie Meier said the foothills and mountain areas around Los Angeles could receive 8 to 16 inches of rain this week. Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies went door-to-door Sunday, warning residents in the most vulnerable areas that they should leave for safer ground when the rains start and before mandatory evacuations are issued.

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