Embryonic Stem Cell Research Fails In California

Five years after a budget-busting $3 billion was allocated to embryonic stem cell research, there have been no cures, no therapies and little progress. Supporters of the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, passed in 2004, held out hopes of imminent medical miracles that were being held up only by President Bush’s policy of not allowing federal funding of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) beyond existing stem cell lines and which involved the destruction of embryos created for that purpose. Five years later, ESCR has failed to deliver and backers of Prop 71 are admitting failure. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state agency created to, as some have put it, restore science to its rightful place, is diverting funds from ESCR to research that has produced actual therapies and treatments: adult stem cell research.

  • Only adult stem cell research has achieved results without having to destroy life. Perhaps God knows what He’s doing after all.

Only 2 in 5 Presbyterians Affirm Jesus as Only Way to Salvation

The Christian Post reports that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s research indicates that only two in five of its members believe Jesus is the only way to heaven. According to the church’s latest “Religious and Demographic Profile of Presbyterians” report, only 39 percent of members agree or strongly that “only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved.” Among PC(USA) pastors, the number dropped to 35 percent. Among members, only 43 percent disagree or strongly disagree that “all the world’s religions are equally good ways of helping a person find ultimate truth.”

  • Our mainline denominations are leading the “great falling away” prophesied by the Bible

Obama’s Agenda Takes a Big Hit in Massachusetts

In one of the most shocking turnabouts in modern political history, GOP underdog Scott Brown has single-handedly captured the so-called “Kennedy seat” in Massachusetts, wiped out the Democratic supermajority in Congress, and pushed the president’s Obamacare agenda to the very brink of a stunning defeat. One year to the day after his euphoric inauguration, President Obama will spend today trying to rescue his legislative agenda after an election upset in Massachusetts that jeopardizes his top domestic priority, health care. Republican Scott Brown’s triumph over Democrat Martha Coakley in Tuesday’s special Senate race marks the third statewide loss in a row for the president’s party and the one most fraught with political and policy implications. Brown gives the Republicans the 41st vote they need to block legislation in the Senate. Brown, one of only five Republicans in the 40-member state Senate, is the first Republican to win a Massachusetts Senate race since 1972. He will be stepping into a seat occupied for 47 years by Sen. Edward Kennedy, a liberal icon and chief advocate for expanding the nation’s health care coverage.

Obama’s Approval Ratings Spiral Downward

When Barack Obama was inaugurated one year ago Wednesday, his approval rating in the Gallup Poll was a lofty 67%. No more. The latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll puts his standing at 50%, lower than any post-World War II president starting his second year in office except Ronald Reagan, who was at 49%. The poll finds that 50% or more disapproval on health care and the economy. On handling the situation in Afghanistan there is an almost even divide: 48% approve, 47% disapprove.

Kids’ Electronic Media Use Jumps to 53 Hours a Week

Kids these days spend so much time with electronic media — cellphones, iPods, video games and computers — that it might as well be a full-time job: more than 53 hours a week, a study finds. Compared with peers a decade ago, young people spend 79 more minutes of free time each day listening to music, watching TV and movies, playing video games and hanging out online. Nearly twice as many now say they do at least two of these at the same time. The findings, out Wednesday in a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of 2,002 people ages 8 to 18, show that young people spend seven hours and 38 minutes using media in a typical day — up from six hours and 19 minutes a decade earlier. About the only thing that seems to be fading: ink. Though daily book readership has held steady at about 47% since 1999, the percentage of young people who say they read a magazine every day has plummeted from 55% to 35%. It’s worse for newspapers, down from 42% to 23%.

The survey also reveals that the more media they use, the less happy young people tend to be. Heavy media users, it finds, are more likely to have bad grades, more likely to be “often sad or unhappy,” less likely to get along well with their parents and twice as likely to “get into trouble a lot.” Actually, the findings present a sort of chicken-and-egg scenario: Does consuming a lot of media make children’s lives more troubled, or do troubled kids simply consume more media?

Debt to Dwarf GDP

A blue-ribbon panel that includes three former heads of the Congressional Budget Office is telling President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress that the federal deficit must be cut now or the national debt within about two generations will be 600 percent of the gross domestic product. “The debt level of the United States is unsustainable, something has to give,” said Rudolph Penner, former head of the CBO and co-chair of a report issued last week by the National Research Council and the National Academy of Public Administration. The report concludes federal deficit spending is so out of control that unless Obama and Democrat leaders on the Hill make changes now, debt in 2080 will be six times what the nation produces.

Economic News

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that construction of new homes and apartments fell 4% in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 557,000. Applications for new building permits, a gauge of future activity, rose 11% to an annual rate of 653,000, a far stronger showing than economists had predicted and the highest level of activity since October 2008. Another report showed that inflation pressures at the wholesale level eased in December as a drop in energy prices offset a big jump in food costs.

IBM (IBM) said Tuesday that it managed a 9% increase in profit in the last quarter as the technology company’s revenue grew for the first time in a year and a half.  American Airlines ended 2009 with a loss and 2010 could have a rocky start if the carrier loses a key partner in the Asian market. The parent of American says it lost $344 million in the fourth quarter as traffic fell and many business travelers stayed home or bought cheaper tickets. Japan Airlines filed for bankruptcy Tuesday, and reports in the Japanese press say the airline wants to dump American and form a partnership with Delta Air Lines.

Tax increases are hitting employers nationwide this year as states struggle to pay the 5.5 million Americans currently collecting state jobless benefits. So far, high unemployment and, in many cases, poor planning have prompted 25 states to borrow more than $25 billion from the federal government to keep benefit checks in the mail. In other states, unemployment compensation funds are still in the black, but reserves are rapidly dwindling. Nine more states likely will be borrowing by mid-year, according to a ProPublica analysis of state revenue and benefits.

  • States borrowing from the bankrupt federal government? Deeper and deeper we go.

The Census Bureau is finding itself with the most highly skilled, highly educated workforce in its 220-year history — thanks in part to a struggling economy that has produced millions of people eager to work. The bureau already has recruited engineers, former corporate vice presidents, college professors and radio disc jockeys to help manage the 2010 Census, which will attempt to count everyone in the United States beginning in March.

Bank robberies surprisingly plunged nearly 20% last year to their lowest point in at least a decade even as Americans grappled with a deep recession and widespread unemployment. Bankers and investigators had anticipated that the nation’s sputtering economy would set off a new wave of holdups as more people became desperate for money. They’re stealing less, too: In the first nine months of last year, robbers made off with about $30.5 million, down more than 25% from the same period the year before.

Haiti

A 6.1-magnitude earthquake that lasted about five to seven seconds awoke Haitians, aid workers and journalists in Port-au-Prince at 6:03 a.m. ET Wednesday. The morning quake was the largest of more than 40 significant aftershocks that have followed the apocalyptic Jan. 12 quake that left much of the country in ruins. The extent of additional damage or injuries was not immediately clear. The U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday’s quake was centered about 35 miles (60 kilometers) northwest of a and 6.2 miles (9.9 kilometers) below the surface — a little further from the capital than last week’s epicenter was.

The U.S. Air Force air-dropped more than 14,000 packaged meals and water supplies into Haiti‘s capital Monday in an attempt to overcome severe supply bottlenecks, including a lack of fuel, that are still plaguing relief efforts. The Pentagon had said previously it was hesitant to use airdrops because it could start riots among Haitians suffering from hunger since last week’s earthquake. Congestion at the Port-au-Prince airport prompted the reversal. “There is no other way” to effectively distribute aid right now, said Agron Ferati of International Medical Corps, a medical aid agency. The United Nations said it had run out of fuel for trucks distributing aid, though more was on the way. Ferati warned violence could worsen unless Haitians see “immediate help.”

Limited medical supplies, poor travel conditions that hinder delivery of what medical supplies, contaminated drinking water and a broken sanitation system probably will delay healing of earthquake-inflicted wounds and magnify any pre-existing conditions. Those who incurred minor breaks and abrasions during the quake, who’d normally be on the road to recovery if treated in the U.S., are at risk for more serious illness.

The U.S. military dramatically boosted the amount of troops and aid coming into Haiti on Monday, raising hopes that the rapid increase in help and people would be able to meet the most pressing needs of the earthquake-ravaged country. The latest casualty report, from the European Commission citing Haitian government figures, doubled previous estimates of the dead from the magnitude-7.0 quake, to approximately 200,000, with some 70,000 bodies recovered and trucked off to mass graves.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved 3,500 extra troops and police officers to beef up security in Haiti and ensure that desperately needed aid gets to earthquake victims.

Afghanistan

Afghan forces tightened security in Kabul on Tuesday, a day after a brazen Taliban assault on the city center left 12 people dead and raised concerns about the government’s ability to protect the people. Troops searched vehicles entering the capital and increased the number of checkpoints in the city, along with foot patrols and vehicle patrols. The streets otherwise were calm and traffic was back to normal levels a day after the attack, which sent terrified Afghans racing for cover as explosions and machine-gun fire echoed across the city. Afghan forces along with NATO advisers managed to restore order after nearly five hours of fighting.

Afghanistan’s finance minister says a joint panel has agreed to boost the number of Afghan security forces from the current level of about 191,000 to 400,000 within five years. The announcement came Wednesday after a meeting of Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board to finalize a government action plan to be presented at a Jan. 28 international conference in London to shore up the Afghan leadership.

Half of all Afghan adults paid at least one bribe to a public official over the course of a year to cut through red tape or get help with poor service, the U.N. said Tuesday in a report that documents the extraordinary depth of corruption in Afghanistan. Afghans paid nearly $2.5 billion in bribes — worth almost a quarter of the country’s GDP — in the 12-month period ending last autumn. Most of those surveyed said they could not expect a single public service without paying favors. Many felt it was “normal” to pay extra for services, better treatment or avoiding fines.

  • The culture of corruption runs deep in Afghanistan. Stability is a pipe-dream

Iraq

Officials said gunmen broke into the office of an Iraqi humanitarian organization in Baghdad on Monday and killed five employees. The attackers also left behind a bomb, which exploded later when security forces arrived at the scene, wounding two members of Iraqi security forces. Attacks against humanitarian groups are relatively rare amid the violence that continues to plague Iraq despite security gains over the past two years.

Iran

Diplomats said Tuesday Iran has formally responded to a nuclear fuel swap proposal but rejected the call to ship out most of the enriched uranium it would need to make a warhead. The draft plan would take most of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium to Russia and then France, before returning it in the form of fuel rods for its research reactor. The US and its allies would like to strip Tehran of its enriched material as a means to delay its ability to make nuclear warheads. Meanwhile, Military Intelligence  chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin warned the Knesset on Tuesday that Iran is still progressing in its nuclear program “at a rate of a number of kilograms [of enriched uranium] every day… They are also advancing on the military track, but that is being done secretly.”

Nigeria

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that more than 40 people have been killed in the Nigerian city of Jos after Muslim youths attacked Christians near a Catholic Church. Around 200 Muslim youths claimed to gather yesterday to renovate a house next to St. Michael’s Catholic Church, but allegedly launched an unprovoked assault on female passerby before attacks those in the church. The attacks escalated to torched houses, business, and other local churches. Angered by the violence, Christian youths gathered to launch a counter attack, and the violence soon spread to other areas of Jos North. Plateau State’s Police Commissioner said that 30 armed people had been arrested in connection with the attack, five of whom were wearing military uniform.

India

Christian Today reports that displaced Christians in Orissa face premature eviction from their refugee camps prior to this month’s EU delegation visit. “The local government has ordered to vacate people immediately and if we refuse police force will be used,” a worried survivor said. Many of the camp’s residents have been there since 2008, when Hindu extremists blamed Christians for the murder of their leader and burned Christian homes. The European Union delegation will visit for a fact-finding mission starting Jan. 27, and Indian officials are reportedly trying to project a peaceful image. “We cannot go back to our village, because they will not allow us to live there if we do not convert to Hinduism,” said Meena Nayak, a mother of two. “The government is not prepared to provide security and necessary helps. On top of it they are trying to throw us out from here also.”

Weather

The U.N. climate change panel has acknowledged that its warning that Himalayan glaciers may melt by 2035 was not backed by sufficient scientific evidence. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the claim in its 2007 report was made from poorly substantiated estimates of glacier recession. The statement on Wednesday came after the Nobel-winning panel was criticized for its forecast on the Himalayan glaciers. India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has said the projection is not based on any scientific evidence.

  • The global warming conspiracy continues to unravel

The decade of 2000-09 was the Earth‘s warmest on record, according to data released last week by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The climate center reported that the decade’s average global surface temperature was almost 1 degree above the 20th-century average. This shattered the 1990s reading, which was 0.65°F above average. The global average is based on readings from more than 7,200 ground weather stations around the world and from ships and buoys at sea. Global weather data go back to 1880.

  • That’s only 11 decades worth of readings, hardly sufficient to determine long-term trends

Another massive winter storm system is dumping record rainfalls in the eastern Mediterranean region, bringing relief to the drought stricken area and replenishing water supplies, but also causing widespread flooding and severe damage. An earlier wave of wet weather on Sunday brought flash floods to the arid Negev in Israel, causing at least two deaths in the southern Arava region and destroying a bridge. The current storm is wreaking havoc in the northern Galilee region and more rain forecast for the rest of the week. In northern Israel, several homes, businesses and transportation routes were damaged, and several concrete sewage system covers were blown off by the water pressure from below in Haifa, creating mini-geysers all over the city.

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