Palin Tells ‘Tea Party’ Activists: It’s Revolution Time

Sarah Palin declared “America is ready for another revolution” and repeatedly assailed President Obama on Saturday before adoring “tea party” activists, a seemingly natural conservative constituency should she run for president. Her audience waved flags and erupted in cheers during multiple standing ovations as Palin gave the keynote address at the first national convention of the “tea party” coalition, an anti-establishment grass-roots network motivated by anger over the growth of government, budget-busting spending and Obama’s policies. Catering to her crowd, Palin talked of limited government, strict adherence to the Constitution, pro-life policies and the “God-given right” of freedom. She said the “fresh, young and fragile” movement is the future of American politics because it’s “a ground-up call to action” to both major political parties to change how they do business. “You’ve got both party machines running scared,” she said.

Military Poll Shows Less Opposition to Gays

Opposition to gays serving openly in the military has declined sharply among active-duty troops since 2004, the Military Times newspaper reports. The poll of about 3,000 active-duty troops will show that opposition has dropped from nearly two-thirds (65%) in 2004 to about half (51%) today. Earlier this week,  Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress the time had come  to end both the law banning open service by gays and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. One major concern voiced in the survey and interviews: how to  implement new policies for sharing close quarters and living facilities with openly gay members.

EU Debt Crisis

The newly elected Socialist government revealed that last year’s budget deficit was more than three times as large as previously estimated. The EU says Greece’s financial figures have been fudged for years. With debt piling up to 113% of the economy, investors fear Greece won’t pay its debts, in the form of government bonds — or will need a lifeline from other EU countries to meet its 54 billion euro ($74 billion) borrowing needs this year. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has proposed deep budget cuts, a freeze on public sector wages, pension reforms, increases in fuel taxes and renewed efforts to rein in the rampant tax evasion in Greece.

Greece’s debt crisis has global implications because it’s the most visible example of the massive build-up in public deficits around the world after governments loosened the purse strings to mitigate the global credit crunch. Portugal and Spain are now also in the spotlight because their public finances have deteriorated badly during the last couple of years. Italy, Ireland and Belgium are also on the radar, while Britain, which doesn’t use the euro but is a member of the European Union, has been warned it may lose its triple A credit rating if it doesn’t introduce measures to bring its massive budget deficit down.

U.S. Drops Out of Moon Race

Forty years ago the U.S. raced to plant the first foot on the moon. Now, as India, Russia, South Korea and China compete to return for further exploration, the U.S has all but dropped out. Many argue that letting other countries win the race to return is akin to admitting failure. Beyond inspiring millions with the magnitude of what Americans are capable of, the race to the moon was viewed as essential to proving scientific competition for the country. Future space missions are uncertain following news that President Barack Obama is canceling the Constellation Program’s missions to the moon and ultimately Mars.

Texas Church Arsons

Eight Texas churches barely 150 miles apart have caught fire since New Year’s Day, putting pastors and congregations on edge and on guard wondering whether theirs is next. Authorities determined seven of those fires were intentionally set and they are investigating one that broke out Thursday as a possible arson. There have been no reported injuries or arrests. Six of the seven arsons were just nine days apart, sending many congregations in east Texas scurrying to install security systems and prompting volunteers to keep close eyes on church properties from dusk to dawn. All seven churches varied in size and denomination.

Obama Invites Republicans to Health Care Talks

In the first major step to revive his health care agenda after his party’s loss of a filibuster-proof Senate majority, President Obama on Sunday invited Republican and Democratic leaders to discuss possible compromises in a televised gathering later this month. Obama’s move came amid widespread complaints that efforts so far by him and his Democratic allies in Congress have been too partisan and secretive. The Feb. 25 meeting’s prospects for success are far from clear. GOP leaders demanded Sunday that Democrats start from scratch, and White House aides said Obama had no plans to do so.

  • Obama will most likely use the talks to shift blame to the Republicans

U.S. Swine Flu Cases Diminishing

One U.S. expert said the epidemic has “one foot in the grave,” and there are many reasons to believe there won’t be another wave later in the year. For one thing, the virus has shown no signs of mutating. The vaccine against it is effective. And roughly half the people in the U.S. probably have some immunity because they were infected with it or got vaccinated. The World Health Organization is witnessing an international decline as well, and is discussing criteria for declaring the pandemic over.

  • The worldwide hoopla over swine flu was clearly overstated

Gov. Who Linked Christians to Violence Latest Obama Pick

President Obama has picked to advise him on military actions inside the U.S. the Missouri governor whose state “Information Analysis Center” last year linked conservative organizations to domestic terrorism and said law enforcement officers should watch for suspicious individuals who may have bumper stickers from Ron Paul or pastor Chuck Baldwin. Missouri Gov. Jeremiah Nixon, a Democrat, is among Obama’s nominations for the 10 positions on Obama’s new “Council of Governors” that he will use for advice on “military activities in the United States.” It was in 2009 when the Missouri Information Analysis Center,issued a report that not only linked conservative groups to domestic terrorism, it also warned police to watch out for individuals with “radical” ideologies based on Christian views, such as opposing illegal immigration, abortion and federal taxes.

Rash of Retirements Push Social Security to Brink

Social Security’s annual surplus nearly evaporated in 2009 for the first time in 25 years as the recession led hundreds of thousands of workers to retire or claim disability. The impact of the recession is likely to hit the giant retirement system even harder this year and next. The Congressional Budget Office had projected it would operate in the red in 2010 and 2011, but a deeper economic slump could make those losses larger than anticipated. Since 1984, Social Security has raked in more in payroll taxes than it has paid in benefits, accumulating a $2.5 trillion trust fund. But because the government uses the trust fund to pay for other programs, tax increases, spending cuts or new borrowing will be required to make up the difference between taxes collected and benefits owed. “The moment of truth has arrived,” says Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., top Republican on the House Budget Committee.

  • The truth is there has never been a trust fund, only on paper. Those funds have been routinely spent as part of the overall budget. Now those misguided policies are coming home to roost.

Economic News

In January, a record 6.3 million people — 41.2% of the unemployed — had gone without jobs at least 27 weeks. The average unemployed American has been jobless more than 30 weeks, another grim record, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. The Economic Policy Institute figures there are 6.4 jobless people for every job opening.

Americans borrowed less for an 11th consecutive month in December, paying off credit cards while increasing borrowing for cars and other products. The mixed picture raises the hopes of economists and government officials that Americans may soon return to spending, a necessary condition for economic recovery. But the record 11-month decrease in overall borrowing shows consumers are still holding back amid lingering economic uncertainty and 9.7% unemployment.

  • Consumers have let officials down, but they are still encouraging us to follow their example and feed debt to the voracious god of materialism in defiance of Biblical principles

Non-performing loans in China have risen into the “trillions of renminbi” because of poor lending practices, an insolvency lawyer said. “We work really closely with SASAC, the state-owned enterprise regulator in China, and there are literally trillions and trillions of renminbi of, frankly, defaulting loans already in China that no one is doing anything about,” Neil McDonald, a Hong Kong-based business restructuring and insolvency partner with Lovells LLP, said at an Asia-Pacific Loan Market Association conference yesterday. “At some point there’s going to be a reckoning for that.”

Mexico

Across Mexico, the continuing ability of traffickers to topple governments, intimidate police and keep drug shipments flowing is raising doubts about the Mexican government’s 3-year-old, U.S.-backed war on the drug cartels. Far from eliminating the gangs, the battle has exposed criminal networks more ingrained than most Americans could imagine: Hidden economies that employ up to one-fifth of the people in some Mexican states. Business empires that include holdings as everyday as gyms and a day-care center. And the death toll continues to mount: Mexico saw 6,587 drug-related murders in 2009. Cartels have multiplied, improved their armament and are perfecting simultaneous, terrorist-style attacks. Some analysts are warning that Mexico is on the verge of becoming a “narco-state” like 1990s-era Colombia.

Canada

As the host of the 17-day Olympics that begin Feb. 12, Canada plans to spend about $900 million (U.S.) to keep the Games safe. Yet the costly security effort does not stop at the Canadian-U.S. border. The Vancouver Olympics, perhaps unlike any other recent Olympics, highlight an unusually close relationship between two neighboring countries for which security has become a binational responsibility amid renewed concerns about the international terror threat. U.S. officials have constructed an elaborate, $4 million communications complex where law enforcement, public health and military analysts representing 40 agencies will scrutinize potential threats to the Olympics. Vancouver’s proximity to the United States— just 30 miles from the U.S. border crossing in Blaine, Wash. — has spurred an extensive security effort on the U.S. side.

Haiti

Ten U.S. Baptist missionaries charged with child kidnapping returned to jail Friday after failing to persuade a judge to grant them provisional release pending the outcome of their case, their lawyer said. The weary looking Americans were led one by one into the back of a police van after spending half the day at a courthouse in the rubble-strewn capital. A judge scheduled three more days of hearings next week, starting Monday.

Nearly a month after the magnitude-7.0 earthquake Jan. 12, Port-au-Prince residents still complain about what to them seems chaotic and unfair aid distributions. Yet in interviews last week across the city and its suburbs, nearly all surveyed said they had benefited in some way from the help. There are gaps in the effort, however, and one is that relief supplies are not getting to rural areas where the United Nations estimates 482,000 refugees from Port-au-Prince have fled. Tens of thousands of people who were living in Port-au-Prince for jobs are returning to their impoverished home villages. Others left the capital in the hope of finding someplace better. Many are finding that things are often no better in the country’s outlying areas, even if there are buildings standing.

North Korea

Robert Park is back home with his family after spending 43 days in the hands of the North Koreans for entering the communist nation intent on urging a change in its leadership. North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted Park as saying he was ashamed of the “biased” view he once held of the country. Robert Park said he was now convinced “there’s complete religious freedom for all people everywhere” in North Korea, citing the return of the Bible he carried as he entered the country and a service he attended at Pongsu Church in Pyongyang, KCNA said.

  • North Korea is just using Park to counter justified allegations of widespread religious intolerance and abuse

Iran

Iran‘s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered his country’s atomic agency on Sunday to begin the production of higher enriched uranium, a move that’s likely to deepen international skepticism about the country’s real intentions on the crucial issue of enriched uranium. Producing enriched uranium is the international community’s core concern over Iran’s disputed nuclear program since it can be used to make nuclear weapons.

Iran’s state media says Tehran has arrested seven people linked to the U.S.-funded Radio Farda and accused some them of working for American spy agencies. State radio and the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday the suspects played a key role in provoking protesters during a violent anti-government demonstration in Tehran in late December. Radio Farda broadcasts in Farsi into Iran. It is based in Prague, the Czech Republic and Washington, D.C.

Iraq

Hundreds of protesters denounced Iraqis still loyal to Saddam Hussein‘s Baath Party on Sunday as tensions soared over the decision to blacklist suspected Baathists from next month’s election. Shiite officials, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his political allies, are trying to purge all high-level posts of Iraqis with ties to the Baath party, which was outlawed in Iraq in 2003. A decision to ban about 450 candidates from March 7 parliamentary elections because of suspected ties to Saddam’s regime has threatened to reopen wounds between once-dominant Sunnis and the Shiite majority. The ban is widely seen as targeting Sunnis, though Shiites are on the blacklist as well.

Afghanistan

The success of a planned major U.S.-Afghan offensive in the south depends on how quickly troops and civilian development workers can get public services up and running once the Taliban have been driven away, the top U.S. and NATO commander said Sunday. The military has widely publicized the upcoming offensive in Marjah — the biggest Taliban-held community in the south — although the precise date for the attack in Helmand province remains classified. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the element of surprise is not as important as letting Marjah’s estimated 80,000 residents know that an Afghan government is on its way to replace Taliban overlords and drug traffickers.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake shook several small islands off Japan’s southern coast on Sunday, rattling buildings over 100 miles away in Taiwan and causing officials to temporarily issue a tsunami warning. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. Japan’s Meteorological Agency said the earthquake hit at 3:10 p.m. and registered magnitude 6.6 on the Richter scale.

A moderate earthquake hit off the coast of Northern California Thursday, in the same area that was hit with a 6.5 quake less than a month ago.  Geologist says it hit a different fault, but locals say it struck the same nerve. The quake did not lead to any tsunami warnings despite striking under water. Thursday’s quake was felt in the city of Eureka which is about 47 miles from the epicenter. 

Burma

Eleven villages in Nyaunglebin District were attacked as villagers ran for their lives. When some people later returned to one village to retrieve some of their belongings, two men were shot and killed, including Saw Mya Kaw Htoo (48) who leaves a wife and six children. This is the terrible plight that has repeatedly confronted so many Christians in Burma. Thousands of families have had to hide in the jungle without food or shelter after fleeing their villages. Countless children have witnessed their parents’ being dragged out of their houses, tortured, raped, shot dead or even burned alive in their homes. These families have no shelter and no food; rice fields and crops have been destroyed.

  • Barnabas Fund supports a ministry in Burma that provides shelter, food and education for families left homeless and children left orphaned by the anti-Christian violence. If you would like to make a gift for the Christian children in Burma, please send your donation to project 75-821 (Christian orphans in Burma). Click here to donate online. If you prefer to telephone, dial: +44 1672 565031.

Weather

Residents in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. were faced Sunday with the prospect of clearing more than two feet of snow in some areas. Hundreds of thousands of people from Pennsylvania to New Jersey to Virginia were without power. The heavy, wet snow snapped tree limbs onto power lines and several roofs collapsed under the weight. Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth-largest city, was virtually shut down with a record of nearly 27 inches while Washington D.C. received about a foot-and-a-half. The snow comes less than two months after a Dec. 19 storm dumped more than 16 inches (40 centimeters) on Washington. According to the National Weather Service, Washington has received more than a foot of snow only 13 times since 1870. A new winter storm is on track to hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning which could dump up to another foot of snow in Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Thunderous mudslides damaged dozens of homes, swept away cars and pushed furniture into the streets of the foothills north of Los Angeles on Saturday as intense winter rain poured down mountains denuded by a summer wildfire. No injuries were reported but residents and emergency responders were caught off guard by the unpredicted ferocity of the storm, which damaged more than 40 homes and dozens of vehicles. Some 540 homes were eventually evacuated at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains after heavy rains overflowed debris basins, carried away cement barricades and filled houses with mud and rocks.

A massive avalanche hit an Indian army training center at a ski resort town in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday, killing at least 11 soldiers and trapping nearly 50 others. Fifteen soldiers, all in need of emergency medical care, were found during the search-and-rescue operation underway at Gulmarg. The avalanche hit a training center at the army’s High Altitude Warfare School at about 11 a.m. and swept away soldiers during a training session. About 400 people, including 30 civilian workers, were at the training center, but the avalanche hit only one portion of the facility.

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