Abortion Industry in Decline

A new report asserts the U.S. abortion industry is in significant decline, held together largely through the $300 million-plus that federal taxpayers deliver annually to its major player, Planned Parenthood. “It is very clear that the only abortion group expanding its business is Planned Parenthood, and the only reason it can do so is with the help of our tax dollars,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. While Title X funding isn’t supposed to go directly for abortions, it does pay the mortgage, light bills, staff salaries and the like. Operation Rescue’s goal in listing the names and addresses of abortion businesses is to encourage pro-life activists to maintain a prayer and sidewalk counseling presence at the sites and act as “watchdogs over the abortion cartel.”

Kentucky Panel Approves Bible Classes for Public Schools

Kentucky may follow the lead of Texas and other states in allowing Bible classes to be taught in public schools. Kentucky’s Senate Education Committee has unanimously approved legislation that would effectively return the Bible to the state’s classrooms. The legislation is constitutional because the Bible will be taught from a literary perspective, not a religious one. The proposed Bible courses would be offered as electives, meaning schools could choose whether to offer them as a social studies credit and students could decide whether to take them.

Most Americans Believe Government Broken

Americans overwhelmingly believe that the government is broken, according to a national poll released Sunday. But the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey also indicates that the public overwhelmingly holds out hope that what’s broken can be fixed. Eighty-six percent of people questioned say that the system of government is broken, with 14 percent saying no. Of the 86 percent, 81 percent say that the government can be fixed, but 5 percent say it’s beyond repair. The percentage of Americans who believe the government is broken has increased by eight points since 2006.

Obama’s New Health Care Strategy — His Own Plan

President Obama begins a big health care week with a new approach — his own health care plan. The White House postsed the new Obama plan at 10 a.m. EST, after nearly a year in which the president outlined general principles while leaving most of the details to Congress (see www.whitehouse.gov). The results included two very different House and Senate plans that Obama is now trying to fuse into a starting point for Thursday’s big health care summit with congressional leaders from both parties. Among other items, the Obama plan will reportedly call for new federal restrictions on health insurance rate hikes. The plan would require most Americans to carry health insurance coverage, with federal subsidies to help many afford the premiums. Hewing close to a stalled Senate bill, it would bar insurance companies from denying coverage to people with medical problems or charging them more. The expected price tag is around $1 trillion over 10 years.

Obama Unveils $1.5 billion Plan for Homeowners

President Obama has now announced his $1.5 billion plan to help struggling homeowners during a town meeting at Green Valley High School in Henderson, Nev. The money will be distributed to state housing agencies in the nation’s hardest-hit housing markets. The money is targeted to Nevada, California, Arizona, Florida and Michigan, states where average home prices have fallen by more than 20% from the peak. The funds, from money earmarked for housing stabilization in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, will be provided for state programs such as those to assist unemployed homeowners and mortgage holders who owe more than their houses are worth.

Global Warming Suffers Serious Blows

Proponents of man-made global warming have suffered a serious blow as leading climate change scientist Phil Jones now acknowledges that the earth may have been warmer in medieval times than now. Jones also conceded in an interview with the BBC that during the past 15 years there has been no “statistically significant” warming. Jones recently stepped down as director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit in Britain after leaked e-mails indicated that scientists there were manipulating data to strengthen the argument for man-made global warming.

Scientists have been forced to withdraw a study on projected sea level rise due to global warming after finding mistakes that undermined the findings. Announcing the formal retraction of the paper from the journal, author Mark Siddall said: “It’s one of those things that happens. People make mistakes and mistakes happen in science.” He said there were two separate technical mistakes in the paper, which were pointed out by other scientists after it was published. A formal retraction was required, rather than a correction, because the errors undermined the study’s conclusion.

Austin Plane Crash Exposes Gap in U.S. Air Security

After 9/11, cockpit doors were sealed, air marshals were added and airport searches became more aggressive, all to make sure an airliner could never again be used as a weapon. Yet little has been done to guard against attacks with smaller planes. That point was driven home with chilling force on Thursday when a Texas man with a grudge against the IRS crashed his single-engine plane into an office building in a fiery suicide attack. “It’s a big gap,” said R. William Johnstone, an aviation security consultant and former staff member of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks. “It wouldn’t take much, even a minor incident involving two simultaneously attacking planes, to inflict enough damage to set off alarm bells and do some serious harm to the economy and national psyche.”

No Misconduct for Bush Interrogation Lawyers

Justice Department lawyers showed “poor judgment” but did not commit professional misconduct when they authorized CIA interrogators to use waterboarding and other harsh tactics at the height of the U.S. war on terrorism, an internal review released Friday found. The decision closes the book on one of the major lingering investigations into the counterterrorism policies of George W. Bush’s administration. Liberal Democrats had pressed for action against the authors of the so-called torture memos, and they indicated they aren’t finished discussing the matter. Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said he was “deeply offended” by the legal memos and planned to hold a hearing Feb. 26.

Obama Tops Bush at Ducking Reporters

President Obama, who pledged to establish the most open and transparent administration in history, on Monday surpasses his predecessor’s record for avoiding a full-fledged question-and-answer session with White House reporters in a formal press conference. President George W. Bush’s longest stretch between prime-time, nationally televised press conferences was 214 days, from April 4 to Nov. 4, 2004. Mr. Obama tops that record on Monday, going 215 days – stretching back to July 22. The president has seemingly shunned formal, prime-time sessions since his last disastrous presser, when he said police in Cambridge, Mass., “acted stupidly” by arresting a Harvard professor who broke into a home that turned out to be his own. The off-the-cuff comment took over the news cycle for a week.

Arizona Leads Nation in Immigrant Decline

Arizona has seen the sharpest decline in undocumented population of any state, losing 18 percent, or more than 100,000, of its illegal immigrants in 2008, according to a new government report. Experts agree that the decrease in Arizona’s undocumented immigrant population was fueled by the staggering loss of jobs the state experienced during the recession, and that to lesser extent immigration crackdowns also contributed to the decline. Experts also agree that the number of new illegal immigrants entering the country is in decline. If more immigrants than normal have departed, that could boost the argument of those who support more immigration enforcement, such as employer crackdowns. The statistics show illegal immigrants will leave the country, they say, if government makes it harder for them to get work.

DNA, Hot Line Lead to Arrests in Texas Church Fire

Investigators say DNA evidence collected at the site of one of several Texas churches destroyed by arson links one of two suspects to the blaze. The church near Tyler, about 90 miles east of Dallas, was among 10 in east Texas burned since the beginning of 2010. A telephone hot line established as the number of church fires mounted produced a tip that implicated one of the pair, who could face life in prison if convicted. No motive has yet been established for the two young men.

EPA to Spend $2.2B to Protect Great Lakes

The federal government plans to spend $2.2 billion to clean up pollution in the Great Lakes and halt the spread of invasive species over the next five years. The EPA will use the money to prevent beach pollution, clean up toxic hot spots, and fight Asian carp and other invasive species. The Great Lakes — spanning from Minnesota to New York— have faced environmental threats for decades, ranging from a legacy of industrial pollution to disappearing wetlands and invasive species that threaten local fish populations. State and federal agencies have attempted in the past to fix some of those problems, though most of the efforts have been modest.

Placebo Effect Stronger than Doctors Believed

When it comes to the placebo effect, it really may be mind over matter, a new analysis suggests. In a review of recent research, international experts say there is increasing evidence that fake treatments, or placebos, have an actual biological effect in the body. The doctor-patient relationship, plus the expectation of recovery, may sometimes be enough to change a patient’s brain, body and behavior, experts reported online Friday in Lancet, the British medical journal.

Governors Brace for More Economic Turmoil

On the recession’s front lines, governors are struggling to chart the road ahead for states staggered by unrelenting joblessness and cut-to-the-bone budgets even as Washington reports signs of economic growth. “The worst probably is yet to come,” warned Gov. Jim Douglas, R-Vt., chairman of the National Governors Association, at the group’s meeting Saturday. He called the situation “fairly poor” in most states. States face budget holes totaling $134 billion over the next three years, according to the governors, who explained that tax collections keep declining as Medicaid costs soar. High unemployment persists. States cut 18,000 jobs in January alone and more job losses are anticipated. Because states are required to balance their budgets, shortfalls will be made up by raising taxes or fees or cutting services.

  • Too bad the federal government isn’t also required to balance its budget

Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs

Even as the American economy shows tentative signs of a rebound, the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits, the New York Times reported Sunday. Economists fear that the nascent recovery will leave more people behind than in past recessions, failing to create jobs in sufficient numbers to absorb the record-setting ranks of the long-term unemployed. Roughly 2.7 million jobless people will lose their unemployment check before the end of April unless Congress approves the Obama administration’s proposal to extend the payments, according to the Labor Department.

Economic News

Regulators shut four banks from California to Florida on Friday, boosting to 20 the number of U.S. bank failures this year following the 140 closures last year in the worst financial climate in decades. They cost the insurance fund more than $30 billion. There were 25 bank failures in 2008 and just three in 2007.

The number of borrowers falling behind on their mortgage payments dropped at the end of last year, a sign the foreclosure crisis may be beginning to ebb. The Mortgage Bankers Association said Friday that the percentage of borrowers who missed just one payment on their home loans fell to 3.6% in the October to December quarter, down from 3.8% in the third quarter.

Oil prices are again flirting with $80 a barrel after a two-week rally fueled by promising economic reports and worries that troubles in Europe and the Middle East could eventually tighten supplies. The rally in crude comes even though the U.S. is still flush with very large supplies.

Millions of seniors who signed up for popular private health plans through Medicare are facing sharp premium increases this year — another sign that spiraling costs are a problem even for those with solid insurance. A study released Friday by a major consulting firm found that premiums for Medicare Advantage plans offering medical and prescription drug coverage jumped 14.2% on average in 2010. Some 8.5 million elderly and disabled Americans are in the plans, which provide more comprehensive coverage than traditional Medicare.

Netherlands

The Dutch coalition government collapsed Saturday over irreconcilable differences on whether to extend the Netherlands‘ military mission in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announced that the second largest party in his three-party alliance is quitting, in a breakdown of trust in what had always been an uneasy partnership.Tthe resignation of the Labor Party leaves his government with an unworkable majority, and political analysts said early elections appeared inevitable. The coalition, elected to a four-year term, marks its third year in office on Monday.

Afghanistan

Outnumbered and outgunned, Taliban fighters are mounting a tougher fight than expected in Marjah, Afghan officials said Sunday, as U.S.-led forces converged on a pocket of militants in a western section of the town. Despite ongoing fighting, the newly appointed civilian chief for Marjah said he plans to fly into the town Monday for the first time since the attack to begin restoring Afghan government control and winning over the population after years of Taliban rule. With fighter jets, drones and attack helicopters roaring overhead, Marine and Afghan companies advanced Sunday on a 2-square-mile area where more than 40 insurgents were believed holed up.

The Afghan Cabinet says at least 33 civilians are dead as the result of NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan — an incident that is inflaming already heightened sensitivities over noncombatant casualties in the war. In a statement released on Monday, the Afghanistan Council of Ministers strongly condemned the airstrike, saying it was “unjustifiable.” The Cabinet says initial reports indicate that NATO fired Sunday on a convoy of three vehicles killing at least 33 civilians, including four women and one child.

Pakistan

Teams of coordinated suicide attackers struck two police stations in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, killing a local police chief and wounding four officers in the latest assault on government officials Elsewhere in the troubled northwest, the Pakistani army said it had killed 30 militants Saturday in an airstrike in South Waziristan, a Taliban-dominated sanctuary near the Afghan border where the army launched a major offensive in October.

Iraq

The Sunni wing of Iraq‘s leading nonsectarian political coalition is dropping out of next month’s elections, saying the vote will be illegitimate because of a Shiite-ordered ballot purge of hundreds of candidates. A statement Saturday by the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue stopped short of urging Sunnis to boycott the March 7 parliamentary elections. But it invited other political parties to withdraw. At least one, the National Council for Tribes of Iraq, said it would.

A spate of defaced, torn down or otherwise trashed posters of candidates across the country has prompted the Shiite-led Iraqi government to vow to impose prison sentences of up to a year on vandals. But others, particularly Sunnis, see the harsh punishment as just the latest display of power by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his allies.

The Christian Post reports that another Christian student was killed in the Iraqi city of Mosul this week. Wissam George, 20, was shot and killed on Wednesday, becoming the fourth Christian gunned down in Mosul this week. “We don’t want elections, we don’t want representatives, we don’t want our rights, we just want to be alive,” Baasil Abdul Noor, a priest at Mar Behnam church in Mosul, declared Tuesday. “It has become a nightmare,” he said. “The security forces should not be standing by and watching. We hold them responsible, because they are supposed to be protecting us, and protecting all Iraqis.”

Japan

Japan‘s transport ministry may review and improve its car recall system, reports said Sunday, as Toyota Motor Corp. battles accusations it may have delayed acting on drivers’ complaints. The step reflects deepening concerns in Japan over Toyota’s recalls of more than 8 million vehicles, most of them in overseas markets. The agency may require automakers to move more quickly to fix defects and may expand the types of problems subject to reporting requirements.

Weather

Rescue workers in Madeira dug through heaps of mud, boulders and debris Sunday, searching for victims buried by floods and mudslides that have killed at least 42 people on the popular Portuguese island. More than 120 other people were injured and an unknown number were missing, possibly swept away or smothered, authorities said. Heavy rain lashed the island Saturday, turning some streets in the capital of Funchal into raging rivers of mud, water and debris.

Moroccan officials say 36 people died and 71 were injured when a mosque minaret collapsed during weekly Friday prayers. The collapse happened in Meknes, in northern Morocco, which has suffered heavy rainfall for several days.

A band of winter storms that brought more than a foot of snow to southwest Colorado briefly closed some mountain passes for avalanche control work Sunday and prompted travel warnings for parts of Nevada and southern Utah. Avalanche control work briefly shut down U.S. 160 over Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado during the morning, and Colorado 65 at Grand Mesa was closed by an avalanche. An avalanche early Saturday also closed the heavily traveled Interstate 70 over Vail Pass for several hours. A mixture of freezing rain, sleet and snow caused numerous accidents, several of them fatal, in Kansas, authorities said Sunday.

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