40,000 Haitians Profess Faith in Christ since Earthquake

Baptist Press reports that 40,127 Haitians have made professions of faith in Jesus Christ since a massive earthquake hit the country Jan. 12, according Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti. “Haiti is ripe for a spiritual movement from God,” said Craig Culbreth, director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s partnership missions department, which coordinates the work of the CMBH. During a Feb. 16-17 citywide holiday observance in Cap Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city, Culbreth saw “thousands upon thousands filling the streets where people are seeking God and asking Him to spare them from what happened in Port-au-Prince. For me, it was a New Testament expression of what it looks like when the Spirit of God shows up. I have never seen anything like it.” Since the earthquake, the CMBH pastors have distributed 51 tons of rice, which provided 437,750 servings to Haitians in Port-au-Prince and outlying areas where refugees have fled. Additional feedings are expected.

Earthquake Catastrophe in Chile

A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded, struck Chile early Saturday, killing at least 708 people (compared to 230,000 in Haiti), collapsing buildings and setting off a tsunami. A huge wave reached a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles off the Chilean coast. 1.5 million Chileans were affected and 500,000 homes severely damaged by the mammoth temblor. The earthquake hit a predominantly poor region of the country where some of the communities are in remote areas that will be difficult to reach. A tsunami caused by the quake that swept across the Pacific killed several people on a Chilean island but caused little damage in other countries, after precautionary evacuations of hundreds of thousands of people. In the 2½ hours following the 90-second quake, the U.S. Geological Survey reported 11 aftershocks, five of them measuring 6.0 or above.

Strong Earthquake Injures 2 in Japan

A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.9 rattled Japan’s southern islands early Saturday, injuring two and initially prompting fears of a tsunami. There were no reports of serious damage from the quake, believed to be the strongest in a century to hit Japan’s southern Okinawa Island. Japan’s Kyodo news agency said two people were hurt, but there were no reports of any deaths. The quake occurred off the coast of the island of Okinawa at a depth of 6.2 miles at 5:31 a.m. Saturday.

  • There will be… earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matt. 24:7-8)

Democrats Push Ahead on Health Care

Democrats pushed hard to revive President Obama‘s stalled health care overhaul on Friday — and pointed to glimmers of hope — but the long odds facing them seemed little changed after Obama’s extraordinary summit with both parties’ leaders. At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama would unveil a “way forward” next week on legislation that has been his foremost domestic priority. Some supporters of a House provision strictly banning federal financing for abortion — a complicated sticking point — indicated an openness to different language.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged her colleagues to back a major overhaul of health care even if it threatens their political careers, a call to arms that underscores the issue’s massive role in this election year. Pelosi, from San Francisco, is more liberal than scores of her Democratic colleagues. Her comments to ABC, in the interview released Sunday, seemed to acknowledge the widely held view that Democrats will lose House seats this fall — maybe a lot.

Toyota Withheld Crash Lawsuit Evidence

A House lawmaker said Friday that internal Toyota documents show the automaker deliberately withheld key vehicle design and testing evidence in lawsuits filed by Toyota drivers injured in crashes. In a letter to Toyota’s top North American executive, House oversight committee Chairman Edolphus Towns accused Toyota of shielding its testing data on potential problems with Toyota vehicles. Towns wrote that Toyota chose to enter into hefty settlements with plaintiffs to avoid disclosing the database. The Toyota documents “show a systematic disregard for the law and routine violation of court discovery orders in litigation,” Towns wrote in the letter to Yoshimi Inaba.

James Dobson Delivers Final Broadcast for Focus on Family

James Dobson made his last radio broadcast Friday for Focus on the Family, the conservative Christian ministry he founded 33 years ago and built into an influential political and social voice. Dobson, an outspoken opponent of abortion and gay marriage, has been gradually withdrawing from the organization, stepping down as president in 2003 and as chairman of the board last year. He plans to start a new show, “Family Talk with James Dobson,” this spring. Dobson said Friday the new show isn’t competition for Focus on the Family, noting that Focus agreed to donate $1 million to help him start. Co-hosts on the new show will be his son Ryan, who heads KOR World Ministry, and LuAnne Crane, a senior producer of Focus on the Family radio.

New Analysis Reasserts Video Games’ Link to Violence

A new review of 130 studies “strongly suggests” playing violent video games increases aggressive thoughts and behavior and decreases empathy. The results hold “regardless of research design, gender, age or culture,” the study reports in Psychological Bulletin, a journal of the American Psychological Association. The report notes that video game violence is “the only causal risk factor that is relatively easy for parents to do something about. But many games rated “E” (for “everyone”) contain violence. “The rating itself does not tell you whether it is a healthy or unhealthy game. Any game that involves killing or harming another character in order to advance is likely to be teaching inappropriate lessons to whoever is playing it.”

Economic News

Fannie Mae needs another $15 billion in federal assistance, bringing its total to more than $75 billion. And worse, the mortgage finance company warned its losses will continue this year. The rescue of Fannie Mae and sister company Freddie Mac is turning out to be one of the most expensive aftereffects of the financial meltdown. The new request means the total bill for the duo will top $127 billion. And the pain isn’t over. Fannie warned Friday that it will need even more money from the Treasury, as unemployment remains high and millions of Americans lose their homes through foreclosure.

The Commerce Department said Monday that personal spending rose 0.5% in January, slightly better than expected. But incomes edged up only 0.1%, significantly lower than the 0.4% gain that economists had expected. The income gain was the weakest showing in four months.

Iraq

Iraq on Friday announced the reinstatement of 20,000 former army officers who were dismissed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, in a gesture toward healing sectarian resentment over the disbanding of Saddam Hussein‘s military. But the timing of the announcement raised suspicions that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his allies were just currying votes in upcoming parliamentary election. The skepticism underscored how bitter feelings have become between Iraq’s factions ahead of the March 7 vote. Many had hoped the vote would be a chance to move past the Shiite-Sunni divisions that have racked Iraq since Saddam‘s fall nearly seven years ago, but instead the mistrust between the two sides has become starker.

Afghanistan

Marines and Afghan troops cleared the last major pocket of resistance in the former Taliban-ruled town of Marjah on Saturday — part of an offensive that is the run-up to a larger showdown this year in the most strategic part of Afghanistan‘s dangerous south. Although Marines say their work in Marjah isn’t done, Afghans are bracing for a bigger, more comprehensive assault in neighboring Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban where officials are talking to aid organizations about how to handle up to 10,000 people who could be displaced by fighting.

Insurgents struck Friday at hotels in the heart of Kabul with suicide attackers and a car bomb, killing at least 16 people — half of them foreigners — in an assault that showed the militants remain a potent force despite setbacks on the battlefield and the arrest of more than a dozen key leaders. At least six of the dead were Indian citizens, including some government officials. The Taliban has long opposed India‘s involvement in Afghanistan and its ties to an Afghan group that helped the U.S. oust the Islamist regime in late 2001.

Pakistan

A suicide car bomber attacked a police station Saturday in northwest Pakistan, killing four people and wounding about two dozen, underscoring the continuing security threat to the country despite army operations against militants. The blast also toppled a mosque next to the police station in Karak in North West Frontier Province. Both police and civilians were among the wounded.

Turkey

Religion News Service reports that a European human rights court has condemned Turkey for requiring citizens to specify their religious status on national identity cards. “This is in breach of the state’s duty of neutrality and impartiality, since it leads the State to make an assessment of the applicant’s faith,” the European Court of Human Rights said in a ruling issued on Feb. 2. “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs has a negative aspect—namely, an individual’s right not to be obliged to disclose his or her religion, or to act in a manner that might enable conclusions to be drawn as to whether he or she holds such beliefs.” The case was taken to the court in Strasbourg, France, in 2005 by Sinan Isik, a member of Turkey’s Alevi community, after local courts refused to allow him to remove the “Muslim” tag from his national identity document.

Philippines

Suspected al-Qaeda-linked militants raided a village in the southern Philippines early Saturday, killing 11 people in the country’s worst militant attack on civilians in nine years. Gunmen believed to be members of the extremist Abu Sayyaf group and backed by other armed groups attacked the militia detachment in the center of the village of Tubigan on the island province of Basilan. The gunmen strafed and torched several houses before escaping. One government-armed militiaman was killed as well as 10 civilians and 10 other villagers were wounded.

Africa

Al-Qaida’s terror network in North Africa is growing more active and attracting new recruits, threatening to further destabilize the continent’s already vulnerable Sahara region, according to U.S. defense and counterterrorism officials. The rapid recent rise of the al-Qaida group in Yemen — which spawned the Christmas airliner attack — is seen by U.S. officials and counterterrorism analysts as evidence that the North African militants could just as quickly take on a broader jihadi mission and become a serious threat to the U.S. and European allies.

Weather

Communities in the Northeast were cleaning up Sunday from a winter storm that packed ferocious winds as it dumped up to 3 feet of snow and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers. Snow totals from Tuesday through Saturday reached 36 inches in Oakland, Md., 43 inches in Randolph, N.H., and 20.9 inches in New York City’s Central Park. Power failures were severe and widespread, ranging from more than 330,000 in New Hampshire, to over 200,000 in Connecticut and New York and more than 100,000 in Maine and Massachusetts at the storm’s peak. The highest wind reported was 91 mph off Portsmouth, N.H. — well above hurricane force of 74 mph. Gusts also hit 60 mph or more from the mountains of West Virginia to New York’s Long Island and Massachusetts.

One climatologist calls it the “upside down winter” — lots of snow in some places where it usually doesn’t fall and relatively little in some where it usually does. It’s a winter when Baltimore has gotten more snow than Buffalo, Des Moines more than Denver. Seattle‘s January was the warmest on record. In mid-February there was more snow on American soil than any time in three decades, yet none in normally icy Plattsburg, N.Y., or Portland, Maine. On the same day in February that snowball fights broke out at Southern Mississippi University and streets were closed in Andalusia, Ala., lack of the white stuff canceled a sculpting contest in Barre, Vt., and a dog sled race in Laconia, N.H.

A violent late winter storm with fierce rain and hurricane-strength winds ripped across western Europe on Sunday, battering France and four other countries, leaving at least 51 people dead. At least a dozen people were missing Sunday and 59 others were injured. Nearly 900,000 people in France were without electricity. Rivers overflowed their banks in Brittany, while high tides and enormous waves swamped Atlantic Ocean communities.

An iceberg about the size of Luxembourg that struck a glacier off Antarctica and dislodged another massive block of ice could lower the levels of oxygen in the world’s oceans, Australian and French scientists said Friday. The two icebergs are now drifting together about 62 to 93 miles off Antarctica following the collision on Feb. 12th. The new iceberg is 48 miles long and about 24 miles wide and holds roughly the equivalent of a fifth of the world’s annual total water usage.

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