Dems Sweeten Health-Care Bill

With historic health-care change in the balance, Democrats plowed fresh billions into insurance subsidies for consumers on Thursday and added a $250 rebate for seniors facing high prescription-drug costs, last-minute sweeteners to sweeping $940 billion legislation headed for a climactic weekend vote. President Barack Obama scuttled an Asian trip in favor of last-minute lobbying at the White House on his signature issue, playing host to a procession of wavering Democrats seeking favors. The bill is presumed to expand health care to 32 million uninsured people, bar the insurance industry from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions, and trim federal deficits by an estimated $138 billion over the next decade.

Beginning in 2014, most Americans would be required for the first time to purchase insurance and face penalties if they refused. Millions of families with incomes up to $88,000 a year would receive government help to defray their costs. Large businesses would face fines if they did not offer good-quality coverage to their workers. Republicans have attacked it relentlessly as a government takeover of the health-care industry financed by ever higher Medicare cuts and tax increases, including a new Medicare payroll tax on upper-income earners.

  • More government, more socialism, more debt, more entitlements. Pray hard.

Health-Care ‘Trickery’ is Overthrow of Constitution

The House voted 222-203 Thursday to allow Democrats to use “Slaughter Solution” to bypass Article 1, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution. America’s system of government based on the U.S. Constitution is being overthrown through illegal legislative “trickery” Congress is using to pass controversial health-care reform. That’s the conclusion of some on the political right who are calling for the impeachment of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi along with the defeat of the health legislation. At issue is the possibility that reforms pushed by President Obama and other Democrats will be approved without ever actually having a direct vote, but could be “deemed” to have been passed, then signed into law by Obama. The process is called the “Slaughter Strategy,” named for Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Rules Committee. Discussing the need for this procedure, Pelosi said: “I like it, because people don’t have to vote on the Senate bill.” Indeed, Democrats could actually vote for the rule, yet still claim they’re against the Senate bill.

President Obama is not worried — and doesn’t think Americans should worry — about the “procedural” debate over whether House Democratic leaders should go ahead with a plan to approve health care reform without a traditional vote, he told Fox News on Wednesday.  The president, in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, responded for the first time to the controversy over a plan to use a parliamentary maneuver to allow the House to pass the Senate’s health care bill without forcing members to vote for it directly. “I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or Senate,” Obama said. The health-care portions of the bill would affect nearly every American and remake one-sixth of the national economy.

  • Any doubts that our government is broken have been answered by this despicable, unconstitutional plan

Questions Swirl Around U.N.’s Climate Auditors

A little-known group called the InterAcademy Council has been made the voice of authority on the credibility of climate change, leaving critics scratching their heads — and some key questions unanswered. Acknowledging the rising tide of public skepticism toward global warming, the United Nations announced on March 10 that the IAC would act as an independent reviewer for its climate-science arm, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But a week later, the IAC remains a mystery, and it still hasn’t explained who will be on the review panel or how the panel will operate. And if it knows, it isn’t saying. “The IAC expects to begin its IPCC review shortly and issue a report by August 31.

  • The globalists will also resort to trickery in trying to rescue sinking support for global climate controls

Drug Smugglers Invading Tribal Lands

Cartels increasingly are using U.S. tribal lands to move or grow their illicit crop. The federally protected Indian reservations are an attractive lure to drug gangs because they’re often vast, sparsely populated and off limits to local law enforcement. The southern border of the sprawling desert tribal land of the Tohono O’Odham reservation in Arizona is fenced in by 75 miles of steel and cable, erected to keep out drug runners, cartel operatives and bandidos that wander up from Mexico. However, keeping the bad element off the reservation is often like trying to hold water with an open hand, says Sgt. Vincent Garcia of the Tohono O’odham Nation Police Department. In one recent week, tribal police investigated a fatal car accident, a body found on a mountain trail and an alleged rape. All were linked to the illicit human and drug smuggling routes slicing through their land.

GAO Report Scolds EPA

During the past decade, the Environmental Protection Agency’s commitment to keeping children safe from toxic chemicals has lapsed, and top officials routinely ignored scores of recommendations by the agency’s own children’s health advisory committee, according to a report released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO report documents a “reduced emphasis on children” throughout the EPA and “high-level” failures to ensure that the interests of children were considered when the agency acted. The problems “are setting the stage for an overwhelming wave of disease and disability … in the coming decades.” Of particular concern: the lack of information about thousands of chemicals and how they interact with each other.

More American Generations Bunking Together

More people than ever before are bunked together in multigenerational households across the USA as a record 49 million (16.1% of the population) share close quarters either permanently or temporarily, a report today by the Pew Research Center shows. Since 1980, the share of Americans living in such households jumped 33%. That represents a sharp reversal from earlier recent trends in which children grew up, left home and didn’t return except for a visit, and grandparents retired to sunny spots or stayed put in their own homes. From 1940 to 1980, Pew found that the proportion of people living in multigenerational households had declined by more than half — from 25% in 1940 to 12% in 1980. Now, about one in five Americans 25-34 and one in five of those 65 and older live in households in which at least two adult generations, or a grandparent and at least one other generation, share the same roof, Pew found.

Arizona Parks Future in Doubt

Arizona’s parks system is limping into the next fiscal year with few assurances it will exist after June 30, the result of lawmakers reducing its budget by nearly 80 percent since 2007. Lawmakers cut an additional $3.9 million in the special session that adjourned Tuesday. Efforts to save the system through legislation have stalled. And while discussions continue, parks continue to close. In 2007, the system included 30 parks and recreation areas and had a budget of $66 million. The system draws more than 2 million annual visitors, and a Northern Arizona University study put its economic benefit to state and local governments at $266 million a year. But after a series of cuts, including the $3.9 million in fund transfers approved Tuesday, the system’s budget is roughly $15 million. By June 30, officials expect to operate just nine parks – and that’s only if they can get a loan from the state.

Economic News

New claims for unemployment insurance fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 457,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. However, the four-week average, which smooths out fluctuations, has increased by 30,000 since the start of this year. That’s raised concerns among economists that persistent unemployment could weaken the recovery.

The consumer price index was flat last month, as the weak economy limited the ability of companies to charge more for goods and services. A rise in food prices last month was offset by a drop in gasoline and other energy costs. The Labor Department’s CPI report indicates there is little sign of inflation, which enables the Federal Reserve to keep the short-term interest rate it controls at a record low in an effort to revive the economy.

The Conference Board, a private research group, says its gauge of future economic activity rose 0.1% in February, suggesting slow economic growth this summer. The gain in the index of leading economic indicators was the smallest in 11 months.

Banks weren’t the only ones giving big bonuses in the boom years before the worst financial crisis in generations. The government also was handing out millions of dollars to bank regulators, rewarding “superior” work even as an avalanche of risky mortgages helped create the meltdown. The payments, detailed in payroll data released to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, are the latest evidence of the government’s false sense of security during the go-go days of the financial boom. Some government regulators got tens of thousands of dollars in perks, boosting their salaries by almost 25%.

A record number of hotels are defaulting on mortgage payments. Hundreds have been taken over in foreclosures, and some have closed or are about to. In January, U.S. hotels had a record-low 45.1% occupancy rate — the lowest January ever recorded. Last year’s rate — 54.8% — was previously the lowest on record.

U.S. motorists are paying the highest prices for gas since October 2008. The nationwide average hit $2.81 per gallon Thursday. Prices have now jumped 20 cents in the past month and are 87.9 cents higher than year-ago levels. The Energy Department and many industry experts expect prices to top $3 this spring. Gasoline prices tend to move higher in the spring as more drivers hit the road and refiners prepare to make more expensive summer blends of gasoline with fewer smog-causing emissions.

The U.S. trade deficit widened in the fourth quarter, reflecting an improving economy, but the imbalance for all of 2009 fell to the lowest point in eight years. Economists believe the deficit will increase in 2010 but not return to the record heights seen before the recession. The Commerce Department said Thursday the deficit in the October-December quarter jumped 12.9% to $115.6 billion as imports of oil, autos and other foreign products outpaced the gains in U.S. exports. For the year, the deficit in the current account plunged 40.5% to $419.9 billion, the smallest imbalance since 2001.

  • While it is good news that the trade deficit decreased in 2009, $420 billion is still a large deficit that puts more dollars in foreign pockets (largely China and Japan)

Middle East

A rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip killed a man inside Israel Thursday, Israeli medics said, in the first death from such an attack since Israel’s Gaza offensive last year. Such rocket fire was once common but has become rare since the Israeli military’s campaign in the Gaza Strip last year, which aimed to bring an end to the attacks. Thursday’s attack came on the same day as a visit to Gaza by Europe’s top diplomat, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the first such visit by a senior official in more than a year. A small Islamist faction calling itself Ansar al-Sunna claimed responsibility for the rocket.

Masked Arab youths engaged in violent clashes with Israeli police in several Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem on Tuesday, after Palestinian leaders had called for a ‘day of rage’ to protest the rededication of the historic Hurva synagogue in the Old City.

Russia

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that American and Russian negotiators are “on the brink” of agreement on a nuclear arms reduction treaty. After meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Clinton said she expects a treaty-signing soon, although she mentioned no date or place. “Our negotiating teams have reported that they have resolved all of the major issues and there are some technical issues that remain,” she said at a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “But we are on the brink of seeing a new agreement between the United States and Russia,” Clinton added.

Iraq

Iraqi officials say a roadside bomb and a gun attack have killed four people and wounded seven others in Baghdad. The officials say the roadside bomb went off Friday morning near a market in Baghdad’s teeming Shiite district of Sadr City. The officials say the bomb was hidden under a heap of trash and detonated as shoppers started arriving. The attacks come as Iraq is still counting the ballots from the March 7 parliamentary elections.

Afghanistan

Attacks on U.S. and allied forces with makeshift bombs in Afghanistan are 50% more lethal than three years ago, reflecting insurgents’ use of more powerful explosives and the increased vulnerability of troops who patrol more on foot than in the past. Overall, IED attacks have doubled over the past year in Afghanistan. This year, insurgents planted 721 bombs compared with 291 last year. Those attacks killed or wounded 204 troops this February compared with 51 in February 2009.

Egypt

Compass Direct News reports that a mob of enraged Muslims attacked a Coptic Christian community in a coastal town in northern Egypt last weekend. The group wreaked havoc for hours and injured 24 Copts before security forces contained them. The March 12 violence erupted after the sheikh of a neighborhood mosque allegedly incited Muslims over a loudspeaker, proclaiming jihad against Christians in Marsa Matrouh, 200 miles west of Alexandria. The angry crowd hurled rocks at the district church, Christians and their properties, looted homes and set fires that evening. The mob was reportedly infuriated over the building of a wall around newly-bought land adjacent to the Reefiya Church building. The building also houses a clinic and community center. “I was very surprised by the degree of hatred that people had toward Christians,” said a reporter for online Coptic news source Theban Legion, who visited Reefiya after the attack.

Mexico

In these dark times, the faithful still come to worship in the chapel of Jesus Malverde, Mexico‘s patron saint of drug traffickers. They kneel in front of his statue, dip flowers in water and wipe them tenderly over his face. They leave cryptic notes of thanks on the altar. They slip offerings into a donation box and buy talismans that say: “Malverde, bless my path and permit my return.” “People need faith more now than ever,” Jesus González, chapel caretaker, said. “We’re getting more people here because they want to be protected.” The veneration of Malverde, a Robin Hood-style bandit who died in 1909, shows how deep the tradition of drug smuggling runs in Mexican culture — and how hard it will be to stamp out, said Tomas Guevara, a sociologist at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa.

  • Sad, sick. Praying to demons, a blasphemy rooted in the Catholic church

Cuba

Uniformed Cuban security agents prevented the mothers and wives of dissidents from marching on the outskirts of the capital on Wednesday to demand release of their loved ones, shoving them into a bus when they lay down in the street in protest. It was the second day in a row that a peaceful opposition march by the Damas de Blanca — or “Ladies in White” — degenerated into a shouting match, raising tension a day ahead of the anniversary of a major crackdown on dissent. The group is made up of female relatives of some of the 75 dissidents arrested in a sweeping government operation on or around March 18, 2003. Some 53 of the dissidents remain jailed, many of them sentenced to decades in jail.

Nigeria

Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that religiously-tinged violence continued in Nigeria on Wednesday, when 12 people were killed. Six women, four children and two men in Byei village near the city of Jos were attacked by Fulani Muslims, just over a week after around 500 Christians were massacred with machetes by a similar group of attackers. Most of the victims were attacked in their beds. One women and her son had their tongues cut out, while another was burnt alive in her home along with her two young children. Four further victims were hospitalized, two with gunshot wounds allegedly from AK 47s, and the others with machete wounds. Twelve houses were also burnt in last night’s attack, which took place 4 kilometers away from Riyom Local Government Council. Victims say some attackers were dressed in military uniforms.

Christian Post reports that Christian foster parents expelled from the country last week have publicly launched an appeal to the Moroccan government, hoping to be reunited with their foster children. Morocco accused Village of Hope workers last Monday of proselytizing and demanded they leave the country immediately. The foster parents, who cannot legally adopt their foster children in Morocco, left behind 33 orphaned and abandoned children. “In doing this we are not trying to shame Morocco or the people,” said Herman Boonstra, director of Village of Hope, according to the Gibraltar Chronicle. “We simply want to be reunited with our children and we are worried about their welfare.” Many of the children didn’t remember any other parents. “The eviction process was the most painful situation imaginable and was one of the hardest experiences of my life,” Boonstra said.

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