Catholic Rift Over Healthcare

An unusual public split between U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, nuns and hospitals over abortion in the health care overhaul could undermine the church hierarchy’s influence on the debate and give anti-abortion Democrats the political cover they need to vote for the bill. The disagreement among Catholics has to do with whether the bill would allow federal funding of abortion. The U.S. bishops believe it does and said they “regretfully” oppose the bill even though they have been pushing for health care reform for more than four decades. But the Catholic Health Association, which represents 600 hospitals, and about 60 Catholic nuns from various orders and groups disagree and are urging Congress to pass the bill.

Student Loan Revamp Tucked into Massive Health Bill

The endgame of massive pieces of legislation like the current health care/student loan bill are a politics junkie’s dream — and many a policy wonk’s nightmare. The kinds of compromises that are typically required to win last-minute votes, meet budget requirements, and get a measure over the finish line often necessitate decisions that leave nobody — even those making the choices to get the deal done — entirely satisfied. Examples abounded Thursday as Democratic Congressional leaders and White House officials unveiled the higher education portion of a compromise version of budget legislation designed to overhaul both the health care and student loan systems.

By any measure, the bill would make huge investments in higher education and college students, pouring upwards of $42 billion into Pell Grants, historically black and other minority-serving institutions, community colleges, repayment options for student loan borrowers, and college access grants. WorldNetDaily reports that the revised bill includes $569 billion in new taxes and a “whole lot” of new mandates.

  • Congress is always muddying the water by including amendments about one thing in a bill about another thing, and they wonder why their approval ratings are so low. The healthcare bill should only be about healthcare.

Rally in D.C. Denounces Obamacare

Will it soon be the U.S.S.A. – the United Socialist States of America? Tens of thousands of people descended on Washington Saturday, lining up in circles around the Capitol, in protest of a pending vote Sunday on President Obama’s trillion dollar plan that would take over health care across America. That’s some $500 billion in cuts from funding for U.S. seniors and another nearly like amount in new taxes. Critics of the reform bill cite the abortion financing the government would require, massive fines, especially against married couples, for whatever a government health czar would decide is unsatisfactory, and the general principle that nowhere in the U.S. Constitution – which sets limits on the federal government’s powers – is there an authorization to force people to buy the health-insurance program a federal bureaucrat picks out.

Needy Arizona Children Lose Health Care Coverage

This summer, Arizona will become the only state in the nation that doesn’t provide health-care coverage under a federal program to insure children of the working poor. State lawmakers last week eliminated Kids- Care, which serves nearly 39,000 children through age 18, through budget-balancing measures. The program cost the state $18 million a year, and federal funds covered $56 million. KidsCare advocates say the program’s demise will have long-term implications: Some children will no longer have access to preventive care, which could lead to more severe illnesses. Emergency rooms will see more uninsured children. Other residents will pay higher insurance premiums to cover the rising costs of the uninsured. Lawmakers who supported the budget cuts say they had no other choice.

  • Bloated governments sinking under a mountain of debt have to make severe budget cuts or raise taxes, both of which cause some group of people to howl. But when revenue doesn’t cover expenses, some nice-to-have programs need to be cut. Unfortunately, most people think they’re entitled to all sorts of governmental programs never intended by the founding fathers and framers of the Constitution.

C-Diff a Bigger Hospital Threat than MRSA?

As one superbug seems to be fading as a threat in hospitals, another is on the rise, a new study suggests. A dangerous, drug-resistant staph infection called MRSA is often seen as the biggest germ threat to patients in hospitals and other health care facilities. But infections from Clostridium difficile — known as C-diff — are surpassing MRSA infections, the study of 28 hospitals in the Southeast found. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, are bacteria that can’t be treated with common antibiotics. They are often harmless as they ride on the skin, but become deadly once they get in the bloodstream. They enter through wounds, intravenous lines and other paths. C-diff, also resistant to some antibiotics, is found in the colon and can cause diarrhea and a more serious intestinal condition known as colitis. It is spread by spores in feces. The spores are difficult to kill with most conventional household cleaners or alcohol-based hand sanitizers, so some of the disinfection measures against MRSA don’t work on C-diff. MRSA is generally considered a more lethal threat, causing an estimated 18,000 U.S. deaths annually.

Thousands Protest War on Anniversary of Iraq Invasion

Thousands of protesters carried signs that read “Indict Bush Now” and flag-draped cardboard coffins on Saturday urging the immediate withdrawal of all troops sent into combat overseas. Protesters rallied at Lafayette Park across from the White House and then began marching through downtown seven years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Seven protesters, including activist Cindy Sheehan, were arrested after the rally. The protest — which calls for the immediate withdrawal of troops sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan— drew a smaller crowd than the tens of thousands who marched in 2006 and 2007. But organizers said many more people have become disenchanted with President Barack Obama, who has pledged to withdraw troops from Iraq, because he ordered more troops into Afghanistan.

Pope Blasts Irish Bishops, Orders Vatican Probe

Pope Benedict XVI rebuked Irish bishops Saturday for “grave errors of judgment” in handling clerical sex abuse cases and ordered an investigation into the Irish church. But he laid no blame for the problem on the Vatican‘s policies of keeping such cases secret. In a letter to the Irish faithful read across Europe amid a growing, multination abuse scandal, the pope apologized to victims but doled out no specific punishments to bishops blamed by Irish government-ordered investigations for having covered up abuse of thousands of Irish children from the 1930s to the 1990s. Hundreds of new allegations of abuse have recently come to light across Europe, including in the pope’s native Germany, where he served as archbishop in a diocese where several victims have recently come forward. One priest suspected of molesting boys while the future pope was in charge was transferred to a job where he abused more children.

  • The cause for Christ has been severely compromised by the failures of the Catholic Church – both the actual abuse as well as the way it tried to cover it up

Accusations Fly Over Panned Parenthood ‘Hot’ Girl Handout

A witness who attended the 54th session of United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women has unleashed a firestorm of controversy after reporting copies of Planned Parenthood’s teen-sex promoting guide, “Healthy, Happy and Hot,” were provided for Girl Scouts in attendance. Sharon Slater of Family Watch International and Stand for the Family was at the New York City event and found the “Hot” brochure among various materials made available on the back table. The guide itself, produced by the International Planned Parenthood Federation for young people with HIV, depicts both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, contains graphic details on “exploring” sexuality and encourages casual sex in many forms. Slater further told WND the brochures appeared again a few days later at a panel discussion for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, or WAGGGS, of which Girl Scouts of the USA is a member organization.

Ozone Depletion Appears to have Leveled Off

There’s bad and good news from the ozone front. The bad news first: NASA scientists say that the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the Earth’s surface has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. The reason for the increase is a continuing decrease in the protective stratospheric ozone layer, a colorless gas located about 10 to 20 miles above the Earth. The ozone absorbs much of the ultraviolet energy from the sun that could cause skin cancer and harm living things, including plants, if it reaches the ground or oceans. The good news: The amount of the UV increase seems to have stabilized since the mid-1990s. This finding backs up other research that shows UV levels are stabilizing after countries began signing an international treaty in 1987 that limited the emissions of ozone-depleting gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Authorities Break Huge Counterfeit Goods Ring

Federal prosecutors in Maryland announced the indictments Friday of nine people on charges of smuggling 120,000 pairs of counterfeit Nike shoes and half a million counterfeit Coach handbags through the Port of Baltimore. The products were mostly made in Malaysia and China. Three U.S. citizens are charged with smuggling, trafficking counterfeit goods and money laundering. Six British citizens, four Chinese and two Malaysians also are charged. The merchandise also included thousands of counterfeit Coach and Gucci shoes, 500 counterfeit Cartier wrist watches and counterfeit Viagra pills.

Judge Rejects World Trade Center Settlement

A federal judge has rejected the settlement for 10,000 workers who became ill at the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11 attacks and ordered that it be renegotiated. U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein that the deal — $575 million to $657 million —  wasn’t big enough and that lawyers had taken too much, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Feds Must Reveal Bank Loan Info

The Federal Reserve must reveal documents identifying financial companies that received Fed loans to survive the financial crisis, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. A panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said in two separate opinions that such information isn’t automatically exempt from requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Cases were brought by News Corp.’s Fox News Network and Bloomberg. The two companies sought details about loans that commercial banks and Wall Street firms received and the collateral they put up.

  • The Federal Reserve has been too secretive and lacking in oversight, being neither federal nor holding any reserves

Can School Bus Ads Save School Budgets?

School districts have imposed all sorts of drastic cuts to save money during the down economy, canceling field trips and making parents pay for everything from tissues to sports transportation. And some have now resorted to placing advertisements on school buses. School districts say it’s practically free money, and advertisers love the captive audience that school buses provide. That’s the problem, say opponents: Children are being forced to travel to school on moving media kiosks, and the tactic isn’t much different than dressing teachers in sponsor-emblazoned uniforms.

Economic News

Regulators have shut down seven banks in five states, bringing to 37 the number of bank failures in the U.S. so far this year. The bank failures this year follow the 140 that succumbed in 2009 to mounting loan defaults and the recession. The bank failures have sapped billions of dollars out of the federal deposit insurance fund. It fell into the red last year, hitting a $20.9 billion deficit as of Dec. 31. Depositors’ money — insured up to $250,000 per account — is not at risk, with the FDIC backed by the government.

Haiti

One of the heaviest rainfalls since Haiti‘s Jan. 12 earthquake swamped homeless camps Friday, sweeping screaming residents into eddies of water, overflowing latrines and panicking thousands. The overnight downpour sent water coursing down the slopes of a former golf course that now serves as a temporary home for about 45,000 people. Aid workers said people were swept screaming into eddies of water and flows that ripped down tents. Standing water and mud also pervaded a tarp-and-tent city on the outskirts of Cite Soleil, several miles away.

Israel

Israel has no intention of backing down in its argument with the United States over Israeli plans to build 1,600 apartments on disputed land in largely Arab East Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. “Our policy regarding Jerusalem is the same as it was over the past 42 years. We have made it clear to the Americans that for us, building there is just like building in Tel Aviv,” Netanyahu said. Israel captured the land in question in the spring of 1967, nearly 43 years ago.

Iraq

Iraq‘s president on Sunday called for a recount in this month’s parliamentary elections, which have turned into a tight race between the prime minister and a secular rival amid accusations of fraud. A new count could further extend political wrangling in the contentious race. The demands are the latest twist to an election that will determine who will govern the country as U.S. troops go home. Counting since the March 7 vote has been slow and plagued with confusion and disarray, fueling claims of fraud, though international observers have said the vote and count have been fair. The latest partial results, released Saturday, showed al-Maliki’s secular Shiite challenger, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, pulling ahead again by a slim margin over the prime minister’s coalition in the overall tally. However, al-Maliki is winning in seven of Iraq’s 18 provinces, which is significant because parliament seats are allotted based on the outcome of voting in each province.

Iran

In a fresh appeal directly to the Iranian people, President Obama says in an online video that the United States wants more educational and cultural exchanges for their students and better access to the Internet to give them a more hopeful future. In the video, the second of his presidency directed at Iran, Obama said that the United States’ offer of diplomatic dialogue still stands but that the Iranian government has chosen isolation. The White House released the video late Friday, timing it, as it did last year, to coincide with Nowruz, a 12-day holiday celebrating the arrival of spring and the beginning of the new year on the Persian calendar.

  • Obama still hasn’t realized that the people in Islamic countries hold very little power or influence

Mexico

More Americans in Mexico are falling victim to a wave of drug violence sweeping the country, a change driven home by the recent killing of a U.S. Consulate employee and her husband who were gunned down after leaving a children’s birthday party. The number of U.S. citizens killed in Mexico has more than doubled to 79 in 2009 from 35 in 2007, according to the U.S. State Department’s annual count. No figures were available for the first two months of 2010. In Ciudad Juarez, the northern border city hardest hit by drug violence and where the consulate employee was killed, homicides of Americans rose to 23 in 2009 from two in 2007. American deaths make up only a tiny fraction of Mexico’s 17,900 drug-related killings since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched a military-led drug war.

Volcanoes

A volcano erupted near a glacier in southern Iceland, shooting ash and molten lava into the air and forcing the evacuation Sunday of hundreds of people from nearby villages. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, but a state of emergency was declared and scientists feared the eruption could trigger a larger and potentially more dangerous eruption at the Katla volcano. Saturday’s eruption, which occurred just before midnight (8 p.m. ET), came weeks after a series of small earthquakes.

  • Increased volcanic activity is another end-time sign

Weather

China‘s capital, Beijing, woke up to orange-tinted skies Saturday as the strongest sandstorm so far this year hit the country’s north, delaying some flights at Beijing‘s airport and prompting a dust warning for Seoul, South Korea. The sky glowed and a thin dusting of sand covered Beijing, causing workers to muffle their faces in vast Tiananmen Square. The city’s weather bureau gave air quality a rare hazardous ranking. China’s expanding deserts now cover one-third of the country because of overgrazing, deforestation, urban sprawl and drought. The shifting sands have led to a sharp increase in sandstorms — the grit from which can travel as far as the western United States.

About 60,000 homes are without power, trees and signs have blown over and boats have been smashed on the rocks after a massive storm blew across the coast of northeastern Australia. Tropical Cyclone Ului crossed the coast at Airlie Beach as a category three storm early Sunday with winds up to 124 miles per hour.

A late-winter storm is brought 7-12 inches of snow and cold that canceled classes for several Colorado school districts and made for a slick drive in the mountains. Multiple accidents Friday morning closed westbound Interstate 70 at Morrison, west of Denver.

A week-long fight against flooding neared its climax in Fargo on Sunday, with miles of sandbags and clay dikes expected to hold back the bloated Red River at its crest with room to spare. City officials and residents were on the brink of declaring victory and ready to move out of flood fighting mode.

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