Justice Stevens to Retire from Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, an unassuming Chicagoan in bow ties who became a shrewd strategist and liberal leader of the modern Supreme Court, announced his retirement Friday morning. He has served nearly 35 years and is about to turn 90. In many ways, Stevens’ departure may be more significant for the Supreme Court than fellow liberal David Souter‘s retirement last year. Stevens, more than any other justice on the left, has taken the lead to craft coalitions that include swing-vote conservatives, allowing liberals to prevail in some key cases that limited the death penalty and expanded gay rights even as the court shifted increasingly to the right. In the past 15 years, he became a more vigorous supporter of affirmative action and a strong critic of the conservatives’ effort to diminish the federal government’s power to become involved in state affairs. With Stevens’ departure, the next most senior justice on the left is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was appointed by Clinton in 1993. Ginsburg, 77, has twice survived serious battles with cancer and could retire in upcoming years.

  • Unlike all the prophecies we heard for years about Bush getting to appoint judges to the Supreme Court, it is Obama who will be able to swing the court far left in further support of his socialist agenda

Vatican City

Pope Benedict XVI is willing to meet with more victims of clerical sexual abuse, the Vatican spokesman said Friday. Sex abuse allegations have swept across Europe in recent weeks, including in Benedict’s native Germany. The pope himself has come under fire for the handling of cases that date to his tenure as archbishop of Munich and as a Vatican cardinal in charge of the office dealing with abuse cases. Benedict has already met with abuse victims during trips to the United States and Australia and with Canadians at the Vatican. Many victims are looking not for financial compensation but for moral help. The Vatican has denounced accusations that the church, including Benedict, engaged in a cover-up, and has blamed the media for what it calls a smear campaign against the pontiff and his advisers.

According to correspondence obtained by The Associated Press, the future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including “the good of the universal church,” according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature. This is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican‘s insistence that Benedict played no role in blocking the removal of pedophile priests during his years as head of the Catholic Church’s doctrinal watchdog office.

  • Vows of celibacy clearly do not work and there is no Biblical requirement for priests to do so

Kenyan Official: Obama Born Here

A Kenyan lawmaker told the nation’s parliament last month that Barack Obama was born in Africa and is therefore “not even a native American.” During debate over the draft of a new Kenyan constitution, James Orengo, the country’s minister of lands and a member of parliament for the Ugenya constituency, cited America’s election of a Kenyan-born president as an example of what can be accomplished when diverse peoples unite: “If America was living in a situation where they feared ethnicity and did not see itself as a multiparty state or nation,” Orengo posited, “how could a young man born here in Kenya, who is not even a native American, become the president of America?”

Was CNN ‘Tea-Bagged’?

In a year when America’s tea party activists have been surging, cable news networks that slam the grassroots movement have been dying in the ratings. Is it merely coincidence? Compared to the numbers in 2009, Fox News Channel, frequently reported as a favorite of the tea partiers, actually gained 3 percent over last year’s numbers, but MSNBC, whose left-leaning commentary has been far more critical of the movement, has dropped 15 percent of its audience. Even more startling, however, is the ratings freefall of the former news giant CNN, whose viewing audience has been sliced by 39 percent.

  • Obama’s crusade against Fox News has backfired

Casual Sex Increasing in U.S.

People in nonromantic sexual relationships today are likely to have multiple partners, researchers have found, and that behavior could promote the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, they note. “The United States has seen a major shift toward nonromantic sexual partnerships — people becoming sexually involved when they are just casually dating or not dating at all,” study author Anthony Paik, a sociologist at the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said in a university news release. Being sexually involved with a friend increased the likelihood of not being monogamous by 44% for women and 25% for men. Involvement with an acquaintance or stranger increased the likelihood by 30% for women and 43% for men.

  • Satan promotes sex as a means to break down the family, a key end-times strategy

Prescription Drug Overdoses Jump

Hospitalizations caused by accidental and intentional abuse of prescription sedatives, tranquilizers and other painkilling drugs has risen dramatically over the last decade, new research reveals. Hospital stays from an unintentional overdose of opioids (such as Vicodin and Percocet) and sedatives (such as Valium and Ativan) jumped 37% between 1999 and 2006, the study found. Intentional overdoses of these drugs skyrocketed by 130% in that time. The researchers found that hospitalizations that resulted from prescription opioid, sedative and tranquilizer use had increased 65% during the seven-year study period. In the United States, in fact, poisoning — which includes overdoses — now ranks as the second-leading cause of death from unintentional injury, according to the study.

Local Budget Cuts Reducing Police Forces

As budget cuts ripple downward from national, to states, to counties, to cities and towns, police departments are beginning to scale back as well. When the sheriff’s department in Ashtabula County, Ohio, was cut from 112 to 49 deputies, just one vehicle was left to patrol the 720-square-mile county. Asked what residents should do for protection, Common Pleas Judge Alfred Mackey replied, ” Arm themselves,” and added, “We’re going to have to look after each other.”

Economic News

Inventories held by wholesalers rose by a larger-than-expected amount in February while sales increased for the 11th consecutive month. The gains were an encouraging sign that stronger demand is prompting businesses to restock depleted shelves, a development that will help sustain the economic recovery.

Regulators on Friday shut down a bank in South Carolina, marking 42 bank failures in the U.S. so far this year amid mounting loan defaults, especially in commercial real estate. There were 140 bank failures in the U.S. last year, the highest annual tally since 1992 at the height of the savings and loan crisis. They cost the insurance fund more than $30 billion. Twenty-five banks failed in 2008 and only three succumbed in 2007.

A record number of tax preparers were charged Thursday with filing 35,000 suspected fraudulent returns that cost the government tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue. The 26 tax preparers in Manhattan, the Bronx and New Jersey were charged with submitting tax returns with more than $95 million in deductions, most of which were believed to be fraudulent.

Two former Fannie Mae executives said Friday at a Congressional hearing that competitive pressures, combined with the political goal of increasing homeownership, were to blame for the company’s decision to back riskier mortgages that fueled the housing bubble.

  • It’s always somebody else’s fault. Accountability is a lost principle in this godless age.

Greece

European leaders provided a long-awaited financial rescue line to Greece on Sunday, offering the country up to $40 billion in aid to meet its giant debt obligations. Under the plan, Greece would receive loans at about 5 percent interest, significantly lower than the rate of 7.5 percent that the markets were demanding last week, though not as low as Greece had wanted. Concerns about a potential Greek default had caused anxiety among markets worldwide and raised fears that the euro would be severely undermined if other struggling countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy followed Greece to the financial precipice.

  • Greece’s deficit spending as a percentage of GDP (~12.5% this year) looks a lot like ours, which is right around 11% at present.  Is anyone in Washington DC paying attention to what’s happening over there?

China

China posted a $7.24 billion trade deficit in March, its first in almost six years, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Saturday, citing customs figures. Officials say the trend will be short-lived. Economists say the deficit reflected weak exports to the United States and other major markets still struggling to recover from the recession. Strong demand for commodities and components to fuel China’s own booming industrial sector contributed to the 66% jump in imports. The return to deficit after many years of surplus could help ease pressure on China to allow the value of its currency to rise against the dollar — a key source of contention with the U.S. and other trading partners. But even China’s minister of commerce, Chen Deming, described March’s deficit as only a “blip on the radar.” Chinese officials have resisted pressure to allow the yuan to rise in value, saying the trade sector remains weak and prey to weaknesses elsewhere.

Poland

Polish President Lech Kaczynski and some of the country’s highest military and civilian leaders died on Saturday when the presidential plane crashed as it came in for a landing in thick fog in western Russia, killing 96. Russian and Polish officials said there were no survivors on the 26-year-old Tupolev, which was taking the president, his wife and staff to events marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police. The crash devastated the upper echelons of Poland‘s political and military establishments. On board were the army chief of staff, national bank president, deputy foreign minister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office, deputy parliament speaker, civil rights commissioner and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers.

Vaclav Havel, former Czech president, suggested the death will have serious implications for Poland and the world. He raised the specter of questionable circumstances swirling around the death, telling Czech television that the tragedy evoked “the well-known, strange death of General Sikorski” in a plane crash decades earlier. The death in 1943 of Wladyslaw Sikorski, Poland’s then premier-in-exile, later helped the Soviet Union gain control over Poland.

Afghanistan

International troops opened fire on a bus carrying Afghan civilians early Monday, killing four people and setting off anti-American protests in Kandahar, a hotbed of the Taliban insurgency. Another 18 people were wounded in the incident in Kandahar province’s Zhari district, provincial government spokesman Zelmai Ayubi said. He said international forces took 12 of the wounded to a military hospital. NATO said it was investigating the shooting. Within hours, scores of Afghans had blocked the main highway out of Kandahar city with burning tires, chanting “Death to America,” and calling for the downfall of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, himself a Kandahar native.

Pakistan

More than 200,000 people have fled Pakistan’s latest offensive against Taliban militants in the northwest, the United Nations said Monday, as fresh clashes in the remote region killed 41 insurgents and two soldiers. The clashes were the latest violence in the Orakzai tribal region, where the military launched an operation in March to rout Pakistani Taliban fighters who have fled there to escape other offensives. More than 300 suspected militants have been killed in three weeks of constant airstrikes and occasional ground clashes. The U.S. has applauded Pakistan’s push to go after militants in the volatile border area near Afghanistan. But American officials would like the country to do more to target those fighters who have been staging cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. The exodus of civilians from Orakzai adds to the more than 1.3 million people driven from their homes by fighting in the northwest and unable to return.

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan‘s deposed president on Monday rallied supporters in his home village, testing his ability to mount resistance to the opposition forces that drove him out of the capital last week. At least 81 people died in the capital last Wednesday when a confrontation between police and protesters exploded into gunfire and chaos. Protesters stormed government buildings and Bakiyev fled to his native southern region. He has refused to step down and the rally in Teyit brought an array of speakers who vowed their support and waved banners with slogans such as “Hands off the legitimate president.”

Thailand

Red-shirted protesters paraded coffins through Thailand‘s capital Monday in a renewed attempt to pressure the government to step down after street fighting left 21 people dead, pushing this Southeast Asian nation closer to political anarchy. Anti-government protesters dug into their encampments around Bangkok and rejected talk of negotiations after a month-long standoff. Bullet casings, pools of blood and shattered army vehicles littered the streets near a main tourist area where soldiers had tried to clear the protesters. At least 874 people were injured in what one newspaper called “The Battle for Bangkok.” Protesters are demanding that the prime minister dissolve Parliament, call early elections and leave the country.

Africa

After getting millions of dollars to fight AIDS, some African countries responded by slashing their health budgets, new research says. For years, the international community has forked over billions in health aid, believing the donations supplemented health budgets in poor countries. It now turns out development money prompted some governments to spend on entirely different things, which cannot be tracked. The research was published Friday in the medical journal Lancet. International health aid jumped from about $8 billion in 1995 to almost $19 billion in 2006, with the United States being the biggest donor. In the Lancet study, for every dollar received from donors, poor countries transferred up to $1.14 originally slated for their health budgets elsewhere.

Somalia

The U.S. Navy is holding six suspected pirates after a sea battle off the Horn of Africa. It’s the third U.S. Navy encounter with pirates in the past 10 days in the violence-plagued waters off Somalia and nearby regions. At least 21 suspected pirates have been captured. The U.S. Navy says suspected pirates began shooting at the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland Saturday, The Ashland returned fire and the suspected pirate skiff was destroyed.

Earthquakes

A cluster of moderate earthquakes near the U.S.-Mexico border is continuing to rattle southern California one week after a magnitude 7.2 quake slammed the area. The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 4.4 earthquake struck at 9:42 a.m. Sunday, about 11 miles west of downtown Calexico. At least 17 other quakes in the magnitude 3 range were also reported in the same area Sunday. No damage or injuries have been reported.

Wildfires

Wildfire activity was very heavy with 2,274 new fires started last week. Eighty-six new large fires (over 100 acres) were reported and firefighters have contained 75 of them. Currently, 18 large fires are burning in eight states, with the heaviest concentration in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Oklahoma.

Weather

Some of the same regions of the country that experienced unusually cold temperatures this past winter are now in the middle of one of the worst pollen seasons in several years. The problem has been particularly bad in the Southeast, where allergy sufferers are dealing with a constant yellow blanket of near-record pollen. In normal seasons, a pollen count of 120 is considered high. Last week in Atlanta, the pollen count hit 5,733, the second-highest level on record.

The National Weather Service has confirmed that several tornadoes touched down in South Carolina when severe thunderstorms crossed the state. No one was injured by the storms, but more than a dozen homes and five barns were damaged in Anderson County and part of a roof was blown off a mobile home and numerous trees were snapped off or uprooted in Oconee County. Vehicles, fences and trees also were damaged in the Beaufort County storm.

The death toll from landslides and floods in and around Rio de Janeiro this week reached 219 on Saturday as crews continued searching through the debris. Authorities believe many more are still buried in the mud, and the official tally of the dead is likely to keep going up. Although the rains have eased, the water-soaked terrain threatens further slides. Most of the victims were swept away in landslides that roared through slums built on steep, unstable hillsides.

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