Judge Rules National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Wisconsin ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional Thursday, saying the day amounts to a call for religious action. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic. Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group of atheists and agnostics, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2008 arguing the day violated the separation of church and state. President Obama issued a proclamation last year but did not hold public events with religious leaders as former President George W. Bush had done.

  • The Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution prayed to the Judeo-Christian God in Congress, so how can prayer be unconstitutional?

Tea-Partiers Flood Capital on Tax Day

Thousands “Tea Party” protesters marked Tax Day on Thursday by descending on the nation’s capital for demonstrations and seminars in which political pragmatism vied with boiling anger against President Obama. In meetings before and after different rallies, veteran political strategists tried to channel the movement’s energy from street theater to boiler-room organizing. The Tea Party movement, which is strongly against taxes and big government, has no national leader and is not aligned with either major party. Hundreds of additional rallies were held all across the U.S. as well.

Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45. They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”

$18 Billion Jobless Benefits Bill Passed by Congress

Congress is sending President Barack Obama an $18 billion bill to restore unemployment benefits for people who have been out of a job for months and resume full Medicare payments to doctors threatened by a 21% cut. The House cleared the bill Thursday night by a 289-112 tally taken just two hours after it emerged from the Senate on a 59-38 vote that capped an unusually partisan debate. Republicans largely chose to take a stand against the legislation for adding to the $12.8 trillion national despite backing it by wide margins in December and again recently. But the vote comes as welcome relief to hundreds of thousands of people who lost out on the additional weeks of benefits after exhausting their state-paid benefits. They will be able to reapply for long-term unemployment benefits and receive those checks retroactively under the legislation.

Abusive Priests Transferred Around the Globe

In an investigation spanning 21 countries across six continents, The Associated Press found 30 cases of priests accused of abuse who were transferred or moved abroad. Some escaped police investigations. Many had access to children in another country, and some abused again. “The pattern is if a priest gets into trouble and it’s close to becoming a scandal or if the law might get involved, they send them to the missions abroad,” said Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk and critic of what he says is a practice of international transfers of accused and admitted priest child abusers. “Anything to avoid a scandal.”

The Vatican on Wednesday tried to defuse growing anger over remarks by the pope’s top aide that the problem behind the pedophile priest scandals is homosexuality and not the church’s celibacy requirement. The Vatican has been increasingly on the defensive from unrelenting contentions that both church hierarchy, by trying to cover up rape and molestation, and church policy, by making celibacy a requirement for the priesthood, are major factors behind decades of often systematic sex abuse in parishes, orphanages, schools and other Catholic institutions around the world.

  • The politics of the Vatican is no different than that of government, a sad testament for Christianity. However, the structure of the Catholic Church is non-Biblical which opens the door wide for Satanic influence.

NPR Changes Archive Regarding President’s Birth

National Public Radio has joined Snopes and UPI among websites that have changed their archives regarding Barack Obama to bring their stories into alignment, in NPR’s case eliminating a statement about the “Kenyan-born” senator “since Obama was born in Hawaii.” NPR’s records were altered shortly after the WorldNetDaily.com story was posted last week. Other organizations have made similar changes.

The U.S. Army says a surgeon who has publicly refused to follow any further orders until he sees documentation that Barack Obama is eligible to be president is being “reassigned” at Walter Reed Army Hospital after he refused to deploy to Afghanistan as scheduled. While there have been reports Lt. Col. Terry Lakin is facing an imminent court-martial, Army spokesman Chuck Dasey told WND today that Lakin is only “under investigation” at this point.

Human Smuggling Shuttles Shut Down

An elaborate human-smuggling network that ferried tens of thousands of illegal immigrants into Arizona using shuttle vans was broken up Thursday during a series of raids, federal authorities said. In what officials called the biggest operation of its kind targeting illegal-immigrant smuggling, 47 people were arrested at five companies in Phoenix, Tucson and Nogales during sweeps involving more than 800 federal agents and local police. Mexican police rounded up more people south of the border in the culmination of a two-year Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation into human smuggling linked to Mexican drug cartels. Owners and employees at the shuttle-van companies are accused of bringing illegal immigrants from Mexico into Arizona, where they often were placed in drophouses and later transported to other U.S. cities. The organization targeted in the raids is accused of illegally transporting more than 80,000 immigrants into the U.S. in the past 10 years. They brought daily van loads of undocumented migrants into the country, using Phoenix as a primary hub.

Maternal Deaths Decline Sharply Across the Globe

For the first time in decades, researchers are reporting a significant drop worldwide in the number of women dying each year from pregnancy and childbirth, to about 342,900 in 2008 from 526,300 in 1980. The findings, published in the medical journal The Lancet, challenge the prevailing view of maternal mortality as an intractable problem that has defied every effort to solve it. The study cited a number of reasons for the improvement: lower pregnancy rates in some countries; higher income, which improves nutrition and access to health care; more education for women; and the increasing availability of “skilled attendants” — people with some medical training — to help women give birth. Improvements in large countries like India and China helped to drive down the overall death rates.

President Eyes Mars, Not Moon

President Obama took on critics of his space exploration plans Thursday, vowing that his proposals will allow the nation to “reach space faster and more often.” The president said his space program would allow astronauts to visit an asteroid by 2025 for the first time and then orbit Mars by the mid-2030s. Obama’s plans to end the Constellation program, aimed at returning astronauts to the moon, have angered NASA’s supporters in Congress and others, including former Apollo astronauts such as Jim Lovell, who said the president’s vision would end the nation’s leadership role in space exploration. The president’s proposals would affect thousands of NASA workers who are likely to be out of work when the space shuttle soon retires.

Massive Fireball in Midwestern Sky

Authorities in several Midwestern states were flooded Wednesday night with reports of a gigantic fireball lighting up the sky, the National Weather Service said. The fireball was visible for about 15 minutes beginning about 10 p.m., said the National Weather Service in Sullivan, Wisconsin, just west of Milwaukee. “Well before it reached the horizon, it broke up into smaller pieces and was lost from sight,” the service said. “Several reports of a prolonged sonic boom were received from areas north of Highway 20, along with shaking of homes, trees and various other objects including wind chimes,” it said. CNN affiliate WISN-TV said that people in Ohio also saw it. Video from WISN showed a massive ball of light exploding across the sky. No explanations have yet been forthcoming.

IMF Preps for Global Catastrophe

In preparation for a possible worldwide financial meltdown, the International Monetary Fund has announced that it is expanding its New Arrangement to Borrow (NAB) multilateral facility from its existing $50 billion by a whopping $500 billion to $550 billion. The current lending participant group of 26 entities will be increased by 13 new members all of whom will contribute token amount of capital to the NAB. The one country most on the hook in the new and revised NAB – the United States of America, will provide over $105 billion in total commitments, or 20% of the total facility. The US is currently on the hook for just $10 billion, meaning its participation in global bail outs just increased by $95 billion. And the bulk of these bailouts will certainly be located across the Atlantic.

  • If the IMF is gearing up to the tune of half-a-trillion dollars, what do they know that we aren’t hearing about?

Economic News

The number of newly laid off people signing up for unemployment benefits climbed for the second straight week, and industrial production edged up just 0.1% in March, lagging expectations. The Labor Department reported Thursday that first-time requests for jobless benefits rose 24,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 484,000, the highest level since late February. The number of people continuing to draw unemployment benefits moved higher. They rose to 4.64 million, from 4.57 million.

Home foreclosures are accelerating — and many more people are losing their homes — more than a year after the government launched a program to aid financially distressed borrowers. Foreclosure filings in March totaled 367,056, jumping nearly 19% from February and up almost 8% from March 2009.

Housing construction posted a better-than-expected performance in March, rising to the highest level in 16 months on the strength of multi-family homes. Overall, construction rose 1.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 626,000. However, construction of single-family homes, the most important segment of the market, fell. It dropped 0.9% to an annual rate of 531,000 units, after a strong 5.7% gain in February.

Federal bank regulators failed to stop “shoddy” lending and excessive risk-taking at Washington Mutual for years because they were too chummy with WaMu executives, a Senate panel says. WaMu’s primary regulator, the Office of Thrift Supervision, failed to properly oversee the bank, according to a report released Thursday by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The OTS’ lax oversight led to WaMu’s failure, the biggest by a U.S. bank, the report said.

Bank of America said Friday its first-quarter earnings rose 0.7% to $2.83 billion as strong trading revenue helped the bank offset continuing losses on consumer loans. The bank reported a $2.1 billion loss in its home mortgage business, but said its other consumer loan businesses were showing signs of healing.

Afghanistan

Deaths of Afghan civilians by NATO troops have more than doubled this year, NATO statistics show, jeopardizing a U.S. campaign to win over the local population by protecting them against insurgent attacks. NATO troops accidentally killed 72 civilians in the first three months of 2010, up from 29 in the same period in 2009. In addition, civilian injuries due to roadside bombs and other explosives in southern Afghanistan have soared so far this year, the International Committee for the Red Cross said in a report, amid rising Taliban violence across much of the country. The Red Cross-supported Mirwais Hospital in the city of Kandahar admitted up to 40% more patients wounded by bombs in the first two months of the year compared to the same period last year, the group said in a report issued Wednesday. The insurgency employs roadside bombs to attack Afghan government forces and NATO troops and spread fear among the populace.

The United Nations said five of its Afghan employees were missing Friday amid reports their vehicles were hijacked in the same northern province where fierce fighting killed four German soldiers and three Afghan police the previous day. Twin bombings Thursday targeted foreign companies in the southern city of Kandahar that killed at least three people.

Pakistan

A suicide bomber attacked a hospital emergency room where Shiite Muslims were mourning a slain bank manager on Friday, killing eight people including a journalist and two policemen in Quetta, Pakistan’s main southwest city. It wasn’t the first time that Shiite mourners have been attacked at hospitals in Pakistan, evidence of a tactic in vogue for their Sunni extremist foes.

Iran

Iran has succeeded in producing its first significant batch of further enriched uranium, the country’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Wednesday, a move defying U.N. demands to halt the controversial program. The uranium has been enriched from around 3.5% to 20% purity, needed to fuel a medical research reactor, Salehi said, according to the ISNA news agency. That level is far below the more than 90% needed to build a nuclear weapon, but U.S. officials have expressed concern Iran may be moving closer to the ability to reach weapons-grade level. Washington is accelerating its campaign for a new round of U.N. sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend enrichment, as demanded by the United Nations.

Myanmar

Three explosions ripped through traditional New Year festivities in Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon on Thursday, killing at least nine people and injuring 60 others There was no indication who was behind the blasts, which occurred at about 3 p.m. near some 20 pavilions erected for the celebrations, close to the city’s Kandawgyi Lake. Myanmar is celebrating the annual four-day water festival, when people drench each other with water to usher in the Myanmar New Year on Saturday. Bombings are rare but not unknown in the cities of Myanmar, whose military rulers are fighting several insurgencies in remote provinces.

Earthquakes

China poured workers and equipment into a mountainous Tibetan region Thursday in a bid to find survivors more than a day after strong earthquakes killed more than 600 people and injured thousands. The series of quakes flattened buildings across remote western Yushu county and sent survivors, many bleeding from their wounds, flooding into the streets of Jiegu township. State television showed block after devastated block of toppled mud and wood homes. Local officials said 85% of the buildings had been destroyed. Survivors spent the night outdoors, where temperatures fell below freezing and aftershocks continued, residents said. With limited medical supplies and doctors, survivors with broken limbs could do no more than wait for help.

Volcanoes

Ash from an erupting volcano blanketed the ground in Iceland on Friday and left a widening trail of grounded aircraft across Europe, as thousands of planes stayed on the tarmac to avoid the hazardous cloud. The flight disruptions that upended travel in Europe and reverberated throughout the world are expected to become even worse on Friday. Half a dozen European nations have closed their air space — and the delays will continue into Saturday, it said. The World Health Organization says Europeans should try to stay indoors if ash from Iceland’s volcano starts raining down from the sky.

The last time Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano blew, the eruption lasted more than a year, from December 1821 until January 1823, reports Sally Sennert, a geologist at the Smithsonian Institution. “This seems similar to what’s happening now,” she says. Volcanic ash is formed during explosive volcanic eruptions. Once in the air, the wind can blow these tiny ash particles tens to thousands of miles away from the volcano. Life-threatening and costly damages can occur to aircraft that fly through an eruption cloud, reports the geological survey. Fortunately for the USA, Sennert says the wind direction is such that the ash cloud is traveling east-southeast, toward Europe and away from the USA.

Weather

Aid workers distributed rice, dried fruits, water and tarpaulins Thursday to the victims of a ferocious cyclone that killed at least 119 people in northeastern India and demolished ten of thousands of mud huts. Rescuers cleared hundreds of uprooted trees and electricity poles blocking roads to the devastated areas in Bihar state. Hundreds of people were injured and thousands left homeless. They were caught unaware as there was no cyclone warning from the weather department.

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