Government to Appeal Ruling Against National Day of Prayer

The Obama administration said Thursday it will appeal a court decision that found the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison ruled last week the National Day of Prayer that Congress established 58 years ago amounts to a call for religious action. In a notice filed Thursday, the Justice Department said it will challenge the decision in the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The notice came after about two dozen members of Congress condemned the ruling and pressed for an appeal. The case was brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group of atheists and agnostics who argue the National Day of Prayer violates the separation of church and state. Its co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor, said, “I would have expected something better from a legal scholar,” she said, referring to President Barack Obama’s background as a law professor.

  • Obama and his socialist administration will use this situation to curry favor with Christians while furthering the goal of religious tolerance to turn a Judeo-Christian nation into an interfaith conglomeration.

Federal Court Says Church Bells Are Constitutional

Religion News Service reports that a federal court has ruled a Phoenix city ordinance trying to limit the sound of church bells is an unconstitutional impingement on religious expression. In 2007, one day after Christ the King Cathedral moved to a space near a fire station, neighbors complained the church’s electronic bells — rung every hour, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. — violated the city’s noise ordinance. Although the church attempted to appease neighbors by erecting a buffer on its speakers and passing out informational flyers, the city filed a misdemeanor complaint last year. The church’s pastor, Bishop Rick Painter, was found guilty in city court and sentenced to 10 days in jail and three years probation, though he never served time in jail. On Monday, the federal court ruled in favor of the church bells, saying the city cannot prohibit “sound generated in the course of religious expression.”

States Seek New Ways to Restrict Abortions

Dozens of states are passing or debating new restrictions on abortion, a trend fueled in part by passage of the nation’s new health care law. The most significant legislation, both sides say, is a Nebraska law signed by the governor this month that would ban most abortions at the 20th week of pregnancy based on a new rationale that the fetus feels pain. Legal challenges are likely. Previously, abortion bans were based on when a fetus could survive outside the womb, generally beginning around 22 weeks, according to medical studies. At least 22 states have bills to increase counseling or waiting periods; 18 states have bills to expand the use of ultrasound. Tennessee lawmakers last week passed a bill that would ban abortion coverage in any plan sold through future government-run health marketplaces — called exchanges .

Oklahoma Governor Vetoes Two Abortion Bills

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry vetoed two abortion bills that he said are an unconstitutional attempt by the Legislature to insert government into the private lives and decisions of citizens. One measure would have required women to undergo an intrusive ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting abortions. Henry said Friday that legislation is flawed because it does not allow rape and incest victims to be exempted. Lawmakers who supported the vetoed measures promised an override vote in the House and Senate as early as next week. A national abortion rights group has said the ultrasound bill would have been among the strictest anti-abortion measures in the United States if it had been signed into law.

Ariz. Governor Signs Immigration Enforcement Bill

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law the nation’s toughest legislation against illegal immigration Friday, a sweeping measure which President Obama said could violate people’s civil rights. With hundreds of people surrounding the state Capitol, protesting that the bill would lead to civil rights abuses, Brewer said she wouldn’t tolerate racial profiling by police. She said critics were “overreacting.” “We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act,” Brewer said after signing the law. “But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”

The bill, sent to the Republican governor by the Republican-led Legislature, would make it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It would also require local police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal immigrants. Obama said earlier Friday that he’s instructed the Justice Department to examine the Arizona bill to see if it’s legal, and said the federal government must enact immigration reform at the national level or leave the door open to “irresponsibility by others.” Saying the United States “must remain a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws,” President Obama called today for changes to a “broken” immigration system and condemned a new Arizona law requiring migrants to carry documentation.

  • The USA is a nation of legal immigrants

GOP Attacks on SEC over Porn Surfing Staffers

Republicans are stepping up their criticism of the Securities and Exchange Commission following reports that senior agency staffers spent hours surfing pornographic websites on government-issued computers while they were supposed to be policing the nation’s financial system. California Rep. Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said it was “disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at porn than taking action to help stave off the events that put our nation’s economy on the brink of collapse.” The SEC’s inspector general conducted 33 investigations of employees looking at explicit images in the past five years, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. The memo says 31 of those investigations occurred in the 2 ½ years since the financial system teetered and nearly crashed.

  • Laws and government oversight are not enough to overcome humanity’s sinful nature. Jesus is the only answer.

Military’s Health Care Costs Booming

Military health care spending is rising twice as fast as the nation’s overall health care costs, consuming a larger chunk of the defense budget as the Pentagon struggles to pay for two wars, military budget figures show. The surging costs are prompting the Pentagon and Congress to consider the first hike in out-of-pocket fees for military retirees and some active-duty families in 15 years, said Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, deputy director of TRICARE, the military health care program. Pentagon spending on health care has increased from $19 billion in 2001 to a projected $50.7 billion in 2011, a 167% increase. The rapid rise has been driven by a surge in mental health and physical problems for troops who have deployed to war multiple times and by a flood of career military retirees fleeing less-generous civilian health programs.

Drinking, R-Rated Films Linked in Children

Middle-schoolers who are forbidden to watch R-rated movies are less likely to start drinking than peers whose parents are more lenient about such films, new research on 2,406 children shows. Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School found that among those whose parents let them watch R-rated movies “all the time,” almost a quarter had tried a drink without their parents’ knowledge. That compares with barely 3% who tried a drink among those who were “never allowed” to watch R-movies. The outcome isn’t based on other parenting decisions, such as keeping greater tabs on children’s media use, says pediatrician James Sargent, co-author of the study. He says researchers controlled for parenting style and still found “the movie effect is over-and-above that effect.”

Colony Collapse of Bees Worsens

In what appears to be a honeybee mystery of Armageddon proportions that has baffled scientists and beekeepers, more than one-third of the nation’s commercial honeybee population is mysteriously disappearing – and researchers warn the unexplained phenomenon threatens one-third of the American diet. In collapsed colonies, adult bees mysteriously disappear, and there is no accumulation of dead bees. Even hive pests such as wax moths and hive beetles are nowhere to be found around affected colonies. Experts warn the implications for the world’s agriculture are nothing to be ignored: according to the United States Department of Agriculture, a full one-third of the human diet depends on honeybee pollination of crops – especially fruit, nut, vegetable and seed production in the United States.

Sallie May to Cut 2,500 Jobs

Sallie Mae says a new law that cuts banks out of the federal student loan business is costing 2,500 workers their jobs. The nation’s largest student lender has told 1,200 staffers in service centers in Killeen, Texas, and Panama City, Fla., they will lose their jobs by year-end. The remaining cuts will follow in 2011, resulting in nearly a third of the company’s total work force of 8,000 losing their jobs. The law strips the middleman role in student lending away from banks. It’s expected to save at least $60 billion in fees that went to banks to process government-backed student loans. Sallie Mae, which wrote a record $7.7 billion in federal student loans in the first three months of the year, says it will also mean a drastic reshaping of the company.

  • Didn’t Obama say the Healthcare bill would increase jobs?

Economic News

Regulators shut down seven banks in Illinois on Friday, putting the number of U.S. bank failures this year at 57. 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 Federal Deposit Insurance Fund more than $30 billion. Twenty-five banks failed in 2008 and only three succumbed in 2007.

As of Friday the Dow Jones industrial average has entered its longest winning streak in more than six years. The Dow Jones industrial average closed the day higher for the 11th time in the past 12 trading days. Friday’s 70-point gain wrapped up the index’s eighth straight weekly rise, which matches its longest string of gains since a two-month stretch that ended in January 2004. Analysts have been saying for weeks that the market could be primed for a pullback, yet it still hasn’t materialized.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is telling Congress that the administration believes the final cost of the government’s heavily criticized financial bailout effort could be as low as $87 billion. A year ago, officials were estimating the bailout could cost as much as $500 billion. He said because of the lower costs, the federal deficit and the total national debt will be lower than earlier projections. In addition to the $117 billion in TARP losses, the administration is estimating losses of $85 billion from the support to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Those two categories of losses would be offset by the $115 billion in earnings the administration expects will be realized from the Fed’s support programs.

  • Creative accounting?

China

For years, China curbed its once-explosive population growth with a widely hated one-child limit that at its peak led to forced abortions, sterilizations and even infanticide. Now the long-sacrosanct policy may be on its way out, as some demographers warn that China is facing the opposite problem: not enough babies. Officially, the government remains committed to the one-child policy. But it also commissioned feasibility studies last year on what would happen should it eliminate the policy or do nothing. An official with the National Population and Family Planning Commission said privately that the agency is looking at ways to refine the limit without getting rid of it.

Mexico

Gunmen armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked a convoy carrying the top security official of the western state of Michoacan on Saturday, killing four and wounding 10 in Mexico’s second brazen ambush in as many days. Gunmen also ambushed two police vehicles at a busy intersection in Ciudad Juarez on Friday, killing seven officers and a 17-year-old boy who was passing by, authorities said. Two local police officers remain in critical condition. Ciudad Juarez is one of the world’s deadliest cities, and a two-year turf battle between drug cartels has left more than 5,000 people dead.

Afghanistan

Dozens of Afghan schoolgirls have fallen ill in recent days after reporting a strange odor in their classrooms, prompting an investigation into whether they were targeted by militants who oppose education for girls or victims of mass hysteria. Either way, the reports from three schools within two miles of one another in the northern province of Kunduz have raised alarm in a city threatened by the Taliban and their militant allies.

Pakistan

A suicide car bomber attacked a prison van while gunmen torched six NATO oil tankers in separate strikes Saturday that killed four Pakistani police officers and wounded 10 others. The army, meanwhile, kept up its pressure on the Pakistani Taliban in the tribal belt, killing 20 suspected fighters, while apparent U.S. missiles killed five alleged insurgents in a nearby northwest region, officials said. U.S. officials do not publicly acknowledge being behind the missile attacks. The missiles are fired from unmanned drones launched either from Afghanistan or according to some media reports from secret bases in Pakistan.

Sudan

Sudanese officials say clashes along the country’s north-south border between soldiers from south Sudan’s army and Arab nomads have left scores killed and wounded in south Darfur. Abdullah Massar, a presidential adviser from the Arab tribe involved, said Sunday that local tribal officials report more than 50 Arab nomads were killed in the fighting with soldiers from the southern Sudan’s People Liberation Army. Tension along the north-south border is particularly sensitive in Sudan because much of the border is not demarcated. Southern Sudan will vote next year on whether to separate from the north.

Korea

An explosion from a torpedo likely sank a South Korean warship that went down near the tense border with North Korea last month, the South’s defense minister said Sunday amid growing speculation Pyongyang may be behind the blast. Seoul has not directly blamed North Korea for the blast, and Pyongyang has denied its involvement, but suspicion remains given the country’s history of provocation and attacks on the South.

Thailand

Hopes for a quick, peaceful resolution to Thailand’s political crisis dimmed Sunday after the prime minister rejected a compromise proposal for dissolving parliament and protesters hit back by withdrawing from negotiations. The breakdown of talks Saturday heightened fears of a new confrontation between security forces and the red shirted protesters who have virtually shut down central Bangkok. The protesters, who claim the government took power illegitimately, had previously demanded Parliament be dissolved immediately, while the government said it would disband parliament in six months.

Weather

Severe storms sent tornadoes across the state Saturday afternoon, killing at least 12. Hundreds of homes were damaged in the tornado, which carved a path of devastation from the Louisiana line to east-central Mississippi, and at least three dozen people were hurt.

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