Alarm Bells Sounding Over Kagan’s Supreme Agenda

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council Action organization has summarized the concern being expressed over President Obama’s nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. “She has the least amount of experience of any nominee in the last three decades. Her judicial experience is zero, as is her real-world experience, having spent most of her career in academia or working as a Democratic Party insider,” he wrote. “Her tenure as dean of Harvard Law School is marked by kicking the military off campus during the height of the Iraq War, a move that even Ruth Bader Ginsburg ruled was wrong-headed,” he continued. “In her brief tenure as solicitor general, she argued that the federal government has the power, under campaign finance laws, to ban certain books and pamphlets.” And, he noted, she served on an advisory committee for Goldman Sachs during the financial meltdown of 2007.

In her undergraduate thesis at Princeton, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, lamented the decline of socialism in the country as “sad” for those who still hope to “change America.” CBS News reported that President Obama’s new Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan will be the “first openly gay justice,” pleasing much of Obama’s liberal base.  But after complaints by an anonymous White House staffer that parts of the report were not public, the CBS reporter updated the post to say “I have to correct my text here to say that Kagan is apparently still closeted — odd, because her female partner is rather well known in Harvard circles.”

Pope Says Sex Scandal Greatest Threat to Catholic Church

The clerical abuse scandal represents the greatest threat to the Roman Catholic Church and the crisis was “born from sins within the church” not outside, Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday on a trip to Portugal. He called for profound purification and penance within the church as well as pardon and justice. His comments appeared to repudiate the Vatican’s initial response to the scandal, in which it blamed the media as well as pro-choice and pro-gay marriage advocates for mounting a campaign against the church and the pope in particular.

  • While Catholicism is not a good representation of true Christianity, the world sees it that way. Thus, this abuse scandal will give a big black eye to all of Christendom.

Oil Spill Continues Unabated

A remote-controlled submarine shot a chemical dispersant into the maw of a massive undersea oil leak Monday, further evidence that authorities expect the gusher to keep erupting into the Gulf of Mexico for weeks or more. Crews using the deep-sea robot attempted to thin the oil which is rushing up from the seabed at a pace of about 210,000 gallons (795,000 liters) per day after getting approval from the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency had halted two previous rounds of the dispersant to test its potential impact on the environment. The EPA said in a statement the effects of the chemicals were still widely unknown.

BP engineers focused their attention Monday on a number of short-term solutions to plug the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, after attempts to cap the largest of two leaks failed over the weekend. Within the week, crews will attempt to lower a 5-foot-tall, 2-ton “top hat” dome to block the main leak. The dome is equipped with inner and outer pipes, one to suck up oil and the other to disperse heated seawater and methanol that will act as antifreeze to prevent frozen natural gas from forming as it did on the larger containment box. Within two weeks, crews will inject materials into the valves on the blowout preventer atop the oil wellhead. The blowout preventer, designed to cut off leaks with a series of valves and pipe shears, is still partially open. The injection, called a “junk kill,” is designed to gum up that leak using items such as wood chips and golf balls. If the injection successfully plugs the well, crews would then fill it with concrete.

Mohave Cross Stolen

Private caretakers are vowing they will replace the steel cross honoring American war veterans that was stolen from its rocky base in the Mojave Desert less than two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled the memorial could remain on federal land. Wanda Sandoz, who with her husband, Henry, have maintained the cross and its predecessor for more than 25 years, said she was stunned to learn Monday that thieves had cut welded bolts and made off with the cross. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, which first placed a wooden cross on the rock in 1934 to honor troops killed in World War I, has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the theft.

Health Bill Costs Ratchet Up

Question: When is less than $1 trillion actually more than $1 trillion? Answer: When the White House and Congress are estimating health care costs. It’s no surprise that the Congressional Budget Office now says the 10-year, $938 billion health care bill passed by Democrats and signed by President Obama likely will cost at least $115 billion more. “These revelations widen the serious credibility gap President Obama is facing,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said. “The lesson learned here is don’t trust what Washington’s saying on ObamaCare,” added Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Senate Votes to Audit the Federal Reserve

Moving to further open the Federal Reserve to public scrutiny, the Senate unanimously voted Tuesday to require audits of the Fed’s emergency loans during the financial crisis. The 96-0 vote was a rare display of bipartisan harmony in an otherwise bruising battle over the sweeping bill to overhaul financial regulation. The Fed has drawn fire over its failure to prevent the crisis and to reveal which institutions received more than $2 trillion in emergency loans in the aftermath. The amendment would require the Government Accountability Office to audit the Fed’s liquidity initiatives starting in December 2007. The Fed also would have to disclose by Dec. 1 which banks got funds. Passage became all but certain last week after the Fed staved off a requirement to audit its decisions on interest rates. The Fed says such reviews would compromise its independence and spark inflation fears.

Tax Bills at Lowest Level Since 1950

Amid complaints about high taxes and calls for a smaller government, Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman‘s presidency, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data found. Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010. The real problem is spending,counters Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks, which organizes Tea Party groups. “The money we borrow is going to be paid back through taxation in the future,” he says.

  • Eight years of Bush policies lowered our taxes, now they’re increasing again. With the enormous stimulus debt burden, rates will rise high once again.

Economic News

Mortgage finance company Fannie Mae (FNM) has again asked taxpayers for more money after reporting a first-quarter loss of more than $13 billion. The company, which was rescued by the government in September 2008, said it needs another $8.4 billion to help cover mounting losses. The rescue of Fannie Mae and sister company Freddie Mac (FRE) is turning out to be one of the most expensive aftereffects of the financial meltdown. The new request for aid will bring Fannie Mae’s total to $83.6 billion. The total bill for the duo will now be nearly $145 billion.

Home prices are widely expected to fall now that a tax credit for home buyers has expired. That’s raising concern about a possible double dip in home prices. National housing prices stopped falling early last year and rose 0.3% over the 12 months ending in February. A shrunken pool of buyers due to the tax credit’s expiration is one reason. Another reason is the increasing number of distressed houses — including foreclosures and short sales — that are on the market or that will be in coming months.

The U.S. trade deficit rose to a 15-month high as rising oil prices pushed crude oil imports to the highest level since the fall of 2008, offsetting another strong gain in exports. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the trade deficit rose 2.5% to $40.4 billion in March. Exports of goods and services rose 3.2% to $147.87 billion, highest since October 2008. Imports were up 3.1% to $188.3 billion.

Gasoline prices are poised to fall as Memorial Day approaches, a welcome change for motorists who have gotten used to seeing seasonal increases cut into their summer vacation money. Experts who had been predicting a national average of more than $3 a gallon by Memorial Day now say prices have likely peaked just short of that. Rising supplies and concern about a weakening global economy have helped send wholesale gasoline prices plummeting by 25 cents a gallon since last week.

Britain

Britain woke up to a new political era Wednesday with the first coalition government since World War II an unlikely marriage between the Conservative Party and the left-leaning Liberal Democrats. With a handshake, smiles and waves, the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed his new coalition partner, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, outside the shiny black door at 10 Downing Street and set off on the business of running the country. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced his resignation Tuesday. Brown’s startling news conference came as the Conservatives, who won the most seats in the election but not a majority in Parliament.

Israel

Israel‘s deputy premier said Monday that Israel’s air force has improved its capabilities and is better prepared for a war with Iran, considered a dangerous enemy because of its nuclear program. Moshe Yaalon Israel considers Iran a serious threat because of its nuclear program, missiles and references by its leaders to Israel’s destruction. Israel also views Iran as a threat because of its continued material support to Hezbollah and Hamas militants who have struck Israel. In past years, Israel has launched a limited number of pre-emptive attacks against strategic military targets, including a strike on Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981.

Afghanistan

The Obama administration sought Monday to smooth over past differences with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who arrived here on a four-day mission to convince Americans that his country is not a lost cause. At a White House news conference, Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, acknowledged that relations with Karzai have been shaky at times. Appearing with Eikenberry, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told reporters that he has a good relationship with Karzai. Karzai and a large delegation of Cabinet ministers arrived for the Karzai government’s widest engagement with U.S. leaders since his re-election in a flawed vote last year. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton kicked off a day of closed talks with Afghan government leaders by assuring President Hamid Karzai that the U.S. will remain committed to his country’s security and reconstruction long after the last U.S. combat troops have departed.

A bomb attack killed two U.S. service members in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, while Afghan officials said at least 18 militants died in a recent operation in the same region. Thousands of U.S., NATO and Afghan forces have poured into southern Afghanistan in recent months to try to rout Taliban from areas long ruled more by the militants than by the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Pakistan

Pakistani Taliban shot and killed two men Wednesday whom they accused of spying for the United States, while a bomb ripped through a NATO oil tanker near the Afghan border and killed a passerby. The slain men were from Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region which is effectively under militant control. The bodies were dumped in an open area in the town.

Up to 18 American missiles slammed into a Taliban sanctuary in Pakistan close to the Afghan border Tuesday, killing 14 alleged insurgents in the third such strike since a failed car bombing in New York drew fresh attention to the region. The number of missiles fired into North Waziristan was unusually high, reflecting multiple targets. They struck cars, homes and tents across a wide area in the Doga area, where insurgents have hideouts and training facilities. North Waziristan has been the target of nearly all of about 30 other American attacks this year. In recent months, it has become a new haven for militants who fled a Pakistani army offensive in their previous stronghold, neighboring South Waziristan.

Iraq

Iraqi officials say two explosions in a Baghdad neighborhood have killed five people. The blasts went off in the Dora neighborhood, a Sunni area in southwestern Baghdad that is also home to a small Christian community. Police and hospital officials said three of the dead were police officers and 16 other policemen and bystanders were wounded. The sheer breadth of the attacks was a blow after recent victories against insurgents and demonstrated the militants’ resilience. Officials blamed the violence, which stretched from the volatile north to the normally peaceful Shiite south, on the political vacuum resulting from inconclusive March 7 elections. Two months after the voting, it still is not clear who will control the next Iraqi government.

Haiti

Food for the Poor reports that more than 1 million people in Haiti are still homeless following January’s crippling earthquake. Thousands of people are still living in tent cities outside of Port-au-Prince and other areas, despite the coming of the rainy season.

Weather

Violent storms that tore through the southern Plains killed five people and injured dozens more, leaving behind flattened homes, toppled semitrailers and downed power lines. Several tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma and Kansas on Monday as the storms moved through the area, dumping hail as big as baseballs and leaving tens of thousands of people without power. Officials reported that at least 58 others were injured — two of them critically.

Age has not been kind to Glacier National Park. The gorgeous million-acre park in northwestern Montana celebrated its 100th birthday on Tuesday. But many of its glaciers have melted, and scientists predict the rest may not last another decade. The forests are drier and disease-ridden, leading to bigger wildfires. Climate change is forcing animals that feed off plants to adapt. Many experts consider Glacier Park a harbinger of Earth‘s future, a laboratory where changes in the environment will likely show up first. Average temperatures have risen in the park 1.8 times faster than the global average.

  • Global warming is real but not human caused, instead an end-time phenomenon

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