Anglican Leader Urges Penalty for Ordaining Gays

The spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans wants to sideline provinces that violate moratoria on ordaining partnered gays and on other contentious activity in the splintering fellowship. The proposal is expected to cost Episcopalians their formal role in shaping Anglican doctrine and in conducting dialogue with other faiths. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said that provinces that fail to heed the requests of Anglican bodies cannot be in a position to “represent the communion as a whole.” The Episcopal Church, the Anglican province in the U.S., last month consecrated its second openly gay bishop. The 77-million-member Anglican Communion is a global fellowship that traces its roots to the Church of England.

Obama Gives Benefits to Workers’ Same-Sex Partners

President Obama is extending child care, medical leave and other benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. Obama on Wednesday directed federal agencies to immediately begin allowing domestic partners and their children some of the same rights available to spouses and children of employees. That includes child-care services and subsidies, expanded family and medical leave and relocation and other benefits. Obama’s memorandum covers only benefits that can be extended under existing law, without congressional action. Legislative action would be required for a full range of health care and other benefits.

Oil Spill Continues Gushing

BP reported some oil was flowing up a pipe Friday from a cap it wrestled onto its broken Gulf of Mexico well but crude still spewed and it was unclear how much could be captured in the latest bid to tame the worst U.S. oil spill. Every plan so far to stop the leak has failed. As anxiety over the leak rises, the focus is shifting to the more than 20,000 government, private-sector and volunteer workers across the region who are cleaning up beaches and trying to reduce the impact of the catastrophe. Each morning, more than 20 boats loaded with inflatable boom and nearly 300 workers depart from docks in Venice, LA. The workers then spend their days skimming and collecting oil from contaminated shoreline nearby — all while enduring snake bites, heat exhaustion, staph infections and other hazards. Up to 800,000 gallons of oil a day are spewing into the Gulf, and more than 20 million gallons have leaked so far, exceeding the Valdez disaster as the worst spill in U.S. history.

With oil reaching Louisiana’s marshes, the next stage in the spill response may come from microbes. “Bioremediation,” fertilizes contaminated areas to spur oil-eating bacteria into action, is one of 13 options federal officials cited Wednesday in a three-stage plan for the last, longest part of the Gulf oil disaster, the coming cleanup of fouled shores. The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration plan suggests marsh recovery — ranging from burning heavily oiled marshes to letting lightly oiled waters naturally degrade— may last decades. The White House has approved plans to build five sand berms to protect the Louisiana coast from the Gulf oil spill, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday.

The BP oil spill was the best thing to happen to Democrats and their latest plot to tax and spend our money. While the rest of the country was focused on the oil spill, Obama and his cohorts John Kerry and Joe Lieberman met behind closed doors to put the finishing touches on their Cap and Tax bill. The bill is even more of an underhanded Liberal power grab than ObamaCare. The oil spill will become the impetus to push for greater socialistic control over the energy sector.

Ariz., White House to Start Work on Reinforcing Border

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said Thursday her staff will start working with the Obama administration on deploying more troops along her state’s porous border with Mexico, even as they continue to argue about Arizona’s new immigration law. The two had a cordial discussion about how to follow through on President Obama’s plan to send 1,200 more National Guard troops to the Arizona-Mexico border, Brewer said. Obama seeks to increase the federal Border Patrol budget by $500 million. Brewer said Obama made little comment on whether the administration would sue her state over the law, saying he would leave that to the Justice Department. Brewer said she would defend the law, which will take effect July 29, all the way to the Supreme Court. According to a White House statement on the meeting, Obama said Arizona’s law and similar efforts by more than 20 states would interfere with the federal government’s responsibility to set and enforce immigration policy.

More Marriages Mix Races Than Ever Before

Marriages between spouses of different races and ethnicities are more common than ever before, say authors of a report by the Pew Research Center. A record 15% — about one out of every seven — of new marriages in 2008 landed in the “Marrying Out” category, the report says. The new figure is six times the intermarriage rate of roughly 2% in 1960. Several factors are fueling the trend, including the weakening of long-standing cultural taboos and new waves of immigrants from Asia and Latin America. White-Hispanic marriages were the most common interethnic unions, making up about four in 10 (41%) of the 280,000 total couples who had intermarried.

1 in 5 High School Students Abuse Prescription Drugs

A new report shows one in five high school students have taken a prescription drug that they didn’t get from a doctor. The abused drugs include pain pills and attention deficit drugs used as study aids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that the drug use was most common among 12th graders. White students took the drugs more than blacks or Hispanics. The findings released Thursday come from a 2009 confidential and anonymous survey of more than 16,000 U.S. high school students.

Federal Spending Out of Control

Washington will spend $30,543 per household in 2010—an increase of $5,000 per household in just two years. Federal spending and deficits are increasing at levels unseen since World War II. And though President Obama has done little to quell the spending surge — in fact, his budget only accelerates the pace of spending — excessive government spending did not begin with him. Since 2000, spending has grown across the board, according to a new Heritage Foundation analysis. Over the last decade, entitlement spending on programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security has reached a record 14 percent of GDP; discretionary spending has expanded 79 percent faster than inflation as a result of large defense and domestic spending hikes; anti-poverty spending increased 89 percent faster than inflation; K–12 education spending rose 219 percent; veterans spending grew 107 percent; and Medicare jumped 81 percent. More than 41 cents of every dollar Washington spends in 2010 will be borrowed.

Economic News

States and local governments took in more money than they spent in the first three months of this year — their first surplus since 2007 — in a sign that the worst of the budget crisis may be over. A flood of federal stimulus money and a modest upturn in tax receipts have improved the health of states after two years of financial havoc. Revenue has grown faster than spending for three straight quarters, reports the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Tax collections are up, too, although they remain below the peak of 2008.

A wave of census hiring boosted U.S. payrolls by 431,000 in May, but job creation by private companies grew at the slowest pace since the start of the year. The unemployment rate dipped to 9.7% as people gave up searching for work. Virtually all the job creation in May came from the hiring of 411,000 census workers. By contrast, hiring by private employers, backbone of the economy, slowed sharply. They added just 41,000 jobs, down from 218,000 in April and the fewest since January. All told, 15 million people were unemployed in May

New claims for unemployment insurance fell for a second week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The declines come after a sharp increase three weeks ago, and claims remain elevated. Labor says initial claims for jobless benefits dropped last week by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 453,000. After falling steadily in the second half last year, claims have leveled off and are now only slightly below the level they were at the beginning of this year. The four-week average, which smooths volatility, rose for a third week to 459,000.

A rush of consumers aiming to meet a deadline to qualify for a federal tax credit pushed the number of buyers signing contracts to purchase homes to the highest level since October. The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes rose 6% in April. But the tax credits expired on April 30. Many analysts expect sales to drop in the coming months.

Americans, uninspired by cool weather and feeling fresh concerns about the economy, spent with caution in May. Retailers’ May sales reports, released Wednesday, underscore how fragile the consumer spending recovery remains. The lackluster May and April follow a solid first quarter when shoppers opened their wallets and showed more willingness to pay full price as they took comfort in a rallying stock market and signs of economic recovery. But fears that a debt crisis in Europe could hammer global growth are causing heavy declines on Wall Street and raising concern that the inroads made in the U.S. economic recovery could unravel.

The auto industry rolled to a solid 19.1% sales increase in May, evidence that it is continuing a steady comeback from the ruinous recession, according to totals announced by automakers Wednesday. Chrysler Group posted the biggest rebound, selling 32.7% more vehicles in May than it did a year ago when it was deep into bankruptcy reorganization. General Motors and Ford also posted double-digit gains. All told, the auto industry was on pace to sell 11.6 million new cars for the year, a substantial increase over the dismal 9.8 million pace last year.

Ford Motor’s decision Wednesday to stop making its Mercury brand by year’s end closes 72 years of life for a brand that hasn’t had much of one lately. “It’s time,” Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, said at the press conference. “This allows us to take 100% of our resources to focus on continuing to grow the Ford brand” and to making Lincoln a better rival to Cadillac and Lexus.

Salvation Army Extends Ministry to 121 Countries

The Salvation Army is extending its ministry further into the Muslim world as its leaders work with the United Arab Emirates to establish a base in that country, the Christian Post reports. The Christian development and social service organization is now present in 121 countries. According to an announcement Tuesday, “The Salvation Army is developing relationships with members of the government, diplomatic and legal communities in the U.A.E. Together with the formation of an advisory board, these steps will help ensure that The Salvation Army becomes part of daily life in the Middle East.” The organization has also worked in Kuwait since 2008, and worked with the U.A.E. from that base. The group was also recognized in Sierra Leone this year.

European Crisis Batters Euro

Little more than six months ago, after gathering strength for much of 2009, the euro reached a value of $1.51. That plateau came after a British newspaper reported that Middle East oil barons were secretly plotting to abandon the embattled dollar and set their prices using a basket of several currencies, including the euro. Europe‘s coin — a decade after its celebrated launch — appeared finally to have come into its own. No one thinks that today. Instead, amid a government debt crisis that has rattled Greece and taken aim at several of its neighbors, the euro — now worth $1.22 — seems blighted and adrift.

Middle East

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists seized by Israeli commandos in a bloody raid on their flotilla returned home to a hero’s welcome Thursday, with Turkish crowds cheering their attempt to break Israel‘s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. A funeral was to be held in Istanbul later Thursday for the nine activists killed during the Israeli raid on six aid ships — eight Turks and an American of Turkish origin. All of the nine activists died from gunshot wounds — some from close range — according to initial forensic examinations done in Turkey after the bodies were returned, NTV television reported. Israel maintains that the commandos only used their pistols as a last resort after they were attacked, and released a video showing soldiers in riot gear descending from a helicopter into a crowd of men with sticks and clubs. The Obama administration considers Israel’s blockade of Gaza to be untenable and plans to press for another approach to ensure Israel’s security while allowing more supplies into the impoverished Palestinian area, senior American officials said Wednesday.

Korea

The March 26 sinking of the South Korea warship Cheonan by a suspected North Korean torpedo, killing 46 sailors aboard, has grown into a crisis in which the world’s two largest militaries — those of the United States and China— are lined up on opposite sides behind the South and North, respectively. For several years, South Korea has pursued a policy of aid and diplomacy to the repressive and closed Stalinist country on its northern border, as a way of keeping peace. The “Sunshine Policy” involved sending North Korea massive shipments of food, financial aid and even the building of factories to provide work for the impoverished people of the North. Now the policy is in tatters, as South Koreans question whether their kindness was repaid with the killing of its sailors. Many now say the North must be punished and the South must take a more confrontational stand. The trouble follows several provocations from the North, which has bedeviled attempts by three successive U.S. administrations to rein in its nuclear ambitions.

Japan

Japan‘s parliament elected outspoken populist Naoto Kan as prime minister Friday, handing the political veteran the immediate task of rallying his party and reclaiming its mandate for change before elections next month. Kan succeeds Yukio Hatoyama, who stepped down Wednesday. During a rambling resignation speech in Tokyo on Wednesday, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said a Japanese songbird he spotted during a summit Sunday in Korea had told him it was time to come home. Now the leader, whose quirky comments and clothes sparked the nickname “the alien,” should enjoy more time to watch birds and his beloved baseball after bowing to public anger over his botched effort to relocate a major U.S. military base, and to pressure from his own party members, who feared he was making them unelectable. In a broadcast televised nationwide, Hatoyama, 63, acknowledged that his departure was spurred by the failure to keep a campaign promise to move the U.S. base on the southern island of Okinawa, home to more than half the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan. Analysts expect his successor, to be chosen Friday, will strive to mend relations with Washington but will face a troubled legacy on Okinawa that will keep nagging at ties between the world’s two largest economies.

China

A researcher says that China’s one-child policy has resulted in three million babies being hidden in the country each year, according to The Daily Telegraph. The policy is enforced via large fines and prison terms, sometimes even forced abortions and sterilizations. Liang Zhongtang, a demographer and former member of the expert committee of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission, says that many people are flouting the policy anyway. He says the discrepancy is obvious is China’s census. “In 1990, the national census recorded 23 million births. But by the 2000 census, there were 26 million 10-year-olds, an increase of three million,” he said. “What happens is that the unplanned baby girls usually do not get registered with the authorities when they are born,” he added.

Wildfires

Nineteen wildfires continue to burn in Alaska, having consumed over 230,000 acres thus far. Scattered wet thunderstorms will continue over the Alaska interior along with gusty winds over the southern interior.

Weather

Pakistan sent speed boats to warn fishing fleets Friday of an approaching cyclone and said it has prepared emergency shelters for 250,000 people it fears could be affected. Neighboring India warned that Tropical Cyclone Phet would cause heavy rains and gale-force winds along parts of its western coast. The storm was forecast to gain strength Friday and move closer to Oman before returning to Pakistan’s southwestern coast, where it was expected to hit Sunday.

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