Gay-Marriage Lawsuits Escalate

Lawsuits over gay marriage have escalated on the nation’s two coasts, energizing advocates on both sides and bringing the legal battle over same-sex marriage closer to the U.S. Supreme Court. Final arguments in a constitutional test of California’s ban on such unions were held a month ago this week. A verdict in the case heard by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco could come any day. Last Thursday, a federal judge in Boston raised the stakes in this fractious area when he declared part of a U.S. law that refuses to recognize state gay marriages is unconstitutional. Unlike state legal battles in recent decades that have left a patchwork of state laws on same-sex marriage and civil unions, the cases in San Francisco and Boston test the U.S. Constitution and could lead to a national standard. Yet the Supreme Court will likely move incrementally rather than sweepingly when cases arrive.

  • Incrementally is how the socialists (so-called “cultural Marxists”) are undermining our country. They hatched the cultural battle in the early 1900s with that expressed strategy, taking an extreme long-term view which is now coming to fruition.

Court Rules FCC Indecency Policy “Unconstitutionally Vague”

A federal appeals court struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s indecency policy Tuesday, calling it “unconstitutionally vague” and a violation of the First Amendment. The ruling is a big victory for broadcast networks, which challenged the policy in 2006 after the FCC said unscripted expletives said on live broadcasts violated indecency rules and were subject to fines. “By prohibiting all ‘patently offensive’ references to sex, sexual organs, and excretion without giving adequate guidance as to what ‘patently offensive’ means, the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive,” the court wrote. “To place any discussion of these vast topics at the broadcaster’s peril has the effect of promoting wide self-censorship of valuable material which should be completely protected under the First Amendment.” The court added that the FCC might be able to create a new, constitutional policy.

  • Another example of incremental decline in cultural values

Mormon Church Reaffirms Stance Against Gay Marriage

Mormon church leaders have restated the faith’s unequivocal position against gay marriage in a letter to members in Argentina, where the government is debating whether to legalize gay unions. “The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is absolutely clear: Marriage is between one man and woman and is ordained of God,” said the July 6 letter from church President Thomas S. Monson. The faith has more than 371,000 members, according to a 2010 church almanac. The country’s population is more than 41 million.

  • While Mormonism is not a true Christian religion, we appreciate their support of important Biblical principles

Church of England Affirms Women Bishops

The Church of England national assembly decided Monday that women should be allowed to become bishops, making only minor concessions to theological conservatives who have threatened to break away over the issue. Dioceses will now consider the draft law, which would leave it up to individual bishops to allow alternative oversight for traditionalists who object to serving under women bishops. The dioceses must report back by 2012 and a final vote by the ruling body, the General Synod, will still be needed, but supporters say a milestone has been passed.

NAACP Passes Resolution Blasting Tea Party ‘Racism’

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has passed a resolution that condemns what it feels is rampant racism in the Tea Party movement.  Members passed the measure on Tuesday at the NAACP’s 101st annual convention being held in Kansas City, Missouri. Tea Party activists have swiftly denounced the action as unfounded and unfair. “We take no issue with the Tea Party.  We believe in freedom of assembly and people raising their voices in a democracy,” NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous said in a statement. “We take issue with the Tea Party’s continued tolerance for bigotry and bigoted statements.  The time has come for them to accept the responsibility that comes with influence and make clear there is no space for racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in their movement,” Jealous added. Former Alaska Gov.  Sarah Palin, a Tea Party favorite,  said the charge from the NAACP is “false, appalling, and is a regressive and diversionary tactic to change the subject at hand.”

  • Protest groups always attract fringe elements that do not define the true nature of the organization. The same can be said about the NAACP.

New BP Cap Testing Delayed

Workers successfully bolted a 150,000-pound “capping stack” on top of the surging well, and engineers planned tests Tuesday to check whether the cap can withstand the enormous pressure from the oil flow. But BP is delaying critical tests on a new, tightly sealed cap designed to halt the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico after government officials said more analysis was needed on the plan. When the tests begin, and if successful, the new device could halt the flow of oil for the first time in 85 days. Even if the new cap eventually works, it won’t mean the end. Engineers must finish drilling a relief well to intercept the runaway well and seal it with mud and cement. The relief line is 5 feet away, and the well likely won’t be sealed until mid-August.

Feds Issue Revised Deep-Water Drilling Ban

The federal government on Monday issued a revised moratorium on deep-sea offshore drilling, imposed on the heels of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike the previous moratorium, which was struck down in federal court, the new one isn’t based on water depth and applies to any deep-water floating facility with drilling activities. It will last through Nov. 30. The government’s moratorium has been criticized by Louisiana‘s political and industry leaders, who say it is piling on economic hardship to an area already suffering from the oil spill. So far, the moratorium has caused more than 12,000 job losses and more than $172 million in lost revenue, according to a study by Greater New Orleans, a regional economic development agency.

Technology Disasters Share Trail of Hubris

It’s all so familiar. A technological disaster, then a presidential commission examining what went wrong. And ultimately a discovery that while technology marches on, concern for safety lags. Space shuttles shatter. Bridges buckle. Hotel walkways collapse. Levees fail. An offshore oil rig explodes, creating the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Technology turns out not to be as foolproof as it first seemed. The common thread all too often is technological arrogance and hubris. It’s the belief by those in charge that they’re the experts, that they know what they’re doing is safe. Add to that the human weaknesses of avoidance, greed and sloppiness, say academics who study disasters. Even before the oil spill commission holds its first meeting Monday in New Orleans, panel co-chairman William Reilly couldn’t help but point out something he’s already noticed. The technology to clean up after an oil spill “is primitive,” Reilly said. “It’s wholly disproportionate to the tremendous technological advances that have allowed deepwater drilling to go forward. It just hasn’t kept pace.”

Energy Bill Scaled Down

President Obama‘s attempt to use the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to help propel comprehensive energy legislation has failed, but the Senate plans to unveil a scaled-back measure as early as next week. A month ago, Obama used his first Oval Office address to the nation to press for congressional action on energy and climate change legislation — the only major piece of his domestic agenda that has languished in Congress. Yet on Tuesday, the topic didn’t even come up when the president met with the Senate’s Democratic leaders at the White House to discuss upcoming legislation. Instead, the meeting focused on financial regulation, aid for the unemployed and increasing loans to small businesses. The energy bill likely to emerge in the Senate won’t look like the one Obama has sought since taking office. He wants to charge utilities and other companies for a portion of their greenhouse gas emissions as a way to reduce pollution and pay for clean energy alternatives. Instead, the Senate bill is likely to include renewable energy standards and tax credits, tougher fuel-efficiency requirements, incentives for electric vehicles and new oil drilling regulations.

Financial Regulation Bill Faces Final Vote this Week

President Barack Obama on Tuesday secured the 60 votes he needs in the Senate to pass a sweeping overhaul of financial regulations, all but ensuring that he soon will sign into law one of the top initiatives of his presidency. With the votes in hand to overcome Republican delaying tactics, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he hoped for final passage on Thursday. The House already has passed the bill. Passage would represent a signature achievement for the president just four months after he signed massive health care legislation into law. The 2,300-page bill aims to address regulatory weaknesses blamed for the 2008 financial crisis that fueled the worst recession since the 1930s. It gives regulators broad authority to rein in banks, limit risk-taking by financial firms and supervise previously unregulated trading. It also makes it easier to liquidate large, financially interconnected institutions, and it creates a new consumer protection bureau to guard against lending abuses.

Senate Republicans Press for Deep Cuts in Obama Budget

Senate Republicans are backing a plan to shave $26 billion from President Barack Obama’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. GOP members requested a spending cap at fiscal year 2011 projected levels — $26 billion less than President Obama’s submitted budget. “Over the last two years discretionary spending has increased by 17%, not including stimulus spending. With stimulus spending included the increase soars to 84%,” they warn. “The American people are saying to us: You’re spending too much, you’re running up too many debts, and we expect you to do something about it,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Ø      Someone has to something about runaway spending and spiraling deficits or an even worse recession/depression looms

Economic News

The federal deficit has topped $1 trillion with three months still to go in the current budget year, showing the continued impact of a deep recession and emergency spending on the government’s finances. In its monthly budget report, the Treasury Department said Tuesday that through the first nine months of this budget year, the deficit totals $1 trillion, down 7.6% from the $1.09 trillion in red ink run up during the same period a year ago.

The U.S. trade deficit widened in May to the highest level in 18 months as a rebounding economy pushed up demand for imports of foreign-made cars, computers and clothing. The trade deficit increased 4.8% to $42.3 billion. American exports of goods and services rose 2.4% but this increase was outpaced by a 2.9% rise in imports.

Small banks that took federal bailout money are struggling to repay the government, and “a growing number could default on their obligations to taxpayers” or go out of business. The Congressional Oversight Panel reports today that fewer than 10% of small banks that participated in the bailout have repaid Uncle Sam and that one in seven have missed making dividend payments. Many smaller banks are floundering, the panel says.

Retail sales fell in June for the second straight month. Retail spending dropped 0.5% in June, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. That followed a 1.1% fall in May. Much of the weakness last month came from a drop in auto sales and a decline in gasoline prices. Excluding autos and gasoline, sales would have risen 0.1%.

Greece on Tuesday raised euro1.625 billion ($2.04 billion) in a debt auction, its first since getting bailed out in May The sale was seen as an important test of Greece’s financial recovery effort amid continued Europe-wide concern over sovereign debt.

Middle East

Israeli military officials say a Libyan ship carrying supplies and pro-Palestinian activists is heading for Egypt instead of Gaza, averting a confrontation at sea. Israel has insisted that it would not allow the Libyan ship to reach Gaza, breaking a naval blockade. The officials said Israeli naval vessels would continue to accompany the Libyan ship, because a last-minute course change could point the ship toward Gaza. Israel came under harsh international criticism after nine activists were killed in a raid on a Turkish flotilla on May 31.

Afghanistan

Warplanes in Afghanistan are dropping bombs and missiles on insurgents at about 25% of the rate they did three years ago despite more widespread combat, reflecting commanders’ emphasis on reducing civilian deaths. So far this year, jets have dropped bombs on only 10% of their combat support missions, compared with almost 40% in 2007. The decline coincides with the arrival of most of the additional 30,000 U.S. troops ordered to Afghanistan by President Obama. Attacks on U.S. and allied troops — as well as deaths — are at all-time highs. Some military analysts say the new rules have increased risk to ground forces fighting the Taliban.

A car bomb and gunfight at the entrance of a police headquarters killed three U.S. troops and five civilians in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. An Afghan police officer also died in the attack on the compound of the elite Afghan National Civili Order Police late Tuesday night. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. A suicide attacker slammed a car bomb into the entrance of the compound, then insurgents opened fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Ireland

Northern Ireland leaders condemned Irish nationalist rioters Tuesday who wounded 82 police officers during two nights of street clashes sparked by the province’s annual parades by the British Protestant majority. While most of the injured officers suffered only cuts and bruises, others suffered burns and broken hands. Two remained hospitalized: a policeman wounded in the chest and arms by a shotgun blast, and a policewoman who had a paving stone dropped on her head from a shop’s rooftop. The violence in working-class Catholic parts of Belfast and other towns came both before and after tens of thousands of Protestants of the Orange Order brotherhood marched at 18 locations across Northern Ireland in an annual show of communal strength.

France

France’s lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a ban on wearing burqa-style Islamic veils Tuesday, part of a determined effort to define and protect French values that has disconcerted many in the country’s large Muslim community. Proponents of the law say face-covering veils don’t square with the French ideal of women’s equality or its secular tradition. The bill is controversial abroad but popular in France, where its relatively few outspoken critics. The ban on burqas and niqabs will go in September to the Senate, where it also is likely to pass. Some legal scholars say there is a chance it could be deemed unconstitutional.

Italy

Italian police on Tuesday carried out one of the biggest operations ever against the powerful ‘ndrangheta crime organization, arresting 300 people including top bosses, and seizing million of dollars in property. The man believed to be the ‘ndrangheta’s top boss was picked up earlier in the day in a small town in Calabria, the southern region where the organization is based. Also arrested was the man in charge of the gang’s businesses in Milan, where the ‘ndrangheta has been making major inroads. The pre-dawn raids Tuesday involved some 3,000 police across the country. Charges include murder, extortion, arms and drug trafficking and criminal association.

Wildfires

Voluntary evacuations have been urged for residents of about 50 homes in the Southern California city of Camarillo, where a wildfire has burned about 50 acres. About 250 firefighters were working Tuesday to put out the blaze, along with four helicopters and four air tankers. The fire is burning uphill and away from homes through steep canyons. The blaze sent up huge plumes of smoke that could be seen for miles. The fire had burned right up to backyards, but most residents had cleared space around their property.

Weather

A combination of better warning systems and fewer strong tornadoes have brought a sharp drop in deaths during tornadoes so far this year, weather experts said. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Storm Prediction Center said 29 people died in tornadoes across the country through the end of June — about half the average number in the past 30 years. Twenty-one people died in tornadoes last year, but 2008 had 126 deaths from tornadoes.

Landslides slammed into three mountain hamlets in western China early Tuesday, killing 17 people and leaving 44 missing, while crews drained a fast-rising reservoir in another part of the country following heavy rains. The landslides swept through three different areas before dawn. The waters in a reservoir near the far western city of Golmud began to subside Tuesday after hundreds of workers and soldiers finished digging a diversion channel. Over the weekend, about 10,000 residents were evacuated as soldiers transported sandbags, rocks and dirt and used bulldozers to dig the emergency waterway.

Eighteen people were killed and 57 others are missing as Tropical Storm Conson moved over the Philippines, the country’s National Disaster Coordinating Council reported Wednesday. Four people died when a warehouse under construction collapsed, the council said. Several people were hit by fallen debris and several others drowned. Twelve people were injured by debris. The missing included 25 fishermen. Nearly 500 houses were reported damaged. Many were still without power. The storm became the first typhoon of 2010 on Monday before losing some steam.

Seven-square miles of a Greenland glacier broke up on July 6 and 7, moving the edge of the glacier a mile inland in one day, the furthest inland it has ever been observed. The Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier is located on the west coast of Greenland. It has retreated more than 27 miles since 1850, six of them in the last decade. Jakobshavn is also believed to be the single largest contributor to sea level rise in the northern hemisphere.

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