Victory!  New York Judge OK’s “Jesus Prayers”

In breaking news this week, The Pray In Jesus Name Project announced another victory for the right to pray in Jesus’ name, as Federal Judge Charles Siragusa ruled it’s OK for city councils to allow pastors to pray “in Jesus’ name” to open public meetings in New York State. The Alliance Defense Fund defended the town of Greece, NY, when they were sued by atheist complainers at Americans United to stop pastors from praying “in Jesus name.”  “We now add New York to the growing list of states we’ve scored victories for the right to pray in Jesus’ name, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Oregon, Oklahoma, California, Virginia, and the U.S. Congress,” proclaims the Jesus Name Project.

U.N. Moves into U.S. Schools

The agenda of the United-Nations-funded and -run International Baccalaureate Curriculum is making massive inroads into America’s public schools, with operations already established in more than 1,000 locations. Worldview Weekend President and Founder Brannon Howse says the program is trying to train American students to embrace an anti-Christian worldview. “This U.N. curriculum is extremely hostile to Christians. It’s hostile to American values and ideas and very big on humanism, redistribution of wealth, and very big on pluralism and that all religions are equal,” Howse told WorldNetDaily. According to a report at EdNews.org, the program could overrule any “parochial” values or beliefs, with a heavy focus on a social agenda throughout classes. The organization “not only teaches its own worldview, it simultaneously undermines the beliefs and values of the United States (also called the ‘American creed’” Who is behind the advocacy of the International Baccalaureate program? Recent evidence of federal involvement is seen in a 2008 position paper issued by the Obama-Biden campaign that openly promoted the International Baccalaureate program. While not specifically mentioning the International Baccalaureate program by name, the president’s website continues to echo the “global” theme.

  • The global agenda of increased socialism and decreased Christianity is advancing rapidly in America with Obama’s complicity and encouragement

8 Million Americans Leave Church Annually

The church in the United States is in a general state of decline, with fewer than one in five Americans attending on a regular basis and almost 8 million—150,000 per week—leaving churches each year. To help invite them back, Outreach Inc. is offering “reDiscover Church,” a 37-page booklet that can help church members reach out to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. The “reDiscover Church” booklet, customizable for individual churches, discusses 10 reasons why people leave church, and why they come back. The booklet also helps equip members for national “Back to Church Sunday” (www.backtochurch.com) Sept. 12, a movement that seeks to reach people who once attended church and invites them to a special Sunday service.

Teen Church Group Participation Down over Past Decade

Only about one in four teens now participate in church youth groups, considered the hallmark of involvement. Other measures of religiosity — prayer, Bible reading and going to church — lag as well, according to Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif., evangelical research company. This all has churches canceling their summer teen camps and youth pastors looking worriedly toward the fall, when school-year youth groups kick in. “Talking to God may be losing out to Facebook,” says Barna president David Kinnaman. “A decade ago teens were coming to church youth group to play, coming for the entertainment, coming for the pizza. They’re not even coming for the pizza anymore. They say, ‘We don’t see the church as relevant, as meeting our needs or where we need to be today.’ ”

All Mexican States Must Recognize Gay Marriages

Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that all 31 states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in the capital, though its decision does not force those states to begin marrying gay couples in their territory. In a 9-2 decision, the tribunal cited an article of the constitution requiring states to recognize legal contracts drawn up elsewhere. It did not specify what degree of recognition must be granted to same-sex couples. Mexico City’s same-sex marriage law, enacted in March, extends to wedded gay couples the right to adopt children, to jointly apply for bank loans, to inherit wealth and to be covered by their spouses’ insurance policies. Some of those may end up applying only in the capital. The Supreme Court ruled last week that same-sex weddings are constitutional — though it is holding separate discussions this week on the adoption clause.

House Approves More Agents, Drones on Mexican Border

In a rare moment of bipartisanship Tuesday, the House approved $600 million to pay for more unmanned surveillance drones and about 1,500 more agents along the troubled Mexican border. The House passed the bill by an unrecorded voice vote after brief debate. The Senate passed an identical bill last week by unanimous consent. But senators must act again, for technical reasons, before sending the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature. The bill would offset its costs by raising fees on foreign-based personnel companies that use U.S. visa programs to bring skilled workers to the United States. Getting tougher on border security is one of the few issues that both parties agree on in this highly charged election season. But lawmakers remain deeply divided over a more comprehensive approach to the illegal immigration problem, and it’s unclear if Congress will go beyond border-tightening efforts.

ICE Agents Vote ‘No Confidence’ in Leaders

The union that represents rank-and-file field agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has unanimously passed a “vote of no confidence” for the agency’s leadership, saying ICE has “abandoned” its core mission of protecting the public to support a political agenda favoring amnesty. The National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 7,000 ICE agents and employees, voted 259-0 for a resolution saying there was “growing dissatisfaction and concern” over the leadership of Assistant Secretary John Morton, who heads ICE, and Phyllis Coven, assistant director for the agency’s office of detention policy and planning. The resolution said ICE leadership had “abandoned the agency’s core mission of enforcing U.S. immigration laws,” instead directing its attention “to campaigning for programs and policies related to amnesty and the creation of a special detention system for foreign nationals that exceeds the care and services provided to most U.S. citizens similarly incarcerated.”

Storms Delay Relief Well Drilling

Storms forced crews to suspend drilling the final stretch of a relief well designed to permanently plug BP’s oil well, but with no more oil spewing, federal authorities announced that a portion of the waters off the Florida Panhandle is open for commercial and recreational fishing, a big business for the region. Federal officials Tuesday opened more than 5,000 square miles of Gulf of Mexico waters closed in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said that no oil has been seen in the area in the past 30 days. She said, however, that testing of fish caught in the area will continue. Nearly a quarter of U.S. waters in the Gulf remain closed to fishing. Retired Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen, the national incident commander of the spill, said the storm could mean a delay of two or three days in completing the relief well, one of the last steps toward ending any threat from the well that spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil over three months before a temporary cap sealed it in mid-July.

Protests Increase Over Montana-Gulf Pipeline Plan

Environmental groups and landowners, upset by last month’s oil spill in Michigan, are urging the Obama administration to deny a proposal for an oil pipeline that would go from the Montana-Canada border to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast. Alberta-based TransCanada’s proposed 1,661-mile Keystone XL pipeline would link up with its existing 2,151-mile Keystone pipeline, which began operations in June, and go through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Opponents say last month’s spill underscored the dangers of the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels. A pipeline ruptured on July 25 and spilled nearly a million gallons of crude oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in southwestern Michigan, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and the Natural Resources Defense Council opposed the Keystone XL project even before the Michigan spill, but the incident has increased scrutiny and elevated concerns.

H1N1 Pandemic is Officially Over but Not Completely Gone

The World Health Organization on Tuesday declared the H1N1 flu pandemic over, a little more than a year after a spring flood of cases prompted a global effort to curb its wildfire transmission. That doesn’t mean that the so-called swine flu is gone. New Zealand is now grappling with local outbreaks. “Based on experience with past pandemics, we expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behavior of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come,” Director-General Margaret Chan said in a statement. It is no longer the dominant virus but is spreading along with others.

Ramadan Holy Month Observance goes High Tech

The most ancient traditions of Islam are going high-tech, with a slew of modern offerings for those observing the holy month of Ramadan, which begins today. Cellphone applications such as “iPray” or “iQuran” offer a beeping reminder of requisite prayer times, while the “Find Mecca” and “mosque finder” programs help the Muslim traveler in an unfamiliar city find the nearest place to pray. The applications aren’t just for Ramadan; there are Islamic-themed programs that help users find the nearest Costco offering foods prepared according to Islamic dietary rules, learn the correct Arabic pronunciations in a daily prayer, or count how many pages of the Quran they’ve read that day — all on a mobile phone.

Many Christian groups are calling for Christians to remember to pray for Muslims during this holiest month on the Islamic calendar. PersecutionBlog.com, run by Voice of the Martyrs, encourages Christians to “please begin to pray for the Muslim world as they begin their fasting and pray that the Lord Jesus would continue to draw Muslims to Himself, as He has been doing in these last days.” Violent demonstrations against Christians commonly increase during Ramadan.  “During this time of spiritual severity, however, many have miraculous visions of Jesus and put their trust in Him,” says Carl Moeller the President of Open Doors USA. “This is why it is so urgent for Christians to be united in prayer throughout Ramadan.” To equip Christians to pray for Muslims, Open Doors USA is offering the Ramadan Prayer Calendar. The calendar has multiple prayers points so Christians can pray for Muslims around the world during the 30 days.

Census Costs More but $1.6 Billion Less than Budgeted

The 2010 Census will cost $1.6 billion less than had been budgeted, partly because no natural or manmade disaster disrupted the population count, the government is expected to announce this morning. The agency did not have to tap emergency reserves set aside for major disasters — such as hurricanes and earthquakes — and operational problems. That shaved about $800 million off the $14.7 billion the 2010 Census was expected to cost. Another $800 million was saved because the 72% mail-back response of U.S. residents returning their Census forms beat expectations and the agency was able to tap a large pool of unemployed to fill temporary jobs with experienced and educated workers. The 565,000 Census workers hired for the operation worked faster and more efficiently than in previous years, according to the Census Bureau. Locke and Census Director Robert Groves also credit tight management controls and an effective advertising campaign. Despite the savings, the cost of the Census is mounting — $13.1 billion vs. $8.2 billion (in today’s dollars) in 2000.

  • In a typical government smokescreen, they tout savings vs. budget while trying to hide the 63% increase in the budget vs. the previous census in 2000 (with inflationary effects removed from the comparison)

Defense Secretary Gates Targets Jobs

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced plans Monday to slash the Pentagon’s reliance on contractors and eliminate a major command in order to save money to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to modernize the military. Prime targets for saving, Gates said, are bureaucracies and headquarters that have “swelled to cumbersome and top-heavy proportions.” Their growth was fueled by doubling the defense budget since 2001 on top of additional spending on the two wars, Gates said. The time of fat defense and war budgets — the Pentagon spends about $700 billion a year — will soon end, he said, and the military must eliminate unnecessary spending. “There are no sacred cows,” Gates said.

  • Hooray for Gates, a holdover Bush appointee. Now if Obama could only do the save for the bloated government bureaucracy

Groups Blast Cuts to Food Stamps to Fund $26B Aid Bill

Some Democrats are upset and advocacy groups are outraged over the raiding of the food-stamp cupboard to fund a state-aid bailout that some call a gift to teachers and government union workers. Republicans, meanwhile, vocally opposed the state aid bill. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told Fox News it rewarded “irresponsible states” and their unions.   House members convened Tuesday and passed the multibillion-dollar bailout bill for cash-strapped states that provides $10 billion to school districts to rehire laid-off teachers or ensure that more teachers won’t be let go before the new school year begins, keeping more than 160,000 teachers on the job, the Obama administration says. But the bill also requires that $12 billion be stripped from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, to help fund the new bill, prompting some Democrats to cringe at the notion of cutting back on one necessity to pay for another. The federal assistance program currently helps 41 million Americans. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, the number of people on the food stamp rolls has been growing to record levels for 18 straight months.

Economic News

The dollar has fallen to a 15-year low against the yen after the U.S. Federal Reserve announced new measures to shore up the ailing American economy. Late Wednesday in Tokyo a dollar bought only 84.71 yen, lowest since 1995. Investors stepped up selling of dollars after the Federal Reserve announced Tuesday only small steps aimed at shoring up the flagging U.S. economy. The central bank also downgraded its assessment of the economy’s prospects. The dollar’s recent weakness against the yen has punished shares of Japanese exporters like Sony as it makes their products less competitive in overseas markets. Stocks and interest rates are tumbling today with investors worldwide growing concerned about the health of the U.S. economy after the Federal Reserve said the recovery was slowing down.

The Federal Reserve, offering its most dour economic outlook in months, said Tuesday it will take a modest step to keep borrowing costs low by preventing its bloated balance sheet from shrinking. The Fed said it will reinvest proceeds from maturing mortgage bonds in new Treasuries instead of allowing its portfolio to shrink. Its aim: to keep long-term interest rates from rising. While economists say the impact of the move will be meager, it’s largely intended to reassure investors that the Fed is prepared to take more dramatic steps, such as buying more mortgage bonds, if the recovery continues to lose steam.

The U.S. trade deficit surged in June to the highest level in 20 months as imports of foreign consumer goods hit an all-time high and U.S. exports faltered. The Commerce Department says the deficit jumped 18.8% in June from May, widening to $49.9 billion. U.S. exports slipped 1.3% to $150.5 billion. Imports rose 3% to $200.3 billion. China‘s monthly trade surplus widened to more than $28 billion in July, its highest level in nearly 18 months. The jump was the third-consecutive monthly increase.

Corporate profits have been on the rebound, but most big businesses say it will be some time before they can give as much cash to charities as they did before the recession, according to a survey of the nation’s largest companies by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and USA TODAY. A majority of companies said they expect their charitable donations in 2010 to be about the same as in 2009 — a year in which cash giving fell by 7.5%. Companies decreased their cash giving in 2009 to $3.9 billion, the first time since 2003 that cash contributions from businesses in The Chronicle’s survey have dropped. Fifty-four percent of businesses gave less cash, 30% gave more, and 16% gave roughly the same.

Afghanistan

NATO has reached its goal of expanding the size of Afghanistan’s army and police to 240,000 three months ahead of schedule, achieving a key measurement that will be used to gauge progress in the war. The size and quality of Afghan security forces will be a central part of a review that the White House will be conducting in December to measure the effectiveness of its strategy of emphasizing protecting civilians in Afghanistan. Increased recruitment and retention follow a pay raise and improvements in a payroll system. NATO has also increased the number of trainers dedicated to working with Afghan soldiers. “Before we were training them very quickly and throwing them into the fight,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Armed Services Committee. “It didn’t work too well.”

The number of civilians killed in the Afghan conflict rose 25% in the first six months of the year, with insurgents responsible for the spike, the United Nations said in a report Tuesday. The report comes after a strong push by NATO forces to reduce civilian casualties and shows success in doing so on the part of the government-allied forces, but also serves as a reminder that the war is getting ever-more violent despite these efforts. According to the U.N. report, 1,271 Afghans died and 1,997 were injured — mostly from bombings — in the first six months of the year.

Religion News Service reports the International Assistance Mission has rejected Taliban claims that 10 staffers from the Christian aid agency who were killed in Afghanistan had been trying to convert Muslims. “Our faith motivates and inspires us, but we do not proselytize. We abide by the laws of Afghanistan,” Dirk R. Frans, IAM’s executive secretary, said in a statement at a Monday (Aug. 9) press conference in Kabul. The 10 workers — six Americans, a Briton, a German and two local Afghan staff — were killed on Aug. 5 as they returned from a trek through the Hindu Kush mountains, where they had been providing eye care to poor and remote communities, Frans said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the workers had been spying and trying to convert Muslims. Frans, however, said his group had been present in Afghanistan since 1966 and abided by the laws of the country, and had pledged that its aid would never be used to advance a particular political or religious standpoint. “IAM would not be invited back to villages if we were using aid as a cover for preaching,” said Frans.

Iraq

The United States handed over control of all combat duties to Iraqi security forces on Saturday in a further sign its withdrawal is on track despite a political impasse in Iraq and a recent rise in violence. U.S. President Barack Obama said last Monday he would stick to his promise to end U.S. combat operations in Iraq by Aug. 31, with security being left in the hands of Iraq’s own U.S.-trained army and police.

Gunmen burst into a house north of Baghdad early Wednesday, killing three people and sending the surviving children to an Iraqi army checkpoint to lure soldiers to the residence. As the troops arrived at the booby-trapped house, it blew up, leaving eight soldiers dead. The pre-dawn incident in the volatile Diyala province underlines the unrelenting dangers that members of Iraq’s security forces still face as American forces prepare to reduce their numbers by the end of the month and end all combat operations. It also highlights the constantly evolving and sophisticated tactics of insurgents that American and Iraqi officials say had been seriously debilitated since the deaths of their top leaders last spring.

Korea

South Korea denounced a barrage of artillery fired by North Korea into the sea as a grave provocation Tuesday and warned that it would deal sternly with any further such acts. North Korea fired about 110 rounds Monday near its disputed western sea border with South Korea, shortly after Seoul ended five-day naval drills staged in response to the March sinking of its Cheonan warship. North Korea has been blamed for the vessel’s destruction, which killed 46 sailors. The North denies it torpedoed the Cheonan and has warned any punishment would trigger war.

India

According to Religion New Service, tensions between Christians and Muslims in India’s Kerala state have reached the boiling point over allegations of widespread coerced conversions to Islam. Kerala’s communist Chief Minister, V.S. Achuthanandan, accused an Islamist opposition party of conspiring to turn Kerala into a Muslim-dominated state. “Youngsters are being given money and are being lured to convert to Islam,” he told reporters at a news conference. Opposition parties accused the government of playing the “Hindu card” ahead of local elections. Muslims and Christian minorities in India generally enjoy good relations and see each other as fellow victims of alleged persecution by right-wing Hindu groups. Kerala’s population of 31.8 million is 56 percent Hindu, 24 percent Muslim and 19 percent Christian. The chief minister’s statement came after alleged members of the Islamist party Popular Front of India (PFI) cut off a Christian professor’s hand on July 4 in the central district of Kottayam. India’s National Investigation Agency is investigating the role of PFI in terrorism.

Wildfires

Russian emergency workers have increased forest patrols in a western region previously contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, trying to prevent wildfires from spreading harmful radiation, officials said Wednesday. At least six wildfires were spotted in the Bryansk region this week, the part of Russia that suffered the most from the Chernobyl catastrophe in what was then Soviet Ukraine. Large forested areas in Bryansk were contaminated when the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s Reactor No. 4 exploded during a pre-dawn test on April 26, 1986, spewing radioactive clouds over much of the western Soviet Union and northern Europe. Radioactive particles settled into the soil, and environmentalists have warned that they could be thrown up into the air once again by wildfires and blown into other areas by the wind. Hundreds of wildfires sparked by the hottest summer ever recorded in Russia have engulfed large areas around Moscow and other parts of western Russia. About 165,000 workers and 39 firefighting aircraft were battling more than 600 blazes nationwide Wednesday over 220,000 acres.

Weather

The death toll from landslides in northwestern China more than doubled to 702 Tuesday, as rescue crews in three Asian countries struggled to reach survivors from flooding that has imperiled millions. The Chinese government said 1,042 were missing and about 45,000 were evacuated. Flooding in China has killed about 1,800 people this year and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage across 28 provinces and regions. And rescuers in the desert mountainsides in Indian-controlled Kashmir recovered more bodies, with the death toll rising to 165 from flash floods. Pakistan estimates that 13.8 million of its people are affected by the floods and will need short-term aid or long-term assistance to recover.

That massive ice island that broke off a Greenland glacier last week could potentially threaten North Atlantic shipping lanes and oil platforms off Canada, scientists say. “It’s so big that you can’t prevent it from drifting. You can’t stop it,” Jon-Ove Methlie Hagen, a glaciologist at the University of Oslo, told the AP. The island, estimated to be about 100 square miles, or about four times bigger than Manhattan, broke off the Petermann Glacier and is drifting toward the Nares Strait, separating Greenland from Ellsemere Island in Canada. Though the behemoth would be expected to break apart after fender-benders with icebergs and islands, giant fragments might survive in the same waters where the Titanic sank in 1912.

This summer’s stifling, deadly heat along the Eastern Seaboard and Deep South could be a preview of summers to come over the next few decades, according to a report about global warming to be published Wednesday by the National Wildlife Federation and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. In fact, according to NWF climate scientist Amanda Staudt, the summer of 2010 might actually be considered mild compared with the typical summers in the future. The East just sweltered through one of its hottest Julys on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Monday. Every state from Maine to Florida endured one its top-10 warmest Julys since records began in 1880. Two states, Delaware and Rhode Island, had their hottest July ever.

  • Although not primarily human-caused, end-time weather will indeed be getting more and more extreme

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