California Gay-Marriage Ban Ends Wednesday

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said Thursday that California officials could begin issuing licenses to gay men and lesbians beginning Wednesday, in an order flowing from his decision last week striking down a state ban on same-sex marriages. Walker’s order gives opponents of gay marriage six days to appeal and win further postponement of his decision that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed. Referring to the 2008 state measure that banned gay marriage, Walker wrote, “Proposition 8 inflicts harm on gays and lesbians in California.” He said any significant delay in his Aug. 4 ruling taking effect would “serve only to delay (same-sex couples) access to the remedy to which they have shown they are entitled.” Supporters of Proposition 8 who had defended the measure said the ban should remain during appeals on the case. They contend Walker erred by voiding the measure, which passed with 52% of the vote.

Judicial activism has again trumped voters’ rights. That’s the assessment of attorneys reacting to Thursday’s turn of events in the seemingly never-ending legal battle over California’s Proposition 8. “This is just another example of judicial activism and why the American people need to be very sensitive when making decisions about who will be in positions to appoint new judges in the future,” said Brad Dacus of Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute. Alliance Defense Fund has already launched the process to send the appeal to the Ninth Circuit. ADF attorney Sara Tappen tells OneNewsNow that Walker’s ruling is remarkable in light of the magnitude of the issue. Tappen argues that the case is not about the homosexual agenda, but whether California voters have the right to amend their constitution. If the Ninth Circuit does not issue a stay, homosexual marriage licenses will start to be issued in The Golden State — again — late next week.

Home Depot Fires Patriotic Christian, Approves Homosexuals

The Home Depot fired an employee for refusing to remove a “One nation under God” patriotic button from his work apron. Trevor Keezor, a Christian, said he wore the button to support his country and his 27-year-old brother, who serves in the military in Iraq. In contrast, dozens of homosexual employees participated in Home Depot-sponsored gay pride parades and festivals. Many employees wore numerous buttons on their aprons promoting homosexuality. The Home Depot defended them by saying homosexual employees will not be prohibited “in any way” when it comes to what they do and wear. So, if you wear a “One Nation Under God” button, you will be fired. If you wear a “gay” button, you get company praise.

Ground-Zero Mosque Imam Funded by U.S. State Dept.

Our tax dollars are being used to send Imam Rauf – the founder of the Ground Zero mosque – on a global goodwill trip. The Imam behind the controversial mosque is gearing up for a global ”goodwill” journey – funded by the U.S. State Department! This is the same Imam who reportedly was one of the key financiers of the Gaza-bound flotilla that recently carried terrorists determined to attack Israel. Imam Rauf has refused to declare that Hamas is a terrorist organization and has called the United States ”an accessory” to the crimes of 9/11. Now, despite overwhelming public opposition, he has even been given the green light to build a $100 million, 13-story mosque on the site where thousands of Americans were murdered by Islamic terrorists. Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, says: “It’s deeply disturbing to think U.S. taxpayers would foot the bill so that a controversial Imam could travel the Middle East on a global ”goodwill” mission … as an official U.S.-sponsored representative.”

U.S. Sees Rise in Children Born to Illegal Immigrants

The total number of children in the USA born to illegal immigrants on U.S. soil jumped to 4 million in 2009, up from 2.7 million in 2003, a report released Wednesday estimates. Those children — who are automatically granted U.S. citizenship — represent 5.4% of all children under the age of 18 in the U.S. That compares to 3.7% six years earlier, according to data from the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center. The study comes as some legislators, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are calling for a revision of the 14th Amendment that grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States. The percentage of native-born people in the U.S. has fallen for four straight decades, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2008, 12.5% of the population was born outside the U.S., nearing the all-time highs of nearly 15% in the late 1800s.

  • Children born to illegal immigrants should not automatically become U.S. citizens – that’s rewarding illicit behavior

Senate Passes $600M Border Security Bill

The U.S. Senate convened a special session Thursday and passed a $600 million bill to put more agents and equipment along the Mexican border, signaling a determination to stem the flow of illegal immigrants. The voice vote in the nearly empty Senate chamber sends the legislation to President Barack Obama, who has urged Congress to channel more money toward border security amid complaints from border states besieged by undocumented immigrants and illegal drug trafficking. House Democrats had also called a special session, summoning lawmakers back from their summer break Tuesday to pass the border security bill. The border security measure would fund the hiring of 1,000 new Border Patrol agents to be deployed at critical areas along the border, 250 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and 250 more Customs and Border Protection officers. It provides for new communications equipment and greater use of unmanned surveillance drones. The bill is paid for by raising fees on foreign-based personnel companies that use U.S. visa programs to bring skilled workers to the United States.

BP Fined a Record $50.6M for Hazards at Texas Refinery

Citing BP’s “disregard for workplace safety,” the Labor Department has fined the oil giant a record $50.6 million for not fixing hundreds of hazards at a Texas refinery after a 2005 explosion killed 15 workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is still trying to collect an additional $30 million from BP Products North America for other penalties the company is contesting. BP will invest $500 million between now and 2016 to improve safety at the Texas City refinery. OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab said the agreement gives the agency “an unprecedented level of oversight” in making sure BP fully complies.

  • BP has exhibited blatant disregard for safety in order to boost profits at the expense of lives and environmental disasters

Dangerous Staph Infection MRSA Drops in U.S. Hospitals

Aggressive, drug-resistant staph infections caught in hospitals or from medical treatment are becoming scarcer, another sign of progress in a prevention effort that has become a national public health priority. The decline was seen in a federal study of methicillin-resistant staph, or MRSA. Researchers in the study focused on invasive cases that can become deadly, invading the bloodstream, flesh, lungs and bones.They found that in nine metro areas, cases of MRSA (MUR’-suh) fell about 16% between 2005 and 2008. That translates to a drop from about 32 cases per 100,000 to 26 cases per 100,000 people. The results suggest aggressive efforts to stop the germ from spreading are working, researchers said. Such efforts include better hand-washing by doctors and nurses, and testing for MRSA when patients are admitted to the hospital.

CT Scans Dangerous?

Compared to regular medical X-rays, CT scans yield much higher-resolution images. Unfortunately, CT scans also expose patients to hundreds and sometimes thousands of time more radiation than X-rays, contends the Life Extension Institute. A study led by the National Cancer Institute showed that CT scans administered in the year 2007 alone may contribute to 29,000 new cancer cases and nearly 15,000 cancer deaths. Over ten years, possibly 150,000 Americans are facing horrific deaths from CT scan-induced cancers. The routine use of CT scans and other dangerous imaging procedures has skyrocketed over the past three decades. In 1980, there were 3 million CT scans. But the year 2007, the number increased to 70 million.

Poultry No. 1 Food Poisoning Culprit

Poultry is the leading culprit in food poisoning outbreaks, health officials said Thursday. Chicken, turkey and other poultry accounted for 17% of the food-borne illness outbreaks reported to the government. Beef and leafy vegetables were close behind, at 16% and 14%. Salmonella and other kinds of bacteria caused about half of the outbreaks, the CDC said. Viruses — like norovirus— caused about 40%, mushroom toxin or other chemical agents were blamed for 7%. Parasites accounted for 1%. The CDC counted more than 21,000 illnesses in about 1,100 outbreaks in 48 states and Puerto Rico. There were 18 deaths from food poisoning.

Fruit Smoothies Linked to Outbreak of Typhoid Fever in U.S.

A rare U.S. outbreak of typhoid fever has been linked to a frozen tropical fruit product used to make smoothies, health officials reported Thursday. Seven cases have been confirmed — three in California and four in Nevada. Two more California cases are being investigated. Five people were hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The CDC said five of the victims drank milkshakes or smoothies made with frozen mamey fruit pulp. Four of them used pulp sold by Goya Foods Inc. of Secaucus, N.J. Mamey is a sweet, reddish tropical fruit grown mainly in Central and South America. It is also known as zapote or sapote. It is peeled and mashed to make pulp. The company has recalled packages of the pulp, sold in mostly western states. A sample from one package found in Las Vegas tested positive for the bacteria that causes typhoid, the Food and Drug Administration reported.

Economic News

Retail sales managed a modest increase in July after two declines, but the strength was concentrated in higher sales of autos and gasoline. Most other retailers saw sales fall. Sales rose 0.4% last month and sales excluding autos climbed 0.2%. The July increase in retail sales followed declines of 0.3% in June and 1% in May. The Labor Department also said Friday that the consumer price index, the government’s most closely watched inflation measure, increased by 0.3% in July, after three months of declines. Over the past year, consumer prices rose by 1.2%, the department said. That’s up slightly from last month’s 1.1% pace but still a mild increase.

The employment picture is looking bleaker as applications for jobless benefits rose last week to the highest level in almost six months. It’s a sign that hiring is weak and employers are still cutting their staffs. First-time claims for jobless benefits edged up by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 484,000. That’s the highest total since February. Initial claims have now risen in three of the last four weeks and four-week average, which smooths volatility, soared by 14,250 to 473,500, also the highest since late February.

The number of U.S. homes lost to foreclosure surged in July, another sign that lenders are moving quicker to take back properties from homeowners behind in payments. Lenders repossessed 92,858 properties last month, up 9% from June and an increase of 6% from July 2009. Banks have stepped up repossessions this year to clear out the backlog of bad loans. July makes the eighth month in a row that the pace of homes lost to foreclosure has increased on an annual basis. Meanwhile, homeowners who are falling behind on their payments are being allowed to stay in their homes longer because lenders are reluctant to add to the glut of foreclosed homes on the market.

With two months to go in the budget year, the federal deficit is running slightly below the all-time record set a year ago. The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit for July totaled $165 billion, pushing the imbalance for the year ended Sept. 30 to $1.17 trillion. That is down 7.7% from the same time last year, reflecting lower spending on emergency programs to combat the recession and stabilize the financial system. Still, deficits in the $1 trillion range far exceed what the country has experienced in the past and have set off alarm bells among voters. Republicans say that the billions spent by the Obama administration on economic stimulus and the stabilization of the banking system have had little impact on getting the unemployment rate down.

U.S. corn and soybean farmers are on track to produce the largest crops in history, a 2% increase over 2009 crop figures, the current highest annual production on record, according to a government report released Thursday. Heavy rains across the South Plains region — the world’s largest contiguous growing patch — in early July came on the heels of ideal planting conditions. After the deluges passed, temperatures heated up.

People around the world are snapping up mobile gadgets at a good clip — sales shot up 13.8 percent worldwide in the second quarter compared to a year ago, according to a new report from researcher Gartner. Smartphones made up 19 percent of the sales, up 50.5 percent.

General Motors said Thursday that it made a profit of $1.3 billion the second quarter, bringing its half-year earnings to $2.2 billion. Second-quarter revenue was $33.2 billion, up from $31.5 billion the first quarter. GM, the world’s second-biggest car company, behind Toyota Motor, disclosed for the first time that it lost $12.9 billion in the second quarter last year and lost $18.9 billion in the first half of last year. GM is still 60.8% owned by the U.S. government, which invested billions in taxpayer dollars to keep the car company afloat. The automaker is expected to announce an initial public stock offering (IPO), as soon as today. That would let the government sell its GM stock and recover at least some of the $40.7 billion it put into the company.

Eurozone

The economy of the 16 countries that use the euro grew by a better-than-expected 1% during the second quarter as growth engine Germany expanded at its fastest pace since reunification two decades ago. Thursday’s quarter-on-quarter figures show the eurozone grew at its fastest rate in nearly four years — and faster than 0.6% in the U.S. during the same quarter. That defied expectations from just a couple of months ago, when Europe was threatened by a severe government debt crisis. Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, led the way as its economy grew by a very strong 2.2% in the second quarter compared to the quarter before as exporters reaped the benefits of a recovery in global demand. Still, many economists think the second quarter will be as good as it gets for the eurozone this year. Governments across the region — particularly Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal— are slashing spending programs and raising taxes to cut their ballooning debt levels, depriving the economy of stimulus from government spending. Additionally, the U.S., a major trading partner, is losing momentum.

Greece

Greece‘s recession deepened in the second quarter, according to official estimates released Thursday, as the country felt the painful consequences of the government’s drive to reduce its debt load with aggressive austerity cuts. Gross domestic product declined by 1.5% from the previous quarter as the government reduced spending. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, rose to 12%. The jump in the unemployment rate from 8.5% a year earlier shows the extent to which the global recession and the severe debt crisis has hurt Greece. Young people were the most affected, with nearly one in three, or 32.5%, between the ages of 15 and 24 out of work. The federal budget gap currently stands at 13.6% of GDP, and the government has pledged to slash it to 8.1% this year. Weighed down by its deficit and high public debt, Greece narrowly avoided bankruptcy in May. In return for a three-year $144.5 billion package of vital loans from other European Union countries using the euro currency and the International Monetary Fund, the center-left government implemented painful austerity measures, cutting salaries and pensions and hiking consumer taxes.

Iran

Russia‘s nuclear agency said Friday that it will load fuel into Iran‘s first nuclear power plant next week, defying U.S. calls to hold off the start of the launch. Uranium fuel shipped by Russia will be loaded into the Bushehr reactor on Aug. 21, beginning the start-up process. The United States has called for Russia to delay the start-up until Iran proves that it’s not developing nuclear weapons. Russia signed a $1 billion contract in 1995 for building the Bushehr plant, but it has dragged its feet on completing the project for years. Moscow has cited technical reasons for the delays, but analysts say Moscow has used the project to press Iran to ease its defiance over its nuclear program.

Afghanistan

A crowd of about 300 villagers yelled “death to the United States” and blocked a main road in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday as they swore that U.S. forces had killed three innocent villagers NATO forces rejected the claim — saying they killed several suspected insurgents and detained a local Taliban commander in the overnight raid. The gulf between the two accounts is a reminder of how sensitive every NATO operation in Afghanistan has become. In Taliban-heavy areas it is hard to distinguish villagers from insurgents and sometimes public opinion turns against coalition forces even when they say they are certain they targeted the correct people. And while NATO has drastically reduced the civilian deaths it causes, the military coalition still makes mistakes. In the first six months of this year, 386 civilian were killed by NATO or Afghan government forces.

Wildfires

Heavy downpours have cooled the Russian capital after weeks of unprecedented heat and dry weather, but dozens of wildfires are still raging around Moscow. The city on Friday remains largely free of clouds of suffocating smog after they were blown away by favorable winds earlier this week. People walked through the streets without the masks that have become ubiquitous. Weather experts warned that the smog could return over the weekend after winds change again, and the unprecedented heat wave that has tormented Russia for most of the summer would end next week. The Emergency Situations Ministry said Thursday that the area engulfed by fires around the capital has shrunk by more than quarter over the past 24 hours. It said firefighters have also managed to significantly reduce the size of fires in other parts of Russia, but 562 fires covering nearly 200,000 acres were still burning Thursday.

Weather

New landslides killed 24 people and left 24 missing in China‘s remote northwest as downpours threatened more devastation and made rescue work nearly impossible Friday in a region where more than 1,100 people have died. More rain was forecast for flood-ravaged Gansu province in the coming days — up to 3.5 inches was expected Friday — and the National Weather Center said the threat of more landslides along the Bailong River was “relatively large.” Hundreds of homes were completely buried, and the death toll in the northwest flooding was 1,144 as of Friday. The report said 10,556 people had been evacuated from Longnan but more than 3,000 were still stuck in the flood-hit area. At least 600 people remain missing in Zhouqu. In another part of Gansu, 250,000 residents of Chengxian county faced the threat of flooding as waters rose in the Donghe River.

Pakistani flood survivors already short on food and water began the fasting month of Ramadan on Thursday, a normally festive, social time marked this year by misery and fears of an uncertain future. Fever, stomach problems and skin diseases are spreading among Pakistani flood victims, officials said Friday. A U.S. Navy ship carrying helicopters and 1,000 Marines reached Pakistan‘s southern coast to boost relief efforts, as the United Nations warned the disaster was far from over, saying dams in Sindh province could still burst in the coming days. U.N. officials estimated that up to one-fourth of the country is or had been affected by the worst floods in a generation, though that did not necessarily mean it was under water. About 1,500 people have died, and the U.N. estimates up to 7 million people need emergency assistance.

Three nights of heavy rainfall caused Iowa creeks and rivers to swell, forcing hundreds of residents from their homes and killing a 16-year-old girl when three cars were swept away by a torrent of water on a rural road. In Ames, flooding contributed to a water main break that forced the city to shut off water to its roughly 55,000 residents and left Iowa State University’s basketball arena under 4 to 5 feet of water. The flooding in central and eastern Iowa on Wednesday followed three straight nights of strong thunderstorms. After a brief respite for much of the state, more thunderstorms were possible Friday and Saturday. A snowy winter and wet spring and summer “set the stage” for the flooding.

Drought-stricken Lake Mead has dropped an additional 10 feet since last summer, and now, Arizona and other Colorado River users are scrambling to keep the reservoir full enough to avoid water rationing. Before year’s end, the lake will likely sink to within 9 feet of the level that would trigger the first round of restrictions – and the first such restrictions ever on the river. They begin with a reduction in water deliveries to Nevada and Arizona, where farmers would be affected first. To slow the lake’s years-long decline, river users have built a reservoir west of Yuma to catch unused runoff, paid farmers to leave fields unplanted and are negotiating with Mexico to leave some of its allocation in Lake Mead while its farmers recover from an earthquake. None of the steps will yield significant amounts of water, but together, they could keep Lake Mead from sinking below the drought triggers, buying time until a wet winter can replenish some of the water lost to drought. For Arizona, the stakes are high. Arizona absorbs 96 percent of any water rationing on the river under a decades-old agreement that ensured construction of the 336-mile CAP Canal. Nevada absorbs the other 4 percent under a separate deal with Arizona. Although rationing would affect some users on the river in western Arizona, most of the cuts would come from the canal, whose annual flow of 1.5 million acre-feet would be reduced in stages.

  • While much of Arizona has experienced a productive monsoon season, the watershed for the Colorado River has not

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