Disturbing Trends in America’s Youth

How do you assess the spiritual lives and Bible views of young adults when surveys find they: View Paris Hilton more favorably than Billy Graham? Think Wicca is patio furniture? Say the main reason they never watch evangelist Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power is because, they “don’t like violence”? Their spirituality is “extremely wide, often shallow and always compelling,” says David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif., research group that presents itself as “the Gallup of the faith world.” Kinnaman, who has been studying the under-25 year olds for a decade, was the opening speaker at a day devoted to addresses on the challenges in translating, teaching and marketing Scripture in modern times and ever-changing technology at the Religion Newswriters Conference, now underway in Denver.

For this talk, he focused on the age group some call Millennials but he calls Mosaics, compared to Baby Busters ages 26 to 44, Boomers ages 45-63 and Elders ages 64+. Mosaics’ interest in cultural figures yields bizarre answers to open ended questions, including 12% of who think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Asked if the original Biblical manuscripts are “true and accurate,” 51% of Mosaics said yes, 54% of Busters, 61% of Boomers and 68% of Elders. But they are also more universalist with 56% of Mosaics saying the “Bible, Quran and Book of Mormon are the same expression of truth” compared to 43% of Busters, 45% of Boomers and just 33% of Elders. This is the experiential generation, he says, where Mosaics tell Barna surveys they don’t want to sit around hearing people talk about sin, they want to help people struggling with sin. They see the world “not as fundamentally broken but as fundamentally full of hope.”

Many Wish Health Law went Further

President Obama’s health care overhaul has divided the nation, and Republicans believe their call for repeal will help them win elections in November. But the picture’s not that clear cut. A new AP poll finds that Americans who think the law should have done more outnumber those who think the government should stay out of health care by 2-to-1. More than 30 million people would gain coverage in 2019 when the law is fully phased in, but another 20 million or so would remain uninsured. Many were disappointed that it didn’t provide universal coverage.

  • This era’s pervasive sense of entitlement continues to want something for nothing – don’t increase taxes but give us more and more.

U.S. Wants Broader Internet Wiretap Authority

The Obama administration is developing plans that would require all Internet-based communication services — such as encrypted BlackBerry e-mail, Facebook, and Skype — to be capable of complying with federal wiretap orders, according to a report published Monday. National security officials and federal law enforcement argue their ability to eavesdrop on terror suspects is increasingly “going dark,” The New York Times reported, as more communication takes place via Internet services, rather than by traditional telephone. The bill, which the White House plans to deliver to Congress next year, would require communication service providers be technically capable of intercepting and decrypting messages, raising serious privacy concerns, the Times said. The proposal has “huge implications” and poses a test to the “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution,” vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, James Dempsey, told the Times.

  • Conflicts such as deterring terrorists versus personal privacy is an issue in the world of good and evil that won’t be resolved until Jesus returns to establish His millennial Kingdom,

BP Fund Czar Promises Bigger, Faster Claims

Victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill should start getting bigger payments faster, the administrator of the fund set up to help them said Saturday. Kenneth Feinberg said he was responding to criticism from residents and businesses. “I am implementing new procedures that will make this program more efficient, more accelerated and more generous,” Feinberg said in a press release. Claims from now on also will be sorted by industry to allow those reviewing the claims to apply a more specific, uniform set of standards when deciding how much a person or business will be paid, he said. In less than five weeks since the massive oil spill, the dedicated $20 billion fund that BP set up has paid out over $400 million to more than 30,000 claimants, the news release said.

No Payments Yet for Abu Ghraib Abuses

Fending off demands that he resign over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress he had found a legal way to compensate Iraqi detainees who suffered “grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty at the hands of a few members of the United States armed forces.” “It’s the right thing to do,” Rumsfeld declared in 2004. “And it is my intention to see that we do.” Six years later, the U.S. Army is unable to document a single payment for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. Nor can the more than 250 Iraqis or their lawyers now seeking redress in U.S. courts. Their hopes for compensation may rest on a Supreme Court decision this week. The Army says about 30 former Abu Ghraib prisoners are seeking compensation from the U.S. Army Claims Service.

Ø      Typical of government promises

California Conflicted Over Pot

California has a long history of defying conventional wisdom on the issue of marijuana, including its embrace of the drug in the 1960s and its landmark medical pot law 14 years ago. So it may not be all that surprising that a November ballot measure to legalize the drug has created some odd alliances and scenarios. Pot growers have opposed it. Some police have favored it. Polls show the public is deeply divided. Only politicians have lined up as expected: Nearly all major party candidates oppose the measure. And hanging over the whole debate is the fact that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The measure gained ground in a Field Poll released Sunday, pulling ahead 49% to 42% among likely voters. The poll also found that Californians have become steadily more permissive toward the drug since pollsters began quizzing state residents about their attitudes 40 years ago. Proponents say the measure is a way for the struggling state and its cities to raise badly needed funds. A legal pot industry, they say, would create jobs while undercutting violent criminals who profit off the illegal trade in the drug. Opponents will have to convince voters that legalized marijuana will create a greater public safety threat than keeping it illegal..Marijuana has become so crucial to rural economies along the state’s North Coast that even some local government officials are working on plans for coping with a pot downturn.

Recession Not Over, Public Says

Economic experts may believe the recession is over, but try telling that to the public. Seventy-four percent of Americans believe the economy is still in a recession, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. One small cause for optimism: the percentage of Americans who say the country is in a recession has dropped 13 points since August. The National Bureau of Economic Research, an independent group of economists, released a September 20 statement indicating the recession technically ended in June 2009. The dip began in December 2007 — making it the longest and deepest downturn for the U.S. economy since the Great Depression.

Economic News

Airline fees are steadily increasing — some by more than 50% since a year ago, a USA TODAY analysis shows. The analysis, which compared 13 U.S. airlines’ fees today with those in effect in June 2009, also reveals that passengers are also Six big U.S. carriers now have priority boarding fees, and Spirit Airlines has begun charging for carry-on bags.encountering new types of fees. The numerous fees are a sore subject for many fliers, but their dissatisfaction hasn’t deterred airlines from bringing in record revenue from additional fees. U.S. airlines brought in $2.1 billion in ancillary revenue during this year’s second quarter, including nearly $893 million from checked-bag fees and about $600 million from reservations changes, government statistics released Sept. 20 show.

The worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression hurt more than half of Americans, especially younger people, minorities and those with a high school education or less, a Pew Research Center survey found. “For a narrow majority of Americans, 55%, the Great Recession brought a mix of hardships, usually in combination: a spell of unemployment, missed mortgage or rent payments, shrinking paychecks and shattered household budgets,” according to the survey released Friday. “But for the other 45% of the country, the recession was largely free of such difficulties.”

Fewer companies are defaulting on their debt, a seemingly positive sign about the economy. Investors are reluctant to celebrate yet, though. Just 4.3% of U.S. companies with the lowest credit ratings defaulted on their debt in August, Standard & Poor’s says. That’s a dramatic improvement from the depths of the credit crisis in November 2009, when 11.4% of companies were defaulting. It’s also the ninth-consecutive month of improvement. Just 90 U.S. companies are classified as “weakest links,” because they have S&P’s absolutely lowest credit ratings, and are more likely to default. That’s down from 151 at the end of 2009.

Federal regulators took over three key lenders to U.S. credit unions, after losses on mortgage investments threatened to topple them. The move was a reminder that parts of the financial system are still burdened by the toxic assets two years after the financial crisis peaked. Corporate credit unions provide wholesale financing and investment services for the more than 7,000 U.S. credit unions. They do not offer retail services to consumers.

Middle East

The expiration of an Israeli moratorium on new construction in West Bank settlements threw fledgling Middle East peace talks into turmoil on Monday as Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S. scrambled to find a compromise that would keep the negotiations alive. Curbs on new construction in settlements that had been in place for the past 10 months expired at midnight and Israel showed no sign of a new willingness to compromise on the issue. Palestinians regard settlement as a major obstacle to peace and have repeatedly said they will quit peace talks if Israel did not extend its restrictions. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has deferred a decision on whether to quit the talks until at least next Monday, when he will confer with the 22 member states of the Arab League at a special meeting on the issue. In Paris on Sunday, Abbas said there was only one choice for Israel: “Either peace or settlements.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the Palestinian leader to keep negotiating while appealing to settlers to show restraint. Under heavy U.S. pressure, Netanyahu persuaded his hardline Cabinet to agree to the slowdown last November in a bid to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

Iran

An Iranian newspaper reported that a delegation from nearby Oman will visit Iran Sunday to pursue the release of two American men imprisoned for more than a year. The Gulf sultanate of Oman played a key role in securing the Sept. 14 release of a third American, Sarah Shourd, who was arrested with the two men still held — Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal. The hard-line daily Jomhuri-e-Eslami, which is not state-run but close to the ruling establishment, reported that if the Americans are released, they will be able to leave with the visiting delegation for the Omani capital Muscat.

A complex computer worm capable of seizing control of industrial plants has affected the personal computers of staff working at Iran’s first nuclear power station weeks before the facility is to go online, the official news agency reported Sunday. The project manager at the Bushehr nuclear plant, Mahmoud Jafari, said a team is trying to remove the malware from several affected computers, though it “has not caused any damage to major systems of the plant,” the IRNA news agency reported. It was the first sign that the malicious computer code, dubbed Stuxnet, which has spread to many industries in Iran, has also affected equipment linked to the country’s nuclear program, which is at the core of the dispute between Tehran and Western powers like the United States. Experts in Germany discovered the worm in July, and it has since shown up in a number of attacks — primarily in Iran, Indonesia, India and the U.S.

Afghanistan

Evidence is mounting that fraud in last weekend’s parliamentary election was so widespread that it could affect the results in a third of provinces, calling into question the credibility of a vote that was an important test of the American and Afghan effort to build a stable and legitimate government. The complaints to provincial election commissions have so far included video clips showing ballot stuffing; the strong-arming of election officials by candidates’ agents; and even the handcuffing and detention of election workers. In some places, election officials themselves are alleged to have carried out the fraud; in others, government employees did, witnesses said. One video showed election officials and a candidate’s representatives haggling over the price of votes.

International forces pressed forward with a key combat phase in their drive to rout Taliban fighters around the southern city of Kandahar, an operation that is key to U.S. military strategy to turn around the 9-year war and prevent the Taliban from undermining the Afghan government. International and Afghan forces were moving into two or three areas around Kandahar at once to pressure the Taliban “so they don’t get the chance to run away,” Shah Mohammad Ahmadi, chief of Arghandab district northwest of the city, said Monday. A top NATO officer said Sunday that the alliance a few days ago had launched a “kinetic,” or combat, phase of “Operation Dragon Strike,” a joint military push with Afghan forces around Kandahar intended to rid the area of insurgents and interrupt their ability to move freely and stage attacks.

Pakistan

NATO helicopters in eastern Afghanistan launched rare airstrikes into Pakistan, reportedly killing more than 50 militants after an outpost near the border came under attack from insurgents, officials said Monday. NATO justified the strikes based on “the right of self-defense,” a spokesman said. Pakistan is sensitive about attacks on its territory, but U.S. officials have said they have an agreement that allows aircraft to cross a few miles (kilometers) into Pakistani airspace if they are in hot pursuit of a target. A suspected U.S. drone fired missiles at a house in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing four people in the 20th such attack this month — nearly double the previous monthly record. Almost all of the attacks this month have occurred in North Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal region that is largely out of the state’s control and is dominated by militants who regularly stage attacks against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez‘s opponents blocked him from capturing an overwhelming majority in Venezuela‘s congressional election, making gains that could challenge the firebrand leader’s tight grip on power. With the vast majority of votes from Sunday’s election counted, Chavez’s socialist party won at least 96 of the 165 seats in the National Assembly, while the opposition coalition won at least 61 seats. Chavez hailed it as a “solid victory” in an online posting on Twitter, but he fell short of his goal of keeping the two-thirds majority that has allowed his allies to push through controversial changes unopposed. Until now, pro-Chavez lawmakers have been able to rewrite laws unopposed and unilaterally appoint officials, including Supreme Court justices and members of the electoral council.

China

China will continue to limit most families to just one child in the coming decades, state media said Monday, despite concerns about the policy’s problematic side effects, such as too few girls and a rapidly aging population. China has the world’s largest population and credits its 30-year-old family planning limits with preventing 400 million additional births and helping break a traditional preference for large families that had left many trapped in cycles of poverty. There has been growing speculation among Chinese media, experts and ordinary people about whether the government would relax the policy soon, allowing more people to have two children. But the China Daily newspaper on Monday quoted Li Bin, head of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, as saying there were no plans to change the policy anytime soon.

Weather

A sudden, powerful storm that ripped through Haiti’s battered capital destroyed thousands of tents in the homeless camps where more than 1.3 million people live eight months after the earthquake destroyed their homes, shelter officials said Saturday. The death toll from Friday afternoon’s storm stood at six people, with nearly 8,000 tents damaged or destroyed. Hundreds of people were reported with varying degrees of injury. The storm’s effect was exacerbated by the flimsiness of tarps and tents that have been baking, soaking and flapping in the Caribbean elements since the Jan. 12 earthquake killed at least 230,000 people and left millions homeless. Hundreds of thousands of families continue living on the streets of the capital waiting for temporary housing or money to find new apartments.

Some residents in the central Wisconsin town of Portage fled their homes after a levee started to fail, sending water from the rain-swollen Wisconsin River onto a major roadway in one neighborhood and threatening to leave some people stranded in their houses. It wasn’t clear how many of the roughly 300 residents remained in the Blackhawk Park area after the only road into and out of the neighborhood was closed. Officials said part of the levee south of Highway 33 had eroded Sunday and water was leaking out, although the levee had not completely collapsed. The Wisconsin River is swollen from thunderstorms last week that dumped several inches of rain in southern Minnesota and central Wisconsin.

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