Archive for October, 2010

October 29, 2010

Christianity’s Contributions Mostly Negative, Americans Say

When asked about Christianity’s recent contributions to society, Americans cited more negatives than benefits, according to a new survey. Religion News Service reports that the negative contribution cited most was hatred or violence in the name of Jesus, according to the Barna Group survey. Other frequently cited examples included opposition to gay marriage and the Roman Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal. The positive contribution mentioned most was Christians’ helping the poor, as well as evangelism and influencing the country’s values. “Overall, there was a more extensive and diverse list of complaints about Christians and their churches than there was of examples of the benefits they have provided to society,” said the Barna Group, a Christian firm that researches U.S. faith and culture, in a report released Monday (Oct. 25). Researchers found that one in four respondents could not name a single positive contribution made by Christians in recent years to American society.

  • Despite Jesus’ admonition that love is the greatest commandment (Mark 12:30), this is not what most people are seeing from Christians first and foremost

Obama and DOMA – High Crimes and Misdemeanors?

Federal agencies are implementing President Obama’s executive order to provide more healthcare benefits to same-gender partners of government employees, but one conservative attorney thinks he’s in direct violation of federal law and is again overstepping his boundaries. In the opinion of Liberty Counsel‘s Matt Barber, Obama’s order to change the 1997 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to include a 24-hour “leave without pay” benefit to domestic partners represents another abuse of power. “He has, via unconstitutional executive fiat, unilaterally and arbitrarily disregarded the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, which states that the federal government only recognizes legitimate marriage as between one man and one woman,” Barber contends. “After November 2, it’s my hope that some gutsy legislators in Congress will begin to look at this and other legally dubious actions by this president to determine if we may have high crimes and misdemeanors here on the part of this despotic man,” the Liberty Counsel attorney adds.

Obama Most ‘Gay’-Friendly President in History

Less than halfway through his first term, President Barack Obama has appointed more openly homosexual officials than any other president in history. Homosexual activists say the estimate of more than 150 appointments so far — from agency heads and commission members to policy officials and senior staffers — surpasses the previous high of about 140 reached during two full terms under President Bill Clinton. Family advocate Janice Crouse says the preponderance of homosexual appointments by Barack Obama reflects his intentions to push through a radical agenda. “As we have heard for years, personnel is policy,” she offers, “and the appointees that he has made have really had dramatic impact. She believes the high number of homosexual appointments is in part because President Obama has not been able to effectively push through his agenda.

Gutted Arizona Immigration Law Unused

The nation’s toughest immigration law has been in effect for three months. But after the federal courts prevented key portions from going into effect, it has failed to live up to both opponents’ worst fears and supporters’ greatest hopes. Immigrant-rights groups and major Arizona law-enforcement agencies say they’ve heard of no arrests made or citations issued using the statutes created under Senate Bill 1070, and no Arizona resident has taken advantage of the portion of the law that allows them to sue an official or agency that is not enforcing federal immigration law to the fullest extent. The law that went into effect on July 29 is a shadow of its original self. The day before, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton halted four key provisions from going into effect, including the portion of the law that requires a police officer to verify a person’s status when there is reasonable suspicion that the subject is an undocumented immigrant. Gov. Jan Brewer is appealing Bolton’s ruling, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments from both sides Monday in San Francisco.

Illegal Immigration Down

A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center reveals that the population of illegal immigrants has dropped from a high of 12 million in 2007 to 11.1 million as of March 2009. At the same time, the number of illegal immigrants sneaking into the U.S. has dropped dramatically – only 150,000 illegals per year entered the country in the past two years, a significant decline from the 500,000 annual border jumpers between 2000 and 2005. Stricter enforcement and a depressed job market are thought to be the primary factors in the decline. Meanwhile, the number of legal immigrants has remained steady at about 600,000 per year. Pew estimates that 60% of the 11.1 million illegals are from Mexico, 20% from other Latin America countries, 11% from Asia, 5% from Europe and Canada, and 4% from Africa and other countries.

Hispanic Attitudes about Illegal Immigration Changing

Hispanics are growing more divided about how they view illegal immigration, and native-born Hispanics aren’t as convinced of the contributions of illegal immigrants as they used to be, according to a study released Thursday. Hispanics are split when asked to assess the effect of illegal immigration on Hispanics living in the United States: 29% say it has had a positive impact, 31% negative and 30% believe it made no difference, according to the study by the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center. That is a sharp decline from a 2007 survey, when 50% of Hispanics said illegal immigrants were having a positive impact. The study found 53% of Hispanics believe illegal immigrants should pay a small fine but not be deported; 28% say illegal immigrants should not face any punishment.

‘Anchor Babies’ Birthright Citizenship Questioned

The issue of ‘Anchor Babies,’ illegal aliens children who automatically become citizens when born in the U.S., has become a hot topic as their numbers soar. Sixty percent of Americans now oppose such ‘birthright citizenship.’ Many lawmakers are calling for a revision to the 14th Amendment which grants such automatic citizenship. Each year, 300,000-400,000 anchor babies are born in the U.S. Total anchor babies now number 4 million, up 42% since 2000. Only 30 of the world’s 194 nations confer automatic birthright citizenship. No European country grants such rights.

Halliburton Admits to Skipping Critical test before BP Blowout

Tests performed before the deadly blowout of BP’s oil well in the Gulf of Mexico should have raised doubts about the cement used to seal the well, but the company and its cementing contractor used it anyway, U.S. investigators with the president’s oil spill commission said Thursday. It is the first finding from the commission looking into the causes of the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers and led to the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. And it appears to conflict with previous statements by Halliburton which had said its tests showed the cement mix was stable. The company had said BP’s well design and operations are responsible for the disaster. Now, however, Halliburton came back and acknowledged that it skipped doing a critical test on the final formulation of cement used to seal the BP oil well that blew out in the Gulf of Mexico.

More Troops’ Concussions Diagnosed under New Rules

Military doctors are diagnosing hundreds of concussions among combat troops because of an unprecedented order requiring them to leave the battlefield for 24 hours after being exposed to a blast. Doctors say the order helps prevent permanent brain damage that can result if a servicemember has a second concussion before the first one heals. Concussions among U.S. troops in Afghanistan increased from 62 diagnosed cases in June to 370 in July when the new rules were imposed, according to the U.S. Central Command, which oversees combat there. From July through September, more than 1,000 soldiers, Marines and other U.S. servicemembers were identified with concussions, more than twice the number diagnosed during the previous four months. Under the new policy, troops caught within 165 feet of a blast (about half the length of a football field) must be pulled from the battlefield for at least 24 hours and examined for evidence of a concussion. The same goes for troops in a vehicle or building struck by a bomb.

Fewer May Get flu Shots this Year

Only a year after the swine flu pandemic led Americans to line up for flu shots, many people are now spurning vaccines, two studies suggest. Only 37% of people plan to definitely get vaccinated this year, a Consumer Reports survey shows. About 30% say they definitely won’t get a shot, while 31% of respondents are undecided, the survey of 1,500 says. In another survey of 1,300 adults by retailer CVS, 59% of respondents say they were “likely” to get a flu shot this year. Among people who say they’ll skip the flu shot this year, 44% told Consumer Reports they’re concerned about side effects, 41% said they’re concerned about safety and 45% said fear about last year’s pandemic was overblown, the survey says. Many doctors say they’re concerned that vaccine ‘myths’ are scaring people away from shots that could potentially save their lives — as well as the lives of their most vulnerable neighbors, such as people with cancer, the elderly and healthy newborns too young to be vaccinated. About 270,000 people were hospitalized for the flu last year and 12,470 died, according to the CDC. About 1,280 of those who died were children.

Total Campaign Spending to Hit $4 Billion

The daily advertising barrage in highly competitive House and Senate races around the country underscores the record amounts of campaign money pouring into this year’s midterm elections, which will determine whether Democrats retain their hold on Congress and the outcome of President Obama‘s legislative priorities. Total spending — by candidates, political parties and special interests — has topped $3.2 billion and is likely to hit $4 billion when reports detailing last-minute donations and spending are tallied, according to a study released Wednesday by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. That would obliterate the record $2.85 billion spent in 2006, the last midterm elections. So far, Democratic and Republican candidates and their respective party committees have raised equivalent amounts: about $1.4 billion on each side, the center’s data show.

Economic News

The economy grew at a slightly faster pace in the third quarter as Americans spent more freely, but growth remains too weak to reduce unemployment. The Commerce Department said Friday that the economy expanded at a 2% annual rate in the July-September quarter. It marked an improvement from the feeble 1.7% growth in the April-June quarter. But to have any impact on the 9.6% unemployment rate, the economy would need to rack up growth of 5% for a full year.

Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, the second drop in a row and a hopeful sign the job market could be improving. The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims for jobless benefits dropped 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 434,000 in the week that ended Oct. 23. It was the second-lowest number for claims this year. Claims will need to keep falling to signal a widespread increase in hiring

Wells Fargo says that it is refiling foreclosure documents in about 55,000 cases to fix mistakes it calls technical, but that it will not impose a moratorium. The bank added that as of Sept. 30 it had “successfully completed” 556,868 mortgage modifications and forgiven $3.5 billion of principal. It also said it has refinanced approximately 1.9 million mortgage loans.

While the bloated federal bureaucracy continued to expand during the recession, states, cities and schools are trimming their payrolls in a cost-cutting effort that has dramatically improved the financial condition of state and local governments. In the past year, state and local employment has been reduced, mostly through not filling vacancies, by 258,000, or 1.3%, to 19.2 million workers, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationwide, 35 states reduced government payrolls in the past year while 15 states increased employment. In California, 80% of every government dollar spent pays for public employees salaries and benefits.

Pakistan

Suspected American missiles hit a house in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border Thursday, killing seven alleged militants — the latest strike in a ramped up campaign against al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the rugged tribal region, intelligence officials said. The drone strike in North Waziristan was the third attack there in the past 24 hours. The region is home to hundreds of Pakistan and foreign Islamist militants, many belonging to or allied with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It is also the base of a powerful insurgent group that U.S. officials say is behind many of the attacks just across the border in Afghanistan.

India

Doctors in a northern Indian state are struggling to identify a disease that has killed more than 50 people over the past two weeks. The suspected virus affects mostly children and older people, who suffer from a high fever, vomiting and headaches before succumbing. “We are not able to identify the virus that is causing the deaths. It could be a mutant form of dengue or malaria, but we are not sure,” said S.P. Ram, the state’s top medical official. In the state capital, Lucknow, about 340 people have been sickened. Health authorities blamed unhygienic conditions for the spread of the disease. Heaps of garbage, open drains filled with fetid water and clogged sewers mark the entrance to Khadra, home to around 250,000 people.

Korea

North Korea fired two rounds toward South Korea at their tense border Friday and South Korean troops immediately fired back, highlighting the security problems faced by Seoul as it prepares to host Barack Obama and other world leaders at the Group of 20 economic summit next month. The exchange of fire at the heavily militarized border began when North Korean troops fired at a South Korean guard post in the Demilitarized Zone. There were no South Korean injuries and it was unclear whether it was an accident or an intentional provocation. The firing of the 14.5-mm rounds came hours after North Korea criticized the South for rejecting a proposal to hold military talks and vowed to retaliate. Shooting incidents are infrequent at the border. The last such incident was in 2007.

Mexico

Armed men rumbled into a gritty neighborhood of Mexico City Thursday and gunned down six men hanging around a convenience store, fueling fears that one of the world’s largest cities is falling prey to the cartel-style violence that has long terrorized other parts of the country. More than 50 people have been killed in the past week in five apparently unrelated massacres, including four shot Thursday near the border city of Ciudad Juarez. Earlier, suspected drug cartel gunmen killed at least 13 people today at a carwash in western Mexico. The men were washing cars on the outskirts of the coastal city of Tepic in Nayarit state when the gunmen drove up in SUVs and opened fire. The mass killing added to the mounting body count by warring drug gangs. Sunday, 13 recovering drug addicts were executed at a rehab center in Tijuana, and 14 people, mostly teenagers and children, were murdered Friday at a birthday party in Ciudad Juarez.

Indonesia

Christians in Indonesia say religious violence is spreading beyond traditional “hot spots” throughout Java, activists said on Sunday. The Jakarta Post reports that protestors torched a Protestant church in in Sukoharjo, Central Java, two weeks ago and attempted to set fire to a Catholic church in Klaten, also in Central Java. “It’s not wrong to say that Indonesia is the world champion of church burnings,” said Theophilus Bella of the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum (FKKJ), which documents sectarian violence in Indonesia. When the country first gained independence in 1945, Indonesia experienced only two church burnings in 20 years. Since 1998, when measures favoring the country’s Muslim majority were put in force, churches have endured more than 700 attacks.

Volcanoes

The volcano that killed 33 people this week began erupting again, though there were no reports of new injuries or damage. Mourners held a mass burial Thursday during a lull in Mount Merapi‘s rumblings. In central Java, Mount Merapi began spewing hot clouds of ash again at around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the Indonesian vulcanology agency Subandriyo. Most residents have been evacuated from the area. It was unclear whether the new activity was a sign of another major blast to come.

Weather

Rescuers searching islands ravaged by a tsunami off western Indonesia raised the death toll to 408 Friday as more bodies were found and said the number is likely to climb higher because hundreds of missing people may have been swept away. Officials say a multimillion-dollar warning system installed after a monster 2004 quake and tsunami broke down one month ago because it was not being properly maintained.

October 27, 2010

More Citizens Link Christian Faith to Being American

Religion News Service reports that as the U.S. has grown more diverse, more Americans believe that being a Christian is a key aspect of being “truly American.” Purdue University scholars found that Americans who saw Christian identity as a “very important” attribute of being American increased from 38 percent to 49 percent. Scholars said the findings, published in the fall issue of the journal Sociology of Religion, couldn’t be definitively tied to a particular event but they suspect the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could have played a role. Researchers found that non-Christians and those with no religious affiliation overwhelmingly rejected a link between being Christian and being “truly American.” In a separate survey, Public Religion Research Institute found that 42 percent believe “America has always been and is currently a Christian nation.”

U.S. Appeals Court Voids Ariz. Voter Law

A federal appeals panel has struck down an Arizona law requiring voters to show proof of citizenship but let stand the provision that they show identification to cast a ballot. Two members of the three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco — including retired U.S. Supreme Justice Sandra Day O’Connor — ruled that proof of citizenship conflicted with the intent of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which aims to increase voter registration. Arizona voters passed the proof-of- citizenship law, Proposition 200, in 2004. The federal law requires applicants to “attest to their citizenship under penalty of perjury” without requiring documentary proof, the panel said.

  • Activist judges continue to coddle illegal immigrants

Government Stimulated, Not Private Sector

According to U.S. department of Labor Statistics as reported in the National Review Online, federal government employment has increased by 198,100 jobs, a 10% increase, while the private sector lost 7,837,000 jobs, down 6.8%, since the beginning of the recession in Dec. 2007. Meanwhile, a USA Today analysis of data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows federal civilian employee compensation averages $81,258 in salary with benefits valued at $41,791 compared to private sector jobs averaging $50,462 in salary and $10,589 in benefits. So who got stimulated? The feds, or course.

Entitlements Killing U.S. Economy

More Americans are getting government assistance than ever before while the number of people paying federal taxes is dwindling. That withering equation will thwart any efforts to solve the federal deficit and could eventually bankrupt the nation, according to experts in a Newsmax report. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that roughly half of all American households get some government assistance through Social Security, subsidized housing, food stamps, jobless benefits, Medicare and other federal benefits. Entitlements and federal pensions cost the government an astounding $2.4 trillion in the fiscal year 2010 ending Oct. 1st. That amounts to more than 64% of federal expenditures. Since 2008 Social Security expenditures are up 36.5%, Medicare up 59%, Medicaid 46.5%, and veteran benefits up 92%. All this before Obamacare kicks in as well. America’s graying population is exacerbating the problem, with the number of people enrolled in Medicare expected to increase from 47 million to over 80 million.

Threat of EMP Pulse Disabling Electrical Grid Growing

There is increasing talk of catastrophe ahead because of the threat of an electromagnetic pulse triggered by either a supersized solar storm or terrorist A-bomb, both capable of disabling the electric grid that powers modern life. Electromagnetic pulses (EMP) are oversized outbursts of atmospheric electricity. Whether powered by geomagnetic storms or by nuclear blasts, their resultant intense magnetic fields can induce ground currents strong enough to burn out power lines and electrical equipment across state lines. With the sun’s 11-year solar cycle ramping up for its stormy maximum in 2012, and nuclear concerns swirling about Iran and North Korea, a drumbeat of reports and blue-ribbon panels center on electromagnetic pulse scenarios. The threat has even become political fodder, drawing warnings from former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a likely presidential contender. Meanwhile, in Congress, a “Grid Act” bill aimed at the threat awaits Senate action, having passed in the House of Representatives. At risk are the more than 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines that cross North America.

20% of Vertebrate Species Face Extinction

Nearly one in five mammal, reptile, bird or amphibian species from Tasmanian devils to whooping cranes faces extinction, international conservation experts reported Tuesday. But without the nature reserves erected over the past half-century, more would be gone. “Conservation is working; there is just not enough of it,” said study author Ana Rodrigues of France’s Functional Evolutionary Ecology Center. “Now is the time to scale up conservation.” The five-decade survey of the extinction status of 25,780 vertebrate species, about half of all backboned animals, was released by the journal Science. The results found that almost one-fifth of those species are threatened with extinction (from 13 percent of birds to 41 percent of amphibians), meaning either there are fewer than 50 individuals left or the species’ chances of extinction are 50 percent or greater within 10 years. The declines mostly are tied to expanding farmland, overlogging, overfishing and competition from invasive species.

Glaxo Fined $750M over Tainted or Ineffective Drugs

British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline will pay $750 million to settle U.S. criminal and civil charges that it knowingly sold tainted 20 or ineffective drugs, including the antidepressant Paxil, the diabetes treatment Avandia stomach medicine Tagamet and the antibacterial ointment Bactroban. Other affected drugs include the anti-nausea chemo medicine Kytril and the heart drug Coreg. All were made between 2001 and 2005 at a Puerto Rico plant with a history of health and safety violations that finally closed last year. Glaxo will pay $150 million in criminal fines and $600 million in civil penalties. A Glaxo quality-control manager alerted the Justice Department to the problem after company ignored her findings and fired her.

95% of ‘Green’ Products Not Green

More than 95 percent of consumer products marketed as “green,” including all toys surveyed, make misleading or inaccurate claims, a report released Tuesday says. The number of products claiming to be green increased 73 percent since 2009, according to a survey by TerraChoice, an Ottawa-based marketing firm. The report comes as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is proposing stricter advertising rules. In updating its Green Guides, last revised in 1998, it warns companies not to make blanket claims such as “eco-friendly” or cite unqualified certifications. TerraChoice surveyed 5,296 products that make environmental claims. A small but growing number of products are making accurate green claims – 4.5 percent this year, up from 2 percent in 2009 and 1 percent in 2007, when the first survey was done. “Big box” retailers are more apt to sell products with accurate claims than boutique stores.

Alzheimer’s Risk Spikes with Heavy Smoking

Heavy smoking in midlife more than doubles your odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a Kaiser Permanente study said Monday. The study is the first to examine the long-term consequences of heavy smoking on Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Compared with non-smokers, those who had smoked two packs of cigarettes a day increased their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by more than 157% and had a 172% higher risk of developing vascular dementia — the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s. People who smoke have increased inflammation, and inflammation also plays a role in Alzheimer’s.

Medical Errors and Hospitals Top U.S. Killers

According to CNN Senior Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen in the recently released book, The Empowered Patient, Medical errors kill more people each year than AIDS, breast cancer or car accidents with 98,000 Americans dying each year from medical mistakes and another 99,000 from infections acquired in hospitals.

Economic News

Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes rose last month after the worst summer for the housing market in more than a decade, but the industry fears lawsuits over flawed foreclosure documents could keep buyers on the sidelines in the final months of the year. Sales grew 10% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.53 million. Home sales have declined 37.5% from their peak annual rate of 7.25 million in September 2005. They have risen from July’s rate of 3.84 million, which was the lowest in 15 years.

Consumers are buying more luxury items but spending remains tight for everyday essentials such as food and dental care, a USA TODAY analysis finds, suggesting a growing divide between haves and have-nots. Purchases of TVs, jewelry, recreational vehicles and pet supplies are growing robustly, government data show. At the same time, spending on medical care, day care and education is down in the dumps. Higher-income and older households, helped by a strong stock market, are experiencing increased wealth and spending more. However, high unemployment is pulling in the other direction, depressing spending among people without jobs and those anxious about job security.

A surge in demand for commercial aircraft lifted orders for big-ticket manufactured goods in September, but business spending that signals expansion plans weakened. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that orders for durable goods rose 3.3% last month. Overall, it was the best showing since January. But excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders fell 0.8%.And spending by companies on capital goods excluding aircraft dropped 0.6%.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, now a leading force against Obama administration policies, has received sizable donations from top corporations including Dow Chemical and Goldman Sachs. Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation, Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending.

Figures released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations show average daily newspaper circulation fell 5% in the six months that ended Sept. 30, compared with the same period a year earlier. The latest decline was not as steep as the 8.7% drop seen in the previous reporting period, which ran from October 2009 through March of this year. Several trends factor in the decline. The growing popularity of free news on the Web is making newspaper subscriptions unnecessary for many readers. And publishers have been looking to offset losses in advertising revenue by raising newsstand and subscription prices. Some newspapers have reduced delivery to less profitable areas, figuring the cost of trucking newspapers far afield doesn’t pay off in extra advertising dollars.

Middle East

The Palestinian Authority on Monday expressed outrage an Israeli cabinet proposal that would give national priority to Jerusalem in housing, employment and education. PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat insisted the proposed law was another phase in the “illegitimate” process to claim Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of Israel. His comments came after an Israeli cabinet committee approved a bill on Sunday defining Jerusalem as a national priority area of the first order in the housing, employment and education sectors. The bill would mean that construction priority will be given to Jerusalem neighborhoods, including in east Jerusalem, a measure which could lead to friction between Israel and the US and Europe.

Catholic bishops from the Middle East concluded a special two-week conference in Rome with a call for the international community, especially the UN, to work “to put an end to the occupation” of Palestinian territories. The final statement issued by the synod barely mentioned other issues such as the rise of radical Islam and low levels of religious and political freedom and largely placed the blame for the regions problems in general and its Christian population in particular squarely on Israel’s shoulders.

Ø That Christian bishops would blame Israel for ‘occupying’ Palestine is not only atrocious but also ludicrous. God gave that land to Israel. It’s in the Bible. Don’t such bishops pay attention to Scripture any more?

Egypt

Fears for the safety of Egyptian Christians are growing after a series of false allegations, violent threats and mass demonstrations against the Church in Egypt. Muslim anger was ignited last month when entirely unfounded accusations were made on Al-Jazeera TV that Egyptian Christians were aligned with Israel and stockpiling weapons in preparation for waging war against Muslims. Tensions were also fuelled by baseless rumours circulated by Islamist leaders that Christians were kidnapping and torturing women who had converted to Islam. At least ten mass demonstrations involving thousands of Muslims have since taken place against Christians, with the previously unknown group “Front of Islamic Egypt” promising them a “bloodbath”. The Egyptian authorities have been accused of complicity for political reasons in the escalating sectarian crisis ahead of next month’s national election for the lower house of Parliament and the 2011 Presidential election.

Haiti

A cholera outbreak that has killed more than 280 people in rural Haiti is stabilizing, health officials said Monday, as aid groups and the government race to prevent it from spreading to the capital’s squalid camps of earthquake survivors. The outbreak was expected to continue spreading, but aid groups and the government said a drop in the death rate and the number of new cases suggested it could progress more gradually than feared.

Nigeria

More than 1,500 people have died in Nigeria from a cholera outbreak this year, international health officials said Monday, more than double the last estimates provided by federal officials. The deaths come as the waterborne illness continues to plague other West African nations, including tiny Benin, where humanitarian officials worry a devastating flood there may spread it further. But officials hope oil-rich Nigeria will see fewer cases in the coming weeks as the dry season approaches and local governments attempt to warn people of the danger.

France

A new audio recording purportedly by Osama bin Laden says the recent kidnapping of five French citizens in Niger was in retaliation for French injustices against Muslims and will continue. Bin Laden also blast France for passing a law banning women wearing full-face veils in public. “If you unjustly thought that it is your right to prevent free Muslim women from wearing the face veil, is it not our right to expel your invading men and cut their necks?” Bin Laden says in the recording, released today by Al Jazeera, the international news agency based in Qatar. The five French nationals, and two other people, were kidnapped in September. The hostages are employees of two French firms that do business in the mining town of Arlit in Niger.

Iran

Iran began loading fuel into the core of its first atomic power plant on Tuesday, moving closer to the start up of a facility that leaders have touted as defying of international efforts to curtail the country’s nuclear ambitions. The Russian-built nuclear power plant in Bushehr has international approval and is supervised by the U.N.’s nuclear agency. However, the U.N. security council has slapped four rounds of sanctions against Iran over a separate track of its nuclear program — its efforts to refine uranium, which could eventually be used to create material for a weapon. The U.S. recently withdrew its long-standing opposition to the plant after Russia satisfied concerns over how it would be fueled and the fate of the spent fuel rods.

Pakistan

Suspected U.S. drones fired missiles at a house and a vehicle in a militant-infested area of northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border Wednesday, killing seven people, intelligence officials said. The strikes were nearly 12 hours apart in the North Waziristan tribal area. They were the latest attacks in an intensifying campaign by the U.S. to use unmanned aircraft in Pakistan to wage war against militants who regularly target foreign troops in Afghanistan. There have now been at least 19 suspected U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan this month. U.S. drone strikes in recent months have targeted fighters linked to the Haqqani network, which military officials have declared the most dangerous militant group in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan

Afghan president Hamid Karzai says he will extend a Dec. 17 deadline for private security firms to disband by at least two months and set up a committee to review the decree. The committee will prepare a timetable for the closure of the firms and submit it to the President on Nov. 15. After its approval, private security firms will have a maximum of 90 days to close. The firms were supposed to shut by Dec 17. The ban had threatened development and reconstruction work worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Agencies say they would be unable to insure their workers if they had to replace private security contractors with Afghanistan’s poorly trained armed forces.

Despite a fierce U.S. military campaign aimed at paralyzing the Taliban in Afghanistan, insurgents have largely been able to absorb attacks and are playing a waiting game until July, when the U.S. troop drawdown is scheduled to begin, military and intelligence officials reportedly say. While stepped-up airstrikes and special operations raids have damaged local Taliban cells, the attacks have not had a meaningful impact on the terror organization and have failed to put pressure on the group to seek peace. “The insurgency seems to be maintaining its resilience,” a senior Defense official involved in assessments of the war told The Washington Post. The Taliban have consistently shown an ability to “reestablish and rejuvenate” within days of being hit by U.S. forces, the official continued.

Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Monday ordered the expropriation of U.S.-based glass maker Owens-Illinois Inc.’s unit in the South American country. The leftist leader criticized the company’s practices in the country, saying it had been “taking away the money of Venezuelans” and exploiting local people. Chavez did not detail his complaints about the company. There was no immediate reaction from the company, based in Perrysburg, Ohio. It was unclear how the government would handle compensation for the company’s assets. Chavez has nationalized or expropriated a wide range of companies, including cement makers, retail stores and steel mills, while seeking to lead Venezuela toward a socialist system.

Volcanoes

Rescuers scoured the slopes of Indonesia‘s most volatile volcano for survivors Wednesday after it was rocked by an eruption which killed at least 30 people, including an old man who refused to abandon his ceremonial post as caretaker of the mountain’s spirits. Authorities warned the thousands who fled Mount Merapi’s wrath not to return during Wednesday’s lull in volcanic activity, but some villagers were desperate to check on crops and possessions left behind. Hadi Purnomo, the district chief in Sleman, described several formerly plush villages south of the crater as ‘death zones.’ “There’s no life there. The trees, farms, houses are scorched. Everything is covered in heavy gray ash.” The latest blast Tuesday night eased pressure that had been building up behind a lava dome perched on the crater. But experts warned the dome could still collapse, causing an avalanche of the blistering gas and debris trapped beneath it.

Weather

A powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami that pounded villages on remote islands off western Indonesia, killing at least 23 people and leaving more than 160 others missing, witnesses and officials said Tuesday. The death toll from the 7.7-magnitude quake, which struck 13 miles beneath the ocean floor late Monday, was expected to climb with reports about damage and injuries just starting to trickle in the next day. Ten-foot high wave washed away hundreds of houses on Pagai and Silabu, part of the remote and sparsely populated Mentawai island chain. Rescuers battled rough seas to reach remote Indonesian islands pounded by the tsunami that killed at least 272 people.

One of the strongest storms in decades barreled across the Midwest on Tuesday, touching off tornadoes, toppling trees and power lines and triggering potent winds that could cause damage and travel woes today. The powerful system forced airport delays in Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. Trucks hauling long-double and triple trailers were temporarily banned from the Indiana Toll Road. Up to 8 inches of snow has already fallen in Bismarck, N.D. The storm was the result of an unusually strong upper-level jet stream, which raced into the USA with 220-mph winds Monday, Weather Channel severe weather expert Greg Forbes said. East of the Rockies, the jet stream created barometric pressure readings Tuesday “lower than sometimes occurs in hurricanes.” All-time record-low barometric pressures were set in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, a suspected tornado damaged homes, destroyed a barn and knocked down power lines. In Van Wert County, Ohio, a possible tornado ripped the roof from a house and flattened a barn. A companion storm continued to roar overnight in the Southeast. In Lincoln County, N.C., 11 people were injured and several homes damaged when a possible tornado touched down, emergency management officials said. High winds will continue today. Storms caused the partial collapse of a building in St. Louis and thousands of customers were without power. An apparent tornado on the Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga, Tenn., caused an accident that led to the closure of the highway and injured several people.

October 25, 2010

Research Teams Find Missing Oil from Spill

Scientists who were aboard two research vessels studying the Gulf of Mexico oil spill’s impact on sea life have found substantial amounts of oil on the seafloor, contradicting statements by federal officials that the oil had largely disappeared. Oil found in samples ranged from light degraded oil to thick raw crude. A research team on a ship called the Arctic Sunrise, sponsored by the environmental activist group Greenpeace, also turned up traces of oil in sediment samples as well as evidence of chemical dispersants in blue crab larvae and long plumes of oxygen-depleted water emanating from the well site 50 miles off Louisiana’s coast. “Clearly, there appears to be vast volumes of oil present on the seafloor,” said Kevin Yeager, a University of Southern Mississippi assistant professor of marine sciences. He was the chief scientist on the research trip, which ended last week.

  • · Surely our government wouldn’t lie to us about the ongoing effects of the oil spill, would they?

Democrats Backing Fake Tea Party Candidates

Increasingly desperate and fearful of a GOP takeover of Congress, the Democratic Party is secretly supporting fake tea party and other third-party candidates in the hopes of diverting votes from Republican contenders, according to the New York Times. “The efforts are taking place across the country with varying degrees of stealth. And in many cases, they seem to hold as much risk as potential reward for Democrats, prompting accusations of hypocrisy and dirty tricks from Republicans and the third-party movements that are on the receiving end of the unlikely, and sometimes unwelcome, support.” The Times detailed numerous races across the U.S. where a “Tea Party” candidate has been working to siphon votes from the Republican candidate.

  • · Since the so-called Tea Party isn’t a single entity but rather a cohesive cooperative, it is an easy target for dirty politics

Iowa Residents Seek to Oust 3 Judges

Judicial elections across the United States, largely ho-hum affairs that only stand out when members of the black robes commit a crime, have turned white-hot in Iowa, where residents are organizing and campaigning to fire three of the state Supreme Court members who created same-sex marriage for the state. Rormer Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, who was removed from office himself when state officials refused to allow him to challenge an order he considered illegal, said the judges in Iowa didn’t even follow their own state law – which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Instead, Moore said, they joined advocates for homosexuality in calling such couples “similarly situated” to traditionally married couples. Moore noted that Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act specified one man and one woman marriages, so the justices actually were violating the law they were sworn to uphold.

Gitmo Detainee Pleads Guilty

A Canadian accused of killing an American soldier as a teenage al-Qaida militant pleaded guilty Monday as part of a deal that avoids a war crimes trial for someone labeled a “child soldier” by his defenders. Omar Khadr pleaded to five charges including murder for throwing a grenade that mortally wounded the soldier during a fierce raid on an al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan in 2002. The now 24-year-old defendant also admitted to planting improvised explosive devices and receiving weapons training from the terrorist network. His trial had been scheduled to start Monday and he faced a possible life sentence.

Group of 20 Vows to Avoid Currency Devaluations

The world’s leading advanced and emerging countries vowed Saturday to avoid potentially debilitating currency devaluations, aiming to quell trade tensions that could threaten the global economy. The Group of 20 also said it will pursue policies to reduce trade and current account imbalances, and agreed to give developing nations more say at the International Monetary Fund, part of what it described as an ambitious set of proposals to reform IMF governance. The grouping, which accounts for about 85% of the global economy, said in a statement that it will “move towards more market determined exchange rate systems” and “refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies.” The agreement comes amid fears that nations were on the verge of a “currency war” in which they would devalue currencies to gain an export advantage over competitors — causing a rise in protectionism and damaging the global economy.

Economic News

Sales of previously occupied homes rose last month after a dismal summer but remain well short of healthy levels. The National Association of Realtors says sales grew 10% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.53 million. They were still down 19% from the same month a year earlier. The median sale price was $171,700, down 2.4% from the same month year ago.

Regulators on Friday shut down a total of seven banks in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas and Arizona, lifting to 139 the number of U.S. banks that have fallen this year as soured loans have mounted and the economy has sputtered. By this time last year, regulators had closed 106 banks. The pace has accelerated as banks’ losses mount on loans made for commercial property and development.

A growing number of Americans age 55 and older have put their retirement dreams on hold as they face a dismal financial reality: The recession has forced many into unemployment, stripped away years of their savings or dramatically reduced incomes during what they had hoped would be their final high-earning years. Even before the recession, older Americans were piling on debt. From 2000 to 2008, the average debt for households headed by people 55 or older nearly doubled to $66,000. The ranks of older bankruptcy filers also have been swelling rapidly. From 1991 to 2007, bankruptcy filings by those 65 and older increased by 150%, while filings in the 75-to-84 age group soared 433%.

The days when you could walk into a bank branch and open an account with no charges and no strings attached appear to be over. Now you have to jump through some hoops — keep a high balance, use direct deposit or swipe your debit card several times a month. Almost all of the largest U.S. banks are either already making free checking much more difficult to get or expected to do so soon, with fees on even basic banking services. It’s happening because a raft of new laws enacted in the past year, including the financial overhaul package, have led to an acute shrinking of revenue for the banks. So they are scraping together money however they can.

The leaders of India and Japan signed a broad agreement Monday aimed at increasing trade and agreed to speed up talks toward a civilian nuclear energy deal — despite sensitivity in Japan over India’s past atomic test blasts. The deal, which needs to be ratified by Japan’s parliament to come into force, slashes tariffs on goods from auto parts to bonsai plants and introduces measures to promote investment. Forging this kind of pact is increasingly a priority for Japan, which sees itself falling behind regional rival South Korea in the area of free trade agreements.

France

France‘s massive strikes are costing the national economy up to 400 million euro ($557 million) each day, the French finance minister said Monday as workers continued to block oil refineries and trash incinerators to protest a plan to raise the retirement age to 62. Rotting piles of garbage — now at nearly 9,000 tons — are becoming a health hazard in the Mediterranean city of Marseille, which has been hit hard on land and at sea. Striking dockers at France’s largest port are intermittently blocking ships trying to unload fuel there. France’s 12 striking refineries have been shut down for nearly two weeks, and the government has forced some of them to make stocked fuel available, but at least one in four gas stations in France has run dry. The bill to overhaul France’s pension plan is to be definitively voted on this week by the two houses of parliament, likely by Wednesday.

Middle East

Work has begun on up to 600 new homes in West Bank settlements since Israel lifted its curb on such construction Sept. 26th. Foundations are already being dug for at least 350 apartments, while construction of another 200 to 250 homes is in more preliminary stages. The construction has stalled U.S.-led peace talks and brought significant pressure on all sides to find a diplomatic solution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said any new construction would be kept to a minimum, but has not elaborated. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will only resume talks once building restrictions are reimposed, arguing there is no point negotiating while Israel continues to build on land the Palestinians want for a future state.

Korea

South Korea prepared Monday to send 5,000 tons of rice to flood victims in North Korea in its first humanitarian rice shipment to its communist neighbor since a conservative, pro-U.S. government took office in 2008. For a decade, South Korea was a major donor of food to North Korea before President Lee Myung-bak halted unconditional assistance following his inauguration in early 2008 with a tough line on Pyongyang. Lee’s government also drastically slashed trade with North Korea after tension spiked over March’s deadly sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on Pyongyang. The two Koreas remain technically at war, since their 1950-53 conflict ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

Haiti

A spreading cholera outbreak in rural Haiti threatened to outpace aid groups as they stepped up efforts Saturday hoping to keep the disease from reaching the squalid camps of earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince. Health officials said at least 253 people had died and over 3,000 others were infected in an outbreak mostly centered in the Artibonite region north of the capital. But the number of cases in towns near Port-au-Prince were rising, and officials worried the next target will be hundreds of thousands of Haitians left homeless by January’s devastating quake and now living in camps across the capital.

Mexico

Gunmen stormed two neighboring homes and massacred 13 young people at a birthday party in the latest large-scale attack in this violent border city, even as a new government strategy seeks to restore order with social programs and massive police deployments. Residents of Ciudad Juarez, one of the world’s deadliest cities, no longer go out much to celebrate because of a violent turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels, who frequently attack their rivals in bars, restaurants, drug rehab centers and other public places. Police found 70 bullet casings from assault weapons typically used by drug gangs whose bloody turf battles have killed more than 2,000 people this year in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso.

A gang of armed men burst into a rehab center and gunned down 13 recovering addicts there. The attack on the ramshackle, privately run center is the first such mass killing at a rehab center in Tijuana, a city praised by some for its anti-gang efforts. Several such attacks have killed dozens of recovering addicts in another border city, Ciudad Juarez. Drug gangs have attacked such centers before to target rival gang members.

Iraq

WikiLeaks’ latest cache of classified military documents on the Iraq war has been released to several news organizations, including the New York Times, which has distilled the 400,000 intelligence reports into a package it calls “The War Logs.” The military documents suggest that far more Iraqis died than previously acknowledged during the years of sectarian bloodletting and criminal violence unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The accounts of civilian deaths among nearly 400,000 purported Iraq war logs released Friday by the WikiLeaks website include deaths unknown or unreported before now — as many as 15,000 by the count of one independent research group. The war logs were made public in defiance of Pentagon insistence that the action puts the lives of U.S. troops and their military partners at risk. The 391,831 documents date from the start of 2004 to Jan. 1, 2010, providing a ground-level view of the war written mostly by low-ranking officers in the field.

The field reports from U.S. forces and intelligence officers also indicate U.S. forces often failed to follow up on credible evidence that Iraqi forces mistreated, tortured and killed their captives as they battled a violent insurgency. The huge archive of documents from the Iraq war also shows a multitude of shortcomings with the military’s reliance on private contractors. The contractors lacked coordination with coalition forces and often shot with little discrimination — and few if any consequences — at unarmed Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security forces, American troops and even other contractors, stirring public outrage.

Afghanistan

A United Nations office was attacked Saturday in western Afghanistan. A suicide attacker driving an explosives-packed car blew up the entrance to the office. Afghan police officials at the scene said militants wearing uniforms then entered the building, which has been surrounded by Afghan and NATO troops. Several additional blasts were heard at the site. A raid by NATO soldiers and a subsequent airstrike in southern Afghanistan killed 15 insurgents on Monday, NATO said. Nearby compounds were searched and a bomb-making factory and weapons cache discovered. Only two walls and one small room of a building he described as a mosque were now standing, said Ayap, and villagers were digging the dead out from under the rubble with farming tools and washing them for burial. “People are very angry,” said eyewitness Salah Ayap.

Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, said on Monday that his chief of staff had taken money from the Iranian government. The report in The New York Times said that Umar Daudzai, the president’s chief of staff, received up to $1 million to $2 million every other month from Iran and that the money, effectively a slush fund, was distributed to Afghan lawmakers,  tribal elders and even Taliban commanders to secure their loyalty. Karzai said the Iranian money is used to pay expenses in his office and that the U.S. has known about the Iranian assistance for years. He added that the United States also gives him cash. “They do give us bags of money,” said the president, referring to the American money. “It’s all the same. So let’s not make this an issue.”

  • · Any ties to Iran by a supposed U.S. ally is troublesome

Pakistan

For Pakistan‘s army, ejecting militants from safe havens near the Afghan border has proven to be the easy part. The problems come later: The guerrillas creep back and carry out attacks. Civilians never return. This is especially true in South Waziristan, where some 30,000 ground troops launched an offensive a year ago, quickly clearing what had been a major hub for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But over the last week, insurgent attacks have killed eight soldiers, while the Pakistani region’s 400,000 people will not return until next spring at the earliest. The problems in South Waziristan may help explain Pakistan’s reluctance to launch a similar operation in the adjoining North Waziristan region despite pressure from Washington.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake hit northwest Wyoming, apparently triggering a landslide on a hiking trail, but no injuries have been reported. The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake hit at about 11:45 a.m. Sunday. Forest rangers are investigating reports that a landslide covered about a quarter-mile of a trail in the national forest about 20 miles northeast of Jackson. The slide wouldn’t prevent any hikers from getting out, officials said.

Weather

Hurricane Richard battered the tiny Central American country of Belize with heavy rain and howling winds after making landfall just south its largest city, threatening flimsy wood-and-tin houses and forcing tourists to evacuate outlying islands. An estimated 10,000 people in Belize took refuge at storm shelters in schools and churches before the arrival of Richard, which weakened to a tropical storm early Monday as it pushed into northeastern Guatemala. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Richard’s top winds were 90 mph — making it a Category 1 hurricane — when it made landfall late Sunday about 20 miles south-southwest of Belize City, whose neighborhoods are full of wooden, tin-roof homes that are very vulnerable to winds.

October 22, 2010

The Berenstein Bears Find God

The Berenstain Bears, stars of the gazillion-selling cartoon books for tots, have found God in an explicitly Christian series tearing up sales on mobile apps. In the new app, the universal theme of the Golden Rule is tied directly to a Biblical source: Matthew 7:12. Golden Rule is part of the “Living Lights” series of Berenstain books published by Zonderkidz.. Other titles in the series include The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers,” “The Berenstain Bears Go to Sunday School, and The Berenstain Bears: God Loves You. Michael Berenstain, who took over illustrations after founder Stan Berenstein’s death, said that the new 12-book line was an answered prayer for Christian parents who appreciate the values-based themes of our books. By dealing with religion through the fun and laughter of the Berenstain Bears, we hope to nurture these families in their goal of raising children secure in their faith. Needless to say, critics abound. Ian Crouch, remarking in the New Yorker on the hot iPad version of the bears’ adventures in prayer and Sunday School, was shocked to find the beloved bumbling bears are now, as he writes “practicing Christians!”

Dead Sea Scrolls Coming to the Web

The 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls will soon get a digital makeover, allowing people worldwide to view the carefully guarded texts. The Israel Antiquities Authority, the custodian of the scrolls, announced Tuesday that Google Israel will assist in uploading newly digitized images of the biblical and apocryphal manuscripts. According to The New York Times, historians say the digital copies will eliminate the need to expose the fragile fragments of parchment and papyrus to the ruinous effects of light and air again. The entire collection of scrolls was photographed in the 1950s using infrared light, but direct access to the delicate copies has been restricted to just a few authorized people. The scrolls could be online in a few months.

Facebook Censors “Hate Speech”

According to the Family Research Council, “If there were a status update for Facebook’s entire site, it might say something like, ‘Jumping on the politically correct bandwagon.’ Last week, the social media giant officially friended the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to “end hate speech and anti-gay bullying” on the Internet. The new partnership, which made a splash in the mainstream news, is significant because it puts Facebook on the media’s growing path toward censorship. Apparently, anything they construed to be anti-homosexual will be stripped from the site. “Where does that leave Americans who morally oppose the lifestyle and want to help people find freedom from it?” asks the FRC.

G8 World Religions Summit Promotes One-World Religion

Everyone heard about the G8 and G20 political summits in Toronto, yet few knew that a global interfaith event paralleled the G8/G20. This event, titled the G8 World Religions Summit, brought together spiritual leaders from around the planet to work towards an interfaith approach to global governance. As an observer to the 2010, G8 World Religions Summit (WRS), Carl Teichrib says, “I listened as the opening ceremonies set the tone for this remarkable event. The Secretary General of the WRS, Dr. James Christie – the Dean of Theology at the University of Winnipeg – welcomed us as religious equals, stating that what was important was that we “offer our service, and ourselves, and our lives” to the “God we know by so many names.” Carl Teichrib is a Senior Fellow at World Research Library and is the Chief Editor of Forcing Change, a monthly intelligence-style publication on world affairs and global governance.

  • If you’re interested in reading the full, 41-page report, containing documents extracted from this event, go to the Forcing Change website (www.forcingchange.org)

President Censors ‘Creator’ Reference a 3rd time

A statement published on the government’s official White House website confirms that for the third time in a little over a month, President Obama has censored a reference in the Declaration of Independence to people being endowed “by their Creator” with rights. He just says that people “are endowed.” Obama has repeatedly left out the reference to God in his campaign efforts to boost Democrat interest in the 2010 midterm elections.

Majority Believe Obama a One-Termer, But Healthcare Reform Iffy

President Obama is busy trying to convince voters that Democratic incumbents deserve to keep their jobs, but a new poll out Thursday suggests a majority of Americans doesn’t think he deserves to keep his. According to the survey from Gallup, only 39 percent of Americans say the president deserves to be re-elected while 54 percent think he should join the ill-fated ranks of one-term presidents.

An Associated Press-GfK poll found likely voters evenly split on whether the law should be scrapped or retooled to make even bigger changes in the way Americans get their health care. Tea party enthusiasm for repeal has failed to catch on with other groups, the poll found, which may be a problem for Republicans vowing to strike down Obama’s signature accomplishment if they gain control of Congress in the Nov. 2 elections. Among likely voters, 36 percent said they want to revise the law so it does more to change the healthcare system. A nearly identical share — 37 percent — said they want to repeal it completely.

NPR’s Federal Funding Questioned after Firing Analyst

Conservatives and some liberals say NPR went too far in axing a longtime news analyst for saying he gets nervous on planes when he sees people in Muslim dress, and at least one U.S. senator said he would start the ball rolling in cutting federal funding to the network. NPR was soundly criticized for axing Williams’ contract for giving his feeling in an interview where he also said it is important to distinguish moderate Muslims from extremists. In response to the firing, South Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint planned to introduce legislation to end federal funding for NPR, his spokesman Wesley Denton confirmed Thursday night. Federal grants provide less than 2 percent _ or $3.3 million _ of NPR’s $166 million annual budget. It is funded primarily by its affiliates, corporate sponsors and major donors. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller said Thursday that Williams had veered from journalistic ethics several times before Monday’s comments.

  • NPR frequently states its ultra-liberal opinions as quasi-facts but is intolerant of other views

Companies Moving to Eliminate BPA from Cans

The marketplace is responding faster than federal regulators to consumer concerns about BPA, an estrogen-like chemical used to line most metal food and beverage cans, a new report shows. Companies such as H.J. Heinz, ConAgra and Hain Celestial have begun using BPA-free linings in some of their cans and have set timelines for eliminating the chemical from all products. Many others — such as Coca-Cola, Delmonte, Safeway and Wal-Mart— have failed to commit to getting rid of BPA, or bisphenol A, linked to a variety of health problems in hundreds of animal experiments and a small, but growing number of human studies. Last year, only 7% of companies had timeliness to phase out BPA. This year, 32% have set timelines. Most large baby bottle makers already have stopped using BPA.

Diabetes May Affect 1 in 3 Americans by 2050

The future of diabetes in America looks bleak, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report out today, with cases projected to double, even triple, by 2050. According to the report, one in 10 U.S. adults have diabetes now. The prevalence is expected to rise sharply over the next 40 years with as many as one in three having the disease, primarily type 2 diabetes, according to the report, published in the journal Population Health Metrics. A more diverse America — including growing populations of minority groups such as African Americans and Hispanics, who are more at risk for the disease — factors into the increase as well, says Ann Albright, director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation. But an increasing number of overweight Americans also is fueling the stark predictions for diabetes, which should be taken seriously, Albright says. Diabetes is the No. 1 reason for adult blindness, kidney failure and limb amputation, and it’s a large contributor to heart attacks and strokes, she says.

Traffic Accidents Top Killer of U.S. Travelers

Road accidents — not terrorism, plane crashes or crime — are the No. 1 killer of healthy Americans traveling abroad, a USA TODAY analysis of the past 7½ years of State Department data shows. About 1,820 Americans, almost a third of all Americans who died of non-natural causes while abroad, have been reported killed in road accidents in foreign countries from Jan. 1, 2003, through June 2010. Almost 40% of the deaths occurred in Mexico, the analysis shows. The second-highest number of road fatalities occurred in Thailand, where relatively few Americans visit. The Dominican Republic, a popular resort destination, ranked No. 3 in fatalities, followed by Germany and Spain. The report says “a lethal cocktail of killer roads, unsafe vehicles, dangerous driving and disoriented travelers” is killing an estimated 25,000 travelers to foreign countries each year. The number of tourist deaths is dwarfed by the total number of road fatalities worldwide. Nearly 1.3 million people die and up to 50 million are injured a year. More than 90% of the world’s road fatalities occur in low-income and middle-income countries, which have 48% of the world’s registered vehicles.

FBI Behind Schedule, Over Budget on Computer System

The FBI, which has struggled for years to modernize its outdated computer systems, is two years behind and $100 million over budget on the installation of an electronic case-management system designed to streamline operations. A review by the Justice Department’s inspector general found that only half of the project’s four-phase development had been completed, “inhibiting the FBI’s ability to connect the dots” in its investigations. “According to its original system plan, (the project) was to be fully completed by now,” Inspector General Glenn Fine said Wednesday in a 28-page review. “We are also concerned that the longer the full implementation takes, the more likely it is that already-implemented hardware and software features will become obsolete.”

  • Yet another example of government’s inability to get things done – and it’s extraordinary ability to overspend.

Women More Generous with Donations

Women are more generous than men when it comes to charitable donations, a study released Thursday suggests. In all income groups, women are more likely to give, and in four of five groups, they give double what men do. In the study’s middle range of income, $43,500 to $67,532, the average donation was $728 from women, $373 from men. “Women have just been socialized as the care-givers in their families to be more empathetic and altruistic,” says Debra Mesch, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. “I think this is being manifested in giving to charity.”

Arizona AHCCS Patients Lose Preventive Care

About 640,000 Arizona residents enrolled in the state’s version of Medicaid will no longer receive coverage for some preventive health care because of cuts to the agency’s budget. The cuts, which went into effect Oct. 1, mean men and women may have to pay out of pocket for “well visits,” such as physical check-ups. The cuts have prompted concern from health advocates who say they will impede early detection of diseases. The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System cut the services in response to the state’s budget crisis and the tremendous growth of people enrolled in the program. The cut to preventive care is one of several reductions the agency made to the adult-benefit package. AHCCCS estimates the reductions to preventive care will save the state $2.8 million annually. Families and individuals with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level qualify for AHCCCS. This means to qualify for AHCCCS, a person would have to earn no more than $10,830 a year.

Economic News

Rescuing mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could cost as taxpayers as much as $363 billion over the next three years, more than double the current amount, a federal regulator said Thursday. The actual amount will depend on whether home prices stabilize or take another dive, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said. The two mortgage finance companies have been operating under federal control for more than two years after nearly collapsing because of the housing bust. Fannie and Freddie have already received $148 billion from taxpayers.

Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, but the drop wasn’t enough to reverse a big increase the previous week. Applications for jobless benefits fell 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 452,000. The decline comes after the department substantially revised the previous week’s figure to show a rise of 26,000. The four-week average for initial jobless claims, a less volatile measure, dropped 4,250 to 458,000, still too high to signal economic recovery. The number of people on extended benefits rose about 280,000 to just over 5 million people in the week ending Oct. 2.

The Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators increased 0.3% last month. The index had grown steeply since April 2009 on the strength of the stock market, record-low interest rates and a rebound in manufacturing. But the rate of expansion tapered off this summer as U.S. economic growth slowed.

U.S. Asks Countries to Cut Trade Surpluses

The U.S. pressed emerging nations to set targets to reduce their vast trade surpluses with the West, a plan that could see their currencies rise, as a global finance summit fumbled for ways to reduce tensions that threaten to escalate into a trade war. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner‘s proposals, outlined in a letter to the Group of 20 major developed and emerging nations, met with immediate resistance on the opening day of a two-day meeting of top finance officials. Japan‘s Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Friday called the idea of targets “unrealistic.” The gathering of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors in the South Korean city of Gyeongju comes just two weeks after their meeting in Washington failed to iron out currency differences that have led to fears of a trade war that could trigger another economic downturn. In such a scenario, countries devalue their currencies to gain a competitive advantage in a world economy that has yet to fully recover from the global financial meltdown two years ago.

British Government Makes Big Spending Cuts

Not even the mightiest in the land were unscathed by the British government’s budget ax. The British royal household must trim expenses by 14% in a plan that aims to reduce Europe’s biggest structural budget deficit. As the London Evening Standard put it: “Everyone Loses … Even the Queen.” The Conservative-led government blamed a decade of reckless spending for the need to cut half a million public jobs, raise the retirement age and slash welfare. The cuts would be the deepest since World War II. Britain’s budget deficit is $174 billion. Spending cuts averaged 19% across all government departments. The military was also hit. Britain will scrap several plane systems and warships and eliminate 7,000 army troops. The government hopes to save money by gradually raising the retirement age from 65 to 66. The national health care system was untouched.

Iran, Venezuela Leaders Seek ‘New World Order’

The leaders of Iran and Venezuela hailed what they called their strong strategic relationship on Wednesday, saying they are united in efforts to establish a “new world order” that will eliminate Western dominance over global affairs. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and visiting Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, watched as officials from both countries signed 11 agreements promoting cooperation in areas including oil, natural gas, textiles, trade and public housing. Both presidents denounced U.S. “imperialism” and said their opponents will not be able to impede cooperation between Iran and Venezuela. Iran’s state TV quoted both Ahmadinejad and Chavez as calling their relationship a “strategic alliance” that would eliminate the current global order. U.S. officials have worried Iran may be using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic weapons. Chavez also has plans to develop a nuclear energy program in Venezuela and last week signed an agreement for Russia to help build a reactor.

  • The real New World Order folks, always operating in the background, will continue to use Ahmadinejad and Chavez to break down Western democracies, and then discard them when their objectives have been met.

Iran

Iran said Wednesday it has almost doubled its stockpile of uranium that the country began enriching to higher levels earlier this year in defiance of U.N. demands to halt the program. Nuclear chief Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran now has 30 kilograms, or about 66 pounds, of uranium enriched to 20 percent – almost twice the amount reported in June. The 20 percent level is enough to produce fuel for a medical research reactor but far below the more than 90 percent enriched uranium required to build fissile material for nuclear warheads. However, U.S. officials have expressed concern Iran may be moving closer to the ability to reach weapons-grade level.

France

French protesters blockaded Marseille‘s airport, truckers tied up highways and Lady Gaga canceled concerts in Paris ahead of a tense Senate vote Friday on raising the retirement age. A quarter of the nation’s gas stations were out of fuel despite President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s orders to force open depots barricaded by striking workers. Gasoline shortages and violence on the margins of student protests have heightened the standoff between the government and labor unions who see retirement at 60 as a hard-earned right. Student protests have forced the government to its knees in the past, and in recent days some have degenerated into violence. The French government — like many heavily indebted governments around Europe — says raising the retirement age and overhauling the money-losing pension system is vital to ensuring that future generations receive any pensions at all. About 1 million demonstrators marched in more than 250 rallies during the past week. Police made 428 arrests and have detained 1,423.

Haiti

At least 142 people have died in a cholera outbreak, and aid groups are rushing in medicine and other supplies Friday to combat Haiti‘s deadliest health problem since its devastating earthquake. The outbreak in the rural Artibonite region, which hosts thousands of quake refugees, appeared to confirm relief groups’ fears about sanitation for homeless survivors living in tarp cities and other squalid settlements. Many of the sick have converged on St. Nicholas hospital in the seaside city of St. Marc, where hundreds of dehydrated patients lay on blankets in a parking lot with IVs in their arms as they waited for treatment. Health Ministry director Gabriel Thimothe said laboratory tests confirmed that the illness is cholera. He said Friday morning that 142 people have died and more than a thousand infected people were hospitalized.

Afghanistan

A military offensive in southern Afghanistan is chasing the Taliban out of their stronghold in Kandahar province, the Afghan president’s half brother said. “Most of them I believe left before the military operation started,” Ahmed Wali Karzai told The Associated Press late Wednesday. “They are running … I don’t know (where).” NATO and Afghan forces began an operation to wrest control of Kandahar province in July, an attempt to regain the initiative in the nine-year war by taking the battle to the heartland of the insurgency along the Pakistani border. Karzai heads a provincial council in Kandahar and says government officials are moving in to set up institutions in areas cleared of Taliban by security forces. Improving residents’ quality of life is crucial to winning long-term popular support and maintaining control of territory.

Three weeks before a Jordanian double agent set off a bomb at a remote Central Intelligence Agency base in eastern Afghanistan last December, a C.I.A. officer in Jordan received warnings that the man might be working for Al Qaeda, according to an investigation into the deadly attack. According to the New York Times, the C.I.A. officer did not tell his bosses of the suspicions — brought to the Americans by a Jordanian intelligence officer — that the man might try to lure Americans into a trap, according to the recently completed investigation by the agency.

  • The CIA is a vast, secretive bureaucracy that has proven to be ineffective at its core mission of providing timely intelligence to prevent attacks such as 9/11

Pakistan

The Obama administration is withholding assistance to some Pakistani military units over concerns they may have been involved in human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and torture, a senior U.S. official said Thursday. The official said aid to a handful of Pakistani units believed to have committed, encouraged or tolerated abuses had been suspended under 1997 legislation championed by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy. The so-called Leahy Amendment bars U.S. military assistance from going to foreign armed forces suspected of committing atrocities. Halting assistance to certain units will not affect broader U.S. support for Pakistan’s military, which is considered key to counterterrorism efforts in the region.

Philippines

A bomb ripped through a passenger bus Thursday in the southern Philippines, killing at least 10 people and wounding nine in an attack authorities say may have been carried out by an extortion gang with links to Muslim militants. The southern Philippines is home to kidnappers, extortion gangs and a decades-old Muslim insurgency. Military spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said authorities suspect the Al-Khobar extortion gang in the attack, saying the bus company involved in the bombing had been targeted for extortion in the past.

Earthquakes

A powerful earthquake struck offshore in Mexico’s Gulf of California on Thursday, causing people to flee into the streets in the western state of Sinaloa, causing fear but no immediate reports of damage or injury. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude of the quake that hit at 11:53 a.m. was calculated as 6.9 and struck about 65 miles south of Los Mochis, a city just inland from the coast in Sinaloa. The epicenter was 85 miles northeast of La Paz in Baja California Sur and was at a relatively shallow depth of 6.2 miles. The same region was hit by three moderately powerful earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 5.5 to 5.8 Tuesday night and early Wednesday, but they caused no known damage.

Weather

A mudslide triggered by a powerful typhoon buried a Buddhist temple in northeastern Taiwan on Friday, killing three people and leaving six missing Elsewhere on the island, helicopters were searching for a bus carrying 19 Chinese tourists that was traveling along a coastal highway hit by massive rockslides. Typhoon Megi, which killed 26 people and wreaked havoc in the northern Philippines earlier this week, dumped a record 45 inches of rain in Ilan county over 48 hours as it moved toward China’s southeastern coast with winds of 90 mph. The rockslides trapped about 30 vans, buses and cars carrying over 400 people..

Another winter of wild weather extremes appears to be in store for the USA. The Pacific Northwest should see a wetter, colder winter than average while most of the Sun Belt stays mild and dry, federal scientists announced in their winter forecast Thursday. The dominant climate factor expected to affect the USA this winter is La Niña, a periodic cooling of tropical Pacific Ocean water that affects weather patterns across the USA and around the world. In the Pacific states and interior Northwest, the cold, wet winter will help replenish water resources and winter recreation, the climate center forecast, but also could lead to greater flooding and avalanche concerns. Skimpy precipitation and unusual warmth for most of the southern USA could worsen droughts and spark wildfires from Southern California to Florida.

October 20, 2010

U.S. Military Now Accepting Gay Recruits

Openly gay recruits can now join the military as a result of a federal court ruling striking down the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, but they are being warned that they can still be discharged if the ruling is overturned. Cynthia Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the suspension of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is in response to the Sept. 9 decision of a central California federal judge that ruled the law implemented under President Clinton in 1993 was unconstitutional. The judge, Virginia Phillips, on Tuesday denied a government request to delay her order. The Justice Department said the Obama administration will appeal to the appellate court in San Francisco. Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, has said most Marines oppose reversing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which permits gays to serve as long as they are not open about their homosexuality. He said opposition to gays serving openly is particularly strong within combat units.

  • The moral cancer of homosexuality is spreading like wildfire now, fanned by Satan and his New World Order cohorts

Court Sides with ‘Moment of Silence’

A federal appeals court has upheld an Illinois law that allows public school students to engage in voluntary prayer and reflection as part of a moment of silence during the school day. The decision by the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a federal district judge’s decision last year to strike down the law as unconstitutional in an atheist’s 2007 lawsuit against the Township High School District. But the court said the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act neither advances nor inhibits religion and only mandates a period of silence — and presents no state entanglement with religion. “The plaintiff claimed that simply because another student would be able to pray silently, that somehow created a constitutional crisis and injured them in some way — which we are certainly at a loss to figure out,” says David Cortman with the Alliance Defense Fund.

Federal Agencies Investigate Mortgage Foreclosures

The Obama administration said Tuesday that it has started its own investigation into mortgage foreclosures, joining the nation’s 50 state attorneys general in probing the alleged use of faulty or fraudulent documents to seize tens of thousands of homes. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs released a statement Tuesday morning saying two federal agencies “have undertaken their own regulatory and enforcement investigation into the foreclosure process.” The statement came the morning after Bank of America announced it would resume seizing more than 100,000 homes in 23 states next week, lifting a moratorium it imposed Oct. 8. The bank said that despite accusations that documents filed in courts were flawed, it had found no significant problems with its foreclosure actions.

Crystal Cathedral Seeks Bankruptcy Protection

It’s $55 million in debt and the recession has cut deeply into contributions, so the Crystal Cathedral, the glass megachurch in Southern California, has filed for bankruptcy protection. “Budgets could not be cut fast enough to keep up with the unprecedented rapid decline in revenue due to the recession,” Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman said in a statement, the Los Angeles Times reports. Services and programs at the church will continue, including the Hour of Power TV program. The 7,000-member church, in Garden Grove, laid off 50 workers in January and sold surplus property. Membership declined after the founder, Rev. Robert H. Schuller, retired after 50 years and put his son in charge who then handed the reigns to his sister in 2008 after internal disagreements.

Top 400 Charities See Billions Less in Donations

The Associated Press reports that the recession might be officially over, but the belt-tightening is certainly not over for charities. The Philanthropy 400 report, released yesterday “shows that charities are really having a tough time, and this are some of the most successful charities in the United States,” Chronicle Editor Stacy Palmer said. “Usually bigger charities are more resilient, so that’s the part that is still surprising.” The United Way and Salvation Army continue to rank highest in giving in the survey’s findings. Only four charities in the top 10 reported increased contributions over last year, including Alexandria, Va.-based Catholic Charities USA, which reported a 66 percent jump. For many, that growth has been driven by donated goods rather than cash.

Border Arrests Down

The Border Patrol made about 463,000 arrests during the federal government’s fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, down 17% from 556,032 the previous 12 months. It marks the fifth straight year of declines. Border Patrol arrests are down 72 percent from nearly 1.7 million in 2000. The agency typically makes about 97 percent of its arrests along the 1,952-mile border with Mexico, with nearly all the rest coming along the Canadian border. Peter Nunez, a former U.S. attorney in San Diego who advocates a more restrictive immigration policy, noted that border enforcement has been building for 15 years. “It’s been a long process over several administrations,” said Nunez, who teaches immigration policy at University of San Diego. “They are reaping the rewards.” Enrique Morones, an activist who supports looser immigration policies, said the economy is the main reason for the five-year decline in arrests. “If there are fewer jobs available, fewer people come,” said Morones, president of Border Angels, which provides water to migrants crossing the border.

Lake Mead Sinks to Historic Low

Lake Mead sank to its lowest level in nearly 75 years on Sunday, a stark reminder of how drought and growing water demands have sapped the Colorado River and its huge reservoirs. Not since it was first filling in 1937 has Lake Mead held so little water. The reservoir’s level fell to the historic low shortly before noon on Sunday, eclipsing a previous record from the drought-stricken 1950s. The lake is now just 8 feet above the level that would trigger the first drought restrictions, which would reduce water supplies for Arizona and Nevada. That gap could close by next year – the reservoir fell 10 feet from October 2009 to 2010. Most homes and businesses in Arizona likely would not feel the direct effects of the restrictions, which would divert water first from farmers. Lake Mead, created when Hoover Dam was built, has shrunk steadily over the past decade, in part because of an unrelenting drought that began to reduce the flow of the Colorado in 2000. The reservoir stores water from the river on behalf of Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico.

Amtrak Ridership Rising

In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, Amtrak served more than 28.7 million riders, an increase of 5.7% from 2009, according to a company statement. Ticket revenue grew 9%, to $1.7 billion. Amtrak has benefited from the “remarkable lifestyle shift” caused by smartphones, laptops and iPads that let travelers work and communicate almost everywhere. “You can make phone calls, and you don’t have to turn your laptop on and off,” says Manieri, adding she also avoids the airport’s long security lines and the highway’s congestion. Young adults especially view trains and intercity buses as extensions of the public transportation system, he says. They can hop on without ever disconnecting from the rest of the world. Amtrak’s ridership and ticket revenue figures had been climbing steadily over the past decade but fell the previous fiscal year as business and leisure travelers cut back during the recession.

Economic News

Home construction rose slightly last month on the strength of single-family homes, but the market was still too weak to propel growth in the battered industry. Construction of new homes and apartments rose 0.3% in September from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000. The number of building permits issued to build homes, a sign of future activity, fell 5.6% from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 539,000. The housing market suffered its worst summer in more than 10 years, despite the lowest mortgage rates in five decades.

China raised its key lending rate Tuesday for the first time since 2007 as Beijing tries to cool inflation and guide rapid growth to a more sustainable level. The rate increase of 0.25% reflected China’s unusually strong expansion and official concern about controlling a credit boom and keeping growth from surging out of control. Communist leaders are trying to guide China’s economy back to a more sustainable growth rate after it expanded at a 10.3% annual rate in the second quarter.

Britain‘s Treasury chief George Osborne said Wednesday that the country’s government will make the largest cuts to public spending since World War II — slashing benefits and public sector jobs in a five-year austerity plan. Osborne confirmed he had ordered 83 billion pounds ($130 billion) in spending cuts through 2015, which he claims are necessary along with tax increases to wipe out a spending deficit that reached 156 billion pounds last year. As many as 500,000 public sector jobs will be lost, welfare payments sharply reduced and dozens of scheduled government programs halted.

The World Bank raised its 2010 economic outlook for East Asian countries Tuesday, but warned of slower growth and potential asset bubbles as foreign capital surges into the region. This year, East Asia‘s gross domestic product is expected to rise 8.9%. Capital flooding into the region to chase growth has led to a “substantial appreciation” of exchange rates that, if sustained, could hurt economic growth, according to the World Bank. Currency rates are a growing source of friction around the world. The U.S. and the European Union, among others, have criticized China for keeping its currency undervalued by up to 40% against the dollar to boost Chinese exports.

France

Workers opposed to a higher retirement age blocked access to airports in Paris and around the country on Wednesday as hooded youths smashed store windows amid clouds of tear gas outside the capital. Riot police in black body armor forced striking workers away from blocked fuel depots in western France, restoring gasoline to areas where pumps were dry after weeks of protests over the government proposal raising the age from 60 to 62. Riot officers in the Paris suburb of Nanterre and the southeastern city of Lyon sprayed tear gas but appeared unable to stop the violence. Many workers feel the change would be a first step in eroding France’s social benefits — which include long vacations, contracts that make it hard for employers to lay off workers and a state-subsidized health care system — in favor of “American-style capitalism.”

  • As the government-fostered sense of entitlement clashes with excessive debt and budget cutbacks, more government control will be required – just what the New World Order folks have engineered

Mexico

Mexican security forces seized at least 105 tons of U.S.-bound marijuana in the border city of Tijuana on Monday, by far the biggest pot bust in the country in recent years. Soldiers and police grabbed the drugs in pre-dawn raids in three neighborhoods after police arrested 11 people following a shootout,. The marijuana was found wrapped in 10,000 packages which have an estimated street value in Mexico of 4.2 billion pesos, about $340 million. The bust began when Tijuana municipal police on patrol came under fire from gunmen in a convoy of vehicles. Police arrested 11 people who were traveling in the convoy and called the army and state police for reinforcements.

Yemen

Hundreds of Yemenis fled their homes for refuge as Yemeni troops shelled villages and clashed with al-Qaeda gunmen in an assault on alleged hideouts of the militant group in the remote mountains of the south, witnesses and officials said on Monday. With U.S. help, Yemen has stepped up the fight against al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the country, which is believed to have several hundred fighters entrenched in mountainous, tribal regions of the country and which claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day attempt to bomb an American passenger jet over the U.S. Over the past month, the group, called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has intensified a campaign of assassinations against Yemeni security officers. In an online message last week, it announced the formation of the “Abyan-Aden Army,” aimed at toppling the Yemeni government.

Pakistan

Parts of Karachi, Pakistan‘s largest city, shut down Wednesday after an attack on a scrapyard pushed to 51 the number of people killed in four days — a spasm of politically motivated violence in a country already wracked by Islamist militancy. Some shops were set on fire in an outlying neighborhood where police tried to calm gathering crowds, footage broadcast on Pakistani TV stations showed. The violence in Karachi comes as Pakistan is engaged in talks with the U.S. on the future of their shaky alliance against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. U.S. officials in Washington are expected to discuss on Wednesday a long-term military and security assistance pact with a visiting Pakistani delegation.

Intelligence officials say American missiles have killed seven people in a militant stronghold near the Afghan border. The United States has stepped up missile attacks on al-Qaeda and Taliban targets inside northwest Pakistan over the last two months. There have been 17 strikes this month, according to an Associated Press count. Washington does not acknowledge the attacks or say who it is targeting or killing. Critics say innocents are often killed in the attacks, hurting Pakistan’s efforts to win over tribesmen in its campaign against militants.

Afghanistan

High-level talks to end the war in Afghanistan reportedly involve face-to-face discussions with the most senior Taliban commanders, who have secretly left their sanctuaries in Pakistan with the help of NATO forces. Some leaders who oversee the Taliban war effort in Afghanistan have left their havens in Pakistan aboard NATO aircraft to attend the talks on explicit assurance that they would be protected. Mullah Omar, the overall leader of the Taliban, is specifically being kept out of the negotiations because of his close ties to Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

Afghanistan has released full preliminary results from last month’s parliamentary election, throwing out more than 20% of ballots because of fraud. Election officials called the vote a success because they were able to catch the fraud, but the number of fraudulent ballots also indicates that cheating was pervasive in a vote that many hoped would show the government’s commitment to reform. It was not immediately clear what the results released Wednesday would mean for the makeup of the 249-member parliament.

Better battlefield treatment and faster medevac flights have helped to cut nearly in half the number of troops killed by roadside bombs in Afghanistan, military officials say. The Pentagon says 24 troops died from the 180 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that detonated in September. One year ago, 46 troops died from 131 IEDs in September. Wounded troops are flown from the battlefield to a hospital about 25% faster than they were last year, according to the Pentagon. IEDs remain the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Insurgents planted 1,321 bombs that were detected or blew up in September, the third-highest monthly total in the 9-year-old war, and 16% more than in September 2009.

China

The Obama administration has concluded that Chinese firms are helping Iran to improve its missile technology and develop nuclear weapons, and has asked China to stop such activity, a senior U.S. official said. During a visit to Beijing last month, a delegation led by Robert J. Einhorn, the State Department’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, handed a ‘significant list’ of companies and banks to their Chinese counterparts to discuss a sensitive issue in U.S.-Chinese relations. The official said the Obama administration thinks that the companies are violating U.N. sanctions, but that China did not authorize their activities. In a recent meetings on Capitol Hill, China’s outgoing deputy chief of mission, Xie Feng, was told that “if he ever wanted to see Congress united, Democrats and Republicans, it would be on the issue of China’s interaction with Iran.”

Chechnya

Insurgents stormed the parliament complex in Russia‘s volatile Chechnya region on Tuesday, killing at least 2 police officers and one parliamentary official, authorities said. At least three insurgents were also killed, One insurgent set off a bomb at the gates of the parliament complex in the provincial capital, killing himself and wounding others. At least two other gunmen ran into the building shouting “Allahu Akbar” as they opened fire on the people inside. The attackers were killed in an ensuing gunfight with police. Russian news agencies reported earlier that insurgents had also attacked the Agriculture Ministry building. The building is in the same complex as the parliament, and that incident appeared to be part of the same attack. Restive Chechnya in the Russian North Caucasus has been battling an Islamist insurgency for years despite the iron rule of its Moscow-backed president.

Earthquakes

An earthquake rattled the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch on Tuesday, cutting power and phone service and sending some residents running into the streets just weeks after a more powerful quake caused extensive damage. New Zealand’s geological agency GNS Science said Tuesday’s magnitude 5.0 quake was centered six miles southwest of the city and just five miles below the surface. Buildings shook and objects tumbled from shelves when the quake hit about 11:30 a.m. Electricity and phone service were cut to several parts of the city, and a number of buildings in the city center were evacuated following the quake. The temblor was one of hundreds of aftershocks that have hit the city since a magnitude-7 quake on Sept. 4 that wrecked thousands of homes, tore up farmland but did not kill anyone.

Weather

A super typhoon that killed 10 people and flattened forests in the northern Philippines dumped heavy rains on the capital Tuesday as it headed across the sea to menace its next likely targets in southern China. Typhoon Megi struck the Philippines on Monday with ferocious winds of 140 miles per hour, but initial assessments showed relatively light damage and casualties, partly because the storm struck sparsely populated areas. Philippine officials also cited their massive emergency preparations days ahead of the storm. Isabela province in the northeast Philippines, Megi’s entry point, bore the brunt of the Typhoon Megi’s destruction while more than 8,000 people rode out the typhoon in sturdy school buildings, town halls, churches and relatives’ homes. Roads in and out of the coastal province were deserted and blocked by collapsed trees, power lines and debris.

Heavy rains dealt poverty-stricken people in Bangladesh another blow this week, killing at least 17 people and leaving thousands homeless. Flooding has also inundated the neighboring state of Manipur, India. In some areas, rains created tidal surges with waves as tall as five feet. “This is another heartbreaking crisis for one of the most poor, downtrodden countries in the world,” said Gospel for Asia President K.P. Yohannan. “It is another opportunity for us to show Christ’s love by responding to the suffering as He would have us do.” Fifty-five percent of Bangladesh’s 156 million residents live below the poverty line.

The U.S. government’s National Climate Data Center reported Monday that the January-September period is tied with 1998 for the warmest first nine months on record. The average temperature for the period was 1.17 degree Fahrenheit (0.65 Celsius) above normal for records going back 131 years.

October 18, 2010

Top Dem, Socialists Plot ‘1-world’ Scheme

The Democratic chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee has been caught on tape meeting with a U.S.-based, Marxist-oriented socialist organization to discuss how the group can cooperate to strengthen President Obama and advance their “one-world” plans. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who has a long history with the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA, was recorded promoting a “one-world” government. Conyers was meeting earlier this month with a small group of DSA activists and leaders who had come to Washington, D.C., for the “One Nation” rally that was organized by a coalition for progressive groups, including communist and socialist organizations. Promoting the concept of a one-world government, Conyers told those assembled, “We know that when unions, political ideology, clergy, labor, civil rights come together and just people who are progressive enough to see in this one-world concept that we’re all in this together, it makes certain things pretty easy to understand where we are coming from.”

  • The one-world government foretold in the Bible (Rev. 13:11-17) is Obama’s primary objective, sacrificing all that the USA has stood for in the past – individual freedom and Christ

Kinsey’s Dark History Unmasked

A victim of sexologist Alfred Kinsey’s “research” during the 1940s is coming forward with the stunning claim that her father was paid by Kinsey, universally regarded as the “father of the sexual revolution,” to rape her and then report to him on the attacks. Said she would be willing to testify in person on Capitol Hill if an investigation results in opening the Kinsey Institute files to public scrutiny, according to WorldNetDaily. Horrendous experiments were carried out – including the sexual molestation of hundreds of infants and children down to 2 months of age – not in a far-off Central American country, but at the state and federally funded Indiana University. The researchers never treated the victims of this research, and nobody has issued an apology. Biologist Alfred Kinsey’s research on human sexual behavior is now celebrated as pioneering science, and Kinsey has become known as the father of the sexual revolution. Kinsey’s research is highly controversial for being based disproportionately on hundreds of interviews with prisoners, sex offenders and prostitutes. Kinsey and his colleagues falsely classified these people as normal World War II-era citizens, leaving the validity of his findings open to question.  But the most infamous – indeed, criminal – aspect of Kinsey’s research involved what is first revealed in black and white in Tables 30 to 34 of his landmark 1948 book, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.” These tables reveal how hundreds of innocent boys suffered at the hands of pedophiles to compile this data.

  • Satan and the New World Order folks have plotted to undermine the traditional, Biblical family structure ordained by God through any means necessary with complicit assistance from the media

Foreclosure Processors Didn’t Review Much

Workers who processed tens of thousands of mortgage foreclosure papers portrayed their jobs as assembly-line work that required them to sign off on documents without reviewing them. The depositions were released this week by a Florida lawyer defending 3,000 homeowners in foreclosure cases. They are the latest evidence in a controversy over foreclosure practices that has led state officials and federal regulators to investigate whether foreclosure papers filed with courts were false or fraudulent. A Wells Fargo employee in South Carolina said in a March deposition that she typically signed 300 to 500 foreclosure documents in a single day and that her only other responsibility was to make sure her name and title were written correctly. In a separate deposition, a foreclosure supervisor for Litton Loan Servicing in Houston could not define the terms “promissory note,” “mortgagee,” “lien” or “circuit court,” even though those terms were on foreclosure papers she had signed. Many other mortgage-servicer employees have admitted to signing off on thousands of foreclosure documents a month without giving them proper review. The unfolding foreclosure-processing debacle is causing bank stocks to slide and putting millions of delinquent borrowers in limbo.

Race Remains Hot Topic Despite Obama Presidency

The election of the first black president in U.S. history was supposed to usher in a post-racial era in America. That hope has dimmed considerably since November 2008. Since the summer of 2009, the percentage of U.S. voters participating in a Rasmussen Reports survey who think relations between blacks and whites are getting better has fallen from 62% to just 36%.In the same poll, blacks were more pessimistic than whites. While 39% of whites saw improvement, just 13% of blacks share that view. To what extent race figures into the backlash against Obama is difficult to assess, scholars say.

  • Nevertheless, Democrats and Republicans  have all played the race card leading up to the November 2nd elections, with the media complicit in fanning the flames of racial disharmony – in many cases, creating a problem where none exists

Media’s Liberal Bias Widening

Media watchdog Brent Bozell tells Newsmax the “double standard” the national press employs in dealing with liberals and conservatives is “horrific” and worse than ever. Bozell, founder and president of the Media Research Center (MRC), also charges that the national news media have conducted a “scorched earth” policy against Sarah Palin — and says the Obama administration’s unprecedented attack on Fox News has “backfired dramatically.” The MRC has announced it will spend more than $2 million on a “Tell the Truth” campaign it calls a “declaration of war on the outrageous levels of liberal bias in the media today.” “We’ve been monitoring the press for going on a quarter of a century now and I’ve never seen it as bad as we’ve seen it since 2008. Look at their coverage of the tea party. There’s no pretense of objectivity going on, and it’s time the American people said very resoundingly: Start telling the truth. Stop it with this bias. Stop calling yourself objective news reporters when there isn’t a drop of objectivity in your blood, when all you are doing is promoting a left-wing agenda. It’s a double standard. It’s horrific.”

Soldier was Ordered to Delete Fort Hood Video

A soldier who recorded the terror of last year’s deadly shooting rampage in Fort Hood using his cellphone was ordered by an officer to delete both videos, a military court heard Friday. Under cross examination, Pfc. Lance Aviles told an Article 32 hearing that his noncommissioned officer ordered him to destroy the two videos on Nov. 5, the same day that a gunman unleashed a volley of bullets inside a processing center at the Texas Army post. The footage could have been vital evidence at the military hearing to decide if Maj. Nidal Hasan should stand trial in the shootings. The 40-year-old American-born Muslim has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.

Mexican Assassins Headed to Arizona

Drug smuggling gangs in Mexico have sent well-armed assassins, or “sicarios,” into Arizona to locate and kill bandits who are ambushing and stealing loads of cocaine, marijuana and heroin headed to buyers in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security has warned Arizona law enforcement authorities. The Vekol Valley is a widely traveled drug smuggling corridor running across Interstate 8 between the Arizona towns of Casa Grande and Gila Bend, continuing north towards Phoenix. It gives drug smugglers the option of shipping their goods to California or to major cities both north and east. The Homeland Security memo said a group of “15, very well equipped and armed sicarios complete with bullet proof vests” had been sent into the valley. The federal government has posted signs along Interstate 8 in the Vekol Valley warning travelers the area is unsafe because of drug and alien smugglers, and the local sheriff says Mexican drug cartels now control some parts of the state.

Hundreds of Tax Issues on State Ballots

Voter anger about the size of government will be tested directly Nov. 2 in a series of sweeping statewide ballot measures that would dramatically slash taxes or, in a few cases, raise them. Nearly 100 statewide ballot measures on taxing and spending will dominate the list of ballot initiatives next month, reports the National Taxpayers Union, which advocates lower taxes. More than 450 local tax issues will be considered in 33 states. Social issues will be nearly absent from the ballot in this time of economic turmoil. For the first time in a decade, gay marriage won’t be voted on. Only one abortion measure, in Colorado, will be decided. The fate of the tax issues “will be a significant signal in the direction voters want to go,” says Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, a non-partisan group that works for lower taxes and smaller government.

Economic News

The Federal Reserve reported that output at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities dropped 0.2% last month. Industrial production had grown 4.8% in the July-September quarter, slower than the 7% gains in each of the first two quarters of this year. Manufacturing has helped drive economic growth as businesses restocked and replaced worn-out equipment. September’s decline could slow that trend. American factories were operating at 74.7% of their capacity in September, down 0.1% from August. That was the first drop since June 2009.

Motorists toughing out a weak economy are opting to fix their old cars instead of buying new ones, creating a boon for auto-parts sellers. Big auto-parts chains are thriving. As a result, the average fleet age for all cars and trucks in the U.S. was 10.2 years in the latest R.L. Polk survey, up 21% in the past 14 years. Auto-parts dealers have adapted by stocking more basic repair items, such as alternators, starters and brakes instead of the bling-bling accessories popular in better economic times.

Venture capitalists poured less money into U.S. start-ups in the third quarter and split this among more companies, signaling that investors are trying to be more economical with their funds. According to a study set released Friday, start-up investments declined 7% to $4.8 billion in the July-September period, compared with $5.2 billion invested during the same three-month period in 2009. A total of 780 start-ups received funding during the quarter — 9% more than the 716 companies that took slices of the investment pie last year. Despite the third-quarter funding drop, though, funding for the full year still looks to be higher than it was in 2009. So far this year, venture capitalists have invested $16.7 billion in 2,497 start-ups; in all of 2009, $18.3 billion was funneled into 2,916 start-ups.

Middle East

Hamas officials said Israeli forces opened fire at a militant training ground north of Gaza City. Palestinian hospital official Adham Abu Salmia confirmed one dead and two wounded, one of them critically. The Israeli military confirmed it targeted a squad of militants preparing to fire rockets toward Israel. Israel regularly targets Gaza militants in the early hours of the day as they either prepare or train for attacks. The last such strike took place more than a month ago. The Israeli military said more than 165 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israeli territory since the beginning of the year. The incident comes as Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are at a standstill. The sides are trying to find a compromise on Israeli settlement building that will allow the month-old talks to continue.

Saudi intelligence services have warned of a new terror threat from al-Qaeda against Europe, particularly in France. The warning from Saudi Arabia is the latest in a series of alerts that have put French security forces and others in high-vigilance mode. The U.S. State Department advised American citizens living or traveling in Europe earlier this month to take more precautions following reports that terrorists may be plotting attacks on a European city, possibly a shooting spree or other type of attack similar to the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks in India.

France

France‘s civil aviation authority says airlines must drastically cut back on their flights into France on Tuesday due to strikes over the government’s pension reform bill. The DGAC says airlines must cancel 50% of flights from Paris’ Orly airport and 30% from other airports nationwide, including the country’s largest airport, Paris’ Charles de Gaulle. Open-ended strikes over the government’s plans to raise retirement age to 62 have snarled travel here for nearly a week. The strikes forced similar cancelations at Orly and Charles de Gaulle last Tuesday, with mostly domestic flights and European flights scrapped. In addition, about 1,000 gas stations across France have run out of fuel because of nationwide strikes that are affecting transportation. The service stations are out of fuel because striking workers are blocking access to French oil refineries and oil depots.

China

Rescuers battled dangerous levels of gas and the risk of falling coal as they worked to free miners after an explosion at a coal mine in central China early Saturday. Officials confirmed 30 miners were killed. The blast happened as the world still celebrated Chile‘s dramatically successful rescue of 33 miners trapped more than two months. Some 276 workers were in the Chinese mine when the explosion happened and 239 escaped. It wasn’t clear how far underground the miners were trapped or what their conditions were, including whether or not they are alive. The gas level inside the mine was 40%, far higher than the normal level of near 1%. The gas wasn’t specified, but methane is a common cause of mine blasts, and coal dust is explosive. Hopes were fading Monday for the remaining seven trapped Chinese miners. The State Administration of Work Safety announced on its website that as of 6 a.m., rescuers had found another four bodies, raising the death toll to 30.

Chile

Despite donations and the promise of book and movie deals, most of the 33 Chilean miners trapped more than two months have returned to lives of struggle in improvised homes, often in gang-ridden neighborhoods lacking basic services. Some worry it won’t get better. All but one of the miners have been released from the hospital since their rescue Wednesday from the San Jose gold and copper mine. where they had been trapped nearly a half-mile underground since the Aug. 5 collapse. Most returned to the mine Sunday for a Mass at the makeshift camp where their relatives had waited for them.

Afghanistan

A series of blasts killed at least two civilians and wounded several others Saturday in Afghanistan‘s main southern city, the scene of several recent deadly attacks on police. At least four separate attacks rocked Kandahar city within two hours, police and government officials said. In one attack, a motorized rickshaw carrying explosives exploded behind Kandahar’s police headquarters in the center of town. On the east side of the city, insurgents attacked an oil tanker with gunfire, causing it to explode. A rocket fired by militants slammed into a prison compound in the city’s west. Another explosion went off in the city’s business district, also in the west. Gunmen killed nine Afghan workers who were guarding a NATO supply convoy in the south of the country, police said Monday. Military supply convoys are regularly attacked in Afghanistan, where they are seen as an easier target for insurgents than NATO bases.

Iraq

Hundreds of members of the Awakening Councils, a collection of United States-allied Sunni sheiks and their militia forces, have quit or been dismissed from their positions in the past few months, the New York Times reported Saturday. Iraqi government officials say that the fighters, known as Sahwa, have left as a result of an intensive recruiting campaign by the Sunni insurgency and rejoined Al Qaeda. Many have extensive knowledge of the U.S. military, the Times said, adding that it is possible that thousands of the fighters who are working for the government are simultaneously assisting the insurgency. The defections appear to confirm suspicions from August that the terror network was attempting a comeback in Iraq. Reports from Sunni tribesman and Iraqi government officials claimed that Al Qaeda was offering cash to lure back former Sunni allies who were angry with the government. Winning back the Sahwa increases the extremist group’s chances of rebounding as a significant threat.

Weather

Surging currents sucked a bus off a flooded highway and swept away 20 of its passengers, as flooding caused 30 other deaths in Vietnam and a monster Typhoon Megi loomed offshore Monday. Seventeen other people from the bus, including the driver, escaped by swimming to safety or clinging to trees or power poles. Elsewhere in central Vietnam, heavy rains killed at least 30 people and left three others missing. Disaster officials said Monday up to 31.5 inches of rain had pounded the region in a few days, forcing 126,000 people to flee their homes. Central Vietnam is still recovering from severe flooding earlier this month, which killed 66 people and left 17 missing. The current flooding was not linked to Typhoon Megi, which was crossing the northern Philippines on Monday.

Super Typhoon Megi became the strongest cyclone in years to buffet the Philippines on Monday. The huge storm striking the Philippines left at least one man drowned there, and was expected to plunge later into China, where authorities evacuated 100,000 people from a coastal province. The storm could head later in the week to Vietnam. Thousands of Filipinos sought shelter while authorities warned millions of residents and rice farmers along the typhoon’s path to look out for damage to crops, homes and power lines. Megi packed sustained winds of 140 miles per hour and gusts of 162 mph as it made landfall midday Monday at Palanan Bay in northeastern Isabela province, and was losing some of its power while crossing the mountains of the Philippines’ main northern island of Luzon. As it crashed ashore, the typhoon whipped up huge waves and toppled electricity poles, cutting off power, phone and Internet services in many areas.

October 13, 2010

Judge Rules ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Must End Now

A federal judge Tuesday ordered an immediate end to enforcement of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on lesbians and gay men serving openly in the armed forces. What happens next, however, is unclear. Neither the Pentagon nor the Justice Department, which has 60 days to appeal, would comment. Although President Obama says he opposes the 1993 law that set the military’s policy on gays, he has ordered the Pentagon to study the effect a repeal would have on the armed forces, and the results of that study aren’t due until December. The White House also says that Congress, not the courts, needs to repeal the law, but Senate Republicans have blocked those efforts. The law forbids gay servicemembers from revealing their sexual orientation, and it requires their superiors not to ask unless they believe the law is being broken. Last year, according to Bloomberg News, the military discharged 259 men and 169 women under the law.

Iowa Pastor Prays for IRS Action

The Rev. Cary K. Gordon has a prayer he recites as he campaigns against the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who are up for retention in next month’s election. “Dear God,” he says, “please allow the IRS to attack my church, so I can take them all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.” Gordon, an associate pastor at Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, says he will defy federal law this month when he urges the congregation to vote to not retain the three justices, who participated in a unanimous ruling that allowed same-sex couples to wed. His mass mailing to 1,000 church leaders in September prompted one national religious liberty group to file a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service. Jeff Mullen, senior pastor of Point of Grace Church in Waukee, are urging Iowa pastors to communicate to their congregations the “biblical mandate for involvement in local and national elections.” Religious leaders on both sides of the gay marriage debate voiced strong opinions after last year’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling. But on the Nov. 2 ballot question of whether to retain the three justices, many say they plan to stay silent because of IRS regulations that prohibit churches from taking stands on political candidates or lose their tax-free status.

Obama Bans 1 Million Rifles

The Obama-run Washington bureaucracy has classified a common and reliable rifle, the M1 Garand, as a “threat to public safety in the U.S.,” and the State Department has canceled plans by the Republic of Korea to return tens of thousands of surplus rifles to the U.S. for sale in the consumer market, according to WorldNetDaily. The stunning classification of an ordinary gun that was used in the U.S. military for two decades and issued to thousands of soldiers and Marines during World War II and Korea as a threat came in a document filed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The ATF contacted the State Department and argued the stock of rifles “poses a threat to public safety in the U.S.” As a result, the State Department reversed its decision to allow reimportation of the Korea-owned rifles. The transfer of such weapons would raise the number of guns available and, therefore, lower the price, making them more generally available, the agency declared.

  • Just the tip of the iceberg as the New World Order folks seeks to disarm the public as it advances it’s socialistic, one-world government

Delay in Fort Hood Shooting Hearing

A military hearing to determine whether an Army psychiatrist should go to trial for last year’s deadly Fort Hood shootings was unexpectedly stalled Tuesday, without testimony from any of the dozens of survivors, after defense attorneys requested a month-long delay. Col. James L. Pohl, a military judge acting as the investigating officer in the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, said he would rule Wednesday on the defense request to delay the start of the Article 32 hearing to Nov. 8. Maj. Nidal Hasan, 40, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5, 2009 attack, the worst mass shooting at an American military base. The Article 32 hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial.

Majority of Voters Favor Third Party

A pox on both their houses: that’s apparently the thinking of American voters. A new poll from The Hill shows that a majority would favor a third party. As for Democrats, 49 percent say they favor a third party, while the total is 46 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents. “That’s probably the strongest number I’ve seen in a poll of people in America saying that they’re interested in a third party,” says Democratic pollster Mark Penn of Penn Schoen Berland, which conducted the survey. Republican strategist Mark McKinnon agrees. “I think there’s a greater potential for a third party than perhaps [at] any time in our history,” he says. “There is a very broad level of dissatisfaction throughout the electorate — right, left and middle.”

The Biggest Tax Hike Ever?

Is America headed for its biggest tax hike since World War II? The answer, nonpartisan fiscal watchdogs say, is yes — but with a big “if” and a few caveats. If Congress returns after the Nov. 2 midterm elections and does nothing, allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, then New Year’s Day will usher in the nation’s biggest tax increase since the end of World War II, according to Gerald Ahern, spokesman for the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax monitoring group. “If all the tax cuts are allowed to expire, the median American family will see a smaller paycheck and a tax increase of $1,540 on January 1,” Ahern said. And that could be just a start. “If there is total gridlock, then there will be additional tax breaks that will expire not connected to the Bush cuts,” he said, noting that if this happens, then Americans’ taxes would grow higher. Among those are the “patch” to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), the estate tax and a host of temporary tax cuts the Obama administration implemented as part of the stimulus package. “Not patching the AMT would cost an additional $70 billion” to taxpayers, Ahern said. The Treasury department says technically it wouldn’t be a tax increase — the result of a direct congressional action. It would simply be the expiration of existing programs.

The real problem — or the solution, experts say — is that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans in Congress want all the Bush tax cuts to expire. The Obama administration wants to renew all the cuts except those for individuals who make more than $200,000, or families that make more than $250,000 annually. That would mean a tax increase of $7 billion — but it wouldn’t be one for the record books. And Republicans, who are in the minority in both the Senate and the House, want to extend the tax cuts across the board. So while the political gap is a bitter one, most analysts feel it isn’t too wide to be closed.

Economic News

The Federal Reserve on Tuesday lowered its economic forecast for the rest of the year and added more fuel to wide speculation that it plans next month to take more dramatic steps to stimulate a sluggish recovery by purchasing government bonds. “Several members noted that unless the pace of economic recovery strengthened or underlying inflation (rose), they would consider it appropriate to take action soon,” the minutes of the meeting said. The central bank bought $1.7 trillion in mortgage securities and Treasury notes in 2009 and early this year to pump cash into stalled credit markets, pushing down mortgage rates about half a point.

The government is expected to announce this week that more than 58 million Social Security recipients will go through another year without an increase in their monthly benefits. It would mark only the second year without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted in 1975. The first year was this year. The cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are automatically set each year by an inflation measure that was adopted by Congress back in the 1970s. Based on inflation so far this year, the trustees who oversee Social Security project there will be no COLA for 2011.

The U.S. economy, the world’s largest, will expand less than previously estimated as a lack of jobs restrains consumer spending through 2011, a survey or economists showed. Gross domestic product will increase 2.6 percent this year and next, according to the median of 46 economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics from Sept. 2 to Sept. 21. A May poll projected growth of 3.2 percent for both years. Economists also cut estimates for personal spending, employment and consumer prices.

World Growing Dependent on China

In a phenomenon seen around the world, as both developed countries and emerging markets become dependent on China’s 1.3 billion people to fuel their economies. Because China now accounts for a quarter to a third of the world’s growth, it’s a crucial market for everyone’s export expansion. In the U.S., the Obama administration hopes to double overall exports by 2015, but that ambitious goal relies largely on its ability to expand economic ties with key trading partners. And the U.S.-China relationship is being severely tested in a year when tension has flared about business barriers, intellectual property rights and, most recently, the Chinese yuan, which some experts estimate is undervalued by 20% to 40%. U.S. manufacturers led by the steel industry, for instance, argue that the undervalued currency makes Chinese exports cheaper, hurting American companies’ competitiveness, and boosting unemployment and the U.S. trade deficit. But the undervalued yuan is helping America’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, and other companies that buy or make products in China. For U.S. consumers, a weaker yuan also means less inflationary pressure and lower prices for Chinese-made goods.

Chilean Miners Saved

So far, fourteen of the 33 miners trapped underground for more than two months in Chile were rescued Wednesday morning, and the mission continued to loud applause under a sunny sky. “I can’t believe we are all alive,” said Edison Pena, 34, the twelfth man to complete the half-mile long trip and emerge through a manhole-size opening to cheers, bear hugs and back slaps. The missile-like rescue container will continue its methodical journey through out the day, eventually plucking all the men to safety As it traveled down and up the 2,041-foot escape shaft, the capsule was not rotating as much as officials expected, allowing for faster trips, The rescues came as quickly as 39 minutes apart. The 33 trapped Chilean miners could face a variety of health problems after their rescue because of the dark, humid conditions underground. Being confined in a small space, without the opportunity to exercise normally, could also cause blood clots and muscle loss.

When the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile, collapsed, three of the miners were Christians. Since then, Baptist Press reports that two more of them have made professions of faith after a minister was invited to the camp above the mine. The miners finally got their own pastor two weeks away, when Pastor Marcelo Leiva of Vallenar Baptist Church in Vallenar, Chile, came from two hours away to join the camp above the men. Trapped miner Jose Henríquez’s family quickly connected Leiva to other families. “That [connection] allowed a lot of other people to hear the Word,” Leiva says, “and to know that in the midst of this catastrophe, God is in control, and it is the Lord who has kept their family members alive.”

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered on Monday to extend his government’s moratorium on new settlement construction in the West Bank in trade for the Palestinian Authority’s recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home, but senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected the “racist” proposal out of hand. “We forcefully reject all these Israeli games,” said Erekat. “The racist demands of Netanyahu cannot be tied to the request to cease building in the settlements for the purpose of establishing a state.” Netanyahu had made the bold offer during his speech at the opening of the winter session of the Knesset earlier today. Netanyahu’s comments came after several weeks of suspense regarding how he would deal with the moratorium issue. He said that Palestinian recognition would be an important “confidence building measure” and would send an important positive message to the Israeli people of Palestinian intentions, but he added that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas had refused his offer conveyed through diplomatic channels in recent days. The move effectively exposes the PA’s attempts to set preconditions for direct talks while denying Israel the same right.

Afghanistan

U.S. military officials racing to make progress in Afghanistan are pressing new tactics to cut off the flow of Taliban fighters and bomb-making materials from Pakistan into key battlefields of the south, with some even advocating cross-border attacks, according to several U.S. civilian and military officials. The focus on southern Afghanistan is a response to the difficulties the U.S. has encountered this year in Kandahar and neighboring Helmand province, where the U.S. has sent tens of thousands of additional troops. Offensives in the region, the heartland of the Taliban movement, have struggled to clear guerrilla fighters who melt into the local population. U.S. and Afghan officials have in many areas not been able to establish stable government and improve services, priorities in the effort to win the hearts and minds of Afghan civilians.

The number of civilians killed or injured by coalition airstrikes has dropped dramatically over the past several years, despite an increase in fighting in Afghanistan. Coalition airstrikes caused 88 civilian casualties this year, down from 169 during the same period in 2008, according to coalition statistics. The numbers include both killed and injured. U.S. and allied commanders have made a reduction of civilian casualties a centerpiece of their strategy in Afghanistan, where an accidental death or injury often creates more enemies. Officials say more careful vetting of targets and restrained use of airstrikes have led to the reductions in civilian casualties.

Iran

Iran acknowledged Monday that some personnel at the country’s nuclear facilities were lured by promises of money to pass secrets to the West but insisted increased security and worker privileges have put a stop to the spying. The stunning admission by Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi provides the clearest government confirmation that Iran has been fighting espionage at its nuclear facilities… Yesterday’s revelation was the first public word that some personnel have engaged in espionage, although Tehran has arrested suspects in the past. With the announcement, Iran appears to be trying to raise public awareness about what it says are plots by the United States and its allies to derail Iran’s nuclear activities.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Iran‘s economy is under increasing strain four months after the latest international sanctions against Tehran, say Iranian businessmen, traders and consumers, who describe spreading pain from inflation, joblessness and mounting shortages. In interviews from within Iran, these people paint a picture of unsteady supply chains and disrupted exports. Ordinary Iranians say they worry they will be caught paying more for goods and services even as the government trims subsidies… ‘The economic crisis we are witnessing today is a direct result of the sanctions-and Iranian officials who say otherwise are fooling themselves,’ said Mojtaba Vahidi, who served as a top-level manager for nearly two decades in Iran’s ministries of finance and industry.”

Algeria

A security official says five people in Algeria have been killed by a remote control bomb that exploded at a work site in the North African country. The official says the bomb went off Tuesday as public works officials inspected a work site in Tlidjen, near the country’s eastern border. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Most attacks in Algeria are claimed by al-Qaeda in Islamic North Africa, a local Islamic insurgency movement that joined Osama bin Laden‘s terrorist network in 2006.

Hungary

An aerial photo taken months before a gigantic reservoir unleashed torrents of toxic sludge shows a faint red trail trickling through the container wall — part of a growing body of evidence that inspectors who gave the pit a clean bill of health may have missed warning signs. Police were examining the photo Tuesday as part of an investigation into how part of the wall containing the 10 million cubic meters (350 million cubic feet) of caustic slurry could have given way without structural weaknesses being detected by a team of inspectors from the government environmental agency who inspected the container pond less then two weeks before the spill.

China

China has accused foreign governments of interfering in its political system by backing the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to an imprisoned dissident. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Tuesday that politicians in some countries were using this peace prize to attack China. “This is not only disrespect for China’s judicial system, but also puts a big question mark on their true intentions,” he said. Beijing reacted angrily to Friday’s announcement awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo for his more than two decades of advocacy of human rights, calling him a criminal and warning Norway’s government that relations would suffer.

Weather

Hurricane Paula roared off Mexico‘s top vacation resort of Cancun on Wednesday and it was projected to veer into western Cuba‘s cigar-producting country. The Category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph (160 kph), swiped at the island of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres overnight on a northward advance and was about 55 miles (90 kilometers) east of Cancun around dawn Wednesday. There were no immediate reports of major problems in Cancun or other resort areas.

Torrential downpours dumped up to 11 inches of rain on parts of eastern Australia on Monday, causing flash flooding, stranding cars and knocking out power to thousands. Heavy rain has been falling across coastal areas of southeastern Queensland state since Sunday, with wind gusts of up to 60 mph ripping branches from trees and downing power lines. No injuries or deaths were reported as a result of the storm. Brisbane police said several drivers had to be rescued from stranded vehicles, and many roads around the city were closed due to the flooding.

The U.N. weather agency says the La Nina climate pattern is likely to increase from moderate to strong over the next four to six months. The World Meteorological Organization says La Nina, characterized by abnormally cold sea-surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean, may result in drier conditions in South America and more Atlantic hurricanes. Recent heavy monsoon rains in South Asia are also typical of La Nina events. The latest La Nina represents the biggest and fastest ever observed swing from El Nino’s warm water conditions. La Nina occurs naturally every two to seven years.

October 11, 2010

Rescuers Complete Shaft Through to Chilean Miners

Chile’s trapped miners cheered and embraced Saturday when a drill punched an escape shaft into an underground chamber in a spray of rock and dust on the 66th day of their agonizing entombment, opening the way for rescuers to begin lifting the men out by midweek. The government’s mining minister said late Saturday that the extraction of the 33 men will probably begin Wednesday, after an inspection revealed that the new hole is mostly strong enough to enable them to escape safely. He said only a stretch at the top will be reinforced with steel pipe. The completion of the rescue shaft caused bedlam in the tent city known as “Camp Hope,” where the miners’ relatives have held vigil since a cave-in sealed off the gold and copper mine Aug. 5.

Immigration Advocacy Goes Local

As the prospect of Congress passing an overhaul of immigration law wanes, immigration advocacy groups are shifting their sights from the U.S. Capitol and focusing on their local communities. They are forming neighborhood committees to help legal and illegal immigrants navigate deportation proceedings and learn English. They lobby local police and government officials to resist harsh enforcement and warn neighbors of immigration raids. Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates lower levels of immigration, says people who support tighter immigration controls have also gone local as Congress avoids immigration legislation. In the first half of the year, 44 states passed 191 immigration laws that included restrictions to public benefits for illegal immigrants, penalties for businesses that hired them and sanctions against human trafficking, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Dane says a large number of municipalities have followed suit.

Administration Shakeup Continues

In another White House shake up, President Obama on Friday announced that his national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, was stepping down after helping to shape the foreign policy for nearly two years. Tom Donilon, Jones’ deputy, will take over as the top security adviser. The move comes just one week after Obama lost his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who quit to run for Chicago mayor. Most of Obama’s economic team resigned as well. Other significant staff changes are likely as Obama’s term nears its midterm mark.

Majority of Americans Distrust Government

A majority in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll disapprove of the jobs President Obama and Congress are doing and have unfavorable views of both major political parties. Only half express even a fair amount of trust and confidence in the people who hold or are running for public office. Just one in four are satisfied with the way the nation is being governed. Meanwhile, six in 10 Americans say the government has too much power, and nearly half agree with the statement: “The federal government poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedom of ordinary citizens.” Anti-government feeling — ignited by angst over the cost of government bailouts and the reach of the sweeping health care law — is the biggest force behind projected Democratic losses on Nov. 2 that are expected to reshape the capital’s politics and could deliver control of Congress to the Republicans.

Support for Obamacare Dwindling

The Family Research Council reports that The President’s new health care law is finally resulting in some bipartisanship. According to a new poll, both parties are growing to hate it. Although the numbers for repeal are solidly in the Republican camp (56% want the law overturned), a general dissatisfaction is starting to creep into the President’s own party. A shocking one in four Democrats is now in favor of repeal–with 49% of undecided voters piling on. That news is particularly bad for 12 Freshman Democrats, who are taking a crack at a second term in hostile districts. In each one, “a majority of those surveyed said they want the controversial law gone.” And that starts with firing the people who put it there.

Urgent Care Clinics Growing

In a growing trend, consumers increasingly turning to walk-in clinics and urgent care centers for treatment of minor ailments and injuries instead of trying to squeeze in an appointment with a primary care provider or waiting at a crowded emergency room. These shifting habits and the rising prominence of clinics and centers are reshaping the health care model that for decades sent patients to their primary care doctors, and if necessary, the emergency room. Urgent care clinics are getting so popular that a handful of physicians groups and entrepreneurs are starting to franchise them a la McDonald’s or Jiffy Lube. A RAND Corporation study released last month in the journal Health Affairs said about 17% of all visits to hospital emergency departments across the United States could be treated at retail medical clinics or urgent care centers, potentially saving $4.4 billion annually in health care costs. Medical professionals say urgent care centers started popping up in sizable numbers over the last decade, as health care costs began skyrocketing. Today there are around 8,700 such clinics across the USA.

Foreclosure Crisis Expands

A mushrooming crisis over potential flaws in foreclosure documents is threatening to throw the real estate industry into chaos after Bank of America became the first bank to stop taking back tens of thousands of foreclosed homes in the U.S. Friday’s move, along with a reported decision on foreclosures by PNC Financial Services, adds to growing concerns that mortgage lenders have been evicting homeowners using flawed court papers, without verifying the information in them. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America. the largest U.S. bank, said Friday it would no longer complete foreclosures in all 50 states as it reviews documents used to process foreclosures. The bank did so in reaction to mounting pressure from public officials inquiring about the accuracy of foreclosure documents. A document obtained last week by the Associated Press showed a Bank of America (BAC) official acknowledging in a legal proceeding that she signed thousands of foreclosure documents a month and typically didn’t read them. The official, Renee Hertzler, said in a February deposition that she signed up to 8,000 such documents a month. A company spokesman, Dan Frahm, said the bank still believes its documents are correct but wants to satisfy officials’ concerns.

Currency Crisis

Global finance leaders failed Saturday to resolve deep differences that threaten the outbreak of a full-blown currency war. Various nations are seeking to devalue their currencies as a way to boost exports and jobs during hard economic times. The concern is that such efforts could trigger a repeat of the trade wars that contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s as country after country raises projectionist barriers to imported goods. “A lack of growth accompanied by high unemployment is having consequences,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick told reporters at a news conference concluding the IMF-World Bank meetings. “There is a danger that countries will turn inward and, as a result, international cooperation falters. This could be dangerous.” Various nations, including China, Japan, Brazil and South Korea, have taken steps to keep their currencies weaker in an effort to increase their exports. And in the United States, expectations of further monetary easing by the Federal Reserve have driven the dollar down significantly against the euro and other major currencies.

420 Banks Demand One-World Currency

The Institute of International Finance, a group that represents 420 of the world’s largest banks and finance houses, has issued yet another call for a one-world global currency. An Institute of International Finance’s policy letter dated Oct. 4 made clear that global currency coordination was needed, in the group’s view, to prevent a looming currency war. The letter encouraged a return to the G-20 commitment to utilize International Monetary Fund special drawing rights to create an international one-world currency alternative to the U.S. dollar as a new standard of foreign-exchange reserves. Likewise, a July United Nations report called for the replacement of the dollar as the standard for holding foreign-exchange reserves in international trade with a new one-world currency issued by the International Monetary Fund.

  • The New World Order knows that money will lay the groundwork for the one-world government prophesied in the Bible (Rev. 13)

Economic News

For the first time since just before the May “flash crash” the Dow Jones closed above 11,000, as the latest lousy jobless report fueled speculation that the Federal Reserve will step in again to help the economy. The Dow Jones gained 57.90 points to end unofficially at 11,006.48. For the week, the Dow and S&P 500 each rose 1.6% , and the Nasdaq gained 1.3%.

Consumers are paying more at the gas pump, and prices could go a touch higher, oil and gasoline industry analysts say. The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline nationwide was $2.80 Sunday, up 32.6 cents from the same time last year and its highest level since May. Crude oil prices are up 4.2% for the year.

Police agencies across the country are recruiting thousands of civilians for a growing number of duties previously performed by uniformed cops, in an unusual concession to local budget cuts. The positions — some paid and others voluntary — are transforming every-day citizens into crime-scene investigators, evidence gatherers and photographers in what some analysts suggest is a striking new trend in American policing. The chief opponents of the movement are police union leaders who believe cash-strapped agencies are lowering standards and undermining professionalism in the ranks.

Animal shelters face a dire need for foster homes this year, as the bad economy means more people are abandoning pets and fewer are taking in needy animals. There are more animals than space in shelters across the country, a problem which has worsened this year and is particularly bad in areas where foreclosure rates are highest.

Hungary

The walls of a red sludge reservoir in Hungary were “very likely” going to collapse, the prime minister said Saturday as the government rushed to prevent another deluge like the one earlier this week that killed at least seven people. Prime Minister Viktor Orban described the situation as “dramatic” and said the town of Kolontar, which sits next to the reservoir and was badly damaged in Monday’s flood, was evacuated as a precaution because engineers have determined that the developing cracks could cause a whole side of the enormous container to collapse. The prime minister said experts had estimated that — depending how dense the sludge was — an estimated 500,000 cubic meters more of red sludge could escape from the reservoir if the wall collapsed.

Middle East

Arab League foreign ministers threw their weight behind the Palestinian president’s refusal to negotiate with Israel unless it renews restrictions on West Bank settlement construction, but gave U.S. mediators another month to keep peace talks from collapsing. The grace period, agreed to Friday night at a meeting of the 22-member Arab bloc in Libya, gave the U.S. some critical breathing room but also came with a warning to Israel of the dangerous consequences should it refuse to compromise. Washington welcomed the outcome and pledged to forge ahead with efforts to keep both sides at the table in talks that began just over a month ago. They are the first direct Mideast peace talks in nearly two years, but they quickly faced a huge hurdle with the expiration of a 10-month Israeli moratorium on new construction in West Bank settlements.

Israeli forces killed two gunman, including a top Hamas commander in the West Bank, during a raid in Hebron Friday morning. Several other terror suspects were arrested. The incident was the latest in Israel’s longstanding conflict with Iranian backed terror militias which also includes Hizbullah in southern Lebanon. Haaretz reported on Friday that there are satellite photos at Google Earth indicating that Hizbullah operatives are training with Syrian SCUD missiles at the large Syrian missile base at Adra, northeast of Damascus. The same photos indicate massive construction at several Syrian military bases, including Adra, from which large numbers of Iranian supplied long-range rockets and missiles have been sent to Hizbullah, according to reports in various foreign news sources. Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee earlier this month that, “Hezbollah already has thousands of rockets of all kinds and all ranges.”

Pakistan

Pakistan reopened a key border crossing to NATO supply convoys heading into Afghanistan on Sunday, ending an 11-day blockade imposed after a U.S. helicopter strike killed two Pakistani soldiers. The closing of the Torkham crossing to NATO vehicles stranded many fuel tankers at parking lots and on highways where they were vulnerable to militant attacks. More than 150 trucks were destroyed and some drivers and police were wounded in the near-daily attacks. The reopening of the northwest crossing came four days after the U.S. apologized for the Sept. 30 helicopter attack, saying the pilots mistook the soldiers for insurgents being pursuing across the border from Afghanistan.

Two suspected U.S. missile strikes have killed nine people in a northwestern Pakistan tribal region along the Afghan border, Pakistani intelligence officials said Friday. The identity of the dead was not immediately known, but the area of the strikes in North Waziristan is believed to be controlled by Pakistani Taliban militants. The officials said all nine dead are believed to be militants and some may be foreign fighters.

Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirmed his government has been in informal talks with the Taliban on securing peace in war-weary Afghanistan “for quite some time” — the latest in a series of high-level acknowledgments of contacts with the insurgent group. The comments came as Taliban fighters ambushed a military supply convoy in the east Monday and fought with Afghan forces in the south. Roadside bombs killed eleven people including two NATO troops in Afghanistan, and a suicide bomber blew up his vehicle near a military convoy, killing a child and wounding two others. Unofficial discussions have been held with Taliban representatives over an extended period, Karzai told CNN’s Larry King Live in an interview to be broadcast Monday. The drumbeat about talks comes as support for a drawn-out military push in Afghanistan is waning in the United States and with other NATO allies as the war enters its 10th year. Sending thousands more U.S. troops this summer to the country’s south has yet to show significantly increased security in the Taliban heartland and violence has risen countrywide in recent months.

More than 4,000 complaints have been received about Afghanistan’s Sept. 18 parliamentary elections, and 55 percent of them have the potential to change the final results, the country’s election watchdog said Sunday. Of 2,500 candidates, 175 have been accused of fraud; 25 are members of parliament. If they are found guilty of fraud, their votes “will be nullified,” said Ahmad Zia Rafat, a member of the Electoral Complaints Commission. Preliminary results were to be released early this month but, as complaints mounted, were delayed to allow more time to verify results.

Afghan private security forces with ties to the Taliban, criminal networks and Iranian intelligence have been hired to guard American military bases in Afghanistan, exposing United States soldiers to surprise attack and confounding the fight against insurgents, according to a Senate investigation. The Pentagon’s oversight of the Afghan guards is virtually nonexistent, allowing local security deals among American military commanders, Western contracting companies and Afghan warlords who are closely connected to the violent insurgency, according to the report by investigators on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The United States military has almost no independent information on the Afghans guarding the bases, who are employees of Afghan groups hired as subcontractors by Western firms awarded security contracts by the Pentagon. In response to the Senate report, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates issued a letter saying that the Pentagon recognized the problems and has created new task forces to help overhaul contracting procedures in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan

On Sunday, voters in the former autocracy went to the polls in an election that may determine the fate of the base and ultimately the United States‘ way forward in Afghanistan. That’s because many here are looking to the United States to see whether it will use its influence to ensure human rights, even if it is at the expense of keeping an air base. NATO planes ferry fuel and 1,500 soldiers daily in and out of the Afghanistan war zone using Kyrgyzstan’s Manas Airport, an important supply route for the Obama administration’s troop-surge strategy that seeks to defeat the anti-American Taliban insurgency and shore up a democratic government that’s friendly toward the West. The nation appears headed for political stalemate after no single party emerged a clear winner in the parliamentary elections.

China

Four U.N. human rights experts have called on China to immediately release Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. In a statement Monday they called on China to release Liu Xiaobo and “all persons detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.” The democracy campaigner was sentenced to 11 years in prison last year for “inciting subversion of state power.” The Nobel prize was announced last Friday. was allowed to meet Sunday with his wife and told her in tears that he was dedicating the award to victims of a 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters

Weather

Puerto Rican officials say heavy rains unleashed by tropical storm Otto could worsen a dengue epidemic that has led to a record 26 deaths in the U.S. Caribbean territory. Health Secretary Lorenzo Gonzalez says that nearly 900 cases of dengue have been reported in recent weeks and he worries that the number could increase. Roughly 12,000 cases have been reported so far this year. A dengue epidemic has also gripped other Caribbean islands, with more than 80,000 cases reported in the region. Otto caused widespread flooding in the northeastern Caribbean this week while it was still a tropical storm.

Warmer and wetter weather in large swaths of the country have helped farmers grow corn, soybeans and other crops in some regions that only a few decades ago were too dry or cold. The change is due in part to a 7% increase in average U.S. rainfall in the past 50 years. The Earth‘s temperature has risen about 1.3 degrees since the late 1800s, according to data from the climate center, with the warming greatest over the northern Hemisphere – North America, Europe and Asia.

  • A silver lining to end-time warming

October 8, 2010

Christian Flag Removed from War Memorial

A holy war is brewing in a small North Carolina city, where the Christian flag seems to be flying everywhere. A meeting of the King, N.C., City Council was packed on Monday with dozens of citizens who asked city officials to put the Christian flag back up at the local Veterans War Memorial. The council had voted to take down the flag rather than spend the estimated $200,000 to $300,000 it would cost to fight the American Civil Liberties Union in a First Amendment lawsuit. “The city received inquiries from the ACLU and the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State suggesting that the Christian flag flying over the Veterans Memorial at Central Park violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” City Manager John Cater said. “At the advice of the city attorney, the City Council voted to take down the Christian flag at last night’s City Council meeting, citing the enormous cost associated with fighting a potential lawsuit on the issue.” But residents of King, a city of 7,000 that has more than 30 churches, overwhelmingly want the Christian flag put back in the public site, and they’re rallying around it by flying it throughout the city at local businesses, in homes and in cars.

Yes, Virginia — There Will Be a ‘Christmas Parade’

The pro-Christmas movement in America can chalk up a win after a well-known city has opted to change its “Holiday Parade” back to a “Christmas Parade.” The capital city of Richmond, Virginia, decided to rename its annual Christmas Parade a Holiday Parade, a move supported by the parade sponsor, Dominion — one of the country’s largest producers of energy. But when the American Family Association and its supporters got wind of the decision, things changed — in a hurry. AFA special projects director Randy Sharp explains. “We alerted our supporters in the ten states in which Dominion does business,” he says. “Within hours, hundreds of phone calls and thousands of emails were flooding into not only the Dominion company, but also into the parade organizers’ office.” Within 24 hours, Dominion and the parade organizers decided they had had enough and announced on their website that the event would revert back to the “Christmas Parade.” Sharp says because of the efforts of AFA supporters, that decision will serve as a model for other cities.

Christianity a ‘Faded Memory’ for Most Young Britons

Young adults in Britain don’t bear any animosity towards Christianity; they just consider it irrelevant, new research shows. Researchers surveyed 300 young people from Generation Y – those born after 1982 – who had attended a Christian youth or community project. Christian Today reports that the five-year study found that young people were more likely to put their faith in friends, family or personal experience rather than God. Sylvia Collins-Mayo, a sociologist of religion and one of the researchers behind the study, said, “For the majority, religion and spirituality was irrelevant for day-to-day living; our young people were not looking for answers to ultimate questions and showed little sign of ‘pick and mix’ spirituality.”

  • Apathy and complacency are Satan’s primary weapon against both believers and unbelievers

U.S. ‘Occupation’ to Blame for Terrorism, Muslims Assert

A University of Chicago professor and a Muslim organization linked to the terror organization Hamas are teaming up to proclaim that American occupation of foreign lands is the reason for terrorism. Word of the cooperation between the Council on America- Islamic Relations and University of Chicago political science professor Robert Pape over his new book, called “Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It,” comes from CAIR. The organization announced in a news release that the book is a “powerful education tool” to challenge “Islamophobia.” “Through a close analysis of suicide campaigns by al-Qaida and in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Israel, Chechnya, and Sri Lanka, the authors provide powerful new evidence that, contrary to popular and dangerously mistaken belief, religion alone motivates only a tiny minority of these attacks. Instead, the root cause is foreign military occupation, which triggers secular and religious people to carry out suicide attacks.”

  • There was no military occupation prior to Islamic terrorism attacks worldwide, especially 9/11

‘Growing Islamization’ Feared by Hindus

Increasing Islamist attacks on Hindus in India have intimidated local police to inaction, allowing militant Muslims to act with virtual impunity in their “growing Islamization” efforts in the region of West Bengal, where India’s fourth largest city, Calcutta. The development could pose increased threats to the stability of India, a U.S. ally, as neighboring Pakistan, which looks upon India as its enemy, assists Islamist proxies to engage Indian troops not only in India proper but in the Indian-administered region of Jammu-Kashmir. Islamist militants are in a virtual undeclared war with the Indian government. For some time, there have been numerous attacks in far-flung towns. Then in 2008 Islamic terrorists attacked India’s largest city, Mumbai. It was that November when Islamic terrorists hit 10 locations, including the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, a hospital, theater and an Orthodox Jewish-owned facility. The attack was launched by elements of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, or LeT, a Pakistani-based Islamist terrorist organization. The LeT is associated with al-Qaida.

  • Will these Islamic militants also blame ‘occupation?’ Apparently, wherever ‘infidels’ exist constitutes ‘occupation.’

GOP Plans to Defund Obamacare

Republicans could keep their promises to stop healthcare reform even if they cannot repeal it, simply by blocking legislation needed to pay for it, one expert argued Wednesday. Control of one house of Congress could give the Republicans power to cripple the law, creating “zombie legislation,” healthcare expert Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution wrote in a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine. Many Republicans running for Congress in November have been promising to roll back as many of its provisions as possible or even to repeal it if they gain control of both the House and the Senate. Republicans are headed for gains in both chambers in the Nov. 2 elections and could take control of the House, but are not expected to win enough seats to override a presidential veto.

Judge Rules Healthcare Law is Constitutional

A federal judge in Michigan ruled Thursday that the new health-care-overhaul law is constitutional, rejecting an argument that Congress lacks the power to require the legislation’s “individual mandate,” which orders virtually all Americans to purchase health insurance. Other federal courts have already dismissed some challenges to the law on technical grounds, ruling, for instance, that the plaintiffs lacked standing. However, the decision issued Thursday by Judge George Caram Steeh of the Eastern District of Michigan is the first to reject a claim based on the merits, marking a notable victory for the Obama administration. The plaintiffs, three people and the Thomas More Law Center, a nonprofit public-interest law firm in Ann Arbor, had objected to being compelled to choose between buying health coverage that they do not want or paying a tax penalty that, they argued, would go into the nation’s general fund and could end up paying for abortions. The judge echoed the Obama administration’s contention that unless young and healthy people are required to purchase coverage, the pool of those who are insured would be skewed toward the sick, making it impossible for insurers to comply with protections such as the law’s prohibition on discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions.

  • Socialistic control over individual rights is becoming the norm as our country tilts further and further leftward

Stimulus Checks Went to Dead, Imprisoned Americans

The Social Security Administration sent $250 stimulus checks to nearly 72,000 beneficiaries who were dead, but more than half the payments have been returned, the agency’s inspector general has found. More than 17,000 inmates also received money — but they were entitled to it under the 2009 measure Congress passed. The combined total of the erroneous payments — most made by electronic transfers to bank accounts — is $22.3 million. So far, about $12 million hasn’t been returned. But the agency says lawmakers didn’t include a provision for it to recover funds sent mistakenly. As the Wall Street Journal points out, money may be just sitting in accounts of the dead. As for inmates, who received a total of $4.3 million, Congress only prohibited payments to people who went to jail in the three months before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed — from November 2008 through January 2009.

1 in 4 U.S. Youth Binge Drink

More than one in four U.S. teens and young adults admit they are binge drinkers, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the United States, binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks for women, and five or more drinks for men, over a couple of hours — numbers that are different because men and women metabolize alcohol differently. And it’s not just teens who are affected –  more than 33 million adults have reported binge drinking in the past year, according to the report. More than 79,000 deaths each year in the United States result from drinking too much, with about half of these attributable to binge drinking, according to Dr. Robert Brewer, alcohol program leader at CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Binge drinkers also put themselves and others at risk for alcohol-related car accidents,. Moreover, drinking too much can lead to liver disease, certain cancers, heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases. Pregnant women who binge drink can also harm their developing fetus, resulting in permanent mental retardation and other birth defects, the CDC says.

Economic News

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate held at 9.6% last month. The jobless rate has now topped 9.5% for 14 straight months, the longest stretch since the 1930s. Nearly 14.8 million people were unemployed last month. A wave of government layoffs in September outpaced weak hiring in the private sector, pushing down U.S. payrolls by a net total of 95,000 jobs. The private sector added 64,000 jobs, the weakest showing since June. Local governments cut 76,000 jobs last month, most of them in education. That’s the largest cut by local governments in 28 years. And, 77,000 temporary Census jobs ended in September.

Applications for unemployment benefits in the U.S. fell last week for the fourth time in five weeks. The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims for jobless aid dropped 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 445,000. It’s the lowest level since the week ending July 10. Economists were mildly encouraged by the drop. But they also pointed out that claims remain at an elevated level consistent with weak job growth. A record 30% — or 4.4 million — of the nation’s 14.8 million unemployed workers were out of work at least a year in August, up from 23% in December

Retailers are reporting surprisingly solid sales gains for September, boosted by back-to-school shopping in the first half of the month. An array of chain stores reported better-than-expected results. An improving stock market also might have spurred some shoppers to spend. The S&P 500 rose 9% during the month.

The European Central Bank left its main interest rate unchanged at a record-low 1% for the 17th consecutive month on Thursday. The 16-nation eurozone posted decent second-quarter economic growth but has seen a flare-up lately in fears over the debt troubles of Ireland in particular. Still, that hasn’t troubled the euro, which has hit eight-month highs against the dollar on worries that the U.S. may be headed back into recession and expectations the Federal Reserve will announce new stimulus measures.

Puerto Rico

Nearly 100 current and former Puerto Rican law enforcement officers were arrested Wednesday on drug-related charges as part of the largest police corruption investigation in the history of the FBI. Attorney General Eric Holder said the two-year inquiry involved 1,000 FBI agents, including 750 federal investigators secretly dispatched to Puerto Rico in the past week to participate in the arrests. Of the 133 people charged in 26 indictments unsealed Wednesday, 97 are current or former law enforcement officers.. Other defendants include two U.S. Army officers and three soldiers in the National Guard in Puerto Rico. Court documents allege that all of the defendants accepted payments from undercover federal agents to provide armed protection for what they believed were drug shipments.

Afghanistan

An airstrike and a raid by ground troops killed eight insurgents, including a senior Taliban leader who spearheaded attacks against Afghan security forces, NATO said Thursday as the war in Afghanistan entered its 10th year. Thursday was the ninth anniversary of the American invasion of Afghanistan, a frustrating benchmark for those who expected a quick exit after small targeted special forces toppled the Taliban from power in 2001. This week also marked another milestone, as the death toll for NATO forces surpassed the 2,000 mark. The Taliban issued a statement marking the invasion anniversary, claiming 75% of Afghanistan was now under its control.

A massive bomb blast at a mosque in northern Afghanistan killed 15 people Friday, including a provincial governor who had survived a series of assassination attempts More than 20 people were wounded in the explosion during Friday prayers at the Shirkat mosque in Takhar province. Takhar Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa said the bomb was meant to kill Mohammad Omar, the governor of neighboring Kunduz province, who regularly attends Friday prayers at the mosque. Omar had survived at least three previous assassination attempts, including ambushes and roadside bombs. Afghan officials are prime targets for the Taliban and other militant groups that have instituted an assassination campaign against people who work with the Afghan government or NATO forces.

Pakistan

Pakistan said Thursday it has not decided when to reopen a key border crossing NATO uses to ship supplies to Afghanistan despite a U.S. apology for a helicopter attack that killed two Pakistani soldiers. Both the U.S. and NATO expressed their condolences Wednesday for the Sept. 30 attack and said American helicopters mistook the Pakistani soldiers for insurgents being pursued across the Afghan border. The apologies raised expectations that the Torkham border crossing along the famed Khyber Pass could reopen very soon. But Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said Thursday during a news conference that authorities were still evaluating the situation and would make a decision “in due course.” Pakistan closed Torkham to NATO supply convoys on the same day as the attack, leaving hundreds of trucks stranded alongside the country’s highways or stuck in traffic on the way to the one route into Afghanistan from the south that has remained open.

Two suspected suicide bombers attacked the most beloved Sufi shrine in Pakistan‘s largest city Thursday, killing at least eight people, wounding 65 others, and sending a stark reminder of the threat posed by Islamist militants to this U.S.-allied nation. Angry mobs burned tires and torched buses in the aftermath of the bombings in Karachi. The explosions at the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine in Karachi happened on Thursday evening, the busiest time of the week for Sufi shrines across the country. Thousands typically visit the Ghazi shrine on Thursdays to pray, distribute food to the poor and toss rose petals on the grave of Saint Ghazi, an 8th century saint credited with bringing Islam to the region along the coast..

Members of Pakistan’s spy agency are pressing Taliban field commanders to fight the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, U.S. officials and Afghan militants have told The Wall Street Journal, a development that undercuts a key element of the Pentagon’s strategy for ending the war. The explosive accusation is the strongest yet in a series of U.S. criticisms of Pakistan, and shows a deteriorating relationship with an essential ally in the Afghan campaign. The U.S. has provided billions of dollars in military and development aid to Pakistan for its support. Some Taliban commanders and U.S. officials say militant leaders are being pressured by officers from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency not to surrender.

  • Ultimately, Pakistan is a Muslim nation which trumps any financial aid or military cooperation. We have been arming an enemy.

Hungary

The toxic red sludge that burst out of a metals plant reservoir and inundated three villages reached the Danube RIver on Thursday, but an Hungarian emergency official said no immediate damage was evident on Europe’s second-longest river. The European Union and environmental officials fear an environmental catastrophe affecting half a dozen nations if the red sludge, a waste product of making aluminum, contaminated the 1,775-mile long Danube, a river that runs through four European capitals and makes up the border for 10 countries. The reservoir break Monday disgorged a toxic torrent into local creeks that flow into waterways connected to the Danube. Creeks in Kolontar, the closest town to the spill site, were swollen ochre red Wednesday and villagers said they were devoid of fish. New Hungarian government figures on the red sludge flood show that the volume of muck that escaped from a burst reservoir was almost as high as the blown-out BP oil well spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.

Haiti

A report says more than one million people are still living in 1,300 mostly unmanaged camps nine months after Haiti‘s devastating earthquake. Sexual violence is rampant and gangs often roam freely. Refugees International, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that advocates to end refugee crises, says its investigators found during a recent visit to Haiti that less than 30% of the camps have managers. That means more than 70% of the camps are unable to communicate or coordinate with the international humanitarian community. The report, released Thursday, said the humanitarian response “appears paralyzed” and called for urgent action to protect the basic human rights of quake victims living in the squalid overcrowded camps.

Weather

At least four tornadoes tore through northern Arizona Wednesday morning, destroying homes, blowing over recreational vehicles and derailing train cars. Among the three tornadoes confirmed by the National Weather Service, one touched down about 12:05 p.m. near Munds Park, approximately 20 miles south of Flagstaff,. Another ripped through the Bellemont area Wednesday morning, causing severe damage to houses and the destruction of multiple trailers. The tornado also derailed 28 cars on a parked Burlington Northern-Santa Fe (BNSF) freight train. National Weather Service meteorologist George Howard said 22 tornado warnings were issued Wednesday. Weather radar showed many more twisters likely formed but weren’t confirmed.

Tropical Storm Otto has unleashed floods that overturned cars, toppled power lines and washed out roads in the northeastern Caribbean, officials said Thursday, adding that efforts to free a grounded oil tanker have stalled. The British Virgin Islands has been hit with the worst flooding in its history, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency. The rush of water downed power lines, broke underground drainage pipes and flipped cars that remain mired in mud. Nearly 20 inches of rain have fallen since Tuesday,.

October 6, 2010

Weather

Strong storms on Tuesday pounded portions of the West, dropping record-setting rain in northern Nevada, flooding roads and disrupting flights in Phoenix, and dumping enough snow at the top of the Sierra to close a mountain highway pass. In Phoenix, no flights arrived or left Sky Harbor International Airport for about a half-hour because of winds as strong as 70 mph, lightning, golf ball-sized hail and rain. Earlier in the day, the storm halted all flights for nearly an hour and delayed many more as planes backed up on runways. Mesa fire Capt. Forrest Smith said a microburst downed 19 power poles, at least three of which landed on homes. In all, 38 homes were damaged by the storm, 12 severely, and about 100 people were displaced. At least 10,000 people were without power throughout metro Phoenix. A power line fell across busy Interstate 17 in central Phoenix, shutting down traffic in both directions.

A tornado touched down in the community of Bellemont, Arizona, just west-northwest of Flagstaff on Interstate 40 on Wednesday morning, The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Flagstaff reported. A National Weather Service employee reports extensive damage to businesses, damage to roofs and fences, a derailed train and several trucks overturned.

Days of torrential rain triggered landslides and flash floods in eastern Indonesia, killing at least 26 people and destroying hundreds of homes, More than 60 were sent to hospitals with injuries. Officials and witnesses said Tuesday. Residents in Wasior, a village in a hilly corner of West Papua province, combed the mud in search of missing relatives. Some had to be evacuated by helicopter,.

The death toll from floods in central Vietnam has risen to 13 with five others still missing. Authorities have evacuated more than 17,000 people from their flooded homes in Ha Tinh and Quang Binh provinces. Hundreds of soldiers and militiamen were deployed to help deal with the influx. Up to 51 inches of heavy rain fell in the region from Friday to Monday.

Toxic Sludge Floods Hungary

Hungary declared a state of emergency in three counties Tuesday after a flood of toxic red sludge from an alumina plant engulfed several towns and burned people through their clothes. One official called it “an ecological disaster” that may threaten the Danube and other key rivers. The toll rose to four dead, six missing and at least 120 people injured after a reservoir failed Monday at the Ajkai Timfoldgyar plant in Ajka, a town 100 miles southwest of Budapest, the capital. Several hundred tons of plaster were being poured into the Marcal River to bind the toxic sludge and prevent it from flowing on. So far, about 35.3 million cubic feet of sludge has leaked from the reservoir, affecting an estimated 15.4 square miles. The sludge, a waste product in aluminum production, contains heavy metals and is toxic if ingested.

Embryonic Images Show Viability After 3 Days

Pioneering images of human embryos reveal their fate is mostly sealed within three days of conception. Released by the journal Nature, the non-invasive imaging study led by Connie Wong of Stanford University tracked the growth of 242 fertility clinic embryos over six days, starting from the time 12 to 18 hours after conception when the embryos consisted of only one cell. Cell divisions, from one to two to four to eight and so on, in the embryos revealed that the embryos were viable after attaining eight cells within the first three days.

  • Once again, science confirms God’s design, showing that an embryo is a sustainable life form just 3 days after fertilization. By 6 days, blood has formed, and the Bible notes in several places that “life is in the blood.”

Three Iowa Judges May Face Voters’ Retaliation

Three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were part of a unanimous decision last year to allow same-sex marriage may pay the price next month as voters decide whether to keep them on the bench. A Des Moines Register Iowa Poll released Monday shows that 44% of Iowans who plan to vote in the retention election say they will vote “yes” to all three justices; 40% say they will vote to remove all three; and 16% say they want to retain some. Scholars who study judge-selection practices said the removal of even one justice would shock judiciaries across the nation, embolden conservative activists and could open the door to changes in the way Iowa chooses judges. It is virtually unheard of for a judge to lose a retention race.

Police Training a Victim of Recession

Even as hundreds of police officers across the country are losing their jobs, law enforcement officials say there is another disturbing casualty of the financial downturn: basic training. Nearly 70% of police agencies cut back or eliminated training programs this year as part of local government budget reductions, according to a survey this fall of 608 agencies by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based think tank. The cuts include a wide range of programs, from ethics and basic legal training to instruction on the proper use of force.

Cities in Debt Turn to States, Adding Strain

Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, dodged financial disaster last month by getting money from the state to make a payment to its bondholders. It did so even though the state warned that the money had to be used for city workers’ pensions. Now Harrisburg is calling on the state again. On Friday, the city said it could not meet its next payroll without money from the state’s distressed cities program. Across the country, a growing number of towns, cities and other local governments are seeking refuge in similar havens that many states provide as alternatives to federal bankruptcy court. Pennsylvania will have 20 cities and smaller communities in its distressed-cities program if Harrisburg receives approval. Michigan has 37 in its program; New Jersey has seven; Illinois, Rhode Island and California each have at least one. The increasingly common pleas for state assistance — after two relatively quiet decades — reflect the yawning local budget deficits that have appeared in the last two years. As tax revenue has fallen, the cost of providing labor-intensive government services, like teaching and policing, have proved hard to reduce. Some public finance experts worry that the states, mired in their own financial problems, will be pushed further toward bankruptcy.

Economic News

A new report by the International Monetary Fund paints a brutally grim picture of the global economic outlook, warning that continued European belt-tightening combined with possible deficit-cutting in the United States could lead to a global double-dip recession. In the near term, the report suggested, nations seeking to stabilize their economies by cutting their budgets will only make the global economy worse. Nobel Prize-winning economist and former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz used even more drastic imagery. He said some governments may be caught in a “death spiral.”

President Barack Obama Monday said the United States was facing an “untenable fiscal situation” and would have to get serious about tackling its federal deficit. The U.S. budget deficit is forecast at a record $1.47 trillion in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, 2010. Obama said that emergency government spending measures he took to support growth and hiring when he took office last year had temporarily added to the funding gap, but the deficit had to be tackled going forward.

  • The worldwide economy is in a Catch-22 situation brought about by prior debt-laden growth spirals. Attacking the massive deficit may push us back into deep recession; continuing to rack up more debt will eventually reach a tipping point that could plunge the world into deflationary depression. The only solution? The return of Jesus Christ.

The number of people who signed contracts to buy homes rose in August for the second straight month but remained far below last year’s pace. The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes rose 4.3% to a reading of 82.3. That’s still more than 20% below the pace in the same month a year earlier. A reading of 100 indicates the average level of sales activity in 2001, when the index started.

Orders to U.S. factories fell in August, reflecting a big drop in demand for commercial aircraft. But outside of the volatile transportation sector, orders rose for the first time since March. Factory orders fell 0.5% in August, the third drop in the past four months, the Commerce Department said Monday. Orders had been up 0.4% in July. The weakness came from a big decline in demand for commercial aircraft and a drop in demand for motor vehicles. Outside transportation, orders posted a solid 0.9% increase.

Japan‘s central bank cut its key interest rate to virtually zero in a surprise move Tuesday and is looking to set up a $60 billion fund to buy government bonds and other assets as it tries to inject life into a faltering economy. The decision underscores growing worries about the Japanese economy, which is being battered by a strong yen and persistently falling prices. The central bank had left rates untouched since December 2008 when it lowered the target to 0.1%. Recent economic indicators point toward deteriorating exports, industrial production and corporate sentiment.

Middle East

Arsonists torched a mosque in a West Bank village Monday, scrawling “revenge” on a wall in Hebrew and charring copies of the Muslim holy book in an attack that threatened to stoke tensions over deadlocked Mideast peacemaking. Palestinians say they suspect hard-line Jewish settlers of setting the fire in the village of Beit Fajjar, near the city of Hebron. The attack is likely to hamper U.S. efforts to sustain month-old between Israelis and Palestinians, now deadlocked over settlement construction. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials condemned the arson attack in an apparent attempt to limit the political fallout.

Iran

For the first time since the expansion of Iran’s nuclear program was exposed in 2002, the Iranian government is dropping the pretense that it is developing nuclear technology purely for peaceful purposes. Iran has developed nuclear war plans to deter U.S. and Israeli aggression and retaliate against it, a top adviser to Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi announced in a strategic analysis. Defense Ministry analyst Alireza Saeidabadi’s detailed analysis, published last week on a website that Iran’s intelligence ministry runs, examines several scenarios in which Iran could become embroiled in a shooting war with the United States or Israel. In the event Israel uses unconventional weapons against Iran, “then Iran should employ a nuclear strategy.” “If the United States launches an unconventional attack, Iran needs to respond with a nuclear strategy,” the Iranian defense ministry analyst contends. This is the first time that a senior Iranian government official has made an authorized public statement acknowledging that Iran has developed the military doctrine needed to employ nuclear weapons on the battlefield.

France

Police in southern France arrested 12 people in sweeps against suspected Islamic militant networks on Tuesday, including three men being checked for potential links to a network recruiting fighters for Afghanistan. The roundups were part of two different counterterrorism cases under investigation by French judges. The arrests came as France and many other European nations have stepped up terrorism vigilance amid warnings of a heightened threat level in recent weeks. In one of the cases, nine suspected Islamic militants were detained in southeastern Marseille and its suburbs. In Tuesday’s other roundup, two men were arrested in Marseille and another in southwestern Bordeaux on suspected ties to a Frenchman arrested in Naples, Italy, last month accused of links to an Afghan recruiting ring.

Pakistan

Gunmen torched more than two dozen tankers carrying fuel to NATO troops and killed a driver Wednesday, the sixth attack on convoys taking supplies to Afghanistan since Pakistan closed a key border crossing almost a week ago. Islamabad shut down the Torkham crossing along the fabled Khyber Pass last Thursday after a NATO helicopter attack in the border area killed three Pakistani troops. The closure has left hundreds of trucks stranded alongside the country’s highways and bottlenecked traffic heading to the one route into Afghanistan from the south that has remained open.

German officials were tightlipped Tuesday about details surrounding a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan’s rugged mountain border area that Pakistani officials say killed five German militants. U.S. officials believe a cell of Germans and Britons are at the heart of a terror plot against European cities — a plan they link to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden— and are believed to be hiding in that region. Germany’s ARD public television cited unnamed sources Tuesday as saying that four of the Germans killed in the missile attack were of Turkish descent. The strikes in Pakistan came on the heels of a U.S. warning for Americans traveling in Europe to be on alert for possible terror attacks, on suspicion that groups linked to al-Qaeda were plotting to target tourist magnets in European capitals.

Afghanistan

President Hamid Karzai condemned the “enemies of Afghanistan” on Wednesday after roadside bombs killed nine people, including five children, as insurgents fight intensified NATO-led operations in the south. At least 30 injured, including many police officers. Meanwhile, NATO and Afghan forces reported killing 16 militants — including a “shadow” governor of a northern province. The blasts targeted a police vehicle and ripped through an intersection — a day after four officers died in coordinated bombings that were also aimed at police. Control of Kandahar, the Taliban movement’s birthplace, is seen as key to reversing Taliban momentum in the war. Afghan and NATO forces are engaged in a major operation there, dubbed Dragon Strike, to keep insurgents from staging attacks inside the city. In response, Taliban have intensified a campaign targeting police and local officials. Two explosions killed at least eight people and wounded many others in Kandahar Tuesday.

Netherlands

Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders appealed for freedom of expression as he went on trial for alleged hate speech at a time when his popularity and influence in the Netherlands are near all-time highs. Prosecutors say Wilders has incited hate against Muslims, pointing to a litany of quotes and remarks he has made in recent years. In one opinion piece he wrote, “I’ve had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate,” adding “I’ve had enough of the Quran in the Netherlands: Forbid that fascist book.” Wilders argues he has a right to freedom of speech and that his remarks were within the bounds of the law. “Formally I’m on trial here today, but with me, the freedom of expression of many, many Dutch people is also being judged,” he said, referring to more than 1.4 million voters who made his party the country’s third-largest in June elections. If convicted he could face up to a year in jail, though a fine would be more likely.

  • Such is the direction of hate crime legislation in the USA wherein pro-Christian, anti-Muslim speech will be prosecuted and persecuted

China

ASSIST News Service reports that more than 200 young people claiming to be police officers disrupted a meeting of a registered church in China’s Shandong province on Sept. 23. The church members were attacked by youths wearing uniforms and police helmets. Sixteen elderly people and women suffered serious injuries, including an elderly person left blind in one eye. ChinaAid said the believers immediately telephoned law enforcement, but officers responded slowly and did not take statements from any church members. Later that day about 300 Christians protested the government’s response. Church members and officials previously clashed in July 2008. At that time authorities tried to force the church to sign an agreement forfeiting three-quarters of its land without compensation. That legal battle is still pending.