Travel Alert Issued for U.S. Citizens in Europe

The U.S. State Department has issued a travel alert for U.S. citizens in Europe, based on information that suggests that al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks. Americans are warned to be aware of their surroundings and protect themselves when traveling, especially when they are in public places like tourist sites, airports or when they are using public transportation. The alert does not warn U.S. citizens against travel to Europe. Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) changed its travel advisory for British citizens in France and Germany from a “substantial” threat of terrorism to a “high” threat. Also, a spokeswoman for Spain’s Interior Ministry told CNN that the country will remain at Level 2 alert, which indicates a “high, probable risk” of a terror attack. A group of jihadists from the German city of Hamburg are alleged to be at the heart of the recent al Qaeda plot to launch co-ordinated terrorist attacks against European cities, according to European intelligence officials, which has prompted then terror alerts.

Obamacare Failing

It’s a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s health care remake, a lifeline available right now to vulnerable people whose medical problems have made them uninsurable. But the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan started this summer isn’t living up to expectations. Enrollment lags in many parts of the country, dragged down by high premium costs and red tape. California, which has money for about 20,000 people, has received fewer than 450 applications, according to a state official. The program in Texas had enrolled about 200 by early September, an official in that state said. Wisconsin has received fewer than 300 applications so far, with room for about 8,000 people in the program. That’s not how it was supposed to work. Government economists projected as recently as April that 375,000 people would gain coverage this year, and they questioned whether $5 billion allocated to the program would be enough.

After taking a beating at the hands of Missouri voters in August, “Obamacare” could be roughed up once again at the ballot box in November. Following the lead of the successful Missouri initiative, which passed with 71 percent of the vote, Arizonans, Coloradans and Oklahomans will decide this fall whether to approve proposed constitutional amendments that would allow them to opt out of key provisions of President Obama’s signature national health care law. The three initiatives prohibit the government from forcing individuals to buy health care insurance, a “mandate” that critics say violates the U.S. Constitution. The idea is to protect state residents from “the ongoing takeover of health care by government,” backers of the Colorado campaign say.

Thousands Gather in D.C. for ‘One Nation’ Rally

Thousands of people from across the country converged on the National Mall on Saturday, one month before the Nov. 2 congressional elections, to rally for jobs, education, immigration overhaul and other liberal causes. Some participants called the event a counterpoint to the Tea Party movement and a response to what they see as a rightward shift in the nation’s political debate. Although organizers, such as Urban League President Marc Morial, said that the gathering was non-partisan, speakers hewed close to the issues that have been emphasized by the Democratic Party.

Pelosi Promises to Dump Ban on Homosexuals in Military

A conservative military watchdog isn’t surprised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would tell a gathering of radical homosexual activists that the ban on homosexuals serving in the military will be a “memory by the end of this year.” Politico.com reports that Speaker Pelosi (D-California) was recently honored by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund at its tenth annual Gay & Lesbian Leadership Awards, where two openly homosexual members of Congress, Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), along with a veritable who’s-who of other radical homosexual activists, were in attendance. The San Francisco Democrat vowed to continue the fight to repeal the 1993 law, which says that homosexuality is not compatible with military service but has been often been confused with Bill Clinton’s more lenient “don’t ask, don’t tell” directive that was never approved by Congress. Despite the failure of lawmakers to repeal the ban before their pre-election recess, Pelosi stated that the ban will be overturned this year. “The kind of arrogance that we see in Nancy Pelosi in continuing to push for a cause that is very strongly opposed by men and women who put their lives at risk in the military, and to do so in front of an LGBT activist group — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender — [that] says a lot about her; it says a lot about her priorities,” notes Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness. “I think the voters can look at that and figure out [whether] we really want to have this person in charge of the United States House of Representatives in the future.”

Britain Officially Recognizes Druidry as a Religion

Britain recognized Druidry, an ancient belief that worships deities that take different forms in nature, as a religion for the first time and gave it charitable status on Saturday. “There is a sufficient belief in a supreme being or entity to constitute a religion for the purposes of charity law,” declared the Charity Commission for England and Wales in response to the Druid Network’s application. The decision will give the neo-pagan religion, known for its cloaked worshippers at Stonehenge and other sites, tax advantages and is expected to lead to broader acceptance. Druidry in Britain is catching up to Druids and other neo-pagans in the United States, which already provides tax-exempt status for these religious groups. Druidry has no asserted dogma, the network said in its application. It added that members associate their gods with the moon, fertility, rain, love and other forces.

  • Satan and the New World Order promote other religions to mask the identity of the One True God, either directly or indirectly asserting that all roads lead to god and/or that all religions of equal stature

Most Americans Don’t Get Daily Exercise

Only about 5% of American adults do some type of vigorous physical activity on any given day, according to the results of a new study. Researchers analyzed 2003-2008 data from nearly 80,000 participants, aged 20 and older, in the American Time Use Survey, a national telephone-based poll that asked people what they did in the preceding 24 hours. Most respondents reported sedentary activities such as eating and drinking (95.6%) and watching television/movies (80.1%), or light activities such as washing, dressing and grooming (78.9%), and driving a car, truck or motorcycle (71.4%).The most frequently reported moderate activities were food and drink preparation (25.7%) and lawn, garden and houseplant care (10.6%). Only 5% of respondents reported vigorous physical activities, including using cardiovascular exercise equipment (2.2%) and running (1.1%).

Depression Hits 9% of Adults

An estimated 9% of adult Americans currently meet the criteria for clinical depression, federal officials reported Thursday. Rates of depression vary widely from state to state, ranging from a low of 4.8% in North Dakota to a high of 14.8% in Mississippi, according to researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, more people in the Southeast met the criteria for depression, compared with other parts of the nation, the researchers found. The clustering of depression in the Southeast may be partly due to chronic health conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, stroke and sleep problems, which are also common in the area. “Depression is definitely undertreated,” said McKnight-Eily, a clinical psychologist and epidemiologist at the CDC. “Research has indicated that more people are seeking out treatment, but issues in terms of access to care, health insurance coverage — particularly mental health coverage — is an issue. Stigma is another barrier to treatment and care, and so is the availability of mental health providers.”

  • In addition to the usual causes of depression, the oppressive nature of the end-times is adding a blanket of depression over all of us

First-Year Doctors Get Shorter Work Shifts

Rookie doctors will be getting shorter work shifts, along with stricter supervision, but a medical student group said Wednesday that the changes don’t do enough to protect sleep-deprived residents and their patients. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s board of directors approved new rules on Tuesday for more than 110,000 new doctors being trained at U.S. hospitals. The idea is to improve patient safety and reduce medical errors caused by junior doctors working extremely long hours. The biggest change affects interns — new doctors in their first year of medical residency. Their work shift limit is being cut from 24 hours to 16 hours, and “strategic napping” is strongly recommended. The maximum shift length remains 24 hours for residents in their second year of training and beyond. The American Medical Student Association had sought substantial across-the-board work-hour reductions and argues that there’s no reason to give first-year residents a break but not others.

Tribe, Glendale at Odds Over Casino

When Arizona’s Tohono O’odham Nation bought unincorporated land adjacent to the city of Glendale and announced plans to build a casino and resort on it, the tribe viewed it as fulfillment of a promise made by the federal government in 1986. That’s when Congress passed a law giving the tribe $30 million to replace 10,000 acres of tribal land that had been damaged by flooding after the Painted Rock Dam was built in 1960. “It’s an acknowledgment of the U.S. government that they wronged” the tribe, Chairman Ned Norris says. Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs considers the tribe’s plans an unwise incursion into an urban area. She says it would preclude the city from developing the site and receiving tax revenue from it, require the city to provide security, water and roads and violate a state law that restricts casinos to “Indian lands of the tribe.” The 54-acre site is more than 100 miles from the tribe’s reservation, and she describes its plan as “reservation shopping” — a tribe’s purchase of land near a city to maximize a casino’s customer base. “The implications are huge,” Scruggs says. The conflict prompted the city of Glendale to file a lawsuit last month challenging the U.S. Interior Department’s decision to place the property in trust as reservation land for the Tohono O’odham Nation.

California Leaders Reach Budget Deal

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders said they struck a comprehensive agreement after an intensive five-hour meeting Friday night, signaling an end to California‘s record-long budget stalemate after 93 days. Virtually no details were released on how the state plans to bridge a $19 billion deficit, as legislative leaders left the governor’s office in the Capitol. A vote on the compromise plan brokered between the Republican governor and Senate and Assembly leaders of both parties could come as early as Thursday.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Challenges Obama

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has demanded that the President and Congress take a radically different approach toward growing the economy and creating new jobs. Setting aside $100 million over 10 years for their American Free Enterprise campaign, the Chamber hopes to push Washington to abandon tax hikes, exploding deficits and runaway regulations that are crippling businesses; ability to get the American economy back on track. Citing a predicted rise in government debt from 63% of GNP in 2010 to 90% by 2020, the Chamber advocates continuing the Bush tax cuts, reducing corporate income tax rates, slashing new regulations that paralyze business and cutting wasteful government spending and the creation of new public-sector jobs. The Chamber has launched a new website (www.freeenterprise.com) and will host free-enterprise forums around the country. The Chamber will also invest an additional $75 million on voter education in the current election cycle.

Moratorium on Foreclosures in 23 Statues

Bank of America is halting foreclosures in 23 states because of paperwork problems, the Associated Press is reporting. The announcement follows the disclosure that a BofA official admitted to signing up to 8,000 foreclosure documents a month, usually without reading them. Earlier Friday, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal ordered a 60-day moratorium on all foreclosures by all banks, the first state to implement an industrywide freeze. Wednesday, JPMorgan Chase announced it was suspending foreclosures on 56,000 homes because of potential problems with documentation. Colorado and Illinois have also halted Ally/GMAC foreclosures. At least seven other states are investigating the document procedures.

Foreclosed homes could get harder to buy now that one of the nation’s largest title insurance companies has stopped insuring titles to homes foreclosed by JPMorgan Chase and GMAC Mortgage. They are reviewing legal filings that may not have been properly verified or notarized. Most lenders won’t issue a mortgage without title insurance, which ensures buyers have clear title to the property and protects theirs and lenders’ financial interests if ownership disputes arise. Old Republic’s action is the latest twist in a growing controversy that has called tens of thousands of foreclosure cases into question in the 23 states that require court approval. Representatives of the three servicers have given sworn statements in lawsuits that they signed thousands of foreclosure affidavits without signing them in a notary’s presence or verifying the supporting documents, as the law requires.

Economic News

The Federal Reserve is likely to take additional action to rejuvenate the economy and lower unemployment, an influential member of the central bank’s policymaking group said Friday. The Fed is considering buying more government debt to force down rates on mortgages and other loans to entice Americans to spend more. Doing so would bolster the economy.

  • The government, in complicity with the (not) Federal (no) Reserves, continues to believe that more debt is the solution, not the problem – thus, they are the problem

U.S. auto sales appear to be ever-so-slowly inching back up, and a bump in September auto sales is allowing many executives to start talking again about a recovery. But comparisons with last September are a bit deceptive: September 2009 suffered because it was the first month following the government’s Cash for Clunkers rebate program, which artificially boosted sales in July and August. September 2009 sales were depressed by comparison.

There are many cities across the country that are beginning to see the first glimpses of the end of the recession. Las Vegas is not one of them. The nation’s gambling capital is staggering under a confluence of economic forces that has sent Las Vegas into what officials describe as its deepest economic rut since casinos first began rising in the desert here in the 1940s. Unemployment in Las Vegas is now 14.7 percent, the highest in the nation and a stark contrast to the 3.8 percent unemployment rate here just 10 years ago. August was the 44th consecutive month in which Nevada led the nation in housing foreclosures.

Growing numbers of cities and towns are turning to solar-powered road warning and school safety signs to inform the public and save money and energy. In the past year, cities including Baton Rouge, Branson and Kansas City, Mo., and Lyndhurst, Wayne and Ringwood, N.J., have adopted the technology.

The government says the planned February release of the new high-tech $100 bill has been postponed because of printing troubles. The bills have been redesigned with sophisticated elements aimed at thwarting counterfeiters. The Federal Reserve said Friday that the release of the bills, originally set for Feb. 10, will be delayed until the problem is resolved.

Iraq Racks Up Budget Surpluses While U.S. Debt Grows

Iraq has run annual budget surpluses each year since the United States invaded and ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003 — while the U.S. pumped more than half a trillion dollars into Iraq and ran deficits in every one of those years. In the 6-year period from 2004 through 2009, the Iraqi government amassed a surplus of $52.1 billion, with up to 92.1 percent of its revenues coming from oil exports, according to an audit by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. During that same period, deficits in six consecutive years boosted the overall U.S. national debt from $6.9 trillion to $12.3 trillion. Part of that increased debt can be attributed to the $624 billion the U.S. has spent fighting the war to overthrow the Iraqi regime and help the Iraqis set up a democratic government, the GAO observed. Despite Iraq’s surpluses, on July 29 the U.S. Congress approved $1 billion in “emergency” aid to the Iraqi government, and President Barack Obama is seeking another $2 billion in his fiscal 2011 budget, CNSNews reported.

  • Typical government folly that defies logic

Middle East

Key U.S. Mideast allies Egypt and Jordan backed on Sunday the Palestinian refusal to negotiate with Israel as long as it continues to build West Bank settlements, but they urged more efforts to salvage peace talks mediated by Washington. Dozens of senior Palestinians on Saturday backed President Mahmoud Abbas‘ refusal to negotiate with Israel as long as it builds in West Bank settlements, dealing a new setback to troubled U.S. efforts to salvage peace talks. Israel refuses to extend a 10-month-old curb on settlement construction, while Abbas says there is no point in negotiating as long as settlements eat up more of the land the Palestinians want for a future state. The Obama administration has said it will keep pushing to find a solution to the impasse, and U.S. envoy George Mitchell is now scrambling to enlist the help of Arab leaders to rescue the negotiations.

Afghanistan

NATO said Friday it captured several insurgent leaders in recent days and detained at least 438 suspected militants over the last month, as three coalition soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan. Afghan and coalition forces also killed at least 15 insurgents in a firefight in eastern Kunar province who were trying to set up an attack position, the coalition said. It said initial reports indicated there were no injuries to civilians. One of the captured Taliban leader helped militants obtain weapons and bomb components and provided training and bed-down locations for the Taliban leadership, NATO said.

This has been the deadliest year for international troops in the nine-year conflict. The toll has shaken the commitment of many NATO countries, where there are rising calls to start drawing down troops quickly. Monthly deaths peaked in June, when 103 NATO forces were killed. Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in southern Uruzgan province. Twenty-one Australian soldiers have died since the war began and Australia’s parliament is expected to hold a debate soon on the country’s role in the war.

Pakistan

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility Monday for a pre-dawn attack on tankers carrying fuel to Afghanistan for U.S. and other NATO forces, vowing to continue raiding supply lines in Pakistan until they are shut down completely. The attack came on a supply line that has been stalled because of a temporary border closing imposed by Pakistani authorities after a NATO helicopter attack killed three Pakistan troops last week. It was the third such attack since Friday, and seemed certain to raise the stakes in the closure, which has exacerbated tensions between Washington and Islamabad but has been welcomed by Islamist groups opposed to Pakistan’s support of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. The bullet-riddled bodies of three men were found Sunday by a road in Pakistan’s restive northwestern tribal region, killed by suspected Pakistani Taliban militants in apparent retaliation for recent U.S. drone strikes in the area. A note under a rock next to the bodies said “Anyone who dares spy for the Americans will meet the same fate,” according to two intelligence officials.

Two suspected American missile strikes killed 16 alleged militants in a northwestern Pakistani tribal region Saturday, intelligence officials said, a sign the U.S. is unwilling to stop using the tactic despite heightened tensions between the two countries over NATO’s recent border incursions. A surge in drone-fired missile strikes in Pakistan along with coalition operations along the frontier suggest Western forces are cracking down on insurgents who easily move across the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan — something Islamabad has been slow to do despite pleas from Washington. Western officials say some of the recent CIA-controlled, unmanned drone-fired strikes — which in the past five weeks have reached an unprecedented rate — were aimed at disrupting a terror plot against European cities. Pakistan has kept a vital border crossing closed to U.S. and NATO supply trucks for a third day, a sign that Islamabad‘s desire to avoid a domestic backlash over a coalition incursion that killed three Pakistani troops is — for now — outweighing its desire to stay on good terms with America. tensions.

Mexico

Mexican officials say a shooting attack has killed a policeman in the border city of Ciudad Juarez. The death raises the number of officers killed in the drug violence-plagued city this year to 102. State prosecutors say Friday’s attack on a police station also wounded two officers. Ciudad Juaraz, which sits next to El Paso, Texas, is a battleground between two rival drug cartels and has become one of the most violent cities in Mexico. Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for Chihuahua state prosecutors, says attacks on law enforcement in Ciudad Juarez this year have killed 44 city officers, 21 state officers, 29 federal policemen, three transit officers, three prison officers and two investigators for prosecutors.

Climate Change Talks Open in China

The U.N. climate chief urged countries Monday to identify achievable goals for fighting climate change ahead of a year-end meeting in Mexico, after last year’s Copenhagen summit failed to produce binding limits on greenhouse gas. Christiana Figueres told 3,000 delegates at the opening of a six-day conference in China— the world’s biggest carbon emitter — that they must “accelerate the search for common ground” ahead of December talks in Cancun to make progress toward securing a global climate change treaty. Last year’s U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen disappointed many environmentalists and political leaders when it failed to produce a global and legally binding treaty on curbing the greenhouse gases that they claim cause global warming. Instead, nations agreed to a nonbinding political declaration on fighting climate change.

  • End-time weather is indeed warmer with more extremes, but greenhouse gases are not the primary cause

Weather

Torrential downpours from a faded tropical storm inundated the Northeast on Friday, forcing evacuations, toppling trees, cutting power to thousands and washing out roads during a snarled morning commute. Water pooled so deeply in a Philadelphia suburb that a car literally floated on top of another car. The storm soaked a great swath of the Northeast by the Friday morning commute, including New York City and Philadelphia. Flights coming into LaGuardia Airport in New York City were delayed three hours and traffic coming into Manhattan was delayed by up to an hour under a pounding rain. Firefighters in the Philadelphia area used a ladder truck to pull residents through the upper-floor windows of a building. Cars were submerged up to their windows. Rainfall totals in the Philadelphia area topped 10 inches.

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