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.

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