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.

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