Record Numbers of Women Inmates Turn to Faith in Christ

For more than 30 years, Mel Goebel has been going into prisons to share the gospel. Throughout the years, he has seen men and women transformed through the gospel message. But what he sees now is just plain amazing. For the first time, Mel and his wife, Annie, who head Daughters of Destiny prison ministry, are witnessing women inmates come to Christ in record numbers. In the past year, more than 20,000 inmates have attended Daughters of Destiny evangelism events, and nearly 7,500 have made decisions for Christ. “In the past, 7%–10% of the inmates at a facility might attend our meetings. Now we’re seeing 30%–90%!” The mission of Daughters of Destiny is to equip volunteers to reach incarcerated women for Christ and disciple them while in prison and after their release. “We are experiencing revival in women’s prisons throughout the U.S,” said Mel. “We see a movement of repentance, and as a result the women inside are passionate to share their faith with others in prison.”

Supreme Court Allows Gay Military Ban for Now

The U.S. Supreme Court decided Friday to allow the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military to remain in place while a federal appeals court considers the issue. Last month, a federal judge in California ruled that the policy violates the civil rights of gay Americans, and she issued an injunction that barred the Pentagon from applying it. The San Francisco-based appeals court said the policy could remain in effect while it considers the administration’s appeal. President Obama has pledged to push the Senate to repeal the policy in the lame-duck session before a new Congress is sworn in. Administration lawyers have in the meantime defended “don’t ask, don’t tell” in court. The policy, which prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, was lifted for eight days in October after U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that it violates the U.S. Constitution. The Obama administration asked the appeals court to reinstate the ban until the court could hear arguments on the broader constitutional issues next year.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers Face Own Crisis

According to the American Center for Law & Justice, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, Pro-Choice America, and pro-abortion legislators throughout the country are pulling out all the stops to shut down pro-life crisis pregnancy centers. These anti-life groups are pressuring local politicians in New York City to create new rules and expenses in order to make it difficult for pro-life pregnancy centers there to exist – forcing them to shut their doors to women in need of help. The move is not only deeply offensive, but unconstitutional as well. What happens in New York City will have serious implications for every city in America.

Catholic Bishops Face Shortage of Exorcists

Citing a shortage of priests who can perform the rite, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are holding a conference on how to conduct exorcisms. More than 50 bishops and 60 priests signed up to attend, according to Catholic News Service, which first reported the event. The conference was scheduled for just ahead of the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which starts Monday in Baltimore. The two-day training, which ends Saturday in Baltimore, is to outline the scriptural basis of evil, instruct clergy on evaluating whether a person is truly possessed, and review the prayers and rituals that comprise an exorcism. Among the speakers will be Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and a priest-assistant to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Despite strong interest in the training, skepticism about the rite persists within the American church. Organizers of the event are keenly aware of the ridicule that can accompany discussion of the subject. Exorcists in U.S. dioceses keep a very low profile.

  • · Exorcism, or what some call ‘deliverance,’ is either ridiculed or overdone. The truth is (based on personal experience) that it is sometimes necessary but the person’s inner ‘house’ needs to swept clean and filled with the Holy Spirit or else the infestation returns worse than beforehand. Most often, a good house cleaning (closing the ‘doors’) resolves the problem without an exorcism.

Arizona Voters Approve Medical Marijuana Measure

Arizona voters have approved a measure that will legalize medical marijuana use in the state for people with chronic or debilitating diseases. Final vote tallies showed Saturday that Proposition 203 won by a tiny margin of just 4,341 votes out of more than 1.67 million votes counted. Arizona is the 15th state to approve a medical marijuana law. California was the first in 1996, and 13 other states and Washington, D.C., have since followed suit. The Arizona measure will allow patients with diseases including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and any other “chronic or debilitating” disease that meets guidelines to buy 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks or grow plants. The patients must get a recommendation from their doctor and register with the Arizona Department of Health Services. The law allows for no more than 124 marijuana dispensaries in the state. After ballots are canvassed Nov. 29, the state has 120 days before the law goes into effect.

Look Out, Your Medicine is Watching You

Novartis AG is planning to seek regulatory approval within 18 months for a pioneering tablet containing an embedded microchip. The initial program will use one of the Swiss firm’s established drugs taken by transplant patients. The ingestible chips are activated by stomach acid and send information to a small patch worn on the patient’s skin, which can transmit data to a smartphone or send it over the Internet to a doctor. The initial project is focused on ensuring that patients take drugs at the right time and the right dose, but the longer term hopes are to expand the “smart pill” concept to other types of medicine and use the biometric information the chip can collect, from heart rate and temperature to body movement, to check that drugs are working properly.

  • · In a totally benevolent society this might be a good idea. But we live in a fallen world and such embedded information will wind up being used for evil purposes.

Downsizing the American Dream

Home ownership has long been a symbol of the American Dream and for a while there, we supersized it. But since the recession, we’ve been downsizing it. The median home size in America was near 2,300 square feet at the peak of the market in 2007, with many McMansions topping 10,000. Today, the median home size has dropped to about 2,100 square feet and more than one-third of Americans say their ideal home size is actually under 2,000 square feet, according to a survey by real-estate site Trulia. Builders are responding by chopping out rooms that people just don’t use anymore, particularly formal living rooms and sitting rooms.

Deals/Coupons Transform Consumer Culture

The worst recession in generations has transformed McCormick, Purtee and millions of others into deal-obsessed consumers who scour ads, clip coupons, surf the Internet, patronize thrift stores and rarely, if ever, pay full retail. Shoppers who once felt embarrassed about using coupons and asking for discounts on services now demand them – and then boast about their bargains to friends over social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. The new deal culture has forced battered merchants, restaurants and other service providers to cut prices, stock lower-priced goods and offer deals online and in stores year-round. The phenomenon also has spawned Internet sites that offer deeply discounted daily deals and other sites that gather up deals presented by other deal sites. Discounted dental exams and spa treatments, half-price restaurant meals, buy-one-get-one-free promotions and other pitches are ubiquitous.

Arizona Pensions Becoming a Soaring Burden

Even as local governments and the state are slashing budgets, Arizonans are propping up public-pension systems that allow civil servants to retire in their 50s, receive annuities that can exceed $100,000 a year, and collect pensions while staying on the same job, The Arizona Republic has found. Over the past decade, government agencies have been forced to pour billions of dollars into the state’s six pension systems to keep pace with continual benefit enhancements. The added cost of these enhancements has been largely borne by taxpayers as pension investments eroded amid stock-market declines. Since 2000, the amount of public funding needed to maintain the elected officials’ retirement system has increased by 325 percent, from $4.1 million to $17.5 million a year, according to records obtained by The Arizona Republic.

Even some of the pension funds’ managers agree that these enhancements over the past decade have grown so expensive they are unsustainable without sharp increases in public funding and cuts to critical public services. Legislators and other policy makers, meanwhile, have done little to overhaul the systems. In fact, pension reform is rarely, if ever, mentioned by Gov. Jan Brewer or the Legislature as they grapple with ways to bridge a two-year budget deficit estimated at $2.25 billion. “It’s a ticking time bomb,” Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams said of the state’s pension systems. “A lot of people for too long have tried to ignore it and set it aside.”

California Financial Earthquake on Horizon

California‘s Legislative Analyst’s Office, California’s nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisor, is out with their latest financial projections. For the fiscal year 2010-11 (ended June 30), the office projects a deficit of $6.1 billion followed by a $19.3 billion deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year. The Office projects annual budget problems of about $20 billion each year through 2015–16. California is attempting to raise almost $14 billion in new debt over the next two weeks. It is questionable whether the sale of Revenue Anticipation Notes will attract buyers at reasonable interest rates.

  • · Like the USA in general, but even more so, California’s further expansion of debt to resolve its financial crisis is only postponing the inevitable financial earthqake

Economic News

Retail sales, helped by strong demand for autos, increased in October by the largest amount in seven months. The Commerce Department reported Monday that retail sales rose 1.2% last month. Sales at auto dealerships increased 5%. Excluding autos, sales rose a more modest 0.4%. October represented the fourth straight increase in retail sales.

The U.S. Post Service said Friday it lost $8.5 billion last year despite deep budget cuts and the elimination of 100,000 jobs. A sharp decline in mail was cited as the primary reason due to increased use of email and the recession. However, the largest portion of this loss was due to the requirement to make a $5.5 billion payment to fund future retiree health benefits.

The stock market recorded its biggest weekly drop in three months as a feeling of malaise took over after the U.S. failed to rally world leaders to come up with plans to strengthen global growth. On Friday, stocks and commodities took another nosedive on worries that China might put the brakes on its surging economy. Any cooling of China’s economy would slow down demand for raw materials, and that sent prices of oil, metals and grains tumbling. For the week, the Dow was off 2.2%, its seventh-largest weekly drop this year and its biggest weekly fall since the week ending Aug. 13.

Asia-Pacific leaders endorsed a blueprint for future growth Sunday that calls for pushing ahead with free trade agreements and rolling back protectionist measures put in place during the financial crisis. Wrapping up the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the leaders of 21 economies put aside differences over currency policies to voice a strong commitment to increasing the trade and investment crucial to the region’s growth and resilience. Leaders representing the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and other regional economies also agreed on the need to reduce trade imbalances and government debt and avoid sharp, potentially disruptive fluctuations in exchange rates. While many participants remained at odds over currency policies and other issues, they appeared to agree on the vital role freer trade can play in sparking growth.

  • · The appearances of agreement is only on the surface. Trade/currency wars will continue unabated.

Israel

The U.S. has offered Israel an incentive package to reinstate a moratorium on West Bank settlement building in an effort to revive stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, diplomatic sources said late Saturday. The sources said the deal stipulates that Israel would stop settlement construction for 90 days in the West Bank. The moratorium would not apply to east Jerusalem. The U.S. will not ask Israel to extend the new moratorium when it expires. The Palestinians say they will not resume peace talks until Israel stops building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — territory they claim as parts of their future state. Israel’s prime minister pressed his Cabinet Sunday to accept a package of security and diplomatic incentives The proposal was worked out during a marathon meeting last week in New York between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

  • · Once again, the Obama administration comes out in support of the Palestinian position. Those who curse Israel bring a heap of curses upon themselves and their own country.

Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the United States must reduce the visibility and intensity of its military operations, especially night raids that fuel anti-American sentiment and could embolden Taliban insurgents. Karzai‘s remarks in an interview Saturday with The Washington Post come as the international military coalition has stepped up pressure on insurgents at the same time that the president has set up a peace council in hopes of reconciling with the top echelon of the Taliban. He said the Taliban share his feeling that the nine-year-old war has taken too high a toll on the people of Afghanistan. Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, claims the 30,000 U.S. reinforcements and thousands of troops dispatched to the war this past year have made substantial progress in beating back the insurgency, although the coalition is not claiming victory.

Insurgents wearing suicide vests Saturday stormed a major NATO base in eastern Afghanistan, with six of them dying in a hail of gunfire before they could penetrate the defenses. In another attack, an insurgent rocket sparked a huge blaze inside an American base. Ten people including three children died in a separate bombing in the north. The attacks — in Jalalabad in the east and Kunduz province in the north — show the insurgents’ fighting spirit has not been broken despite a surge of U.S. troops and firepower. They also demonstrate the guerrillas are capable of striking outside their traditional southern strongholds of Kandahar and Helmand provinces that are the focus of the U.S. surge.

Pakistan

Pakistanis felt a surge of optimism last year when the military declared the Swat Valley cleared of Taliban insurgents, who had bullied their way to power by publicly whipping and beheading opponents. But more than a year after millions of residents returned home, the absence of virtually any government follow-through has turned that hope into despair. Throughout the valley, tens of thousands of students are sheltered by broken-down walls and flimsy tents supplied mostly by international aid groups. The government has yet to rebuild even one of the more than 150 schools leveled by the Taliban in their methodical campaign to prevent girls’ education. Running water, electricity and school supplies are widely absent. The lack of any visible progress has fed the frustrations of local people and international donors over the government’s incompetence and corruption, raising fears that it has squandered a chance to win over a pivotal population in its war against militancy.

Burma

Burma‘s military government freed its archrival, democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, on Saturday after her latest term of detention expired. The 65-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whose latest period of detention spanned 7 1/2 years, has come to symbolize the struggle for democracy in the Southeast Asian nation ruled by the military since 1962. The release from house arrest of one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners came a week after an election that was swept by the military’s proxy political party and decried by Western nations as a sham designed to perpetuate authoritarian control.

Weather

Parts of the Upper Midwest dug out from a heavy snowfall Saturday that caused more than 400 traffic accidents in Minnesota, and wintry conditions also were being blamed for a collision in northern Wisconsin that killed two people. Nearly a foot of snow had fallen in parts of the Twin Cities area by Saturday evening, downing trees and causing sporadic power outages.

Beijing will collect and melt snow this winter to address its long-standing water shortage. Two vehicles with high-powered heaters capable of handling 3,500 cubic feet of snow and ice an hour will be sent to locations around Tiananmen Square and other areas throughout the city, the story says, according to a report Friday in China’s state newspaper Global Times. For years, northern China has battled a water shortage that experts attribute to global warming, drought and rising demand from the tens of millions of people who live in and near Beijing. This past summer was particularly dry, prompting Chinese officials to also consider extracting more underground water.

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