Gitmo Detainee Acquitted of All but 1 Charge

The first Guantanamo detainee to face a civilian trial was acquitted Wednesday of most charges that he helped unleash death and destruction on two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 — an opening salvo in al-Qaeda’s campaign to kill Americans. A federal jury convicted Ahmed Ghailani of one count of conspiracy and acquitted him of all other counts, including murder and murder conspiracy, in the embassy bombings. The anonymous federal jury deliberated over seven days, with a juror writing a note to the judge saying she felt threatened by other jurors. Prosecutors had branded Ghailani a cold-blooded terrorist. The defense portrayed him as a clueless errand boy, exploited by senior al-Qaeda operatives and framed by evidence from contaminated crime scenes.

The trial at a lower Manhattan courthouse had been viewed as a possible test case for President Obama administration’s aim of putting other terror detainees — including self-professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba— on trial on U.S. soil. Ghailani’s prosecution also demonstrated some of the constitutional challenges the government would face if that happens. On the eve of his trial last month, the judge barred the government from calling a key witness because the witness had been identified while Ghailani was being held at a secret CIA camp where harsh interrogation techniques were used. The acquittal of the first Guantanamo detainee on all but one of more than 280 terrorism-related charges has escalated political tensions in the nation’s capital — but the Obama administration still aims to close the island prison and bring alleged 9/11 conspirators held there to trial in civilian courts.

Nearly 40% Say Marriage Becoming Obsolete

Marriage is increasingly optional and could be on its way to obsolescence,according to a survey of more than 2,600 Americans that examines changing attitudes about relationships today. Among the 2,691 adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center last month, 39% say marriage is becoming obsolete, up from 28% who responded to the same question posed by Time magazine in 1978. Census data reflect a declining percentage of married adults: 54% in 2010, down from 57% in 2000 and 72% in 1960. At the same time, the median age at first marriage increased in 2010 to its highest ever — 28.2 for men and 26.1 for women, according to Census. That’s up from 26.8 and 25.1 in 2000. Among those ages 25-34, the percentage of those who are married fell below unmarrieds for the first time in more than a century. Marriage is still the norm for college grads (64%) but less so for those with no college (48%). Blacks are much less likely to be married (32%) than whites (56%), the report finds. Cohabitation has nearly doubled since 1990. Pew found 44% of adults (and more than 50% for ages 30-49) have cohabited. Among these, 64% say they considered it a step toward marriage.

  • · Satan is succeeding in his goal of destroying the family and God’s ordained order, a true end-times sign.

Boycotts Over Immigration Law Reputedly Cost Arizona Millions

Economic boycotts against Arizona after the state passed a tough immigration enforcement law in April have resulted in more than $250 million in losses to the state’s conference and convention industry, according to a study commissioned by a research group critical of the legislation. Canceled conferences have led to losses including the elimination of more than 2,700 jobs, about $86.5 million in wages for Arizona workers, nearly $10 million in tax revenue for the state and $141 million in spending by conference attendees, according to the study conducted by the consulting firm Elliott D. Pollack & Co. for the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank. The study predicts the total damage to the conference industry could reach $388 million in coming years given the current rate of cancellations.

  • · Such numbers need to regarded cautiously given the source, nor does this study examine the benefits attained by fewer illegal immigrants accessing health and welfare services.

Pat-Downs at Airports Prompt Complaints

In the three weeks since the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began using full-body scanners and more aggressive pat-downs of passengers at airport security checkpoints, traveler complaints have poured in. Some offer graphic accounts of genital contact, others tell of agents gawking or making inappropriate comments, and many express a general sense of powerlessness and humiliation. In general passengers are saying they are surprised by the intimacy of a physical search usually reserved for police encounters. It remains to be seen whether travelers will approve of the scanners the pat-downs, especially as millions more people experience them for the first time during the holiday travel season. The TSA agency has so far responded to the complaints by calling for cooperation and patience from passengers, citing polls showing broad support for the full-body scanning machines.

More than a half-million individual letters of protest of the new system of institutionalized airport abuse and humiliation are on their way to members of Congress, Barack Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, thanks to WorldNetDaily’s C.E.A.S.E. program – Cease Enhanced Airport Security Excesses. The program allows the public to send 537 protest letters to each member of the House and Senate, Obama and Napolitano, with guaranteed Fed Ex delivery, for only $29.95. It is modeled after the historic “pink slips” campaign of last year that sent 9 million letters that drained the nation’s supplies of pink paper and put members of Congress on notice of what to expect in the Nov. 2 election this year.

Komen Gave Planned Parenthood Abortion Businesses Over $700K

A new report from a Planned Parenthood watchdog finds chapters of the Komen Race for the Cure breast cancer group gave affiliates of the national abortion business over $700,000 last fiscal year. The enormous amount should be a red flag to pro-life advocates, one leading activist says. Jim Sedlak, a representative of the watchdog group Stop Planned Parenthood says the numbers are concerning given than millions of pro-life Americans will participate in Komen events. He pointed to studies showing abortion increases a woman’s chances of contracting breast cancer and said that makes the donations extremely questionable.

New NIV Bible Drops Neutered Language of ’02 Version

The world’s best-selling Bible is getting an upgrade. At stake are millions of dollars in publishing revenue and the trust of millions of churchgoers. Since its debut in 1978, the New International Version — known as the NIV — has been the Bible of choice for evangelicals, selling more copies than any other version. But a 2002 gender-inclusive edition bombed after being condemned as too liberal. Translators hope their latest edition, which debuted online this month, will avoid a similar fate. They’ve retained some of the language of the 2002 edition. But they also made changes — like going back to using words like “mankind” and “man” instead of “human beings” and “people” — in order to appease critics. It’s available for preview at BibleGateway.com, with print versions expected in March.

  • · The original Hebrew has six different words that used to be translated “man.” Many of them do indeed mean mankind rather than the male of the species.

Online Doctors Revving Up

Internet entrepreneurs have brought new meaning to the phrase “house calls.” Online companies with names such as “MDLiveCare” and “RingADoc” are diagnosing and treating common conditions such as allergies and the flu over the Internet or on the phone, forcing state regulators to revisit decade-old rules about what constitutes a doctor/patient relationship. They cater to time-pressed consumers, who, for an out-of-pocket payment ranging from $25 to $40, can talk on the phone or chat online with a doctor or a nurse practitioner. “We definitely are not trying to replace that primary care physician,” says Jordan Michaels, a founder of RingADoc, which launched in mid-October and, for now, serves only California residents. Michaels and his competitors say they aim to replace the hassle and expense of visiting a doctor’s office or emergency room for a minor problem.

  • · Convenient, sure, but reliable?

Budget Cuts stop Phoenix Man from Getting New Liver

A liver-disease patient missed his opportunity for an organ transplant Tuesday, becoming the most dire example yet of an Arizonan denied life-saving medical care because of budget cuts to the state’s health-care system for the poor. Francisco Felix, 32, of Laveen, Ariz., was in the hospital ready to receive a liver that was donated to him late Monday night. But the liver went to another recipient Tuesday morning because he couldn’t find $200,000 overnight to pay for the liver transplant, one of seven kinds of transplant surgery the state stopped covering Oct. 1. Of about 100 Arizonans enrolled in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System who are awaiting transplants no longer covered, 60 of them are candidates like Felix with liver disease related to hepatitis C. Transplant is their only cure. Last month, Goodyear, Ariz., leukemia patient Mark Price became a poster child for the impact of the budget cuts after his doctor found donors who matched his bone marrow a day after Price lost coverage. Price’s story gained attention nationally and an anonymous donor later covered all costs for his surgery.

Some Retired Teachers Rehired While Drawing Pensions

Retired teachers are returning to classrooms across Maricopa County, some making $100,000 a year by collecting a pension and a paycheck at the same time, while retired administrators are doing the same thing and making more than $200,000. Welcome to what is commonly known as double-dipping, education style. Nearly every public-school district in Maricopa County is using a legal loophole to allow senior educators to simultaneously retire and remain on the job without interruption, records obtained by The Arizona Republic show. That means they can begin collecting their publicly funded pensions without ever missing a regular paycheck. There are more than 900 educators benefiting from the practice, and by law they stop contributing to the retirement-system trust the minute they retire. The financial impact is a blow the underfunded Arizona State Retirement System can ill afford.

  • · Such double-dipping is also increasing in other public-employee areas such as police and fire departments. With pension already a looming disaster, this practice must be eliminated.

GAO Says Raising Retirement Age Hurts Poor

Raising the retirement age for Social Security would disproportionately hurt low-income workers and minorities, and increase disability claims by older people unable to work could harm Social Security’s finances because disability benefits typically are higher than early retirement payments, government auditors told Congress. The report released Friday, provides fodder for those opposed to raising the eligibility age for benefits, as proposed by the leaders of President Barack Obama‘s deficit commission. The report shows an unequal effect on certain groups of people, and many of them “would have little choice but to turn to the broken disability program.” Under current law, people can start drawing reduced, early retirement benefits from Social Security at age 62. Full benefits are available at 66, a threshold gradually increasing to 67 for people who were born in 1960 or later. The deficit commission’s leaders, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, last week proposed a gradual increase in the full retirement age, to 69 in about 2075. The early retirement age would go to 64 the same year.

  • · Social Security didn’t even exist for thousands of years of mankind’s existence until the 1930s. So too with health, welfare and pension benefits. Now they’ve become entitlement rights and sources of income for the government. In order to solve the debt crisis, something has to give somewhere. Since the government is unlikely to relent, it is we the taxpayers who will pay the consequences.

Gov’t Investigates Officials at Failed Banks

The federal government has opened criminal investigations into approximately 50 executives and directors of U.S. banks that have collapsed during the financial crisis. Deputy Inspector General Fred Gibson says the inspector general’s office at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has been probing the role of the executives in bank failures around the country. The criminal investigations are separate from civil lawsuits against some 80 bank executives, employees and directors. The lawsuits are seeking to recover about $2 billion and were authorized by the FDIC‘s board. The FDIC has shut down or seized 311 banks since January 2008 at a cost of around $77 billion.

Republicans Plan $100 Billion Budget Rollback

Incoming House Speaker John Boehner and his new tea-party fueled colleagues are laying the groundwork for what would be, in absolute terms, the largest reduction ever in federal discretionary spending. Republican leaders have pledged to reduce non-entitlement spending by a whopping $100 billion. Doing so would effectively roll back the federal government’s non-entitlement spending to 2008 levels. Democratic leaders, keenly aware that budget cutting will draw bitter opposition from special-interest groups, seem almost amused by the “rollback to 2008” mantra that Boehner and the freshman GOP members of Congress have enthusiastically embraced. Experts on the federal budgeting process tell Newsmax there is little doubt that Republicans will move quickly to trim federal spending. In fact, some Republicans want much deeper cuts Republican Sen. George LeMieux tells Newsmax that he will introduce legislation in the lame-duck session to roll back all federal spending, including entitlements, to 2007 levels. Doing so, he says, would balance the budget by 2013.

  • · Right idea, but can they actually get it done? Time will tell – but we don’t have much time to spare before the debt crisis turns into a disaster.

Economic News

Republicans in the House on Thursday blocked a bill that would have extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed beyond the holiday season. An extension of jobless benefits enacted this summer expires Dec. 1, and unless they are renewed, two million people will lose benefits averaging $310 a week nationwide by the end of December. The failed measure would have extended jobless benefits through the end of February at a cost of adding $12.5 billion to the nation’s debt. Republicans opposing the legislation said the measure should be paid for by cutting unspent money from last year’s economic stimulus bill.

Slightly more Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but first-time claims remain near their lowest level in two years. The Labor Department says initial claims for unemployment benefits rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 439,000. The level will need to fall below 400,000 before the economy can pick up steam.

Applications for mortgages to buy homes and to refinance dropped last week as mortgage rates pulled off historic lows. The Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday that overall applications fell 14.4% from a week earlier. The average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 4.46% from 4.28%. It was the highest since early September.

The number of Americans at risk of foreclosure improved slightly over the summer but not nearly enough to suggest the crisis in the housing market is ending. The Mortgage Bankers Association says about 9.1% of homeowners missed at least one mortgage payment in the July-September quarter. That figure, which is adjusted for seasonal factors, fell from 9.9% in the April-June quarter and from a record high of more than 10% in the January-March quarter. The percentage of homes in the foreclosure process fell slightly to 4.4% from 4.6%.

Haiti

Aid workers in Haiti say the government has done little to improve water and sanitation since a Jan. 12 earthquake, making it likely that the cholera epidemic there will continue to spread. The outbreak that has killed more than 1,100 people. Haiti’s leaders must expand the country’s treated water and sewer systems to prevent future outbreaks of waterborne diseases. Many people purchase their water from privately owned kiosks and water trucks, paying by the bucket. Many of those informal water supplies are not chlorinated. Installing permanent systems is less costly than delivering emergency water. A $5 million water system that Oxfam built recently in Cap-Haitien serves 100,000 people and will last decades. In contrast, Oxfam has spent $30 million in nine months providing emergency water from tanker trucks and water bladders to 316,000 people.

Afghanistan

Coalition forces have increased the pace of military operations in Afghanistan to record levels, achieving battlefield successes against the Taliban as NATO prepares to discuss the future of the war at a summit this weekend in Portugal. Warplanes dropped a record 1,000 bombs and other munitions in October, up from 660 in October 2009, according to coalition statistics. The number of Special Forces-led raids against insurgent leaders has increased sixfold over last year. The operations come at a time when coalition forces are at a peak of around 150,000, which includes 100,000 American troops. The White House has said it will begin withdrawing forces in July and the upcoming winter months are historically periods when little combat takes place.

Iran

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, reiterating his long-standing opposition to a military attack on Iran, said Tuesday that new sanctions led by the Obama administration are causing divisions within the Iranian leadership. Sanctions ‘have really bitten much harder than [Iranian leaders] anticipated,’ Gates told the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington, citing indications that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in trouble with the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. ‘We even have some evidence that Khamenei now is beginning to wonder if Ahmadinejad is lying to him about the impact of the sanctions on the economy and whether he’s getting the straight scoop in terms of how much trouble the economy really is in,’ Gates said. Gates, who has repeatedly warned against military strikes on Tehran’s nuclear facilities, said, ‘I personally believe they are intent on acquiring nuclear weapons, but also the information that we have is that they’ve been surprised by the impact of the sanctions.'”

China

Workers’ growing awareness and their willingness to take action are slowly pushing up wages and improving conditions in the manufacturing industry. The Chinese government already moved to increase salaries and labor standards a few years ago. Now it is trying to maintain a delicate balance of improving income levels for workers while not scaring away foreign corporations with higher labor costs. This year, strikes at Honda factories and a spate of suicides at Foxconn — a maker of electronics for U.S. companies such as Apple and Dell — raised alarm among corporations and the government that the era of the docile worker had ended. Strikes still happen each week in China, labor rights groups say, but the government doesn’t allow them to be reported. The labor unrest is even inspiring strikes in Cambodia and Vietnam, whose workers say they’re emboldened by their Chinese colleagues’ examples.

Sweden

The elusive Australian behind the biggest leak of U.S. war documents in history is wanted by Sweden in a drawn-out rape probe, and could soon face an international arrest warrant curtailing his ability to jump from one country to another. A Swedish court on Thursday approved a motion to bring Julian Assange, the 39-year-old founder of WikiLeaks, into custody for questioning. The decision paves the way for prosecutors to seek his arrest abroad through Interpol. Assange, whose whereabouts are unknown, is suspected of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. He has denied the allegations, which stem from his encounters with two women during a visit to Sweden in August.

  • · Or, is this merely a means to silencing the whistle-blower?

North Korea

The Obama administration is slapping new sanctions on a North Korean government agency accused of illicitly financing slush funds for the communist country’s reclusive leadership. The Treasury on Thursday added the Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation to its financial blacklist. The move freezes any assets the companies may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bans Americans from doing business with them. Treasury said both are key components of “Office 39,” a secretive bureau that raises money for senior North Korean leaders by producing, smuggling and distributing narcotics, and laundering money.

Thailand

More than 2,000 illegally aborted fetuses have been recovered at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thai police said Friday. The fetuses were initially discovered earlier in the week, given away by the smell of decay at the Phai-nguern Chotinaram temple in central Bangkok. Temples in Thailand typically have morticians who prepare bodies for cremation. Two morticians had been charged with hiding bodies and faced about a year in jail if convicted. They are being charged with performing illegal abortions and opening an unlicensed clinic.

Bhutan

ASSIST News Service reports that a Bhutanese Christian is serving three years in prison after showing a film about Jesus. Police in Bhutan will likely arrest two more Christians for their involvement in the showing. Prem Singh Gurung has already been sentenced, and officials have defended the harsh sentence by saying that “no person shall be compelled to belong to another faith by means of coercion or inducement.” They have not, however, demonstrated any evidence that Gurung was trying to force conversions. Human rights group International Christian Concern has submitted a letter to the United Nations protesting Gurung’s sentence as a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Weather

The National Weather Service says it was a tornado that damaged homes, buildings and cars in Baltimore and Baltimore County. The weather service says the tornado was on the ground for less than a minute early Wednesday morning, causing damage in two stretches. The first was a tenth of a mile long and 175 yards wide and included the Dutch Village apartment complex where three units had their roofs blown off. The second began a half mile north and was a third of a mile long and 250 yards wide centered on the Perring Parkway Shopping Center in Parkville. The storm damaged more than 350 apartments and townhouses, and 16 buildings and 54 residential units were condemned.

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