For Most Americans, Jesus is No Longer the Reason for the Season

Christmas 2010 is a whole lotta jingle and not so much Jesus. Two new surveys find more than nine in 10 Americans celebrate the holiday — even if they’re atheists, agnostics or believers in non-Christian faiths such as Judaism and Islam. A closer look at Christmas activities reveals what may be the first measurement of an “alarming” gap between belief and behavior, says Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based Christian research organization. The surveys — by LifeWay and USA TODAY/Gallup — indicate that while most call this a holy day that is primarily religious, their actions say otherwise. Many skip church, omit Jesus and zero in on the egg nog. Most surveyed said they will give gifts (89%), dine with family or friends (86%), put up a Christmas tree (80%) and play holiday music (79%).The percentages plummet when it comes to religious activities: 58% say they “encourage belief in Jesus Christ as savior.” 47% attend church Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. 28% read or tell the Christmas story from the Bible.

  • · The secularization of Christmas is almost complete. Santa Claus has replaced Jesus Christ and materialism has replaced reverence.

Govt Creating Vast Domestic Snooping Machine

The U.S. government is creating a vast domestic spying network to collect information about Americans in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and subsequent terror plots, The Washington Post reported Monday. The government is using for this purpose the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices, and military criminal investigators. The system collects, stores, and analyzes information about thousands of citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing. The government’s goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, noted the paper, which has conducted its own investigation of the matter. According to the report, the network includes 4,058 federal, state, and local organizations, each with its own counterterrorism responsibilities and jurisdictions. The FBI is building a database with the names and personal information of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents. The database is accessible to an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal investigators.

  • · Under the guise of homeland security, Big Brother will also use this centralized database to exercise greater control over its citizens (watch out Tea-Party activists)

Big Brother to Tighten Regulation of Internet

The United Nations is now joining the Obama administration and Democratic commissioners on the FCC in an attempt to regulate the Internet, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports. “The U.N. is reacting to concerns of member governments, including the United States, that the Internet has made companies like WikiLeaks possible, while the FCC is more concerned about conservative news outlets on the Internet that are increasingly undermining government attempts to control the news through sympathetic mainstream media outlets,” WorldNetDaily’s senior staff writer reported. “What is at stake is the future of electronic free-speech rights, as governments around the world realize how much less control government authorities have with a robust and critical press able to operate freely on the Internet.” Australia’s ItNews.com reported that the U.N. is considering whether to set up an inter-governmental working group to “harmonize” global efforts by policymakers to regulate the Internet. The U.N. claims authority to regulate the Internet under a U.N. Economic and Social Council resolution passed in July that invited the U.N. secretary-general to begin discussions on coordinating government efforts to regulate the Internet on a global basis.

North American Union Coverup

Operating much like a “memory hole” in George Orwell’s classic novel “1984,” the Obama administration has replaced the content of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SSP) of North America website, providing additional evidence the White House intends to implement the SPP agenda by executive action, below the radar of public opinion and outside the framework of congressional approval. The SPP website, under the title “Commerce Connect,” now reflects totally different content, announcing its purpose as “a one-stop shop for information, counseling and government services that can help U.S. businesses around the country transform themselves into globally competitive enterprises.” The White House’s handling of the SPP agenda sharply contrasts with Canada, where their SPP website retains its original character, openly proclaiming North American community objectives, much like the U.S. website spp.gov once did. The Canadian government website today continues to archive the security agenda, the prosperity agenda, trilateral meeting summaries going back to 2007 and key SPP reports and documents – all content that has been scrubbed from current U.S. government websites. The current Obama administration strategy appears to be to keep the trilateral working groups meeting privately, with a determination to put in place key policy objectives of the SPP working groups without openly acknowledging the intention to do so.

Senate Votes to Lift Military Gay Ban

In a landmark victory for gay rights, the U.S. Senate on Saturday voted to let gays serve openly in the military, giving President Obama the chance to fulfill a campaign promise and repeal the 17-year policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Obama was expected to sign it this week, although the change wouldn’t take immediate effect. The legislation says the president and his top military advisers must certify that lifting the ban won’t hurt troops’ fighting ability. After that, there’s a 60-day waiting period for the military. The Senate vote was 65-31. The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, on Wednesday. Repeal would mean that, for the first time in American history, gays would be openly accepted by the military and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.

  • · A further step down the slippery slope of lawlessness and immorality which will reap unexpected repercussions

DREAM Act Goes Down in Flames in Senate

An immigration bill that would blaze a trail to legal status for hundreds of thousands of undocumented students went down in flames in the Senate on Saturday, delivering a critical blow to Democrats and Hispanic activists. Even though the House approved the DREAM Act last week, the Senate fell five votes short of the 60 needed Saturday to advance the bill past Republican opposition. The DREAM Act, which opponents have decried as a “nightmare,” is now likely to languish for years with Republicans taking back control of the House and picking up an additional handful of seats in the Senate next month.

Senate Grappling with Nuclear Deal

The Senate moved closer to a final vote on a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia even as the chamber’s top Republican announced Sunday that he’ll vote against the pact. The treaty, which calls for a 30% reduction in nuclear stockpiles in the United States and Russia, is among the last major priorities for President Obama in the post-election, “lame duck” session of Congress. Senators continued to debate the proposal during a rare weekend session as they pushed to finish work before Christmas. Republicans, including McConnell, have raised concerns about whether the treaty would undermine U.S. efforts to build a missile-defense system. Over the weekend, Obama tried to allay those concerns in a letter to lawmakers that said the proposal “places no limitations on the development or deployment of our missile-defense programs.”

Economic News

Bonus season is fast approaching on Wall Street, but this year the talk does not center just on multimillion-dollar paydays. It’s about a new club that no one wants to join: the Zeros. Drawn from a broad swath of back-office employees and middle-level traders, bankers and brokers, the Zeros, as they have come to be called, are facing a once-unthinkable prospect: an annual bonus of … nothing. The psychological blow of not getting a bonus is substantial, especially in a Wall Street culture that has long equated success and prestige with bonus size.

So far this holiday season, consumers have spent $27.5 billion online, a 12% increase over last year, compared with overall retail growth, which increased just 3 to 4%.Long gone are the days when consumers merely crawled through newspaper ads and trekked out to brick and mortar stores. Through the power of the web, the smartphone and the tablet, they have more options than ever. For the first time, in late November, free shipping became the dominant choice for online purchases — 55% of all transactions during that week were shipped gratis. Even more important than free shipping are those oftentimes hard-to-beat prices online. Comparing prices has never been easier, a boon for customers and a major headache for retailers. Most recently, Amazon released Price Check, a free iPhone app that lets users price check CDs, DVDs, books, and video games on the fly by scanning products wherever they are, snapping a photo, saying the product name or typing in the name, brand, or model numbers. Find it cheaper via Amazon? Price Check makes it easy for users to order the item via the app instead.

Mexico

A massive oil pipeline explosion laid waste to parts of a central Mexican city Sunday, incinerating people, cars, houses and trees as gushing crude turned streets into flaming rivers. At least 28 people were killed, 13 of them children, in a disaster authorities blamed on oil thieves. The blast in San Martin Texmelucan, initally estimated to have affected 5,000 residents in a three-mile radius, scorched homes and cars and left metal and pavement twisted and in some cases burned to ash in the intense heat. In addition to the 28 deaths, at least 52 people were hurt and 84 remained in a shelter late Sunday after fleeing San Martin,about 55 miles east of Mexico City. More than 115 homes were scorched, 32 of them destroyed. The explosion was apparently caused by thieves trying to steal crude oil. Investigators found a hole in the pipeline and equipment for extracting crude.

Over 100 inmates escaped Friday from a state prison in the northern Mexico border city of Nuevo Laredo, just across from Laredo, Texas. Authorities said the breakout was probably helped by prison employees. The public safety department of  Tamaulipas state, where the prison is located near the border with Laredo, Texas, said 141 inmates got out through a service entrance used by vehicles, “presumably with the assistance of the prison staff.” Eighty-three of the prisoners were being held for trial or had been convicted of crimes like theft, assault and other state offenses, while 58 were being held on federal charges, which include weapons possession and drug trafficking. Tamaulipas has been plagued by a steady wave of violence tied to turf battles between the Gulf and Zetas drug gangs, but it was unclear whether members of those groups were among the escaped inmates.

Middle East

An Israeli airstrike has killed five Gaza militants in the deadliest attack against the coastal strip in months. The Israeli military says the men were about to launch a rocket attack against southern Israeli communities when they were struck. Palestinian officials confirmed the five dead were militants. Israel has for years routinely targeted rocket launchers from Gaza. Such incidents, however, have been scaled back dramatically in the two years since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza concluded. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, while the rival Palestinian
Authority governs the West Bank.

Israeli high-tech workers have accomplished a feat that still eludes their political leaders: They have created a partnership with the Palestinians. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks may be stalled, but that hasn’t stopped a small but steady trickle of Israeli technology companies from seeking to work with people on the other side of the decades-old conflict. Israeli CEOs say it’s their way of bringing a little bit of peace to their troubled corner of the world. But the real reason they’re hiring Palestinians, they acknowledge, is because it simply makes good business sense. Israel’s high-tech industry is among the country’s crowning achievements. Israel has the most start-ups per capita in the world and has helped produce such game-changing innovations as instant messaging and Internet telephony. Many Israeli tech firms send work offshore to eastern Europe, India or China. In the past three years, however, some have turned to Palestinian engineers and programmers. They are cheaper, ambitious, and work in the same time zone.

Afghanistan

Taliban militants struck at Afghan security forces Sunday, storming an army recruiting center in the north and ambushing a bus carrying army officers in the capital — the first major attack in Kabul in months. At least 10 Afghan security forces were killed in the two attacks, while the storming of the recruiting center in the northern province of Kunduz led to a fierce firefight lasting hours, officials said. In Kabul, two insurgents strapped with explosives ambushed a bus carrying Afghan army officers to work during the morning rush hour on the outskirts of the capital, killing five and wounding nine. The Afghan capital has been relatively peaceful for several months, aside from some scattered attacks with few casualties. Most of the fighting in Afghanistan has been concentrated in the south.

Korea

South Korea’s military staged live-fire drills from an island just miles from rival North Korea’s shores Monday, despite Pyongyang’s threats of catastrophic retaliation for the maneuvers. Seoul launched fighter jets, evacuated hundreds of people away from its tense land border with the North and sent residents of front-line islands into underground bunkers in case of attack, but the North finally said it would hold its own fire, calling Monday’s drills a “reckless military provocation” but said after they ended that it was holding its fire because Seoul had changed its firing zones.

Great Britain

Police arrested 12 men in early morning raids on three cities Monday aimed at thwarting a major new terrorism plot against British targets. Police confirmed that the men were detained by unarmed officers — indicating that any attack was unlikely to have been imminent. The arrests follow several weeks of surveillance and are not believed to be linked to the suicide bombing in Sweden on Dec. 11, or to recent concerns aired by European and U.S officials over purported plots to carry out Mumbai-style commando attacks on European cities. Officers said the suspects range in age from 17 to 28 and will be questioned on suspicion of commissioning, preparing or instigating acts of terrorism.

France

About 150 people protested Saturday outside the site of a conference in Paris organized to criticize the “Islamization” of Europe. Socialist Paris Mayor Bertand Delanoe had asked police to ban the conference, but police allowed it to go forward under surveillance. Protesters held banners reading “United Against Islamophobia” and “Fascists, get out of our neighborhoods.” The conference was organized by several French groups, including nationalist political group Bloc Identitaire, that frequently complain about what they see as Islam’s growing influence over traditional French values. France has Western Europe’s largest Muslim population.

Weather

A powerful storm that battered Southern California over the weekend is forecast to bring more rain, wind and snow to the West leading up to Christmas. Rainfall that began Saturday morning continued relentlessly throughout the day Sunday. It wasn’t expected to let up until sometime Monday, then resume again Tuesday and Wednesday. By the time the worst of the storm ends at midweek, rainfall in some parts of Southern California could exceed 20 inches. A flash-flood watch was in effect late Sunday for parts of Southern California, particularly in areas burned in recent years by brush fires. Snowfall totals of 5 to 10 feet above 7,000 feet are likely, the weather service said

Heavy snow on Sunday shut down European airport runways, forced fast trains to slow down and left cars skidding through icy, slushy streets on a weekend where many people were trying to head home for the holidays. London’s Heathrow Airport stopped accepting arrivals. Frankfort airport canceled around 40% of flights. Paris’ Charles DeGaulle airport cut air traffic by a quarter as heavy snow blanketed the French capital — a rarity that has occurred several times in recent days during an unusually cold winter. Many passengers slept overnight in makeshift dormitories there, at Amsterdam’s airport and at Heathrow, Europe’s busiest hub for air passengers. There was chaos in the tunnels leading from the underground station to Heathrow terminals, with hundreds of travelers told by airport staff to go back and call their airlines for updates.

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