No Room for Jesus in U.S. Media this Christmas

Just as Bethlehem had no room for Jesus 2,000 years ago, one media expert says today’s U.S. media has no room for God this Christmas. A report from the Culture and Media Institute says 98.7 percent of the stories on major TV networks — such as ABC, CBS and NBC — that highlight Christmas do not mention Christ. Matt Philbin, managing editor for the Culture and Media Institute (CMI), laments that the media has helped eliminate Christ from the Christian holiday. “Basically, they would talk about anything but God,” he notes of the coverage. He says the three major networks reported mainly on issues surrounding Christmas, including weather, the economy, and travel.

  • · Secularized media is out to destroy and eliminate Christianity

Weather

Blizzard conditions dumping more than a foot of snow in parts of the U.S. Northeast stranded thousands of airline, bus and rail passengers, with lashing winds and low visibility also buffeting workers returning Monday to their post-Christmas routines. The winter storm wreaked havoc on travelers from the Carolinas to Maine, forced the suspension of operations at some of the nation’s busiest airports and marooned a passenger bus carrying about 50 people on a New Jersey highway. Airlines scrambled to rebook passengers on thousands of canceled flights — more than 1,400 out of the New York City area’s three major airports alone — but said they didn’t expect normal service to resume until Tuesday.

Amtrakcanceled train service from New York to Maine after doing the same earlier for several trains in Virginia. The nation’s largest commuter rail system, New York’s Long Island Rail Road, also suspended service. Bus companies canceled routes up and down the East Coast, and drivers faced hazardous travel conditions — sometimes with close to zero visibility. In Monmouth County, New Jersey, snow drifts of up to five feet contributed to stalling a passenger bus on the Garden State Parkway, where snow plows were having a difficult time clearing because there were so many stranded cars cluttering the ramps. Ambulances couldn’t reach the bus, and state troopers were carrying their own water and food to the bus to give to people who were feeling ill.

Travelers spent Christmas Eve camped in airports in Paris and Brussels instead of at feast-laden family tables, after new snowfall and shortages of deicing fluid trapped passengers and snarled travel across Europe. A scare about the security of a snow-laden terminal roof at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport made matters worse, with crowds asked to clear out of a section of Terminal 2E. While travel in Britain was improving after days of headaches, snowfall stranded travelers in Ireland and Denmark and shut Duesseldorf airport in Germany for hours. The exceptionally wintry weather in recent weeks has caused exceptionally sweeping shutdowns, delays and other problems.

  • · End-time weather will be increasingly turbulent, not just warmer

New Tax Law Packed with Obscure Business Tax Cuts

The massive new tax bill signed into law by President Barack Obama is filled with all kinds of holiday stocking stuffers for businesses: tax breaks for producing TV shows, grants for putting up windmills, and rum subsidies for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. There is even a tax break for people who buy race horses. Millions of homeowners, however, might feel like they got a lump of coal. Homeowners who don’t itemize their deductions will lose a tax break for paying local property taxes. It also provides a new payroll tax cut for wage earners and extends jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed.

  • · As usual, federal legislation comes packed with unannounced extras hidden in the fine print – and they wonder why we don’t trust the government

Medicare Regulation Revives End-of-Life Planning

A new health regulation issued this month offers elderly Medicare health insurance recipients voluntary end-of-life planning, which Democrats dropped from the monumental health care overhaul last year. The provision allows Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling to help beneficiaries deal with the complex and painful decisions families face when a loved one is approaching death. But the practice was heavily criticized by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and some other Republicans who have likened the counseling to “death panels.” The “voluntary advance care planning” is included in a Medicare regulation issued Dec. 3 that covers annual checkups, known as wellness visits. It goes into effect Jan. 1. Opponents said end-of-life planning should be left to families, while proponents said doctors’ advice was a basic element of health care.

Airport Body Scanners, Pat-Downs to Stay

The nation’s controversial airport pat-downs and full-body scanners are here to stay, at least for now. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the systems on CNN this morning, crediting them with preventing unknown numbers of potentially dangerous devices from making their way on to airplanes. “The new technology, the pat-downs, is just objectively safer for our traveling public,” Napolitano said. Despite concerns among civil libertarians and many travelers subjected to intimate pat-downs, Napolitano said safety is the No. 1 priority. “Everything is objectively better than it was a year ago, particularly in the aviation environment,” she said.

Millions Enter U.S. Without Proper I.D.

Despite reassurances of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano that the U.S. border with Mexico has never been more secure, millions are being allowed to enter the United States, largely through Mexico, without proper identification. The problem is that the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, or WHTI, implemented after Sept. 11 requires all travelers, even from Canada and Mexico, to have a passport or other secure identification before entering the United States. Evidently, some 18 months after WHTI was put into effect, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, officers are simply not enforcing the law, allowing an estimated 2.3 million travelers who failed to provide proper paperwork at U.S. land ports of entry to come into the United States anyway. A report released in November by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security concluded that during eight month period spanning June 1, 2009, through Jan. 31, 2010, approximately 2.3 million travelers were allowed to enter the United States despite not having passports or other secure identification required by WHTI, amounting to a potential of 3.6 million noncompliant travelers annually.

  • · So, while U.S. citizens get violated at airports, undocumented aliens are allowed free, unintrusive entry into our country?

Can Trains, Subways be Protected from Terrorists?

The government’s top security officials say they are upgrading subway and rail defenses against terrorist attacks throughout the country, but a USA TODAY examination finds gaping holes, including many that may not be possible to plug. The holes in security leave travelers more vulnerable on the more than 4 billion trips they take by subway and rail each year than in the sky, where airlines carried fewer than 700 million passengers from U.S. airports last year. Six terrorist plots targeting U.S. subway and rail systems have been exposed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the systems remain a target, transit authorities, security experts and members of Congress agree. Yet, as the nation debates the federal Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) stricter screening methods at airport security checkpoints, about 15 million passengers board subway cars and trains unscreened each weekday. “Mass transit systems are much less secure than the aviation sector or certain key government buildings,” says Clark Kent Ervin, the Department of Homeland Security’s former inspector general. The nation’s vast network of more than 3,200 stations and more than 20,000 miles of track combined with the impracticality and cost of screening every passenger leave U.S. subways and rails exposed to the type of terrorist attacks 22 other nations have experienced the last five years.

Economic News

China has said it is willing to bail out debt-ridden countries in the euro zone using its $2.7trillion overseas investment fund. The country has already approached struggling European countries with financial aid, including offering to buy Greece’s debt in October and promising to buy $4billion of Portuguese government debt. In a fresh humiliation for Europe, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu said it was one of the most important areas for China’s foreign exchange investments. China’s astonishing economic growth has put it on track to overtake America as the world’s economic powerhouse within two years, a recent report claimed.

After seven decades of mostly uninterrupted growth, U.S. gasoline demand has started a long-term decline. By 2030, Americans will burn at least 20% less gasoline than today, experts say, even as millions of more cars clog the roads. The country’s thirst for gasoline is shrinking as cars and trucks become more fuel-efficient, the government requires the use of more ethanol and people drive less. Drivers typically cut back during recessions, then hit the road again when the economy picks up. Indeed, the Great Recession was the chief reason demand fell sharply in 2008. But this time looks different. Government and industry officials say U.S. gasoline demand has peaked for good. It has declined four years in a row and will not reach the 2006 level again, even when the economy fully recovers. Americans are burning an average of 8.2 million barrels — 344 million gallons — of gasoline per day in 2010, a figure that excludes the ethanol blended into gasoline. That’s 8% less than at the 2006 peak, according to government data.

Middle East

Using weapons supplied by the radical mullahs of Teheran, Hamas terrorists have fired more than two dozen rockets and mortars at Jews living in the southern part of Israel. The increased level of violence comes as world leaders continue their assault against the safety of Israel. Bolivia just became the tenth nation in the past few days to announce recognition of Palestine as an independent country. This poses a huge economic threat to Israel in addition to the obvious security dangers it will create. Behind the scenes, the Obama Administration is hard at work pressuring Israel to surrender Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem to the very people behind the continuing terrorist attacks against them. There was no peace when Israel surrendered Gaza to the Palestinians; it just became the latest launch pad for attacks, and there will be no peace if Israel surrenders again. This is land that God promised to the Chosen People, and every nation that tries to take it away will come under His Divine curse, the Jerusalem Prayer Team reports.

Nigeria

Police in northern Nigeria say that Muslim radical sect members have attacked two churches in the restive region. Members of Boko Haram, a radical Muslim sect, attacked two churches in the city of Maiduguri on Christmas Eve. Danjuma Akawu, secretary of Victory Baptist Church said about 30 men attacked his church Friday evening, killing five people. Rev. Haskanda Jessu of Church of Christ in Nigeria said that three men attacked his church at the other end of the city, killing the security guard. Police accuse Boko Haram of a rash of targeted killings in recent months. In the central city of Jos, 11 people also died after multiple bomb blasts Friday afternoon.

Europe

While so-called equality legislation is on the rise in Europe, Christians are increasingly dealing with “side-effect discrimination,” according to a new report. According to Christian Today, the report is released every five years by the Vienna-based Observatory of Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe. The group’s findings allege that discriminatory laws were preventing the equal exercise of freedom in the areas of speech, conscience and religion. “Hate speech legislation has a tendency to indirectly discriminate against Christians, criminalizing core elements of Christian teaching,” the report said. The report cites specific incidents of discrimination, including the 18-year suspension of a judge in Spain in 2008 for conscientiously objecting to the adoption of a girl by her mother’s lesbian partner, and the UK Supreme Court’s refusal to grant an appeal to a Christian registrar who was disciplined because she refused to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples.

Philippines

A military spokesman says a priest and five other churchgoers were slightly injured in a bomb blast at a police chapel in the volatile southern Philippines. Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang says the improvised explosive went off during Christmas Mass early Saturday in the ceiling of the chapel, which is located inside a police camp in Jolo town on Jolo Island. He says those wounded were taken to a hospital, but that their injuries were not life-threatening. It wasn’t immediately clear who was responsible, but the majority Muslim island province is a stronghold of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

Iran

Despite sanctions and trade embargoes, over the past decade the United States government has allowed American companies to do billions of dollars in business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism, an examination by The New York Times has found. At the behest of a host of companies — from Kraft Food and Pepsi to some of the nation’s largest banks — a little-known office of the Treasury Department has granted nearly 10,000 licenses for deals involving countries that have been cast into economic purgatory, beyond the reach of American business. Most of the licenses were approved under a decade-old law mandating that agricultural and medical humanitarian aid be exempted from sanctions. But the law, pushed by the farm lobby and other industry groups, was written so broadly that allowable humanitarian aid has included cigarettes, Wrigley’s gum, Louisiana hot sauce, weight-loss remedies, body-building supplements and sports rehabilitation equipment sold to the institute that trains Iran’s Olympic athletes.

Pakistan

A female suicide bomber detonated her explosives-laden vest killing at least 43 people at an aid distribution center in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, while army helicopter gunships and artillery killed a similar number of Islamic militants in neighboring tribal regions near the Afghan border. The bombing appeared to be the first suicide attack staged by a woman in Pakistan, and it underscored the resilience of militant groups in the country’s tibal belt despite ongoing military operations against them. The bomber struck in the main city in Bajur, a region near the Afghan border where the military has twice declared victory over Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents.

Iraq

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up on Monday and killed nine people at the government compound in the provincial capital of Ramadi. Another 43 people were injured by the blasts. The first blast occurred when a suicide bomber drove a minibus packed with explosives into the entrance of the main government compound of the city. As people gathered to observe the destruction, another man detonated his explosive vest in their midst. Insurgents frequently go after government targets in effort to destabilize the U.S.-backed authorities, especially now as American troops prepare to leave by the end of next year.

Italy

A package bomb was found at the Greek Embassy in Rome on Monday, four days after similar mail bombs exploded at two other embassies injuring two people. The device was defused and no one was injured. Carabinieri Col. Maurizio Mezzavilla said the bomb was similar to the ones that exploded Thursday at the Chilean and Swiss embassies. An anarchist group with reported ties to Greek anarchists claimed responsibility for those blasts. A group called Conspiracy Nuclei of Fire claimed responsibility for the Greek blasts. It called on militants in Greece and other countries to step up their action, and Greek police noted last week that in the past acts of “solidarity” have been carried out between Greek and Italian militant groups.

Earthquakes

A 5.4-magnitude earthquake struck the U.S. Caribbean territory on Christmas Eve, rattling windows and doors across the island but causing no major damage. The quake occurred at a depth of 63 miles south-southwest of the capital of San Juan, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Six ceiling panels fell at the American Airlines terminal, but that no one was injured. Emergency officials and police told local media that no damage or injuries have been reported.

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