Government Officials Under Attack

The shooting of an Arizona congresswoman and judge in Tucson Saturday in which a total of six people were killed and 13 wounded is symptomatic of hostility toward government turned violent. The 22-year-old suspect in the shooting posted anti-government messages online that talk about mind control. The shooter is described by acquaintances in terms that have become familiar for suspects in violent rampages: a loner, short-tempered, bitter. U.S. District Judge John Roll, also killed in the attack, had received death threats while he presided over a $32 million civil rights lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher. Just the day before, incendiary devices were discovered to have been mailed to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Maryland elected officials.

Last month, a San Francisco man who was opposed to the health care overhaul passed by Congress was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for threatening to destroy the home of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. On Dec. 30, a former firefighter pleaded no contest for threatening Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif., and other public officials. The U.S. Marshals Service in 2008 reported that threats to federal judges and prosecutors were up 69% from 2003, and that such threats were averaging nearly 100 a month nationwide. “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve,” said newly elected House Speaker John Boehner.

The shooting rampage in Tucson seems to have created a reset moment for confrontational politics, as lawmakers reflect on the repercussions of the overheated rhetoric traded on the airwaves and on the campaign trail. Members of Congress from both parties called Sunday for civility over belligerence as the House temporarily shelved the contentious debate over repealing the health care law and lawmakers paused to contemplate the tragedy. Former House Majority Leader and tea party patriarch Dick Armey said Sunday that the tragic shootings in Arizona should not deter a vigorous debate over the policies of the Obama administration. Congressional Republicans said Sunday that the weekend shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, was not the result of lax U.S. gun laws and that the incident should not result in tougher regulations. “Washington, D.C., had seven murders last week, and it has some of the most strict gun laws in the U.S,” they noted.

o       Such violence is never justified. Unfortunately, there are those social misfits who look for excuses to strike out and harm others, whether in schools or government. Political rhetoric is no different now than before. Kennedy and Reagan were on both sides of the political divide. However, as end-time lawlessness increases according to Biblical prophecies, such violence will escalate.

‘Religion of Peace’ Launched ‘Ferocious’ Attacks in 2010

The Religion of Peace website reports that for 2010, there were 1987 jihad attacks in 46 nations resulting in 9,175 deaths and 17,436 injured, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin. Analysts are expressing alarm that individual attacks on Christian churches are being replicated rapidly and appear to be reflecting a new wave of Islamists’ war against any stability in the Middle East. Recent al-Qaida attacks on Christians stretching from North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia reveal a new terrorist initiative that not only attempts to eliminate remnants of existing non-Islamist religions but hits hard at “soft target” opportunities, such as praying Christians in Egypt, leaving security experts off-guard. Analysts say the orchestrated attacks against Christians – from Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria to Russia’s mostly Muslim North Caucasus of the Ingushetia region bordering Chechnya – initially were thought to be random. However, the killing spree now is being viewed as a coordinated pattern of attacks representing a new and higher level of violence.

ObamaCare Targeted in Congress

Republicans prevailed Friday in a 236-181 procedural vote, largely along party lines, that sets the stage for the House to vote next week on the repeal. In a post-election bow to tea partiers by the new GOP House majority, Republican lawmakers are undertaking an effort to repeal the health care law in full knowledge that the Democratic Senate will stop them from doing so. The real action is in states, where Republicans are using federal courts and governors’ offices to lead the assault against Obama’s signature domestic achievement, a law aimed at covering nearly all Americans.

Shortly before the House vote, Republican governors representing 30 states opened up a new line of attack, potentially more successful. In a letter to Obama and congressional leaders, the governors complained that provisions of the health care law are restricting their ability to control Medicaid spending, raising the threat of devastating cuts to other critical programs, from education to law enforcement in a weak economy. It’s ammunition for critics trying to dismantle the overhaul piece by piece. Moreover, a federal judge in Florida is expected to rule shortly in a lawsuit brought by 20 states that challenges the law’s central requirement that most Americans carry health insurance. A judge in Virginia ruled it unconstitutional last month, while in courts in two other cases have upheld it. It’s expected that the Supreme Court will ultimately have to resolve the issue.

Mortgage Mess Deepens

The highest court in Massachusetts ruled against U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo on Friday in a pivotal mortgage foreclosure case that could spark more turmoil and uncertainty in a housing market already mired in depression. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed a lower court judge’s ruling invalidating two mortgage foreclosure sales because the banks, in their capacity as trustees for mortgage securities, did not prove that they actually owned the mortgages at the time of foreclosure. The decision, which highlights the failure of financial firms to adhere to the rules that govern mortgage-backed securities, is likely to lead more borrowers to sue bank servicers and trustees for wrongful foreclosures. It’s unclear what the ruling means for people who were forced from their homes after defaulting on their loans or for those who purchased houses in foreclosure sales. Last fall, the banking industry’s foreclosure machine came under intense scrutiny with revelations that low-level employees called “robo signers” powered through hundreds of foreclosure affidavits a day without verifying a single sentence. At the time, analysts warned that the banks’ allegedly fraudulent document procedures could imperil their ability to prove that they owned the mortgages. The Massachusetts ruling stokes those concerns.

  • If it isn’t the government messing things up, it’s the banks and Wall Street, with the little guy on Main Street paying the price

Taxes Up, Deficit Slightly Down

Americans are paying more taxes, a sure sign of economic recovery — and one that has the federal budget deficit declining ever so slightly. That’s the word from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which just released its review of the first quarter of fiscal year 2011, which began in October. The good news: Revenue increased 9% from the same period a year ago, while spending grew only 3%. That translated into a $371 billion deficit for three months, $18 billion less than in October-December 2009. Biggest reason for the improvement: a $33 billion increase in taxes withheld “as a result of strengthening economic conditions,” CBO says. Biggest reason for only a small improvement: interest payments on the national debt, fast approaching $14 trillion, rose 10%, while defense spending was up 7%, mostly for procurement as well as operations and maintenance.

Economic News

For the first time since the Great Recession began more than three years ago, the job market is expected to show stronger gains in 2011 as consumers spend more and businesses cast off their hesitancy to hire. Through 2011, employers will add 183,000 jobs a month — vs. 94,000 a month in 2010, according to the average forecast of 28 economists surveyed by USA TODAY. New Mexico, Florida and Texas will lead the way on a percentage basis, while New Jersey and Vermont are projected to see only modest growth in jobs.

Americans took out $5.56 billion more in auto, student and personal loans in November but continued to cut credit card debt, the Federal Reserve just reported. It’s the first back-to-back monthly increase since the summer of 2008. The 4.2% jump in so-called non-revolving debt contrasts with a 6.3% drop in revolving debt (your credit cards).

Assets in exchange traded funds have broken above $1 trillion for the first time. ETFs are portfolios of stocks, bonds or even commodities that trade on the stock exchanges. ETFs have become popular because they’re easy to move in and out of: You can buy or sell ETFs at any time during the trading day. With conventional funds, you get the end-of-day price, provided you place your order before the market closes.

Philippines

For the past decade, the Philippines has been an attractive call-center destination due to its educated, English-speaking population. But its appeal is at an all-time high as the Philippines inches past India as the largest call-center operator in the world. The Philippines now leads India in call-center jobs, employing 350,000 compared with India’s 330,000, according to the Contact Center Association of the Philippines, which represents the country’s call-center operators. Some American companies such as US Airways are pulling back on call centers in the Philippines. But many others — including Citi and Chase — are outsourcing customer calls, back-office work or other operations to the country. “The thing that the Philippines excels in is that they have the most accent-neutral language,” says Kevin Campbell, group chief executive for technology, for Accenture.

Middle East

Palestinian Hamas terrorists in Gaza started the New Year the same way they ended the last, “celebrating” by launching what IDF officials described as a “military-grade” rocket at the 6,500 Jewish civilians who call Sha’ar Hanegev home. Thankfully the unguided rockets caused no injuries. The end of 2010 saw a major increase in the number of attacks being launched against Israel from Gaza—the land Israel gave to the Palestinians in 2005 in exchange for empty promises of peace. Hamas was responsible for most of the nearly 800 terrorist attacks against Israel last year. Israeli officials have also noted a marked increase in attempts to smuggle weapons into Gaza, most provided by Iran which has long been a major funder and sponsor of Hamas’ terrorist objectives. In addition, several ships have been stopped by the Israeli navy while attempting to run the blockade around Gaza and a massive shipment of weapons and military supplies that originated in Iran was stopped in Nigeria not long ago.

Afghanistan

Insurgents in Afghanistan have answered the Obama administration’s troop surge with a surge of their own, planting thousands of roadside bombs that caused more U.S. troop casualties last year than the prior eight years of the war. Since President Obama took office in January 2009 and vowed to end Taliban gains in Afghanistan, casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have nearly quadrupled. In 2010, the bombs wounded 3,366 U.S. troops. In nine years of war, 617 American troops have been killed by IEDs and the majority of those deaths came in the past two years. The 268 troops killed by IEDs in 2010 account for more than 40% of all deaths caused by bombs during the war. “It’s clear that the insurgency in Afghanistan remains very robust,” said John Nagl, a former Army officer and president of the Center for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington. “As we increase our capabilities in the country and the region, they are also ‘surging.’ ”

Sudan

Men and women walked to election stations in the middle of the night Sunday to create a new nation: Southern Sudan. Some broke out into spontaneous song in the long lines. And a veteran of Sudan’s two-decade civil war, a conflict that left 2 million people dead, choked back tears. Thousands of people began casting ballots Sunday during a week-long vote to choose the destiny of this war-ravaged and desperately poor but oil-rich region. Because only 15% of southern Sudan’s 8.7 million people can read, the ballot choices were as simple as could be: a drawing of a single hand marked “separation” and another of clasped hands marked “unity.” Long lines snaked through the southern capital of Juba. In rural areas, tribesmen carrying bows and arrows walked dirt paths from their straw huts to one-room schools to vote.

United Kingdom

British transport authorities have warned aviation officials that al-Qaeda is considering an attack against a U.K. airport or other airline industry target in a threat described as credible, the BBC reported over the weekend. An American official said that the British authorities had warned their U.S. counterparts of a possible terror threat to planes flying through the United Kingdom. British authorities have said they were monitoring all forms of transit in the U.K. out of caution. The heightened awareness came from increased “chatter” among suspects under surveillance by the authorities, a U.K. government security official said.

Germany

Germany froze sales of poultry, pork and eggs from more than 4,700 farms Friday to stem the spread of food contaminated with cancer-causing dioxin, as fears grew that farmers could have been using tainted livestock feed for months. South Korea and Slovakia on Friday banned the sale of some animal products imported from Germany, while authorities in Britain and the Netherlands were investigating whether food containing German eggs — like mayonnaise or liquid egg products — was safe to eat. Prosecutors in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein launched an investigation into the German firm Harles & Jentzsch GmbH, suspecting the company knew but failed to tell authorities that fat it had produced for use in feed pellets was tainted with dioxin.

Earthquakes

One of our readers reports, “A  3.something earthquake hit last week 50 miles north of Indianapolis, IN.  This would be in the neighborhood of my childhood home of Kokomo, Indiana so I contacted my cousin there and he said it was like a big house shaking “boom”  !  He actually thought something had fallen from the sky and hit his roof.  He went outside to investigate.  It was the earth quaking.  Maybe 55 years ago as a young child, I remember a small earthquake.  But this was definately an earthquake in a “diverse place!”

Weather

A punishing winter storm that began to hammer the South on Sunday is continuing its onslaught today over a 1,000-mile stretch from Texas to the Carolinas. Snow, sleet and freezing rain is making travel dangerous if not impossible across much of the region. In Atlanta, stranded vehicles littered roadsides at daybreak Monday as several inches of snow and sleet coated the city and other parts of the South, freezing the morning commute in many areas and cancelling thousands of flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, the world’s busiest airport. The winter blast rolled across the South on Sunday, coating bridges and roads with snow, sleet and freezing rain and causing at least one death in Louisiana. Snow and ice had blanketed several cities which rarely get much snow. The same storm will then make a turn up the East Coast and threaten the Northeast with yet another potentially crippling snowstorm Tuesday and Wednesday.

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