Americans Fault Mental Health System in Tucson Rampage

In the aftermath of the Tucson shooting that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a majority of Americans said in a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll that they place a “great deal” of the blame on a failure of the mental health system to identify people who are a danger to the community. In answer to an open-ended question that allowed multiple answers, 55% of respondents said they placed a “great deal” of blame on mental health system failures; 43% said they placed a “great deal” of blame on easy access to guns; 37% cited drug use; 31% pointed to violence in movies, TV and video games; while just 22% cited inflammatory political rhetoric.

o       In this world of good and evil, there are no easy answers. Greater control by the mental health system would also lead to governmental abuses in order to quell dissident voices. Greater gun control wouldn’t solve the problem either. The return of Jesus Christ to rule and reign on earth is the only real solution.

Supreme Court Rejects Appeal over D.C. Gay Marriage Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from opponents of same-sex marriage who are seeking to put a proposal on the ballot to overturn the District of Columbia’s gay marriage law. The court did not comment Tuesday in turning away a challenge from a Maryland pastor and others who want Washingtonians to vote on a measure that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Bishop Harry Jackson led a lawsuit against the district’s Board of Elections and Ethics after the board refused to put the initiative on the ballot. The board ruled that the ballot question would in effect authorize discrimination. Last year Washington began issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples and began in 2009 began recognizing gay marriages performed elsewhere.

A Christian attorney argues that the Supreme Court’s rejection yesterday of an appeal dealing with the definition of marriage isn’t an indicator the court favors same-gender “marriage.” While Liberty Counsel’s director of cultural affairs Matt Barber admits being disappointed in the ruling, but he says “the court is also reluctant to get into and involved with municipal squabbles, and in this case, a disagreement within the District of Columbia.”

House to Vote on Obamacare Today

The GOP-led House is expected to vote to repeal the law Wednesday, although the repeal effort is not expected to go anywhere in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority. Republicans say they’ll hold investigative hearings to hold up the law, as well as work to eliminate funding for it. Leading up to today’s vote, both sides attacked the budgetary implications of repealing or keeping the law, and most of their numbers came from the same place: the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The office sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner this month saying a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would increase the budget by $230 billion. The law “is loaded with gimmicks,” Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., said during a floor debate Tuesday. “We find thatit adds $700 billion to the deficit.” The Democrats say health care costs will continue to rise no matter what happens.

Six more states joined a lawsuit in Florida against President Obama’s health care overhaul on Tuesday, meaning more than half of the country is challenging the law. The six additional states, all with Republican attorneys general, joined Florida and 19 others in the legal action. The states claim the health care law is unconstitutional and violates people’s rights by forcing them to buy health insurance by 2014 or face penalties. Federal government attorneys have said the states do not have standing to challenge the law and want the case dismissed. Lawsuits have been filed elsewhere. A federal judge in Virginia ruled in December that the insurance-purchase mandate was unconstitutional, though two other federal judges have upheld the requirement. It’s expected the Supreme Court will ultimately have to resolve the issue.

U.N. Agency Warns of Shortfall in Fight on Hunger

The World Food Program is nearly $3 billion short this year in its fight against global hunger, and the gap is likely to grow if food prices keep rising, Josette Sheeran, the head of the U.N. agency, said in an interview Monday. The shortfall amounts to almost half the agency’s budget. The U.N.’s front line agency against hunger relies on voluntary contributions from governments, corporations and individuals. Hunger has been on the rise since the financial and food crises of 2008 and more than 1 billion people are reduced to one meal a day. “If food prices escalate again, the most vulnerable in the world will lose the one meal a day they are having,” Sheeran said.

Incurable Bacteria a Worse Threat than Cold to Citrus Groves

While Florida farmers have lost much of their crop to cold weather for a second year, they say a fast-spreading, incurable bacteria presents a greater threat to their trees and the citrus industry. Citrus greening has destroyed groves in the U.S., Brazil, Asia and Africa. Detected in Florida in 2005, it leaves fruit sour, malformed and unusable. Eventually, it kills the tree. The disease has been particularly devastating because it takes years for citrus trees to reach peak production, and the disease targets young trees, making it difficult for growers to replace those that have been lost. Trees don’t pass the bacteria to each other. Instead, greening — also known as yellow dragon disease, HIB or, in Chinese, Huanglongbing — is spread by insects. There is no cure. Hundreds of researchers from more than a dozen countries converged on Orlando last week to talk about the disease and hear the latest research.

Retail Outlets Adding Electric Car Charging Stations

Retail stores around the USA are installing charging stations for electric vehicles to serve owners of an emerging fleet of electric cars, bikes and scooters. Some charge for the service — the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., has a $3 per hour fee — others offer it for free. Whole Foods also installed charging stations at stores in Connecticut, Denver and near Dallas in 2010. Best Buy installed EV (electric vehicle) charging stations at 12 stores while the Meijer shopping chain installed EV chargers at three stores in metro Detroit. Retailers will help overcome consumers’ biggest concern about electric vehicles — that motorists will become stranded on the road if they run out of juice.

Increase in Temp Workers Both Encouraging & Concerning

Temporary jobs, both professional and blue-collar, are being added at a fast clip in an otherwise sluggish economic recovery, according to data and labor experts. Growth in temp jobs is a good sign the economic recovery is taking hold, say experts, but it also raises concerns that temp employment could have a more permanent place in tomorrow’s workforce. Local job placement companies say demand for temporary workers is strongest in manufacturing and information technology. “Coming out of a recession, temporary help picks up first. It lets employers test the waters of recovery,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at Economic Policy Institute, a national research group. However, “we don’t want to become a nation of temp workers,” she said. “There’s less stability, the wages tend to be lower and there’s fewer benefits.

Economic News

Permits for housing construction soared in December, while initial construction of homes declined, the government reported Wednesday. The number of permits for future housing construction surged to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 635,000 last month, up 16.7%. That was the biggest monthly rise since June 2008. But the picture wasn’t as bright for actual construction. Housing starts, the number of new homes being built, slumped 4.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 529,000 in December. Construction of single-family homes slipped 9% to a rate of 417,000.

Firefighters began turning in their helmets and police officers their badges Tuesday as part of deep municipal layoffs hitting Camden, N.J., already one of the nation’s most impoverished and crime-ridden cities. The mayor of Camden said 168 police officers, 67 firefighters and about 100 non-uniformed city employees were laid off Tuesday. The layoffs come as Camden, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, faces a huge budget deficit and declining state aid.

The severe US economic recession has cast a spotlight on years of fiscal mismanagement, including chronic underfunding of retirement promises. “States face cost pressure, most prominently from retirement benefits and Medicaid [the health program for the poor],” according to the Financial Times. Using data from the states, the Pew Center on the States, a research group, has estimated a funding gap for pension, healthcare and other non-pension benefits, such as life assurance, of at least $1 trillion as of the end of fiscal 2008.

China’s rising inflation rate may soon be felt on U.S. shores. For American exporters, that’s not bad news. The Obama administration has long complained that China’s undervalued currency keeps prices of its exports low, putting U.S. manufacturers at a disadvantage. But China’s inflation woes are changing this dynamic. As Chinese goods get more expensive, this improves the relative competitiveness of U.S. products. Annual inflation in China is slightly more than 5%, and it was 1.5% in the U.S. last year.

Israel

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and four other Labor MK’s announced their intention to leave the Labor Party and form a new Knesset faction called called ‘Atzmaut’ (Independence) on Monday. Barak said the new faction would be “centralist, Zionist and democratic” which he said was necessary since much of the Israeli Left had become “post-Zionist.” His announcement was greeted with glee by Kadima leader Tzipi Livni who promptly called for new elections even as the other Labor Ministers in the coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resigned from the government, causing a crisis for Netanyahu who must now find a new partner to continue governing. In his resignation speech, Labor MK and former Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog agreed with the decision and wished Barak well, saying it was a painful but necessary move, since Labor had become to split in its objectives and worldview to continue functioning. The Labor party was founded by David Ben-Gurion and dominated Israeli politics for much of the country’s history but in recent years its support has plummeted.

o       Unfortunately, Israeli government has become too secularized and has abandoned Biblical principles as the basis of its rule. Trading God’s appointed land for peace has been a failed and unholy plan.

Middle East

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki declared this week that “The majority of the international community will recognize an independent state” by September. Speaking to a group of Palestinian journalists, al-Maliki said that Trinidad Jimenez, the Spanish Foreign Minister had assured him the European Union will announce their recognition of Palestine “at the beginning of September.” Palestinian leaders are continuing a major international diplomatic push to encourage world leaders to recognize them as an independent nation with pre-1967 borders. According to the Jerusalem Prayer Team, President Obama and his Administration are strongly supporting this effort behind the scenes. Reportedly, Mr. Obama personally promised King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia that he would force Israel to hand over Judea and Samaria along with East Jerusalem to the Palestinians before the end of his first term in office. This is a direct attack on Bible prophecy—and the results will be devastating if this evil plan succeeds, not just for Israel but for every nation that takes part in cursing the Chosen People.

Iran

According to the New York Times, the Dimona complex in the Negev desert is famous as the heavily guarded heart of Israel’s never-acknowledged nuclear arms program, where neat rows of factories make atomic fuel for the arsenal. Over the past two years, according to intelligence and military experts familiar with its operations, Dimona has taken on a new, equally secret role – as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran’s efforts to make a bomb of its own. Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms.

Pakistan

Pakistani churches say they’re frustrated by the government’s refusal to amend a controversial blasphemy law that makes it a capital crime to insult Islam or the Prophet Muhammad. Religion News Service reports that human rights groups have urged for the law to be repealed or amended to protect the rights of minority faiths in a nation that is overwhelmingly Muslim and increasingly volatile. Pakistani officials have brushed off calls from outsiders for the law’s repeal. On Tuesday (Jan. 11), Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told reporters that “it is our law and we will work according to our law.”

Afghanistan

The Afghan government has organized more than 2,000 villagers into armed local defense forces so they can keep out insurgents and support coalition and Afghan forces. The self-defense groups are part of an expanding U.S.-backed program that bears a resemblance to a similar tactic in Iraq that proved successful. n Afghanistan, the program has helped protect villages from insurgent attacks and the plan could expand to up to 10,000 people. The small defense forces are being established all around the country. The groups will have about 250 to 300 people each. The plan resembles the “Awakening” in Iraq, in which sheiks and local leaders helped recruit followers into the local police or community defense groups in 2007. The Awakening spread throughout Iraq and contributed to the overall success in combating militants.

A suicide attacker driving an explosives-packed ambulance crashed through the front gate of an Iraqi guard force headquarters Wednesday, killing at least seven people and toppling a building, Civilians are increasingly the victims of the escalating Afghan war, particular from planted bombs on roads and in markets. A recent United Nations report said it documented 2,412 conflict-related civilian casualties in the first 10 months of 2010.

Iraq

A suicide attacker driving an explosives-packed ambulance crashed through the front gate of an Iraqi guard force headquarters Wednesday, killing at least seven people and toppling a building, Another suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vest in a crowd of police recruits on Tuesday, killing at least 52 people, officials said, undercutting Iraqi security efforts as the nation struggles to show it can protect itself without foreign help. The death toll was still rising more than three hours after police said the bomber joined a crowd of more than 100 recruits and blew himself up outside the police station in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, some 80 miles north of Baghdad. The attack starkly displayed the Iraqi forces’ failure to plug even the most obvious holes in their security as the U.S. military prepares to withdraw from Iraq at the year’s end.

Ivory Coast

Security forces loyal to the incumbent leader who refuses to give up power opened fire in Ivory Coast on Tuesday killing at least one person, as military chiefs from neighboring nations met to plan a possible armed intervention to depose Laurent Gbagbo. The shooting broke out early in the morning in the neighborhood of Abobo, the largest district of this commercial capital with more than 1 million residents. Most residents in Abobo voted for opposition leader Alassane Ouattara who has been internationally recognized as the winner of the recent presidential election. Also on Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council delayed a vote on a resolution to beef up the 9,800-strong U.N. peacekeeping force by 2,000 troops because of concerns by Russia, U.N. diplomats said. Russia has repeatedly expressed concern about the United Nations deciding the result of the presidential vote.

A Pentagon advisor says the apparent victory of a Muslim candidate in the Ivory Coast’s disputed presidential election is the latest example of how Islam is steadily moving its influence southward into sub-Saharan Africa. Incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to cede power, still controls the military. The Christian Broadcasting Network maintains that Gbagbo, who is a Christian, only lost to the Muslim challenger because of voter fraud. Still, many countries, including the United States, are calling on Gbagbo to step aside.

Tunisia

A Tunisian prosecutor opened an investigation Wednesday into the overseas assets of the ousted president and his deeply resented family, as Tunisian authorities worked to restore order amid street protests against remnants of the former regime. The move came as hundreds of protesters led a peaceful — if noisy — rally in central Tunis, demanding that former allies of deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali stop clinging to power. Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday after 23 years in power, and a caretaker government run by his longtime prime minister is now struggling to calm tensions. The fragile state of the government highlights Tunisians’ questions about who is in control of this moderate Muslim nation on the Mediterranean Sea, popular among European tourists and seen as an ally in the West’s fight against terrorism.

o       A Muslim nation, regardless of whether they’re considered ‘moderate,’ will never be a true ally in the war on terrorism because 95% of terrorists are Muslims.

Earthquakes

A major 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked a remote area of southwestern Pakistan early Wednesday, shaking many parts of the country and causing tremors as far away as India and the United Arab Emirates. The quake was centered in Baluchistan province, the country’s most sparsely populated area. Several mud houses collapsed or were damaged in an area outside the town called Mashkil. There was no immediate word on casualties, but the area is sparsely populated

Weather

A mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain iced up roads and runways from the nation’s capital all the way to northern New England on Tuesday, making for messy driving and delaying flights for tens of thousands of travelers. The ice soon faded as the day warmed up, but northern New England was expected to get hit with several inches of snow late Tuesday and into Wednesday. The storm came less than a week after 2 feet of snow fell in parts of Connecticut and elsewhere along the East Coast. Tuesday’s icy blast also closed hundreds of schools and delayed or canceled flights throughout the region.

Enough snow is piling up along the upper Colorado River that the spring thaw could reverse the precipitous decline of water levels at Lake Mead and help Arizona avoid drought-related water rationing until 2015 or later. In October, the reservoir dropped to within 7 feet of triggering drought restrictions, and hydrologists said a dry year could wipe out those last few feet. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says it now expects runoff from the winter snowpack to raise water levels at Lake Mead later this year, easing drought conditions at the giant reservoir, which last fall sank to its lowest level since 1937. The lake has already risen 5 feet since Dec. 1, after a series of storms drenched southern Utah and southern Nevada. Snowpack in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains is 133 percent of average overall, with some locations reporting amounts 200 percent of average.

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