Abortion Foes Increasingly Confident of ‘Cultural Shift’

On the anniversary Saturday of Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion activists in America head into their annual March for Life rallies Monday confident that the huge election gains their allies made will lead to tougher restrictions in many states on the broad abortion access established 38 years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. Opponents of abortion gained strength in Congress, among state governors and in many state legislatures, raising hopes among social conservatives for a broad surge of anti-abortion bills. “We are seeing a cultural shift toward protecting life and rolling back the tide of unrestricted abortions, said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life. There are now 29 anti-abortion governors out of 50 — an increase of eight, including 15 in states where abortion opponents also control both legislative chambers. While abortion-rights supporters traditionally hold commemorations of the court decision, the anniversary has become an even higher-profile date for the anti-abortion movement. Its major event, the March for Life in Washington, D.C., is scheduled this year to take place on Monday — not the anniversary itself — while other events were scheduled throughout the weekend nationwide.

Abortion Chief Does a 180

Abby Johnson’s life changed dramatically and forever Oct. 6, 2009. That was the day that she witnessed her first abortion as director of a Planned Parenthood clinic and resigned from the largest abortion corporation in the nation and became a pro-life activist. She tells her story in a new book, unplanned this month – just in time for the 38th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. What changed her mind about abortion, ultimately, was seeing on an ultrasound screen a 13-week-old baby fighting for its life in the womb – only to lose that battle to the abortionist whom she was assisting. Not knowing where to go, Johnson turned to a local pro-life resource group. She explained the events that she had witnessed and swore that she would begin to advocate for life in the womb, instead of destroying it. Even though she had not intended on being a public figure, God had different plans. When Planned Parenthood found out about Johnson’s change of heart, they were frightened that others would hear her story and then change their minds on abortion. Their defense was to silence her with a temporary gag order and eventually take her to court. With those issues resolved, Johnson has been traveling the country sharing her story and motivating others to continue the pro-life fight.

Arizona “Most-Improved State” in the Nation  for Passing Pro-Life Laws

Arizona has been recognized by the nation’s leading pro-life organization as the country’s “most-improved state” for passing life-affirming legislation. In Americans United for Life’s annual Life List, Arizona is awarded the title for making huge strides in 2010 to protect the preborn. In 2010, the Arizona Legislature passed four pro-life bills into law including a bill that made it the first state in the nation to opt out of the taxpayer-funded abortion mandate created under the new national healthcare law. “Arizonans and their policymakers have made protecting life a priority,” said Cathi Herrod, President of Center for Arizona Policy. “They recognize the importance of preserving life from its very beginning to its natural end.” Looking ahead, pro-life advocates hope to continue this trend in 2011. Already three CAP-supported pro-life bills have been introduced at the Arizona Legislature.

Genetically Selecting ‘Gay’ embryos

If two homosexual men want to use in vitro fertilization to conceive a baby and then use genetics technology to ensure the baby is also “gay,” while disposing of any “straight” embryos, would the law have any ethical problems with that? America’s leading ethicist in the field of human reproduction has written a paper that argues future homosexual couples should have “the right” to do exactly that. John A. Robertson of the University of Texas Law School is the chair of the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and an advocate of what his book “Children of Choice” calls “procreative liberty.”

Ground Zero Imam: ‘Apostates Against Islam Must be Jailed’

Those who leave Islam and preach against the Muslim religion must be jailed, declared the imam who has become the new face of the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in New York City. “If someone leaves the din, leaves the path privately, they cannot be touched. If someone preaches about apostasy, or preaches their views, they’re jailed,” stated Imam Abdallah Adhami in a lecture obtained and reviewed by WorldNetDaily. According to Shariah, or Islamic law, the consensus view in Sunni Islam is that a male apostate must be put to death unless he suffers from a mental disorder or converted against his will. Adhami, speaking to a non-Muslim audience, claimed Islamic law only calls for punishment for public apostates and that most Islamic scholars demand only that public apostates be jailed as opposed to killed.

  • Jailed or killed. Don’t you just love the religion of ‘peace?’

WikiLeaks: Only 1% of Diplomatic Docs Published

Nearly two months after WikiLeaks outraged the U.S. government by launching the release of a massive compendium of diplomatic documents, the secret-spilling website has published 2,628 U.S. State Department cables — just over 1 percent of its trove of 251,287 documents. WikiLeaks has given the world’s public an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look at U.S. diplomacy. Among the most eye-catching revelations were reports that Arab countries had lobbied for an attack on Iran, China had made plans for the collapse of its North Korean ally, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had ordered U.S. diplomats to gather the computer passwords, fingerprints and even DNA of their foreign counterparts. Over and over again, the cables captured world leaders lying — to each other, to their allies, and to their own citizens. Whether or not the State Department cables have already yielded their most arresting secrets, WikiLeaks is still sitting on a huge archive of leaked data from nearly every country in the world

$2.5B Billion Recovered in Health Care Fraud Cases

Federal agents recovered $2.5 billion from health care fraud judgments in the budget year that ended in September, a record-breaking amount. Overall the government recovered $4 billion, including $1.5 billion in administrative findings, rather than court action. The health care law created one agency and expanded another to help recover stolen money. The actuary for Medicare expects the provisions of the law to save an additional $4.9 billion in fraud and abuse during the next 10 years. That money will be folded back into Medicare to help it remain solvent. In 2011, the screening process for new Medicare providers and suppliers will be more strenuous. More than 19,000 businesses apply every month, but rules will prevent those that have a history of defrauding Medicare or state governments from providing services.

Federal Center Hopes to Spur Drug Research

U.S. officials concerned about the slowing pace of new drugs coming out of the pharmaceutical industry have decided to start a billion-dollar government drug development center to help create medicines. The New York Times reported on its website Saturday about the new effort that comes as many large drug makers, unable to find enough new drugs, are trimming back research. Promising discoveries in illnesses like depression and Parkinson’s that once would have led to clinical trials are instead going unexplored because companies are not inclined and do not have the money to undertake the effort. The drug industry’s research productivity has been declining for 15 years and shows few signs of reversing that trend. The paper reports that initial financing of the government’s new drug center is relatively small compared with the $45.8 billion that the industry estimates it invested in research in 2009. The cost of bringing a single drug to market can exceed $1 billion, according to some estimates.

Link Between Financial Trouble and Mental Illness

Going through one of the worst economic sagas in U.S. history has thrown the country into two types of depressed states: a financial one and a psychological one. Both have been devastating to our national identity, unity and priorities. The financial one is debated openly and spoken of in the media daily. The psychological one, however, is still closeted from our national discourse, still approached with social stigma as the dirty little by-product of the recession. But, after the events in Tucson, secret it can no longer be. A recent government report found that 20% of Americans had some form of mental illness in 2009. That’s 1 in 5 Americans suffers from mental illness, including depression and anxiety. Undetected, these conditions lead to alarming rates of suicide or other violence. The recent surge in mental health disorders has increased as economic certainty has deteriorated: joblessness, crippling debt and home foreclosure, exacerbated because many are ashamed to seek treatment, even with health insurance coverage as Tucson shooter Loughner’s family had available but failed to utilize.

Economic News

About 4.4 million people nationwide have been out of work for a year or more. The group makes up more than 40% of the total unemployed, the highest percentage since World War II. People in that category say there is a stigma that long-term jobless people have been sitting around and don’t really want to work. There is the perception that they won’t take a lower paying job — and if they do, they will bolt as soon as they find a higher paying one. The phenomenon poses a vicious cycle of unemployed people wanting work but not being able to get it because they are unemployed, human resource experts say. some companies — including PMG Indiana, Sony Ericsson and retailers nationwide — have explicitly barred the unemployed or long-term unemployed from certain job openings, outright telling them in job ads that they need not apply.

Despite widespread speculation the credit crunch was going to grind up whole swaths of companies and force them into bankruptcy, companies are showing their mettle and are defying these dire predictions. A dramatic drop-off in the number of companies going bankrupt is one of the most stark signs yet of how the killing off of businesses is easing as the economy heals. Perhaps more important for the future, though, is that the number of companies at immediate risk of failing is also sharply declining.

In September, the U.S. Census Bureau said Arizona had the nation’s second-worst poverty rate in 2009, behind Mississippi. The percentage of impoverished Arizonans was said to have increased to 21 percent in 2009 from 18 percent in 2008. The one-year change highlights the devastating impact of the Great Recession in Arizona, which typically falls in the upper third of the 50 states for high poverty rates. Although employers in the state now are creating more jobs than they are cutting, it could take years for workers to recover fully. Arizona lost about one-tenth of its jobs during the recession, many of them construction and other blue-collar jobs. Expected state budget cuts could hit the lower-middle class and working poor especially hard by reducing child-care assistance and cash, medical and other aid

The U.S. Postal Service will begin the process of closing as many as 2,000 postal offices in March and will review another 16,000 — half of all existing post offices — that are losing money, The Wall Street Journal reports. The new round of closures is in addition to 491 that are already being shuttered. The Journal says the U.S. Postal Service is lobbying Congress to allow it to change the law so that it can close the most unprofitable among them. At present, the service cannot shut an office for losing money, only in such cases as maintenance problems or expired leases, the newspaper says. The U.S. Postal service is an independent agency funded primarily by postage fees, but is required by law to provide universal service to all parts of the country.

Afghanistan

Legislators on Saturday thought they had a deal with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that would allow the new parliament to begin work on Wednesday, but by Sunday morning the deal appeared to be at risk of unraveling over the issue of a Karzai-backed tribunal investigating alleged election fraud. Under heavy pressure from Afghan lawmakers and Western diplomats, President Hamid Karzai agreed on Saturday to convene the newly elected parliament, ending a political standoff that threatened to spark a constitutional crisis. After hours of tense discussions at the presidential palace, Karzai backed off his earlier order to delay the session for a month to allow more time for a special tribunal to investigate allegations of fraud in September’s parliamentary election. In return, Karzai asked the parliamentarians to agree that any criminal case against a lawmaker could go forward. While he has not said so publicly, it is generally believed that Karzai is unhappy with the election results and thinks fraud reduced voter turnout among his fellow ethnic Pashtuns. Some of the hundreds of losing candidates said Karzai told them that he believed they were wronged and that he would do everything to support further investigations into election fraud.

Iraq

Two car bombs struck Shiite pilgrims Monday in an Iraqi holy city, killing at least 18 people as crowds massed for religious rituals marking the end of a 40-day mourning period for the Islamic sect’s most beloved saint. The blasts in Karbala were the latest in nearly a week of attacks that have killed at least 159 people. The uptick in violence has shattered a lengthy period of calm and raised anew concerns about the readiness of Iraqi forces to take over their own security ahead of a full withdrawal by the U.S. military. One Iraqi official called it an attempt to undermine security ahead of a much anticipated meeting of Arab heads of state in two months. The three-hour drumbeat of explosions began around 7 a.m. in Baghdad’s rush hour at the start of the local work week. The attacks were a mixture of roadside bombings, suicide bombers and car bombs002E

Iran

Talks meant to nudge Iran toward meeting U.N. Security Council demands to stop uranium enrichment collapsed Saturday, with Tehran shrugging off calls by six world powers to cease the activity that could be harnessed to make nuclear weapons. Announcing the failure of two days of negotiations, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said no new date for another meeting had been set. She blamed what the six consider unrealistic demands by Iran — an end to U.N. sanctions and agreement that Iran can continue to enrich — for the disappointing results. Proposals by the six for improved U.N. monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities were rejected by Tehran, as were attempts to kickstart dialogue by reviving discussions on Iran’s shipping out a limited amount of its enriched uranium in exchange for fuel for its research reactor. While no new talks were planned, Ashton said “our proposals remain on the table. Our door remains open. Our telephone lines remain open.”

Pakistan

A pair of suspected U.S. drone strikes killed six alleged militants in Pakistan’s troubled North Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border Sunday, Pakistani intelligence officials said. The attacks came as more than 2,000 tribesmen, many of them students, held a protest in one of North Waziristan’s largest towns demanding an end to the drone strikes, saying they killed innocent civilians. Militants have effective control over North Waziristan, and it was unclear if they played a role in organizing the protest. The U.S. refuses to acknowledge the covert CIA drone strikes publicly, but officials insist privately that the attacks are precise and mainly kill Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. However, there have been credible accounts of civilian casualties.

Russia

At least 10 people were killed and 20 injured in a suicide bomb blast at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport Monday, Interfax news agency reported. Moscow police were checking the subway and other places where large numbers of people gather to try to avert possible follow-on attacks. The airport is the busiest of the three serving the Russian capital. The news agency says the blast was perpetrated by a suicide bomber.

Albania

Three people have been killed and dozens were injured in extensive anti-government clashes outside the prime minister’s office in the Albanian capital Friday, in the worst violence to erupt in the volatile Balkan country in more than a decade. Some 22 civilians and 17 policemen and national guard officers were also hurt,. More than 20,000 people hit the streets to demand that Prime Minister Sali Berisha call early elections after the country’s deputy prime minister resigned over an alleged corruption scandal. Clashes broke out when several hundred protesters broke away from the main group and started attacking a riot police cordon.

Haiti

Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier told Haitians on Friday that he returned after 25 years in exile to participate in the post-earthquake reconstruction of his homeland and that he was ready to face “persecution” for alleged crimes during his administration. In his first public comments since his shocking return to Haiti on Sunday, the ousted strongman known as “Baby Doc” spoke in a faint voice and did not take questions, leaving that to three American consultants. He said the return was timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. After several restaurants and hotels refused to host his speech, Duvalier spoke sitting at a long wooden table in a rented guest house in the hills above Port-au-Prince. The 59-year-old former leader ruled Haiti from 1971 to 1986 through terror and the regime he inherited from his father.

Tunisia

Tunisia’s prime minister pledged Friday to quit politics after elections that he says will be held as soon as possible, amid protests by citizens still angry at officials linked to their deposed president’s regime. Mohamed Ghannouchi said in an interview on Tunisian television Friday he will leave power after a transition phase leading to legislative and presidential elections “in the shortest possible timeframe.” Protesters have been demanding for days the departure of all remnants of the old guard under ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Ghannouchi was an ally of Ben Ali and has been struggling to restore calm under a new multiparty government. The prime minister also pledged that all of the assets held abroad by Ben Ali’s regime had been frozen and would be returned to Tunisia after an investigation.

Tunisia’s once-feared police have staged a rally of their own, demanding better salaries and insisting they’re not to blame for shooting deaths among protesters who forced the North African country’s longtime autocrat to flee. At least 2,000 police rallied Saturday in downtown Tunis, an epicenter of protest and clashes between youths. It was a significant development for Tunisia, where police under Ben Ali were widely feared.

Algeria

Helmeted riot police armed with batons and shields on Saturday clashed with rock- and chair-throwing protesters who tried to march in defiance of Algeria’s ban on public gatherings. At least 19 people were injured, the government said, but an opposition party official put the figure at more than 40. Algeria has been among the many North African and Middle Eastern countries hit by shows of resistance against their autocratic leaders after a young Tunisian man set himself on fire last month, triggering a wave of protests that led Tunisia’s longtime strongman to flee the country. Protest organizers at the democratic opposition party RCD draped a Tunisian flag next to the Algerian flag on a balcony of party headquarters where the march was to begin in the capital, Algiers. Riot police, backed by a helicopter and crowd-control trucks, ringed the exit to ensure marchers couldn’t leave the building — and striking those who tried to come out to take part. Algeria’s government in 2002 enacted law banning public gatherings, a move largely targeting Islamic militants involved in a bloody insurgency that erupted in the country a decade earlier. Algeria has had a simmering Islamic movement.

Weather

Although much of the South has made news for being unusually cold and snowy this winter, it has also been extremely dry, especially in Florida, where almost 90% of the state is experiencing drought conditions. More than half of the southeastern USA is in a drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Highly populated South Florida just had its driest October to December since records began in 1932, according to the South Florida Water Management District. Rainfall in West Palm Beach is a foot below normal since Oct. 1. Several wells in Miami-Dade and St. Lucie counties are registering critically low water levels, the district reports. The dryness has caused the district to enact water restrictions and conservation efforts.

Judging by the weather, the world seems to have flipped upside down. For two winters running, an Arctic chill has descended on Europe, burying that continent in snow and ice. Last year in the United States, historic blizzards afflicted the mid-Atlantic region. This winter the deep South has endured unusual snowstorms and severe cold, and a frigid Northeast is bracing for what could shape into another major snowstorm this week. Yet while people in Atlanta learn to shovel snow, the weather 2,000 miles to the north has been freakishly warm the past two winters. Throughout northeastern Canada and Greenland, temperatures in December ran as much as 15 or 20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Bays and lakes have been slow to freeze; ice fishing, hunting and trade routes have been disrupted.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme

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