Middle East Christians under Threat

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is warning that Christians and other religious minorities are being targeted across the Middle East and need protection as many flee their homes to escape repression. She didn’t say how many people are affected, but noted that non-Muslimes in several countries are experiencing more persecution. She told lawmakers Tuesday that attacks are on the rise against Christians from North Africa to South Asia. The attacks are unrelated to the current political upheaval across the Mideast, and Clinton says they are not getting the public attention they should. She said the U.S. needs to do more to protect the rights of religious minorities and hold governments accountable for abuses.

  • While stopping short of casting the real blame on Islamic tenets against ‘infidels,’ is it possible that the Obama administration is finally starting to see that Islam is not a religion of peace?

Judges Rule Promoting Homosexuality Mandatory for Foster Parents

A court ruling in the U.K. has found that Christians who want to provide foster care for needy children must promote homosexuality to them and that there is only a “qualified” right to exercise their Christian beliefs. The judgment comes in a claim by a Christian couple that their biblical beliefs in opposition to homosexual behavior were being used by the government to discriminate against them regarding their application to be foster parents. The judges said it was the couples’ view on homosexuality, not their biblically based beliefs about homosexuality, that created the problem. And the judges went further, declaring that Christianity has no role in the concept of justice in the UK. “There now appears to be nothing to stop the increasing bar on Christians who wish to adopt or foster children but who are not willing to compromise their beliefs by promoting the practice of homosexuality to small children,” the Christian Legal Centre said.

  • Despite legal systems in the Western world being based on foundational Christian principles, today’s judges deny historical precepts in order to promote Satan’s anti-Christian agenda

Zero Congress Members Step Up to Defend DOMA

Yahoo news reports that not one single Congressman has yet stepped forward to defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in a Connecticut case where two lesbians are demanding a $363,053 tax refund from the federal government.  The two lesbian lovers were reportedly “married” in Canada but not America, and when one died, the other could no longer evade paying estate taxes, so the surviving lesbian hired the ACLU to sue the United States to recognize homosexual “marriage,” and collect their six figure tax-rebate check.  Then last week President Obama directed Attorney General Holder to stop defending the case, and recognize homosexual “marriage” as lawful, not only in Connecticut, but in all 50 states nationwide. The Yahoo report concludes: “The Justice Department will also drop its defense in a similar case in Connecticut federal court with seven plaintiffs. Attorney General Eric Holder has informed House Speaker John Boehner that he or other members of Congress may defend the law if they choose. No one has officially stepped forward yet to take on the defense.”

  • Politicians are putting their careers before their principles. Where is the hue and cry from convervatives about this travesty?

Regular Church Attendees Face Lower Divorce Rate

World News Service reports that a popular church statistic might require some revision. Facts show that half of marriages among Christians and non-Christians alike end in divorce, but the reality is that Christians who attend church regularly get divorced at a much lower rate. Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, found that among people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church, 60 percent have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced. Couples with a “vibrant religious faith” have more and higher levels of the qualities that marriages need to avoid divorce. “Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said that they were more religious reported higher average levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce and lower levels of negative interaction,” Wright said.

House Passes Bill to Avert Shutdown

The House of Representatives passed 335-91 a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running through March 18, with $4 billion in spending cuts. Most Democrats voted for the measure, despite a no vote from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate will pass the resolution today, allowing Obama to sign it before government spending authority expires Friday. The measure passed by the House on Tuesday would cut $4 billion from current spending, mostly from highway aid, education and accounts often used for congressional “earmarks.” “While I would have greatly preferred that the Senate act on the hard-fought and thoughtfully crafted funding legislation that the House passed almost two weeks ago — which saves the taxpayers $100 billion compared to the president’s request — it is clear that more time is needed,” said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

  • The politicians flinched and postponed the real debate, buying just a few weeks extra time.

GAO Reports Billions in Federal Waste

As members of Congress fight over what to cut in the current federal budget to avert a government shutdown, lawmakers received a blockbuster report that could provide a roadmap to potentially hundreds of billions of dollars in waste. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report Tuesday that one senator said makes “us all look like jackasses.” The report was mandated by Congress the last time it raised the debt limit in January 2010. In its analysis of federal agencies, the GAO found 33 areas with “overlap and fragmentation.” “Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services,” the report says. In one example, the report found that if the Defense Department were to make “broader restructuring” of its “military health care system” it “could result in annual savings of up to $460 million.” The U.S. government has 15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws, more than 20 separate programs to help the homeless and 80 programs for economic development. Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), who pushed for the report, estimated it identifies between $100 billion and $200 billion in duplicative spending.

  • The federal bureaucracy is a self-perpetuating organism that has grown beyond the control of the President and Congress. At its core are civil servants who only serve to preserve or grow their own fiefdoms. A scalpel is insufficient. A sledgehammer is required.

Obama Eases Health Stance

Looking for some goodwill from the nation’s governors, President Barack Obama said Monday that he is willing to bend a bit to help them deal with their budgetary problems stemming from health-care costs – and the political heat rising from his 2010 law to expand health care. Obama, addressing the National Governors Association, said he supports a move to let states design their own health-care systems starting in 2014 with waivers from provisions of his 2010 Affordable Care Act, so long as those state systems meet the law’s goals. The existing law wouldn’t allow state waivers until 2017. The president vowed as well to work with a bipartisan panel of governors to find alternate ways to reduce Medicaid costs without hurting services to those who need it, if the governors can come up with recommendations that meet his qualifications.

  • The only bipartisanship Obama supports are those meeting “his qualifications.”

Gov. Brewer Aims to Cut Fewer People from Medicaid

In a meeting with the Obama administration Monday, Gov. Jan Brewer proposed some Medicaid changes that she hopes will allow Arizona to drop fewer people than previously proposed from the state’s Medicaid rolls. It is the first time the Republican governor has indicated that she would be open to working with the Democratic administration to avoid such a deep reduction in the state’s health-care program for the indigent. The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program, uses federal and state funds and operates under federal rules. Brewer is proposing a slew of reforms that her office says would save AHCCCS money. Among the options: requiring patients to make co-payments, cutting funding for patients to take taxis to medical appointments, and imposing a fee on patients who fail to show up to appointments.

Wisconsin Budget Crisis Continues

The fallout officially has begun in Wisconsin’s public-employee union impasse, as teachers in several Wisconsin school districts received layoff notices Monday, while President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies started feeling the heat of public opinion turning against them. Obama interjected himself in the controversy again Monday when he seemed to lecture the governors that public employees should not be “denigrated or vilified.” Gov. Scott Walker says that, without the budget bill, state agencies will have to begin preparations this week to send out layoff notices to 1,500 state workers. A Rasmussen survey shows that 67 percent of voters believe Wisconsin Democrats were wrong to jam up Wisconsin’s legislative system by fleeing the state rather than taking a vote on Walker’s budget proposals. Another recent Rasmussen Reports poll showed that likely 2012 voters favor Walker’s stance over the unions’, 48 to 38 percent.

Wisconsin is one of 41 states where public employees earn higher average pay and benefits than private workers in the same state, a USA TODAY analysis finds. The finding comes as the Midwestern state remains in the center of efforts by several governors to reduce budget shortfalls in part by requiring state and local government workers to pay more for health and retirement benefits. The standoff reached a crucial point Tuesday when Republican Gov. Scott Walker presented a proposed budget for the year beginning July 1. He says layoffs of state workers may begin if the Legislature does not adopt his proposal to curb collective-bargaining rights of public workers and require them to pay a higher share of the cost of benefits. On the eve of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget address, the state Capitol was locked down Monday, with dozens of demonstrators inside refusing to leave and police ramping up security for Walker’s speech.

PG&E Rejected Safety Warnings for Gas Pipeline that Exploded

The California utility whose gas pipeline exploded last fall had rejected federal recommendations to install more automatic shut-off valves to help reduce the risks from a rupture and fire, an investigative panel was told Tuesday. The Pacific Gas & Electric Company pipeline in San Bruno, Calif., erupted into a massive fireball on Sept. 9 that raged for 91 minutes before firefighters could get close enough to begin tamping it down. The fire killed eight people, injured scores more and destroyed or damaged 108 homes. Department of Transportation guidelines call for the installation of automatic or remote shut-off valves to reduce the risks of a conflagration, according to documents released at a National Transportation Safety Board hearing into the accident. However, PG&E had rejected the guidance, arguing in a 2006 memo that automatic values “will not provide additional safety to people or prevent property damage.”

Economic News

Oil prices rose to $100 a barrel Wednesday after the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi attacked rebel strongholds in the eastern half of the country, where many production facilities are located, and a report showed an unexpected drop in U.S. crude and gasoline supplies. The American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that crude inventories fell 1.1 million barrels last week. Analysts had expected a rise in inventories.

The spread between what your bank pays you on deposits and what it charges you for loans narrowed slightly last month, but it’s still far higher than it was before the financial crisis. The biggest factor in the index’s increase since 2007 is plunging savings rates. A 12-month CD yielded 4% in January 2007 and now yields just 0.55%.

U.S. manufacturers expanded at the fastest pace in nearly seven years last month, but a sudden rise in the price of raw materials could threaten their profits. The index of manufacturing activity rose to 61.4 in February, up from 60.8 the previous month. The ISM’s index bottomed out at 33.3 in December 2008, its lowest point in nearly 30 years. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

Automakers sold 27.3% more new cars and trucks in February than a year ago. The annualized pace was 13.4 million, the highest since 14.2 million in August 2009, when the federal cash-for-clunkers program ignited sales during the recession. Part of the pull: The average per-vehicle incentive rose 5% in February from January, to $2,708.

A tax cut that began last month gave consumers the biggest jump in their incomes in nearly two years. But Americans boosted their spending only slightly, a sign that many people are being cautious with their money even as the economy improves. Consumers increased spending 0.2% in January, the smallest gain since June, the Commerce Department reported Monday. Personal incomes jumped 1%, reflecting the 2 percentage point reduction from the Social Security tax cut.

The popularity of games on Facebook and other social-networking sites coupled with the proliferation of games on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices is powering a mini-explosion in the video game industry. More people are playing video games on more platforms than ever, even as hardware sales of traditional game consoles such as the Nintendo Wii have declined from $21.4 billion in 2008 to $18.7 billion in 2010.

Libya

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has vowed to fight to the “last man and last woman” to defend his country. Forces loyal to Gadhafi battled government opponents for control of a key oil installation and an airstrip Wednesday on the Mediterranean coast in a counter-offensive against the rebel-held eastern half of the country. The fighting at the Brega oil port appeared to be the first significant attempt by Gadhafi’s regime to push back against the large swath of territory — almost the entire eastern half of the country — seized by the oppposition. In the capital, Gadhafi repeated claims that al-Qaeda is behind the uprising, telling a gathering of supporters that a “sleeper cell” launched the protests.

For the past week, pro-Gadhafi forces have been focusing on securing his stronghold in the capital Tripoli and trying with mixed success to take back nearby rebel-held cities in the west. Residents of the rebel-held city closest to Libya’s capital passed out sweets and cold drinks to fighters Tuesday and celebrated with a victory march after they managed to repel an overnight attack by pro-Gadhafi forces. Witnesses said pro-Gadhafi forces battled rebels for six hours overnight but could not retake control of the city 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli. The Zawiya rebels, who include mutinous army forces, are armed with tanks, machine guns and anti-aircraft guns. There was no word on casualties.

Yemen

Embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Tuesday blamed the U.S. and Israel for Yemen’s growing unrest, as thousands of protesters once again took the streets across the country. The spread of uprisings are “managed by Tel Aviv and under the supervision of Washington,” claimed Saleh. “What do you have to do with Egypt or with Oman? Are you president of the United States, or are you president of the world?” he said, targeting President Obama. In another sign of defiance, Saleh fired five of Yemen’s 22 provincial governors Tuesday for criticizing Saleh’s crackdown on protesters.

Saleh has relied heavily on U.S. support during his 32 years in power. Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates pledged an extra $75 million to double the U.S.-trained Yemeni counterterrorism unit in a bid to aid the fight against Yemen’s al-Qaeda insurgency. Last year, Saleh received $150 million in military aid alone from the U.S.

  • Despite Obama’s lame attempts to coddle Muslim leaders, their true colors shine through. They will always regard infidels (non-Islamics) as enemies.

Iran

Police used tear gas and batons Tuesday to disperse resurgent anti-government protesters demanding the release of opposition leaders in the biggest clashes in Tehran, Iran’s capital, since demonstrators stormed back to the streets two weeks ago. The recent return of skirmishes in the heart of Tehran — absent for more than a year after relentless crackdowns — borrow some raw inspiration from uprisings in the neighboring Arab world. But it also reflects a possible miscalculation by authorities who sought to silence opposition leaders but instead gave their supporters a new rallying point. The two most prominent anti-government figures, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, have been moved from house arrest to full-time detention along with their wives. Iranian authorities deny the reports, but the two opposition leaders have not been seen in public or posted statements on their websites in more than a week.

Tunisia

Another minister in Tunisia’s caretaker government has resigned, a day after the prime minister bowed out following a wave of deadly protests. Industry and Technology Minister Afif Chelbi presented his resignation Monday. Mohamed Ghannouchi quit Sunday after 11 years as prime minister.

Bahrain

Anti-government protesters blockaded Bahrain’s parliament and crowded outside the state-owned television station on Monday in the latest effort to force the monarchy to step down. Bahrain’s crown prince accused some opposition groups of hurting the country’s economy by declining to engage in a national dialogue.

Syria

The Institute for Science and International Security in Washington has published satellite photos that appear to confirm suspicions of a nuclear site in Syria. The Institute’s report declared that Syria’s nuclear weapons program was much more advanced than previously thought when Israel bombed it in 2007. Photos show the nuclear reactor to have been nearly operational at the time. Ominously, Syria has denied repeated attempts by the IAEA to return to the site for follow-up inspections, and German intelligence reports there may be three new nuclear sites being developed at the al-Kibar site.

Pakistan

Assailants purportedly sent by al-Qaeda and the Taliban killed the only Christian member of Pakistan’s federal Cabinet Wednesday, spraying his car with bullets outside his parents’ driveway. It was the second assassination in two months of a high-profile opponent of blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam. The killing of Shahbaz Bhatti, a 42-year-old Roman Catholic, further undermines Pakistan’s shaky image as a moderate Islamic state and could deepen the political turmoil in this nuclear-armed, U.S.-allied state where militants frequently stage suicide attacks. The Vatican said the assassination shows that the pope’s warnings about the danger to Christians in the region are fully justified.

Afghanistan

A roadside bomb has killed four Afghan soldiers and their interpreter in Logar province south of Kabul. The soldiers were on a joint patrol with U.S. forces on Tuesday when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb. Roadside bombs are the major cause of death and injury to U.S., NATO and Afghan forces deployed in Afghanistan. Bombs killed 268 American troops in Afghanistan last year, a 60% increase over the previous year even as the Pentagon employs new measures to counter the Taliban’s makeshift weapon of choice.

India

An Indian court has sentenced 11 Muslims to death after finding them guilty of setting fire to a train in which 60 Hindus were killed nine years ago. The court also gave 20 other convicts life imprisonment in the case, which triggered one of India’s worst outbursts of communal violence in western Gujarat state.

Mexico

Mexican authorities say soldiers have unearthed at least 17 bodies buried in several clandestine graves in the southern state of Guerrero and are searching for more. Woldiers found the bodies in the town of San Miguel Totolapan. The town is in a region known for marijuana and opium production and as a shipment route for cocaine. The Pacific coast state has seen a spike in violence since rival factions of the Beltran Leyva cartel began fighting over territory after leader Arturo Beltran Leyva died in a battle with Mexican marines in December 2009.

Wildfires

The Florida Highway Patrol reopened a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 95 on the state’s central Atlantic coast Tuesday but urged motorists to use caution as a 16,000-acre fire could still cause heavy smoke. All lanes of I-95 in Brevard were reopened, less than a day after the fast-moving wildfire had caused the highway’s shutdown and the voluntary evacuation of residents in this sparsely populated area along the border of Brevard and Volusia counties. Highway officials also reopened a section of U.S. Highway 1 that had been closed. The blaze started Monday and quickly grew, jumping from Volusia County into Brevard County, about 25 miles north of the Kennedy Space Center and across the Intracoastal Waterway from Cape Canaveral. It also closed a Brevard County elementary school Tuesday.

Weather

Unrelenting drought in the Horn of Africa is threatening the lives of more than 7 million people in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. Lack of food and clean water, as well as an increase in disease, have left young children especially vulnerable. Already, families are traveling long distances in search of food and watching helplessly as their livestock waste away. Around the world, food prices surged to an all-time high in January. This, combined with devastating drought, has led to a crisis situation.

Waters crested Tuesday, a day after wicked storms lashed the eastern half of the nation with heavy rain and tornadoes, killing at least four people. The Blanchard River in Findlay, Ohio, topped out at about 5 1/2 feet above flood level. The storms flooded homes and roads Monday and knocked out power in parts of the Midwest, where at least six people were injured and three tornadoes touched down in Indiana. Three homes in Kentucky were destroyed by a tornado. Wind gusts of 60 mph or more were recorded in several locations. Main street in Findlay, Ohio, is under three feet of water in a city waging the latest in a series of almost annual bouts with river flooding. Flooding was a threat in all 88 of Ohio’s counties, the National Weather Service said.

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