Judge Gives Admin. One Week to Save Obamacare

The clock is ticking on the Obama administration’s plans to implement Obamacare. That was the bottom-line result following a federal judge’s ruling Thursday giving the administration just seven days to file an expedited appeal either to the U.S. Supreme Court or the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. If the administration misses that deadline, it could face an injunction that would bring its implementation of Obamacare to a screeching halt in 26 states. Judge Roger Vinson’s 20-page ruling chastised the government for dragging its feet before seeking a stay, or temporary suspension, of his January ruling that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Vinson previously ruled that requiring individuals to make a federally mandated purchase — buying a healthcare plan — exceeds the federal government’s constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce.

Boehner Rips Obama’s ‘Outrageous’ Behavior

House Speaker John Boehner declared Thursday that President Barack Obama’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court is “outrageous” and vows that Republicans will intervene in the next few days. Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that the Obama administration will not fight legal challenges to the constitutionality of the DOMA, which has banned federal recognition of same-sex marriage for 15 years. “DOMA is the law of the land. It was passed overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate. And I think it is outrageous for the president to say, well, we’re not going to enforce it. It’s the law of the land. It is the job of the Justice Department to defend the work of our government. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also slammed Obama for his decision regarding the DOMA, saying the president is not a “one-person Supreme Court.”

  • Finally someone in Congress speaks out in defense of DOMA.

Justices Side with Funeral Picketers

A Supreme Court decision protecting anti-gay picketing by the Westboro Baptist Church as free speech has veterans groups and other opponents vowing to step up efforts to block church followers from demonstrating at high-profile funerals and interfering with grieving military families. The small, fundamentalist congregation said it will only increase its protests. In one of the most watched cases of the term, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the First Amendment shielded Westboro from a lawsuit for picketing the funeral of a Marine killed in Iraq. Only Justice Samuel Alito dissented. Westboro has demonstrated nationwide to gain attention for its belief that the United States, particularly the military, is too tolerant of homosexuality.

  • Free speech is the foundation of a free society, it must not be curtailed no matter how much we disagree or dislike what other people have to say.

Pope: Jews Not to Blame for Jesus’ Death

Pope Benedict XVI has made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christianity in a new book. In “Jesus of Nazareth-Part II” excerpts released Wednesday, Benedict uses biblical and theological analyses to explain why there was no basis in Scripture that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for Jesus’ death. Interpretations to the contrary have been used for centuries to justify the persecution of Jews.

  • Although a mob of Jews clamored for Jesus’ crucifixion, we cannot condemn an entire people group – just as we cannot condemn all Americans for the actions of the funeral picketers.

Billboard Company: You Can Question God, Not Obama

For Clear Channel Communications, one of the largest media conglomerates in the U.S., it’s apparently OK to question God on billboards going up around the country, but not OK to question Barack Obama. That’s the observation of WorldNetDaily’s Joseph Farah, the force behind a 2-year-old billboard campaign that doesn’t even mention Obama’s name, but merely asks, “Where’s the birth certificate?” While ClearChannel refused to run those ads, along with two other major outdoor advertising companies, Lamar and CBS, ClearChannel is making its inventory of billboards available to the overtly anti-God humanist Center for Inquiry’s “Living Without Religion” campaign kicking off this week in Indianapolis, Houston and other major cities.

America‘s Third War: Texas Farmers Under Attack at the Border

In Texas, nearly 8,200 farms and ranches back up to the Mexican border. The men and women who live and work on those properties say they’re under attack from the same drug cartels blamed for thousands of murders in Mexico. “Farmers and ranchers are being run off their own property by armed terrorists showing up and telling them they have to leave their land,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said Thursday. One Texas farmer, who asked not to be identified, said it’s common for him to see undocumented immigrants walking through his property. Another farmer, Joe Aguilar, said enough is enough. After walking up on armed gunmen sneaking undocumented immigrants into the United States through his land, Aguilar decided to sell his farm. Texas farmers and ranchers produce more cotton and more cattle than any other state, so Staples is concerned this war could eventually impact our food supply, and calls it a threat to our national security.

More Teens, Young Adults are Virgins

A growing number of teens and young adults say they’ve never had sexual contact with another person, according to the largest and most in-depth federal report to date on sexual behavior, sexual attraction and sexual identity in the USA. The study, released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics, reports that 27% of young men and 29% of young women ages 15-24 say they’ve never had a sexual encounter. That’s up from 22% for both males and females, in the government’s last such survey released in fall 2005. Among ages 15-17 in the new study, 58% of girls and 53% of boys said they have had no sexual contact, compared to 48.6% of girls and 46.1% of boys in 2002. For ages 20-24, 12% of women and 13% of men said they have never had sexual contact, compared with 8% for both sexes in 2002. Experts say it appears “that there is a trend toward postponement” of sexual activity.

America’s Ten Dirtiest Cities

Philadelphia, a U.S. capital during the Revolutionary War, is often known as the City of Brotherly Love. Yet it gets another, much less flattering moniker in a new scorecard of U.S. cities — the “capital of toxicity.” The Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington metro area, which includes parts of four states (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland) ranks No. 1 on Forbes’ 2011 Most Toxic Cities list. The reason? It has more than 50 Superfund sites, which are unused areas containing hazardous wastes. Yet it wasn’t just old cities that topped the list. Four of the 10 worst are California metropolitan areas with chronic smog problems. They include Bakersfield (No. 2), Fresno (No. 3), Los Angeles (No. 6) and Riverside-San Bernardino (No. 10.) The other top scorers include the metro areas of New York (No. 4), Baton Rouge (No. 5), Houston (No. 7), St. Louis, Mo. (No. 8.) and Salt Lake City (No. 9.)

Wisconsin State Workers Brace for Layoffs

Thousands of Wisconsin state workers were bracing for layoff notices Friday as Republican Gov. Scott Walker and absent Democrats remained in a standoff over a budget balancing bill that would also strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights. Walker said he would issue 1,500 layoff notices Friday if at least one of the 14 Senate Democrats doesn’t return from Illinois to give the Republican majority the quorum it needs to vote. Senate Republicans voted Thursday to hold the missing Democrats in contempt and force police to bring them back to the Capitol. The legislation has led to nearly three weeks of protests — some attended by tens of thousands of union supporters — in and around the state Capitol, which was completely cleared of demonstrators late Thursday for the first time in 17 nights after a judge ordered the building closed during non-business hours.

Americans Favor Government Shut Down Over Continued Spending

There’s a major disconnect between the “political class” in Washington and American voters overall on how to face the budget debate and the wider issue of the growing U.S. debt, a new poll by Rasmussen Reports revealed Thursday. The survey shows 58 percent of Americans would rather see a partial government shutdown than keep spending at 2010 levels. Only 33 percent would prefer to keep spending at current levels. Democrats would prefer to avoid a shutdown by 58 percent, but 80 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents say a shutdown is a better option. The issue arises because Congress has not yet passed a budget for 2011, instead authorizing spending for a few months or weeks at a time. That authorization is about to expire.

Economic News

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 8.9% as the U.S. economy added 192,000 non-farm jobs in February, the U.S. Labor Department reports. It is the first time since April 2009 that the jobless rate has fallen below 9%.The Labor Department says private-sector employers add 222,000 job. That was offset by the loss of 30,000 government jobs, mainly at the state level.

The number of Americans requesting unemployment benefits for the first time plunged last week to a nearly three-year low. Applications for unemployment benefits fell 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000 the week ended Feb. 26. The four-week average for applications, a less volatile figure, fell last week to 388,500. That’s the lowest since July 2008. Economists say applications that remain consistently below 375,000 tend to signal declines in the unemployment rate. Applications for benefits peaked during the recession at 651,000.

High crude oil prices continue to drive retail gasoline prices higher. Pump prices jumped another 4 cents Friday to a new national average of $3.47 per gallon, according to AAA. Gasoline has climbed more than 33 cents a gallon since the uprising in Libya began in mid-February, costing Americans an extra $108 million a day to buy the same amount of fuel.

As angry populations roil one Middle Eastern regime after another, and discontent over escalating food prices and lagging living standards is heard elsewhere in the developing world, investors are moving staggering piles of cash out of emerging markets. They are putting their money back into what they hope are the relatively stable havens of the U.S., Europe and Japan. Strenuous efforts by Europe to contain its debts, the ability of Japan’s crucial export sector to weather a strengthening yen and strong corporate earnings in the U.S. have played a big part in convincing investors that the outlook is pretty promising for advanced economies in 2011. Not so for developing countries.

Middle East

Rulers of countries such as Bahrain, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have pledged incentives such as lower food prices and increased wages or offered cash payments to help insulate their ruling families from the protests sweeping through the region. Some of the offers have worked, analysts say. Jordan’s King Abdullah II ordered a $230 million package last month to reduce prices of food commodities and create jobs as Egypt’s protests gained steam, effectively quelling protests there. Others haven’t: Bahrain’s monarchy offered the equivalent of $2,650 to be paid to each family last month. A few days later, thousands of protesters took to the streets anyway. And Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s offer of $400 to each citizen didn’t stop anti-government forces from taking over eastern parts of the country and continuing to threaten to topple his regime. Ruling monarchies, particularly in oil-rich Arab Gulf states, have compensated citizens as a way to quiet dissent for decades. Citizens in countries such as Saudi Arabia are compensated from cradle to grave, receiving free health care, housing and education throughout their lives and are never taxed.

Libya

Forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi fired tear gas at protesters who marched in Tripoli on Friday, calling for the Libyan leader’s ouster in defiance of a fierce crackdown by regime supporters that has spread fear in the capital. More than 1,500 protesters marched out of the Murad Agha mosque after noon prayers in the eastern Tripoli district of Tajoura, chanting “the people want to bring the regime down.” The protesters transformed a nearby square, tearing down posters of the Libyan leader. But soon after the march began, security forces fired tear gas at the crowd. Then security forces fired live ammunition, scattering the protesters again.

Mutinous army units in pickups armed with machine-guns and rocket launchers deployed around the strategic oil installation at Brega Thursday, a day after the opposition foiled an attempt by loyalists of Moammar Gadhafi to retake the port in rebel-held east Libya. Government warplanes launched a new airstrike on the town Thursday morning. Wednesday’s attack on Brega, some 460 miles (740 kilometers) east of Gadhafi’s stronghold in the capital Tripoli, marked the regime’s first counteroffensive on the eastern half of the country, which fell quickly under opposition control after the revolt began on Feb. 15.

Tunisia

Tunisia’s interim president said Thursday the country will vote July 24 to elect a constitutional assembly tasked with writing the country’s new constitution. Caretaker president Fouad Mebazaa called for the vote during a nationally broadcast address in which he said the new constitution “must be a mirror of the peoples’ aspirations and the principles of the revolution.” Mebazaa said prior to the vote a group made up of national personalities, representatives of political parties and other civil society figures will write a new electoral code. The new code will be ready by the end of March, he said.

More than 140,000 people have crossed the border into Tunisia to flee the violence in Libya, and thousands more arrive daily, according to the United Nations. Most are young Arab men from countries neighboring Libya who worked in its factories and oil fields. United Nations experts warned that fast action is needed to protect and feed them before the exodus turns into a humanitarian emergency. The Egyptian military announced it has sent two ships to Tunisia to bring back stranded Egyptians and another Egyptian military transport ship was already there. Egyptian Ambassador Mohamed Abdel-Hakam said more than 103,000 Egyptians have returned home from Libya either through the airports or by land since the uprising and an additional 20,000 foreigners have fled directly to Egypt from Libya.

Bahrain

Bahrain’s security forces are on high alert after sectarian clashes between Sunnis and the majority Shiites leading anti-government protests in the Gulf nation. Police patrols have been stepped up Friday in the capital, Manana, before a planned march by opposition groups demanding the Sunni monarchy dismiss the Cabinet and relinquish many powers. Nearly three weeks of protests and unrest has gripped the tiny island nation — home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Tensions are higher after a street battle late Thursday between Sunnis and Shiites.

China

Chinese human rights activists have been disappearing ever since a call went out last month on the Internet for a “Jasmine Revolution” similar to the uprisings against authoritarian regimes in the Middle EastChinese human rights activists have been disappearing ever since a call went out last month on the Internet for a “Jasmine Revolution” similar to the uprisings against authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. Three human rights lawyers have disappeared into China’s labyrinthine security system in the past two weeks. More than 100 other people have had their movements restricted, and six activists face subversion charges, possibly for posting information online about the “Jasmine Rallies.” Several foreign journalists were warned by Chinese police this week that they risk having their visas revoked if they continue to report on the Jasmine Rallies.

Germany

The attack on a busload of U.S. Air Force troops at Frankfurt airport that killed two is being investigated as a possible act of Islamic terrorism, German federal prosecutors said Thursday. Two airmen were also wounded late Wednesday when a man identified as a 21-year-old ethnic Albanian from Kosovo fired on the servicemen at close range. His family said the young man worked at Frankfurt airport and was a devout Muslim.

Sudan

Officials in Southern Sudan say that women and children have fled en masse from Abyei, a disputed flashpoint town between north and south Sudan, after fighting killed more than 100 people. Abyei has long been seen as the major sticking point between the north and south, which voted to secede in January and is on course to become the world’s newest country in July. Abyei had been promised a separate self-determination vote, but its future is now being negotiated.

Nigeria

A bomb exploded near a Nigerian ruling-party rally for a northern governor, killing three people and wounding 21 others as a decisive April election looms for the oil-rich nation. Attackers threw the explosive from a speeding vehicle as it passed the rally on Thursday in Niger state. A statement later issued on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan claimed one person was in police custody Thursday night.

Weather

Torrential rain could lead to dangerous flooding in the south-central and northeastern USA this weekend. Severe storms could also spark tornadoes in the Plains and Deep South on Friday and Saturday. A powerful storm is forecast to “explode” over the Midwest on Friday. Some spots could pick up about 5 inches of rain.

The National Park Service on Thursday predicted an early bloom for Washington’s cherry blossoms, with warm temperatures already speeding the buds toward full bloom in late March. The average peak bloom date is April 4, according to the Park Service, so the first blossoms will come early this year.

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