Archive for April, 2011

April 29, 2011

Get brief daily alerts at www.twitter.com/SignsofEndTimes

Weather

Tornadoes ripped through six states Wednesday through Thursday, killing at least 297 people — 210 in Alabama alone — in the deadliest outbreak of tornadoes in almost 40 years. Entire communities were flattened, with city blocks reduced to splinters. There were 33 deaths in Mississippi, 33 in Tennessee, 15 in Georgia, five in Virginia and one in Kentucky.  The tornadoes injured thousands of people — 800 alone in Tuscaloosa, Ala., home of the University of Alabama. As many as 1 million homes and businesses in Alabama were without power. President Obama, who visits Alabama today, said Thursday the damage in six Southeast states is “nothing short of catastrophic.”

Several twisters that hit Wednesday were monsters more than a mile wide, stayed on the ground for tens of miles and packed winds of more than 200 mph. The loss of life is the greatest from a single day of tornadoes in the USA since April 1974, when 329 people died. The number of tornadoes in April, well over 300 and still counting, set an all-time record by a large margin.

Nationally, 51 river gauges are recording water levels at a “major” flood stage, according to the weather service, mostly in the Mississippi Valley, Ohio Valley and along the Red River of the North between the Dakotas and Minnesota. An additional 277 gauges are recording moderate or minor flooding. The impact of the flooding has been widespread, not just from damaged property, but also delayed plantings by farmers and disruptions to the rhythms of life for families and kids who are scheduled with lots of youth sports games in spring.

Wildfires

So far this year, wildfires have consumed 2,380,885 acres of land (almost 4,000 square miles), almost three times the average for the past ten years. Most of the damage has been in west Texas where sixteen large wildfires are still active and have destroyed 343 structures. Three wildfires in New Mexico have burned about 81,000 acres, but only one structure. These areas are experiencing extreme drought conditions.

Earthquakes

With increased earthquake activity around the world, almost 3 million Americans are expected to participate Thursday in the USA’s first multistate earthquake drill. At 10:15 a.m. CDT, they are supposed to drop to their knees, cover their heads and necks and hold on to a sturdy object for two minutes to practice the appropriate reaction to a quake. The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut comes two centuries after devastating earthquakes around Memphis and southeast Missouri and is particularly relevant in the wake of the deadly March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, says Craig Fugate, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator. Participants in Thursday’s drill include businesses, schools and residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee. Indiana conducted its drill April 19. They are modeled on California’s annual ShakeOut, which began in 2008.

  • Extreme weather, earthquakes and wildfires will continue to increase and intensify as the end-times roll forward toward the Great Tribulation to come

States Take Up Fight to Defund Planned Parenthood

After Republican efforts in Washington to defund Planned Parenthood fizzled this month, several states are now in a race to become the first to strip the organization of all taxpayer money. Kansas, Indiana, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Texas are among the states who are taking up the fight that the GOP-led House couldn’t finish in the budget compromise. And unlike Washington, where Democrats still control two thirds of government, Republicans are flexing their muscles in states where they made historic gains in legislatures and governors’ mansions in last fall’s midterm elections. With their new power, Republicans have escalated their fight against abortion and its providers — particularly Planned Parenthood — alarming abortion-rights supporters.

  • Not only is this good news for the pro-life cause, but increased state actions on many fronts (e.g. unions) begins a return to constitutional balance between states’ rights and limited federal powers

Illegal to Read Bible in Public?

An assistant pastor and two leaders from Calvary Chapel of Hemet were recently at a regional DMV office before it opened, when Mark Mackey began reading from the Bible aloud. A security guard confronted him and told him to stop. Ten minutes later, a highway patrol officer arrived, snatched the Bible from Mackey’s grasp and arrested him. Rather than giving an answer when the two men with Mackey asked what law had been broken, the officer inquired if they were also preaching. Shortly after, another officer arrested them both. Advocates for Faith and Freedom attorney Robert Tyler says the arrests were a direct violation of the First Amendment and an abuse of law enforcement’s power.

  • The unwritten law of secular humanism is that all things Christian must be banned, censored and eliminated in this new age of “tolerance” – a major goal of the New World Order. However, in its singular focus on Christianity, it unwittingly confirms that Christianity is the One True Religion.

Obama Ignores Easter

President Barack Obama found time to prepare an eight paragraph proclamation for Earth Day last Friday, but found zero time to issue a proclamation for Easter, the highest and holiest day of the year for Christians. While waxing eloquent about the necessity of preserving our nation’s “natural heritage,” he had not a word for the millions of Christians celebrating Easter in America and around the world. The American Family Association believes this was an intentional act of disrespect. “This is consistent with other egregious examples of disregard for our Christian heritage on the president’s part, such as omitting “Creator” from the Declaration of Independence, which he has done on at least three occasions. The president has been devoted to issuing statements marking all major Muslim holidays, which are of no historical significance to the United States whatsoever. He has released statements in honor of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha, holidays which most Americans cannot pronounce and certainly do not celebrate.”

Questions Still Abound About Obama’s Recently Released Birth Certificate

President Obama said today he released new copies of his Hawaii birth certificate Wednesday because the flap over his birthplace threatens to overshadow the “enormous challenges” facing the nation. The White House is planning to post Obama’s birth records on the Internet. Obama faxed a letter to the Hawaii Department of Health on April 22, requesting two copies “of my original certificate of live birth — namely, the so-called “long form” that includes a second page. The Obama campaign had only posted the “short form” on the Internet back in 2008. The Hawaii health department replied that it would make an exception for Obama and make two certified copies from their bound volume of birth records; normally the department would generate computer copies. Donald Trump, who had consistently called on Obama to release his full birth certificate, said he is “honored to play such a big role in hopefully getting rid of this issue.

The question is whether the Obama birth record the White House released Wednesday is an authentic photocopy of an original 1961 vital record or a modern-day forgery. The Rosetta Stone for determining the authenticity of the Obama birth document is the long-form birth certificates for the Nordyke twins, which WorldNetDaily discovered and authenticated in July 2009. A side-by-side comparison of the Nordyke twins’ birth certificates with the Obama birth certificate the White House released yesterday reveals many differences, some with regard to content, others to format. The long-form birth certificates to the Nordyke twins have certificate numbers lower than the number given Obama, even though the president purportedly was born at the same hospital a day earlier than the Nordykes leading some to claim that Obama’s form is a forgery.

Obama’s New Team Blurs Lines Between Defense, Intelligence

President Obama welcomed a new team of warriors, spies and diplomats Thursday to the “urgent challenges” of defending America’s interests on multiple fronts overseas despite dwindling resources and a crushing national debt. The appearance of current and future Pentagon, CIA and Afghanistan war leaders — pending Senate confirmations — was emblematic of the increasingly blurred lines between Obama’s defense and intelligence communities. There was retiring Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a former CIA director, laughing alongside CIA Director Leon Panetta, Obama’s choice to replace Gates on July 1. Beside them stood Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, Obama’s choice for CIA director. Obama’s selections, contemplated at the White House for months, won bipartisan support amid indications the Democratic-controlled Senate will confirm all four nominees. This move further enhances the militarization of the CIA, whose teams already operate alongside U.S. special operations forces in conflict zones from Afghanistan to Yemen. The agency has also built up a substantial paramilitary capability of its own. But perhaps most significantly, the agency is in the midst of what amounts to a sustained bombing campaign over Pakistan using unmanned Predator and Reaper drones.

  • Not only do the roles of the CIA and military become further blurred, but the increasing and overlapping redundancy in Intelligence operations will only decrease efficiency and effectiveness from already poor levels

Americans Depend More on federal Aid than Ever Before

Americans depended more on government assistance in 2010 than at any other time in the nation’s history, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data finds. The trend shows few signs of easing, even though the economic recovery is nearly 2 years old. A record 18.3% of the nation’s total personal income was a payment from the government for Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment benefits and other programs in 2010. Wages accounted for the lowest share of income — 51.0% — since the government began keeping track in 1929. From 1980 to 2000, government aid was roughly constant at 12.5%. The sharp increase since then — especially since the start of 2008 — reflects several changes: the expansion of health care and federal programs generally, the aging population and lingering economic problems. Americans got an average of $7,427 in benefits each in 2010, up from an inflation-adjusted $4,763 in 2000 and $3,686 in 1990. The federal government pays about 90% of the benefits.

  • The entitlement attitude is killing our economy. Most people seem to think that government should meet their every need and we have too many politicians eager to trade such assistance for votes. We need to close the spigots now before we drown in debt.

Air in U.S. Metro Areas Getting Cleaner

Most U.S. cities with the dirtiest air are getting cleaner, but about half of Americans still live in areas where it’s often difficult to breathe, the American Lung Association reported Wednesday. “We’re very pleased to report great progress,” American Lung Association President Charles Connor said in announcing the findings. Yet he cautioned, “Air pollution remains a very real health threat.” All 25 cities with the worst ozone pollution improved their air quality between 2008 and 2009. All but two with the most year-round particle pollution also improved, but only 12 of the 28 with the worst short-term levels had fewer unhealthy days. Honolulu and Santa Fe ranked as the two cities with the cleanest air overall. The Los Angeles metro area remains the smoggiest, although it’s improved significantly in the last decade. Bakersfield, Calif., has the worst particle pollution, both on a daily and annual level. The air over Phoenix is no longer the most-polluted in the nation – but it’s still second worst.

In addition, EPA’s 2009 data, released last week, shows total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — primarily carbon dioxide — fell 6.1% from 2008, the largest decline in at least five years. The agency, which began a multiyear plan to regulate these emissions in January, attributed the drop to less polluting fuels and lower energy consumption because of the recession.

Women Surpass Men in Bachelor, Advanced Degrees

The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that for the first time, more working American women have bachelor and advanced degrees than their male co-workers. Census figures released today show that as of last year for workers ages 25 and older, 37% of women had a bachelor’s degree or more, compared with 35% of men. As they moved from the home and into the workforce, women began surpassing men in college enrollment in the 1980s, the Associated Press notes. Overall, 30% of adults 25 and older, or 60 million people, had at least a bachelor’s degree. That’s an increase of 4 percentage points from 2000. In addition, 87% of adults 25 and older had at least a high school diploma or equivalent, up from 84% in 2000.

Obama/GOP Wrangle over Oil Subsidies

One day after Republican House Speaker John Boehner suggested that Congress “ought to take a look at” long-standing tax breaks for oil companies, President Obama on Tuesday called on Congress to immediately repeal an estimated $4 billion a year in “unwarranted” breaks for the profitable industry. Boehner felt differently Tuesday, joining other GOP leaders and oil industry officials in denouncing the idea. Oil companies have staved off efforts to end their subsidies for years. The issue has gained political currency recently with budget watchdog groups and even the president’s own bipartisan fiscal commission arguing for reforms to the tax code to boost revenues. An investigation into possible manipulation of gasoline prices has uncovered “disturbing” revelations, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday, declining to elaborate. He indicated the information would be reviewed by a fraud task force formed last week.

Economic News

Americans earned and spent more in March, but much of the extra money went toward more expensive gasoline. Personal incomes rose 0.5% last month and consumer spending increased 0.6%, the Commerce Department reported Friday. But after adjusting for inflation, spending rose a much more subdued 0.2% and after-tax incomes were essentially flat. Americans are paying more for gas, prompting economists to scale back their growth forecasts.

ExxonMobil earned nearly $11 billion in the first quarter, a performance that will likely land it in the center of the national debate over high gasoline prices. The world’s largest publicly traded company on Thursday reported net income of $10.65 billion, for the first three months of the year. That compares with $6.3 billion a year earlier. Revenue increased 26% to $114 billion largely due to increased gas prices which reached a national average of $3.91 Friday morning.

The economy slowed sharply in the first three months of the year, and more people sought unemployment benefits last week, the second rise in three weeks. The Commerce Department said Thursday that the gross domestic product, the broadest indicator of the economy, grew at a 1.8% annual rate in the January-March quarter. That was weaker than the 3.1% growth rate for the October-December quarter and the worst showing since last spring. In another report, the Labor Department said that new claims for unemployment benefits jumped 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 429,000 for the week ending April 23. That’s the highest total since late January.

Americans’ concerns about jobs and inflation eased somewhat in April, pushing the Consumer Confidence Index higher. The increase comes after an unexpected drop in March. But the measure had risen for five consecutive months before that and hit a three-year high in February. The Conference Board said Tuesday the index rose to 65.4 from 63.8 in March. The index is still far from the reading of 90 that indicates a healthy economy.

Home prices are still falling in most major U.S. cities, and at least 10 major markets are at their lowest point since the housing bubble burst. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city index shows price declines in 19 cities from January to February. The index fell for the seventh straight month. A record number of foreclosures are forcing down home prices in most metro areas, and prices are expected to keep falling through this year. U.S. home prices dropped in February, and further declines are expected. The median price of homes sold in February was down 3.3% from a year earlier and down 1.1% from January. Home prices in the 20 large cities have now fallen almost 33% from their peak at the height of the housing boom.

Businesses increased their orders for heavy machinery, computers, autos and steel in March, boosting demand for long-lasting manufactured goods for a third straight month. Orders for durable goods rose 2.5% in March, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. That’s up from 0.7% increase the previous month. Orders for durable goods totaled $208.4 billion in March, 29.8% above the recession low hit in March 2009. Durable goods are products that are expected to last at least three years.

Consumers continue to spend billions on overdraft fees, despite a Federal Reserve regulation that requires banks to obtain customers’ permission before signing them up for overdraft-protection programs, consumer advocates say. Consumers will spend an estimated $38.5 billion in overdraft penalty fees in 2011, up from $18.6 billion in 2000. Part of the problem is that most banks fail to adequately disclose the cost of different overdraft options. Banks have used high-pressure and misleading sales tactics to persuade consumers to sign up for their overdraft-protection programs, the Center for Responsible Lending said Tuesday.

In a striking cultural signal of just how differently consumers are eating, Starbucks has leaped ahead of Burger King and Wendy’s to become the nation’s third-largest chain restaurant in domestic sales. Starbucks now ranks behind only No. 1 McDonald’s and runner-up Subway,

Japan

Angry protested and demanded compensation for products contaminated by radiation spewing from Japan’s crippled nuclear plant. The 200 farmers from northeastern Japan wore green bandanas, held aloft cabbages they said they couldn’t sell and carried signs saying “Stop nuclear energy” outside the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant damaged in the March 11 tsunami. Radiation leaking from Fukushima Dai-ichi plant — about 140 miles north of Tokyo — has been found in milk, water and vegetables such as spinach from around the plant. Authorities have banned the sale of raw milk from some towns near the plant, as well as spinach, cabbage, broccoli and several other leafy vegetables from throughout Fukushima prefecture, though most restrictions in nearby prefectures have been lifted.

Middle East

The two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, announced Wednesday that they were putting aside years of bitter rivalry to create an interim unity government and hold elections within a year, a surprise move that promised to reshape the diplomatic landscape of the Middle East. The two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, announced Wednesday that they were putting aside years of bitter rivalry to create an interim unity government and hold elections within a year, a surprise move that promised to reshape the diplomatic landscape of the Middle East. The deal, brokered in secret talks by the caretaker Egyptian government was declared to be a new chapter in the Palestinian struggle for independence, hobbled in recent years by the split between the Fatah-run West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza. It was the first tangible sign that the upheaval across the Arab world, especially the Egyptian revolution, was having an impact on the Palestinians, who have been losing faith in American-sponsored peace negotiations with Israel and seem now to be turning more to fellow Arabs.

  • While “democracy” might seem to be infecting Muslim countries, they are growing more unified in their goal of eliminating Israel

Libya

Moammar Gadhafi has suffered military setbacks in recent days in western Libya, a sign that his grip may be slipping in the very region he needs to cling to power. His loyalists were driven out of the city of Misrata, a key rebel stronghold in Gadhafi-controlled territory. A NATO airstrike turned parts of his Tripoli headquarters into smoldering rubble. And rebel fighters seized a border crossing, breaking open a supply line to besieged rebel towns in a remote western mountain area. President Obama on Tuesday authorized $25 million in non-lethal assistance to the Libyan opposition — the first direct U.S. aid to the rebels after weeks of assessing their capabilities and intentions. This falls short of providing military aid and weapons to the rebels, which some U.S. lawmakers have urged, most notably Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Yemen

Yemen’s political opposition accepted a deal Tuesday that would see President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down in 30 days, bringing to an end the country’s three-month-long crisis. The long-term success of the agreement remained in doubt as anti-government activists vowed to intensify demonstrations. Mohammed Salem Basendwah, chairman of the six-party coalition of opposition — the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) — confirmed their acceptance of the deal three days after Saleh pledged his agreement to the proposal that would grant him immunity from prosecution. It was brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Basendwah said the deal had not been accepted unconditionally and remained cautious.

Syria

Al-Jazeera reports that at least four people have been killed Friday after Syrian security forces fired on demonstrators in the coastal city of Latakia.. Syria’s state-run television says “armed terrorists” have attacked a military post in the southern city of Daraa, killing four soldiers and capturing two. The report comes as thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country Friday — including the capital of Damascus — in demonstrations against the regime of President Bashar Assad. Syrian forces heaped more punishment this past week on the residents of restive towns, detaining hundreds in raids or at checkpoints, firing on people trying to retrieve the bodies of anti-government protesters and even shooting holes in rooftop water tanks in a region parched by drought. The crackdown by President Assad has intensified since last , when more than 100 people were killed. Security forces also conducted raids in the Damascus suburb of Douma and the northern coastal town of Jableh. Western powers convened a special session of the U.N.’s top human rights body Friday to investigate possible abuses in Syria,and condemn the deaths of more than 450 people in protests.

Qatar-based satellite channel Al Jazeera announced on Thursday that it was suspending some operations in Syria after members of its staff were attacked while covering anti-government demonstrations. The Arabic language network, whose coverage has helped define the “Arab Spring” uprisings to the world, is one of the few networks still operating in Syria. But network officials complained that authorities in Syria have tried to use their journalists to tell their side of the story while attempting to force them to ignore protesters and even threatening them with violence if they did not cooperate.

Egypt

Egypt is charting a new course in its foreign policy that has already begun shaking up the established order in the Middle East, planning to open the blockaded border with Gaza and normalizing relations with two of Israel and the West’s Islamist foes, Hamas and Iran. Egyptian officials, emboldened by the revolution and with an eye on coming elections, say that they are moving toward policies that more accurately reflect public opinion. In the process they are seeking to reclaim the influence over the region that waned as their country became a predictable ally of Washington and the Israelis in the years since the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. The first major display of this new tack was the deal Egypt brokered Wednesday to reconcile the secular Palestinian party Fatah with its rival Hamas.

A U.S. government agency’s annual report on violations of religious rights added Egypt on Thursday to the list of the world’s 14 worst violators. The situation there for religious minorities, especially Coptic Christians, has deteriorated markedly, even since former President Hosni Mubarak resigned in February, the report said. The others on the list of “countries of particular concern” are repeats from last year: Myanmar, also known as Burma, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Afghanistan

Eight NATO service members and a contractor are dead after an Afghan military pilot opened fire on the foreign troops following a dispute at the airport in Kabul. Wednesday’s shooting was the deadliest incident in which a member of the Afghan security forces turned against coalition forces. The worst incident before that occurred on April 16 when an Afghan soldier walked into a meeting of NATO trainers and Afghan troops and detonated a vest of explosives hidden underneath his uniform. Six NATO troops, four Afghan soldiers and an interpreter were killed in that incident. About half of recent attacks by Afghan security forces against their U.S. comrades were due to combat stress or personal disagreements and the rest were Taliban infiltration plots, according to a military review.

The massive security breach that allowed the Taliban to spirit more than 480 Afghan inmates out southern Afghanistan’s largest prison must have involved inside collaborators, the Justice Ministry said Tuesday, as security forces worked to recapture the escaped convicts. The Taliban said the prison break was five months in the making, with diggers starting the tunnel from under a nearby house while they arranged for inmates to get keys so that they could open their cells on the night of the escape. Seventy-one escapees have been recaptured.

Pakistan

A roadside bomb hit a bus taking Pakistani navy employees to work in Karachi on Thursday, killing five people in the third such attack this week and just days after the army chief claimed to have “broken the backbone” of militants. The series of attacks in the country’s largest city and economic heart show the determination and reach of al-Qaeda-linked extremist networks despite American-backed Pakistani army offensives against their main bases in the northwest close to the Afghan border.

Iran

Iran has sharply stepped up its use of public executions, hanging 13 men this year, nearly as many as in all of 2010, in an attempt to intimidate its citizens, Amnesty International said on Wednesday. Eight of the hangings have taken place since mid-April, including two juveniles convicted for a rape and murder committed when they were 17, the human rights group said. ‘It is deeply disturbing that despite a moratorium on public executions ordered in 2008, the Iranian authorities are once again seeking to intimidate people by such spectacles which not only dehumanize the victim, but brutalize those who witness it,’ said Amnesty official Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. Iran executed at least 252 people last year, 14 in public, Amnesty said. Human rights groups often criticize Iran, saying the Islamic republic has one of the highest execution rates in the world.

China

U.S. officials brought multiple questions to human rights talks this week in China, where the worst crackdown on dissent in years has seen scores of people detained in recent months. They’ll leave with precious few answers. “Our disagreements are profound,” Michael Posner, assistant secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said at the close of the two-day U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue on Thursday. The lack of results this week, in talks that mark the 16th round of the human rights dialogue since 1990, leaves some analysts questioning whether such exchanges should continue. China’s state-run media insist the nation is making significant progress, and they reject U.S. criticism.

Christian Newswire reports that at least 10 house church pastors who were involved in the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism have been criminally detained in China. On April 16, ten house church pastors from Hohhot, Inner Mongolia were criminally detained by the Hohhot Public Security Bureau’s Domestic Security Department and the Criminal Police Brigade on “suspicion of fraud” for their involvement in the October 2010 Lausanne Congress, according to ChinaAid sources. Criminal detention is the first step of the legal process that leads to a trial, conviction and sentencing to a jail term. House church leaders in another Inner Mongolian city, Ordos, have also been criminally detained in relation to the Lausanne congress. Hohhot police noted a “suspicion of fraud” charge, saying it stemmed from “persons not recognized by the government as clergy engaged in fund-raising activities.” In fact, the pastors applied for a travel stipend from Congress organizers and participated in fund-raising efforts for pastors in other countries as well.

China’s population is aging rapidly, the government said Thursday, though its leaders are refusing to relax strict family planning controls that are part of the cause. The results of a national census conducted late last year show the proportion of elderly people in the country of 1.34 billion jumped, while that of young people plunged sharply. China’s rapid aging has fueled worries over how long the country will be able to sustain its high economic growth, as fewer young people are available to work in factories and build the roads that transformed it into the world’s second biggest economy after the United States.

Mexico

Security forces have unearthed six more bodies in a northeastern Mexican border state where a drug gang is believed to be kidnapping passengers from buses and hiding their victims in secret graves, authorities said Tuesday. A total of 183 bodies have been discovered in a month. The horrific discoveries have intensified criticism that lawlessness reigns in Tamaulipas state, where the Zetas drug gang has terrorized migrants trying to make their way north to the United States. It is the same region where authorities say the Zetas killed 72 Central American migrants in August.

April 25, 2011

Mocking of Christ Part of ‘Tolerance’?

San Francisco homosexuals have again mocked the holiest day of the year for Christians by staging the “Hunky Jesus Contest.” The annual fundraiser for homosexual activists took place in a large park in San Francisco and featured the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence — a group of homosexual drag queens dressed as nuns. Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality explains the motivation behind the observance. “The Hunky Jesus Contest is a bunch of shirtless, homosexual men in costumes who are making fun of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ,” he says, “and there’s a large crowd that goes to this and they treat this as if it’s a big, funny event.” The event typically is held on Easter Sunday. “It’s just another indication of the one-way street, which is ‘tolerance’ for homosexuals — tolerance for me but not for you,” states LaBarbera. “They demand respect for homosexuals even as they heap contempt upon Christians on the holiest day in the Christian calendar.” The Christian activist says it is striking that homosexual activists never have a “Hunky Mohammed Contest,” likely because he believes they are afraid of the potential response.

Many Christians Hold Universalist Views, Barna Finds

Universalism has returned to the public spotlight following the release of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” but many Christians held that view prior to the book’s release, according to a new survey from the Barna Group. One in four born-again Christians hold universalist thoughts when it comes to salvation, The Christian Post reports. Forty percent of those who identify as born-again Christians said that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. According to the Barna analysis, 43 percent of Americans in general agreed with the statement “It doesn’t matter what religious faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons,” while 54 percent disagreed.

Food Shortage Coming?

The global food supply has never been more fragile, according to AmericanVision.com. “Thanks to our pagan government, it’s getting worse by the day. Now, perhaps there isn’t much our government can do about the droughts, floods, and political unrest in other nations. But thanks to misguided policies and burdensome regulations, corrupt, unelected bureaucrats are putting US food supplies at risk, too. Major food shortages here in the US could be right around the corner. In this disturbing, new report, you’ll discover why. The report – which is absolutely free, is called Food Shock: Why 2011 Could Be the Single Most Important Year in American History to Plant A Family Garden.

  • If not 2011, soon the Four Horsemen will unleash their fury on the world at large including famine

Supreme Court Rejects Quick Review of Health Care Law

The Supreme Court rejected a call Monday from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to depart from its usual practice and put review of the health care law on a fast track. Instead, judicial review of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation will continue in federal appeals courts. The Obama administration opposed Cuccinelli’s plea. Only rarely, in wartime or a constitutional crisis, does the court step into a legal fight before the issues are aired in appellate courts. Hearings already are scheduled in May and June in three appeals courts. The case still could reach the high court in time for a decision by early summer 2012.

  • The wheels of justice grind slowly, much too slowly on matters of great import

Obama’s Medicare Hypocrisy

Dick Morris, writing in The Patriot Update, notes that” “Piously posturing as the savior of Medicare, President Obama lashed out at the House Republicans for embracing the budget proposed by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. But a comparison of the president’s own plans for Medicare with those in the Ryan budget shows that the Democratic cuts are far more immediate and drastic than anything in the GOP proposal. While the Republican Medicare changes only take effect in 2021, Obama’s cuts will begin hurting seniors right away. Obama’s cuts, which will take effect immediately, are to be administered by his newly created Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) of 15 members appointed by the president. Its recommendations for cuts in Medicare services or for reductions in reimbursement will not be subject to congressional approval but will take effect by administrative fiat. Right now. The IPAB will be, essentially, the rationing board that will decide who gets what care. Its decisions will be guided by a particularly vicious concept of Quality Adjusted Life Years (QUALYS). If you have enough QUALYS ahead of you, you’ll be approved for a hip replacement or a heart transplant. If not, you’re out of luck. Perforce, many of these cuts will fall on those at the end of their lives, reducing their options to accommodate Obama’s mandate to cut costs. If death comes sooner, well, that’s the price of aging in Obama’s America.”

IRS Expansion Thwarted

One unreported benefit of last week’s Capitol Hill budget deal is that the plan to hire 5,100 new IRS agents has been thwarted.  After nearly 6,000 fax petitions were sent by PrayInJesusName.org to all 100 Senators and 535 Congressmen last month,  House Republicans held firm against growing the size of the IRS. The organization further notes that, “Obama plans to raise taxes by over $3.9 Trillion in the next decade, by letting the so-called Bush tax cuts expire. But what Obama’s not telling you is that only $800 Billion of that comes from the rich “billionaires and millionaires” who earn more than $250,000 per year. The rest — the vast majority — over $3.1 Trillion in tax increases is on YOU AND ME who earn less than $250,000 per year.  Obama plans to tax YOU, not just the rich!”

Air Traffic Controllers Asleep on the Job

Tune in to any news report these days and it seems there is another report of a controller under investigation or suspended for falling asleep while they were supposed to be monitoring America’s skies — from a controller found sleeping in Reno, Nevada, while a medical flight was trying to land to two other controllers in Lubbock, Texas, who failed to respond to radio traffic about an inbound flight. At least nine fatigue-related incidents have been reported since mid-February, prompting everyone from lawmakers to the general public to ask why controllers are so tired and what can be done to solve the problem in air traffic control towers. Air traffic controller fatigue has been attributed as a factor over the years in a number of accidents, including near misses and runway collisions. The NTSB has made more than 80 recommendations aimed at reducing controller stress and fatigue since 1981. Most, according to NTSB records reviewed by CNN, have not been adopted.

  • Government inefficiency at its worst

Stuxnet Called Cyber Warfare’s First to Attack a Sovereign Nation

Analysts who have viewed the Stuxnet virus, which sabotaged the Iranian nuclear centrifuges, call its use a watershed moment in cyber warfare, because it was the first instance of a specially designed cyber weapon used to attack the industrial infrastructure of a sovereign nation. The success of the attack has demonstrated that cyber attacks can be not only successful but devastating. Stuxnet was a revolutionary design that only attacked specific electronic components configured in a particular way. In this instance, the target was centrifuges designed for a nuclear plant. David Gerwitz, the cyber terrorism adviser for the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals, argues that the Stuxnet virus has ushered in an era in warfare and will spark a virtual arms race similar to how Hiroshima sparked the nuclear arms race.

Hawaii Senator Questions Obama’s True Birth Father

The lone Republican in the Hawaii State Senate told a radio interviewer today he believes “the real issue” stopping Barack Obama from releasing his long-form birth certificate is something the president has to hide, perhaps even the name of his actual birth father. Hawaii State Sen. Sam Slom says, “so long as Obama refuses to be transparent about his past, questions about the president’s birth remain “a legitimate issue.” “My particular point of view – and why I haven’t identified myself as a ‘birther,’ per se – is that [Obama] probably was born [in Hawaii] and that the real issue is not the birth certificate, but what’s on the birth certificate.”

  • Obama is clearly covering something up, the question is what?

Tea Party License Plate Draws Ire in AZ

“Don’t tread on me” may soon be a slogan on a new license plate in Arizona. But critics say the proposal treads on shaky ground, getting the state involved in the “tea party,” a political movement that has embraced the phrase as its own. Even some tea partyers say the bill is the antithesis of what they’re about: minimal government involvement. And while Senate Bill 1402 awaits action by Gov. Jan Brewer, it’s attracting national attention. Last week, hours after the Legislature approved the bill, a New York congressman announced plans to discourage states from following the Arizona Legislature’s lead. Although the tea party is not an organized party, it is a movement that has become a force in electoral politics. Its members largely support Republican candidates who adhere to principles of smaller government, lower taxes and strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution.

Police Employ Technology to Compensate for Fewer Officers

Police agencies increasingly rely on controversial technology and social media to make up for the loss of thousands of officers and other resources to deep budget cuts. Some, including the city of Albuquerque, have taken the unusual step of sharing real-time investigative information with private business groups on interactive websites to help stop theft rings, locate violent crime suspects and track fugitives. Camden, NJ, uses a combination of global positioning systems, gunshot detectors placed in elevated areas throughout the city and closed-circuit cameras to identify problem areas and dispatch officers to those locations more efficiently instead of waiting for calls from the public, which sometimes never come. This month, a survey of 70 large police agencies by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington law enforcement think-tank, found that 90% planned to increase their use of various technologies, primarily aimed at deterring crime by adopting more efficient surveillance, patrol and response strategies.

Ohio Spending $1.4 Billion to Attract Jobs

Ohio has launched what appears to be the biggest intervention in the private economy by a state government since at least the Great Depression. The state is preparing new industrial parks and high-tech office buildings, loaning money and giving grants to businesses, and subsidizing clean energy, websites, nanotechnology and warehouses, among other things. The state will spend $1.4 billion on economic development this year. Indiana, by contrast, will spend $37 million; Florida $11 million. California has 25 people working full-time on economic development. Ohio: more than 400. This industrial state is testing a provocative economic question: Can government direct the economy into the future, or is that best done by a free market?

Economic News

More people bought new homes in March, giving the battered homebuilding industry a small lift after the worst winter for sales in almost a half-century. The Commerce Department says new-home sales rose 11% last month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 300,000 homes. That follows three monthly declines. But the pace remains far below the 700,000 homes a year economists consider healthy. Last year was the fifth straight year of declines for new-home sales.

The United States is out of step with the rest of the world’s richest industrialized nations: Its economy is growing faster than theirs but creating far fewer jobs. The reason is that U.S. workers have become so productive that it’s harder for anyone without a job to get one. U.S. productivity growth doubled from 2008 to 2009, then doubled again in 2010, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Companies are producing and profiting more than when the recession began, despite fewer workers. They’re hiring again, but not fast enough to replace most of the 7.5 million jobs lost since the recession began. U.S. employment bottomed and started growing again a year ago, but there are still 5.4% fewer American jobs than in December 2007. That’s a much sharper drop than in any other G-7 country.

Nearly eight in 10 economists say they’re less optimistic about the nation’s economic outlook this year than they were three months ago and most call high energy prices the biggest threat to the recovery, according to a USA TODAY survey. They expect the economy to expand 2.9% this year, about the same as 2010, down from their median forecast of 3.2% in January. Higher gas prices are offsetting Congress’ sharp cut in Americans’ 2011 payroll taxes that helped prompt many economists to brighten their outlook early this year. The tax relief “will be going into our gas tank,”says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics.

The Federal Reserve’s experimental effort to spur a recovery by purchasing vast quantities of federal debt has pumped up the stock market, reduced the cost of American exports and allowed companies to borrow money at lower interest rates. But most Americans are not feeling the difference, in part because those benefits have been surprisingly small. The latest estimates from economists, in fact, suggest that the pace of recovery from the global financial crisis has flagged since November, when the Fed started buying $600 billion in Treasury securities to push private dollars into investments that create jobs.

Middle East

On his visit to Tunisia, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed his intention to seek United Nations recognition of an independent Palestinian state this September. Palestinian leaders have abandoned any pretense of peace negotiations with Israel, believing they will get far more from the world authority which has indicated its willingness to adopt the boundaries preferred by the Palestinians without regard to Israel’s interests or security. Abbas cited the support of the Obama Administration for his goal. “We are counting on the words of US President Barack Obama who said his vision is to see a Palestinian state this coming September according to a deadline set by the Quartet.” Abbas also noted, “More than 130 countries have already recognized a Palestinian state on 1967 borders. This number has the potential to reach 140 or 150.” The Jerusalem Prayer Team writes, “At this point, the only way for this plan to divide Jerusalem and curse Israel to be stopped is for America to use its veto at the United Nations—but the Obama Administration shows no interest in doing so. Now more than ever we need to stand with the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.”

Japan

Tsunami waves topped 60 feet or more as they broke onshore following Japan’s earthquake, according to some of the first surveys measuring the impact along the afflicted nation’s entire coast. Some waves grew to more than 100 feet high, breaking historic records, as they squeezed between fingers of land surrounding port towns. The surge grew in between inlet hills to 124 feet high at the fishing port of Koborinai. The surge exceeded 40 foot depths a quarter-mile inland, and still reached over 26 feet high about a half-mile inland. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake lifted and then dropped a slab of seafloor 50 miles wide and more than 180 miles long. The force shifted the seafloor nearly 80 feet westward above the quake center. Within a half-hour, the waves arrived on Japan’s coast, plateaus of water that surged up to six miles inland and unleashed much of the devastation that killed about 14,300 people, with another 12,000 still missing.

Libya

NATO airstrikes targeted the center of Moammar Gadhafi’s seat of power early Monday, destroying a multi-story library and office and badly damaging a reception hall for visiting dignitaries. Gadhafi’s whereabouts at the time of the attack on his sprawling Bab al-Azizya compound were unclear. Monday’s strike came after Gadhafi’s forces unleashed a barrage of shells and rockets at the besieged rebel city of Misrata, in an especially bloody weekend that left at least 32 dead and dozens wounded. The U.S. said its first Predator drone attack in the country destroyed a government rocket launcher that had menaced civilians in the western city. Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, said troops have halted operations in Misrata to enable tribal elders to negotiate with the rebels. If the rebels don’t surrender in the next two days, armed tribesmen will fight them in place of the army, he said.

Syria

Syria sharply escalated its already deadly campaign to crush a five-week uprising early Monday, sending troops backed by tanks, snipers and knife-wielding security forces into Daara, the southern city where the rebellion began. At least five people were killed and dozens arrested. The death toll from three days of violence in Syria reached as security forces fired on tens of thousands of mourners who shouted for the regime’s downfall during funeral processions, a human rights group said. The rallies, most marching out from mosques after Friday’s noon Muslim prayers, erupted in towns and cities stretching along the breadth of the country, including in at least two suburbs of the capital, Damascus. The mounting death toll prompted two Syrian lawmakers to resign in disgust over the killings. More than 300 people have been killed since the uprising against autocratic President Bashar Assad began more than five weeks ago.

Yemen

Yemen’s embattled president agreed Saturday to a proposal by Gulf Arab mediators to step down within 30 days and hand power to his deputy in exchange for immunity from prosecution, a major about-face for the autocratic leader who has ruled for 32 years. A day earlier, protesters staged the largest of two months of demonstrations, filling a five-lane boulevard across the capital with a sea of hundreds of thousands of people. A deadly crackdown by government forces and Saleh supporters has killed more than 130 people and prompted key allies to abandon the president and join the protesters.

Egypt

Tens of thousands of Egyptians led by hard-line Islamists escalated their protests Friday over the appointment of a Coptic Christian governor in southern Egypt. The largest demonstrations so far in the campaign to unseat the governor of Qena province coincided with Good Friday services for most of Egypt’s estimated 10 million Christians. Since President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February after an 18-day popular uprising, ultraconservative Islamist groups have been flexing their muscles and vowing to take a more active political role.

Bahrain

The militant group Hezbollah is actively plotting with the opposition in Bahrain to overthrow the country’s ruling family, the government said in a confidential report to the United Nations. “Evidence confirms that Bahraini elements are being trained in Hezbollah camps specifically established to train assets from the Gulf,” the report reads. Bahrain has long made claims that Iran and Hezbollah have sought to fuel instability in the nation.

Afghanistan

Taliban militants dug a lengthy tunnel underground and into the main jail in Kandahar city and whisked out more than 450 prisoners, most of whom were Taliban fighters. The massive overnight jailbreak in Afghanistan’s second-largest city underscores the Afghan government’s continuing weakness in the south despite an influx of international troops, funding and advisers. Kandahar city, in particular, has been a focus of the international effort to establish a strong Afghan government presence in former Taliban strongholds. The 1,200-inmate Sarposa Prison has been part of that plan. The facility has undergone security upgrades and tightened procedures following a brazen 2008 Taliban attack that freed 900 prisoners. Afghan government officials and their NATO backers have regularly said that the prison has vastly improved security since that attack.

Pakistan

Pakistan halted NATO supply shipments to Afghanistan on Saturday after thousands of protesters rallied on the main road to the border to demand Washington stop firing missiles against militants sheltering inside the country. Much of the non-lethal supplies for foreign troops in landlocked Afghanistan come through Pakistan after arriving at the port in the southern city of Karachi. Militants often attack the convoys, and last September Pakistan closed the border for 20 days to protest a NATO has been opening new routes into Afghanistan from the north in recent years to try to reduce its dependency on the Pakistan route, which gives Islamabad leverage when negotiating with the West.

Iraq

U.S. and Iraqi officials are looking into keeping 10,000 US troops in the country beyond a year’s end deadline for a complete withdrawal, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The talks are politically sensitive for both countries, with Americans keen to end their involvement in Iraq and Iraqis concerned that prolonging the troop presence could fuel sectarian tensions and protests. The paper said US military commanders believe that leaving at least 10,000 troops beyond 2011 could promote greater security and prevent Iran from expanding its regional influence.

Nigeria

At least 500 people died in religious rioting that followed Nigeria’s presidential election, a civil rights group said Sunday, as volatile state gubernatorial elections loom this week. Meanwhile, police in the northern state of Bauchi said at least 11 recent college graduates who helped run polling stations as part of the country’s national youth service corps have been killed in postelection violence, while other female poll workers have been raped. Muslim opposition supporters began riots as results from the April 16 election showed Christian President Goodluck Jonathan had won the vote.

Thailand/Cambodia

Fighting broke out again Sunday along Cambodia’s border with Thailand following two days of skirmishes that killed at least 10 soldiers and forced the evacuation of thousands of civilians. The dispute between the neighbors stems from their competing claims over small swaths of land along the border, with nationalistic politics fueling tensions. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Cambodia and Thailand to implement an effective and verifiable cease-fire. A U.N. statement late Saturday said Ban believes the dispute cannot be resolved by military means, so the two countries must engage in a serious dialogue to resolve the underlying problems.

Mexico

Mexican authorities say another 32 bodies have been exhumed from clandestine graves in the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas, bringing the total to 177 this month. Tamaulipas prosecutors say in a statement that the latest bodies were found in eight pits discovered during the past week. Reports indicated that 122 of the unearthed bodies could be those of recently kidnapped bus passengers. The Zeta drug cartel is being blamed for most of the deaths. In addition, police in Acapulco say four women and a teenage girl have been found with their throats cut in the Mexican resort city.

Earthquakes

A strong and shallow earthquake hit the eastern Indonesian island of Sulawesi early Monday, officials said. There were no immediate reports of injuries, but several homes were damaged. The U.S. Geological Survey put the preliminary magnitude of the quake at 6.2 and said it was centered 45 miles southeast of the town of Kendari at a depth of 6 miles.

A powerful earthquake struck in waters off the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific on Saturday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, and no tsunami was expected. The magnitude-6.9 quake struck about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of the Solomon Islands’ capital, Honiara, at a depth of 50 miles. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a tsunami was not expected.

Wildfires

Since Jan. 1, wildfires have scorched more than 1.4 million acres in Texas and led to the deaths of two firefighters. Cooler temperatures this week helped crews completely contain several massive blazes and half a dozen others in the state, although some still were burning.

Weather

Debris from splintered homes covered the ground in neighborhoods around St. Louis, while topped trees and overturned cars. Amid such damage, officials appeared awed that a tornado that roared through the area Friday night, striking the airport and several nearby suburbs, hadn’t seriously injured anyone. Some 750 homes in the St. Louis region were damaged, and almost 100 were uninhabitable. The tornado tore through a section of the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on Friday, lifting the roof off a concourse, injuring several people and forcing the airport’s closure. Planes were diverted to other locations as emergency crews probed the debris for more wounded. Mayor Francis Slay said Lambert would be shut down “indefinitely.” Four people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries after glass shattered as the storm hit. An unspecified number of others were treated at the scene for cuts blamed on flying glass.

April 22, 2011

Chinese Christians Face Tense Easter in Beijing

In Beijing’s northwest’s university district, Pastor Jin Tianming can’t even leave his home, let alone prepare for Easter. “There have been four policemen outside my door for the past 12 days,” he said by telephone Thursday. Jin’s house arrest won’t stop his embattled Shouwang church — denied access to the property it purchased — from trying to worship outdoors on Sunday. “We have our faith, and we are willing to endure this kind of treatment,” said Jin of the temporary detention by police of more than 100 members of his 900-strong congregation during the past two Sundays. “Every house church wants its own place of worship.”

The dispute highlights the difficulties facing millions of Chinese Christians who spurn state-controlled churches such as Fengtai, and prefer to meet in independent “house churches” like Shouwang. The People’s Republic, still run by its founding Communist Party, has transformed in recent years into one of the world’s largest Christian countries, with estimates running from 45 million to more than 100 million believers, of which perhaps two-thirds gather in house churches. Shouwang’s white-collar, prosperous congregation marks Shouwang as a leading example of the way China’s house churches have moved from the margins to the mainstream in the past decade.

  • The state-controlled churches are limited in what they can preach and teach, an abomination to a true Christian

House Churches Thrive in U.S. Too

No matter what you call them, house churches, or “simple” or “organic” churches, have long thrived in third world countries where clergy and funds for church buildings are scarce. Now, however, they are attracting a small but loyal following across the USA. It’s not that Americans can’t find a conventional church congregation. Rather, believers are turning to small, regular weekly gatherings where they pray, worship, study Scripture and support each other’s spiritual lives without all the trappings of a building, a budget, and an outside authority.

Participants are not “Christmas & Easter Christians” — folks who pour into the buildings on peak holy days and fade away a week later. Instead, “they’re intensely active believers who want to take charge themselves and find something that feels more authentic,” says Christian research expert George Barna, author of a new book, Maximum Faith. “If you look at the Bible, the church we have today is no where to be found. The original form of church was the house church. Older people want to find a more personal experience of God and young people don’t want the congregational structure or process. People don’t want to just read the responsive reading when they are told to,” Barna says.

The Cross is Becoming an Unconstitutional Symbol

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, writes: “No symbol elicits a greater sense of sacrifice, but at the same time hope and comfort than the cross. It is for that reason that crosses have marked the graves and the sites where the brave have fallen in death. But if a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is not overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the cross could soon become an unconstitutional symbol — even in places like Arlington Cemetery. In Davenport v. American Atheists, Inc., the court ruled that privately funded crosses erected on public land as memorials to Utah state troopers who died in the line of duty is an unconstitutional state endorsement of Christianity and is therefore in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. This is yet another example of how the Establishment Clause has been turned on its head and is now being used by the courts to prohibit the guaranteed “free exercise” of religion. I find it tragic that these freedoms are now at greater risk from our own courts than from the foreign or domestic enemies we’ve faced. This decision must be reversed.”

Former Solicitor General to Head House Defense of DOMA

Former Solicitor General Paul Clement will lead the House’s defense of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act).  Brian Brown, head of the National Organization for Marriage, says, “At last we have a legal eagle on this case who actually wants to win in court! Paul Clement is a genuinely distinguished lawyer, a former Solicitor General of the United States, who we are confident will win this case. Thanks to Speaker Boehner’s actions, President Obama’s attempt to sabotage the legal defense of DOMA will fail.” Speaker Boehner this week hit a “home run, or two”–the second being the demand that the cost of this litigation be deducted from the Department of Justice’s budget, after Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama refused to defend DOMA.

Twelve CAP-Supported Bills Signed Into Law So Far

The Arizona Legislative officially adjourned at dawn Wednesday morning, April 20. Twelve Center for Arizona Policy supported bills have been signed into law. Two more measures achieved final passage. Another four CAP-supported bills await the governor’s action, while only two have been vetoed. CAP is the leading advocate for Christian issues in Arizona. Cathi Herrod, CAP’s President, notes that “Both houses recognized the tremendous work of pregnancy care centers throughout Arizona.  And, in a long-awaited move, the legislature referred a CAP-supported reform measure to the November, 2012, ballot to enhance transparency and accountability to Arizona’s merit selection system of selecting judges.’ For further information, go to CAP’s Bill Tracker.

Indiana Senate Approves Cutting Planned Parenthood Funds

Indiana could become the first state to end Medicaid coverage for Planned Parenthood services, after the Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would cut off taxpayer money to the reproductive health-care provider. “The taxpayers will no longer fund an organization that provides abortion as part of their services that they give to the public,” said Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, a co-sponsor of the measure. The Senate voted 35-13 to approve House Bill 1210, which also requires doctors to tell women seeking abortions that the procedure has been linked to infertility. The bill also sets 20 weeks as the cutoff when a woman no longer may seek an abortion. No other state has yet cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood. The Kansas Legislature is considering a similar measure.

Planned Parenthood Sets Quotas for Abortions

Former Planned Parenthood Director Abbey Johnson came forward this week to tell the truth about the infamous “women’s services” clinics. In a videotaped release, Johnson explains that she initially joined Planned Parenthood in order to help disadvantaged women gain access to medical services. What she discovered after 8 years with the group is Planned Parenthood is not interested in women’s health — their sole purpose, according to Johnson, is the very profitable business of murdering babies. Johnson says Planned Parenthood’s primary profit center is indeed abortion. Protecting this “profit center” is so important to the group that Planned Parenthood clinics are judged on the number of abortions they provide. If a clinic provides too few abortions, the national board will step in and insist local Directors increase their daily number of abortions.

State Immigration Bills Meet Mixed Fates

When Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the state’s historic immigration law into effect a year ago this week, lawmakers in dozens of states quickly promised a flood of similar legislation. But as states wind down their 2011 legislative sessions, the results appear as muddled as the immigration debate itself. The Georgia General Assembly passed a bill last week designed to crack down on illegal immigration. The same week, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law that goes the other direction and provides in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants. And the Utah Legislature recently passed a bill that lies somewhere in between. State legislators say they are being forced to tackle the issue because the federal government has not done its part.

BP Spending More on Lobbying

A year after an explosion killed 11 workers and triggered the worst oil spill in U.S. waters, the company at the center of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster intensified its spending heavily to influence federal policymakers, new lobbying reports show. Oil giant BP spent $2 million on federal lobbying efforts during the first three months of this year, a 25% increase over the same period in 2010. Lobbying records show BP has sought to shape bills in Congress that would speed up oil drilling in the Gulf.

A presidential commission that investigated the massive spill blamed BP and its business partners for a slew of engineering and management failures in the run-up to the April 20, 2010, oil rig blowout and called for sweeping changes, including legislation to increase the current $75 million-per-spill liability cap on companies. BP has established a $20 billion relief fund for spill victims, but legislation to remove the liability cap has stalled in Congress.

Airlines Must Reimburse for Lost Bags, Bumped Flights

The government introduced sweeping protections for fliers Wednesday to bar long tarmac delays on international flights, require airlines to reimburse bag fees if luggage is lost and pay people double if they’re bumped off flights. The rules, issued by the Department of Transportation, will take effect Aug. 23. The rules provide other protections as well: Airlines will be required to hold flight reservations for 24 hours at the quoted fare price if the reservations are made at least a week before takeoff. They must also promptly notify passengers of flight delays longer than 30 minutes.

Economic News

Sales of existing homes rose slightly in March but prices fell as the U.S. housing market continues to struggle. Existing home sales rose 3.7% from February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.1 million units. That marked the sixth monthly rise for existing home sales in the past eight months. Yet median prices in March dropped 5.9% from March 2010 to $159,600. For now, investors are driving much of the increase in existing home sales. Distressed homes accounted for 40% of sales, up from 35% a year ago.

Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, partly reversing a sharp jump in applications the previous week. The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of people applying for unemployment benefits dropped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 403,000 in the week ending April 16. The decline comes after applications rose 31,000 a week earlier. Applications near 375,000 are consistent with sustainable job growth. Applications peaked during the recession at 659,000.

The U.S. dollar sagged to a three-year low against major currencies Thursday. The negative sentiment on the dollar intensified this week on signs of a slowing U.S. economy and Standard & Poor’s warning Monday that it might take away the United States’ coveted AAA credit rating within two years if Washington fails to achieve a plan to slash its $14 trillion debt load. The dollar has already been bogged down by the Federal Reserve’s near-zero interest rate policy and overseas central banks’ ongoing diversification from the U.S. currency.

Worries about skyrocketing inflation are sparking record-breaking price increases for gold, pushing the precious metal to a closing price north of $1,500 an ounce for the first time. The combination of mounting budget deficits in the U.S., rising debt levels in Europe, a weakening U.S. dollar and the risk of global inflation create a dream environment for gold, which tends to rise in price when faith in paper currencies flags. The price of an ounce of gold is up 31% from a year ago.

The price of crude oil has soared to $112.29 a barrel from its 12-month low of $65.96 set in May, due to unrest in the oil-rich Middle East. Consequently, the average nationwide price for gasoline rose to $3.85 per gallon as of Friday morning. President Barack Obama announced Thursday that his administration would investigate to see if fraud or manipulation in oil markets was behind the sharp increase in gasoline prices.

In the meantime, the price of coal, which generates 57% of U.S. electricity, has fallen to about $80 per short ton, down from $150 a short ton in July 2008. The price of natural gas, the second-most-used fuel for powering electric plants, has plunged to $4.33 per thousand cubic feet from $13.31 the same period.

Technology companies sent stocks soaring Wednesday after Intel, Apple and other big companies posted surprisingly strong earnings. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite had its biggest one-day jump in six months, and the Dow Jones industrial average closed at its highest level in nearly three years. Tech workers are coveted commodities as the high-tech industry undergoes its biggest hiring binge in more than a decade.

Cellphones are becoming the only home phones in an increasing number of U.S. households. More than one in four U.S. homes, or 26.6%, had only a wireless phone as of June 2010, up from 13.6% in 2007. Low-income homes and those in poverty are more likely to be wireless-only homes. Renters are also more likely to have wireless-only households. Giving up a landline is seen as one way to save money.

American Airlines lost $436 million in the first quarter as it battled rising jet fuel prices, likely foreshadowing huge losses at other major U.S. airlines. American responded to the grim numbers Wednesday by announcing it will scale back plans to add new flights and retire at least 25 older, gas-guzzling planes later this year.

Toyota said today it won’t be able to return all its models back to regular production until “November or December” in the U.S., Japan and around the world. The announcement heightens the prospect that Toyota and its Lexus luxury division will run out of cars, or at least the most popular models, over the next few months. The output cuts are due to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan.

Japan

Japan’s government proposed a special $50 billion budget to help finance reconstruction efforts and plans to build 100,000 temporary homes for survivors of last month’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. The government said the damage could cost $309 billion, making it the world’s most expensive natural disaster. More than 27,000 people are dead or missing after the earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan on March 11. About 135,000 survivors are living in 2,500 shelters set up in schools and community centers.

Japanese police sealed off roads leading into an evacuation zone around a radiation-spewing nuclear power plant Friday to enforce an order meant to keep residents from sneaking back to their homes. Road blocks were set up along major streets leading into the 12-mile (20-kilometer ) zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactors, where nearly 80,000 people were hurriedly evacuated last month. Before the order went into effect at midnight, residents raced back into their deserted hometowns to grab whatever belongings they could cram into their cars. Under a special nuclear emergency law, people who enter the zone are now subject to fines of up to 100,000 yen ($1,200) or possible detention for up to 30 days.

Middle East

The group representing al-Qaeda in the Gaza Strip is far larger and more organized than most security officials here previously thought. WorldNetDai.y has obtained an internal report prepared this week by the Egyptian government, with input from Hamas, that puts the numbers of al-Qaeda terrorists in Gaza at between 2,600 and 3,000 armed men. According to the Egyptian report, the armed Islamists are focused on building their bases in the Gaza Strip and connecting those bases to the neighboring Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. The al-Qaeda group is largely made up of two organizations that merged together – Jihadiya Salafiya (the Jihad of Ancestors) and Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam). While both Hamas and al-Qaida are offshoots of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the groups often clash over a difference in tactics.

  • With Iran arming the Hezbollah extremists in Jordan and al-Qaida mobilizing in Gaza, the prospect of renewed conflict is escalating

Libya

Libyan rebels said Thursday they had control of a post on the Tunisian border, forcing government soldiers to flee over the frontier and possibly opening a new channel for opposition forces in Moammar Gadhafi’s bastion in western Libya. Holding the Dhuheiba border crossing could open important supply routes for anti-Gadhafi forces and give the rebels another foothold in western Libya. In the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya, meanwhile, relief workers and medical teams awaited the arrival of a passenger ferry carrying about 1,000 people — mostly Libyan civilians and workers from Asia and Africa — out of the besieged city of Misrata, the main rebel holdout in Gadhafi’s territory. Two Western photojournalists, including an Oscar-nominated film director, were killed Wednesday in the besieged city of Misrata while covering battles between rebels and Libyan government forces.

President Obama has approved the use of armed drones in Libya, authorizing U.S. airstrikes against ground forces for the first time since America turned control of the operation over to NATO on April 4. It also is the first time that drones will have been used for airstrikes since the conflict began on March 19, although they have routinely been flying surveillance missions. Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the drones can help counteract the pro-Moammar Gadhafi forces’ tactic of traveling in civilian vehicles that make it difficult to distinguish them from rebel forces.

Syria

Al-Jazeera, quoting witnesses, reports as many as 20 protesters killed today by security forces amid widespread “Great Friday” protests in Syria. The Associated Press quotes witnesses as saying at least five protesters were killed near the Syrian capital, Damascus. Al-Arabiya TV puts the death toll nationwide today at 10. AFP reports that up to 6,000 demonstrators have turned out in the northeastern city of Qamishli. Reuters reports that at least three people have been injured after Syrian forces open fire today on protesters in Duma west of Damascus. Syrian security forces fired live rounds today to disperse pro-democracy protest in city of Hama, Reuters reports, as thousands of demonstrators turn out in several cities after Friday prayer.

Iran

Iran and Egypt’s new government signaled Monday they were moving quickly to thaw decades of frosty relations, worrying the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia that the overtures could upset the Mideast’s fragile balance of power. Iran said it appointed an ambassador to Egypt for the first time since the two sides froze diplomatic relations more than three decades ago, the website of the Iranian government’s official English-language channel, Press TV, reported late Monday. Also Monday, officials at Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that new foreign minister Nabil Elaraby is considering a visit to the Gaza Strip-an area controlled by Hamas, a militant Palestinian Islamist group backed by Tehran and until now shunned by Cairo.

Pakistan

U.S. drones fired a volley of missiles into a militant-held Pakistani region close to the Afghan border on Friday, killing 25 people, Pakistani intelligence officials said. The strike came a day after Pakistan’s army chief denounced such attacks, and could further sour deteriorating relations between Washington and Islamabad. Ten missiles hit a house in Spinwam village in North Waziristan, a region home to Taliban militants targeting American and NATO troops just across the border in Afghanistan, as well as international al-Qaida terrorists.

Iraq

Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister has told the top U.S. military officer that Iraqi forces are able to maintain security in their own country, as discussions intensify over whether to keep any U.S. forces in Iraq past this year. An agreement between both countries stipulates that all American forces are to leave by Dec. 31. U.S. officials have said repeatedly that they would consider having American forces in Iraq past the year-end date but only if the Iraqis asked. Privately, many Iraqi officials say they are worried about what will happen in Iraq after the U.S. withdrawals but publicly they maintain that all American forces will leave as scheduled.

Iraq has doubled its electricity capacity over prewar levels, making dramatic headway in a critical benchmark that had plagued U.S. leaders and frustrated Iraqis since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. For years, Iraq’s sputtering electrical grid was a symbol of U.S. inability to rebuild Iraq in the face of growing chaos. Iraq has increased capacity by renovating plants, buying power from outside the country and improving transmission lines. The United States has contributed $4.6 billion since 2003 to Iraq’s efforts to restore electricity.

Thailand/Cambodia

Thailand and Cambodia exchanged artillery and gunfire along their frontier for several hours Friday in a new flare-up of a long-running border dispute.Military officials on both sides said at least six soldiers were killed. The fighting near the two ancient temples of Ta Krabey and Ta Moan has forced thousands of civilians on both sides of the border to flee, with Cambodia saying artillery was falling on villages and other areas as far as 13 miles inside its territory. It was the first skirmish reported since eight people were killed when the two Southeast Asian countries battled for four straight days in February. The conflict is rooted in a decades-old border dispute over ancient temples and the land surrounding them. Clashes have erupted several times since 2008.

Nigeria

Violence hit Nigeria following the election of Christian President Goodluck Jonathan. Muslims have burned down more than 60 churches and thousands of Christians’ homes, leaving a number of pastors and believers dead. The attacks have affected several cities throughout northern Nigeria, and many Christians have fled the region. Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors USA explains that “it’s the goal of the Muslims in the north…to turn off the taps of Christian evangelization of Africa in general.” He reports that northern Nigeria is home to Muslim-dominated states, while the southern region of the country has a large Christian population. But rather than removing sharia law, the country’s new president is seeking a method that will bring peace between Muslims and Christians.

Somalia

South Korean commandos stormed a container ship hours after it was attacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean on Thursday and freed all crew members unharmed. A second ship, an Italian-flagged vessel with 21 crew, was also hijacked by Somali pirates Thursday, the European Union’s anti-piracy task force said. The South Korean ship sustained “some damage” in the attack but the 14 South Korean and six Indonesian crew members retreated to a specially designed shelter and were unhurt. The pirates escaped. According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime’s anti-piracy initiative, more than 1,000 Somalis have been convicted or are on trial for suspected piracy.

Haiti

Michel Martelly, a Haitian popular singer known by the stage name “Sweet Micky,” was officially declared the earthquake-devastated country’s next president, election officials said Wednesday. Martelly won the presidency with 67.6 percent of the vote. The announcement ends a long, drawn-out election that began Nov. 28 and was marred by fraud and other irregularities, several days of rioting and numerous delays. Martelly, a master of Haiti’s compas music before he became a presidential candidate, is scheduled to be inaugurated on May 14th. He will be tasked with leading multibilliondollar reconstruction efforts after a magnitude-7 earthquake last year claimed 300,000 lives, housing hundreds of thousands of displaced quake survivors, and stemming a deadly cholera epidemic.

Wildfires

Texas firefighters battled blazes that have scorched over one million acres and have been burning for more than a week. “We’re actually seeing Texas burn from border to border. We’ve got it in west Texas, in east Texas, in north Texas, in south Texas — it’s all over the state,” Texas Forest Service spokeswoman April Saginor told CNN Radio. Saginor said firefighters from 34 states are now in Texas battling blazes that, over the past two weeks, have destroyed more than 170 homes and over 40 other structures. Texas is experiencing extreme drought conditions. Firefighters in Texas were able to contain nine large fires Thursday, leaving six still actively burning. Since Jan. 1, wildfires in Texas have scorched more than 1.4 million acres and led to the deaths of two firefighters.

Weather

Severe storms battered part of the nation’s midsection Tuesday, toppling trees onto homes in Arkansas and blowing railroad cars off the tracks in Illinois. But unlike the tornadoes and straight-line winds that killed at least 46 people in six states less than a week ago, there weren’t any immediate reports of injuries as the latest bout of storms pounded portions of the South and Midwest.

April 19, 2011

Radiation Rising from Japanese Nuclear Plant

Levels of radioactivity have risen sharply in seawater near a tsunami-crippled nuclear plant in northern Japan, possibly signaling new leaks at the facility, the government said Saturday. The level of radioactive iodine-131 spiked to 6,500 times the legal limit, according to samples taken Friday, up from 1,100 times the limit in samples taken the day before. Levels of cesium-134 and cesium-137 rose nearly fourfold. The increased levels are still far below those recorded earlier this month before the initial leak was plugged.

The operator of Japan’s crippled nuclear plant began pumping highly radioactive water from the basement of one of its buildings to a makeshift storage area Tuesday in a crucial step toward easing the nuclear crisis. It is but one of many steps in a lengthy process to resolve the crisis. Tokyo Electric Power Co. projected in a road map released over the weekend that it would take up to nine months to reach a cold shutdown of the plant. But government officials acknowledge that setbacks could slow the timeline.

Earthquakes

Moderate earthquakes rattled parts of Australia and New Zealand on Saturday, including the devastated city of Christchurch where power was cut to thousands of homesNo major damage was reported from either quake, and no tsunami warning was issued. The magnitude-5.2 quake that struck Christchurch was far less powerful than one that leveled office blocks and homes in the New Zealand city on Feb. 22, killing at least 169 people and devastating the downtown area.

A magnitude-5.9 earthquake jolted Japan on Saturday morning. There were no immediate reports of damage from the earthquake, and there was no risk of a tsunami. Aftershocks continue to rattle Japan after the huge 9.0 earthquake last month.

  • Increased earthquake activity is a key end-time sign and will continue to escalate

Enormous Volcanic Plume under Yellowstone

Scientists using electric and magnetic sensors have mapped the size and composition of a vast plume of hot rock and briny fluid down to 200 miles below Yellowstone National Park’s surface. The giant plume of hot rock feeding the Yellowstone super-volcano may be even bigger than thought, scientists have discovered. Study leader Zhdanov cautions against misconstruing a larger plume as proof that the Yellowstone super-volcano is on the verge of erupting.

Wildfires

For weeks, Texans have watched and worried as fires of an intensity and breadth they have never seen before rage across the state, scorching prairie land and suburbs and destroying hundreds of homes. So far this season, wildfires have charred 1.65 million acres across the state, the Texas Forest Service reported. Across the state, 30 to 40 fires were actively burning and 244 homes have been destroyed. Meanwhile, four wildfires in New Mexico have consumed 52,300 acres and burned 12 structures. West Texas and New Mexico are experiencing extreme drought conditions.

Weather

Vicious storms smacked the Deep South and toppled trees like dominoes as tornadoes howled through towns Friday. Seven deaths were reported in Alabama, including a man killed when the storm tossed a mobile home nearly a quarter of a mile across a state highway. The furious storm system kicked up tornadoes, flash floods and hail as big as softballs and has claimed at least 45 lives on a rampage that began in Oklahoma, then smashed across several Southern states as it reached a new and deadly pitch in North Carolina and Virginia. Emergency crews searched for victims in hard-hit swaths of North Carolina, where 62 tornadoes were reported and 22 killed by the worst spring storm in two decades to hit the state.

Lake Mead replenished by snowfall

Six months ago, Lake Mead was turning to dust, its water levels receding so rapidly that marina operators were moving boat docks weekly. The reservoir, victim of a 10-year drought on the Colorado River, reached a historic low in November, and water users in Arizona and Nevada braced for shortages within the year. Then last week, the federal agency that operates the reservoir declared that enough water would flow down the river this spring – the most in over a decade – to raise water levels above the shortage triggers and ease the threat of rationing through at least 2016. But the snowfall melt still isn’t enough water to end the drought. Lake Mead will still finish the year about 100 feet below its high-water mark and still less than half-full.

Obama Hits Low Point in Gallup Poll

President Obama’s approval rating in the Gallup daily tracking survey is down to 41%, matching the lowest level of his presidency. Gallup notes that Obama “faces difficult challenges ahead in trying to improve the economy and get the federal budget deficit under control, and must do so with Republicans in control of the House.” His ability to navigate these challenges will help determine whether he will be elected to a second term as president,” the report added. “Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all were similarly unpopular at this stage of their presidencies, but the latter two were able to turn things around in time to win a second term in office.”

Obama to Make Easter Prayer Breakfast an Annual Event

President Obama hosted what he called the “second annual” Easter Prayer Breakfast Tuesday, and said he wants to make it a permanent part of White House life. “I’m going to make it annual,” Obama told Christian leaders from across the country gathered in the East Room. “The Easter Egg Roll, that’s well established. The Prayer Breakfast, we started last year.” The reason: In tough times, personal or professional, faith helps. “There’s something about the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ that puts everything else into perspective,” Obama said.

  • Now that Obama has begun campaigning for a second term, he’s trying hard to counter evangelical accusations that he’s a closet Muslim

Arizona Governor Vetoes Presidential ‘Birther’ Bill

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday vetoed a bill that would have required President Obama and other presidential candidates to prove their U.S. citizenship before their names could appear on the state’s ballot. The bill would have made Arizona the first state to pass such a requirement. Opponents had warned the bill would give another black eye to Arizona after last year’s controversy over the state’s illegal immigration enforcement law. Brewer said in her veto letter that she was troubled that the bill empowered Arizona’s secretary of state to judge the qualifications of all candidates when they file to run for office. “I do not support designating one person as the gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate, which could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions,” said Brewer.

But there’s another birther proposal already in the works in Louisiana, House Bill 561 by Rep. Alan Seabaugh and Sen. A.G. Crowe, and there would be no veto there. If the legislature passes it, we’ll sign it,” Kyle Plotkin, press secretary to Gov. Bobby Jindal, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Courts Impose Amnesty for Illegals

A coalition of sheriffs dedicated to defending the border from the illegal alien intrusion says a recent ruling from the Ninth Circuit is “judicially imposed amnesty.” The Ninth Circuit Panel recently voted 2-1 to uphold a lower court’s decision to gut the law enforcement provisions of Arizona S.B. 1070 that were designed to help state and local law enforcement officers better enforce federal immigration laws. The constitutionality of those aspects was challenged by the Obama administration shortly after the state’s governor signed the measure into law. “The court basically said that Obama administration policy trumps state law,” reports Larry Dever, fourth-term sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona and honorary co-chair of the Southwest Border Sheriff’s Project. Dever concludes that the Ninth Circuit ruling will make it more difficult for law enforcement to protect U.S. citizens from the crime of illegal immigration.

Half of Supermarket Meat May Have Staph Bug

A new report estimates that half the meat and poultry sold in the supermarket may be tainted with the staph germ. That estimate is based on 136 samples of beef, chicken, pork and turkey purchased from grocery stores in Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Flagstaff, Ariz. and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Researchers found more than half contained Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that can make people sick. Worse, half of those contaminated samples had a form of the bacteria resistant to at least three kinds of antibiotics. Proper cooking should kill the germs. But the report suggests that consumers should be careful to wash their hands and take other steps not to spread bacteria during food preparation. The nonprofit Translational Genomics Research Institute in Arizona did the research.

2 Million Babies Stillborn Every Year

More than 2 million babies are stillborn every year worldwide and about half could be saved if their mothers had better medical care. While the vast majority of stillbirths happen in the developing world, the rates in countries including Britain, France and the U.S. have not dropped to the degree many experts had expected, as rising obesity levels among pregnant women increase the risk. Experts say providing better obstetric care, treating conditions like syphilis, high blood pressure and diabetes in mothers, among other strategies, could save more than 1 million infants every year. In developing countries, most stillbirths are caused by delivery complications, maternal infections in pregnancy, fetal growth problems and congenital abnormalities. In developed countries, the reasons are often unclear why stillbirths occur, and surveillance and autopsy data are patchy.

Porn Company Amassing 800 Numbers

Records obtained by The Associated Press show that over the past 13 years, a little-known Philadelphia company called PrimeTel Communications has quietly gained control over nearly a quarter of all the 1-800 numbers in the U.S. and Canada, often by grabbing them the moment they are relinquished by previous users. As of March, it administered more 800 numbers that any other company, including Verizon and AT&T. And many, if not most, of those 1.7 million numbers appear to be used for one thing: redirecting callers to a phone-sex service.

Budget Cuts Non-Existent

The devil is in the details, and as the much ballyhooed budget deal reached by House SpeakerJohn Boehner and President Barack Obama is dissected, an evil, despicable lie is revealed: Those “amazing” promised cuts are non-existent. A report from the Congressional Budget Office indicates the $38 billion Congress supposedly cut from the budget in a deal reached April 8 after days of brinkmanship isn’t really $38 billion. It’s actually less than one-tenth of that: $352 million. Not that $38 billion was much of a cut in the first place. It paled in comparison to the $100 billion promised by campaigning Republicans last November, which also pales next to our $15 trillion debt.

House Passes $6T Spending Cut Plan

The House on Friday passed a Republican budget blueprint proposing to fundamentally overhaul Medicare and combat out-of-control budget deficits with sharp spending cuts on social safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid. The nonbinding plan lays out a fiscal vision cutting $6.2 trillion over the coming decade from the budget submitted by President Barack Obama. It passed 235-193 with every Democrat voting “no.” The vote sets up the Republicans’ next round of confrontation with Obama and Democrats over the country’s long-term deficit levels — a standoff likely to come to a head this summer and set the stage for 2012 elections

G-20 Aim to Avert Another Global Economic Meltdown

The world’s major economies have reached an agreement on how to measure the types of dangerous imbalances that contributed to the worst global financial downturn in seven decades. The deal was announced in a joint statement issued Friday following a day of talks among finance officials from the Group of 20 rich industrial nations and major emerging markets such as China and Brazil. The effort will monitor countries and prod them to take corrective actions when imbalances in such areas as foreign trade or government debt rise to excessive levels.

Economic News

Standard & Poor’s warned Monday that United States’ coveted AAA credit rating could fall if legislators don’t take action on the nation’s $9.7 trillion debt. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged after S&P’s rating update. Gold soared to nearly $1,500 an ounce.

Americans are paying more for food and gas, a trend that could slow economic growth in the months ahead. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.5% in March, the Labor Department said Friday. That matched February’s increase, the largest since the recession ended in June 2009. In the past 12 months, the index has increased 2.7%.Excluding the volatile food and gas categories, the so-called core index rose 0.1% and it is up 1.2% in the past year.

Builders broke ground on more new homes last month, giving the weak U.S. housing market a slight boost at the start of the spring buying season. Home construction rose 7.2% in March from February to a seasonally adjusted 549,000 units, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Building permits, an indicator of future construction, rose 11.2% after hitting a five-decade low in February. Still, the building pace is far below the 1.2 million units a year economists consider healthy.

Libya

Heavy fighting raged Tuesday in the western Libyan city of Misrata, witnesses said, while a NATO commander complained the alliance was having trouble destroying Moammar Gadhafi’s mortars and rockets attacking rebels there and Britain said it would send senior military officers to advise the opposition in the east. NATO planes flew over Misrata while the shelling from Gadhafi forces continued. NATO Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm cautioned that “there is a limit to what can be achieved by airpower to stop fighting in a city.” A senior Libyan official, meanwhile, ruled out the possibility of allowing foreign troops to escort humanitarian aid convoys in Libya, saying the government would view such a deployment as a military mission.

Military forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi have been firing into residential neighborhoods in this embattled city with heavy weapons, including cluster bombs that have been banned by much of the world and ground-to-ground rockets, according to witnesses and survivors, as well as physical evidence. Both of these so-called indiscriminate weapons, which strike large areas with a dense succession of high-explosive munitions, by their nature cannot be fired precisely. When fired into populated areas, they place civilians at grave risk. The use of such weapons in these ways could add urgency to the arguments by Britain and France that the alliance needs to step up attacks on the Qaddafi forces, to better fulfill the United Nations mandate to protect civilians.

Egypt

Protesters led by hardline Islamists in southern Egypt held their ground Monday, saying they won’t end their campaign of civil disobedience until the government removes a newly appointed Coptic Christian governor. The protesters, many from the ultraconservative Salafi trend of Islam, have been sitting on train tracks, taken over government buildings and blocked main roads in the southern city of Qena, insisting the new governor won’t properly implement Islamic law. Since the Feb. 11 ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in popular protests, Islamist groups have have been flexing their muscles and are vowing to take a more active political role,

An Egyptian court ordered the dissolving of the country’s former ruling party and the confiscation of its assets on Saturday, meeting a major demand of the protest movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Activists have been pressing Egypt’s ruling military to abolish the National Democratic Party, fearing that even after the fall of Mubarak on Feb. 11 — and the arrest of many of its top leaders — remnants of the party could still try to hold power in the country. In particular, the NDP could still have been a powerful contender in the first post-Mubarak parliament elections due in September.

Syria

Syria has reportedly lifted its decade-old state of emergency Tuesday, according to its state new agency. This comes as Syria issued a stern warning to the nation to stop protesting, hours after security forces opened fire with live ammunition and tear gas on hundreds of anti-government demonstrators  However, the protests in Syria against the dictatorship of Bashar Assad have spread to several regions. The Syrian opposition includes people from both ends of the political spectrum, whether secular leftists or Islamists. More than 5,000 anti-government protesters in Syria took over the main square of the country’s third-largest city Monday, vowing to occupy the site until Assad is ousted. The Egypt-style standoff in the central city of Homs followed funeral processions by more than 10,000 mourners for some of those killed in clashes Sunday that left at least 12 people dead.

Nigeria

Burned corpses with machete wounds lay in roads and smoke rose above the city of Kaduna where rioting broke out again Tuesday among Muslim opposition supporters who were angered by the announcement that the Christian incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan had won the election. On the outskirts of Kaduna, burned out minibuses and cars littered the highways, and at least six charred bodies could be seen. Skull caps and sandals were strewn nearby, left behind by those who frantically fled amid the chaos. The Nigerian Red Cross said Tuesday that nearly 400 people had been wounded. Supporters of opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari set fire to homes of ruling party members in several areas across the north. Police said an angry mob also engineered a prison break.

  • It’s almost always the Muslims who kill when they don’t get what they want – peaceful religion indeed.

Afghanistan

A suicide bomber disguised in an Afghan army uniform on Saturday detonated a vest packed with explosives at the entrance to a base in eastern Afghanistan, killing five coalition and four Afghan soldiers. The attacker had the Afghan security force uniform on and that gave him the opportunity to reach the entrance to the base and carry out the attack. A Taliban militant opened fire inside the Afghan Defense Ministry on Monday, killing two Afghan soldiers in the latest daring attack inside a government or military installation.

Iraq

Suicide bombers detonated two explosives-packed cars Monday outside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, killing at least nine people and wounding 23, officials said. The blasts marked the start of a violent day in the Iraqi capital, where two more bombings left three more dead and 15 wounded. The twin suicide car bombs rattled windows across Baghdad shortly after 8 a.m. The cars blew up just outside a security checkpoint on a heavily traveled road leading into the Green Zone from Baghdad’s international airport.

Thailand

Police say suspected Muslim insurgents have set off a car bomb that killed one soldier and wounded 25 people in restive southern Thailand. The improvised explosive device was planted in a car and exploded Monday morning as a pickup truck carrying paramilitary officers passed by in the city of Yala. Yala is one of the three provinces in Thailand’s deep south where a Muslim insurgency has killed 4,300 people since 2004.

April 15, 2011

Weekly Summary (Friday 4/15/11)

Court Dismisses Challenge to National Day of Prayer

The law calling for an annual National Day of Prayer imposes solely on the duties of the U.S. president, leaving private citizens no legal standing to challenge it, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday. The unanimous decision overturns a 2010 lower court ruling that found the law unconstitutional. The ruling comes just weeks before many Christian groups plan to hold annual observances to mark the contested day on May 5. The panel described the presidential proclamations that follow the law as requests, not commands of the public. Those who do not agree with a president’s statement may speak in opposition to it; they are not entitled to silence the speech of which they disapprove,” the court said. The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which had argued that the proclamation violates the Constitution’s prohibition of an official “establishment” of religion, said it would seek a rehearing by the circuit court’s full panel of judges.

Major Victory for Marriage, Family

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has ruled to protect marriage and the natural family. Two New York homosexuals adopted a Louisiana-born baby and then filed suit to try to force Louisiana to show both men as the child’s father on the birth certificate. “That would be contrary to Louisiana law,” explains Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University School of Law. “The full court of appeals said that the Full Faith and Credit Clause may have to recognize some things, but certainly you do not have to and cannot force another state to act contrary to its own policy regarding marriage and family.” The Christian attorney calls the decision “an incredible victory against the relentless efforts of activists” who advocate for special rights for those in same-sex relationships.

‘School choice’ Wins a Big One

Supporters of school choice are celebrating a huge victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving an Arizona scholarship program. America’s high court voted 5-4 Monday afternoon to dismiss a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against an Arizona program that promotes school choice.  The program, like others across the country, allows state residents to claim a tax credit for donations to private organizations that provide scholarships to religious and other private schools. In Arizona’s case, taxpayers can direct up to $500 ($1000 for married couples) they would have paid in state income taxes to fund those scholarships.

  • Three remarkable decisions given the courts’ general opposition to all things Christian and Godly

Angry Atheists Mount Facebook Attack on Ken Ham

Ken Ham, co-founder of the Creation Museum, was recently shocked to learn that an atheist had placed pornographic images, extreme profanity and vile statements about Christianity on his Facebook page. The Patriot Update identifies the guilty party as Bob Seashols, a coordination center officer for the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) at Richmond International Airport who is also an administrator for Atheists United’s Facebook page. So-called “angry atheists” and other secular humanists have become much more aggressive with their attacks against ministries that proclaim the Bible.

  • The end-time anti-Christ spirit is spreading just as the Apostle Paul foretold

Gays Just 1.7% of Population

A California demographer has released a report of how many homosexual adults are in the U.S. based on five studies that asked subjects about their sexual orientations. Gary Gates, a demographer-in-residence at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, puts the figure at 4 million adults, representing 1.7 percent of the 18-and-over population. That’s much lower than the 3 to 5 percent that has been the conventional wisdom in the last two decades, based on other isolated studies. It’s also a fraction of the figure put out by Alfred Kinsey, who said in the 1940s that 10 percent of the men he surveyed were “predominantly homosexual.”

Congress Passes Compromise Budget

Republican House Speaker John Boehner needed help from the Democrats to pass a budget compromise Thursday, keeping the government open and honoring a deal worked out with Senate Democrats and President Obama last week. Fifty-nine House Republicans voted against the spending plan, which allegedly cuts $38 billion compared to last year’s budget. It took 81 Democrats voting yes to pass it. The final vote was 260 to 167. The spending bill went immediately to the Senate, which passed it with no debate, 81-19. Of the no votes, 15 were Republicans.

That deal ended a seven-month budget stalemate that resulted in eight stopgap spending bills — three of which came just hours before a partial government shutdown. For weeks, House Republicans insisted on $61 billion in spending cuts, which the Senate rejected. Though the 2011 compromise enjoyed only lukewarm support among House conservatives, Democrats were the more vocal opponents — with some decrying the Tea Party’s influence on the process. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., the founder of the anti-tax House Tea Party Caucus, also voted no because the cuts were not deep enough — but 36 of the 59 caucus members supported it.

  • This sad, silly process hasn’t made much of a dent in our huge federal indebtedness that will soon drag the economy down into a much greater depression. Under President Obama, the federal debt has been increasing at a rate of $1,148 per month per American household.

Arizona Lawmakers OK ‘Birther’ Bill

The Arizona Legislature has become the first in the nation to pass a measure requiring presidential candidates to provide proof of citizenship to get on the state’s ballot. Gov. Jan Brewer now has five days to sign it, veto it or do nothing and allow it to become law. The bill would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to provide the Arizona secretary of state with documents proving they are natural-born citizens. Those documents can be either a long-form birth certificate or two or more other permitted documents, including an early baptismal certificate, circumcision certificate, hospital birth record, postpartum medical record signed by the person who delivered the child or an early census record. It stems from questions about President Obama’s origin. Hawaii officials have repeatedly confirmed Obama’s birth in their state but have refused to provide the long-form birth certificate.

Hispanics Surpass Blacks in Most U.S. Metros

Hispanics now outnumber African-Americans for the first time in most U.S. metropolitan areas, shifting the political and racial dynamics in cities once dominated by whites and blacks. Census figures released Thursday highlight the growing diversity of the nation’s 366 metro areas, which were home to a record 83.7 percent share of the U.S. population. Hispanics became the largest minority group in 191 metropolitan areas last year, their population lifted higher as blacks left many economically hard-hit cities in the North for the South and new Latino immigrants spread to different parts of the country. The Census Bureau reported last month that overall Hispanic population jumped 42 percent in the last decade to 50.5 million, or 1 in 6 Americans. Blacks increased a modest 11 percent to 37.7 million.

Workforce Dwindles

The share of the population that is working fell to its lowest level last year since women started entering the workforce in large numbers three decades ago, a USA TODAY analysis finds. Only 45.4% of Americans had jobs in 2010, the lowest rate since 1983 and down from a peak of 49.3% in 2000. Last year, just 66.8% of men had jobs, the lowest on record. The bad economy, an aging population and a plateau in women working are contributing to changes that pose serious challenges for financing the nation’s social programs.

Economic News

Gasoline prices, on the rise for more than three weeks, could top all-time highs by Memorial Day. Nationally, a gallon of regular averages $3.81 — up 10 cents in the past week and nearly 96 cents above year-ago levels. Industry experts say prices could surpass July 2008’s record $4.11 as seasonal demand, speculators and political uncertainty in Libya and the Middle East propel crude oil prices up near $110 a barrel. In some areas, gas has already hit those levels. In Los Angeles, regular averages $4.20 a gallon. In Chicago, it’s averaging $4.17.

Postage rates go up Sunday, but the changes mostly affect businesses. But the basic 44-cent first-class letter rate will stay the same, even though postage overall will go up about 1.7% as the price of many other mailings rises. The post office has been struggling financially as the Internet siphons off a lot of letters, bills and payments that it used to handle. The agency lost $8.5 billion last year and the rate increases — estimated to bring in an added $340 million this fiscal year — won’t make much of a dent in that.

Nuclear Incident Continues to Plague Japan

The operator of Japan’s tsunami-damaged nuclear plant said Friday it would pay an initial $12,000 for each household forced to evacuate because of leaking radiation — a handout some of the displaced slammed as too little. Tens of thousands of residents unable to return to their homes near the nuclear plant are bereft of their livelihoods and possessions, unsure of when, if ever, they will be able to return home. Nearly 140,000 people are still living in shelters after losing their homes or being advised to evacuate because of concerns about radiation.

Japan is still struggling to stabilize the nuclear plant. Radiation leaks from the crisis have contaminated crops and left fishermen in the region unable to sell their catches, a huge blow to an area heavily dependent on fishing and farming.

Middle East

A recent document leaked to the Israeli press by the Wikileaks website confirmed widely held suspicions that  the Iranian backed Shi’ite terror militia Hizbullah has been fully re-armed since the war it fought with Israel in 2006 and is prepared to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel in a future conflict, including as many as 100 rockets a day at Tel Aviv.

Libya

Moammar Gadhafi rolled defiantly through the streets of Tripoli, pumping his fists as he poked through the sun roof of an SUV on Thursday — the same day that NATO airstrikes shook the city. The alliance’s foreign ministers, while united in their aim to pressure the Libyan leader to go, argued at a meeting Thursday over whether to step up military operations that have so far failed to rout him. Gadhafi gave no sign that he’s willing to relent, despite two months of civil war and mounting international pressure for him to move aside. Instead, his loyalists pounded rebel positions in the besieged western city of Misrata with dozens of rockets for several hours, killing at least 13 people. Pentagon officials disclosed Wednesday that American warplanes had continued to strike targets in Libya even after the Obama administration said the United States was stepping back from offensive missions and letting NATO take the lead.

Syria

Syria’s president ordered the release Thursday of hundreds of detainees involved in a month of protests seeking to wrest political freedoms from one of the Middle East’s most repressive governments. The order signaled an attempt by President Bashar Assad to calm weeks of growing protest anger and pre-empt what was expected to be another day of large demonstrations on Friday. Protests erupted in Syria a month ago and have steadily increased, with tens of thousands calling for sweeping political reforms from Assad’s authoritarian regime. More than 200 people have been killed during in the government’s crackdown, according to Syria’s leading pro-democracy group.

Jordan

Hundreds of protesting Islamic hard-liners clashed with supporters of Jordan’s king on Friday, wounding dozens, in the latest move by the extremist movement to assert itself amid the country’s wave of anti-government demonstrations. A crowd of about 350 extremist Salafi Muslims faced off with a slightly smaller group of pro-king loyalists in the town of Zarqa. Salafis beat the government supporters with clubs and fists, and the two sides hurled stones at each other, leaving people bloodied on the ground. The Salafi movement — an ultra-conservative version of Islam with an ideology similar to al-Qaida’s — is banned in Jordan, but it has grown in strength in recent years and Salafis have held a series of rallies in various parts of the country in recent weeks.

Indonesia

A suicide bomber blew himself up as police were praying Friday, wounding 28 people in the first attack on a mosque since extremists started targeting the predominantly Muslim country a decade ago. Though houses of worship are commonly targeted by militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, this was a first for Indonesia, and experts worry it could signal a “hardening” of local militants.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s fighting season will begin in full force by the end of this month as the trees bud and the last of the snows melt off the mountain tops — and with it, a chance to measure the success of NATO efforts to turn back the Taliban. The ferocity of the Taliban’s widely expected spring offensive will influence President Obama’s decision about how many of the nearly 100,000 U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan can start going home in July. The reinforced U.S. troops have routed the Taliban from their strongholds, captured and killed mid- to upper-level leaders, uncovered and destroyed militants’ weapons caches and demolished their compounds. But the militants, who have shown their resiliency time and again, have taken the fight to other areas of country with high-profile attacks in Kabul and elsewhere.

Pakistan

Two U.S. missile strikes killed six reputed Afghan Taliban fighters in a Pakistani tribal region Wednesday, drawing sharp condemnation from Pakistan’s government just days after it asked Washington to limit such attacks. The U.S. relies heavily on the covert, CIA-run missile program to kill al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s northwest – a program Pakistan publicly denounces but has secretly helped. The Obama administration said Tuesday it is negotiating a possible reduction in U.S. intelligence operatives and special operations officers in Pakistan as the two countries try to mend relations.

Mexico

Authorities in western Mexico found the bound, tortured bodies of eight young men Thursday dumped on a roadside. The men all appear to have been executed with a gunshot to the head. Also Thursday, authorities said that another body has been pulled from a pit in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, bringing to 13 the number of corpses found there thus far. The discovery comes as authorities continue extracting bodies from mass graves in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, where 122 corpses have surfaced so far, many of whom are believed to have been pulled off buses by members of the Zetas drug gang.

Weather

A powerful storm system produced a deadly tornado in southeastern Oklahoma and Arkansas, killing 6 people before moving into the Deep South early Friday. Severe storms and tornadoes are possible across the South Friday.

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple described the floods in the eastern part of his state on Monday: “The area from Harwood to Argusville is under siege, more than it probably has been in history.” The northern plains slogged this week through what the National Weather Service called “unprecedented” flooding.

Wildfires

Severe drought conditions in West Texas and New Mexico have spawned numerous wildfires. The southern Plains have been scorched with raging wildfires and bone-dry conditions not seen since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. West Texas was ravaged by wildfires that have blackened tens of thousands of acres, destroyed dozens of homes and left one firefighter critically injured. As of Friday, 466,000 acres (about 727 square miles) have been consumed by fifteen large wildfires in Texas that have destroyed sixty-six structures. Meanwhile, four wildfires in New Mexico have burned 66,000 acres (about 10 square miles) and destroyed a dozen homes.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme and produce increased flooding and wildfires