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

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