Pastor Wins Battle to Cite Jesus in Memorial Day Prayer
The Department of Veterans Affairs cannot bar a Houston pastor from invoking Jesus Christ in a Memorial Day prayer, a federal judge ruled in a case that is yet another illustration of anti-Christian animus in the country. U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes told the department it was “forbidden from dictating the content of speeches – whether those speeches are denominated prayers or otherwise – at the Memorial Day ceremony of National Cemetery Council for Greater Houston.” “The government cannot gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat’s notion of cultural homogeneity,” the judge wrote. “The right of free expression ranges from the dignity of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches to Charlie Sheen’s rants.”
- A rare judicial victory for Christians and advocates of free-speech.
Married Households No Longer the U.S. Majority
Data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows married couples have found themselves in a new position: They’re no longer the majority. It’s a trend that’s been creeping along for decades, but in the 2010 census, married couples represent 48 percent of all households. That’s down from 52 percent in the last census and, for the first time in U.S. history, puts households led by married couples in the minority. The flip in the 2010 census happened in 32 states. In seven other states, less than 51 percent of households were helmed by married couples. The reason for the change is two-fold, say demographic experts: The fast-growing older population is more likely to be divorced or widowed later in life, and 20-somethings are putting off their nuptials for longer stretches.
- The real reason is the relentless attack of Satan to destroy the family unit, from emphasizing the gay agenda to promoting sexual liberation.
Congress Passes 4-Year Extension of Patriot Act
Congress on Thursday passed a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists. Votes taken in rapid succession in the Senate and House came after lawmakers rejected attempts to temper the law enforcement powers to ensure that individual liberties are not abused. Following the 250-153 evening vote in the House, the legislation to renew three terrorism-fighting authorities headed for the president’s signature with only hours to go before the provisions expired at midnight. Minutes before the midnight deadline, the White House said Obama had signed the bill while in France on his European trip.
House Passes $690 Billion Defense Bill
The Republican-controlled House on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a $690 billion defense bill that limits President Obama’s authority on reducing nuclear weapons and deciding the fate of terrorist suspects. n a 322-96 vote, the House approved the broad defense blueprint that would provide a 1.6 percent increase in military pay, fund an array of aircraft, ships and submarines and increase health care fees slightly for working-age military retirees. The bill meets the Pentagon’s request for $119 billion to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Final passage came shortly after the House narrowly rejected a measure requiring an accelerated timetable and exit strategy for withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan nearly 10 years after the conflict began.
Corporate Donations Ban Unconstitutional
A U.S. judge has ruled that the campaign finance law banning corporations from making contributions to federal candidates is unconstitutional, citing the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision last year in his analysis. In a ruling issued late Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Cacheris says that under the Citizens United decision, corporations enjoy the same rights as individuals to contribute to campaigns.
Tornado Prompts Nuclear Concerns
The closest nuclear power plant to tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., was singled out weeks before the storm for being vulnerable to twisters. Inspections triggered by Japan’s nuclear crisis found that some emergency equipment and storage sites at the Wolf Creek nuclear plant in southeastern Kansas might not survive a tornado. Specifically, plant operators and federal inspectors said Wolf Creek did not secure equipment and vehicles needed to fight fires, retrieve fuel for emergency generators and resupply water to keep nuclear fuel cool as it’s being moved. Despite these findings, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded that the plant met requirements put in place after the Sept. 11 attacks that are designed to keep the nuclear fuel cool and containment structures intact during an emergency.
- This is now the deadliest year on record for tornadoes, with the death count at 523 and the year not even half over. The previous high was 519 in 1953. Prior to 1950, records were based on estimates.
Space Station an Engineering Marvel
Spacewalking astronauts wound up 12 years of International Space Station assembly this past week, putting the finishing touches on a legitimate contender for the greatest engineering achievement of all time. The space station project involved 100,000 people in 15 nations on three continents, and the construction site is 220 miles high and requires a rocket-powered commute. The $100 billion station weighs 1 million pounds. It has a metallic backbone that stretches 335 feet — more than the length of an football field. Its massive solar panels stretch 240 feet from tip to tip — longer than the wingspan of a Boeing 777 jumbo jet. It sleeps six people on long stays; up to 12 or 13 for shorter visits. Rotating crews have staffed the station round-the-clock since the first tenants opened the outpost in November 2000. There were 159 spacewalks done during the assembly of the station.
- It remains to be seen whether the station’s ongoing scientific experiments and its role as a jumping off point for space exploration will prove worth the tremendous investment of time and money.
Nation’s Front Yard in Poor Shape
Midway between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol, the National Mall is in need of an extreme makeover. The National Mall — the site of presidential inaugurations, Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech and political rallies — is the country’s most visited park. “It’s been worn down and loved to death,” says Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall, a non-profit group raising money for its restoration. She says the soil is now so compacted, after thousands of events and pickup softball games, that the Interior Department’s National Park Service can’t just lay down sod and hope it lasts. Also, because the park service has lacked funds, she says the front of the Jefferson Memorial plaza — built on pylons — has sunk 8 inches in the past two years, the Tidal Basin’s sidewalks are cracking, and the Lincoln Memorial’s Reflecting Pool leaks 50 million gallons of water annually. The 684-acre National Mall, largely designed by Pierre L’Enfant in 1791, has begun a multiyear restoration that includes new walkways, trees and visitors’ centers. The trust aims to raise half of the estimated $700 million cost.
FEMA Running Out of Money
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will have to stop recovery efforts in 50 states in the spring of 2012 without additional money for disaster relief. Beyond offering immediate disaster assistance, FEMA is vital to disaster recovery because it pays at least 75% of long-term projects, such as rebuilding schools, hospitals and roads. If the disaster fund dips below $1 billion, the agency will stop approving rebuilding projects until the fund is replenished.
Middle Class Hardest Hit by Outsourcing
It’s the middle class, studies have shown, that appears especially vulnerable to outsourcing or offshoring – and the ripple effects, which range from job losses to lower wages. The effects of globalization are as vast as the world’s new economy. Former aerospace engineers, IT programmers and call-center representatives who saw their jobs move overseas can attest to that. And so can the radiologist in India reading X-rays for local hospitals, as well as other foreign workers who have gained jobs at the expense of Americans. Given the burgeoning of technology and the potential of the Internet, the list of jobs that might be offshored in the future could continue to grow. A shared global economy has been decades in the making, with the growth accelerating in recent years. First, cheap consumer goods, clothing, cars and electronic goods flooded the U.S. market. Companies in other countries, particularly Japan and then China, learned how to grow their economies by catering to American consumers, especially its middle class. Americans helped by buying Toyotas, Hondas, Sonys and other products. The trend that has sucked away middle-class jobs in America has, ironically, fostered the growth of middle-class lifestyles in China, Brazil, India and other emerging economies.
- Globalization, led by economic forces, is an end-time phenomenon leading toward the prophesied one-world government (Rev. 13)
Consumers spent more in April, but much of the increase was eaten up by higher food and energy prices. After discounting for the jump in prices, spending barely budged and after-tax incomes were flat for a second straight month. Incomes rose 0.4% but after-tax incomes adjusted for inflation were flat. Analysts are worried that big gains in gasoline and food prices are leaving consumers with little left to spend on other products.
The number of people who signed contracts to buy homes fell sharply in April, hitting its lowest point since fall and renewing fears that a recovery in the housing market is far off. The National Association of Realtors says its index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes sank 11.6% last month to a reading of 81.9. A reading of 100 is considered healthy. The last time the index reached at least 100 was in April 2010. That was the final month when people could qualify for a home-buying tax credit of up to $8,000.
Rich countries and international lenders are aiming to provide $40 billion in funding for Arab nations trying to establish free democracies, officials said at a Group of Eight summit Friday. The autocratic regimes in the Arab world were warned that they will be shut out of aid and investment, while new democracies are encouraged to open their economies. The prime ministers of Tunisia and Egypt joined the G-8 leaders and appealed for help after uprisings earlier this year that overthrew longtime autocrats but also scared away tourists and investors.
After a four-year blockade, Egypt on Saturday permanently opened the Gaza Strip’s main gateway to the outside world, bringing long-awaited relief to the territory’s Palestinian population and a significant achievement for the area’s ruling Hamas militant group. The closure, along with an Israeli blockade of its borders with Gaza, had fueled an economic crisis in the territory. Saturday’s move also raises Israeli fears that militants will be able to move freely in and out of Gaza. Highlighting those fears, the Israeli army said militants from inside Gaza fired a mortar shell into southern Israel overnight. There were no injuries
Libya is calling on Russia to mediate a cease-fire, a sign that Moammar Gadhafi’s regime may be ready to bring about an end to the months-long war. In a telephone call, Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmudi asked for help in achieving a cease-fire and starting talks without preconditions, according to a statement posted by late Thursday by the Russian Foreign Ministry. The request comes after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was asked by the Group of Eight to mediate a settlement.
NATO says it has struck a command and control center where Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi sometimes lives but he was not a target. An alliance spokesman said the Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli was hit in the early hours of Saturday. Saturday’s strike came after leaders at a summit of G8 world powers reiterated that Gadhafi had to leave power.
Thousands of protesters returned to downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square Friday for what they called a “second revolution,” pressing Egypt’s military rulers to speed up the pace of democratic reforms in a country that is still charting its political future. Protesters carried banners reading the “Egyptian revolution is not over” and chanted the slogan. They also called for the speedy trial of Mubarak and high-ranking members of his regime. Christians and Muslims took turns praying in Tahrir Square.
A mediator says Yemen’s president and the country’s most powerful tribal leader have agreed to end five days of urban gunbattles that killed at least 124 people and threatened to push the country into civil war. The deadly fighting that rocked the Yemeni capital this week spread beyond Sanaa on Friday as armed tribesmen seeking to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh seized two military camps in battles that killed at least 18 and prompted airstrikes by government warplanes. The fighting brought to at least 124 the number killed in the past five days of bloodshed, which has hiked fears that the Arab world’s poorest country could be thrown into civil war as Saleh clings to power.
A NATO airstrike targeting insurgents inadvertently hit two civilian homes in the volatile southwestern Helmand province, killing 14 women and children, an Afghan government official said Sunday. the alliance launched the airstrike late on Saturday in retaliation for an attack earlier in the day on a U.S. Marine base in Helmand’s northwest district.
A suicide bomber wearing a police uniform blew himself up during a meeting at a provincial governor’s compound Saturday in northern Afghanistan, killing six people, including two German soldiers, and wounding the top German commander in the country.
A suicide bomber targeted pro-government tribal elders in Pakistan’s northwestern frontier Saturday, killing eight men, officials said, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during a visit here implored Pakistanis to take decisive steps to fight terrorism. Ten people were also were wounded when a bomb ripped through a restaurant at a market in the troubled Bajur tribal region, near the Afghan border. On Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tahmina Janjua said Clinton’s visit had helped clear up misunderstandings and that the two sides would cooperate on raids against terror suspects.
A leading charity has warned that a new wave of violent conflict has displaced up to 35,000 children in Sudan’s contested border region of Abyei. Northern Sudanese tanks rolled into Abyei last weekend and forced residents to flee, igniting a conflict that many fear could escalate into civil war. Both northern and Southern Sudan stake a claim to Abyei, a fertile grassland near several oil fields. Save the Children says children who have been separated from their families since fighting broke out are at “grave risk” of being targeted for sexual and physical abuse or recruited into the armed conflict.
Riot police firing rubber bullets and wielding truncheons clashed Friday with protesters as authorities cleared away a makeshift camp set up as part of a Spain-wide demonstration against the country’s economic problems. More than 100 people were injured. Many of the protesters, who are angry about high unemployment, anti-austerity measures and politicians’ handling of the economy, refused to move.
More and more Indian families with one girl are aborting subsequent pregnancies when prenatal tests show another female is on the way, according to a new study. The decline in the number of girls is more pronounced in richer and better educated households, according to research published last week in the medical journal Lancet. Those numbers show that a 1996 law that bans testing for the gender of a fetus has been largely ineffective, the study said. In India, there is a huge cultural preference for boys in large part because of the enormous expense in marrying off girls and paying elaborate dowries. The study said that between 4 million and 12 million girls are thought have been aborted from 1980 to 2010.
Firefighters in California are making progress against a wind-driven wildfire that burned more than 2 square miles, threatening hundreds of homes and prompting evacuations. Residents of 400 homes were under a voluntary evacuation and 100 homes were threatened.
A key highway into Yellowstone is closed for Memorial Day weekend because parts of the road have seen more than 25 feet of snow. And campgrounds are feverishly removing snow from campsites to clear the way for visitors. Welcome to Memorial Day weekend in much of the West. Epic snowpack in parts of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and California is forcing many tourists to abandon the annual rites of launching their summer holidays with a camping trip. Others plan to take advantage of prolonged skiing and snowshoeing this strange spring.
At least three people were killed in the Atlanta area as powerful storms toppled trees and power lines and knocked out power to more than 200,000 customers statewide. Heavy rains led the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood warning for portions of Fulton and DeKalb counties. The deaths Thursday night came just days after a powerful tornado killed 126 in Joplin, Mo., and just over a month after an outbreak of tornadoes raked the Southeast, killing more than 300.
Montana residents struggled against widespread flooding that could linger for several weeks as the soggy Northern Plains braced for the flood waters to descend from higher elevations. Gov. Brian Schweitzer warned that it could be a month before flooding dissipates in many areas of Montana. Forecasters said Friday that heavy rains in the state over the holiday weekend followed by warming weather will likely speed up snowmelt and add to the inundation. Authorities have already started releasing massive volumes of water from overburdened reservoirs.
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