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Bin Laden Raid Sparks Intense Criticism in Pakistan

Outraged Pakistanis stepped up calls Saturday for top government officials to resign following the daring American helicopter raid that killed Osama bin Laden and embarrassed the nation. Some of the sharpest language was directed at the army and intelligence chiefs, a rare challenge to arguably the two most powerful men in the country, who are more accustomed to being feared than publicly criticized. With anti-American sentiment already high in the South Asian nation, many Pakistani citizens were incensed by the fact that the country’s military was powerless to stop the American raid.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, in his first public response to the killing of Osama bin Laden, rejected charges of incompetence or complicity by Pakistan’s military or intelligence agencies. In his first public comments on Pakistan since the death of Osama bin Laden, President Obama said the al-Qaeda leader must have had “some sort of support network” there. President Obama’s national security adviser demanded Sunday that Pakistan let American investigators interview Osama bin Laden’s three widows, adding new pressure in a relationship now fraught over how Bin Laden could have been hiding near Islamabad for years without local assistance. Senior Pakistani security officials said Osama bin Laden’s daughter had confirmed her father was captured alive and then shot dead by the US Special Forces during the first few minutes of the operation

Bin Laden Aftermath

Some of the first information gleaned from Osama bin Laden’s compound indicates al-Qaeda considered attacking U.S. trains on the upcoming anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. But counterterrorism officials say they believe the planning never got beyond the initial phase and have no recent intelligence pointing to an active plot for such an attack.

Only one of the five people shot and killed during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound was armed, the head of the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday as officials revised the tale of the al-Qaeda leader’s takedown for the third day in a row. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said White House officials “got a little ahead of themselves” earlier in the week when they mistakenly described a sustained firefight between Navy SEALs and those in bin Laden’s compound. Seeking to satisfy a demanding media — which is now armed with the tools to disseminate information instantly — the Obama administration rushed out details of Osama bin Laden’s death that have since had to be changed and corrected. No, bin Laden was not armed. No, he did not use his wife as a human shield. No, there wasn’t much of a firefight.

  • So why kill him? Better to flaunt him as a continual symbol of a USA triumph over Islamic terrorism. And bury him at sea while no one’s looking? A coverup of some kind is underway.

The government’s hunt for Osama bin Laden has left the country questioning whether the tactics used to interrogate suspected terrorists were successful and lawful. With his death, both sides of the debate have regrouped along familiar lines, claiming they were right all along. “For those who say that waterboarding doesn’t work, to say that it should be stopped and never used again: We got vital information, which directly led us to bin Laden,” the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said last week. But current and former officials directly involved in the interrogation program say that’s not the case.

Strain on Armed Forces in the Field at a Five-Year High

U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan are experiencing some of the greatest psychological stress and lowest morale in five years of fighting, reports a military study. Mental health strain was most severe among veterans of three or more deployments, with a third of those showing signs of psychological problems defined as either stress, depression or anxiety as the U.S. approaches the 10th year of its longest war. The report says decline in individual morale is significant: 46.5% of troops said they had good morale, compared with 65.7% who said so in 2005. The study’s researchers also found evidence of physical wear-and-tear with a third of the force experiencing chronic pain. “We’re an Army that’s in uncharted territory here,” says Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff. “We have never fought for this long with an all-volunteer force.”

Challenges to Health Care Law Get Appellate Hearing Tuesday

The legal battle over the federal health care law shifts to a historic Richmond courthouse Tuesday, in the first appellate hearing on the constitutionality of the Obama-sponsored legislation. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit will consider two cases testing the sweeping law that requires people to buy health insurance by 2014 or face a tax penalty. In one of those two cases, a trial judge declared that mandate, the linchpin provision of the 2010 health-care law, unconstitutional. In the other case, a judge upheld it. Competing arguments from the Obama administration and its challengers will now play out before the highest court to date — one that brings the case closer to its likely destination, the U.S. Supreme Court. .

Feds Order Release of Illegals to “Phony Up Numbers”

The U.S. Border Patrol has told its agents to stop arresting illegal aliens crossing the border from Mexico to keep the illegal immigration numbers down, Arizona Sheriff Larry Dever told Newsmax. He also charges that Attorney General Eric Holder is “holding hands with the ACLU” to protect illegal aliens from prosecution, says illegals are committing “heinous crimes” across America every day, and calls claims that the federal government should be solely responsible for controlling illegal immigration “balderdash.” Dever is sheriff of Cochise County, which shares an 83-mile border with Mexico, and he says his Border Patrol sector is responsible for half of all illegal aliens caught trying to enter the country. “For the secretary of homeland security to say the border is more secure than ever, well, I’ve been there forever and there was a happier time than what it is today. We have a long, long way to go.” Dever recently told Congress that in one district in Texas, illegals are allowed to be caught crossing the border 14 times before being charged with a felony, and federal smuggling charges are not considered unless at least six illegal aliens are being smuggled into the country.

Navy Allows Chaplains to Perform Same-Sex Unions

The Office of the Chief of Navy Chaplains is now allowing same-sex couples in the Navy to get married in Navy chapels by Navy chaplains under condition that same-sex marriage is legal in the state where the ceremony is to be performed. “Regarding chaplain participation, consistent with the tenets of his or her religious organization, a chaplain may officiate a same-sex, civil marriage: if it is conducted in accordance with the laws of the state which permits same-sex marriages or union; and if the chaplain is, according to applicable state and local laws, otherwise fully certified to officiate that state’s marriages,” the directive concludes.

The Family Research Council says that this is yet another violation of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) being forced upon military chaplains on U.S. Military bases by the Obama Administration.  Christian chaplains will be forced to support or facilitate homosexual marriage ceremonies, and desecrate their Protestant or Catholic chapels by welcoming sodomite weddings. “By pretending that all military chapels which sit on federal land, for example a federal U.S. military base surrounded by the state of Massachusetts, are now under control of the state, Obama has effectively kicked all chapels off of federal land, and given the Christian chapel buildings over to control of pro-homosexual states.”

AFA Forces Sears to Remove Pornographic DVDs

When the American Family Association reported Sears was selling pornographic DVDs on its website, Sears initially told AFA supporters that it was untrue. Finally, Sears called AFA on May 6 after AFA supporters flooded the company with calls and emails. During the call, Sears again vigorously denied they were selling pornography. However, AFA clearly showed Sears the material on their very own website! When Sears realized they were wrong, they issued this statement to AFA: “We sincerely apologize to any customers who were offended. Our agreements with our vendors prohibit content that is pornographic or sexually explicit in nature. We are removing these items that do not meet our guidelines. We regularly review our processes to ensure compliance by our vendors, and we encourage our customers and community to help us flag any items that they believe might violate our guidelines.”

U.S. Tax Burden at Lowest Level Since ’58

Americans are paying the smallest share of their income for taxes since 1958, a reflection of tax cuts and a weak economy, a USA TODAY analysis finds. The total tax burden — for all federal, state and local taxes — dropped to 23.6% of income in the first quarter, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis data. By contrast, individuals spent roughly 27% of income on taxes in the 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s — a rate that would mean $500 billion of extra taxes annually today, one-third of the estimated $1.5 trillion federal deficit this year. “We have a 1950s level of taxation and a 21st-century-sized government,” says Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a deficit-reduction advocacy group.

  • Even as government increased spending, overall tax rates were reduced – a recipe for disaster. Not only do we need to decrease the size of government, but we also need to pay the piper and increase taxes to balance the budget in the short-term. Long-term, though, decreased entitlements will be required.

Deficit-Reduction Talks Sidestep Medicare, Taxes

Democrats and Republicans agreed Thursday to focus initially on areas of potential compromise — rather than overhauling Medicare or raising taxes — as they seek to reduce a $1.4 trillion budget deficit and slow the growth of the $14.3 trillion national debt. They will meet again Tuesday. Biden and the six lawmakers representing House and Senate leaders face two deadlines: The nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit will be reached this month; and any further effort to control the nation’s long-term debt will have to be done before Congress adjourns this year, because neither side expects action during the 2012 election year.

Economic News

Employers added 244,000 jobs in April for the third straight month, the biggest hiring spree in five years. But the unemployment rate rose to 9% in part because some people resumed looking for work. Job gains were widespread. Retailers, factories, financial companies, education and health care and even construction companies all added jobs. Federal, state and local governments cut jobs. The rise in the unemployment rate from 8.8% in March was the first increase since November.

Home prices nationwide have double dipped, with prices plunging below their March 2009 bottom, the Clear Capital research firm reports. The company’s monthly Home Data Index shows home prices double dipping 0.7 percent below the previous record low set in March 2009.

The price of silver collapsed for the fourth-consecutive day, falling a brutal 8% Thursday to $36.23 an ounce. Silver lost 25% of its value in just four days after hitting a peak of $48.58 last week. Silver now finds itself in a crushing bear market that’s not showing any signs of relenting. A 20% decline from a market high is the unofficial definition of a bear market.

Has the soaring price of gas finally peaked ? Possibly. Oil prices fell 15% this week, the steepest decline in two and a half years, and futures prices for light, sweet crude fell below $100 a barrel  Oil hit a two-year high of $114.83 Monday. Authorities say they’re unclear whether the sell-off is more than a blip and can reverse 44 straight days of rising prices at the pump. Gas prices stayed basically flat at $3.984 a gallon on average.

Fannie Mae asked the government Friday for an additional $8.5 billion in aid after declining home prices caused more defaults on loans guaranteed by the mortgage giant. The company said it lost $8.7 billion in the first three months of the year. Those losses led Fannie to request more than three times the federal aid it sought in the previous quarter. The total cost of rescuing the government-controlled mortgage buyer is nearing $100 billion — the most expensive bailout of a single company. Combined with the bailout of sibling company Freddie Mac, the government expects their rescue to cost taxpayers about $259 billion.

European authorities have conceded they may need to do more to help Greece with its massive debts more than a year after it was first bailed out. Though Greece has enacted stringent austerity measures, started reforming the economy and announced a 50 billion euro ($73 billion) privatization program, the government is having trouble raising revenue through tax receipts as the country remains in recession.

Pakistan

The U.S. carried out its first drone attack in Pakistan since Osama bin Laden’s death in an American raid this week, killing 15 people in a hail of missiles near the Afghan border Friday. The strike targeted a vehicle suspected of carrying foreign militants in the North Waziristan tribal area, an al-Qaida and Taliban stronghold that has been subject to frequent missile attacks. The aircraft fired eight missiles at the vehicle as it drove near a roadside restaurant, killing at least 15 people. Drone attacks are extremely unpopular in Pakistan, and the most recent attack could further increase tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan that have spiked in the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s death.

Afghanistan

Taliban gunmen unleashed a major assault Saturday on government buildings in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s largest southern city — a former Taliban stronghold where international and Afghan forces are trying to establish security and a functioning government. Government and hospital officials confirmed that the governor’s compound, the mayor’s office and the intelligence agency offices had all been attacked. At least 12 people had been wounded, according to officials at the city’s main hospital.

Libya

Witnesses say Gadhafi forces have bombed the main fuel depot in Misrata, intensifying the regime’s campaign against the rebel-held city that has been under siege for over two months. Smoke from the main fuel depot near the city port is still billowing into the skies following Saturday’s overnight bombing. Amnesty International said Gadhafi’s forces may have committed war crimes in Misrata where the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating because of regime attempts to tighten its siege and block access by sea.

Egypt

Relations between Egypt’s Muslims and Christians degenerated to a new low Sunday after riots overnight left 12 people dead and a church burned, adding to the disorder of the country’s post-revolution transition to democracy. The attack on the church was the latest sign of assertiveness by an extreme, ultraconservative movement of Muslims known as Salafis, whose increasing hostility toward Egypt’s Coptic Christians over the past few months has met with little interference from the country’s military rulers.

Syria

Syrian security forces arrested hundreds of activists and anti-government protesters in house-to-house raids across the country Monday, part of an escalating government crackdown aimed at stamping out the nationwide revolt engulfing the country. President Bashar Assad has dispatched army troops and tanks to crush the seven-week uprising that has posed the most serious challenge to his family’s 40-year rule. The widening crackdown suggests that Assad’s regime is determined to crush the uprising by force and intimidation, despite rapidly escalating international outrage and a death toll that has topped 630 civilians since the unrest began.

Anti-government protests in Syria have increasingly targeted Christians in the country, according to sources for International Christian Concern. One Christian leader said, “People want to go out and peacefully ask for certain changes, but Muslim Salafi groups are sneaking in with their goal, which is not to make changes for the betterment of Syria, but to take over the country with their agenda.” He said Christians have been told join protests or else leave the country, at least one Christian home was attacked, and several churches received written threats over Easter. Another Syrian Christian leader told ICC, “If Muslim Salafis gain political influence, they will make sure that there will be no trace of Christianity in Syria.” ICC says if the situation further deteriorates, the country may see an exodus similar to that of Iraq’s Christians, in which more than half the Christian population has left over the last eight years.

Yemen

Security forces backed by army units opened fire Sunday on protesters demanding the ouster of Yemen’s longtime president, killing three. In all, tens of thousands of protesters mobilized in several cities and towns, according to activists — the latest installment of daily protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh that have been staged for almost three months. More than 140 people reportedly have been killed in the government crackdown on the protesters, who have nonetheless grown in number week after week.

Tunisia

Tunisia’s caretaker government has ordered an overnight curfew for the capital and nearby areas, following three days of renewed protests over fears that the country’s efforts at democracy are in jeopardy. The move, after three days of clashes between hundreds of angry protesters and riot police, marked the interim government’s effort to bring order back to Tunisia after massive street upheaval brought down the 23-year regime of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January. The new curfew harkened back to similar measures instituted by Ben Ali’s regime before it fell.

Bahrain

Bahrain’s king set a fast-track timetable to end martial law-style rule Sunday in a bid to display confidence that authorities have smothered a pro-reform uprising even as rights groups denounced the hard-line measures. The announcement to lift emergency rule came just hours after the start of a closed-door trial accusing activists of plotting to overthrow the Gulf state’s rulers. The decision appears part of Bahrain’s aggressive international campaign to reassure financial markets and win back high-profile events. They include the coveted Formula One grand prix that was canceled in March amid deadly clashes and protests by the country’s majority Shiites, who are seeking greater rights and freedoms.

Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is mired in a political dispute with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that could result in the president’s resignation, Al Jazeera English reported Friday. The dispute is reportedly so severe that Ahmadinejad staged a 10-day walkout protest, during which time he was not seen in a single cabinet meeting. This split between the men has now boiled over: as many as 25 people close to Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have been arrested and accused of sorcery, according to The Guardian. The row between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei came to a head on April 17, when the president demanded that his intelligence minister resign. In a rare public reaction, Khameni rebuked the president and reinstated the minister, setting up a conflict between the two.

Japan

Japan urged a power company Friday to suspend all three reactors at a coastal nuclear plant while safety measures are taken to ensure damage from a major earthquake or tsunami does not cause a second nuclear accident. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at a news conference Friday evening the shutdown was requested for safety reasons, citing experts’ forecast of a 90 percent probability of a quake with magnitude of 8.0 or higher striking central Japan within 30 years. A safety review of all Japan’s 54 nuclear plants was prompted by the radiation crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that also left more than 25,000 people dead and missing on the northeast coast.

Haiti

A United Nations-sponsored report into the causes of a deadly cholera outbreak that ravaged Haiti in the wake of its disastrous 2010 earthquake has discovered a culprit — the U.N. itself. The 32-page report, prepared by an independent panel of medical experts at the behest of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, clearly states that the source of the epidemic was most likely a camp for U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti, whose human waste was dumped by independent contractors into an unsecured pit that was susceptible to flooding in heavy rainfall. That conclusion, the report notes, mirrors “a commonly held belief in Haiti” virtually from the moment the outbreak began. The cholera epidemic, which is still ongoing, has killed some 4,500 Haitians through severe diarrhea and dehydration since its outbreak in October 2010. There had been no previous cholera outbreak in Haiti for nearly a century.

Mexico

Key US lawmakers urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a letter released Friday to support labeling Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups and craft a strategy to help Mexico defeat them. “The Mexican drug cartels present a dangerous threat to the national security of the United States,” said the group, led by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, a Republican. “It is clear violent actions taken by the Mexican drug cartels have evolved and are acts of terrorism. These cartels should be classified as terrorist organizations,” they wrote.

Mexico sent hundreds of soldiers and federal police to a drug-violence plagued northern region Friday, the same day cartel gunmen fired on a military convoy with a grenade launcher and hit a bus carrying employees of a U.S.-owned assembly plant. The attack on the army convoy underscored the growing boldness of Mexico’s drug cartels. The army said attackers believed to be working for the Zetas cartel opened fire on the army vehicles with guns and a grenade launcher from a highway overpass on the outskirts of the northern city of Monterrey. One soldier and five people in passing vehicles were wounded, and one attacker was killed. The army said it found grenades, guns and hats with the letter “Z” — the Zetas symbol — at the scene.

Weather

April’s ferocity was one for the record books: There were more tornadoes in April 2011 than in any month in U.S. history. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates there were more than 600 tornadoes in April, shattering the record of 543 in May 2003. With an estimated 327 deaths, the tornado outbreak April 25-28 was the third-deadliest on record, After a relatively quiet first week of May, the atmosphere appears to be gearing up for another round of violent weather this week in parts of the country.

The swollen Mississippi River is threatening record flooding this week along its path through Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. Officials went door to door in Memphis on Sunday to warn 243 more households to prepare for possible evacuations. Parts of the Mississippi Delta are already beginning to flood, sending white-tail deer and wild pigs swimming to dry land, submerging yacht clubs and closing casino boats, and compelling residents to flee from their homes. The flooding is already breaking many high-water records that have stood since the 1930s.

While a vast swath of America’s midsection braces for Mississippi River flooding, a small corner of the Northeast is quietly dealing with high-water headaches of its own. Gorged on snowmelt and incessant rain, normally placid Lake Champlain is overflowing, creeping into homes, businesses and neighborhoods in upstate New York and Vermont. In Vermont, the floodwaters threaten to swamp the two access roads leading to the island communities of Grand Isle County, home to about 7,500 people. While there have been no deaths and no mandatory evacuations, record-high lake levels have caused flooding in Burlington — the state’s biggest city — and numerous towns.

  • While not of the epic proportions of Noah’s worldwide flood, which God promised not to repeat, increased rainfall and record flooding will be a hallmark of increasingly severe end-time weather

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