Florida Imam, 2 Sons Arrested for Supporting Taliban

A Miami imam and two of his sons were arrested Saturday on charges they provided some $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization. The men are U.S. citizens. Also named in the indictment are three others at large in Pakistan — Hafiz Khan’s daughter, grandson and an unrelated man, all three of whom are charged with handling the distribution of funds to terrorists. The funds were used to buy guns, support militants’ families and promote the cause of the Pakistani Taliban, according to the indictment. The indictment recounts recorded conversations in which Hafiz Khan allegedly voices support for attacks on the Pakistani government and American troops in the region.

Different U.S. Attitude about Syria, Libya

Like Libya’s dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Syria’s dictator Bashar Assad also has been attacking his own cities to crush peaceful protesters demanding democratic reforms. He, too, has killed hundreds of civilians with troops and tanks and indiscriminate shelling of the kind that led the United Nations to approve the NATO air campaign that continues in Libya today. Yet Assad has escaped the same treatment from the West, and President Obama has not called for the world to unite in a military action against it as he did for Gadhafi. Some foreign policy experts say the White House is conflicted over Syria not because it is any less violent than Libya but because it is critical to Obama’s attempt to end Iran’s nuclear program and to promote Arab-Israeli peace. They say Obama’s State Department wants Syria, which is Iran’s greatest ally in the region, to persuade Iran’s leaders to end its nuclear program and its support of anti-Israeli terrorism and if not, end its alliance with Iran.

Bin Laden Aftermath

A pair of suicide bombers attacked recruits leaving a paramilitary training center in Pakistan on Friday, killing 80 people in an especially deadly strike that the Pakistani Taliban claimed it carried out to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden. The blasts in the northwest were a reminder of the savagery of al-Qaeda-linked militants in Pakistan. They occurred even as the country faces international suspicion that elements within its security forces may have been harboring bin Laden, who was killed in a raid in Abbottabad, about a three hours’ drive from the scene of the bombing. The bombers blew themselves up at the main gate of the facility for the Frontier Constabulary, a poorly equipped but front-line force in the battle against al-Qaeda. A roadside bomb has hit a passenger bus in eastern Pakistan Saturday, killing at least three people and wounding several others.

Members of Pakistan’s Parliament slammed the United States on Saturday for the raid that killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden on their soil. The parliamentary resolution that emerged from the gathering termed the U.S. raid as an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty. It also criticized the American missile strikes in Pakistan’s militant-riddled tribal areas, and said the government should consider preventing U.S. and NATO supply trucks from using land routes in Pakistan if the strikes continue. Many analysts have long suspected that Pakistan secretly allows the drone attacks while publicly denouncing them.

With Pakistani intelligence officers in the room, U.S. intelligence officer have interviewed three of Osama bin Laden’s widows. CNN, quoting two senior U.S. officials and a senior Pakistani official, says the eldest of the three widows spoke for the group and that they were “quite hostile.” Sources said the interview did not yield much information, but note that it is early in the process.

Donations Keep Indiana Planned Parenthood Afloat

Planned Parenthood of Indiana said Friday that it had enough private donations to continue the treating its existing Medicaid patients around the state for one week. The announcement came after a first-in-the-nation law cutting state Medicaid money to the health care provider took effect Wednesday. Planned Parenthood is challenging the constitutionality of the new law, and a federal judge is expected to make a decision by July 1 on whether the law should remain in effect while the court is hearing the case or be placed hold until a verdict.

  • The so-called health care provider is mostly an abortion mill

Georgia Governor Signs Immigration Bill

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, calling it “a rather historic moment,” on Friday signed a bill that cracks down on illegal immigration in the state by increasing some enforcement powers and requiring many employers to check the immigration status of new hires. “While I believe immigration is an issue that can ideally be identified and addressed — and should be addressed— at the federal level, this legislation I believe is a responsible step forward in the absence of federal action.” The new law — the subject of heated debate in the Legislature — shares some similarities to a controversial law enacted last year in Arizona and another enacted this year in Utah. Part or all of those two laws have been blocked by federal judges, and opponents have said they’ll sue to try to block Georgia’s law.

Latinos: Obama’s Pandering on Immigration Falls Flat

Reaction from Hispanic leaders suggests President Barack Obama’s charm offensive with Latinos in the run-up to the 2012 election may be falling flat. Polls indicate that far fewer Hispanics say they’ll cast their vote for the president than did so in 2008. One prominent observer of the Latino community, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr., is calling on Hispanics to launch a third-party movement to ensure their interests receive genuine representation rather than political pandering. “America’s largest minority needs to take a cue from the Tea Party movement and start an insurgency challenging both political parties — the one that takes them for granted and the other that writes them off,” he wrote. Frustrated Latinos in Arizona have formed a nonpartisan “Tequila Party” movement. The group, whose primary objective is boost the Latino voter turnout in 2012, was created by a self-identified Republican.

Obama Announces Steps to Speed US Oil Production

Facing continued public unhappiness over gas prices, President Barack Obama is directing his administration to ramp up U.S. oil production by extending existing leases in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska’s coast and holding more frequent lease sales in a federal petroleum reserve in Alaska. His announcement followed passage in the Republican-controlled House of three bills — including two this week — that would expand and speed up offshore oil and gas drilling. Republicans say the bills are aimed at easing gasoline costs, but they also acknowledge that won’t happen immediately. The White House had announced its opposition to all three bills, which are unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, saying the measures would undercut safety reviews and open environmentally sensitive areas to new drilling.

Some Still Question Obama’s birthplace

President Obama released his long-form birth certificate last month, confirming he was born in Hawaii, but that hasn’t settled the question of his birthplace for some Americans. In a Gallup Poll taken May 5-8, 47% of those surveyed say they believe the president was “definitely” born in the United States. Another 18% say he “probably” was born here. But a third of Americans remain skeptical or unsure: 8% say he probably was born elsewhere, 5% say he definitely was, and 20% say they don’t know enough to say.

  • Questions have arisen about whether the long-form birth certificate is a fraud, doctored after the fact. The real issue is why Obama waited over two years to make it public?

Air Traffic Controller Errors Way Up

The Transportation Department’s in-house watchdog said Thursday it isn’t clear why air traffic controller errors soared by 53 percent last year, but inexperience could explain it in large part. Inspector General Calvin Scovel told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee the Federal Aviation Administration has placed large numbers of inexperienced controllers at some of the nation’s busiest and most complex air traffic facilities. The agency plans to hire 11,000 new controllers by 2019 to make up for a wave of retirements, he said. Many of the more than 15,000 controllers now working for the FAA were hired following President Ronald Reagan’s firing of striking controllers three decades ago, and are now eligible for retirement. Scovel said that as of March, 25 percent of controllers were still in training compared to 15 percent in 2004. For example, at a regional Denver radar center that handles airport approaches and departures, 43 percent of controllers are in training. At LaGuardia Airport in New York, the trainees make up 39 percent of the work force.

Scientists Find MRSA Germ in Supermarket Meats

MRSA, a bacteria resistant to common antibiotics, has been discovered in supermarket meats, and the germ is apparently being introduced by human food handlers, a new study reports. Although thorough cooking will kill the bacteria, consumers run the risk of infection if they handle meats contaminated with the germ, researchers said. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is common in hospitals and nursing homes, where it can cause serious illness and even death. The risk of becoming infected is especially high if you have open cuts or sores on your hands or skin.

Cellphones Get Emergency Alerts

Consumers will get emergency alerts for hurricanes, tornadoes and other disasters on their cellphones as part of a new alert network to be announced Tuesday by the Federal Communications Commission. The Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN) will allow emergency officials to send geographically targeted text messages to cellphones in areas where danger threatens. Some current cellphones, including some iPhones and some Android phones, already have the circuitry required to receive PLAN alerts. New AT&T phones due out in October will be PLAN-ready. Carriers eventually will be required to tell consumers at retail whether phones are PLAN-enabled. Consumers are automatically signed up for alerts, but they can opt out of alerts relating to imminent threats to life and safety and Amber Alerts. However, they cannot opt out of presidential alerts.

  • What else will this new chip do? Track U.S. citizens?

Should Drivers Pay by the Mile Instead of by the Gallon?

For nearly 80 years, motorists have paid a tax every time they put gas in their cars. What if they were taxed based on how far they drive instead? That’s just what a number of groups, including the organization representing state transportation agencies, say ought to happen — and soon. With the cost of building and maintaining highways and mass transit outstripping the money collected from fuel taxes, and no appetite in Washington to raise tax rates, they say it’s time to redesign the way people pay for their transportation system. The idea, known as vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) taxes, is scheduled to come up next week at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on ways to pay for future infrastructure. The Congressional Budget Office has talked up the idea, as did a group commissioned by Congress to explore transportation financing.

Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care

The nation’s major health insurers are barreling into a third year of record profits, enriched in recent months by a lingering recessionary mind-set among Americans who are postponing or forgoing medical care. The UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest commercial insurers, told analysts that so far this year, insured hospital stays actually decreased. Yet the companies continue to press for higher premiums, even though their reserve coffers are flush with profits and shareholders have been rewarded with new dividends.

  • No matter how the healthcare debate winds up, we can be sure that insurance companies and lawyers will profit handsomely

Federal Debt Limit to be Reached Monday

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned Congress today that its refusal to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling could worry not just foreign investors but seniors reliant on Social Security and Medicare. With the debt limit set to be reached on Monday, the Treasury Department has been forced to “set in motion a series of extraordinary measures” that will enable the world’s richest nation to pay its bills through early August. At that point, its obligations would not be payable — something that Medicare and Social Security trustees warned would happen to the two government programs in the future as its trust funds run dry.

  • Despite the dire warnings and harsh impacts, it is time to reduce debt, not increase it further

Economic News

Americans are reducing mortgage payments at a record clip. Low interest rates, defaults and refinancings have shaved more than $100 billion off the nation’s annual mortgage bill — an amount comparable to all unemployment benefits for one year or this year’s Social Security payroll tax cut.

  • At least consumers are doing something to decrease our monumental debt load. The federal government needs to follow their example

Consumers paid more for gas and food in April, pushing inflation to its highest level in two and a half years. The Consumer Price Index increased 0.4% in April, the Labor Department said. In the past 12 months, prices have risen 3.2%. That’s the biggest annualized gain since October 2008. Excluding volatile food and energy, prices ticked up 0.2% and have risen only 1.3% this year. That’s double the gain posted six months ago, but still below the level the Federal Reserve considers a healthy pace of inflation. The Producer Price Index (PPI) increased 0.7% last month. This equates to 8.4% annual wholesale inflation in the pipeline.

To help cut California’s multibillion-dollar deficit, Gov. Jerry Brown plans to close 70 state parks, beaches and historical sites and reduce services at those that stay open. Never before in the Golden State’s history have parks been closed because of budget problems, the San Francisco Chronicle  noted. Brown’s office said today that the closures, covering 25% of all California parks, are the result of cuts approved by the Legislature. The shutdowns won’t begin until September, so summer camping and reservations will not be affected. Closures are to be completed by July 1, 2012.

Drivers are facing higher tolls this year to pay for road maintenance and improvement projects that are in some cases being hampered by state budget shortfalls and declining gas tax revenue. Tolls increases so far this year have included the Pennsylvania Turnpike, bridges and tunnels in New York City and Virginia’s Chesapeake Expressway. Four Delaware River Port Authority bridges will increase tolls in July, as will seven bridges in California.

The nation’s biggest banks are increasing many of their fees, adding new ones, eliminating debit card rewards programs and making it harder for customers to avoid paying monthly charges for checking accounts. Banks say they don’t want to raise fees but they are losing revenue from new regulations.

Forecast-busting economic growth in Germany and a surprise rebound in Greece helped the 17-nation eurozone start the new year with a bang, with the region growing twice as fast as the U.S. despite constant fears about debt. The eurozone economy expanded at a quarterly rate of 0.8% the first three months of the year, more than twice U.S. growth.  However, government debt also increased: Greece’s debt reached 158% of their total economic output, with Ireland at 112% and Portugal at 102%, rates that are forecast to increase even further next year. Signs that European bailouts will be larger than originally forecast upended financial markets Friday, sending the dollar up nearly 1% and erasing the week’s gains in the stock market.

Japan

Residents from two towns in an expanded exclusion zone around Japan’s damaged nuclear power complex were adjusting to life in evacuation centers Monday after leaving their homes on government orders. The towns are among several that have registered relatively high radiation readings but are outside a previous 12-mile radius evacuation zone around the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Officials in Iitate said they intend to have most of the town’s residents evacuated by the end of the month. The scenic, rural village had a population of 6,500 before the earthquake and about 2,000 people have already moved out voluntarily. Some residents have trouble leaving because they own livestock.

Middle East

Clashes erupted between pro-Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in multiple locations along the country’s borders Sunday as tensions flared on a Palestinian mourning day marking the birth of the Jewish state. Israeli troops fired on demonstrators who were illegally crossing the borders from Lebanon and Syria and damaging “security infrastructure.” Thousands rallied in support of Palestinians on Friday, with demonstrators in Jordan’s capital heeding a call by Facebook organizers to demand a sovereign Palestinian state, others near the Jordanian-Israeli border chanting “Death to Israel,” and still more activists filling Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Palestinian youth groups called for protests in the West Bank and nearby Arab countries to mark the anniversary of the May 15, 1948, creation of the Jewish state. Palestinians call the anniversary the “day of catastrophe” because of the refugee crisis and loss of land that accompanied the creation of Israel.

  • God created Israel over two thousand years ago, long before so-called Palestinians even existed

Pakistan

Gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed a Saudi diplomat as he was driving in Pakistan’s largest city on Monday, just days after two hand grenades were tossed at the Arab state’s consulate building, The motive for the attack was not clear, but it comes against a backdrop of tensions between Islam’s Sunni and Shiite branches, both in the Middle East and in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has funded hardline Sunni groups in Pakistan for years, angering its minority Shiites. Meanwhile, Iran has channeled money to Shiite groups, and in the 1980 and 1990s the country was the scene of an effective proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Karachi an especially bloody battleground.

Libya

Pressure is mounting on Moammar Gadhafi from within his stronghold in the Libyan capital, with increasing NATO airstrikes and worsening shortages of fuel and goods. Residents said Thursday there has also been a wave of anti-government protests in several Tripoli neighborhoods this week — dissent that in the past has been met with zero tolerance and brutal force. Taunting NATO, Moammar Gadhafi said Friday that he is alive despite a series of airstrikes and “in a place where you can’t get to and kill me.” The defiant audio recording was broadcast after the Libyan government accused NATO of killing 11 Muslim clerics with an airstrike on a disputed eastern oil town.

Syria

Syrian security forces and snipers opened fire on thousands of protesters Friday, killing at least six people as mass arrests and heavy security kept crowds below previous levels seen during the two-month uprising against President Bashar Assad. Human rights groups say more than 775 people have been killed since the start of the protest movement in Syria in mid-March. The violence has become a deadly cycle each week, with protesters taking to the streets every Friday only to be met with bullets, tear gas and batons, with funerals a day later. Crackling gunfire and explosions echoed through a Syrian border town Sunday, as hundreds of frightened civilians poured into neighboring Lebanon to escape a harsh crackdown against anti-government protests,

Yemen

Yemeni troops loyal to the country’s embattled president attacked the camp of a senior military commander-turned-defector in the capital Sanaa on Friday and an ensuing gunbattle left at least three soldiers dead. The clash between the rival forces took the turmoil gripping Yemen to a new level, even as anti-government demonstrators rallied Friday in several cities and towns across the country pressing their demand for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave office. In the southern town of Ibb, security forces opened fire on a funeral procession for a protester killed there the day before, leaving three demonstrators dead and scores wounded. And seven soldiers died as gunmen ambushed troops elsewhere on Friday.

Egypt

An angry mob attacked a group of mainly Christian protesters demanding drastic measures to heal religious tension amid a spike in violence, leaving 65 people injured. The Christian protesters have been holding their sit-in outside the state television building in Cairo for nearly a week following deadly Christian-Muslim clashes that left a church burned and 15 people dead. More than 100 people lobbed rocks and fire bombs at the few hundred protesters sleeping in the area. Vehicles were set on fire and fires burned in the middle of the street. Police and army troops fired in the air to disperse the crowd.

Egyptian authorities ordered the detention of Suzanne Mubarak, wife of deposed President Hosni Mubarak, the government-run MENA news service says. The move on Friday comes a day after the government reported that Mubarak and his wife were questioned over suspicions they illegally amassed vast wealth. MENA said prosecutors ordered Suzanne Mubarak detained for 15 days pending further investigation of the allegations. She was hospitalized in the intensive care unit Friday after suffering severe chest pains upon hearing the news that she had been ordered detained on corruption allegations. The 82-year-old former president is in a hospital in the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh with what is believed to be a nervous breakdown.

Afghanistan

Protecting troops on foot patrol in Afghanistan from makeshift bombs and stemming the flow of explosives from Pakistan are top Pentagon priorities as the military prepares for what it expects will be the worst fighting of the year, a top. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the No.1 cause of fatalities and injuries to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The devices have killed 657 U.S. troops and wounded 6,330 since the war began in 2001 through March of this year. Warmer weather and the end of the poppy harvest have generally heralded the beginning of the toughest combat in Afghanistan. During the harvest, the Taliban focuses on taxing the opium poppy crops, one of its main sources of revenue. Afghanistan produces the raw opium used to make 90% of the world’s heroin.

Iraq

In Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square, two mortar rounds slammed into the street at about 1:00 p.m., killing two pedestrians and injuring eight others. The mortar rounds were aimed at Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses Iraqi government headquarters and the U.S. and British embassies. Two other mortar rounds landed in the Green Zone, but there was no immediate word on casualties. Although violence has ebbed nationwide in recent years, militants are still capable of launching deadly attacks.

Italy

Italian border police on Saturday escorted a boat with 218 Tunisians aboard to tiny Lampedusa island, where tens of thousands of illegal migrants have arrived since January to escape turmoil in North Africa. Meanwhile, Africans fleeing Libya by sea reached Sicily. The Tunisians will be soon deported. Italy and Tunisia struck a deal in early April to give temporary residency permits to Tunisians who had already arrived but to send back future arrivals. Lampedusa is a fishing and vacation island closer to north African shores than to the Italian mainland.

Mexico

Mexican security forces have discovered another 17 bodies from mass graves found last month in the northern state of Durango. The discovery brings the number of bodies recently unearthed in Durango to 218. That total eclipses the 183 bodies found in pits last month in Tamaulipas. Drug cartels have been blamed for the mass graves found in several states. The Sinaloa, Zetas and Beltran Leyva cartels have been fighting for control in Durango. U.S. companies are shying away from new investments south of the border, where organized criminals are increasingly turning to kidnappings, extortion and cargo thefts despite a government offensive against drug cartels.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne told Congress last Wednesday that the United States should designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. Such a designation by the State Department would place Mexican drug trafficking organizations on the same list as al-Qaida, the Taliban, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. And it would subject the cartels to the freezing of monetary assets and tough criminal prosecution of those who provide them with material or monetary support.

Guatemala

Assailants killed at least 29 people — decapitating most of the victims — on a ranch in a part of northern Guatemala plagued by drug cartels, national police said Sunday. It is one of the worst massacres since the end of Guatemala’s 36-year civil war in 1996. Police are investigating whether the attack is related to Saturday’s killing in Peten of Haroldo Leon, the brother of alleged Guatemalan drug boss Juan Jose “Juancho” Leon.

Earthquakes

A magnitude-6 earthquake shook the capital city of Costa Rica on Friday. The quake was felt strongly in San Jose but there were no immediate reports damage or injuries. There were reports of fallen objects but none of major damages to buildings. On Jan. 8, 2009, a 6.1 quake in central Costa Rica killed at least 20 people. A 5.9-magnitude quake shook the country in October 2010.

  • Major end-time earthquakes will continue to increase, just as the Bible foretells.

Weather

The USA has been hit with five weather disasters costing more than a billion dollars each in 2011, setting a modern record for the most high-cost weather events so early in a year, according to insurance estimates and government records. Tornadoes, floods and storms have inflicted unusually high costs because of their severity and their location, hitting populous areas such as Memphis, Raleigh, N.C., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. The severe damage could affect people nationwide, increasing insurance rates and draining taxpayer-supported disaster-relief funds. Storms this year have “produced significant damage, disruption to business and closures and increased car accidents,” said Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, a leading research group supported by insurers.

Federal engineers took the rare step Saturday of opening a major spillway in south-central Louisiana to alleviate pressure from the dangerously swollen Mississippi River. The opening of the Morganza Spillway – the first time since 1973 and the second time ever it’s been done – will flood thousands of acres of farmland, towns and homes between Morganza, La., and the Gulf of Mexico, but potentially save populated cities downriver like Baton Rouge and New Orleans from catastrophic flooding. The floodwaters are expected to cut a swath 20 miles wide and 150 miles long, up to 25 feet deep, along southern Louisiana’s Cajun country. About 25,000 people and 11,000 structures could be in harm’s way. Sheriffs and National Guardsmen were warning people in a door-to-door sweep through the area, and shelters were ready to accept up to 4,800 evacuees. Southwestern Louisiana wildlife, including a segment of the state’s black bear population, will begin seeking dry ground as the Atchafalaya Basin slowly floods from the opening of the spillway. On Sunday, the Mississippi River crested higher in Vicksburg, Miss. than it has in 183 years of record-keeping

  • Increasingly severe end-time weather will continue to plague the USA and the world

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