A federal judge has temporarily blocked a new licensing law and other regulations for Kansas abortion providers. U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, issued an injunction that will remain in effect until a trial is held in a lawsuit challenging the rules. The new regulations would have halted the work of two of the state’s three abortion providers. The new law requires hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices to obtain an annual license from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to perform more than five non-emergency abortions in a month. The regulations tell abortion providers what drugs and equipment they must stock and, among other things, establish minimum sizes and acceptable temperatures for procedure and recovery rooms. In blocking the law, Murguia said evidence presented in court documents showed the providers would “suffer irreparable harm” through the loss of business and patients.
Along with a new state budget, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who fought the gun lobby during his campaign last year, has signed a measure allowing concealed weapons in bars, malls, stadiums, museums and other venues that serve alcohol. Businesses can ban concealed weapons for safety reasons. Already the Cincinnati Bengals football team has said it will ban weapons from its stadium. Ohio joins 42 other states that allow licensed concealed firearms to be carried into restaurants, but, only a handful of states, Tennessee and Arizona among them, have concealed carry laws as broad as Ohio’s pending law in terms of where gun owners can pack.
An ExxonMobil pipeline that runs under the Yellowstone River in Montana ruptured Saturday and leaked hundreds of barrels of oil into the waterway, causing a 25-mile plume that fouled the riverbank and forced municipalities and irrigation districts downstream to close intakes. The break near Billings in south-central Montana led to temporary evacuations of hundreds of residents along a 20-mile stretch. Cleanup crews deployed booms and absorbent material as the plume moved downstream at an estimated 5 to 7 mph. The river has no dams on its way to its confluence with the Missouri River just across the Montana border in North Dakota. It was unclear how far the plume might travel.
Minnesota lawmakers headed home for a long holiday weekend, bracing for likely public anger as some of them meet constituents for the first time since a failure to reach a budget agreement forced a government shutdown. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP leaders had no plans for new talks before Tuesday, five full days after the shutdown started. Minnesota’s second shutdown in six years was striking much deeper than a partial 2005 shutdown. It took state parks and rest stops off line, closed horse tracks and made it impossible to get a fishing license. But it also was hitting the state’s most vulnerable, ending reading services for the blind, silencing a help line for the elderly and stopping child care subsidies for the poor.
State and federal regulators are cracking down on waste and fraud in the unemployment insurance system, abuses that have hit record levels as jobless claims surge in a weak economy. In the 12 months through March, the overpayment rate was 11.6% — more than $1 for every $9 paid out, Labor Department figures show. That’s up from the 12 months ending in June 2010, when a record $16.5 billion, or 10.6% of the $156 billion in jobless benefits disbursed to Americans, should not have been paid, according to the department. The overpayment rate was 9.6% in fiscal 2009 and 9.2% in 2008. The main reason for overpayments is that some workers continue to receive unemployment checks even after they land a new job. Another problem is that many employers fail to adequately provide state officials the reason an employee left the company so the worker’s eligibility can be determined. Also, some workers receive benefits even when they don’t comply with state job search requirements.
A new government report on President Barack Obama’s stimulus package shows that the program cost taxpayers $278,000 for each job it created according to number-crunching work by the Weekly Standard. The paper claims that the report put out by the president’s Council of Economic Advisors proved that the program “did very little, if anything, to stimulate the economy, and a whole lot to stimulate the debt.” The White House issued the report on Friday, leading to its content being largely ignored over the long holiday weekend.
U.S. consumers have 37 percent more credit card and other revolving debt than they did 10 years ago, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing Federal Reserve data. Granted, that’s 6 percent less than the consumer debt peak of $2.6 trillion hit in September 2008. However, most of the debt decline had occurred by September 2009. Over the past year, consumers’ credit has been essentially flat at around $2.4 trillion. The news is especially grim when it comes to mortgage debt: Almost 23 percent of mortgages are underwater, according to data compiled by JPMorgan Chase. There is also more mortgage debt outstanding than there was five years ago, roughly $9.9 trillion, according to the Fed. The result is consumers find it harder to tap home-equity credit lines or sell their houses.
Two years after economists say the Great Recession ended, the recovery has been the weakest and most lopsided of any since the 1930s. After previous recessions, people in all income groups tended to benefit. This time, ordinary Americans are struggling with job insecurity, too much debt and pay raises that haven’t kept up with prices at the grocery store and gas station. But corporate profits are up by almost half since the recession ended in June 2009.
The Commerce Department reported that construction spending declined 0.6% in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $757.9 billion. It is barely above an 11-year low hit in February and roughly half the $1.5 trillion pace considered healthy by most economists. Analysts say it could be another four years before construction returns to healthier levels. Home construction fell 2.1%.
The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, says that its index of manufacturing activity rose to 55.3 in June from 53.5 in May, the slowest growth in 20 months. A reading above 50 indicates that the manufacturing sector is expanding. Growth had slowed sharply in May. High gas prices cut into consumer spending and an auto parts shortage stemming from Japan’s March 11 earthquake/tsunami.
Gasoline prices usually peak in the summer. This year, however, they peaked on May 5. The subsequent slide in pump prices has made gasoline an average 24 cents a gallon cheaper than what it was on Memorial Day. The national average now stands at $3.55 per gallon.
Automakers sold 7.1% more new vehicles in the U.S. last month than they did a year earlier, but still didn’t match mediocre results of May. The annual sales pace in June was 11.45 million vehicles, Autodata reported, up from 11.17 million a year earlier, but a stumble from 11.8 million in May.
A top Palestinian official says Russia is supporting his government’s bid to seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations this fall. U.N. membership requires a recommendation from the Security Council and approval by two-thirds of the General Assembly, or 128 countries.
Security officials say an explosion has hit the Egyptian pipeline that carries gas to Israel and Jordan. The Monday morning blast took place in the Sinai Peninsula, near town of El-Arish, which is just 30 miles from Israel. The blast is the third to hit the strategic pipeline since an Egyptian uprising overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak in February. Bedouin tribesmen in the area have attacked the pipeline in the past.
Outgoing U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus saluted his troops for the last time as their military leader on the Fourth of July as three U.S. senators made a surprise visit and chastised the White House for its troop withdrawal plans. Petraeus, who President Obama named his next CIA chief, told American troops during a re-enlistment ceremony in Kandahar that they have achieved progress on the battlefield but that “much work remains” to be done in Afghanistan. Petraeus and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both testified in hearings after the decision was announced that the plan was “more aggressive” than their preferred option. Senate Armed Services Committee members John McCain, R-AZ, Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., were with McCain in Afghanistan on Monday and expressed similar concerns.
NATO says four of its service members have been killed in two separate attacks in eastern Afghanistan. The international coalition says three NATO troops died from an improvised roadside bomb and a fourth soldier was killed in a separate insurgent attack. The deaths bring to 280 the number of international troops killed so far this year and nine this month.
The US ambassador in Baghdad said on Saturday that the State Department has asked for a $6.2 billion budget for Iraq in 2012, underscoring that its oil and gas reserves were critical for the world’s future energy needs. The embassy plans to double in size next year to 16,000 personnel, when it takes over many military tasks after US troops pull out of Iraq at the end of this year, including military sales and training of Iraqi security forces. Nearly 50,000 American troops still remain, down from a high of 170,000 after the 2003 US-led invasion.
Morocco’s overwhelming approval of a new constitution granting new rights to women and minorities was met with scorn by some democracy advocates and hope by foreign policy experts that the reforms could become a model for Arab monarchies facing uprisings. Morocco said the reforms proposed by King Mohammed VI were approved by 98% of Moroccans who took part in a vote Friday — the first Arab nation to hold an election since the “Arab Spring” protest movement swept the region. The amended constitution gives more power to the elected parliament and establishes an independent judiciary but the king will still control matters of foreign policy and religion. It comes at a time when other Arab monarchies have used violent repression as a response t calls for democratic reforms.
Embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi threatened attacks on Europeans if NATO does not stop its airstrikes. Meanwhile, NATO said Saturday it has begun ramping up its airstrikes on military targets in the western part of Libya, where rebel forces claim a string of advances through territory still largely under Gadhafi’s control. Gadhafi’s regime is determined to stand firm against opposition fighters moving from southern and eastern fronts toward the capital Tripoli. The rebels have largely solidified control over the eastern third of Libya but have struggled to push out of pockets they hold in the west. The coalition said it has destroyed more than 50 military targets in the west this week.
President Obama’s claims that the United States is not engaged in hostilities against Libya are centered around the premise that they are purely providing “support” for the British and French attacks, and that as such they are not a direct combatant. This claim is entirely untrue, however, as a spokeswoman for US African Command (AFRICOM) confirmed Friday. Rather, the US has flown 801 attack sorties, and actually dropped bombs on Libya in 132 cases after the president claimed the support role began.
Activists on Saturday now hope the huge outpouring a day earlier in the city of Hama — an estimated 300,000 people chanting against Assad’s regime — could re-energize the protest movement at a pivotal time. President BasharAssad’s forces appear unable to sustain the blanket crackdowns of recent months.
Dozens of Yemeni troops went missing after a battle with al-Qaeda-linked militants at a sports stadium in the country’s increasingly lawless south, a new setback for a weakened regime already facing an array of opponents. Meanwhile, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been treated in a Saudi hospital since an attack on his palace a month ago, remains bedridden and has difficulty breathing and talking. Saudi Arabia has been pressing Saleh to step down within 30 days and hand power to his vice president, in exchange for immunity from prosecution. However, despite his ill health, Saleh has refused to sign the deal.
The clandestine American military campaign to combat Al Qaeda’s franchise in Yemen is expanding to fight the Islamist militancy in Somalia, as new evidence indicates that insurgents in the two countries are forging closer ties and possibly plotting attacks against the United States, American officials say. An American military drone aircraft attacked several Somalis in the militant group the Shabab late last month, the officials said, killing at least one of its midlevel operatives and wounding others. The strike was carried out by the same Special Operations Command unit now battling militants in Yemen, and it represented an intensification of an American military campaign in a mostly lawless region where weak governments have allowed groups with links to Al Qaeda to flourish.
Hezbollah’s leader vowed Saturday never to turn over four members of his Shiite militant group who have been indicted in the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In his first comments since the indictments were announced Thursday, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah also delivered a warning that peace in Lebanon depends on the government bowing to Hezbollah’s power and not pushing ahead with arrests. Nasrallah also denounced the six-year investigation as a plot by Israel and the United States and said it was “an aggression against us and our holy warriors.”
A Nigerian official says suspected members of a radical Muslim sect have killed five people in the country’s restive northeast. Three gunmen from the Boko Haram sect shot and killed four people in the city of Maiduguri late on Saturday. A fifth person was shot dead Sunday. Boko Haramis responsible for a rash of killings which have targeted police officers, soldiers, politicians and clerics in Nigeria’s north over the last year. They have also attacked churches and engineered a massive prison break and claimed responsibility for a bombing at the nation’s police headquarters killed two last month.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva conceded Sunday that Yingluck Shinawatra had won the nation’s election. “Congratulations to Thailand’s first female prime minister,” he said. Thailand’s military eased concerns of renewed turmoil Monday by accepting the sweeping electoral win. Tensions between the Democratic Party and the Pheu Thai party, which reflect deep divisions within Thai society, erupted last year, with protests against Abhisit’s government leading to a military crackdown. More than 90 people were killed and hundreds were injured.
A volcano in central Indonesia has erupted in clouds of smoke and searing gas that shot up nearly 20,000 feet into the air. No one was injured when Mount Soputan, located on Sulawesi island, exploded early Sunday. The nearest villages are well outside the danger zone and there are no immediate evacuation plans. Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, is located on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
A smattering of summer rain gave a boost to firefighters battling a huge forest fire near Los Alamos, giving authorities enough confidence Sunday to allow about 12,000 people to return home for the first time in nearly a week. The fire erupted June 26 in northern New Mexico when a tree fell onto power lines. It mushroomed to 189 square miles, destroyed 95 structures and was 27 percent contained as of Monday night. The wildfire that had forced federal employees to flee the desert birthplace of the atomic bomb neared the sacred sites of several Native American tribes on Saturday, raising fears that tribal lands passed down for generations would be destroyed. More than 1,600 firefighters were working to stop the fire in northern New Mexico as it burned through a canyon on the Santa Clara Pueblo reservation and threatened other pueblos on the Pajarito Plateau. The area, a stretch of mesas that run more than 15 miles west of Santa Fe, N.M., includes the town of Los Alamos and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the nation’s premier nuclear weapons laboratory. Nine other wildfires were burning in drought-stricken New Mexico, having consumed over 117,000 acres.
All entrances to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida are closed through the holiday weekend as firefighters continue to battle a 10-week-old blaze that has burned well over half the 400,000-acre preserve. The preserve will be shuttered to the public indefinitely — at least until authorities, likely with major help from the weather, get it under control. The group is trying to corral what is being called the Honey Prairie Complex Fire. Lightning first sparked a fire on April 28 and it has been burning, in some form, ever since — consuming about 268,000 of the refuge’s 402,000 acres.
From Arizona to Florida, there will be fewer oohs and aahs at the rockets’ red glare this Fourth of July: Many cities and counties across the nation’s drought-stricken southern tier are banning fireworks because of the risk of wildfires. New Mexico’s governor prohibited fireworks on state and private wildlands and pleaded with people not to buy or set off pyrotechnics. Dozens of Texas cities have canceled shows, from large events in Austin and San Antonio to small-town celebrations where folks usually sit on blankets at parks and lakes.
As Fourth of July weekend kicks off, people across the West donned shorts, bikini tops and Hawaiian shirts — and then hit the slopes. Ski resorts from California to Colorado opened for the weekend to take advantage of an unusual combination of dense lingering snow from late-season storms in the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies and a high-pressure system that ushered in warm air from the east. Resort operators Saturday reported large crowds, balmy temperatures and plenty of bare skin.
A fierce thunderstorm swept through a normally rural Wisconsin county that was packed with holiday campers, toppling trees that killed an 11-year-old girl, blowing boats ashore and injuring more than three dozen people. The storm moved across Minnesota and Wisconsin on Friday, packing winds approaching 80 mph and hail as large as softballs.
Phoenix hit a high temperature of 118 degrees on Saturday, topping a 10-year-old record of 116 degrees for the date. Clouds from monsoon activity likely kept the area from reaching 120 degrees, but they say it’s still the city’s hottest day so far this year. The monsoon brought wind gusts that toppled power lines and knocked out electricity to homes in Phoenix suburbs.
Mexican authorities have confirmed 11 deaths from Tropical Storm Arlene and the aftermath of floods, mudslides and overflowing rivers in central Mexico and Gulf Coast states. Most died after being buried alive in their homes by mudslides or drowning in heavy currents while trying to cross swollen streams.
U.S. Warns Terrorists Might Try to Plant Bombs Inside of People
The U.S. government has warned domestic and international airlines that some terrorists are considering surgically implanting explosives into humans to carry out attacks. There is no intelligence pointing to a specific plot, but the U.S. shared its concerns last week with executives at domestic and international carriers. People traveling to the U.S. from overseas may experience additional screening at airports because of the threat, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Measures may include greater interaction with passengers, in addition to the use of other screening methods such as pat-downs and the use of enhanced tools and technologies.
Appeals Court Orders End to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
A federal appeals court in San Francisco has barred further enforcement of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which has barred gays from serving openly in the military. The Pentagon says it will comply with the court order and is “taking immediately steps to inform the field of this order.” The Pentagon and the Justice Department are reviewing the order, he said, adding that the certification required to fully lift DADT is “proceeding smoothly” and is just weeks away.
Fate of ‘Gay Glorification’ Bill Up to Gov. Brown
A California pro-family leader is calling on Governor Jerry Brown to veto a bill that would force public schools to promote the homosexual agenda and impact schools throughout the country. State lawmakers approved S.B. 48 in a 49-25 vote, with the approval of just one Republican. The measure would mandate the state’s public schools to teach on the accomplishments of lesbian, “gay,” bisexual and transgender (LGBT) figures, and it will force teachers to present those individuals in a positive light. With lawmakers’ approval, the bill now heads to the desk of the governor, who has 12 days to sign or veto it. California Republicans argue that the bill will force an agenda onto students rather than teach facts.
Religion, Faith Still Important to Most People
A new Ipsos MORI poll has found that religion still matters to most people in the world. The global survey looked at the views of over 18,000 people across 24 countries, including the U.K. and U.S. Seven in 10 of those surveyed said they had a religion but there was a marked difference between Christians and Muslims when it came to the importance they placed on their faith. The Christian Post reports that, in Muslim-majority countries, 94 percent of those with a religion agreed that their faith was important in their lives, compared to 66 percent in Christian-majority countries. Muslims were far more likely to believe that their religion was the only true path to salvation, liberation or paradise – 61 percent compared to 19 percent in Christian-majority countries. In the U.S., 32 percent said their faith or religion was the only true path.
- Jesus asked whether He would find faith when he returns (Luke 18:8). Apparently not.
School Choice Thriving, Expanding
2011 is turning into a “banner year” for school-choice advocates, as more states have passed school voucher and scholarship tax credit legislation than ever before. In the first six months of this year, 27 states passed legislation that created, expanded, or strengthened school-choice programs. Andrew Campanella, director of communications for the American Federation for Children, is pleased with the progress. “It took 20 years for the school-choice movement to pass 20 [private] school-choice programs into law. And this year, seven new programs were enacted,” he reports. “So this is a banner year for the school choice movement, and parents across the country are experiencing educational freedom like never before.” New programs were launched in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Wisconsin — most of which have been challenged in court by teachers’ unions and other opponents. But those lawsuits have not been successful.
America’s Biggest Teacher Cheating Scandal Unfolds in Atlanta
Award-winning gains by Atlanta students were based on widespread cheating by 178 named teachers and principals, said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday. His office released a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that names 178 teachers and principals – 82 of whom confessed – in what’s likely the biggest cheating scandal in U.S. history. This appears to be the largest of dozens of major cheating scandals, unearthed across the country. The allegations point an ongoing problem for US education, which has developed an ever-increasing dependence on standardized tests. The report on the Atlanta Public Schools, released Tuesday, indicates a “widespread” conspiracy by teachers, principals and administrators to fix answers on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), punish whistle-blowers, and hide improprieties.
- The end-time spirit of lawlessness (2Thess. 2:1-7) is at work in all facets of society
Pilots Refuse to Help Atheists
The American Atheists hoped to use Independence Day to spread their message calling for an America without God. The atheists had contracted to fly banners over ballparks and large Fourth of July gatherings but they had one big problem – 80% of the pilots hired refused to fly their “God-LESS” message. Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law & Justice says he applauds the pilots “for knowing their rights and for having the courage to stand for what they believe in.”
CIA: U.S. finances at Bottom of Planet
The United States ranks last among all nations in the world when it comes to its current account balance, astronomically lower than every other economy, the CIA reports. According to the most recent figures in the CIA World Factbook, America sits at the bottom of 191 nations, with a listed account balance of an astonishing negative $561 billion. The next lowest nation is Spain, and though it’s ranked at No. 190, its account balance is negative $66 billion, far less than the American figure. China is first on the list with a positive account balance of $272 billion while Japan is second with $166 billion. The CIA defines current account balance as “a country’s net trade in goods and services, plus net earnings from rents, interest, profits, and dividends, and net transfer payments (such as pension funds and worker remittances) to and from the rest of the world during the period specified.”
Debt Talks Headed for Rare Sunday Session
President Obama and congressional leaders have agreed to seek about $4trillion in savings from the spiraling national debt over the next decade. But with just 23 days to reach a deal, there’s little else they agree on. That was the upshot Thursday from a White House meeting in which negotiators decided to try for the biggest possible deal by Aug. 2, when the government faces a possible default on its $14.3 trillion debt. They will meet again Sunday. Republicans went into the meeting vowing not to increase taxes, and Democrats came out vowing to protect Social Security and Medicare from cuts in benefits.
Federal Wiretaps Nearly Double Under Obama
According to the U.S. courts systems’ annual report on law enforcement wiretaps, federal law enforcement requested 1,207 intercepts placed on phones and electronic communications last year, nearly double the 663 requested in 2009. The steady rise in legal snooping over the last decade has been driven largely by the war on drugs, according to the report. Drug cases comprised 84% of the wiretaps requested in 2010, compared with 75% in 2000. Even as wiretaps have risen steadily for the last decade, however, federal wiretaps have only grown marginally until the last year, from 479 in 2000 to 663 in 2009. The subsequent doubling between 2009 and 2010 is an unprecedented spike.
- Is this the same Obama who accused the Bush administration of overuse of wiretaps and other violations of the right to privacy?
Administration to Propose Steps on Gun Safety
Six months after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, the White House is preparing to propose some new steps on gun safety, though they’re likely to fall short of the bold measures activists would like to see. Anti-gun groups have been disappointed to see no action so far from President Barack Obama, who supported tough gun control measures earlier in his career but fell largely silent upon becoming president. Some activists were using the opportunity of the six-month anniversary of the Giffords shooting on Friday to speak up.
Triangle of Hunger Batters Millions in East Africa
Thousands of families are walking for days in search of food in a triangle of hunger where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia meet. Hundreds already have died, and images of children with skinny, malnourished bodies are becoming commonplace in this corner of Africa. An estimated 12 million people are affected by hunger. Even Somalia’s top militant group is asking the aid agencies it once banned from its territories to return. Thirsty livestock are dying by the thousands, and food prices have risen beyond what many families can afford. Aid agencies are appealing for tens of millions of dollars in emergency funding.
Illegal Immigrant Deaths Rise in Arizona’s Deserts
Arizona Call to Prayer reports that “Arizona’s searing summer heat has begun to take its annual toll on illegal border crossers. The Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office has handled the bodies of 15 suspected illegal immigrants in the last nine days. Nine bodies were brought to the office June 29-30, a two-day period that followed eight straight days with temperatures of 107 or higher. The Arizona Daily Star’s border-death database shows 28 total border deaths registered since June 1st.”
Montana Residents Frustrated Over Lack of Oil Spill Info
Residents along portions of the oil-contaminated Yellowstone River are expressing frustration over the lack of information flowing from ExxonMobil, state and federal officials following last weekend’s pipeline burst. An ExxonMobil pipeline that runs under the Yellowstone River near Laurel, Mont. ruptured near midnight Friday and leaked hundreds of barrels of oil into the river, contaminating riverbanks and flooding fields for miles. Affected landowners are wondering what the short- and long-term effects of the contamination could mean for their families, livestock and wildlife along the river corridor.
Senate Postpones Libya Vote Amid Budget Dispute
Senate Democratic leaders abandoned plans for a test vote Tuesday on authorizing the U.S. military operation against Libya as Republicans insisted they should instead focus on government spending and the nation’s borrowing limit. Just hours before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced the change in plans, leaving the fate of the resolution in doubt.
Vandals Strike During Minn. Shutdown
Vandals hit dozens of state parks in Minnesota and ransacked buildings left unattended by a budget deadlock that shut government services six days ago. Twelve people were taken into custody, east of the Twin Cities, following a burglary and vandalism spree at Afton State Park that caused thousands of dollars in damage. The reality of the shutdown, which began Friday, started to set in this week for about 22,000 state workers who have been laid off.
Men Gaining More Jobs Than Women in Recovery
Since the end of the recession in June 2009, men have gained 768,000 jobs while women have lost 218,000, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Labor Department data released Wednesday. That’s the first time men have fared better than women in the first two years of a recovery since the late 1960s, said Pew, which compared six rebounds in that period. Economists at least partly blame a resurgence in manufacturing and other male-oriented industries and layoffs in government and other jobs largely populated by women. The trends “are reopening the gender gap in employment,” the report says.
CEOs Reap Huge Payouts in 2011
Wall Street’s 2½-year bull market is fueling mega-paydays across a swath of corporate America, from aging industrial giants to young dotcom firms. Yet it also is highlighting the growing wage divide between executive suites and rank-and-file employees. U.S. workers averaged $46,742 in 2010, up 2.6% from 2009. A Governance Metrics analysis found average compensation among S&P 500 CEOs rose to $12 million in 2010, up 18% from 2009 — and that’s not counting the potential multimillion-dollar value of stock or stock options, which are granted at set prices and provide holders profits as stock values rise.
The Labor Department said today that the jobless rate increased from 9.1% to 9.2% in June, which saw a rise of only 18,000 jobs. Businesses added the fewest jobs in more than a year. Governments cut 39,000 jobs. Over the past eight months, federal, state and local governments have cut a combined 238,000 positions. Hiring has slowed sharply in the past two months, after the economy added an average of 215,000 jobs per month in the previous three months.
The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in seven weeks, although applications remain elevated. The Labor Department said Thursday that new claims for unemployment benefits dropped 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 418,000. Applications have topped 400,000 for 13 weeks, evidence the job market has weakened since the beginning of the year. Applications had fallen in February to 375,000, a level that signals sustainable job growth.
Employers in the U.S. announced more job cuts in June than a year earlier, the first increase since February and a sign the labor market is struggling to improve. Planned cuts rose 5.3 percent to 41,432 last month from June 2010, according to figures released today by Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Job-cut announcements were led by government agencies.
American consumers that were enticed by warmer weather and deep discounts of up to 80% on summer merchandise went on a buying binge in June, helping many retailers deliver robust revenue gains for what is typically the second-biggest shopping month of the year.
The Obama administration announced Thursday that two programs providing unemployed homeowners a few months’ forbearance on their mortgages will be extended to 12 months. Thousands of homeowners could benefit from the additional time, although not all jobless homeowners will be eligible. The action is being taken as part of the administration’s effort to help prevent foreclosures.
Foreign buyers are helping to stoke home sales in U.S. vacation hot spots decimated by the real estate crash, especially in southern Florida. For the 12 months ending in March, 31% of Florida’s home sales were to foreign buyers, up from 10% in 2007. In Arizona, 6% of sales in the same period were to foreigners. That was down from 11% last year. Foreign buyers are being enticed by low U.S. home prices, down 30% nationwide since peaking in 2006, and the weakened dollar, which makes their money go further. Since the start of 2006, the Canadian dollar has soared 18% against the U.S. dollar, while the euro has gained 22%.
China raised a key interest rate Wednesday for a third time this year as it tries to cool surging inflation. The benchmark rate for one-year loans will be raised 0.25 percentage points to 6.56%, effective Thursday, the central bank announced. The rate paid on deposits will rise by a similar margin to 3.5%.Inflation hit a 34-month high of 5.5% in May and is believed to have risen further in June.
The European Central Bank raised its key interest rate to 1.5% on Thursday to dampen down inflation, even though the move will add pressure on debt-ridden economies on the fringes of the 17-nation Eurozone. Though higher rates may be necessary for a potentially overheating economy like Germany’s, they are likely to add to the growth concerns of some of the Eurozone’s more indebted nations, such as Greece and Portugal.
The UN’s final report on the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident from May 2010 contains harsh criticism of Turkey for failing to prevent the flotilla from sailing, as well as upholding Israel’s legal right to impose a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. The UN investigative committee also criticized Turkey for its highly politicized investigation into the incident and praised Israel for its own investigation which it said was performed to levels consistent with international standards for fairness and integrity.
Canada formally ended its combat mission in Afghanistan on Thursday after years of being on the front lines of the fight against Taliban insurgents in the south. The withdrawal of 2,850 Canadian combat troops comes at a time the Taliban continue to show their resilience, peace talks are in their infancy and governance and development are lagging security gains on the battlefield. Underscoring the persistent dangers, a roadside bomb killed eight Afghan policemen on a patrol in the northern district of Fayz Abad.
A group of conservative Islamic political and religious officials has condemned a meeting by the U.S. Embassy supporting gay rights in Pakistan as “cultural terrorism” against the country. The meeting was hosted by the U.S. deputy ambassador, Richard Hoagland, and was meant to support the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in Pakistan, said the embassy. Homosexual acts are illegal in Pakistan. Under Islamic, or Sharia, laws in Pakistan, homosexual acts are punishable by whipping, imprisonment or death.
Hundreds of militants crossed from Afghanistan and attacked several border villages in Pakistan on Wednesday, triggering shootouts with local militias that killed at least five people. t was the latest in a spate of such cross-border attacks, which have raised tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan and undermined efforts on both sides to crack down on al-Qaeda and the Taliban. A similar attack on the Afghanistan side of the border Tuesday killed at least 12 border policemen.
The White House is offering to keep up to 10,000 troops in Iraq next year, U.S. officials say, despite opposition from many Iraqis and key Democratic Party allies who demand that President Barack Obama bring home the American military as promised. Any extension of the military’s presence, however, depends on a formal request from Baghdad — which must weigh questions about the readiness of Iraqi security forces against fears of renewed militant attacks and unrest if U.S. soldiers stay beyond the December pullout deadline. Iraq is not expected to decide until September at the earliest, when the 46,000 U.S. forces left in the country had hoped to start heading home.
Iran is expanding its support for extremist militias in neighboring Iraq as the United States prepares to withdraw its forces there by year’s end, the top U.S. military officer said Thursday. “Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shiia groups, which are killing our troops,” Adm. Michael Mullen said. Mullen said the flow of weapons from Iran is done with the knowledge of Tehran’s top leadership. James F. Jeffrey, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said Tuesday that fresh forensic testing on weapons used in the latest deadly attacks in the country bolsters assertions by U.S. officials that Iran is supporting Iraqi insurgents with new weapons and training. ‘We’re seeing more lethal weapons, more accurate weapons, more longer-range weapons,’ Jeffrey said.
Thousands of Egyptians took to the streets around the country Friday to demand justice for victims of Hosni Mubarak’s regime and press the new, military rulers for a clear plan of transition to democracy. There is growing frustration among Egyptians that little has changed five months after the 18-day uprising forced the former president to step down on Feb. 11. Riots and protests have been escalating over what many see as the reluctance of the military rulers, who took over after Mubarak, to prosecute police and former regime officials for the killing of nearly 900 protesters during the uprising In a bid to defuse rising anger, the Interior Ministry announced Thursday that hundreds of high-ranking police officers will be sacked for their role in the harsh crackdown on anti-government protests earlier this year. Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawi said in a statement that it will be the largest shake up in the history of his ministry.
Tens of thousands of Syrians carrying olive branches and shouting for the downfall of President Bashar Assad’s regime streamed Friday into a flashpoint city where the U.S. ambassador traveled to show his solidarity with protesters, Crowds were swelling Friday in Hama, a central city that has become a focal point of the uprising and has drawn the largest crowds since the revolt began nearly four months ago. On Tuesday, Syrian security forces and gunmen loyal to the regime killed 11 people in Hama as residents erected roadblocks to prevent the advance of tanks ringing the city. Amnesty International issued a report Tuesday stating Syrian forces committed atrocities against civilians in Tell Kalakh in May, torturing men and boys . U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford’s trip to Hama on Thursday drew condemnation from the Syrian government, which said the visit was unauthorized and a clear sign that Washington was inciting unrest in the Arab nation. Relations between the U.S. and Syria are chronically strained over Assad’s close ties with Iran.
Rebel fighters in western Libya seized two mountain towns from government troops Wednesday, while the embattled regime of Moammar Gadhafi said it would set up a special court to try rebel leaders for treason. The rebel advances mark small progress in a largely deadlocked civil war. NATO said Wednesday that its warplanes have destroyed 2,700 military targets, including 600 Libyan tanks and artillery guns and nearly 800 ammunition stores, since the alliance began bombing Gadhafi-linked sites in March, under a U.N. mandate to protect Libyan civilians.
Malaysian police said they will shut major roads and suspend public transportation into Kuala Lumpur’s city center to thwart opposition-backed activists, who vowed Friday to press ahead with a banned rally for electoral reforms. The escalated political tension presents a major challenge for Prime Minister Najib Razak’s long-ruling coalition ahead of general elections widely expected next year. Kuala Lumpur Police Chief Amar Singh announced late Thursday that major roads into the city would be shut for 22 hours starting midnight Friday, affecting bus and rail transit services. He said police have also obtained court orders to bar dozens of opposition and civic group leaders from entering the city’s central business district Saturday.
After five decades of guerrilla struggle and two million lives lost, the flags are flapping proudly in Juba, the capital of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan. The new national anthem is blasting all over town. People are toasting oversize bottles of White Bull beer (the local brew), and children are boogieing in the streets. “Free at Last,” reads a countdown clock. But from the moment it declares independence on Saturday, the Republic of South Sudan, Africa’s 54th state, will take its place at the bottom of the developing world. A majority of its people live on less than a dollar a day. A 15-year-old girl has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than she does of finishing primary school. More than 10 percent of children do not make it to their fifth birthday. About three-quarters of adults cannot read. Only 1 percent of households have a bank account.
A powerful magnitude-7.6 earthquake rattled the remote Kermadec Islands in the Pacific Ocean. It triggered a small tsunami that had New Zealand bracing for high waves. The quake was felt as far away as Christchurch, New Zealand, said New Zealand’s Geological and Nuclear Sciences agency. The volcanic Kermadec Island peaks are a remote outpost that are generally uninhabited aside from a weather station and a hostel for visiting New Zealand scientists. No one was hurt and no damage has been detected.
Smoke still hung in the air from a northern New Mexico wildfire that came dangerously close to the nation’s premier nuclear weapons laboratory, but life was returning to normal Wednesday as thousands of employees showed up for their first day of work in more than a week. Although the threat to Los Alamos National Laboratory and the town that surrounds it has passed, the largest fire in New Mexico’s history continued to burn in remote areas. The fire had chewed through more than 204 square miles by Thursday. Firefighters have managed to contain 40 percent of the blaze by Wednesday night, and only five injuries have been reported among those working on the fire lines. No civilians were injured by the flames.
Arizonans are calling it the mother of all haboobs — a mile-high wall of ominous, billowing dust that appeared to swallow Phoenix and its suburbs. The massive dust storm descended on the Phoenix area on Tuesday night, drastically reducing visibility and delaying flights as strong winds toppled trees and caused power outages for thousands of residents in the valley. Radar data showed the storm’s wall of dust had reached as high as 8,000 to 10,000 feet. Phoenix reported the storm appeared to be roughly 50 miles wide in some spots, and it briefly blanketed the city’s downtown at around nightfall. Strong winds with gusts of more than 60 mph rapidly moved the dust cloud northwest through Phoenix and the surrounding cities of Avondale, Tempe and Scottsdale. More than a dozen communities in the area also were placed under a severe thunderstorm watch. Some 8,000 homes were left without power. The storm left so much dirt behind on the ground and in the air that it didn’t just coat cars and clog up pools, it prevented pilots approaching Sky Harbor International Airport from seeing the runways a day later.
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Majority of Americans Now Favor Same-Sex Marriage
A Gallup Poll this summer found that for the first time most Americans (53%) support gay marriage. That’s up from 42% in 2004 when Massachusetts first legalized the shift. In Iowa, where more than 3,377 gay couples have wed since April 2009, a Des Moines Register statewide poll found 92% said gay marriage has “brought no real change to their lives.”
- Immorality and lawlessness will continue to increase as the end-tines roll forward, just as the Bible has foretold. (2Timothy 3:1:5)
No Gay Weddings by Military Chaplains?
Can military chaplains officiate at same sex marriage ceremonies in states where such marriages are legal? Yes? No? Not yet? The answer is unclear. The courts, the Pentagon and the Obama Administration are tossing out Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — the law that blocked LBGT military from serving openly. But the House of Representatives holds to the traditional definition of marriage for service personnel. According to the Associated Press, when the House passed a $649 billion defense spending bill today, it blocked any of those dollars to be used to train military chaplains on how to deal with the ending DADT policy. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., sponsor of the amendment, said its purpose was to prohibit chaplains from performing same-sex marriages on Navy bases regardless of a state’s law.
U.S. Chaplains Vetted by Muslim Who Condemns Jews
A man portrayed as a prominent Islamic scholar who has run a program to vet Muslim chaplains for the U.S. military has written an anti-Semitic column that condemns Jews for trying to make the rest of the world “subservient” and explaining that he is able to see this “trickery” because of his understanding of the Quran. Taha Jaber al-Alwani, who graduated from al-Azhar University in Cairo and later taught at Imam Muhammad ibn Saud University in Saudi Arabia, moved to the United States in 1983 and has served as chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America and as part of the Islamic Cordova University and its Graduate School of Islamic and Society Sciences program, through which Muslims who want to be chaplains in the U.S. military are accredited. He decried the “Great Haughtiness” of the Jews and accused them of using “an intellectual, psychological and mental ability, which they can employ with great efficiency to take advantage of real and objective situations.”
- The age of ‘tolerance’ does not extend to Jews or Christians
Poverty Fuels HIV Growth
Nearly all U.S. counties stricken with both high rates of HIV infection and poverty are located in Southern states. Researchers have found that HIV growth is tightly entwined with poverty. Southern USA counties that have the greatest rates of HIV infection are among the poorest in the nation, USA TODAY’s analysis shows. Elsewhere in the USA, counties with the highest rates of HIV-infected people had, on average, one in seven people living in poverty, earning roughly $22,350 for a family of four. In the South’s most HIV-stricken counties, about one of every five people live below the federal poverty line. Jonathan Mermin, director of HIV/AIDS prevention at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the agency’s research supports the link between HIV and poverty. “People with household incomes of less than $10,000 a year were 10 times more likely to have HIV than people whose household incomes are greater than $50,000.” The South’s HIV-infection rates were statistically higher than the rest of the nation, and the epidemic disproportionately affects minorities. In Mississippi, blacks account for 37% of the population but 76% of new cases of HIV.
Economic Gains for Blacks Reversed in Great Recession
Millions of Americans endured financial calamities in the recession. But in the black community, where unemployment has risen since the end of the recession, job loss has knocked many out of the middle class and back into poverty. Some even see a historic reversal of hard-won economic gains that took black people decades to achieve. The median net worth of white households prior to the recession was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute. By 2009, the median net worth for white households had fallen 24 percent to $97,860; the median black net worth had fallen 83 percent to $2,170, according to the EPI.
Voters Don’t Want Debt Ceiling Raise
According to a Newsmax/Insider Advantage poll, voters oppose raising the debt ceiling by a strong 45 percent to 32 percent margin, with the remainder undecided. But the real eye-opener in the poll is the stiff Republican and swing-voter opposition to a deal. Sixty-seven percent of GOP voters and 51 percent of independents think raising the debt ceiling is a bad idea. Democratic voters, by comparison favored raising the debt ceiling by a 44 to 21 percent margin. Interestingly, 35 percent of Democrats say they are either undecided on the question, or don’t know enough to have an opinion.
Boehner Seeks Smaller $2 Trillion Debt Deal
House Republican budget negotiators have abandoned plans to pursue a massive $4 trillion, 10-year deficit reduction package in the face of stiff GOP opposition to any plan that would increase taxes as part of the deal. House Speaker John Boehner informed President Barack Obama Saturday that a smaller agreement of about $2 trillion was more realistic. President Obama refused to back down Sunday night from seeking a landmark compromise that would slash about $4 trillion over 10 years from budget deficits and raise the government’s $14.3 trillion debt limit. In a rare weekend meeting at the White House, Obama sought to convince recalcitrant lawmakers that tax increases on upper-income Americans and major cuts in popular health care and retirement programs still were within reach — despite Republicans’ pessimism.
State of Emergency in Quartzsite, Arizona?
The Arizona town that’s become a YouTube sensation for its police department hauling away a woman speaking at a town-hall meeting allegedly declared a state of emergency this afternoon, leaving many local residents in fear of what officers dressed in full riot gear might do. Jennifer “Jade” Jones, 45, the woman forcibly removed by police from a recent public meeting in Quartzsite, Arizona, despite the vocal objections of the mayor, says an illegal secret meeting was held today with the public locked out of the building. The Arizona Republic reported the emergency meeting was held “to beef up security after receiving death threats.” Jones told WorldNetDaily there’s actually no emergency of any kind, as it’s a peaceful Sunday with people attending church. WND continues to seek comment from the Quartzsite Police Dept., but no one has responded to confirm if a state of emergency has actually been declared, and if so, precisely why.
Shuttle Atlantis Reaches Orbit for Final Time
The space shuttle Atlantis blazed into history with a picture-perfect launch Friday. When the Atlantis touches down in 12 days, NASA’s three decades of manned flight into Earth’s orbit will glide to an end, leaving as its legacy the International Space Station. Nearly a million people crowded the Space Coast’s beaches and parks to watch the last launch. At the Kennedy Space Center, spectators included more than 1,500 journalists from around the world. Atlantis, set to dock at the International Space Station on Sunday, is delivering nearly a year’s worth of food, spare parts and other supplies to sustain the station until rockets and capsules from commercial companies can resupply the station.
Distracted Driving Programs Show Success
The type of high-profile police crackdown and public-education campaign that led to record seat-belt use in the USA has proved highly effective against distracted driving in two pilot programs, the federal agency that tracks road deaths reports today. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says handheld cellphone use and texting while driving dropped sharply in Syracuse, N.Y., and Hartford, Conn., during four periods of stepped-up enforcement coupled with media campaigns. Handheld cellphone use fell 57% and texting while driving 72% in Hartford, and both handheld use and texting while driving fell 32% in Syracuse.
An extraordinary amount of personal income is coming directly from the government. Close to $2 of every $10 that went into Americans’ wallets last year were payments like jobless benefits, food stamps, Social Security and disability, according to an analysis by Moody’s Analytics. By the end of this year, however, $37 billion of those dollars are going to disappear, with the expiration of extended benefits intended to help people cope with the lingering effects of the recession.
Last month’s fall in the number of temporary workers could herald continued weakness in the job market. The total number of temporary employees placed by staffing agencies dipped by 12,000 last month and is down 19,000 the past three months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
European officials are trying to work out a strategy Monday to prevent the eurozone’s debt crisis from spilling over into bigger economies such as Italy and Spain, as they discuss details of a second bailout for Greece. The International Monetary Fund approved on Friday just over $4.2 billion for Greece, the latest installment of a rescue package aimed at helping the country pull back from an impending debt default.
A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 hit Japan’s northeastern coast on Sunday, prompting a brief tsunami warning for the area still recovering from a devastating quake and killer wave four months ago. Residents in coastal areas were warned to evacuate for about two hours after the quake, but there were no immediate reports of damage. The epicenter of the quake was in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan’s main island, Honshu, at a depth of about 20 miles. Japanese officials predicted the quake could generate tsunami of up to 20 inches, but the initial waves were only about 4 inches high. Japan is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries. Dozens of strong aftershocks have been felt since the March 11 disaster, which measured a 9.0 magnitude and was the strongest in Japanese history.
Australia will force its 500 worst polluters to pay 23 Australian dollars ($25) for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit, with the government promising to compensate households hit with higher power bills under a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions unveiled Sunday. Prime Minister Julia Gillard sought to reassure wary Australians that the deeply unpopular carbon tax will only cause a minority of households to pay more and insisted it is critical to helping the country lower its massive carbon dioxide emissions. Australia is one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas polluters, due to its heavy reliance on coal for electricity.
The United States and other Mideast mediators meet Monday in Washington, with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in shambles and an upcoming U.N. confrontation over whether to admit Palestine as an independent country only likely to make the decades-old deadlock even more intractable. Modest goals have been set by the U.S., the United Nations, Russia and the European Union. Foremost is getting Israeli and Palestinian negotiators back to the table for direct talks after nine months of inaction. Even that seems an unlikely outcome from Monday’s meeting. Despite furious U.S. efforts, officials say neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians appear willing to commit to new discussions based on parameters that President Barack Obama outlined in a May speech: two states based on the territorial boundaries that existed before the 1967 Mideast war, with some territory swaps to account for population shifts and security concerns.
- Obama’s proposal would severely weaken Israel while further entrenching Palestinian strongholds, but even they are not satisfied, and won’t be until Israel is completely eliminated.
Some 120 foreign activists were being held in Israeli jails Saturday, awaiting possible deportation, after arriving at Tel Aviv’s airport over the weekend as part of a solidarity mission with the Palestinians. Others who managed to get through Israeli border controls traveled to the West Bank where some joined a demonstration against Israel’s separation barrier. Associated Press Television footage showed some foreign activists, along with Palestinians, cutting through the barrier’s barbed wire fence with clippers. Another protester started a small brush fire. The Israeli military said about 150 protesters gathered near the barrier just north of Jerusalem. Some threw rocks at soldiers who fired tear gas to disperse them. There were no reports of serious injuries.
Egyptians set up protest tent camps in city squares across the country, vowing Saturday they would not leave until Egypt’s temporary military rulers purge the remnants of Hosni Mubarak’s deposed regime. The demonstrators also demanded that those responsible for killing hundreds during the uprising that ousted Mubarak be brought to justice. Tent cities sprang up in major cities, including Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, as well as outlying provinces, in the most far-flung and organized attempt in recent months to pressure the military council that is to lead Egypt to democracy. Army troops firing in the air clashed Sunday with stone-throwing protesters in the strategic city of Suez after crowds blocked a key highway to push for faster reform efforts.
Moammar Gadhafi’s regime sought Sunday to show it remains in control of parts of the country’s western mountains and will defend the territory against further rebel advances there. Journalists based in Gadhafi’s stronghold of Tripoli were taken by government officials Sunday to the mountain gateway town of Gharyan and the nearby town of al-Assabaa, where they were shown armed civilians and government troops who vowed to defend their land. Forces loyal to Gadhafi are also battling rebels on two major front lines to the east of the capital, but neither side has been able to mount a major push.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s supporters opened fire on protesters, killing at least 11 people across Yemen after their leader’s first television appearance since his injury last month. The video on Yemen state TV Thursday showed him rigid and weakened, with darkened skin and casts covering his hands. Saleh has been in treatment in Saudi Arabia since the June 5 attack on his palace.
The United States is suspending $800 million in military aid to Pakistan, White House Chief of Staff William Daley said Sunday. The $800 million suspension represents a little more than one-third of the $2 billion-plus in annual U.S. security assistance to Pakistan. There have been tensions in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship since the early May raid that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani compound. Some U.S. officials said Pakistan had to know bin Laden was hiding in their country; some Pakistanis protested a secret U.S. mission into their country. In more recent days, Pakistan has spend expelled U.S. military trainers; U.S. officials have also accused Pakistan of exposing the names of U.S. informants engaged in counter-terrorism missions.
A spate of attacks across Afghanistan on Sunday killed three NATO service members, an Afghan government official and three police officers. Meanwhile, officials said that insurgents have killed six Afghans from a group of 32 that was kidnapped last week in the country’s southwest. The group of Afghans was ambushed July 6 while driving to a work site in the province.
The Obama administration has imposed travel bans on more than 50 senior Iranian officials accused of participating in human rights abuses and political repression. The State Department announced on Friday that it, along with Britain, had hit 52 Iranian government ministers, military leaders and law enforcement, judicial and prison officers with visa restrictions that will bar them from entering the United States. Canada is expected to take similar action soon. The Obama administration has been raising pressure on Iran over concerns that it is repressing pro-democracy advocates and abusing the rights of students, religious and ethnic minorities, women’s rights leaders and other groups.
Closing the Strait of Hormuz is on Iran’s agenda in the face of threats, according to Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari. The Strait of Hormuz is the only sea passage to the open ocean for large areas of the petroleum-exporting Persian Gulf. Forty percent of the world’s seaborne oil shipments, and 20 percent of all world oil shipments pass through the strait on average every day.
South Sudan raised the flag of its new nation for the first time Saturday, as thousands of South Sudanese citizens and dozens of international dignitaries swarmed the new country capital of Juba to celebrate the country’s birth. South Sudan became the world’s newest country Saturday with a raucous street party at midnight. At a packed midday ceremony, the speaker of parliament read a proclamation of independence as the flag of Sudan was lowered and the flag of South Sudan was raised, sparking wild cheers from a crowd tens of thousands strong. The U.S. and Britain announced their recognition of South Sudan as a sovereign nation.
Police fired tear gas and detained hundreds of activists as more than 20,000 demonstrators massed Saturday across Malaysia’s main city demanding electoral reforms in the country’s biggest political rally in years. The opposition-backed rally was the culmination of weeks of intense pressure on Prime Minister Najib Razak’s long-ruling coalition to make election laws fairer and more transparent ahead of national polls widely expected by mid-2012. Demonstrators marched in defiance of Najib’s administration, which declared the rally illegal and warned people repeatedly to avoid it.
According to Open Doors, Eritrean military officials have rounded up another group of evangelical Christians this week. Authorities arrested 35 believers on July 3 on suspicion of gathering for worship in Assab, a port city. Mission Network News reports that the group, which included 17 women, was taken to the Adi-Nefase military camp near Assab, a notoriously harsh detention center. Open Doors also reports that 25 Christian students from Mai-Nefhi Educational Institution have been released on bail in order to sit for their final exams. They may have been part of a group of students arrested at the beginning of June for “unpatriotic behavior.” Sources in the country expect the students to be taken back into custody as soon as their exams have been completed. Eritrea ranks 12th on the Open Doors 2011 World Watch List, a compilation of the top 50 countries where persecution of Christians is the worst.
Fighting among the Zetas gang and other vicious drug cartels led to the deaths of more than 40 people whose bodies were found in three Mexican cities over a 24-hour span. At least 20 people were killed and five injured when gunmen opened fire in a bar late Friday in the northern city of Monterrey, where the gang is fighting its former ally, the Gulf Cartel. Eleven bodies shot with high-powered rifles were found earlier Friday, piled near a water well on the outskirts of Mexico City, where the gang is fighting the Knights Templar. An additional 10 people were found dead early Saturday in various parts of the northern city of Torreon, where the Zetas are fighting the Sinaloa cartel headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
A deadly cholera epidemic that swept through Haiti last fall has returned, fueled by weeks of heavy rains that have helped spread the waterborne bacteria that flourishes in the country’s rivers and rice fields. The number of new cases each day spiked to 1,700 day in mid-June, three times as many as sought treatment in March, according to the Health Ministry. The epidemic began in rural Haiti last fall, likely brought by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal. Cholera has sickened at least 370,000 people and killed more than 5,500 since the outbreak started in October. The disease is relatively easy to treat if people can get help in time.
The Los Conchas wildfire has consumed 146,353 acres as of Monday morning, but is no longer a threat to the Los Alamos Lab. It has destroyed 107 structures but is 50% contained. Recent humidity and rain have dampened the fire’s appetite. A new wildfire in Arizona 24 miles south of Litchfield spread rapidly across 15,000 acres Sunday and is only 20% contained. Meanwhile, the Honey Prairie wildfire in Georgia has burned 295,415 acres but is 80% contained and has destroyed only one structure.
A heat wave is building and could reach dangerous levels in parts of the Midwest, the Plains and the Southeast this week. Fifteen states are under heat advisories, which means temperatures are expected to exceed 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Kansas City and St. Louis in Missouri are under an excessive heat warning, along with Tulsa, Oklahoma; Memphis, Tennessee; and Evansville, Indiana. In these areas, the heat index, or how hot the body feels due to the combined effects of heat and humidity, will reach between 110 and 115 degrees this week. Wichita, Kansas, hit 111 degrees Sunday. Also on Sunday, the temperature in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri, hit 106 degrees, and in Springfield, Missouri, it topped 102 degrees.
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Atheists: Texas Prayer Day Harmful
A group of atheists and agnostics filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday seeking to stop an evangelical Christian prayer event next month that was proposed by Texas’ governor. The Freedom from Religion Foundation argues in its lawsuit filed in Houston that Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s day of prayer and fasting would violate the constitutional ban on the government endorsing a religion. The event, which is called The Response and is billed as Christian-only, is scheduled for Aug. 6 at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The complaint alleges Perry violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause by organizing, promoting and participating in the event. The group, which unsuccessfully sued to stop a national day of prayer earlier this year, filed the case on behalf of 700 members in Texas.
Calif. Gov. Signs Law to Teach Gay History
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill making California the first state in the nation to add lessons about gays and lesbians to social studies classes in public schools. Brown, a Democrat, signed the landmark bill requiring public schools to include the contributions of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender in social studies curriculum. The Democratic-majority Legislature had passed the bill last week on a largely party-line vote. The bill has drawn criticism from some churches and conservative groups that argue such instruction would expose students to a subject that some parents find objectionable. Some raised concerns that it would indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality.
- This bill is actually reverse discrimination singling out one group for special attention. So now we need legislation to ensure that heterosexual achievements are also specifically recognized. And what about handicapped people, short people……..?
Judge Halts Implementation of Anti-Life Law in NYC
A federal judge responded to a lawsuit by the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) and stopped an anti-life law from going into effect by issuing a preliminary injunction Wednesday. This is a major victory for life and for our free speech rights. This new law would have effectively shut down pro-life pregnancy centers in New York City – a law that abortion advocates are using as a model for effectively shutting down pro-life pregnancy centers across the country. The law would have required pro-life pregnancy centers to either express views about abortion that go against the very fiber of what these organizations believe or face government fines and lawsuits that would have shut these life-saving centers down.
Federal Court Rules in Favor of Yuma Church
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of religious liberty for an Arizona church today. In 2007, the city of Yuma had unlawfully denied the church a permit to use its building for worship. Attorneys for Center for Arizona Policy and the Alliance Defense Fund worked together to defend the church’s rights in court. In this case, the church purchased a building in downtown Yuma in 2007, but the city denied its permit saying that a church did not “fit in” with the city’s plans for the area. The church filed a lawsuit based on the Constitution and the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), both of which prohibit the government from discriminating against religious organizations. A lower court ruled against the church, but Tuesday the Ninth Circuit reversed that decision.
Report Reveals Gaping Holes in Intelligence on Overseas Terrorists
A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concludes that gaping holes remain in databases of overseas terrorists as well as in passport security. According to a year-long investigation by the GAO that included travel to Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand, many countries have yet to address the chronic problem of fake documents, such as birth certificates, which are a gateway to a genuine passport. Passport security is described as weak with many countries using no security features, such as biometrics, to prevent fraud. “Some countries do not have their own database systems with terrorist screening information or access to other countries’ terrorist screening information to keep track of biographical and biometric information about individuals who are known or suspected terrorists. Even when countries have terrorist screening information, they may not have reciprocal relationships to share such information or other travel-related information such as airline passenger lists, with other countries, thereby limiting their ability to identify and prevent travel of known or suspected terrorists,” the report states.
Changes Needed at U.S. Nuclear Plants
An expert task force convened by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission called Japan’s nuclear disaster “unacceptable” and concluded that nuclear power plants in the U.S. need better protections for rare, catastrophic events. In a news release issued late Tuesday, the NRC said that the 12 steps recommended in the report would “increase safety and redefine what level of protection to public health is regarded as adequate.” The task force says that there is no imminent risk to public health and the environment from operating nuclear power plants in the U.S. But its members admit that the current patchwork of regulations is not given equal consideration or treatment by power plant operators or by the NRC, during its technical reviews and inspections.
Feds Target Sales of Semi-Auto Rifles on Mexico Border
Hoping to reduce the flow of high-powered weapons into Mexico, the Justice Department today said it would require gun shops in four border states to provide data on frequent buyers of certain semi-automatic rifles. The reporting requirement covers Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas and pertains to “multiple sales” over five days of semi-automatic rifles larger than .22 caliber that accept removable ammunition magazines. The weapons are highly sought after by dangerous drug trafficking organizations and are frequently recovered at violent crime scenes near the Southwest Border.
Cities Move Toward Transgender Health Care
Ten years after San Francisco became the first local government in the nation to offer transgender health care benefits for their employees, other public employers are beginning to follow suit. Last month, city commissioners in Portland, Ore., voted unanimously to offer employees insurance covering gender reassignment surgery. Berkeley, Calif., officials are working with the city’s providers to offer transgender health care. Similar discussions are underway in Seattle and Fort Worth. In 2008, the American Medical Association passed a resolution supporting public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder as recommended by a physician, but most public-employee insurance plans still exclude that coverage. Opponents say they don’t believe the care is medically necessary,
Jesus’ Baptism Site Now Open Daily
Israel opened the traditional baptism site of Jesus to daily visits Tuesday, a move that required the cooperation of Israel’s military and the removal of nearby mines in the West Bank along the border with Jordan. The location, where many believe John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River, is one of Christianity’s most important sites. Until now, it was opened several times a year in coordination with the Israeli military, but because of its sensitive location, it had not been regularly open to the public since Israel captured the site from Jordan, along with the rest of the West Bank, in the 1967 Mideast war. Today, the baptism site sits among old minefields and near an Israeli military post in the Jordan Valley, where the famous river described in the Bible appears from afar as a dusty green gash of vegetation across a desert moonscape. Israel hopes the opening of the site will help draw Christian tourists, who have been coming to Israel in growing numbers in recent years. Of the 3.45 million tourists who arrived last year, about 69 percent were Christian, and 38 percent defined their visit as a religious pilgrimage.
Crime Risk High Near Airports & Train Stations
The risk of becoming a crime victim is four times greater than the national average in areas outside most of the nation’s big city airports, a new study by a crime-forecasting company reveals. The exclusive study, done for USA TODAY by CAP Index, of Exton, Pa., shows that the likelihood of a crime exceeds the national average outside 28 of 29 airports in the most populous metropolitan regions of the country and all 26 central train stations studied. Thefts, assaults and robberies are the most common crimes. Airports and train stations may feel safe to travelers because of a greater presence of police and security people. However, travelers should be careful not to carry a false sense of security outside with them, criminologists warn. The area outside Philadelphia International Airport has the greatest crime risk of any area outside an airport in the 25 most populous metropolitan regions
Obama Threatens Social Security in Debt Ceiling Gamble
President Barack Obama raised the stakes in the third straight day of budget talks Tuesday by warning that senior citizens and veterans may suffer first if the debt ceiling is not raised by Aug. 2. The comments came as top Republicans toughened their stance in the deficit reduction talks. As politicians sparred, U.S. business leaders pressed Obama and congressional leaders to act swiftly to raise the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt ceiling or risk derailing a sputtering economic recovery and endangering the global financial system. Obama said in an interview with CBS that checks to recipients of the Social Security retirement program may not go out in early August if he and congressional leaders do not agree on a debt deal.
McConnell Pitches Balanced Budget Amendment
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said today he wants “to change the conversation altogether” on the debt ceiling debate — a goal he has already accomplished with his complex legislative proposal that would force President Obama to raise the debt ceiling on his own, should current negotiations fail. But with conservative Republicans such as Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., taking shots at McConnell’s proposal — “Republicans weren’t elected last November to make it easier to spend and borrow and add to our debt” — the GOP leader went to the floor Wednesday to throw an old idea into the mix. A balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution — an idea the White House has already rejected.
Minnesota Shutdown Deal Reached
Minnesota’s Democratic governor and Republican legislative leaders announced a deal to end the two-week government shutdown. Speaking after a three-hour meeting with GOP leaders, Gov. Mark Dayton said the shutdown would end “within days.” House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said they had the votes to approve the deal. As the longest government shutdown in Minnesota history reaches its 14th day Thursday, an ever-increasing number of state employees, businesses and non-profits were feeling the consequences of the stalemate over how to solve the state’s $5 billion deficit. The shutdown resulted from an impasse between Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders over how to erase the deficit. Trash is piling up, supplies are running low, businesses are shutting down and even non-profit organizations are cutting back as crucial government services remained shuttered.
The number of new claims for unemployment benefits dropped 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 405,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, the lowest level in almost three months. The government said the total was increased by 11,500 state workers from Minnesota, who have filed applications because of that state’s government shutdown. Even with last week’s decline in new claims for jobless benefits, applications have now topped 400,000 for 14 weeks, evidence that the job market has weakened since earlier this year.
Even though the unemployment rate is technically 9.2%, the employment-population ratio fell to 58.2%. Translation: at the moment, only 58.2% of American adults are employed according to a study published in The Atlantic.. Prior to the recent recession, the ratio was above 63%. Normally, the employment-population ratio moves in opposition to the unemployment rate, but not this year. This phenomenon suggests that more discouraged or otherwise marginally attached workers have temporarily exited the workforce. Unhappy message: the unemployment rate likely understates the problem
Retail sales rose a modest 0.1% last month. That follows a 0.1% decrease in May, the first time in 11 months that sales fell. The Labor Department said Friday that the Consumer Price Index fell 0.2% because of the decline in gasoline prices. After excluding volatile food and gas costs, core prices rose 0.3%.
Corn supplies are projected to be higher than expected this fall. A bigger crop would ease concerns of a grain shortage and could slow food inflation later this year. Higher corn prices led farmers to plant the second biggest corn crop this year since World War II.
Spot gold hit a record high above $1,589 on Thursday, buoyed by a sharp drop in the dollar after Moody’s warned the U.S. may lose its top credit rating, the possibility of more Federal Reserve stimulus and Europe’s deepening debt crisis.
The U.S. trade deficit surged in May to the highest level in more than two and a half years, driven upward by a big increase in oil imports. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the deficit increased 15.1% to $50.2 billion in May. Exports declined 0.5% to $174.9 billion. Imports rose 2.6% to $225.1 billion.
The deficit with China jumped to $25 billion, the largest monthly gap since November. The deficit with Japan fell 26.4% to $2.6 billion. Japanese imports shrank further because of supply-chain disruptions caused by the March earthquake and tsunami.
China’s rapid economic growth slowed in the latest quarter to a still robust 9.5%, easing fears of an abrupt slowdown and giving Beijing room to tighten controls to fight surging inflation.
Moody’s Investors Service says it has downgraded Ireland’s government bond ratings to junk because of a growing risk the highly indebted country will need a second bailout.
On July 11, President Barack Obama invited the other members of the Quartet—Russia, the UN, and the EU—as well as representatives from China and the Arab League, to the White House for a summit on Israel. Following the meetings, a dinner was held for the participants. Did you hear a word about it in the media? Why not? The White House had imposed a media ban on the event to avoid questions about why Israel was not included in the talks about its future.
Masked gunmen blew up a terminal of the Egyptian natural gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan in a predawn attack Tuesday. The terminal is located in the city of El-Arish in the northern part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of the Israeli border. The attackers ordered the guards on duty to leave and then blew up the terminal, starting a huge fire that sent flames shooting into the air that lit up the night sky. It was the second attack on the pipeline in as many weeks and the fourth since an uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak’s regime on Feb. 11. Islamists opposed to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel are been suspected.
The Iranian backed Shi’ite terror militia Hizbullah, which effectively governs Lebanon, gave a stark warning to Israel this week that it will protect Lebanese territorial waters against “Israeli threats.” The warning is the latest move in the ongoing drama between Lebanon and Israel over drilling rights to massive natural gas deposits recently discovered in the western Mediterranean. Israel and Lebanon never established an internationally recognized maritime border because it would involve Lebanon’s de facto recognition of the Jewish State, but until recently neither side thought the matter to be urgent. Israel recently concluded an agreement with Cyprus which marks the border where Lebanon’s border with Cyprus also is, but Hizbullah has rejected this and wants the border it agrees to with Israel (including drilling rights) to extend further south.
There are no immediate suspects in the triple bombing that killed 21 people and wounded 141 in India’s financial capital and the attack came without warning, the country’s top security official said Thursday, while shell-shocked residents lambasted the government for the apparent intelligence breakdown. The bombings, which shook three separate neighborhoods within minutes of each other during Wednesday’s busy evening rush hour, were the country’s worst terror strike since the siege of Mumbai that killed 166 people 31 months ago. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing and Indian officials have so far refused to speculate on who might be behind the attack.
Egypt’s security chief fired nearly 700 police officers in a step to cleanse the much-hated force, the latest concession military rulers have made under pressure from protesters holding a sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for the past six days. Widespread abuses by the police under the former regime were a key reason behind the protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February. But the ruling military council that took over from him has been slow to hold ex-regime officials and police accountable for killing nearly 900 protesters during the uprising and other crimes.
The United States has formally recognized Libyan rebels as the country’s legitimate government. The U.S. decision was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the fourth Libya Contact Group Meeting in Istanbul where more than 30 countries declared the regime of Moammar Gadhafi as no longer legitimate. Diplomatic recognition of the Transitional National Council means that the U.S. will be able to fund the opposition with some of the more than $30 billion in Gadhafi-regime assets that are frozen in American banks.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is facing dramatic shortages of fuel for his soldiers and citizens in Tripoli, and he is running out of cash to pay his forces and what is left of his government, according to the latest U.S. intelligence reports. In France, the foreign minister reported that Gadhafi is prepared to leave power. U.S. intelligence estimates that fuel shortages could occur within as little time as one month. The cash shortage follows Turkey’s move last week to seize hundreds of millions of dollars held in the Arab Turkish Bank. While the Libyan strongman could not access actual cash, he had been issuing letters of credit to pay his debtors.
Syrian security forces fired on protesters in the capital and several other major cities Friday as tens of thousands gathered for some of the largest anti-government rallies since the uprising began more than four months ago. The protests stretched from the capital, Damascus, and its suburbs to Hasakeh province in the north and Daraa in the south. Thousands converged on the flashpoint cities of Homs and Hama in central Syria, among other areas across the nation of 22 million. Western nations are expressing worries about an international atomic energy agency report that says Syria has violated its nuclear non-proliferation obligations. The IAEA says Syria has refused to cooperate with an investigation of its alleged secret nuclear activities.
Hundreds of Syrian government supporters attacked the U.S. Embassy in Damascus Monday, smashing windows and spray-painting walls with obscenities and graffiti. Guards at the French Embassy fired in the air to ward off another group of protesters. The sharp escalation in tensions followed a visit last week by the American and French ambassadors to the city of Hama, a stronghold of opposition to authoritarian President Bashar Assad. Syrian authorities were angered by the visit and American Ambassador Robert Ford’s harsh criticism afterward of the government crackdown on a four-month-old uprising. Ford’s residence was also attacked on Monday.
A suicide bomber concealing explosives in his turban blew himself up inside a mosque in southern Afghanistan on Thursday during a memorial service for the president’s assassinated half brother. Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s powerful half brother, a lightning rod for criticism of all that is wrong with the Afghan government, was assassinated by a bodyguard Tuesday at his home in the southern province of Kandahar. Ahmed Wali Karzai, who was head of the Kandahar provincial council, had become a political liability for the Karzai government after a series of allegations, including that he was on the CIA payroll and involved in drug trafficking. He denied the charges, and the president repeatedly defended him, denouncing accusations that his brother was involved in criminal activities in the restive south. The assassination highlights the vulnerability of the government as U.S. forces begin to withdraw and turn over more responsibility to the Afghans,
Reuters reported on Wednesday that Iran has completed work on the Fordow bunker complex, built inside a mountain near the Shi’ite holy city of Qom, and is preparing to install centrifuges for higher-grade uranium enrichment there. The, would allow the Islamic Republic to enrich uranium at three times the rate of its current facility located at Natanz. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano retorted that Iran has not made any effort to meet its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
A volcano in central Indonesia spit lava and smoke high into the air early Friday, sending thousands of panicked residents racing down its fiery slopes. One woman died of a heart attack as she fled, but no other casualties were reported. Mount Lokon, located in northern Sulawesi province, unleashed its first powerful eruption at 10:46 p.m. Thursday, Nearly 1,000 residents have fled two villages near the Mount Lukon volcano that has been erupting this week and has a history of violent explosions. Mount Lokon has been at the highest alert level since Sunday and has had small eruptions daily. People were urged to stay up to 2.2 miles away from the 5,741-foot volcano. The mountain in north Sulawesi province is one of about 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia.
More than 1,000 airline passengers — including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — were forced to spend the night at Denver International Thursday night after a severe storm forced numerous flight cancellations. The storm brought a 15-minute period of golf-ball-sized hail, which damaged some aircraft at the airport. Some of the damaged planes had to be taken out of service, which complicated efforts to accommodate disrupted passengers.
A 15-year-old girl is dead after heavy rains caused a huge sink hole to open on a northeastern Utah highway, swallowing one vehicle and causing her father’s SUV to careen off the road. At about the same time, a second car actually went into the 40-foot-wide, 30-foot-deep hole. The accidents near Tabiona, about 90 miles east of Salt Lake City, came after a heavy storm quickly overflowed a clogged culvert and washed out the two-lane state road
Blistering midsummer heat seared much of the southern, central and eastern USA on Tuesday as temperatures soared above 100 degrees in cities from Kansas to South Carolina. Nearly half of the USA’s population — 150 million people — was affected by the heat Tuesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Oklahoma City suffered through 13 straight days of 100-degree-or-above heat before ending the streak on Tuesday. (Tuesday’s high was “only” 97.) Dallas has had 100-degree temperatures for 11 days in a row, including Tuesday. Heat is forecast to be an ongoing story right through next week.
East Africa’s drought is battering Somali children, hundreds of whom have been left for dead on the long, dry journey to the world’s largest refugee camp. On Thursday, UNICEF called the Somali drought and resulting refugee crisis “the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world.” Thousands of Somalis are walking days and sometimes weeks to reach the refugee complex in hopes of finding food. The journey is claiming scores of children as victims. At Kenya’s Dadaab camps, more than 380,000 people have crammed into a camp built for 90,000. More than 1,000 people are arriving here every day in search of help.
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