91 Killed in Norway Massacre, Bomb Blast

A Norwegian gunman disguised as a police officer beckoned his victims closer before shooting them one by one, claiming at least 84 lives, in a horrific killing spree on an idyllic island teeming with youths that has left this peaceful Nordic nation in mourning. The island tragedy Friday unfolded hours after a massive explosion ripped through a high-rise building housing the prime minister’s office, killing seven people in a scene some likened to the aftermath of 9/11. The blast in Oslo, Norway’s capital and the city where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, left a square covered in twisted metal, shattered glass and documents expelled from surrounding buildings. The same man — a blonde-blue eyed Norwegian with reported Christian fundamentalist, anti-Muslim views — is suspected in both attacks. He has been preliminarily charged with acts of terrorism.

  • A terrible tragedy that the media is already hyping as the product of a “fundamentalist Christian.” No true Christian would ever perpetrate such a massacre.

States Enact Record Wave of Anti-Abortion Laws

Inspired by a contentious Nebraska law, abortion opponents in five other states have won passage of measures banning virtually all abortions after five months of pregnancy. The late-term bans — based on the premise that fetuses at that stage can feel pain — are among a record wave of more than 80 restrictions aimed at reducing access to abortion, all of them approved so far this year in state legislatures. Other measures expand pre-abortion counseling requirements, ban abortion coverage in new insurance exchanges, and subject abortion clinics to tough new regulations. The bills depart from the standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court which allow states to limit abortions when there’s a reasonable chance the fetus could survive outside of the womb, generally considered to around 23 or 24 weeks. Abortions in the U.S. average about 1.2 million a year.

Debt Talks Going Nowhere

The Democratic-controlled Senate rejected the GOP’s “cut, cap, and balance” deficit reduction plan Friday, voting 51-46 to set the measure aside and clear a path for further talks on what Democrats insist must be a more centrist measure balancing spending reductions and tax hikes. “Cut, cap, and balance,” which passed the Republican-controlled House earlier in the week, would have tied a debt ceiling increase to sweeping reductions in federal spending, caps on future expenditures, and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. While the measure was never expected to become law, holding votes on it allowed Republicans to demonstrate their preference for steps favored by many in the conservative tea party movement.

House Speaker John Boehner pulled out of month-long budget negotiations with the White House late Friday night. An angry President Obama said the Republicans walked away from a deal that would have cut the budget roughly $3 for every $1 in new tax revenue. “We have run out of time,” Obama said. Boehner — who will be back at the White House Saturday morning — said he broke off talks because Obama insisted on raising taxes as part of a debt ceiling increase, including a last-minute request for $400 billion in new revenues.

Americans Owe the World $534,000 Per Household

The gap between the money Washington takes into its coffers to pay its IOUs and what it actually owes on those IOUs is taking on Grand-Canyonesque proportions, with unfunded liabilities hovering around $62 trillion, according to a USA Today analysis. And that breaks down to a staggering $534,000 per U.S. household. By the end of September, another $5,240 that has accumulated will push the household share to nearly $540,000. Last year, the government added $5.3 trillion to the amount it owes in new financial obligations. Adding to the problem, more and more people are going to retire over the coming years vastly increasing Social Security and Medicare payments

  • Proverbs 22:7 (NKJV) declares the terrible state in which America now finds itself: “The borrower is servant to the lender.” And thus we find the USA now subservient economically to those who hold significant portions of our debt obligations – China, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations. We are no longer masters of our own destiny, having sold our birthright just as Esau did.

Obama & Pentagon Chief Okay End of Military Gay Ban

Pentagon chief Leon Panetta has decided to end the ban on gays serving openly in the armed services and certify that repealing the 17-year-old prohibition will not hurt the military’s ability to function. His decision comes two weeks after the chiefs of the military services told Panetta that ending the ban would not affect military readiness. After meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, the President Obama certified to Congress that repealing the ban would not jeopardize the military’s ability to fight. Dismantling the ban fulfills a 2008 campaign promise by President Barack Obama, who helped usher the repeal through Congress and signed it into law late last December. But the move also drew vehement opposition from some in Congress and initial reluctance from military leaders, who worried that it could cause a backlash and erode troop cohesion on the battlefield.

Drug/Traffic Crime Deportations Way Up

Huge increases in deportations of people after they were arrested for breaking traffic or immigration laws or driving drunk helped the Obama administration set a record last year for the number of criminal immigrants forced to leave the country. The U.S. deported nearly 393,000 people in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, half of whom were considered criminals. Of those, 27,635 had been arrested for drunken driving. An additional 13,028 were deported last year after being arrested on less serious traffic law violations, nearly three times the 4,527 traffic offenders deported two years earlier. Most of the immigrants deported last year had committed drug-related crimes. They totaled 45,003, compared with 36,053 in 2008. The spike in the numbers of people deported for drug and traffic offenses as well as a 78 percent increase in people deported for immigration-related offenses renewed skepticism about the administration’s claims that it is focusing on the most dangerous criminals.

Atlantis Lands, Ending Space Shuttle Era

Space shuttle Atlantis is back on Earth, and the shuttle era is over. Atlantis and its four astronauts glided through the twilight Thursday and landed in Florida shortly before sunrise. NASA is ending its 30-year shuttle program with Atlantis’ successful space station resupply mission. It is the 135th flight in shuttle history. Thurday, United Space Alliance, one of the space program’s largest employers, laid off about 2,000 employees. The next-to-youngest shuttle will remain at Kennedy Space Center and be put on display. NASA’s next stop with astronauts will be an asteroid, then Mars. Private companies will take over trips to the International Space Station.

Yellowstone Oil Spill Highlights Gaps in Pipeline Oversight

Three weeks after a broken Exxon Mobil pipeline spilled 1,000 barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River, federal officials remain unsure how many pipelines there are that  carry hazardous fuels cross the nation’s rivers and streams, nor can they say how deeply those pipelines are buried. The spill into the Montana river amid historic flooding this month drew attention to what had long been an overlooked part of the nation’s energy infrastructure: the presence of pipelines underneath rivers coursing throughout the country. The spill raised concern that other underwater pipelines may have been exposed to debris by high and fast-moving waters that swept much of the U.S. in recent months. As regulators scramble to gauge what other lines might be at risk, lawmakers from both parties are raising alarms that another spill could be imminent unless the government steps up oversight of the largely self-regulated pipeline industry.

16 CAP-Supported Bills Become Law in Arizona

The Center for Arizona Policy reported Wednesday that “It’s been 90 days since the end of the 2011 legislative session, which means 16 Center for Arizona Policy (CAP)-supported bills take effect today. That’s 101 CAP-supported bills enacted into law since 1995! These new laws make significant progress towards advancing the foundational values of life, marriage and family, and religious liberty in our state. Victories like these never come without hard work, the support and prayers of people across Arizona, and the Lord’s blessing. Today would also be impossible if it wasn’t for the amazing 2010 elections, in which a two-thirds majority of pro-life, pro-family leaders were elected to the state House, Senate, and the governor’s office.

Showdown at the Quartzsite Corral

The state of Arizona is now investigating allegations of massive corruption among government officials inQuarzsite, the town that’s the focus of worldwide attention after a viral YouTube video showed police forcibly removing a woman from speaking at a town-hall meeting. The mayor says he’s no longer being paid and most local police officers are wrongly being fired and have been ordered not to leave their homes. Mayor Ed Foster, who’s been at war with his own council and Police Chief Jeff Gilbert whom he has called corrupt and “a Nazi,” believes potentially millions of dollars of taxpayer money is being illegally funneled through secret checks to unnamed councilmembers. The council met earlier this month as it locked out the public and declared a “state of emergency,” allegedly due to personal threats resulting from the national exposure. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Tom Horne said the matter is now under investigation.

Economic News

New claims for unemployment benefits rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 418,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Applications have topped 400,000 for 15 weeks, a sign of sluggish hiring. Applications had fallen in February to 375,000, a level that signals healthy job growth.

Unemployment rates rose in more than half of U.S. states in June, evidence that slower hiring is affecting many parts of the country. Rates declined in eight states and were flat in 14. Nevada had the highest unemployment rate among the states in June, at 12.4%. That’s up from 12.1% in May. California had the second-highest rate, at 11.8%. North Dakota reported the lowest unemployment rate, at 3.2%, followed by Nebraska and Montana, both 4.1%.

After falling to $3.54 a gallon from May’s $3.98 peak, prices have unexpectedly surged the past two weeks to a national average of almost $3.70 — a dollar higher than levels a year ago. Industry analysts say prices could climb higher short-term, curbing skittish consumer spending.

European leaders on Thursday clinched a 109-billion Euro rescue plan for Greece that could push the country into default on some of its debt for a short period but would also give Europe’s bailout fund sweeping new powers to shore up struggling economies. Banks have agreed to take part in several programs to reduce Greece’s debt, including plans that would mean exchanging existing bonds for new bonds with lower interest rates and longer maturities.

Somalia

Islamist militants in Somalia have reversed a pledge to allow foreign aid agencies to operate in famine-struck regions in the nation. The ban included the United Nations Development Programme, World Food Programme and CARE International. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Somalis are feared dead in the world’s worst famine in a generation, the U.N. said Wednesday, and the U.S. said it will allow emergency funds to be spent in areas controlled by al-Qaida-linked militants as long as the fighters do not interfere with aid distributions. “This desperate situation requires urgent action to save lives … it’s likely that conditions will deteriorate further in six months,” said Mark Bowden, the U.N.’s top official in charge of humanitarian aid in Somalia. On Wednesday, the U.S. announced an additional $28 million in emergency funding on top of the $431 million in assistance already given this year.

Israel

A growing movement in Israel is protesting against the conditions which make it difficult for ordinary people to live in the Jewish State. On Friday, 200 medical students staged a demonstration outside of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, adding their voices to a months old protest waged by doctors and other healthcare professionals across the country in demanding that the government reform the health care system, which Israelis have long complained is unnecessarily bureaucratic and inefficient. The protests by medical workers are happening at the same time as thousands of young Israelis have formed ‘tent cities’ across the country to protest against artificially high rents and other cost of living issues.

International supporters of the Palestinian cause again attempted Wednesday to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, put in place to prevent Hamas from receiving more weapons to use in attacks against the Jewish people. A French ship, the Dignite Al-Karama, reached the waters off the coast of Gaza but was halted by Israeli forces without incident. Last year the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara tried to break the blockade. When Israeli soldiers boarded to force the ship to stop, they were attacked by armed “peace activists.” Nine people were killed in the ensuing battle.

Syria

Syrian security forces swept through neighborhoods in Homs, a restive central city, firing machine guns and pulling people from their homes in a series of arrests. Homs has experienced some of the most intense and sustained violence in recent days as President Bashar Assad’s regime seeks to stamp out a more than 4-month-old popular uprising against him. Tens of thousands of Syrians defied the massive security crackdown and flooded the streets of Damascus and other cities Friday, insisting their protest movement was united and demanding the downfall of President Assad’s regime.

Libya

Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi’s troops have boobytrapped petroleum installations in the strategic oil port of Brega so they can be blown up if his regime loses the town. The Libyan leader also delivered yet another defiant speech in which he didn’t foresee any talks with rebels. “I will not speak to them, there will be no words between us until the Day of Judgement,” Gadhafi said. The address is the latest in a series of speeches accompanied by large rallies in different cities across the country over the past week to bolster support for the regime in the face of international backing for the rebels. NATO jet planes, meanwhile, struck the capital Tripoli near Gadhafi’s headquarters at Bab al-Aziziyah in the early hours of the morning Saturday.

Egypt

Several thousand protesters marched toward Egypt’s ministry of defense as well as the headquarters of the country’s military rulers in a rare rally Friday following reports of scuffles between protesters and soldiers in other cities. Armored vehicles and hundreds of military police blocked the road leading to the defense ministry, however, preventing nearly 4,000 protesters from advancing any further. It blocked traffic at a busy square across the city from Tahrir square, where several hundred die-hard activists have camped out for more than two weeks demanding faster change by the military. More than five months after mass street demonstrations drove President Hosni Mubarak from power, many Egyptians worry that their “revolution” has stalled.

Yemen

Shelling by Yemeni security forces killed a young girl and her mother Friday, and army forces fought with Islamists who have overrun a southern town in clashes that killed four combatants. Security across Yemen has nearly collapsed amid five months of mass protests seeking to topple the regime of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In the city of Taiz, south of the capital Sanaa, security forces have been clashing for weeks with armed tribesmen who say they came to protect protesters after a deadly government crackdown.

A spokesman for Yemen’s beleaguered government announced on Thursday that a senior leader of the country’s Al-Qaida branch was killed in heavy fighting in the south of the disintegrating country. The statement said that Ayed al-Shabwani was killed in fighting near the town of Zinjibar, held by Al-Qaida gunman since late May and the focus in recent days of a counter offensive by government troops backed by tribal militias.

Sudan

The Republic of South Sudan declared independence on July 9 and became the 193rd member of the United Nations a few days later. But ASSIST News Service reports that as the celebrations subside and the process of nation building begins, there is a stark reminder that this “national liberation” remains incomplete: tens of thousands Southern slaves remain in captivity in the North. “It is a sad irony,” said Dr. Charles Jacobs, President of the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG). “It was, after all, the enslavement of African villagers that animated and bolstered much of the rebellion in South Sudan. And it was reports of modern day human bondage in Africa’s largest country that awoke Americans to the tragedy in Sudan.” He says that in the campaign to Arabize and Islamize the African Christian/traditionalist South, the leaders of the Arab Muslim North killed almost 3 million and ethnically cleansed 4 million more.

India

Police have arrested three pastors of a Pentecostal group, the Gospel Messengers Team (GMT) and the couple who hosted them. According to Asia News, they are accused of trying to convert people to other religions, even by force. On the morning of July 13 about 150 Christians gathered at the house of Om Prakash for the regular weekly prayer, led by pastors AB Singh, Ganga Prasad and Robert of GMT. Later that morning, known leaders of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raided the meeting and threatened all those present. They falsely charged the pastors of having forcibly converted people to Christianity and of paying those present to attend. They were warned not to continue their ministry in the city. After a short time the police arrived, taking away Prakkash Om, his wife and three pastors, accusing them of forced conversions and other crimes.

Wildfires

A wildfire sparked by lightning in the Okefenokee Swamp more than 11 weeks ago reached a new milestone this week as firefighters said it has consumed more than 302,680 acres in southeast Georgia. The latest estimate of 300,239 acres means the Honey Prairie fire has burned more than 473 square miles. Firefighters have contained most of the flames within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge near the Georgia-Florida state line. Extreme drought in southern Georgia has helped the fire feed off grasses, brush and trees since it started April 28. Fire is actually vital to the Okefenokee’s ecosystem. Refuge rangers say the swamp needs to burn periodically. Otherwise, it would become overgrown and eventually convert to uplands.

Weather

A heat wave that spread from the Midwest to the Northeast tormented millions of people with blasts of 100-degree temperatures and bog-like humidity as blackouts struck neighborhoods and deaths were blamed on the hot weather. On Friday, the mercury in Newark, N.J., reached 108, the highest temperature ever recorded there. Airports near Washington and Baltimore hit 105. Philadelphia reached 103, Boston 103, Portland, Maine, and Concord, N.H., 101 and Providence, R.I., 100. New York City hit 104 degrees, just 2 short of its all-time high, and with the oppressive humidity, it felt like 113. The electrical grid that serves 13 states, mostly in the Mid-Atlantic region, set an all-time record Thursday for power usage. The blistering heat wave now gripping much of the country remains remarkable both for its intensity and duration. This week’s heat wave has killed at least 22 people across the USA.

As the rest of the country bakes in summer heat, Seattle residents have been bundled up, dealing with temperatures that can’t seem to break out of the 60s. Even in a place used to rain, the gloominess is getting on people’s nerves. It’s been a month since the summer solstice and there have been only three days with temperatures above 80. To make matters worse, rain has dampened more than a few weekends.

Lake Powell in Arizona is nearing its highest level in nearly 10 years, but even runoff from near-record mountain snowpack can’t yet erase the effects of a lingering drought on the Colorado River. The huge reservoir near Page, which shrank to one-third of capacity during the decadelong drought, will peak for the summer at 75 percent full, more than enough water to help Arizona and Nevada escape forced shortages this year. Lake Mead, the river’s other major reservoir, will also recover some of its losses as federal officials shift water that has accumulated in Lake Powell downstream into Mead. By the end of the year, Lake Mead is projected to rise 51 feet above the record low level it reached last November. But the empty space that remains in the lakes also underscores the depth of the drought and the years it will take to recover from it.

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