New York Mayor Bans Religion at 9/11 Ceremony

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is under attack for refusing to allow members of the clergy to play a role in the city’s commemoration of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Bloomberg insists the ceremonies should focus on the families of those killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. He is also barring political speech. But pastors and politicians are lining up to lambast his decision, reports The Wall Street Journal. “This is America, and to have a memorial service where there’s no prayer, this appears to be insanity to me,” said Rudy Washington, a deputy mayor under Bloomberg’s predecessor Rudy Giuliani, who organized a nationally televised interfaith ceremony at Yankee Stadium in the days after the 2001 attacks. New York City Council member Fernando Cabrera, a pastor in the Bronx, said faith was one of the “pillars that carried us through” the days after the attacks and called religious leaders “the spiritual and emotional backbone.”

  • More and more with every excuse imaginable, secular society seeks to marginalize Christianity

Google Bans God From Nonprofit Program

Google Inc. pulled the welcome mat out from under churches and other faith-based groups that previously were able to use its office software and popular Gmail for free when it, in effect, banned God from it program for non-profit organizations. The Internet search and software giant’s new rules fly in the face of the program title of “Google for Nonprofits,” because it now excludes churches, schools, political think tanks, proselytizing groups and any organization that considers religion or sexual orientation in hiring decisions. The move has been a blow to cash-strapped churches trying to use social media to keep faith in the Internet mix. Such exclusions from public facilities or benefits may be “unlawful religious discrimination,” Christianity Today reported.

Florida Teacher Exonerated, Reinstated

The school board in Lake County, Florida, has reinstated teacher Jerry Buell who was removed from the classroom last week over comments he posted on his personal Facebook page expressing his disapproval of the legalization of homosexual “marriage” in New York. The Mount Dora High School history and government teacher will keep his job. Buell had been temporarily transferred to an administrative assignment after — on his own time and with his own equipment at home — posting his view against same-gender marriage on Facebook. His comments reflected both the mainstream view that marriage should be between one man and one woman, as well as the definition of marriage found in the Florida constitution. However, a 2002 Mount Dora High School graduate — who had never had Buell as a teacher — lodged a complaint against the former “Teacher of the Year” about the comments. The school board then suspended Buell and launched an investigation.

2,000+ Chaplains Ask Congress to Protect Freedom after DADT Repeal

Alliance Defense Fund reports that a group of veteran service members–primarily chaplains who, on behalf of their faith groups, represent thousands of currently-serving military chaplains and several million Americans, sent a letter to the U.S. Congress Wednesday asking key officials to protect military religious liberty from the dangers created by the government’s decision to force open homosexual behavior on the U.S. armed forces through the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” next month. The letter notes that “our nation has a robust history of protecting military religious liberty,” and that, in fact, “the whole reason that the chaplaincy corps exists is to fulfill the constitutional imperative of protecting service members’ rights to freedom of religion.”  But, it says, even Obama administration officials admit that current religious liberty protections create “boundaries that are not always clearly defined,” and this lack of definition in the post-DADT military will lead to confusion and censorship.  That is intolerable, the letter concludes, because “no Americans, and especially not those in our armed forces, should be forced to abandon their religious beliefs.”

Fox News’ Parent Company Investing in ‘Gay Marriage’

The owner of a cable news channel is investing in homosexual marriage, and one conservative activist says that shows the direction the network is taking on the issue. News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, is preparing to publish a magazine devoted to planning “gay” and lesbian weddings with the debut issue of Wedding Pride next month. Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) deems it sad that the news operation trusted by many Americans is supporting homosexual marriage. But he says it is an indication of the direction the network is headed. “Conservative and faith-based Americans do not look to Fox to promote sin. And yet, every time Fox promotes homosexuality, that’s exactly what they’re doing.”

Americans’ Religious Faith Waning

An Associated Press report states: “A Duke University professor’s new analysis of decades’ worth of data suggests that American religious belief is getting gradually weaker and less widespread than it once was… Mark Chaves argues that Americans have less trust in and growing dissatisfaction with religious leaders. He says that makes people less likely to attend regular worship services than they were a generation ago. Chaves, who directs the National Congregations Study, says religion is still a powerful force in American life… But the number of people who belong to no religious group has grown substantially, especially in the last two decades… [A]s many as 20 percent of all Americans say they don’t belong to any religious group, compared with around three percent in the 1950s.”

  • The end-time’s “falling away” prophesied by the Apostle Paul is well underway (2Thess. 2:3)

Earthquake Readiness of U.S. Nuclear Power Plants is Unclear

While the North Anna nuclear facility, near the quake’s epicenter in Mineral, Va., successfully shut down Tuesday, one of its backup generators failed to work. The plant declared an “alert” — the second lowest of NRC’s four emergency classifications. It regained its electricity seven hours later but is not yet back in operation. The question — what size earthquakes can U.S. nuclear power plants withstand — seems urgent in light of this week’s surprising magnitude-5.8 quake on the East Coast. Alas, there’s no simple answer and that worries industry critics. Earthquakes are routinely measured by magnitude, or energy released. But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requires the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors to withstand a predicted level of ground motion, or acceleration — something called g-force.

The agency released a statement Thursday to clarify its “earthquake measurements and design criteria,” but it does not say what ground motion each reactor can handle. This muddiness heightens the concerns of industry critics, who have urged stricter safety rules after reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant nearly melted down due to a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11. Ongoing NRC research that shows the seismic risks for Eastern and Central U.S. nuclear power plants have increased.

Nearly Half of All U.S. Babies now Minorities

White infants are on the verge of being displaced as the majority of newborns now that nearly half of babies in the U.S. are ethnic and racial minorities. Only 50.2 percent of babies under age 1 are White and not Hispanic, according to the 2010 census, a sharp decline from 57.6 percent just 10 years earlier. “We are almost at a minority-majority infant population,” said Brookings Institution demographer William Frey, who analyzed the latest census data. “We probably have passed it since the census was taken (in April 2010).” The number of states where minority babies dominate has doubled to 14 since 2000. The balance has tipped in big states such as New York, Florida, New Jersey and Georgia. Minorities have been the majority in Texas and California nurseries for more than two decades. In Texas, the majority of people under age 47 are minorities; in California, under 52. The shift is dramatic in states like Florida and Nevada, where Whites are in the minority among those younger than 38.

Angry Unions Sever Ties With Democrats, Obama

In a huge public blow to the electoral fortunes of both President Obama and the Democratic Party, the president of the AFL-CIO said Thursday that organized labor is preparing to ditch Democrats and go it alone in building up its own grassroots structure. Specifically, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters that the nation’s largest labor federation will scale back their involvement with the Democratic Party in advance of the 2012 elections. In 2008, unions spent over $400 million for Obama’s election. Trumka made it clear that his plan will cost the Democrats both contributions and labor volunteers in many districts almost immediately. That would cripple key Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts in many swing districts on Election Day. Trumka articulated a broader critique of the Obama administration, telling reporters that the president has allowed Republicans to set the terms of debate — focusing on what he called a manufactured debt crisis instead of a jobs agenda.

First Lady Accused of Spending $10M of Public Funds on Her Vacations

The Obama’s’ summer break on Martha’s Vineyard has already been branded a PR disaster after the couple arrived four hours apart on separate government jets. But according to new reports, this is the least of their extravagances. White House sources claim that the First Lady has spent $10 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money on vacations alone in the past year. The First Lady is believed to have taken 42 days of holiday in the past year, including a $375,000 break in Spain and a four-day ski trip to Vail, Colorado, where she spent $2,000 a night on a suite at the Sebastian hotel. Judicial Watch has filed a lawsuit over the federal government’s refusal to disclose how much taxpayers spent to send Michelle Obama on a “family outing” that included a safari in Africa. The organization requested information in June regarding the expenses for the trip. The government had until Aug. 3 to respond, but did not, so Judicial Watch now has followed up with a lawsuit.

Salmonella Traced to Backyard Chicken Farms

The burgeoning trend of keeping chickens and ducklings in backyard farms may have brought a new problem home to roost: infections with salmonella. Twin outbreaks of salmonella linked to chicks and ducklings bought for backyard farms have stricken 92 people in 20 states as of Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. The poultry were traced back to a mail-order hatchery in Ohio. Raising backyard chickens largely for egg production is a growing urban trend among people who want to get closer to their food, but CDC doctors warn that hobbyists may not realize how common it is for poultry to carry dangerous forms of salmonella.

Economic News

Orders for aircraft and autos drove demand for long-lasting manufactured goods up in July. Overall orders for durable goods rose 4% last month, biggest increase since March. Demand for autos and auto parts jumped 11.5%, the most in eight years. Aircraft orders, a volatile category, soared 43.4%, after falling 24% in June. Excluding transportation, orders rose 0.7%. A key category that tracks business investment plans fell 1.5%, biggest drop in six months. That suggests businesses are pulling back on spending.

The number of Americans who bought new homes fell for a third month in July, putting sales on track to finish this year as the worst on records dating back half a century. Sales of new homes fell 0.7% in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 298,000. That’s fewer than half the 700,000 that economists say represent a healthy market. Housing remains the weakest part of the economy. Last year was already the worst for new-home sales on records dating back a half century.

Weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 5,000 the week ended Aug. 20 to a seasonally adjusted 417,000. Applications typically need to fall below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth. They haven’t been at that level since February.

Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday downgraded its rating on Japan’s debt. The agency said it lowered the rating because of Japan’s large budget deficits and growing government debt. The new rating is three notches below Moody’s top Aaa rating. Both Standard & Poor’s and Fitch rate Japan AA-, three notches below their top AAA ratings.

Middle East

Despite a fragile truce along the Gaza border several rockets landed in Israel overnight Wednesday, leading to retaliatory air strikes by the IAF and an intense round of mutual recriminations among Palestinian terror factions within the Strip and between the factions and Israel. The Iron Dome air defense system intercepted three rockets on their way to Beersheba and Ashkelon on Wednesday and an Israeli infant was lightly wounded by shrapnel from a rocket just south of Ashkelon. The IDF believed the rockets were fired by the Islamic Jihad faction, in response to one of their gunman being killed in an Israeli airstrike earlier in the day. Over the past week, more than 100 rockets, mortars and anti-tank missiles have been fired from Gaza at Israeli towns and villages along the southern border.

Libya

British warplanes struck a large bunker Friday in Muammar Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, his largest remaining stronghold. The airstrikes came a day after fierce clashes erupted in Tripoli, the Libyan capital. As Libya’s rebels fight to consolidate their hold on Tripoli, civilian casualties are mounting. The Libyan capital was in chaos Thursday as rebels battled to consolidate their hold against fierce resistance from pro-regime forces trying to cut off the road to the airport. Rebels controlled much of the city, but fighting continued in a number of districts where Moammar Gadhafi’s forces were mounting a last stand to hold onto the regime’s four decades in power. Libyan rebels stormed Gadhafi’s Tripoli compound Tuesday, looting buildings and scouring the grounds without finding the besieged dictator. The capture of his Bab al-Aziziya, center of the Libyan strongman’s 42-year rule, was a symbolic victory for rebel troops. Gadhafi and his sons were still at large and gun battles erupted between rebels and remaining pockets of loyalists. A pro-Gadhafi TV channel quoted the Libyan leader as saying he retreated from his Tripoli compound in a “tactical move” after 64 NATO airstrikes turned it to rubble.

Unless rebel forces can act quickly to protect key buildings and infrastructure, including oil fields and refineries, the country faces the prospect of continued violence. The transitional government of Libya began moving its leadership here to the capital Thursday. The Transitional National Council has been based in the eastern city of Benghazi, which fell to rebel forces early in the conflict. It remains unclear who controls the Libyan government’s weapons stockpiles, a stew of deadly chemicals, raw nuclear material and some 30,000 shoulder-fired rockets that officials fear could fall into terrorists’ hands in the chaos of Moammar Gadhafi’s downfall or afterward. One immediate worry, U.S. intelligence and military officials say, is that Gadhafi might use the weapons to make a last stand. But officials also face the troubling prospect that the material, which was left under Gadhafi’s control by a U.S.-backed disarmament pact, could be obtained by al-Qaida or other militants even after a rebel victory is secured.

Syria

The European Union announced on Wednesday that it was leveling sanctions against Iran’s Al Quds military force, saying it had given technical and material support to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria in his efforts to crush the five-month-old uprising against his rule. The move adds the European Union’s imprimatur to charges that Iran has aided Mr.. Assad in carrying out a brutal crackdown of pro-democracy activists that the United Nations says has killed 2,200 people since March. The decision was welcomed by activists in Damascus, Syria, who have refused to back down in the face of the crackdown.

Nigeria

A large explosion struck the United Nations’ main office in Nigeria’s capital Friday, flattening one wing of the building and killing eighteen people. A U.N. official in Geneva called it a bomb attack. The building houses about 400 employees of the U.N. in Nigeria and is located in the same neighborhood as the U.S. embassy and other diplomatic posts in Abuja. It had a huge hole punched in it. Oil-rich Nigeria, a nation of 150 million, is split between a largely Christian south and Muslim north. In recent months, the country has faced an increasing threat from a radical Muslim sect called Boko Haram, which wants to implement a strict version of Shariah law in the nation. The sect has carried out assassinations and bombings, including the June car bombing of the national headquarters of Nigeria’s federal police that killed at least two people.

Japan

Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced Friday he was resigning after almost 15 months in office amid plunging approval ratings over his government’s handling of the tsunami disaster and nuclear crisis. The decision was widely expected because in June, Kan had promised to quit once lawmakers passed three key pieces of legislation. The final two bills cleared the parliament earlier Friday. The Democrats will vote Monday for a new leader, who will almost certainly become Japan’s next prime minister — the sixth since 2006.

Mexico

At least 53 people were killed in a fiery attack at a casino in an upscale area of Monterrey, Mexico. Eight others were injured in the Thursday afternoon attack, the Red Cross said. Between 20 and 30 people were trapped in the casino by debris. Witnesses have told investigators that up to six people entered the Casino Royale and set the building on fire. Monterrey is the capital of Nuevo Leon in northeastern Mexico. Nuevo Leon and the neighboring states of Coahuila and Tamaulipas have been the scene of clashes between organized crime groups. The Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas are vying for control of trafficking routes into the United States.

The Obama administration has expanded its role in Mexico’s fight against organized crime by allowing the Mexican police to stage cross-border drug raids from inside the United States, according to senior administration and military officials. Mexican commandos have discreetly traveled to the United States, assembled at designated areas and dispatched helicopter missions back across the border aimed at suspected drug traffickers. The Drug Enforcement Administration provides logistical support on the American side of the border, officials said, arranging staging areas and sharing intelligence that helps guide Mexico’s decisions about targets and tactics.

Earthquakes

The rural community of Mineral, Virginia, with its winding roads, farms and timber mills is assessing the damage to its schools, homes and businesses after it became the epicenter of a 5.8 earthquake that was felt all along the East Coast. The roof of Mineral’s town hall collapsed and three of the six schools that make up the county’s school system have suffered heavy damage. Like the rest of the region hit by the quake, there were no fatalities, only minor injuries and people with chest pains who were taken to nearby hospitals and clinics. Public schools and a handful of government buildings in Washington, D.C. remained closed for further assessments. National Park Service engineers were also taking a closer look at the Washington Monument Wednesday.

The 45-second earthquake that hit the East Coast Tuesday afternoon gave millions of people a thorough and efficient education in what Westerners already know: Earthquakes are frightening. The quake was felt along the Eastern Seaboard from Georgia to Canada. Five aftershocks have been recorded through Wednesday. The East’s tightly packed earth crust carried the quake’s seismic power farther than an equivalent quake in the West’s spongier terrain. Though Virginia hadn’t had a quake like Tuesday’s in 67 years, it was mild by West Coast standards. California has seen 35 quakes of that size since 1944, when the last East Coast quake of this magnitude occurred.

A strong but deep earthquake shook a sparsely populated northern jungle region on Wednesday and was felt mildly in the capital. There were no reports of damage or injuries. The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 and was centered 50 miles north of the jungle city of Pucallpa, near the border with Brazil.

Wildfires

The northwest has been going through a dry spell. As a result, six large wildfires (over 100 acres) are burning in Montana, having consumed almost 93,000 acres (about 144 sq. miles). Only three structures have been destroyed thus far, but many remain threatened. Wyoming has six large wildfires burning over 25,000 acres (about 40 sq. miles) with two structures destroyed. There are seven active wildfires in Oregon which have consumed about 19,700 acres (about 30 sq. miles) as of Friday morning. Idaho has two wildfires that have burned almost 36,000 acres (about 56 sq. miles).

Weather

Some 65 million people along the densely populated U.S. East Coast waited warily Friday for a dangerous hurricane that could inflict billions in damages in an arc from Washington to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. The main thrust of the hurricane wasn’t expected in North Carolina until sometime Saturday. Irene would be the strongest to strike the East Coast in seven years.

The powerful hurricane Irene destroyed hundreds of homes on small Bahamian islands but largely spared the capital of Nassau as it tore over the sprawling archipelago Thursday. There were no immediate reports of deaths, but some small settlements reported up to 90 percent of their homes damaged. Assessments from other islands were not in because telephone lines were down.

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