Shutdown Averted; Disaster Aid Dispute Surmounted
The Obama administration gave Congress a possible way out of its shutdown-threatening budget impasse Monday, saying it had enough disaster relief money to last through Friday. That allowed the Senate to vote for a straightforward short-term spending plan allowing the government to operate at least until next week — but without $1 billion in additional disaster aid. The Disaster Relief Fund was the only issue holding up agreement between the House and Senate as they approached the end of the fiscal year Friday, when the government’s spending authority runs out. And so the Senate agreed to a one-week extension of spending authority — with no additional funding but also no cuts.
Tea Party Group Casts National Debt as a Household Budget
America’s ever-growing debt crisis is in the trillions — more than $14 trillion, give or take a few billion. That’s a lot of zeros, numbers so large they’re sure to make Americans numb when trying to get their arms around what it means to them. But what would the federal debt crisis look like if you set it up as a household budget? A heck of a lot simpler, according to new figures from one Tea Party group, which estimates the government “household” spends nearly twice as much as it takes in every year, has a credit card bill nearly seven times annual income and cuts back less than 2 percent of that spending in an effort to control the debt.
In an effort to break it down into simple terms that most Americans can comprehend, the group divided each federal figure by $100 million and came up with a household with an average family income of $21,700. But that “family” spent nearly twice that — $38,200 — and has an existing credit card balance of a whopping $142,710. When you remove those eight zeros, the proposed $385 billion in spending cuts barely makes a dent.
- The debt crisis in the U.S. and Europe is so extreme that seemingly draconian measures won’t make much of a difference
Border Bill Would Expand Homeland Security Powers
Border security or federal land grab? That question is driving a heated debate over a controversial bill to give the Department of Homeland Security sweeping authority over federal lands within 100 miles of the U. S. border. The proposed National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act would let the agency waive 36 federal environmental protection laws in the name of better border patrols on public lands. The measure also waives the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Park Service Organic Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Clean Air Act. Supporters say it would help U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents secure the nation’s borders. Opponents say it would give Homeland Security unchecked authority to disregard major environmental laws covering wilderness areas, national parks and wildlife refuges.
- There’s always a seemingly ‘good’ reason for the federal government to assume greater powers, but the ongoing creep toward socialism is accelerating rapidly. States’ rights, democracy and individual freedoms are being steamrolled in the process.
Alabama Immigration Law Ruled Legal
A federal judge in Alabama ruled on Wednesday that the state can move forward with key provisions of an immigration law designed to drive illegal immigrants out of the state, ending a 14-month losing streak for anti-illegal-immigration advocates from Arizona to Georgia. U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn ruled that federal law does not prohibit state officials from checking the immigration status of students or suspects pulled over by police. Blackburn also refused to stop provisions that make it a misdemeanor for illegal immigrants not to carry immigration papers, allow police to hold suspected illegal immigrants without bond and bar state courts from enforcing contracts entered into by illegal immigrants. The U.S. Justice Department and several civil rights groups sued Alabama after it passed the law, arguing that immigration enforcement is solely the responsibility of the federal government. A similar Justice lawsuit last year led to a federal judge blocking the core aspects of Arizona’s SB 1070, which reignited the national immigration debate.
Obama Asks Supreme Court to Hear Health Care Law
The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to decide on the legality of its health care law. Appeals courts have split on the question of whether the administration can constitutionally require most Americans to buy health insurance. Opponents of the law said they also welcome a Supreme Court hearing. The case has always seemed bound for the Supreme Court in any event, but the administration’s announcement could speed up the process. If the court accepts the case and rules in its 2011-2012 term, the decision would come down by July — four months before the presidential election.
The signature legislation of the Obama Administration, the Affordable Care Act, came under damaging assault Wednesday from a Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found it has already partially contributed to increasing health care costs. The survey found that insurance premiums rose by 9 percent in 2011 and that some provisions of the Affordable Care Act already in place — including the allowance for young people up to 26 years of age to remain on their parents insurance policy — contributed to 20 percent of that increase.
No Child Left Behind Revision Meets Praise and Cautions
President Obama is offering to free public schools from many of the requirements of the controversial No Child Left Behind law. But as states consider whether to take him up on it, they’re realizing the offer comes with some costs. Obama said he would waive the proficiency requirements in exchange for a promise that states adopt several reforms, including higher academic standards, a teacher evaluation system based on student test scores and a promise to intervene in the lowest-performing schools. Congress is due to reauthorize the law, but progress has stalled. National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel praised Obama’s offer, but California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said the waiver “would appear to cost billions of dollars to fully implement, at a time when California and many other states remain in financial crisis.”
- This removes some federal requirements while imposing others. Instead, Washington should allow individual states to oversee their own educational systems, which would guarantee the kind of competition among states that will produce true, less costly reforms.
Mass. Man Arrested in Terror Plot
A 26-year-old Massachusetts man with a physics degree was arrested and charged Wednesday with plotting an attack on the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol with a remote-controlled model aircraft. Rezwan Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen from Ashland, Massachusetts, planned to use model aircraft filled with C-4 plastic explosives, authorities said. As a result of an undercover FBI investigation, Ferdaus, who has a physics degree from Northeastern University in Boston, was charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda for attacks on U.S. soldiers overseas. Ferdaus began planning a violent “jihad” against America in early 2010, and he began supplying the FBI undercover agents with cell phones rigged to act as electric switches for improved explosive devices, intended to be used to kill U.S. soldiers overseas. Undercover federal agents also gave Ferdaus 25 pounds of fake C-4 explosives. Ferdaus then ordered and acquired a $6,500 remote-controlled aircraft.
Iran, South Asia Worst for City Air Pollution, U.S. Among Best
Cities in Iran, India, Pakistan and the capital of Mongolia rank among the worst on the planet for air pollution, while those in the U.S. and Canada are among the best, according to the first global survey, released Monday by the World Health Organization. The southwest Iranian city of Ahvaz walked away with the unfortunate distinction of having the highest measured level of airborne particles smaller than 10 micrometers. WHO recommends an upper limit of 20 micrograms for PM10s, which can cause serious respiratory problems in humans. They are mostly sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide from power plants, auto exhausts and industry. Ahvaz’s annual average of PM10s was 372 micrograms per cubic meter.
The study found that the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator had an annual average PM10s density of 279 micrograms per cubic meter, followed by another west Iranian city, Sanandaj, with 254 micrograms. Cities in Pakistan and India, such as Quetta and Kanpur, as well as Botswana’s capital Gaborone, also ranked high on the pollution scale. At the other end of the list, Yukon territory’s capital Whitehorse had a yearly average of just 3 micrograms of PM10s per cubic meter, while Santa Fe, New Mexico, measured 6 micrograms. Washington, D.C., had a level of 18 micrograms, Tokyo measured 23 micrograms, and Paris had 38 micrograms of PM10s per cubic meter.
Poverty Expands into Middle Class
A record number of Americans are living in poverty — 46 million. Millions of formerly middle-class Americans now find themselves among the suddenly poor. Today, 15% of the USA— one in six Americans — are considered poor, the highest rate of poverty since 1993. Now among the poor are the college-educated, the former middle-class worker, the suburbanite and the homeowner. They’ve been hit by layoffs, cuts in work hours, health problems and other crises. They’ve gone through savings and 401(k)s. They live off food stamps or other government benefits and rely on help from family members and friends. The number of poor people living in the suburbs of metropolitan areas rose 24%. The poverty line last year was a household income of $22,314 or less for a family of four.
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, an encouraging sign that layoffs are easing. The Labor Department says weekly applications dropped 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 391,000, lowest since April 2. Applications typically need to fall below 375,000 to signal substantial job growth.
The Commerce Department said the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 1.3% in the April-June quarter, up from an estimate of 1% made a month ago. The improvement reflected more consumer spending and a bigger boost from trade.
Home sales are on pace this year to be the worst since 1997. The Commerce Department said Monday that new-home sales fell 2.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 295,000. That’s less than half the roughly 700,000 that economists say must be sold to sustain a healthy housing market.
Overall orders for durable goods slipped 0.1% last month. The modest decline was largely due to an 8.5% drop in orders for autos and auto parts. At the same time, a category that measures business investment plans rose 1.1% last month.
The head of the IMF has warned that its $384 billion war chest designed as an emergency bail-out fund is inadequate to deliver the scale of the support required by troubled states. n a document distributed to the IMF steering committee at the weekend, Christine Lagarde said: “The fund’s credibility, and hence effectiveness, rests on its perceived capacity to cope with worst-case scenarios. Our lending capacity of almost $400 billion pales in comparison with the potential financing needs of vulnerable countries and crisis bystanders.”
German lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly approved expanding the powers of the Eurozone bailout fund, a major step toward tackling the sprawling debt crisis, in a vote that also helped strengthen Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government. A lively debate ahead of the vote reflected how divided Germans remain over their role as Europe’s economic power. The vote highlighted tensions in Merkel’s center-right coalition that was strained by threats of dissent from many members who balked at the cost of propping up the eurozone’s strugglers.
A senior EU official urged more unification in Europe as it grapples to contain a debt crisis in Greece that’s threatening the survival of the euro currency itself. In a state of the union speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Jose Manuel Barroso, who heads the executive European Commission, came down firmly in favor of the 27-nation EU having a stronger central government. Barroso’s comments came as lawmakers in Finland and Germany prepare to vote on measures that will give the 17 countries that use the euro more powers to fight a debt crisis that’s already led to Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek bailouts. Greece is lumbered with so much debt that many in the markets think it will have no option but to default.
- The inexorable march toward centralized, global government continues unabated (Rev. 13)
After last week’s theatrics in New York City, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu correctly called the United Nations the “theater of the absurd.” Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority (PA), pressed the UN to recognize Palestine as a nation state. This is the same Abbas who wrote his doctoral dissertation denying the Holocaust.
- While Abbas positions himself as a man of moderation and peace, he nonetheless seeks the complete elimination of Israel from the Middle East.
The Obama administration told the Palestinian Authority it cannot significantly help advance a Palestinian state until after the 2012 presidential elections, a top PA official told WorldNetDaily. The main message we received from the U.S. is that nothing will happen in a serious way before the 2012 elections,” said the official. “We were told to wait for Obama’s reelection, and that before then nothing serious will happen for a state,” the official continued. “But after the reelection, the U.S. said the schedule will be short to reach a Palestinian state.”
- Obama will now say anything necessary to get reelected and then ignore American interests to proceed with his anti-Israel, socialist, globalist agenda
The U.N. says the average monthly tally of armed clashes, roadside bombings and other violence has increased sharply this year in Afghanistan. In its quarterly report on Afghanistan released Wednesday, the U.N. says that as of the end of August, the average monthly number of incidents was 2,108. That’s up 39% compared with the same period last year. The U.N. report also says that insurgents are conducting more complex suicide operations, involving multiple bombers and gunmen.
Eight policemen were killed in an attack early Wednesday near a southern city that is seen as a pioneer in transition from NATO to Afghan control over security. The pre-dawn attack targeted a police checkpoint near Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, where the insurgency has strongholds. Lashkar Gah was one of five provincial capitals and two provinces chosen to start the transition from NATO to Afghan control this summer. At least 16 people, including 11 children, were killed when a bus returning from an engagement party in Afghanistan hit a roadside bomb.
Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan will go down only slightly this year despite intense coalition and Afghan efforts to reduce a crop that funds Taliban operations. Reducing poppy cultivation is considered critical to undermining the insurgency because of the strong ties between drug trafficking and the Taliban. The Taliban generated $155 million from the drug trade in 2009, according to the United Nations. Afghanistan supplies about 90% of the world’s opium. The growing of opium poppies, which are processed into heroin, has dropped in some areas where coalition troops have arrived in force. But cultivation is forecast to rise in other provinces.
Counterterrorism operations conducted by U.S. and Iraqi forces have interrupted the flow of sophisticated Iranian weapons to militants, including powerful rockets that hammered American bases this summer. There have been five improvised rocket attacks in the first seven months of 2011 compared with one each in 2010 and 2009 against U.S. bases in Iraq. The worst this year was on June 6, when rockets killed five U.S. soldiers who were part of an advisory team training Iraqi security forces. The rockets struck the soldiers’ living quarters in Baghdad. A total of nine Americans died in June in attacks from the rockets. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that military action and political pressure on Iran from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have helped reduce attacks since the summer.
About 200,000 Libyans remain under threat as Moammar Gadhafi loyalists battle to the end in the only two areas still contested in Libya: Bani Walid and Sirte, the coastal birthplace of the fallen leader. With supply routes largely severed, water, food and medicine are in short supply. The shortages and a lack of electricity have placed enormous pressure on the civilian population, who are also being used as human shields by Gadhafi loyalists. One of their staging areas has been the main hospital in Sirte, where Gadhafi’s fighters feel protected from NATO airstrikes.
Libya’s transitional government delivered $16 million Tuesday to the remote southern city of Sabha that has been beset by fighters loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, hoping to bolster support for revolutionary forces. On the other side, Gadhafi’s son was seen in a video for the first time since Tripoli fell, trying to rally the remnants of his father’s regime.
Suspected Islamist militants on Tuesday attacked a gas pipeline in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that transports fuel to neighboring Israel and Jordan. The attack, which targeted a pumping station about 15 miles west of the city of el-Arish, is the sixth on the pipeline since the popular uprising that ousted longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in February. Three lines branch out from the pumping station in el-Maydan — one to Israel, a second to Jordan, and a third to Egypt’s domestic market. The Egyptian and Jordanian lines were shut down following Tuesday’s attack. The Israeli pipeline has not been functioning since an attack in July forced it to shut down.
The first of Egypt’s three-tiered elections is scheduled for November, with the increasing possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood will take charge, according to a report by Mission Network News. In January, 10 percent of people polled thought the Muslim Brotherhood would be fit to lead the country, compared with 50 percent today. Concerns for Christians are rising along with the popularity of the Brotherhood; a recent poll shows that 82 percent of Egyptians believe Muslim converts to Christianity should be killed, and 30,000 anti-Christian terrorist prisoners.
Security officials and witnesses say a suicide attacker driving an explosives-laden car has blown himself up next to the passing convoy of Yemen’s defense minister, who escaped the attack unscathed. The attacker blew his car up as Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed’s convoy passed along the coastal highway in the southern city of Aden. The ministry confirmed Ahmed survived the attack unharmed.
Pro-government supporters in Syria threw stones and tomatoes at the U.S. ambassador in Damascus. Ambassador Robert Ford and other U.S. diplomats were attacked while visiting an opposition figure in the Syrian capital. Crowds have surrounded the building and that two embassy cars have been damaged. The Assad supporters tried to force their way in, breaking some door locks. Office staff prevented them from rushing in. Syrian security arrived about an hour after the attack began.
A suicide bomber attacked a packed Indonesian church Sunday in the city of Solo, wounding at least 27, Fox News reported. It is the latest in a series of attacks on minority religious groups in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. The bomber, who was inside the church when he got up and detonated the bomb on his way out, was part of a terrorist network in Cirebon, 185 miles east of Jakarta. The man was already on Indonesia’s most wanted list in connection with a suicide attack five months ago. Ahmad Yosepa Hayat, born in Cirebon in western Java, accompanied a suicide bomber to an attack on a police mosque in that city in April which injured 30 people
A Saudi activist was convicted of defying the kingdom’s ban on female drivers, a lawyer and rights advocates, revealing clear limits on how far the conservative Muslim land is willing to go to grant women greater rights. Just a day earlier, King Abdullah, who is regarded as a reformer by Saudi standards, decreed that women would be allowed for the first time to vote and run as candidates in elections for municipal councils starting in 2015. Activists say the trials reveal a gap between the image the kingdom wants to show to the outside world and the reality on the ground in the ultraconservative nation. On Wednesday, King Abdullah overturned the court-ordered lashing of the woman.
Explosions rocked Royal Dutch Shell’s largest oil refinery on Thursday, forcing the closure of several refining units and the evacuation of most staff as a fire at the Singapore plant continued for a second day. A blaze that broke out Wednesday at the 500,000 barrel-a-day refinery on Bukom, an island 3 miles offshore, had appeared to be brought largely under control. But there was a new surge on Thursday causing at least three explosions. There have been no reports of injuries. Singapore is one of the world’s top 3 centers for the refining and export of oil and is Asia’s main oil trading hub.
The Aug. 23 East Coast earthquake damaged the Washington Monument’s elevator, the National Park Service reports. The mechanism is believed to have been damaged by the counterweights, and the elevator is operating only to the 250-foot level of the 555-foot monument. Park officials are also evaluating cracks in four stones and some mortar that crumbled. The monument has been closed since the magnitude-5.8 quake.
Tens of thousands of people have been stranded and at least 20 have been killed since last week by surging floodwaters in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. The floods caused by heavy rains have inundated more than 3,000 villages that are home to more than 2 million people. More than 120,000 people have been evacuated but tens of thousands are still marooned. Air force helicopters are dropping food parcels, and more than 370 boats are shuttling the stranded to safety. Flooding also killed at least 31 over the weekend in northern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states.
Massive flooding hit the Philippine capital. Manila, Tuesday as typhoon winds and rains isolated the historic old city where residents waded in waist-deep waters, dodging tree branches and debris. Authorities ordered more than 100,000 people to shelter from rains and wind gusts of up to 106 miles per hour. At least 20 people were killed with another 35 missing. Along downtown Manila’s baywalk, cars and buses were stuck and residents waded through floodwaters as waves as high as palm trees washed over the seawall, turning a six-lane highway into a huge brown river.
Get brief daily alerts on your PC or phone at www.twitter.com/SignsofEndTimes