Millennial Generation Transforming Landscape on Gay and Lesbian Issues

The Millennial generation (age 18 to 29) is transforming the landscape on gay and lesbian issues in American religion, politics and society, a new survey finds. On issues related to gay and lesbian Americans, there is at least a 20-point generation gap between Millennials and seniors (age 65 and older) on church policies, public policy, and acceptance of social roles. The Millennials, Religion & Gay and Lesbian Issues Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute released Monday is one of the largest public opinion surveys on religion and gay and lesbian issues ever conducted. The survey also finds that these large generational differences on gay and lesbian issues persist even among conservative political and religious groups such as Republicans and white evangelical Protestants. “This is the first year that support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry is not a minority position,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “Overall trends and the strongly supportive attitudes of the Millennial generation suggest that we will look back on 2011 as the year marking a sea change in American attitudes on gay and lesbian issues.”

  • The secular school system has done its indoctrination job well, just as the New World Order folks strategized years ago. John Dewey, most widely known as the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System used in all our libraries today, was also an atheist, president of the American Humanist Society and author of the Humanist Manifesto. Dewey said in 1930: “Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every public school is a school of humanism. What can the theistic Sunday schools, meeting for an hour once a week, teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?”

As Water Recedes, Cleanup Begins Across Northeast

Weary residents across the Northeast pulled soggy furniture and ruined possessions onto their front lawns as they cleaned up and surveyed the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene. National Guard helicopters ferried supplies Wednesday to mountain communities in Vermont that had no electricity, no telephone service and limited transportation in or out. Elsewhere, the massive cleanup effort was already well under way at homes, farms and businesses across the flood-scarred landscape. Repair estimates indicated that the storm would almost certainly rank among the nation’s costliest natural disasters, despite packing a lighter punch than initially feared. Even as rivers finally stopped rising in Vermont, New Jersey, and Connecticut, many communities and farm areas remained flooded, and officials said complete damage estimates were nowhere in sight.

By Wednesday night, crews had completed makeshift roads into all of the isolated towns, Vermont state officials said. They reached the last, Wardsboro, population 850, in south central Vermont, just before 6 p.m. But the roads, some of which pass through treacherous mountain landscape, are accessible only by all-terrain vehicles and four-wheel-drive trucks and cannot support regular traffic. On Thursday morning, Central Vermont Public Service, the state’s largest utility company, said only 5,900 of its customers remained without power. Flooding continues to hamper recovery efforts in northern New Jersey. The Passaic River is receding, but major flooding continues in Paterson, Little Falls and Pine Brook Thursday. Flooding and downed trees remain a problem for utility crews trying to restore electricity to more than 84,000 homes and businesses.

FEMA Almost Out of Disaster Funds

The Federal Disaster Relief Fund, the pot of money used to help communities and individuals hit by disasters, is nearly depleted. That’s bad news for victims of both Hurricane Irene and other disasters like the tornadoes that hit earlier this year. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said Monday that the agency’s fund has fallen to less than $800 million. With less that $1 billion on hand, the agency is only authorized to pay for emergency repairs. That means that long-term projects, like rebuilding roads, schools and other damaged structures in the tornado-ravaged southeastern states and Joplin, Mo., will have to wait. While individuals eligible for assistance from those earlier storms will continue to get their checks, FEMA will put other spending on hold in order to have enough cash on hand for new emergencies. Fugate said he hopes to resume funding those long-term projects at some point, but that Congress will have to appropriate additional funds for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 in order to do so.

Judge Strikes Down Key Parts of Texas Abortion Law

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked key provisions of Texas’ new law requiring a doctor to perform a sonogram before an abortion, ruling the measure violates the free speech rights of both doctors and patients. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks upheld the requirement that sonograms be performed, but struck down the provisions requiring doctors to describe the images to their patients and requiring women to hear the descriptions. Opponents argued that requiring doctors to describe a fetus’ features would force them to say things against their will and would violate medical ethics requiring doctors to respect a patient’s autonomy and act in the patient’s best interest. The law — one of dozens of anti-abortion measures that advanced through state capitals across the United States this year — takes effect Thursday. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights had sued to block it. About 81,000 abortions are performed every year in Texas.

U.S. Judge Blocks Ala. Law Targeting Illegal Immigrants

A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of Alabama’s tough anti-illegal-immigration law, which was to have taken effect Thursday. Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, signed the measure June 9. The law, considered the toughest in the nation, would make it a state crime to be in Alabama without official documentation. Police would be allowed to detain someone if an officer has a “reasonable suspicion” the person is in the country illegally, and businesses would be punished for knowingly hiring undocumented workers. The U.S. Justice Department and other plaintiffs argued that the law would interfere with immigration enforcement, a federal responsibility, and lead to racial profiling. U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn expressed skepticism about the “reasonable suspicion” provision of the law, questioning state attorneys’ arguments that law enforcement could detain individuals for immigration violations even if the Immigration and Naturalization Service was not looking for them.

Quartzsite Election ‘Stolen’?

The mayor of Quartzsite, Arizona, the town seething in vitriol since police forcibly removed a woman from speaking at a public meeting despite the mayor’s objections lost in a recall election Wednesday night, but claims the “corrupt” town council fixed the results to force him out. “They found a whole bunch of early ballots they could stuff the box with,” said Mayor Ed foster, telling WorldNetDaily the election was “absolutely” stolen. Foster says at the polling place, he was winning by a 2-to-1 margin over former Town Councilman and Quartzsite Fire Department Capt. Jose Lizarraga. But there had been 328 early ballots cast, and 208 of those went to Lizarraga, giving the win to Lizarraga by a final tally of 289 votes to 230. But the outcome is not deterring Foster from continuing his fight against alleged corruption in his rural town. “They stole it from me. I’m gonna take it back,” he said.

Health Care Fraud Prosecutions Up 85%

New government statistics show federal health care fraud prosecutions in the first eight months of 2011 are on pace to rise 85% over last year due in large part to ramped-up enforcement efforts. The statistics show 903 prosecutions so far this year. That’s a 24% increase over the total for all of fiscal year 2010, when 731 people were prosecuted for health fraud through federal agencies across the country. In 2010, the government recovered a record $4 billion from health fraud cases after the federal health care law created one agency and expanded another. The actuary for Medicare predicted provisions of the law would ultimately net $4.9 billion in fraud and abuse savings over the next 10 years, which will be rolled back into Medicare. The agencies homed in on criminal enterprises — such as 73 Armenians who defrauded the government of $163 million last fall, as well as major providers who defraud the government — such as corporations or hospitals. Usually, those cases come after a whistle-blower comes forward. In 2010, the government paid $300 million to whistle-blowers.

Outrage as Obama Names New Voter Initiative After ACORN

Government watchdogs are blasting the Obama campaign’s decision to name its 2012 voter-registration initiative “Project Vote” — the same name as a group closely linked to the discredited ACORN organization. Members of ACORN were caught on undercover video giving two supposed clients detailed instructions on how to commit fraud, and ACORN faced a number of voter-registration fraud cases following the 2008 election. ACORN-linked Project Vote is a Washington, D.C.-based 501c3 nonprofit organization that supports voter-registration drives in “historically underrepresented communities.” But there is “no wall of separation” between Project Vote and the well-known ACORN organization, according to Matthew Vadum, the Capital Research Center editor. He calls Project Vote “the branch of ACORN that’s most notorious for voter fraud.”

WikiLeaks Cables Includes Identities of Dozens of Informants

A torrent of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks has been published in the last few days, with at least 170 of them naming sources whose identity was meant to be protected, according to an analysis of the documents by CNN. Altogether nearly 143,000 of the cables obtained by WikiLeaks last year had been published by Tuesday, out of a total of 251,000 the group says it possesses. Academics in China, human rights activists in Syria, bankers in Turkey, a Coca-Cola executive in Nepal and British members of Parliament are among dozens of confidential sources named in the cables, which have appeared unredacted on websites such as cablesearch.org. Some sources face at worst potential embarrassment by being identified as sources, and many of the cables are marked as “confidential” rather than “secret.” But for others, especially in states with authoritarian regimes, their contacts with U.S. officials may be more hazardous.

ATF Director Reassigned After Gun Fiasco

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday a major shake-up of the U.S. agency that botched an attempt to track weapons smuggled to drug cartels in Mexico after guns were allowed to flow freely over the border. Kenneth Melson, who has been acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives since 2009, was reassigned after admitting mistakes in the sting operation meant to try to crack down on weapons reaching violent drug gangs from U.S. gun stores. In further fallout from the operation, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, has resigned effective immediately after acknowledging mistakes in the operation. The sting operation, dubbed “Fast and Furious,” has spawned congressional and internal Justice Department probes and put the Obama administration on the defensive about whether dangerous weapons were knowingly allowed to cross the border.

$60 Billion Misspent in Past 2 U.S. Wars

As much as $60 billion intended for financing U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been lost to waste and fraud over the past decade through lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and payoffs to warlords and insurgents, an independent panel investigating U.S. wartime spending estimates. In its final report to Congress, the Commission on Wartime Contracting said the figure could grow as U.S. support for reconstruction projects and programs wanes, leaving both countries to bear the long-term costs of sustaining the schools, medical clinics, barracks, roads and power plants already built with American tax dollars. Much of the waste and fraud could have been avoided with better planning and more aggressive oversight, the commission said. Created by Congress in 2008, the eight-member commission held more than two dozen hearings, interviewed hundreds of military and civilian officials and traveled multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan. The panel’s final report is the most comprehensive examination so far of the U.S. dependence on contractors and the government’s ability to manage them in combat areas.

  • Government waste, an ongoing theme: more government = more waste.

Forbes: US Will Return to Gold Standard After 2012 Elections

The United States will return to a gold standard of some sort after the 2012 presidential elections because current economic policies that weaken the dollar in hopes of fueling economic growth can’t last forever, says publisher Steve Forbes of Forbes Magazine. “We will return to a gold standard. It will be a modernized version of it but in essence, it’ll be the basic principle that the dollar will remain constant with gold,” Forbes told Newsmax. The U.S. abandoned the gold standard, which bases the value of the dollar to gold, in the Nixon administration in the early 1970s. Today, currencies are valued in relation to one another, normally set by foreign exchange rates. However, since the U.S. dollar serves as the world’s reserve currency, which means other countries use it for stockpiling reserves, to trade with one another or to buy and sell goods in global capital markets, the U.S. Federal Reserve enjoys the luxury of printing as much money as it wants in order to tinker with its economy as it sees fit. The downside of such loose monetary policies includes higher inflation rates and a weaker dollar, and some say the United States should return to a gold standard in hopes of forcing the government to live within its means even if it means sacrificing the flexibility that comes from being home to the world’s reserve currency.

Economic News

Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that the job market may be improving slightly. Weekly applications fell 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 409,000 last week, the first decline in three weeks. Applications have come down steadily from an eight-month high of 478,000 in April. Still, they typically need to drop below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth. They haven’t been at that level since February.

Manufacturing grew a little slower in August than the previous month, but didn’t contract as some economists had feared. The 25th straight month of growth was a hopeful sign that U.S. factories weathered a difficult summer for the economy. The Institute for Supply Management says its manufacturing index slipped to 50.6 last month, down slightly from a reading of 50.9. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

A private research group says consumers’ confidence in the U.S. economy dropped almost 15 points in August to its lowest level since April 2009 as those worries fueled the wildest stock market swings since the financial meltdown in 2008. The Conference Board says Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index dropped to 44.5, from a revised 59.2 in July. It was the lowest level since April 2009 when the reading was 40.8. A reading above 90 indicates the economy is on solid footing; above 100 signals strong growth.

Since the third quarter of 2008, overall U.S. household debt, which includes credit cards, mortgages, student loans and car loans, has declined by more than $1 trillion. While the rate of the decline has slowed somewhat in recent months, total consumer debt is still down 8.6% from the third quarter of 2008.

Spring buying pushed home prices up for a third straight month in most major U.S. cities in June. Prices rose 3.6% in the April-June quarter from the previous quarter. However, over the past 12 months, home prices have declined in all the tracked cities..

The Pentagon has spent more than $720 million since 2001 on fees for shipping containers that it fails to return on time, according to data and contracts obtained by USA TODAY. The containers — large metal boxes stowed on ships and moved from port on trucks — are familiar sights on bases in Iraq and Afghanistan where troops use them for storage, shelter and building material. Yet each 20-foot container returned late can rack up more than $2,200 in late fees.

Middle East

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been trying desperately to highlight the folly of creating a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. He asked, “Will the Western Wall be occupied territory?” The thought that this ancient and sacred place could soon be placed in the hands of radical Islamic terrorists who hate both Christians and Jews underscores the absurdity of splitting Jerusalem in half.

Libya

Moammar Gadhafi was quoted Thursday as warning that tribes loyal to him in key strongholds are armed and won’t surrender to Libyan rebels, a blow to opposition hopes of a peaceful surrender of the ousted leader’s hometown of Sirte. Rebels have been hunting for the Libyan leader since he was forced into hiding after they swept into Tripoli on Aug. 20 and gained control of most of the capital after days of fierce fighting.

Radical Islamists are among the leaders of rebels who have toppled Tripoli and are hunting down Gadhafi. Islamists represent about a fifth of the Libyan Transitional National Council, and Islamist militias have ransacked military weapons caches, controlling neighborhoods and taken over prisons and government offices. If an Islamist movement akin to the Muslim Brotherhood succeeds in gaining dominance in Libya, it would divide Libyan society between male and female and block the media and educational system from creating a secular society that can integrate with the West. “They would create a bloc of regimes with other other Islamic regimes that would be against the (Israeli-Palestinian) peace process and mobilize militarily against Israel,” says Walid Phares, an adviser to the Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.. “They would want to compete with and defeat the influence of the United States in the region and beyond.”

Libyan rebels may be indiscriminately killing black people because they have confused innocent migrant workers with mercenaries, the chairman of the African Union said, citing the fears as one reason the continental body has not recognized opposition forces as Libya’s interim government.About 500 Darfuris “are desperately trying to get out of Libya. They have no money, they are basically homeless because they are from Darfur, and they very much fear for their lives because of the color of their skin.”

Syria

Syrian security forces killed seven people on Tuesday as they opened fire to disperse thousands of protesters rallying against the regime on the first day of a Muslim holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Security forces fired at protesters in the southern province of Daraa, in the central city of Homs and in Damascus and its suburbs following morning prayers on the start of Eid al-Fitr, a three -day holiday.

More than 8.3 million tourists passed through Syria in 2010, generating 12% of the gross domestic product, according to the Syrian Ministry of Tourism. This year, the streets of the Syrian capital tell a different story: Empty Internet cafes and deserted dining tables at popular restaurants show the cloud of fear and uncertainty that hangs over the city.

Afghanistan

August was the deadliest month ever for Americans in the 10-year war. Sixty-six U.S. service members have been killed this month, a toll that includes the deaths of 30 troops in an Aug. 6 helicopter crash. The previous high was 65 troops killed in July 2010. The Taliban has shifted away from firefights with coalition and Afghan forces and has increasingly turned to suicide attacks. Under a White House plan to reduce troop levels, U.S. forces will be reduced by 10,000 service members by the end of this year and an additional 23,000 by September 2012.

Pakistan

In the aftermath of the secret U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden, Pakistani officials want a detailed agreement spelling out U.S. rules of engagement inside Pakistan, officials in both countries say, but Washington’s refusal to sign a binding document threatens to create another point of friction in the long-troubled relationship. Pakistan military officials want the U.S. to sign what is called a “memorandum of understanding,” an agreement they want to include such details as the number of CIA operatives working in Pakistan, notification before U.S. drone strikes, intelligence gathered and a written promise about Pakistan’s role if al-Qaeda’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, is found in Pakistan.

Japan

Yoshihiko Noda, elected Tuesday as Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years, faces a host of daunting problems, from post-tsunami recovery and an ongoing nuclear crisis to reviving a limp economy and reining in the nation’s bloated debt. Beyond providing vision and a strategy for the enormous task of rebuilding the northeastern coast after March’s tsunami— the worst catastrophe to hit Japan since World War II — Noda must unify his fractious party and restore public trust amid widespread disappointment over the government’s handling of the disaster and persistent political infighting.

Mexico

Five alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel have been arrested in northern Mexico and accused of setting the fire that killed 52 people in a Monterrey casino last week, Mexican authorities said today. Two other suspects are being sought. The five, ages 18 to 37, admitted they participated in Thursday’s arson attack at Casino Royale and were members of the Zetas. Authorities believe the arson attack was in retaliation for the casino’s failure to pay extortion money to the Zetas. Most of the dead were women.

Earthquakes

Central Virginia has been shaken by another aftershock from last week’s earthquake that rattled the East Coast. The U.S. Geological Survey reports a 3.4 magnitude aftershock at 5:09 a.m. Thursday. The 5.8-magnitude earthquake that rattled the USA’s East Coast on Aug. 23 continues to produce aftershocks. At least 19 aftershocks ranging in magnitude from 4.5 to as little as 2.0 followed the strongest earthquake to strike the East Coast since World War II.

Wildfires

Wildfires fueled by extremely dry conditions and strong winds destroyed dozens of homes in Oklahoma City and North Texas on Tuesday and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate. Officials did not yet know what started the blazes, but a summer heat wave and drought in Oklahoma and Texas have left the ground parched and vegetation dry. In Oklahoma City, bursts of flame rose amid thick black smoke as oil-packed cedar trees ignited. Utility poles lit up like matchsticks, and power was out to more than 7,000 homes and businesses. The fire destroyed 10 to 12 homes and consumed 1,500 acres in a sparsely populated and heavily wooded section of the city. Meanwhile, a fast-moving wildfire in North Texas destroyed at more than three dozen homes and prompted authorities to evacuate at least 400 other homes in a lakeside community. The wildfire had spread to about 3,6,200 acres in Palo Pinto County as of Wednesday night. It was expected to burn through most of the tinder-dry trees and shrubs in its path by daybreak Thursday, helping firefighters contain the late-summer blaze during the state’s severe and seemingly endless fire season.

Weather

Hurricane Katia is continuing its trek across the Atlantic with maximum sustained winds early Thursday near 75 mph. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says some strengthening is expected and Katia could become a major hurricane by the weekend. It’s too early to tell if Katia will hit the U.S. Also becoming a concern is a thunderstorm cluster in the Gulf of Mexico, which has a high chance of becoming a tropical depression in the next few days.

The month that wouldn’t cool off has finally, mercifully, ended in Phoenix. August reached record-setting levels of misery in many ways: the highest average high temperature of 109; the highest average low temperature of 87.5. the highest average temperature of 98.3; the hottest August day ever – 117. All in all, it was the hottest August on record.

A typhoon that flooded homes, roads and farmland in Taiwan with more than 20 inches of rain left the island Monday and headed to southeastern China. Typhoon Nanmadol stayed over Taiwan for only a few hours and was weaker than when it pummeled the Philippines, where at least 16 people died and another eight were missing. Some 30,000 households in southern and eastern Taiwan lost power, 8,000 people were evacuated and scores of roads and bridges were closed due to the heavy rain.

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