Archive for October, 2011

October 31, 2011

Religious Tracts Land in Trick or Treat Bags

Millions of Americans go missionary on Halloween by dropping little booklets on salvation in kids’ candy bags. This year, the American Tract Society’s offerings for the holiday include Peek-A-Boo: Jesus Loves You, which sternly cautions the door-to-door pint-size demons-for-a-night that “the Bible says the wages of Sin is death,” then offers an elementary school version of the sinners prayer: Jesus, I’m sorry I do bad things. Please forgive me. The ATS Ministries’ Light Up the Night website reminds believers, “By distributing ATS tracts along with candy (or the special ATS Fun Packs that include a toy) you can provide each and every child that comes to your door with an evangelistic presentation. By choosing to evangelize on Halloween, Christians can shine the True Light on what is possibly one of the darkest nights of the year.”

  • Halloween is devil worship, whether the celebrants know it or not. Shining the ‘True Light’ into evil’s darkness is always a good idea

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Highway Crosses Dispute

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to return to the divisive question of when religious symbols are allowed on government property, rejecting a dispute over the placement of large white crosses on Utah roads to commemorate fallen troopers. Over the lone dissent of Justice Clarence Thomas, the court left in place a lower court decision that said the Utah crosses violated the separation of church and state. Thomas emphasized that lower court judges are split over how to interpret the justices’ rules in this area and he expressed sympathy for a Utah patrol association’s efforts to memorialize slain officers. A group of atheists sued, claiming the placement of symbols of Christianity on public grounds was unconstitutional.

  • The Supreme Court’s inaction is actually quite consequential, allowing the atheist’ victory to stand in Utah and set a precedent for other states

Muslims Demand Removal of Crosses & Basilica at Catholic University

Muslim students claim Catholic University has “violated their human rights” by displaying crosses and refusing to create Islamic prayer rooms on the private Washington DC based college campus. The complaint even indicates that the University should remove the Basilica from Campus. Americans United for Freedom notes, “Clearly, the Muslims’ intention in attending this particular school was not to obtain a quality education or even learn about a differing religion. Rather, their intention from the outset was obviously to disrupt a Catholic institution and strike yet another blow suing through the U.S. legal system, in their effort to bring Christendom into subjection. Should Islam prevail against the Catholics, they will move to attack the Baptists, the Evangelicals, the Anglicans, the Methodists and every other Christian institution that stands in the way of a worldwide Islamic Caliphate, global Muslim domination and universal implementation of Sharia law.”

Wall Street Protesters Dragged to Jail, Urge Nationwide Strike

Police in Oregon arrested about 30 anti-Wall Street protesters early Sunday, dragging and carrying them to waiting vans, after they refused to leave a park in an affluent district. The arrests in Oregon came after protesters from the Occupy Portland movement marched to the Pearl District, with some saying they viewed its residents as part of the wealthy demographic they’re protesting. Dozens of them gathered in Jamison Square on Saturday evening to defy a midnight curfew to vacate. Most of the protesters were carried or dragged away.

Police also arrested 38 people in Austin, Texas, who had set up a table with food and other items outside City Hall two days after the city issued rules saying food tables at the event must be put away between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. When the group was asked to leave the area, the 38 refused and were arrested. In Tennessee, protesters defied a curfew for a third consecutive night. About 50 demonstrators in Nashville chanted “Whose plaza? Our plaza!” early Sunday in defiance of the official curfew. Authorities signaled no immediate attempt to make arrests as law enforcement agents had done on the two previous nights.

Activists with Occupy Oakland are promoting a general strike across the city Wednesday and are urging other groups nationwide to organize similar events. The Oakland group announced on its website that it is planning a march to the Port of Oakland, the nation’s fifth busiest, to “shut it down before the 7 p.m. night shift.” The website says the strike will be “against the growing gap between the rich and everybody else.”

Latest Obama Order Targets Drug Prices, Shortages

President Obama’s latest executive order targets another issue likely to appear on the campaign trail, the prices and availability of prescription drugs. Obama signed new guidelines Monday for the Food and Drug Administration that are aimed at cost and supply. Obama’s orders instruct the FDA to do three things: “Broaden reporting of potential shortages of certain prescription drugs; speed reviews of applications to begin or alter production of these drugs; and provide more information to the Justice Department about possible instances of collusion or price gouging.” It’s the latest move in Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” campaign, targeting congressional Republicans who are blocking the president’s $447 billion jobs bill. Last week, Obama unveiled executive actions designed to promote mortgage refinancing, jobs for veterans, repayment of student loans, and job-hunting efforts. Congressional Republicans who say Obama’s jobs bill is too expensive and ineffective deride the executive orders as inconsequential and politically motivated.

70 Suspected Drug Smugglers in Arrested in Arizona

Authorities have reportedly seized thousands of pounds of narcotics and arrested 70 suspected drug smugglers in what they’re calling one of the biggest narcotics trafficking rings ever dismantled in Arizona. The suspects arrested in Arizona have ties to a violent drug cartel based in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made the bust Thursday in the Phoenix area and areas south, including Casa Grande and Maricopa, after a 17-month investigation by local, state and federal officials. Reuters reports that authorities confiscated drugs, money, weapons, ammunition and bullet-proof vests. The drugs were reportedly being smuggled from Mexico into Arizona by car, plane, on foot and through tunnels. Drug experts told Reuters that the Mexican cartel involved is believed to be responsible for 65 percent of all drugs illegally smuggled into the U.S.

World Population Hits 7 Billion

Amid the millions of births and deaths around the world each day, it is impossible to pinpoint the arrival of the globe’s 7 billionth occupant. But the U.N. chose Monday to mark the day with a string of festivities worldwide, and a series of symbolic 7-billionth babies being born. Demographers say it took until 1804 for the world to reach its first billion people, and a century more until it hit 2 billion in 1927. The twentieth century, though, saw things begin to cascade: 3 billion in 1959; 4 billion in 1974; 5 billion in 1987; 6 billion in 1998. The U.N. estimates the world’s population will reach 8 billion by 2025 and 10 billion by 2083. But the numbers could vary widely, depending on everything from life expectancy to access to birth control to infant mortality rates.

Solar Energy Shines

Solar power installations doubled in the United States last year and are expected to double again this year. More solar energy is being planned than any other power source, including nuclear, coal, natural gas and wind. The high costs that for years made it impractical as a mainstream source of energy are plummeting. Real estate companies are racing to install solar panels on office buildings. Utilities are erecting large solar panel “farms” near big cities and in desolate deserts. And creative financing plans are making solar more realistic than ever for homes. Solar’s share of the power business remains tiny. But its promise is great. The sun splashes more clean energy on the planet in one hour than humans use in a year, and daytime is when power is needed most. Solar power has been held back by costs. It’s still about three times more expensive than electricity produced by natural gas, but those costs are falling fast.

Women More Likely to be Injured in Traffic Accidents

Women who wear seat belts are 47% more likely to be injured in a car accident compared with men who wear seat belts, according to a study by the American Journal of Public Health. Yet, men are more than three times as likely to be involved in a car crash that leads to serious injury. The dramatic difference in injury rates has to do with the way car safety systems are designed, at least in older models. On average, women are shorter and lighter than men, so the likelihood of injury from airbags increases. Other factors, such as differences in seating posture, also increase the likelihood of injury for women.

Economic News

Russia is willing to help the European Union deal with its debt crisis by investing up to $10 billion through the International Monetary Fund, a top official said Monday. Emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa said last month that they would be willing to prop up the IMF and the Eurozone. But they also have insisted on a bigger role at the IMF, a key global lender. Russia also said that they would be ready to provide direct aid to individual European countries, but Moscow hasn’t been approached about it yet.

Most economists surveyed by USA TODAY say the European debt crisis will remain a threat to the global economy next year and will hurt U.S. economic growth despite last week’s deal aimed at averting a meltdown. Still, many of the 43 economists polled Oct. 25-27 see less risk of a new U.S. recession, though they expect only modest growth next year.

Middle East

Palestine became a full member of the U.N. cultural and educational agency Monday, in a highly divisive move that the United States and other opponents say could harm renewed Mideast peace efforts. Delegates approved the membership in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions. Eighty-one votes were needed for approval. U.S. lawmakers had threatened to withhold roughly $80 million in annual funding to UNESCO if it approved Palestinian membership. The United States provides about 22% of UNESCO’s funding. While the vote has large symbolic meaning, the issue of borders of an eventual Palestinian state, security troubles and other disputes that have thwarted Middle East peace for decades remain unresolved.

A new round of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants has Gaza’s Hamas rulers caught between reluctance to take on Israel and discomfort with reining in fellow Islamists from smaller, more radical groups involved in the fighting. The fighting has killed 10 Palestinians and an Israeli, casting doubts on assessments that the recent prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas might improve relations between the bitter foes. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has avoided direct involvement in the latest burst of fighting. Hamas lost hundreds of men in a fierce Israeli offensive against rocket squads three years ago and has largely maintained calm since then. At the same time, the group, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks, remains committed to armed struggle against Israel. Threatened by even more radical rivals in Gaza, Hamas has not criticized anyone for attacking Israel.

After four years of internal struggle and bloody civil war, the leaders of the two main factions of the Palestinians—Fatah and Hamas—are scheduled to hold meetings in November. Hamas has totally controlled Gaza, using it as a launching pad for thousands and thousands of attacks on the Jewish people. The supposedly more moderate Fatah party headed by President Abbas (who financed the Black September raid that killed the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics) controls Judea and Samaria—the so-called West Bank. The Jerusalem Prayer Team notes, “The uniting of these two groups can only have one purpose…to further their attacks on the Jewish state and the Jewish people. They share a common goal: the destruction of Israel.”

Libya

NATO’s top official has arrived in Tripoli for talks with Libyan officials on the final day of the alliance’s seven-month bombing campaign that helped rebels overthrow Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. NATO operations will end at midnight Monday Libyan time just days after the U.N. Security Council— which authorized the mission in March — ordered an end to all military action. Allied air forces carried out 9,600 strike sorties in the past seven months, destroying about 5,900 military targets.

Libya’s interim prime minister on Sunday confirmed the presence of chemical weapons in Libya and said foreign inspectors would arrive later this week to deal with the issue. Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said Libya has no interest in keeping such weapons. Jibril, who has announced his resignation ahead of the formation of a new interim government, did not provide any details about the chemical weapons.

Persian Gulf

The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran. With an eye on the threat of a belligerent Iran, the administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. While the United States has close bilateral military relationships with each, the administration and the military are trying to foster a new “security architecture” for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense.

Iraq

Out of the billions of dollars in cash that the U.S. shipped to Iraq during the war, “hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars . . . was stolen by senior Iraqi officials for their own personal gain,” the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction reported. In the new audit report, the inspector tracked a subset of the total amount — $6.6 billion in funds that the New York Federal Reserve made available to the Iraqi government during the war. That chunk of cash, a subset of the tens of billions the New York Fed has sent overall, became controversial over the summer because neither the New York Fed nor the Iraqi government would provide enough information to document what happened to it.

Afghanistan

The United Nations’ refugee agency said three of its employees are among the five people killed in a suicide bombing in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. Two others also were wounded in the attack early Monday. A suicide bomber drove an explosive-laden pickup into a checkpoint near a compound housing U.N. and international aid groups. Three other insurgents then rushed into the compound, sparking an hours-long gun battle with security forces. All three of the attackers were killed.

Weekend violence that killed eight NATO troops and eight Western contractors in Afghanistan comes as coalition forces are attempting a major crackdown on the Haqqani network, an insurgent group based in a remote corner of Pakistan that has been blamed for a spate of high-profile attacks. On Saturday, a massive suicide car-bomb attack in Kabul targeted an armored bus carrying NATO troops and civilians, killing five coalition troops and eight western contract workers. Four Afghans also died in the blast. The Haqqani network was suspected in the car-bomb attack.

Syria

The Arab League has called on Syria’s government to end all violence against its people, remove tanks and military vehicles from the streets of the country and release political prisoners. Arab countries made the proposal to Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Sunday. The Arab League also proposed a dialogue between Syrian officials and opposition members in Cairo starting on Wednesday. Also on Monday, Syrians aiming to write a new constitution for the strife-torn country will meet for the first time. President Bashar al-Assad earlier this month announced the formation of a committee to draft a new constitution within four months. The October 15 announcement was one of several moves the government has made to defuse protests, but they have not calmed the situation in the country.

Ethiopia

The Air Force has been secretly flying armed Reaper drones on counterterrorism missions from a remote civilian airport in southern Ethi­o­pia as part of a rapidly expanding U.S.-led proxy war against an al-Qaeda affiliate in East Africa, U.S. military officials said. The Air Force has invested millions of dollars to upgrade an airfield in Arba Minch, Ethi­o­pia, where it has built a small annex to house a fleet of drones that can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs. The Reapers began flying missions earlier this year over neighboring Somalia, where the United States and its allies in the region have been targeting al-Shabab, a militant Islamist group connected to al-Qaeda.

Japan

A Japanese government panel says it will take at least 30 years to safely close the tsunami-hobbled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, even though the facility is leaking far less radiation than before and is considered relatively stable. Plant workers are still struggling to contain radiation leaking from the plant, although the amount is far less than before. The panel noted that it took 10 years to remove nuclear fuel after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the United States, and suggested that the process at Fukushima would be much more complicated and time-consuming. Officials at Tokyo Electric Power Co. say they have largely succeeded in cooling the damaged reactors, meeting a goal of completing what is called a “cold shutdown.” But extensive repairs and safety measures must still be carried out. The panel said removal of the fuel rods at Fukushima would not begin until 2021, after the repair of the plant’s containment vessels.

Weather

A snowstorm with a ferocity more familiar in February than October socked the Northeast over the weekend, knocking out power to almost 3 million, snarling air and highway travel and dumping more than 2 feet of snow in a few spots as it slowly moved north out of New England. Snowfall totals topped 27 inches in Plainfield Mass., and nearby Windsor Conn. had gotten 26 inches by early Sunday. Officials warned it could be days before many see electricity restored. The combination of heavy, wet snow, leaf-laden trees and frigid, gusting winds brought down limbs and power lines. At least three deaths were blamed on the weather, and states of emergency were declared in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and parts of New York. By early Monday, the number of customers without power was still above 2 million. Thousands of schoolchildren experienced one of the earliest snow days ever.

On one side of Bangkok, you’ll find the victims of Thailand’s worst flooding in half a century. They float down trash-strewn waterways, paddling washtubs with wicker brooms over submerged neighborhoods. Just a few miles away, you’ll find something else entirely: well-heeled shoppers perusing bustling malls decorated with newly hung Halloween decorations, couples sipping espresso in the air-conditioned comfort of ultrachic cafes. Although catastrophic flooding has devastated a third of this Southeast Asian nation and submerged some of the capital’s northernmost districts, the reality for the majority of this sprawling metropolis of 9 million people is that life goes on. An exodus of thousands of Bangkok residents to nearby resorts and a government-ordered five-day holiday have left the notoriously congested city unusually easy to maneuver by taxi and three-wheeled tuk-tuk in non-flooded areas..

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October 29, 2011

EU Leaders Reach Deal to Tackle Debt Crisis

Banks agreed this morning to take half of what they are owed by Greece as part of a deal brokered by European leaders to solve the continent’s debt crisis and prevent it from igniting a new global financial meltdown. The strategy that emerged after 10 hours of negotiations focused on three key points: 1) Significant reduction in Greece’s debts; 2) Shoring up the continent’s banks, partly so they can sustain the deeper losses on Greek bonds; 3) Reinforcement of a European bailout fund so it can serve as a $1.39 trillion firewall to prevent larger economies like Italy and Spain from being dragged into the crisis.

The deal will reduce Greece’s debt to 120% of its GDP in 2020. Under current conditions, it would have grown to 180%. That will require banks to take on 50% losses on their Greek bond holdings. The Eurozone and International Monetary Fund— which have both been propping the country up with loans since May of 2010 — will give the country another —$140 billion. World markets surged Thursday at the news..

Obama Uses Executive Powers to Get Past Congress

During a three-day Western trip that ended Wednesday, Obama announced initiatives that could help 1.6 million college students repay their federal loans, 1 million homeowners meet their mortgage payments, and 8,000 veterans find jobs. The Democratic president did this with nary a negotiation with congressional Republicans. Like many of his predecessors in the White House, he got past Congress the old-fashioned way: He spurned it. On all three initiatives, Obama used his executive authority rather than seeking legislation. That limited the scope of his actions, but it enabled him to blow by his Republican critics. Unlike acts of Congress, executive actions cannot appropriate money. And they can be wiped off the books by courts, Congress or the next president. President Obama signed two more executive memorandums Friday, saying they will help employment at a time when congressional Republicans are blocking his $447 billion jobs bill.

  • It’s a dangerous game to upset the balance of powers demanded by our Constitution

Court rejects Cape Wind’s Offshore Wind Turbines

A federal appeals court on Friday rejected the Federal Aviation Administration’s ruling that the Cape Wind project’s turbines present “no hazard” to aviation, overturning a vital clearance for the nation’s first offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound. A decision Friday from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the FAA didn’t adequately determine whether the planned 130 turbines, each 440 feet tall, would pose a danger to pilots flying by visual flight rules. The court ordered the “no hazard” determinations vacated and remanded back to the FAA. The court also found that an FAA determination that the project posed aviation risks would likely lead the U.S. Interior Department to revoke or modify the lease granted Cape Wind — the first granted to a U.S. offshore wind project. The decision signals further delays for the $2.6 billion project, which has been under review for about a decade and which has struggled to find financing.

Occupy London Protesters Face Eviction, Arrests in Tenn.

Occupy London protesters who are camped out in front of the historic St. Paul’s Cathedral are facing eviction by legal action. St. Paul’s and the City of London Corp. are seeking separate High Court injunctions to clear out the more than 200 tents. Protesters first set up shop outside of the tourist site and house of worship two weeks ago. The City of London said on its website: “Of course, we fully support the right of people to express their views through peaceful demonstration, but no city can be a campsite.” The protesters initially attempted to set up at the London Stock Exchange, but police cordoned off that area. The protesters say they will oppose any attempt to remove the tents.

Police have begun arresting Wall Street protesters in Nashville who defied a new curfew a day after they were forced off the Tennessee Capitol grounds because new restrictions had been set. Several dozen people remained on the grounds after the new curfew passed Friday at 10 p.m. Arrests began just before midnight. About 26 people were arrested. Protesters remained at the scene and vowed to return Saturday. Meanwhile, Wall Street protesters around the country who are vowing to stand their ground against the police and are also digging in against a different kind of adversary: cold weather. With the temperature dropping, they are stockpiling donated coats, blankets and scarves, trying to secure cots and military-grade tents, and getting survival tips from the homeless people who have joined their encampments.

Fights are erupting among Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City, so much so that one corner of Zuccotti Park has emerged where protesters say they won’t go for fear of their safety, the New York Daily News reported. Police officers also have been warned of “dangerous instruments” being concealed in cardboard tubing. “There is a lot of infighting in the park,” a police source told the news organization.

  • These protests are entering the next phase where the unstable people attracted to the encampments turn violent against the police and each other.

Zombie Popularity Another Symptom of Deep Social Malaise

We are in the midst of a zombie-craze. Zombies have reached never-before seen heights of popularity, appearing widely not only in film but also in comic books, graphic novels, literature, video games. Major cities across North America have become home to organized zombie walks where sometimes hundreds of people dress as the risen dead and wander en masse creating gruesome flash mobs, References to zombie banks, zombie capitalism, zombie economy and all sorts of zombie business have ‘gone viral.’ A “zombie bank” is as “a bank or financial institution with negative net worth.” In “Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance,” authors Lisa Desjardins and Rick Emerson write that a “zombie economy” is “any financial situation that puts your stability and future in jeopardy.” The concept of zombies comes from Haitian folklore and voodoo mythology and has been closely associated with slavery, as Haiti was a hub for the slave trade.

  • As the world descends into economic chaos and moral decay, satanic forces are guiding confused, frustrated people down demonic pathways. Not just zombies, but current music and shows have become quite demonic, while even the sports world seeks to get their ‘mojo’ which actually means a voodoo fetish.

Feds Order YouTube To Remove Videos Containing “Government Criticism”

The number of takedown orders received by Google from authorities based in the United States rose dramatically over the past year, with demands to remove information, including videos containing “government criticism,” increasing by 70 per cent. U.S. authorities also called for the removal of 113 videos from YouTube, including several documenting alleged police brutality which Google refused to take down. The figures are revealed in Google’s newly released Transparency Report. The number of “Items requested to be removed” by US authorities was almost seven-fold the number requested to be removed by Chinese authorities, a country much maligned for its Internet censorship policies.

Military Homosexuals Suing for Marriage Rights

A group of married “gay” current and former military personnel has sued the federal government, seeking equal recognition, benefits and the same support as married heterosexual couples. The lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Boston says the government’s Defense of Marriage Act violates their constitutional rights and asks the military to recognize their marriages. The suit was filed by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Executive director Aubrey Sarvis says homosexual service members deserve the same protections as heterosexual couples because they make the same sacrifices. Opponents of President Obama’s decision to overturn “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy warned that such a lawsuit would be coming once that restriction was removed. The Obama administration has already stated publicly that it will not enforce the the Defense of Marriage Act that restricts marriage to a man and a woman.

  • What seems ‘reasonable’ on the surface is but another symptom of the breakdown, morally and genetically, of God’s intended social order

Christian Demoted for Posting Gay Marriage Stance on Facebook

Adrian Smith, a housing manager in Manchester, England, got a pay cut and demotion after sharing his beliefs against gay marriage in a post on his personal Facebook page, the Christian Post reports. Some of Smith’s coworkers who were his Facebook friends complained to the Trafford Housing Trust after Smith wrote that “marriage is for men and women” and that gay marriage was “an equality too far.” Following a disciplinary hearing, he was demoted from his managerial position and his salary was cut by 40 percent. He was also forced to remove his comments, and he is now suing the company, saying his free speech rights were violated and that the punishment was inappropriate.

Family Films Still Most Bankable

For all the castigating they take, family films — even live-action movies not propelled by computer-generated effects and toy tie-ins — remain the industry’s most bankable pictures. That’s more than most genres can claim this year. Superheroes fizzled, 3-D faded and many sequels failed to match their predecessors, commercially or critically. “It’s the only genre that’s delivering any kind of a profit margin, which is why we’re going to be seeing so many of them,” says Jeff Bock of the industry tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. Movies safe for Grandma and the grandkids will arrive undeterred this holiday season. “Family time is clearly prime time at the cineplex this time of year. It’s been the one thing in the marketplace that’s still appealing to a wide denominator,” says film critic Anne Thompson.

Jesus’ Name Ruled Unconstitutional

A recent U.S. circuit court decision that states even “a solitary reference to Jesus Christ” in invocations before the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ meetings could do “violence to the pluralistic and inclusive values that are a defining feature of American public life.” Furthermore, wrote Judge James Harvie Wilkinson III in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals majority opinion, legislative invocations offered in Jesus’ name are inherently “sectarian” and thus should be censored lest they make some attendees feel “uncomfortable, unwelcome and unwilling to participate in … public affairs.” But the board of county commissioners in North Carolina disagrees, and with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund is asking the Supreme Court to trump Wilkinson’s ruling. “America’s founders opened public meetings with prayer; this county simply wants to allow its citizens to do the same,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman in a statement.

Public School Bible Classes Declining

In 2006, Georgia became the first state to allow Bible education classes in public schools, after much debate over the sticky issue of separation of church and state. Now the classes are dwindling for a far more tangible reason: money. Superintendents say interest has waned in the once-controversial classes and schools don’t have the money to pay for courses with only a few students enrolled. What’s more, budget cuts mean it now takes more students to fill up a class than ever before – some classes need more than 25 enrolled before they are considered affordable. Since Georgia’s law passed five years ago, four states – Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina and Oklahoma – have adopted similar measures. The economy is taking a toll on how many schools consider offering Bible classes because it’s difficult to find qualified teachers and set aside the funding for the textbook and materials.

Fungus Fingered as Bat Killer

Confirming suspicions, federal and academic biologists concluded Wednesday that a deadly white fungus is killing bats across North America. More than one million bats have been killed by “White Nose Syndrome” (WNS), tied to the fungus. The fungus, Geomyces destructans, kills bats exposed in lab conditions and directly infects bats exposed to their infected brethren, reports the Nature journal study team. “Fungal pathogens have the unique capacity to drive host populations to extinction because of their ability to survive in host-free environments. Given the high mortality rate and speed at which WNS has spread, the disease has the potential to decimate North American bat populations and cause species extinction. With the causative agent now conclusively identified through fulfillment of Koch’s postulates, future research efforts can focus on mitigating the effects of WNS before hibernating bat populations suffer losses beyond the point of recovery,” says the study.

Supercommittee GOP, Democrats Swap Offers

Republicans on Congress’ deficit-reduction supercommittee outlined a plan Wednesday that includes spending cuts but none of the increases in tax revenue sought by Democrats, completing an initial exchange of offers that left the two sides far apart despite weeks of secret talks. The Republican offer calls for somewhat more than $2 trillion in deficit savings over a decade, according to officials in both parties. Less than half of that amount would come from increases in items such as Medicare premiums. Spending cuts include about $500 billion from Medicare over a decade and another $185 billion from Medicaid. By contrast, Democrats want $1.3 trillion in higher tax revenue, a similar amount in spending cuts and enough other savings elsewhere in the budget to finance a $450 billion jobs bill along the lines that President Barack Obama is recommending. The panel of six Republicans and six Democrats has until Nov. 23 to recommend deficit savings of $1.2 trillion.

Economic News

The ever-escalating national debt will soon hit and then surpass the size of the entire U.S. economy — an ignominious distinction previously achieved by the likes of Japan, Italy and Greece. The gross national debt, which is what the federal government owes both to outside creditors and its own trust funds (notably Social Security), will reach 100% of the economy in another month or two – a total of $15.2 billion. It will put the U.S. closer to rarified territory — countries that owe more than they produce in a year. Japan is at the head of the class with a 220% debt-to-GDP ratio. Italy, being watched closely now for signs that the European debt crisis based in Greece could be spreading, is around 120%.Even the troubled 17-nation Eurozone is better off than the U.S. in this regard, with a ratio under 90%.

The total of U.S. state debt, including pension liabilities, could surpass $4 trillion, with California owing the most and Vermont owing the least, a new analysis says. The nonprofit State Budget Solutions combined states’ major debt and future liabilities, primarily for pensions and employee healthcare, unemployment insurance loans, outstanding bonds and projected fiscal 2011 budget gaps. The report said the deficit calculations that states make “do not offer a full picture of the states’ liabilities and can rely on budget gimmicks and accounting games to hide the extent of the deficit.”

Americans spent in September at three times the pace of the previous month, even though incomes barely budged. They financed their spending by saving at the lowest level since the start of the Great Recession. Consumer spending rose 0.6% last month. The gain was driven by a big rise in purchases of durable goods, such as autos. Consumers earned only 0.1% more, and adjusting for inflation, after-tax incomes fell 0.1% last month — the third straight monthly decline.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits declined 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 402,000. That’s the fourth drop in six weeks. Despite the recent declines, applications are stuck above 400,000, where they have been for all but two weeks since March. Applications need to fall consistently below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth.

The terrible economy hasn’t pummeled everyone. Exxon Mobil rode higher oil and natural gas prices to a third-quarter profit of $10.3 billion — a surge of 41% from a year earlier. Oil industry competitors also saw similar gains from the higher prices.

  • The ‘Occupy’ protesters have one thing right – greed (corporate or otherwise) is a major economic problem that is yet another sign of the ongoing end-time rollout. (along with materialism and self-centeredness).

Middle East

An American request for Israel to initiate a new freeze on building in Jewish communities in the West Bank in order to kick-start negotiations with the Palestinian Authority was denied by Israeli officials on Thursday. The request was submitted by US Ambassador Dan Shapiro to Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who replied that no Israeli government had given in to the request to freeze settlements in the past, and that there was no reason for the current government to do so now.

A U.S.-Israeli citizen arrested in Egypt as a suspected spy was freed on Thursday after more than four months in jail, under a prisoner swap deal that has eased friction between the two countries. Egypt traded the U.S.-born Grapel for 25 Egyptians, most of them smugglers, held in Israeli jails. Grapel’s release helped to ease fears that relations would sour after Egypt’s longtime president, Hosni Mubarak, was ousted in February.

Libya

Fighters and residents in this battle-scarred city celebrated victory over Moammar Gadhafi’s regime with parade of tanks and anti-aircraft guns Friday, as NATO announced that it would end its air campaign over Libya after the weekend. The uprising against Gadhafi had erupted in February and quickly escalated into a civil war that ended last week with Gadhafi’s capture and death under mysterious circumstances. Still, the new Libya faces a host of problems, including huge numbers of weapons in the hands of civilians and uncertainty about the transition to democracy. The image of the former rebels has also suffered amid allegations that they have mistreated prisoners and that those who captured Gadhafi killed him in custody.

Afghanistan

Despite improvements to security in Afghanistan, militants operating from havens in Pakistan and chronic problems with the Kabul government pose significant risks to a “durable, stable Afghanistan,” according to a Pentagon progress report released Friday. More than a decade since the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the start of the Afghan war, the U.S. and its allies have reversed violent trends in much of the country, and the transition to Afghans taking charge of security has begun in seven key areas, including major cities such as Kabul and Herat. However, cross-border attacks have increased in recent months because of insurgents’ havens in Pakistan and the support they received from within its borders. NATO said 13 service members have been killed in a suicide car bombing in Kabul on Saturday. The suicide bomber rammed a van packed with explosives into a NATO convoy. Afghan officials said that four Afghans, including a policeman, were also killed.

Pakistan

U.S. drones fired six missiles at a vehicle in Pakistan’s rugged tribal region Thursday, killing five militants, including a close ally to one of the area’s top commanders. The attack in the South Waziristan tribal area killed Khan Mohammed, also known as Sathai, deputy leader of a group of militants led by Maulvi Nazir and also the commander’s cousin. The strike also killed Nazir’s younger brother, Hazrat Omar. Nazir is one of the most powerful militant commanders in the tribal region and is accused of working with the Taliban and al-Qaida to stage attacks against foreign troops in neighboring Afghanistan. The U.S. has criticized Pakistan for failing to crack down on militants staging attacks in Afghanistan and has stepped up drone attacks in the tribal region to combat them.

Yemen

A car bomb killed the head of the anti-terror force in Yemen’s restive southern Abyan province Friday. Three others, including two children, were wounded in the blast that killed Ali al-Haddi near the coastal city of Aden. The bomb was planted in al-Haddi’s car. Security has broken down across Yemen during the nine-month popular uprising against autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled the country for more than 30 years. Demonstrations raged around the country on Friday.

Syria

Syrian troops shelled a restive district on Saturday and conducted sweeping raids, one day after security forces killed about 40 people in one of the deadliest crackdowns in months in the country’s uprising. Shells slammed into the Baba Amr district of Homs. Raids and arrests also were reported around the eastern city of Deir el-Zour. There were many casualties, but the number was not immediately clear. Syrian security forces opened fire Friday on protesters and hunted them down in house-to-house raids, killing about 30 people. The popular revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has proved remarkably resilient over the past seven months, with protests erupting every week despite the near-certainty the government will respond with bullets and tear gas. The U.N. estimates the regime crackdown on the protests has killed 3,000 people since March.

Turkey

An explosion believed to have been caused by a suicide bomber killed one person and wounded 10 others in southeast Turkey on Saturday. The explosion occurred in the center of the mainly-Kurdish city of Bingol. The blast was near the local branch of the ruling party. Kurdish rebels who are fighting for autonomy, have carried out many such suicide bombings in the past. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984.

Serbia

Serbian police arrested 15 people in raids on suspected radical Islamists on Saturday after a lone gunman opened fire with an assault rifle on the U.S. embassy in neighboring Bosnia. Friday’s broad daylight attack in the Bosnian capital paralyzed central Sarajevo and had shopkeepers scrambling for cover as the gunman paced up and down firing on the embassy before a police sharpshooter wounded him and he was arrested. One police officer was also wounded in the attack.

Nigeria

Nigerian soldiers summoned to the city of Bauchi to stop fights between Muslim and Christian youths last week shot and killed a Christian mother of five, Compass Direct News reports. When violence broke out at a high school soccer match, soldiers were called in to restore the peace, but Muslim soldiers soon joined with Muslim students from the school and attacked Christians’ homes as the fighting spread to other parts of the city. Three soldiers chased Charity Augustine Agbo into her house and shot her twice in the chest; she later died at a hospital.

Earthquakes

An earthquake has struck about 140 miles east of the capital of Fiji. There are no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude-6.0 quake struck Thursday at a depth of 380 miles. The region lies on the “Ring of Fire” — an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific Rim. About 90% of the world’s quakes occur in the region.

Rain and snow on Thursday compounded difficulties for thousands rendered homeless in the powerful earthquake that hit eastern Turkey, and the government said the death toll has gone up to 523. The prime minister’s center for crisis and emergency management said 1,650 people were injured and 185 were rescued from the rubble. Meanwhile, a moderate earthquake, measuring 5.4 hit the neighboring province of Hakkari, sending people rushing out of buildings in fear and panic. No injuries were immediately reported in that temblor, which was centered some 90 miles south of the epicenter of Sunday’s devastating quake.

A mild earthquake measuring 3.2 struck Chino Valley, Arizona Wednesday, causing some shaking of homes but no reported damages or injuries. It was the largest quake in the area since a 5.0 trembler in 1976.

Weather

The main river coursing through Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, swelled to record highs Friday, briefly flooding riverside buildings and an ornate royal complex at high tide amid fears that flood defenses could break and swamp the heart of the city. But the higher than normal tides in the Gulf of Thailand, expected to peak Saturday, are obstructing the flood runoff from the north, and there are fears that the overflows could swamp parts of downtown. The government also is worried major barriers and dikes could break. Seven of Bangkok’s 50 districts — all in the northern outskirts — are heavily flooded, and residents have fled aboard bamboo rafts and army trucks and by wading in waist-deep water.

Tropical Storm Rina battered Mexico’s Caribbean coast and the island of Cozumel with winds and rain Friday, and the navy forcibly evacuated some residents who refused to leave a low-lying island in the path of the storm. Rina was a far cry from the Category 3 hurricane that some had feared would hit the resort-studded region and many tourists abandoned Cancun and the Riviera Maya ahead of its arrival. The storm was weakening further early Friday, with maximum sustained winds of near 45 mph, down from 110 mph at its peak. Playa de Carmen, a resort town across from Cozumel, was left without electricity and streets were largely empty as Rina swept along the coast.

A cold-weather system and dump anywhere from a dusting to more than 10 inches of snow Saturday from the Mid-Atlantic to parts of New England. The National Weather Service, as of early Friday afternoon, had posted winter storm watches and warnings all the way from southwestern Virginia to northern Maine. The autumn snowstorm threatened to wreak havoc with fall color tourism.

Haiti is the nation most at risk from rising sea levels, floods and other impacts of climate change, according to a new global survey from the U.K. risk analysis firm Maplecroft. Thirty countries are listed as being at ‘extreme risk,’ with the top 10 comprising of Haiti, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Cambodia, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi and the Philippines. Iceland is the country which is forecast to suffer the least, the survey reports. The other best-performing countries in the survey are almost exclusively in Northern Europe, with Finland, Ireland, Sweden and Norway all in the top ten. The U.S. is categorized as low risk, although some coastal regions, including Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, North and South Carolina were rated as ‘high risk.

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October 26, 2011

Christians Flee as Radical Islam Spreads in ‘New Middle East’

Attacked by mobs and terrorists, repressed by the growing popularity of fundamentalist Islamic law and cut off from crucial business ties, Christians are fleeing the Middle East in an unprecedented exodus. More than half of Iraqi Christians — an estimated 400,000 people — have left that country over the last decade as power has fallen in the hands of increasingly hostile Shi’a Islamic leaders. In Egypt, home to at least 8 million Copt Christians — a number that exceeds the populations of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and Tunisia — at least 95,000 Christians have emigrated since March 2011. The number could reach 250,000 by the end of this year, reports the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights. At the present rate, the Middle East’s 12 million Christians will likely drop to 6 million by the year 2020.

Push for ‘Personhood’ Amendment New Strategy in Abortion Fight

A constitutional amendment facing voters in Mississippi on Nov. 8, and similar initiatives brewing in half a dozen other states including Florida and Ohio, would declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, effectively branding abortion and some forms of birth control as murder. With this far-reaching anti-abortion strategy, the proponents of what they call personhood amendments hope to reshape the national debate. “I view it as transformative,” said Brad Prewitt, a lawyer and executive director of the Yes on 26 campaign, which is named for the Mississippi proposition. “Personhood is bigger than just shutting abortion clinics; it’s an opportunity for people to say that we’re made in the image of God.” Many doctors and women’s health advocates say the proposals would cause a dangerous intrusion of criminal law into medical care, jeopardizing women’s rights and even their lives.

Vatican Calls for Global Authority on Economy

The Vatican called Monday for radical reform of the world’s financial systems, including the creation of a global political authority to manage the economy. A proposal by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace calls for a new world economic order based on ethics and the “achievement of a universal common good.” It follows Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 economic encyclical that denounced a profit-at-all-cost mentality as responsible for the global financial meltdown. The proposal suggests the reform process begin with the United Nations as a “point of reference.”

  • Great, now the Vatican has publicly joined forces with the New World Order in calling for the one-world government that Revelation 13 shows will usher in the anti-Christ.

Authorities Losing Patience With Wall Street Protesters

Police guarded newly cleared plazas early Wednesday in Atlanta and Oakland, Calif., after clearing Occupy Wall Street protest camps in both cities. Dozens of demonstrators were arrested in swift crack-downs by riot squads after local authorities lost patience with the rallies. Helicopters hovered and trained spotlights on downtown Atlanta as police in riot gear moved into a small city park just after midnight and arrested more than 50 protesters who had been there in tents for about two weeks. Authorities in cities around the country have started losing patience as protesters prepare to settle in for winter in camps without running water or working toilets. Businesses and residents near New York’s Zuccotti Park, the unofficial headquarters of the movement that began in mid-September, are demanding something be done to discourage the hundreds of protesters from urinating in the street and making noise at all hours.

The former New York office for ACORN, the disbanded community activist group, is playing a key role in the self-proclaimed “leaderless” Occupy Wall Street movement, organizing “guerrilla” protest events and hiring door-to-door canvassers to collect money under the banner of various causes while spending it on protest-related activities, sources tell FoxNews.com. The former director of New York ACORN, Jon Kest, and his top aides are now busy working at protest events for New York Communities for Change (NYCC). Sources said NYCC has hired about 100 former ACORN-affiliated staff members from other cities – paying some of them $100 a day – to attend and support Occupy Wall Street. Dozens of New York homeless people recruited from shelters are also being paid to support the protests, at the rate of $10 an hour, the sources said.

  • These paid squatters are nothing like the Tea Party whose public protests are respectful of property

Opposition to Obama’s Religious Voter Outreach Efforts

Following a Democratic National Committee announcement last week of new efforts to conduct religious voter outreach in support of President Obama in the 2012 election, Family Research Council Action president Tony Perkins disputed the efforts, responding that Obama would likely find little support among Christian voters, the Christian Newswire reports. A Barna Research survey shows that Obama only has a 6-percent favorability rating among evangelicals, and Perkins said: “Real outreach would be defending life and marriage. It means encouraging the freedom of religion over the freedom of worship. And most importantly, real outreach is not only mastering the language of faith but giving it voice in public policy.”

Immigrants Find Legal Path to U.S. Long, Difficult

Many newcomers to the United States find it difficult to go through the legal process of immigration. Few visa categories, high expenses and processing times that can stretch decades put several obstacles along the legal road to immigration. Immigrants traditionally take two paths to reaching this country: Family ties or employment opportunities. The federal government caps family-based immigration visas at 226,000 a year, and work-based immigration visas at 140,000. By comparison, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates Alabama alone had 120,000 unauthorized immigrants in 2010. Temporary nonimmigrant visas are available but often require applicants to possess particular skills or resources to qualify. Those considered unskilled have a more difficult time.

Take a man from the Philippines with brother who holds U.S. citizenship. If he wants to immigrate but has no advanced degrees or special skills, the man could have his brother file a petition for an F4 visa, capped at 65,000 a year. The family will have to wait for a number to be assigned to the case before the visa application can be processed. That wait is currently 23 years. If the family is from Mexico, the wait time is 15 years; wait times in China and India are now at 11 years.

Northern Lights Make Appearance Further South

The phenomenon known as the Northern Lights, or the aurora borealis, made a rare appearance as far south as Kentucky, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Arkansas. A solar wind made the colorful sight visible much further south than normal A strong compression in the magnetic field around the earth allowed electrically charged particles from the solar wind to penetrate to within 22,000 miles of the earth.

New Rules Could Help Underwater Homeowners Refinance

Almost 1 million more homeowners over the next two years might be able to refinance their mortgages and save hundreds of dollars a month under the Obama Administration’s latest fix to one of its underused foreclosure prevention programs. The changes announced Monday are intended to benefit homeowners who have continued to make mortgage payments, even as home values have sunk, but lack at least 20% equity to refinance and take advantage of today’s low interest rates. The revisions could also help some owners who are underwater, owing more than their homes are worth. The administration says eligible homeowners could save about $2,500 a year in house payments, providing a small boost to an ailing economy if that money is spent elsewhere.

  • Nice idea, small payback to economy

Government Job Losses Add Strain on Recovery

Conservative Republicans have long clamored for government downsizing. They’re starting to get it – by default. Crippled by plunging tax revenues, state and local governments have shed over half-a-million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. And, after adding jobs early in the downturn, the federal government is now cutting them, as well. States cut 49,000 jobs over the past year and localities 210,000, according to an analysis of Labor Department statistics. There are 30,000 fewer federal workers now than a year ago – including 5,300 Postal Service jobs canceled last month. By contrast, private-sector jobs have increased by 1.6 million over the past 12 months.

Economic News

A consensus of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News estimates the economy grew at a still-modest 2.5% annual pace last quarter, up from their 1.8% projection less than two weeks ago. The brighter picture follows better-than-expected data on retail sales, manufacturing, jobs and business investment. That’s not robust, but it beats the anemic expansion of less than 1% the first half of 2011.

Companies ordered more heavy machinery, computers and other long-lasting manufactured goods in September, a positive sign for the sluggish economy. Outside of the volatile transportation category, orders rose 1.7%. And orders for core capital goods, a measure of business investment plans, rose 2.4%.Durable goods are products expected to last at least three years.

Sales of new homes rose in September after four straight monthly declines, largely because builders cut their prices. sales rose 5.7% last month from August, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 313,000 homes. Still, that’s less than half the 700,000 economists say must be sold to sustain a healthy housing market. The median sale price of a new home fell 3.1% to $204,400.

The nation’s richest citizens almost tripled their incomes between 1979 and 2007 as the inequality of the distribution of wealth in the United States expanded. The top 1 percent saw their inflation-adjusted, after-tax earnings grow by 275 percent during that period, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Those at the other end of the spectrum, whose earnings put them in the bottom 20 percent of incomes, saw an 18 percent increase. The average increase for all households was 62 percent.

Directorships, already among the best-paying part-time jobs in Corporate America, are becoming even more lucrative. Fortune 500 directors will receive median pay of nearly $234,000 in 2011. That’s a 10% jump from the 2010 median of $212,500. Apple directors averaged more than $984,000 in 2010, while Occidental Petroleum directors averaged nearly $420,000 – more fuel for the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Tuition and fees at America’s public colleges rose more than 8% this year as a weakened economy and severe cuts in state funding took their toll. Public four-year universities charged residents an average of $8,244, up 8.3% from last year, while public two-year schools charged an average of $2,963, up 8.7%.That increase is more than double the inflation rate of 3.6% between July 2010 and July 2011.

Travel on U.S. roadways through the first eight months of this year is down 1.3% from a year ago — or 26 billion vehicle miles — and has reached the lowest levels since 2003. The Northeast saw the biggest drop in August, falling 2.2% compared with a year ago; the West, in comparison, fell just 1.2%.Higher gas prices likely played a part in the decline. On Aug. 1, a gallon of regular ran $3.68 nationally, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. That’s up $1 from early August 2010.

The German parliament has overwhelmingly backed plans to increase the firepower of the eurozone’s rescue fund. Lawmakers voted 503-89 with four abstentions in favor of leveraging the euro440 billion ($610 billion) bailout fund to make it more effective. That sends Chancellor Angela Merkel to a European Union summit in Brussels Wednesday with a strong mandate to seal a deal.

The bailout of European financial institution Dexia highlights the fragility of banks worldwide, including in the U.S., experts say. Dexia’s trading partners include U.S. institutions Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the New York Times reports, and have taken steps to limit their exposure to Dexia and to protect themselves from further problems in Europe as a whole.

Israel

Daphne Leef, whose inability to find affordable housing in Tel Aviv sparked the ‘tent city’ protest movement which quickly became a nationwide phenomenon this summer, held a press conference in Rabin Square Tuesday morning in which she urged her fellow Israelis to a renewal of protests and a “national strike” to draw attention to the high cost of living in the Jewish State. The strike, scheduled for 1 November, is meant to include “all citizens across the country, pupils, students and workers, on strike for one day, as an act of protest against the difficult social situation in the State of Israel and the government’s outrageous disregard for the protest wave.”

Libya

Libyans continued to celebrate their independence in Tripoli on Monday, and in Misrata, they lined up to see the corpse of Moammar Gadhafi which was then buried in a modest Islamic service at a secret desert location. In Sirte, where the dictator and his regime met its end at the hands of rebel forces, some people were not in a joyous mood. Sirte is a ghost town now. Hardly a building does not bear at least a few bullet holes, and many have partially collapsed from the intensive artillery battles that went on for a month. Opposition Leaders also announced that they would soon implement Sharia law which enforces strict Islamic codes of conduct.

Tunisia

Islamists on Monday claimed victory in Tunisia’s first democratic election, sending a message to other states in the region that long-sidelined Islamists are challenging for power after the “Arab Spring.” Official results from Sunday’s vote have not been announced, but the Ennahda party said its workers had tallied the figures from results posted at polling stations around the country. Mindful that some people in Tunisia and elsewhere see Islamists as a threat to modern, liberal values, the party official stressed Ennahda would wield its power in a responsible and inclusive way.

  • Yeah, right. Watch for increased Christian persecution and exclusion, a direct consequence of Sharia law which gives infidels second-class citizenship.

Yemen

Yemeni women defiantly burned their traditional veils Wednesday in protest of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrations. Thousands of women gathered in the capital, Sanaa, and collected their veils and scarves in a huge pile and set it ablaze — an act that is highly symbolic in the conservative Islamic nation, where women use their veils to cover their faces. Inspired by Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman’s Nobel Peace Prize this month, more and more Yemeni women have taken to the streets and escalated their campaign for help from the international community.

Afghanistan

A bomb hidden inside a fuel truck in a central Afghan province exploded Tuesday as scores of people gathered around the vehicle to collect fuel that was leaking, killing at least five in a blast that shattered a period of relative quiet in the war-ravaged nation. About 45 others were wounded. The explosion occurred in Parwan province, about 25 miles north of the capital, Kabul. The al-Qaida and Taliban-linked Haqqani network, which operates out of Pakistan, have been blamed for many of the recent spectacular attacks in and around Kabul.

Pakistan

Afghanistan would support Pakistan in case of military conflict between Pakistan and the United States, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview to a private Pakistani TV channel broadcast on Saturday. Despite months of tension and tough talk between Washington and Islamabad, the two allies appear to be working to ease tension and such a war is unlikely. However, the declaration reveals the ongoing solidarity between Muslim nations which supersedes all other political motives and agendas.

Thailand

Thailand’s military said more than a dozen coordinated bomb attacks in the country’s insurgency-plagued south Tuesday killed at least three people and injured dozens. Suspected Muslim insurgents put bombs at 16 locations across the southern town of Yala, including a school, shops and hotels. Authorities defused five of the bombs. More than 4,700 people have been killed in Thailand’s southernmost Muslim-dominated provinces since an Islamic insurgency flared in 2004.

Sudan

Sudan’s president has confirmed plans to adopt an entirely Islamic constitution and strengthen sharia law, raising the threat level for Christians and other non-Muslims in the country. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said last that the Republic of Sudan will become a “Muslim state”. Sudan’s current constitution theoretically grants freedom of religion, recognizing that the state is “multi-religious”, though in practice non-Muslims face severe discrimination and persecution. With the secession of South Sudan, Sharia and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language of north Sudan.

Kenya

Grenade blasts at a blue-collar bar and a crowded bus stop rattled Nairobi, as the country worried whether al-Qaida-linked militants from Somalia were carrying out their promise to launch reprisal attacks in Kenya’s capital. The Somali group al-Shabab had promised to unleash terror attacks in Nairobi in retaliation for Kenyan troops’ invasion of Somalia in mid-October. Al-Shabab is loosely affiliated with al-Qaida and has carried out several sophisticated suicide attacks, including a bombing that killed more than 100 in Somalia’s capital earlier this month and an attack in Uganda’s capital that killed 76 people in July 2010.

Earthquakes

A 2-week-old baby girl and her mother were pulled alive from the rubble of an apartment building on Tuesday in a dramatic rescue, nearly 48 hours after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake toppled some 2,000 buildings in eastern Turkey. Authorities have warned survivors of the quake that killed at least 461 people not to enter damaged buildings and thousands spent a second night outdoors in cars or tents in near-freezing conditions, afraid to return to their homes. Some 1,300 people were injured. At least nine people were pulled from the rubble alive on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A moderate earthquake has shaken the northeastern Japanese prefecture where the much more massive earthquake and tsunami touched off the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl earlier this year. The magnitude-5.2 quake struck Fukushima prefecture overnight Wednesday  Its epicenter was on the coast near the town of Iwaki, 115 miles north of Tokyo. The quake was about 70 miles from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility. Another magnitude-5.3 quake later Wednesday hit 262 miles southwest of Tokyo, off the Japan coast.

Up to 20 million tons of tsunami debris floating from Japan could arrive on Hawaii’s shores by early 2013, before reaching the U.S. West Coast, according to estimates by University of Hawaii scientists. A Russian training ship spotted the junk — including a refrigerator, a television set and other appliances — in an area of the Pacific Ocean where the scientists from the university’s International Pacific Research Center predicted it would be. The biggest proof that the debris is from the Japanese tsunami is a fishing boat that’s been traced to the Fukushima Prefecture, the area hardest hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Weather

Advancing floodwaters in Thailand breached barriers protecting Bangkok’s second airport Tuesday, halting commercial flights at a complex that also houses the country’s flood relief headquarters and thousands of displaced people. The flooding at Don Muang airport, which is primarily used for domestic flights, is one of the biggest blows yet to government efforts to prevent the sprawling capital from being swamped. Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, the country’s main international gateway, has yet to be affected by flooding and flights there were operating normally. Most of the city has been spared inundation so far.

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October 24, 2011

Hate Crimes Don’t Apply to Christians

Police are searching for the culprits who threw concrete bricks through the door and windows of a Christian facility in Illinois as it prepared for a banquet for a group dedicated to exposing the homosexual activist agenda. Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) founder Peter LaBarbera tells OneNewsNow police are investigating the incident on the basis of vandalism, even though he sees it as a hate crime. Though he is no fan of hate crime laws, LaBarbera wonders if some victims of hate are more important than others. “It seems that if this were a crime against homosexuals, there would be immediate calls, that this would be prosecuted as a hate crime,” he suggests. “But when Christians are the victims of hate, there’s not much talk about that.”

God Missing from New MLK Memorial

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece says the new D.C. memorial in his honor missed a “wonderful opportunity” to mention God in the engraved quotes. The Rev. Alveda King said she was surprised to see no mention of God or Jesus Christ at the memorial, and that if she had been asked, she would have recommended scriptural passages from her uncle’s sermons. She is hopeful, though, that visitors who seek to learn more about King will look deeper into his memory and “[meet] the man who loved and served the Lord.”

California Governor Signs Two Transgender Bills

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills into law that extend special protections to transgender people, WORLD News Service reports. One bill, AB 887, enumerates existing gender-identity protections as categories in nondiscrimination laws in addition to clarifying that gender identity and expression are included in the definition of gender and sex in all California codes. Six governmental departments — civil, education, government, insurance, labor and penal — are affected. “That means, for example, employers have to allow men to dress like women at work, if that’s their means of ‘gender expression,'” said assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who introduced the bill. The second bill, AB 433, changes the laws regulating the way transgender people get new IDs and updated birth certificates. Previously, applications for an ID reflecting a gender change had to be accompanied by a doctor’s note

  • This fallen world continues to plummet to new lows of decay and corruption of God’s natural social order

Okla. Judge Blocks Abortion Law from Taking Effect

An Oklahoma County judge issued a temporary injunction today that blocks an abortion-restriction law from taking effect Nov. 1st. The measure requires doctors to follow the strict guidelines and protocols authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and prohibits off-label uses of the drugs. It also requires doctors to examine the woman, document certain medical conditions and schedule a follow-up appointment. Two drugs at the center of the case are mifepristone and misoprostol. Attorneys for Oklahoma contend that the drugs are dangerous and should be used only in strict accordance with FDA guidelines. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law on behalf of Nova Health Systems, a Tulsa-based abortion provider. Legal challenges have delayed similar laws in North Dakota and Ohio.

U.S. Judge Kills Arizona Lawsuit over Border Enforcement

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that accused the Obama administration of not enforcing immigration laws or doing enough to protect the state’s border with Mexico. Brewer filed the suit in response to a Justice Department challenge of Arizona’s tough immigration-enforcement law. Friday’s decision came from U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, who began hearing arguments in July.

Bio-Terrorism Preparedness Gets Thumbs Down by Bipartisan Group

A report released this past week by the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Center gives failing or near failing grades for U.S, bio-terrorism preparedness and response. In June, 2010, while the Congress was still controlled by the Democrats, a report released by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. House of Representatives, revealed that almost nine years after the 9-11 terrorist attacks Attorney General Eric Holder did not have a coordinated plan to respond to bio-terrorism or the threat and use of other weapons of mass destruction. Sadly, that situation remains, according to terrorism experts. The use of weapons of mass destruction, whether by a hostile nation, a terrorist group, or an individual, poses a serious threat to the United States, yet the GAO report suggested that anti-WMD policy did not sit high on Holder’s “to do” list.

  • Holder and the Obama Administration are too busy implementing socialism and tearing down our Christian heritage to focus on issues that really matter

IED Attacks Increase Worldwide

Attacks with homemade bombs are growing worldwide and pose an increasing threat to the United States, said the head of the Pentagon agency charged with combating makeshift bombs. Attacks with improvised explosive devices outside Afghanistan and Iraq have more than doubled in the last three years, according to Pentagon data. From January to September, there were an average of 608 attacks per month in 99 countries. During that time, there were 367 homemade bomb attacks in the United States. Their popularity among criminals, narcotics traffickers and terrorists continues to grow, aided by the spread of online of bomb-making technology. Improvised explosive attacks have been at record-high levels in Afghanistan. In September, the bombs killed 18 U.S. troops and wounded 420 others, according to the Pentagon data.

Scores arrested at ‘Occupy Chicago’ Protest

Anti-Wall Street demonstrators of the Occupy Chicago movement stood their ground in a downtown park in noisy but peaceful defiance of police orders to clear out, prompting at least 100 arrests early Sunday. About 1,500 people gathered for Saturday’s protest, descending on the city park with hopes of making it the movement’s permanent home. The group started in Chicago’s financial district and marched to the park. Along the way, marchers chanted “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!”

Wall Street Protests Attract 60’s Celebs

Folk music legend Pete Seeger joined in the Occupy Wall Street protest Friday night, replacing his banjo with two canes as he marched with throngs of people in New York City’s tony Upper West Side past banks and shiny department stores. They marched peacefully over more than 30 blocks from Symphony Space, where the Seegers and other musicians performed, to Columbus Circle. At the circle, Seeger and friends walked to the chant of “We are the 99 percent” and “We are unstoppable, another world is possible.” Seeger and Amram were then joined by ’60s folk singer Arlo Guthrie in a round of “We Shall Overcome,” a protest anthem made popular by Seeger.

WikiLeaks to Stop Publishing, Needs Funds

WikiLeaks will stop publishing and focus more on fundraising, according to BBC News. The publisher of news tips and classified government documents blames a “U.S. financial blockade.” WikiLeaks is a non-profit organization that relies on donations. U.S.-based financial companies pulled the plug on WikiLeaks shortly after it began publishing some 250,000 U.S. State Department cables last year, freezing funds and credit card donations. WikiLeaks said in a statement Monday that it would stop publishing for the moment in order to focus on making money — explaining that the blockade imposed by financial companies including Visa, MasterCard, Western Union and PayPal left it with no choice.

Ariz. Regulators Seize PMI Mortgage Insurance Co.

Insurance regulators in Arizona have seized the main subsidiary of private mortgage insurer PMI Group, which will begin paying claims at just 50%.The seizure follows heavy losses at PMI since the housing market bubble burst. Two months ago, state regulators ordered the Arizona-based subsidiary, PMI Mortgage Insurance Co., to stop selling new policies after it came under scrutiny because it didn’t have enough money on hand to meet the requirements of regulations in the state. Beginning Monday, PMI says claims will be paid at just 50%, in lieu of a moratorium on claim payments. Private mortgage insurance protects lenders and investors from losses if a homeowner defaults and the lender doesn’t recoup costs through foreclosure.

More States Limiting Medicaid Hospital Stays

A growing number of states are sharply limiting hospital stays under Medicaid to as few as 10 days a year to control rising costs of the health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Advocates for the needy and hospital executives say the moves will restrict access to care, force hospitals to absorb more costs and lead to higher charges for privately insured patients. States defend the actions as a way to balance budgets hammered by the economic downturn and the end of billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds this summer that had helped prop up Medicaid, which is financed jointly by states and the federal government. To deal with higher costs, states are also pushing Medicaid recipients into managed-care plans run by private insurers, cutting reimbursement rates to hospitals and doctors and reducing benefits.

Economic Woes Take Toll on U.S. Police Departments

By year’s end, nearly 12,000 police officers will have lost their jobs, and 30,000 positions in county and municipal departments will go unfilled, both direct consequences of a faltering economy that has forced deep cuts in local government budgets. In many cities, the losses will be permanent and will require agencies to adapt by consolidating services and applying new technologies to meet the demand for services. The report concluded that the days when local governments allocated up to 50% of their budgets for public safety are “no longer a fiscal possibility.”

Economic News

America’s standard of living is falling at a faster pace today than at any time since the Great Depression. Specifically, median income is down 9.8% since the fall of 2008. Additionally, Americans have lost roughly $5.5 trillion in asset value, or about 8.6% of their wealth.

The misery index — which is simply the sum of the country’s inflation and unemployment rates — rose to 13.0 last month, pushed up by higher prices and stagnant unemployment to a 28-year high..

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits declined slightly last week, but applications are still above levels consistent with a healthy economy. Weekly applications dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 403,000. Applications need to fall consistently below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth.

The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes fell in September despite the lowest mortgage rates in decades. Home sales are on pace to match last year’s dismal figures — the worst in 13 years. Many can’t qualify for loans because their credit is weak or they can’t afford a down-payment. Most of those who can afford to refinance already have.

Construction of multifamily homes such as condominiums and apartment buildings surged a whopping 51 percent in September as demand for rentals continued to climb. Multifamily starts in September rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 233,000 units, the highest since October 2008.

Shopping mall vacancies hit a new high in the third quarter. Regional and super mall vacancies are up 9.4% in the three months ending Sept. 30 from 8.8% a year earlier. It marks the third quarter in a row of vacancy increases.

Wednesday, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgraded 24 Italian banks and financial institutions. The ratings agency cited renewed concern of a European crisis and “dimming” economic growth prospects… This is the fourth round of Italian downgrades S&P has carried out in less than a month. Credit-ratings agency Moody’s also warned it may downgrade France’s triple-A rating.

Middle East

The United Nations Security Council has scheduled a meeting for November 11, and sources indicate the resolution for Palestinian statehood will likely be voted on that day. Though the US has threatened to veto the measure, the Palestinians hope to get the nine votes necessary for approval, forcing the U.S. to step in to stop it. Currently eight of the nine countries needed have declared support for the measure. Sources in Israel fear that a US veto will be the trigger for a new outbreak of violence.

Iraq

All U.S. troops will leave Iraq by Jan. 1, formally ending the war that began more than eight-and-a-half years ago and has taken more than 4,400 American lives, President Obama said Friday. Although the United States has signed an agreement to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by the end of this year, officials from both countries had discussed maintaining a small U.S. residual force of 3,000 to 5,000 American troops to train Iraqi forces. The United States has balked at updating the agreement, however, because Iraq has refused to grant American troops legal immunity in Iraqi courts. In making the announcement, Obama stressed that the Iraqis are ready for the transition. At the height of sectarian strife that pushed Iraq to the precipice of civil war in 2005-06, there were more than 1,500 security incidents each week. Presently, there are about 100 security incidents per week.

Libya

Deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi died Thursday from wounds he received in a NATO air strike as he fled the town of Sirte. But the victory has been clouded by questions over how Gadhafi was killed after images emerged showing he was found alive and taunted and beaten by his captors. NATO plans to end its air mission in Libya on Oct. 31. A human rights group says it has discovered 53 decomposing bodies, apparently of Moammar Gadhafi loyalists, some of whom may have been executed by revolutionary forces.

Libya’s new leaders declared liberation on Sunday, officials said, a move that will start the clock for elections. Libya and its long-suffering tribal society, sitting atop vast oil riches, now faces an uncertain future as it tries to establish a real government in place of the dead leader’s personal tyranny. They must figure a way to govern together in a desert land where democracy is not a widely understood concept — and where groups with agendas ranging from democracy to chaos have been part of the rebel movement. The death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi could create a vacuum that a whole new slew of Islamic terrorists and would-be despots seek to fill. Cracks were already showing among the Libyan opposition groups, raising concerns among the NATO nations that helped topple the regime.

Tunisia

Tunisians began voting at dawn Sunday in their first truly free elections, the culmination of a popular uprising that ended decades of authoritarian rule and set off similar rebellions across the Middle East. Voters are electing members of an assembly that will appoint a new government and then write a new constitution, definitively turning the page on the 23-year presidency of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who was overthrown by a month-long uprising on Jan. 14 stirred by anger at unemployment, corruption and repression. The party expected to come out on top, Ennahda, is a moderate Islamic party whose victory, especially in a comparatively secular society like Tunisia, could have wide implications for similar religious parties in the region. Tunisian authorities counted votes Monday, with early signs that the once-banned Islamist party is leading thus far..

Turkey

Turkey’s military said 49 Kurdish rebels have been killed in offensives in southeast Turkey. The military said in a statement posted on its website Saturday that the rebels were killed in fighting in Hakkari province over the past two days. Turkey launched anti-rebel offensives — involving around 10,000 troops — both in southeastern Turkey and across the border in Iraq on Wednesday, after 24 soldiers were killed by the rebels in the deadliest one-day toll against the military since the 1990s. The Kurds seek an independent state.

Syria

The United States pulled its ambassador out of Syria over security concerns, blaming President Bashar Assad’s regime for the threats that made it no longer safe for him to remain. Ambassador Robert Ford returned to Washington this weekend after the U.S. received “credible threats against his personal safety in Syria.” Ford has been the subject of several incidents of intimidation by pro-government thugs, and enraged Syrian authorities with his forceful defense of peaceful protests and harsh critique of a government crackdown that has now claimed more than 3,000 lives.

Pakistan

The Obama administration on Friday intensified pressure on Pakistan to do more to crack down Islamist militants destabilizing Afghanistan. For the second time in two days, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pressed Pakistani authorities to step up efforts against the Haqqani militant network, which is based in the country’s rugged tribal region, and is blamed for attacks both inside Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan. A large and powerful U.S. delegation, including CIA director David Petraeus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, for four hours of talks with Pakistani officials late Thursday. The unusually powerful American delegation arrived here on Thursday to deliver the starkest warning yet to Pakistan, according to a senior American official: that the United States would act unilaterally if necessary to attack extremist groups that use the country as a haven to kill Americans.

Saudi Arabia

The heir to the Saudi throne, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz Al Saud, died abroad Saturday after an illness, state TV said. The death of the 85-year-old prince opens questions about the succession in the critical, oil-rich U.S. ally. Sultan was the half-brother of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who is two years older than him and has also been ailing and underwent back surgery last week. The most likely candidate to replace Sultan as Abdullah’s successor is Prince Nayef, the powerful interior minister in charge of internal security forces. After Sultan fell ill, the king gave Nayef — also his half-brother — an implicit nod in 2009 by naming him second deputy prime minister, traditionally the post of the second in line to the throne.

Earthquakes

A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.2 struck eastern Turkey Sunday, collapsing some buildings and causing at least 272 deaths. Dozens of people were trapped in mounds of concrete, twisted steel and construction debris after hundreds of buildings in two cities and mud-brick homes in nearby villages pancaked or partially collapsed in Sunday’s earthquake. Several strong aftershocks also were reported. Van’s airport was also damaged and planes were being diverted to neighboring cities. Worst-hit was Ercis where about 80 multistory buildings collapsed.

A strong earthquake struck far off the South Pacific island nation of Tonga on Saturday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The quake struck at a depth of 24 miles. The quake hit 112 miles from New Zealand’s remote, volcanic Kermadec Islands. The remote outpost is generally uninhabited aside from a weather station and a hostel for visiting New Zealand scientists and staff.

Weather

At least 105 people have died in flooding and landslides provoked by 10 days of heavy rains in Central America. More than a million people have been affected in the region, prompting officials to ask for humanitarian aid. Almost 60 inches of rain have accumulated in the past 10 days. Guatemala has reported 38 deaths; El Salvador, 34; Honduras, 15; Nicaragua 13 and Costa Rica, 5.

Three tornados touched down in Florida Wednesday, as a storm system drenched the state’s Atlantic coast, including one tornado that left a trail of damage more than a mile long in a suburban neighborhood. The storm system soaked an already-soggy region late Tuesday, leaving behind damaged property, blocked roads and fallen trees. A tornado with top winds of 120 mph struck Broward County, damaging up to 50 homes were damaged in Plantation and Sunrise, though no serious injuries were reported. The debris field was strewn with twisted trees and misplaced cars.

Chicago authorities are removing damaged boats at a popular harbor along Lake Michigan after heavy winds and high waves caused some vessels to slam into a breakwall. Up to 20 powerboats and sail boats were damaged. Public safety officials closed the bike path, urging caution for bikers and runners.

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October 19, 2011

VA Backs Down: No More Religious Discrimination

Several veterans groups who had sued the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over claims of religious discrimination by Houston VA officials have agreed to settle their lawsuit, according to attorneys at Liberty Institute representing the groups. The settlement agreement lists 50 provisions that VA officials agree to adhere to. Some of these actions include no banning or interfering with prayers or recitations at committal services; agreeing to not edit or control the content of private religious speech and expression by speakers at special ceremonies or events; and agreeing not to ban religious words such as “God” or “Jesus” in condolence cards or similar documents given by some of the groups that filed the suit.

Survey Finds U.S. Overwhelmingly Christian

The Pew Forum on Religion has published statistics showing the USA to be overwhelmingly (75%) Christian, with Mormons (2%), Jews (2%), and Muslims (1%) trailing far behind (unaffiliated survey respondents made up 16% of the survey sample).

  • Why then does the media give us the impression that that these other faiths have attained equal footing in our once democratic Republic?

America Becoming Bewitched

A recent press release announced that Wicca is America’s fastest-growing religion, and some religious experts believe it will soon be the third largest religion in the U.S. – ranking only behind Christianity and Islam. Tom Horn, editor of the new book “God’s Ghostbusters” says that “in the United States alone, there are now more than two hundred thousand registered witches and as many as 8 million unregistered practitioners of ‘the craft’.” A representative from the Witch School stated: “There is such a rapid spiritual reorientation in America occurring, that the need for thousands of Wiccan teachers over the course of the next decade will be required to meet the demand for basic teachings.” Horn notes that dabbling in the occult is no longer limited to secular settings. “We’re seeing so many denominations that were considered at one time mainstream evangelical Christian, and now these people are practicing Eastern mystical beliefs, and trying to make contact with the dead.”

  • Unfortunately, many so-called Christians are just dabblers and not true born-again believers. They are easily swayed by Satanic allures.

Cohabitation and Divorce — There is a Correlation

More than 60 percent of marriages today are preceded by some form of cohabitation. And 75 percent of current cohabiters enter these relationships with some plans toward marriage, even seeing this live-in relationship as a smart move toward marriage. Sociologists investigating this issue tell us clearly that the “expectation of a positive relationship between cohabitation and marital stability … has been shattered in recent years by studies conducted in several Western countries, including Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United States.” Their data indicates that people with cohabiting experience who marry have a 50 to 80 percent higher likelihood of divorcing than married couples who never cohabited.

Record 50% in U.S. Back Legalizing Marijuana

A record 50% of Americans say marijuana use should be legalized, an increase of 4 percentage points since last year, according to a new Gallup Poll. Most support comes from liberals and 18- to 29-year-olds, with those 65 and older the most opposed. In 1969, Gallup’s first time asking about legalizing marijuana, 84% of Americans were opposed and just 12% in favor.

Most Illegal Immigrants Deported in 2011 Were Criminals

The U.S. deported nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants last year, and an increasing number of them were convicted criminals, according to figures released Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security. Deportations have been on the rise for the past decade, and the 396,906 illegal immigrants deported in fiscal year 2011 is the highest number yet. Under the Obama administration, Homeland Security issued new priorities to focus deportations on convicted criminals, people who pose threats to national security and repeated border-crossers. Last year, 55% of those deported were convicted criminals, the highest percentage in nearly a decade. Critics say the numbers illustrate that the administration is intent on finding ways for illegal immigrants to stay in the country.

Anti-Semitism at Wall Street Protests Condemned

The Emergency Committee for Israel has launched a highly critical video condemning anti-Semitic sentiment during the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests and calling for Democratic leaders to stop supporting the movement. Israel Today recently reported that there were anti-Semitic comments made by OWS protesters around the nation, such as: “I think that the Zionist Jews, who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve, which is not run by the federal government . . . they need to be run out of this country.” On the American Nazi Party website, leader Rocky Suhayda voiced support for ‘Occupy Wall St.’ and asked, “Who hold the wealth and power in this country? The Judeo-Capitalists.” One of [the] people reportedly responsible for organizing the ‘Occupy Wall St.’ protests, Adbusters editor Kalle Lasn, has a history of perpetuating conspiracy theories that say the Jews control America’s foreign policies.

  • Satan continues to foment resentment against our Judeo-Christian heritage through willing cohorts in the liberal left and extreme left-wing organizations

Obama Likens Wall Street Protests to Tea Party

President Obama today likened the anti-Wall Street protests to the Tea Party protests that helped Republicans in last year’s congressional elections. Obama sympathized with the goals of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests. “Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government,” Obama said. “They feel that their institutions aren’t looking out for them.” Obama said the most important thing he can do as president is express solidarity with the protesters and redouble his commitment to achieving what he described as a more egalitarian society.

  • Egalitarian = socialism, Obama’s primary goal and that of the New World Order folks who are promoting these protests

Economic News

Homes were built in September at the fastest pace in 17 months, a hopeful sign for the struggling housing market. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that privately owned homes were started at a 658,000 annual rate last month. That’s a 15% increase from August and the best pace since April 2010. Still, the level is roughly half the 1.2 million economists say is consistent with healthy housing markets.

A surge in energy costs drove wholesale prices up in September by the most in five months. The Producer Price Index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, rose 0.8% in September. Energy prices jumped 2.3%, the biggest increase since March. Food prices also rose sharply. Excluding food and energy costs, which tend to fluctuate sharply from month to month, the so-called core prices increased 0.2%.Wholesale gas prices surged 4.2%, the department said. That was the biggest jump since March. The cost of diesel fuel and liquefied petroleum gas also rose. Natural gas prices dipped.

Some 55 million Social Security recipients will get a 3.6% increase in benefits next year, first raise since 2009, the government announced Wednesday. The increase, which starts in January, is tied to a measure of inflation released Wednesday morning. About 8 million people who receive Supplemental Security Income will also receive the 3.6% cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, meaning the announcement will affect about one in five U.S. residents. There was no COLA in 2010 or 2011 because inflation was too low.

The amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes will also go up next year. This year, the first $106,800 in wages is subject to Social Security payroll taxes. Next year, the limit will increase to $110,100. Workers pay a 6.2 percent Social Security tax on wages, which is matched by employers. For 2011, the tax rate for workers was reduced to 4.2 percent. The tax cut is scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

Students and workers seeking retraining are borrowing extraordinary amounts of money through federal loan programs, potentially putting a huge burden on the backs of young people looking for jobs and trying to start careers. The amount of student loans taken out last year crossed the $100 billion mark for the first time and total loans outstanding will exceed $1 trillion for the first time this year. Americans now owe more on student loans than on the total debt for credit cards.

Local governments, once a steady source of employment in tough economic times, are shedding jobs in unprecedented numbers, and heavy payroll losses are expected to persist into next year. The job cuts by city and county governments are offsetting modest private-sector employment gains, restraining broader job growth. Localities have chopped 535,000 positions since September 2008 to close massive budget deficits resulting largely from sharp declines in property tax receipts.

A two-day general strike that unions vow will be the largest in years grounded flights, disrupted public transport and shut down everything from shops to schools in Greece on Wednesday, as at least 50,000 protesters converged in central Athens. All sectors, from dentists, state hospital doctors and lawyers to shop owners, tax office workers, pharmacists, teachers and dock workers walked off the job ahead of a Parliamentary vote Thursday on new austerity measures, which protesters oppose.

The eyes of investors will be on European Union leaders on Sunday when they convene for a summit that investors hope results in the announcement of a grand plan to ensure that Greece’s debt crisis doesn’t cause financial contagion. Wall Street is hoping that Europe’s leaders come up with a three-step plan that will put Greece’s finances on a more sustainable path so that its problems don’t spread to other debt-weakened countries, such as Italy and Spain.

Middle East

Looking thin, weary and dazed, an Israeli soldier returned home Tuesday from more than five years of captivity in the Gaza Strip in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners whose joyful families greeted them with massive celebrations. Hamas agreed to release Schalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, many of them serving life sentences for deadly attacks on Israelis. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he understood the pain of Israeli families who lost relatives in Palestinian violence, but that Israel’s ethos of doing everything possible to bring its soldiers home safely forced him to act. Those concerns were underscored with comments by one of the freed prisoners, Hamas militant leader Yehia Sinwar, who called on the movement to kidnap more Israeli soldiers.

A terrifying announcement came at the end of last week that a large number of the 20,000 advanced missiles lost during the uprising in Libya are turning up in Gaza. These shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles are extremely accurate, with a range up to two miles. They pose a danger both to Israeli military aircraft and helicopters operating near the Gaza border and are small enough (less than six feet long and only 55 pounds) to be easily smuggled into Israel where they could be used against civilian aircraft as well. The Egyptian authorities claimed to have seized a number of these missiles, but no one knows how many may have reached Hamas. One senior US Congressional leader told reporters the situation was “the worst nightmare.”

Iran

One of the men indicted for planning to attack the Saudi Arabian and Israeli embassies in Washington and kill the Saudi ambassador is a cousin of one of the top leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds Force. (Quds is the Farsi word for Jerusalem; the ultimate goal of this elite military terror unit is to capture control of the Holy City.) The news of this close relationship highlighted the involvement of Iran’s government in the plot. Manssor Arbabsiar has lived in the United States since the 1970’s. The plot involved recruiting a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the attacks and the assassination. Wire transfers to provide money for the plot came from accounts controlled by the Quds Force and provide further evidence of the seriousness of the plan.

Iran’s authoritarian regime has secretly executed hundreds of prisoners, according to a new UN report detailing growing rights abuses in the Islamic republic. The mysterious executions at Vakilabad prison in Mashhad in eastern Iran were highlighted in a report  which is to be presented to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. It details a raft of abuses from the denial of women’s rights to torture, but the most shocking data was the skyrocketing rate of executions… Authorities reportedly conducted more than 300 secret executions at Vakilabad prison in 2010,’ the report said. Vakilabad officials, in violation of Iranian law, allegedly carried out the executions without the knowledge or presence of the inmates’ lawyers or families and without prior notification to those executed.

Iraq/Turkey

Turkish soldiers, air force bombers and helicopter gunships launched an incursion into Iraq on Wednesday, hours after Kurdish rebels killed 26 soldiers and wounded 22 others in multiple attacks along the border. NTV television said Turkish troops penetrated as deep as 2.5 miles and helicopters were ferrying commandos across the border in what appeared to be a cross-border offensive limited in scope for now. Turkey last staged a major ground offensive against Iraq in early 2008. Kurdish rebel group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, said clashes were taking place in two separate areas close to the mountainous Iraqi-Turkish border. The incursion came hours after the rebels, who are fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast, staged simultaneous attacks on military outposts and police stations near the border towns of Cukurca and Yuksekova early Wednesday.

Libya

The Obama administration on Tuesday increased U.S. support for Libya’s new leaders as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made an unannounced visit to Tripoli and pledged millions of dollars in new aid, including medical care for wounded fighters and additional assistance to secure weaponry that many fear could fall into the hands of terrorists. U.S. officials said the fresh aid Clinton is bringing totals about $11 million and will boost Washington’s contribution to Libya since the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi began in February to roughly $135 million.

Yemen

Yemeni government forces opened fire Tuesday on protesters in Sanaa, killing seven, a day after the capital witnessed its worst fighting in weeks. Dozens more were injured in the Tuesday protests demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Sanaa. Similar demonstrations were held in other parts of Yemen. The protesters called for Saleh to be put on trial for killing demonstrators and urged the international community and the U.N. Security Council to help topple him.

Sudan

Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir announced last week that Sudan plans to adopt an entirely Islamic constitution and strengthen Islamic law now that its former civil war enemy South Sudan has seceded, Reuters reports. South Sudan became independent in July after decades of war between the mainly Muslim north and the mostly Christian, traditional south. Sudan has given all southerners still living in the north until the spring to either leave or obtain the legal right to stay, but many say they feel unwelcome and are uncertain what the future will hold in the now-Muslim state.

Somalia

A suicide car bomb exploded near Somalia’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, killing at least four people even as Somali and Kenyan leaders met and agreed to cooperate on military action against Islamist insurgents. The blast rattled central Mogadishu and killed at least three passers-by and the suicide bomber. African Union and Somali troops battling al-Shabab militants have mostly pushed the insurgents out of Mogadishu, but al-Shabab has vowed to carry out attacks in the capital. Earlier this month al-Shabab unleashed a suicide blast that killed more than 100 people, many of them students.

Weather

The billion-dollar weather disasters keep piling up, with the USA now at a record-shattering 12 for the year. Most recently, economic losses from Tropical Storm Lee — which drenched the East Coast in September but was never a hurricane — reached $1 billion, with most of the damage due to flooding along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. So far, damage from Hurricane Irene has reached at least $7 billion. The previous single-year record for billion-dollar disasters was nine, set in 2008.

In a year when severe drought scorched the Southwest, a hurricane drowned crops in the East, and river flooding swamped farms in the Midwest, one of the worst places to be a farmer may be just west of the Mississippi River. Not only have Arkansas and Louisiana experienced both drought and flooding, but in some cases, so have individual farmers in those states. The cost of the bad weather could reach $1 billion. Drought dried up pastures where cattle graze, then flooding submerged areas where crops had been planted. The damage is significant given that the two states typically produce more than 60 percent of the nation’s rice. Flooding alone caused more than $500 million in losses in Arkansas and in Louisiana, flooding and drought have resulted in an estimated $440 million in losses.

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October 17, 2011

Anti-Wall Street Protests Go Global

Over the past month, the protest against corporate greed and economic inequality has spread from New York City to cities elsewhere across the United States and around the world. Massive crowds across the globe rallied against corporate power Saturday as the Occupy Wall Street movement spilled onto the streets in Europe, Asia and Australia. United for Global Change — the central site for the movement organizing worldwide protests — said 951 cities in 82 countries were to take part in the demonstrations after online organizers called for a worldwide rally.

Vandalism erupted in Rome, where witnesses saw car fires and broken windows at shops and a bank at the scene of the Rome demonstration, where many thousands turned out and faced a large police presence. Supporters in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday waved signs such as “you can’t eat money.” About 200 people in Tokyo joined the global protests, and Philippine supporters in Manila marched on the U.S. Embassy to express support for Occupy Wall Street and to denounce “U.S. imperialism” and U.S.-led wars and aggression.

Protests in the U.S. spread to dozens of cities over the weekend. Authorities in Arizona arrested nearly 100 people after two separate protests in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The 53 arrests in Tucson and 46 in Phoenix on Saturday night came after demonstrators in each city failed to leave parks at curfew. About 175 protesters who were part of the growing anti-Wall Street sentiment were arrested in Chicago early Sunday when they refused to take down their tents and leave a city park when it closed. Police made six arrests near the Occupy Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan after a few hundred people marched around the New York Stock Exchange. Meanwhile, in Denver, dozens of police officers in riot gear advanced early Friday on the last remaining cluster of Wall Street protesters at the state’s Capitol. Some protesters retreated without resisting while others were arrested.

  • Protests are being fomented and supported by ultra-left wing and even communist organizations, including George Soros-funded Tides Foundation.

Clock is Ticking for Debt-Cutting Supercommittee

Conservative senators are urging the debt-cutting supercommittee to raise the eligibility age for Medicare and require many retirees to pay more. The top Senate Republican on defense is endorsing some of President Barack Obama’s proposed benefit curbs for the military. Even farm-state lawmakers are offering cuts to agriculture subsidies and food programs. Friday’s deadline for lawmakers to offer ideas to Congress’ bipartisan 12-member panel brought out a flood of advice. Some lawmakers offered up sacred cows. Others just restated political talking points. Whether it will help the supercommittee make actual progress remains to be seen. What appears clear is that the fundamental disputes remain the same: Republicans are, so far, standing fast against tax increases; Democrats won’t touch Medicare without them. It’s not at all certain that the panel, due to act by Nov. 23, will find success in reaching its goal of generating at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over the coming decade. The conventional wisdom in Washington is that it won’t.

Obama Axes Part of Health Care Plan

The Obama administration announced today it will not move forward with a new long-term-care insurance plan — a major part of its health care law — because of problems with paying for it. Congressional Republicans had vowed to kill the program, calling the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program (CLASS) too expensive. A key part of the law — the requirement that nearly all Americans buy some form of health insurance — is also being challenged in court; the Supreme Court is likely to rule on the case next summer.

Obama Dispatches Troops to Africa

President Obama notified Congress Friday that he is sending about 100 U.S. troops to central Africa to help battle a rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army. The troops will ultimately be deployed to South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Obama said in a letter to congressional leaders. The Lord’s Resistance Army is accused of a two-decade spree of murder, rape and kidnapping. The troops will serve largely in an advisory capacity in the efforts to remove LRA leader Joseph Kony “from the battlefield.” African leaders are applauding President Obama’s decision to deploy some 100 U.S. troops to battle an African rebel group, and so are most members of Congress.

Tax Dollars Covering Late-Term Abortions

An undercover investigation by Operation Rescue shows that Medicaid is paying for abortions, and that practice has been confirmed in at least 15 states. During the probe, abortion clinics were called by a woman posing as a potential abortion customer. In one call, she tells a counselor at Southwestern Women’s Options in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that she is 26-weeks pregnant and has Medicaid coverage: Clinic representative: “Well, actually Medicaid covers the abortion in the state of New Mexico.” Federal Medicaid funds are only supposed to cover abortions in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger, but Operation Rescue president Troy Newman tells OneNewsNow that abortion clinics jump at the chance to use it. That was made evident in this undercover probe, he says, as every undercover caller was told that Medicaid would cover her abortion.

Faced with a House Oversight investigation into sex trafficking and misuse of Federal Funds, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards has issued a desperate plea for abortion supporters to flood Congress with demands that the investigation be halted. Florida Congressman Cliff Stearns, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Investigations, has opened a long-overdue investigation into Planned Parenthood and has subpoenaed internal audits to determine if the organization illegally used taxpayer dollars to fund abortions. The committee will also reportedly investigate Planned Parenthood’s role in covering up sex trafficking, child pornography and child molestation.

Pro-Life Legislation Passes the House, Faces Democrat Senate Rejection

The Protect Life Act that the House of Representatives passed last week seeks to correct the pro-abortion bent of ObamaCare, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” The new Protect Life Act will prevent any and all federal funding for abortion – including funding from the new government “health care exchanges.” In addition, the bill takes very important steps to protect the rights of health care workers and hospitals which refuse to murder babies. Without this extremely important legislation, health care providers will be forced to choose between their religious beliefs or violating the law. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has rallied NARAL and Planned Parenthood to convince the Senate that America not only approves of abortion, but approves of taxpayer funding for it.

  • Please pray that Senators will be touched by the Holy Spirit to know the truth about abortion and will vote for the passage of this necessary legislation

Chat-Downs Tested at Boston Airport

An experiment at Logan Airport in Boston could change how every passenger who seeks to board a commercial flight in the USA is screened: Besides going through a metal detector, and possibly a full-body scanning machine and pat-down, they’d first undergo a “chat-down,” or face-to-face questioning by a TSA officer. The tactic is similar to what air travelers in Israel face under a program aimed at averting terrorism in the skies. Chat-downs, a play on the word “pat-down,” describing the physical screening that has angered some passengers as too intrusive, are part of the U.S. government’s effort to adopt a broader strategy of sifting out people who might pose a greater security risk among the roughly 1.2 million people who fly each day. So far, only 48 travelers out of about 132,000 who have been questioned here at Logan have refused to answer the questions, and instead their carry-on bags were physically searched.

More States Crack Down on Texting While Driving

Police nationwide are issuing a growing number of tickets for texting while driving as more states make the practice a primary offense and become aggressive in cracking down. Thirty-four states plus the District of Columbia have text-messaging bans. In 31 states and D.C., it is a primary offense, meaning drivers can be pulled over specifically for texting. Nine states made texting while driving a primary offense in 2010, and four more have done so this year. California had 7,924 texting convictions in 2010 — almost tripling the 2,845 citations issued in 2009, the year it made texting and driving a primary offense.

U.S. Heart Disease Rates Continue to Fall

The percentage of Americans with the nation’s number one killer, heart disease, continues to fall, according to new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, 6 percent of adults had heart disease in 2010, down from 6.7 percent in 2006. Better treatments for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as declines in smoking, explain the trend, experts said. But not everyone is reaping a benefit: less-educated Americans and people living in certain states, such as Kentucky and West Virginia, still have rates of heart disease well above the national average. The greatest declines in heart disease over the period were among whites: from 6.4 percent in 2006 to 5.8 percent in 2010. Hispanic Americans also had a significant drop in heart disease — from 6.9 percent to 6.1 percent over the same time span. On the other hand, the rate of heart disease rose slightly among blacks, from 6.4 percent to 6.5 percent. American Indians/Alaska Natives had the highest prevalence of heart disease, at 11.6 percent, the CDC said.

Materialistic Values Compromise Marriages

Materialistic couples may have more money, but they also have more relationship problems, according to a new study. Researchers have found that focusing on money and possessions can take a toll on couples’ happiness and stability. “Couples where both spouses are materialistic were worse off on nearly every measure we looked at,” lead author, Jason Carroll, a BYU professor of family life, said in a university news release. One in five couples that participated in the study acknowledged that money was very important to them. Among these couples, who tended to be financially better off, money was often a source of conflict in the relationship.

A recent survey by Pew Research Center found that in 1960, 68% of all 20-somethings were married. In 2008, only 26% were. The median age for marrying has risen from 22 for men and 20 for women back in the 1950s, to 28 and 26 respectively. And in the past 10 years, the number of unmarried couples increased by 25%. While the overall divorce rate in the U.S. has dipped slightly, the divorce rate among people over age 50 has doubled in the past 20 years, a new phenomenon called ‘gray divorce.’

  • Marriage, the bedrock foundation of society, is floundering under the relentless attacks of liberals and the media as prompted by Satan and his New World Order cohorts

Economic News

Consumers stepped up their spending on retail goods in September, a hopeful sign for the sluggish economy. They spent more on autos, clothing and furniture last month to boost retail sales 1.1% from August. That was the largest gain in seven months. Auto sales rose 3.6%. Excluding autos, sales still increased a solid 0.6% last month.

The number of U.S. companies missing debt payments is steadily falling and dropped to just 1.9% of companies in the 12 months ended in September, down from 11.5% as of November 2009, says Standard & Poor’s. That’s the lowest default rate since April 2008.

Excavators tearing down vacant buildings has become common in foreclosure-ravaged cities across the USA. A handful of the nation’s largest banks have even been footing the bill for the demolitions — as much as $7,500 each. Four years into the housing crisis, the ongoing expense of upkeep and taxes, along with costly code violations and the price of marketing the properties, has saddled banks with a heavy burden. It often has become cheaper to knock down decaying homes no one wants.

Nevada leads the nation in the rate of foreclosures, with nearly 60,000 foreclosed homes glutting the market, further depressing home values and scarring neighborhoods. Of the U.S. metro areas with a population of 200,000 or more, Las Vegas was No. 1, in foreclosure notices, with one in every 39 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing.

Israel

The Palestinian Authority plans to use its new membership in the United Nations’ UNESCO cultural committee to lay claims to Jewish holy sites. PA Minister of Culture Hamdan Taha said the PA will seek World Heritage status for several sites, beginning with Bethlehem. The PA will seek UNESCO recognition for its claims in Hevron as well, Taha said. It will also seek recognition for Shechem, the Shomron (Samaria) city that is home to Joseph’s Tomb.

The relatives of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks waged a charged debate Sunday over the planned release of militants this week in a deal to free an Israeli soldier held by Hamas for five years. Several families have filed a court appeal against the deal, though it is not expected to halt the swap in which Hamas militants will release Sgt. Gilad Schalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Among the prisoners to be released on Tuesday are militants involved in deadly bombings and other attacks targeting Israeli civilians and soldiers. The domestic debate in Israel largely focuses on whether Israel is paying too heavy a price.

Egypt

Egypt’s military rulers are moving to assert and extend their own power so broadly that a growing number of lawyers and activists are questioning their willingness to ultimately submit to civilian authority. Two members of the military council that took power after the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak said for the first time in interviews this week that they planned to retain full control of the Egyptian government even after the election of a new Parliament begins in November. The legislature will remain in a subordinate role similar to Mr. Mubarak’s former Parliament, they said, with the military council appointing the prime minister and cabinet. A transition to civilian rule before and not after the drafting of a new constitution was also a core component of a national referendum on a “constitutional declaration” that passed in March.

Afghanistan

Militants tried to blast their way into an American base in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, striking before dawn with rocket-propelled grenades and a vehicle packed with explosives. The attackers failed to breach the gate of the base in Panjshir province’s Rakha district, though they did hit a security tower with a rocket-propelled grenade. All four of the attackers were killed and two Afghan security guards were wounded.

NATO and Afghan forces killed 13 insurgents in an overnight operation targeting local Taliban leaders in northern Afghanistan, officials said Friday. Northern Afghanistan has become increasingly violent over the past year as insurgents facing pressure from NATO troops in their southern strongholds have pushed into pockets in the north. In eastern Kunar province, meanwhile, at least five artillery shells fired from the Pakistani side of the border landed in Dangam district early Friday,

Iraq

The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline. The decision to pull out fully by January will effectively end more than eight years of U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, despite ongoing concerns about its security forces and the potential for instability. The decision ends months of hand-wringing by U.S. officials over whether to stick to a Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline that was set in 2008 or negotiate a new security agreement to ensure that gains made and more than 4,400 American military lives lost since March 2003 do not go to waste.

Two explosions in a Shiite neighborhood of eastern Baghdad killed 15 people and wounded around 50 others Thursday night. The blasts in the Sadr City neighborhood, coming a day after attacks across the capital killed 25 people, served as a reminder of the lengths to which Sunni militants are trying to go in order to re-ignite sectarian tensions as American forces prepare to go home. First a bomb went off near a house in a narrow alley in Sadr City. Then as people were gathered at the site of the blast, another bomb went off minutes later. All of the 15 dead were killed in the second, more powerful explosion.

Pakistan

Drone-fired U.S. missiles killed four people in a northwestern Pakistani region controlled by the Haqqani militant network on Friday, a day after a similar attack there killed a top commander of the group. U.S. intelligence believes the Haqqanis are the top threat to security in Afghanistan and that they enjoy the support of the Pakistani army. It wants the army to sever its ties and attack the group, something that Islamabad refuses to do. The increase in rocket fire into Afghanistan from Pakistani territory has fed suspicion and resentment among American troops.

Libya

A gunbattle erupted Friday between hundreds of revolutionary forces and Moammar Gadhafi supporters in the capital for the first time in more than two months after loyalists tried to raise the green flag that symbolizes the ousted leader’s regime. Friday’s outbreak of violence underscored the difficulty Libya’s new rulers face in restoring order as Gadhafi remains on the run. His loyalists have control of at least two cities around the country and have battled off revolutionary forces besieging them for weeks, while Gadhafi has issued several audio recordings from hiding trying to rally supporters against the North African nation’s transitional leadership.

Syria

Syrian security forces opened fire Friday on protesters in three different parts of the country, killing at least seven. Thousands protested throughout Syria Friday calling for the downfall of President Bashar Assad. The U.N. estimates that over 3,000 people have been killed in Syria’s seven-month uprising and the ensuing government crackdown. The top U.N. human rights official deplored the “devastatingly remorseless toll of human lives” in Syria on Friday and exhorted the world community “to take immediate measures” to protect citizens.

Yemen

An American drone strike in southern Yemen killed nine al-Qaeda-linked militants, including the media chief for the group’s Yemeni branch and the son of prominent U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki who was slain in a similar attack last month. In the capital, meanwhile, forces loyal to embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh opened fire on tens of thousands of protesters, killing at least nine and wounding scores.

Thousands of women demonstrated in front of Yemen’s foreign ministry in the capital, Sanaa, Monday, demanding U.N. intervention in the ongoing unrest in the Persian Gulf nation. The protest comes a day after a female protester became the first woman killed in a demonstration against the government, according to opposition activists. The women called for sanctions against President Ali Abdullah Saleh and asked that he be tried by the International Criminal Court.

Sudan

Local officials have threatened to demolish three church buildings in Omdurman, Sudan, if the churches continue to conduct worship services, Compass Direct News reports. Church leaders expressed surprise at authorities’ accusations that their buildings were located on government land and being operated without permission — claims they insist are not true but simply another way the government is attempting to rid Sudan of Christianity. Members of the threatened churches are concerned about their future, and also believe the government is carrying out secret investigations of Christians and church programs as part of a broader effort to make Islam the official state religion.

Somalia/Kenya

Kenyan military forces moved into southern Somalia on Sunday, a day after top Kenyan defense officials said the country has the right to defend itself after a rash of militant kidnappings inside Kenya. Residents in southern Somalia said that columns of Kenyan troops had moved in and that military aircraft were flying overhead. Kenya’s government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, said Kenyan troops “are pursuing al-Shabab across the border.” In response, al-Shabab, Somalia’s most dangerous Islamist militant group, tried to raise the alarm in areas it controls. “Are you ready to live under Christians?” one al-Shabab official shouted on a militant radio station. “Get out of your homes and defend your dignity and religion.”

Mexico

The Mexican army said Thursday it had captured a top drug cartel lieutenant who allegedly ordered an arson attack on a casino that killed 52 people in August. Carlos Oliva Castillo, alias “The Frog,” a reputed leader of the extremely violent Zetas cartel, was detained by soldiers in the northern city of Saltillo.

Weather

The devastating drought has taken its toll on a Texas Panhandle lake, now too low to keep supplying water to nearly a dozen cities. The Municipal Water Authority near Amarillo voted to stop using Lake Meredith, which had been a water source since the 1960s. The lake’s area is only a small fraction of what it used to be. Much of the Panhandle remains in the most severe drought stage because it did not get as much rainfall that fell across other parts of Texas the past week. The state is in its worst single-year drought ever recorded. And the rainfall probability is below normal for the state, including the Panhandle, for the next three months.

Barriers protecting Bangkok from Thailand’s worst floods in half a century held firm Sunday as the government said some water drenching provinces just north of the capital had began receding. That fueled hopes that Bangkok, a city of 9 million, could escape unharmed. But outside the capital, thousands of people remain displaced and hungry residents are struggling to survive in half-submerged towns. On Sunday, the military rescued terrified civilians from the rooftops of flooded buildings in the swamped city of Ayutthaya, one of the country’s hardest-hit.

Suspected tornadoes touched down Thursday in New Kent County and Louisa County, the rural community at the epicenter of an Aug. 23 5.8-magnitude earthquake. About a dozen homes and the roof of an elementary school were damaged when an apparent twister cut a six-mile swath through western New Kent. Trees were down throughout the area, including a couple that toppled onto homes. In Louisa, a funnel cloud ripped into an historic plantation house, ripping off its roof and causing other damage. The community continues to struggle after the August earthquake and the more than 40 aftershocks since then.

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October 13, 2011

Around the World, an ‘Explosion of Evangelism’

According to OneNewsNow.com, statistics point to what some are calling a “Fifth Great Awakening,” because Christianity is on the rise just about everywhere in the world — with the exception of the United States and Britain. The global growth of Christianity has caused the largest “explosion of evangelism” in 20 centuries, citing Korea, Nigeria and Cuba as just a few of the nations riding the wave of growth. In the last 10 years in Cuba, more than 1 million people have come to Christ. In contrast, in England, four times more Muslims go to mosque every week than Christians go to church; in the U.S., the number of atheists and agnostics has quadrupled in the past 20 years and only 1 percent of college students attend church any given Sunday.

Arizona Abortions Down 30%

The Center for Arizona Policy reports that, “Abortions in Arizona dropped 30% in September 2011 compared to September 2010! Praise God! After the victory in the Arizona Court of Appeals and the announcement that Planned Parenthood would end abortion services at seven of their ten locations, abortions in September dropped from 1,053 September last year to 729 September this year.”

Once an Abortion Mill, Now a Pregnancy Resource Center

An abortion clinic in La Puente, Calif., that recently closed its doors for good will be transformed into a pregnancy resource center, OneNewsNow.com reports. Norma Murakami, executive director of A Women’s Care Center, credits the clinic’s closing to a pro-life campaign, 40 Days for Life, during which people prayed outside its doors and talked numerous women out of their scheduled abortions. Murakami is currently negotiating a lease for the new center, which will “take back the land” that was used for abortions for 30 years; she plans to “get rid of … any kind of reminder of what was there in the past.” The pro-life pastor of the nearby Calvary Chapel has offered support and partnership, and the new facility could open as early as December 2011 or early 2012.

Court Rules Against Same-Sex ‘Parents’

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review an important ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals involving natural marriage and family, thus allowing the appellate court’s pro-family decision to stand. The case involved unmarried same-sex partners in New York who unsuccessfully sued to change an adopted boy’s Louisiana birth certificate to state that the child had two fathers. The homosexual couple wanted to get the birth certificate changed to affirm facts which are biologically impossible. Matthew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, comments, “The details of this case illustrate the Pandora’s Box of disastrous consequences that emerge when we give legal recognition to unnatural relationships.”

Three in Four Pastors Say Mormons Aren’t Christian

As a prominent evangelical pastor and supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry is taking heat for calling Mormonism a cult, a newly released poll says most Protestant pastors agree that Mormons aren’t Christians, the Religion News Service reports. Seventy-five percent of pastors surveyed by LifeWay Research disagreed with the statement that Mormons were Christians. The poll was conducted in October 2010 but was not released until Oct. 9, 2011, the day after Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, called Mormonism a “theological cult” and told Fox News that evangelicals “ought to give preference to a Christian [candidate] instead of someone who doesn’t embrace historical Christianity.”

  • Mormons do not believe Jesus is the Son of God, but rather that He is Satan’s brother. Mormonism is most definitely not Christian

Senate Votes Down Obama’s $447 Billion Jobs Package

Despite President Obama’s exhortations, the Senate voted down his $447 billion jobs package Tuesday by failing to end a Republican-led filibuster. The bill died on a 50-49 tally, a majority of the 100-member Senate but well short of the 60 votes needed to keep the bill alive. The plan would have included Social Security payroll-tax cuts for workers and businesses and other tax relief totaling about $270 billion. There also was to be $175 billion in new spending on roads, school repairs and other infrastructure — as well as jobless aid and help to local governments to avoid layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers. Republicans opposed the measure over its spending to stimulate the economy and its tax surcharge on millionaires.

Congress Ends 5-Year Standoff on Trade Deals in Rare Accord

Congress passed three long-awaited free trade agreements on Wednesday, ending a political standoff that has stretched across two presidencies. The move offered a rare moment of bipartisan accord at a time when Republicans and Democrats are bitterly divided over the role that government ought to play in reviving the sputtering economy. The approval of the deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama is a victory for President Obama and proponents of the view that foreign trade can drive America’s economic growth in the face of rising protectionist sentiment in both political parties. The passage of the trade deals is important primarily as a political achievement, and for its foreign policy value in solidifying relationships with strategic allies. The economic benefits are projected to be small. Unions claim the agreements will actually cost U.S. jobs.

Obama, EPA Sued for Nixing Tougher Ozone Standards

Environmental and public health groups today sued the Obama administration for rejecting stronger ozone standards that scientists say could prevent asthma and other respiratory illnesses. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed tougher standards almost two years ago, but President Obama ordered the EPA last month to drop the proposal, drawing applause from industry groups and congressional Republicans. Strengthening the standards would have saved up to 12,000 lives every year, prevented 58,000 asthma attacks and avoided 21,000 hospital and emergency room visits, according to EPA estimates. Ground-level ozone is the main component of smog and the most widespread air pollutant. The EPA’s science advisers have called for tougher ozone standards, as have the American Lung Association, American Thoracic Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, American Heart Association and American Medical Association.

Great Lakes’ Mercury Pollution Poses Health Risks

Mercury pollution in the Great Lakes region is much greater than previously reported, and people eating some of the fish there face potential health risks, a new report concludes. Despite general declines in mercury levels in the area over the past four decades, mercury concentrations still exceed human and ecological risk thresholds and are rising again for some fish and wildlife, according to the report. Also, new studies cited in the report suggest that mercury’s adverse effects on fish and wildlife occur at much lower levels than previously believed. The report, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, represents the work of more than 170 scientists, researchers, and resource managers.

Boston Police Arrest 50 Occupy Boston Protesters

More than 50 protesters from the Occupy Boston movement were arrested early Tuesday after they ignored warnings to move from a downtown greenway near where they have been camped out for more than a week. A local conservancy group recently planted $150,000 worth of shrubs along the greenway and officials said they were concerned about damage.

Anti-war and anti-corporate greed protesters have accepted an offer by U.S. Park Police in the nation’s capital to extend by four months their permit to demonstrate in Washington’s Freedom Plaza near the White House. The demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street took it further uptown — to the homes of some corporate executives. They walked along streets like Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue where some of the richest 1 percent of the population live in townhouses and luxury apartments.

As protests spread across the nation, they are raising hopes on the left of a movement to counter the Tea Party and to incite what Van Jones, a socialist activist and former White House aide, calls “an American Autumn.” To some, Occupy Wall Street’s growing presence also hints at something bigger: a new age of insurrection, in which aggrieved people protest what’s wrong with the world. There is a darker, underground current driving the protests that came to light this week – anti-Semitism. “The Jews control Wall Street,” some protestors shouted. Other carried signs with references to Hitler.

Foreign Insects, Diseases Invade U.S.

Dozens of foreign insects and plant diseases slipped undetected into the United States in the years after 9/11, when authorities were so focused on preventing another attack that they overlooked a pest explosion that threatened the quality of the nation’s food supply. At the time, hundreds of agricultural scientists responsible for stopping invasive species at the border were reassigned to anti-terrorism duties in the newly formed Homeland Security Department – a move that scientists say cost billions of dollars in crop damage and eradication efforts from California vineyards to Florida citrus groves. Many invasive species are carried into the U.S. by people who are either unaware of the laws or are purposely trying to skirt quarantine regulations. If tainted with insects or infections, they can carry contagions capable of devastating crops.

One such pest, the Asian citrus psyllid, which can carry a disease that has decimated Florida orange groves, crossed the border from Mexico, threatening the multibillion-dollar citrus industry in Arizona and California. No fewer than 19 Mediterranean fruit-fly infestations took hold in California, and the European grapevine moth triggered spraying and quarantines across wine country. New Zealand’s light-brown apple moth also emerged in California, prompting the government in 2008 to treat the Monterey Bay area with 1,600 pounds of pesticides. The sweet-orange scab, a fungal disease that infects citrus, appeared in Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, which all imposed quarantines. The erythrina gall wasp decimated Hawaii’s wiliwili trees, which bear seeds used to make leis. Forests from Minnesota to the Northeast were also affected by beetles such as the emerald ash borer, many of which arrived in Chinese shipping pallets because regulations weren’t enforced.

Economic News

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits was almost unchanged last week. The slight dip in applications suggests the job market isn’t getting much better. The report suggests layoffs have declined in recent weeks. But other data show hiring hasn’t picked up. On Wednesday, the Labor Department said companies posted fewer job openings in August than the previous month, first decline in four months.

n a second report Thursday, the Commerce Department said the trade deficit edged down slightly in August, although the imbalance for the year is running well above last year’s pace. The trade deficit with China hit an all-time high. The deficit dipped to $45.61 billion in August, the lowest gap in four months. For the year, the deficit is running at an annual rate of $564.3 billion, 13 percent higher than last year.

The number of U.S. homes that received a first-time default notice during the July to September quarter increased 14% from the second quarter. Banks are moving more aggressively now against borrowers who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments than they have since industry-wide foreclosure processing problems emerged last fall. Those problems resulted in a sharp drop in foreclosure activity.

The City Council of Harrisburg, PA, voted in favor of a municipal bankruptcy filing after rejecting financial recovery plans put forward by state officials and Harrisburg’s mayor. But the way forward for the cash-strapped capital remains clouded while Pennsylvania lawmakers ponder a state takeover.

Drivers across the USA are digging deeper into their pockets as more states and communities raise tolls or impose them for the first time to build and repair highways, bridges and tunnels. Motorists are paying more at such landmarks as Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the Holland Tunnel between New York and New Jersey. They’ll soon have to ante up on Interstate 95 in Virginia. Other states are raising tolls while others move to add or expand toll lanes on interstates.

The United Auto Workers said today it has reached a tentative agreement with Chrysler that would add 2,100 new jobs and calls for $4.5 billion in new investments at Chrysler’s U.S. plants. The deal now goes to a vote by Chrysler’s 26,000 UAW members in coming days. The deal is the UAW’s third: GM workers accepted their new deal and Ford workers are voting now on a tentative contract.

Europe

The Eurozone debt crisis has grown to threaten banks and the wider economy, European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet warned Tuesday. Speaking as head of the eurozone’s new risk-watchdog, the European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB), Trichet told a European parliament Committee in Brussels that market fear about government debt has spread to capital markets around the world and is drying up bank funding. The EU plans to force the region’s biggest banks to raise billions of Euros in capital to better withstand market turmoil over the high debt in several euro countries, the European Commission’s president said Wednesday.

Many Greeks are not happy that they are being ordered by Europe to abolish their generous welfare state to rescue the European banks that have lent them billions of dollars. On Tuesday, trash filled the streets below the Acropolis as teachers, garbage haulers and government workers demanded that their socialist leaders refuse Europe’s deal. In Germany, people are furious that while they saved their money, the Greeks spent theirs, and it is Germans who must largely bail out the accused freeloaders or risk economic ruin. Slovakian lawmakers on Tuesday rejected participation in an expanded euro rescue fund aimed at shoring up confidence in the ability of euro members to survive the financial crisis. The European financial crisis has awakened average Europeans to the frightening possibility that the end is near for their post-World War II system of stiff taxes, guaranteed state jobs, early retirements and lavish benefits.

Egypt

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging Egypt’s transitional leaders “to guarantee the protection of human rights and civil liberties” for people of all faiths after the deaths of at least 26 people, mostly Christians. Sunday’s attacks on Coptic Christians were the country’s worst violence since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak eight months ago.As Coptic Christians mourned the death of protesters slain by security forces, Egypt’s military leaders faced unprecedented public anger Monday and growing doubt about their ability to oversee a promised transition to democracy.

Pakistan

Muslims in Pakistan’s Punjab Province shot dead an unarmed Christian man and injured 21 others, six critically, during an attempted land-grab, Compass Direct News reports. Forty to 45 heavily armed Muslims forcibly entered the home of Christian carpenter Adeel Kashif, intending to force his family out and take illegal possession of the property. When Kashif’s neighbors and others from the Christian village of about 250 gathered upon hearing the commotion, the Muslims suddenly opened fire on the crowd, killing a 25-year-old man and injuring many women and children. Police eventually managed to arrest 16 armed assailants, but the primary suspects remain free.

Iran

The Obama administration plans to leverage charges that Iran plotted to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States into a new global campaign to isolate the Islamic republic. U.S. officials say the administration will lobby for the imposition of new international sanctions as well as for individual nations to expand their own penalties against Iran based on allegations that Iranian agents tried to recruit a purported member of a Mexican drug cartel to kill the Saudi envoy on American soil. The alleged Iranian plot to kill a Saudi ambassador in Washington shows that the ruling mullahs have no fear of the United States and that U.S. policy toward the Islamic republic must be more assertive.

Iraq

Iraqi officials said the death toll in a string of blasts targeting police in Baghdad has jumped to 23.Thirteen people were killed in western Baghdad when a suicide bomber rammed a police station. In the northern Shiite neighborhood of Hurriyah, nine people died when a suicide bomber also targeted a police station. And in western Baghdad, a parked car bomb targeting a police patrol exploded and killed one civilian.

Syria

Tens of thousands of Syrians thronged a main square of the Syrian capital and nearby streets Wednesday in a huge show of support for embattled President Bashar Assad, as he struggles to quell a seven-month-old uprising. Opponents charge such rallies are staged by the regime. Wednesday’s demonstration was intended to show that Assad still enjoys the support of many Syrians. However, international pressure is building on Assad to step down over his regime’s bloody crackdown on anti-government protests that the U.N. says has left nearly 3,000 people dead. The gathering was huge in comparison with frequent, almost daily anti-regime protests across the country since March which are often met by tear gas and gunfire from police and security forces.

Libya

Al-Qaeda’s new leader is calling on Libyan fighters who overthrew Moammar Gadhafi to set up an Islamic state. Ayman al-Zawahri warns Libyan revolutionaries to protect their gains against “Western plots,” claiming NATO will demand that Libyans give up their Islamic faith. Islamic hard-liners have attacked about a half-dozen shrines in and around Tripoli belonging to Muslim sects whose practices they see as sacrilegious, raising religious tensions as Libya struggles to define its identity after Moammar Gadhafi’s expected ouster.

Mutassim Qaddafi has been captured on the outskirts of Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, the National Transitional Council (NTC) said Wednesday. Mutassim is the ousted Libyan leader’s fifth son, who served as National Security Adviser of Libya in Qaddafi’s regime.

Liberia

Liberian voters camped out overnight, forming lines 500 people deep outside voting stations Tuesday as polls opened in Liberia’s presidential election, expected to serve as a referendum on the performance of Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72, won the Nobel Peace prize last week and was credited by the committee with maintaining peace in this nation on Africa’s western seaboard that only recently emerged from one of the continent’s most horrific civil wars. She is less popular at home, however, and is facing 15 opposition candidates.

Myanmar

Myanmar announced Tuesday it was releasing 6,300 prisoners in a widely expected amnesty by the newly elected government, but it was not clear how many of them were political detainees. The release of some of the country’s estimated 2,000 political prisoners has been hotly anticipated as part of liberalizing measures since Myanmar’s long-ruling military government handed power in March to a military-backed, civilian administration. The 6,359 released inmates were either old, disabled, unwell or had shown good “moral behavior.”

New Zealand

Rough weather has jostled a cargo ship stuck off New Zealand’s coast and worsened its oil leak fivefold to make it the country’s worst-ever maritime environmental disaster. Clumps of heavy oil from the Liberia-flagged Rena have washed up on pristine beaches near Tauranga on New Zealand’s North Island. The ship has been foundering since it ran aground Oct. 5 on the Astrolabe Reef, about 14 miles from Tauranga Harbour, and the government has demanded to know why the ship crashed into the well-charted reef in calm weather. The ship owner has given no reason for the grounding, but says it is cooperating with authorities.

Earthquakes

A powerful earthquake jolted Indonesia’s popular resort island of Bali on Thursday, causing widespread panic and injuring at least 50 people, many with broken bones and head wounds. The walls and ceilings of some temples and at least one school along the coast crumbled, and the roofs of many homes collapsed. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 6.0-magnitude quake was centered 60 miles of the island, 36 miles beneath the ocean floor. Although not strong enough to trigger a tsunami, the quake was felt on neighboring Java and Lombok islands, hundreds of miles away.

Seismologists say an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.5 has struck southern Greece. There are no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The Athens Geodynamic Institute says the quake struck Monday 108 miles south-southwest of Athens, in the southern Pelponnese region. Greece is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries.

Weather

Hurricane Jova slammed into Mexico’s Pacific coast as a Category 2 storm early Wednesday, killing at least five people and injuring six, while a tropical depression hit farther south and unleashed steady rains that contributed to 13 deaths across the border in Guatemala. Jova came ashore west of the Mexican port of Manzanillo and the beach town of Barra de Navidad before dawn with 100 mph winds and heavy rains, before moving inland and weakening to a tropical depression by afternoon. Mexico’s navy said it evacuated a total of 2,600 people in flood-prone areas hit by Jova, and set up kitchens at shelters to feed 1,600 evacuees.

Thailand’s worst floods in half a century have killed more than 280 people since late July, swamped more than two-thirds of country and inflicted billions of dollars in damage. Western Digital Corp., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of hard drives for personal computers, said severe flooding has halted production at its crucial Thai factory. Other technology companies including Microsemi Corp. and ON Semiconductor have reported production disruptions in Thailand because of the flooding.

Even as nearby fields wither and lakes dry up under a relentless drought, water continues to flow in San Antonio Texas’ second-largest city is weathering the state’s historic drought better than most cities because of innovative water conservation techniques in place for more than a decade. They include year-round water restrictions, dual-flush toilets in thousands of homes and businesses, and the keen eye of the “Water Police,” off-duty San Antonio police officers who drive around enforcing water-restriction rules. A first offense can cost $130. Amid the current drought, which has cost the state more than $5 billion in crops and cattle losses, San Antonio’s water-saving ways suddenly are drawing attention.

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October 10, 2011

Christian Pastor In Iran Still Refuses to Recant

A Christian pastor may be hanged within a few days under new provisions of Iran’s penal code, provisions which officially codify the death sentence for abandoning Islam. Youcef Nadarkhani, 32, is an Iranian Christian pastor who was arrested in October of 2009 when he tried to register his church of 400 people as part of the Church of Iran. His great crime? At the age of 19, Nadarkhani converted to Christianity. Because Nadarkhani was raised by Muslim parents, his conversion has been labeled “apostasy.” New additions to the Iranian penal code, provisionally passed in September 2008, give the Iranian government the authority to put adult men to death for leaving Islam. On September 27, Nadarkhani was once again brought into court for a hearing. He was told to recant his faith. He refused. He has been threatened with death repeatedly, but death has not yet been dealt. Instead, the Iranian government plays the waiting game, hoping they will force Nadarkhani to give up his Christianity before it’s all over. It hasn’t worked. The death threats and Nadarkhani’s longsuffering faithfulness to Christ have not taken place in a vacuum. Nadarkhani’s arrest has raised an international outcry that Iran was not ready to deal with.

  • Please pray for this pastor and others like him who are trapped within the most intolerant, abusive religion on earth.

‘Courageous’ Lights Up Box Office on Opening Weekend

In its opening weekend, the Christian film “Courageous” was the No. 4 top money-grossing film in the country, selling an estimated $8.8 million worth of tickets, OneNewsNow.com reports. For movies that opened that weekend, it was No. 2, trailing only “50/50,” which grossed approximately $8.85 million. “Courageous,” the police drama that stresses the importance of fatherhood, appeared in only 1,161 theaters nationwide while its competitors showed on two to three times as many screens. The strong debut was an answer to prayer for its filmmakers at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., which produced the previous box-office hits “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants.”

10-Year Afghanistan War Mark Passes Quietly

A decade of war will pass quietly at the White House this week. President Obama plans no public events Friday to mark a moment the nation never really expected: 10 years of war in Afghanistan. Out of sight and off the minds of millions of Americans, more than 2 million troops have been sent to Afghanistan and the war in Iraq, which began in 2003, including hundreds of thousands of troops who have served more than one tour. Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops have died in Iraq and about 1,700 in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands more have been wounded, and many billions of dollars have been spent, facts Obama doesn’t want to face given his campaign promises to end these conflicts quickly.

Virus Infects Computers Piloting U.S. Drones

A computer virus that logs keystrokes has infected computers used in Nevada to remotely pilot U.S. drones over Afghanistan and other war zones, Wired reports. As far as the Pentagon knows, no classified information has been lost or transmitted outside. The keystroke logger was first detected nearly two weeks ago at Creech Air Force Base, where most Predator and Reaper drones are guided, and has stubbornly resisted removal. “We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” one source said.” We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know. “The infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become one of the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.

  • Cyber warfare is the new battleground as weapons, missiles, drones, aircraft, etc rely more and more on computer guidance

Smuggled U.S. Ammo Feeds Drug Wars

Every year, thousands of guns are smuggled into Mexico from the United States, fueling the brutal drug-cartel wars and stirring outrage on both sides of the border. But often overlooked in the controversy are the tons of bullets that also make their way south of the border. In Mexico, ammunition is strictly regulated and possession of even a single illegal round can lead to prison. But there is nonetheless a steady supply of bullets. Almost all of it comes from the north. Hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition are purchased each year from online retailers, big-box stores and at gun shows in Arizona and other Southwest border states, then are smuggled across the border. Bullets are smuggled through border checkpoints at the bottoms of grocery bags. They are hidden by the box in the backs of cars and stashed by the case in cargo haulers. Some smugglers are illegal immigrants; others are Mexican citizens with tourist visas who buy ammunition and carry it across the border, according to federal court records and interviews with law-enforcement officers.

  • Our borders are a sieve that allows illegal immigrants and some terrorists inbound access while guns and ammo head outbound. All the more reason to not just tighten border control, but squeeze it dry.

Pressure Grows for Holder’s Resignation; Subpoenas Threatened

Pressure is intensifying rapidly for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder over the fatally flawed Operation Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal — with Rep. Paul Gosar, R-AZ, demanding that Holder quit immediately and Arizona sheriffs saying he should be fired if he won’t resign. Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa said on “Fox News Sunday” that his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee may issue subpoenas against top Justice Department officials as early as this week over the controversial Operation Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal. The California Republican indicated that some government actions in the Fast and Furious scheme of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) could have been felonious. Under Fast and Furious, at least 1,400 weapons were allowed to cross the border into Mexico in the hope that they could be traced and would lead ATF agents to cartel bosses.

Museum Closed by Demonstrators

The National Air and Space Museum in Washington was closed Saturday after anti-war demonstrators swarmed the building to protest a drone exhibit and security guards used pepper spray to repel them, sickening a number of protesters. A number of groups have been demonstrating in the city in the past week. The group that arrived at the museum Saturday included individuals taking part in the October 2011 Stop the Machine demonstration in the city’s Freedom Plaza, which has an anti-war and anti-corporate greed message. The group also included protesters affiliated with Occupy D.C., a group modeled on the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City. Occupy D.C. has been holding marches and meetings in Washington’s McPherson Square.

Obama Loan Official Resigns as Solyndra Scandal Widens

The embattled director of the controversial loan program that approved a $535 million taxpayer guarantee to bankrupt solar firm Solyndra is stepping down. The move comes as GOP Congressional investigators are looking into the department’s handling of the Solyndra agreement. Obama officials were warned about potential problems with the company as it sought government help, according to documents that have emerged over the last few weeks. “Mr.. Silver’s resignation does not solve the problem,” Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-MI, and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns, R-FL, said the resignation resolves nothing in the widening scandal. Upton and Stearns said in a joint statement. “We are in the midst of the Solyndra investigation and just days removed from Mr.. Silver’s mad rush to finalize the last $4.7 billion in loans before the statutory deadline.” Solyndra declared bankruptcy last month and laid off its 1,100 workers in a move that embarrassed the White House after Obama had touted the company as a model for success.

Foreclosure Aid Program Ends with More that Half Unspent

The federal government will disburse just $432 million from a $1 billion program to help unemployed homeowners avoid foreclosure, a government official said Thursday. The rest of the money will return to the U.S. Treasury because the Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program has ended, and not enough people were approved in time to receive aid. The funding provided forgivable loans up to $50,000 to temporarily help unemployed or underemployed people avoid foreclosure. Out of 100,000 applicants, only 11,832 were approved for the program that the government initially said could help up to 30,000 people. Critics say HUD took too long to launch the program. HUD didn’t start taking applications until almost a year after the program was made possible by Wall Street reform legislation

Who’s Not Paying Federal Income Tax?

Amid complaints that nearly half of tax filers in the U.S. won’t pay federal income taxes this year is this surprising finding: Those making $75,000-$100,000 a year are the fastest-growing share of people who don’t pay federal income taxes. Not working poor people or the wealthy — but those who are firmly middle class. They still make up less than 1% of the total number of income tax filers who pay no tax at all, but their overall number has exploded, from fewer than 5,000 not paying taxes in 1996 to nearly 500,000 in 2009, the most recent year of available data. The lowest-income Americans — those who make less than $25,000 a year — account for the largest number of those not paying any federal income tax: 76% as of 2009. But that share has been decreasing for years. As of 2009, more than 20,000 filers making more than $200,000 a year — 1,470 of whom had adjusted gross income of more than $1 million — owed no income tax.

Bank of England Head: World Facing Worst Economic Crisis Ever

The world is possibly facing the worst economic crisis in history, the governor of the Bank of England said Thursday. Sir Mervyn King was speaking after the decision by the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee to put £75billion of newly created money into the economy in a desperate effort to stave off a new credit crisis and a UK recession. “The world economy has slowed, America has slowed, China has slowed, and of course particularly the European economy has slowed,” he said. “This is the most serious financial crisis we’ve seen, at least since the 1930s, if not ever. We’re having to deal with very unusual circumstances.”

Economic News

The federal budget deficit held steady at $1.3 trillion in 2011 – increasing the total national debt to $14.7 trillion. There’s one piece of good news, at least: $1.3 trillion no longer equals 8.9% of the economy, as it did last year. It’s only … 8.6%.The bad news: Other than 2009, when the deficit was 10% of the economy, this year’s red ink was greater than any other year since 1945.

Apparently spooked by the economy, Wall Street’s tumble and the congressional debt-ceiling scare, Americans retreated into their shells in August, reducing their borrowing by the largest amount since April 2010. The Federal Reserve’s monthly report on consumer credit shows a 4.5% drop in overall new debt. Credit card debt decreased at an annual rate of 3.5%, and non-revolving credit — such as loans for cars or schools — decreased 5.25% annually. The $9.5 billion drop in August followed an $11.9 billion increase in July, the 10th-straight month that consumers had taken on new debt.

For a third straight month, the unemployment rate stands at 9.1%. The Labor Department reported Friday that employers added 103,000 jobs in September, but sluggish growth kept the unemployment rate at 9.1%. Employers have added an average of only 72,000 jobs in the past five months. The economy must create about twice as many consistently just to keep up with population growth.

Maricopa County in Arizona has the highest overall number and percentage of vacant homes among the 10 most populous counties in the U.S., according to census data released Thursday. Almost 14 percent of all homes are empty in Maricopa County. Miami-Dade in Florida, another county with overbuilding and foreclosure problems, has the second-highest vacancy rate among the 10 most-populous counties at 12.3%.

On Sunday, the leaders of France and Germany vowed to strengthen Europe’s banks to help them better weather the region’s debt crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said a “comprehensive response” to the debt crisis would be finalized by the end of the month, including a plan to make sure that banks have adequate capital.

Middle East

The board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has voted overwhelmingly in favor of granting full membership in one of the UN’s most important bodies to the Palestinians. The move by UNESCO was widely and correctly seen as another attempt to achieve what the Palestinians want without their having to negotiate with Israel. Though membership in UNESCO is not a legal status, it is yet another step in the campaign of isolation against Israel. U.S. Congressional leaders, furious over the UNESCO vote are threatening to cut off funding to the world body.

The European Parliament has unanimously voted for a declaration of support for the creation of a Palestinian state. The move is just one more tightening of the screws against Israel. As the Security Council continues to discuss the resolution for Palestinian statehood, only one more member vote is needed for approval. Both Columbia and Bosnia/Herzegovena are being heavily lobbied by the Palestinians, backed with Arab oil billions, for their votes.

In a legal brief filed with the US Supreme Court, Hillary Clinton has urged the justices not to call Jerusalem part of Israel. At issue is the birthplace designation on passports given to US citizens born in Israel. The Administration’s policy is to require those born in the Jewish capital to have their place of birth listed as Jerusalem rather than Israel. This rule applies to no other capital city on earth; its only purpose is to refuse to acknowledge that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state.

Barack Obama has secretly okayed giving the Jewish state a bunch of special bunker-busting bombs that are ideal for destroying Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and so powerful that George W. Bush blocked handing them over. Capable of penetrating deep beneath the surface, the bunker-busters would be crucial for any air strikes at Iran nuclear sites. Given Israel’s track record of preemptive bombing strikes to destroy nuclear sites in neighboring nations, the bunker-busters may increase the chance of another Middle East war.

Libya

Intense fighting on the western front of Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte has killed eight revolutionary fighters in what Libya’s transitional government hopes will be the final push into the holdout city. Revolutionary forces were poised to enter the city from all fronts in a final attack on Sirte, the last major city to remain in loyalist hands.

Portable anti-aircraft missiles may have already been smuggled outside Libya’s borders even as the United States races to help account for thousands of the weapons stockpiled by the regime of Moammar Gadhafi. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says al-Qaeda would like to get its hands on the weapons, which fit in the trunk of a car and can take down a commercial jet. Missiles like those have been used in attacks on 40 aircraft, causing 28 crashes and more than 800 deaths since 1975. Under Gadhafi, Libya had stockpiled about 20,000 of the missiles.

Syria

More than 50,000 mourners marched through the capital of Syria’s Kurdish heartland Saturday in a funeral procession for one of the country’s most prominent opposition figures a day after his assassination. Security forces fired into the crowds, killing five people. The turnout was by far the largest in the Kurdish northeast since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s autocratic regime seven months ago. Despite the gunfire, crowds pouring into the streets of Qamishli called on Assad to step down.

Syrian security forces opened fire at protesters in several parts of the country on Friday, killing at least eight people and wounding scores. Syrian troops also stormed villages close to the border with Turkey, hunting armed military defectors who fought back in clashes that left at least four soldiers and three others dead. The fighting in the country’s restive northern region of Jabal al-Zawiya, where Syrian military defectors are active, was the latest sign of a trend toward growing militarization of the 7-month-old uprising.

Egypt

Flames lit up downtown Cairo, where massive clashes raged Sunday, drawing Christians angry over a recent church attacks by Muslims and Egyptian security forces. At least 25 people were killed and more than 270 injured in the worst sectarian violence since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February. The rioting lasted late into the night, bringing out a deployment of more than 1,000 security forces and armored vehicles to defend the state television building along the Nile, where the trouble began. The clashes spread to nearby Tahrir Square, drawing thousands of people to the vast plaza that served as the epicenter of the protests that ousted Mubarak. On Sunday night, they battled each other with rocks and firebombs, some tearing up pavement for ammunition and others collecting stones in boxes.

Yemen

Days after a prominent Yemeni human rights activist became the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, dozens of women were injured after gangs attacked during a march in her honor. At least 38 women were injured by rocks and batons when pro-government gangs attacked Sunday’s marchers. Female protesters marched in three Yemeni provinces on Sunday –Taiz, Shabwa and Sanaa. The largest took place in Sanaa where at least 15,000 females marched down the capital’s Cairo Street.

Iraq

The Iraqi army was supposed to pull out of the nation’s cities by the end of this year but is delaying the pullback over security concerns. The delay is an acknowledgment that even after four years of declining violence, Iraq’s police force is not capable of maintaining security on its own. The other worry is that violence will increase when American troops complete their own withdrawal from the country at year’s end.

Afghanistan

Prisoners in some Afghan-run detention facilities have been beaten and tortured, a United Nations report said Monday, but the international organization said that the mistreatment was not the result of government policy. It said Afghan security ministries cooperated with the investigation and have taken measures to stop the abuse after being presented with the report.

Somalia

Heavy fighting broke out in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, on Monday after pro-government forces attacked militant positions following what the African Union force said were the deaths of at least 12 Somali civilians because of militants’ mortars. Residents in Mogadishu’s northern neighborhoods fled explosions and gunfire as African Union and Somali troops made a push toward positions held by al-Shabab militants. Al-Shabab fled Mogadishu in August in what its leaders said was a tactical pullout. But the militant group returned in a big way last week, setting off a truck bomb that killed more than 100 people as students tried to learn if they had won a scholarship to attend school in Turkey.

Mexico

Mexican officials say 10 more bodies have been found in what appears to be more bloodshed in the battle between rival cartels for control of drug trafficking in the port city of Veracruz. The discoveries raise the number of deaths since Sept. 20 to at least 75 as the relatively new Jalisco New Generation gang claims to be attacking members of the Zetas cartel.

Weather

The worst floods to hit the country in decades are now threatening the capital, Bangkok, Thailand. Flooding around the nation has reached a crisis level. The government said Saturday that 253 people have been killed since late July. Bangkok has been spared serious damage so far, but some fear it could be inundated as large amounts of flood water flows from the north toward the Gulf of Thailand.

Hurricane Jova has strengthened to a major storm in the Pacific as it heads toward Mexico’s coast. Jova’s maximum sustained winds have increased by early Monday to 120 mph with some additional strengthening forecast in the next day or so. A hurricane warning is in effect for the coast of Mexico from Punta San Telmo northward to Cabo Corrientes.

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October 6, 2011

Military Chaplains Nix Same-Sex Ceremonies

Several thousand evangelical Christian chaplains in the military will have no part of performing same-sex marriage ceremonies, despite the Pentagon’s mandate to do so. That’s according to an announcement Wednesday from the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, whose members are various Christian church denominations or groups that “endorse” chaplains for the United States military. Chaplains must have those endorsers, or outside groups that affirm that the individual chaplain is qualified for the leadership post as chaplain in the military. The organization’s statement today came in response to last week’s announcement by the Department of Defense that chaplains now can participate in same-sex ceremonies and will be allowed to use federal facilities for such purposes. “While the memorandum acknowledges a chaplain’s right to not participate in same-sex ‘marriage’ ceremonies, the new policy makes it clear that the Pentagon has placed the military in the midst of a deeply controversial issue during a time of ongoing war,” the organization said. Spokesman Dr. Ron Crews, the executive director of the alliance, explained, “By dishonestly sanctioning the use of federal facilities for ‘marriage counterfeits’ that federal law and the vast majority of Americans have rejected, the Pentagon has launched a direct assault on the fundamental unit of society – husband and wife.”

Christian Persecution

Nigerian Muslim extremists killed five Christians in the state of Niger and three Christians in the state of Kaduna last week, including a 13-year-old girl, Compass Direct News reports. In Niger, militant Muslims went to shops owned by Christians at a market, ordering them to recite verses from the Quran. If the Christians were unable to recite the verses, the gunmen shot and killed them. In Kaduna, about 15 Muslims armed with guns and machetes attacked a Christian community around midnight and stormed three houses, killing three and wounding eight.

In the state of South Kordofan, failure by the Sudanese Armed Forces and allied Islamic militia to distinguish between combatants and civilians in territorial battles is in part because of a desire to rid the area of Christianity, Compass Direct News reports. One Christian called it a “planned persecution by the Islamic government,” and many who have fled the area report Christians being killed and church buildings being burned. A man who was detained for being a Christian but later escaped on the day he was scheduled to be put to death said he watched six other Christian detainees be taken away for execution. He said SAF intelligence agents told the Christians, “This land is an Islamic land, and [Christians] are not allowed to be [here].”

A recent report from the small African country of Eritrea indicates that thousands of Christians have been arrested for practicing their faith, according to OneNewsNow.com. Many Christians have been tortured, some to the point of death, and others have been imprisoned in shipping containers in hot weather with little ventilation, unsanitary conditions and limited food and water. Religious freedom is extremely restricted in Eritrea, said International Christian Concern spokesman Jonathan Racho, and the U.S. State Department has labeled it one of the worst countries in the world for persecution.

A mob of several thousand Muslims demolished and torched a church in Cairo that was under renovation, ASSIST News Service reports. After wrecking the dome, walls and columns of St. George’s church, the mob went to the church depot and set fire to lumber that was being stored for future construction. Eyewitnesses say the mob also burned a large depot of electrical goods owned by a Coptic Christian, a supermarket and four Christian homes while security forces “stood there watching.”

A 14-year-old Coptic Christian girl in Egypt has been banned from entering her school for eight days because she refused to wear a Muslim headdress, ASSIST News Service reports. Ferial Habib’s father protested the decision, but the school filed a police complaint against him on charges of libel and defamation because the administration had previously sent a warning to Christian students telling them they would be refused entry if they didn’t cover their hair.

The Christian Post reports that a high-school student in Vacaville, Calif., was punished by a teacher who claimed the student disrupted the classroom with the words “Bless you.” Health teacher Steve Cuckovich took 25 points off the student’s grade and explained: “When you sneezed in the old days, they thought you were dispelling evil spirits out of your body, so they were saying ‘God bless you.’ … But today, [the blessing] really doesn’t make sense.” Following outrage from some parents, the school principal agreed that Cuckovich went overboard.

Wall Street Protests Spread Across U.S.

A budding protest movement began last month in New York with a vague sense of grievance over the widening gap between the rich and poor in America. But in less than three full weeks, it has provided fuel for a broader national anti-corporate message, drawing inspiration from the Arab Spring but struggling to define its goals beyond a general feeling that power needs to be restored to ordinary people. Now similar protests are springing up in Boston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., and Chicago, and organizers in Washington, D.C., plan a march at Freedom Plaza on Thursday to “denounce the systems and institutions that support endless war and unrestrained corporate greed.” Despite having no single leader and no organized agenda, the protesters insist they are on the verge of translating their broad expression of grievance into a durable national cause.

Protests on Wall Street turned violent Wednesday when police clashed with demonstrators marching through Lower Manhattan in the largest show of strength yet for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Police said late Wednesday that 28 people were arrested during the march, mostly for disorderly conduct. Unions gave a high-profile boost to the long-running protest against Wall Street and economic inequality Wednesday, with their members joining thousands of protesters in a lower Manhattan march. Across the country, students at several colleges walked out of classes in solidarity. “The middle class is taking the burden but the wealthiest of our state and country are not,” said Sterling W. Roberson, vice president for the United Federation of Teachers. Numerous signs bore slogans including “Tax Wall Street” and “Make Jobs Not Cuts.”

Greece Paralyzed by 24-Hour Strike

A nationwide strike by Greek civil servants to protest ever steeper austerity measures paralyzed the country Wednesday, bringing transport to a halt and grounding all flights. Teachers and lawyers joined the work stoppage and even hospitals were running only on emergency staff. The New York Times reported that the countries two main unions and the Communist party held separate rallies in Athens. Dozens of masked youths, some wearing gas masks, threw chunks of stone at police guarding Parliament, at Athens University and outside luxury hotels on the fringes of the capital’s central Constitution Square. Civil servants are protesting plans to suspend about 30,000 staff on partial pay, part of new cutbacks that come on top of salary and pension cuts. Greece has also seen repeated waves of tax hikes over the past year and a half.

  • As end-time financial distress widens and deepens, protests will also increase and spread across many nations

1 in 3 Vets See Iraq, Afghan Wars as Wastes

One in three U.S. veterans of the post-9/11 military believes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting. Nearly half of post-9/11 veterans said deployments strained their relationship with their spouses and children. And a majority thinks that, after 10 years of combat, America should be focusing less on foreign affairs and more on its own problems, according to an opinion survey released Wednesday. The findings highlight a dilemma for the Obama administration and Congress as they struggle to shrink the government’s huge budget deficits and reconsider defense priorities while trying to keep public support for remaining involved in Iraq and Afghanistan for the longer term. Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops have died in Iraq and nearly 1,700 in Afghanistan. Combined war costs since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have topped $1 trillion.

Napolitano Defends Deportation Policy

The Obama administration is defending an illegal immigrant deportation policy that is being attacked by both conservatives and liberals. Critics on the right who say it is too soft on illegal immigrants and critics on the left who say it is too harsh. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she expects 2011 to be another record year for deportations. In fiscal 2010, the administration deported nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants, an increase of about 3,000 from the previous year. Both 2010 and 2009 broke records for deportations. The administration has focused its efforts on removing illegal immigrants who have been convicted of crimes, have repeatedly violated immigration laws or are recent border-crossers. The policy does not target illegal immigrants who have been living and working in the United States for years with no history of criminal activity. In 2010, 50 percent of those deported — almost 200,000 people — were convicted criminals, Napolitano said. Sen. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, disputed Napolitano’s analysis. “Seven million illegal immigrants work in the U.S. while 14 million Americans are unemployed. Worksite enforcement activities are down 70 percent, allowing illegal workers to take jobs that should go to American workers.”

Migration to Sun Belt Slows

The steady flow of people moving to the Sun Belt that fueled its head-spinning boom for decades now is sputtering — a blow to the region but a boost for Northern states. It’s another sign of the decline in Americans’ penchant for moving, which has been waning since the 1980s and now stands at its lowest rate since the Great Depression. Net population gains from Americans moving to Arizona, Nevada and Florida from other states have been largely wiped out. At the peak of the boom in 2006, Nevada gained a net of more than 40,000 people. In 2009: a net loss of more than 4,000. Florida went from a handsome net gain from other states to a net loss. This migration slowdown has been a windfall of sorts for states in the North. Massachusetts’ loss of people to other states dwindled from 2006 to 2009. New York’s net loss dropped 58%.

Drug Abusers Exploiting Medicare Benefit

Drug abusers are exploiting Medicare prescription’s benefit to score large quantities of painkillers, and taxpayers have to foot most of the bill, congressional investigators say in a report. About 170,000 Medicare recipients received prescriptions from multiple doctors for 14 frequently abused medications in 2008. The cost of the questionable prescriptions amounted to $148 million in 2008. Overall, taxpayers pay three-fourths of the cost of the Medicare prescription drug program, which covers some 28 million seniors and disabled people for about $55 billion a year. A Medicare recipient in Georgia got prescriptions for 3,655 oxycodone pills — more than a four-year supply of the painkiller — from 58 different prescribers.

Economic News

The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week, a sign that the job market remains weak. Weekly applications increased by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 401,000. The modest gain comes after applications plummeted by 33,000 in the previous week. They need to fall below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth.

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.94 percent this week, the lowest rate ever. For those who can qualify for the historically low rate, it’s an extraordinary opportunity to buy or refinance.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke bluntly warned Congress on Tuesday of what most of America has sensed for some time: The economic recovery, such as it is, “is close to faltering.” Bernanke reiterated Tuesday that Congress should not cut spending sharply while the economy is weak. Bernanke told the Joint Economic Committee that lawmakers face a delicate challenge: They must avoid deep spending cuts that could impede the recovery. But they must also eventually cut spending more deeply than the $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts being sought by a special committee. Fed policymakers voted to shift $400 billion of the Fed’s investment portfolio from short- to longer-term Treasury securities to try to drive down long-term interest rates.

Consumers may catch a break on the price of gasoline and baked goods and sweets thanks to a sudden tumble in worldwide commodity markets. The price of regular gasoline dropped Tuesday to a national average of $3.41 a gallon. It is down about 15% since peaking in May near $4 a gallon. Crude oil has fallen from more than $100 a barrel just before Memorial Day to less than $76 Tuesday. Flour prices have risen more than 50% this year, according to Jeremy Reichart, vice president of Orchestrate Management, which operates several restaurants and a food market in Des Moines. But they should fall in coming months, as the price of wheat has tumbled 25% since last summer. The price of cocoa is down about 15% from record levels since midsummer.

Haiti

In the 21 months since the devastating 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Haiti, only 20 percent of the rubble has been cleared and 600,000 remain homeless. However, one private charity has forged ahead with recovery plans and completed construction on a new village with almost 500 homes, the Christian Newswire reports. Fully funded by donors and built by Love A Child, Inc., the houses in “Vilage Mirak” (Miracle Village) are constructed from lumber instead of concrete for safety in future earthquakes and built to withstand hurricane-force winds. Each house was given to its family fully furnished with a small garden area to grow fresh produce. The village contains wells, playgrounds and a medical clinic, and Love A Child plans to build a marketplace to help the community become self-sustainable.

Israel

Making clear what is usually kept hidden a key member of the Fatah Central Committee, Abbas Zaki, said in an Al-Jazeera interview that the proposal to force Israel to give up the so-called West Bank, the Bible lands of Judea and Samaria, would bring Israel to its doom. He described the creation of a Palestinian state as simply the first step toward the overall goal of completely eliminating the nation of Israel. The Jerusalem Prayer Team notes, “All of the talk about a “two state solution” is just window dressing to disguise the fact that one of those “states” doesn’t want peace. The enemies of Israel want nothing less than the utter destruction of Israel…and they are now brave enough to start saying so in public.”

Arsonists torched a mosque in an Arab village in northern Israel Monday, setting off protests by residents who clashed with police. Graffiti sprayed at the site suggested Jewish radicals, suspected in other recent mosque fires, were involved. Copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, were also burned. Relations between Jews and Arabs in the area have been strained since the chief rabbi in the nearby town of Safed urged followers last year not to rent or sell their homes to Arabs. Security was heightened across northern Israel to prevent further disturbances and police met with village leaders in an effort to defuse tensions.

Libya

NATO’s bombing campaign in Libya, now in its seventh month, will continue despite the collapse of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime, alliance officials said Thursday. French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said the airstrikes will not cease until all remaining pockets of resistance are suppressed and the new government asks for them to end. Libya’s transitional leaders named a new Cabinet Monday and vowed to step down after the country is secured, a move designed to show the North African nation is moving on even though fighting persists and Moammar Gadhafi remains at large. The announcement was made following weeks of political infighting and delays over the formation of a new government. The new leaders said they would remain in place until the country is secured and liberation is declared, then a new transitional government would be formed within a month.

Syria

Russia and China vetoed a European-backed U.N. Security Council resolution that threatened sanctions against Syria if it didn’t immediately halt its military crackdown against civilians. Its defeat on Tuesday reflects the deep divisions in the U.N.’s most powerful body over how to address the ongoing violence in Syria, which the U.N. estimates has led to more than 2,700 deaths. The European sponsors of the resolution tried to avoid a veto by watering down the language on sanctions three times, to the point where the word “sanctions” was taken out, but they failed. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that his country did not support the Assad regime or the violence but opposed the resolution because it was “based on a philosophy of confrontation,” contained “an ultimatum of sanctions” and was against a peaceful settlement of a crisis.

Somalia

Islamist militants detonated a truck bomb Tuesday in front of the Ministry of Education in Mogadishu, killing at least 70 people, wounding dozens and shattering a relative calm that had prevailed in the Somali capital for weeks. The bomb blew up after the truck came to a halt at a security checkpoint. The al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab immediately claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack. It was the biggest attack in Somalia’s capital since al-Shabab withdrew most of its forces in August amid an offensive by African Union forces.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia today blamed an unnamed “foreign country” for riots in its eastern province that left 14 people injured, including 11 policemen. A statement by the Interior Ministry was clearly aimed at Iran for interfering in Saudi affairs by allegedly stirring up Shiites in Al-Qatif province, where most of the country’s 2 million Shiites live. The Sunni-ruled kingdom’s Interior Ministry said security forces “managed to deal with those traitors on the spot” but that machine gun fire then erupted from a nearby neighborhood after the crowds had been dispersed.

Yemen

A U.S. drone strike killed five al-Qaeda-linked militants in southern Yemen on Wednesday. The dawn strike targeted militant hideouts in the al-Arqoub area east of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province. Islamic radicals seized control of Zinjibar in May, taking advantage of a wider uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh to establish a militant-ruled enclave. Government forces and mutinous military units who oppose each other but consider al-Qaeda the greater enemy have fought their way back into the city, but continue to suffer casualties to militant attacks.

Pakistan

Suspected Sunni extremists executed 12 Shiite Muslims after ordering them off a bus and lining them up in southwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, ramping up a campaign of sectarian violence gripping the region. Sunni militants with links to al-Qaida and the Taliban have carried out scores of bombings and shootings across the country against minority Shiites in recent years, but the past couple weeks in Baluchistan province have been particularly bloody.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership with India on Tuesday, a move likely to enrage neighboring Pakistan at a time when its relations with the Afghans and the West are sharply strained over alleged links of its spy agency to militants blamed for high-profile attacks across the border. The Pakistanis consider India their chief adversary in the region, and the two countries have fought three major wars since the two were carved out of British India in 1947. The strategic pact is Afghanistan’s first with any country, and its timing sparked speculation of a shift in regional alignments after Afghan President Hamid Karzai chastised Pakistan for failing to act against Taliban-led insurgents based in Pakistan.

Iraq

Gunmen disguised as police officers seized control of a police station in western Iraq Monday morning, killing four people and taking dozens of hostages before Iraqi forces swept in and ended the standoff. Four insurgents wearing explosives vests underneath police uniforms and armed with grenades and pistols with silencers walked into the police compound in al-Baghdadi. The three-hour hostage crisis, as well as another attack nearby on a police officer’s house, demonstrated the vulnerability of the Iraqi security forces at a time when American troops are swiftly drawing down their presence after more than eight years of war. The Obama administration has put Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri. the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq on a terrorism blacklist and is offering a $10 million reward for information on his whereabouts.

Earthquakes

A magnitude-6.2 earthquake has hit northwestern Argentina Thursday, but there are no immediate reports of damage or injury. The U.S. Geological survey says the quake hit at 8:12 a.m. and was centered in the Jujuy region, about 87 miles east-northeast of Salta.

Washington National Cathedral announced Tuesday that it will need “tens of millions of dollars” over “numerous years” to repair extensive damage to the USA’s second-largest church from the Aug. 23 earthquake. The cathedral, an Episcopal church that advertises itself as “a spiritual home for all,” has been the setting for presidential funerals and other major events, including a Sept. 11 interfaith memorial broadcast nationwide. An estimated 35,000 worshipers and visitors arrive there every month. The cathedral is exceeded in size in the USA only by St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City. In the earthquake, the central tower, the highest elevated point in Washington, sustained damage on three of its four corner spires, and three capstones fell off. There are cracks on some of the upper floors and in some of the flying buttresses. A crane used to set repair scaffolding fell Sept. 7, damaging the two other buildings in the complex.

Wildfires

Precipitation over northern Nevada quenched the numerous wildfires, with most now over 90% contained. Eleven structures were destroyed as the wildfires burned over 216,000 acres, about 338 square miles.

Weather

An early fall storm snarled California roadways early Wednesday with gusty winds and heavy snow in the mountains. The storm was expected to dump up to a foot of snow at elevations above 7,000 feet and 6 inches as low as the 5,000-foot level. “It’s unusual for fall. This is more typical of a winter storm,” said Steve Anderson, a meteorologist for the weather service in Monterey.

A blinding dust storm rolled across the Arizona desert Tuesday, causing three pileups involving dozens of vehicles on a major interstate. One man was killed and at least 15 other people were injured. The first two crashes occurred just after noon as a dust storm suddenly covered Interstate 10 near Picacho, about midway between Phoenix and Tucson. Those collisions involved 16 vehicles and led to the fatality. Authorities were unable to transport injured motorists by helicopter because of the heavy dust. A third pileup occurred almost two hours later on I-10 just north of Casa Grande and involved eight vehicles. No one was killed in that collision; two people had serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Of the twelve people being treated at University Medical Center in Tucson. three were listed as critical and the other nine were in serious condition.

The historic drought in Texas is changing the behavior of the stars of one of the state’s natural summer marvels – bats –  raising fears the spectacle next year may be less spectacular. A depleting insect population has forced millions of bats around Texas to emerge before nightfall for food runs, making them more susceptible to natural predators. Some experts have already noticed fewer bats emerging from caves and have seen evidence that more infant bats are showing up dead, hinting at a looming population decline. Mexican free-tailed bats, the most common species in Texas, are targeted by hawks and falcons that dive into the swarm. They’re also hunted by raccoons, owls and snakes that sometimes dangle from the top of the cave entrances, snatching bats as they come out in whirring, corkscrew-like funnels that darkens the sky.

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October 3, 2011

Protesters Clog Brooklyn Bridge/Wall Street

Protesters speaking out against corporate greed and other grievances were maintaining a presence in Manhattan’s Financial District even after more than 700 of them were arrested during a march on the Brooklyn Bridge in a tense confrontation with police. The group Occupy Wall Street has been camped out in a plaza in Manhattan’s Financial District for nearly two weeks staging various marches, and had orchestrated an impromptu trek to Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon. They walked in thick rows on the sidewalk up to the bridge, where some demonstrators spilled onto the roadway after being told to stay on the pedestrian pathway, police said. The march shut down a lane of traffic for several hours on Saturday. The majority of those arrested were given citations for disorderly conduct and were released. The group had meetings and forums planned for Sunday at Zuccotti Park, the private plaza off Broadway the protesters have occupied for days. Celebrities including Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon made recent stops to encourage the group.

Elsewhere in the U.S. on Saturday, protesters assembled in Albuquerque, N.M., Boston and Los Angeles to express their solidarity with the movement in New York, though their demands remain unclear. “I don’t think we’re asking for much, just to wake up every morning not worrying whether we can pay the rent, or whether our next meal will be rice and beans again,” one protester wrote in an email to The Associated Press. Seasoned activists said the ad-hoc protest could prove to be a training ground for future organizers of larger and more cohesive demonstrations, or motivate those on the sidelines to speak out against injustices.

  • As in Greece and other European countries, as the economy remains stagnant and more severe budget cuts are enacted, there will be an concomitant increase in protest marches and sit-ins

Lengthy Distribution Process Worsens Food Outbreaks

The recent listeria outbreak from cantaloupe shows that large-scale occurrences of serious illnesses linked to tainted food have grown more common over the years, partly because much of what we eat takes a long and winding road from farm to fork. A cantaloupe grown on a Colorado field may make four or five stops before it reaches the dinner table. There’s the packing house where it is cleaned and packaged, then the distributor who contracts with retailers to sell the melons in large quantities. A processor may cut or bag the fruit. The retail distribution center is where the melons are sent out to various stores. Finally it’s stacked on display at the grocery store. Imported fruits and vegetables, which make up almost two-thirds of the produce consumed in the United States, have an even longer journey. The Colorado cantaloupe crop that’s linked to 84 illnesses and as many as 17 deaths in 19 states has traveled so far and wide that producer Jensen Farms doesn’t even know exactly where their fruit ended up. “The food chain is very complex,” says Sherri McGarry, a senior adviser in the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Foods. “There are many steps, and the more steps there are the harder it can be to link up each step to identify what the common source” of an outbreak is.

Arizona Seeks to Deny Benefits to Gay Partners

Arizona state officials are asking the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to let it deny benefits to the domestic partners of its gay state and university employees. Legal papers filed by Attorney General Tom Horne contend that a three-judge panel of the appellate court got it wrong when it concluded earlier this month that it is illegal for the state to provide health care and other benefits to the partners of married workers while refusing to do the same for same-sex couples. He said the state is allowed to make such distinctions. Horne, who filed the appeal on behalf of Gov. Jan Brewer, also said it is legally irrelevant that Arizona voters constitutionally banned gays from getting wed, even if that means that, unlike same-sex couples, they have no legal way to get benefits for their partners. The legal papers his office filed also charge that the ruling of three-judge panel “attempts to indirectly invalidate Arizona’s marriage laws,’ something the state contends the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled is beyond the purview of federal judges.

Gardasil Controversy Heating Up

The topic of Merck’s controversial Gardasil is heating up – with an Austrian physician who studied the drug saying it is not only dangerous, but useless in reducing cervical cancer, the stated reason it was administered to young girls at the behest of Texas Gov. Perry. Dr. Christian Fiala, who successfully fought the use of the drug in Austria, told WorldNetDaily that “there is no proof of a causal relationship of HPV and cervical cancer and there is no evidence that HPV vaccine reduces the overall number of cervical cancer (cases).” Fiala called the HPV vaccination plan “a money-making machine without any benefit for patients,.but some inherent risks.” Officials report that there have been 17,500 or more “adverse” incident reports that have been made over the last few years because of the use of the vaccination.

Largest Ozone Hole Ever in Northern Hemisphere

A hole that developed in the Earth’s protective ozone layer over the Arctic this year was the largest ever recorded in the northern hemisphere and spread over parts of northern Russia, Greenland and Norway, the journal Nature reports. For the first time, the hole was comparable to one that appears regularly over the Antarctic, researchers found. The ozone layer in the upper stratosphere provides a shield against UV radiation from the sun that can cause skin cancer and cataracts. The hole that has opened over northern Russia, parts of Greenland, and Norway in March is subjecting people there to high levels of the UV radiation.

  • As reported by The Guardian, the researchers found that the record large hole was not due to man-made causes, but rather to unusually strong wind patterns at high altitudes and intense cold. End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme regardless of human activity for or against.

Dead Sea Scrolls Go Online

The Dead Sea Scrolls, so ancient and fragile that direct light cannot shine on them, are now available to search and read online in a project launched today by the Israel Museum and Google Inc. Five of the eight scrolls housed at Israel Museum since 1965 have been digitalized, including the Great Isaiah Scroll, the Temple Scroll and the War Scroll. The scrolls had been hidden in caves along the shore of the Dead Sea, probably about the time the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 A.D. The manuscripts were discovered between 1947 and 1956. The Google tool on the Israel Museum website allows browsers to zoom into the text and to read its translation in English. The people who wrote the scrolls hid them in caves along the shore of the Dead Sea, probably about the time the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and are generally attributed to an isolated Jewish sect that settled in Qumran in the Judean Desert.

Denmark Imposes ‘Fat Tax’ to Limit Unhealthy Foods

Denmark on Saturday became the second country to impose a fat tax, leading consumers to hoard butter, pizza, meat and milk, AFP reports. The new tax, designed by Denmark’s outgoing government in an effort to limit the population’s intake of fatty foods, will add 16 kroner ($2.87, or 2.15 Euros) per kilo (2.2 pounds) of saturated fats in a product. For example, according to the AFP, the tax will increase the cost of 250 grams of butter by 2.20 kroner, to more than 18 kroner. Denmark is one of several European countries to tax sodas, and it has imposed a levy on candy for nearly 90 years, according to Der Spiegel. The country was the first in the world to pass a law banning trans fats, with Austria and Switzerland following closely after. Last month, Hungary implemented a law imposing special taxes on foods with high fat, salt and sugar content.

Economic News

Greece’s admission that it will miss its deficit targets this year and next despite harsh new austerity measures sent stock markets reeling on Monday and raised new doubts over a planned second international bailout. The gloomy news from Athens brought the specter of a debt default closer and will weigh on talks among euro zone finance ministers in Luxembourg later on Monday on the next steps to try to resolve the currency area’s sovereign debt crisis.

According to a recent study from the BlackRock Investment Institute, the ratio of household debt to personal income (wages and salaries) remains at a staggering 154%, which is only 7.5 percentage points lower than in pre-recession peak. “While some progress in consumer debt reduction has been made, the heavy lifting of meaningful deleveraging still lies ahead,” says the study. Until consumers repair their balance sheets, they are unlikely to increase spending or take on any new debt even with interest rates close to zero percent.

Stagnant home prices have become part of the new normal nationwide, and one of the big reasons is the nation’s giant shadow inventory — the hundreds of thousands of homes that are either in foreclosure or repossessed by banks, but not yet on the market. Already, more houses are for sale in America than people want to buy, and the roughly 1.6 million homes in the nation’s shadow inventory promise to drag down home prices for years, experts say.

Middle East

The Jerusalem Prayer Team reports, “The invisible economic war against Israel has already begun. Some countries are planning to impose new sanctions against Israeli products, while others will raise tariffs and make trade more difficult. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called this week for the nations of the world to “put pressure” on Israel to force them to make concessions in the name of peace. This is a deliberate attempt to destroy Israel’s economy. This is new warfare for the modern age—before the rockets fly and the tanks roll, and the boycotts and economic sanctions fall. The OPEC nations are using their vast oil wealth to blackmail and bribe nations to support the Palestinians and attack Israel. The Israeli Defense Forces are dependent on Israel’s economy; if the economy can be destroyed, Israel’s military will be crippled.”

Israel on Sunday agreed to a proposal by international mediators to resume peace negotiations after the initiative was positively received by the Palestinians, but there were no signs that a dispute over Israeli settlement building that has blocked talks was any closer to being resolved. The proposal by the so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators – the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia – calls for a meeting this month to set the agenda for negotiations, followed by talks on borders and security, with the goal of reaching an overall agreement by the end of 2012. “Israel welcomes the Quartet’s call for direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions, as called for by both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu,” said a statement from the Israeli prime minister’s office. Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh told a video conference in Tehran on Sunday that the effort by the Palestinian Authority to gain recognition for a Palestinian state at the UN was a waste of time because only armed resistance would liberate “occupied Palestinian land” and a two-state solution with a Palestinian state existing side-by-side with Israel would fail.

  • The obstacles to Middle East peace are spiritual, not material, and cannot be resolved through human reason and diplomacy. War against Israel is inevitable and will trigger the rise of the anti-Christ.

Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns that “time is short” before Iran obtains nuclear weapons and poses a direct threat to Israel and the rest of the world. “Iran poses certainly a great danger to Israel, but it represents an enormous danger to the Middle East and to the world,” Netanyahu said to PBS’s Charlie Rose. “Iran is the premier sponsor of terrorists. It’s important that everyone understand that Iran with nuclear weapons is a danger to us all. Iran supplies terrorists with rockets and many other things. It would give [terrorists] a nuclear umbrella or worse, actually give them nuclear weapons.” Pointing to steps Iran has already taken against Israel, Netanyahu said, “We vacated [Gaza] and Iran essentially walked in with its Hamas proxy, and they’re packing a lot of missiles. We walked out of Lebanon, and Iran walked in with its Hezbollah proxy, and they fired thousands of rockets into the north of Israel.

Afghanistan

The Afghan government urged neighboring Pakistan on Sunday to take concrete steps to help end the Taliban insurgency and use its influence to bring the militants to direct peace talks. The appeal follows accusations that Pakistan, through its historical ties with some of the militant groups, has played an active role in supporting attacks across the border on U.S. and Afghan targets — a charge it denies. The allegations against the country and the calls for its help reveal a central quandary in trying to end the decade of fighting that began with the U.S. invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Afghan leaders, however, are growing impatient.

Pakistan

Pakistan is the source of explosives in the vast majority of makeshift bombs insurgents in Afghanistan planted this summer to attack U.S. troops, according to U.S. military commanders. From June through August, U.S. troops detected or were hit by 5,088 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the most for any three-month period since the war began in 2001. Those bombs killed 63 troops and wounded 1,234, Defense Department records show. More than 80% of the IEDs are homemade explosives using calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer produced in Pakistan, the Pentagon reports.

Iraq

Four anti-al-Qaeda fighters died Sunday when two roadside bombs exploded as their patrol passed by. The first bomb went off next to a passing patrol of the Sahwa or Awakening Councils, a network of predominantly Sunni Arab militias allied with the Iraqi government. The second bomb hit another patrol rushing to the scene a few minutes later, killing two others. Three Sahwa fighters were injured in the blasts. The attack took place near the town of Mishahda, 20 miles north of Baghdad. The Sahwa have often been targeted by insurgents who accuse them of being traitors and supporters of the Shiite-led government.

Yemen

A government warplane mistakenly bombed its own army in southern Yemen, killing at least 30 soldiers and wounding many more. The bombing Saturday evening targeted an abandoned school used as shelter by soldiers of the army’s 119th Brigade. Militants arrived at the school soon after the airstrike and killed an unspecified number of wounded troops.

Syria

Syrian dissidents meeting in Turkey have formally announced the creation of a council designed to overthrow President Bashar Assad’s regime. The structure and aims of this council were announced Sunday at a news conference in Istanbul. The statement was signed by major Syrian opposition figures. The goal of the council is to present a united opposition front and overthrow Assad’s regime. They rejected any foreign interference in Syria and urged the international community to recognize the legitimacy of the group.

The US is becoming convinced that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria will not be able to remain in power and the Obama administration is planning for American policy in the region after he exits. The U.S. and Turkey are exploring how to deal with a possible civil war among Syria’s Alawite, Druse, Christian and Sunni sects. Even though other countries have withdrawn their ambassadors, the Obama administration is leaving the American ambassador there so he can maintain contact with opposition leaders and leaders of sects and religious groups.

Mexico

The bullet-riddled, bound bodies of seven men were dumped Sunday at a downtown bus stop in the Pacific resort town of Zihuatanejo, police said, as drug violence claimed at least 20 people this past weekend along a stretch of coastal tourist destinations. Signed messages lying near or on top of the bodies claimed to be from the Knights Templar, an offshoot of the pseudo-religious La Familia drug cartel. Drug gangs are known for leaving threatening messages at crime scenes. In Acapulco, just to the south of Zihuatanejo, 10 men and two women were killed in separate attacks Saturday and early Sunday. Three other young men were gunned down inside a taxi cab on a popular avenue of Acapulco Saturday.

  • The end-time spirit of lawlessness is increasingly stirring up violence around the world

Wildfires

As the wildfire season winds down, Nevada was suddenly beset with thirteen large (over 100 acres) wildfires. As of Sunday morning, these fires had burned over 184,000 acres (about 287 sq. miles). Only five structures have been destroyed so far but evacuations are in effect and many residences are threatened.

Weather

Back-to-back typhoons left at least 55 people dead and rescuers scrambling on Sunday to deliver food and water to hundreds of villagers stuck on rooftops for four days because of flooding in the northern Philippines. Typhoon Nalgae slammed ashore in northeastern Isabela province Saturday then barreled across the main Luzon Island’s mountainous north and agricultural plains that were still sodden from fierce rain and wind unleashed by a howler just days earlier.

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