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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