House to Consider ‘In God We Trust’ Resolution

The Republican-led House will consider this week a resolution that would reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the official motto of the United States, according to the Los Angeles Times. The measure from Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) would also encourage the public display of the motto in all public buildings and public schools. “If religion and morality are taken out of the marketplace of ideas, the very freedom on which the United States was founded cannot be secure,” the resolution reads. It is expected to be heard on Wednesday, one of several social values issues to be considered this week.

Rape Victim Endorses Personhood Initiative

In moving testimony, a rape victim has spoken out in favor of Mississippi’s proposed personhood amendment. If approved by voters next Tuesday (Nov. 8), the constitutional amendment (Initiative 26) would ban abortion except to save the life of the mother, and it would ban cloning. The issue has spawned heated debate in the Magnolia State over recent weeks — a debate that has brought to light significant out-of-state financial backing from Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country. During a Yes on 26 press conference Monday in Jackson, Ashley Sigrest of Brandon, Mississippi, introduced herself as a “survivor of rape” who chose to end the resulting pregnancy 13 years ago. “What my rapist did to me does not compare to what I chose to do to my baby … out of shame, out of guilt, out of fear because of what a man did to me. Rape is no excuse for abortion.”

Twelve Nurses Sue over Being Forced to Help with Abortions

A dozen nurses have filed a lawsuit against a hospital run by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey over a plan that would coerce them to help with abortions, and they want an injunction right away as the hospital has scheduled them to be in the operating rooms as early as Friday. And the complaint asks that the hospital be told to return some $60 million to the federal government, too. Federal law prohibits hospitals that receive certain types of federal funds from forcing workers to help with abortions, according to the case brought by the Alliance Defense Fund. Further, New Jersey law states, “No person shall be required to perform or assist in the performance of an abortion or sterilization.” “Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist in abortions against their beliefs,” said Matt Bowman, legal counsel for the organization.

Militiamen ‘Booked’ in Bio-Toxin Plot

Four suspected members of a Georgia militia group — all in their 60s and 70s — have been charged in a bizarre plot to use explosives and the lethal bio-toxin Ricin to assassinate a ‘bucket list’ of government officials — a plan inspired, authorities say, by an online anti-government novel. Court documents state that 73-year-old Frederick Thomas, a suspected member of the group, told others that he intended to model their actions on the online novel “Absolved,” which involves small groups of citizens attacking U.S. officials. The four suspected members, who federal authorities arrested Tuesday, were expected to appear in court Wednesday. They were part of a group that tried to obtain an unregistered explosive device and sought out the complex formula to produce Ricin, a biological toxin that can be lethal in small doses. They had been talking about “covert” operations since at least March, according to court records, discussing murder, theft and using toxic agents and assassinations to undermine the state and federal government.

Vets Join Occupy Movement, Sacramento Group Sues Feds

Spurred by an injury to one of their own, military veterans are mobilizing to increase their presence and profile in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Wednesday morning, the New York City chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War and dozens of other uniformed veterans known as “Veterans of the 99%” are massing near Wall Street, where Occupy began Sept. 17. Although they’ve been participating in Occupy protests throughout the country, vets say their ranks have been swelling since last week, when former Marine and Iraq War vet Scott Olsen sustained a skull fracture when he was hit by a police projectile at an Occupy Oakland protest . Although still hospitalized, Olsen, 24, is expected to make a full recovery.

Lawyers working for Occupy Sacramento protesters in California have filed a lawsuit in federal court contending that a curfew at a park in California’s capital city violates the First Amendment, The Sacramento Bee reports. As of today, 79 people have been arrested for attempting to violate an 11 p.m. curfew at Cesar Chavez Park, according to the Bee. Sacramento is one of a handful of locations where local authorities have barred protesters supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement from camping out overnight.

Obama Acts to Reduce Prescription-Drug Shortages

President Obama signed an executive order Monday instructing the Food and Drug Administration to take actions to help reduce prescription-drug shortages. There have been more than 200 prescription-drug shortages reported so far this year, the FDA says. The most common shortages have involved cancer drugs, anesthetics used for patients undergoing surgery, as well as drugs for emergency medicine and electrolytes needed for patients on IV feeding. Doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and patients are struggling with the problem that has caused them to delay treatment, postpone surgery or make do with costlier and less-effective substitutes. Fifteen deaths have been blamed on shortages. The executive order does not give the FDA new authority, but it expands the use of the agency’s existing authority by requiring drug manufacturers to report more situations that could lead to drug shortages. The agency is adding more staff to monitor the issue.

Serious Hospital Errors Unreported

Medicare inspectors must do a better job of tracking reports of serious mistakes in care at the nation’s hospitals, as well as of informing rating agencies of the errors, according to a report released Tuesday by the agency’s inspector general. Hundreds of serious errors go unrecorded, the report found, because the inspectors who find problems at hospitals don’t tell the national agencies that accredit hospitals. That means that those hospitals continue to participate in Medicare and that they don’t learn from their mistakes, Inspector General Daniel Levinson said. Also, Levinson notes, no one tracks the effectiveness of policy changes or how the hospitals actually correct mistakes. Last year, the inspector general found that 15,000 Medicare patients die each month in part because of the treatment they receive in a hospital. However, the report shows, inspectors notified hospital accreditors of only 28 of the 88 sampled ‘immediate jeopardy’ complaints.

Painkiller Overdose Deaths Triple in Decade

The number of overdose deaths from powerful painkillers more than tripled over a decade, the government reported Tuesday — a trend the nation’s top health official called an epidemic, but one that can be stopped. Prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone led to the deaths of almost 15,000 people, more than three times the 4,000 deaths in 1999. The report shows nearly 5 percent of Americans ages 12 and older said they’ve abused painkillers in the past year — using them without a prescription or just for the high. The overdose deaths reflect the spike in the number of narcotic painkillers prescribed every year — enough to give every American a one-month supply. States oversee prescription practices and should rigorously monitor prescriptions and crack down on “pill mills” and “doctor shopping” by patients. In addition, doctors should limit prescriptions — giving only a three-day supply, for example — and look for alternative treatments.

Halloween Turns Deadly

Halloween turned deadly in New Orleans last night as gunfire erupted at four different celebrations, leaving two people dead and 13 others wounded. The shootings happened as parts of the French Quarter and Canal Street were crowded with costumed revelers celebrating Halloween. In Washington, D.C., six people were wounded in five separate shootings. In Washington, the most serious shooting was in the Georgetown area, known for years as a gathering spot on Halloween night. Police traditionally shut down streets to accommodate crowds.

  • It’s not surprising that violence accompanies devil worship on the darkest day of the year

Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing Gains Investors, Users

Thousands of drivers are borrowing cars from newfound friends for an hourly fee — and companies, both big and small, want in on the trend. Google and General Motors have followed venture-capital firms in investing in the burgeoning peer-to-peer car-sharing movement, where start-up firms such as Getaround and RelayRides — the two most popular services — are changing the way consumers rent cars. Peer-to-peer car sharing differs from Zipcar, the most popular car-sharing company, which has been around for more than a decade. Zipcar boasts a fleet of cars in 170 cities and charges users an annual membership fee that starts at $60. With peer-to-peer, you rent cars from individuals — and don’t know what you’re getting. There’s rarely a membership fee, and rentals are about on par with Zipcar, which starts at $7.25 hourly. There are 1 billion cars on the road now, and that number will reach 2 billion in the next 20 years, says Getaround co-founder Jessica Scorpio, 24. “Cars are idle 92% of the time. We saw an opportunity to enable car owners to share them when they’re not using them.”

Another DOE-Backed Energy Company Goes Bankrupt

Another energy company that received a U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee has filed for bankruptcy protection, but unlike failed solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, it seeks to continue operations. Beacon Power Corp. of Tyngsboro, Mass., which makes flywheel energy storage systems used to keep power frequency steady on electrical grids, received a $43 million DOE loan guarantee in Aug. 2010. On Monday, as news of Beacon’s bankruptcy spread, Wisconsin GOP Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, vice chair of the U.S. House Committee on Science, announced that he plans to introduce legislation to require independent audits of all DOE loan guarantees. DOE has issued $35.9 billion in loan guarantees to 38 projects nationwide, one third of which were finalized in Sept. 2011, the last month of the program. The DOE is facing fraud accusations for its Solyndra loans.

Eighteen Balanced Budget Amendments Proposed

The summer deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit also brought a promise that Congress would vote on a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. Now the question is: Which balanced-budget amendment? There are at least 18 proposed amendments pending in Congress, each with a different approach. Some put a cap on federal spending as a percentage of the economy. Some put roadblocks to raising taxes or raising the debt limit, and some protect Social Security. Most require the president to propose a balanced budget, and all have a clause allowing Congress to ignore the rules during war or national emergency. The difficulty is finding an amendment strong enough to work but flexible enough to get the votes to pass. The House of Representatives has scheduled a vote in two weeks.

Economic News

Two reports on Tuesday indicated continued slow growth for the economy: Manufacturing growth slowed in October from the previous month, a troubling sign that factories are still struggling; Builders spent slightly more in September on home construction, but that offset declines in work on public schools, roads and government offices. Factories were among the first businesses to start growing after the recession officially ended in June 2009. However, factory activity slowed this spring. Consumers cut back on purchases in the face of higher prices for gas and food.

Consumer rage in an electronic age has corporate titans doing something few have so willingly done before: back-pedaling. When Bank of America announced Tuesday that it was nixing its widely panned plan to charge consumers a monthly $5 debit card fee, it joined a handful of other familiar banks that also had back-pedaled.  SunTrust Bank and Regions Bank have joined the list of banks that have abandoned plans to charge customers a fee for using their debit cards. On Friday, Wells Fargo announced that it has canceled plans to test a debit card fee in five states. JPMorgan Chase, which has been testing the fee in two states, has decided not to extend the fee when it expires this month.

The federal government kicked off its foreclosure review process Tuesday, which will offer nearly 4.5 million consumers the chance to get their foreclosure cases reviewed for mistakes and potential restitution. The first batch of letters informing consumers of their right to a review went out Tuesday. They’ll all go out by Dec. 31. A website has also been set up at Consumers can also call 1-888-952-9105. The individual reviews, which consumers must request no later than April 30, could take months to complete.


The Greek government shocked financial markets with news that it would put its unpopular cost-cutting plan to a public vote. If it’s defeated, the country could drop the European currency and default on its debt, which would put the European banking system and regional economies at risk of another crisis. Prime Minister George Papandreou’s call for a public referendum on the deal was met Tuesday with accusations of betrayal from France, shock from economists, and stunned silence from Germany, as markets plunged around the world. Speculation was rampant that giving the people the final word could sink European banks and perhaps the EU itself. Most experts believe that given the chance, Greeks would vote against the latest bailout plan, despite its 50% write-down of some Greek debt. The debt crisis has hit hardest in Greece, where the government has been forced to cut services and raise taxes.

Two-and-a-half years after digging themselves out of the deepest financial hole since the Great Depression, the world’s economic powers that meet here this week have dug themselves another hole — and it’s getting deeper. The G-20 summit beginning Thursday in France becomes all the more difficult now that the (European Union’s) bailout plans are effectively on hold due to Greece’s decision to hold a public vote on bailout plans. The situation threatens to divide Europe just as President Obama and other world economic leaders descend on the Riviera for two days of intense discussions.


Responding to Monday’s vote by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to grant the Palestinian Authority full membership in the agency, the Israeli government has suspended the transfer of tax money it has collected for the Palestinian Authority. The tax money collected in October for the Palestinian Authority, amounting to more than 300 million Israeli shekels (about $80 million), was to be used to pay the salaries of policemen and clerks of the PA. Israeli has also decided not to allow UNESCO missions into Israel. The United States cut off all American funding for UNESCO following the U.N. vote on Monday, as required by 1990s laws barring American funding of any agency that grants membership to the Palestinians. The Israelis also announced approval of a new wave of settlement construction in the West Bank. The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said 2,000 housing units will be built in East Jerusalem and two other areas.

Israel successfully test-fired on Wednesday a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and striking Iran, fanning a public debate over whether the country’s leaders are agitating for a military attack on Tehran’s atomic facilities. While Israeli leaders have long warned that a military strike was an option, the most intensive round of public discourse on the subject was ignited over the weekend by a report in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper that said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak favor an attack. That was followed by a report in the Haaretz daily Wednesday that Netanyahu is now lobbying Cabinet members for an attack, despite the complexity of the operation and the high likelihood it would draw a deadly retaliation from Iran.


Pentagon officials maintain that the Afghan army and police are on track to handle security when U.S. troops withdraw, although top NATO officers acknowledge that desertion is a problem and that the country will need at least $4 billion a year to maintain its forces. Better pay, two additional years of training and appropriate equipment should result in Afghan security forces that can sustain themselves well beyond 2014, when President Obama wants all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, the officers say. U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for training and equipping Afghan security forces. That cost was $9.2 billion in fiscal year 2010, $11.6 billion in 2011 and $11.2 billion for 2012.

  • The official party line is overly optimistic. Afghanistan will continue to be a troublesome, expensive proposition for years to come.


The U.N. Security Council urged Libyan authorities on Monday to prevent thousands of shoulder-fired missiles and other weapons purchased by Moammar Gadhafi from getting into the hands of armed groups and terrorists following the country’s eight-month conflict. The U.N. also called on the Libyan government to destroy chemical weapons stockpiles in coordination with international authorities. Libya under Gadhafi accumulated the largest known stockpile of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in any non-producing country.

The Libyan war may be over, but rivalries rage on among some regional militias, leading to a mutual distrust that poses a challenge to the new leadership. Earlier this week, the rivalry was evident when dozens of fighters clashed at a Tripoli hospital in what residents said was the biggest armed confrontation in the capital in weeks. Tripoli fighters said Tuesday they are concerned about the rising tensions among the various groups, which are increasingly divided along regional allegiances. The scene on Tripoli’s streets these days — heavily armed men brandishing guns and racing across the city with no central command and little or no accountability — has raised concerns among residents.


Syria is planting landmines along parts of the country’s border with Lebanon as refugees stream out of the country to escape the crackdown on anti-government protests. The exodus to neighboring Lebanon and Turkey has proven a deep embarrassment for increasingly besieged President Bashar Assad, who warned over the weekend that the Middle East will burn if foreign powers try to intervene in his country’s conflict. More than 5,000 Syrians have fled to Lebanon since the crisis began in March. The landmines are the latest sign of just how deeply shaken the Assad regime has become since the uprising began nearly eight months ago. Assad, a 46-year-old eye doctor who trained in Britain, still has a firm grip on power, although the cost has been mighty: The U.N. says some 3,000 people have been killed by security forces.


Pakistan said Wednesday morning that it has agreed to normalize trade relations with archenemy India. The BBC reports that Pakistan’s cabinet unanimously approved the award of “most favored nation” trading status to India. Pakistan had previously tied the liberalization of trade with India to a resolution of the long-running dispute over Kashmir. India has already extended most favored nation status to Pakistan.


An airstrike hit a refugee camp in southern Somalia, killing at least five people and wounding 45, most of them children, an international aid agency said Monday. Kenya’s military acknowledged carrying out an air raid but said it targeted only Islamist militants. A Somali Islamist militant group used the casualties from the Kenyan airstrike as a recruitment tool. Kenyan military blamed an al-Shabab fighter for the civilian deaths, saying an al-Shabab fighter drove a burning truck of ammunition into the refugee camp in the town of Jilib where it exploded. The Kenyan air force hit the truck on Sunday as it drove away from an al-Shabab training camp and accused the driver of attempting to use the refugees as a human shield.


Three more Christians imprisoned for practicing their faith have died in military prison camps in western Eritrea, bringing the total number of imprisoned believers’ deaths to 21, the Christian Post reports. Two Christians, ages 28 and 21, who were arrested during a 2009 prayer meeting and subjected to two years of physical torture, died as the result of starvation and untreated health problems, and a 26-year-old Christian died after being denied medical treatment for malaria because he refused to recant his faith. “Eritrea is a small country that has a bull’s-eye on the backs of evangelical Christians,” said Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors USA.


Cyber attacks traced to China targeted at least 48 chemical and military-related companies in an effort to steal technical secrets, a U.S. computer security company said Tuesday, adding to complaints about pervasive Internet crime linked to the country. “The purpose of the attacks appears to be industrial espionage, collecting intellectual property for competitive advantage,” said the report. Security experts say China is a center for Internet crime. Attacks against governments, companies and human rights groups have been traced to the country.


Parts shortages from three months of catastrophic flooding in Thailand have forced Honda to cut U.S. and Canadian factory production in half for the second time this year. The flooding, which began in July and has forced many auto parts plants to close, also affected Toyota.

While people from West Virginia to Maine huddled in the cold Monday, state officials and utility workers were struggling with the third strike of disasters in three months. A rare October snowstorm this weekend slammed areas that were hit hard by flooding after Hurricane Irene in August and Tropical Storm Lee in September. At least 21 deaths were blamed on the latest storm. More than 3 million customers lost power in the Northeast. About 1.6 million customers remained without power Tuesday. Utility crews have been slower to fix Northeast power outages caused by last weekend’s record-setting snowstorm than they were after Hurricane Irene and its remnants because they had less time to prepare.

For a world already weary of weather catastrophes, the latest warning from top climate scientists paints a grim future: More floods, more heat waves, more droughts and greater costs to deal with them. The report says that the extremes could eventually grow so severe that some locations become “increasingly marginal as places to live.” The report from the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change marks a change in climate science, from focusing on subtle shifts in average temperatures to concentrating on the harder-to-analyze freak events that grab headlines, hurt economies and kill people. The USA has already seen a record 12 storms, floods, wildfires and droughts that caused more than $1billion in damage this year.

  • Records will continue to topple as end-time weather grows more and more severe, although climate change is not due to human causes but rather to a natural cycle induced by supernatural forces

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