2011 Voters Give a Glimpse into 2012

The off-year elections offered a glimpse of voter attitudes a year before the presidential election. Ohio voters rejected a new law sharply restricting public workers’ right to collective bargaining Tuesday. Voters in Mississippi rejected an anti-abortion proposal that would have defined life as beginning at conception. Voters in Mississippi and Kentucky kept their governorships in the same party’s hands despite worries over a sluggish economy. In Arizona, state Sen. Russell Pearce, author of the state’s tough immigration law, was ousted in a recall led by a fellow Republican. Georgia voters approved Sunday alcohol sales.

  • The ‘glimpse’ is not good for conservative, Christian values. Unions, abortion, booze, amnesty for immigrants and more of the same were the big winners. America’s decline continues unabated.

Mississippi Rejects Personhood Amendment

Mississippi voters Tuesday defeated a ballot initiative that would have declared life begins at conception, a proposal that supporters sought in the Bible Belt state as a way to prompt a legal challenge to abortion rights nationwide. The so-called “personhood” initiative was rejected by more than 55 percent of voters, falling far short of the threshold needed for it to be enacted. If it had passed, it was virtually assured of drawing legal challenges because it conflicts with the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a legal right to abortion. Supporters of the initiative wanted to provoke a lawsuit to challenge the landmark ruling. Pro-life advocates say they’re still pursuing life-at-fertilization ballot initiatives in six other states.

Ohio Voters Reject Republican-Backed Union Limits

The state’s new collective bargaining law was defeated Tuesday after an expensive union-backed campaign that pitted firefighters, police officers and teachers against the Republican establishment. In a political blow to GOP Gov. John Kasich, voters handily rejected the law, which would have limited the bargaining abilities of 350,000 unionized public workers. Labor and business interests poured more than $30 million into the nationally watched campaign, and turnout was high for an off-year election. The law hadn’t taken effect yet. Tuesday’s result means the state’s current union rules will stand, at least until the GOP-controlled Legislature determines its next move.

Russell Pearce on Verge of Historic Loss in Recall

Russell Pearce, one of the most influential state politicians in the nation and a powerful voice on illegal immigration, was on the verge of losing his Senate seat in Tuesday’s unprecedented recall election. Pearce appeared resigned to defeat, saying “if being recalled is the price for keeping one’s promises, so be it.” If the vote totals hold, Pearce becomes the first sitting Senate president in the nation and the first Arizona legislator ever to lose a recall election. He would be required to step down immediately once the results become official. Pearce critics gathered more than 10,000 signatures to force the recall, which was seen as a referendum on Pearce’s get-tough posture on immigration issues.

Occupy Protests Plagued by Reports of Sex Attacks, Violent Crime

A rash of reports of sexual assaults at Occupy Wall Street protests across the country has both police and activists raising red flags. Nearly a half-dozen assaults have been reported at Occupy camps, including three at the New York City protests, which have prompted protesters to set up a “women only” tent in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to provide a safe haven. Reports of sexual abuse also surfaced in Dallas, where a 23-year-old man was accused of having sex with a 14-year-old runaway girl, and in Cleveland, where cops opened an investigation of a sexual assault that allegedly occurred on Oct. 15. The incidents of sex crimes, reports of petty theft, assaults and general outbursts of violence have sprung up not only around Wall Street, but in Occupy camps across the country.

God/Prayer Missing from WWII Memorial

In spite of the objections from the Obama administration, Republican lawmakers and conservative activists are working hard to have prayer added to a memorial in Washington, DC. Before he took to the airways as allied forces were landing on the beaches in Normandy on the morning of June 6, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed with the nation: “Almighty God, our sons, pride of our nation this day have set upon the mighty endeavor, have struggled to preserve our republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.” H.R. 2070 would allow FDR’s prayer to be mounted at the World War II Memorial in DC. Most memorials in the nation’s capital reference God, but there is no such message at the WWII memorial. “That’s not gone without notice to many of the WWII veterans who have gone to the memorial,” Ohio Christian Alliance president Chris Long reports. “In fact, one of the things that they lament [is] that when reading the proclamation of war that FDR gave to the nation when they declared war, it ends with ‘so help us God.’ Well, that’s been omitted from the historical statement.”

Golden Parachutes Surpass $100 Million

The golden parachute is evolving into the platinum kiss. Scores of CEOs depart the corner office with huge exit packages. But recent deals —$100 million (and up) — are raising eyebrows even among those accustomed to oversized payouts. The latest execs who will cash in as they step aside: Nabors Industries’ former CEO, Gene Isenberg, due $126 million when he exits as chairman, and IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, due $170 million. They follow Google’s Eric Schmidt, who received $100 million in stock after leaving as CEO. Worth it or not, the trio underscore the pay inequity that has made Corporate America’s elite ripe targets of populist movements such as Occupy Wall Street. Moreover, their paydays draw fresh wrath from corporate governance experts.

Economic News

The rate at which mortgage holders were late with their payments by 60 days or more rose in the June-to-September period for the first time since the last three months of 2009. 5.88% of homeowners missed two or more payments, an early sign of possible foreclosure. That was up from 5.82% in the second quarter.

Foreclosure sales are moving so slowly in many states that at the current pace, it will take more than eight years on average to clear the 2.1 million homes in foreclosure or with seriously delinquent mortgages, new research shows. The backlogs suggest that the fallout from the nation’s worst housing-market collapse is likely to weigh on real estate prices in many markets for years to come.

Americans borrowed more in September to buy cars and attend college, but they charged less to their credit cards for a third straight month. The figures suggest that consumers are growing more cautious about taking on high-interest debt in a weak economy.

Italian bond yields spiked above 7% Tuesday, a sign that investors are selling the bonds, losing faith in the country’s ability to repay its debt. Analysts say Italy will not be able to refinance its debt at current rates, making it more likely to require international assistance.

Italy

It wasn’t the charges of tax evasion, bribery, influence peddling or even paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl that brought down Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. On Tuesday, Europe’s fast-growing debt crisis claimed its latest victim in Berlusconi, who has led Italy for 11 of the past 17 years. He vowed to resign after shepherding the country’s economic austerity package through Parliament, creating at least some short-term relief for Europe’s fourth-largest economy. If Berlusconi steps down, it will mark the fourth European government felled this year amid costly bailouts and emergency austerity measures.

Greece

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou will hand in his resignation to the country’s president Wednesday, his office has confirmed, following days of talks on forming a new government. Earlier Wednesday, Papandreou updated French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the “imminent” formation of a coalition government. Papandreou told the French leader that the new government would have support from both the majority and the opposition parties. The political turmoil in Greece has shaken international markets, as investors fear a new bailout deal negotiated with European leaders late last month — which has stringent austerity measures attached — may not be implemented.

Iran

Iran won’t retreat “one iota” from its nuclear program, but the world is being misled by claims that it seeks atomic weapons, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday in his first reaction since a U.N. watchdog report that Tehran is on the brink of developing a nuclear warhead. Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France would support boosting sanctions against Tehran to an “unprecedented scale” if Iran stonewalls investigations, even as Israel and others say that military options are still possible. Meanwhile, Iran’s chief allies, China and Russia, have issued cautious statements calling for diplomacy and dialogue.

Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons since before 2004, testing detonators and other components that have few uses other than for a nuclear bomb, says a report released Tuesday by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency. The report, sent Tuesday to 35 nations on the IAEA’s board, says Iran, which signed the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), is violating the pact. Congressional leaders called for crippling sanctions on Iran’s financial institutions and oil industry and nations that do business with it.

Liberia

An election that was supposed to solidify peace in this nation emerging from war was marred by dismal turnout Tuesday, after the opposition went ahead with a boycott despite last-minute appeals from the United States and the United Nations Security Council. The move guarantees re-election for the continent’s first and only female president who was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but country experts worry that the low turnout could discredit Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s victory and delegitimize her government. It’s worrisome in the Tennessee-sized nation of 3.9 million that experienced one of Africa’s most horrific civil wars and where a fragile peace is held in place largely by the presence of some 9,000 United Nations peacekeepers.

Burma

While the West is lauding Burma for its reforms, the so-called democratic reforms are little more than a smokescreen behind which the country’s war against the Christian Kachin people continues unabated, according to ASSIST News Service. Burma’s regime is intent on advancing its interests as the country’s geo-strategic value has risen in line with China’s economic and military ascendancy. Some analysts speculate that China might be behind Burma’s intent to ethnically cleanse Kachin State of its 90-percent-Christian population, and it has been reported that China is blocking the delivery of food, emergency shelter and medical aid for the 30,000 displaced Kachin residents. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has downplayed the situation, but the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma reports that more than 15,000 displaced Kachin are confined to a remote mountainous area on the Chinese border in “perilous” conditions. Meanwhile, Burma’s Buddhist-supremacist regime continues to impose severe restrictions on Christianity in many towns in Kachin State, cracking down on the freedoms to hold Bible studies and prayer, as well as burning churches and killing, enslaving and brutalizing Christians.

India

A stampede killed 16 Hindu pilgrims and injured about 50 during a religious ceremony Tuesday on the banks of the Ganges River in northern India. The stampede at Haridwar in Uttrakhand state was triggered when some of the pilgrims tripped and fell while those behind continued to push forward. Thousands of people had converged on the river banks for the prayer ceremony in the temple-filled town in the foothills of the Himalayas where the Ganges enters the sprawling plains of northern India. Hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit Haridwar every year for bathing in the Ganges, which they believe will cleanse them of sins and free them from the cycle of life and rebirth.

Vietnam

A gang said to be following police orders attacked a Central Vietnam pastor’s family with iron bars and wooden clubs, seriously injuring some, Compass Direct News reports. On the same Sunday that local authorities disrupted pastor Thien An’s house church service, a gang of about 20 men attacked his family — who locked Pastor Thien away in a secure room because they believed the gang wanted to kill him — twice, at 1 p.m. and then again at 8:30 p.m. During both attacks, Pastor Thien called four levels of police and security officials for help, but his calls went unanswered; church members said “even a child” could figure out the connection between the public security police and the gang who attacked them. Police had visited his home the week before to “investigate” his house church, whose application for registration had been denied twice by authorities.

Nigeria

An armed gang opened fire at a church in Nigeria’s Kaduna state last Thursday night during an overnight vigil, killing two people and wounding 11, the Christian Post reports. According to the BBC, the attack was likely connected to a revenge initiative by two Muslim extremist groups, Hasus and Fulanis, fighting back after many were displaced earlier this year when Kaduna’s first-ever Christian governor was elected. Kaduna State is divided among religious and political lines — Christians occupy a large part of the south and Muslims are concentrated in the north, similar to the way Nigeria as a whole is divided — and the situation has led to numerous violent clashes throughout the country.

Earthquakes

A fairly strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 has hit off the shores of Japan’s southern Okinawa Island. The Tuesday quake was about 135 miles away from the island was not expected to cause a tsunami. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Weather

Floodwaters from Thailand’s flood-ravaged central heartland pushed farther into Bangkok on Monday, as residents of long-submerged provinces north of the capital started to rebuild their lives. The water slowly advancing through Bangkok’s northern and western neighborhoods is threatening the city’s subway system, two key industrial estates and the emergency headquarters set up to deal with the flooding that has claimed more than 500 lives nationwide.

A large tornado touched down in southwestern Oklahoma and moved northeast across the state. Some damage was reported from earlier twisters. Wind gusts of 65 mph and golf-ball-size hail were widely reported. Earlier in Tillman County, a funnel cloud destroyed an Oklahoma State University Extension Test Center near Tipton and damaged three other structures. Some buildings have been damaged in the southwestern corner of the state.

Tens of thousands of Connecticut residents awoke Monday as part of an unenviable fraternity: people entering their second week without power after an early-season storm that hammered the Northeast with wet, heavy snow. Power might not be restored to everyone until Wednesday.

An unusual Bering Sea storm packing hurricane-force winds and 35-foot waves — a type of storm not seen for decades in Alaska — moved rapidly Tuesday toward the western Alaska coastline. The storm was traveling at 60 mph and had reached the western Aleutian Islands.

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