Pro-Life Groups Split on Legal Tactics

A widening and emotional rift over legal tactics has split the anti-abortion movement, with its longtime leaders facing a Tea Party-like insurrection from many grass-roots activists who are impatient with the pace of change. For decades, established anti-abortion leaders like National Right to Life and Catholic bishops have pushed for gradually chipping away at the edges of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion, with state laws to impose limits on late-term abortions, to require women to view sonograms or to prohibit insurance coverage for the procedure. But now many activists and evangelical Christian groups are pressing for an all-out legal assault on Roe. v. Wade in the hope — others call it a reckless dream — that the Supreme Court is ready to consider a radical change in the ruling.

The rift widened last month over a so-called personhood amendment in Mississippi that would have barred virtually all abortions by giving legal rights to embryos. It was voted down but is still being pursued in several states. Now, in Ohio, a bill before the state legislature that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, usually six to eight weeks into pregnancy, is the latest effort by activists to force a legal showdown. The so-called heartbeat bill is tearing apart the state’s powerful anti-abortion forces. Ohio Right to Life, which has been the premier lobby, and the state Catholic conference have refused to support the measure, arguing that the court is not ready for such a radical step and that it could cause a legal setback. But the idea has stirred the passions of other pro-life leaders. “I was Mr. Incremental,” Dr. John C. Willke, the former president of National Right to Life and one of the founders of the modern anti-abortion movement, said of his career promoting the more modest restrictions. “But after nearly 40 years of abortion on demand, it’s time to take a bold step forward.”

  • Unless Roe v. Wade is overturned soon, the blood curse over America will soon destroy our country

Muslims More Religious Than Other Faiths

Every religion has its true believers and its doubters, its pious and its pragmatists, but new evidence suggests that Muslims tend to be more committed to their faith than other believers, according to a survey by Ipsos-Mori, a British research company that polls around the world.. Muslims are much more likely than Christians and Hindus to say that their own faith is the only true path to paradise, according to a recent global survey, and they are more inclined to say their religion is an important part of their daily lives. Muslims also have a much greater tendency to say their religion motivates them to do good works. Islam is the world’s second-largest religion – behind Christianity and ahead of Hinduism, the third largest. “When they confront the West that they perceive as morally in decline, many Muslims feel that Islam is the best way of life,” says Azyumardi Azra, the director of the graduate school at the State Islamic University in Jakarta. “Muslims have this mindset that they alone possess the final truth,” says Husain, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Muslims believe “Jews and Christians went before us and Mohammed was the last prophet,” says Husain.

  • Christianity isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a religion but rather a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is still alive (unlike Mohammed) and will be returning soon to reclaim the earth as His Kingdom

D.E.A. Launders Mexican Profits of Drug Cartels

Undercover American narcotics agents have laundered or smuggled millions of dollars in drug proceeds as part of Washington’s expanding role in Mexico’s fight against drug cartels, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials. The agents, primarily with the Drug Enforcement Administration, have handled shipments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal cash across borders, those officials said, to identify how criminal organizations move their money, where they keep their assets and, most important, who their leaders are. They said agents had deposited the drug proceeds in accounts designated by traffickers, or in shell accounts set up by agents. The high-risk activities raise delicate questions about the agency’s effectiveness in bringing down drug kingpins, underscore diplomatic concerns about Mexican sovereignty, and blur the line between surveillance and facilitating crime.

  • Like the Fast & Furious gun running scandal, these activities seem to do more to facilitate drug gangs than to shut them down

‘Fast and Furious’ Whistleblowers Struggle after Testifying Against ATF Program

Six months ago, Sen. Chuck Grassley warned federal agency administrators against targeting whistleblowers for retaliation. Today whistleblowers who worked for the agencies involved face isolation, retaliation & transfer. several agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives stood before Congress to testify about the details of a U.S. government program that armed Mexico’s largest drug cartel with thousands of assault rifles. The administration denied it at the time and questioned the agents’ integrity. And while President Obama now says the operation was a mistake and that “people who screwed up will be held accountable,”but  the record so far does not bear that out. Those in charge of the botched operation have been reassigned or promoted, their pensions intact. But many of those who blew the whistle have been isolated or transferred to lesser positions, according to Fox News.

  • Typical government response, First deny, then admit mistakes and promise action, only to protect their own while squashing those who courageously expose underhanded and illicit activity

More Occupy Protesters Arrested

Authorities say riot police moved into a downtown Portland park area and arrested several anti-Wall Street protesters Saturday night after they refused to leave. Occupy Portland demonstrators set up tents in the park earlier in the day and vowed to stay through the winter, defying city officials who said overnight camping will not be allowed. The Portland protesters had been without an encampment since police swept through a downtown site three weeks ago.

U.S. Park Police arrested dozens of Occupy D.C. protesters who refused to dismantle an unfinished wooden structure they built in a park overnight. On Sunday morning, police told them they’d need a permit and gave them an hour to disassemble it. When the protesters failed to comply, officers arrested 31 people and dismantled the structure.

Postal Service to End Overnight Mail Delivery

The Postal Service on Monday plans to formally propose eliminating “overnight standards” for first-class mail, as it makes sweeping changes in a bid to avoid insolvency. If approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, it means first-class mail would generally take more than a day to reach its destination. Brennan explained that the Postal Service needs to overhaul service standards as it closes hundreds of processing facilities. The office announced in September it would look at closing 252 more facilities, aimed at saving up to $3 billion — after closing nearly 190 over the past five years. It’s looking at losing up to 35,000 positions as well, and ending Saturday delivery. According to the office, total mail volume over the past five years dropped by more than 43 billion pieces.

Economic News

Lawmakers are poised to spend $120 billion or so to renew a Social Security tax cut that averaged just under $1,000 per household this year. They’re ready to commit up to $50 billion more to continue unemployment benefits to people out of work for more than half a year. And doctors have no reason to doubt they won’t be rescued, again, from steep cuts in their Medicare payments. Combine that with the tax cuts and jobless benefits, and Congress could add almost $200 billion to the federal ledger this month. The coming year-end spending spree after so much debate over budget deficits shows just how hard it is for politicians to stem the government’s flow of red ink. The year-end spree follows the failure of three high-profile efforts at big deficit deals: talks led by Vice President Joe Biden; efforts by President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to strike a “grand bargain”; and the ignominious failure of a special deficit Super-Committee before Thanksgiving.

  • Gutless politicians are both the cause and hindrance to our debt problems

Home prices across the nation are right back where they were at the beginning of 2003 and the effect on home ownership could continue for decades. Home prices through September had fallen a deeper-than-expected 3.9%, compared with the third quarter of 2010. This takes them below the low of 2009, where briefly it was thought that prices were about to turn around. All this could push home ownership down to levels not seen at least since before the Census began tracking this data in 1963. Home ownership soared to 70% in 2005, but it could fall to 62% by 2015 according to economists.

Europe

For more than half a century, the legacy of World War II has meant that the mere mention of a new rise of German power sent shudders through European nations. Now, Germany is increasingly calling the shots for the entire continent — and few seem to mind. European leaders are panicked over unsustainable debt that could take down the entire global economy. From the streets to the halls of power, all eyes are trained on Germany — by far Europe’s biggest economy — to lead the continent out of crisis. On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed forward with a Berlin-engineered action plan for containing Europe’s crisis, calling for tougher rules to keep national budgets under control. She set the agenda for this week’s critical European Union summit, saying it would grapple with a strategy to make sure countries follow the rules and write those changes into EU treaties. At the same time she talked down any fears of German preeminence in Europe.

Premier Mario Monti said Sunday his government of technocrats has approved a package of austerity and growth measures worth euro30 billion ($40.53 billion) to “reawaken” the Italian economy and help save the euro common currency from collapse. The measures include immediate cuts to the costs of maintaining Italy’s bulky political class as well as significant measures to fight tax evasion. The package also includes measures to spur growth and competition, while aiming to stamp out rampant nepotism. But it also raises the retirement age and the number of years of service to qualify for a full pension, steps strongly opposed by unions, and imposes new taxes on Italians’ private wealth, including their homes, boats and luxury cars, measures that conservatives have protested.

Middle East

The United States has pointedly ramped up its public warnings over the last few weeks about the risks of military action against Iran, accompanied by private words of caution to Israel, which sees Tehran’s nuclear push as a direct threat. But so far, at least, comments by U.S. and Israeli officials suggest that Washington’s private lobbying has yet to convince Israeli hard-liners and even some moderates that alternatives, like sanctions and diplomatic pressure, will ultimately succeed in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said an Israeli attack risked “an escalation” that could “consume the Middle East in confrontation.” But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech on Sunday said nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to Israel’s very existence. According to the former Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Major-General Amos Yadlin, Iran has enough material to develop “four or five” nuclear bombs.

The Jerusalem Prayer Team reports that, “The war for Israel’s survival—the war to stop Iran from finishing its nuclear weapons program—has already started. The massive explosion that rocked Isfahan earlier this week has now been confirmed by satellite photos to have struck the uranium enrichment facility there. One unnamed Israeli source told a London newspaper that it was ‘no accident.’ Sources in Israel confirm that the covert phase of the war has already begun. These first actions are being carried out by special forces and covert ops teams that are trained to strike without being noticed. There have already been two successful strikes at Iran’s military capacity.”

  • Sanctions and threats will not stop Iran whose primary goal is to destroy Israel, who thus have no other option than a preemptive strike.

Egypt

Islamist parties made dramatic advances in Egypt’s parliamentary elections during the first round of voting for lawmakers last week, a result reflecting a growing embrace of religious-oriented sentiment across turbulent North Africa. The relatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party won 40% of the vote. Al Noor Salafi Movement, a hard-line Muslim group, had the second highest total, 20%, in the first round of voting for the lower house of parliament, according to official election results. In the first election after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak, the tallies reflected similar results in Morocco and Tunisia. Moderate Islamists in those North African nations prevailed in recent elections. Secularists weren’t surprised at the result but they were stunned that some longtime secular groups performed poorly.

Thousands of Muslims attacked and besieged Copts in the majority-Christian village of el Ghorayzat, killing two and seriously wounding others, as well as looting and torching homes and businesses, ASSIST News Service reports. A property quarrel between a Coptic man and his Muslim neighbor led to a Muslim mob storming the village, murdering two Christian brothers and going on a rampage of looting and burning Coptic-owned homes and businesses. “This is not revenge; this is simply an excuse to kill people because they are Christians, as well as loot their property,” an eyewitness said.

Pakistan

Battered by Pakistani military operations and U.S. drone strikes, the once-formidable Pakistani Taliban has splintered into more than 100 smaller factions, weakened and running short of cash, according to security officials, analysts and tribesmen from the insurgent heartland. Known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP, the Taliban want to oust the U.S.-backed government and install a hard-line Islamist regime. Set up in 2007, the Pakistani Taliban is an umbrella organization created to represent roughly 40 insurgent groups in the tribal belt plus Al Qaeda-linked groups headquartered in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province.The first signs of cracks within the Pakistani Taliban appeared after its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a drone strike in August 2009. Since then, the group has steadily deteriorated. Turf wars have flared as militants fleeing the Pakistani military operations have moved into territory controlled by other militants, sometimes sparking clashes between groups. And as leaders have been killed by drones, lieutenants have fought among themselves over who will replace them.

After being ordered to vacate following an alleged attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers,  U.S. military personnel have started leaving Shamsi air base in Pakistan, U.S. cargo planes arrived at Shamsi air base to take equipment and other gear used by U.S. personnel out of the country. All roads to the air base have been sealed and Pakistani security troops deployed near the base were put on high alert as the U.S. began its departure. Shamsi is used as part of the CIA Predator drone program, and officially the U.S. military is not there. Predator drones were allowed to land at Shamsi when they couldn’t make it back to Afghanistan but the U.S. has reduced its dependency on the site since tensions with Pakistan began to rise a year ago.

Iraq

Iraq’s prime minister said Saturday that his security forces are ready to protect the country once the American military withdraws by the end of this year, and played down any suggestion that Iraq would become a follower of Iran. Nouri al-Maliki told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Saturday that he has “no concerns whatsoever” about security after all American troops withdraw by Jan. 1. Iraqi security forces have proven themselves capable and able to protect their own country, he said.

Rioters attacked liquor stores, a massage parlor and hotels after being stirred up by fiery sermons in a predominantly Kurdish city in north Iraq, police officials said Saturday. Pro-government crowds then attacked Islamist party offices in retaliation. Thirty people including 20 policemen were reported injured in the rampage, which followed Friday midday prayers in the town of Zakho, some 300 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Iran

Iran’s armed forces have shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane that violated Iranian airspace along the country’s eastern border, the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday. The report warned of a strong and crushing response to any violations of the country’s airspace by American drone aircraft. The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan said in a statement the aircraft may be an American drone that its operators lost contact with last week while it was flying a mission over neighboring western Afghanistan.

In the latest attempt to fight the growth of Iran’s house church network, the country’s Minister of Intelligence announced that house churches were a threat to youth, Mission Network News reports. Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs said, “In the last year, we have seen a real change of tone in government reports in the speeches of leaders there, from basically ignoring the church and ignoring the growth of the church to now speaking out forcefully against the church and against people becoming Christians.” As more and more Iranian youth are turning to Christ, the government has cracked down harder, arresting and imprisoning Christian leaders and converts. However, Nettleton said there was an increasing spiritual hunger, adding that he remained optimistic the Gospel would continue to fuel the growth of the church.

Syria

A clash between army defectors and troops in the northwest of the country has left at least 15 people dead. Saturday’s pre-dawn fighting in the city of Idlib killed seven soldiers and policemen, as well as five anti-government army defectors and three civilians. The U.N.’s top human rights official said this week that Syria is in a state of civil war, and that more than 4,000 people have been killed since mid-March. Until recently, most of the bloodshed in Syria was caused by security forces firing on mainly peaceful protesters, but there have been growing reports of army defectors and armed civilians fighting regime forces. Until recently, most of the bloodshed in Syria was caused by security forces firing on mainly peaceful protesters, but there have been growing reports of army defectors and armed civilians fighting regime forces.

Australia

Australia’s ruling party voted Saturday to endorse same-sex marriage, a reversal of its long-standing position. The impact of the vote at the center-left Labor Party’s annual conference was diluted by the party’s endorsement of a motion by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to allow lawmakers to make a “conscience vote” on bills attempting to legalize gay marriage. That means legislators can vote on the issue according to their personal beliefs rather than being forced to vote in line with the party’s official position. Gillard’s government holds a wafer-thin majority in Parliament over the conservative Liberal Party which opposes same-sex marriage

Russia

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s party struggled to hang onto its majority in Russia’s parliamentary election, results showed Monday, suggesting Russians were wearying of the man who has dominated Russian politics for more than a decade. Rival parties and election monitors said even a result of around 50 percent was inflated, alleging ballot-stuffing and other significant violations at the polls. Putin wanted to see his United Russia party do well in Sunday’s election as a sign of popular support for his return to the presidency in a vote now three months away. Despite the sobering setback, he was still expected to have little trouble reclaiming the position he held from 2000 to 2008. Putin has systematically destroyed any potential challengers and most Russians do not see any credible alternatives, despite growing dissatisfaction with his strongman style. Grumbling over pervasive official corruption and the gap between ordinary people and the superrich has become widespread.

Earthquakes

A 5.3-magnitude earthquake struck under the strait separating New Zealand’s major north and south islands Saturday night, causing minor damage in the capital Wellington. The tremor was felt strongly in Wellington and Marlborough on the north and south islands, respectively. There were several reports of minor damage to buildings in Wellington.

Weather

NASA satellites have found that a historic drought parching Texas has depleted aquifers to lows rarely seen since 1948. Such low levels have been detected only 2 percent of the time since mapping began 63 years ago. It’ll take months, and even years, to fully replenish the aquifers. The data has confirmed suspicions that the drought has significantly reduced the groundwater supply.

After the Rhine’s water level fell due to lack of rain in Germany, a massive World War II-era bomb was discovered. City officials said Sunday that some 45,000 residents living within a radius of about 1.2 miles from the bomb site had to be evacuated for the day as experts successfully defused the bomb. The British 1.8 ton bomb could cause massive damage if it exploded. It was found last week alongside a 275-pound U.S. bomb. Finding unexploded bombs dropped by the Allies over Germany is common even more than 60 years after the conflict.

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