Signs of the Times (2/6/12)

Komen Reverses Decision on Funding for Planned Parenthood

Facing intense pressure and widening furor from a growing swell of critics, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation on Friday reversed a controversial decision to end grants to Planned Parenthood. Komen, the nation’s leading breast cancer advocacy group, had provided grants to Planned Parenthood for years, including nearly $700,000 in 2011. But in a move critics said was politically motivated, Komen said Tuesday it would no longer provide funding, based on recent internal changes that bar the foundation from providing funding to organizations that are under investigation. Planned Parenthood, which provides breast examinations and related care to thousands of women unable to afford health care, is under investigation by Congress to determine whether the organization is using federal funds for abortions. Critics blasted Komen, contending the foundation decided to terminate its funding of Planned Parenthood under pressure from anti-abortion activists — a charge Komen founder Nancy Brinker denied.

  • Another barometer of America’s pulse and moralistic decay, choosing murder over the sanctity of life.

Most Women Pro-Life

As female pro-life leaders gathered in D.C. this week for one of the largest events ever held to honor and mobilize pro-life women, many of them echoed the same facts — that the majority of American women are pro-life, and that they are the ones leading the fight against abortion, CBN News reports. Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, cited statistics showing that pro-life women are now a majority, and a growing one. “People keep flocking in our direction as women themselves are speaking up to talk about how much the abortion experience damaged them, how much they regret that decision,” she said. Radio personality Mary Katherine Ham added that many women were fed up with the insistence of liberal-leaning feminists that all liberated women must hold pro-choice views. “The truth is that women are at the helm of the pro-life movement,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List.

Obama Hears Pro-Life Message at Prayer Breakfast

President Barack Obama has attended the National Prayer Breakfast, where the keynote speaker spoke out against abortion. Christian author Eric Metaxas summarized biographies of William Wilberforce, who fought to outlaw slavery, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who stood up for Jews in Nazi Germany. He then asked: “Who do we say is not fully human today? Who is expendable to us?” Metaxas suggested that only God can open people’s eyes to see the unborn as human beings, and urged pro-life advocates to love those who disagree with them.

Police Sweep Away Occupy Encampments

U.S. Park Police swept through the Occupy D.C. encampment in Washington’s McPherson Square on Saturday, hauling away bedding, clothing and dead rats in what they characterized as a protest that had become a public nuisance. More than 100 police officers — some on horseback, others in yellow hazardous materials suits — arrived at the square two blocks from the White House at 6 a.m. Saturday after warning the protesters on Monday that camping in the federal space is illegal. At least eleven people were arrested, and U.S. Park Police said an officer was struck with a brick in the face. Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser says the protesters, who began the occupation Oct. 1, can remain day and night. “This is not an eviction,” he said. “They can remain in the park and exercise their First Amendment rights.”

Police also moved in and dismantled the Occupy Austin encampment at City Hall. The city said it no longer could afford the cost of police overtime and site maintenance. Meanwhile, dozens of Occupy Oakland demonstrators burned an American flag and marched through the streets Saturday night, a week after police fired tear gas to quell violent demonstrations and hundreds were arrested following a mass break-in at City Hall. Saturday’s action was aimed at protesting what they claim was abuse at the hands of officers during last Saturday’s protest that peaked with rock and bottle throwing from protesters and volleys of tear gas in response from the police.

Real Unemployment Rate 23%

The real unemployment rate for January 2012 is closer to 23% percent, not the 8.3 percent reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics no longer considers as “unemployed” those workers without jobs who have not looked for work in the past year because they feel no jobs are available. The only measure BLS reports to the public as the official monthly unemployment rate is the seasonally adjusted U3 number. However, the BLS website also shows the U6 January unemployment rate of 15.1 percent. U6 unemployment includes those marginally attached to the labor force and the “under-employed,” those who have accepted part-time jobs when they are really looking for full-time employment.

Economic News

The U.S. increased the debt ceiling on Friday (with 52 votes from the Senate), allowing us to borrow another $1.2 trillion to goose the economy. Another $120 billion was added to the national debt in just two days. This year’s $3.6 trillion federal budget is 20% larger than the 2008 budget, so spending is expanding, not contracting.

  • When numbers compound, the result is geometric expansion. And that’s happening right now with our national debt because we continue to borrow money to pay the interest.

The $15.3 trillion we owe today is really just the tip of the iceberg. Not yet included in our debt totals are the $15 trillion shortfall in Social Security, the $20 trillion unfunded prescription drug benefit, or the $115 trillion unfunded Medicare liability. The federal government’s total obligations today – including all future obligations – is more than $1 million per taxpayer.

After rising 19 cents a gallon in the past four weeks, regular unleaded gasoline now averages $3.48 a gallon, vs. $3.12 a year ago and $2.67 in February 2010. Prices could spike another 60 cents or more by May, according to industry experts.

The Air Force detailed plans on Friday to cut the service by nearly 10,000 airmen next year as part of a broad move to downsize. Overall, about 3,900 active duty, 5,100 Air National Guard and 900 Air Force reserves would be cut in the next year.

Middle East

Israeli facilities worldwide are on high alert against an attack from Iran. Police and intelligence officials in U.S. and Canadian cities — including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Toronto — have increased patrols at Israeli government locations and Jewish institutions. According to Israeli military intelligence, today there are more than 200,000 missiles and rockets pointed at Israel, mostly Iranian supplied.

Iran began ground military exercises Saturday and defiantly warned that it could cut off oil exports to “hostile” European nations as tensions rise over suggestions that military strikes are an increasing possibility if sanctions fail to rein in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Western forces also have boosted their naval presence in the Gulf led by the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was in Israel to try to restart the stalled peace negotiations, he urged Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. The Prime Minister rebuffed those demands, correctly pointing out that settlements are not the problem preventing peace; it is the unwillingness of the Palestinians to accept Israel’s existence that is the problem.

The main Palestinian political rivals took a major step Monday toward healing their bitter rift, agreeing that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would head an interim unity government to prepare for general elections in the West Bank and Gaza. The agreement, brokered by Qatar, was signed by Abbas and Khaled Mashaal, chief of the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Syria

The Obama administration has closed the U.S. Embassy in Damascus and pulled all American diplomats out of Syria. Ambassador Robert Ford and other diplomats left Syria on Monday. It’s the most dramatic U.S. move so far after 11 months of a violent crackdown on dissent by President Bashar Assad’s regime. The United States also proposed an international coalition to support Syria’s opposition Sunday after Russia and China blocked a U.N. attempt to end nearly 11 months of bloodshed, raising fears that violence will escalate. Protesters attacked seven Syrian embassies around the world following reports of the bloodiest episode yet in Damascus’ nearly yearlong crackdown on dissent. Mobs trashed diplomats’ offices from London to Australia and set the embassy in Cairo on fire.

The U.N. Security Council failed again Saturday to take decisive action to stop the escalating violence in Syria as Russia and China blocked a resolution backing an Arab League plan that calls for President Bashar Assad to step down. The double-veto outraged the U.S. and European council members who feared it would embolden the Assad regime. Russia said the resolution on resolving the crisis in Syria must explicitly rule out a Libya-style military intervention. Russia also opposes a weapons embargo on Syria and/or a tightening of economic sanctions on the country.

Intense blasts echoed through the ravaged Syrian city of Homs on Monday after a weekend bloodbath ended in hundreds of deaths there. At least 46 people were killed across Syria on Monday. Syrian forces unleashed a barrage of mortars and artillery on the battered city of Homs over the weekend, killing more than 200 people in what appeared to be the bloodiest episode in the nearly 11-month-old uprising. Homs was virtually locked down by President Bashar Assad’s security forces to prevent residents from commemorating the 30th anniversary of an even bigger massacre carried out there by Assad’s father in 1982.

Egypt

Volleys of tear gas left a white cloud over Cairo’s Tahrir Square and surrounding streets in the vicinity of Egypt’s Interior Ministry, in the fourth day of clashes between security forces and rock-throwing youth protesting a deadly soccer riot. The number of people killed in clashes with Egyptian security forces in the wake of a deadly soccer riot rose to twelve Sunday, as demonstrators in Cairo kept up their calls for an end to military rule and retribution for those killed in the post-soccer game violence. Several hundred protested in the capital’s Tahrir Square and near the Interior Ministry on Saturday morning, demanding police reforms. Others chanted for the execution of Egypt’s military ruler who has been accused of mismanaging the country’s transition to democracy.

Afghanistan

A U.N. report issued on Saturday said last year was the deadliest on record for Afghan civilians, with 3,021 killed in the war. It was an 8% increase in civilian deaths from 2010. 2011 was also the fifth year in a row that the civilian toll has became steadily worse. The report said insurgents killed more than three-quarters of the civilians who died, with a steep rise in people killed in suicide bombings. NATO and Afghan security forces were responsible for 410 civilian deaths — about 14% of the total. The figures were a grim testament to the violence that the Taliban and allied Islamist militants can still unleash in Afghanistan. A car bomb exploded just outside the police headquarters of a southern Afghanistan city on Sunday, killing at least seven people.

Russia

Their frozen breath rising in the brutally frigid air, tens of thousands of protesters marched through downtown Moscow on Saturday to keep up the pressure on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin one month before a presidential election that could extend his rule for six more years. The protesters have few illusions that they can drive Putin from power now, but for the first time in years Russians are challenging his control and demanding that their voices be heard. Wrapped in furs or dressed for the ski slope, as many as 120,000 people turned out for the third and perhaps largest mass demonstration since Putin’s party won a parliamentary election Dec. 4 with the help of what appeared to be widespread fraud.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake in the central Philippines killed at least 13 people Monday as it destroyed buildings and triggered landslides that buried dozens of houses, trapping residents. At least 29 people were missing. The 6.8-magnitude quake, in a narrow strait just off Negros Island, caused a landslide in Guihulngan, a city of about 180,000 people. As many as 30 houses were buried. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology issued a tsunami alert for central islands, saying the quake could trigger a 3-foot (1-meter) wave along the island’s eastern coast

Weather

Bosnian authorities on Sunday used helicopters to evacuate sick people and deliver food to thousands of people who have been cut off by the heaviest snow the country has ever recorded. More than 100 remote Bosnian villages are cut off by snow over 6 1/2 feet high in the mountains. More than 3 feet has fallen in the capital Sarajevo, where a state of emergency has been declared. In neighboring Serbia, officials said 70,000 people remain cut off. All across Eastern Europe, thousands of people were digging themselves out from heavy snow that followed a weeklong cold snap that has killed hundreds.

The most powerful storm of the winter season pounded Colorado with up to 6 feet of snow in the Rocky Mountain foothills and forced the cancellation of more than 600 flights in Denver. Blizzard conditions hit the eastern Colorado plains, with 5-foot drifts in parts of Elbert County. Near-zero visibility forced officials to close all 160 miles of westbound Interstate 70 between the Kansas state line and Denver. The snow was a welcome boost to several ski resorts around Denver that have suffered below-average snowfall this season. However, the storm only dusted larger resorts, such as Vail, with a few inches in the central Colorado mountains.

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