Drugstores Debate ‘Conscience Clause’ for Plan B
Pharmacists aren’t required to sell the morning-after pill if they’re morally opposed to it. But now that a leading form of emergency contraception is set to hit shelves as an over-the-counter drug, the question facing drugstores is whether they will extend the same choice to all its employees, including cashiers. For more than a decade, Plan B One-Step, the most common morning-after pill, has been kept behind pharmacy counters. Pharmacists who did not feel comfortable dispensing Plan B could rely on “conscience clauses,” to turn customers down, as long as they refer them to another pharmacist or to a nearby pharmacy. Thanks to the Obama administration’s decision on Monday not to appeal a New York federal court ruling, Plan B One-Step will now be sold next to everyday drugstore items. The question the stores face now is whether to extend conscience clauses to all drugstore employees.
Is Islam Now the ‘Most-Favored’ Religion?
A pro-family spokesman says the recent revelation that the FBI is no longer conducting surveillance of mosques is just another indication that the Obama administration has given Islam “most-favored status” among religions. since October 2011, mosques have been off-limits to the FBI, with no more surveillance or undercover sting operations allowed without high-level approval from a special oversight body at the Justice Department dubbed the “Sensitive Operations Review Committee.” The panel was reportedly set up following complaints from Muslims about sting operations conducted by the FBI, which proved very effective in disrupting dozens of Islamic terror plots. Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis at the American Family Association, notes. “We’re at a place now under this administration where Islam has really been granted a most-favored status among all the religions of the world,” says the AFA spokesman. “There’s no question that this president has profound sympathies for the Muslim faith and seems to have at the same time a real antipathy for Christianity.”
Christian Baker Who Refused Homosexual ‘Wedding’ Cake Faces Jail
A Christian baker in Colorado faces up to 1 year in jail for “discrimination” because he refused to bake a wedding cake celebrating a homosexual “marriage” in Massachusetts. “The Colorado Attorney General’s office formally filed a discrimination complaint last week on behalf of a same-sex couple ‘married’ in Massachusetts who claim a Colorado bakery refused to provide a cake to honor their ‘nuptials’ last summer,” reports Christian Post. “Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, located in the suburbs surrounding Denver, Colo., reportedly denied making a wedding cake after learning of their sexual orientation, citing his Christian beliefs. “We don’t believe that this is a case about commerce. At its heart, this is a case about conscience,” Phillips’ attorney Nicolle Martin told The Associated Press, adding that as same-sex marriage is legalized in more states in the U.S., this case could serve as an example of the rights of business owners in refusing service.”
Arizona Law Requiring Citizenship Proof for Voters Judged Illegal
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states cannot on their own require would-be voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system designed to make signing up easier. The justices voted 7-2 to throw out Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” voter registration law. Federal law “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” Justice Antonia Scalia wrote for the court’s majority.
NSA Admits Listening to US Phone Calls Without Warrants
The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.” If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.
- The Supreme Court is paving the way for illegals to vote as they make it easier for them to register. All they need to do is sign a registration form saying they are citizens and they will be allowed to vote.
Internet Leaders Disclose Information on NSA Surveillance Requests
Facebook and Microsoft disclosed that they received thousands of requests for user data from government agencies in the United States in the last half of 2012. Facebook said it got between 9,000 and 10,000 requests targeting between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts during that period. “These requests run the gamut — from things like a local sheriff trying to find a missing child, to a federal marshal tracking a fugitive, to a police department investigating an assault, to a national security official investigating a terrorist threat,” Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s general counsel. “With more than 1.1 billion monthly active users worldwide, this means that a tiny fraction of 1% of our user accounts were the subject of any kind of U.S. state, local, or federal U.S. government requests. In an effort to combat criticism, Microsoft also disclosed information on its data requests Friday night. “For the six months ended December 31, 2012,
Microsoft received between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and national security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts from U.S. governmental entities (including local, state and federal),” said John Frank, Microsoft’s vice president. In addition, Yahoo said Tuesday it received between 12,000 and 13,000 requests for user data from U.S. law enforcement agencies over the last six months. Apple received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from U.S. agencies over the past six months, the company said in a statement posted on its website.
US, UK Spied on G20 Summit
Britain, working with the United States’ National Security Agency, intercepted phone calls and monitored computers used by officials taking part in two high-level international finance meetings in London in 2009, a British newspaper said on Sunday. The latest report, leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, reveals that the U.S. specifically targeted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s communication signals, or “meta-data,” back to the Russian embassy in London. Specifically, the details of the intercepts were in a briefing document prepared by the NSA and shared with high-ranking officials from Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
IRS Supervisor in DC Targeted Tea Party
A Washington-based IRS supervisor acknowledged she was personally involved in reviewing Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status as far back as 2010, Fox News confirms — a detail that further challenges the agency’s initial claim that the practice of singling out those groups was limited to a handful of employees in Ohio. Congressional sources confirmed to Fox News that Holly Paz, who until recently was a top deputy in the division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, told congressional investigators she reviewed 20 to 30 applications. Some requests languished for more than a year without action. The account undercuts the narrative that senior officials only learned of the practice after it had already started in the Cincinnati office.
- Whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light. (Lucke 12:3)
Benghazi Scandal Takes Another Turn
It seems that in the wake of the IRS and NSA scandals that the Benghazi scandal has almost been forgotten. However the recent admission of Martin Dempsey, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, is certain to bring it all back into the limelight. In the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate grounds in Benghazi, The White House and State Department both said that there were no troops or Special Forces that could have reached the consulate in time to help them, even though there were reports that said otherwise. Now we learn that both the White House (Obama) and the State Department (Clinton) were again lying to the American people. According to a statement from Dempsey, a highly trained team of Special Forces, C-110, were within a few hours of Benghazi. The consulate reported that they were under attack early on and the attack lasted over 8 hours. If Dempsey is telling the truth, the Special Forces unit could have been there and possibly save the lives of the four Americans.
Obama Approval Rating Falls Amid Controversies
President Barack Obama’s approval rating dropped eight percentage points over the past month, to 45%, the president’s lowest rating in more than a year and a half, according to a new national poll. The CNN/ORC International survey released Monday morning comes as the White House has been reacting to controversies over a massive U.S. government surveillance program; the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tea party and other conservative groups who applied for tax-exempt status; the administration’s handling of last September’s attack in Benghazi that left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead; and the Justice Department’s secret collection of journalists’ phone records as part of a government investigation into classified leaks. The poll indicates that for the first time in Obama’s presidency, half of the public says they don’t believe he is honest and trustworthy.
Near Insolvency, Detroit Halts Debt Payments, Plans Pension Cuts
Detroit will immediately stop payments on about $2 billion in debt, the city’s emergency manager announced Friday, in an effort to conserve cash. Debt holders are likely to get only pennies on the dollar. Detroit will also need to cut pay and pension and health benefits for city workers. “Financial mismanagement, a shrinking population, a dwindling tax base and other factors over the past 45 years have brought Detroit to the brink of financial and operational ruin,” said manager Kevyn Orr. Orr’s statement and the 134-page restructuring plan did not mention the word “bankruptcy.” But the risk still looms.
Young Americans Ditching Credit Cards
The number of young Americans who are living without credit cards has doubled since the recession. About 16% of consumers ages 18 to 29 didn’t have a single credit card by the end of 2012 — up from 8% in 2007. As a result, credit card debt has declined by about a third among this age group — from an average $3,073 to $2,087 per person. After watching older generations — like their parents — get hit hard by the recession, many younger Americans are shying away from credit and opting for debit cards instead. Prepaid cards have also become attractive alternatives.
Feds Make over $50 Billion on Student Loans
The U.S. government projects to make more money off student loans this fiscal year than ExxonMobil, Apple, J.P. Morgan Chase or Fannie Mae made on their respective businesses last year. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s latest projections, the federal government projects a record $50-billion profit on student loans this year. ExxonMobil made $44.9 billion in 2012, according to published reports, making it the most profitable company in the country. And if Congress doesn’t stop rates on some loans from doubling on July 1, that profit will rise more, up to an additional $21 billion. The record-high profits on student loans come during a time of historically low interest rates on home mortgages and car loans. While a home buyer can get a 30-year mortgage at about 4.5% interest, the federal government is charging as much as 6.8% interest on unsubsidized student loans.
Energy Boom Lifts Some States Economies
While the national economy grew, some of the country’s largest state economies increased at an even faster rate primarily due to a boom in oil and gas extraction. In Texas, population growth and energy production helped boost the state’s overall GDP rate of 4.8%. The oil boom also contributed to the impressive 13.4% economic growth in North Dakota. Other states also saw significant growth due to their energy industries. West Virginia’s natural gas extraction contributed the second highest state GDP growth from the energy and mining sector, at 2.44 percentage points.
For the first time in seven years, an index that measures sentiment about home building is above 50. It jumped to 52 in June from 44 in May. It was the biggest one-month jump in the index since 2002. A reading above 50 in the the NAHB/Wells Fargo index indicates more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor. The index hasn’t been that high since April 2006, just before the housing market collapsed.
With job growth averaging a solid 190,000 a month so far this year, seven of 10 economists surveyed by USA TODAY predict the Federal Reserve will begin scaling back its easy-money policies this year, with most of that group saying its initial move will come by early fall. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke also suggested the stimulus might be dialed back in coming months. In the meantime, the Fed will continue buying $85 billion a month in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.
China’s new Tianhe-2 supercomputer officially became the fastest supercomputer in the world on Monday by blowing America’s Titan supercomputer out of the water. A group of computer scientists and engineers who twice a year release the “Top500” list of fastest supercomputers measured the Tianhe-2 at 33.9 petaflops (quadrillions of calculations per second). That’s nearly twice as fast as the Titan, which was relegated to a distant second spot on the list.
Exactly one year ago, Greece’s conservative prime minister won the mandate to form a coalition government with a daunting brief: Restart punishing economic reforms, keep the debt-stifled country in the eurozone and end months of political chaos. The latter has proved the hardest chore, and Antonis Samaras is now making a last-ditch bid to quell a revolt by key allies over his decision to close the country’s state TV and radio broadcaster, axing nearly 2,700 jobs to meet austerity targets. If talks launched late Monday with his two center-left minority partners fail, the country could be forced into its fourth election in less than four years, with grim effects. New reform delays could compromise Greece’s vital bailout program, while the vote would probably produce a hung parliament — with a quasi-neo-Nazi party polling third.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a Netanyahu (Israel GPO)statement on Monday reaffirming Israel’s commitment to the Two-State Solution, refuting a statement made earlier in the day by his Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) who said that “the idea that a Palestinian state would be established within the Land of Israel has come to a dead end.” The statement caused an uproar in diplomatic circles. “Israel has officially declared the death of the two-state solution,” declared chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. However, Netanyahu gave an exclusive interview with Reuters in which he said “foreign policy is shaped by the prime minister and my view is clear. I will seek a negotiated settlement where you’d have a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.”
Syrian rebels, desperate for arms, said they are grateful to the United States for jumping into the fray as the Assad regime continues its steady stream of victories against opposition forces. The decision to provide rebels with weapons came after the U.S. administration concluded that the troops of President Bashar Assad have used chemical weapons against the rebel forces in the civil war. “Forget about anti-aircraft weaponry, machine guns and light arms – there aren’t even bullets or RPG shells, and when there are, the rebels can’t afford them,” said Abu Said, part of the Revolution Council in Outer Damascus.
As the United States prepares to supply Syrian rebels with small arms through a CIA-run program, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Saturday that U.S. troops temporarily in neighboring Jordan will leave behind fighter jets and a cache of Patriot missiles. So far the White House has committed only to supplying rebel forces with small arms and ammunition. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and other Capitol Hill military hawks have called for much heavier arms including the Patriot defense missiles and for the United States to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria.
A string of nearly a dozen apparently coordinated bombs and a shooting killed at least 30 and wounded scores across Iraq on Sunday, extending a wave of violence that is raising fears of a return to widespread killing a decade after the U.S.-led invasion. Violence has spiked sharply in Iraq in recent months, with the death toll rising to levels not seen since 2008. Nearly 2,000 have been killed since the start of April. Most of the car bombs hit Shiite-majority areas and were the cause of most of the casualties. The blasts hit half a dozen cities and towns in the south and center of the country and were believed to have been carried out by Sunni extremists.
Iranian centrist candidate Hassan Rouhani won the Islamic republic’s presidential election Saturday after campaigning on a “hope and prudence” platform in which he appealed to traditional conservatives and reform-minded voters alike. Rouhani spoke of reforms without threatening Iran’s supreme leader or its institutions, of which he is product. The former national security council chief promised an environment with greater personal freedoms and even indicated he would free political prisoners and jailed journalists. In his campaigning, Rouhani also pledged to improve the economy and unemployment, and as a former nuclear negotiator, he said he would reduce the high tension between Iran and the outside world by addressing sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program. He has a reputation for shunning extreme positions and bridging differences. Rouhani takes two-term President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s mantle, but he won’t be Iran’s most powerful man. That distinction belongs to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has been Iran’s supreme leader since 1989.
Israeli Prime Minister refused to join in an international chorus of “cautious optimism” following the election of Hassan Rohani as Iran’s new president last week, telling the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday “the international community must not become caught up in wishful thinking and be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program. We are not deluding ourselves. We need to remember that the Iranian ruler [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] at the outset disqualified candidates who were not in line with his extreme worldview, and from among those whom he did allow, the one seen as least identified with the regime was elected. But we are still speaking about someone who calls Israel the ‘great Zionist Satan.
Hundreds of riot police evicted protesters in Gezi Park at dusk Saturday, firing tear gas and rubber bullets and using water hoses in a bid to put down anti-government demonstrations that have been raging for more than two weeks. Police lines spread out from the park — where demonstrators have been camped out for weeks — to the adjacent Taksim Square. The scene at Gezi Park was one of chaos as demonstrators tried to flee in a fog of gas, causing panic and injuries as people fell and got caught in the stampede. The police crackdown sparked daylong unrest on the streets of Istanbul, while police also broke up demonstrations in the capital, Ankara, and the southern city of Adana. The protests began in Gezi Park more than two weeks ago and has spread to dozens of cities across the country.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced at a ceremony on Tuesday that his country’s armed forces are taking over the lead for security nationwide from the U.S.-led NATO coalition. The handover of responsibility is a significant milestone in the nearly 12-year war and marks a turning point for American and NATO military forces, which will now move entirely into a supporting role. It also opens the way for their full withdrawal in 18 months. Karzai said that in the coming months, coalition forces will gradually withdraw from Afghanistan’s provinces as the country’s security forces replace them. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the coalition will help militarily if and when needed but will no longer plan, execute or lead operations.
More than 100,000 people took to the streets in largely peaceful protests in at least eight cities Monday, demonstrations that voiced the deep frustrations Brazilians feel about carrying heavy tax burdens but receiving woeful returns in public education, health, security and transportation. In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic hub, at least 65,000 protesters gathered at a small, treeless plaza then broke into three directions in a Carnival atmosphere, with drummers beating out samba rhythms as the crowds chanted anti-corruption jingles. They also focused on the cause that initially sparked the protests last week — a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares. Monday’s demonstrations saw some violence. In Rio de Janeiro, a small group of protesters set a car on fire and threw rocks and flares at police. In the southern city of Porto Alegre, protesters hurled rocks at commuter trains.
A moderate earthquake hit southern Mexico early Sunday, shaking buildings in the capital of Mexico City and sending frightened people into the streets. Electrical service had gone out in parts of the city, but there were no early reports of damage. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 5.8 and struck at 12:19 a.m. local time Sunday about 76 miles south of the Mexican capital.
With evacuees anxious to return, firefighters worked Sunday to dig up and extinguish hot spots to protect homes spared by the Black Forest wildfire. Crews gained the upper hand on the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history Saturday and had more than half the blaze contained as officials prepared to lift mandatory evacuation orders for hundreds of residents. While most mandatory evacuation orders had been lifted, as the fire zone remained at over 25 square miles, hundreds remained displaced after the fire destroyed nearly 500 homes and killed two people. The announcement that crews had made significant advances on the blaze and taken control of it came the same day authorities were able to gain a clearer picture of the grim landscape it left behind after exploding Tuesday outside Colorado Springs. It’s unclear what caused the fire, which sparked amid record-high temperatures and tinder-dry conditions, but officials believed it was human-caused, calling it a crime scene until proven otherwise.
A new wind-whipped blaze in California forced evacuations and threatened homes Monday near Yosemite National Park. The Carstens Fire began near the main route into Yosemite National Park in the Central Sierra foothills Sunday afternoon and has burned about 1 1/2 square miles or 900 acres. With more than 140 engines and two helicopters on the scene, the crews have contained about 15 percent of the blaze so far. No structures have been burned as the exact cause of the fire has yet to be determined.
In New Mexico, crews have contained the majority of the 94 square miles of wildfires raging throughout the state. The largest fire, the 37-square-mile Thompson Ridge Fire, was 80 percent contained.
Severe storms are being blamed for at least four deaths and hundreds of thousands of power outages across more than a dozen states Friday. The massive storms spawned the season’s first derecho, a storm of strong straight-line winds spanning at least 240 miles with wind gusts of 58 mph or greater, the Storm Prediction Center reported Thursday. The systems are distinctive and take on a comma or bow shape, and usually have a large area of very cold cloud tops not typically seen in an ordinary thunderstorm.
Maryland experienced the brunt of a long-lived line of storms last Thursday morning, and several severe thunderstorm warnings were issued. Officials are reporting trees down, roads closed and tens of thousands of power outages in Maryland and Delaware. Three tornadoes were reported in Maryland. In Virginia, more than 130,000 customers were still without power late Friday. Delmarva Power reported 17,000 customers in the dark by late Thursday morning, mostly in New Castle County, Delaware.