|January 29, 2010
|Pentagon to Reveal Steps Necessary to Repeal Gay Ban in Military
(FOXNews) Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen will unveil next week the steps necessary to lift the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Thursday.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen will unveil next week the steps necessary to lift the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Thursday.
The military officials will lay out their plan when they testify in front of the Senate Armed Services next Tuesday.
"This is not a legislative proposal that the Pentagon will be bringing to the Hill" a senior Pentagon official added. "Rather it`s an assessment of steps that need to be taken internally to get to the point to change the law."
The Senate committee has designated a separate full hour session on top of a previously scheduled testimony from Gates and Mullen on the defense budget to talk about the law that bans gays from serving openly which is enforced by the policy known as "Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell."
In June, Gates said he was working with his defense lawyers to find a way to make that policy more "humane." He said he`d like to ease punishments on gays who were exposed by a third party. No updates on that effort have been offered yet, but Gates will be prepared to address that as well on Tuesday, a senior defense official said.
Gates and the military leadership have been working for some time on the implementation plan. Both Gates and Mullen had multiple conversations with President Obama on the topic leading up to the president`s State of the Union speech Wednesday night, the official told Fox News.
When Obama asked Congress to repeal the law in the speech, Gates stood and applauded, while Mullen and the Joint Chiefs remained stoic.
A source close to Mullen said the rest of the chiefs follow Mullen`s lead and will clap only when he does. On Wednesday night, Mullen did not feel it was appropriate to show either support or contempt for such a politically charged issue, the source said.
Morrell did not provide any examples of what steps need to be taken before the Pentagon can consider lifting the ban.
Last April in a speech to the Army War College Gates said lifting the ban needs to be done carefully.
|January 29, 2010
|Study: Violence Increasing Among Teenage Girls
According to a new report from the government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than one out of every four teenage girls has attacked someone with the intent to harm or has been involved in a serious fight at school or work. Though teenage boys have a higher rate of violence, "it is clear that the problem is pervasive among girls as well," said the report.
In October 2009, the PTC released its study Women in Peril, which demonstrated that in the last five years, TV portrayals of young girls as victims of violence has increased 400%. But while showing teen girls as victims may encourage more attacks on young girls, it is equally apparent that more than a decade of TV series which glamorize violent behavior by young women, may have taught girls that it is equally acceptable, even laudable, to be violent themselves.
► To see the PTC’s study Women in Peril, click here.
► To learn more about the government report, click here.
|January 29, 2010
|New IPPF Document Pushes Adolescent
(C-Fam) In its new report "Stand and Deliver," the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is demanding that governments, religious institutions and society at large provide "comprehensive sexuality education" for children as young as ten years old.
In a foreword, Bert Koenders of the Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, which helped fund the publication, asserts that, "Young people have the right to be fully informed about sexuality and to have access to contraceptives and other services. These rights are enshrined in various internationally agreed human rights convention and treaties, but – unfortunately – they are still not universally respected."
According to IPPF, as "young people are sexual beings," it should be self-evident that "sexuality education promotes individual well-being and the advancement of broader societal and public health goals." IPPF argues that "comprehensive sexuality education" must be mandatory in school, and governments must also ensure that this education is delivered to those young people who are out of school.
IPPF claims that "With young people as partners, today`s adult decision-makers have the chance to recast sex and sexuality as a positive force for change and development, as a source of pleasure, an embodiment of human rights and an expression of self."
IPPF contends that comprehensive sexuality education is necessary to encourage young people`s "self-esteem, thoughtful decision-making and negotiation skills and it helps them to develop satisfying and pleasurable sexual lives." Moreover, IPPF expounds that the "power" of comprehensive sexuality education "to challenge traditional gender roles" must not be underestimated.
The IPPF report stresses granting young people "unconstrained" access to sexuality education and services, "free from administrative restrictions and obstacles," like requiring health providers to obtain parental or spousal permission before providing contraceptives. IPPF demands that young people be able to "obtain the services they need and want, unconstrained by psychological, attitudinal, cultural or social factors."
IPPF targets religion and religious groups as one of the main barriers to adolescent access to sexuality education and sexual and reproductive "services." IPPF criticizes the fact that many religious teachings "deny the pleasurable and positive aspects of sex and limited guidelines for sexual education often focus on abstinence before marriage," which IPPF claims has been ineffective in many settings.
According to IPPF, religious institutions – like the Catholic Church and Islamic schools – need to be "pragmatic" to accommodate young people as "sexual beings" and amend their teachings to "find a way of explaining and providing guidance on issues of sex and sexual relationships among young people, which supports rather than denies their experiences and needs."
Sexual education has been a topic of heated debates at the United Nations, with many critics fearing that parental rights to educate their children will be violated. Just last year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a set of sexual education guidelines that were met with such staunch resistance from conservatives that the organization was forced to take down the document from its website and review.
Critics expect more debates over "comprehensive sexuality education" to flare up in the coming months as UN Commission season gets underway.
|January 29, 2010
|U.S. Rep Pushes to Extend Student Non-Discrimination to Homosexuality
(LifeSiteNews) U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) has introduced a law that would allow high school students who feel discriminated against based on their perceived sexual orientation to pursue charges in federal court.
Polis on Wednesday introduced the “Student Non-Discrimination Act,” which has 60 co-sponsors.
"Every day innocent students fall victim to relentless harassment and discrimination from teachers, staff, and fellow students based on their sexual orientation," said Polis, who is openly homosexual, in a statement.
"These actions not only hurt our students and our schools but, left unchecked, can also lead to life-threatening violence. Like Title VI for minorities in the `60s and Title IX for women in the `70s, my legislation puts LGBT students on an equal footing with their peers, so they can attend school and get a quality education, free from fear."
However, critics argue that the bill essentially sets up a class of thought-crime, and that instead policies should be developed that prevent students from being mistreated for any reason, instead of singling out “sexual orientation.”
"We think the best thing would be policies that prohibit bullying across the board for any reason against any child," Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family Action, told the Denver Post. "The emphasis should be on the wrong action of the bullies, not why they did it or what their perceived thoughts were."
"This can and should be done without politicizing the classroom and introducing controversial sexual topics to kids against parents` wishes," she added.
|January 28, 2010
|Calif. Senate approves single-payer health care
(Sacramento Bee) The California Senate has approved creating a government-run health care system, ignoring a veto pledge from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Supporters say it is time for state legislatures to lead as the Obama administration`s national health care proposal falters in Congress.
Thursday`s move in the nation`s most populous state comes after Massachusetts voters changed the calculus in Congress by electing a Republican to the Senate who opposes the pending plan.
Democrats are the majority in both houses of the California Legislature. The 40-member state Senate passed the single-payer plan on 22-14, party-line vote, sending it to the Assembly.
The Republican governor says he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk, as he has on two similar bills in the past.
|January 28, 2010
|House Will Move Smaller Health Care Bills Next Month
(Congressional Quarterly) House leaders plan to bring small-scale health care legislation to the floor before the chamber leaves for its Presidents Day recess on Feb. 11, aides to Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.
The legislation, which may consist of more than one bill, will include proposals that can win quick majority approval. But they would not be a substitute for the broad health care overhaul, which has stalled in prolonged negotiations between top House and Senate Democrats.
Pelosi, D-Calif., reiterated her position that the big bill, which was sidetracked last week after Republican Scott P. Brown’s victory in a Massachusetts special Senate election stripped Democrats of their 60-vote margin in the Senate, will eventually pass. “We must pass health care reform,” she said. “The problem is still there . . . We can’t sustain the current system.”
“Some things we can do on the side,” Pelosi added. “But it’s not a substitute for comprehensive reform.”
Pelosi has said she doesn’t have the votes to simply pass the Senate bill and send it on to President Obama. She said Thursday that negotiations will continue to find a compromise, but she wouldn’t give a timetable for reaching a deal.
She also would not say whether Democrats would use the budget reconciliation process to advance the lion’s share of a health care overhaul. That process bars filibusters, requiring only 51 votes to move through the Senate. But measures moved under reconciliation cannot include policy provisions unrelated to revenues and entitlement program expenditures.
The simplest option for Democrats to complete the stalled health care overhaul would be for the House to send President Obama the version passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve, and then to use the reconciliation process to pass a second bill that incorporates House-Senate compromises on all issues that could be dealt with through that process.
So far, House Democrats have been unwilling to pursue that course. And with no final agreement on the parameters of a compromise version of the overhaul, neither Obama nor party leaders are demanding that they do so.
|January 28, 2010
|State begins inmate release; fewer parolees to be monitored
(Daily Bulletin) Under a state law that took effect Monday, California has started to reduce its prison population by about 6,500 inmates over the next year.
The bill was signed as part of last year`s state budget package. Under it, early-release credits for inmates who complete educational and vocational programs will be expanded, letting more inmates leave prison earlier.
At the same time, the state will stop its monitoring of low-level offenders after their release. That is designed to reduce the number of parolees returned to prison, essentially because the state will not know if they are violating the terms of their parole.
The release is "manageable" but still a concern, said Michael A. Ramos, San Bernardino County`s district attorney.
"People in state prison had plenty of opportunities to correct their behavior, so those being released from state prison are more likely than not to commit further crimes, so we are going to watch these folks very closely," Ramos said.
Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate said the law will let parole agents concentrate on more dangerous ex-convicts.
Agents will be responsible for supervising an average of 48 parolees instead of the current 70 because the law ends California`s practice of automatically putting every released convict on three years of parole.
Ex-convicts deemed less dangerous or less likely to commit new crimes will not be monitored at all, although they still can be searched without a warrant.
The reduced caseload will let the state more intensively watch gang members, sex offenders and violent felons.
"We`re going back to the time when the parole officer not only has time to be a cop, but add that social-worker factor," Cate said. "We could see the recidivism rate actually go down in California, so that`s the great hope."
Cate acknowledged some unsupervised ex-felons will inevitably commit serious crimes after their release. But he said residents will be safer in general because parole agents will be able to concentrate on higher-risk parolees.
"Releasing convicted felons from state prisons is a problem - not a solution to the state`s budget crisis," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. "It is a reckless and irresponsible Band-Aid on a wound that could hemorrhage into a public-safety crisis."
The early releases of state inmates comes as the governor has proposed to save $334 million next fiscal year through a proposed statutory change that would require jail time instead of state prison for certain felonies, including grand theft, receiving stolen property, check fraud and various drug offenses.
The changes, if approved, are expected to shift 12,600 of the state`s 168,000 adult inmates to county jails on an annual basis. The proposal also calls for reducing the state juvenile prison population - at 1,487 as of Jan. 6 - by 400 by limiting the age youths can enter Department of Juvenile Justice facilities to 21.
"On the state level, we don`t see this really compromising public safety in the least," said George Kostyrko, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "If you`ve been sent to prison for a serious crime, you are going to stay there as long as you are required by law."
|January 27, 2010
|Emotional Prop 8 Trial Draws to an End
(LifeSiteNews) Lawyers defending the California constitution`s definition of marriage in federal court are wrapping up testimony today after weeks of wrangling over theories surrounding marriage, sexuality, procreation, and the law`s involvement in all three.
Trial testimony is expected to end today with the witness of David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values, who argued today and yesterday that extending the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples would undermine the procreative understanding of legal marriage and lead to the further disintegration of the institution.
Although gay “marriage” advocates argued in the trial that their cause lacked political support, both California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown refused to defend the marriage definition California voters enshrined in the state constitution last November. Thus, the defense of Perry v. Schwarzenegger depended solely on the legal teams of Cooper & Kirk, the Alliance Defense Fund, and ProtectMarriage.com, as Schwarzenegger`s and Brown`s lawyers literally sat on the sidelines.
Opponents of Proposition 8 rested their case Monday, after two weeks of testimony ADF attorneys characterized on their website as "emotional appeals, persecution of religious beliefs, and experts who were unraveled" by cross-examinations.
Topics that were addressed during the proceedings ranged from the impact of religious beliefs on marriage law, the origins of homosexuality, the impact of male and female parental influences on children, marriage`s fundamental relationship to children and child-bearing, and whether the definition of marriage between a man and a woman amounted to a form of "discrimination" against homosexuals.
Reports from both sides recounted sometimes emotional, sometimes bizarre exchanges in the courtroom.
On Friday, plaintiffs brought psychology expert Dr. Gregory Herek to the stand to argue that homosexuality is an inherent trait equivalent to race or sex as a source of potential civil rights discrimination. Prop. 8 lawyers rebutted the testimony by pointing to a string of scientific evidence indicating that, in fact, homosexuality is changeable and not inherent. Herek was forced to acknowledge that he didn`t know whether sexual orientation has a biological origin.
"This entire trial has been little more than an attempt by activists advancing the homosexual legal agenda to use emotion and sympathy in order to convince the court that marriage is unconstitutional," stated ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks.
ADF says gay “marriage” advocates at one point called a witness, Mr. Ryan Kendall, who had no knowledge of Proposition 8 and wasn`t even a California resident - but merely appeared in court to announce that he was homosexual and had had a negative experience with parents who tried to convert him to heterosexuality.
The lawyers also reported the testimony of Dr. Gary M. Segura, a professor of political science from Stanford, who argued on Thursday that religion stood in the way of those who want to redefine marriage from gaining political power. Yet Segura, they say, acknowledged that gay “marriage” supporters hurt their own image in the wake of Proposition 8 by expressing discontent through threats, harassment, intimidation, violence, and property damage on a large scale.
"Clearly, those who are demanding tolerance have no tolerance for the values and beliefs of those across this country who have voted to uphold marriage in 31 of 31 states," wrote Nimocks.
"Rather, it has become clear that the plaintiffs’ desire is to force all Americans to forfeit the core of their democratic rights by allowing a small group of wealthy activists to impose their will on not only a state, but the entire nation."
The ADF`s running commentary on the Proposition 8 trial can be viewed here.
|January 27, 2010
|U.S. raises $500 million for Haiti
(Washington Times) Even when money`s tight, Americans can be counted on to lend a hand in the midst of a disaster, as witnessed by the U.S. response to the devastation wrought by the Haiti earthquake.
Donations and pledges to U.S. nonprofits since the epic 7.0 quake wrecked the impoverished island Jan. 12 climbed over a half-billion dollars Tuesday, according to the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, which tracks post-disaster giving.
In the course of one day, giving and pledges jumped from $471 million Monday to $517.5 million Tuesday. The number compares favorably to previous disaster-relief efforts, even though Americans currently find themselves mired in an economic recession.
"What we`ve found interesting in the response to the Haitian earthquake is that the amounts raised have been quite significant," said Una Osili, the center`s research director. "There`s been a strong outpouring of generosity in the face of this disaster. It shows Americans are generous even in tough economic times."
She said donations and pledges have exceeded those given after the most recent global disaster of this proportion, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, even though the tsunami occurred during a prosperous economy.
Indeed, it`s almost impossible to pick up a newspaper or go online without reading of new relief efforts. One of the biggest fundraisers to date was the Friday "Hope for Haiti" telethon, featuring celebrities such as George Clooney and Wyclef Jean, which has thus far raised $61 million.
For every star-studded event like the telethon, however, there are thousands of smaller campaigns. Virtually every school district in the nation is collecting donations or supplies for the ravaged island. One example is Urban Park Elementary School in Dallas, where students were permitted to wear jeans instead of their uniforms in exchange for a Haiti donation.
In North Carolina, the staff at Core Personal Trainers stood at a busy intersection and offered to do one push-up for every dollar donated by passing motorists, according to WXII-TV in Winston-Salem. The station also reported that the local Liberty Tax Service was contributing $25 to Haiti relief last week for every tax return started and finished in one day.
In Denver, ESPN football analyst Mark Schlereth sat outside a Safeway grocery store Monday for six hours raising money for Haiti. He donated all the proceeds from that day`s sales of his Mark Schlereth`s Stinkin` Good Green Chili at all Safeway stores in Colorado.
Denver Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin pledged $1,500 to Haiti relief per rebound in an NBA game last week against the Los Angeles Clippers. He grabbed 14 off the boards for a total of $21,000.
Facilitating the relief effort has been the rise of social networks and new technology, such as Twitter. The Red Cross set the tone by asking contributors to donate $10 by texting "90999." The donation is then applied to the giver`s phone bill. In other instances, individuals and groups have set up Haiti relief fund efforts through their Facebook accounts. Such nontraditional methods of giving have helped draw younger people into the relief arena.
"This is the first major disaster where we`ve used this technology," Ms. Osili said. "It`s really exciting for nonprofits because it allows them to reach a lot of donors and a lot of different donors."
Working in Haiti`s favor is its proximity to the U.S. Many Americans have friends, co-workers or relatives who are Haitian, or may have been involved in previous campaigns to assist the country. Haitians and Haitian-Americans also have carved out enclave neighborhoods in several U.S. cities, most prominently New York and Miami.
Both the National Basketball Association and the National Football League have players who are Haitian or of Haitian descent, several of whom have helped the disaster register with fans by speaking out on the disaster. The NBA and its players` union have pledged $1 million to the recovery, while the NFL and its union have pledged $2.5 million.
There`s concern that the donations may dry up before the rebuilding work is done in Haiti, but so far contributions are continuing at a brisk clip.
"There`s still a tremendous amount of support and interest in this disaster," Ms. Osili said. "We`ll start to see it taper off after a few months as the news coverage falls off. So far, we haven`t seen it taper off at all."
|January 27, 2010
|Homeschooling Family Granted Political Asylum
Immigration Judge Says Germany Violating Basic Human Rights
(HSLDA) In a case with international ramifications, Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman granted the political asylum application of a German homeschooling family. The Romeikes are Christians from Bissinggen, Germany, who fled persecution in August 2008 to seek political asylum in the United States. The request was granted January 26 after a hearing was held in Memphis, Tennessee, on January 21.
“We can’t expect every country to follow our constitution,” said Judge Burman. “The world might be a better place if it did. However, the rights being violated here are basic human rights that no country has a right to violate.”
Burman added, “Homeschoolers are a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress. This family has a well-founded fear of persecution…therefore, they are eligible for asylum…and the court will grant asylum.”
In his ruling, Burman said that the scariest thing about this case was the motivation of the government. He noted it appeared that rather than being concerned about the welfare of the children, the government was trying to stamp out parallel societies—something the judge called “odd” and just plain “silly.” In his order the judge expressed concern that while Germany is a democratic country and is an ally, he noted that this particular policy of persecuting homeschoolers is “repellent to everything we believe as Americans.”
‘Embarrassing for Germany’
“This decision finally recognizes that German homeschoolers are a specific social group that is being persecuted by a Western democracy,” said Mike Donnelly, staff attorney and director of international relations for Home School Legal Defense Association. “It is embarrassing for Germany, since a Western nation should uphold basic human rights, which include allowing parents to raise and educate their own children. This judge understood the case perfectly, and he called Germany out. We hope this decision will cause Germany to stop persecuting homeschoolers,” he added.
The persecution of homeschoolers in Germany has been intensifying over the past several years. They are regularly fined thousands of dollars, threatened with imprisonment, or have the custody of their children taken away simply because they choose to home educate.
The Romeikes expressed relief when they heard the decision.
“We are so grateful to the judge for his ruling,” said Uwe Romeike. “We know many people, especially other German homeschoolers, have been praying for us. Their prayers and ours have been answered. We greatly appreciate the freedom to homeschool we now have in America and will be building our new life here,” he added.
Donnelly testified at the hearing on January 21, telling the immigration Judge that homeschoolers are persecuted all over Germany.
‘Ignoring the Truth’
“There is no safety for homeschoolers in Germany,” Donnelly said. “The two highest courts in Germany have ruled that it is acceptable for the German government to ‘stamp out’ homeschoolers as some kind of ‘parallel society.’ The reasoning is flawed. The fact is that homeschoolers are not a parallel society. Valid research shows that homeschoolers excel academically and socially. German courts are simply ignoring the truth that exists all over the world where homeschooling is practiced. They need to look beyond their own borders.”
In 2003 the highest administrative court in Germany, which interprets its federal Constitution, ruled in the Konrad case that it was permissible for parents who have jobs that require them to travel—such as circus performers and musicians—to homeschool, but homeschooling was prohibited for parents who wanted to for reasons of conscience. The highest criminal court said in the Paul-Plett case in 2006 that the government was allowed to take custody of children whose parents want to homeschool for reasons of conscience.
Donnelly challenged the reasoning of the German courts.
“It is ridiculous for German courts to say that homeschooling is allowed if you have practical reasons but disallowed if you have conscientious reasons,” Donnelly said. “This is simply about the German state trying to coerce ideological uniformity in a way that is frighteningly reminiscent of past history. Homeschooling is a growing social movement all over the world, and the Germans want to stamp it out based on a fabricated notion that homeschoolers are a ‘parallel society.’ Germany’s treatment of homeschooling families is worthy of condemnation from the international community. I am proud that a United States immigration judge recognized the truth of what is happening in Germany and has rendered this favorable decision for the Romeike family.”
German homeschoolers have been organizing and trying to draw the attention of German politicians. It has been difficult. Juergen Dudek is a homeschooling father who had been sentenced to 90 days in jail for homeschooling, but whose sentence was reduced to a $300 fine. He noted that officials in Germany have no appreciation for homeschoolers who think differently than the state.
‘Send a Loud Message’
“It is incredible to me that these officials give absolutely no weight to our faith or other conscientious objection to attendance at the public schools,” said Dudek. “We have had a number of families who are not homeschoolers, but who know that the German school system is failing, who called us to encourage us. In our re-hearing the judge issued a decision reducing our sentence from jail to a fine but was totally dismissive of our reasons for wanting to homeschool. We have always been encouraged by the support of American homeschoolers, and we hope that this decision will send a loud message to the German people that what our country is doing is wrong.”
A board member of the Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit, an organization working for freedom for homeschoolers, said that the ruling would be helpful to homeschoolers in Germany.
“This decision reveals to the rest of the world that the German state acts outside the mainstream of Western democracies. Germany is in the company of countries like China, North Korea and others where fundamental human rights are not respected. Germany’s behavior exposes the totalitarian character of the German school law that takes away a parent’s right to educate their children. A decision on behalf of the Romeikes puts blame on the German government and is a serious warning to Germans officials to change their policies and further accept the rights of the parents. We hope that the decision will send a clear message to authorities in Germany to make changes right away!”
Mike Smith, president of HSLDA, also applauded the decision.
“It’s recognition that the German state is persecuting homeschoolers,” he said. “We are pleased to have been able to support this courageous family, and we hope and pray that this decision will have a decisive effect on German policy makers who should change their laws to recognize parents’ rights to educate their own children.”
|January 27, 2010
|Support Pro-Life Super Bowl Ad
(Americans United for Life) Focus on the Family is running a TV commercial during the Superbowl that tells the beautiful and touching story of Tim Tebow, the Heisman Award Winning Quarterback for the Florida Gators.
The ad is rumored to encourage a culture of life, and pro-abortion groups have gone, for lack of a better word, ballistic. They are demanding that CBS immediately stop the commercial from airing. In a letter to CBS, a coalition of pro-abortion groups actually said that “…abortion is a controversial issue and anti-abortion vitriol has resulted in escalated violence against reproductive health service providers and their patients, including the murder of Dr. George Tiller during Sunday morning service at his church. We sincerely hope you do not want CBS associated with this brand of un-American hate.”
To their credit, CBS has responsibly agreed to broadcast the commercial. We are proud of Tim Tebow and excited to see this during the game.
Help us Support Focus on the Family and Tim Tebow.
We need to remind the pro-abortion lobby that we live in North America, not North Korea. And in America, we have the fundamental right to free speech. I hope you will join me in a strong show of support for Focus on the Family and Tim Tebow.
Here’s how you can help. Express your support by clicking here and joining our new Facebook campaign. By becoming a fan of Support Tebow’s Superbowl Ad on Facebook, you can help us defend the right to freedom of speech and the right to life.
|January 26, 2010
|Christians, Muslims, Jews Worship at Evangelical Megachurch
(Christian Post) It was an unusual Sunday morning worship at Northwood Church in Keller, Texas. Christians, Muslims and Jews sat together in the megachurch to hear an evangelical pastor preach about Jesus.
The three faith groups had already visited the Islamic Center of Irving the previous day and the Temple Shalom of North Dallas on Friday before congregating inside the Christian house of worship. And they don`t plan to make this a one-time event.
As Northwood Senior Pastor Bob Roberts said Sunday, the three groups are making an attempt to get to know one another, understand the different teachings and worldviews, and become friends.
While such multifaith worship gatherings have raised eyebrows, Roberts said they are not trying to minimize differences or compromise their beliefs. In fact, the evangelical pastor discourages it. He wants all three faith groups to be honest about their differences and hold to their core convictions.
"I want to know you. Why? Because you`re seeking after God," Roberts said from the Northwood pulpit Sunday as he addressed the multi-faith audience, which included Rabbi Jeremy Schneider and Imam Zia Sheikh.
"If we`re going to get along ... I need to understand your core convictions, how it impacts your worldview ... and I want you to understand Christianity," he told them. "I want us to be honest about our differences so that we can build a relationship."
The multifaith event is the brainchild of Roberts who has observed a growing diversity of faiths in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The number of mosques in the area has grown from two some thirty years ago to 40, Roberts said, according to Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The three services held over the weekend were not interfaith services. They were distinctly Jewish, Muslim and Christian services, respectively.
Shifting from interfaith to multifaith is critical in the 21st century, Roberts said.
"The old conversation of interfaith basically said if we all agree on everything then we can get along. So what we need to do is minimize our differences ... and only talk about what we do agree upon," the Baptist pastor said Sunday. "But there`s a problem with that. That`s great if you`re liberal, if you`re a liberal Muslim or liberal Christian or liberal Jew, that`s fine."
"But Imam Zia made it very clear yesterday that Muhammad was the prophet for his age. So if you`re going to be a Muslim or go to the next life you have to accept the teaching and the position of the Prophet Muhammad," he continued.
"As a Christian I also believe the verse where Jesus said `I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.` So if I`m going to be a committed Christian I can`t pick and choose which part of the Bible I would believe.
"If I`m going to be a committed Muslim I can`t pick and choose which parts of the Quran I believe. Or a Jew, for the Torah."
"Because truth is truth. Truth is not relative," Roberts said. "Multifaith says `we have differences.`"
"What multifaith says is `I don`t want to try to be politically correct; I want to be honest about what I believe; I want to hold true to my truth; ... I want to build relationship on honesty," he added.
The greatest conflict in the world today, he pointed out, is between fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims.
"There has to be a new platform," Roberts stressed.
"If we have to all convert to one religion we are never going to get along in this world. But if we can learn to respect one another, hold on to our faith passionately, follow the commands of what Jesus as Christians teaches us ... then there`s hope."
Throughout Sunday`s worship service, Roberts did not hesitate to declare the Gospel and preached the cross and resurrection unapologetically. He also had fun with what might seem like a somber service as he joked with the rabbi and imam.
"There is this sense in which we want people to know our faith ... to hear our truth and believe our truth. I do," the senior pastor said. "Would you like everybody here to be a Muslim (addressing Imam Zia)? Be honest ... you`re already thinking this will be a cool mosque. I`m not offended that you feel that way. You`re an honest Muslim. You`re being true to who you are."
He also mentioned the difficulty he had with finding refreshments that would be appropriate for both Jews and Muslims to eat.
"We`re nervous about cooking so you`re only getting a little cookie and some orange juice," he said to laughter. "We are so confused by all the websites. We don`t know what you can eat and not; we don`t want to get you upset. So forgive us."
Some pastors have criticized Roberts for the multifaith event and attending different places of worship with his congregation. But the Northwood pastor said he would respond to his critics by asking, "Why do you go to restaurants where people get drunk? Why do you go to movies where people undress and do things on the screen that break the heart of God ... Why do you want to get in a car built by an automobile industry driven by greed? But I don`t want to have a relationship with someone who`s trying to seek God? That makes sense, doesn`t it?"
Each of the three multifaith services held over the weekend was followed by a question and answer session which all three faith leaders participated in. Members of Northwood were advised to wear modest attire out of respect.
|January 26, 2010
|`Gay` plan for bathrooms called `moral insanity`
(WorldNetDaily) A Christian organization in Maine is asking its constituents to protest a state proposal that would give boys who call themselves girls full access to girls` restrooms, locker rooms and cheerleading squads.
The Christian Civic League of Maine said in a statement the "latest demand by the homosexual lobby is quite intolerable, having sunk to the level of an impossible absurdity."
"Gay activists are now demanding that young girls believe and publicly acknowledge that a biological boy in their locker room is, in fact, a girl," the group said.
"Gay activists are now demanding that their own private mental delusions about sex be accepted as public policy. By issuing this demand, radical homosexual activists are asking all of us to participate in a form of collective moral insanity, a mass delusion spread by the homosexual lobby and their misguided – and perhaps malevolent – enablers in Augusta," the group said.
The proposals were developed on behalf of homosexual interests after a conflict developed in one school.
The Bangor Daily News reported a fifth-grade boy at Asa Adams School had been given permission to use the girls` restroom. He then was subjected to "harassment," according to the Maine Human Rights Commission.
The school tried to reach a compromise by designating a special restroom for the boy, instead of allowing him to continue to use the girls` restroom. But the move brought a determination of discrimination from the state agency.
The Maine Human Rights Commission proposed a set of guidelines that would require schools "to allow young children to have access to facilities of the opposite sex. Under the proposed guidelines, boys who self-identify as female will have access to girls` sports teams and cheerleading squads, girls` bathrooms, and girls` locker rooms."
The Christian Civic League of Maine said it is "appalled by the latest outrage by radical homosexual activists."
"Less than two weeks after Bruce LaVallee-Davidson was convicted of shooting South Portland resident, Fred Wilson, after a night of homosexual debauchery, gay activists have disclosed new state guidelines requiring schools to allow young children to have access to facilities of the opposite sex," the organization said.
"In arriving at the proposed guidelines, the MHRC consulted with homosexual lobbyists, the Maine Office of the Attorney General, and principals and superintendents during a closed-door meeting on December 15, 2009. The MHRC will take up the guidelines again on March 1st, and has promised that hearings on the matter will be open to the public. Although the recommendations are offered to public schools, colleges, and other educational institutions in the form of `guidelines,` schools which violate the `guidelines` will be brought before the commission, and may be subject to further legal action," the family organization warned.
The organization said all Maine parents should attend the hearings and meetings "and voice their strong opposition to the proposed guidelines."
"Further, the League calls on all citizens to protect their vulnerable children from the homosexual lobby and their enablers in Augusta by contacting their state legislators and stating their firm opposition to these proposed Maine Human Rights Commission `guidelines,`" the group said.
This is not the first time the argument has arisen. WND previously reported when the city council of Tampa, Fla., voted unanimously to include "gender identity and expression" as a protected class under the city`s human rights ordinance, leading some to fear the council has opened the city`s public bathroom doors to sexual predators masquerading as protected transsexuals.
A statement from the American Family Association explained, "Tampa Police arrested Robert Johnson in February 2008 for hanging out in the locker room–restroom area at Lifestyle Fitness and watching women in an undressed state. The City of Tampa`s `gender identity` ordinance could provide a legal defense to future cases like this if the accused claims that his gender is female."
WND also reported on a similar plan adopted by fiat in Montgomery County, Md., in which opponents feared the law would open up women`s locker rooms to men who say they are women.
The issue also has come up in Colorado, where Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law a plan that effectively strikes gender-specific restrooms in the state.
And city officials in Kalamazoo, Mich., only weeks after adopting a "perceived gender" bias plan have abandoned it in the face of massive public opposition.
|January 26, 2010
|`Anti-Israel` group recruiting across nation
(WorldNetDaily) A controversial lobby group accused of working against Israel will be hosted by a Jewish organization at the University of Pennsylvania as part of an initiative to make the group known in local venues across the U.S.
J Street`s inaugural university event Feb. 4 will be broadcast live from the university to 24 U.S. college campuses.
The event features such speakers as a professor who accused Israel of ethnic cleansing, a supporter of a recent U.N. report charging Israel with war crimes and a host of personalities involved with a "Fast for Gaza" initiative that demands Israel negotiate with the Hamas terrorist organization.
J Street brands itself as pro-Israel. It states on its website it seeks to "promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically."
But the group also supports talks with Hamas, a terrorist group whose charter seeks the destruction of Israel. The group opposes sanctions against Iran and is harshly critical of Israel`s anti-terror military offensives
Next week, J Street is renting space from the Hillel Jewish student organization at the University of Pennsylvania. J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami will broadcast a speech during the event, which will be simultaneously broadcast at other U.S. universities and a local sites throughout the country, including synagogues and Jewish community centers.
Hillel promotes itself as the largest Jewish campus organization in the world and is known as the center of mainstream Jewish life on campuses across the U.S.
J Street`s event at Penn will include speeches from a host of characters with controversial views on Israel, including:
Alpert also announced she personally undertook a month-long fast for the Gaza population as part of a protest movement that calls for Israel to talk with Hamas and lift a blockade in Gaza. Israel daily allows humanitarian goods into Gaza but bans certain materials that can be used to manufacture weapons or aid Hamas`s military wing.
- Elliot Ratzman, a visiting professor of religion at Swarthmore University. And article in the student-run magazine American Foreign Policy accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing – creating such harrowing conditions for Palestinians that they will be forced to move from their property to Palestinian-controlled enclaves or, preferably for the Israeli right wing, away from the region altogether."
Ratzman particularly took issue with Israel`s demolishing of Palestinian homes. However, he did not mention the demolished homes were mostly built illegally on Jewish-owned land. He also failed to mention Israel also routinely bulldozes Jewish homes built without proper municipal permits.
- Arthur Waskow, an author and far-left political activist. Waskow is highly critical of Israeli policies in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. In a recent posting at the website for the leftist Shalom Center Waskow strongly defended a U.N. report penned by South African judge Richard Goldstone that claimed both Hamas and Israel were guilty of war crimes.
Goldstone`s report claimed Israel deliberately targeted civilians during the Gaza conflict. The terrorist group instead launched a rocket offensive against Israeli population centers. The U.N. report equated Israel, which worked to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, to Hamas, which utilized civilians as human shields and fired rockets at Jewish cities from Palestinian hospitals and apartment buildings.
During the Gaza war, Israel sent hundreds of thousands of text messages and placed tens of thousands of calls warning local Palestinians of incoming attacks against Hamas` military infrastructure in Gaza.
As WND reported, Goldstone`s investigation may have relied on false witnesses and Palestinian misinformation.
Just last weekend, it was reported Israel found multiple crucial factual errors in the Goldstone report.
- Leaders of the Fast for Gaza movement.
J Street`s event at the University of Pennsylvania is opposed by a new pro-Israel activist organization calling itself Z Street, which is planning a protest event to coincide with J Street`s outreach day.
"It is a shame that there will be any connection between Hillel and J Street," Z Street co-founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus told WND. "J Street does not deserve to be considered a mainstream pro-Israel organization as it has demonstrated repeatedly that it is `pro-Ishmael` and not `pro-Israel.`"
Howard Alpert, director of Penn`s Hillel group, told WND today he agreed to rent space to J Street on the condition the group "does not advocate actions that will materially harm Israel or its representatives such as boycotts, sanctions or judicial action; and that present their views with civility."
"Consistent with its academic orientation and location on the university campus, Hillel of Greater Philadelphia provides a platform for speakers with different points of view on Israel," Alpert said.
Meanwhile, even the Israeli government has been distancing itself from J Street, with its ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, refusing to attend its annual dinner in October. Israeli Embassy spokesman Yoni Peled told the Jerusalem Post his government has some "concern over certain [J Street] policies that could impair Israel`s interests."
The Powerline blog previously documented how far-leftist Israelis are influential in J Street leadership, including former Knesset Speaker Avrum Burg, who generated controversy when he stated, "To define the state of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end."
Another key J Street member, Mideast expert Henry Siegman, has compared Israel to apartheid South Africa.
|January 26, 2010
|California Democrats Revive Universal Health Plan
(New York Tines) Democrats in California revived a bill on Thursday that would create a single-payer, universal health care system in the state.
While the move came as questions arose over the prospects of Congress adopting national health care legislation, the author of the California bill, State Senator Mark Leno, said that the timing was coincidental. Mr. Leno said it was basically a long-planned reintroduction of a 2009 proposal that was effectively tabled because of its potential cost. But he did concede that Tuesday’s special Senate election in Massachusetts, in which Democrats lost their filibuster-proof 60-vote majority, was not completely lost on him.
“Scott Brown did not push me to do this,” said Mr. Leno, referring to the newly elected Republican senator from Massachusetts. But, he said, “as a result of Tuesday’s election, there is ever greater need for leadership in state legislatures to reform health care.”
Regardless of its relation to the debate in Washington, Republicans in Sacramento jumped at the opportunity to slam the Democratic plan, which would establish a statewide health care system to cover all residents, using a new state agency to negotiate and set fees for services and pay claims.
“California Democrats are either tone-deaf or delusional,” Ron Nehring, the California Republican Party chairman, said in a statement. “They’re determined to double down on a $200 billion health care plan that voters don’t want and taxpayers can’t afford.”
Christine Kehoe, a San Diego Democrat and the chairwoman of the State Senate appropriations committee, which revived Mr. Leno’s bill, said the costs to the state would be $1 million in the next fiscal year because the bill would only initially create a commission to find ways to pay for expanded health care.
And while Ms. Kehoe said a single-payer system could cost “tens of billions a year,” she added that the state was already paying significant amounts for other publicly financed health care programs. She said Mr. Leno’s bill — which would also expand eligibility for Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program — would eventually result in the state saving money.
“The cost of health care insurance in California is a major hindrance to our economy,” said Ms. Kehoe, citing large numbers of uninsured and people paying high rates. “If we could begin to trim some of those costs, there would be billions of dollars going into the economy for more productive use.”
The bill is not the first attempt to set up a single-payer system in California, which has some 6.5 million uninsured. Two previous single-payer bills were passed by the legislature in recent years, only to be vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who tried and failed to establish his own universal health care plan at the start of his second term in 2007. On Thursday, Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, again expressed his displeasure with a single-payer proposal, calling it at odds with fiscal reality, including a looming $20 billion budget gap in the state.
“The governor continues to oppose any single-payer government run health care system,” said Rachel Arrezola, a spokeswoman for Mr. Schwarzenegger.
Mr. Schwarzenegger is in his final year in office, and Democrats seem willing to wait for the fall election. Even if the bill passed and was signed by a new governor, Mr. Leno said he fully expected that health insurance companies would lobby to have any such plan overturned via a ballot measure.
“The voters get the final word,” he said. “And we know it.”
|January 26, 2010
|College defends prof who mocked Christians
(WorldNetDaily) A California college is asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to restore a policy at the center of a case in which a professor berated a Christian student with the suggestion, "Ask God what your grade is."
The Los Angeles Community College District, the nation`s largest community college system, filed the appeal of a lower-court decision in favor of student Jonathan Lopez, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund.
As WND reported, Lopez, a student at Los Angeles City College, was delivering a speech on his Christian faith in speech class when professor John Matteson interrupted him, called him a "fascist b----rd" for mentioning a moral conviction against homosexual marriage. The professor later told the student to "ask God what your grade is."
Matteson also warned on his evaluation of Lopez`s speech, "Proselytizing is inappropriate in public school," and later threatened to have the student expelled.
The subsequent lawsuit by the ADF targeted the school for the professor`s comments but also sought removal of a campus sexual harassment and speech policy that court documents explained "systematically prohibits and punishes political and religious speech by students that is outside the campus political mainstream."
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge George H. King determined the campus policy was "unconstitutionally overbroad" and ordered it to be stricken from the college`s website.
The college then told the judge it wanted him to reconsider the case, to which the judge responded, "Defendants do not get a mulligan simply because they chose to retain new counsel." The appeal by the college district to the 9th Circuit followed.
The precedent the college seeks has attracted the attention of other free-speech advocates, including the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, FIRE, which battles college speech restrictions nationwide.
FIRE has filed a brief in the case arguing the community college`s policy "contradicts both decades of legal precedent and the guidance of the federal Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights."
The brief contends if the district police is permitted, "it would gravely endanger the free speech rights of LACCD students and exacerbate the free speech crisis on America`s college campuses."
"By continuing to defend an indefensible and unconstitutional speech code with this appeal, LACCD has proven not only that it does not care about its students` First Amendment rights, but that it doesn`t care about wasting taxpayer dollars to argue against the Bill of Rights in court," said Will Creeley, FIRE`s director of legal and public advocacy. "FIRE is confident that the Ninth Circuit will recognize the impermissible flaws in LACCD`s policy and reject this misguided appeal."
The policy the school wants affirmed banishes "generalized sexist statements" as well as "actions and behavior that convey insulting, intrusive or degrading attitudes/comments about women or men."
"Despite over two decades of federal jurisprudence finding policies precisely like LACCD`s unconstitutional, LACCD is shamefully attempting to deny its students the First Amendment rights to which they are legally entitled," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. "FIRE`s brief explains why the Ninth Circuit must affirm the district court`s decision and make LACCD`s sexual harassment policy the latest addition to an unbroken string of unconstitutional codes struck down in federal court."
Judge King granted a preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of the policy because of its First Amendment violations. He then refused to grant the college`s motion for reconsideration, calling the college arguments "scattershot and disjointed."
Lopez had quoted Romans 10:9, "Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
He told ADF, "Colleges are supposed to be safe for free speech and the discussion of many ideas. What has happened to me is an assault on my constitutional rights. A victory in this case will guarantee that every student who attends the school now and in the future is allowed to freely express their beliefs, religious or otherwise, without fear."
ADF Litigation Staff Counsel David Hacker said at that time if the school cared about free speech rights of students, "they should not desire to pursue enforcement of such a bad policy."
Lopez was participating in a class assignment to give a speech on "any topic" from six to eight minutes.
"During the November, 24, 2008 class, Mr. Lopez delivered an informative speech on God and the ways in which Mr. Lopez has seen God act both in his life and in the lives of others through miracles," ADF said. "In the middle of the speech, he addressed the issues of God and morality; thus, he referred to the dictionary definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman and also read a passage from the Bible discussing marriage."
Those comments led to the outburst from the professor, who canceled the remaining class period and mocked Lopez`s faith on his grading review.
"By regulating speech on the basis of its content, no matter how `disparaging` or `sexist,` LACCD proposes to appoint itself (or complaining students) the judge of what speech shall be allowed on campus," FIRE official said in the brief. "Such a result cannot be squared with the Supreme Court`s pronouncement, issued `time and again,`" that content discrimination isn`t allowed.
It also argued that the college`s citation of the state education code wasn`t valid.
"The rights enshrined in our nation`s Constitution, including the guarantees of the First Amendment, are the highest law of the land, and they cannot be superseded by state statute or regulation," the brief argued.
|January 26, 2010
|Study: Children Overwhelmed by Media
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, one of the nation’s leading institutions devoted to research about health-care issues and their impact on the public sphere, this week released its new study Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds. The study found that, on average, children and teens ages 8-18 spend more than 53 hours a week using entertainment media -- but because most of that time is spent using more than one form of media at once (simultaneously watching TV, listening to music, looking at a MySpace page online, and sending text messages to friends, for example), they actually use more than 75 hours a week with entertainment media – almost double the time they spend in school!
This increase in media use by children and teens is largely caused by the availability of mobile devices like cell phones and iPods. Today, 66% of 8- to 18-year-olds have their own cell phones, compared to 39% five years ago. And 76% of children have their own iPods or other MP3 players. Young people now spend more time listening to music, playing games, and watching TV on their cell phones than they spend talking on them. Online activities also contribute to increased media time, with teens involved in gaming, social networking, and looking at online video. Three-quarters of all 7th-12th graders say they have a profile on a social networking site like MySpace. And African-American and Hispanic children are especially hard-hit by media; the Kaiser study found that children in these groups consume nearly 4 ½ hours more media daily than do whites, with African-American children watching almost twice as much TV per day as do white children.
Because of the rise of new technology like Internet-enabled cell phones, children have a multitude of ways to access media. This makes it that much more difficult for their parents to monitor what their children are watching, and to limit their child’s exposure to inappropriate programming. Increased time spent in front of electronic media means more exposure to harmful media content, whether Internet pornography, child predators who lurk in chat rooms and sites popular with young children, or sex, violence, and profanity on television.
For decades, television has reached children at a younger age, and for more time in a day, than any other socializing institution except the family. And the new technology has compounded the problem by making it easier for children to media multi-task. Thus, parents are not only spending less time with their children, sharing their beliefs and values, providing them with moral foundation and talking to them about the messages they are seeing on television; the harmful messages children are seeing are instead being reinforced by other media they are consuming.
Based on recent PTC research, those harmful messages include increased depictions of violence against women, and increased depictions of sex outside of the context of marriage (often with themes of sadism, masochism, pornography, prostitution, rape, adult-child relationships and more) on television alone. And on the Internet sites most visited by children, like YouTube, links to hardcore pornography and sexually explicit messages posted by site users are common.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Limiting children’s media use is crucial to reducing the impact of negative media messages on them. Even if the content they are consuming is mostly harmless, time spent with electronic media has been linked to a number of negative outcomes for children, ranging from reduced academic performance, to increased likelihood of obesity, childhood diabetes, problems with sleep, and depression.
Parents should establish and enforce household rules on media use, both with respect to how much time children may spend using electronic media, and with respect to which media products are off-limits. (Only about three in ten young people say they have rules about how much time they can spend watching TV, using the computer, or playing video games. But the study found that when parents do set limits, children spend less time with media. Those with any media rules consume nearly 3 hours less media per day than those with no rules.)
Children should not have TVs and game consoles in their bedrooms. By confining TVs, computers and game consoles to family rooms, parents can significantly limit the amount of time kids spend with such media, as well as easily monitoring children’s activity. Similarly, parents who wish to buy their children cell phones should opt for phones that allow the child to only place and receive phone calls.
|January 26, 2010
|Medical-marijuana users on uncertain ground in workplaces
(Denver Post) Last year, Dorian Beth Wenzel, a Manitou Springs writer and arthritis sufferer, penned a letter to a local newspaper that disclosed her status as a medical-marijuana patient.
The paper printed the letter, and soon afterward Wenzel found herself face-to-face with the human-resources director of the nonprofit organization she works for. Wenzel`s office, her HR director told her, is a drug-free workplace.
"It is kind of scary when your HR department is telling you that you could be fired," Wenzel said. "And it`s like, `Why?` "
To Colorado`s already-vexing cannabis conundrum, add yet another riddle: Are medical-marijuana patients protected from discipline under their employers` anti-drug policies?
In the past week, two other stories that pose such a question have emerged:
• In the first, an Idaho Springs high school teacher and football coach resigned from the school after being charged with smoking marijuana on school grounds, even though he said he was a legal patient.
• The second involves a Denver city employee who failed a routine drug test taken after an on-duty car accident. The employee said medical-marijuana use accounted for the positive test.
Can an employer punish someone for doing something that is constitutionally protected?
"This issue is up in the air right now," said Vance Knapp, a Denver lawyer with Sherman & Howard who deals in employment law. "It hasn`t been litigated through the courts."
In other words, nobody really knows yet.
The constitutional amendment that authorizes medical marijuana in Colorado has this to say on the matter: "Nothing in this section shall require any employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any work place."
That provision makes on-the-job use or impairment a clear violation at a drug-free workplace, but the outer boundaries of the provision are subject to greater debate.
Advocacy organizations contend that employers have interpreted the language broadly, using it to punish even patients who use medical marijuana in off-the-clock hours and never show up to work impaired, as Wenzel said she doesn`t.
"It`s been deciphered to mean that employers can fire a medical-marijuana patient for just about anything," said Brian Vicente, the executive director of the medical-marijuana patient-rights group Sensible Colorado. "Basically, it`s a form of legalized discrimination against sick people who choose to use medical marijuana."
Courts ruling on similar questions in two other states — California and Montana — have sided with employers in giving them authority to fire medical-marijuana patients who fail company drug tests. But there are two key ways in which Colorado`s laws differ from those states:
• Colorado`s medical-marijuana law is embedded in the state`s constitution rather than just statutes.
• Colorado has something called the Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, which prevents employers from punishing employees for doing something off-duty that is legal.
Boulder lawyer Jeff Gard, who represents medical-marijuana patients and said he gets several calls per week from patients worried about keeping their jobs, said state and federal anti-disability-discrimination laws also would protect patients.
"You`re not going to tell a diabetic, `We`re going to fire you for using insulin,` " Gard said.
Knapp, the Denver lawyer, said marijuana`s status under federal law as an illegal drug — no matter how it`s used — could nullify all those laws` protections. But he quickly noted that an Arapahoe County judge`s recent ruling — in which the judge said a city couldn`t cite federal law to shut down a medical-marijuana dispensary — might counter that argument.
For now, Knapp said he is advising the employers who ask him about the issue to update their anti-drug policies to specify that they include drugs that are illegal according to federal law as well as locally.
"Employers need to be very cautious in addressing this situation because there are a lot of land mines out there," Knapp said.
|January 26, 2010
|56 Percent of Americans Say Abortion is ‘Morally Wrong,’ Poll Finds
(CNSNews) After 37 years of legalized abortion, 56 percent of all Americans still say it is morally wrong – and 58 percent of those aged 18 to 29 take that position.
The poll was conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion and is the latest in a series of such surveys commissioned by the Knights of Columbus.
“Americans of all ages – and younger people in even greater numbers than their parents – see abortion as something morally wrong,” K of C Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said. “America has turned a corner and is embracing life – and in doing so is embracing a future they – and all of us – can be proud of.”
Anderson told CNSNews.com that he wasn’t surprised at the results.
‘Given what polling we’ve done in the past, it’s consistent, so from that standpoint, no, I’m not surprised,” he said. "Medical technologies, like 3-D ultrasound, are revealing so much more clearly the humanity of the unborn child.
“Conversely, a lot of people know women who have had an abortion and have come to realize that it wasn’t really a good experience for her. I think when you think about those dynamics, you’re not surprised.
“On the other hand, when you just look at it on the surface, these are people who have known nothing other than a regime of legal abortion, so you would expect them to be fully supportive of it, but they are not. And that’s a consistent finding over a good period time now,” Anderson said.
The poll asked: "Regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal, do you believe that in general, each one of the following issues is morally acceptable or morally wrong?
-- 58 percent of those aged 18 to 29 – known as "Millennials"-- consider abortion to be "morally wrong."
-- 61 percent of Generation X (those 30-44) feel the same way.
-- 51 percent of Baby Boomers (those aged 45-64) agreed.
-- 62 percent of the Greatest Generation (those 65+) say it is morally wrong.
In previous polls (conducted in October of 2008 and July of 2009), an overwhelming number of Americans (86 percent) said they would “significantly restrict” abortion and 60 percent would limit it to cases of rape, incest, to save the life of the mother – or not allow it at all.
“So 60 percent of all Americans would legally restrict abortion along the lines of the Hyde Amendment, so that only about 4 or 5 percent of the abortions that are occurring now – which is to say those done to save the life of a mother or in cases of rape or incest – would be legal. 95 percent or so would not be,” Anderson said.
The question on abortion was part of a larger survey, which will be released in the next several days.
The poll surveyed 2,243 Americans -- including an oversample of 1,006 Millennials. Reports for Americans have a margin of error of +/-2 percent and for Millennials it is +/-3 percent. Data were collected from Dec. 23, 2009 through Jan. 4, 2010 using an online, probability-based panel from Knowledge Networks, Inc.
|January 22, 2010
|Anticipation Surrounds `To Save A Life` Film Opening
(Christian Post) Churches and youth ministries have bought out thousands of movie theater seats for the big screen debut of "To Save A Life" on Friday.
Way before its release, the independent film has already drawn a large fan base and sparked a grassroots movement of reaching out to hurting teens and saving lives.
"I`ve received emails from students that walked out of the theatre and threw their razor blades away because they are not going to cut themselves anymore," screenwriter and youth pastor Jim Britts told The Christian Post.
"I’ve heard stories of students struggling with suicidal thoughts see the film and decide to now be a part of the solution and reach out to their hurting and lonely classmates. I’ve heard several stories about students starting lunch time groups on their campuses with the goal of inviting people who normally eat by themselves."
The film tackles a host of issues from suicide, cutting and peer pressure to pregnancy and abortion – issues that are real-life challenges teens today face, Britts says. Each character in the film and many of the scenes are based off of students Britts has had in his youth group at Newsong Church in Oceanside, Calif., and their experiences.
More than a movie, "To Save A Life" was produced with the intent of opening the public`s eyes to the reality of struggling teens and motivating students to reach out to their fellow peers.
The message is resonating with teens throughout the country.
"We’ve screened the film to thousands of church leaders, school administrators and teens across the country and the response has been through the roof," said Britts.
"Before even seeing the film, people are getting that this is so much more than just an entertaining movie and wanting to be a part of this movement of reaching out to the hurting and lonely," he highlighted. "We hope this film empowers its viewers to save lots of lives."
"To Save A Life" has more than 67,000 fans on its Facebook page, with over 2,000 fans being added every day.
Over 200 groups, called "Lifeline Squads," have pledged to pre-sell a minimum of 1,000 tickets for opening weekend and 2,500 youth groups have planned to take their students and friends to watch the film.
Some are buying out complete showtimes to distribute the tickets to teens for a free viewing and teachers are offering extra credit to students who see the film.
Following the opening weekend, outreaches to hurting teens are being planned in several cities.
Explaining the significant of the movie title, Britt said, "We want to empower teens to save the physical and spiritual lives of their classmates at school."
"To Save A Life" features a cast and crew with Hollywood experience, including actors Randy Wayne, Deja Kreutzberg, and Robert Bailey Jr., and director Brian Baugh. The film opens in 430 theaters Friday.
|January 22, 2010
|Researcher: Abortion is $38.5 Trillion Drag on the Economy
(LifeSiteNews.com) – In its latest estimate on the economic impact of abortion, the Movement for a Better America is reporting that the abortion toll is projected to climb to a new high of 52,333,000 as of January 22, 2010, the 37th anniversary of Roe V. Wade.
The group also estimated that the economic impact has risen to $38.5 trillion in lost U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since 1970.
“This year alone, the impact involved another $2.45 trillion, or roughly equal to half the GDP of Germany and France combined,” said the Movement in a press release.
MBA President Dennis Howard, who has been researching the economic impact of abortion since 1992, said, “The number of lives lost to surgical abortion has reached 17% of the total U.S. population of 307,000,000. So it’s not surprising that this year’s increase is equal to 17% of U.S. GDP.”
The estimates are based on average GDP per year since 1970 after abortion became legal in our largest states and the cumulative number of abortions.
The estimates do not include babies lost to abortifacients and contraception because of the lack of public data. Said Howard: “However, the economic impact of these is similar to abortion. My guess is they would double the impact based on abortion alone.”
Howard has been warning since the mid-1990’s that the US faced a major financial crisis based on ongoing demographic trends. In 1997, he wrote: “I see little hope that we can avoid an eventual crash on Wall Street that will make the 1930’s looking like cashing in your cards after a bad game of Monopoly.”
He even gave percentages as to when a crash would occur. He wrote then: “I’d give it a 50% chance of happening by the year 2000, an 80% chance by the year 2010, and a 100% chance of happening by 2020.”
Howard cited the collapse of the former Soviet Union as an example of the impact of demographics on economies. “The main reason for their collapse was internal – 300 abortions for every 100 live births for decades ... Right now, there are not enough younger women to reverse their population decline. They could lose another 40 million people by 2050.”
“Meanwhile,” he said, “the Muslim world is going in the other direction – with rates of natural increase 5 to 6 times higher than ours. They will own the second half of this Century unless we reverse course.”
|January 22, 2010
|Transparency: Government Posting Huge Amount of ‘High Value’ Government Data to Internet
(CNSNews) The Obama administration on Friday is posting to the Internet a wealth of government data from all Cabinet-level departments, on topics ranging from child car seats to Medicare services.
The mountain of newly available information comes a year and a day after President Barack Obama promised on his first full day on the job an open, transparent government.
Under a Dec. 8 White House directive, each department must post online at least three collections of "high-value" government data that never have been previously disclosed.
The Transportation Department will post consumer safety ratings for 2,400 lines of tires based on tire tread wear, traction performance and temperature resistance. The Labor Department will release the names of 80,000 workplaces where injuries and illness have occurred over the past 10 years.
The Medicare database has previously been available for a fee of $100 on CD ROM. Under the Obama initiative, it can be downloaded free, providing detailed breakdowns of payments for Medicare services. The Medicare data will be sortable by the type of medical service provided.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database rates car seats for ease of use, evaluating the simplicity of instruction sheets, labels, vehicle installation features and securing the child.
"We`re democratizing data," White House Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra said Thursday in an interview.
Open government groups are supportive.
"There`s recognition that public equals online," said Ellen Miller, executive director at Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit group focusing on the use of technology for greater government transparency.
Miller said the effort represents "a sea change in government`s attitude," with newfound support for the idea that government data belongs in the hands of citizens instead of locked away in the basement of a federal agency.
All the new data collections will be added to the government`s Web site, data.gov.
Required to release the three new data sets are the departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency, the offices of the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the Council of Economic Advisers.
|January 22, 2010
|Political Asylum Ruling Expected Today for German Homeschooling Family
(LifeSiteNews.com) A federal immigration judge in Memphis is expected to issue a ruling today on the case of a German family that applied for political asylum after suffering persecution from the German government over homeschooling their children.
Uwe and Hannelore Romeike fled Germany and sought safe haven within the United States in 2008 after enduring years of punishment from the German government for educating their five children at home in conformity with their Christian values – a legal crime in Germany.
"The persecution of homeschoolers in Germany has dramatically intensified," said HSLDA staff attorney Michael P. Donnelly. "They are regularly fined thousands of dollars, threatened with imprisonment, or have the custody of their children taken away simply because they choose to home educate."
Although Germany is a modern social democracy, the nation retains statist attitudes formed by the National Socialists during the Third Reich regarding the rights of families. In order to bring about the uniform educational and social formation of the youth by the state, the Jugendamt (Youth Welfare Office) was created, and Germany outlawed homeschooling through a compulsory education law.
The laws outlawing homeschooling remained on the books in Germany after the demise of Hitler’s Germany, but German officials for the most part maintained a policy of salutary neglect as late as 2002, when the Education Minister of the time stated the government would not crack down on the homeschooling minority since their children “are generally not lacking in any other respects.”
But even then a marked sea-change in the government’s attitude was underway, and by 2006, the succeeding Education Minister K. Horstmann, made clear its policy. He warned homeschooling families: “The education administration in future will also not recognize so-called homeschooling and act in proportionate measure considering the individual case and circumstances.”
For Uwe and Hannelore Romeike that meant enduring thousands of euros in crippling fines, threats of prison time, and in October 2006, Jugendamt officials made good on their threat to seize their children and place them in a local state-run school.
The persecution faced by the Romeikes, however, is typical of the suffering faced by homeschooling families, some of whom have also had the traumatizing experience of armed police storming their homes at night to take their children away. However, Christian parents have persisted in homeschooling, saying that they want to keep their children free from the corrupting influence of the state-run schools, which they say have been peddling occultism, secular values, and grossly explicit sex education.
"We left family members, our home, and a wonderful community in Germany, but the well-being of our children made it necessary," said Uwe Romeike.
Hannelore Romeike praised the freedom that they now enjoy to educate their children at home in Tennessee.
"The freedom we have to homeschool our children in Tennessee is wonderful,” said Romeike. “We don`t have to worry about looking over our shoulder anymore wondering when the youth welfare officials will come or how much money we have to pay in fines.”
"If the political asylum application is granted it will be the first time America has ever granted political asylum to Christian homeschoolers fleeing from German persecution," said Donnelly.
Donnelly hopes that if the court grants the Romeike’s asylum, it will put more pressure on Germany to back down from its persecution of homeschoolers or face international embarrassment. A positive ruling could also pave the way for other homeschooling families to apply for political asylum in the United States.
|January 22, 2010
|Katie Walker: Young, Committed, Articulate, Professional and Pro-Life
(LifeSiteNews.com) Twenty-three year-old Katie Walker is part of the new generation of young pro-life activists who sees her work as part of the great continuity of centuries of human rights development in the western world. As the full-time public relations director for American Life League (ALL), Katie says that one of the “most striking” aspects of her work is the Personhood Movement, a major focus of ALL, and one that is reframing the issue for the public.
“We need to start looking at the pro-life movement as a human rights movement as an extension of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s,” Katie told LifeSiteNews.com in an interview Thursday.
“Anyone who has had an extended debate with a pro-abortion proponent knows that they recognise that the being in the womb is human. They know it’s a baby, but they don’t think it’s a person with the same dignity and equality and worth as you or I.”
Human rights, she said, is the “direction of the pro-life movement.” She named William Wilberforce, the heroes of the Civil Rights movement and the heroes of the abolitionist movement as the models for the new wave of pro-life activism.
“When you’re discussing this and you’re getting down to brass tacks with pro-aborts, and you’re in any kind of hard-core debate, it always comes down to the baby in the womb is not a human person because of either age, dependency level or location. These criteria have been used to justify slavery and all kinds of human rights abuses through the last couple of thousand years.
“If you look back historically, it is the same movement and the parallels are undeniable.”
Pro-life leaders need to shift their focus to present their position as one of a defence of human rights. With pro-abortion advocates, this “takes away their ammunition.”
“And you can see lights starting to go off in their heads. It’s a beautiful frame of reference to start the debate off with something that they can understand.”
Communicating the pro-life message in terms of personhood, she said, gives the pro-life movement a huge tactical advantage, one that creates a mental detour around many people’s stereotypes and emotional blockages. American Life League has launched a series of “personhood initiatives” in eight states with “dozens more” expected. They are, she said, “talking to people person-to-person, changing hearts and minds one at a time.”
The petitioners ask, “Do you believe that all human beings should be considered persons under the law?” This shifts the focus away from the standard pro-life rhetoric that can derail a discussion, she said. “So, one by one, it’s completely getting under their radar and is engaging people in a way they’ve never been engaged before.”
Having been involved in the pro-life movement for most of her life, one of Katie’s earliest memories is of participating in side-walk prayer vigils outside an abortion facility. “I was one of those kids who very easily could have been aborted,” she said. As a single unwed mother, her mother “was definitely a candidate for abortion.”
“One of my first memories is of protesting in front of a Planned Parenthood, standing next to my cousin in a stroller, and they told me that they kill babies at Planned Parenthood. So we’re next to my cousin, and someone comes up to us – in retrospect it was probably a pro-lifer – but I threw myself over the stroller: ‘Don’t hurt my cousin!’”
As a major in journalism in college who was active in her campus pro-life group, Katie had her first experience of anti-pro-life prejudice from academia at the age of 19. At a time when she was set to become editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper at Northern Kentucky University, a feminist professor on campus “destroyed and vandalized” the campus pro-life group’s first display and Walker was interviewed on Fox news. After this, Katie was summarily sacked from the paper.
“They called me into the editor-in-chief’s office and said, ‘Sayonara. You are too much of a hot-button and biased.’ Because I was the president of the pro-life group I was fired from the campus paper which essentially called a halt to my journalistic ambitions.”
Walker refocused her energies into expanding her pro-life activities to the state level and ended up with American Life League in Washington, attracted by their “uncompromising, no-nonsense” approach.
Her Washington experience has taught her the value of keeping in contact with the grass roots pro-life activists. “I think there’s a temptation when you’re working for the pro-life movement and you’re doing this 50, 60 hours a week to disconnect from the grass roots who are out on those sidewalks every day, day in and day out,” she said.
“Here in DC the movement is challenging and vigorous and there are lots of problems, and lots of things we need to work on and I think one of the biggest things is to remember those people in the Midwest who are fighting that fight every day on the ground.”
She names the Scheidlers of Chicago’s Pro-Life Action League who “day in and day out are standing in front of the Aurora Planned Parenthood and pounding the pavement in Chicago, fighting the fight for each one of those women who are going into those abortion mills and each one of those babies.”
|January 21, 2010
|McCain`s wife, daughter back gay marriage movement
VIEW PHOTO HERE.
(Washington Post) Cindy McCain, the wife of 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, and their daughter Meghan have posed for photos endorsing pro-gay marriage forces in California.
Mrs. McCain appears with silver duct tape across her mouth and "NOH8" written on one cheek in a photo posted Wednesday to the Web site of NOH8, a gay rights group opposed to Proposition 8. The ballot measure passed by California voters in 2008 bans same-sex marriage.
The McCains` daughter Meghan, who has been outspoken in her support for gay rights, has also endorsed NOH8. She appears with silver duct tape across her mouth and "NOH8" on a cheek in a photo on her Twitter site.
Cindy McCain contacted NOH8 and offered to pose for the photo endorsement, the Web site said.
John McCain`s office said in a statement that the Arizona senator respects the views of members of his family but remains opposed to gay marriage.
"Sen. McCain believes the sanctity of marriage is only defined as between one man and one woman," the statement said.
John McCain backed an Arizona ballot measure passed by voters in 2008 that defined marriage as between one man and one woman.
The NOH8 Web site praised Cindy McCain`s willingness to publicly endorse a cause that is unpopular within the Republican Party.
"The McCains are one of the most well-known Republican families in recent history, and for Mrs. McCain to have reached out to us to offer her support truly means a lot," the site says.
"Although we had worked with Meghan McCain before and were aware of her own position, we`d never really thought the cause might be something her mother would get behind. We have a huge amount of respect for both of these women for being brave enough to make it known they support equal marriage rights for all Americans."
Meghan McCain said Wednesday in a Twitter message linked to her blog: "I couldn`t be more proud of my mother for posing for the NOH8 campaign. I think more Republicans need to start taking a stand for equality."
Meghan McCain was asked to be the keynote speaker at next month`s National Equality Week at George Washington University in Washington for her advocacy, but her appearance has drawn criticism from Republicans on campus, the NOH8 site said.
McCain`s Senate re-election campaign said Wednesday that his presidential running mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, will come to Arizona to campaign for him in March. Palin has been a vocal opponent of gay marriage.
|January 21, 2010
|Debunking Planned Parenthood`s financial woes
(OneNewsNow) California Planned Parenthood pays its top executives extremely well while also claiming to receive insufficient funding for its patients.
Planned Parenthood has told California legislators that the clinic has to turn away as many as 10,000 people per month because they do not have sufficient funding. Meanwhile, California Catholic Daily has revealed that the state Planned Parenthood CEO is paid nearly $295,000 annually while others receive a salary in the $200,000 range. Also noteworthy are the benefit packages enjoyed by these well-paid executives.
"Planned Parenthood continues to pump and pump the hardworking taxpayers of this nation for more money when Planned Parenthood executives are taking home obscene salaries compared to most people who work for a living," comments Rita Diller, national director of Stop Planned Parenthood, or STOPP International.
She continues to tell OneNewsNow that Planned Parenthood is always interested in the bottom line: money. "If a [Planned Parenthood] facility is not profitable, it`s going to be shut down or merged with another Planned Parenthood," Diller explains. "So that gives the executives a lot of motivation to keep their affiliates profitable because without that profitability, there won`t be anymore fat paychecks for them."
The STOPP International national director also points out that the non-profit organization took in over $349 million in government grants and contracts in 2008 alone and ended the year with $85 million in profits. Planned Parenthood also performed about one-third of the abortions in America.
|January 21, 2010
|Muslims Angry Over U.S. Military `Jesus` Rifles
(FoxNews) Combat rifle sights used by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan carry secret references to Bible verses.
Muslim groups reacted angrily Wednesday after it emerged that the U.S. military is using combat rifle sights inscribed with coded Biblical references.
Army officials have said they will investigate whether a Michigan defense contractor violated federal procurement rules by stamping references to Bible verses on the gun sights used by American forces to kill enemy fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations on Wednesday said the continued use of the sights with the religious references would send a negative message to the Muslim world.
"The use of military equipment with hidden Bible references sends the false message to Muslims worldwide that we are at war with Islam," said CAIR Legal Counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili. "In addition, these sights are a potential recruiting tool for anti-American forces, endanger our troops and alienate our Muslim allies. They should we withdrawn as soon as logistically possible."
The Marine Corps, another major customer of the telescoping sights that allow troops to pinpoint targets day or night, says service acquisition officials plan to meet with Trijicon to discuss future purchases of the company`s gear.
"If determined to be true, this is clearly inappropriate and we are looking into possible remedies," Commander Darryn James, a Pentagon spokesman, told AFP.
The references have stoked concerns by a watch dog group about whether the inscriptions break a government rule that bars proselytizing by American troops. But military officials said the citations don`t violate the ban and they won`t stop using the tens of thousands of telescoping sights that have already been bought.
The codes were used as "part of our faith and our belief in service to our country," Trijicon said.
"As long as we have men and women in danger, we will continue to do everything we can to provide them with both state-of-the-art technology and the never-ending support and prayers of a grateful nation," a company spokesman said on condition of anonymity.
Trijicon said it has been longstanding company practice to put the Scripture citations on the equipment. Tom Munson, Trijicon`s director of sales and marketing, said the company has never received any complaints until now.
"We don`t publicize this," Munson said in a recent interview. "It`s not something we make a big deal out of. But when asked, we say, `Yes, it`s there.`"
The inscriptions are subtle and appear in raised lettering at the end of the stock number. Trijicon`s rifle sights use tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, to create light and help shooters hit what they`re aiming for.
Markings on the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, which is standard issue to U.S. special operations forces, include "JN8:12," a reference to John 8:12: "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, `I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,`" according to the King James version of the Bible.
The Trijicon Reflex sight is stamped with 2COR4:6, a reference to part of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," the King James version reads.
Photos posted on a Defense Department Web site show Iraqi forces training with rifles equipped with the inscribed sights.
The Defense Department is a major customer of Trijicon`s. In 2009 alone, the Marine Corps signed deals worth $66 million for the company`s products. Trijicon`s scopes and optical devices for guns range in cost from a few hundred dollars to $13,000, according to the company`s Web site.
Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, says the Trijicon sights could give the Taliban and other enemy forces a propaganda tool: that American troops are Christian crusaders invading Muslim countries.
"I don`t have to wonder for a nanosecond how the American public would react if citations from the Quran were being inscribed onto these U.S. armed forces gun sights instead of New Testament citations," Weinstein said. The foundation is a nonprofit organization opposed to religious favoritism within the military.
Weinstein said he has received complaints about the Scripture citations from active-duty and retired members of the military. He said he couldn`t identify them because they fear retaliation.
A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which manages military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the sights don`t violate the ban on proselytizing because there`s no effort to distribute the equipment beyond the U.S. troops who use them.
"This situation is not unlike the situation with U.S. currency," said the spokesman, Air Force Maj. John Redfield. "Are we going to stop using money because the bills have `In God We Trust` on them? As long as the sights meet the combat needs of troops, they`ll continue to be used."
Capt. Geraldine Carey, a Marine Corps spokeswoman, said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement that "we are aware of the issue and are concerned with how this may be perceived." Carey said Marine Corps acquisition officials plan to meet with Trijicon to discuss future buys of the company`s sights. The statement did not say what the nature of those discussions would be.
Gary Tallman, an Army spokesman, said the service was not aware of the markings. But Army acquisition experts will determine if Trijicon violated any procurement regulations, he said.
Munson, Trijicon`s sales director, said the practice of putting Bible references on the sites began nearly 30 years ago by Trijicon`s founder, Glyn Bindon, who was killed in a plane crash in 2003. His son Stephen, Trijicon`s president, has continued the practice.
|January 21, 2010
|Health Care Biggest Issue for Massachusetts Voters in Special Senate Election
(CNSNews.com) Rasmussen Reports, the only firm to attempt an exit poll on the surprise race, found that health care was the biggest issue weighing on Massachusetts voters’ minds as they stepped into the ballot box on Tuesday.
The special election to fill the Senate seat of Democrat Edward Kennedy ended with Republican Scott Brown defeating the state’s attorney general, Democrat Martha Coakley, by five points.
According to Rasmussen, 56 percent of voters named health care as their top issue when they left polling stations, but staying true to their usual support for a strong welfare state, Massachusetts voters actually handed Coakley a narrow win on the issue (53-46 percent).
Brown, however, turned out far more voters who strongly opposed the current health care plan before Congress (41 percent of voters), while just 25 percent said they strongly favored the plan.
That enthusiasm gap in the health care debate is mirrored in the same firm’s national numbers. In its most recent polling from Monday, 44 percent said they strongly opposed the current bill, and just 18 percent were strongly in favor of it. Those numbers, Rasmussen noted, had not changed much from Thanksgiving.
Brown managed to pull out the 52-47 win Tuesday by winning almost every voter who was opposed to the current health care bill (98 percent) and besting Coakley on a host of other top issues. He also won unaffiliated voters 73-25.
Among those who do not like the job President Obama has done during his first year in office, Brown also won commandingly, with 97 percent of those who strongly disapprove supporting him and 95 percent of those who only somewhat disapprove.
By contrast, Coakley also won 96 percent of those who strongly approve of Obama’s job performance, but only 69 percent of those who just somewhat approve.
Behind health care, 25 percent named the economy the top pressing issue on their minds as they voted. Of that group, Brown pulled out a 52-47 victory, the same as his overall margin.
Only two other issues were placed at the forefront of a significant portion of voters’ minds (5 percent) – national security and taxes. On both issues, Brown won commandingly.
On national security, he bested Coakley 67-29, and on taxes, he opened his lead to 87-13.
Even among a constituency that reliably votes Democrats – union members – Coakley only eked out a 52-46 victory.
Another piece of Brown’s win could be attributed to a local issue—widespread discontent with first-term Gov. Deval Patrick (D). A small sliver—15 percent—of Massachusetts voters approved of President Obama’s job performance but disapproved of the job Patrick had done in his first year. Among that group, Brown won in a landslide—93-7.
Rasmussen was the only firm to release a comprehensive election night poll, because most others were caught flat-footed. Expecting a landslide win for Coakley in the months leading up to the special election, state organizers did not think such data would be needed.
The last 2009 poll performed by Suffolk, which largely operates in Massachusetts, showed Coakley up 31 points (58-27 over Brown), between Nov. 4 and 8, but she entered a freefall thereafter, inexplicably taking a six-day vacation from campaigning.
When she returned, a Boston Globe poll conducted between Jan. 2 and 6 showed her lead had diminished to 17 points (53-36).
By Jan. 9, just a few days later, Public Policy Polling was showing Brown instead with a single-point lead (48-47).
Politico.com commissioned the last poll ahead of the election on Jan. 17, and pollster InsiderAdvantage found Brown up 9 points (52-43). Late deciders ultimately broke for Coakley, allowing her to close the gap some to the final election result of 52-47.
The win for Brown in deep-blue Massachusetts means the state will send its first Republican senator to the nation’s capitol since 1972, when Edward Brooke became the first African American elected by popular vote to the U.S. Senate.
The win deprives Senate Democrats of the valuable 60th vote they need to break Republican filibusters. Without it, it could prove impossible to get a health care deal back through the Senate so that Obama can sign it.
In her concession speech, Coakley said Obama had phoned her to remind her that one “can’t win them all.”
In his victory speech, Brown thanked Coakley for graciously conceding and said he would “remember that while the honor is mine, this Senate seat belongs to no one person and no political party—and as I have said before, and you said loud and clear today, it is the people’s seat.”
Brown was referring to the final debate with Coakley on Jan. 12, when he was angered by the moderator’s reference to the open Senate seat as health care reform champion “Teddy Kennedy’s seat.”
“This—you’ve said you’re for health care reform, just not this bill,” moderator David Gergen began. “We know from the Clinton experience that if this bill fails, it could well be another 15 years before we see health care reform efforts again in Washington.
“Are you willing under those circumstances to say, ‘I’m going to be the person—I’m going to sit in Teddy Kennedy’s seat, and I’m going to be the person that’s going to block it for another 15 years?” Gergen added.
“Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedy seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat—it’s the people’s seat,” Brown retorted.
Rasmussen’s election poll as well as the national health care poll each surveyed 1,000 likely voters by telephone, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
|January 21, 2010
|Confirmed: `voting legislation` in works
(WorldNetDaily) Rep. Barney Frank has confirmed that Sen. Chuck Schumer "is working on legislation regarding voting," lending weight to reports that Democrats are planning to implement a federal mandate to automatically register millions of people to vote.
As WND reported, Wall Street Journal reporter and political commentator John Fund has been warning that Democrats have a plan to propose universal voter-registration legislation – within months or possibly even weeks.
Fund initially told a crowd in November 2009 at a David Horowitz Freedom Center forum that Schumer, D-N.Y., and Frank, D-Mass., would be the architects of the universal-voter legislation.
"We read that on some right-wing websites, but we`re not sure what they`re talking about," Frank`s spokesman told WND. "We haven`t heard anything about it. We know it started with the Journal`s John Fund, but we don`t know anything about it, honestly. We`re not sure where he got it from."
However, Fund corrected himself when he spoke with WND.
"I made an error. I should have referred to John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee," Fund said. "It`s not Congressman Frank. It`s Congressman Conyers."
Neither Schumer`s office nor Conyers` office has returned WND`s numerous calls and e-mails requesting comment over a period of several days. But just hours after WND spoke with Frank`s office, Frank released a letter to Fund, blasting him for the allegations and firmly denouncing claims of his involvement.
"You simply made this up with regard to me," Frank`s Jan. 13 letter stated. "I must tell you that I was not surprised, because this sort of fictionalized attack on political opponents has sadly become characteristic of many on the right."
Frank told Fund several of his "right-wing colleagues in the media, including Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the Washington Times" repeated his statements.
However, in his letter to Fund, Frank confirmed Schumer`s involvement in drafting voter legislation. He`s now one of several people to verify that Schumer is constructing a voting bill.
"I`ve since learned that Senator Schumer is working on legislation regarding voting," Frank wrote, "but I am told that it does not remotely resemble your version of it."
Fund argues that universal-registration plans involve the use of a wide range of government lists and databases to automatically add people to voter registration rolls. He discusses the topic in his November 2009 book, "How the Obama Administration Threatens to Undermine Our Elections."
Schumer, chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, held a hearing on voter registration in March 2009. Jonah Goldman, director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections at the Lawyers` Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, testified before the committee about concerns with the current registration system and its impact on the 2008 election. Goldman`s testimony drew from an Election Protection report titled, "Election Protection 2008: Helping Voters Today, Modernizing the System for Tomorrow." That report included the following policy recommendation:
Automatic Registration: Automatic registration shifts the burden of registration from voters to government and eliminates the need to rely on independent, third-party voter registration organizations to sign up voters. Such a registration system will help states efficiently identify eligible voters from other government databases and add those names to their registration rolls. Voters can opt out if they prefer not to be registered, but for those who want to be included on the rolls, this system will continually update the names of eligible voters, eliminating the last minute deluge of registration applications just before registration deadlines.
Following the hearing, Schumer argued that as many as 7 million registered voters were prevented or discouraged from casting ballots in the 2008 election.
"Each one alone may not seem like an egregious violation, but put together, you get massive disenfranchisement," Schumer said in a statement. "This is unnacceptable and undemocratic."
In his book, Fund explained that proponents of unversal-voter registration believe the process should be overseen and regulated by the federal government.
"The idea, embraced by Barack Obama when he was a presidential candidate, is to shift responsibility for registering to vote from the individual to the federal government," Fund writes in his book. "All eligible citizens would automatically be registered to vote, which existing lists such as DMV records, income-tax returns, welfare rolls and unemployment lists being used to enroll everyone. Once registered, individuals would stay on the federal rolls, even if they move to another state or district."
Fund warns that the government databases contain names of non-citizens, mentally incompetent individuals and felons – factors that would usually disqualify a person from voting in most states. He also notes that many people own property in more than one location and pay taxes to numerous government entities.
"[U]niversal voter registration would automatically register them in more than one location, allowing them to vote more than once – either in person or by mail," Fund explains.
He said the plan would destroy the integrity of the registration process, much as widespread registration drives by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, were reportedly rife with criminal actions, including people registered multiple times under fraudulent names and addresses. In the 2008 election, ACORN`s practices led to investigation in more than a dozen states.
"Now they will sell this very cleverly," Fund explained. "They will say, well, OK, ACORN did have some problems with voter registration. We shouldn`t have these third-party rogue groups out there. So, let`s put ACORN out of business, and let`s register everybody."
Numerous left-leaning groups and publications have been openly calling for universal-voter registration in recent years.
In its April, 13, 2009, article by Eliza Newlin Carney, the National Journal reported that Schumer "plans to introduce a bill to revamp the voter registration system later this year."
"Democrats believe it is too hard for people to register and vote; Republicans believe it is too easy to register and vote fraudulently," Schumer said. "There may be a way to solve both problems simultaneously through new technology and forge a better bipartisan solution."
Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has advocated for automatic voter registration.
"A system of automatic registration, in which the government bears more responsibility for assembling accurate and secure lists of eligible voters, is a necessary reform," then-Sen. Clinton told the New York Times in November 2008.
In addition to statements made by Frank and Fund, a congressional staffer confirmed Schumer`s involvement.
"What we know from statements from advocacy groups that support universal-voter registration is that they have been working with Sen. Schumer`s office since approximately last spring to create a bill," the staffer told WND. "We don`t know exactly when he will introduce it, but it has been predicted to be introduced in the near future for several months now. Schumer definitely has been, and seems to be, the point person on this."
|January 21, 2010
|Supreme Court Hands GOP Huge Victory: Business Free to Support or Oppose Presidential, Congressional Candidates
(NewsMax) Corporations can spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a landmark decision that allows massive sums to be spent to influence future elections.
The 5-4 ruling split the high court along conservative and liberal lines. It was a defeat for the Obama administration and supporters of campaign finance laws who said that ending the limits would unleash a flood of corporate money into the political system.
The ruling will transform the political landscape and the rules on how money can be spent in this year`s congressional election and the 2012 presidential contest.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the limits violated constitutional free-speech rights.
"We find no basis for the proposition that, in the context of political speech, the government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers," he wrote.
In his sharply worded dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "The court`s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation."
The justices overturned Supreme Court precedents from 2003 and 1990 that upheld federal and state limits on independent expenditures by corporate treasuries to support or oppose candidates.
"This decision allows Wall Street to tap its vast corporate profits to drown out the voice of the public in our democracy," said Common Cause President Bob Edgar, a group that supports campaign finance limits.
LABOR UNIONS TOO
In the 2008 election cycle, nearly $6 billion was spent on all federal campaigns, including more than $1 billion from corporate political action committees, trade associations, executives and lobbyists.
The ruling will almost certainly allow labor unions to spend more freely in political campaigns also and it posed a threat to similar limits that had been imposed in about half of the country`s 50 states.
The top court struck down the part of the federal law that restricted broadcast advertisements for or against political candidates right before elections that are paid for by corporations, labor unions and advocacy groups.
The 2002 campaign finance law at issue was named after Senator John McCain, the unsuccessful Republican presidential nominee in 2008, and Democratic Senator Russell Feingold.
The justices appeared at a special Thursday session to summarize the ruling and issued a total of five separate opinions exceeding 175 pages.
The decision was a victory for a conservative advocacy group`s challenge to the campaign finance law as part of its efforts to broadcast and promote a 2008 movie critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. She later became President Barack Obama`s secretary of state.
The Obama administration defended the law and its restrictions on election-related spending by corporations, unions and interest groups. It said corporations for more than 100 years have been subject to special limits on spending in federal political campaign.
The court`s conservative majority, with the addition of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both Bush appointees, previously voted to limit or strike down parts of the law designed to regulate the role of money in politics and prevent corruption.
The court`s four liberals, including its newest member, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was appointed by Obama, dissented.
|January 21, 2010
|Cap-and-Trade Bill Doomed
(NewsMax) The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said on Wednesday that there was barely any support in that chamber for passing cap and trade legislation that aims to control global warming.
"I would say there is minimal enthusiasm, and that`s putting it mildly, for cap and trade," McConnell said when asked by a reporter whether the initiative was dead for this year.
Under cap and trade, which was passed by the House of Representatives last June, lower and lower limits would be put on industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over the next 40 years.
Companies would be required to hold permits for each ton of carbon they emit and those permits could be traded in a regulated market.
The House-passed legislation has hit stiff opposition in the Senate and the election of a Republican in Massachusetts on Tuesday to replace deceased Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy made prospects somewhat more difficult for cap and trade.
Senator Lisa Murkowski said she might not seek passage of an amendment on Wednesday that would stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions for the first time.
Instead, the Alaska Republican said her "inclination" was to pursue a slightly different legislative route -- passage of a "joint resolution" in the Senate and House -- that would have the same impact but would face different procedural rules.
Murkowski did not say when she would go ahead with the joint resolution, if she settles on that route.
Murkowski argues that the EPA must be stopped from regulating carbon and that legislation instead should be crafted to address environmental concerns.
But many Democrats and environmental groups have said that Murkowski is trying to push a vote on EPA regulation in order to undermine progress on a climate change bill.
The Obama administration has been using the threat of EPA regulation to try to encourage some lawmakers to get behind legislation that would be more comprehensive and give industry more opportunity to have a say in environmental policy.
|January 21, 2010
|Go see `The Book of Eli`
(WorldNetDaily) I saw a great movie last weekend.
That`s not something I can say very often.
It`s called "The Book of Eli" and stars Denzel Washington.
In Hollywood high concept language, you might want to think of "Mad Max" meets "Raiders of the Lost Ark." But that wouldn`t be doing it justice.
It`s a hard movie to watch – dark, violent. It`s not a movie for children. But its redemptive message couldn`t be clearer or more needed for a time such as this.
The movie is set in the future, after an apocalyptic event or events leading to the destruction of organized society in America and the rest of the world. What`s left after this somewhat mysterious disaster are marauding bands of criminals who prey on others, widespread cannibalism, drunkenness and pockets of communities with little sense of morality.
It seems after the "event," there was an effort to destroy all the world`s Bibles. In their wisdom, world leaders deduced that it was this book that caused this plague to befall them.
One man, though, has a copy of the King James Bible and is given a mission by God to take it West. He is also promised that he will be protected in this quest.
The movie is about Eli`s story and what he encounters on this trip.
I don`t believe I have ever seen a more overtly Christian movie come out of Hollywood.
It shows what the world would be like devoid of God`s Word, His law and the hope of salvation He offers. It shows what happens when the salt and light and truth are removed from the world. It shows the world in its most fallen state.
How a movie like this could even be made today is a mystery. One has to conclude it has much to do with Denzel Washington`s own values and clout in the industry. He not only stars in the movie, he is one of the producers.
The overall theme is walking by faith, not by sight.
It`s easy to be repulsed by the brutality and the ugliness that dominates the movie. But it`s important to experience it, because it represents the reality of life on planet earth without accountability to our Creator.
How low can man descend? There are no limits.
As Paul writes in Romans: "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."
The anti-hero in "The Book of Eli" is a man who will do anything to get his hands on that Bible. He knows the power of it. But he seeks to use that power to gain control over people for himself and his own ends.
The hero of "The Book of Eli" wants the power of the book to be used to free people.
There are some real surprises in "The Book of Eli" – not the least of these is how a movie like this could be made and distributed in an America still in rebellion against God in so many ways.
If you are looking for an action-packed adventure movie that carries a powerful message and profound truth, I urge you to go see Denzel Washington`s triumph.
At the end of the film, Eli says: "I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith."
He did. And so does this remarkable movie.
|January 21, 2010
|CBS OKs Script for Tim Tebow Super Bowl Ad
(Christian Post) CBS officials have given initial approval for the ad that Christian group Focus on the Family seeks to have aired during America’s most-watched television broadcast – the Super Bowl.
Though the network still has to review the actual ad before giving it the go-ahead, the script has been approved, according to Media Daily News, and a CBS spokesman does not anticipate any hurdles.
The 30-second commercial, which features football star Tim Tebow, will present the former Florida quarterback’s personal story and will also feature Tebow’s mother, who refused to have an abortion while she was pregnant with him despite having suffered from a life-threatening infection.
Focus on the Family president and CEO Jim Daly said the Tebows’ story “is such an important one for our culture to hear” and comes at a time when "families need to be inspired."
"Tim and Pam share our respect for life and our passion for helping families thrive," Daly commented.
Aside from the Tebows’ appearance and the theme - “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life” – little else about the ad is known. CBS’s recent approval of the ad’s script, however, suggests that it steers clear from a “current controversial issue of public importance" such as abortion, which the group’s “culture action” arm is strongly and vocally opposed to.
Though Focus on the Family works to strengthen, defend and celebrate the institution of the traditional family, the organization is best known for the efforts of Focus on the Family Action, which works to protect life, marriage, and religious liberties.
As a separate legal organization, Focus Action works to inform, inspire and rally pro-family people when it comes to the “moral, cultural and political issues that threaten our nation.”
Focus on the Family, on the other hand, “is about nurturing that desire [to help families thrive] and strengthening families by empowering them with the tools they need to live lives rooted in morals and values."
Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger told AdAge magazine that the message in his organization`s commercial is likely to act more as an offer of help, with the hope the commercial will generate awareness for the organization and its family services.
CBS understood "there are folks who ideologically disagree with Focus on the Family in some areas," Schneeberger said, but "we don`t anticipate any trouble."
To finance the ad, Focus on the Family received donations specifically to support the project from a handful of “very generous and committed friends.” No money from the ministry`s general fund was used.
Super Bowl ad spots are reportedly selling for $2.5 million to $2.8 million.
|January 20, 2010
|Americans to Send Avatars on Virtual March for Life
(LifeSiteNews) For the first time ever, avatars will join the tens of thousands of pro-life Americans on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for the March for Life rally.
Americans United for Life is offering pro-life Americans who cannot make it to Washington, D.C., on Friday the opportunity to still be part of the march through their own avatar in a Virtual March for Life. Virtual marchers can locate their avatars among the thousands of icons on the National Mall by typing in their e-mail address.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 22,000 Americans have already joined the march online.
“[C]hoose an avatar for yourself and then we will place ‘you’ in front of the U.S. Capitol building alongside other Americans online,” explained Charmaine Yoest, CEO and president of AUL, in an e-mail newsletter. “Please stand and be counted among those who are marching for life and please ask everyone you know that doesn’t want their tax dollars to fund abortion to join us at VirtualMarchforLife.com now.”
AUL is encouraging pro-lifers to participate in the March for Life rally, either in person or virtually, to put pressure on members of Congress who are currently debating a health care reform bill that could allow federal dollars to pay for abortions.
“In this critical moment, every American must be heard regardless of where you are,” wrote the pro-life leader. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans are coming to Washington, D.C. to join the most important March for Life in history, and you can be there through the Virtual March for Life!”
The March for Life rally on the National Mall occurs each year on the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion. The goal of the annual Jan. 22 march is to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision. This Friday’s march will be the 36th March for Life and is expected to have large-scale participation because of the health care debate.
“So much is at stake in this moment. How many more lives will be lost if the Congressional majority rolls back existing law that protects life and protects us from having our tax dollars used to fund abortion?” Yoest posed.
On the Web: www.virtualmarchforlife.com
|January 20, 2010
|Forced Recantations of Faith Continue in Vietnam
HANOI, Vietnam (Compass Direct News) A Vietnamese man violently forced to recant his fledgling Christian faith faces pressure from authorities and clansmen to prove his return to traditional Hmong belief by sacrificing to ancestors next month.
Sung Cua Po, who embraced Christianity in November, received some 70 blows to his head and back after local officials in northwest Vietnam’s Dien Bien Province arrested him on Dec. 1, 2009, according to documents obtained by Compass. His wife, Hang thi Va, was also beaten. They live in Ho Co village.
Dien Bien Dong District and Na Son Commune police and soldiers led by policeman Hang A Senh took the Christian couple to the Na Son Commune People’s Committee office after police earlier incited local residents to abuse and stone them and other Christian families. After Po and his wife were beaten at 1 a.m. that night, he was fined 8 million dong (US$430) and a pig of at least 16 kilos. His cell phone and motorbike were confiscated, according to the documents.
Christians Sung A Sinh and Hang A Xa of Trung Phu village were also beaten about the head and back and fined a pig of 16 kilos each so that local authorities could eat, according to the reports. The documents stated that the reason for the mistreatment of the Christians was that they abandoned “the good and beautiful” traditional Hmong beliefs and practices to follow Protestant Christianity.
Christian sources reported that on Dec. 15 police took Po and his wife to members of their extended family, who applied severe clan pressure on him to deny their faith. When police added their own threats, Po finally signed recantation documents.
“I folded – I signed when police threatened to beat me to death if I didn’t recant,” he said. “Then they would seize my property, leaving my wife a widow, and my children fatherless – without a home.”
Following Po’s written recantation, authorities subjected him to further family and clan pressure and “fines,” as well as rites to satisfy traditional Hmong spirits said to have become upset when he offended them by becoming a Christian.
Po faces the ultimate test to prove his recantation is sincere on Feb. 13, Lunar New Year’s Eve. He remains under severe threat, the documents report, unless he voluntarily offers sacrifices to his ancestors at that time.
The documentation of the forced recantations in northwest Vietnam indicates authorities are contravening Vietnam’s 2004/2005 public religion policy.
All three men had received a summons dated Dec. 11, 2009 to appear at the Na Son Commune Peoples’ Committee office at 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 15 “to take care of business relating to following the Vang Chu religion.”
The officials’ use of the Vang Chu religion in these documents was said to be significant. Vang Chu is a mythological Hmong savior who, it is believed, will unite and deliver the Hmong. For some time Vietnamese authorities have deliberately misnamed Protestantism as Vang Chu in order to give Christianity a threatening political character. Any real or imagined political opposition provides Vietnamese communists with a carte blanche excuse to apply repressive measures, Christian sources said.
One of the other Christians arrested, Xa, has received another summons handwritten by the chief of Trung Phu village, Hang A Po, “to solve the issue of the Vang Chu religion.” The summons ordered Xa to appear without fail at the home of village chief Po in mid-December and to bring sufficient food, including a 15-to-20 kilo pig, to feed everyone.
“Here is Vietnamese jungle justice on full display – show up at the home of an official to be tormented and bring plenty of food and liquor for your tormentors,” observed one source.
The summons purports to represent district and commune police who will be present, as well as the village chief.
“It is clear that in spite of public national policies outlawing forced recantation, to the contrary, Dien Bien government policy to force new Christian believers to recant is being vigorously implemented,” said one source.
This conclusion is consistent with other findings. In November 2009 religious liberty advocates acquired a Vietnamese language booklet entitled “Some Documents Concerning Religious Belief and Religion.” The 104-page document “For Internal Circulation” was published in November 2007 by the Dien Bien Province Department of Ethnic Minorities.
The collection of documents, including some marked “Secret,” clearly shows Dien Bien religion policies and directives relative to Protestants are different than the “new religion legislation” of 2004/2005. The Dien Bien documents reveal a secret “Guidance Committee 160” is overseeing repressive policies initiated before the new religion legislation of 2004/2005 that continue to guide officials.
“These events and findings in Dien Bien clearly show that the excuse given by our government that such events are isolated exceptions perpetrated by a few bad officials is not believable,” said one church leader.
|January 20, 2010
|Man Arrested for Public Preaching Wins Settlement
(LifeSiteNews.com) Officials in Hartford, Connecticut have agreed to a permanent injunction against the use of a “breach of peace” statute and a “public disturbance” statute that was used to arrest and imprison a man who was preaching on public property.
While proclaiming a religious message in the city of Hartford, Jesse Morrell was approached by a police officer who told him that he could not use a microphone without a permit. Morrell agreed to speak without a microphone. Nonetheless, after a business owner complained about Morrell’s speech even without the microphone, police arrested him and took him to jail because he would not agree to stop speaking altogether.
In 2006, ADF attorneys filed suit against the city on a behalf of Morrell.
After the city prosecutor dropped the criminal charges against Morrell, ADF attorneys filed suit in federal court for violation of his First Amendment rights. ADF attorneys and city of Hartford officials have agreed to settle out of court.
“Christians shouldn’t be penalized for their beliefs,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Jon Scruggs. “The First Amendment protects all speech, including speech with which others may disagree. Cities cannot hide behind a statute as a means of silencing constitutionally-protected speech.”
|January 20, 2010
|Former Fox News Anchor’s Mother Considered Abortion after Being Raped
(LifeSiteNews.com) This past Saturday, former Fox & Friends Weekend co-anchor Kelly Wright talked with Mike Huckabee on his Fox News show about his mother’s decision to give birth to him despite having conceived him in rape. Kelly made the appearance to promote his new book, “America’s Hope in Troubled Times.”
In his new book, Wright describes how his mother was raped when she was 16 years old, and how he was the result of that rape.
Calling the way he came into the world “very unique” Wright explained that in the summer of 1954 his mother had become close friends with the young wife of a pastor. One day, Wright’s mother went to her friend’s house to go shopping. However, her friend had already left, and when Wright’s mother entered the home of the pastor, he assaulted her.
Wright explained that there was nothing his mother could have done against the pastor because, “It would be her word against a reputable member of the community.”
“To make a long story short, she went ahead and continued to think that everything was okay, but then discovered she was pregnant.”
When Wright’s mother found out she was pregnant, she was offered an abortion as a means out. However, in 1954 abortions were still illegal, and Wright acknowledged that she would have been putting herself at great risk by undergoing one.
However, the primary reason Wright’s mother choose not to have him killed was her desire for children. Wright quotes his mother as having said, “This is god telling me that this may be the only biological child I have.” As it turns out, Wright’s mother was right, and Kelly would be her only biological child; Kelly’s sister was adopted.
Kelly Wright, in addition to being a correspondent for Fox News, is also now a pastor. He says, “It just shows how god was looking out for me and I had a purpose to live for.”
Mike Huckabee, a pastor himself, commented after Wright told his story, “For all of us who know you, that thought but by the grace of god and your mother having made another choice, you and I wouldn`t be having this conversation.”
“It`s the greatest affirmation for why it`s important to value every life as having worth and value. And you just have vividly demonstrated that to us.”
Kelly Wright has worked in journalism since entering the army in 1977. He has covered such stories as the Iraq war, the 2004 presidential elections, and the death of Terri Schiavo. In a profile for Fox News, Wright said the person who had the most influence in his life was his mother, June Lorraine Overton.
|January 15, 2010
|Obama’s TSA Nominee Characterized Groups That Were Domestic Security Threats as ‘Anti-Abortion’ and Having ‘Christian Identity’
(CNSNews.com) Erroll Southers, who President Barack Obama has nominated to head the Transportation Security Administration, described groups that were a domestic security threat as being "anti-abortion" and “Christian-identity oriented."
The TSA, an element of the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for the security of the nation`s transportation systems, including commercial air travel. Southers made the remarks in question in a 2008 video interview with the Videojug.com Web site.
In the interview, Southers was asked whether there were “groups inside the United States that pose a danger to our security?”
“Domestically speaking, a large part, most of the groups we have here in the United States, are white supremacists groups, World Church of the Creator, National Alliance, Aryan Nations. There are some black separatist groups,” said Southers. “What’s interesting about those groups is you find that they are usually either Christian identity groups and/or groups that really have a foothold in our correctional or prison systems in the way of radicalization and recruiting.”
Southers was then asked: “Which home-grown terrorist groups pose the greatest danger to the U.S.?”
“Most of the domestic groups that we have to pay attention to here are white supremacist groups. They`re anti-government and in most cases anti-abortion,” he said. “They are usually survivalist-type in nature, identity orientated. If you recall, Buford Furrow came to Los Angeles in, I believe, it was 1999. When he went to three different Jewish institutions, museums, and then wound up shooting people at a children`s community center, then shooting a Filipino postal worker later on. Matthew Hale, who`s the Pontifex Maximus of the World Church of the Creator out of Illinois, and Ben Smith, who went on a shooting spree in three different cities where he killed a number of African Americans and Jews and Asians that day. Those groups are groups that claim to be extremely anti-government and Christian-identity oriented.”
Southers did not respond to email inquires from CNSNews.com asking about his interview with Videojug.com.
Southers nomination has been held up in the U.S. Senate over two issues. Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) has placed a hold on the nomination because he is worried that Southers might allow TSA workers, who are responsible for airport security, to unionize.
Additionally, seven Republican senators including Demint, Sen. Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.), Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa), have written to the White House asking for more information about contradictory accounts Southers provided to the Senate regarding incidents in the 1980s when, as an FBI officer, he improperly accessed a federal database looking for information about his then-wife’s boyfriend.
As first reported by the Washington Post, Southers initially told the Senate Homeland Security Committee in an Oct. 22 affidavit that he had asked a police officer to access the database for him. In a Nov. 22 letter, Southers told the committee that the affidavit was incorrect and the he had accessed the database himself. Southers said he had remembered incorrectly and that the mistake in the affidavit was inadvertent.
|January 15, 2010
|FCC looks at ways to assert authority over Web access
(Washington Post) The Federal Communications Commission is considering aggressive moves to stake out its authority to oversee consumer access to the Internet, as a recent court hearing and industry opposition have cast doubt on its power over Web service providers.
The FCC, which regulates public access to telephone and television services, has been working to claim the same role for the Internet. The stakes are high, as the Obama administration pushes an agenda of open broadband access for all and big corporations work to protect their enormous investments in a new and powerful medium.
"This is a pivotal moment," said Ben Scott, director of policy at the public interest group Free Press. The government wants to treat broadband Internet as a national infrastructure, he said, like phone lines or the broadcast spectrum. But federal regulators are grappling with older policies that do not clearly protect consumers` access to the Web, their privacy or prices of service.
The issue may have reached a turning point last week when a federal appeals court questioned the limits of the FCC`s authority in a 2008 case involving Comcast. The agency had ordered the Internet and cable giant to stop blocking subscribers` access to the online file-sharing service BitTorrent. But in an oral hearing last Friday, three judges grilled an FCC lawyer over whether the agency had acted outside the scope of its authority.
The appeals court is still hearing the case, but analysts predict that the FCC will lose and that the ruling could throw all of its efforts to oversee Internet access into question. A loss could undermine the legality of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski`s push for policies that would prohibit service providers from restricting customers` access to legal Web content -- the concept known as net neutrality -- and throw into doubt the agency`s ability to oversee pricing and competition among Internet service providers.
The agency said it will continue to argue that it had the authority to rule against Comcast, but it is making plans to deal with a loss.
"If the court removes the legal basis for the current approach to broadband, the commission may be compelled to undertake a major reassessment of its policy framework . . . or Congress will have to act," said Colin Crowell, senior adviser to Genachowski. "Any policies the commission pursues for the broadband marketplace will be rooted in the pro-consumer, pro-competitive structure of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, regardless of how the court ultimately decides."
Specifically, that could mean the agency will reverse policies from the past decade that put cable and DSL Internet services in a special category over which the agency has only "ancillary jurisdiction." Those policies were intended to deregulate Internet services in order to promote competition and innovation in the young industry as it developed. Consumer groups argue that they instead reduced competition and drove prices higher.
Analysts said the FCC may look to put broadband services back into a category alongside phone services that is clearly under the authority of the government.
At issue, some FCC officials say, is the future of how Americans will communicate and receive information. One in five U.S. homes has swapped landline telephone service for wireless. Most of those phones have Web browsers that are fast enough to watch videos and navigate traffic in real time. Consumers are also adopting ultra-high-speed Internet services over fiber and cable for 3-D games and videoconferencing.
"While I am still hopeful that we`ll win the case, I am absolutely certain that consumers expect protection against gatekeeper control," said Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat. "That`s why we need to move forward with whatever tools we have at our disposal to ensure an open Internet."
A move to reclassify broadband services would almost certainly be opposed. The telephone category is steeped in decades-long rules that are meant to prohibit blocking of services, protect consumer prices and spur competition. Such rules would be a stark change for Internet service providers that invest billions of dollars each year in networks but also receive high rates of consumer complaints over prices and services.
"To the extent that we need more regulation, we think less is more," said Kyle McSlarrow, head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a trade group. "The more granular and more regulatory we become with practical and legal issues, we can go too far."
The agency also could ask Congress to grant it explicit authority over Internet service providers. But that approach would also face significant barriers, analysts said.
"The odds are against it," said Paul Gallant, an analyst at Concept Capital, a research firm. "Net neutrality is the most controversial issue in the telecom media world, and even with a Democratic majority, it`s not easy to pass."
|January 15, 2010
|America`s Christian roots - a myth?
(OneNewsNow) The Texas State Board of Education is making tough decisions on textbooks that will be used for the next ten years -- textbooks that will be used by many other states. (See earlier story)
The debate has been over giving civil rights leaders more prominence in textbooks, whether Christmas should be mentioned, and whether religious references to America`s founders should be deleted. Television station News 8 in Austin, Texas, talked with several people, including board member Patricia Hardy.
"Thurgood Marshall is there. Cesar Chavez is there. And Christmas is there," she points out. "So in other words, if you were here to address those things, fear not. They`re in there."
Many history and social studies books do mention the religion of the nation`s founding fathers. Grandmother Josephine Krause expressed her concern. "Overemphasis on Christian formation, which is not true; Christian foundation of the country, which is not true -- but there`s the myth growing," she argues.
Board member Patricia Hardy disputes that statement. "We were not founded as a secular nation," she notes. "We were founded as a nation that respected various religious groups."
This week`s votes are preliminary. The final standards will be adopted in March.
|January 15, 2010
|Great needs in Haiti, great response from Christians
(OneNewsNow) Christian relief organization Samaritan`s Purse is sending disaster experts to Haiti, as is the Friend Ships ministry.
So far, the ministry has sent a chartered DC-3 loaded with disaster relief supplies to the Caribbean nation, which was decimated by an earthquake on Tuesday. Ken Isaacs, head of international projects for Samaritan`s Purse, explains the steps they are taking.
"We are responding to the earthquake by sending about 24 people down to Haiti that includes experts in shelter, water, logistics, and security, and doctors [and] medical teams," he says.
According to the ministry spokesman, the needs in Haiti are too numerous to mention, the cost of providing assistance is great, and response from Christians has been lightning fast.
"Our phones have literally rung off the hooks," he shares. "In fact, we have a call center [where] we`ve received more calls today than we did during [Hurricane] Katrina and/or the [Southeast Asia] tsunami, and that`s sort of surprising to us. There is deep interest -- and...folks can help, whether in a large way or smaller financial way, or with prayer."
Isaacs expects relief efforts will continue for years.
Setting sail for Haiti
A ministry that uses ships to provide relief to areas worldwide will soon set sail for Haiti. Friend Ships provides Christian outreach around the world through a fleet of ocean going ships. One of its ships, Integrity, is being prepared to sail for Haiti. It will serve as a home base with housing and meal service for a team of relief personnel.
Sondra Tipton, president of Friend Ships, says the earthquake has made a bad situation even worse. She is expecting several challenges.
"Getting around is going to be rough," she says. "We have a helicopter, which is great because we`ll be able to fly over and assess where can our trucks go, where will they get blocked, where`s the greatest need. [And] we`ll be able to move medical staff in with the helicopter -- and that`s really going to help tremendously."
According to Tipton, in disaster areas where people are desperate for supplies, security is always an issue. In those cases, she says, relief teams "have to set up in a way that food service, medical service, distribution of items is in a very controlled manner so that it doesn`t get out of hand."
In the aftermath of the quake, warnings have been issued about online scammers. Tipton suggests donors take caution to ensure their contributions will make it to those in need.
"Make sure they`re a group with a big track record and a legitimate standing," she offers. "If it`s somebody that just sprung up overnight to help Haiti, I would -- unless you have a personal reference to them and know that they`re doing good work -- I would steer away from that and go to more of a group that`s well-established."
The ministry leader says Friend Ships is in need of generators, rope, rice, beans, cooking oil, bottled water, and volunteers to go on future missions.
|January 14, 2010
|Christian Defense Group Publishes ‘Top 10 Anti-Christian Acts of 2009’
(CNSNews.com) The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission (CADC) published a list of what it views as the 10 worst “anti-Christian acts” of 2009, including the murder of a pro-life protester, expansion of federal hate-crimes laws, and controversial presidential appointments.
The list, culled from a poll taken by subscribers to the CADC’s Web site and listeners on its radio programs, chronicles what the group’s members think were the most anti-Christian stories from the previous year.
CADC President Dr. Gary Cass told CNSNews.com that the list reflects the frustrations Christians feel with their society and their government. That the expansion of federal hate crimes laws was the top vote-getter on the list, for example, reflected the fear Christians have that they might be targeted for teaching their faith’s traditional opposition to homosexual behavior, which Christianity holds to be sinful.
“This is their perspective on the most anti-Christian acts of 2009, in the U.S.,” Cass said. “Why the federal hate crimes law? I believe what they’re expressing is just a general sense of frustration with the federal government, especially the Obama administration, and for the first time in our history now, [Christian] ministers are subject to being investigated, perhaps even convicted, simply for exercising their First Amendment religious liberties and free speech.”
Cass explained that if a pastor or priest were to say something considered to have incited a hate crime, that pastor or priest might be subject to investigation or prosecution. Cass noted that while no ministers have yet been prosecuted or investigated under the newly enacted law, the mere possibility could be enough to silence preaching on this hot-button topic.
“If they say something that can be considered to be inflammatory or inciting of a hate crime – let’s say that a minister preaches a sermon and some unstable person misunderstands and goes out and creates or perpetrates a hate crime – not only the person who commits the act but the minister who ‘incited’ him would be equally culpable for the act,” said Cass.
“Here’s the net effect of this kind of a law,” he said. “If you are prone to want to be careful … why even risk saying anything for fear of being misunderstood, even if you’re never convicted of a crime?”
President Obama’s selection of three people the CADC viewed as anti-Christian was ranked number two on the list. Those appointees – safe schools czar Kevin Jennings, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Equal Opportunity Commission member Chai Feldblum – showed that Obama had “gone out of his way” to find people with anti-Christian values, Cass said.
“The reason our subscribers voted the way they did, I think – [on] that particular matter of the appointments of Obama – it seems as if he went out of his way to find the most radical, anti-Christian appointees that he could,” said Cass, “in the sense that these people either are personally anti-Christian in their sentiments but they certainly are in their value systems.”
Cass said that Jennings’ various stances on sexuality, Sebelius’s support for abortion, and Feldblum’s comments on reconciling gay rights with religious liberty all contributed to Christians feeling that Obama might be anti-Christian.
Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, U.S. Department of Education. (AP Photo)
“You have, again, Kathleen Sebelius, the most radical pro-abortion governor from Kansas who’s awash in George Tiller’s abortion money – that’s how she built her political career and that’s a documented fact,” said Cass. “He [Obama] appoints her Health and Human Services [Secretary] -- that’s very terrifying in that this whole health care bill could come under her jurisdiction. That’s very terrifying.”
“Secondly you’ve got Kevin Jennings, the so-called safe schools czar, the most radical homosexual activist from Massachusetts that you could find, who has decades of phenomenally controversial and perverted things that are attributable to him,” said Cass.
“Yet, in Obama’s mind, apparently he’s mainstream.”
Cass continued: “And then you’ve got Chai Feldblum who said, when asked if there’s ever a situation where homosexual rights and religious liberty conflict, do you foresee any time when religious liberty might trump homosexuals rights, and she said, ‘no, it’s simply, gays win, Christians lose.’”
The Department of Homeland Security’s controversial definition of “right-wing extremist” earned the nod as the number three most anti-Christian act of the year, Cass said, because it demonstrated a “new level of anti-Christian hostility” by equating positions held by many conservative Christians with the motivations of violent racist groups such as the Aryan Nations.
“That is indicative of, I think, a new level of anti-Christian hostility,” Cass said. “Because now it seems that the federal government is beginning to bring into its policies and its institutions a very negative stereotypical approach. So that if you are a Christian who happens to believe your Bible – and God forbid you are a veteran who owned a gun and a Christian who believes your Bible – you’re a walking time bomb, you’re a terrorist ready to go off.”
“But last time I checked it wasn’t Bible-believing Christians who were trying to light their underwear on fire on airplanes.” Cass said.
|January 14, 2010
|Thank you for your support of the Manhattan Declaration.
(Manhattan Declaration) It is off to an amazing start - over 370,000 signers and growing. And it is indeed historic: Evangelicals, Catholics, Anglicans, and Eastern Orthodox Christians uniting to give common witness to the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage, and religious liberty for all persons.
But we need your help: our goal is one million signatures.
The marketing pros tell us we will never get to a million signatures without expensive advertising. But we want to prove them wrong. And we can: just think if each person who has signed the Declaration were to get just two others to sign. That would be one million people standing arm in arm in defense of the most vital moral truths in our society.
Remember, too, we are not just collecting signatures; we seek a movement of people defending the truth in the public square. We are already witnessing signs of this: Christians in Mobile, Alabama called us 13 days before Christmas to tell us they were planning a large ecumenical gathering for the 23rd of December. I (Chuck Colson) agreed to speak. At 6:00 AM on December 23, 2,000 citizens, led by clergy from all over the city, gathered in a packed hall in the Convention Center for a rousing rally. Seldom have I seen so much excitement in one room - and all of this was accomplished just by word of mouth with only 11 days to organize!
Just ten days ago, Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, Archbishop Wuerl of Washington, DC, Archbishop Dolan of New York and Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville reached out to all of their brother Catholic bishops asking them to spread this document throughout their dioceses and encourage their clergy and faithful to study it and join as signatories.
The Archbishop of Detroit has planned a grassroots effort throughout his archdiocese. The Bishop of Phoenix has already organized a grassroots effort there.
We are also receiving many reports of evangelical gatherings in a number of areas - and many evangelical pastors referring to the Manhattan Declaration in their sermons.
This bold and exciting movement needs to reach 100 or 200 cities in America. Why not? Can you help? We are urging you to encourage your pastors and community leaders to do what these other cities are doing. Organize ecumenical meetings organized around the Manhattan Declaration; get other concerned citizens to join the effort. Get on the internet or phone and ask friends to join you. If you let us know you want to organize something we can help link you up with others in your area.
As with any grassroots movement, the strength and energy has to come from the people. We have no staff and limited budget. We`re people who care passionately and deeply about life, marriage, and liberty. So here`s what we are asking you to do.
- Pray fervently. Great movements of faith have always spread on the wings of prayer.
- Know the issues. If you study this Declaration - and a study guide is available on our website - then you can winsomely explain and defend it to your neighbors and friends. The document itself makes a great apologetic defense for these moral truths.
- Look for resources on this website as we`re able to post them, and search the websites of the Christian organizations that offer resources in these three areas. You can see the names of the various leaders who have signed the Declaration and then visit their websites.
- Of utmost importance, get your own church involved. As pastors preach, the movement will spread. Prayer meetings and Bible studies on the Declaration are being conducted in many churches, which is a great step.
- Make full use of Facebook, Twitter, and all the devices available today for social networking. Or just go to gatherings in your own community and speak out on this issue. Cultures are changed over the backyard fence, the barbeque grill, and in hair salons - always from the bottom up. Do everything you can possibly do to educate others.
- Organize local gatherings like the one in Mobile. If you want an audio or video of Chuck Colson`s talk at the event, you will be able to see it on the website in the next few days. You can also read a firsthand report on how they did this.
- If you are a pastor or ministry leader let us know if you would like to be added to the Additional Signers list on the website.
Just think what might happen in our land if one million courageous Christians declared their uncompromising allegiance to Jesus Christ and to biblical faithfulness on some of the most urgent moral issues of our day.
May God give us the strength to do what He is so clearly calling us to do. From our perspective, this is a cause worth giving every last ounce of effort and energy we have.
Dr. Robert George
Dr. Timothy George
|January 14, 2010
|Amish families exempt from insurance mandate
(Watertown Daily) Federal health care reform will require most Northern New Yorkers — but not all, it turns out — to carry health insurance or risk a fine.
Hundreds of Amish families in the region are likely to be free from that requirement.
The Amish, as well as some other religious sects, are covered by a "religious conscience" exemption, which allows people with religious objections to insurance to opt out of the mandate. It is in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, making its appearance in the final version routine unless there are last-minute objections.
Although the Amish consist of several branches, some more conservative than others, they generally rely upon a community ethic that disdains government assistance. Families rely upon one another, and communities pitch in to help neighbors pay health care expenses.
The Amish population has been growing in the north country, as well as in New York generally. The state ranks sixth nationally in Amish population and posted the biggest net increase in Amish households — 307 — from 2002 to 2007, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.
Lawmakers reportedly included the provision at the urging of Amish constituents, although the legislation does not specify that community and the provision could apply to other groups as well, including Old Order Mennonites and perhaps Christian Scientists.
A professor and lawyer at Yeshiva University in New York complained last summer that exempting groups for religious reasons could run afoul of the Constitution. Marci A. Hamilton, who teaches at the University`s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, wrote at Findlaw.com in August, "If the government can tolerate a religious exemption, then it must do so evenhandedly among religious believers with the same beliefs. This is sheer favoritism for a certain class of religions, or even for one religion."
In her column, Ms. Hamilton speculated that lobbyists for the Christian Science Church were responsible for the provision, given their public stance that health care reform bills around the country should include religious exemptions. In an e-mail message Friday, she said she was unaware of the Amish interest in the bill and that their objections to the mandate surprised her because the Amish do buy vehicle insurance, for instance.
Ms. Hamilton said the exemption could harm the health of children whose families avoid medical care for religious reasons, although the Amish objections relate more to insurance than to medical care itself.
Congressional aides said the exemption is based on a carve-out the Amish have had from Social Security and Medicare taxes since the 1960s. Whether Amish businesses, however, would fall under the bill`s mandates is still an open question.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who was a key negotiator on the Senate bill, supports the religious exemption, said a spokesman, Maxwell Young, who called the provision a "no brainer."
|January 14, 2010
|Group wants Christianity out of history books
(OneNewsNow) The Texas Board of Education is holding public hearings and will vote this week on the content of textbooks, which will impact many other states that follow Texas` lead.
Committees of teachers and experts have crafted the proposal that will be up for consideration by the State Board of Education today (Thursday). Dozens of amendments and ideological battles are expected. Whichever curriculum standards the board chooses will be the guideposts for teaching history and social studies to some 4.8 million K-12 students for 10 years. (More details from Associated Press)
One of the major problems is a push by a small group that wants to censor religious information regarding historical figures from textbooks. Jonathan Saenz, director of legislative affairs at Free Market Foundation, tells OneNewsNow the group has been very aggressive.
"We just think it`s ridiculous," he says. "If you`re going to talk about history and social studies, we should be doing it accurately; we should do it in a factual way," Saenz contends. "If some of our historical events and figures, [and] part of their history and significance has to do with their religious beliefs, then students should not be banned from being taught about that."
Saenz cites an example of Martin Luther King, Jr., and suggests that if teachers acknowledge him, they should also be able to say he was a Christian and how that influenced his role in the civil rights movement. The legislative affairs director says opponents are bringing up the tired and false argument of separation of church and state.
"The reality is it`s undeniable that our country has a rich religious heritage [and] that the faith of our founding fathers had a tremendous impact on our government and law," he notes. "And so to teach students...otherwise, it`s just wrong and it`s something that we hope the State Board of Education won`t tolerate."
Initial votes will be conducted this week, and a final vote will be tallied in two months. Those decisions will establish textbook content for the state for the next ten years as other states will purchase and use those same textbooks.
|January 14, 2010
|Schwarzenegger plan for gasoline taxes slammed as `bait and switch`
(Sacramento Bee) California drivers could save a dollar and change each visit to the gas pump under a tax swap proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In an effort to free up money to balance the state budget, the governor wants to reduce the sales tax motorists pay on gas purchases while increasing the gas excise tax, also paid at the pump.
The net result, state finance officials estimate, would be a 5-cent savings for consumers per gallon of gas in the next year. A Bee calculation based on this week`s $3-per-gallon average in California puts the savings at 7 cents a gallon.
The complex proposal – in the governor`s 2010-2011 budget plan – is drawing sharp opposition from transit advocates, and scrutiny from public school officials – both of whom will take a financial hit.
The change, if approved by legislators, starts in July. The temporary savings for consumers would then run through July 2011.
Administration officials say the switch would help California close a $19.9 billion budget gap by nullifying laws that reserve most of the gas-pump sales tax for transit agencies.
That would free up anywhere from a few hundred million dollars to more than a billion dollars for the state general fund. The total amount is disputed by the administration and transit officials.
State finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said the plan has the added benefit of saving motorists nearly $1 billion at the pump in the coming year.
"That`s one of the pleasant aspects," Palmer said.
Longer-term, however, the governor`s plan calls for increasing the gas excise tax annually for the next 10 years from its current 18 cents to 34 cents per gallon by 2020.
Transit officials, meanwhile, are livid. They`re calling it a "bait and switch" move to avoid making good on voter-approved funding for local bus service and rail service.
Elimination of transit funding would further hamstring bus and light-rail providers, including Sacramento`s Regional Transit, when services are needed most, transit advocates say.
"Apparently, when you have the power to get laws changed, you don`t have any obligation to follow the ones already on the books," said Josh Shaw, head of the California Transit Association.
State Assembly Transportation Committee chair Mike Eng, D-Monterey Park, called the tax switch "voodoo economics."
School advocates also are troubled. The tax swap would allow the Legislature to reduce funding to public schools this year by $800 million, the Legislative Analyst`s Office noted.
That represents a 1.6 percent reduction of Proposition 98-mandated school funding.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association declined comment on the plan, saying the group needs to study its long-term implications.
The issue will trigger intense legislative debate, said Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, vice chairman of the Senate transportation and education committees.
"There is going to be a lot of push and pull before we get around to adopting something," Huff said.
Schwarzenegger`s complicated proposal involves two taxes that motorists now pay at the pump. One, the state`s long-standing 6 percent sales tax, would be eliminated.
With gas at $3 a gallon in California, that would give drivers an 18-cent sales tax savings per gallon. Then, to partially compensate for the revenue loss, the governor proposes increasing the other pump tax – the excise tax – by 10.8 cents per gallon this year.
That takes it from its current 18 cents to 28.8 cents per gallon this year.
The net gain to drivers is 7 cents a gallon – for now. The excise tax is slated, under this plan, to rise eventually to 34 cents per gallon, potentially negating consumer savings.
The governor`s tax move is the latest in a several-year legal battle between the state and transit agencies over control of gas pump tax revenues in tough economic times.
The California Transit Association won the last round in September, when the Supreme Court declined to hear the governor`s challenge of a lower court ruling that the state was illegally siphoning transit funds to balance the state budget.
Administration spokesman Palmer said the governor`s tax proposal "is an effort to achieve the same goals we sought last year in transportation funding."
Administration officials say they believe gas price increases have caused consumers to spend more of their money at the pump, leaving less for spending on other goods whose sales taxes go to the general fund.
Transit officials, with the the League of California Cities and the California Alliance for Jobs, already have launched a counterattack – a petition drive for the November ballot protecting transit funds, redevelopment funds and other local revenues from the state.
The measure is called the "Local Taxpayer, Public Safety and Transportation Protection Act of 2010."
"We are saying in one common voice, enough is enough," Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Tuesday at a briefing announcing the petition drive.
|January 14, 2010
|Aid Agencies Warn of `Untold Suffering` for Haiti Quake Survivors
(Christian Today) Survivors of a massive earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday face “untold suffering,” warns Christian Aid.
Thousands are feared dead following the 7.0 magnitude quake which struck 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince just before 5 p.m. local time. Buildings across the capital were toppled, including the presidential palace and the headquarters of the UN mission in Haiti. It is believed that there are no survivors inside the collapsed UN building.
Dame Anne Owers, chair of Christian Aid, said she was deeply concerned about the impact of the earthquake on already severely impoverished communities in the Caribbean nation.
“It is one of the poorest places on earth. This latest disaster is going to cause untold suffering and hardship, particularly in communities with very little to fall back on,” she said.
She said there was an urgent need for emergency supplies, including food, shelter and medicine, while in the longer-term, rebuilding would require “massive international assistance”.
“I appeal to people and to governments to give what they can,” she said.
The earthquake is the strongest to hit Haiti in 200 years and could be felt as far away as Cuba.
Three Christian Aid staff members had to be rescued after their office collapsed, although none were seriously injured. Many churches had also been completely destroyed.
Christian Aid’s Caribbean regional manager Judith Turbyne said the national response was unlikely to be sufficient because of Haiti’s weak state and the lack of resources at its disposal. She said there was a huge need for a “concerted effort” from the large aid community in the country.
U.S. President Barack Obama has promised the "full support of the United States" to the Haitians after what he called a "cruel and incomprehensible" tragedy.
"I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort to save lives," he said Wednesday. "With just a few hundred miles of ocean between us and a long history that binds us together, Haitians are neighbors of the Americas and here at home. So we have to be there for them in their hour of need."
World Vision is mobilizing staff to aid the victims but it won`t be easy, staff say.
Edward Brown, World Vision’s relief director in the United States, commented, "We would be very concerned about a quake of this magnitude anywhere in the world, but it is especially devastating in Haiti, where people are acutely vulnerable because of poor infrastructure and extreme poverty."
|January 14, 2010
|Better Business Bureau Alerts Consumers about U.S. Census Workers: Be Cooperative, But Cautious
For years, Better Business Bureau has educated consumers about not giving out personal information over the telephone or to anyone who shows up at their front door. With the U.S. Census process beginning, BBB advises people to be cooperative, but cautious, so as not to become a victim of fraud or identity theft.
The first phase of the 2010 U.S. Census is under way as workers have begun verifying the addresses of households across the country. Eventually, more than 140,000 U.S. Census workers will count every person in the United States and will gather information about every person living at each address including name, age, gender, race and other relevant data.
“Most people are rightfully cautious and won’t give out personal information to unsolicited phone callers or visitors, however the Census is an exception to the rule,” said Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson. “Unfortunately, scammers know that the public is more willing to share personal data when taking part in the Census and they have an opportunity to ply their trade by posing as a government employee and soliciting sensitive financial information.”
During the U.S. Census, households will be contacted by mail, telephone or visited by a U.S. Census worker who will inquire about the number of people living in the house. Unfortunately, people may also be contacted by scammers who are impersonating Census workers in order to gain access to sensitive financial information such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers. Law enforcement in several states have issued warnings that scammers are already posing as Census Bureau employees and knocking on doors asking for donations and Social Security numbers.
The Census data will be used to allocate more than $300 billion in federal funds every year, as well as determine a State’s number of Congressional representatives. Households are actually required by law to respond to the Census Bureau’s request for information.
The big question is - how do you tell the difference between a U.S. Census worker and a con artist? BBB offers the following advice:
• If a U.S. Census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag and a confidentiality notice. Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering their questions. However, you should never invite anyone you don’t know into your home.
• Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone, even if they claim they need it for the U.S. Census. While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, it will not ask for Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers nor will employees solicit donations.
• Eventually, Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail or in person at home. However, they will not contact you by e-mail, so be on the look out for e-mail scams impersonating the Census. Never click on a link or open any attachments in an e-mail that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau. http://www.bbb.org/us/article/bbb-alerts-consumers-about-us-census-workers-be-cooperative-but-cautious-10306
|January 13, 2010
|Prop. 8 trial TV blocked
(Supreme Court of the United States) Splitting 5-4, the Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked any television broadcast to the general public of the trial in a San Francisco federal court of the challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage. The stay will remain in effect until the Court rules on a coming appeal challenging the TV order. The Court, chastising the trial court for attempting “to change its rules at the eleventh hour,” issued an unsigned 17-page opinion. The ruling, banning TV broadcasting “around the country,” came out nearly 40 minutes after an earlier temporary order blocking TV had technically expired.
As a practical matter, the ruling almost certainly dooms any broadcast coverage of the trial as it goes on. The trial’s length has been estimated variously at two weeks to several weeks. There is no indication that final Supreme Court action on the dispute would be speeded up to the point that the question could be resolved during that brief span of time. And there is nothing in the Court’s Rules that would require filing of formal appeals to challenge the TV viewing in advance of the likely conclusion of the trial.
The Court gave the supporters of the Prop. 8 ban two options to seek a final order against the television coverage: they could file a petition for review from the lower courts’ orders, or they could file a petition seeking what is called a “writ of mandamus” — that is, an order from a higher to a lower court to take, or not take, some action. The Court has already been told that both types of challenge will be filed with the Justices. The Court did not indicate whether it would grant review of either approach, although Wednesday’s order was a strong hint that it would.
And, in fact, the main opinion seemed to indicate that the Court, in the last analysis, would not permit the coverage in any event. The television viewing of the Prop. 8 trial was to be done as part of a “pilot program” in the federal courts in the Ninth Circuit. The Court majority wrote: “This case is…not a good one for a pilot program. Even the studies that have been conducted thus far have not analyzed the effect of broadcasting in high-profile, divisive cases.” That opinion also said that the trial judge in the case “likely violated” a federal law in changing court rules to allow the TV viewing.
The Court’s main opinion opened with a display of pique at the trial judge and the Ninth Circuit Court for moving to allow TV broadcasts of the hotly controversial trial. Here is the opening:
“We are asked to stay the broadcast of a federal trial. We resolve that question without expressing any view on whether such trials should be broadcast. We instead determine that the broadcast in this case should be stayed because it appears the courts below did not follow the appropriate procedures set forth in federal law before changing their rules to allow such broadcasting. Courts enforce the requirements of procedural regularity on others, and must follow those requirements ourselves.”
Elsewhere in the opinion, the majority suggested that the lower courts had moved with “haste” specifically to ensure televising of the trial on same-sex marriage.
On Monday, the day that trial opened, the Supreme Court had issued a temporary bar to the TV coverage plan. That was to remain in effect while the Court studied the controversy further, that order said. Because this is a Court that does not produce written opinions very rapidly, the fact that two days later — during a week busy with hearings and other matters — it issued a 17-page majority opinion and a 10-page dissent was an indication that the Court either had already made up its mind on Monday to block the TV, or at least had begun drafting opinions that would likely result in stopping the broadcasts.
Although the main opinion was unsigned, the facts that the order divided the Court 5-4, and that the dissenters were identified, indicated that Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas made up the majority. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the only member of the Court to dissent from Monday’s order, wrote the dissenting opinion Wednesday, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and John Paul Stevens. Thus, the ruling split the Court along the customary conservative-liberal divide.
The main opinion sought to portray the Court’s action as limited in scope. Aside from saying that it was not taking any position “on the propriety of broadcasting court proceedings generally,” it said it was only blocking the streaming of video and audio of the trial proceedings to federal courthouses other than the one in San Francisco where the trial is being held. Thus, it added, it was not ruling on plans — not yet finalized — to permit broadcast on the Internet, through YouTube or otherwise, since “this may be premature.”
The ruling touched off a basic dispute within the Court over its power to take the action that it did. The majority opinion found the authority under its own Rules and under a more general “supervisory power” over lower courts. The Court said that it “may use its supervisory authority to invalidate local rules that were promulgated in violation of an Act of Congress.” The majority suggested that the trial judge had violated a law that requires public notice and a time to comment before federal court rules may be changed.
Prior to Wednesday’s decision, the only entity within the federal judiciary that had tried to stop the TV broadcasts of the trial was the U.S. Judicial Conference, through two of its officers, citing an anti-TV policy the Conference adopted years ago. But the main opinion of the Court conceded that Judicial Conference policies “may not be binding in the lower courts.” Even so, it added, those policies “are at the very least entitled to respectful consideration.” On Wednesday, the Court used its “supervisory authority” to make the anti-TV policy binding at least in this one instance.
The dissenters on Wednesday directly questioned whether the Court had the authority to block the broadcasting plan. Justice Breyer wrote that the new ruling was a move to “micromanage district court administrative procedures in the most detailed way.” He added that “it is inappropriate as well as unnecessary for this Court to intervene,” and went on to argue that there were other entities within the U.S. judiciary that should be handling such matters, “not this Court.”
Contending that the move was without precedent, Breyer wrote: ”I have not been able to find any other case in which this Court has previously” intervened in such matters of local court administration. He quoted a comment made in an earlier case by Justice Scalia, saying “I do not see any basis for any direct authority to supervise lower courts.”
The majority and dissent, of course, disagreed fundamentally on whether the Prop. 8 proponents had at this point made the case for even a temporary order to block the televised viewing outside the San Francisco federal courthouse. The majority found strong support for the claim, and the dissenters found none.
One rather clever thrust by the majority was to use a quote from Washington lawyer Theodore B. Olson to bolster its conclusion that witnesses appearing in the Prop. 8 trial might well face harassment or threats if they were shown testifying. Olson is one of the lead lawyers challenging the California ban on same-sex marriage; the challengers supported broadcasting of the trial, and Olson was directly involved in the challengers’ opposition to any Supreme Court order blocking TV. Olson had referred to the risk of reprisal to Prop. 8 supporters in a filing he made in a campaign finance case, pending at the Court; the brief said that such threats would have a “chilling effect” on First Amendment free speech rights. That is exactly a point that Wednesday’s majority made.
|January 13, 2010
|California ACORN chapter leaves national group
(San Francisco Business Times) The California chapter of public advocacy group ACORN has broken away to form an independent nonprofit.
In a statement on Wednesday, Amy Schur, executive director of the new group, now called ACCE, or the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, said, “we can’t wait any longer to be in full control over our destiny.”
She said “real internal mistakes” at ACORN contributed to the decision.
Over the last three years, the national ACORN group — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — has been accused of participating in voter registration fraud. Some of its management have also been accused of embezzlement.
ACORN was started in 1970 in Little Rock, Ark., and grew over the years to become a national force in community organization. Although technically nonpartisan, the group has been criticized frequently, particularly by Republicans and the right-wing press, for lobbying for left-wing causes.
Schur could not immediately be reached for comment and more information, and ACCE’s web site contained just a skeleton of information with the promise of more to come.
|January 12, 2010
|Israelification: The Way to Secure Air Travel
(Family Security Matters) North America’s airports groan and grind under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols and requirements mostly with much infliction on the innocent American traveler. One word keeps popping out of the mouths of more knowledgeable experts: Israelification. I have traveled in and out of Israel five times over this past decade and have espoused on Fox News beginning in 2001 that theirs is the path to security that we needed to implement.
Question is, how can we make our airports more like Israel’s, which deal with far greater terror threat with far less inconvenience? “It is mind-boggling for the Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because Israel went through this 50 years ago,” said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He has worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals, and airports around the world.
“Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don’t take s**t from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and travelers had to wait in line for – not for hours – but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. Israelis said, ‘We’re not going to do this. You’re going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.”
That, in a nutshell is “Israelification” – a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death.
Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel’s largest hub, Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?
“The first thing you do is to look at who is coming into your airport,” said Sela.
The first layer of actual security that greets travelers at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?
“Two benign questions. The questions aren’t important. The way people act when they answer them is,” Sela said.
Officers are looking for nervousness or other signs of “distress” – behavioral profiling. Sela rejects the argument that profiling is discriminatory.
“The word ‘profiling’ is a political invention by people who don’t want to do security,” he said. “To us, it doesn’t matter if he’s black, white, young or old. It’s just his behavior. So what kind of privacy am I really stepping on when I’m doing this?”
Once you’ve parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters.
Armed guards outside the terminal are trained to observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behavior. At Ben Gurion’s half-dozen entrances, another layer of security is watching. At this point, some travelers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnetometer.
“This is to see that you don’t have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious,” said Sela.
You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?
“The whole time, they are looking into your eyes – which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds,” said Sela.
Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.
At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil’s advocate – what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?
“I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with play-dough in it and two pens stuck in the play-dough. That is ‘Bombs 101’ to a screener. I asked Ducheneau, ‘What would you do?’ And he said, ‘Evacuate the terminal.’ And I said, ‘Oh. My God.’
“Take Pearson. Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let’s say I’m (doing an evacuation) without panic – which will never happen. But let’s say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, ‘Two days.’”
A screener at Ben-Gurion has a pair of better options.
America: Before we spend billions of dollars more, let’s start the above process and security screening as the first step.
|January 12, 2010
|Pelosi and Obama call for job-creation bill in wake of unemployment report
(The Hill) President Barack Obama and top Democrats are seizing on weaker-than-expected December employment data to strengthen their push for more spending on job-creation programs.
Friday`s Labor Department report showed the economy lost 85,000 jobs in December, far more than the 10,000 jobs some economists had expected would be lost. The unemployment rate remained 10 percent, but the rate would have gone up if nearly 700,000 workers hadn’t left the labor market.
“We have to continue to explore every avenue to accelerate the return to hiring,” Obama said Friday in response to the report.
Obama has urged Congress to pass a jobs package that includes new infrastructure spending, aid to small businesses, funding for state and local governments struggling to keep workers and incentives for green investments. On Friday, he also called on them to include $5 billion to expand a tax credit for manufacturers who invest in clean energy technologies.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the December jobs report should push leaders to recognize that saving and creating jobs should be their “top priority.”
“Signs of growth in recent months will not restore the security of lost paychecks or reassure families still struggling to make ends meet,” she said in a statement. “We must take action to keep our economy on the road to recovery.”
The House late last month approved a $174 billion measure made up largely of infrastructure spending and fiscal aid to stave off public worker layoffs. The Senate is still crafting its version of the jobs bill.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin`s (D-Ill.) office has said the Senate bill will likely include funding for infrastructure projects, energy efficiency programs, public services and small business loans. Durbin has said that the bill will be taken up soon after the Senate returns later this month.
The push for new jobs measures comes after months dominated by the healthcare debate and a holiday recess in which national security policies returned to the spotlight because of an attempted terrorist attack.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called on the Obama administration Friday to stop “wildly pivoting” from issue to issue and to instead focus on the economy. He and other GOP members have been blasting the Democrats` for seeking a “son of stimulus,” another package similar to the $787 billion stimulus criticized by fiscal conservatives for failing to keep the unemployment rate below 10 percent.
“A jobless recovery is a far cry from what the American people were promised last winter when Washington Democrats jammed through a trillion-dollar stimulus that they said would create jobs immediately,” Boehner said in a statement.
Democrats defending large majorities in the House and Senate in mid-term elections this November are facing pressure to do something, but it`s unclear whether any of their efforts will bring the jobless rate down significantly within the next few months given the worst recession in decades.
"It`s not that to me the money isn`t there, it`s that the confidence isn`t there for consumption and spending and investment," said William Hoagland, a former top Senate GOP budget aide who is now vice president of public policy for health insurer Cigna Corp. “I guess I don`t know what it is politically one can do to increase that confidence."
Labor unions and liberal economists have been urging the administration and Democratic leaders to ignore calls to rein in spending, saying that the stimulus wasn`t large enough. They`ve been calling for a new jobs package since last summer, when the unemployment rate began to approach 10 percent.
"December`s jobs report is an ominous sign of the deep and continued suffering by working families who want to work but can`t find jobs, despite tentative signs of renewed economic growth," said Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president.
He added that the country is at risk of falling into another recession if lawmakers don`t enact job creation measures immediately.
|January 08, 2010
|Governor deals blow to health care reform
(SF Gate) California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who until recently endorsed Democrats` efforts to reform health care, has changed direction and become a battering ram for Republicans, who have seized on his caustic comments this week that the bill is a "trough of bribes, deals and loopholes" that unfairly penalize the state.
The governor raised eyebrows in his 27-minute State of the State address Wednesday when he criticized the financial burdens of expanding government health care, saying, "You`ve heard of the bridge to nowhere? This is health care to nowhere."
The Republican National Committee immediately bannered Schwarzenegger`s comments in a news release crowing, "Governator to Dems: Terminate this Bill."
Jahan Wilcox, spokesman for the RNC, said Schwarzenegger was "echoing similar concerns we`ve seen from Republican and Democratic governors - that they do not want their budgets raided for this bill."
In Washington, Schwarzenegger`s remarks were characterized as a devastating blow to reform, an apparent withdrawal of his support on the same day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and legislative leaders met with President Obama about reconciling the House and Senate versions of the bill.
The brouhaha surrounding Schwarzenegger, who is scheduled to hit the Sunday talk shows to discuss health care, indicates that in his final year in office he still holds the bully pulpit. But it also spotlights a critical question: Did the governor flip-flop in his support of the Obama administration`s health care effort?
On Wednesday, Schwarzenegger urged congressional Democrats to vote down the "disaster" or "fight for the same sweetheart deal" negotiated by Nebraska`s Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, who won a concession that the federal government would pay the entire cost of Medicaid expansion in his state.
"That senator got ... the corn, we got the husk," Schwarzenegger complained.
Aaron McLear, the governor`s press secretary, said Schwarzenegger has been "completely consistent" on the issue for months. The governor sent four letters to congressional leaders in recent months "and every one of them says the same thing," he said. " `I`m with you on health care reform, but if you include an unfunded mandate ... I can`t support it.` "
Letter of support
In a Dec. 22 letter to Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, Schwarzenegger reassured her that "I am one of the only Republican elected officials in the country to publicly support the president`s health care reform efforts."
He also critiqued the legislation, warning that "the current structure and the proposed expansion of Medicaid under health care reform are unsustainable for California."
But he hardly appeared angry: "I look forward to continuing to work with you as the final comprehensive bill is negotiated in Congress," he said.
After the Christmas Eve passage of the Senate bill, he issued a statement saying that it "falls short and needs additional work."
Schwarzenegger`s more scathing comments this week stand as "totally hypocritical," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, an advocacy group.
"Not less than two years ago, this governor was proposing expanding Medi-Cal to exactly the same population," with the state and the federal government sharing the costs 50-50, Wright said. "Now he`s saying that having the federal government pick up 100 percent of the costs in the first seven years, and 80 percent thereafter, is not good enough."
With California poised to get some aid for millions of uninsured and low-income residents, the governor`s lambaste this week "makes no sense," Wright said. "He loses credibility when he mischaracterizes a bill that we all should be working to improve."
Democratic state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said the governor`s latest move "was very calculated - and I disagree with his conclusions, certainly. I think federal health care reform is essential ... it will take stress off our emergency rooms and health care system."
"But I do think he was trying to make a larger point," Steinberg said, "which was that when you look at the Congress and the president and all the important things on their plate, the (financial) health of the state needs to be a higher priority."
States` health care perks
"Cornhusker kickback" - Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson cast the crucial 60th vote to approve the Senate health care bill after being promised federal funding to cover Nebraska`s entire cost of a Medicaid expansion in the bill.
Other states` deals - Nebraska wasn`t alone in getting Medicaid breaks. Vermont, Louisiana and Massachusetts also got extra help with their programs.
California - The nation`s most-populous state would begin paying 20 percent of its Medicaid funding beginning in 2017. But the state would receive an extra $165 million a year for public hospitals.
|January 08, 2010
|Same-Sex Marriage Bill Fails in New Jersey; Homosexuals Turn to the Courts
(CNSNews) Gays are vowing to fight back through the courts after the state Senate voted down a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
Minutes after the bill was defeated 20-14 on Thursday, gay rights advocates announced they would file a lawsuit seeking to get the state`s top court to order New Jersey to recognize same-sex matrimony.
The state Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the state must provide all the benefits of marriage to committed gay couples. In response, the Legislature legalized civil unions for gay couples.
The Senate vote also was the latest setback for gay rights supporters nationally. In November, Maine voters overturned a law that would have allowed gay marriage in that state. The law never went into effect. And last month, the state Senate in New York defeated a similar law. In California, a federal trial will begin next week on that state`s gay marriage ban.
Only five states -- Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- recognize gay marriage.
Gay rights advocates had pushed hard to get the New Jersey measure passed before Jan. 19, when Republican Chris Christie becomes governor. Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine had promised to sign the bill if approved by the Legislature, but Christie said he would veto it.
On Tuesday, Sen. President Richard Codey agreed to put the bill to a vote, leaving little mystery about its fate. Only one Republican, Sen. Bill Baroni, of Hamilton, was among the 14 senators who voted for the bill. The measure needed 21 votes to pass.
"We should not be telling one couple you can be married and another couple you can be civil unionized," Baroni said. "We are better than that. History is watching us now. She is asking us whether we`ll side with equality and right -- or for discrimination."
Those on the other side said changing the centuries-old definition of marriage was too drastic a move for lawmakers to make. Opponents want to put the measure to a popular vote.
"Suddenly, today, there`s implications that you`re discriminating against folks when you want to maintain that definition," said Sen. Michael Doherty, a Republican from Washington Township in Warren County.
As vigorous as the debate became, most senators who were thought to be on the fence in the preceding weeks did not chime in. Five senators did not cast votes.
Among the abstainers was Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat from Gloucester County`s Washington Township who is expected to become Senate president when the Legislature reorganizes Tuesday. Sweeney did not return calls for comment.
Gay couples say civil unions don`t work largely because employees at hospitals, insurance companies and elsewhere don`t understand the concept. Gay rights groups said Thursday they would use statements made by senators to support their arguments in their lawsuit.
Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said acknowledgment that civil unions haven`t worked should be enough to persuade the court to mandate gay marriage.
|January 08, 2010
|Fox Promotes Children’s Movie with Family Guy Sex Scene
On January 22nd, 20thCentury-Fox will release the movie Tooth Fairy. Starring Dwayne Johnson as a macho pro athlete who is forced to take on the duties of the magical Tooth Fairy, the movie is rated PG and is clearly targeted at young children. But the studio considered it appropriate to promote this film with a graphic sex scene on Fox’s adult-themed animated series Family Guy.
Click here for more details.
|January 07, 2010
|Prop. 8 trial will be shown on YouTube
(SF Gate) Next week`s trial in San Francisco of a lawsuit challenging the initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California won`t be televised live, but it will be videotaped for delayed Internet release on YouTube, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco ordered the video coverage, the first for a federal trial in California, over the objections of Proposition 8`s sponsors. Their lawyer argued that allowing the proceedings to be viewed outside the courthouse would violate their right to a fair trial by intimidating their witnesses.
"The knowledge that you`re testifying to untold thousands or millions ... can cause some witnesses to become more timid" and induce others to be overly dramatic, attorney Michael Kirk told Walker.
Prop. 8`s campaign committee, Protect Marriage, has maintained that some of its supporters have been harassed, and that witnesses whose testimony was widely seen would face further danger.
Walker will have the power to order that individual witnesses` faces be concealed or their voices muted on the YouTube uploads.
Kirk said such actions would only draw attention to the witnesses. But Walker said this case seemed ideal for a pilot program, approved last month by the federal appeals court in San Francisco, to allow telecasting of selected nonjury civil trials.
He cited the wide interest in the case and said most of the witnesses will be campaign officials or academic experts accustomed to speaking in public.
"I`ve always thought that if the public could see how the judicial process works, they would take a somewhat different view of it," the judge said.
Prop. 8, approved by voters in November 2008, amended the California Constitution to overturn a May 2008 state Supreme Court ruling that allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry.
The lawsuit by two same-sex couples, a gay rights group and the city of San Francisco says the initiative violates the U.S. constitutional guarantee of equal protection by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender. The nonjury trial, the first in any U.S. court on same-sex marriage, begins Monday and is scheduled to last two to three weeks.
Lawyers for the couples supported video coverage. "What happens in the courtroom is public property," attorney Theodore Boutrous told Walker.
Courts in most states, including California, allow television coverage with the judge`s consent, but federal courts have historically barred cameras. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is one of two appellate courts that televise some of its hearings, but no appellate court has allowed telecasting of trials until now.
Walker`s order, subject to final approval by the appeals court`s chief judge, allows live video feeds to public areas of federal appeals courthouses in San Francisco, Pasadena, Seattle and Portland, Ore., and to a federal court in Chicago that has requested it.
The videotape will be posted on a YouTube site ( www.youtube.com/usdccand) as soon as possible, which might be later the same day or the next morning, said Buz Rico, the court`s technical adviser.
Media organizations, including Hearst Corp., which owns The Chronicle, urged Walker to go further and allow live telecasting. Their lawyer, Thomas Burke, said a camera crew from "In Session," formerly known as "Court TV News," could provide pool coverage with higher quality and none of the technological limitations that the court staff would face with YouTube.
Walker said he wanted this initial venture to be entirely under the court`s control. Burke said afterward that the delayed coverage was "a really important first step."
At a glance
What happened: A judge ordered video coverage of a trial of a lawsuit challenging Prop. 8.
What it means: The coverage will be the first for a federal trial in California.
What`s next: The trial starts Monday. Videos will be at www.youtube.com/usdccand
|January 07, 2010
|Obama appoints transgendered LGBT activist
(OneNewsNow) President Obama has named Amanda Simpson to a post in the Commerce Department, making Simpson perhaps the first-ever transgender appointment in a U.S. presidential administration.
Prior to the presidential appointment, Simpson worked for Raytheon Missile Systems in Arizona. While at Raytheon, Simpson underwent the sex-change "transition." In his new post, Simpson will serve as a senior technical adviser at the Commerce Department`s Bureau of Industry and Security. A 30-veteran of the aerospace industry, he once served as a member of the National Center for Transgender Equality`s board of directors.
Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality is not surprised that Simpson was appointed. "This is a man -- and by the way he is a man; he`s not a woman -- who is one of the leaders in crusading for so-called `civil rights` based on gender-confused behavior," he points out.
According to an online biography, Simpson served as commissioner on Tucson`s Commission on GLBT Issues, as a board member for such groups as the Tucson Corporate LGBT Coalition and the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, and as a member of numerous other "diversity" and LGBT rights groups.
But LaBarbera says there is a bigger issue than just the one appointment to a federal government post.
"Obama is supporting ENDA -- the Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- with a transsexual provision," he shares, "meaning that if that version of the bill gets through and Obama signs it, we will have businesses being forced to accommodate gender-confused individuals in the name of civil rights."
LaBarbera adds it is time for America to wake up to the agenda of the Obama administration.
|January 07, 2010
|Pentagon Against Obama`s Anti-Nuke Plans
(NewsMax) President Barack Obama`s plan to begin phasing out nuclear weapons has run up against powerful resistance from officials in the Pentagon and other US agencies, The Los Angeles Times reported late Sunday.
Obama laid out his vision of a nuclear-free world in a speech in Prague last April.
But citing unnamed officials, the newspaper said the Obama administration is now locked in internal debate over a top-secret policy blueprint for shrinking the US nuclear arsenal and reducing the role of such weapons in country`s military strategy.
Officials in the Pentagon and elsewhere have pushed back against proposals to cut the number of weapons and narrow their mission, the report said.
In turn, White House officials, unhappy with early Pentagon-led drafts of the blueprint known as the Nuclear Posture Review, have stepped up their involvement in the deliberations and ordered that the document reflect Obama`s preference for sweeping change, The Times noted.
The Pentagon has stressed the importance of continued US deterrence, an objective Obama has said he agrees with, the report said.
But a senior Defence official, who described the debate as "spirited," acknowledged that some officials are concerned that the administration may be going too far, the paper pointed out.
|January 07, 2010
|Tea Party planning national strike
(Inside the Bay Area) As President Barack Obama`s first year in office draws to a close, Tea Party groups are planning to mark the occasion with a national strike - something local leaders say could demonstrate the conservative groups` burgeoning strength.
The strike, planned for Jan. 20, the first anniversary of Obama`s inauguration, is being promoted online through Facebook and Web sites run by various national Tea Party groups.
"What`s proposed is a nationwide strike by all Tea Party members, no matter where they are," said Lloyd Rekstad, an organizer of the Yucaipa Tea Party. "The idea is to strike where we are, in our communities, at our employment, to make an impact that will be diverse and spread out."
That would mean, Rekstad said, not going to work, not buying groceries, not going to restaurants or movie theaters.
"You just stay home," he said, "so that the person participating would become, for that one day, a nonentity - that they would give no support to the economy."
Not all Tea Party members are on board.
Lane Schneider, organizer of the Redlands Tea Party, said she hasn`t heard all the details of the strike.
And Rekstad said he and other Tea Party organizers aren`t sure if the strike is a good idea.
"How wise it is, how effective it would be, I don`t have answers to those questions," Rekstad said.
Fred Taub, president of Cleveland-based Boycott Watch, said the national strike sounds like a one-day boycott - something he said never works.
"If I choose not to buy gas on Tuesday, I`m going to have to buy gas on Monday or Wednesday instead," he said. "I still have to eat. These one-day boycotts are completely and totally ineffective."
Taub said Tea Party organizations have generally done a good job of making themselves seen and heard, but that the idea for a one-day strike is a misstep.
"They`ve been effective," he said. "This is the first time I`ve seen the Tea Party fail with one of their projects. I mean, it`s a one-day boycott: big whoop."
More than ineffective, though, Taub called the notion of not supporting the economy for a day "silly."
"You can`t boycott the United States economy if you live here," he said. "Even if you`re not working or purchasing anything today, you`re still part of the economy."
Rekstad said the planned strike is motivated by general frustration with Obama`s agenda, but different sites promoting the strike cite different motivations.
Some say protesting Congress` health care reform bills is the strike`s explicit focus.
"We will not become tax slaves to pay for a government-run health-rationing scheme," says the National Day of Strike event page on Facebook. It goes on to say that "liberal Democrats are ... more interested in increasing their political power than fixing the problems that exist in the best health care system in the world."
Another group, Patriots for America, says the strike is aimed at protesting a ballooning deficit and increased government spending.
Another site specifically devoted to the Jan. 20 strike - strike120.ning.com - is even more general, saying the strike aims to speak against corruption and damage to the country`s economy.
|January 07, 2010
|One in Five Gitmo Suspects Returns to Terror, Pentagon Finds
(CNSNews.com) A new Pentagon finding that one in five terror suspects released from the Guantanamo Bay detention center has returned to terrorist activities has not weakened the Obama administration`s commitment to close the prison.
Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters Wednesday that Pentagon officials are working to declassify the report showing that almost 20 percent of the prisoners released from Guntanamo Bay in Cuba are either confirmed or suspected to have engaged in terrorism again.
That’s almost double the 11-percent recidivism rate reported in December 2008. By April 2009, the recidivism rate had climbed to 14 percent, according to previous Pentagon studies.
President Barack Obama affirmed Tuesday that his administration would proceed with plans to shut down Gitmo.
“Make no mistake. We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda,” Obama said Tuesday, when he also announced that no more detainees would be released to Yemen.
The Yemen decision came after 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – who had been acting on instructions from al Qaeda operatives in Yemen – attempted to blow up an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight over Michigan on Christmas Day.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Wednesday he had not seen the Pentagon report and did not know if there was a new date for closing Gitmo. But he did not believe the findings would not make it more difficult to close the prison.
“I think you heard the president say yesterday we are committed to closing Guantanamo,” Gibbs told reporters. “You heard the president enunciate clearly that one of the explicit reasons mentioned in very early recruiting material from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was the existence of Guantanamo Bay.”
Gibbs did not know if recidivism rates would have any bearing on when the prison would be closed. The president initially called for closing the prison in January 2010, but that is not expected to happen.
“We never had a plan to transfer anybody either to their home country or to a third country that we believe – we have reason to believe will present a security situation for us or for that country,” Gibbs said.
The prison formerly held 750 detainees and is now down to 198. Of those, roughly 91 reportedly are from Yemen. U.S. officials think two Saudis released from Guantanamo, one in 2006 and the other in 2007, may have played significant roles in al Qaeda activities in Yemen, the Associated Press reported.
The rising number of released suspects returning to terror should not be a surprise, said James Carafano, a national security expert with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
“So many prisoners have been released, we are running into a dry hole,” Carafano told CNSNews.com. “For nobody to be back on the battlefield would be difficult.”
The federal government plans to use an Illinois prison facility to house about 100 prisoners that will be transferred away from Gitmo.
Carafano is fearful that a judge could parole some of these terror suspects once they are in the United States and believes shutting down Gitmo is the wrong approach.
He finds the administration’s argument that Gitmo is a recruiting tool laughable.
“Any detention center would be a recruiting tool for terrorists,” Carafano said. “Prisons are recruiting tools for gangs. Are we going to shut down all prisons? Do they believe the Illinois Gitmo won’t be a recruiting tool?”
|January 07, 2010
|Public schools agree to end Bible distribution
(OneNewsNow) Public school officials in Wilson County, Tennessee, have agreed to stop distributing Bibles to students during the school day on school grounds. The settlement comes after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue the district.
The ACLU said in a news release that a fifth-grade student was taken into the gym with her classmates and that the principal introduced the children to representatives of The Gideons International.
The release says the girl`s teacher then called each row of students forward to receive a Bible and told them taking a Bible was not mandatory, but the girl took one because she feared being ostracized.
In the settlement, school board members acknowledge that distributing Bibles to students at school has been declared unconstitutional.
|January 06, 2010
|2009: The Year of Homegrown Jihad
(Family Security Matters) From the Fort Hood massacre to the failed attempt to blow up an airliner on Christmas day, Islamic jihadists have never been more active in their attempts to attack the U.S.
Many of the plots were hatched by U.S. citizens – homegrown jihadists.
Exibit A: Five middle class friends from the Washington, D.C., suburbs: one was a dental student at a local university, all were praised as "good kids" by leaders of their northern Virginia mosque.
"I have always known these kids as fun loving, career focused children that had a bright future ahead of them," said Mustafa Abu Maryam, youth coordinator of the young men’s mosque in Alexandria, Virginia.
I talked with Pat Robertson on "The 700 Club" about the growing threat of homegrown jihad. Click here for the interview.
Now, a good part of that "bright" future may be spent behind bars. The men traveled to Pakistan in November to link up with Islamic terrorist groups and wage jihad against U.S. troops.
Their capture by Pakistani authorities capped a full year of terrorist plots, attacks and arrests involving U.S. citizens
Terrorism experts say the rise of homegrown terrorism has left the U.S. more vulnerable to attack than at any time since 9/11.
"I see these individuals, these homegrown individuals, as sort of the crown jewel for international terrorist organizations like al Qaeda," Rick Nelson of the Center for Stragic and International Studies said.
Indeed, 2009 saw no shortage of American recruits for al Qaeda and its allies:
Fort Hood psychiatrist Nidal Hassan contacted an al Qaeda recruiter in Yemen before carrying out his terrorist rampage. Afghan native Najibullah Zazi stands accused of planning major attacks in New York City after involvement with an al Qaeda training camp. Fourteen Somali Americans are under indictment for providing support to an al Qaeda-linked group in Somalia. And two Pakistani Americans in Chicago were charged with seeking to attack targets in Denmark and India. One of those men, David Coleman Headley, traveled to India to scout out targets for the Islamic terror group, Lashkar e-Taiba.
The group later struck those targets in the Nov. 2008 Mumbai massacre that killed 166.
"Someone who has the ability as a legal U.S. resident to travel fairly freely throughout the world with a passport makes them a very useful tool," Nelson explained.
Headley and his partner in the plot, Tawahurr Hussein Rana attended school together in Pakistan. The two reconnected after moving to a heavily Pakistani neighborhood in north Chicago.
FBI agents seized two al Qaeda videos during a raid at Rana`s home. The videos featured speeches by Osama bin Laden and vicious rhetoric against the U.S., Denmark and Jews.
The Chicago case has raised fears that American Islamists could have designs outside the U.S.
They`re already attempting to wage jihad inside the U.S., in places like Springfield, Illinois, where a white convert to Islam was recently arrested and charged with attempting to blow up a federal building.
Michael Finton, 29, converted to Islam in prison and idolized American Taliban John Walker Lindh.
A federal affidavit revealed Finton traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2008 and received $1,400 from an unidentified man in that country.
"These networks are able to recruit on the Internet and there are so many jihadist Web sites out there that particularly play to young, impressionable individuals," former FBI special agent Dennis Lormel said.
A co-worker of Finton`s at a fast food restaurant in the blue-collar town of Decatur, Ill., said he "didn`t like America very much." Finton and other American Muslims turned that rage against their country in 2009.
New York City: Four Muslims were charged with plotting to bomb synagogues and U.S. military planes. North Carolina: Seven Muslims were arrested for planning attacks against overseas targets and U.S. military facilities in Virginia. Dallas: A 19-year-old Jordanian plotted to blow up a downtown skyscraper. Boston: A Muslim charged with planning to kill U.S. soldiers and civilians. Dearborn, Mich.: The leader of a radical Islamic group was killed in a shootout with FBI agents. Fort Hood wasn`t the only successful Islamic terrorist attack on American soil in 2009. In a shooting almost ignored by the media, a radical Muslim killed a U.S. military recruiter in Arkansas last spring.
Lormel told CBN News the "low-tech" paramilitary tactics used in those two attacks and in Mumbai could be the future of homegrown jihad.
"I think that plays to what happened in Mumbai," he said. "You had a group of individuals who were able to commit such devastation. Even though the death count was nowhere near 9/11, that still had a devastating impact on India."
Wafa Sultan, a former Muslim and author of the book A God Who Hates, told CBN News that until America faces the fact that Islamic ideology drives the jihadists, homegrown plots will continue in 2010.
"I heard it a million times [at mosques here in the United States]," she said. "That we are here to spread Islam and eventually to replace the American constitution with Islamic Sharia law."
|January 06, 2010
|Calif. Assembly Passes Education Reform Bills
(NY Times) The California Assembly on Tuesday passed two landmark education-reform bills that will give parents and state officials broad authority to overhaul the state`s worst schools.
Lawmakers acted under a tight deadline set by the Obama administration, which is pushing school-reform efforts through its Race to the Top initiative. At stake for California is up to $700 million in competitive grants.
The Assembly`s action sends the two bills to the state Senate, which is scheduled to consider them Wednesday. If approved, the legislative package will go to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been pushing lawmakers to act since calling a special session in August.
He issued a statement after the vote urging the Senate to pass the legislation. He said it was needed to ensure California could submit a competitive application for a portion of the $4.3 billion being made available by the federal government.
Lawmakers who support the reforms said the legislation would provide a lifeline to parents and students in California`s poorest-performing school districts.
``It`s bold. It signifies a commitment to President Obama`s call to take drastic steps when our schools are failing,`` said Assemblyman Juan Arambula, an independent from Fresno.
The legislation struck a compromise between different versions favored previously by the Assembly and Senate, although it includes controversial provisions on parental rights.
It requires persistently failing schools to make sweeping changes, including the possibility a school could be closed or converted to a charter school.
Parents at some of the worst schools would be empowered to demand changes and move their children to a better school. Those options are opposed by teachers unions.
``I believe that this program abandons our neighborhood schools, the children that live there and the people nearby,`` said Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch. ``Even worse, it abandons those very schools that are most in need of our help.``
Other lawmakers complained the Legislature was rushing into sweeping reforms that would have lasting consequences for what amounts to a relatively small pot of one-time money. K-12 education will get nearly $36 billion in this year`s general fund budget.
|January 06, 2010
|Obama Twitter account crosses 3 million follower mark
(The Hill) President Barack Obama`s official Twitter account announced Monday that it has crossed the 3 million follower mark.
The handle @BarackObama tweeted Monday afternoon:
As we kick off 2010, our Twitter community has grown to over 3 million. I continue to be grateful for your partnership as we work for change
Obama`s account, which is operated by the Democratic National Committee, is the fourth-most followed Twitter trailing actor Ashton Kutcher`s, singer Britney Spears` and comedian Ellen DeGeneres`.
The top four accounts are the only handles with over 3 million followers and the top three each have over 4 million according to TwitterCounter, a widely-used Twitter metrics site.
TwitterCounter shows that Obama`s account likely gained its 3 millionth follower between Saturday and Sunday.
@BarackObama primarily tweets promotional messages regarding the White House`s agenda.
|January 06, 2010
|C-SPAN Challenges Dems to Publicize Secret Health Bill Talks
(LifeSiteNews.com) - As Democrat leaders commence their final round of negotiations on the health care bill in secret meetings following the Christmas holiday, C-SPAN has issued a letter to the president and lawmakers challenging them to live up to their promises of transparency and allow the network to cover the proceedings.
"President Obama, Senate and House leaders, many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation`s editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation`s health care system," wrote C-SPAN`s Brian Lamb to congressional leaders in a letter dated December 30.
"Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between the Chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American."
House Minority Leader John Boehner responded promptly to C-SPAN`s letter, stating that "all House Republicans strongly endorse your proposal and stand ready to work with you to make it a reality." Unfortunately, he said, "the President, Speaker Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Reid now intend to shut out the American people at the most critical hour by skipping a bipartisan conference committee and hammering out a final health care bill in secret."
A handful of Democrat chamber and committee leaders today are meeting with the White House to hash out how to surmount the final hurdles facing the abortion-expanding health care legislation crafted separately in both House and Senate. Those versions, which pose significant differences on some contentious points, must be ironed out in a final version for President Obama to sign. Leaders hope to get the bill on the President`s desk by the State of the Union address - but previous deadlines on the bill have consistently slipped.
Instead of an even-handed merge, leaders are expected to expedite passage by sending the Senate health bill to the House, which will amend the bill and send it back to the Senate for approval.
The process, known as the "ping-pong" option, largely throws out the hard-won language contained only in the House version of the bill - including the Hyde amendment restriction on abortion funding. While pro-life and conservative leaders have heavily criticized the bill on a number of aspects, including its propensity to promote health care rationing and doctor-assisted suicide, the bill`s vast expansion of federal abortion funding has earned it the title of the greatest threat to the unborn in America since Roe v. Wade.
Such merging is usually conducted in full view in the chambers of Congress. Although skipping the formal committee meetings is not without precedent, critics are angry at Democrats for choosing the secretive route in the final round of the bill, which many consider the most significant social policy legislation in a generation.
Fueling the criticism are reports from lawmakers and aides who say Republican and conservative Democrat lawmakers have been entirely shut out of the negotiations. House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) said leaders would skip the committee because motions to select and instruct conferees in the Senate "would need 60 votes all over again."
"This process cuts out the Republicans," said a House Democratic aide, according to a Talking Points Memo report, adding that Democrats intended to ensure the minority party would "not have a motion to recommit opportunity."
Leading conservative Democrats such as Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) have confirmed that leadership has kept them away from the negotiating table as well. Stupak is the leader of a handful of conservative Democrats who have promised to vote against the bill if it does not contain Hyde-amendment restrictions on abortion funding.
After federal abortion funding became the top sticking point in both the House and Senate bills, it could remain the clearest block to the measure`s final passage if Stupak`s company holds strong.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) continues to face the after-effects reneging on his promise in December to filibuster the bill if it contained federal abortion funding: protesters with Rescue the Heartland and Operation Rescue braved a -9 degree wind chill on New Year`s Day to demonstrate outside the senator`s home.
The full House does not reconvene until next week, and the Senate will return in two weeks. Meanwhile, majority leaders in both chambers will meet with President Obama Tuesday evening to discuss the final bill, before a caucus meeting via conference call scheduled for Thursday.
The White House`s health reform campaign also continued in aggressive tones this week, reminding followers of its "reality check" series on health care to dismiss criticism of the bill.
"This isn`t fear-mongering based on some deceptive distortion as we so often hear from those opponents, it`s cold hard facts," wrote Nancy Ann DeParle in a Tuesday post highlighting the negative aspects of the current health care situation.
A Washington Times editorial Tuesday blasted the Obama administration for the overtly furtive tactics propelling the sweeping health measure to the finish line.
"By now it`s almost trite to complain that President Obama repeatedly has broken his campaign pledge to `broadcast [health care] negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are.` That doesn`t make the complaint invalid," it notes.
"For legislation that could so profoundly and personally affect the daily lives of every American, Congress and the White House should be more transparent and more accessible than ever before. Instead, the process has been secretive and sordid throughout.
"Back in October, Rep. Vern Buchanan, Florida Republican, offered this simple resolution: `Resolved, that it is the sense of the House of Representatives that any conference committee or other meetings held to determine the final content of sweeping national health care legislation be held in full public view and not behind closed doors.` If congressional leaders do not abide this simple request, Republicans should bring the whole Senate to a halt.
|January 06, 2010
|North Korea on Top Persecutor list -- again
(OneNewsNow) Two of the most notorious and restrictive regimes in the world top the Open Doors 2010 World Watch List (WWL) of 50 countries which are the worst persecutors of Christians.
In the No. 1 spot for the eighth straight time is North Korea, the country where every religious activity is recognized as an insurrection to the North Korean socialist principles. In 2009, the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-Il targeted Christians all over the country. That resulted in arrests, torture and killings. North Korean leaders are desperately trying to control society in order to eradicate all Christian activities. There are an estimated 200,000 North Koreans in political prisons, including 40,000 to 60,000 Christians.
A veteran North Korean watcher, who can`t be identified due to security reasons, states: "Christians are the target of fierce government action, and once caught, they are not regarded as human. Last year we had evidence that some were used as guinea pigs to test chemical and biological weapons."
Iran is now No. 2 on the list. Iran was previously No. 3 on the WWL for many years, behind Saudi Arabia. The wave of arrests of Christians which started in 2008 continued even stronger during 2009, resulting in the arrest of at least 85 Christians. It is suspected that the arrests are a way for the Iranian government to distract attention from internal problems, including the domestic turmoil after the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Most of those arrested were mistreated in prison. The turmoil and rioting continued at the end of2009.
Of the countries on the top 10 list, eight have Islam as their dominant religion: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Afghanistan, Yemen, Mauritania and Uzbekistan. North Korea and Laos are communist countries. Also, 35 of the 50 countries on the list have Islamic governments.
"It is certainly not a shock that North Korea is No. 1 on the list of countries where Christians face the worst persecution," says Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors USA. "There is no other country in the world where Christians are persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner. Three generations of a family are often thrown into prison when one member is incarcerated."
"Iran jumping to No. 2 is noteworthy," Moeller continues. "Iranian Muslim Background Believers Maryam Rustampoor and Marzieh Amirzadeh were arrested simply for being Christians and refusing to recant their faith in Jesus Christ. They were released almost two months ago, helped by an advocacy campaign by Open Doors and other Christian organizations. But these two brave women along with hundreds of other believers still remain at risk inside Iran."
Moeller adds that despite the growth of persecution in many regions of the world, Christianity continues to flourish. "There is a strong group of Christians in North Korea, and actually the number of Christians in North Korea has grown in the last 10 years. Many are coming to Christ in the Muslim world. But we need to continue to embrace them in prayer in 2010."
Saudi Arabia at No. 3 remains unchanged in the situation of religious freedom for Christians. However, no reports of Christians killed or physically harmed for their faith were received, and only one report of a Christian arrested was noted.
Somalia moved up one spot to the No. 4 position as religious freedom for Christians became worse. In April the Parliament voted unanimously to institute Islamic law.
Rounding out the top 10 are Maldives at No. 5, followed by Afghanistan, Yemen, Mauritania, Laos and Uzbekistan.
The Yemeni Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but it also declares that Islam is the state religion and that Sharia Law is the source of all legislation. The Yemeni government allows expatriates some freedom to live out their faith, but Yemeni citizens are not allowed to convert to Christianity (or other religions). Converts from Islamic background may face the death penalty if their new faith is discovered. Last June, nine expatriate Christian health workers were kidnapped by armed men. A few days later, the mutilated bodies of three of them were found. The fate of the remaining six aid workers remains unknown.
New to the Top 10 this year is the North African country of Mauritania, holding the No. 8 position. Mauritania jumped 10 spots--the biggest increase of any country in the poll. The situation deteriorated due to the murder of a Christian aid worker in June 2009, the arrest and torture of 35 Mauritanian Christians in July, and the arrest of a group of 150 of sub-Saharan Christians in August.
The lone country to drop out of the top 10 list is the tiny African country of Eritrea, which fell from No. 9 to No. 11. Open Doors recorded fewer reports on persecution of Christians in Algeria, India, Cuba, Jordan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, which dropped from No. 41 to No. 48 - the biggest improvement of any country in 2009.
The World Watch List, started by the Open Doors Research Department in 1991, seeks to understand the unique persecution fingerprint of each country. This is to ensure effective intervention since Open Doors ministers to the persecuted church in more than 50 countries worldwide.
The data is derived from a questionnaire containing 53 questions sent to Open Doors co-workers, key church leaders and recognized experts in 70 countries. The questionnaire examines every aspect of persecution, including the degree of legal restriction, state attitudes, how free the church is to organize itself, as well as noting incidents of persecution, such as church burnings, anti-Christian riots and even martyrdom. Open Doors is uniquely positioned to provide this research as it is the world`s largest mission agency working on behalf of the persecuted. Also, Open Doors is working in 46 of the 50 countries on the WWL.
For more information, including a list of all 50 countries, go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world`s most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers.
|January 05, 2010
|Report Finds Over 1,200 Crimes Against Churches in 2009
(Christian Post) Included among the crimes are 12 homicides and 38 other violent incidents – including three sexual assaults and three kidnappings – 98 arsons and over 700 burglaries, according to the 2009 “Crimes Against Christian Organizations in the United States” report published by the Christian Security Network.
The network said the church burglaries resulted in an estimated $24 million in property loss.
"It is disheartening to see all these incidents and loss of life in churches in 2009 and even sadder because we know 2010 isn`t going to be any different unless the status-quo changes," said Jeff Hawkins, executive director of the Christian Security Network, in announcing the release of the report.
Hawkins, a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and security, went on to say that criminals do not care that they are targeting a church, but see them as “soft targets.”
The crime report, the first of its kind, specifically tracks incidents against Christian organizations, mostly churches, in the entire year of 2009. It highlighted the difficulty in determining exactly how many incidents occur because there is no mandatory reporting of these crimes to any government agency or organizations.
Though the FBI has established Hate Crimes statistics and the agency reports on crimes against churches and religious organizations, very few crimes against churches and Christian organizations are classified as hate crimes because it is difficult to determine the motive for the crime, the report explains.
What further makes it difficult to determine the number of crimes against Christian organizations is the fact that many of the crimes go unreported. Churches and ministries, for various reasons including forgiveness of the offender to fear of bad publicity, do not always report crimes.
“Certain crimes like homicides or arsons, are easier to document; property crimes are much more difficult and most likely the rates are much higher than contained in this report, conservatively five to six times higher, making total incidents and dollar loss much greater,” Hawkins commented.
Despite the difficulties, the Christian Security Network said it tried to collect as many incidents as possible from a variety of sources, including the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report and the National Fire Protection Association, over the past 12 months with the hope to show a “statistical sampling” of what happened in 2009 and compare it to future reports.
The network said it approached the collection of data in a conservative manner, only counting criminal incidents where the church or ministry building, staff, volunteers, or guests were the actual target or victim. It did not, for instance, count a death on church property if the church was closed at the time or if the death had no connection to the church.
“These are not just numbers, these are people who have been killed or seriously injured serving their church,” said Hawkins. “The church is supposed to be a place of peace and protection. Many of these incidents just didn`t have to happen. With a few precautions, changes in operations, and training of staff and volunteers, they may have been averted.
“The church has to start taking responsibility for the safety of their staff, volunteers, and congregation and good stewards of the gifts God has provided,” he added.
Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Christian Security Network provides Christian churches and organizations with training, information and resources to create a safer work or worship environment.
|January 04, 2010
|Proposition 8 defenders oppose televising trial
(Mercury News) Proposition 8 supporters this week urged a federal judge to reject a proposal to televise and webcast the upcoming trial of the legal challenge to California`s ban on same-sex marriage.
In a letter to Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, lawyers defending Proposition 8 argued that allowing cameras in the federal court trial would violate federal rules and expose their side to threats, intimidation and harassment from gay marriage advocates.
The letter warns the judge that some witnesses for the Proposition 8 defense "have indicated they will not be willing to testify at all if the trial is broadcast or webcast beyond the courthouse."
The letter was filed in response to a recent request from various media organizations to televise the trial, which is set to begin Jan. 11 in San Francisco. The media coalition argued that Walker has the authority to allow cameras in the trial under a new experimental program permitting the broadcast of nonjury civil proceedings within the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which covers California and eight other Western states.
Any televised federal court proceedings would be a break from long-standing federal court rules that prohibit cameras.
Groups challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8 support televising the proceedings.
|January 04, 2010
|Census Bureau kicks off once-a-decade head count
(OneNewsNow) The Census Bureau kicks off its $300 million campaign Monday to prod, coax and cajole the nation`s more than 300 million residents to fill out their once-a-decade census forms.
The bureau will mail out the 10-question forms to about 120 million households in March.
On Monday, Census Director Robert Groves starts the nationwide campaign with an event in New York City where he is scheduled to unveil a 46-foot trailer called "Mail It Back." In all, 13 vehicles are to be present at about 800 events around the country, from small community happenings to the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four.
"The whole purpose is to reach out to people at local events," Groves said.
Residents can expect to receive letters in early March notifying them that census forms will arrive between March 15-17. Residents who don`t respond will get a follow-up postcard. Those who still don`t respond can expect a visit from a census taker by early May.
In 2000, about 67 percent of households mailed back their forms, ending a three decade decline in the response rate. Follow-up visits are expensive. For every percentage point decrease in the response rate, the Census Bureau says it costs an additional $85 million to find and count those people.
The Constitution requires the head count every 10 years to draw congressional districts and to dole out Electoral College votes to the states. Congress uses the count to distribute more than $400 billion each year in federal aid to state, local and tribal governments.
Census data is used by government agencies and private companies alike, to locate pools of skilled workers, determine where schools and hospitals should be placed and to trace victims of natural disasters. In the Gulf Coast region, this year`s census will provide the most accurate measure to date of how Hurricanes Katrina and Rita affected population trends.
"There`s political power involved because of the Constitution," Groves said. "There`s money involved as well."
The 10-question form is one of the shortest in the history of the census. Residents will be asked the number of people living in each household as well as their age, race and whether they own their home or rent. Other questions _ on income, education levels and other characteristics _ are addressed in the annual American Community Survey, which has been phased in over much of the past decade.
The Census Bureau faces special challenges locating residents because of the high number of foreclosures, as well as immigrants wary of government workers amid a crackdown on illegal immigration. Census officials emphasize that responses are confidential by law, meaning they cannot be shared with other federal agencies or law enforcement. Under the Constitution, the government is required to count everyone, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.
Advocates have urged the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, to improve outreach to minority communities, which are typically undercounted.
This year, about 13 million forms in both English and Spanish will be sent to areas with high concentrations of people who speak Spanish. Residents can also request forms in Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Russian.
"I don`t think you can ever do enough," Groves said. "What we are doing, I think, is something to be proud of."
In 2000, the Census Bureau noted for the first time an overcount of 1.3 million people, mostly from duplicate counts of more affluent whites with multiple homes. About 4.5 million people were ultimately missed, mostly blacks and Hispanics.
|January 04, 2010
|Montana 3rd state to allow assisted suicide
(Washington Times)The Montana Supreme Court said Thursday that nothing in state law prevents patients from seeking physician-assisted suicide, making Montana the third state that will allow the procedure.
Patients and doctors had been waiting for the state`s high court to step in after a lower court decided a year ago that constitutional rights to privacy and dignity create a right to die.
The Montana Supreme Court opinion will now give doctors in the state the freedom to prescribe deadly drug doses to mentally competent, terminally ill patients without fear of being prosecuted, advocates said.
Steve Johnson, a 72-year-old Helena cancer patient, welcomed the decision, saying he has talked with his doctor about killing himself.
"I am very concerned about the intense pain and loss of dignity," the lifelong rancher and veterinarian said at a press conference at the Capitol. "I`ve accepted my death. I approach the end of my life with a clear mind."
The Supreme Court didn`t go as far as District Judge Dorothy McCarter of Helena did in December 2008 when she extended constitutional protections to the procedure.
The Supreme Court decided not to determine whether the Montana Constitution guarantees the right. Instead, it said nothing in state law or the court`s precedent indicated it was against public policy -- and pointed to laws giving patients rights to make crucial decisions as a justification for legalizing the assistance.
"The Montana Supreme Court has determined that this is a choice that state law entrusts to Montana patients, not to the government," said Compassion & Choices Legal Director Kathryn Tucker, a lawyer on the case. "Montanans trapped in an unbearable dying process deserve, and will now have, this end-of-life choice."
Oregon and Washington state allow assisted suicides for terminally ill patients, with Oregon adopting the nation`s first "death with dignity" law in 1997. Ms. Tucker said Montana doctors should now feel comfortable adopting procedures that doctors in the other two states use.
The Montana ruling came in the case Compassion & Choices filed on behalf of Robert Baxter of Billings and four physicians. Mr. Baxter, who was diagnosed with leukemia 12 years ago, died of lymphoma Dec. 5, 2008 -- the day Judge McCarter issued her ruling.
The Montana attorney general`s office, which had argued in court that the decision on such a policy should be left to the legislature, said Thursday that the opinion shows that the issue still needs to be resolved by lawmakers.
The conservative Montana Family Foundation bemoaned the court`s opinion that found the practice legal on statutory grounds and promised to take the fight to the legislature.
"Definitely not what we wanted, but not as bad as it could have been," group president Jeff Laszloffy said in an e-mail update to members. "The fact that the court did not find a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide is good for those of us opposed to this abhorrent practice."
The Supreme Court, pointing to the legislature`s own policymaking, ruled that assisted suicide is an acceptable defense to any homicide charges against the doctor.
"In physician aid in dying, the patient, not the physician, commits the final death-causing act by self-administering a lethal dose of medicine," Justice William Leaphart wrote for the court.
Justice John Warner, serving his last day on the court, wrote in a separate concurring opinion that the court decided to leave the constitutional issues alone because addressing them was not necessary.
Two judges dissented from the decision, saying the court was reversing long-standing public policy.
"Until the public policy is changed by the democratic process, it should be recognized and enforced by the courts," wrote Justice Jim Rice for the minority. "In my view, the court`s conclusion is without support, without clear reason, and without moral force."
|January 01, 2010
|Important message from ProtectMarriage.com
(ProtectMarriage.com) Following is a review, as promised, of your many victories for traditional marriage. It is lengthy, but please take the time to read it through, as our battle continues. On the first day of the New Year and new decade, we can look back upon the accomplishments we have enjoyed, and forward toward the challenges that lie ahead. The clash over marriage’s definition continues nationally and internationally, but all eyes are on California.
In November of 2008, against a well-organized, well-funded opponent, Proposition 8 was voted into law. This was a grand accomplishment, with more than 100,000 volunteers participating in Prop 8’s success. Immediately, a lawsuit was filed in state court against the vote of the people. And last May, another outstanding victory took place when Prop 8 was secured as Article 1, Section 7.5 of the California Constitution by a 6-1 vote of the California Supreme Court. It is a moment in time not to be forgotten, as the votes of millions of Californians were upheld by the excellent and steadfast work of the Proposition 8 Legal Defense Fund.
We created two organizations for critically necessary public education and outreach activities - the ProtectMarriage.com Educational Foundation and the ProtectMarriage.com Action Fund. Emphasizing the many benefits of traditional marriage and the consequences to society if we abandon this important institution, these outreaches are especially timely, as advocates for homosexual marriage continue their plans to overturn Prop 8. Our opponents have recognized they do not have the public support necessary to move forward in 2010. However, we continue to work diligently on our education and outreach activities, as a contentious, expensive initiative campaign will likely return at some point in the near future, perhaps as early as 2012.
Meanwhile, the extremely important and successful Proposition 8 Legal Defense Fund continues its work with legal battles to preserve traditional marriage. In late May of 2009, an unprecedented argument against traditional marriage was filed in the federal court system, and legal preparation has been underway ever since. Known as Perry v Schwarzenegger, the trial is scheduled to begin in the United State District Court in San Francisco on January 11, just over a week from now. The advance of homosexual marriage has been most successful through the nation’s courts, not by the will of the people, and Perry v Schwarzenegger seeks to repeal Proposition 8 and, by implication, the nation’s marriage laws.
To say that the Perry battle has been intense would be the understatement of the year! A team of experienced attorneys has been assembled, led by Charles Cooper of the Washington, DC-based Cooper & Kirk law firm, with the Alliance Defense Fund serving as co-counsel. These groups, along with our own general counsel, Andy Pugno, have already invested well over 10,000 hours of work leading up to the start of trial! Opposing them are two nationally known litigators, Ted Olson and David Boies, who enjoy massive funding from same-sex marriage activists in Hollywood and across the country.
Leading up to trial, the Proposition 8 Legal Defense Fund team has fought numerous motions, taken depositions from many who fought against Prop 8, prepared our campaign representatives for depositions, selected experts for our side and countered experts from the other side, researched legal precedents, reviewed thousands of documents and communications, and engaged in a tireless effort to put the best defense of traditional marriage before a federal court in one of the most pro-homosexual marriage venues in the nation – San Francisco.
The Prop 8 legal defense team recently won a crucial victory when the United States District Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, reversed an order by District Judge Vaughn Walker that would have given the Olson/Boies plaintiffs access to internal campaign strategies and communications. Such access to internal documents has never before been allowed in a case of this type. As a result of this victory, we will be able to keep private the internal communications of the Prop 8 campaign executives and its supporters. However, just days from trial, arguments continue in Chief Judge Walker’s courtroom to preserve this victory, as Olson and Boies attempt to recast their discovery demands in different legal terms in order to gain access to the very information the Ninth Circuit said is entitled to protection. The legal skirmishes faced in this case have been relentless.
Many milestones have been reached in the battle for marriage and children, and none would have been possible without your support. We are extremely grateful for your faithful contributions to this cause, and together we recognize God’s hand in recent victories. Still, we must press on, and our focus must be clear and targeted on what lies before us, starting in ten short days.
Though yet undecided, Chief Judge Walker appears willing to allow the Perry v Schwarzenegger trial to be televised, bringing real-time communications via social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and personal and organization blogs. The media is portraying the upcoming trial as the most important legal hearing since the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas. Just yesterday, lawyers for media outlets told Judge Walker in a legal filing that the Perry case is comparable in public interest to the famed Scopes Monkey trial.
This anticipated, unprecedented media attention on the upcoming trial means that we must be especially prepared from a communications perspective. The nation will be watching and we must be there to defend traditional marriage in the media, with messages that encompass reasoning from objective social science and religious faith.
The financial challenges we face cannot be overstated. We have expended every available dollar to preserve traditional marriage. Yet we still face extraordinary financial demands as we approach what could be the most watched trial in recent history. We are proceeding largely on faith – counting on you and supporters across the nation to be there for us with your contributions now, when they are needed most.
It is nothing short of imperative that we have your financial support for this case. It is a seminal moment in time for traditional marriage, as every state government and even foreign countries watch expectantly for the outcome. This is a case that is expected to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. We simply cannot mount the most optimal legal defense of your vote without your donation. We are out-manned by the sheer volume of attorneys on the other side; we are out-financed by their wealthy same-sex marriage supporters and we do not have their supply of organization’s money.
Frankly, the time is now to make the most generous donation that you can.
To help us raise the millions that will be needed to prevail, a generous benefactor has agreed to match your contribution dollar for dollar. That means that every dollar that you contribute to this monumental legal battle to preserve marriage will be matched. This makes your donation count twice as much, and it couldn’t come at a better time! Please do whatever you can to support the Proposition 8 legal defense team as they put forth the most compelling arguments on your behalf and on behalf of all of those who believe that marriage should remain between a man and a woman.
May God’s blessings be yours in the New Year,
SIGN UP TO RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND E-MAIL ALERTS.