|February 28, 2010
|FRC Prez Disinvited from Military Luncheon for Pro-Family Views
(LifeSiteNews.com) Thanks to his outspoken defense of the military`s Don`t Ask Don`t Tell policy and traditional values, Family Research Council President and former Marine Tony Perkins has been disinvited from a speaking engagement at a military prayer luncheon.
In October, Perkins received an invitation to speak at a National Prayer Luncheon on February 25 at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C. on the theme "Getting Back to the Basics." Perkins, who is also an ordained minister and a veteran of the Marine Corps, accepted this invitation to assist members of the armed forces "refocus on these Divine and `basic` principles."
However, in his State of the Union address on January 27, President Obama called on Congress to lift all restrictions on service in the military by open homosexuals. Perkins and FRC spoke out against this policy proposal and urged Congress to retain the current law, which excludes homosexuals from openly serving in the military.
On January 29, Perkins received a letter from the chaplain`s office at Andrews AFB rescinding the invitation to speak at the prayer luncheon, citing FRC statements "which are incompatible in our role as military members who serve our elected officials and our Commander in Chief."
“The Chaplain’s Office retracted Mr. Perkins’ invitation after his recent public comments made many who planned to attend the event uncomfortable,” the public affairs office at Andrews AFB said in a statement issued Thursday.
“This was a local decision made by the Chaplain’s Office who wanted the luncheon to be inclusive for the entire base community," the statement said. "The Chaplain’s Office respects and defends Mr. Perkins right to express his opinions, and regrets any inconvenience to him. We thank and respect him for his prior military service.”
In response, Perkins expressed disappointment that "I`ve been denied the opportunity to speak to members of the military, in a non-political way, solely because I exercised my free speech rights in a different forum."
"It`s ironic that this blacklisting should occur because I called for the retention and enforcement of a valid federal statute," he said. "I am very concerned, however, that this merely foreshadows the serious threat to religious liberty that would result from repeal of the current military eligibility law.
"Such legislation would not merely open the military to homosexuals. It would result in a zero- tolerance policy toward those who disapprove of homosexual conduct."
Perkins expressed concern that military chaplains "would bear the heaviest burden."
"Would their sermons be censored to prevent them from preaching on biblical passages which describe homosexual conduct as a sin?" he asked. "Would they remain free to counsel soldiers troubled by same-sex attractions about the spiritual and psychological resources available to overcome those attractions? Any chaplain who holds to the millennia-old tradition of Judeo-Christian sexual morality could be denied promotion, or even be forced out of the military altogether."
Perkins urged President Obama, Congress, and military leaders "to place the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty ahead of the fashionable political correctness of a special interest group."
|February 28, 2010
|Government Panel Recommends Annual Flu Vaccinations for All
(AP) A government panel is now recommending that virtually all Americans get a flu shot each year, starting this fall.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices had gradually been expanding its recommendation for flu shots -- 85 percent of Americans were already included.
On Wednesday, the panel voted to recommend a seasonal flu vaccination for everyone except babies younger than 6 months and those with egg allergies or other unusual conditions.
The panel`s recommendation now goes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC usually follows the panel`s advice and spreads the message to doctors and hospitals across the country.
"Now no one should say `Should I or shouldn`t I?`" said Dr. Anthony Fiore, a CDC flu specialist.
CDC vaccination recommendations tend to be influential with the doctors who give the shots and the health insurers who pay for them.
Flu shots are already recommended for 85 percent of the U.S. public, including pregnant women, children older than 6 months, adults 50 and older, people with certain chronic health conditions, health care workers and those who take care of people in a recommended group. The only people who weren`t specifically included were healthy people ages 19 to 49 who don`t have close contact with anyone at risk of flu and its complications.
But only about 33 percent of Americans actually get a flu shot, and unusually millions and millions of doses get thrown away annually.
The swine flu pandemic that hit last year caused a new momentum for flu vaccinations. Virtually all the 114 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine doses made were distributed, and more young adults and children got the swine flu vaccine than usually come out for seasonal flu.
The panel voted 11 to 0 -- with one abstention -- for the recommendation, prompting a short round of applause in the CDC auditorium where the meeting was held. Some public health experts and physicians had been pushing for a universal flu vaccination recommendation for more than 10 years.
Also on Wednesday, the panel gave its nod to a proposed formulation of next year`s seasonal flu vaccine. The vaccine will be built to protect against three strains of flu scientists think will be circulating next fall and winter. Swine flu is to be one of the strains incorporated into the vaccine.
At past meetings, the panel stopped short of recommending flu shots for everyone. Panel members were mindful of a history of temporary flu vaccine shortages in the United States. They worried a universal recommendation might cause demand to far surpass supply and endanger those at the highest risk of life-threatening flu complications.
"Yet every year we wasted millions and millions of doses," said Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases expert who for years has passionately pushed the panel to recommend flu shots for all.
The swine flu vaccine campaign appears to be ending the same way. Doses were scarce when the swine flu vaccine first became available in early October, but now roughly 90 million people have been vaccinated, demand is dying and millions of doses are unused.
Swine flu provided another argument for universal vaccination. The new virus proved to be unusually dangerous to young adults, and also took a surprising toll on Native Americans and obese people. Many of those hospitalized and killed by swine flu were not in groups previously recommended for annual flu shots, and that fact was another reason to expand the vaccination recommendation, experts said.
There are a few exceptions to the universal recommendation. Children under 6 months of age, who have undeveloped immune systems, will continue to be exempt. So too will people who have egg allergies (the vaccine is made using eggs) and those who have had certain severe reactions to flu shots in the past.
The panel also decided that elderly people can consider a new, revved-up version of the seasonal flu shot. It`s a Sanofi Pasteur vaccine for adults 65 and older.
In years when the flu shot is well matched to circulating flu viruses, vaccine is 70 to 90 percent effective in people younger than 65, the CDC estimates. But it tends to be only 30 to 70 percent effective in those who are older because they generally have weakened immune systems.
The Sanofi vaccine -- called Fluzone High-Dose -- has four times as much immunity-building antibodies as a standard dose. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine in December, and it should be available for the 2010-2011 flu season. It would cost about $25 a shot, or about twice the standard version.
The panel did not state a preference for the vaccine, however. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine through an accelerated process, and Sanofi is to do further studies to show the shot reduces flu illnesses.
|February 28, 2010
|Studies: Belief in God relieves depression
(Washington Times) The "Big Man Upstairs" is getting accolades from mental health specialists who say they are finding that a belief in God plays a positive role in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
University of Toronto psychologists reported last year that "believing in God can help block anxiety and minimize stress," their research showcasing "distinct brain differences" between believers and nonbelievers.
A new study released Wednesday by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago took the idea a step further.
In patients diagnosed with clinical depression, "belief in a concerned God can improve response to medical treatment," said the new research, which has been published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.
The operative term here is "caring," the researchers said. "The study found that those with strong beliefs in a personal and concerned God were more likely to experience an improvement."
The researchers compared the levels of melancholy or hopelessness in 136 adults diagnosed with major depression or bipolar depression with their sense of "religious well-being." They found participants who scored in the top third of a scale charting a sense of religious well-being were 75 percent more likely to get better with medical treatment for clinical depression.
"In our study, the positive response to medication had little to do with the feeling of hope that typically accompanies spiritual belief," said study director Patricia Murphy, a chaplain at Rush and an assistant professor of religion, health and human values.
"It was tied specifically to the belief that a Supreme Being cared," she said.
"For people diagnosed with clinical depression, medication certainly plays an important role in reducing symptoms," Ms. Murphy added. "But when treating persons diagnosed with depression, clinicians need to be aware of the role of religion in their patients` lives. It is an important resource in planning their care."
Public opinion polls — from Gallup to the Pew Research Center — reveal that large majorities of Americans believe in God. It is a factor among the researchers as well.
Data released last year by sociologists from the University of California at Berkeley, in fact, revealed that 93 percent of the nation believes in God, a finding that has remained unchanged since 1988.
The Canadian researchers who found that belief in God lowers anxiety and stress also based their conclusions on measurements — monitoring the brain activities of believers and nonbelievers charged with some challenging tasks.
"We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors," said Michael Inzlicht, assistant psychology professor at the University of Toronto, who led the research.
"They`re much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error," he said.
|February 28, 2010
|End of an Era: James Dobson Departs Focus on the Family
(LifeSiteNews.com) After 33 years at Focus on the Family, psychologist Dr. James Dobson bids farewell on Friday to the Christian ministry he founded, and brings his radio presence at the organization to an end. But the famous Christian commentator is not finished with the airwaves, as he has announced plans for a new, independent radio ministry following his departure.
Focus on the Family CEO and President Jim Daly told listeners of Focus on the Family’s radio program Wednesday that "this week marks the completion of a transition period that probably started more than 10 years ago."
Dobson stated that his intention in stepping down was to give responsibility to the younger generation, and ensure FOTF`s future success by not inadvertently leaving it leaderless. Focus on the Family’s Citizenlink reports that Dobson, 73, will join Daly on the radio program later in the week “to discuss memories, his future and Focus on the Family`s future.”
For decades, friends and foes have known Dobson - a signer of the recent Manhattan Declaration - as an outspoken champion of the right to life for the unborn, and tireless defender of the family and the institution of marriage.
Dobson`s Focus on the Family radio program brought in an estimated 1.5 million listeners in the United States and over 220 million followers across the globe. There, Dobson made his voice a clarion call to pro-life and pro-family action through political involvement no less than prayer and ministry.
“If people of faith - the so-called values voters - don’t come out and let their voices be heard, there are going to be some major implications for this country,” Dobson warned his listeners in October 2006.
Dobson had no qualms about calling the recent federal “hate crimes” legislation “utter evil” coming out of Congress, and warned that normalizing same-sex unions was a necessary component of homosexualists’ strategy to make homosexuality acceptable among the youth.
On Terri Schiavo, the Christian psychologist denounced her court-ordered starvation and dehydration as "one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American history."
Dobson took particular aim at the "heady abuse of power that is all too common among independent fiefdoms known as judges," when a federal court struck down obscenity laws as unconstitutional. He quoted as prescient Thomas Jefferson’s warning that entrusting the arbitration of “all constitutional questions” to judges was an idea that “would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy."
Dobson was also keenly aware of the need for a new generation of pro-life Christian leaders, and challenged the youth to rise up and courageously accept the mantle of his own generation of leadership.
“Who will defend the unborn child in the years to come? Who will plead for the Terri Schiavos of the world? Who`s going to fight for the institution of marriage, which is on the ropes today?" Dobson questioned to the National Religious Broadcasters conference in March 2008.
Amid Dobson`s transition from Focus, speculation remains on the fate of the organization he founded, and what new direction it may take without his influence.
A Wall Street Journal interview with Focus CEO Jim Daly in early February indicated that the Christian ministry may take a softer approach to controversial life and family issues than Dobson.
“I don’t see evil behind everything,” said Daly. The Journal reported the CEO did not care for Dobson’s strident attacks on political leaders such as President Obama. While Dobson called Obama’s ideas “fruitcake,” the Journal said Daly preferred to praise the President for having a White House event on fatherhood.
Additionally, Daly told the Journal that while he and Focus remains dedicated to ending abortion once and for all, they will likely not spend much energy working for a ban, but instead devote more resources to promoting abortion alternatives such as adoption.
However, Tom Minnery, a senior vice president at Focus on the Family, assured on CitizenLink that Focus on the Family will remain true to the guiding lights that Dobson imbued in their ministry.
"The pillars will remain the same," he said. "Our devotion to our cause of the family, our devotion to the notion that life is sacred, to the notion that marriage is one man and one woman, those will never change."
For Dobson, the end brings a new beginning: in December, he announced his plan to host a new 30-minute daily radio program with his son Ryan, called "James Dobson on the Family." The show is expected to tackle issues including “marriage, child-rearing, family finances, medical and psychological concerns, national issues, the sanctity of human life, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Dobson wrote that he did not feel he could simply live a quiet retired life with his wife Shirley while “our nation is facing a crisis that threatens its very existence.”
“We are in a moral decline of shocking dimensions. I have asked myself how I can I sit and watch the world go by without trying to help if I can,” Dobson stated. “That is what motivates me at this time.”
The program is set to debut May 3.
Read Dr. James Dobson’s Facebook page here.
|February 28, 2010
|Elk Grove Unified to open a virtual school
(Sacramento Bee) This August a few hundred students in the Elk Grove Unified School District will have their school year delivered to their doorstep in a giant UPS box.
The K-12 students will be part of the district`s first-ever virtual school.
The box will contain grade-specific supplies – books, globes, maps – that students will need to finish a year of school from home.
Virtual schooling is gaining traction among California school districts looking for ways to increase revenue and decrease spending.
The cyber school could help the district bring back students who have left to attend charter or private schools, and could draw students from other districts, said Anne Zeman, director of curriculum and professional learning for the district. And with those additional students will come additional state funding.
Elk Grove will pay K12, the company that provides the instruction plans and materials, 85 to 90 percent of the $5,219 the district receives from the state for each student, Zeman said.
She said the district may not make any money on the endeavor, but she`s certain it won`t cost any more than it brings in. "We can`t afford to embark on a program that is a new expense," she said.
Unlike continuation programs or some charter schools that cater to students who struggle with a traditional classroom environment, Zeman said, the Elk Grove virtual school will be for students of all academic levels.
It will be "no piece of cake" academically, she said. The materials provided by K12 for the program have been reviewed by staff to ensure they are on par with the curriculum taught at district schools.
Students in the virtual program will learn most of their lessons on a computer at home. They`ll go to a real campus for tests and to meet from time to time with a teacher.
Sacramento City Unified leaders have selected a task force to study the possibility of a virtual school in that district, said Mary Shelton, acting chief academic officer.
"We`re looking at a model that pulls in students from outside our district," she said. "That`s how you increase your ADA (average daily attendance)."
Sacramento City and Elk Grove officials say money isn`t the only reason they are pursuing online programs.
"Our primary goal is to maintain the reputation and integrity of our district by providing the best education possible for our students," Zeman said. "We`re looking for parents to take another look."
Most local districts still are just dipping their toes into the virtual education pool, blending online learning with class time.
In the Twin Rivers Unified School District, high school students can take a biology class that combines lessons from teachers with online labs and collaboration with peers, said Sarah DiRuscio, director of Educational Technology-Secondary Education.
The Folsom Cordova Unified School District offers online courses in English 3 for high school students and geometry for middle and high school students. The students meet online to discuss class work and are proctored on tests.
Many districts offer online courses for students trying to make up classes to graduate. These programs have become more popular lately, as school districts have shuttered summer schools and after-school programs.
Elk Grove Unified started offering supplemental online classes for credit-deficient juniors and seniors this year.
Junior Kristin Allen was in the computer lab Thursday at Valley High School taking an online Algebra II class after school. She had received a D in the class previously. She said she was trying to stay on track so she can apply to universities this spring.
But is online learning a good alternative?
"It depends," said Cynthia Carter Ching, an associate professor with the School of Education at UC Davis.
"Students who are self-motivated do fine in these types of environments, but those who need more help are not going to get that sort of social reinforcement support structure," she said.
She said parents of virtual students need to be involved and should monitor them to make sure they aren`t goofing off online.
"I think that, as a parent, before you make a decision about online school, you have to know your child and know what you are capable of," Ching said.
She also said students need to interact with teachers and peers.
"You don`t want to have a situation where you have a third-grader uploading and downloading assignments with very little interaction with teachers and peers," Ching said.
She recommends that school districts go with online schools that let students interact with one another online, instead of working in solitude.
Regardless of the method, online learning is appealing to more and more students. Sacramento City`s Shelton attributes the increased popularity to students` familiarity with technology.
"I think it`s the shape of things to come as we see more and more college courses online," Shelton said. "I think it`s finally moving down to the secondary level. It is something our students are comfortable with and demand."
|February 28, 2010
|Obama zeros in on law professor for 9th Circuit post
(L.A. Times) President Obama will nominate UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, The Times has learned.
Liu carries credentials that some conservatives love to hate -- including a leadership position in a progressive legal group and a record of opposing the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
But he has conservative admirers too. Liu has supported school choice as a solution to problems in urban education, and has served as faculty advisor to the California College Preparatory Academy, a public charter school. He came to the White House`s attention with the recommendation of some conservatives.
If confirmed, he could be the only full-time Asian American judge on a federal appellate court. A senior administration official revealed his nomination on condition of anonymity.
In the political world, Liu is sure to be remembered as an Alito critic. When Alito was nominated to the high court, Liu co-wrote a report critical of his record on capital punishment, saying Alito`s appellate opinions "show a disturbing tendency to tolerate serious errors in capital proceedings" and "reveal troubling perspectives on federalism, race and due process of law." Liu testified against Alito during his 2006 confirmation hearings.
Liu, 39, also is chairman of the board of the American Constitution Society, whose mission statement opposes the "activist conservative legal movement."
"Keeping Faith With the Constitution," a 2009 book that he co-wrote, discusses the shortcomings of "originalism," a conservative legal theory maintaining that the Constitution should be interpreted based on its 18th century framers` intent. Progressive judges tend to see the Constitution as a living document, shifting with the times, and to validate rights that they see as logical extensions of it.
Even without a possible ideological fight, the confirmation process is highly charged for Obama nominees, with Republican lawmakers stalling votes even on those whom they later support. At the moment, 26 judicial nominees await Senate confirmation, including seven to appellate courts.
But Obama`s judicial choices have won strong bipartisan support on the Senate floor. Liu`s supporters hope that his personal story and slightly unpredictable politics will help him win confirmation.
Liu is the son of Taiwanese immigrants. He was born in Georgia, grew up in Sacramento and has a history of public service.
Unafraid of television cameras and news interviews, Liu has a reputation as being affable and savvy. He has written several opinion pieces for the Los Angeles Times, most recently analyzing the legal issues surrounding Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California.
Given Liu`s prominence in legal circles, his nomination does not come as a surprise. His name has been bandied about among candidates for the appellate court, which Obama, a constitutional lawyer, can shape as a pool for future Supreme Court nominees.
"He`s as sharp as they come, with a kind demeanor and a good temperament," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). "And he`s someone who has earned the broad respect of his colleagues on the left and the right."
The only Asian American serving on a federal appeals court is Judge A. Wallace Tashima of Los Angeles. But he took "senior status" in 2004, which means he hears fewer cases than his colleagues. Another Asian American, Denny Chin,has been nominated to the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court in New York, but has yet to be confirmed.
The 9th Circuit is the busiest federal appeals court in the system, reviewing about 16,000 lower-court decisions in most years. It is also the most second-guessed: Last year, the Supreme Court overturned the 9th Circuit at least in part in 15 of 16 cases it reviewed.
Liu is associate dean and a professor of law at UC Berkeley`s Boalt Hall School of Law, where he has been on the faculty since 2003. He was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University and earned a degree from Yale Law School before clerking for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2000.
He worked at the Department of Education during the Clinton administration and at the Corporation for National Service, a government agency that supports community service and volunteerism. He helped launch the AmeriCorps national service program.
At Berkeley, Liu has worked on a research and advocacy project to improve the finance system for California public schools, and served as consultant to the San Francisco Unified School District. He`s married and has a 2-year-old daughter.
In a recent letter supporting Liu`s anticipated nomination, the director of the conservative Goldwater Institute`s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation referred to a law review article that Liu co-wrote. In the article, Liu supported school choice as one way to improve education in urban schools. Many Democrats and progressives oppose school-choice measures, contending that they will weaken schools in struggling neighborhoods.
"It took a great deal of courage and integrity" for Liu and his co-author to take that position, Clint Bolick wrote in the letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Having reviewed several of his academic writings, I find . . . Liu to exhibit fresh, independent thinking and intellectual honesty."
|February 28, 2010
|U.S. Navy Will Allow Women to Serve on Submarines
(AP) The Pentagon has moved to lift a decades-old policy that prohibits women from serving aboard Navy submarines, part of a gradual reconsideration of women`s roles in a military fighting two wars whose front lines can be anywhere.
At issue is the end of a policy that kept women from serving aboard the last type of ship off-limits to them. The thinking was that the close quarters aboard subs would make coed service difficult to manage.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates notified Congress in a letter signed Friday that the Navy intends to repeal the ban on women sailors on subs. Congress has 30 days to weigh in.
"He supports the Navy`s efforts to change their policy," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Tuesday.
A defense official told The Associated Press that numerous physical changes to submarines would have to be made, but that cadets who graduate from the Naval Academy this year could be among the first Navy women to take submarine posts.
The change was first reported by ABC News.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress has not yet had a chance to consider the Navy`s recommendations.
The Navy`s plan would phase in women`s service, beginning with officers aboard the larger subs that are easier to retrofit for coed quarters. Women would never serve solo.
Because of the length of time required for training, it would be more than a year before the first women joined subs, assuming Congress raises no major objections that slow the schedule.
Women began serving aboard the Navy`s surface ships in 1993.
Since then, many of the distinctions between who is in combat and who is not have been erased.
Women are formally banned from combat posts in the Army, for instance, but routinely serve in jobs such as medics, pilots and drivers that place them shoulder to shoulder with men serving in "combat" jobs.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey told Congress on Tuesday that he supports a reconsideration of women`s combat roles.
"I believe it`s time that we take a look at what women are actually doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. And then we take a look at our policies," Casey told the Senate Armed Services Committee. While no organized effort is under way, "I think it`s time," he added.
|February 28, 2010
|Survey: Less Than 1 Percent of Young Adults Hold Biblical Worldview
(Christian Post) Less than one percent of the youngest adult generation in America has a biblical worldview, found a new study examining the changes in worldview among Christians and the overall U.S. population.
The Mosaic generation, those between the ages of 18 and 23, “rarely” have a biblical worldview as defined by The Barna Group. The research data found that less than one-half of one percent of Mosaics have a biblical worldview.
A biblical worldview, as defined by the Barna study, is believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is completely accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.
Only if someone held all the above beliefs did the research consider the person as having a biblical worldview.
George Barna, who directed the research, commented on the “troubling” generational pattern that suggests “parents are not focused on guiding their children to have a biblical worldview.”
“One of the challenges for parents, though, is that you cannot give what you do not have, and most parents do not possess such a perspective on life,” he noted.
The research shows that only nine percent of all American adults have a biblical worldview, which although significantly higher than that of the Mosaic generation is still a small proportion of the total population.
Among “born again Christians,” the study found that they are twice as likely as the average adult to have a biblical worldview. However, that still amounted to no more than about one out of five (19 percent) born again Christians, a small minority, the study pointed out.
A born again Christian is defined by Barna as those who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life today and that they are sure they will go to Heaven after they die only because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior.
Some of the problems American adults and born again Christians have with the biblical worldview definition include believing that moral truth is absolute and unaffected by the circumstances.
Only one third of all adults (34 percent) hold this worldview, and while more born again adults believe in absolute moral truth, still less than the majority possess this outlook (46 percent).
Another belief that American adults struggle with is the view that Satan is a real force. Only slightly more than a quarter of adults (27 percent) believe Satan is real, and less than half of born again adults (40 percent) have this worldview.
Also, 28 percent of all adults and 47 percent of born again Christians believe it is impossible for someone to earn their way to Heaven through good behavior.
The general American public and the born again population differ greatly when it comes to the belief that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life while He was on earth. Forty percent of adults hold this belief, while 62 percent of born again Christians are convinced that Jesus was sinless.
George Barna commented, “There are a several troubling patterns to take notice. First, although most Americans consider themselves to be Christian and say they know the content of the Bible, less than one out of ten Americans demonstrate such knowledge through their action.”
He also noted that the study raises questions on how effective of a job Christian churches, schools and parachurch ministries are doing in Christian education.
“Finally, even though a central element of being a Christian is to embrace basic biblical principles and incorporate them into one’s worldview, there has been no change in the percentage of adults or even born again adults in the past 13 years regarding the possession of a biblical worldview,” said the founder of The Barna Group.
Compared to previous similar Barna studies, the results for this year show that the overall American worldview has remained largely unchanged for more than a decade.
In 1995, for instance, seven percent of American adults had a biblical worldview, compared to the nine percent in 2008.
Even among born again adults the statistic remained the same with 18 percent having a biblical worldview in 1995, 22 percent in 2000, 21 percent in 2005, and 19 percent in 2008.
The report is based on four nationwide telephone interviews conducted by The Barna Group, each including between 1,002 to 1,005 adults randomly selected, in the years 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2008. Interviews were conducted among adults in the 28 continental states.
|February 28, 2010
|Calif. Pastor Weighs in on Abortion, Homosexuality, Woods` Buddhism
(Christan Post) Southern California pastor Greg Laurie took on some "hot button" issues from the pulpit on Sunday, covering everything from capital punishment and homosexuality to Tiger Woods` apology.
Commenting on the professed faith of pro golfer Woods, he stated, "Here`s the problem with Buddhism: they don`t believe in a personal God that is there to forgive a person."
He cited Stephen Prothero, a Boston University professor on Buddhism, who said that in the Buddhist tradition "no matter what Woods says or does, he is going to have to pay for whatever wrongs he`s done."
"There`s no accountant in the sky wiping sins off your balance sheet, like there is in Christianity."
Woods on Friday confessed to serial infidelity and said he`ll return to the Buddhist teachings that he drifted away from as he tries to regain his balance on life.
Buddhism, however, does not offer forgiveness, Laurie pointed out. But "Christianity says there is a personal God there to forgive you who sent His son to die on the cross and pay the price for your sins so you can indeed be forgiven."
The brief comment on the famous public apology served as Laurie`s introduction to his sermon on Christian worldview.
The well-known evangelist believes Christians are often labeled as "bigoted" for expressing their faith or taking a stand on certain issues. One example he cited was when Fox anchor Brit Hume was blasted for suggesting that what Woods really needed was a relationship with Jesus Christ to be forgiven. Amid such persecution, Laurie sought to convey to his congregation the importance of thinking and living biblically and basing their beliefs on what the Bible teaches regardless of what "we feel is right."
Hitting some of the most controversial and widely debated issues, Laurie asked the congregation not to respond to the hot topics "emotionally" or "logically" but biblically.
Having a biblical worldview means believing that there is a living God and that He has revealed Himself in Scripture, the Harvest pastor explained.
"We accept that we have absolute truth from God," he said. "The objective is not to conform the Bible to the changing culture but to conform the changing culture to what the Bible teaches."
On the topic of capital punishment, Laurie pointed to one of the Ten Commandments – thou shalt not kill. The Bible, he said, doesn`t condemn all killing. Self-defense, sometimes war, and capital punishment are justifiable, he said.
"I believe in capital punishment," Laurie stated, though he acknowledged there are "good people" on both sides of this debate. "And I believe the Bible teaches it."
Regarding abortion, he stressed that the Bible does not give an unclear word on when life begins.
"Life begins at conception, not at birth," he stated. "This is absolute. Each child is created by God and should be given a chance to live."
Indicating a "no exceptions" stand against abortion even if the life of the mother may be in danger, Laurie said just as a mother would instinctively lay her life down if she sees her child about to get hit by a car, she should do the same when it comes to having the baby.
Homosexuality is another clear-cut issue, the evangelist stressed. The Bible is very clear: homosexuality is not in God`s order, he said.
"God is not anti-gay. God is anti-sin no matter how it is expressed," he stated, adding that people are not born gay.
"I will acknowledge that as a person who is born with a sinful nature you might be attracted to members of the same-sex," he noted. "I would also acknowledge as a person who is born a sinner you might be more prone to issues of addiction. But having said that, all of these can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit.
"You were born a sinner in need of a savior who can change you and help you live the life He has called you to live. That`s the answer."
"We`re all sinners," Laurie reminded the congregation. "I`m not standing here today as some pompous preacher looking down on everyone. We`ve all broken God`s commandments in some way shape or form. We all need forgiveness. He offers it graciously and lovingly if we come to Him."
The "Christian Worldview" sermon series at Harvest kicked off on Feb. 7.
|February 28, 2010
|Teen birth rate falls to new low in California
(Associated Press) California health officials say the birth rate for teen mothers hit an all-time low in 2008.
Figures released by the Department of Public Health on Monday found that about 35 babies were born for every 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 in 2008. That was down by about two births per 1,000 from the previous year.
There were 51,704 babies born to California teens in 2008.
Hispanic teens had the highest birth rate but it still declined. Asian teens had the lowest.
California`s teen birth rate has been declining for the past decade. In 1991, the rate was nearly 71 per 1,000.
The falling state birth rate compares with a rising national rate, which is now higher than 42 births per 1,000.
|February 28, 2010
|Scholar says wall find supports Bible accounts
(AP) An Israeli archaeologist said Monday that ancient fortifications recently excavated in Jerusalem date back 3,000 years to the time of King Solomon and support the biblical narrative about the era.
If the age of the wall is correct, the finding would be an indication that Jerusalem was home to a strong central government that had the resources and manpower needed to build massive fortifications in the 10th century B.C.
That`s a key point of dispute among scholars, because it would match the Bible`s account that the Hebrew kings David and Solomon ruled from Jerusalem around that time.
While some Holy Land archaeologists support that version of history - including the archaeologist behind the dig, Eilat Mazar - others posit that David`s monarchy was largely mythical and that there was no strong government to speak of in that era.
Speaking to reporters at the site Monday, Mazar, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, called her find "the most significant construction we have from First Temple days in Israel."
"It means that at that time, the 10th century, in Jerusalem there was a regime capable of carrying out such construction," she said.
Based on what she believes to be the age of the fortifications and their location, she suggested it was built by Solomon, David`s son, and mentioned in the Book of Kings.
The fortifications, including a monumental gatehouse and a 77-yard (70-meter) long section of an ancient wall, are located just outside the present-day walls of Jerusalem`s Old City, next to the holy compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. According to the Old Testament, it was Solomon who built the first Jewish Temple on the site.
That temple was destroyed by Babylonians, rebuilt, renovated by King Herod 2,000 years ago and then destroyed again by Roman legions in 70 A.D. The compound now houses two important Islamic buildings, the golden-capped Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Archaeologists have excavated the fortifications in the past, first in the 1860s and most recently in the 1980s. But Mazar claimed her dig was the first complete excavation and the first to turn up strong evidence for the wall`s age: a large number of pottery shards, which archaeologists often use to figure out the age of findings.
Aren Maeir, an archaeology professor at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, said he has yet to see evidence that the fortifications are as old as Mazar claims. There are remains from the 10th century in Jerusalem, he said, but proof of a strong, centralized kingdom at that time remains "tenuous."
While some see the biblical account of the kingdom of David and Solomon as accurate and others reject it entirely, Maeir said the truth was likely somewhere in the middle.
"There`s a kernel of historicity in the story of the kingdom of David," he said.
|February 28, 2010
|Chief justice says initiatives paralyze state
(SF Gate) California Chief Justice Ronald George escalated his criticism of the state`s initiative process Friday, saying unrestrained ballot-box lawmaking is paralyzing government.
While nearly half the states allow voters to enact laws, "nowhere is the practice of government by voter initiative as extreme as it is in California," the state Supreme Court`s leader said in a keynote speech of a Stanford Law School conference on state constitutions.
The state and its lawmakers "have been placed in a fiscal straitjacket" by a requirement of a two-thirds legislative vote to raise taxes, imposed by Proposition 13 in 1978, George said. He said other ballot measures further tie legislators` hands by reserving specified portions of state spending for public transportation and education.
Initiatives, often funded by special interests who pay signature-gatherers, "have rendered our state government dysfunctional, at least in times of severe economic decline," George said.
The chief justice wrote the court`s 4-3 decision in May 2008 that overturned state laws - one passed by the Legislature, one by initiative - banning same-sex marriage. After voters restored the ban in November 2008 by passing Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment, George wrote a 6-1 ruling in May 2009 that upheld the measure while lamenting the ease and frequency of changes to California`s guiding document.
Justice Carlos Moreno, the lone dissenter from that ruling, told The Chronicle in an interview last week that the initiative power was being misused to abridge fundamental rights and harm minorities. Both Moreno and George will be on the state ballot for new 12-year terms in November.
George`s comments Friday were similar in tone to his speech at a Cambridge, Mass., forum in October. But he went further at Stanford by questioning whether California should retain the initiative in its current form, and discussing possible changes.
Recalling its California origin in 1911 as a populist weapon to lift legislative strangleholds by railroads and other economic powers, George asked, "Has the voter initiative now become the tool of the very types of special interests it was intended to control, and an impediment to the effective functioning of a true democratic process?"
California, he noted, is one of the few states that allow constitutional amendments by a majority public vote, with no legislative review. It is the only state that prohibits lawmakers from changing or repealing a voter-approved initiative unless the measure specifically authorizes it, he said.
At least, George said, California should consider other states` limits on initiatives. Some states prohibit changing their constitution, or its core provisions, by ballot measure, while others require more than a simple majority vote to pass such amendments, he said.
States have also allowed legislative review of initiatives, before or after passage, and have prohibited payment of signature-collectors, he said.
Unless the process is reined in, George said, California`s government may remain hamstrung, with "a lack of accountability on the part of our officeholders and the voting public."
|February 28, 2010
|Survey asks California students when they lost virginity
(WorldNetDaily) A team of lawyers who advocate for parental rights is working with parents whose children attend Ventura High School in Southern California to raise a formal objection after teachers had students fill out a survey on sex with questions such as "Are you sexually active" and "If not, why not?"
Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, said the first step will be to file an administrative complaint.
"The parents have tried to reason with school officials about this, but so far administrators have failed to grasp that giving the students this survey without prior written notice and consent was illegal," he said.
The survey was reported in the student Cougar Press in December. The report apparently was not included as part of the paper`s ordinary online presentation, officials said, but was obtained by a parent who posted the pages only for other parents to see.
The newspaper, in addition to the sex survey results, included a page of photographs of students revealing what songs put them "in the mood," a sex crossword puzzle and other advocacy for being sexually active.
A school spokesman said officials could not comment.
Dacus told WND schools should know that parents need to be able to trust their schools for the education system to work.
"When parental trust is breached, then school districts end up losing that participation," he said. "If school districts … want to be successful, they have to respect the rights of parents and not be caught doing things behind the backs of parents."
He said the primary issue is that a state law forbids such sex surveys without parental knowledge.
He said the problem only was revealed because a student took a copy home, in violation of instructions she was given, and some parents found out.
The questions included:
- What grade were you in when you lost your virginity?
- What is your overall number of partners you have engaged in sexual activity with?
- Were you sober the first time you engaged in sexual activity?"
- Have you or your partner ever had an abortion?"
- How often do you engage in sexual activity?"
- Are your parents aware of your sexual activity?
Pacific Justice said that according to the newspaper, the survey was given to 1,000 students in every grade in high school. The organization said it was administered with the knowledge and assistance of the high school during second class period and had no relationship to any subject the students were enrolled in at that time.
"The school allowed the use of instructional time to administer the survey and the teachers then collected it and handed it over to the newspaper," said parent John Silva, who obtained a copy of the newspaper from a concerned student.
"Because the sex survey was given without prior written notice and subsequent written consent by the parents or guardians, the school violated the law," said Kevin Snider, chief counsel of the Pacific Justice Institute.
"By facilitating the newspaper to conduct the survey, we feel the school was complicit in violating the rights of the parents," said Julie Wilson, a parent of a high school student.
|February 26, 2010
|How to Respond to Teachers Pushing Pro-Gay Curriculum: Family Group Advises Parents
(LifeSiteNews) The B.C.-based pro-family group Parents for Democracy in Education (PDE) have released a set of answers that parents can provide to teachers who ignore their complaints about the spread of homosexualist “propaganda” through the curricula of Canada`s schools.
The new document offers responses to a controversial new sheet that has been distributed to Canadian teachers, entitled “Objections to Anti-Homophobia Curriculum in Schools?” The sheet offers “quick responses” to common objections given by parents who object to the treatment of homosexuality in their child’s school curriculum.
This “quick response” sheet for teachers was published by the Hamilton Mountain News last week after it were leaked to a reporter with the paper by teachers in the Hamilton public school board. The same sheet was also distributed by the British Columbia Teacher`s Federation, which led PDE to issue their response.
The teacher sheet advises teachers to tell parents who complain about pro-gay classes that they “do not condone children being removed from our classes when we teach about Aboriginal People, people of color, people with disabilities or gays and lesbians.”
In response, PDE suggests parents state, in part: “It’s really not relevant what you condone. These are not your children. We are their parents.” “Your teaching should be consistent with and supportive of family principles, not undermining those principles,” they add.
Further, they point out that the teacher should be told: “You`re mixing unlike categories when you compare homosexuals to Aboriginals, people of colour, or disabled people.” “Race is not a behaviour,” they write. “Homosexuality is. Race is not injurious to the person’s own health and well-being; homosexuality is.”
The teachers` quick response sheet also advises teachers to tell parents: “You can teach your child your own values at home. Public schools teach everyone about respecting diversity and valuing everyone.”
In this case, PDE suggests parents remind teachers that they “cannot and must not use their authority to tell children their parents are wrong.” “That’s an abuse of authority that deserves dismissal,” they continue. “We agree children should be taught to respect diversity and value everyone — but that can surely be achieved without teaching that sexual perversions are meritorious and praiseworthy.”
Another response for teachers reads: “All children, including yours, have a right to an education free from discrimination.” PDE points out that in this response, “we have a logical error caused by propagandistic thinking.” “To learn to discriminate between what is right and what is wrong is an essential part of education,” they write.
Further, to teachers who argue that they have a duty to provide “accurate information,” PDE responds that the schools` “pro-‘gay’ propaganda is full of mis-information. It does not inform students of the very real and serious physical and mental health risks associated with homosexual behaviour.”
The full document, with end notes and supporting documentation, can be found here.
|February 19, 2010
|Official: Russia to deliver missile defense to Iran
(WorldnetDaily) Despite announcements to the contrary, Russia still plans to deliver its S-300 advanced air-defense missiles to Iran, according to a senior Egyptian security official speaking to WND.
The official said Russia also intends to see the system delivered to Syria, from which it can also be transferred to the Hezbollah militia operating in Lebanon.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow, where he reportedly asked the Russians to cancel a contract with Iran to deliver and install the S-300 system. Israeli newspapers quoted sources in Netanyahu`s entourage stating Russia agreed to cancel the sale.
The S-300PMU1 is a mobile system designed to shoot down aircraft and cruise missiles. Analysts say the S-300 system would make any Israeli strike against Iran`s nuclear facilities more difficult.
Just after Netanyahu`s visit, the Interfax news agency quoted a senior Russian official as saying the delivery to Iran of the S-300 has been delayed for technical reasons.
"The delay is due to technical problems. The delivery will be carried out when they are resolved," said Alexander Fomin, deputy head of Russia`s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation.
However, the Egyptian official speaking to WND said Russia still intends to deliver the system to Iran within the next month. The official said there are also plans to see the system deployed in Syria, where Russia maintains a large naval fleet unseen since the Cold War days. The official said Syria intends to transfer the S-300 to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
An Israeli security official said Israel is monitoring the situation.
Russia has not announced the specific terms of its agreement with Iran, but Interfax reported the deal calls for Moscow to sell Tehran five batteries of S-300PMU1 missiles for around $800 million.
Iran has expressed frustration over the continued delay in the delivery of the S-300 system. Last week a top Iranian military commander claimed his country would build its own air-defense missiles that would be even better than the S-300.
|February 19, 2010
|Lisa Miller Safe for Now: Virginia Judge Refuses to Issue Arrest Warrant
(LifeSiteNews.com) A Virginia judge yesterday refused to press criminal charges against Lisa Miller for failing to deliver her seven-year-old daughter to her former lesbian partner.
Judge Harrison of the Bedford County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court ruled that because Miller`s whereabouts are unknown, it cannot be proven that she is aware of the court order to transfer custody of her daughter Isabella. He scheduled another hearing for May 19.
A source close to the case told LifeSiteNews (LSN) that the judge subpoenaed several witnesses to question them about Miller`s whereabouts, but all denied knowledge of her location.
Janet Jenkins, Miller`s former lesbian partner, was not permitted to testify by telephone, because no notary was with her to confirm her identity, sources told LSN. Jenkins is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which expressed disappointment at Harrison`s decision yesterday.
Judge Richard Cohen of Rutland County, Vermont, ordered the transfer of custody of Isabella on November 20 of last year, when Miller failed to show up for a hearing. The transfer was to take place on January 1 of this year, but Miller did not appear. Her whereabouts remain unknown.
Miller, a former lesbian who has returned to her childhood faith in Jesus Christ, was in a Vermont "civil union" with Jenkins for several years, during which time she conceived her daughter Isabella through artificial insemination. Miller says she left Jenkins after years of abuse, in 2003, and renounced the lesbian lifestyle.
Although Vermont has no law granting parental rights to civil union partners or even spouses of women who are artificially inseminated, Cohen ruled that Jenkins had parental rights.
Miller fought for several years against unsupervised visits of Isabella with Jenkins, stating that her daughter had shown signs of severe anxiety and trauma. Despite corroborating testimony from several witnesses regarding the negative effects of the visits on Isabella, including at least one psychologist, Judge Cohen continued to order unsupervised visits.
The absent Miller faces another hearing on February 23 in Rutland County, in which Judge Cohen is expected to issue a contempt of court citation for Miller.
Also pending is a decision by a Virgina appeals court on whether or not Virginia can enforce the Vermont court orders. The state of Virginia passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 prohibiting the government from recognizing homosexual "marriages" or "civil unions" contracted in other states. The case was argued on December 9.
|February 19, 2010
|Teacher cries `hate crime` over Bible left on desk
(WorldNetDaily) An eighth-grade teacher has accused her students of committing a "hate crime" and being "cruel" because they left a Bible on her desk and a Christmas card with the word "Christ" underlined.
Melissa Hussain, an Apex, N.C., science teacher at West Lake Middle School, is suspended with pay and may lose her job after she purportedly clashed with students on the subject of religion and sent students to the school office when they asked about the role of God in creation during a lesson about evolution.
Hussain wrote on her then-public Facebook page that it was a "hate crime" when her students left a Bible on her desk, according to the Charlotte News & Observer. She complained about students singing "Jesus Loves Me" and wearing Jesus T-shirts.
Hussain said she "was able to shame her kids" over the incidents.
"I can`t believe the cruelty and ignorance of people sometimes," Hussain wrote on the social networking site.
She said she wouldn`t let the Bible incident "go unpunished."
The teacher`s Facebook profile did not indicate her religious affiliation. It has been set to private since her comments became public.
The teacher also called parents who complain about their children receiving their first "B" grade in middle school "ridiculous."
According to reports, Hussain`s friends responded by posting comments on the teacher`s Facebook page that talked about "ignorant Southern rednecks" and calling the parents of Hussain`s students "bigoted, stupid and uncaring."
Another friend suggested Hussain bring a poster to class of NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. with a swastika drawn on his forehead because doing so would be "teaching" students a lesson.
"And without a job," Hussain replied. "But I like it!"
According to several media reports, parents say they complained to officials with the Wake County Public School System three weeks ago. As of Feb. 12, Hussain is under suspension for five days while district officials investigate the complaints.
|February 19, 2010
|Suspected Asteroid Collision Leaves Odd X-Pattern of Trailing Debris
(NASA) NASA`s Hubble Space Telescope has observed a mysterious X-shaped debris pattern and trailing streamers of dust that suggest a head-on collision between two asteroids. Astronomers have long thought the asteroid belt is being ground down through collisions, but such a smashup has never been seen before.
Asteroid collisions are energetic, with an average impact speed of more than 11,000 miles per hour, or five times faster than a rifle bullet. The comet-like object imaged by Hubble, called P/2010 A2, was first discovered by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research, or LINEAR, program sky survey on Jan. 6. New Hubble images taken on Jan. 25 and 29 show a complex X-pattern of filamentary structures near the nucleus.
"This is quite different from the smooth dust envelopes of normal comets," said principal investigator David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles. "The filaments are made of dust and gravel, presumably recently thrown out of the nucleus. Some are swept back by radiation pressure from sunlight to create straight dust streaks. Embedded in the filaments are co-moving blobs of dust that likely originated from tiny unseen parent bodies."
Hubble shows the main nucleus of P/2010 A2 lies outside its own halo of dust. This has never been seen before in a comet-like object. The nucleus is estimated to be 460 feet in diameter.
Normal comets fall into the inner regions of the solar system from icy reservoirs in the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud. As comets near the sun and warm up, ice near the surface vaporizes and ejects material from the solid comet nucleus via jets. But P/2010 A2 may have a different origin. It orbits in the warm, inner regions of the asteroid belt where its nearest neighbors are dry rocky bodies lacking volatile materials.
This leaves open the possibility that the complex debris tail is the result of an impact between two bodies, rather than ice simply melting from a parent body.
"If this interpretation is correct, two small and previously unknown asteroids recently collided, creating a shower of debris that is being swept back into a tail from the collision site by the pressure of sunlight," Jewitt said.
The main nucleus of P/2010 A2 would be the surviving remnant of this so-called hypervelocity collision.
"The filamentary appearance of P/2010 A2 is different from anything seen in Hubble images of normal comets, consistent with the action of a different process," Jewitt said. An impact origin also would be consistent with the absence of gas in spectra recorded using ground-based telescopes.
The asteroid belt contains abundant evidence of ancient collisions that have shattered precursor bodies into fragments. The orbit of P/2010 A2 is consistent with membership in the Flora asteroid family, produced by collisional shattering more than 100 million years ago. One fragment of that ancient smashup may have struck Earth 65 million years ago, triggering a mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. But, until now, no such asteroid-asteroid collision has been caught "in the act."
At the time of the Hubble observations, the object was approximately 180 million miles from the sun and 90 million miles from Earth. The Hubble images were recorded with the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA`s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute conducts Hubble science operations. The institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. in Washington, D.C.
|February 19, 2010
|Virginia House Bans Implanted Chips
(CBS News) The Virgina House of Delegates on Wednesday approved a measure that could protect Virginia residents from overbearing employers, and possibly the apocalypse.
The law would make it illegal to implant an identification or tracking device into a person`s body without their written consent. As the use of implanted microchips becomes more common -- people use them to track pets and could possibly use them for purposes such as securing one`s medical history -- lawmakers are starting to address concerns. Some are concerned their use among humans would lead to a lack of privacy or abuse from employers. Others, the Washington Post reports, are also concerned the use of microchips could be the "mark of the beast" -- or the coming of the antichrist.
"My understanding -- I`m not a theologian -- but there`s a prophecy in the Bible that says you`ll have to receive a mark, or you can neither buy nor sell things in end times," Del. Mark L. Cole, the bill`s sponsor, told the Post. "Some people think these computer chips might be that mark."
Cole reportedly said that he primarily sponsored the bill because of the privacy issues.
"I just think you should have the right to control your own body," he said.
Yet some fundamentalist Christians see more serious concerns in the Book of Revelation in the Bible, which reads, "He causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
Those opposed to the legislation mocked the connection to the Bible story. Del. Robert Brink reportedly said he never heard voters on the campaign trail mention any concerns about microchips.
"I didn`t hear anything about the danger of asteroids striking the Earth, about the threat posed by giant alligators in our cities` sewer systems or about the menace of forced implantation of microchips in human beings," he said.
Some other states, including Georgia and Tennessee, are considering similar measures. A couple of states including California and Wisconsin have already passed similar laws.
|February 18, 2010
|Report: Recession Keeping Marriages Intact, For Now
(Christian Post) After years of increase, the divorce rate in the United States fell in 2008, a new report shows, and research suggests it may be the result of the recession.
"[M]any couples appear to be developing a new appreciation for the economic and social support that marriage can provide in tough times," W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, says in the 2009 State of Our Unions report. "Thus, one piece of good news emerging from the last two years is that marital stability is up."
The report, which is produced annually, shows that divorce rates in the country decreased from 17.5 in 2007 to 16.9 per 1,000 married women in 2008. Before the drop in the first year of the U.S. recession, the rate had consecutively risen from 16.4 in 2005.
At the same time, credit card debt has declined by $90 billion this past year, possibly contributing to the smaller divorce rate. The report – which seeks to demonstrate that money matters for marriage – points out that credit card debt is "corrosive" and puts a strain on marriage. It especially plays "havoc" in the lives of newly married couples.
The economic downturn has also revived the "home economy," according to the report, with couples eating in more often, growing their own food, and mending their own clothes.
The uptick in thrift has proven to "pay valuable dividends in the quality and stability of married life in the U.S.," Wilcox says.
"In these ways, by fostering a spirit of economic cooperation, family solidarity, and thrift that redounds to the benefit of marriage, the Great Recession appears to offer a silver lining for marriage," he wrote.
Jeffrey Dew, a faculty fellow at the National Marriage Project, says conflict over money matters is one of the most important problems in contemporary married life and predicts divorce better than other types of disagreement.
"Compared with disagreements over other topics, financial disagreements last longer, are more salient to couples, and generate more negative conflict tactics, such as yelling or hitting, especially among husbands," he wrote in a separate report. "Perhaps because they are socialized to be providers, men seem to take financial conflict particularly hard."
That may be reflected in the long run. Though the country may currently be seeing fewer divorces, Wilcox cautions that the long-term consequences of the slower economy could be "profoundly negative" for marriage. Husbands, he says, do not like it when they are clearly displaced as the primary breadwinner in their families. And thus high rates of unemployment are most likely to harm the quality and stability of married life over the long term, he predicts.
Laura Baker, who leads Prasso Ministries, recognizes that divorce may be imminent for many couples who are just waiting until they can afford it. But she challenges couples to use this "waiting" time to try to work on their marriage and get back to having a healthy relationship.
"My hope is that this decline in divorce would turn to healing in the lives of many couples," said Baker, whose ministry encourages men and women to practice the Word of God in their daily lives. "There is hope for relationships if they are put in the hands of an Almighty God."
The report comes as Christians, ministry leaders and pastors are pushing a new movement to reduce the divorce rate and strengthen marriage, beginning with the church reclaiming the power and might of the institution and offering more ministerial support for lay people. Churches across the country united last week to observe National Marriage Week USA.
|February 18, 2010
|Partners in Primetime: Walmart and P&G Launch Must-See TV
(Family Research Council) Most Americans know Proctor and Gamble as the name brand behind some of their favorite household products--things like shampoo, dish soap, and laundry detergent. After years of helping to tidy up homes, P&G is ready to clean up television as part of a blockbuster partnership with Walmart. Together, the companies have kicked off a new campaign to produce TV programs that are profanity-free and morality-filled. Launched last week, the collaboration between two of the United States` corporate powerhouses is part of a broader effort to give parents a refuge from the around-the-clock filth on American networks.
Both Walmart and P&G have invested millions of dollars into this exciting venture with the goal of giving families more entertainment options--a mission that 77% of moms and dads overwhelmingly support. Leading up to the launch, P&G and Walmart did plenty of market research to see how adults felt about the current state of television. Based on their research, this is the kind of partnership that American viewers not only need--but want. Only 23% of those surveyed said they were satisfied with the networks` current fare. Another 85% said they would go out of their way "to find and watch quality family-friendly programming."
Fortunately, they won`t have to go far. On April 16, NBC is premiering the first installment of the team`s made-for-TV movie series, "Secrets of the Mountain." In an era when most of Hollywood`s heavyweights are trying to out-sleaze the competition, a partnership of this magnitude could be exactly the kind of peer pressure this industry needs to nudge it toward more wholesome programming. "I like to think of it as `no lunge TV,`" said Marc Pritchard, an executive with P&G, "meaning that I don`t have to lunge for my remote." Walmart echoed the sentiment in its statement and announced that this joint movement is part of a broader "Family Moments" campaign by the chain. It seems to be heeding the call of consumers to pull back from politics and try to engage the culture with traditional values.
According to surveys, it`s a goal that`s not only positive--but profitable. A 2009 poll found that ads were less effective when they aired on shows with gratuitous sex, violence, and obscenity. As a result, both P&G and Walmart have promised to be more judicious about how they spend their advertising dollars. That includes putting a safe distance between their brands and some of primetime`s most risque programs. As someone who has met with the CEOs of both companies to discuss the concerns that many families had about past anti-family policies, I`m pleased to see how two of the country`s businesses are setting the example for others by promoting what`s good for the family. Our hats go off to P&G and Walmart for paving the way for other Fortune 500 companies to follow suit. Decency is making a comeback, and these two companies are leading the charge!
|February 18, 2010
|Initiatives trample rights, Justice Moreno says
(SF Gate) Ballot initiatives have been used to mislead the public and trample on the rights of minorities, says Carlos Moreno, the only California Supreme Court justice who voted to overturn the state`s ban on same-sex marriage.
"It`s of great concern to me that certain basic rights, such as equal protection, the right to privacy and other fundamental rights, can be subject to change by simple majority vote," Moreno said in an interview last week while preparing to accept a gay-rights group`s Equality Leadership Award.
"Majority rule is nice in concept, but I think there has to be some kind of restraint on that to fulfill the larger purpose of our democracy."
Moreno, 61, a former federal judge in Los Angeles, was named to the state`s high court in 2001 by Gov. Gray Davis. He has a generally moderate record, has voted to uphold numerous death sentences, and was on President Obama`s list last year of potential candidates for the U.S. Supreme Court nomination that went to Justice Sonia Sotomayor. He will be on the ballot for a new 12-year term in November.
Moreno voted with the majority in the California court`s 4-3 ruling in May 2008 that struck down state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. The voters then passed Proposition 8, amending the state Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and the court upheld the measure in a 6-1 decision in May 2009.
The main issue in last year`s ruling was whether the voters` power to change the Constitution by initiative includes measures that repeal a minority group`s rights, such as the right to marry.
Moreno, in a dissenting opinion, argued that such measures strike at the heart of constitutional equality and should be placed on the ballot, if at all, only by a two-thirds legislative vote or a state constitutional convention.
The ruling "places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities," he wrote.
Prop. 8 is being challenged in a San Francisco federal court, a case in which Moreno described himself as "an interested observer." In the interview, he said the measure illustrated the modern-day hazards of rewriting state laws, particularly the Constitution, at the ballot box.
"Whatever virtue existed at the establishment of the initiative has been distorted," he said. "Any group of special interests, liberal or conservative, can raise money and get an initiative on the ballot, and can word it in a way that seems neutral or innocuous.
"Through the campaign, the voters can be misinformed. ...The process evades review and fact-finding by legislative committees and experts. (Initiatives) are often poorly worded and contradictory. It can be difficult for a court to interpret the voters` intent."
California might prevent some excesses by adopting the practice of other states that allow the Legislature to reword far-reaching initiatives before they go on the ballot, Moreno said. But he said he has no overall solution and is reserving judgment on proposals for a convention that would ask the voters to approve wholesale changes in the Constitution.
"Our powers as a court are extremely limited," he said.
Equality California, the state`s largest gay-rights organization, saluted Moreno on Saturday. In prepared remarks, he reminded the group of the long battle over interracial marriage and said change on such matters "does not come quickly, but it does come, step by step, measure by measure."
Same-sex marriage would "enhance the whole notion of family," he said in the interview, predicting it will become widely accepted in 10 to 20 years. Asked about accepting an award from an advocacy group, Moreno said he often appears before diverse organizations, including the conservative Federalist Society and an association of business lawyers.
Between the court`s May 2008 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and the passage of Prop. 8 in November 2008, Moreno said, he conducted weddings for five or six gay and lesbian couples he knew. In last year`s ruling upholding Prop. 8, the court validated 18,000 such marriages, saying the couples relied on rights the justices had recognized in their earlier decision.
Moreno said he had considered the possibility of a conflict of interest in performing the marriages, because the issue was sure to return to the court if Prop. 8 passed. But he concluded that the couples had waited long enough.
The ceremonies were "entirely legal," he said, and by refusing to officiate, "I would be discriminating against them. They`d been discriminated against for many years."
|February 18, 2010
|Kenneth Starr named Baylor president
(AP) Baylor University has named former Clinton White House nemesis Kenneth Starr its new president, saying the one-time independent prosecutor`s Christian ideals and experience heading a law school made him the ideal choice to lead the world`s largest Baptist university.
Starr, whose investigation of the Whitewater land deal and Monica Lewinsky scandal led to Clinton`s impeachment in the House of Representatives, has been dean of the law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., since 2004. He replaces John Lilley, who was fired as Baylor`s president in 2008.
Pepperdine officials said Starr would begin his new job in Texas on June 1.
|February 18, 2010
|National Debt by the Numbers: What Does 12 Trillion Mean?
(Family Security Matters) On Friday afternoon with no media present, President Barack Obama signed a bill which raises our public debt from $12 .394 trillion to $14.294 trillion.
That is an incredible amount of money, but do Americans even grasp how much money $1 trillion (1,000,000,000,000) is, let alone more than 14 trillion?
A million seconds ago, it was only twelve days ago. But a trillion seconds ago – it was 29,678 B.C. Woolly mammoths still roamed the earth, and the Great Lakes won’t be formed for another 20,000 years. Scientists estimate that there aren’t even one trillion stars in our galaxy (only 200 to 400 billion). Lined up end to end, one trillion dollar bills would circle the earth an incredible 380 times.
But our debt has already surpassed $12 trillion. That’s 13 million tons of one-dollar bills. In order to haul off all that cash, you would need more than 100,000 semi trucks. If we laid $12 trillion one-dollar bills side-by-side and end-to-end, we could pave all U.S. highways, streets, and county roads more than twice.
The website Defeat the Debt provides figures like those that put debt levels in understandable perspectives.
If I spent $1 billion a day, it would take just under 34 years of spending to reach the level of our national debt. Yet our federal government takes in trillions of dollars in revenue each year, and they still managed to run up a deficit this massive.
Our national debt wasn’t always so spectacular: only in 1982 did government break the $1 trillion mark. By 1990, the debt was $3.2 trillion. By 2000, it was $5.6. On Sept. 30, 2008, White House documents show that our public debt was $9.9 trillion. But in a matter of just a few months under the Obama administration, our debt has climbed by three trillion dollars. Bear in mind that it took over 200 years for the U.S. to accumulate one trillion dollars of debt. During that time we paid for one revolution, the Louisiana Purchase, a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, the Marshall Plan, numerous other conflicts, the space program, and so on. But in a matter of months, our federal government – despite trillions of dollars in tax revenue each year – has accumulated almost three trillion more?
And all of this money being spent by government will have to be paid back by the American taxpayer. According to USDebtClock.org, as this column went to press, the current share for each taxpayer was over $113,000. The bill signed on Friday by Obama states that any new spending must be paid for either through spending cuts or tax hikes. And which do you think the Obama administration and Congress will choose?
Our society simply cannot endure federal spending of this magnitude. Rather than argue over which political party or administration is to blame, we must work together to reverse this trend immediately, before it’s too late.
|February 18, 2010
|Largest-Ever Spring 40 Days for Life Set to Start Wednesday
(LifeSiteNews) The largest-ever 40 Days for Life spring campaign is set to begin in 165 cities across the globe this Wednesday.
"We have always been amazed at how God shows up when his people pray and fast, when they stand vigil outside of abortion facilities, and when they conduct grassroots outreach," David Bereit, National Campaign Director of 40 Days for Life, told LifeSiteNews.com Monday. "What we`re most excited about this time is to be amazed once again."
40 Days for Life is a community-based campaign that works to end abortion through 40 days of prayer and fasting, peaceful vigil outside of abortion facilities, and community outreach.
"We have seen so many miracles" in past campaigns, Bereit recounted, "from 2,168 babies, that we know of, saved [in] past 40 Days for Life campaigns. We`ve seen over 300,000 people involved in past 40 Days for Life campaigns.
"We`ve seen five abortion centers closed down following 40 Days for Life campaigns, and 28 abortion workers who have left their jobs as a result of 40 Days for Life."
40 Day for Life began in the fall of 2004, after a pro-life group in Bryan, Texas, prayed for an answer about how to reduce abortion in their area. The campaign lead to a 28 percent decline in abortions in their community. Soon the idea caught on in other areas and the first national 40 Days for Life campaign was conducted in the fall of 2007.
Since then, two 40 Days for Life campaigns have been held each year, one in spring and one in fall.
The Fall 2009 40 Days for Life campaign became an occasion of special celebration when Abby Johnson, the director of the Bryan Planned Parenthood where the campaign began, experienced a conversion and resigned after watching an abortion on an ultrasound machine. She is now an active pro-life advocate with 40 Days for life.
This spring`s campaign will be conducted not only in the United States, but also in Canada, Northern Ireland, and Australia.
This campaign promises to be the largest spring campaign yet; fall efforts tend to be larger than those in the spring because of colder weather. Last spring, 135 cities across North America, Canada, Northern Ireland, and Australia participated.
To get involved in a local 40 Days for Life prayer vigil, visit their index of locations.
|February 18, 2010
|Obama Making Plans to Use Executive Power
(NY Times) Mr. Obama has not given up hope of progress on Capitol Hill, aides said, and has scheduled a session with Republican leaders on health care later this month. But in the aftermath of a special election in Massachusetts that cost Democrats unilateral control of the Senate, the White House is getting ready to act on its own in the face of partisan gridlock heading into the midterm campaign.
“We are reviewing a list of presidential executive orders and directives to get the job done across a front of issues,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.
Any president has vast authority to influence policy even without legislation, through executive orders, agency rule-making and administrative fiat. And Mr. Obama’s success this week in pressuring the Senate to confirm 27 nominations by threatening to use his recess appointment power demonstrated that executive authority can also be leveraged to force action by Congress.
Mr. Obama has already decided to create a bipartisan budget commission under his own authority after Congress refused to do so. His administration has signaled that it plans to use its discretion to soften enforcement of the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the military, even as Congress considers repealing the law. And the Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with possible regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change, while a bill to cap such emissions languishes in the Senate.
In an effort to demonstrate forward momentum, the White House is also drawing more attention to the sorts of actions taken regularly by cabinet departments without much fanfare. The White House heavily promoted an export initiative announced by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke last week and nearly $1 billion in health care technology grants announced on Friday by Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, and Hilda L. Solis, the labor secretary.
White House officials said the increased focus on executive authority reflected a natural evolution from the first year to the second year of any presidency.
“The challenges we had to address in 2009 ensured that the center of action would be in Congress,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “In 2010, executive actions will also play a key role in advancing the agenda.”
The use of executive authority during times of legislative inertia is hardly new; former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush turned to such powers at various moments in their presidencies, and Mr. Emanuel was in the thick of carrying out the strategy during his days as a top official in the Clinton White House.
But Mr. Obama has to be careful how he proceeds because he has been critical of both Mr. Clinton’s penchant for expending presidential capital on small-bore initiatives, like school uniforms, and Mr. Bush’s expansive assertions of executive authority, like the secret program of wiretapping without warrants.
Already, Mr. Obama has had to reconcile his campaign-trail criticism of Mr. Bush for excessive use of so-called signing statements to bypass parts of legislation with his own use of such tactics. After a bipartisan furor in Congress last year, Mr. Obama stopped issuing such signing statements, but aides said last month that he still reserves the right to ignore sections of bills he considers unconstitutional if objections have been lodged previously by the executive branch.
Another drawback of the executive power strategy is that actions taken unilaterally by the executive branch may not be as enduring as decisions made through acts of Congress signed into law by a president. For instance, while the E.P.A. has been determined to have the authority to regulate carbon emissions, the administration would rather have a market-based system of pollution permits, called cap and trade, that requires legislation.
Still, presidents have logged significant accomplishments through the stroke of a pen. In 1996, on his own authority, Mr. Clinton turned a 2,600-square-mile section of southern Utah into the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in what was called at the time his boldest environmental move. Mr. Bush followed suit in 2006 by designating a 140,000-square-mile stretch of islands and ocean near Hawaii as the largest protected marine reserve in the world, in what some see as his most lasting environmental achievement.
The use of executive power came to a head this week when Mr. Obama confronted Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, about nominations held up in the Senate. In a meeting with Congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday, Mr. Obama turned to Mr. McConnell and vowed to use his power to appoint officials during Senate recesses if his nominations were not cleared.
By Thursday, the Senate had voted to confirm 27 of 63 nominations that had been held up, and the White House declared victory. Two administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Friday that the White House had drafted a list of about a dozen nominees for the president to appoint during the recess that just began, but most were among those cleared.
Mr. McConnell’s office denied that the president’s threat had anything to do with the confirmations, pointing out that the Senate regularly passes a batch of nominees before going on recess.
“All presidents get frustrated with the pace of nominations, and all Congresses say they’re doing their best, so it’s not a surprise,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Mr. McConnell. “But the fact is nominees are being confirmed, particularly those nominated since December.”
The recess appointment power stems from the days when lawmakers were in session only part of the year, but in modern times presidents have used it to circumvent opposition in the Senate. Mr. Clinton made 139 recess appointments, 95 of them to full-time positions, while Mr. Bush made 171, with 99 to full-time jobs. Mr. Obama has yet to make any.
Those given such appointments can serve until the end of the next Congressional session. As a senator, Mr. Obama was less enamored with recess appointments. When Mr. Bush used the power to install John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Obama called Mr. Bolton “damaged goods.”
But the White House argued that Mr. Obama’s choices have been held up more than Mr. Bush’s and left open the prospect of giving recess appointments to some of those still held up, including Craig Becker, a labor lawyer whose nomination for a seat on the National Labor Relations Board has been blocked.
“If the stalling tactics continue,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, “he’s not ruling out using recess appointments for anybody that he’s nominated.”
|February 18, 2010
|Poll: 61 Percent Say Start from Scratch on Health Care Reform
(CNSNews.com) According to a new poll from Rasmussen Reports, a majority of Americans agree with the Republican leadership that Congress should scrap its current 2,000-page health care overhaul plans and start afresh.
Rasmussen asked likely voters: “Is it better to build on the health care plan that has been working its way through the House and Senate, or should Congress scrap that plan and start all over again?”
Just 28 percent said it would be better to build on the current plan, as the White House has indicated it wants to do, while 61 percent said the whole thing should be scrapped. Eleven percent were unsure.
Rasmussen also queried voters about the potential for a solution coming out of the bipartisan summit President Obama proposed for Feb. 25.
Rasmussen asked: “President Obama is planning to hold a publicly televised meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to see what both sides can agree on. How likely is it that Democrats and Republicans will agree on a bipartisan health care plan this year – very likely, somewhat likely, not very likely, not at all likely?”
Fully 80 percent of respondents said it was unlikely, with 32 percent saying “not at all likely.”
As CNSNews.com previously reported, the two top House Republicans—Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) – wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel warning that GOP members would be “reluctant” to participate in the summit if the current health care bills would frame the negotiations.
“If the starting point for this meeting is the job-killing bills the American people have already soundly rejected, Republicans would rightly be reluctant to participate,” Boehner and Cantor wrote on Tuesday.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded on Wednesday though, indicating that the president would not agree to start again.
“He’s been very clear about his support for the House and Senate bills,” Gibbs said in a statement, “because of what they achieve for the American people: putting a stop to insurance company abuses, extending coverage to millions of hardworking Americans, getting control of rising premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and reducing the deficit.”
The Rasmussen numbers also show only 35 percent of likely voters want to see health care reform passed before the mid-term elections in November, when one-third of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election. Fifty-four percent of likely voters say the legislature should wait until new members come before deciding on a bill.
Opposition to the health care plan has been steady since November 2009. The most recent Rasmussen numbers show 39 percent approve of the plan in its current form while 58 percent disapprove.
“The emotion continues to be on the side of the opponents, too,” Rasmussen notes. “The overall numbers include 19% who Strongly Approve of the plan and 48% who Strongly Disapprove of it.”
Those numbers are even worse than the pollster’s findings from Aug. 25 and 26, 2009, when Congress took its summer recess and saw many constituents criticize them in demonstrations and comments at town hall meetings across the country.
At that point, 43 percent at least somewhat approved, and 53 percent at least somewhat disapproved of the health care proposal(s).
Despite their disapproval, some likely voters indicated they still thought Democrats could find a way to pass their current plans this year.
Rasmussen, in August, asked: “How likely is it that the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and the congressional Democrats will become law this year?”
Forty-one percent still thought it was at least somewhat likely, while 50 percent of voters thought it was not very likely or not at all likely.
In a separate Rasmussen Reports poll last week, the firm found a majority of likely voters thought it would be better that most incumbents not return to Congress for another term.
Rasmussen asked, “Generally speaking, would it better for the country if most incumbents in Congress were reelected this November or if most of them were defeated?”
Sixty-three percent said it would be better that most incumbents be defeated, while just 19 percent said it would be better if most incumbents stayed in office.
“One major reason for this anti-incumbency attitude is the high level of opposition to the health care plan proposed by the president and congressional Democrats,” said Rasmussen Reports.
The polls each carried a margin of error of +/- three percentage points. The health care poll was conducted on Feb. 9-10, and the poll on incumbency was conducted on February 5-6.
|February 18, 2010
|Ex-Mossad chief: Israel can hit Iran without U.S. OK
(WorldNetDaily) Israel does not need American permission to strike Iran, said Shabtai Shavit, former chief of Israel`s Mossad intelligence agency, in an exclusive interview with Aaron Klein, WND`s Jerusalem bureau chief.
Asked whether Israel must coordinate with the U.S. on any future military actions against Iran`s nuclear facilities, Shavit replied, "I don`t think that Israel needs American permission when it comes to the survival of Israel."
"But I would expect Israel to try to coordinate such a move if push comes to shove," Shavit said.
Shavit, who traditionally shies away from news media interviews, was speaking during an interview on New York`s WABC Radio with Klein, who hosts a weekend show on station.
Shavit posited that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad`s declaration last week that his country is a nuclear state "proves that the international strategy addressing the nuclear threat until today was completely wrong."
Shavit said he doesn`t see a consensus materializing to push through the crippling sanctions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been lobbying for.
Shavit did suggest, however, strong sanctions may still work to dissuade Iran from forging ahead with its nuclear ambitions.
"If there is a consensus among the U.S., Europe, Russia and China, I believe it is still possible to convince the Iranians that for them the price that they will have to pay for achieving the nuclear ways is prohibitive for them," he said.
Asked by Klein whether Israel should strike Iran if sanctions failed and Tehran pressed ahead with its uranium enrichment program, Shavit replied, "I wouldn`t like to elaborate too much about this section, but I will only say that a nuclear Iran with the present regime of the extremists` fanaticism – this is a threat of a survival scale."
|February 12, 2010
|San Francisco Chronicle: “Open Secret” That Prop. 8 Judge is “Gay”
(Lifesite News) In what he describes as “an open secret,” a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle says that the federal judge presiding over the case against California`s Proposition 8 identifies as a homosexual.
The revelation now raises questions over whether Chief Justice Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for California`s Northern District should recuse himself in the federal trial against Prop. 8, California’s ban on homosexual “marriage.”
Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross write: “Many gay politicians in San Francisco and lawyers who have had dealings with Walker say the 65-year-old jurist, appointed to the bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, has never taken pains to disguise - or advertise - his orientation.”
Andy Pugno, general counsel for the Prop. 8 campaign, told the columnists that his group had no intention “to say anything about that." But Pugno did add that supporters for Prop. 8 “have been put at significant disadvantage throughout the case” by Walker’s handling of the trial “regardless of the reason for it.”
Matier and Ross claim they spoke with a federal judge describing himself as Walker`s friend and confidant, who said he believed Walker would remain impartial in any event. The judge said he had spoken with Walker, who “doesn`t think [his sexual orientation] is relevant to his decisions in any case, and he doesn`t bring it to bear in any decisions."
However, the source admitted, knowledge of Walker`s background as a homosexual is relevant to his involvement in a same-sex “marriage” case. He said the situation is not dissimilar to people needing to know that a Latino judge was presiding over a discrimination case involving Latinos, or that a Jewish judge was trying a case involving the Anti-Defamation League.
Ed Whelan, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes in the National Review Online blog “The Corner" that Walker’s alleged homosexuality is not the issue: a homosexual jurist could rule impartially, he says, and a heterosexual judge could entertain biases either for or against Prop. 8 that would demand his recusal.
The real question hangs upon whether the jurist is “capable of ruling impartially,” and that question, Whelan argues, has already been answered by Walker’s behavior both before and throughout the trial.
“From the outset, Walker’s entire course of conduct in the anti-Prop 8 case has reflected a manifest design to turn the lawsuit into a high-profile, culture-transforming, history-making, Scopes-style show trial of Prop 8’s sponsors,” writes Whelan.
Whelan points out that Walker violated federal judicial guidelines by initially allowing the broadcast the Prop. 8 trial. Though Walker justified the move under a "pilot program" reportedly designed with the Prop. 8 trial in mind, the US Supreme Court intervened to prohibit the videotaping.
The privacy guideline, instituted to protect witnesses from visual identification and harassment, bears unusual import for the emotionally-charged trial: just before the ruling, one of the pro-family interveners asked to be dismissed from the case, citing the increased threats he and his family would endure in their native San Francisco under video-taped proceedings.
Whelan notes that Walker was again rebuked by a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for delving into the internal memos of the Prop. 8 campaign, deemed a violation of freedom of association guaranteed by the First Amendment. Walker said he was attempting to determine whether Prop. 8 was “passed with animus” – an impossible feat, Whelan says, given that 7 million voters approved the marriage amendment.
Finally, Whelan accused Walker of exposing his partiality in the case by allowing “a parade” of anti-Prop 8 witnesses to give lengthy testimony at trial “that had no conceivable bearing on any factual or legal issues in dispute but who provided useful theater for the anti-Prop 8 cause.”
“Walker’s entire course of conduct has only one sensible explanation: that Walker is hellbent to use the case to advance the cause of same-sex marriage,” Whelan concludes. “Given his manifest inability to be impartial, Walker should have recused himself from the beginning, and he remains obligated to do so now.”
|February 12, 2010
|Americans Most Satisfied in Cold Northern States, Least Satisfied in Nevada
(CNSNews.com) Although they may more often be inconvenienced by snowy weather, more Americans tend to say they are satisfied with their standard of living in cold northern states—including North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Alaska—than in other regions, according to a new Gallup poll.
While residents in former Gov. Sarah Palin`s Alaska registered one of the highest rates of satisfaction with their standard of living, residents in Nevada, which is represented in the Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid, registered the lowest rate of satisfaction out of all 50 states.
Over the course of 2009, Gallup asked more than 350,000 Americans across all 50 states this question: "Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your standard of living, all the things you can buy and do?" A higher percentage of residents in northern states tended to say they were satisfied, with five of the Top 10 states bordering on Canada.
Hawaii was the warmest state to register in the Top 10, placing 9th just ahead of New Mexico which ranked 10th.
In North Dakota, 82.3 percent said they were satisfied with their standard of living, giving that Canadian-border state the No. 1 ranking for citizen satisfaction. South Dakota ranked second with 80.8 percent of its residents saying they were satisfied.
Former Gov. Sarah Palin’s home state of Alaska placed third with 80.4 percent of its residents saying they were satisfied with their standard of living and Minnesota placed fourth with 79.4 percent saying they were satisfied. Iowa (79.0 percent), Nebraska (78.3 percent), Montana (78.0 percent), Idaho (77.6 percent), Hawaii (77.4 percent) and New Mexico (77.4 percent) rounded out the top 10.
Being cold and in the North, however, did not guarantee that a state would rank high for resident satisfaction with their standard of living. Michigan, a cold Canadian border state, ranked 48th with 70.1 percent of residents saying they were satisfied.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Nevada ranked dead last with 69.0 percent of residents saying they were satisfied with their standard of living. Rhode Island ranked next to last with 69.8 percent saying they were satisfied.
Top Ten States for Resident Satisfaction with Standard of Living
1-North Dakota 82.3
2-South Dakota 80.8
10-New Mexico 77.4
Bottom Ten States for Resident Satisfaction with Standard of Living
49-Rhode Island 69.8
43-South Carolina 71.4
42-West Virginia 71.6
|February 12, 2010
|Christian speech targeted as `hate`
(WorldNetDaily) A campaign has been launched in Montgomery County, Md., to classify the speech of advocates for people who choose to leave the homosexual lifestyle as "hate speech," which then could be banned under a new law signed last year by President Obama.
"Hate speech is unwelcome in Montgomery County Public Schools," said an e-mail to the offices of Regina Griggs, national director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, known as PFOX. "I would like to ask that you immediately cease distribution of your flyers at our public schools.
"We intend to pursue every method possible to protest your actions if you choose to continue," the message warned.
The conflict was sparked by competing flyers distributed recently to public school students, one from PFOX, which reaches out to all those leaving the homosexual lifestyle regardless of religious affiliation, and the other from the homosexual-rights group PFLAG, or Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
The PFLAG flyer said if "homosexual" students can`t talk to their family members, "there are still people you can talk to."
The homosexual-rights group told the students, "Some religions still condemn homosexuality, but others are completely affirming. … Metro DC PFLAG can refer you to information specific to your own religion, including local gay-friend congregations.
"People who are gay, lesbian or another minority sexual orientation are part of the normal range of humanity," the flyer said.
WND has reported on Obama`s "hate crimes" plan, which was adopted by Congress after Democrats piggy-backed it onto a defense appropriations bill.
The law was targeted just days ago by a lawsuit alleging it violates the civil rights of Christians and pastors, who according to the complaint now can become the target of federal investigations, grand juries and even charges for no more than opposing the activism of homosexuals.
The lawsuit was filed by the Thomas More Law Center in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of Pastors Levon Yuille, Rene Ouellette, James Combs and Gary Glenn, the president of the American Family Association of Michigan.
In Montgomery County, the second flyer, from PFOX, explained "former homosexuals do not think something is wrong with them because they decided to fulfill their heterosexual potential by overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions."
The flyer from PFOX offered resources to help with "tolerance for everyone regardless of sexual orientation" for parents and students such as event speakers, books for libraries and brochures.
It said, "No one should be labeled based on the perception of others. Get smart! Explore the origins of your same-sex attraction. ... The decision of a prom date, a car, or whether to super-size those fries can be based on a feeling, but important decisions should not be made on feelings alone."
One e-mail to PFOX, purportedly from a member of the county school district staff, said, "It is called freedom of speech unless it is hate-based and you people are sadly full of only that, hate."
"You say we are not being `tolerant` of ex-gays ... and PFOX says it is not anti-gay … yet you people seem to HATE anything and everything that has to do with the way God wanted gay people," the note continued. "Separation of church and state … read the U.S. Constitution."
The note said, "You people are like the KKK but only in the form of religion … you should be ashamed of yourselves."
Click here for the rest of the story.
|February 12, 2010
|TV trash is harming our children
(Church Report) According to a new survey from Seventeen magazine and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 78% of teenage boys feel there is “way too much pressure from society” to have sex. Respondents cited teen-targeted TV shows as a major source of that pressure. "People watch shows like Jersey Shore and Real World or listen to music that makes it a big deal. People are surrounded by it,” said one seventeen-year-old who participated in the survey.
It is little wonder teenaged boys are feeling so much pressure to be sexually active when the messages communicated in media specifically targeted to them suggest that promiscuous sex is not only okay, it’s what’s expected of them. The basic cable channel Spike (owned by MTV Networks Entertainment Group) unabashedly targets high school and college-age boys with programs like MANswers, which addresses such topics as, “Who puts out the most, blondes, brunettes, or redheads?” and its latest offering, Blue Mountain State.
“In the vein of Animal House,” Spike boasts, Blue Mountain State “follows three incoming freshman in a big-time, Midwestern college football program.” Except that the series is less about football and college life than it is about the sexual exploits of these characters. This program is especially pernicious because their exploits -- which so far have involved strippers and a transvestite prostitute -- are far outside the range of normal behavior experienced by most college freshmen, but are presented as unexceptional, even typical.
As bad as this is, it appears we can expect things to get worse. According to USA Today, the new Starz series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand will feature “full-frontal male nudity, heterosexual, homosexual and group sex.” The problem, of course, is that increasingly premium cable channels are repurposed for basic cable, and sometimes even for broadcast TV. HBO’s The Sopranos can now be seen on A&E, Sex and the City first moved to TBS and is now in syndication on WB affiliates across the country. HBO’s Entourage airs next to Blue Mountain State on Spike. Showtime’s Dexter ran briefly on sister network CBS. As these programs migrate from premium to basic cable, they drive standards even lower on competing cable channels, and ultimately on broadcast TV too.
It’s a childish game of one-upmanship, with TV writers, executives, and producers inserting increasingly risqué content just because they can. Spartacus co-executive producer Robert Tapert is quoted in the USA Today story, "The whole thing was pushing the boundaries on pretty much every level... Once we wound up on (premium pay cable), we were able to really push the envelope."
One TV executive likened TV’s slide into the sewer to an “arms race.” But where does this leave our children, who are fighting against tremendous temptation, peer pressure, and a media culture that urges them to do what feels good, rather than what they know is right?
The same USA Today story quotes Fordham University’s Paul Levinson, “It sounds radical, but this is healthy for popular culture... Mainstream TV has been frozen in a very puritanical position by Congress, the FCC and the Supreme Court — all who don`t seem to understand the First Amendment. Sex is part of life. If people are offended, there`s a simple remedy: Don`t watch."
What a foolish and dangerous argument to make. Yes, sex is part of life -- but is bestiality? Are adult-child sexual relationships part of life? How about sex with prostitutes? Because increasingly, that’s what our children are seeing on TV, far more often than they see sex in the context of a healthy, monogamous relationship, let alone in marriage. As a consequence, children are experimenting sexually earlier than ever before. Exposure to bizarre sexual scenarios on television on the Internet and elsewhere is interfering with their normal sexual development. They are imitating the language and behaviors they observe in the media they consume, and developing unrealistic, misleading, and even harmful attitudes toward sex and male-female relationships.
After decades of declines, teen pregnancy rates are on the rise; school teachers in Britain are reporting five- and six-year-olds simulating sexual behavior; reports of sexual assaults in schools – not by adults, but by other children – are more frequent. Mr. Levinson, please explain how this is healthy for popular culture.
|February 12, 2010
|U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Whether Christian Student Clubs Can Prefer Christian Leaders
(Lifesite News) Scores of Christian and religious organizations have filed at least 21 amicus curiae briefs supporting the Christian Legal Society (CLS) against a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the society`s right to select Christian leaders for its group at a University campus.
The case, filed against University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, will essentially test whether law schools can deny official recognition to student chapters of the Christian Legal Society.
While CLS welcomes anyone to attend meetings and events, it requires that the officers and voting members who provide direction for the Society agree with and abide by the group’s Statement of Faith. UC Hastings considers CLS’s faith requirement to be in conflict with the school’s non-discrimination policies.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of UC Hastings, relying on one of the Ninth Circuit’s earlier rulings that had barred a Christian high school club from requiring that its leaders affirm a statement of faith. The U.S. Supreme Court accepted CLS`s request to appeal that decision in December.
The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) submitted an amicus curiae brief for the case last Thursday, arguing that UC Hastings’ actions are inconsistent with prior Supreme Court freedom of speech and association rulings.
“Once again, the Ninth Circuit is out of step with other federal courts around the country, which have upheld the common-sense principle that a Christian or other faith-based student club should be able to have members and leadership who agree with and abide by their statement of faith and exclude those who do not," commented PJI affiliate attorney Pete Lepiscopo, the author of the brief. "The implications of this case are far reaching.”
“Freedom of speech includes freedom of association," said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute.
"It would be absurd to demand that an atheist student club allow people of faith to become officers, or that the Democratic student club allow itself to be overrun with Republicans," said Dacus. "Such rules would quickly destroy the identity of these and countless other groups, leading to intellectual dullness, not diversity.
"In the same way, we think it is self-evident that the Christian Legal Society should have the ability to choose Christian leaders for itself."
|February 12, 2010
|Iran proclaims new success in uranium enrichment
(AP) President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed Thursday that Iran has produced its first batch of uranium enriched to a higher level, saying his country will not be bullied by the West into curtailing its nuclear program a day after the U.S. imposed new sanctions.
Ahmadinejad reiterated to hundreds of thousands of cheering Iranians on the anniversary of the 1979 foundation of the Islamic republic that the country was now a "nuclear state," an announcement he`s made before. He insisted that Iran had no intention of building nuclear weapons.
It was not clear how much enriched material had actually been produced just two days after the process was announced to have started.
The United States and some of its allies accuse Tehran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to build nuclear weapons but Tehran denies the charge, saying the program is just geared toward generating electricity.
"I want to announce with a loud voice here that the first package of 20 percent fuel was produced and provided to the scientists," he said.
Enriching uranium produces fuel for a nuclear power plants but can also be used to create material for atomic weapons if enriched further to 90 percent or more.
"We have the capability to enrich uranium more than 20 percent or 80 percent but we don`t enrich (to this level) because we don`t need it," he said in a speech broadcast live on state television.
Iran announced Tuesday it was beginning the process of enriching its uranium stockpile to a higher level. The international community reacted by discussing the imposition of new U.N. sanctions.
The U.S. Treasury Department went ahead on Wednesday and froze the assets in U.S. jurisdictions of a Revolutionary Guard general and four subsidiaries of a construction firm he runs for their alleged involvement in producing and spreading weapons of mass destruction.
Tehran has said it wants to further enrich the uranium _ which is still substantially below the 90 percent plus level used in the fissile core of nuclear warheads _ as a part of a plan to fuel its research reactor that provides medical isotopes to hundreds of thousands of Iranians undergoing cancer treatment.
But the West says Tehran is not capable of turning the material into the fuel rods needed by the reactor. Instead it fears that Iran wants to enrich the uranium to make nuclear weapons.
Ahmadinejad restated Iran`s position that it was not seeking to build nuclear weapons.
"When we say we do not manufacture the bomb, we mean it, and we do not believe in manufacturing a bomb," he told the crowd. "If we wanted to manufacture a bomb, we would announce it."
"We told them the Iranian nation will never give in to bullying and illogical remarks," Ahmadinejad added.
Western powers blame Tehran for rejecting an internationally endorsed plan to defuse the situation by having Iran export its low enriched uranium for enrichment abroad and returned as fuel rods for the Tehran reactor.
Iran, in turn, asserts it had no choice but to start enriching to higher levels because its suggested changes to the international plan were rejected.
The president said Iran will triple the production of its low-enriched uranium in the future but didn`t elaborate.
"God willing, daily production (of low enriched uranium) will be tripled," he said.
A confidential document from the U.N. nuclear agency shared Wednesday with The Associated Press said Iran`s initial effort at higher enrichment is modest, using only a small amount of feedstock and a fraction of its capacities.
|February 12, 2010
|MTV Show 16 and Pregnant Criticized for Not Promoting Teen Abortions
(LifeNews.com) The hit MTV television show "16 and Pregnant" is back for its controversial second season featuring a new slate of pregnant teenage girls and their stories. The network has never been one to shy away from abortion but
one pro-abortion blogger says she`s upset the show doesn`t promote teen abortions.
Blogger Jessica Valenti shows just how pro-abortion the pro-choice movement is because she`s upset the show isn`t promoting teen abortions and, instead, profiles girls who keep their baby.
"Where are the pregnant teens who choose not to stay pregnant? Where are the abortions?" she complains. "If MTV really wanted to prove themselves as responsible programmers, they would also feature pregnant teens who have abortions."
"I realize that it’s controversial to document a teenager who decides to end their pregnancy, but the fact is that nearly a third of all teen pregnancies end in abortion," Valenti says. "But if you were to watch MTV, you`d never know that – you`d think all young women choose to go through with the pregnancy."
Valenti complains that MTV has apparently decided that only teen pregnancies that end in birth are worth covering and that teen pregnancies that finish with the destruction of human life and injuring women aren`t worthy.
Wendy Wright, the president of Concerned Women for America, said showing a teenager who had an abortion would trivialize the post-abortion problems many women face because such problems often take years to materialize.
"People are drawn to reality shows because they want to watch how others deal with challenges. The demands of TV require the challenges to be dramatic and concentrated in time," she told LifeNews.com.
"Like one commentator noted, abortion brings regret. But that`s hard to show on TV. And the consequences may take months or years to exhibit," Wright said.
Wright said MTV`s decision to not include a teenager who has an abortion "indicates that abortion is still not mainstream."
"It is so tragic, so disturbing that TV executives apparently recognize that it would be unappealing to viewers," she said.
MTV may also have shied away from showing teens getting abortions because it recognizes the fact that young Americans are more pro-life than previous generations.
The New York Times, CBS News and MTV itself teamed up for a poll the news agencies released in June 2007 that surveyed 659 Americans between the ages of 17 and 29.
A total of 62 percent of young Americans say abortion should not be permitted (24 percent) or more strictly limited (38 percent). That`s higher than the 58 percent of older adults who give the same answers (split 21 and 37 percent respectively).
The poll also found fewer young Americans saying abortion should be available at any time with 37 percent favoring that compared to 39 percent of older adults.
While older adults favored no abortions or limited abortions by a 19 percent margin, that number rose to a 25 percent margin for the teens and young adults.
And a January 2006 Hamilton College poll found high school seniors take a pro-life position on abortion saying it`s morally wrong and supporting legislative proposals that would limit abortions and help women find alternatives.
The poll also found 72 percent of females in the class of 2006 would not consider an abortion if they became pregnant.
The Hamilton College poll found a majority of high school seniors do not believe abortions should be allowed for sociological reasons such as when women are too poor to afford another child or unable to have a baby at the time.
Meanwhile, an April 2004 Zogby poll found 51.6% of 18-29 year-olds call themselves "pro-life."
"This is remarkable, not just because it confirms that a majority of the post-Roe generation is pro-life, but that they label themselves so," says Holly Smith, director of youth outreach for the National Right to Life Committee.
Though a majority call themselves pro-life, a much larger percentage actually take a pro-life position on abortion.
In the Zogby poll, 60 percent of 18-29 year-olds took one of three varying pro-life positions on abortion while only 39 percent agreed with the three pro-abortion stances.
|February 12, 2010
|Feinstein seeks to ease curbs on water delivery to farmers
(Los Angeles Times) Her legislation would for two years loosen Endangered Species Act restrictions on pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta designed to protect salmon and delta smelt.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has drawn up legislation that for the next two years would loosen Endangered Species Act restrictions on pumping water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to increase irrigation deliveries to San Joaquin Valley growers.
Feinstein has not released details of the proposal, which she is calling the Emergency Temporary Water Supply Amendment and which is expected to be attached to a jobs bill.
In a statement Thursday she said that the language has not been finalized and that she is open to "alternative ways" of boosting water supplies for the valley`s west side, which has been hit hard by delivery cuts caused by the state drought and the pumping limits.
But the draft legislation, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, would effectively weaken new pumping restrictions designed to protect the imperiled delta smelt and crashing stocks of migrating salmon.
Irrigation districts and urban water agencies have sued to overturn the curbs, which they contend are overly strict.
"Regardless of how much it rains and snows . . . we will not be able to move water to storage in San Luis Reservoir under the most severe restrictions imposed" by the fish protections, said Tom Birmingham, general manager of the sprawling Westlands Water District. "This is not a waiver. Nobody is proposing a waiver for the Endangered Species Act."
But as word of Feinstein`s plan spread, some saw it as an attack on environmental protections from an unlikely source, a powerful Democratic senator.
"My only hope is that she remains open and thinks very carefully about the consequences of this lurching response to the situation," said Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), a major player in California water politics. "This is by any stretch an attempt to legislate science and an end run around the Endangered Species Act."
A bill to waive the protections and increase pumping was introduced last year by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare). And Feinstein persuaded the Obama administration to establish a National Academy of Sciences panel to review the pumping limits to see if other environmental measures would be less disruptive to the federal and state water operations that draw from the delta. The panel`s first report is due next month.
But Feinstein`s latest step, which she disclosed to Central Valley water users in a conference call Thursday morning, surprised some.
"This came as a bit of a shock that she did this," said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena).
He represents the North Coast, which has been hurt by two years of bans on commercial salmon fishing stemming from collapsing salmon stocks.
"If this were to go through, it would have a devastating impact on Northern California and other jobs and other economies in the state," Thompson said.
Because they have junior rights in the Central Valley Project, the huge federal irrigation project that supplies much of the San Joaquin Valley, farms on the valley`s west side suffered the deepest water delivery cuts last year.
Feinstein`s office did not respond to several requests for comment. But in her statement, the senator said that despite winter storms that are deepening the Sierra snowpack, "farms on the west side of the valley are likely to receive a very low percentage of their water allocations for a second year because that water cannot be pumped and stored."
Mario Santoyo, a valley water manager and founder of the Latino Water Coalition, said "the crisis has got to a boiling point where something happens this year -- or it`s over for a whole lot of people."
Feinstein`s proposal, he said, "would allow greater flows to allow greater jobs."
Environmentalists have said that the most severe irrigation cutbacks have been confined to a small portion of growers and that construction job losses caused much of the rise in Central Valley unemployment.
And salmon fishermen have retorted that their economic losses have been ignored by agriculture`s attack on the pumping limits.
They may be headed for another closed season, based on figures released Thursday. The 2009 count of fall-run Chinook salmon returning to the Sacramento River to spawn was 39,500 -- the lowest number recorded since comprehensive monitoring began in the 1970s.
|February 12, 2010
|Is the U.S. Swine Flu Epidemic Over?
(CNSNews.com) If the U.S. swine flu epidemic isn`t over, it certainly looks as if it`s on its last legs. While federal health officials are not ready to declare the threat has passed and the outbreak has run its course, they did report Friday that for the fourth week in a row, no states had widespread flu activity. U.S. cases have been declining since late October.
One U.S. expert said the epidemic has "one foot in the grave," and there are many reasons to believe there won`t be another wave later in the year.
For one thing, the virus has shown no signs of mutating. The vaccine against it is effective. And roughly half the people in the U.S. probably have some immunity because they were infected with it or got vaccinated.
The World Health Organization is witnessing an international decline as well, and is discussing criteria for declaring the pandemic over. Britain this week shut down its swine flu hot line, which was set up to diagnose cases and give out Tamiflu.
"Clearly, the last four weeks have been one of the quietest January flu seasons I can remember in my career," said Michael Osterholm, a prominent expert on global flu outbreaks with the University of Minnesota.
Since its emergence last April, swine flu has caused an estimated 15,200 deaths worldwide, mostly in the U.S. -- a much lower number than initially feared. The positive outcome is primarily because the virus didn`t mutate into a deadlier form.
Even so, experts have praised the actions of the U.S. and Mexican governments and scientists who quickly developed an effective vaccine.
Criticizing the government for its intense response would be like chastising officials for building dikes in New Orleans to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and then seeing only a Category 3 come ashore, Osterholm said.
"The government did not overreact," said University of Michigan flu expert Dr. Arnold Monto, echoing Osterholm`s point.
Whether it will stay quiet for the rest of the winter is hard to say, but some experts are beginning to lean that way.
"If it`s not dead, it`s weakening fast. It`s got one foot in the grave," said Dr. William Schaffner, a flu authority at Vanderbilt University.
A poll released Friday by the Harvard School of Public Health found that 44 percent of Americans believe the outbreak is over.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released numbers Friday showing most states continued to have only occasional flu activity last week. However, only three states had absolutely no reports, and a CDC official cautioned that swine flu is still around and is likely to keep infecting people for weeks or months to come.
"We don`t seem to be seeing the disappearance of this virus," said the official, Dr. Anne Schuchat.
Whether there will be another wave of swine flu -- as was seen in the spring last year and again in the early fall -- is a much harder question, she added.
Her comments reflect a raging debate among scientists. One expert told The Associated Press he thinks a spike in H1N1 cases is likely by May, though perhaps a smaller one than last fall. Another said he did not expect another spike. A third predicted another wave, but not until next fall at the earliest. A fourth refused to even guess.
An estimated 70 million Americans have been vaccinated against swine flu through a government campaign that started in October. Counting those who have already been infected and others who were vaccinated, perhaps 40 percent of the public has some immunity to the virus.
However, that means at least half of Americans don`t have immunity, and there are many places that have not been hit hard by swine flu yet, some experts noted.
Also, this is a global disease that can move quickly through air travel, and much of the rest of the world is not vaccinated, Osterholm pointed out.
Experts give health officials generally good marks for their handling of the pandemic, even with months of delays in the production of swine flu vaccine.
About 60 percent of the 1,400 adults in the Harvard poll said U.S. public health officials did a good or excellent job in dealing with the pandemic. More than half said the government devoted the right amount of attention to the outbreak.
The telephone survey was done in late January and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.
|February 12, 2010
|U.S. Gives Yale Researcher $3.9-Million in Tax Dollars to Develop ‘Avatar’ Sex-Ed Video Game for Kids
(CNSNews.com) The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a division of the National Institutes of Health, is giving Dr. Lynn Fiellin, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine, $3.9 million over five years to develop a video game to teach “sex, drug and alcohol negotiation and refusal skills" to children 9-14 years of age.
The game will feature “virtual characters or avatars” that are guided by the children playing the game to make decisions about whether to engage in behaviors that put them at risk of being infected with HIV.
The game’s effectiveness in training children to avoid HIV-transmitting behaviors will be tested by having children as young as 9 play the game two days a week for a month—either after school or on weekends—at a New Haven, Conn., community center.
A press release about Dr. Fiellin’s $3.9-million grant put out by the Yale University Office of Public Affairs on Sept. 24, 2009 said that the children in the study will be “between 11 and 14 years old.” However, both the official NICHD grant abstract and the summary of the project posted on the Web site of Yale’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, say the children in the study will be “ages 9-14.”
Additionally, Peggy McCardle, chief of the NICHD’s Child Development and Behavior Branch told CNSNews.com the game is being designed for "preadolescents," and specifically responded to a question about why children as young as 9-14—rather than older children--were being used in the study.
“According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey: 7.1 percent of high school students say they have had sexual intercourse before the age of 13,” said McCardle. “That figure is higher for certain groups, with 26.2 percent of black males and 11.9 percent of Hispanic male students reporting having had intercourse before age 13. Similarly, rates for other risky behaviors are also high, with 23.8 percent of high school students saying they had drunk alcohol and 8.3 percent saying they had tried marijuana before age 13. The rationale for the current project is to teach younger children the negotiation and refusal skills that they will need to resist pressures for risky behaviors, before those behaviors become established, or before they even begin.”
After they have played the game for four weeks, the children in the study will be periodically surveyed to see if they are refraining from activity—including “vaginal or anal intercourse”—that puts them at risk of HIV infection.
Click here to read the rest of the story.
|February 08, 2010
|Innocent-sounding Calif. bill could help legalize `gay marriage`, some say
(BP) A new bill in the California legislature that purports to protect pastors from being forced to perform "gay marriages" actually contains language that could help open the door to legalizing such relationships down the road, conservatives who are watching the bill`s progress say.
Dubbed the Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act, the bill (S.B. 906) is sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Mark Leno -- a leading advocate for "gay marriage" -- and it would, he says, ensure that "no member of clergy or church will be penalized for refusing to solemnize marriages that violate their religious tenets." If the bill did only that, there likely would be no controversy, but it also changes California law to call all marriages recognized by the state "civil marriages."
Such terminology may seem insignificant, but the supporters of "gay marriage" nationally have adopted that language to distinguish between what they call "civil marriage" and "religious marriage," apparently in an effort to gain support for their cause. For instance, a "gay marriage" bill in New Hampshire last year gained traction only after language was added including the "civil" and "religious" terms, specifying that religious institutions would not be forced to perform or recognize civil marriages. It was signed into law. Opponents of the bill in that state said the new language was a smokescreen that simply restated what already was the case. It also, they argued, did not go far enough in protecting religious freedom.
Although California passed a constitutional amendment known as Prop 8 prohibiting "gay marriage," it could be overturned through a federal court ruling or by the passage of another constitutional amendment.
The bill has the support of the homosexual group Equality California and the California Council of Churches IMPACT, a liberal-leaning religious group. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) also supports the bill, but a convention official told Baptist Press that the CSBC does not.
The California Family Policy Council, a social conservative organization that sometimes works with the CSBC, has not taken a position on the bill but is studying it and does have concerns, legislative coordinator Everett Rice told Baptist Press.
"The concern is over the specific changing of the California statute to create a new class of civil marriage," Rice said. "We are concerned that that`s going to become another avenue of actually changing the definition of marriage itself. That`s been pretty much the focus of Sen. Leno`s and those who support homosexual marriage. Our concern is that the bill incrementally begins the process of doing that. What we`ve seen in the past is that measures like these incrementally try to change whole institutions."
Rice pointed to the state`s same-sex domestic partnership law, which when passed initially in 1999 provided homosexual couples only some of the legal benefits of marriage. It later was expanded to provide all the legal benefits. Then, when the California Supreme Court legalized "gay marriage" in 2008 -- a ruling later reversed by Prop 8 -- the justices pointed to the domestic partnerships law and said it was unconstitutional to have a separate but equal system.
Said Leno, who is openly homosexual, "Some opponents of marriage for same-sex couples have argued that churches and members of clergy would be required to solemnize marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs. While we know religious freedom is protected under our Constitution, this legislation eliminates any confusion or doubt under state law...."
Although such concerns may have been voiced by pastors in private, ProtectMarriage.com -- the organization that promoted Prop 8 -- stayed away from that argument altogether in its 2008 campaign. Instead, ProtectMarriage.com concentrated on other aspects of how "gay marriage" could impact the culture, such as possibly changing what is taught in public schools.
Mike Johnson, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund -- which opposes "gay marriage" -- said Leno`s bill avoids the real issues that have been raised by concerned Christians.
"This deceptively-named bill is another attempt to confine the liberty argument to a very narrow area. ADF has religious liberty concerns that are far wider," Johnson told Baptist Press. "Leno`s bill is a Trojan horse that does nothing to protect religious institutions or other agencies of the church from being forced to violate their religious beliefs. In fact, it further restricts church liberty and independence by giving the government greater power to define the church and its mission."
For instance, ADF points to a case in New Mexico which Leno`s bill would not impact if something similar took place in California. In December a New Mexico judge ruled that a husband- and wife-owned photography company violated state anti-discrimination laws when they refused to take pictures of a lesbian commitment ceremony. They said doing so would have violated their religious beliefs. If the ruling is not overturned, the husband and wife will owe the lesbian couple more than $6,600 in attorneys` fees.
The confusion over whether the California Southern Baptist Convention supports the bill began when The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed CSBC communications group leader Terry Barone and quoted him as saying the bill "would seem to add protections for a clergy member." The Chronicle said the CSBC was one of "several religious organizations" that "support the measure." Barone told Baptist Press the CSBC does not support the bill.
"I was asked by the Chronicle reporter what I thought of the bill and simply replied on the basis of what we as Baptists believe," Barone told BP in an e-mail statement. "No one can speak for a body (church, association, convention, etc.) unless that body takes some formal action, which the California Southern Baptist Convention did not. Without having heard about or read the legislation, I commented that if the legislation protected the First Amendment rights of clergy not to perform same-sex marriages based on a number of issues -- moral conscience, church polity, church doctrine, theology, etc., that it might be considered good legislation. However, I also pointed out that I thought the bill moot since same-sex marriages were not recognized by the state of California based on the passage of Proposition 8."
|February 08, 2010
|Haiti fundraiser should drop pro-abortion group
(OneNewsNow) A Haiti fundraising drive has a link to a pro-abortion group. MTV recently conducted a telethon and recorded a digital release called Hope for Haiti Now to raise money for aid to earthquake victims in Haiti. But according to Erik Whittington, director of Rock for Life, one organization is suspect.
"The Hope for Haiti Now funnels all their proceeds to at least seven different organizations, and they`re split up evenly," he explains. "Unfortunately one of those recipients is UNICEF" -- the United Nations Children`s Fund.
Whittington feels that should raise a warning flag because of the organization`s history. "They support and promote and advocate abortion, distributing of condoms and other contraceptives, forced or involuntary, sterilization [and] other anti-life programs," he reports.
The Rock for Life director goes on to say that people contribute to the fundraiser thinking UNICEF will help people, but he adds that that is the organization`s form of aid. What Haitians need are medical supplies, water and food, he argues – life-sustaining contributions. Whittington is asking Help for Haiti Now to drop UNICEF from its list of recipients.
|February 08, 2010
|City officials under fire for pro-Christian comments
(OneNewsNow) Two city officials in a California town are being targeted for possible hate crimes over comments they made recently about the Christian and Muslim faiths.
Speaking to a group of Christian ministers on January 27, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris stated: "We are growing Christian community -- and don`t let anybody shy away from that." And Councilwoman Sherry Marquez has been criticized for posting biblical references on her Facebook site encouraging Christians to defend themselves -- along with quotes from Muslim leaders exhorting followers to convert the world to Islam.
Now, according to the Antelope Valley Press, the local human relations task force will convene on Monday evening to discuss whether those remarks could potentially be "hate incidents." Darren Parker, chairman of the task force, tells the newspaper that if the mayor`s comments are so deemed, "a complaint will be made to the [federal] Justice Department" and to state and county district attorneys.
In addition, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed a federal civil rights complaint over Parris`s comments. CAIR says the mayor violated the civil rights of non-Christians by stating, during his annual State of the City address, that Lancaster was "growing a Christian community." (See earlier story)
CAIR says the mayor should not have used his official capacity at the event to advance a particular religion. Parris has told a Los Angeles newspaper that would "absolutely not" apologize for his remarks.
Marquez posted comments on her Facebook page in reaction to a New York trial involving a Muslim man who had been charged with second-degree murder for allegedly beheading his wife, who was seeking a divorce. Like Mayor Parris, the councilwoman has refrained from apologizing for her comments, but she has apologized to her follow council members for any problems it may have caused them.
|February 05, 2010
|Canadian Premier`s Heart Surgery Plans Raise Questions About Health Care
(FoxNews) A prominent Canadian politician’s decision to undergo heart surgery in the U.S. has touched off a debate about national health care in his own country.
At the center of controversy is Danny Williams, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. Williams’ decision to head south across the border for his surgery is drawing fire from defenders of the Canadian health-care system – a favorite example for proponents of a government-run health care in the U.S.
Williams, a millionaire and former lawyer, left Canada on Monday to seek treatment at an unspecified hospital in the U.S. It is not clear what kind of surgery he’ll undergo, though Newfoundland Deputy Premier Kathy Dunderdale said that having the surgery in the province was not an option.
So what about a hospital in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver?
"Virtually all forms of cardiac surgery are looked after in Canada, and I would say extremely well," Dr. Chris Feindel, a cardiac surgeon at Toronto`s University Health Network told the National Post. "Personally ... I would have my cardiac surgery done in Canada, no matter what resources I had at my disposal."
Feindel was quick to point out that U.S. patients have come to UHN`s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre for valve repairs.
Canadian Sen. Wilbert Keon, a retired heart surgeon and professor emeritus at the University of Ottawa, told the Toronto Sun that Newfoundland does not have the kind of "post-surgery technical support to allow all advanced complicated procedures to be performed there."
But, "I can’t imagine anything that couldn’t be done in Canada that is done in America," he told the newspaper.
"Virtually all" complex heart surgeries could be performed Ottawa’s Heart Institute, as well as medical centers in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton, Keon told the Sun.
Dr. Marc Siegel, an internist and Fox News contributor disagreed with Feindel and Keon.
"You would not find a U.S. governor going to Canada for surgery," Siegel said. "We’d be putting our quality of care at risk if we went to a single-payer system like Canada."
Siegel said if the U.S. does move to a universal health care system, people wanting the "crème de la crème" in medicine would probably have to go elsewhere.
"It is quite possible that the procedure he is getting is so specialized that the top doctors doing it are to be found only in the U.S.," Siegel said.
There also is the possibility that Williams has private health insurance, which may or may not have been accepted at Canadian hospitals.
"I would expect that he is eligible for all the rest of us would be in terms of our own private insurance or government insurance, and I’m sure there’s anything over and above that, the premier would certainly take care of it himself," Dunderdale told the Press.
Williams’ recovery is expected to take three to 12 weeks, Dunderdale said.
|February 05, 2010
|Colin Powell Throws Support Behind Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
(LifeSiteNews.com) Retired U.S. Army General Colin Powell has thrown his support behind the repeal of the Congressional ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The decision marks a major shift for Powell, who once strongly backed the ban and the policy as essential to maintaining troop discipline and morale.
“In the almost 17 years since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” Powell said in a statement released by his office. While admitting that his “principal issue has always been the effectiveness of the Armed Forces and order and discipline in the ranks," he added that the judgment must be made by “current military leadership,” along with the president and Congress.
He added: “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”
Powell was instrumental in maintaining the military’s policy against homosexuals serving in the armed forces. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he argued forcefully against Democratic President Bill Clinton’s efforts to throw out the ban, saying that it would undermine military discipline, effectiveness, and morale. That pressure helped convince Congress to codify the ban into law.
Afterwards, Congress agreed to allow a “compromise” policy – “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – instituted under President Clinton, in which army officials would maintain the ban, but not ask a potential recruit’s sexual orientation, and a recruit was admonished not to volunteer the information. However potential recruits or any member of the armed services who admitted to homosexuality would then not be permitted to serve, or would be discharged.
Homosexual activists have leapt upon Powell’s statement as proof that the political tides are in their favor.
“The truth is that there are no more excuses, the death knell for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been rung and now is the moment to send this law into the history books where it belongs,” said Joe Solomese, president of Human Rights Campaign, a highly-influential homosexual lobby.
Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen confirmed to Congress Tuesday that the U.S. military would heed President Obama`s urging in his State of the Union address, and begin evaluating how to phase out enforcement of DADT.
“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
However a number of military officers and personnel are not happy with the plan to repeal the ban, saying that it would add stress in situations where soldiers would be placed in forced intimacy with homosexuals.
An anonymous defense official told the Washington Times that military personnel – already under the tremendous stress of fighting two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – are discontent with the possibility of an imminent policy change.
"It was a difficult year and even more difficult to balance out a number of issues, including the wars and gay rights," said the official. "This will be a historical change, and not everyone is happy with it."
|February 05, 2010
|Justice Roberts Hints He Could Overturn Roe
(NewsMax) Chief Justice John Roberts last week made it clear that the Supreme Court over which he presides will not hesitate to sweep away its own major constitutional rulings when doing so is necessary to defend America’s bedrock governing document.
The announcement of that guiding core principle means two very big things. First, Roberts and his fellow strict constructionists on the court are now armed and ready with a powerful rationale for overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion ruling if Justice Anthony Kennedy or a future justice becomes the fifth vote against Roe.
Secondly, successfully placing Roberts atop the high court is beginning to look like former President George W. Bush’s most important legacy – a gift that will keep on giving for conservatives for decades.
In last Thursday’s 5-to-4 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling dismantling the McCain-Feingold campaign law, Roberts joined with fellow Bush appointee Justice Samuel Alito to issue a separate concurrence “to address the important principles of judicial restraint and stare decisis implicated in this case.”
While Roberts conceded that “departures from precedent are inappropriate in the absence of a ‘special justification,’” he quickly added that “At the same time, stare decisis is neither an ‘inexorable command’… nor ‘a mechanical formula of adherence to the latest decision’ … especially in constitutional cases,” noting that “If it were, segregation would be legal, minimum wage laws would be unconstitutional, and the Government could wiretap ordinary criminal suspects without first obtaining warrants.”
Instead, under the “stare decisis” judicial doctrine of respecting past rulings, “When considering whether to re-examine a prior erroneous holding, we must balance the importance of having constitutional questions decided against the importance of having them decided right.” The chief justice declared: “stare decisis is not an end in itself.”
The court’s most senior liberal, Justice John Paul Stevens, even found himself haunted by his own words on the subject of when precedent can be discarded, courtesy of Roberts. In a 1995 dissent, Stevens had argued that returning to the “‘intrinsically sounder` doctrine established in prior cases” can “better serv[e] the values of stare decisis than would following” some “more recently decided case inconsistent with the decisions that came before it.”
Moreover, when Roberts mentions a need to “curtail the precedent’s disruptive effects” and imagines instances in which a “precedent’s validity is so hotly contested that it cannot reliably function as a basis for decision in future cases,” the “hotly contested” Roe decision, which 37 years ago disrupted the abortion laws of all 50 states, cannot help but come to mind.
He also said a precedent could be targeted for destruction if its “rationale threatens to upend our settled jurisprudence in related areas of law, and when the precedent’s underlying reasoning has become so discredited that the Court cannot keep the precedent alive without jury-rigging new and different justifications to shore up the original mistake.” That uncannily describes Justice Antonin Scalia’s long-held objections to Roe v. Wade, and the unusual joint opinion that shored it up in 1992 in the Casey decision.
What more ambitious undertaking for a chief justice could there be than to define the constraints of stare decisis? Yet clearly it was exactly that kind of leadership Bush was looking for when he chose Roberts.
As White House aide Dan Bartlett told the press the day Bush nominated him for the court in July, 2005, Roberts had “set himself apart in an elite group when it comes to his qualifications.”
Bartlett noted that “this is somebody who graduated with honors, both undergrad and Harvard Law.” But the Bush adviser also pointed to the fact that the former president “likes to size people up himself, make his own judgment” and “make sure the person matched the resume … but also had those innate qualities you’re looking for – the character and temperament and judgment, and, frankly, leadership qualities that you want in the highest court in the land.” Bush had done that during a long visit with Roberts in the White House residence.
Roberts “was class president,” Bartlett pointed out. “He was team captain of the football team, somebody who just exhibited leadership qualities right out of the gate; went to Harvard and really set himself apart there as well, as I said, graduating with honors, as well as being part of the paper there, and doing a lot of things that distinguished himself.”
If Roberts really did just establish clear restrictions on the power of faulty Supreme Court precedents, it might not just mean a mechanism for the eventual conquest of Roe v. Wade, and victory for pro-lifers; a whole series of widely ranging liberal decisions going back to the activist Warren Court era could eventually be in jeopardy too.
|February 05, 2010
|White House Prepares for Possibility of 2 Supreme Court Vacancies
(ABC News) Lawyers for President Obama have been working behind the scenes to prepare for the possibility of one, and maybe two Supreme Court vacancies this spring.
President Obama`s lawyers are preparing for two possible Supreme Court vacancies
Court watchers believe two of the more liberal members of the court, justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, could decide to step aside for reasons of age and health. That would give the president his second and third chance to shape his legacy on the Supreme Court.
Last week, when Obama took the nearly unprecedented step of criticizing the court`s opinion in a major campaign finance case during his State of the Union speech, some believed he was showcasing for the American people that presidential elections, and Supreme Court nominations count.
"With all due deference to separation of powers," the president said, " last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections. I don`t think American elections should be bankrolled by America`s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities."
Doug Kendall, of the progressive Constitutional Accountability Center, said the president`s message was clear: "President Obama`s spirited reaction to Citizens United at the State of the Union indicates he fully understands the importance of the federal judiciary and the ability of the Supreme Court to stand in the way of his administration`s agenda."
Kendall hopes Obama`s dressing down of the majority will translate into greater attention to the judicial nomination and confirmation process.
Although five of the six justices who attended the speech sat poker faced when Obama made his comments, Justice Samuel Alito, who voted with the majority, reacted by shaking his head in irritation.
If a justice from the conservative block like Alito were to would retire, there could be a seismic shift on the court, likely giving Obama the chance to reverse the court`s majority voting bloc. But speculation has centered on the liberal end of the bench.
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|February 05, 2010
|Hijacking the Brain — How Pornography Works
(LifeSiteNews.com) We are fast becoming the pornographic society. Over the course of the last decade, explicitly sexual images have crept into advertising, marketing, and virtually every niche of American life. This ambient pornography is now almost everywhere, from the local shopping mall to prime-time television.
By some estimations, the production and sale of explicit pornography now represents the seventh-largest industry in America. New videos and internet pages are produced each week, with the digital revolution bringing a host of new delivery systems. Every new digital platform becomes a marketing opportunity for the pornography industry.
To no one`s surprise, the vast majority of those who consume pornography are males. It is no trade secret that males are highly stimulated by visual images, whether still or video. That is not a new development, as ancient forms of pornography attest. What is new is all about access. Today`s men and boys are not looking at line pictures drawn on cave walls. They have almost instant access to countless forms of pornography in a myriad of forms.
But, even as technology has brought new avenues for the transmission of pornography, modern knowledge also brings a new understanding of how pornography works in the male brain. While this research does nothing to reduce the moral culpability of males who consume pornography, it does help to explain how the habit becomes so addictive.
As William M. Struthers of Wheaton College explains, "Men seem to be wired in such a way that pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their brains and has a long-lasting effect on their thoughts and lives."
Struthers is a psychologist with a background in neuroscience and a teaching concentration in the biological bases of human behavior. In Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, Struthers presents key insights from neuroscience that go a long way toward explaining why pornography is such a temptation for the male mind.
"The simplest explanation for why men view pornography (or solicit prostitutes) is that they are driven to seek out sexual intimacy," he explains. The urge for sexual intimacy is God-given and essential to the male, he acknowledges, but it is easily misdirected. Men are tempted to seek "a shortcut to sexual pleasure via pornography" and now find this shortcut easily accessed.
In a fallen world, pornography becomes more than a distraction and a distortion of God`s intention for human sexuality. It comes as an addictive poison.
Viewing pornography is not an emotionally or physiologically neutral experience. It is fundamentally different from looking at black and white photos of the Lincoln Memorial or taking in a color map of the provinces of Canada. Men are reflexively drawn to the content of pornographic material. As such, pornography has wide-reaching effects to energize a man toward intimacy. It is not a neutral stimulus. It draws us in. Porn is vicarious and voyeuristic at its core, but it is also something more. Porn is a whispered promise. It promises more sex, better sex, endless sex, sex on demand, more intense orgasms, experiences of transcendence.
Pornography "acts as a polydrug," Struthers explains. As Dr. Patrick Carnes asserts, pornography is "a pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience." Boredom and curiosity lead many boys and men into experiences that become more like drug addiction than is often admitted.
Why men rather than women? As Struthers explains, the male and female brains are wired differently. "A man`s brain is a sexual mosaic influenced by hormone levels in the womb and in puberty and molded by his psychological experience." Over time, exposure to pornography takes a man or boy deeper along "a one-way neurological superhighway where a man`s mental life is over-sexualized and narrowed. This superhighway has countless on-ramps but very few off-ramps."
Pornography is "visually magnetic" to the male brain. Struthers presents a fascinating review of the neurobiology involved, with pleasure hormones becoming linked to and released by the experience of a male viewing pornographic images. These experiences with pornography and pleasure hormones create new patterns in the brain`s wiring, and repeated experiences formalize the rewiring.
And then, enough is never enough. "If I take the same dose of a drug over and over and my body begins to tolerate it, I will need to take a higher dose of the drug in order for it to have the same effect that it did with a lower dose the first time," Struthers reminds us. So, the experience of viewing pornography and acting out on it creates a demand in the brain for more and more, just to achieve the same level of pleasure in the brain.
While men are stimulated by the ambient sexual images around them, explicit pornography increases the effect. Struthers compares this to the difference between traditional television and the new high definition technologies. Everything is more clear, more explicit, and more stimulating.
Struthers explains this with compelling force:
Something about pornography pulls and pushes at the male soul. The pull is easy to identify. The naked female form can be hypnotizing. A woman`s willingness to participate in a sexual act or expose her nakedness is alluring to men. The awareness of one`s own sexuality, the longing to know, to experience something as good wells up from deep within. An image begins to pick up steam the longer we look upon it. It gains momentum and can reach a point where it feels like a tractor-trailer rolling downhill with no brakes.
Wired for Intimacy is a timely and important book. Struthers offers keen and strategic insights from neurobiology and psychology. But what makes this book truly helpful is the fact that Struthers does not leave his argument to neuroscience, nor does he use the category of addiction to mitigate the sinfulness of viewing pornography.
Sinners naturally look for fig leaves to hide sin, and biological causation is often cited as a means of avoiding moral responsibility. Struthers does not allow this, and his view of pornography is both biblical and theologically grounded. He lays responsibility for the sin of viewing pornography at the feet of those who willingly consume explicit images. He knows his audience -- after all, his classrooms are filled with young male college students. The addict is responsible for his addiction.
At the same time, any understanding of how sin works its deceitful evil is a help to us, and understanding how pornography works in the male mind is a powerful knowledge. Pornography is a sin that robs God of his glory in the gift of sex and sexuality. We have long known that sin takes hostages. We now know another dimension of how this sin hijacks the male brain. Knowledge, as they say, is power.
|February 05, 2010
|For Homosexuals, a Sad State of Affairs
(Family Research Council) For same-sex couples who "wed" in one of the five states that allow it, many have marriage vows. But according to a stunning New York Times article, "forsaking all others" isn`t one of them. Calling infidelity "a gift," several couples are brutally honest about the lack of monogamy in most homosexual "marriages." Just how common is this phenomenon? A study scheduled for release next month from San Francisco State University found that more often than not, "open" marriages aren`t the exception to counterfeit marriages; they`re the rule.
The Gay Couples Study followed 556 male partners for three years, and half had "sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners." Some even had the audacity to say that heterosexuals have a lot to learn from this "evolution of marriage." On the contrary, it only exposes the mockery this movement is making of marriage. They want access to marriage only to destroy what should be its defining characteristic: fidelity! For years, FRC has argued against same-sex "marriage" on these very grounds. Now that the New York Times is confirming the trend, maybe even more people will start to listen.
|February 05, 2010
|Witnessing at the mall? Better bag it!
(OneNewsNow) A California court has ruled in favor of a mall in a free-speech case.
Brad Dacus of Pacific Justice Institute tells OneNewsNow about the 2007 case, which the Institute now plans to take to the California Court of Appeal.
"A youth minister in Roseville, California, decided that he wanted to share the gospel with people in a shopping mall," the attorney explains. "However, he was initially arrested and removed from the [Roseville Galleria Mall] because the shopping mall has a policy that forbids any discussions of faith with anyone else in the shopping mall unless you directly knew them prior to the visit to the shopping mall."
Pastor Matthew Snatchko struck up a casual conversation about faith with two other shoppers. According to Dacus, no customers complained about the pastor`s topic of conversation.
"There were no objections by any of the customers as to what Matthew was doing," he notes. "The only objection was from an intolerant vender who wanted to silence him and remove his kind of people from the shopping mall."
The PJI attorney believes that silencing Snatchko, as well as the mall`s ban on faith-related T-shirts and political conversation topics, is an unconstitutional violation of shoppers` free speech. Charges against Snatchko were dropped, but the lawsuit challenges the mall`s tight restrictions on speech.
|February 05, 2010
|New Federal ‘Hate Crimes’ Law Challenged on Constitutional Grounds
(CNSNews.com) Conservative civil liberties group is challenging the constitutionality of the recently enacted federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.
The new law, attached to a defense authorization bill that President Obama signed on October 28, 2009, makes it a federal crime to attack someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center says it elevates people engaged in deviant sexual behaviors to a special, protected class of persons under federal law.
The lawsuit naming U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of three pastors and the president of the American Family Association of Michigan.
All of the plaintiffs “take a strong public stand against the homosexual agenda, which seeks to normalize disordered sexual behavior that is contrary to Biblical teaching,” the Law Center said in a news release.
“There is no legitimate law enforcement need for this federal law,’ said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center.
“This is part of the list of political payoffs to homosexual advocacy groups for support of Barack Obama in the last presidential election,” Thompson continued. “The sole purpose of this law is to criminalize the Bible and use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their Biblically-based religious belief that homosexual conduct is a sin. It elevates those persons who engage in deviant sexual behaviors, including pedophiles, to a special protected class of persons as a matter of federal law and policy.”
According to the Law Center, of the 1.38 million violent crimes in the U.S. reported by the FBI in 2008, only 243 were considered to be motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.
The four plaintiffs are Michiagn Pastors Levon Yuille, Rene Ouellette, James Combs, and Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan.
The lawsuit alleges that the new law violates the plaintiffs’ rights to freedom of speech, expressive association, and free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment, and it violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment. The lawsuit also alleges that Congress lacked authority to enact the legislation under the Tenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
The lawsuit says the Hate Crimes Prevention Act “provides law enforcement with authorization and justification to conduct federal investigative and other federal law enforcement actions against Plaintiffs and others deemed to be opponents of homosexual activism, the homosexual lifestyle, and the homosexual agenda,” thereby expanding the jurisdiction of the FBI and other federal law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies.
Robert Muise, who is handling the case, said the new law promotes two Orwellian concepts: “It creates a special class of persons who are ‘more equal than others’ based on nothing more than deviant, sexual behavior. And it creates ‘thought crimes’ by criminalizing certain ideas, beliefs, and opinions, and the involvement of such ideas, beliefs, and opinions in a crime will make it deserving of federal prosecution."
He said it gives government officials the power "to decide which thoughts are criminal under federal law and which are not.”
The Thomas More Law Center describes its mission as defending and promoting “America’s Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life.”
|February 02, 2010
|Prop. 8 trial on YouTube after all - re-enacted
(SF Gate) The U.S. Supreme Court`s camera blackout of the trial over same-sex marriage in California didn`t faze two Los Angeles filmmakers, who - with the help of transcripts, bloggers and a corps of professional actors - have launched its re-enactment on YouTube.
"We want all Americans to have a chance to judge for themselves, based on the evidence that was presented," John Ireland said Monday after the first of 12 scheduled "episodes," each covering a day of the trial, made its Internet debut.
The cast includes such Hollywood talents as Tess Harper and Adrienne Barbeau.
Testimony in the trial ended Wednesday in San Francisco before Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who is expected to hear closing arguments next month. At stake is the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the November 2008 initiative that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
The Supreme Court intervened Jan. 11 to block Walker`s plan to have the trial telecast to other courthouses and have testimony uploaded to YouTube, both of which would have been unprecedented for a federal case in California. In a 5-4 ruling two days later, the court said the telecast might subject pro-Prop. 8 witnesses to harassment and intimidation.
"We were poised ... getting ready to watch it," when the court ruled, said Ireland`s filmmaking colleague, John Ainsworth, who married his partner at San Francisco City Hall before Prop. 8 passed. "It frustrated me. Who were they to say that I can`t watch this, especially when it`s in a public courtroom?"
With no money to pay anyone, they put out a casting call to the Screen Actors Guild and got an enthusiastic turnout for the more than 40 available roles, Ireland said.
The No on 8 side relayed official trial transcripts, bloggers and a professor in the courtroom described the witnesses and the atmosphere, and David Cruz, a University of Southern California law professor, provided legal guidance.
Although both filmmakers opposed Prop. 8, they took pains to cast attractive performers on both sides, Ireland said. Their goal, he said, was "transparency, not swaying anybody."
Harper, who starred in "Tender Mercies" and was nominated for an Academy Award for "Crimes of the Heart," plays plaintiff Sandra Stier, a Berkeley woman suing for the right to marry her partner. Barbeau portrays one of the plaintiffs` witnesses, psychology Professor Letitia Peplau.
Ireland cast himself as another plaintiffs` witness, George Chauncey, a Yale history professor. Veteran character actor Jack Laufer plays plaintiffs` attorney David Boies.
Gregory Itzin, who plays the president in the television series "24," is cast as the star defense witness, David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values.
The filmmakers plan to post a new installment every two or three days and hope to finish by late February, Ireland said. So far, he said, the only feedback from trial participants has been some phone calls from lawyers and witnesses offering tips on how to portray them.
|February 02, 2010
|Sign a petition, disclose your name?
The Supreme Court will decide whether petition signers have a constitutional right to have their names kept secret.
(Los Angeles Times) When a citizen signs a petition to place an initiative on the ballot, is he or she acting as a voter or as a legislator? How the Supreme Court answers that question will determine whether states can make the names of signers public. It`s a close call, but the court should decide in favor of disclosure.
In a sequence of events reminiscent of the battle over California`s Proposition 8, opponents of gay rights in Washington state gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on overturning a generous domestic-partnership law. The initiative failed to pass, but controversy continues about whether the names of those who signed the ballot petitions should be released (and possibly posted on the Internet).
Unlike California, Washington treats petitions as public records accessible to all. But in October, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked release of the 138,500 names after Protect Marriage Washington filed suit, claiming among other things that disclosure would expose signers to scorn and harassment. (Proposition 8 proponents used a similar argument to persuade the Supreme Court to block the televising of the current trial over the constitutionality of that measure.) Now the court has announced that it will decide whether petition signers have a constitutional right to have their names kept secret.
Protect Marriage argues that signing a petition is an exercise of free speech, and that the court has recognized that anonymous political expression is protected by the 1st Amendment. But that principle, announced in a 1995 Ohio case involving anonymous leaflets, had to do with speech, not the legislative process. As Washington`s secretary of state pointed out in a brief to the Supreme Court: "Under the Washington Constitution, the people of the state reserve the legislative powers of initiative and referendum," making them akin to legislators whose names are public.
Some might argue that voting in a referendum is also part of the legislative process. But voting is traditionally a private act. Not so signing a petition, which takes place in public, not behind a curtain. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling in favor of disclosure, noted that "each petition sheet contains spaces for 20 signatures, exposing each signature to view by up to 19 other signers and any number of potential signers." Signatures also are examined by election officials and lawyers.
Finally, the argument that disclosure will bring harm to petition signers is overblown. Like legislators, citizens who sign a petition are potentially subject to harassment. Many political movements -- from the civil rights revolution to the campaign for abortion rights -- have inspired violent opposition. But the remedy for that problem is enforcement of criminal laws, not the withholding of public documents. If a state acts on its commitment to transparency, it shouldn`t be thwarted by a fallacious 1st Amendment argument.
|February 02, 2010
|Bill would let clergy refuse to marry gays
(San Francisco Chronicle) Clergy members and churches would not face legal consequences for refusing to perform same-sex marriages, under a state bill being pushed by supporters of gay marriage.
Same-sex marriage is illegal in California, but that could change with a court decision or at the ballot box. Supporters of same-sex marriage want to alleviate concerns of those with religious objections. They also want to emphasize the separation between civil and religious recognition of marriages.
"We heard through the Prop. 8 debate great concern from certain clergy that their freedom of religion could be infringed upon and their tax-exempt status revoked," said the bill`s author, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. "We want to clarify that by putting the constitutional guarantee of the First Amendment, freedom of religion, into statute."
The bill would apply to any religious objection to performing a marriage, not just between same-sex couples, and states that no clergy member would be required to solemnize a marriage that conflicts with his or her faith. The bill states that refusing to do so "shall not affect the tax-exempt status of any entity."
The threat of churches losing their tax-exempt status for refusing to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies was prominent in the campaign in favor of Prop. 8, the measure that reinstated the ban on those marriages in California.
Backers of the legislation, including the state`s largest gay rights organization, said the bill also will clarify differences between civil and religious marriage. The proposal would place the word "civil" in front of references to marriage.
"There is confusion among many people whether a marriage license is a civil document or a religious document. It`s a civil document, and this is putting that in the code so there is no confusion," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California.
Several religious organizations support the measure, including the California Southern Baptist Convention, which supported Prop. 8. Terry Barone, spokesman for the convention, called it "good legislation."
"That certainly would seem to add protections for a clergy member who, for whatever reason, might be hesitant to perform a marriage ceremony," he said.
The proposal also has the backing of California Church Impact, the advocacy arm of the California Council of Churches, which represents about 6,000 congregations and 6.5 million Californians, according to the organization. That group opposed Prop. 8, even though its members were divided on the issue.
Rick Schlosser, executive director of the advocacy group, called the proposal a "perfect bill" because of its recognition of religious freedom. He acknowledged, however, that religious freedom includes the freedom to treat gay and lesbian couples differently than heterosexuals.
"We very strongly oppose discrimination in any form anywhere, so that is an issue and concern for me. However, because some churches would refuse to perform same-sex marriages doesn`t deny a couple the right of getting married," Schlosser said.
|February 02, 2010
|U.S. Air Force makes way for witchcraft
(WorldNetDaily) On a hill overlooking the Cadet Chapel and Visitor Center of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Tech. Sgt. Robert Longcrier is burning white sage, consecrating a circle of stones that will soon be used by cadets as a place to worship Mother Earth and the Horned God.
According to an official release from the Colorado Springs, Colo., university and air base wing, the chapel is adding this new worship area for followers of Earth-centered religions, including Paganism, Druidism and the form of witchcraft known as Wicca. The official dedication ceremony is tentatively scheduled for March 10.
Longcrier, who became Pagan shortly after arriving at the Academy in 2006, celebrates that the new worship circle represents an increasing level of acceptance of pagan religion:
"When I first arrived here, Earth-centered cadets didn`t have anywhere to call home," he said. "Now, they meet every Monday night, they get to go on retreats and they have a stone circle. ... We have representation on the Cadet Interfaith Council, and I even meet with the chaplains at Peterson Air Force Base once a year to discuss religious climate."
The stone and earth circle is only the latest addition to a collection of worship spaces on the Academy campus, including Protestant Christian, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist sacred spaces.
"Every servicemember is charged with defending freedom for all Americans, and that includes freedom to practice our religion of choice or, for that matter, not to practice any faith at all," says Lt. Col. William Ziegler, Cadet Wing chaplain. "Being in the military isn`t just a job – it`s a calling. We all take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and that means we`ve all sworn to protect one another`s religious liberties. We all put on our uniforms the same way; we`re all Airmen first."
Longcrier had previously established a temporary worship ring in Jacks Valley, a 3,300-acre training complex on the campus that provides the ground for several forms of obstacle and cadet-training courses.
According to the Air Force statement, the stones that now form the inner and outer rings of the new worship circle once sat near the Visitor Center, but the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron moved the rocks to the top of the hill in spring and early summer. Elements of Longcrier`s Jacks Valley ring will also be included in the new worship space.
Longcrier attests that the Academy`s chaplains have supported his efforts in every step of making a space for Pagans to worship:
"There really haven`t been any obstacles for the new circle," he said. "The chaplain`s office has been 100-percent supportive."
Chaplain Ziegler added, "We want to invite the Academy leadership, the Cadet Interfaith Council, the news media and people from every religious background for the dedication ceremony. We want this dedication service to be another example of celebrating the freedom we enjoy as well as the freedom we, as Airmen, have pledged to defend."
|February 02, 2010
|Bishop a convicted criminal over church bells
(WorldNetDaily) Attorneys representing a Christian church leader convicted as a criminal for allowing his church bells to ring say they are hoping appellate decisions will overturn the conviction of Bishop Rick Painter and also strike down the Phoenix regulation under which he was convicted and several other churches now are being threatened.
Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley of the Alliance Defense Fund today argued both cases, and told WND the prosecution of Painter of Christ the King Liturgical Charismatic Church and the threats against other churches including St. Mark Roman Catholic Parish and First Christian Church of Phoenix are unprecedented.
"This case illustrates that no pastor should ever be criminally sentenced for ringing church bells," he said. "This is a huge leap. We are not aware of any historical precedent where someone has been criminally convicted for peacefully exercising his religion. He never should have been convicted for peacefully ringing his church bells."
The cases are separate but related.
The situation developed over the bells at Christ the King, which chimed regularly after 8 a.m. and before 8 p.m. as a way of praising God.
They were measured at 67 decibels while a normal conversation ranges about 60 to 70.
However, Painter was convicted under a Phoenix ordinance that restricts noise levels and includes an exemption for louder sounds from ice cream trucks but not for churches. He was given 10 days in jail, suspended, and three years of probation for his offense. He also was ordered to muffle the bells at his church to no more than 60 decibels for specific brief periods of time.
"Pastors and churches shouldn`t be treated as criminals for expressing their faith the way churches have done for centuries," Stanley said. "Being sentenced to jail and probation for ringing church bells is simply ridiculous, especially when the noise level of the chimes is no louder than what the law allows for ice cream trucks."
Phoenix allows those commercial operations to emit sounds up to 70 decibels at a distance of 50 feet, although no allowances are applied to churches.
Then just months after Painter was convicted of ringing the bells, city officials notified St. Mark`s that the sound of its bells also could produce charges, and the ADF brought a case to pre-empt the city`s noise regulation.
Stanley argued both the civil case in federal court and the appeal in state court of Painter`s conviction today.
The ADF explained that the outcome of the two cases "will determine whether city officials will be allowed to enforce the unconstitutionally vague noise ordinance that punishes churches for engaging in religious expression that has been traditionally practiced by the church for centuries."
In the federal claim by the churches, the city of Phoenix was asking that the case be dismissed. In the criminal case in state court, ADF lawyers were asking that the conviction be abandoned. Neither judge issued an immediate ruling.
But WND reported last month on a series of attacks on Christian churches using noise ordinances. The Christian Legal Centre in the U.K. reported a victory in a battle, although the war remains.
The group said was a "last-minute out of court settlement" that will allow a 600-member church in London to continue its worship.
The Lambeth Council previously had issued a noise abatement notice to the All Nations Centre in Kennington which prevented the church from using any amplification for its worship music and its pastor`s preaching.
No allowance was made for any of the seniors in the congregation, some of whom have hearing difficulties, officials said.
The noise abatement order was issued last fall without warning or discussion, shortly after the church, which has been in the same location for more than 45 years, began to publicize its services in its own neighborhood.
Onn Sein Kon, case manager at the Christian Legal Centre, said the organization has noticed an increasing number of attacks on churches because someone can hear the worship.
"Regrettably, our case load is increasing with councils issuing noise abatement notices as a means of curtailing or closing churches in London," Kon said."What is really going on here is action by secularists to try and restrict Christian freedom and expression in this country."
Andrea Williams, the director of the legal organization, said the real motivation behind such attacks is "hostility to the Christian message."
"The law is being used as a pretext to harass and silence Christian viewpoints not approved by the state," Williams said. "All Nations Church is simply trying to make Christianity relevant to 21st century Britain and it will be a great loss if the church, which is a great benefit to the community, has to curtail its activities and outreach programs."
"The complaint has nothing to do with the noise and everything to do with our faith," said the senior pastor, Abraham Sackey.
The church, with the help of the Christian Legal Centre, fought the order.
"The church believes that the council`s withdrawal is an attempt to conceal what happened and which has been ongoing for some time, not only in Lambeth but nationally. The leaders of the church maintained from the very outset that the notice had nothing to do with noise," Sackey said.
The legal organization said another church, Immanuel House of Worship in London, also has been "silenced" by the government because the sound of its worship drew a complaint from a single Muslim neighbor.
That`s despite the fact the neighbor is living in what used to be a church house adjacent to the church itself.
The church in Walthamstow was targeted by a noise abatement order even though local government officials had tested – and approved – its sound mitigation plan.
Ade Ajike, a church trustee, reported that after a visit from a government environmental health officer, the officer warned, "the church had to keep the noise down so as not to offend the Muslims living in the area."
"He told us `this is a Muslim borough, you have to tread carefully,`" Ajike reported about the 2009 dispute.
The church has since reduced its Sunday worship from four hours to two hours and 30 minutes, of which music is played for only about 45 minutes. Midweek services were changed so that no music was used, and Sunday evening services were reduced to one a month.
The church further eliminated the use of percussion from its worship.
That church`s case continues on appeal.
The Christian organization called Barnabas Aid also is reporting similar tactics are appearing in Africa.
"The government of Senegal has recently launched a campaign to close down a number of churches, on the grounds that their services are too noisy. Congregations that do not own their own premises are being targeted. Several have had their public worship suspended, and others are under threat," the ministry report said.
It reported in Dakar, three churches were closed and some musical instruments were confiscated. In one church the police threatened leaders with arrest if they did not stop holding services of worship and prayer in their sanctuary, the organization reported, because a Muslim neighbor, "unhappy at having Christians worshipping next door to her home," complained to the mayor`s office that the church was making too much noise.
|February 02, 2010
|`Christian community` claim prompts CAIR attack
(WorldNetDaily) The Los Angeles branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says it will complain to the U.S. Justice Department over a California mayor`s claim to be "growing a Christian community."
According to a report in the Antelope Valley Press, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris told a group of 160 people, including many local pastors, last week, "We`re growing a Christian community, and don`t let anybody shy away from that … I need (Lancaster community) standing up and saying we`re a Christian community, and we`re proud of that."
The Greater Los Angeles Area office of CAIR then announced it would file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The group urged California`s "religious and political leaders, particularly Republicans," to speak out in support of "religious diversity."
The controversy follows word that the Council on American-Islamic Relations` Oklahoma chapter wants Sen. James Inhofe, R.-Okla., to meet with Muslim leaders to discuss his call during a congressional hearing to use religion and ethnicity as factors in profiling airline passengers.
"It is disturbing to hear a member of the United States Senate suggest that entire religious and ethnic groups should automatically be considered terror suspects," said CAIR-OK Executive Director Razi Hashmi. "Our nation`s leaders have a duty not to exacerbate the growing anti-Muslim sentiment in American society."
Inhofe`s spokesman didn`t reply to a WND request for comment. But advocates of the senator`s position argue correct profiling would not automatically regard a Muslim as a terror suspect. Rather, it would take a passenger`s religion and ethnicity into account among a variety of factors that, together, comprise a terrorist "profile."
CAIR`s national organization itself has been designated by the Justice Department as an unindicted terrorist conspirator, and the FBI has cut off its once-close ties with the group. CAIR`s terrorist connections also have been exposed in an undercover probe that obtained internal documents confirming it acts as a front in the U.S. for international Muslim groups working to bring Saudi-style Islamic law to the nation.
CAIR two months ago wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to address what it called an "alarming level of anti-Islam hate in our nation." As WND reported, an announcement of the letter cited the impact of the WND Books expose "Muslim Mafia" as an example of "hate." The group said its annual national report on the status of American Muslim civil rights, released in December, showed an increase in bias-related incidents in 2008.
CAIR has claimed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks that Muslims in the U.S. have suffered a sharp rise in anti-Islamic abuse. The group`s 2005 abuse report blamed a purported increase in anti-Muslim harassment, violence and discriminatory treatment on the Internet and talk radio.
But FBI data actually has shown the number of incidents is dramatically shrinking.
The 2006 total of 156, for example, was a 68 percent drop from 2001.
Moreover, incidents against Muslims were just a fraction of overall hate crimes. In 2006, 66 percent of religiously motivated attacks targeted Jews, while just 11 percent were against Muslims, even though the Jewish and Muslim populations are similar in size.
CAIR describes itself as America`s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, aiming to "enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding."
Among the many findings in "Muslim Mafia," however – backed by internal documents obtained in the undercover probe – is CAIR`s behind-the-scenes work to mislead and deceive the FBI on behalf of terrorism suspects and its cultivating of Muslim moles inside law enforcement who have tipped off FBI terror targets.
The book, co-authored by P. David Gaubatz and Paul Sperry, asserts CAIR is acting as a front for a conspiracy of the Muslim Brotherhood – the parent of al-Qaida and Hamas – to infiltrate the U.S. The book`s release caused leaders of the bipartisan Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus to call for multiple federal investigations of CAIR. In response, CAIR has sued "Muslim Mafia" co-author P. David Gaubatz and his son Chris Gaubatz who led the daring six-month undercover penetration of CAIR.
In the new CAIR dispute with Lancaster`s mayor, the organization`s L.A .chapter cited his remarks "promoting a particular faith in his official capacity at an official city event" and said that appeared "to violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution."
"Elected officials should not use public positions to impose their religious beliefs on others," according to CAIR-LA spokesman Hussam Ayloush.
The mayor told the Los Angeles Times he didn`t suggest pushing his religion on anyone, and he will not offer an apology for his statements.
The organization said it was the second episode in Lancaster that should be addressed. Just a few days ago, CAIR-LA said, it sent a letter to Lancaster Councilwoman Sherry Marquez suggesting she meet with Muslims.
The organization accused her of "inflammatory" anti-Islam remarks on a Facebook posting.
CAIR-LA said Marquez described a New York murder trial defendant, a Muslim, with the following: "This is what the Muslim religion is all about – the beheadings, honor killings are just the beginning of what is to come in the USA. We are told this is a small majority [sic] of Muslim`s [sic] in America, but it is truly what they are all about. And they are one of the fastest growing religions in USA. You disrespect/dishonor them or their religion and you should die (they don`t even blink at killing their own wives/daughters, because they are justified by their religion). This is going to become more and more normal."
The mayor also endorsed a city ballot measure that would allow prayers at city meetings, including those invoking the name of Jesus. Parris, who is seeking a second term in April, said, "I do want them voting for that prayer amendment," the newspaper reported.
The Los Angeles Times previously profiled Parris, describing him as more Old West sheriff than diplomat. It noted he wanted to ban dogs known to be favored by gangs and shut down a motel to prevent the notorious Mongols motorcycle club from meeting there.
The paper also described him as ratcheting up public safety, helping merchants kick aside roadblocks for developers and bringing his city`s crime rate down 30 percent and gang crimes down 80 percent.
|February 02, 2010
|State marijuana backers get 700,000 signatures for November
(Daily Bulletin) Backers of a California initiative to legalize marijuana said they would submit far more signatures Thursday than needed to qualify the measure for the November ballot.
Volunteers intended to submit about 700,000 signatures collected across all 58 California counties, campaign spokesman Dan Newman said. The initiative needs about 434,000 signatures from registered voters to make the ballot.
"I think it`s cool. Like the governor (Arnold Schwarzenegger) said, `Lets have a debate.` So let`s have a debate," said Lanny Swerdlow, director of the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project.
The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults. It also would allow limited growing on private property and permit local governments to decide whether to legalize and tax pot sales.
Standing in the way will be a coalition of religious and law enforcement groups that argue marijuana is harmful and an immoral approach to fixing the state`s financial problems.
"We`re going to talk about blood money, about trying to raise taxes on the backs of our youth," said Bishop Ron Allen, a pastor and head of the International Faith Based Coalition, an anti-drug religious group.
Potential revenue from legal pot sales would encourage young people to use the drug, Allen said.
The ballot measure would require jail time for anyone who sells or gives marijuana to children. It also forbids smoking pot in front of minors.
|February 02, 2010
|Hawaii Puts Same-Sex Unions Bill Back in Legislative Closet
(LifeSiteNews.com) Hawaii’s House of Representatives voted to shelve indefinitely a civil unions bill that would give homosexual couples all the rights of marriage, barely a week after the state Senate approved similar legislation.
Friday’s voice vote renders the civil unions bill a dead letter unless two-thirds of the Democratic-controlled House vote to bring the legislation back on their agenda for the rest of the year – a move considered highly unlikely due to election year worries and pressure from pro-family conservatives.
The Honolulu Advertiser reports that although a majority of representatives were prepared to pass the bill, legislators were unwilling to risk any political consequences in the event of a veto from Republican governor Linda Lingle.
The legislation had passed by a veto-proof majority in the Senate, but supporters in the House could only muster a simple majority with state reps feeling the political pressure of pro-family conservatives and an upcoming election. Rather than risk a veto on a controversial issue, legislators nixed the bill without debate or a roll call, thus keeping the vote off the record.
The move infuriated homosexual activists in the statehouse gallery, who shouted "shame," while social conservatives cheered.
According to the Advertiser, several homosexual activists stormed into the office of House Speaker Calvin Say (D-20), and accused him of cowardice for putting off a vote on their agenda. Say contended that the issue was "dividing the community" at a time when Democrats needed to focus on the budget deficit. He told reporters that same-sex "marriage" advocates also bled several legislators in the House that had been supporters, and changed their minds largely due to political pressure.
House Democratic leaders said they were chiefly worried that November might lead to key losses if they lost pro-family voters. Members were feeling the political heat from that bloc: pro-family conservatives had held three separate rallies at the state Capitol to show their opposition to same-sex "marriage," many of them wearing "iVote" pins.
Hawaii`s vote represents the latest political blow for pro-same-sex "marriage" advocates who, despite having a well-funded lobby, have been unable to overcome pro-family voters in traditionally liberal states such as Maine, New York, and New Jersey.
|February 01, 2010
|Burden of proof to overturn Prop. 8 was unmet, backers say as testimony ends
(CNA) The testimony period of the trial of California’s Proposition 8 ended on Wednesday. Backers of the measure claimed that those seeking to overturn it did not meet the burden of proof but had produced a “spectacular show trial of irrelevant evidence.” Opponents claimed it was based in discredited religious beliefs and prejudice comparable to racism.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker said he would review evidence before the closing arguments, which will likely be held in March or April.
Prop. 8, the contested 2008 ballot measure, passed by more than 52 percent of voters and restored the definition of marriage in California as a union of a man and a woman.
Backers of Prop. 8 have said there is a rational, nondiscriminatory basis for the voters’ action. Opponents have contended that a rational basis was unproven and that the measure must pass a higher standard.
They said that homosexual rights are entitled to the standard of legal protection as racial minority rights, claiming that homosexuals lack political power and have been discriminated against on the basis of a characteristic they claim cannot change.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that the U.S. Supreme Court had recognized marriage as a fundamental right and therefore there was no legal reason to deny marriage to homosexuals. They claimed Prop. 8 was a product of anti-homosexual prejudice rooted in long-discredited religious and psychological theories about homosexuality.
"We said on the first day of trial we would prove three things," commended plaintiffs’ lawyer David Boes after the trial testimony ended, cbs5.com reports. "Marriage is a fundamental right; that depriving gays and lesbians the right to marry hurts them and hurts their children; and there was no reason, no societal benefit in not allowing them to get married."
Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Senior Lead Counsel Austin R. Nimocks reported on the ADF website that one of the defense’s witnesses was David Blankenhorn, a liberal Democrat who has historically supported homosexual political causes including domestic partnerships.
However, he believed marriage should be reserved to a union between man and woman.
Blankenhorn’s opposition to overturning Prop. 8 threw “a huge wrench” into the plaintiffs’ case, according to Nimocks.
Andy Pugno, general counsel of Prop. 8 backer ProtectMarriage.com, thought his team did a “remarkable job” in its defense.
He said in a statement that “sensationalism” should not excuse the plaintiffs’ burden of proof.
“Contrary to their public relations claims, the outcome of this case does not depend on whether the Prop 8 sponsors can prove that homosexual marriage will harm traditional marriage. The controlling legal issue is not whether homosexual marriage is good or bad, but rather whether the people have the right to decide what is best,” Pugno argued. “The plaintiffs simply did not carry that burden.”
Nonetheless, he said the defense had shown that the longstanding definition of marriage is rational because marriage “benefits children, not just the adults.” A household with a mother and a father is “best for a child” and marriage between a man and a woman is the only relationship that can “biologically serve that distinct purpose,” Pugno said.
“A same-sex relationship can never offer a child both a mother and father. It`s that simple.”
Pugno claimed the plaintiffs had produced a “spectacular show trial of irrelevant evidence” with assertions that recognizing same-sex “marriage” would increase tax revenues, help homosexual couples accumulate greater wealth, and improve their self-esteem.
He said these were social and political arguments, not legal arguments pertinent to the constitutionality of Prop. 8.
|February 01, 2010
|States Turning to Constitutional Amendments to Ban Mandatory Health Insurance
(CNSNews) Although President Barack Obama`s push for a health care overhaul has stalled, conservative lawmakers in about half the states are forging ahead with constitutional amendments to ban government health insurance mandates.
The proposals would assert a state-based right for people to pay medical bills from their own pocketbooks and prohibit penalties against those who refuse to carry health insurance.
In many states, the proposals began as a backlash to Democratic health care plans pending in Congress. But instead of backing away after a Massachusetts election gave Senate Republicans the filibuster power to halt the health care legislation, many state lawmakers are ramping up their efforts with new enthusiasm.
The moves reflect the continued political potency of the issue for conservatives, who have used it extensively for fundraising and attracting new supporters. The legal impact of any state measures may be questionable because courts generally have held that federal laws trump those in states.
Lawmakers in 34 states have filed or proposed amendments to their state constitutions or statutes rejecting health insurance mandates, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit group that promotes limited government that is helping coordinate the efforts. Many of those proposals are targeted for the November ballot, assuring that health care remains a hot topic as hundreds of federal and state lawmakers face re-election.
Legislative committees in Idaho and Virginia endorsed their measures this past week. Supporters held a rally at the Pennsylvania Capitol. And hearings on the proposed constitutional amendments were held in Georgia and Missouri. The Missouri hearing drew overflow crowds the day after Obama urged federal lawmakers during his State of the Union address to keep pressing to pass a health care bill. The Nebraska Legislature plans a hearing on a measure this coming week.
Supporters of the state measures portray them as a way of defending individual rights and state sovereignty, asserting that the federal government has no authority to tell states and their citizens to buy health insurance.
"I think the alarm bell has been rung," said Clint Bolick, the constitutional litigation director at the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, which helped craft an Arizona amendment on this November`s ballot that has been used as a model in other states.
"These amendments are a way to manifest grass roots opposition" to federal health insurance mandates, Bolick said. "They kind of have a life of their own at this point. So while some of the pressure may be off, I think that this movement has legs."
Separate bills passed by the U.S. House and Senate would impose a penalty on people who don`t have health insurance except in cases of financial hardship. Subsidies would be provided to low-income and middle-income households. The intent of the mandate is to expand the pool of people who are insured and paying premiums and thus offset the increased costs of insuring those with preexisting conditions or other risks.
The federal bills also would require many businesses to pay a penalty if they fail to provide employees health insurance that meets certain standards, though details and exemptions vary between the House and Senate versions.
Obama and Democratic legislative leaders were working to merge the two bills when Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate seat long held by the late Edward M. Kennedy on Jan. 19, leaving Democrats one seat shy of the number needed to break a Republican filibuster.
Since then, the federal legislation has been in limbo. But state lawmakers have not.
"We need to move ahead no matter what kind of maneuvering continues in Washington, D.C.," said Missouri Sen. Jane Cunningham, a Republican from suburban St. Louis.
Since suffering resounding defeats in the 2008 elections, Republicans have seized upon voter unease over the federal health care legislation to help revitalize their fortunes.
A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted the day after the Massachusetts vote found that about 55 percent of respondents -- including a majority of self-described independents -- favored putting the breaks on the current health care legislation. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
State laws or constitutional amendments clearly could bar lawmakers in those states from requiring individuals to purchase health insurance, such as Massachusetts has done. But it`s questionable that such the measures could shield state residents from a federal health insurance requirement.
"They are merely symbolic gestures," said Michael Dorf, a constitutional law professor at Cornell University. "If this Congress were to pass an individual mandate, and if it is constitutional -- which I believe it is -- the express rule under the supremacy clause (of the U.S. Constitution) is that the federal law prevails."
Many Democratic lawmakers are skeptical of both the intent and the effect of the state measures, entitled in many states as the "Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act." Some have derided it as "political theater" or an attempt to merely shape the public debate.
"We need to do something about health care," said Idaho Rep. Phylis King, a Boise Democrat. "And the federal government is trying to do something. It hurts our companies and it hurts our people to be uninsured."
|February 01, 2010
|Senate OKs new debt limit, raised by $1.9T
(Washington Times) Acknowledging that the U.S. must continue to borrow to keep the government open, Senate Democrats on Thursday pushed through a $1.9 trillion increase in the nation`s debt limit.
The vote, along partisan lines, will boost the government`s total borrowing power to a staggering $14.3 trillion.
Just a day after President Obama called on Congress to freeze much non-defense spending in future years, Senate Democrats turned back a bipartisan amendment to the debt-ceiling bill that would limit all future domestic discretionary spending - in both defense and social programs - to 2 percent annual increases. But they did attach pay-as-you-go or "pay-go" rules they said should help Congress members impose some fiscal discipline on themselves.
The overall debt measure passed 60-39, barely achieving the 60-vote supermajority Democrats and Republicans agreed would be needed to advance the measure. All 60 votes in support came from the Democrats` caucus, and the measure succeeded because Sen.-elect Scott Brown from Massachusetts has not yet been sworn in to give Republicans a 41st vote to sustain a filibuster.
It`s the third time since Mr. Obama took office that Democrats have had to raise the debt, and Democrats sought such a large increase so they wouldn`t have to have another politically troublesome vote later this year, closer to congressional elections.
By comparison, the country`s debt stood at $5.7 trillion when President George W. Bush took office, and reached $10.6 trillion when he left eight years later.
The debt increase will now go back to the House, where its path has been aided by the pay-go rules the Senate approved.
"We`re going to bring about in this country something that people can understand. They`re going to understand that we`re going to proceed in this body like they do paying their car payment, their housing payment," said Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.
But Republicans said they doubt spending will be constrained because the new rules are full of holes.
"If they will rename this Swiss-cheese-go, I may vote for it," said Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, drawing a rebuke from Mr. Reid, who said the matter was too serious for joking.
The amendment by Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, and Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, to limit federal spending increases to 2 percent per year failed when it achieved just 56 votes - four short of the 60-vote threshold both sides had agreed on. But in gaining the support of 39 Republicans, 16 Democrats and one independent, backers showed there`s strong support for limits.
Democrats who were opposed bristled at the notion they had rejected Mr. Obama`s spending freeze, saying the amendment they were voting on wasn`t the same. "It took a sledgehammer or an ax to programs like defense that shouldn`t be necessary," Mr. Reid said.
Mr. Obama has proposed a three-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending beginning in fiscal 2011. It would exempt defense, veterans, homeland security and some foreign-affairs spending.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said "drastic action might be necessary" to follow through on that freeze. She said she would support making cuts to defense spending, and pointed to Republicans, such as Sen. John Cain, who have said there is waste that can be cut from the Pentagon budget.
"While we all want to support our men and women in uniform - and I don`t think they should be subjected to the freeze, the men and women in uniform, our national defense and our veterans - I don`t think that we have to protect military contractors," she said.
The new pay-go rules will require that most spending increases or tax cuts be "paid for" elsewhere in the budget by tax increases or cuts to other programs. If the rules are broken, automatic cuts would take effect. The rules would become part of the law, replacing the more-lax chamber rules Congress has imposed on itself, but often waived or evaded when a crunch-time vote came.
Earlier this week, the Senate rejected a bipartisan proposal to create a debt commission, which would have been tasked with proposing a package of reforms to reduce the huge debt level. The proposal would have required Congress to vote on the package as a whole, in theory making it easier to swallow spending cuts and tax increases together.
After that vote failed, Mr. Obama said he would create a commission by executive order to try to recommend solutions. But that panel would not have the force of law to compel Congress to vote on the recommendations.
|February 01, 2010
|Mall to Christians: God talk banned!
(WorldNetDaily) Arguments have moved to the appellate court level in a California case in which a man who talked to two willing strangers in a shopping mall was arrested because the subject of the conversation was God.
The case developed several years ago when a youth pastor was arrested at the Galleria Mall in Roseville, Calif., for having a conversation about religion with two other people.
Matthew Snatchko, who works with youth at his church, was interrupted in the middle of the conversation by a security guard. A second guard joined the confrontation and told Snatchko he was being placed under citizen`s arrest for "trespassing."
The pastor said he agreed to leave but instead, the guards grabbed him, roughly shoved him against a storefront window and handcuffed him tightly enough to draw blood. Snatchko later was taken to the police station where he was booked on charges of battery and trespassing.
A short time later the charges were dropped, but the Pacific Justice Institute decided to pursue a case against the mall over the impact of the policy on free speech.
After a Placer County Superior Court judge in 2008 affirmed the mall`s regulations, an appeal was launched to the 3rd Appellate District in Sacramento, and the briefs have just now been completed for that court`s review.
"It`s surprising that mall owners think they can arrest patrons for engaging in casual conservations," said PJI Staff Attorney Matthew McReynolds. "While a `don`t talk to strangers` rule may be good for kids, enforcing it against adults is absurd, and we think it violates California`s free speech guarantees."
The case is being pursued under the state`s constitutional provision for free speech, which extends protections to private locations, because the First Amendment to the Constitution deals directly with government restrictions.
McReynolds said had the case been argued in federal court, it would have had to focus on the discriminatory nature of the mall`s restrictions.
"Singling out religious speech for punishment violates our most basic principles of free expression," said PJI President Brad Dacus. "If anyone can be arrested for wearing a Christian T-shirt or mentioning God in a shopping mall, we have lost not only our freedom, but our sanity as a society."
PJI affiliate attorney Timothy Smith of the Sacramento firm McKinley & Smith served pro bono as Snatchko`s lead counsel in the trial court and continues to serve as part of the appellate team.
McReynolds told WND the case focuses on the "draconian" limits set by the mall that were used to arrest the youth pastor. While those charges were dropped, the result of that case wasn`t a court-adjudicated precedent that could be used to protect others.
He said while reasonable regulations certainly are allowed, such as volume limits, targeting speech for banishment because of its subject is not.
"What they cannot do and did in this case [is target] political and religious speech," he said. "They originally chose to arrest the youth pastor for striking up a casual conversation. Since then, they`ve dug in their heels and are standing firm in their belief they can do whatever they want."
Oral arguments haven`t been scheduled by the court in the case, and there`s no time frame available yet for when a decision might be reached, McReynolds said.
But PJI`s brief to the court explained the issue.
"The underlying interest of defendants clearly relates to content. While the act of speaking is not generally prohibited, the act of speaking a particular message without a permit is," the brief said. "Defendants argue that if they do not disagree with the message of the speech, and if the applications are accepted on a first come, first selected basis, the regulation is content neutral.
"Even if the defendants determined that the recipients of the speech might be uncomfortable due to the speech, such a basis for restricting plaintiffs speech is not content neutral."
The mall`s regulations, besides disallowing commercial speech and speech about religion or politics, also include an exception for those subjects if a speaker knew the other person previously.
"Under the exemption, the plaintiff would have been allowed to have the same conversation in the same exact place if only he had previously met the people with whom he was speaking," the brief challenged.
"The notion that an individual is not allowed to speak with a stranger about a non-commercial topic without first having their speech examined is preposterous, and is truly silencing in every sense of the word," the brief said.
The mall`s rules require "a submission of the subject matter of the spoken or written speech," the brief continued. "Defendants` licensing process as a whole has a great deal to do with speakers` message. Not only does the application process require an examination of the subject matter, but plaintiff was actually referred to the licensing application process only after the security guard listened to the content of plaintiff`s speech."
Officials with Westfield Group, the corporation that owns the mall, did not respond to a WND message requesting comment.
The company`s website says it entered the U.S. market in 1977 by purchasing a single shopping center and today has 55 centers across the U.S. in key markets such as northern California, Chicago, southern Florida, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, San Diego and Washington.
"The Westfield Group is the world`s largest listed retail property group by equity market capitalization. The Group has interests in and operates a global portfolio of 119 high-quality regional shopping centers in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, valued at more than $62 billion. Westfield works with over 23,600 retailers across more than 10 million square meters of retail space," it boasts.
Pacific Justice said Snatchko originally was confronted during a casual conversation with two other shoppers about faith when a store employee listened to the conversation and alerted mall security guards.
Besides the ban on conversations with strangers about religion or politics, the mall also bans any clothing with religious or political messages.
|February 01, 2010
|Judge Gives Miller 30 Days to Transfer Daughter to Former Lesbian Lover or Face Arrest
(LifeSiteNews) Ex-Lesbian Lisa Miller has been given 30 days to transfer custody of her daughter to her former lesbian partner, or possibly face criminal penalties.
Although Vermont Judge Richard Cohen has so far refused to issue an arrest warrant for Miller, he has set a deadline of February 23rd for the transfer to take place.
If Miller does not appear during that time, Cohen said on January 22, "I will consider all possible sanctions under the law," according to the local Rutland Herald.
Such sanctions could include arrest and imprisonment for up to five years, a punishment that has been repeatedly requested by Miller`s former partner, Janet Jenkins.
Miller disappeared following a December order by Cohen to turn her daughter Isabella over to Jenkins on January 1.
Miller gave birth to Isabella through artificial insemination while in a civil union with Jenkins in 2003. Her daughter has no biological relationship with Jenkins.
Cohen ordered the transfer of custody after several failed attempts to arrange visitations with Jenkins, which were opposed by Miller, who claimed that her daughter was psychologically traumatized by them. Miller has stated that her daughter spoke of wanting to die after returning from one visit, and said that she had been forced to bathe naked with Jenkins. Miller also claims that she was abused by Jenkins during their relationship.
Miller`s Facebook page, as well as the Protect Isabella Coalition page, appear to have been removed from the internet.
|February 01, 2010
|Calif. Quietly Shifts Fruitless Embryo Research Funds to Adult Stem Cells
(LifeSiteNews) California`s Institute for Regenerative Medicine came into being five years ago, fueled by a conviction that the Bush administration`s restriction on embryo-destructive research in the National Institutes of Health was stifling the progress of science.
But after years of fruitless work, the Institute has now quietly diverted funds from embryonic stem cell research (ESCr) to adult stem cell research - which has already produced dozens of treatments and all-out cures for maladies ranging from spinal cord injury, to Alzheimer`s, to type I diabetes.
The California government - which is again teetering on the brink of bankruptcy - in 2004 passed the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, or Proposition 71. The initiative pumped $3 billion into research seeking some medical use for stem cells harvested from human embryos, which are killed in the process.
But an editorial in the Los Angeles-based Investor`s Business Daily magazine January 12 pointed out the abysmal failure of the state`s massive investment in research that has procured no effective treatments to date.
"Five years after a budget-busting $3 billion was allocated to embryonic stem cell research, there have been no cures, no therapies and little progress," notes the IBD editors.
"ESCR has failed to deliver and backers of Prop 71 are admitting failure."
The editors also called out the Institute for dissembling on the real source of progress among stem cell research. "Over the years ... when funding was needed, the phrase `embryonic stem cells` was used. When actual progress was discussed, the word `embryonic` was dropped because ESCR never got out of the lab," they write.
"This is a classic bait-and-switch, an attempt to snatch success from the jaws of failure and take credit for discoveries and advances achieved by research Prop. 71 supporters once cavalierly dismissed."
Although scientists and pro-life advocates have denounced the dead-end science of embryo research for years, the political and ethical furor surrounding embryonic research appears to have obscured the undeniable superiority of adult stem cells` track record. Not only have adult cells already produced dozens of treatments, but embryonic stem cells have been found prone to multiply out of control, causing tumors, and are less easily cultivated into specific types of tissue than their adult counterparts.
Meanwhile, due to advances in induced pluripotent stem cells, adult cells are now capable of transforming into various types of cells – an ability once thought to be held only by embryonic cells.
Dr. Bernadine Healy, the director of the National Institutes of Health under the Bush administration, wrote in a March 2009 U.S. News & World Report column that "embryonic stem cells, once thought to hold the cure for Alzheimer`s, Parkinson`s and diabetes, are obsolete." The same month, however, President Obama reversed the Bush administration ban on taxpayer funding of embryo research, saying that "our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values."
The IBD editors concluded that "it is ESCR researchers who have politicized science and stood in the way of real progress.
"We are pleased to see California researchers beginning to put science in its rightful place."
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