|November 28, 2009
|Initiative would change state`s voting rules
(Daily Bulletin) Petitions will soon be going around in support of changing the voting rules for California`s Legislature, which likely would satisfy Democrats and anger Republicans.
George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley professor, submitted the initiative to change the state Constitution to allow a simple majority in the Senate and Assembly to pass a budget and raise taxes rather than the current requirement to have a two-thirds vote in each house.
Republican lawmakers look at this effort as a way to make raising taxes easier since Democrats make up the majority of the Legislature.
"The real issue is do you want gridlock?" Lakoff said. "This would end gridlock and let the majority pass the budget."
The initiative was submitted to the Secretary of State`s Office and Lakoff can now begin acquiring signatures. He will need to collect the signatures of 694,354 registered voters by April 12 to make it on the November 2010 election ballot.
Signatures have yet to be collected, but a campaign has been organized, Lakoff said.
Currently, a budget and tax increases cannot be passed until two-thirds of the Senate and Assembly are in favor, which Lakoff says has led to California coming under a "minority rule" rather than acting like a democracy.
"I was called in by a group of state senators, Democrat state senators, last spring to try and help them," Lakoff said. "When I asked what their problem was they said, `We have a majority but we have no power."`
two-thirds vote rule is essential in maintaining a balanced approach to forming the budget, as it protects Californians from future tax increases and out-of-control spending, said Assemblyman Bill Emmerson, R-Rancho Cucamonga.
"Without other structural reforms, a simple majority vote will only increase the budget deficit and further hinder our struggling economy," Emmerson said.
A change to a simple majority vote should not be considered unless certain protections were in place, such as a spending cap and a rainy day fund, he said.
"Both of these reforms are crucial to ensuring that Californians do not experience more tax increases, out-of-control spending, and similar budget woes in the future," Emmerson said.
Given that California is governed by a mostly Democratic Legislature and a Republican governor, attaining a two-thirds vote on the budget and tax increases has been difficult, said John Korey, a Cal Poly Pomona political science professor.
To pass a budget, some Republicans have either had to cross the aisle and join the Democrats or keep voting against it until a compromise is met.
"Eventually, they`ve always made some sort of compromise," Korey said. "It`s partially the reason why California doesn`t pass a budget until late into the year, way past deadline."
Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto, said the proposed initiative is just one approach to the problem of passing a budget.
"If 690,000-plus signatures can be gathered by April 12, 2010, to qualify for the November 2010 ballot, then I believe we should leave it up to the citizens of California to decide," Carter said.
Whether or not the initiative would be favored by voters, who in the end have the ultimate say-so, depends on where their ideals are, Korey said.
"If they`re Republican obviously they wouldn`t like that because, particularly if the Democrats win the governorship next year, they`ll be able to do anything they want and Republicans wouldn`t have any way to stop it," Korey said.
One of the biggest problems facing California as well as most other states has been the recession and lack of revenues, Korey said.
"New York is having huge budget problems, but they don`t require a two-thirds vote to pass the budget," Korey said. "They`re still struggling. Most states are."
|November 26, 2009
|"First National Tea Party Convention" Feb. 2010
(CNN) Sarah Palin will be the main attraction at what`s being billed as the "First National Tea Party Convention."
Tea Party Nation announced Wednesday that last year`s Republican vice presidential candidate will serve as keynote speaker for the conference, scheduled to take place in Nashville, Tennessee February 4-6. A representative for Palin has confirmed the former Alaska governor`s speaking role at the gathering.
The group also announced that Rep. Michele Bachmann will be speaking at the gathering as well. The Minnesota Republican has become a hero among many in the conservative movement. A representative for Bachmann confirms her speaking role.
The event could focus the political spotlight on both women. Bachmann has become a rising star, her ascent fueled in part by major support from Tea Party activists. For Palin - currently taking a brief Thanksgiving break from a national tour for her new book, "Going Rogue: An American Life" - serving as headliner at a tea party convention could increase speculation that she is weighing a run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
Judson Phillips, a spokesman for Tea Party Nation, says the group is talking with other high-profile political leaders about possible convention roles, though he wouldn`t name any names.
"(T)he convention is aimed at bringing the Tea Party Movement together from around the nation for the purpose of networking and supporting the movements` multiple organizations (sic) principle goals," according to a statement from the group.
Phillips says the conference will feature workshops, seminars, information centers, and organizational tools for leaders to take back to their respective local tea party organizations. He adds that the Republican Party is not coordinating or organizing with Tea Party Nation in any way.
Phillips says Tea Party Nation was launched in April, just before the first tea parties were held across the country on tax deadline day, and that the group held rallies in Nashville and in other parts of Tennessee on April 15. He added that Tea Party Nation also organized a smaller tea party event in early July, when a second round of events were held around the nation, but did not take part in the two cross-country tea party caravans held the past few months.
A spokesman for the Tea Party Express, which organized those two cross country tea party caravans, says they are not currently involved in the organization of the convention, but that they are supportive of the gathering`s goals.
|November 26, 2009
|N.H. High Court to Hear Case of Girl Ordered Out of Homeschooling
(Christian Post Reporter) The New Hampshire Supreme Court has agreed to take up the case of a Christian girl who was ordered out of homeschooling and into a public school.
Attorneys for 10-year-old Amanda Kurowski argue that the lower court judge overstepped its authority when it determined that it would be in the best interest of the student to explore and examine new things, other than Christianity.
"Courts can settle disputes, but they cannot legitimately order a child into a government-run school on the basis that her religious views need to be mixed with other views. That’s precisely what the lower court admitted it is doing in this case, and that’s where our concern lies,” said Alliance Defense Fund- allied attorney John Anthony Simmons of Hampton.
The daughter of divorced parents, Amanda has been homeschooled by her mother, Brenda Voydatch, since first grade. Her father, Martin Kurowski, is opposed to homeschooling, arguing that it prevents "adequate socialization" for Amanda with other children. He requested that she be placed in a government school.
In the process of renegotiating the terms of a parenting plan for the girl, the Guardian ad Litem – who acts as a fact finder for the court – reported that Amanda was found to "lack some youthful characteristics," partly because "she appeared to reflect her mother`s rigidity on questions of faith."
Ms. Voydatch insisted that she does not push religion on Amanda and said her daughter`s choice to share her religious beliefs is a free choice.
The court, however, determined that "Amanda`s vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to the counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view" and that enrolling her in a public school would expose her to a variety of points of view.
At the same time, the court found the girl to be "well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level."
Nevertheless, Judge Lucinda V. Sadler approved the GAL`s recommendation earlier this summer and ruled that it would be in Amanda`s best interests to attend a public school in the 2009-2010 academic year.
Simmons filed a motion to reconsider and stay the order. But the judge denied the motions and stated that the girl "is at an age when it can be expected that she would benefit from the social interaction and problem solving she will find in public school, and granting a stay would result in a lost opportunity for her."
ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson responded, "We are concerned anytime a court oversteps its bounds to tread on the right of a parent to make sound educational choices, or to discredit the inherent value of the homeschooling option. The lower court effectively determined that it would be a ‘lost opportunity’ if a child’s Christian views are not sifted and challenged in a public school setting. We regard that as a dangerous precedent."
|November 25, 2009
|New European Union President - One Time Pro-Lifer, Devout Christian Now Touting "Global Management of Our Planet"
(LifeSiteNews.com) - After his secret election as the new President of the European Union, many are trying to figure out just where on the political and ideological spectrum Herman Van Rompuy, the little-known prime minister of Belgium, falls.
Van Rompuy is to step down as prime minister so he can take up his new post on January 1, 2010.
While Van Rompuy is rumored to be a devout Catholic, his recent talk of "global management of the planet" has caused some concern in conservative circles. Speaking at his first press conference after his election as President of the European Union, Van Rompuy said: "2009 is also the first year of global governance with the establishment of the G20 in the middle of a financial crisis. The climate conference in Copenhagen is another step toward the global management of our planet."
At the same time, Van Rompuy has a history of support for Christian values and Europe`s Christian identity that, for some, soothes concern. In 2004 Van Rompuy spoke out against Turkey`s entrance into the EU, saying: "An expansion of the EU to include Turkey cannot be considered as just another expansion as in the past. The universal values which are in force in Europe, and which are also fundamental values of Christianity, will lose vigor with the entry of a large Islamic country such as Turkey," he said.
Van Rompuy`s history as a devout Christian who has even written books on the defense of the right to life, could easily lead to great hopes for the future of the EU. However, Paul Belien, editor of the pro-life and pro-family Brussels Journal who knows the new EU President personally begs to differ. Belien warns that "Herman is like Saruman, the wise wizard in Tolkien`s Lord of the Rings, who went over to the other side. He used to care about the things we cared about. But no longer. He has built himself a high tower from where he rules over all of us."
Belien, who met and conversed with Van Rompuy several times in the 1980s, described the EU leader prior to his going over to "the dark side" this way: "Van Rompuy, a conservative Catholic, born in 1947, was active in the youth section of the Flemish Christian-Democrat Party. He wrote books and articles about the importance of traditional values, the role of religion, the protection of the unborn life, the Christian roots of Europe and the need to preserve them."
By 1988, however, Van Rompuy was Leader of the governing Christian Democrats. And in 1990 the Belgian Parliament voted in a very liberal abortion bill. Belien relates that at the time Belgian King Baudouin resigned rather than sign the bill, but was reinstated later by Parliament.
As Belien describes it: "In April 1990, the King did in fact abdicate over the abortion issue, and the Christian-Democrat Party, led by Herman Van Rompuy, who had always prided himself on being a good Catholic, had one of Europe`s most liberal abortion bills signed by the college of ministers, a procedure provided by the Belgian Constitution for situations when there is no King. Then they had the King voted back on the throne the following day."
Belien`s revelations of the King`s brief abdication over the abortion vote were published in the Wall Street Journal, and he was fired from the Belgian newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen under pressure from the government, which was attempting to keep the matter secret.
Belien describes many other political shenanigans engaged in by Van Rompuy after he became the Prime Minister of Belgium. But perhaps the most telling observation left by Belien is that Von Rompuy, "kept publishing intellectual and intelligent books, but instead of defending the concept of the good, he now defended the concept of `the lesser evil.`"
|November 25, 2009
|Post Office bailout on the table
(OneNewsNow) A budget expert at a prominent Washington think tank says instead of bailing out the U.S. Postal Service with taxpayer dollars, Congress should remove the government`s monopoly on first- and third-class mail.
The U.S. Postal Service is estimating that it will lose almost $8 billion in the coming year and deliver 11 billion fewer pieces of mail. That follows the announcement last week that the federal agency had lost $3.8 billion in the most recent fiscal year and delivered 26 billion fewer pieces of mail.
A Postal Service spokesman tells CBS News that the agency currently owes the U.S. Treasury $10.2 billion. Now comes word that Congressman Danny Davis (D-Illinios) is calling for a federal bailout of the Postal Service and elimination of Saturday service.
Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute, says Davis` comments reflect a mentality in Washington that prefers taking other people`s money and throwing it at a problem rather than finding practical solutions.
"You can get rid of Saturday service, or they`ve talked about removing a day from the week. You can give the Postal Service more money through general funds, but that`s not going to fix the underlying problems at the Postal Service," the budget analyst notes. "With technology changing, people use e-mail; they use text messages [and] cell phones. That`s completely undermined the demand for the Postal Service`s business."
DeHaven predicts that because it is burdened by excessive labor costs through a largely unionized work force, and because the current Congress has no interest in undermining union power, the Postal Service will continue to "plod along and lose money."
|November 25, 2009
|Proponents alter immigration legislation in the face of tough economic climate
(The Hill) House Democrats are making changes to their immigration legislation to reflect the nation’s high unemployment rate.
The move comes as recognition that the 10.2 percent jobless rate – which is expected to rise and remain in double-digits for much of 2010 -- has altered the political landscape for an immigration bill.
“Each bill is reflective of a time. And with unemployment over 10 percent I think we need to have language that is very carefully tailored,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).
Some supporters of reforming U.S. immigration laws to provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants acknowledge the tough economic times create a difficult climate for legislation.
“There are some things that will make it harder [than in past years],” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has co-sponsored legislation on immigration with Gutierrez.
“People will look at the unemployment numbers and say; ‘Well, why are we focusing on this?’ So, yeah, I think the hill’s a little steeper.”
The nation’s unemployment rate was 4.5 percent when legislation sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2007 stalemated in the Senate. Michigan, with 7.1 percent unemployment, was the state with the highest jobless rate at the time.
At the end of last month, 22 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and dozens of metropolitan areas had average unemployment rates above 9 percent. Michigan’s rate is above 15 percent. California’s is 12.2 percent.
Gutierrez said he hopes to keep as much of the framework of the 2007 legislation as possible, but some aspects will clearly have to change.
For example, the 2007 legislation created a “New Worker” program as an early step toward earned citizenship, but allowed the Secretary of Labor to reject new worker visas in areas where the unemployment rate rose above 9 percent.
Gutierrez said his latest bill will have to have much higher unemployment thresholds, and he said the dozen of Democrats he has included in an early immigration reform working group are looking at different policy options.
“We believe that every American should always have first crack at every job,” Gutierrez said. “Having said that, where the opportunities exist, we need to sustain our economy. And so we need workers. Even in this very unstable economic situation we find ourselves in, there are still crabs that need to be picked, there are still onions going un-harvested. It’s just true.”
General anxiety over job security likely will continue to drive Republican opposition against House and Senate immigration bills.
“Americans are conditioned to believe that illegal workers are necessary,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an opponent of granting “amnesty” to illegal immigrants, said Thursday at an immigration forum called: “American Jobs in Peril: The Impact of Uncontrolled Immigration.”’
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who announced the forum with King, argues the reforms advocated by Gutierrez would allow illegal immigrants to take jobs that should go to citizens and legal immigrants. Smith and King argue Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was wrong in suggesting last week that the recession has triggered a significant decline in immigration and the best opportunity to enact reform.
“How can they allow 12 million illegal immigrants to take jobs that should go to citizens and legal immigrants?,” he asked in a statement announcing the forum. “And how can they claim that enforcement is ‘done’ when there are more than 400 open miles of border with Mexico, hundreds of thousands of criminal and fugitive aliens and millions of illegal immigrants taking American jobs?”
Flake said the unified GOP resistance to most Democratic priorities, unemployment and the emerging Democratic approach to immigration reform have made bipartisanship unlikely.
“Given what we’ve seen, I’d be surprised [to see a bipartisan bill],” he said.
Gutierrez and other advocates of a guest worker program are still charging ahead with plans for legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for some 12 million undocumented immigrants. They hope to see Congress begin a debate this spring, though this will depend on the Senate taking up legislation.
Gutierrez said he will “design language that guarantees that no American citizen, no one born in the United States of America, will ever lose a job opportunity to someone who is foreign born.”
“That has to be central,” he said.
|November 25, 2009
|Report: Israel, Hamas close to swap deal for Schalit
(OneNewsNow) A Palestinian familiar with the talks says Israel and Hamas are very close to a deal to swap 1,000 Palestinians for an Israeli soldier held for more than three years by the Islamic terrorist group.
Israeli President Shimon Peres confirmed there was progress in the prisoner swap talks, his spokeswoman said Monday.
A senior Hamas delegation led by strongman Mahmoud Zahar and two top members of the group`s armed wing crossed into Egypt from Gaza Monday as Israeli military helicopters hovered overhead.
The Palestinian close to the talks says Egyptian and German mediators hope to complete the deal this weekend. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were ongoing.
|November 25, 2009
|Obama to outline US climate goals at Copenhagen
(OneNewsNow.com) Dousing rampant speculation, President Barack Obama has decided to travel to Copenhagen next month and spell out U.S. goals for curbing greenhouse gas emissions at a widely anticipated, high-stakes global climate summit.
The president will take part in the conference on Dec. 9 before heading to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. In a statement, the White House called Obama`s decision "a sign of his continuing commitment and leadership to find a global solution to the global threat of climate change, and to lay the foundation for a new, sustainable and prosperous clean energy future."
The president will lay out his goals for reducing the United States` carbon dioxide emissions, pledging to cut heat-trapping pollution by about 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.
That target reflects the still-unfinished climate legislation on Capitol Hill.
A House-passed bill would slash heat-trapping pollution somewhere in the range of 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. A Senate bill seeks a 20 percent reduction over the next decade, but that number is likely to come down to win the votes of moderate Democrats.
The European Union has urged the United States, as well as China, to deliver greenhouse gas emission targets at the summit, saying their delays were hindering global efforts to curb climate change.
The conference had originally been intended to produce a new global climate change treaty on limiting emissions of greenhouse gases that would replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. However, hopes for a legally binding agreement have dimmed lately, with leaders saying the summit is more likely to produce a template for future action to cut emissions blamed for global warming.
At least 65 world leaders will attend the summit, but unlike Obama, most are expected to attend the final days of the Dec. 7-18 conference.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, the host and chairman of the talks, said he was "very happy" with Obama`s decision to attend.
"The visit underlines the president`s desire to contribute to an ambitious, global agreement in Copenhagen," said Loekke Rasmussen
Yvo de Boer, U.N. climate treaty chief, told reporters in Bonn Wednesday, "I think it`s critical that President Obama attend the climate change summit in Copenhagen. The world is very much looking to the United States to come forward with an emission reduction target and contribute to financial support to help developing countries."
While Obama himself tried to tamp down expectations during his eight-day trip to Asia earlier this month, he also called on world leaders to come to an agreement that has "immediate operational effect" and is not just a political declaration.
The administration has indicated for nearly a year that it would eventually come up with specific targets for quick reductions in pollution that causes global warming, as part of international negotiations
Several other administration officials will also attend the conference, including Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
This will be Obama`s second trip to Denmark this year. He made short trip to Copenhagen on Oct. 2 to make a vain pitch for 2016 Summer Olympics in Chicago during a meeting of the International Olympic Committee.
|November 25, 2009
|Support for Obama, Democrat Health Care Plan Sink to New Low: Rasmussen
(LifeSiteNews.com) - A Rasmussen poll released Monday revealed support for President Obama`s health care overhaul at an all-time low, with only 38% of respondents favoring the Democrats` plan, and 56% opposed.
The health care numbers were the lowest of the nearly two dozen Rasmussen tracking polls conducted since June, which had not dipped below 41% support. Rasmussen also reports that the survey, which was ongoing during Saturday`s procedural vote on the measure in the Senate, showed a slight decrease in support following the vote.
As in previous polls, stronger feelings reside with those opposed to the health care overhaul: 21% said they "strongly favor" the plan, while 43% consider themselves "strongly opposed."
While voters` concerns appear mostly to rest with the cost of the proposed overhaul, polls dealing with the bills` federal abortion funding have shown the majority consistently and specifically rejecting language any weaker than the Stupak amendment. The Stupak amendment, present in the House version of the bill, fully restores the traditional Hyde-amendment ban on federal funding for most abortions.
The National Right to Life Committee has compiled recent poll results showing broad public opposition to language allowing any government funding for abortion.
In addition, Rasmussen`s daily Presidential Tracking poll Tuesday showed the lowest Approval Index Rating for President Obama`s job performance. Only 27% of American voters said they strongly approved of Obama`s performance, while 42% strongly disapproved, giving Obama an Approval Rating Index of -15.
45% of voters overall say they at least somewhat approve of Obama`s performance, while 54% disapprove.
|November 25, 2009
|Health bill revives abortion groups
(New York Times) Lobbying over abortion was turning into a sleepy business. But the health care debate has brought a new boom, and both sides are exploiting it with fund-raising appeals.
“The reaction has been phenomenal, like a match dropped on dry kindling,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Abortion opponents have been blanketing their supporters with solicitations and alarms since House Democrats laid out their health care proposals three months ago. “The largest expansion of abortion since Roe vs. Wade” warns the Web site for Stop the Abortion Mandate, which directs visitors to sign up with the anti-abortion fund-raising group Susan B. Anthony List.
“It is far and away, in the history of our group, the biggest fulcrum of activism we have ever had,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the group’s president, adding that the 12-year-old organization has seen its contributions rise more than 50 percent from 2007, the last year without a national election.
Among other things, Susan B. Anthony List is using the money for automated phone campaigns in pivotal states and spending more than $130,000 on an advertising campaign aimed at Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, in Nevada, his home state. (The National Right to Life Committee is soliciting donations at stoptheabortionagenda.com.)
Abortion-rights groups got into the act two weeks ago, when the House of Representatives adopted an amendment sponsored by Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan, to block the use of federal subsidies for insurance policies that cover abortion. “Stop Abortion Coverage Ban!” declares an online solicitation Naral Pro-Choice America, warning that “women could lose the right to use their own personal, private funds to purchase an insurance plan with abortion coverage in the new health system.”
`Women are up in arms`
“Stop Stupak!” is the headline of a new online petition that doubles as a fund-raiser for Emily’s List, which raises money for female candidates who support abortion rights. The group’s president, Ellen Malcolm, said in an interview that she had not seen such an outpouring of support since Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services, the 1989 Supreme Court decision that appeared to re-open the question of a right to abortion.
“Women are up in arms,” Ms. Malcolm said, adding that her group had made an exception to its no-lobbying policy to pressure the women it helped elect.
This week the Web site of Cosmopolitan magazine carried a “Secrets and Advice” column with the headline “Are Your Rights in Jeopardy?” that directed readers to a similar “Stop Stupak” Web site from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A third “Stop Stupak” campaign, by a group called the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, has raised more than $23,000 from more than 700 donors since it started Nov. 11, according to its host, the online fund-raising venture ActBlue.
“We have seen money coming in at every level,” said Ms. Richards of Planned Parenthood, which is also patching calls into lawmakers’ offices in several states. “Congressman Stupak managed to crystallize this movement in a way that is hard to replicate.”
Veteran observers of the abortion fight say that each side feels a real threat from the legislation. “It is not like burning your house down to collect the insurance,” said Rachel Laser, of the moderate Democratic group Third Way.
|November 23, 2009
|Senate Puts Off Military Ban on Gays
(NewsMax) A planned November hearing by the US Senate Armed Services Committee to consider ending a ban on gays serving openly in the US military will be postponed, a spokeswoman indicated Friday.
"We do not have a date" for the hearing, said the aide, Tara Andringa.
Committee staff have been working on Afghanistan issues ahead of President Barack Obama`s decision on whether to send more troops, and more recently on the aftermath of the shock rampage at the sprawling Fort Hood military base.
The panel`s chairman, Democratic Senator Carl Levin, had said in late October that it would hold a hearing in November and that he hoped to "to find a way to repeal `Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell,`" as the policy is widely known.
Obama, who has drawn fire from gay rights` groups for not taking steps to freeze or repeal the rule, has said the US Congress is the best venue for undoing the policy, which was crafted in 1993.
About 13,000 US service members have been discharged under the policy since then, and estimated costs through 2003 run at 95.4 million dollars in recruiting costs and 95.1 million in training replacements, according to the US Government Accountability Office.
An overwhelming number of Americans support allowing openly gay men and lesbians to serve in the US military.
The policy requires gays to keep quiet about their sexual orientation or face expulsion.
|November 23, 2009
|International Criminal Court issues are focus of delegation to The Hague
(WorldNetDaily) President Obama has dispatched a delegation this week to The Hague to explore issues involving the United States` possible participation in the International Criminal Court, an organization critics charge could be used to prosecute Americans under international legal standards for actions that are not crimes in the U.S.
Andy Laney of the U.S. State Department confirmed the delegation is comprised of members of the State Department as well as the Defense Department. He said they were dispatched on a weeklong trip because of U.S. concerns over how "aggression" is defined internationally.
"There is an interagency party, half from the State Department, half from the Defense Department, there to engage other delegations on matters of U.S. interest and specifically over our concerns on the definition of the crime of aggression," he said.
Critics, however, warn that they believe former U.S. war crimes prosecutor Ambassador Stephen Rapp is on a trip that involves more than just the definition of a word.
"The Obama administration would like the U.S. to be a party to the court," said Brett Schaefer, an international regulatory expert with the Heritage Foundation.
"The Obama administration would like to establish closer ties with the ICC if it turns out the U.S. can join the court. The objective here is to address the major objections to the U.S. joining the court," he said.
White House officials declined to comment.
The court was introduced to the U.S. when President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute in 1998. But President George W. Bush pulled the U.S. out in 2003 over concerns that the ICC might prosecute American soldiers for war-crime charges coming from the U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The concern was that the ICC doesn`t recognize many of the U.S. Constitution`s provisions protecting defendants in criminal trials, such as the right to a trial by jury and protections against double jeopardy.
"The meeting at The Hague is also in preparation for the Rome Statute`s review in May of 2010," Schaefer said. "Mr. Rapp is there to find out if (the 108) member states are interested in amending the document to address U.S. concerns. Ambassador Rapp is there to learn how substantial the barriers to the U.S. joining the court actually are."
Laney admitted it was a change in U.S. direction that prompted the trip.
"The decision to send Ambassador Rapp reflects the commitment of this administration to engage the international community on issues that affect our foreign policy interests," Laney said.
"Ambassador Rapp says he wants the U.S. to join the ICC. Since coming into office, President Obama says he wants the U.S. to join and Secretary of State Clinton says it`s unfortunate that the U.S. is not a part of the ICC," Schaefer said.
"The previous administration in its early years sought to amend the treaty to alleviate U.S. concerns ... the treaty would intrude on U.S. policy and its obligations overseas," Schaefer said. "That effort failed. So, the Bush Administration in 2003 sent a letter to the Secretary General of the U.N. saying it no longer considered itself bound to the jurisdiction of the ICC."
Schaefer said the process as it now is set up presents dangers.
"Israel took action in Gaza earlier this year to attack Hamas and knock out the Hamas rocket launchers in the Gaza Strip," he said. "Israel took enormous cautionary measures to prevent civilian casualties. Even though Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not signatory members of the ICC, the ICC is still investigating the Israeli military to see if they can prosecute members of the Israeli Army for war crimes."
Mathew Staver, lead attorney for Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University Law School, said U.S. membership in the ICC would be a mistake.
"This administration is globalist and transnationalist and wants to bring this country into the global system. The U.S. stands to have its citizens being prosecuted by the international court in The Hague and have its citizens come under the world court`s jurisdiction," he said.
Schaefer confirmed Staver`s fears.
"Supposing the U.S. engages in a military action and that action results in civilian casualties. We do an investigation of the matter and find no guilty party. If we are a member of the court, if we are a party to the Rome Statute, the ICC at that point has the opportunity to second-guess us," he said. "They may be able to use evidence and they may be able to pursue routes of trial that would not be portable in the U.S. because of the different standards established in the U.S. legal system and the rules set forth in the Rome Statute."
His warning is that the ICC could, "in essence … come and prosecute U.S. citizens, U.S. soldiers, U.S. officials for actions the U.S. deems entirely lawful."
He believes the Obama White House will begin the push for ratification after the May 2010 review of the treaty.
"After the May review is when I believe the administration will seek to go to Congress to make the changes in our system necessary that will allow us to participate in the ICC," he said.
Staver said Americans should be worried.
"Everything anyone has ever heard about the globalist system is being promoted by this administration," he said. "President Obama definitely wants the U.S. to be a part of a transnational, global system."
WND columnist David Limbaugh has raised similar concerns.
"Transnationalists," he wrote, "believe that American judges, in interpreting our Constitution, can resort to this `community of reason` (foreign laws) to choose between two `plausible` legal positions."
It is the global community, he wrote, that such transnationalists "look to" to determine standards.
In his book, "Global Deception," author Joseph Klein warns that the International Criminal Court is just one building block of a "brave new world" already under way.
He said the court would have "secret proceedings that would make terrorist trials look open by comparison" and suggested the plan is for them to "take precedence over the U.S. judicial system."
|November 21, 2009
|Conservative Christians issue declaration, warning.
Conservative Christian leaders are releasing a declaration and warning today on what they`re calling "moral issues of great concern."
Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, helped draft the Manhattan Declaration, which affirms the sanctity of human life, marriage as the union of one man and one woman, religious liberty, and freedom of conscience. Where those values are threatened, the document endorses civil disobedience under some circumstances.
Organizers of today`s official release say the Manhattan Declaration sends "a clear and strong call to Christians" and "a warning to civil authorities."
They say it`s been signed by more than 125 evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian leaders.
CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE MANHATTAN DECLARATION.
|November 21, 2009
|Evangelicals Give Away 170,000 Copies of Darwin’s Book With ‘Special Introduction’ to College Students
(CNSNews.com) – About 1,200 Christian activists mobilized on college campuses nationwide on Wednesday to give away 170,000 copies of Charles Darwin’s On theOrigin of Species, the classic text on evolution. The book, however, contains a ‘Special Introduction’ by evangelist Ray Comfort that argues against Darwin’s theory and presents a creationist alternative to man’s origins and nature’s growth.
The free book-giveaway has angered a number of atheists and prompted evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, a former Oxford University and University of California professor and one of the leading spokesmen for atheism and evolution, to encourage people to “just rip out” the 50-page introduction.
“Presumably, the people in universities are capable of seeing through that kind of thing and I imagine they would be rather flattered to be given a free copy of the Origin of Species,” said Dawkins in late September, when asked about the then-pending giveaway. “Just rip out the 50 pages … and use the pages for the purpose they’re best suited.”
In response to Dawkins remarks, evangelist Ray Comfort said on his Web site: “It seems very strange that Professor Dawkins would say that my Introduction didn’t worry him at all, and in the next breath tell university students to rip it out. If, I am, as he says, an ‘ignorant fool,’ then what I have written will be nothing but ignorance and foolishness. So why is he so concerned? I think the man protesteth too much.”
November 24 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. Because the book is more than 100 years old, it is in the public domain, which means any publisher can put out an edition of the book.
“When I discovered that On the Origin of Species was public domain, I decided to publish it myself with a special Introduction, to give an alternative perspective, and give away free copies to university students,” said Comfort. “But when Kirk Cameron and I produced a short video-clip explaining what I wanted to do -- and posted it online -- we were very surprised at the reaction. We kicked a hornet’s nest. A big one.”
UCLA student rips out Special Introduction to "Origin of Species." (Photo courtesy of Livingwaters.com)
An online Google search on the topic returns 16,600 postings, and a search on YouTube pulls up 151 video reports and video responses to the book giveaway. Many of the postings – online text or video – are on atheist Web sites, as well as media outlets such as U.S. News & World Report, the Los Angeles Times, Scientific American and Discover magazine.
In his “Special Introduction,” Comfort presents several scientific facts and arguments that contradict the theory of evolution (the gradual development of species through mutation and natural selection over millions of years). He also documents how Darwin’s theory has been applied by some racists and eugenicists, such as Adolf Hitler, as well as materialistic atheists to justify their beliefs.
Comfort shows that while Darwin’s theory of evolution suggests that man evolved from early primates and is, as a scientific fact, genetically very similar to the chimpanzee, for example, there is no “missing link” fossil proving the transitional connection between man and ape. This is the case despite more than 100 years of scientific research to find the link, says Comfort.
He quotes the famous anthropologist Richard Leakey, “If pressed about man’s ancestry, I would have to unequivocally say that all we have is a huge question mark. To date, there has been nothing found to truthfully purport as a transitional species to man, including Lucy [fossil]. … If further pressed, I would have to state that there is more evidence to suggest an abrupt arrival of man rather than a gradual process of evolving.”
Comfort also quotes Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould as follows: “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils. … All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are characteristically abrupt.”
Actor Kirk Cameron with UCLA students who accepted free copies of Charles Darwin`s "Origin of Species." (Photo courtesy of Livingwaters.com)
In the latter part of the “Special Introduction” Comfort presents his evangelical Christian case for the origin of man and nature, and calls on people to reflect on death and the justice of God and their own possible need to convert to Christianity.
The free editions of On the Origin of Species were given to students at 50 college campuses, including Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Duke, Georgetown and the University of California. Copies of the book will also be distributed for free at 21 colleges in Canada on Nov. 24.
When asked whether he was defacing Darwin’s classic book, Comfort said on his Web site: “We have published his entire book. Nothing has been removed. The book that we will be giving to students is the complete edition. Charles Darwin said that both perspectives should be given, and we are giving both in a 50-page Introduction. Like Darwin, we want people to read the two points of view and make up their own minds."
|November 21, 2009
|Coca-Cola leads cheering section for one-world climate change taxes
(WorldNetDaily) Coca-Cola is spearheading a coalition of more than 100 companies pushing a United Nations climate treaty to bind the U.S. to cap-and-trade emissions regulation, commit the world`s wealthiest nations to a potential $10 trillion in foreign aid and, possibly, form a proposed international "super-grid" for regulating and distributing electric power worldwide.
Together with the SAP and Siemens corporations, Coca-Cola launched a website called Hopenhagen, leading up to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, which opens on Dec. 7. The website invites the citizens of the world to sign a petition demanding world leaders draft binding agreements on climate change and advertises, as of today, "16 days left to seal the deal."
Other "friends" of Hopenhagen include media outlets
Newsweek, Discovery Channel, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, The Wall Street Journal and Clear Channel, among others, Internet giants Yahoo, Google and AOL and dozens of other companies and organizations.
As WND reported, however, Lord Christopher Monckton, a former science adviser to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, asserts the real purpose of the U.N.`s meeting in Copenhagen is to use concern over "global warming" as a pretext to lay the foundation for a one-world government.
He has warned the proposed Copenhagen agreement would cede U.S. sovereignty, mandate a massive wealth transfer from the United States to pay reparations for "climate debt" to Third World countries and create a new "world government" to enforce the treaty`s provisions.
And even if Monckton is merely fanning the flames of fear in those suspicious of the U.N., Coca-Cola`s "Hopenhagen" project isn`t doing anything to put out the fire:
"We`re all citizens of Hopenhagen," boasts the website, adding, "Hopenhagen: Population 6.8 billion."
"Sign the Climate Petition and become a citizen of Hopenhagen," the website encourages.
Specifically, the petition states:
"We the peoples of the world urge political leaders to:
- "Seal the Deal at COP 15 on a climate agreement that is definitive, equitable and effective
- "Set binding targets to cut greenhouse gases by 2020
- "Establish a framework that will bolster the climate resilience of vulnerable countries and protect lives and livelihoods
- "Support developing countries` adaptation efforts and secure climate justice for all."
"We also believe that anything is possible if we work together," states Coca-Cola on the Hopenhagen site. "That`s why we`re collaborating with governments, NGOs, other businesses and our consumers, to help tackle global challenges like climate change."
A closer look at the "deal" Hopenhagen is hoping to "seal," however, reveals a call to unprecedented levels of international regulation and wealth redistribution and includes many of the measures Monckton decries as an effort to "impose a communist world government on the world."
Click here for more info
|November 19, 2009
|Drive begins to reverse Calif. Prop 8
(BP) Supporters of "gay marriage" in California began collecting signatures Nov. 16 for a proposed constitutional amendment that would ask voters next year to overturn Proposition 8.
If successful, California would become the first state where voters approve the redefinition of marriage.
The drive is being organized by the group Love Honor Cherish, which must collect nearly 700,000 valid signatures by mid-April to qualify the amendment for the ballot. The group, through, is aiming for 1 million signatures in light of the fact that petition drives nearly always result in thousands of invalid petitions. The amendment would appear on the November 2010 ballot.
The amendment would strike the Prop 8 language from the state constitution -- "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California" -- and replace it with the following: "Marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion."
Love Honor Cherish began collecting signatures the same day the California secretary of state`s office approved the ballot language. The group faces long odds, particularly since it says it will avoid using paid signature gatherers -- something that Prop 8 supporters used and which nearly every successful constitutional amendment campaign in the state has used, The Sacramento Bee reported. Love Honor Cherish hopes to gather the signatures through social networking sites and through its website, SignforEquality.com. Petitions must be downloaded and mailed.
The drive is beginning at a time when homosexual activist groups in the state are divided. For instance, Equality California -- a major supporter of "gay marriage" -- is not backing the petition drive and instead is aiming for 2012 or later for its own petition drive.
Proposition 8 passed in 2008, 52-48 percent. It reversed a California Supreme Court ruling that had legalized "gay marriage."
|November 19, 2009
|City vote opens women`s restroom doors to men
But people have chance to speak before `gender identity` move becomes law
(WorldNetDaily) The city council of Tampa, Fla., voted unanimously last week to include "gender identity and expression" as a protected class under the city`s human rights ordinance, leading some to fear the council has opened the city`s public bathroom doors to sexual predators masquerading as protected transsexuals.
A statement from the American Family Association explained, "Tampa Police arrested Robert Johnson in February 2008 for hanging out in the locker room–restroom area at Lifestyle Fitness and watching women in an undressed state. The City of Tampa`s `gender identity` ordinance could provide a legal defense to future cases like this if the accused claims that his gender is female."
The council`s decision, which won`t be codified as law until a final vote is taken Thursday night, defines gender identity and expression as "gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual`s assigned sex at birth."
The city`s current ordinance forbids discrimination on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, handicap, familial status or marital status mostly in areas of labor and employment.
But the section that makes it illegal to "segregate any person at a place of public accommodation, or to segregate any person in regards to … facilities" leads some to worry about the consequences of forbidding discrimination "regardless of the individual`s sex at birth."
"This ordinance will give lawful protection to cross-dressing males to patronize women`s restrooms," the Florida Family Association said in a statement. "And men dressed as women or women who perceive themselves as men can also use men`s restrooms."
City Attorney Chip Fletcher told The Tampa Tribune the changes are not meant to protect the occasional cross-dresser, but individuals who are undergoing sexual reassignment surgery.
"This is intended to address people who are dealing with gender identity," he said.
Nonetheless, the council`s decision has sparked a public outcry.
The American Family Association has created a contact page, where concerned Americans can, with one form, send out emails objecting to the ordinance change to Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and all seven council members at once.
"We`re trying to mobilize people to stand in opposition to what is a bad law," said Terry Kemple, president of the Community Issues Council, in a St. Petersburg Times report. "It discriminates against Christians and provides special privileges for people based on sexually aberrant behavior."
On the flip side, Zeke Fread, director of Pride Tampa Bay, says his group plans to organize supporters of the change to rally at Thursday`s council meeting.
"Now that Kemple sent out his alert to his people, we`re mobilizing furiously," Fread said.
The gender identity ordinance makes exception for religious organizations, nonprofits and parochial schools, but does not exempt private businesses, public restrooms, public schools or nonreligious day-care centers.
Therefore, the AFA pointed out, the issue moves beyond just public restrooms.
"The gender identity ordinance also provides legal protection for transgenders to teach schoolchildren one day as a man and another day as a woman," AFA President Tim Wildmon wrote in an e-mail. "Unfortunately, the ordinance does not attempt to qualify who really is a transgender and who is not. That is left up to the individual to determine what his `gender identity` is that day."
WND reported on a similar plan adopted by fiat in Montgomery County, Md., where opponents feared the law would open up women`s locker rooms to men who say they are women.
The issue also has come up in Colorado, where Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law a plan that effectively strikes gender-specific restrooms across the state.
And city officials in Kalamazoo, Mich., only weeks after adopting a "perceived gender" bias plan have abandoned it in the face of massive public opposition.
|November 19, 2009
|Block the signal: Prisons battle contraband cell phones
(Capitol Weekly) High tech cell phones have become the contraband of choice for inmates in California prisons, with 4,858 discovered in 2009.
This year the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sponsored state legislation (Senate Bill 434) to create a criminal penalty for contraband cell phone smuggling in state prisons. Unfortunately, even though the bill had strong bipartisan support, the California State Assembly failed to pass the bill to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature. Governor Schwarzenegger is fully aware of the danger posed by cell phones in the hands of inmates and supports our efforts to combat prison contraband.
Without penalties for smuggling, however, more and more cell phones will find their way into prisons. Even worse, federal regulations currently prohibit states from using available technology to block cell phone signals in prisons. I urge our elected officials to vote for the Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009, authored by U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (S. 251).
Our agency is now faced with the reality of incarcerated felons having unfettered communication with their criminal enterprises outside, sharing information from prison to prison and jeopardizing the safety of our staff, victims and the community.
Sophisticated smart phones have made their way into the hands of inmates. These phones are capable of capturing photographs and video and sending text messages. Inmates can access the Internet to gather personal information on victims and staff. Child molesters can download pornographic images of children. In addition, cell phones have been used in the past to coordinate terrorist activities and threaten government officials. This poses a severe security breach for prisons nationwide and is a threat to public safety.
The incentive is huge. Selling contraband cell phones can bring quick cash. Inmates then "broker" the telephones and charge other inmates for calls. Don`t be fooled. Calls are not made by inmates to keep in contact with their family members; there are traditional phone lines in prison available for that purpose. Smuggled phones are used to coordinate drug deals, stay connected with other gang members both inside and outside prison and commit just about any other crime imaginable.
This is a growing problem. Confiscated phones are piling up. Even with our added interdiction efforts, there appears to be no end in sight. In September, staff at Avenal State Prison in California`s Central Valley intercepted two bags containing a total of 217 pouches of tobacco, 91 cell phones, 34 DVD movies, five ear buds and one blue tooth device. The estimated black-market prison value of this delivery alone is roughly $48,000.
The Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009 will stem this tide by taking the signal, and thus the incentive, away from inmates. It will increase safety and security for all prisons nationwide and cut down on contraband smuggling: already this year 4,858 contraband cellular phones have been confiscated in California prisons, up from 1,400 in 2007.
Enough is enough. Inmates use 21st century technology to their advantage in furthering their criminal activities while the Federal Communications Commission requires the prison system to remain in the dark ages. It is time to allow correctional agencies to block the signal for public safety`s sake.
|November 19, 2009
|California needs $20.7 billion more to balance next budget
(SacBee.com) California once again will look under sofa cushions and scour every sector of state government to find another $20.7 billion to balance its budget over the next 19 months.
This time, however, state leaders won`t be able to reap savings from some of the state`s largest spending categories.
California can`t touch most funding for K-12 schools or colleges because the state already is spending close to a minimum amount required by the federal government. The state can`t cut Medi-Cal until January 2011 for the same reason. Those programs make up more than half the state`s $84.6 billion general fund budget.
"We cannot reduce those areas very much more, so that closes off a very big piece of your budget," said nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor, who released his $20.7 billion deficit projection Wednesday.
The news brings relief to education groups, but it puts more pressure on other programs that lack federal spending requirements. State leaders likely will pursue additional cuts in prisons, state parks and social service programs not associated with federal spending requirements or matching funds.
The legislative analyst`s report assumes that three-a-month state worker furloughs would end in June. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could seek to extend them further, pending the outcome of court challenges.
Another target could be Healthy Families, the low-cost children`s health insurance program. Schwarzenegger once proposed eliminating Healthy Families and did cut its funding this summer, although he and lawmakers restored coverage for 600,000 low- and middle-income children in September.
"I think we`ve exhausted cuts that don`t shock the conscience," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California. "We need to look to other solutions, including raising taxes and revenues, because the cuts that are left are unforgivable, including denying children coverage."
California faces a new shortfall in part because lawmakers and Schwarzenegger relied on several risky solutions in budget agreements earlier this year.
They include a $1 billion partial sale of the State Compensation Insurance Fund, now under legal challenge by Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. They also include $800 million in transit money that courts said the state could not use for general purposes.
The $20.7 billion gap could grow even larger if courts toss out a $1.7 billion shift of redevelopment funds that faces review, or deem furloughs illegal.
Another reason for the looming deficit is that lawmakers relied on one-time savings, such as delaying state worker paychecks by one day from June 30 to July 1. State leaders likely will search for similar solutions to help solve the next gap.
Taylor recommended Wednesday that state lawmakers move quickly and consider not only cuts but any possible revenue sources. He specifically warned against increasing tax rates, which could further stress the economy.
Taylor suggested the state could consider ending certain tax breaks for businesses by mandating that all multi-state firms use the same method to calculate their California taxes or eliminating enterprise zones, which provide tax credits to employers in specified areas. He said benefits of the latter program are questionable.
But Michael Shaw, California legislative director with the National Federation of Independent Business, said curtailing business incentives would hurt the state`s economic recovery.
"Additional tax increases are going to take more money out of Californians and small business owners in particular," he said. "At best it would prolong our economic recession and at worst lead to longer-term job losses."
Democrats are likely to revisit ideas from last year, such as a tax on oil production in California. Schwarzenegger again may seek to allow oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara in exchange for royalties.
But after signing several temporary tax hikes in February, the governor said Wednesday in Milan, Italy, that he doesn`t want to consider any new tax increases, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
"I think it`s important not to raise revenues, not to raise taxes," he said. "We have to live within our means."
Taylor recommended that the state lobby for a new round of federal relief to help plug its budget hole.
He also suggested lawmakers could return to the ballot to take tax money dedicated now for mental health services, First Five early childhood development and after-school programs.
Voters rejected measures in May that would have taken money from the first two.
|November 19, 2009
|Darwin Was Wrong, Scientists Argue
(Christian Post) Darwin was wrong, a group of scientists argued at a conference in southern California.
Scientists presented evidence over the weekend refuting Charles Darwin`s theory of evolution on many levels – including fossil record, natural selection and the origin of man – and his works in geology and other science areas.
"Natural selection happens but it does not do what Darwin needed it to do," said geneticist Dr. John Sanford. "Darwin built a worldview that has come to be the governing paradigm of the intellectual community; that worldview is now collapsing in the face of new advances in science."
Sanford was among a number of scientists who spoke at the "Darwin Was Wrong" conference at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Nov. 13-14. The two-day event, organized by Logos Research Associates, Inc., was held to mark the 150th anniversary of Darwin`s Origin of Species, which people around the world have been celebrating this year.
"It is amazing to me that in this ‘year of Darwin,’ the whole world is bowing down to this man even while modern science is proving him wrong on all fronts," said Sanford.
On one front, Darwin was wrong about the origin of man, Dr. Robert Carter argued Saturday.
Carter refuted Darwin`s three main arguments, as laid out in Descent of Man, of homology (similar features shared among similar species), embryonic recapitulation (embryo goes through evolutionary stages), and vestigial organs (organs that have no apparent nor predictable function).
He further asserted that Darwin was a "brilliant writer" but not such a great scientist.
"Darwin`s greatest gift is not as a scientist; it`s as a wordsmith," Carter maintained.
The Atlanta, Ga., scientist, who serves at Creation Ministries International, also shot down the discoveries of "Lucy," "Ida," and "Ardi" as possible missing links between apes and humans.
Some evolutionists say Lucy was actually a man, citing the shape of the pelvis, Carter pointed out.
"So if they misclassified her as a female do we know if she walked upright or not?" Carter posed, noting that evolutionists conclude from the pelvic bones that Lucy walked upright.
With questions being raised, Carter believes evolutionists are pushing Lucy off to the side and "preparing her to go away."
"They never remove one of these ancestors until they have a replacement," he noted.
Last spring the bones of "Ida" were revealed. She was a lemur-like creature that was labeled as another missing link between apes and non-apes, said Carter. But when the fanfare and media hype died down, scientists realized the skeleton was just a lemur, he pointed out.
More recently, the media has been all over "Ardi," which has been touted by some as the earliest known human ancestor of modern-day man and by far the most complete among those of the earliest specimens found. But Ardi was actually discovered nearly two decades ago.
"Why the media blitz now?" Carter, who didn`t grow up a young earth creationist, asked. "I think because they`re trying to find a replacement ... to put more missing links in the chain."
So what`s left? "Not much," he maintained.
In addition to shooting down evolutionary arguments, Carter offered a "replacement" on the origin of man, using the Bible. The Bible records three historical biblical “main events” that would have left an indelible mark on our genetic makeup: Creation, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. Research in modern genetics underlines the reality of these events, he offered.
Other arguments presented over the weekend included "Darwin was wrong about science," "Darwin was wrong about God" and Darwin was wrong about the disastrous social and moral consequences of his ideas.
The conference was designed to present scientific evidence highlighting Darwin`s mistakes and also to equip Christians with such knowledge.
|November 19, 2009
|New ‘Dismay’ Over Israeli Housing Construction Underscores Deep Differences Over Jerusalem
(CNSNews.com) – A decision by an Israeli planning body to approve the construction of 900 housing units in a part of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians is threatening a new rift with Washington and prompting the Israeli government to reiterate its position on the city it claims as its “eternal, undivided” capital.
The White House and State Department called the move “dismaying,” while Britain and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also joined the criticism.
Israeli bureaucrats on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for building the new housing in Gilo, a suburb in southern Jerusalem first established in 1971. Gilo is located inside the city limits and today is home to 40,000 people. The U.N. and some media organizations refer to Gilo as a “settlement” because it is located on territory controlled by Jordan before Israel captured it during the 1967 Six Day War.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office in a statement described the decision as a routine one made by the regional planning commission. He said such decisions within the municipal boundaries of Israeli cities do not reach the prime minister’s office.
“The Gilo neighborhood is an integral part of Jerusalem,” the statement added. “There is a broad national agreement on this matter. The construction in Gilo has been going on for decades, and there is nothing new in the current planning and construction procedures.”
An Israeli newspaper said U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell had asked a Netanyahu aide during a meeting in London Monday to block the planned construction and had been turned down, but State Department spokesman Ian Kelly declined to confirm this.
In White House reaction, press secretary Robert Gibbs Tuesday said the administration was “dismayed.”
“At a time when we are working to re-launch negotiations, these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed,” he said. “Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally pre-empt, or appear to pre-empt, negotiations.”
Gibbs said the U.S. position on Jerusalem was that it was one of the “permanent status” issues that must be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiation (other “permanent status” issues identified in the Oslo peace accords include Jerusalem, the future of Palestinian refugees, and future borders.)
Palestinian Authority foreign minister Riyad al-Malki said the decision was yet another step “intended to prevent the Palestinian state from happening.”
The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, issued a statement calling the U.S. stance discriminatory.
“Israeli law does not discriminate between Arabs and Jews, or between east and west of the city,” he said. “The demand to cease construction just for Jews is illegal, also in the U.S. and any other enlightened place in the world.
“It is inconceivable that the U.S. government would demand a construction freeze in the U.S. based on race, religion or sex, and the attempt to demand this from Jerusalem constitutes a double standard and is unacceptable,” Barkat said.
Suburb or settlement?
While rejecting attempts by the Obama administration to have him declare a complete freeze on settlement activity, Netanyahu has agreed not to build any new settlements in the disputed West Bank, not to expropriate any land to expand the boundaries of existing settlements, and to “adopt a policy of restraint on the existing settlements, but also one that would still enable normal life for the residents who are living there.”
But Netanyahu also has stressed that his government, like its predecessors, does not regard Israel’s capital as a “settlement.”
The issue came to the fore in July, when the State Department called in the Israeli ambassador to warn against a plan to allow the building of a small apartment building on a piece of privately-owned land elsewhere in Jerusalem.
Israeli media at the time reported that Netanyahu had expressed surprise at the U.S. stance, since he had made it clear to President Obama during their first meeting in Washington in May that “Jerusalem is not a settlement, and it has nothing to do with discussions on a freeze.”
The new row over housing permits comes at a time when P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been threatening not to run for re-election, unhappy that the U.S. government is not putting more pressure on Israel over settlements.
The P.A. leader in recent months has refused to return to peace negotiations, insisting as a precondition that Israel first announce a settlement freeze.
During a visit to Jerusalem at the end of October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered Palestinian leaders by saying that Netanyahu’s agreement to curtail settlement construction – an agreement that fell short of Obama’s desire for a complete freeze – amounted to an “unprecedented” concession by Israel.
Clinton also agreed with Netanyahu that, ever since the launching of the Oslo process in 1993, an Israeli settlement freeze has never been a precondition for a resumption of talks.
Abbas is blaming Israel – and now the U.S. too – for the impasse; Netanyahu says he is ready to return to talks now, but without a newly-raised precondition.
“This is a new thing,” Netanyahu said during a joint press conference with Clinton, referring to Abbas’ settlement demand.
“Now, it’s true that you can take a new thing and you can repeat it ad nauseum for a few weeks and a few months, and it becomes something that is obvious and has been there all the time,” he added. “[But] it’s not been there all the time.”
“What the prime minister is saying is historically accurate,” Clinton said moments later. “There has never been a precondition. It’s always been an issue within the negotiations.”
‘Move the embassy’
Israel annexed the eastern part of Jerusalem after capturing it during the 1967 Six Day War, before which it those areas were occupied by Jordan for 19 years.
Israel says its claim to Jerusalem is “eternal,” going back 3,000 years to the reign of King David from the city. The Palestinians want to establish the capital of a future independent state in Jerusalem, whose importance to Muslims is derived from the belief that Mohammed visited it during his “night journey” from Mecca to heaven.
The dispute over the city – and especially the Old City site where significant mosques are located at the place once occupied by the ancient Jewish Temples – is arguably the region’s thorniest issue.
Successive U.S. administrations have held the view that the future of Jerusalem should be a matter for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate.
Like those of other countries, the American Embassy in Israel is located in Tel Aviv – a political decision reflecting the ongoing disagreement over control of Jerusalem.
The U.S. Congress in 1995 passed a law stating that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.”
But a waiver was built in and Presidents Clinton, Bush and Normal 0 Obama all exercised it for consecutive six-monthly periods, citing national security interests.
A group of senators is now supporting new legislation that would move the embassy to Israel’s capital but also remove the waiver.
“The United States maintains its embassy in the functioning capital of every country except in the case of our democratic friend and strategic ally, the State of Israel,” the text reads.
The measure, introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Ks.) and co-sponsored by five other Republicans and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, was referred to the Foreign Relations Committee on Nov. 5.
Presidential candidates from both parties, including in recent years George W. Bush, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, said while campaigning that they supported relocating the embassy to Jerusalem.
|November 19, 2009
|Schools let students seek secret abortions
Parents not notified when 12-year-olds obtain `confidential` medical procedures
(WorldNetDaily) A 12-year-old girl is prohibited from bringing aspirin to California public schools without a note from her mother or father – but in many California districts she may sign herself out of classes, leave her junior-high campus without parental permission, secretly have an abortion and return to school before the end of the day – and her own family may be none the wiser.
Parents and educators across the state have been in heated debate over school policies allowing children to be excused during class time without parental notification for "confidential medical services" such as abortions, birth control, and drug and mental health services.
California`s San Juan Unified School District sought to change its own policy from one that prohibits students from being absent without parental knowledge except during medical emergencies to guidelines that would allow a student to leave for a "confidential medical appointment."
Brad Dacus, founder and president of Pacific Justice Institute, a legal nonprofit, addressed the board at a school-district meeting in Carmichael on Nov. 17 to discuss the policy, along with hundreds of concerned parents who flooded into the meeting and filled the district building lobby.
After much debate and input from the public, the San Juan Unified School District voted 3 to 2 against the policy change. Parents clapped and cheered when they heard the decision.
"We are pleased that the San Juan school board listened to the community and abandoned this disastrous proposal," Dacus said in a statement. "This is a victory for everyone who believes in parental responsibility and local control of school decisions."
They were debating changing the current policy to reflect school administrators` interpretation of California Education Code 4601.1, which states:
Commencing in the fall of the 1986-87 academic year, the governing board of each school district shall, each academic year, notify pupils in grades 7 to 12, inclusive, and the parents or guardians of all pupils enrolled in the districts, that school authorities may excuse any pupil from the school for the purpose of obtaining confidential medical services without the consent of the pupil`s parent or guardian.
Pacific Justice Institute staff attorney Matt McReynolds told WND the statute is ambiguous and only says the districts may dismiss students, not that they are required to do so.
"If you use general principles of statutory construction, as we lawyers do in interpreting these things, `may` is very different than `must,`" he said. "It doesn`t say they must dismiss them, which is how the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the National Youth Law Center interpret it. It is a district-by-district decision on whether they will tell parents."
McReynolds said a district is not required to become an "accomplice" when children opt for these services without their parents` knowledge.
"It doesn`t mean students have to be dismissed during the school day to go do it," he said. "They`ve got afternoons and weekends if they`re bent on doing that. You don`t have to make the school a party to it."
McReynolds questioned how children as young as 12, 13 or 14 would be transported to clinics for "confidential medical services" if they are unable to drive and choose not to inform their parents.
"They can`t drive themselves anywhere, so some adult or somebody with a driver`s license would have to get them to those so-called `confidential` medical appointments that aren`t so `confidential` after all when you really think about it," he said. "You`re talking about an older boyfriend, a boyfriend`s parents, maybe even a school official? Somebody has to get them there when they`re that young."
McReynolds argues that hiding medical issues from parents may endanger the health and wellbeing of a child.
"A parent who is 100 percent legally and morally responsible for taking care of their minor child may have no real ability to do so if they don`t know that their child just had a major medical procedure," he said. "Or in the case of counseling, they may have no idea their child is dealing with substance abuse or suicidal thoughts or any number of other things."
Asked whether a parent might successfully sue if any school district that releases a child for a "confidential medical appointment" and a child`s life is endangered, McReynolds replied, "I think they would. We have raised that possibility."
But Rebecca Gudeman, senior attorney at the National Center for Youth Law, told the Sacramento Bee, "The great majority of children will involve their parents in such issues – reproductive health and mental health. It`s the 25 percent we care about, in abusive households or in families that don`t believe in mental health care."
Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Raquel Simental said she did not agree with the district`s decision.
"It`s the law that they have access to these services," she told KCRA-TV.
The Pacific Justice Institute has also had success battling similar policies that allowed students to sign out without parental knowledge in other districts, including Modesto, Fairfield-Suisun and San Diego. According to KCRA-TV, Sacramento, Natomas, Twin Rivers and Elk Grove school districts still have policies allowing children to leave campus for "confidential medical services" without parental consent. McReynolds said several California school districts still have similar policies.
He said no lawsuit had been filed with the San Juan Unified School District. The move toward a policy change was recently initiated by school administrators.
"Planned Parenthood and the ACLU tend to always threaten these school districts with lawsuits if they vote differently than those groups want them to vote," he said. "They claim it would be illegal, but they`ve never actually filed a lawsuit when the school district adopts a parent-friendly policy."
Should a school face a lawsuit for maintaining a policy that requires parental notification, McReynolds said Pacific Justice Institute has offered to "defend any school district that gets embroiled in an actual lawsuit."
WND reported in 2004 when California Attorney General Bill Lockyer issued an opinion that said schools are required to enact confidentiality policies. But amid a grass-roots campaign organized by a traditional-family lobby group, Lockyer backed off his opinion.
McReynolds said many parents aren`t aware of guidelines at their childrens` schools. But he said all parents should ask their own school administrators whether their children may be excused without consent, even families who live outside California.
"It`s really important for every parent, whether their kids are in public or private school, to find out what the school policies are," he said. "You never know. See what kind of answers you get."
|November 18, 2009
|Recovery.gov Shows Taxpayer Money Going to Congressional Districts That Don’t Exist
Recovery.gov Shows Taxpayer Money Going to Congressional Districts That Don’t Exist
(CNSNews.com) – The 86th congressional district of Rhode Island received $10.2 million in federal economic stimulus funds to save 57.9 jobs, according to Recovery.gov. In neighboring Connecticut, the state’s 42nd congressional district did not receive any stimulus money yet 25 jobs were still saved or created.
The problem with these federal financial data, however, is that Rhode Island has just two congressional districts, not 86, and Connecticut has just five U.S. House seats, not 42. Also, the Web site states that $6.4 billion in stimulus money went to 440 congressional districts that do not exist, according to an analysis first reported by Watchdog.org, a division of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.
The watchdog’s analysis showed that the money invested in the non-existent congressional districts saved or created 30,000 jobs, based on the government data currently available to the public.
Recovery.gov is the Obama administration’s Web site designed to track the funds dispersed through the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Concerning the non-existent congressional districts and other data on Recovery.org, the Obama administration responded on Tuesday that it was a matter of kinks in the system and that all stimulus funds are traceable and documented.
“These are not non-existent congressional districts, these are improperly identified congressional districts,” Ed Pound, spokesman for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, told CNSNews.com Tuesday. “It’s human error. People filling out these forms might not know their district.”
Nonetheless, Recovery.gov shows that some of the smallest states have apparently grown immensely in terms of population.
While New Mexico has three representatives in the U.S. House, Recovery.gov shows money going to 13 different congressional districts, including, for example, the “00 congressional district,” which got $731,370, and a “40th congressional district,” which got $7.9 million.
Furthermore, if you click on the “certification” of the federal funds going to New Mexico, a letter from Gov. Benigno R. Fitial of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands comes up.
Then there is the $2.1 million that went to save or create 30 jobs in the “99th congressional district” of North Dakota, one of the country’s most sparsely populated states with just one at-large U.S. House seat. Nevertheless, North Dakota had a total of 14 congressional districts, according to Recovery.gov.
This information is found by going to Recovery.gov and clicking on State/Territory. Once the next page comes up, find the state or territory you want to review. Then scroll down to congressional district, and click on “View All Congressional Districts.”
The government-run Web site, Recovery.gov, established to track money from the $787 billion economic stimulus bill that passed in February, has been scrutinized for problems in tracking jobs that were supposedly saved or created.
A provision of the stimulus bill established the Web site as an attempt to ensure transparency and accountability.
During his first primetime news conference on Feb. 9, days before signing the recovery bill, Obama said, “It also contains an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability, so that every American will be able to go online and see where and how we`re spending every dime.”
The Web site’s numerous errors were first exposed by Jim Scarantino, a reporter for Watchdog.org in Albuquerque, N.M., who was checking out the purported number of jobs saved or created in his home state.
“We’re a tiny state, so we only have enough room for three congressmen, so right away I knew I had something,” Scarantino told CNSNews.com on Tuesday. “I notified all my Watchdog counterparts around the country to the story. They did the same thing in their states and it took off.”
The White House responded, in a blog posting by G. Edward DeSeve, special adviser to the president, who said the mistakes are a matter of “typos and coding errors that don’t undermine the information at the heart of the data.”
“Yes, it is ‘silly’ that Recovery.gov shows that a project went to the 15th Congressional District in Arizona when there is no such district,” DeSeve wrote. “But a ‘click’ on the project details gives you the address and a check on the address shows it is Arizona’s 3rd District. All this shows is that when people sent 130,000 reports, some will have silly mistakes. But it doesn’t really undermine the ability of the public to track and follow the data – or the fact that real jobs have been created.”
But the federal government is responsible for presenting accurate information to the public, even if grant recipients who filed information got it wrong, Scarantino said, adding that he believes this indicates a much larger problem.
“There is no way to know from where we sit, as citizens, whether that money evaporated, whether it doesn’t exist, whether it fell through the cracks or whether it’s a data entry error,” Scarantino said.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) said in a Nov. 17 statement: "Even Democrats are outraged that the administration continues to rpesent false numbers to the American people. The president and vice rpesident continue to stress that they are creating jobs and now we know why, because they are working with inaccurate information."
The state of Kentucky, with just six congressional districts in reality, apparently received $15,000 for its “90th congressional district” and $274,000 for its “30th congressional district.” On the upside, most of the jobs created or saved were in congressional districts that actually exist.
Also, $1.19 million went to save or create six jobs in the “99th congressional district” of Alaska, which is listed as having a total of 15 congressional districts, which is not true. Though geographically large, the scarcely populated state has just one at-large congressional district.
Iowa’s non-existent “24th congressional district” got two jobs for $113,000 in stimulus funds. Maine’s non-existent 92nd district got zero jobs from its $28,000. For its part, South Dakota’s non-existent 46th congressional district got just two jobs for the $603,000 it received in stimulus money. Utah’s non-existent 68th district got no jobs for the $29,180 it received in stimulus money. Vermont’s pseudo-5th
That is according to Recovery.gov. In reality, Iowa actually has five House seats, Maine two, South Dakota one, Utah three and Vermont one.
Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged there were accountability problems when he spoke about the reporting of funds last month.
“We know that it’s not 100 percent accurate -- this has never been attempted before -- and that further updates and corrections are going to be needed,” Biden said. “But we’re pleased to make this information available.”
House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.) called the inaccuracies on the Web site “outrageous.”
“Credibility counts in government and stupid mistakes like this undermine it,” he said in a statement. “We’ve got too many serious problems in this country to let that happen.We designed the Recovery Act to be open and transparent and I expect the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, who oversees the Recovery Act Web site and data to have information that is accurate, reliable and understandable to the American public. Whether the numbers are good news or bad news, I want the honest numbers and I want them now.”
The information on the site should have a warning sign next to it, said Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in a letter to the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board.
“Are you able to certify personally that the number of jobs reported as ‘created/saved’ on www.recovery.gov is accurate and auditable?” the Issa letter asks. “If you are unable to do so, will you commit to incorporating some kind of qualifying information such as an asterisk or footnote to accompany the presentation of this information, warning visitors to the Web site that the information is not accurate and auditable?"
Said Congressman Hoekstra in his statement: "People only need to talk to their neighbors and read the monthly unemployment data to know that the ‘economic stimulus’ plan isn’t stimulating any type of job creation. The administration and those in Congress who supported the original $787 billion bill need to understand job creation does not flow through Washington, especially as they consider a second economic stimulus bill."
|November 18, 2009
|Better Business Bureau 2010 Census Tips
Over the next 18 months, 1.4 million U.S. Census workers will attempt to gather demographic information about everyone living in the country. Consumers are required to cooperate with Census Field Representatives, but to be wary of scammers posing as Census workers.
Scammers know that the public is more willing to share personal data when participating in the Census, so they take advantage of this opportunity by posing as government workers to get access to personal financial information.
BBB offers these tips to help consumers identify legitimate Census Field Representatives:
How to Identify a Census Field Representative
• If a U.S. Census Bureau employee knocks on your door, here are some recognition tips to assure the validity of the field representative:
o The field representative must present an ID badge that contains: photograph of the field representative, Department of Commerce watermark, and expiration date.
o The field representative will provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the Regional Office phone number for verification, if asked.
o The field representative will provide you with a letter from the Census Bureau Director on official letterhead.
o The field representative may be carrying a laptop and/or bag with a Census Bureau logo.
When Field Representatives will be Going Door-to-Door
• From April to July 2010, we will knock on the door of every household that does not mail back a completed 2010 Census form.
• We need your help — it’s critical that you take just 10 minutes to fill out and mail back your form rather than wait for a census worker to show up on your doorstep. About $85 million in taxpayer dollars are saved for every one percent increase in mail response.
• The Census Bureau must get a census form to – and a completed form back from – every residence in the United States. That’s more than 130 million addresses. This is why the census is the largest domestic mobilization our nation undertakes.
What the 2010 Census DOES NOT Ask
• Field representatives will never ask you for your social security number, bank account number, or credit card number. Census workers also never solicit for donations and will never contact you by e-mail.
The Census is Safe
• The 2010 Census will ask for name, gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationship, and whether you own or rent your home – just 10 simple questions that will take about 10 minutes to answer.
• Your answers are protected by law and are not shared with anyone.
• The Census Bureau safeguards all census responses to the highest security standards available.
For more information about indentifying Census workers, consumers can visit the Census help Web site.
|November 17, 2009
|Napolitano Announces Obama Administration Plan to Give Amnesty to Illegal Aliens
(CNSNews.com) Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday that the Obama administration will push for “immigration reform” by giving the estimated 14 million people who are in the United States illegally “fair pathway to earned legal status.”
“A tough and fair pathway to earned legal status will mandate that illegal immigrants meet a number of requirements—including registering, paying a fine, passing a criminal background check, fully paying all taxes and learning English,” Napolitano said Friday at a panel discussion at the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.
“These are substantial requirements that will make sure this population gets right with the law,” Napolitano said. “It will help fix our broken system.”
Napolitano said the Obama administration is working to end the recession and put Americans back to work but said giving legal status to illegal aliens will “strengthen our economy.”
“Requiring illegal immigrants to register to earn legal status, as I discussed earlier, will strengthen our economy as these immigrants become full-paying taxpayers,” Napolitano said. “As labor leaders have made clear to me, immigration reform will be a boon to American workers.
“Think about it: unions will never achieve the best terms for workers when a large part of the workforce is illegal and operates in a shadow economy,” Napolitano said. “By contrast, the status quo not only hurts American workers, it also stifles potential opportunities to grow our economy.”
Napolitano said that she has seen a “major shift” in the immigration landscape, which the Obama administration hopes will make it easier for Congress to pass new immigration laws.
Included in that shift, Napolitano said, is a more secure border between the United States and Mexico, tougher law enforcement that has resulted in more arrests of criminal illegal immigrants and confiscation of contraband, and fewer people coming into the country illegally because of current economic conditions.
“For starters, the security of the Southwest border has been transformed from where it was in 2007,” Napolitano said. “The federal government has dedicated unprecedented resources to the Mexican border in terms of manpower, technology and infrastructure—and it’s made a real difference.
“Compared to last year, seizures in all categories—drugs, smuggled cash, and illegal weapons—are up dramatically. For example, just looking at bulk cash, Customs and Border Protection has seized at the border more than $34 million in cash being smuggled southbound so far this year—more than four times as much as at this time last year.
“Moreover, the immigration debate in 2007 happened during a period of historically high levels of illegal entry into the United States. Two years later, because of better enforcement and the current economic circumstances, those numbers have fallen sharply. The flow has reduced significantly – by more than half from the busiest years, proving we are in a much different environment than we were before.
“These are major differences that should change the immigration conversation,” Napolitano said.
The secretary said the Obama administration is “committed to this issue.”
“When Congress is ready to act, we will be ready to support them,” Napolitano said.
|November 17, 2009
|Copenhagen treaty up in the air
(OneNewsNow) An interim climate treaty may be hashed out at Copenhagen next month due to failure of other measures to pass.
World leaders were hoping to negotiate a replacement for the expiring Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen, but it appears that America`s failure to pass aggressive "cap-and-trade" measures are dooming the talks. On top of that, the global recession has soured many nations on passing further restrictions on greenhouse gases from power plants and businesses.
"Well, America gets a lot of the blame on this, but the reality is that the European nations that signed onto the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and promised to reduce emissions...haven`t reduced their emissions...," reports Ben Lieberman, policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation. "And in fact, several European nations have had emissions rising faster than those in the U.S., so the U.S. is doing better outside of these international U.N. treaties than many of the signatories are."
Lieberman adds that most Americans are more concerned with the economy than with climate change, and he believes that will further hamper the chances of passage for cap-and-trade legislation.
|November 17, 2009
|Proponents of repealing Prop. 8 turn to Web to qualify measure
(Sacbee.com) Supporters of legalizing same-sex marriage have launched an online signature-gathering campaign for putting an initiative to repeal Proposition 8 on the 2010 ballot.
The initiative, backed by a coalition called Love Honor Cherish, was approved for signature gathering today. Proponents must collect nearly 700,000 valid voter signatures by mid-April 2010 in order to ask voters to overturn Prop. 8, the 2008 ballot measure banning same sex marriage that passed with 52 percent of the vote.
Organizers billed the new Web effort, www.SignForEquality.com, as the first time social networking has been used for an all-volunteer drive to qualify an initiative for the ballot. Visitors to the site can download petitions to sign, view volunteer training videos and connect with other volunteers and signature gathering efforts in their area.
"Everyone in California can sign for equality and do their part to repeal Prop. 8, even if it means just gathering your own signature, your husband`s signature and your neighbor`s signature and sending them in," Love Honor Cherish Executive Director John Henning said. "It just takes a few minutes and a postage stamp."
If the all-volunteer effort is successful, it will mark the first time since 1982 that proponents have qualified an initiative without relying on paid signature gathering, Henning said.
Michael Arno, founder of the ballot-qualification firm Arno Political Consultants said he couldn`t recall a recent campaign that came anywhere close to meeting the California voter signature requirement without using paid signature gatherers.
"I highly doubt that they can get the signatures this way, but in some respects it would be refreshing if they were able to do that," said Arno, who supports lowering the threshold for qualifying ballot measures so groups with less financing could have a better shot at putting their initiatives to the voters.
But Henning said he believed the current political climate and the reach of an online campaign would bolster the proponents` efforts.
"In those days, there was no Internet. There wasn`t even barely even personal computers at that time... We now have technology that allows us to get signatures that just didn`t exist 20 years ago," Henning said. "We feel there is also a level of volunteer energy around this issue that is really going to magnify the number of signatures that are obtained by volunteers in a way that really no other initiative ever has."
By relying on volunteers and the online effort, proponents avoid the costs of outsourcing the collection process to firms (such as Arno`s) that often charge 50 cents to $2 per signature. Henning said organizers still hope to raise about $300,000 to cover expenses such as printing forms and verifying the signatures that are collected. He declined to say how much the group has raised so far, but said If proponents raise enough cash, they will supplement the volunteer effort with paid signature gathering.
Though Love Cherish Honor pushes forward with its campaign to qualify a Prop. 8 repeal for 2010, one of the state`s largest gay-rights advocacy groups, Equality California, has decided to wait until 2012 to bring the issue back to voters. EQCA recently announced it would pour $15 million into a three-year campaign to build support for same-sex marriage, but officials have also said the organization will throw its backing behind any effort to repeal Prop. 8 that qualifies in 2010.
While 51 percent of respondents to a LA Times/USC poll said they supported legalizing same sex marriage, 56 percent of voters surveyed said they didn`t think the issue should return to the ballot in 2010.
Henning said he wasn`t concerned that division over whether to return the issues to voters in 2010 or 2012 would hurt his efforts.
"A lot of people that aren`t directly affected by Prop. 8 would probably rather the issue just go away," he said. "Frankly, the best way to have the issue go away would be to have the issue on the ballot as soon as possible."
|November 17, 2009
|Dutch drivers to pay tax on road time
(Associated Press) Dutch drivers will pay less to buy a car but will be charged tax for every mike on the road, a system the government says will reduce traffic jams, fatal accidents and carbon emissions.
The Cabinet approved a bill Friday calling for drivers of an average passenger car to pay a base rate of euro0.03 per 1 kilometer (7 US cents per mile), beginning in 2012. Drivers of heavier, more polluting vehicles will pay more, and the cost will go up for driving in peak hours.
GPS will track the time, hour and place each car moves and send the data to a billing agency.
But the annual road tax and purchase tax for new cars will be abolished, reducing the price of a new car 25 percent, the Transport Ministry said.
Nearly 6 out of 10 drivers will benefit under the system, the ministry said, but government revenue would remain the same. Public transportation, including taxis, will be exempt.
The kilometer tax has been debated for several years, amid concerns that it would unjustly raise the cost of car travel and intrude on privacy.
The ministry said, however, the travel information would be protected, and the data would not be accessible to the government for other purposes.
The ministry calculated that overall traffic will drop about 15 percent, peak-hour congestion will be halved, traffic deaths will fall 7 percent and carbon emissions from road travel will be cut by 10 percent.
The tax will increase every year until 2018 and could be adjusted if it fails to change traffic patterns.
|November 17, 2009
|Sexually Transmitted Infections on the Rise
Sexually transmitted infections continue to rise, with the number of chlamydia cases setting another record in 2008, government officials said Monday.
There were 1.2 million new cases of chlamydia last year, The Associated Press reported, up from 1.1 million cases in 2007. Syphilis also has been increasing, with 13,500 cases of the most contagious form reported in 2008.
Dr. Miriam Grossman, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and author, noted the diseases are spreading quickly among teenagers.
"If you look closely at what young people are being taught about sexuality," she said, "you will discover that it is being assumed that they will have sex at an early age and that they will have multiple partners."
There are an estimated 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections annually. Experts say the most common is human papillomavirus (HPV).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn the myths and the truth about abstinence education.
|November 14, 2009
|How U.N. redefined `pandemic` to heighten alarm over H1N1
(WorldNetDaily) In light of a perceived swine flu outbreak, the World Health Organization raised its influenza pandemic alert to its second highest level in May – but evidence reveals the agency may have made it easier to classify the flu outbreak as a pandemic by changing its definition to omit "enormous numbers of deaths and illness" just prior to making its declaration.
WHO, a specialized agency of the United Nations, issued its pandemic declaration – the first in 40 years – just as 74 countries had reported 144 deaths from the novel H1N1 infection.
The world was gripped with fears of swine flu as the alert increased from Phase 5 to Phase 6, the highest level. Immediately, pharmaceutical companies began working to develop vaccines, and countries tailored their responses to address the situation.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, who assumed leadership of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, on June 8, announced that the U.S. would respond aggressively to the virus.
"There has been excellent global cooperation with the World Health Organization, with countries around the world," Frieden said. "This is one of the many conditions that reminds us that we are all connected and many of our decisions in the U.S. will rely on good information from countries in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia, Australia and elsewhere. It`s very important that we confront this jointly."
The current WHO phase of pandemic alert remains at 6, indicating a full-blown global pandemic.
But in early May, just prior to the initial declaration, WHO made little-noticed changes to its definition of a pandemic.
Click here to read the entire article
|November 13, 2009
|Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to Be Sent to New York for Trial
(Wall Street Journal) U.S. prosecutors plan criminal trials for five men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and military tribunals for five others held at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, self-described mastermind of the attacks, and four others will be tried in New York federal court. Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday he expects to order prosecutors to seek the death penalty in the five cases.
Five other detainees held at the prison, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, alleged to have planned the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, will be tried in revamped military commissions, the Justice Department announced.
The News Hub panel discusses the political implications of 9/11 mastermind`s Khalid Sheikh Mohammed`s forthcoming trial in New York City.
The prisoners won`t be transferred for weeks because of a law requiring at least 45 days notice to Congress before prisoner transfer from Guantanamo. Once brought to the U.S., the detainees will be held at the federal prison in New York.
The decision is part of wider announcement planned on how to bring to justice detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay prison. It`s the first set of decisions before a Monday deadline on how to deal with the more than 200 prisoners remaining at the facility, which President Barack Obama has ordered closed.
Also expected in the announcement Friday will be plans to hold a military tribunal for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, alleged to have planned the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.
Mr. Obama, speaking after a meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, sought to assure Americans that Mr. Mohammed "will be subject to the most exacting demands of justice." The meeting ended as news was breaking about Mr. Mohammed`s trial.
Mr. Mohammed`s trial in New York was widely expected since the Obama administration announced a preference to hold criminal trials, instead of military commissions for terror suspects held at Guantanamo. New York`s Manhattan U.S. attorney competed with the district in northern Virginia, home to the Pentagon, to prosecute the 9/11 accused and senior al Qaeda leaders. A team of prosecutors from both districts will handle the government`s case, people familiar with the matter said.
Formal charges aren`t expected to be announced for another few weeks. Mr. Mohammed has claimed authorship of the attacks, but he has also accused U.S. interrogators of torturing him. U.S. officials have acknowledged the use of harsh tactics, including water boarding, a technique intended to simulate drowning, which Mr. Obama and other government officials have called torture.
Mr. Obama signed an executive order Jan. 22 to close the prison within a year. Since then, the administration has run into obstacles erected by lawmakers, including some Democrats, who are nervous about political implications of moving detainees to the U.S. The deadline is expected to slip, administration officials have said, but plans to close the prison remain on track.
|November 13, 2009
|UK Parents Lose Right to Remove Children from Sex Ed Classes
Religious schools will be required to teach about homosexuality, contraceptives
(LifeSiteNews.com) The British Labour government has announced that parents will have no right to remove their children over the age of 15 from explicit "sex education" programs in schools.
Under new plans put in place by the government, sex education will be implemented starting at the age of 5 throughout the education system, including in religious schools. However, Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, has issued a ministerial statement saying that all children need to receive at least one year of sex education as teenagers before the age of consent at 16 - meaning that parents will lose the right to opt-out for children over 15.
Under the new sex education rules, Catholic and other religious schools will be forced to teach children about contraception and homosexuality "within the tenets of their faith," a caveat that Daily Telegraph columnist Gerald Warner called "simply a cynical method of enforcing anti-Christian values on faith schools."
Balls said in the announcement that religious schools would be forced to give details about sex, contraception and homosexuality. Balls said, "You can teach the promotion of marriage, you can teach that you shouldn`t have sex outside of marriage, what you can`t do is deny young people information about contraception outside of marriage."
"The same arises in homosexuality," he added. "Some faiths have a view about what in religious terms is right and wrong - what they can`t do though is not teach the importance of tolerance."
Until this change, parents had the right to withdraw their children from sex education under the 1996 Education Act. This summer the Family Planning Association (FPA), a key player in creating the new directive, issued a demand to government that parents` right to remove children from classes be revoked. FPA is the national affiliate of International Planned Parenthood Federation, the world`s largest pro-abortion organization. The government granted the demand despite the fact that their own public consultation found that nearly 80 per cent of respondents believed parents should retain the right to withdraw their children at any age.
Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), said the plan was just a means of increasing government control in its determination to "deliver its anti-life policies to children."
The Christian Institute`s Mike Judge called the move a "terrible intrusion of the right of parents. The government isn`t responsible for educating children, parents are. Parent`s don`t lose that right on their children`s fifteenth birthday."
"There can`t be a teenager left in Britain that doesn`t know how to roll on a condom," Judge told the BBC. "Sex education has been a disaster. We need less of it, not more of it."
But despite a steady chorus of protest from parents and religious organizations and the mounting evidence of the failure of such programs, the push to introduce very young children to the intricacies of human sexuality has been under way from Britain`s abortion and contraceptive lobbyists for decades, and is only intensifying.
|November 13, 2009
|Legislature source of most costly ballot measures
(Contra Costa Times) Legislators love to complain about how the ballot initiative process costs the state money and ties its hands on the budget.
But a new analysis from the nonprofit Center for Governmental Studies revealed today in Oakland shows that of the $12.85 billion worth of ballot measures voters approved between 1988 and 2009, 83 percent were placed on the ballot by the Legislature.
“Most of the ballot-box budgeting has come from you,” Institute of Governmental Studies President Bob Stern told members today of the Senate and Assembly Select Committees on Improving State Government co-chaired by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.
The center found that of the 68 ballot measures requiring additional funding passed by voters between 1988-2009, 51 originated with the Legislature while 17 were placed on the ballot by proponents who successfully gathered the requisite number of signatures.
Of the 68 measures, 52 were bond measures.
The legislative measures required $9.8 billion in additional government funding, or 83 percent, while the balance totalled $2.05 billion.
The most expensive legislative measure came in 2004, when voters approved a $1 billion plan to close the budget deficit.
The highest price tag among the 17 initiatives that passed was the $500 million annual after-school program.
|November 13, 2009
|Global groups reject Islam `protection` plan
(WorldNetDaily) Global organizations representing humanists, Christians, Jews, Bahais, scientologists and even several Muslim groups are lobbying against a United Nations proposal that would provide Islam with worldwide legal protection against criticism.
And it appears to be working. A preliminary committee vote in the U.N.`s Third Committee today resulted in 81 votes for the protections, 55 against and 43 abstentions, a significant change from the most recent vote.
Officials said there were five fewer votes in support, two more in opposition and one more abstention, revealing a continuing loss of support for the plan.
WND has reported multiple times on the proposal, which has been around for a decade and in its most recent form is called the "Defamation of Religions" resolution.
The plan traces its roots to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, which states that "all rights are subject to Shariah law" and makes Shariah law "the only source of reference for human rights."
It has been supported by the 57 member states of the Organization of the the Islamic Conference, which started out promoting it as the "Defamation of Islam" resolution but soon changed the name, although Islam still remains the only religion mentioned for protections.
Essentially, it would make criticism of Islam a violation of international law.
Open Doors USA, a Christian ministry that operates in many Islamic nations, earlier launched a petition to allow people to express their opposition.
Lindsay Vessey, the advocacy director for Open Doors, told WND the danger lies in the new proposal`s plan to protect a message, rather than an individual, the general focus of human rights provisions at the U.N.
"It would legitimize national blasphemy laws in countries that are actually going to persecute religious minorities, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan," she told WND.
A General Assembly vote on a binding resolution is expected before the end of this year. Earlier votes have not been designated as binding on member states.
A new petition, under WhatIsDefamationOfReligion.com, has been created online, and a long list of organizations with a wide range of allegiances have signed on.
The new petition states, "United Nations resolutions on the `defamation of religions` are incompatible with the fundamental freedoms of individuals to freely exercise and peacefully express their thoughts, ideas, and beliefs.
"Unlike traditional defamation laws, which punish false statements of fact that harm individual persons, measures prohibiting the `defamation of religions` punish the peaceful criticism of ideas. Additionally, the concept of `defamation of religions` is fundamentally inconsistent with the universal principles outlined in the United Nations` founding documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms the protection of the rights of individuals, rather than ideas," the petition states.
The plan would create an international standard that actually could be used in support of domestic "blasphemy" laws, as well as those that ban "injury to religious feelings," critics say.
Laws of that kind, the petition says, are abused by governments to "punish the peaceful expression of disfavored political or religious beliefs and ideas."
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which has been working against the proposal for years already and was among the first to raise the alarm, said there`s huge consensus on the plan.
"You could not have a more broad-based and diverse group of organizations [than those on the new petition]," he told WND. "I think the stronger the OIC pushes the defamation resolution, the broader the opposition is becoming.
"It`s becoming clear that this is an `Islamic Protection Act,`" he said.
Among the groups that have signed in opposition to the U.N. resolution are ACT! For America, Brigitte Gabriel`s front-line work to expose Islam; the American Humanist Association; the American Textbook Council; the American Islamic Congress; and the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
The list also includes the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the Association of Christian Schools, Baha`i International, BCV Center for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths from Australia, B`Nai B`rith International, Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, the Center for Political Studies in Denmark and Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
The list continues with the Church of Scientology of Amsterdam, Committee for the Freedom of Prisoners of Conscience in Uzbekistan, Concerned Women for America, Dalit Freedom Network, Endowment for Middle East Truth, International Center for Religion & Diplomacy, International Quranic Center, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Prometheus Society of Slovakia, Traditional Values Coalition, United Sikhs and the Turkish Women`s Rights Organization Against Discrimination.
Another group is International Christian Concern, whose leaders were alarmed.
"The resolution provides international cover for domestic anti-blasphemy laws in countries like Pakistan and Sudan where these laws are used to persecute Chrsitians under the guise of protecting Islam," the group said.
Jeremy Shull, the organization`s advocacy officer, said, "This is the first time a binding effort is being made in an organization with the international influence of the U.N.
"We are dismayed at this movement in the U.N. to infringe upon religious freedom. Countries like Pakistan already use non-binding resolutions as international cover to imprison and harm Christians in the name of human rights. Human rights laws exist to protect individuals, not countries or ideas," he said.
In a formal statement to the U.N., Sekulow`s organization cited the deaths of 13 Christians in Pakistan who were targeted because of their faith by a mob of fanatics who also destroyed homes
and churches in the city of Gojra.
The U.N. General Assembly has approved a "defamation of religions" resolution in each of the three sessions from 2005 to 2007. The text always has been similar, and it always has had major support from Islamic nations with opposition from Western democracies, including the U.S. In recent votes, support, however, has been declining.
The U.S. State Department also has found the anti-defamation proposal unpalatable.
"This resolution is incomplete inasmuch as it fails to address the situation of all religions," said a statement from Leonard Leo. "We believe that such inclusive language would have furthered the objective of promoting religious freedom. We also believe that any resolution on this topic must include mention of the need to change educational systems that promote hatred of other religions, as well as the problem of state-sponsored media that negatively targets any one religion."
|November 13, 2009
|Six things on cap and trade
(Congress.org) With all the attention on health care, it`s easy to forget another major bill is working its way through Congress.
But the climate change bill will have its day soon enough.
Once the health care debate ends, the cap and trade legislation will be the biggest fight in town. Since the House already passed its version (HR 2454 ), all eyes will once again be on the Senate (S 1733 ).
Given the contentious nature of climate change, it will likely draw out activists on both sides of the issue, stir up would-be Republican presidential contenders and inspire a flurry of television ads from environmentalists and industry groups.
With the help of CQ reporter Coral Davenport, we pulled together six things you should know about where the bill stands today:
* Three senators are leading the fight. Sen. John Kerry, now the senior Democrat from Massachusetts, is getting new attention for his role in pushing the climate change bill. He`s joined by Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who co-sponsored the last attempt. More importantly, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is working for a version of the bill that members of his party could support.
* The Senate probably won`t vote until 2010. Democratic leaders say they won`t get the bill through any more major committees before the end of the year, meaning it won`t be on the Senate floor until early 2010. The ongoing debate over a health care overhaul is partially responsible for the delay, as is the complexity of getting 60 senators to overcome a potential filibuster.
* A key Democrat now supports the bill. Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat who heads the Finance Committee, said last week that he would support getting a cap-and-trade bill through the Senate relatively soon. Baucus is important because his committee has jurisdiction over several contentious parts of the bill. His review of the health care overhaul contributed to a significant delay earlier this year.
* The vote will divide more along regional lines than partisan ones. Some areas of the country may be harder hit by climate change, while others fear cap and trade could hurt local oil and gas producers. Democrats fear they`ll lose the support of Sens. Robert Byrd, Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson, but they hope to pick up Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Judd Gregg, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe in order to reach a filibuster-proof 60 votes.
* The White House is threatening an end-run. The Environmental Protection Agency has asked the president to give it the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, regardless of whether Congress acts. That could open Obama up to criticism and it would mean fewer sweeteners for the oil and coal industries than a Congressional bill, so it`s generally considered a last resort by both sides.
* Progress on the bill will help the U.S. negotiate with foreign countries. At the United Nations-led conference on climate change in Copenhagen next month, U.S. representatives will point to committee hearings and pledges of support for the bill to persuade China and India to agree to cut their own emissions. If the bill becomes a law, the U.S. could then push for an actual treaty sometime next year.
For more information, see our rundown of the cap and trade bill.
|November 12, 2009
|Teen fights vaccination for sexually transmitted virus
(WorldNetDaily) Lawyers say forcing treatment violates her religious rights WorldNetDaily
A teenager is entitled to an exemption from a federal requirement that she be given a vaccine against a sexually transmitted disease, because she is a Christian and holds the religious conviction that she must abstain from sex until marriage, according to a brief filed in support of her decision.
The arguments come in a brief filed in support of Simone Davis in her fight with the U.S. Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service by the Alliance Defense Fund.
"Christians shouldn`t be forced to violate their faith in order to gain U.S. citizenship," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster. "Requiring a young girl to choose between her beliefs and legal citizenship is a clear violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prevents the government from putting a substantial burden on a person`s religious beliefs except under extreme circumstances.
"She has met all of the other legal requirements for permanent resident status and has a loving home already in place, but the federal government would apparently prefer to return this girl to abandonment," he said.
WND reported earlier when the federal government threatened that if the teen did not give up her religious beliefs against a vaccine that targets only a sexually transmitted disease, she could not become a U.S. citizen.
Davis, born in 1992 in Britain, was abandoned by her parents and adopted at age 3 by Jean Davis, her paternal grandmother, who then married and moved to Florida.
However, her adoption in Britain wasn`t recognized in the U.S., so the process was begun again. The 17-year-old was on track for citizenship, attendance at Pensacola Christian College and a career as a teacher until she ran into Gardasil, the vaccine produced by Merck & Co.
The drug was added to the list of vaccinations required for female immigrants in 2008, but the teen has refused it because its purpose is to protect against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus only. Simone has taken a virginity pledge and doesn`t see she why she should be forced to take it.
"I am only 17 years old and planning to go to college and not have sex anytime soon," she said. "There is no chance of getting cervical cancer [thought to result from the papillomavirus], so there`s no point in getting the shot."
The teen sought a waiver on religious grounds, but the government turned her down.
The ADF brief noted the law permits a waiver of the vaccine requirement based on moral or religious objections, but Davis was denied because her beliefs do not include an objection to all vaccines. Officials also claim her opposition is based more on medical reasons than religious ones.
"Because HPV is passed through sexual activity, receiving the HPV vaccine for protection in case Simone has sex would be the same thing as giving her a condom to put in her purse `just in case,`" the brief argues.
"It violates her commitment to remain pure until marriage, a commitment she made as part of her Christian faith."
Her pastor, Mike Dunn, who submitted an affidavit, said, "If Simone received the vaccination she would violate her own conscience which is being led by the Holy Spirit, thus becoming sin against God."
"To me, Jesus is a major part of my life. I live my life for Him, and according to His will and His plan," the teen said. "I talk to God about everything that happens to me. I ask for His guidance in what to do every day. I read the Bible to grow in knowing God better."
She said when she was confronted with the government`s demand that she subject herself to the vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease, she prayed.
As a result, she became convicted that she should not accept it, citing 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, which says, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?"
Dunn said the teen`s interpretation is consistent with the Southern Baptist Church`s teachings.
"There is no doubt that Simone`s beliefs are religious," the brief said. "Simone is a religious person, and has been since she was seven years old. … [Her] beliefs are rooted in God`s commands, as recorded in the Bible. Consequently, taking [this] vaccination would be sinning against God."
The ADF noted in 2008 its lawyers successfully represented a U.S. Coast Guard officer who refused to be injected with a vaccine derived from an aborted baby after the Coast Guard initially refused to grant a religious exemption.
Meanwhile, the ramifications of the vaccinations are being reported. WND has reported recipients have suffered side effects, including "anaphylactic shock," "foaming at mouth," "grand mal convulsion," "coma" and "paralysis."
The results were confirmed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a report obtained by Judicial Watch, a Washington group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption.
Deaths also have been reported.
"Given all the questions about Gardasil, the best public health policy would be to re-evaluate its safety and to prohibit its distribution to minors. In the least, governments should rethink any efforts to mandate or promote this vaccine for children,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
The document reveals the case of an 18-year-old woman who received the Gardasil vaccine, was found unconscious that evening and died. Another woman, age 19, got the drug and the next morning was found dead in her bed.
Thousands of "Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System" cases have been documented.
WND also reported on the aggressive push by Merck to lobby state legislatures to make the vaccination mandatory for schoolgirls across the nation.
In 2007 alone, Merck`s aggressive lobbying campaign and contributions to the Women in Government organization for women state legislators resulted in proposals in at least 39 states to institutionalize such vaccinations.
"I am most definitely surprised [by the immigration requirement], and I would love to know how it ever became policy," Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of gynecology at St. Luke`s–Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, told ABC. "I wonder if the drug company could have had any influence."
A company official told the network it wasn`t involved in making the vaccination required.
|November 12, 2009
|A California man wants divorce outlawed.
John Marcotte has filed for a ballot initiative to protect traditional marriage in the state of California as an extension of the work related to Proposition 8, the voter-approved constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. In essence, Marcotte`s project would legally ban divorce.
"Marriage is an important and sacred institution, and I`m just trying to safeguard it in really the most direct way possible," he states.
He says he needs the help of California`s registered voters in acquiring "700,000 valid signatures, which likely translates into 1,000,000 [signatures] total." He further reports that he only has about five months to gather that support for the 2010 California Marriage Protection Act.
The traditional marriage advocate points to the Bible as validating marriage and providing limited reasons for divorce. "It`s a little difficult to translate God`s law into the law of a secular state, so I think this is about as close as we can come without probably running into some constitutional issues," Marcotte explains.
He adds that media attention has helped get the message out, and that people are talking more about the issue. His hope is that the growing discussion will translate into enough petition signatures for a 2010 ballot. His group has organized "The Wedding March on the Capitol" on Saturday (Nov. 14), and has also established a Facebook fan page that has attracted more than 9,000 fans.
|November 11, 2009
|Most Californians Don`t Want to Revisit Same-Sex
(LifeSiteNews.com) A poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California found that most Californians do not want to challenge the state`s ban on same-sex "marriage" with another ballot initiative.
The poll, released today, shows almost 60% of respondents against any future attempts by homosexual lobbyists to challenge by popular vote the passage of Proposition 8 last November. Proposition 8 amended the state constitution to explicitly recognize only marriage between a man and a woman.
A bare majority of 51% of California voters in the survey said they supported same-sex "marriage," with 43% opposed. Many polls leading up to the Proposition 8 vote similarly showed an edge to same-sex "marriage," which nonetheless met with defeat - a frequent trend among same-sex "marriage" initiatives.
The survey interviewed 1,500 registered voters from Oct. 27 through Nov. 3, and had a margin of error of +-2.6 percentage points.
Same-sex "marriage" advocates in California have been sharply split on whether to challenge natural marriage by ballot initiative in 2010, or wait until 2012.
A coalition of 40 homosexualist organizations in September submitted an initiative for the 2010 ballot to California`s Secretary of State to open legal marriage to homosexual couples. But the driving force behind last year`s campaign against Proposition 8, The Leaders of Equality California, had announced in August that the group would wait and push for an amendment in 2012.
|November 10, 2009
|More than 3 Million Registered Voters are Dead, 12 Million More Ineligible, Analysis Finds
(CNSNews.com) – Regardless of how lively an election season might be, a new study shows that more 3.3 million voters on current registration rolls across the country are dead.
Another 12.9 million remain on voter registration lists in an area where they no longer live.
The analysis was conducted by the Aristotle International Inc., a technology company
specializing in political campaigns, developing software and databases for politicians.
In total that means about 8.9 percent of all registered voters fall under the category of “deadwood” voters on the rolls, the term for voters who should no longer be eligible to vote in a precinct.
Not only does this raise concerns about potential voter fraud, but from the interest of campaign consultants, ineligible or expired voters could lead to a waste of resources, said John Aristotle Phillips, CEO of Aristotle.
“Some states have bigger problems than others,” Phillips said. “With deadwood exceeding one in seven votes in some counties, candidates might as well spend a day a week campaigning in the cemetery.”
Among the findings, the study showed that states with the most “deadwood” voters were Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
- In Massachusetts, 116,483 registered voters are dead, 3.38 percent of the state’s total of registered voters. Another 538,567, or 15.6 percent, had moved to an area outside of where they are registered to vote.
- In New Hampshire, there are 18,816 dead people on the voter registration rolls, or 2.5 percent of the total registered voters. There are 105,472 voters that have moved outside of the area where they are registered to vote.
- The analysis showed that Washington State had 27,267 dead voters who were still registered, just 0.7 percent of the total number of registered voters. Another 332,510 had moved out of the area they are registered to vote in, or 8.73 percent of the total registered voters.
- West Virginia had 72,717 dead voters on the registration rolls, or 6.74 percent of the total registered voters in the state. Another 141,352 voters had moved, or 13 percent.
- In Wyoming, 7,723 registered voters (3.68 percent) are dead, while 45,547 (21.69 percent) had moved.
- The state with the fewest problems percentage wise is North Carolina. There, 3.5 percent of registered voters are dead – 216,036. Meanwhile, 30,888 had moved out of the designated voting area, or about 0.5 percent.
Nationally, 1.87 percent of registered voters are dead, while 7.2 percent of voters do not live where they are registered.
“Deadwood on voters rolls complicates the electoral process and can cause problems like fraud and vote miscounts,” Phillips said. “It always creates a perception of low voter turnout. It gets down to this: by depressing turnout, dead voters make the rest of us look bad.”
|November 10, 2009
|U.K. Starts Study on Using Human DNA in Animals
(AP) British scientists begin a new study on Tuesday to consider how human DNA is used in animal experiments and to determine what the boundaries of such controversial science might be.
Though experts have been swapping human and animal DNA for years -- like replacing animal genes with human genes or growing human organs in animals -- scientists at the Academy of Medical Sciences want to make sure the public is aware of what is happening in laboratories before proceeding further.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO
|November 10, 2009
|Nation`s first all-Christian prison
(OneNewsNow) Plans are underway for a 600-bed Christian prison to be built in Wakita, Oklahoma, a town of 380 residents near the Kansas border.
The unique facility is the brainchild of Bill Robinson of Corrections Concepts Inc. in Dallas, Texas, a nonprofit prison ministry. Robinson himself is an ex-con and prison minister. He hopes to open the facility in about 16 months.
Private prisons are not a new concept, and numerous prisons have Christian or faith-based units, but Robinson says he does not know of any with an all-Christian staff. He envisions a staff that will see their work as ministry.
“All of the employees will be Christians,” Robinson says. “We have an opinion letter from the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] that says we can do that.”
The facility would house only prisoners who want to transfer there. They will not be required to go to church or Bible study, but will be required to sign an agreement to participate in some prison programs. Inmates will be offered classes in literacy, GED requirements and life skills.
“It’s a faith-based, work ethic, corrections initiative where we take men in their last 12 to 24 to 30 months before their earliest release, and they have to volunteer to come, which makes us constitutional,” Robinson says.
He says no public funds will be used in the $42 million project. A bond backer who underwrites and does revenue bonds for Christian-related ventures has agreed to finance it.
Robinson believes there is great support for the facility which will work to change the hearts of inmates and help them stay out of trouble upon their release.
|November 08, 2009
|US Congress Passes Health Care Reform Bill
By Congressman Gary Miller
Last night, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 220 to 215 the wrong prescription to improve our nation’s health care system, the so-called Affordable Health Care for America Act. The purpose of this letter is to discuss some of the 32 reasons why I opposed this bill and instead why I supported an alternative that would have lowered health care costs by up 10 percent over the next ten years.
The Affordable Health Care for America Act is a $1 trillion Washington takeover of our nation’s health care system, one defined by federal regulation, mandates, taxes, myriad new programs and bureaucracies, and higher federal spending. The 1,990 page bill creates a government-run health plan that experts say would result in up to 114 million Americans losing their current coverage. In doing so, the legislation creates, expands, or extends 43 entitlement programs and creates 118 new additional offices, bureaus, commissions, programs, and bureaucracies. To help pay for this massive government expansion, the bill raises $729.5 billion in new taxes. Specifically, the bill slaps a 5.4 percent surtax on small businesses and high income individuals; a 2.5 percent tax on every individual who cannot afford health coverage or who does not want it; and a tax of up to 8 percent on employers who cannot afford to provide coverage that meet federal bureaucrats’ standards. The legislation also makes $500 billion in cuts to Medicare, specifically slashing Medicare Advantage by $170 billion which will affect many seniors, and places a 2.5 percent tax on medical devices. Among its most egregious provisions, the Affordable Health Care for America Act contains a series of loopholes that could provide taxpayer-subsidized coverage to illegal aliens. All in all, this legislation will ensure the heavy hand of federal bureaucrats over the United States health care system and will ultimately lead to higher costs, lower quality of care, and greater difficulty receiving the care you need. To learn more about the 32 reasons why I opposed this awful bill, visit my website and read “Facts Are Stubborn Things: Implications of H.R. 3962”.
I did vote for an alternative to this immense government takeover of America’s health care system, but it was defeated. This alternative plan would have lowered health care premiums for families and small businesses by up to 10 percent and would have increased access to affordable, high-quality care by allowing Americans to shop for insurance across state lines and allowing small businesses to band together to lower costs. Among its innovative and cost-saving provisions, the bill would have incorporated anti-fraud measures, enacted medical liability reform, and expanded high-risk pools and reinsurance programs to guarantee access to affordable care for those with pre-existing conditions. What is more, this alternative plan would have been accomplished without adding to the monstrous debt Washington has placed on our children and grandchildren. In fact, it would have lowered the deficit by $68 billion over ten years. To learn more about this alternative, click here.
Over the years the cost of health care has skyrocketed, saddling countless Americans with steep medical bills and causing health care coverage to become unattainable for millions of others. While no one doubts that our nation’s health care system is in need of reform, we must strike the right balance that builds on what works and fixes what is broken. However, rather than reform parts of our nation’s health care system that contribute to the rising cost of health care, yesterday Democrats voted to force the government to take over health care choices for all Americans.
I want you to know that I fought hard against this plan and took every opportunity to show you and the rest of America the deadly consequences of this bill. To this end, I will continue to demand that Congress stop the government intrusion between you and your doctor, end its raid on your income, and bring to a halt its excessive mandates on our nation’s job creators. It is time the Administration and Congress get back on track and listen to the voice and concerns of the American people.
GARY G. MILLER
Member of Congress
|November 06, 2009
|PELOSI: Buy a $15,000 Policy or Go to Jail
Joint Committee on Taxation Confirms Failure to Comply with Democrats’ Mandate Can Lead to 5 Years in Jail
(Ways and Means Committee) Today, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI) released a letter from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirming that the failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance contained in the Pelosi health care bill (H.R. 3962, as amended) could land people in jail. The JCT letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.
In response to the JCT letter, Camp said: “This is the ultimate example of the Democrats’ command-and-control style of governing – buy what we tell you or go to jail. It is outrageous and it should be stopped immediately.”
Key excerpts from the JCT letter appear below:
“H.R. 3962 provides that an individual (or a husband and wife in the case of a joint return) who does not, at any time during the taxable year, maintain acceptable health insurance coverage for himself or herself and each of his or her qualifying children is subject to an additional tax.” [page 1]
- - - - - - - - - -
“If the government determines that the taxpayer’s unpaid tax liability results from willful behavior, the following penalties could apply…” [page 2]
- - - - - - - - - -
Prosecution is authorized under the Code for a variety of offenses. Depending on the level of the noncompliance, the following penalties could apply to an individual:
• Section 7203 – misdemeanor willful failure to pay is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.
• Section 7201 – felony willful evasion is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years.” [page 3]
When confronted with this same issue during its consideration of a similar individual mandate tax, the Senate Finance Committee worked on a bipartisan basis to include language in its bill that shielded Americans from civil and criminal penalties. The Pelosi bill, however, contains no similar language protecting American citizens from civil and criminal tax penalties that could include a $250,000 fine and five years in jail.
“The Senate Finance Committee had the good sense to eliminate the extreme penalty of incarceration. Speaker Pelosi’s decision to leave in the jail time provision is a threat to every family who cannot afford the $15,000 premium her plan creates. Fortunately, Republicans have an alternative that will lower health insurance costs without raising taxes or cutting Medicare,” said Camp.
According to the Congressional Budget Office the lowest cost family non-group plan under the Speaker’s bill would cost $15,000 in 2016.
|November 05, 2009
|Christians to take `hate crimes` challenge to Holder
Rally scheduled to force attorney general to address Constitution
(WorldNetDaily) A rally is being planned in Washington to raise the alarm over the nation`s new "hate crimes" law and to force Attorney General Eric Holder to confront the unconstitutionality of the measure`s "thought" penalties, according to a Christian leader working on the event.
Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission told WND there are a series of approaches being considered to challenge the restrictions on expression of religion and speech contained in the law signed last week by President Obama.
At the rally, set for 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 16, ministers will preach from the Bible on the prohibition against homosexuality, then will present a letter to Holder demanding that the religious liberty of all Americans be respected.
Specific legal challenges to the restrictions of the "hate crimes" plan also may be announced then, Cass said.
The "Rally for Religious Freedom" in front of the Department of Justice in Washington is intended to force Holder either to address the issues or be put in a position of ignoring those who say they are violating the provisions of the federal law, Cass said. A website under ReligiousFreeSpeechRally.com is under construction at this point but soon will have details.
"We`re basically going to defy the law, and challenge it," Cass told WND. "We`re going to declare the whole counsel of God, including those parts that some may consider `inciting a hate crime` to see if the attorney general is going to come down and arrest a group of peaceful clergy exercising their First Amendment rights."
The law, long sought by homosexual activists who claim they are targeted by so-called "hate crimes," was signed last week by Obama, who then followed with a White House celebration of the event.
Cass said the practical application of such laws already has been seen in several other countries, including the United Kingdom, where just in recent days the Christian Institute highlighted reports of a senior citizen being accused of "hate crimes" for writing a letter objecting to a pro-homosexual festival:
"This is the way it gets implemented in all the other countries," Cass said. "Christians are singled out for prosecution, with threats, imprisonment and fines simply for refusing to stop doing what Christ commands: proclaiming the truth."
"[These cases] are a good precursor of where this goes," he warned.
"In other nations, like Canada, where hate crime laws have been enacted, it is Christians, specifically conservative Christians who hold to the historic Christian faith and its values, that become the object of institutionalized, governmental hate," he said. "Christians who dare to tell the truth about the social, moral, spiritual and health consequences of illicit homosexual acts are accused of hate speech and intimidated into silence with threats of fines or jail."
He said the maneuver of attaching the law to a defense authorization plan "reveals the depth of President Obama`s commitment to a radical, anti-Christian agenda."
"He will stop at nothing to undermine the will of the majority of Americans to pay back militant homosexual activists who raised millions of dollars for his campaign and worked to get him elected," he said.
The British grandmother`s case was reported by the Daily Mail of London.
Christian Pauline Howe wrote to her local council to complain of the pro-homosexual event. In return, she got a letter warning her of her possible guilt of a hate crime and an advisory her behavior and thoughts had been reported to police.
The results "stunned" her, she reported.
"The officers told me that my letter was thought to be an intention of hate, but I was expressing views as a Christian," she told the paper.
Another case addressed by the Christian Institute involves Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, who run a hotel in Liverpool and were arrested and charged when a Muslim woman complained she was offended by their Christianity.
A criminal trial is scheduled in December on accusations of a "religiously aggravated" public order offense, according to reports.
Yet another situation involves a Christian man intimidated by police for handing out Christian literature:
The bill signed by Obama had been opposed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which called it a "menace" to civil liberties. That was because the law allows federal authorities to bring charges against individuals even if they`ve already been cleared in a state court.
A supporter of the hate crimes plan was quoted saying, "The federal hate crimes bill serves as a vital safety valve in case a state hate-crimes prosecution fails."
Holder himself has suggested the law can be used to prosecute cases in which state prosecutors don`t file charges because of a lack of evidence.
The Alliance Defense Fund earlier issued an analysis calling the proposal a "grave threat" to the First Amendment.
Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley explained it "provides special penalties based on what people think, feel, or believe.
"ADF has clearly seen the evidence of where `hate crimes` legislation leads when it has been tried around the world: It paves the way for the criminalization of speech that is not deemed `politically correct,`" Stanley explained. "`Hate crimes` laws fly in the face of the underlying purpose of the First Amendment, which was designed specifically to protect unpopular speech."
The ADF analysis said, "The emotion of hate is an unfortunate reality of the human experience. But it is not a crime unless accompanied by a criminal action – and even then it is the action that is within the police power of the government, not the emotion. The reality is that `hate` crime laws are designed to punish people for what they think, feel, or believe. The crime itself that is committed is already punished under various federal and state criminal laws. The only thing added … is punishment for what a person thinks, feels, or believes. That intent is diametrically opposed to the U.S. Supreme Court."
The organization cited cases on which it has worked already within the U.S.:
- A small photography company in New Mexico was fined by that state`s human rights commission for refusing to photograph a civil union `commitment ceremony.` The fine was imposed even though civil unions are not legal in New Mexico and photographing such a ceremony was in direct opposition to the photographer’s sincere religious beliefs.
- In New Jersey, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association recently sued the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights for threatening to prosecute the association. The association`s "crime" was to abide by its religious beliefs not to allow civil union ceremonies to be conducted on its private property.
"While we do not advocate crime and violence, the real issue behind the `hate` crimes law is its punishment of thought and belief and the imposition of a political orthodoxy on people of faith," the analysis said.
"There is a legitimate concern that once Congress makes any `hate` crime a federal offense, the categories of crime will expand to include speech that causes someone to `feel` intimidated, just as they have in other places such as Australia, Canada, and Sweden," it continued.
"It is likely that a great deal of evidence of a defendant`s statements, associations, and support of organizations could be presented to a jury in connection with a prosecution under the proposed federal hate crime statute. This is a legitimate concern for churches and organizations that hold a sincere (peaceful) religious belief against homosexual behavior," the group said.
But the federal law goes even further, prohibiting crimes against "even `perceived` sexual orientation" or "gender identity." The analysis said this provision would allow for evidence of a defendant`s perception (i.e., what the defendant believed or thought) in a criminal prosecution. This is again an instance where belief or thought becomes an element of the prosecution under a `hate` crimes law.
American Family Association President Tim Wildmon warned that the new law "creates a kind of caste system in law enforcement, where the perverse thing is that people who engage in non-normative sexual behavior will have more legal protection than heterosexuals. This kind of inequality before the law is simply un-American."
Wildmon said the legislation creates possible situations where pastors may be arrested if their sermons on sexuality can be linked in even the remotest way to acts of violence.
"It threatens free speech and freedom of religion and is totally unacceptable," he said.
As WND reported, Holder admitted a homosexual activist who is attacked following a Christian minister`s sermon about homosexuality would be protected by the proposed federal law, but a minister attacked by a homosexual wouldn`t be.
Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, testified before Congress against the hate crimes bill in 2007.
"It is fundamentally unjust for the government to treat some crime victims more favorably than others, just because they are homosexual or transsexual," Dacus said. "This bill is an unnecessary federal intrusion into state law enforcement authority, and it is an unwise step toward silencing religious and moral viewpoints."
He said the adoption of hate crimes legislation has led to widespread suppression of speech deemed politically incorrect. The Pacific Justice Institute noted that in California, hate crimes laws are commonly invoked as a basis for further laws pushing acceptance of homosexuality in public schools and the workplace. The group also warned that use of "hate speech" terminology is also now being employed by minority religious groups in America to encourage suppression of free speech, as a prominent Hindu group called on Congress and major Internet service providers to shut down websites critical of Hinduism, including websites of Christian mission organizations.
Liberty Counsel litigation counsel Matt Krause told WND, "It`s a very sad day for America and for religious liberties in general."
He said the law will not deter crime or help the law-enforcement system.
"The only thing it will do is silence and scare Christians and religious organizations," Krause said. "It will penalize thoughts and actions, and it will not stop crime. It should be called the `thought-crimes` bill."
He continued, "We encourage pastors and church leaders to keep doing what they`re doing and preach the gospel. If they run into any barriers, they can contact us because we are ready and willing to defend them in any way we need to."
|November 05, 2009
|Aborted fetus cells used in beauty creams
(Washington Times) San Francisco cosmetics company has ignited an outcry among pro-lifers for including an unexpected ingredient in its anti-aging creams: skin-cell proteins from an aborted fetus.
Children of God for Life, a watchdog group that monitors the use of fetal material in medical products, called last week for a boycott of all treatments manufactured by Neocutis Inc., which acknowledges that the key ingredient in its product line was developed from an aborted boy.
"There`s just no excuse for using aborted babies in skin-care products," said Debi Vinnedge, executive director of Children of God for Life, a 10-year-old organization based in Murfreesboro, Tenn. "The reaction, the shock and anger I`ve seen is incredible."
In a statement released Friday, in response to a wave of condemnation from pro-life and religious blogs, Neocutis defended the use of its trademarked ingredient, Processed Skin Cell Proteins, or PSP, arguing that the fetal cell line was harvested in a responsible, ethical manner for use in treating severe dermatological injuries.
The company compared its situation to that of researchers who used fetal kidney cells to develop the polio vaccine.
"Our view - which is shared by most medical professionals and patients - is that the limited, prudent and responsible use of donated fetal skin tissue can continue to ease suffering, speed healing, save lives and improve the well-being of many patients around the globe," said the statement.
The ingredient was developed at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland from proteins in the skin tissue of a 14-week-old male baby electively aborted at the university`s hospital and donated to the Swiss university. The abortion was deemed medically necessary because the baby could not survive to term, according to Neocutis.
The fetal skin cell line was taken from a piece of skin the size of a postage stamp and donated voluntarily by the parents for medical research. The donation was approved by the hospital`s medical ethics committee and in accordance with Swiss laws, said the Neocutis statement.
Neocutis also insisted that the one donation would be sufficient for the manufacture of its products. Critics argue that it`s impossible to know how long the cell line will last, but Neocutis states on its Web site that "no additional fetal biopsies will ever be required."
"We feel we are in complete compliance with the laws of God and the laws of man," Neocutis President Mark J. Lemko said in an e-mail response to critics, which was posted on the Children of God for Life Web site.
Ms. Vinnedge accused the company of playing up PSP`s medical applications in order to draw attention from its cosmetic uses. Although the company developed PSP for the treatment of skin ulcers, burns and scarring, Neocutis soon recognized the ingredient`s value in restoring aging skin.
Neocutis cosmetic products using the cell line include Bio-Restorative Skin Cream, Bio-Gel Bio-Restorative Hydrogel, Lumiere Bio-Restorative Eye Cream and Bio-Restorative Serum with PSP Intensive Spot Treatment. In terms of price, they`re not exactly comparable to Maybelline: A 1-ounce bottle of Journee Bio-Restorative Day Cream costs $120.
Judie Brown, president of American Life League, said that although use of aborted fetal parts is indefensible for any purpose, Neocutis` use for a product as trivial as an anti-aging cream speaks uniquely to current trends and the desire for eternal youth.
"What`s new about this is our cultural attitude toward beautification and our sense of self ... and living forever," she said.
Ms. Vinnedge said she would object to the use of the fetal cell lines no matter what their use, medical or cosmetic, arguing that mature cells are just as effective. Indeed, other companies make high-end skin creams using proteins derived from postnatal placentas, which Mrs. Brown called completely morally acceptable to pro-lifers.
Even so, Ms. Vinnedge said, using fetal tissue in anti-wrinkle cream crosses moral and ethical boundaries.
"This is pure vanity," Ms. Vinnedge said. "We`re talking a medical treatment versus a vanity treatment."
She compared it to the Nazis` use of the skin of Jews to make lampshades. Her Web site showed a clip from the 1973 science-fiction movie "Soylent Green," in which the "secret ingredient" in a popular wafer is found to be human flesh.
The original skin sample may have been tiny, she said, but so is a 14-week unborn baby. "They say the skin sample was the size of a postage stamp - well, something that size could mean the whole back," Ms. Vinnedge said.
Neither the Neocutis Web site nor its advertising makes any secret of the company`s use of fetal cell lines.
The firm`s online entries say the products were "inspired by fetal skin`s unique properties" and that the technology "uses cultured fetal skin cells to obtain an optimal, naturally balanced mixture of skin nutrients."
"Neocutis means, literally, new skin. And who wouldn`t like to turn back time to create flawless baby skin again?" says one ad.
Even the company`s critics were surprised by its candor. For years, Ms. Vinnedge said, she has heard rumors that some beauty companies use aborted fetal cell lines in their products, but she`s never been able to confirm it because the Food and Drug Administration doesn`t require the listing of cosmetic ingredients.
"Usually, when people to write to us about cosmetics, we tell them it`s impossible to find out," Ms. Vinnedge said. "That`s why I can`t believe [Neocutis] posted it."
Mrs. Brown said the company`s statement struck her as morally and philosophically unmoored.
"We think the company has taken the position they have because they`re trying to align themselves with the Catholic identity of some of their founders," she said. Neocutis officials "don`t seem to think there`s any complicity on their part" for using the products of the abortion.
"I think that many companies just say, `Is there a good to be achieved,` and don`t care how," she said.
Mrs. Brown said this development isn`t especially surprising to her, recalling that her group published a book in 1981 called "101 Uses for a Dead Baby," in which author Olga Fairfax wrote that fetal tissue could be used for skin care products and even to grow new limbs.
"Now, we`re more advanced than [Ms. Fairfax] could have imagined," Mrs. Brown said.
Ms. Vinnedge`s organization has pushed Congress for years for more detailed labeling legislation in medicine, but she says she`ll now expand her proposal to include cosmetics.
"PETA made sure we know that companies aren`t testing cosmetics on animals," she said of the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "We want to make sure they`re not using fetal material."
|November 04, 2009
|Big victory for traditional marriage in Maine
(AP) Voters in Maine have rejected an effort by lawmakers there to impose homosexual "marriage" in that state.
Gay marriage has now lost in every single state -- 31 in all -- in which it has been put to a popular vote. Gay-rights activists had hoped to buck that trend in Maine -- known for its liberal-minded electorate -- and mounted an energetic, well-financed campaign. With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, proponents of traditional marriage had 53 percent of the votes.
"The institution of marriage has been preserved in Maine and across the nation," declared Frank Schubert, chief organizer for the winning side.
Read Renewed momentum for federal marriage amendment?
Gay-marriage supporters held out hope that the tide would shift before conceding defeat at 2:40 a.m. in a statement that insisted they weren`t going away. "We`re in this for the long haul. For next week, and next month, and next year -- until all Maine families are treated equally. Because in the end, this has always been about love and family and that will always be something worth fighting for," said Jesse Connolly, manager of the pro-gay marriage campaign.
At issue was a law passed by the Maine Legislature last spring that would have legalized same-sex marriage. The law was put on hold after conservatives launched a petition drive to repeal it in a referendum.
The outcome Tuesday marked the first time voters had rejected a gay-marriage law enacted by a legislature. When Californians put a stop to same-sex marriage a year ago, it was in response to a court ruling, not legislation.
Five other states have legalized gay marriage -- starting with Massachusetts in 2004, and followed by Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Iowa -- but all did so through legislation or court rulings, not by popular vote. In contrast, constitutional amendments banning gay marriage have been approved in all 30 states where they have been on the ballot.
The defeat left some gay-marriage supporters bitter. "Our relationship is between us," said Carla Hopkins, 38, of Mount Vernon, with partner Victoria Eleftherio, 38, sitting on her lap outside a hotel ballroom where gay marriage supporters had been hoping for a victory party. "How does that affect anybody else? It`s a personal thing."
The contest had been viewed by both sides as certain to have national repercussions. Backers of traditional marriage desperately wanted to keep their winning streak alive, while gay-rights activists sought to blunt the argument that gay marriage was being foisted on the country by courts and lawmakers over the will of the people.
Had Maine`s law been upheld, the result would probably have energized efforts to get another vote on gay marriage in California, and given a boost to gay-marriage bills in New York and New Jersey.
Earlier Tuesday, before vote-counting began, marriage traditionalist Chuck Schott of Portland warned that Maine "will have its place in infamy" if the gay-rights side won.
Another Portland resident, Sarah Holman said she was "very torn" but decided -- despite her conservative upbringing -- to vote in favor of letting gays marry. "They love and they have the right to love. And we can`t tell somebody how to love," said Holman, 26.
In addition to reaching out to young people who flocked to the polls for President Barack Obama a year ago, gay-marriage defenders tried to appeal to Maine voters` pronounced independent streak and live-and-let-live attitude.
The other side based many of its campaign ads on claims -- disputed by state officials -- that the new law would mean "homosexual marriage" would be taught in public schools.
Both sides in Maine drew volunteers and contributions from out of state, but the money edge went to the campaign in defense of gay marriage, Protect Maine Equality. It raised $4 million, compared with $2.5 million for Stand for Marriage Maine.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, voters in Washington state voted on whether to uphold or overturn a recently expanded domestic partnership law that entitles same-sex couples to the same state-granted rights as heterosexual married couples. With half the precincts reporting, that race was too close to call.
In Kalamazoo, Michigan, voters approved a measure that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Among other ballot items across the country:
- In Ohio, voters approved a measure that will allow casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo. Four similar measures had been defeated in recent years, but this time the state`s reeling economy gave extra weight to arguments that the new casinos would create thousands of jobs.
- Maine voters defeated a measure that would have limited state and local government spending by holding it to the rate of inflation plus population growth. A similar measure was on the ballot in Washington state.
- Another measure in Maine, which easily won approval, will allow dispensaries to supply marijuana to patients for medicinal purposes. It is a follow-up to a 1999 measure that legalized medical marijuana but did not set up a distribution system.
- The Colorado ski town of Breckenridge voted overwhelmingly to allow adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana.
|November 03, 2009
|Planned Parenthood Director Quits After Watching Abortion on Ultrasound
(FoxNews) Abby Johnson, 29, stands outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Tex., alongside Shawn Carney of the Campaign for Life. Johnson quit after watching an ultrasound of an abortion.
The former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in southeast Texas says she had a "change of heart" after watching an abortion last month — and she quit her job and joined a pro-life group in praying outside the facility.
Abby Johnson, 29, used to escort women from their cars to the clinic in the eight years she volunteered and worked for Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas. But she says she knew it was time to leave after she watched a fetus "crumple" as it was vacuumed out of a patient`s uterus in September.
`When I was working at Planned Parenthood I was extremely pro-choice," Johnson told FoxNews.com. But after seeing the internal workings of the procedure for the first time on an ultrasound monitor, "I would say there was a definite conversion in my heart ... a spiritual conversion."
Johnson said she became disillusioned with her job after her bosses pressured her for months to increase profits by performing more and more abortions, which cost patients between $505 and $695.
"Every meeting that we had was, `We don`t have enough money, we don`t have enough money — we`ve got to keep these abortions coming,`" Johnson told FoxNews.com. "It`s a very lucrative business and that`s why they want to increase numbers."
A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood told FoxNews.com that it offers a range of services at it 850 health centers nationwide, providing pregnancy tests, vaccinations and women`s health services, "including wellness exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings, contraception, and STD testing and treatment."
"Planned Parenthood`s focus is on prevention," wrote Diane Quest, the group`s National Media Director. "Nationwide, more than 90% of the health care Planned Parenthood affiliates provide is preventive in nature," explaining that a "core component the organization`s mission is to help women plan healthy pregnancies and prevent unintended pregnancies."
But Johnson said her bosses told her to change her "priorities" and focus on abortions, which she said made money for the office at a time when the recession has left them hurting.
"For them there`s not a lot of money in education," she said. "There`s as not as much money in family planning as there is abortion."
Without a doctor in residence, she said, her clinic offered abortions only two days a month, but the doctor could perform 30 to 40 procedures on each day he was there. Johnson estimated that each abortion could net the branch about $350, adding up to more than $10,000 a month.
"The majority of the money was going to the facility," she said.
Johnson said she never got any orders to increase profits in e-mails or letters, and had no way to prove her allegations about practices at the Bryan branch. She told FoxNews.com that pressure came in personal interactions with her regional manager from the larger Houston office.
But she said she got involved with the clinic "to help women and ... [do] the right thing," and the idea of raking in cash seemed to go against what she felt was the mission of the 93-year-old organization.
"Ideally my goal as the facility`s director is that your abortion numbers don`t increase," because "you`re providing so much family planning and so much education that there is not a demand for abortion services.
"But that was not their goal," she said.
A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood refused to answer questions about Johnson`s accusations, but released a statement noting that a district court had issued a temporary restraining order against the former branch director and against the Coalition for Life, an anti-abortion group with which Johnson is now affiliated.
"We regret being forced to turn to the courts to protect the safety and confidentiality of our clients and staff, however, in this instance it is absolutely necessary," said spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla.
It is unclear what made Planned Parenthood seek the restraining order. Johnson said she did not intend to release any sensitive information about her former patients at the clinic.
A hearing is set for Nov. 10 to determine whether a judge will order an injunction against Johnson and the Coalition for Life, which has led protests outside the clinic and joined her in a prayer vigil there last month.
|November 02, 2009
|New Study Reveals Connection Between Enforcing Immigration Laws and National Security
(CNSNews.com) – A new study by the conservative think tank Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) reveals the connection between enforcing immigration laws and national security – sometimes in chilling detail.
“Shortly after midnight on September 9, 2001, Maryland state trooper Joseph Catalano pulled over a red Mitsubishi rental car traveling 90 mph in a 65 mph zone on I-95 north of Baltimore,” the introduction of the report stated.
“The driver, Ziad Jarrah, had a Florida driver’s license and quietly accepted the $270 fine issued by Catalano before continuing on to join his friends at a hotel in New Jersey. Two days later, Jarrah boarded United Airlines flight 93, which he would later pilot into a field near Shanksville, Pa., killing everyone aboard,” it added.
“In 2001, Trooper Catalano had no way of knowing that Jarrah was an illegal alien who had overstayed his business visitor visa. But in the years since 9/11, dozens of state and local law enforcement agencies have been able to join ranks with federal immigration authorities under the auspices of the 287(g) program to help identify and remove foreign nationals who commit crimes or otherwise pose a threat to our well-being,” the report said.
“These state and local agencies are making a significant contribution to public safety and homeland security, not just in their jurisdictions, but for us all,” it added.
The 287 (g) programs the CIS refers to is the program that started in 2003 as an amendment to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.
The program trains and certifies state and local law enforcement personnel to enforce federal immigration law through Memorandums of Agreement (MOA) issued by the Department of Homeland Security through its Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.
“This Backgrounder examines the 287(g) program’s history and its status,” the introduction states. “We interviewed participating local law enforcement agencies (LEAs), reviewed statistics and reports provided by local LEAs, analyzed data provided by ICE through a FOIA request, and scoured news reports on the program.”
Some of the findings in the report include:
287(g) officers lodged immigration charges on more than 81,000 illegal or criminal aliens between January 2006 and November 2008, according to data provided to us by ICE.
In 2008, the number of 287(g) arrests (45,368) was equal to one-fifth of all criminal aliens identified by ICE in prisons and jails nationwide that year (221,085). The program has flagged a large number of known serious and/or violent offenders, as well as some low-level offenders still at the bottom of the criminal behavior escalator.
Illegal aliens targeted by the program have been identified as a result of involvement in local law-breaking in addition to immigration law-breaking.
Participating agencies credit the 287(g) program as a major factor in reduced local crime rates, smaller inmate populations, and lower criminal justice costs.
287(g) is cost-effective — much less expensive than other criminal alien identification programs such as Secure Communities and Fugitive Operations. For example, in 2008 ICE spent $219 million to remove 34,000 fugitive aliens (mostly criminals).
In 2008, ICE was given $40 million for 287(g), which produced more than 45,000 arrests of aliens who were involved in state and local crimes.
In Harris County, Texas, the billion-dollar ICE Secure Communities interoperability program found about 1,718 removable aliens in its first six months beginning late in 2008; meanwhile the locally paid 287(g) officers in the same jail system charged about 5,000 criminal aliens over the same time period.
287(g) is a force multiplier. In 2008, the Colorado state 287(g) unit alone made 777 immigration arrests. In that same year the entire ICE investigations office based in Denver, which covers all of Colorado and several other states, made a total of 1,594 arrests.
In Maricopa County, Ariz., the local ICE detention and removal manager supervises five ICE deportation agents, who are supplemented by 64 additional locally paid county jail 287(g) officers who also identify and process criminal aliens.
The biggest obstacle to improving and expanding the 287(g) program is the lack of funding for bed space to detain illegal aliens discovered by local agencies to have committed crimes. As a result, ICE currently is removing fewer than half of the criminal aliens identified under 287(g).
Several states have submitted proposals to ICE to help alleviate this problem, but ICE has not acted to increase funding for bed space, even as it claims to prioritize the removal of criminal aliens.
The report, written by Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies at CIS, and CIS Fellow James R. Edwards, Jr., is critical of the Obama administration and Congress for not fully supporting the 287 (g) program as the report concludes it was intended to operate.
“The 287(g) program has been a welcome addition to U.S. immigration law,” the report states. “It represents the forward thinking of serious lawmakers. The program’s success, once congressional advocates helped advance it despite bureaucratic resistance, has been significant.
“However, the 287(g) program could be much bigger, fine-tuned for greater efficiency and effectiveness, and augmented in ways that represent maturing,” the conclusion continued. “287(g) has achieved the success it has is due to sustained commitment from Congress, as well as the administrative branch waking up a bit to that promise.
“State and local jurisdictions are, by and large, willing to do their part in immigration enforcement. The gains of 287(g) will certainly be lost if the troubling change in congressional priority and ICE’s bureaucratic games persist,” it added.
|November 24, 2009
|Obama Likely to Skip Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen
(FOXNews.com) President Obama will probably not attend the U.N. conference on climate change in December because it is not a "head of state" event, but may use his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize as a platform to address climate change issues.
President Obama is "leaning toward not going" to the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December, a senior administration official told Fox News.
The current thinking in the administration is that since the conference is not a "head of state" event, Obama will not attend. Obama will be accepting the Nobel Prize in Oslo on the second day of the Copenhagen conference and may use that platform to address climate change issues.
On big reason the Copenhagen conference is not a "head of state" event is because of the slow progress of climate change legislation in the U.S. Senate. Absent Senate passage of a climate change bill mandating a cap-and-trade system, Obama will have nothing to bring to Copenhagen as part of a U.S.-led effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a factor likely to undermine global efforts to curb those emissions.
"It`s not likely to turn into a head of state meeting given the current legislative trajectory in the U.S. vis-a-vis energy policy," the administration official said.
Negotiations with India and China on setting and enforcing carbon pollution limits have become bogged down, complicating global efforts to produce a successor treaty to the Kyoto Pact the U.S. never ratified.
Todd Stern, the president`s top climate change negotiator, will attend the Copenhagen conference for the administration.
Other top officials may join Stern if more progress is achieved in the coming weeks, an official said.
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