Sunday, June 22, 2008

Israel’s Messianic Jews Under Attack

Israel's tiny community of Messianic Jews, a mixed group of 10,000 people who include the California-based Jews for Jesus, complains of threats, harassment and police indifference. A March 20 bombing using a booby-trapped gift basket was the worst incident so far. In October, a mysterious fire damaged a Jerusalem church used by Messianic Jews, and last month ultra-Orthodox Jews torched a stack of Christian holy books distributed by missionaries. Proselytizing is strongly discouraged in Israel, a state that was established for a people that suffered centuries of persecution for not accepting Jesus and has little tolerance for missionary work. At the same time, Israel has warm relations with U.S. evangelical groups, which strongly support its cause, but these generally refrain from proselytizing inside Israel. Even the Mormon church, which has mission work at its core worldwide, agreed when it opened a campus in Jerusalem to refrain from missionary activity.


WASHINGTON - The winner of the McCain-Obama showdown in November may have the task of replacing two or three justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices John Paul Stevens, 88, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 75, are considered likely to retire from the court within the next four years. Justice David Souter, 68, is reported to be eager to return to his New Hampshire home. The recent Supreme Court ruling that detainees at Guantanamo Bay may not be held indefinitely without court review illustrates the presidential candidates' different philosophies on national security and terrorism. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, called the ruling "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country." Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, praised it as "an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law." The case represents just one of the issues swirling around campaign discussions about the direction of the Supreme Court. Other differences include questions of corporate conduct and the emotionally charged right to abortion as defined by the 1973 case Roe vs. Wade.

President Bush and Congress have settled their differences on terrorist surveillance and Iraq war money. Now attention turns to a potential housing rescue, probably the last major initiative with any chance of passing before lawmakers scatter to campaign for re-election. Bush has threatened a veto. But lawmakers in both parties say the housing legislation is a political imperative, and negotiators see the makings of a summertime bargain. For one, the measure contains elements that Bush long has demanded. They include modernizing the Depression-era Federal Housing Administration and creating a new regulator for the government-sponsored mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Then there is the political reality for the president: Many Republicans are facing a darkening re-election outlook amid tough economic times and are reluctant to oppose a measure intended to address the crux of the financial crisis.


Concerns over security, sabotage and smuggling are fading as the government in Baghdad takes control of oil-rich areas that were run by rogue Shiite militias just a few months ago. This month, the Iraqi government expects 10 major foreign oil companies — including ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron — to sign modest contracts that could be a first step toward bigger investments. However, any major jump in Iraqi oil production is probably years away, analysts say. Still, the stakes are enormous for both Iraq and the global economy. With the world's fourth-biggest crude reserves, Iraq could provide the world's best hope for a medium-term solution to record-high prices of around $130 a barrel, which have pushed gas prices above $4 a gallon for American drivers.

The decisive battle of the Iraq war is shaping up — not in the streets of Baghdad but in the halls of government where the future of America's role across the region is on the line. American and Iraqi officials have expressed new resolve to hammer out far-reaching deals that would allow U.S. forces to remain on bases across Iraq once the U.N. mandate expires at year's end. The stakes in the talks are enormous. The outcome will shape not just Iraq for years to come — but, more important, America's strategic position all across the oil-rich Persian Gulf at a time when Iran's influence is growing. The U.S. maintains substantial air and naval forces elsewhere in the Gulf but few ground troops except in Iraq. A pact also would assure Arab allies that Iraq would not fall under domination by Iran, which is pressuring the Iraqis to refuse any deal that keeps U.S. soldiers here. But critics in the United States fear it will tie the hands of the next president when millions of Americans are anxious to bring troops home. Many Iraqis, in turn, worry the deal will allow American domination of their country for decades. With so much in the balance, the Iraqi government said Wednesday that both Washington and Baghdad recognize the need to finish the talks by July's end "to avoid any legal vacuum that may arise."


Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Several American officials said the Israeli exercise appeared to be an effort to develop the military’s capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran’s nuclear program. Israeli officials declined to discuss the details of the exercise. A spokesman for the Israeli military would say only that the country’s air force “regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel.” But the scope of the Israeli exercise virtually guaranteed that it would be noticed by American and other foreign intelligence agencies. One Israeli goal, the Pentagon official said, was to practice flight tactics, aerial refueling and all other details of a possible strike against Iran’s nuclear installations and its long-range conventional missiles. A second, the official said, was to send a clear message to the United States and other countries that Israel was prepared to act militarily if diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from producing bomb-grade uranium continued to falter.


The European Union on Thursday agreed to lift its diplomatic sanctions against Cuba, but imposed tough conditions on the communist island to maintain sanction-free relations, officials said. The U.S., which has maintained a decades-long trade embargo against Cuba, criticized the move, saying there were no significant signs the communist island was easing a dictatorship. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the bloc felt it had to encourage changes in Cuba after Raul Castro took over as the head of the country's government from his ailing brother Fidel. As part of its action, the EU approved a set of conditions on Cuba in return for sanction-free relations. They include the release of all political prisoners; access for Cubans to the Internet; and a double-track approach for all EU delegations arriving in Cuba, allowing them to meet both opposition figures and members of the Cuban government.

Global Hoax

A scientist whose reservations about "global warming" have been officially endorsed by tens of thousands of other scientists is accusing the U.N. of using "mob rule" to generate fear-mongering climate change reports intended to scare national leaders into submitting to its worldwide taxation schemes. the Petition Project, a compilation of more than 31,000 scientists – with more names arriving daily – who have voluntarily signed their names to the following statement: "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."

"Always, scientific progress is a result of a large number of individual decisions that trend in a specific direction," said Art Robinson, a research professor of chemistry and co-founder of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. Not so, however, at the United Nations. Especially with the organization's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has generated many of the claims of catastrophic results of man's use of hydrocarbon fuels, including submerged coastlines and a deadly, massive expansion of African deserts.


The nation's weak economy has landed some big states in a desperate struggle to balance their budgets before July 1 when their new fiscal years begin. Arizona, California, New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania are among states that must slash spending or raise taxes to straighten out their finances. Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican, plans to call a special session of the Legislature next week to find a last-minute solution to a budget shortfall approaching $1 billion. The state is outspending revenue by $1 billion a month yet is nowhere near settling on a budget due in 10 days. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democratic Legislature are far apart on what to do.

Arizona has never missed its budget deadline but is preparing for a government shutdown July 1 that could temporarily idle 30,000 state employees. Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature have been deadlocked over how to close a $2 billion gap between projected revenue and planned spending. The governor wants to borrow most of the shortfall, allowing schools to be built with debt rather than on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Stocks capped a difficult week with steep losses Friday amid escalating worries about the financial and automotive sectors and a rebound in oil prices. The Dow Jones industrial average gave up more than 200 points to end at its lowest level in three months. While investors have seen other triple-digit days in the past year since concerns about the economy began emerging, the Dow's first finish under 12,000 since mid-March could deal Wall Street a psychological blow.

Oil/Gas Prices

Saudi Arabia is willing to produce more oil if customers need it, the kingdom's oil minister said Sunday without citing any specific output increase. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, has been under intense pressure from the U.S. and other oil consumers to increase its crude output to help slow the soaring price of oil. The kingdom already announced modest increases and said it would pump 9.7 million barrels a day beginning in July. But those increases have not done much to stem the skyrocketing price of oil, which closed near $135 a barrel on Friday. The high prices are affecting consumers and economies across the United States, Europe and much of the world. Many countries have experienced social unrest as rising fuel prices have driven significant increases in the cost of food and other basic goods.


The flood damage to Iowa crops could reach $3 billion, according to the state's agriculture secretary. "Right now, we have about 10 percent of our corn that has either been flooded out or not planted and about 20 percent of our (soy)beans," Bill Northey told a public television show. Amid the battle to hold back the swollen Mississippi River, some towns in northeastern Missouri and Illinois got an unwelcome surprise Saturday as river levels rose higher than projected. Forecasters said Saturday afternoon that the river would crest several inches higher than expected in Hannibal and at Quincy, Ill., where it was set to crest late in the day more than 2 feet below the '93 flood peak,
  • .JJ Commentary: The Midwest has had two “hundred-year floods” in just 15 years.

A typhoon, which has submerged entire communities and set off landslides, has left at least 155 dead in the Philippines, said Sen. Richard Gordon, head of the national Red Cross, based on field reports from his staff. But there were concerns the death toll would jump dramatically. The 72 people listed as missing does not include the more than 740 passengers and crew aboard the MV Princess of Stars, a passenger ferry that capsized during Typhoon Fengshen.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A fast-moving fire erupted Friday along the Northern California coast, burning homes, forcing hundreds of residents to flee and backing up traffic for miles on a scenic highway. A number of homes were destroyed, but there was no indication how many. Multiple grass fires appeared to have merged into the larger blaze. In southeastern New Mexico, firefighters were trying to corral a lightning-caused blaze that had scorched 64 square miles of desert grass, shrubs and cacti in the Guadalupe Mountain foothills. Thunderstorms sparked as many as 75 wildfires in a wilderness area in far Northern California on Saturday. Those fires range in size from less than an acre to more than 750 acres. None immediately threatened homes.

Bird Flu Declines

The worst of the bird flu threat is over but the fight to eliminate the disease from poultry is weak — a situation that could worsen the global food crisis, health experts warned on Friday. "The peak is over, but we still are dealing with many outbreaks, small outbreaks," Juan Lubroth, a senior official with the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization, said at an international medical conference. "It's like a boiling pot, and we need to keep the lid on that before it gets worse," Lubroth said at the 13th International Congress on Infectious Diseases, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Bird flu is still active in 10 countries, down from 60 that have been affected since 2003. Hot spots include China, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Political Correctness vs. Christianity

TORONTO — After four months of controversy over the roles of religion and the state, the government of Ontario has compromised by keeping the Lord's Prayer in the provincial legislature — and adding invocations from other faiths. Members of the legislature voted unanimously to retain the daily opening recitation of the Lord's Prayer, but starting Monday the prayer was joined in rotation with eight new prayers from other faiths, and a moment of silence to appease non-believers. Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Baha'i, Sikh, First Nations (indigenous) and non-denominational prayers will alternate, along with a moment of silent reflection. More than 25,000 Ontarians wrote the premier with letters, e-mails and petitions; about 90% were opposed to the change. Many cited a need to keep the province's Christian heritage intact.

  • JJ Commentary: Amazing, isn’t it, how government thwarts Christianity despite the people’s preferences. A clear sign of the end-times.

Gay Marriage Begins in CA

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An appeals court has rejected a conservative group's latest effort to stop gay marriages in California before the November election. The Liberty Council had asked a state appeals court to block same-sex weddings until voters could decide the issue on the November ballot. The three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal refused the request in a brief ruling issued Tuesday as gay marriages began in full swing around the state. Earlier the appeals court had ruled against allowing gay marriages but the state Supreme Court overturned that decision last month. In its latest ruling the appeals court says the high court has made it clear that same-sex marriage should be allowed. Gay marriage became legal in California last Monday afternoon.

Illegal Immigration Ebbing

No hard figures exist, but various surveys and anecdotes from immigrants, their advocates and consular officers in Miami suggest that more Latin Americans are voluntarily heading back home, the apparent result of the U.S. economic downturn and anxiety generated by a federal crackdown on illegal immigration. The hardest hit appear to be those in agricultural, construction, food processing and service jobs in which many immigrants work. A 2007 U.S. Department of Homeland Security report found that the number of permanent legal residents entering the country last year from South and Central America dropped by a quarter. That followed a big increase from 2005 to 2006. A recent survey of Latin-American immigrants by the Inter-American Development Bank highlights their malaise: 81 percent said it was more difficult now than a year ago to get a well-paying U.S. job. More than a quarter said they were considering going home in the next few years. And 68 percent said anti-immigration sentiment was a major problem — almost double the percentage who said so in 2001.

Middle East

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel officially confirmed Wednesday that a cease-fire with the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip will begin this week in an effort to end a year of fighting that has killed more than 400 Palestinians and seven Israelis. The cease-fire is slated to begin Thursday and would be followed next week by an Israeli easing of its blockade of Gaza, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said. Talks to release an Israeli soldier held by Hamas will then intensify, Regev said. Egypt, which brokered the talks, announced a six-month agreement on Tuesday, saying it would begin Thursday at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT). Hamas confirmed the deal shortly afterward. But there was no official confirmation from Israel until Wednesday. Egypt has committed as part of the deal to stop the smuggling of arms and weapons from its territory into Gaza, Israeli defense officials said. A U.S. military engineering corps is to aid the Egyptian efforts, the officials said.

Pakistan Going Taliban & Nuclear

NEWSMAX: Pakistan is now the main frontline in Al-Qaida’s war – and if that country goes under, the Middle East will suffer. Pakistan is a vital bastion of America’s presence in the Mideast. The United States will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to hold its ground in Afghanistan, and in the Persian Gulf, if the jihadists gain even a measure of power in Islamabad. With the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in a Dec. 27 suicide bombing, and the wave of violence that has since engulfed the country, the United States fears radical Islamists now threaten Pakistan’s very survival. The prospect of a nuclear-armed Pakistan in the hands of Islamist militants is a nightmare for America and its allies, particularly Israel. Islamabad insists its nuclear arsenal is secure, but doubts persist.

  • JJ Commentary: It is only a matter of time before the Islamists fully take over Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal. This will make it problematic for holding on in Afghanistan

Gas/Oil Prices

WASHINGTON (AP) — For a quarter-century, drilling for oil and gas off nearly all the American coastline has been banned in part to protect tourism and to lessen the chances of beach-blackening spills. Then gasoline prices topped $4 a gallon this summer. Drivers and others began clamoring for federal lawmakers to do something about the record price of oil, much of it produced in foreign countries. In response, President Bush is renewing his call to open U.S. coastal waters to oil and gas development, arguing that it's high time to battle high prices with increased domestic production. He is planning to ask Congress on Wednesday to lift the drilling moratoria that have been in effect since 1981 in more than 80% of the country's Outer Continental Shelf and to let states help to decide where to allow drilling. For their part, some lawmakers have their own plan: Legislation that would continue the ban into late 2009 was scheduled to be considered Wednesday by the House Appropriations Committee.

Americans drove 30 billion fewer miles from November through April than during the same period in 2006-07, the biggest such drop since the Iranian revolution led to gasoline supply shortages in 1979-80. The decline in total miles traveled, though only 1%, means that many drivers are cutting back far more because the number of drivers and vehicles grows by 1% to 2% a year. Americans are driving about the same number of miles as in 2005, when the USA had 8 million fewer people, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Federal Highway Administration data. The declines are sharpest on rural roads, indicating that people are cutting back on long-distance and vacation trips.

Economic Doldrums Continue

Total U.S. credit card debt is exploding as credit-starved consumers, no longer able to count on refinancing their homes, increasingly rely on revolving debt just to pay their daily living expenses. The U.S. Federal Reserve reported that Americans’ revolving debt, which primarily consists of credit card loans, surged 6 percent in February to $952 billion – the highest number since recordkeeping began in 1968. The February increase followed on the heels of a 7 percent increase in January. “Consumers are funneling all available monies toward that mortgage payment,” says Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Steadily and alarmingly, shoplifting seems to be rising at many retail chains, and experts are pointing at a prime cause: the sputtering economy. Retail and law enforcement experts agree that they've seen an increase in store theft during the current slowdown — and not only from customers. "It's clear that both employee theft and shoplifting are up," says Richard Hollinger, professor of criminology at the University of Florida who compiles the annual National Retail Security Survey. "The most recent rise is being driven by the economy. A lot of people are on the financial edge." All told, retail theft is estimated to cost about $40.5 billion a year. And the rest of us, already squeezed by higher gas and food prices, end up paying for it: Stores pass on much of their losses to customers in the form of higher prices.

More than 400 real estate industry players have been indicted since March -- including dozens over the last two days -- in a Justice Department crackdown on incidents of mortgage fraud nationwide that have contributed to the country's housing crisis. The FBI put the losses to homeowners and other borrowers who were victims in the schemes at over $1 billion. Since March 1, 406 people have been arrested in the sting dubbed "Operation Malicious Mortgage" that saw 144 cases across the country. Sixty people were arrested on Wednesday alone, including in Chicago, Miami, Houston and a dozen other regions policed by the FBI. Across the country, reports of mortgage fraud have soared over the past year as the subprime mortgage market collapsed and defaults and foreclosures soared. Banks reported nearly 53,000 cases of suspected mortgage fraud last year, up from more than 37,000 a year earlier and about 10 times the level of reports in 2001 and 2002, according to the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Under pressure from falling home values, high oil prices and rising unemployment, the economy in California and the nation will perform anemically in the coming months -- but there still won't be an actual recession, UCLA forecasters say. The predictions, however, call for somewhat more pain in the months ahead than previously forecast, with little improvement this year or next. Not good, but not a recession, which is commonly defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth in gross domestic product.

The Royal Bank of Scotland has advised clients to brace for a full-fledged crash in global stock and credit markets over the next three months as inflation paralyses the major central banks. "A very nasty period is soon to be upon us - be prepared," said Bob Janjuah, the bank's credit strategist. A report by the bank's research team warns that the S&P 500 index of Wall Street equities is likely to fall by more than 300 points to around 1050 by September as "all the chickens come home to roost" from the excesses of the global boom, with contagion spreading across Europe and emerging markets. Such a slide on world bourses would amount to one of the worst bear markets over the last century.

BRUSSELS (AP) — Hundreds of farmers, truckers and taxi drivers blocked roads in and around Brussels on the eve of an EU summit to push leaders for help coping with skyrocketing fuel prices. Convoys of taxis farm tractors and truckers blocked parts of Brussels' inner ring road Wednesday, wreaking traffic havoc. Police said they expected some 1,000 protesting vehicles in central Brussels. The protesters — echoing recent demonstrations elsewhere in Europe and around the world — argue that the high fuel prices threaten their livelihoods. They are demanding that EU governments step in with subsidies to ease the sting of higher prices.

Weather Woes Continue

CANTON, Mo. — Floodwaters breached another levee in Illinois on Wednesday and threatened more Mississippi River towns in Missouri after inundating much of Iowa for the past week. The breach in Meyer, in western Illinois, forced the evacuation of the town of 40 to 50 people and threatened its farmland, Adams County Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Julie Shepard said. Authorities patrolled the town Wednesday morning to make sure no one was left behind, she said. Mississippi River floodwaters threaten to overwhelm levees in more than two dozen river towns in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, where some communities continue to rely on decades-old flood controls that fall short of modern-day guidelines.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Praise Report

CENTER FOR ARIZONA POLICY: The Arizona Senate passed the final version of SB 1048 Monday by a vote of 18-6, with six members absent. The Senate vote demonstrates the significant bi-partisan support for banning the brutal and horrific practice of partial-birth abortion in our state. SB 1048 addresses the two concerns the Governor brought up when she vetoed the previous partial-birth abortion bill in April. SB 1048 must receive final approval from the House before it goes back to the Governor. Please continue to pray for all of the CAP-supported bills to move successfully through the Legislature.

Day of Prayer and Fasting

A call has been issued for a Day of Prayer and Fasting tomorrow (Wednesday) as California begins allowing same-sex "marriages," a law firm is warning that county clerks who do issue such "licenses" will be breaking state rules, and an alarm has been raised that the state will not, under its own new precedents, now be able to prevent polygamy. The deadline for any sort of judicial restraint that would "stay" the ruling for various issues to be addressed passed today without court action, allowing the licenses to be issued at the whim of county clerks. The call for prayer comes from Concerned Women for America, which said California's "sweeping decision can be transported nationwide by homosexual couples demanding that other states recognize their California 'marriage.'" "Prayer is the key to this battle. We need to see hearts changed by God at the same time that we're trying to change minds," said Phyllis Nemeth, state director for CWA of California. "That's why I'm inviting my fellow Californians especially to join CWA in prayer and fasting for our state and our nation."

Stem Cell Research

U.S. Roman Catholic bishops issued a document Friday warning against what they consider the moral dangers of embryonic stem cell research, saying it treats human beings as commodities and reduces procreation to a manufacturing process. With general elections looming in November, the bishops said they are not asking Catholics or the public to choose between science and religion. Instead, they are urging people to examine how society should conduct medical research. Research advocates say that banning scientific use of embryos would halt promising efforts to find treatments for diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. Human embryonic stem cells are created in the first days after conception and give rise to all organs and specialized tissues in the body. But the bishops said that "no commitment to a hoped-for 'greater good' can erase or diminish the wrong of directly taking innocent human lives here and now." "As believers who recognize each human life as the gift of an infinitely loving God, we insist that every human being, however small or seemingly insignificant, matters to God," the bishops said.


European and Asian companies are beating their American rivals into Iraq now that security has improved the investment climate, Iraq and U.S. officials say. "It's starting to turn … and the people who are getting in on the ground floor are not American," said Paul Brinkley, the Pentagon official who is leading U.S. efforts to help Iraq rebuild its economy. "It's ironic." Foreign companies have committed to deals worth about $500 million so far this year and Brinkley expects at least $1 billion in foreign investment by the end of the year. So far, Romanian consortium and a Lebanese company have signed revenue-sharing deals with Iraqi state-owned cement factories. Each group will invest about $150 million. China has also aggressively pursued the Iraqi market, selling machinery to the government and electronic products to consumers.


KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — About 870 prisoners escaped during a Taliban bomb and rocket attack on the main prison in southern Afghanistan that knocked down the front gate and demolished a prison floor, Afghan officials said Saturday. The police chief of Kandahar province, Sayed Agha Saqib, said 390 Taliban prisoners were among the 870 inmates who fled the prison during the attack late Friday. NATO's International Security Assistance Force put the number of escapees slightly higher, at around 1,100, according to spokesman Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco. He conceded that the assault was a success.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened Sunday to send Afghan troops across the border to fight militants in Pakistan, a forceful warning to insurgents and the Pakistani government that his country is fed up with cross-border attacks. Karzai said Afghanistan has the right to self defense, and because militants cross over from Pakistan "to come and kill Afghan and kill coalition troops, it exactly gives us the right to do the same." Speaking at a Sunday news conference, Karzai warned Pakistan-based Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud that Afghan forces would target him on his home turf. Mehsud is suspected in last year's assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.


The European Union on Saturday presented Iran with a modified package of incentives to suspend its uranium enrichment program, but an Iran government spokesman said the country would reject the offer if it requires a halt to sensitive nuclear work. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana presented Iran with the package on behalf of the United States, Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China, describing it as generous and comprehensive. But Iran's government spokesman, Gholam Hossein Elham, said Iran won't accept the offer if it asks Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

  • NOTE: We report on wars, earthquakes, weather, wildfires and the economy because these are signs of the end-times (see Matthew 24 and Revelation 6:1-8 among others).


Housing starts slid 3.3% in May to their lowest level in more than 17 years, while permits for future construction also fell, signaling more weakness ahead for the battered housing sector. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that housing starts fell to an annual pace of 975,000 units in May, lowest since March 1991. Building permits fell to an annual rate of 969,000.

Oil futures are hit a new milestone near $140 a barrel Monday morning, a dramatic surge analysts attributed to the weakening dollar. Many investors buy commodities such as oil as a hedge against inflation when the dollar loses buying power. A weaker dollar makes oil less expensive to investors dealing in other currencies because oil is traded in dollars. Nationwide average for regular gasoline was $4.082, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Monday. That's up 4.3 cents in a week, but up $1.029 this year. The average is going up in relatively small increments, signaling either a normal summer plateau or a breather before the run-up resumes.

Electricity bills are heading up. Way up. Utilities across the USA are raising power prices up to 29%, mostly to pay for soaring fuel costs, but also to build new plants and refurbish an aging power grid. Even more dramatic rate increases are ahead. The mounting electric bills will further squeeze households struggling with spiraling gasoline prices. The increases come after rising fuel prices already have driven up utility bills nearly 30% in the past five years, the sharpest jump since the 1970s energy crisis.

Corn prices surged to a record Monday, with some contracts briefly topping $8 a bushel for the first time as traders bet that a major swath of this year's corn crop will be lost to Midwest flooding. The concerns were underscored after the markets closed, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that 43% of this year's corn crop is in fair to very poor condition vs. 30% at this point in 2007, which eventually produced a record harvest.

Wholesale prices bolted ahead in May at the fastest pace in six months as energy and food costs marched higher. The Labor Department reported Tuesday that its Producer Price Index, which measures the costs of goods before they reach store shelves, shot up 1.4% in May. That was up from a modest 0.2% rise in April and marked the biggest increase since November. However, stripping out energy and food prices, which can swing widely from month to month, the "core" rate of inflation rose 0.2% in May, an improvement from the prior month's 0.4% increase. That suggested that other prices were fairly well behaved.

Swamped by debt and rising medical bills, elderly Americans have been seeking bankruptcy-court protection at sharply faster rates than other adults, a study to be released Tuesday indicates. From 1991 to 2007, the rate of personal bankruptcy filings among those ages 65 or older jumped by 150%, according to AARP, which will release the new research from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project. The most startling rise occurred among those ages 75 to 84, whose rate soared 433%. "Health care is a big issue for the elderly," says George Gaberlavage, director of consumer and state affairs at the AARP Public Policy Institute. "And out-of-pocket expenses have been going up."


A magnitude-7.2 earthquake ripped across mountains and rice fields in northern Japan on Saturday, killing at least six people dead as it sheared off hillsides, jolted buildings and shook nuclear power plants. At least eight people were missing. Military helicopters swarmed the quake zone 250 miles north of Tokyo, ferrying in supplies and flying injured to hospitals. Officials said at least 144 people were injured and landslides trapped 100 bathers at a hot spring resort. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said the government was mobilizing troops, police and "everybody we possibly can" to find the missing and rescue and treat the injured. The force of the quake, which was followed by 153 aftershocks, buckled countless roads, including one highway that was severed when a stretch of land collapsed, creating a cliffside. Electricity was cut to about 29,000 households and water to about 500 others.

At a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, the jolt splashed 5 gallons of radioactive water from two pools storing spent fuel, operators said. Trade and Industry Ministry official Yoshinori Moriyama, however, said there was no leakage outside the plant. Soldiers fighting through a torrent of mud and rocks dug three bodies from a hot spring resort Sunday, bringing the death toll from a magnitude 7.2-earthquake in northern Japan to at least nine, with more than 200 injured.


IOWA (AP) — Floodwaters were receding Saturday in Cedar Rapids after swamping 1,300 city blocks, forcing 24,000 evacuations and nearly crippling the water supply for the state's second largest city. But as the Cedar retreated, waters in Iowa City had already invaded parts of the University of Iowa campus and weren't expected to crest until sometime Monday or Tuesday. "This is our version of Katrina," Johnson County Emergency Management spokesman Mike Sullivan said. "This is the worst flooding we've ever seen — much worse than 1993," when much of the Midwest was hit by record flooding. About 36,000 Iowans in 11 counties are homeless, Gov. Chet Culver said Sunday. In Cedar Rapids, 25,000 people were forced from their homes. Flood water could spill over about two dozen levees along the Mississippi River in Iowa, and Missouri this week unless people top the levees with enough sandbags, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. As many as 27 levees between Davenport, Iowa and St. Louis, Missouri, are said to be at risk.

BEIJING (AP) — At least 112 people have died and seven are missing in flooding across a broad stretch of southern China, state media reported Sunday. More than 1.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes across nine provinces, including Sichuan, which is still reeling from last month's earthquake that killed almost 70,000 people, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Raging rivers have collapsed tens of thousands of homes, damaged crops across more than 2.12 million acres and causing more than an estimated $1.5 billion in economic losses. Heavy rain in Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces will further raise water levels downstream, especially in the coastal manufacturing powerhouse of Guangdong, Xinhua says. Most of those areas are expected to receive more heavy rain over the next 10 days.


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Smoke from a massive wildfire in eastern North Carolina is so intense that officials are warning residents in the northeastern part of the state to limit their time outdoors. State Division of Air Quality director Keith Overcash said Friday that air-quality monitors are reporting "some of the highest levels of particle pollution we have ever recorded." The division issued a Code Purple on Friday for all areas east of Interstate 95 and north of U.S. 70. The Code Purple is the most severe air pollution warning the state has ever issued. It advises the elderly, children and those with some health problems to avoid all outdoor physical activity. Firefighters will pump 6 million gallons an hour from two lakes to saturate the huge wildfire in eastern North Carolina that has burned for more than two weeks in peat soil in and around a national wildlife refuge.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Gaza On Alert

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli leaders have decided not to launch a broad invasion of the Gaza Strip to give Egyptian-brokered truce efforts more time to succeed. Egypt has been trying to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers for months. But Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev says the Israeli military will continue its preparations in case the truce talks fail. Olmert's Security Cabinet met Wednesday to discuss whether to invade Gaza or pursue the truce. An Israeli shell aimed at a group of militants in southern Gaza Strip slammed into a nearby house early Wednesday, decapitating a 6-year-old girl in her backyard, Palestinian medical officials and a relative said.

Government Ineptitude

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government is hiring so many new air traffic controllers to replace departing veterans that it cannot efficiently train them, an inspector general reported Tuesday. The Transportation Department's inspector general said the Federal Aviation Administration is so swamped with new hires that it has exceeded its own maximum trainee numbers at 22% of its 314 air control facilities. The FAA uses a database replete with erroneous information to manage the training program and has failed to implement remedial steps the agency itself promised in 2004, the IG report added. Even inside the FAA, it wasn't clear who was in charge because four vice presidents at FAA headquarters have authority over some part of hiring and training controllers. "Facility managers, training managers and even headquarters officials were unable to tell us who or what office was ultimately responsible for facility training," the IG report said. In a written response, the FAA accepted most of the IG's recommendations. But the FAA rejected the idea of making public an accurate count each year of how many fully certified controllers and how many trainees work in each of its facilities.

Gitmo Detainees Win in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court's unprecedented ruling Thursday giving Guantanamo detainees a constitutional right to challenge their imprisonment in U.S. courts was a sweeping victory for the detainees. Yet it sows more legal uncertainty at the naval base that has held foreign detainees for more than six years and spawned international controversy. In the latest court rebuke against the Bush administration's detainee policies, the justices ruled 5-4 that a military screening process used to determine whether a prisoner is an "enemy combatant" does not protect detainees' rights. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the executive branch has an interest in national security but added, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times." The decision could allow nearly 200 prisoners who have not been charged to challenge their imprisonment in regular U.S. courts. The decision does not directly affect the cases of men — including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — who are charged with Sept. 11- related crimes, although it could slow those proceedings.


The number of U.S. homeowners swept up in the housing crisis rose further last month, with foreclosures up nearly 50% compared with a year earlier, a foreclosure listing company said Friday. Nationwide, 261,255 homes received at least one foreclosure-related filing in May, up 48% from 176,137 in the same month last year and up 7% from April, RealtyTrac Inc. said. One in every 483 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing in May, the highest number since RealtyTrac started the report in 2005 and the second-straight monthly record. The housing crisis grew worse in May, as more than 73,000 American families lost their homes to bank repossessions, up a staggering 158% from the 28,548 households that were dispossessed in May 2007.

The consumer price index, the government's main gauge of inflation, soared 0.6% after seasonal adjustments, its biggest jump in six months, as gasoline costs surged 5.7%, the Labor Department reported Friday. Overall consumer prices rose a larger-than-expected 4.2% over the past 12 months. The combination of rising inflation and weak wage gains contributed to another drop in weekly earnings. After adjusting for inflation, weekly earnings for non.-supervisory workers were down 1.2% in May. Some economists now expect the Fed to start raising interest rates to slow the economy and put a lid on inflation.
  • JJ Commentary: Slowing an already slow economy is a risky move.

Gas/Oil Prices Caused by Lack of Investment/Foresight

BRUSSELS (AP) — The chairman of oil giant BP said Wednesday that high oil prices stem from industry's failure to invest enough for surging demand. Oil prices have quadrupled in the last seven years, hitting a record high June 6 when traders paid $139.12 a barrel. Peter Sutherland, BP's chairman, said the high prices were not driven by market speculators or fears that oil is running out but an unexpected increase in demand. "We just didn't predict how fast demand would take off," he said at an event in Brussels organized by the European Policy Centre think tank. "The high price that we have today is caused, in my view, by the inability of the industry to easily supply rising demand, and this isn't because of the lack of available resources but because of inadequate investment in both production and complex refining capacity," he said.

Weather Woes Continue

LONGMIRE, Wash. (AP) — An Army Chinook helicopter has rescued two hikers who were stranded high on the volcano's flank after a freak blizzard. The man and woman had frostbite and hypothermia from being caught overnight Monday in a blizzard that killed the woman's husband, according to Bacher. After a winter of heavy snowfall that forced repeated closure of mountain passes, unseasonably cold conditions have continued long into spring in Washington's Cascade Range. Paradise, the jumping-off point for the trail to Camp Muir, received 2 feet of fresh snow over Monday night, with 5-foot drifts and 70-mph winds at Camp Muir. "Nobody expects a blizzard in June," Mount Rainier National Park spokesman Kevin Bacher said.

Rising water from the Cedar River forced the evacuation of a downtown hospital Friday after residents of more than 3,000 homes fled for higher ground. A railroad bridge collapsed, and 100 city blocks were under water. People in several northern Missouri communities, meanwhile, were piling up sandbags to prepare for flooding in the Missouri River, expected to crest over the weekend, and a more significant rise in the Mississippi River expected Wednesday. Amtrak's California Zephyr line was suspended across Iowa because of flooding along the BNSF Railway. Four boy scouts were killed when a tornado hit rural western Iowa on Wednesday.

Torrential rains and flooding in the Midwest could soon mean consumers face even higher prices for meat, eggs, dairy and other foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday slashed its estimate for the volume of this year's corn crop because of wet and flooded fields, prompting corn prices to surge to new records on Chicago futures exchanges. Contracts for July delivery hit $6.73 a bushel, with prices for later months soaring above $7.25 per bushel, more than double 2006 levels. Cattle futures prices also rose as traders bet producers would reduce herds — and future meat supply — in the face of mounting feed prices.

Deaths blamed on the East Coast's recent heat wave climbed past 30 Thursday with various coroner's reports, and 15 of the deaths were in Philadelphia alone. The region suffered through temperatures in the high 90s from Saturday through Tuesday.

Earthquakes in Lebanon

A series of up to seven earth tremors centered in Lebanon and measuring between 3.8 and 4.2 on the Richter scale have also been felt in northern and central Israel over the past 24 hours. No injuries or damage have been reported as of the latest quakes on Friday morning. Last February, two quakes measuring up to 5.3 on the Richter scale with epicenters just north of Tyre were also felt in the Galilee. At the start of the year, there was a series of four quakes as well in the Dead Sea area measuring between 3 and 4.3 on the Richter scale. Seismologists say the series of tremors do not necessarily indicate that a large earthquake is likely to hit the region, though the historic record suggests a strong earthquake can be expected soon in the Holy Land.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Coming Soon to America

A Canadian human rights tribunal ordered a Christian pastor to renounce his faith and never again express moral opposition to homosexuality, according to a new report. In a decision handed down just days ago in the penalty phase of the quasi-judicial proceedings run by the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, evangelical pastor Stephen Boisson was banned from expressing his biblical perspective of homosexuality and ordered to pay $5,000 for "damages for pain and suffering" as well as apologize to the activist who complained of being hurt. According to a report from Pete Vere at the Catholic Exchange, the penalty could foreshadow the possible fate of the Rev. Alphonse de Valk, who also cited the biblical perspective on homosexuality in the nation's debate over same-sex "marriage" and now faces HRC charges.

China Crackdown

Though the Chinese government has always persecuted house churches, a new reports indicates that the approaching Bejing Olympics have unleashed the first systematic crackdown, the Christian Post reports. The report, called "China: Persecution of Protestant Christians in the Approach to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games" by U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide and U.S.-based China Aid Association, documents governmental funding to the Ministry of Public Security for a campaign to eradicate house churches throughout China. Tactics used to crack down on unregistered Christians include: targeting well-established unregistered churches; sending landlords directives ordering them to not rent space to those engaging in religious activities; charging Christians in the Xinjiang region of separatism; expelling foreign Christians; targeting repression at the Chinese House Church Alliance; and carrying out the largest mass sentencing of house church leaders in 25 years.

Iran Next Hotspot

KRANJ, Slovenia — President Bush, pushing for a tougher international stance against Iran's nuclear ambitions, came together with his European partners on Tuesday to embrace financial sanctions beyond those the United Nations already has undertaken to pressure Tehran. Bush had a long list of trans-Atlantic issues on his plate at his final U.S.-European Union summit, held in the scenic countryside amid majestic mountain ranges. None more pressing than Iran. The president wants to get Britain, Germany and France to agree on a package of new penalties and incentives aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And he wants the next package of U.N. sanctions to be tougher than the last. According to the summit declaration obtained by The Associated Press, Bush and the EU leaders were poised to threaten Iran with further financial sanctions unless it verifiably suspends its nuclear enrichment. The statement said Iran must fully disclose any nuclear weapons work and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s watchdog group, to verify that any such work has ceased.
  • JJ Commentary: Iran will not cease its nuclear ambitions over “new penalties and incentives.” Ultimately, Israel and/or the U.S. will destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities and touch off another Middle East conflagration that will lead to the peace pact “with many” prophesied by Daniel and the emergence of the anti-Christ

Gas/Oil Prices

NEW YORK (AP) — Drivers are paying an average of $4 for a gallon of gasoline for the first time. AAA and the Oil Price Information Service say the national average price for a gallon of regular gas rose to $4.04 on Tuesday. But consumers in many parts of the country have already been paying well above that price for some time. Gas is expected to keep climbing, putting greater pressure on consumers and businesses, because the price of oil is soaring in futures markets. Light, sweet crude shot up nearly $11 a barrel Friday and approached $140 for the first time. Along with higher fuel costs, consumers are also contending with higher prices for food and other goods because of rising transportation costs.


Menacing storms crippled central Indiana with as much as 10 inches of rain Saturday and spawned tornadoes that ripped up roofs and flipped tractor-trailers in Wisconsin and the Chicago suburbs. The floods in Indiana threatened dams, inundated highways and forced the Coast Guard to rescue residents from swamped homes. Rising waters forced the evacuation of more than 100 patients and doctors from a hospital south of Indianapolis. To the northwest, Chicago-area residents ran for cover as tornadoes touched down throughout the region. About 25,000 customers in Chicago's southern suburbs were without power late Saturday, said ComEd spokeswoman Judy Rader. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels declared an emergency in 17 counties in his state.

Military crews joined desperate sandbagging operations Monday as Indiana streams flooded to record levels, while the East Coast turned into a steam bath with temperatures simmering toward the century mark. Nine deaths were blamed on stormy weekend weather, most in the Midwest. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle declared an emergency for 29 counties and President Bush late Sunday declared a major disaster in 29 Indiana counties. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said nearly a third of his state's 99 counties need federal help. Rivers in the Midwest swelled with the runoff from heavy weekend rainfall, topped by the 11 inches that fell Saturday in Indiana, and reservoirs overflowed their dams in Wisconsin. "This thing came on fast with such a radical deluge of water that people were describing going from a feeling of security to waist-deep water in a matter or 15 or 20 minutes," said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who canceled a trade mission to Japan.

For nearly a year, the tiny southwestern Wisconsin village of Gays Mills has struggled to survive after a devastating flood. A new deluge may have sealed its fate. Flash floods inundated the town of 625 over the weekend, just 10 months after residents worked to rebuild their homes and businesses. The swollen Kickapoo River engulfed nearly the entire town Monday morning, forcing about 150 people to evacuate. By evening, the village was a grid of canals with cars submerged up to their windows and parking lots looking like lakes, just as it was in August.


ATHENS (AP) — Authorities say a very strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.5 has struck southwestern Greece. At least three people have been injured, and there are reports of a further five people trapped in a collapsed house. Emergency services say two people were slightly injured in the province of Ahaia by a falling roof, and one on the island of Lefkada by falling rocks. It flattened about 70 houses in the provinces of Ahaia and Ilia, severely damaged another 30 and left 230 more with damage and cracks, the Interior Ministry said Monday. The quake also damaged the air traffic control tower at a nearby military airport.

JIANGYOU, China (AP) -- A "relatively strong" aftershock shook a massive quake-formed lake Sunday that had been threatening to flood more than a million people, sending landslides tumbling down surrounding mountains, a state news agency reported. The effect of the 20-second quake on the Tangjiashan lake was not immediately known, Xinhua News Agency said. The dam of unstable mud and rocks was under surveillance following the aftershock. The Tangjiashan lake, created when a landslide dammed the Tongkou River, has become a priority for a government working to head off another catastrophe even as it cares for millions left homeless from the May 12 quake that killed nearly 70,000 people.

RENO, Nevada (AP) -- A months-long swarm of earthquakes picked up again Sunday as a string of minor temblors rattled Reno, Nevada, causing downtown high-rises to sway and knocking items off walls and shelves. There were no immediate reports of injuries or major property damage after about 20 minor quakes reported on the western edge of Reno over 12 hours ending about noon. Magnitude-3.9 and 3.6 quakes struck within a couple minutes of each other shortly before 11 a.m. and were preceded by 3.2 and 3.0 quakes early Sunday, said researchers at the seismological laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno. The swarm, which has produced thousands of mostly minor quakes, had prompted some residents in the densely populated quake zone to spend nights outside in campers and trucks. Nevada is the third most seismically active state in the U.S. behind California and Alaska.


COLUMBIA, N.C. (AP) — A wildfire that has burned nearly 31,000 acres in eastern North Carolina may smolder for months as it burns decayed vegetation that makes up the soil in the area, a state official said Saturday. The fire, about 40% contained, continues to burn in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, about 70 miles south of Norfolk, Va. The spread of the fire across more than 48 square miles slowed over the past few days. Winds remain light, but it continues to threaten about 80 homes and businesses. No injuries or structure damage have been reported. North Carolina Forest Service spokesman Bill Swartley warned that temperatures near 100 degrees this weekend would keep conditions ripe for the blaze.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Ten Commandments Proliferating

Thousands of stone Ten Commandments monuments on highly visible properties in communities across the nation, millions of smaller plaques in Christian and Jewish homes, and a massive bronze showing the biblical image of Moses holding the stones on which God wrote… The target of the ACLU? Nope. Thanks to the ACLU! Joe Worthing, the executive director for Project Moses, says his organization, only a few years old, is well on its way to reaching many of its goals of placing Ten Commandments monuments all over the nation, and it's because of a complaint from the ACLU. The ministry was launched by John Menghini, an Overland Park, Kan., businessman, who was disturbed by a news story about the ACLU demanding and getting the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from a Kansas City courthouse.

The Kansas City story also noted the fate of the monument to which the ACLU objected: It was moved about 100 feet across the street to St. Anthony's Catholic Church, so that it would be on private property and no longer subject to the whims of lawyers and judges, and a light clicked on for Menghini. "The beauty of this move is that now, far more visitors to the courthouse actually view the Ten Commandments because it is more visible than it ever was on the courthouse grounds," he said. "I thought, if every church and synagogue in America would proudly display God's law, as this one church did, maybe our culture could turn a corner and come back to its Judeo-Christian roots."

Homosexuality a Sin?

The Baptist Press reports that Americans hold differing opinions on the issue of homosexuality, including whether homosexual behavior is sinful. A telephone survey of 1,201 American adults conducted in April revealed that 48 percent of Americans believe homosexual behavior is sinful, while 45 percent say it's not, almost a statistical tie when considering the margin of error. Among those with a religious affiliation, 55 percent of Catholics and 31 percent of Protestants said they do not believe homosexual behavior is sinful. That number dropped to 17 percent among born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Protestants. Holding opposing views, 39 percent of Catholics, 61 percent of Protestants and 79 percent of born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Protestants said they do believe homosexual behavior is sinful.
  • JJ Commentary: The Bible couldn’t be clearer about homosexuality being a sin – even in the New Testament (see Romans 1:26-27, 1Corinthians 6:9). Too many Christians don’t know their Bible and are too easily swayed by public opinion

Washington Pork

WASHINGTON — So much for trimming the pork. The practice of decorating legislation with billions of dollars in pet projects and federal contracts is still thriving on Capitol Hill — despite public outrage that helped flip control of Congress two years ago. More than 11,000 of those "earmarks," worth nearly $15 billion in all, were slipped into legislation telling the government where to spend taxpayers' money this year, keeping the issue at the center of Washington's culture of money, influence and politics. Now comes an election-year encore. It's a pay-to-play sandbox where waste and abuse often obscure the good that earmarks can do. An examination of many of those earmarks by The Associated Press and two dozen newspapers participating in a project sponsored by the Associated Press Managing Editors found much greater disclosure since 2006 but no end to what has become ingrained behavior in Congress. Assisting the project were two nonprofit and nonpartisan watchdog organizations — the Sunlight Foundation and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Millions of the dollars support lobbying firms that help companies, universities, local governments and others secure what critics like Republican presidential candidate John McCain call pork-barrel spending. The law forbids using federal grants to lobby, but lobbyists do charge clients fees that often equal 10% of the largesse. Earmark winners and their lobbyists often reward their benefactors with campaign contributions. For many members of Congress, especially those on the Appropriations committees, such as Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., campaign donations from earmark-seeking lobbyists and corporate executives are the core of their fundraising. Rules forbid lawmakers from raising campaign funds from congressional offices, but members and their aides sometimes find ways to skirt them. "I know a bunch of members that if you go in to see them, somewhere in the conversation they somehow say, 'Well, we were looking through our list of campaign contributors and didn't happen to see you there,"' said Frank Cushing, a lobbyist with the National Group, which lobbies on appropriations bills. "Is there a quid pro quo? No, not directly, but you'd have to be pretty dense not to figure it out."

Washington Stalemate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress retreated Friday from the world's biggest environmental concern — global warming — in a fresh demonstration of what happens when nature and business collide, especially in an election year. It was no contest. A bill the Senate was debating would put a price on carbon emissions, targeting "greenhouse gases" that contribute to the warming that many scientists say could dramatically change the Earth. Opponents wanted to talk about higher gasoline prices. And higher taxes. That kind of talk spooks Washington.

Senate Democratic leaders couldn't overcome Republican opponents who managed to block the most serious effort in Congress to date to address the warming of the planet. The legislation called for cutting greenhouse gases by 71% from power plants, refineries and factories over the next 40 years. The opponents first filibustered the bill, requiring supporters to get 60 votes, and at the same time attacked it on a gut issue making daily headlines: gasoline prices that have surged past $4 a gallon in many parts of the country. "At the beginning of the summer driving season (you) offer a bill that would send gas prices up another 53 cents a gallon for goodness sake," Republican leader Mitch McConnell needled the Democratic majority. "This is a massive tax increase on the American people," proclaimed Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who is among Congress' dwindling skeptics when it comes to global warming, having once called it all a hoax..

Washington Mea Culpa

WASHINGTON — The Air Force's top two officials resigned under fire Thursday following a report that criticized the service for "an overall decline in nuclear weapons stewardship." Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, in his resignation letter, acknowledged a new report by Adm. Kirkland Donald that criticized the service for an incident in which nuclear warhead fuses were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan. In another incident in August, Air Force personnel unwittingly flew nuclear weapons across the country. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley said events "highlighted a loss of focus on certain critical matters" in his resignation letter and concluded that the "honorable thing to do is to step aside." Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters he accepted the resignations based solely on the report's findings and called guarding nuclear weapons the Air Force's "most sensitive mission." "We needed a change of leadership to bring a new perspective and especially to underscore the importance of accountability," Gates said.

Washington Deception

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new Senate report gives a fresh shot of adrenaline to the election-year debate over the Iraq war. President Bush and his top officials deliberately misrepresented secret intelligence to make the case to invade Iraq, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The panel put a new spin on old charges, comparing claims made in five speeches by top Bush administration officials with intelligence reports. The committee says officials wrongly linked Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11 attacks and al-Qaeda; claimed Iraq would give terrorist groups chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, and said Iraq was developing drone aircraft to spread chemical or biological agents over the United States. None was borne out by intelligence.

The report released Thursday follows, by years, an earlier committee effort that assessed the quality of pre-war intelligence on Iraq and found it severely lacking. This report is known as "phase II" and spawned a nasty partisan fight in the committee. It plows well-tread political ground by contrasting what Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said between October 2002 and March 2003, when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began, with intelligence reports that since have been released. According to the committee's chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va, the problem was the Bush administration concealed information that would have undermined the case for war. "We might have avoided this catastrophe," he said. Bush's press secretary, Dana Perino, said the problem was flawed intelligence heading into the war. "We had the intelligence that we had, fully vetted, but it was wrong. And we certainly regret that," she said.

Washington Deception

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new Senate report gives a fresh shot of adrenaline to the election-year debate over the Iraq war. President Bush and his top officials deliberately misrepresented secret intelligence to make the case to invade Iraq, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The panel put a new spin on old charges, comparing claims made in five speeches by top Bush administration officials with intelligence reports. The committee says officials wrongly linked Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11 attacks and al-Qaeda; claimed Iraq would give terrorist groups chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, and said Iraq was developing drone aircraft to spread chemical or biological agents over the United States. None was borne out by intelligence.

The report released Thursday follows, by years, an earlier committee effort that assessed the quality of pre-war intelligence on Iraq and found it severely lacking. This report is known as "phase II" and spawned a nasty partisan fight in the committee. It plows well-tread political ground by contrasting what Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said between October 2002 and March 2003, when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began, with intelligence reports that since have been released. According to the committee's chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va, the problem was the Bush administration concealed information that would have undermined the case for war. "We might have avoided this catastrophe," he said. Bush's press secretary, Dana Perino, said the problem was flawed intelligence heading into the war. "We had the intelligence that we had, fully vetted, but it was wrong. And we certainly regret that," she said.