Monday, December 1, 2008

Signs of the Times

Power may Shift to Anti-Abortion Side in AZ

One by one, the Legislature has approved bills barring the use of state funds for abortion, requiring that prospective patients be notified of the pain their fetus would endure and otherwise making the procedure less accessible to women and minors. And, one by one, Gov. Janet Napolitano has vetoed them - sometimes the same provisions more than once in a legislative session. Along the way, the two-term Democrat has earned a reputation as a staunch defender of abortion rights. Since taking office in 2003, Napolitano has vetoed at least nine measures limiting abortion. But opponents of the procedure are hopeful the legislative blockade will soon be at an end. Napolitano is expected to join the incoming Obama administration as secretary of Homeland Security. In her place would step Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer, an abortion opponent more in line with GOP legislative leaders. The potential impact of GOP control of the state House, Senate and Governor's Office isn't lost on abortion-rights advocates.

In Arizona, Napolitano has stood as a bulwark against anti-abortion measures, but "everyone's aware there would likely be a shift (under Brewer's leadership)," said Len Munsil, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for governor against Napolitano in 2006. Munsil, who founded the socially conservative Center for Arizona Policy, called Napolitano "way out of the mainstream" on matters of abortion, especially regarding her rejection of limitations on late-term abortion. Beyond abortion, there is also speculation that Brewer would rescind a new state policy that awarded state benefits to the domestic partners of state employees. The controversial move, which Napolitano supported, was accomplished through an administrative rule change rather than via the Legislature. State employees began signing up for the expanded benefits last month.

  • JJ Commentary: Goodbye and good riddance to Napolitano. Arizona is reaping the rewards of being a national leader in prayer.

Abraham's Children: An Unquiet Grave in the West Bank

HEBRON, West Bank (AP) — With its dueling street names, barbed wire barricades and the tomb of a shared patriarch split between two religions, the city of Abraham takes the feud between Israelis and Palestinians to its outer limits. Even a humble olive harvest is a cue for violence in Hebron, where 600 of Israel's most radical citizens have carved out an enclave bristling with guns and watchtowers in the midst of 170,000 Palestinians. Yet for all the city's complexities, the essence of Hebron's anguish is simple: one forefather, one city and two peoples — one feeling invaded, the other convinced it has come back to its biblical birthright, right down to the deed of sale recounted in the Book of Genesis, when Abraham purchased a burial plot for 400 silver shekels.

Jews and Arabs both claim descent from the biblical patriarch, but their relationship in Hebron is anything but brotherly. Fearful of a peace deal that would lead to their evacuation, the settlers are growing increasingly violent, throwing rocks, assaulting farmers and even taking on Israeli soldiers — all to show their government how difficult any withdrawal from the West Bank will be. According to Islamic, Jewish and Christian belief, Hebron, in the southern West Bank hills, is where not only Abraham — Ibrahim to Muslims — is buried, but also the patriarchs Isaac and Jacob and the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. But two massacres define the city as much as religion. In 1929 rampaging Arabs killed 67 Jews, and in 1994 a Jewish extremist named Baruch Goldstein shot dead 29 Palestinians praying at the mosque surrounding Abraham's grave.

  • JJ Commentary: This ancient feud between the relatives of Ishmael (Abraham’s first son by the Egyptian handmaiden Hagar) and Isaac (the son God promised the 90-year old Abraham and his wife Sarah) is the source of all Middle East conflict. Ishmael fathered the Arabs, Isaac the Jews. However, this feud has been rendered irrelevant by Jesus Christ who bought a new covenant to reconcile all people to God the one true Father. Unfortunately, the Bible says this feud will eventually fuel the Great Tribulation.

Stocks Rise for Fifth Straight Day

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks finished higher Friday, wrapping up its biggest five-day rally in more than 75 years, even as investors digested signs of a bleak holiday season for retailers and fears that a flurry of reports next week will show more economic distress. The market got big boosts over the past week from President-elect Barack Obama naming his economic team, the government propping up Citigroup, and the Federal Reserve deciding to buy massive amounts of mortgage-backed securities. These efforts reassured the market that broad efforts are still being made to fight the financial crisis that intensified in September with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

  • JJ Commentary: There will be a temporary respite in the economy as the bailout frees credit and props up the financial system. However, this is only a tiny patch on a debt-ridden economy that will collapse as part of the unfolding end-time scenario.

Cities Cut Back, Expecting Shortfalls

USA TODAY — Battered by record foreclosures and falling tax revenue, cities are laying off workers, raising fees and closing libraries and recreation centers. "Almost every city in the country is feeling the impact," says Chris Hoene, director of policy and research at the National League of Cities. A survey in September found that city finance officers expect revenue from property, sales and income taxes to decrease 4.3% this year, Hoene says. The problem will be worse next year, he says, because there is a lag between current economic conditions and when they affect city revenue. The survey found that 79% of cities expect their finances to worsen in 2009. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is asking Congress for a $90 billion stimulus plan to help cities with infrastructure projects, the creation of green jobs and community development.

Economic Downturn has More Folks Stashing their Cash

USA TODAY — The personal saving rate, which measures how much people save out of disposable income, was 1.3% in the July-September quarter. Although that's low in comparison with other countries and a far cry from the double-digit percentages seen most recently in 1985, it's more than twice last year's rate. But economists predict that once the economy improves, Americans will return to their shop-till-you-drop ways. And it's unclear how much Americans are cutting back. A USA TODAY/Gallup survey conducted in early November found that only 32% of Americans are saving more as a result of the economic downturn.

Faces or Finances? Economy Cuts into Cosmetic Procedures

USA TODAY — The economic meltdown isn't pretty. Literally. Fewer people are dishing out dollars in recent months for the beauty perks of cosmetic procedures, particularly major surgical procedures, according to plastic surgeons, dermatologists and consumer surveys. Some practices are down by as much as 15% to 30%. In a poll by the society in October, 59% of women said the economy had influenced their plans for cosmetic procedures

  • JJ Commentary: A frivolous item perhaps, but an indicator of where we’ve been as a society. So now there’s two good things about the meltdown (gas prices the other).

Students Cheat, Steal, but Say They're Good

NEW YORK (AP) — In the past year, 30% of U.S. high school students have stolen from a store and 64% have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are too apathetic about ethical standards. The Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics institute, surveyed 29,760 students at 100 randomly selected high schools nationwide, both public and private. Cheating in school is rampant and getting worse. Sixty-four percent of students cheated on a test in the past year and 38% did so two or more times, up from 60% and 35% in a 2006 survey. Despite such responses, 93% of the students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 77% affirmed that "when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."

  • JJ Commentary: That’s the trouble with relativism – people compare themselves to each other instead of an absolute standard leading to a downward spiral of moral decay.

Hillary Clinton Named Secretary of State

WASHINGTON — She'll bring global star power, a long-standing commitment to improving the status of women and children around the world and muscular promises of military action when U.S. interests are crossed. The question for Hillary Rodham Clinton, named secretary of State on Monday by President-elect Barack Obama, is whether she can forge the sort of close relationship with a former rival that is crucial to giving the nation's top diplomat the credibility to get things done. She will be taking the lead on a crushing set of global challenges, including repercussions from last week's terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, which threaten a conflagration on the nuclear-armed subcontinent. In collaboration with other administration officials, the incoming secretary of State will deal with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, efforts to turn around the war in Afghanistan, nuclear programs in such rogue nations as North Korea and Iran, the challenge from a resurgent Russia and growing concerns about global climate change.

  • JJ Commentary: This is the key position demanded by the New World Order folks to further their cause of a one-world government. Obama is an unwitting but willing dupe.

100,000 Stranded in Thailand after Airports Shut

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — The vacation is over for tens of thousands of tourists in Thailand. But they can't go home. The Hotel California-like drama began Tuesday when anti-government protesters shut the country's primary international airport. The following day they moved in on the capital's domestic airport, grounding all commercial flights in and out of the city. About 300,000 people have been stranded by the closures, dealing a severe blow to the country's reputation as a safe and reliable vacation destination. Protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy and police reinforced their presence at Suvarnabhumi airport on Saturday, but there was no word on when airports would reopen.

Mumbai Struggles to Heal

MUMBAI, India (AP) — With corpses still being pulled from a once-besieged hotel, India's top security official resigned Sunday as the government struggled under growing accusations of security failures following terror attacks that killed 174 people. Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who has become highly unpopular during a long series of terror attacks across India, submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who accepted it, according to the president's office. The Cabinet reshuffle comes as a chorus of criticism about the government's handling of the Mumbai attacks grows louder. A day after the siege ended, authorities were still removing victims bodies from the ritzy Taj Mahal hotel, where three suspected Muslim militants made a last stand before Indian commandos killed them in a blaze of gunfire and explosions. On Sunday, the waterfront landmark, popular among foreign tourists and Indian high society, was surrounded by metal barricades, its shattered windows boarded over.

The rampage was carried out by gunmen at 10 sites across Mumbai starting Wednesday night. At least 239 were wounded A previously unknown Muslim group called Deccan Mujahideen — a name suggesting origins inside India — has claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed more than 170 people. Rakesh Maria, a top police official in Mumbai, said the only gunman in custody confessed to being a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group. Lashkar is banned in Pakistan and listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. Pakistan denied it was involved and demanded evidence. The assaults have raised fears among U.S. officials about a possible surge in violence between Pakistan and India. The nuclear-armed rivals have fought three wars against each other, two over the disputed region of Kashmir.

Death Toll over 300 in Nigerian Riots

JOS, Nigeria (AP) — Mobs burned homes, churches and mosques Saturday in a second day of riots, as the death toll rose to more than 300 in the worst sectarian violence in Africa's most populous nation in years. The fighting began as clashes between supporters of the region's two main political parties following the first local election in the town of Jos in more than a decade. But the violence expanded along ethnic and religious fault lines, with Hausas and members of Christian ethnic groups doing battle. The violence is the worst since the May 2007 inauguration of President Umaru Yar'Adua, who came to power in a vote that international observers dismissed as not credible. More than 10,000 Nigerians have died in sectarian violence since civilian leaders took over from a former military junta in 1999. Political strife over local issues is common in Nigeria, where government offices control massive budgets stemming from the country's oil industry.

Report: Russia to Upgrade Missiles

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian military will upgrade its missiles in response to U.S. plans for weapons in space, a top Russian general reportedly said Monday. Interfax news agency quoted Russia's Strategic Missile Forces chief, Col.-Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, as saying that Russia's intercontinental ballistic missiles will be modernized to protect them from space-based components of the U.S. missile defense system. The upgrade will make the missiles' warheads capable of flying "outside the range" of the space-based system, Solovtsov was quoted as saying.

  • JJ Commentary: Back to the future of Cold War politics.

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