Wednesday, April 6, 2011

One Year Anniversary Memorial Service To Be Held For 29 West Virigina Miners Killed

(CNN) -- Acting West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will join the families of the 29 men who perished in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine a year ago Tuesday.

The April 5, 2010, explosion was the worst mining disaster in the United States since 1972, when 91 miners died in a fire at the Sunshine Mine in Kellogg, Idaho.

The Big Branch mine -- owned by Massey Energy -- had a spotty safety record prior to last year's explosion, with three deaths reported over the previous 12 years.

Most of the blast victims were working in an area where long-wall cutting was taking place. The technique uses a large grinder to extract coal and creates large amounts of coal dust and methane gas, both of which are explosive.

The remembrance ceremony will take place Tuesday in Whitesville, which is located 30 miles south of Charleston. Tomblin will be joined by other state dignitaries, his office said.

Read More From CNN

Out of Control Oil Prices Putting The Hurt On U.S Economy

Just when companies have finally stepped up hiring, rising oil prices are threatening to halt the U.S. economy's gains.

Some economists are scaling back their estimates for growth this year, in part because flat wages have left households struggling to pay higher gasoline prices.

Oil has topped $108 a barrel, the highest price since 2008. Regular unleaded gasoline now goes for an average $3.69 a gallon, according to AAA's daily fuel gauge survey, up 86 cents from a year ago.

The higher costs have been driven by unrest in Libya and other oil-producing Middle East countries, along with rising energy demand from a strengthening U.S. economy.

Airlines, shipping companies and other U.S. businesses have been squeezed. The rising prices are further straining an economy struggling with high unemployment and a depressed housing market.

"The surge in oil prices since the end of last year is already doing significant damage to the economy," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.

Unlike other kinds of consumer spending, gasoline purchases provide less benefit for the U.S. economy. About half the revenue flows to oil exporting countries like Saudi Arabia and Canada, though U.S. oil companies and gasoline retailers also benefit.

For consumers, more expensive energy siphons away money that would otherwise be used for household purchases, from cars and furniture to clothing and vacations.

High energy prices are "putting a drain on consumer budgets," says James Hamilton at the University of California, San Diego. "To the extent they're having to spend more on gasoline, they have to make cutbacks elsewhere."

Two-thirds of Americans say they expect rising gasoline prices to cause hardship for them or their families in the next six months, according to a new Associated Press-GfK Poll. The telephone poll conducted March 24-28 had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Seventy-one percent say they're cutting back on other expenses to make up for higher pump prices. Sixty-four percent say they're driving less. And 53 percent say they're changing vacation plans to stay closer to home.

Judge Helps Stop City Authorities From Censoring Ex-Muslims Help Ads

By Drew Zahn
© 2011 WorldNetDaily

A federal judge in Michigan has ordered a Detroit-area transportation authority to allow, for the time being, display of paid advertisements on buses that offer help for those wanting to leave Islam.

As WND reported, the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, or SMART, had permitted an ad from an atheist and humanist organization touting "Don't believe in God? You're not alone" but had refused to sell advertising space for the message "Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got questions? Get answers!"

The ads direct people to a website,

But with the help of the Thomas More Law Center, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the ad's sponsors. The lawsuit asked the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division, to issue a preliminary injunction to permit the ad to run pending the final outcome of the litigation.

Earlier this week, Judge Denise Page Hood granted the injunction, clearing the way for the ads to begin appearing on Detroit-area buses.

TMLC Senior Trial Counsel Rob Muise commented, "In this environment of political correctness, it is encouraging to see decisions such as this one that uphold our basic constitutional freedoms."

The ad was sponsored by the Freedom Defensive Initiative, or FDI, through the work of Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs and Robert Spencer of JihadWatch.

Richard Thompson, president of TMLC, commented, "Senior Trial Lawyer Rob Muise and David Yerushalmi have successfully represented FDI in several cases. Judge Hood's instant decision represents a victory for free speech, but the battle is not over. Other battles loom on the horizon."

WND reported a similar case in which the Miami-Dade Transit pulled down similar ads on its buses because of complaints from activist Muslims.

Time Magazine Editor Tells MSNBC "Qu'ran Directly The Word Of God, Bible Just A Book Written By Man

Big Journalism
In another example of a sort-of cultural suicide where western media types assume that all Muslims are blameless – while all Americans are at fault in this clash of civilizations between Islamism and the West – we have a recent episode of MSNBC’s Hardball with one-time Democratic operative Chuck Todd standing-in for host Chris Matthews.

Todd was discussing the riots in Afghanistan sparked by Islamist ire over the burning of a Koran by a Florida pastor. During the interview Todd and a guest stated that the Christian Bible was just a book written by men while the Koran was the “direct word of God.” The two implied that this excuses Muslims from murdering people over the book burning.

In the segment Time Magazine’s World Editor Bobby Ghosh told Chuck Todd that the riots and murders perpetrated by Muslims in Afghanistan were obviously understandable because the Koran is apparently more holy than the Christian Bible. Ghosh averred that it’s important to “keep in mind” that the Koran is “not the same as the Bible to Christians.” Why, you might ask? Why it’s because the Koran is “directly the word of God.” On the other hand, the Bible is just a book “written by men.”

Of course, Ghosh is wholly incorrect that Christians see the Bible as just some storybook “written by men.” After all, the Bible is thought of as “the word of God” by millions of Christians across the world as it has been throughout time. Ghosh’s claim that everyone just accepts the Bible as something “written by men” and easily dismissible or somehow less sacred to Christians on that basis is simply erroneous. It is also extremely offensive.

Naturally, Chuck Todd heartily agreed with Ghosh’s misstatement.

Now, certainly Christians agree that the Bible was “written by men” but there is no assumption that it is somehow less for it. After all Christians feel that these mere men were inspired directly by God. Just as the Koran is assumed to be the direct word of the Muslim’s god, Christians also believe that the Bible is the Word of God.

In fact, it is easier to make the historical case that the Bible was written by people who knew Jesus while the claim that the Koran was written by anyone that knew the Prophet Mohammad is nearly impossible to substantiate. Parts of the Bible have been determined as having been written within the life times of people that would have known Jesus personally. On the other hand, there is no proof that the Koran was written any time closer than 100 years after Mohammad’s death, long after anyone that might have known him would have been dead.

Regardless of the suppositions of historians, though, there is no legitimate way to claim that the Christian Bible is any less sacred or awe inspiring for Christians than the Koran is for Muslims. The difference is not in the writers of the books or their provenance. The difference is in their cultures. Christian reforms have brought tolerance and peace between factions of Christianity as well as between Christians and people of other beliefs while there has been no such tolerance infused into Islam.

Read More From Big Journalism

Obama Under Scrutiny After Ignoring Slaughter Of At Least 1,000 People In West Africa

The Washington Times
Last week President Obama attempted to seize the moral high ground to justify American intervention in Libya. But while the United States was taking military action to forestall possible mass killings in North Africa, an actual slaughter took place in West Africa some 2,000 miles to the south.

Humanitarian aid workers were shocked to discover the bodies of perhaps 1,000 people in the town of Duekoue, Ivory Coast. The country has been suffering violent civil strife between supporters of legitimately elected President Alassane Ouattara and authoritarian strongman Laurent Gbagbo. Reportedly the slaughter took place in a single day when the town fell to forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara, though there are conflicting claims as to whose troops did the killing.

The dreadful discovery brings to mind a passage from President Obama’s speech last Monday in which he gave a ringing justification for the kinetic intervention in Libya:

"To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action." (emphasis added)

This recalls a similar situation from the 1990s. The Clinton Administration faced charges of racism for ignoring the genocide in Rwanda but choosing to intervene to stop bloodshed in Bosnia. As former Clinton advisor Dick Morris later wrote, “the real reason was that Rwanda was black. Bosnia was white. European atrocities mattered more than African atrocities – not to Clinton himself but to the media, which covered the grisly deaths in Yugoslavia but devoted considerably less attention to the genocide in Africa. And without the media dogging him to take action, Bill Clinton – ever the reactor, rarely the initiator – wasn't about to pay attention.”

Read More From The Washington Times

Homeless Vets Could Lose Housing Vouchers Due To Budget Cuts

The window curtain is a bedsheet. The kitchen is a tiny sink. It takes just five paces to cross the entire length of the day-to-day residential hotel room.

Jerry Wiseman, 42, doesn't mind these things that much. A Marine sergeant in the 1991 Gulf War, he is proud of his ability to live lean.

But he wouldn't mind more. And counselors who run programs for homeless military veterans say he should have more - to help him move from what is considered a state of homelessness into permanent housing, where he can count on his future enough to rebuild a career.

"My last job was six years ago, as a bookstore clerk," said Wiseman, who struggles by on a government disability check and is in physical therapy for a back injury. "I'd sure like to do that work again, but it's a little tough when you're living day to day."

The most dependable way, since 2008, to give former warriors such as Wiseman a permanent place to live has been a federal housing voucher that pays as much as 70 percent of the rent for homeless veterans while they get their lives back on track.

But that program is in danger of being chopped to the bone.

GOP singles out vouchers

The fiscal 2011-12 budget proposed in the House of Representatives by the Republican majority would eliminate funding for all 10,000 vouchers that the government plans to issue for veterans next year. The program that generates the vouchers, a joint project of the departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, is the only one of its kind.

It's also considered a linchpin of President Obama's goal, announced last year, of eliminating homelessness among vets by 2015. In places such as San Francisco, which hosts the most ambitious housing program in Northern California for homeless veterans, the prospect of losing the vouchers has counselors and veterans advocates blanching.

They say it would be a damaging blow to recent advances in housing homeless vets.

Since the voucher program started in 2008, federal figures show, homelessness among veterans nationally has fallen 18 percent to 136,000 - a drop that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki attributed partly to the housing vouchers. Thirty thousand vouchers have been handed out in that time.

"The momentum is on our side," said Roberta Rosenthal, coordinator of homelessness programs for the VA's Western region.

"This is no time to stop doing what has been working," she said. "We need more vouchers, not less. The train is on the track and moving along - for it to hit a brick wall right now would be very sad."

High demand

Last year, 175 homeless veterans in San Francisco received vouchers, out of more than 500 who applied. Statewide, the need is just as great - more demand than the vouchers can meet.

California has more homeless veterans than any other state - about 20,000, or 26 percent of the nation's total, according to HUD - and studies from Stanford University and others have shown that new veterans who hit the streets suffer proportionately more post-traumatic stress disorder than their predecessors.

"The mean-spiritedness of this proposed cut is breathtaking," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. "We're going to fight this all the way."

She and her allies will have a tough battle, however, because the Republican majority in the House will make it hard to muster enough votes to fund the vouchers. With a record $1.65 trillion federal deficit looming this fiscal year, budget cuts are inevitable at all levels of government.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield and majority whip in the House, maintains that because about 10,000 vouchers for veterans are still being allocated from previous years, there is no need to authorize more in tight times.