There never seems to be a dull moment in the United States Congress, which has neared a government shutdown several times in the past two years. On Thursday night, lawmakers may have once again averted a government shutdown by reaching a tentative deal to fund a number of different government agencies through September 30. Unfortunately for the American people, the deal includes massive spending, totaling $1 trillion. It is expected to come up for a vote in both the Senate as well as the House of Representatives on Friday to avoid what would be a shutdown of major Washington operations this weekend, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The Guardian reports, “A deal on a $1 trillion spending bill was reached after Republicans agreed to drop language that would have blocked President Obama’s liberalized rules on people who visit and send money to relatives in Cuba. But a GOP provision will stay in the bill thwarting an Obama administration rule on energy efficiency standards that critics argued would make it hard for people to purchase inexpensive incandescent light bulbs.”
Despite the excitement and anticipation for the Christmas season that pervades the nation every year, the religious element of the holiday continues to be a point of contention for some and a source of great controversy. In Paragould, Arkansas, for example, the Greene County School Board forced the removal of a Nativity scene that was displayed at one of its elementary schools, adhering to local atheists who articulated the tired maxim of “separation of church and state.” After some persistent protest and displays of heroism by the elementary counselor, Kay Williams, however, the school board gave in and permitted the Nativity scene to be put up once again. According to Arkansas Times, which took a very antagonistic perspective on the issue, Kay Williams posted a scene depicting the birth of Jesus on a school bulletin board, which apparently drew two complaints. As a result, the school board asked her to remove the scene, but Williams continued to put Nativity scene displays in her classroom. She told the Paragould Daily Press, “We do live in the Bible Belt. One thing that really disturbed most of [the supporters] was we hear about things like this all the time in other parts of the country. But this is kind of a first for the Bible Belt, here in Arkansas. I think the people realized [this issue] is here, and we better take a stand.”
Nearly half of America’s public schools failed to meet federal standards under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law in school year 2010-2011. The Center on Education Policy (CEP) issued a report showing that more than 43,000 schools, or 48 percent, did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this year, tallying an 11-percent increase over the 39 percent of schools that did not make AYP in 2010 and the sharpest drop in educational achievement since the law took effect a decade ago. In 35 states, the percentage of schools failing to meet AYP standards reached a six-year high, according to an analysis of trends running from 2006 through 2011. In 24 states and the District of Columbia, at least half of the public schools did not make AYP, and in five states (Missouri, Florida, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and South Carolina) plus D.C., at least 75 percent of schools did not meet the federal requirements. "The fact that half of American schools are considered ‘failing’ under NCLB shows how crudely the law measures the quality of a school," said CEP President Jack Jennings. "NCLB needs to be changed, and since Congress is hamstrung, the Obama administration is right to move ahead with waivers of NCLB provisions."
A new study by the Pew Research Center has found that only 51 percent of adults in the U.S. are married, an all-time low for matrimony in America. The recent numbers pale in comparison to a high in 1960, when 72 percent of adults 18 and older were married, and represent a trend that is similar to that witnessed in other “advanced post-industrial societies,” says Pew. “If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years,” wrote the study’s authors, who noted that alternative “adult living arrangements — including cohabitation, single-person households, and single parenthood — have all grown more prevalent in recent decades.” According to statistics, the study found, since 1960 the numbers of adults who have never married has nearly doubled, from 15 percent to 28 percent, and the median age of those marrying for the first time has increased from 20.3 to 26.5 for women, and from 22.8 to 28.7 for men.
Despite protests that the legislation will negate centuries old rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the Senate Thursday passed a bill authorizing the arrest and imprisonment without charge or trial of terrorism suspects, including American citizens, anywhere in the world. The bill, called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) also authorizes $662 billion in military spending. It has been sent to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it, perhaps as early as today (Friday). Obama had threatened to veto earlier versions of bill, but on Wednesday the White House announced the President was satisfied by amendments made by a House-Senate conference committee granting the President greater discretion in determining what terror suspects to hold in military confinement. "By withdrawing his threat to veto the NDAA, President Obama has abandoned yet another principled position with little or nothing to show for it," said Tom Parker, policy director for Amnesty International USA said. "Amnesty International is appalled -— but regrettably not surprised." Ironically, the Senate passed the law on December 15, the date of the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791. Only 13 Senators voted against the bill, while 86 voted for it, including some who argued that the constitutional guarantees would not be vitiated.
Last November, the British coalition government introduced a new requirement into immigration rules: The immigrant must be know the English language. The rule was challenged by Rashida Chapti and Vali Chapti, two Indians in their 50s. Rashida speaks English but Vali, her husband of 37 years, does not. Currently the couple lives separately because of that obstacle. In their lawsuit, the couple claimed that the language requirement violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to family life and the right to marry. Judge Jack Beatson in his opinion stated, The new rule impacts on the Article 8 rights of the claimants [the right to a family life], but its aims, to promote integration and to protect public services, are legitimate aims. Taking into account all the material before the court, including the exceptions to the new rule, it is not a disproportionate interference with family life and is justified.
The Cato Institute’s newspaper ad reminding citizens that December 15th was Bill of Rights Day summarized the desperate shape those first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States is in, thanks to an overweening government and an uninformed citizenry. Reviewing each of the amendments, Cato pointed to specific infringements of each of them, concluding that “It’s a disturbing picture, to be sure, but not one the Framers of the Constitution would have found altogether surprising. They would sometimes refer to written constitutions as mere “parchment barriers” [to totalitarian government].
Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) unveiled legislation Wednesday to enforce civil and criminal penalties for those who publish or in some way communicate false or misleading election material with the intent to dissuade or prevent certain people from voting. Entitled the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011, the law would make it a federal crime to disclose misleading information regarding voting eligibility and information on the times and locations of elections — whether through print, electronic, or telephonic mediums — within 90 days before a federal election. The move comes days after Paul Schurick, former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr.’s (R) 2010 campaign manager, was convicted by a Baltimore jury of four counts of election law violations stemming from a robocall used in the state’s 2010 gubernatorial race that prosecutors claim was staged to suppress the black vote. The automated call allegedly told voters in Baltimore and in Prince George’s County to "relax" because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had been successful in winning the election. Cardin referred to the Schurick case because the Maryland State Prosecutor could only take action thanks to a 2006 state law, while he stressed that a similar law must be enacted on the national level to prevent similar instances from occurring in other states.
MSNBC tried connecting GOP contender Mitt Romney to the KKK early this week, but wound up with egg on its face and was forced to apologize. Such was the embarrassment that talker Chris Matthews, the host of Hardball, called the smear “appalling.” More interesting, however, is where the network dug up the egregious but unspoken calumny. It originated in the febrile work of a homosexual leftist. He had learned that the Ku Klux Klan once used a three-word slogan that Romney repeated last week. The offensive words? “Keep America American.”
Weeks ago, The New American reported on Denver Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow’s passionate faith and the flak he has taken for it. Unfortunately, Tebow remains a target and was most recently the subject of an offensive comedic skit on Saturday Night Live. After the Denver Broncos emerged from another significant win against the Chicago Bears last week, a number of media outlets began to ponder whether Tebow’s faith and constant prayer played a role in his success as a starting quarterback for the Broncos. On Saturday, December 17, Saturday Night Live made fun of the notion that Tebow’s spirituality has anything to do with his victories. The SNL skit featured Jason Sudeikis as Jesus Christ, who appears to Tim Tebow in the locker room after a Broncos’ win. As Tebow, played by Taran Killam, prayed and thanked “the most important person in my life, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” as Tebow often says during press conferences, Jesus appears.