Current Events

President Bush Blames Congress For High Gas Prices

The Associated Press reported on April 29:

“President Bush said Tuesday that Congress is blocking his proposals to deal with high gas prices and dragging its feet on other issues to address the nation’s sagging economy… Bush was asked about a proposal by Republican presidential contender John McCain, later endorsed by Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, to suspend taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel for the summer travel season. The tax is 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents on diesel fuel… Bush… said he didn’t want to inject himself into the ongoing presidential race…

“He sidestepped a question on whether there should be a second stimulus package. Rebates started to go out this week as part of a $168 billion stimulus package enacted in February. The checks will range up to $600 for an individual, $1,200 for a couple and an additional $300 for each eligible dependent child… As he has in the past, Bush declined to call the current economic slowdown a recession, even though many economists say the nation is already in one.”

Oil Companies Report High Profit

AFP reported on April 29:

“British energy giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell revealed Tuesday that their combined first-quarter net profits surged to almost 17 billion dollars (11 billion euros) thanks to record high oil prices. Crude oil prices smashed record after record in the three months to March and hit an all-time high of nearly 120 dollars per barrel on Monday… The price of BP and Shell shares jumped sharply in London on Tuesday as investors seized on the better-than-expected profits.” reported on May 1 that “Exxon Mobil Corp. posted the smallest earnings increase among the world’s three largest oil companies… Exxon Mobil fell 3.3 percent to $90 in New York trading after the Irving, Texas-based company said first-quarter net income rose to $10.9 billion, or $2.03 a share, from $9.28 billion, or $1.62, a year earlier… Exxon Mobil’s 17 percent profit increase lagged behind the gains of 25 percent and 63 percent by Royal Dutch Shell… and BP…”

CNN added on April 27 that “In January, ExxonMobil Corp., the nation’s largest oil company, reported U.S.-record profits for…  the year ($36.1 billion).”

Rising Oil and Gas Prices–Could Anything Be Done?

CNN reported on April 27:

“Amid rising gas and oil prices, a leading Republican [Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee] said on Sunday that the U.S. government should consider imposing a windfall tax on oil company profits… [Previously, according to CNN of April 28, President Bush had “rejected calls to tax oil companies’ record profits, but said he expects those companies to re-invest those profits in alternative fuels and new energy technologies.”]

“[Specter] also criticized consolidation in the oil industry. ‘I believe that we have allowed too many companies to get together to reduce competition,’ he said, citing the combinations that created ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips. Specter said that… he has co-sponsored legislation that would, in part, ‘make the OPEC countries, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and the other countries, subject to our antitrust laws. They get together, reduce the supply of oil, and that drives up prices,’ he said. ‘In the short run, it’s hard to deal with it for tomorrow…’

“Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, told CNN’s ‘Late Edition’ on Sunday, ‘We need a windfall profits tax, because these profits have been absolutely obscene… If the president would call the oil companies into the Oval Office and tell them he’s going to support a windfall profits tax … I’ll bet that the price of gasoline would come down within a matter of days,’ Levin said. ‘But the president will not call the oil companies into his office, because he’s been too closely allied with those oil companies…'”

No Short Term Relief?

CNN reported on April 28:

“If any of the proposals [to cut gas and oil prices] survive election-year partisanship to pass, Democrats and Republicans said they would be unlikely to affect the price of gas in the short term. That opinion was shared by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke during congressional testimony Thursday. ‘Unfortunately there’s nothing, really, that can be done that’s going to affect energy prices or gasoline prices in the very short run,’ Bernanke said.”

Americans Faced With Mounting Debt and Rising Prices

The Associated Press reported on April 29:

“Struggling with mounting debt and rising prices, faced with the toughest economic times since the early 1990s, Americans are selling prized possessions online and at flea markets at alarming rates. To meet higher gas, food and prescription drug bills, they are selling off grandmother’s dishes and their own belongings. Some of the household purging has been extremely painful…

“At Craigslist, which has become a kind of online flea market for the world, the number of for-sale listings has soared 70 percent since last July. In March, the number of listings more than doubled to almost 15 million from the year-ago period… Meanwhile, soaring gas and food prices haven’t kept pace with meager wage growth. Gas prices have already hit $4 per gallon in some places, and that could become more widespread this summer. The weakening job market is another big worry.”

Recession Or Not–And Does it Really Matter?

AFP reported on April 30:

“The US economy managed to avert the onset of recession as it struggled to grow at a 0.6 percent annual pace in the first quarter, government figures showed Wednesday. The first estimate of gross domestic product… came amid fears that the world’s biggest economy is headed for recession, generally defined as two consecutive quarters of declining activity. The 0.6 percent growth rate was the same as in the fourth quarter of 2007, the Commerce Department report showed… “Economist Aneta Markowska at Societe Generale said the report paints a picture of an economy teetering on recession… ‘For the US economy which can potentially grow at about 2.75 percent, consistent growth below 1.0 percent should be considered recessionary.'”

In addition, another recent report issued by U.S. state legislators showed that many states ARE in a recession. In light of these contradictory reports–and depending on what favorable or unfavorable “numbers” are being used–the question remains: Whom are we to believe? And more importantly, as President Bush said in his press conference on Tuesday, Americans are suffering tremendously–whether we might want to call it “recession” or just “slower economic growth.”

No More Iranian Oil Transactions in U.S. Dollars

The Associated Press reported on April 30:

“A top Oil Ministry official says Iran, OPEC’s second-largest producer, has completely stopped conducting all its oil transactions in U.S. dollars. Iran has dramatically reduced dependence on the dollar over the past year in the face of increasing U.S. pressure on its financial system and the fall in the value of the American currency… [The] Oil Ministry official… said Wednesday all oil transactions are now being carried out in euros and yen.”

Other Gulf States May Follow Suit reported on May 1:

“Gulf states are considering dropping their pegs to the dollar after the U.S. currency’s decline stoked inflation across the region, Kuwaiti Finance Minister Mustafa al- Shimali said.  ‘Yes, there are some’ Gulf Cooperation Council states considering dropping their pegs to the dollar, which has fallen 13 percent against the euro in the last 12 months, al-Shimali said in an interview in Kuwait late yesterday without naming the countries.”

India Launches 10 Satellites

On April 29, reported the following:

“India has successfully launched 10 satellites into orbit from a single rocket, setting a new record. The rocket lifted off from the Sriharikota space centre carrying two satellites from India and eight from foreign countries. The subcontinent is hoping to rival the Russian, US and EU space agencies as a launch vehicle for new orbital technology…

“One of the Indian satellites is a mapping system that will scan the entire country. It is hoped that the system will be able to view in high enough resolution to identify every house in the land. The second Indian craft is a technology gathering system, and the other eight are small research devices from Canada, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.”

A Strong European Defense Force–Coming

The EUObserver wrote on April 25:

“Despite its image as a strong ally of the US, Poland has indicated it would support a boost in Europe’s defence activities, including setting up the bloc’s own military planning headquarters… The signal from Warsaw could prove crucial for the incoming French presidency of the European Union, starting in July. President Nicolas Sarkozy has indicated on several occasions that he will try to push for more integration in the area. Paris has been arguing that a common defence in the face of common threats and security interests would be a logical step forward on the path of Europe’s unification…”

Denmark Tenth Country to Ratify Lisbon Treaty

The EUObserver wrote on April 24:

“Both Denmark and the lower house of Germany’s parliament on Thursday (24 April) ratified the EU’s new treaty, just a day after Portugal approved the document… Denmark is the tenth EU country to ratify the Lisbon Treaty… So far, Hungary, Malta, Slovenia, Romania, France, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Portugal and Denmark have ratified the treaty which replaced the failed European Constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

“Ireland is the only country that will hold a referendum on it, expected on 12 June. Ratification by all countries is meant to be finalised by the end of this year, in order for the treaty to come into force in early 2009.”

Child Dies of Untreated Diabetes

The Associated Press reported on April 28:

“Two parents who prayed as their 11-year-old daughter died of untreated diabetes were charged Monday with second-degree reckless homicide. Family and friends had urged [the parents]  to get help for their daughter, but the father considered the illness ‘a test of faith’ and the mother never considered taking the girl to the doctor because she thought her daughter was under a ‘spiritual attack,’ the criminal complaint said…

“[The] parents were told the body would be taken to Madison for an autopsy the next day. ‘They responded, “You won’t need to do that. She will be alive by then,”‘ the medical examiner wrote in a report. An autopsy determined that [the girl] died from undiagnosed diabetic ketoacidosis, which left her with too little insulin in her body. Court records said she likely had some symptoms of the disease for months. The [parents] each face up to 25 years in prison if convicted…

“In March, an Oregon couple who belong to a church that preaches against medical care and believes in treating illness with prayer were charged with manslaughter and criminal mistreatment in the death of their 15-month-old daughter. The toddler died March 2 of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection that could have been treated with antibiotics, the state medical examiner’s office said.”

There is no question that the Bible teaches that God heals us from physical sickness, according to His Will. On the other hand, as we explained in detail in our booklet, “Sickness and Health–What the Bible Tells Us” (copyright 2004), we are to do our part–including seeking competent medical help, especially  for our children. We quote the following from page 36 of our booklet:

“… the law in most countries prescribes that, as a parent, you are to seek medical help for your sick child. If you fail to do so, the government might take your child away from you, or, if the child should die, you may face charges of involuntary manslaughter, or worse. Additionally, faith is necessary in order to be healed. But what if your child does not have the required faith? God does not transfer your faith to that of the child. The Bible clearly states that God does not apply the righteousness of the parents to the children (Ezekiel 14:19–20). Romans 14:22 asks, ‘Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God!’

“This is not to say that parents are not to teach their children the necessity of having faith in God when they are sick. They are, in fact, supposed to encourage them to ask God for healing by asking the elders of the church to anoint them with oil and to pray over them… Even though parents are to teach their children to place their faith in GOD for healing, they should not withhold medical help from them, if it is due (compare Proverbs 3:27).”

Also, note our additional comments regarding medical help, on page 32:

“We can’t expect to be healed by God if we refuse to do what we CAN and ought to do for ourselves. For instance, somebody who is a diabetic and who needs insulin would act foolishly if he or she were to say: ‘I believe that God will heal me, so from this moment on I will stop taking insulin.’ Rather, a diabetic should continuously look to God to heal this terrible sickness in this life, asking God to prevent long-term complications from affecting the diabetic. In the meantime he or she must do what is necessary to stay alive. Any doctor will tell you that a person who takes insulin because of juvenile diabetes, for instance, is only trying to simulate what the pancreas of a healthy person does naturally. Taking insulin does not constitute healing in any way.  It does not regenerate the pancreas nor induce it to start producing insulin again.  But taking insulin is necessary to sustain the life of that person and it would be dangerous not to take it.”

Actor Wesley Snipes Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Mere Failure to File Tax Returns

The Associated Press reported on April 25:

“Snipes was convicted of three [misdemeanors, i.e. three] counts of willfully failing to file returns [since 1998]… Snipes was acquitted of five other charges, including felony tax fraud and conspiracy, that would’ve exposed him to 13 more years in prison.

“Snipes’ co-defendants, Douglas P. Rosile and Eddie Ray Kahn, were convicted on both felony counts on which the actor was [acquitted]. Kahn, who refused to defend himself in court, was sentenced to the maximum 10 years, while Rosile received 4 1/2 years… Kahn was the founder of American Rights Litigators, and a successor group, Guiding Light of God Ministries, that purported to help members legally avoid paying taxes. Snipes was a dues-paying member of the organization, and Rosile, a de-licensed accountant, prepared Snipes’ paperwork.

“The actor maintained in a yearslong battle with the IRS he did not have to pay taxes, using fringe arguments common to ‘tax protesters’ who say the government has no legal right to collect. After joining Kahn’s group, the government said, Snipes instructed his employees to stop paying their own taxes and sought $11 million in 1996 and 1997 taxes he legally paid.

“Defense attorneys Hernandez and Daniel Meachum said Snipes was unfairly targeted because he’s famous. Meachum called prosecutors ‘big game hunters,’ selectively prosecuting the actor while Kahn’s some 4,000 other clients remained free.

“[Judge] Hodges was not swayed. ‘One of the main purposes which drives selective prosecution in tax cases is deterrence,’ the judge said, while denying it had anything to do with his sentence. ‘In some instances, that means those of celebrity stand greater risk of prosecution. But there’s nothing unusual about it, nor is there anything unlawful about it. It’s the way the system works.'”

Let this be a strong warning for those “tax protestors” who think that they don’t have to file tax returns or pay their taxes. Such conduct would not only be against man’s laws, but it would also be against God’s Law, as we read in Matthew 22:15-22.

Earthquakes Galore

Reuters reported on April 27 that “A strong earthquake of magnitude 5.8 shook the southern Mexican state of Guerrero on Sunday and was felt in the capital. The earthquake hit south of the town of Teloloapan… at a depth of 55 miles (88 km)…”

USA Today reported on April 29 about a series of earthquakes in Reno, Nevada, as follows: “Residents here are being shaken, literally, by an ongoing series of earthquakes, which experts warn could be a precursor to a major seismic event. Since late February, hundreds of earthquakes have rattled parts of west Reno. The strongest quake — with a magnitude of 4.7 — hit shortly before midnight last Friday, cracking walls and breaking windows… More than 200 additional small quakes have followed, the lab reported, including two Monday evening and some small earthquakes Tuesday… These quakes started out small and the general trend shows them building in strength.”

Also, an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.1 was reported on April 29 to have struck Vancouver Island in Canada. In addition, a 4.2 magnitude quake struck outside Palm Springs four hours before a 4.4 magnitude quake “shook a mountainous area near Bakersfield, Calif., early Thursday,” May 1, 2008, according to the Associated Press.

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