Friday, June 29, 2012

Kresta: What Justice Roberts Did and Didn't Do

By Al Kresta

Life is full of surprises. On June 28th, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. This means that we do not have relief from the HHS Mandate. Had the Supreme Court struck down the “individual mandate” or the law in its entirety we would, obviously, have been in a much stronger position. SCOTUS didn’t. So what did Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, actually do?

1) He ruled that the commerce clause cannot be used to make us purchase a product. This seems to have closed the door on similar efforts in the future.

2) He ruled that since the penalty for refusing to comply with the individual mandate functions like a tax, is collected by the IRS, and was so argued by the Justice Department in the oral arguments, then we should call it a tax.

3) Congress has the authority to tax and so Justice Roberts deferred to Congress and let the law stand with some changes on state Medicaid issues.

4) He did signal to all of us that this health care reform will be decided once again in the general election of 2012. This is for the people through their representatives to decide. The Supreme Court will only stop Congress if they have chosen some illegitimate means. At some future time, the boundaries on the taxing powers of Congress will be challenged.

5) We now know that the President and his supporters promised us that this was not a tax. The Supreme Court has now said it is a tax. We were lied to.

6) This make our fight against the HHS mandate all the more significant. Our argument against the HHS mandate is different than the argument against the ACA. It is a different fight. The bishops, for instance, did not challenge the constitutionality of the overall health care reform. They are unanimous, however, in challenging the HHS mandate which is just one particular regulation unilaterally decided upon by the Secretary of Health Human Services to implement the new law.

7) Chief Justice Roberts has demonstrated that the Supreme Court is not just a panel of political partisans. He has deferred to Congress which means to us. Let’s take the chance to reframe this discussion.

We have rallied, we have called our representatives, we have filed lawsuits, and we have submitted legislation. This is what makes America great but it also makes it an adversarial and contentious place where ideas are debated and won. St. Paul writes and affirms that ours is not a spirit of cowardice but of power, love, and self-control. And we are surely called to exercise the powers of our citizenry to affect change in pursuit of the common good.

We are not a people who believe that truth exists only in the sanctuary. We must redouble our efforts to overcome the HHS Mandate. We have a duty to defend the transcendent dignity of the human person and our religious liberty.

History is changed by small coteries of passionate, committed people responding to clearly defined moral objectives and persuasively presenting those objectives to the less committed. Tell your friends and relatives what’s at stake here. Don’t get distracted by the cynicism and bitterness that surrounds us. You have been called to better duty. You are called to defend your religious liberty and the transcendent dignity of the human person. We must continue to fight in the courts and the legislature, but even more importantly in this election year, we must fight at the ballot box and in the public square.

Al Kresta

Cardinal Schönborn tells US: support democracy in Arab world by protecting Christians

(Catholic Culture) Speaking at a Washington conference on religious freedom, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna challenged Americans to protect the Christians living in Islamic countries.

“The Christians and other minorities in the Near East know their only chance of survival is the secular state with real religious freedom,” the Austrian cardinal said. Observing that Americans had shown support for the “Arab Spring” uprisings in the region that have increased the dangers to the religious minority, he said that the best way to promote democracy would be to ensure that Christians have “the space of freedom.”

Archbishop Chaput: 'It's Going to Be a Long Fight'

(NCRFollowing the U.S. Supreme Court decision June 28 on the government’s health-care reform legislation, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia spoke with the Register’s Edward Pentin about his reaction to the news and what this now means in the Church’s battle to overturn the law’s requirement that all health-care insurance programs must include coverage for contraception.

Archbishop Chaput received the pallium this morning at a Mass in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

What does the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care reform legislation now mean in the struggle to defend religious freedom?

I think it’s a disappointment on the part of many of us in the Church because we had hoped the decision would make our lawsuits unnecessary. But a decision of the court is a decision of the court, and we have to accept it in a generous kind of way. We have to do all we can to make sure the position of the Church on religious freedom is clearly articulated and that the challenge to religious freedom, as embodied in the mandates from the Health and Human Services agency,… are overturned.

The U.S. bishops have spoken in favor of a universal right to health care.

The bishops really do believe it. Health is a basic human right; we have a right to be healthy. There’s no declaration on the part of the Church that that has to be accomplished through government intervention.

There are many ways of approaching health care, and I think it’s very important for Catholics to understand the fact that the Church, seeing health care as a basic human right, does not mean [to say] there’s a particular method of obtaining that [right that’s] better than another.

How will this decision affect your work, and what should the faithful be doing in response?

It’s a lesson to us. [The battle for] religious freedom is going to continue; it’s going to be a long fight. We have to never let down our guard. We have to be calling our people to be engaged on this issue. We thought it was going to be easily obtained … but that’s obviously not the case, so it just requires more day-to-day work on the issue in our own locations.

On the positive side, the policy has been a unifying factor?

In some sense, there has been a surprising unity, at least among the bishops, if not among all Catholics. God always gives us opportunities. The message of Christ is to obtain grace and do good things. 

The Fortnight for Freedom continues until July 4. Have you been happy with the response?

One of the things I’m embarrassed about is that I’m not currently at the heart of that in the United States; I’m over here in Rome. Religious freedom and the place of the Church in politics has been an issue I’ve been interested in for many years and written about in a considerable number of ways.

So I really wish I could have been home for more of this. I’ll be returning at the conclusion and be preaching at the National Shrine [in Washington] at the very end, on the Fourth of July, Independence Day. So I’ll get back for it.

In our archdiocese, because I’ve been away and my auxiliary bishops have been with me, we’ve really placed the leadership of this in the hands of pastors and parishes, which is where the real leadership of the Church should be taking place anyway. So I’ve been pleased with the way the pastors have embraced the task.

What are your reflections on the pallium ceremony?

It’s always a special time because it’s a way of being embraced by the Pope. That’s always a very important thing for bishops.

Peter was told by Jesus to confirm his brethren, and the Holy Father does that with archbishops in the unique way of conferring the pallium, which is the fraternal symbol of our unity and love for one another. We’re literally embraced by the Pope when he places the pallium on our shoulders, so that little embrace symbolizes a spiritual embrace which is at the heart of the College of Bishops.

What is the situation like now in Philadelphia? Are matters starting to settle down?

Actually, last week was one of the hardest weeks I’ve had, because we had to downsize our resources and workforces by 20% because of our financial problems. We’ve had deficit spending for many years, and we’ve run out of money.

Legal issues are another, also very expensive, matter, but it has nothing to do with this ordinary, annual budget. Then, last week, we also had a decision by a local criminal court that a former vicar of the clergy for the archdiocese was found guilty of endangering children and given a jail term. So this time is very sad for us. It was probably the worst week I’ve had since being made archbishop, but it will get better.

Colorado city looks to Washington for aid as fire turns deadly

(CNN) — Friday brought sad news to Colorado Springs: A monster wildfire that raged nearby and came roaring down a mountain has turned deadly.

Authorities discovered a charred body in a house consumed by flames. One other person was missing.

In all, 346 homes have been ravaged and the threat still looms large. Another 20,000 homes and 160 businesses stand dangerously close to the blaze.

The Waldo Canyon Fire has scorched more than 16,700 acres and brought fear, anxiety and grief to Colorado Springs, the state's second-largest city that was, until a few days ago, happily situated in the valley below picturesque Pike's Peak.

But Friday also brought some relief.

The fire, raging since last weekend, had been growing steadily, fueled by hot, arid conditions and winds that gusted at 65 miles per hour. Thursday was the first day that firefighters felt they were winning the battle.

The winds had calmed to 10 miles per hour; the temperatures dropped to the 90s.

Incident commander Rich Harvey said fire crews made "really good progress."

He was happy to report that no additional structures were lost Thursday. There was no growth in the perimeter of the fire and it was now 15% contained.

There was relief, too, in knowing that President Barack Obama was on his way to Colorado to visit fire-affected areas. He was scheduled to arrive around noon, local time.

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, who has been present at media briefings, skipped talking to reporters Friday morning.

He attended an emotional meeting the evening before with residents wanting to know what had happened to their homes. And in the morning, he was gearing up for his meeting with the president, sorting out in his head what kind of federal aid he would ask for.

"I really appreciate the president coming here ... if nothing more than just to reassure us that this has a focus at a national level, that there are people all over this country who are concerned for our citizens and those who have lost their homes," Bach said.

"And I do plan to ask for cash," he added.

He had promised that his community would surround fire victims with love and encouragement; that they would move forward as a city.

Obama declared Colorado a disaster area to allow for the flow of federal dollars to help fight the Waldo Canyon Fire as well the High Park Fire, which has burned more than 87,000 acres in northern Colorado since it began on June 9.

In Colorado Springs, he planned to survey all that was lost.

Among the people whose lives are forever changed are Rebekah and Byron Largent.

They should have been celebrating their daughter Emma's first birthday Tuesday. Instead, they fled their home.

They took only what they could carry: a few toys, clothes.

"We thought we were coming back in a couple of days," Rebekah Largent said.

They clung to one another at Thursday's meeting as they got the dread confirmation on a piece of paper that listed the 346 houses on 34 different streets. Their rented house was burned to a pile of smoldering ash and rubble.

Gone are the wedding dress, the family photos and grandmother's china. Also gone is the rocking chair where the Largents took turns over the past year rocking Emma to sleep.

"We're not sure what we are going to do next," Rebekah Largent told CNN affiliate KKTV.

More than 36,000 people have fled their homes in Colorado Springs neighborhoods like Mountain Shadows and Preregrine.

Open Story: iReporters share their harrowing views of the wildfires

It was in Mountain Shadows where authorities late Thursday discovered a charred body inside one of the homes during a search for two people who were reported missing in the area.

Authorities made the discovery after a family had "inquired about the status of their loved ones," police spokeswoman Barbara Miller said.

Miller said it's possible that another body is at the destroyed home. Authorities were forced to suspend the search because it was too dark to continue, she said.

Carey declined to release further details or identify the missing, saying the case was under investigation.

Help for wildfire evacuees and first responders

Carey said fewer than 10 people had been reported missing and authorities were checking with evacuation centers and relatives to try to find them. They also planned a secondary search of the burned homes to make sure that no one else remained inside.

Authorities also announced the arrest of two people accused of burglarizing a home left vacant by the evacuation order.

Belinda Yates, 38, and Shane Garrett, 36, were being held on suspicion of second-degree burglary, theft, possession of a controlled substance and other related charges, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said.

Meanwhile, the cause of the Waldo Canyon Fire remains unknown.

The Denver office of the FBI joined agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with local authorities, in investigating reports that an arsonist may be responsible.

It could be mid-July before the fire is fully under control, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Merkel defends concessions in euro crisis

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel defended concessions she made at a European Union summit, telling German lawmakers on Friday that help to struggling countries and banks will still come with strings attached and insisting that some decisions were misunderstood.

Merkel had been opposed, at least in the near term, to some of the measures that she and the other 16 leaders of the euro countries agreed on Friday. They include allowing Europe's bailout fund in future to give money directly to a country's banks, without imposing strict austerity conditions on the government.
German media headlines immediately after the summit portrayed the outcome as a political defeat, but Merkel said her tough-love approach was intact.

She spoke to lawmakers as they prepared to vote on approving Europe's German-pushed budget-discipline pact and its permanent rescue fund, the €500 billion ($623 billion) European Stability Mechanism — but not the summit decisions. Merkel made clear that those plans will also go to lawmakers at a later date.
Merkel told Parliament it was a "sensible decision" to allow countries that pledge to implement reforms and budget policies demanded by the EU's executive Commission to tap rescue funds without having to go through the kind of tough austerity measures demanded of Greece, Portugal and Ireland — a concession to Italy and Spain in particular.

Leaders were "very inconsistent" in explaining that, "which led to a lot of misunderstanding," Merkel said. She insisted it was only about helping countries whose financial stability is threatened by high interest rates but don't need to be taken off markets altogether.

She said there will always be conditions and a time frame, which will be supervised, and told lawmakers they should read the EU Commission's current economic policy recommendations for Italy and Spain — "they are tough conditions."

Germany's opposition leader, who had previously failed to convince Merkel to adopt such measures to ease fellow European countries' borrowing costs, welcomed her decision at the summit. But the Greens' Juergen Trittin couldn't resist drawing a parallel with Germany's 2-1 European Championship defeat by Italy on Thursday.

"She lost the game that was played in Brussels last night at least 2-1 against (Italian Premier Mario) Monti, if she scored a goal at all," Trittin said.

Merkel looked set to secure the required two-thirds majority for the budget-discipline pact, the fiscal compact, later Friday after winning the opposition's support last week by offering a greater emphasis on economic growth and support for a financial transaction tax. Similar backing looked likely for the ESM.
Heading in to the Thursday-Friday summit in Brussels, Merkel had appeared thoroughly uncompromising —insisting on the importance of getting budgets in order and improving eurozone strugglers' competitiveness while brushing aside talk of shared debt liability in Europe.

But in a victory for Spain and Italy, she agreed that funds set up to bail out indebted governments could be allowed to funnel money directly to stressed banks — once an "effective single supervisory mechanism" for banks is set up.

Merkel said that was a matter of "several months or perhaps a year" but that having an effective supervisor that could set and enforce conditions "changes the conditions for the question of how we can deal with banks in the eurozone."

EU President Herman Van Rompuy stressed that all involved will work speedily to have a draft of the necessary legal and institutional framework for a centralized banking authority by year's end.
Merkel made a "180-degree turn," tweeted Carsten Schneider, a prominent lawmaker with the center-left opposition Social Democrats.

But Merkel insisted that "we remain completely within our approach so far: help, trade-off, conditionality and control, and so I think we have done something important, but we have remained true to our philosophy of no help without a trade-off."

Markets cheered the agreement, with the DAX in Frankfurt closing up 4.3 percent, Spain's Ibex up 5.7 percent and Italy's FTSE-MIB up a stunning 6.6 percent. The euro rose 2 percent to $1.2680 and borrowing rates for Spain and Italy dropped sharply.

Despite the market cheer, Merkel faced criticism in the media, where her hard-nosed approach to crisis management has been popular.

Under the headline "Merkel buckles," the Bild newspaper argued that the summit decisions "mark a turning point in crisis policy" and said that "Merkel gave up her hard position." The top-selling daily paper has been a cheerleader for a tough approach.

Leading news website Spiegel Online headlined a story on the summit: "The night in which Merkel lost," while Die Welt newspaper wrote of "Merkel's defeat in a historic night."

Still, Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING in Brussels, noted that moves such as recapitalizing banks directly are still subject to some conditions and there was no immediate decision to help out Italy.
"The only real concrete decision taken ... is the start of a single bank supervision," he said. "In the end, the German principle of conditional integration is still intact."

"Short-term relief for Spain and Italy, however, remains very cryptic and limited," Brzeski said.
Analysts also noted that the amount of money available in the rescue fund, or ESM, is dwarfed by the amount of debt across the continent. Italy alone has outstanding debt of €2.4 trillion.

European leaders also agreed at the summit that bonds purchased by the rescue fund for Spain's bailout will no longer enjoy preferential treatment to other bondholders in case of a default.

Previously, they looked set to enjoy "senior" status, which had the unintended consequence of scaring private investors away. Merkel insisted that was a one-time move that won't affect future moves by the ESM.
And she made clear that her opposition to moving soon to jointly issued eurobonds remains unchanged. Experts say eurobonds would help weaker countries like Spain by spreading their debt risk across multiple countries.

But Germany worries about being exposed to that new debt and says eurobonds would remove pressure on weaker countries to reform their economies by cutting red tape, fighting tax evasion and lower business costs.

Leaders delayed their discussion of such long-term issues until October.
Van Rompuy and other senior EU officials had laid out a vision for the future make-up of the eurozone in a sweeping document presented before the summit. It includes share debt and giving up national powers over budgets to a central authority.

Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" - June 29, 2012

Talking about the "things that matter most" on June 29

4:00 – SCOTUS and Obamacare
Dr. Charles Dunn

4:20 – Direct To My Desk – Obamacare and the HHS Mandates

5:00 – A Congressional View of the Obamacare SCOTUS Ruling
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry

5:20 – Direct To My Desk – Obamacare and the HHS Mandates

What is Happening at Medjugorje?

Crisis Magazine

Last week I received a mailing from Caritas of Birmingham, in Sterret, Alabama. It was an invitation to come to the four-storey Tabernacle of our Lady’s Messages at Caritas, where a visionary, Marija Pavlovic Lunetti, is slated to receive five messages and apparitions during the 2012 gathering from July 1 to July 5.
Caritas is a group devoted to the Medjugorje Marian apparitions in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is a continuation of international devotional interest in a phenomenon beginning on June 24, 1981, when six young people said they had received apparitions from the “Gospa” (Madonna). I’m not sure how we got on to their mailing list. Possibly a relative submitted our name and address.
The Caritas group, however, is considered schismatic by the visionaries and priests at the pilgrimage center, in a part of what used to be Yugoslavia. On the “official” Medjugorje website we are warned that Caritas of Birmingham is a cult, something like a religious business, not approved.
But one of the visionaries, Marija, still comes regularly to Caritas in Birmingham, contributing to a local, in-house schism of an international cult that bespeaks a larger and ongoing schism with orthodox Catholicism.
Numerous books have been written on Medjugorje, most of them favorable. But most of the pro-Medjugorje books ignore the early tapes made by Fr. Cuvalo and Fr. Zovko, on the days immediately following the apparitions, which began on June 24, 1981; they are based on interviews recorded over a year after the original visions, and incorporated in the 1985 book, A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje. And none of them take into account the first tape made by Fr. Cuvalo before Fr. Zovko took over the taping of interviews with the visionaries.
But Donal Foley’s book, Medjugorje Revisited: 30 years of Visions or Religious Fraud? does take into account early tapes as well as later sources, brings out some crucial differences in the early and later transcripts, and leads the reflective reader to serious doubts about what is really happening at this pilgrimage center.
Compared to approved apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, for example, at Lourdes and at Fatima, the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje contain numerous anomalous aspects:
In the initial appearances, the Gospa appears out of a cloud of light which gradually takes on the image of a young woman in her late teens. She has blue eyes and is wearing a gray dress. She looks like she is holding “something like a baby” in her arms, but none of the features of the baby can be seen. Her hands are shaking. She laughs. The visionaries are able to touch and kiss her, but her vestments are “steel to the touch.” When a lady doctor asked if she could touch her also, the Gospa agreed, but complained about “unbelieving Judases.”
Fr. René Laurentin, a supporter of Medjugorje, in his Chronological Corpus of the Messages, changed this obvious blooper to “doubting Thomases.”
In the first few years following the apparitions, around thirty different apparition places were chosen, with the Gospa appearing often as if “on cue.” Some of the messages, even in our open-minded era, would be categorized as not just heterodox, but heretical. We hear that all religions are equal (“Before God all the faiths are identical. God governs them like a king in his kingdom.”) All sufferings are equal in hell; and Mirjana quotes the Gospa as telling her that people begin feeling comfortable in hell. As regards the afterlife, those who go to heaven after death “are present with the soul and the body.” When the Madonna is asked about the title, “Mediatrix of all graces,” she replies, “I do not dispose of all graces.”
Although Medjugorje claims to be a continuation of Fatima and the “last appearance of Jesus or Mary on earth,” there is strangely no exhortation to the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, which Our Lady of Fatima asked for in reparation for the five kinds of offenses and blasphemies against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Unlike the approved apparitions, the visionaries at Medjugorje have been consistently disobedient to local bishops.
  • December 19, 1981, Vicka in her Notebook writes that their bishop, Pavao Zanic, was “the more guilty party” in conflict with the Franciscans, and the Gospa defended the Franciscans who were disobeying the bishop’s order to share their parish with secular clergy.
  • June 21, 1983, in a letter the visionary Ivan said that the Gospa demanded the Bishop’s “immediate conversion” and that he should stop emphasizing the “negative side”– otherwise she and her Son would punish him.
  • February 3, 1985 the Gospa told three visionaries that Fr. Barbaric, whose removal was requested by the bishop, should stay.
According to the German theologian, Manfred Hauke, the Gospa urged disobedience thirteen times to Bishop Zanic, who had originally been inclined favorably to the apparitions.
Pilgrims to Medjugorje occasionally report signs, such as the appearance of a gold tint on the chains of their rosaries, and the phenomenon of a “dance of the sun,” in which the sun, seen by the naked eye without causing harm, proceeds up and down in a yo-yo manner, emitting various colors. The latter is obviously construed as a reenactment of the famous “miracle of the sun” at Fatima, on October 13, 1917. “Healing” miracles have been reported, but none have been tested by experts and verified.
On June 29, 1981, the Gospa announced that a four-year-old boy would be healed, but this never happened. A sign from heaven predicted by the visionaries for August 17, 1981, never materialized. Ivan, in a signed statement, on May 9, 1982, said that a sign would appear in six months – a “huge shrine in Medjugorje” in memory of the Gospa’s apparitions. But this also never materialized. In 1983 the visionaries said a “visible sign” would be left at Medjugorje in perpetuity. But this has not happened.
In September, 1981, the prophecy that “Germany and the U.S. will be destroyed,…the Pope will be exiled to Turkey,” never took place. Nor did peace for Yugoslavia predicted by the Gospa during the 80s. Yugoslavia broke up during the Bosnian war, 1992-95, leading to the violent separation of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina from Serbia.
The visionaries allege that they have received secrets from the Gospa. Jakov Colo, Ivan Dragicevic and Ivanka Ivankovic have each received nine, while the others have received all ten. Only one of the secrets has been revealed by the visionaries: Namely, the Gospa’s promise of a “visible sign,” mentioned above.
On June 30, 1981, the Gospa said that her appearances would end in three days, but they went on without interruption. As of 2004, over 33,000 messages had been delivered by the Gospa. The number now is around 40,000. Three of the visionaries, Ivan, Vicka and Marija, still have daily visions. We are dealing with a Madonna who, in contrast with the authorized apparitions, has become extremely talkative. If we weren’t referring to heavenly personages, the category of “personality change” would suggest itself.
Numerous attempts have been made to subject the visionaries to testing by experts. However, when experts came from various countries in 1984, 1987, 1988, 1992 and 1995, to test the visionaries, they either claimed to be sick, or that Our Lady had “paused” in her appearances, or they simply did not cooperate.
During the tests on October 6-7, 1984, of the visionaries during ecstasy, Dr. Philippot, an ophthalmologist, found that the pupil of the visionaries did react to light. Once, when the visionaries were being filmed during ecstasy, a skeptical pilgrim made movements with his two fingers towards the eyes of Vicka in ecstasy, and she reacted by moving her head back; later she explained that this was because she thought the Blessed Virgin was about to drop the baby Jesus, and she wanted to keep him from falling.
Both Pavao Zanic and Ratko Perić, the bishops who have had jurisdiction over Medjugorje since 1981, have concluded that the apparitions are not of supernatural origin. Nineteen out of 20 bishops in the Yugoslav Episcopal Conference in 1991 issued the Zadar declaration: “On the basis of investigation up till now, it cannot be established that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.”
In 1884, Pope Leo XIII had a vision in which he listened to a dialogue taking place between God and Satan. Satan boasted that he could destroy the Church, if only God would remove some of the restraints on his power and give him a hundred years. God answered, “So be it,” causing the Pope, fearful for the coming trials of the Church, to compose the prayer for protection to St. Michael, recited at the end of Mass until 1964.
Is it conceivable that starting in 1981, the devil, looking over his victories and concerned that his time might be coming to an end, might look to subvert the Church with something like a pretend-Madonna? Jesus warned us (Mt. 24:24, Mk. 13:22) that in the final days prophets would arise with signs and wonders, and would be able to deceive even the elect.
For the Spirit of Evil, with no interest in goodness or holiness, it would have to be “out of character” to appear as the holy Woman whom he hates, and whose foot (Genesis 3:15) will finally crush his head. On the other hand, what a tremendous victory it would be to get the devotion of the faithful, drawing them in subtle ways to the devil’s own “religious reeducation” project.
Mistakes might be made, of course. For example, in 1982, one of Mirjana’s expected visions of the Gospa turned out to be the devil, until it changed into the Madonna, apologizing and telling her that this was just a trial. And on August 2, 1981, the Gospa allowed the people present to come and touch her, but turned black; Marija explained that this was because sinners were touching her, and they should go to confession.
Medjugorje is frequently touted as a continuation of Fatima. At Fatima, Our Lady promised that eventually, through the power of the rosary and fulfillment of her request of Mass attendance on five first Saturdays, her Immaculate Heart would eventually triumph and world peace would ensue. This might coincide with the end of the time given to the devil. From the devil’s viewpoint, might not a distraction be in order? Some traditional piety, with prayer and fasting, and a touch of “New Age” spirituality? If Medjugorje were approved officially by the Church, the devil’s feared triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart might be staved off indefinitely.
Jesus told us to judge trees by their “fruits.” In Medjugorje, numerous conversions have been reported, Catholics returning to the sacraments after many years, etc. But the main fruit, and the fruit closest to the heart of the devil, has been disobedience. Original sin came into the world not through lust or greed or murder, but through disobedience; and the redemption took place through the obedience of Jesus (Romans 5:19) and the fiat of his mother. In Medjugorje, we are confronted with the counterintuitive phenomenon of the Madonna encouraging disobedience to the successors of the Apostles, and disobedience of some Franciscans to Vatican directives.
Other “fruits” include the massacres and mutilations that took place from 1991 to 1992 when, because of the war, three groups involved in the pilgrimage trade, losing business, turned on each other, resulting in an estimated 80-140 deaths and 600 expulsions; and the revocation of faculties or laicization of Frs. Zovko and Vlasic, guides of the visionaries accused of sexual infractions. Nine Franciscans were also expelled from the order and a divinis. According to historian Michael Sells, religious nationalists in Medjugorje “cleansed” non-Catholics, destroying an Orthodox monastery and murdering priests and monks. Bishop Perić was kidnapped on April 2, 1994, in retaliation for his criticisms of unauthorized activities in Medjugorje, and released only when the Mayor of Mostar intervened with UN troops.
And so what are we to conclude? Bishop Perić’s statement in 1997 still seems to be the most relevant:
On the basis of the serious study of the case by 30 [academics], on my episcopal experience of five years in the Diocese, on the scandalous disobedience that surrounds the phenomenon, on the lies that are at times put into the mouth of the “Madonna,” on the unusual repetition of “messages” for over 16 years, on the strange way that the “spiritual directors”of the so-called “visionaries” accompany them throughout the world making propaganda of them, on the practice that the “Madonna” appears at the “fiat” (let her come!) of the “visionaries,” my conviction and position is not only non constat de supernaturalitate (“no evidence of the supernatural”) but also the other formula constat de non supernaturalitate (“evidence of the non-supernatural character”) of the apparitions or revelations of Medjugorje.

New Obamacare Regulation Violates Hyde Amendment

Priests for Life 
Remarks by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04)

Press Conference at House Triangle

March 21, 2012

Abortion is NOT health care. That’s what we said over and over again during the debate over the new health care law. There is nothing benign or compassionate about brutally taking the life of an unborn child through dismemberment or chemical poisoning. Yet our pleas fell on deaf ears. The President would like the American public to believe that his health care overhaul does not subsidize and facilitate the preventable tragedy of abortion, but his actions paint quite another picture.

Last week while the House of Representatives was out of session, the mass deception of the Obama 2010 Executive Order was finally exposed.

On March 24, 2010, President Obama said in his Executive Order (#13535) "Ensuring Enforcement and Implementation of Abortion Restrictions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act", "the Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges." The President’s Executive Order said that, but now we know for certain that what it does and the new rule announced last week is entirely different.

At its core the Hyde amendment has TWO parts. It prohibits funding for abortion AND funding for insurance plans that include abortion. This is the fundamental reality of longstanding federal law: taxpayer dollars DO NOT subsidize abortion plans that include elective abortion.

Now, under Obamacare, taxpayers subsidies in the form of refundable, advanceable credits paid directly to the insurance company will subsidize insurance plans offered on the exchange that include abortion on demand—even late term abortion. Obamacare further breaks with longstanding law by establishing a new abortion surcharge and secrecy clause.

Bottom line, the Executive Order and new rule implements the same accounting gimmick, abortion surcharge and secrecy clause that was in the original text of the bill. We knew it at the time, and the final "exchange" rule confirms once again that the President was suggesting one thing while doing precisely the opposite.

Obamacare creates an unprecedented labyrinth of accounting gimmicks designed to hide the truth that the massive new health care program breaks with longstanding federal laws like the Hyde amendment and the Smith amendment.

In 1983 I successfully offered an amendment to prohibit taxpayer funding for abortion in the federal employee health benefits program. My amendment, in effect today, ensures that, like the Hyde Amendment, there is no funding for abortion or "the administrative expenses in connection with any health plan" that provides "benefits or coverage for abortion."

Under this scheme, premium payers will pay President Obama’s abortion surcharge of–maybe more, but at least—one dollar per month. This separate charge will go directly into an abortion-on-demand fund established by Obamacare. Requiring the segregation of funds into allocation accounts—a mere bookkeeping exercise is a cheap political trick designed to circumvent longstanding prohibitions on taxpayer funding of abortion like the Hyde amendment and the Smith amendment.

The rule also contains a secrecy clause specifying that the abortion surcharge cannot be itemized in marketing materials, and may "only" be disclosed "as a part of the summary of benefits and coverage explanation, at the time of enrollment." This secrecy clause requires insurance companies to bury the abortion surcharge in the summary of benefits so Americans shopping for an insurance plan on the exchange won’t know about the abortion surcharge until they sign up for coverage—and even then they could easily miss the fine print. Undoubtedly many enrollees will be shocked when they get a bill for the Obama abortion surcharge. Once enrolled, even pro-life Americans will be forced to pay for other people’s abortions.

There is no funding for insurance plans that cover abortion and there are no accounting gimmicks in the Hyde amendment or the Smith Amendment. And, there is NO abortion surcharge and there is NO secrecy clause. Both of these longstanding policies explicitly prohibit coverage for abortion in the federal programs they cover, but President Obama refused to apply the same policy to Obamacare.

That’s why the House has passed THREE bills to overturn this attack on longstanding policies:

* On January 19, 2011, the House passed H.R. 2, to repeal Obamacare by a bipartisan vote of 245-189. The President threatened a veto and the Senate defeated a similar provision by a partisan vote of 47-53.

* On May 4, 2011, the House passed Smith’s bill, H.R. 3, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" by a bipartisan vote of 251-175. The President threatened a veto and the Senate has taken no action.

* On October 13, 2011, the House passed H.R. 358, the "Protect Life Act" by a bipartisan vote of 251-172. The President threatened a veto and the Senate has taken no action.

Abortion isn’t health care. We live in an age of ultrasound imaging—the ultimate window to the womb. We are in the midst of a fetal health care revolution, an explosion of benign innovative interventions designed to diagnose, treat and cure disease or illness any unborn child may be suffering. Obamacare should do them no harm. Tragically, it does the worst harm of all. It kills children and makes others complicit in abortion.

US bishops urge Congress to 'fix' problems in health care law

Catholic News Agency .- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has renewed its call for Congress to correct problems within the 2010 health care law, now that the legislation has been upheld by the nation’s highest court.
The conference said that it did not join in “efforts to repeal the law in its entirety” after it was passed in 2010 and added that “we do not do so today.”
However, it argued, the Affordable Care Act contains “fundamental flaws” that were not addressed by the Supreme Court’s decision. Further legislation is necessary to fix the law’s problems with abortion funding, conscience protection and treatment of immigrants, the group said.
On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including an individual mandate that requires virtually all people to buy health insurance. The court ruled by a vote of 5-4 that this mandate does not fall within the acceptable range of Congressional power under the commerce clause, but it can stand instead as a valid tax on those who refuse to buy insurance.
In its statement shortly after the decision was announced, the bishops’ conference noted that for almost 100 years, the Catholic bishops have been advocating “for comprehensive health care reform to ensure access to life-affirming health care for all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable.”
The group explained that while it did not participate in the case before the Supreme Court and “took no position on the specific questions presented to the Court,” it had opposed the final passage of the Affordable Care Act for several reasons.
First, it said, the law contradicts “longstanding federal policy” by allowing “federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions.”
Pro-life advocates have objected to the “abortion surcharge” that is required for all people enrolled in plans covering elective abortions. This surcharge must be at least one dollar per month, but can be significantly higher than this, as there is no maximum rate.
Furthermore, the bishops’ conference said, the law fails to “provide essential conscience protection, both within and beyond the abortion context.”
It pointed to the “preventive services” mandate issued under the Affordable Care Act. That mandate, announced by the Department of Health and Human Services, will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
Bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have joined those of various religious political and religious backgrounds in speaking out against the mandate, warning that it poses a severe threat to religious liberty and could force Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable organizations to shut their doors rather than compromise their beliefs.
More than 50 plaintiffs from across the country – including numerous Catholic dioceses – are currently challenging the mandate. Those lawsuits were not within the range of questions considered by the court on June 28, so they are not affected by the court’s ruling and will continue moving forward in the judiciary system.
In addition, the bishops’ conference warned, the Affordable Care Act is unfair to immigrant workers and their families, leaving them “worse off by not allowing them to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges created under the law, even if they use their own money.”
This contradicts the law’s stated purpose of offering access of basic health care to all people, especially the most needy, the group said.
“The decision of the Supreme Court neither diminishes the moral imperative to ensure decent health care for all, nor eliminates the need to correct the fundamental flaws described above,” it emphasized.
Stressing both of these moral obligations, the bishops’ conference urged “Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, legislation to fix those flaws” that remain in the law.

Today's SCOTUS Decision Dooms Obama's Reelection

Yes, Obama and the Democrats are entitled to a bit of a victory lap today, after Chief Justice Roberts searched deeply within his political self and found a path to uphold ObamaCare. Sure, the individual mandate was unconstitutional on the two arguments made by the Obama Administration. But, on the argument they expressly didn't make--that the mandate was really a tax--the Court decided that Congress was well within its power to enact the provision. So, its still the law of the land. But, today's ruling will probably go down in history as the most effective GOP voter turnout operation ever. There is only one way to repeal ObamaCare and that is through the ballot box. It will happen. During the debates over ObamaCare, the President and Democrats strained themselves to argue that the individual mandate wasn't a tax. Obama himself had campaigned on a promise to never raise taxes on any families earning less than $250,000 a year. Today, the Court called the mandate for what it is...a tax. In doing so, it acknowledged that, not only did Obama break his campaign promise, but he and his leftist allies have ushered in the largest tax hike in history. They will go with that record into the voting booth in November.
From a nakedly partisan viewpoint, today's ruling is the best case scenario for the GOP. ObamaCare is still deeply unpopular and now the only way to undo it is to sweep Obama and dozens of Democrats out of office. The GOP base will speed up its rallying to Romney, because it is their only chance to repeal this monstrosity. Independents, who have been peppered with silly social issue memes from the media, will put all of that aside to ensure that ObamaCare is repealed.
Many of my colleagues are understandably upset with Chief Justice Roberts. But, he may have pulled off the ultimate Jedi Knight mind trick. He upheld the law by framing it as a tax, which runs counter to Obama's campaign promises. His opinion even provides a legal basis to restrain future federal power grabs. Moreover, he has ensured that the only way to appeal the law is to prevail, across the board, in November. That was ultimately always the case. But that awareness was implied. Now it is explicit. We have to run the tables in November to have any hope of maintaining our liberty. There is great clarity in knowing the stakes of a fight. Thanks to today's ruling, we have that now.
Patriots around the country will now realize that there is no cavalry on the horizon. If we want to preserve our liberties, we will have to fight for it. Patriots and Independents now have a singular reason to show up at the polls in November. This focus will doom Obama's reelection campaign.
Today, I donated to a congressional candidate who is committed to repealing ObamaCare. What did you do?

Ken Cuccinelli, on second thought, likes Supreme Court health-care decision

The Washington Post
CNN and Fox News aren’t the only ones doing a 180 on the Supreme Court ruling.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R)        
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), the first attorney general in the nation to file a lawsuit over President Obama’s health-care overhaul, said the sky was pretty much falling in a news release issued half an hour after the court upheld the law.
“This is a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law,” Cuccinelli said in the release. “This is a dark day for American liberty.”
By the time he held a news conference an hour and 45 minutes later, Cuccinelli had different take: “It’s mostly sunny.”
The reason? His first impression was based on the basic upshot of the ruling: The court had upheld “Obamacare.” His second was based on a closer look at the ruling, which he found upheld individual liberty and curbed federal power even as it left the law in place.
The court ruled that Americans could be required to secure health insurance, but under Congress’s taxing authority, not under the Constitution’s commerce clause. That means the “individual mandate” has been deemed a tax — a tax Cuccinelli still finds objectionable as a matter of policy, but not one that raises Constitutional questions about compelling people to buy something against their will.
The court also ruled that the government cannot withdraw existing Medicaid funding from states that opt against a big expansion of Medicaid eligibility.
“I’m more of an idealist than most people,” Cuccinelli said. “I look at a lot of the long term, foundational first principles pieces of this and on that we did very well. But the first blush is, ‘Is the law up or down?’ And the way they kept it up was frankly a bit surprising.
“They preserved our first principles protections, our individual liberty protections. They advanced state sovereignty, strangely enough, while keeping the law. That was not one of the combinations that were even in our top five. That permutation was one that we didn’t spend a lot of time thinking was a likely outcome. But here we are. That’s the one we’ve got.”
“They’ve turned this whole thing into a spending and regulation question with this ruling. The individual liberty pieces were preserved and states got strengthened here in the constitutional structure under this ruling.”

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What Did SCOTUS Just Do?

supreme court

The Weekly Standard
Was today's Supreme Court Obamacare decision a win for conservatives or a loss? It depends on what you were rooting for.
If you were above all interested in the bill being struck down, it was mostly a loss. On the other hand, if you were more concerned about the qualitative expansion in the power of the government that the bill represented, it was definitely a win.
First, the Roberts Court put real limits on what the government can and cannot do. For starters, it restricted the limits of the Commerce Clause, which does not give the government the power to create activity for the purpose of regulating it. This is a huge victory for those of us who believe that the Constitution is a document which offers a limited grant of power.
Second, the Roberts Court also threw out a portion of the Medicaid expansion. States have the option of withdrawing from the program without risk of losing their funds. This is another major victory for conservatives who cherish our system of dual sovereignty. This was also a big policy win for conservatives; the Medicaid expansion was a major way the Democrats hid the true cost of the bill, by shifting costs to the states, but they no longer can do this.
Politically, Obama will probably get a short-term boost from this, as the media will not be able to read between the lines and will declare him the winner. But the victory will be short-lived. The Democrats were at pains not to call this a tax because it is inherently regressive: the wealthy overwhelmingly have health insurance so have no fear of the mandate. But now that it is legally a tax, Republicans can and will declare that Obama has slapped the single biggest tax on the middle class in history, after promising not to do that.
Conservatives have a shot at getting the best of both worlds: having the Supreme Court use Obamacare as a way to limit federal power while also using the democratic process to overturn the law. I didn't think we could have one without the other, but now maybe we can.
If Obama loses in November, that is...

Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" - June 28

Talking about the "things that matter most" on June 28

Special Edition of “Kresta in the Afternoon”

4:00 – 6:00 – Obamacare Upheld: HHS Mandates Stand
In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Supreme Court decided this morning to uphold his signature health care law's individual insurance mandate in a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the Court's liberal justices. We spend two hours today dissecting this decision and how it affects the HHS Mandates. We talk with constitutional lawyers, pro-life leaders, US Congressmen, and many more.

Obama Insists: Individual Mandate Penalty is NOT NOT NOT a Tax

In this Sept. 2009 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President Obama argues over and over and over that the individual mandate penalty was NOT a tax. He says it flatly and repeatedly. Then the admin. does a 180 and argued in court that is actually IS a tax. Now John Roberts and the 4 liberal Justices on the Supreme Court have decided that the law can stand because it IS a tax. We have been lied to - flatly and repeatedly.

Obamacare Upheld: HHS Mandate Stands

Obamacare Upheld: HHS Mandate Stands

In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Supreme Court decided to uphold his signature health care law's individual insurance mandate in a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding the the Court's liberal justices.

Al Kresta's comments:

“The Federal government does not have power to order people to buy health insurance, but it can impose taxes on those without health insurance or to cover those without health insurance.

“We always knew that. That is why President Obama repeatedly told the American people that the Affordable Care Act was not a tax. He didn’t want to be seen as imposing new taxes. The Health Care Reform was sold as a NON TAX.

“Chief Justice Roberts has now argued that while the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional under the commerce clause, it is acceptable as a tax. Most of us would then expect the Supreme Court to strike down the bill and tell Congress to reargue it as a tax.

“The Chief Justice apparently doesn’t think that is necessary in spite of the fact that the bill was sold under false pretenses. It was a fraud, a bait and switch. Congress and the President lied to us.

“Evil works at breaking down the trust between people. Honesty is a moral quality without which a people cannot live. When we can no longer trust that our public deliberations are meaningful, that our representatives mean what they say, many of us will be led to drop out.

“We cannot afford to let that happen. What does that mean for the HHS mandate? It means we must continue to fight. I had hoped the Supreme Court would have made our task much easier by striking down the individual mandate. It didn’t. We must, as faithful citizens, insist that our political representatives work to protect our most fundamental liberty. I had hoped this would be a short term battle. It no longer looks as though that’s possible.”

A fuller statement will be forthcoming this afternoon as well as two hours of analysis on "Kresta in the Afternoon" from 4-6 p.m. Eastern Time. Listen live at

Holder faces bipartisan contempt vote over Fast and Furious docs

(FOX NewsThe nation's top law enforcement official could be officially held in contempt of Congress by Thursday evening, as congressional Republicans prepare to bring the contentious vote to the House floor. 

House Speaker John Boehner is pressing ahead with a floor vote that is almost certain to pass barring a last-minute deal, with majority Republicans expected to win the backing of several Democrats. At least five Democrats so far have said they plan to vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, and sources tell Fox News as many as 11 appear ready to break ranks. 

Republicans alone, though, have more than enough members to carry the resolution, which would mark a stunning chapter in the saga over Operation Fast and Furious. 

Republicans moved to push for contempt after claiming Holder and his department withheld documents in the course of the congressional probe into Fast and Furious, which let guns slip into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. 

The vote against the key Obama administration official comes on the same day the Supreme Court was announcing its decision on the constitutionality of President Obama's health care law, the administration's key domestic agenda achievement. The contempt vote, however, is expected to take place sometime in the afternoon, several hours after the Supreme Court decision. 

The series of votes is not expected until late afternoon. 

If the contempt measure passes, it would touch off a whole new legal process -- in which a U.S. attorney would be called upon to convene a grand jury to consider the allegations and whether to indict, though with Holder at the helm it's unclear how that would play out. 

The two sides also will likely continue to battle over the documents at the heart of the dispute as Obama tries to lock them down by claiming executive privilege. 

Several Democrats indicated Wednesday they don't buy that argument. 

"While Republicans and Democrats argue over the scope of the people's right to know what happened, the attorney general has decided to withhold relevant documents," Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., said in a statement announcing he would support the contempt resolution. "The only way to get to the bottom of what happened is for the Department of Justice to turn over the remaining documents, so that we can work together to ensure this tragedy never happens again." 

Other Democrats to announce an anti-Holder stance include Reps. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.; Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; Jim Matheson, D-Utah; and Mike McIntyre, D-N.C. 

Matheson said the public, Congress and the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry -- whose murder scene included weapons from the botched anti-gunrunning operation -- "deserve answers." 

The White House, though, slammed Republican leaders for pressing ahead, accusing them of engaging in "political gamesmanship" with a vote they claim could have been avoided. 

"(Republicans) have shown very little interest in reaching a resolution. Instead, they've chosen a path of political confrontation and theater," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. "It is politics." 

Carney said Democrats are "hopeful" a last-minute arrangement can be reached, but expressed doubt that would happen. 

Boehner said Thursday that "we are going to proceed." The House Rules Committee teed up a Thursday floor vote on contempt by taking up two related contempt resolutions Wednesday afternoon. 

That meeting was contentious. 

GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the lawmaker leading the contempt charge, told the rules committee that he's pressing ahead because Holder has not fully complied with requests for a full account. 

"Over the last year-and-a-half, the committee has found the Department of Justice uncooperative every step of the way," said Issa, R-Calif.

But Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee, asked the panel and Boehner to put off the vote. 

"I urge you to take a step back," said Cummings, D-Md. "I am convinced ... that this can be worked out." 

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the rules committee, added, "This has all the trappings of a witch hunt." 

The vote is proceeding despite a last-ditch attempt by Obama administration officials on Tuesday to work out a deal. 

A source familiar with those talks told Fox News that the Republicans met with administration officials twice Tuesday -- at the Justice Department and at the White House. The Justice Department showed GOP staff 14 documents on the failed anti-gunrunning operation, totaling about 30 pages. 

Republicans apparently thought the offer was not good enough. 

But the move prompted criticism from the White House. 

"This was a good faith effort to resolve this while still protecting the institutional prerogatives of the Executive Branch, often championed by these same Republicans criticizing us right now," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. 

Republicans have accused the Justice Department of stonewalling all along, and claim the contempt vote is a last-resort move to extract documents about the operation -- specifically documents from February 2011 and beyond that speak to why the administration might have initially claimed it did not allow guns to "walk" across the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration later retracted that claim.

Hundreds of homes destroyed in Colorado Springs fire

(MSNBC) The tens of thousands of evacuees in the Colorado Springs, Colo., area woke up Thursday to images of gutted neighborhoods and word that hundreds of homes have been lost to the out-of-control wildfire there.
"We now know hundreds of homes have been destroyed," Mayor Steve Bach said a morning press conference.

Bach said an firmer count would be available later Thursday. Sources earlier told the Colorado Springs Gazette that as many as 300 homes were destroyed in a big firestorm Tuesday, and that more homes have burned since.

Officials were able to confirm that no new homes were destroyed overnight.
Along the fire lines, crews were still battling what the city fire chief had called a "monster."
"Something blowing up at Blodgett and Woodmen," reported one firefighter over an emergency communications scanner, according to the Gazette.

Blodgett Peak is near the U.S. Air Force Academy and crews have been battling flare-ups there for several days.

Crews are getting a break in the weather, with the area no longer under a "red flag warning," which means extreme fire danger.

On Wednesday, mandatory evacuations were ordered for the 3,000 people in the town of Crystola and part of Woodland Park after more than 32,000 people had to flee on Tuesday.

Those evacuation orders came as the fire moved down a ridge toward those homes, the Gazette reported, citing communications from an emergency services scanner. "It's huge," said the voice over the scanner. "I would estimate two-three miles in width."

In another scanner exchange, a request was made for more fire crews at Blodgett Peak. "As of right now I cannot hold this hill," a voice said from the fire.

Heavy smoke made for unhealthy air in and around the city. After jumping fire lines Tuesday, the towering blaze has now burned more than 29 square miles.

By late Wednesday, winds picked up and stirred flames, forcing some crews to retreat, the Gazette reported. C-130 planes used to bomb the fire with retardant were grounded.

Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown on Wednesday called the Waldo Canyon Fire a "monster event" that is "not even remotely close to being contained." The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Tuesday night, the community of Mountain Shadows, northwest of Colorado Springs, appeared to be enveloped in an orange glow.

People were "freaking out" as they fled Tuesday night, local resident Kathleen Tillman told the Denver Post. "You are driving through smoke. It is completely pitch black, and there is tons of ash dropping on the road."
"This is a fire of epic proportions," Brown said at a briefing Tuesday night.

"It was like looking at the worst movie set you could imagine," Gov. John Hickenlooper added after flying over the fire. "It's almost surreal. You look at that, and it's like nothing I've seen before."
Colorado is battling eight large fires, its worst fire season in history.

President Barack Obama will tour the Colorado Springs area on Friday to show his support, the White House said Wednesday.

Wildfires leave Colorado tourism high and dry

The state's largest blaze is the 136-square-mile High Park Fire, which has destroyed 257 homes and killed one woman. That fire was triggered by lightning on June 9 and is nearly contained.

Nationwide, 35 large, active wildfires were being fought. The bulk of them were in nine western states: Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California.
Although the fire season got off to an early start in the West, the number of fires and acreage burned nationwide is still below the 10-year average for this time of year.

The Associated Press provided this roundup of other fires across the West:

In Utah, a 72-square-mile wildfire has destroyed at least 56 structures, mainly homes, between Fountain Green and Fairview. That number is expected to rise. One person has died in that fire. A fire near St. George started Wednesday afternoon and had grown to 2,000 acres by midnight, forcing an undetermined number of residents near New Harmony and Bumblebee to evacuate. The fire was burning three miles north of Zion National Park, prompting park officials to close a canyon area popular with hikers known as the Kolob section.

In southeast Montana, wildfires that have torched more than 200 square miles and burned dozens of homes spread farther Wednesday, with more evacuations ordered after a blaze near Roundup jumped a fire line. The growing Dahl Fire, which has burned more than 60 homes by one estimate, forced an unknown number of residents to leave their homes near its southern flank, on top of an estimated 600 people evacuated the day before. "That's one of the most dangerous fires in the history of Montana," Gov. Brian Schweitzer said.
In Wyoming, a wildfire in the Bridger-Teton National Forest has grown from about 2,000 acres to 12,000 acres, or nearly 19 square miles, officials said Wednesday. Authorities worked to get campers out of the area. 

Supreme Court upholds Obama health care law

(USA Today) The Supreme Court upheld the health care law today in a splintered, complex opinion that appears to give President Obama a major victory.

Basically. the justices said that the individual mandate -- the requirement that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine -- is constitutional as a tax. 

Chief Justice John Roberts -- a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush -- provided the key vote to preserve the landmark health care law, which figures to be a major issue in Obama's re-election bid against Republican opponent Mitt Romney.

The announcement will have a major impact on the nation's health care system, the actions of both federal and state governments, and the course of the November presidential and congressional elections.

A key question for the high court: The law's individual mandate, the requirement that nearly all Americans buy health insurance, or pay a penalty.

Critics call the requirement an unconstitutional overreach by Congress and the Obama administration; supporters say it is necessary to finance the health care plan, and well within the government's powers under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

While the individual mandate remained 18 months away from implementation, many other provisions already have gone into effect, such as free wellness exams for seniors and allowing children up to age 26 to remain on their parents' health insurance policies. Some of those provisions are likely to be retained by some insurance companies.

Other impacts will sort themselves out, once the court rules:

-- Health care millions of Americans will be affected – coverage for some, premiums for others. Doctors, hospitals, drug makers, insurers, and employers large and small all will feel the impact.

-- States -- some of which have moved ahead with the health care overhaul while others have held back -- now have decisions to make. A deeply divided Congress could decide to re-enter the debate with legislation.

-- The presidential race between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is sure to feel the repercussions. Obama's health care law has proven to be slightly more unpopular than popular among Americans.

Not since the court confirmed George W. Bush's election in December 2000 -- before 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq, Wall Street's dive and Obama's rise -- has one case carried such sweeping implications for nearly every American.

Passed by Democrats along strictly partisan lines and still 18 months short of full implementation, the law is designed to extend health coverage to some 32 million uninsured people, ban insurers from discriminating against those with expensive ailments, and require nearly all Americans to buy insurance or pay penalties.

Its passage on March 23, 2010, marked the culmination of an effort by Democrats to overhaul the nation's health care system that dates back to Harry Truman's presidency. The most recent effort by President Bill Clinton in 1994 fell victim to Republican opposition. Since then, lesser changes have been enacted, including creation of a separate Children's Health Insurance Program in the states.