"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
(James 1:27)

Pure Religion

Dear Friends,

      Greetings! All of us here at “People of the Keys” were quite inspired by Dr. Timothy Keller's talk on “Why Christians Should Drop Their Religion.”. If you have not already heard this, we think you may also find it of interest. It is a bit long, 71 minutes, but quite interesting and thought provoking. Here is an additional note regarding the talk.


An interesting audio by Dr. Timothy Keller on the difference between religion and true belief, providing insight into some of the modern critiques of religion, which may provide food for thought for witnessing, as well as about one's own Christian living. (Note: This version of the audio has some glitches and drops out a couple of times, seems to skip portions a couple of times, and repeats one section. However, these flaws in the audio aren't significant enough to make the message unclear or difficult to follow.)

Why Christians Should Drop Their Religion


The Telegraph

The European project is now sustained by coup

By Daniel Hannan Politics Last updated: November 14th, 2011

Even the outward forms of democracy are being shed

What we have witnessed is a coup d'état: bloodless and genteel, but a coup d'état none the less. In Athens and in Rome, elected prime ministers have been toppled in favour of Eurocrats - respectively a former Vice-President of the European Central Bank and a former European Commissioner. Both countries now have what are called 'national governments', though they have been put together for the sole purpose of implementing policies that would be rejected in a general election.

Italy and Greece are satrapies of Brussels, just as surely as Bosnia or Kosovo. In its Balkan protectorates, the EU overtly favours technocracy as the antidote to 'populism' (ie, democracy). Left to themselves, the locals have a tendency to vote for parties that want ethnographic frontiers. The EU's solution is to rule through a series of appointed governors - diplomats (and the odd retired politician) in Bosnia, generals in Kosovo.

Now, like many previous empires, the EU is applying lessons learned through colonial administration to its metropolitan core. Politicians who lean too closely to what their voters want are removed. I don't mean, of course, that the EU sent in agents provocateurs on a secret mission to destabilise the Italian and Greek regimes. Nor am I suggesting that Brussels was the sole factor in their downfall. Like Margaret Thatcher in 1990, Silvio Berlusconi and George Papandreou already faced strong domestic opposition; in all three cases, the EU simply gave the final shove.

If this sounds like fanciful, read Fraser Nelson in the current Spectator. Fraser reveals the meetings between bankers and federalist leaders who identified the Italian premier as an obstacle to holding the euro together, and quotes oficials boasting that 'we're on our way to moving out Berlusconi'. If this is a conspiracy, it's what HG Wells called an 'open conspiracy'.

The putsch is the logical culmination of the European scheme - though many Euro-idealists remain blind to that logic. The EU has always been an anti-democratic project. Lacking popular support, rejected in referendum after referendum, it depends on a tight-knit group of functionaries in the Commission and in the member states. Now, in a crisis, the democratic appurtenances and fripperies are discarded. Technocrats in Brussels deal directly with technocrats in Rome and Athens. The people are cut out altogether.

What's terrifying is that these 'technocrats' caused the disaster in the first place. They decided that the survival of the euro mattered more than the prosperity of its constituent members; they presided over the rise in spending and debt; they deliberately overlooked the debt criteria when the euro was launched so as to admit Italy and Greece. Indeed the new Greek prime minister, Lucas Papademos, was running his country's central bank at the time.

In appointing these two Euro-apparatchiks, our masters are signalling in the clearest possible way that nothing will change. Closer integration matters more to them than freedom, more than prosperity, more than the rule of law, more than representative government itself.


The Independent

What price the new democracy? Goldman Sachs conquers Europe

While ordinary people fret about austerity and jobs, the eurozone's corridors of power have been undergoing a remarkable transformation


18 NOVEMBER 2011

The ascension of Mario Monti to the Italian prime ministership is remarkable for more reasons than it is possible to count. By replacing the scandal-surfing Silvio Berlusconi, Italy has dislodged the undislodgeable. By imposing rule by unelected technocrats, it has suspended the normal rules of democracy, and maybe democracy itself. And by putting a senior adviser at Goldman Sachs in charge of a Western nation, it has taken to new heights the political power of an investment bank that you might have thought was prohibitively politically toxic.

This is the most remarkable thing of all: a giant leap forward for, or perhaps even the successful culmination of, the Goldman Sachs Project.

It is not just Mr Monti. The European Central Bank, another crucial player in the sovereign debt drama, is under ex-Goldman management, and the investment bank's alumni hold sway in the corridors of power in almost every European nation, as they have done in the US throughout the financial crisis. Until Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund's European division was also run by a Goldman man, Antonio Borges, who just resigned for personal reasons.

Even before the upheaval in Italy, there was no sign of Goldman Sachs living down its nickname as "the Vampire Squid", and now that its tentacles reach to the top of the eurozone, sceptical voices are raising questions over its influence. The political decisions taken in the coming weeks will determine if the eurozone can and will pay its debts – and Goldman's interests are intricately tied up with the answer to that question.

Simon Johnson, the former International Monetary Fund economist, in his book 13 Bankers, argued that Goldman Sachs and the other large banks had become so close to government in the run-up to the financial crisis that the US was effectively an oligarchy. At least European politicians aren't "bought and paid for" by corporations, as in the US, he says. "Instead what you have in Europe is a shared world-view among the policy elite and the bankers, a shared set of goals and mutual reinforcement of illusions."

The current consensus in the eurozone is that the creditors of bigger nations like Italy and Spain must be paid in full. These creditors, of course, are the continent's big banks, and it is their health that is the primary concern of policymakers. The combination of austerity measures imposed by the new technocratic governments in Athens and Rome and the leaders of other eurozone countries, such as Ireland, and rescue funds from the IMF and the largely German-backed European Financial Stability Facility, can all be traced to this consensus.

"My former colleagues at the IMF are running around trying to justify bailouts of €1.5trn-€4trn, but what does that mean?" says Simon Johnson. "It means bailing out the creditors 100 per cent. It is another bank bailout, like in 2008: The mechanism is different, in that this is happening at the sovereign level not the bank level, but the rationale is the same."

So certain is the financial elite that the banks will be bailed out, that some are placing bet-the-company wagers on just such an outcome. Jon Corzine, a former chief executive of Goldman Sachs, returned to Wall Street last year after almost a decade in politics and took control of a historic firm called MF Global. He placed a $6bn bet with the firm's money that Italian government bonds will not default.

When the bet was revealed last month, clients and trading partners decided it was too risky to do business with MF Global and the firm collapsed within days. It was one of the ten biggest bankruptcies in US history.

The grave danger is that, if Italy stops paying its debts, creditor banks could be made insolvent.  Goldman Sachs, which has written over $2trn of insurance, including an undisclosed amount on eurozone countries' debt, would not escape unharmed, especially if some of the $2trn of insurance it has purchased on that insurance turns out to be with a bank that has gone under. No bank – and especially not the Vampire Squid – can easily untangle its tentacles from the tentacles of its peers. This is the rationale for the bailouts and the austerity, the reason we are getting more Goldman, not less. The alternative is a second financial crisis, a second economic collapse.

Shared illusions, perhaps? Who would dare test it?

("The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." Proverbs 22:7)


The Independent

Europe's worst hour since 2nd World War, says Angela Merkel


14 NOVEMBER 2011

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today that Europe could be living through its toughest hour since World War Two as new leaders in Italy and Greece rushed to form governments and limit the damage from the euro zone debt crisis.

Financial markets today took heart from the fact that a key Italian bond auction drew decent demand from investors and hopes that new leaders in Greece and Italy would take decisive action to breathe new life into their sick economies.

"Europe is in one of its toughest, perhaps the toughest hour since World War Two," Merkel told her conservative party in Leipzig, saying she feared Europe would fail if the euro failed and vowing to do anything to stop this from happening.

But in a one-hour address to the Christian Democrats (CDU), Merkel offered no new ideas for resolving the crisis that has forced bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and has raised fears about the survival of the 17-state currency zone.

"If the euro fails then Europe fails, and we want to prevent and we will prevent this, this is what we are working for, because it is such a huge historical project," Merkel said in the east German city of Leipzig.

In high drama in Rome, the president of Italy asked former European commissioner Mario Monti yesterday to form a government to restore market confidence in an economy whose debt burden is too big for the euro bloc to bail out.



Cameron, worst politician in UK history

Nov 14, 2011

A senior Conservative lawmaker has described British Prime Minister David Cameron as 'a despicable creature' and 'the worst politician in British history since William Gladstone'.

The remarks, allegedly recorded at a party in Central London last week, was made by former Army colonel Patrick Mercer, who was also a former homeland security spokesman for the Tories, the Daily Mail reported.

In the recording, he claimed the Prime Minister would be ousted by next year, the report said.

Asked if backbenchers would launch a leadership coup, Mercer replied: "He'll go in the spring. He'll resign in the spring."

The row comes four years after the Newark MP was forced to resign as the Tories' homeland security spokesman when he made comments on race in the Army which Cameron condemned as 'unacceptable'.

The outspoken politician, who went on to be a security adviser to Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, was among backbenchers who rebelled last month over a referendum on European Union membership.


Report: Russia warships to enter Syria waters in bid to stem foreign intervention

Syrian official says Damascus agrees 'in principle' to allow entrance of Arab League observer mission; 22-member body proposed sending hundreds of observers to the to help end the bloodshed.

By Jack Khoury and Haaretz

Russian warships are due to arrive at Syrian territorial waters, a Syrian news agency said on Thursday, indicating that the move represented a clear message to the West that Moscow would resist any foreign intervention in the country's civil unrest.


Putin's Dream Of Eurasian Union Could Control World's Energy

Vultures have already begun circling the euro zone, waiting to feast on countries no longer interested in sticking to the single currency adventure that is the euro.

While all euro zone countries have probably considered a world in which they once again manage their own currencies, most have probably not considered jumping into bed with a new union agreement. This has not stopped Russian authorities from floating the idea of a "Eurasian Union" between Russia and some of its former satellites, a prospect that brings back memories of the Cold War.

Mark Adomanis


Vladimir Putin, the once president and future president-in-waiting of Russia, floated the idea of a "Eurasian Union" in October. The union would ostensibly have an economic focus similar to the eurozone, though one would have to imagine Russia taking the lead politically and economically, similar to its role during the Cold War.

Putin's initial interest is in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, but his views on the USSR and it's separation encourages the idea that the purposed Eurasian Union could be made up of all former Soviet Union Stats of including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

If this Eurasian Union were to exist, there would not be a struggle for dominance like the EU has seen between France and Germany. Russia has already formed a customs union back in 2010 with Belarus, Kazakhstan, integrating their economies and reducing restrictions on the movement of goods across their borders. Kyrgyzstan has indicated that it intended on joining the customs union as well.

The combined GDP of Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia was $1,680 billion in 2010, with Russia making up the lion's share ($1,480 billion). For comparison, the current 17 members of the eurozone's GDP totaled close to $12,200 billion in 2010. (For related reading on the euro, see 5 Economic Reports That Affect The Euro.)

Is It Possible? - Could the Eurasian Union be created without the dissolution of the European Union? Unlikely. According to the Maastricht Treaty, the 27 members of the EU are required to adopt the euro, save for the United Kingdom and Denmark. Two countries, Latvia and Lithuania, are former members of the Soviet Union, and thus would have to break the Treaty in order to join a Eurasian Union.

According to the IMF, here's how the Eurasian Union proposed 15 members would look in 2011, including Lithuania and Latvia:

GDP: About $2,56 billion ($663 billion without Russia)

Population: 288 million (146 million without Russia)

And here's how the European Union would look today, excluding Lithuania, Latvia, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

GDP: Approximately $15,000 billion

Population: 426 million

Making It Matter - In order for a Eurasian Union to really matter, it will need to expand its membership to include countries with more economic clout, but this won't necessarily require bringing the old gang back together. Russia most likely won't face membership competition from the EU along its southern borders, meaning that the battleground states will be in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region.

The EU has already recognized this, creating the Eastern Partnership in 2009 in an effort to reach out to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine - all former members of the Soviet Union.

One of the main goals of an EU expansion eastward or Russia's Eurasian Union effort will be the pursuit of oil. Both groups will complain about the sphere of influence infringement, but at the end of the day the geographic prominence of the former Soviet countries will be the prize. Azerbaijan sits on the Caspian Sea and produces 651,700 bbl/day, but has to go through either Georgia or Turkey (another EU hopeful) in order to reach the Black Sea and world markets. Several European countries, including powerful Germany, are already under the thumb of Russia in terms of access to energy, especially of natural gas. A completed Eurasian Union could control up to 33% of the world's proven natural gas reserves (Russia currently has 25%).

The biggest winner of a Eurasian Union may be Gazprom (OTCBB:OGZPY), the world's largest natural gas company and one primarily controlled by the Russian state. The company has been actively seeking new opportunities, but most of the current targets are in northern Russia or the Barents Sea. A Eurasian Union could allow it to use Russia's regional clout to help it expand its interests into Kazakhstan, possibly by further entrenching itself with KazMunayGas, Kazakhstan's state-owned energy company.

This likely will make Western companies such as BG Group (OTCBB:BRGYY) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) nervous, seeing as a confident Russia has not shied away from squeezing foreign oil companies over oil fields near Sakhalin Island in recent years. The more pressure Russia can exert on its former allies the greater it can threaten consortiums such as the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, which includes BP (NYSE:BP), Chevron, and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM). (For more on Russia, see Investing In Russia: A Risky Game?)

Russia In Power - Contrary to the dreams of Russia, most of its former brethren are not overly excited about ceding political or economic power to Putin & Co. In 2005, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Slovenia, Romania and Macedonia formed the Community of Democratic Choice in order to counteract Russia's ambitions. This is a signal that any integration will not be easy. Russia will have to play on the fears of exclusion of Eastern European countries, as well as possibly reducing the type of stringent requirements that the EU requires of its members. In order to make this strategy a success it must move quickly, as the expected euro adoption dates before 2020.

The brightest diamond for Russia would be Ukraine, a country of 45 million with a GDP of about $137 billion in 2010. Ukraine has been trying to enter the European Union for years; it already entered into an Association Agreement designed to pave the way for membership, but is facing scrutiny over a string of political debacles since the 2004 Orange Revolution. This includes the recent sentencing of Yulia Tymoshenko, a troubling sign that may point to a rise in the sort of authoritarianism the EU prefers not having to deal with. This may require EU leadership to downplay its foreign policy aspirations for its economic realism.

Russia's desire to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) may temper any overly-aggressive actions in a Eurasian Union. It has long sought membership, and for being one of the world's largest economies faces a certain level of personal anguish over not being part of the club. That its regional rival, China, which has been a member of the WTO for almost 10 years only adds fuel to the fire. The allure (and economic benefit) of membership has even prompted Russia to make amends with Georgia, a country it attacked in August 2008.

The Bottom Line - The timing could have been a lot worse for the European Union, but not much worse. If the European Union wants to head off Russia's influence and prevent the creation of a broad Eurasian Union, it first must fix the euro mess. After all, the dissolution of the euro may very well torpedo the entire unification experiment, meaning that any further work at membership expansion will be moot.

Thrown into the economic quagmire is the possible return of Vladimir Putin to Russia's presidency, an event that some consider a forgone conclusion. If Putin makes the Eurasian Union the focus of his next term and showers affection on former Soviet states while Europe dithers, he may very well succeed in the creation of a European counterweight.


Why Is China Building These Gigantic Structures In the Middle of the Desert?

By Jesus Diaz, Gizmodo.com

November 14, 2011

This is crazy. New photos have appeared in Google Maps showing unidentified titanic structures in the middle of the Chinese desert. The first one is an intricate network of what appears to be huge metallic stripes. Is this a military experiment?

They seem to be wide lines drawn with some white material. Or maybe the dust have been dug by machinery.

It's located in Dunhuang, Jiuquan, Gansu, north of the Shule River, which crosses the Tibetan Plateau to the west into the Kumtag Desert. It covers an area approximately one mile long by more than 3,000 feet wide.

The tracks are perfectly executed, and they seem to be designed to be seen from orbit.

Perhaps it's some kind of targeting or calibrating grid for Chinese spy satellites? Maybe it's a QR code for aliens? Nobody really knows.

The second structure seems to be some kind of giant targeting grid, also north of the Shule river.

If you zoom in, you can see vehicles destroyed. It's west of what seems to be a fairly big electrical station or a radio station similar to HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program located near Gakona, Alaska, and funded by the US Air Force, the US Navy, the University of Alaska, and Darpa.

You can investigate here and tell us what you think.

The third one I don't know what the hell it is either, and it's perhaps the craziest of them all: Thousand of lines intersecting in a titanic grid that is about 18 miles long. Another targeting grid? A big practical joke? You can inspect it here.

Readers are finding more weird stuff, including this apparent target, arranged radially, with planes and obstacles.


Political Vel Craft

U.S. Sheriffs Rise Up Against Federal Government: Sheriff Threatens Feds With SWAT Team ~ Grass Roots Take Charge!

NOVEMBER 14, 2011


Sheriff Threatens Feds With SWAT Team

As more people became dissatisfied with federal government controls and land grabs, it was inevitable that local law enforcement would eventually see the bigger picture. At the northern California fairgrounds of Yreka last month, seven California sheriffs and another from Oregon gathered with a large group of citizens to say that they are finally going to do something about it.

"A giant has been awakened," said Plumas County, Calif. Sheriff Greg Hagwood, "and they didn't count on that," speaking of the federal bureaucracy.

Dean Wilson, sheriff of Del Norte County (Sacramento), is a great example of this great awakening. He received the loudest and longest applause  for his candor in confessing past faults after apologizing for not understanding the central government assault and land grab being committed against the people and what he should have been doing about it. Only in the past year has he done a turnaround and begun to behave as a county sheriff instead of an extension of federal law enforcement.

"I had spent a good part of my life enforcing the penal code, but not understanding my oath of office," he told the audience. "I was ignorant and naïve, but now I know of the assault against our people by the federal government."

Host sheriff John Lopey of Siskiyou County, speaking about the federal environmental intervention, said: "I have told federal and state officials over and over that, yes, we want to preserve the environment, but you care more about the fish, frogs, trees and birds than you do about the  human race. When will you start to balance your decisions to the needs of the people?" Later he told the audience, "We are right now in a fight for our survival."

Glenn Palmer, sheriff of Grant County, Oregon, said, "If an elected official has not taken an oath of office, he does not belong in office."

AFP readers are familiar with the work of former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack, who has spent the latter half of his life teaching sheriffs that they are the top law enforcement officers in their counties despite continuing federal intervention attempts. The ears that were deaf for so long may finally be starting to hear.

"It's becoming a national movement now," Mack told AFP, citing Immigration and Naturalization Service failure at the Mexican borders, the phony drug war, plus IRS and other unconstitutional intervention within these states.

His plans to take this movement national will be launched at a January meeting, where he anticipates 200 sheriffs will be in attendance.

"The county sheriff is the last line of defense guarding our people's liberty," he said.

Retired USAF Col. Richard Niemela of Reston, Va. has been exposing the federal monster for years.

He told AFP: "It's the surreptitious domination by international globalists insidiously using unauthorized and illegal tactics to render null and void those historic and unique powers of the sheriff."




Increasing number of disabled Israeli children sue for not being aborted

By Christine Dhanagom

Nov 10, 2011 - - -

JERUSALEM, November 10, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - "Wrongful life" lawsuits, in which doctors are held liable for not discovering fetal abnormalities that might have prompted parents to abort their child, have become so common in Israel that the government has set up a committee to investigate the issue, New Scientist reports.

According to magazine, wrongful life claims are more prevalent in Israel where a higher rate of genetic disorders caused by consanguineous (connected by kinship) marriages has fueled a "pro-genetic testing culture." The county has seen an estimated 600 wrongful cases since the first in 1987.

While similar lawsuits in the United States and Canada are often brought by the parents of disabled children, it is common in Israel for the children themselves to demand compensation for the fact that they were not killed in-utero.

Asaf Posner, a medical malpractice lawyer who sits on the government's Matza committee which is charged with investigating the issue, has obtained judgments averaging around 4.5 million shekels (about $1 million U.S. Dollars) for clients with spina bifida and cystic fibrosis.

Posner defends the lawsuits, arguing that the medical profession would "become corrupt" without criticism.

Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, a medical ethicist at Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, disagrees. Steinberg has criticized the lawsuits as psychologically damaging.

"I find it very difficult to understand how parents can go on the witness stand and tell their children 'it would have been better for you not to have been born," said Steinberg, who also sits on the Matza committee.

Steinberg claims that some malpractice lawyers are travelling to small communities around the country where inbreeding is more common in search of potential clients.

He also noted that the prevalence of such lawsuits has caused doctors to overstate the likelihood that an unborn child may have a disability, possibly driving an increase in the number of abortions.

"More testing means more false positives - and that means more abortions, because geneticists don't always know if results indicating the possibility of chromosomal abnormalities are meaningful. I'd like to see a study of aborted fetuses to see how many are diseased," he said.

("Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish." Isaiah 44:24-25)


For Synthetic Biologists, the Lab is the Place to Procreate

Alyson Krueger, Contributor

A vasectomy some 20 years ago was the path to a career in life sciences for Singularity University bioinformatics and biotechnology co-chair Andrew Hessel. But synthetic biology will be his route to procreation.

Hessel, who spoke about his 180-degree shift in perspective at Techonomy 2011 this week, calls the emerging field of synthetic biology "one of the most powerful technologies in the world," and predicts that it will render the task of engineering life as straightforward as programming software, or creating a vaccine as simple as Tweeting.

Hessel describes synthetic biology as computer-assisted genetic design that goes "from an idea to printing DNA to ultimately booting DNA." The explosive growth of the field, in which pioneers are already making viruses and engineering single cells, will lead in short time to the ability to engineer every plant and animal, including humans, he says.

"We're going to make synthetic human genomes and edit them, and we're going to end up with IVF technologies that can boot them. It will make cloning look organic, and the ways we have babies today quaint." For Hessel, who put off parenthood so many years ago, now's the time--and the lab is the place--to procreate.

Labmate Online

Invisible metal created

Scientists from the US have discovered the secrets behind invisibility and mirages.

Professor Ali Aliev and his research team at the Alan G MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas have used transparent sheets of carbon nanotubes, which are stronger than steel, to make objects disappear.

The effect is achieved by using sheets of carbon nanotubes one molecule thick immersed in water which are then heated rapidly with an electrical current, as the sheet transfers heat to the water, it causes light rays to bend away from the sheets, making them invisible.

This process is the same effect that creates mirages on deserts and hot roads.

"Using these nanotube sheets, concealment can be realised over the entire optical range and rapidly turned on-and-off at will, using either electrical heating or a pulse of electromagnetic radiation," said Professor Aliev.

The report added that the research is of considerable interest for applications relating to loudspeakers and sonar projectors.

Posted by Ben Evans

Huffington Post

Riverside County, California To Charge Prisoners $142 Per Day Of Their Stay

Jillian Berman

First Posted: 11/10/11

In one southern California county, prisoners will soon have to pay for the privilege of staying in jail.

Riverside County, California will start charging prisoners $142.42 per day of their prison stay, CNNMoney reports. The county's board of supervisors approved the measure on Tuesday as a way to save an estimated $3 to $5 million per year. Not every prisoner will be forced to pay up, however. The county will review each prisoner's case individually to determine if they can afford the fee.

The fee comes as the California correctional system continues to struggle with budget woes. Last month, in an effort to save money, the state transferred responsibility for lower-level drug offenders, thieves and other convicts to counties. The "prison realignment" is one of many measures the state has taken in recent years to close its budget gap. The California Supreme Court is considering this week whether the state broke the law when it used re-development funds to close a shortfall a few years ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But at some prisons, there still may be room for cost cuts. A California prison nurse was paid a salary of $269,810 in 2010 after working thousands of hours in overtime. Indeed, the five highest-paid California state employees all work in the prison system, according to LA Weekly.

California isn't the only state coping with cuts to its budget and prison system. Jefferson County, Alabama filed for the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history Wednesday after amassing massive debt and contending with a huge budget shortfall.

Other states have also considered extreme measures in order to cut prison-related costs. In Washington, corrections officials are considering leaving unsupervised thousands of former prisoners currently on parol in an attempt to cut costs, according to the Seattle Times. Thousands of prisoners in Texas have been eating two meals a day on weekends since April in a bid to save the prison system money. In Camden County, Georgia, officials mulled the idea of sending prisoners to work as firefighters to cope with budget woes.

But some have pushed back against the trend. In Minnesota, department of corrections officials argued in April that proposed cuts to the state's prison system were so deep that they would endanger public safety, according to CBS Minnesota. While in New York, the State Corrections Officers Union, told Gov. Andrew Coumo in February that his proposal to cut 3,500 prison beds Though the lingering effects of the recession only made worse the budget woes of many prison systems, the problem wasn't born out of the financial crisis. The number of offenders serving life sentences in prison quadrupled between 1984 and 2008, USA Today reports.

And while state prisons may be suffering, federal prisons are filling that same pinch. President Obama's combined budget requests for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 included a 10 percent increase in funding for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, bringing the total to more than $6.8 billion, according to Mother Jones.



Want Weird Weather?

By Steve Olafson


Nov 10, 2011

(Reuters) - After one of the strangest local weather days in memory, an Oklahoma woman with a sense of humor asked on Twitter earlier this week:

"Wanna experience the apocalypse before it happens? Visit Oklahoma!"

She posted that on Monday night shortly after a 4.7-magnitude aftershock earthquake shook the state. The temblor occurred not long after six tornadoes ripped through southwest Oklahoma, which was preceded by flash-flooding in an area that's been plagued by a historic drought.

"Seriously, WHAT'S GOING ON?" someone else tweeted that night.

The answers vary. Global warning? Coincidence? Bad luck? Bad timing? End of time?

There's agreement on only one thing: It's been weird all year.

"Even for Oklahoma, this is crazy," said Rick Smith, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Norman. "Since January, we've been setting records. People are just kind of amazed and shocked."

State records set this year have ranged from the lowest temperature (31 degrees below zero in Nowata in northeast Oklahoma) to snowfall in a 24-hour period (27 inches, also in Nowata) to the largest hail stone (a spiky, six-inch piece recovered in Gotebo, in southwest Oklahoma).

This year also produced the state's highest-ever-recorded surface wind speed (151 miles per hour near El Reno, outside of Oklahoma City) and biggest known earthquake (5.6 magnitude, breaking the 1956 record).

On Wednesday, Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 20 counties because of earthquakes, tornadoes and severe storms.


"It's been a tough year for Oklahoma when it comes to weather and natural disasters, but we're doing everything we can to help," Fallin said in a statement announcing the declaration.

The state's record-breaking earthquake got everyone's attention. In the past week, counting both foreshock and aftershock earthquakes that sandwiched the state record-breaking rumbler, 32 earthquakes have been recorded in central Oklahoma.

In Meeker, population 968, east of Oklahoma City, the town administrator was describing the damage and wondering aloud if his town, founded in 1903, could survive a California-style "big one."

"I'm beginning to think God's a little mad at us," Jim Howard said.

Howard was joking, but questions of the Almighty are coming into play in Oklahoma, where Christian beliefs underpin much of the culture.

An Oklahoma City TV station interviewed a preacher who proclaimed, "I think it's pointing up to the end of time."

That belief is not shared by all, even fervent believers.

Nancy Dailey, a school teacher in Oklahoma City whose father was a Baptist preacher, dismisses doomsday talk from the pulpit, saying it just scares people.

Still, she said she overheard two co-workers sharing end-of-the-world talk in the teacher's lounge.

"After all these natural disasters we've been having, at some point all you have left is humor to try and cope with it," said Gary McManus, associate climatologist for the state.

There is at least one benefit to the state's weather.

Norman, home to the National Weather Festival, has become a magnet for meteorology students from around the country. The University of Oklahoma there built a five-story, $69 million National Weather Center six years ago, and installed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) as its largest tenant.

This week, NOAA said it will send the university $75 million in federal funds for weather radar research to improve severe storm forecasts and increase understanding of extreme weather.

Smith, the National Weather Service meteorologist, calls OU a "top-of-the-list" institution for people serious about weather.

"For going to school in a natural laboratory, you can't beat it."

McManus agreed: "You don't want to go to L.A. and study endless sunny skies."

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Jerry Norton)

Until next week...

Almondtree Productions

"Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
(Matthew 24:6)