Signs and Wonders

Signs and Wonders 06.01

Newsworthy

Euro woes continue. In the financial world, all eyes were on Europe again this week. Last Friday, the Spanish government was forced to effectively nationalize Bankia, its third-largest bank. Spanish bond yields surged to euro-era highs and bank stocks tumbled on fears more bailouts will be necessary. Adding insult to injury, the Spanish government reported retail sales fell 9.8 percent year-over-year in April, the biggest monthly drop on record. Fears about the eurozone prompted investors to sell stocks tied to economic growth. Europe's fiscal woes sent the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury-considered a safe haven in strange times-note to the lowest level in 60 years. But as U.S. debt gets cheaper, Spanish debt gets more expensive. Yields on 10-year Spanish bonds moved closer to the 7 percent level, a point at which other nations in the eurozone were forced to seek a bailout. Italian 10-year yields also topped 6 percent for the first time since January. But by the end of the week, Wall Street added disappointing labor market data to its European worries. New claims for unemployment rose to 383,000, a five-week high. Adding to the woes, the Commerce Department revised its forecast of U.S. economic growth in the first quarter to a 1.9 percent annualized pace, slower than the 2.2 percent rate first estimated. All of this probably, but not certainly, is a boost to Mitt Romney's election chances. Romney has a delicate line to walk. Economic woes give him a chance to tout his business experience, but he has to be careful not to betray the conservative economic ideal that the best thing the government can do to promote economic growth is to get out of the way.

Media obsession. The mainstream media seem obsessed with homosexuality. Last week, President Obama gave the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy. It was a newsworthy speech. WORLD, in fact, wrote a robust story about it. One of the graduates, Zachary Crippen, was a Rhodes Scholar. That's a remarkable accomplishment both for him and for the Academy. But what was the headline on ABC News' coverage: "Air Force Academy Graduates First Openly Gay Cadets." Fast-forward one week. The Boy Scouts of America is having its annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. The Scouts, too, have remarkable, newsworthy stories to report. For example, the Scouts plan to spend as much as $150 million to develop a national high adventure base in West Virginia. The land has already been purchased and development is underway. The project will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue and tens of millions of dollars in economic activity annually for the struggling West Virginia economy. But what's the story coming out of the annual meeting? Eagle Scout Zach Wahls' challenge of the Boy Scouts' "anti-gay" policy. Wahls is a homosexual activist and the author of a book titled My Two Moms. He delivered a petition in support of a lesbian who the Scouts removed as one of its leaders. Gay activists sometimes accuse conservatives of being "obsessed" with this issue, but it seems to me that it's the other way around. Examples such as these seem to indicate that we conservatives are merely, often reluctantly, responding to the obsessions of others.

Divided? Really? Speaking of media bias: Religion News Service headlined its lead story this week "Catholic bishops divided in legal battle against Obama birth control mandate." The article cited an interview in the liberal Jesuit publication America, in which Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., complained that "there ought to have been more of a wider consultation" before 43 Catholic institutions filed a dozen lawsuits to overturn the Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate. The Washington Post, smelling blood in the water, picked up the "controversy." The truth is that these lawsuits together constitute one of the most broad-based and collaborative actions ever launched by the Catholic Church in America. And it's an effort with which evangelicals can have common cause.

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DOMA showdown. A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on Thursday that a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional-and that it should not impede any state that wishes to create same-sex marriage. The decision virtually guarantees that the matter will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. "This case is difficult because it couples issues of equal protection and federalism with the need to assess the rationale for a congressional statute passed with minimal hearings and lacking in formal findings," Judge Michael Boudin wrote. "In addition, Supreme Court precedent offers some help to each side, but the rationale in several cases is open to interpretation. We have done our best to discern the direction of these precedents, but only the Supreme Court can finally decide this unique case." DOMA, passed in 1996 by 84 percent of the members of Congress and signed by President Clinton, defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for all federal purposes. That means-among other things-that federal spousal benefits can't be extended to same-sex couples in the six states allowing them to marry.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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