This year will see an unprecedented move by the big boys of retail to open their stores earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day, reports marketwatch.com. “Retailers have basically ruined every holiday,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, a retail research consultant. “They have commercialized every single holiday by creating a good reason to promote something and drive traffic.” Thanksgiving Day grows more aggressive each year but never getting this close to family time. Bold steps have been taken over the last three to five years as retailers first encroached on the day with online teasers for midnight Black Friday sales at the bricks-and-mortar stores to online sales during Thanksgiving Day to just opening the stores while many are still just getting to the turkey. Bill Tancer, the general manager of global retail for Experian, sees it as a confluence of sophisticated retailing and consumer boredom, thanks to the swelling population of cyber-deal surfers on Thanksgiving. He’s been following for the past decade a growing group of restless consumers who turn to the Internet for entertainment and holiday shopping on the holiday. From 2003 to 2011, the No. 1 online shopping day has been Thanksgiving, according to his findings. Last year was the first that the so-called Cyber Monday, the Monday after the holiday, eclipsed Thanksgiving Day in online sales. It makes sense then for retailers to just open the doors. They wouldn’t if we didn’t walk through them. “Retailers are getting savvy to the fact that Thanksgiving Day is such a busy online shopping day that they’re now keeping their bricks-and-mortar stores open on Thanksgiving,” Tancer says. Among those making early plays for customers this year are Sears, Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Toys “R” Us, and Gap. “I don’t know if it’s stealing our time from us, since consumers have shown a strong interest in searching for those deals and making purchases on Thanksgiving,” he says. “There’s a lot of dead time while that turkey is in the oven. It’s a good time to shop.” So we have no one but ourselves—or our neighbors—to blame. Cohen claims that retailers who bucked tradition for revenue potential last year were rewarded with a 22 percent hike in Black Friday weekend business over those who didn’t open shop. That means there were lots of folks willing to forgo food and football to shop. Miro Copic, who sees this trend turning into the “new normal” for Thanksgiving within five years, says it’s not about stealing time from our families but giving us alternatives. (Wait! Not everyone watches football?) “There will be a lot of backlash on blogs and such, on family values and how we’re becoming too commercial,” says the San Diego State University marketing professor. “But at the end of the day, it’s a choice. If I’m a retailer and I’m open, I’m telling you that you don’t have to come, but I’m giving you a convenience if you want to come.” Retailing is a lot like herding, experts say. “If one store opens on Thanksgiving Day, competitors will follow—since it is a battle over market share,” says Chris Christopher, an economist for IHS Global Insight.
- JC Penney is one retailer that is bucking the trend of invading Thanksgiving Day with commercialism. Penney’s CEO Ron Johnson issued an e-mail to customers stating, “I know that some retailers are opening on Thanksgiving this year. But spending Thanksgiving with family is one of America’s greatest traditions. Since jcp was founded on the Golden Rule, I’m proud to honor this tradition by keeping our stores closed on this special day. I hope our customers and employees all enjoy a wonderful holiday with loved ones.”
- A federal judge rejected a request by arts and crafts giant Hobby Lobby for exemption from the health care law’s contraception coverage mandate, reports cbn.com. The Christian-owned chain will be required to provide contraception or pay fines totaling up to $1.3 million each day. Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, disagreed with the decision. “Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to live and do business according to their religious beliefs,” he said. Attorneys for Hobby Lobby argue that the decision violates the company’s religious beliefs. The court, however, ruled the mandate only “indirectly” affected their beliefs. Hobby Lobby plans to appeal the decision. This is the largest business to file a lawsuit against the contraceptive mandate. “We seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles,” David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, explained. While the company will continue to provide preventive care to their employees, these principles prohibit the company from paying for abortion drugs like the morning after pill. There are currently 40 different lawsuits filed against the mandate, which is part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The Bucket Fund, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to protecting religious beliefs, leads the way for many of these lawsuits. Along with Hobby Lobby, the Becket Fund represents Wheaton College, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, and Ave Maria University.
- The top three senior division students in last Saturday’s National Bible Bee finals took turns quoting passages of Scripture from memory for over an hour without making a single error, causing the contest—and the winner of the $100,000 grand prize—to be determined by a tiebreaker. Officials of the fourth annual event, which was held in Sevierville, Tenn., turned to the students’ preliminary challenge scores, including their written tests, to determine the winner after a deadlock in the final round. Though much was at stake in the competition, eventual winner Sophie Haire of Havre de Grace, Md., told The Christian Post on Monday that each finals participant wanted the others to succeed. “It wasn’t like it was an intense, hard competition that was grueling,” said Haire. “It was like a family experience where we were all supportive of each other and wanted each other to keep going.” The Bible Bee marks the third year Haire has participated in the event. In preparation for the contest, which began Nov. 14 and ended Nov. 17, Haire spent between two and eight hours per day throughout the summer and fall studying and memorizing the necessary passages of Scripture. “At times it would seem tedious, and I would wonder why I was doing it, but God would just give me this desire to learn more about His Word and so I would just keep plugging along. And it became more enjoyable, actually, down towards the last few weeks just because he gave me such a love for His Word at that point,” she said. The well-spoken teenager is a senior homeschool student.
- Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir is launching new attacks against the mostly Christian Nuba people, according to a new report from Christian Solidarity International USA President Dr. John Eibner and WorldNetDaily. International Christian Concern’s Africa analyst William Stark confirms the attacks and airstrikes. “There have been repeated airstrikes there since the separation of the north and south. Many of the people living in the Nuba Mountains are Christian, but there is also a rebel group active there, so there are many reasons the Nuba Mountains are being bombed,” Stark said. Eibner also says the casualty figures are probably accurate. Although the casualty figures vary depending on the source, Nuba Reports that since June 2011, 350,000 people have become refugees. Nuba Reports also says 88 bombs were dropped in September and October. Relief Web says that since mid-October, 18 people have been killed in shelling in Kadugli town in the South Kordofan state.
- While it may appear diplomacy talks in the Israeli-Hamas flare-up are balanced, a commentator says Israel, in particular, is feeling a lot of pressure from the White House. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton currently is in the Middle East in an attempt to de-escalate attacks between Israel and Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. President Barack Obama said Israel has a right to defend itself from missiles being aimed at the country by terrorists in the Gaza Strip. While that public statement may sound reassuring, Gary Bauer, president of American Values and former GOP presidential candidate, told OneNewsNow that, privately, Obama may not have that kind of resolve for Israel: “He is really putting tremendous pressure on Israel to not go into Gaza with troops to clean out the hornet’s nests of radical Islamists that are all over that territory now.” Bauer referred to a recent poll to support his claims that Obama could be concerned that if fighting escalates, his “two-state solution” could be delayed: “Republicans overwhelmingly supported Israel’s actions [and] independence, but among self-described Democrats, support for what Israel has been doing this week to try to defend themselves was only supported by 40 percent of Democrats, which is a historic low and is deeply disturbing long term for the future of support for Israel.” Since Israelis turned over Gaza in 2005, Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists have used it as a launching pad for rocket attacks on Israeli civilian areas.
- The world of organ donation in Denmark is in turmoil, reports lifenews.com. A documentary was aired earlier this month that showed family members reacting in anguish to the news that their 19-year-old daughter was brain dead after a car accident, agreeing to donate her organs and allowing doctors to turn off her respirator. About 1.7 million viewers tuned in to the heart-rending drama. But Carina Melchior did not die after her respirator was removed. She is now undergoing rehabilitation and may make a full recovery. About 500 people immediately removed their names from Denmark’s organ donor register. Doctors at Aarhus University Hospital were embarrassed by the incident. “We are overjoyed that the young woman survived and that she is moving on after the accident,” Claus Thomsen, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said. “But we made a mistake underway and made the family believe that their daughter and sister would die.” The hospital acknowledged that the question of organ donation should not have been raised as there were no unambiguous signs that brain death would occur. New guidelines have been introduced to ensure that relatives will only be approached about organ donation if no more treatment options are available. There was no risk of a false diagnosis of brain death, the hospital insisted.
- A California family leader is asking whether Democrats truly wish to go against the will of voters by trying to pass gay marriage in the state. California Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said that since Democrats now have a super-majority in the state legislature, he may seek to place an initiative to pass same-sex marriage in the state. The move would thwart California’s Proposition 8, a measure passed by voters in 2008 that upheld marriage as between a man and a woman. Prop. 8 is expected to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this session. Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia, says to ignore the people’s vote would be to overturn democracy. “To attack the people’s vote on marriage is to say I don’t care about our democracy, even though I’m a Democrat. I don’t really care about our republic. It is not good at all to overturn the vote of the people,” he remarked. Thomasson suggests that if Democrats push same-gender marriage, they may lose seats in conservative areas such as Orange County, Riverside County or the Central Valley. “Even though the Democrats have super-majority, it’s very tenuous, its brittle; it could be lost in the next election because a vote was forced to attack the people’s vote on man-woman marriage,” Thomasson told OneNewsNow. If the U.S. Supreme Court decides to reverse a federal appeals court decision that overturned Prop. 8, then a gay marriage initiative could make its way onto the state ballot.
- The White House announced the federal government will spend $6 billion over four years for a “sustainable energy future” plan with Asian countries that involves loaning tax dollars to other countries to increase their purchasing power for U.S. technology, services, and equipment, reports cnsnews.com. “Recognizing that energy and the environment are among the most pressing issues confronting our region, President Obama, in partnership with Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei and President of the Republic of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, proposed this week the U.S.-Asia Pacific Comprehensive Partnership for a Sustainable Energy Future,” the White House announced Tuesday as Obama visits Asian Pacific countries. The initiative comes after the Obama administration has been criticized for spending billions to subsidize U.S.-based green energy companies that went on to declare bankruptcy, including Solyndra, Ener1, A123, Beacon Power, and other failed renewable energy ventures.
- British investor and economist Jeremy Grantham, regarded as a highly knowledgeable investor in various stock, bond, and commodity markets and particularly noted for his prediction of various bubbles, has recently released his forecast for America’s economic future, reports freedomoutpost.com. According to Grantham’s report, the once normal annual GDP rate of growth of 3 percent “is gone forever.” He states that “GDP growth (conventionally measured) for the U.S. is likely to be about only 1.4 percent a year and adjusted growth about 0.9 percent. Grantham also points out that population growth is down and will only grow at a crawling rate of one half of one percent and with more women moving into the work force and that cultures disregard for children it could slow further. He concludes, “Critically, the tech boom and bust and the following housing boom and housing and financial busts helped camouflage the recent unpleasant economic development lying below the surface: the steady and important drop in long-term US growth.” All of this, noted the report, “and yet Congress vacates the people’s very serious business at hand of whether or not we are going to add more debt or tighten our belts and rein in spending, deal with real fiscal cuts and actually balance a budget. It’s also looking more and more like the guys that claim to be on our team are ready to cave in and just throw the country into the abyss. All of this combined with the increased size of the federal government, taxes and cost of living with and incompetent administration is enough to make one want to start looking at real estate in New Zealand!” Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke implored Washington policymakers Tuesday to get the nation’s fiscal house in order for the good of the economy, reports cowboybyte.com. The head of the nation’s central bank used a high-profile speech to outline a “must-do” list for Congress and the White House in the comings months: avoid the “fiscal cliff,” raise the debt ceiling and come up with a long-term plan to bring down the deficit. Finally, Bernanke said it’s important do so with as little drama as possible. “Coming together to find fiscal solutions will not be easy, but the stakes are high,” he told the New York Economic Club.