Saturday, October 30, 2010

Catholics and Protestants move towards mutual recognition of baptisms

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and four Reformed ecclesial communities-- the Christian Reformed Church in North America, the Presbyterian Church-USA, the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ-- are moving towards an official recognition of one another’s baptisms. Inspired by the theology of John Calvin, the Reformed communities arose in the sixteenth century.

The seventh round of the official Catholic-Reformed dialogue in the United States, which concluded on October 8, produced two documents: “These Living Waters: Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism” and “This Bread of Life” (on the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper). The latter document explores the convergences and divergences of Catholic and Reformed teaching on the Eucharist.

At its November meeting, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will decide whether to approve the common agreement on baptism.

“Such a common agreement was first proposed by Cardinal Walter Kasper of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity in 2002,” according to a USCCB press release. Even earlier, in 1993, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity’s Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism stated:
Read the rest here.

Lord Carey warns of threat to freedom of religious expression

In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, prominent clerics, including Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, argue that supporters of homosexual rights must not be allowed to "coerce silence".

Their comments centre on a landmark legal challenge by a churchgoing couple who were banned by a council from becoming foster parents because they believed homosexuality was unacceptable.

The bishops claim that the case, which is expected to begin at the High Court this week, will determine whether Christians can continue to be express their beliefs in this country.

They fear that the ruling has the potential to exclude people of faith from adopting or fostering children and enshrine the discrimination of those with traditional Biblical views.

It is the latest case to test how recently-introduced gay equality laws impinge on the rights of Christians to act according to their conscience.
Read the rest here.

China’s Fast Rise Leads Neighbors to Join Forces

HANOI, Vietnam — China’s military expansion and assertive trade policies have set off jitters across Asia, prompting many of its neighbors to rekindle old alliances and cultivate new ones to better defend their interests against the rising superpower.

A whirl of deal-making and diplomacy, from Tokyo to New Delhi, is giving the United States an opportunity to reassert itself in a region where its eclipse by China has been viewed as inevitable.

President Obama’s trip to the region this week, his most extensive as president, will take him to the area’s big democracies, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, skirting authoritarian China. Those countries and other neighbors have taken steps, though with varying degrees of candor, to blunt China’s assertiveness in the region.

Mr. Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India are expected to sign a landmark deal for American military transport aircraft and are discussing the possible sale of jet fighters, which would escalate the Pentagon’s defense partnership with India to new heights. Japan and India are courting Southeast Asian nations with trade agreements and talk of a “circle of democracy.” Vietnam has a rapidly warming rapport with its old foe, the United States, in large part because its old friend, China, makes broad territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The deals and alliances are not intended to contain China. But they suggest a palpable shift in the diplomatic landscape, on vivid display as leaders from 18 countries gathered this weekend under the wavelike roof of Hanoi’s futuristic convention center, not far from Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, for a meeting suffused by tensions between China and its neighbors.
Read the rest here.

Toning down a baseball rite

This postseason, the baseball clubhouse has seen a twist to its ritualized, made-for-television Champagne celebration: the ginger-ale spray.

Twice now, Texas Rangers teammates of Josh Hamilton, the tattooed slugger whose team is in the World Series opposite the San Francisco Giants, have doused their most valuable player contender with soft drinks instead of the Champagne they kept for themselves in a separate celebration.

It was a respectful acknowledgement of Hamilton’s sobriety after a past of drug and alcohol abuse.

Now Major League Baseball is making its latest attempt to crack down on the alcoholic version of those celebrations.

Last week, on the eve of the World Series, the league quietly issued new guidelines to teams, said Rob Manfred, M.L.B.’s executive vice president. Teams must limit Champagne; offer a non-alcoholic version; beer and other types of alcoholic drinks are banned; and teams are not allowed to bring the drinks on the field.

“We have concerns that these celebrations that have traditionally been held not get out of hand,” Manfred said. “This is an issue that we periodically revisit.”

Hamilton’s ginger ale bath is a sideshow to what has become a choreographed ritual of baseball, one that increasingly causes purists to cringe at the over-the-top emotion they see as unsportsmanlike, and serves every autumn as a reminder of the enduring and sometimes ugly place alcohol has had in the baseball culture, stretching back to the 19th century when the precursor to the American League was known as the “beer and whiskey” league.
Read the rest here.

Italian prosecutors slam Vatican Bank

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican bank has taken steps to satisfy tough EU and international norms on money laundering and terror financing after being confronted with an unprecedented crackdown by Italian prosecutors, The Associated Press has learned.

In recent weeks the bank has made written and in-person pledges to pass anti-money laundering legislation, report and investigate suspicious transactions, identify customers to law enforcement and create a special compliance authority.

Prosecutors, though, aren't buying any of it. They claim that even as the bank was making such overtures, it broke the law by trying to transfer money without identifying the sender or recipient, or what the money was being used for.

Italian prosecutors have placed bank chairman Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and his deputy Paolo Cipriani under investigation and financial police seized €23 million (US$30 million) from a Vatican bank account on Sept. 21.

The Vatican has reacted furiously, insisting that the omission of data was just a "misunderstanding" that could be easily clarified. It tried to get the seizure lifted, but the court refused.
Read the rest here.

Swing Voters Are Flocking to GOP

The Democrats' final push to woo undecided voters appears to have fizzled, potentially putting dozens of competitive House races beyond reach and undermining the party's chances in at least four toss-up Senate seats, according to party strategists and officials.

Independents, a crucial swing bloc, seem to be breaking sharply for Republicans in the final days of the campaign.

One nonpartisan prognosticator, Stuart Rothenberg, said Friday he thought the Republicans could pick up as many as 70 House seats—something no party has achieved since 1948. The Republicans need 39 seats to take the majority. Fading Democratic support among independents is also keeping alive the GOP's longer-shot hopes of taking the Senate.
Read the rest here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Quote of the day...

The United States is starting to look like the French Fourth Republic.

-Patrick J. Buchanan
From a really good article you can read here.

(Disclaimer: I do NOT endorse or normally link to the website hosting Pat's column. But the article is too good to pass up.)

Breaking News: Shots are reported on the Korean border

Just getting ready for bed as the news crossed the wires... North Korean military forces reportedly have opened fire in the heavily militarized border area dividing the two Koreas. Early reports suggest the shooting was directed at a S. Korean military unit. Details are sketchy at this hour but it is extremely unlikely that this is more than the N. Koreans being jerks again. If it was an invasion it would have started with artillery and it would have been all along the border. The frontier between North and South Korea is the world's most heavily militarized and is extremely dangerous. North Korea has a long track record of outrageous provocations.

Hopefully no one was hurt.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oklahomans to vote on Nullification

Nullification; a defunct and unconstitutional legal tactic employed in the early days of the Republic and later in an effort to deprive the Civil Rights of African Americans in the 1950's appears to be making a comeback in Oklahoma. Thus far it seems that all of the attention garnered by this silly proposal has been directed at the line that would prohibit Sharia (a highly controversial form of Islamic religious law) from being considered by any court in Oklahoma. Big deal. This is just more of the hysterical Muslim-bating that the far right has been engaged in all year. There are probably less than 10,000 Muslims in the whole state. But fear mongering and religious bigotry have a long and venerable history in American politics so one should not be surprised. That however, is not the real story here.

The part that the media keeps missing is where the courts are also told to disregard International Law. No. I am not kidding. Apparently the author of this inanity, state representative Rex Duncan (R) failed 11th grade US History and Civics (or maybe he didn't but I am trying really hard to give Oklahoma the benefit of the doubt here). In any event had he paid attention he would have taken note of the following...
"...all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."
-Article VI Constitution of the United States of America

So, Rep. Duncan apparently approaches the US Constitution in much the same manner that liberal Catholics do their church's doctrine, i.e. the cafeteria approach. Either that or he is trying to lay the groundwork for treason (i.e. secession). Of course there is a third possibility, one which out of charity I am inclined to credit as the most likely explanation. That being that he is simply a Know Nothing xenophobic bigot, pandering to the radical right, who would miserably fail the same civics test required of immigrants seeking Naturalized Citizenship.

Maybe I am wrong. But for Oklahoma's sake; I hope not. In any event a fairly overwhelming case could be made that he has violated his oath of office which even at the state level requires support of, and obedience to, the Constitution of the United States.

In Spain there is no escape from debt

MADRID — Manolo Marbán, 59, is still living in his house in Toledo and going to work in the small pink-and-aqua pet grooming shop he bought here in 2006, when he got swept up in Spain’s giddy real estate boom.

But Mr. Marbán does not own either anymore. The bank foreclosed on both properties last April, and he is waiting for the courts to issue the eviction notices. For most Americans facing foreclosure, that is the end of it. But for Mr. Marbán and thousands of others here, it is just the beginning of their troubles. When the gavel falls on his case, he will still owe the bank more than $140,000. “I will be working for the bank for the rest of my life,” Mr. Marbán said recently, tears welling in his eyes. “I will never own anything — not even a car.”

The real estate and banking excesses in Spain were a lot like those in the United States. Construction boomed, prices rose at an astonishing pace and banks gave out loans just as fast, often to customers like Mr. Marbán, who used the equity in his house to finance a mortgage for his shop. But those days are over. Spain now has the highest unemployment rate in the euro zone — 20 percent — and real estate prices are dropping. For many Spaniards, no longer able to pay their mortgages, the fine print in the deals they agreed to years ago is catching up with them.

Not only are Spanish mortgage holders personally liable for the full amount of the loan, but throw in penalty interest charges and tens of thousands of dollars in court fees, and people can end up, like Mr. Marbán, facing a mountain of debt. Bankruptcy is not the answer, either. Mortgage debt is specifically excluded here.

“Effectively, you can never get rid of this debt,” said Ada Colau, a human rights lawyer who works for Plataforma, a new advocacy group formed both to give legal advice to homeowners and to push for reform of the country’s foreclosure laws. “Other countries in the European Union also have personal debt mortgages, but you can go to the courts and get relief. Not in Spain.”
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's time to end prohibition

Mexico is complaining (rightly IMO) about our demand for illegal drugs. My response is here.

Russia too liberal says film director

Russia’s salvation lies in imperialism, the Orthodox church and a calculated snub to the west.

At least, that’s the verdict of Oscar-winning film director turned politician Nikita Mikhalkov in his newly published manifesto.

“The euphoria of liberal democracy is over, the time has come to do business,” he says in his manifesto. Entitled “The manifesto of enlightened conservatism” he published his road to Russia’s salvation in small editions and handed it over to the government, The Epoch Times reported.

Return to the true faith

He lays out his impression of Russian history as a deviation from the Holy Rus of old and towards the Great Russia of today. Much of it criticises modern political and socio-economic trends, Yuga.ru reported.

“Modern society is a volatile cocktail of overarching western liberal modernisation, ‘clan chiefs’, and ‘insidious corruption’, which does not suit the majority of Russians, he says. A veneer of economic reforms and liberal institutions are concealing traditional, ancient social relations,” he laments.

He has repeatedly spoken against Kosovan independence and in 2008 lamented the “war against Orthodoxy” in an address to Serbian youth group Nomocanon, which denies war crimes allegedly committed by Serbs in the Balkan conflicts. Mikhalkov described the faith as “the main force which opposes cultural and intellectual McDonald’s,” Russian Newsweek reported.

An empire reborn

The voter should have recourse to a, currently defunct, conservative party, a liberal party, and a socialist party, he says. Furthermore, the nation must realise itself as a continental empire in which the church plays a strong role and the government is strong, appointing mayors and governors, Ekho Moskvy reported.

“Healthy, enlightened nationalism” is what the nation needs, he said. It should be a free and creative force which is unconfused by pluralism and happily absorbs foreign influences. He says he is not afraid of competition or of absorbing alien elements, Rosbalt.ru reported.

This is the type of nationalism which created great empires with positive missions, including Byzantium, Russia and the hitherto little-known “Anglo-Saxon” empire.

He has been a strong supporter of prime-minister Putin and in October 2007 co-signed an open letter asking Putin not to step down at the end of his term in office, producing a television programme for Putin’s 55th birthday in the same year.

There are no official reports that he intends to create his own political party.
Source.

Feast of St. Demetrius the Great Martyr (a day late)

Owing to some strong Serbian connections via Petar, my Great-Grand-Godfather; there is a large body of us at SMM that celebrated yesterday as our slava. (Pete also usually observes the Old Calendar date with his blood relations). Petar's family has kept the feast of St. Demetrius as the patron of their house since at least the 10th century.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Passport Forgery: Ireland is not smiling

It seems that international spy rings are borrowing the luck of the Irish, and the Irish don't like it one bit.

Irish passports have become the document du jour for international spies and assassins, a trend that highlights the immense challenges facing those who wish to keep U.S. borders safe.

In 2005, Eunan Doherty, a fireman from the remote northwest Ireland county of Donegal, went to the Russian Embassy in Dublin to get a visa for a vacation trip to Russia. His holiday allegedly turned him into an unwitting participant in a now-famous international Russian spy ring.

Four years later, a Russian agent using the name Richard Murphy flew to Rome to pick up a forged passport bearing Doherty's name, and was told to bring it into the U.S. and give it to another Russian spy, according to an affidavit made public by the U.S. government in June. Murphy was told to identify the courier by uttering the line, "Excuse me, could we have met in Malta in 1999?" the affidavit said.

Irish news organizations reported that Doherty's wife's identity was also used by the spy ring, too.

Likewise, Catherine Sherry, a volunteer with the Irish orphan-aid organization To Russia With Love, had her identity used by the same spy ring, and a forged passport created in her name.

The spy ring unraveled in June, when American investigators exposed it with great fanfare, and 10 alleged Russian secret agents were expelled -- among them, the now infamous Anna Chapman, who began her career as pin-up model this month as the cover girl on Maxim magazine's Russia edition. During the investigation that followed, officials determined that forged Irish documents played a key role in the conspiracy.

This month, Irish authorities said as many as six Irish nationals had their identities stolen and used by the ring, an incident which had Irish commentators crying foul. But it's not the only recent incident in which Irish passports were used by agents of international intrigue.

When senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was assassinated in a Dubai hotel room in January by a hit squad, eight of the suspects held Irish passports. The investigation of that incident is ongoing, but an Israeli diplomat was expelled from Ireland in June as part of what the Irish government called a "protest action."

As a traditionally neutral and friendly nation, Irish passports are seen as desirable for would-be secret agents, as they can enable freer movement across borders, and the friendly relationship between Ireland and the United State typically invites few questions at crossings.

But Irish citizens are complaining that their neutrality and generally good name are being borrowed by foreign agents. You’ve heard of medical identity theft, or criminal identity theft? Call this national identity theft.
Read the rest here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Englewood Locuta Est – Causa Finita Est

Asserting an absolute jurisdiction over other bishops that would quicken the pulse of the most die-hard ultramontanist; Metropolitan Philip has issued a decree effectively proclaiming one man rule over the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese in N. America and reducing the bishops of the AOANA to mitered altar boys. I confess to not being too up on the more arcane history of Orthodox ecclesiology, but if there is any precedent for this I am unaware of it.

The sheer scope and audacity of the decree is breathtaking. There is simply no way to describe this except as one of the most gross and flagrant abuses of power I can recall. Metropolitan Philip is not the Pope (though he clearly thinks otherwise). Orthodox bishops do not treat other bishops like this, even when they have serious disagreements. The time has come to cease mincing words. His Eminence must resign or be deposed.

ANAXIOS!

Paying the government to lend them your money...

Oct 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday sold securities that fetched a negative yield for the first time, implying investors are willing to pay the government to own its debt.

This is a milestone in the current rock-bottom interest rate environment, as the Federal Reserve is widely expected next week to announce it will buy more Treasuries to jump-start a sluggish economy.

Typically, investors buy a new Treasury bond at "par" or $100. At Monday's $10 billion auction of five-year Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), they paid more than $105 and accepted a bond that yields nothing even after factoring in a 0.50 percent semi-annual interest payment.
Read the rest here.

Taking Harder Stance Toward China, Obama Lines Up Allies

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, facing a vexed relationship with China on exchange rates, trade, and security issues, is stiffening its approach toward Beijing, seeking allies to confront a newly assertive power that officials now say has little intention of working with the United States.

In a shift from its assiduous one-on-one courtship of Beijing, the administration is trying to line up coalitions — among China’s next-door neighbors and far-flung trading partners — to present Chinese leaders with a unified front on thorny issues like the currency and its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The advantages and limitations of this new approach were on display last weekend at a meeting of the world’s largest economies in South Korea. The United States won support for a concrete pledge to reduce trade imbalances, which will put more pressure on China to allow its currency to rise in value.

But Germany, Italy, and Russia balked at an American proposal to place numerical limits on these imbalances, a step that would have further upped the ante on Beijing. That left the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, to make an unscheduled stopover in China on his way home from South Korea to discuss the deepening tensions over exchange rates with a top Chinese finance official.

Administration officials speak of an alarming loss of trust and confidence between China and the United States over the last two years, forcing them to scale back hopes of working with the Chinese on major challenges like climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, and a new global economic order.
Read the rest here.

It's not often I have something positive to say about this administration. But this seems like a good move to me.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Michigan Woman Faces Civil Rights Complaint for Seeking a Christian Roommate

From the you just can't make this stuff up file...
A civil rights complaint has been filed against a woman in Grand Rapids, Mich., who posted an advertisement at her church last July seeking a Christian roommate.

The ad "expresses an illegal preference for a Christian roommate, thus excluding people of other faiths,” according to the complaint filed by the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.

"It's a violation to make, print or publish a discriminatory statement," Executive Director Nancy Haynes told Fox News. "There are no exemptions to that."

Haynes said the unnamed 31-year-old woman’s case was turned over to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Depending on the outcome of the case, she said, the woman could face several hundreds of dollars in fines and “fair housing training so it doesn’t happen again.”

Harold Core, director of public affairs with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, told the Grand Rapids Press that the Fair Housing Act prevents people from publishing an advertisement stating their preference of religion, race or handicap with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling.
Read the rest here.
(I rarely link to FOX News. But sometimes they do cover the stories that the rest of the media finds unworthy of attention.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

A reflection on Righteous Anger

Anger is troublesome. Among Christians striving seriously to live the mandates of the Gospel, I wager, anger is the sin most often mentioned in the Sacrament of Confession. Alas, it also has a remarkably long shelf life.

High among the problems attending anger is this: In the classical inventories of the passions, anger is the only one with no opposite impulse. Each of the other passions is paired with a reciprocal antithesis: love is matched by hatred, desire by aversion, hope by despair, fear by boldness, and joy by sorrow. Only anger stands by itself, with no corresponding emotive pull in the opposite direction (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Ia IIae q. 25, art. 3). If you get angry, you’re just stuck with it until it goes away!

Another problem with anger is that it is not, in every instance, a thing to be avoided. This is hardly surprising, since the morally proper object (finis) of anger is justice. Indeed, life in this world presents occasions when the refusal to become angry is likely a moral defect.
Read the rest here.

This is a really good post which I highly recommend.

Giving credibility to a caricature

I can't recall who said it first, but there is an oft quoted axiom in Orthodoxy that all Protestants are crypto-papalists. "All" is a term I would probably shy away from out of my aversion to speaking in absolutes. But I would say it likely applies well enough to the Evangelical wing of Protestantism. The only difference I see is in the number of Popes. Rome has only one infallible arbiter of doctrine, where in contrast Protestantism has several hundreds of millions,with predictable results.

If in doubt one may peruse some of the more recent comments on this already referenced Anglican blog post. It never ceases to amaze me that people who are generally so well versed in Scripture could keep missing the part that forbids private interpretation. For my part I don't debate sola scriptura anymore. It's usually pointless (adherents are almost always impervious to reason or logic) and frankly, it's rather unsporting. A bit like shooting fish in a barrel.

Giving credit where it's due the Roman Catholics have over the years pretty effectively demolished this silliness. That it persists is simply a sign of the hold that heresy can gain over people.

US calls for limits on trade imbalances

The Obama administration on Friday urged the world’s biggest economies to set a numerical limit on their trade imbalances, in a major new effort to broker an international consensus on how to handle festering exchange-rate tensions.

Officials from Britain, Canada and Australia quickly expressed support for the idea, and as a late-night Friday negotiating session in South Korea continued into Saturday morning, France and Japan came on board. But Germany, Europe’s largest exporter, expressed resistance, and China, whose currency battle with the United States has threatened to derail the process of global economic cooperation, has not formally weighed in.

The range of responses illustrated the challenge in securing support among the Group of 20 economic powers before a meeting of their leaders next month in Seoul, South Korea.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner offered the administration’s proposal at a two-day meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bankers in Gyeongju, South Korea. Mr. Geithner called for the biggest industrialized economies to keep their current-account balance — whether a surplus or a deficit — below 4 percent of gross domestic product.

A country’s current-account balance is the combination of balances of trade in goods, services, income and net unilateral transfers like foreign aid. The United States, Canada and Britain have current-account deficits, while China, Germany and Japan have surpluses. China’s current-account surplus is currently 4.7 percent, and the United States’s deficit is 3.2 percent. Of the G-20 countries, Germany (6.1 percent) and Russia (4.7 percent) also have sizable surpluses.

The proposal in essence tries to set a numerical target to achieve the broad but vague mantra of “strong, sustainable and balanced growth,” to which the G-20 countries agreed in September 2009 in their meeting in Pittsburgh.

Deficit countries should increase national savings, Mr. Geithner wrote in a letter outlining the proposal, by stabilizing their public indebtedness over the medium term and raising exports, while surplus countries “should undertake structural, fiscal and exchange-rate policies” to boost domestic demand. “Since our current-account balances depend on our own policy choices as well as on the policies pursued by other G-20 countries, these commitments require a cooperative effort,” he wrote.
Read the rest here.

When governments start trying to control markets nothing good is likely to come of it.

W.T.O. Rejects Chinese Claims in Dispute Over Duties

A World Trade Organization panel on Friday largely rejected Chinese claims in a dispute with the United States over additional duties on Chinese goods, which Washington argued were priced at below cost and subsidized.

United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk welcomed the ruling as a win for American businesses and workers affected by unfairly traded imports.

The case involved treatment of goods from a country that is not a market economy, where the state sets or influences prices.

The ruling backed the right of an importer to set duties on goods from such economies to compensate for unfair pricing and for subsidies — something that a United States court had struck down.

The two-year-old dispute turned on duties imposed by the United States on imports of Chinese steel pipes, off-road tires and woven sacks.

The panel did back some Chinese complaints and called on the United States to bring its measures in line with W.T.O. rules where they breached them.
Read the rest here.

France: Senate passes pension reform

PARIS — After nearly three weeks of debate and a series of national strikes, the French Senate voted Friday evening to pass President Nicolas Sarkozy’s bill to raise the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60 and the age for a full pension to 67 from 65.

The vote, 177 to 153, all but seals passage of the measure. The lower house, the National Assembly, has already passed a version of the bill. A committee from both houses will meet Monday morning to agree upon a final text that each house will vote on next week. By Wednesday, if the all goes to plan, the reform will be law, despite the unions’ vow to hold two more days of national protest on next Thursday, Oct. 28, and again on Nov. 6.

“The day will come when former opponents will thank the president and the government” for “acting responsibly,” said the Labor minister, Éric Woerth, just before the Senate voted.

The debate was accelerated under a special constitutional rule with more than 230 of 1,000 amendments still to discuss. The rule allowed the government to draft a text that adopted whatever amendments it favored and force a single vote on the bill, stopping a delaying process by the opposition that required a vote on every amendment.

The vote is a victory for Mr. Sarkozy, who has vowed to stick with the pension changes despite the protests in the streets and the blockage by unions of refineries and fuel depots, which have left many French drivers without gasoline. Mr. Sarkozy is hoping that by the time presidential elections roll around in 2012, the French will remember his refusal to give way to street protests in order to pass a bill that the government argues is vital to preserve the financial health of the pension system.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NPR sacks Juan Williams over Muslim comments

NPR has terminated its contract with Juan Williams, one of its senior news analysts, after he made comments about Muslims on the Fox News Channel.

NPR said in a statement that it gave Mr. Williams notice of his termination on Wednesday night.

The move came after Mr. Williams, who is also a Fox News political analyst, appeared on the “The O’Reilly Factor” on Monday. On the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”

Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

Mr. Williams also made reference to the Pakistani immigrant who pleaded guilty this month to trying to plant a car bomb in Times Square. “He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts,” Mr. Williams said.

NPR said in its statement that the remarks “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”
Read the rest here.

As Dollar’s Value Falls, Currency Conflicts Rise

Is this a currency war or what?

Fast-growing nations like Thailand are trying to devalue their exchange rates to bolster their export-driven economies.

In Washington, where “strong dollar” has been the mantra for years, policy makers are taking steps that could make the already weak dollar weaker still.

European policy makers worry that a resurgent euro will threaten growth in their own backyard. And the entire world, it seems, is jawboning China to level the playing field and let its undervalued currency, the renminbi, appreciate. It is a step that Beijing, by all accounts, does not want to take.

With so many economies struggling, it suddenly seems as if it is every nation for itself in the currency markets. Policy makers the world over are worried that economic rivals are trying to turn exchange rates to their advantage, and considering how they should respond to preserve jobs and growth at home.

Even as Washington chides Beijing over the renminbi, critics accuse the United States and other rich nations of waging an international currency war that harks to the protectionist policies of the 1930s, when nations looked out for themselves rather than working together.

“Today, there is a risk that the single chorus that tamed the financial crisis will dissolve into a cacophony of discordant voices, as countries increasingly go it alone,” Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said during a speech in Shanghai this week. “This,” he said, “will surely make everybody worse off.”

The abrupt decline in the dollar — by about 10 percent since early June against major currencies — is upsetting the delicate balance of world economies still recovering from the shocks of the financial crisis.
Read the rest here.

Vatican II and the Orthodox Bishops

Orthodox Christians devoted to accountability are surely aware that accountability in behavior cannot be separated from accountability in understanding since practice (praxis) is necessarily connected to vision (theoreia).

This conviction inspires me, given the present state of things, to raise the following question: Is it possible that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council about the ministry of bishops in the Roman Catholic Church is now being taught and practiced in an adapted and altered form in our Orthodox churches today?

Let me explain why I raise such a question.

According to the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church, following Vatican I and the Council of Trent, bishops are not organically connected to the specific dioceses in which they serve. They rather have their episcopal position and power by virtue of their personal sacramental consecration as bishops. They are, so to speak, considered to be bishops in their own right, and not in virtue of their ministries as heads and overseers of actually existing ecclesial communities to which they belong. As such, they can be moved about from church to church, and even function in bureaucratic positions with titles of sees that no longer exist and therefore without being the leading member of any particular church, and without having any flock at all.

In this teaching and practice, bishops are not elected by the people of their dioceses and confirmed by all the bishops of the regional church to which they belong who, as brother bishops, affirm their election by first examining their faith and behavior, and then, when all is found to be acceptable, by consecrating them through the “laying on of hands.” They are rather appointed directly by the Pope of Rome. While their validity as bishops derives from their sacramental consecration, their legitimacy as bishops derives from their communion with the Pope, and their submission to him.

Together with the Pope, and under his immediate direction, and in obedience to his unique authority considered to derive directly from God (whatever “politicking” may have produced him by vote of the qualified bishops in the college of cardinals, all Vatican-appointed men with titular pastorates of churches in the diocese of Rome), the bishops as consecrated individuals corporately form a “college” (collegium) that governs the universal catholic Church. And, as just noted, they do so by virtue of their union with the See of Rome and in submission to its bishop who is believed to be the unique “successor of Peter” and “vicar of Christ” and “supreme pontiff of the Church” who possesses direct and immediate episcopal authority and jurisdiction over every member of the universal church, including all the other bishops, and who also possesses the authority to speak infallibly on matters of faith and morals when speaking from the chair of Peter (ex cathedra Petri) not from the consensus of the Church (ex consensu ecclesiae) but rather in, by and from himself (ex sese)...

...The Orthodox Church, of course, has no infallible Pope who exercises direct and immediate episcopal jurisdiction over all the Church’s members in the world, including the other bishops. It has no bishop of any see that can speak in any way binding on all the faithful in matters of faith and morals. It has no curia. It has no magisterium. It has no college of cardinals. It has no international advisory council of bishops from around the world. It has no “ecumenical council”, or a council of any kind, that can be considered authoritative, still less infallible, before its decisions are taken and are universally accepted – or perhaps rejected — by all the churches that recognize each other as Orthodox.

According to traditional Orthodoxy, using the celebrated third century formula of St. Cyprian of Carthage in his controversy with the bishop of Rome, Christ’s Church knows no “bishop of bishops” (episcopus episcoporum). The “episcopate is one” (episcopatus unus est) and all of the Church’s bishops hold the same episcopal authority and exercise the same episcopal service “in solidarity” (in solidum) with each other. The holy hieromartyr also teaches that the bishop of every church who makes St. Peter’s confession of faith and receives the Holy Spirit with the authority of “binding and loosing”, sits on the “seat of Peter” (cathedra Petri.) And St. Cyprian also holds, as proven by his famous letter 69, that the bishop in his own church does nothing by himself, but acts in everything in harmony with the church’s “common council” to which, as a member and head of the church, he is accountable for everything he says and does.

These convictions, formulated so clearly and so well by St. Cyprian, are proclaimed and defended by all Orthodox doctrines and canons through the centuries. They are also demonstrated in Orthodox liturgy, including the rites of election and consecration of bishops. The Orthodox Church unequivocally rejects the teachings of Vatican Council I about the special position, prerogatives and powers of the Bishop of Rome. And today the Orthodox Church, it seems to me, should also reject the explanation of Vatican II about how bishops function in the Church, and how they and their churches are to relate to each other, including even to autocephalous churches and their primates.

So what might a version of the Vatican II doctrine about bishops look like in the Orthodox Church?
Read the rest here .

Original source.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Russian Orthodox Church opens two new parishes in Ireland

London, October 19, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox community of Ireland decided to set up two new parishes in the country: in Athlone (Connaught Province) and Drogheda (Leinster Province), the Sourozh Diocese reported on its website.

It was also decided to set up for deaneries (districts - IF) in compliance with borders of four Irish provinces.

Acting hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate Sourozh Diocese that includes parishes of Great Britain and Ireland Archbishop Elisey celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Dublin church last Sunday. The archbishop greeted clerics and believers and conveyed them a blessing on behalf of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
Source
H/T ROCOR United

Archbishop of Canterbury wants a say in planning for Anglican (Catholic) ordinariates

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that Anglican leaders should be involved in the planning for ordinariates that are established to accommodate the pastoral needs of Anglicans entering the Catholic Church.

Dr. Rowan Williams, who is traveling in India, told an interviewer for The Hindu that he was “very taken aback” when Pope Benedict moved to establish the ordinariates “without any real consultation” with the Anglican leadership. Now that the move has been made, he said, “we are trying to make sure that there is a joint group which will keep an eye on how it’s going to happen.”

The worldwide leader of the Anglican communion did not provide any rationale for expecting a voice in planning for the care of people who are, after all, leaving his faith community. But he did offer a practical reason for expecting that Catholic bishops might accede to his wishes. “In England, relations between the Church of England and Roman Catholic bishops are very warm and very close,” he said. “I think we are able to work together on this and not find it a difficulty.”

If the English Catholic bishops are prepared to move forward with the ordinariates at a pace that will not cause any "difficulty" for the Church of England, the entry of Anglicans into the Catholic Church may proceed very slowly.
Source.

What's Latin for "Fat Chance!"?

Archbishop Dolan blasts anti-Catholicism of New York Times

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York has again criticized The New York Times for “the common, casual way [it] offends Catholic sensitivity, something they would never think of doing — rightly so — to the Jewish, Black, Islamic, or gay communities.”

In an October 19 blog post, the archbishop criticized the newspaper for an “insulting photograph” of a nun and for a

"...glowingly reviewed not-to-be missed “art” exhibit comes to us from Harvard, and is a display of posters from ACT UP. Remember them? They invaded of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to disrupt prayer, trampled on the Holy Eucharist, insulted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was here for a conference, and yelled four letter words while exposing themselves to families and children leaving Mass at the Cathedral. The man they most detested was Cardinal John O’Connor, who, by the way, spent many evenings caring quietly for AIDS patients, and, when everyone else ran from them, opened units for them at the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center and St. Clare’s Hospital. Too bad for him. One of the posters in this “must see” exhibit is of Cardinal O’Connor, in the form of a condom, referred to as a “scumbag,” the “art” there in full view in the photograph above the gushing review in our city’s daily"
Source

See also Archbishop Dolan's blog.

Do I think the NY Times is anti-Catholic? Is the Pope... oh never mind.

Europe Is Turning Its Back on Keynes

LONDON — The British economist John Maynard Keynes may live on in popular legend as the world’s most influential economist. But in much of Europe, and most acutely here in the land of his birth, his view that deficit spending by governments is crucial to avoiding a long recession has lately been willfully ignored.

In Britain, George Osborne, chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered a speech on Wednesday that would have made Keynes — who himself worked in the British Treasury — blanch. He argued forcefully that Britons, despite stumbling growth and negligible bank lending, must accept a rise in the retirement age to 66 from 65 and $130 billion in spending cuts that would eliminate nearly 500,000 public sector jobs and hit pensioners, the poor, the military and the middle classes because of what he insisted was the overwhelming need to reduce the country’s huge budget deficit.

In Ireland, where the economy is suffering through its third consecutive year of economic slump, Keynes is doing no better. Devastated by a historic property crash and banking bust, the Irish government is preparing another round of spending cuts and tax increases.

Combined with what Dublin has already imposed, the cuts could add up to as much as 14 percent of Ireland’s gross domestic product, an extraordinary amount for a modern industrial country. Ireland’s budget deficit reached 32 percent of total economic output this year.

Indeed, across Europe, where the threat of a double-dip recession remains palpable, what is most surprising is not simply that governments from Germany to Greece are slashing public outlays but that the debate hinges more on how fast to do so rather than whether such substantial cuts are the right thing to do under the current circumstances.

“Everything Keynes established about the primacy of maintaining demand at a steady pace is gone,” Brad DeLong, a liberal economist and blogger at the University of California, Berkeley, said mournfully.
Read the rest here.

Great Britain announces massive spending cuts

LONDON — The British government on Wednesday unveiled the country’s steepest public spending cuts in more than 60 years, reducing costs in government departments by an average of 19 percent, sharply curtailing welfare benefits, raising the retirement age to 66 by 2020 and eliminating hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs in an effort to bring down the bloated budget deficit.

“Today is the day when Britain steps back from the brink,” a confident George Osborne, who as chancellor of the Exchequer is Britain’s top finance minister, told the House of Commons. “To back down now and abandon our plans would be the road to economic ruin.”

Wednesday’s announcement of £83 billion, about $130 billion, in cuts by 2015 represents a big political gamble for Britain’s fledgling Conservative-led coalition government.

Britain’s public deficit is one of the highest among developed economies, running at 11.5 percent of total economic output, compared with 10.7 percent for the United States and 5.4 percent for Germany. Though the Conservatives have so far made a persuasive case for the deep cuts, outmaneuvering a weakened Labour opposition, the country has yet to feel anything like the pain that is to come as the retrenchment begins to take hold.
Read the rest here.

Pope Benedict XVI names 24 new Cardinals

Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday named 24 new cardinals, adding fresh blood to the institution that will one day elect his successor and raising the chances that more of the electors of the next pope would be Italian.

The group, which will be installed next month, includes two Americans: Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. an expert in doctrine who delivered a prayer at President Barack Obama’s inauguration but has also opposed some of the administration’s social policies; and Archbishop Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Vatican’s supreme court, who has been vocal in his criticism of the Democratic Party’s support of abortion rights.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who commands a post traditionally held by a cardinal, was not among those named, which experts said was because his predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan, is not yet 80, and so is still eligible to vote for the next pope as a member of the College of Cardinals.
Read the rest here.

A Saudi Prince is sentenced for murder

LONDON (AP) — Life in prison, with parole possible after 20 years. That was the sentence handed down Wednesday to a Saudi prince convicted of a killing so lurid it has shocked even London, with its long history of tawdry sex crimes dating back to Jack the Ripper.

The victim, Bandar Abdulaziz, had so many internal injuries, including bleeding on the brain and a fractured larynx, that pathologists could not pinpoint the precise cause of death after his body was found in the posh Landmark Hotel.

The killer was a Saudi prince who tried in vain to hide his homosexuality from the court and had been filmed on a closed-circuit camera mercilessly beating the victim — his paid manservant — in the hotel elevator.

The frenzied killing, and the erotic nude photos of the victim found on the prince's mobile phone, have embarrassed the Saudi royal family, which has refused to comment on the matter. The case is not receiving press attention inside Saudi Arabia.
Read the rest here.

Monasteries from Orthodox Romania


Double click on video for full screen.

Attempted murder charge in coerced abortion case

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man accused of pointing a handgun at his pregnant girlfriend and forcing her to drive to an abortion clinic has been charged with attempted murder under an Ohio law prohibiting the unlawful termination of a pregnancy, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Dominic L. Holt-Reid, 28, was arrested Oct. 6 as he waited for his girlfriend in the clinic's parking lot.

Columbus police initially charged him with kidnapping and carrying a concealed weapon. A six-count Franklin County grand jury indictment returned Friday added other kidnapping and weapons counts, along with the attempted murder charge.

County prosecutor Ron O'Brien said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the attempted murder count was filed because Holt-Reid tried "at gunpoint to force her to have an abortion against her will."
Read the rest here.

This is going to rattle some legal cages.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Task force probing whether banks broke federal laws during home seizures

Federal law enforcement officials are investigating possible criminal violations in connection with the national foreclosure crisis, examining whether financial firms broke federal laws when they filed fraudulent court documents to seize people's homes, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Obama administration's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force is in the early stages of an investigation into whether banks and other companies that submitted flawed paperwork in state foreclosure proceedings may also have misled federal housing agencies, which now own or insure a majority of home loans, according to these sources.

The task force, which includes investigators from the Justice Department, Department of Housing and Urban Development and other agencies, is also looking into whether the submission of flawed paperwork during the foreclosure process violated mail or wire fraud laws. Financial fraud cases often involve these statutes.

The probe is unfolding as the administration seeks to send a public message that banks or other companies that broke the law would be held accountable. After freezing foreclosures in many states amid reports of improper foreclosures, banks are now preparing to submit new paperwork and resume the process of seizing homes. Members of the task force and other administration officials are set to hold a wide-ranging meeting Wednesday to discuss the issue at HUD. That will be followed by a White House briefing by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and the task force executive director, Robb Adkins, an administration official said.
Read the rest here.

Forget The Republican Landslide And Worry About The REAL Avalanche About To Bury America

...As a nation, we are struggling with overwhelming debt at every level of governance and across a vast swath of the electorate. There are at least (at the very least) 15 states and countless municipalities that are functionally bankrupt. The states that are bankrupt, by any real accounting, include New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Missouri, Oregon, Washington and Michigan. They can't (literally can not) meet their pension obligations. They won't be able to pay for their ever-rising health care costs. Education costs are eating up too much money (although this will abate somewhat as the echo boom generation matriculates) and virtually every state (and municipality) has huge bond obligations, the proceeds from which papered over previous shortfalls. Oh, and one other thing, the economies in all of those states are stagnant, at best.

Once the last infusions of stimulus money run dry, what remains is a vast desert of debt. The idea that an over-leveraged electorate can be called upon to make up the shortfall is a non-starter. They can't pay down their own debt and municipal debt and state debt and federal debt. The math simply doesn't work. They end up with no take home pay.

This is the real avalanche that is about to hit American democracy. The avalanche in two weeks results in Nancy Pelosi no longer being the Speaker of the House. The avalanche of debt that hits beginning in 2011 and keeps on coming will shake our political system to its foundation. That's the avalanche that matters.
Read the rest here.

Rare and Foolish

Last month a Chinese trawler operating in Japanese-controlled waters collided with two vessels of Japan’s Coast Guard. Japan detained the trawler’s captain; China responded by cutting off Japan’s access to crucial raw materials.

And there was nowhere else to turn: China accounts for 97 percent of the world’s supply of rare earths, minerals that play an essential role in many high-technology products, including military equipment. Sure enough, Japan soon let the captain go.

I don’t know about you, but I find this story deeply disturbing, both for what it says about China and what it says about us. On one side, the affair highlights the fecklessness of U.S. policy makers, who did nothing while an unreliable regime acquired a stranglehold on key materials. On the other side, the incident shows a Chinese government that is dangerously trigger-happy, willing to wage economic warfare on the slightest provocation.

Some background: The rare earths are elements whose unique properties play a crucial role in applications ranging from hybrid motors to fiber optics. Until the mid-1980s the United States dominated production, but then China moved in.

“There is oil in the Middle East; there is rare earth in China,” declared Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s economic transformation, in 1992. Indeed, China has about a third of the world’s rare earth deposits. This relative abundance, combined with low extraction and processing costs — reflecting both low wages and weak environmental standards — allowed China’s producers to undercut the U.S. industry.

You really have to wonder why nobody raised an alarm while this was happening, if only on national security grounds. But policy makers simply stood by as the U.S. rare earth industry shut down. In at least one case, in 2003 — a time when, if you believed the Bush administration, considerations of national security governed every aspect of U.S. policy — the Chinese literally packed up all the equipment in a U.S. production facility and shipped it to China.
Read the rest here.

I rarely agree with Dr. Krugman about anything. If he told me it was sunny and 75 out I would grab an umbrella and my over-coat. That said I think he nailed this one.

China halts exports of some rare minerals

HONG KONG — China, which has been blocking shipments of crucial minerals to Japan for the last month, has now quietly halted shipments of some of those same materials to the United States and Europe, three industry officials said on Tuesday.

The Chinese action, involving rare earth minerals that are crucial to manufacturing many advanced products, seems certain to further ratchet up already rising trade and currency tensions with the West. Until recently, China typically sought quick and quiet accommodations on trade issues. But the interruption in rare earth supplies is the latest sign from Beijing that Chinese officials are willing to use their growing economic muscle.

“The embargo is expanding” beyond Japan, said one of the three rare earth industry officials, all of whom insisted on anonymity for fear of business retaliation by Chinese authorities. They said Chinese customs officials imposed the broader shipment restrictions Monday morning, hours after a top Chinese official had summoned international news media Sunday night to denounce United States trade actions.
Read the rest here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A liberal Anglican on the Orthodox Divine Liturgy

While on holiday in the Dodecanese recently I made my way each Sunday to the town’s church to attend the Divine Liturgy according to the Greek Orthodox Rite. As always I was struck by timelessness of this ancient liturgy, of the sense of being caught up into the heavenly places, but also by the differences with the Sunday Liturgy of the Western Rite. As far as liturgy goes there is indeed “a wideness in God’s mercy” as Frederick Faber famously wrote. Here are a few observations based just on two Sundays on one Greek island. I’m afraid I have no idea whether what I experienced was typical, but here goes;...

...3. Participation in the Divine Liturgy was minimal. People stood, or sat, with great attentiveness, and made the ritual gestures with devotion, but in the main were content to observe the rite and listen to the cantors who sang for them. This is a far cry indeed from the full, conscious and active participation encouraged and expected in the West.
4. Likewise there seemed to be no encounter, no real dialogue, between priest and people. The priest faithfully observed the rite, performed the ritual acts and spoke or sang the ritual words, but there was no direct connection made, no eye contact even. The Liturgy went its own majestic way and the people tagged along. They seemed to need no encouraging word, no little clerical ad libs, no lifting of the spirits with humour. They evidently felt supremely privileged simply to be there.
Read the rest here.

H/T Carlos Antonio Palad via email

One nation, under fraud (Must Read)

Tomorrow, a bank—not your bank, but any bank—could evict you from your home. Even if you didn’t know the bank was foreclosing. Even if your mortgage is paid off. Even if you never had a mortgage to begin with. Even if the bank doesn’t hold a single piece of paper that you signed. And major banks not only know this fact, but have spent millions of dollars to defend it in court. Why? The answer starts with a Jacksonville homeowner named Patrick Jeffs.

In 2007, Deutsche Bank sued Jeffs for his home, which is a necessary step in the process of foreclosing on a homeowner in the state of Florida. Curiously, despite the fact that he immediately hired a law firm to defend his property when he found out about the foreclosure, neither Jeffs nor his attorneys were at the trial. That’s because it had already happened. Deutsche won by default because Jeffs wasn’t able to travel backwards in time to attend, even though the trial featured a signed affidavit indicating that he had been served his court summons.

The only problem with the summons Jeffs supposedly received was that it had been conjured out of thin air.

In June of this year, a Florida court ruled that the document was fraudulent, as the person who was supposed to make sure Jeffs was served had mysteriously received a copy of the summons before the lawsuit had even been filed, and Jeffs never even saw the copy. The text of that ruling was posted on various financial news websites in September. The lawyers that Jeffs hired to defend his case say that fraud such as this is not uncommon. It’s a widespread problem, and it has cost countless families their homes.

“I think it’s safe to say that 95% of the foreclosure cases in Florida involve some form of fraud on the part of the bank,” David Goldman of Apple Law Firm, PLLC told The Daily Caller in a phone interview. “It’s probably closer to 99%. And the court system is helping them get away with it.”
Read the rest here.

H/T- T19

The 10th Amendment goes to the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON -- The Tea Party’s favorite part of the Constitution — the 10th Amendment, which limits federal power — arrived at the Supreme Court last week. In keeping with the spirit of the times, it came wrapped in the plot of a soap opera.

The amendment has played a starring role in challenges to the recent federal health care legislation. But the justices have not made the task of divining their own views particularly easy.

Their most recent consideration of where Congress’s constitutional power ends came in a case involving the civil commitment of sex offenders.

Now the court has decided to consider what to do about a woman hellbent on poisoning her best friend.

The woman, Carol A. Bond of Lansdale, Pa., was at first delighted to learn that her friend was pregnant. Ms. Bond’s mood darkened, though, when it emerged that her husband was the father. “I am going to make your life a living hell,” she said, according to her now-former friend, Myrlinda Haynes.

Ms. Bond, a microbiologist, certainly tried. On about two dozen occasions, she spread lethal chemicals on her friend’s car, mailbox and doorknob.

Ms. Haynes, who managed to escape serious injury, complained to the local police. They did not respond with particular vigor. After checking to see whether the white powder on her car was cocaine, they advised her to have it cleaned.

Federal postal inspectors were more helpful. They videotaped Ms. Bond stealing mail and putting poison in the muffler of Ms. Haynes’s car.

When it came time to charge Ms. Bond with a crime, federal prosecutors chose a novel theory. They indicted her not only for stealing mail, an obvious federal offense, but also for using unconventional weapons in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, a treaty aimed at terrorists and rogue states.

Had she been prosecuted in state court, Ms. Bond would most likely have faced a sentence of three months to two years, her lawyers say. In federal court, she got six years.

Ms. Bond’s argument on appeal was that Congress did not have the constitutional power to use a chemical weapons treaty to address a matter of a sort routinely handled by state authorities.

She relied on the 10th Amendment, the one so beloved by Tea Party activists. It says that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Read the rest here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ahmadinejad: Zionists will disappear

BINT JBEIL, LEBANON - In a fiery speech two miles from Lebanon's border with Israel on Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised a cheering crowd that the "Zionists will disappear" and that "occupied Palestine will be liberated."

On the second day of a visit to Lebanon, Ahmadinejad traveled to this border town in the southern Shiite heartland, which was hard hit by fighting during Israel's 2006 war against Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas. Iran contributed generously to the cost of rebuilding the town and other Lebanese communities devastated by the war, and the Iranian president used his trip to the border area to voice support for the fight against Israel.

A crowd of thousands waving flags of Iran and Hezbollah greeted Ahmadinejad in the stadium in Bint Jbeil, where he said that the local people had given Israel "the taste of bitter defeat."

"You proved that your resistance, your patience, your steadfastness, were stronger than all the tanks and warplanes of the enemy, "Ahmadinejad told the throng.

"The entire world should know that the Zionists will disappear," Ahmadinejad said as a pair of Israeli helicopters flew along the border within sight of the stadium. "Today the Zionist occupiers have no choice but to surrender to reality and return to their homes and countries of origin."

"Rest assured that occupied Palestine will be liberated from the filth of the occupation by the power of the resistance and through the faith of the resistance," the Iranian leader said, bringing a roar from the crowd.
Read the rest here.

What a truly revolting human being.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Super-rich are buying gold by the ton

The world's wealthiest people have responded to economic worries by buying gold by the bar - and sometimes by the ton - and by moving assets out of the financial system, bankers catering to the very rich told Reuters, the news agency.

Fears of a double-dip downturn have boosted the appetite for physical bullion as well as for mining company shares and exchange-traded funds, UBS executive Josef Stadler told the Reuters Global Private Banking Summit.

"They don't only buy ETFs or futures; they buy physical gold," said Stadler, who runs the Swiss bank's services for clients with assets of at least $50 million to invest.

UBS is recommending top-tier clients hold 7-10 percent of their assets in precious metals like gold, which is on course for its tenth consecutive yearly gain and traded at around $1,314.50 an ounce on Monday, near the record level reached last week.

"We had a clear example of a couple buying over a ton of gold ... and carrying it to another place," Stadler said. At today's prices, that shipment would be worth about $42 million.
Read the rest here.

Patriarch Kirill compares situation with religion in Europe with period of atheism in USSR

Moscow, October 13, Interfax – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said the situation with religion in some countries, including Europe, reminds him of the times of militant atheism in the Soviet Union.

"I am deeply convinced that modern civilization is making the same mistake as the Soviet Union. It doesn't matter very much why you are removing faith from pubic life. The final result, as engineers say, is the same: you get dismantling of religious consciousness," the Patriarch said while meeting with German President Christian Wulff in Moscow on Wednesday.

The Russian Church has lived for decades in a country where the official ideology was the ideology of atheism, "where churches were destroyed, crosses were removed from churches to be used for some secular purposes, where religious life was squeezed out of public life and could only be manifested in private, intimate life."

The people who made such policies "have very good intentions and acted on the basis of their convictions, and their convictions were very humanistic: to build a just prospering society, good future, where people would be happy and would have everything they wanted to have, but religion, those crosses on churches were getting in the way," the Patriarch said.

"It scares me that something illogical is now taking place in some countries, including in Western Europe. No one is saying that the Christian presence should be removed for the sake of a good future, but they are using a different philosophy: they want to remove crosses from schools and religion from public life in the name of human rights," Patriarch Kirill said.

He thanked Germany for "defending the legality of the presence of traditional Christian values in societal life on many issues."

Patriarch Kirill said philosophies come and go and Christian faith has existed for 2,000 years and it "formed the spiritual and cultural foundation of Europe."

"For this reason, we believe we now need to speak loudly about it, because we have a right to do that, we have lived for many years in a country that drove God from public life and we know the consequences of that," the Patriarch said.

Patriarch Kirill said the current "phenomenal revival of religious life in Russia and the other former Soviet republics is largely a reaction to that past."
Source

Ortho-Cath Reunion? Not so fast

Teófilo de Jesús has posted the results of an online survey he conducted aimed at gauging the attitudes of Orthodox laymen and women towards restoration of communion with Rome. The results of this unscientific poll suggest great skepticism, and resistance to any rapprochement with Rome that does not include significant concessions, especially in the area of ecclesiology and doctrine. A not insignificant minority were opposed to reunion under any circumstances.

You may read the detailed results here.

When "Orthodox" is Not

A recent discussion over at the Byzantine Forum has brought to my attention a problem that seems to be on the increase of late. I am referring to bogus "Orthodox" churches. Some people, especially the non-Orthodox, have been duped by these groups. This used to be a problem much more commonly associated with the Catholic Church. But in recent years it has become an increasing issue with us as well.

Without going into a long or forensic discussion of the not so Orthodox sects, I thought I would give some brief background on the various types there are and then point up a few signs that might indicate you have stumbled on a less than legitimate group.

Speaking in very general terms the faux-Orthodox typically can be divided into three groups.

1. The mainstream but schismatic Orthodox: These are groups who are doctrinally Orthodox and who generally follow the liturgical discipline of the Church. Their "bishops" often have legitimate historical connections to the Church in terms of their orders though they may have been deposed or excommunicated. Examples of this are most commonly to be found in certain break away "churches" that are attempting to self proclaim their independence or autocephaly. The so called Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievyn Patriarchate are two prominent examples.

2. The schismatic and non-mainstream Orthodox: These are almost always going to be so called "Old Calendarist" churches. There are a plethora of them out there. Most are small and very few are in communion with anyone outside their own church. They are characterized by a rejection of the "new" or "reformed Julian" calendar which they regard as heretical. One may fairly divide the Old Calendarists (OCs) into two sub-groups, moderate and radical. The moderate OCs while branding as heretical any church that uses the new calendar might accept the grace of the sacraments of those churches which use the old calendar but are themselves in communion with new calendarist churches. Radical OCs by contrast consider anyone who has held communion with new calendarists to be tainted and their sacraments to be without grace. Both types of OCs are frequently infected with all kinds of bizarre conspiracy theories involving Jews, Free Masons and the like.

3. The counterfeit Orthodox: These are groups that have simply adopted the word "Orthodox" into their church name in an effort to gain some form of respect or legitimacy to which they are not entitled. Almost without exception they lack any authentic connection to the Orthodox Church and are usually outright heretics. Many of these sects are, or at one time were, Catholic vagantes who decided that a name change might cause people to ask fewer inconvenient questions. There are a lot of Catholics who keep track of these sects and post warnings about them. And many Roman Catholic Diocese also will post warnings about pseudo-Catholic groups. Regrettably, there is generally less awareness within Orthodoxy of such entities. In addition the jurisdictional craziness, especially here in N. America makes it a lot easier for these sects to operate without being closely questioned. Few Orthodox dioceses or jurisdictions seem to be cognizant of the problem or at least have shown little interest in it.

Warning Signs

There are a number of indicators that can serve to alert one that you may have encountered a group whose relationship with The Church is questionable. I would however caution that there are occasional exceptions to these indicators so don't assume a group is bogus just because they meet one of the signs listed below. That said if they DO meet one or especially if they meet multiple indicators you should approach with caution and be prepared to ask questions.

1. If the name of the church, excluding the saints name, has more than five words in it you may want to refer to # 2 below.

2. If any of the following words appear in the church's name (as opposed to the parish name) you may have a problem... True, Authentic, Genuine, Real, Holy, Synod, Metropolia, Resistance, Exile, Underground, Old Calendar, Reformed, Inclusive, Liberal or Conservative, Canonical. If you run into the "Really True Old Calendar First Holy Orthodox Church of Dump Truck County Alabama in Exile" don't walk away. RUN!

3. Almost any church that has the world "calendar" anywhere in its name is at least schismatic.

4. Churches (as opposed to parishes) that claim to be "Western Rite" are bogus. Note: There are a small number of fully canonical Orthodox parishes which have been blessed to the use of the Western Rite. In N. America they are almost all under the jurisdiction of the Antiochian Archdiocese. There are at present NO canonical Orthodox churches that are "Western Rite." That means there are no Orthodox Western Rite bishops.

5. Churches that make reference in their website or literature to the "pan-heresy of ecumenism" are likely schismatic or worse.

6. Churches that feel the need to proclaim their bona-fides by listing the lineage of their Apostolic Succession like a pedigree on their website are bogus. Canonical Orthodox churches don't do that. They don't need to. On a side note, I have never seen any so called Orthodox Church with such a lineage posted where their "orders" did not derive from Roman Catholic vagantes. It is exceedingly rare for any of these sects to have any sacramental connection to the Orthodox Church. And it is worth noting that while the Roman Church (owing to its Augustinian approach to Holy Orders) sometimes accepts the validity of their orders, the Orthodox Church does not.

In conclusion one may stumble on a church that seems "Orthodox," but something doesn't feel right. Or maybe they meet one of the above warning signs but your not really sure. In such cases just ask some questions. Orthodox priests will be able to answer simple questions quickly and without evasion. Probably the easiest and most obvious question is "Who are you in communion with?" or "Are you in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate?" While I concede that the EP is NOT the Orthodox Pope, he does occupy the canonical first place of honor in The Church. If someone is not in communion with him that is one giant flashing neon warning sign. For a number of years ROCOR was in a state of (I will borrow an Anglican expression here) "impaired communion" with the EP and just about everyone else outside of the Serbs and the Jerusalem Patriarchate. But that is over now. Today I don't know of any canonical Orthodox church that is not in communion with the EP.

The majority of bogus Orthodox groups are misguided but usually well meaning people. They often believe they are right and we (in the canonical Church) are wrong. Others are heavily populated by people who are ill informed about the true nature of their church and its relationship with Orthodoxy. And sadly a few are scams run by con artists, thieves and in a hand full of cases sexual predators.

Bottom line... When in doubt ASK QUESTIONS.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Victorian tale of crime and murder

VSO has posted an excerpt (with link) of the fascinating, and rather gruesome, story of Mr. H. H. Holmes who may be the earliest documented American serial killer. The man was a diabolically brilliant Gilded Age criminal, and I (not usually a fan of the true crime genre) confess to finding his story riveting.

Contrary to the popular image of the late Victorians as stuffy and insufferably prudish, they loved their crime stories as much as our own modern society. And the press, on both sides of the Atlantic, was often filled with lurid tales of dreadful deeds calculated to make well bread ladies gasp (as much as was possible in a corset) with horror.

Wikipedia also has a write up on Mr. Holmes.

The DNA of Death

WASHINGTON — In the course of an hourlong argument at the Supreme Court on Wednesday about a death row inmate’s quest to test DNA evidence, the justices asked neither of the questions that people without legal training might have thought crucial: Why won’t Texas prosecutors consent to the testing? And could the results show that the inmate, Henry W. Skinner, is innocent of the triple murder that sent him to death row?

The justices focused instead on whether Mr. Skinner had located a path through a thicket of legal doctrines meant to limit postconviction challenges.

Last year, in District Attorney’s Office v. Osborne, No.08-6, the court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that inmates have no freestanding right under the Constitution’s due process clause to test evidence that could prove their innocence in states without laws on DNA testing. The court and Congress have, moreover, severely limited habeas corpus challenges to convictions and sentences.

Mr. Skinner chose a third route, suing under a federal civil rights law known as Section 1983 and saying a Texas law that allows DNA testing in only some circumstances violated his rights.

That position required Mr. Skinner’s lawyer, Robert C. Owen, to maintain that his client’s goal, at least for now, was not to challenge his conviction or death sentence, as such challenges would have to be brought through a habeas petition, but simply to test the evidence.
Read the rest here.

Dollar Falls to Eight-Month Low Versus Euro on Fed Outlook; Aussie Jumps

The dollar fell to its weakest since January against the euro and approached a 15-year low versus the yen before reports likely to fuel speculation the Federal Reserve will ease policy further to support prices.

The Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against the currencies of six major trading partners, reached a nine-month low before the Labor Department is forecast to say gains in U.S. wholesale costs and consumer prices slowed. The Singapore dollar rose to a record after the island’s central bank said it will steepen and widen the currency’s band to curb inflation. Australia’s dollar jumped to the highest since it began trading freely in 1983 as Asian stocks extended a global rally.

“It really comes down to what the Fed does and we are looking at the prospect of further quantitative easing in November or December,” said Adam Carr, a senior economist at ICAP Australia Ltd. in Sydney. “You’re not likely to see any dollar strength,” until the Fed’s November meeting, he said.

The dollar declined to $1.4039 per euro as of 9:55 a.m. in Tokyo from $1.3961 in New York yesterday, after earlier reaching $1.4058, the lowest level since Jan. 27. It fell to 81.54 yen from 81.81 yen. It touched 81.39 on Oct. 11, the weakest since April 1995. The yen traded at 114.47 per euro after yesterday declining 0.4 percent to 114.20.

The Dollar Index, used by IntercontinentalExchange Inc. to track the greenback against currencies including the euro, yen and Swiss franc, slid to 76.652, the lowest since Jan. 14, before trading at 76.715.
Read the rest here.

Gold vs. Treasuries: Which Do You Believe?


Which do you trust more, paper or gold?
Any psychoanalyst looking at the behavior of investors today would see clear strains of schizophrenia in a comparison between the markets for gold and US Treasuries.

Currently, the 10-year Treasury yield is setting new lows on a daily basis. In the financial models all economists were taught at school, this would be an indication of an economy with low inflation expectations and a strong currency. But the dollar has fallen over 12% since June, and the price of gold continues to hit all-time highs. These results are completely antithetical. Bonds are flashing a warning sign of deflation, while gold and the dollar presage hyperinflation.

During the last period in which the US experienced significant economic stress, the late 70's and early 80's, the markets in gold and Treasuries showed a much higher degree of harmony. At that time, the Fed's extreme depression of interest rates led to rapidly rising inflation, a weakening dollar, and a massive spike in the price of gold. More significantly, yields on Treasuries soared as investors demanded higher rates as compensation for the added inflation risk. In other words, everything made sense.

Beginning in January of 1977, gold began an epic bull market which ended just prior to February of 1980. In that time, the metal soared from $135 per ounce to just under $860 per ounce, and the Dollar Index lost about 20% of its value. Yields on the 10-year Treasury soared from 7.2% in January of 1977 to 12.4% in February of 1980. This occurred in an environment where the Federal Reserve - under Arthur Burns - pursued an inflationary monetary policy. He increased the monetary base from $62 billion to $114 billion in just eight years.

Today, the environment is similar to what the country confronted 30 years ago. Like then, our monetary base has surged - but this time even faster. Instead of merely doubling in eight years as it did under Burns' watch, Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke have tripled the base in twelve years (from $621 billion in 2000 to over $2 trillion today). Accordingly, the dollar price of gold has more than quadrupled, from $280 per ounce in 2000 to over $1,300 today. Over that time, the dollar has registered a 35% drop in value. However, in stark contrast to 1980, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note has collapsed from 6.6% in 2000 to less than 2.4% today.
Read the rest here.

Utah Meeting Seeks to Unify Orthodox Christians

SALT LAKE CITY (RNS) If a group of Orthodox Christians meeting in Salt Lake City this week (Oct. 14-16) has its way, future generations of Greek, Serbian, Russian and other ethnic faithful all will worship together in a single American church.

A unified church would "honor and celebrate the multicultural Orthodox community here," says Bill Souvall, president of the group Orthodox Christian Laity. "It would give us a powerful presence in America. Spiritual seekers and searchers would find us."

There currently are 14 Orthodox jurisdictions in America, and each has its own bishop in the country of origin and its own language, but the liturgy and doctrines are the same, Souvall says. "The churches of America should be American. They shouldn't have all these separate archdioceses."

Even so, this push for unity is not universally accepted.

Some bishops who look to Europe for leadership are not eager to displease their superiors, Souvall said. Older members also worry about losing their language, culture, identity and ties to their home countries.
Read the rest here.

Patriarch Kirill criticizes Spanish gay marriage propaganda

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has decried gay relationship "propaganda" in Spanish secondary school textbooks.

Spain, which was one of the first European countries to legalize gay marriages in 2005, has seen a wave of criticism from parents whose children had to use books that teach pupils about gay relationships.

Some of the indignant parents are set to apply to the European Court of Human Rights.

The patriarch said the Orthodox Church "would never fail to call a sin a sin."

"I consider it very important to take into account the second article of the Protocol 1 of the European convention on human rights that stipulates that "the state shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions," the patriarch said.
Source

Chile: Mine rescue nearing end with one left to bring up

A great miracle of God.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mine rescue in progress in Chile

Pick a TV channel. It's probably on. Prayers for everyone involved.

N.Y. Faces $200 Billion Shortfall in Retiree Health Costs

The cities, counties and authorities of New York have promised more than $200 billion worth of health benefits to their retirees while setting aside almost nothing, putting the public work force on a collision course with the taxpayers who are expected to foot the bill.

The total cost appears in a report to be issued on Wednesday by the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a research organization that studies fiscal policy.

It does not suggest that New York must somehow come up with $200 billion right away.

But the report casts serious doubt over whether medical benefits for New York’s retirees will be sustainable, given the sputtering economy and today’s climate of hostility toward new taxes and taxpayer bailouts.

The daunting size of the health care obligation raises the possibility that localities will be forced at some point to choose between paying their retirees’ medical costs and paying the investors who hold their bonds. Government officials aim to satisfy both groups, and have even made painful cuts in local services when necessary to keep up with both sets of payments.

Only a few places have tried to rein in their costs, by billing retirees for a portion of the premiums, for example. Retirees have responded with lawsuits, but ratings agencies and municipal bond buyers have shrugged off these warning signs.

“So far, the market doesn’t care,” said Edmund J. McMahon, the director of the Empire Center. “The market seems to assume, on the basis of nothing, that at some point all of these places are simply going to stop paying retiree health benefits.”
Read the rest here.