After 15 visits spanning more than half a century, the Queen is to embark on what may prove to be her farewell to Australia later this month.Read the rest here.
Her Majesty, who is 85, and the Duke of Edinburgh, 90, will complete a hectic 10-day tour which would be exhausting for a couple half their age.
While Buckingham Palace aides refuse to rule out future visits to the second-largest Commonwealth realm, many Australians will treat the visit as a chance to say goodbye to their monarch, who is expected to cut back on long-haul tours following next year’s Diamond Jubilee.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Lawmakers in Mexico City are proposing a new marriage licence that would allow couples to split after a two-year trial rather than go through the lengthier divorce process.Read the rest here.
Instead of the traditional 'till death to us part,' couples would be able to opt for temporary commitments, test out married life, and then renew their licenses indefinitely if they are still devoted to their chosen spouse.
The proposed law would not help those with morning-after regrets. Couples who want to dissolve the marriage before two years would have to go through regular divorce proceedings.
"Two years is the minimum amount of time it takes to know and appreciate what life is like as a couple," Lizbeth Rosas, who is spearheading the proposed legislation on behalf of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, said to BBC Mundo in Spanish.
"If you renew, that means you have an understanding with your partner, and that you are clear on the rules of the relationship."
If the marriage is unhappy or unstable, the contract — which would include clauses on custody rights and the division of property — could be dissolved without what proponents refer to as cumbersome paperwork that hurts families.
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, made a journey to the Middle East in the end of August. He visited three ancient Local Churches and met with their Primates. Upon returning to Moscow, he spoke about his visit to “Interfax-Religion.”Read the rest here.
Q. – You have completed your journey to the Middles East countries and Turkey and visited three Patriarchates. What was the purpose of this trip?
A. – The trip was undertaken with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. His Holiness and the Holy Synod blessed me to visit the heads of the Local Orthodox Churches on a regular basis and to hold consultations on the matters of inter-Orthodox relations and topical problems of the life of the Orthodox Church at present. It was necessary to meet with the Primates of the three ancient Patriarchates – of Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
Current political events in the Middle East can seriously complicate the life of Christians in the region. It is not fortuitous that the problems of Christians there have been scrutinized by the heads of the Churches in the Middle East. On August 1, the Primates of the Churches of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Cyprus and a representative of the Patriarchate of Alexandria met in Jordan. On August 23, a similar meeting took place in Cyprus. Another meeting on the Middle East problems will be chaired by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in Istanbul on September 1.
The Russian Orthodox Church has never been indifferent to the problems of our Orthodox brothers in the Middle East and has expressed its concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and in other regions of the world in the Statement of the Holy Synod of May 30.
A leading Russian Orthodox official says the Eastern Orthodox churches have yet to resolve the question of authority among themselves, a condition for future progress on the issue of the papacy.Read the rest here.
“I would say that there are certain divergences, and there are different positions, of the Orthodox churches on the question of the primacy,” said Metropolitan Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, in a Vatican Radio interview following his Sept. 29 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo.
“As we discuss the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, within the framework of the next commission, we do not only discuss the primacy of Rome; but we have to touch the issue of the primacy in general,” noted the Orthodox metropolitan, apparently referring to future proceedings of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
“And here, of course, we have different traditions – not only between the Catholics and the Orthodox, because we never had such a centralized system as the Catholics have – but we also have some difference among the Orthodox, as to what should be the role of the 'first hierarch' in the Orthodox Church.” The Patriarch of Constantinople occupies that role, but his prerogatives are not fully defined.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Most Bank of America customers will soon see a new charge on their statements -- $5 for any month in which they use a BofA debit card to make a purchase.Read the rest here.
Consumers should prepare for more such charges, analysts say, as big banks strive to recover revenue they have lost to financial reforms adopted in the aftermatch of the economic meltdown.
The new Bank of America fee will be phased in early next year, said Anne Pace, a spokeswoman for BofA, the nation's largest retail bank.
Customers will still be able to use their cards at the bank's automated teller machines without being charged, the bank said Thursday.
They also can make debit purchases free if they have a mortgage from Bank of America or if they have a total of $20,000 on deposit at Bank of America and in certain Merrill Lynch accounts (you may recall that Bank of America's corporate parent bought Merrill Lynch as the financial crisis set in).
Yet again I am compelled to say it... BANKS ARE THE ENEMY!
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has long been renounced for his conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which he has called "mysterious."Source.
His latest fiery rant at the United Nations blamed the U.S. government for the 2001 attacks, and suggested the killing of Osama bin Laden was a coverup .
Now he has new detractor: al-Qaida.
It seems the terror network doesn't like someone else taking credit for its work, which its English-language magazine, Inspire, calls "The Greatest Special Operation of All Time."
An opinion piece in the latest issue takes aim at Ahmadinejad and his 9/11 conspiracy theories.
"So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?" author Abu Suhail asks, going on to accuse the Iranians of collaborating with the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"For them, al-Qaida was a competitor for the hearts and minds of the disenfranchised Muslims around the world. Al-Qaida, an organization under fire, with no state, succeeded in what Iran couldn’t," Suhail wrote.
"Therefore it was necessary for the Iranians to discredit 9/11 and what better way to do so? Conspiracy theories.
"Iran and the Shiite in general do not want to give al-Qaida credit for the greatest and biggest operation ever committed against America because this would expose their lip-service jihad against the Great Satan."
"Ahmadinejad and Al Qaeda... the Beavis and Butthead of the Islamic world."
-From one of the comments on the original article.
On a side note, I don't know the identity of the staff writer who authored this piece, but he/she needs a course in remedial grammar.
The Orthodox Church is mostly known in the United States for its rich liturgical life, its adherence to ancient calendars for major Christian feast-days and, perhaps most of all, the many food and ethnic festivals offered by its multiethnic parishes. Social activism and moral witness in the public square, not so much. That has begun to change with the rise of Metropolitan Jonah, the primate of the Orthodox Church in America. This youthful bishop, born James Paffhausen in Chicago and raised in Southern California before entering monastic life in Russia, was elected to lead the OCA in November 2008. Since then, he has perhaps been the most widely quoted and covered Orthodox bishop in the United States, speaking out on social issues and traveling widely to speak to ecumenical gatherings. He delivered one of the keynote addresses at Acton University in June 2011. Religion & Liberty Executive Editor John Couretas spoke with Metropolitan Jonah about his talk.Read the rest here.
R&L: In your Acton University address, "Asceticism and the Consumer Society," you explained how the consumerist impulse was really an addictive impulse, something that compels us fill a void where God should be. And we so frequently attempt to fill that empty spot with the wrong things.
Metropolitan Jonah: I think the void occurs because we're basically distracted from God, and we don't let God fill that void. We don't have that focus and that perpetual intuitive awareness of God for which we were created, and so we let other things get in the way. And for many people, it's pain and disappointment, discouragement, anger, bitterness, all of the passions. For others, it could be the pain that follows from having been abused in some way. And so this becomes a kind of a preoccupation and we look for things to mute that pain, to distract us from it. We look for a salve.
Chisinau/Moscow - Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill will cut his visit to Moldova by two days at his doctors' recommendation, Secretary of the Moldovan Metropolis of the Russian Orthodox Church Archpriest Vadim Cheibas told Interfax.Source
The Patriarchy has confirmed this information.
The duration of the patriarch's visit to Moldova will be shortened "at the strong recommendation of the doctors who insist on relaxing the working schedule of the Holy Patriarch," a source from the Patriarchy told Interfax on Wednesday.
"Nevertheless, the patriarch is firmly intent on visiting all of the dioceses in Moldova within a fairly short period of time and on talking to the Moldovan clergy and flock in all parts of the country," he said.
ROME — Over the last several years, the Italian Catholic Church has largely looked the other way as reports emerged of a series of sex and corruption scandals among the Italian elite, many of them centered around Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. But a recent published account of a party at Mr. Berlusconi’s home where one female guest performed a striptease dressed as a nun, apparently was more than the Church could stand.Read the rest here.
This week the Church lashed out, issuing its strongest reprimands yet of Italy’s ruling class, deploring “behavior that not only goes counter to public decorum but is intrinsically sad and hollow.”
Italians “look on their public leaders with consternation and the image of the country abroad has been dangerously weakened,” Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian Bishop’s Conference, told his fellow bishops on Monday. On Tuesday, he called for an “upright lifestyle,” saying that the country needed a “correction of habits and lifestyles,” to help it emerge from a “culture of nothingness.”
Though Cardinal Bagnasco did not single out Mr. Berlusconi — who is facing charges of having sex with a minor, is on trial in four separate corruption trials and has lately become embroiled in a scandal involving prostitutes paid to attend parties at his villas — the cardinal spoke of “licentious conduct and improper relationships that damage society.” And he blasted a governing class preoccupied with self-preservation while normal Italians struggled financially to make ends meet.
President Obama is campaigning for reelection by casting Republicans as the party of the rich because they oppose his plan to raise tax rates on wealthy Americans. “If you’ve done well,” Obama declared in Cincinnati last week, “then you should do a little something to give something back.”Read the rest here.
One person who agrees with that sentiment is Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee — though not in the way Obama means it. Ryan wants the wealthy to give something back: the billions of dollars in government benefits, taxpayer subsidies and corporate welfare they receive each year and do not need. Instead of raising taxes, which would hurt growth and job creation, Ryan told me: “We want to stop subsidizing corporations. We want to stop subsidizing [wealthy] individuals. And you can get more money for savings to reduce the deficit without damaging the economy this way.”
Call it “soak the rich” economics, GOP-style.
What government spending on the wealthy would Ryan target? “Everything,” he says. He would start with entitlements. The two biggest and fastest-growing areas of federal spending are Social Security and Medicare, both of which provide the richest Americans with growing benefits. To help stabilize both programs, Ryan wants to scale back those benefits for the wealthy. On Social Security, he says, “you can get the bulk of your way to solvency without tax increases by indexing benefits so that they don’t grow as fast for wealthier people.” As for Medicare, his reform plan would provide wealthier seniors with lower subsidies, while “focusing the benefits on the people who need it and away from those who need it the least.”
Ryan is not alone in his call for means-testing entitlements. Means-testing has the strong support of House Speaker John Boehner, who earlier this year told Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson at a forum in New York, “Pete, I love you to death, but I don’t think the taxpayers ought to be paying your Medicare premium.” The two leading GOP presidential candidates, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, have also expressed support for means-testing. In May the Heritage Foundation put forward a plan that would reduce Social Security and Medicare benefits for well-off retirees and eliminate them entirely for the wealthiest seniors.
The Obama administration Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to settle the constitutional question over the 2010 health-care law this term, meaning that the decision will probably come next summer in the thick of the presidential campaign.Read the rest here.
The Justice Department asked the justices to review the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, which is the only appeals court to say Congress exceeded its power in passing the law. The law requires almost every American to have health insurance.
Just checked the calendar and discovered that Easter in 2012 falls on the 15th of April, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. On the upside that would normally also be Income Tax Day which means people will have an extra day to file.
Hint: If you are on vacation and arrive at a beach where NOBODY is in the water and there is flag flying WITH A SHARK on it, you might want to pause and consider the possible implications of those two facts before diving in.
Likewise if you are hiking in a tropical jungle and stumble on a snake, which you then correctly identify as venomous, and you take note that you are a mere two feet from it, DON'T MESS WITH IT!
Seriously. I love nature. But people need to show a modicum of respect when moving outside of their normal habitat and entering the wild (oceans jungles, woods etc.). This is not your home. Wild animals live there. You are in their home and need to behave accordingly. Human beings have no natural predators. There is no living creature that has a natural inclination to eat us. But yes, there are animals that are quite capable of severely injuring people. The vast majority of serious injuries or fatalities inflicted on humans by wild animals are the consequence of stupidity or bad luck (like accidentally stepping on a snake). People who ignore warnings of potentially dangerous wildlife and or go out of their way to provoke them just really tick me off. (I cleaned the language up a bit there.) I don't want to say I was rooting for the shark or the snake, But you can put me down as supporting two candidates for Honorable Mention in the Darwin Awards.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Game wardens have discovered as many as 3,000 dead adult and juvenile sharks tangled in a long stretch of illegal fishing netting off the Texas coast, the state's Parks and Wildlife Department said...Read the rest here.
...Authorities suspect Mexican fishermen set the illegal nets.
According to KGBT-TV, overfishing has destroyed the populations of fish on the Mexican side of the border, and Mexican fishermen regularly sneak into the U.S. to lay illegal nets.
"They get over here in a matter of two minutes and be back in Mexico in a matter of two minutes ... The guys we have caught in the past have flat told us that there are no more fish over there and that is why they are coming over here," Dunks said.
An immigrant group based in Bern has called for the emblematic white cross to be removed from the Swiss national flag because as a Christian symbol it "no longer corresponds to today's multicultural Switzerland."Read the rest here.
Ivica Petrusic, the vice president of Second@s Plus, a lobbying group that represents mostly Muslim second-generation foreigners in Switzerland (who colloquially are known as secondos) says the group will launch a nationwide campaign in October to ask Swiss citizens to consider adopting a flag that is less offensive to Muslim immigrants.
In a September 18 interview with the Swiss newspaper Aargauer Zeitung, Petrusic said the cross has a Christian background and while the Christian roots of Switzerland should be respected, "it is necessary to separate church and state" because "Switzerland today has a great religious and cultural diversity. One has to ask if the State wants to continue building up a symbol in which many people no longer believe."
There is one incontestably great actor on the world stage today, and he has no interest in following our script. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin — soon to be Russia’s president again — has proven remarkably effective at playing the weak strategic hand he inherited, chalking up triumph after triumph while confirming himself as the strong leader Russians crave. Not one of his international peers evidences so profound an understanding of his or her people, or possesses Putin’s canny ability to size up counterparts.Read the rest here.
Putin’s genius — and it is nothing less — begins with an insight into governance that eluded the “great” dictators of the last century: You need control only public life, not personal lives. Putin grasped that human beings need to let off steam about the world’s ills, and that letting them do so around the kitchen table, over a bottle of vodka, does no harm to the state. His tacit compact with the Russian people is that they may do or say what they like behind closed doors, as long as they don’t take it into the streets. He saw that an authoritarian state that stops at the front door is not only tolerable but also more efficient.
As for the defiant, he kills or imprisons them. But there are no great purges, no Gulag — only carefully chosen, exemplary victims, such as anti-corruption activist Sergei Magnitsky, who died in police custody, or the disobedient billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, imprisoned on charges Russians regard as black humor. Western consciences may be briefly troubled, but Putin knows the international community won’t impose meaningful penalties. Seduced by Kremlin policies — from oil and gas concessions to cynical hints of strategic cooperation — Western leaders have too many chips in the game. And at home, the common people, the chorny narod, don’t mind. Instead, they gloat when the czar cuts off the beards of the boyars — or humbles an envied oligarch. As for gadfly journalists, Putin wagered that they could be eliminated with impunity, as in the case of Anna Politkovskaya. Our outrage is pro forma and temporary.
Monday, September 26, 2011
As the country struggles with the crisis and its consequences, the assets of the Orthodox Church have yet to be affected by the government’s stringent austerity measures. Le Monde reports on a taboo that protects the Church’s close links with the state and the clergy’s influence on public policy.Read the rest here.
The Church and the Greek monasteries will not pay the new highly unpopular property tax which was hastily drummed up on Sunday, 11 September, by the Greek government in a bid to meet the fiscal targets set by bail-out fund donors. In response to the outcry generated by this news, however, a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance declared that “the Church will be taxed on the property it operates commercially," although houses of worship and charities will remain exempt. But the trouble is that the boundaries between these different types of assets are sometimes blurred and the books of the Orthodox Church are far from transparent.
The wealth of the Church is still a taboo subject in Greece. “Its income is taxable, but there are two big problems,” warns Polikarpos Karamouzis, Professor of the Sociology of Religion at the Aegean University in Rhodes. “There is no economic system that could chart its true revenues, and no one knows the extent of its properties, because there is no central land registry."
Saturday, September 24, 2011
ORLANDO —Businessman Herman Cain won the Florida GOP presidential straw poll in a major surprise Saturday, finishing well ahead of the party’s two front-runners in what many observers saw as a rebuke of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.Read the rest here.
Cain, who delivered a stirring speech just before the vote, won 37 percent of the more than 2,600 delegate votes. Perry, who had been expected to easily win the straw poll before he gave what many thought was a lackluster performance in Thursday’s presidential debate here, finished second with 15 percent.
British taxpayers risk being caught up in a £1.75trillion deal aimed at saving the euro by allowing Greece to default on its massive debts.Read the rest here.
The three-pronged deal would set up a massive fund to create a "firewall" around the most indebted eurozone countries, allow for an "orderly" Greek default on at least some of its liabilities, and bail out European banks most at risk from debt.
German and French officials came up with the strategy which aims to end the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis before it spirals completely out of control, plunging the world back into recession.
This past week, President Obama tried to sell his new “millionaires’ tax” to the Rust Belt. “What’s great about this country is our belief that anyone can make it,” he said in Cincinnati on Thursday, praising “the idea that any one of us can open a business or have an idea that could make us millionaires.” But who are the millionaires Obama is talking about? And will a tax on them help the economy? Let’s examine a few presumptions about the man with the monocle on the Monopoly board.Read the rest here.
1. Millionaires are rich.
Being rich has gotten more expensive. A $1 million fortune was unusual in the early 19th century. The word “millionaire” wasn’t even coined until 1827by novelist (and future British prime minister) Benjamin Disraeli. In 1845, Moses Y. Beach, editor of the New York Sun, published a small pamphlet called “Wealth and Biography of the Wealthy Citizens of New York City.” The price of admission to Beach’s list, which was wildly popular, was a mere $100,000.
By the time the first Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America was published in 1982, the smallest fortune featured was $75 million. There has been so much wealth creation in the past 30 years — much of it thanks to the microprocessor behind modern-day fortunes such as Dell, Microsoft and Bloomberg — that only billionaires are on the list. Today, $1 million in the bank generates only about $50,000 per year in interest. That isn’t chump change, but it’s roughly equal to the 2010 median household income.
2. Millionaires think they’re rich.
“Rich,” like “poor,” is a relative term. A family living on the American median income of $50,000 a year might think that one living on $500,000 is rich. But that second family, which probably knows families far better off than they are, thinks that you need $5 million a year to be truly rich, and so on.
On Thursday, 44 percent of people voting in an online survey as part of the GOP debate coverage said that a $1 million annual income made a person “rich.” In a 2008 survey of affluent Chicago households, only 22 percent thought a nest egg of $1 million was rich. In March, four out of 10 millionaires surveyed by Fidelity Investments said they do not feel rich. That same month, a majority of investment advisers surveyed in a Scottrade poll said that $1 million isn’t enough for retirement.
Though the average American family is rich beyond the wildest dreams of the average family in Bangladesh, where per capita income recently rose above $700, it’s not much compared with those who summer on beachfront properties in the Hamptons. When John D. Rockefeller learned in 1913 that the late J.P. Morgan had left an estate of $60 million, including a fabulous art collection, he reportedly said: “And to think — he wasn’t even rich.”
3. Millionaires pay proportionately less income tax than poorer people.
In a speech on Monday, Obama said raising taxes on millionaires isn’t class warfare, but “math.” His math may be off: According to the IRS, those with adjusted gross incomes of more than $1 million paid an average of 23.3 percent in federal income taxes in 2008; those earning between $100,000 and $200,000 paid 12.7 percent; and those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 paid 8.9 percent. Half of American families don’t make enough money to pay income taxes at all.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Just 15 seconds into a question-and-answer session with reporters Wednesday morning, Ron Paul found a way to work in a mention of the Austrian School of economics.Read the rest here.
From there, he moved inexorably through the Paul oeuvre: the need for the gold standard, the problem with energy-efficient light bulbs, why Greece should declare bankruptcy, why Grover Cleveland was his favorite president, and how our economy is collapsing “just like the Soviet system.”
“I mean, how many people have read ‘Human Action’?” the Republican presidential candidate asked, referring to an economic treatise from the 1940s by one Ludwig von Mises. “How many people have studied Mises and Hayek and Rothbard and Sennholz? … A lot of people just flat out don’t understand what I’m talking about.”
He’s right about that. Rarely does a man go far in public life hawking the sort of oddities that the gadfly from Texas does. And yet, in a sense, Ron Paul is winning the 2012 Republican presidential primary.
Paul won’t be the president, or even the party nominee, but that was never his goal. He aimed to shift the debate toward his exotic economic theories, and by that standard he has prevailed.
The former obstetrician fathered the Tea Party. His son won election to the Senate. Republican leaders in Congress have joined Paul’s crusade against the Federal Reserve. And his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination are stealing his ideas.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
ummm... being Catholic?
An elderly priest on the Acadian Peninsula has been barred from performing church services in the Bathurst diocese after he made remarks about homosexuals and women who have had an abortion.Source.
Rev. Donat Gionet, 85, gave the sermon at the Roman Catholic church in Saint-Léolin while replacing the regular parish priest late last month.
He stands by the comments he made in Saint-Léolin, a village of about 730 people located about 50 kilometres east of Bathurst.
Reached in Caraquet on Wednesday, Gionet declined an interview but did provide a written statement.
In a letter written in French that he provided to the Telegraph-Journal, Gionet stated the sermon in question was about the destruction of the Church and the need to seek forgiveness for past sins:
"I said: 'Today, it is we Catholics who are destroying our Catholic Church. We need only look at the number of abortions among Catholics, look at the homosexuals, and ourselves.' (That's when I pointed at my chest - through that action I wanted to say, we the priests) and I continued saying: We are destroying our Church ourselves. And that's when I said that those were the words expressed by Pope John Paul II. At that point, in the St-Léolin church only, I added: 'We can add to that the practice of watching gay parades, we are encouraging this evil' ... What would you think of someone who seeing what was happening on (Sept.) 11, 2001, the crumbling of the towers, had begun clapping? We must not encourage evil, whatever form it takes."
Bishop Valéry Vienneau has revoked Gionet's rights to serve mass across the Diocese of Bathurst, a decision welcomed by Joseph Lanteigne, the openly gay mayor of Saint-Léolin.
"The action taken by the diocese is good and I know it isn't easy for the diocese."
Since the incident, Gionet has quit his position on the Saint-Léolin parish's pastoral committee.
Rev. Wesley Wade, vicar general of the Diocese of Bathurst, said Gionet's teachings don't meet the diocese's goal of following Christ's example of loving unconditionally.
"We have to respect people on their own journey," Wade said.
"The first message of Christ was to reveal to us a loving father and a merciful father and that we are all called to be his children and that we are all loved unconditionally by Him."
While the Church gets criticized as a judgmental institution, Wade said the reality is "it's full of compassion."
In a letter to parishioners earlier this week, Vienneau said Gionet had been pulled from active ministry.
At a meeting last week, Gionet told Vienneau that he had no plans to change or temper his comments.
Gionet also said, as a priest, he has a duty to encourage those who aren't living their lives according to Catholic teachings to mend their ways.
BERLIN — Markets plummeted worldwide Thursday as the global economic outlook appeared increasingly shaky, with investors fearing for the fate of European banks and Chinese growth and reacting to a dour outlook on the U.S. economy from the Federal Reserve.Read the rest here
The Dow Jones industrial average had plunged about 400 points, or more than 3.5 percent, by midday Thursday, after the Federal Reserve said Wednesday that it sees “significant downside risks” to the economy. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index had dropped3.3 percent.
Pakistan-based insurgents planned and conducted some of the major attacks in Afghanistan recently, including the one on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul last week, with the support of Pakistan’s intelligence service, senior U.S. defense officials told Congress on Thursday.Read the rest here.
“The Haqqani network ... acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Internal Services Intelligence agency,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “With ISI support, Haqqani operatives plan and conducted” a truck bomb attack that wounded more than 70 U.S. and NATO troops on Sept. 11, “as well as the assault on our embassy” two days later.
“We also have credible intelligence that they were behind the June 28th attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and a host of smaller but effective operations,” he added.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
HUNTSVILLE, Texas — White supremacist gang member Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed Wednesday evening for the infamous dragging death slaying of James Byrd Jr., a black man from East Texas.Read the rest here.
Byrd, 49, was chained to the back of a pickup truck and pulled whip-like to his death along a bumpy asphalt road in one of the most grisly hate crime murders in recent Texas history.
Brewer, 44, was asked if he had any final words, to which he replied: "No. I have no final statement."
He glanced at his parents watching through a nearby window, took several deep breaths and closed his eyes. A single tear hung on the edge of his right eye as he was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m., 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing into his arms, both covered with intricate black tattoos.
Byrd's sisters also were among the witnesses in an adjacent room.
It's been a busy day for executioners.
JACKSON, Ga. — The Supreme Court late Wednesday rejected an 11th-hour request to block the execution of Troy Davis, who convinced hundreds of thousands of people but not the justice system of his innocence in the murder of an off-duty police officer.Read the rest here.
The court did not comment on its order, which came four hours after it received the request. Davis’ execution had been set to begin at 7 p.m., but the high court’s decision was not issued until after 10 p.m.
Update: Davis has been executed.
The potential of a government shutdown at the end of the month loomed slightly larger Wednesday after a critical measure to fund the government through mid-November was defeated in the House Wednesday evening.Read the rest here.
GOP leaders were unable to overcome objections from Democrats who believed the bill did not do enough for disaster victims and from conservative Republicans who wanted to use the bill to cut spending more deeply.
The vote was a significant defeat for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders, who had been confident they could muscle the bill over to the Senate despite protests from both sides of the aisle.
House leaders must now rewrite to appease either Democrats or the right wing of their own party and pass a bill for consideration by the Senate before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, or the government will shut down.
On Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Germany for a long-awaited visit. Prominent Swiss theologian Hans Küng explains to SPIEGEL why the papal visit will do little to help the crisis in the Church and compares Benedict to Vladimir Putin in the way he has centralized power.Read the rest here.
Küng is of course a self excommunicated overt heretic. No doubt that explains the persistent attraction towards him felt by the press and media.
UNITED NATIONS — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that direct negotiation was the only way to achieve a stable Middle East peace and the Palestinian effort to secure U.N. recognition of statehood "will not succeed."Read the rest here.
Netanyahu made the remarks at a meeting with President Barack Obama, who reiterated the unwavering U.S. commitment to Israel and told world leaders gathered at the U.N. General Assembly that efforts to impose peace on Israel and the Palestinians would not work.
Obama and Netanyahu spoke at the start of a meeting the two leaders had on the sidelines of the U.N. session.
Seeking to head off a looming showdown over Palestinian statehood and pull his Middle East policy back from the brink of diplomatic disaster, Obama told the U.N. General Assembly, "There is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades."
TEHRAN — Two Americans jailed in Iran as spies were flown out of the country Wednesday after earlier being released following more than two years in custody.Read the rest here.
Reporters saw a convoy of vehicles with Swiss and Omani diplomats leaving Evin prison with Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal inside, heading to an airport in the capital Tehran. Switzerland's ambassador later confirmed they had been flown out on a jet sent by Oman.
Switzerland represents American interests in Iran because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Tehran and the prisoners are expected to be flown first to Oman.
Relatives of the two men were in Oman waiting for their arrival, and the families said in a statement that their joy and relief "knows no bounds."
ATLANTA — Death row inmate Troy Davis neared his execution Wednesday despite a furious last-ditch campaign in the U.S. and Europe to win his clemency for killing a Georgia policeman, a crime he and others have insisted for years he did not commit.Read the rest here.
The Georgia Pardons and Paroles Board on Wednesday morning said it would not review its decision to allow the execution to go forward.
Davis was set to die at 7 p.m. for the 1989 killing of off-duty Savannah officer Mark MacPhail, who was slain while rushing to help a homeless man being attacked.
Davis' lawyers have long argued Davis was a victim of mistaken identity. Prosecutors say they have no doubt that they charged the right person with the crime.
Supporters planned vigils outside Georgia's death row prison in Jackson and at U.S. embassies in Europe.
Davis' attorneys Wednesday filed another late appeal aimed at blocking the execution by convincing a judge that some of the original evidence was questionable.
Earlier, defense lawyer Stephen Marsh told The Associated Press that the Georgia Department of Corrections denied his request to allow Davis to take a polygraph test. Marsh had said he hoped the polygraph would persuade the state pardons board to reconsider a decision against clemency.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The Obama administration has sharply warned Pakistan that it must cut ties with a leading Taliban group based in the tribal region along the Afghan border and help eliminate its leaders, according to officials from both countries.Read the rest here.
In what amounts to an ultimatum, administration officials have indicated that the United States will act unilaterally if Pakistan does not comply.
The message, delivered in high-level meetings and public statements over the past several days, reflects the belief of a growing number of senior administration officials that a years-long strategy of using persuasion and military assistance to influence Pakistani behavior has been ineffective.
A revolution of sorts started 35 years ago, on Aug. 31, 1976, when John C. Bogle launched the Vanguard 500 Index Investor (VFINX -0.16%), a mutual fund that holds all the stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX -0.17%).Read the rest here.
It was the first fund to let individual investors own the broad stock market rather than actively trying to beat it.
"It was a seminal event in investing," says Dan Culloton, associate director for fund analysis at Morningstar. "It introduced passive investing to retail investors and eventually started a slow and steady revolution that continues today."
I don't often have nice things to say about Wall Street investors. Jack Bogle is a rare exception. He is as honest as the day is long, and he has spent most of his professional life trying to help the ordinary guy make a little money without getting fleeced by the crooks that prowl The Street. He is the author of many books on investing (most of which are easily readable). I would recommend any of them. Bottom line; low cost - broadly diversified index funds remain one of the best and safest ways to invest for the long term. Thank you Mr. Bogle.
P.S. Anyone interested in getting a primer on index funds and why they work so well might want to visit here.
Editor's note: Laurence J. Kotlikoff, an economist, is a William Fairfield Warren Professor at Boston University, a columnist for Bloomberg and Forbes, and the author of 14 books including "Jimmy Stewart Is Dead" (John Wiley and Sons), "The Healthcare Fix" (MIT Press), and "The Coming Generational Storm" (co-authored with Scott Burns, MIT Press).Read the rest here.
Boston, Massachussetts (CNN) -- Our government is utterly broke. There are signs everywhere one looks. Social Security can no longer afford to send us our annual benefit statements. The House can no longer afford its congressional pages. The Pentagon can no longer afford the pension and health care benefits of retired service members. NASA is no longer planning a manned mission to Mars.
We're broke for a reason. We've spent six decades accumulating a huge official debt (U.S. Treasury bills and bonds) and vastly larger unofficial debts to pay for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits to today's and tomorrow's 100 million-plus retirees.
The government's total indebtedness -- its fiscal gap -- now stands at $211 trillion, by my arithmetic. The fiscal gap is the difference, measured in present value, between all projected future spending obligations -- including our huge defense expenditures and massive entitlement programs, as well as making interest and principal payments on the official debt -- and all projected future taxes.
The data underlying this figure come straight from the horse's mouth -- the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO's June 22 Alternative Fiscal Scenario presents nothing less than a Greek tragedy. It's actually worse than the Greek tragedy now playing in Athens. Our fiscal gap is 14 times our GDP. Greece's fiscal gap is 12 times its GDP, according to Professor Bernd Raffelhüschen of the University of Freiburg.
In other words, the U.S. is in worse long-term fiscal shape than Greece. The financial sharks are circling Greece because Greece is small and defenseless, but they'll soon be swimming our way.
To grasp the magnitude of our nation's insolvency, consider what tax hikes or spending cuts are needed to eliminate our fiscal gap. The answer is an immediate and permanent 64% increase in all federal revenues or an immediate and permanent 40% cut in all federal noninterest spending.
Such adjustments go miles beyond anything Congress and the president are considering. No wonder. They are focused on limiting growth in the official debt, while ignoring what's happening to the unofficial debt. To understand the thickness of their blinders, note that the fiscal gap, after inflation, grew by $6 trillion last year, whereas the official debt grew by only $1 trillion. Hence, our leaders are looking at one-sixth of the problem.
BERLIN — The financial crisis has turned Europe topsy-turvy, with governments freezing pensions, unions voting away privileges and a thick web of safety nets disappearing one strand at a time.Read the rest here.
But as the role of the state is being reexamined, one country stands apart: Germany, where reforms a decade ago made the country less generous than some of its peers but also helped ease the blow when the rest of the world stopped snapping up BMWs and Bosch washing machines.
Now, as its neighbors are being forced to retrench, and the future of the euro appears imperiled, Germany’s social services are running surpluses, helped by taxes that are among the highest in Europe and difficult sacrifices its citizens have made to jump-start their economy.
Many Germans are peering across their borders and wondering why others can’t do the same, putting intense political pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel not to appear too generous with bailouts. Other countries point out that Germany’s wealth depends at least in part on outsiders spending for German exports.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Mr. Chairman, dear participants in the meeting:Source
The Russian Orthodox Church considers it to be an important and timely initiative of Lithuania, the current chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to hold a special meeting dedicated to the position of Christians in the OSCE region. We value highly also the endeavors of the Holy See, which has taken an active part in organizing the event.
We believe that the time has come to discuss openly the violation of the rights of Christians and respond to this challenge through our common efforts. For decades now the encroachment upon the rights of religious minorities has been widely discussed on the European continent. Yet, practice shows that the position of the majority, which is comprised of traditional Christians in almost all the OSCE participating states, is far from being the best guarantee of their rights. The most convincing example of this was the way the European Court of Human Rights conducted the Lautsi v. Italy case on the question of the presence of crucifixes in Italy’s schools. The resolution of this problem in favor of Christians was possible thanks only to the united efforts of a whole number of countries that spoke out against the Court’s original decision. Among the countries united in support of Christian identity in Europe were Russia, Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, and others. This was an unprecedented for our times fact of multilateral cooperation on the grounds of common Christian values.
If in Europe, and in the OSCE region, voices can be heard against the presence of Christian symbols in public life, and there are signs of other forms of an intolerant attitude towards Christians, then this is a good occasion to think upon the reasons for such things. There is a simple axiom, understandable to every educated European. European civilization is a culture that has developed on a Christian foundation. Today Europe, and indeed the entire OSCE region, has acquired a clearly expressed multicultural nature, having become a place of contact between peoples and religions from all over the world. Yet, does this mean that the cultural and religious diversity of Europe definitely threatens her Christian roots? Not at all. The real threat is not in offering to the continent’s new religious and national communities the chance to make use of Christian hospitality. The basic danger is in attempting to use religious diversity as an excuse to exclude signs of Christian civilization from the public and political realities of the continent, as though this would make our continent friendlier towards non-Christians. I am convinced that society, which has renounced its spiritual heritage under the pretext of the radical separation of religious life from public life, becomes vulnerable to the spirit of enmity in relation to representatives of any religion. This indeed does create an atmosphere of intolerance in relation to Christians, as well as to representatives of other traditional religions. This statement can be proved by many examples.
Spain, as well as a number of other countries, has recently introduced a course on "Education in Citizenship" in school syllabuses for primary school pupils, which include sex education. Within this course pupils are indoctrinated with views on sexual relations, which are totally inconsistent with the religious beliefs of their parents. This practice of the course has already resulted in mass appeals to the courts, locally and internationally, but the problem remains unsolved at the European level.
Organizations in the OSCE countries responsible for notifying the public about cases of Christianophobia regularly report cases of persecution of Christians who criticize social evils, albeit that they are legally recognized. For example, clergy and lay believers who criticize homosexuality as sinful often face public ostracism or severe discrimination. Statutory guarantees of freedom of speech laid down in international law are always ignored in such cases.
Christians in the OSCE region are consistently attacked because of their position on abortion and euthanasia. Opponents not only fail to see that behind their false justifications lie the deprivation of human life, but they also question Christians’ right to present their views and their democratic efforts to have them reflected in European legislation. It has been an encouragement and inspiration to see the recent recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe upholding the right to conscientious objection for medical workers who refuse to take part in such operations. I hope that refusal on grounds of conscientious objection will be an accepted approach in the educational and in public service spheres.
We are also concerned about the acts of vandalism aimed against Christian shrines that have become a sad social reality in contemporary OSCE region.
Nowadays, Russian Orthodox Church speaks openly about the necessity of protecting the rights of Christians outside Europe where their lives and health are under threat. These issues are at the top of the agenda when representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church visit the Middle East and North Africa and are discussed in numerous political contexts. In May this year the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted a special statement on Christianophobia internationally, in which it expressed concern about the growth of persecution against Christians worldwide. The statement calls for the development of a comprehensive and effective mechanism for protecting Christians and Christian communities subjected to persecution or to restrictions in their religious life and work. We believe that these efforts will improve the conditions of life of our brothers in faith. However, our voice calling for protection of Christians outside Europe will sound more confident and authoritative if it is backed by our co-operation in making OSCE states an example of the upholding of Christian rights and freedoms.
The analysis of research of cases of an intolerant attitude towards Christians demonstrates that the cases, as a rule, bear an anti-religious motive. People who ignore or infringe on the rights and legitimate interests of Christians are often guided by secular maximalism, that is, they proceed from the notion that religion is no more than the personal affair of the individual and does not have a social dimension. In recent years, the OSCE has come to realize that the dominant factor of radical secularism is as dangerous to religious freedom as religious extremism in all its manifestations. This change in position has become possible thanks only to the efforts of Christian non-governmental organizations, which monitor Christianophobia in Europe.
So that the rights of Christians and representatives of other traditional religions in the OSCE region can be effectively defended, the Organization is called upon not only to react to crimes but also to act in consolidating peace between all of the region’s religions. To propose a model of a peaceful inter-civilizational coexistence is a difficult theoretical and practical task, and the search for its solution is impossible without the creation of interactive mechanisms of dialogue among traditional religious communities. This model is needed not only in the OSCE region but also throughout the world, including those places where Christians feel themselves to be especially vulnerable.
The building up of social relations which exclude or minimize the appearance of inter-religious enmity, is unthinkable without paying attention to religious and inter-cultural education, without setting up conditions for the embodiment of ideals of virtue, justice, and mercy in public life, common to the majority of traditional religions. I hope that the work of the OSCE in the sphere of guaranteeing freedom of conscience will be realized in the spirit of sincere partnership of national governments, international structures, experts, and religious leaders who are determined to contribute to inter-religious peace in the OSCE region.
As Moscow prepares to unveil a bronze monument to Mother Teresa, the city authorities have demolished a shelter owned by her Catholic order, citing a lack of permits for the running of the building.Read the rest here.
The two buildings in eastern Moscow which served as a shelter for the homeless and disabled attracted the City Hall's attention three years ago when the local authorities went to court to force Missionaries of Charity, a Catholic religious organization founded by Mother Teresa, to demolish one of the buildings and remove the top floor from the other.
"No country has ever launched legal proceedings against Mother Teresa's organization," said shelter volunteer Yelena Blinova.
Though Russian Orthodox Church officials, including Patriarch Kirill, tried to resolve the conflict, one of the buildings was destroyed on Friday.
"The demolished building was constructed with voluntary donations from people all over the world, and its destruction is a sign of blindness to human grief and contempt for those who help the poorest," Missionaries of Charity said in a statement, published by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moscow.
"Everybody knows how hard the sisters have worked for the past 20 years. Did their work bother anyone?" said Pavel Pezzi, metropolitan archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moscow.
City Hall authorities refused to comment.
CAIRO: The Coptic Orthodox Church was served with court papers relaying the decision by 130 Copts to abandon the Church, leaving them without belonging to a recognized sect.Source
The decision reflects growing tension between members of the Coptic community and the church over divorce and second marriages permits, a papal source told Daily News Egypt Monday.
The withdrawing Copts can join another church to secure permissions to get divorced and remarry.
They demanded the reactivation of an internal church rule (Law 38) that lists 10 justifications for divorce including maltreatment and madness.
Pope Shenouda deactivated this law in 2008, naming only adultery and conversion to a different sect as the only accepted reasons to obtain a divorce permit.
According to the Egyptian personal status law, Christians who do not belong to a specific sect are subject to sharia, which allows them to seek divorce in court.
Around 2,000 Copts seeking remarriage have held several protests, the last of which was in front of the Ministry of Justice, demanding the reactivation of Law 38 and a moratorium on the current divorce law.
Member of the Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod Bishop Salib Matta Sawiris told Daily News Egypt that the church cannot contradict the Bible to solve the problems of those seeking divorce.
"The Bible listed two reasons for divorce and this cannot be changed," Sawiris said.
Outdoor liturgy held on the 100th anniversary of the glorification of St. Joseph (Bishop of Belgorod) on the site of the Mother of God Nativity Monastery that was destroyed by the Communists.
President Obama struck a combative tone on Monday as called for $1.5 trillion in new tax revenue as part of a proposal to tame the nation’s rocketing federal debt, drawing a sharp contrast with the Republican vision and resetting the terms of the economic debate in Washington this fall.Read the rest here.
In a defiant Rose Garden appearance, Obama threatened to veto any plan to tame the debt that does not pair cuts to Medicare and Medicaid with increases in taxes on the rich.
“We can’t just cut our way out of this hole,” Obama said. “It’s going to take a balanced approach.”
Combined with his call this month for $450 billion in new stimulus, the proposal represents a more populist approach to confronting the nation’s economic travails than the compromises he advocated earlier this summer.
It is also diametrically opposed to many of the views supported by Republicans, who want to balance the nation’s books mainly through cutting spending, particularly in Medicare and Medicaid.
Republiacns argue that Obama’s plan to tax the rich is a divisive political strategy. But Obama rejected that view Monday.
“This is not class warfare,” Obama said. “It is math.”
Sounds like Obama is taking some lessons from the GOP playbook.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
GENEVA — Voters in the tiny principality of Liechtenstein on Sunday rejected a plan to legalize abortion, following a bitterly fought campaign that saw the country's prince threaten to veto the proposed change in the law.Read the rest here.
Opponents won the referendum with a majority of 514 votes, out of 11,510 ballots cast. The official count put no-votes at 52.3 percent, ahead of 47.7 percent who favored the plan to decriminalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or if the child is severely disabled.
Under existing law, women who have an abortion risk one year imprisonment, except in cases where the mother's life is in danger or she is under 14 at the time she got pregnant. Doctors who carry out an abortion can go to prison for three years.
Campaigners for the change argued that the threat of prosecution meant women had to go secretly to neighboring Austria or Switzerland even just to get advice on their options in an unwanted pregnancy.
But opponents in the Catholic majority country warned that the proposal went too far and could lead to late-term abortions of disabled children.
Their concerns were echoed by Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein, the country's de facto ruler, who said in a speech last month that he would use his veto power to block decriminalization.
The debt markets have been warned.Read the rest here.
A key rate setter-for China's central bank let slip – or was it a slip? – that Beijing aims to run down its portfolio of US debt as soon as safely possible.
"The incremental parts of our of our foreign reserve holdings should be invested in physical assets," said Li Daokui at the World Economic Forum in the very rainy city of Dalian – former Port Arthur from Russian colonial days.
"We would like to buy stakes in Boeing, Intel, and Apple, and maybe we should invest in these types of companies in a proactive way."
"Once the US Treasury market stabilizes we can liquidate more of our holdings of Treasuries," he said.
To my knowledge, this is the first time that a top adviser to China's central bank has uttered the word "liquidate". Until now the policy has been to diversify slowly by investing the fresh $200bn accumulated each quarter into other currencies and assets – chiefly AAA euro debt from Germany, France and the hard core.
We don't know how much US debt is held by SAFE (State Administration of Foreign Exchange), the bank's FX arm. The figure is thought to be over $2.2 trillion.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
It's called the "South China Sea" and China wants everyone to recognize it just that way. There is no question in Beijing's official mind that this body of water is entirely within Chinese sovereignty. The problem is that Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan all have claims to a portion of that immense body of water by virtue of the fact that portions of their countries are bordered by that sea. This is to say nothing of the competing claims over the Paracel and Spratly Islands. The Chinese attitude is that these are all spurious claims and only they -- and their navy and air force -- can lawfully operate on, in, and above these, up till now, international waters. Everyone else should get their permission. By the way, this assertion is now extended to include the East China Sea, much to the consternation of Japan.Read the rest here.
Admiral Robert Willard, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, in most diplomatic terms characterized the increasingly assertive Chinese claims to these waters and islands in the region as "generating increasing concern broadly across the region and require address." When you have the firepower available to Admiral Willard you can afford to speak that softly. An Indian Navy official wishing to remain anonymous responded to a Chinese warship's demand that an Indian assault vessel visiting Vietnam identify itself. He put the matter in more stark terms: "Any navy in the world has full freedom to transit through these waters or high seas [South China Sea]. For any country to proclaim ownership or question the right of passage by any other nation is unacceptable."
The Vietnamese were furious over the incident but allowed foreign diplomats to muster the appropriate aggressive tone without comment from Hanoi. There was no question in Vietnamese diplomatic circles that what had happened was a clear challenge by the Chinese not only to New Delhi and Hanoi but to all who enter their pond without notification.
A nice video dedicated to the flagship of the American Merchant Marine currently rusting away in Philadelphia. It's rather embarrassing that this country can find the resources to preserve ten or more battleships and many other lesser warships, but it can't come up with enough money to restore or at least preserve from slow disintegration the only remaining ocean liner built by the United States and which bears our country's name.
She was the engineering wonder of her age when she took the Blue Ribbon from the Queen Mary and never looked back. No ship has ever beaten her speed records to this day. Everyone who was anyone wanted to cross the pond on "The Big U" A cultural and social icon of a bygone era left to rot. She is the last of her kind. When she is gone there are no more left. What a shame.
DUBLIN — Even as it remains preoccupied with its struggling economy, Ireland is in the midst of a profound transformation, as rapid as it is revolutionary: it is recalibrating its relationship to the Roman Catholic Church, an institution that has permeated almost every aspect of life here for generations.Read the rest here.
This is still a country where abortion is against the law, where divorce became legal only in 1995, where the church runs more than 90 percent of the primary schools and where 87 percent of the population identifies itself as Catholic. But the awe, respect and fear the Vatican once commanded have given way to something new — rage, disgust and defiance — after a long series of horrific revelations about decades of abuse of children entrusted to the church’s care by a reverential populace.
While similar disclosures have tarnished the Vatican’s image in other countries, perhaps nowhere have they shaken a whole society so thoroughly or so intensely as in Ireland. And so when the normally mild-mannered prime minister, Enda Kenny, unexpectedly took the floor in Parliament this summer to criticize the church, he was giving voice not just to his own pent-up feelings, but to those of a nation.
His remarks were a ringing declaration of the supremacy of state over church, in words of outrage and indignation that had never before been used publicly by an Irish leader.
“For the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposed an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry into a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago,” Mr. Kenny said, referring to the Cloyne Report, which detailed abuse and cover-ups by church officials in southern Ireland through 2009.
Reiterating the report’s claim that the church had encouraged bishops to ignore child-protection guidelines the bishops themselves had adopted, the prime minister attacked “the dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism” that he said “dominate the culture of the Vatican.”
He continued: “The rape and torture of children were downplayed, or ‘managed,’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution — its power, its standing and its reputation.” Instead of listening with humility to the heartbreaking evidence of “humiliation and betrayal,” he said, “the Vatican’s response was to parse and analyze it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.”
The effect of his speech was instant and electric.
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Monday will call for a new minimum tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year to ensure that they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as middle-income taxpayers, according to administration officials.Read the rest here.
With a special joint Congressional committee starting work to reach a bipartisan budget deal by late November, the proposal adds a new and populist feature to Mr. Obama’s effort to raise the political pressure on Republicans to agree to higher revenues from the wealthy in return for Democrats’ support of future cuts from Medicare and Medicaid.
Mr. Obama, in a bit of political salesmanship, will call his proposal the “Buffett Rule,” in a reference to Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor who has complained repeatedly that the richest Americans generally pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than do middle-income workers, because investment gains are taxed at a lower rate than wages.
Schism within the Church of Ireland could split the church between Ulster and the Republic of Ireland, church leaders fear, in the wake of revelations the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory permitted the Dean of Leithlin to register a same-sex civil union.Read the rest here.
The Primate of All-Ireland, the Archbishop of Armagh Dr. Alan Harper told the Sept 11 “Sunday Sequence” programme of BBC Radio Ulster he was “very, very concerned at the potential for division” within the church over homosexuality. He also conceded that clergy criticisms over a leadership “vacuum” among the bishops were “a fair comment in all sorts of ways.”
ISRAEL is at a fascinating, and frightening, crossroads. In the last two years the Knesset has proposed and passed laws that seriously endanger Israel’s identity as a liberal democracy.Source
It began with a law forbidding public commemoration of the Palestinian refugee crisis of 1948, known as the Nakba; it continued with the demand for all new Israeli citizens to swear a loyalty oath to a Jewish and democratic country, and recently culminated in a bill outlawing calls to boycott any Israeli group or product — including those from the occupied territories.
On the other hand, in the last two months, Israel’s democracy has come dramatically alive after a long period of hibernation. Protests for social justice have mobilized hundreds of thousands in demonstrations that have the support of 87 percent of the country, according to a Haaretz poll. These protests have become an exercise in direct democracy, forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to move beyond party politics and listen directly to the grievances of Israel’s disenfranchised middle classes.
Existential fears have pushed Israelis to the right; only when it comes to social questions are they willing to listen to the largely liberal middle class. Who, then, represents the real Israel? Is Israel an open-minded, liberal country with a developed sense of justice, or is it an ethnocracy with theocratic leanings?
Mr. Netanyahu believes that he can avoid agreeing to a viable Palestinian state, in the face of fierce international criticism, because he is certain that America’s heartland, as opposed to its liberal elites, is tied to Israel on ideological and theological grounds. The ovations he received in Congress earlier this year only strengthened this belief. Convinced that Obama won’t win a second term, he simply wants to hang on until a Republican president is sworn in.
His foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has a very different worldview. Mr. Lieberman’s open disdain for European leaders and diplomats is not a failure of diplomacy; he is a shrewd man, who first and foremost seeks to cultivate an image of a strong leader for his right-wing constituency. He believes that the West’s hegemony has come to an end, and that the future lies with autocratic governments like those ruling Russia and China. Hence he believes that Israel has no reason to pander to the West’s values.
To him, liberal democracy represents weakness and he contends that Israel should evolve into a stronger state with less individual freedom. At the same time, he is completely secular: his constituency is primarily of Russian origin, and many of its members are not accepted as Jewish by Israel’s Orthodox rabbinical establishment.
The national-religious parties in the governing coalition, meanwhile, are based on the belief that the Jewish people have a God-given right to what they call the Greater Land of Israel. In the long run, they want Israel to be a theocracy based on biblical law. Their participation in the democratic game is based on the prediction that Israel’s demography will inevitably lead to an Orthodox Jewish majority, and that they simply need to make sure that Israel doesn’t give up the West Bank before they rule the country.
The ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and Yahadut Hatorah, also want Israel to become a theocracy in the long run. Until a decade ago, they did not necessarily claim that Israel should hold on to the occupied territories, but they realized that their electorate is right-leaning, and they need space for the rapidly expanding families of their constituency. They see liberal elites as their primary enemies.
The paradox, of course, is that Mr. Lieberman and the religious parties are on opposing ends of the spectrum in other ways. Mr. Lieberman wants a secular state; the religious parties want a theocracy. What unites them is that, for completely different reasons, they have no investment in the values of liberal democracy, which are one of the major stumbling blocks for Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. As Israeli liberals have repeated ad nauseam, such annexation will either lead to a binational state without a Jewish majority, or to an apartheid regime.
The coalition partners have found a modus vivendi primarily by uniting in their hatred for the institutions that uphold liberal democratic values: Israel’s Supreme Court, its largely liberal academic community and its human rights organizations.
Israel’s recent falling out with Turkey is just the latest example: Mr. Lieberman made it impossible for Mr. Netanyahu to apologize for the killing of nine people by Israeli commandos on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara last year by insisting that it would undermine Israel’s national pride. When Turkey retaliated with trade sanctions and threats of an increased naval presence in the Mediterranean, Mr. Lieberman called on Israel to support Kurdish militants. Mr. Lieberman keeps upping the ante for being a patriotic Israeli, pulling Mr. Netanyahu along with him.
The staying power of Israel’s governing coalition is primarily the result of the trauma Israelis sustained during the second Palestinian intifada and subsequent rocket attacks. Israelis have trouble trusting anybody but a hard-liner for fear that, once again, they will become targets of terror attacks.
Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition may seem incoherent in its core values, but it has created a potentially explosive mix that has brought considerable damage to Israel, pushing it into unprecedented isolation that is only likely to deepen if a sizable majority of the United Nations General Assembly recognizes Palestine as a state later this month. This would be especially challenging when relations are already strained with historic regional allies like Egypt and Turkey.
The irony is that Mr. Netanyahu himself is not opposed to liberal democracy. But the only way for him to prevent an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders is to hold his right-wing coalition together.
Mr. Lieberman has outflanked him and challenged his leadership of the Israeli right. Mr. Netanyahu needs to keep up with the right-wing Joneses and show that he is no less of a strong leader. The only common denominator of his major coalition partners is enmity to the core values of liberal democracy, and, for lack of choice, he has so far pandered to their wishes.
Friday, September 16, 2011
“I think if my brother or son or dear friend from college were about to be put to death, and there was no physical evidence, and seven of nine witnesses had recanted and testified to coercion in that original testimony, would I shrug and say, ‘The jury made its decision?’ ” she wrote in an e-mail. “I just want people, particularly all the churchgoing people like me, to look me in the eye and tell me, just once, that this is justice.”Read the rest here.
U.S officials are working feverishly to persuade the Palestinians to back down from what is still only a threat to go to the United Nations Security Council with their demand for immediate statehood.Read the rest here.
On Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he will request full membership at the United Nations when the General Assembly convenes next week.
One official told NBC News after Abbas's announcement that "this is a negotiation. They say they are doing it until they say they aren't doing it."
The U.S. has been resolute in its opposition to the proposed action and is engaged in frantic last-minute diplomatic discussions to try to head it off.
RENO, Nev. — A plane crashed into a seating area Friday at the annual Reno air races on Friday, injuring more than 75 people, 25 critically, officials said. There was no immediate word on deaths.Read the rest here.
The accident happened just before 4:30 p.m. during the National Championship Air Races at the Reno-Stead Airport, KTVN-TV reported.
Witnesses told KTVN that planes in the Unlimited race were ascending when one aircraft started to nose-dive and then crashed near a spectator stand in the southeast corner. KTVN said the aircraft was a World War II-era P-51.
An official described the scene to KRNV-TV as "a mass-casualty situation."
A medical official said more than 75 people were injured, 25 critically, The Associated Press reported.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
I strongly recommend Fr. Stephen's most recent post on the State. I am not sure how his views comport with St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, but that is one of the more serious essays of a non-political nature on a political subject that I have read in some time. I look forward to the comments it is sure to generate. On which note, please leave your comments there.
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A sermon by His Holiness Kyrill, Patriarch of Moscow and All the Russia, on the Beheading of the Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John in the Cathedral church of the Savior in the Old Market in Nizhny Novgorod.Read the rest here.
Your Eminences, dear Right Reverend hierarchs, fathers, brothers and sisters!
It is a great joy for me to celebrate the Divine liturgy together with my brethren, the bishops who have come from the dioceses of the Volga region, in this magnificent Cathedral of Nizhny Novgorod, to see the local Church united around its bishop, to see young faces, to hear the youth choir, to see many people, who perhaps have only recently entered Church life, but are conscious that they are members of the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Orthodox Church, and to live the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist together with them.
Today we recall a tragic event form the Gospel – the martyr’s end of the Prophet and Forerunner John. This is a day of mourning in the Orthodox Church calendar: we are not supposed to eat any food; bishops and priests wear the vestments which they wear on feast days in Lent. Together with the outward appearance of the clergy and the Gospel and Epistle readings, all this is as it were destined to remind us of the tragedy which took place. The Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John was slain at the suggestion of Herod’s wife who could not forgive the Prophet for his denunciations that she was living illegitimately with her new husband, Herod, because she had previously been his brother’s wife. Of course, the Queen was conscious of her sin. If she had not been conscious of it, she would not have been in such a rage and her rage was such that she was prepared to murder the Prophet, who had enormous authority among the people and with her own husband. She achieved her goal and the prophetic voice of John the Baptist fell silent.
John the Baptist is higher than all those born of women, as the Word of God says of him. This is because he was called to prepare the people to accept the coming of the Savior through repentance. For all sincere repentance presupposes sincere and honest speech. When he who calls to repentance asks unbiased questions he as it were has rights and judgement, he has the right to say what is right and what is wring in human life. And this is what John the Prophet of God did. As the word of God says, John baptised with the Baptism of repentance. He prepared people through repentance so that they would be capable of accepting the word of the Savior, the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.
People seldom like to hear the truth about themselves, only in rare cases and only strong people. Most only like to hear good and pleasant things about themselves. And when something good and pleasant has been said, then people presume that the person of whom it has been said, must in return for these good words, which are often false and hypocritical, do something for the person who said them. And a large part of our life is more or less built on the basis of this simple logic of mutual deceit. If you examine your conversations with others, with your colleagues, at table, especially with those in positions of authority, you will immediately detect this false note. This false note shows hypocrisy and lieing and it does not deter cunning. Those who come out with false and lying words are capable of any cunning act, certain that their false words disarm those against whom they have ill-intentioned thoughts.
Lieing has not only entered into our personal relationships with those close to us, it is also present in social relations. And where there is lieing, there can be no repentance, no consciousness of sin, no desire to unburden ourselves of sin, and this means that there is no sincere desire to move towards God. This is why the Forerunner, who denounced people so threateningly, was required. No doubt some of them shrugged their shoulders in bewilderment, others did not care, some probably just cursed the man and walked away. But how many people heard God’s truth in his words and were later helped by this to accept the word of the Savior! This is why he is higher than all the saints – he prepared the earth where the seeds of Christ’s preaching fell.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Defying orders and tempting fate, Marine corporal Dakota Meyer charged five times in a Humvee into heavy gunfire in the darkness of an Afghanistan valley to rescue comrades under attack from Taliban insurgents.Read the rest here.
On Thursday, Meyer was presented with the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, by President Barack Obama.
Meyer's heroics during the six-hour ambush and firefight saved the lives of 36 people, both Americans and Afghans. He killed at least eight Taliban insurgents. Firing from a gun turret on top of the Humvee driven by a fellow Marine, he provided cover for his team, allowing many to escape likely death.
He was defying orders from his commanders, who told him to stay back. The kill zone, they said, was too dangerous. But the young corporal, just 21 years old at the time, knew his friends were trapped that early morning in September 2009.
"In Sgt. Dakota Meyer, we see the best of a generation that has served with distinction through a decade of war," Obama said during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
Meyer, later promoted to sergeant and now out of the Marines, is the third living recipient and the first Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The modest, soft-spoken 23-year-old now lives in his home state of Kentucky, working construction in the tiny town of Greensburg.
Obama praised Meyer for his humility and work ethic. When the White House tried to reach him in the middle of a workday to tell him his medal had been approved, he worried about whether he could take a call while on the job. So the White House arranged for the president to call during Meyer's lunch break. With a smile, Obama thanked him for taking the call.
On the eve of the Medal of Honor ceremony, Obama and Meyer met in person, chatting on a patio near the White House Rose Garden, over a beer.
Despite Meyer's heroics, four American soldiers died in the ambush: 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, a 25-year-old from Virginia Beach; Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30, of Roswell, Ga.; Corpsman James Layton, 22, of Riverbank, Calif.; and Edwin Wayne Johnson Jr., a 31-year-old gunnery sergeant from Columbus, Ga. A fifth man, Army Sgt. Kenneth W. Westbrook, 41, of Shiprock, N.M., later died from his wounds.
Meyer says he has struggled with the national attention, with being recognized for the worst day of his life. He requested that memorial services for those who died that day be held in their hometowns at the same time he received the Medal of Honor.
The president assured Meyer that he had let no one down.
"Dakota, I know you've grappled with the grief of that day, that you said your efforts were somehow a failure because your teammates didn't come home," the president said. "But as your commander in chief and on behalf of everyone here today and all Americans, I want you to know it's quite the opposite."
Men such as this leave me humbled and awed.
Looking to capitalize on their historic gains last year, Republican lawmakers in several states are rewriting their election laws in ways that could make it more difficult for Democrats to win.Read the rest here.
They have curbed early voting, rolled back voting rights for ex-felons and passed stricter voter ID laws. Taken together, the measures could have a significant and negative effect on President Obama’s reelection efforts if they keep young people and minorities away from the polls.
“It all hits at the groups that had higher turnout and higher registration in 2008,” said Judith Browne-Dianis, a civil rights lawyer who co-directs the Advancement Project, which has been tracking the new regulations.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering the latest, and perhaps most potent, legislation, a measure that would divvy up electoral votes by congressional district rather than use the winner-takes-all approach. The change would almost ensure a net gain of 20 to 24 GOP electoral votes in the 2012 presidential election.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday reaffirmed GOP opposition to any tax increases to solve the nation’s deficit problem, signaling a swift return to the trench warfare that characterized the debt and spending debate of early summer.Read the rest here.
Boehner said that the special committee seeking long-term debt reduction should acheive its mandated $1.5 trillion in savings entirely by cutting federal agency spending and shrinking entitlement programs.