Thursday, May 31, 2012

Russia: A Czarist Treasure Trove Is Found

A secret room in a former home of a prince’s family in St. Petersburg revealed a hidden treasure after it was uncovered by restoration workers, the local police branch reported on Thursday.

Three sets of antique silverware, medals and jewelry pieces were immured in Naryshkin’s house since the 1917 revolution, when the family fled to the West.

The collection is to be delivered to a local museum for restoration, but after the mansion’s renovations are completed it will be returned to the house on Ulitsa Tchaikovskogo, where it was found, Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported. The Pavlovsk estate has been named among most likely places for the temporary storage of the vast collection, according to the daily.

Thousands of items

The walled up niche between the second and the third floor was found by the workers on Tuesday night, but the police were only informed the next day, according to

In total, the three dinner sets from 1872, 1914 and 1915 had over 1,000 pieces each and some items had Naryshkin’s coat of arms on them. Many of them were wrapped in newspapers from August-September 1917, and bigger items, like silver samovars were kept in boxes with pieces of cloth bearing the smell of vinegar.
Read the rest here where you will find many more photos from the newly discovered treasure.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Egyptian Presidential Candidate: Christians must convert, pay tribute or emigrate

"They need to know that conquest is coming, that Egypt will be Islamic, and that they must pay jizya or emigrate," Morsi reportedly said.
Read the rest here.

Man held in 1975 murder taking police and suspect by surprise

Bobby Coley walked into the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office this week, hoping to clear up what he thought was a minor warrant because he was trying to get a job. The 63-year-old was told to take a seat in the lobby.

In a back office, Sgt. Chris Wade typed Coley’s information into Maryland’s law enforcement database. Nothing there. Wade tried a second source and was stunned by the decades-old information in front of him. “Boys,” he remembers telling colleagues nearby, “I think we might have someone with a murder warrant out front.”

The deputies quickly confirmed that the warrant was valid and took Coley, of the District, into custody — opening up a case that has raised as many questions as answers.

“Quite candidly,” prosecutor Peter Feeney told District Court Judge Eugene Wolfe on Wednesday, “we cannot tell you what the viability of this case is at this point.”

Viable or not, the allegations are startling:
Read the rest here.

Darwin Award Nominee

We have our first nominee for the 2012 Darwin Awards...
West Virginia preacher Mark Randall "Mack" Wolford, who believed Christians should handle snakes to test their faith, died after a rattlesnake bit him over the weekend.

Wolford was bitten on the thigh about 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon, but he didn't come to the hospital until 10:30 p.m., a nursing supervisor at Bluefield Regional Medical Center  told the Charleston Daily Mail. The incident occurred during an outdoor service at Panther State Forest, about 80 miles west of Bluefield in southern West Virginia, the paper said.

Wolford had turned 44 on Saturday. He had seen his father die of a snakebite when he was teenager, the Daily Mail reported.
Read the rest here.

Romney Campaign attempts to nullify Paul delegates in Massachusetts.

MARLBOROUGH —Dozens of Ron Paul backers showed up at a state Republican Party meeting last night to protest what they say is a manipulation of power aimed at decreasing their influence at the party’s national convention.

A 14-member GOP committee charged with allocating delegates to the convention held a closed meeting at the Holiday Inn to discuss whether three delegates and three alternates selected at the Fifth Congressional District caucus should be invalidated.

None of the Romney-backed delegates won any of the six seats for the district, which as a result of redistricting will include Framingham, Natick, Sudbury and Southborough in 2013. It presently is anchored by Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill.

One of the unsuccessful members of the Romney slate challenged the results.
Read the rest here.

Metropolitan Hilarion’s new book “Rites of the Orthodox Church” is released

Published is the book “Rites of the Orthodox Church” by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. It is a new joint project of the Publishing House of the Moscow Patriarchate and the EKSMO Publishing House.

The book tells about the sacraments and rites of the Orthodox Church. What is consecration and transfiguration? What do the Sacrament of Matrimony and taking the veil have in common? What should one know about a burial service and prayers for the dead? How are water and different objects being blessed? In this book, one will find answers to these and many other questions.

The author writes about all rites of the Church, dwelling upon the main ones: taking the veil, burial service, and about blessing of water, consecration of a church, blessing of the Holy Chrism, prayer services on various occasions.

The book is recommended by the Publishing House of the Moscow Patriarchate and addressed to the reading public, both faithful and those who are going to cross the Church’s threshold.

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk is the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, chairman of the Synodal Biblical Commission, rector of the Sts Cyril and Methodius Post-Graduate and Doctoral School of the Moscow Patriarchate, Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Oxford, and Doctor of Divinity of the St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris.

Metropolitan Hilarion is the author of over 30 books on theology and church history, which were translated into several languages and republished many times. He is also the author of many musical compositions for choir and symphony orchestra.

Not sure if or when an English version will be out.

Eliot Spitzer on Facebook's IPO

 Round 1: The price! Pegged at $38 by Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter, the stock opened late for trading because the exchange malfunctioned, and then the price bobbed and weaved before slipping over the course of the week. Was this, as most said, a huge black eye for the underwriter Morgan Stanley? It shouldn't be. Because what it reflects is that the company raised as much money as it could, instead of leaving money on the table for those lucky enough to have been given selective access to the initial offering.

If a company sells 1,000 shares at $15, and they then jump to $20, the company raises and receives $15,000, but the initial purchasers immediately gain $5,000—an easy and unjustified windfall. If the IPO had been priced at $20, the company would have received $20,000—and there would be no windfall for the initial purchasers. The IPO in the second example is better for the company, because it raises more capital while selling the same number of shares. That is, of course, the purpose of the IPO. That is what Facebook did.

Part of the reason underwriters love to see a stock “pop” is that they have used the opportunity to give access to the IPO shares as candy to their favored customers. This helps the underwriter curry favor, can make their favorite customers—often CEOs who can throw them business—even richer, but does not help the company. There has been massive corruption in the stock allocation process over the years, and the fact that Facebook’s stock dropped means that those favored customers didn’t get their unfair profits, which is an improvement on what usually happens.

Round 1 goes to Morgan Stanley for doing a better job pricing than they are being given credit for, and to Facebook for maximizing its raise.

Round 2: The selective disclosure! There are allegations that the underwriters told only certain favored clients about information regarding Facebook’s future declining earnings and about their belief that the company would not hit certain financial benchmarks included in the prospectus. If those allegations are true, small retail investors should never trust Wall Street again.

Given all we have been through over the past decade, from the investigations of analysts back in 2002 to the crisis of 2008, this would be a breach of faith that would be totally without defense. If Morgan Stanley didn’t think Facebook was going to hit certain targets set out in the underwriting documents, they had an obligation to tell everybody. If the underwriting documents were wrong, you have to tell the entire marketplace not just the big guys who throw business to you. If they told only some clients, and let small investors trade on the false impression that the prospectus was accurate, then Morgan Stanley should be held civilly and perhaps criminally liable.

The defenses I have heard proffered so far are about as persuasive as the ones they tried a decade ago: We are not as bad as the competition. They’re hinting that it is common practice to share information selectively. It may have been common practice years ago to trade on inside information, but that doesn’t make it sensible, legal, or moral.
Read the rest here.

200 Years Ago; America's forgotten war

A glorious victory (one of our few)... the USS Constitution defeats and captures HMS Guerrière
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, a fact that may elude all but the most committed enthusiasts of America's more obscure wars. Don’t expect coverage to compete with or even register alongside the steady drumbeat that has accompanied the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. It's hard to imagine a flurry of 1812 books flying off the shelves, or the New York Times commissioning a blog series about the conflict. Like Avogadro's number or the rules of subjunctive verbs, the War of 1812 is one of those things that you learned about in school and promptly forgot without major consequence.

There are plenty of reasons for this. The War of 1812 has complicated origins, a confusing course, an inconclusive outcome, and demands at least a cursory understanding of Canadian geography. Moreover, it stands as the highlight of perhaps the single most ignored period of American History—one that the great historian Richard Hofstadter described as “dreary and unproductive ... an age of slack and derivative culture, of fumbling and small-minded statecraft, terrible parochial wrangling, climaxed by a ludicrous and unnecessary war.”

Historians of the period and of the war may resent Hofstadter’s summary dismissal, but it offers some clues as to why neither is the subject of much popular interest. The very things that put Hofstadter off—the bumbling diplomacy, the bitter infighting, the ineptly executed war effort—force us to confront a vision of the United States that doesn’t generally fit our understanding of its origins. The war plays out as a disappointing second act to the Revolution, with the nation suddenly at the whim of Europeans and Indians and riven by internal dissent, and the heroes and heirs of 1776 acting without the pluck and ingenuity that we expect of them. How are we to commemorate that?
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Romney wins Texas primary; likely nails down GOP nomination

Mitt Romney won the Republican primary in Texas on Tuesday, a victory that gives him more than the 1,144 delegates needed to secure his party's presidential nomination.

Following a bruising primary season earlier this year that extended longer than many Republicans had hoped, NBC News projected that Romney had finally won the necessary delegates to secure the nomination, though the former Massachusetts governor won’t earn the official nod until August's Republican National Convention in Tampa.

The race for the Republican nomination has been largely over since the April 3 primary in Wisconsin. Romney's win in that contest prompted the eventual withdrawals of his remaining rivals: Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul. It also hastened the onset of President Barack Obama's own re-election offensive versus Romney.
Read the rest here.

The Vampire Was Right

There is a great scene in the novel "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova where the famed vampire Dracula (Vlad III of Wallachia) is ruminating on the Fall of Constantinople which occurred today in 1453 (OS). He refers to it as the worst day in the history of the world. He was right.

P.S. I don't read a lot of fiction and horror is not my usual genre, but the novel really was pretty entertaining.

Syrian diplomats are expelled as outrage over massacre grows

The United States and a string of other nations expelled Syrian diplomats Tuesday, in response to a United Nations announcement that most of the 108 victims of the Houla violence had been executed.

The State Department said it had decided to expel Charge d'Affaires Zuheir Jabbour from the U.S., an action mirrored by Australia, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Germany. 

"We hold the Syrian government responsible for this slaughter of innocent lives," a spokesman for the department said.

Images of bloodied, young bodies laid out in a shallow grave after Friday's onslaught triggered shock around the world and underlined the failure of a six-week-old U.N. cease-fire plan to stop the violence.
Read the rest here.

Calif. HS student devises possible cancer cure

Monday, May 28, 2012

On a wing and a prayer: The extraordinary hanging monasteries that cling to the sides of cliffs

See the story and remarkable photos here.

Quote of the day...

It's the soldier, not the reporter who has given us Freedom of the Press. It's the soldier, not the poet, who has given us Freedom of Speech. It's the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the Freedom to Demonstrate. It's the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the Right to a Fair Trial. It's the soldier who salutes the flag, serves under the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who gives the protestor the right to burn the flag.
-Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC

RIP: Otis Clark noted preacher and survivor of 1921 Tulsa race riot

For years, few people dared to speak about what happened on the night of May 31, 1921, during one of the most deadly and devastating race riots in the nation’s history. Otis G. Clark, who was 18 at the time, had grown up in Greenwood, a thriving African American section of Tulsa.

During a night that history almost forgot, Mr. Clark dodged bullets, raced through alleys to escape armed mobs and saw his family’s home burned to the ground. He fled Tulsa on a freight train headed north.

He would eventually move to Los Angeles, where he was the butler in the home of movie star Joan Crawford. He later turned to preaching and was known as the “world’s oldest evangelist.”

But for nine decades, he remained a living witness to a night of horror, when Greenwood died. Mr. Clark died May 21 in Seattle at age 109, family members told the Tulsa World newspaper. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Read the rest here.

Britain Prepares to Honour 60 Years of Royal Service

...Newspapers on both the political right and left are running gushing tributes. British cities great and small are being festooned with Union Jacks for more than 10,000 street parties (about double the number held for last year’s royal wedding). Merchandisers are minting everything from diamond jubilee retro lingerie to vintage champagne. Andrew Lloyd Webber penned a song. Two national holidays have been declared.

It is all in honor of a woman who at birth was a long shot for the throne. The daughter of George VI, who became king only after the abdication of his brother to marry a divorced American socialite, the queen was coronated on June 2, 1953. The powers of the monarchy long ago reined in, she would watch from the gilded sidelines as the sun well and truly set on the greatest empire of its day, with the 1997 return of Hong Kong completing the passage of Britain’s glory days.

Yet, through it all, and with her husband and consort, Prince Philip, by her side, she would nevertheless stand as a regal symbol of state from the first icicles of the Cold War to the first moon landing, from the birth of the Beatles to the death of Amy Winehouse, from the once constant threat of Irish republican terrorism to the bombing of the London subway by homegrown Islamic extremists.

“We look across the pond and we see America tearing itself apart over politics and over here, we’re thinking, there’s a lot to be said for a constitutional monarchy,” royal biographer Robert Lacey said. “We are recognizing the queen more and more as the independent national figure that unites all of us, and the one constant in our lives for the past 60 years.”
Read the rest here.

2 brothers sentenced to death in separate states

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Rodney Berget lives in a single cell on South Dakota's death row, rarely leaving the tiny room where he awaits execution for bludgeoning a prison guard to death with a pipe during an attempted escape.

For Berget's immediate family, his fate is somewhat familiar. He is the second member of the clan to be sentenced to death. His older brother was convicted in 1987 of killing a man for his car. Roger Berget spent 13 years on Oklahoma's death row until his execution in 2000 at age 39.
Read the rest here.

Vatican Scandal Deepens

VATICAN CITY -- The worst crisis in Pope Benedict's pontificate deepened on Monday when Italian media said at least one cardinal was among those suspected of leaking sensitive documents as part of a power struggle at the top of the Catholic Church. The pope's butler, who has been arrested, has pledged to cooperate in the probe.

Leading Italian newspapers Corriere della Sera and Il Messaggero reported Monday that the pope's butler — arrested three days ago for allegedly feeding documents to Italian journalists — clearly did not act alone, and that an unidentified cardinal is suspected of playing a major role.
Read the rest here.

Memory Eternal

"Old men declare war. But it is the young who must fight and die."
-Herbert Hoover

"Next to a battle lost, the saddest thing is a battle won."
-Arthur First Duke of Wellington

Saturday, May 26, 2012

In the Vatican "The Butler Did It"

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Vatican magistrates formally charged Pope Benedict's butler with illegal possession of secret documents on Saturday and said a wider investigation would take place to see if he had any accomplices who helped him leak them.

Paolo Gabriele is suspected of leaking highly sensitive documents, some alleging cronyism and corruption in Vatican contracts, in a scandal which has come to be known as "Vatileaks".

A statement referred to Gabriele, 46, who was until his arrest on Wednesday night serving the pope meals and helping him dress, as "the defendant".

It said a preliminary investigation had been upgraded to a "formal investigation," meaning he had been formally charged, and had chosen two lawyers to defend him.

Because the Vatican has no jail, Gabriele was being held in one of the three so-called "secure rooms" in the offices of the Vatican's tiny police force inside the walled city-state.

The Vatican promised that he would have "all the juridical guarantees foreseen by the criminal code of the State of Vatican City."
Read the rest here.

Ron Paul revolution is well beyond the fringe

After a lengthy analysis of the Ron Paul influence evident at the Minnesota GOP Convention May 18-19 in St. Cloud ("Libertarian surge remakes state GOP," May 20), the burning question for the Star Tribune Editorial Board was whether "a caucus-based political system that magnifies populist tides [and enabled Paul supporters to dominate the state convention] serves this state well."

Couple that with a harsher Washington Post piece published in full online ("The party of Ron Paul?" May 24) -- which labeled recently adopted planks in the Iowa Republican Party platform "wacky" and "nutty" and gleefully anticipated "a few highly visible fights" erupting over "Paulite positions in the national platform" -- and it's evident the Strib is a more than a little confused about what the Ron Paul revolution is all about.

Let me do what I can to clarify.

First, let's understand what a "movement" or a "revolution" is. All movements -- the Pat Robertson Republican coup in the 1980s, gay rights, women's suffrage, civil rights and, yes, the Ron Paul movement -- follow a common pattern.

Movements all begin at the margins with people who have little or nothing to lose. Unsuccessful movements never expand beyond the sloganeering fringe. Successful movements -- those with an intellectual and moral basis -- mature to attract a mainstream following.
Read the rest here.
From blog reader MolonLabe70

Eastern Rite Catholics Complain of Roman Interference and Indifference

 Gathered for their ad limina, Eastern Catholic bishops from the U.S. were addressed last week by Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Leonardo Cardinal Sandri. His injunction—made not about abortion, the HHS mandate, war, wealth redistribution, or gay marriage—could have a critical influence on the Christian response to all of the above.

Among the Cardinal’s remarks was a tersely reiterated expectation of celibacy for priests serving the Eastern Catholic Churches in diaspora—in this case the U.S. The message may not have been carried directly from the hand of Benedict but the effect has been unpleasant to say the least.

Enter Thomas Loya, a Ruthenian Catholic priest of the Parma Ohio Eparchy, writing his eparch in response.

    In addition to being chillingly reminiscent of the demeaning attitude of the Latin Rite bishops toward the Eastern Catholic Churches during the beginning of the last century in America, the Cardinal's remarks about celibacy seem to confirm what so many Eastern Catholics in America have suspected for too long: Rome and the Latin Rite see the Eastern Catholic Churches in America as essentially inconsequential, perhaps even in the way of ecumenism between Rome and the Orthodox Churches.
The chilling reminiscence refers, in part, to an exercise in aberrant ecclesiology—more a power play—engineered by Archbishop John Ireland that resulted in an entire body of U.S. Eastern Catholics breaking communion with Rome.
Read the rest here.
HT: The Deacons Bench

Friday, May 25, 2012

Vice President Biden's Emotional Memorial Day Speech (Wow!)

Never thought I'd be posting a speech by Joe Biden on here but this was very powerful.

GOP showing small shifts on taxes as some refuse to take the pledge

In GOP activist circles it is known simply as the pledge, and over the last generation it has become the essential conservative credential for Republicans seeking elective office. Of the 242 Republicans in the House today, all but six have signed the pledge

But now, an increasing number of GOP candidates for Congress are declining to sign, a small sign that could signal a big shift in Republican politics on taxes.

Of the 25 candidates this year promoted by the National Republican Congressional Committee as “Young Guns” and “Contenders” — the top rungs of a program highlighting promising candidates challenging Democrats or running in open seats — at least a third have indicated they do not plan to sign the Norquist pledge.

Two of the seven candidates promoted by the NRCC as the “Young Gun Vanguard” — candidates competing in open seats that are considered Republican-leaning — have also declined to sign.

Authored by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform, the pledge compels candidates to “resist any effort” to raise tax rates for individuals and businesses. They also pledge to oppose the elimination of tax credits and deductions unless they are matched dollar-for-dollar with other tax cuts.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

NYPD cracks 33 year old missing child case

A former bodega stock clerk has been arrested for allegedly luring 6-year-old Etan Patz off a New York City street with the promise of a soda before strangling him in a development that police say solves a case that has mystified New York City for decades.

Etan (pronounced ay-tahn) vanished on his way to a school bus stop 33 years ago Friday. The case drew international attention and changed the way parents felt about letting their young children go off alone.

Police announced Thursday that Pedro Hernandez had told them he lured Etan into a bodega where he worked, near the boy's house, and attacked the child, choking him to death in the basement.
Read the rest here.

Ad Multos Annos!

This has been mentioned in other, mostly Catholic, forums. But it is worth repeating. The Archdiocese of New York, which likely has more Catholics than all of the Orthodox combined in North America, ordained only one priest this year. That's the bad news. The good news is that the newly ordained Fr. D'Arcy made a very powerful statement by offering a Solemn High Mass according to the pre-Vatican II liturgical rites as his first Mass.

See the story and photos here.

"First Things" posts a hit piece on the Russian Orthodox Church

This is really bad and frankly rather offensive. Read it here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A CATostrophic Divorce

A man from southern Israel divorced his wife this week because she had brought 550 cats into their home.

The husband, apparently not a cat lover, told the Rabbinical Court in Beersheba that he was unable to sleep in his bedroom because the surface of the marital bed was constantly covered with cats who refused to lie on the floor.

The man, in his divorce request, complained that the cats also blocked his access to the bathroom and did not allow him to prepare meals in the kitchen, the Hebrew daily Maariv reported Wednesday. When he sat to eat, cats jumped onto the table and stole his food.

The couple attempted reconciliation at the behest of the rabbinical court. The wife, however, was unable to part from her cats… and preferred to part from her husband.

Facebook's Timely Lesson

It is a seldom heard and even more seldom heeded maxim: In general, people should not buy individual stocks.

Well, three days into its first week of being a publicly traded stock and the much fawned over Facebook (ticker symbol FB) has lost 18% of its value. Now I don't want to rub salt into any open wounds for those who may have bought the stock but as an important object lesson this is too good to pass up. The point being that buying individual securities is ALWAYS a form of speculating. You are trying to outsmart the financial markets and very very few people can do this with success over the long term. There is a mountain of statistical evidence and studies showing that in any given year around 2/3 of your high priced Wall Street money men will underperform their respective index. Over any given ten year period it's about 90% that fall short of the index. When you further factor in the generally steep fees and expenses they charge, or that you pay your broker in trading fees and then add on the tax implications of trading stocks, the number of those who beat the market becomes statistically insignificant.

You are not going to beat the Street especially over the long term. Wall Street is the world's biggest casino and they have the house advantage from all those fees and expenses.  Even worse this casino is as crooked as your dog's hind legs. Insider trading and price fixing are rampant. Remember when you buy a share of Facebook or whatever stock you think is about to get hot you are probably buying it from some big investment bank, which means they think it is going down. These people have every tool in the world at their fingertips (legal and otherwise) and they still come up short of the index most years. What makes you think you are going to be in the 1% that actually beats the house by a wide enough margin to make up for all the fees and added taxes?  Here is the bottom line... Speculating is a suckers game.

Folks if you are going to be invested in stocks (and most people should be) stick to one or two broadly diversified low cost index funds or near equivalent ETFs. This is the only way you are likely to get your fair share of returns on the stock market. As far as asset allocation goes, being deeply conservative, I am a fan of the late Harry Browne's Permanent Portfolio (see here and here). But even a very simple 50/50 portfolio suggested by the legendary Jack Bogle consisting of half in a total US Bond Market Index Fund and the other half in a Total US Stock Market Index Fund will give you good returns over time with limited risks. Look for the cheapest funds you can find, reinvest the dividends and then leave it alone other than for rebalancing once a year or as needed.

Egyptian Court Convicts 12 Christians In Sectarian Violence; Acquits Muslims

On Monday, Egypt's State Security Court sentenced 12  Christians to life in prison after they were found guilty of  sowing public strife, possessing illegal weapons and killing two Muslims in Minya province last April. Eight Muslims were acquitted of possessing illegal weapons and burning down Christian-owned homes and businesses.
Read the rest here.

In Arizona, more birther buffoonery

IF ONE-FIFTIETH of 1 percent of Arizonans demanded that Ken Bennett, the state’s Republican secretary of state, go to work in the nude, would he comply? Not likely. After all, Mr. Bennett, the former Republican president of the Arizona Senate, is planning to run for governor in two years. It wouldn’t pay to pander to crackpots — and humiliate himself in the bargain. Or would it?

The question arises because Mr. Bennett, allegedly in response to e-mailed requests from 1,200 Arizonans, has demanded that Hawaii provide him with verification of President Obama’s birth certificate. If he doesn’t get it, he says, he might strike the president’s name from the state’s ballot this fall.
Read the rest here.

It's not often I agree with Op-Eds in major newspapers and damned rare if that paper is the Washington Post or their equally left leaning northern cousin the New York Times. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day and they are right on this one.  So for the record (gag), I am in complete agreement with this editorial.

European Court Orders Britain to Give Prisoners The Vote

David Cameron was on Tuesday night under pressure to stand up to the European Court of Human Rights after it ordered Britain to give prisoners the vote within six months.

European judges on Tuesday upheld a ruling that a blanket ban on allowing inmates to vote was unlawful, meaning tens of thousands of criminals in Britain will be able to have a say in elections.

The ruling represents a direct rebuttal of Parliament, which last year voted overwhelming to maintain the 140-year ban.

However, leaked legal advice last year revealed that the UK would face little sanction if it simply ignored the ruling.

MPs said the ruling was a “test” for the Government and it was time for Mr Cameron, who has said the thought of giving prisoners the vote made him “sick”, to stand up to Europe.
Read the rest here.

Europe has gone mad.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


A powerful and deeply moving post.

When economists do crystal meth

I am pretty sure this is the result. Just keep clicking the + sign in the upper left corner.

HT: Smurff

Thinking of getting out while you can? It may be too late

Charles Schumer and Bob Casey, the two U.S. Senators behind the Ex-PATRIOT act — a proposal to go after early Facebook backer Eduardo Saverin and others like him that have renounced U.S. citizenship and are getting out of paying capital gains tax on stock windfalls — have now revealed the details of their plan. We first wrote about it earlier today when the offices of the two senators first announced their intentions.

It’s pretty big: any ex-pat with either a net worth of over $2 million, or an average income tax liability of at least $148,000 over the last five years, “will be presumed to have renounced their citizenship for tax avoidance purposes.” The ex-pat will have to demonstrate to the IRS that this is not the case if it is not. If there is a “legitimate reason” for that person living outside the U.S. no penalties will apply. But if the IRS finds that someone gave up their passport for tax purposes, they will impose a tax on that individual’s investment gains “no matter where he or she resides.”

The rate of that capital gains tax will be 30 percent — the same that non-resident aliens currently pay on dividends and interest earnings.

The tax detailed this act, if approved, will backdate for 10 years after its approval.
Read the rest here
Related article here.

Five things Ron Paul wants from the Republican National Convention

It looks as if Ron Paul is going to be an active participant in the Republican National Convention in Tampa this August. That will mark a big change from 2008, when Congressman Paul held a rival convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul while the GOP nominated John McCain nearby.

Here’s our take on the five things Paul hopes to gain from staying within his party’s tent in 2012.
Read the rest here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Facebook IPO is a flop

Facebook stock's slide continued Monday, leaving some investors wondering about the outlook for the newly-public social network.

Facebook's stock tumbled below its $38 IPO price on its second day of trading. By Monday afternoon the company’s share price was down 10 percent from Friday’s closing price of $38.23. (You can track the performance of Facebook’s stock price here.)

When a stock falls below its offer price so soon after an IPO it is considered a disappointment for the company, particularly when the IPO is the most heavily traded ever and concerns such a high profile company.
Read the rest here.

Shorter University faces mass resignations over "lifestyle" statement

More than two dozen faculty members have resigned from Shorter University, a Baptist school in Georgia, after it required them to sign a “personal lifestyle statement” that condemns homosexuality, premarital sex and public drinking.

An online campaign called “Save Our Shorter” says that the lifestyle pledge, adopted in the fall of 2011 along with a statement of faith, has led to dozens of resignations. University president Donald Dowless on Friday (May 18) confirmed that 36 faculty have resigned and at least 25 cited disagreement with either the personal lifestyle statement or the faith statement.
Read the rest here.

Behold freedom in action. An employer announces its intention to regulate various aspects of the personal lives of its employees (perfectly legal if of doubtful wisdom), and a majority of the employees tell their now former employer to go pack sand. For the record I would have done the same thing purely on principle. Once you allow your employer into your bedroom or to tell you what you as an adult can or can't consume in a public establishment, on your own time and at your own expense, you pretty much have announced that they own you.

Odd as this may sound I applaud both sides in this matter. I admire the school for taking a stand to uphold its religious tenets and I admire the employees who (like me) found the demands unacceptable. At least for the moment it appears the government is not involved (wonders never cease). No need for the government to be involved at all. The school is within its rights to set any standards it wants for employees and the employees are free to walk if those standards are overly intrusive. If enough employees leave and the school has a hard time replacing them we may see the free market work its magic.

On a side not Jesus would have been sacked by Shorter (or just not hired) given his public drinking and turning water into wine at weddings.  But like I said, it's a private school and in a free country you have a right to be foolish if you wish.

Constantinople Glorifies 11 New Martyrs of Communist Persecution

The Synod of Constantinople has canonized 11 clerics and lay persons who perished during the first two years of the Soviet occupation of Estonia.
Read the rest here.

Memory Eternal

Metropolitan Constantine, the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church USA has reposed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ron Paul Wins Minnesota - Continues To Gain Delegates

LAKE JACKSON, Texas, May 20, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Supporters of 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul have propelled him to an historic win in Minnesota this weekend, with delegate gains having occurred in multiple other states as well. The recent achievements affirm Paul's delegate-attainment strategy, and support the notion that he and his platform will be featured prominently at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this August.

In Minnesota, Paul organizers won a decisive 12 of 13 delegates to the RNC at the Rivers Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud, wrapping up the North Star State's two-tier nominating contest. Earlier this spring, Paul supporters won 20 of 24 delegates at district conventions. In all, the Paul camp has swept the state of Minnesota winning 32 of the state's 40 national delegates.

In addition to Paul's consequential victory in Minnesota, Paul organizers won delegates in Mitt Romney's home state of Michigan. There, Paul supporters estimate that they have won eight voting slots plus one non-voting delegate and 11 alternates. Of the 14 Congressional District voting contests held this weekend, Paul organizers won RNC delegates in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 9th Districts, denying Detroit-born Romney a clean sweep of his home state. The Michigan victory occurred despite a heavy Romney campaign presence promoting a win for the establishment pick and presumptive nominee.

At the Vermont Republican State Convention this weekend, Ron Paul supporters won two of 14 national delegates, with two more considered potential allies, and they won 10 of 14 alternates. In all, Vermont has 17 delegates including super delegates.

Finally in Virginia, 11 district conventions have been taking place in recent weeks and have ended this weekend. In those contests Ron Paul supporters won 17 of 33 national delegates selected, with the remainder of the state's 49 delegates including super delegates to be selected at the June 16th state convention. Also in Virginia, Paul supporters elected a Republican Congressional District Chair in the Third District, over a dozen liberty-oriented Republican State Central Committee Members five of whom are Ron Paul supporters, dozens of Republican county and city committee chairs, and hundreds of county and city committee members.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Military salute to The Queen for her Jubilee

Marijuana grows openly in California towns

California's San Joaquin Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. It is also where, among the fresh fruits and vegetables, an estimated half-a-million plants of marijuana are growing openly, some allegedly being sold for non-medicinal purposes.

"In the last two years, we've seen large-scale commercial farming operations of marijuana and explosions of backyard marijuana grows," said Lieutenant Rick Ko of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office. Ko says the spike in cannabis cultivation is a result of California's booming medical marijuana trade.
Read the rest here.

Prominent Catholic author to sue Georgetown University in church court

The author who turned Georgetown University into a horror scene in “The Exorcist” plans to sue the school in church court, charging that his alma mater has strayed so far from church doctrine that it should no longer call itself Catholic.

William Peter Blatty, who graduated from Georgetown in 1950, says the “last straw” was the university’s speaking invitation to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Read the rest here.

Anti-NATO protestors held on conspiracy and terrorism charges

CHICAGO — Three men accused of making Molotov cocktails had been planning to attack President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home and other targets during this weekend’s NATO summit, prosecutors said Saturday.

The three were arrested Wednesday in a nighttime raid of an apartment in the city’s South Side Bridgeport neighborhood ahead of the two-day meeting.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

India struggles to balance its books as citizens lust for gold

MUMBAI — Kumar Jain’s small shop in Zaveri Bazaar, Mumbai’s labyrinthine jewelry district, has the feverish atmosphere of a Wall Street trading room. Women wave calculators, quote the latest global gold prices and haggle fiercely over bangles laid out on velvet trays.

These buyers are thinking about finance rather than finery. “Money can change value,” said Jain, as he watched his shop assistants and customers do battle. “But when you have gold, no one can cheat you.”

In India, the world’s biggest annual bullion importer, gold jewelry plays a central role in weddings and festivals. But its main appeal is as an investment favored by both rich and poor. India imported 933 metric tons of gold for private consumers last year, a 35 percent rise over five years and just under a quarter of global demand, according to the World Gold Council.
Read the rest here.

US Envoy to Israel: US Ready to Strike Iran

JERUSALEM (AP) — Washington's envoy to Israel says the U.S. has plans in place to attack Tehran if necessary to prevent it from becoming an atomic military power.

In remarks before the Israel Bar Association, Dan Shapiro said the U.S. hopes diplomacy and economic sanctions will pressure Iran to abandon its suspect nuclear program.
Read the rest here.

Earning that Nobel Peace Prize I see.

Conservatives plan highly aggressive attack on Obama

WASHINGTON — A group of high-profile Republican strategists is working with a conservative billionaire on a proposal to mount one of the most provocative campaigns of the “super PAC” era and attack President Obama in ways that Republicans have so far shied away from.

Timed to upend the Democratic National Convention in September, the plan would “do exactly what John McCain would not let us do,” the strategists wrote.

The plan, which is awaiting approval, calls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.

“The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. Mr. Ricketts is increasingly putting his fortune to work in conservative politics.
Read the rest here.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Say ‘Bank Run’

It’s a very bad time to even breathe the words “bank run” anywhere in Europe.

Shares of Bankia, Spain’s fourth-largest bank and as of last week a ward of the state, were down as much as 29% today after the Spanish paper El Mundo reported that in the past week depositors had withdrawn 1 billion euros (story’s in Spanish, incidentally, Google translation is pretty poor but you’ll get the gist.)

The report was quickly denied by the Spanish government, but the bank itself had no comment.

This is customers voting with their feet and investors voting with their keyboards. It shows a profound lack of faith in the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to rescue the nation’s banking system as it grapples with a massive housing bust.

European shares are down about 1% across the board, including Spain’s IBEX. The euro fell to as low as $1.2665, but lately is over $1.27.

This is what happens when a currency union fails in the middle of a sovereign-debt crisis with a leadership group that’s incapable of doing anything save stall for time. Once panic sets it, it’s too late. The fear is if Greece leaves the euro, it will start a chain reaction that will spread to other nations, like Spain and Italy, the two economies that are too big to fail, and too big to save.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Broke States Use Housing Foreclosure Money To Plug Budget Holes

Hundreds of millions of dollars meant to provide a little relief to the nation’s struggling homeowners is being diverted to plug state budget gaps.

In a budget proposed this week, California joined more than a dozen states that want to help close gaping shortfalls using money paid by the nation’s biggest banks and earmarked for foreclosure prevention, investigations of financial fraud and blunting the ill effects of the housing crisis. California was awarded more than $400 million from the banks, and Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed using the bulk of that sum to pay the state’s debts.

The money was part of a national settlement valued at $25 billion and negotiated with five big banks over abuses in their mortgage and foreclosure processes.

The settlement, reached in February after a year of talks and intervention by the Obama administration, was the second-largest in history involving the states, trailing the tobacco industry settlement, and represented the first large-scale commitment by banks to provide direct aid to borrowers.

As part of the settlement, the banks agreed to pay the states $2.5 billion, money intended to help homeowners and mitigate the effects of the foreclosure surge. But critics complained that this was the only cash the banks were required to pay — the rest comes in the form of “credits” for reducing mortgage debt and other activities. Even that relatively small amount has proved too great a temptation for lawmakers.
Read the rest here.

Accidentally Released - and Incredibly Embarrassing - Documents Show How Goldman et al Engaged in 'Naked Short Selling'

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes God smiles on us. Last week, he smiled on investigative reporters everywhere, when the lawyers for Goldman, Sachs slipped on one whopper of a legal banana peel, inadvertently delivering some of the bank’s darker secrets into the hands of the public.

The lawyers for Goldman and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch have been involved in a legal battle for some time – primarily with the retail giant, but also with Rolling Stone, the Economist, Bloomberg, and the New York Times. The banks have been fighting us to keep sealed certain documents that surfaced in the discovery process of an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit filed by Overstock against the banks.

Last week, in response to an motion to unseal certain documents, the banks’ lawyers, apparently accidentally, filed an unredacted version of Overstock’s motion as an exhibit in their declaration of opposition to that motion. In doing so, they inadvertently entered into the public record a sort of greatest-hits selection of the very material they’ve been fighting for years to keep sealed.

I contacted Morgan Lewis, the firm that represents Goldman in this matter, earlier today, but they haven’t commented as of yet. I wonder if the poor lawyer who FUBARred this thing has already had his organs harvested; his panic is almost palpable in the air. It is both terrible and hilarious to contemplate. The bank has spent a fortune in legal fees trying to keep this material out of the public eye, and here one of their own lawyers goes and dumps it out on the street.

The lawsuit between Overstock and the banks concerned a phenomenon called naked short-selling, a kind of high-finance counterfeiting that, especially prior to the introduction of new regulations in 2008, short-sellers could use to artificially depress the value of the stocks they’ve bet against. The subject of naked short-selling is a) highly technical, and b) very controversial on Wall Street, with many pundits in the financial press for years treating the phenomenon as the stuff of myths and conspiracy theories.

Now, however, through the magic of this unredacted document, the public will be able to see for itself what the banks’ attitudes are not just toward the “mythical” practice of naked short selling (hint: they volubly confess to the activity, in writing), but toward regulations and laws in general.
Read the rest here.

Banks are the enemy.

The Latest on Rome and the SSPX

It is becoming increasingly likely that bishop Fellay will lead the SSPX back into full communion with Rome. While much is uncertain there also appears to be strong opposition from Fellay's three fellow bishops. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that one or more of them could break off from the SSPX and go into schism. Rome made a none too thinly veiled reference to this in a statement earlier today.

Details at Rorate. Note that the commentary there, especially from the diehards, has become increasingly strident as the likelihood of reconciliation increases.

Gold's Plunge Enters Bear Market

Gold has lost a fifth of its value since its record peak last year, as fears that Greece will exit the euro prompt investors to move into cash.

Futures contracts for the precious metal were on Wednesday trading 21pc down from their high last summer. That signalled gold for June delivery was into the territory seen as a “bear” market - when an asset plunges 20pc or more.
Read the rest here.

Spain's Government Orders A Royal Snub

Queen Sofia of Spain has been ordered to turn down an invitation from the Queen to a Diamond Jubilee lunch for the world's sovereign monarchs because of an escalating diplomatic row over Gibraltar.

Queen Sofia had earlier accepted the invite to Friday's celebration at Windsor Castle, but in a last minute snub by Spain's government she has been told not to attend because it would be "inappropriate in the current circumstances".

Last week Spain's foreign ministry issued a formal complaint to Britain's Ambassador in Madrid over the planned visit in June of The Earl and Countess of Wessex to the disputed territory of Gibraltar to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year.
Read the rest here.

Britain's Prime Minister Issues Stark Warning To EU

David Cameron has warned eurozone leaders it is now “make or break” for the single currency as the financial turmoil threatens to cause another global meltdown.

The Prime Minister will say in a speech today that the eurozone is “at a crossroads” and he is ready to do “whatever is necessary to protect this country”.

Mr Cameron’s intervention comes after Sir Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, expressed his frustration at European leaders who were “just kicking the can down the road”.

The alarm has arisen amid political chaos in Greece and signs of an increasing divergence between Germany and France over austerity measures.

Mr Cameron today will build on a warning he made during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, when he said eurozone leaders could not put off a decision on which path to take. He said: “It either has to make up or it is looking at a potential break-up. That’s the choice they have to make and it is a choice they can’t long put off.”
Read the rest here.

Vatican pushes celibacy on Eastern Catholic clergy

The money quote...
On what theological grounds can the jurisdiction of the Eastern Churches be restricted to the “historical territories”, the same principle not being applied to the Roman Church? These are issues that require further serious research and discussion, not least because of the desire for Roman union with the present Orthodox Churches.
Read it all here.
HT: Dave Brown.

Britain: Muslim 'Cultural Sensitivity' Runs Amok

London Metropolitan University's Vice Chancellor, Malcolm Gillies, says it would be unwise to "cling" to a "nostalgic" view where the vast majority wants alcohol to be available. Instead, he says that he believes the university should take account of diverging views, namely those of Muslims, who now comprise 20% of the university's 30,000 students.

"Many of our students do come from backgrounds where they actually look on drinking as a negative. We therefore need to rethink how we cater for that 21st-century balance," Gillies declared in an interview. "What we don't want is the tyranny of a majority view," he added.

Gillies' proposals to re-engineer social life on campus have, not surprisingly, generated a mostly negative response from students, many of whom say a ban on alcohol smacks of politically correct pandering run amok.

Muslims, too, are unhappy with Gillies. Far from thanking him for his multicultural activism, Muslims say they are "offended" by his "generalizing about their beliefs."

To be sure, London Metropolitan University is not the first institution in Britain to bend over backwards to avoid "offending" Muslims. In fact, hardly a day goes by in which Britons are not surrendering some aspect of their culture and traditions -- not to mention their rights of free speech and free expression -- in order to make Britain safe for Islam.

British schools increasingly are dropping the Jewish Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, according to a report entitled Teaching Emotive and Controversial History, which was commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills. British teachers are also reluctant to discuss the medieval Crusades – in which Christians fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem -- because lessons often contradict what is taught in local mosques.

British social welfare offices have banned novelty pig calendars and toys lest they offend Muslims. Workers in the benefits department at Dudley Council, West Midlands, for example, were told to remove or cover up all pig-related items, including toys, porcelain figures, calendars and even a tissue box featuring Winnie the Pooh and Piglet.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Report: Texas executed innocent man

He was the spitting image of the killer, had the same first name and was near the scene of the crime at the fateful hour: Carlos DeLuna paid the ultimate price and was executed in place of someone else in Texas in 1989, a report out Tuesday found.

Even "all the relatives of both Carloses mistook them," and DeLuna was sentenced to death and executed based only on eyewitness accounts despite a range of signs he was not a guilty man, said law professor James Liebman.

Liebman and five of his students at Columbia School of Law spent almost five years poring over details of a case that he says is "emblematic" of legal system failure.

DeLuna, 27, was put to death after "a very incomplete investigation. No question that the investigation is a failure," Liebman said.

The report's authors found "numerous missteps, missed clues and missed opportunities that let authorities prosecute Carlos DeLuna for the crime of murder, despite evidence not only that he did not commit the crime but that another individual, Carlos Hernandez, did," the 780-page investigation found.

The report, entitled "Los Tocayos Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution," traces the facts surrounding the February 1983 murder of Wanda Lopez, a single mother who was stabbed in the gas station where she worked in a quiet corner of the Texas coastal city of Corpus Christi.
Read the rest here.

Geithner warns Boehner, GOP on end-of-year debt limit showdown

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner cautioned Republicans on Tuesday not to raise questions about whether the United States will once again raise its legal debt limit late this year, saying the economy is already starting to feel the effects of the potential fiscal cliff confronting Congress at the end of the year.

Geithner’s comments came as the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill began reacting to a new ultimatum from House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who told an annual conference hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation later Tuesday that Republicans will insist again this year that any increase in the debt limit be matched dollar-for-dollar with equal spending cuts.

Republicans made the same demand in the negotiations that led to an economy-rattling partisan showdown over the nation’s last debt ceiling hike last summer.
Read the rest here.

Virginia Republicans block homosexual prosecutor from judgeship causing uproar

Virginia’s General Assembly rejected a gay man for a Richmond judgeship early Tuesday, after conservatives argued that his support for gay marriage and challenge to the military’s now-defunct “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy made him unfit for the bench.

The House of Delegates voted 33 to 31, with 10 abstentions, to make Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland a General District Court judge in Richmond. He had needed 51 votes in the 100-member chamber to win appointment.

“He holds himself out as being married,” said Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), who is running for U.S. Senate. Noting that gay marriage is not legal in Virginia, he said that Thorne-Begland’s “life is a contradiction to the requirement of submission to the constitution.”
Read the rest here.

Justice Dept. launches criminal probe into JPMorgan’s $2B trading loss

The Justice Department has initiated a criminal probe into the $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the situation.

The inquiry is at a very early stage, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is private. It is unclear what laws may have been violated. Dean Boyd, a Justice spokesperson, declined to comment.
Read the rest here.

Greece in crisis as new elections loom; President reports bank runs have begun

Europe’s financial crisis lurched into a perilous new phase as dire predictions emerged of a collapse in Greece’s economy, with a run on its banks bringing an inevitable end to its membership of the euro.

As leaders in Athens accepted the need for a new general election to end a national stalemate, the International Monetary Fund said Europe’s leaders should prepare for the possibility of a Greek departure from the single currency.

Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, warned she was “technically prepared for anything” and said the utmost effort must be made to ensure any Greek exit was orderly. The effect was likely to be “quite messy” with risks to growth, trade and financial markets. “It is something that would be extremely expensive and would pose great risks but it is part of options that we must technically consider,” she said.

Raising tensions still further, Germany warned Greek voters that the wrong result in next month’s election will force their country out of the single currency.

Greece’s president warned, perhaps most alarmingly, that its banks risk running out of money, posing a “threat to our national existence”.
Read the rest here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Is the filibuster unconstitutional?

According to Best Lawyers — “the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession” — Emmet Bondurant “is the go-to lawyer when a business person just can’t afford to lose a lawsuit.” He was its 2010 Lawyer of the Year for Antitrust and Bet-the-Company Litigation. But now, he’s bitten off something even bigger: bet-the-country litigation.

Bondurant thinks the filibuster is unconstitutional. And, alongside Common Cause, where he serves on the board of directors, he’s suing to have the Supreme Court abolish it.

In a 2011 article in the Harvard Law School’s Journal on Legislation, Bondurant laid out his case for why the filibuster crosses constitutional red lines. But to understand the argument, you have to understand the history: The filibuster was a mistake.
Read the rest here.

No,it is not unconstitutional. Is it stupid and patently undemocratic? Yes. But stupidity is not prohibited by the Constitution as evidenced by Congress continued existence.

Ron Paul is scaling back his campaign

Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R) announced today that he is scaling back his presidential campaign operation.

He said in a statement that he will continue to fight former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for delegates at state conventions around the country, but he will no longer spend any money on upcoming primary contests.

“Our campaign will continue to work in the state convention process,” Paul wrote in an e-mail to supporters.“Moving forward, however, we will no longer spend resources campaigning in primaries in states that have not yet voted.  Doing so with any hope of success would take many tens of millions of dollars we simply do not have.”

While Paul has already cut back his campaign significantly, as recently as three weeks ago he was airing ads in Rhode Island and Texas.

Upcoming primaries in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Texas might actually provide fertile ground for Paul. But he has yet to win a single primary or caucus, and his fundraising has dried up.

In the near future, Paul added, “my campaign leadership will lay out to you our delegate strategy and what you can do to help.”
Read the rest here.

Critics of Russian Orthodox Church say it's sold its soul to Putin

There's a growing feud pitting supporters of the influential church, which sees itself as the nation's spiritual guide, against opponents who say the church has sold out to Vladimir Putin — becoming an arm of his regime more interested in gold than souls.
Read the rest here.

I think the Russian Church is indeed showing signs of succumbing to its age old vice, becoming an arm of the state.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College

 ADA, Ohio — Kelsey Griffith graduates on Sunday from Ohio Northern University. To start paying off her $120,000 in student debt, she is already working two restaurant jobs and will soon give up her apartment here to live with her parents. Her mother, who co-signed on the loans, is taking out a life insurance policy on her daughter.

“If anything ever happened, God forbid, that is my debt also,” said Ms. Griffith’s mother, Marlene Griffith.

Ms. Griffith, 23, wouldn’t seem a perfect financial fit for a college that costs nearly $50,000 a year. Her father, a paramedic, and mother, a preschool teacher, have modest incomes, and she has four sisters. But when she visited Ohio Northern, she was won over by faculty and admissions staff members who urge students to pursue their dreams rather than obsess on the sticker price.

“As an 18-year-old, it sounded like a good fit to me, and the school really sold it,” said Ms. Griffith, a marketing major. “I knew a private school would cost a lot of money. But when I graduate, I’m going to owe like $900 a month. No one told me that.”

With more than $1 trillion in student loans outstanding in this country, crippling debt is no longer confined to dropouts from for-profit colleges or graduate students who owe on many years of education, some of the overextended debtors in years past. Now nearly everyone pursuing a bachelor’s degree is borrowing. As prices soar, a college degree statistically remains a good lifetime investment, but it often comes with an unprecedented financial burden.
Read the rest here.

California deficit soars to $16 billion

Gov. Jerry Brown announced on Saturday that the state's deficit has ballooned to $16 billion, a huge increase over his $9.2-billion estimate in January.

The bigger deficit is a significant setback for California, which has struggled to turn the page on a devastating budget crisis. Brown, who announced the deficit on YouTube, is expected to outline his full budget proposal on Monday in Sacramento.

"This means we will have to go much further, and make cuts far greater, than I asked for at the beginning of the year," Brown said in the video.

Lawmakers and others were hoping that a rebounding economy would help the state avoid steep cuts to social services. But revenue in April, the most important month of the year for income taxes, fell far short of expectations, leading to a shortfall of at least $3 billion in the current fiscal year.

The state has also spent $2.1 billion more than expected, according to the controller, further worsening California's financial health.

Advocates involved in budget discussions say they expect deeper cuts to social services than Brown originally proposed in January. Union officials are also in negotiations with administration officials about ways to reduce state payroll costs, an issue that wasn't on the table earlier this year.

Brown has said there will be even deeper cuts, mostly to public education, if voters do not improve tax hikes in November. He is seeking a quarter-cent increase in the state sales tax for four years and a seven-year hike on incomes of $250,000 or more that will range from 1 to 3 percentage points. He says the measure would raise $9 billion in the upcoming budget year.

Germans don't understand America's aversion to universal health insurance

As the United States Supreme Court considers whether requiring people to have health insurance is unconstitutional, Germans are bewildered as to why so many Americans appear to be against universal coverage.

They also question the continued portrayal of US President Barack Obama and his health reform backers as socialists and communists, noting that healthcare was introduced in Germany in the 19th century by Otto von Bismarck, who was definitely not a leftist, and is supported by conservative and pro-business politicians today.

"It's a solidarity principle," says Ann Marini, a spokesperson for the National Health Insurers Association. "Not every 'S' automatically means socialism."

Marini and others say that mandated coverage is something that is simply not questioned in Germany. Furthermore, even the most pro-market politicians wouldn't dare to dismantle the country's health insurance system.
Read the rest here.

Culture war looms as Israel pledges to end ultra-Orthodox military exemptions

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dramatically bolstered his ruling coalition this week with a unity deal meant to help him thwart challenges from fringe factions. But Yoel Krois, a man with sidelocks past his shoulders and a record of confronting authorities, says he remains ready for a fight.

From his cramped Jerusalem office, Krois pens broadsides that paper his ultra-Orthodox neighborhood and serve as religious proclamations on issues of the day. One of the newest tells readers to resist a brewing plot to draft ultra-Orthodox Jews into the Israeli military.

“We will go to prison instead,” said Krois, 39, sitting beneath a photograph of himself defying police as he and fellow activists with an anti-Zionist organization known as Edah Haredit protested the opening of a parking lot on the Jewish Sabbath. “We are protected by God.”
Read the rest here.

Setting aside my frequent criticism of Israel's foreign policy and its treatment of its Arab neighbors this is a problem. Israel is a nation that is still surrounded by people who have vowed to destroy it. No one should be entitled to a free ride like this. Anyone who refuses public service in the military, or some other capacity for convicted pacifists, should lose their citizenship and the right to vote.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Greek leaders fail to form coalition as poll shows radical leftist would win new election

A third attempt to forge a coalition in Greece has failed as the leader of a radical party committed to a complete revision of the country’s critical EU bailout refused an invitation to joint rule.

The latest round of talks failed after the left wing leader who wants to renegotiate the country’s critical EU bailout refused to join forces with parties that support the austerity measures.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Radical Left Coalition or Syriza, said his presence in the proposed coalition was merely being sought by more established, pro-bailout parties as a “Leftwing accomplice”.

Evangelos Venizelos, the leader of the socialist Pasok party, admitted the talks had failed and said he would return his mandate to form a government to the president today.
Read the rest here.

A Facebook Founder Renounces His U.S. Citizenship

Eduardo Saverin, one of the founders of Facebook, officially defriended the United States in September, giving up his American citizenship for the more tax-friendly residency status of Singapore.

Mr. Saverin, who was born in Brazil and has lived in Singapore since 2010, plans to remain in the Asian island nation indefinitely. Singapore has a maximum personal income tax rate of 20 percent and no taxes on capital gains. He gained American citizenship in 1998.

A spokesman for Mr. Saverin insisted his client did not renounce his citizenship for financial reasons. “I have worked with him for over a year, and that never came up,” said Tom Goodman, the spokesman. “Obviously, it was a big decision, but he’s making all these investments in Europe, Asia and the U.S. It just seemed a lot simpler.”
Read the rest here.

For Ultra-Orthodox in Abuse Cases, Prosecutor Has Different Rules

An influential rabbi came last summer to the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, with a message: his ultra-Orthodox advocacy group was instructing adherent Jews that they could report allegations of child sexual abuse to district attorneys or the police only if a rabbi first determined that the suspicions were credible.

The pronouncement was a blunt challenge to Mr. Hynes’s authority. But the district attorney “expressed no opposition or objection,” the rabbi, Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, recalled.

In fact, when Mr. Hynes held a Hanukkah party at his office in December, he invited many ultra-Orthodox rabbis affiliated with the advocacy group, Agudath Israel of America. He even chose Rabbi Zwiebel, the group’s executive vice president, as keynote speaker at the party.

Mr. Hynes has won election six times as district attorney thanks in part to support from ultra-Orthodox rabbis, who lead growing communities in neighborhoods like Borough Park and Crown Heights. But in recent years, as allegations of child sexual abuse have shaken the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, victims’ rights groups have expressed concern that he is not vigorously pursuing these cases because of his deep ties to the rabbis.

Many of the rabbis consider sexual abuse accusations to be community matters best handled by rabbinical authorities, who often do not report their conclusions to the police.
Read the rest here.

On May 11th...

Spencer Perceval