Daily Archives: November 12, 2007

A NY Times Editorial: The Plight of American Veterans

Recent surveys have painted an appalling picture. Almost half a million of the nation’s 24 million veterans were homeless at some point during 2006, and while only a few hundred from Iraq or Afghanistan have turned up homeless so far, aid groups are bracing themselves for a tsunamilike upsurge in coming years.

Tens of thousands of reservists and National Guard troops, whose jobs were supposedly protected while they were at war, were denied prompt re-employment upon their return or else lost seniority, pay and other benefits. Some 1.8 million veterans were unable to get care in veterans’ facilities in 2004 and lacked health insurance to pay for care elsewhere. Meanwhile, veterans seeking disability payments faced huge backlogs and inordinate delays in getting claims and appeals processed.

The biggest stain this year was the scandalous neglect of outpatients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and a sluggish response to the needs of wounded soldiers at veterans clinics and hospitals. Much of this neglect stemmed from the Bush administration’s failure to plan for a long war with mounting casualties and over-long tours of duty to compensate for a shortage of troops.

Thus far, more than 4,000 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, many more than died in the almost-bloodless Persian Gulf war, but only a fraction of the body counts in Vietnam (58,000) or Korea (36,000). A higher percentage of wounded soldiers are surviving the current conflicts with grievous injuries, their lives saved by body armor, advances in battlefield medicine and prompt evacuation. A study issued last week estimated that the long-term costs of their medical care and disability benefits could exceed the amount spent so far in prosecuting the war in Iraq.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Military / Armed Forces

Tom Krattenmaker: The emergent church movement is a Force for Good

There’s a growing buzz about the emerging movement, and depending on your point of view, its robust growth and rising influence are worthy of applause, scorn, or perhaps just puzzlement. Fitting for a movement that eschews hierarchy and dogma, emergents defy simple definition. Perhaps the best one can say is that they’re new-style Christians for the postmodern age, the evangelicals of whom the late Rev. Jerry Falwell disapproved.

Postmodernity is nothing new. Philosophers will tell you we’ve been living in the postmodern age for decades. But its expression in the context of fervent Christianity, in the form of the emerging church, is a fairly recent phenomenon, only about a decade old.

Like the postmodern philosophy it embraces, the emerging church values complexity, ambiguity and decentralized authority. Emergents are quite certain about some things, nevertheless, especially Jesus and his clear instruction about the way Christians are to live out their faith ”” not primarily as respectable, middle-class pillars of status quo society, but as servants to the poor and to people in the margins. In the words of Gideon Tsang, a 33-year-old Texas emergent who moved himself and his family to a smaller home in a poorer part of town, “The path of Christ is not in upward mobility; it’s in downward.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

A Parish in Western Michigan Realigns with Uganda

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Uganda, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Departing Parishes

Subprime Losses May Reach $400 Billion, Analysts Say

Losses from the falling value of subprime mortgage assets may reach $300 billion to $400 billion worldwide, Deutsche Bank AG analysts said.

Wall Street’s largest banks and brokers will be forced to write down as much as $130 billion because of the slump in subprime-related debt, according to a report today by Mike Mayo, a New York-based analyst. The rest of the losses will come from smaller banks and investors in mortgage-related securities.

Citigroup Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co. and Morgan Stanley led more than $40 billion of writedowns of assets as record U.S. foreclosures plundered asset prices. About $1.2 trillion of the $10 trillion of outstanding U.S. home loans are considered to be subprime, Mayo said in the note.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Mondher Bettaieb- Loriot, who helps manage the equivalent of about $58 billion at Swisscanto Asset Management in Zurich. “There are more losses to be taken and there’s more negative news to come. At some point it will be a buying opportunity but we’re not there yet.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Washington Times: Virginia Episcopal dispute hinges on 1860s law

The largest property dispute in the history of the Episcopal Church, brought on by divisions over a homosexual bishop, is likely to turn on a Civil War-era Virginia law passed to govern churches splitting during disputes over slavery and secession.

Circuit Judge Randy Bellows will preside starting tomorrow at the Fairfax County Courthouse over a case brought by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the national Episcopal Church against 11 churches seeking to leave the denomination along with millions of dollars of property.

The 11 churches voted in December and January to leave the denomination and join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) under the Anglican Church of Nigeria, citing disputes over biblical authority and the 2003 election of the openly homosexual New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson.

The case is informally referred to as “57-9” in many documents because the coming hearing is based on Virginia Code Section 57-9. This says when a diocese or a denomination experiences a “division,” members of a congregation may determine by majority vote which side of the division to join, along with their property.

“This case is literally historic, because it’s based on a statute enacted by the Virginia legislature during the Civil War,” said Mary McReynolds, one of 24 lawyers involved on CANA’s side of the dispute. “The Virginia division statute is unusual, and my understanding is there are not many situations in the country that allow this.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Virginia

Eduardo Porter: All They Are Saying Is Give Happiness a Chance

The framers of the Constitution evidently believed that happiness could be achieved, putting its pursuit up there alongside the unalienable rights to life and liberty. Though governments since then have seen life and liberty as deserving of vigorous protection, for all the public policies aimed at increasing economic growth, people have been left to sort out their happiness.

This is an unfortunate omission. Despite all the wealth we have accumulated ”” increased life expectancy, central heating, plasma TVs and venti-white-chocolate-mocha Frappuccinos ”” true happiness has lagged our prosperity. As Bobby Kennedy said in a speech at the University of Kansas in March 1968, the nation’s gross national product measures everything “except that which makes life worthwhile.”

The era of laissez-faire happiness might be coming to an end. Some prominent economists and psychologists are looking into ways to measure happiness to draw it into the public policy realm. Thirty years from now, reducing unhappiness could become another target of policy, like cutting poverty.

“This is another outcome that we should be concerned about,” said Alan Krueger, a professor of economics at Princeton who is working to develop a measure of happiness that could be used with other economic indicators. “Just like G.D.P.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Psychology

A prayer in particular for the Veterans who are Homeless

O GOD, Almighty and merciful, who healest those that are broken in heart, and turnest the sadness of the sorrowful to joy; Let thy fatherly goodness be upon all that thou hast made. Remember in pity such as are this day destitute, homeless, or forgotten of their fellow-men. Bless the congregation of thy poor. Uplift those who are cast down. Mightily befriend innocent sufferers, and sanctify to them the endurance of their wrongs. Cheer with hope all discouraged and unhappy people, and by thy heavenly grace preserve from falling those whose penury tempteth them to sin; though they be troubled on every side, suffer them not to be distressed; though they be perplexed, save them from despair. Grant this, O Lord, for the love of him, who for our sakes became poor, thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Posted in Uncategorized

Another prayer for Veteran's Day

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.

Posted in Uncategorized

David Cooper: We need to remember the value of lives of service

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Falklands conflict. The success of that operation, together with its human cost, was remembered nationally in June. It is also is a focal point in this year’s Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph, which again takes place against a background of British casualties overseas.

Though the environment and mission in the Falklands differed greatly from those in Iraq and Afghanistan, the human cost is the same for the soliders returning now as it was for those who returned a quarter of a century ago.

For most people in our country, going about their work does not require them to risk their lives, or witness the sights and sounds that a soldier meets on the battlefield. This does not mean that a soldier is bitter or resents this fact, but it does mean that he becomes isolated from his fellow men, having undergone experiences that he cannot adequately describe, that will evermore be a part of his life, and will divorce him from the population among whom he lives and in whose service he has undergone these experiences.

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Posted in Uncategorized

A Prayer for Veteran's Day

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the selfless service of those who gave their lives to protect our nation, preserve our freedoms, and restore peace in the face of brutal aggressors. Grant relief to those who continue to experience emotional or physical agony from their days of combat. Give us a sense of responsibility for their welfare. Comfort those who mourn for loved ones who died while performing their duty to our country. Enlist all who are in our military forces into your church militant, that they may pledge eternal loyalty to Christ, our King, and know his peace. Amen

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Military / Armed Forces

A a giant step with cloning from Adult Monkeys?

A technical breakthrough has enabled scientists to create for the first time dozens of cloned embryos from adult monkeys, raising the prospect of the same procedure being used to make cloned human embryos.

Attempts to clone human embryos for research have been dogged by technical problems and controversies over fraudulent research and questionable ethics. But the new technique promises to revolutionise the efficiency by which scientists can turn human eggs into cloned embryos.

It is the first time that scientists have been able to create viable cloned embryos from an adult primate ”“ in this case a 10-year-old male rhesus macaque monkey ”“ and they are scheduled to report their findings later this month.

The scientists will also demonstrate that they have been able to extract stem cells from some of the cloned embryos and that they have managed to encourage these embryonic cells to develop in the laboratory into mature heart cells and brain neurons.

Scientists who know of the research said it was the breakthrough that they had all been waiting for because, until now, there was a growing feeling that there might be some insuperable barrier to creating cloned embryos from adult primates ”“ including humans.

The development will not be welcomed in all quarters. Opponents of cloning will argue that the new technique of manipulating primate eggs to improve cloning efficiency will lead to increased attempts at creating ”“ and destroying ”“ cloned human embryos for research purposes.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Life Ethics, Science & Technology

Web Surfers Can Take the Internet Along for the Ride in the Car

WHILE riding in the back of a Cadillac Escalade recently, I made a video call to a friend (“Hey, guess where I’m calling from!”). Then I checked my ranking in an online football pool. And then I sent e-mail messages to my editors, explaining my tardiness in filing this article. I was still testing mobile high-speed Internet access to show how to get the Web on wheels.

And while I discovered that the mobile route to the information superhighway has some potholes and detours, surfing the Web as a passenger in a car may someday become second nature.

Certainly BlackBerry and iPhone adherents can get basic online access while perched in the passenger seat. However, smartphones like the BlackBerry were designed to deal primarily with e-mail, and the iPhone uses a slow connection to the Internet, so you can’t make video calls with it or quickly jump from Web site to Web site. To do that you need a high-speed wireless data service, like those offered by AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel.

For my Web rides, I used a laptop and a wireless data PC card that slides into the side of a laptop to get high-speed Internet access. The three major cellphone carriers offer unlimited monthly subscriptions for about $60, including a compatible PC card with a two-year contract. All three also offer similar maximum data speeds ”” speeds of about 600 to 1,400 kilobits per second (Kbps) to download and speeds of about 500 to 800 Kbps to upload. It’s not quite as snappy as some broadband cable or DSL services, but it’s close.

For example, I was able to make video phone calls using a Webcam and the Skype Internet calling software on Verizon and AT&T. However, the picture quality didn’t match that of a broadband cable connection, delivering a grainier image and choppier motion. Nevertheless, the experience of jumping from news to sports sites or even playing N.F.L. video clips was usually comparable to that of a home high-speed Internet connection. And all three wireless services are certainly reliable enough to shuffle through e-mail so that you can make excuses to the boss.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Science & Technology

Carla Power: Indecent Exposure

Reams have been written on the differences between Islamic and Western societies, but for sheer pithiness, it’s hard to beat a quip by my former colleague, a Pakistani scholar of Islamic studies. I’d strolled into his office one day to find him on the floor, at prayer. I left, shutting his door, mortified. Later he cheerfully batted my apologies away. “That’s the big difference between us,” he said with a shrug. “You Westerners make love in public and pray in private. We Muslims do exactly the reverse.”

At the nub of debates over Muslim integration in the West lies the question, What’s decent to do in public–display your sexuality or your faith? The French have no problem with bare breasts on billboards and TV but big problems with hijab-covered heads in public schools and government offices. Many Muslims feel just the opposite. As my friend suggested, Westerners believe that prayer is something best done in private, a matter for individual souls rather than state institutions. In the Islamic world, religion is out of the closet: on the streets, chanted five times daily from minarets, enshrined in constitutions, party platforms and penal codes. Sexual matters are kept discreet.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

Andrew Goddard has Joined the Blogosphere

Give him a look.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Resources & Links, Blogging & the Internet, Resources: blogs / websites

Remembrance Day 2007

This is well worth the time.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Canada, Military / Armed Forces