Monthly Archives: January 2008

South Dakota Senate and House pass abortion sonogram bills

The South Dakota House and Senate passed similar bills Tuesday requiring doctors to offer pregnant women the chance to see sonograms before they decide to get abortions

If a woman didn’t want to see the sonogram, she would have to sign a statement that the offer had been made.

The Senate version of the bill passed 21 to 13. A slightly different House version passed 38 to 31 later Tuesday afternoon.

Sen. Dennis Schmidt, R-Rapid City, who sponsored the Senate bill, SB88, argued the sonogram requirement would simply improve “informed consent” for women.

Schmidt said sonograms are performed for a variety of procedures, not just abortions, and he said patients are routinely invited to watch. “I watched the procedure done on my wife for hip surgery and I thought, ‘This is phenomenal,'” he said. “This was great information.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture

John Quiggin: A million foreclosures

The relatively generous treatment of debtors in the US seems to illustrate, at the national level, a pattern found among US states. Pro-debtor institutions are, in political terms, a substitute for redistributive taxation.

Where credit is easy, and the consequences of non-repayment are not too drastic, households can maintain consumption for long periods even when their income is falling. So, the political resistance to pro-rich policies is much less sharp. The massive increase in income inequality in the US since 1970 has coincided with an equally massive boom in consumer credit.

The obvious question is whether this political equilibrium can survive. We’ve already seen a tightening of bankruptcy laws in the US and a big shift away from fixed-rate loans. Almost certainly, in the wake of the current debacle, lenders will act to protect themselves from jingle mail by lending lower proportions of house value and demanding additional security.

Read it all and follow all his links.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

The Bishop of Washington D.C.'s Diocesan Convention Address

A diocese engaged in the Gospel mission of Jesus Christ locally, domestically and globally must be a diocese consistently centered in corporate and private prayer. It must be a diocese that sees its parishes as being part of the whole mission of the diocese and the larger church and not just a diocese where parishes are “stand-alones” living into the concept of independent contractors and local franchises. For any parish to be an active agent of the mission and ministry of the Gospel in the 21st century, it must come to recognize that its ministry must extend beyond the local, regional and domestic environment, but must be connected to the global community as well. The diocese provides the very best and most visible way in which to do this. The Internet, satellite communications and almost instantaneous email access throughout the world makes our international neighbors as close to us as our neighbors who live in the house next door to us. We must not become a diocese or a church in isolation interested only in local parish issues.

There are a few occasions when I travel around the diocese when during a parish visit someone will say; “Bishop, we just can’t compete with the non-denominational mega churches that seem to be surrounding us on every side. We just don’t have the resources that they have.” At first glance this observation would seem correct. Non-denominational mega churches have parking lots jammed packed on Sundays, and are almost filled during the week, often with local police directing traffic. Some of these churches have seating capacities of 3000. But for a moment, don’t think parochially; think about the diocese as the church. In the Diocese of Washington if you were to see the diocese as the church and our parishes as supporting congregations, over 24,000 persons attend Episcopal services on average every Sunday. Unlike mega, non-denominational churches, we are linked together by a Common Lectionary, mostly common hymns, and the Book of Common Prayer that is the same in every congregation with very few variations. When I think of the diocese as the church and our parishes as the congregations that make up the diocese as church, then we become much larger than any mega church on any given Sunday or on any given day. In fact through the diocese, we are connected throughout the Episcopal Church nationally and with our Episcopal Church neighbors in Mexico, The Caribbean Basin, Central and South America. But, we are even larger than that, and stronger than any non-denominational community for we are partners with the 77 million member world wide Anglican Communion.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Data, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

Statement from Archbishop Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney, Metropolitan of New South Wales

I am disturbed by an attack on the musical tradition of St Andrew’s Cathedral featured in the Spectator and aired on ABC Radio recently.

No opportunity was given to respond to these remarks before they aired.

There are inaccuracies in the reports about which I will say nothing, but I am compelled to speak to correct the record and to protect the real victims of such an attack, the musicians who do a splendid job, week in and week out, in congregations across Sydney, and not least at our Cathedral, St. Andrew’s.

Under a very fine musical director, Mr. Ross Cobb, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and Kings College, London, the range of music at the Cathedral has broadened considerably in the last two years, while retaining the traditional elements many know and love.

Our choir continues as it has done for more than 100 years, backed by our excellent choir school, St. Andrew’s Cathedral School.

New musical groups and ministries have been founded including a brass quintet and a girls choir.

Jazz and contemporary music is flourishing and contemporary settings for Anglican hymns have emerged from the Cathedral ministry.

I rejoice in all these developments as they spring from hearts moved by the Gospel, showing forth in hymns and songs to our Saviour

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces

Florida Episcopal church discloses theft of up to $200,000

Between $100,000 and $200,000 has been reported stolen from the Episcopal Church of the Advent, and a former church employee is now under investigation, according to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office.

Church leadership called a last-minute meeting Wednesday night at the sanctuary at 815 Piedmont Drive to explain the situation to parishioners. About 100 of them came.

“What’s happening to us is not a killing blow,” said Al Kaempfer, chair of the church’s finance committee. “We have good, strong assets as a church.”

The loss was discovered after an audit, Kaempfer said. Some of the parishioners gasped when he told them the church’s finances hadn’t been audited since 1998.

After the church split in February 2006, it took about a year before the church’s leadership could get things back in order. The audit is one of the business practices recently implemented as part of that reorganization.

Kaempfer told the congregation how much he wanted to tell them what happened, but he can’t as long as the investigation is still open. He said it would jeopardize the church’s ability to recoup the money. He asked them not to ask questions.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

Fired Worker Sues KB Home, Countrywide

The federal lawsuit was brought by Mark Zachary, a regional vice president and manager of the Countrywide KB Home Loans division in Houston.

He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against the joint venture of mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp. and builder KB Home.

The lending practices of Countrywide Financial and other mortgage companies have come under scrutiny amid a surge in home loan defaults among borrowers with poor credit histories. On Tuesday, Countrywide reported a fourth-quarter loss of $422 million after losing $1.2 billion in 2007’s third quarter.

In the suit, Zachary contended he was given an excellent performance review last February then fired three months later after he blew the whistle on fellow employees and outlined instances in which appraisers were “being strongly encouraged to inflate homes’ appraised value by as much as 6 percent.”

That resulted in buyers owing more than their home was worth, Zachary claimed in the lawsuit filed Jan. 17 in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

Notable and Quotable

A tongue-in-cheek Web site called Bush-Clinton Forever is already proposing Jeb Bush in 2017, Chelsea Clinton in 2025, Jeb Bush’s son George P. Bush in 2033, Chelsea Clinton’s husband in 2041 and George W. Bush’s daughter Jenna Bush from 2049-2057.

Nicholas Kristof in today’s NY Times

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Students Learn the Art of Wedding Planning for College Credit

Getting married is serious business. By some estimates, it is a $160 billion a year industry. And in the last four years alone, brides and grooms-to-be have shelled out 20 percent more on every last detail: flowers, music, gifts, gowns and pictures — all to get it just right.

Weddings have become such a huge industry that George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., is offering a class in wedding planning for college credit — the first in the nation.

The class is part of the school of Recreation Health and Tourism and is taught by Maggie Daniels, a professor who used to be a wedding planner. Daniels warns that the class, like the profession, is no easy A.

“There is an enormous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to have a seamless day,” said Daniels. “And for that to happen, the timelines must be perfect, the budgets must be perfect, the communication and coordination must be perfect as well.”

Daniels literally wrote the book on wedding planning: She designed the course and co-wrote the textbook. In an industry where every detail counts, the course does not appear to leave a single topic uncovered.

On the syllabus students will find the difference between pin spotting and wash lighting and how to tell the Trumpet Voluntary from the Canon in D.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Marriage & Family

The President says his faith helped him overcome alcohol 'addiction'

President Bush is talking more openly lately about his old drinking habit, and yesterday he offered perhaps his most pointed assessment yet by saying plainly that the term “addiction” had applied to him.

“Addiction is hard to overcome. As you might remember, I drank too much at one time in my life,” Bush said during a visit to the Jericho Program, a project of Episcopal Community Services of Maryland that helps former prisoners deal with problems such as drug addiction so they can find jobs and reintegrate productively into society.

Bush spoke to reporters after meeting privately with two men who have graduated from Jericho’s program and dealt with drug problems. During that session, which the White House allowed one reporter to attend, Bush spoke frankly about himself.

“I understand addiction, and I understand how a changed heart can help you deal with addiction,” he told the two men. “There’s some kind of commonality.”

He asked Adolphus Mosely and Tom Boyd how they stopped using drugs – and then answered his own question.

“First is to recognize that there is a higher power,” Bush said. “It helped me in my life. It helped me quit drinking.”

“That’s right, there is a higher power,” Mosely said.

“Step One, right?” Bush said, referring to the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps program. Actually, it’s the second step.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Alcoholism, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Cleric Urges a Science and Religion Dialogue

Prompted by what he called the increasingly vocal hostility of some religions to science, and some scientists to religion, the president of the United Church of Christ has appealed for both groups to communicate more openly and to recognize, as he put it, that each has something to contribute to the other.

Faith is not a matter of “clinging to ancient misconceptions,” the leader, the Rev. John H. Thomas, wrote Tuesday in a letter to the church’s 1.2 million adherents, in 5,700 American congregations. “Today one of God’s most provocative voices is science.”

Read it all.

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

The Mere Anglicanism Conference Agenda

A reminder of what I will be up to for the next three days.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis

Official Sees Kenyan Ethnic Cleansing

The top American diplomat for Africa said Wednesday that some of the violence that has swept across Kenya in the past month has been ethnic cleansing intended to drive people from their homes, but that it should not be considered genocide.

Jendayi Frazer, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, who visited some of the conflict-torn areas this month, said she had met with victims of the violence who described being ordered off their land.

“If they left, they were not attacked; if they stayed beyond the deadline, they were attacked,” said Ms. Frazer, while attending an African Union meeting in Ethiopia on Wednesday. “It is a plan to push people out of the area in the Rift Valley.”

The Rift Valley, one of the most beautiful slices of Africa, has been the epicenter of Kenya’s postelection problems and is home to ethnic groups that have long felt others do not belong.

The violence, fueled by decades-old tensions over access to wealth and power, exploded on Dec. 30, after the electoral commission said the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, won an election that observers said was deeply flawed. Ethnic groups like the Kalenjin, who were supporting Kenya’s top opposition leader, Raila Odinga, burned down homes and hacked to death Kikuyus, Mr. Kibaki’s ethnic group.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Africa, Kenya

David Gibson: Defining Secularism

In the cloud of dust that passes for public rhetoric these days, few epithets can stir up passions as quickly as accusing an opponent of being a “secularist,” or some variant of the term. To middle-of-the- road folks, to embrace secularization is to be vaguely un-American, or at best irreverent. For religious conservatives, of course, it is the red flag that can send them stam peding to the ballot box, and thus it has become a favorite flourish for campaigners.

A prime example was Mitt Romney’s highly touted speech on religion in December, in which the Republican candidate sought to allay suspicions about his own Mormonism by projecting himself as a defender of faith — any faith at all, as long as it was not what he derided as “the religion of secularism.”

Romney’s blast was loud, but hardly unusual. In a commence ment address at Liberty University last May, Newt Gingrich eulogized the university’s founder, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, by lamenting “a growing culture of radical secularism” that Falwell battled to the end. “In hostility to American history,” Gingrich said, “the radical secularist insists that religious be lief is inherently divisive and that public debate can only proceed on secular terms when religious belief is excluded.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism

S&P says total losses from RMBS, CDOS for financial institutions may reach more than $265 billion

Says expects upward revision of losses from some large european banks. Expects losses in the U.S. to move to regional banks, credit unions, and FHLBS. Expects outlook changes or one-notch downgrades for selected, especially thinly capitalized banks. Says downgrades will have implications for trading revenues, general business activity, bank liquidity.

From Reuters–sounds yucky.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

From the Guardian: Sentamu stands the Pope a beer

When meeting the Pope it is customary to offer him a gift, and Benedict XVI has amassed many tokens of esteem. Tony Blair gave him a painting of the Catholic convert Cardinal Newman and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah presented him with a jewelled scimitar.

When the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, met the pontiff he gave him the Holy Grail, a beer brewed in Masham, North Yorkshire.

It was the highlight of the archbishop’s first trip to Rome to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and to cement cordial relations between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, - Anglican: Latest News, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic