Daily Archives: April 2, 2008

Elite Colleges Reporting Record Lows in Admission

The already crazed competition for admission to the nation’s most prestigious universities and colleges became even more intense this year, with many logging record low acceptance rates.

Harvard College, for example, offered admission to only 7.1 percent of the 27,462 high school seniors who applied ”” or, put another way, it rejected 93 of every 100 applicants, many with extraordinary achievements, like a perfect score on one of the SAT exams. Yale College accepted 8.3 percent of its 22,813 applicants. Both rates were records.

Columbia College admitted 8.7 percent of its applicants, Brown University and Dartmouth College 13 percent, and Bowdoin College and Georgetown University 18 percent ”” also records.

“We love the people we admitted, but we also love a very large number of the people who we were not able to admit,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard College.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education

Student Sues Wisconsin School After Getting a Zero for Religious Drawing

A Tomah High School student has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his art teacher censored his drawing because it featured a cross and a biblical reference.

The lawsuit alleges other students were allowed to draw “demonic” images and asks a judge to declare a class policy prohibiting religion in art unconstitutional.

“We hear so much today about tolerance,” said David Cortman, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal advocacy group representing the student. “But where is the tolerance for religious beliefs? The whole purpose of art is to reflect your own personal experience. To tell a student his religious beliefs can legally be censored sends the wrong message.”

Tomah School District Business Manager Greg Gaarder said the district hadn’t seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.

Read it all.

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

Centers Tap Into Personal Databases

Intelligence centers run by states across the country have access to personal information about millions of Americans, including unlisted cellphone numbers, insurance claims, driver’s license photographs and credit reports, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post.

One center also has access to top-secret data systems at the CIA, the document shows, though it’s not clear what information those systems contain.

Dozens of the organizations known as fusion centers were created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to identify potential threats and improve the way information is shared. The centers use law enforcement analysts and sophisticated computer systems to compile, or fuse, disparate tips and clues and pass along the refined information to other agencies. They are expected to play important roles in national information-sharing networks that link local, state and federal authorities and enable them to automatically sift their storehouses of records for patterns and clues.

Though officials have publicly discussed the fusion centers’ importance to national security, they have generally declined to elaborate on the centers’ activities. But a document that lists resources used by the fusion centers shows how a dozen of the organizations in the northeastern United States rely far more on access to commercial and government databases than had previously been disclosed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

Bishop Tom Breidenthal: Despite church's closing, Episcopal mission will continue in Avondale

The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio is embarked on a new venture in Avondale, and I want to enlist the wisdom and the support of the community as we move forward. We intend to develop a ministry center on the site of historic St. Michael & All Angels Church, 3626 Reading Road. This center will preserve and revitalize the beautiful landmark church, while extending established ministries and developing new ones in the surrounding neighborhood.

As some know, the parish of St. Michael & All Angels has been closed, owing to dwindling numbers. This is understandably a sad time for those who are losing their accustomed weekly gathering for worship in a place they love. But this is not the whole story. The Episcopal Church is not leaving Avondale. On the contrary, we are convinced that now, more than ever, we are called to stand with those who seek peace and justice and the possibility of common life in the inner city. God has provided us in St. Michael’s with a strategic location for such a ministry, and we intend to move forward as quickly as possible to make this a reality.

I know there are Episcopal parishes in Cincinnati who stand ready to pledge financial and personal resources to create an effective urban mission at St. Michael’s. I dream of a powerful ministry to children in Avondale – providing a space on St. Michael’s ample property for tutoring, athletics and after-school events. A focus on children would make great sense, given the proximity of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

LA Times: A look inside Al Qaeda

If Al Qaeda strikes the West in the coming months, it’s likely the mastermind will be a stocky Egyptian explosives expert with two missing fingers.

His alias is Abu Ubaida al Masri. Hardly anyone has heard of him outside a select circle of anti-terrorism officials and Islamic militants. But as chief of external operations for Al Qaeda, investigators say, he has one of the most dangerous — and endangered — jobs in international terrorism.

He has overseen the major plots that the network needs to stay viable, investigators say: the London transportation bombings in 2005, a foiled transatlantic “spectacular” aimed at U.S.-bound planes in 2006, and an aborted plot in this serene Scandinavian capital last fall.

But pursuers have captured or killed his predecessors and have been gunning for him. He prowls Pakistani badlands one step ahead of satellites and security forces.

Although periodic reports of his death have proved false, rumors resurfaced after recent American airstrikes. Asked whether Masri is alive, a Western anti-terrorism official said, “It’s a question mark.”

Masri himself can be described that way. Authorities know only bits and pieces of his biography. They know his face, having identified an unreleased photo, but not his real name.

“He is considered capable and dangerous,” said a British official, who like others in this report declined to be identified. “He is not at the very top of Al Qaeda, but has been part of the core circle for a long time. He is someone who has emerged and grabbed our attention as others were caught or eliminated in the last couple of years. Perhaps he rose faster than he would have otherwise.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Terrorism

From NPR: Iraq Wounds Leave Minnesota Family Divided

Just hours from now, Ngo and Cerghizan will drive far away from Minnesota. They’re moving to Texas, to the town where Ngo was stationed in the Army. They’ll leave behind all the doctors, therapists, friends and family they’ve counted on.

“It’s a real big step in my life ”” moving,” Ngo says. “And a really big step in a relationship, ’cause we’re both going down there just by ourselves and it’s just gonna be us.”

Friends and family are here to help them pack up, but there’s one person missing ”” Ngo’s mother. She had been at his side throughout his injury. She hurried to the Army hospital in Germany and saw him with his head swollen grotesquely. She didn’t know if her only child would live or die. Then, at Walter Reed, she’d sit by his hospital bed and hold his hand till he fell asleep at night. And she would sneak back into his room early the next morning to hold his hand when he woke up.

Ngo and his mother don’t talk to each other anymore.

“She’s got to apologize to me and Ani before any contact will happen,” Ngo says.

A haunting reminder of the personal and emotional cost of the war. Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

Baltimore Sun: From the altar, a vow of protest until Maryland allows same-sex marriage

Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton was always vexed by the notion that despite the country’s traditional separation of church and state, Maryland gave her – a religious leader – the power to change people’s legal status by signing their marriage licenses. At the same time, the Reconstructionist rabbi from Baltimore was troubled by the state’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Finally, after contending with her conflicted feelings for years, she decided she had had enough: She told couples she would happily conduct religious wedding ceremonies, but to find someone else to sign their civil documents.

The legalization of same-sex marriage in 2004 in Massachusetts – the only state where such unions are legal – was the tipping point for her. “The incongruity of that not being possible here was heightened. It was the last straw. I finally was able to say with clarity: ‘I really cannot do this anymore,'” said Bolton, the rabbi at Congregation Beit Tikvah.

Bolton has joined a small but growing band of clergy who have decided that they won’t sign any marriage licenses as agents of the state until it allows gays and lesbians to marry. Some rabbis and ministers in states including Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan and Connecticut have told their congregants that when it comes to weddings they are in the business of religious ceremonies – only – and they have redirected couples to the local courthouse for the paperwork.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Al Mohler: Marriage and the Glory of God

That familiar language from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, recited thousands of times each week in various forms, presents a vision of marriage as a deeply Christian institution–even a necessary portrait of the love that unites Christ and His church. As marriage signifies this “mystical union,” it points to an understanding that takes us far beyond the relationship of the husband and wife. Do most Christians have even the slightest understanding of this?

It is bad enough that the secular world has discounted marriage into a quasi-legal contract that, like other voluntary contracts, can be made or broken at will. The greater tragedy is the failure of Christians to take marriage seriously. According to the Bible, marriage is not only designed by the Creator as an arena for human happiness and the continuation of the human race–it is also the arena of God’s glory, where the delights and disciplines of marriage point to the purpose for which human beings were made.

Marriage is about our happiness, our holiness, and our wholeness–but it is supremely about the glory of God. When marriage is entered into rightly, when marriage vows are kept with purity, when all the goods of marriage are enjoyed in their proper place–God is glorified.

Our chief end is to glorify God–and marriage is a means of His greater glory. As sinners, we are all too concerned with our own pleasures, our own fulfillments, our own priorities, our own conception of marriage as a domestic arrangement. The ultimate purpose of marriage is the greater glory of God–and God is most greatly glorified when His gifts are rightly celebrated and received, and His covenants are rightly honored and pledged.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Marriage & Family

Roger Cohen: The baton passes to Asia

It’s the end of the era of the white man.

I know your head is spinning. The world can feel like one of those split-screen TVs with images of a suicide bombing in Baghdad flashing, and the latest awful market news coursing along the bottom, and an ad for some stool-loosening wonder drug squeezed into a corner.

The jumble makes no sense. It just goes on, like the mindless clacking of an ice dispenser.

On the globalized treadmill, you drop your eyes again from the screen (now showing ads for gourmet canine cuisine) to the New Yorker or Asahi Shimbun. And another bomb goes off.

There’s a lot of noise and not much signal. Everywhere there is flux and the reaction to it: the quest, sometimes violent, for national or religious identity. These alternate faces of globalization – fluidity and tribalism – define our frontier-dissolving world.

But in all the movement back and forth, basic things shift. The world exists in what Paul Saffo, a forecaster at Stanford University, calls “punctuated equilibrium.” Every now and again, an ice cap the size of Rhode Island breaks off.

The breaking sound right now is that of the end of the era of the white man.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Globalization

The IRS sends an Air Conditioner to a Couple in Arizona

Like most clergy I know, I married up; my wife is taller and a much brighter light than I am. Last night she comes home and says: “Did you know the IRS sometimes sends people products instead of checks when they want to?” I said: “I’m sorry-what?”

She then described this story to me. I will not spoil it for you. You really must read–or better yet listen–to it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General

A repost of Peter Marshall on Easter

(A bunch of people missed this and I wanted to make sure it is seen in the easter season–KSH).

This is the real meaning of Easter…

No tabloid will ever print the startling news that the mummified body of Jesus of Nazareth has been discovered in old Jerusalem. Christians have no carefully embalmed body enclosed in a glass case to worship. Thank God, we have an empty tomb.

The glorious fact that the empty tomb proclaims to us is that life for us does not stop when death comes. Death is not a wall, but a door. And eternal life which may be ours now, by faith in Christ, is not interrupted when the soul leaves the body, for we live on…and on.

There is no death to those who have entered into fellowship with him who emerged from the tomb. Because the resurrection is true it is the most significant thing in our world today. Bringing the resurrected Christ into our lives, individual and national, is the only hope we have for making a better world.

“Because I live ye shall live also.”

That is the real meaning of Easter.

–Peter Marshall (1902-1949), The First Easter

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter

Bishop Cox Demands Correction of Deposition Announcement

An attorney representing Bishop William J. Cox has accused Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of defaming the bishop, and has demanded that she publish a correction of her announcement concerning his deposition.

In a letter dated March 27, Wicks Stephens, a lawyer representing Bishop Cox, said that since the deposition failed to achieve the canonically required majority of “the whole number of bishops entitled to vote,” the deposition is “without effect and void.” The Presiding Bishop has previously been made aware of the canonical deficiencies in the vote deposing Bishop Cox, the retired Bishop Suffragan of Maryland and assisting bishop in Oklahoma. Therefore, Mr. Stephens said she may be guilty of defamation if she continues to make public statements to the contrary about his client.

“In light of the foregoing, demand is hereby made that you right the wrong by which you have defamed Bishop Cox by immediately withdrawing your pronouncement of deposition and that you publish your withdrawal in the same manner and to the same extent you have published your wrongful actions,” Mr. Stephens wrote.

I want to be quite clear on this point. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that the canons were not followed in the deposition of Bishop Cox. Efforts of some to try to wriggle out of it, or to pretend that there “might” be something there and that is all, or that this is somehow straining at gnats, or any other such embarrassing chicanery and casuistry simply will not do. The absence of shame and outrage from those who claim to care about justice and about polity and the importance of the canons in this matter reveals a glaring double standard for all the world to see. A number of prominent people in the Episcopal Church, by their sophistry or their silence, are robbing themselves of any credibility whatsoever to speak for “justice” in the future until and unless they speak out clearly and boldly and see that this uncanonical action be corrected. The fact that it is pastorally cruel, and that there were other possible avenues to pursue, only adds to the sad spectacle that this represents.

Read it all–KSH.

[i] From the elves: This thread was thrown off topic and a number of comments have been deleted. [/i]

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Polity & Canons

A. S. Haley: Five Violations of the Same Canon by the Presiding Bishop

I have to interrupt my planned sequence of posts to deal with recent events. They have become too outrageous to ignore.

Let us begin to catalog here the manifold abuses by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. For having occupied her office for such a short time, it is truly a remarkable record—and this post will deal with her violations in just one case!

Read it all.

[i] From the elves: This thread was thrown off topic and a number of comments have been deleted. [/i]

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin, TEC Polity & Canons

Wired Magazine: 10 Best April Fools' Gags

A lot of fun.

Posted in * General Interest, Humor / Trivia

Child's death tests Oregon law on faith healing

An Oregon City couple who tried to heal their dying daughter with prayer walked hand-in-hand into a crowded Clackamas County courtroom Monday and pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment.

Carl Brent Worthington, 28, and Raylene Marie Worthington, 25, are the first parents prosecuted since Oregon cracked down on faith-healing deaths nine years ago, according to legislators and legal experts. If convicted, they could spend more than six years in prison.

National advocates for religious freedom and child welfare have been following the Worthington case, and reporters shadowed the defendants from the moment they arrived Monday at the Clackamas County courthouse, flanked by attorneys.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture