Daily Archives: April 24, 2008

New home sales plunge to lowest level in 16 1/2 years

Sales of new homes plunged in March to the lowest level in 16 1/2 years as housing slumped further at the start of the spring sales season.
The median price of a new home in March, compared with a year ago, fell by the largest amount in nearly four decades.

The median price of a new home in March, compared with a year ago, fell by the largest amount in nearly four decades.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that sales of new homes dropped by 8.5 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 526,000 units, the slowest sales pace since October 1991.

Read the whole article.

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

North Korea ”˜helped Syria build N-plant’

North Korea helped Syria construct a nuclear reactor that was ”within weeks of completion” when Israel destroyed the facility in September, according to a senior US official.

For months, the White House has maintained a shroud of secrecy around the September 6 Israeli strike on the facility, which Syria codenamed “al-Kibar”. The Central Intelligence Agency will on Thursday brief about 200 members of Congress on the mysterious incident.

The US official told the Financial Times that North Korea started discussing ways to help Syria build a nuclear reactor in 1997. He said US intelligence believed construction work began in 2003.

The presentations to Congress would provide an ”eye popping, comprehensive briefing that will demonstrate how close Syria came to having a nuclear weapons making capability,” the official added.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces

Church Group Urges Prayer for Lower Gas Prices

Lawmakers in the nation’s capital may be wringing their hands about record high gasoline prices. Others are putting their hands together ”” praying for help from a higher authority. Volunteers from a Washington, D.C., church soup kitchen launch a movement called Pray at the Pump.

Check it out from NPR.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Religion & Culture

Michael Novak interviewed about the Pope's Visit to America

Q: The Holy Father, with the heart of a teacher, addressed Catholic college and university presidents. What did you think of his address to them?

Novak: A Catholic college president judged the Pope’s talk to be a very good mixture of the encouragement, “You are doing a lot of good,” and of quiet, indirect accusation: “Look, you have to take the faith seriously.” The Pope seemed to be saying: If you are a Catholic school, then your first task is to provide for all who live and study there an experience of the living God. You have to live up to what “Catholic” means.

The Pope has a quite wonderful teaching method. He speaks the harsh truth, and then turns you in a hopeful direction. Which really is the whole meaning of Christianity, to take evil and transform it into good.

The Pope used this method with the university presidents, saying roughly: “There are some bad things to call attention to, and we have to do better than that. Meanwhile, I want to encourage you and strengthen you because what you are doing — in your more than 200 Catholic universities — is unparalleled in the world, and you do so many things well. Be encouraged, be hopeful.”

Read it all and part two is there.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York issue joint statement on Zimbabwe

We join in particular the call from the heads of Christian denominations in Zimbabwe and our brother Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, for the government of South Africa, the SADC region and the United Nations to act effectively. There must be an immediate arms embargo and any ships carrying arms must be recalled.

A year ago we committed ourselves, with the Anglican Archbishop of the province, to work with the bishops of Zimbabwe to support those who spoke on behalf of the poor and marginalised in that country and to denounce those that would not leave ministers of the gospel free to serve them. As we have just heard one bishop say, “It is Zimbabweans who are suffering at the hands of Zimbabweans. The political parties must protect the people who are voting.”

The current climate of political intimidation, violence, vote rigging and delay has left the presidential election process without credibility. Now the people of Zimbabwe are left even more vulnerable to conflict heaped upon poverty and the threat of national disintegration. It is therefore crucial that the international community act in support of regional efforts to bring a mediated settlement to this political crisis so that the social and economic and spiritual crisis of the country can be addressed. We commend the efforts of governments and agencies actively seeking to end the crisis and pray that those whose efforts have seemed lacklustre to renew their commitment as fellow Christians, Africans and members of the human family and international community.

Churches across England have been praying for Zimbabwe before, during and after the polls. Agencies and dioceses from the UK have worked ably to support partners and parishes. We join with those now calling for an international day of prayer for Zimbabwe this Sunday (April 28) as part of a search for increased solidarity and justice for the people of Zimbabwe at home and in the UK. Ecumenically, and as part of a broad based coalition, we must work to build a civil society movement that both creates political will and gives voice to those who demand an end to the mayhem that grows out of injustice, poverty, exclusion and violence.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Zimbabwe

Gene Robinson Interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air

[TERRY] GROSS: Now, you use the expression that you were doing this on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, and you refer to that as a] group, you know, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, throughout your new book, “In the Eye of the Storm.” And in a way, a lot of people probably think you’re making your case even more difficult by including transgendered people, because even a lot of people who accept homosexuality would draw the line at transgendered. That would just be too much for them. And so I think it’s interesting that you’ve been inclusive of them, too, in your statements about sexual orientation and gender. And I’d like you to explain why.

Bishop ROBINSON: You know, in Jesus’ day, people would’ve made the argument that, `Well, you know, all of this is nice words, Jesus, but, you know, we have to draw the line at lepers.’ Or, `You know, I really like the way you deal with everyone, and you’re so kind, but, you know, we just have to draw the line at prostitutes.’ Jesus was always in trouble for including everyone in God’s love. And he spent most of his time with people at the margins, people who were oppressed, people who had been told for countless generations that they were not loved by God. And almost everything he did was related to bringing that good news to them, which, by the way, didn’t sound like good news to the religious authorities of his time, but it did sound good to those who were marginalized.

I’m doing everything I can to model my own life after that of Jesus, which I believe we as Christians are called to do. And the fact of the matter is that gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are among those who have been marginalized, both in the culture and in the church. You know, we’ve got a lot further to go, frankly, around issues of bisexuality and transgender folks simply because they are less known to us. And so I’m not willing to jettison those two more perhaps controversial, or certainly less known, categories of people just because it would keep me out of trouble. Jesus was always getting into trouble. He said, `Expect to get into trouble if you follow me,’ and so I think I’m in pretty good company.

GROSS: Now, you point out in your book that many of the moral issues we face today involve sexuality, including abortion, fertility therapies, alternate measures of reproduction, the role of women and men, divorce. You know, I’m really curious, I don’t think I have a clue where you stand on abortion. And I’m really curious to hear how you’ve decided where you stand on that, like, how you use your theological knowledge and thinking to answer that question for yourself. And again, I have no idea what your answer’s going to be.

Bishop ROBINSON: I like to say that the Episcopal Church is advanced placement religion. That is to say, it’s a religion that values our minds and encourages us to use them, and it values individual choice and discernment. And the official stance of the Episcopal Church, which is really what I believe, asks us to hold in tension two truths and then make a decision somewhere in between. One of those truths is that all life is sacred. We may not know exactly when it begins, but we know that all of life is sacred and cherished by God. And on the other side, that such a decision ought to rest with the individual and that there are many, many factors that relate to that, how one would care for a child and what kind of resources there are to offer that child the kind of life he or she might deserve. So we say both of those things are true and consider both of them. Talk to your priest about those. Pray about it. And then make a choice.

And so the Episcopal Church has always stood for the legal right for women to choose, that government should not be dictating how they choose, and at the same time hold up this notion of life as sacred. And then, as we do with so many ethical decisions, we make our choice in fear and trembling, trusting in a loving God. And if we get it wrong, you know, that’s the great thing about being forgiven; we’re already forgiven in the ways that we fall short.

Listen to the whole show.

I will consider posting comments on this interview submitted first by email to Kendall’s E-mail: KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts

Thai rice hits new record, feeding food fears

Rice prices in Thailand, the world’s top exporter, surged to $1,000 a tonne on Thursday, feeding concerns about food security as far as the United States after export curbs by governments worldwide.

The surging price of food and fuel has sparked riots in Africa and Haiti and raised fears that millions of the world’s poor will struggle to feed themselves. Some analysts, however, attribute much of the surge to panic buying by both consumers and governments rather than a dire shortage of supply.

After this week’s over five percent jump rice prices stand nearly three times higher than the start of the year. With no sign of the rally relenting, as traders expect more buyers to come into the market, government anxiety about social unrest from the soaring cost of Asia’s staple will deepen.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization

Public schools face funding crisis

Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Education, Housing/Real Estate Market

Facing Foreclosure, One Home at a Time

Avery Salkey’s four-bedroom house in Royal Palm Beach, Fla., is still so new that the appliances gleam as bright as the day she moved in four years ago. But she’s not sure how much longer she’ll live there. Salkey has been facing foreclosure for months now and is desperately looking for a way to save her home ”” so far, without success.

Her story is an extreme version of one that’s happening to millions of people across the country.

It’s a story that began full of hope ”” a single mom who, with the help of her family, had moved from the Bronx in New York to make a fresh start. She made a substantial down payment on the house in Florida and got a great fixed interest rate of 5.3 percent. She closed on the house in 2003 and moved in 2004.

Her monthly payments were affordable. The mortgage, along with tax and insurance, cost a little more than $1,500 a month.

“I thought that was pretty good,” Salkey says.

But a series of bad decisions soon got her in trouble.

Read or listen to it all.

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

At Expense of All Others, Putin Picks a Church

It was not long after a Methodist church put down roots here that the troubles began.

First came visits from agents of the F.S.B., a successor to the K.G.B., who evidently saw a threat in a few dozen searching souls who liked to huddle in cramped apartments to read the Bible and, perhaps, drink a little tea. Local officials then labeled the church a “sect.” Finally, last month, they shut it down.

There was a time after the fall of Communism when small Protestant congregations blossomed here in southwestern Russia, when a church was almost as easy to set up as a general store. Today, this industrial region has become emblematic of the suppression of religious freedom under President Vladimir V. Putin.

Just as the government has tightened control over political life, so, too, has it intruded in matters of faith. The Kremlin’s surrogates in many areas have turned the Russian Orthodox Church into a de facto official religion, warding off other Christian denominations that seem to offer the most significant competition for worshipers. They have all but banned proselytizing by Protestants and discouraged Protestant worship through a variety of harassing measures, according to dozens of interviews with government officials and religious leaders across Russia.

This close alliance between the government and the Russian Orthodox Church has become a defining characteristic of Mr. Putin’s tenure, a mutually reinforcing choreography that is usually described here as working “in symphony.”

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Russia

CBS Estimate Shows Clinton Gains 9 Net Delegates Via Penna. Win

Check it out.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Zimbabwe: Growing Pressure for Arms Embargo

There is growing regional and international pressure for an arms embargo to be placed on Zimbabwe, until a legitimate government is in place. This is mainly because of the Chinese arms ship that was turned away from South Africa last week.

A High Court order sought by pressure groups in Durban barred its transit overland to Zimbabwe, while trade unions in the region urged their members to refuse to unload it. Campaigners are arguing that presidential election results have still not been announced 25 days after the elections and as such any arms shipments are likely to be used for internal repression.

On Wednesday the new Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, called on the United Nations Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Zimbabwe.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Anglican Provinces, Zimbabwe

Sunday Times: Religion is ”˜the new social evil’

A CHARITY set up by an ardent Christian to fight slavery and the opium trade has identified a new social evil of the 21st century – religion.

A poll by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation uncovered a widespread belief that faith – not just in its extreme form – was intolerant, irrational and used to justify persecution.

Pollsters asked 3,500 people what they considered to be the worst blights on modern society, updating a list drawn up by Rowntree, a Quaker, 104 years ago.

The responses may well have dismayed him. The researchers found that the “dominant opinion” was that religion was a “social evil”.

Many participants said religion divided society, fuelled intolerance and spawned “irrational” educational and other policies.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Religion & Culture

Father John Bartunek: Benedict’s Secret

Two things stand out from the Pope’s visit. First, his power of attraction. From the welcoming ceremony at the White House to the Youth Rally in New York, Benedict XVI drew tremendous, overflowing crowds. And their size was matched by their enthusiasm.

The thousands of priests and religious who gathered with him in St. Patrick’s Cathedral gushed with three separate standing ovations and deafening applause that went on, and on, and on. The U.N. General Assembly gave him a standing ovation. The 20,000 young people who squeezed onto the rally lawn at Dunwoodie cheered so loudly and so often that the elderly Pope spent more time grinning than talking.

How to explain such power of attraction?

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Arranged marriage gets high-tech twist

When it was time for Sabiha Ansari to get married, her parents flew her to India. She met her husband-to-be for less than 20 minutes, with family, then was asked whether she liked him.

“That was really hard for me,” she says. “I kind of wanted to have some time alone with him to talk to him, or even on the phone.”

But she said yes, and they were married five days later. That was in 1991.

Things were different for Sabiha’s younger sister, Huma Ansari, in 2005.

“Sometimes it feels weird for me to even call it an arranged marriage because I feel like I got to know my husband pretty well,” says the 27-year-old Richmond, Virginia, optometrist.

She and her husband, Saud Rahman, 29, a medical resident, were introduced through family friends at a casual dinner, then e-mailed and called each other for several months. They married a year later.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Marriage & Family