Daily Archives: April 27, 2008

Recession Diet Just One Way to Tighten Belt

Stung by rising gasoline and food prices, Americans are finding creative ways to cut costs on routine items like groceries and clothing, forcing retailers, restaurants and manufacturers to decode the tastes of a suddenly thrifty public.

Spending data and interviews around the country show that middle- and working-class consumers are starting to switch from name brands to cheaper alternatives, to eat in instead of dining out and to fly at unusual hours to shave dollars off airfares.

Though seemingly small, the daily trade-offs they are making ”” more pasta and less red meat, more video rentals and fewer movie tickets ”” amount to an important shift in consumer behavior.

In Ohio, Holly Levitsky is replacing the Lucky Charms cereal in her kitchen with Millville Marshmallows and Stars, a less expensive store brand. In New Hampshire, George Goulet is no longer booking hotel rooms at the Hilton, favoring the lower-cost Hampton Inn. And in Michigan, Jennifer Olden is buying Gain laundry detergent instead of the full-price Tide.

Behind the belt-tightening ”” and brand-swapping ”” is the collision of several economic forces that are pinching people’s budgets or, at least, leaving them in lit-tle mood to splurge.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Youngest Anglican bishop consecrated in York

THE Church of England’s youngest bishop assumed his new role when he was consecrated in York Minster.

The Right Rev Mark Davies has been appointed to the landmark post at the age of just 45 and became the new Suffragan, or assistant, Bishop of Middleton in the Diocese of Manchester during a ceremony overseen by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

Dr Sentamu also consecrated his own chaplain, the Right Rev Robert Paterson, who now becomes the new Bishop of Sodor and Man based on the Isle of Man. He succeeds the Right Rev Graeme Knowles.

A third clergyman, the Right Rev Chris Edmondson, was consecrated during the ceremony on Friday as the new Suffragan Bishop of Bolton, succeeding the Right Rev David Gillett.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

Vancouver Sun: Top evangelical theologian leaves Anglican Church of Canada

For his part, Packer described the blessings that many of Canada’s Anglican bishops’ are willing to give to active gays and lesbians, as well as the bishops’ openness to diverse ways of interpreting the Bible, as “persistent unrepentant doctrinal disorder.”

The author of the 1973 book, Knowing God, which alone has sold more than three million copies, said it is “utterly tragic” that some conservative Anglicans felt they had no option but to leave the Anglican Church of Canada.

Asking himself why God would allow “poisonous liberalism” and its views of God and homosexuality to grow and flourish in Europe and North America, Packer said it must be so the West would eventually realize how dangerous such ideas are — “so the poison will be fully squeezed out.”

Packer maintained it is top leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada, not he and more than 2,000 fellow conservatives in the Anglican Network in Canada, who have changed their interpretation of Christianity since he moved from Britain to Canada more than 29 years ago to teach at Vancouver’s Regent College.

“I’m simply being an old-fashioned mainstream Anglican,” Packer said.

The Bible teaches, he said, that people who feel erotic attractions to people of the same gender “are called by God to remain chaste,” avoiding sexual relationships.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

A God Gap for Obama?

The God Gap may turning against Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries.

Buried within the exit polls from Pennsylvania are some signs that Obama’s appeal may worsening with culturally conservative regular churchgoers.

That may not be too surprising given the controversies Obama encountered in the six-week run-up to the primary. Despite Obama’s later explanations, his comments at a San Francisco fundraiser that “bitter” small-town Americans “cling to” guns and religion are hardly likely to have endeared him to small-town churchgoers.

That followed circulation of a well-publicized video highlights reel of his former pastor’s incendiary sermons, including one in which the Rev. Jeremiah Wright declares blacks should sing “God Damn America” instead of “God Bless America.” Not only Wright’s comments but the African-style garb that the pastor is shown wearing every time the video clip is rerun no doubt feeds a suspicion that Obama’s outlook on life is far removed from the moral certitudes of religious traditionalists.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

Self-Styled Cyborg Dreams of Outwitting Superintelligent Machines

As Kevin Warwick gently squeezed his hand into a fist one day in 2002, a robotic hand came to life 3,400 miles away and mimicked the gesture. The University of Reading cybernetics professor had successfully wired the nerves of his forearm to a computer in New York City’s Columbia University and networked them to a robotic system back in his Reading, England, lab. “My body was effectively extended over the Internet,” Warwick says.

It’s a far cry from his vision of transforming humanity into a race of half-machine cyborgs able to commune with the digital world””there is no spoon, Neo””but such an evolution is necessary, says 54-year-old Warwick. Those who don’t avail themselves of subcutaneous microchips and other implanted technology, he predicts, will be at a serious disadvantage in tomorrow’s world, because they won’t be able to communicate with the “superintelligent machines” sure to be occupying the highest rungs of society, as he explains in a 2003 documentary, Building Gods, which is circulating online.

Something of a self-promoter, Warwick, or “Captain Cyborg” as a U.K. newspaper once dubbed him, has appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and other shows on the TV talk circuit to tout his work. In his 2004 book, I, Cyborg, he describes his research as “the extraordinary story of my adventure as the first human entering into a cyber world.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology

The Holy See Changes Its Perspective on Development

It must be clear that development is not only about the growth of the economy in general; it is about the development of the human being with his/her capabilities and relationships with intermediary social groups (family, social, political, cultural groups etc.) within which he/she lives. This requires a change in perspective that recognises peoples as united by a common factor, their humanity being created with the imprint of the common God creator. Only by starting from this premise can we aim, within pluralist institutions, toward the achievement of the common good, which needs to be the primary objective of any society. The common good is neither an abstract goal nor a simple list of targets. It is simply the realisation of the primary needs of the person: the need of truth, love, and justice. These needs cannot be completely fulfilled but, by nature, the human being tends to support the tension of aiming toward their fulfilment.

As the world’s bishops stated in the Vatican II Council document, “Gaudium et Spes”: “Because of the increasingly close interdependence which is gradually extending to the entire world, we are today witnessing an extension of the role of the common good, which is the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily. The resulting rights and obligations are consequently the concern of the entire human race. Every group must take into account the needs and legitimate aspirations of every other group, and even those of the human family as a whole” (n. 26).

This is the essence of development, and it is something that concerns every person, rich and poor, because every man is always in development. In fact, development is not a target to reach; it is rather a path to follow: we can say that there is true development when persons are put in a position to follow their most important desires and needs. Following this premise, it is clear that the tension toward the common good finds its fulfilment within the relationships that human beings establish among each other. The common good, therefore, is fulfilled within belonging, within a people. As stated by His Holiness John Paul II: “Man, in keeping with the openness of his spirit within and also with the many diverse needs of his body and his existence in time, writes this personal history of his through numerous bonds, contacts, situations, and social structures linking him with other men, beginning to do so from the first moment of his existence on earth, from the moment of his conception and birth” (Redemptor Hominis, n. 14).

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Politics in General, Roman Catholic, Theology

Holy See: Biofuels Shouldn't Block Right to Food

The Holy See is asking for measures to keep the production of biofuels from bringing about increased food prices to the point of threatening starvation in many countries.

Monsignor Renato Volante, the permanent observer of the Holy See at the Rome-based U.N. Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO), participated in the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, which was held in Brasilia, Brazil, April 17-18.

Monsignor Volante proposed that the production of biofuels should not bring about a decrease in the production of agricultural products destined for the food market.

Biofuels are energy sources produced from a variety of different plants or plant products. Many developed countries have begun subsidizing the production of biofuels, which has resulted in decreased production of typical plant foods.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged today a coordinated effort to face the steeply rising price of food, which he said has developed into a “real global crisis.” He said some 100 million of the world’s poor now need aid to be able to buy food. Riots have broken out in some countries, such as Haiti, over the increased prices.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Climate Change, Weather, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Other Churches, Poverty, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

Episcopal Diocese of Ohio Seeks Property Clarification from Court

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Ohio

Obama ex-pastor says was unfairly painted a fanatic

Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, said in excerpts from an interview released on Thursday that people airing snippets of his fiery sermons were trying to paint him as “some sort of fanatic.”

Wright, who has kept a low profile since repeated televised airings last month of segments of his sermons, is semi-retired from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, a church the Democratic presidential candidate joined 20 years ago.

In grainy video of sermons he delivered years ago, Wright is seen calling the September 11 attacks retribution for U.S. policies and condemning America’s failings on race.

At one point he shouts to his congregation, “God Bless America? No, God damn America.”

“The persons who have heard the entire sermon understand the communication perfectly,” he told PBS’ Bill Moyers in the interview to be broadcast on Friday.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Interview with Radio 4 'Today' programme on credit, debt & inequality

JH: What is the effect of this being, going on, continuing unchecked?

ABC: Well certainly among the poorest the effect is the erosion of family life, the erosion of self confidence. There is still a stigma about debt even though it is taken for granted in so many quarters but the stigma means people don’t want to talk about it, they don’t necessarily want to go and get the best advice about it and for young people particularly it does become crippling, especially for children.

JH: And do you think that, putting aside that aspect of it, do you think when we see people becoming in the words of another former government minister, ‘filthy rich’, our attitude is, ‘I want a bit of that myself’ and therefore a good thing for society which is what America has until very recently appeared to believe, or do you think the opposite effect?

ABC: I think it is a bit of both isn’t it. I think there’s a degree of envy and cynicism that’s bred by disproportion and that leads people to feel even more alienated from the rest of society ”“ that the gulf is even greater between themselves, between people who can’t manage there own affairs – can’t take control of their own affairs/ circumstances – and these others. So there may be an element of I’d like some of that but here is also an element of what kind of society is this? Why should I trust this system when it rewards some people so disproportionately in a way that doesn’t connect at all where I am?

JH: So you are simply saying that the government and the politicians are more relaxed about that than you are and that you are taking…?

ABC: They seem to be. I wouldn’t mind if they were a little more worried.

JH: And in what sense? Exemplified how?

ABC: I don’t want to go into the details of how regulation of high salaries might be achieved because my primary concern today is simply with the poorest end of the spectrum where I think more can be done, more rapidly and in a more focused way.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Archbishop of Canterbury, Economy, Globalization, Poverty

An ABC Nightline Story on Growing up Scientologist

Painful but important viewing.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Faiths

Program gives WWII Veterans a flight to their past

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Military / Armed Forces

The Living Church: San Joaquin Incorporation Likely Faces Court Test

The Rev. Canon William Gandenberger, canon to the ordinary for the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, said the legal filing by representatives from the newly constituted Episcopal diocese was not unexpected.

“I have been in contact with our chancellor and we are prepared to respond,” Canon Gandenberger said. “We have numerous options and we are looking at all of them carefully.” No decision has been made at this time, he added, noting that the diocese is currently preoccupied with preparations to welcome Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables. As primate of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, Bishop Venables claims primatial oversight of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin and has welcomed Bishop Schofield as a full member of that province’s House of Bishops.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

A Top U.S. military officer assails Iran's role in Iraq

The government of Iran continues to supply weapons and other support to extremists in Iraq, despite repeated promises to the contrary, and is increasingly complicit in the death of U.S. soldiers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday in a stark new assessment of Iranian influence.

The chairman, Admiral Michael Mullen, said he was “extremely concerned” about “the increasingly lethal and malign influence” by the government of Iran and the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, a special force that aids and encourages Islamic militants around the world. The Quds Forces in Iran were created during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and report directly to the leadership of Iran’s theocratic government.

Pentagon concerns about Iranian influence in neighboring Iraq is nothing new, but the content and tone of Mullen’s remarks left the impression that far from abating, the worries about Iran have intensified in recent months.

“The Iranian government pledged to halt such activities some months ago,” Mullen said. “It’s plainly obvious they have not. Indeed, they seem to have gone the other way.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Iran, Iraq War, Middle East

Dana Gioia: Can Poetry Matter?

There are at least two reasons why the situation of poetry matters to the entire intellectual community. The first involves the role of language in a free society. Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning. A society whose intellectual leaders lose the skill to shape, appreciate, and understand the power of language will become the slaves of those who retain it–be they politicians, preachers, copywriters, or newscasters. The public responsibility of poetry has been pointed out repeatedly by modern writers. Even the archsymbolist Stephane Mallarme praised the poet’s central mission to “purify the words of the tribe.” And Ezra Pound warned that

Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clean. It doesn’t matter whether a good writer wants to be useful, or whether the bad writer wants to do harm. . . .
If a nation’s literature declines, the nation atrophies and decays.

Or, as George Orwell wrote after the Second World War, “One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language. . . .” Poetry is not the entire solution to keeping the nation’s language clear and honest, but one is hard pressed to imagine a country’s citizens improving the health of its language while abandoning poetry.
The second reason why the situation of poetry matters to all intellectuals is that poetry is not alone among the arts in its marginal position. If the audience for poetry has declined into a subculture of specialists, so too have the audiences for most contemporary art forms, from serious drama to jazz. The unprecedented fragmentation of American high culture during the past half century has left most arts in isolation from one another as well as from the general audience. Contemporary classical music scarcely exists as a living art outside university departments and conservatories. Jazz, which once commanded a broad popular audience, has become the semi-private domain of aficionados and musicians. (Today even influential jazz innovators cannot find places to perform in many metropolitan centers–and for an improvisatory art the inability to perform is a crippling liability.) Much serious drama is now confined to the margins of American theater, where it is seen only by actors, aspiring actors, playwrights, and a few diehard fans. Only the visual arts, perhaps because of their financial glamour and upper-class support, have largely escaped the decline in public attention.

THE most serious question for the future of American culture is whether the arts will continue to exist in isolation and decline into subsidized academic specialties or whether some possibility of rapprochement with the educated public remains.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Poetry & Literature