Daily Archives: September 8, 2008

Emily L. Hauser: Getting real about teen pregnancy

As unambiguous as we might wish the subject were, though, the reality of teen sex and pregnancy won’t go away just because some want it to. It isn’t laughable. And it’s not really news.

The hormonal imperative to reproduce has been getting young Americans in trouble since before there was an America: As many as a third of colonial brides were pregnant at the time of the Revolution, according to several historical sources, and possibly more than a third of births were out of wedlock.

What has changed, though, is birth control. The modern day fairly bristles with it.

Among sexually active 15- to 19-year-olds, 83 percent of girls and 91 percent of boys report using contraception””possibly explaining the 34 percent drop in teen birth rates between 1991 and 2005, according to the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Yet the recent reversal of that trend (teen births have since risen 3 percent) reminds us that we must never relax our efforts at education. Every single kid has to be given the necessary information and urged to be smart, even when hormones scream.

Getting pregnant young is a tough thing. Carrying a baby and raising the child is hard work; giving one up is, for many, even harder. And though I support reproductive choice, it can’t be argued that abortion is a cakewalk either. I know””and I was an adult when I had mine.

And abstinence programs just don’t work: A 2004 study by Yale and Columbia Universities found that fully 88 percent of those who pledge abstinence have premarital sex anyway.

So we’re left with birth control, and information. And kindness, and compassion.

Read it all, also from yesterday’s Chicago Tribune.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sexuality, Teens / Youth

Friendly to planet, rude to diners

Hungry after a recent day of classes, Lake Forest College freshman Peter Bacon piled an odd assortment of chicken patties, a grilled cheese sandwich, Tater Tots, mashed potatoes and meatloaf onto two dinner plates.

And he would have taken even more food, he said, if one staple weren’t missing from the college’s cafeteria: a plastic tray to carry it all.

“At most, I’ll carry two, maybe three plates on top of each other,” Bacon, 18, said. “I would love to have a tray.”

But students returning this fall to Lake Forest College and dozens of other campuses nationwide are finding that’s no longer an option. In one of the latest””and perhaps quirkiest””environmentally conscious initiatives, cafeteria trays are becoming as outdated as mystery meat.

Ditching the trays decreases food waste, conserves water and energy used in cleaning and reduces the need for polluting detergents, according to proponents of trayless dining. The move comes as campuses are competing to be the greenest by starting bike-sharing programs, adding environmental majors, focusing on energy efficiency and hiring “sustainability” coordinators.

But critics of the tray take-away, including Bacon, have a menu of complaints: It’s cumbersome to carry multiple plates. It’s disruptive to make several trips to get more food. And it takes longer to clear dirty dishes from the table.

Read it all from the front page of yesterday’s Chicago Tribune.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Education, Energy, Natural Resources, Young Adults

Toward Anaheim: Deputies asked for committee preferences

(ENS) In another step toward the Episcopal Church’s 76th General Convention in Anaheim, California, the process of forming legislative committees has begun.

Deputies have until September 30 to express three preferences for appointment to one of 23 committees.

While a preliminary review of those completed forms will begin next week, according to House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, no appointment decisions will be made until after the deadline. Anderson will appoint deputies to the committees and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will appoint bishop members.

To aid the appointment process, deputies also have been asked to outline their previous General Convention experience as well as their experience in the wider Episcopal Church. “It’s likely that first-time deputies without wider church experience won’t be appointed” to the committees, Anderson said.

There is a lot to learn about General Convention, she said, and first-time deputies can find themselves overwhelmed and feeling like observers rather than active participants. Anderson said this can be especially true when first-time deputies are named to legislative committees.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention

Roger Cohen: Real wars and the U.S. culture war

I’m sorry, Ms. Palin, but out there in Alaska, between moose shoots, did you hear about Bagram, Abu Ghraib, renditions, waterboarding, Guantánamo and the rest?

John McCain knows what happens when those rights disappear. He described his Vietnamese nightmare the next night: “They worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.”

A man remembers getting broken: That’s why McCain fought the use of torture by the Bush administration. His condoning of those words from his vice-presidential candidate is appalling. Foreign policy be damned if you can score a God-fearing-macho-versus-liberal-constitutionalist point.

But the bloody wars, seven years after 9/11, have not paused for this sterile U.S. cultural battle. With some 180,000 troops in the two theaters, U.S. reserve capacity is stretched to the limit – something Iran knows when it keeps the centrifuges turning and Russia knows when it grabs Georgia.

In Afghanistan, a Taliban-led insurgency is growing in reach and effectiveness. There’s talk of a mini-surge in U.S. troops there – now about 34,000 – to counter the threat, but little serious reflection on what precise end perhaps 12,000 additional forces would serve. Until that’s clarified, I’m against the mini-surge.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Military / Armed Forces

Palin fuses politics and motherhood in new way

Sarah Palin’s baby shower included a surprise guest: her own baby. He had arrived in the world a month early, so on a sunny May day, Palin, the governor of Alaska, rocked her newborn as her closest friends, sisters, even her obstetrician presented her with a potluck meal, presents and blue-and-white cake.

Most had learned that Palin was pregnant only a few weeks before. Struggling to accept that her child would be born with Down syndrome and fearful of public criticism of a governor’s pregnancy, Palin had concealed the news that she was expecting even from her parents and children until her third trimester.

But as the governor introduced her son that day, according to a friend, Kristan Cole, she said she had come to regard him as a blessing from God. “Who of us in this room has the perfect child?” said Palin, who declined to be interviewed for this article.

Since that day, Trig Paxson Van Palin, still only 143 days old, has had an unexpected effect on his mother’s political fortunes. Before her son was born, Palin went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that his arrival would not compromise her work. She hid the pregnancy. She traveled to Texas a month before her due date to give an important speech, delivering it even though her amniotic fluid was leaking. Three days after giving birth, she returned to work.

Read the whole article.

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

Dean of St Davids Cathedral elected as new Bishop of St Davids, Wales

(ACNS) The man in charge of one of the country’s best loved landmarks and the cradle of Christianity in Wales was elected as the new Bishop of St Davids.

The Dean of St Davids Cathedral, the Very Reverend John Wyn Evans, was elected as the 128th bishop of the diocese by the Electoral College of the Church in Wales, at a “lock in ” meeting at the cathedral.

The election took place following the resignation of the former bishop, Rt Rev Carl Cooper, in May, who was bishop from 2002.

The Very Rev John Wyn Evans (known as Wyn), 61, has served as Dean for the past 14 years, during which time he was the driving force behind the £5.5m Cathedral restoration project, which included the acclaimed rebuilding and expansion of the historic cloisters area, and has secured the future of the building for generations to come.

He said he was stunned but honoured to have been elected bishop of the diocese in which he has served since his ordination. He said, “We are fortunate that Bishop Carl gave the diocese a sense of purpose and direction which I look forward to continuing.”

Read it all.

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

Growing numbers say diet should reflect the divine

When Marilyn Lorenz of Alma, Mich., talks about living out her Catholic faith in daily life, she starts by describing what’s inside her refrigerator.

The produce is grown on nearby farms, and the milk is organic and hormone-free. Meat comes from a local farmer who lets his animals graze freely and doesn’t use antibiotics.

“Packing animals in factory farms, I think, is against God’s wishes,” says Lorenz, who changed her shopping and eating habits after a speaker at her parish broached the issues in 2007. “It isn’t something my faith could ever support.”

In bringing faith to bear anew on diet, Lorenz is among a growing movement of believers from various traditions who are exploring how to better reflect their moral values in the ways they eat. A few examples…

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Religion & Culture

Tom Krattenmaker: Jail and Jesus

“Jesus for President!” So proclaims a progressive Christian movement aiming to tweak the national conscience. Recent trend lines in the country suggest an even more provocative tagline for our consideration: “Jesus for Parole.”

That’s right. Jesus is imprisoned ”” at least in the view of an increasingly vocal set of Christians spurred into action by some deeply troubling truths about America and our bursting-at-the-seams prison system.

The concern seems as well placed as it is challenging. The United States has crossed, for the first time, a dismal threshold: One out of every 100 American adults is in prison, according to the Pew Center on the States. Five states have reached the point where they are spending as much or more on corrections than they do on higher education systems. To place it all in perspective, consider that America has approximately 5% of the world population but about 25% of the world’s prison population.

The fact that violent crime, according to the Justice Department, has dropped over the same three decades of surging prison-population growth poses a complex tangle: Is less crime the product of get-tough enforcement and sentencing, or are we just incarcerating more low-level offenders who don’t need to be in prison? Probably some of both. But whatever the case, the situation is enough to chew on the conscience of any follower of a religion that emphasizes compassion and redemption. Multitudes of Americans are languishing in prison ”” and it’s all suggestive of something deeper afflicting the soul of the nation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture

USA Today Poll: Convention lifts McCain over Obama

The Republican National Convention has given John McCain and his party a significant boost, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken over the weekend shows, as running mate Sarah Palin helps close an “enthusiasm gap” that has dogged the GOP all year.

McCain leads Democrat Barack Obama by 50%-46% among registered voters, the Republican’s biggest advantage since January and a turnaround from the USA TODAY poll taken just before the convention opened in St. Paul. Then, he lagged by 7 percentage points.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

US Government takes over mortgage giants

The Bush administration’s seizure of troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is potentially a $200 billion bet that it will help reverse a prolonged housing and credit crisis.

The historic move announced Sunday won support from both presidential campaigns, but private analysts worried that it may not be enough to stabilize the slumping housing market given the glut of vacant homes for sale, rising foreclosures, rising unemployment and weak consumer confidence.

Officials announced that both giant institutions were being placed in a government conservatorship, a move that could end up costing taxpayers billions of dollars. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said allowing the companies to fail would have extracted a far higher price on consumers by driving up the cost of home loans and all other types of borrowing because the failures would “create great turmoil in our financial markets here at home and around the globe.”

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com predicted that 30-year mortgage rates, currently averaging 6.35 percent nationwide, could dip to close to 5.5 percent. That’s because investors will be more willing to buy the debt issued by Fannie and Freddie – and at lower rates – since the federal government is now explicitly standing behind that debt.

“Effectively, the federal government has now become the nation’s mortgage lender,” he said. “This takes a major financial threat off the table.”

Read it all.

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

Charles Taylor reviews Alissa Torres' American Widow

Paradoxically, it’s Torres’s refusal to see beyond her personal experience that gives “American Widow” its power. Torres recounts her alienation from friends, many of whom get to the “enough is enough” phase with her a few months after Eddie’s death. And she flinches at the bullying commentators, from the political left to the right, who portrayed 9/11 widows as publicity-hungry media vultures.

“American Widow” is particularly barbed in its depiction of the incompetence, and sometimes the callousness, of aid organizations and government agencies assisting the victims. In one scene a haggard American Red Cross representative tells Torres the organization will contact her “when we can” about flying Eddie’s relatives from Colombia for the funeral, which is only a few days away. You could argue that these people were stretched to the limit. You could also argue that there are some jobs simply too sensitive to mismanage ”” a standard embodied here by a competent and compassionate F.B.I. agent who steps in and takes charge after Torres’s encounter with the Red Cross.

“American Widow” is a contrary beast for its depiction of a series of missed connections in a time venerated for the way it unified people. These incidents are sometimes unbearably moving, as when the smile of a maternity-shop clerk deflates after she’s told Torres is shopping for a black dress.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Terrorism

Fergus Kerr reviews Richard Swinburne's Was Jesus God?

Allowing that the gospels contain “stories which we may reasonably suspect of being metaphysical fables”, Swinburne insists that they are “a basically reliable source of information about the life of Jesus”. Of course, Jesus did not go about saying, “I am God”, yet “the historical evidence of the actions as well as the words of Jesus are such as we would expect if Jesus did teach that he was divine”.

Thus, Jesus was not revealed to be divine only at the Resurrection, or in the Easter experience of the disciples, as some theologians would maintain. Without quoting any of them, Swinburne obviously aligns himself with the small, though perhaps increasing, number of New Testament scholars who would conclude from the evidence that Jesus knew all along that he was divine.

Much more adventurously, in an intellectual climate in which Christian fundamentalism and militant atheism often seem the loudest voices, Richard Swinburne argues, against both, that the key doctrines about Jesus – that he was God Incarnate, atoned for our sins, rose from the dead, and founded the Church – each is at least “moderately probable”, in terms of sheer logic. It is an exercise in what Catholics used to call natural theology that would have taken St Thomas’ breath away.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Theology

Bishops, Rabbis Affirm Marriage is for Man-Woman

Rabbis and bishops joined in affirming their common beliefs regarding marriage in a joint statement titled “Created in the Divine Image.” The statement was signed by Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld of Young Israel Synagogue in Kew Gardens Hills, New York, and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, with other Catholic and Jewish leaders

The bishops and rabbis affirm “our shared commitment to the ordinance of God, the Almighty One, who created man and woman in the divine image so that they might share as male and female, as helpmates and equals, in the procreation of children and the building up of society.”

In June, California became the second U.S. state, after Massachusetts, to allow same-sex marriages. The governor of New York earlier this year instructed authorities in his state to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in states or countries where the unions are legal.

The Catholic-Jewish statement contests the claim that refusing to recognize same-sex unions as marriage is discrimination against homosexuals.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Roman Catholic, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

The Economist: The car of the perpetual future

DURING a keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, the boss of General Motors (GM), Rick Wagoner, unveiled the Cadillac Provoq, a new hydrogen fuel-cell concept car. With a drivetrain emitting only water vapour, a 300-mile range and a top speed of 160kph (100mph), the vehicle, said Mr Wagoner, represented “the promise of truly sustainable transportation”. It was a promise that sounded vaguely familiar.

A decade earlier, in 1998, Mr Wagoner’s predecessor, Jack Smith, told the Detroit auto show that GM had a plan to produce a production-ready fuel-cell vehicle “by 2004 or sooner”. That same year, Ford’s incoming boss, Jacques Nasser, said that he saw fuel-cell cars as being a viable alternative to petrol cars for many people during the course of his career (he was replaced in 2001). And as recently as 2004 California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, rhapsodised about “hydrogen highways” all across the state by 2010.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources, Science & Technology