Daily Archives: April 3, 2009

Boats Too Costly to Keep Are Littering Coastlines

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. ”” Boat owners are abandoning ship.

They often sandpaper over the names and file off the registry numbers, doing their best to render the boats, and themselves, untraceable. Then they casually ditch the vessels in the middle of busy harbors, beach them at low tide on the banks of creeks or occasionally scuttle them outright.

The bad economy is creating a flotilla of forsaken boats. While there is no national census of abandoned boats, officials in coastal states are worried the problem will only grow worse as unemployment and financial stress continue to rise. Several states are even drafting laws against derelicts and say they are aggressively starting to pursue delinquent owners.

“Our waters have become dumping grounds,” said Maj. Paul R. Ouellette of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “It’s got to the point where something has to be done.”

This was on the front page of Wednesday’s Times–I had no idea this was going on. Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Julie Weiner: Love the Earth? Bless the Sun

According to Talmudic calculations, every 28 years the sun is in the exact position it occupied at the time of Creation. As it happens, that moment falls on Wednesday, April 8, of this year, at sunrise — just hours before Passover begins. There is a brief blessing for the occasion, too. It is called Birchat Hachamah, Hebrew for “blessing of the sun.” But the sun is a hot topic these days, not least because of global warming, and this time around the blessing, in itself, is not enough: A whole environmental message is being attached to what was once a simple ceremony.

Thus Jews who wish to mark the occasion will find a variety of options, including a Manhattan rooftop service that supplements the blessing with yoga sun salutations and environmental speeches; a beachfront “mystical” service in Seattle; and an arts, music and “healing” festival in Safed, Israel. This year’s ritual has even inspired two Facebook groups: The “Birkat HaChama” group had 256 members at last count, while the “Birchat HaChama one had 165. There is also a commemorative T-shirt being sold online, available in two colors and styles, emblazoned with the words: “Here Comes the Sun.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Suzanne Watson named to new strategic planning role for Episcopal Church

Read it all.

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

Irish Bishops condemn Londonderry shootings

Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops in Northern Ireland have united to condemn the recent paramilitary-style shootings in Londonderry.

In a joint statement the Most Rev Seamus Hegarty, Catholic Bishop of Derry, and the Rt Rev Ken Good, Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, said: “The recent shootings in our city must be outrightly condemned as immoral and indefensible.

“The Christian Church teaches that life is sacred. An attack on the person is a rejection of the teachings of Christ. It is also an offence against the dignity of a person created by God….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of Ireland, England / UK, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Violence

Christian Science Monitor: On divisive issue of clergy in same sex, two churches weigh softer stance

Two mainline Protestant denominations, after decades of wrestling over the place of homosexuality in the church, are considering allowing local congregations to select pastors who are in long-term, monogamous, same-gender relationships.

The church council of the largest Lutheran body in the US, the 5-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), decided this week to send such a recommendation to its national assembly. The proposal would take effect if supported by majority vote at the assembly’s biennial meeting in August.

The 2.3-million-member Presbyterian Church (USA) approved the idea at its national assembly last summer, but a majority of the church’s 173 district bodies, called presbyteries, must vote in favor by June for it to become church policy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Lutheran, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

House approves $3.6 trillion budget blueprint

The Democratic-controlled House approved a budget blueprint drawn to President Barack Obama’s specifications Thursday and the Senate hastened to follow suit after administration allies rejected alternatives from liberals and conservatives alike.

The vote in the House was 233-196, largely along party lines, for a $3.6 trillion plan that includes a deficit of $1.2 trillion.

The country wants “real change, and we have come here to make a difference,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said as both chambers worked on plans to boost spending on domestic programs, raise taxes on the wealthy in two years’ time and clear the way for action later in the year on Obama’s priority items of health care, energy and education.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

Time Magazine: Will Pakistan Toughen Up on the Taliban?

The key element in President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan strategy is getting Pakistan to fight the Taliban on its side of the border. But despite the Administration’s demanding a more concerted effort against militants on Pakistani soil as a condition for further aid to Pakistan’s military ”” and warnings by Centcom commander General David Petraeus and others that the Taliban threatens to destroy Pakistan as a state ”” many in Washington and beyond are skeptical that Pakistan will cooperate.

U.S. military officials have recently made clear that more than seven years after America went to war against the Taliban, Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency continues to provide active support to Taliban forces fighting in Afghanistan. “Fundamentally, the strategic approach with the ISI must change,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen told CNN last Friday, “and [its] support … for militants [on both its Afghanistan and India borders] has to fundamentally shift.” But the problem is not confined to the ISI or elements within it. In a recent truce between the Pakistani army and local Taliban groups in the Pakistani region of Bajaur, militants recanted their hostility to Pakistani security forces but vowed to concentrate on fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan. And Pakistan has been far more tolerant of Taliban forces on its soil who conduct operations in Afghanistan than of those who fight the Pakistani government.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Asia, Pakistan

Simon Johnson and James Kwak: The Radicalization of Ben Bernanke

Without a doubt, this crisis is now Ben Bernanke’s war.

Bernanke has become the country’s economist in chief, the banker for the United States and perhaps the world, and has employed every weapon in the Federal Reserve’s arsenal. He has overseen the broadest use of the Fed’s powers since World War II, and the regulation proposals working their way through Congress seem likely to empower the institution even further. Although his actions may be justified under today’s circumstances, Bernanke’s willingness to pump money into the economy risks unleashing the most serious bout of U.S. inflation since the early 1980s, in a nation already battered by rising unemployment and negative growth.

If he succeeds in restarting growth while avoiding high inflation, Bernanke may well become the most revered economist in modern history. But for the moment, he is operating in uncharted territory.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Federal Reserve, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

Washington Post: As Crisis Loomed, Geithner Pressed But Fell Short

In September 2005, Timothy Geithner made one of his most visible moves as a supervisor of the U.S. banking system. He summoned the nation’s top financial firms and their regulators to streamline an antiquated system that threatened Wall Street’s boom.

Billions of dollars worth of financial instruments known as credit derivatives were being traded daily, as banks and investors worldwide tried to protect against losses on increasingly complex and risky financial bets. But the buying and selling of these exotic instruments was stuck in a pencil-and-paper era. Geithner, then head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, pressed 14 major financial firms to build an electronic network that would cut backlogs and make the market easier to monitor.

Geithner’s summit, held at the New York Fed’s fortress-like headquarters near Wall Street, was a success. By fall 2006, the new system had all but eliminated the logjam, helping derivatives trade more efficiently. One financial industry newsletter honored Geithner as part of a “Dream Team” for his leadership of the effort.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Bill McKibben reviews a book on Wendell Berry: The wisdom of becoming deeply rooted in one community

What can this commitment to place and community mean for those not living in an agrarian countryside? Are there institutions that can serve as substitutes? The authors think so: “the flourishing of placed and peopled churches within local cultures.”

By flourishing, they mean the opposite of the wild growth of placeless megachurches. They mean churches like the ones they belong to, ones rooted in particular spots for long periods, measuring faithfulness not by membership size but by their very rootedness and deep work. They suggest we name churches once more for places, not abstractions…

But the real power of their thinking is for those churches we have long thought in decline. Their chapter “Household and House of God” contains some of the most hopeful pages on the future of local churches I’ve read in years.”

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Parish Ministry

Brian Jensen: Called to be Different

Rick Richardson is a professor at Wheaton College and the author of a book called Evangelism Outside the Box. He tells the story of a pastor named Dan who realized that his preaching was getting stale. So, with the support of his pastoral team, he took a part-time job at a nearby Starbucks coffee shop. And before anyone even thinks to suggest it, I am NOT taking a part-time job at The Pampered Palate!

So Pastor Dan when to work at the local Starbucks. Much to his surprise, all 21 people he worked with believed in God. Not one of them was an atheist. They were all very positive toward God and toward spirituality.

Yet Pastor Dan was surprised to discover that while they believed in God and were interested in things “spiritual,” he also discovered that they were NOT interested in Christians, Christianity, or the church. No one wanted to hear Dan’s proofs for God, his invitations to church, or his ideas about salvation. Most of them thought they knew what Christianity was all about and had decided they didn’t want it. They were what some people call “post-Christian.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

Church Times: Dr Nazir-Ali steps down to work in persecuted Church

The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, has announced his resignation. He is leaving to under­take a new global ministry in places where the Church is under pressure and Christians are in a minority. The Archbishop of Canter­bury has described his move as “a courageous initiative and a timely one”.

The news, which was announced in a statement on Saturday, appears to have come as a complete surprise to many.

Read it all.

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

A (London) Times Editorial on the G20: Summit of achievement

Low expectations have been met. Divisions on how to deal with the financial crisis remain. Imbalances in the global economy lie uncorrected. But the G20 summit took important steps in improving the machinery for coping with the financial crisis. The mere fact of agreement will have expanded, in Gordon Brown’s phrase, the oxygen of confidence in the global economy.

To judge a summit primarily by its contribution to psychology may appear to trivialise a crisis that is widely compared to the Great Depression. Yet confidence is the crucial missing ingredient. Its absence has directly caused the collapse of the Western financial system….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, G20

Ex-Illinois Governor Is Indicted on Corruption Charges

Rod R. Blagojevich, this state’s ousted governor, was charged on Thursday with 16 felony counts, among them racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion conspiracy in a wide-ranging scheme to deprive residents of “honest government,” prosecutors said, including trying to leverage his authority to pick someone to fill President Obama’s former Senate seat.

Five of his closest advisers, including his brother, Robert, a top fundraiser, and two former chiefs of staff, were also charged in the 19-count indictment.

Prosecutors said Mr. Blagojevich used numerous elements of his state work ”” including appointing people to state boards, investing state money and signing legislation ”” as a way to seek money, campaign contributions and jobs for himself and others.

Read it all.

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

National Post: Apostasy move stirs emotions in Quebec

The diocese…[in and around Quebec City]…reported 50 requests for apostasy — the renunciation of one’s faith — in the past month; usually it receives about 20 such requests in an entire year.

Two issues appear to have spurred the reaction.

The first was the excommunication last month of the family of a nine-year-old Brazilian girl who had an abortion after being raped by her stepfather. A high-ranking Vatican official initially supported the ex-communications — which also covered the doctors who performed the abortion, but not the stepfather. The Vatican’s top bioethics official later criticized the excommunications.

The second spur was Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Africa last month, when he said abstinence was the answer to the AIDS epidemic ravaging the continent. Condoms, he said, “can even increase the problem,” adding that traditional Catholic teachings were “the only failsafe way” to prevent the disease’s spread.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Canada, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic