Daily Archives: May 24, 2009

LA Times: Early retirement claims increase dramatically

Instead of seeing older workers staying on the job longer as the economy has worsened, the Social Security system is reporting a major surge in early retirement claims that could have implications for the financial security of millions of baby boomers.

Since the current federal fiscal year began Oct. 1, claims have been running 25% ahead of last year, compared with the 15% increase that had been projected as the post-World War II generation reaches eligibility for early retirement, according to Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration.

Many of the additional retirements are probably laid-off workers who are claiming Social Security early, despite reduced benefits, because they are under immediate financial pressure, Goss and other analysts believe.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

WWII vets’ poignant trip to memorial

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Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Military / Armed Forces

Jeffrey Sachs: Less reliance on the U.S. dollar by international reserves would be widely beneficial

China has now proposed that the world move to a more symmetrical monetary system, in which nations peg their currencies to a representative basket of others rather than to the dollar alone. The “special drawing rights” of the International Monetary Fund is such a basket of four currencies (the dollar, pound, yen and euro), although the Chinese rightly suggest that it should be rebased to reflect a broader range of them, including China’s yuan. U.S. monetary policy would accordingly lose its excessive global influence over money supplies and credit conditions. On average, the dollar should depreciate against Asian currencies to encourage more U.S. net exports to Asia. The euro should probably strengthen against the dollar but weaken against Asian currencies.

The U.S. response to the Chinese proposal was revealing. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner initially described himself as open to exploring the idea; his candor quickly caused the dollar to weaken in value””which it needs to do for the good of the U.S. economy. That weakening, however, led Geithner to reverse himself within minutes by underscoring that the U.S. dollar would remain the world’s reserve currency for the foreseeable future.

Geithner’s first reaction was right. The Chinese proposal requires study but seems consistent with the long-term shift to a more balanced world economy in which the U.S. plays a monetary role more coequal with Europe and Asia. No change of global monetary system will happen abruptly, but the changes ahead are not under the sole control of the U.S. We will probably move over time to a world of greater monetary cooperation within Asia, a rising role for the Chinese yuan, and greater symmetry in overall world monetary and financial relations.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Economy, Globalization, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

Peter Steinfels: Same-Sex Marriage Laws Pose Protection Quandary

Ms. Wilson is an editor of “Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008) and one of a group of legal scholars urging states considering legalizing same-sex marriage to include “robust” protections for religious conscience.

These scholars have divided views on the wisdom of same-sex marriage itself. Ms. Wilson, for example, has taken no position on it, while Douglas Laycock, another editor of that volume and a foremost analyst of First Amendment religious liberty questions, strongly supports it. Mr. Laycock considers that support compatible with his advocacy of religious exemptions. They are “parallel protections,” he believes, “for quite similar claims to individual liberty in matters essential to personal identity.”

Writing to officials in New York, Mr. Laycock pointed out that it was not “in the interest of the gay and lesbian community to create religious martyrs when enforcing the right to same-sex marriage.”

“It is far better,” he wrote, “to respect the liberty of both sides and let same-sex marriage be implemented with a minimum of confrontation.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

A.S. Haley–Court Rebuffs Claims Against San Joaquin's Attorneys

It seems that whenever a court ruling comes out in ECUSA’s favor, or that could put the orthodox into an unfavorable light, all of the Episcopal/Anglican blogs on the left have news about the ruling up on their sites within a day, if not within hours. Just as a little experiment, I have delayed putting up this post about a recent court ruling in the San Joaquin litigation that went mostly against ECUSA, Bishop Lamb, and the group he leads in order to see whether any of those same blogs would discuss it. Well, there has been not a word, even on the group’s official Website—and not even about the part of the ruling that was in their favor, either (see below for details: this blog may be ponderous to some, but we do cover both the favorable and the unfavorable).

Read it all.

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

Honolulu's Internet vote considered 1st in nation

Voting has ended in what is being touted as the nation’s first all-digital election, and city officials say it has been a success.

Some 115,000 voters in Honolulu’s neighborhood council election were able to pick winners entirely online or via telephone. The voting, which started May 6, ended Friday.

City officials say the experiment appears to have generated few problems; it has even saved the financially strapped city around $100,000.

“It is kind of the wave of the future,” said Bryan Mick, a community relations specialist with the city Neighborhood Commission, “so we’re kind of glad in a way that we got to be the ones who initiated it.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Politics in General, Science & Technology

A Joint Statement from the Archbishop of York and Archbishop of Canterbury

(ACNS) The European Parliamentary and local elections on June 4th will take place at a time of extraordinary turbulence in our democratic system. It is a time for great vigilance over how to exercise our democratic right to vote.

“The temptation to stay away or register a protest vote in order to send a negative signal to the parties represented at Westminster will be strong. In our view, however, it would be tragic if the understandable sense of anger and disillusionment with some MPs over recent revelations led voters to shun the ballot box.

“Those whom we elect to local councils and the European Parliament will represent us and our collective interests for many years to come. It is crucial to elect those who wish to uphold the democratic values and who wish to work for the common good in a spirit of public service which urgently needs to be reaffirmed in these difficult days.
“There are those who would exploit the present situation to advance views that are the very opposite of the values of justice, compassion and human dignity are rooted in our Christian heritage.

“Christians have been deeply disturbed by the conscious adoption by the BNP of the language of our faith when the effect of those policies is not to promote those values but to foster fear and division within communities, especially between people of different faiths or racial background.

“This is not a moment for voting in favour of any political party whose core ideology is about sowing division in our communities and hostility on grounds of race, creed or colour; it is an opportunity for renewing the vision of a community united by mutual respect, high ethical standards and the pursuit of justice and peace.

“We hope that electors will use their vote on June 4th to renew the vision of a community united by the common good, public service and the pursuit of justice.”

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Europe, Politics in General

Washington Post: The Taliban Is Foiling the Pakistani Military

The Pakistani army has retaken control of key parts of the contested Swat Valley in recent days, but the Taliban has kept its grip on some of the area’s largest towns nearly a month into a massive military offensive, army commanders said Friday during a visit near the front lines.

Speaking at a rudimentary base in the heart of this verdant valley, the commanders acknowledged that regaining full control of Swat will probably take months and involve intense combat with the well-trained, well-funded Taliban militia. Highlighting the difficulty, some extremists are simply melting back into the civilian population so they can fight another day, as they have during previous clashes over the past 18 months in Swat.

“You cannot distinguish between a Talib and a normal citizen,” said Maj. Gen. Sajjad Ali, who commands troops in the northern portion of Swat. “The area is densely populated, and it’s very easy for the terrorists to hide.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Military / Armed Forces, Pakistan, Terrorism

The Futurist–Wolfram Alpha : The Birth of Web 3.0

The Wolfram Alpha engine is set to be launched. Rather than a search engine, it is an ‘answer engine’ that interprets actual questions and answers them in accordance with their intended meaning…The Wolfram Alpha, at first, will seem rather underwhelming, and will merely enable high-school and college students (as well as bloggers) to conduct their research more easily. But as refinements accumulate and users go through their own learning curve, we could see a major transformation in Internet usage starting around 2012.

Read it all and follow the links too.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Science & Technology

Prayer May Reshape Your Brain … And Your Reality

Scientists are making the first attempts to understand spiritual experience ”” and what happens in the brains and bodies of people who believe they connect with the divine.

The field is called “neurotheology,” and although it is new, it’s drawing prominent researchers in the U.S. and Canada. Scientists have found that the brains of people who spend untold hours in prayer and meditation are different.

I met Scott McDermott five years ago, while covering a Pentecostal revival meeting in Toronto. It was pandemonium. People were speaking in tongues and barking like dogs. I thought, “What is a United Methodist minister, with a Ph.D. in New Testament theology, doing here?”

Then McDermott told me about a vision he had had years earlier.

Read or listen to it all from NPR.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

An obituary for the Rev William Shergold: biker priest

In the days when clergymen were treated not merely with deference but often reverence, the sight of the Rev William Shergold in motorcycle leathers mixing with rockers and fellow bikers in a greasy spoon on the North Circular before “doing a ton” around London’s desolate orbital road was distinctly incongruous.

This was the late Fifties and early Sixties when what was perceived as teenage rebellion was a novelty regarded by the older generation with alarm and confusion. So the news that a man of the cloth should wish to mix with doubtful types in winkle-pickers and zip-up leathers, who wore their hair in threatening quiffs and hung about aimlessly in seedy caffs listening to impenetrable beat music was startling.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry

LeBron James Gives Cleveland A Shining Moment

What a fantastic shot!

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

A Brief Look Back to 2000: Southern, Stylish and on the Rise

Charleston, South Carolina–This city survived the first Reconstruction era, but just barely. It will be interesting to see how it handles the second one.

Around every corner, hammers are banging and dust is flying, as stately old homes are freshened up for sale to Yankee carpetbaggers. With approximately one horse-drawn, tourist-laden carriage for every bona fide resident, the city has reduced traffic accidents to almost zero by making it impossible for any car to reach a speed of more than 8 miles per hour. For New Yorkers, Charleston presents a familiar, even consoling sight: a pendulous land mass, overlooking a harbor, with a battery at one end and solid traffic for most of its length. It almost feels like home.

The tourist rush that has transformed Charleston in the last 10 years has brought an unanticipated benefit: good restaurants. A decade ago, fine dining took place in people’s homes. Restaurants worthy of the name could be counted on the fingers of one hand, with several fingers to spare. Now, it takes both hands, and some toes as well. In fact, it would be hard to think of another American city of the same size — Charleston has a population of less than 100,000 — with a more dynamic, promising restaurant scene….

High Cotton, one of Charleston’s newest restaurants, struck me as a shining example of the new culinary wave.

Read it all. Guess where the family took Nathaniel and his girlfriend out to eat after graduation? You guessed it– High Cotton. If you are ever coming to Charleston, you must put it on the list–KSH.

Posted in * General Interest, * South Carolina

Wounded soldiers receive a Healing and Helping Hand

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Very moving–watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces

Albany Times-Union: An act of faith restores a church

A simple cross, blackened by an arsonists flames, has a new home atop a new church.Almost three years to the date after a zealot set fire to Christ Episcopal Church, Bishop William Howard Love, the leader of the Albany Episcopal Diocese, will consecrate the new church Saturday.

It is nothing less than remarkable that the small, elderly congregation persevered to see their church rebuilt, said Richie Henzler, a musician who plays the recorder at services. The dozen or so active members of the congregation never doubted it would happen, he said, even though at a time when new Episcopal churches are rarely built, there was no full-time priest to advocate for them because pastors rotate among the small North Country churches.

We couldn’t leave in ashes something burned in hate, Henzler said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes