Daily Archives: January 5, 2010

WSJ editorial: Behind the Christmas Eve taxpayer massacre at Fannie and Freddie

Happy New Year, readers, but before we get on with the debates of 2010, there’s still some ugly 2009 business to report: To wit, the Treasury’s Christmas Eve taxpayer massacre lifting the $400 billion cap on potential losses for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the limits on what the failed companies can borrow.

The Treasury is hoping no one notices, and no wonder. Taxpayers are continuing to buy senior preferred stock in the two firms to cover their growing losses””a combined $111 billion so far. When Treasury first bailed them out in September 2008, Congress put a $200 billion limit ($100 billion each) on federal assistance. Last year, the Treasury raised the potential commitment to $400 billion. Now the limit on taxpayer exposure is, well, who knows?

The firms have made clear that they may only be able to pay the preferred dividends they owe taxpayers by borrowing still more money . . . from taxpayers. Said Fannie Mae in its most recent quarterly report: “We expect that, for the foreseeable future, the earnings of the company, if any, will not be sufficient to pay the dividends on the senior preferred stock. As a result, future dividend payments will be effectively funded from equity drawn from the Treasury.”

The loss cap is being lifted because the government has directed both companies to pursue money-losing strategies by modifying mortgages to prevent foreclosures.

Read it all and there is more from John Huffman here.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

College of Charleston Cougars stun North Carolina

Whether Monday’s 82-79 overtime victory over No. 9 ranked North Carolina is the biggest win in College of Charleston history is debatable. But there’s no question it was the biggest win for the Cougars at Carolina First Arena.

The Cougars’ last win over a nationally ranked team was in 1998 over then-No. 3 North Carolina in Charlotte. And it gave Cougars faithful something to really be proud of, a 3-3 record against one of the country’s top basketball programs.

‘When I look back on my career, I will remember this moment forever,’ said Cougars coach Bobby Cremins.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Sports

Fuel struggle heating up in Canadian churches

The high price of furnace oil is a burden for some church congregations which have had to find more cost-effective places to worship.
Geoff Tothill, treasurer of the Northumberland Parish, said the congregation at St. John the Baptist Anglican Church in River John is contemplating moving winter services from the 130-year-old building to the church hall following the Christmas service.

“Our church is not insulated at all, it’s the old style ”“ open to the rafters ”“ and that’s a big cost for us,” said Tothill, adding heat there usually costs about $2,500 annually.
He said in the last two years heating costs have increased about 30 per cent.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Climate Change, Weather, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Parish Ministry

Resist Europe's secularisation' calls made at Taize youth meeting

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I, a spiritual leader who represents Eastern Orthodox Christianity, has urged young Christians to resist secularisation in Europe in a message to an ecumenical meeting that was greeted by global and regional leaders.

“After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe no longer recognises the place for Christianity that history dedicated to it – it is as if Christianity were being expelled from the history of Europe,” said Bartholomeos I, the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

The Patriarch made his appeal in a message sent to a five-day European Youth Meeting, organised by France’s ecumenical Taizé Community in Poznan, Poland.

“We wish to recall here that the identity of Europe is primarily Christian and cannot be considered without this legacy,” he said in his message to the 29 December-2 January gathering. “The secularisation of Europe here takes the form of a rejection of the God of history. Nonetheless, the mobilisation of Christians throughout Europe is an important initiative recalling the Christian roots of this continent, its identity and its values.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Europe, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth

An Upcoming Anglican Consultation on Human Trafficking with a focus on children in Asia

From 3 to 6 November 2009 women and men from around the Anglican Communion gathered in Hong Kong for a four-day consultation on the human trafficking of children, with a particular focus on the girl child in Asia. The consultation was organised by the Office of the Anglican United Nations Observer and was supported by a grant from the Archbishop of Canterbury, with accommodation, board, and ground transportation generously provided by the Primate of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, Archbishop Paul Kwong.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, - Anglican: Latest News, Asia, Children, Law & Legal Issues

Lawrence Cunningham reviews Jerome P. Baggett's new book on How American Catholics Live Their Faith

Jerome Baggett wanted to know how Catholics live their faith, how they interact in their worship community and how they relate to the larger church and their civic community. So he visited six Catholic parishes in the San Francisco Bay area and interviewed or reviewed questionnaires filled out by 300 parishioners. He selected interview ees from a wide spectrum of ages, ethnic backgrounds and educational levels, and he sought out people who were active in their congregations. The parishes he chose to study were also diverse: one parish was predominantly made up of gay people, and another made regular Sunday use of the Latin mass (but not the Tridentine version). He looked at working-class and affluent parishes, and at congregations that offered mass in Vietnamese, Tagalog and Spanish, with devotional practices to match. At the largely gay parish the closing hymn one Sunday was the decidedly noncanonical “Over the Rainbow.”

Sociology, it has been said, is just slow journalism. That gibe has a grain of truth. I did not have to read this book to know that the predominantly gay parish had problems with the teaching authority of the official church on sexual matters or that the most traditional parish saw itself as a countercultural fortress against a largely decadent culture. Nor was it a surprise that the various ethnic communities honored their native religious customs as a way of sustaining their ethnic identities or that the more affluent parishioners were almost uniformly negative about the church’s teaching on contraception. Nor, finally, was it big news that the Catholics Baggett spoke to did not have fully orthodox views on doctrinal matters or sacramental theology de spite their passionate participation in church life.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Bill Bouknight: The turning tide of United Methodism

Jesus promised that he would build his church (Matthew 16:18) and one of the surest ways we know to be obedient to God is to be faithful to the Holy Scripture. It was Jesus who prayed for the church, saying, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

God seems to be using at least six factors in the continuing process of renewing and reforming United Methodism toward faithfulness to his Word.

1. Most evangelistically-minded churches grow, while others seldom do. Quite simply, too many of our United Methodist congregations don’t know how to reach out. Though most liberal United Methodists are compassionate, kind people, their churches seldom grow. One definite reason is theological. Most evangelical Christians feel a sense of urgency about lost people. They really believe that people who are outside a relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are at risk of spending all eternity in a horrible place where God is totally absent. By way of contrast, many liberal United Methodists are universalists””believing that all persons are going to heaven regardless of what they believe or do. Such a belief makes evangelism irrelevant.

Recently I studied one particular annual conference in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. The ten local churches with the highest worship attendance figures for the previous year were quite diverse in terms of location (some are inner-city, others suburban) and in worship style (traditional, contemporary, and blended). But these ten churches have one thing in common””all of their senior ministers are evangelical/orthodox in theology. That same pattern probably prevails in most other annual conferences.
Jesus said that he came to earth “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). The Holy Spirit seems to bless those congregations that focus primary attention and resources on seeking, serving, and saving lost people.

2. United Methodist renewal and reform groups are making a positive contribution. The “granddaddy” of UM reform organizations is Good News, launched in 1966 by Charles Keysor’s article in the Christian Advocate. For 28 years, the Rev. James V. Heidinger II led Good News with prophetic courage and winsomeness. Now, the Rev. Rob Renfroe leads this vital agency of renewal and reform. Other organizations like The Confessing Movement, The Institute on Religion and Democracy, The Mission Society, Lifewatch, Transforming Congregations, and others have joined in the struggle.

3. High-quality biblical material has been introduced into the UM educational curriculum….

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Adult Education, Evangelism and Church Growth, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

–Ephesians 6:10-12

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

UMNS: Web site designed to help marriages stay strong

The Rev. Jay Tenney, pastor of Barnesville (Ga.) First United Methodist Church, said long-lasting relationships must be created in God’s image. The key to a lifetime of happiness, he said, can be found in Galatians, Thessalonians and Ecclesiastes.

* Galatians 5:13: Serve one another in love.
* 1 Thessalonians 5:11: Encourage one another and build each other up.
* Ecclesiastes 4:12: A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

“I think that what we see on TV is definitely playing a factor in the acceptance of infidelity. It sometimes seems that being unfaithful is glamorized, while the costs and consequences of infidelity are minimized. Divorce is often portrayed as a quick and easy option,” Tenney said.

Tenney said he has found many couples want to improve their marriages, but need help finding the right resources.

“I have also found that a lot of people may not seek out counselors or pastors when they need help,” he said. “However, in today’s world many of them are willing to go online. With this in mind, I developed a marriage coaching Web site called ”˜MyMarriageCoach.com.’”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Michigan Teaching School Tries Something New

America’s teachers’ colleges are facing some pressure to reinvent themselves.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been leading the assault, with a series of speeches calling for better teacher training. Duncan says it’s crucial that education schools revamp their curricula so they can help replace a wave of baby boomers who will soon retire from teaching.

One university is trying to rebuild its teacher-training program from the ground up.

At the University of Michigan School of Education, Dean Deborah Ball and her faculty have taken apart their training program and reassembled it, trying to figure out what skills teachers really need.

“We expect people to be reliably able to carry out that work. We don’t seem to have that same level of expectation or requirement around teaching,” Ball says.

Read or better yet listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education

New Envoy’s Old Advice for Children: Read More

Katherine Paterson, the children’s novelist who will be appointed the national ambassador for young people’s literature on Tuesday, often assures aspiring writers that she showed little apparent talent as a child.

On visits to schools and libraries, Ms. Paterson, a two-time winner of both the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, frequently recites her first published work, a poem that appeared in her school newspaper in Shanghai:

Pat pat pat

There is the rat

Where is the cat?

Pat pat pat

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Children

Paul Krugman is Worried about a Double Dip in the Economy

Unfortunately, growth caused by an inventory bounce is a one-shot affair unless underlying sources of demand, such as consumer spending and long-term investment, pick up.

Which brings us to the still grim fundamentals of the economic situation.

During the good years of the last decade, such as they were, growth was driven by a housing boom and a consumer spending surge. Neither is coming back. There can’t be a new housing boom while the nation is still strewn with vacant houses and apartments left behind by the previous boom, and consumers ”” who are $11 trillion poorer than they were before the housing bust ”” are in no position to return to the buy-now-save-never habits of yore.

What’s left? A boom in business investment would be really helpful right now. But it’s hard to see where such a boom would come from: industry is awash in excess capacity, and commercial rents are plunging in the face of a huge oversupply of office space.

Can exports come to the rescue? For a while, a falling U.S. trade deficit helped cushion the economic slump. But the deficit is widening again, in part because China and other surplus countries are refusing to let their currencies adjust.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Federal Reserve, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

The Economist–Global tinderbox: 2010 could be a year that sparks unrest

IF THE world appears to have escaped relatively unscathed by social unrest in 2009, despite suffering the worst recession since the 1930s, it might just prove the lull before the storm. Despite a tentative global recovery, for many people around the world economic and social conditions will continue to deteriorate in 2010. An estimated 60m people worldwide will lose their jobs. Poverty rates will continue to rise, with 200m people at risk of joining the ranks of those living on less than $2 a day. But poverty alone does not spark unrest””exaggerated income inequalities, poor governance, lack of social provision and ethnic tensions are all elements of the brew that foments unrest.

Take a look at the chart and the comments if you have time.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Gambling, Politics in General, Poverty

The Bishop of London's Christmas message to the Diocese

I am looking forward to the Christmas festival more than usually this year. Some times in the past it has been obscured by the light pollution from which we suffer in great cities during the season of getting and spending. This year we have been forced to face up to the darkness in this very perilous world and as a result it is perhaps easier to see the star which leads us to the significance of the birth of Christ. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

The Copenhagen Conference, as I speak, is drawing to its inconclusive end, promising further negotiations. The wisdom of the world has been on display with its sectarian mentality. It has helped me to see freshly once again the astonishing and dangerous generosity in the Christmas story. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. The messenger of God comes to Mary and instead of replying that the promised god-send did not fit in with her own life plan, she said “Behold the hand maid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word”.

The sectarian mentality and the frequent lack of interest in anything that was “not invented here” are huge obstacles on the road to God’s future for the world. Dante the great poet of the Christian West, at the end of his Divine comedy, describes that future as “all the scattered leaves of the universe bound by love in one volume”. The Church is called to be the transforming community created by the generosity of God working to open a fissure in the world so that God’s future can enter in. This is why we pray “thy kingdom come” to open up the present to God’s end time.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, CoE Bishops

Ban on product placement on TV should remain, says Church of England

The Church shares the concerns of a range of organisations, including consumer bodies and health promotion groups, that suggest the blurring of the line currently separating editorial content from commercial messages is not in the interests of the public, and may damage trust in the integrity of broadcasters.

“Retaining trust in broadcasters’ integrity and editorial balance is key to maintaining strong relationships between audience and broadcaster, which in turn has both civic/societal and economic benefits,” argues the Church’s submission. “For this reason, the Church of England is opposed to changes to the current regulatory regime, even outside public service content and news and current affairs.”

Read it all and follow the link to the full document also.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture