Daily Archives: January 13, 2010

A Year of Terror Plots, Through a Second Prism

As terrorist plots against the United States have piled up in recent months, politicians and the news media have sounded the alarm with a riveting message for Americans: Be afraid. Al Qaeda is on the march again, targeting the country from within and without, and your hapless government cannot protect you.

But the politically charged clamor has lumped together disparate cases and obscured the fact that the enemies on American soil in 2009, rather than a single powerful and sophisticated juggernaut, were a scattered, uncoordinated group of amateurs who displayed more fervor than skill. The weapons were old-fashioned guns and explosives ”” in several cases, duds supplied by F.B.I. informants ”” with no trace of the biological or radiological poisons, let alone the nuclear bombs, that have long been the ultimate fear.

And though 2009 brought more domestic plots, and more serious plots, than any recent year, their lethality was relatively modest. Exactly 14 of the approximately 14,000 murders in the United States last year resulted from allegedly jihadist attacks: 13 people shot at Fort Hood in Texas in November and one at a military recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., in June.

Such statistics would be no comfort, of course, if an attack with mass casualties succeeded some day.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Terrorism

Fleming Rutledge–Death and Life: The Apostolic Vocation

And so to you, beloved of God at the church of the Good Shepherd:

The apostolic ministry has lost standing in the Episcopal Church, even in Virginia where it used to be very highly valued. Here in this parish, however, you have responded to it, and that is a cause for great thanksgiving and great hope. There is no greater need in the church today than that of feeding the flock with the full, concrete, biblical, Trinitarian content of the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen. Ross Wright has spent his entire life studying that full content. In your embrace of him to be your rector, you have an idea of what you are receiving, and that is therefore part of your calling also, your service also. That reception of the gospel translates into the good works that identify Christ’s life in the world. Christ’s life, not ours. The transcendent power belongs to God and not to you, to God and not to me, to God and not to Ross.

It will cost Ross a good deal to bring you this message week in and week out, as it costs every parish priest, but you will receive life from it. The transcendent power of God is defined by Paul in Romans as the power that raises the dead and calls into existence the things that do not yet exist (Romans :17). And as you receive that divine life, you will be moved, invigorated, and sustained by it. It will send you out to serve his needy, broken, suffering world””the world for which he poured out his life, the world for which he gave himself in surpassing love, for which he conquered death, and for which he came again in the fulness of his resurrection power to bear you up in all your trials and bring you into his everlasting kingdom.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology, Theology: Scripture

New cricket species filmed pollinating orchids

A new species of cricket has been caught on camera – and its bizarre behaviour has surprised scientists.

Far from living up to the cricket’s plant-destroying reputation, this species lends a helping hand to flora by acting as a pollinator.

Scientists say this is the first time a cricket has been spotted pollinating a flower – in this case, an orchid.

A study of the nocturnal insect, which was found on the island of Reunion, has been published in the Annals of Botany.

Read it all and make sure to watch the video.

Posted in * General Interest, Animals

Bloomberg TV: Alan Blinder Interview About Financial Regulation

Alan Blinder, a former Federal Reserve vice chairman who is an economics professor at Princeton University, talks with Bloomberg’s Mark Crumpton and Julie Hyman about the outlook for an overhaul of financial regulation in the U.S. Blinder also discusses the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.

Watch it all (8 minutes in all).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Alan Blinder: When Greed Is Not Good

When economists first heard Gekko’s now-famous dictum, “Greed is good,” they thought it a crude expression of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”””which is one of history’s great ideas. But in Smith’s vision, greed is socially beneficial only when properly harnessed and channeled. The necessary conditions include, among other things: appropriate incentives (for risk taking, etc.), effective competition, safeguards against exploitation of what economists call “asymmetric information” (as when a deceitful seller unloads junk on an unsuspecting buyer), regulators to enforce the rules and keep participants honest, and””when relevant””protection of taxpayers against pilferage or malfeasance by others. When these conditions fail to hold, greed is not good.

Plainly, they all failed in the financial crisis. Compensation and other types of incentives for risk taking were badly skewed. Corporate boards were asleep at the switch. Opacity reduced effective competition. Financial regulation was shamefully lax. Predators roamed the financial landscape, looting both legally and illegally. And when the Treasury and Federal Reserve rushed in to contain the damage, taxpayers were forced to pay dearly for the mistakes and avarice of others. If you want to know why the public is enraged, that, in a nutshell, is why.

American democracy is alleged to respond to public opinion, and incumbents are quaking in their boots. Yet we stand here in January 2010 with virtually the same legal and regulatory system we had when the crisis struck in the summer of 2007, with only minor changes in Wall Street business practices, and with greed returning big time. That’s both amazing and scary….

Read the whole piece.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The U.S. Government, Theology

Tanya Ballard Brown–When it comes to Marriage Black Brothers, Where Art Thou?

One day late last month, I powered up my laptop and pulled up my Google reader to find post after post about what some of the bloggers I follow had decided was the latest in a growing assault on successful single black women: this ABC News Nightline piece exploring the low marriage rate in the African-American community.

Watch it and you’ll see a group of attractive, well-groomed ladies ”” an attorney, a chemist, a doctoral student, a payroll specialist ”” discussing what they perceive as their lack of marriage options. The reporter cites this statistic: “Forty-two percent of U.S. black women have never been married, double the number of white women who’ve never tied the knot.”

This report followed a Dec. 10 story in The Washington Post and one a few months earlier from MSNBC about the dwindling marriage prospects for black women. We discussed it here at NPR in September, UPI had its version in August, CNN covered it last year, and Oprah tackled it in 2007….

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Marriage & Family, Men

RNS: Pope Laments Slow Pace in Tackling Climate Change

Referring to last month’s United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, where political leaders failed to negotiate a way to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, Benedict said the summit offered evidence of “economic and political resistance to combating the degradation of the environment.”

“I trust that in the course of this year … it will be possible to reach an agreement for effectively dealing with (climate change),” Benedict said. “The issue is all the more important in that the very future of some nations is at stake, particularly some island states.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Climate Change, Weather, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

China rises above recession, inviting Scrutiny

Please note that the headline above is from the print edition–KSH.

As much of the world struggles to clamber out of a serious recession, a gradual flow of economic power from West to East has turned into a flood.

New high points, it seems, are reached daily. China surged past the United States to become the world’s largest automobile market ”” in units, if not in dollars, figures released Monday show. It also toppled Germany as the biggest exporter of manufactured goods, according to year-end trade data. World Bank estimates suggest that China ”” the world’s fifth-largest economy four years ago ”” will shortly overtake Japan to claim the No. 2 spot.

The shift of economic gravity to China has occurred partly because growth here remained robust even as the world’s developed economies suffered the steepest drop in trade and economic output in decades.

But that did not happen by chance: China’s decisive government intervention in the economy, combined with the defiant optimism of its companies and consumers, has propelled an economy that until recently had seemed tethered to the health of its major export markets, including the United States.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Britain Moves to Ban Islamic Group

Britain said Tuesday it was outlawing a radical Islamic group that had incited outrage by planning a protest march through the streets of a town made famous for its somber ceremonies honoring British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Some patients willing to pay for 'boutique' primary care doctors

Over the counter cold-and-flu remedy: $5.99.

Trip to the doctor’s office: $20.

Extra time to bend your doctor’s ear: $1,500 a year and up.

Primary care physicians are increasingly offering exclusivity to those willing to pay for it.

These practices, known as concierge, boutique or retainer practices, typically charge annual fees that range from $1,500 to $10,000 or more. The fee allows the businesses to prosper with a far smaller roll of patients than has become the norm under the traditional system.

Patients like the extra attention and lack of crowded waiting rooms. Doctors say they need alternatives to a payment system that forces them to cram their schedule with appointments.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine

Notable and Quotable (II)

Household leverage in the United States and many industrial countries increased dramatically in the decade prior to 2007. Countries with the largest increases in household leverage tended to experience the fastest rises in house prices over the same period. These same countries tended to experience the biggest declines in household consumption once house prices started falling.

–Reuven Glick and Kevin J. Lansing of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in a very important recent paper

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Notable and Quotable (I)

“[O]ver-investment and over-speculation are often important; but they would have far less serious results were they not conducted with borrowed money.” ””Irving Fisher (1933)

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, History, Personal Finance, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.

–Hebrews 2:14,15

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Hilary of Poitiers

O Lord our God, who didst raise up thy servant Hilary to be a champion of the catholic faith: Keep us steadfast in that true faith which we professed at our baptism, that we may rejoice in having thee for our Father, and may abide in thy Son, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; thou who livest and reignest for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

Google, Citing Cyber Attack, Threatens to Exit China

Google threatened late Tuesday to pull out of its operations in China after it said it had uncovered a massive cyber attack on its computers that originated there.

As a result, the company said, it would no longer agree to censor its search engine in China and may exit the country altogether.

Google said that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human right activists, but that the attack also targeted 20 other large companies in the finance, technology, media and chemical sectors.

In a blog posting by David Drummond, the corporate development and chief legal officer, Google said that it had found a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China.”

Read it all

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Blogging & the Internet, China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Globalization