Daily Archives: February 25, 2010

Banks Bet Greece Defaults on Debt They Helped Hide

Bets by some of the same banks that helped Greece shroud its mounting debts may actually now be pushing the nation closer to the brink of financial ruin, Nelson D. Schwartz and Eric Dash report in The New York Times.

Echoing the kind of trades that nearly toppled the American International Group, the increasingly popular insurance against the risk of a Greek default is making it harder for Athens to raise the money it needs to pay its bills, according to traders and money managers.

These contracts, known as credit-default swaps, effectively let banks and hedge funds wager on the financial equivalent of a four-alarm fire: a default by a company or, in the case of Greece, an entire country. If Greece reneges on its debts, traders who own these swaps stand to profit.

“It’s like buying fire insurance on your neighbor’s house ”” you create an incentive to burn down the house,” said Philip Gisdakis, head of credit strategy at UniCredit in Munich.

Read it all from the front page of today’s NY Times.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Europe, Greece, The Banking System/Sector

Genetic testing may yield personalized health treatments

Heart disease patient Terence Gooding and breast cancer survivor Kathy Negro live 2,000 miles apart, but they stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the burgeoning field of personalized medicine.

They are among a small but growing number of American patients who have sought genetic testing to help guide their treatment. The genes in question, passed from parent to child, carry the blueprints for liver enzymes involved in processing many medications.

Scientists expect that in the not-too-distant future, patients will be tested routinely for a variety of genes that affect their response to drugs. The results should help doctors decide what and how much to prescribe, a major step forward in personalizing treatments for a range of ailments.

In the next three to five years, the cost of sequencing a person’s genome will drop below $1,000 ”” less than the price of a colonoscopy, says National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome Project to completion in 2003. Says Collins: “I think that will finally make pharmacogenomics” ”” the study of how variations in the human genome affect a person’s responses to medications ”” “really practical.”

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

Tom Brokaw Explains Canada To Americans

This is a lovely piece which I caught when it first aired but it well worth the time if you have not seen it–KSH.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Canada, Energy, Natural Resources, Foreign Relations

Rhode Island School Fires Entire Teaching Staff

Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Education

WSJ: Europe Goes on Strike

On Wednesday, a union-backed general strike shut down Greece. Roughly a million workers protested their government’s plans to bring its 12.7% budget deficit under some semblance of control. Shipping, air traffic, trains, schools, and numerous private industries ground to halt. In the one country that can least afford to put an economic gun to its own head, the unions have decided to pull the trigger.

Nor were Greek workers alone. In Spain, tens of thousands of union members and fellow-travelers rallied in the streets. In France, air-traffic controllers and refinery workers have walked off the job. In Germany, a brief strike by Lufthansa pilots has left Europe’s airports even more clogged than usual. Only in the U.K. do British Airways’ cabin-crew members remain coy as to when exactly they will bring operations to a grinding halt.

What accounts for this Continent-wide outbreak of unrest at a time when Europe’s economies can so ill-afford it? Call it the welfare-state mentality coming home to roost….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Europe, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

Diocese of Texas passes council resolution according legitimacy to same-sex relationships

This is an update to the entry immediately below, which commented on a then-proposed Annual Council resolution according honor to same-sex relationships and stating that God is made known in and through such relationships. The resolution, modified in some details from the version proposed by the diocese’s resolutions committee but still to the same effect, was approved by vote of the Council on February 13.[1] Somewhat surprisingly, it passed with the support of several clergy generally identified as having a conservative view, who signed on as named proponents of the resolution alongside the five proponents (three clergy and two lay) of the original resolutions submitted to the committee. All five of these new proponents are clergy from Houston, two of them being rectors of the Diocese’s largest two parishes. Four of the five are listed on the Communion Partners web site as Communion Partner Rectors[2]and one of these four is listed as a member of the Communion Partner Clergy Steering Committee. These new named proponents of the resolution do not include any laypersons, and accounts of the Council meeting published on the diocese’s web site do not indicate that any laypersons identified with the conservative side spoke from the Council floor in support of the resolution. The text of the resolution, the names and parish identifications of the proponents and a summary of statements made from the floor appear at http://161council.blogspot.com/2010/02/final-council-actions-and-elections_16.html (scroll down to Resolutions).

Read it all and please follow all the links.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

Diocesan statistics for the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s figures, Iowa has grown in population from 2,926,324 in 2000 to 3,007,856 in 2009. This represents a population growth of approximately 2.8%.

According to Episcopal Church statistics, the Diocese of Iowa went from Average Sunday Attendance (or ASA) of 4,182 in 1998 to 3,193 in 2008. This represents an ASA decline of about 24% over this ten year period.

A pictorial chart of some Iowa diocesan statistics may be found here.

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

Anatole Kaletsky–If Barack Obama fails today at the Health Care Summit, we’ll all be swept away

You may not have noticed, but today is a very important day for US politics, world economic prospects and even for the global balance of power between Western democracy and benign dictatorship along Chinese lines. Why? Because today marks either the beginning of the end of Barack Obama’ presidency, or the end of the beginning.

At 10am US Eastern Time, he will host an all-day “summit”, broadcast live on nationwide TV, with his Republican congressional opponents and his wayward Democratic supporters, to try to establish some kind of political consensus on the top priority of his presidency ”” reform of the ruinously expensive US healthcare system. Medicine now absorbs 17 per cent of US national income, double the average in other advanced economies and half as much again as Switzerland, which has the next most expensive healthcare.

If nothing is done to change the US healthcare system, it can be stated with mathematical certainty that the US Government and many leading US companies will be driven into bankruptcy, a fate that befell General Motors and Chrysler largely because of their inability to meet retired workers’ contractually guaranteed medical costs.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Economy, England / UK, Globalization, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

Pope's Benedict XVI's "Lectio Divina" to Roman Priests (Part 1)

Let us also make this reality a practical factor in our life: if this is how it is, a priest must really be a man of God, he must know God intimately and know him in communion with Christ and so we must live this communion; and the celebration of Holy Mass, the prayer of the Breviary, all our personal prayers are elements of being with God, of being men of God. Our being, our life and our heart must be fixed in God, in this point from which we must not stir. This is achieved and reinforced day after day with short prayers in which we reconnect with God and become, increasingly, men of God who live in his communion and can thus speak of God and lead people to God.

The other element is that the priest must be man, human in all senses. That is, he must live true humanity, true humanism; he must be educated, have a human formation, human virtues; he must develop his intelligence, his will, his sentiments, his affections; he must be a true man, a man according to the will of the Creator, of the Redeemer, for we know that the human being is wounded and the question of “what man is” is obscured by the event of sin that hurt human nature even to the quick.

Thus people say: “he lied” “it is human”; “he stole” “it is human”; but this is not really being human. Human means being generous, being good, being a just person, it means true prudence and wisdom. Therefore emerging with Christ’s help from this dark area in our nature so as to succeed in being truly human in the image of God is a lifelong process that must begin in our training for the priesthood. It must subsequently be achieved, however, and continue as long as we live. I think that basically these two things go hand in hand: being of God and with God and being true man, in the true sense meant by the Creator when he formed this creature that we are.

To be man: the Letter to the Hebrews stresses our humanity; we find this surprising for it says: “He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness” (5:2). And then even more forcefully “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear” (5:7).

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology

RNS–Nuns, Priests in Third World Lead Growth as West Falters

Among the figures in the 2010 Pontifical Yearbook:

— Over a nine-year period from 2000 to 2008, the number of priests around the world increased by 1 percent, to a total of 409,166. European priests (who made up 51.5 percent of the total at the start of the decade) ended 2008 as a minority for the first time, at 47.1 percent. The next largest group was found in the Americas (30 percent), followed by Asia (13.2 percent), Africa (8.7 percent) and Oceania (1.2 percent).

— In the same nine-year period, the number of religious sisters dropped by 17.6 percent in Europe, 12.9 percent in the Americas and 14.9 percent in Oceania, while rising by 21.2 percent in Africa and 16.4 percent in Asia. The number of sisters worldwide dropped by 7.8 percent, to a total of 739,067.

Read it all.

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

AP–Bottom line at health summit: lots of smoke

Sen. Chris Dodd, D.-Conn., who will be among the lawmakers participating, worked a rally of supporters on the eve of Thursday’s meeting, scheduled to start at 10 a.m. EST.

“After that meeting, you can either join us or get out of the way,” Dodd said.

Not if Republicans have anything to do with it. Riding a populist backlash against the widening reach of government, they insist that Obama start from scratch, a notion the White House rejects. They’re unified in opposing the Democratic bills passed last year and have pulled back from more ambitious GOP-backed plans that might have provided a foundation for compromise.

With premiums going up by double digits for some consumers, polls show the public wants Congress and the president to deal with spiraling medical costs, shrinking coverage and questionable quality. But Americans are split over the Democratic bills. If Obama and the Democrats can’t get their legislation passed, there may still be a chance for a modest measure this year that smooths the rough edges of the current system but stops well short of coverage for all.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

Daily Mail–Liberal bishops call for gay couples to be allowed to marry in church

A group of prominent Church of England clergy yesterday called for the right to solemnise civil partnerships in church.

They backed a change to Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill that would allow religious buildings to host them. At present they must be registered in secular surroundings, like civil weddings.

The campaign deepens the difficulties of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who is to trying to avoid a worldwide Anglican rift over gay rights in the Church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

Tax Status Of Lawmakers' Religious Refuge Disputed

The three-story, brick townhouse at 133 C Street SE sits a half-block from the Cannon House Office Building, roughly three blocks from the Capitol ”” the home-away-from-home for a regular contingent of fundamentalist Christian members of Congress, who can pray in the living room and walk to work.

The C Street Center, which owns the 1880 vintage townhouse, claims status as a church. And as with other religious organizations, the IRS takes the center’s word that it is a church. As a result, the center doesn’t have to file public tax returns, as most nonprofit organizations must do.

The arrangement fits the C Street Center’s practically invisible public presence. But now a group of 13 ministers has asked the IRS to revoke that church status.

Their complaint, delivered to the IRS on Tuesday, says: “An organization whose chief activity is providing room and board to members of Congress is not a church.” It cites a list of 15 factors that the agency considers in granting church status.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate

School Laptop Spying Allegations Raise Privacy Questions

Witold J. Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, says regardless of the applicability of wiretapping statutes, there’s still a constitutional ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

“There’s no confusion about whether the 4th Amendment applies here,” he says. “We haven’t had any cases where law enforcement was stupid enough to put a camera into a home without a warrant.”

Regardless of the legal outcome, Walczak predicts that other districts will be discouraged from remotely operating surveillance cameras, “given the firestorem that hit Lower Merion.”

There’s no way of telling whether schools or companies are using webcams to monitor their employees. The technology is certainly available. And it’s clear that many corporations use computers to keep track of employee activity — by reading their e-mails, for instance, or tracking which Web sites they visit.

“The fact that this has come to light is really important, because it shows there can be abuse,” says Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer group based in San Diego.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

Communique of the Fourth Meeting of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Archbishop of Canterbury

(ACNS) The fourth regular meeting of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbis of Israel took place at the Jerusalem offices of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel on 22nd February 2010 / 8th Adar 5770 in keeping with their joint protocol signed in 2006/5766

The Most Revd. Dr. Rowan Williams accompanied by the Rt. Revd. Michael Jackson, Bishop of Clogher and co-chair of the Anglican Jewish Commission; the Rt. Revd. Suheil Dawani, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem; and the Revd. Canon Guy Wilkinson, the Archbishop’s Secretary for Inter religious Affairs, were welcomed by Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Rishon LeZion and Chief Rabbi of Israel, supported by Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa and co-chair of the Anglican-Jewish Commission; Rabbi David Rosen, Advisor to the Chief Rabbinate on Interreligious Affairs, Rabbi David Brodman, Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber and Mr Oded Wiener, Director-General of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

After initial warm greetings and expression of thanks to the Creator of the Universe for His Providence – in particular for the ongoing friendship between the principals and their respective colleagues ”“ warm mutual appreciation was expressed for the work of the Anglican Jewish Commission whose most recent meeting had focused on the meaning and significance of Jerusalem in the Jewish and Christian traditions.
The Archbishop reflected on the presentations and on the concluding statement of that meeting and expressed his own hopes and prayers and those of his Church that the spirit of deep understanding and mutual respect that pervaded the substance and form of that meeting will soon be reflected on the ground between the different faith communities through a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict in Jerusalem and the Holy Land as a whole.

Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen responded, echoing the sentiments of the Archbishop and adding the hope that genuine peace and reconciliation will be one in which provision is made not only for the respect of separate holy sites of each faith, but also for open access to sites holy to more than one faith in a manner acceptable to all relevant parties. All present expressed gratification with the progress of the Dialogue to a degree that enabled honest and frank exchange in discussion of both convergent and divergent vital issues. This was considered of great significance in giving a renewed impetus for a continuation and deepening of the Dialogue.

Chief Rabbi Amar and Archbishop Williams offered their reflections on the theme of the forthcoming meeting in London of the Anglican Jewish Commission on creation and human responsibility for the environment. They spoke of their common understanding of the creation as a gift of the Creator entrusted to humanity. They emphasised that Scripture insists on the integrity of both the spiritual and material for any effective approach to environmental concerns.

Discussion also took place concerning the life and needs of the diverse Christian community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land and a clear commitment was made to find practical ways in which greater mutual understanding between communities could be brought about and to which the special relationship of the principals could contribute.

The deliberations concluded with a commendation of the work of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land and a commitment to continue the Dialogue and the work of the Anglican Jewish Commission.

Following the meeting the delegations went together to Yad Vashem. The Archbishop, with Bishop Suhail Dawani and Bishop Michael Jackson laid a wreath in recognition of the abiding significance of the Holocaust and as a commitment to the struggle against the continuing evil of anti Semitism and all racial hatred and bigotry.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture