Daily Archives: April 8, 2010

U.S. consumers still pessimistic about economy, but feel better re:personal finances

A majority of Americans (82 per cent) feel their local economy will stay the same or weaken within the next six months, according to inaugural survey findings from the RBC Consumer Outlook Index, the new monthly survey of U.S. consumers released today by RBC. However, there are signs of growing confidence, with just over half of Americans (51 per cent) now feeling optimistic about their personal financial situations.

The RBC Consumer Outlook Index provides the most comprehensive, forward-looking analysis of consumers’ national and local perceptions of the economy and their personal financial situation based on a representative nationwide sample of 1,007 U.S. adults polled from April 1-5, 2010, by research company Ipsos. Going forward, RBC will publish the Index on a monthly basis. Future reports will include comparisons and analysis regarding significant shifts in consumer attitudes and behaviours, as well as regional breakouts.

“We strongly believe this first look at what consumers are thinking now will be of tremendous value to those looking for insightful and predictive market analysis,” said Marc Harris, Co-Head of Global Research at RBC Capital Markets. “We think that investors will tune in for the data, talk about it and trade on it.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

David Brooks–Relax, (America), We’ll Be Fine

This column is a great luscious orgy of optimism. Because the fact is, despite all the problems, America’s future is exceedingly bright.

Over the next 40 years, demographers estimate that the U.S. population will surge by an additional 100 million people, to 400 million over all. The population will be enterprising and relatively young. In 2050, only a quarter will be over 60, compared with 31 percent in China and 41 percent in Japan.

In his book, “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050,” über-geographer Joel Kotkin sketches out how this growth will change the national landscape. Extrapolating from current trends, he describes an archipelago of vibrant suburban town centers, villages and urban cores.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A.

Terry Mattingly: The Quest for the common Easter

Motorists across America saw a strange sight this past Sunday morning if they stopped at a traffic signal near an Eastern Orthodox sanctuary and then, shortly thereafter, passed a Catholic parish.

What they saw was worshippers singing hymns and waving palm fronds as they marched in Palm Sunday processions at these churches. Similar sights will be common during Holy Week rites this week and then on Easter Sunday.

There is nothing unusual about various churches celebrating these holy days in their own ways. What is rare is for the churches of the East and West to be celebrating Easter (“Pascha” in the East) on the same day. This will happen again next year, as well as in 2014 and 2017.

This remains one of the most painful symbols of division in global Christianity….

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Supreme Court refuses Muslim's case about possible juror bias

The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take the case of a Muslim defendant in Colorado whose lawyer was barred from questioning a prospective juror who, during jury selection, expressed concern that he might be biased against Muslims.

The trial judge refused to allow the defense lawyer to closely question the prospective juror about his possible anti-Muslim prejudice. The judge also refused a request that the individual be excluded from the jury.

Instead, the man became one of 12 jurors who heard evidence in a trial infused with anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim themes and comments, according to court documents.

The defendant, Homaidan Al-Turki, was convicted of having unlawful sexual contact with a live-in housekeeper, of failing to pay her for all her work, and for keeping her in slave-like conditions. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Read it all.

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

RNS–Vatican Posts 142 Years of Official Documents Online

The Vatican has posted online 142 years of documents, from Pope Pius IX to Benedict XVI, including unofficial texts relating to the period during the Second World War.

The official site of the Holy See (http://www.vatican.va) is offering access to the documents from the resource library, including papers of popes and of the Roman Curia, from 1865 until 2007.

Beginning with Pius IX, who served for almost 32 years in the 19th century, the official Vatican documents had been published on what are known as “Acta Sanctae Sedis” (Acts of the Holy See).

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, Church History, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

In Massachusetts Health insurers sue to raise rates: "sets the stage for a showdown"

A half-dozen health insurers…[Monday] filed a lawsuit against the state seeking to reverse last week’s decision by the insurance commissioner to block double-digit premium increases ”” a ruling they say could leave them with hundreds of millions in losses this year.

The proposed rate hikes would have taken effect April 1 for plans covering thousands of small businesses and individuals. Insurers wanted to raise base rates an average of 8 percent to 32 percent; tacked on to that are often additional costs calculated according to factors such as the size and age of the workforce.

Yesterday’s legal action sets the stage for a showdown between state regulators and the health insurance industry.

Governor Deval Patrick has made reining in runaway health care costs a centerpiece of his administration and his campaign for reelection ”” contending they are stifling the capacity of small businesses to create jobs. At the same time, health insurers argue that government is forcing them to sell policies at a loss that is unsustainable as the costs of medical services climb.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, State Government

Robert Wright: Why Tiger Matters

I want to defend the proposition that, in its own way, the Tiger Woods scandal is as important as Kandahar and the Catholic Church. Leaving aside the question of whether we should shower condemnation on Woods ”” a hard question that I don’t purport to have a compelling answer to ”” one thing I feel sure of is that this Tiger Woods thing matters.

Why? Because it embodies some other things that matter. For example:

1) Monogamous marriage matters….

2) Monogamous marriage matters especially in parts of society where it is weakest….

3) Role models matter….

4) Role models matter for adults, kind of….

5) Moral sanction matters….

Read it carefully and read it all.

I have scrupulously avoided this topic because it sickens me, among many other reasons. But it does matter. Comments on this thread will be carefully watched, however. This is not an opportunity to get off topic, please. This is a chance to interact with a column and its specific arguments–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Sports, Theology

AP: Nearly half of US households escape Federal income tax

In recent years, credits for low- and middle-income families have grown so much that a family of four making as much as $50,000 will owe no federal income tax for 2009, as long as there are two children younger than 17, according to a separate analysis by the consulting firm Deloitte Tax.

Tax cuts enacted in the past decade have been generous to wealthy taxpayers, too, making them a target for President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. Less noticed were tax cuts for low- and middle-income families, which were expanded when Obama signed the massive economic recovery package last year.

The result is a tax system that exempts almost half the country from paying for programs that benefit everyone, including national defense, public safety, infrastructure and education. It is a system in which the top 10 percent of earners — households making an average of $366,400 in 2006 — paid about 73 percent of the income taxes collected by the federal government.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Taxes, The U.S. Government

Phillip Pullman: what Jesus Christ means to me

…memories are not enough to sustain a faith. It was in my teenage years that believing finally became impossible; after I’d learnt a little science, the meaning of creation in six days and conception by means of the Holy Ghost had to be understood metaphorically rather than literally, and once that was done, there was only God himself left. Although I carried on a fairly anguished one-sided conversation with Him for some time, the silence on His part was complete.

Nowadays, I’m as sure as I can be that there is nothing there. I think that matter is quite extraordinary and wonderful and mysterious enough, without adding something called spirit to it; in fact, any talk about the spiritual makes me feel a little uneasy. When I hear such utterances as ”˜I’m spiritual but not religious’, or ”˜So-and-so is a deeply spiritual person’, or even phrases of a thoroughly respectable Platonic kind such as ”˜The eternal reality of a supreme goodness’, I pull back almost physically. I feel not so much puzzlement as vertigo, as if I’m leaning out over a void. There is just nothing there.

Consequently, the immense and complicated structures of Christian theology seem to me like the epicycles of Ptolemaic astronomy ”“ preposterously elaborated methods of explaining away a mistake. When it was realised that the planets went around the sun, not the Earth, the glorious simplicity of the idea blew away the epicycles like so many cobwebs: everything worked perfectly without them.

And as soon as you realise that God doesn’t exist, the same sort of thing happens to all those doctrines such as atonement, the immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, original sin, the Trinity, justification by faith, redemption and so on. Cobwebs, dusty bits of rag, frail scraps of faded cloth: they hide nothing, they decorate nothing and now they mean nothing.

Read the whole article from the Telegraph.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Books, Christology, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

Globe and Mail–Canadian Churches get apology from Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has issued a written apology to the churches involved in residential schools after the commission’s research director accused them of being unco-operative.

Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the commission, has sent a letter of apology to representatives of the Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian and United churches to distance the commission from John Milloy’s comments, which first appeared in a Trent university newspaper.

“It was, in fact, Professor Milloy himself who brought the matter to my attention, with his assurance that he profoundly regrets the tone, language, and assumptions cast within his statements,” states the letter. “The Trent article, I am assured, is an example of one’s impatience winning over one’s passion to ”˜get the job done.’”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Canada, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

ENI–Kenyan Anglican head differs with other church leaders on new law

Anglican Archbishop Eluid Wabukala of Kenya has chosen to differ with other Christian leaders in his country over a draft constitution that would permit Islamic “Kadhi” courts, and authorize abortion.

The archbishop has urged Kenyans to back the law, while suggesting that controversial clauses in it could be revised in future.

“The document is better than the current one. It is my feeling that Kenyans should accept it and amend some clauses later,” Wabukala told journalists on April 3 in Nairobi, two days after the country’s parliament had passed the law.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces, Kenya, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

LA Times–Vatican picks a Latino to lead Los Angeles Archdiocese

The Vatican’s choice of a Mexican-born archbishop, Jose Gomez of San Antonio, as the next prelate of Los Angeles reflects the formal acknowledgment of a remarkable, decades-long shift in the center of gravity of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church — from Northeast to Southwest, from Eurocentric to Latino-dominated.

The 58-year-old Gomez has the potential to reshape the Archdiocese of Los Angeles over most of the next two decades, assuming he can successfully steer it past the shoals of a lingering sexual abuse crisis. In him, Pope Benedict XVI clearly saw a leader for a new kind of American church, one that is in sync with changing demographics but also adheres to Benedict’s traditional notions about Catholic theology.

“This is an epic moment in the life of the church in the United States,” Cardinal Roger Mahony said Tuesday as he introduced his successor during a news conference at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, itself a symbol of L.A.’s position as the new capital of U.S. Catholicism.

Gomez, who stood near Mahony, nodding and smiling slightly as he was introduced, struck a humble tone in his own remarks to reporters. “I know that God will give me the grace to serve this local church well, as Cardinal Mahony has done for so many fruitful years,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

RNS–President Obama Bares His Soul for Easter Event

President Obama bared his soul before a cross section of Christian leaders at a White House Easter breakfast on Tuesday (April 6), where he spoke publicly of his faith in redemption through Jesus in his most personal terms since becoming president.

Addressing his “brothers and sisters in Christ” among the nearly 90 pastors, community activists, and bishops in attendance, Obama spoke of “our risen savior” and the inspiration he takes from Christ’s resurrection.

“We are awed by the grace he showed even to those who would have killed him,” Obama said, pausing occasionally to glance at written notes. “We are thankful for the sacrifice he gave for the sins of humanity. And we glory in the promise of redemption in the resurrection.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture

Fed Chief Bernanke Says U.S. Must Address Soaring Debt

The U.S. must start to prepare for challenges posed by an aging population with a credible plan to gradually reduce a soaring public debt, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday.

Health spending is set to increase over the long term as the U.S. population grows older, posing challenges to the country’s already strained finances, the Fed chief warned.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Economy, Federal Reserve, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

From the Morning Bible Readings

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

–Matthew 28:16-20

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture