Daily Archives: April 30, 2010

Meera Subramanian–A Crisis for the Faithful Among the Parsis

The Parsi bodies are piling up in India. Parsis are modern adherents of the ancient Zoroastrian faith that emerged in the 6th century B.C. in Persia, predating Christianity and Islam. According to many scholars, Zoroastrianism influenced these religions and Judaism with its fundamental concept of a dualistic world of light versus darkness, with a good God pitted against the forces of evil.

In the earthly realm of humans, Parsis also believe in the ritual purity of fire, soil and water, elements that shouldn’t be sullied by pollution from a defiling corpse. So while virtually all other cultures dispose of their dead by burial or cremation, Parsis have followed a more unusual method. Yet after millennia, that method now has been called into question, forcing a crisis of faith whose only answer is adaptation.

In a ritual so old it was described by Herodotus, Zoroastrians have laid out their dead atop Towers of Silence to be exposed to sun, sky and””most importantly””vultures. These massive harbingers of death with eight-foot wingspans once numbered in the millions across South Asia and could strip a corpse to the bone in hours. Yet their service has come to an abrupt end in the past decade as the vulture population plummeted due to a fatal reaction to a common painkiller given to the livestock and humans that the birds eventually feed upon. Ongoing habitat shrinkage has exacerbated the decline. With vultures virtually extinct, the Parsis are left struggling with the question of how to preserve traditions when modern forces conspire against them.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Reuters: After TV win, Cameron tries to win UK voters' trust

Energised by a clear win in a final TV debate, Conservative leader David Cameron sought on Friday to convince waverers in a tight election race they could trust him with Britain’s future.

With a week to go before an election, snap viewer polls judged Cameron, 43, the victor of the third and final TV debate on Thursday night. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, 43, was second while Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 59, came last.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Politics in General

Nicholas Kristof–Winning the Guinea Worm War

Since ancient times, one of the world’s most terrifying ailments has been caused by what the Bible calls “the fiery serpent,” now known as Guinea worm.

Guinea worms grow up to a yard long inside the body and finally poke out through the skin. They cause excruciating pain and must be pulled out slowly, an inch or two a day. In endemic areas like this district in Lakes State of southern Sudan, people can have a dozen Guinea worms dangling from their bodies.

Yet this is a good news column.

This district is, in fact, one of the last places on earth with Guinea worms. If all goes well, Guinea worms will be eradicated worldwide in the next couple of years ”” only the second disease ever to be eliminated, after smallpox.

For the last 24 years, former President Jimmy Carter has led the global struggle against the disease. When he started, there were 3.5 million cases annually in 20 countries. Last year, there were fewer than 3,200 cases in four countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and Sudan. The great majority of the remaining cases are here in southern Sudan.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Health & Medicine, Poverty, Sudan

Michael Nazir-Ali.–The Legal threat to our spiritual tradition

Lord Justice Laws’s judgment on the Gary McFarlane case in the Court of Appeal ”“ that legislation for the protection of views held purely on religious ground cannot be justified ”“ has driven a coach and horses through the ancient association of the Christian faith with the constitutional and legal basis of British society.

Everything from the Coronation Oath onwards suggests that there is an inextricable link between the Judaeo-Christian tradition of the Bible and the institutions, the values and the virtues of British society. If this judgment is allowed to stand, the aggressive secularists will have had their way.

It also raises a number of fundamental questions to which answers need to be provided. Will there be, once again, a religious bar to holding office? We have already had a rash of cases involving magistrates unable to serve on the bench because of their Christian beliefs, registrars losing their jobs because they cannot, in conscience, officiate at civil partnerships, paediatricians unable to serve on adoption panels”¦ Will this trickle gradually become a flood, so that rather than conforming to the Church of England, the new discrimination tests will involve conforming to the secular religion as promoted by Lord Justice Laws?

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

NPR–The Not-So-Funny Tale Of Laughing Gas

In 1799, a very young chemist ”” about 21 years old ”” inhaled a lot of carbon monoxide directly into his lungs, keeled over, was seized by agonizing chest pains, staggered into his garden, got giddy, became nauseous, went to bed, recovered ”” and then, a few days later, he did it again.

Welcome to the world of 18th century science. Richard Holmes, in his book Age of Wonder, describes how young Humphry Davy went looking for a possible cure for tuberculosis. He tried inhaling very different gases, hoping to improve respiration. In a very un-20th century way, he matter-of-factly experimented on himself, his pets, his friends and even friends of friends.

Listen to it all (about 7 3/4 minutes). A terrific piece on the history of science.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Science & Technology

Robert Verkaik: Lord Carey's proposal is a step back to medieval days

It is out of profound respect for Lord Carey that a senior judge yesterday went to such obvious trouble of dignifying the former Archbishop of Canterbury’s question with an answer.

The Anglican prelate’s self-serving proposition that there should be a law that imposes a special duty on the judiciary to be sympathetic to the teachings of the Church of England, or indeed any other religion, is risible.

Yet Lord Justice Laws devoted more than 1,000 words of his judgment to dissecting Lord Carey’s argument, before concluding that he found it “deeply unprincipled”. The judge also said that it was irrational, divisive, capricious and arbitrary.

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

Indian Anglican church leader comes to Melbourne on goodwill visit

The Anglican Bishop of Delhi, the Right Reverend Sunil Kumar Singh, is on a goodwill visit to Melbourne that the Anglican Church hopes will encourage closer ties between the churches and cities of Melbourne and Delhi.

Bishop Singh, who is the guest of the Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Reverend Dr Philip Freier, will preach in St Paul’s Cathedral this Sunday, 2 May, at 10.30am. Members of the Indian community are especially welcome.

The bishop’s visit will last until 11 May. During his stay, Bishop Singh will visit the Brotherhood of St Laurence, meet other community leaders and offer Bible Studies to local clergy. Discussions will include the possibility of clergy exchanges and sharing experiences about living harmoniously in multicultural and multifaith societies.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces

Church Times–Anglican aspect of life in Ordinariate questioned

At a meeting on Saturday at Pusey House in Oxford, the Revd Jonathan Baker SSC, Principal of Pusey House, said that a group was gathering to reflect on what was the “distinct tradition” within the Anglican Church, fostered since the Reforma­tion, which was “potentially capable of finding its way to enrich the life of the wider Catholic Church”.

Under the norms of Benedict XVI’s Anglicanorum Coetibus, clergy trained in seminaries in the pro­posed Ordinariate (News, 23 Octo­ber) would be tutored in “those aspects of Anglican patrimony that are of particular value” to the RC Church.

One speaker, Eamon Duffy, Pro­fessor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge, and an Irish Roman Catholic, asked what “transferrable skills” Anglicans would bring. He said that what was distinctive was that they had been “shaped” by the Royal Supremacy, which had had a “moderating impact” on the differ­ences in the Church of England between Catholics and Protestants.

“A fundamental part of the nature, identity, and patrimony of Anglican­ism comes from the enforced co-existence of the Catholic dimension of Anglicanism within other more Protestant streams within an estab­lishment,” Professor Duffy said. There would be “big problems ima­gining how it would retain its coherence and Anglican identity outside those constraints. . . Could choral evensong survive in a min­ority uniate Church . . . within Roman Catholicism?”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology

Church Times–Archbishops: Vote to make British society more just

A fairer distribution of wealth is at the centre of a call to voters issued by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York this week.

Writing in the Church Times, Dr Williams and Dr Sentamu say that the “deepest challenge” to the UK is “how the wealth we possess collectively is to become a real ”˜common wealth’, wealth that serves a whole population not just the powerful and privileged”.

Despite the recession, they write that “many in the United Kingdom are still better off financially than they have ever been.” The concept of “com­mon wealth” is central to the Chris­tian understanding of “what a just and sustainable society looks like”.

The Archbishops list six areas where voters need to examine the values promoted by the different parties: equality, stability, global re-sponsibility, law and justice, and the needs of older people. Unless people vote according to their values, they say, the General Election will be little more than a “celebrity contest”.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York' s article on the General Election

In the middle of the cacophony of competing voices as we prepare to vote this coming Thursday, there is a need for some quiet, some distance from the stridency, so that we can listen again for a moment to the basic questions about what kind of society we want to choose. Listening for the still small voice that speaks of these fundamental possibilities is something restorative and energising. It is time we made space for it.

Many people have been asking, in the wake of the crises both in financial markets and in political life, how we can recover confidence in our society and its direction. We have been drawn back repeatedly to the language of the ‘common good’, to questions about the real meaning of wealth and well-being, to the need for a robust vision of what is due to human beings and human society. If the general election is to be more than a celebrity contest, we must vote with our values. We must be clear about what we think is involved in being a citizen, and so what we can expect of and for citizens in this country now.

Our society needs a rebirth of civic values and virtues ”“ which is why we believe it is important both to vote and to encourage people of gifts and integrity to consider public office. We can all become real participants in the common life of a society that is working hard to clarify and realise its moral vision.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), Politics in General, Religion & Culture

KBC–Kenyan Anglican Church rejects draft law

The Anglican Church of Kenya has finally declared its position on the draft constitution.

The church which had earlier reserved its position pending further interrogation of the draft has now joined majority of other churches under the umbrella of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), in calling for the rejection of the draft if amendments on the contentious clauses are not made.

The church had been silent on which side it supports after a section of its Bishops and retired head David Gitari publicly declared support for the draft.

“We therefore say No to the proposed constitution as it is unless amendments are effected before the referendum,” read a statement by the bishops after day-long deliberations on Thursday at the All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

In Ghana the Anglican Church asks "foot soldiers" to stop complaining

The Right Reverend Emmanuel Anyidana Arongo, the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Tamale, has called on Ghanaians, especially party supporters, to stop complaining and rally behind the leadership of the country.

He condemned actions of supporters of parties, especially NDC foot soldiers, for their impatience and their penchant to go on the rampage to settle scores.

“Such approach diverts the attention of the presidency and people in authority in fine-tuning the already fragile economy,” the Rt Rev Arongo said during the opening of the Sixth Diocesan Synod of the Church on Wednesday.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Church of Central Africa, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Peter Suderman: Why Waxman Canceled the Health Care Write-Down Hearings

Ideally, of course, Congress would have never passed the Medicare prescription drug benefit to begin with, and thus never handed out the initial subsidy. That way this whole kerfuffle could have been avoided entirely. And the broader point I’d draw from all of this isn’t so much that the Affordable Care Act is going to cost big corporations billions””though it certainly is””but that the health care sector is so thoroughly dominated by government regulations and subsidies that exercise far, far too much influence over how decisions about health care and its associated costs get made. So rather than argue over the tax treatment of drug subsidies, we ought to be pushing to get rid of the subsidies entirely.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine

Willem Buiter gives Citi's Global Economics View: Sovereign Debt Problems in Advanced Countries

From the summary–

Sovereign Debt Problems in Advanced Industrial Countries

 Most advanced industrial countries in worst ever peacetime fiscal shape
 Sovereign default can become the least bad solution for a country
 Sovereign default risk outside Greece low but non-negligible
 Most countries will eventually choose a ”˜fiscal pain’ solution
 Debt restructuring, possibly with haircuts, likely to be part of the ”˜fiscal pain’ package
 Inflationary solution to public debt burden highly unlikely in Europe, unlikely in US
 Euro Area needs mutual fiscal insurance mechanism to survive and prosper
 Restoring fiscal balance will be a drag on growth for years to come for advanced industrial countries

The whole thing (a 68 page pdf) is here.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Economy, Europe, Globalization, Politics in General, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Gulf spill could reach delta tonight

A federal official said this afternoon that the leading edge of the Gulf oil slick could reach the Mississippi River delta sometime tonight, and an executive said BP has asked the Department of Defense for technical help.

In Washington, lawmakers raised the heat on the offshore energy industry, although the Obama administration stopped short today of backing off its commitment to expanded drilling.

The White House dispatched top officials from the Homeland Security Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department to the Gulf Coast, and President Barack Obama today called the five Gulf Coast state governors to emphasize the federal government’s support and concern about the spill.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Politics in General, State Government