Daily Archives: June 20, 2010

The Economist on the Human-genome Project: Turning-point

Genomics may reveal that humans really are brothers and sisters under the skin. The species is young, so there has been little time for differences to evolve. Politically, that would be good news. It may turn out, however, that some differences both between and within groups are quite marked. If those differences are in sensitive traits like personality or intelligence, real trouble could ensue.

People must be prepared for this possibility, and ready to resist the excesses of racialism, nationalism and eugenics that some are bound to propose in response. That will not be easy. The liberal answer is to respect people as individuals, regardless of the genetic hand that they have been dealt. Genetic knowledge, however awkward, does not change that.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Theology

How The World Spends Its Time Online

Take a look.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Globalization, Science & Technology

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly: Adoption Ethics

[BOB] FAW: Other parents who have adopted troubled children from Eastern Europe have taken more drastic measures. Dr. Ronald Federici runs a clinic for families wrestling with difficult adoptions.

DR. RONALD FEDERICI (Developmental Neuropsychologist): I’ve picked up children at the baggage carousel at airports. I’ve had them left in my office, in my office””they drove off. I’ve seen some horrific situations where parents, good people, totally lost it and wound up in prison for murdering their child. The amount of child abuse cases have been enormous.

FAW: When a Tennessee mother packed off her adopted son on a plane back to Russia with only a note, many people were outraged. But others who have walked in that mother’s shoes, were more understanding.

JULIE HARSHAW: My first reaction was that I could empathize with her, knowing that she must have been going through probably a lot of the same things that we go through, and certainly don’t condone how it was done.

FAW: You could understand?

JULIE HARSHAW: I could understand, and unfortunately, people like to judge you before they know what you’re going through.

Read or watch it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

AP: Napolitano says keeping America safe may require civil liberty, privacy trade-offs

Fighting homegrown terrorism by monitoring Internet communications is a civil liberties trade-off the U.S. government must make to beef up national security, the nation’s homeland security chief said Friday.

As terrorists increasingly recruit U.S. citizens, the government needs to constantly balance Americans’ civil rights and privacy with the need to keep people safe, said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

But finding that balance has become more complex as homegrown terrorists have used the Internet to reach out to extremists abroad for inspiration and training. Those contacts have spurred a recent rash of U.S.-based terror plots and incidents.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Law & Legal Issues, Terrorism

Cost of Seizing Fannie and Freddie Surges for Taxpayers

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac took over a foreclosed home roughly every 90 seconds during the first three months of the year. They owned 163,828 houses at the end of March, a virtual city with more houses than Seattle. The mortgage finance companies, created by Congress to help Americans buy homes, have become two of the nation’s largest landlords.

Bill Bridwell, a real estate agent in the desert south of Phoenix, is among the thousands of agents hired nationwide by the companies to sell those foreclosures, recouping some of the money that borrowers failed to repay. In a good week, he sells 20 homes and Fannie sends another 20 listings his way.

“We’re all working for the government now,” said Mr. Bridwell on a recent sun-baked morning, steering a Hummer through subdivisions laid out like circuit boards on the desert floor.

For all the focus on the historic federal rescue of the banking industry, it is the government’s decision to seize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in September 2008 that is likely to cost taxpayers the most money.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Rick Montgomerey: Father’s Day is about everday heroes

Good dads know. Sometimes it doesn’t take much.

Ask Scott Buie, a Kansas City, Kan., father of five: “Nothing glamorous, just doing things with the kids. Everyday things. Talking, biking. Listening to my daughter after she’s read a book.”

For Anthony Barber of Parkville, it’s as simple as asking for a day off to spend at his daughter’s school. For Dustin Boatright of Independence, it’s making hot chocolate and hashing out on the couch a third-grader’s woes.

“We’re not out to make perfect fathers,” said Carey Casey, chief executive officer of the National Center for Fathering, headquartered in Shawnee. “Some of the greatest moments I have with my son are when I say I’m sorry.”

You’ve perhaps never heard of his organization. But the White House has.

Read it all.

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

Italy held to stunning 1-1 draw by New Zealand

Defending champion Italy was held to a second 1-1 draw, this time by lowly New Zealand in the latest World Cup stunner.

The 78th-ranked All Whites took the lead after only seven minutes of Sunday’s Group F match when Italy’s 36-year-old captain Fabio Cannavaro made a horrendous error, handing a goal to Shane Smeltz. A long free kick from Simon Elliott sailed deep into Italy’s area, off Cannavaro’s hip as he fell and directly toward the waiting Smeltz for the tap-in.

It was New Zealand’s only shot on goal the entire match.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Europe, Italy, Sports

The Advisory Committee of Communion Partners responds to Rowan Williams' Pentecost Letter

We also appreciate his gracious clarity in defining current divisions within the Anglican Communion as well as suggesting consequences of the continuing actions by The Episcopal Church that have “not brought us nearer to full reconciliation” as the body of Christ. As members of The Episcopal Church, we humbly accept the consequences that may result, such as our provincial representatives and leaders being asked to step down from various roles on Communion bodies and commissions. Furthermore, as members of The Episcopal Church, we are not seeking escape from these thoughtful and loving judgments long-contemplated as far back as the Windsor Report and clearly held forth before the Communion in recent years. Rather we stand firmly with the Archbishop of Canterbury in desiring to safeguard the integrity and witness of the Communion. With him and with Anglicans throughout the world, we also yearn for a “more coherent Anglican identity.” We are steadfastly committed to the principles of the Windsor Report and Lambeth Resolution 1.10 for the parishes and dioceses we serve. In addition we continue to call for the adoption of the Anglican Communion Covenant as a means of deepening our ties to one another and furthering Christ’s mission for the world.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Parishes, Theology

Time: Inside the Dire Financial State of the States

For the first time in four decades of collecting data, the National Governors Association (NGA) reports that total state spending has dropped for two years in a row. In hard-hit Arizona, for example, the state budget has sagged to 2004 levels, despite blistering growth in population and demand for government services. Starting with the 2008 fiscal year, state governments have closed more than $300 billion in cumulative budget gaps, with another $125 billion already projected for the coming years, says Corina Eckl, fiscal-program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Similar figures aren’t collected for the nation’s counties, villages and towns, but when the National League of Cities surveyed mayors recently, three-fourths of them described worsening economic conditions.

Accustomed to the ups and downs of the ordinary economic cycle, elected officials and budget planners are facing something none of them have experienced before: year after year of shortfalls, steadily compounding. Ordinarily, deficits are resolved mostly through budgetary hocus-pocus. But the length and depth of the recession are forcing governments to go beyond sleight of hand to genuine cuts. And that makes lawmakers gloomy in all but a handful of states. (It’s a swell time to be North Dakota.) According to an NCSL survey, worry or outright pessimism is the reigning mood in the vast majority of capitals.

Many taxpayers might say that it’s about time spending dropped. But then they start hearing the specifics. Government budgets contain a lot of fixed costs and herds of sacred cows. K-12 education absorbs nearly a third of all spending from state general funds. Add medical expenses, primarily Medicaid, and it’s over half. Prisons must be maintained, colleges and universities kept open, interest on bonds and other loans paid. Real cuts provoke loud howls, and you can hear them rising in every corner of the country. College students have marched in California, firefighters have protested in Florida, and on June 10, Minnesota saw the largest one-day strike of nurses ”” some 12,000 ”” in U.S. history.

And don’t count on the shaky economic recovery for relief.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, State Government, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Charles Moore: The euro's inevitable failure will be horrendous for all of us

So far, European leaders have tried to deal with this spreading disaster by ruses. Existing European treaties ban bail-outs of member states. So the “European Stabilisation Mechanism”, recently set up precisely to provide these illegal bail-outs, does so under Article 122.2 of the Lisbon Treaty. This article gives emergency assistance to a member state “threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional circumstances beyond its control”.

Natural disasters! We are experiencing a totally unnatural disaster, one brought about by the artificial structure of the European project. Exceptional circumstances beyond its control! It was this system that every eurozone member state proudly (though usually without asking their electorates) voted for.

The situation is not funny for the people of Greece, Portugal, Spain, and so on, because their governments have run up dreadful public debts while sacrificing their power to devalue to become competitive. They cannot cut their exchange rate, so they must cut wages and jobs. Unemployment in Spain is already 20 per cent ”“ and 40 per cent among young people.

It is not funny for Germany, either. German banks are overcommitted in the southern countries now afflicted. The German people are fed up with paying for the profligacy of their poorer neighbours and furious at the suggestion that the only solution is that they should pay even more.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Credit Markets, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Globalization, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Gillian Tett (FT): The Reality of America’s fiscal mess is starting to bite

If you pop into a toilet on the Seattle waterfront this summer, you might see over-flowing bins. The reason? A polite notice explains that “because of 2010 budget reductions”, the Seattle government can no longer afford to “service this comfort station” each day. Hence the dirt.

Investors would do well to take note. In recent months, America’s fiscal mess has assumed a rather surreal air. On paper, the country’s federal-level deficit and debt numbers certainly look very scary. But in practical terms, the impact of those ever-swelling zeroes still seems distinctly abstract.

After all, so far the federal government has not been slashing spending; on the contrary, there was a stimulus bill last year. And, as my colleague John Plender pointed out this week, Treasury bond yields have been falling as investors flee the eurozone woes. As a result, those scary numbers still seem to be a problem primarily concocted in the world of cyber finance.

But there is one place where reality is already starting to bite in America and that is in terms of state finances. Just look at the statistics. A report from the US Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued last month estimates that in fiscal 2010 the US states collectively posted a $200bn-odd budget shortfall, equivalent to 30 per cent of all state budgets.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Politics in General, State Government, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

For English Fans watching the World Cup, Days of Tears

The overcast streets of South Kensington were oddly, creepily silent Friday evening. This neighborhood resembled the quaintest of ghost towns, with few cars and fewer pedestrians traveling Cromwell Road, save for the occasional tourist.

So empty were London’s streets that the American tennis player Andy Roddick took a rare trip into town for dinner.

“I decided to take advantage of no traffic,” he said. “You’d be amazed how quickly you can get down there when an England game is on.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Sports

David Heim: 25 years of Modern Theology

Without losing their engagement with philosophy and the social sciences, modern theologians of the Modern Theology type have drawn eagerly on premodern thinkers. As Nicholas Lash writes, quoting Kevin Hughes, this return to the sources of faith “is not a nostalgic retreat to the theological safety of premodern Christendom. Rather, it is a vital struggle for the proper diagnosis of our present condition.”

Furthermore, whatever a modern theologian is these days, it is usually someone who regards the liturgical and sacramental life of the church as a vital ingredient of theological reasoning. Perhaps most striking of all for a Protestant of 1980 perusing Modern Theology is the extent to which “modern theology” has become a catholic and Catholic enterprise.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Theology

In Budget Crisis, States Take Aim at Pension Costs

Many states are acknowledging this year that they have promised pensions they cannot afford and are cutting once-sacrosanct benefits, to appease taxpayers and attack budget deficits.

Illinois raised its retirement age to 67, the highest of any state, and capped public pensions at $106,800 a year. Arizona, New York, Missouri and Mississippi will make people work more years to earn pensions. Virginia is requiring employees to pay into the state pension fund for the first time. New Jersey will not give anyone pension credit unless they work at least 32 hours a week.

“We can’t afford to deny reality or delay action any longer,” said Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois, adding that his state’s pension cuts, enacted in March, will save some $300 million in the first year alone.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, State Government

Alabama Lutheran church wrestles with national denomination’s stance on noncelibate gay clergy

After nearly a year of deliberation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Anniston decided this week against separating itself from its national denomination over the issue of allowing gay clergy to be in committed lifelong relationships.

Trinity has been discussing the issue since the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, or the ELCA, concluded with a vote at its 11th biennial Churchwide Assembly in August that openly gay and lesbian pastors living in “committed, lifelong and monogamous relationships” could serve in the clergy.

Before, clergy could be openly gay, but were required to remain celibate.

Heterosexual clergy are required to be celibate if single, monogamous if married.

While the debate over gay clergy and gay marriage in the church has been present in various religious denominations, it has especially become an issue in the Lutheran church as well as the Episcopal Church, which acted on the issue of gay clergy as well as gay marriage about a month before the ELCA’s decision. In July 2009, the Episcopal Church decided to lift a ban on ordaining gay bishops.

It is a divisive issue; 140 congregations have already separated themselves from the ELCA, out of more than 10,000 congregations across the country, said ELCA spokesman John Brooks.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Lutheran, Other Churches, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)