Daily Archives: September 15, 2011

David Brooks on the work of sociologist Christian Smith–If It Feels Right …

When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.

“Not many of them have previously given much or any thought to many of the kinds of questions about morality that we asked,” Smith and his co-authors write. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee put it.

The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste. “It’s personal,” the respondents typically said. “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?”

Read it all.

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

(USA Today) Tight standards make mortgages tough to get

Home buyers such as Bob and Janet Zych have fueled the U.S. housing market for decades.

They have excellent credit with scores that top 800, life-long careers and investment portfolios that have set them up for a comfortable retirement, they say.

But this year, “after faxing a ream of paper” about their finances, they got so fed up applying for a home loan that they simply wrote a check for their new $85,000 vacation condo in Phoenix.

Trying to get a loan “was just a nightmare,” says Bob Zych, 65, a manager for Mohawk Industries in Omaha.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, The Banking System/Sector

In Study, Fatherhood Leads to A Drop in Testosterone

Testosterone, that most male of hormones, takes a dive after a man becomes a parent. And the more he gets involved in caring for his children ”” changing diapers, jiggling the boy or girl on his knee, reading “Goodnight Moon” for the umpteenth time ”” the lower his testosterone drops.

So says the first large study measuring testosterone in men when they were single and childless and several years after they had children. Experts say the research has implications for understanding the biology of fatherhood, hormone roles in men and even health issues like prostate cancer.

“The real take-home message,” said Peter Ellison, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard who was not involved in the study, is that “male parental care is important. It’s important enough that it’s actually shaped the physiology of men.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Men, Psychology, Science & Technology, Sexuality

(NYRB) George Soros–Does the Euro Have a Future?

There is some similarity between the euro crisis and the subprime crisis that caused the crash of 2008. In each case a supposedly riskless asset””collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), based largely on mortgages, in 2008, and European government bonds now””lost some or all of their value.

Unfortunately the euro crisis is more intractable….

In an ordinary financial crisis this tactic works: with the passage of time the panic subsides and confidence returns. But in this case time has been working against the authorities. Since the political will is missing, the problems continue to grow larger while the politics are also becoming more poisonous.

Read it all.

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

(AP) Mortgage default warnings surged in August

The number of U.S. homes that received an initial default notice — the first step in the foreclosure process — jumped 33 percent in August from July, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

The increase represents a nine-month high and the biggest monthly gain in four years. The spike signals banks are starting to take swifter action against homeowners, nearly a year after processing issues led to a sharp slowdown in foreclosures.

“This is really the first time we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of new foreclosure actions,” said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at RealtyTrac. “It’s still possible this is a blip, but I think it’s much more likely we’re seeing the beginning of a trend here.”

Read it all.

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

(In the Whisper) Q & A With Caryn Rivadeneira, Author or the new book "Grumble Hallelujah"

Q) What does a “typical” writing day look like for you, and how do you juggle a book and the many articles and smaller projects you also create?

My writing day is quite random. I wake up pretty early to get something””anything!””written. Usually about 5:30 or 6 am. Then I get my two of my three kids off to school and hope the youngest keeps sleeping so I can work more. Some days””when my youngest is in preschool””I have actual alone time. Other days I just fit it in when I can.

I wrote my first book at night. I can’t do that anymore. Just too wiped. Right now I’m writing this while my kids watch SpongeBob.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Children, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Women

Islamists’ Growing Sway Raises Questions for Libya

The growing influence of Islamists in Libya raises hard questions about the ultimate character of the government and society that will rise in place of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s autocracy. The United States and Libya’s new leaders say the Islamists, a well-organized group in a mostly moderate country, are sending signals that they are dedicated to democratic pluralism. They say there is no reason to doubt the Islamists’ sincerity.

But as in Egypt and Tunisia, the latest upheaval of the Arab Spring deposed a dictator who had suppressed hard-core Islamists, and there are some worrisome signs about what kind of government will follow. It is far from clear where Libya will end up on a spectrum of possibilities that range from the Turkish model of democratic pluralism to the muddle of Egypt to, in the worst case, the theocracy of Shiite Iran or Sunni models like the Taliban or even Al Qaeda.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Foreign Relations, Islam, Libya, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Harvard Magazine) Helen Vendler–Reading Is Elemental

Without reading, there can be no learning. The humanities are essentially a reading practice. It is no accident that we say we “read” music, or that we “read” visual import. The arts (music, art, literature, theater), because they offer themselves to be “read,” generate many of the humanities””musicology, art history, literary commentary, dramatic interpretation. Through language, spoken or written, we investigate, describe, and interpret the world. The arts are, in their own realm, silent with respect to language; amply showing forth their being, they are nonetheless not self-descriptive or self-interpreting. There can be no future for the humanities””and I include philosophy and history””if there are no human beings acquainted with reading in its emotionally deepest and intellectually most extensive forms. And learning depends on reading as a practice of immersion in thought and feeling. We know that our elementary-school students cannot read with ease and enjoyment, and the same defect unsurprisingly manifests itself at every level, even in college. Without a base in alert, intense, pleasurable reading, intellectual yearning flags.

In a utopian world, I would propose, for the ultimate maintenance of the humanities and all other higher learning, an elementary-school curriculum that would make every ordinary child a proficient reader by the end of the fourth grade””not to pass a test, but rather to ensure progressive expansion of awareness. Other than mathematics, the curriculum of my ideal elementary school would be wholly occupied, all day, every day, with “reading” in its very fullest sense.

Read it all.

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

An Immune System Trained to Kill Cancer

A year ago, when chemotherapy stopped working against his leukemia, William Ludwig signed up to be the first patient treated in a bold experiment at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Ludwig, then 65, a retired corrections officer from Bridgeton, N.J., felt his life draining away and thought he had nothing to lose.

Doctors removed a billion of his T-cells ”” a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors ”” and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer. Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig’s veins.
At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst.

A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia….

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Frank and his Golden Retriever Nikie: Dog Therapy at Ground Zero

Frank Shane, a professional dog therapist and CEO of the K-9 Disaster Relief Foundation, had to improvise when he brought his golden retriever, Nikie, down to Ground Zero. There was no protocol for anything””from the kind of footwear Nikie should wear to how Frank should deal with the unfathomable grief of 9/11. Yet from the moment Frank and his dog stepped onto the site, they both knew they had a job to do. As it turned out, a pair of soft ears and a wagging tail offered one of the best ways to connect to the people on the ground….

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * General Interest, Animals, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Terrorism

(Jerusalem Post) Religious leaders of all faiths seek to promote global tolerance

Religious leaders of all stripes, gowns and headgear gathered in Jerusalem’s Mishkenot Sha’ananim neighborhood Wednesday to attend the third annual Interfaith Ethics and Tolerance conference.

Bringing together Jewish and Muslim clerics, as well as clergy from numerous Christian denominations and those of the Bahai and Hindu faiths, the conference this year focused on the role of spiritual leaders in promoting peace and tolerance as well as the challenges of religious leadership in today’s globalized world.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Globalization, Inter-Faith Relations, Israel, Middle East

Cardinal Egan's 9/11 Memorial Mass Homily

Ten years have passed since the terrorists attacked us. We were taken by surprise. We were shocked. We were wounded. We were grievously wounded. Evil had had its moment of triumph in Lower Manhattan.

This is, therefore, an anniversary that stings and sears the soul. It thrusts us back into an experience of infamy such as none of us would ever have imagined. Thousands of good and decent citizens of Greater New York were brutally murdered. An ugly chasm was dug into the heart of our City; and in the hearts of countless mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, children and grandchildren, friends and co-workers, there even now aches the nagging pain of loss for persons dearly loved and sorely needed.

All the same, from the crime of September 11th, 2001, we have learned a powerful lesson that we must never let slip from our memories. It is simply this. When truly challenged, the best of us forget ourselves and become men and women for others…

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Cyprian

Almighty God, who didst give to thy servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of the same our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Enrich our lives, O Lord, with the fruit of the Spirit; that being filled with love and joy and peace, we may live together in patience and kindness, in goodness, faithfulness and gentleness, ever exercising the grace of self-control; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

–Matthew 5:1-10

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture