Daily Archives: May 21, 2009

Army blasted for letting drug abusers slide

Army commanders are failing to punish or seek treatment for a growing number of soldiers who test positive for substance abuse, possibly because they don’t want to lose any more combat troops, the Army’s vice chief of staff has warned.

In a May 8 memo to commanders provided to USA TODAY, Gen. Peter Chiarelli said hundreds of soldiers involved in “substance abuse-related misconduct (including multiple positive urinalyses)” were not processed for possible discharge. He also noted that many are not referred to the Army Substance Abuse Program for help.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Military / Armed Forces

Setback to Same Sex Marriage in New Hampshire

In an unexpected move that raised a new hurdle for same-sex marriage in New Hampshire, the state’s House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected changes that Gov. John Lynch had ordered for the same-sex marriage bill.

The House, dominated by Democrats, voted 188 to 186 against amending the bill to make clearer that religious opponents of same-sex marriage would not have to participate in ceremonies celebrating it.

The vote made the bill’s survival less certain, but the measure is not dead yet. It will now go to a joint committee of the legislature, which will try to come up with language acceptable to the House and Senate. But it is unclear whether Governor Lynch, a Democrat, would sign it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Sexuality

Diocesan of Michigan Council reduces 2009 budget by $450,000

Bishop Wendell Gibbs and the Diocesan Council continued the movement of the Diocese of Michigan toward a sustainable mission and budget, which has been underway for six months, when it reduced the current 2009 diocesan budget by $450,639. A significant area of cost reductions comes in the wake of Bishop Wendell Gibbs’s announcement on April 2 that five staff positions would be eliminated.

While the greatest impact of the employment termination for four present staff persons will not be felt until 2010–due to severance policy obligations–removing the one unfilled position from the budget and tangential costs of the other positions does have an impact on the 2009 budget.

Read it all and Greg Griffith has further comments there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Data, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Some recent Statistics in the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan

Take a look.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Data

Obama Will Try to Quell Concern on Detainees

President Obama will attempt today to answer critics of his dismantling of Bush-era policies on detention and interrogation, in a speech reminding Americans that strong national security and adherence to laws and national values are not mutually exclusive.

Beyond this lofty reassurance, senior administration officials said, Obama will also repeat the case he made on his third day in office that the Bush administration’s system of dealing with “enemy combatants” — resulting in three prosecutions in seven years and challenged by U.S. courts and allies — was not sustainable.

Four months ago, Obama announced his intention to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; release, transfer abroad or try all its remaining inmates; and outlaw the harsh interrogation techniques he defined as torture. But the implementation of those executive orders has proved far more complicated than he expected.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Law & Legal Issues, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Terrorism

S&P cuts UK's rating outlook to negative

Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s lowered its outlook on Britain to negative on Thursday, citing government debt that would be hard to rein in and political uncertainty about the policy response with an election looming.

The agency affirmed Britain’s ‘AAA’ long-term and ‘A-1+’ short-term sovereign credit ratings.

“We have revised the outlook on the UK to negative due to our view that, even assuming additional fiscal tightening, the net general government debt burden could approach 100 percent of GDP and remain near that level in the medium term,” Standard & Poor’s credit analyst David Beers said in a statement.

Read it all.

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

A.S. Haley–The Issue Is Finally Joined in the Episcopal Church Dispute in Pittsburgh (I)

If one thinks of a true hierarchy like the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no question as to who could authorize a bishop to speak for it in court: it would be the Pope, and nobody but the Pope. Since ECUSA, however, lacks any metropolitan archbishop (the Presiding Bishop is called a “Primate” without the word signifying anything other than that the Presiding Bishop represents ECUSA to the other Churches in the Anglican Communion), there is a very nice question as to just who has sufficient authority under its Constitution to represent it in a court of law. If it were a regular corporation, like General Motors, the matter would be clear: its Chief Executive Officer (or President, as the case may be) would be authorized by the Board of Directors to speak for the corporation in court; or the Board could give him the authority to delegate the task of spokesperson to some other officer of the Corporation.

Nothing like that, however, has happened here. General Convention, ECUSA’s only legislative body, has not met since 2006, and has never (to my knowledge, at least) specifically authorized any official within the Church to file suit in its name and to speak for it in court. Even if it had purported to do so, there is no provision in the Constitution to which General Convention could point as granting it the authority from the member dioceses to designate a spokesperson to represent the views of all of the dioceses in court—as though they were one. Elementary common sense suggests that the members of a group have to vote on an issue in accordance with their procedures before the position of the group as a whole on that issue may be stated. Even then, there is usually provision made for some means by which any division of opinion can be exhibited: by a “minority report”, or by a “statement of the views of the minority”, which always accompanies any presentation of the views of the majority.

The recent publication of the Statement by the (Communion Partner) bishops is evidence that just such a minority viewpoint exists in ECUSA today.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, TEC Polity & Canons

California braces for brutal budget cuts

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers scrambled Wednesday to avert a financial meltdown, and public officials across California braced for annihilating cuts on the day after voters trounced their leaders’ rescue plan for the state.

Within two hours of returning from Washington, D.C., the governor huddled behind closed doors with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders to grapple with a projected $21.3-billion budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year and stop state government from running out of money by July.

What a mess. Read it all.

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

John Podhoretz: The Old Time and the New Newsweek

I wish [Newsweek editor Jon] Meacham Godspeed, but there’s almost no hope for him or Newsweek, and here’s why. If there were a market for an opinion journal that could sell in excess of a million copies, it would have revealed itself before this. The advantage journals of opinion possess is that their readers are extremely loyal and they have a personal stake in them that no newsmagazine has ever generated. The disadvantage they have is that the audience for journals of opinion is small.

More important, they are published for people who are passionate about abstract ideas, and find it invigorating, thrilling, and exciting to see them batted about. This is not the profile of the general mass reader.

Finally, Meacham has trapped himself in a false premise. In his editor’s letter and in interviews, he says that Newsweek is not partisan and cannot be perceived as partisan if it is to succeed. Well, first of all, that is an absurdity.

Read the whole piece.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media

USA Today: Faith, medicine at odds in cases of families refusing care

The case of a missing Minnesota mother and her cancer-stricken son has rekindled the debate over parents who reject conventional medical treatments for their sick children because of religious beliefs.

Authorities nationwide searched Wednesday for Colleen Hauser and her 13-year-old son, Daniel, who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The family refuses chemotherapy for Daniel. The two disappeared from rural Sleepy Eye, Minn., after a doctor’s appointment and court-ordered X-ray Monday showed his cancer had grown. They did not show up for a court hearing Tuesday.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

China Grows More Picky About Debt

Leaders in both Washington and Beijing have been fretting openly about the mutual dependence ”” some would say codependence ”” created by China’s vast holdings of United States bonds. But beyond the talk, the relationship is already changing with surprising speed.

China is growing more picky about which American debt it is willing to finance, and is changing laws to make it easier for Chinese companies to invest abroad the billions of dollars they take in each year by exporting to America. For its part, the United States is becoming relatively less dependent on Chinese financing.

China has actually bought Treasury bonds at an accelerating pace over the last year ”” notwithstanding Chinese officials’ complaints about American profligacy. But the borrowing needs of the United States government have grown even faster. So China represents a rapidly shrinking share of overall purchases of Treasury securities. “China’s demand for Treasuries has increased over the past year, but it hasn’t increased at anything like the pace of the Treasury’s sale of new Treasury bonds,” said Brad W. Setser, a specialist in Chinese financial flows at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, Budget, China, Credit Markets, Economy, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

1 in 7 Freed Detainees Rejoins Fight, Report Finds

An unreleased Pentagon report concludes that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has returned to terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.

The conclusion could strengthen the arguments of critics who have warned against the transfer or release of any more detainees as part of President Obama’s plan to shut down the prison by January. Past Pentagon reports on Guantánamo recidivism have been met with skepticism from civil liberties groups and criticized for their lack of detail.

The Pentagon promised in January that the latest report would be released soon, but Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said this week that the findings were still “under review.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Terrorism

RNS: Laid-off religious workers denied jobless benefits

God may provide, but the state may not when it comes to unemployment benefits for employees laid off by churches, synagogues and other religious groups.

Carol Bronson discovered that a few months ago after she lost her secretarial job at Temple Emanuel synagogue in Virginia Beach. Bronson assumed she could draw unemployment benefits, but when she filed a claim, she was denied.

It was a hard way to learn that under Virginia law, as in many states, tax exemptions for religious organizations include freedom from paying unemployment taxes, though the IRS requires they pay Social Security and withholding taxes.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Religion & Culture, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

The Fed's economic forecast worsens

The Federal Reserve’s latest forecasts for the U.S. economy are gloomier than the ones released three months earlier, with an expectation for higher unemployment and a steeper drop in economic activity.

The Fed’s forecasts, released as part of the minutes from its April meeting, show that its staff now expects the unemployment rate to rise to between 9.2% and 9.6% this year. The central bank had forecast in January that the jobless rate would be in a range of 8.5% to 8.8%, but the unemployment rate topped that in April, hitting 8.9%.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Federal Reserve, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

FBI, NYPD Arrest 4 in Alleged Plot to Bomb NY Synagogues

Four New York City men were arrested Wednesday in connection with an alleged plot to blow up New York City synagogues and other city locations, WNBC’s Jonathan Dienst has learned.

Raids by the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorist Task Force in the Bronx captured the suspected ringleader and three followers in what law enforcement sources are calling a homegrown terrorist plot.

Yikes. Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Terrorism

Actor Sidney Poitier: Striving For A Life Of Excellence

Poitier’s memoir, Life Beyond Measure, now in paperback, is a series of letters to his great-granddaughter Ayele, taking her back to the moments that shaped him. His chapter on people of courage ends with his own father, Reginald Poitier.

“He was honest,” Poitier tells NPR’s Renee Montagne. “My father was the quintessential husband and dad.”

When Poitier was a teenager he left his native Bahamas for better opportunities in Miami. His father took him to the dock, gave him a lecture and then put $3 in his hand. “He said, ‘take care of yourself, son.’ And he turned me around to face the boat,” Poitier says.

Caught this one on the midday run and loved it. He has a wonderful voice. Listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Movies & Television

Religious Intelligence: Concern in Britain over new legal restrictions

Christians in Britain are mobilizing support after the Government moved to restrict freedom of speech provisions that could affect churches.

The Coroners and Justice Bill saw its Second Reading Debate in the House of Lords on Monday, May 18. At the centre of concerns are protections for religious workers who might oppose homosexuality. The Government has moved to restrict those who would be protected, and church groups, including the Church of England, have expressed concern at the lack of consultation.

Critics say that the Government is attempting to use the Coroners and Justice Bill to remove the free speech provision from the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. If the provision is removed, they say, doubt would be cast upon the legality of discussing or criticising homosexual practice.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Iran Announces Successful Missile Test

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Wednesday that his country had successfully launched a medium-range missile, just two days after President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu discussed the importance of halting Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The missile was test-fired in Semnan province, east of Tehran. Ahmadinejad visited the province Wednesday as part of a campaign tour in advance of national elections June 12.

The hard-line Iranian leader told a crowd of several thousand that the missile — which according to previous descriptions by Iranian officials would be capable of striking Israel or U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf region — was an important scientific achievement. But he also described the launch in belligerent terms as a blow to those trying to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces