Daily Archives: October 7, 2010

Rampant Fraud A Threat to China’s Brisk Ascent

No one disputes Zhang Wuben’s talents as a salesman. Through television shows, DVDs and a best-selling book, he convinced millions of people that raw eggplant and immense quantities of mung beans could cure lupus, diabetes, depression and cancer.

For $450, seriously ill patients could buy a 10-minute consultation and a prescription ”” except Mr. Zhang, one of the most popular practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, was booked through 2012.

But when the price of mung beans skyrocketed this spring, Chinese journalists began digging deeper. They learned that contrary to his claims, Mr. Zhang, 47, was not from a long line of doctors (his father was a weaver). Nor did he earn a degree from Beijing Medical University (his only formal education, it turned out, was the brief correspondence course he took after losing his job at a textile mill).

The exposure of Mr. Zhang’s faked credentials provoked a fresh round of hand-wringing over what many scholars and Chinese complain are the dishonest practices that permeate society, including students who cheat on college entrance exams, scholars who promote fake or unoriginal research, and dairy companies that sell poisoned milk to infants.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

(First Thoughts Blog) R.R. Reno–The Antinomian Gospel

…There are arguments for why traditional views of sexual morality should be rejected ”” utilitarian arguments, phenomenological arguments, arguments from cultural progress, and so forth. But decades ago I discovered that the theological arguments in favor of a complete reversal of Christian condemnations of homosexual acts involve eviscerating the Christian faith.

Consider this: Unbelievers have been marginalized by the Church. But wait, Jesus reaches out to the marginalized. Therefore, so should we, not to transform them, but to affirm them in their unbelief. To do so will require some changes, not the least of which is any requirement of belief for membership in the church.

You might think this is absurd, but beginning in the 1990s, the argument for inclusion precipitated a movement among Episcopal Church progressives to reject the requirement of baptism for participation in the Eucharist. After all, such a requirement “excludes,” while Jesus’ love “includes.”

Closely related are invidious contrasts between Jewish “legalism” and Jesus’ universal embrace, contrasts Campolo hints at in his posting. By this way of thinking, any principle, any rule, any judgment (or at least the ones a progressive does not like) are categorized as Pharisaical. End game: authoritative doctrine, even the canon of scripture, must be condemned as “legalistic.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Christology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

New Bishop elected for Argyll and The Isles

The Very Rev Kevin Pearson was today elected the new Bishop of Argyll and The Isles. The See became vacant following the retirement last year of the Rt Rev Martin Shaw who had served the diocese as Bishop for five years.

Kevin Pearson is currently Rector of St Michael & All Saints Church in Edinburgh, a Canon of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, Dean of the Diocese of Edinburgh and the Provincial Director of Ordinands (responsible for the discernment and selection process for candidates for ministry), a role which he was instrumental in creating in 1991 on behalf of the College of Bishops.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Scottish Episcopal Church

200-Year-Old Echoes in Muslim Center Uproar

Many New Yorkers were suspicious of the newcomers’ plans to build a house of worship in Manhattan. Some feared the project was being underwritten by foreigners. Others said the strangers’ beliefs were incompatible with democratic principles.

Concerned residents staged demonstrations, some of which turned bitter.

But cooler heads eventually prevailed; the project proceeded to completion. And this week, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Lower Manhattan ”” the locus of all that controversy two centuries ago and now the oldest Catholic church in New York State ”” is celebrating the 225th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., City Government, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

ACNS–A news update from the Revd Paul Holley of the Anglican Health Network

The challenge for AHN is to connect people with similar interests so that collaborative venture can add value to Anglican health ministries.

Modern technology makes that possible, and we are about to launch into the next stage of web design to try to make that effective amongst our existing 250 members and those many more who will join us in due course. In the meantime, here is a snapshot of what conversations and projects are taking place…:

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Latest News, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

Luke Bretherton (Guardian)–Big society and the church

Phillip Blond, the Anglican former theologian, likes to claim he is the instigator of the “big society” vision. But it would be closer to the truth to say that when Blond burst upon the political scene his Red Tory thesis put the boundary of what could constitute “Conservative” thinking much further left. In the process, having previously marked the boundary of Conservatism, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) suddenly appeared mild and mainstream.

Far more than Blond, and not withstanding the crucial influence of David Cameron’s director of strategy, Steve Hilton, it was the slow, patient work of the Roman Catholic Iain Duncan Smith and the evangelical Phillippa Stroud at the CSJ that formed the ground out of which the big society vision grew. And it is another evangelical, Lord Wei, who is charged with implementing the big society as a policy agenda across all government departments. So the first thing for churches to realise is that the big society is as much an intramural discussion within the church as it is an external policy agenda to be responded to.

The second thing for churches to realise is that, whether they like it or not, in the eyes of the coalition government, they are already enacting the big society policy agenda.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Sun Co-Founder Uses Capitalism to Help the Poor

Vinod Khosla, the billionaire venture capitalist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, was already among the world’s richest men when he invested a few years ago in SKS Microfinance, a lender to poor women in India.

But the roaring success of SKS’s recent initial public stock offering in Mumbai has made him richer by about $117 million ”” money he says he plans to plow back into other ventures that aim to fight poverty while also trying to turn a profit.

And he says he wants to challenge other rich Indians to do more to help their country’s poor.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, India, Poverty

(WSJ) A Casualty of War Is Released at Last

The documentary “Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today” is a historical artifact with its own torturous past, quite apart from the momentous events chronicled within its frames. Commissioned as an official U.S. government record of the trial in 1945-46, when 21 high-ranking members of the Third Reich were prosecuted for war crimes at an International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, the 78-minute film by Stuart Schulberg was completed in April 1948.

By then, though, fears of a new war, this one with the Soviet Union, led the government to shelve the project. Over the years, attempts to revive it went nowhere. The negative mysteriously vanished. Without the efforts of Sandra Schulberg, who has supervised the reconstruction of her father’s labors by relying on a German print of the original, it might never have been seen again. Not until this September, when it premiered at the New York Film Festival, did the documentary receive a public screening in this country. (The film just concluded a limited-engagement run here at the Film Forum, and will be screened Friday in New York and Washington, D.C., before traveling to venues across the U.S.)

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Europe, Germany, History, Movies & Television

(NY Times) Waivers Address Talk of Dropping Health Coverage

As Obama administration officials put into place the first major wave of changes under the health care legislation, they have tried to defuse stiffening resistance ”” from companies like McDonald’s and some insurers ”” by granting dozens of waivers to maintain even minimal coverage far below the new law’s standards.

The waivers have been issued in the last several weeks as part of a broader strategic effort to stave off threats by some health insurers to abandon markets, drop out of the business altogether or refuse to sell certain policies.

Among those that administration officials hoped to mollify with waivers were some big insurers, some smaller employers and McDonald’s, which went so far as to warn that the regulations could force it to strip workers of existing coverage.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

(IBD) Most Foreclosures Not On The Market; Pain To Last Years

Loans in foreclosure made up about 4% of all mortgages in August vs. the 1995-2005 average of just 0.53%, according to LPS Applied Analytics, which tracks the mortgage market.

“This is unprecedented,” said Herb Blecher, senior vice president at LPS. “In the size and the scope of the problem we’re dealing with now, there is no historical comparison I’ve come across.”

When loans with at least one past due payment are added in, the combined percentage of problem loans rose to nearly 14% of the total outstanding in the second quarter, said the Mortgage Bankers Association.

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

WSJ Front Page: Pakistan Spy Agency Urges On Taliban

Members of Pakistan’s spy agency are pressing Taliban field commanders to fight the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, some U.S. officials and Afghan militants say, a development that undercuts a key element of the Pentagon’s strategy for ending the war.

The explosive accusation is the strongest yet in a series of U.S. criticisms of Pakistan, and shows a deteriorating relationship with an essential ally in the Afghan campaign. The U.S. has provided billions of dollars in military and development aid to Pakistan for its support.

The U.S. and Afghanistan have sought to persuade midlevel Taliban commanders to lay down their weapons in exchange for jobs or cash. The most recent Afghan effort at starting a peace process took place this week in Kabul.

But few Taliban have given up the fight, officials say….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Pakistan, Terrorism, War in Afghanistan

Jeffrey Rosen: Judaism, Health and Wholeness

…. one of the most interesting developments within the Jewish approach over the past thirty years has been the emergence of Healing Services, predominantly in the non-Orthodox Judaism. These services are a mixture of liturgy and stories, the liturgy being heavily, but not exclusively, drawn from the Psalms.

Some services that have been created are of a more general nature, but others have been offered to those experiencing particular diseases such as breast cancer, mental illness as well as those experiencing bereavement. Such services are offered anywhere from once a month to once a year, and they may be either part of an established liturgy – such as the Sabbath and Holydays – or less likely offered as a stand-alone event, say on a Sunday afternoon or Wednesday evening.

Such services reflect the distinctive Jewish understanding of spirituality, and suggest a fruitful reworking of the relationship between healing and wholeness.

The National Center for Jewish Healing defines Jewish spirituality as “a way of exploring the meaning and purpose of one’s own life story in the context of the story of the Jewish people. Embedded in Judaism is a tradition of spirituality; a vision of well-being that is grounded in a fierce engagement with life; the importance of community, and a belief that sacred texts and rituals can be relevant to our modern dilemmas. It is both an intensely private experience and inextricably bound to the collective.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Health & Medicine, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

BBC: GDP growth in 2011 to be slower than thought, says IMF

The global economy will grow slightly more slowly than previously expected next year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.

It predicted GDP would increase by 4.2% in 2011, down from an earlier forecast of 4.3%.

And while economic recovery was likely to continue, it warned that risks were high.

There are worries that as governments try to reduce their debt burdens and cut spending, growth may suffer.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Globalization, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Robert Grossteste

Holy God, our greatest treasure, who didst bless Hugh and Robert, Bishops of Lincoln, with wise and cheerful boldness for the proclamation of thy Word to rich and poor alike: Grant that all who minister in thy Name may serve with diligence, discipline and humility, fearing nothing but the loss of thee and drawing all to thee through Jesus Christ our Savior; who liveth and reigneth with thee in the communion of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Church History, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Give unto us, O Lord our God, the spirit of courage. Let no shadow oppress our spirit, lest our gloom should darken the light by which others have to live. Remove from our inmost souls all fear and distrust, and fill us daily more completely with thy love and power; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

A Song of Ascents. Of David. O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.

–Psalm 131

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Roy Halladay of the Phillies Pitches a No-Hitter!

Simply an astounding performance. 104 pitches, 79 strikes. Wow.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

George Weigel: John Henry Newman’s Faith

I once had the honor of spending time in Newman’s rooms at the Birmingham Oratory, which are much as the aged cardinal left them at his death in 1890. Over the altar, which occupies one side of the room, are tacked-up notes by which Cardinal Newman reminded himself of those for whom he had promised to pray. In the sitting room, a tattered newspaper map, also tacked to a wall, bears silent testimony to Newman’s interest in Kitchener’s efforts to lift the siege of Khartoum and rescue General Gordon from the Mahdi, a 19th century jihadist (Gordon died with Newman’s poem, “The Dream of Gerontius,” in his pocket). Perhaps most touching are Newman’s Latin breviaries, which he began to use as an Anglican, causing much controversy about such popish practices.

It is as a man of faith that the Church beatified John Henry Newman, however: the kind of man of faith who could write the following (which I take from another prayer card I’ve had for years, given me by Catholic Worker artist Ade Bethune):

God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught”¦Therefore I will trust Him, whatever I am”¦He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me””still, He knows what He is about.

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us and for the unity in truth of Christ’s Church.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Theology

Rhode Island school pulls out of game citing size of foe's players

Football matchups between private schools can create mismatches based on a variety of factors, but it’s rare that a school uses fear of injury to cancel a game.

That’s exactly what happened Monday, when St. George’s (R.I.) School canceled a game on Friday against fellow Independent School League member Lawrence Academy (Mass.), citing a concern over the disparity in the size of the two schools’ players. St. George’s is the first team to officially pull out of a game against Lawrence Academy (Mass.), one of two programs that has been completely dominant against ISL foes in recent years.

“This is strictly a safety issue,” St. George’s headmaster Eric Peterson told the Boston Globe. “We are trying to keep our kids reasonably safe in a game that can be terribly exciting but has risks.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports, Teens / Youth

(Zenit) Vatican Communications Leaders Speak of the Road Ahead

The Church is learning how to make media controversy an opportunity to evangelize, some leading Catholic communicators are asserting.

But for this, says the director of the Vatican press office, the Church needs credibility and transparency.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi affirmed this today when he spoke to the 230 or so Catholic journalists and communications directors gathered in Rome for a conference hosted by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Father Lombardi proposed that harsh anti-Catholic reactions in the press are understandable, since the Christian message “goes against the secularized world” and since the Church is often “unarmed” — with few ways to defend itself.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Media, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Simon Sarmiento–A Reflection on the Papal Visit to the U.K.

At Westminster Abbey, it was the Pope’s turn to speak first. He chose to recall St Bede the Venerable (always a popular choice for Anglicans) who, he said, “understood ”¦ the need for creative openness to new developments”, perhaps an unexpected turn of phrase from this Pope. Dr Williams, in turn, recalled Sts Augustine of Canterbury and Gregory the Great, but also noted that “Christians have very diverse views about the nature of the vocation that belongs to the See of Rome” He went on to quote John Paul II’s encyclical Ut Unum Sint, saying that “we must all reflect together” on how the Petrine ministry may speak to all Christians. A partial agreement here perhaps between these two, but many Anglicans hold dissenting views.

Only at the very end of the visit did the Pope mention Anglicanorum Coetibus, the apostolic constitution to enable Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church through a special structure, and then to his own bishops, not those of the Church of England. In his radio interview, Dr Williams said: “A relatively small number of people in the Church of England have wanted to explore this. I hadn’t ever expected it to be a huge number.”

So, overall, did the Pope surprise Anglicans? Most people I asked said that his remarks were softer in tone than they expected. Does this mean that any fundamental changes are likely? No, but it might mean that dire predictions being made earlier for the future of ecumenical relations were not accurate. A more interesting question might be whether the image of the Church of England among Roman Catholics has been affected by the obvious warmth of feeling that Pope Benedict has displayed on this visit. Yet a concern remains for Anglicans that Rome does not perceive a need for any fundamental rethink of its own position on the divisive issues.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

New California budget details released

The budget accord that top lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have struck would rely on cuts to public schools and reduced state worker pay, optimistic revenue assumptions and more than $5 billion in help from Washington -”“ far more than previously estimated -”“ to eliminate California’s $19-billion deficit.

The details of the spending plan, released in a report of the Legislature’s joint budget conference committee Wednesday morning, come less than 24 hours before the Legislature is scheduled to vote on the package. The budget, for the fiscal year that began July 1, is 98 days overdue and already the latest in modern state history.

The agreement avoids the deepest cuts that Schwarzenegger had proposed, such as the elimination of California’s main welfare program and child care for 140,000 children of low-income families. But it would roll back a pension boost that state workers received at the height of the dot-com boom. The new, lower pension levels would only apply to future employees.

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