Daily Archives: October 18, 2010

Joseph Tauke–One nation, under fraud

Tomorrow, a bank””not your bank, but any bank””could evict you from your home. Even if you didn’t know the bank was foreclosing. Even if your mortgage is paid off. Even if you never had a mortgage to begin with. Even if the bank doesn’t hold a single piece of paper that you signed. And major banks not only know this fact, but have spent millions of dollars to defend it in court. Why? The answer starts with a Jacksonville homeowner named Patrick Jeffs.

In 2007, Deutsche Bank sued Jeffs for his home, which is a necessary step in the process of foreclosing on a homeowner in the state of Florida. Curiously, despite the fact that he immediately hired a law firm to defend his property when he found out about the foreclosure, neither Jeffs nor his attorneys were at the trial. That’s because it had already happened. Deutsche won by default because Jeffs wasn’t able to travel backwards in time to attend, even though the trial featured a signed affidavit indicating that he had been served his court summons.

The only problem with the summons Jeffs supposedly received was that it had been conjured out of thin air.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

Sabbath compromise at Philly museum of U.S. Jewish history

The five-story museum next to Independence Mall, scheduled to open Nov. 26, is dedicated to chronicling 350 years of Jewish life in America and establishing a home base for scholarly meetings and community discussions.

But The Philadelphia Inquirer says officials had to decide whether to open on Saturdays, even though Jewish law forbids work and commercial transactions on the Sabbath. The alternative was closing on the day and turning away thousands of visitors ”” as well as up to a quarter of the anticipated admission revenue.

Michael Rosenzweig, the museum’s president and chief executive officer, says there was “not a simple answer.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Art, Economy, History, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

The Episcopal Bishop of Iowa's Enewsletter Communication to His Diocese

Each year, as Convention comes around, I look at the numbers you present in your Parochial reports. The figures I pay attention to are those related to Sunday average attendance, baptisms and confirmations or receptions in a given year, Easter Sunday attendance, which often gives a picture of potential for those numbers, tends to come close to total communicants, and financial health as shown by average pledge per week. The total number of enrolled members has always lagged behind reality depending on the energy of clergy to obtain a membership that represents the recent present. We all know that two in three people on Episcopal rolls never show up at church unless of course you have just happened to have culled the list the year before! The three values of vitality, visibility and viability are not really captured in the Parochial Report. I do know however that God’s impact through any particular group of the baptized in a given place always far exceeds anything we can know or report.

The apparent irrelevance, however, of the totals on baptized persons, or even communicants, for understanding our life as Church points to a huge weakness in our faith system. We are poor at keeping track of one another. This is so at the very place where we might hope greater commitment is being expressed, namely at Confirmation.

Read it all (my emphasis).

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

Archbishop Rowan Williams' Chevening Lecture at the British Council, New Delhi

The word ‘pluralism’ has come to mean an uncomfortable variety of things in both the political and the religious sphere. In reference to religion, it is most often used to mean the conviction that no particular religious tradition has the full or final truth: each perceives a valid but incomplete part of it. This sort of pluralist perspective implies that no faith can or should make claims for itself as the only route to perfection or salvation. In the political context, it can refer to at least two positions. The first is an analysis of the state associated with political theorists like Harold Laski and John Neville Figgis in the early twentieth century. According to this approach, we must think of the state not as the all-powerful source of legitimate community life and action but as the structure needed to organise and mediate within a ‘community of communities’, a plurality of very diverse groups and associations of civil society, ranging from trade unions and universities to religious bodies. And a second political meaning is the one given currency particularly by Isaiah Berlin in his writings on political liberty (see the essays collected in Liberty, edited by Henry Hardy, Oxford University Press 2002, especially the famous ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, pp.166-217). There is a genuine plurality of human goods, and they are not all compatible in any given situation: doing the right thing may involve the sacrifice of one desired good for the sake of another, and we must not deceive ourselves as to the cost, pretending that there is some ideal condition in which all genuine human moral goals are realised harmoniously. If there is such a diversity of human goals, the most realistic political aspiration is for a liberal state that does not seek to advance by legislation a programme for this or that specific vision of human improvement or self-realisation.

Diverse as these definitions are, there are clear areas of overlap. If it is true, as some claim, that no religious tradition possesses ultimate truth, no religious tradition can claim the right to be legally enforced. If the state has to broker relations between different communities, it must itself be ideologically neutral. If a religious body exists within a pluralist state, it must at least recognise that it cannot expect the state to legislate as though its religious and ethical claims were beyond dispute. It has to understand that, while it may still make the same truth claims, they are now open to scrutiny, rebuttal and attack, and cannot be taken for granted. And the interweaving of all these themes is perhaps more evident in India than in many places in our world. India, in declaring itself a secular state at independence, was making a clear option for a certain kind of public and political neutrality, acknowledging that to be a citizen in India could not be something that depended on any particular communal identity and that the state could not intervene in religious disagreements except insofar as they became socially disruptive. Furthermore, the religious context and history of India are bound to pose questions to any simplistic religious absolutism; and the oldest traditions of India have a good deal to say about the elusiveness of the divine as well as its revelation. Which is why modern India is such a fruitful context in which to examine understandings of pluralism ”“how they apply in practice and questions arising.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Asia, India, Religion & Culture

(Independent) Cyber-attacks are key threat to UK security

A leaked draft of the national security document suggested that military conflict with another state will come only fourth in a list of potential threats to the UK, behind terror outrages by groups like al Qaida, cyber-attacks and natural disasters.

Today’s launch comes just days after the head of the Government’s GCHQ eavesdropping centre, Iain Lobban, warned of the very real danger of cyber-terrorism directed at the UK’s critical computer infrastructure.

He said that there were 20,000 malicious emails on Government networks every month, and significant disruption had been caused to official systems by electronic “worms”. Cyberspace had “lowered the bar for entry to the espionage game for states and criminals”.

Reports suggest that cyber-warfare could receive a £500 million boost in tomorrow’s SDSR.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(Publisher's Weekly) Marcia Nelson on Bible Publishing: The State of the Word Is Good

If frontlist publishing is a hare dashing to bestsellerdom, then Bible publishing, in the words of one publishing executive, is the tortoise, steadily plugging away toward a better bottom line.

Every publisher would like to have a big Bible or, even better, two. Around 25 million units are sold annually, by conservative estimates. More than 91% of American households own Bibles, and those households own an average of three, according to the Somersault Group, which consults on digital publishing. Widespread distribution started with Gutenberg, and the Bible is today a Kindle bestseller.

The diversity and proliferation in Bible publishing that can challenge retailers and confuse consumers benefits publishers, who can roll out what seems like a limitless number of niche editions offering something for everyone. This year, Catholics and kids are target markets; a new translation is rolling out; a major study Bible releases; and digital publishing is big.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

WSJ Front Page–Facebook in Privacy Breach

Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information””in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names””to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance, Science & Technology

(Telegraph) Behaviour targeted adverts: an expensive mouthful

Even when, in 2009, this column observed that innovation of the like going on at Soho-based behavioural targeting company Struq was “essential to the online ad industry”, it was scarcely conceivable that less than two years later the start-up would be recording 978 per cent year-on-year growth and is valued in the market at £30 million. But that is precisely what has happened since then. Just as impressively, Struq has artfully dodged any accusations of “snooping” on users, which had been a concern in the wake of the widely reported Phorm disaster.

So what does the company’s technology do, exactly? “Our focus is on delivering more efficient, intelligent and personalised ads on the internet,” says CEO Sam Barnett. ”¨”¨“The technology is based on complex algorithms that learn human behaviour by modelling and adjusting to patterns and trends, in real time.”¨”¨ We can target our ads based on user intent using complex data like time of day, frequency of viewing and basket size to make specific and personal ads that achieve far greater results than standard display advertising. Plus, we only target people that we know have an interest and are most likely to buy.””¨”¨

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Media, Science & Technology

From a Maine House, a National Foreclosure Freeze

The house that set off the national furor over faulty foreclosures is blue-gray and weathered. The porch is piled with furniture and knickknacks awaiting the next yard sale. In the driveway is a busted pickup truck. No one who lives there is going anywhere anytime soon.

Nicolle Bradbury bought this house seven years ago for $75,000, a major step up from the trailer she had been living in with her family. But she lost her job and the $474 monthly mortgage payment became difficult, then impossible.

It should have been a routine foreclosure, with Mrs. Bradbury joining the anonymous millions quietly dispossessed since the recession began. But she was savvy enough to contact a nonprofit group, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, where for once in her 38 years, she caught a break….

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

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Luke

Almighty God, who didst inspire thy servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son: Graciously continue in thy Church the like love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of thy Name; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Lord, increase our faith; that relying on thee as thy children, we may trust where we cannot see, and hope where all seems doubtful, ever looking unto thee as our Father who ordereth all things well; according to the word of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

–George Dawson

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascend from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.”

–Revelation 7:1-3

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Pentagon braced for the release of 400,000 Iraq files on Wikileaks

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Defense, National Security, Military, Politics in General, Science & Technology, War in Afghanistan

(NPR) Why Another Stimulus Might Not Help Us Rebuild

“Stimulus” may be a dirty word in Washington these days, but don’t we need another boost to kick-start the economy?

Many economists say yes ”” even if it may not be politically feasible after the election. Economic historian Niall Ferguson, however, says a second round isn’t a good idea at all.

The Harvard historian tells NPR’s Guy Raz that while it might have some impact on unemployment figures, another stimulus also carries with it a tremendous risk.

“The risk is that you finally stretch the credulity of financial markets to the breaking point, and investors ”” not only in the U.S., but abroad ”” say, ‘You know what? U.S. fiscal policy really is out of control,’ ” Ferguson says.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, History, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009, The U.S. Government

NPR–'Rubicon' Boss Henry Bromell, Bringing Jumpy Back

Set against the backdrop of post-9/11 paranoia, with a lead character who has lost his wife and daughter in the destruction at ground zero, Rubicon seems almost designed to fan conspiracy-theory flames among those who believe despite all indications that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were an inside job ”” a government conspiracy. Bromell knows that all too well.

“There are a lot of nuts out there,” he says ruefully. “Thomas Pynchon beautifully said in, I think, V, that what we got when we lost religion as a unifying glue in our culture was paranoia. Because we have to have something that suggests there are secret workings going on, and if we decide it’s not God, we have to put something in there. And he may be right: It’s less terrifying to look out into the world and see conspiracy, no matter how kooky it sounds, than to look out in the world and see nothing.”

And frankly, he thinks there are elements of society and the government whose activities could, broadly speaking, be described as conspiracy.

Read or better yet listen to it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, History, Movies & Television, The U.S. Government

Pope Benedict XVI's Message for World Food Day

Amid the pressures of globalization, under the influence of interests that often remain fragmented, it is wise to propose a model of development built on fraternity: if it is inspired by solidarity and directed towards the common good, it will be able to provide correctives to the current global crisis. In order to sustain levels of food security in the short term, adequate funding must be provided so as to make it possible for agriculture to reactivate production cycles, despite the deterioration of climatic and environmental conditions. These conditions, it must be said, have a markedly negative impact on rural populations, crop systems and working patterns, especially in countries that are already afflicted with food shortages. Developed countries have to be aware that the world’s growing needs require consistent levels of aid from them. They cannot simply remain closed towards others: such an attitude would not help to resolve the crisis.

In this context, FAO has the essential task of examining the issue of world hunger at the institutional level and proposing particular initiatives that involve its member States in responding to the growing demand for food. Indeed, the nations of the world are called to give and to receive in proportion to their effective needs, by reason of that “pressing moral need for renewed solidarity, especially in relationships between developing countries and those that are highly industrialized” (Caritas in Veritate, 49).

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Politics in General, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Theology

SMH–The Pope Canonizes Mary MacKillop, the first Australian Saint

The Pope’s homily, partially delivered in all the languages of the newly beatified saints, asked the faithful to remember the importance of prayer.

On Mary MacKillop he said: “Remember who your teachers were. From these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. For many years, countless young people throughout Australia have been blessed with teachers who were inspired by the courageous and saintly example of zeal, perseverance and prayer of Mother Mary MacKillop,” he said.

“She dedicated herself as a young woman to the education of the poor in the difficult and demanding terrain of rural Australia, inspiring other women to join her in the first women’s community of religious sisters of the country. She attended the needs of each young person entrusted to her, without regard to station or wealth, providing both intellectual and spiritual formation,” he said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Education, Health & Medicine, History, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(NY Times) Japan Goes From Dynamic to Disheartened

Like many members of Japan’s middle class, Masato Y. enjoyed a level of affluence two decades ago that was the envy of the world. Masato, a small-business owner, bought a $500,000 condominium, vacationed in Hawaii and drove a late-model Mercedes.

But his living standards slowly crumbled along with Japan’s overall economy. First, he was forced to reduce trips abroad and then eliminate them. Then he traded the Mercedes for a cheaper domestic model. Last year, he sold his condo ”” for a third of what he paid for it, and for less than what he still owed on the mortgage he took out 17 years ago.

“Japan used to be so flashy and upbeat, but now everyone must live in a dark and subdued way,” said Masato, 49, who asked that his full name not be used because he still cannot repay the $110,000 that he owes on the mortgage.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Globalization, History, Japan, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector

(Reuters) U.S. backs off in currency dispute with China

The Obama administration backed away on Friday from a showdown with Beijing over the value of China’s currency that would have caused new frictions between the world’s only superpower and its largest creditor.

The Treasury Department delayed a much-anticipated decision on whether to label China as a currency manipulator until after the U.S. congressional elections on November 2 and a Group of 20 leaders summit in South Korea on November 11.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Currency Markets, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

Fraud May Void a Quarter of Afghan Votes, Officials Say

Although the announcement of the preliminary results of the parliamentary elections planned for Sunday were postponed, interviews with Afghan and western officials indicate that fraud was pervasive and that nearly 25 percent of the votes will be thrown out.

The fraud, which included ballot-box stuffing, citizens forced to cast their votes at gunpoint, corrupt election officials and security forces complicit with corrupt candidates, is expected to mean that 800,000 to a million votes will be nullified, according to two western officials who are following the election closely. The Afghan Independent Election Commission, which oversees the election, has refused to disclose the number of votes that could be thrown out but said in a statement that it had decided to nullify wholly or partially the votes cast at 430 polling centers and that votes at another 830 sites were being audited, suggesting substantial problems.

Until now the commission has been praised for endeavoring to run an honest vote-counting process, but the delay at the last minute, as hundreds of candidates have thronged to Kabul clamoring to know the results.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Foreign Relations, Pakistan, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan