Daily Archives: December 22, 2010

(NPR Music Blog) Where Are The World's Best Choirs? Not In America

With an estimated 42.6 million people singing in American choirs today, there are bound to be a few voices raised in opposition to a new article in the magazine Gramophone that hits the U.S. newsstands this week.

Titled “The 20 Greatest Choirs,” the article ranks the world’s best ensembles, and finds America lacking. There isn’t a single U.S. group on the list. Indeed, most of the choirs that made the rankings were British. Which led me to wonder: Are English choirs really that much better than those everywhere else? And why isn’t there a single American chorus listed?

To find some answers, I sought out James Inverne, the editor of Gramophone, for this e-mail conversation about his choir rankings.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Music

Anglican diocese of Ballarat Bishop's sacking revoked

The Anglican diocese of Ballarat is still in turmoil, with Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier writing to all clergy to revoke the sacking of the vicar-general and criticising the retiring Bishop of Ballarat.

Bishop Michael Hough, in his final act before resigning as part of a settlement over bullying complaints, sacked Melbourne Bishop Philip Huggins as vicar-general and replaced him with staunch supporter Arthur Savage.

Bishop Hough returned to work on Saturday after six months of leave to lead a farewell service in the cathedral, during which he dramatically used a hammer to smash a pot made for him by a local artist. On Monday – his last day – an email was sent to all clergy at 10.30pm, telling them that Bishop Huggins had been replaced by Father Savage and making several other appointments. On Tuesday evening, Archbishop Freier, as Metropolitan of Victoria, wrote to all clergy saying that he doubted whether Bishop Hough’s actions were legal.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces

Great Midday Diversion–Sugar Gliders

Posted in * General Interest, Animals

(CNS) Bishop Olmsted revokes Phoenix hospital's status as Catholic facility

St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix can no longer identify itself as “Catholic,” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted announced during a Dec. 21 news conference in Phoenix at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.

The Phoenix bishop issued a decree revoking the 115-year-old hospital’s affiliation with the Catholic Church. In the decree, the bishop wrote that he could not verify that the hospital provides health care consistent with “authentic Catholic moral teaching.”

“I really want to have Catholic health care,” Bishop Olmsted said during the news conference. “We should be working together, not against each other.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Post-Gazette Editorial–End this circus: The mayor and council must fix the pension fund

Now the city faces a rare and crippling crisis. On Jan. 1 city property values will decline immediately because higher taxes will be needed to stabilize its pension fund. All of that will occur because the state, in the new year, will be able to take over the pension plan since the mayor and council are nowhere near a deal that will deliver the $200 million-plus needed to bring the plan up to 50 percent funded, from the current 29 percent.

That takeover will mean the city will be forced by the state to pay much higher contributions into the fund year after year. The state doesn’t care where the money comes from — even if it means sharply higher taxes — only that the city shore up its pension program.

City Council members keep saying that such a hit won’t come for years, but that lackadaisical attitude is part of the reason they and the mayor have failed to find a compromise.

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

(Washington Post) Enrollment of Muslim students is growing at Catholic colleges in U.S.

On a quick break between classes last week, Reef Al-Shabnan slipped into an empty room at Catholic University to start her daily prayers to Allah.

In one corner was a life-size painting of Jesus carrying the cross. In another, the portrait of a late priest and theologian looked on. And high above the room hung a small wooden crucifix.

This was not, Shabnan acknowledged, the ideal space for a Muslim to pray in. After her more than two years on campus, though, it has become routine and sacred in its own way. You can find Allah anywhere, the 19-year-old from Saudi Arabia said, even at the flagship university of the U.S. Catholic world.

In the past few years, enrollment of Muslim students such as Shabnan has spiked at Catholic campuses across the country….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Islam, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Young Adults

Local paper Front Page: Growth to give South Carolina 7th seat in Congress

South Carolina will gain a seventh congressional seat in two years, expanding its presence in the U.S. House of Representatives to a level not seen since 1930.

The state’s 15.3 percent growth rate during the past decade was slightly above the 14.3 growth rate in the South, the nation’s fastest-growing region, according to 2010 census data released Tuesday.

South Carolina’s population increased in part because of people like Timothy and Lillian Worster, who moved to Charleston several years ago.

“We came down here for two weeks on the beach about 10 years ago and said ‘To hell with that. We’re not going back to Maine. We found paradise,’ ” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Census/Census Data, Economy, House of Representatives, Politics in General, The U.S. Government

WSJ–Internet Gets New Rules of the Road

Consumers for the first time got federally approved rules guaranteeing their right to view what they want on the Internet. The new framework could also result in tiered charges for web access and alter how companies profit from the network.

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday voted 3-2 to back Chairman Julius Genachowski’s plan for what is commonly known as “net neutrality,” or rules prohibiting Internet providers from interfering with legal web traffic. President Barack Obama said the FCC’s action will “help preserve the free and open nature of the Internet.”

The move was prompted by worries that large phone and cable firms were getting too powerful as Internet gatekeepers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, The U.S. Government

( AP) US teen birth rate at all-time low, economy cited

The U.S. teen birth rate in 2009 fell to its lowest point in almost 70 years of record-keeping ”” a decline that stunned experts who believe it’s partly due to the recession.

The birth rate for teenagers fell to 39 births per 1,000 girls, ages 15 through 19, according to a government report released Tuesday. It was a 6 percent decline from the previous year, and the lowest since health officials started tracking the rate in 1940.

Experts say the recent recession ”” from December 2007 to June 2009 ”” was a major factor driving down births overall, and there’s good reason to think it affected would-be teen mothers.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Economy, Education, Health & Medicine, Teens / Youth

(AP) 2 Iraqi towns cancel Christmas festivities

Church officials in Iraq say they have canceled some Christmas festivities in two northern cities over fears of insurgent attacks.

The Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako, says church officials will not put up Christmas decorations outside the church and urged worshippers to refrain from decorating homes.

He says the traditional Santa Claus appearance outside one of the city’s churches has also been called off.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Iraq, Iraq War, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Muslims Allege Inappropriate Questions by Security Agents

American Muslims reentering the United States from abroad are alleging U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents inquired about their religious beliefs and practices””questions they say violate their constitutional rights.

Two civil liberties groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and San Francisco-based Muslim Advocates, are now calling on the Department of Homeland Security to investigate.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Travel

AP–Census shows slowing US growth

Republican-leaning states will gain at least a half dozen House seats thanks to the 2010 census, which found the nation’s population growing more slowly than in past decades but still shifting to the South and West.

The Census Bureau announced Tuesday that the nation’s population on April 1 was 308,745,538, up from 281.4 million a decade ago. The growth rate for the past decade was 9.7 percent, the lowest since the Great Depression. The nation’s population grew by 13.2 percent from 1990 to 2000.

Michigan was the only state to lose population during the past decade. Nevada, with a 35 percent increase, was the fastest-growing state.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Census/Census Data, Economy, The U.S. Government

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God, who didst promise that thy glory should be revealed, and that all flesh should see it together: Stir up our hearts, we beseech thee, to prepare the way of thine only begotten Son; and pour out upon us thy loving kindness, that we who are afflicted by reason of our sins may be refreshed by the coming of our Saviour, and may behold his glory; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth one God, world without end.

–James Todd

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

–Revelation 21:9-11

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(RNS) Pope Links Sex Abuse to Vices

Pope Benedict XVI deplored the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and linked it to other vices, including child pornography, sexual tourism and drug abuse, which he said were all promoted by an ideology of social moral relativism.
The pope made his remarks on Monday (Dec. 20), in his annual Christmas address to leaders of the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s central bureaucracy.

Looking back over major events of 2010, Benedict put special emphasis on the clerical sex abuse scandals that broke out in several European and South American countries.

“To a degree we could not have imagined, we came to know of abuse of minors committed by priests who twist the sacrament into its antithesis,” the pope said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

Homes at Risk, and No Help From Lawyers

In California, where foreclosures are more abundant than in any other state, homeowners trying to win a loan modification have always had a tough time.

Now they face yet another obstacle: hiring a lawyer.

Sharon Bell, a retiree who lives in Laguna Niguel, southeast of Los Angeles, needs a modification to keep her home. She says she is scared of her bank and its plentiful resources, so much so that she cannot even open its certified letters inquiring where her mortgage payments may be. Yet the half-dozen lawyers she has called have refused to represent her.

“They said they couldn’t help,” said Ms. Bell, 63. “But I’ve got to find help, because I’m dying every day.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, State Government, The Banking System/Sector, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009

Peter Stanford (Independent): My name is Peter and I'm a believer

Without the guilt of [Tony] Blair, the narrow vision of [George] Carey or the imperviousness to rejection of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, though, is there anything attractive to be said for casting off inhibitions about religious faith in the public arena? Before Pope Benedict arrived in Britain this autumn, there was a lot of focus on the abuse scandal, yet when he got here he managed, more or less, to win a grudging respect from his audience ”“ religious or not ”“ by his transparent sincerity and by touching a nerve over concerns about the pace of secularisation. If you could bottle the essence of his success during those four days in September, it would be summed up in the phrase: “Don’t be so shy about your faith”.

Benedict used his visit to shine a light on the undeniable benefits faith and the faithful bring to society, by going to church-run old people’s homes, and by sharing a platform in Hyde Park with community groups working with the poor, the needy and the marginalised. That is something all believers should feel proud to trumpet.

Not being shy is, moreover, quite distinct from Lord Carey’s call not to be ashamed. In its essential defensiveness, the latter feels like an act of aggression. Making religion less invisible, on the other hand, allowing its role in the lives of individuals, communities and society to be acknowledged and discussed, is more nuanced, more achievable, and does not necessitate doing anyone else down into the bargain. It is also undeniably vaguer, which may be a comfort for we spiritually shy, but not for long.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

A.S. Haley–Federal Court Issues Stay in Ft. Worth Trademark Case

I resolved to stay away from ECUSA’s litigation troubles during this season of the nativity, but I still have to report to my readers breaking news, if it is important. And this is important news: the federal district court in Fort Worth today issued a one-page order staying all further proceedings in the trademark infringement action brought by the rump diocese of Fort Worth and its “corporation” (which does not actually exist, for reasons I explain below). The stay will remain in effect until the court resolves the pending motions by the real diocese of Fort Worth and its real corporation to intervene in the case to protect their property rights in their name and corporate insignia.

With an apparently unlimited litigation budget in Texas, the Episcopal Church (USA) and its puppet diocese of Fort Worth have tried all manner of strategies to accomplish an end run around the courts of Texas and achieve a quick victory in their dispute with Bishop Jack L. Iker and his Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth