Daily Archives: December 30, 2010

Maclin Horton: The Heart of Christmas

As with the holiday, so with the culture at large. The increasingly post-Christian culture of America and Europe are nevertheless more deeply rooted in Christianity than is usually recognized by its opponents (and some of its adherents). It’s at least theoretically possible that this culture will eventually get Christianity out of its system, out of the roots of its consciousness, and negligible as a cultural force, reduced to the private practices of an eccentric few. This would take several generations, and I don’t think it will happen, but it certainly could. And if it did, the resulting culture would, like Christmas, lose the hope and the humanism which had been its legacy from Christianity. As with Christmas, if the heart were to stop beating, the body would die.

We have seen the prospects for that new culture already, in the totalitarian nightmares of communism and fascism, in the wasteland of pleasure-and-power-seeking which is offered as the good life by much of the entertainment and advertising produced by capitalism, in the drab materialist collectivism of “Imagine” and the absurd materialist egoism of Atlas Shrugged.

Perhaps it’s not even too much to say that if Christmas were to die, the remains of Christian culture would die, too, and with it that softness toward the individual human person””imperfect, of course, and slow to develop””that has characterized it. As long as the mad mixture of the very earthly and the very heavenly which is Christmas””the poor and vulnerable newborn baby among the animals on the one hand, choirs of angels on the other””remains at the heart of the holiday, and the holiday remains very much alive in the culture, the natural coldness and brutality of the human race is always challenged from within the culture itself. Should that challenge be removed, no one would be more surprised by the result than those who worked to remove it. They might not live to see that result, but if their souls were not lost altogether, part of their purgatory might be the knowledge of what they had done to their descendants.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Religion & Culture

As it Continues to Push for Rare Earth Dominance, China Cracks Down on Illegal Industrial Mining

What is new are efforts by China’s national and provincial governments to crack down on the illegal mines, to which local authorities have long turned a blind eye. The efforts coincide with a decision by Beijing to reduce legal exports as well, including an announcement by China’s commerce ministry on Tuesday that export quotas for all rare earth metals will be 35 percent lower in the early months of next year than in the first half of this year.

Rogue operations in southern China produce an estimated half of the world’s supply of heavy rare earths, which are the most valuable kinds of rare earth metals. Heavy rare earths are increasingly vital to the global manufacture of a range of high-technology products ”” including iPhones, BlackBerrys, flat-panel televisions, lasers, hybrid cars and wind-power turbines, as well as a lot of military hardware.

China mines 99 percent of the global supply of heavy rare earths, with legal, state-owned mines mainly accounting for the rest of China’s output. That means the Chinese government’s only effective competitors in producing these valuable commodities are the crime rings within the country’s borders.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Globalization, Science & Technology

Some Israelis Question Benefits for Ultra-Religious

Chaim Amsellem was certainly not the first Parliament member to suggest that most ultra-Orthodox men should work rather than receive welfare subsidies for full-time Torah study. But when he did so last month, the nation took notice: He is a rabbi, ultra-Orthodox himself, whose outspokenness ignited a fresh, and fierce, debate about the rapid growth of the ultra-religious in Israel.

“Torah is the most important thing in the world,” Rabbi Amsellem said in an interview. But now more than 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men in Israel do not work, compared with 15 percent in the general population, and he argued that full-time, state-financed study should be reserved for great scholars destined to become rabbis or religious judges.

“Those who are not that way inclined,” he said, “should go out and earn a living.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski gets 880th win

Watch the whole ESPN video. My favorite moment–what he says about his parents in the interview–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Sports, Young Adults

To Each His Own Museum, as Identity Goes on Display

Me! Me! Me! That is the cry, now often heard, as history is retold. Tell my story, in my way! Give me the attention I deserve! Haven’t you neglected me, blinded by your own perspectives? Now let history be told not by the victors but by people over whom it has trampled.

And why, after all, should it be any different? Isn’t that the cry made by most of us? We want to be acknowledged, given credit for our unique experiences. We want to tell our stories. We want to convert you from your own narrow views to our more capacious perspective.

I am exaggerating slightly ”” but only slightly. In recent years, I have been chronicling the evolution of the “identity museum” or “identity exhibition,” designed to affirm a particular group’s claims, outline its accomplishments, boost its pride and proclaim, “We must tell our own story!”

Read it all (Hat tip: Elizabeth).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Art, History, Psychology

Nature: A round-up of the top science news stories of the past 12 months

See how many you can guess–then read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization, Science & Technology

A Yorkshire Post article on the Ministry of Bellringing–Knowing the ropes

…the art of change ringing is something which new recruits often find hard to pick up and they usually start by training on a special computer simulator. They still pull the bell ropes, but the metal clappers in the bells have been tied up by bungees to stop them ringing, while the wheels to which each bell is attached passes an electronic sensor and sends a message to a PC downstairs in the ringing chamber, which then plays the sound of the bell. This ingenious technology spares those who live nearby having to listen to hours and hours of learner ringers, mistakes and all.

Irene Stanford-Wood, one of the newest members at Bingley, began with the simulator in September and is now ready for her first Christmas as a ringer. “I always thought you had to be big and strong, but I’m five-foot three and just under eight stone. So really it’s more about the technique and keeping track of changes.

“I like the fact that bell ringing is a public service as well as a performance. But it’s one that’s a team effort, and there’s no room for prima donnas among bellringers.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry

(AP) US Muslims: a new consumer niche

In the ballroom of an upscale hotel a short train ride from New York, advertisers, food industry executives and market researchers mingled ”” the men in dark suits, the women in headscarves and Western dress. Chocolates made according to Islamic dietary laws were placed at each table.

The setting was the American Muslim Consumer Conference, which aimed to promote Muslims as a new market segment for U.S. companies. While corporations have long catered to Muslim communities in Europe, businesses have only tentatively started to follow suit in the U.S. ”” and they are doing so at a time of intensified anti-Muslim feeling that companies worry could hurt them, too. American Muslims seeking more acknowledgment in the marketplace argue that businesses have more to gain than lose by reaching out to the community.

“We are not saying, `Support us,'” said Faisal Masood, a graduate of the University of Illinois, Chicago, and management consultant. “But we want them to understand what our values are.”

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

(AP) Poll: Most want easier way to fire bad teachers

An overwhelming majority of Americans are frustrated that it’s too difficult to get rid of bad teachers, while most also believe that teachers aren’t paid enough, a new poll shows.

The Associated Press-Stanford University poll found that 78% think it should be easier for school administrators to fire poorly performing teachers. Yet overall, the public wants to reward teachers ”” 57% say they are paid too little, with just 7% believing they are overpaid and most of the rest saying they’re paid about right.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education

(Telegraph) David Cameron must face the challenge of Islamisation

First, that Muslims have migrated to Britain in enormous numbers over the past 40 years; one of the heaviest waves of immigration was encouraged by the last government. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimates that there are 2,869,000 Muslims in Britain, an increase of 74 per cent on its previous figure of 1,647,000, which was based on the 2001 census. No demographic statistics are reliable in an era of open borders, but such an expansion is unprecedented.

The second point is that ”“ different political traditions notwithstanding ”“ Britain is beginning to experience French-style anxiety about Islamisation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Frances Joseph-Gaudet

Merciful God, who didst raise up thy servant Frances Joseph-Gaudet to work for prison reform and the education of her people: Grant that we, encouraged by the example of her life, may work for those who are denied the fullness of life by reasons of incarceration and lack of access to education ; through Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day

God of all grace, who didst in the fullness of time send Jesus Christ thy Son to be born of a woman, that he might redeem the sons of men and make them the sons of God: Accept our endless praise for this thy mercy; and grant that the Spirit of thy Son may so dwell in our hearts that we may evermore serve and worship thee with the freedom of thy children; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Ohio sues Wells Fargo over pension fund loss

An Ohio pension fund has sued Wells Fargo & Co to recover losses suffered when a bank that it bought put the fund’s money into a risky investment vehicle that failed.

The School Employees Retirement System of Ohio, represented by state Attorney General Richard Cordray, said it lost $29.6 million because a unit of Wachovia Corp mismanaged a securities lending program marketed as a “low-risk” way to boost returns.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, State Government, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Daniel Henninger: Popes, Atheists and Freedom

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Bernd Debusmann–Fading optimism in “new normal” America

Optimism is so deeply embedded in the American national psyche that it withstood the Great Depression in the 1930s and a string of recessions since then. But in the era some economists call “the new normal” in America, optimism is fading.

So say public opinion polls that ask Americans how they see the future, theirs and their country’s. One recent survey, by the respected Pew Research Center, found that depression era Americans were more optimistic about economic recovery in the near future than people questioned in a Pew poll this October, when only 35 percent said they expected better economic conditions in a year’s time. In response to a similar question in 1936 and 1937, about half expected general business conditions to improve over the next six months.

The phrase “new normal” was coined by PIMCO, one of the world’s biggest investment funds, and is shorthand for an American future that includes lowered living standards, slow growth and high unemployment. Joblessness now stands at 9.8 percent, up from 9.6 percent in October. Add workers who have given up looking for jobs and people forced to work part time and the rate climbs to 17 percent, a powerful reason for declining optimism.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, History, Politics in General, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Clooney, Google, UN team up to watch Sudan border

A group founded by American actor George Clooney said Tuesday it has teamed up with Google, a U.N. agency and anti-genocide organizations to launch satellite surveillance of the border between north and south Sudan to try to prevent a new civil war after the south votes in a secession referendum next month.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Globalization, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Sudan, Violence

Nigel M. de S. Cameron–Three rules for 2011; or, Hitting 2012 on the Upswing

So Rule #3: as we grasp the innovation agenda, we must face the values issues it entails. They are not side-issues, “ethics” concerns, matters for “public engagement;” they will shape both policy and markets; and they lie at the heart of our nation’s choices as Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson meet Ray Kurzweil and Mark Zuckerberg.

Point is: the ostrich will always be out-smarted, and that is true both of the political classes and their associated values communities here in the United States – and of the United States in the global community. Which is not to say that I favor a U.S. “industrial policy” approach (though I hope we are tracking with care those competitors ”“ pretty much all of them – who are putting their money there; let’s track how that is working); or the idea that we should appoint an innovation czar to solve the problem (surely, in decade 2 of century 21, that is squarely the job of our chief executive? ”“ point to ponder as the jockeying for 2012 begins).

So what will 2011 bring? More of the same – being short-changed by our short-term thinking; America rests on wilting laurels as more energetic nations assert themselves?

We need to man up, and woman up, to refurbish our capacity as both chief global citizen, and chief global competitor….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology