Daily Archives: July 8, 2011

(USA Today) Fraud in jobless benefits at record

State and federal regulators are cracking down on waste and fraud in the unemployment insurance system, problems that have hit record levels as jobless claims surge in a weak economy.

In the 12 months through March, the overpayment rate was 11.6% ”” more than $1 for every $9 paid out, Labor Department figures show. That’s up from the 12 months that ended in June 2010, when 10.6% of the $156 billion in jobless benefits disbursed to Americans should not have been paid, the department says. The overpayment rate was 9.6% in fiscal 2009 and 9.2% in 2008.

About 9.3 million Americans are currently receiving jobless benefits. Several state agencies have had to borrow money to pay those benefits.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The U.S. Government, Theology

Islamic banking an instrument of oppression says Nigerian Anglican Primate

Primate of Anglican Communion, Nigeria, Most Revd. Nicholas Okoh, has described the introduction of Islamic banking by the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, as a religious oppressive instrument and a tool for social coercion of the poor to convert to Islam.

Okoh, who spoke to newsmen, yesterday, at Agbarha-Otor, Ughelli North Local Government Area, Delta State, said it was a follow up to demands by Boko Haram for the application of Sharia all over the country.

He said: “In 10 years from now, it would have grown and matured to what it is intended to be- a religious oppressive instrument and tool for social coercion of the poor to convert to Islam. It is heavily skewed to put other non-interest banking at disadvantage.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Economy, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, The Banking System/Sector

Jobs Data Dim Recovery Hopes

The U.S. economy barely added jobs for the second month in a row in June and the unemployment rate rose to the highest level this year, adding to concerns the labor market will take years to recover.

Nonfarm payrolls rose 18,000 last month, far less than expected, as small gains in the private sector were just enough to outweigh continued government-job losses, the Labor Department said Friday in its survey of employers. Payrolls data for the previous two months were revised down by a total 44,000 to show increases of only 25,000 jobs in May and 217,000 in April.

The jobless rate, which is obtained from a separate household survey, increased for the third straight month to 9.2% in June from 9.1% in May. It was the highest level since December 2010. There are 14.1 million Americans who would like to work but can’t get a job.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

South Sudan, the Newest Nation, Is Full of Hope and Problems

After five decades of guerrilla struggle and two million lives lost, the flags are flapping proudly here in this capital. The new national anthem is blasting all over town. People are toasting oversize bottles of White Bull beer (the local brew), and children are boogieing in the streets.

“Free at Last,” reads a countdown clock.

But from the moment it declares independence on Saturday, the Republic of South Sudan, the world’s newest country and Africa’s 54th state, will take its place at the bottom of the developing world. A majority of its people live on less than a dollar a day. A 15-year-old girl has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than she does of finishing primary school. More than 10 percent of children do not make it to their fifth birthday. About three-quarters of adults cannot read. Only 1 percent of households have a bank account.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Politics in General, Sudan

(AP) Will Changes to Social Security really be included in any Budget Deal?

Overall, the proposal would cut Social Security benefits by $112 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It would cut government pensions and veterans’ benefits by $24 billion over the same time period if adopted for them.

Reaction from the president’s own party was swift Thursday, raising questions about whether Obama can keep Democrats on board if he agrees to cuts in Social Security. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said her caucus won’t support any package that includes Social Security cuts.

“Do not consider Social Security a piggy bank for giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country,” Pelosi said. “We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of America’s seniors.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, European Central Bank, House of Representatives, Medicare, Politics in General, Senate, Social Security, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(CEN) David Cameron urged to act on Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

A petition of more than 2,000 signatures was handed into 10 Downing Street last week in opposition to Pakistan’s controversial Blasphemy Laws.

Organised by Wilson Chowdhry and the British Pakistani Christian Association, the petition’s aim is to protect Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Pakistan, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Final countdown: South Carolina and the shuttle

South Carolina boasts a strong connection to the shuttle program. At least six NASA shuttle astronauts have state ties, ranging from Ronald E. McNair of Lake City, who died in the 1986 Challenger explosion, to current NASA administrator Charles Bolden of Columbia, pilot of the mission that launched the Hubble Space Telescope. Both are black and were born and raised in segregation.

Beyond providing astronauts, though, there’s bad news on the horizon as the state is losing one of its chosen paths to the skies.

For three decades, experiments run by South Carolina researchers had ready shuttle access beyond Earth’s gravity. They include about 30 programs run by the University of South Carolina and 35 more by Clemson University. Even tiny Claflin University was in the mix, with four of its projects sent into orbit.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, Science & Technology, State Government

(RNS) Mormon Leaders Told to Stay Out of Politics

Mormon officials are telling their top, full-time leaders that they and their spouses should not participate in political campaigns, including making donations or endorsing candidates.

However, part-time leaders””including local and regional congregational leaders””are still allowed to do that, but are cautioned to make clear they are acting as individuals and do not represent the church.

Local leaders are also told not to engage in political fundraising or campaigning focused on members of congregations they oversee.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, House of Representatives, Mormons, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Senate, State Government

(CEN) Silence from NY on Diocese of Nevada related clergy abuse case

The Presiding Bishop’s office has refused to respond to questions about her alleged violations of Episcopal Church canon law, stating they do not comment on litigation. However, an investigation by The Church of England Newspaper suggests there is a prima facie case that the Presiding Bishop also violated rules she put in place in the Diocese of Nevada governing clergy sexual misconduct when she received the Rev Bede Parry into the priesthood in 2004.

The Presiding Bishop’s silence and the subsequent uproar comes as the Church’s new disciplinary canons came into effect on July 1, making her liable for ecclesiastical discipline for her actions as Bishop of Nevada. It also raises questions about the fairness of the clergy sexual abuse rules, as the canons presume that change of life and rehabilitation are impossible for those who have committed sexual sins.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Presiding Bishop, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, TEC Bishops, Theology

(Church Times) Survey of religious views suggest divided world

In Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, more than 90 per cent thought that religion provided the common values necessary to allow society to thrive. In the UK, however, just 29 per cent thought that. Sweden scored the lowest, at just 19 per cent.

Asked about the prospect of religious or ethnic conflict breaking out in their own country, many respondents were very worried. In Turkey, South Africa, and Hungary, re­spond­ents thought that there was more than a 70-per-cent chance that conflict would hap­pen. In the UK, respondents rated the chance of conflict at 43 per cent.

When asked about whether their own religion was the only true path to salvation, results were mixed, dependent on country and faith. In Saudi Arabia, 75 per cent agreed with this; in the UK, however, just nine per cent agreed with the statement.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Globalization, Religion & Culture

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Cleanse our hearts, O God, we beseech thee, by the fire of thy Holy Spirit, that we may henceforth serve thee with chaste bodies and pure minds, to the glory of thy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

–Mark 1:5-8

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(New Statesman) Terry Eagleton reviews George Levine's "The Joy of Secularism"

If Friedrich Nietzsche was the first sincere atheist, it is because he saw that the Almighty is exceedingly good at disguising Himself as something else, and that much so-called secularisation is accordingly bogus. Secular thinking, too, had to be demythified. “God had in fact gone into hiding,” Robbins observes, “and now had to be smoked out of various secular terms, from morals and nature and history to man and even grammar.” Even Nietzsche’s will to power has a suspiciously metaphysical ring to it.

Postmodernism is perhaps best seen as Nietzsche shorn of the metaphysical baggage. Whereas modernism is still haunted by a God-shaped absence, postmodern culture is too young to remember a time when men and women were anguished by the fading spectres of truth, reality, nature, value, meaning, foundations and the like. For postmodern theory, there never was any truth or meaning in the first place, and so mourning its disappearance would be like lamenting that a rabbit can’t recite Paradise Lost.

Postmodernism is properly secular, but it pays an immense price for this coming of age – if coming of age it is. It means shelving all the other big questions, too, as hopelessly passé. It also involves the grave error of imagining that all faith or passionate conviction is inci­piently dogmatic. It is not only religious belief to which postmodernism is allergic, but belief as such. Advanced capitalism sees no need for the stuff. It is both politically divisive and commercially unnecessary.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, History, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

Sarah Kristin Dreier becomes legislative representative for international issues for TEC, Lutherans

Sarah Kristin Dreier began July 5 in her new role as the legislative representative for international issues for both the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in an effort by both denominations to share resources.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Globalization, Lutheran, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Washington Post) Matt Miller–Why are we defining democracy down?

It’s a sad mark of the times to have to point this out, but “averting calamity” doesn’t suffice as governing strategy. It’s not what more effective public sectors in places such as Singapore or Finland, or even China, are doing.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, History, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Psychology, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology