Daily Archives: January 31, 2012

Search for Aliens Is on Again, but Next Quest Is Finding Money

Astronomers now know that the galaxy is teeming with at least as many planets ”” the presumed sites of life ”” as stars. Advanced life and technology might be rare in the cosmos, said Geoffrey W. Marcy, the Watson and Marilyn Alberts in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence professor at the University of California, Berkeley, “but surely they are out there, because the number of Earthlike planets in the Milky Way galaxy is simply too great.”

A simple “howdy,” a squeal or squawk, or an incomprehensible stream of numbers captured by one of the antennas here at the University of California’s Hat Creek Radio Observatory would be enough to end our cosmic loneliness and change history, not to mention science. It would answer one of the most profound questions humans ask: Are we alone in the universe?

Despite decades of space probes and billions of NASA dollars looking for life out there, there is still only one example of life in the universe: the DNA-based web of biology on Earth. “In this field,” said Jill Tarter, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., the “number two is the all-important number. We count one, two, infinity. We’re all looking for number two.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, History, Other Faiths, Science & Technology

Abuja's Catholic Archbishop–Islamic Leaders Have a Duty to Stop Boko Haram

“Just as the mind can be poisoned, we can also de-toxiate the mind, by reaching out to them and telling them they are making a big mistake and that what they are doing is not even in their own interest.

“That is what you might call counter propaganda. This is one reason why we are challenging our Islamic community in Nigeria.

“They have said it clearly again and again that they are not in support of what they are doing. Alhaji Lattef Adegbite, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs had spoken voiceferously condemning what the Boko Haram people are doing and that what they do is not Islam. Good! They can do much more than that because whether you call them Muslims or not, they said they are one.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Terrorism, Violence

A Wonderful NBC Video Piece on a New program Providing Dogs for Returning Veterans

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * General Interest, Animals, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Defense, National Security, Military, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Psychology

(USA Today) Christians fear losing freedoms in Arab Spring movement

From her home in a labyrinth of stonewalled alleyways, Samia Ramsis holds a key chain bearing the face of the Virgin Mary as she sits in her yellow pajamas on the morning of Orthodox Christmas.

Sunlight pours in through a window. Outside, visitors come to look upon the spot where Egypt’s Christians ”” most known as Copts ”” believe the Holy Family found refuge after fleeing Bethlehem and assassins sent by King Herod to kill the baby Jesus.

Once crowded with Christians, Cairo’s Coptic quarter where Samia lives with her husband, Mounir, and two children is home to fewer than 50 Christian families.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Egypt, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(SMH) Peter Hartcher: Wars wane: is the world really falling into peace?

There has been a pronounced decline in the number of wars and the deadliness of war in the world. One expert, John Mueller, professor of political science at Ohio State University, writes: “We may be reaching a point where war – in both its international and civil varieties – ceases, or nearly ceases to exist, a remarkable development that has attracted little notice.”

Harvard professor of psychology Steven Pinker says that it “may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history”. He writes in The Better Angels of Our Nature: “We may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence.”

So what is the evidence so far? Let’s start with recent history, where the data is clearest….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General

TEC Executive Council's Statement from its Most Recently Concluded Meeting

As Executive Council gathered for its penultimate meeting before General Convention, heavy rain was pelting the south windows of the Maritime Institute like hard little fists, making everyone grateful for the solace of dry warm spaces. This was Executive Council’s third meeting of this triennium in this venue, a reflection of a money-saving strategy to contract to meet in a couple of places, Linthicum Heights, MD, and Salt Lake City, UT. In prior triennia, Executive Council had moved around the church, meeting once in each of our nine provinces, but our new discipline of choosing only two money-saving venues is a reflection of our willingness to adapt to changing financial conditions.

The draft budget for the 2013-2015 triennium overshadowed all the other Executive Council business at this meeting. The budget conversation began at the June 2011 Executive Council meeting, also held at the Maritime Institute, when members were challenged to “change the conversation,” to seek a way to take on the adaptive challenges facing all denominations in a post-Christian era of declining interest in the institutional church. The Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission (FFM) already had begun working with the treasurer in mid-2011 on a financial projection model and determined that the current spending model is unsustainable. At that time, it was pointed out that the chairs of Executive Council’s standing committees had previously not provided much input into the budget process. The Executive Council’s newly formed Executive Committee was charged with developing a process for the triennium budget that would challenge the church to new ways of engaging God’s mission.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Executive Council

(Tablet) Liel Leibovitz– George Lucas' Theology Needs Work

Of the 20 or so T-shirts I own, about half make some reference to Jedis, midi-chlorians, or lightsabers. In 1999, on the day Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released, I bought tickets to three consecutive screenings and sat giddily through them all, Jar Jar be damned. When my dear friends had their beautiful baby boy late last year, I was thrilled to buy him a Boba Fett alarm clock desk lamp, the best gift I could imagine. I bought another one for myself.

If you’ve understood most of the references in the paragraph above, you, sadly, belong to the same wretched class of emotionally precarious quasi-adults in whose minds and hearts Star Wars occupies the realms others furnish with accomplishing life goals or forming meaningful relationships. Which is why the next line hurts: George Lucas has ruined our lives.
I don’t mean that in the obvious way, like the sorry stares my friends and I sometimes get from well-balanced, emotionally available adults when they overhear us discussing issues like the politics of Wookie society or why all spaceships seem to always have their engines on in full thrust yet none ever seem to accelerate. What I mean is that those of us reared on Star Wars too easily subscribe to its creator’s facile mythology that sees all religions as nothing more than particular facets of one grand universal myth and that has little use for cultural distinctions or theological depth. As his newly released production, the World War II film Red Tails, clearly shows, George Lucas’ world is a place where good forever battles evil on a landscape that is smooth and flat and unchanging. The same goes for his entire oeuvre.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Movies & Television, Other Faiths, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Theology

Church of England welcomes outlawing of cash for scrap

Anne Sloman, Chair of the Church of England’s Cathedral and Church Buildings Council, said: “This is excellent news. The Church has campaigned for a long time for legislation to outlaw cash transactions for scrap metal. We are still suffering the theft of lead from 10 church roofs a day, and every weapon the Government and the police can use to help us combat this crime is greatly to be welcomed.”

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

(Anglican Church in Wales) Strong response to Church review

More than 1,000 people across Wales have had their say about the future of the Church in Wales as part of a root and branch review.

They met the three members of the independent Review Group at public meetings held in each of the six dioceses in Wales in November and January.

The Review Group was commissioned by the Welsh bishops and the Standing Committee of the Governing Body last year to address fundamental questions about the role and structures of the Church in Wales as it approaches its centenary in 2020. It is chaired by Lord Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, and also includes Professor Charles Handy former professor at the London Business School; and Professor Patricia Peattie, former Chair of the Episcopal Church in Scotland’s Standing Committee.

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Posted in Uncategorized

(Der Spiegel) 'The Syrian Situation Could Hardly be More Hopeless'

After a violent weekend in Syria, European diplomats have had enough. Both British Foreign Secretary William Hague and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe confirmed on Monday that they are heading for New York on Tuesday to urge the United Nations to pass a resolution aimed at the violent Syrian crackdown against anti-regime demonstrations.

Juppe and Hague hope to be able to persuade China and Russia to support such a resolution, one that has the backing of the Arab League. Both countries vetoed a draft resolution last October that threatened Damascus with sanctions and Moscow remains wary of any resolution that could authorize foreign military intervention. Both countries hold a veto in the UN Security Council.

The diplomatic offensive comes following widespread fighting in Syria over the weekend, which saw tanks and troops deployed to enable the Syrian army to regain its grip on a number of Damascus suburbs….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Politics in General, Syria, Violence

Freddie Mac Bets Billions Against the very homeowners it is supposed to help

Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage giant, has placed multibillion-dollar bets that pay off if homeowners stay trapped in expensive mortgages with interest rates well above current rates.

Freddie began increasing these bets dramatically in late 2010, the same time that the company was making it harder for homeowners to get out of such high-interest mortgages….

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

(USA Today) Roman Catholic Priests decry birth control order

From Maine to Phoenix to southern Louisiana, Catholic churches across the USA this weekend echoed with scorn for a new federal rule requiring faith-based employers to include birth control and other reproductive services in their health care coverage.

Dozens of priests took the rare step of reading letters from the pulpit urging parishioners to reach out to Washington and oppose the rule, enacted this month….

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

A Prayer for the [Provisional] Feast Day of Samuel Shoemaker

Holy God, we offer thanks for the vision of Samuel Shoemaker, priest and co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous; and we pray that we may follow his example to help others find salvation through knowledge and love of Jesus Christ our Savior; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Living God, in whom is the fountain of life: So teach us to know thee through Jesus Christ that we may share the power of that eternal life which is in him, and that all our lives may be brought into obedience to thy holy will; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Eric Fenn

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Jesus answered them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.

–John 6:43-50

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Economist Newsbook Blog) Sarkozy's German fixation

If there was one recurring theme during Nicolas Sarkozy’s live prime-time television interview last night, it was the French president’s obsession with Germany. In an appearance that lasted just over an hour, watched by a massive 16m viewers, Mr Sarkozy repeatedly held Germany up as a model for France, which is still reeling from the loss of its triple-A credit rating at the hands of Standard & Poor’s earlier this month.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Europe, Foreign Relations, France, Germany, Politics in General

(McClatchy) F-35 story shows why it's so hard to cut a federal program

Conceived in the heady post-Cold War 1990s, the futuristic fifth-generation [F-35] jet fighter was to be a technological marvel built in a rush and paid for with “peace dividend” dollars.

But now with the economic crash, the fighter is billions over budget and years behind schedule.

Here’s part of the problem: axing the F-35 would eliminate tens of thousands of jobs in 47 states. Few members of Congress are willing to go along.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, House of Representatives, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Virginia Episcopal Bishop Shannon Johnston's Diocesan Council Address

We are able at the same time to dedicate a goodly percentage (21 percent) of our annual budget for mission and ministry beyond ourselves ”“as, given our wealth, we should do. Having such a large number of pledging units for the diocesan budget means that when we all do just a little more, a whole lot morefor the good of all will result. As bishop, I give great thanks that we do not have to depend on only a few to do so much. We have many who do their part to give for all and that is a good sign for a healthy diocesan Church.

I also note that with a larger number of households and friends who are able to provide financial support, we are able to make quite substantial contributions to emergency and disaster relief efforts when the sheer number of people lending a hand makes all the difference. I can tell you personally that whether it’s in Haiti, Japan, or Joplin, Missouri, the amount of aid we can quickly raise as a diocese has been most deeply appreciated by those in staggering distress and need.

Our 181 congregations comprised of some 82,000 baptized members mean that we have more than ample resources and talent to serve Christ through our diocesan ministries. This is why I am so very committed to the longer-term vision of having full-time diocesan missioners at all of the colleges and universities within the Diocese. Such ministry is critical, both for the students and in the ongoing formation of the Church, present and future. We simply must do this; there is no reason or excuse not to. Furthermore, our diocesan commissions and committees are strong. Their work can and does reach all of our congregations across the diocese. You will perhaps experience some of their work during this Council’s workshops or, at least, consider in the exhibit space the many opportunities they present for ministry.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

Virginia Episcopal Diocese Bishop Outlines Property Transition Plan

Following on the recent court ruling remanding all properties currently occupied by breakaway congregations from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia back to the diocese, Virginia Episcopal Bishop Shannon Johnston called the current time “one of the most defining moments in all of our 400 year history” in a pastoral address given to the 217th annual Virginia Diocese Council meeting in Reston yesterday….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Virginia, TEC Departing Parishes