Daily Archives: August 28, 2012

IBM is now developing its supercomputer "Watson" for commercial applications

International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) researchers spent four years developing Watson, the computer smart enough to beat the champions of the quiz show “Jeopardy!” Now they’re trying to figure out how to get those capabilities into the phone in your pocket.

Bernie Meyerson, IBM’s vice president of innovation, envisions a voice-activated Watson that answers questions, like a supercharged version of Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s Siri personal assistant. A farmer could stand in a field and ask his phone, “When should I plant my corn?” He would get a reply in seconds, based on location data, historical trends and scientific studies.

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

(Patheos) Greg Garrett–Why We Should Do Politics like Episcopalians

When we insist that everyone has to believe as we do, when we elevate every item of our faith and belief to essential status, we don’t do anyone any favors. It’s the kind of practice that makes Catholic bishops decree that if you don’t follow the church’s teachings on birth control, abortion, or other social issues””none of which are creedal or talked about by Jesus””you are outside the Church.

It’s the kind of practice that makes progressive Christians say that if you don’t agree with them on the environment, gay marriage, or social safety nets, you are unchristian.

And it is the kind of practice that makes Democrats say that if you are not wholeheartedly pro-choice, your beliefs are not welcome on the party platform.

Much better, it seems to me, is the practice suggested by Messrs. Hooker and Danforth””that of moderation and reconciliation.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(BP) In the Himalayas: Carrying the Gospel to the 'roof of the world'

“We are facing more obstacles than we ever have before, but this is no surprise. This believer represents the very first person who wants to be baptized in this place. Satan’s not just going to give that up easily,” [John]Costa said.

For [Aaron] Juergens, that’s no reason to quit, but encouragement to persevere, even in sickness and freezing temperatures atop a mountain.

“I’m up there, wearing six jackets and three gloves and five socks and I really just kind of want to sit in a bed,” he said. “But then you think about those people (who haven’t heard yet). If we turn around, who is going to come next? I mean, how many people have turned around? The world is getting smaller. The day is coming when everybody is going to have no excuse whatsoever for not hearing. There’s no excuse for turning back.

“We keep going.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Baptists, Missions, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, South America, Theology

(BBC) Mombasa riots after Kenyan Muslim cleric killed

Kenyan police have fired tear gas to disperse Muslim protesters who have looted shops and burned barricades for a second day in the coastal city of Mombasa.

The protests follow the drive-by shooting of radical Muslim preacher Aboud Rogo Mohammed on Monday.

The cleric had been accused by the UN and US of recruiting and funding Islamist fighters in Somalia.

One person was killed and churches attacked in riots on Monday.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Kenya, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths

(Nigerian Tribune) Nigerians Divided over Backroom Talks with Boko Haram

The Boko Haram sect has been a thorn in the flesh of all Nigerians. Many lives and properties have been lost in the course of their influx and the flow of innocent people’s blood has yet to cease. The federal government has indicated that a dialogue with this group would ease their attacks on Nigerians. Nigerian Tribune took the matter to the court of the Nigerian public through a poll. Of the 666 people who participated in the poll, 333 (50 per cent) stood against the opinion, through their votes, while 321 people (48.2 per cent) opined that it would be a reasonable decision. 12 people (1.8 per cent) voted indifferent.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Terrorism, Violence

(VOA) Nigerian Presidency Announces 'Backroom' Talks With Boko Haram

Nigeria’s government says it is in negotiations with Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Some analysts are skeptical the talks will end the violence blamed on the group in northern Nigeria.

There has been a lot of debate among Nigerians recently about the militant group known as Boko Haram. Are they, or are they not holding peace talks with the government?

On Sunday, the government emphatically said “Yes, they are.” Presidential spokesperson Reuben Abati told state-house reporters negotiations are taking place through “backroom channels,” not at a formal table in an air conditioned office.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Terrorism, Violence

R.A. Dickey–Worship on the mound

In your recently published autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up, you’re explicit about how God saved and changed your life. Journalists have interviewed you a lot over the past several months. What percentage of the interviewers have asked about your Christian faith? Probably 15 to 20 percent.

The subject didn’t come up in your NPR interview. I brought it up. They edited it out. I always look for opportunities to talk about my faith in a way that is congruent with the story or the question that they ask, because it is important to me that people know. Most of the time it will be edited out.

Your description of the knuckleball”””The pitch has a mind of its own. You either embrace it for what it is””a pitch that is reliant on an amalgam of forces both seen and unseen””or you allow it to drive you half out of your mind”””seems like a metaphor for the mysteries of God’s providence in the Christian life. To a certain extent it is, at least for me. An element of surrender has enabled me to get to the next place with the knuckleball. An element of surrender in my own life has helped me get to the next place in my faith and relationship to Christ. I didn’t necessarily draw the parallel intentionally, but as a Christian there were so many times in my life where I wanted to control things and I would hold on to them so tightly that God couldn’t get anywhere near them””or so I thought.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Men, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Sports, Theology

Water Missions International moves to a larger Site in North Charleston, South Carolina

Since its founding in 1998, Water Missions International has traveled all over the globe.

Now the nonprofit agency is traveling from West Ashley to North Charleston.

Water Missions, which provides sustainable safe water to people in developing countries and those hit by disasters, is moving its headquarters today to a new location near Virginia Avenue on the Old Navy Base.

“Water Missions International really shows what kind of world we live in,” said North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey. “It’s an agency that cares about people. It doesn’t care who the people are, but it cares about making their life better when tragedy strikes.

Read it all from the front page of yestserday’s local paper.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations

(WSJ) Same Doctor Visit, Double the Cost

After David Hubbard underwent a routine echocardiogram at his cardiologist’s office last year, he was surprised to learn that the heart scan cost his insurer $1,605. That was more than four times the $373 it paid when the 61-year-old optometrist from Reno, Nev., had the same procedure at the same office just six months earlier.

“Nothing had changed, it was the same equipment, the same room,” said Dr. Hubbard, who has a high-deductible health plan and had to pay about $1,000 of the larger bill out of his own pocket. “I was very upset.”

But something had changed: his cardiologist’s practice had been bought by Renown Health, a local hospital system. Dr. Hubbard was caught up in a structural shift that is sweeping through health care in the U.S.””hospitals are increasingly acquiring private physician practices.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance

(USA Today) Employers try new ways to cut health costs, study says

As health care costs continue to increase, employers are looking for ways to cut costs, such as reducing spouse and dependent coverage in 2013, says a study out today.

While the total cost of health care is predicted to rise 5.3%, to $11,507 per employee in 2013, the increase is slowing, says the new Towers Watson survey of 440 midsize and large companies. This year, in comparison, the cost is expected to increase 5.9%.

“Recently employers have been increasing employee premiums, although they can only push the envelope so far,” says Paul Fronstin, director of the Health Research Program at the Employee Benefit Research Institute. If healthy workers drop out of the plan, self-insured employers might lose money, he says.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family

David Neff–The Hymns That Haunt Us

Earlier this year, NPR told the story of Teresa MacBain, a United Methodist pastor who had stopped believing in God. In March, when she just couldn’t keep it to herself anymore, she told the American Atheists Convention that she was one of them.
Coming out as an atheist felt good. But when she got home to Tallahassee, Florida, she discovered that a video of her coming-out speech had gone viral. Her church and community shunned her.
I was saddened but not surprised. Many people attend seminary because they are seeking answers to serious questions about the faith. When they do pastoral care, those questions become sharper.
What really caught my attention about MacBain’s story was this: “I miss the music,” she told NPR. “Some of the hymns, I still catch myself singing them,” she said. “I mean, they’re beautiful pieces of music.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Music, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Augustine of Hippo

O Lord God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strength of the hearts that serve thee: Help us, following the example of thy servant Augustine of Hippo, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, and so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Thou who sittest on the throne, making all things new: Renew our faith, and hope, and love. Renew our wills, that we may serve thee more gladly and watchfully than ever; renew our delight in thy Word and thy worship; renew our joy in thee; renew our longing that all may know thee; renew our desires and labours to serve others; that so we may walk in the light of thy love and in the power of thy Spirit, now and for evermore.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.

–John 6:60-71

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Chris Sugden–Regional Anglican Celebrations

The last 12 months has seen a significant development in the Anglican Communion. National Anglican Churches (Provinces is the technical term) have begun to hold significant large gatherings of all Anglicans in their area along with international guests from other parts of the Communion.

This is part of the “celebration” level of church gatherings which can be classed as “cell” ”“ or home groups, “congregation” ”“ what most of us experience on Sundays and “celebration” ”“ everyone getting together in an area or region. Churches in Oxford have done this for the last seven years with “Love Oxford” when many churches shut their doors on one Sunday and all meet together in a central outdoor location. English dioceses have occasionally done this by taking over a football stadium. Gatherings such as Word Alive, Bible by the Beach, Spring Harvest, New Wine and Keswick are also such celebrations….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Commentary, Globalization

(Real Clear Religion) Philip Jenkins–A Tradition of Bogus Scriptures

…look at the pseudo-Qur’an that has become such a mainstay of anti-Islamic activism. Internet activists regularly quote Qur’anic passages to characterize the whole Islamic faith as rooted in hatred, terror and violence, and specifically a brutal anti-Semitism. Far from being the incidental deviations of modern-day traitors to the faith, they suggest, such atrocities are entirely rooted in its most fundamental scripture, in words allegedly delivered by God himself.

The problem, though, is that the texts usually cited are spurious. Either they do not occur at all in the Qur’an, or else they are quoted in a sense radically different from their actual meaning. Just how these pseudo-texts came into being is mysterious. In some cases, activists might have invented them wholesale, while later readers pass them on in the sincere belief that they are authentic. Alternatively, perhaps genuine passages were perverted in the course of transmission. Whatever explanation we choose, there is no reason to suggest that individuals citing the alleged passages are conscious of any kind of deception: they are telling the truth as they understand it. Unintentionally, though, they are peddling harmful misinformation.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, * Resources & Links, Blogging & the Internet, Books, History, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture