Daily Archives: May 29, 2015

(W Post Wonkblog) U.S. economy shrinks in first quarter, raising questions about underlying strength

The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized pace of 0.7 percent in the first three months of the year, according to government data released Friday morning, a tumble for a recovering nation that until recently seemed poised for takeoff.

The contraction, the country’s third in the aftermath of the Great Recession, provides a troubling picture of an economy that many figured would get a lift from cheap oil, rapid hiring and growing consumer confidence. Instead, consumers have proved cautious, and oil companies have frozen investment ”” all while a nasty winter caused havoc for transportation and construction and a strong dollar widened the trade deficit.

The numbers released Friday were a revision of earlier figures that had shown GDP growing in the first quarter at 0.2 percent. Markets had since expected the downward revision, in large part because of recent data showing the trade deficit at a 6½-year high.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government, Theology

(WSJ) Phillip Thompson–Grappling With Faith and the Death Penalty

When I started researching the death penalty in 1995, roughly 80% of Americans favored its use. The death penalty was a rare point of consensus in American politics, crossing party affiliation and political ideology.

Times have changed. The unicameral legislature of a very conservative state, Nebraska, voted last week, 32-15, to repeal capital punishment. Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed the bill on Tuesday. But on Wednesday Nebraska became the 19th state to abolish the death penalty after legislators voted to override the governor’s veto.

Clearly, a tide is building against the death penalty in America. One of the most powerful factors is science. DNA evidence in the past 20 years was a strong reason for the exoneration of many of the 153 innocent people released from death row during that period. These people in earlier generations would have been wrongfully put to death. This realization has challenged the conscience of a fair-minded country that doesn’t want to kill innocent people.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Capital Punishment, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

RC Sproul–Should Christians Attend Homosexual “Weddings”?

Which brings us to our second term, “wedding.” One could argue that my original question is moot for the simple reason that there is no such thing as homosexual weddings. You can no more witness a homosexual wedding than you could draw a square circle. Weddings are between men and women. That said, those participating in these events believe they are participating in a wedding. Our attendance, no matter how well intentioned, encourages them in their delusion. Which is one key reason why they so object to our not attending their weddings, or our not beautifying them with cakes and flowers. If we won’t admit that the naked emperor is dressed to the nines, the state will be called and we will be ruined.

Homosexuality is at one and the same time like other sins and unlike other sins. It is like other sins in that it is forgivable, and a sin for which Jesus died. After all, such once were we (I Corinthians 6:9-11). While the behavior is rightly revolting, those caught up in it bear God’s image and are not beyond the reach of grace. It is unlike some sins, however, for two reasons. First, it is gross and heinous sin. The folly that all sins are equal has done great damage in the church and in the world. All sins are cosmic rebellion and are due the eternal wrath of God. But that doesn’t mean they are equal. Second, unlike most other sins, this is a sin that its practitioners insist is no sin at all. Greed is wicked, but we don’t have parades celebrating it. This is a sin that in our day glories in its shame. Do we really want to join in that glory by attending their “weddings?”

I know it is difficult. I know it is painful and can divide families. I know it makes us look to the world like bigots and haters. But that, friends, is a shame we truly can glory in, for He promises us blessing (Matthew 5:10-12). This doesn’t, of course, mean we abandon homosexuals, or have nothing to do with them. Jesus often met sinners where they were. But He always called them to come to Him. He calls us to do the same.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Uncategorized

(ABC Nightline) With Generic Prescription Drug Prices Surging, Families Are Feeling the Squeeze

When Tricia Salese called her local pharmacy for a price check on her next prescription refill, she was stunned when the pharmacist told her the cost of her generic-brand pain medication had gone up again.

Salese, 49, started talking fentanyl citrate, the generic version of Actiq, a powerful painkiller, in 2010, and she takes three doses per day. Back then, she said, the price per dose was 50 cents. Now, the pharmacist told her when she called, it was going to cost her $37.49 per dose.

“I thought $25 [per dose for generics] was a lot. $37 is just– What is this stuff made of? I mean, this is ridiculous,” Salese said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance, Psychology, Stress, Theology

(IE Journal) Irish professor to become the first woman to run Oxford University in 785 years

Professor Louise richardson looks set to become Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University ”“ the first woman ever to hold the crucial position.

A political scientist originally from Tramore, Co Waterford, Richardson was today nominated to the position, which involves overseeing the nearly 1000-year-old institution.

The 56-year-old academic is currently Principal and Vice Chancellor at St Andrew’s University in Fife.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Education, England / UK, History, Ireland, Scotland, Women, Young Adults

(Economist) At last, a challenge to the impunity of FIFA

Few arrests can have provoked such Schadenfreude as those of seven senior officials of FIFA, football’s world governing body, early on May 27th at a swish Swiss hotel. The arrests are part of a wide-ranging investigation by America’s FBI into corruption at FIFA, dating back over two decades. The indictment from the Department of Justice named 14 people on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and paying bribes worth more than $150m. They are likely to face charges in a US federal court. As more people start talking in a bid to sauve qui peut, the investigation will with luck reach into every dark and dank corner of FIFA’s Zurich headquarters…

American extraterritorial jurisdiction is often excessive in its zeal and overbearing in its methods, but in this instance it deserves the gratitude of football fans everywhere. The hope must be that FIFA’s impunity is at last brought to an end and with it the career of the ineffably complacent Sepp Blatter, its 79-year-old president, who was nonetheless expected to be re-elected for a fifth term after The Economist had gone to print.

The evidence of systemic corruption at FIFA has been accumulating for years, but came to a head in 2010 with the bidding for two World Cups. When the right to hold the competition in 2022 was won by tiny, bakingly hot Qatar, against the strong advice of FIFA’s own technical committee, suspicions that votes had been bought were immediately aroused. Thanks to two female whistleblowers and the diligent investigative work of the Sunday Times, a wealth of damning evidence was unearthed involving a Qatari FIFA official, Mohamed bin Hammam, who allegedly wooed football bigwigs in Africa with a $5m slush fund.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance, Sports, Theology

(Reform Ireland) Where do Irish Christians go from here?

Where do Irish Christians go from here? Ireland is spiritually and morally bankrupt, at war with itself, and Hell-bent, detesting the idea of Christianity – at least the version of it that has been presented to it by the Roman Catholic church. But in one sense, nothing has changed. We know already from the Scriptures that Jesus said: ”˜wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14). This is and will always remain true no matter what decisions nations and individuals take.

So, where do we go from here? Well, like the Apostle Paul, our ambition in Ireland is simply to preach the Gospel where Christ is not known (Romans 15:20). In Ireland, the vast majority ”˜know’ Christ as only a swear word, or as a distant, cold stone statue figure at best. But our ambition, as Irish Christians, as Evangelicals, is to bring the Gospel afresh to this generation of Irish to know Him as their loving Lord and Saviour. To preach the Gospel, was ”˜always’ Paul’s ambition in life, and this ambition should grip every Evangelical and every Evangelical church in Ireland.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Church of Ireland, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ireland, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Soteriology, Theology

(Diocese of London) Ro Willoughby–Welcome to the Banquet

It is a holy moment. It almost always is. At the heart of the worship area the long banqueting table, covered by a shimmering purple-blue cloth, is set. In the centre is the platter with a large flat loaf resting on a mound of red grapes.

Once the Eucharistic bread and wine have been consecrated, the children will flock to take their seats at the banquet. Each child will be given a hunk of loaf followed by a handful of grapes. They will be reminded by name that Jesus loves them, that he died for them, that he is with them always and everywhere.

The children are not receiving Holy Communion. They have not gone through a preparation course although at least once a year they all explore the meaning of Holy Communion. Their parents may stay with them if they are very young but this is essentially a ”˜children only’ experience. Prior to his retirement, Bishop Peter appreciated the banquet when he visited us.

The Eucharistic banquet is rich in symbolism and meaning for these children and for the whole church at St Paul’s Finchley. Let me explain!

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Children, Eucharist, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(Church Times) Diocese of Blackburn seeks a new liturgy for gender transition

A liturgy to “mark a person’s gender transition” should be devised to help the Church welcome and affirm transgender people, a motion from the diocese of Blackburn suggests. The motion was sent for consideration to the General Synod last month, after being carried by the diocesan synod.

Its origins lie in a service led last year by the Vicar of St Mary’s, Lancaster, the Revd Chris Newlands, after a young man had asked to be “rebaptised”, explaining that he had been baptised as a girl.

“He said: ‘I don’t think God knows me; so I would like to be introduced to God as a man,'” Mr Newlands recalled on Tuesday. A liturgy was devised, drawing on the initiation service, which enabled the man to reaffirm his baptismal vows.

“It was just a very simple pastoral response to something which came out of the blue,” Mr Newlands said. “It was really moving, as he felt he was in a proper relationship with God. He just wanted God to know his new name.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Reuters) Fight against Boko Haram requires regional might: UN

Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s promised campaign to defeat Boko Haram could drive more militants over the country’s borders, raising the need for cooperation between governments across the region, senior U.N. officials said on Thursday.

Speaking on the eve of the former army general’s inauguration, they voiced hope that the new Abuja government would crush the Islamist militants accused of using women and children as sexual slaves and suicide bombers

“There is this concern that success inside northeast Nigeria spells trouble for Niger, Cameroon, and even potentially Chad. So there is a lot of focus on regional cooperation,” Robert Piper, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General and regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, told a news briefing.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Islam, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the First Book of Common Prayer

Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, did restore the language of the people in the prayers of thy Church: Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us so to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, --Book of Common Prayer, Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Scottish Prayer Book

Almighty and everlasting God, who in days of old didst cause thy Word to grow mightily and to prevail: We praise and magnify thy holy name for the manifestation of thy presence in this our day, and we beseech thee to pour out thy Spirit upon the Church, that thy way may be known upon earth and thy saving health among all nations; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Time) Susanna Schrobsdorff–For survivors of the teenage years, graduation is anything but ordinary

Come graduation day, I know I won’t be the only parent with invisible armor who worried that a diploma might be knocked out of reach or rendered irrelevant by bigger issues. There is an epidemic of depression and anxiety in our schools”“and I suspect we’re only documenting a fraction of the problem. So while there will be tall young women, cool and confident in their caps and gowns, some will have spent eight weeks at grueling wilderness camps foraging for food because they stopped eating at home. There will be brilliant boys who cut themselves, a tangible reflection of wounds they get in the social-media Thunderdome. There will be kids who don’t have safe homes, or homes at all, and others who have everything but a purpose.

And the school auditorium will be filled with the parents who’ve soldiered on, mortgaged houses to pay for substance rehab, spent more time in emergency sessions with teachers than on vacation, who turned the city upside down to get their son a place at that last-chance school. They know about the impossible choices and disappointments that aren’t in any parenting book. And they include some of the people you think have done everything right. Sometimes what looks like indulgent, competitive helicopter parenting is really a desperate fight to be ordinary. For all of them, this rite of passage is anything but ordinary, but you wouldn’t know it.

Sometimes it feels like a secret society. Kid trouble is the last taboo, after all. We confess to infidelity or Botox or grownup mental-health battles, but we cover up or downplay our most visceral fears about our children even when we’re talking to our oldest friends. It’s the topic that makes us most vulnerable. Which is all the more reason to celebrate a diploma.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Young Adults

Adam Ford–The “death of Christianity” in America?

Check it out.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sociology

(CT) Evangelicals Denounce Payday Lending, Join Fight for New Regulations

Opponents of payday lending have a new ally in the fight against predatory lenders: Leaders from the 15.7-million member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

“We cannot sit by idly while some of the poorest among us are preyed on by people simply looking for a quick buck with no regard for the devastation they cause in the lives of others,” said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

The ERLC is one of the founding members of the newly-formed Faith for Just Lending coalition, which launched earlier this month. Among other members are the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the National Baptist Convention USA, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and the PICO National Network.

“While representing distinct institutions with different histories and practices, these faith organizations hold a shared conviction that Scripture speaks to the problem of predatory lending””condemning usury and teaching us to respect the God-given dignity of each person and to love our neighbors rather than exploit their financial vulnerability,” the group stated in a press release. “They believe that just lending is a matter of biblical morality and religious concern.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Poverty, Religion & Culture, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(BBC) St Annes businessman Jeffrey Spector dies of assisted suicide in Switzerland

In England and Wales, the Suicide Act 1961 makes it an offence to encourage or assist a suicide or a suicide attempt.

Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said he would attempt to reintroduce a bill that would allow assisted dying in the UK.

He said it was “completely wrong” that terminally ill people did not have the option to end their life.

“Whatever your take on the subject, it should be debated,” Lord Falconer told the BBC.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Switzerland, Theology

WBUR's On Point–Why Everybody Lies (Yes, Even You)

Lying liars lie. That’s clear. But does everyone else lie too? Are we all liars? A new documentary called “(Dis)Honesty ”“ The Truth About Lies” rounds up the research and lays out what we know. Little lies, white lies, big lies, whoppers. What we condemn and what we roll with. It’s quite a smorgasbord. You may think you’re above all that. But are you? And what about the power-brokers who frame our world? What happens when they lie? This hour On Point: the truth about lies.

”“ Tom Ashbrook

Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. Founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. Author of “Predictably Irrational,” “Irrationally Yours” and “The Honest Truth About Dishonesty.” Featured in the new documentary film, “(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies.” (@danariely)

Dallas Denery, professor of history and chair of the history department at Bowdoin College. Author of the book, “The Devil Wins.”

Listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Psychology, Theology