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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Assembly Members (AMs) were asked to vote on whether they supported the principles of the Assisted Dying Bill.
The answer was a clear and refreshing “No” - it does not support it. Only 12 Assembly Members voted to support it, 21 voted against doing so; 20 abstained.
It was heartening to watch the quality of this debate from the public gallery.
I was particularly impressed by the understanding which many Members showed of a Bill that goes to considerable lengths to dress up what it is proposing in reassuring language (for example, by describing the lethal drugs it would supply to terminally ill people as ‘medicines’) yet makes no effort, beyond stating a handful of vague eligibility conditions, to provide for any serious safeguards to protect vulnerable people from harm.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Wales * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Flagging morale, desertion and factionalism are starting to affect the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, testing the cohesion of the jihadi force as its military momentum slows.
Activists and fighters in parts of eastern Syria controlled by Isis said as military progress slows and focus shifts to governing the area, frustration has grown among militants who had been seen as the most disciplined and effective fighting force in the country’s civil war.
The group hurtled across western Iraq and eastern Syria over the summer in a sudden offensive that shocked the world. Isis remains a formidable force: it controls swaths of territory and continues to make progress in western Iraq. But its fighters have reached the limit of discontented Sunni Muslim areas that they can easily capture and US-led coalition air strikes partnered with offensives by local ground forces have begun to halt their progress.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Economy Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
There is little doubt that those in favour of changing the law on assisted suicide have talked up a storm. In spite of peers expressing very mixed opinions during debates on the Assisted Dying Bill, the casual observer might be forgiven for thinking that all that remains to be done is to find effective safeguards ensuring that vulnerable individuals are not pressured into requesting assistance for ending their own lives; otherwise the matter is a done-deal. Leaving to one side, the rather important point that finding effective safeguards is proving as elusive as finding the Holy Grail, recent announcements from the medical profession have helped to bring some much-needed perspective to the debate.
The Royal College of Physicians’ recent announcement that, in the light of a thorough survey of its members, it will continue to oppose a change in legislation, is significant...
Read it all and follow the links.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
What a strange week it’s been in Hollywood. Tuesday night we actually had a thunderstorm. For those who don’t know Southern California, that’s like saying House Republicans think our country might have a race problem. Or Woody Allen is considering property in Malibu. Or the new Missal really seems to be catching on. (“Under our roof,” translators? “Under our roof”?)
There was even lightning, for God’s sake.
Then yesterday, hack-beleaguered Sony Pictures actually stopped distribution of major motion picture “The Interview,” maybe forever, after the United States’ five major theater chains refused to show it for fear of a 9/11-style attack on any theater that did.
To say the Internet was not happy with this series of events would be an understatement. Hollywood writer/director/producer Judd Apatow called the chains’ decision “disgraceful” and wondered, along with many others, what’s next: “Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?” Many called it a sad day for creative expression, and feared that this forebodes a dangerous new self-censorship. Rob Lowe compared Hollywood to Neville Chamberlain (to which the nation of Czechoslovakia replied, “Mmm, Rob, I think not”). Newt Gingrich went so far as to call the hackers’ threat an “act of war,” forgoing the need for an act of war to involve an actual act. Forget the pesky details, there’s really never a bad time for a little preemption.
Read it all from America.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Law & Legal Issues Movies & Television Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia North Korea * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Some nonprofit hospitals around the country don't ever seize their patients' wages. Some do so only in very rare cases. But others sue hundreds of patients every year. Heartland, which is in the process of changing its name to Mosaic Life Care, seizes more money from patients than any other hospital in Missouri. From 2009 through 2013, the hospital's debt collection arm garnished the wages of about 6,000 people, according to a ProPublica analysis of state court data.
After the hospital wins a judgment against a former patient in court, it's entitled to take a hefty portion of the patient's paychecks going forward: 25 percent of after-tax pay. For patients who are the head of household, if they tell the hospital or court that information, the hospital can seize only 10 percent of each paycheck.
But Heartland, through the debt collection company Northwest Financial Services, often sues both adults in a household — garnishing one at the 10 percent rate and the other at the full 25 percent of their pay. The hospital also charges patients 9 percent interest, the maximum allowed under state law.
Read or listen to it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Poverty * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Personal Finance * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
fter the latest of his sermons denouncing the Islamic State, Mohamed Taha Sabri stepped down from an ornate platform at the House of Peace mosque. The 48-year-old chief preacher then moved to greet his congregation, steeling himself for the fallout.
Soon, two young men — they are almost always young, but not always men — were calling him out. Only moments before, Sabri had derided the militants’ tactics, saying “it is not our task to turn women into slaves, to bomb churches, to slaughter people in front of cameras while shouting ‘God is great!’ ”
One young man in a black leather jacket angrily chided him for challenging “Muslim freedom fighters.” His companion in a yellow shirt then chimed in: “What is your problem with the Islamic State? You are on the wrong path!”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence Young Adults * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Europe Germany * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
They are angry at the loss, frustrated that the battle for Mosul is on hold and that Baghdad has failed to support them. In the meantime, they have backing from the Americans who have visited this camp and offered to start training soon.
"Maybe in the next week. Maybe," says Hamdani. But the Americans have made no promises to provide the weapons Hamdani says he needs. "The weapons come from Baghdad."
So far, Baghdad has delivered one small shipment of 1,000 Kalashnikov rifles and 30 heavy machine guns. It's not nearly enough, says Hamdani, against a dangerous enemy that is well-armed with U.S. weapons seized in Mosul when the Iraqi army collapsed in June. The fleeing Iraqi army left behind millions of dollars worth of U.S. armaments.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq
Currently, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of Durham, London and Winchester automatically take seats in the House of Lords. The remaining 21 seats are occupied by Bishops in order of seniority (length of service). Under the current system, it would be many years before women bishops were represented in the Lords.
The Government’s Bill, which is supported by the Church of England, proposes a modification of this rule for the next ten years....
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture Women * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK
Women bishops would be fast-tracked into the House of Lords, under government proposals set out... [yesterday].
Ministers want to change the law to allow female bishops to take up the "spiritual" seats in the Lords, when they become available.
Usually they are allocated to the most senior or longest-serving bishops.
On Wednesday, Reverend Libby Lane was announced as the first female bishop for the Church of England - a month after a historic change to canon law.
The general synod voted to back plans for female bishops in July and formally adopted legislation on 17 November.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Women * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK
Militants have stormed a remote village in north-eastern Nigeria, killing at least 33 people and kidnapping at least 100, a survivor has told the BBC.
He said that suspected Boko Haram militants had seized young men, women and children from Gumsuri village.
The attack happened on Sunday but news has only just emerged, after survivors reached the city of Maiduguri.
Meanwhile, Cameroon's army says it has killed 116 Nigerian militants who had attacked one of its bases, AFP reports.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Nigeria’s Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II, the second highest Muslim leader in the country, was threatened by Boko Haram after he called on people to defend themselves against the Islamist militant group.
“You Sanusi I am talking to you, it is too late for you the Emir of Kano and the Emir of bank,” a man dressed in combat fatigues and claiming to be the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, said in an unverified 19 minute video posted on YouTube Inc. Sanusi, the former central bank governor, told Nigerians last month to fight back against Boko Haram.
Read it all.
President Obama announced sweeping changes to U.S. policy with Cuba on Wednesday, moving to normalize relations with the island nation and tear down the last remaining pillar of the Cold War.
Under the new measures, the United States plans to reopen its embassy in Havana and significantly ease restrictions on travel and commerce within the next several weeks and months, Obama said. Speaking from the White House, he declared that a half-century of isolation of the communist country “has not worked.”
“It’s time for a new approach,” he said.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch * Economics, Politics Economy Foreign Relations Politics in General Office of the President President Barack Obama * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Caribbean Cuba * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Comedian and actor Robin Williams, who died earlier this year, was the top search on Google during 2014.
The search engine has released its list of this year’s most searched for news events and top trending subjects. Williams’ death drew more attention than the World Cup (2nd), Ebola (3rd) or Malaysia Airlines (4th).
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Health & Medicine Media Movies & Television Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Terrorism * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Fair returns to savers, fair interest rates on loans and the aspiration to be a flagship credit union are among the aims of the Churches' Mutual Credit Union Ltd (CMCU) which has received formal authorisation from the regulatory authorities today. This has been a rigorous process undertaken by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. CMCU plans to begin to offer its services to those eligible for membership from February 2015.
CMCU has been formed for and with the help of the Church of England, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church in Wales. CMCU President, Canon Antony MacRow-Wood, said, "I am delighted at the news of authorisation. CMCU will help many, even in its first year of operation and, in due course, it should become a significant financial resource to the church and individuals throughout England, Wales and Scotland. CMCU will enable a virtuous re-cycling of money within the church community, through a combined portfolio of savings and loan products."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Personal Finance The Banking System/Sector * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The ruble meltdown and accompanying economic slump marks the collapse of Putin’s oil-fueled economic system of the past 15 years, said an executive at Gazprombank, the lender affiliated to Russia’s state gas exporter. He asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The higher interest rate will crush lending to households and businesses and deepen Russia’s looming recession, according to Neil Shearing, chief emerging-markets economist at London-based Capital Economics Ltd.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Credit Markets Currency Markets The Banking System/Sector Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Russia is in the middle of a currency crisis. On December 15th its currency lost 10% of its value, having already lost about 40% this year. The central bank increased interest rates sharply, but instead of calming the market the hike was seen as a sign of desperation. The following day the rouble was at one point down a further 20% (and ended the day 10% lower). The central bank reckons that GDP could fall by 5% in 2015. Inflation is currently at 10% but is expected to accelerate rapidly. Russians are panic-buying; banks are running out of dollars. What’s gone wrong with Russia’s economy?
The problems were long in the making. Russia is highly dependent on oil revenues (hydrocarbons contribute over half the federal budget and two-thirds of exports) and over the past decade it has failed to diversify its economy. It is horribly corrupt, has weak institutions and no real property rights. The Kremlin distributes oil money via state banks to firms and projects which it selects on the basis of their political importance and their pro-Putin stance, rather than trusting the market to allocate capital to the most efficient firms. If you look at wealth, Russia is the world’s second-most unequal country. Its working-age population is shrinking fast.
Western sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s meddling in Ukraine have dealt a blow to the economy. But the proximate cause of the turmoil of the last few days is concern about Russia's corporate sector. During 2015 Russia’s firms must repay $100 billion-worth of foreign debt. But as the rouble falls, paying back dollars becomes more difficult.
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Filed under: * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Credit Markets Currency Markets The Banking System/Sector Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
She took the call herself the night the Islamic State came into Mosul. ‘Convert or leave or you’ll be killed,’ she was told. The callers, identifying themselves as Isis members, knew the household was Christian because her husband worked as a priest in the city. They fled that night.
Like many of their Christian neighbours they sought refuge in the monastery of St Matthew. But Isis took that over, tore down the Cross, smashed all Cross-decorated windows, used it for their own prayers and flew their black flag on top of the church. Across what was Nineveh, Iraq’s Christians spent this year fleeing from village to village, hoping to find safety somewhere.
This woman’s husband and son continued their ministry among the scattered congregations of Iraq. But the wife, who took the call, is now in west London. We spoke there one Sunday morning earlier this year. To attend the morning service in a Syriac church and hear the Lord’s Prayer uttered in the original Aramaic in which Jesus taught it is profoundly moving at any time. But this year the prayers of this beleaguered congregation of Iraqi Christians in Acton have taken on a terrible, plaintive urgency.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Russia has lost control of its economy and may be forced to impose Soviet-style exchange controls after "shock and awe" action by the central bank failed to stem the collapse of the rouble.
“The situation is critical,” said the central bank’s vice-chairman, Sergei Shvetsov. “What is happening is a nightmare that we could not even have imagined a year ago...."
Lars Christensen, from Danske Bank, said the Kremlin’s actions have led to the “absolutely worst possible outcome” since the botched move is enough to do grave damage, without solving anything. “They should have let the currency go rather than killing the economy. Investment is in freefall, and I fear this shock is going to be even bigger than in 2008-2009. Nothing suggests that oil is going to rebound quickly this time,” he said.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Credit Markets Currency Markets The Banking System/Sector Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Six years after candidate Barack Obama vowed to make working for government “cool again,” federal hiring of young people is instead tailing off and many millennials are heading for the door.
The share of the federal workforce under the age of 30 dropped to 7 percent this year, the lowest figure in nearly a decade, government figures show.
With agencies starved for digital expertise and thousands of federal jobs coming open because of a wave of baby-boomer retirements, top government officials, including at the White House, are growing increasingly distressed about the dwindling role played by young workers.
Read it all.
The findings suggest the supply glut that has sent prices tumbling could soon vanish as the oil majors delay big-ticket production projects — the lifeblood of future petrol supplies, heating fuels and chemicals.
Brent, the international benchmark, has fallen more than 45 per cent since mid-June amid surging US shale production, strong supply from the Opec cartel and weak oil demand in Europe and Asia.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Saudi Arabia * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
In the high-stakes contest between the United States, the biggest shale oil producer, and Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil exporter, America has blinked first.
The OPEC refusal to cut production at its November meeting was widely seen as the declaration of a price war against booming U.S. shale oil producers, which had sent their country’s oil production soaring. Saudis had watched as their market share dropped precipitously in the world’s biggest oil-consuming nation, and they wanted to send a clear message across the global energy market that they weren’t about to back off.
Oil prices have been in freefall ever since. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, sank another 3 per cent Friday to $61.85 (U.S.) a barrel, while West Texas intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, dropped 3.6 per cent to $57.81, extending its slide from well over $100 a barrel in the summer.
If the global oil standoff pits the industry stalwart Saudi Arabia against the surging U.S. rival, other global players are coping with the pricing fallout, including Canada. Oil companies around the world are being forced to revisit their spending and production plans for 2015, and in the offices towers of downtown Calgary, those changes are already well under way.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Canada Middle East Saudi Arabia
In a desperate letter to President Goodluck Jonathan and Senate President David Mark leaked to SaharaReporters this past weekend, a commanding officer stationed in Nigeria's northeast details several troubling issues plaguing troops combatting Islamist terror group Boko Haram in the region.
The officer stated that, corruption, maladministration, lack of resources and troops motivation has militated against a successful campaign to end Boko Haram's deadly reign of terror in the northeast.
The officer's lengthy complaint which he claims would lead to a threat to his life forewarns that if his pleas continue to be ignored by the country's leadership that both the Nigerian Army and the country will crumble under the insurgency.
Read it all from Sahara Reporters.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
It was the end of his sixth deployment, with barely a month left, the last mission at hand. And nothing was going right.
The best man in his wedding, a man he'd served with since entering the Marines, was hit by an explosive device, burning the man's entire body and claiming three of his limbs.
Then, a helicopter crash killed two American servicemen and several Afghan forces.
Last came the ambush.
Read it all and you can find more about Operation Homefront there.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Marriage & Family Psychology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military War in Afghanistan * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Our guest speaker was His Grace Bishop Youssef, Bishop of the Diocese of the Southern United States of the Coptic Orthodox Church. His sermon focused on learning how to deal with persecution from the examples laid out for us in Holy Scripture. He expounded on how St. Stephen had two options during his martyrdom: look to his persecutors, or lift his eyes to heaven. The saints in the Middle East join
Stephen, with their eyes lifted up to the prize of their calling, Jesus Christ, seated on the right hand of His Father, in heaven. He commented that our service of prayer for our suffering brothers was kindred to the saints praying for Peter when he was thrown into prison....
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Coptic Church * South Carolina
The American economy has stopped delivering the broadly shared prosperity that the nation grew accustomed to after World War II. The explanation for why that is begins with the millions of middle-class jobs that vanished over the past 25 years, and with what happened to the men and women who once held those jobs.
Millions of Americans are working harder than ever just to keep from falling behind; Green is one of them. Those workers have been devalued in the eyes of the economy, pushed into jobs that pay them much less than the ones they once had.
Today, a shrinking share of Americans are working middle-class jobs, and collectively, they earn less of the nation’s income than they used to. In 1981, according to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of American adults were classified as “middle income” — which means their household income was between two-thirds and double the nation’s median income. By 2011, it was down to 51 percent. In that time, the “middle” group’s share of the national income pie fell from 60 percent to 45 percent.
For that, you can blame the past three recessions, which sparked a chain reaction of layoffs and lower pay.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children History Marriage & Family Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
As the school year began in Mosul, the largest city controlled by the Islamic State, the extremists sent a message to teachers: Report for work or lose your jobs.
Then, directives bearing the group’s black flag and hung in schools dictated the new order. Males and females were split up. Girls were to swap their gray skirts and blouses for black gowns and veils that covered their faces. Sports were only for boys. Civics classes were scrapped. At the University of Mosul, one of Iraq’s top institutions, the schools of fine arts, political science and law were deemed un-Islamic and shuttered.
The teachers were in a bind. Not showing up meant defying a group that often murdered its foes. But going to work could anger the government in Baghdad, which still paid their salaries. Out of fear, many teachers complied.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
Hours after five hostages escaped from the Lindt cafe, one of the remaining women switched off the lights inside.
Premier Mike Baird has asked Sydneysiders to go about their day as usual on Tuesday
There is an exclusion zone near the cafe, bordered by Pitt, Elizabeth, Hunter and King Streets.
NSW Police have activated Task Force Pioneer, which they use in terrorism related incidents.
A coalition of Muslim groups has expressed their shock and horror at the siege. They have urged calm.
Sydneysiders have united under the hashtag #illridewithyou offering company to Muslims wearing religious garments as they travel in the city.
Read it all and there are loads of links to follow.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Media Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues Violence * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
ISIS fighters stormed a town in Iraq's western Anbar province Saturday, killing at least 19 policemen and trapping others inside their headquarters, in the latest attack in the desert region where it controls large amounts of territory, officials said.
ISIS seized the town of Al-Wafa, 45 km west of Anbar's capital Ramadi Saturday after starting its assault early Friday.
With the capture of Al-Wafa, ISIS now controls three major towns to the west of Ramadi, including Hit and Kubaisa. ISIS and government forces have been bogged down in a monthslong battle for Ramadi.
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Disneyland has become a time capsule not of the romantic idea of 19th century Main Street or even the possibilities in Tomorrowland but of a time when Americans believed in a better future — and were willing to invest in it. A half-century ago, we put almost 1 percent of our economy into landing men on the moon, yet today we fall behind other countries in exploring space, supposedly because we cannot afford it.
We pay a huge price for our lack of investment and faith in the future of America. We pay for all the inefficiency of our decrepit infrastructure. We pay with minds that will never be fully developed and with scientific breakthroughs that will enrich other countries. And we pay with lives of daily grind and unpleasantness without hope of respite.
Would that as a people we thought like Walt Disney so we could make America into a happy place.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education History Travel * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life The U.S. Government Budget * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
By October, it was becoming clear to us and others that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Emirate allies could not afford to continue petro-pricing business as usual with sectarian wars exploding out of control, threatening the entire region.
In particular, they were infuriated that the Shia regime in Syria was being propped up by Iran and Russia. Moreover, Iran seemed to be getting closer to becoming a nuclear power with each month. Amid the chaos, the Islamic State terrorists had suddenly become a formidable challenge to the entire region, and they were getting increasing revenues from oil properties they had seized.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Europe Russia Middle East Iran Saudi Arabia Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Chinese construction workers are welding the final floor of the Juba’s tallest building — a $22m project with a rooftop cigar club for the dusty city’s elite. Around the South Sudanese capital billboards advertise whisky, banks and mobile phones.
This does not look like a city at war.
But Juba defies first impressions. Come nightfall, more than 30,000 mostly ethnic Nuer shelter in makeshift tents at UN bases across the city. Many of their original homes have been destroyed or taken over by ethnic rivals since civil war broke out on December 15 last year; some neighbourhoods have become ghost towns.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Sudan --South Sudan * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The U.S.-led coalition of countries involved in airstrikes against Islamic State will never bomb the jihadist group out of existence, a Nobel peace prize winner warned Friday.
Shirin Ebadi was one of Iran’s first female judges. She was demoted after the 1979 Islamic revolution and went on to become the country’s most prominent rights campaigner. She won the Nobel price in 2003 and was forced into exile in 2009.
After spending most of her adult life coping with and combating the impact a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam has had on herself, her family and her homeland, she is convinced that there is no military remedy to a problem that appears to intensify with every passing year.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture Teens / Youth Violence Women * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Students and professors at Clemson University have designed a home where they say a family of four can live comfortably in the South using local materials and having almost no impact on the environment.
The home is called Indigo Pine, taking its name from two things South Carolina has in abundance: pine trees and the blue dye from the indigo plant.
More than 100 students and professors are helping design and build the home that the university will enter as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon 2015. Sixteen other schools also are participating.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Science & Technology Young Adults * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market Energy, Natural Resources * South Carolina * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The euphoria occasioned by the economy adding 321,000 jobs in November indicates that we have defined success down. In the 1960s, there were nine months in which more than 300,000 jobs were added, the last being June 1969, when there were about 117 million fewer Americans than there are now . In the 1980s, job growth exceeded 300,000 in 23 months, the last being November 1988, when there were about 75 million fewer Americans than today.
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One day in 1967, Bob Thompson sprayed foam on a hunk of metal in a cavernous factory south of Los Angeles. And then another day, not too long after, he sat at a long wood bar with a black-and-white television hanging over it, and he watched that hunk of metal land a man on the moon.
On July 20, 1969 — the day of the landing — Thompson sipped his Budweiser and thought about all the people who had ever stared at that moon. Kings and queens and Jesus Christ himself. He marveled at how when it came time to reach it, the job started in Downey. The bartender wept.
On a warm day, almost a half-century later, Thompson curled his mouth beneath a white beard and talked about the bar that fell to make way for a freeway, the space-age factory that closed down and the town that is still waiting for its next great economic rocket, its new starship to the middle class.
They’ve waited more than a decade in Downey. They’ve tried all the usual tricks to bring good-paying jobs back to the 77-acre plot of dirt where once stood a factory that made moon landers and, later, space shuttles. Nothing brought back the good jobs.
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...my colleague may be a bit too optimistic regarding just how close the economy is to full employment. It is true that the unemployment rate, at 5.8%, is within hailing distance of the Fed's projected full-employment rate, of between 5.2% and 5.5%. But there are many margins along which the labour market can adjust in addition to the unemployment rate. Participation rates can and should rise. So too should hours, effort, and productivity. Given the slow growth in wages over the last year it is hard to conclude that the American economy is close to maxxing out its labour-force potential.
That apart, I think my colleague is exactly right and the Fed is close to making a big mistake. The wires are alive this morning with reports from Fed watchers, who are presumably taking their cues from Fed officials themselves, writing that the Fed will almost certainly adjust its language in a more hawkish fashion at the December or January meeting and is on track for an initial rate increase in the middle of 2015. I cannot fathom what the Fed is thinking.
Set aside potential downside risks (from a Russian financial crisis, or renewed euro-zone troubles, or a Chinese hard landing, or lord knows what else) and just focus on the dynamics within the American economy. Almost since the Fed announced that it was officially targeting an inflation rate of 2%, as measured by the price index for personal consumption expenditures, actual PCE inflation has run below the target, and often well below. It remains below target now. It is possible that tumbling oil prices could so augment household incomes that the economy roars forward and inflation jumps back to target. I do not think it is particularly likely, for a few reasons.
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The danger of stimulus-induced bubbles is starting to play out in the market for energy-company debt.
Since early 2010, energy producers have raised $550 billion of new bonds and loans as the Federal Reserve held borrowing costs near zero, according to Deutsche Bank AG. With oil prices plunging, investors are questioning the ability of some issuers to meet their debt obligations. Research firm CreditSights Inc. predicts the default rate for energy junk bonds will double to eight percent next year.
“Anything that becomes a mania -- it ends badly,” said Tim Gramatovich, who helps manage more than $800 million as chief investment officer of Santa Barbara, California-based Peritus Asset Management. “And this is a mania.”
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More than a thousand participants carried touches and banners through the Christmas-decorated streets of Vienna, with messages such as “Freedom of Religion is a Human Right”, “100 millions Christians suffer persecution”, “Stop the Genocide against Christians”, and not least the leading banner with the text “Murder — Rapes — Burning churches — Forced Islamization”, a clear protest against Islamist behaviour in many countries. The march was led by a priest holding a large crucifix, while Dr. Elmar Kuhn of CSI gave a speech while walking. The Maltese Church, which is located in the middle of the march, was rang its bells in support.
In addition to the usual flyers with information about the situation, the organizers also distributed buttons with the Arabic letter ‘N’. This is the sign that Islamic State and other Islamists paint on the walls of homes and other property belonging to Christians, marking them as targets of attacks, abductions, killing and destruction — a sign now used extensively in the formerly Christian country of Syria. This practice strongly resembles the methods used by German national socialists during the 1930’s to mark up Jewish property. This is a cause of reflection in times where Christians even in the West frequently need police protection due to their conversion from Islam, or due to being too clear and outspoken in their criticism of Islamic ideology.
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Fighting the "evil giant" of climate change and ending violence against women and girls should be among the key themes for new global development goals from 2015, the Bishop of Sheffield has told the House of Lords.
The Rt Rev Steven Croft said there had been "major" achievements as a result of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by world leaders in 2000.
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A radical overhaul of the Church of England's leadership is under way.
A key report, still unpublished, sets out a programme of "talent management" in the Church. The report has been signed off by the two Archbishops, and a £2-million budget has been allocated. It was discussed by all the bishops in September, and the House of Bishops on Monday. A spokesman said on Wednesday that the Bishops "welcomed the implementation plan prepared in the light of those discussions. Details will be published next month."
The Church Times has seen the report, Talent Management for Future Leaders and Leadership Development for Bishops and Deans: A new approach, prepared by a steering group chaired by Prebendary the Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, the former HSBC chairman. It speaks of a "culture change for the leadership of the Church", and outlines a two-stage process.
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...the ECB is split over whether to embark on full-blown quantitative easing as a way to achieve growth. Such a policy is strongly opposed by Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann and other hawkish members of the bank’s governing council.
They believe the central bank’s existing measures, which include buying covered bonds and asset-backed securities and auctioning cheap cash to eurozone lenders, are enough to lift inflation to the ECB’s target of below but close to 2 per cent.
But analysts think the disappointing take-up at Thursday’s auction has weakened their hand. “The result reduces the strength of the ECB hawks’ argument that existing policy measures are enough,” said Nick Matthews, economist at Nomura.
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Here's a change in corporate human resources - more companies are hiring chaplains. These are the same kinds of people with religious training you find in the military or on college campuses. Chaplains work in companies to help people talk through office frustrations. Here's Lauren Silverman of our member station KERA in Dallas.
LAUREN SILVERMAN, BYLINE: Every week, Chaplain John Eaton knocks on the doors of employees at Purdy McGuire, an engineering firm in Dallas.
CHAPLAIN JOHN EATON: Hey Scott. How's it going, man?
SILVERMAN: How's it going is more than a greeting, it's part of Eaton's job. He talks with employees about anything - sports, church, problems at home. Scott Brown is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon faith. He likes the check-ins.
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Google is shutting down its Google News service in Spain next week in response to new legislation that requires the search giant to pay for content from Spanish news organizations.
Richard Gingras, the head of Google News, announced the decision on Google’s Europe blog Thursday. “With real sadness,” he wrote, Spanish publishers will be removed from the site on Dec. 16.
The change to Spain's copyright law, which goes into effect in January, allows Spanish newspapers and other publishers to charge Google each time their content appears on Google News. The so-called “Google tax” applies to all news aggregation sites, including Menéame, Google’s Spain-based rival.
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A twin bomb attack has killed at least 30 people in a busy area of the Nigerian city of Jos.
The two bombs exploded in quick succession in a marketplace near the scene of a major bombing in May.
Jos has a mixed population of Muslims and Christians, and in recent years Boko Haram militants have attacked churches and mosques there.
The group has killed more than 2,000 people this year. No group has said it carried out the latest bombings.
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The National Center for Health Statistics just released its latest data brief summarising the bleak news.
There were only 3.9m births in the US in 2013, according to the report, down about 1% from 2012. The general fertility rate also declined 1% in 2013 to another record low: 62.5 per 1,000 women aged 15–44.
The truth is, birth numbers have been in decline for six straight years, dropping 9% from its peak in 2007, according to the report.
If a slow economy is bad news for the birth rate, it also works the other way: declining fertility and birth rates are bad for the economy. Shrinking labor forces, weaker social security, and other consequences soon follow.
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Health officials in Sierra Leone have discovered scores of bodies in a remote diamond-mining area, raising fears that the scale of the Ebola outbreak may have been underreported.
The World Health Organization said they uncovered a "grim scene" in the eastern district of Kono.
A WHO response team had been sent to Kono to investigate a sharp rise in Ebola cases.
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Far worse than death itself is the prospect of being separated from the love of God for all eternity. Of course we should be motivated by love to reach out to people with kindness and to share with them about God’s love. It is not particularly effective to try to preach people into the Kingdom from a fear of Hell, but, nonetheless, a genuine relationship with Christ does deliver people from eternal death. The assurance of His love for us and His relationship with us can carry us through terrible temporal times.
Last week, four young Iraqi boys all under fifteen were captured by ISIS. They were told that they would be killed unless they renounced their faith in Jesus and promised to follow The Prophet. They refused, saying “No, we love Jesus.” As a result, all four were beheaded. Such things used to seem far away from a different land and a different age, but now, the truth is that those same pressures are coming against us. It could be any place and any time that we are challenged.
For decades now we have been fighting the liberal message that there are no consequences from sin, either temporally or eternally. We went so far as to break with those who preach this false Gospel. It is not that we insist on puritanical behavior because otherwise our sensibilities would be offended. We have stood up against the departure from Scriptural faith because the faith that we have received teaches us that to depart from it brings the consequence of eternal death. The battle has been about whether or not people go to Hell.
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Pastors should stop signing state-issued marriage licenses. They should stop immediately. Individuals and organizations whose agenda is murky at best are hijacking the marriage debate. We have stopped asking the right questions and started reacting to the debate swirling around us.
On the one hand are people who want to radically redefine marriage in the eyes of the state. They are advocating for open and equal access to the benefits given by the state to married individuals. They want tax benefits, inheritance rights and parental privileges that are automatically given to people who marry.
To this group, pastors and churches need to have a simple and clear answer: “Blessings on you. I don’t need to get a benefit from the government that you cannot get. My contracts should not be better than your contracts. Your kids should be as protected as my kids.”
The only way I can with good conscience say this is if I am no longer part of the civil process. No functionary of any religion ought to be able to finalize a marriage contract individuals are making with the state. It is an abhorrent intermingling of church and state. Until the state sees this clearly and changes its rules, we should abandon the system voluntarily.
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For a second year in a row, South Carolina inched up one spot in the annual America's Health Rankings.
Small gains are good news, but the Palmetto State still could make significant improvements. Since the rankings were first released in 1990, South Carolina has never scored highly - bouncing between 41st and 48th. This year, it ranks 42nd healthiest among all states (or ninth unhealthiest, depending on your point of view) up from 43rd in 2013 and 44th in 2012.
"When you have ranking systems like this, for us to move up one, (it) means someone else moved back one," said Lillian Smith, the assistant dean for practice and community engagement at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health. "Does that mean that we improved or someone else got worse? You've got to take these things with a grain of salt."
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Church giving is serious business. Scores of newsletters, workshops, and books are devoted to it, and consultants exist to advise institutions on how to maximize funds. A five-year study released last year estimated that "tithers"—Christians who donate 10% or more of their income to church or charity—contribute more than $50 billion a year. (And that’s not counting the many who give a smaller percentage of their income.) There's even crime associated with tithing: In March, Texas megachurch pastor Joel Osteen’s church was robbed of $600,000 in donations from a single weekend.
Somehow, though, the offering process, when ushers pass baskets down the rows and worshippers voluntarily drop in checks or cash, has remained basically unchanged since the 19th century. But who carries cash, let alone checks, anymore?
Luckily for churches, a wave of apps and other digital giving options have risen up to bridge the gap.
Call it the 21st-century offering plate.
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The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams has waded into the debate over withdrawal from the European Union insisting it could leave the UK “dangerously dependent” on the City.
He said leaving the EU would be a “deeply regressive” step and claimed Britain would have almost nothing else “distinctive” to offer outside it. Going it alone could turn the country into an “offshore financial facility”, he added.
The former Archbishop also said it was also becoming impossible to have a “reasonable conversation” about immigration in the UK at present.
And he suggested that hostility towards the EU was being fuelled by an increasingly assertive sense of English identity, partly as a response to Scottish nationalism.
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The origin of Christmas gifts lies in the Christian tradition that says God gave his son, Jesus, as a gift to bring us life; we reflect that generosity by giving gifts to each other. Of course, no gift, however pricey, can truly reflect the gift God gave the world in sending Jesus to share our suffering on the cross, bear the weight of our wrongdoing and offer us the hope of life.
However, our gifts can, in small ways, reflect and point to the self-giving love of God. But the most meaningful gifts are about expressing life, not luxury. This is especially true if, as money-saving expert Martin Lewis tells us, people feel pressured into tit-for-tat giving at Christmas – buying something equally as luxurious as what they’re given.
There is nothing wrong with giving something small, something that is meaningful and reminds the person that you care for them – something from a charity shop, perhaps. It also gives the recipient the freedom to buy you something similarly small but meaningful.
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The Gordon statement in question uses the term “homosexual practice.” Does that cover everything, including handholding by same-sex couples?
Gordon has never been a place that has a master list of dos and don’ts. The wider question being asked is, Does Gordon theologically treat same-sex sexual union as sin? The answer is yes. We don’t see a place in the Bible where God appears to bless same-sex sexual union. The language of homosexual practice is really speaking to the arc of a relationship that leads up to sexual consummation.
We take seriously the challenges of our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction. We uphold the idea that same-sex attraction is not to be acted upon in the life of the Christ follower. Some within American evangelicalism and even within the Gordon community don’t share that conviction. But that is the theological position of the institution.
OneGordon, a group that supports LGBT persons connected to Gordon, has a public campaign to drop “homosexual practice” from Gordon’s life and conduct statement. Is there anything the college and OneGordon agree on?
It’s my hope that we can learn from each other. The theological positions of a Christian college are not determined by popular vote or advocacy. I appreciate the heartfelt concerns and desires expressed by members of the Gordon family in the OneGordon group who really want the college to change its position. [But] if a change were to occur, it [wouldn’t be] because there were so many signatures on a petition.
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The Methodist Church Hong Kong redeveloped another site in Wan Chai into a high-rise building in 1998 with New World Development, the builder controlled by the family of Cheng Yu-tung, according to the developer's annual report. The church currently uses some of the floors, while the rest is leased out by New World.
The Anglican Church plans to build two towers of 18 floors and 11 floors as part of a redevelopment near Lan Kwai Fong. The land currently has historic buildings, including the 166-year-old bishop's house and a church that was used by Japanese soldiers during the second world war as a training school.
In the deal reached and approved by the government in 2011, the Anglican Church will preserve the heritage buildings at its own cost. The two new towers will be used for facilities including a church, kindergarten and a medical centre, according to a June 2011 government document.
A representative of the church was unavailable for comment on the development.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged people to reject the culture of consumerism this Christmas and not to feel pressured to lavish expensive gifts on family and friends.
The Most Rev Justin Welby criticised “tit for tat giving” and said that small and meaningful presents gave just the same caring message as those that cost the Earth.
He said that shopping in charity shops, or donating time to loved ones or worthy causes, could be as equally well received and would prevent the sense of dread that accompanies the arrival of credit card bills in the New Year.
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Santa Claus is going to be bringing lots of presents in a couple of weeks, but lower health-insurance costs for most Americans won't be one of them.
People with insurance through an employer—that is, most people with health coverage—are paying "more in premiums and deductibles than ever before" as those costs outpace the growth of wages, a new report finds.
Total premiums for covering a family through an employer-based plan rose 73 percent from 2003 through 2013, while workers' personal share of those premium costs leaped 93 percent during the same time frame, the Commonwealth Fund report said. At the same time, median family income grew just a measly 16 percent.
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An exhaustive, five-year Senate investigation of the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects renders a strikingly bleak verdict of a program launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, describing levels of brutality, dishonesty and seemingly arbitrary violence that at times brought even agency employees to moments of anguish.
The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee delivers new allegations of cruelty in a program whose severe tactics have been abundantly documented, revealing that agency medical personnel voiced alarm that waterboarding methods had deteriorated to “a series of near drownings” [among many other things]...
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Discussions surrounding Quebec’s proposed reforms to its laws relating to assisted procreation have focused on its decision to eliminate its program of funding three cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF). But this narrow focus ignores other significant changes in Bill 20: notably, its decision to prohibit women over the age of 42 from using IVF and the requirement that Quebeckers using donated sperm or eggs undergo a psychosocial assessment prior to accessing treatment.
These new laws draw distinctions between Quebeckers on the basis of their age and whether parents will have a genetic connection to their children. The government has also advanced these changes without explaining the differential treatment they propose.
Quebec law currently states that anyone of “childbearing age” – i.e. pre-menopause – can use IVF. Bill 20 would prohibit any woman over the age of 42 from accessing IVF and physicians who treat women above this age could be fined $5,000 to $50,000. Importantly, this restriction and the associated penalties would apply even though the government would no longer be paying for IVF treatment, but would instead be offering a tax credit.
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Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, rose before dawn on Oct. 4 to pray with his father and 16-year-old brother at their neighborhood mosque in a Chicago suburb.
When they returned home just before 6 a.m., the father went back to bed and the Khan teens secretly launched a plan they had been hatching for months: to abandon their family and country and travel to Syria to join the Islamic State.
While his parents slept, Khan gathered three newly issued U.S. passports and $2,600 worth of airline tickets to Turkey that he had gotten for himself, his brother and their 17-year-old sister. The three teens slipped out of the house, called a taxi and rode to O’Hare International Airport.
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The Bishop of Truro, together with a group of cross-party MPs, has criticised the effectiveness the benefits system in a comprehensive report into Britain's hunger crisis released today.
The Feeding Britain report was published by the all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty, led by Labour MP Frank Field and the Bishop of Truro, Tim Thornton, and was compiled with funding from the Archbishop's charitable trust.
The report said that benefit-related problems were the reason most often given for people resorting to a food bank. Problems with the administration of benefits, creating delays or income gaps which create emergency needs were some of the problems cited.
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When a family turns to the food bank in a time of need, they are met with warmth and compassion that is qualitatively different to what the state can provide. So when they are provided with food, it acts as a social gateway to a discussion about the wider problems in someone’s life.
We believe this offers a valuable opportunity for us to redesign a fragmented approach to support. We want to help more food banks evolve into hubs where services like debt and welfare advice are in one place, and end the system where people are sent from pillar to post in a constant cycle of referral.
We therefore propose a practical solution. We will bring together the voluntary sector, stakeholders and retailers in a new national voice: Feeding Britain. This will have three key goals that have been difficult to address by individual food banks in isolation. First, we will seek to double the redistribution of surplus food. Second, we will pilot twelve regional hubs that bring local agencies together. Third, we will pilot schemes to tackle school holiday hunger.
Read it all from Frank Field and John Glen.
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Falling oil prices are putting a cloud over the one thing Mexico’s struggling government had been clinging to in its attempts to invigorate a sluggish economy — its historic energy reform.
The government had been planning to auction 169 oil and gas blocks next year. It was to be one of the most ambitious bid rounds the industry had seen in a country whose sector has been closed to private investment for nearly 80 years, and where production is at its lowest level in two decades.
But the oil price fall has sobered what one executive called the “frothy, crazy bidding environment” Mexico had been expecting, unsettling a government reliant on oil revenue for a third of its budget. Officials are hastily striking off shale and other fields that might now look unappealing to bidders. Long-awaited initial tender terms are likely to be published on Wednesday.
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A Summerville lawmaker will pre-file a bill this week in the state Legislature that would lift restrictions on advanced nurses, despite anticipated push-back from some doctors.
Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, an attorney, said her bill is an attempt to improve health care access in rural areas.
"We still have a shortage of primary care physicians and this will be in the best interest of the health and welfare of the citizens of South Carolina," Horne said.
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The Church of England said it was in the process of filing shareholder resolutions on climate change at BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
"The resolution is intended to challenge the companies to run their businesses so that they participate constructively in the transition to a low carbon economy", The Church of England wrote in a blog. (bit.ly/1tUBUlN)
The Church said it chose BP and Shell because they have the biggest carbon footprints of all the companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Read it all and make sure to read the whole C of E blog post also.
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A new $10 million addition to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center will enhance the ongoing clinical research that scientists here are able to conduct for veterans with mental health needs. The hospital in Charleston treats almost 60,000 patients every year.
Nearly a third require mental health services.
The majority of them are Vietnam-era veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, more commonly called PTSD.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has advised cash-strapped families in the UK to show they care about loved ones by buying Christmas presents from charity shops or simply showing kindness.
The Most Rev Justin Welby said that although gifts have become an essential part of the festive period, it is not all about financial outlay and people should not feel pressure to match what others give them.
Writing in the Christmas edition of Radio Times, he said people can show they care with offers of babysitting, dinner invitations to the elderly or giving time to the local community.
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Everything that makes Thailand infamous is available in Golok: cheap booze, late nights, rented female company.
But these parties just happen to be raging inside territory claimed by jihadis who pull off hundreds of bomb attacks each year.
The jihadis are hell-bent on turning this region into an Islamic breakaway state. Since 2004, their war against the Buddhist nation of Thailand has tallied more than 6,200 dead. That's more conflict deaths in the last 10 years than in the Gaza Strip.
And yet the tourists keep coming. Not from Europe or the United States but from Muslim-majority Malaysia just across the border. They are men escaping provinces where Islamic codes forbid booze and miniskirts.
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In a society where people are validated by numbers of likes and re-tweets and where weddings are grand spectacles, publishing images from the big day for the admiration of others is de rigueur. As with our culture at large, extreme weddings and ‘destination’ weddings are both more private and more public.
Throughout the past century, the trends of the elite have filtered down to the public who, inspired by media and commercial culture, adopt and adapt, mirror and modify. Unlike weddings in the past, where people married as a means of uniting families or property, or where weddings were about deferring to parents’ expectations, contemporary couples use weddings as sites for personal expression and distinction. Yet, even extreme or destination weddings incorporate the past in the present. Though weddings can be sites of resistance of traditional values or gender roles, they are rarely sites of rebellion. Ultimately, as couples publicly pledge their love, they pledge allegiance to convention and to the new.
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The Koran should be read at the next Coronation, says Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the retired Bishop of Oxford. Or at least, he said in the House of Lords, such a reading had gone down very well in Bristol cathedral before a service last year for the mayor and high sheriff, who were both Muslims. The bishop thought, the next Coronation should reflect similar “hospitality”.
This seems to me damagingly misconceived. For a start, look at it from the Muslims’ point of view. The Koran is not just another book, not even one that is holy, as the Bible is held to be by Christians. The Koran is the uncreated word of God. That is the universal belief. It wasn’t composed by Mohammed. It cannot be changed....
The central fact to grasp about the Coronation is that it is not a mere jumble of colourful ceremonial but a service of Holy Communion. Inserted into this is the anointing and crowning of the monarch. This is less clear from films of the Coronation, which cut out, for example, the reception of the Sacrament by the Queen.
The reason for the “privileging” of one religion is simple: the Church of England is established. The monarch is the head of state and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. It might not seem that the Queen interferes in the running of the Church, but then how much does she interfere in the running of the country? She is a constitutional monarch, but that does not make the constitution unimportant.
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For more than half a century, members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association gathered here every Dec. 7 to commemorate the attack by the Japanese that drew the United States into World War II. Others stayed closer to home for more intimate regional chapter ceremonies, sharing memories of a day they still remember in searing detail.
But no more. The 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack will be the last one marked by the survivors’ association. With a concession to the reality of time — of age, of deteriorating health and death — the association will disband on Dec. 31.
“We had no choice,” said William H. Eckel, 89, who was once the director of the Fourth Division of the survivors’ association, interviewed by telephone from Texas. “Wives and family members have been trying to keep it operating, but they just can’t do it. People are winding up in nursing homes and intensive care places.”
Read it all from 2011.
The British embassy in Cairo suspended public services on Sunday for security reasons, an embassy spokesperson said.
The embassy declined to give more details due to the sensitive nature of the matter but one official said efforts were under way to make sure it could reopen “safely”. It was not clear when the facility would reopen.
The British embassy website said the office of the British Consulate-General in Alexandria was operating as normal.
Days earlier, the US embassy had released a statement warning staff not to stray too far from their homes.
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Barn No. 5 at Hilliker’s Ranch Fresh Eggs is about to become a state-of-the-art multiplex for hens. Two massive scaffolding-like structures, each the length of four school buses, are getting their final nuts and bolts, and in a few weeks, 8,000 cage-free chickens will come thronging and clucking into these new “aviary” roosts. Moving freely around the barn, they will perch on rows of shiny bars, nest on private mats, and quench their thirst from tiny water nipples. While one conveyor belt whisks chicken waste out the door, another one will collect the bounty – a nonstop supply of brown and white eggs.
The roosts, which line both sides of the barn, are replacing dense rows of wire cages that housed chickens for some 60 years. Frank Hilliker, a third-generation egg farmer in this dusty town north of San Diego, strolls through the barn, hoists himself up to the top of the roosting tiers, and surveys the chickens’ new domain.
“Those are privacy curtains,” he says, pointing down at a strip of tomato-red plastic flaps. “Inside is a little AstroTurf pad that they get to lie on, and that’s where they lay their eggs!”
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[Doug] Williams remembered telling Donnell: “You’ve got all kinds of ability. That little girl right there, you can find a way to feed her and make sure she goes to college, but there’s a price you’ve got to pay. Even when you don’t want to work, you’ve got to work.”
As Donnell intensified his drills and added muscle to his lanky frame, Davis also monitored his progress. Delana did everything she could to support them, working two part-time jobs and drawing money from a trust fund her deceased mother had left. Their needs were many; job opportunities were few in their hometown, Ruston, La.
“He never gave up,” Delana said of Donnell. “He was like: ‘I’m going to the league. That’s what I’m going to do.’ He kept working out consistently, just as if football was still on.”
Donnell finally agreed to seek part-time employment and applied to be a driver for Pizza Hut. He never delivered a single pie.
At Davis’s urging, the Giants signed Donnell on March 13, 2012. He spent his first season on the practice squad and competed primarily on special teams last year. He has broken out this season with 51 catches for 516 yards and a team-leading six touchdown receptions.
Donnell, 26, smiled broadly after a recent practice as he reflected on the uncommon path he and his young family had taken.
“My whole career, nothing has been golden,” he said. “Nothing has been paved out. I’ve always had to work for it, which is not a bad thing. My mom always told me, ‘What the Lord has for you, nobody can take from you.’ I believed in that.”
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A bookkeeper named Roy Torcaso, who happened to be an atheist, refused to declare that he believed in God in order to serve as a notary public in Maryland. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 1961 the court ruled unanimously for Mr. Torcaso, saying states could not have a “religious test” for public office.
But 53 years later, Maryland and six other states still have articles in their constitutions saying people who do not believe in God are not eligible to hold public office. Maryland’s Constitution still says belief in God is a requirement even for jurors and witnesses.
Now a coalition of nonbelievers says it is time to get rid of the atheist bans because they are discriminatory, offensive and unconstitutional. The bans are unenforceable dead letters, legal experts say, and state and local governments have rarely invoked them in recent years. But for some secular Americans, who are increasingly visible and organized, removing the bans is not only a just cause, but a test of their growing movement’s political clout.
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If the bioethicist Laurie Zoloth, the president of the American Academy of Religion, has her way, she’ll be remembered as the woman who canceled her organization’s conference, which every year attracts a city’s worth of religion scholars.
Two weeks ago, at her organization’s gathering, which is held jointly with the Society for Biblical Literature and this year drew 9,900 scholars, Dr. Zoloth used her presidential address to call on her colleagues to plan a sabbatical year, a year in which they would cancel their conference. In her vision, they would all refrain from flying across the country, saving money and carbon. It could be a year, Dr. Zoloth argued, in which they would sacrifice each other’s company for the sake of the environment, and instead would turn toward their neighborhoods and hometowns.
“We could create an A.A.R. Sabbatical Year,” she told the crowd in a ballroom at the San Diego Convention Center. “We could choose to not meet at a huge annual meeting in which we take over a city. Every year, each participant going to the meeting uses a quantum of carbon that is more than considerable. Air travel, staying in hotels, all of this creates a way of living on the earth that is carbon intensive. It could be otherwise.”
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Uber this week flunked its first test drive around Charleston's legal system.
Taft Navarro, the first known Uber driver to be cited in the region for violating local or state transportation rules, was found guilty Thursday in a Charleston County courtroom. He was required to pay the full fine of $437 for operating a ride-for-hire service at Charleston International Airport without the necessary permit.
Chief Magistrate David Coker's ruling might set something of a precedent for how similar violations will be handled at the airport in the future, Navarro said.
Read it all from the front page of today's local paper.
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A deadly fire is all that betrayed a suspected Chinese hacker group in Kenya believed to be trying to infiltrate banks, mobile money transfer networks, and ATMs.
So far, police have arrested and charged 77 Chinese nationals in connection with activities in an upscale Nairobi suburb. During the raids, police found soundproof rooms fashioned like military dorms that were full of computer equipment and outfitted with high-speed Internet connections, which is uncommon in Kenya.
The discovery of what police call a cybercrime command center comes as Kenya is experiencing a wave of computer crime, with criminal hackers carrying out phishing campaigns to extort money from citizens and launching attacks on banks. The arrests are a fortunate break for a police force struggling to contain the problem.
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The U.S. economy is on track for its strongest year of job creation since 1999, as employers last month ramped up hiring and wage growth posted a small—but potentially significant—pickup.
Nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 321,000 in November, the strongest month of hiring since January 2012, the Labor Department said Friday. Hiring was broad across industries, led by gains in the professional and business-services sector.
“The economy may not yet be a big mean jobs machine but it is just about there,” Joel Naroff, president and chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors Inc., said in a note to clients.
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First, the report makes it clear that there is no avoiding the need for the exercise of soft power, and in fact the exercise of hard power (from sanctions to the use of violence) is itself only effective as an addition to the impact of soft power. It is soft power in its many ramifications that makes it possible for this country to exert a benevolent and beneficial influence in the world around.
I saw an example of that when at the degree awards ceremony for Coventry University some two or three weeks ago, one of the best modern universities: 60 per cent of students were from overseas; they are a powerful source of earnings, and they will return home with a brilliant education and an exceptional experience of the UK, in most cases they will be our friends for life.
Secondly, the report points especially to the rapid increase in complexity and what it calls hypersensitivity in the modern world. There has been an introduction of information technology, with more than five billion mobile telephones around the world; we have the growth of access to the world-wide web, which means you can sit in Kaduna and look at what is happening in London, you can look at the shops in New York, you have access to cultural influences of the most extraordinary kind; and the possibilities of this both for governments and for non-state actors are ever more powerful with the advent of the sophistication of modern computers.
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If you think the fight against Ebola is going well, here's a grim new number: 537.
That's how many new infections were reported in Sierra Leone in the past week. It's the highest weekly tally in any country since the West African outbreak began.
International governments and aid groups have scrambled to open Ebola treatment centers in the country. But, because of safety concerns, many of these centers are accepting only a fraction of the number of patients they were built to serve.
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The bills arrive as regularly as a heartbeat at the Vories’s cozy bi-level brick house just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. It’s the paychecks that are irregular.
These days, Alex Vories, 37, is delivering pizzas for LaRosa’s, though he has to use his parents’ car since he wrecked his own 1997 Nissan van on a rainy day last month. In the spring and autumn, he had managed to snag several weeks of seasonal work with the Internal Revenue Service, sorting tax returns for $14 an hour. But otherwise the family had to make do with the $350 a week his wife, Erica, brought home from her job as a mail clerk for the I.R.S.
“We just kind of wing it every month,” said Mr. Vories, whose unemployment benefits ran out at the end of 2013, 10 months after he lost his job answering phones at Fidelity Investments. Ever since, the family’s income has bounced up and down from one week to the next, like the basketball he and his two sons play with in their driveway, next to the Kentucky Wildcats pennant planted in their front yard.
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The head of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee is pushing new legislation that would bring sweeping reform to South Carolina's domestic violence laws, creating a tiered system of offenses, increasing penalties and barring batterers from possessing guns.
Sen. Larry Martin, a Pickens Republican who chairs the committee, is the lead sponsor among six senators who introduced the pre-filed legislation on Wednesday to address a festering problem that has made South Carolina one of nation's deadliest states for women.
"It's time to turn the tide on our terrible statistics," Martin said. He believes his bill would go a long way toward doing that, especially the gun-ban provision.
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Sir Fred Catherwood, who has died aged 89, was an accountant and businessman who in 1979 became one of the first Conservatives to be elected to the European parliament in Brussels. His life was shaped more directly and profoundly, however, by his evangelical Christian beliefs. He was the sort of pro-European Conservative whose views are almost extinct in the current party and he made little secret of his opposition to the economic price of Thatcherism.
Catherwood’s ecumenism extended to working closely with Labour governments in the 1960s as director general of the National Economic Development Council (NEDC, known in the jargon of the time as Neddy), the ultimately ill-fated attempt to bring management and trade unions together with government to boost Britain’s industrial regeneration. In 1971, the year he stepped down from the post, he was knighted. He transferred that enthusiasm for economic co-operation to Europe, where he ultimately became vice-president of the European parliament (1989-91). For much of this time he also ran weekly Bible classes at Westminster Chapel, the independent evangelical church in central London.
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This is a fantastic interview by the BBCWS with Denis Brian, author of The Seven Lives of Colonel Patterson How an Irish Lion Hunter Led the Jewish Legion to Victory. Among many other things, he says of Patterson "If you combined Roosevelt, Hemingway and Lawrence of Arabia you might have a man like John Henry Patterson." Listen to it all (about 3 minutes). Careful listeners will also be interested in the quote from Ze’ev Jabotinsky who once said of Patterson: “In all of Jewish history we have never had a Christian friend as understanding and devoted as he.”
Update" you may read more about the book and denis Brian there.
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I mean, there is no excuse that I can think of for choking a man to death for selling illegal cigarettes. This is about cigarettes. This isn't a violent confrontation. This isn't a threat that anybody has reported, a threat of someone being killed. This is someone being choked to death. We have it on video with the man pleading for his life. There is no excuse for that I can even contemplate or imagine right now. And so we've heard a lot in recent days about rule of law, and that's exactly right. We need to be emphasizing rule of law. And a rule of law that is Biblically just is a rule of law that carries out justice equally.
Romans 13 says that the sword of justice is to be wielded against evildoers. Now, what we too often see still is a situation where our African-American brothers and sisters, especially brothers, are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be executed, more likely to be killed. And this is a situation in which we have to say, I wonder what the defenders of this would possibly say. I just don't know. But I think we have to acknowledge that something is wrong with the system at this point and that something has to be done.
Frankly, nothing is more controversial in American life than this issue of whether or not we are going to be reconciled across racial lines. I have seen some responses coming after simply saying in light of Ferguson that we need to talk about why it is that white people and black people see things differently. And I said what we need to do is to have churches that come together and know one another and are knitted together across these racial lines. And I have gotten responses and seen responses that are right out of the White Citizen's Council material from 1964. In my home state of Mississippi, seeing people saying there is no gospel issue involved in racial reconciliation.
Are you kidding me? There is nothing that is clearer in the New Testament that the gospel breaks down the dividing walls that we have between one another.
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An old bit of wisdom – that gambling is only for people who never took math – may have finally hit home with Americans. According to surveys by researchers at the University at Buffalo, the number of gamblers and the frequency of their play have dropped since 1999 despite a recent proliferation of casinos and lotteries. Even more heartening, the largest falloff was among people under age 30 (from 89 percent to 78 percent).
Unlike their elders, perhaps the younger generation knows the odds are never in their favor when they are up against the “Hunger Games”-like gambling industry. Or perhaps the thrill is gone with so many more gambling joints now an easy drive away for most Americans – or just a click away in many places.
The survey, published in the Journal of Gambling Studies, did find hard-core gamblers are betting more money and that Internet gambling has gone up. But policymakers – who generally promote gambling – should take note of the decline in interest among young people.
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Evangelicals are teaming up with environmentalists to support the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants.
The Rev. Mitchell Hescox, president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, submitted comments from more than 100,000 “pro-life Christians” who he said are concerned about children’s health problems that are linked to unclean air and water.
“From acid rain to mercury to carbon, the coal utility industry has never acted as a good neighbor and cleaned up their mess on their own,” Hescox told reporters on Monday (Dec. 1). “Instead of acting for the benefit of our children’s lives, they’ve internalized their profits while our kids (have) borne the cost in their brains, lungs and lives.”
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, joined Pope Francis and other world Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish leaders in Rome today to sign a historic declaration to end modern slavery.
The ground-breaking Global Freedom Network – which launched with backing from Archbishop Justin and Pope Francis in March 2014 [link] – brings together faith leaders in a commitment to eradicate modern slavery by 2020 throughout our world and for all time.
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We’re all familiar with our Lord’s words that it’s “more blessed to give than to receive.” As it turns out, this maxim is not only true as a matter of faith, it’s empirically true, as well.
This is the subject of a new book, “The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose,” by BreakPoint favorite and Notre Dame Professor Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, a doctoral student at Notre Dame.
The book is based on research from Notre Dame’s “Science of Generosity” initiative. As Smith and Davidson write in the introduction, “By grasping onto what we currently have . . . we lose out on better goods that we might have gained . . .”
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Air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition on Islamic State (IS) have inflicted "significant" damage on the group's capabilities, US Secretary of State John Kerry says.
Mr Kerry said the campaign against the militant group could take years, but that the coalition would remain engaged "as long as it takes".
The US said earlier that Iran, not a coalition member, had carried out air strikes against IS in Iraq.
However, Iran has denied this.
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Tim Scott's oath of office Tuesday on the floor of the U.S. Senate took on a historic significance - the swearing in of the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.
That was followed later by Scott's revelation that he didn't plan to make the Senate a lifelong career.
Scott, R-S.C., who was elected in November to finish out the final two years of former Sen. Jim DeMint's term, told reporters from his home state during a conference call that he hopes to be re-elected to two, full six-year terms and then plans to leave Washington.
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The American middle class has absorbed a steep increase in the cost of health care and other necessities as incomes have stagnated over the past half decade, a squeeze that has forced families to cut back spending on everything from clothing to restaurants.
Health-care spending by middle-income Americans rose 24% between 2007 and 2013, driven by an even larger rise in the cost of buying health insurance, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of detailed consumer-spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That hit has been accompanied by increases in spending on other necessities, including food eaten at home, rent and education, as well as the soaring cost of staying connected digitally via cellphones and home Internet service.
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Across the country, laborers are hard at work lifting 700-pound shelves full of multivolume encyclopedias, propane grills or garden gnomes and dragging them across vast warehouse floors. Carefully trained not to bump into one another, the squat workers are 320 pounds and a mere 16 inches tall.
No, they’re not Christmas elves—they’re some of the most advanced robots that e-commerce giant Amazon now uses to ship its goods. In an exclusive video for TIME, photographer and videographer Stephen Wilkes captured these Amazon robots in action at the company’s Tracy, Calif., warehouse.
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In the small hours of December 2nd gunmen snuck up on a group of sleeping quarry workers in Mandera country, close to Kenya’s border with Somalia. They were rounded up and made to lie face-down on the ground. Thirty-four of the men, who make a pitiful living mining and breaking stones, were executed with a bullet to the head; two were beheaded; all were non-Muslims.
Ten days earlier in the same remote part of Kenya gunmen flagged down an early-morning bus. Each passenger was asked to recite a verse from the Koran and to respond to a Muslim greeting. Those who failed were shot in the head. Twenty-eight people, many of them teachers going home for the Christmas holidays, were killed.
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What better time to talk to dead people for fun than the festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus? Ouija boards are flying themselves off shelves and under trees this Christmas, according to trends data released by Google. The company has recorded a 300 per cent increase in searches for the spirit-bothering devices, fuelled by a terrible movie that was effectively a feature-length ad for a board game, an appearance on The Archers, and the Victorian belief that if the dead could speak, they would use a plank of a wood and the alphabet.
Ouija, released in October in time for Halloween, was, by all accounts, a cliché-ridden turkey about a group of teenage girls who experiment with a board and get scared. It has a disastrous 7 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregating site, but became an occult hit, to the delight of its backers. Hasbro, the toy company behind Monopoly, pushed for the revival of the film, which had stalled in development, and partnered with Universal to make it happen. Its Ouija Game, including a glow-in-the-dark version, is – sure enough – the biggest seller online.
Read it all from the Independent. One C of E clergyman is concerned: ‘It’s like opening a shutter in one’s soul and letting in the supernatural,’ says Peter Irwin-Clark, a Church of England vicar who has witnessed the dark side of Ouija. ‘There are spiritual realities out there and they can be very negative.’
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he local headmaster - now out of work because the schools are closed - has become a fervent anti-Ebola campaigner and social mobiliser.
But Godfrey Kamara is finding it almost impossible to change the community's behaviour.
"It's not working. When they're quarantined people should stay around and have security. And they still wash the dead," said Mr Kamara, accusing Ms Bangura's family of doing just that.
"They washed her body before calling 117. I know it. They shouldn't do that. I tell everyone they shouldn't wash the body but they still don't believe Ebola kills...."
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"Let my people go." Pope Francis could not have been clearer in his message to Isil: the group’s persecution of Christians in the Middle East has claimed thousands of lives and turned the region into a no-go area for a faith rooted in that soil. Martyrdom has become routine in Christ’s birth place.
In echoing Moses’s plea to the Pharaoh, Francis acknowledged that this kind of dark sectarianism has been part of our history for millennia. Trust an MP to use this tragic history to score a political point. Desmond Swayne, Tory MP for New Forest West and minister for international development, has come out with the crass claim that Isil is acting no worse than Christians have done through the ages.
Swayne’s statement is deeply offensive and morally wrong.
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One of Islam’s most senior clerics is due to travel to Britain this week to take part in a debate organised by Ukip on religious extremism.
The Grand Mufti of Egypt is expected to meet Nigel Farage and will join a panel discussion on youth radicalisation, according to the party’s communities spokesman, Amjad Bashir.
Mr Bashir, an MEP and one of the party’s most prominent Muslims, has billed the event as an opportunity to remind young people of “the teachings of their religion and developing strategies for combating religious intolerance”.
Shawqi Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam is Egypt’s leading religious authority. He has become one of the most prominent Muslim critics of Islamic State, denouncing it as “an extremist and bloody group that poses a danger to Islam and Muslims”.
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Homeland security officials have issued their strongest warning yet that American service members may be targeted in the U.S. by the militant group ISIS, according to a report Monday.
A joint intelligence bulletin issued by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security said military personnel should review their social media accounts and remove anything that could draw the attention of “violent extremists,” specifically those from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), ABC News reports. The group has been targeted for months by a bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq, conducted by the U.S. and several other nations in the region.
“The FBI and DHS recommend that current and former members of the military review their online social media accounts for any information that might serve to attract the attention of ISIL [ISIS] and its supporters,” read the bulletin sent to law enforcement agencies. Some personnel said they had been urged to scrub their profiles by security officials in August.
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