Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, June 27, 2015 - 01:50 pm: |
** 'Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide **
By ADAM LIPTAKJUNE
http://www.nytimes.com -- June 26, 2015
WASHINGTON — In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.
“No longer may this liberty be denied,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in the historic decision. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
The decision, which was the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, set off jubilation and tearful embraces across the country, the first same-sex marriages in several states, and resistance — or at least stalling — in others. It came against the backdrop of fast-moving changes in public opinion, with polls indicating that most Americans now approve of the unions.
The court’s four more liberal justices joined Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. Each member of the court’s conservative wing filed a separate dissent, in tones ranging from resigned dismay to bitter scorn.
In dissent, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the Constitution had nothing to say on the subject of same-sex marriage.
“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
In a second dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia mocked the soaring language of Justice Kennedy, who has become the nation’s most important judicial champion of gay rights.
“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic,” Justice Scalia wrote of his colleague’s work. “Of course the opinion’s showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent.”
As Justice Kennedy finished announcing his opinion from the bench on Friday, several lawyers seated in the bar section of the court’s gallery wiped away tears, while others grinned and exchanged embraces.
Justice John Paul Stevens who retired in 2010, was on hand for the decision, and many of the justices’ clerks took seats in the chamber, which was nearly full as the ruling was announced. The decision made same-sex marriage a reality in the 13 states that had continued to ban it.
Outside the Supreme Court, the police allowed hundreds of people waving rainbow flags and holding signs to advance onto the court plaza as those present for the decision streamed down the steps. “Love has won,” the crowd chanted as courtroom witnesses threw up their arms in victory.
In remarks in the Rose Garden, President Obama welcomed the decision, saying it “affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts.”
Justice Kennedy was the author of all three of the Supreme Court’s previous gay rights landmarks. The latest decision came exactly two years after his majority opinion in United States v. Windsor, which struck down a federal law denying benefits to married same-sex couples, and exactly 12 years after his majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down laws making gay sex a crime.
In all of those decisions, Justice Kennedy embraced a vision of a living Constitution, one that evolves with societal changes.
“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,” he wrote on Friday. “The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”
This drew a withering response from Justice Scalia, a proponent of reading the Constitution according to the original understanding of those who adopted it. His dissent was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.
“They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment,” Justice Scalia wrote of the majority, “a ‘fundamental right’ overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since.”
“These justices know,” Justice Scalia said, “that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry.”
Justice Kennedy rooted the ruling in a fundamental right to marriage. Of special importance to couples, he said, is raising children.
“Without the recognition, stability and predictability marriage offers,” he wrote, “their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.”
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the majority opinion.
In dissent, Chief Justice Roberts said the majority opinion was “an act of will, not legal judgment.”
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Sunday, May 24, 2015 - 11:23 am: |
** 'Bold' Ireland votes to legalize gay marriage in landslide **
by: SHAWN POGATCHNIK
http://news.yahoo.com -- May 24, 2015
DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland's citizens have voted in a landslide to legalize gay marriage, electoral officials announced Saturday -- a stunningly lopsided result that illustrates what Catholic leaders and rights activists alike called a "social revolution."
Friday's referendum saw 62.1 percent of Irish voters say "yes" to changing the nation's constitution to define marriage as a union between two people regardless of their sex. Outside Dublin Castle, watching the results announcement in its cobblestoned courtyard, thousands of gay rights activists cheered, hugged and cried at the news.
"With today's vote, we have disclosed who we are: a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people," Prime Minister Enda Kenny proclaimed as he welcomed the outcome. Beside him, Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton declared the victory "a magical moving moment, when the world's beating heart is in Ireland."
Ireland is the first country to approve gay marriage in a popular national vote. Nineteen other countries, including most U.S. states, have legalized the practice through their legislatures and courts.
The unexpectedly strong percentage of approval surprised both sides. More than 1.2 million Irish voters backed the "yes" side to less than 750,000 voting "no." Only one of Ireland's 43 constituencies recorded a narrow "no" majority, Roscommon-South Leitrim in the boggy midlands.
Analysts credited the "yes" side with adeptly employing social media to mobilize young, first-time voters, tens of thousands of whom voted for the first time Friday. The "yes" campaign also featured moving personal stories from prominent Irish people -- either coming out as gays or describing their hopes for gay children -- that helped convince wavering voters to back equal marriage rights.
Voters legalized divorce by a razor-thin margin in 1995 and now, by a firm majority, have dismissed the Catholic Church's repeated calls to reject gay marriage. Abortion, still outlawed, looms as the country's next great social policy fight.
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the "overwhelming vote" against church teaching on gay marriage meant that Catholic leaders in Ireland needed urgently to find a new message and voice for reaching Ireland's young.
"It's a social revolution. ... The church needs to do a reality check right across the board," said Martin, who suggested that some church figures who argued for gay marriage's rejection came across as harsh, damning and unloving, the opposite of their intention.
"Have we drifted completely away from young people?" he asked. "Most of those people who voted 'yes' are products of our Catholic schools for 12 years."
"The fact that no political party supported them must be a concern from a democratic point of view," he said.
Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin, a Cork politician whose opposition party is traditionally closest to the Catholic Church, said he couldn't in good conscience back the anti-gay marriage side.
"It's simply wrong in the 21st century to oppress people because of their sexuality," he said.
After the result was announced, thousands of celebrants flooded into the Irish capital's pubs and clubs — none more popular Saturday night than the city's few gay venues.
"The people in this small island off the western coast of Europe have said to the rest of the world: This is what it is to be decent, to be civilized, and to be tolerant! And let the rest of the world catch up!" Norris, 70, shouted with jubilant zeal to the hundreds packing the disco ball-lit hall.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Norris waged an often lonely two-decade legal fight to force Ireland to quash its Victorian-era laws outlawing homosexual acts. Ireland finally complied in 1993, becoming the last European Union country to do so. This time, the gay community in Ireland managed to build a decisive base of support.
"People from the LGBT community in Ireland are a minority. But with our parents, our families, or friends and co-workers and colleagues, we're a majority," said Leo Varadkar, a 36-year-old Irish Cabinet minister who in January announced on national radio that he was gay. "For me it wasn't just a referendum. It was more like a social revolution."
Many gay couples took the moment to declare their intentions or renew their vows. One lesbian couple in Limerick proposed on bended knee at the vote count there, while one of Ireland's most prominent advocates for gay marriage, American-born Sen. Katherine Zappone, asked her wife live on Irish TV: "Today in this new Ireland, Ann Louise Gilligan, will you marry me?"
"There's nothing like an Irish wedding," Zappone said.
The Dublin Castle crowds saved their greatest roars of approval for Panti Bliss, Ireland's most famous drag queen, who strode gingerly into the castle's central square in high heels and a body-hugging floral dress to conduct a joint live interview on Irish TV beside Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Sinn Fein party chief Gerry Adams.
"It feels like we asked the whole country to marry us and they just said yes," said Panti, aka Rory O'Neill, who in a viral-internet speech last year inspired a national debate on the level of homophobia in Irish society.
"Today's vote isn't actually for 46-year-old aging drag queens like me. This vote is about all the young faces out there," Panti said, gesturing to the square-full of mostly 20-something onlookers, some donning rainbow-colored feather boas and parasols. Panti said that within a few years going to a gay marriage "will become an ordinary, normal part of life — and that's what changes hearts and minds."
When asked whether she -- Panti's preferred gender of pronoun -- intended to marry, the already surreal scene turned flirty. "Sure, why not, if I can find the right fella," Panti said, slyly putting an arm around a beaming Adams. Laughter cascaded through the crowd.
Political analyst Sean Donnelly, who has covered Irish referendums for decades, said Saturday's landslide marked a stunning generational shift. He noted that two decades ago in Ireland's last tortuous vote challenging a benchmark Catholic teaching, voters barely approved divorce -- but only because heavy rain deterred voters in the then-conservative west. More than half of Ireland's constituencies recorded "no" majorities to divorce.
Not this time. Even far-flung Donegal in Ireland's northwest corner, renowned for its reactionary record of voting against the national mood, voted "yes" to gay marriage.
"We're in a new country," Donnelly said. "When I was reared up, the church was all powerful and the word 'gay' wasn't even in use in those days. How things have moved from my childhood to now."
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Thursday, February 12, 2015 - 11:30 am: |
** New York City Sets Record with No Murders In 10 days In a Row **
Reuters by: Barbara Goldberg
http://news.yahoo.com -- February 12, 2015
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City, once notorious for high crime, broke a record on Thursday with no murders reported for 10 straight days, police said.
The historic calm achieved at 12:01 a.m. Thursday comes on the heels of a notable year - murders in New York City in 2014 fell to an all-time low of 328, the fewest since the New York Police Department started keeping reliable records in 1963.
"Everybody is behaving," said Sergeant Daniel Doody of the New York City Police Department.
The biggest U.S. city kept the peace through the early morning on Thursday, beating the milestone set in 2013, when nine days in a row passed without a single person killing another.
This year's notable zero comes in the wake of Mayor Bill de Blasio's struggle to mend a serious rift between City Hall and the country's biggest police force. Officers in late December embarked on what city leaders called a slowdown, expressing anger over the mayor's qualified support for some of the NYPD's fiercest critics. As a result, the number of arrests and court summonses plummeted at the time.
With cold weather forecast for coming days, it's possible that cooler heads may prevail even longer, said Doody, who noted killings often take place in the warmer seasons when more people are out on the street and the hot weather makes them "cranky."
"But if I could predict that, I would have won the Powerball last night," Doody said.
Police had attributed their year-long success in 2014, in part, to a greater focus on the small number of people responsible for most offenses. Murders were down 85 percent from their peak in 1990.
It is part of a decades-long fall in overall U.S. crime, with other big cities reporting a drop in violent crime in 2014, including Chicago with its lowest number of murders since 1965.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Lambert)
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, May 24, 2014 - 11:11 am: |
** Pennsylvania Gay Marriage Ban Overturned By Judge **
by: Maryclaire Dale
http://news.yahoo.com -- May 20, 2014
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage was overturned by a federal judge Tuesday in a decision that legalized same-sex unions throughout the Northeast and sent couples racing to pick up licenses.
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III called the plaintiffs -- a widow, 11 couples and one couple's teenage daughters -- courageous for challenging the constitutionality of the ban passed by lawmakers in 1996.
"We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history," the judge wrote.
The judge declined to put his ruling on hold for a possible appeal by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, so it went into immediate effect. The governor, who opposes gay marriage, did not issue a statement or indicate whether he would appeal. However, his state party chairman complained that an "activist" judge had usurped the power of the Legislature.
Amid a frenzy of celebration across the state, county offices in Philadelphia stayed open late to handle marriage applications, while officials in Pittsburgh were closed for election day but accepting them online. Couples must wait three days before getting married, unless a sympathetic judge grants a waiver.
Joe Parisi told his partner to "jet out of work" and get to Philadelphia City Hall.
"We didn't want to take the chance of having this be challenged and missing out on our opportunity," said Parisi, a Philadelphia resident who plans to marry Steven Seminelli.
They were among the first to get a license Tuesday afternoon, just hours after the judge's ruling.
Vic Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which pursued the case, said of the ruling: "It's everything we had hoped for."
"There's nothing that the government can do that's more intrusive than standing in the way of two people who love each other and want to get married," Walczak said.
State marriage bans have been falling around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. If Tuesday's decision stands, Pennsylvania would become the 19th state to legalize gay marriage and 43 percent of Americans would live in a state with full marriage equality, according to the advocacy group Freedom to Marry.
The ACLU had argued that the bans deprive same-sex couples and their families of the legal protections, tax benefits and social statuses afforded to married couples.
Corbett's office was left to defend the law after Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused to do so. A spokesman for Corbett's office said it was reviewing the legal issues presented in the opinion.
The Pennsylvania lawsuit, filed July 9, was the first known challenge to the state ban. At least five later test cases emerged, including one over a suburban county's decision last year to issue 174 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, before a court shut them down. Officials in Montgomery County were trying Tuesday to have that order lifted.
Oregon became the 18th state to recognize same-sex marriage on Monday, when jubilant couples began applying for marriage licenses immediately after a U.S. District Court judge invalidated its voter-approved same-sex marriage ban.
Also Monday, a federal judge in Utah ordered state officials to recognize more than 1,000 gay marriages that took place in the state over a two-week period before the U.S. Supreme Court halted same-sex weddings with an emergency stay.
Jones, a Republican and an appointee of then-President George W. Bush, was previously known for a 2005 decision in which he barred a Pennsylvania school district from teaching intelligent design in biology class, saying it was "a mere re-labeling of creationism."
The torrent of celebration from Democrats and supporters Tuesday was met by criticism from state Republicans, who as recently as 2012 endorsed a platform defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
"An activist judiciary has substituted its judgment in place of the law created by the elected representatives of Pennsylvania," chairman Rob Gleason said, "and has stifled the ongoing debate of people with differing points of view."
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 08:54 pm: |
** Federal Judge Strikes Down Oregon Ban on Same-Sex Marriage **
by: Reid Wilson
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ -- May 19, 2014
A U.S. District Court judge struck down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage Monday, the seventh ruling that a state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision invalidating sections of the Defense of Marriage Act.
The decision came after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a bid by the National Organization for Marriage to stay the ruling. The Oregon judge, Michael McShane, had denied NOM’s effort to intervene in the case.
“Because Oregon’s marriage laws discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without a rational relationship to any legitimate government interest,” McShane wrote, ”the laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
“I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families,” he wrote. “Families who we would expect our constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure.”
After last year’s Supreme Court decision, bans on same-sex marriage have been overturned by federal judges in six other states: Idaho, Utah, Michigan, Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas. Those cases are on appeal.
But in Oregon, McShane’s decision to leave NOM out of the case means there is no one with standing to appeal his ruling. Oregon officials, anticipating the ruling, prepared to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples almost immediately.
In Portland, couples lined up outside the Multnomah County clerk’s office in anticipation of Monday’s ruling, according to the Associated Press. Among them were Laurie Brown and Julie Engbloom, who got engaged on their 10th anniversary in April, AP reported.
“We always knew we wanted to spend our whole life together,” Brown said. “This opportunity has come. It feels right. Everything has fallen into place.”
Four gay and lesbian couples sued over the ban on same-sex marriage, and state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) said earlier this year she would not defend the decade-old law.
Oregon voters passed the constitutional amendment defining marriage as reserved for heterosexual couples in 2004 by a wide 57 percent to 43 percent margin. Public opinion polls show state residents would vote to reverse themselves: A poll conducted last week showed that 58 percent of Oregon voters would vote for a proposed constitutional amendment to allow same-sex marriage.
Oregon was the only state to put a pro-same-sex marriage initiative on the ballot this year, though after McShane’s ruling, supporters are likely to withdraw the measure.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Monday, January 20, 2014 - 11:55 pm: |
** West, Iran Activate Landmark Nuclear Deal **
by: Fredrik Dahl and Justyna Pawlak for Rueters
http://www.yahoo.com.com -- January 20, 2014
VIENNA/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Iran has halted its most sensitive nuclear operations under a preliminary deal with world powers, winning some relief from economic sanctions on Monday in a ground-breaking exchange that could ease a threat of war.
The United States and European Union both suspended some trade and other restrictions against the OPEC oil producer after the United Nations' nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had fulfilled its side of an agreement made on November 24.
The announcements, which coincided with a diplomatic row over Iran's role at peace talks on Syria, will allow six months of negotiation on a definitive accord that the West hopes can end fears of Tehran developing nuclear weapons and Iran wants to end sanctions that are crippling its economy.
Iranian officials hailed a warming of ties that will also see their new president make a pitch to international business leaders at Davos later this week: "The iceberg of sanctions against Iran is melting," the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, told Iranian state television.
Iran should be able to recover $4.2 billion in oil revenues frozen in foreign accounts over the six months of the interim deal, as well as resume trade in petrochemicals and gold and other precious metals. But EU and U.S. officials stressed that other sanctions will still be enforced during the six months of talks and that reaching a final accord will be difficult.
Israel, which has called the interim pact a "historic mistake" and has repeatedly warned it might attack Iran to prevent it developing nuclear arms, said any final deal must end any prospect of Tehran building an atomic bomb - something Iran insists it has never had any intention of doing.
The interim accord was the culmination of years of on-off diplomacy between Iran and six powers - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. It marks the first time in a decade that Tehran has limited nuclear operations that it says are aimed mainly at generating electricity and the first time the West has eased its economic pressure on Iran.
"This is an important first step," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. "But more work will be needed to fully address the international community's concerns regarding the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program."
Ashton, who coordinates diplomatic contacts with Iran on behalf of the six world powers, said she expected talks on the final settlement to start in February.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said those negotiations would be "even more complex" and added: "We go into it clear-eyed about the difficulties ahead."
A White House spokesman said the "aggressive enforcement" of the remaining sanctions would continue.
.... The deal took months of secret negotiations between Washington and Tehran and marks a new thaw in relations that have been generally hostile since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Under the interim deal, Iran agreed to suspend enrichment of uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, a short technical step away from the level needed for nuclear weapons.
It also has to dilute or convert its stockpile of this higher-grade uranium, and cease work on the Arak heavy water reactor, which could provide plutonium, an alternative to uranium for bombs.
The IAEA said Tehran had begun the dilution process and that enrichment of uranium to 20 percent had been stopped at the two facilities where such work is done. ...
The U.S. government estimates the value to Iran of sanctions relief at about $7 billion in total, although some diplomats say much will depend on the extent to which Western companies will now seek to re-enter the Iranian market.
Analysts said much was still unclear about how world powers could achieve their goal of ensuring Iran cannot, secretly or otherwise, develop the capability to build a nuclear weapon.
Mark Dubowitz, head of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington and a proponent of tough sanctions on Iran, said that by providing short-term economic relief, the West was losing future bargaining power with Tehran.
"The interim deal does nothing over the next 12 months to prevent Iran from proceeding with the nuclear-weapon and ballistic-missile research that are the keys to a deliverable nuclear weapon," he said. "Ahead of final negotiations, Tehran will be in a stronger position to block peaceful Western efforts to dismantle its military-nuclear program."
The U.N. nuclear watchdog will play a key role in checking that Iran implements the deal, but its increased access falls short of what it says it needs to investigate suspicions that Tehran may have worked on designing an atomic bomb in the past.
"The accord gives the powers and Iran plenty of flexibility in going about reducing Iran's nuclear threat to a level the world will accept," said Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment. "But it hasn't spelled out how they will work with the IAEA to resolve allegations Iran has been working on nuclear weapons."
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Friday, December 27, 2013 - 11:00 am: |
** Judge Deems Same-Sex Marriage Still Legal In Utah **
by: Associated Press
http://www.cbsnews.com -- December 23, 2013
SALT LAKE CITY - A federal judge has allowed gay marriage in Utah to continue.
Judge Richard Shelby on Monday denied a request by the conservative state that wanted to stop gay marriages until an appeals process plays out.
The same judge overturned Utah's ban on same-sex marriage Friday, ruling it is unconstitutional.
The ruling drew attention given Utah's long-standing opposition to gay marriage and its position as headquarters for the Mormon church.
Lawyers for the state are waging a legal battle on several fronts as they seek to stop the same-sex weddings.
Hundreds of gay couples lined up Monday for a chance to get married. Clerks in several counties were issuing marriage licenses.
"We're going to do it until the judge says stop," said Kerri Nakamura, who was helping people process licenses.
The federal judge surprised one of the most conservative states in the U.S. on Friday by ruling that the ban violates gay and lesbian couples' constitutional rights. More than 100 couples wed in the following hours as others cheered them on.
For now, Utah has joined California, New York and others to become the 18th state where same-sex couples can legally wed.
Utah is home to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the leading forces behind California's short-lived ban on same-sex marriage.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said it stands by its support for "traditional marriage" and that it hopes a higher court validates its belief that marriage is between a man and woman.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 - 11:35 am: |
** New Mexico Supreme Court Rules to Allow Same-Sex Marriage **
By ZELIE POLLON
http://www.reuters.com -- December 19, 2013
SANTE FE, NM (Reuters) — The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Thursday to allow same-sex marriage statewide, ending a patchwork arrangement in which some counties permitted gay nuptials while others prohibited them.
The ruling makes New Mexico the 17th U.S. state to legalize gay and lesbian marriage, and comes after the governors of Hawaii and Illinois signed bills last month to permit same-sex weddings in their states.
"Denying same-gender couples the right to marry and thus depriving them and their families of the rights, protections and responsibilities of civil marriage violates the equality demanded by the equal protection clause of the New Mexico Constitution," Justice Edward Chavez wrote in a 31-page opinion.
The ruling found that civil marriage should be "construed to mean the voluntary union of two persons to the exclusion of all others" and that "all rights, protections and responsibilities that result from marital relationship shall apply equally."
The decision highlights the shifting legal and social landscape on gay marriage in the United States. Polls have shown increasing public support, and civil rights groups have prevailed at a number of courthouses and with an increasing number of state legislatures. Ten years ago, no U.S. states permitted gay marriage.
Stepping into an intensifying and often bitter national debate over same-sex matrimony, the New Mexico Supreme Court agreed in September to settle the matter for the state after some counties began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, either unilaterally or in response to lower-court rulings.
In a previous ruling, a New Mexico judge upheld the right to gay marriage in a case that applied to counties encompassing the state's largest city, Albuquerque, and the state capital of Santa Fe.
Later, judges in a number of other counties asked clerks to justify their practice of not issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Many clerks began issuing such licenses to same-sex couples rather than go back to court.
NEW PUSH FOR AMENDMENT?
One of New Mexico's most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage, Republican state Senator Bill Sharer, responded to the ruling by saying he planned to introduce a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Such an amendment, if passed by the legislature, would ultimately need approval of voters.
"The Supreme Court decided to overturn a several-millennial-long standing law, and I don't think they had any good reason to do it," Sharer said.
Brian Brown, president of the anti-gay marriage group the National Organization for Marriage, called the ruling "a continuation of a very dangerous rush" toward silencing those who see marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
In celebratory tweets, supporters of gay marriage planned Thursday night rallies in several cities. Among those welcoming the ruling was graphic designer Alex Hanna, 43, who along with his partner of 14 years, Yon Hudson, was a plaintiff in a separate legal case seeking a marriage license in Santa Fe.
"We haven't announced our wedding because we wanted it to be legal in the whole state. That was our goal," Hanna said.
Before the ruling, New Mexico faced a situation unique in the United States because its law was ambiguous on same-sex marriage, unlike other states that expressly prohibited or permitted it via constitutional amendments or state law.
The debate reached a crescendo when all 33 county clerks in the state joined the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights in petitioning New Mexico's high court to decide the issue on a statewide basis.
Eight New Mexico counties were processing marriage applications by same-sex couples ahead of the ruling, said ACLU of New Mexico spokesman Micah McCoy.
"This truly is a historic and joyful day for New Mexico," said Laura Schauer Ives, legal adviser for the ACLU of New Mexico. "The more than 1,000 same-sex couples who have already married in New Mexico can now rest certain knowing their marriages will be recognized and respected by our state."
The ruling goes into effect immediately, said Phil Sisneros, spokesman for state Attorney General Gary King, a Democrat, and lawyers from the plaintiffs' legal team.
"The attorney general is very pleased with the court's ruling and feels that it's something that a great deal of New Mexicans have been waiting for," Sisneros said.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Monday, November 25, 2013 - 05:11 am: |
** Quinn Signs Illinois Gay Marriage Bill **
By Monique Garcia
http://www.chicagotribune.com/ -- November 20, 2013
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday put his signature on a historic measure making Illinois the 16th state to allow same-sex marriage, capping a 40-year push for gay rights that picked up major momentum during the past decade.
Playing master of ceremonies during an hourlong event, the re-election-seeking Democratic governor slowly signed the bill with 100 pens that quickly became souvenirs. He did so at a desk shipped from Springfield that the administration said President Abraham Lincoln used to write his first inaugural address in 1861 — a speech on the cusp of the Civil War that called on Americans to heed "the better angels of our nature."
But it was another Lincoln speech that Quinn referenced as he spoke to about 2,300 supporters gathered at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
"In the very beginning of the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln of Illinois said that our nation was conceived in liberty. And he said it's dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, and that's really what we're celebrating today," he said. "It's a triumph of democracy."
Signs were banned for security reasons, but attendees shared celebratory kisses and waved miniature rainbow flags featuring the outline of Illinois.
Among the first in the door were Jan Arnold and Mary Anderson, of Oak Park, who brought their 8-year-old son to witness the bill-signing. The couple have been together for 15 years but said they got tired of waiting on Illinois to pass gay marriage and were legally married in Iowa in 2011.
Their union now will be recognized in Illinois, which Anderson said will free her family from second-class status and means they no longer have to carry a "dossier" of legal paperwork to prove their relationship should an emergency occur.
"We're finally safe and protected in our home state," Anderson said. "We'll have the same protections that our straight friends do."
The bill-signing illustrated the rapidly changing views in Illinois and the nation on gay rights. Supporters first introduced an anti-discrimination bill in the legislature in 1974. It didn't became law until 2005. It took an additional six years for civil unions to be approved, but only about half that time for the gay marriage measure.
Still, support for same-sex marriage is far from universal in Illinois. As politicians talked up the merits of gay marriage in Chicago, down in Springfield, a crowd gathered for an exorcism by the local Catholic bishop in protest of the governor's action.
"It is not the church that must change to confirm its teachings to the views of the world, but it is each individual who is called to be configured to Christ," Bishop Thomas Paprocki said during a service delivered mostly in Latin.
The new law changes the definition of marriage in Illinois from an act between a man and a woman to one between two people. Civil unions could be converted to marriages within a year of the law going on the books. About 6,500 applications for civil unions have been filed since 2011, with about 4,000 originating in Cook County.
As it stands, the bill won't take effect until June 1, which is when the first marriage ceremonies could take place. That date falls on a Sunday, but officials with Cook County Clerk David Orr's office said they will be ready for what they expect to be a huge demand. That includes the possibility of providing special waivers so couples don't have to wait until the day after receiving wedding licenses before they can be married.
The start date could be moved up under a measure backed by Sen. Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park. If that bill is passed, gay marriage would go into effect immediately upon Quinn's signature. The measure could be called for a vote when lawmakers return to Springfield in the new year, though they face a light legislative schedule before the March 18 primary election.
Harmon said he's weighing whether it's fair to ask his colleagues to take another tough vote so soon after voting for gay marriage, acknowledging that a later effective date was the trade-off for passing the proposal this fall because a delay in implementation meant just 60 House votes were needed to pass the bill instead of 71.
But Harmon pointed to some gay advocates who died waiting for the right to marry, saying some people who want to take advantage of the new law might not be around in seven months. "I'd just hate to leave people poised on the precipice of equality be told they can't commit — yet," Harmon said.
The lag time did little to dampen spirits Wednesday, as supporters noted just how far Illinois has come in supporting gay rights in a relatively short time.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - 10:55 pm: |
** Hawaii To Become 15th State To Grant Gay Marriage -- Leapfrogging Illinois **
MIRANDA LEITSINGER staff writer NBC News
http://usnews.nbcnews.com -- November 13, 2013
Hawaii's Senate on Tuesday passed same-sex marriage legislation in an historic ballot in one of the first states where gays and lesbians couples sought the right to wed more than 20 years ago.
The bill, approved 19-4, heads to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a supporter of same-sex marriage who is expected to sign the measure into law on Wednesday, making Hawaii the 15th state to grant gay marriage. Weddings can begin Dec. 2.
Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Hawaii's ballot comes a week after lawmakers in Illinois voted to approve same-sex marriage, but Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will sign their bill on Nov. 20.
Passage of the Hawaiian bill "marks a pivotal moment in our state's history, a moment enshrined in equality and justice," Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria, who introduced the bill, said in a statement.
The Senate first approved the legislation and then sent it to the House, where the vote was seen as the key ballot.
In a rare move, the House allowed the public to speak during the debate: More than 1,000 people, most of them actually opposed to same-sex marriage, spoke over five days, providing 56 hours of testimony in what some referred to as a public or citizen's "filibuster."
Nearly 24,000 written testimonies — evenly split between opponents and supporters — were also submitted.
Most opponents were concerned about religious groups possibly being forced to solemnize or celebrate same-sex marriages.
House lawmakers tacked on exemptions to the bill allowing religious groups and affiliated nonprofits to be exempt from having to provide goods, services or facilities for the solemnization or celebration of same-sex marriages. They will be immune from legal liability, too. The exemptions were modeled after similar language in Connecticut's gay marriage law.
The Senate accepted those changes.
"Working together with our colleagues in the State House we have come to a compromise which provides a balance between religious freedom and equal rights," Galuteria said.
The Aloha state was at the forefront of the gay marriage debate back in the early 1990s, when three same-sex couples sued for the right to wed. Though the courts sided with the couples, a voter approved amendment to the state constitution in 1998 mandated that only the legislature could decide who gets to marry, thereby nullifying the court case.
The bid by the Hawaii couples to get married also helped lead to passage of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which didn't allow federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court struck down that part of the law barring such recognition in late June, allowing gay couples across the country to receive more than 1,100 federal benefits they'd previously been denied.
One of the original parties to the Hawaii case, Ninia Baehr, 53, told NBC News on Tuesday after the vote: "There is really a sweet sense of things coming full circle. I love it."
She and the woman she filed the case with, Genora Dancel, have stayed close after their split in 1997.
"I do have a sense of completion or satisfaction, and yet I know that out of 50 states, we don't even have half of them," Baehr, deputy director of the ACLU in Montana where she has worked to push through domestic partnerships, said of the 33 states that prohibit same-sex marriage. "There's still a lot of work to be done."
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Friday, October 18, 2013 - 04:36 pm: |
** NJ Court Agrees To Allow Same-Sex Marriages Monday **
Associated Press GEOFF MULVIHILL
http://news.yahoo.com/ -- October 18, 2013
Same-sex marriages will begin within days in New Jersey after the state's highest court ruled unanimously Friday to uphold a lower-court order that gay weddings must start Monday and to deny a delay that was sought by Gov. Chris Christie's administration.
"The state has advanced a number of arguments, but none of them overcome this reality: Same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today," the court ruled. "The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative."
A judge on the lower court had ruled last month that New Jersey must recognize same-sex marriage and set Monday as the date to allow gay weddings. Christie, a Republican who is considered a possible 2016 presidential candidate, appealed the decision and asked for the start date to be put on hold while the state Supreme Court decides the case.
His administration also asked that the state's top court take up the appeal of the lower-court ruling, something it agreed to do last week. Oral arguments are expected Jan. 6 or 7.
In the meantime, the state government will have to allow weddings and work quickly through some logistical issues: Does the Monday deadline apply to when marriage licenses must be issued, or when ceremonies can take place, for instance? Normally, there's a three-day waiting period in New Jersey between getting a license and tying the knot.
And are gay and lesbian couples that have wed legally elsewhere automatically considered married in New Jersey, or do they have to fill out forms and pay fees, too?
A state lawmaker had asked the state attorney general's office Thursday whether the normal 72-hour waiting period would apply for same-sex couples seeking to get married Monday if no stay was granted. Several New Jersey towns had begun accepting marriage license applications from same-sex couples in case the court didn't block the weddings from starting Monday.
After those topics are decided, another big hypothetical question looms: What happens to the status of same-sex marriages entered into now if the court decides next year that the state does not have to grant marriage to gay couples?
Despite the uncertainty, couples -- some of whom have been together for decades -- have been planning to have ceremonies as soon as they would be recognized by the state government. Lambertville Mayor David DelVecchio said he's planning to lead the state's first legally recognized same-sex wedding, between Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey. DelVecchio also performed the ceremony in 2007 when the couple became among New Jersey's first to be granted a civil union.
Whether gay couples should have the right to marry in New Jersey has been the subject of a battle in the state's courts and Legislature over the past decade. There has been a flurry of movements in both venues since June, when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated key parts of a federal law that prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions.
Since then, gay rights advocates have asked New Jersey judges to force the state to recognize same-sex marriage, arguing that the state's current policy of granting gay couples civil unions but not marriage licenses amounts to denying those couples federal protections such as Social Security survivor benefits and the right to file tax returns jointly.
Since July, gay rights groups have also engaged in an intense campaign aimed at persuading lawmakers to override Christie's 2012 veto of a bill that would have allowed gay marriage. To get an override, the Legislature must act by Jan. 14.
Thirteen states, including most in the Northeast, now recognize gay marriage.
Christie says he favors civil unions and says that allowing same-sex marriage is something that should be done only by a public vote, not the state's judges or lawmakers.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, September 14, 2013 - 07:58 pm: |
** Gun Violence Study Links State Levels Of Gun Ownership And Homicide **
By Braden Goyette
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ -- Friday, September 13, 2013
A new study of gun violence published by the American Journal of Public Health found that states with greater levels of gun ownership tend to have higher rates of gun-related murder.
The study, conducted by Boston University professor Michael Siegel and coauthors Craig S. Ross and Charles King III, examines this relationship in all 50 states from 1981 to 2010. The researchers found that "for each percentage point increase in gun ownership, the firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9 percent."
The authors note that, though they can't prove a causal relationship between higher levels of gun ownership and homicide, "states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides."
Their findings echo past studies about the relationship between gun ownership and homicide, though Siegel, Ross and King look at the relationship over a larger window of time than previous research.
According to a fact sheet from the Harvard School of Public Health:
"Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide."
A more localized 1993 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which focused on the most populous counties in Tennessee, Washington and Ohio, found that "keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide."
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 06:02 pm: |
** Syria Will Sign Chemical Weapons Convention, Declare Arsenal, Foreign Ministry Says **
Reporting By Thomas Grove; Editing by Steve Gutterman
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ -- Tuesday, September 10, 2013
MOSCOW, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Tuesday that Damascus was committed to a Russian initiative under which Syria would hand over its chemical weapons and join a convention that prohibits their use.
"We want to join the convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons. We are ready to observe our obligations in accordance with that convention, including providing all information about these weapons," Moualem said in a statement shown on Russian state television.
"We are ready to declare the location of the chemical weapons, stop production of the chemical weapons, and show these (production) facilities to representatives of Russia and other United Nations member states," said Moualem, who said earlier on Tuesday in Moscow that Syria had accepted the Russian proposal.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 12:41 pm: |
** Judge Brings Marriage Equality to New Mexico's Largest County **
By Chris Johnson
http://www.washingtonblade.com -- Tuesday, August 27, 2013
A state district judge in New Mexico issued a ruling on Monday instituting marriage equality in the Land of Enchantment's largest county, bringing the totaling number of counties with same-sex marriage in New Mexico to three.
Along with a 25-page decision, Judge Alan Malott issued a writ of mandamus requiring clerks in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties to distribute marriage licenses to gay couples.
"Immediately upon receipt of the Writ, Defendants Oliver and Salazar, as the County Clerks of Bernalillo and Santa Fe County, New Mexico, respectively, shall comply with and shall perform their non-discretionary statutory duty to issue a Marriage License upon application from 'each couple' otherwise qualified without regard to the couple's sexual orientation or the gender of its members," Malott writes in the order.
In a statement on her website, Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced her office will comply with an order and was set to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples starting Tuesday at 8 a.m.
"I'm very happy and proud to finally be issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples in Bernalillo County," Toulouse Oliver said. "Furthermore, I am beyond relieved to have some judicial guidance in this matter that immediately resolves the conflict that existed between state law and our state constitution. Marriage is a fundamental civil right that should be acknowledged and respected at all levels of government. Judge Malott's ruling today has made it clear that the fundamental assumption of that civil right outweighs other technicalities and concerns."
The decision means Bernalillo County will join Santa Fe, where County Clerk Geraldine Salazar had already begun issuing marriage licenses to gay couples on her accord, as well as Dona Ana County, where the clerk had done the same, in having marriage equality.
Notably, the judge comes to the same conclusion as a resolution passed by Santa Fe City Council that proposed by Mayor David Coss: marriage equality is available under current law in New Mexico because of the gender-neutral construction of the law.
Mallot writes in his order that the state law governing marriage doesn't "define or limit the definition of 'couple' to a heterosexual pair of contractually capable people nor those of same-sex orientation from that term."
Although he acknowledges others may construe the law to prohibit same-sex marriage, Mallot writes that equal prohibition under the state constitution makes such a prohibition unconstitutional.
Additionally, the judge cites the U.S. Supreme Court's decision against the Defense of Marriage Act as legal precedent among other cases in his reasoning to bring same-sex marriage to Bernalillo County.
"Gay and lesbian citizens of New Mexico have endured a long history of discrimination," the order states. "Denial of the right to marry continues this unfortunate, intolerable pattern and establishes irreparable injury on Plaintiff's part."
The lawsuit was brought to the judge by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU of New Mexico and local attorneys on behalf of six gay couples.
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the decision a "powerful reminder" of the national momentum in favor of marriage equality.
"We are joyful for our client couples and for every same-sex couple in New Mexico," Kendell said. "The freedom to marry is about love, commitment, family and security. These are universal values and they are center stage today."
Among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman, who have been together for over 21 years. Late last year, Roper was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor and was told she had 18 months to live. Unwilling to wait for marriage equality to come to New Mexico at a later date, the couple filed an emergency appeal.
After the Santa Fe County clerk began issuing marriage licenses on her own accord, the couple obtained a marriage license on Friday and married at a cancer center during a break from a chemotherapy infusion.
Attorney General Gary King has already issued an opinion affirming that New Mexico law does prohibit same-sex marriage, but also that this prohibition is unconstitutional and he wouldn't defend the law in court. King has said he wouldn't stop counties from distributing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Republican state lawmakers, notably State Sen. William Sharer, have said they'll file their own lawsuit to appeal the decisions and prevent same-sex marriages from occurring.
"Homosexual couples, by their very existence, self-identify as not having the procreative value that is one of the vital components of marriage," Sharer writes on his website.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 12:35 pm: |
** Same-Sex Marriage Legalized In England, Wales **
http://www.usatoday.com/ -- Tuesday, July 16, 2013
LONDON (AP) — British lawmakers have passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in England and Wales, with the first gay weddings expected to take place by next summer.
In what was largely seen as a formality, members of the House of Commons on Tuesday approved minor amendments made to the legislation, which had cleared the House of Lords a day earlier.
Now, all the bill needs is official assent from Queen Elizabeth II, which is expected to come later in the week.
The bill will enable gay couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies in England and Wales. It also will allow couples who had previously entered into a civil partnership to convert their relationship to a marriage.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Friday, June 28, 2013 - 08:17 pm: |
** Court Lifts Ban On Gay Marriage In California **
Reporting Dan Levine -- Writing by Sharon Bernstein and Alex Dobuzinskis
http://news.yahoo.com// -- Friday, June 28, 2013
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters): Same-sex marriages were set to resume in California on Friday, after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a surprise order lifting an injunction preventing the unions.
The order came in response to an opinion released Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court that effectively killed a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages in the state.
Within moments of the ruling, couples, officials and activists began to converge on San Francisco City Hall, where unions were due to resume immediately.
"On my way to S.F. City Hall," tweeted the state's attorney general, Kamala Harris. "Let the wedding bells ring!"
Harris arrived with her arm around a key lawyer in the case, as the couple at the heart of a case challenging the state's ban waited eagerly for their marriage license to be issued.
"This is really a great day," said Cindy Stier, who with her fiancee Kristin Perry filed the lawsuit against Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in California in 2008.
The 9th Circuit had been expected to wait 25 days before lifting the injunction so the Supreme Court would have time to release a formal order. But the judges decided to act instead on Friday, a move that would allow the marriages to begin in advance of Gay Pride weekend.
"The stay in the above matter is dissolved effective immediately," the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 01:17 pm: |
** Supreme Court Strikes Down Defense of Marriage Act, Paves Way For Gay Marriage To Resume In California **
by PETE WILLIAMS and ERIN MCCLAM
nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/ -- Wednesday, June 26, 2013
In a pair of landmark decisions, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the 1996 law blocking federal recognition of gay marriage, and it allowed gay marriage to resume in California by declining to decide a separate case.
The court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to gay couples who are legally married in their states, including Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights and family leave.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-4 decision, said that the act wrote inequality into federal law and violated the Fifth Amendment's protection of equal liberty.
"DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal," he wrote.
Edith Windsor, the 84-year-old woman who brought the case against DOMA, said that the ruling ensured that the federal government could no longer discriminate against the marriages of gays and lesbians.
"Children born today will grow up in a world without DOMA, and those same children who happen to be gay will be free to love and get married," she said.
In the second case, the court said that it could not rule on a challenge to Proposition 8, a ban on gay marriage in California passed by voters there in 2008, because supporters of the ban lacked the legal standing to appeal a lower court's decision against it.
The court did not rule on the constitutionality of gay marriage, but the effect of the decision will be to allow same-sex marriage to resume in California. That decision was also 5-4, written by Chief Justice John Roberts.
It was not clear when same-sex marriages would resume in California. Los Angeles County said in a statement that it was waiting for a technical step by lower courts -- the lifting of a stay that stopped gay marriage in California -- but was prepared to begin issuing marriage licenses and performing ceremonies for gay couples.
The two rulings, released minutes apart, were greeted by jubilant cheers outside the Supreme Court, where crowds of gay-marriage supporters waved rainbow banners and flags bearing symbols of equality, and at City Hall in San Francisco.
"The underlying message, I think, is that these are marriages, these are relationships, that are worthy of equal respect," said Tom Goldstein, the publisher of SCOTUSblog and a Supreme Court analyst for NBC News. "It really does send a powerful message to the country that this is something that deserves fair treatment.
President Barack Obama placed a phone call from Air Force One to the two gay couples who had challenged Proposition 8. He told them, "We're proud of you guys." Paul Katami, one of the challengers, invited the president to his wedding to his partner, Jeff Zarrillo.
David Boies, a lawyer who argued against Proposition 8, said that the rulings took the country closer to realizing the Declaration of Independence's guarantee that all men are created equal.
"It's a wonderful day for America," he said.
The decisions were handed down 10 years to the day after the court decided Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down anti-sodomy laws across the country. They also came just ahead of the weekend when many large cities celebrate gay pride by observing the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, considered the beginning of the gay rights movement.
Under the Defense of Marriage Act, gay couples who are legally married in their states were not considered married in the eyes of the federal government, and were ineligible for the federal benefits that come with marriage. Not counting California, 12 states and the District of Columbia have authorized gay marriage.
The law had helped determine who is covered by more than 1,100 federal laws, programs and benefits.
"DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others," the ruling said.
The case before the Supreme Court concerned Windsor and Thea Spyer, a lesbian couple who lived together in New York for 44 years and married in Canada in 2007.
When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor was hit with $363,000 in federal estate taxes. Had the couple been considered by the federal government to be married, Windsor would not have incurred those taxes.
"We won everything we asked and hoped for," Windsor told reporters.
Kennedy was joined in the majority by the four members of the court's liberal wing -- Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Dissenting were Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
Scalia, in his dissent, wrote: "It is enough to say that the Constitution neither requires nor forbids ou rsociety to approve of same-sex marriage, much as it neither requires nor forbids us to approve of no-fault divorce, polygamy, or the consumption of alcohol."
President Bill Clinton signed the act into law in September 1996. A court ruling in Hawaii had raised the prospect that that state might become the first to authorize gay marriage. Some members of Congress believed that the law might take the air out of a movement to amend the Constitution to block gay marriage.
Proposition 8, the California ban, was approved by voters in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote. The measure was placed on the ballot after the California Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriage.
The push to overturn it drew endorsements from what might have seemed unusual quarters just a few years ago.
In the days before the Prop 8 case was argued, politicians, business leaders, professional athletes and other high-profile figures rushed to announce their support for gay marriage.
Dozens of Republicans added their names to a paper known as a friend-of-the-court brief that argued that gay marriage promotes the conservative values of stability and mutual obligation.
And the case itself was argued, up through the federal court system, by two unlikely partners: Boies and Theodore Olson, the lawyers on opposing sides of Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case that settled the 2000 presidential election.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 04:51 pm: |
** Boy Scouts End Longtime Ban on Openly Gay Youths
by ERIK ECKHOLM
http://www.nytimes.com/ -- Thursday, May 23, 2013
GRAPEVINE, TX -- The Boy Scouts of America on Thursday ended its longstanding policy of forbidding openly gay youths to participate in its activities, a step its chief executive called "compassionate, caring and kind."
The decision, which came after years of resistance and wrenching internal debate, was widely seen as a milestone for the Boy Scouts, a symbol of traditional America. More than 1,400 volunteer leaders from across the country voted, with more than 60 percent approving a measure that said no youth may be denied membership "on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."
The top national leaders of the Boy Scouts, who pledge fealty to God and country, had urged the change in the face of vehement opposition from conservative parents and volunteers, some of whom said they would quit the organization. But the vote put the Scouts more in line with the swift rise in public acceptance of homosexuality, especially among younger parents who are essential to the future of an institution that has been losing members for decades.
The policy change, effective January 2014, is unlikely to bring peace to the Boy Scouts as they struggle to keep a foothold in a swirling cultural landscape, with renewed lobbying and debate already starting Thursday evening.
The Scouts did not consider the even more divisive question of whether to allow openly gay adults and leaders. This drew criticism from advocates for gay rights, who called the decision a breakthrough but vowed to continue pressing the Scouts to allow gay members of all ages.
Some conservative churches and parents said the Scouts were violating their oath to be "morally straight" and said they would drop out.
Still, for gay men who were forced out of scouting and for their allies, thousands of whom joined the push for change, the opening of membership was more than welcome.
"I've waited 13 years for this," said Matt Comer, now 27, who had to leave his scout troop at 14 after he started a Gay-Straight Alliance at his school. Since the fourth grade, he said Thursday, he had dreamed of becoming an Eagle Scout and was crushed when he was denied the chance.
"Today we finally have some justice for me and others," he said. "But gay youths will still be told they are no longer welcome when they turn 18."
Leaders of the conservative faction predicted that lawsuits would soon force the Boy Scouts to allow openly gay leaders, and they accused the top leaders of ignoring the beliefs of their members.
"The fallout from this is going to be tremendous," said Robert Schwarzwalder, a senior vice president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group, and a father of two scouts in Northern Virginia. "I think there will be a loss of hundreds of thousands of boys and parents."
"This great institution is going to be vitiated by the intrusion of a political agenda," he said.
After the decision was announced Thursday, John Stemberger, an evangelical leader from Florida who organized a campaign to block the change, said that like-minded groups and parents would meet next month in Louisville, Ky., to discuss creating what he called a new "character development organization for boys," an alternative to scouting.
Glaad, a gay-rights group that has campaigned for change over the last year, said it would keep pressure on the Boy Scouts over the leadership issue.
"We'll continue urging corporate donors and public officials to withhold their support," said Richard Ferraro, the group's vice president for communications.
Several sponsors, including the UPS Foundation, Merck, the Intel Foundation, and many local United Ways and city agencies had already ended financing for the Scouts because the group's policies violated their own nondiscrimination guidelines.
In a closed meeting of the assembled delegates here Wednesday night, the top three leaders of the Boy Scouts -- Wayne Brock, the paid chief executive; Wayne Perry, the volunteer president who is a corporate leader from Washington State; and Tico Perez, the volunteer commissioner and a consultant in Florida -- made a strong plea to delegates and dissenting board members to allow gay youths, saying the goal of scouting was to reach as many boys as possible, according to people who attended.
"This is not about what's legal but what's compassionate, caring and kind," Mr. Brock reportedly said.
No similar proposal to allow gay adults was on the agenda, and the executives have said little about how they made the distinction. But in surveys this spring, many parents and volunteers around the country said they were against the idea of openly gay scout leaders.
The vote was a bittersweet one for David Knapp, 86, who spent much of his life in scouting as a boy, as a professional staff member and later as a volunteer with a council in Connecticut. He had tried to keep his sexual orientation a secret but one day in 1993, he said, two scout officials said, "We found out you are a homosexual," and forced him out.
"I see this as a good step, but with a lot of misgivings," he said of the limited opening to gays.
Some of the most conservative parents and leaders are already thinking of what comes next.
Allison Mackey of Hanover, Pa., has five sons -- one an Eagle Scout, three now active in scouting and an 8-year-old who had planned to join.
The family has discussed the issue and reached a decision, she said: All the sons were willing to abandon the Boy Scouts if openly gay members are allowed.
"The Boy Scouts are something we've really enjoyed because they celebrate manliness and leadership," she said. But, she added, she and her husband were "looking to encourage our sons in traditional Christian values."
Personally, she said she would be disappointed to see her sons leave the Scouts.
"To stand by principles would be difficult," she said. "But we're going to have to say no. The organization is giving up freedom."
In a meeting with reporters after the vote, Mr. Perry, the national president of the Boy Scouts, sought to put the rancor behind.
"We're moving forward together," he said. "Everyone agrees on one thing, no matter how you feel about this issue, kids are better off in scouting."
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Monday, May 06, 2013 - 12:51 pm: |
** Rhode Island Lawmakers Pass Gay Marriage Bill; Governor Signs It
by Edith Honan
http://www.reuters.com -- Thursday, May 2, 2013
REUTERS: Rhode Island lawmakers gave final approval to a bill to legalize gay marriage on Thursday, making it the 10th U.S. state to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples and the last of the six New England states to do so.
Governor Lincoln Chafee, an independent, signed the bill into law almost immediately after the vote on Thursday. The new law will take effect on August 1.
"We would not be where we are today without the Rhode Islanders who for decades have fought for tolerance and freedom over discrimination and division," Chafee said. "I am proud to say that now, at long last, you are free to marry the person you love."
The governor later joined the state's main gay rights organization, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, at a victory party in the state capital Providence.
Last week, the Democratic-led state Senate approved the measure with the support of the entire Republican caucus. The state House had approved a similar bill in January and on Thursday approved the Senate's amended bill.
Despite the victory, some in the state continued to voice strong opposition.
In an open letter, Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence said he was "profoundly disappointed" by the vote and encouraged Catholics to "examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies."
The vote marks the latest in a string of victories for gay marriage advocates. Last November, voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state approved same-sex marriage, while in Minnesota, voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Before that point, advocates of same-sex marriage had never been successful at the ballot box, and voters in more than two dozen states had approved constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Lawmakers in Illinois, Delaware and Minnesota have joined Rhode Island in taking up same-sex marriage legislation this year. In Delaware, the bill has passed the state's lower house and is scheduled for a vote in the upper house on May 7.
New Jersey Democrats, meanwhile, have until next January to attempt to override Governor Chris Christie's veto of a same-sex marriage bill in that state.
The other six states that have legalized same-sex marriage are Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa. The District of Columbia also has legalized same-sex marriage.
Maria Rodriguez (Maria)
|Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 - 01:37 am: |
I simply trust...
Violent crime takes a rare day off in New York
Wednesday 28 November 2012
No one shot, stabbed or subjected to violent attack for the first day in living memory in New York City
New York City achieved a rarity on Monday – for 24 hours there was not a single report of a person being shot, stabbed or subjected to violent crime, police have revealed.
New York police department chief spokesman Paul Browne said it was "first time in memory" that the city's police force had experienced such a peaceful 24 hours.
It comes at the end of year when the city is on target to have its lowest murder rate since 1960.
While crime is up 3% overall, including a 9% surge in grand larceny that police attribute to a rash of smartphone thefts, murder is down 23% year on year, the NYPD said.
Tom Repetto, author of American Police, 1949-2012, said he could not recall such a crime-free day as Monday. "In a city of 8 million people, this is extremely rare," he said.
There have been 366 murders in the city so far this year, compared with 472 at this time last year, according to the NYPD.
By comparison, Chicago, Illinois, a city of 2.7 million people, has been plagued by gang violence and has registered 462 murders in 2012. Philadelphia, with a 1.5 million population, has recorded 301 murders in 2012, the exact same number as this time last year.
Repetto attributed New York's success to proactive police department tactics, including its controversial stop and frisk policy. Critics have argued that the dramatic increase in searches has not led to a similar rise in gun seizures, but the NYPD said the proactive tactics had made criminals think twice about taking their guns out on the street."
Mind Control, Just like Mr. Silva would say...
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Monday, November 26, 2012 - 02:41 pm: |
** Sesame Synchrotron Is a Flash of Unity in Middle East **
David Shukman -- BBC News
http://www.bbc.co.uk -- Sunday, November 25, 2012
Amid rising tensions in one of the world's most volatile regions, an audacious project to use science for diplomacy is taking shape in the heart of the Middle East. In this land of ancient hatreds, a highly sophisticated scientific installation is being built in Jordan. It has support from countries that are usually openly hostile to each other. The plan is for a multi-million-pound synchrotron particle accelerator, known as Sesame. It has backing from several Arab nations, together with Turkey, Pakistan, Cyprus, Iran and - astonishingly - Israel as well.
The Iranian government is publicly committed to Israel's destruction and Israel has threatened to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. And most recently Israel accused Iran of supplying Palestinian militants with the missiles launched at Israeli cities. Yet the governments of both these countries and others have pledged to provide more funding to Sesame, and BBC News witnessed their scientists and officials meeting for lengthy discussions in Jordan earlier this month.
After years of doubts about the project's feasibility, construction is now at an advanced stage and most of the next round of finance is secured. The first science could start as early as 2015. The synchrotron, which acts in effect like a giant microscope, will be used by researchers to study everything from viruses to new drugs to novel materials.
Synchrotrons have become an indispensable tool for modern science with some 60 in use around the world, almost all of them in developed countries, and this will be the first in the Middle East. ... Scientists have put aside political barriers in order to collaborate on the project
During a visit to the facility, in the hills 20 miles northwest of Amman, he told BBC News: "It is pretty remarkable but it's happened and it's because the scientific communities in these countries have pushed for this and ignored the political barriers. "Science is a common language - if we can speak it together, possibly we can build bridges of trust which will help in other areas."
Sesame stands for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East. And it is also a reference to the famous phrase "open sesame", the secret command to open a treasure trove in the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Despite immense political sensitivity, the project has already been opening new channels of communications so effectively that the prospect of the machine being commissioned is now a tangible possibility. ...
Prof Zehra Sayers of Sabanci University in Istanbul says Sesame is so valuable that it cannot be allowed to fail. "Maybe it will not bring peace to the region, but it can bring one small line of communication to the people who live in this area," he said. "This is why it has to work. We need those tiny thin fragile lines of communication."
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Monday, November 19, 2012 - 05:15 pm: |
** Obama Says He Always Believes In Prayer **
UPI -- United Press International
http://personalliberty.com -- Monday, November 19, 2012
BANGKOK, (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama, answering a reporter’s question on starting his Thailand by visiting a Buddhist monastery, said he always believes in prayer.
Obama, who arrived in Bangkok Sunday on the first leg of his Asia tour that would also take him to Myanmar and Cambodia, was asked at a media meeting about his visit to the royal monastery where he reportedly told a monk he would need a lot of prayer to help the United States avoid a fiscal crisis.
Though the question, apparently asked in a light vein, was directed at Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who accompanied Obama at the briefing, the U.S. leader said: “First of all, I always believe in prayer. I believe in prayer when I go to church back home, and if a Buddhist monk is wishing me well, I’m going to take whatever good vibes he can give me to try to deal with some challenges back home.”
Obama went on to say he was confident of dealing with the U.S. fiscal situation.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Sunday, November 11, 2012 - 07:20 pm: |
** Washington Approves Same-Sex Marriage, Marking Shift in Nation’s Views **
by Elizabeth Hartfield
http://abcnews.go.com -- Thursday, November 9, 2012
On Thursday, opponents of the same-sex marriage referendum on the ballot in Washington state conceded the race, marking a full slate of victories for gay rights on Election Night. Same-sex marriage was legalized by popular vote for the first time in our nation’s history in not one, but all three states where it was on the ballot: Maine, Maryland and Washington. In Minnesota, a proposed ban on same-sex marriage that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman in the state’s constitution was defeated.
Tuesday’s victories mark more than just a win for the gay rights movement; they represent a larger demographic shift in our country. In an election year where the president made history by publicly announcing his support for same-sex marriage -- becoming the first sitting president to do so -- the results in Maine, Maryland, Washington and Minnesota appear to be another sign of this increased acceptance.
This year, national polling has shown historical highs for same-sex marriage support. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released in May 2012, shortly after President Obama announced his support in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, showed 53 percent of Americans believe gay marriage should be legal and 36 percent say they “strongly” support it. Thirty-two percent say they were “strongly opposed.” It marks the first time strong sentiment tilted positive in ABC/Washington Post polling on the issue.
Several other polls released in the spring and summer showed a plurality of support for same-sex marriage in the country as well. A CNN/ORC poll released in June showed 54 percent of Americans support the legalization of same-sex marriage. A Gallup poll taken in May showed 50 percent of Americans supporting it, and an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in May showed that 54 percent of Americans would support legalizing same-sex marriage in their state.
The reason for the increasing acceptance of gay marriage is likely linked to an increased exposure to gay people. The ABC/Washington Post taken in May found that 71 percent of Americans have a family member, friend or acquaintance who is openly gay -- a strong majority, and a jump from 58 percent in 1998. The increased exposure can best be seen in the attitudes of young people.
“To young people, being gay is like being left-handed -- they don’t get what the big deal is,” ABC’s George Will said on Election Night.
Currently there appears to be a deep partisan divide on the issue, with Republicans generally opposed to legalizing same-sex marriage and Democrats generally in favor. This divide was highlighted in the exit polls from Maine, Maryland and Washington on Tuesday.
In Maine, 81 percent of those who voted in favor of same-sex marriage also voted for President Obama while 69 percent of those who voted “no” went for Romney. In Washington the breakdown was similar: 85 percent of those who voted to approve same-sex marriage voted for Obama, while 74 percent of those who voted to reject the measure voted for Romney. In Maryland 78 percent of the “yes” vote was for Obama, 55 percent of the “no” vote was for Romney.
But if the trend continues -- if same-sex marriage support continues to grow and more states continue to legalize it -- the Republican party will need to do some soul-searching, so to speak, on the issue. Voters 18 to 29 only made up 19 percent of the voting block in 2012, and for all the talk about how the youth vote propelled Obama in 2008, they only made up 18 percent of voters that year. But if one thing is certain, it’s that younger people will grow up, and as that happens, they’ll begin to account for a larger share of the voting block -- one neither party can afford to lose.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Wednesday, November 07, 2012 - 01:32 pm: |
** Maine, Maryland Vote To Legalize Gay Marriage **
by David Crary -- AP National Writer
http://www.boston.com -- Wednesday, July 7, 2012
Voters a continent apart made history Tuesday on two divisive social issues, with Maine and Maryland becoming the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote and Washington state legalizing recreational use of marijuana.
The outcomes in Maine and Maryland broke a 32-state streak, dating back to 1998, in which gay marriage had been rebuffed by every state that voted on it. They will become the seventh and eighth states to legalize gay marriage.
‘‘For the first time, voters in Maine and Maryland voted to allow loving couples to make lifelong commitments through marriage -- forever taking away the right-wing talking point that marriage equality couldn’t win on the ballot,’’ said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group.
Washington state also was voting on a measure to legalize same-sex marriage, while Minnesota voters were considering a conservative-backed amendment that would place a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution.
The outcomes could possibly influence the U.S. Supreme Court, which will soon be considering whether to take up cases challenging the law that denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages.
Heading into the election, gay marriage was legal in six states and the District of Columbia — in each case the result of legislation or court orders, not by a vote of the people.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Wednesday, November 07, 2012 - 01:22 pm: |
** Tammy Baldwin Wins Wisconsin Senate Race, First Openly Gay Member **
by Joshua Deloach
http://www.examiner.com -- Wednesday, July 7, 2012
Tuesday brought a historic win for Tammy Baldwin, who will be Wisconsin’s first woman Senator and the first openly gay Senator in United States history.
Baldwin defeated Tommy Thompson for the Senate seat in what was initially seen as a shoe-in for the long-time winning Republican Senator.
Julia Buckley, journalist and Deputy Editor of Jetsetter U.K., who has traveled extensively into the heartland in search of the numerous oddities of America, was in attendance at Baldwin’s acceptance party.
“It was amazing being in the room watching history being made, and she took on the mantle with such grace, I can't wait to see her represent her community”, said Buckley.
Baldwin’s acceptance speech kept the focus off her personal life and focused on the job: “I ran to make a difference – a difference in the lives of families struggling to find work and pay the bills, a difference in the lives of students worried about debt and seniors worried about their retirement security, a difference in the lives veterans who fought for us and need someone fighting for them and their families when they return home from war, a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs trying to build a business and working people trying to build some economic security.”
She also thanked her opponent, who reaches back into Baldwin’s political journey to her first days as a member of the Wisconsin assembly.
The win sends a powerful message to a socially divided country on the changing attitude of gay marriage, and to the struggling youth of the LGBTIQ community on the same night that Maine and Maryland legalized gay marriage by another first - popular vote.
Minnesota rejected an amendment that would have constitutionally banned gay marriage and Washington was poised to legalize same-sex marriage as of publication.
Judy Junghans (Judy)
|Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2012 - 08:03 pm: |
Woah! My response was to the question: "What's THE HS have to say about this???"
I really must have misunderstood the question.
All I intended was a simple response to an apparent insane situation. Rev. Tony seemed to understand my response.
Sorry, really. My intention was not to be harsh at all.
Christine Yoffe (Christine)
|Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2012 - 07:46 pm: |
Wow... a bit of a lively discourse.
Maz, I am thinking you got the message of this IMAGE. Neutral and what I am pretty sure HOLY SPIRIT said to that AMAZING 17 year old boy was ....YOU ARE NOT INSANE. Your BROTHER IS DROWNING!
He heard HS so loudly he threw all of the worldly insane rules NOT TO SAVE HIS BROTHER in the ocean and dove right in.
The funny part about THE WORLD and THE worlds seeming INSANITY is....that he was threatened with losing his job, which I think may have happened AND that he would be required to pay the bill.
BUT....and here is the pearl. EVEN that did not work to bring out any insanity in this amazing young man, NOR HIS FAMILY. He knew he did the right and righteous deed AND he also thumbs his nose at the IDEA of insanity by simply LISTENING to HS joined WITH HIS -earth bound FAMILY ....
"He and his family are making arrangements to pay the bill."
No muss no fuss...neutral for him and his family. Thanks Maz for seeing another possibilty for this IMAGE prayer for WORLD PEACE. I did not read anything about insanity and was so touched by the PICTURE OF Love, compassion , empathy and FORGIVENESS.....insanity did not even occur to my little mind.
It is such a gift to have many minds thinking many thoughts to open many doors!
Maz Weber-Caspers (Maz)
|Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2012 - 06:11 pm: |
please don´t get me wrong. The question was ´what would the Holy Spirit say to this?´. Would you really speak for Him? Who authorizes you to do that? The family brings up the bill. Is that insane? Are you sure?
"The world" is not a static concept, IMO. Any judgment is dependant on the level and the context. ACIM teaches two worlds, one in transition to the other. If we look at the entirety of the teaching, stopping at the recognition that ´the world as ego perceives it´ is insane, is counterproductive. Its a hypnotic state in which the ego wants to trap us. We were wrong.
"The world in its original connotation" is mentioned early in the 1st and 2nd cardinal, and IIRC also in the 3rd (Origial Edition).
If I see harshness, I know it because of experience. I own it because I want to have it healed. Please share with me in the recognition that the salvation of the world has a completely different idea, knowing the difference between the ego projection on the world, and the world as it is re-created and released.
It reflects our wishes. Do we wish to remain focussed on an insane world? What does this say about our judgment about our own humanity? Is Peace possible in the world, and if so, how?
Here´s what I am given to share. namaste.
Comes to mind, too, that nowhere are we asked to save the insane ego, but everywhere are asked to save the world (Lesson 87 and on). From
Manual, 11.How Is Peace Possible in this World?
3 The world must thank you when you offer it release from your illusions. Yet your thanks belong to you as well, for its release can only mirror yours. Your gratitude is all your gifts require that they be a lasting offering of a thankful heart released from hell forever.
Workbook, L.196-199 (excerpts)
13 Now is there silence all around the world. Now is there stillness where before there was a frantic rush of thoughts that made no sense. Now is there tranquil light across the face of earth, made quiet in a dreamless sleep. And now the Word of God alone remains upon it.
Cherish today's idea (I am not a body I am free), and practice it today and every day. Make it a part of every practice period you take. There is no thought that will not gain thereby in power to help the world, and none which will not gain in added gifts to you as well. We sound the call of freedom round the world with this idea. And would you be exempt from the acceptance of the gifts you give?
8 You are God's Son. In immortality you live forever. Would you not return your mind to this? Then practice well the thought the Holy Spirit gives you for today. Your brothers stand released with you in it; the world is blessed along with you; God's Son will weep no more, and Heaven offers thanks for the increase of joy your practice brings even to it. "
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2012 - 02:17 pm: |
MAZ: I don't think Rev. Judy is being "harsh."
"This is an insane world, and do not underestimate the actual extent of its insanity. There is no area of your perception that it has not touched" (OrEd.Tx.13.50)
If we are being cautioned NOT to underestimate the insanity of the world -- she's not being too harsh.
Maz Weber-Caspers (Maz)
|Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2012 - 01:32 pm: |
"The world is insane. Period."
nah. its neutral, and an outer reflection of inner state. why so harsh?
Judy Junghans (Judy)
|Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2012 - 01:23 pm: |
"What's THE HS have to say about this???"
The world is insane. Period.
Christine Yoffe (Christine)
|Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2012 - 12:27 pm: |
Lifeguard gets $2,600 bill after rescuing boy from surf
Seventeen-year-old John Clark of Vancouver, Wash., knew what to do when he saw a boy struggling to stay afloat in the surf off the Oregon coast.
The trained pool lifeguard jumped through the breakers and heavy swells to reach the boy in the ocean, reports KOIN-TV. Clark then calmed the boy and kept him afloat until watercraft arrived to take them to shore.
"I don't know exactly how big the swells were," Clark told the TV station, "but they were big enough to push both of us underwater—all the way down to where we were touching sand."
An ambulance came and took the 12-year-old boy, wrapped in a towel, and Clark—who complained of a headache—to the hospital.
Clark thought it was standard procedure until a few weeks later when he was shocked at the bill from the hospital.
The emergency room bill came to $449. The physician's bill was $227. The 15-mile ride in the ambulance was $1,907. The total bill for saving a young man's life was nearly $2,600.
"I had a feeling there would be a bill," Clark told the news station. "But I didn't know how much it would be, and I kind of feel bad for the fact that it's so expensive. But I couldn't just let the kid go—I had to do something."
He and his family are making arrangements to pay the bill.
What's THE HS have to say about this???
Marilyn Grant (Marilyn)
|Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 04:18 pm: |
Oh Happy Day To All !!!
Thank you for your post of:
Posted by Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin) on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 03:52 pm:
** Episcopal Church OKs Gay Marriage Rite, Extends Rights Of
Transgender Clergy **
by RTT Staff Writer
http://www.rttnews.com -- Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Sounds like...Transmission Received...Life Speaks & Life Listens...oh happy day & more of them.....hugs Rev. Marilyn
I appreciate each and every One of our brothers and sisters who show up so Lovingly on this Wonder-Filled Site !!!!!!!
Grateful and LOVING IT !!!
Love & Hugs,
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 03:52 pm: |
** Episcopal Church OKs Gay Marriage Rite, Extends Rights Of Transgender Clergy **
by RTT Staff Writer
http://www.rttnews.com -- Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The Episcopal Church voted Monday to allow clergy to bless same-sex marriages, positioning the church as the largest U.S. denomination to have such a liturgy. Bishops voted unanimously to allow the rite while also extending the church's anti-discrimination clauses for transgender clergy and members.
At the annual Episcopal General Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, the House Bishops voted overwhelmingly to authorize a temporary rite to bless same-sex marriages for the next three years. The decision also stipulated that officials who refuse to perform the rite cannot be punished under church law.
The final vote on the new liturgy, called "The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant," passed 111 to 41 with three abstentions. The decision will now pass onto the House of Deputies and could go into effect as early as December.
The move poises the 14 million-member church to become the largest U.S. denomination to have such a liturgy for same-sex couples. The United Church of Christ, with just over 1 million members, has since 2005 been the largest U.S. church to have such a rite.
On Monday, the bishops also voted to strengthen anti-discrimination language in church doctrine to ensure transgender clergy and members were given equal rights. Although some churches already allowed transgender clergy, many advocates believed an explicit statement should be included in church doctrine.
The resolution, called "Extending the Rights of the Laity," will formally allow transgender members of the church to become clergy and lay leaders.
"I stand here as a priest today because my diocese specifically said that my gender identity and expression didn't disqualify me from the discernment process," Rev. Carla Robinson, a transgender vicar from the All Saints Church in Seattle said from the floor of the convention.
The U.S. Episcopal Church, an independent arm based on the canon of the Church of England, is one of the most progressive American churches.
The church ordains women and members of the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender community and espouses a slogan "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!"
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Sunday, July 01, 2012 - 09:55 pm: |
** America's Generation Y Not Driven To Drive **
by Deborah Zabarenko -- Reuters
http://www.news.yahoo.com -- Sunday, July 1, 2012
WASHINGTON D.C. -- To Shoshana Gurian-Sherman, driving seemed like a huge hassle.
"Part of it was laziness," the 23-year-old Minneapolis resident recalled. "I didn't really want to put in the effort to learn how to drive ... I knew how to ride the buses, so it was not necessary.
"And the other thing was, it was just scary, the idea of being in charge of a vehicle that potentially could kill me or other people," Gurian-Sherman said.
She eventually got her license at 18, two years later than she could have, after her parents threatened not to pay for college if she did not learn to drive, a skill they considered to be important.
In her reluctance to drive or own a car, Gurian-Sherman is typical of a certain segment of Generation Y, the coveted marketing demographic encompassing the 80 million U.S. residents between the ages of 16 and 34.
Bigger than the post-World War Two baby-boom generation but without the middle-class expansion that drove the earlier group's consumer habits, Generation Y includes an increasing number of people for whom driving is less an American rite of passage than an unnecessary chore.
"That moment of realizing that you're a grown-up - for my generation, that was when you got your driver's license or car," said Tony Dudzik, a senior policy analyst of the Frontier Group, a California-based think tank that has studied this phenomenon. "For young people now, that moment comes when you get your first cellphone."
U.S. residents started driving less around the turn of the 21st century, and young people have propelled this trend, according to the federal government's National Household Travel Survey.
From 2001 to 2009, the average annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by people ages 16-34 dropped 23 percent, from 10,300 to 7,900, the survey found. Gen Y-ers, also known as Millennials, tend to ride bicycles, take public transit and rely on virtual media.
More than a quarter of Millennials - 26 percent - lacked a driver's license in 2010, up 5 percentage points from 2000, the Federal Highway Administration reported.
THE HIGH COST OF DRIVING
At the same time, older people are driving more, researchers at the University of Michigan found. In 2008, those age 70 and older made up the largest group of drivers on the road, more than 10 percent, which was slightly higher than those in their 40s or 50s.
The Michigan researchers offered a few reasons why some younger drivers hesitate to get behind the wheel: the high cost of owning, fueling and maintaining a car and the convenience of electronic communication.
The Frontier Group's Dudzik suggested a related cause: computer and smartphone applications that make taking public transportation easier, with minute-by-minute tracking of buses and trains and simple online maps and travel directions.
Whether Gen Y-ers will eventually drive more than they do now will affect transportation infrastructure costs, Dudzik said.
Bikes and car-sharing services make it easier to avoid the expense of owning a fossil-fueled vehicle. Environmental concerns are another reason, said David Jacobs of the Tombras Group, a marketing firm based in Knoxville, Tennessee.
"It's not the main reason, but it is a compelling reason," Jacobs said.
More central is the group's general anxiety over finances and the economy, he said.
"They're shouldering higher mortgage costs, rent; their insurance costs are higher than previous generation's," Jacobs said. "And all that's happening after a couple of recessions, so they've really never, as young adults, seen a very healthy, stable economy. They're worried about a lot of things."
To sell cars or anything else to Generation Y, he said, "you have to talk to them at their level and make them interested and show them you are a valuable, reputable company with a quality product and you do care about the environment, the economy."
That fits with Gurian-Sherman's thoughts on the environment in her decision not to own a car: "I don't know if I consider myself an environmentalist, but I care about the impact that I have." (Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Sunday, April 15, 2012 - 06:13 pm: |
** U.S. Teen Pregnancy Rates At An All-Time Low Across All Ethnicities **
by Michelle Castillo -- CBS NEWS
http://www.cbsnews.com -- Tuesaday, April 110, 2012
The rate of teenagers becoming mothers is declining rapidly, according to a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The average teen birth rate decreased 9 percent from 2009 to 2010, reaching an all time low of 34.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19.
That's a 44 percent drop from 1991 to 2010. There were less teenage mothers in 2010 than any year since 1946.
The effect is being seen across most groups. Hispanic teens, who normally have a higher birth rate than the rest of the population, reported less young birth mothers than ever before in 2010. While there are still 55.7 teen births in the Hispanic community for every 1,000 births, numbers declined 12 percent for Hispanic and American Indian or Alaskan Native teens. Rates dropped 13 percent for Asian and Pacific Islander mothers. Non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black teenage mother saw their rates drop of 9 percent.
What's behind the reduced rates? The CDC claims that the effective use at prevention messages has helped stop teenage pregnancy. Both increased use of contraception and use of two methods of birth control (usually birth control polls and condoms) at once have been observed.
While teen pregnancy has been on the decline, it still costs an estimated $10.9 billion annually and carries an elevated risk both for the young mothers and babies. According to the CDC, there are nine times as many teen mothers in America than in other developed countries.
That's not the only bad news. A CDC study showed that only 50 percent of teen moms will get a high school diploma by the age of 22, HealthPop reported.
And, while 47 states saw a decline, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia saw no discernible difference in rates. States in the South and Southwest still have rates high above the national average.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Monday, February 20, 2012 - 05:00 pm: |
EVERYBODY: Just watched this video. It made me smile.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Monday, February 13, 2012 - 04:49 pm: |
** Washington Governor Signs Gay Marriage Law **
by NICOLE NEROULIAS -- Reuters
http://www.reuters.com -- Monday February 13, 2012
OLYMPIA, WA (Reuters) - Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire signed legislation on Monday to legalize gay marriage, putting the state on track to become the seventh in the nation to recognize same-sex matrimony.
Gregoire, a Democrat and a Catholic, signed the measure to raucous applause at a statehouse ceremony in Olympia, declaring, "This is a very proud moment. ... I'm proud of who and what we are as a state."
But the measure, which won final approval from state lawmakers last Wednesday, cannot take effect before early June, following a standard enactment period that runs until 90 days after the end of Washington's legislative session.
Opponents of the Washington measure have vowed to seek its repeal at the polls in November.
Still, the signing amounted to another key victory for proponents of gay marriage after a federal appeals court declared a voter-approved gay marriage ban in California unconstitutional last week.
Democrats, who control both legislative bodies in Olympia, accounted for the lion's share of support for the bill. The stage for swift passage of the measure this year was set after Gregoire, who is in her last term of office, said last month she would endorse such a law.
Several prominent Washington-based companies employing tens of thousands of workers in the state have supported the bill, including Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks.
Opponents were led by Roman Catholic bishops and other religious conservatives. However, a coalition of Catholic groups that supports the measure, Equally Blessed, issued a statement on Monday lauding Gregoire, a Catholic, for backing gay marriage.
Supporters of same-sex marriage are pushing similar statutes in Maryland and New Jersey.
Christine Yoffe (Christine)
|Posted on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 10:16 am: |
I heard this discussion and smiled over and over and over at the MIRRORING VISION of PEACE contained within the power of the CONTENT!
"Discussions about Israel and Palestine frequently devolve into partisan arguments about how to solve the impasse over territory and borders. Rabbi Michael Lerner has written a new book titled "Embracing Israel/Palestine: A Strategy to Heal and Transform the Middle East." Bishop Desmond Tutu calls the book "provocative, radical, persuasive, and, if given the attention it deserves, could make a major contribution to reconciliation."
Maz Weber-Caspers (Maz)
|Posted on Sunday, November 20, 2011 - 06:47 am: |
BART: Thank you, this is great news which gladdens the heart!
This is a very beautiful video showing a group of courageous people freeing a humpback whale from an entanglement in a net which most probably would have been deadly if they had not intervened.
Very beautiful response by the whale in the end!
Bart Bacon (Bart)
|Posted on Friday, November 11, 2011 - 02:00 am: |
Humpback population estimate rises by 1,000
By Star-Advertiser staff
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 06, 2011
Scientists have increased the estimate on the number of humpback whales in the North Pacific by more than 1,000.
Conducting a statistical analysis of an earlier study, the researchers now say the number of humpbacks exceeds 21,000 -- up from 20,000.
"These improved numbers are encouraging," said Jay Barlow, a marine mammal biologist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif., part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "We feel the numbers may even be larger since there have been across-the-board increases in known population areas and unknown areas have probably seen the same increases."
The earlier number was based on a preliminary look at data in a 2008 study called SPLASH, for Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks.
The SPLASH research was a three-year project begun in 2004 involving NOAA scientists and hundreds of other researchers from the United States and nine foreign nations.
Researchers were able to quantify the humpback whales by photographing and cataloging more than 18,000 pictures of the animal's tail, or fluke, because the pigmentation patterns on the fluke act like a fingerprint and are unique to each animal.
The researchers estimate that there were only 1,400 humpbacks in the North Pacific when commercial whaling ended in 1966.
The study is published in the October edition of the journal Marine Mammal Science.
source: http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/20111106_Humpback_population_estimate_rises_b y_1000.html
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Friday, October 28, 2011 - 12:51 pm: |
** It's A Girl! British Royal Succession Rules To Change **
by MOHAMMED ABBAS and JONATHAN THATCHER -- Reuters
http://news.yahoo.com -- Friday October 28, 2011
PERTH, Australia (Reuters) - Centuries of British royal discrimination came to an end Friday after Commonwealth leaders agreed to drop rules that give sons precedence as heir to the throne and bar anyone in line for the crown from marrying a Roman Catholic.
The 16 countries that have Queen Elizabeth as their monarch agreed to the changes put forward by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had called the rules of succession outdated.
"The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter simply because he is a man, or that a future monarch can marry someone of any faith except a Catholic, this way of thinking is at odds with the modern countries that we've all become," Cameron told reporters.
The agreement came on the sidelines of a Commonwealth summit presided over by the Queen in the remote west Australian city of Perth.
Current succession rules dating back to 1688 and 1700 were designed to ensure a Protestant monarchy, and bar anyone in line to the throne from marrying a Catholic.
Only a Catholic link is barred. There are no restrictions on marrying members of other religions or atheists.
The rules have their roots in a turbulent period of English history dating back to Henry VIII's break with Rome in the mid- 16th century. The laws were imposed at a time when Catholics were seen as a threat to the state.
However, the British monarch remains head of the Church of England.
The leaders also agreed to drop the practice of giving precedence to male over female heirs to the throne, regardless of age.
The issue has been brought into focus by this year's wedding of Prince William, second-in-line to the throne, and Kate Middleton.
Without a change, their first son would eventually become king even if he had an older sister.
A group will now be set up to coordinate the necessary legislation for the changes.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 04:28 pm: |
** US's Most Powerful Nuclear Bomb Being Dismantled **
by BETSY BLANEY AP -- The Associated Press
http://news.yahoo.com -- Tuesday October 25, 2011
AMARILLO, TX – The last of the nation's most powerful nuclear bombs -- a weapon hundreds of times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima -- is being disassembled nearly half a century after it was put into service at the height of the Cold War.
The final components of the B53 bomb will be broken down Tuesday at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, the nation's only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility. The completion of the dismantling program is a year ahead of schedule, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, and aligns with President Barack Obama's goal of reducing the number of nuclear weapons.
Thomas D'Agostino, the nuclear administration's chief, called the bomb's elimination a "significant milestone."
Put into service in 1962, when Cold War tensions peaked during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the B53 weighed 10,000 pounds and was the size of a minivan. According to the American Federation of Scientists, it was 600 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, killing as many as 140,000 people and helping end World War II.
The B53 was designed to destroy facilities deep underground, and it was carried by B-52 bombers.
With its destruction, the next largest bomb in operation will be the B83, said Hans Kristensen, a spokesman for the Federation of American Scientists. It's 1.2 megatons, while the B53 was 9 megatons.
The B53's disassembly ends the era of big megaton bombs, he said. The bombs' size helped compensate for their lack of accuracy. Today's bombs are smaller but more precise, reducing the amount of collateral damage, Kristensen said.
Since the B53 was made using older technology by engineers who have since retired or died, developing a disassembly process took time. Engineers had to develop complex tools and new procedures to ensure safety.
"We knew going in that this was going to be a challenging project, and we put together an outstanding team with all of our partners to develop a way to achieve this objective safely and efficiently," said John Woolery, the plant's general manager.
Many of the B53s were disassembled in the 1980s, but a significant number remained in the U.S. arsenal until they were retired from the stockpile in 1997. Pantex spokesman Greg Cunningham said he couldn't comment on how many of the bombs have been disassembled at the Texas plant.
The weapon is considered dismantled when the roughly 300 pounds of high explosives inside are separated from the special nuclear material, known as the pit. The uranium pits from bombs dismantled at Pantex will be stored on an interim basis at the plant, Cunningham said.
The non-nuclear material and components are then processed, which includes sanitizing, recycling and disposal, the National Nuclear Security Administration said last fall when it announced the Texas plant's role in the B53 dismantling.
The plant will play a large role in similar projects as older weapons are retired from the U.S.'s nuclear arsenal.
Christine Yoffe (Christine)
|Posted on Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 07:18 pm: |
285 Indian girls shed 'unwanted' names
By CHAYA BABU - Associated Press | AP – 4 hrs ago
Girls hold certificates stating their new official names during a renaming ceremony …
MUMBAI, India (AP) — More than 200 Indian girls whose names mean "unwanted" in Hindi chose new names Saturday for a fresh start in life.
A central Indian district held a renaming ceremony it hopes will give the girls new dignity and help fight widespread gender discrimination that gives India a skewed gender ratio, with far more boys than girls.
The 285 girls — wearing their best outfits with barrettes, braids and bows in their hair — lined up to receive certificates with their new names along with small flower bouquets from Satara district officials in Maharashtra state.
In shedding names like "Nakusa" or "Nakushi," which mean "unwanted" in Hindi, some girls chose to name themselves after Bollywood stars like "Aishwarya" or Hindu goddesses like "Savitri." Some just wanted traditional names with happier meanings, such as "Vaishali" or "prosperous, beautiful and good."
"Now in school, my classmates and friends will be calling me this new name, and that makes me very happy," said a 15-year-old girl who had been named Nakusa by a grandfather disappointed by her birth. She chose the new name "Ashmita," which means "very tough" or "rock hard" in Hindi.
The plight of girls in India came to a focus as this year's census showed the nation's sex ratio had dropped over the past decade from 927 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6 to 914.
Maharashtra state's ratio is well below that, with just 883 girls for every 1,000 boys — down from 913 a decade ago. In the district of Satara, it is even lower at 881.
Such ratios are the result of abortions of female fetuses, or just sheer neglect leading to a higher death rate among girls. The problem is so serious in India that hospitals are legally banned from revealing the gender of an unborn fetus in order to prevent sex-selective abortions, though evidence suggests the information gets out.
Part of the reason Indians favor sons is the enormous expense of marrying off girls. Families often go into debt arranging marriages and paying for elaborate dowries. A boy, on the other hand, will one day bring home a bride and dowry. Hindu custom also dictates that only sons can light their parents' funeral pyres.
Over the years, and again now, there are efforts to fight the discrimination.
"Nakusa is a very negative name as far as female discrimination is concerned," said Satara district health officer Dr. Bhagwan Pawar, who came up with the idea for the renaming ceremony.
Other incentives, announced by federal or state governments every few years, include free meals and free education to encourage people to take care of their girls, and even cash bonuses for families with girls who graduate from high school.
Activists say the name "unwanted," which is widely given to girls across India, gives them the feeling they are worthless and a burden.
"When the child thinks about it, you know, 'My mom, my dad, and all my relatives and society call me unwanted,' she will feel very bad and depressed," said Sudha Kankaria of the organization Save the Girl Child. But giving these girls new names is only the beginning, she said.
"We have to take care of the girls, their education and even financial and social security, or again the cycle is going to repeat."
Image of World PEACE!
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 04:30 pm: |
** Bombings, Beheadings? Stats Show A Peaceful World **
by SETH BORENSTEIN AP Science Writer -- The Associated Press
http://www.charter.net -- Sat. October 22, 2011
(I want to thank Robert Lester for bringing our attention to this story. This story is so GOOD and so NEEDED that I am posting it here and not editing it at all. I encourage everybody to read the whole thing. You will feel much better about the world and more confident that it IS healing. - Rev. Tony)
WASHINGTON, DC – It seems as if violence is everywhere, but it's really on the run.
Yes, thousands of people have died in bloody unrest from Africa to Pakistan, while terrorists plot bombings and kidnappings. Wars drag on in Iraq and Afghanistan. In peaceful Norway, a man massacred 69 youths in July. In Mexico, headless bodies turn up, victims of drug cartels. This month eight people died in a shooting in a California hair salon.
Yet, historically, we've never had it this peaceful.
That's the thesis of three new books, including one by prominent Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker. Statistics reveal dramatic reductions in war deaths, family violence, racism, rape, murder and all sorts of mayhem.
In his book, Pinker writes: "The decline of violence may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species."
And it runs counter to what the mass media is reporting and essentially what we feel in our guts.
Pinker and other experts say the reality is not painted in bloody anecdotes, but demonstrated in the black and white of spreadsheets and historical documents. They tell a story of a world moving away from violence.
In his new book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined," Pinker makes the case that a smarter, more educated world is becoming more peaceful in several statistically significant ways. His findings are based on peer-reviewed studies published by other academics using examinations of graveyards, surveys and historical records:
-- The number of people killed in battle -- calculated per 100,000 population -- has dropped by 1,000-fold over the centuries as civilizations evolved. Before there were organized countries, battles killed on average more than 500 out of every 100,000 people. In 19th century France, it was 70. In the 20th century with two world wars and a few genocides, it was 60. Now battlefield deaths are down to three-tenths of a person per 100,000.
-- The rate of genocide deaths per world population was 1,400 times higher in 1942 than in 2008. -- There were fewer than 20 democracies in 1946. Now there are close to 100. Meanwhile, the number of authoritarian countries has dropped from a high of almost 90 in 1976 to about 25 now.
Pinker says one of the main reasons for the drop in violence is that we are smarter. IQ tests show that the average teenager is smarter with each generation. The tests are constantly adjusted to keep average at 100, and a teenager who now would score a 100 would have scored a 118 in 1950 and a 130 in 1910. So this year's average kid would have been a near-genius a century ago. And that increase in intelligence translates into a kinder, gentler world, Pinker says.
"As we get smarter, we try to think up better ways of getting everyone to turn their swords into plowshares at the same time," Pinker said in an interview. "Human life has become more precious than it used to be."
Pinker argued his case in a commentary this past week in the scientific journal Nature. He has plenty of charts and graphs to back up his claims, including evidence beyond wartime deaths -- evidence that our everyday lives are also less violent:
-- Murder in European countries has steadily fallen from near 100 per 100,000 people in the 14th and 15th centuries to about 1 per 100,000 people now.
-- Murder within families. The U.S. rate of husbands being killed by their wives has dropped from 1.2 per 100,000 in 1976 to just 0.2. For wives killed by their husbands, the rate has slipped from 1.4 to 0.8 over the same time period.
-- Rape in the United States is down 80 percent since 1973. Lynchings, which used to occur at a rate of 150 a year, have disappeared.
-- Discrimination against blacks and gays is down, as is capital punishment, the spanking of children, and child abuse.
But if numbers are too inaccessible, Pinker is more than happy to provide the gory stories illustrating our past violence. "It is easy to forget how dangerous life used to be, how deeply brutality was once woven into the fabric of daily existence," Pinker writes in his book.
He examines body counts, rapes, sacrifice and slavery in the Bible, using an estimate of 1.2 million deaths detailed in the Old Testament. He describes forms of torture used in the Middle Ages and even notes the nastiness behind early day fairy tales, such as the evil queen's four gruesome methods for killing Snow White along with a desire to eat her lungs and liver.
Even when you add in terrorism, the world is still far less violent, Pinker says.
"Terrorism doesn't account for many deaths. Sept. 11 was just off the scale. There was never a terrorist attack before or after that had as many deaths. What it does is generate fear," he said.
It's hard for many people to buy the decline in violence. Even those who deal in peace for a living at first couldn't believe it when the first academics started counting up battle deaths and recognized the trends.
In 1998, Andrew Mack, then head of strategic planning for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, said a look at the statistics showed the world was becoming less violent. The reaction from his professional peacekeeping colleagues?
"Pffft, it's not true," they told Mack, arguing that the 1990s had to be the worst decade in U.N. history. It wasn't even close.
Joshua Goldstein, a professor of international relations at American University and author of "Winning the War on War," has also been telling the same story as Pinker, but from a foreign policy point of view. At each speech he gives, people bring up America's lengthy wars in the Middle East. "It's been a hard message to get through," he acknowledged.
"We see the atrocities and they are atrocious," Goldstein said. "The blood is going to be just as red on the television screens."
Mack, who's now with Simon Fraser University in Canada, credits the messy, inefficient and heavily political peacekeeping process at the U.N., the World Bank and thousands of non-governmental organizations for helping curb violence.
The "Human Security Report 2009/2010," a project led by Mack and funded by several governments, is a worldwide examination of war and violence and has been published as a book. It cites jarringly low numbers. While the number of wars has increased by 25 percent, they've been minor ones.
The average annual battle death toll has dropped from nearly 10,000 per conflict in the 1950s to less than 1,000 in the 21st century. And the number of deadliest wars — those that kill at least 1,000 people a year — has fallen by 78 percent since 1988.
Mack and Goldstein emphasize how hard society and peacekeepers have worked to reduce wars, focusing on action taken to tamp down violence, while Pinker focuses on cultural and thought changes that make violence less likely. But all three say those elements are interconnected.
Even the academics who disagree with Pinker, Goldstein and Mack, say the declining violence numbers are real.
"The facts are not in dispute here; the question is what is going on," John Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and author of "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics."
"It's been 21 years since the Cold War ended and the United States has been at war for 14 out of those 21 years," Mearsheimer said. "If war has been burned out of the system, why do we have NATO and why has NATO been pushed eastward...? Why are we spending more money on defense than all other countries in the world put together?"
What's happening is that the U.S. is acting as a "pacifier" keeping the peace all over the world, Mearsheimer said. He said like-minded thinkers, who call themselves "realists" believe "that power matters because the best way to survive is to be really powerful." And he worries that a strengthening China is about to upset the world power picture and may make the planet bloodier again.
And Goldstein points out that even though a nuclear attack hasn't occurred in 66 years — one nuclear bomb could change this trend in an instant.
Pinker said looking at the statistics and how violent our past was and how it is less so now, "makes me appreciate things like democracy, the United Nations, like literacy."
He and Goldstein believe it's possible that an even greater drop in violence could occur in the future.
Goldstein says there's a turn on a cliche that is apt: "We're actually going from the fire to the frying pan. And that's progress. It's not as bad as the fire."
Bart Bacon (Bart)
|Posted on Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 01:08 pm: |
Thanks for giving me a chance to have a better perception towards radio!
I do have a point that I'm trying to make about print media, but of course sometimes I overshoot, and as you showed us, you can get a lot of great news from the radio. And of course you can't read a newspaper when you're driving!
Christine Yoffe (Christine)
|Posted on Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 09:28 am: |
Thank you Brother for this. I HEARD about it on the radio the day it was announced. AND, I also HEARD her voice, her passion and Christ mind, in an interview as she talked about her journey. I wanted to share it here, as you have done. I was distracted by the days journey and "thought" I had forgotten until I SEE you have remembered for me.
I cried when I heard the report of these women being given the NPP however, HEARING her voice, her intellect and her spirit guided journey was 30 mins of PURE LOVE. The "feeling" of pure love returns to me in this moment.
Judy Junghans (Judy)
|Posted on Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 01:47 am: |
Bart, thank you so much for sharing this with us. Our holiness is shining bright and clear through this message. A great expression of miracles.
Bart Bacon (Bart)
|Posted on Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 12:03 am: |
Yet another example of how the most valuable news is found only in print media (not on TV or radio) and often on the op-ed page. I copied this from the LA Times website, but I found it by reading actual ink on actual paper. I'm 100% certain I would never have seen it if I tried to get my news from the computer screen.
Notice the line " one night she had a powerful dream in which a mysterious voice ordered her to 'gather the women to pray for peace.' "
Liberia's Leymah Gbowee: The power of the powerless
Op-Ed How a movement of 'ordinary' Liberian women changed history.
October 09, 2011|By Carol Mithers
Friday morning, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee — along with her country's president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Yemeni activist Tawakul Karman — was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. A decade ago, this moment would have seemed unthinkable. But Gbowee's triumph, like last spring's Arab uprisings, is a powerful reminder that in the 21st century world, change often comes from the bottom — not from a country's armies but its people.
In 2001, Liberia was in the grip of a civil war that had been going on for years and that had decimated the country. More than 100,000 people had died, many of them children, and countless women had been raped. As many as a third of Liberians had been displaced. Much of the country's infrastructure — its sewage and electrical system, roads, hospitals and schools — lay in ruins. Thousands of boys had been pressed into fighting for one side or another, fed liquor and drugs and turned into killers.
Gbowee, then a newly graduated social worker and struggling single mother of four, had herself lived in a refugee camp for a time, and had been forced to send her young children away to Ghana for their safety. Anguished and angry, one night she had a powerful dream in which a mysterious voice ordered her to "gather the women to pray for peace." That vision led to a weekly prayer gathering. But she knew it would take more.
Then-President Charles Taylor had forbidden public opposition to his policies. The men of Liberia, even those who wanted the war to end, were doing nothing. Gbowee believed it would be up to the country's women, their resolve sharpened by suffering, to bring peace.
In Gbowee's view, the women of Liberia had been pushed to their limits; pushing back was their only hope for survival. What was there to be afraid of, she asked, when they had already endured the unspeakable?
On April 14, 2003, in a protest organized through the African Women in Peacebuilding Network, thousands of women dressed in white gathered in a field along the capital of Monrovia's central road and refused to leave. Christians and Muslims, young and old, educated and illiterate, all sat together to voice a single demand: "The women of Liberia want peace."
The women picketed in downtown Monrovia, they held events and news conferences, but mostly they sat, day after day, month after month, in searing heat and pouring rain, demanding that attention be paid. With outreach, the protests soon spread to rural counties, and across Liberia.
That summer, even as violence and misery exploded in Monrovia, peace talks began in Ghana. When they seemed to be going nowhere, Leymah and her sisters in the women's network organized Liberian women living in exile in Ghana to gather outside the hotel where representatives of Taylor and the various rebel warlords met each day and accomplished nothing. Finally, in rage and despair, she organized a sit-in that in effect locked the diplomats in their conference room. They will feel the pain of what our people are feeling at home, declared her "ransom" note. "We are tired of the killing of our people!" she told journalists.
In the face of the women's actions, the talks grew more serious. Taylor left Liberia, peace finally came, and in 2005, after more strategic organizing by women, Liberia elected Ellen Sirleaf Johnson to be Africa's first modern-day female head of state. Today, even as the country struggles economically, peace endures.
It's tempting to see today's citizen revolutions as something created by technology, uprisings grown of instant messages, mobile uploads, Facebook. Yes, those media are useful organizing tools, but they are not the point. No social networks existed 10 years ago in Liberia; much of the country still lacks not just Internet access but reliable electricity. What mattered, what continues to matter, is that leaders with vision reached out to the disenfranchised and miserable, offering them a way to take action, a way to hope.
Movements begin with people who can imagine the possibility of change and communicate that vision. How did a movement of "ordinary" Liberian women change history? Listen to Leymah: "You can tell people of the need to struggle. But when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire."
Carol Mithers is a Los Angeles Journalist and the coauthor, with Leymah Gbowee, of the memoir "Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War." http://www.mightybeourpowers.com
Maria Rodriguez (Maria)
|Posted on Saturday, June 25, 2011 - 04:58 pm: |
Thank you for posting this article today, ** New York Governor Signs Law Approving Gay Marriage **
I have been praying for this issue to be resolved once and for all. Society, and the government are finally understanding that our sexual preferences do not determine our Divinity. Things are much better now...Overall, I perceive more acceptance, and compassion in regards to my gay brothers and sisters as a whole.
I am grateful!
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, June 25, 2011 - 03:16 pm: |
** New York Governor Signs Law Approving Gay Marriage **
by DAN WIESSNER -- Reuters
http://www.reuters.com -- Sat. June 25, 2011
ALBANY, New York – Governor Andrew Cuomo made same-sex marriages legal in New York on Friday, a key victory for gay rights ahead of the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
New York will become the sixth and most populous U.S. state to allow gay marriage. State senators voted 33-29 on Friday evening to approve marriage equality legislation and Cuomo, a Democrat who had introduced the measure, signed it into law.
"This vote today will send a message across the country. This is the way to go, the time to do it is now, and it is achievable; it's no longer a dream or an aspiration. I think you're going to see a rapid evolution," Cuomo, who is in his first year of office, told a news conference.
"We reached a new level of social justice," he said.
Same-sex weddings can start taking place in New York in 30 days, though religious institutions and nonprofit groups with religious affiliations will not be compelled to officiate at such ceremonies. The legislation also gives gay couples the right to divorce.
"I have to define doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality and that equality includes within the definition of marriage," Republican Senator Stephen Saland said before the bill was passed. He was one of four Republicans to vote for the legislation.
Cheers erupted in the Senate gallery in the state capital Albany and among a crowd of several hundred people who gathered outside New York City's Stonewall Inn, where a police raid in 1969 sparked the modern gay rights movement.
"It's about time. I want to get married. I want the same rights as anyone else," Caroline Jaeger, 36, a student, who was outside the Stonewall Inn. ...
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate for gay marriage who lobbied state lawmakers in recent weeks, said the vote was an "historic triumph for equality and freedom."
"Together, we have taken the next big step on our national journey toward a more perfect union," he said in a statement. ...
In California a judge last year overturned a ban on gay marriage, but no weddings can take place while the decision is being appealed. It could set national policy if the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.
Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, and Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois and New Jersey approved civil unions. The first legal same-sex marriages in the United States took place in Massachusetts in 2004. ...
New York City's marketing and tourism group NYC & Company said it was gearing up to turn the city into "the gay weddings destination." "The new legislation is good news for the City's $31 billion travel and tourism industry," said NYC & Company Chief Executive George Fertitta.
New York's Democrat-dominated Assembly voted 80-63 in favor of gay marriage last week and passed the amended legislation on Friday 82-47.
A key sticking point had been over an exemption that would allow religious officials to refuse to perform services or lend space for same-sex weddings. Most Republicans were concerned the legal protection was not strong enough, so legislative leaders worked with Cuomo to amend his original bill.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, May 28, 2011 - 08:19 pm: |
** After 4 Years, Egypt Reopens Its Border With Gaza **
by IBRAHIM BARZAK -- Associated Press
http://news.yahoo.com -- May 28, 2011
RAFAH, Gaza Strip – Egypt lifted a 4-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip on Saturday, greatly easing travel restrictions on the 1.5 million residents of the Palestinian territory in a move that bolstered the Hamas government while dealing a setback to Israel's attempts to isolate the militant group.
The sense of relief was palpable as buses piled high with luggage crossed the Rafah border terminal and hundreds of people traveled abroad for overdue medical appointments, business dealings and family affairs. In Israel, fears were heightened that militants and weapons will soon pour into the territory.
"I was so happy to hear that the Egyptian border is opening so I can finally travel for treatment," said Mohammad Zoarob, a 66-year-old suffering from chronic kidney disease.
He said he had been waiting for a medical permit from the Palestinian health ministry for five years so he could go to Egypt for treatment. When Palestinian officials coincidentally approved the permit on Saturday, he kissed his family goodbye, rushed to the border and was quickly whisked across.
"They put me in an ambulance and in five minutes I reached the Egyptian side of the crossing," he said.
Saturday's expansion of the Rafah crossing was a tangible benefit of the popular unrest sweeping through the Arab world. The blockade, which has fueled an economic crisis in Gaza, is deeply unpopular among Arabs, and Egypt's caretaker leaders had promised to end it since the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February. ...
Under the new system, virtually anyone can travel, and a much larger number of Palestinians are expected to be able to cross each day.
Hundreds of Gazans gathered early Saturday as the first bus load of passengers crossed the border at 9 a.m. Two Egyptian officers stood guard next to a large Egyptian flag atop the border gate as the vehicle rumbled through. One after another buses crossed Rafah, pulling blue carts behind them with luggage piled high.
"All we need is to travel like humans, be treated with dignity and feel like any other citizens of the world who can travel in and out freely," said Rami Arafat, 52, who hoped to catch a flight out of Cairo on Sunday to attend his daughter's wedding in Algeria.
Nearby, 28-year-old Khaled Halaweh said he was headed to Egypt to study for a master's degree in engineering at Alexandria University.
"The closure did not affect only the travel of passengers or the flowing of goods. Our brains and our thoughts were under blockade," said Halaweh, who said he hadn't been out of Gaza for seven years. ...
"Today is a cornerstone for a new era that we hope will pave the road to ending the siege and blockade on Gaza," said Hatem Awideh, director general of the Hamas border authority in Gaza. "We hope this facilitation by our Egyptian brothers will improve travel and will allow everyone to leave Gaza." ...
"This courageous step by Egypt reflects the deep historic relations between the Palestinian and Egyptian nations," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahri.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - 06:30 pm: |
** START Treaty Passed By Senate **
by Donna Cassata and Desmond Butler
http://www.cnn.com -- Dec. 20, 2010
WASHINGTON – The Senate on Wednesday ratified an arms control treaty with Russia that reins in the nuclear weapons that could plunge the world into doomsday, giving President Barack Obama a major foreign policy win in Congress' waning hours.
Thirteen Republicans broke with their top two leaders and joined 56 Democrats and two independents in providing the necessary two-thirds vote to approve the treaty. The vote was 71-26, with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., showing up just two days after cancer surgery.
Obama praised the strong bipartisan vote for a treaty he described as the most significant arms control pact in nearly two decades.
"This treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them," he told reporters at a White House news conference.
The accord, which still must be approved by Russia, would restart onsite weapons inspections as successors to President Ronald Reagan have embraced his edict of "trust, but verify." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow welcomed the vote but still needed to study the accompanying Senate resolution.
Vice President Joe Biden presided over the Senate and announced the vote. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton observed the vote from the Senate floor. Both former senators had lobbied furiously for the treaty's approval.
"The question is whether we move the world a little out of the dark shadow of nuclear nightmare," Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., said to his colleagues moments before the historic tally.
Calling the treaty a national security imperative, Obama had pressed for its approval before a new, more Republican Congress assumes power in January. In recent days, he had telephoned a handful of wavering Republicans, eventually locking in their votes.
The Obama administration has argued that the United States must show credibility in its improved relations with its former Cold War foe, and the treaty was critical to any rapprochement. The White House is counting on Russia to help pressure Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - 06:20 pm: |
** FBI Report: Violent Crime Down 6.2% in First Half of 2010 **
CNN by Terry Frieden
http://www.cnn.com -- Dec. 20, 2010
WASHINGTON – Violent crime in the United States dropped markedly in the first half of 2010, according to FBI statistics released Monday.
Overall violent crime fell 6.2% from the same period last year, according to the report, and the new numbers include a 7.1% decrease in homicide.
The statistics were released in the first official report on crime for 2010, and are viewed as encouraging by the FBI, which compiles crime reports from law enforcement agencies across the nation. In recent years, figures for the first half of the year have proved to be a good indicator of crime levels for the full year.
Robberies during the period were down 10.7%, motor vehicle thefts and arson declined 9.7%, rapes were down 6.2%, aggravated assaults were down 3.9%, and burglaries dropped 1.4%.
The FBI report does not give reasons for the drop in crime, but criminologists have recently indicated an aging population, along with ramped-up law enforcement, have contributed to the decline in recent years. The trend has surprised experts who have historically seen crime increase during difficult economic periods.
Although overall violent crime dropped in all regions of the country, the northeastern United States saw only a minuscule 0.2% overall decline. Meanwhile, violent crime dropped 7.8% in the South, and 7.2% in both the West and Midwest.
In the Northeast, reported homicides actually rose by 5.7%. That compares with a dramatic 12% decline in homicide in the South, and drops of 7.1% in the West and 6.3% in the Midwest.
The FBI said the largest declines in reported violence -- at 8.3% -- occurred in cities with populations of 500,000 to 1 million.
Nonviolent property crimes dropped in the first half of this year in those larger cities by 4.8%, while falling 2.8% nationally, the report showed.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Sunday, December 19, 2010 - 01:20 am: |
** Senate Votes To End Ban On Openly Gay Troops **
Associated Press by ANNE FLAHERTY
http://news.yahoo.com -- Dec. 18, 2010
WASHINGTON – In a historic vote for gay rights, the Senate agreed on Saturday to do away with the military's 17-year ban on openly gay troops and sent President Barack Obama legislation to overturn the Clinton-era policy known as "don't ask, don't tell."
Obama was expected to sign the bill into law next week, although changes to military policy probably wouldn't take effect for at least several months. Under the bill, the president and his top military advisers must first certify that lifting the ban won't hurt troops' ability to fight. After that, the military would undergo a 60-day wait period.
Repeal would mean that, for the first time in American history, gays would be openly accepted by the armed forces and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.
More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law.
"It is time to close this chapter in our history," Obama said in a statement. "It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed."
The Senate voted 65-31 to pass the bill, with eight Republicans siding with 55 Democrats and two independents in favor of repeal. The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, earlier this week.
Supporters hailed the Senate vote as a major step forward for gay rights. Many activists hope that integrating openly gay troops within the military will lead to greater acceptance in the civilian world, as it did for blacks after President Harry Truman's 1948 executive order on equal treatment regardless of race in the military.
"The military remains the great equalizer," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "Just like we did after President Truman desegregated the military, we'll someday look back and wonder what took Washington so long to fix it." ...
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he welcomes the change.
"No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so," he said. "We will be a better military as a result."
In February, Mullen provided the momentum Obama needed by telling a packed Senate hearing room that he felt the law was unjust. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen became the first senior active-duty officer in the military to suggest that gays could serve openly without affecting military effectiveness.
"No matter how I look at the issue," Mullen said, "I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."
But even with backing from Gates ... the bill appeared all but dead this month when Senate Republicans united against it on procedural grounds. In last-minute wrangling, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to revive the bill during the rare Saturday session with just days to go before the lame-duck session was to end. ...
Advocacy groups were jubilant following the Senate's initial test vote that passed 63-33 and set up final passage. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called the issue the "defining civil rights initiative of this decade." Supporters of repeal filled the visitor seats overlooking the Senate floor, ready to protest had the bill failed.
"This has been a long-fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
At least 25 countries allow gays to serve openly in the armed forces, among them Britain, Canada and Israel, according to the Palm Center, a research institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara
Maria Rodriguez (Maria)
|Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 - 01:44 am: |
World Blog-Christian woman faces Death for Blasphemy (posted eleven hours ago)
By NBC's Carol Grisanti and Fakhar ur Rehman
ITTAN WALLI, Pakistan – In early November, in the dusty city of Sheikhupura in Pakistan’s heartland, Asia Bibi, an illiterate Christian woman and mother of five, was sentenced to death by hanging under the country’s blasphemy laws.
Her crime? She allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
Almost immediately, the death sentence unleashed international condemnation, and put pressure on Pakistan’s government to overturn the verdict and amend the country’s blasphemy laws – a holdover from a 19th century penal code designed to protect minority religious sects during British colonial times.
The law was radicalized during the 1980’s under the military dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq. He imposed life sentences, even death, for blasphemy to appease the mullahs and legitimize his grip on power.
Pope Benedict XVI appealed for clemency but hard-line Islamic groups have threatened civil war if the government pardons Bibi or attempts to amend the law.
Bibi’s husband, 48-year-old Ashiq Masih, is desperate, convinced radical Islamic groups are aiming to kill the family. He has gone into hiding, along with his children, sheltered inside a Christian colony in an outlying district of Sheikhupura. Masih insists his wife was framed, a victim of old score-settling in their village of Ittan Walli, where his family was just one of two Christian families.
“She was picking berries with other women, when she was sent to get water,” her husband said. “One of the women refused to drink the water after my wife dipped her cup into the bucket. This woman said it was contaminated because it was touched by a Christian.” According to Masih, all the women then started taunting his wife, and shouting insults against her mother and their children. Bibi just repeated the same insults back at them. “The name of the holy prophet never came up.”
At the time, Masih said he thought that was the end of it. It wasn’t.
“Five days later, the local cleric came to our house, followed by an angry mob, and dragged my wife away,” he said, recalling the incident that took place in June 2009. They beat her, ripped off her clothes and accused her of insulting the prophet. Then they locked her up in a house until the police came to take her away.”
Ashif Masih, husband of Christian woman Asia Bibi who had been sentenced to death, and daughters Sidra Shahzadi and Isham Ashiq listen to Pakistani minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, unseen, during a meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan on Nov. 24.
In an interview with NBC News, Qari Muhammed Salem, the local cleric in Ittan Walli, accused Masih of lying. “I talked to everyone who witnessed this incident and she is guilty,” he said. “She confessed to the crime in front of the entire village and then she begged for forgiveness,” he insisted.
“She even told me she said these things in rage during a heated argument and would never think of blasphemy,” he said. Salem said he called the police to lock her up, only to protect her, because the angry mob would have killed her.
Najma Yousaf, a sister of Bibi, still lives in the family home in Ittan Walli, a rural village of approximately 10,000 inhabitants, almost all Muslim. “I’m not afraid to live in our house,” she said. “The villagers are all very nice with me, my husband and our children. They are angry with my sister.”
Bibi, 45, is the first woman condemned to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. While no one has ever been executed, most of the accused – all men – languish in prison alone and forgotten. Human rights groups point out that the law is a convenient way to settle scores, often among the Christian community who total about 2 million of Pakistan’s 175 million people.
In a statement released from New York, Human Rights Watch, called for Pakistan’s government to immediately introduce legislation to repeal the blasphemy laws.
“Asia Bibi has suffered greatly and should never have been put behind bars,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The injustice and fear the blasphemy law spawns will only cease when this heinous law is repealed.”
Other minority groups are targets too. The Ahmadis, an Islamic minority sect that has been declared non-Muslim under Pakistani law, are often the victims of intimidation and violence and incarcerated under the blasphemy laws. In addition, they are prime targets of the Pakistani Taliban who, in the past, have blown up their mosques, killing hundreds, according to Human Rights Watch.
Protesters hold up placards demanding the release of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, at a rally in Faisalabad, in Pakistan's Punjab province, Nov.29.
Bibi’s lawyer has filed an appeal with the High Court in Lahore and Pakistan’s President Asif Zardari may consider an unconditional pardon if the appeals process takes too long.
So far, the Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti submitted a report on the case to Zardari. He concluded that the charges were baseless. In an interview with NBC News, he said that Bibi could be released on appeal in the high court. “We should wait for the court proceedings but if the court delays then the president may pardon her on the basis that she is innocent,” he said.
Bhatti is well aware of the possible consequences of an acquittal. Judges have been assassinated for freeing victims and several accused persons have been gunned down inside prisons or outside courtrooms as they walked free.
“We will protect Asia and her entire family,” the minister said. “No harm will come to them.”
Sidra, Bibi’s 18-year-old daughter, takes her younger sisters to the jail every Tuesday to visit their mother. “My mother tells us not to cry and to be strong,” she said. “But now, my mother is crying, so how can we be strong.”
With media reports of a possible pardon for Bibi, hard line Islamic groups have held demonstrations in cities across Pakistan. They’ve warned Zardari of a severe backlash if he commutes her death sentence.
At one rally, organized by “The Movement for the Protection of the Prophet’s Honor” denounced any attempt to change the law. “We are ready to sacrifice our life for the prophet,” they chanted.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, November 20, 2010 - 04:37 pm: |
** Pope: Condoms Can Be Justified In Some Cases **
Associated Press by Nicole Winfield
http://news.yahoo.com -- Nov. 20, 2010
VACTICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI says in a new book that condoms can be justified for male prostitutes seeking to stop the spread of HIV, a stunning comment for a church criticized for its opposition to condoms and for a pontiff who has blamed them for making the AIDS crisis worse.
The pope made the comments in a book-length interview with a German journalist, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," which is being released Tuesday. The Vatican newspaper ran excerpts on Saturday.
Church teaching has long opposed condoms because they are a form of artificial contraception, although it has never released an explicit policy about condoms and HIV. The Vatican has been harshly criticized for its opposition.
Benedict said that condoms are not a moral solution. But he said in some cases, such as for male prostitutes, they could be justified "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection."
Benedict called it "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way of living sexuality." He used as an example male prostitutes, for whom contraception is not an issue, as opposed to married couples where one spouse is infected. The Vatican has come under pressure from even some church officials in Africa to condone condom use for monogamous married couples to protect the uninfected spouse from getting infected.
Benedict drew the wrath of the United Nations, European governments and AIDS activisits when he told reporters en route to Africa in 2009 that the AIDS problem on the continent couldn't be resolved by distributing condoms. "On the contrary, it increases the problem," he said then.
Journalist Peter Seewald, who interviewed Benedict over the course of six days this summer, raised the Africa condom comments and asked Benedict if it wasn't "madness" for the Vatican to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.
"There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility," Benedict said.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 - 01:45 pm: |
** Pentagon to Comply with Court Order to End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' **
the Washington Post
www.washingtonpost.com -- Oct. 14, 2010
The Pentagon announced Thursday that it will comply with a court order to stop enforcing its "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gays from serving openly in the military, even as the Obama administration asked a federal judge to delay implementation of the ruling.
In the meantime, "the Department of Defense will of course obey the law," Col. Dave Lapan, a department spokesman, said in an e-mail to reporters. The Pentagon will cease investigations and discharges of service members found to be in violation of the policy, officials said. ...
In September, District Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled that the 17-year-old policy violates due process and the First Amendment rights of gay service members. Rather than being necessary for military readiness, she said, the policy has a "direct and deleterious effect" on the armed forces. On Tuesday, she ordered the military to comply immediately with her ruling.
The case was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, a 19,000-member gay advocacy group that includes current and former military members. The group argued during a two-week trial in July that the policy is unconstitutional and should be struck down. Lawyers for the group plan to respond to the government's application for a stay within 24 hours, a spokeswoman said.
The case is one of two related to "don't ask, don't tell" that have been deliberated this year in federal court. Last month, a judge in Washington state ordered the reinstatement of a decorated Air Force officer who was dismissed for revealing that she is a lesbian.
The administration's decision Thursday to ask for a stay of Phillips's court order was criticized by gay rights groups, which have been frustrated by government inaction on the policy. While running for president, Obama said he would repeal the law. But in September, Senate Democrats were unable to muster the 60 votes needed to begin debate.
"Today's appeal by President Obama's Department of Justice is not only indefensible - it is yet another shocking lack of leadership from the White House on issues of equality for the LGBT community," said Robin McGehee, director of GetEqual, an advocacy group. ...
According to recent Washington Post polls, 75 percent of respondents said they think gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military, and nearly half think they should be allowed to legally wed.
Obama has said that he opposes "don't ask, don't tell" but that he prefers that it be repealed by Congress.
"The Justice Department is defending the statute, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged," spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said in a statement. "The President believes and has repeatedly affirmed that 'don't ask, don't tell' is a bad policy that harms our national security and undermines our military effectiveness. . . . The President and his Administration are working with the military leadership and Congress to repeal this law." ...
In another dust-up, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett apologized Thursday for referring to homosexuality as a "lifestyle choice" in a Washingtonpost.com video discussion.
"I apologize to any who have taken offense at my poor choice of words," she wrote in an e-mail to columnist Jonathan Capehart. "Sexual orientation and gender identity are not a choice, and anyone who knows me and my work over the years knows that I am a firm believer and supporter in the rights of LGBT Americans."
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Thursday, August 05, 2010 - 02:31 pm: |
** Federal Judge Overturns California's Same-Sex Marriage Ban **
http://www.foxnews.com -- Aug 4, 2010
A federal judge on Wednesday overturned a California ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that the Proposition 8 ballot initiative was unconstitutional, but a pending appeal of the landmark ruling could prevent gay weddings from resuming in the state any time soon.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Vaugh Walker, one of three openly gay federal judges in the country, gave opponents of the controversial Proposition 8 ballot a major victory.
Gay couples waving rainbow and American flags outside the courthouse cheered, hugged and kissed as word of the ruling spread.
"Our courts are supposed to protect our Constitutional rights," lead plaintiff Kris Perry said as Sandy Stier, her partner of 10 years, stood at her side. "Today, they did."
Despite the favorable ruling for same-sex couples, gay marriage will not be allowed to resume. That's because the judge said he wants to decide whether his order should be suspended while the proponents pursue their appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judge ordered both sides to submit written arguments by Aug. 6 on the issue.
California voters passed the ban as Proposition 8 in November 2008, five months after the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.
"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples," the judge wrote in a 136-page ruling that laid out in precise detail why the ban does not pass constitutional muster.
The judge found that the gay marriage ban violates the Constitution's due process and equal protection clauses.
"Because Proposition 8 disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification, Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment," the judge ruled.
Both sides previously said an appeal was certain if Walker did not rule in their favor. The case would go first to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, then the Supreme Court if the high court justices agree to review it. ...
Walker heard 13 days of testimony and arguments since January during the first trial in federal court to examine if states can prohibit gays from getting married.
The verdict was the second in a federal gay marriage case to come down in recent weeks. A federal judge in Massachusetts decided last month the state's legally married gay couples had been wrongly denied the federal financial benefits of marriage because of a law preventing the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex unions.
The plaintiffs in the California case presented 18 witnesses. Academic experts testified about topics ranging from the fitness of gay parents and religious views on homosexuality to the historical meaning of marriage and the political influence of the gay rights movement.
Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson delivered the closing argument for opponents of the ban. He told Judge Walker that tradition or fears of harm to heterosexual unions were legally insufficient grounds to discriminate against gay couples.
Olson teamed up with David Boies to argue the case, bringing together the two litigators best known for representing George W. Bush and Al Gore in the disputed 2000 election.
Defense lawyers called just two witnesses, claiming they did not need to present expert testimony because U.S. Supreme Court precedent was on their side. The attorneys also said gay marriage was an experiment with unknown social consequences that should be left to voters to accept or reject.
Former U.S. Justice Department lawyer Charles Cooper, who represented the religious and conservative groups that sponsored the ban, said cultures around the world, previous courts and Congress all accepted the "common sense belief that children do best when they are raised by their own mother and father."
In an unusual move, the original defendants, California Attorney General Jerry Brown and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, refused to support Proposition 8 in court.
That left the work of defending the law to Protect Marriage, the group that successfully sponsored the ballot measure that passed with 52 percent of the vote after the most expensive political campaign on a social issue in U.S. history.
Currently, same-sex couples can only legally wed in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2009 - 06:12 pm: |
** US, Cuba Held Unannounced Talks **
By MATTHEW LEE and PAUL HAVEN, Associated Press Writers
http://news.yahoo.com -- September 29, 2009
NEW YORK – A senior American diplomat has held unannounced, high-level talks in Havana with the Cuban government, three State Department officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday, raising hopes for a thaw in long-icy relations.
The talks were the first of their kind in years between representatives of the U.S. and Cuban governments, the bitter Cold War rivals among whom trust appears to be gradually building.
Bisa Williams, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, met with Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez, visited an area affected by hurricanes in the Western province of Pinar del Rio and toured a government agricultural facility during a six-day trip to Cuba this month, the officials told AP.
The meetings came on the heels of Sept. 17 talks on the possibility of restarting direct mail service between the countries, suspended since 1963. Those discussions had been public, but neither country had previously revealed that Williams remained in Havana for five extra days.
U.S.-Cuban relations have improved considerably since President Barack Obama took office in January, saying he was ready to extend a hand of friendship to America's traditional foes. In addition to the mail talks, Obama has loosened financial and travel restrictions on Americans with relatives on the island.
The Americans have also made other small but significant gestures — like turning off an electronic sign that had streamed anti-Castro messages from the windows of the U.S. Interests Section, which Washington maintains in Cuba instead of an embassy. The Cubans then took down dozens of large black flags they had set up nearby to block the view.
Cuban President Raul Castro and his brother, Fidel, have both had warm words for the American leader, with Fidel Castro last week praising Obama as courageous for taking on climate change.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Monday in a speech at the United Nations that the communist government is ready to normalize relations with its larger neighbor and will work with Washington in the meantime on other issues such as fighting drug smuggling.
He said Cuba has sought full diplomatic relations with the U.S. for decades and repeated Raul Castro's offer to sit down with Obama for a "respectful, arm's length dialogue with the United States, without overshadowing our independence, sovereignty and self-determination."
Christine Yoffe (Christine)
|Posted on Saturday, September 05, 2009 - 12:06 pm: |
HOLY CITY Twist: Arabs moving into Jewish areas
AP – This July 30, 2009 photo shows a veiled Arab woman walking past a poster for a clothing company outside …(by way of synchronicity and happy optimism the photo was taken on my b'day....what a BLESSED sight to see!!!)
By BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 31 mins ago
JERUSALEM – Yousef Majlaton moved into the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev for such comforts as proper running water and regular garbage pickup. But he represents a potentially volatile twist in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute over the holy city.
The hillside sprawl of townhouses and apartment blocks was built for Jews, and Majlaton is a Palestinian.
Pisgat Zeev is part of Israel's effort to fortify its presence in Jerusalem's eastern half which it captured in the 1967 war.
But Majlaton, his wife and three kids are among thousands who have crossed the housing lines to Pisgat Zeev and neighborhoods like it in a migration that is raising tempers among some Jewish residents.
It wasn't so much the politics of this contested city that drew Majlaton to Pisgat Zeev, however; it was the prospect of escaping the potholed roads and scant municipal services he endured for 19 years while renting in an Arab neighborhood.
"You see that air conditioner?" he said, pointing to the large wall unit cooling his living room. "In the Arab areas, the electricity is too weak to run one that big."
Majlaton, 50, says some Jewish neighbors are warming up to him, but the influx bothers others, who say they're thinking of moving out or refuse to sell or rent to Arabs.
This is much more than a simple matter of real estate. Demographics could figure heavily in how Jerusalem is partitioned in a future peace deal. If that happens, it is expected the city will be split along ethnic lines — Jewish neighborhoods to Israel, Arab neighborhoods to Palestine.
Palestinians see east Jerusalem as their future capital. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows the whole city will remain united as Israel's capital.
Palestinians have long accused those among them who sell land to Jews of betraying their homeland, and last week similar language was heard from a group of rabbis. Meeting in Pisgat Zeev, they issued an edict denouncing Jews who sell land to Arabs as "traitors" and barring them from participating in communal prayers.
"This is a war, and if the Arabs conquer one neighborhood, they will conquer others and they will strangle the Jews," said Hillel Weiss, a spokesman for the "New Sanhedrin," which takes its name from the supreme court of ancient Israel.
In 2007, the latest year with available statistics, about 1,300 of Pisgat Zeev's 42,000 residents were Arabs. In nearby French Hill, population 7,000, nearly one-sixth are Arabs, among them students at the neighboring Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Neve Yaakov, with 20,000 people, had 600 Arabs, according to the Israel Center for Jerusalem Studies, a respected think tank.
Weeks after the 1967 war, Israel annexed east Jerusalem with its major Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites in a move recognized by no other country. It continues to build housing in sensitive areas in defiance of U.S. protests.
Netanyahu says Arabs have the right to live anywhere in the city, and so should Jews, though the Old City's Jewish Quarter is closed to Arabs.
Jerusalem's mayor and city councilors are all Jewish. Almost all the city's Arabs refuse to vote or run in municipal elections, saying that would be recognition of Israeli rule. But it deprives them of clout in competition for city spending.
Today, while west Jerusalem is overwhelmingly Jewish, the eastern half is an ethnic checkerboard. More than 180,000 Jews live there, most in places like Pisgat Zeev but also in enclaves in Arab areas. Nearly all the city's 220,000 Palestinians live in eastern neighborhoods.
Ironically, much of the Arab migration was set off by the separation barrier which Israel started building through the West Bank in 2002 during a wave of suicide bombings. Its Jerusalem segment meanders to scoop up as many Jewish areas as possible and make several Arab neighborhoods a part of the West Bank.
The wall stranded tens of thousands of Jerusalem Arabs on the "West Bank side," and many moved to Arab neighborhoods on the Jerusalem side for easier access to jobs and schools. But a housing shortage in those districts is pushing the overflow into Jewish areas, residents and real estate agents said.
These areas are "less crowded, you can live in a house, and there are streets, parks and places to play," said Moukhless Abu el-Hof, an Israeli Arab lawyer who owns a home in Pisgat Zeev. "In the Arab neighborhoods, there's nothing."
Jewish resident Shlomi Cohen, 37, said the Arab influx made him sell up and move elsewhere in Pisgat Zeev. "If an Arab comes to live in the building and someone wants to buy and he knows there is an Arab there, he will not buy," he said.
Yael Antebi, editor of the Pisgat Zeev community newspaper and a Jerusalem city council member, said Arab and Jewish teens sometimes brawl, Arab youth often harass Jewish girls, and parents fear their daughters will date Arabs.
Majlaton and his wife are both Hebrew-speaking Christians. He said his new neighbors cold-shouldered them when they arrived in 2002, but gradually became friendlier.
He said he has since helped about 30 Arab families to move in and gets calls from prospective renters almost every day.
While his primary motivation was quality of life, he says living in Pisgat Zeev is "a nationalistic act" — a way to cement Arab presence in the city of his birth.
He said Palestinian leaders should follow his lead.
"They should bring all the Arabs to Pisgat Zeev," he said. "I'll help them find homes one by one."
AP correspondent Amy Teibel contributed to this report.
Christine Yoffe (Christine)
|Posted on Thursday, July 30, 2009 - 10:53 am: |
SMILING for World Peace!!!
blessings to ALL
Antoinette Atanasoff (Antoinette)
|Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - 05:22 pm: |
Thank you for posting the essay by Mr. Carter, so timely and true.
I believe most women at some time or other have felt like second class citizens before employers, husbands, boyfriends. Many southern states especially foster this.
Having been raised in a large city in the east and west living in a southern city has been an experience early on that was quite unpleasant. Fortunately over the years attitudes have changed, and we are more progressive. Have sent
this message forward.
How wonderful that the Course in Miracles community around the world (I choose to believe)is contributing to the partnership and unity of women, sharing love, hope beauty. Truly, our greatest spiritual teachers upheld women, kept them in high regard and respect. One cannot be without the other.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - 01:46 pm: |
** Losing My Religion For Equality **
(Here's the complete text of President Carter's recent essay. This is why, even though he severed his tie to the Southern Baptist in 2000, the news item is current.)
By President Jimmy Carter
http://www.theage.com -- July 15, 2009
Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.
I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.
This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.
At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.
The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.
In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.
The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.
It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices - as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.
I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.
The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: "The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."
We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.
The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.
I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.
The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.
Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - 11:49 pm: |
** Carter Calls for Gender Equality in the Baptist Church **
By PRERANA SWAMI
http://www.cbsnews.com -- July 21, 2009
Former President Jimmy Carter is getting some attention for recently reiterating his separation from the Southern Baptist Convention due to gender discrimination. In an opinion piece that appeared in The Observer, a weekly newspaper in London, the former president said "the words of God do not justify cruelty to women."
In the op-ed last week, Mr. Carter called his severance with the church "painful and difficult." Yet, he said his decision was "unavoidable," as the church preached sexism, using examples of Adam and Eve to fuel female subservience and prohibiting women from serving in the church.
"The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women," Mr. Carter wrote. "They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter."
Mr. Carter says that such beliefs justify many crimes in addition to denying them access to equal education, employment, and other benefits.
"The view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief," Mr. Carter wrote. "This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries."
The former president says he and a group of prominent independent global leaders are challenging world leaders to change such teachings and practices.
"It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population," Mr. Carter wrote. "We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices."
Mr. Carter says the sexism by the church is not only a "clear violation" of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights set down by the United Nations, but also a violation of the teachings of many religious figures.
The former president announced his severance in 2000, after the church took a position against women pastors.
Maria Rodriguez (Maria)
|Posted on Thursday, June 04, 2009 - 11:37 pm: |
Dear Rev. Tony,
I am forever grateful. You are doing a marvelous job by keeping me informed about the latest happenings in my made up world, for I very seldom watch the news or read any news at all. I lost interest in the news a long time ago.
I watch the weather channel in hurricane season, because for some odd reason I am fascinated by them. Other than that I read, pray, and I meditate a lot.
Thanks to you I am learning that my prayers are being answered and that my time meditating and talking to Jesus is not in vane. I am perceiving the world a much better place in where harmony, peace, and love is expanding to touch the heart of the untouched.
Thank you very very much. I do appreciate you and love you from the core of my Heart.
Peace be with you my dear brother,
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Thursday, June 04, 2009 - 02:02 pm: |
** Obama Calls For New Beginning Between US, Muslims **
By MARK S. SMITH, Associated Press Writer
http://news.yahoo.com -- June 4, 2009
CAIRO, EGYPT. -- Quoting from the Quran for emphasis, President Barack Obama called for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims" Thursday and said together, they could confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East.
"This cycle of suspicion and discord must end," Obama said in a widely anticipated speech in one of the world's largest Muslim countries, an address designed to reframe relations after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
The White House said Obama's speech contained no new policy proposals on the Middle East. He said American ties with Israel are unbreakable, yet issued a firm, evenhanded call to the Jewish state and Palestinians alike to live up to their international obligations.
In a gesture to the Islamic world, Obama conceded at the beginning of his remarks that tension "has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations."
"And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear," said the president, who recalled hearing prayer calls of "azaan" at dawn and dusk while living in Indonesia as a boy.
At the same time, he said the same principle must apply in reverse. "Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire."
Obama's remarks were televised on all radio and television stations in Israel, and with Arabic voice-over translations by Arab satellite stations Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, Egyptian TV and Al-Manar, an outlet for the militant group Hezbollah. The speech was not broadcast in Iran, where the goverment jammed signals to block satellite owners from watching.
The president drew a somewhat positive response from corners of the world not given to complimenting the United States.
"There is a change between the speech of President Obama and previous speeches made by George Bush," said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza. But he complained that Obama did not specifically note the suffering in Gaza following the three-week Israeli incursion earlier this year and did not apologize for U.S. military attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Iran, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a cleric who was vice president under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, called the speech "compensation to hostile environment which was created during President Bush."
"This can be an initial step for removing misconceptions between world of Islam and the West," he said.
Obama said the actions of violent extremist Muslims are "irreconcilable with the rights of human beings," and quoted the Quran to make his point: "be conscious of God and always speak the truth ..."
"Islam is not part of the problem in combatting violent extremism — it is an important part of promoting peace," he said.
Obama also said the Arab nations should no longer use the conflict with Israel to distract their own people from other problems.
At times, there was an echo of Obama's campaign mantra of change in his remarks, and he said many are afraid it cannot occur.
The build-up to the speech was enormous, stoked by the White House although Obama seemed at pains to minimize hopes for immediate consequences.
"One speech is not going to solve all the problems in the Middle East," he told a French interviewer. "Expectations should be somewhat modest."
Eager to spread the president's message as widely as possible, the tech-savvy White House orchestrated a live Webcast of the speech on the White House site; remarks translated into 13 languages; a special State Department site where users could sign up for speech highlights; and distribution of excerpts to social networking giants MySpace, Twitter and Facebook.
Though the speech was co-sponsored by al-Azhar University, which has taught science and Quranic scripture here for nearly a millennium, the actual venue was the more modern and secular Cairo University.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Thursday, June 04, 2009 - 04:17 am: |
** Gay Marriage Bill Signed Into Law In New Hampshire **
By NORMA LOVE, Associated Press Writer
http://news.yahoo.com -- June 3, 2009
CONCORD, N.H. - New Hampshire became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage Wednesday in a move that reflects the state's changing demographics from reliably Republican and conservative to younger and more liberal.
The Senate and House passed key language on religious rights, Gov. John Lynch — who personally opposes gay marriage — signed the legislation Wednesday afternoon.
Lynch, a Democrat, had promised a veto if the law didn't clearly spell out that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services. Legislators made the changes.
"Today, we are standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities — and respect — under New Hampshire law," Lynch said.
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Iowa already allow gay marriage, though opponents hope to overturn Maine's law with a public vote.
California briefly allowed gay marriage before a public vote banned it; a court ruling grandfathered in couples who were already married.
Lynch said it is now time for the federal government to extend full equal rights to same-sex couples.
After rallies outside the Statehouse by both sides in the morning, the last of three bills in the package went to the Senate, which approved it 14-10 Wednesday afternoon.
Cheers from the gallery greeted the key vote in the House, which passed it 198-176. Surrounded by gay marriage supporters, Lynch signed the bill about an hour later.
The New Hampshire law will take effect Jan. 1, exactly two years after the state began recognizing civil unions.
The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, elected in New Hampshire in 2003 as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, was among those celebrating the new law.
"It's about being recognized as whole people and whole citizens," Robinson said.
"There are a lot of people standing here who when we grew up could not have imagined this," he said. "You can't imagine something that is simply impossible. It's happened, in our lifetimes."
New Hampshire's decision leaves Rhode Island as the only New England state not to allow same-sex marriages. A bill there is expected to fail this year, as similar ones have in previous years.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - 09:49 pm: |
** OAS Lifts Ban On Cuba After 47 Years **
by NESTOR IKEDA, Associated Press Writer
http://news.yahoo.com -- June 3, 2009
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras - The Organization of American States on Wednesday lifted a decades-old ban on Cuba's participation in the group and cleared the way for the island's return despite initial U.S. objections.
The vote by acclamation to revoke a 1962 measure suspending Cuba from the hemispheric group toppled an enduring landmark of the Cold War, and made clear that Latin American nations are forging a more independent relationship with the United States.
"The Cold War has ended this day in San Pedro Sula," said Honduran President Manuel Zelaya immediately following the announcement. "We begin a new era of fraternity and tolerance."
The action doesn't mean Cuba will return to the 34-member body that helps coordinate policies and mediates disputes throughout the Americas. Cuban officials have repeatedly insisted they have no interest in returning to an organization they consider a tool of the United States.
But it does map out a new, more collegial relationship between the U.S. and Latin American countries, and could help nascent U.S. efforts to start a dialogue with Cuba after more than four decades without diplomatic relations.
After El Salvador this week became the hemisphere's latest nation to restore ties with Cuba, the OAS move further draws the island back into the hemispheric fold after its Cold War isolation.
"This is a moment of rejoicing for all of Latin America," Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Fander Falconi told reporters after the session. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega called the vote "news of hope."
The decision was made by consensus, meaning the United States accepted it, though Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had lobbied personally for requiring Cuba to make democratic reforms and improve respect for human rights.
Still, Clinton applauded the final vote.
"Many member countries originally sought to lift the 1962 suspension and allow Cuba to return immediately, without conditions," Clinton said in a statement issued by the State Department in Washington.
"Others agreed with us that the right approach was to replace the suspension which has outlived its purpose after nearly half a century with a process of dialogue and a future decision that will turn on Cuba's commitment to the organization's values," she added.
But in recent years, with the Cold War fading and left-of-center governments spreading in the Americas, Cuba's isolation melted away. Every country in the hemisphere except for the United States has re-established relations with Cuba and the U.S. embargo of Cuba is deeply unpopular throughout the region.
Membership in the OAS gives a country a voice in hemispheric agreements on major issues. The OAS has often tried to mediate solutions to political conflicts and it has offshoots that coordinate health policies and protect human rights.
The Obama administration has hoped its recent overtures to the Cuban government would overcome widespread resentment in the Americas over Washington's long history of isolating Havana.
U.S. officials have lifted restrictions on money transfers and travel to the island by Americans with family there and are resuming long-stalled immigration and postal service talks.
Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana credited Obama for making Wednesday's decision possible. "This resolution should be understood as a renewed spirit of dialogue," Taiana said.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Friday, May 08, 2009 - 01:11 pm: |
** Maine Becomes 5th State To Allow Same-Sex Marriage **
by GLENN ADAMS, Associated Press Writer
http://news.yahoo.com -- May 6, 2009
Maine's governor signed a freshly passed bill Wednesday approving gay marriage, making it the fifth state to approve the practice and moving New England closer to allowing it throughout the region.
New Hampshire legislators were also poised to send a gay marriage bill to their governor, who hasn't indicated whether he'll sign it. If he does, Rhode Island would be the region's sole holdout.
The Maine Senate voted 21-13, with one absent, for a bill that authorizes marriage between any two people rather than between one man and one woman, as state law currently allows. The House had passed the bill Tuesday.
Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, who hadn't previously indicated how he would handle the bill, signed it shortly afterward. In the past, he said he opposed gay marriage but supported civil unions, which provide many benefits of marriage.
Debate was brief. Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, D-Vassalboro, turned the gavel over to an openly gay member, Sen. Lawrence Bliss, D-South Portland, to preside over the final vote.
Republican Sen. Debra Plowman of Hampden argued that the bill was being passed "at the expense of the people of faith."
"You are making a decision that is not well-founded," warned Plowman.
But Senate Majority Leader Philip Bartlett II said the bill does not compel religious institutions to recognize gay marriage.
"We respect religious liberties. ... This is long overdue," said Bartlett, D-Gorham.
Maine is now the fourth state in New England, to allow same-sex marriages. Connecticut enacted a bill after being ordered to allow gay marriages by the courts, and Vermont passed a bill over the governor's veto.
New Hampshire's House was also expected to vote on a bill Wednesday and send it to Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat.
Massachusetts' high court has ordered the state to recognize gay marriages. In Rhode Island, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage has been introduced but is not expected to pass this year.
Outside New England, Iowa is recognizing gay marriages on court orders. The practice was briefly legal in California before voters banned it.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Friday, May 08, 2009 - 12:52 pm: |
** Pope Expresses Respect For Islam In Jordan **
by VICTOR L. SIMPSON, Associated Press Writer
http://news.yahoo.com -- May 8, 2009
AMMAN, Jordan -- Pope Benedict XVI expressed deep respect for Islam Friday and said he hopes the Catholic Church can play a role in Mideast peace as he began his first trip to the region, where he hopes to improve frayed ties with Muslims.
The pope was met at the airport by Jordan's King Abdullah and praised the moderate Arab country as a leader in efforts to promote peace in the region and dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
The pope rankled many in the Muslim world with a 2006 speech in which he quoted a Medieval text that characterized some of the Prophet Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."
The pope has already said he was "deeply sorry" over the reaction to his speech and that the passage he quoted did not reflect his own opinion.
"My visit to Jordan gives me a welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community, and to pay tribute to the leadership shown by his majesty the king in promoting a better understanding of the virtues proclaimed by Islam," Benedict said shortly after landing in Amman.
"We are not a political power but a spiritual power that can contribute," Benedict told reporters on the plane before he landed in Amman. The pope will also visit Israel and the Palestinian territories during his weeklong tour.
Jordan's king praised the pope and said the world must reject "ambitious ideologies of division."
"We welcome your commitment to dispel the misconceptions and divisions that have harmed relations between Christians and Muslims," said Abdullah.
The pope was also met at the airport by diplomats and Muslim and Christian leaders. A Jordanian army band equipped with bagpipes and drums played the Vatican and Jordanian national anthems before the pope and the king inspected the honor guard.
Abdullah Abdul-Qader, a cleric at Amman's oldest mosque, told worshippers during Friday prayers to welcome the pope's visit.
"I urge you to show respect for your fellow Christians as they receive their church leader," said Abdul-Qader at the Al-Husseini mosque.
Christians make up 3 percent of Jordan's 5.8 million people.
Benedict's three-day stay in Jordan is his first visit to an Arab country as pope. During his time in the country, Benedict is scheduled to meet with Muslim religious leaders at Amman's largest mosque — his second visit to a Muslim place of worship since becoming pope in 2005. He prayed in Istanbul's famed Blue Mosque, a gesture that helped calm the outcry over his remarks.
The pope is also expected to meet Iraqi Christians driven from their homeland by violence. About 40 young Iraqi refugees crowded into a tiny Catholic church in Amman on Friday, nervously practicing their last lesson before Benedict administers their first communion on Sunday.
"I really want to meet the pope," said Cecile Adam, an 11-year-old whose family fled Baghdad. "I think he can do something to help Iraq because Jesus gave him a good position and Jesus wants us to be happy."
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, April 18, 2009 - 07:07 pm: |
** Hugo Chavez Says Venezuela-U.S. Relations Will Improve **
by FRANCES ROBLES
http://www.miamiherald.com -- April 18, 2009
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Closer relations between Venezuela and the United States are no doubt coming soon, President Hugo Chávez said Saturday, adding that the two countries may soon return each other's ambassadors to their posts.
Chávez made the statement after a dozen South American leaders met with President Barack Obama Saturday morning at the Fifth Summit of the Americas. Chávez called the meeting "extraordinary.''
''I feel great optimism and the best of good will to advance. We have started off on the right foot,'' Chávez said in a statement released by his office, which noted that he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed renewing each other's ambassadors.
The ambassadors were yanked last year in a diplomatic flap that started in Bolivia.
''It's time to have a true start of a new history, for there to be balance, that there's an end to the mechanisms of domination,'' Chávez said. ...
''The president [Obama] made the point that he is not here to argue history,'' the official said. "He said we need to understand the past, have to move ahead, very forward-looking. It's also helpful for Latin America to avoid the temptation, the easy temptation, of blaming anything that goes wrong or problems that exist on the United States.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, April 18, 2009 - 03:27 pm: |
** Persian New Year to Bring U.S.-Iran Thaw? **
In the past week, mixed progress as a US journalist is charged with spying amidst positive statements from both countries.
by SCOTT PETERSON
The Christian Science Monitor -- April 11, 2009
ISTANBUL, TURKEY -- As Iranians celebrated the Persian New Year recently, they witnessed the start of indirect talks between Iran and the United States, in what promises to become a highly orchestrated effort to ease three decades of mutual hostility.
Each country is drawing lessons from failed past attempts at detente. They are learning from the mistakes of their respective former leaders, Bill Clinton and Mohamad Khatami, in the late 1990s, and the unbending stance of George W. Bush.
This week has seen mixed progress between the two nations. On Wednesday, in a departure from Bush administration policy, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the United States would become a "full participant," not simply an observer, at talks with Iranian officials about the nuclear issue. The talks include the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council – Britain, China, France, and Russia – as well as Germany.
The same day, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that he welcomed talks with the US if they were based on "honesty, justice, and respect."
But that gesture was marred by the announcement that a detained American journalist, Roxana Saberi, had been changed with spying and would be put on trial next week. The US has been pressing for her release since she was detained two months ago. ...
REACHING OUT BY VIDEO
In March, President Obama reached out in a Nowruz video message, using the spring "moment of renewal" to call for a "new beginning" with Iran, in which "the old divisions are overcome."
With uncharacteristic speed that signified the importance of Mr. Obama's gesture, Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, replied the next day with a lengthy speech, during which he said Iran would reciprocate: "You change, and we will also change our behavior, too." ...
Iran expected "real" change, Khamenei said, not just "talks with pressure": "They say they have extended their hands towards Iran. If the extended hand has a velvet glove but under it is an iron hand, then this does not have good meaning."
Still, Obama's message was crafted to avoid past pitfalls, which "suggests historical thinking on the part of the Obama administration, and that's very important," says Farideh Farhi, an Iran expert at the University of Hawaii.
By addressing both the people and leaders of Iran, the short message was a departure. The key was "this idea that we are not going to play Iranian leaders against each other, and we are not going to distinguish between the people of Iran and the government," says Ms. Farhi. "The latter was a rejection of the Bush policy, and the former a clear understanding of what was wrong with Clinton's message, which spoke of 'nice' leaders and 'bad' leaders." ...
Obama hit notes that indicated a new understanding of Iran in the White House: He mentioned the "Islamic Republic of Iran" (providing de facto recognition of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution for the first time), spoke of engagement "grounded in mutual respect," and minimized chances of regime change – often evoked by Bush-era officials – by noting that this US-Iran process "will not be advanced by threats."
He quoted the revered Persian poet Saadi, expressing the shared humanity of "the children of Adam," and offered New Year greetings in Farsi.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, April 18, 2009 - 02:41 pm: |
** At Summit, Obama Gets Friendly With Chavez **
by MARK S. SMITH, Associated Press Writer
http://news.yahoo.com -- April 18, 2009
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- President Barack Obama offered a spirit of cooperation to America's hemispheric neighbors at a summit Saturday, listening to their complaints about past U.S. interference in the region and even reaching out to Venezuela's fiery leftist leader.
While he worked to ease friction between the U.S. and leaders at the Summit of the Americas, Obama cautioned them to resist a temptation to blame all their problems on their behemoth neighbor to the North.
"I have a lot to learn and I very much look forward to listening and figuring out how we can work together more effectively," Obama said.
Obama said he was ready to accept Cuban President Raul Castro's proposal of talks on issues once off-limits for Cuba, including the scores of political prisoners held by the communist government. While praising America's initial effort to thaw relations with Havana, the leaders pushed the U.S. to go further and lift the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo against the communist nation.
To Latin American nations reeling from a sudden plunge in exports, Obama promised a new hemispheric growth fund, an initiative to increase Caribbean security and a new regional partnership to develop alternative energy sources and fight global warming. ...
Later, during a group photo, Obama reached behind several leaders at the summit to shake Chavez' hand for the third time. Obama summoned a translator and the two smiled and spoke briefly.
Those two exchanges followed a brief grip and grin for cameras on Friday night when Obama greeted Chavez in Spanish.
"I think it was a good moment," Chavez said about their initial encounter. "I think President Obama is an intelligent man ..."
The White House said Chavez was civil in his criticism of the U.S. during a summit meeting ...
In an opening speech to the 34-nation gathering on Friday, the president promised a new agenda for the Americas, as well as a new style.
"We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms," Obama said to loud applause. "But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations."
He also extended a hand to a leader Ronald Reagan spent years trying to drive from power: Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega. The Sandinista president stepped up and introduced himself, U.S. officials reported. Yet soon after, Ortega, who was ousted in 1990 elections that ended Nicaragua's civil war but who was returned to power by voters in 2006, delivered a blistering 50-minute speech that denounced capitalism and U.S. imperialism as the root of much hemispheric mischief. The address even recalled the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, though Ortega said the new U.S. president could not be held to account for that. ... "I'm grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old," Obama said, to laughter and applause from the other leaders.
But perhaps the biggest applause line was his call for a fresh start in relations between Washington and Havana.
Earlier this week, Obama ordered an easing of travel and remittance restrictions for Americans with relatives in Cuba. Within hours, Castro — who took over from his ailing brother Fidel a year ago — responded with an offer of talks on "everything" that divides the two countries.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, April 18, 2009 - 02:22 pm: |
** Harper Hails Thaw in U.S.-Cuba Relations **
Obama, Clinton open door to engage Havana on issues ranging from drugs, migration and economic reform to human rights
by CAMPBELL CLARK
http://www.theglobeandmail.com -- July 18, 2009
PORT OF SPAIN -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper [of Canada] hailed a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the 50-year U.S. policy of isolation as "having failed." ...
Now the two nations have taken major symbolic steps in rapid exchanges. Cuban President Raul Castro said Thursday that he has told the United States he is willing to open direct, wide-ranging negotiations; Ms. Clinton responded yesterday by indicating that five decades of U.S. isolation policy have been fruitless.
In a speech last night, Mr. Obama acknowledged that U.S. policy has not always offered full partnership to nations of the hemisphere, and pledged to "seek an equal partnership." ...
"The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba. I know there is a longer journey that must be travelled to overcome decades of mistrust. But there are critical steps we can take toward a new day," he said, noting he had eased restrictions on Cuban Americans travelling to Cuba and sending money there.
He said he's prepared to engage the Cuban government "on a wide range of issues from drugs, migration and economic issues, to human rights, free speech and democratic reform."
"We are hoping to see a thaw," Mr. Harper said in an interview with Fox News yesterday. "Obviously, President Obama has taken some steps and we're hoping that some of the words we are hearing from the Cuban regime are meaningful."
"The perspective from our government has always been a little different. You know I am an anti-Communist Conservative myself, but I believe strongly that ... economic engagement is important in getting liberalization in the long term, so we would like to see that." ...
Mr. Harper has described free trade and opening markets as the path to prosperity for Latin America and the Caribbean, arguing it will not only develop jobs but democracy and human rights. ...
Mr. Harper is to meet Caribbean leaders today, and visit Jamaica, to give a push to free-trade negotiations between Canada and the 15-member Caribbean Community.
Christine Yoffe (Christine)
|Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - 05:18 pm: |
Now this is a REAL image prayer OF world peace!!!
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, August 16, 2008 - 04:51 pm: |
KIM: Well, it took the Olympics and 1.3 billion Chinese to get the cowgirl from Lubbock, Texas to post! Nice to hear from you.
Did you ever get your keyboad fixed or are you still cutting and pasting "F" keys?
Kim Wilson (Kim)
|Posted on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 - 08:19 pm: |
Hi to all!
I have read the posting by Tony and Antoinette. I've enjoyed the comments on the Olympics.
Today as watching some of the events, the thought of remembrance came to me. I remembered why the Olympics were begun, originally. The first Olympians got the whole world to come together to celebrate our humanness and our ability as human to excel.
In this year's Games, I keep remembering our human ability to go beyond humanness and tap into the one Spirit that is within each of us in the world. I see purpose on the faces of these great atheletes as they prepare for contest by quietly going into themselves to contact the one Spirit that allows them to reach beyond themselves and contact that which is unseen.
I also feel these moments at the Beijing Olympics are another giant step towards Peace on Earth.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - 05:25 pm: |
EVERYBODY: Okay. That worked. Here's the last one.
Point Of Information: Our "discus" program errors if there are more than two uploaded pictures. It's the second time it has happened from me. It seems to handle one and two pictures just fine.
Remember to reduce the pictures to 72 dots per inch (screen resolution) and keep them less than 6 inches wide. Thanks.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - 05:20 pm: |
EVERYBODY: Sorry. The program seems not to be able to handle more than two uploaded images at a time. Let me try this again in stages.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - 05:15 pm: |
EVERYBODY: I found three good pictures of the Olympic Torch lighting ceremony from last Friday. Here they are.
ANTOINETTE: Thanks for your acknowledgment of the pictures. Appreciated!
When you said, "... if the Chinese Government is sincere and not just putting on a mask" I thought of this passage from A Course In Miracles:
"If he speaks not of Christ to you, you spoke not of Christ to him. You hear but your own voice, and if Christ speaks through you, you will hear Him." (Tx.Or.Ed.10.58)
The message we get from the opening ceremony that the Chinese put on is ultimately up to us, not the Chinese. Also, metaphysically the message we get from them come from the message we are giving to them and not the other way around.
I see that this Opening Ceremony was truly a grand statement of harmony, a recurring theme in the performance. The theme of inclusiveness and friendliness was ever present. There was also an acceptance of diversity, all the different ethnic children being represented. The theme of the entire Olympics was very spiritual, "One World / One Dream."
The symbol of the eternal, continuous light, the eternal flame, the divine "lamp" couldn't have been better communicated than was done at the torch lighting -- "Wow!" There was also the emphasis on communication with the writing scroll.
"The power of one mind can shine into another because all the lamps of God were lit by the same spark. It is everywhere, and it is eternal." (Tx.Or.Ed.9.90)
It was truly grand and I choose not to see it as grandiose. It was certainly abundant and a blessing. It's right in line with the theme of our upcoming A Course In Miracles conference in 2009, "A Blessing From The Abundance Of Our Grandeur." I hope you decide to attend! All the local members would love to meet you and so many are also coming from all over the country.
"From your grandeur you can only bless because your grandeur is your abundance. By blessing you hold it in your minds, protecting it from illusions and keeping yourself in the Mind of God." (Tx.Or.Ed.X.52)
I see the Chinese as truly coming from their grandeur and blessing us all with the most amazing, abundant, awesome in scope, incredible theater presentation in the history of man kind! And -- the message was harmony, oneness and light. What more could we ask for.
I am willing to let go of any dark lessons I may have taught myself in the past about the Chinese.
"Learn of His happiness, which is yours. But to accomplish this, all your dark lessons must be brought willingly to truth and joyously laid down by hands open to receive, not closed to take." (Tx.Or.Ed.14.62)
I truly believe that these Olympics, and especially this absolutely, magnificent, historical achievement of an opening ceremony dedicated to: harmony, oneness, and light is reflective of a shift in perception which will further the end of the separation between the Chinese people and the rest of the world. It may not be perfect yet -- but it is a giant grand step in a miraculous direction.
Antoinette Atanasoff (Antoinette)
|Posted on Monday, August 11, 2008 - 05:10 pm: |
Dear Rev. Tony,
Thank you for the beautiful images of the Olympic opening ceremony. It was glorious and magnificent, yet in the context of the Course, was it merely a glorious and beautiful illusion of a "step toward" peace and harmony? As with our Course lessons, we are asked to use them to demonstrate their truth and value. And so I believe if the Chinese Government is sincere and not just putting on a mask, they can demonstrate to the World Community and their people who have lost so much, the truth of their words and that they do value life over substance.
And so must we demonstrate the truth of the Course principles by seeing a whole mind being indestructible in its natural state, as being a reflection of the perfect Creation of God, we will see a perfect Creation portrayed in every experience - to extend the expression of beauty and harmony and peace we are fulfilling our function.
Love and Peace,
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, August 09, 2008 - 07:03 pm: |
2ND SET OF PICTURES FROM OPENING CEREMONY
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, August 09, 2008 - 06:54 pm: |
PICTURES OF OPENING CEREMONY (2nd Try):
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, August 09, 2008 - 06:48 pm: |
** Olympic Opener "One World, One Dream" Is A Call For Harmony -- Ceremony Reflects China's Efforts To Ease Global Tensions **
by JIM YARDLEY
http://www.nytimes.com -- August 9, 2008
BEIJING -- An ecstatic China finally got its Olympic moment on Friday night. And if the astonishing opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games lavished grand tribute on Chinese civilization and sought to stir an ancient nation’s pride, there was also a message for an uncertain outside world: Do not worry. We mean no harm.
Click below to see a 4 and a half minute video about the opening ceremonies.
Usually, that message is delivered by the dour-faced leaders of the ruling Communist Party, who dutifully, if sometimes unconvincingly, regurgitate the phrase “harmonious society” coined by President Hu Jintao. But in the nimble cinematic hands of Zhang Yimou, the filmmaker who directed the opening ceremonies, the politics of harmony were conveyed in a visual extravaganza.
The opening ceremonies gave the Communist Party its most uninterrupted, unfiltered chance to reach a gargantuan global audience. At one point, thousands of large umbrellas were snapped open to reveal the smiling, multicultural faces of children of the global village. Benetton could not have done it better.
Any Olympic opening is a propaganda exercise, but Friday night’s blockbuster show demonstrated the broader public relations challenge facing the Communist Party as China becomes richer and more powerful. The party wants to inspire national pride within China, and bolster its own legitimacy in the process, even as leaders want to reassure the world that a rising China poses no danger.
That has not been an easy sales pitch during the tumultuous Olympics prelude, in which violent Tibetan protests and a devastating earthquake revealed the dark and light sides of Chinese nationalism.
But for one night, at least, the party succeeded wildly after a week dominated by news of polluted skies, sporadic protests and a sweeping security clampdown. Across Beijing, the public rejoiced. People painted red Chinese flags on their cheeks and shouted, “Go China!” long after the four-hour opening had concluded.
“For a lot of foreigners, the only image of China comes from old movies that make us look poor and pathetic,” said Ci Lei, 29, who watched the pageantry on a large-screen television at an upscale downtown bar. “Now look at us. We showed the world we can build new subways and beautiful modern buildings. The Olympics will redefine the way people see us.”
China has grown so rapidly that even people who live here often do not realize that the country that, seven years ago, won the right to stage the Games is no longer the same place. In 2001, China’s gross domestic product was $1.3 trillion; this year, it is estimated to reach $3.6 trillion.
The scale and speed of that growth often leaves the outside world awed, but also worried. China has the world’s largest authoritarian political system. Chinese society is prospering, even as it is cleaved by inequality and struggling with human rights abuses, corruption and severe pollution.
China is asserting its diplomatic muscle in Asia and Africa and pumping money into a military that by the Pentagon’s estimates now has greater resources than any except that of the United States. Yet foreign investment and open export markets have been crucial to China’s success, and it still seeks, even depends on, the support and respect of the United States and Europe.
These contradictions are one reason Mr. Hu has promoted the amorphous concept of a “harmonious society” as a rhetorical tent encompassing policies intended to soothe, if not necessarily resolve, a range of tensions.
Earlier on Friday, Mr. Hu hosted world leaders at a luncheon inside the Great Hall of the People. His table guests illustrated China’s evolving, sometimes conflicted role in world affairs.
At one seat was Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, with whom China sided in July to veto a United Nations resolution, backed strongly by the United States, that would have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, after most observers had concluded that Robert Mugabe stole the presidential election there.
President Bush shared the same table. So did the Japanese prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, with whom China has been conducting a careful reconciliation intended to repair relations that were badly strained by nationalist fervor in both countries just a few years ago.
Perhaps no guest better illustrated China’s uncertain diplomatic balancing than President Nicolas Sarkozy of France.
Earlier this year Mr. Sarkozy threatened to boycott the opening ceremonies to protest China’s crackdown of the Tibetan protests in March. Chinese nationalists, cheered by the state-run media, promoted a boycott of the French retailer Carrefour and filled the Internet with anti-French postings. France and China then scrambled to contain the damage and reopen the door to Mr. Sarkozy’s visit.
“The historic moment we have long awaited is arriving,” Mr. Hu said in a speech at the luncheon. “The world has never needed mutual understanding, mutual toleration and mutual cooperation as much as it does today.”
China first bid for the Games 15 years ago, when party leaders were struggling to recover their legitimacy at home and abroad after they violently suppressed pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989. They were rejected then, though by a narrow margin, and when China won the right to host the 2008 Games, the Olympics had become something of a national obsession.
Leaders spent an estimated $43 billion in building roads, stadiums, parks and subway lines in trying to transform Beijing into an Olympic city.
Plans to welcome the world — “Beijing welcomes you!” is one Olympic slogan — have suffered from polluted skies and the presence of a security force of more than 100,000 people summoned to guard against terrorist attacks.
Yet even amid such a huge police presence, the crowds that gathered near the Olympic Village on Friday afternoon were giddy and proud that China could show itself to the world. Yang Bin, a D.J., had traveled more than 500 miles to Beijing from the city of Chongqing.
“I came to Beijing last night to celebrate the Olympics, even though I don’t have a ticket,” Mr. Yang said. “China is never more glorious than today. The whole world is watching us.”
The opening ceremonies reportedly cost tens of millions of dollars and involved 15,000 performers inside the latticed shell of the city’s new National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest. No Olympic opening ceremonies are thought to have approached it in cost and scale.
The production was filled with signature Chinese touches: the elaborate choreography of dancers on a giant calligraphy scroll; the undulating rows of Chinese characters, with the character for “harmony” illuminated; and the use of masses of people, working in unison into a grand spectacle centered on traditional Chinese history, music, dance and art.
“This is a huge gathering for sports lovers, and I am one of them,” said the composer Tan Dun, whose score will be played during gold medal ceremonies. “This is a lot more than about China. If we think this is only China’s moment, it’s a big mistake. It’s the moment of the world.”
Mr. Zhang, the filmmaker, has said he wanted the opening ceremonies to be his gift to China. The climactic moment of the evening came during the dramatic ceremonies to light the Olympic flame. Li Ning, a Chinese gold-medal winner in gymnastics, was hoisted by thin cables to the stadium’s roof with the torch in his hand.
Then, as the cables slowly guided him around the inner rim of the roof, as if he were running, a digital scroll unfurled behind him with images of some of the thousands of other torch bearers who had carried the flame during its journey around the world this spring. The mesmerizing sight culminated with Mr. Li igniting a giant torch affixed to the roof.
China had called the torch relay a Journey of Harmony. But unharmonious protests erupted during the torch’s stops in London, Paris, San Francisco and elsewhere. Those images were absent from Mr. Zhang’s digital scroll. Filmmakers, of course, work from a script.
Just as men really cannot fly, art is not reality. As Friday night proved, art and artifice can inspire. One burden of staging one spectacular show is that people will want and expect an even more spectacular one in the future. And as China’s leaders celebrate, that is the challenge facing them.
The Beijing Olympics are now under way. They will end on Aug. 24. Then the world will exhale and look away from China and its search for harmony. But the Chinese people may want more. And then the real Games of China will begin again.
Brenda Rouse (Brenda_r)
|Posted on Thursday, August 07, 2008 - 08:51 pm: |
Unabomber's brother, victim forge unique friendship
It was [David] Kaczynski's brother, Ted, who tried to kill [Gary] Wright with a bomb outside his Utah office in 1987. The blast sent him flying through the air, and more than 200 pieces of shrapnel tore into his body, some shards severing nerves in his left arm.
But David Kaczynski [right] and Wright [left] have forged the type of bond that has taken them canoeing in the Adirondacks together and touring the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. They also travel the nation for speaking engagements about pain and reconciliation.
"He helped me see that I could reconnect," Kaczynski said. "There was hope that things would get better and not worse. Gary was, in some sense, my psychological lifeline through this terrible ordeal."
Wright was the Unabomber's 11th victim.
When (David) Kaczynski and Wright finally spoke by phone, Kaczynski offered his apologies and then braced himself for Wright to lash out in anger.
"It's not your fault," Wright recalls telling Kaczynski. "You really don't have to carry that [burden]."
The two men didn't know it at the time, but it was the beginning of their unlikely friendship.
"I have learned things that no other victim of these set of crimes will ever know, and it's because of that relationship," Wright said. "There's more knowing you have a good family that raised this person [Ted] and that one person inside the family doesn't define the whole family."
They say that after their initial conversation, the phone calls became more frequent. Their families soon met. In fact, Wright traveled to New York and met David Kaczynski's mother and sat down in her living room, thumbing through family photo albums, looking at the childhood pictures and hearing stories of the boy who would become the Unabomber, the very man who tried to kill him.
"I've been able to see things, see photos that were outside of the norm," Wright said. "See a family that was a family unit before something went wrong."
In 1999, Wright and Kaczynski started traveling the country together telling their story. Thousands of miles on the road have developed a brotherhood born of tragedy. They admit their relationship is unique.
"There is a lot of pain for me with the word 'brother,' a lot of emotion," Kaczynski said. "But I see Gary as my brother."
Wright added, "I don't take that lightly, either. I don't use that word, 'brother,' lightly."
Kaczynski says Wright has not replaced Ted as his older brother, but Wright has clearly filled in.
Story taken from CNN.com. Please follow link to read the complete article.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, July 19, 2008 - 12:41 pm: |
** Iraqi Sunni Bloc Rejoins Government **
by QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA -- Associated Press Writer
http://news.yahoo.com -- July 19, 2008
BAGHDA -- Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political bloc ended a nearly yearlong boycott of the Shiite-led government Saturday in another step toward healing the sectarian rifts that once brought almost daily bloodshed.
The National Accordance Front agreed to return after parliament approved six Sunni officials to fill vacant seats in the Cabinet.
But the gesture had wider implications — seen as a significant step toward political reconciliation and efforts to cement security cooperation between Shiite-led forces and armed Sunni groups that rose up against al-Qaida in Iraq.
The United States has pressured Iraq's government to work toward reconciliation, hoping it will add stability and ease the burden on U.S. and other foreign forces.
On a visit Saturday to Baghdad, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said plans are being made to scale back troops in Iraq, but refused to consider an "artificial timetable" for withdrawing Britain's remaining 4,000 soldiers.
Brown's comments — following meetings with Iraqi leaders — come in advance of next week's scheduled address to British lawmakers on Iraq, when he is expected to give more details on troop reduction plans as insurgent attacks and militia violence drops sharply around Iraq.
The break in the Iraqi political impasse came after parliament unanimously backed Sunni candidates to fill the post of deputy prime minister and head five midlevel ministries, including higher education and communications. Four other Cabinet posts were filled by Shiites.
The Front pulled its members from the 39-member Cabinet last August, complaining it was sidelined in important decisions. The political rift left al-Maliki's government without partners in bids to find common ground with Sunni leaders.
Sunni Arabs, who represent about 20 percent of the country, were highly favored under Saddam Hussein but the tables turned after his ouster when Iraq's majority Shiites held sway. The rivalries spilled over into a wave of sectarian killings and al-Qaida bombings apparently aimed at triggering civil war.
But Sunni sheiks last year began to organize militias — later known as Awakening Councils — against insurgents. Their role has been considered key in undercutting al-Qaida networks and helping reduce violence around Iraq to its lowest levels in four years.
"What happened today is a national step forward to boost the government's role and take the national reconciliation ahead," said the bloc's spokesman, Saleem Abdullah. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, hailed the political pact as "a very important step forward."
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Monday, July 07, 2008 - 05:02 am: |
EVERYONE: Brenda, Thanks for posting on "Image Prayer." I started this thread many years ago. It was our first thread outside of "Personal Shares."
When I read your post I wondered if this was the girl, now woman, who was in that famous Viet Nam photo that we all have seen so many time. I did a Google search and found the article and the pictures. I am uploading the pictures here. The first will be the photo we have all seen. I didn't know it had won a Pulitzer Prize but I am not surprised.
Next is a photo of Kim Phuc today.
For those reading this by email just use the link at the bottom of the page to go to the post and the photos will be there.
Famous Pulitzer Prize winning photo of 9 year old Kim Phuc running down the road after being burned by Napalm.
Kim Phuc Today
Brenda Rouse (Brenda_r)
|Posted on Monday, June 30, 2008 - 06:12 pm: |
The Long Road to Forgiveness
All Things Considered, June 30, 2008 · "On June 8, 1972, I ran out from Cao Dai temple in my village, Trang Bang, South Vietnam; I saw an airplane getting lower and then four bombs falling down. I saw fire everywhere around me. Then I saw the fire over my body, especially on my left arm. My clothes had been burned off by fire.
I was 9 years old but I still remember my thoughts at that moment: I would be ugly and people would treat me in a different way. My picture was taken in that moment on Road No. 1 from Saigon to Phnom Penh. After a soldier gave me some drink and poured water over my body, I lost my consciousness.
Several days after, I realized that I was in the hospital, where I spent 14 months and had 17 operations.
It was a very difficult time for me when I went home from the hospital. Our house was destroyed; we lost everything and we just survived day by day.
Although I suffered from pain, itching and headaches all the time, the long hospital stay made me dream to become a doctor. But my studies were cut short by the local government. They wanted me as a symbol of the state. I could not go to school anymore.
The anger inside me was like a hatred as high as a mountain. I hated my life. I hated all people who were normal because I was not normal. I really wanted to die many times.
I spent my daytime in the library to read a lot of religious books to find a purpose for my life. One of the books that I read was the Holy Bible.
In Christmas 1982, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. It was an amazing turning point in my life. God helped me to learn to forgive — the most difficult of all lessons. It didn't happen in a day and it wasn't easy. But I finally got it.
Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed.
Napalm is very powerful but faith, forgiveness and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope and forgiveness.
If that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself: Can you?"
This essay was produced by Anne Penman for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. NPR's This I Believe is independently produced by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.
Christine Yoffe (Christine)
|Posted on Saturday, June 21, 2008 - 11:07 am: |
My, my, my how synchronistic.....
Reverend Tony, I just read, copied and was ready to paste this same article here. I did not see your post in my mailbox.
However, I did note the heaven letter and decided that it too was synchronistic and I think adds inspiration to this power of LOVE.....upon opening this thread low and behold here it is already present.......namaste my loves.
It was my guidance to add this...
HEAVEN #2766 Bringing Out the Best in Everyone
Your heart is a little bird in your chest. This precious bird flutters
and is very sensitive. Be gentle with it. You do understand that your
heart requires gentleness. Nod your head if you agree.
It is the same for other hearts. Bless them with delicacy and
consideration" ...to the beginning of
"Lesbian couple of 55 years ready to say 'I do'"
Thanks for the synchrony Tony!!!
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 08:26 pm: |
** California's Top Court Legalizes Gay Marriage **
by LISA LEFF -- Associated Press Writer
http://news.yahoo.com -- May 15, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- California's Supreme Court declared gay couples in the nation's biggest state can marry - a monumental but perhaps short-lived victory for the gay rights movement Thursday that was greeted with tears, hugs, kisses and at least one instant proposal of matrimony.
Same-sex couples could tie the knot in as little as a month. But the window could close soon after — religious and social conservatives are pressing to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that would undo the Supreme Court ruling and ban gay marriage.
"Essentially, this boils down to love. We love each other. We now have equal rights under the law," declared a jubilant Robin Tyler, a plaintiff in the case along with her partner. She added: "We're going to get married. No Tupperware, please."
A crowd of people raised their fists in triumph inside City Hall, and people wrapped themselves in the rainbow-colored gay-pride flag outside the courthouse. In the Castro, the historic center of the gay community in San Francisco, Tim Oviatt wept as he watched the news on TV.
"I've been waiting for this all my life. This is a life-affirming moment," he said.
By the afternoon, gay and lesbian couples had already started lining up at San Francisco City Hall to make appointments to get marriage licenses. In West Hollywood, supporters were planning to serve "wedding cake" at an evening celebration.
James Dobson, chairman of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, called the ruling an "outrage."
"It will be up to the people of California to preserve traditional marriage by passing a constitutional amendment. ... Only then can they protect themselves from this latest example of judicial tyranny," he said in an e-mail statement.
In its 4-3 ruling, the Republican-dominated high court struck down state laws against same-sex marriage and said domestic partnerships that provide many of the rights and benefits of matrimony are not enough.
"In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation," Chief Justice Ronald George wrote for the majority in ringing language that delighted gay rights activists.
Massachusetts is the only other state to legalize gay marriage, something it did in 2004. The California ruling is considered monumental by virtue of the state's size — 38 million out of a U.S. population of 302 million — and its historic role in the vanguard of the many social and cultural changes that have swept the country since World War II.
California has an estimated 92,000 same-sex couples.
"It's about human dignity. It's about human rights. It's about time in California," San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, pumping his fist in the air, told a roaring crowd at City Hall. "As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation. It's inevitable. This door's wide open now. It's going to happen, whether you like it or not."
Unlike Massachusetts, California has no residency requirement for obtaining a marriage license, meaning gays from around the country are likely to flock to the state to be wed, said Jennifer Pizer, a gay-rights attorney who worked on the case. ...
The justices said they would direct state officials "to take all actions necessary to effectuate our ruling," including requiring county marriage clerks to carry out their duties "in a manner consistent with" the court's decision. ...
The case was set in motion in 2004 when the mayor of San Francisco — the unofficial capital of gay America — threw City Hall open to gay couples to get married in a calculated challenge to California law. Four-thousand gay couples wed before the Supreme Court put a halt to the practice after a month.
Two dozen gay couples then sued, along with the city and gay rights organizations. ...
California's secretary of state is expected to rule by the end of June whether the sponsors gathered enough signatures to put the gay-marriage amendment on the ballot.
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has twice vetoed legislation that would have granted marriage to same-sex couples, said in a statement that he respected the court's decision and "will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 - 05:08 pm: |
** Musical Diplomacy, And Tears, in North Korea **
by BURT HERMAN -- Associated Press Writer
http://news.yahoo.com -- February 26, 2008
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA -- The New York Philharmonic's unprecedented concert could herald warmer ties between North Korea and the United States. After three encores, some musicians left the stage in tears as the audience waved fondly.
Between horn fanfares and the flourishes of the conductor's baton, the U.S. and North Korea found common ground in a concert Tuesday that spanned American and Korean musical traditions. Whether the feeling lingers after the music will depend on the North's compliance with an international push to rid it of nuclear weapons.
After the New York Philharmonic played the last notes of the folk song "Arirang," the adoring audience stood and applauded enthusiastically, waving to the musicians. Orchestra members — some moved to tears — paused with their instruments and waved back, an emotional finale to the concert that was the highlight of the Philharmonic's 48-hour visit.
The enraptured crowd drew music director Lorin Maazel and concertmaster Glenn Dicterow out for a final bow after the rest of the ensemble left the flower-adorned stage at the East Pyongyang Grand Theater. The concert was broadcast live on North Korean TV, meaning it was heard beyond the 2,500 people in the theater. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, one of the world's most reclusive leaders, did not attend; there was no way to know whether he watched.
"We may have been instrumental in opening a little door," Maazel said after the performance. He dismissed the significance of Kim's absence, saying: "I have yet to see the president of the United States at one of my concerts. Sometimes a statesman is too busy."
Former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry attended the performance and called it a "historic moment," remembering how close the countries came to war in 1994 amid a crisis over the North's nuclear program. "This might just have pushed us over the top" in finding a way beyond past discord, he said after the concert, adding that Washington should reciprocate by inviting North Korean performers to the United States. "You cannot demonize people when you're sitting there listening to their music. You don't go to war with people unless you demonize them first," Perry said.
North Korea's vice culture minister agreed. "I can say that through the concert tonight, all the members of the New York Philharmonic opened the hearts of the Korean people," Song Sok Hwan told the orchestra. The concert, he said at a banquet, "serves as an important occasion to open a chapter of mutual understanding between the two countries."
Performing on a stage flanked by the U.S. and North Korean flags, the Philharmonic played the North Korean national anthem, "Patriotic Song," following by "The Star-Spangled Banner." The audience stood respectfully and held their applause until both had been performed.
The Philharmonic then presented Dvorak's "New World Symphony," written while the Czech composer lived in the United States — followed by Gershwin's playful, jazz-influenced "An American in Paris." "Someday a composer may write a work entitled 'Americans in Pyongyang,'" Maazel said in introducing the Gershwin work, drawing warm applause from the audience.
North Koreans in attendance — men in suits and women in colorful traditional Korean dresses — fixed their eyes on the stage. Many wore badges with a portrait of national founder Kim Il Sung, father of the current leader.
For one of its three encores, the Philharmonic performed the overture to Leonard Bernstein's "Candide," without a conductor. Maazel yielded the podium to the spirit of the legendary musician with an exhortation of "Maestro, please!" in Korean. The concert wrapped up with a final encore of "Arirang" — beloved in both the North and South and often used as a reunification anthem at friendly events between the two Koreas. Jon Deak, associate principal bass player, who performed under Bernstein to celebrate the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, said members of his section had tears in their eyes at the end of the concert, and "I just can't remember that that has happened before."
"I don't think we've ever been moved so deeply," he said. "I think the concert is just a wonderful gesture for greater understanding between the peoples of the U.S. and the DPRK," said audience member Pak Chol, using the initials for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name. The concert was "not only just an art performance" but also embodied the "good feelings of the Americans toward citizens of the DPRK," said Pak, counselor with the North's Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee.
Rev. Tony Ponticello (Admin)
|Posted on Monday, February 25, 2008 - 10:32 am: |
** N.Y. Philharmonic Arrives In North Korea **
http://www.msnbc.msn.com -- Associated Press
February 25, 2008
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA -- The New York Philharmonic arrived in North Korea on Monday on a historic trip as the most prominent American cultural institution to visit the nuclear-armed country, run by a regime that keeps its impoverished people among the world's most isolated.
North Korea made unprecedented accommodations for the orchestra, allowing a delegation of nearly 300 people, including musicians, staff and journalists to fly into Pyongyang on a chartered plane for 48 hours. The Philharmonic's concert Tuesday will be broadcast live on North Korea's state-run TV and radio, unheard of in a country where all events are carefully choreographed to bolster the personality cult of leader Kim Jong Il.
The Philharmonic accepted the North's invitation to play last year, with the encouragement of the U.S. government, at a time of rare optimism in the long-running nuclear standoff involving the two countries. After successfully testing an atomic bomb in October 2006, North Korea shut down its main nuclear reactor in July and is working to disable it in exchange for aid and removal from U.S. terrorism and sanctions blacklists.
But disarmament has stalled this year because of what Washington says is North Korea's failure to give a full declaration of its atomic programs to be dismantled, something it promised to do under an international agreement.
The concert will feature Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 and "An American in Paris" by George Gershwin. Among the encores planned is the Korean folk song "Arirang" — beloved in both the North and South. The performance will begin with the orchestra playing both countries' national anthems, and the U.S. and North Korean flags will stand together on stage, said the Philharmonic's president and executive director, Zarin Mehta.
Anti-American Posters Torn Down
Ahead of their arrival, North Korea was even tearing down the anti-American posters that line the streets of Pyongyang, Mehta said Sunday, citing a diplomat based there who briefed the orchestra before its departure from Beijing, the last stop on a tour of the greater China region. Such posters typically portray iron-faced North Korean soldiers with rifles poised to strike cowering Americans or crushing Washington's Capitol dome, the U.S. flag in tatters. Mehta told reporters Monday before leaving Beijing that politics was not part of the trip. "We are going to do master classes. We'll do chamber music, rehearsals ... that's what we're there for. Politics is not our game. We play music," he said. Besides the master classes for North Korean students, members of the orchestra will also play chamber music with members of the North's State Symphony Orchestra.
Musicians preparing for the trip said they hoped personal contacts with North Koreans could help bring the countries closer. "I think the openness is the most important issue here, and this is going to be the groundbreaking start of the whole thing. We're making music together and playing for the people and I think that this will be a great, great contribution."