Monday, March 24, 2008

Seven modern mortal sins

Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, Sloth, Environmental pollution,Genetic manipulation, Accumulating excessive wealth, Inflicting poverty, Drug trafficking and consumption, Morally debatable experiments, Violation of fundamental rights of human nature.

"The Vatican has brought up to date the traditional seven deadly sins by adding seven modern mortal sins it claims are becoming prevalent in what it calls an era of "unstoppable globalisation".

Those newly risking eternal punishment include drug pushers, the obscenely wealthy, and scientists who manipulate human genes. So "thou shalt not carry out morally dubious scientific experiments" or "thou shalt not pollute the earth" might one day be added to the Ten Commandments.

Environmental pollution
Genetic manipulation
Accumulating excessive wealth
Inflicting poverty
Drug trafficking and consumption
Morally debatable experiments

Violation of fundamental rights of human natureThe Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into Hell".
The new mortal sins were listed by Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti at the end of a week-long training seminar in Rome for priests, aimed at encouraging a revival of the practice of confession - or the Sacrament of Penance in Church jargon.
According to a survey carried out here 10 years ago by the Catholic University, 60% of Italians have stopped going to confession altogether. The situation has certainly not improved during the past decade.
Catholics are supposed to confess their sins to a priest at least once a year. The priest absolves them in God's name.

Talking to course members at the end of the seminar organised by the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican department in charge of fixing the punishments and indulgences handed down to sinners, Pope Benedict added his own personal voice of disquiet.

The seven deadly sins don't need modernising, secular law will suffice.
Chris Ashworth, Australia

"We are losing the notion of sin," he said. "If people do not confess regularly, they risk slowing their spiritual rhythm," he added. The Pope confesses his sins regularly once a week.
Greatest sins of our times
In an interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Girotti said he thought the most dangerous areas for committing new types of sins lay in the fields of bio-ethics and ecology.
He also named abortion and paedophilia as two of the greatest sins of our times. The archbishop brushed off cases of sexual violence against minors committed by priests as "exaggerations by the mass media aimed at discrediting the Church".


SlothFather Gerald O'Collins, former professor of moral theology at the Papal University in Rome, and teacher of many of the Catholic Church's current top Cardinals and Bishops, welcomed the new catalogue of modern sins.

"I think the major point is that priests who are hearing confessions are not sufficiently attuned to some of the real evils in our world," he told the BBC News website. "They need to be more aware today of the social face of sin - the inequalities at the social level. They think of sin too much on an individual level.

"I think priests who hear confession should have a deeper sense of the violence and injustice of such problems - and the fact that people collaborate simply by doing nothing. One of the original deadly sins is sloth - disengagement and not getting involved," Father O'Collins said. The Jesuit professor now teaches at St Mary's University in Twickenham.

"It was interesting that these remarks came from the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary," he said. "I can't remember a time when it was so concerned about issues such as environmental pollution and social injustice. It's a new way of thinking." "

Slave Trade, a global stable market

"With $50 and a plane ticket to Haiti, one can buy a slave. This was just one of the difficult lessons writer Benjamin Skinner learned while researching his book, A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery.

Skinner met with slaves and traffickers in 12 different countries, filling in the substance around a startling fact: there are more slaves on the planet today than at any time in human history. Skinner speaks with Anthony Brooks about his experience researching slavery.
Though now illegal throughout the world, slavery is more or less the same as it was hundreds of years ago, Skinner explains. Slaves are still "those that are forced to work under threat of violence for no pay beyond sustenance."

Something disturbing has changed however — the price of a human. After adjusting for inflation, Skinner found that, "In 1850, a slave would cost roughly $30,000 to $40,000 — in other words it was like investing in a Mercedes. Today you can go to Haiti and buy a 9-year-old girl to use as a sexual and domestic slave for $50. The devaluation of human life is incredibly pronounced."
Skinner obtained this specific figure through a very hands-on process. In the fall of 2005, he visited Haiti, which has one of the highest concentrations of slaves anywhere in the world.
"I pulled up in a car and rolled down the window," he recalls. "Someone said, 'Do you want to get a person?'"

Though the country was in a time of political chaos, the street where he met the trafficker was clean and relatively quiet. A tape of the conversation reveals a calm, concise transaction. He was initially told he could get a 9-year-old sex partner/house slave for $100, but he bargained it down to $50.

"The thing that struck me more than anything afterwards was how incredibly banal the transaction was. It was as if I was negotiating on the street for a used stereo."
In the end, he agreed on the price, but told the trader not to make any moves.
"When I was talking to traffickers, I had a principle that I wouldn't pay for human life," he says.
This principle enabled him to keep a certain distance from the system, but not giving in to the temptation to free a suffering human being was an emotionally taxing struggle, he says.
"It's one thing when you are planning an effort like this, this is a work of journalism — I'm not going to interfere with my subjects. It's another thing when you are in an underground brothel in Bucharest, who has this girl with Down Syndrome, who you know is undergoing rape several times a day. When this girl is offered to me in trade for a used car ... I walk away ... it's not an easy thing to do," he says.

At one point, he did violate his principal — helping a mother free her daughter from slavery. He says he does not regret his decision, however, and continues to track her progress through a local NGO in Haiti. She's now in school, he says, and wrote him a letter over Christmas.
Slavery consumes Skinner, he says.

"When I come back to a nice loft in Brooklyn and I have to think about writing this thing — that drove me. I knew that I had to write as compelling a book as possible. This is a life-long commitment for me.""

2 fired in passport case

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tells reporters that she has apologized to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. for an incident in which State Department contractors unnecessarily reviewed his passport file, Friday, March 21, 2008, at the State Department in Washington, during a meeting with Brazil's Defense Minister Nelson Jobim. Rice said she would be 'disturbed' if her passport file was viewed in such an unauthorized manner."

"By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer Fri Mar 21, 4:42 PM ET
WASHINGTON - The Associated Press has learned that the two contractors fired for snooping into Barack Obama's passport records worked for a Virginia-based company called Stanley Inc.

Earlier this week, the 3,500-person company won a five-year, $570-million contract to support passport services at the State Department.
The company is referring all questions to the State Department. An agency official confirmed that the two contractors had been employed at Stanley. The official requested anonymity because the information had not been publicly released.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — State Department employees snooped through the passport files of three presidential candidates — Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain — and the department's inspector general is investigating.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the violations of McCain and Clinton's passport files were not discovered until Friday, after officials were made aware of the unauthorized access of Obama's records and a separate search was conducted.
The incidents raise questions as to whether the information was accessed for political purposes and why two contractors involved in the Obama search were dismissed before investigators had a chance to interview them. It recalled an incident in 1992, when a Republican political appointee at the State Department was demoted over a search of presidential candidate Bill Clinton's passport records. At the time, Clinton was challenging President George H.W. Bush.
McCormack said one of the individuals who accessed Obama's files also reviewed McCain's file earlier this year. This contract employee has been reprimanded, but not fired. The individual no longer has access to passport records, he said.

"I can assure you that person's going to be at the top of the list of the inspector general when they talk to people, and we are currently reviewing our (disciplinary) options with respect to that person," McCormack said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke with all three candidates on Friday and expressed her regrets. In the meantime, State Department officials headed to Capitol Hill to brief the candidates' staffs.

After speaking with Obama, Rice told reporters: "I told him that I was sorry, and I told him that I myself would be very disturbed."
Obama said Congress should be part of any investigation.
"When you have not just one but a series of attempts to tap into peoples' personal records, that's a problem not just for me but for how our government functions," Obama told reporters in Portland, Ore. "I expect a full and thorough investigation. It should be done in conjunction with those congressional committees that have oversight so it's not simply an internal matter."
The State Department said the Justice Department would be monitoring the probe in case it needs to get involved.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey said the case has not yet been referred to the Justice Department for investigation, and indicated prosecutors likely would wait until the State Department's inspector general concludes its inquiry. But Mukasey did not rule out the possibility of the Justice Department taking an independent look at the passport breach.
"Have they asked us to become involved — no," Mukasey told reporters during a Friday briefing. "When, as, and if we have a basis for an investigation, including a reference — that is, one basis would be a reference — we could conduct one."

Asked what another basis could be, Mukasey said: "I don't want to speculate but if somebody walked in here with a box full of evidence, they wouldn't be turned away."
In Clinton's case, an individual last summer accessed her file as part of a training session involving another State Department worker. McCormack said the one-time violation was immediately recognized and the person was admonished.
Obama's records were accessed without permission on three separate occasions — Jan. 9, Feb. 21 and as recently as last week, on March 14.

McCormack declined to name the companies that employed the contractors, despite demands by a senior House Democrat that such information is in the public interest.
"At this point, we just started an investigation," he said. "We want to err on the side of caution."
McCain, who was in Paris on Friday, said any breach of passport privacy deserves an apology and a full investigation.

"The United States of America values everyone's privacy and corrective action should be taken," he said.
It is not clear whether the employees saw anything other than the basic personal data such as name, citizenship, age, Social Security number and place of birth, which is required when a person fills out a passport application.

Aside from the file, the information could allow critics to dig deeper into the candidates' private lives. While the file includes date and place of birth, address at time of application and the countries the person has traveled to, the most important detail would be their Social Security number, which can be used to pull credit reports and other personal information.
The firings and unspecified discipline of the third employee already had occurred when senior State Department officials learned of the break-ins to the files. Rice learned about it Thursday, after a reporter inquired about Obama's case.
The violations were detected by internal State Department computer checks because certain records, including those of high-profile people, are "flagged" with a computer tag that tips off supervisors when someone tries to view the records without a proper reason.
The Washington Times first reported the incident involving Obama.

Former Independent Counsel Joseph diGenova said the firings of the contract employees will make the investigation more difficult because the inspector general can't compel them to talk.
"My guess is if he tries to talk to them now, in all likelihood they will take the Fifth," diGenova said, referring to the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination.
The State Department's top management officer, Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy, briefed members of the Clinton, Obama and McCain staffs in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee room midday Friday.

"Mistakes and errors happen from time to time. ... We caught these and we've got to work and correct that process," Kennedy said after the more than 90-minute session.
Kennedy had said Thursday that the incident was not handled properly.
"I will fully acknowledge this information should have been passed up the line," Kennedy told reporters in a conference call. "It was dealt with at the office level.""

Monday, March 17, 2008

Feature: Cars and Oil

$1.85 was the price for a gallon of gas until Hurricane Katrina which decreased refining capacity in the Gulf of Mexico then immediately went up to $2.70. We were told the price would go down when the refiners got back up to capacity, it then went to around $2.10 then back up to about $2.30 because Oil companies said they had to change the gas make up do to seasonal changes. Now we’re up to $3.25. This is not natural economic factors at work: it’s the result of price gauging by the Oil companies in an attempt to grab every red cent with no concern for everybody else. My friends bare in mind the following fact: after Hurricane Katrina when the refiners came back online the price of gas never never came back down to its previous amount. The price at the pump is artificially high; it does not have to be $3.50. It does not have anything to do with OPEC because globally there is an over production of oil on the markets. American oil companies (not oil producing countries) have no reason to decrease prices if we continue to pay. I’m no economist but I did minor in economics: ideally the government would be advised to aggressively regulate the price of gas (similar to how some cities have price ceilings on apartment prices) however this could only happen in a utopian world so I offer the following capitalistic tangible ideas. To decrease the price of gas the consumer must cut back on driving therefore decreasing demand in addition to the private sector ramping up competition targeted within automotive industry: The United States producing quality durable cars, economical affordable cars, fuel efficient cars, and hastening innovation where technologies are available but motivation to change is absent – hybrids, hydrogen is the way to go. Such a hastening is to be directed by corporate CEO/Presidents. No one can argue with my stance because it is fact that auto makers that valued quality, affordability, and fuel efficiency (Toyota) have surpassed FORD and GMC in their share of American auto sells. This will be the salvation of U.S. economy. Open your eyes business! Cars and Oil.
-A.T. Brooks

Where's the money?

The money is there for a different economic approach in America. Some however say there is no money. Why then was funding for War in Iraq immediately budgeted? The stance of Checks & Balances is that spending on Social Programs would result in far more in advancements in the economy and jobs than military spending because the benefits are domestic. It is estimated the Iraq War will cost the U.S. a trillion dollars. It has in fact cost $90 Billion every year since its inception. Now more facts; they say there is no money to solvate Social Security however one infusion of $90 Billion can completely revitalize the program. It is fact that they say there is no funding for a nationalized healthcare however combined with Medicare, Medicaid, fee for service and insurance in addition to annual government funding of $5 Billion per year such a program is achievable.

I wish the politics of government to be simpler where profit motives and partisan baloney has no place.

Gas Price Tracker - $3.25

Tampa Bay
Crude Oil $112.00

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gov. Spitzer Resigns

The New York Times is reporting Monday March 10, 2008 that Spitzer has told senior advisers that he had been involved in a prostitution ring.

Spitzer, who is married with three daughters, was scheduled to make an announcement Monday afternoon. Spitzer officials wouldn't immediately comment on the story.
The Times reported that a person with knowledge of the governor's role believes the governor is identified as a client in court papers. Four people allegedly connected to a high-end prostitution ring called Emperors Club VIP were arrested last week.

Update: Spitzer Resigns After Sex Scandal, Pressure

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has resigned, bowing to enormous pressure for him to leave public office in the wake of allegations that he has repeatedly used the services of a high-priced prostitution ring. Spitzer has not denied those allegations.
A somber Spitzer, flanked by his wife, Silda, stepped to the podium to give up the office he assumed just 14 months ago.

"I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been," Spitzer said.
"The remorse I feel will always be with me," he told gathered reporters. "I cannot allow for my private failings to disrupt the people's work."
Referring to the high standards he has expected from others, "I can and will expect no less of myself," he said.

The governor's resignation will have an effective date of Monday, March 17, one week after the case first became public knowledge. Lt. Gov. David Paterson, 53, now becomes New York's first black governor. Paterson, who is legally blind, will serve out Spitzer's term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2010.

Friday, March 07, 2008

High on Mount Sinai?

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The biblical Israelites may have been high on a hallucinogenic plant when Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai, according to a new study by an Israeli psychology professor.

Writing in the British journal Time and Mind, Benny Shanon of Jerusalem's Hebrew University said two plants in the Sinai desert contain the same psychoactive molecules as those found in plants from which the powerful Amazonian hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca is prepared.
The thunder, lightning and blaring of a trumpet which the Book of Exodus says emanated from Mount Sinai could just have been the imaginings of a people in an "altered state of awareness," Shanon hypothesized.

"In advanced forms of ayahuasca inebriation, the seeing of light is accompanied by profound religious and spiritual feelings," Shanon wrote.
"On such occasions, one often feels that in seeing the light, one is encountering the ground of all Being ... many identify this power as God."

Shanon wrote that he was very familiar with the affects of the ayahuasca plant, having "partaken of the ... brew about 160 times in various locales and contexts."
He said one of the psychoactive plants, harmal, found in the Sinai and elsewhere in the Middle East, has long been regarded by Jews in the region as having magical and curative powers.
Some biblical scholars were unimpressed. Orthodox rabbi Yuval Sherlow told Israel Radio: "The Bible is trying to convey a very profound event. We have to fear not for the fate of the biblical Moses, but for the fate of science."

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Alastair Macdonald)"

Latinos' Job Fatality Rate Highest

Each year, nearly 6,000 workers die on the job in the United States. They fall from scaffoldings, get pulled into industrial machines or are exposed to toxic chemicals. Since the federal government began compiling these statistics, the number of workplace fatalities has been fairly constant — except among Latinos. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Latino workers' fatality rate was 21 percent higher than all workers in 2006.


Broad Support for Requiring Health Coverage

A new poll on health care from NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health finds that a majority of Americans are backing key elements in the health reform proposals of Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Broad Support for Requiring Health Coverage

" New poll on health care from NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health finds that a majority of Americans are backing key elements in the health reform proposals of Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
The poll also found very strong support for doing something about the problem of 50 million Americans being uninsured — 93 percent call it a serious problem, with 74 percent saying it's a very serious problem.

"One thing that the survey shows is that Americans are concerned about the problem of the uninsured," says Mollyann Brodie of the Kaiser Family Foundation, co-director of the NPR/Kaiser/Harvard polling project. "We see a universal sort of agreement that they'd like to see more people covered — that it's a good goal to go after."

One aim of the poll was to find out how people feel about the idea of requiring all individuals to buy health insurance. That's a centerpiece of Clinton's plan.

When asked whether they would support a broad proposal that would require everyone to get coverage, 59 percent said they would support it. Such a proposal would require employers to provide coverage or pay into a pool. The government would help low-income people get coverage, and insurance companies would be required to take anyone who applies. People who don't get coverage through one of these channels or purchase it themselves would pay a fine.
But when the question was asked a different way — without emphasizing government subsidies, employer mandates and requirements on insurance companies — support dropped to 47 percent in favor and 44 percent against. That's an even split, given the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The finding suggests that support for requiring everyone to buy insurance may be iffy.
One of the people responding to the poll was Jeffreyna Harper of St. Clair Shores, Mich. She likes Clinton's plan better than Obama's, which would not require all adults to have coverage but would require that parents get their children covered.
"It's good that your children have insurance," Harper told NPR. "The parents need insurance too. Who's going to take care of the kids if the parents are sick?"
The poll finds most independents also support a requirement that everybody buy insurance. But many independents have trouble with that, including Lori Moyer of Roanoke, Va.
"That's a tough call for me because I don't know that the government should be requiring people to buy it," she says. "To me, that's too much involvement from the government by saying that you have to purchase health care."
Moyer favors Republican John McCain. But she also likes Obama's plan to require coverage for children.
"My main concern is children that are uninsured," she says. "I think it's important for the children to get the vaccines that they need and not be afraid to take them to the doctor because they can't afford a doctor visit to make them well."
Covering Children First
When asked whether they would favor a proposal that would not require all adults to get insurance, but one that would require parents to get health coverage for their children, support was higher: 65 percent support that proposal, including a majority (54 percent) of Republicans.
Robert Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health, a co-director of the polling project, says support for covering children first may have something to do with last year's debate over the State Children's Health Insurance Plan. President Bush vetoed the proposal by Congress as too expansive. But the debate brought the problem of uninsured children to the public's attention.
"There was extraordinary support in this poll among all groups — Democrats, Republicans and independents — for the idea of requiring that every child has a health insurance policy and then provid[ing] help to parents that can't afford it," he says. "And we don't have as wide a consensus for what to do about adults. So it's the childrens' side of this which offers the possibility of a very quick breakthrough in the next Congress."

On the issue of employers' responsibilities, there's sharp difference between the parties. Three-quarters of Americans say employers should offer health insurance or pay into a government pool to provide coverage. But about twice as many Democrats as Republicans are strongly in favor of this approach.

"The employer issue is, I think, going to be a very important issue because that's going to be quite popular from the Democratic side — that the employers be asked to contribute," Blendon says. "And Sen. McCain is going to say absolutely no requirement for individuals and absolutely no requirements for business."

The poll also showed that there is a fairly low level of understanding about what the presidential candidates have proposed regarding health care. Only 48 percent could correctly answer the question, "Have any of the current candidates for president proposed a health plan requiring all Americans to have health insurance, or not?"
Some 42 percent correctly identified Clinton as having proposed such a plan, but only 11 percent knew correctly that Obama had not."

Monday, March 03, 2008

Ginkgo helps memory, raises stroke

'By David Liu, Ph. D.Mar 2, 2008 - 10:17:50 PM

SUNDAY MARCH 2, 2008 ( -- A study published online Wednesday Feb 27 in the journal Neurology suggests taking a ginkgo biloba extract may help maintain memory in elderly people.But the same study also showed that the users of ginkgo biloba extract were at higher risk of mini-strokes or mild strokes.

Ginkgo biloba extracts are sold as dietary supplements to enhance memory as some studies found that it may help improve memory and other mental functions in people with dementia.Dr. Hiroko H. Dodge at the Oregon State University in Corvallis and colleagues followed 118 people aged 85, half taking ginkgo biloba and half taking a placebo, for three years during which 21 of them developed mild memory problems or signs of dementia.Among those who had the memory problems, 14 took a placebo while only 7 took the ginkgo biloba extract. The researchers said although there was a trend showing that taking the ginkgo biloba extract seemed to reduce the risk for memory loss, the effect was not statistically significant.Among those who strictly followed the supplementation regimen, the risk for memory problems for those who took the ginkgo biloba extract was only 32 % of that for those who did not.However, a higher risk of strokes or mini strokes in the ginkgo biloba group was observed. What is interesting is that the type of stroke observed was vessel blockages, not bleeding, a finding that contradicts early studies."Further studies are needed to determine whether ginkgo biloba has any benefits in preventing cognitive decline and whether it is safe," Dodge said."

Florida’s Democratic Delegates

The elites loitering at the DNC are making an immense mistake in denying Florida the right to seat its 2008 Presidential primary delegates. The DEMS have traditional been the party of the people. Such a regression from this basic principle may further cause schisms. Like Governor Dean rose to be the chief donkey DEMS locally are discussing action to replace him along with rules committee members. The donkey elites are advised to respect the Florida voters, seat or delegates and mind the business of Washington.