Anti-Common Core Protest Wants Parents To Keep Kids Home From School

It’s God vs. the Common Core — at least in the eyes of stay-at-home mom and aspiring home-school teacher Janet Wilson.

A resident of upstate New York, Wilson believes that the state’s new learning standards have the potential to uproot society as we know it, and that it is her duty as a Christian to stop their implementation.

To stave off what she sees as impending educational doom, Wilson is asking other parents to just say no to school. She’s planning for Nov. 18 to be “Don’t Send Your Child To School Day.”

The Common Core State Standards, which Wilson is protesting, have been adopted in most states around the country and implemented in several. Though the standards are not federally mandated, the U.S. Education Department has incentivized states to voluntarily adopt the new learning standards by tying their approval to increased federal funding.

The goal of the Common Core initiative, which was developed by the National Governors Association with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will make sure students around the country are taught the same benchmarks. Still, people like Wilson — and far-right heroes like Glenn Beck and former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul — see them as an attempt by the federal government to indoctrinate children.

“This is Big Brother, George Orwell, 1984. We are living in it,” Wilson told The Huffington Post over the phone, referring to Orwell’s dystopian novel depicting a sinister totalitarian government. “If we don’t speak up now, federal education will be the beginning of the end of this country as we know it.”

Wilson is part of what she sees as a growing movement of parents speaking out against the Common Core Standards. Groups like Americans For Prosperity have sponsored previous anti-Common Core efforts, but Wilson is operating on the grassroots level. She hopes that the protest she has planned –- in which 4,000 people have said they will participate, according to the event’s Facebook page — will make these opposing voices known.

“It’s God uniting his army,” she said. “That’s how we feel about it.”

Wilson had the idea for the protest about a month ago, and she sees it as an opportunity to show Washington that parents will fight back. Still, the idea that activists would pull their kids out of school in the name of education strikes some as counterintuitive.

“Of course it’s legitimate for people to oppose the Common Core Standards and voice their concerns, but I don’t see how pulling kids out of school and losing learning time is going to help anybody,” Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning think tank, told HuffPost. “This seems to be punishing students and using them as toys in a political debate.”

Petrilli, who has come out in favor of the standards, said that in his experience some of the most vocal Common Core opponents do not have their children in public schools. Notably, Wilson said that she is going to home-school her child, who is not yet school-aged.

But there are at least some public school parents who disagree with Petrilli’s views. Danielle and Tim Karlik, New York parents who plan on taking their children to a protest on Nov. 18, told Central New York’s The Post-Standard that they think keeping their kids from school will teach a valuable lesson.

“I will use this as my way of teaching them we have freedom of assembly and freedom of speech and that’s how they will get their education that day,” Danielle Karlik told the outlet.

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-13 »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed

Setad, Khamenei’s Conglomerate, Thrived As Sanctions Squeezed Iran

(This is the second story in a three-part series, Assets of the Ayatollah:
By Babak Dehghanpisheh and Steve Stecklow
Nov 11 (Reuters) – Seven years ago, the United Nations and Western powers began subjecting Tehran to steadily harsher economic sanctions. Around the same time, an organization controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei started to study how some developing economies managed to grow fast.
Setad, as the organization is known, had amassed billions of dollars in property seized from Iranian citizens. What Iran lacked and needed, Setad decided, was conglomerates on a par with those of South Korea, Japan, Brazil and the United States.
According to an account this year by a senior official in the unit that oversees Setad’s financial investments, Ali Ashraf Afkhami, the organization also picked the perfect candidate to create an Iranian national champion: Setad itself.
The ayatollah’s organization would go on to acquire stakes in a major bank by 2007 and in Iran’s largest telecommunications company in 2009. Among dozens of other investments, it took over a giant holding company in 2010.
An organizational chart labeled “SETAD at a Glance,” prepared in 2010 by one of Setad’s companies and seen by Reuters, illustrates how big it had grown. The document shows holdings in major banks, a brokerage, an insurance company, power plants, energy and construction firms, a refinery, a cement company and soft drinks manufacturing.
Today, Setad’s vast operations provide an independent source of revenue and patronage for Supreme Leader Khamenei, even as the West squeezes the Iranian economy harder with sanctions in an attempt to end the nuclear-development program he controls.
“He has a huge sum at his disposal that he can spend,” says Mohsen Sazegara, a co-founder of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps military force, who is now living in exile in the United States. “When you have this much money, that’s power itself.”
Even as Setad was gaining ever-greater control over the Iranian economy in recent years, the Western powers knew of the organization and its connection to the supreme leader – the one man with the power to halt Tehran’s uranium-enrichment program. But they moved cautiously, and Setad largely escaped foreign pressure.
In July 2010, the European Union included Mohammad Mokhber, president of Setad, in a list of individuals and entities it was sanctioning for alleged involvement in “nuclear or ballistic missiles activities.” Two years later, it removed him from the list.
In June, the U.S. Treasury Department added Setad and 37 companies it “oversees” to its list of sanctioned entities. Khamenei wasn’t named in the announcement, but a Treasury official later told a Senate committee that Setad is controlled by the supreme leader’s office.
Asked why Khamenei himself wasn’t targeted, U.S. officials told Reuters they did not want to play into the hands of Iranian officials who maintain that Washington’s ultimate goal in pressuring Iran with sanctions is to topple the government.
“Regime change is not our policy,” said one U.S. official. “But putting pressure on this regime certainly is.”
By the time Setad felt the pressure, it was already a giant.
As reported in Part 1 of this series, Setad was founded with modest ambitions. Its genesis was a two-paragraph order issued in 1989 by Khamenei’s predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, shortly before he died. The order directed two aides to sell and manage properties that had supposedly been abandoned during the chaotic years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and channel much of the proceeds to charity. The edict ultimately sparked a new organization whose full name in Persian is “Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam” – the Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam.
According to one of its co-founders, Setad was meant to last two years. But under Khamenei’s control, it remained in business, amassing a giant portfolio of real estate by claiming in Iranian courts, sometimes falsely, that the properties were abandoned. In fact, many were seized from members of religious minorities, and business people and other Iranians living abroad.
Since 2000 it has moved into almost every area of the economy.
In an interview, David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said Setad now generates “billions of dollars a year” in revenue. He added that “the supreme leader’s own money is handled and invested in” a Setad division known as the Tadbir Economic Development Group, although he said the amount isn’t known. A Treasury Department spokesman said Tadbir also manages investments for “other leadership figures” in Iran, but didn’t name them.
The Iranian president’s office, the foreign ministry and Tadbir Economic Development Group didn’t respond to requests for comment. Iran’s embassy in the United Arab Emirates issued a statement calling Reuters’ findings “scattered and disparate” and said that “none has any basis.” It didn’t elaborate.
Setad’s director general of public relations, Hamid Vaezi, said in an email that the Reuters series is “far from realities and is not correct” but didn’t go into specifics. In a subsequent message, he said Setad disputes the Treasury allegations and is in the process of hiring U.S. legal counsel to challenge the sanctions.
Setad’s total net worth is difficult to pinpoint due to the secrecy of its accounts and because its stakes in companies frequently change. But Reuters was able to identify holdings of real estate, corporate investments and other assets in Setad’s control worth about $95 billion. That estimate is based on statements by Setad officials, data from the Tehran Stock Exchange and company websites, and information from the Treasury Department.
About $52 billion of that sum is in property. The head of Setad’s real-estate division said the property unit was worth that amount at a press conference in 2008. It is possible that this figure has risen or fallen since then as the portfolio has evolved.
Setad also has an estimated $43 billion or more in corporate holdings, Reuters found:

* The U.S. Treasury Department assessed Rey Investment Co, controlled by Setad, as worth about $40 billion in 2010, the year Setad took control of it. (The Treasury did not put an overall value on Setad).

* Through a subsidiary, Setad bought a 19 percent stake in Telecommunication Co of Iran, the country’s largest telecom provider, for about $3 billion.

* Reuters also identified at least 24 publicly traded companies not named in the recent Treasury sanctions in which Setad, or a company it invested in, held a minority stake. At the current official exchange rate, those investments are worth more than $400 million, according to valuations from the Tehran Stock Exchange and data gleaned from the exchange and company websites.

* Reuters further identified 14 companies Setad has investments in – often through other businesses – that couldn’t be valued because they are not publicly traded.

The Revolutionary Guards, the powerful military unit tasked with protecting Iran from both domestic and foreign threats, has long held a pivotal role in the country’s economy, with extensive holdings in defense, construction and oil industries, according to the U.S. State Department.
Setad gives the supreme leader a significant financial resource of his own, one that greatly adds to his power.
Khamenei appoints Setad’s board of directors but delegates management of the organization to others, according to one former employee. This person said the supreme leader is primarily concerned about one thing: its annual profits, which he uses to fund his bureaucracy.
“All he cares about is the number,” this person said.

Details of how Setad has acquired so many stakes in public and private businesses are hazy. People familiar with the organization say it has bought shares on the open market and pressured investors to sell it shares. In at least one case, shares Setad now controls were confiscated from their original owner.
Shirin Reghabi, a teacher now living in California, told Reuters she was a major shareholder in Fars & Khuzestan Cement Co, which states on its website it is Iran’s largest cement firm. The shares, which she had purchased several years before the 1979 revolution, were seized more than 20 years ago, she said.
Her husband, attorney Ross K. Reghabi, said when he looked into the matter a few years ago, he learned that the shares had been confiscated by a foundation called Bonyad Mostazafan, but then transferred to another company that was connected to Setad. He estimates the shares are now worth close to $100 million.
“It’s like a tsunami now. They are in control of all these companies,” he said.
The Reghabis concluded they had no recourse against the ayatollah’s organization. “I gave up,” Mrs. Reghabi said.
In 2000, Setad took one of its earliest steps to formalize its move beyond property, setting up an investment management firm called Tadbir Investment Co. It would eventually become one of at least five main vehicles through which Setad holds corporate stakes.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard-line conservative, was elected Iran’s president in 2005, replacing a more moderate leader. Iran holds regular presidential and parliamentary elections, though the real power remains with the supreme leader. Two months later, Tehran announced it had resumed uranium conversion as part of a nuclear program. The West believes Iran wants to build atomic weapons. Iran has long said the program is for peaceful energy development – a position Tehran reiterated in recent days when it and Western powers held marathon talks aimed at a possible rapprochement. Those talks failed to reach a deal; negotiations will resume soon.
In December 2006, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran’s trade in nuclear-related materials and technology, and froze assets of key individuals and companies involved in the nuclear program.

Meanwhile, Setad was making a push into banking. Parsian Bank had opened for business in 2002, and it was different from other Iranian lenders. It offered interest rates that were slightly higher than government-run banks. But while other financial institutions typically capped the size of their mortgage loans, Parsian was willing to finance 80 percent of a property’s value, making financing a real option for many new homebuyers. “People could actually buy houses,” said one former employee who requested anonymity.
Parsian was particularly unusual in another aspect: It had a lenient dress code. Men wore ties and women used makeup, which Iran’s religious conservatives criticize for contributing to the spread of Western culture.
“People liked to come in the bank just to watch the people working there,” said the ex-employee, who added that in its hiring practices, Parsian “was very much valuing people based on brain and intellectual capacity, not based on their connections.”
By 2006, Parsian had opened more than 100 branches and become Iran’s largest non-state bank. But the institution faced trouble.
According to people familiar with the matter, in 2005, Mohammad Shariatmadari, who had served on Setad’s board of directors, asked Parsian’s managing director, Abdollah Talebi, for a $44 million loan for a foundation he managed.
Shariatmadari offered no collateral for the loan; Talebi refused. Meanwhile, President Ahmadinejad publicly criticized the lending practices of private banks, accusing them of making huge loans to favored clients. News media reported that he had Parsian Bank in his sights. Under pressure, Talebi resigned as managing director in 2006 and later quit the bank’s board after Iran’s Central Bank disqualified him for allegedly violating its rules on loans.
Neither Talebi nor Shariatmadari responded to requests for comment.
It was during this period that Setad’s investment firm, Tadbir Investment Co, acquired a stake in Parsian. Although the stake was small – a Setad official later suggested it was 16 percent – the former employee likened Tadbir’s arrival to “a hostile takeover.”
The atmosphere at Parsian changed dramatically, according to the ex-employee. Ties were banned for men. Female employees began receiving letters asking, “Why are you wearing jeans? Why are your lips red?”
New managers arrived. “Even the customers of the bank changed,” the ex-employee said. “They brought their own customers and clients.”
The bank’s board also changed. According to Parsian’s website, its members now include Aref Norozi, who it also says serves on the board of Tadbir Investment. Norozi was also head of Setad’s enormous real-estate division, which sells and manages confiscated properties. It was Norozi who in 2008 put the value of Setad’s real-estate holdings at about $52 billion.

Despite the sanctions, Iran’s economy grew at a healthy 6 percent in the two years leading up to the financial crisis of 2008. After a sharp drop, growth was back to just below 6 percent in 2010, according to the International Monetary Fund. Oil exports kept the money flowing. Iran exported $70 billion worth of oil in 2009 and $90 billion in 2010, according to IMF figures.
These were years of expansion for Setad. In 2006 or 2007, Setad conducted a study to explore why certain developing countries were outgrowing Iran. The deliberations were described in an interview given to the reformist Iranian newspaper Shargh in April this year by Afkhami, whom the paper identified as chairman of the Tadbir Economic Development Group, the unit that oversees most of Setad’s financial investments.
“In South Korea, companies like Samsung, LG and Hyundai have had an impact on development. In China, Japan, Brazil, Germany and America it’s the same,” said Afkhami. “We saw that in Iran we don’t have these large corporations. With this in mind, within the Tadbir Investment Company we started slowly, slowly discussing the strategy of entering various arenas,” he told the paper. “This strategy was approved by the management of Setad.”
And it was soon implemented. In September 2008, Norozi, then managing director of Setad’s property division, announced a restructuring of the entire organization at an official Setad ceremony in the city of Bushehr, according to a report by the semi-official Fars news agency. He said Setad had been transformed “from a collective that sells property into an economic conglomerate” that held investments in publicly traded companies. He said it had invested $833 million so far, including a 16 percent share in Parsian Bank.
Norozi noted that Setad also had another “subsidiary”: the Barakat Foundation, which he said “has the duty of eliminating poverty and empowering poor communities.”
Shahin A. Shayan, who spent two years working at Goldman Sachs in New York, told Reuters Barakat started about six or seven years ago and was based on a model he developed. A U.S.-born, Columbia University graduate and standout college soccer player, Shayan had spent most of his childhood in Iran and returned there in the mid-1990s.
Shayan said Barakat, a non-profit, was designed to create jobs in rural areas of Iran. The foundation raised capital from private sources, local governments and Setad, and initially began with about $4 million or $5 million, he said. But he said Barakat remained “totally independent from any entity.” The foundation offered assistance in agriculture and to food businesses and small mining operations, he said, as well as building schools, roads and houses. “It wasn’t billions of dollars,” he said.
Shayan said he left Barakat about three-and-a-half years ago. “I wanted to go back and do research and lectures and things like that,” he said. He said he didn’t know what became of the organization after his departure. “Don’t ask me what it is now because I have no idea.”
It is now part of Setad’s empire, according to the foundation’s website.
In his interview with Shargh newspaper in April, Setad’s Afkhami said “nearly 100 percent of the income of Setad and the Tadbir Group is placed at the disposal” of the Barakat Foundation. The foundation, he said, had spent more than $1.6 billion in the past five years on development projects, as well as building 200 schools, 400 homes and health clinics.
Setad’s claims about its charity spending are impossible to verify because its accounts are not publicly available. Moreover, in the same interview in which Afkhami claimed nearly 100 percent of Setad’s income went to Barakat, he later said: “Of course part of the income has been spent on developing companies in the Tadbir Group.”
Officials at Barakat could not be reached for comment.

One of Setad’s biggest deals came in 2009, when it acquired a large minority stake in Iran’s biggest telecommunications company, which has a near monopoly on the nation’s landline telephone services.
According to a 2010 slideshow prepared by a Setad subsidiary company, Setad that year held 38 percent of a consortium called Tose’e Etemad Mobin Co. A year earlier, the consortium had acquired 50 percent plus one share of Telecommunication Co of Iran (TCI), for $7.8 billion. The buyers got favorable terms: The slideshow says the winning consortium – whose largest stakeholder was a company controlled by the Revolutionary Guards – was required to put down 20 percent and had eight years to pay the rest.
In 2010, Setad obtained control of an even bigger prize: Rey Investment Co, whose value the U.S. Treasury in June put at about $40 billion as of December 2010. A conglomerate within the larger conglomerate of Setad, Rey has investments that include an oil company, a mining company and two ostrich farms. The Treasury Department says Setad took control of Rey Investment after the Iranian government cut off its funding because of alleged mismanagement.
No one at Rey Investment answered the phone despite attempts by reporters to seek comment.
As it grew, Setad began looking outside Iran. In 2010, a unit of the organization tried to woo foreign investors. The organizational chart titled “SETAD at a Glance,” written in English, was part of a PowerPoint presentation by Setad-owned electronics firm Iran Mobin Electronic Development Co. The presentation was aimed at attracting a foreign partner.
“Our main expectation,” one slide stated, “is to reach to much higher income with an experienced Int’l partner such as KPN.” KPN is the largest telecommunications firm in the Netherlands.
A KPN spokesman said: “Naturally KPN respects the trade embargo with Iran. KPN does not and has not done business with this Iranian company.”
By this time, Setad was attracting attention in the West. The Treasury Department says Setad used several companies it gained control of in 2010 to bypass sanctions, including transferring funds from Iran to Europe and Africa.
In July 2010, the European Union issued a 12-page list of Iranian individuals and entities it was sanctioning. Among them: Mohammad Mokhber, president of Setad, which the EU described as “an investment fund linked to Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader.” Mokhber and the others were cited for alleged links to Iran’s nuclear or missile programs, but the EU gave no further details. The action didn’t target Setad itself.
The broader sanctions effort grew tougher. That same month, Washington enacted its strictest measures so far, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act, which targeted Iran’s oil and gas sector. The Act, and a series of EU and U.S. sanctions over the following two years, increased pressure on Iran, in particular its energy exports and its banks.
Growth slowed to 3 percent in 2011, and the economy shrank 1.9 percent in 2012. Oil exports have fallen by around 60 percent in the past two years as European and most Asian buyers reduced imports because of U.S. and EU sanctions. Iran now earns around $100 million from oil sales a day, down from $250 million two years ago.
Setad itself, however, managed to evade the tightening noose. In October 2012, without any explanation, the EU removed Mokhber from its sanctions list.
According to a person familiar with the matter, the EU delisted him in an attempt to fend off a broader Iranian legal challenge to financial sanctions on Iran’s banks and bank directors. The EU had listed Mokhber as head of Setad and as chairman of Sina Bank. Sina is among the Iranian banks that have won rounds in European courts seeking to lift sanctions on them. It’s not clear whether he had filed an appeal.
A spokesman for the EU’s foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, declined to comment, saying, “As I’m sure you understand, these are sensitive legal issues and we’d prefer not to say anything.”

The Treasury Department declined to specify how its June sanctions were affecting Setad. It is possible that the new measures will ramp up the pressure on Khamenei’s economic empire. And some of Setad’s operations, of course, are in sectors such as oil and banking that have been hammered by prior sanctions.
“Sanctions have had a significant impact on the government of Iran and have pushed the Iranians back to the negotiating table,” said a Treasury spokesperson.
Because its holdings are so extensive, however, Setad also has investments that remain relatively untouched.
Take the telecommunications industry, a sector the West has largely spared from sanctions.
Setad’s TCI affiliate reported a net profit in 2010, the latest year for which figures are available, of $1.54 billion. Setad’s share of those earnings would work out to $290 million.
Although Setad holds a minority stake in TCI, its influence can be seen at the highest levels inside the company. TCI’s chairman is Mostafa Seyed Hashemi, who previously served as chairman of Iran Mobin, the Setad electronics subsidiary.
Other Setad officials have been named or nominated to top government, military and economic posts in recent years.
The chairman of the board of the Tehran Stock Exchange, Hamidreza Rafiee Keshtli, is a member of Setad’s Tadbir Investment, according to the exchange’s latest annual report.
Gholam Hossein Nozari, a former oil minister, is chairman of Tadbir Energy Development Co, Setad’s energy-holdings division, as well as Pars Oil, in which Setad holds a stake, according to the companies’ websites. Iran has been trying, so far unsuccessfully, to have Nozari named secretary general of OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
In August, newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani named Hossein Dehghan as defense minister. Dehghan served as chairman of Iran Mobin. Last month, Rouhani named Mohammad Shariatmadari – the person who had served on Setad’s board and who allegedly sought a loan from Parsian Bank – as vice president for executive affairs.
Keshtli, Nozari and Dehghan did not respond to interview requests.

Setad’s expansion appears to continue. In May, its charitable foundation, Barakat, announced it was entering “into new pharmaceutical fields,” including biotechnology, nanotechnology and gene therapy. The charity runs a unit called Barakat Pharmaceutical Co that, according to the unit’s website, has more than 20 subsidiaries and had more than $1 billion in sales in 2011.
One of Barakat Pharmaceutical’s units is ATI Pharmed Pharmaceutical Co. Barakat Pharmaceutical describes ATI as a joint venture between it and a Swiss company, Stragen Pharma SA, to produce oral contraceptives. ATI’s website displays information about a number of Stragen products that the Iranian company says it has licensed to produce in Iran. It is not clear whether production has begun.
Officials at Geneva-based Stragen – which according to Barakat Pharmaceutical owns 34 percent of ATI – didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Last October, Khamenei warned that family planning would lead to an aging population. “One of the mistakes that we made – and I am also responsible for this mistake – is that the issue of limiting the population growth should have been stopped from the decade of the ’70s (1991 in the Western calendar) onward,” he said in a speech.
“Families and the youth must increase the birth rate, increase the population,” he continued. “This limiting of children in homes, the way it is today, is a mistake.”
The business empire controlled by Iran’s supreme leader had grown so large that it now owned companies whose products Khamenei opposes. That expansion was the direct result of a legal strategy that came from the very top. Next, Part 3: Rough Justice – How Iran stretched its laws to empower Setad (Additional reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Edited by Simon Robinson and Michael Williams)

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-13 »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed

The Worst Arab States For Women

By Crina Boros

LONDON, Nov 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Sexual harassment, high rates of female genital cutting and a surge in violence and Islamist feeling after the Arab Spring uprisings have made Egypt the worst country in the Arab world t…

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-13 »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed

‘We in the Philippines are a devastated and deeply wounded people’

BIBLE SOCIETY NEWS  |  Philippines Tuesday 12 November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan has caused unprecedented devastation in a country that has suffered more than its fair share of natural disasters. Nora Lucero, who leads the Philippine Bible Society, describes the effects of the storm and the Society’s plans to help bring healing and hope to those […]

The post ‘We in the Philippines are a devastated and deeply wounded people’ appeared first on Bible Society.

Read the original article at Bible Society  2013-11-12 »

Posted in Mission News, News| Comments closed

Soul Surfer’s faith for all to see on GO! this week

MOVIE REVIEW | Peter Bentley  Tuesday 12 November 2013 Soul Surfer will screen on GO! around the country this Friday.  You may have seen the documentary about Bethany Hamilton ‘Heart of a Soul Surfer’ (2007). Bethany is well-known in church as well as surfing circles, following a shark attack in Hawaii in October 2003 which took her […]

The post Soul Surfer’s faith for all to see on GO! this week appeared first on Bible Society.

Read the original article at Bible Society  2013-11-12 »

Posted in Culture, News| Comments closed

Dan Savage on sex, cheating and happiness

OPINION | David Wilson Tuesday 12 November 2013 Monogamy is really hard to practice and the majority of married couples do a lousy job of it, so says American Sex Advice Columnist Dan Savage, in Australia for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas this month. Cheating is therefore something that happens in the majority of relationships […]

The post Dan Savage on sex, cheating and happiness appeared first on Bible Society.

Read the original article at Bible Society  2013-11-12 »

Posted in News, Opinion| Comments closed

The Interfaith Faces Of The U.S. Armed Forces

There are 1.5 million men and women who are actively serving the United States in uniform, and veterans make up many times that number. The U.S. Armed Forces includes people of all states, races, cultures and religious backgrounds. HuffPost Religion celebrates the religious diversity of the military.

First Lt. David Frommer – Jewish
Frommer has lead a small group of service members and civilians in the chanting of the Torah. A chaplain for four years, Frommer has conducted several celebrations of the holiday Sukkot (Feast of Booths, Feast of Tabernacles), but this was his first in the Middle East.

Sgt. 1st Class Naida Christian Nova – Catholic
catholic soldier
Sgt. 1st Class Nova was known as Naida Hosan until last year. The Catholic soldier says her Islamic-sounding name made her a target for harassment by her fellow soldiers.

Captain Thomas Dyer – Buddhist
Chaplain (Capt.) Dyer engages in Zen-posture meditation Dec. 5 at Sightseeing Road Chapel.

Paul Loebe – Atheist
paul loebe
Loebe is the Military Director for American Atheists. He told Patheos, “I am working tirelessly to ensure that sectarian favoritism within the U.S. Military is stamped out in favor of religious acceptance for people of all or no faiths. I firmly believe in the absolute separation of church and state.”

Col. Doug Burpee – Muslim
Burpee’s military career spanned over 20 years, and in 2006, the New York Sun reported that he was the highest-ranking Muslim officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. “Everyone knows I’m a Muslim. When I fly, attached to my dog tags, I wear a pendant with a passage from the Koran,” he said.

Captain Kamaljeet Sing Kalsi – Sikh
sikh uniform
Kalsi poses in Times Square, New York, on September 14, 2010, wearing his U.S. Army ACU Digital Camouflage turban along with his ACU uniform. Kalsi, who is the first Sikh in the U.S. Army to be accommodated in over 25 years, is an emergency room doctor and emergency medical services (EMS) director stationed at Ft. Bragg. Since 2009, the U.S. Army has granted only three exemptions to current uniform policy, allowing these Sikhs to serve while retaining their religiously-mandated turbans and beards.

Rev. Tony Gatlin- Wicca
According to Patheos, Rev. Tony Gatlin is a Wiccan High Priest who currently serves as the Distinctive Faith Group Leader for the Wicca Faith Group at the U.S. Air Force’s Basic Military Training program at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. A retired military veteran of 25 years, he served both as an enlisted Marine and Air Force officer.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – Hindu
tulsi gabbard
Gabbard speaks at Veterans Memorial Day Hilo in 2012. In January, she became the first Hindu-American to become a member of Congress, using the Bhagavad Gita during her swearing-in ceremony. She served in the Hawaii National Guard and was deployed to Iraq and Kuwait during her military career.

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-12 »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed

What Happened When A Rabbi Found $98,000 In A Desk From Craigslist

Now, this is quite a mitzvah!

A young Rabbi who found nearly $100,000 in cash inside a desk he purchased online returned the money the next day, according to multiple reports.

New Haven, Conn., resident Noah Muroff bought the desk on Craigslist in September for just $150, but he made an incredible discovery when he took the desk apart to fit it through a doorway, local ABC affiliate WTNH-TV reports.

“Behind the drawers there is this plastic bag,” Muroff told the local station. “We opened it up…and there’s $98,000 cash sitting in the bag.”

The very next day, Muroff took his family to return the money.

It turns out the cash was inheritance money that belonged to the woman who sold Muroff the desk, WTNH-TV notes. She had forgotten where she had put the money.

If Hashem wants us to have this $98,000, he will make sure we have it in a way he sees fit,” Muroff told the Tablet. “There’s a reason why it didn’t fit in the room and why we had to take the desk apart.”

Muroff later received a thank-you note from the owner.

“I do not think there are too many people in this world who would have done what you did,” the note, obtained by blog Vos Iz Neias, said. “I will be forever grateful.”

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-12 »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed

Typhoon Hero Who Saved Trapped Families In Philippines Was ‘Just Working On Human Instinct’

He thought there was a good chance he wouldn’t make it through Typhoon Haiyan, but Jonathan Fitzpatrick decided that if these were his last moments on earth, he would spend them helping people in need.

Fitzpatrick, of Walsall England, was in the Philippines working as an electrical engineer when one of the worst storms on record hit, claiming an estimated 10,000 lives. The 23-year-old initially barricaded himself in a room at the Ormoc Villa Hotel on Thursday as 170 mph-winds barreled through outside, but then decided to venture out to help trapped victims, Sky News reported.

“He admitted he thought that was going to be it,” Fitzpatrick’s sister, Rachel, told Express and Star. “But he decided he didn’t want to go like that, and he wanted to go fighting.”

The brave hero connected with his family via Skype as the storm struck, but the call was quickly cut off.

To aid struggling victims, Fitzgerald and four of his colleagues kicked down hotel room doors, shuttled people to the stairwell to seek refuge and handed out waters, according to Express and Star.

Though he risked his life for complete strangers, Fitzgerald doesn’t see himself as a hero.

“He was not a hero, just working on his human instinct. In his eyes he has not done anything heroic, he has done normal things,” his mom told Sky News. “The real heroes are the people out there sorting out this mess now, providing care, food and water.”

When the storm settled down, and before he headed to a ferry to make his way back to England, Fitzgerald completed one more “heroic” act. He handed money to a man to help him rebuild his home, Express and Star reported.

Such donations are critical for the Philippines where the full scope of the devastation has yet to be measured.

According to authorities, at least 9.7 million people in 41 provinces were affected by the typhoon and no building was spared.

“I don’t believe there is a single structure that is not destroyed or severely damaged in some way — every single building, every single house,” U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy told the Associated Press after taking a helicopter flight over the city.

Authorities now fear that the already-ravaged area will be besieged by violence, because aid is trickling in so slowly.

“The devastation is, I don’t have the words for it,” Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said, according to Reuters. “It’s really horrific. It’s a great human tragedy.”

A number of relief organizations are working to bring supplies, food, water and shelter to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Find out how you get involved here.

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-12 »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed

St. Peter Relics: Vatican To Display Bones Believed To Be From Leader Of Jesus’ Disciples For First Time

ROME (RNS) The Vatican said it would display for the first time bones believed to be the mortal remains of St. Peter, the leader of Jesus’ 12 apostles, to mark the end of the Year of Faith, Nov. 24.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, wrote in Monday’s editions of L’Osservatore Romano, that the Catholic faithful making a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s tomb to mark the end of the Year of Faith will enjoy “the exposition … of the relics traditionally recognized as those of the apostle who gave his life for the Lord on this spot.”

Fisichella was referring to the long-held belief that Peter was crucified upside down and died in either A.D. 64 or 67 on the spot now marked by the Clementine Chapel inside the basilica that bears his name.

The church never officially declared the bones — which were discovered in the 1940s — authentic. But a series of exhaustive tests conducted on the bones between their discovery and 1968 convinced Pope Paul VI they had been “identified in a way we can hold to be convincing.” Previously, only the box containing the bones was on display.

Pope Benedict XVI declared the Year of Faith would begin on Oct. 11, 2012, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Benedict said at the time that the Year of Faith was a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversation to the Lord.”

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-12 »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed

Pope Francis Effect In Rising Church Attendance In Italy

ROME (RNS) First, the name “Francesco” leapfrogged to No. 1 on the list of the most popular baby names in Italy.

Then, the city of Rome reported a tourism boom, mostly from Latin America.

Now, there’s word Roman Catholic Church attendance is climbing throughout Italy.

Blame it on “the Francis effect.”

Italy’s Center for Studies on New Religions reported Sunday (Nov. 10) that around half of the 250 priests it surveyed reported a significant rise in church attendance since Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March.

“If we project these findings nationally, and if half of the parishes have been touched by the Francis effect, then we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people returning to the churches,” said Massimo Introvigne, the center’s director and a professor at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.

The findings come as Opinioni, a political polling company, reported Monday that more than four in five Italians had a “positive” or “extremely positive” opinion of the new pope.

In the poll, Opinioni asked for opinions on 21 public figures in Italy — the pope, sports stars, politicians, entertainers, business figures, and others. Respondents were asked to place them in five categories: extremely positive, positive, neutral, negative, extremely negative. Eighty-two percent rated the pope in one of the top two categories, far outdistancing all other public figures.

The latest findings fit into the popular narrative of Francis, who has earned headlines for his humble and popular style and statements. Roman police say that average attendance at papal audiences in St. Peter’s Square are on the rise, and souvenir sellers have been quoted in the local press as saying business has improved since March, despite Italy’s moribund economy.

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-12 »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed

This Non-Offensive Christmas Ornament Covers All The Bases

Just in time for people to start politicizing the holidays, this catch-all ornament spotted at Target is the perfect item for everyone on your insert-holiday-here list!

Now, go hang this on your non-denominational holiday tree and have a festive end…

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-12 »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed

Jakiw Palij, 91-Year-Old Former Nazi, Still Living In Queens Despite Protests (VIDEO)

Ninety-one-year-old Jakiw Palij, a former Nazi guard, is still living in his New York City home despite years protests outside his front door, and after efforts to deport him.

Palij, who immigrated to the U.S. from Poland, told The New York Post that …

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-12 »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed

‘Forward 50′ List Of Top American Jews Acknowledges Pope Francis

The Jewish Daily Forward just released its annual “Forward 50” list of newsworthy and notable Jews, with an additional “Plus” category to recognize the contributions of prominent non-Jews.

One of the names on the list this year is none other than Pope Francis, the global leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Forward cited Francis’ outreach to the Jewish community, his clear denunciations of anti-Semitism, his intention of opening up the Church’s Holocaust archive, and his plans to visit Israel as indications of significant change in the relationship between the Church and the Jewish world.

“It’s a truism to say that Francis has the power to affect how more human beings view the Jewish people than any one else on earth. It’s reason enough to take him at his word — and hold him to it,” The Forward explained.

Angelina Jolie was the other public figure named in the “Plus” category, due to her courageous decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA gene mutation, which is disproportionally prevalent in people of Ashkenazi Jewish background.

The top five American Jews named by The Forward were Veronique Pozner, Edith Windsor, Philip Roth, Joseph Neubauer, and Sheryl Sandberg.

Veronique Pozner‘s 6-year old son, Noah, was the youngest victim of the Newtown, Conn. shooting in December 2012. In the midst of her grief, she became an advocate for gun control as well as a portrait of Jewish mourning.

Edith Windsor gained national attention for winning a Supreme Court suit which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. After her partner Thea Spyer passed away, she was prohibited from the benefit of a tax exemption for surviving spouses, and filed suit to protest the unfair law. Her attorney, Roberta Kaplan, is also Jewish.

Acclaimed novelist Philip Roth announced his retirement in 2012, but the impact of his work will live on. During his career, he won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the PEN/Nabokov Award, th eMan Booker INternational Prize, and the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

Joseph Neubauer provided key financial support for the survey of American Jews done by the Pew Research Center. A lifelong businessman, he retired as CEO of Aramark in 20112. He has agreed to fund another Pew survey which will focus on Israeli Jews.

Sheryl Sandberg has become a household name in America for her simple phrase, “Lean in.” With those words, she sparked a national conversation about family life, working women, and a new definition of success. She is the only woman to serve on Facebook’s board of directors, and has inspired the creation of at least 10,000 circles of women who work together to support each other professionally.

Read the full list of inspiring American Jews here

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-12 »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed

Ahmed Mohammed Tuma, Muslim Nebraska Man, Allegedly Attacked Lesbian Sister With A Crowbar

A 20-year-old Muslim man in Nebraska stands accused of a hate crime after allegedly attacking his sister with a crowbar because she is a lesbian.

The Associated Press reports that Ahmed Mohammed Tuma was arrested Nov. 8 on suspicion of attempted assa…

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-12 »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed
  • If you are interested in acquiring - the domain name, the site - or both - get in touch »

    Inspiratos is a not-for-profit venture. If you'd like to help us with operating costs contributions are welcomed.

  • Archives

  • April 2014
    « Mar