Thursday, August 31, 2006

Desperate Catholics find "rent-a-priests" online

Reuters reported August 30th that:

ALBANY, New York - Some are Catholics who see their church as stuck in the past. Others are believers who happen to be divorced, pregnant before marriage or gay. A few just can't find a priest when they need one.

Roman Catholics shunned by the official church are "renting" married priests in times of crisis and celebration.

They turn to, a Web site with 2,500 Catholic priests in a national database known as "God's Yellow Pages."

Virtually all the priests in the database have left their official clerical ministries due to the Roman Catholic Church's mandatory celibacy rule, but they continue to conduct weddings, usually for a fee, while performing baptisms, last rites and funerals for free, in keeping with the practice of officially recognized priests.

"We are doing Jesus' work and apparently the church isn't," said Louise Haggett, director of Celibacy Is The Issue (CITI) ministries, which runs the site and helped arrange 3,000 weddings last year.

The group also is working to change the Catholic church's ban on married priests.

Haggett said the Internet is a popular source for rent-a-priests because there is a shortage. Twenty-seven percent of U.S. parishes lack a resident priest, according to a U.S. Conference of Bishops study.

Priests are aging, churches are closing and fewer priests are being ordained. The church knows there are fewer priests than decades ago but there are plenty to meet the spiritual needs of the faithful, said Ron Menty of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.

"Sometimes the reason why people go to this source concerns the rules, regulations and expectations of the church," Menty said. "Sometimes a priest outside the community feels freer in providing services."

The going rate for a wedding in New York is about $500, cheaper in other states.


Haggett founded the site in 1992 when her mother was in a nursing home and unable to find a parish priest.

CITI locates, recruits, certifies and promotes married or gay Roman Catholic priests. Haggett said 21 canons in church law validate married priests.

But the church does not recognize these priests because they violated their vows, said Ken Goldfarb, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.

The church does recognize some married Protestants who became priests later in life.

"These rent-a-priests have already taken their vows, then married. That's the distinction," Goldfarb said.

Richard Hasselbach, who married after he was a priest for 13 years, defends the organization because many people are turned off by what he calls the inflexibility and rigidity of "the corporate Catholic Church."

The complete story may be found here:

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Census Bureau Findings Show Almost One in Four Children and 37 million Americans Remain Mired in Poverty

Despite Four Years of Economic Growth, there is No Progress in Reducing Poverty

WASHINGTON - August 30 - "For the fifth straight year, the Census Bureau's annual report card on how many Americans still live in poverty remains alarming," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "Even a year after Hurricane Katrina showed us the reality of poverty, the plight of poor people is unchanged. The fact that almost one in four of our children and 37 million people in the United States remain mired in poverty in an era of economic expansion cries out for serious attention from our political leaders. This should be an election issue."

In a bipartisan national poll of likely voters, 85 percent considered a candidate's position on reducing hunger and poverty to be an important factor in choosing the candidate they support for Congress. An overwhelming majority, 90 percent, said that they would support a candidate who is working to reduce hunger and poverty in our country.

Census Bureau Report findings for 2005 include:

* Poverty held statistically steady at 12.6 percent of the population (37 million people) breaking a four-year trend of annual increases.
* Children under 18 continue to have a higher poverty rate (22.8 percent or 12.9 million children, about the same as last year) than the general population.
* More than one-third (34.5 percent) of all people in poverty are children under 18.
* Elderly poverty increased slightly from last year, to 10.1 percent (3.6 million elderly).
* Single-female households increased, from 28.3 percent to 28.7 percent.
* Black, Hispanic, and Native American poverty remained more than twice that of Whites and Asians (although poverty among Asian households increased slightly).
* Black households are more than 3 times as likely (11.7 percent) to live below 50 percent of poverty than White, non-Hispanic households (3.5 percent); Hispanic households are over twice as likely (8.6 percent);
* Poverty by state is concentrated in the South, and relatively lighter in the Northeast and upper Midwest. 20 states have poverty rates at or above the national average, with the highest percentages in DC, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, New Mexico, and Texas.
* 37 states have low-income (below 125 percent of poverty) rates of 15 percent or more, with Mississippi having the greatest rate of 27.6 percent.

Mexico Election: CEPR Analysis Shows “Adding Up” Problem for Half of Ballot Boxes

WASHINGTON - August 30 - A new paper by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) finds that half of all ballot boxes suffer from “adding up” errors, and the withholding of information by Mexico’s electoral authorities has undermined the credibility of election results.

“Mexico’s electoral authorities conducted a partial recount of 9 percent of the votes from August 9 to August 13,” said economist Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of CEPR and co-author of the report. “There is no obvious legitimate reason for refusing to announce the results of this recount.”

Weisbrot noted that the recount was conducted very much like the preliminary and second vote counts, although independent observers were not allowed to witness the recount. Ballot boxes were opened, ballots counted, totals recorded, and tally sheets signed by witnesses and judges. In the previous vote counts, the results were made public immediately.

Although totals for the recount are not yet available, information from witnesses indicates that PAN candidate Felipe Calderon lost thousands of votes but Andrés Manuel López Obrador lost almost none.

CEPR’s analysis also confirmed that 61,192 of 126,139 ballot boxes contained “adding up” errors. Election workers received a fixed and recorded number of blank ballots for each ballot box, and were instructed to keep track of them. Yet for nearly half of all ballot boxes, the total votes plus leftover blank ballots did not add up to the number of ballots received.

“Without a full recount, it’s hard to have confidence in the result of a close election like this, especially with such a huge level of errors and the authorities withholding important information,”

The full paper is available at:

Physician Group Decries 1.3 Million Rise in Uninsured

Uninsured Ranks Swell as Private Coverage Deteriorates Middle-Class Losing Coverage at Fastest Rate
14,000 Doctors: “National Health Insurance is the Only Solution”

CHICAGO - August 30 - Responding to newly-released data from the U.S. Census Bureau showing that the number of uninsured Americans increased by 1.3 million in 2005, members of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) condemned the sharp increase in the number of uninsured and called for a national health insurance program to provide comprehensive coverage to all Americans.

The number of uninsured rose from 45.3 million in 2004 to 46.6 million in 2004 (15.9 percent of the population), the fifth straight year of increases. The number of uninsured has increased by 6.8 million since 2000. The number of uninsured children rose from 7.9 million in 2004 to 8.3 million (11.2 percent of all kids) in 2005, despite continued expansions of the Medicaid and SCHIP programs.

“Virtually all of the people who lost their coverage were solidly middle-class, full-time working American citizens,” said PNHP co-founder Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Additionally, there are the tens of millions more whose insurance is so skimpy they’d be bankrupted if they got sick. The mainstream of America is suffering.”

The Physicians’ group noted that the large increase in the number of uninsured Americans was a result of the continued erosion of employer-based coverage. A million full time workers lost their coverage between 2004 and 2005 (in 2005, 21.5 million of the uninsured worked full-time). The proportion of Americans covered by employer-based coverage continues to plummet, from 63.6 percent in 2000, to 59.8 percent in 2004, and 59.5 percent in 2005.

Almost all the rise in the uninsured was in families with incomes over $50,000 per year; there was a modest decline in the number of uninsured poor, those families with incomes under $25,000 per year (partly due to the expansion of public coverage to another 857,000 people). The number of uninsured people making between $50,000 and $75,000 per year rose the fastest, by 600,000 people, to 8.3 million (14.1 percent of this income group). Additionally, the number of uninsured making over $75,000 rose by 800,000, to 8.7 million.

“The number of uninsured is going to continue to climb as long as health care costs continue to rise unchecked,” said Dr. Don McCanne, senior health policy fellow for PNHP. “We can no longer afford the waste and inefficiency, the high overhead and outrageous executive salaries of the private insurance industry.”

Hispanics continue to be hardest hit among minorities. The number of uninsured Hispanics increased from 13.5 million in 2004 to 14.1 million in 2005. 32.7 percent of all Hispanics are uninsured, compared with 19.6 percent of Blacks (7.2 million people), 17.9 percent of Asians (2.3 million people), and 11.3 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

“Lack of coverage among Hispanics is the greatest health disparity issues for the Latino population” said Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, Director of the Center for Health of Urban Minorities at Columbia University. “Band-aid solutions are clearly failing the Latino community and are no longer tolerable. Already, eleven Latino Congressmen have signed on to The National Health Insurance Act (HR 676) and a growing list of Latino organizations and groups are calling for such reforms. Most recently, the National Hispanic Medical Organization, representing 36,000 licensed Hispanic physicians in the U.S., expressed their support for National Health Insurance.”

The doctors’ group said that the only solution to the rising number of uninsured and underinsured is a single-payer national health insurance program, publicly financed but delivered by private doctors and hospitals. Such a program could save more than $400 billion annually in administrative waste, enough to provide high-quality coverage to all and halt the erosion of the current private system. On Monday, the California Assembly voted 43-30 in favor of a statewide single-payer program.

“The mainstream of American is now experiencing the human suffering that results from being uninsured. It makes any illness a potential economic and social catastrophe,” said Dr. Woolhandler. “The Administration’s proposed reforms fail to address the systemic problems of the health system. Health savings accounts and schemes like the Massachusetts plan will only intensify the failure. By contrast, the experience of other industrialized nations teaches us that high-quality, comprehensive care can be provided to all our citizens without increasing health spending. A single-payer national health insurance system has emerged as only solution to the nation’s health system debacle.”

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Duke of Gloucester to attend care of churches conference

29 August 2006

The Council for the Care of Churches (part of the Archbishops’ Council) and the Diocese of Chichester are very pleased to announce that His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO has accepted the invitation to attend part of the CCC’s Annual Conference in September, which will be co-hosted by the Diocese of Chichester and will be held at Sussex University, Falmer, near Brighton, Monday to Wednesday, 18th – 20th September 2006.

His Royal Highness will attend the Conference Service of Sung Eucharist in the Chapel at Lancing College followed by a Civic Reception at The Museum in Brighton and a Dinner in the Banqueting Suite of The Royal Pavilion, to be held on the evening of Tuesday 19th September. The Reception and Dinner will be hosted by the Chairman of the Council for the Care of Churches, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, Bishop of Sodor and Man.

The theme of the Conference is Behold I make all things new - Towards Revitalisation. The conference delegates will consider many of the important aspects of planning essential changes to medieval and historic churches of significance and will be invited to study the proposals for changing some of Sussex’s historic churches to meet the needs and aspirations of local communities in the 21st century. Delegates will also have an opportunity to study the plans and changes to be made in the Brighton and Hove review of Anglican churches in the City.

The Conference will hear from Sir Roy Strong Hon. D. LITT, PhD, FSA, FRSL, a former director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, in addition to other eminent architects including Mr Michael Drury, the inspecting architect for Salisbury and Arundel Cathedrals and Boxgrove Priory near Chichester.

The delegates will be welcomed by the Right Reverend Lindsay Urwin, Bishop of Horsham; a profile of the Diocese of Chichester will be presented by the Venerable Roger Combes, Archdeacon of Horsham.

Catholic Bishop May Face Prosecution

Aug. 28 ( - A California prosecutor is considering criminal prosecution of a Catholic bishop who failed to report sexual abuse by a priest in his diocese.

Bishop Daniel Walsh of Santa Rosa has admitted that he did not immediately inform local police about the charges against Father Xavier Ochoa. California law requires prompt reporting of such charges; violation of that law can bring up to a 6-month prison term.

"We think we have a strong enough case for charges to be filed," a police spokesman told Associated Press. The Sonoma County district attorney has not yet announced a decision on whether or not he will prosecute the bishop.

In a statement released by the Santa Rosa diocese, Bishop Walsh said: "If I am found guilty for not taking immediate action, I will accept whatever punishment is imposed." The bishop says that his delay in reporting the sex-abuse charges was caused by "an excess of caution."

Father Ochoa is now being sought by California authorities on 10 felony charges involving sexual abuse. He is believed to have fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution. Bishop Walsh says that the accused priest has already been suspended.

Bishop Walsh could be the first American prelate to face criminal charges for a failure to report sexual abuse-- a failure that many other US bishops have been forced to admit. He was installed as the Bishop of Santa Rosa in 2000, after the previous head of the diocese, Bishop Patrick Ziemann, was forced to step down when his own sexual misconduct became known.

Poverty Remains Higher, Median Income for Non-Elderly Lower Than When Recession Hit Bottom

WASHINGTON - August 29 - Median household income rose modestly in 2005, while the poverty rate remained unchanged. For the first time on record, median income was lower in the fourth year of an economic recovery, and poverty was higher, than when the last recession hit bottom and the recovery began, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Median income remained $243 below its level in the recession year of 2001, while the poverty rate, at 12.6 percent, remained well above its 11.7 percent rate in 2001. In addition, both the number and the percentage of Americans who lack health insurance climbed again and remained much higher than in 2001. Four million more people were poor, and 5.4 million more were uninsured, than in 2001. The percentage of children who are uninsured rose in 2005 for the first time since 1998.

"Four years into an economic recovery, the country has yet to make progress in reducing poverty, raising the typical family's income, or stemming the rise in the ranks of the uninsured, compared to where we were in the last recession," Center Executive Director Robert Greenstein said.

The 1.1 percent increase in median income in 2005, which was well below the average gain for a recovery year, was driven by a rise in income among elderly households. Median income for non- elderly households (those headed by someone under 65) fell again in 2005, declining by $275, or 0.5 percent. Median income for non-elderly households was $2,000 (or 3.7 percent) lower in 2005 than in 2001.

In addition, the median earnings of both male and female full- time workers declined in 2005. Median earnings for men working full time throughout the year fell for the second straight year, dropping by $774, or 1.8 percent, after adjusting for inflation. The median earnings of full-time year-round female workers fell for the third straight year, declining by $427, or 1.3 percent.

The poor also became poorer. The amount by which the average person who is poor fell below the poverty line ($3,236) in 2005 was the highest on record, as was the share of the poor who fell below half of the poverty line.

Ranks of the Uninsured Rise Again

The number of uninsured people climbed by 1.3 million in 2005 to 46.6 million -- also setting a new record -- while the percentage without insurance rose from 15.6 percent to 15.9 percent. Both figures were far above the figures for the 2001 recession year, when 41.2 million people -- 14.6 percent of the population - were uninsured.

The number of children who are uninsured rose by 360,000 to 8.3 million, climbing from 10.8 percent of children in 2004 to 11.2 percent in 2005.

Results Disappointing for this Stage of an Economic Recovery

"It is unprecedented in recoveries of the last 40 years," Greenstein noted, "for poverty to be higher, and the typical household's income lower, four years into a recovery than when the previous recession hit bottom."

Greenstein observed that, "These disappointing figures on median income and poverty are the latest evidence that the economic growth of the past few years has had an unusually limited reach. Many middle- and low-income families are not sharing in the gains."

In related findings that underscore the unevenness of the current economic recovery, data recently issued by the Commerce Department show that a smaller share of the gains from the current economic recovery are going to workers' wages and salaries, and a larger share are going to corporate profits, than in any other recovery since World War II.

Little Cause for Optimism in 2006

Developments so far in 2006 do not offer much cause for optimism. Job growth has been slightly slower so far in 2006 than in 2005. In addition, in the first quarter of 2006, wages and salaries reached their lowest level on record as a share of the economy.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Reconsider "mistake" of same-sex marriage: Canadian Roman Catholic bishop

Aug. 24 (CNA/ - Canada's Parliament made a “terrible mistake” when it redefined marriage last year, said Bishop Richard Smith of Pembroke, Ontario, to the 800 women present at the annual national convention of the Catholic Women’s League last week.

The bishop told the women in Halifax, August 15, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promise of a Parliament vote in the fall on whether to reopen the same-sex marriage debate, offers “a rare second chance” to revisit the issue, Canadian Catholic News reported.

Bishop Smith, who is the CWL’s national spiritual advisor, urged the group’s 99,000 members across the country to get in touch with their members of Parliament and to address the marriage issue on the parish level. The bishop reportedly said he believed he could speak for all Canadian bishops when it came to the “incredibly important issue” of upholding marriage as the lifelong bond between a man and a woman.

Bishop Smith also urged the league members to bring the resolutions passed at the national convention last week— on health, the environment, aging, and religious freedom— back to their parishes for grassroots action. Most of the attention, he said, is focused on moving resolutions up the ladder from the parish level to the national level. He suggested more attention be focused on moving the resolutions back down to the local parish level once they are passed so they can be “put into practice at the parochial level.”

Anglican women respond with joy to Jefferts Schori's election

Equal representation upheld as essential in decision-making processes

By Matthew Davies
Thursday, August 24, 2006
[Episcopal News Service]

More than two months after the historic election of the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori as 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, congratulatory letters and messages of joy continue to flow, in particular from fellow Anglican women committed to gender equity and a world equally represented by men and women in its decision-making processes at all levels.

On behalf of the International Anglican Women's Network (IAWN), coordinator Priscilla Julie from the Diocese of the Seychelles in the Province of the Indian Ocean said, "We rejoice with so many others and congratulate you on this great achievement."

Describing the election as God's will, Julie noted that the timing is right, especially "when we need to heal the rift within the Anglican Communion worldwide," she said. "I strongly believe that, as a woman, your Grace will be instrumental in healing the wounds..."

Jefferts Schori, 52, was elected by the House of Bishops June 18 on the fifth ballot and from a slate of seven nominees.

An airplane pilot and former oceanographer, she will be the first woman to hold the top post in an Anglican province in the nearly 500-year history of Anglicanism.

She has served the Diocese of Nevada as its bishop since 2001 and will officially take office as presiding bishop on November 4, the day of her investiture at Washington National Cathedral. In her role as chief pastor of one of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion, she will also be the first woman eligible to attend the Primates Meeting when it next convenes February 12-19, 2007, in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

Committed to the advancement of women in all spheres, IAWN encourages "women to take up responsible positions within our Anglican Communion," Julie noted in an August 15 letter to Jefferts Schori. "As Anglican women throughout the world we shall fully support you and continue to pray for tolerance, understanding, equality and justice for all in God's Kingdom."

Equally represented

Jolly Babirukamu, an Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) lay member from the Anglican Church of Uganda, noted the timeliness of the election, "particularly when we need a woman of positive influence to work with the male-dominated Primates," she said.

In June 2005, the ACC passed Resolution 13-31 acknowledging the Millennium Development Goal that calls for "equal representation" of women and men in decision-making processes at all levels [Full resolution].

Babirukamu, who upheld the importance of the ACC resolution, said she hopes and prays "that God will give [Jefferts Schori] favor, wisdom, knowledge and understanding to be the Esther and Deborah of the present times in the Anglican Communion."

Ana Lucia from the Anglican Church of Brazil believes that women play a critical role in the churches throughout the Anglican Communion, because many projects relate to issues such as violence against women, sexual abuse, and early pregnancy, among others.

"Because of that, we must be included at the decision-making tables, and have equal representation at all levels," she said. "I think that this election will have a wonderful impact in our churches around the world. Maybe [those] ... who do not accept the representation of women in some levels, will think again, and understand the importance of our work."

Helena Mbele-Mbong of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, a lay deputy of General Convention, prefers to think of Jefferts Schori as the next presiding bishop who happens to be a woman.

Effective leadership

"Having said that, she will bring a woman's perspective to her role, along with her perspective as a scientist who also has a profound faith, a Christian deeply concerned about the well-being of the many in the United States and around the world who have so little and suffer unjustly, and a church leader who effectively calls others and brings people together to work on the tasks before us in carrying out God's mission," she said.

The Episcopal Church has ordained women for more than 30 years, so "it is inevitable that one would have the capacity to grow to the stature of a strong and viable candidate for presiding bishop," said Mbele-Mbong, a member of the IAWN steering group. "This is confirmation that both women and men have the gifts, depth of faith and intelligence, and vision of God's mission to take on the full range of leadership roles our Church offers."

Mbele-Mbong, who has served on the Standing Commission for World Mission for six years -- the last three as chair -- noted that equal representation is an important part of ACC 13-31, the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals.

Upholding the significance of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), which last met in March 2006 in New York, Mbele-Mbong explained that many women around the world, including those in provinces where women's ordination is not yet accepted, will take heart in Jefferts Schori's election.

"Whatever some of the voiced differences in the Anglican Communion, all the women [at the UNCSW meeting] were united as we directed our energies toward the work of providing hope, justice and reconciliation to the many peoples who struggle for food, water, shelter, health care, and security, often in the face of poverty, injustice, turmoil and war," she said. "This was our common mission across all boundaries. Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferts Schori provides a beacon to us all as we each continue to fulfill our particular role within the Church and to the wider community to bring Christ's message of love and reconciliation."

Fourteen of the 38 Anglican provinces currently make provisions for women in the episcopate. At present, there are 13 active and retired women bishops and bishops-elect in the Episcopal Church and three in the Anglican Church of Canada. The Anglican Church of Aotearoa, Polynesia and New Zealand, has one retired woman bishop.

A sign of hope

For Mary Stallard of the Church in Wales, Jefferts Schori's election is "an affirmation that through baptism all are called to share their gifts" as well as being "a much-needed injection of hope for the church, for women clergy certainly, but more importantly for all women. It is a badly needed sign that the Gospel message is for everyone."

Recognizing the difficult task ahead for Jefferts Schori "in a church that is still very male-dominated," Stallard said she hopes that women and men "will surround her ministry with prayer, and support her in this pioneering role."

Acknowledging the importance of equal representation, Stallard noted that justice and equality are at the heart of the Gospel.

"The earliest church came to appreciate this as they struggled with their own issues of inclusion and came to understand that, 'there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for all of you are one in Christ,'" she said, referring to Paul's letter in Galatians 3:28. "One of the most important parts of the church's message has always been about speaking up for the voiceless and the disempowered. The Anglican Church, with congregations and people in almost every part of the world has serious potential to be a community with power to influence and enable change for the poor.

"However, we cannot preach a message of justice and empowerment for the poor while we act unjustly ourselves and fail to empower all of the people in our own structures," she added.

Among the international decision-making structures of the Anglican Communion -- specifically the Primates, ACC, and the Lambeth Conference -- Stallard noted that there are officially 800 people who represent the Church. "Of these there are currently only 30 women," she said. "That is a terrible record for a church that includes probably more women amongst its members than men.

"I hope that Bishop Katharine's election might give more women in the church the encouragement they need to hang on in there and see that the church might speak to their lives and their needs as well as engage their gifts and empower them to offer their lives to serve others."

Enriching the Church

Claudette Kigeme of the Anglican Church of Burundi said that Jefferts Schori was elected not only because she is a woman, "but as a competent person to fill this position and in answer to God's call on her life."

Also citing St. Paul's letter to the Galatians, Kigeme said that women have a right to contribute to building the Kingdom of God. "There are some aspects of church life to which women can make a unique contribution," she said.

A member of the Church of England's General Synod, Canon Cynthia Dowdle said that she was delighted to hear Jefferts Schori say that she would welcome opportunities to work with those who found her election difficult. "It is when people work together that they can begin to recognize the gifts we have all been given to enrich the church," she said, "and we can see the face of Christ in the other person."

Maori Anglican theologian Dr. Jenny Plane Te Paa, the "ahorangi" or dean of Te Rau Kahikatea (College of St. John the Evangelist) in Auckland, New Zealand, was a guest preacher at General Convention and one of the speakers at Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold's June 15 Forum: "Toward a Reconciled World." Te Paa said she was struck by both the "wonderful spirit of compassionate openness" among those in attendance and the "extraordinary richness of faith-filled public witness" which, she said, was her experience daily in worship and in the formal meeting sessions.

"It was, I believe, the wish of the Holy Spirit to give honor to the openness and the faithfulness of the Episcopal Church which moved the bishops gathered to select Katharine as their leader for a time such as now," she said, acknowledging that since the time of Jesus' own ministry women have played very significant roles as leaders, "as those who provide critical support for leaders, in the resourcing of ministry, as evangelizers, as nurturers of new believers, as teachers and as healers."

Te Paa called it "an indictment of church leadership" that virtually since the time following on from the death and resurrection of Jesus "the presence of women has been so consistently structurally and attitudinally repelled," she said, noting the glimmer of hope represented by ACC resolution 13:31. "What needs now to happen concurrently is that the existing institutional structures of the Church are all opened to the possibility of radical transformation."

Lisbeth Barahona, a social compliance manager from the Diocese of El Salvador, believes that Jefferts Schori's primacy will have a positive impact on the world and the Anglican Communion because "it is God's will that we may have women and men equally involved in bringing peace, justice, unity and a more sustainable society, through communication, leadership and understanding."

She agreed that, in the process of making decisions, different points of view and wider perspectives are needed to help achieve objectiveness and assure better and more effective choices, "and this happens when committed, truthful leaders, both men and women, join for a common goal."
-- Matthew Davies is international correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

Consumers Union Urges Hospitals to Step Up Efforts to Stop the Spread of Antibiotic-Resistant MRSA Infections

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania - August 25 - Consumers Union is calling on hospitals across the country to take more aggressive steps to protect patients from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) - related infections in light of a new Pennsylvania study documenting the serious financial and health costs associated with such infections.

The report by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) is the first in the nation with statewide statistics on hospitalizations of patients with MRSA. The Pennsylvania agency found 13,722 patients with MRSA, based on 2004 data, the latest available. MRSA patients are four times more likely to die and stayed in the hospital two and a half times longer than patients without the antibiotic-resistant infection. Hospital charges for patients with MRSA were three times higher than charges for patients without the infections.

"The prevalence of MRSA in every hospital in the U.S. poses a very serious health risk to patients who are unwittingly exposed to these superbugs," said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union's Stop Hospital Infections campaign. "Unfortunately, most hospitals do not even know which patients have MRSA and are failing to follow strategies and precautions proven to keep these germs in check."

The PHC4 report does not distinguish between community- and healthcare-acquired MRSA infections. While community-acquired MRSA infections are becoming increasingly common, recent CDC sponsored research shows that 80-91 percent of such infections are picked up in the hospital or other health care setting.

MRSA infections have become resistant to most common antibiotics, though they generally respond to intravenous vancomycin. It is mainly spread in hospitals by contact with unwashed hands or contaminated gloves. According to the National Quality Forum, studies show that hand washing compliance rates in hospitals are generally less than 50 percent.

While strict hand washing is the fundamental strategy for prevention, health care experts at a recent Boston meeting on MRSA agreed that multiple actions must be taken to effectively curb MRSA. Successful "bundles" include screening high risk patients with active surveillance cultures, using gowns/gloves/masks when treating these patients ("barrier precautions"), aggressive compliance with hand hygiene and other precautions, and routine decontamination of the hospital environment (patient rooms and operating rooms). This type of approach has been endorsed by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) and is the subject of long-awaited guidelines from CDC, but most hospitals do not follow it.

Hospitals that do follow this protocol have documented very impressive results. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has reduced MRSA in several of its intensive control units by 90 percent and similar results have been documented at the University of Virginia Health System. Hospitals in the Netherlands have used these strategies to successfully control MRSA for decades.

"For years now, hospital officials have watched as MRSA rates have climbed and more and more patients have suffered from these superbugs," said McGiffert. "It's time for hospitals to start following infection control procedures proven to minimize the spread of MRSA. There should be zero tolerance for these infections because these are human lives at stake, not just numbers."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

ACLU of Massachusetts Renews Call for Public Hearing into Role of Phone Companies in Illegal Domestic Spying

BOSTON - August 23 - Rejecting wildly overblown assertions that private phone companies can hide behind a “state secrets” argument, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts today said it has filed legal papers with the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy (DTE) calling for a prompt public hearing on a May 2006 complaint against Verizon and AT&T for their reported role in facilitating illegal government spying on ordinary Americans.

“This case is about transparency and telling people the truth about what the phone companies are doing with our records,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Massachusetts residents have a right to know how the phone companies respond to requests for private phone records when there is no warrant or court order.”

The ACLU filing comes on the heels of a federal court ruling last Thursday that the Bush Administration’s program to monitor the phone calls and e-mails of Americans without warrants is unconstitutional and must be stopped. (

On May 24, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a complaint on behalf of the mayors of Newton, Somerville, Chicopee, and Northampton, alleging that these phone companies enabled illegal government spying by turning over private details about Americans’ telephone calls to the National Security Agency (NSA) without proper warrants. The ACLU has requested that the DTE hold a public hearing on the mayors’ complaint that Verizon and AT&T disclosed call records of their Massachusetts customers without the customers’ knowledge or legal authorization. Both Verizon and AT&T have urged the DTE to dismiss the complaint on the grounds of state secrets.

“Private companies cannot invoke state secrets privilege – only the United States government can assert such a claim,” Rose said. “The DTE has a legal obligation to hold public hearings into whether the phone companies have violated their own policies, the law, or their customers’ right to privacy. Such a hearing should not involve state secrets. Instead, the hearing should focus on the specific question of how telecommunications companies in Massachusetts respond to government requests for private phone records where there is no warrant or court order.”

News reports have indicated that at least three companies – Verizon, BellSouth, and AT&T – have complied with warrantless requests from the NSA to turn over the calling records of millions of customers across the nation.

On June 30, USA Today reported that 19 lawmakers confirmed that the NSA has built a massive database of tens of millions of phone records to monitor Americans' calling patterns. USA Today also reported that five of those lawmakers confirmed that AT&T has participated in the program and stated that BellSouth did not. Three lawmakers stated that Verizon did not participate in the program but that its subsidiary, MCI, did.

Beginning in 2001, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to conduct electronic surveillance of people within the United States, including U.S. citizens, without a warrant. The ongoing surveillance program has been in direct violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a federal law that requires the executive branch to obtain a warrant before engaging in electronic surveillance of Americans.

"There are clear inconsistencies in the information, statements, representations, and guarantees to the customers of Verizon and AT&T regarding the private status of their personal information," said ACLU of Massachusetts Legal Director John Reinstein. "In light of the reported disclosure of this information to the NSA, there are well-founded concerns that these companies have violated their own privacy policies – as well as violated state and federal regulations and laws that protect all customers. The DTE has a responsibility under Massachusetts law to investigate these violations of the privacy of Massachusetts customers."

Massachusetts law requires the DTE to hold a public hearing if a written complaint is filed on behalf of any Massachusetts mayor. The ACLU of Massachusetts filed its complaint and request for a hearing on behalf of Mayors David B. Cohen of Newton, Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville, Michael D. Bissonnette of Chicopee, and Mary Clare Higgins of Northampton.

The ACLU filed its response just one day after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a federal lawsuit against officials of the Maine Public Utilities Commission and Verizon, seeking to stop Verizon from answering questions posed by the commission. The DOJ lawsuit also seeks to prevent any further investigation of Verizon’s collaboration with the National Security Agency Surveillance program. The DOJ filed a similar lawsuit in New Jersey last month.

In Vermont, Governor Jim Douglas is supporting a similar investigation, despite a threat from the federal government to sue the state, saying, :We don’t want this kind of intrusion into the privacy of Vermonters by anyone, by government, or by companies.”

In Connecticut, the Department of Public Utility Control – that state's equivalent of the DTE – denied Verizon's motion to dismiss a complaint from the ACLU of Connecticut, and has scheduled a hearing for September 6.

“No one – not the DOJ, the NSA or private phone companies – is above the law,” said Rose. "Government spying on innocent Americans without any kind of warrant and without Congressional approval runs counter to the very foundations of our democracy.”

For more information on the ACLU’s efforts to stop illegal spying: For copies of the DTE filings and additional information on the Stop the Abuse of Power campaign in Massachusetts:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mexico adds sex to school syllabus

Biology texts confront church teachings and long-standing sexual mores

The Houston Chronicle reported today that:

MEXICO CITY - When Mexican seventh-graders crack open their new biology books this week, they're in for a titillating surprise: Chapter four is all about sex.

And it's not the sterilized sex education of the past. For the first time, the federally mandated textbooks broach the once-taboo topics of masturbation and homosexuality while instructing students that there is nothing wrong with either.

Church officials and conservative groups are outraged. They charge that the texts — which are required teaching — encourage promiscuity and "abnormal" sexual practices. They are pressuring the federal government to remove passages they consider offensive.

"These days," one edition of the biology text states, "masturbation is considered a common and inoffensive sexual practice." The book, which includes images of famous works of erotic art, goes on to debunk "common myths" that masturbation causes people to go blind or grow hair on their palms.

The new texts are part of a federal crusade to reduce teenage pregnancies, which account for one in five births in Mexico, and prevent sexually transmitted diseases by introducing comprehensive sex education at an early age.

The campaign also seeks to fight widespread discrimination against gays in Mexico's predominantly Roman Catholic culture.

The complete story may be found here:

Monday, August 21, 2006

Archbishop Ends Fast With Call For New Efforts For A Sustainable Peace in Middle East

The Archbishop of York has today ended his seven-day vigil for peace by calling for the international community to renew its efforts in working for a sustainable solution to conflict in the Middle East.

Speaking at the morning Eucharistic service in York Minster, where he has spent the past week praying, fasting and sleeping in a tent, The Most Revd Dr John Sentamu said:

“The events of the past weeks, in the Lebanon, Israel, the United States and Britain have demonstrated that we cannot afford any longer to leave the issues of the Middle East in the pending tray of unresolved business. There is no greater recruiting sergeant for would be Jihadists than the conflict in the Middle East. Without urgent action on our part, for their sakes and our own, the spiral of violence that has lasted longer than the whole of my lifetime - and I am 57 - will continue unabated, as new generations become mired in the enmity of their forefathers.

“After seven days of fasting and praying I am more persuaded than ever that wars and violence cannot lead to a long lasting solution.

“The road to peace is not an easy one, but we need to stick at it. The dividends of peace are incalculably greater than the wages of conflict which have been paid over decades in the Middle East in the countless widows, orphans and displaced peoples produced by conflict.

The Archbishop also called for the development of a sense of inclusion, safety and civic society in Britain as being required to build peace at home as well as abroad:

“We must each and every one of us hold responsibility for seeking peace in our own time, in our own streets and in our own homes as well as continuing to pray for the world… We must look at our own nation, our own children growing in a society which does not always foster inclusion and generosity as our priority. It is surely fear and anxiety which leads to aggression. We must build a sense of safety. If we seek for others an integrity and legitimacy of civil society, we ourselves must strive to think about our own.”

Dr. Sentamu also stated that his tent would remain pitched in York Minster as a symbol of the continuing need for prayer until a UN peace keeping force had been placed in Southern Lebanon: “I continue to invite people to come and to offer prayers of peace in this place for the Middle East, for our nation and for peace in our own hearts.”

Controversial Jesuit astronomer replaced at Vatican observatory, Coyne had previously criticized Intelligent Design "Theory"

According to the Catholic World News

Aug. 21 - Pope Benedict XVI has named a new director for the Vatican Observatory. Father José Gabriel Funes will succeed a controversial American, Father George Coyne.
(Father Coyne pictured at left)

Father Funes, an Argentine Jesuit, is already a member of the Vatican Observatory team. The outgoing Father Coyne, also a Jesuit, has been director of the Observatory for more than 25 years, and now steps down at the age of 73.

Last year Father Coyne drew worldwide attention for his public comments on the topics of evolution and the theory of intelligent design. In an August 2005 column for the London Tablet the Jesuit astronomer criticizes arguments put forward by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn questioning the Darwinian theory of evolution. A few weeks later, speaking at a conference in Florida, Father Coyne said that "intelligent design isn't science, even if it pretends to be."

Former Generals and National Security Officials Call on President to Reverse Course on Iraq and Iran

"Hard Line" Has Underminded National Security and Make Americans Less Safe Rebuke Administration for Attacking Opponents as "Soft on Terrorism"

WASHINGTON - August 21 - Calling President Bush’s “hard line” policies on Iraq and Iran failures that have undermined national security and made America less safe, General Joseph Hoar (USMC ret.), Lt. General Robert Gard (USA ret.), and Morton Halperin, former National Security Council staff, released an open letter signed by twenty-one colleagues urging the Administration to reverse course (full text, list of signers & bios of three speakers below).

In a telephone press conference today, Lt. General Gard said, “We who have served this country cannot stand by silently while the President and his spokespeople attack critics of their deeply flawed policies as ‘soft on terrorism’. The Administration has repeatedly failed to seek diplomatic solutions to problems that are only inflamed by the use of military force. They need to start talking with the Iranians immediately,” he continued.

“We believe that the U.S. occupation of Iraq continues to divert our nation's resources from addressing adequately the most serious threat to our national security, Al Qaeda.” he added.

“We also believe that the President's failure to engage immediately and without preconditions in direct talks with the government of Iran, and the Administration's continued consideration of military action against that country, could lead to disastrous consequences for security in the region and for U.S. forces in Iraq,” he concluded.

The statement signed by former U.S. military, national security and foreign policy officials calls for immediate direct talks with the government of Iran, without preconditions, and cautions against the use of military action to resolve the current crises in the Middle East or to settle differences over Iran’s nuclear program.

Full text:

As former military leaders and foreign policy officials, we call on the Bush Administration to engage immediately in direct talks with the government of Iran without preconditions to help resolve the current crisis in the Middle East and settle differences over the Iranian nuclear program.

We strongly caution against any consideration of the use of military force against Iran. The current crises must be resolved through diplomacy, not military action. An attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences for security in the region and U.S. forces in Iraq, and it would inflame hatred and violence in the Middle East and among Muslims everywhere.

A strategy of diplomatic engagement with Iran will serve the interests of the U.S. and its allies, and would enhance regional and international security.


Ambassador Harry Barnes, Former Ambassador to Chile, India, and Romania

Lieutenant General Julius Becton, U.S. Army (Ret.); Former commander, VII
Corps, and Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Parker Borg, Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy; Former Ambassador to Iceland and Mali; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotic Matters; Deputy Director of the Office for Combating Terrorism, U. S. State Department

Ambassador Peter Burleigh, Former U.S. Ambassador and Deputy Permanent
Representative of the United States to the United Nations; Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives; Ambassador and Coordinator of the Office of Counter-Terrorism; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research; and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East and South Asia

Ambassador Ralph Earle II, Former chief negotiator of the SALT II Treaty and Director of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

Brigadier General Evelyn P. Foote, U.S. Army (Ret.). Former Deputy Inspector General, U.S. Army

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr., Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Assistant Secretary of Defense, International Security Affairs; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, African Affairs, Charge/Deputy Chief of Mission, American Embassy (Bangkok; Beijing); and Director, Chinese Affairs, Department of State

Morton Halperin, Senior Fellow of the Center for American Progress; Director of U.S. Advocacy for the Open Society Institute; Former director of Policy Planning, Department of State

Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard, Jr., U.S. Army (Ret.); Former military assistant to the Secretary of Defense; president, National Defense University. Currently Senior Military Fellow, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

General Joseph P. Hoar, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.); Former Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command

Brigadier General John Johns, U.S. Army (Ret.); Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense

Professor Frank N. von Hippel, Former Assistant Director for National Security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Dr. Lawrence Korb, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Installations and Logistics

Major General Frederick H. Lawson, U.S. Army Reserve (Ret.); Former Reserve Division Commander

Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, U.S. Army (Ret.); former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence

Lieutenant General Charles P. Otstott, U.S. Army (Ret.); former Deputy Chairman, NATO Military Committee

Ambassador Edward L. Peck, Former Chief of Mission in Iraq and Mauritania; Deputy Director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism; Deputy Coordinator for Covert Intelligence Programs and Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Department of State; Liaison Officer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Brig. Gen. Maurice D. Roush, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Dr. Sarah Sewall, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance; Foreign Policy Adviser to Senator George J. Mitchell

Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan, U.S. Navy (Ret.). Former Director of the Center for Defense Information and currently Chairman, Military Advisory Committee, Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities

LTG James M. Thompson, U.S. Army (Ret.). Former Chief of Military Mission to Turkey (JUSMMAT); Chief of Staff, Allied Forces, Southern Europe

Vice Admiral Ralph Weymouth, U.S. Navy (Ret.). Former Commanding Officer of Flagship on Commander Middle East Force; Northern NATO Desk Officer in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Internal Security Affairs; and Commander, Iceland Defense Force

Friday, August 18, 2006

Archbishop of Canterbury to visit China

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams is to visit China this autumn. The visit is at the invitation of the senior leadership of the post-denominational Protestant Churches in China. It will take in five cities, including the capital, Beijing.

Dr Williams’ visit will take place from 8-23rd October, starting in Shanghai before continuing inland. It is intended to provide a deeper understanding of the Church in China and the varied context in which it is developing. The wide-ranging programme will include opportunities to engage with religious leaders, academics, government officials, NGOs and business leaders on the contemporary challenges facing both Church and society. It will build on the visits of previous Archbishops of Canterbury in 1983 and 1994.

Dr Williams said:
“I am greatly looking forward to my first direct encounter with China. I very much welcome this opportunity to come alongside the Church in China, as well as to gain a fuller appreciation of China’s remarkable development in recent years and its unique cultural heritage. I am most grateful to Presbyter Ji Jianhong, the Chairperson of the National Committee of the Three Self Patriotic Movement, and to Revd Cao Shengjie, the President of the China Christian Council, for their invitation.”

The programme is still being finalised; further information will be made available in September.

Article from Lambeth Palace.

Church Commissioners submit plans to refurbish Bishopthorpe-Residence of The Archbishop of York

16 August 2006

The Church Commissioners have submitted plans to York City Council for the refurbishment of Bishopthorpe Palace, the historic base for the Archbishop of York’s ministry since the 13th Century.

The extensive work includes refurbishing existing living and office accommodation, and ensuring the Grade I listed building meets current disability access, and health and safety regulations.

Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners, explained: “Our plans are aimed at providing a modern and appropriate base for the ministry of the current Archbishop and his successors.

“No major work has been carried out at Bishopthorpe for 30 years. The accommodation for the Archbishop needs to be reordered to provide privacy for him and his family, and it is intended to bring back into productive use areas of the building that have been previously disused.”

English Heritage has been consulted on the scheme. Listed building consent and planning permission are now being sought from York City Council for the works, to include:

* A self-contained flat for the Archbishop and his family
* New office accommodation and infrastructure within the existing building
* The renewal of defective parts of the internal structure
* Installation of a lift for disabled access; new toilets
* Improvement of fire protection, security and fire escape systems
* Upgrading of electrical systems and renewal of water main
* Improvement of public spaces
* A low-energy heating system
* Removal of asbestos and a defunct oil heating system
* Relocation of incoming water and energy services away from flood-threatened areas

Policy and decisions concerning bishops’ houses are made by the Church Commissioners. Expenditure is from the Church Commissioners’ own funds, to which parishes make no contribution.

The Archbishop will live in temporary accommodation until the works, which will take around 18 months, have been completed. The project will be put out to tender subject to consents and planning permission.


The Church Commissioners manage the Church of England’s historic assets, today invested in stock market shares and property, to produce money to support the Church’s ministry, including supporting the ministry of Archbishops and bishops and providing their office and living accommodation.

Bishopthorpe Palace is the official home of the Archbishop of York, situated on the River Ouse, south of York. Bishopthorpe has been the official residence of the Archbishops of York since the 13th century when Archbishop Grey erected the original house in 1226 and then the chapel in 1241. Over the years, a number of restoration and remodelling projects have taken place – the most extensive being carried out by Archbishop Drummond (1761 – 1777) who transformed the original building to its present appearance. The Palace is a Grade I listed building.

More recently, in the last 40 years, the main roofs have been repaired and remodelled. Empty rooms over the State Apartments and chapel were converted into office accommodation for the Archbishop and his staff.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Judge nixes Bush warrantless surveillance Program

The AP reported today that:

DETROIT - A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government's warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

"Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution," Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.

The Justice Department appealed the ruling and issued a statement calling the program "an essential tool for the intelligence community in the war on terror."

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the Bush administration "couldn't disagree more with this ruling."

"United States intelligence officials have confirmed that the program has helped stop terrorist attacks and saved American lives," he said. "The program is carefully administered and only targets international phone calls coming into or out of the United States where one of the parties on the call is a suspected al-Qaida or affiliated terrorist."

The ruling won't take immediate effect so Taylor can hear a Justice request for a stay pending its appeal. A hearing on the motion was set for Sept. 7, Snow said.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, monitoring phone calls and e-mails between people in the U.S. and people in other countries when a link to terrorism is suspected.

The complete story may be found here:

Indian premier calls for end to killing of unborn girls

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called on parents in India to stop seeing girls as an economic liability and to end the practice of killing unborn female fetuses.

Singh's appeal on India's 59th Independence Day came four days after the grisly discovery of 25 female foetuses from a private clinic in northern Punjab state, which has the country's lowest sex ratio due to rampant female foeticide.

"We must end the crime of female foeticide. We must eliminate gender disparity," Singh said in an address to the nation.

"We have a dream of an India in which every woman can feel safe, secure and empowered. Where our mothers, sisters and daughters are assured a life of dignity and personal security," he added.

A study by British medical journal The Lancet said this year that India may have lost 10 million unborn girls in the past 20 years, but Indian experts say the figure is not more than five million.

Under Indian law, tests to find out the gender of an unborn baby are illegal if not done for medical reasons, but the practice continues in what activists say is a flourishing multi-million dollar business.

Premier Singh urged parents not to neglect their girl children.

"It should be ensured that every young woman is educated and skilled and capable of guiding a new generation," he said.

Punjab state has 798 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six while the national average is 927 -- still well below the worldwide average of 1,050 female babies.

Girls in India are often considered a liability as parents have to put away large sums of money for dowries at the time of their marriage.

Centuries of tradition also demand that couples produce at least one male child to carry on the family name.

Many grooms demand dowry well beyond the means of families of their spouse -- demands which often result in the killing of newly-married women.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, India in 2004 posted 19 dowry-related deaths every day but women's organisations say the actual figure is 10 times higher.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Indiana University named one of best campuses for GLBT students

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University has been named one of the 20 best colleges or universities for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) students in a new book published in connection with the Advocate, a leading U.S.-based gay and lesbian newsmagazine.

The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students profiles 100 colleges and universities from across the country that offer resources and create a positive living and learning environment for LGBT students. Published by Alyson Books in partnership with the Advocate, it is being touted as the first comprehensive guide to highlight GLBT-friendly campuses in the United States.

"We are honored by the acknowledgement of the work we have done over the years," said Doug Bauder, coordinator of GLBT Student Support Services at IU. "Much of the credit goes to the amazing group of students who continue to provide support and information to the campus community and beyond."

IU's GLBT Student Support Services opened its doors in November 1994. The office serves a critical role in the lives of GLBT students, allies and the larger community, offering counseling, programming, a library and resources. Its staff also has been consulted by dozens of campuses around the country seeking to begin similar services for their students.

The 100 best campuses were selected from 680 nominated campuses based on feedback from more than 5,500 interviews of faculty, staff and GLBT students. Author Shane L. Windmeyer, a 1997 IU alum, national GLBT authority and founder of Campus PrideNet, helped develop the criteria and questionnaire for the nominations. IU's top 20 ranking reflects its gay-friendly environment, GLBT programming and services, and GLBT student coalitions.

For more information about Campus PrideNet and The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students, go to

To contact or learn more about GLBT Student Support Services at IU, visit

Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Bible Display At Texas Courthouse

WASHINGTON - August 16 - A federal appeals court has held that a Bible display outside a Texas county courthouse violates the separation of church and state.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that a religious memorial outside the Harris County Civil Courthouse violates the First Amendment principle of church-state separation.

The ruling in Staley v. Harris County upholds a 2004 district court decision that the display, which prominently features an open Bible illuminated by neon lighting, runs afoul of the Constitution.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State argued before the 5th Circuit that the district judge’s ruling should be upheld against an appeal by Harris County officials.

“A courthouse should welcome citizens of all religious perspectives and none,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This display sent the clear message that Christianity was the government-preferred faith and other Americans are second-class citizens. In a diverse country, that’s unacceptable.”

The display was erected in 1956 by a Christian charity to honor William S. Mosher, a Houston businessman and philanthropist. The memorial includes a glass-topped case housing an open Bible. The monument, as the 5th Circuit noted, faces the main entrance to the Harris County courthouse and is therefore visible to “attorneys, litigants, jurors, witnesses and other visitors to the Courthouse.”

In the late 1980s, the memorial was vandalized and the Bible removed. The Bible was later restored to the display by a local official who was elected to office on a platform of melding religion and government. In 1995, Judge John Devine and his court reporter, Karen Friend, solicited private donations to refurbish the memorial and return a Bible to the display. A ceremony commemorating the revived display included Christian ministers offering prayer.

Kay Staley, a citizen of Harris County and an attorney who did business in the courthouse, challenged the display in federal court as blatant constitutional violation. Americans United represented her in the litigation before the appeals court.

In its 2-1 ruling, the 5th Circuit concluded that the memorial, because of the actions of Harris County officials, such as Judge Devine, is a government endorsement of Christianity instead of a memorial.

The “reasonable observer would conclude,” the Circuit majority wrote, “that the monument, with the Bible outlined in red neon lighting, had evolved into a predominantly religious symbol.”

Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan argued before the 5th Circuit panel last year to uphold the district court’s finding that the display violated the First Amendment principle of church-state separation.

“This decision faithfully applies precedent on government-sponsored religious displays,” Khan said. “Harris County officials have unwisely supported a display that long ago turned into a vehicle to promote Christianity.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Drug Companies Making Billions in Excess Profits Under Medicare Plan

WASHINGTON - August 15 - Pharmaceutical companies are making billions in excess profits under the new Medicare drug benefit, according to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. In the first year of the Medicare Part D program, Pfizer will make $1.2 billion in excess profits on Lipitor and $585 million on Zoloft; Wyeth will make nearly $1 billion on Protonix; and Merck will make $1.6 billion on Zocor.

The report, "The Origins of the Doughnut Hole: Excess Profits on Prescription Drugs," by economist Dean Baker, calculated the difference between the average cost of 20 common drugs used by seniors and the cost when obtained through the Veterans Administration. It found excess profits totaling more than $7 billion in the first year of the program. The study also calculated prices for prescription drugs such as Actonel, Aricept, Celebrex, Fosamax, Nexium, Norvasc, Plavix, Prevacid, Toprol XL, and Xalatan. To read the report, see:

Thousands of drugs cost more than necessary under the Medicare drug plan because Congress prohibited Medicare from negotiating drug prices directly with the pharmaceutical industry, as is done by the Veterans Administration. In the case of many drugs, the prices paid by insurers participating in the plan are more than twice as high as the prices paid by the Veterans Administration.

Millions of seniors and disabled Americans enrolled in Medicare Part D drug plans are discovering the "doughnut hole" - the $2,850 gap placed into the plan in order to save the government money. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has pointed out that this gap was only necessary because the plan's overall design added significant costs and complexity.

"The excess profits from just a small number of drugs account for a very large portion of the doughnut hole," said Baker. "The excess profits for the drug industry as a whole will be close to $50 billion in the first full year of Medicare drug benefit program. This is more than twice the size of the doughnut hole."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Female Priest Defies the Catholic Church

In San Diego, Jane Via leads a Mass by herself. She is facing possible excommunication.

In an article today the L. A. Times reported that:

Jane Via said she would probably cry and, sure enough, she did.

Midway through her homily at the rented San Diego church used by her upstart congregation, Via choked up, thanking the packed house of 100 worshipers for sustaining her over the last week.

Sunday's service was the second Mass that Via has led since her illicit ordination in Switzerland in June, and the first over which she has presided alone.

It also marked her congregation's first gathering since she met with San Diego Bishop Robert Brom to discuss the consequences of her ordination, which could ultimately include excommunication.

Via, 58, is among 15 American women who have received ordination in recent ceremonies.

Unlike the Episcopal and Anglican churches, which now allow women's ordination, the Catholic Church bars women from becoming priests or deacons.

The Vatican's position on women entering the priesthood has not budged, despite polls showing a majority of American Catholics favor allowing them to do so.

A Roman Catholic canon says only baptized men can receive ordination.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has not taken a formal position on the issue, but three of the American women have received letters from diocese officials warning that they had chosen to excommunicate themselves.

Via called such consequences "unwelcome," but also, in a sense, liberating.

"I was so angry for so long at the church and church men who weren't willing to make even the smallest change in language to include women," she said. "My anger is gone."

Last November, Via co-founded the congregation where she is a priest, the independent Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community. Its roughly 65 regular members include many people who found themselves increasingly discontented with aspects of mainstream Roman Catholic churches.

The complete story may be found here:,0,3390859.story?coll=la-story-footer

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bush staff wanted bomb-detect cash moved

The AP reported today that:

WASHINGTON - While the British terror suspects were hatching their plot, the Bush administration was quietly seeking permission to divert $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new homeland explosives detection technology.

Congressional leaders rejected the idea, the latest in a series of steps by the
Homeland Security Department that has left lawmakers and some of the department's own experts questioning the commitment to create better anti-terror technologies.

Homeland Security's research arm, called the Sciences & Technology Directorate, is a "rudderless ship without a clear way to get back on course," Republican and Democratic senators on the Appropriations Committee declared recently.

"The committee is extremely disappointed with the manner in which S&T is being managed within the Department of Homeland Security," the panel wrote June 29 in a bipartisan report accompanying the agency's 2007 budget.

Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., who joined Republicans to block the administration's recent diversion of explosives detection money, said research and development is crucial to thwarting future attacks and there is bipartisan agreement that Homeland Security has fallen short.

"They clearly have been given lots of resources that they haven't been using," Sabo said.

The complete story may be found here:

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Retroactive War Crime Protection Proposed (Editor's Note This is a MUST READ STORY)

Published on Thursday, August 10, 2006 by the Associated Press
by Pete Yost

The Bush administration drafted amendments to the War Crimes Act that would retroactively protect policymakers from possible criminal charges for authorizing any humiliating and degrading treatment of detainees, according to lawyers who have seen the proposal.

The move by the administration is the latest effort to deal with treatment of those taken into custody in the war on terror.

At issue are interrogations carried out by the CIA, and the degree to which harsh tactics such as water-boarding were authorized by administration officials. A separate law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, applies to the military.

The Washington Post first reported on the War Crimes Act amendments Wednesday.

One section of the draft would outlaw torture and inhuman or cruel treatment, but it does not contain prohibitions from Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions against "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." A copy of the section of the draft was obtained by The Associated Press.

The White House, without elaboration, said in a statement that the bill "will apply to any conduct by any U.S. personnel, whether committed before or after the law is enacted."

Two attorneys said that the draft is in the revision stage but that the administration seems intent on pushing forward the draft's major points in Congress after Labor Day. The two attorneys spoke on condition of anonymity because their sources did not authorize them to release the information.

"I think what this bill can do is in effect immunize past crimes. That's why it's so dangerous," said a third attorney, Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

Fidell said the initiative is "not just protection of political appointees, but also CIA personnel who led interrogations."

Interrogation practices "follow from policies that were formed at the highest levels of the administration," said a fourth attorney, Scott Horton, who has followed detainee issues closely. "The administration is trying to insulate policymakers under the War Crimes Act."

The Bush administration contends Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions includes a number of vague terms that are susceptible to different interpretations.

Extreme interrogation practices have been a flash point for criticism of the administration.

When interrogators engage in waterboarding, prisoners are strapped to a plank and dunked in water until nearly drowning.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Congress "is aware of the dilemma we face, how to make sure the CIA and others are not unfairly prosecuted."

He said that at the same time, Congress "will not allow political appointees to waive the law."

Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA's executive director, said that "President Bush is looking to limit the War Crimes Act through legislation" now that the Supreme Court has embraced Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. In June, the court ruled that Bush's plan to try Guantanamo Bay detainees in military tribunals violates Article 3.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The "egalitarian face" of Islamic orthodoxy?

New study finds religious orthodoxy associated with support for progressive economic reforms

Your editors recently ran across this article, which we hope will shed some new light on current trends in Islamic States. It was published in May and is still very pertinent today.

May 3, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The portrayal in the West of Islamic traditionalists or fundamentalists often emphasizes their relegation of women to lower status in the home and family, restrictions on sexual expression and reproductive rights, and harsh punishments for crimes, but a new study by Indiana University and DePauw University sociologists found that Islamic orthodoxy has an "egalitarian face."

In research based on survey data from seven predominantly Muslim nations, the authors found that Islamic orthodoxy -- identified as the desire to implement Islamic law (shari'a) as the sole legal foundation of their nation -- is associated in every country with support for such progressive economic reforms as increasing the responsibility of government for the poor, reducing income inequality, and increasing government ownership of businesses and industries.

"While it is common to associate traditional religious beliefs with conservative political stances on a wide range of issues, this is only partly true," said Robert V. Robinson, Chancellor's Professor and chair of IU's Department of Sociology. "The Islamic orthodox are more conservative on issues having to do with gender, sexuality and the family, but more liberal or left on economic issues."

Robinson and Nancy J. Davis, professor and chair of DePauw University's Department of Sociology & Anthropology, attribute the economic progressivism of the Islamic orthodox to the "communitarianism" that they have found among the orthodox of all the Abrahamic faith traditions or "religions of the Book." Orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims, they argue, are theologically "communitarian" because they see themselves as part of a larger community of believers and as subject to the timeless laws and greater plan of God.

"The theological communitarianism of orthodoxy entails watching over community members, which involves both a controlling side and a caring one, and inclines its adherents toward cultural authoritarianism and economic egalitarianism," Davis said. "The orthodox tend to feel that everyone in the community should be subject to what they see as eternal divine laws on the position of women, sexuality and the family. But they also tend to believe that the community and society should look out for its members' economic well-being."

The authors also found widespread support in the Muslim world for the establishment of Islamic law.

Their findings appear in the American Sociological Review. The article, "The Egalitarian Face of Islamic Orthodoxy: Support for Islamic Law and Economic Justice in Seven Muslim-Majority Nations," is the lead article in the current issue.

Davis and Robinson's finding that religious traditionalists or orthodox in Islam are more supportive than modernists of progressive economic reforms follows up on their earlier studies of the United States, a number of European countries and Israel, which found that orthodox Christians (Protestants, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) and Jews tend to be more economically egalitarian than modernists in these faith traditions, belying the notion in many countries that the orthodox constitute a "Religious Right."

The data for their latest study came from national surveys in Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, where altogether just under half of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims live. The surveys were conducted from 2000 to 2003 as part of the fourth wave of the World Values Survey, conducted by the University of Michigan and a consortium of investigators in over 80 countries. Some other key findings include:

* Fully 88 percent of Saudi respondents in the study considered establishing Islamic law as the sole basis of the state to be "important" or "very important," as did 82 percent of Egyptians, 80 percent of Jordanians, 72 percent of Algerians, 62 percent of Pakistanis and 53 percent of Indonesians. Only in Bangladesh did less than a majority (45 percent) support establishing shari'a as the sole law of the land. Robinson observed that "The strong popular support in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria and Pakistan for implementing Islamic law suggests that were these countries to become more democratic, the democracies established might not adopt the economic policies or relations with the United States that President George W. Bush would envision."
* In the poorer Muslim countries they studied, Davis and Robinson found that orthodoxy is more strongly linked to a desire for progressive economic reforms than in the countries with medium or high standards of living. Also, within all of these countries, the poor and less educated are more supportive of economic reforms than the rich and well educated.
* Davis and Robinson see further evidence of the economic progressivism of the Islamic orthodox in the welfare networks that they have established throughout the Muslim world. Building on the mosque-centered model established by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt during the 1930s, other Islamist groups, such as the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in Algeria, Laksar Jihad (Holy War Brigade) in Indonesia, Jamaat-i-Islami (Party of Islam) in Pakistan, and Hamas in Palestine, have created in their countries safety nets of welfare agencies, clinics and hospitals, factories paying good wages, day care centers, youth clubs and unemployment agencies. This "welfare Islam," according to the authors, has often shown Muslims that Islamist organizations can outperform corrupt or callous secular governments of their countries in providing much-needed social services.

New Report Tracks the Origin and Path of Unwanted Internet Ads

WASHINGTON - August 9 - More than half of the pop-up ads served by nuisance "adware" programs are placed knowingly by advertisers, according to a study released today by the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT).

Although many ads purchased by major national companies pass through complex networks of affiliates before being displayed by nuisance adware distributors, 55 percent of the ads served by those distributors are placed directly by the companies being advertised, according to "Following the Money II: The Role of Intermediaries in Adware Advertising." A copy of the report is available at (

"It's deeply frustrating that legitimate companies continue to willingly do business with adware distributors known to be engaged in unethical, and in some cases illegal, distribution practices," CDT Deputy Director Ari Schwartz said. "Clearly these companies haven't gotten the message about how fed up consumers are with adware and spyware. I can't understand why any legitimate company would risk tarnishing its brand by association with such practices."

Released in March of this year, the first Following the Money report identified many well-respected companies that were advertising through nuisance adware distributor Zango (formerly known as180solutions). That report also detailed how complex affiliate relationships could sometimes make it difficult for advertisers to know where and how their advertisements were ultimately being displayed.

Following the Money II goes one step further, identifying a sample of 380 ads served by Zango and Direct Revenue --both of which have been shown to engage in deceptive distribution practices -- and tracing the path those ads take from the advertiser to the nuisance adware provider.

CDT was surprised to discover that advertisers knowingly paid for fully 60 percent of the ads served by Zango and Direct Revenue. In addition to the 55 percent that were placed directly, another 5 percent were placed through intermediaries that didn't have a say in ad placement. As identified in the earlier report, ads placed by major national brands tended to travel through more intermediaries (two, on average) than those placed by lesser-known companies, which averaged less than one intermediary per transaction.

Following the Money II urges companies to get serious about establishing and enforcing policies to prevent their ads from appearing through nuisance distributors, and to be more careful about choosing affiliate partners.

"Companies need to take responsibility when their advertising dollars go to support companies that prey on unsuspecting consumers," said CDT Policy Analyst Alissa Cooper, who co-authored the report. "Whether placed directly or through intermediaries, these ads diminish the Internet experience for millions of people. Advertisers that work with these distributors are running out of excuses, and must either start policing their advertising spending, or answering to their customers who have been harmed by adware."

Ned Lamont's Victory in Connecticut Senate Primary is Leading Edge of 'Peace Voter' Campaign

SILVER SPRING, Maryland - August 9 - The victory of insurgent candidate Ned Lamont over staunchly pro-war Sen. Joe Lieberman in yesterday's Connecticut primary demonstrates the intense voter dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq - and the power of the pro-peace vote in this year's mid-term elections. Peace Action, the nation's largest grassroots peace organization (which endorsed Lamont), will mobilize that power this fall through its nationwide "Peace Voter 2006" campaign.

Peace Voter 2006 is a non-partisan, grassroots campaign designed to let voters know where candidates stand on a number of key foreign and domestic policy issues, including the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the resumption of U.S. nuclear weapons testing, potential military intervention in Iran, federal budget priorities and the military's recruitment of young Americans.

"Both Democrats and Republicans need to realize the American public is not looking for politicians who posture about being "strong" or "tough" on foreign affairs," said Kevin Martin, Executive Director of Peace Action. "The electorate is looking for candidates who have clear ideas about solving our nation's problems, and the no. 1 problem to address is our government's disastrous military occupation of Iraq, which is now the defining issue of our time." Martin noted that Ned Lamont's strong belief in employing international cooperation over unilateral military action, as well as his call to re-prioritize domestic needs such as health care for all Americans, also helped him win in Connecticut - and that such a message will doubtless appeal to voters across the country.

The primary vehicle for Peace Voter 2006 will be the Peace Voter Guide, which will be distributed to 2.5 - 3 million voters nationwide. An example of the Peace Voter Guide, along with other supporting materials such as the candidate questionnaire (from which candidate positions are taken), can be found at

Peace Action, a national organization with affiliates and chapters across the country, will be organizing Peace Voter campaigns in more than 40 key House and Senate races this fall, including highly competitive races in Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey, California, Maryland, Ohio, Connecticut and New York. (A list of specific races will be posted in early September.)

The Peace Voter campaign is also aligned with the Peace Voter Pledge, a campaign enabling individual voters to sign a pledge to only support candidates who are calling for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. A copy of this pledge, which has so far been signed by over 85,000 people nationally, can also be found at

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lieberman loses, vows independent run

The AP reported 30 minutes ago that:

Three-term Sen.Joe Lieberman fell to anti-war challenger Ned Lamont in Connecticut's Democratic primary Tuesday, a race seen as a harbinger of sentiment over the conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Unbowed, Lieberman immediately announced he would enter the fall campaign as an independent. Only six years ago, Lieberman was the Democrats' choice for vice president.

"As I see it, in this campaign we just finished the first half and the Lamont team is ahead. But, in the second half, our team, Team Connecticut, is going to surge forward to victory in November," Lieberman said after congratulating Lamont.

Lamont, a millionaire with virtually no political experience, ran on his opposition to the Iraq war. "They call Connecticut the land of steady habits," he said. "Tonight we voted for a big change."

Lamont won with 52 percent of the vote, or 144,005, to 48 percent for Lieberman, with 134,026, with 98 percent of precincts reporting.

Lieberman's loss made him only the fourth incumbent senator to lose a primary since 1980.

The complete story may be found here:

Oil Giants Continue to Benefit From U.S. Energy Policy;Consumers Pay Price

WASHINGTON - August 8 - One year after the Administration's energy policy was signed into law, consumers are paying record high prices for gas and the majority of the cost increases have turned into profits for domestic oil companies.

"As gasoline prices and oil industry profits hit record high levels, so too has public frustration and concern," said Ann Wright, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union. "The oil companies continue to be the largest benefactors of our nation's energy policy -- not the American public."

"Time to Change the Record in Energy Policy," a report released today by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Consumers Union (CU) shows the following:

-- The increase in the domestic refiner/market spread -- the amount oil companies take for domestic refining and marketing -- since last summer is about 34 cents per gallon, which is more than the increase in crude oil costs (about 31 cents).

-- This increase in the domestic spread adds about $12 billion to summer driving costs for consumers.

-- Compared to 2002, the last time summer gasoline sold at $1.50 per gallon, domestic crude and refining/marketing have accounted for an 85-cent increase in the price of gasoline.

"Because the price increases are not driven by costs, oil industry profits have skyrocketed," Mark Cooper, CFA's director of research, said. "Oil companies will make more money this year than they did in 1995 to 1999 combined. Comparing oil industry profits to the Standard and Poors Industrial, the industry will have $120 billion in excess profits in the 2001 - 2006 period. Cash flow has increased so fast that the industry simply cannot absorb it. Cash flow has exceeded net new investment by $120 billion, yet, Congress continues to lavish favors on the industry."

The report points out that the recently passed legislation to expand drilling in environmentally sensitive coastal areas will do little to lower prices or free our nation from its addiction to oil.

-- About 85 percent of the oil in coastal areas is already available for drilling.

-- The small increment of oil to be drilled in the new areas constitutes less than 2 percent of global reserves.

"The drilling legislation will fatten the oil industry's bottom line, since the oil companies will find 'cheap' oil, but charge the world price," Cooper said.

"While the Administration and Congressional leadership continue to push traditional supply-side strategies by promoting drilling, many of the policies we have been advocating for years are garnering bipartisan support. Congress and the Administration should turn their attention to enacting a meaningful energy plan that includes strong efficiency standards and better oversight of the price raising practices of industry," Wright said.

The report points out that members from both sides of the aisle have cosponsored important proposals to:

-- cut oil consumption and imports by as much as 10 million barrels per day (almost 40 percent) over the next quarter century;

-- dramatically increase auto and truck fuel economy standards;

-- require the Environmental Protection Agency to update miles per gallon estimates on new vehicle window stickers and require manufacturers to use accurate estimates in compliance with federal mileage standards;

-- make mileage information readily accessible on new car stickers, in advertising and even on real-time dashboard displays during driving;

-- empower antitrust and commodity market regulators to scrutinize the price raising business practices of the oil industry and commodity speculators

"These aggressive efficiency measures will 'deliver' five to 10 times as much capacity to the oil market as the drilling bills recently passed by the House and Senate," Cooper noted, "and fuel economy-driven oil savings are sustainable for the long term, while the small increase in production that results from expanded drilling is not."

The report notes that the results of a recent CFA-sponsored public opinion poll indicate that people are ready for a change in energy policy. According to the results, based on a random national sample:

-- Over three-quarters of respondents support requiring major increases in the fuel efficiency of cars, requiring auto companies to boost alternative fuel vehicles from 3 percent to 25 percent of the new car fleet, and making mileage information more readily available as well.

"Hopefully, if the members of Congress get an earful from their constituents during the summer recess, the Congressional leadership will feel the heat and give these important efficiency measures and consumer protection bills votes when they return in September," Wright concluded.

To get a copy of the report, go to or

Connecticut Primary to Lead Wave of Anti-War Voter Frustration This Fall

WASHINGTON - August 8 - The nation’s largest grassroots peace organization, Peace Action, predicted today that Sen. Joe Lieberman’s likely loss in the Connecticut Democratic primary is the beginning of a wave of anti-war frustration that voters will act on at the polls this fall.

“Whether Lieberman loses or manages to eek out a victory, it’s now apparent that if Democrats ignore the strong anti-war sentiment in the country - and particularly in their own party base – they do so at their peril,” said Kevin Martin, Executive Director of Peace Action. “Both Democrats and Republicans need to realize the American public is not looking for politicians who posture about being “strong” or “tough” on foreign affairs. The electorate is looking for candidates who have clear ideas about solving our nation’s problems, ideas based on firm principles they can articulate. And the #1 problem that needs to be addressed is our government’s disastrous military occupation of Iraq, which is now the defining issue of our time.”

Martin also noted that challenger Ned Lamont’s attraction to Connecticut voters is not simply his belief that U.S. troops should be brought home from Iraq, but his equally strong conviction that the U.S. must start prioritizing international cooperation over unilateral military action, and that serious domestic issues, such as health care for all Americans, need to be tackled.

Peace Action will help mobilize the pro-peace vote during the election season through its endorsements by its political action committee, Peace Action PAC, and even more ambitiously through its Peace Voter 2006 grassroots issue advocacy campaign, which will be active in over 40 House and Senate races this fall. “Even Senators that we have not had particularly close relationships with in the past, such as Sens. Robert Byrd (D-WV) or Daniel Akaka (D-HI), have actively welcomed our endorsement,” added Martin. “Astute politicians are realizing the importance of the peace vote this fall.”

Monday, August 07, 2006

IU informatics researchers throttle notion of search engine dominance

August 7, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Search engines are not biased towards well-known Web sites. In fact, they actually produce an egalitarian effect as to where traffic is directed, say researchers at the Indiana University School of Informatics.

Their study, "Topical interests and the mitigation of search engine bias," appears in the Aug. 7-11 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and challenges the "Googlearchy" theory -- the perception that search engines push Web traffic toward popular sites, thus creating a monopoly over lesser-known sites.

As the Web becomes larger and more complex, search engines have taken on an increased role in guiding Internet users to their destinations. Yet, some are concerned that search engines, by means of their ranking algorithms, create a vicious cycle where popular sites receive more and more hits.

"Empirical data do not support the idea of a vicious cycle amplifying the rich-get-richer dynamic of the Web," said Filippo Mencer, associate professor of informatics and computer science. "Our study demonstrates that popular sites receive on average far less traffic than predicted by the Googlearchy theory and that the playing field is more even."

Menczer was joined in the study by IU post-doctoral fellow Santo Fortunato; Alessandro Flammini, assistant professor of informatics; and Alessandro Vespignani, professor of informatics.

A search engine is a complex system designed to find information stored on the Web, allowing users to look for content meeting specific criteria, typically a word or phrase. The engine then retrieves a set of references closely matching the criteria, returning a list of "hits" ranked by page relevance.

The IU team pooled its expertise in Web mining, networks and complex systems to collect empirical data from various search engines. In one scenario, users browsed the Web using only random links. In another, users visited only pages returned by the search engines.

The researchers also have studied the critical role of search engines in shaping the evolution of the Web.

"A simple ranking mechanism provides an elegant model to understand the genesis of a broad class of complex systems, including social and technological networks such as the Internet and the World Wide Web," Fortunato said. "These networks possess a peculiar 'long-tail' structure in which a few nodes attract a great majority of connections."

The long tail structure of the Web is commonly explained through rich-get-richer models that require knowledge of the prestige of each node in the network. However, those who create and link Web pages may not know the prestige values of target pages.

In another study, "Scale-free network growth by ranking," published in May by the journal Physical Review Letters, the IU researchers showed that all that is necessary to give rise to a long tail network is to have the nodes sorted according to any prestige measure, even if the exact values are unknown. If new nodes are linked to old ones according to their ranking order, a long tail emerges.

The IU researchers' model finds a striking application in understanding the evolution and social impact of search engines.

"By sorting results, search engines give us a simple mechanism to interpret how the Web grows and how traffic is distributed among Web sites," said Menczer.

The ranking model can help understand the dynamics of other complex networks besides the Web. For example, in a social system, one may be able to tell which of two people is richer without knowing their bank account balance. Such a criterion might explain the frequency and robustness of the complex structure observed in many real networks.