Category - Faith and Spirituality

Thousands march in evening protest in downtown Montreal

Police quickly declared the demonstration illegal, arrests made

CBC, March 24

Thousands of protesters hit the streets of downtown Montreal Tuesday night as part of student protests against the province’s austerity measures.

Crowds gathered at Parc Émilie-Gamelin at 9 p.m. before marching along the downtown streets.

Police quickly declared the protest illegal, saying an itinerary of the route was not provided, and began making arrests.

CTV News: Montreal students protest for second night, police disperse crowds

Class and the Classroom

How Elite Universities Are Hurting America

Foreign Affairs, By George Scialabba, March / April 2015

One of the most fruitful ideas to emerge from twentieth-century social theory is Max Weber’s notion of the “iron cage” of purposive rationality. Weber argued that once some principle of organization—market competition, say, or ideological orthodoxy—has achieved dominance in the spheres of production and governance, the rest of a society’s institutions find themselves gradually but inexorably adopting the same principle. In an ideology-dominant society, everything fluid turns to stone; in a market-dominant society, everything solid melts into air.

Not everything, of course. The iron cage is, like most other useful theoretical notions, an ideal type. All societies retain protected (or neglected) spaces where not-yet-rationalized traditions and communities flourish. Still, although the mills of rationalization turn slowly, they grind exceedingly fine. In time, Weber believed, every practice or institution in a modern society, regardless of its original purpose, experiences an irresistible pressure to adapt to the society’s fundamental organizing principle.

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China’s Tensions With Dalai Lama Spill Into the Afterlife

New York Times, By Chris Buckley, March 11

Hong Kong — Chinese Communist Party leaders are afraid that the Dalai Lama will not have an afterlife. Worried enough that this week, officials repeatedly warned that he must reincarnate, and on their terms.

Tensions over what will happen when the 14th Dalai Lama, who is 79, dies, and particularly over who decides who will succeed him as the most prominent leader in Tibetan Buddhism, have ignited at the annual gathering of China’s legislators in Beijing.

Officials have amplified their argument that the Communist government is the proper guardian of the Dalai Lama’s succession through an intricate process of reincarnation that has involved lamas, or senior monks, visiting a sacred lake and divining dreams.

Party functionaries were incensed by the exiled Dalai Lama’s recent speculation that he might end his spiritual lineage and not reincarnate. That would confound the Chinese government’s plans to engineer a succession that would produce a putative 15th Dalai Lama who accepts China’s presence and policies in Tibet. Their anger welled up on Wednesday, as it had a day earlier.

Zhu Weiqun, a Communist Party official who has long dealt with Tibetan issues, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that the Dalai Lama had, essentially, no say over whether he was reincarnated. That was ultimately for the Chinese government to decide, he said, according to a transcript of his comments on the website of People’s Daily, the party’s main newspaper.

“Decision-making power over the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and over the end or survival of this lineage, resides in the central government of China,” said Mr. Zhu, formerly a deputy head of the United Front Department of the Communist Party, which oversees dealings with religious and other nonparty groups. He now leads the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body that meets at the same time as the Legislature, or National People’s Congress.

Not Guilty: Flood Wall Street Protesters Vindicated By Manhattan Court

Judge rules NYPD violated demonstrators’ First Amendment rights

Common Dreams, By Sarah Lazare, March 6

In a ruling on Thursday hailed as a vindication, a Manhattan court has determined ten climate activists “not guilty” on charges related to a thousands-strong climate protest that “flooded Wall Street” in New York City’s financial district in September of last year.

Over 100 people—including one dressed as a polar bear—were arrested at the civil disobedience, which took direct aim at the role of capitalism in driving global warming and overall planetary destruction. Timed to coincide with a United Nations summit of heads of state and corporate leaders, the direct action followed the People’s Climate March, which featured over 400,000 participants and was led by communities from the front-lines of the climate crisis.

[…]

According to a statement from protesters, New York City Criminal Court Judge Robert Mandelbaum ruled that the dispersal order issued by the New York Police Department constituted an unlawful violation of demonstrators’ First Amendment rights.

Going beyond the “not guilty” ruling, however, Mandelbaum also took judicial notice of the fact that climate change is real, human-made, and requires drastic action. Defense Attorney Martin Stolar said that this acknowledgment is “unprecedented and has significance for future litigation involving climate change.”

New York City to add Muslim holidays to school calendar

France24, March 4

New York City public schools will start observing two of Islam’s most important holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing an announcement to be delivered by the city’s Mayor Bill de Blasio.

According to the newspaper, the changes to the school calendar are in line with de Blasio’s election pledge to better integrate and represent the city’s increasing Muslim population, which is estimated at between 600,000 and 1 million. New York City public schools already recognise several Jewish and Christian holidays.

In a post on Twitter prior to the announcement, de Blasio said the new policy will represent “a change that respects the diversity of our city.”

A 2008 study carried out by Columbia University showed that around 10 percent of New York City public-school children were Muslim, and that about 95 percent of Muslim children in the city attend public schools.

Many heads will, no doubt, explode.

Catholics don’t have to breed ‘like rabbits’, says Pope Francis

Pope says Catholic church supports “responsible parenting” but criticises ‘ideological colonisation’ of the developing world

Pope defends church’s opposition to artificial contraception

AP, January 20

Catholics do not have to breed “like rabbits” and should instead practise “responsible parenting”, Pope Francis said on Monday.

Speaking to reporters en route home from the Philippines, Francis said there were plenty of church-approved ways to regulate births.

But he firmly upheld church teaching banning contraception and said no outside institution should impose its views on regulating family size, blasting what he called the “ideological colonisation” of the developing world.

African bishops, in particular, have long complained about how progressive, western ideas about birth control and gay rights are increasingly being imposed on the developing world by groups, institutions or individual nations, often as a condition for development aid.

“Every people deserves to conserve its identity without being ideologically colonised,” Francis said.

At that, Francis’ head exploded from the cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy.

Anchor Leaves CNN After Paris Tweets


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NYT – The veteran CNN anchor Jim Clancy has left the network after a series of Twitter messages he wrote about the terrorist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.

In the tweets, which were sent on the day of the attack, Mr. Clancy wrote about the cartoons the paper had published depicting the Prophet Muhammad, but he then began criticizing supporters of Israel and sparring with other Twitter users. Mr. Clancy’s Twitter account has since been deleted, but the tweets were published on several websites, including Gawker, Twitchy and Mediaite.

Pope strongly defends church teaching against contraception

AP, January 16

Manilla – Pope Francis issued his strongest defense yet of church teaching opposing artificial contraception on Friday, using a rally in Asia’s largest Catholic nation to urge families to be “sanctuaries of respect for life.”

Francis also denounced the corruption that has plagued the Philippines for decades and urged officials to instead work to end its “scandalous” poverty and social inequalities during his first full day in Manila, where he received a rock star’s welcome at every turn.

[…]

Francis has largely shied away from emphasizing church teaching on hot-button issues, saying the previous two popes made the teaching well-known and that he wants to focus on making the church a place of welcome, not rules. But his comments were clearly a nod to the local church, which recently lost a significant fight when President Benigno Aquino III pushed through a reproductive health law that allows the government to provide artificial birth control to the poor.

“Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death,” Francis exhorted the crowd. “What a gift this would be to society if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation.”

He then deviated from his prepared remarks to praise Pope Paul VI for having “courageously” resisted calls for an opening in church teaching on sexuality in the 1960s. Paul penned the 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” which enshrined the church’s opposition to artificial birth control.

Francis noted that Paul was aware that some families would find it difficult to uphold the teaching and “he asked confessors to be particularly compassionate and understandable for particular cases.”

But he nevertheless said Paul was prescient in resisting the trends of the times.

“He looked beyond. He looked to the peoples of the Earth and saw the destruction of the family because of the lack of children,” Francis said. “Paul VI was courageous. He was a good pastor. He warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching, and from the heavens he blesses us today.”

Oklahoma to stage first execution since botched procedure 9 months ago

Lethal injection of convicted murderer will use controversial drug cocktail; Florida also set for execution Thursday.

AP, January 15

After a nearly nine-month delay prompted by a botched lethal injection last spring, Oklahoma plans to execute a death row inmate Thursday with the same controversial three-drug method Florida intends to use around an hour earlier.

Oklahoma prison officials ordered new medical equipment, more extensive training for staff and renovated the execution chamber inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to prevent the kind of problems that arose during the execution of Clayton Lockett in April. Lockett writhed on the gurney, moaned and tried to lift his head after he’d been declared unconscious, prompting prison officials to try to halt his execution before he died.

Attorneys for the state say a failed intravenous line and a lack of training led to the problems with Lockett’s injection, not the drugs.

Both Oklahoma and Florida plan to start the executions with the sedative midazolam, which has been challenged in court as ineffective in rendering a person properly unconscious before the second and third drugs are administered, creating a risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Johann Hari: ‘I failed badly. When you harm people, you should shut up, go away and reflect on what happened’

He was the Independent’s star columnist whose lying and cheating destroyed his career. Now Johann Hari is back, with a book about drug-taking – including his own. But will anyone believe a word of it?

The Guardian, Decca Aitkenhead, January 2

When I heard that Johann Hari had written a book about the war on drugs, two immediate concerns sprang to mind. The first was whether anyone would trust a word he wrote.

The author used to be the Independent’s star columnist, a prolific polemicist and darling of the left, until his career imploded in disgrace when it emerged in 2011 that many of his articles contained quotes apparently said to him but in fact lifted from his interviewees’ books, or from previous interviews by other journalists. Worse, he was exposed as a “sockpuppet”, or someone who anonymously furthers his own interests online. Using a false identity, Hari had maliciously amended the Wikipedia pages of journalists he disliked – among them the Telegraph columnist Cristina Odone and the Observer’s Nick Cohen – accusing them of antisemitism, homophobia and other toxic falsehoods. Under the same pseudonym, he had also edited his own Wikipedia page, lavishly flattering his profile to, as he puts it, “big myself up”. The Independent suspended him, four months later he resigned, and no British newspaper has published his journalism since. He has never spoken publicly about the scandal, until now.
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Vatican forever bars woman who bared breasts

Grabbed baby Jesus statue

Thomson Reuters, December 27

Vatican City – The Vatican said it had arrested a member of women’s rights group Femen who on Christmas Day bared her breasts and grabbed a statue of the baby Jesus from a nativity scene in front of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.

Femen’s website says the woman was protesting as part of its anti-clerical “Massacre of the Innocents” campaign contesting religions’ “maniacal desire to control women’s fertility”.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Friday that Ukrainian citizen Iana Aleksandrovna Azhdanova was being detained and questioned by a Vatican judge. On Saturday, the Vatican said she had been released and was forbidden to return to the Holy See.

He said she was accused of vilification of religion, obscene acts in public, and theft. He said her action “offended the religious feelings of many people”.

Saudi terrorism court ‘to try women drivers’

BBC, December 25

Two Saudi women who were detained for defying a ban on female drivers are to be tried in a terrorism court, activists say.

Loujain al-Hathloul, 25, and Maysa al-Amoudi, 33, have been in detention for nearly a month.

The women’s cases had reportedly been transferred over comments they had made on social media – rather than for their driving, according to activists.

India lawmakers demand Modi speak on mass conversion to Hinduism

AP, December 22

New Delhi – Opposition lawmakers, charging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done little to stop hard-liners in his party from forcibly converting religious minorities to Hinduism, threw Parliament into an uproar Monday, with the upper house of Parliament adjourned after descending into shouting matches.

Right-wing Hindu groups allied to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party whose members are overwhelmingly BJP members have conducted a series of ceremonies across India over the past week to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.
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First woman bishop: parish priest Libby Lane is surprise choice

Bookies off the mark as Church of England names the Rev Libby Lane as its first female bishop in Stockport, Greater Manchester
The Telegraph, By John Bingham, December 17

A parish priest from Hale has made history as the first woman to be named as a bishop in the Church of England.

The Rev Libby Lane, a 48-year-old mother of two, is to be the next Bishop of Stockport in Greater Manchester.

It comes more than 20 years after the ordination of the first female priests in the established church and almost a century after the first attempts to open the ministry to women.

After the announcement, she said: “This is unexpected and very exciting.

[…]

The appointment, which was kept a closely guarded secret, is being formally announced by Downing Street after being approved by the Queen.

The Established Church is now the last great institution of public life in Britain to open its upper reaches to people of both sexes.

The milestone is expected to be the first of a handful of announcements in the coming months of women being admitted to the episcopate.

It comes as ministers also prepare to introduce new legislation to fast-track women bishops into the House of Lords.

They hope it will mean the first female clerics will be taking their places among the “Lords Spiritual” of the Upper Chamber before the General Election.

Urban Inuit: Nomads from the Arctic find new home in Canada’s capital

The Inuit migration south to Ottawa has picked up speed, a challenge for those used to traditional life

Al Jazeera, By Leyland Cecco, November 23

Ottawa, Ontario — Dion Metcalfe pulls up his shirt to reveal an inukshuk tattooed onto his stomach. The stone cairn, used to guide or mark a path in the North, is coupled with a compass and the names of his family.

“My Inuit name is Aalla; it means stranger,’’ he says as his fingers trace the Inuktitut syllabics.

For most of his life, Metcalfe has been a stranger. Born to an Inuit father and Dutch mother in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on Canada’s east coast, the family moved to Ottawa when he was six months old. His father went to a residential school, a system notorious for its abuse of students, and what he suffered there he inflicted on his son. Metcalfe grew up bullied at school and at home, caught between two cultures.

Long known as nomads of the Arctic, the Inuit have been migrating to southern urban centers for nearly a half-century now. To outsiders, the Arctic is a barren polar desert, but the Inuit communities thrived there for thousands of years, braving winters with little daylight, and in some areas, temperatures that dipped below -50°C. Dog sleds were once used both for day-to-day travel and hunting, these days largely replaced by planes and snowmobiles. Because of the uniquely isolated nature of life in the North, myths about Inuit lifestyle, such as kissing with noses, still persist.

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