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Sacred Science, Evolving Faith, Realistic Hope: Sept. 17/18

The Future is Calling Us to Greatness

You’ve seen the warning signs. Is the planet on a pathway to disaster, or is there another option?
What if this time of crisis is an opportunity to awaken to our potential & discover the best of who we can be?
Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow look to “sacred science” for guidance. They call on the wisdom of spirit and faith and the evidence of the sciences to forge a positive future on our evolutionary path.
Come join the conversation. Be inspired.
September 17 & 18, 2013 in Ottawa, ON. Click here for details.

Sacred Science, Evolving Faith, Realistic Hope

WIE-bothThe Christian Development Committee of Ottawa Presbytery announces:

Sacred Science, Evolving Faith, Realistic Hope:
How the Marriage of Science & Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World

September 13 & 14, 2013

We are thrilled to welcome Rev. Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow, on their first visit to Ottawa.
Michael‘s bestselling bridge-building book, Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World, was endorsed by 6 Nobel Prize-winning scientists, noted skeptics, and by religious leaders across the spectrum. Connie Barlow is a noted science writer and evolutionary educator.
Friday, September 13, 2013, 7:30 to 9:30 pm – Public Presentation: “Soulful Science and Evolutionary Spirituality: A Realistically Hopeful Vision of the Future” – A dynamic multi-media presentation and lecture by Michael Dowd, followed by Q&A.

Saturday, September 14, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm – Going deeper with Dowd and Barlow: Day of workshops and conversations: ”Evolutionary Parables, Songs, and Sacred Science Anthems”, “Religious Education on a Chaotic, Warming Planet”, ”Stone-Age Instincts/Space-Age Temptations,” and more.
Sunday, September 15 – 10:00 am – Rev. Michael Dowd will offer the Reflection during Worship at Kitchissippi United Church.

Location: City View United Church 6 Epworth Ave Ottawa K2G 2L5
Cost Friday $10 Saturday $20 Full Event $25 (lunch included)
Registration: Ottawa Presbytery ph 613 224 5318 6 Epworth Ave Ottawa K2G 2L5
For more information about Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow’s work, see:

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Conservative Christian Teenagers Prepare for Politics Generation Joshua, a program run by homeschooling advocates, aims to get young people working to “help America return to her Judeo-Christian foundations.”


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The Last Dance

West Hill United Church – Spring 2013 Adult Program
The Last Dance: an intentional look at your end of life

Facilitated and Hosted by: Janice Meighan

This is a Six (6) week series and workshop that is an educational, practical and shared journey. In small and large groups we will discuss dying, death, and living. We will look at historical, cross-cultural, psychological, and spiritual aspects of death. We will look at the law and death, death in the age of technology, your legacy, and examine how you put the  sacred into your life and into your death. This is a ‘hands –on’ workshop as well. You will be participating in a few activities and invited to share your thoughts, feelings, concerns and journey with one another. We will see a couple of brief movie clips, listen to music clips, and read some literature (provided). We will share food and laughter!

Two Options to choose from:
Option 1:   Wednesday Evenings – beginning April 17, 2013; ending May 22, 2013
7:00 pm – 9:15 pm in the Lounge (break included)

Option 2:   Thursday Mornings – beginning April 18, 2013; ending May 23, 2013
10:00 am – 12:15 pm in the Lounge (break included)

Here are the topics:

  • 1. Introduction: What we will cover in six weeks; Attitudes towards death – our own and those down through the ages
  • 2. Facing Death: Death in an age of technology; Process of death; Near-death experience; sudden, traumatic, illness based deaths
  • 3. Death and Taxes:  Sorting out the paperwork; Death benefit, estates, Wills, POA’s* –
  • Are you prepared? *(This is not a legal seminar and there will be no legal advice given)
  • 4. The Celebration:  Part I: Funerals, memorials, disposing of the physical body; what do you want?
  • 5. The Celebration:   Part II: Creating your own Last Dance
  • 6. Beyond Death: Various perspectives; Will you go somewhere after death? Is there an after-life? Do you have a soul? Spirit? An Essence? Or Nothing …

Cost and Sign-up:
There is a small cost for this program and workshop: $60.00 and includes photocopied materials, resource development and break-time refreshments.

Please sign up by contacting Janice at or the Office as space is limited.
Telephone: 416-282-8566 or email

UCUCC Lecture Series

The University Congregational United Church of Christ in Seattle, Washington, USA presents Gretta Vosper as part of their 2013 Lecture Series, October 11 – 13, 2013.

As interest in mainline religion dwindles, along with it go the institutions that have long framed our civic discourse. Rather than simply repackaging what they offer, it is crucial that religions find ways to revisit their divisive core narratives and mine them for themes and elements that, connected with new and emerging ideas, can inspire and uplift us. Identifying a noble truth that will call us to a future framed by justice and compassion is our most urgent goal.

Click here for more information.

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A Spirituality for Our Time with Jay McDaniel

On June 17 to June 19, 2013 the Madawaska Institute for Culture and Religion will be hosting Dr. Jay McDaniel. A Spirituality for our Time

He will examine the questions of prayer, ecology, interfaith, and aesthetic so we can form a spiritually that will ground us in our faith journey. This will be a follow up to Diana Butler Bass’s comments of being spiritual and religious where we will form a spiritual that is religious and grounds our care of the earth and all who inhabit it.

  • Through Buddhism and Christian traditions we will deepen our faith.
  • Through poetry and jazz we will celebrate the harmonies of the universe.
  • Through conversations we will add intensity to our experience.
  • Taking seriously the complexities of our time we will form a theology that will sustain us and our actions. We will work on creating two kinds of harmony: harmony among people and harmony with the earth.
  • We will work on a abridge between cultures that is socially just, ecologically sustainable, and spiritually satisfying.

Dr. Jay McDaniel brings with him a grounding in Buddhism and Process Theology. He will also bring his current experience of working with Process Centers in China. He teaches at Hendrix College as Professor of Religion and Director, Steel Center for the Study of Religion and Philosophy. His current work includes the development of an organization called “Ecological Civilization International.”

He says “My aim as a teacher at Hendrix is to help students understand how people live and think in different parts of the world when they are shaped by religious points of view. It is also to help students develop “philosophies” and “theologies” of their own in dialogue with the many religions and also with people who are not interested in religion. I think of myself as a “constructive theologian” and encourage my students to recognize that they, too, can be creative thinkers in their own right. Understanding others and creatively responding to what one learns: these are the guiding ideals of my teaching.”

For more go to

The cost will be $225. It will be located in Burnstown Ont. To register contact George Hermanson at

Debate: Be it resolved Government funding for Roman Catholic Schools be Abolished

The Humanist Association of London and Area
The Society of Atheists and Agnostics at Western

Present: A Debate!
“Be It Resolved: Geovernment Funding for Roman Catholic Schools Be Abolished”

Justin Trottier (PRO) vs. Patrick Dunne (CON)

When? January 24, 2013 at 5:30pm
Where? RM 40, Health Sciences Building, Western University, London ON

Admission is FREE!

UPDATE: Parking will be free on Thursday, January 24, from 5:00 – 7:00 pm at the Labatts Health Science lot at Western University (marked Closest Parking on attached map) until the lot is full (about 140 cars).

The Elborn parking lot will also be free.

All other parking lots will charge $6 to park for 2 hours. Click Debate Parking.

Reshaping Christian Imagination

Central United, 150 Queen St. in downtown Moncton will be viewing Michael Morwood’s DVD series entitled: Reshaping Christian Imagination: The Challenge of articulating a Christian spirituality for our times.

Further information about Michael Morwood may be found on his website.

The discussions will take place on five Sundays: January 20, February 3, February 17, March 10, and March 17, 2013 from 12:30 to 2:00pm, following the regular 10:45am Sunday service.


Civil Rights in Public Education [CRIPE] is an organization committed to one, non-sectarian, publicly funded school system consisting of English and French language public school boards which offers neither privilege nor prejudice to anyone.

Civil Rights in Public Education [CRIPE] is hosting a public meeting on Saturday January 19, 1:30pm at the Ancaster Public Library [Murray Ferguson Room], 300 Wilson Street East. Free parking. All welcome.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss ways to promote the one public school system proposal. Ontario currently has four duplicate publicly funded school systems: English Public; English Catholic; French Public; and French Catholic. The provincial budget to maintain Ontario’s four school systems is $21 billion dollars. Significant savings would be found in reducing the number of school boards as a result of reconfiguration of their existing boundaries into English and French language public school boards. Savings would be generated from: Fewer school board offices; fewer directors, superintendents, student transportation, bulk purchasing, capital expenses, and school maintenance. Savings would be directed to improving education programmes and services to students.

A single, nonsectarian, publicly funded school system would result in less waste of resources, reduce overlap and duplication of services, ensure best value for public money and end discriminatory student enrollment and teacher employment practices.

Ontario is a diverse cosmopolitan society consisting of many cultures, languages and faiths. A single public school system would bring students together, play together, work together and learn together. In todays society there is no need to segregate students along religious lines. It is time to move forward. A time to foster understanding and tolerance in an ever increasing diverse world.

Join the conversation. Attend the public meeting to share your experiences; learn from others; and how can we move forward to promote a single non-sectarian public school system in Ontario.

For further information contact Malcolm Buchanan [905]575-5639 Bill Thompson [905]648-2089 Mac Walker [905]627-2820

The New Testament: An Analytical Study

The Quest Learning Centre

The New Testament: An Analytical Study
Understanding the New Testament for Smart People!

An online course for biblical literacy

Anyone looking for basic, scholarly, honest, informative, and enlightening
guidance to understanding the Christian New Testament will enjoy this course.
• Learn who wrote the New Testament
• Understand the New Testament in context
• Get inside information about scholarly knowledge and techniques
• Interact with a qualified scholar and other students

This course is offered online February 12 to May 7, 2013
Cost: $50.00 Canadian Dollars

Registration: online at

Content: reading, lectures, PowerPoint, online forum, short
assignments, and interaction with the instructor.

Textbook: The New Testament: An Analytical Study (Steven Davies)

For further information contact
David Galston


I Am is a 2011 documentary film written, narrated, and directed by Tom Shadyac. The documentary explores Shadyac’s personal journey after a 2007 bicycle accident, “the nature of humanity” and “world’s ever-growing addiction to materialism.”
Sunday, January 20, 7:00 p.m.

In the documentary I Am, Shadyac interviews scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists and philosophers – including Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Lynne McTaggart, Elisabet Sahtouris, Howard Zinn, and Thom Hartmann. The film asks two central questions: What’s Wrong With the World? and What Can We Do About it?. It is about “human connectedness, happiness, and the human spirit”. The film received a twenty minute standing ovation at its first screening.

Burlington Baptist Church
2225 New Street (west of Guelph Line)
Sunday Evening Forum is a community forum to discuss important current issues which impact our lives and faith. Outstanding speakers present cutting-edge ideas.
The public is warmly invited. Admission at the door is $5.00.
For further information call 905-335-5537 or 905-634-2477
or go to

Inspirational Expo

Click here for more info.

Longest Night Celebrations

Westar Spring Meeting 2013

March 13-16, 2013
Flamingo Hotel, Santa Rosa, California

Elaine Pagels – Revelations

Early “Christians” seized on the Book of Revelation as a weapon against heresy and infidels of all kinds—Jews, even Christians who dissented from their increasingly rigid doctrines and hierarchies. But were they its original targets? Elaine Pagels persuasively interprets Revelation as a scathing attack on the decadence of Rome. She argues that its author, John of Patmos, was taking aim at the Roman Empire following the “Jewish War” in 66 ce, when militant Jews in Jerusalem, fired with religious fervor, waged an all-out war against Rome’s occupation of Judea, and their defeat resulted in the desecration of Jerusalem and its Great Temple.

Elaine Pagels is Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University. She is the bestselling author of several books, including The Gnostic Gospels (1979), Beyond Belief (2003), Reading Judas (with Karen L. King, 2007), and most recently Revelations (2012).

Robin Meyers – The Underground Church
Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus

Theories abound as to why the church is declining so rapidly in the West. Could the reason be that no one expects anything important to happen on Sunday morning? The first Jesus people practiced pacifism, radical egalitarianism, and the redistribution of wealth (and paid for it with their lives). Today’s church largely defends the status quo. But what if churches today became, once again, an underground movement, taking on the power structures of our times? In this workshop, a minister from the reddest of states will tell how the scholars of Westar helped corrupt at least one church in Oklahoma.

Robin Meyers is a professor of philosophy at Oklahoma City University, a syndicated columnist, an award-winning commentator for NPR, and Senior Minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC Church of Oklahoma City. His books include Why the Christian Right Is Wrong (2006), Saving Jesus from the Church (2009), and The Underground Church (2012).

Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre – Mary Magadalene Leads the Way

Mary Magdalene was a much more important figure in early Christianity than either the New Testament or traditional histories allow. Her reputation as a repentant prostitute is a fiction. The New Testament both includes and sidelines her. Beyond the canon, some early Christians regarded her as a visionary and leader. Why was her story so contested? If some speak of Petrine and Pauline Christianity, can we speak of Magdalene Christianity? This workshop explores the texts, issues, and scholarly proposals that reconfigure Mary Magdalene’s place in the history of Christianity as well as in the Christian theological imagination.

Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre is Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Drew Theological School in New Jersey. She is the author of Jesus Among Her Children (2006), Mary Magdalene Understood, with Jane Schaberg (2006), and co-editor of The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.

Bernard Brandon Scott – From Jesus to Constantine
Why we need a Christianity Seminar

Bernard Brandon Scott

The Acts of the Apostles, Irenaeus, the Canon, and Constantine tell of the pure teaching of Jesus that was handed on to the twelve apostles and then sullied by heretics. This is the orthodox story as we know it today. The real story is very different. How did a movement whose hero was crucified by an official of the Roman Empire end up as the official religion of that Empire? How did the historical Jesus become the second person of Trinity? How did a movement birthed in Judaism come to be anti-Jewish? The Christianity Seminar will tackle these and other seminal questions.

Bernard Brandon Scott (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is the Darbeth Distinguished Professor of New Testament at the Phillips Theological Seminary, Tulsa, OK. He is the author of several books, including The Trouble with Resurrection (2010) and Re-Imagine the World (2002).

Click here for Registration details.

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Church on the Couch

Church on the Couch is the creation of Jennifer May-Anderson, a lay preacher in Belleville, ON. She has a vision of a caring and supportive group of open-minded Christians and spiritual seekers who gather regularly to explore how the Christian story is for all people of all times.

The group meets on alternate Sunday evenings from 7:00 – 8:30pm. The next session will start January 20, 2013. Click here to be kept up-to-date on this group.

UN slams Canada’s ‘excessively punitive’ justice plan, accuses authorities of widespread discrimination

“The committee … regrets there was no child rights assessment or mechanism to ensure that Bill C-10 complied with the provisions of the convention,” said the UN report. Leah Hennel / Postmedia News files

Heather Scoffield, Canadian Press | Oct 9, 2012 | The National Post

OTTAWA — The federal government’s tough-on-crime agenda is “excessively punitive” for youth and is a step backwards for Canada’s child rights record, says a United Nations group.

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Evangelical Christians find a home in Conservative politics

JEFFREY SIMPSON, The Globe and Mail, Oct. 10 2012

Recent speeches by Mr. Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in New York were quite radical by the standards of traditional Canadian foreign policy, although their messages would be compatible with evangelical Christianity’s view of the world.

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Number of Protestant Americans Is in Steep Decline, Study Finds

Chris Bergin for The New York Times
A cross-shaped window inside South Calvary Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Ind.

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, Oct 9, 2012, The New York Times

A new study released on Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that it was not just liberal mainline Protestants, like Methodists or Episcopalians, who abandoned their faith, but also more conservative evangelical and “born again” Protestants.

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Doug Saunders: ‘Religious freedom’ sends the wrong message to the wrong people

DOUG SAUNDERS, The Globe and Mail, Oct. 06 2012

For the ardent religious believer and the organized, hierarchical religious organization, “religious freedom” often refers to the right to restrict the freedoms of others, or to impose one’s religion on the larger world.

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Vatican II: Theologian Margaret Lavin discusses divisions in Roman Catholic Church

Margaret Lavin is a theology professor at Toronto’s Regis College and author of a new book on the history and legacy of Vatican II. TARA WALTON/TORONTO STAR

Sandro Contenta, feature writer, Toronto Star, Oct 6, 2012

” If you’re going to engage with the “signs of the times,” you’re going to have to engage modernity. The church avoided that in the past. If we’re going to live the gospel in the world then we have to look at what is happening in the world.” Professor Margaret Lavin

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Non-Christian prison chaplains chopped by Ottawa

CBC News
Posted: Oct 4, 2012 6:21 PM PT

“The minister strongly supports the freedom of religion for all Canadians, including prisoners,” the email states. “However, the government … is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding. The minister has concluded … [Christian] chaplains employed by Corrections Canada must provide services to inmates of all faiths.”

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The Other Believers: Mark D. Hatcher, a black atheist

Mark Hatcher practices Atheism. (Marlon Correa – WASHINGTON POST)

By Erin Williams, The Washington Post, 3 Oct 2012

What is it like to be an African American who doesn’t praise Jesus Christ or Allah? Or one who doesn’t ascribe to a denomination of Christianity, such as Baptist, Methodist or Pentecostal, that’s part of a historically black church?

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Court Rules Disabled Woman Wasn’t Raped Because She Didn’t ‘Bite, Kick or Scratch’

Feminist leaders and activists hold signs to protest sexual violence. (photo: NY Daily News)

By Zack Beauchamp, ThinkProgress
04 October 12

The Court held that, because Connecticut statutes define physical incapacity for the purpose of sexual assault as “unconscious or for any other reason. . . physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act,” the defendant could not be convicted if there was any chance that the victim could have communicated her lack of consent.

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2013 CCPC Conference


AUGUST 15 – 17


Thursday evening to Saturday evening Optional extras planned for Sunday.


Gretta Vosper and Bruce Sanguin

More details to follow as they are finalized!

Gretta Vosper at Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Gretta Vosper will be speaking at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket. A lecture and all day workshop focusing on Gretta’s latest book “AMEN: Prayer Beyond Belief”.

When: Friday, November 30, 2012 at 7pm. – lecture

Saturday, December 1, 2012 starting at 9:30am – workshop focusing on Gretta’s book

Where: Holy Cross Lutheran Church

    1035 Wayne Drive,
    Newmarket, Ontario
    L3Y 2W9

Click here to visit the Holy Cross Lutheran website.

Humanist Society Conference: Prayer Beyond Belief

Gretta Vosper will be speaking at the Humanist Society Conference on Saturday, November 17th, 2012.

Where: Hilton Garden Inn – 500 Beck Crescent, Ajax, Ontario, L1Z 1C9, Canada. Click here for directions.

Gretta will be an after dinner speaker focusing on her latest book “Amen: Prayer Beyond Belief”.

CAMH Lecture with Gretta Vosper

Gretta Vosper will be speaking on Thursday, October 18th, 2012 at CAMH in Toronto – “The importance of spiritual care and how prayer, meditation and community can be therapeutic”.

Noon hour lecture, with questions.

Watch for further details.

The End of Church?

Opentable – A Community of Young Adults in Ottawa presents:
Dr. Diana Butler Bass
on Saturday October 13, 2012 at 7pm

Event Details

The data is clear: religious affiliation is plummeting across the breadth of Christian denominations. And yet interest in “spirituality” is on the rise. So what is behind the sea change in religion? Using comprehensive research and insider reporting, Diana Butler Bass offers a fresh interpretation of the “spiritual but not religious” trend.

Bass—who has spent her career teaching the history, culture, and politics of religion, and engaging church communities—brings forth her deep knowledge of the latest studies and polls, along with her own groundbreaking analysis, as she seeks to fully comprehend the decline in Christian attendance and affiliation that started decades ago—and has increased exponentially in recent years.

Some contend that we’re undergoing yet another evangelical revival; others suggest that Christian belief and practice is eroding entirely as traditional forms of faith are replaced by new ethical, and areligious, choices. But Bass argues compellingly that we are, instead, at a critical stage in a completely new spiritual awakening, a vast interreligious progression toward individual and cultural transformation, and a wholly new kind of postreligious faith.

Offering direction and hope to individuals and churches, Christianity After Religion is Bass’s call to approach faith with a newfound freedom that is both life-giving and service driven. And it is a hope-filled plea to see and participate in creating a fresh, vital, contemporary way of faith that stays true to the real message of Jesus.

Click here for further details.

Dr. Diana Butler Bass – Christianity Beyond Religion

Dr. Diana Butler Bass
-noted speaker, author, church historian-
Reflecting on her new book: “Christianity Beyond Religion: a future for an awakened church”

When: Friday November 2, 2012 7.00pm – 9.00pm
Saturday November 3, 2012 9.00am – 2.00pm

Where: Knox Presbyterian Church
23 Melville St. Dundas, Ontario

Registration: (limited) $20.00, payable on arrival
Preregistration Required, by October 22, 2012

Contact:, 905 529 6896
The speaker will be preaching at MacNab St. Church Sunday Nov.4, 2012


CCPC Annual General Meeting

Annual General Meeting of the Members of Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity will be held at West Hill United Church, 62 Orchard Park Dr., Toronto, ON at 2:00 pm on Saturday, October 13, 2012 for the following purposes:

1. To receive the report of the directors;
2. To receive the Annual Financial Statements for the period ended April 30, 2012 and the report of the auditors;
3. To appoint auditors for the financial year ending April 30, 2013;
4. To receive the report of the Nominating Committee and elect Directors;
5. To transact such other business as may properly come before the meeting.

Click here for a copy of the 2012 financial statement.

Saving Jesus from the Church

A book study group at St. David’s United Church in Woodstock, ON area led by CCPC board member, Doug Richards.

This study group will meet Monday evenings and will be studying the book “Saving Jesus from the Church” by Robin Meyers, who is the minister of the Mayflower Congregational UCC church in Oklahoma City. The group is open to anyone who wants to come from any church, or even non-church. Doug can be reached at for further info.

Prayer Beyond Belief

Prayer Beyond Belief: The Gentle (And Not So Gentle) Art of Changing the Way Congregations Pray.

Tatamagouche Centre – Nova Scotia

April 7 – 9, 2013

Leader: Gretta Vosper

An opportunity for congregational worship leaders to discuss and discover fresh words for meaningful worship.

Please put this date on your calendar now!

The City 2.0: An Online Conference

You’re invited to join 50 visionaries and
hundreds of citizens from around the world as we re-envision the future of the city

The City 2.0: An Online Conference
September 4 – 27, 2012

We hold a radically optimistic vision for our collective future…

And we know that creating the global solutions we hope for will require the perspectives, expertise, and passion of many people. That’s why we’re gathering together leaders and city-zens the world over for a virtual Conference to dream the future of the city — the City 2.0.

We’re putting our heads and hearts together. We’re making a bold commitment to co-creating a brighter future for the entire human hive. And we want your help.

Join this free virtual exploration

So what is the City 2.0 conference exactly?

Well, it’s a virtual conference that starts on September 4th featuring 50 visionaries, designers, teachers, and leading edge practitioners from different industries, sectors and disciplines, from all over the world, for a conversation about the future of the city.

We’ll dream, dialogue, and design together. We want your voice to be included.

Click here for details.

ALEC Seeks Lower Taxes in US for Smokeless Tobacco Marketed to Kids

By Beth Hawkins, MinnPost, 01 August 12

Candy-flavored smokeless tobacco is being marketed to teens and tweens. (photo: Public Domain)

At their meeting last week in Salt Lake City, members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) attended a workshop entitled, “Can Tobacco Cure Smoking?” conducted by Dr. Brad Rodu, chair of tobacco harm reduction research at the University of Louisville.

Rodu, a dentist by training, has conducted research suggesting that steering tobacco users to smokeless tobacco is a “free-market” means of reducing the rate of smoking-related diseases. His program is largely funded by the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., an ALEC member and manufacturer of Copenhagen and Skoal, among other brands.

ALEC bills itself as an educational organization. Its corporate and ideological members pay tens of thousands of dollars to join. Lawmakers pay $50 a year and are eligible for scholarships to underwrite the cost of traveling, often with their families, to frequent meetings at ritzy destinations.

There, the elected officials are given model legislation to take home and introduce in their statehouses. Over the course of the last two years, some 60 pieces of ALEC-like legislation have been introduced in Minnesota, including a bill very much like the one Rodu’s workshop promoted.

More Attractive to Youth

In 2011, three Minnesota Republicans introduced a bill that would lower taxes on smokeless tobacco. Cigarettes are taxed by the pack. The bill would have made smokeless tobacco cheaper, and thus more attractive to teens and ‘tweens, by taxing it by weight instead.

Authored by Reps. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville; Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove; and Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, Minnesota House File 1079 died after a first reading. Of the three, Zellers is the only one known to have ties to ALEC.

The ALEC model bill — entitled “Resolution on the Enhancement of Economic Neutrality, Commercial Efficiency, and Fairness in the Taxation of Moist Smokeless Tobacco (MST) Products” — fared better in Wisconsin, where lawmakers got a letter in support from ALEC. Gov. Scott Walker, the guiding force behind other ALEC proposals, such as right to work, shoot-first and voter ID legislation, vetoed it.

If the new taxing system applied only to old-fashioned chewing tobacco, it’s hard to imagine the push would be as hard. But the days where smokeless tobacco meant a squat puck containing unpalatable dip or snuff are long over.

Nicotine in Candy Flavors

These days, nicotine delivery systems are much more appealing to youth and much more likely to escape adult attention. There are mints that look like Tic Tacs packaged in tins made to resemble Altoids, candy-flavored blunts that look like fruit leather and gum. Most popular are “snus,” tea-bag-like packets kids suck on.

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Ontario man suing county for $5,000 in damages over Lord’s Prayer at meetings

Jake Edmiston, National Post Staff Jul 31, 2012

Peter Ferguson is seeking a court order for county council to stop opening its meetings in prayer.
Photo Courtesy of Peter Ferguson

Claiming the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer causes him anguish and feelings of exclusion, a man in rural Ontario is suing his local government to get politicians to cease praying at the start of their meetings.

It’s the latest in a series of legal actions, supported by the advocacy group Secular Ontario, seeking to eradicate the practice in at least 18 cities, towns and counties across the province.

On Monday, the lawyer for the 20-member group filed a lawsuit against Grey County council on behalf of Peter Ferguson, saying the Christian tradition caused him “anguish, discrimination, exclusion, rejection and loss of enjoyment of life.”

Mr. Ferguson, who lives in Grey County, near Owen Sound, is looking for $5,000 in damages along with a court order for county council to stop opening its meetings in prayer.

He said councillors are infringing upon his Charter right to freedom of conscience and religion, referencing a 1999 Ontario Court of Appeal decision that ordered the town council in Penetanguishene to stop reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

“I don’t like politicians who break the law, and our county council is breaking the law,” said Mr. Ferguson Tuesday from his home in Kimberley — one of nine municipalities within Grey County. He said if he wins the case, he’ll donate the $5,000 to Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust.

“I don’t really care about religion that much, I care about the law. I care about being fair.”

Mr. Ferguson’s suit comes little more than a month after a Peterborough woman took legal action against her city council, which also uses the tradition — both plaintiffs are represented by Secular Ontario’s lawyer Daniel Mayo.

“No one is forced to take part. They are invited if they choose. We have added the silent reflection for anyone who wishes to, whichever deity or thought process they follow,” Peterborough’s acting mayor Henry Clarke told the Peterborough Examiner in June.

Both Mr. Ferguson and the Peterborough plaintiffs made several appeals to their respective councils before learning of Secular Ontario’s cause and seeking Mr. Mayo’s counsel.

Secular Ontario also tries to recruit residents in flagged regions to act as plaintiffs.

Mr. Mayo was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Both cases have yet to appear before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Secular Ontario president Sheila Ayala and her colleagues spent most of 2005 compiling a list of Ontario municipalities that recite the Lord’s Prayer before every council meeting.

Ms. Ayala said the organization sent letters to all the municipalities on its list in 2006 and only two willingly changed their policy. Letters to the Ontario provincial government were also unsuccessful, leaving legal action from locals as the only other recourse, she said.

According to Ms. Ayala, plaintiffs are warned of potential pushback from their community before being guided through the process.

Mr. Ferguson said he already had received hateful emails on Tuesday, a day after the lawsuit went public.

The chairman of the Grey County council, Duncan McKinlay, said he has received feedback from residents who fear the case will be a waste of time and resources.

But he’s keen on exploring the issue.

“Grey County was settled by people based on tolerance,” he said. “I think there’s a fair tolerance. If somebody had another prayer, we would have included it.”

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Protesters Force Chinese Officials to Cancel Pipeline

By Shiv Malik, Guardian UK, 30 July 12

Chinese environmental protesters stand on cars in Qidong, China. (photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Officials in eastern China have cancelled a planned industrial waste pipeline project after up to 1,000 environmental demonstrators occupied a government office, overturned cars, destroyed computers and beat police officers.

The demonstration in the city of Qidong was the latest in a string of protests sparked by fears of environmental degradation.

Zhang Guohua, mayor of the eastern city of Nantong, announced the cancellation of the pipeline, which would have emptied waste water from a Japanese-owned paper factory via the coastal town of Qidong into the sea. It is the second industrial project to be cancelled in a month.

The decision came hours after about 1,000 protesters marched through the city of Qidong, about one hour north of Shanghai, shouting slogans against the pipeline

Several protesters entered the city government’s main building and were seen smashing computers, overturning desks and throwing documents out of the windows to loud cheers from the crowd. Five cars and one minibus were also upended, according to Reuters reporters at the scene.

At least two police officers were dragged into the crowd at the government office and punched and beaten bloody.

Environmental worries have stoked calls for expanded rights for citizens and greater consultation in the tightly controlled one-party state and come before a once-in-a-decade leadership transition this year.

The protest followed similar demonstrations against projects in the Sichuan town of Shifang earlier this month and in the cities of Dalian in the north-east and Haimen in southern Guangdong province in the past year.

The government in Shifang halted a multimillion-pound copper alloy plant project because it said there was insufficient public understanding and support after teargas was used to disperse protesters.

The Chinese government has vowed to clean up China’s skies and waterways and increasingly tried to appear responsive to complaints about pollution.

But environmental disputes pit citizens against local officials, whose aim is to lure fresh investment and revenue into their areas.

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Climate change study forces sceptical scientists to change minds

Earth’s land shown to have warmed by 1.5C over past 250 years, with humans being almost entirely responsible

Leo Hickman,, 29 July 2012

Prof Richard Muller considers himself a converted sceptic following the study’s surprise results. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

The Earth’s land has warmed by 1.5C over the past 250 years and “humans are almost entirely the cause”, according to a scientific study set up to address climate change sceptics’ concerns about whether human-induced global warming is occurring.

Prof Richard Muller, a physicist and climate change sceptic who founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (Best) project, said he was surprised by the findings. “We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds.” He added that he now considers himself a “converted sceptic” and his views had undergone a “total turnaround” in a short space of time.

“Our results show that the average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by 2.5F over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1.5 degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases,” Muller wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

The team of scientists based at the University of California, Berkeley, gathered and merged a collection of 14.4m land temperature observations from 44,455 sites across the world dating back to 1753. Previous data sets created by Nasa, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Met Office and the University of East Anglia’s climate research unit only went back to the mid-1800s and used a fifth as many weather station records.

The funding for the project included $150,000 from the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation, set up by the billionaire US coal magnate and key backer of the climate-sceptic Heartland Institute thinktank. The research also received $100,000 from the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research, which was created by Bill Gates.

Unlike previous efforts, the temperature data from various sources was not homogenised by hand – a key criticism by climate sceptics. Instead, the statistical analysis was “completely automated to reduce human bias”. The Best team concluded that, despite their deeper analysis, their own findings closely matched the previous temperature reconstructions, “but with reduced uncertainty”.

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U.S. Still Religious, But Trust In Institutions Wanes

by NPR STAFF, July 28, 2012

Michael Conroy/AP
The cross on the steeple of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Henryville, Ind. A recent Gallup poll says only 44 percent of Americans have “great confidence” in organized religion.

Something is happening when it comes to religion in America.

Though more Americans go to church or believe in God than their counterparts in virtually every other Western country, fewer Americans now trust religious institutions. A recent Gallup poll showed that just 44 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in “the church or organized religion.”

It’s unclear if this is a permanent shift or just a sign of the times, but NPR’s religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty says it doesn’t mean that America is less religious.

“Although among young people, belief in God is declining,” Hagerty tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. “But generally polls show that about 90 percent of Americans actually believe in God. So what’s happening here is a decline in the trust of religious organizations.”

People just don’t want to go to church as much as they used to, Hagerty says, and the societal pressures to go aren’t there anymore.

Hagerty says one type of religious institution in America that is growing is the nondenominational Christian churches, whose membership has tripled in the last 20 years. She says marketing, a more relaxed atmosphere and a notion that you can have a “personal relationship with God” all contribute to the growth of these institutions.

“That’s transcendent, that’s transformative,” she says. “Because of that, they seem to give meaning and purpose to people’s lives. It draws people in.”

Pastor Greg Surratt founded Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, S.C., nearly 25 years ago. It started with only 65 members but has grown to about 12,000 worshippers and is widely seen as one of the most influential nondenominational evangelical churches in America.

Despite the Gallup poll, Surratt says he doesn’t think religion and people living their lives according to what Jesus would teach will go away. But he does say it will change.

“Ten years from now … will [Christianity] look like it does today? Probably not,” Surratt says. “But I think it will thrive and I think it will be strong.”

A Seismic Catholic Shift

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Nuns Weigh Response to Scathing Vatican Rebuke

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, Published: July 28, 2012, New York Times

Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times
Jennifer Barnes in Jackson, Mich., last month to show support for Nuns on the Bus, a group of Catholic sisters traveling through nine states to urge “economic justice” and protest proposed budget cuts.

American nuns are preparing to assemble in St. Louis next week for a pivotal meeting at which they will try to decide how to respond to a scathing critique of their doctrinal loyalty issued this spring by the Vatican — a report that has prompted Roman Catholics across the country to rally to the nuns’ defense.

The nuns will be weighing whether to cooperate with the three bishops appointed by the Vatican to supervise the overhaul of their organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of women’s Catholic religious orders in the United States.

The Leadership Conference says it is considering at least six options that range from submitting graciously to the takeover to forming a new organization independent of Vatican control, as well other possible courses of action that lie between those poles.

What is in essence a power struggle between the nuns and the church’s hierarchy had been building for decades, church scholars say. At issue are questions of obedience and autonomy, what it means to be a faithful Catholic and different understandings of the Second Vatican Council.

Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the Leadership Conference, said in an interview that the Vatican seems to regard questioning as defiance, while the sisters see it as a form of faithfulness.

“We have a differing perspective on obedience,” Sister Farrell said. “Our understanding is that we need to continue to respond to the signs of the times, and the new questions and issues that arise in the complexities of modern life are not something we see as a threat.”

These same conflicts are gripping the Catholic Church at large. Nearly 50 years after the start of Vatican II, which was intended to open the church to the modern world and respond to the “signs of the times,” the church is gravely polarized between a progressive wing still eager for change and reform and a traditionalist flank focused on returning to what it sees as doctrinal fundamentals.

The sisters have been caught in the riptide. Most of them have spent their lives serving the sick, the poor, children and immigrants — and not engaged in battles over theology. But when some sisters after Vatican II began to question church prohibitions on women serving as priests, artificial birth control or the acceptance of same-sex relationships, their religious orders did not shut down such discussion or treat it as apostasy. In fact, they have continued to insist on their right to debate and challenge church teaching, which has resulted in the Vatican’s reproof.

The former head of the church’s doctrinal office, Cardinal William J. Levada, said after his last meeting with the nuns’ leaders in June, just before he retired, that they should regard his office’s harsh assessment as “an invitation to obedience.”

“I admire religious men and women,” Cardinal Levada said in an interview with The National Catholic Reporter. “But if they aren’t people who believe and express the faith of the church, the doctrines of the church, then I think they’re misrepresenting who they are and who they ought to be.”

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The collapse of the liberal church

MARGARET WENTE, The Globe and Mail, Jul. 28 2012

Two weeks from now, the United Church of Canada will assemble in Ottawa for its 41st General Council, where it will debate church policy and elect a new moderator. The top item on its agenda is a resolution calling for a boycott of products from Israeli settlements. Fortunately, nobody cares what the United Church thinks about Israeli settlements, or anything else for that matter, because the United Church doesn’t matter any more.

For many years, the United Church was a pillar of Canadian society. Its leaders were respected public figures. It was – and remains – the biggest Protestant denomination in a country that, outside Quebec, has been largely shaped by centuries of Protestant tradition.

But today, the church is literally dying. The average age of its members is 65. They believe in many things, but they do not necessarily believe in God. Some congregations proudly describe themselves as “post-theistic,” which is a good thing because, as one church elder said, it shows the church is not “stuck in the past.” Besides, who needs God when you’ve got Israel to kick around?

The United Church is not alone. All the secular liberal churches are collapsing. The Episcopalians – the American equivalent of the United Church – have lost a quarter of their membership in the past decade. They’re at their lowest point since the 1930s. Not coincidentally, they spent their recent general meeting affirming the right of the transgendered to become priests. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it doesn’t top most people’s lists of pressing spiritual or even social issues.

Back in the 1960s, the liberal churches bet their future on becoming more open, more inclusive, more egalitarian and more progressive. They figured that was the way to reach out to a new generation of worshippers. It was a colossal flop.

“I’ve spent all my ministry in declining congregations,” says David Ewart, a recently retired United Church minister who lives in British Columbia. He is deeply discouraged about the future of his faith. “In my experience, when you put your primary focus on the world, there is a lessening of the importance of worship and turning to God.”

The United Church’s high-water mark was 1965, when membership reached nearly 1.1 million. Since then it has shrunk nearly 60 per cent. Congregations have shrunk too – but not the church’s infrastructure or the money needed to maintain it. Today, the church has too many buildings and too few people to pay for their upkeep. Yet its leadership seems remarkably unperturbed. “It’s considered wrong to be concerned about the numbers – too crass, materialistic and business-oriented,” says Mr. Ewart. The church’s leaders are like the last of the Marxist-Leninists: still convinced they’re right despite the fact that the rest of the world has moved on.

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Church Official in Philadelphia Gets Prison in Abuse Case

By JON HURDLE and ERIK ECKHOLM, July 24, 2012, The New York Times

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Msgr. William J. Lynn, the first Roman Catholic Church official in the United States to be convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision, was sentenced Tuesday to three to six years in prison.

“You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong,” Judge M. Teresa Sarmina of Common Pleas Court said as she imposed the sentence, which was just short of the maximum of three and a half to seven years. Monsignor Lynn must serve at least three years before he is eligible for parole.

Monsignor Lynn, 61, was found guilty on June 22 of child endangerment after a three-month trial that revealed efforts over decades by the Philadelphia archdiocese to play down accusations of child sexual abuse and avoid scandal. He was acquitted of conspiracy and a second child endangerment charge.

Monsignor Lynn served as secretary for clergy for the 1.5 million-member archdiocese from 1992 to 2004, recommending priest assignments and investigating abuse complaints. During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that he had shielded predatory priests, sometimes transferring them to unwary parishes, and lied to the public to avoid bad publicity and lawsuits.

The conviction of a senior official, followed by a prison sentence, has reverberated among Catholic officials around the country, church experts said.

“I think this is going to send a very strong signal to every bishop and everybody who worked for a bishop that if they don’t do the right thing, they may go to jail,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “They can’t just say ‘the bishop made me do it.’ That’s not going to be an excuse that holds up in court.”

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US Religious Right Propelling Homophobia in African Countries

July 24, 2012 by Common Dreams

Ugandans demonstrate against homosexuality in the streets of Jinja and urge their leaders to pass a strict anti-homosexuality bill that would make certain offences punishable by death. (The Guardian/Trevor Snapp/Corbis)

A wave of US based religious rightwing groups working in several African countries are expanding their drive to promote both homophobia and anti-abortion stereotypes and governmental policies, according to a new study by Boston-based Political Research Associates (PRA).

The report, Colonizing African Values: How the US Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa, claims that far right groups such as the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson, the Catholic group Human Life International and the Mormon group Family Watch International, work with local people and governments to rally against LGBTI rights and craft anti-LGBTI legislation.

The report traces the “cultural colonization” of Africa. Over the the past five years, “[the groups] have launched or expanded Africa-based offices dedicated to promoting their Christian right worldview,” the report states.

“A loose network of rightwing charismatic Christians called the transformation movement joins them in fanning the flames of the culture wars over homosexuality and abortion by backing prominent African campaigners and political leaders.”

The ACLJ have opened offices in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda in which they train lawyers to work on constitutions that reflect “Christian values” and include phrases such as “life begins at conception,” the Guardian reports.

For instance, a law instituting the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” in Uganda was created and introduced by a far right christian group in 2009. The bill was thought to have been defeated after PRA exposed the instigators, but has since been reintroduced in Uganda’s Parliament. Similar anti-gay laws passed in Burundi in 2009, Malawi in 2010 and Nigeria in 2011.

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America’s First Woman In Space Was A Lesbian

By Andrew Sullivan, The Dish, 24 July 2012

That wasn’t too hard, was it?

But it takes a long time into the NYT obit of Sally Ride for readers to realize that the first American woman in space was a lesbian, and, even then, you have to be alert. Maybe this could have tipped them off:

Dr. Ride was known for guarding her privacy. She rejected most offers for product endorsements, memoirs and movies, and her reticence lasted to the end. At her request, NASA kept her illness secret. In 1983, writing in The Washington Post, Susan Okie, a journalist and longtime friend, described Dr. Ride as elusive and enigmatic, protective of her emotions. “During college and graduate school,” Dr. Okie wrote, “I had to interrogate her to find out what was happening in her personal life.”

Now talk about a buried lede! The only thing preventing the NYT from writing an honest obit is homophobia. They may not realize it; they may not mean it; but it is absolutely clear from the obit that Ride’s sexual orientation was obviously central to her life. And her “partner” (ghastly word) and their relationship is recorded only perfunctorily. The NYT does not routinely only mention someone’s spouse in the survivors section. When you have lived with someone for 27 years, some account of that relationship is surely central to that person’s life. To excise it completely is an act of obliteration. I’m afraid the Beast’s tribute is worse. Lynn Sherr manages to write an appreciation which essentially treats Ride as a heterosexual. When Sherr writes this …

In technological terms, NASA was pushing ahead toward the 21st century. But in human terms, it had finally entered the 20th. And it could not have picked a better pioneer.

… she is referring to Ride’s gender, not her sexual orientation. And one often over-looked aspect of this is the long-standing discomfort of some in the feminist movement with lesbians in their midst. Feminists often “inned” lesbian pioneers, or the lesbians closeted themselves. This was not because they were in a reactionary movement; it was because they were in a progressive movement that did not want to be “tarred” with the lesbian image. (Think of Bayard Rustin for a gay male equivalent). Now, of course, Ride chose the closet throughout her life. Given who she was, how independent and brilliant, brave and cool, this is surely testament to how deep homophobia ran in American life. But it may also, as one reader suggests, be part of a welcome shift:

We only know O’Shaugnessy is a female from that vague abstraction – “partner” – and from a parenthetical statement that Ms. O’Shaugnessy was the CEO of the late Ride’s company. I have no idea if Ride was out to her friends or out to the public. But this could be another replication of the Anderson Cooper phenomenon – a movement towards a gay equality where people can come out on their own terms, without making what they perceive to be a big deal out of it. Hopefully we’re getting to the point where being gay is an utterly unremarkable fact in a great American life.

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The Divine Miss M

By FRANK BRUNI, July 23, 2012, op-ed The New York Times

“Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people. Before you tell me how much you love your God, show me in how much you love all His children.”

What I find most fascinating about Michele Bachmann — and there are many, many more where she came from — is that she presents herself as a godly woman, humbly devoted to her Christian faith. I’d like to meet that god, and I’d like to understand that Christianity.

Does it call for smearing people on the basis of flimsy conspiracy theories? That’s what Bachmann just did to Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by essentially suggesting she might be a mole for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Does it endorse scaring young women away from immunizations that could spare them serious illness? Bachmann did that during her memorable presidential campaign, when she blithely drew an unsubstantiated link between a vaccine for the human papillomavirus and mental retardation.

Does it encourage gratuitously divisive condemnations of Barack Obama as “anti-American,” one of many incendiary phrases in her attacks against him in 2008? And does it compel a war against homosexuality waged with the language and illogic she uses?

She has said that gay men and lesbians are dysfunctional products of abuse and agents of “sexual anarchy,” and when the singer and songwriter Melissa Etheridge was battling breast cancer years ago, Bachmann helpfully chimed in: “This may be an opportunity for her now to be open to some spiritual things, now that she is suffering with that physical disease. She is a lesbian.”

Bachmann’s concept of Christian love brims with hate, and she has a deep satchel of stones to throw. From what kind of messiah did she learn that?

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Turning Towards Nonviolence and Away from ‘Dark Knights’

by Rev. John Dear, July 23, 2012 by Common Dreams

As we grieve for the dead and injured in last week’s movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, and join with others to demand handgun reform, we are reminded once again of a greater, more fundamental change that needs to take place among all of us. This horrific violence, and the daily violence we read about, summons us to make a fundamental turn from violence to nonviolence. Every one of us, and every sector of society, needs to make that turn. Without our conversion to nonviolence, we will be forever stuck in the ancient mindlessness and downward spiral of violence. But we need not be stuck. We can choose to be nonviolent people.

Yes, we have to ban handguns and AK-47s. And we need to abolish war, executions, drones, Trident Submarines, extrajudicial assassination, state-sanctioned violence and nuclear weapons. We have a president who starts his day sending his kids off to school and deciding calmly over coffee whom to assassinate. We send drones over Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan which terrorize children and kill them like in some nightmarish “Dark Night” horror film. We execute people legally. And in Los Alamos, New Mexico, we continue to build nuclear weapons as if that was a normal thing to do. We hold the world hostage with our nuclear terrorism.

Everywhere we turn we hear of more violence. We feel it in ourselves as if we’ve been infected by some kind of plague. For the many young people who are not loved, not taught to be nonviolent, not given any hope or meaning in life, not invited to join the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace, the nihilism and insanity of further violence can feel like a natural progression. “Everyone is violent, so I’ll be violent, too,” many think. They are not taught how to live nonviolently.

It’s a wonder there aren’t more massacres.

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. both insisted that we need a fundamental internal conversion from violence to nonviolence as the basis for our work for justice, human rights and peace. Each one of us, they argued day and night, has to reject that pull of violence and choose to live a nonviolent life and join the struggle to create a nonviolent world. This philosophical, moral and spiritual turning is the hardest step of all, the most courageous and the most needed. As more and more of us choose active, creative nonviolence as a way of life, we have a chance of creating a more nonviolent society.

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Wealth doesn’t trickle down – it just floods offshore, research reveals

Heather Stewart,, 21 July 2012

A far-reaching new study suggests a staggering $21 trillion in assets has been lost to global tax havens. If taxed, that could have been enough to put parts of Africa back on its feet – and even solve the euro crisis

Capital flight Illustration: Giulio Frigieri for the Observer (click here for a larger version of this graphic)

The world’s super-rich have taken advantage of lax tax rules to siphon off at least $21 trillion, and possibly as much as $32tn, from their home countries and hide it abroad – a sum larger than the entire American economy.

James Henry, a former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has conducted groundbreaking new research for the Tax Justice Network campaign group – sifting through data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and private sector analysts to construct an alarming picture that shows capital flooding out of countries across the world and disappearing into the cracks in the financial system.

Comedian Jimmy Carr became the public face of tax-dodging in the UK earlier this year when it emerged that he had made use of a Cayman Islands-based trust to slash his income tax bill.

But the kind of scheme Carr took part in is the tip of the iceberg, according to Henry’s report, entitled The Price of Offshore Revisited. Despite the professed determination of the G20 group of leading economies to tackle tax secrecy, investors in scores of countries – including the US and the UK – are still able to hide some or all of their assets from the taxman.

“This offshore economy is large enough to have a major impact on estimates of inequality of wealth and income; on estimates of national income and debt ratios; and – most importantly – to have very significant negative impacts on the domestic tax bases of ‘source’ countries,” Henry says.

Using the BIS’s measure of “offshore deposits” – cash held outside the depositor’s home country – and scaling it up according to the proportion of their portfolio large investors usually hold in cash, he estimates that between $21tn (£13tn) and $32tn (£20tn) in financial assets has been hidden from the world’s tax authorities.

“These estimates reveal a staggering failure,” says John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network. “Inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people.

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Half Of American Households Hold 1 Percent Of Wealth

Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post,20 July 2012

WASHINGTON — The share of the nation’s wealth held by the less affluent half of American households dropped precipitously after the financial crisis, to 1.1 percent, according to new calculations by Congress’s nonpartisan research service.

By contrast, the share of total net worth held by the weathiest 1 percent of American households continued rising, hitting 34.5 percent in 2010. The top 10 percent’s share was 74.5 percent.

The bottom half’s share of wealth has declined since it reached a high of 3.6 percent in 1995. But the most dramatic drop occurred after 2007, according to the analysis of data from the Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Consumer Finances.

Another staggering indicator of the concentration of wealth at the top in the U.S: When all household wealth is divided by the number of households, the mean household net worth in 2010 totals $498,800. But the median household net worth — the level at which half the households have more and half have less — was $77,300, meaning that the rich have so much that the average net worth in the U.S. is actually 6.5 times that of a typical American family.

The study found that the share of wealth held by the top 10 percent of households grew from 1989 to 2010. In every other segment of the remaining 90 percent of households — i.e. the middle and lower class — that share went down.

The study cites a recent Federal Reserve Bulletin article’s conclusion that “a broad collapse in house prices” was the main reason for the changes between 2007 and 2010. The decline in the stock market “played a considerable but lesser role” in part because stock prices, unlike home prices, have broadly recovered.

The report makes it clear that there is cause for alarm. “Inequality is the term commonly applied to the concentration of total net worth among the relatively few households at the top of the wealth distribution,” it states.

But — realistically — the report doesn’t include any policy prescriptions. Rather, it notes that within Congress there are “[d]ifferent views about the impact of redistributive policies on long-term economic growth.”

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Redford’s energy vision gains traction with premiers

KAREN HOWLETT AND BILL CURRY, The Globe and Mail, Jul. 20 2012

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is quietly building support among her provincial colleagues for a national energy strategy, saying Canada’s prosperity hinges on forging a united front on exploiting the country’s vast natural resource riches.
(John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is quietly building support among her provincial colleagues for a national energy strategy, saying Canada’s prosperity hinges on forging a united front to exploit the country’s vast resource riches.

Ms. Redford has lined up the support of other premiers in Western Canada ahead of next week’s Council of the Federation meeting of provincial and territorial leaders in Halifax.

She met privately on Wednesday with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty over dinner at Toronto’s Windsor Arms Hotel, where they discussed how both their provinces have a vested interest in developing a strategy that pulls together Alberta’s land-locked oil sector and a wide variety of other energy sources from British Columbia to Atlantic Canada.

The relationship between the two premiers is taking on a more cordial tone in contrast to their war of words earlier this year, when Mr. McGunity blamed his province’s economic woes on an Alberta-fuelled “petro dollar.”

For Ms. Redford, the dinner meeting was her latest effort to use Canada’s global status as an energy superpower to help shape the national agenda. Aside from the premiers in Western Canada endorsing her pan-Canadian energy strategy, she has also held one-on-one meetings with other premiers in Atlantic Canada, including Nova Scotia’s Darrell Dexter, host of next week’s gathering, who is on board.

“I’m pleased that premiers have decided we can talk about this,” Ms. Redford said in an interview. “There has been some uptake on the importance of the energy economy.”

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A Long Hot Summer

by Bill McKibben, July 19, 2012 by Common Dreams

Photo Credit: Jan Alff Wiegel, Bright Green Marin 2011

It’s turning into a hot climate summer in two ways, only one of which you can measure with a thermometer.

Amidst the deepening drought, the summer’s fourth heat wave, and the continued western fires, there’s something else breaking out: a siege of citizen uprisings at key points around the country all designed to keep coal in the hole, oil in the soil, gas… underground.

Ever since the mass arrests protesting the Keystone pipeline last summer (the largest civil disobedience action in the U.S. in 30 years) there’s been renewed interest in confronting the fossil fuel industry and its political enablers. Some have been following this path for years, of course — late next week, beginning July 25, opponents of mountain-top removal coal-mining will resume their long-standing (and increasingly successful fight), with a week-long Mountain Mobilization that will likely include civil disobedience.

A few days later, activists from around the country will descend on D.C. for a rally against fracking — perhaps the fastest-growing wing of the environmental movement. That gathering won’t lead to arrests — but others will.

Earlier this week, for instance, Ohio protesters chained themselves to the gates outside a so-called injection well, not far from where earlier this year disposal of fracking water had helped trigger a swarm of earthquakes. And just yesterday Josh Fox and Mark Ruffalo announced plans for an August 25 gathering designed to keep fracking at bay in New York State.

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