Sma' Talk Wi' T

Current world events, politics, news, history, culture, trivia, religion, and the quirky

Archive for December 2006

Democrats Begin 2007 With Corruption Scandal

with 3 comments

Not a creature was stirring, not even a lib.

The House Majority party finds themselves usually quiet about the corruption among their own ranks. Conyers (D-MI) has taken responsibility for ethics violations. He gets nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

December 29, 2006 Statement of Chairman Doc Hastings and Ranking Minority Member Howard L. Berman Regarding Representative John Conyers

The Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), initiated an informal inquiry in December 2003 into reports that members of the congressional staff of Representative John Conyers had performed campaign activity on official time and in some instances using official resources, and that some staff members may have been compelled to do campaign work or personal work for Representative Conyers. The assertions in the reports, if true, could implicate a number of laws and House rules applicable to Members, including: House Rule 23, clause 1 (requiring the conduct of a Member or employee to reflect creditably on the House of representatives); House Rule 23, clause 8 (requiring that congressional staff perform official duties commensurate with compensation); 31 U.S.C. § 1301(a) and corresponding regulations of the Committee on House Administration (providing that official funds may be used only for the purposes appropriated); and 18 U.S.C § 606 (prohibiting adverse personnel action or intimidation to secure a “contribution of money or other valuable thing” including services, for a political purpose).

Committee Rule 18(a) permits the Committee, in the absence of a filed complaint, to consider “any information in its possession indicating that a Member, officer, or employee may have committed a violation of the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation, or other standard of conduct . . . .” The Chairman and Ranking Minority Member may jointly gather additional information concerning such a potential violation unless and until an investigative subcommittee is established.

During the course of their inquiry, the Chairman and Ranking Member asked for and received information, including documents, from several sources, including Representative Conyers. Committee staff also interviewed witnesses regarding the allegations.

In the course of providing information to the Committee, Representative Conyers acknowledged what he characterized as a “lack of clarity” in his communications with staff members regarding their official duties and responsibilities, and accepted responsibility for his actions. Representative Conyers also provided the Committee with documents indicating that he had begun taking steps to provide clearer guidance to staff regarding the requirement that campaign work and official work be separate.

After reviewing the information gathered during the inquiry, and in light of Representative Conyers’ cooperation with the inquiry, we have concluded that this matter should be resolved through the issuance of this public statement and the agreement by Representative Conyers to take a number of additional, significant steps to ensure that his office complies with all rules and standards regarding campaign and personal work by congressional staff.

Representative Conyers has agreed to the following conditions:

1. Prohibiting his personal congressional staff (other than his Chief of Staff) from performing any campaign-related work, including work done on a voluntary basis, during the 110th Congress, unless the staff member takes a paid position on his campaign while on leave without pay status and obtains prior written approval from the Committee.
2. Informing staff members in writing of the prohibition set forth above against the voluntary performance of campaign work.
3. Distributing a memorandum to each member of his personal congressional staff which clearly sets forth all House rules concerning (1) the performance of campaign and other non-official work by congressional staff members and (2) the prohibition against the performance of any campaign-related work being conducted in either his congressional or district offices. Additionally, this memorandum will explicitly state that the performance of campaign or other non-official work by staff members may not be required as a condition of their employment.
4. Directing that meetings of his personal congressional staff be held annually in which the House rules concerning staff participation in campaign activities are discussed and explained. In addition, a description of these rules will be made a part of the orientation for all new staff employees.
5. Continuing to maintain the detailed time-keeping system initiated by Rep. Conyers during the course of the Committee’s inquiry.
6. Requiring that all members of his congressional staff attend a briefing conducted by Committee counsel on the application of, and compliance with, applicable House rules concerning the performance of campaign and other non-official work by congressional staff members.

Provided that the above requirements are complied with, this matter will remain closed, and the Committee will take no further action on it.

Oh that will teach him. Ethics reform by the Democrats? That’s letting the fox watch the henhouse. Michelle Malkin has more details.


Written by smalltalkwitht

December 31, 2006 at 2:18 pm

67 Year Old Woman Gives Birth To Twins

leave a comment »

What is she thinking?????? Is she married? Who is going to raise these children?

The woman, who became pregnant after receiving IVF treatment in Latin America, gave birth by caesarean section, a spokeswoman at the Hospital de la Santa Creu in San Pau told Reuters.

Both the woman, from the southern Spanish region of Andalucia, and babies were in good health, the hospital said, although the new-borns had been placed in an incubator.The unidentified woman, who was giving birth for the first time, is one year older than Romanian Adriana Iliescu who had a baby girl in January 2005 at the age of 66. She had been pregnant with twins, but one died in the womb.

Written by smalltalkwitht

December 31, 2006 at 2:11 pm

Posted in birth, oldest woman, twins

Muhammad The Enemy

leave a comment »

Want a good novel at Christmas to read through the winter slump?

“Muhammad The Enemy” is a powerful insight into the politics, cultural mores and current events of the 7th century. Penned by Karen Armstrong, an ex-Roman Catholic nun, this book will pique the interests of even apolitical, secular readers. The Denver Post has the first chapter to entice you.

Chapter One – Muhammad the Enemy

It has been difficult for Western people to understand the violent Muslim reaction to Salman Rushdie’s fictional portrait of Muhammad in The Satanic Verses. It seemed incredible that a novel could inspire such murderous hatred, a reaction which was regarded as proof of the incurable intolerance of Islam. It was particularly disturbing for people in Britain to learn that the Muslim communities in their own cities lived according to different, apparently alien values and were ready to defend them to the death. But there were also uncomfortable reminders of the Western past in this tragic affair.

When British people watched the Muslims of Bradford burning the novel, did they relate this to the bonfires of books that had blazed in Christian Europe over the centuries? In 1242, for example, King Louis IX of France, a canonised saint of the Roman Catholic Church, condemned the Jewish Talmud as a vicious attack on the person of Christ. The book was banned and copies were publicly burned in the presence of the King. Louis had no interest in discussing his differences with the Jewish communities of France in a peaceful, rational way. He once claimed that the only way to debate with a Jew was to kill him `with a good thrust in the belly as far as the sword will go. It was Louis who called the first Inquisition to bring Christian heretics to justice and burned not merely their books but hundreds of men and women. He was also a Muslim-hater and led two crusades against the Islamic world. In Louis’ day it was not Islam but the Christian West which found it impossible to coexist with others. Indeed, the bitter history of Muslim-Western relations can be said to have begun with an attack on Muhammad in Muslim Spain.

In 850 a monk called Perfectus went shopping in the souk of Cordova, capital of the Muslim state of al-Andalus. Here he was accosted by a group of Arabs who asked him whether Jesus or Muhammad was the greater prophet. Perfectus understood at once that it was a trick question, because it was a capital offence in the Islamic empire to insult Muhammad, and at first he responded cautiously. But suddenly he snapped and burst into a passionate stream of abuse, calling the Prophet of Islam a charlatan, a sexual pervert and Antichrist himself. He was immediately swept off to gaol.

This incident was unusual for Cordova, where Christian-Muslim relations were normally good. Like the Jews, Christians were allowed full religious liberty within the Islamic empire and most Spaniards were proud to belong to such an advanced culture, light years ahead of the rest of Europe. They were often called `Mozarabs’ or `Arabisers’.

The Christians love to read the poems and romances of the Arabs; they study the Arab theologians and philosophers, not to refute them but to form a correct and elegant Arabic. Where is the layman who now reads the Latin commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, or who studies the Gospels, prophets or apostles? Alas! all talented young Christians read and study with enthusiasm the Arab books.

Paul Alvaro, the Spanish layman who wrote this attack on the Mozarabs at about this time, saw the monk Perfectus as a cultural and religious hero. His denunciation of Muhammad had inspired a strange minority movement in Cordova whereby men and women presented themselves before the Qadi, the Islamic judge, and proved their Christian loyalty by a vitriolic and suicidal attack on the Prophet.

When Perfectus had arrived in gaol he had been extremely frightened, and the Qadi decided not to pass the death sentence because he judged that Perfectus had been unfairly provoked by the Muslims. But after a few days Perfectus cracked a second time and insulted Muhammad in such crude terms that the Qadi had no option but to apply the full rigour of the law. The monk was executed, and at once a group of Christians, who seem to have lived on the fringes of society, dismembered his body and began to revere relics of their `martyr’. A few days later another monk called Ishaq appeared before the Qadi and attacked Muhammad and his religion with such passion that the Qadi, thinking him either drunk or deranged, slapped him to bring him to his senses. But Ishaq persisted in his abuse and the Qadi could not continue to permit this flagrant violation of the law.

Ninth-century Cordova was not like Bradford in 1988. The Muslims were powerful and confident. They seemed extremely reluctant to put these Christian fanatics to death, partly because they did not seem in control of their faculties but also because they realised that the last thing they needed was a martyr-cult. Muslims were not averse to hearing about other religions. Islam had been born in the religious pluralism of the Middle East, where the various faiths had coexisted for centuries. The Eastern Christian empire of Byzantium likewise permitted minority religious groups liberty to practise their faith and to manage their own religious affairs. There was no law against propaganda efforts by Christians in the Islamic empire, provided that they did not attack the beloved figure of the Prophet Muhammad. In some parts of the empire there was even an established tradition of scepticism and freethinking which was tolerated as long as it kept within the bounds of decency and was not too disrespectful. In Cordova the Qadi and the Amir, the prince, were both loath to put Perfectus and Ishaq to death but they could not allow this breach of the law. But a few days after Ishaq’s execution, six other monks from his monastery arrived and delivered yet another venomous attack on Muhammad. That summer about fifty martyrs died in this way. They were denounced by the Bishop of Cordova and by the Mozarabs, who were all extremely alarmed by this aggressive cult of martyrdom. But the martyrs found two champions: a priest called Eulogio and Paul Alvaro both argued that the martyrs were `soldiers of God’ who were fighting bravely for their faith. They had mounted a complex moral assault against Islam which was difficult for the Muslim authorities to deal with because it seemed to put them in the wrong.

Click on the post title to read the whole chapter. Reviews of Ms. Armstrong’s work: calls Karen Armstrong “arguably the most lucid, wide-ranging and consistently interesting religion writer today.” “Magisterial and brilliant,” Kirkus tagged her 1993 breakthrough bestseller A History of God.

The Economist praises Armstrong’s biography of Muhammad as “respectful without being reverential, knowledgeable without being pedantic, and, above all, readable.” That about sums up her overwhelming popular and critical appeal. Her voice is filled with a generous, sober compassion; her perspective is inclusive, but never reductive.

In an interview with David Powell:

“When I’ve been going around talking about Islam and fundamentalism, as I’ve done regularly since 9/11 and even before then,” she explained at Powell’s, “there would nearly always be a question: ‘How did you come to this?’ So, there’s been an interest in my life somehow. That’s one of the reasons that I agreed to write The Spiral Staircase.”

In 1969, at the age of twenty-four, Karen Armstrong left the Roman Catholic convent she had entered as a teenager. She returned to a changed world. Unrecognizable. Vietnam, The Beatles, feminism, the sexual revolution… But more affecting was this: she had tried, and failed, to find God.

Before she became one of the English-speaking world’s foremost commentators on religion, Armstrong weathered anorexia and depression alongside fainting spells and blackouts due to epilepsy that went undiagnosed for years.

Read the rest of David Powell’s interview with Karen Armstrong here.

Written by smalltalkwitht

December 31, 2006 at 1:07 pm

2007: Lucky Number Seven

leave a comment »

2007 is rolling in and what’s in store for us? What is so special about the number seven? Wikipedia has some great facts about seven. Simon Usborne of The Independent has fascinating details that you can entertain your New Year’s Eve guests with 77 things you should know about the number 7.

2007 ends with a number seen as special around the world. To Christians it represents perfection, while Muslims speak of seven heavens. To others it is lucky, magical or powerful (as well as being the spot count on a ladybird). So will the coming year be special too? To help you decide, and prepare, Simon Usborne reveals the secrets of the mystical number seven.

Written by smalltalkwitht

December 31, 2006 at 12:49 pm

Europe Struggles With Religious Heritage And More Secularism

leave a comment »

Great article on Europe’s wrestling with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox religions being pushed out of the decision making processes.

In 1905 France passed a law declaring a clean break between church and state. Riots erupted and a papal encyclical denounced the act as a “most pernicious error.”

Such extreme passions cooled long ago, but the core questions remain as strong as ever. Debates over religion, politics and civic life — and how much they should overlap and interact — are demanding more attention across Europe than at any other time in recent decades.

It’s no longer just about whether to untangle or preserve the old relationships between secular and spiritual. New fronts are emerging: Traditionalist groups seeking a closer embrace of Europe’s Christian heritage, and others predicting that efforts to better integrate Muslim communities will require new models for religion’s role in public life.

“Religion … is reasserting itself as a force in Europe,” said Gerhard Robbers, a professor of political and religious studies at Germany’s University of Trier. “The period of secularism is coming to an end. A new landscape is emerging.” But in the 25-nation European Union, it’s a very uneven terrain, with church attendance ranging from above 50 percent of followers in Ireland and Poland, to below 10 percent in Scandinavia. Church tax unpopular. Several European countries fund churches through a church tax. In Germany, the state-mandated levy runs as high as 9 percent of a person’s income tax, and is cited as one reason why more than 100,000 Roman Catholic and Protestants break official ties with their churches every year.

Read the whole article to understand the issues.

Written by smalltalkwitht

December 31, 2006 at 11:34 am

Catholic Church Reinstates Guilty Ohioan Priest

with 2 comments

Not learning the lessons of the past, the Catholic Church seems destined to repeat its own mistakes. Why does the Church want to place itself in harm’s way and reinstate a priest that was not found innocent, but guilty and remanded to counseling, back into its work force?

The reason for the reinstatement: “After a number of years, it can be very difficult to establish the truth,” said Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the archdiocese quoted by the Guardian Unlimited.

A Roman Catholic priest suspended in 2002 over allegations of sexual misconduct has been reinstated and will return to active ministry, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said.

The archdiocese announced the decision by the Vatican to reinstate the Rev. James Kiffmeyer on Friday. The archdiocese has not decided where Kiffmeyer will serve.

How about ministering in Antartica or in prisons? Don’t tell me they are thinking of putting him into a parish?

Two students had accused Kiffmeyer, who previously taught at Elder High School in Cincinnati and Fenwick High School in Middletown, of abusing them in 1990 and around 1986, respectively, but didn’t report the allegations until 1997 and April 2002. Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk placed Kiffmeyer on paid administrative leave in 2002.

Kiffmeyer also was accused of providing alcohol to the students, but both students were at least 18 at the time of the alleged offenses, according to the archdiocese. In Ohio, an 18-year-old person is legally an adult but must be 21 to drink alcohol. Kiffmeyer denied the allegations.

While on administrative leave, Kiffmeyer could not celebrate the sacraments, including saying Mass, or perform other clerical duties. Kiffmeyer appealed to the Vatican, which ruled the students waited too long to report the allegations.

A spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests was outraged by the Vatican’s ruling.

“Kiffmeyer was removed because of an allegation that the archdiocese found to be credible,” said network spokeswoman Christy Miller. “I don’t understand how he could be allowed to return to ministry after that.”

The archdiocese said Kiffmeyer was reinstated after receiving counseling. Under church law, people have a five-year time limit for making such allegations, the archdiocese said.

Written by smalltalkwitht

December 31, 2006 at 11:26 am

Vatican’s Swiss Guards Mutiny?

leave a comment »

All is not heaven at the Vatican. Crying foul and hypocrisy, the Pope’s army doesn’t like the idea that they can’t party but their leader can.

There is mutiny afoot in the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, the world’s smallest but probably most pampered army.

The focus of discontent at the barracks is what many papal bodyguards see as the heavy-handed policies of the current commanding officer, Colonel Elmar Theodore Mader, who has banned men from holding the traditional year-end parties on the terrace atop their barracks. Even senior officers have been forbidden to give cocktail parties, say Vatican sources.

Ordinary guardsmen are angry that rules preventing them from staying out at night in Rome after midnight are being rigidly applied in the holiday season while Capt Mader himself is frequently out at parties until the early hours of the morning.

One of the halberdiers was angry after discovering that the commanding officer had ordered the confiscation of a crate of wine that admirers of the corps frequently send the soldiers from Switzerland. “We received 25 bottles of good Swiss wine but when we came back from guard duty there were only five left in my room,” said the guard. “The other 20 had been seized on orders of the commander, evidently for his own use.”

Capt Mader in private remarks has shrugged off suggestions that he might fall foul of mutinous tendencies, claiming that, far from being a martinet, he has a “meaningful dialogue” with his 130 Roman Catholic troops. Many guards would question that, however, complaining of double standards inconsistent with the traditions of sacrifice celebrated this year during ceremonies to mark the 500th anniversary of the corps.

Written by smalltalkwitht

December 31, 2006 at 11:21 am