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TFI Daily News

World News for World Changers

Oct 1

Headlines

New Polish PM Signals Cautious Approach on Euro Accession
(Reuters) Poland’s new Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said on Wednesday she would largely stick to the policies of her predecessor Donald Tusk, including a cautious approach to the question of when eastern Europe’s biggest economy will join the euro.

Former Bosnian Serb Leader Karadzic Accuses Prosecutors of Lying
(Reuters) Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic accused prosecutors of lying about his role in Bosnia’s descent into civil war to make up for a lack of evidence as he took the floor to wrap up his defense at the end of his long-running genocide trial.

Nigeria’s Campaigning President Says ‘Turning Tide’ Against Islamists
(Reuters) Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said on Wednesday the army was turning the tide against Boko Haram Islamists and he trumpeted his government’s achievements in what sounded like a bid for re-election just months before a presidential poll.

Shells Hit School Playground and Nearby Street in Ukraine City
(Reuters) Shells hit a school playground and a nearby street in the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, killing four people including a teacher and a parent, witnesses said.

Coalition Jets Strike Islamic State Near Turkish Border: Kurdish Sources
(Reuters) U.S.-led forces launched air strikes on Islamic State fighters who are besieging a Kurdish town near the Syrian border with Turkey on Wednesday, Kurdish sources in the town and a monitoring group said, a rare daylight coalition attack.

U.S. Sends ‘Ironhorse’ Tanks to NATO’s Nervous Baltic Front Line
(Reuters) U.S. troops and tanks will deploy across the three Baltic states and Poland in the next two weeks on a mission designed to deliver an unmistakeable message of NATO resolve to Moscow.

Indonesia Inaugurates Parliament Likely to Curb Widodo’s Reforms
(Reuters) Indonesia inaugurated a new, opposition-dominated parliament on Wednesday, one that is expected to obstruct incoming president Joko Widodo’s ambitious reforms for Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Egypt Offers Military Training to Libya, Cites Islamic State Threat
(Reuters) Egypt has offered to train pro-government forces battling rival armed groups in Libya, stepping up efforts to eradicate what it says is a threat to its own stability from the anarchy engulfing its neighbor.

Australia Passes Security Law, Raising Fears for Press Freedom
(Reuters) The first of a series of security powers requested by Australia’s government to combat Islamist militants passed through parliament on Wednesday, despite criticism that they could land journalists in jail for reporting on national security.

Japan Volcano Death Toll Likely to Rise to Around 46 as More Victims Found
(Reuters) The death toll from Japan’s worst volcanic eruption in decades is likely to rise to around 46 after as more victims were discovered on the ash-covered summit, media said on Wednesday.

Traveler From Liberia Is First Ebola Patient Diagnosed in U.S.
(Reuters) A man who flew from Liberia to Texas has become the first patient infected with the deadly Ebola virus to be diagnosed in the United States, health officials said on Tuesday.

Taliban suicide bombers kill 7 in Kabul, wound 21
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP)—Taliban suicide bombers struck two buses carrying Afghan soldiers in Kabul early Wednesday, killing seven people and wounding 21, just a day after the signing of a key U.S.-Afghan security pact.

UN: At least 1,119 Iraqis killed in September
BAGHDAD (AP)—The U.N. mission in Baghdad says at least 1,119 Iraqis died in violence in September but that the real figure was likely much higher since the organization’s death toll does not include killings in areas controlled by the Islamic State group.


Thought of the Day

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”—Abraham Lincoln


Boots on the ground

BBC, 29 September 2014

“Boots on the ground” is shorthand for combat troops deployed in a foreign country. Barack Obama and David Cameron have both used it—it’s a phrase that is constantly cropping up in the news. But where did it come from?

Infantry have been stomping in boots through mud and sand for centuries. Back in World War One “boot” was used as an alternative to “soldier”, and a soldier’s introduction to service was in “boot camp”. But the expression “boots on the ground” appears to be relatively new.

British military officer Sir Robert Grainger Ker Thompson came close to using it in a 1966 book on his experiences of counter-insurgency in Malaya and Vietnam—chapter 15 was entitled Feet on the Ground. But that is not quite the same. The earliest known use of the precise phrase we use today occurs 1980.

This was the conclusion reached by the late New York Times columnist, William Safire, who investigated the subject in 2008 with the help of an army historian. The historian rifled back through published sources until he found an instance of the expression in a Christian Science Monitor (CSM) story written during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The reporter attributed the coinage to a US general, Volney Warner.

Grammarians would describe the use of “boot”, in the phrase “boots on the ground”, as a case of synecdoche—a figure of speech where the part represents the whole.

In English the expression is, by now, a cliche (the military equivalent of “bums on seats”), but it can sound even worse in translation. “It’s not used in Arabic because we have a problem with boots. Footwear in general in Islamic culture has this negative connotation,” says Mohamed Yehia, of BBC Arabic. “Boots are something humiliating or unclean.”


How to End Procrastination

By Jim Rohn, Sept. 29, 2014

Perseverance is about as important to achievement as gasoline is to driving a car. Sure, there will be times when you feel like you’re spinning your wheels, but you’ll always get out of the rut with genuine perseverance. Without it, you won’t even be able to start your engine.

The opposite of perseverance is procrastination. Perseverance means you never quit. Procrastination usually means you never get started, though the inability to finish something is also a form of procrastination.

I’m going to tell you how to overcome procrastination. I’m going to show you how to turn procrastination into perseverance, and if you do what I suggest, the process will be virtually painless. It involves using two very powerful principles that foster productivity and perseverance instead of passivity and procrastination.

1. Break it down. No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, whether it’s writing a book, climbing a mountain or painting a house, the key to achievement is your ability to break down the task into manageable pieces and knock them off one at one time. Focus on accomplishing what’s right in front of you at this moment. Ignore what’s off in the distance someplace. Substitute real-time positive thinking for negative future visualization. That’s the first all-important technique for bringing an end to procrastination.

2. Write it down. We know how important writing is to goal setting. The writing you’ll do for beating procrastination is very similar. Instead of focusing on the future, however, you’re now going to be writing about the present just as you experience it every day. Instead of describing the things you want to do or the places you want to go, you’re going to describe what you actually do with your time, and you’re going to keep a written record of the places you actually go.

In other words, you’re going to keep a diary of your activities. And you’re going to be amazed by the distractions, detours and downright wastes of time you engage in during the course of a day. All of these get in the way of achieving your goals. For many people, it’s almost like they planned it that way, and maybe at some unconscious level they did. The great thing about keeping a time diary is that it brings all this out in the open. It forces you to see what you’re actually doing… and what you’re not doing.

Break it down. Write it down. These two techniques are very straightforward. But don’t let that fool you: These are powerful and effective productivity techniques. This is how you put an end to procrastination. This is how you get yourself started.


Slouching Towards Not Slouching

By Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, Sept. 29, 2014

“A straight back may be said to be an element of beauty,” wrote D. F. Lincoln, a physician in Philadelphia, in 1896. “Round shoulders and a twisted spine are an element of the opposite quality, beyond a doubt.”

Lincoln was writing to sound the alarm that the posture of America’s youth was becoming increasingly “deformed” thanks to a trend that had recently swept the nation: universal public school.

If only he could see us now, literally leaning in within our cubicles by day and slumping over our Netflix-streaming laptops by night. Many of today’s workers could use a Knickerbocker shoulder brace more than the Victorian dandies it was designed for.

I myself am the picture of the modern, white-collar slouch. It started in high school and got worse when I became a journalist and had a laptop grafted to my wrists. The many emotional benefits my profession confers come at a physical cost: carpal tunnel, eye strain, and sort of a permanent, dull ache in my trapezius. In grad school I nearly solidified into a gargoyle by sitting at the little tables at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and editing audio files for hours.

It got so bad at one point that I had to see a physical therapist, who would dutifully spine-shame me.

“You really ought to spend less time on the computer,” she would mutter, jabbing her thumb into an walnut-sized knot on my shoulder blade.

“Easy for you to say,” I would think. “Your job is to stand here all day and give people really expensive back massages.”

I would let out an assenting groan, but we both knew it wasn’t going to happen.

Over the years I’ve had various workplace ergonomics experts come look at my typing position, gasp, and recommend a bunch of changes—which I would promptly forget as soon as they left.

I didn’t really do anything about my curved stature until several months ago, when I saw a Kickstarter campaign for Lumo Lift, a new type of activity tracker that not only measures steps and calories, but also vibrates whenever its wearer slouches.

Over soaring piano music, the Lumo promo video asks the viewer to imagine life with the carriage of a self-assured ballerina: “What would you do if you were not afraid? Would you stand a little taller? Would you run a little faster? … Would you live in the moment?”

Yes! The only thing standing between me and my dreams is a posture straight out of Downton Abbey. I ordered one for myself and one for my boyfriend, who is a computer programmer, and thus, similarly hunched.

The Lumo Lift is worn on a tight-fitting shirt or bra—the device itself sits near the skin, and it’s held in place on the other side by a magnet. You tap it each morning to “calibrate” it to a certain posture—this is the carriage you’re telling Lumo you want to hold all day. It then passively tracks your posture, calories, and steps all day through an iPhone app, but you can also enter “coaching sessions” in which the Lumo will buzz you whenever you deviate from the neutral spine.

The Lumo recommends doing several of these coaching sessions daily for 15 minutes to an hour at a time. Any longer than that, and—as I would soon discover—you’ll lose your marbles.

The first big problem I encountered is that when you have bad posture, you don’t really know what good posture looks like. I would start all of my coaching sessions by arching into the position I’d seen on supermodels and student-council presidents—my back ramrod straight, the underside of my chin almost parallel to the floor. But that’s not what people with actual good posture do. And it’s certainly not sustainable.

The spine is actually designed to curve slightly away from the body’s midline, says Zack Vaughn, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Stanford University. But most people tend to lean forward during the day, causing the upper part of the backbone to droop toward the floor. Most posture interventions are designed to correct this by pulling the shoulders back and holding the ribcage in a vertical position.

With Lumo Lift, the entire “coaching” experience is that of having a tiny, overbearing mother always on your person. During the coaching sessions, I was buzzed every second while sitting at a table and typing on a laptop. The only way to go buzz-free was to stare directly forward, as if catching a glimpse of something interesting in the distance—not something any Web writer can do for long. If I tried to ignore the buzzes, the app would turn red and display a variety of passive-aggressive admonishments: “Good posture makes you look and feel great! Let’s do it!” and “Fight the buzz with good posture! You’ll thank me later.” When I told fellow Atlantic writer Kathy Gilsinan about my increasingly strained relationship with the Lumo, she suggested that the device could really ratchet up the guilt with, “You’d be so pretty if you only sat up straight.”

After I started a coaching session at 11:37 a.m. one day, I found myself moving through my physical environment in unnatural ways, dropping into a deep plié to put a bottle of seltzer back in the fridge and walking stiffly through my apartment like a broken robot.

At 11:48, it felt like the session had been going for an eternity. Nothing I did seemed good enough for Lift. It finally stopped buzzing when I got up from my chair to water the plants, but it started again when I tipped the watering can over my cilantro.

The session ended mercifully at 11:53, but even after all the sitting up straight and holding my head up high, the app only gave me a posture score of “good.” Just like mom, it’s never satisfied.

Your mother’s right, you know. Good posture really does make us feel more confident and powerful. A study of 74 people in New Zealand found that participants who sat up straight felt “more enthusiastic, excited, and strong, while the slumped participants reported feeling more fearful, hostile, nervous, quiet, still, passive, dull, sleepy, and sluggish.” Researchers Dana Carney and Andy Yap from Columbia University and Amy Cuddy from Harvard University have found that when study participants got into open, expansive postures, where the limbs are spread out and the body takes up more space, they felt more powerful and risk-seeking. They also saw increases in their levels of testosterone, the aggression hormone, and decreases in cortisol, the stress hormone. In her viral TED talk, Cuddy recommends practicing such “power poses” for a few minutes before meetings and other high-pressures situations in order to improve performance.

But the biggest benefit of good posture, Vaughn says, is just a life free from pain. Twenty-eight percent of Americans complain of chronic lower back pain, according to a 2012 CDC survey, and 14 percent say their neck and shoulders frequently hurt. Limit the survey to a typical cubicle farm, and you’d probably hear an even greater percentage of people complaining of cricks. “I get referred a ton of people who have these complaints,” Vaughn said. “Our bodies are not designed to sit in front of computers all day.”

The Lumo app itself worked well and tracked my calories with reasonable accuracy. Most of the time it reported my posture as “slouchy,” but there were a handful of times it deemed it “remarkable”—mostly when I was exercising, lying flat on the couch, or walking somewhere.

There seemed to be some critical design flaws with the hardware, though. The device comes with a special clip so women can wear it on their bra straps, but the magnet on the clip is glued in place. Physics being what it is, a strong magnet is no match for rubber cement. On the second day, the magnet came unglued, and the Lumo went tumbling down my dress by the hot bar in Whole Foods. I took the bra clip from my boyfriend’s Lumo box and the same thing happened the following day.

There were other problems. My purse would hit the Lumo when I walked. The brushed silver magnet that you wear outside your shirt isn’t too obtrusive, but it looks a little like a 1970s CIA bug. Occasionally I started skipping days of wearing it. Sometimes I would wear it but forget to do the coaching sessions, so at night it would tell me my posture had been “slouchy” all day.

Vaughn told me that compliance is the hardest part when it comes to posture-improvement gadgets: People buy special harnesses and don’t use them. Bad posture is evidence that the back muscles have been straining the wrong way for years. Sitting correctly for just 10 minutes can leave you feeling tired, like a long, low-intensity workout.

The reason I don’t have good posture, I realized, isn’t because of my computer or my job—it’s because I don’t care very much about having good posture. Or at least not enough to really do something about it. And that’s just as true with the Lumo as without it.

Ultimately, posture is just that—it’s posturing. The word comes from the Latin ponere, which means “to put or place.” It’s a conscious process. The Lumo can remind you to put yourself in a straight-backed, attack-the-world stance. But the impulse to do it all day, every day, has to come from within. And, sadly, not from a buzzing within your bra.


How Lecrae Mixed Rap and Theology to Find Huge, Mainstream Success

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service, September 29, 2014

He’s been crowned the “new hip-hop king” and his newest album, “Anomaly,” topped iTunes and Amazon charts the day of its Sept. 9 release. He’s been invited to birthday parties for both Billy Graham and Michael Jordan and riffed on NBC’s “Tonight Show” with host Jimmy Fallon.

It’s the kind of mainstream success that has eluded most Christian rappers. Then again, some people are still trying to decide if hip-hop star Lecrae is a Christian rapper, or a rapper who happens to be Christian.

It depends who you ask, including Lecrae himself.

“God has also raised up lowly, kind of insignificant individuals to do miraculous and incredible things,” Lecrae, 34, said in an interview. “We’re the Gideons, we’re the Davids. Even Jesus himself made himself of no reputation. It’s when you can link it back to God doing it, I think that’s what he loves. He’s not a megalomaniac, he’s deserving of glory and honor, and to use individuals that demonstrate that it was him, and him alone, it accomplishes his mission and that’s success.”

While most Christian artists have struggled to break out of the Christian music subculture, Lecrae has found early crossover success—and a significant following among white evangelical elites. He navigates the tricky waters between rapping explicitly about Christianity while reaching a mainstream audience.

According to Billboard, he’s sold 1.4 million albums and 2.9 million track downloads. “Anomaly” hit Billboard’s No. 1 last week—a first for a gospel album and only the fifth for a Christian album. His acting debut in “Believe Me,” a film about a group of four men who try to con money out of churchgoers, received a short, positive nod from The New York Times.

Some of Lecrae’s fans are worried the success could ruin him or at least soften his lyrics. But when Christian artists like U2’s Bono or Switchfoot find mainstream success, many Christian fans often latch on for good.

In fact, while once shunning mainstream and creating its own music and entertainment subculture, American evangelicalism now values recognition and engagement in mainstream culture.

“Lecrae is probably the hottest Christian artist alive right now,” said Atlanta megachurch pastor Louie Giglio in his sermon on Sunday (Sept. 21) at his Passion City Church.

Giglio recently ran into Lecrae in their hometown airport in Atlanta, praising the artist for his recent success. “It’s only hors d’oeuvres for heaven,” Lecrae responded.

In a recent piece for ESPN’s Grantland, Rembert Browne compares Lecrae to filmmaker Tyler Perry, who successfully reached black and Christian audiences.

“Because, in ‘Anomaly,’ like some of Perry’s films, the Christianity sneaks up on you,” Browne wrote, linking “Believe Me” to a string of other recent successful Christian-themed films. “It’s clear there is a market for Christian-themed pop culture.”

Lecrae, who attends the start-up Renovation Church in Atlanta, isn’t sure what to make of the “sneak up” language.

“Obviously, to the conservative evangelical, or the Christian, they hear ‘sneak’ and they think, ‘Why do we have to sneak?’” he said. “But when we hear that from somebody outside of the Christian culture, in many ways they mean that as a compliment.”

“What they’re trying to say is that they didn’t feel like they were berated, or beat over the head, or made to feel like they were being patronized, or condescending. By no means am I trying to hide my faith, or disguise myself as a Christian spy.”

If Lecrae is “sneaking up” with Christian themes, then his lyrics will slap listeners in the face as he regularly raps with explicit themes on faith. Anomaly’s song “Fear,” for example, includes lyrics from Psalm 23 and repetitive mentions of Jesus.

I’mma tell that truth till it kill me
And I’m chillin’ with my Creator
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
To all of my haters
For the ones that think I forgot Him
And the ones who won’t let me say
I ain’t scared no mo’

“Without saying it—because it wouldn’t be very Christian of him—the ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus’ is a cleverly devout middle finger to all of his haters,” Browne wrote in Grantland. “He’s directing it toward everyone who’s criticized him—for being too spiritual and for not being spiritual enough. This is what happens when you’re caught between genres. It’s this middle ground that makes Lecrae different. And that feeling different—not Christianity—is what this album is truly about.”

Lecrae has received favorable attention in recent years from white evangelicals, particularly the neo-Calvinist Reformed crowd that is influenced by John Calvin, the 16th-century French theologian. Lecrae’s 2008 song, “Don’t Waste Your Life,” is the same title as a book from retired megachurch pastor John Piper, the high priest of Reformed evangelicals.

“I think a lot of us became Christians in a hodgepodge, because doctrine was not a thing; we weren’t considering theology,” Lecrae said. “We were just like, ‘Hey, we love Jesus, let’s go.’ I’ll read this Piper book, and go to this T.D. Jakes conference, we just absorbed everything. I think the Reformed doctrine just presented a lot more organized, drawn-out theology. I could wrap my mind around it, and it wasn’t as mystical.”

Just as Lecrae is building bridges between secular and Christian audiences, leading evangelicals say hip-hop can bridge the divide between largely white churches and the changing world around them.

“Maybe it’s about building a bridge in the other direction: a bridge of empathy for a largely white, middle-class church to a fatherless, economically forgotten, and sometimes angry youth culture,” wrote Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in a cover story for Christianity Today last year.

“If so, maybe it can help pull American Christianity out of its white middle-class ghetto and into the vastness of the kingdom of God—a kingdom that has room for both Jonathan Edwards and Jay-Z.”

Lecrae can name-drop influential theologians with the best of them, including Piper, Randy Alcorn, Francis Schaeffer, Abraham Kuyper and Charles Spurgeon. It wasn’t until the end of his thought that he mentioned Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he references in his music.

“I love looking back and being able to understand that nothing we are dealing with is necessarily new, just understanding how people wrestle with things historically and how I can apply that to the present,” Lecrae said.

He’s also probably the only rap artist to drop the name of New York megachurch pastor Tim Keller, or Christianity Today executive editor Andy Crouch, into his lyrics. Both men, he said, “influenced me to think about how I get involved in culture, and how do I become a culture creator and not just copy it or condemn it or critique it all the time.”

He has been praised for calling out the rap industry for being self-contradictory when speaking on racial issues like the recent uprisings in Ferguson, Mo. “Dear Hip Hop, we can’t scream ‘murder, misogyny, lawlessness’ in our music & then turn around and ask for equality & justice, “ he told Billboard.

Racial reconciliation, he said, is grounded in theology.

“I think racial reconciliation is really rooted in the reconciliation that we see in Scripture,” Lecrae said. “I think you begin to find yourself being reconciled to people all over the place, and just wanting to empathize with people from all walks of life, specifically as a Christian, to demonstrate the love of Jesus.”

Like many rappers, Lecrae, now a married father of three, had a rocky start. Abused and later abandoned by his father, his song “Good, Bad, Ugly,” raps about hooking up with a woman and helping her get an abortion.

He said a police officer pulled him over, saw drugs in his car but let him go when he also spotted a Bible in his car, telling him to read it. Lecrae decided to mend his ways after he survived a crash where his car had flipped over, he said.

In his recent album, Lecrae indicts the spoils of Western excess, American exceptionalism and Christian hypocrisy. One of his friendly critics, Bradford William Davis, called his latest album “a courageous message in a safe package.”

“They’re good, necessary subjects for the hip hop community to wrestle with, but nothing that the cut-rate ‘conscious’ rappers haven’t tackled before,” Davis wrote in his review for the Christ and Pop Culture website. “His presentation is clean, mostly safe, occasionally dated, and a little too predictable.”

Lecrae isn’t bothered by his critics.

“Talking about social issues, talking about love, talking about marriage, child rearing, those are all things that are explicit to who I am as a believer,” Lecrae said. “It’s not just the topics, necessarily, of salvation or sanctification.”


Evangelicals Add One More Guest to the Wedding Party: Jesus

Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, September 29, 2014

When Brianna and Chris Lindsay married in June, they had the church, the minister, the bridesmaids … and a foot-washing ceremony for the bride and groom.

It was, they said, a sign of their mutual submission.

“First he took off both of my shoes and we had a water basin and pitcher,” said the bride, recalling the five-minute ceremony during which a friend read a poem about the couple. “In return, I got down in my dress, took off his socks. … It probably was a little awkward for us—maybe a little—but we felt like it was an important message to show people.”

In an age of big-ticket destination weddings and reality show “bridezillas,” some evangelical Christians are opting for what writer Catherine Strode Parks calls “A Christ-Centered Wedding.”

Her new book details ways brides and grooms can fill their wedding with biblical touches to reinforce for friends and family the centrality of their faith.

“If we really believe that marriage is important, that it matters and that God infused it with so much meaning, then we want to share that joy with those who are present and invite them into that celebration and that worship,” said Parks, who co-wrote the book with her mother, Linda Strode.

At her own 2005 wedding to her husband Erik, their fathers—both evangelical pastors—co-officiated and she and her husband were encircled by their family in prayer while some friends sang the hymn “Take My Life, and Let It Be.”

Looking back, she wishes she’d done more to shift attention away from them as a couple and focused more on God—like stepping back and joining the congregation in praise and worship, as a relative did at a wedding last year.

“One of my husband’s least favorite things about our wedding was just being the center of attention,” she said. “Something like that would have reminded us both that we’re up there but this is not about us. It’s about what Christ has done.”

The notion of making the wedding a demonstration of faith is so popular in some circles that business writer Jon Acuff created a parody in July on his “Stuff Christians Like” website: “The Ultimate Christian Wedding Scorecard.” Scorekeepers get one point each for the reading of a Bible verse, two points for including 1 Corinthians 13 (“Love is patient, love is kind …”) and three points if “you hold a bachelor party but call it a ‘guys who love Jesus golfing together party.”’

Acuff, a Christian, said he drew up the list based in part on the experience in his own wedding 13 years ago and others he’s attended since.

“We certainly had Bible passages read at our wedding but we did not do the unity candle or a lot of the other things I mentioned on my list,” which he noted, “could have been a lot longer.”

In a 2012 wedding, Mia and Antonio Bailey included a liturgical dancer in their Baltimore wedding and walked down the aisle to praise and worship music as a message to their African-American friends and family about the importance of marriage.

“I didn’t come down the aisle with the traditional ‘Here Comes the Bride,’” said Mia Bailey, a Baptist who opted for a rendition of “Breathe Into Me” by the band Israel and New Breed.

“Living in a ‘Love & Hip Hop’ culture where marriage doesn’t hold the same sanctity as it once did among our ancestors, we felt an obligation to make Christ the center of our ceremony.”

Larissa and Ian Murphy, who married in 2010 after he experienced a traumatic brain injury in a car accident, chose to focus on heaven in their outdoor ceremony in northeastern Pennsylvania. Their minister read from evangelical author John Piper’s book “This Momentary Marriage.” Wedding guests sang the Matt Redman worship song whose chorus quotes the psalm “Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere.”

“That constant pointing to this isn’t it,” said Larissa Murphy, who recently co-authored “Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up,” about their marriage, which was the subject of a viral video. “This is just a reflection of what we’ll experience in heaven.”


10 Tech Terms You’ve Heard But Probably Don’t Know the Meaning Of

By Adda Birnir, The Daily Muse, September 26, 2014

Do you ever find yourself trying to hide your confusion at work meetings while the tech team is tossing around terms like UI and UX? Or maybe you’re all about downloading the latest apps, but you’re not totally sure what “app” actually means.

Well, it’s time to stop faking it and start learning some of today’s most important tech vocabulary. We’re here to define 10 tech terms that you often hear.

The Internet vs. the Web. Wait, there’s a difference? Oh, yes! The internet is actually millions of computers interconnected in a global network. All of these computers can talk to each other to send and receive data around the world as fast as you can favorite a tweet.

The web, on the other hand, is the system where some (but not all) of that data is kept in the form of special documents. These documents are linked together and more commonly known to you and me as web pages.

To put it simply, the internet is the equipment and connections, and the web is the information. Fun fact: While “world wide web” was the hottest term for the web a few years ago, Millennials prefer to call it “the cloud.”

HTML vs. CSS. Speaking of the internet, here’s a bit more about how the websites on it are made. HTML—or HyperText Markup Language—is the language used to write web pages. HTML is made up of “elements” (paragraphs, headers, lists, links, and the like), which give each web page structure and contain the content of the page itself (text, images, videos, and so on).

CSS—or Cascading Style Sheets—tell web browsers how to format and style an HTML document. In other words, CSS is what makes HTML look good. Using CSS, you can give a web page its own font, text styles, colors and, with the newest CSS version (CSS3), even multiple backgrounds, 3D transformations, and awesome animations.

To put it simply, HTML holds the content in place, and CSS makes it look pretty.

Front End vs. Back End. Now you know how websites are made, let’s talk about how they work. The front end of a website is the part that you can see. This includes HTML and CSS (see how handy it is to know those terms!) and all the other things you look at in your browser. Think Facebook posts that update or Google search terms that autocomplete—these are all thanks to the powers of the front-end programming language JavaScript.

The back end of a website is the part of a website that makes it work. It includes applications that tell websites what to do, servers where websites get data from, and databases where information websites use is stored. On Twitter, for instance, the look of your feed is the front end, and all the data is stored in the back end.

App vs. Software. Speaking of telling computers what to do, you’ve probably heard the term “application” before. In a nutshell, an application, or app, is a program or set of instructions that you can use to do certain things on your iPhone or Android.

The general term for any instructions for your computer, tablet, or phone is software. So, apps are just one type of software. But, system software—like operating systems (Think iOS7 or Windows 8), drivers (controls for your printer or speakers, for example), or utilities (like anti-virus or backup)—are a different type of software that run your computer as a whole and make it possible for you to use all those apps you’re addicted to.

That means: All apps are software but not all software is an app.

UX vs. UI. Even pros can get mixed up about these two abbreviations, but let’s make sure you don’t. UI—or User Interface—is how a product or website is laid out and how you interact with it: Where the buttons are, how big the fonts are, and how menus are organized are all elements of UI.

But UX—or User Experience—is how you feel about using a product or a website. So, your love for the way the new Apple Watch looks or your excitement that there’s finally a tablet-sized iPhone to watch those Corgi videos you’re obsessed with are reflections of UX.

So the new look of the Facebook news feed involves a change to UI, and the way you navigate that new page is the UX.


Why Big Data Missed the Early Warning Signs of Ebola

By Kalev Leetaru, Foreign Policy, September 26, 2014

With the Centers for Disease Control now forecasting up to 1.4 million new infections from the current Ebola outbreak, what could “big data” do to help us identify the earliest warnings of future outbreaks and track the movements of the current outbreak in realtime? It turns out that monitoring the spread of Ebola can teach us a lot about what we missed—and how data mining, translation, and the non-Western world can help to provide better early warning tools.

Earlier this month, Harvard’s HealthMap service made world headlines for monitoring early mentions of the current Ebola outbreak on March 14, 2014, “nine days before the World Health Organization formally announced the epidemic,” and issuing its first alert on March 19. Much of the coverage of HealthMap’s success has emphasized that its early warning came from using massive computing power to sift out early indicators from millions of social media posts and other informal media.

As one blog put it: “So how did a computer algorithm pick up on the start of the outbreak before the WHO? As it turns out, some of the first health care workers to see Ebola in Guinea regularly blog about their work. As they began to write about treating patients with Ebola-like symptoms, a few people on social media mentioned the blog posts. And it didn’t take long for HealthMap to detect these mentions.”

The U.S. government’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), which helps fund HealthMap, has used this success story as evidence that the approaches used in its Open Source Indicators program can indeed “beat the news” and provide the earliest warnings of impending disease outbreaks and conflict. The problem is that this story isn’t quite true.

By the time HealthMap monitored its very first report, the Guinean government had actually already announced the outbreak and notified the WHO.

The first public international warning of the impending epidemic came not from data mining or social media, but through more traditional channels: a news article in Xinhua’s French-language newswire titled “Guinée: une étrange fièvre fait 8 morts à Macenta” published late in the day (eastern standard time) on March 13. The article reports that “a disease whose nature has not yet been identified has killed 8 people in the prefecture of Macenta in south-eastern Guinea … it manifests itself as a hemorrhagic fever….” In turn, this newswire article was actually simply reporting on a press conference held earlier in the day by Dr. Sakoba Keita, director of the Division of Disease Prevention in the Guinea Department of Health, broadcast nationally on state television, that announced both the outbreak of the unknown hemorrhagic fever and the departure of a team of government medical personnel to the area to investigate it in more detail. The Xinhua article further notes that the government of Guinea had already formally notified the WHO of the unknown outbreak.

Thus, contrary to the narrative that data mining led to an intelligence coup of “beating the WHO,” in fact HealthMap’s earliest signals on March 14 were actually simply detections of this official government announcement. Despite all of the attention and hype paid to social media as a sensor network over human society, mainstream media still plays a critical role as an information stream in many areas of the world. This is not to say that there were not far earlier signals manifested in the myriad social conversations among medical workers and citizens in the region, only that it was not these indicators that HealthMap detected.

Part of the problem is that the majority of media in Guinea is not published in English, while most monitoring systems today emphasize English-language material. The GDELT Project attempts to monitor and translate a cross-section of the world’s news media each day, yet it is not capable of translating 100 percent of global news coverage. It turns out that GDELT actually monitored the initial discussion of Dr. Keita’s press conference on March 13 and detected a surge in domestic coverage beginning on March 14, the day HealthMap flagged the first media mention. The problem is that all of this media coverage was in French—and was not among the French material that GDELT was able to translate those days.

To give an idea of the importance of monitoring across languages, through a grant from Google Translate for Research, GDELT has been feeding a portion of the Portuguese edition of Google News each day through Google Translate for the past year. It turns out that upwards of 70 percent of the events recorded in Portuguese-language news do not appear in English-language news anywhere else in the world. Further, a large portion of these events relate to situations outside of Portugal and Brazil, including former colonial states in Africa. Increasing our ability to process all of this material would yield tremendous gains in monitoring local media of the sort that provided the first indicators of the Ebola outbreak.

On a panel I served on last week, we were asked to name what we thought was the greatest challenge to better understanding the world. A representative of a government-funded agency stated that, in his program’s view, it was a need for better computer science tools to better extract patterns from data. That’s a worthwhile goal, but not if the data set is incomplete. While there is certainly great need for better data tools, even if one could perfectly extract every piece of information from the New York Times each day, it would likely not yield a picture of the emerging Ebola outbreak any more detailed than what American government officials already have. Instead, what we truly need is better, more local data (and expanded tools that can translate and process that material) to allow us to more closely listen to and understand local communities.

There is a singular preoccupation in government today with forecasting the future. Yet, we must be careful that among investments of hundreds of millions of dollars in forecasting systems that have yet to produce useful results, we don’t miss the early warning signs of emerging pandemics that are quite literally broadcast for us on national television. Instead of trying to “beat” the international news through massive investments in computer models, we should instead be focusing on listening better.


A Rising Tide of Contaminants

By Deborah Blum, NY Times, September 25, 2014

Deborah Swackhamer, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota, decided last year to investigate the chemistry of the nearby Zumbro River. She and her colleagues were not surprised to find traces of pesticides in the water.

Neither were they shocked to find prescription drugs ranging from antibiotics to the anti–convulsive carbamazepine. Researchers realized more than 15 years ago that pharmaceuticals—excreted by users, dumped down drains—were slipping through wastewater treatment systems.

But though she is a leading expert in so-called emerging contaminants, Dr. Swackhamer was both surprised and dismayed by the sheer range and variety of what she found. Caffeine drifted through the river water, testament to local consumption of everything from coffee to energy drinks. There were relatively high levels of acetaminophen, the over-the-counter painkiller. Acetaminophen causes liver damage in humans at high doses; no one knows what it does to fish.

“We don’t know what these background levels mean in terms of environmental or public health,” she said. “It’s definitely another thing that we’re going to be looking at.”

Or, she might have said, one of many, many other things.

The number of chemicals contaminating our environment is growing at exponential rate, scientists say. A team of researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey tracks them in American waterways, sediments, landfills and municipal sewage sludge, which is often converted into agricultural fertilizer. They’ve found steroid hormones and the antibacterial agent triclosan in sewage; the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) in fish; and compounds from both birth control pills and detergents in the thin, slimy layer that forms over stones in streams.

“We’re looking at an increasingly diverse array of organic and inorganic chemicals that may have ecosystem health effects,” said Edward Furlong, a research chemist with the U.S.G.S. office in Denver and one of the first scientists to track the spread of pharmaceutical compounds in the nation’s waterways. “Many of them are understudied and unrecognized.”

In an essay last week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, titled “Re-Emergence of Emerging Contaminants,” editor-in-chief Jerald L. Schnoor called attention to both the startling growth of newly registered chemical compounds and our inadequate understanding of older ones.

The American Chemical Society, the publisher of the journal, maintains the most comprehensive national database of commercially registered chemical compounds in the country. “The growth of the list is eye-popping, with approximately 15,000 new chemicals and biological sequences registered every day,” Dr. Schnoor wrote.

Not all of those are currently in use, he emphasized, and the majority are unlikely to be dangerous. “But, for better or worse, our commerce is producing innovative, challenging new compounds,” he wrote.

Dr. Schnoor, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa, also noted rising concern among researchers about the way older compounds are altered in the environment, sometimes taking new and more dangerous forms.

Some research suggests that polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are broken down by plants into even more toxic metabolites. Equally troubling, scientists are finding that while PCBs are banned, they continue to seep into the environment in unexpected ways, such as from impurities in the caulk of old school buildings.

PCBs have long been identified as hazardous, but not every contaminant is so risky, Dr. Schnoor emphasized.

“Out of the millions of chemical compounds that we know about, thousands have been tested and there are very few that show important health effects,” he said in an interview.

But, he added, the development of new compounds and the increasing discovery of unexpected contaminants in the environment means that the nation desperately needs a better system for assessing and prioritizing chemical exposures.

“Our chemical safety net is more hole than net,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group. The Food and Drug Administration, for instance, doesn’t regulate the environmental spread of pharmaceuticals. And the toxic substances law ignores their presence in waterways.


Parenting as a Gen Xer

By Allison Slater Tate, Washington Post, September 29, 2014

On the days that I drive the middle school carpool, I purposely choose a route that takes us past a huge river. Some mornings, the water looks like glass; others, it reflects the moody clouds above with choppy waves—either way, it’s gorgeous. Every time we drive past it, I point it out to my car full of 12-year-olds: “Look at the water today. Isn’t it beautiful?” No one in the car looks up. They are all looking down at their phones, playing games with each other, texting a friend or watching a YouTube video. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I will get a mercy grunt out of one or two of them in reply.

It struck me recently, after one of my quiet carpool rides, that my generation of parents—we of the soon-to-be or recently 40 year old Gen X variety, the former latchkey children of the Cold War and an MTV that actually played videos, former Atari-owners who were raised by the Cosby Show and John Hughes, is perhaps the last to straddle a life experience both with and without the Internet and all its social media marvels. After all, I didn’t even learn to use e-mail until I was 19 and a sophomore in college in 1993, and only for a slightly cringe-worthy reason: a cute boy at another college asked me to e-mail him.

My generation, it seems, had the last of the truly low-tech childhoods, and now we are among the first of the truly high-tech parents.

My mother, a Baby Boomer, gripes regularly that my friends and I “put everything on The Facebook,” and though she and my grandparents both have accounts, they don’t really use them. My parents still receive a paper newspaper, still read books in hardback, and only relatively recently became comfortable with texting. My children show them how to use their iPhones, and I set up their iTunes accounts for them.

On the flip side, the Internet seems intuitive to my children, who can make PowerPoint presentations as good as any professional, use Google when they are stuck on their math homework, and spend as many hours as I will let them watching YouTube videos of other people playing Minecraft, an activity I just cannot understand no matter how hard I try.

I am very much standing in the middle between my parents and my children when it comes to technology, one foot dipped in the waters of Instagram and Twitter and the other still stuck in the luddite mud of “In my day, we passed paper notes in class, sent real letters to penpals, and talked to each other’s faces!” When it comes to parenting, I find this middle place extremely uncomfortable, because I know what childhood and adolescence were like before the Internet, and my parenting models all came from that era.

So even though I also understand the powerful draw of the World Wide Web and social media and I participate in it enthusiastically, it scares me when it comes to my children and how it will mold and change their experience from mine. Will my children ever have their own awkward but poignant, John Hughes-worthy moments when teenagers today can have entire relationships over text messages? Would the kids in The Breakfast Club even talk to each other if they found themselves in a Saturday morning detention today, or would they spend all their time on their phones, texting their friends and tweeting about how lame it was and never actually make eye contact with one another? Would anyone today even believe that Seinfeld and friends would spend that much time talking to each other out loud about nothing?

I must admit that in its category, technology wins the prize for being the trickiest parenting challenge I have faced, right up there with infant sleep and potty training in terms of the feelings of desperation and hopelessness it can inspire at times.

On the one hand, resistance is futile: this is my children’s brave new world, and they need to know and understand all the internet highways and byways to live in it. On the other hand, my children don’t have fully-developed frontal lobes yet. I have spent a lot of time beating myself up for letting them have screens or devices, or for afternoons when I didn’t have it in me to fight the mystifying addiction to Minecraft that all of my children have acquired. The question of managing screen time and who is on what screen and how to protect those in front of the screens from things they might not un-see or un-hear is a constant, exhausting issue that frankly makes me want to go full-on Amish on all of them and throw every last blinking screen away.

But I try to be reasonable, even though I feel like I am parenting in the dark most of the time. So my husband and I set limits and negotiate them. We allow for Minecraft, because someone somewhere said it might be “good for them,” and we debate how old is old enough to have a smartphone. We make the children sit in public places when they are on devices or laptops, we look over shoulders, we check text message histories and set parental controls. We worry about their cyber footprints. We beg them not to send naked pictures of themselves to anyone, for the love of Mike. And, at the end of the day, we pray that our children won’t stumble too hard or fall too far when they inevitably trip into an Internet pothole. We wonder what a high-tech childhood will mean for our little people: will they know how to go on a first date without checking in on Facebook or posting a picture of their food on Instagram? Will it matter?

My children might never understand why I talk about the river on our morning drives, but I have decided to be gentle with myself and with them on this issue—to be okay not knowing exactly how to handle it. The truth is, my generation of parents are pioneers here, like it or not. We’re the last of the Mohicans. We can try as hard as we want to push back and to carve space into our children’s lives for treehouses and puzzles and Waldorf-style dolls, but in the end, our children will grow up with the whole world at their fingertips, courtesy of a touch screen, and they will have to learn how to find the balance between their cyber and real worlds. It is scary. I don’t think I even believe there is a “right way” to parent with technology. But acknowledging that what we are doing is unprecedented—that no study yet knows exactly what this iChildhood will look like when our children are full grown people—feels like an exhale of sorts.

I’ll keep pointing out the view, and I will hope that my children will be encouraged to look up. Maybe someday they will be moved to point it out to their own children too.


Harper to the world: We are angry, and we have adjectives

By Scott Feschuk, Maclean’s, 28 Sep, 2014

Stephen Harper gave a big speech this week as Parliament returned. Our planet is a Dangerous Place, he said. But not to worry—the Conservative government is here to help good triumph over evil.

How are they going to do it? Mostly with the awesome power of their words.

In his speech, the Prime Minister had a lot of harsh words for a lot of people. Harsh words for the Russian president. Harsh words for Islamic State fundamentalists. Harsh words for those who would oppose Israel, or fail to sufficiently support Israel, or ever raise any question about Israel. (Imagine how irked he’d be at those who’d dare misspell Israel.)

Responding to overseas conflict, Harper’s declarations were amped up and unequivocal. This, for example: “We will not rest until the people of Ukraine are free to choose their own destiny.” But let’s be honest with ourselves: We’re resting. Plenty of talk, some sanctions, but otherwise: totally resting.

Would we like Ukraine to be free? You bet. Are we willing to fire off some high-calibre adjectives? Absolutely. But let’s not pretend Vladimir Putin is standing over a military map, pushing his pieces around and thinking to himself: “I seek the prize of Crimea—but dammit, those feisty Canadians are holding the northern front with an entire battalion of empty threats!”

Name a global clash and Harper’s rhetoric is usually outsized. His tangible response? Not so much. Islamic State fundamentalists are “evil” and “vile” and represent a grave menace … so Canada is sending a very small number of troops overseas for a very brief period of time to not do any fighting because they’re there only to advise. Welp, you had a good run, terrorists.

Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy was famously described as: Speak softly and carry a big stick. The Harper approach strays a bit from that: Speak loudly and DID I MENTION SPEAKING LOUDLY??

But it’s not as if Stephen Harper is fighting these battles only with words. Not at all. This Conservative government has demonstrated that it is prepared to confront the global villains of our time with another tactic: standing.

According to the PM, Canada will stand with the people of Israel. We will stand alongside the people of Ukraine. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with countries that share our values.

But sometimes things get heated and it’s not enough simply to stand. Sometimes—as a responsible nation in a world gone mad—we have no choice but to stand in a particular way. For instance, Harper recently pledged that Canada would stand alongside Ukraine with “unblinking resistance”—which, to be honest, sounds pretty tricky. Under these terms, I would personally be able to stand alongside Ukraine for no more than 25 seconds. Less, if I have to sneeze.

Yet it’s not only about how Canada is standing. It’s about how Canada is not standing.

According to the PM’s recent speeches, Canada “will not stand idly by” while Islamic State extremists exercise their poisonous ideology. We “will not stand idly by” while Putin threatens Ukraine. We “will not stand idly by” as Israel fights to preserve its very existence.

Got that, Canada? No idle standing. Next time we hear a terrorist splinter group or power-mad zealot bent on world destabilization coming down the hall—everyone look busy!

So Stephen Harper has his words. And he has at his disposal any number of ways of standing. But any idiot knows you can’t save the world with just words and standing. You need something else. You need flags.

Luckily, the Harper government is lousy with flags. There were three Canadian flags behind the PM at his speech this week. I’m not saying one of the flags was comically oversized, but it made the fireplace in Citizen Kane look like an Easy-Bake Oven.

Flags send a message. In university, they say, “Hi, I am hiding a hole that was punched in the wall in a drunken rage.” In modern politics, they say, “Look at me—I’m the best at being patriotic! Watch as I project global credibility through the raw power of nylon!”

Meanwhile, on the very day Harper gave his speech, it was reported that technicians working on a Canadian military aircraft were so strapped for spare parts that they yanked some still-working pieces out of an ancient plane on display at the National Air Force Museum.

Flags. Standing. Words. And the very latest in 1960s navigational technology. Pity any nation that would dare stand against us.


US poised to become world’s leading liquid petroleum producer

By Ed Crooks in New York and Anjli Raval in London, Financial Times, September 29, 2014

The US is overtaking Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of liquid petroleum, in a sign of how its booming oil production has reshaped the energy sector.

US production of oil and related liquids such as ethane and propane was neck-and-neck with Saudi Arabia in June and again in August at about 11.5m barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency, the watchdog backed by rich countries.

With US production continuing to boom, its output is set to exceed Saudi Arabia’s this month or next for the first time since 1991.

Riyadh has stressed that the rise of the US should not detract from its own critical role in oil markets. It says it has the ability to increase its output by 2.5m b/d if needed to balance supply and demand.

However, even Saudi officials do not deny that the rise of the US to become the world’s largest petroleum producer—with an even greater lead if its biofuel output of about 1m b/d is included—has played a vital role in stabilising markets.

Global crude prices have fallen in the past two years, in spite of the turmoil in Syria and Iraq, fighting in Libya and Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.

Over that period, the growth in US production of more than 3.5m b/d has almost equalled the entire increase in world oil supplies.

The US industry has been transformed by the shale revolution, with advances in the techniques of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling enabling the exploitation of oilfields, particularly in Texas and North Dakota, that were long considered uncommercial.

Rising oil and gas production has caused the US trade deficit in energy to shrink, and prompted a wave of investment in petrochemicals and other related industries.

It is also having an impact on global security. Imports are expected to provide just 21 per cent of US liquid fuel consumption next year, down from 60 per cent in 2005.

Although that decreased import dependence has not led the US to disengage from the Middle East, it has encouraged calls for a reduced military commitment to the region.

China’s emergence as a larger oil importer than the US has increased its interest in the Middle East, reflected in the first visit by a Chinese warship to Iran this week.


All Aboard the ‘Corruptour’ for a Glimpse of Mexico’s Graft

Reuters, Sept. 30, 2014

Visitors looking to explore the dark side of Mexico’s northern industrial city of Monterrey board a striking blue bus, painted with the faces of local politicians alongside pigs and rats clutching bags of money.

The bus stops at 10 city landmarks while a recording plays, detailing how public money has been allegedly misspent and siphoned off at these places—the government palace, state congress and other public buildings.

This is the “Corruptour”, set up by the Mexican anti-graft organisation Via Ciudadana in one of Latin America’s most affluent cities to expose the abuse of power and misuse of public funds that is rife in Mexico and goes largely unpunished.

The group hopes the tour will mobilise Mexicans to hold elected to account and take action against graft.

“The bus tour aims to fight indifference and wake people up and show them… with clear examples the impact corruption has,” Miguel Trevino, a Via Ciudadana leader and Corruptour organiser, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Monterrey.

“When you ask people what their top concerns are, they’ll answer violence, unemployment and the state of the economy, instead of corruption. But we believe corruption is a national problem, the root cause of our problems and one that is linked to violence.”

The free one-hour-long tour, which kicked off just weeks ago, is already a sellout, attracting mostly Mexicans living in and around Monterrey, as well as tourists and local media from across the country, he said.

The tour stops at rows of box-like miniscule homes built for poor families without proper urban planning and services, which have since been abandoned.

It also swings by the infamous Casino Royale, where 52 people died in a 2011 arson attack that police blamed on drug traffickers.

Trevino described the casino as a “monument to corruption”, where people died because exit doors were not working. He called the subsequent investigation flawed.

Mexico ranks 106 out of 177 countries in Transparency International’s 2013 index based on perceived levels of public corruption, with number one being the least corrupt.

Since taking power in 2012, Mexico’s President Pena Nieto has sent a raft of legislation to combat graft to Congress, including a bill that would create an authority to investigate political corruption.

Via Ciudadana backs constitutional reforms that would allow independent candidates to run for office as a way to clean up traditional politics.

Ahead of midterm elections in 2015—when Mexico is due to vote in its lower house, nine state governors and hundreds of local mayors—the group also hopes to spur voter disenchantment with dishonest politicians.

During the Corruptour, dirty local politicians are named and shamed, cited by their full names.

“The punishment a citizen can give them in political terms is not to vote for them again,” Trevino said.


U.S. judge holds Argentina in contempt of court

By Larry Neumeister, Associated Press, September 29, 2014

NEW YORK—A judge, calling civil contempt a rarity, ruled that Argentina was in contempt of court on Monday for its open defiance of his orders requiring that US hedge funds holding Argentine bonds be paid the roughly $1.5 billion they are owed if the majority of the South American nation’s bondholders are paid interest on their bonds.

US District Judge Thomas P. Griesa made the announcement after a lawyer for US hedge funds led by billionaire hedge fund investor Paul Singer’s NML Capital Ltd. argued that Argentina has openly defied Griesa’s court orders for more than a year. The judge reserved decision on sanctions pending further proceedings.

“What we are talking about is proposals and changes and actions that come from the executive branch of the Republic of Argentina,” the judge said.

He said repeated efforts to avoid paying US bondholders after their bonds—unlike more than 90 percent of outstanding Argentina bonds—were not traded for lesser-valued bonds in 2005 and 2010 was illegal conduct that could no longer be ignored.

“The republic in various ways has sought to avoid, to not attend to, almost to ignore this basic part of its financial obligations,” the judge said.

He said Argentina had recently taken steps to attempt to remove a New York bank as the custodian for bonds held by many of its bondholders and transfer the financial obligations to a new trustee based in Argentina.

A lawyer for the US bondholders, Robert Cohen, urged the judge to make the contempt finding and impose a $50,000 daily penalty on Argentina. He said penalties should be stiff enough that Argentina realizes it needs to change its behavior.

“It’s hard to imagine how it could get worse,” he said.


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