Former President Bill Clinton appears to be playing a game that is calculated to embarrass the current president, Barack Obama, whom it is reported he has despised since the 2008 campaign. [...]The new book about Obama, "The Amateur," was recently excerpted in the New York Post. The excerpt depicts how Clinton, fuming with rage at Obama since 2008, attempted to persuade his wife, Hillary, to challenge Obama this year. The secretary of state demurred, but the account illustrates the lengths to which Clinton would go to exact revenge on the president.And well he might. It is not just the humiliations Obama visited on Hillary Clinton during the last campaign that has enraged the former president. While the Clinton presidency was entertaining from a tabloid standpoint, it was mostly a successful one, especially when Newt Gingrich became speaker of the House in the 1994 takeover of Congress and thus provided some much-needed adult supervision. Clinton sees the ruin that Obama has caused the country and the Democratic Party, and must wail and gnash his teeth at night.
FOR decades, scientific research has shown that annual physical exams -- and many of the screening tests that routinely accompany them -- are in many ways pointless or (worse) dangerous, because they can lead to unneeded procedures. The last few years have produced a steady stream of new evidence against the utility of popular tests:Prostate specific antigen blood tests to detect prostate cancer? No longer recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.Routine EKGs? No use.Yearly Pap smears? Nope. (Every three years.)So why do Americans, nearly alone on the planet, remain so devoted to the ritual physical exam and to all of these tests, and why do so many doctors continue to provide them? Indeed, the last decade has seen a boom in what hospitals and health care companies call "executive physicals" -- batteries of screening exams for apparently healthy people, purporting to ferret out hidden disease with the zeal of Homeland Security officers searching for terrorists.
Police in France are investigating two claimed sightings of a Canadian porn actor wanted in connection to a gruesome murder in Montreal. [...]An investigation was launched on Tuesday after officers found a man's torso in a suitcase behind Magnotta's apartment building in Montreal. A severed foot was then discovered in a package posted to the Conservative Party headquarters in Ottawa.A hand was found in a separate package at a postal facility, addressed to the Liberal party of Canada.It later emerged that a graphic 10-minute film, apparently of the killing, had been posted on amateur horror sites.The footage showed a man stabbing a naked victim with an ice-pick, and then performing sexual acts. It also showed the dismemberment of the corpse while the song True Faith by New Order played in the background.
The president who started off with such dazzle now seems incapable of stimulating either the economy or the voters. His campaign is offering Obama 2012 car magnets for a donation of $10; cat collars reading "I Meow for Michelle" for $12; an Obama grill spatula for $40, and discounted hoodies and T-shirts. How the mighty have fallen.Once glowing, his press is now burning. "To a very real degree, 2008's candidate of hope stands poised to become 2012's candidate of fear," John Heilemann wrote in New York magazine, noting that because Obama feels he can't run on his record, his campaign will resort to nuking Romney.In his new book, "A Nation of Wusses," the Democrat Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania, wonders how "the best communicator in campaign history" lost his touch.The legendary speaker who drew campaign crowds in the tens of thousands and inspired a dispirited nation ended up nonchalantly delegating to a pork-happy Congress, disdaining the bully pulpit, neglecting to do any L.B.J.-style grunt work with Congress and the American public, and ceding control of his narrative.As president, Obama has never felt the need to explain or sell his signature pieces of legislation -- the stimulus and health care bills -- or stanch the flow of false information from the other side."The administration lost the communications war with disastrous consequences that played out on Election Day 2010," Rendell writes, and Obama never got credit for the two pieces of legislation where he reached for greatness.The president had lofty dreams of playing the great convener and conciliator. But at a fund-raiser in Minneapolis, he admitted he's just another combatant in a capital full of Hatfields and McCoys. No compromises, just nihilism.
A program that puts billions of dollars in the pockets of farmers whether or not they plant a crop may disappear with hardly a protest from farm groups and the politicians who look out for their interests.The Senate is expected to begin debate this week on a five-year farm and food aid bill that would save $9.3 billion by ending direct payments to farmers and replacing them with subsidized insurance programs for when the weather turns bad or prices go south.The details are still to be worked out. But there's rare agreement that fixed annual subsidies of $5 billion a year for farmers are no longer feasible in this age of tight budgets and when farmers in general are enjoying record prosperity. [...]The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee last month approved a bill that would save $23 billion over the next decade by ending direct payments and consolidating other programs. The bill would strengthen the subsidized crop insurance program and create a program to compensate farmers for smaller, or "shallow," revenue losses, based on a five-year average, for acres actually planted.
In 2008, Barack Obama took aim at the "pew gap," the overwhelming Republican edge among voters who regularly attend church.The Democratic presidential nominee came nowhere near closing it, but he didn't have to. He just needed an extra percentage point or two among traditional GOP constituents, and he got it.The Democratic National Committee is promising a repeat performance in 2012. But some religious leaders and scholars who backed Obama in 2008 are skeptical. They say the Democrats have, through neglect and lack of focus, squandered the substantial gains they made with religious moderates and worry it will hurt Obama in a tight race against Republican Mitt Romney. [...]In 2008, the Obama campaign sought ways to cooperate with religious moderates and conservatives and make them feel more welcome among Democrats. Many political veterans dismissed the idea as quixotic. For the past decade or so, exit polls have found that the more often a voter attends church, the more likely he was to back a conservative candidate, earning the GOP the nickname "God's Own Party."The Obama campaign built grassroots support among religious voters by organizing "faith house parties," sending Roman Catholic and evangelical surrogates on the campaign trail, and holding faith caucus meetings at the party's national convention. Cooper remembers a conference call the campaign organized with Democrats who opposed abortion rights and a position paper the campaign circulated from a Catholic theologian about reducing the need for abortion.According to exit polls, the effort paid off. Obama made gains over the 2004 nominee, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, with voters who attend religious services more than once a week, 43 percent to 35 percent. Obama also won 26 percent of the evangelical vote, compared with 21 percent for Kerry."It wasn't huge, but it was statistically significant," said John Green, director of the University of Akron's Bliss Institute for Applied Politics. Religious Democrats began to talk of a new era for the party.
Obama's declaration of support for same-sex marriage has African-American communities up in arms. Many African-Americans live in a culture that values strong masculine figures and looks down on homosexuality. "We've been taught that the institution of slavery 'stripped us' of our manhood, and we have to maintain what's left," African-American writer Charles Stephens wrote for the Huffington Post in March following incidents of anti-gay violence within the African-American community.And few things have greater influence on African-American sensibilities than churches, which serve as centers of community life for many African-Americans. Twenty-two percent of black Americans attend church services more than once a week -- twice as often as white Americans. Many put their faith in what their pastors say and what is written in the Bible, including the statement that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.Obama did everything possible to minimize the damage he knew his decision would cause. Immediately after his declaration, the president made calls to eight African-American pastors, including Otis Moss Jr., father of Otis Moss III and a colleague of Martin Luther King Jr.Still, Obama met with fierce criticism, even from those who had previously supported him. Pastor Dwight McKissic from Arlington, Texas, declared, "Obama has betrayed the Bible." Pastor William Owens from Memphis, Tennessee, decried what he described as "the homosexual community hijacking the civil rights movement," adding, "I did not choose to be black, and you did not choose to be white -- and homosexuals make a choice to be homosexual. So why compare what we went through with your situation? It's not the same thing; there's no comparison."Owens is now threatening to sabotage Obama's re-election, and he and many other ministers are using their Sunday sermons to oppose Obama's support for same-sex marriage. Owens has founded an interest group of 13 African-American pastors in Tennessee to take action against Obama. They're determined to deny Obama their votes if he doesn't recant.
...is the Whiggishness of History. Thus they convince themselves that an essentially Republican president is a gay Muslim Socialist.Chambers recalls that he was originally drawn to communism for its two main promises, change and hope:The tie that binds [communists] across the frontiers of nations, across barriers of language and differences of class and education, in defiance of religion, morality, truth, law, honor, the weaknesses of the body, and the irresolutions of the mind, even unto death, is a simple conviction: It is necessary to change the world. . . .It is the same power that moves mountains; it is also an unfailing power to move men. It is not new. . . .Its promise was whispered in the first days of the Creation under the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: "Ye shall be as gods." [It is] the vision of Man without God.He continues: "[Communism] had one ultimate appeal. In place of desperation, it set the word: hope. . . .In the twentieth century, it seemed impossible to have hope on any other terms."Observing an interwar world that was "without faith, hope, [or] character," Chambers embraced the change and hope offered by communism as a "choice against death and for life." But in subsequent years, he cast off "the whole web of the materialist modern mind. . .paralyzing in the name of rationalism the instinct of [man's soul] for God." He realized that in choosing secular statism and collectivism for ostensibly virtuous and noble reasons, he had chosen the very thing whose essential nihilism made virtue and human dignity impossible.Chambers argues that a "man is not primarily a witness against something. That is only incidental to the fact that he is a witness for something. A witness, in the sense that I am using the word, is a man whose life and faith are so completely one that when the challenge comes to step out and testify for his faith, he does so, disregarding all risks, accepting all consequences."That's one reason he became a powerful witness against all forms of materialism, in favor of God and life, of the nature and value of the human person. He witnessed, not through political participation in the usual channels (though he does vote), but by denouncing the inhuman political system spawned by Marxism and then testifying against an existential threat to the best of what American political institutions once represented.When Chambers decided to break from communism, he believed he was joining the losing side. While he shared much of the philosophy of American conservatives, he did not join in their sometimes sunny optimism. His viewed the West as in decline, though he believed strongly in the underlying truths of Western beliefs and ideas. Those truths are ultimately the source and object of his witness, of what made that witness right regardless of the odds against its success.In the end, although he made both his living and his lasting contributions through writing and editing, his great loves were his faith, his family, and the labor and land of his farm. He maintained a great trust in the American people - most of them - despite his skepticism about what American institutions and elites had become.
But among the most radical innovations of doctrine that sprang from Vatican II was the "Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions," typically known by its Latin title Nostra Aetate, or "In Our Age." Included in the declaration was a forthright condemnation of anti-Semitism and a revised official teaching on the Jews. The Church decried "hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone." While it allowed for the historical claim that a portion of the Jews in the time of Christ had called for his death, it warned that the crucifixion could not be blamed on all Jews without distinction and across all time. No longer accursed by God, and absolved of any collective responsibility for the death of Christ, the Jewish people were now embraced as the "stock of Abraham" (stirps Abrahae). Most astonishing of all, the Church also affirmed that "God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers" and that "He does not repent of the gifts He makes"--a phrase that seems to allow for the continued validity of Judaism alongside Christianity.To understand how this transformation came about, an inquiry into pure theology is necessary but not sufficient. The story is too thick with ironies and politics, and it demands a patient and open-minded reconstruction of ideological quarrels that embroiled the Roman Catholic Church during its darkest and most shameful years of compromise. This is a task undertaken with admirable equipoise by John Connelly, a historian of Central and East-Central Europe, in his remarkable new book. It is not a pleasant tale. Connelly resists the temptation of Whiggish self-congratulation that would make Vatican II appear as a foreordained conclusion, driven forward by nothing else than the Church's soul-searching and its turn to the higher light of its own universalist ideals.The truth is that the Church did not reform itself without struggle. Even today many Church officials still lapse into modes of Christian triumphalism and implicit anti-Judaism that were supposed to have been corrected decades ago. Indeed, it is one of the central lessons of Connelly's book that the bonds of empathy that made Nostra Aetate a historical possibility are far more fragile, and less expansive, than one might care to imagine. The detailed history of its genesis reveals a singular fact: most of the architects of the Catholic statement concerning the Jews in 1965 were themselves, either by descent or practice or public definition, Jews who had converted to Christianity. A handful were Protestants. The drama of this discovery deserves emphasis (the italics are Connelly's): "Without converts the Catholic Church would not have found a new language to speak to the Jews after the Holocaust."This is indeed a bitter and complicating truth. The history of Nostra Aetate, writes Connelly, may stand as an instructive lesson on both "the sources but also the limits of solidarity." A certain tone of disillusionment pervades the book--as if the historian could not wholly abandon the ahistorical (and perhaps religious) expectation that the Church should have lived up to its own ideals. "Christians are called upon to love all humans regardless of national or ethnic background," Connelly avers, "but when it came to the Jews, it was the Christians whose family members were Jews who keenly felt the contempt contained in traditional Catholic teaching."
Less flashy technology, though, could make the biggest difference by reducing the number of crises which require a doctor's intervention. Marta Pettit works on a programme to manage chronic conditions that is run from Montefiore Medical Centre, the largest hospital system in the Bronx, a New York borough. Ms Pettit and a squadron of other "care co-ordinators" examine a stream of data gathered from health records and devices in patients' homes, such as the Health Buddy. Made by Bosch, a German engineering company, the Health Buddy asks patients questions about their symptoms each day. If a diabetic's blood sugar jumps, or a patient with congestive heart failure shows a sudden weight gain, Ms Pettit calls the patient and, if necessary, alerts her superior, a nurse.Other tasks are simpler, but no less important. Montefiore noticed that one old woman was not seeing her doctor because she was scared of crossing the Grand Concourse, a busy road in the Bronx. So Montefiore found a new doctor on her side of the Concourse. Together, such measures make a difference. Diabetics' trips to hospital plunged by 30% between 2006 and 2010; their costs dropped by 12%. [...]America has led the world in developing the roles of nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Other, less trained workers are proliferating there too. The number of "diagnostic medical sonographers", who have two years of training, is expected to jump by 44% between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. Yet productivity still falls. This seems to be because new ways of doing things, and of managing health teams, have not kept pace--and are still under the control of doctors.The doctors' power rests on their professional prestige rather than managerial acumen, for which they are neither selected nor trained. But it is a power that they wish to keep. The Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania, a regional group of doctors' lobbies, wants "task-shifting" limited to emergencies. Japan's medical lobby has vehemently opposed the creation of nurse practitioners. India's proposal for a rural cadre outraged the country's medical establishment, and legislation to create the three-and-a-half-year degree has gone nowhere.In 2010 America's respected Institute of Medicine (IOM) called for nurses to play a greater role in primary care. Among other barriers, nurses face wildly different constraints from one state to another. But any change will first require swaying the doctors. The American Medical Association, the main doctors' lobby, greeted the IOM's report with a veiled snarl. "Nurses are critical to the health-care team, but there is no substitute for education and training," the group said in a statement.
Boiled down to its essentials, Hoover's argument justifies not American isolationism, but hemispheric defense in preparation for a well-timed diplomatic, economic, and military entry into a world compelled to listen to what America has to say. The strategy reprises some of President Woodrow Wilson's strategy in his first administration: staying out of the European war; allowing the combatants to become exhausted; then working toward a (now-feasible) League to Enforce Peace composed of republican regimes. Immanuel Kant's famous 1795 essay, "Perpetual Peace," formulated a similar approach. Unlike some of the America Firsters, Hoover contemplated a considerable expansion of American influence in the world--but not at the price of a world-warring prelude.Could Hoover's vision have worked in practice? Like the American and French revolutions before them, the Soviet and Nazi revolutions led to military expansion--but this time in the same quarter-century and on the same continent. Thus "Fascism and Communism were bound to clash and produce a world explosion." Because the ideas animating both revolutionary regimes were evil, "and evil ideas contain the germs of their own defeat," as Hoover saw it, "the day will come when these nations are sufficiently exhausted to listen to the military, economic and moral powers of the United States." Americans should stay out of the war while arming ourselves "to the teeth," ready to defend the Western Hemisphere in the unlikely event that a clear victor emerged in Europe. The underlying moral principle of Hoover's policy was that "American lives should be sacrificed only for independence or to prevent the invasion of the Western Hemisphere." He believed that "to align American ideals alongside Stalin will be as great a violation of everything American as to align ourselves with Hitler," and that "the aftermath of the war would be revolution and world-wide extension of communism, not democracy."
Mishal Husain:I'd like to address the central issue that many people in this room, and many people generally have with the Shari'a, which is the sense of disquiet, distaste, maybe even disgust at what they hear about Shari'a in parts of the Muslim world and the suggestion that it is already being used in this country--and some people would like to see it used more in this country--and the unsettling effect that that has on many in mainstream society here; I mean, is this a system that has merit?
Sadakat Kadri:Well, I mean, there's crucial distinction that has to be drawn between the Shari'a, which is this hugely expansive vision of cosmic order that I've been describing, and principles of Islamic law, known in Arabic as "Fiqh"--a word that means understanding. If you're a devout Muslim, you don't argue against the Shari'a; the Shari'a is the path that God has laid down. But what you can do, and what people are doing all the time, is arguing over the correct interpretation of the Shari'a, arguing over the Fiqh. That's something that has been going on throughout Islamic history. The first rules about Islamic law weren't even written down for a century and a half after the Prophet's death, and it was another five centuries, half a millennium, before they assumed anything like a definitive form. So there have always been huge arguments over what Islamic law actually requires. There are four main schools of law in Sunni thought and there's a separate school of law in Shia thought, so these arguments do take place. But I guess we can boil it down saying that people have disquiet about things like chopping the hands of thieves off, which is laid down in the Qur'an, there's no denying that. Stoning adulterers to death--that's not, interestingly enough, laid down in the Qur'an--the penalty laid down in the Qur'an is one hundred lashes, but it was subsequently developed as a rule by jurists in years after the death of the Prophet that actually the Qur'an, while none of them would have said the Qur'an was wrong on that point, would have said, well, the fact that there's no revelation doesn't mean that you shouldn't stone adulterers to death.
In parentheses on that point, even though the Qur'an among non-Muslims has this reputation for being a violent book in the context of criminal justice, if one actually looks at the criminal justice provisions, there are only four criminal offenses laid down in the entire Qur'an. Apostasy isn't made punishable, blasphemy isn't made punishable. There are four criminal offenses, there is no mandatory death penalty in the Qur'an. The death penalty is referred to twice in the Qur'an, once for the crime of Heraba, which is waging war against God and his prophet, which was always understood to mean highway robbery, and then there's the replication of the Torah rule, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, which is dependent upon the wishes of a victim. Now that's a seventh-century rule. A basic point, which I deal with in my book, is that we're talking about a seventh-century system of justice here, and clearly I'm a human rights person. I've defended plenty of thieves in my time and I'm not going to suddenly start saying that we should start chopping thieves' hands off. I think that these rules have to be updated to take into account the fact that 1,400 years have elapsed since the revelation.
Mishal Husain:That's a very controversial point.
Sadakat Kadri:It is a controversial point.
Mishal Husain:The idea of updating is actually something that's never happened with the body of Islamic law and with Islamic teaching over the centuries.
Sadakat Kadri:Well, that's not strictly true. As far back as the ninth century you had a group called the Mu'tazilite who, I won't get into the big theological discussions, but basically there was a big argument in the ninth century in Baghdad about whether or not the Qur'an had always existed or whether it was created by God. And the argument was set off by esoteric arguments which had themselves been set off by the reception of Greek philosophy in Persia and Aristotelian ideas about the primary attributes of God and secondary attributes of God. The Mu'tazilite basically said, look, if you're a monotheist, you have to believe that God existed independent of himself before the Qur'an, so the Qur'an was clearly created. And there were traditionalist opponents of them who said, no, no, that's not right, look at the words of the Qur'an, the Qur'an says that it's an eternal book, so it's always been there.
Now that does sound like a really esoteric argument, but basically it's got crucial significance, because if the Qur'an was created, it means that it was given voice to by God at a specific moment in history, and if that was the case, then it's meaning will change over time. And that argument was battled over in the ninth century. Sunni Islam doesn't take the Mu'tazilite view. Sunni Islam is hostile to that idea, admittedly, that the Qur'an's meaning can change over time. But the Shia have always adopted the Mu'tazilite view that the Qur'an's meaning can change over time and that's why Shia Islam is significantly more flexible than Sunni.
ONE day, when my children are a little older, I will gather them close and I will tell them about how I lived through the Great Format Wars.I will recount to them a seemingly endless cycle of battles. From LP to cassette to minidisk (oh wait -- not to minidisk) to CD. From Betamax to VHS to DVD to HD-DVD to Blu-ray. From punchcards to magnetic tape to floppy disks to zip drives to DVD-ROMs.Some were dirty little skirmishes, like the Eight-Track Incursion of the late 1960s. But, oh, there are epic tales to be told as well: How my children's hearts will leap and dive (assuming they are not the kind to be bored to distraction by what Dad is droning on about) as they hear about VHS and Betamax, each bringing the other ever closer to oblivion, and how only one of them left the battlefield -- only to fall victim to a far nimbler opponent, DVD, which was waiting in the wings.And my children will hear of this and be amazed (see assumption above), for they know nothing of this kind of conflict. They will grow up in a world where physical storage of information is as outdated as rotary-dial telephones and mimeograph machines are now.Indeed, they already live in that world, even if vestiges of the old remain (turntables, for example). We older people can enjoy this new world as well, what with streaming music and video services, cloud-based storage options and social networks that easily absorb our photos and ephemera. We may be hardened by battles past, but our future is digital, wireless, ubiquitous and, we hope, pacific. Here's what it looks like.
On March 12, 1958, the Royals were playing their season finale, against the Minneapolis Lakers. Stokes went over the shoulder of an opponent and hit his head on the floor so hard that he was knocked out. In those days, teams had no trainers, much less doctors, and scant knowledge of head injuries. He continued to play.Three days later, Stokes, who was 24, went into a coma. When he came out of it, he could not move or talk. The diagnosis was brain damage. Stokes, whose family lived in Pittsburgh, had to stay in Cincinnati to be eligible for workers' compensation."Maurice was on his own," Twyman told The New York Post in 2008. "Something had to be done and someone had to do it. I was the only one there, so I became that someone."Twyman always insisted that any teammate would have done the same. Others saw something special. On the occasion of Stokes's death in 1970, the sports columnist Arthur Daley of The New York Times wrote that he saw "nobility and grandeur" in Twyman's actions, likening him to the biblical good Samaritan."What gives it a quality of extra warmth," he wrote, "is the pigmentation of the two principals." Stokes was black, Twyman white.John Kennedy Twyman, the son of a steel company foreman, was born in Pittsburgh on May 21, 1934, and grew up playing against Stokes in summer leagues. Twyman went to the University of Cincinnati and Stokes to St. Francis College (now University) in Loretto, Pa. Their teams met in the semifinals of the 1954 National Invitation Tournament, and Twyman outscored Stokes, 27-26."I never let him forget about that," Twyman told The Post.Both were genuine stars. Stokes, at 6 feet 7 inches and 232 pounds, was the N.B.A. rookie of the year in 1956. The next year he set a league rebounding record, and he became a three-time All-Star. The Boston Celtics star Bob Cousy called him "the first great, athletic power forward."Twyman was a skinny 6-6 forward who in 11 seasons with the Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) was a six-time All-Star.He shot 45 percent over his career, and when he retired in 1966 he trailed only Chamberlain in points scored, with 15,840. In their record-setting season of averaging more than 30 points a game, Chamberlain edged Twyman, 32.1 to 31.2. Twyman's 59-point game came with the Royals against the Minneapolis Lakers on Jan. 15, 1960.
As the West sought to pressure the Kremlin recently to help stop the killing in Syria, diplomats from Damascus were ushered into the heart of one of Russian Orthodoxy's main shrines.Opening an exhibition devoted to Syrian Christianity in a cathedral near the Kremlin, they commiserated with Russian priests and theologians about their shared anxiety: What would happen if Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, was forced from power?It is clear by now that Russia's government has dug in against outside intervention in Syria, its longtime partner and last firm foothold in the Middle East. Less well known is the position taken by the Russian Orthodox Church, which fears that Christian minorities, many of them Orthodox, will be swept away by a wave of Islamic fundamentalism unleashed by the Arab Spring.