Movement Against Wall Street Grows

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Alexander Reed Kelly

NEW YORK—Thousands of people of all ages, races and creeds gathered beneath the jumbo-size screens and billboards in Times Square on Saturday night to demand a participatory role in American democracy, while similar protests occurred in cities throughout the world.

The demonstration was set to begin at 5 p.m., but protesters began filing in long before then. Police officers on foot, bike and horseback and in vehicles were waiting with billy clubs and zip ties and had cordoned off pedestrian walkways in the middle of the streets. Marchers from elsewhere in the city, including Liberty Plaza, which protesters have occupied since Sept. 17, seemed to arrive in waves. It was unclear what would happen as the crowd grew, and there were moments when some demonstrators called for others to gather elsewhere, including in front of Rockefeller Center, where the Fox News Channel is headquartered.

Via the human microphone—a vocal call-and-response technique used by crowds to amplify a single voice—protesters said: “We are here to celebrate the birth of a new world, a world of and by and for the 99 percent.” Others chanted in unison: “What do you do when you’re under attack? Stand up! Fight back!” A parade of “zombies” holding signs condemning “corporate cannibalism” of the American public wandered up and down 7th Avenue, with arms stretched forward, incanting the word “Brains” in a monotonous tone. Some tourists and shoppers seemed amused by the spectacle, while others fled in disgust and fear. At one moment, a well-dressed couple stepped out of a taxicab and were allowed through a police barricade. A policeman, when asked how the demonstration compared with Times Square’s annual New Year’s Eve party, where hundreds of thousands assemble to celebrate the arrival of another year, said the crowd at the yearly party was much more unruly.

Later on in the bar of the Algonquin Hotel on 44th Street, just blocks away from the lively protest, a middle-aged, self-described capitalist male spoke to a number of people—who mostly called themselves “free-market conservatives” and state-level lobbyists—about the virtues of the Occupy Wall Street movement. “This is a movement for everyone,” he said. “Everyone knows something’s wrong. You’re upset, you’ve lost your job or you’re worried about losing your job. … Who can work when they’re always worried about losing their job?”

Elsewhere, daring protesters attempted to spread the occupation of Wall Street to other parks in New York City—an effort that from the start was unlikely to succeed, given that the encampment in Zuccotti Park is possible because that property is privately owned. Many were met with police, which bewildered some of the participants because the plan to occupy those parks was supposed to have been spread among friends and confidants, rather than announced in a way that would alert authorities. —ARK

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Why Catholics Could Learn a Lot from Islam

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, sings the praises of Ramadan – and reflection – to Jerome Taylor

There was a time when the country’s bishops didn’t lose much sleep over headlines. As the moral arbiters of the nation they would wade in on controversial issues, regardless of what next day’s editorials might say.

But like much of the establishment, Britain’s senior clergymen have surrounded themselves with legions of press advisers whose jobs it is to make sure their paymasters don’t put their foot in it – predominantly by keeping their heads below the parapet.

“I’m not sure he’ll say much on that,” says the press man for Archbishop Vincent Nichols when asked whether the leader of Catholics in England and Wales will broach the topic of abortion. “We’re not really keen on an ‘archbishop versus the politicians’ headline’.”

But it turns out that Archbishop Nichols does hold some rather strong opinions on Britain’s elite. “People are trying to take short cuts,” he sighs when asked about the various scandals that have rocked Westminster, the banks, the Metropolitan Police and Fleet Street. “They’re not interested in the long-term consequences as long as it’s success.

“Whether that’s reading a newspaper, trying to make the most of your time in Parliament through expenses, the police looking for quick results or the banks. There are all those commonalities.”
Nichols, a football-mad cleric from Liverpool who has risen to become the second most senior Catholic in Britain (after Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien), is an intensely media-savvy operator. Unlike Dr Rowan Williams, his Anglican opposite in Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Westminster has avoided head-on collisions with politicians since he was appointed by the Pope two years ago to lead Catholics in England and Wales.

He chooses his words carefully, making sure he is not seen to be directly attacking ministers.

One deviation is on the papal trip one year ago, which – the Archbishop reveals – was nearly sunk, not by thenegative advance publicity about sex abuse within the Catholic Church, but by a lack of political willpower once last year’s general election got under way.

“It was almost impossible to make any progress in the cooperative effort that a state visit needed,” he discloses, in his white-carpeted study behind Westminster Cathedral. “No one was making any political decisions. That was the point I was most worried.” The failure to form a government for a further 10 days compounded the pressure.

It took the Archbishop to make a veiled threat of international humiliation to the new Prime Minister to get things moving again, he says. Only after a phone conversation with David Cameron did events speed along. “I told him it will be a question of the reputation of Great Britain having issued an invitation to the Pope and then not make it happen,” says Nichols. “They came back with the appointment of Lord Patten and once that was done, we got going.”

The announcement that the Pope would make a state visit to Britain was the first big test for Nichols, after being promoted by Pope Benedict XVI from the archbishopric of Birmingham to Westminster in April 2009.

In the eyes of the Vatican, that visit exactly one year ago, was a storming success, despite the negativity ahead of it. The papacy had been battered by months of headlines as new sex abuse allegations broke out across the Catholic Church, with questions over Benedict’s pre-papal role as head of the Vatican body in charge of upholding the church’s moral and doctrinal purity. In Britain there was also widespread concern about the spiralling costs of the visit. But when Benedict finally stepped foot on British soil he was largely embraced.

“The attitude in the country today towards religious faith is not the same as it was a year ago,” claims Archbishop Nichols, who is in line for a promotion to Cardinal once his predecessor, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, turns 80 next year and loses his Vatican voting rights.

“I think to some extent the Pope demythologised some of people’s fears – the innate British suspicion of anything Roman Catholic and of the Pope as a position. I think that was profoundly changed when they saw the man himself.”

It was partly the Archbishop’s ability to avoid controversy – and weather the storms when they arrive – that encouraged Pope Benedict to promote him.

Some might see his careful answers as a missed opportunity to hold politics up to a higher level of moral scrutiny. Others say it is a sensible approach to a world where a controversial soundbite can easily overshadow the wider message.

On abortion, Archbishop Nichols’ message is one of carefully worded support for the MP Nadine Dorries, and her amendment on independent abortion counsellors. “In the eyes of the Catholic Church abortion is a tragedy,” he says in a voice that still bears a hint of his Liverpool upbringing. “Our principle objective must be to try and win greater sympathy for that perspective and for the value of human life from its beginnings.

“In that sense independent counselling would appear to be reasonable. But our main principle would be the nature of abortion itself and that it is an act that destroys human life and is difficult to bear, not only for the person who has the abortion.”

And on the recent rioting, Archbishop Nichols, whose flock play a prominent role within Britain’s prisons as spiritual and practical rehabilitators, says that those rioters who feel aggrieved by harsh sentencing from judges and magistrates will have to wait their turn in the appeal courts.

“I think its right to make a distinction between isolated acts of criminality and what happened during a serious civil disorder,” he says. “If the judiciary has got it wrong, that is what the appeal system is for.”

To mark the one year anniversary of the papal visit, the Archbishop has asked Catholics to re-embrace the sacrament of penance and, specifically, giving something up on a Friday. Traditionally European Catholics might forgo eating meat at the end of the week and that is something Archbishop Nichols would like to see more of. “At a personal human level we are having to work out what we can do without because we can’t in these times afford everything we want,” he explains. “That can be combined with a sense of solidarity and help for those who are really genuinely poor.
“So in the Catholic tradition the idea of giving something up on a Friday – the act of self denial – has always been tied with being generous to those in need.”

Ramadan, a whole month of fasting and giving to the poor, recently ended for Muslims. Is that something Christians could do more to emulate?

“You’re right to point to the Muslim community,” Nichols replies. “What many of our bishops say is that young people today – who are much more exposed and sensitive to the Muslim practice of fasting – are ready for a challenge and want a challenge by which they can be identified.” It is those youngsters who have faith that will be the lifeblood of the Church if it is to survive the ever growing secularisation of our society.

“In many ways the young are more religiously minded than the older generations,” he says. “I think it’s the flip side of an age of individualism. Youngsters are not afraid to tell you what they think, to express their faith and be quite exuberant about it. We were much more reticent and probably a bit more troubled by issues of conformity than they are.”

Independent.co.uk The Web

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Georgia Hoopster Gets His First College Letter

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

ScreenShot146Atlanta area boys’ high school basketball player Tahj Shamsid Deen won’t be graduating until 2013. But he can already rest assured that he is wanted. This week received his first college scholarship offer, and it was from the prestigious academic institution Northwestern University in Chicago. Not bad for a 15-year-old kid who stands at only 5 foot 8 inches and 160 pounds. And Northwestern is not alone, as basketball powerhouse programs Connecticut, Florida, and Memphis are reportedly also interested in the young man.

“He’s a 50-year-old midget,” says his high school coach, Columbia High’s Phil McCrary, “It speaks to his maturity level. He thinks way beyond his age,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s a compliment, not at all meant in a derogatory way. It’s just that most kids his age make simple and minor mistakes on the floor. It’s rare for Tahj because he’s more mature than most of the point guards he plays against.”

He added, “How many 15-year-olds do you know that are constantly looking up at the clock, knowing the situation they are in? How many always know where to go with the basketball? Know when to shoot? When to slow it down? And when to take over a game? All that stuff, Tahj has already learned. That’s why I call him a ‘50-year-old midget’ because his knowledge is way beyond his age.”

ESPN.com rates Tahj as the 37th best point guard in the nation in the class of 2013 and offers the following scouting report: Tahj pushes the ball with good pace in transition and displays the ability to hit the stop and pop mid range pull up around the foul line. Shamsid-Deen is a lefty with a smooth stroke. He can hit the open three and runner in the lane as well. Shamsid-Deen has a tight handle and does a good job of drive, drawing and kicking to open teammates when he draws a second defender. He can pressure the ball with his excellent lateral foot speed and quick hands as well. Tahj must add strength and continue to develop his game but Shamsid-Deen is definitely on to keep a close eye on this spring and summer.This young lead guard had some very impressive possessions. He competes and plays with confidence. He also does a nice job of running the offense and keeping the team organized.

And to top it off, Tahj is a stellar student as well. He already posted a qualifying SAT score for college while only in the seventh grade. He has nearly a 4.0 GPA in high school and is a finalist for the Governor’s Cup in math. Inshallah there are big things in store for this little fellow.

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