Category: Opinion

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'New Age' beliefs more popular? Fewer follow traditional religions…


The growing popularity of “New Age” beliefs likely stems in part from fewer Americans following traditional religions, according to political analyst Ruy Teixeira.

“The data suggests this is the fastest growing religious group in America, are people who don’t hold any firm religious beliefs,” Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said Wednesday on Hill.TV’s “What America’s Thinking.”

“Perhaps these New Age beliefs are in a sense, at least partially, a reflection of more and more people not having an orthodox religious set of beliefs,” he added.

Teixeira was discussing a recent Pew Research Center poll that found 62 Americans hold New Age beliefs, such as astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in trees or mountains.

Seventy-eight percent of those who held at least one New Age belief said they did not affiliate with any particular religion.

The survey also found that those who identify as Christian were more likely than atheists and agnostics to hold at least one New Age belief.

Sixty-one percent of respondents who identified as Christian said they held at least one New Age belief, compared with 22 percent of atheists and 56 percent of agnostics who said the same. 

Sixty-seven percent of mainline Protestants, 47 percent of evangelicals and 70 percent of Catholics said they believed in a New Age belief. 

— Julia Manchester



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Teases new social media site…



Teases new social media site...

(Third column, 12th story, link)


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Obama rips Trump, GOP in fiery speeches…


DETROIT (AP) — Former President Barack Obama criticized President Donald Trump’s tenure in office Friday in fiery speeches in Milwaukee and Detroit that took aim at him and other Republicans for “making stuff up.”

The speeches were among Obama’s sharpest and most direct takedowns of Trump’s presidency, although the former president was careful to not mention Trump by name. He said the “character of our country is on the ballot” in the first midterm election since Trump took office.

Obama cited a recent Trump comment that he would pass a tax cut before the November election. Obama then told the crowds in high school gymnasiums that “Congress isn’t even in session before the election! He just makes it up!”

At one point Obama said in Wisconsin: “Here’s the thing. Everything I say you can look up.”

Obama’s visits were to urge people to vote for Michigan and Wisconsin’s Democratic candidates. While Trump was frequently the target of his criticism, he did not spare Republicans generally and said they are lying when they say they want to protect people with pre-existing conditions while trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“What we have not seen before in our public life is politicians just blatantly, repeatedly, baldly, shamelessly, lying. Just making stuff up,” Obama said. “Calling up, down. Calling black, white. That’s what your governor is doing with these ads, just making stuff up,” he said, referring to Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his assertions that he wants to protect health care for those with pre-existing conditions. Walker is being challenged by Democrat Tony Evers.

In Michigan, Obama credited Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer for helping to expand Medicaid and said “few people fought against it harder” than her Republican opponent, state Attorney General Bill Schuette. He said voters can trust Sen. Debbie Stabenow to protect people with pre-existing conditions because “she was there” to help pass his health law. She is facing a challenge from Republican John James, whom Obama criticized for saying he backs Trump’s agenda “2,000 percent.”

Obama used the subject of Hillary Clinton’s private email server to accuse Republicans of trying to “scare the heck out of people before every election” and also to mock Trump about the Chinese spying on his cellphone.

“In the last election, it was Hillary’s emails. ‘This is terrible’ … ‘This is a national security crisis.’ They didn’t care about emails and you know how you know? Because if they did, they’d be up in arms right now that the Chinese are listening to the president’s iPhone that he leaves in his golf cart.”

Obama spoke about the slow-moving migrant caravan from Central American bound for the United States as another example of a Republican scare tactic.

“Now the latest, they’re trying to convince everybody to be afraid of a bunch of impoverished, malnourished refugees a thousand miles away,” he said. “That’s the thing that is the most important thing in this election,” he said. “Not health care, not whether or not folks are able to retire, doing something about higher wages, rebuilding our roads and bridges and putting people back to work.”

“Suddenly,” he continued, changing his voice to a high-pitch to strike a mocking tone, “it’s these group of folks. We don’t even know where they are. They’re right down there.”

Referring to Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp,” Obama said that instead “they have gone to Washington and just plundered away.”

“In Washington they have racked up enough indictments to field a football team,” he said. “Nobody in my administration got indicted.”

Obama’s visit to Milwaukee was the first time he was in the city for a political event since March 2016, when he came to celebrate enrollment numbers in the Affordable Care Act. He did not campaign for Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, a state she narrowly lost that proved crucial to Trump becoming president.

Michigan is another battleground state in the Midwest that Democrats lost in 2016, despite Obama’s visit the day before the election.

“I’m hopeful Michigan,” he said. “I’m hopeful that despite all the noise, despite all the lies, we’re going to come through all that. We’re going to remember who we are, who we’re called to be. I’m hopeful because out of this political darkness, I’m seeing a great awakening.”

___

Moreno reported from Milwaukee.



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Network unveils plan to replace…


Megyn Kelly will remain at NBC for now, but will exit her morning show.

“‘Megyn Kelly Today’ is not returning. Next week, the 9 a.m. hour will be hosted by other ‘Today’ co-anchors,” a spokesperson told Page Six on Friday.

The disgraced anchor’s lawyer Bryan Freeman added, “Megyn remains an employee of NBC News and discussions about next steps are continuing.”

Freeman held talks with NBC execs on Friday. Page Six reported that he’d requested Ronan Farrow be present at a Friday meeting, but a source told us Farrow had no idea about it.

Other sources said that the Friday talks wound up being over the phone.

Kelly is the middle of a 3-year contract at NBC at $23 million per year.

An insider told us Kelly’s staff of nearly 200 will continue working at the 9 a.m. hour.



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SILVER: 84% DEMS TAKE HOUSE…


The third-party candidates listed represent our best approximation of who will appear on each district’s general election ballot. The candidates listed will update as each race is finalized; some listed candidates may not ultimately qualify for the general election.

This analysis treats currently vacant seats as being held by the party that previously controlled them.

Forecast models by Nate Silver. Design and development by Jay Boice, Emma Brillhart, Aaron Bycoffe, Rachael Dottle, Lauren Eastridge, Ritchie King, Ella Koeze, Andrei Scheinkman, Gus Wezerek and Julia Wolfe. Research by Dustin Dienhart, Andrea Jones-Rooy, Dhrumil Mehta, Mai Nguyen, Nathaniel Rakich, Derek Shan and Geoffrey Skelley. Notice any bugs? Send us an email.

Download national data. Download district data.



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Lack steps back…


The anchor had met with network executives to discuss covering more news and politics.

Megyn Kelly is expected to wind down her 9 a.m. Today show hour by the end of the season, a source close to the situation tells The Hollywood Reporter. 

Sources tell THR that Kelly has met with network executives in recent weeks to discuss the future of the show and expressed a desire to cover more news and politics. It’s unclear what NBC News would put in place of Kelly’s show. But the discussions are at least an acknowledgement that the experiment is not working and that Kelly would prefer to be covering more as she did with the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Kelly met with NBC News chairman Andy Lack well before the controversy over her recent blackface comments erupted. 

Kelly has grappled with hard-news topics, including the #MeToo allegations against a series of powerful men. But her show is in a typically soft daypart, and she has often seemed to chafe at the lighter requirements of the job. Her clumsy comments about blackface on Tuesday’s Megyn Kelly Today — for which she apologized — have only exacerbated the situation. 

At a town hall with NBC News employees on Wednesday, Lack expressed dismay at Kelly’s remarks in which she brushed off the inherent racism of blackface during an on-air discussion about Halloween costumes. The backlash was immediate. And the controversy was covered in a segment on the NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt and also Wednesday morning on the flagship edition of Today. 

“There is no other way to put this, but I condemn those remarks — there is no place on our air or in this workplace for them. Very unfortunate,” Lack said at the town hall. “I think that Nightly covered the story well last night and appropriately so. I think this morning on the Today show, the team did an excellent job covering it properly. I thought Craig [Melvin] and Al [Roker] brought a thoughtfulness and a context to it that was sorely missing, and they really did this company and our audience a real public service. And that is the Today show and Nightly at their very best.”

Added Lack, “As we go forward, my highest priority remains, and as we sort through this with Megyn, let there be no doubt that this is a workplace in which you need to be proud and in which we respect each other in all the ways we know is foundational to who we are.”

Kelly has been under tremendous scrutiny since jumping from Fox News to NBC in early 2017 for a salary reportedly worth close to $20 million annually. Her exit came in the wake of widespread harassment allegations that forced the late Fox News chief Roger Ailes to resign, At Fox News, Kelly had built a reputation as a prosecutorial interviewer who sparred with then-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, earning her admiration and plaudits. But observers also questioned how she would adjust to the fluffier confines of morning TV.



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Minnesota at Crossroads of Divided America…



Minnesota at Crossroads of Divided America...

(Second column, 8th story, link)


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Test Scores for Class of 2018 Lowest in DECADES…


The creators of the ACT test announced on Wednesday that scores for the class of 2018 are the worst reported in decades. Math scores, in fact, are in freefall among ACT-tested U.S. high school graduates, falling to their lowest mark in 14 years, according to The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2018, the ACT’s annual report.

The report includes ACT test results from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“The percentage of ACT-tested graduates who met or surpassed the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in math—suggesting they are ready to succeed in a first-year college algebra class—fell to its lowest level since 2004,” the report declared, with only 40 percent of 2018 graduates meeting the benchmark, “down from a high of 46% in 2012.”

The average score on the ACT math test dropped to its lowest level in 20 years — 20.5 on a scale of 1 to 36. American students scored 21.1 in 2012 and 20.7 last year.

“The negative trend in math readiness is a red flag for our country, given the growing importance of math and science skills in the increasingly tech-driven US and global job market,” said ACT CEO Marten Roorda. “It is vital that we turn this trend around for the next generation and make sure students are learning the math skills they need for success in college and career.”

But it’s not just math scores that have parents and educators concerned. Scores in other subjects are also falling.



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Birth of new Ukrainian church brings fears of violence…


KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The rough-looking young men brought clubs and brass knuckles to the Pechersk Monastery in Kiev , one of Orthodox Christianity’s most important pilgrimage sites, apparently seeking to disrupt worship. Police spread-eagled them against a wall decorated in faded centuries-old frescos of solemn saints, then hauled them away.

On the other side of the dispute, at a small church in the center of Kiev, a dozen men organized round-the-clock guard duty, worried that nationalist radicals might make their third attempt in a year to seize the place of worship.

The incidents a week ago underline the tensions in Ukraine as it prepares to establish a full-fledged Orthodox church of its own. The planned religious rupture from the Russian Orthodox Church is a potent — possibly explosive — mix of politics, religious faith and national identity.

The imminent creation of the new Ukrainian church raises deep concerns about what will happen to the approximately 12,000 churches in Ukraine that are now under the Moscow Patriarchate.

“The question of what will happen to the property of the Orthodox churches existing in Ukraine after the emergence of a single local church is key and could be one of the most painful” issues of the Orthodox split, said Volodymyr Fesenko, an analyst at the Ukrainian think-tank Penta.

Since the late 1600s, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine had been a wing of the Russian Orthodox Church rather than ecclesiastically independent — or “autocephalous.” Many Ukrainians chafed at that arrangement, resenting its implication that Ukraine was a vassal state of Russia.

Schismatic churches formed under their own Ukrainian leaders, but they were not recognized as canonical by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the so-called “first among equals” of leaders of the world’s Orthodox Churches.

That is about to change.

The Istanbul-based patriarchate last week removed an anathema against Ukrainian church leaders, a major step toward granting full recognition to a Ukrainian church that does not answer to the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Russian Orthodox Church, furious at the move, announced it would no longer recognize the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch. It also fears it will lose deeply cherished sites including the Pechersk Monastery, the seat of the church’s Ukrainian branch and a major tourist destination renowned for its richly decorated churches and labyrinthine caves holding the relics of holy men.

It’s not exactly clear when the autocephaly will be formally granted. The two schismatic Ukrainian churches must meet to decide who will be the patriarch of the unified church. Once that decision is made, Constantinople is expected to grant the independence order.

In recent years, about 50 churches in Ukraine that were under the Moscow Patriarchate have been forcibly seized and transferred to the Kiev Patriarchate, according to Metropolitan Antony Pakanich of the Moscow-loyal Ukrainian Church.

“People have been forcibly dragged out of our temples, the locks have been sawed off,” he told The Associated Press. “People in camouflage and balaclavas, with insignia of radical organizations, have come and beat our believers and priests.”

Some believers say they will forcefully defend their right to stay.

“The creation of a local church will push for a new round of confrontation … we, who are supporters of canonical Orthodoxy, will defend our interests here,” said Ilya Bogoslovsky, a 28-year-old who came with his wife and daughter for a service at the chapel of the Tithes Monastery, where the guards had been deployed.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has hailed the creation of the full Ukrainian church as “a guarantee of our spiritual freedom,” has pledged that there will be no action taken against parishes that choose to remain under the Moscow Patriarchate.

Similar promises have come from Patriarch Filaret, head of the largest of the schismatic Ukrainian Orthodox churches, who said “creating a single Orthodox Church in Ukraine does not mean that the Russian Orthodox Church does not have the right to exist on our territory.”

But some Ukrainian nationalists appear ready to use force. In September, radical right-wingers broke into a church in western Ukraine, beat up a priest, drove parishioners away and locked the building.

A leader of the ultranationalist C14 group, whose adherents have twice attacked the Tithes church in Kiev, sees the presence of Moscow Patriarchate churches in Ukraine as a form of propaganda by an “aggressor country” since the Russian Orthodox Church has close ties with the Kremlin.

The Tithes church is “the Kremlin’s political tool,” Serhiy Mazur said.

The war between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, which began in 2014 and has killed at least 10,000 people, has also sharply increased the hostility toward the Moscow Patriarchate churches.

Father Sergii Dmitriev, a chaplain in the Ukrainian army, was once part of the Moscow church but switched to the Kiev Patriarchate after the Russia-linked church began to refuse holding funerals for Ukrainian soldiers killed in the war.

“To be in the Moscow Patriarchate is to take part in the murder of Ukrainians,” he told the AP. “Not only those who pull the trigger are responsible, but those who bless the pulling of the trigger.”

With such passions on both sides, the cleric feared that more violence between the two uneasy neighbors lay ahead.

“The birth of a new Ukrainian church is taking place amid throes for which everyone should be prepared,” he warned.



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San Diego No. 1 booziest city…


San Diegans apparently have an outsized fondness for beer, wine and spirits, helping lift the metro area to the top of a new list of the booziest cities in America.

That’s according to a study assembled by Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a company that owns and operates drug and alcohol detox and treatment centers. Curious about testing the theory that staying sober can help consumers save money, Delphi decided to probe data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual Consumer Expenditure Survey.

Based on expenditure stats tabulated by the BLS, a San Diego consumer spent on average $1,112 last year on alcohol, easily catapulting the metro area to No. 1, past San Francisco, the leader in 2016. That year, San Diego came in at No. 2, at an annual expenditure of $850 per household, Delphi found.

San Diego’s spending on booze rose more than 30 percent in just one year, according to the study. Could it be the explosive growth of the region’s craft beer industry that’s contributing to all that imbibing?

After all, a soon-to-be released report found that San Diego County has more craft brewing locations — about 178 — than any other U.S. county. Not only that, but local breweries produced 1.1 million barrels of beer in 2017, up from 900,000 in 2016.

While Delphi doesn’t offer any explanations of its own for the area’s growing affinity for adult beverages, it surmises that San Francisco’s 23 percent drop may have had something to do with last year’s wine country wildfires that “may have kept San Francisco residents away from weekend trips to nearby vineyards.”

Meanwhile, San Diego’s neighbor to the north, Los Angeles, ranked a distant 14th, with an average household expenditure of $620, still up 20 percent.

According to Delphi’s analysis, here are the top 10 tipsiest cities:

1. San Diego: $1,112

2. Seattle: $986

3. San Francisco: $875

4. Boston: $823

5. Anchorage: $788

6. Denver: $771

7. Minneapolis-St. Paul: $754

8. Baltimore: $724

9. St. Louis: $684

10. Washington, D.C.: $662

lori.weisberg@sduniontribune.com

(619) 293-2251

Twitter: @loriweisberg



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