Married teacher will be Italy’s first woman priest

A married teacher is poised to become Italy’s first woman priest when she is ordained later this month in an Anglican church close to the Vatican.

Maria Longhitano, a member of the breakaway Old Catholic Church, says she hopes her ordination will break down “prejudice” in the Roman Church.

The event may energise the debate among Roman Catholics about the role of women, a BBC correspondent says.

Pope Benedict is implacably opposed to women as priests.

His predecessor, John Paul II, even banned official discussion of the issue, BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott notes…

She said she hoped her ordination would galvanise debate among Roman Catholics about modernisation…

The Old Catholics broke away from the Vatican in the 19th Century, rejecting belief in the immaculate conception and the infallibility of the Pope.

Their Church – which leaves issues such as homosexual relationships and contraception up to the individuals’ consciences – has ordained women since 1996.

Wow. A Christian religion in Italy that accepts human beings have the right and responsibility to make some decisions on their own.

Wal-Mart donates $2 billion to Food Banks

The Wal-Mart Corporation announced plans to contribute $2 billion in cash and food to the nation’s food banks, one of the largest corporate gifts on record.

Over the next five years, the giant retail company will distribute some 1.1 billion pounds of food to food banks and provide $250 million to help them buy refrigerated trucks, improve storage and develop better logistics.

“Hunger is just a huge problem, and as the largest grocer in the country, we need to be at the head of the pack in doing something about it,” said Margaret McKenna, president of the Wal-Mart Foundation.

While the economy seems to be turning around, the number of people turning to charities to help put food on their tables continues to grow. A recent survey by Feeding America found that 37 million people a year now use its national network of food banks, a 46 percent increase from 2006. The survey drew on interviews with more than 61,000 people who use food banks, as well as reports from 37,000 food banks across the country.

Put another way, 1 in every 8 Americans uses a food bank to make ends meet, the survey said.

More than one-third of those surveyed said they would not have been able to pay for basics like rent, utilities and medical care without relying on food banks to offset the cost of their meals — and more than a third said at least one person in their household was working.

“It is not just the unemployed that are going hungry,” said Vicki B. Escarra, chief executive of Feeding America.

Good choice. Businesses donate to many charities – for many reasons – above and beyond the tax break boundary.

Pleased to see Wal-Mart pick something that is affecting so many folks as we climb out from under this recession.

Money machine offers gold bars, gold coins, gold and more gold!

It’s the ultimate hole-in-the-wall — a money machine that dispenses pure gold.

But installed beneath the gold-coated ceilings of Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace hotel, where royalty and billionaires come for cappuccinos topped with gold flakes, the machine almost seems part of the furniture.

“The reason we chose Emirates Palace is because it really fits with the surroundings here,” said German entrepreneur Thomas Geissler, creator of the “Gold to Go” brand and chief executive of Ex Oriente Lux.

The exterior of the machine is coated with a thin layer of gold and offers customers 320 items to choose from, ranging from gold bars that can weigh up to 10 grams, to customized gold coins…

Through a computer system, the ATM gold machine updates the gold price every 10 minutes to match international markets.

For now, it takes notes of the local dirham currency, but the option of using credit cards will soon be introduced…

On the first night we had a lot of demand,” he said. “One customer even bought one item of every product we have.”

Where are all the old-fashioned phishing hackers when you need one?

The most corrupt states

The Daily Beast examined a wide range of available data to rank the level of corruption in all 50 states. Each of the following data sets was weighted equally:

•Public corruption, 1998—2008: Convictions of elected and other public officials investigated by federal agents over an 11-year period, from the Department of Justice.

•Racketeering and Extortion, 1998—2008: Code for organized crime convictions, also investigated by federal agents over an 11-year period, from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

•Forgery and Counterfeiting, 1999—2008: Arrest numbers for producing or distributing fake money and goods over a 10-year period, from the FBI.

•Fraud, 1999—2008: Arrests for false statements or documents produced for personal gain over a 10-year period, from the FBI.

•Embezzlement, 1999—2008: Arrests for surreptitious theft of money over a 10-year period, from the FBI.

By using a decade’s worth of federal data, we were able to minimize changes in local law enforcement efficacy, though some flaws remain: local cases go undocumented, and the FBI data is self-reported by local law enforcement. When combined, however, the data provides a fairly deep look into which jurisdictions are uncovering the most corruption. We leveled the playing field by calculating the numbers on a per-100,000 people basis.

So, uh, how did your state do?

Senate votes to bar mortgage kickbacks, liar loans

The Senate on Wednesday voted to end mortgage kickbacks and so-called “liar loans,” two lending practices that played a role in the meltdown of the subprime mortgage market.

By a 63-36 vote, the Senate adopted a measure that would prohibit mortgage lenders from offering incentives to brokers who steer customers into more-expensive loans.

The amendment, which was added to a sweeping rewrite of financial regulations, also would end “liar loans” by requiring lenders to verify that borrowers have enough income to repay their mortgages.

Both practices were at the root of the subprime meltdown and the Great Recession. Both practices encouraged by the Republican-controlled government whose greatest delight was kissing corporate financial butt.

Liar loans allowed consumers to qualify for loans that they could not possibly repay. In exchange for a slightly higher interest rate, borrowers could opt to simply state their income or other assets rather than waiting for lenders to verify them.

Such incentives, known as “yield spread premiums,” averaged nearly $1,900 per transaction and could be found in 85 percent to 90 percent of all loans originated by brokers in the years before the subprime crisis, according to a Harvard University study.

Some borrowers were steered into risky, high-interest subprime loans even if their credit was good. BasePoint Analytics, a company that monitors real-estate fraud, estimates that 14 percent of subprime borrowers could have qualified for a regular loan with more favorable terms.

If you happened to notice – Congressional Republicans voted in favor of continuing this kind of theft and corruption.

Gulf oil spill firms ignored warning signs

BP, TransOcean, Halliburton
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

BP was aware of equipment problems aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig hours before the explosion pumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, a congressional hearing was told yesterday .

In a second day of hearings, the House of Representatives’s energy and commerce committee said documents and company briefings suggested that BP, which owned the well; Transocean, which owned the rig; and Halliburton, which made the cement casing for the well, ignored tests in the hours before the 20 April explosion that indicated faulty safety equipment.

“Yet it appears the companies did not suspend operations, and now 11 workers are dead and the gulf faces an environmental catastrophe,” Henry Waxman, the chair of the energy and commerce committee, said, demanding to know why work was not stopped.

The committee heard testimony from oil executives suggesting multiple failures of safety systems that should have given advance warning of a blowout, or should have promptly cut off the flow of oil.

The failures included a dead battery in the blowout preventer, suggestions of a breach in the well casing, and failure in the shear ram, a device of last resort that was supposed to cut through and seal the drill pipe in the event of a blowout.

Nothing has changed since I worked in the offshore oil drilling industry, decades ago. Preventive technology has improved. The willingness of corporate bosses to take a position on the side of safety – still appears to be non-existent.

Mexicans’ worse cellphone fears come true

When the government launched a nationwide campaign to register cellphones, millions of Mexicans refused. And thousands of others registered with a familiar name: Felipe Calderon, the country’s president.

The idea was that the registry would combat rampant telephone extortion rackets and kidnapping attempts. But even with the threat of having their lines disconnected, an estimated 26 million users (about 30% of all holders of cellphones in Mexico) hadn’t submitted their names on the eve of the government-set deadline.

Some said they were convinced that the government would use the information to spy on dissidents or anyone else out of favor. Others said they feared the information would end up in the wrong hands.

Last month…the confidential data of millions of Mexicans from official state registries suddenly became available for a few thousand dollars at Mexico City’s wild Tepito flea market…

It confirmed the worst suspicions of many Mexicans: that any attempt to do their civic duty by registering property or signing up to vote would end up being used against them…

The personal data discovered at the Tepito market, part of an investigation by El Universal newspaper, also included lists of police officers with their photographs, which could easily be cross-referenced with other databases to find out where they live. The paper said a complete package of data could be had for about $12,000.

Good thing I live in a land where my personal information won’t be sold to the highest bidder, eh?