American priest, commentator for the Vatican, admits he’s a daddy

A telegenic American priest, widely known for his media commentary from Rome on popes, prayer and personal morality, has publicly acknowledged having an affair and fathering a child — the latest jolt to hit his scandal-torn religious order, the Legionaries of Christ.

The priest, the Rev. Thomas D. Williams, apologized…“for this grave transgression” and “to everyone who is hurt by this revelation.” He said he would take a year off from public ministry to reflect on his transgressions and his “commitments as a priest” — a decision he said he made with his superiors…Is that a paid sabbatical?

The order’s founder, a Mexican priest named Marciel Maciel Degollado, died in 2008 amid revelations that he had sexually abused young seminarians, misappropriated money and fathered several children, some of whom say they were also victims of his sexual abuse. Only last Friday, the Legion acknowledged that seven of its priests are being investigated by the Vatican in connection with the sexual abuse of minors…

Jim Fair, a spokesman for the Legion, said the order had not paid any financial support to the child or the mother. He added that Father Williams was staying with his parents in Michigan and was recovering from cancer surgery.

…The Associated Press and The National Catholic Reporter broke the news on Tuesday after learning of allegations made by a Spanish association of Legion victims about multiple sexual improprieties by Father Williams.

Father Williams, who joined the Legion in 1985, was ordained a priest in 1994, and rose to become superior of the Legion’s general directorate in Rome. He is the author of many books on spirituality, including “Knowing Right From Wrong: A Christian Guide to Conscience,” and “The World as It Could Be: Catholic Social Thought for a New Generation…”

Susan Gibbs…a media consultant for Catholic organizations, said – “He really helped people understand how the church worked.”

Har. Got that part right!

British farmers exporting thousands of breeding pigs to China

A delegation of British pig farmers is in China this week to further increase sales of live breeding pigs, pork and farm technology.

Jim Paice, the Food Minister, flew out to join the group yesterday and will spend much of the next week drumming up trade for British food exports.

China’s rapidly growing urban middle-class has developed a taste for pork and demand for the meat is soaring.

However Chinese pork is low quality and there is not enough to go around the estimated 230 million middle-class Chinese. Although China produces 46 million metric tones of pork a year, demand far outstrips supply. British farmers are therefore sending high-yielding and healthy pigs for breeding in China in order to increase pig numbers over there.

The pigs, which are mainly from the Large White, Landrace and Duroc breeds, sell for around £1,000 each. Farmers estimate that there is enough demand from China to export up to £20 million worth of breeding pigs a year. Farmers are also increasing meat exports to China…

Mr Paice said that there is “massive scope” to increase exports of breeding pigs, pork and farm technology to China, which will not be self-sufficient in pig meat “for the foreseeable future”…

“China has massive numbers of pigs but their genetics are very poor and their productivity in terms of pigs per sow is less than half of ours. So there is huge scope for selling breeding stock to China,” the minister said…

Chris Jackson, the British Pig Association executive who is leading the sales push in China, said that pork is the “meat of choice” for Chinese people. “They are consuming around 12 kilograms per head of population each year. That is about the same as in Britain…

Certainly, it’s useful to see British farmers realize the same gains through commerce with China as do our own agriculturists here in the United States.

We watched an interesting discussion the other night – watching Bernie Lo’s show from Hong Kong – with a leading investment analyst who specializes in Asia. When Bernie asked him which of the several market areas they had been discussing would produce the most consistent gains over the next decade of trade with China his answer was appropriately scientific – and somewhat surprising in its breadth. He said, “the protein stream”.

What he meant was everything that qualified as non-vegetable protein, e.g. poultry, pigs, cows. If it’s walking-around protein the growing middle class population in China was becoming interested in eating it. No so surprising, the interest in how people in many other cultures around the world prepare that protein is just as fascinating. Everyone wants new recipes, new cuisine.

Dumb crooks of the day + Darwin Award candidates


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

A suspected armed robber was killed when explosives his gang was transporting accidentally went off in the centre of Nigeria’s main oil city of Port Harcourt on Thursday…

The blast ripped through a minibus carrying at least three suspected robbers, four AK-47 rifles and a large amount of ammunition, Rivers State Police Commissioner Mohammed Abdulkadir Indabawa told Reuters.

Two people in the bus and a woman who was nearby were injured in the explosion, he added.

We suspect they were armed robbers going (on) an operation, and things went wrong for them,” said Indabawa.

Port Harcourt is at the heart of Nigeria’s 2 million plus barrel a day oil industry and has been plagued by militant groups and criminal gangs cashing in on the money it generates.

A large economy-size oops! Qualifying for a Darwin Award, as well.

Coffee drinkers at a lower risk of dying from a variety of diseases

Your morning cup of coffee may start to taste even better after a major government study found that frequent coffee drinkers have a lower risk of dying from a variety of diseases, compared with people who drink little or no coffee.

The report…analyzed the coffee-drinking habits of more than 400,000 men and women ages 50 to 71, making it the largest-ever study of the relationship between coffee consumption and health…

As expected, the researchers found that the regular coffee drinkers in the group were also more likely to be smokers. They ate more red meat and fewer fruits and vegetables, exercised less and drank more alcohol – all behaviors associated with poor health.

But once the researchers controlled for those risks, the data showed that the more coffee a person consumed, the less likely he or she was to die from a number of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, infections and even injuries and accidents.

Over all, the risk of dying during the 14-year study period was about 10 percent lower for men and about 15 percent lower for women who drank anywhere from two cups to six or more cups of coffee a day. The association between coffee and lower risk of dying was similar whether the coffee drinker consumed caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee. [That’s certainly useful.]

Neal D. Freedman, the study’s lead author and an investigator for the National Cancer Institute, cautioned that the findings, based on observational data, show only an association between coffee consumption and lower risk for disease, so it isn’t known whether drinking more coffee will lead to better health. As a result, Dr. Freedman said that people should be conservative in interpreting the data, but that regular coffee drinkers can be reassured.

It’s a modest effect,” he said. “But the biggest concern for a long time has been that drinking coffee is a risky thing to do. Our results, and some of those of more recent studies, provide reassurance for coffee drinkers that this isn’t the case. The people who are regularly drinking coffee have a similar risk of death as nondrinkers, and there might be a modest benefit…”

Phew! Actually, that’s a non-phew. I’ve been through coffee scares before. Inevitably, follow-on research negated the negatives and often discovered positives overlooked.

It is less than startling that the complex molecules resulting from brewing coffee contain many surprises. Coffee as a popular beverage has already exceeded the range of use one might expect from its use simply as stimulant. I admit to feeling smug that one of my morning pleasures has more positive characteristics than I assumed.

Now, I just need someone to determine what food group increases the likelihood of my fellow Americans acquiring a lifetime interest in education, science and honest government. I’d buy farmland tomorrow and start cultivation.

How Mitt Romney gets away with his lying


I keep your phone number under my pillow, George

Yesterday, Mitt Romney gave a big speech in which he accused Obama of lighting a “prairie fire of debt.” It’s a good line, and it has received widespread media coverage.

Romney’s speech has already been dissected by Jonathan Chait and Steve Benen. They note that it’s entirely at odds with conventional understanding of how deficits work, and utterly disconnected from context, rendering it almost unquantifiably misleading.

But I wanted to make another point. If you scan through all the media attention Romney’s speech received, you are hard-pressed to find any news accounts that tell readers the following rather relevant points:

1) Nonpartisan experts believe Romney’s plans would increase the deficit far more than Obama’s would.

2) George W. Bush’s policies arguably are more responsible for increasing the deficit than Obama’s are…

This shouldn’t be a matter of partisan opinion. On the first point, independent experts think an actual set of facts exists that can be used to determine what the impact of Romney’s policies on the deficit would be. And according to those experts, based on what we know now, Romney’s policies would explode the deficit far more than Obama’s would.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has taken a close look at this question. It has determined that relative to current policy — that is, if you keep the Bush tax cuts in place, as Romney wants to do — Romney’s tax cutting plans would increase the deficit by nearly $5 trillion over 10 years. That’s on top of keeping the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Romney has promised to close various loopholes to pay for his tax cuts, but he hasn’t specified which ones. Until he does, the Tax Policy Center concludes, his plan would cost $5 trillion — which would be added, yes, to the deficit.

By contrast, Obama’s plans would not increase the deficit by anything close to that amount. Relative to current policy, the Tax Policy Center has found, Obama’s plan would reduce the deficit by approximately $2 trillion over the next decade. Now, under Obama, the deficit would still increase. That’s because current policy means we’re forgoing the $4.5 trillion in revenues we’d gain if we let all the Bush tax cuts expire. But neither candidate is going to do that. Obama, however, would end the Bush tax cuts for the rich and bring in revenues through a variety of other tax increases. Bottom line: relative to current policy, Obama’s plan would reduce the deficit by bringing in $180 billion or more in revenues a year, or approximately $2 trillion over 10 years; Romney’s plan would increase the deficit by nearly $500 billion a year — $5 trillion over ten years

On the second point, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has determined that the policies put in place under Bush are the main driver of the deficits that are projected over the next decade.

The only debate about Romney’s advocacy, so far, is whether he’s ignorant of how many times he’s flip-flopped on questions of policy and economics — whether he’s ignorant of real facts [which I sincerely doubt – the man is unethical not stupid] — or whether he chooses to tell the lie du jour for whichever audience he confronts.

The reason he gets away with any of this is the incompetence of the Talking Heads, the media flunkeys posing as journalists.

Italian university — Politecnico di Milano — switches to English

From opera at La Scala to football at the San Siro stadium, from the catwalks of fashion week to the soaring architecture of the cathedral, Milan is crowded with Italian icons. Which makes it even more of a cultural earthquake that one of Italy’s leading universities – the Politecnico di Milano – is going to switch to the English language.

The university has announced that from 2014 most of its degree courses – including all its graduate courses – will be taught and assessed entirely in English rather than Italian.

The waters of globalisation are rising around higher education – and the university believes that if it remains Italian-speaking it risks isolation and will be unable to compete as an international institution.

“We strongly believe our classes should be international classes – and the only way to have international classes is to use the English language,” says the university’s rector, Giovanni Azzone…

He says that his university’s experiment will “open up a window of change for other universities”, predicting that in five to 10 years other Italian universities with global ambitions will also switch to English…

But what is driving this cultural change? Is it the intellectual equivalent of pop bands like Abba singing in English to reach a wider market?

Professor Azzone says a university wants to reach the widest market in ideas – and English has become the language of higher education, particularly in science and engineering. “I would have preferred if Italian was the common language, it would have been easier for me – but we have to accept real life,” he says.

When English is the language of international business, he also believes that learning in English will make his students more employable…

The need to attract overseas students and researchers, including from the UK and non-English speaking countries, is another important reason for switching to English as the primary language…

But Professor Azzone also pointed to the bigger economic geography of higher education.

European universities face being caught between two competing powers – the wealthy heavy weights in the United States and the rising countries of Asia.

RTFA for many more details, arguments for and against. Poisonally, I think Azzone has hit on a good idea though much of the argument he raises is only window dressing. It’s unlikely that the major centers for education in Italy will switch exclusively to English. But, he’ll be in a position to attract students who want that environment for one or another of the projected reasons.

His premise that European universities must choose between the United States and Asia is absurd. And if it were a fact, I’d suggest he come down on the side of some American CEOs who have their grandchildren learning Chinese. 🙂