The housing market continue to sink according to economic data released today. As the New York Timesarticle by David Streitfeld put it:
Housing prices fell in March to their lowest point since the downturn began, erasing the last little bit of recovery from the depths plumbed two years ago, according to data released Tuesday.
The Standard & Poors Case-Shiller Home Price Index for 20 large cities fell 0.8 percent from February, the eighth drop in a row. Prices are now down 33.1 percent from the July 2006 peak.
Home prices continue on their downward spiral with no relief in sight, said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S.& P. index committee.
The continuing slide in prices has created enough economic agony that fundamental home ownership patters may be changing. In 2004, the homeownership rate (share of occupied homes in the U.S. that are owner-occupied) peaked at 69.2%, the rate now stands at 66.4% in the first quarter of 2011. Apparently, that is an extremely rapid retrenchment given the illiquid and long-term nature of the housing market. Streifeld observes that this is an ownership rate that has fallen back to the level of 1998 with some experts believing that a decline to 1980s or earlier levels may be possible. Housing prices have now fallen to mid-2002 levels.
Many families are upside-down on their mortgages, and that fact prevents geographical mobility as homeowners cannot leave an area for better paying positions elsewhere. With large college loans outstanding and collapsing housing prices, it is not surprising that families in such circumstances are under tremendous economic pressure. It is hard to imagine that this will not have a great impact on the 2012 election in addition to the traditional economic variables like the unemployment rate.
…or flat-screen, or big screen —- whichever size screen your television happens to be! After spending the week with over 500 pastors for FRC’s Watchmen on the Wall conference in D.C., appearances on Fox News and Fox Business, Tony has a busy upcoming Memorial Day week — here are some upcoming TV appearances:
The direct conversion technique is similar in some respects to the method used to create induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), in which genes are added to normal cells to convert them to stem cells that behave similarly to embryonic stem cells. But pluripotent stem cells such as embryonic stem cells also have a significant risk of tumor formation. This out-of-control growth problem with pluripotent stem cells makes the direct conversion technique preferable when it comes to deriving new cells from normal cells. Likewise, using native adult stem cells is both safer and effective, e.g., in repair of stroke damage.
As Dr. Fagan has written, “the overwhelming majority of social science data supports the premise that the intact married family that worships weekly is the greatest generator of human and social goods and the core strength of the United States.”
Take a few moments to visit the MARRI Web site to find a trove of materials demonstrating why worship, marriage, and family are so vital to one another and to society. A strong, vibrant America needs strong, vibrant marriages. There are no substitutes.
Sincerely, Rob Schwarzwalder Senior Vice President Family Research Council
P.S. Read FRC scholar Peter Sprigg’s executive summary of his thoughtful and compelling publication, “The Top Ten Harms of Same Sex Marriage,” here. You can download the entire booklet, at no cost, at this same site.
Caroline Glick most recent column in the Jerusalem Post contains important demographic data. In his speech last week, President Obama stated, The number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian territories. This will make it harder and harder without a peace deal to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.
Glick calls this the demographic time bomb story, and she says it is demonstrably false. I will let her provide the details:
“The demographic time bomb story is a Palestinian fabrication. In 1997, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics published a falsified Palestinian census that inflated Palestinian population data by 50 percent.
“The Israeli Left adopted this fake report as its own when Palestinian terrorism and political warfare convinced the majority of Israelis that it was unwise to give them any more land and that the peace process was a lie.
“Since 2004, repeated, in-depth studies of Jewish and Arab birthrates and immigration/ emigration statistics west of the Jordan River undertaken by independent researchers have shown that the demographic time bomb is a dud. In January, the respected demographer Yaakov Faitelson published a study for the Institute of Zionist Strategies in which he definitively put to rest the tale of pending Jewish demographic doom.
“As Faitelson demonstrated, Jewish and Arab birthrates are already converging west of the Jordan River at around three children per woman. And whereas the fertility rates of Israeli Arabs, Gazans and residents of Judea and Samaria are all trending downward, Jewish fertility is consistently rising. Moreover, whereas the Arabs are experiencing consistently negative net immigration rates, Jewish net immigration rates are positive and high.”
“Faitelson based his multiyear projections on current population numbers in which Jews comprise 58.6 percent of the population west of the Jordan River and Muslims constitute 38.7% of the overall population. Non-Jewish, non-Muslim minorities comprise the other 2.7%. Using assessment baselines for Jewish net immigration well below current averages, Faitelson showed that in the years to come, not only will Jews not lose our demographic majority. We will increase it.
“Faitelsons study, like the studies published since 2004 by the American-Israeli Demographic Research Group show that from a demographic perspective, Israel is in the same situation as many Western states today. Namely, it has to develop policies for dealing with an irredentist minority population.”
On Friday, May 20th the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the U.S. House of Representatives filed a Motion for Leave to Intervene…. with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in two cases that had challenged the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA). For a copy of the filing, go here [PDF]. The lead attorney defending DoMA for the House is Paul Clement, former Solicitor General of the United States.
In its filing, the House states that the Department [of Justice] now refuses to defend the statute from the equal protection and due process challenges to DoMAs constitutionality (pp. 9-10). Thus, unless the House is permitted to intervene in the case, the desire of the House to have a constitutional defense of DoMA offered to the court will not be met. The Court of Appeals will now have to rule on whether it will grant the Houses motion.
Earlier this month, a coalition of Christian leaders in China drafted and sent a petition to the Chinese government calling for the religious liberty the Chinese Constitution claims to provide. “For the last six decades, the rights to liberty of religious faith granted to our countrys Christians by the Constitution of the Peoples Republic of China have not been put into practice,” wrote the 19 brave original signatories of the document.
The petition was generated by the growing crackdown on “unofficial” churches in China. As noted in this blog space in April, the Easter crackdown on the Shouwang Church in Beijing is part of a larger, nationwide campaign in which “unofficial” churches —- those that meet independent of government sanction —- are being targeted for repression, and their leaders for arrest.
Up to 70 million believers are part of the “unofficial” Christian movement in China. According to China scholar Dr. William Jeynes in a lecture last week at FRC, the Chinese government is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the construction of officially-recognized churches and seminaries, but the “unofficial” churches remain targets of the central Communist government. Why? Because, notes Jeynes, the government recognizes that Christianity leads to morality and productivity, but is also grounded in the idea that government’s authority is not final. This makes the Communist leaders in Beijing “nervous,” says Jeynes.
In one sense, well it should: Allegiance to Jesus ahead of the state means that authoritarian governments will not have complete control, something for which Beijing’s Party apparatus longs. Yet Christianity, followed faithfully, leads to good order, social stability, and economic growth. This is the clear outgrowth of New Testament faith, and is evidenced wherever Christianity has flourished.
China’s leadership must come to terms with a central paradox: Followers of Jesus have the potential to make the finest citizens, but only if the state does not seek to replace their primary and central loyalty to their Savior with allegiance to itself. Until this happens, the strange dance of Chinese Communism with Christianity eventually will dissolve into a forced march, one that leads to martyrdom and thus, to the greater consternation of the authorities, continued resurgence of “unofficial” faith.
Because the Chinese government demands that religious organizations serve the aims of the state, religious organizations must receive government approval to operate. Failure to do so means the groups lack legal protection and the membership is vulnerable to human rights abuses at the hands of government officials. However, many religious observers adhere to the tenet that they must render unto Caesar what is Caesars, but unto God what is Gods, and as a result, they are persecuted.
The Chinese Communist Party, in its historic atheistic commitment to exalting itself as God, cannot manipulate those whose knees bend only before King Jesus. Until it realizes this and allows those brave men and women to practice their faith openly, it will enjoy neither the respect of the world nor the benefits religious liberty brings any society.
In October 2010, the Australian Human Rights Commission published a discussion paper on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity.” According the Commission, there are the categories of “LGBTI” - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexuals and intersexuals. That would seem rather comprehensive, but the Commission is only beginning:
“Gender can be understood as a person looking, dressing or acting as male or female. Some people do not have a gender identity that is either exclusively male or female. Some people do not have a gender identity that is linked to their sex. The phrase sex and/or gender identity is used in this paper as a broad term to refer to diverse sex and/or gender identities and expressions. It includes being transgender, trans, transsexual and intersex. It also includes being androgynous, agender, a cross dresser, a drag king, a drag queen, genderfluid, genderqueer, intergender, neutrois, pansexual, pan-gendered, a third gender, and a third sex. It also includes culturally specific terms, such as sistergirl and brotherboy, which are used by some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
Whatever these various terms mean, biologically, there are two sexes. On very rare occasions, according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, hermaphroditism can occur, but this can be corrected surgically and through hormonal treatments.
Here is what the Bible says about sexual identity:
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them … ” (Genesis 1:27-28a).
Two genders, one humanity, one divine image stamped upon it. The two genders of humankind are biologically complementary and designed, in the context of marriage, to multiply the race. Without such a distinction, human sexuality would be reduced to the painfully absurd categories noted above.
… neuroscience has made great strides in the 90s, regarding the discovery of concrete, scientifically proved anatomical and functional differences between the brains of males and females … this new knowledge may help physicians and scientists to discover new ways to explore the brain differences in the benefit of the treatment of diseases, the personalized action of drugs, different procedures in surgeries, etc. After all, males and females differ only by one Y chromosome, but this makes a real impact upon the way we react to so many things, including pain, hormones, etc.
Men and women human beings in two sexes are distinct, and were made as such for a purpose. In the words of theologian Bruce Ware, While God did intend to create male and female as equal in their essential nature as human, he also intended to make them different expressions of that essential nature, as male and female reflect different ways, as it were, of being human.
Those who jettison the sexual identity gifted to them by God do so not only in defiance of His will but to the detriment of their own well-being. Fundamentally to alter oneself, through surgery, drug treatment, or simply wearing makeup and clothing not commensurate with ones gender, is in essence to tell ones Maker that He made a vast mistake, and to deny oneself the full benefits of that gender identity with which God has gifted each person.
This is painful to contemplate, especially when one considers the grandeur with which the loving Author of life has made us. Peter May, M.D., who served on the General Synod of the Church of England, notes that image-bearing includes such God-like characteristics as creativity, intelligence, an aesthetic sense, morality, and relational and spiritual capacities. However, notes May, Jesus demonstrated most vividly what the true imago Dei is:
Beyond the image is the reality. The Image of God in us not only helps us to see who we really are, but also reveals God to us. But we are not left searching through a haze to find hints and images of the One who made us. For the Christian testimony is that the one in whose image we are made, has come among us and revealed himself. No-one has ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Fathers side, he has made him known (John 1:18).
The image of God each of us bears has been dented and scuffed and pounded by the sin we have brought to it. Yet it remains, and in Christ can be renewed and, one day, will be fully.
To bear such an image, in the genders God has bestowed, is to reflect, even in our limited and sin-buffered way, something of the moral brilliance of One Whose light and life ignite the universe. In Christ, this is nobility, dignity, joy. It is being fully human.
In the latest update regarding Sherley et al. v. Sebelius et al., the lawsuit challenging federal taxpayer funding of human embryonic stem cell research, a Motion was filed on May 18, 2011, to allow both sides to file supplemental briefs with the U.S. District Court. This motion to provide additional information to the Court was agreed upon by both sides. A similar previous motion filed on May 9 was opposed by the Department of Justice. The motions follow the April 29 decision by the Appeals Court to vacate the preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Lamberth in August 2010. While the Appeals Court ruling maintained the status quo regarding the flow of federal taxpayer funds for embryonic stem cell research, there are still a number of issues to be resolved, awaiting the decision of Judge Lamberth.
If the new motion is approved, both sides would be allowed to provide supplemental information in briefs due on or before June 24, 2011, and limited to 10 pages.