When Christine Lagarde Talks, Everyone Listens

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 01:14 AM EDT, 27 September 2012

Christine Lagarde Headshot, Photo by IMF

WASHINGTON, DC - Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund, Managing Director is arguably the most powerful woman in global finance next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel is noted for her role in trying to resolve the Eurozone debt crisis, as leader of Europe's biggest and most robust economy. Merkel has also been named by Forbes magazine as the most powerful woman in the world.

Since the global economic slowdown, various countries have struggled to retire debt in the face of increased jobless rates, volatile financial markets, and decreased GDP.

Therefore, when Lagarde announced that the IMF is set to cut its forecast for global growth next month, the news was greeted with trepidation by the United States and other governments including China.

At issue is the growing lack of confidence in the ability of European policymakers to attack head on the crisis affecting the Euro Zone, as well as an increased unwillingness by countries with strong economic growth and low debt, like Germany, to support the bailout of countries that refuse to implement effective austerity measures.

In fact, the S&P 500 fell for a fifth straight trading day on Wednesday as protests in Spain and Greece over euro zone austerity measures raised fresh concerns over Europe's ability to get its debt crisis under control. The possibility of countries with stronger economies defecting from the euro zone in favor of a return to their national currency also contributes to continued market instability.

When Lagarde announced that the IMF is cutting its global growth projection for 2013 to 3.9 percent although it left its 2012 forecast at 3.5 percent in July 2012, it was widely viewed as a lack of confidence in Europe's ability to resolve the euro zone crisis.

In particular it was viewed as a tacit indictment of government officials inability to effectively address the economic downturn in their respective countries. The failure of these countries to implement austerity measures to reduce their debt has adversely affected the economies in the rest of the world.

In fact, Lagarde stated that she believes the euro zone crisis poses the greatest risk to the world economy followed by the looming U.S. fiscal cliff which she believes also presents a "serious threat."

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Published: 27 September 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

"We continue to project a gradual recovery, but global growth will likely be a bit weaker than we had anticipated even in July, and our forecast has trended downward over the last 12 months," Christine Lagarde said.

"Markets briefly rallied after the European Central Bank's decision to launch a conditional bond-buying program for troubled states. ECB President Mario Draghi introduced a program to buy European nations' debt on a potentially unlimited scale — with major conditions. The most important at the moment is that a country must formally request the assistance and agree to financial conditions from the international lenders." (Source: Seattle Times)

This model is similar to the U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program which was enacted by President George W. Bush in 2008. The TARP program purchased assets and equity from financial institutions to strengthen the financial sector and stave off a severe financial downturn unseen since the Great Depression. However, it remains to be seen if the ECB’s approach will prevent the euro zone from slipping into deeper recession.

Lagarde said that the IMF supports Europe moving to a banking union which will prevent nations from being dragged down by sickly banks. The euro zone is currently weighed down by the faltering economies of Portugal, Greece, and Spain; and in the case of the latter, Lagarde believes that it appears headed toward a bailout like the one that Ireland received after rescuing its banks.

Despite this, Legarde does support the idea of giving Spain and Portugal more time to implement budget and other reforms. But she also expressed caution and was wary of Italy and France, two of Europe’s biggest economies, sincerity in charting a path to substantive economic and budget reforms.

Lagarde said structural reforms and fiscal adjustments are going to be unavoidable in crisis-hit euro zone countries, and that continued austerity measures must be more steadfastly enforced as a prerequisite for receiving future bailout funds.

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Gina Rinehart's Delusion of Class Envy

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 20:25 PM EDT, 25 September 2012

Gina Rinehart (Cropped), Photo by Panorama MercantilIn the United States 2012 Presidential election one of the candidates has been labeled as out of touch plutocrat, a perception reinforced by his numerous faux pas, gaffes, and seeming inability to connect with voters.

The perception held by the public and the media is that Mitt Romney desires to become president for the sole purpose of advancing tax policies and legislation that will benefit the rich to the detriment of the middle class.

These assertions have been vigorously denounced by other wealthy Americans who have subsequently accused the public of class envy.

Though they claim to be beneficent and caring about the lower and middle classes, this proclaimed sentiment belies what many believe to be the truth. This feeling was evidenced in a statement made by Mitt Romney in May 2012 to wealthy donors attending a $50,000 a plate fund raising event.

Unbeknownst to Romney, he was caught on video expounding upon his view that 47% of working and lower class Americans were in their predicament because they lacked both drive and a sound work ethic.

This, despite the fact that he and other wealthy individuals like him inherited their wealth. Lest global citizens think that Mr. Romney is an aberrant case of an extremely wealthy individual who can’t or won’t sympathize with those who were not born with the same privileges and advantages, Gina Rinehart proves this assumption wrong.

Ms. Rinehart is an Australian mining tycoon who inherited a fortune which is now worth $19 billion and is considered the world’s richest woman. She also claims class envy as the reason why commoners dislike her. However, public derision of Rinehart stems from her 30 August 2012 statement to Amy Coopes, a reporter for AFP in which she advised people of lesser means on how to become one of the uber-wealthy.

"If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain," she said in a magazine piece. "Do something to make more money yourself -- spend less time drinking or smoking and socializing, and more time working."

Today, speaking at the Sydney Mining Club, Rinehart reiterated her opinion about those less fortunate than her. In her speech she asserted that the mining industry in Australia cannot compete with nations that are willing to pay workers less than $2 a day for their sweat and labor, and therefore, Australian businesses should be allowed to lower employee salaries to match or beat this amount.

Rinehart has been urging Australian lawmakers to cut the minimum wage, ostensibly to prevent these jobs from being outsourced, but in reality it is because she doesn’t want to pay a living wage or benefits afforded most employees in industrialized nations, preferring to use the labor of immigrants from nations with emerging economies.

Like the American public, the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard didn't buy Rinehart’s specious and self-serving argument. The truth of her position is much like other rapacious plutocrats, corporate raiders, and venture capitalists who believe that the poor should be grateful for any job even if they are paid little or nothing.

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Pakistani Minister Pledges $100,000 for Murder of Anti-Islamic Filmmaker

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Death Mask of Oliver Cromwell, Photo by LisbyISLAMABAD, Pakistan – From 2002 to 2010, the United States gave $13.3 billion in security-related aid to Pakistan, and $6 billion for economic assistance. It subsequently increased following the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and the retaliatory attack by the U.S. n the Taliban regime. More than $5.3 billion is pledged for the 2012 fiscal year of which $2.3 billion is earmarked to help the country’s counter-terrorism efforts. (Source: ABC News)

Despite this massive amount of financial support provided by the U.S. to Pakistan, there have been mounting tensions between the two nations, as well as a significant spike in mistrust following the death of Osama bin Laden on 2 May 2011.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a Pakistan government minister has offered $100,000 (£61,616) bounty for the death of the maker of an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S. According to Reuters, Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour said he would pay the reward for the "sacred duty" out of his own pocket.

The incendiary film has sparked protests across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, but in many instances the film has been used as an excuse by those who harbor resentment of the slow pace of change following the Arab Spring; and in the case of the murder of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, as cover for a coordinated, paramilitary terrorist attack.

Though Secretary Hillary Clinton, President Obama and other U.S. government officials have vigorously condemned the film, this has failed to placate the mobs which have taken to the streets of Islamic nations.

Since the violent protests erupted in Pakistan at least 20 people died in clashes between anti-film protesters and Pakistani police. U.S. citizens have been warned against traveling to the region and an advertising campaign designed to calm tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan is being vigorously promoted.

The Pakistani government has disavowed Mr. Bilour’s statements but is currently in discussions about what if any action to take against him. At this point he will remain in his position even as he reaffirmed his commitment to “pay whoever kills the makers of this video $100,000, and if someone else makes other similar blasphemous material in the future, I will also pay his killers $100,000.”

The low-budget film was produced in 2011 and posted to YouTube where it languished without incident until it was promoted in the U.S. by an anti-Islamic pastor. It was subsequently discovered by Muslim news-makers, at which point, though it is unclear when, it was translated into Arabic.

The film is extremely inflammatory, depicting the Prophet Mohammad in an unflattering and blasphemous manner. The alleged producer of the trailer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is in hiding.

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Indomitable Spencer West Climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro

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“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” ~ Napoleon Hill

The incredible story of a thirty-one year old Canadian, Spencer Westexemplifies the essence of this quote.

In June 2012, West rose to international prominence after successfully climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro using only his hands because he has no lower body.

A challenging and favored adventure site for seasoned climbers, the 19,341 feet (5,895 metres) mountain is situated in Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania and is the highest mountain in Africa.

An undertaking of this magnitude seems unfathomable for someone who only trained for a year and desired to raise nearly $750,000 for charity based upon his ability to complete the ascent, but this is exactly what West did.

In 2008, he volunteered for a trip to Kenya with Free the Children to build a school. During this trip he began to formulate an idea on how he could contribute more to the charity. This idea coalesced into a fund raising climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for Clean Water projects in Africa.

Many people have successfully climbed Kilimanjaro, but none were born with a rare genetic disorder which required the amputation of both legs at the hip at five years of age. At that time West’s parents were told that he would never be able to sit up nor walk, but they chose wisely to redefine the possible and disregard these dire prognostications.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=gzSyM6T5hCk] Instead they instilled in West an indomitable spirit so infectious that nothing seemed impossible. West grew up focusing on the possibilities that didn’t include accepting the limitations of his physique. He subsequently pursued a very active social life, completed high school, and university while simultaneously developing a strong sense of altruism.

So when West decided to embark on a campaign to raise funds for the charity most who knew him believed that he would succeed. He trained for nearly a year to condition his arms and upper body to handle the rigors of walking on his hands 80% of the time over the course of a seven day ascent to the summit.

View more photos of his courageous journeyhere, then head over to the Free the Children website to learn more about the project, to donate money, or read more about Spencer West.

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New Gospel Speaks of Jesus' Wife

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 15:42 PM EDT, 19 September 2012

Ancient Scroll, Phot by Aran TharpeOn Tuesday, 18 September 2012, Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts announced the existence of a fourth-century fragment that alludes to Jesus being married.

The announcement contradicts the assertion which has been assiduously advanced by the Catholic Church that Jesus never married. The church based this claim on a theologian known as Clement of Alexandria, who in 200 C.E. wrote that Jesus did not marry. Therein lies the controversy with King's contentious discovery.

From a sociological standpoint, as a Jewish man living at that time and in that part of the world it is highly unlikely that Jesus would have been unmarried because marriage and childbearing were and continue to be a central component of Jewish life. In fact, it is considered a 'great mitzvah,' and 'if someone intentionally does not fulfill this mitzvah is considered analogous to a murderer.'

The idea of Jesus being married has not been problematic in Judaism or Islam in which sexuality within the context of marriage is considered healthy, natural, and pleasurable. This is not to say the same of does not exists in many Christian traditions; but Catholicism seems to have historically struggled to reconcile the concept of sexual gratification and pleasure even within the confines of marriage.

According to the Torah, or Old Testament, God stated that the purpose of marriage is to produce offspring, "be fruitful and multiply" (Bereishit 1:28) and also for companionship, "It is not good for the man to be alone." (Bereishit 2:18-24)

The New Testament goes on to encourage men to marry "because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife", "it is better to marry than to burn with passion." (1 Corinthians 7:1-5)

In all three traditions, Jesus is acknowledged to have existed and died. However, Muslims like Christians, believe in his virgin birth by Mary; but unlike Christians, Muslims regard him as a mortal prophet sent by God who was not crucified but ascended to heaven like the prophet Elijah before him.

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Published: 19 September 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

An anonymous collector provided the fragment to King for authentication and it is believed to be of Egyptian or Syrian origin.  According to the Harvard website, Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York, said he believed the fragment, which King has called "The Gospel of Jesus's wife," was authentic.

King first introduced her findings at the Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies as evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married.

"Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim," King said in a statement released by Harvard.

"This new gospel doesn't prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage." (Source: Reuters)

King's analysis of the fragment is slated for publication in the Harvard Theological Review in January 2013. She has posted a draft of the paper, and images of the fragment, on the Harvard Divinity School website under the title, “New Early Christian Gospel From Egypt.”

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L'Shanah Tovah 5773 | Happy New Year 2012!

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:30 AM EDT, 14 September 2012

Rosh Hashanah commences on Sunday evening, 16 September 2012. It is also known as Yom ha-Din (Day of Judgement), and begins the "Ten Days of Awe" (Yomin Noraim), the "Ten Days of Turning or Repentance" or "the High Holy Days" which conclude with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

During this period, it is customary to greet one another with the phrase, "L'Shanah Tovah Tikateyvu" meaning "May you be inscribed in the Book of Life."
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmTmiFkbXIE&feature=related]

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The Arab Spring Withers | Al-Qaeda Opportunism

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 12:44 PM EDT, 13 September 2012

Burning American Flag, Photo by Pixel.EightSANAA, Yemen – The coordinated murders of Christopher Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and three other diplomats on the anniversary of 9/11 is troubling.

It also alludes to an intelligent design behind the attack by well-armed, militarized marauders whom some suspect may be loosely aligned with al-Qaeda.

The difference between the Cairo and Benghazi attacks are stark. Cairo seems to be a spontaneous outburst by protesters who were upset with a despicable anti-Islamic video posted on YouTube under several titles, including "Innocence of Muslims," whereas the objective of the protests in Benghazi appear to have provided cover for a military operation with an objective to kill Americans.

In both confrontations demonstrators blamed the United States for the film in which the Prophet Mohammad is depicted in terms seen as blasphemous by Muslims even though it was vociferously denounced by Washington.

Today, unrest spread across the region in response to the video. Most notably, hundreds of Yemeni demonstrators stormed the U.S. embassy compound in Sanaa also under the pretext of protesting the film, resulting in clashes with embassy security forces who fired in the air in an attempt to disperse the crowd. The protesters, many of them young men, briefly retreated during the firing but quickly returned.

The protesters pelted the embassy security officers with stones and also ‘set fire to at least five cars just before they breached the heavily fortified compound. Riot control forces finally used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the demonstrators. (Source: Reuters)

Although, only one protester died, at least 15 people were wounded. The U.S. State Department confirmed that all of the embassy personnel are safe. Reportedly, at least 12 people were arrested in the wake of the riot. The attack against the U.S. embassies in Benghazi, Cairo, and now Sanaa, elicited worries about the continued safety of American diplomatic personnel across the Middle East.

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Published: 13 September 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

As in Egypt yesterday, it was reported that Yemeni security forces were slow to intervene as the crowd began to march upon the embassy holding 'God is Greatest' signs and placards.

Today, after a call with President Obama, the president of Egypt Mohamed Morsi finally issued a tepid statement in response to the assault of the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Many view his statement as too little, too late.

By contrast, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi of Yemen offered an immediate "personal apology" to President Barack Obama for the murder of American diplomats and the storming of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and promised a swift investigation.

Because Yemen is home of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is viewed by Washington as the most dangerous branch of the militant network established by Osama bin Laden,' this attack and the one in Libya are viewed with extreme caution.(Source: Reuters)

The success of the Arab Spring is quickly descending into a ‘winter of discontent’ because newly elected governments are ruling without mandates and are in the inevitable position of trying to coalesce numerous factions with differing objectives into a functioning democracy, as daunting a task as herding cats.

These fissures in Arab Spring governments have allowed the opportunistic and fluid tentacles of al-Qaeda to infiltrate and sabotage the efforts of these Middle Eastern countries’ to embrace Democracy.

As more information becomes available, many are considering the possibility that these attacks are not isolated events, but coordinated efforts to destabilize nations like Libya and Yemen which successfully accomplished regime change and formed valuable alliances with the United States.

Because the Yemeni ousted Ali Abdullah Saleh last year, President Barak Obama committed to provide $345 million in security, humanitarian and development assistance this year, over double last year's aid.

In light of current events, the U.S. Congress in conjunction with President Obama is evaluating continued aid to Yemen, but more specifically the average $2 billion in foreign assistance that the U.S. provides Egypt is also on the table for reevaluation. President Morsi’s government has not given any indication that it desires to continue the strong alliance the U.S. enjoyed with his predecessor, the former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

In response to this outright attack of U.S. diplomats and the potential danger to all American citizens in the region, President Barack Obama has dispatched two destroyers to the region and vowed to hunt down and bring to justice the perpetrators who murdered Ambassador Steven and 3 other Americans.

Our condolences go out to the families of these victims, while we reassert our belief that religious intolerance leads not to peace but to increased violence.

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