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from The Great Debate:

Post-Partisan: Fixing our ideological divide

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As Americans examine the astounding dysfunction of their government, gerrymandering is usually cited as the prime culprit. This narrative offers a compelling villain: venal politicians who draw district boundaries for partisan advantage or to protect their own incumbency.

On the surface, it makes sense that manipulating district lines could be responsible for the increase in non-competitive, non-diverse congressional seats and the rise of ideologues who take radical positions without fear of voter retribution. But this ignores evidence that gerrymandering is only partly responsible for the current partisanship -- and that eliminating it will not address the calamity we are witnessing.

No one disputes that congressional districts have become less competitive. During the last government shutdown in 1995, 79 of the 236 House Republicans represented districts that supported President Bill Clinton in his 1992 election. Today, only 17 of the 232 House Republicans represent districts that backed President Barack Obama -- demonstrating more partisan consistency at the district level.

Cook’s Political Report, a leading congressional handicapper, makes the point more directly. There were 164 competitive districts in 1998, according to Cook’s Partisan Voter Index, but only 99 after 2012.

from The Great Debate:

Can Christie tackle the partisan divide?

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in Asbury Park in New Jersey, May 28, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

How often these days do we see a political figure liked by both Republicans and Democrats? Not so often that we should fail to notice.

from FaithWorld:

Boycott and protests set stage for French Islam debate

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(Muslims demonstrate against the debate about secularism and Islam proposed by the UMP party, April 2, 2011. The placard reads,"French and Muslims, where is the problem?"/Benoit Tessier)

France's ruling conservatives are pressing ahead with a public debate on Islam and secularism on Tuesday despite criticism that it is an excuse to pander to far-right voters ahead of a general election next year. President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party said in December that it would host a public forum to address fears about Islam's role in French society, following controversy over Muslim street prayers, halal-only restaurants and full-face Islamic veils.

from Tales from the Trail:

As Tea Party cranks up heat on Congress, poll shows public support waning

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The Tea Party is coming to Washington to turn up the heat on the Congress -- just as a new poll finds that public support for it has waned.

Members of the conservative Tea Party movement plan to hold a rally on Thursday outside the U.S. Capitol, urging Republicans to stand firm in their showdown with Democrats over proposed spending cuts.

from FaithWorld:

U.S. rabbis protest Fox host’s use of Holocaust imagery

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beckFour hundred rabbis published a letter on Thursday calling on Fox News to sanction host Glenn Beck for repeated use of Nazi and Holocaust imagery and for airing attacks on World War Two survivor George Soros.

In an open letter to Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp, which owns Fox, the rabbis also demand an apology from Fox News chief Roger Ailes for characterizing Beck's Jewish critics as nothing more than "left-wing rabbis."

from FaithWorld:

Anti-Muslim bias now the social norm, UK cabinet minister says

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warsiPrejudice against Muslims has "passed the dinner-table test" and become socially acceptable in Britain, says the Conservative Party's chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

Warsi, a Pakistan-born minister without portfolio in Prime Minister David Cameron's cabinet, will say in a speech at the University of Leicester on Thursday evening that dividing Muslims into "moderate" and "extremist" fuels intolerance, according to prepared remarks published in the Daily Telegraph.

from FaithWorld:

Does FRC index underline weak link between faith and family?

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The conservative Christian, Washington-based Family Research Council (FRC) has just released its first "Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection." You can click here to see its full details.

The "Index of Belonging" is 45 percent and that of "Rejection" is 55 percent. The report's author, Patrick Fagan, who heads FRC's Marriage and Religion Research Institute, says the following:

from FaithWorld:

Family Research Council to issue “Index of Family Belonging and Rejection”

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Indices are all the rage these days. In his recently published and thought-provoking "Why the West Rules -- For Now," historian Ian Morris has created an "index on social development" which, among other things, attempts to measure the West and East's "energy capture."

There are of course plenty of other examples (and future historians will no doubt see it as a sign of our times -- as Morris notes, ages get the "thought they need"). The latest addition to this swelling modern family of indices will come on Wednesday when the conservative, Washington-based Family Research Council (FRC) releases its  first annual "Index of Family Belonging and Rejection." The index is a product of its Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

from FaithWorld:

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and abortion at U.S. military bases…

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One little-reported aspect of the political wrangling around attempts to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans gays from serving openly in the U.S. military was how the religious right tied it to another hot-button cultural issue: abortion.

This would certainly have caught the attention of socially conservative Republicans who were instrumental in defeating a measure aimed at its repeal in the U.S. Senate on Thursday night.

from FaithWorld:

Lively debate among Catholics interpreting pope’s condom remarks

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papaPope Benedict's surprising view that condoms can sometimes be used to fight AIDS has kindled a lively debate among Roman Catholic theologians and commentators about whether this amounts to a change in Church thinking.

His comments and a Vatican clarification that expanded on them seem to leave no doubt that Benedict has spoken with unprecedented frankness for a pontiff and shifted the focus a bit from the Church's rejection of condoms to avoid disease.

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