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Place your bets on 2009′s top stories

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As part of our Year in Review package, we’re inviting you to place a virtual bet on the outcome of what we think will be some of the top stories in 2009. Clicking on one of the questions below will take you to the Hubdub news prediction site, where you can place a bet on the outcome and peruse other questions set by Reuters.

The graphs below reflect the current betting by the Hubdub community. We’re also inviting you to set your own questions on 2009 events, either via Hubdub or via the comments field below. We’ll feature the best ones here and add more of our own questions in coming days. If you create a 2009 question on Hubdub, you can flag it to us by sending a challenge to the Reuters account. We’re 100 percent likely to check it out.

Question 1: Which G7 economy will record the strongest growth in the first quarter of 2009?

Question 2: What will President Obama’s approval rating be after his first 100 days in office?

Question 3:

from FaithWorld:

Did climate change stoke past religious persecution?

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A thought-provoking new book on Christianity's "lost history" holds that one of the central causes of 14th century religious persecution may well have been climate change. You can read my interview with author Philip Jenkins about "The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa and Asia -- and How It Died" on the Reuters website here.

"The Chronology of Christian sufferings under Islam closely mirrors that of Jews in Christian states," he writes, noting that "Around 1300, the world was changing, and definitely for the worse."

Fill ‘er up: Cheap gas

With oil plunging to record lows, and the average retail price for gas sinking to less than $2, will Americans rekindle their love affair with trucks and SUVs?

Falling gasoline prices are putting extra money in the pockets of consumers, but there is also some concern that drivers may return to their gas-guzzling vehicles.

Are you taking advantage of cheaper gas prices? Could this be the second coming of gas-guzzling vehicles, or is this simply a brief reprieve? Share you cheap gas strategies.

Changing of the guard at Yahoo

Jerry Yang, the chief executive of Yahoo, will step down from his role as soon as the board finds a replacement, the company said.

“The company is in desperate need of change and this is clearly one way to do it,” said Ross Sandler, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

Hillary Clinton for secretary of state?

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Sen. Hillary Clinton has emerged as a candidate to be U.S. secretary of state for Barack Obama, months after he defeated her in an intense contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

NBC News and The Washington Post reported that Clinton was under consideration for the top U.S. diplomatic position.

from FaithWorld:

How credible is a Saudi initiative on interfaith dialogue?

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King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, which the U.S. State Department lists as a "country of particular concern" because of its severe restrictions on religious freedom, is sponsoring talks at the United Nations in New York today and tomorrow on improving interfaith dialogue. Is this a credible exercise? (Photo: King Abdullah with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at U.N. in New York, Nov 12, 2008)

Analysis leading up to the meeting has been full of reservations. Our Riyadh bureau chief Andrew Hammond noted that the influential religious establishment in Saudi Arabia shows scant support for the king's initiative. Our Middle East news editor Samia Nakhoul quotes Saudi delegation member Jamal Khajoggi as saying "The king can change positions, he can hire and fire people but he cannot change the mind-set of people or the clerical establishment quickly. It has to be gradual."

from UK News:

The death knell for bling?

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In these hard times, those whose job it is to part us from our money in the shops are beginning to describe the retailing experience as a family activity, a way of relaxing -- absolutely nothing to do with conspicuous consumption, you understand.

The word "luxury", we are told, sends the wrong message nowadays and is being quietly phased out of promotional material. Bling is over.

from FaithWorld:

Is the BBC “anti-God”? Its D-G thinks it’s the opposite

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BBC Director General Mark Thompson, 10 Oct 2007/Toby MelvilleWhen he joined the BBC in 1979, its Director General Mark Thompson says, his mother told him: "The BBC is anti-Catholic and anti-God’." Another critic recently accused it of having "a materialist, mechanistic consensus which has rejected God." 

Thompson has just defended the BBC in a speech to Theos, which describes itself as a public theology think tank: "I believe that the BBC has maintained the daily and weekly presence of religion on its services with more consistency and commitment over decades than any other British media organization." You can read the speech here.

from FaithWorld:

Storm in a cappuccino cup? 106-year-old nun supports Obama

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Sister Cecelia Gaudette/CBS photoSister Cecilia Gaudette is an American Catholic nun who is spunky despite her 106 years.  She was born in Manchester, New Hampshire on March 25, 1902 -- when Republican Teddy Roosevelt was president  -- and has been living (until recently) in obscurity in a convent in Rome.  The last time she voted was in 1952, for Dwight Eisenhower, another Republican. Now she is voting for Barack Obama. Read the Reuters story here and watch the CBS video to find out why.

Not surprisingly, the blogosphere has reacted with both praise and condemnation for Gaudette for backing a candidate who supports abortion rights.  Some readers even see the story as a kind of covert media campaigning for Obama. Last month a Roman Catholic with a much higher profile,  Archbishop Raymond Burke, a senior American official at the Vatican, caused a stir when he said the Democratic Party risked becoming a "party of death" because of its choices on abortion, embryonic stem cells and other bioethical questions.

from FaithWorld:

Looking for the red lines between Christianity and Islam

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Christian crosses and Muslim crescent in Beirut, 28 Nov 2006/Eric GaillardCan someone be Christian and Muslim at the same time? This came up over the weekend in two articles from almost opposite sides of the globe.

Rev. Ann Holmes Redding in Seattle thinks she can be both. Her Episcopal Church does not and is moving toward defrocking her if she does not renounce Islam. Redding, who has been an Episcopal priest for 25 years, first announced her dual faith over a year ago and was given 15 months to think it over. Now facing defrocking, she told Janet Tu of the Seattle Times that she is "still following Jesus in being a Muslim" and feels "privileged to see God in more places, rather than fewer places."

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