Young Americans shifting US towards becoming less religious nation – Harriet Sherwood Tuesday 3 November 2015 16.31 EST

Growing numbers of ‘millennials’ who are unaffiliated or atheists are causing vast changes in the American religious landscape, report says

Catholic church

Declining levels of religious belief and practice among the generation of Americans born in the last two decades of the 20th century is shifting the US towards becoming a less devout nation, a major new survey has found.

The growing proportion of “millennials” – young adults now in their 20s and 30s – who do not belong to any organised faith is changing America’s religious landscape, says a report by the respected Pew Research Center, based on a survey of 35,000 people.

The religiously unaffiliated or “nones”, who include atheists and those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular”, have grown to 23% of the US population, compared to 16% at the time of the last comparable survey in 2007.

But three out of four Americans still have some religious faith, mainly Protestant denominations, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. And 89% of US adults say they believe in God – including a significant proportion of “nones” – making America more religiously inclined than other advanced industrial nations.

Youth largely equates with a lack of religious activity, says the report. One in four millennials attend religious services on a weekly basis, compared with more than half of those adults born before or during the second world war. Only 38% of adults born after 1990 say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 67% of those born before 1945.

Overall, 55% of American adults say they pray daily, 53% say religion is very important in their lives and 50% attend a religious service at least once a month. Significantly, more women (64%) pray on a daily basis than men (46%).

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Spy vs. Spy: Inside the Fraying U.S.-Israel Ties – By ADAM ENTOUS Oct. 22, 2015 9:01 p.m. ET

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared at a news conference at the White House on Sept. 10, 2010, a time when both countries began to split over the best means to keep Iran from an atomic bomb.

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared at a news conference at the White House on Sept. 10, 2010, a time when both countries began to split over the best means to keep Iran from an atomic bomb. PHOTO: JASON REED/REUTERS

The U.S. closely monitored Israel’s military bases and eavesdropped on secret communications in 2012, fearing its longtime ally might try to carry out a strike on Fordow, Iran’s most heavily fortified nuclear facility.

Nerves frayed at the White House after senior officials learned Israeli aircraft had flown in and out of Iran in what some believed was a dry run for a commando raid on the site. Worried that Israel might ignite a regional war, the White House sent a second aircraft carrier to the region and readied attack aircraft, a senior U.S. official said, “in case all hell broke loose.”

The two countries, nursing a mutual distrust, each had something to hide. U.S. officials hoped to restrain Israel long enough to advance negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran that the U.S. had launched in secret. U.S. officials saw Israel’s strike preparations as an attempt to usurp American foreign policy.

Instead of talking to each other, the allies kept their intentions secret. To figure out what they weren’t being told, they turned to their spy agencies to fill gaps. They employed deception, not only against Iran, but against each other. After working in concert for nearly a decade to keep Iran from an atomic bomb, the U.S. and Israel split over the best means: diplomacy, covert action or military strikes.

Personal strains between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu erupted at their first Oval Office meeting in 2009, and an accumulation of grievances in the years since plunged relations between the two countries into crisis.

This Wall Street Journal account of the souring of U.S.-Israel relations over Iran is based on interviews with nearly two dozen current and former senior U.S. and Israeli officials.

U.S. and Israeli officials say they want to rebuild trust but acknowledge it won’t be easy. Mr. Netanyahu reserves the right to continue covert action against Iran’s nuclear program, said current and former Israeli officials, which could put the spy services of the U.S. and Israel on a collision course.

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UN slams ‘inexcusable’ US airstrike that killed 19 at Afghan hospital – October 3, 2015 9:07AM ET

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at Oct 4, 2015 4.57

A U.S. airstrike in the Afghan city of Kunduz hit a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Saturday, killing at least 19 people at the medical center, the medical charity said.

In a statement, MSF said the “sustained bombing” took place at 2:10 a.m. local time and continued for 30 minutes after staff raised the alarm to U.S. and Afghan military officials. Three children are believed to be among the dead.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the United States still was trying to determine how the airstrike hit the hospital.  “A full investigation into the tragic incident is under way in coordination with the Afghan government,” Carter said in a statement.

He said the area around the hospital had been the scene of intense fighting in recent days with U.S. forces supporting Afghan Security Forces against Taliban fighters. The incident could renew concerns over the use of its air power in the conflict.

The head of U.S.-led forces in the country later phoned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to apologize, according to a statement from Ghani’s office.

UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that the incident was “inexcusable” and possibly criminal. Zeid called for a full and transparent investigation, noting that, “if established as deliberate in a court of law, an air strike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”

Afghan forces backed by U.S. airstrikes have been fighting to dislodge Taliban insurgents who overran Kunduz earlier this week. Tribus said Saturday’s deadly raid was the 12th U.S. airstrike “in the Kunduz vicinity” since Tuesday.

Doctors Without Borders said its trauma center “was hit several times” during the attack and that the hospital was “very badly damaged.”


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Why Russia Still Loves Putin – By ALEC LUHN 09/12/15, 10:45 AM EDT

The ruling party will win in Sunday’s elections. And that’s not just because of its dirty tricks campaign against the opposition.


It’s a weekday afternoon in Kostroma, a drowsy provincial center 250 miles northeast of Moscow, and something is stirring in a quiet apartment yard on the city outskirts. Upbeat instrumental music is pouring out of a sound system, summoning residents—most of them military families—down for a campaign stop by Ilya Yashin, an opposition candidate for the regional parliament. As mothers with strollers and pensioners with shopping bags walk by, two surly young men with vests reading “Patriots of Russia” make sure to hand them and about a dozen gathered for the speech fliers labeled “We’re against the Moscow opposition.”

“The USA is trying to destroy Russia not only with sanctions, but also with the help of its henchmen, the ‘Moscow opposition’ that’s participating in the elections,” the flier begins. It identifies Yashin as the leader of this group, accusing him of selling information to the U.S. State Department and trying to return Crimea to Ukraine, “dooming to repression 2 million residents who want to be part of Russia.”

The Patriots of Russia men claim they have every right to campaign here, although they can’t name their party’s candidate when asked by a journalist. After a Yashin volunteer snatches the fliers away from one of the young men, police arrive and take both the volunteer and the sullen Patriots in for questioning.

Yashin begins his stump speech, focusing on local issues like bad roads and utilities rate hikes, but is soon interrupted by a woman yelling that he’s disturbing the peace. “Every rally there are people who come, sometimes the same people, and try to shout us down and disrupt the event,” Yashin remarks.

Welcome to the campaign trail in Russia, where two dozen provinces will elect regional representatives on Sunday. With the ruble worth a little over half what it was this time last year and the economy falling into recession, it would seem that now is the perfect time for the liberal opposition, which has been largely frozen out of politics and which president Vladimir Putin suggests wasis a “fifth column” of traitors, to gain a toehold in an out-of-the-way regional parliament.


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Who stood to profit most over the years? – AUGUST 02, 2015 8:53 AM ET

25 Years In Iraq, With No End In Sight – GREG MYRE


U.S. Marines arrive at Saudi Arabia's Dhahran Air Base on Aug. 21, 1990. The U.S. began a buildup in the region just days after Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2 of that year. The U.S. military has been active in Iraq virtually nonstop for the past quarter-century.

U.S. Marines arrive at Saudi Arabia’s Dhahran Air Base on Aug. 21, 1990. The U.S. began a buildup in the region just days after Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2 of that year. The U.S. military has been active in Iraq virtually nonstop for the past quarter-century. Gerard Fouet/AFP/Getty Images

It started so well. When Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, the United States swiftly cobbled together a broad coalition, unleashed a stunning new generation of air power and waged a lightning ground offensive that lasted all of four days. Iraqi troops were so desperate to quit that some surrendered to Western journalists armed only with notebooks.

Kuwait was liberated, U.S. commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf was a hero, and the pundits confidently declared the U.S. had buried its “Vietnam syndrome,” the fear of being sucked into a quagmire. In the annals of war, it doesn’t get much easier than this.

So on the 25th anniversary of that first Iraq conflict, how is it possible that the U.S. is still entangled in a messy, complicated war with no end on the horizon?

Iraq President Saddam Hussein is shown in Baghdad in January 1991, just before the first U.S. war in Iraq. The American forces would oust the Iraqi leader 12 years later in a second war.i

Iraq President Saddam Hussein is shown in Baghdad in January 1991, just before the first U.S. war in Iraq. The American forces would oust the Iraqi leader 12 years later in a second war.


Aside from an intermission from December 2011 until August 2014, the U.S. military has been rumbling through the sweltering sands or soaring over the desert skies for this entire quarter-century, a military engagement unparalleled in U.S. history.

Before the first Iraq battle, the U.S. had never fought a large-scale war in the Middle East. Yet freeing a tiny Gulf emirate from Saddam’s clutches has morphed into a seemingly permanent state of war, metastasizing to so many countries it’s tough to put a precise number on it.

Here’s one way to count: President Obama has ordered airstrikes on seven Muslim countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Somalia) in less than seven years in office.

“Before 1990, the region was a secondary or even tertiary area of importance to Washington. The United States had rarely deployed military forces in the region,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official now at the Brookings Institution, wrote recently. “What had been a backwater for the U.S. military has become since 1990 the principal arena of conflict. This shows no sign of ending anytime soon.”

The U.S. military involvement has spanned four presidencies and a panoply of evolving goals.

In rough order, the shifting aims have been to reverse Saddam’s aggression, ensure the safe flow of oil from the Gulf, contain Saddam, oust Saddam, search for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, build democracy, pummel al-Qaida in Iraq, and currently, suppress the self-proclaimed Islamic State. If there’s a unifying theme, it’s the U.S. forecasts that have consistently been too optimistic.

“It’s been a 25-year-long enterprise, with different aims and approaches, none of which have yielded the results promised,” said Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who served in Iraq and now teaches international relations at Boston University.

The U.S. policies have included five distinct phases. Here’s a closer look at them and their consequences:

1. Overwhelming Force (1991): The world was turning America’s way when, after a six-month military buildup, the U.S. began bombing Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991. The Berlin Wall had fallen, the Soviet Union would crumble by year’s end and the U.S. was the lone superpower.

The brief war only reinforced the notion that the U.S. was uniquely positioned to remake the global order in the wake of the Cold War. The only debate at the end of the first Iraq war was whether the U.S. squandered an opportunity by not advancing all the way to Baghdad, ousting Saddam and occupying Iraq.

Iraqi antiaircraft fire lights up the skies over Baghdad in response to U.S. warplanes that bombed the Iraqi capital in the early hours of Jan. 18, 1991. The U.S. campaign drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait in a little over a month.

Iraqi antiaircraft fire lights up the skies over Baghdad in response to U.S. warplanes that bombed the Iraqi capital in the early hours of Jan. 18, 1991. The U.S. campaign drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait in a little over a month.

Dominique Mollard/AP

But President George H.W. Bush cautioned against the risks of taking over Iraq. His top military adviser, Gen. Colin Powell, summed it up with the “Pottery Barn rule” – if you break it, you own it.

Bush wanted to withdraw the troops as quickly as possible to avoid any potential complications. His successors have had similar instincts, yet each American drawdown in Iraq has been followed by a fresh wave of forces at a later date.

“The 1991 war was quick and easy and created the myth that this is how we could fight wars now,” said James Dubik, a retired general and Iraq veteran who’s now at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. “This set us up for a misunderstanding of how to wage war in the years that followed.”

There were other unanticipated consequences. Osama bin Laden would cite the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia — sent in the run-up to the war and remaining in its aftermath — as one of his main grievances against the U.S.

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The United States Wins World Cup. Watch the Insane Four-Goal Stretch That Made It Happen. – By Jeremy Stahl JULY 5 2015 7:55 PM

Carli Lloyd celebrates after scoring two goals in five minutes against Japan in the Women’s World Cup final. Rich Lam/Getty Images

Update, 9:03 p.m.: After going on one of the greatest 16-minute stretches in American sports history by scoring four quick goals to start the Women’s World Cup final against Japan, the United States wrapped up a comfortable 5-2 victory to claim its third World Cup title in four visits to the final. The Americans also avenged their defeat against the Japanese in the last World Cup final. While they didn’t match Brazil’s 7-1 defeat to Germany from last year’s World Cup semifinals, it was one of the most dominant World Cup final performances—men’s or women’s—in history, matching Brazil’s 5-2 win over Sweden in the 1958 men’s tournament. It was the first American title since the United States beat China on penalties in the 1999 final on home turf.

Original post: Well, that was pretty fun. The United States had the greatest start to a World Cup final in history on Sunday, scoring four goals in 16 minutes. Three of those goals belonged to star midfielder Carli Lloyd, who capped off the hat trick—the fastest in Women’s World Cup history—with an insane chip from midfield to beat Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori. Lloyd’s salivating opening goal came in the third minute with a gorgeous put away of a perfect low cross by Megan Rapinoe, while her second goal came just two minutes later off of another set piece. Lauren Holiday scored the United States’ third goal just two minutes before Lloyd would add the fourth on the midfield chip, and Holiday’s flying volley was just as scintillating as Lloyd’s first two. You can watch all four beautiful strikes below.

The Japanese pulled one back on a very solid effort by Yuki Ogimi in the 27thminute to end the United States’ scoreless streak at 539 minutes, just shy of a Women’s World Cup record.* The Americans did let the Japanese battle back from one-goal leads twice in the last Women’s World Cup final in 2011 and ultimately lost that contest on penalty kicks, but four goals (or three goals for that matter) is a whole other kettle of fish, especially coming against a team that had conceded just once the entire tournament prior to the final. After that start, a repeat of last year’s 7-1 German humiliation of Brazil seemed more likely than any sort of completed Japanese comeback.

Correction, July 6, 12:19 a.m. This post originally misstated the U.S. scoreless defensive streak at the World Cup was 540 minutes.

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How the South Skews America – By MICHAEL LIND July 03, 2015

We’d be less violent, more mobile and in general more normal if not for Dixie.

COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27:  Demonstrators protest at the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Every year the Fourth of July is marked by ringing affirmations of American exceptionalism. We are a special nation, uniquely founded on high ideals like freedom and equality. In practice, however, much of what sets the United States apart from other countries today is actually Southern exceptionalism. The United States would be much less exceptional in general, and in particular more like other English-speaking democracies such as Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were it not for the effects on U.S. politics and culture of the American South.

I don’t mean this in a good way. A lot of the traits that make the United States exceptional these days are undesirable, like higher violence and less social mobility. Many of these differences can be attributed largely to the South.

All English-speaking democracies share certain characteristics in common. Compared to continental European and East Asian democracies, the Anglophone nations tend to be more market-oriented and less statist, with somewhat lower levels of social spending and weaker bureaucracies. We might even speak of “Anglosphere exceptionalism.”

But even by the standards of the English-speaking world, the U.S. appears as an extreme outlier, in areas ranging from religiosity to violence to anti-government attitudes. As we learned after the slaughter last month in Charleston, S.C., some deluded Southerners still pine for secession from the Union. Yet no doubt there are also more than a few liberal Northerners who would be happy to see them go.

Minus the South, the rest of the U.S. probably would be more like Canada or Australia or Britain or New Zealand—more secular, more socially liberal, more moderate in the tone of its politics and somewhat more generous in social policy. And it would not be as centralized as France or as social democratic as Sweden.

As a fifth-generation Texan, and a descendant of Southerners back to the 1600s, I don’t want to encourage lurid stereotypes of a monolithic South. The states of the former Confederacy include ethnic minorities like Louisiana Cajuns and Texas Germans, along with African Americans. And the dominant conservatives in the South have always been challenged from within the ranks of the white community by populists, liberals and radicals.

But the South really is different from the rest of the country. Here are some examples of how the South skews American statistics.


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US-Cuba ties: Washington and Havana to announce embassies – BBC News 1 July 2015

Havana skyline (file photo 2009)

There has not been a US embassy in the Cuban capital Havana since the 1960s

The US and Cuba will on Wednesday announce the opening of embassies in each other’s capitals, a major step in re-establishing diplomatic ties severed in 1961, a senior US official has said.

Relations had been frozen since the early 1960s when the US broke links and imposed a trade embargo with the Communist island.

But the US and Cuba agreed to normalise relations at the end of 2014.

The country’s two leaders held historic talks in April.

Since 1977, the US and Cuba have operated diplomatic missions called “interests sections” in each other’s capitals under the legal protection of Switzerland. However, they do not enjoy the same status as full embassies.

Another milestone

US officials said President Barack Obama would make a formal announcement from the White House at 15:00 GMT on Wednesday.

It is still not clear exactly what the date will be for opening the embassies, but it is likely to be in mid-July, says the BBC’s Cuba correspondent Will Grant.

The US State Department must give Congress two weeks’ warning before the embassy can open, he adds.

It is the latest major milestone in a thawing process between the two countries’ relations, which started with secret negotiations and was announced last December.

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China’s gold hoard will slay the mighty dollar – JODY CHUDLEY, THE DAILY RECKONING JUN. 27, 2015, 9:21 PM

Caishen, the Chinese god of wealth/prosperity/fortune China

Reuters/Pichi ChuangA performer dressed as Caishen, the Chinese god of wealth/prosperity/fortune, holds a container shaped like a prosperous gold ingot, in front of an electronic board displaying stock information at a brokerage house on the first day back to work after the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays in Taipei.

Tiger Woods in his prime wasn’t close to being invincible. He was invincible.

From the time Tiger Woods burst onto the golf scene by dominating the 1997 Masters until he won the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg, he played golf at a level that we may never see from anyone again.

I had a front-row seat to that 2008 U.S. Open victory. I was underneath the grandstand, peering through legs trying to get a look at Tiger on Sunday as he nailed yet another epic clutch putt to force a playoff that he would ultimately win.

The crowd reaction was so loud I thought that the grandstand was coming down on top of me.

If you had told me on that Sunday that the 2008 U.S. Open would be the last major Tiger would win, I would have laughed at you. Now, with his game in complete disarray and a body that is constantly broken, I think that it probably was his last hurrah.

Tiger Woods in 2008 reminds me of the U.S. dollar today…

With European and Japanese central banks doing everything possible (and then some) to weaken their respective currencies and the U.S. Fed actually discussing rate hikes, it seems impossible to imagine the U.S. dollar being anything but strong. Seemingly invincible.

But just as Tiger had issues already going on behind the scenes in 2008 with his swing and personal life, so too are cards being played that will ultimately weaken the U.S. dollar.

Today, we’ll take a look at China’s ambition to uproot the global currency market. Let’s start by talking gold…

Nobody Knows Just How Much Gold China Actually Now Controls

It is amazing what you can find out today on the Internet.

I use it to fix my car. There are wonderful instructional videos on YouTube available for free.

I use it to diagnose what is wrong with myself and family members. Don’t get me started on the dangers of using the Internet for medical purposes versus simply taking the word of a doctor.

And I can use it to find virtually every single piece of financial data that I ever want.

There is one thing that I can’t find on the Internet, no matter how much time I spend searching.

How much gold China has in its reserves.

I can’t do that because China hasn’t released an updated gold reserve figure since 2009.

In 2009, the People’s Bank of China announced that it had significantly increased its holdings of gold from its last update, in 2003. In 2003, the gold in reserve stood at 600 tonnes. In 2009, it jumped 76%, bringing the total to 1,054.1 tonnes.

Despite the big increase, China, as of that 2009 update, had only a fraction of the gold reserves of the United States. China also had less gold than Germany, the IMF, Italy and France.

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“Terrorists” Take Over the Stage (Extra Scene from ‘Rearming Iraq’) – Vice News Published on May 27, 2015

As violence escalates across the Middle East and North Africa, the United States remains the largest exporter of weapons to the region, and private US defense companies and contractors have opened local offices as the demand shows no sign of abating.

VICE News traveled to this year’s International Defense Exhibition and Conference in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi to examine the competition between arms manufacturers vying for a greater portion of the lucrative market.

From Abu Dhabi we traveled to Iraq, where US weapons have fallen into the hands of non-state actors such as the so-called Islamic State militant group, Kurdish Peshmerga, and militias aligned with the Iraqi government. Rather than block sales, the US government and others actively promote them — ensuring there will be enough arms to fuel the region’s wars and revolts for years to come.

In this extra scene, we catch a glimpse of the opening ceremony at IDEX and speak with a Saudi CEO from Automotive Development Company about the arms race in the Middle East.