More and longer field goals

Football has a new wrinkle, thanks in part to the phenomenon of youth soccer programs:

NFL place kickers are connecting on their field goal attempts at a higher rate than ever, threatening to make even long-distance kicks nearly as automatic as extra points. . . .

NFL kickers have been successful on 86.5 percent of their field goal tries this season. That is the highest percentage at this point in a season since at least the 1987 season. NFL officials say it would be the best percentage in history over a full season with at least 100 field goal attempts if kickers are able to maintain that pace. . . .

Through seven weeks last season, NFL kickers had connected on 81.9 percent of their field goal attempts. They hit 84.4 percent of their tries through seven weeks of the 2008 season, when they finished the year at what league is thought to be the record full-season percentage of 84.5 percent. Data on the number of field goal attempts and success rates wasn’t always kept reliably throughout league history, but it is generally accepted that field goal accuracy has improved greatly in recent years. . .

“The biggest difference is the kicks from beyond 40 yards,” said Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL’s competition committee. “That’s where the improvement really is. That was the impetus behind us wanting to change the overtime format for the postseason [eliminating the possibility of a team winning with a field goal on the opening possession of overtime] because the accuracy has become so good.”

Kickers even have been accurate on field goal attempts of 50 yards or longer, making 70.7 percent of them this season. Scobee is 5 for 5 on such kicks and Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski is 5 for 6.

Several people said kickers’ skill has been improving for decades, citing everything from the quality of the young athletes who take up kicking to the sophistication of the instruction they receive.

“You’ve got guys that are starting at a younger age, taking it way more seriously, training seriously,” Akers said. “You have kicking camps. Guys are specialized, and even specialized in the way they train.”

Gary Zauner, an NFL special teams coordinator for 13 seasons with three teams, now works with individual kickers and runs development camps and combines for kickers.

“The kids who are the better soccer players, they’re coming to football to kick,” Zauner said. “In high school, they’re getting instruction. They get to college and they get instruction. In the old days, nobody was really working with guys at a higher level. When you get better instruction earlier, it pays dividends down the line.”

Zauner said the large number of kids playing soccer in the U.S. has made the quality of kicking in football better.

via NFL kickers making field goals at record pace – The Washington Post.

Cain’s sexual harrassment charges

A third woman accuses Herman Cain of sexual harrassment:

A third former employee considered filing a workplace complaint against Herman Cain over what she considered aggressive and unwanted behavior when she and Cain, now a Republican presidential candidate, worked together during the late 1990s, the woman told The Associated Press on Wednesday. She said the behavior including a private invitation to his corporate apartment.

The woman said he made sexually suggestive remarks or gestures about the same time that two co-workers had settled separate harassment complaints against Cain, who was then the head of the National Restaurant Association.

She did not file a formal complaint because she began having fewer interactions with Cain, she said. Afterward, she learned that a co-worker — one of the two women whose accusations have rocked Cain’s campaign this week — had already done so. She said she would have had to file if they hadn’t.

The woman spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying she feared retaliation. She was located and approached by the AP as part of its investigation into harassment complaints against Cain that were disclosed in recent days and have thrown his presidential campaign into turmoil. She said she was reluctant to describe the encounters she had with Cain when they worked together at the Washington-based restaurant trade group.

via Third Former Cain Employee Claims She Was Harassed by GOP Candidate « CBS Washington.

Keeping in mind that we don’t really know what happened, do you think these charges will–and should–sink Cain’s campaign for president?  Does the fact that this information was not made public until Cain attained front-runner status constitute “high tech lynching” or “the politics of personal destruction”?  Or do you believe that voters need to know this kind of information before casting their vote?

At any rate, here is a lesson for would-be candidates, including ambitious young people with a FaceBook page used to chronicling their every transgression and posting pictures about it:   With today’s “opposition research” as part of virtually every modern political campaign, candidates need to realize that any skeleton in their closet–anything they did wrong in public or anything they did that would be embarrassing–is going to come out.

Beware of Greeks fearing gifts

The Greeks founded Europe, and now they may end it.  And the vehicle for both is the same:  Democracy.

The European powers carefully crafted a deal to bail out Greece, forgiving half of their debt at the cost of significant reforms and austerity measures.  With this agreement, the world’s stock markets soared.  But then the Greek government, despite its earlier agreement, suddenly decided to put the accord to the vote of the people.  Since the population seems opposed to  austerity, the prospect of a referendum has cast the agreement into doubt, sending the world’s stock markets into another dive and shaking the economic foundations of the Eurozone.

World leaders convening at this resort [Cannes] for a long-planned summit find themselves confronting a suddenly acute crisis over Greece and signs of an economic slowdown throughout Europe that may narrow their room for action.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou left a cabinet meeting in Athens early Wednesday with his government intact — for now — and backing his plan to hold a national referendum on the country’s latest international rescue program.

World leaders will gather in Cannes, France, on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 to discuss Europe’s debt crisis and other economic issues. Thousands of protesters are gathering in France to urge the G-20 leaders to focus on the poor.

But his call for a popular vote on Tuesday has jeopardized the rescue plan and upended the agenda for Group of 20 leaders. Papandreou has been called to a meeting here Wednesday night to explain himself.

This was to have been a summit where the G-20 — the forum where industrialized nations and the leading developing economies compare notes on the world economy — puts its stamp on a plan that convincingly appeared to settle Europe’s lingering financial crisis.

Instead, with Cannes under a security lockdown that has made its streets into a virtual ghost town, the group will be looking for ways to avoid even greater problems. The 17-nation euro region is trying desperately to navigate between the budget-cutting and reform needed to bring down high levels of government debt, and the tepid economic growth that is sapping incomes, causing chronically high unemployment and straining political systems.

via World leaders to confer with Greece over referendum call – The Washington Post.

Do you think the Greek government was right to put the question of accepting the economic package to a popular referendum?  Does the world’s economic problems bring us to the limits of Democracy, the possibility that people will not vote to suffer, even when the alternative may be suffering on a far greater scale?  Can you see something like that happening here, with voters rejecting efforts to cut back federal spending AND repudiating new taxes AND demanding ever more entitlements, to the point of national bankruptcy?

UPDATE:  The Greek government has now scrapped the referendum.

Israel considering a strike against Iran?

Wars and rumors of war:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to rally support in his cabinet for an attack on Iran, according to government sources.

The country’s defence minister Ehud Barak and the foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman are said to be among those backing a pre-emptive strike to neutralise Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

But a narrow majority of ministers currently oppose the move, which could trigger a wave of regional retaliation.

The debate over possible Israeli military action has reached fever pitch in recent days with newspaper leader columns discussing the benefits and dangers of hitting Iran.

Mr Lieberman responded to the reports of a push to gain cabinet approval by saying that “Iran poses the most dangerous threat to world order.”

But he said Israel’s military options should not be a matter for public discussion.

The inside of reactor at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, 1200 Kms south of Tehran, where Iran has began to unload fuel for the nuclear power plant

The reactor at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant where Iran has began to unload fuel for the nuclear power plant

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due to report on the state of Iran’s nuclear capabilities on November 8, and that assessment is likely to influence Israel’s decision.

Western intelligence officials estimate that Iran is still at least two to three years away from obtaining a nuclear bomb.

Israel has long made it clear that it will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear capability that could threaten the Jewish State.

Publicly it is pushing for a diplomatic offensive against Iran – including the imposition of sanctions – rather than a military strike.

But prime minister Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that all options are on the table.

via Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu Considers Pre-Emptive Attack On Iran To Prevent Nuclear Capability | World News | Sky News.

For Iran’s saber rattling, threatening  both Israel and the United States should this happen, see this.

The revised Roman Catholic liturgy

When we lived in Wisconsin, my wife taught at a Catholic school, which occasionally would hold mass.  This also led to friendships which occasionally took us to wedding and funeral masses.   I had thought that going to a Roman Catholic service would at least mean taking in some high church liturgy.  But more often than not, it meant folky guitars, praise songs even worse than those of Protestants, and flat sounding modernizations of liturgical language.  (I know not all masses were this way.  My harder-core Catholic friends would find more traditional services, with some getting in trouble for trying to recover the old Latin mass, though I think the English translation of the ritual was mandatory.)

But now, things are changing again, but they are changing back.  A newly-authorized and newly-mandatory English translation goes back to some of the older readings that are closer to the original Latin.  As a result, by the end of next month, American Catholics are going to have to get used to a whole new liturgy, one whose language is actually more traditional than what that they had gotten used to after the Vatican II reforms of the 1960s.

English-speaking Catholics are bracing for the biggest changes to their Mass since the 1960s, a shift some leaders warn could cause “ritual whiplash.”

The overhaul, which will become mandatory Nov. 27, is aimed at unifying the more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide with a translation that is as close as possible to the original Latin version. It allows for less independence and diversity of interpretation in a church that in recent decades has tried to retain more control over how Catholicism is defined.

Recent popes have emphasized orthodoxy and hierarchy, particularly in the West, where religious identity is increasingly fluid. Catholic hospitals and schools have been required to more clearly espouse church teachings, and Pope Benedict XVI has stressed the sole truth of Catholicism over other faiths, even declining this month to pray with Hindus, Jews and others at an interreligious event.

The new translation changes the majority of sentences in the Mass. The prayers and call-and-response dialogue between the priest and the congregation are different, transforming the dialogue that Catholics under 40 have used in church their entire lives. Some leaders warn that the shift could cause “ritual whiplash” among those accustomed to a worship script so familiar that most recite it from memory.

Reaction to the changes has been intense, in some ways fueling a Catholic culture war that began when the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s imposed far more sweeping changes designed to open up and modernize the church. Some traditionalists say the new translation of the ritual is richer and — because it’s less conversational — more mysterious and spiritual. . . .

Perhaps the most basic change will be when the priest says: “The Lord be with you.” The congregation will no longer say “And also with you.” The new response is “And with your spirit.”

via ‘Ritual whiplash’ ahead? Catholics’ Mass liturgy changing. – The Washington Post.

Another change is going from “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might” to “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts.”  That last phrase is a translation of the even older “Sabaoth.”

Notice anything, Lutherans?  The language that is being changed in those two examples was the same language used in Lutheran Worship (a.k.a., the “blue hymnbook”) by way of the ELCA’s Lutheran Book of Worship (a.k.a., the “green hymnbook”)!   So why did Lutherans follow the lead of the Vatican II liturgists?

But there is more.  The “contemporary worship” vogue has also been connected to the Vatican II worship reforms.  The call to be less God-centered and more congregation-centered, the impulse to be culturally-relevant, and the value of worshipping in new ways–all of these notions came out of Vatican II.   So did the use of guitars, praise bands, and faux folk music (which was only a small step from pop music).  So why did evangelicals, along with Protestants of all sorts, follow the lead of the Vatican II liturgists?

It will now be interesting to see if the neo-traditionalism of this new mass will pave the way for Protestants to return to their own particular and diverse ways of worship.

I do think the new LCMS hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book, made this move before the Catholics did in restoring, with light modernization, the Divine Service found in The Lutheran Hymnal of the 1940s.  The LSB keeps the more modern blue hymnal liturgies too, among other options.  But it’s a good example of something “new” that is also “old.”

 

 

 

Murdoch corners 50% of Christian publishing

HarperCollins is part of the media empire owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also among many other properties owns Fox News.   HarperCollins already owns Zondervan, the world’s leading Bible publisher.  Now Christianity Today reports that HarperCollins is also buying Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publishing company.   This will give Mr. Murdoch control of 50% of the Christian publishing industry.

See HarperCollins Buys Thomas Nelson, Will Control 50% of Christian Publishing Market | Liveblog | Christianity Today.

Does it matter that the Christian publishing industry will be dominated by a secular corporation?  Or by a mogul like Murdoch, who also publishes racy tabloids?  What will this do to the smaller publishing companies like Crossway and denominational houses like CPH?  Or will e-books, the Kindle, Amazon, and viral online marketing make even HarperCollins obsolete?


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