Friday, March 18, 2011

U.S Missionary Freed From Haitian Jail Returns Home

A Bradenton missionary who was just released from jail in Haiti has returned home to Manatee County.

Danny Pye, 29, was arrested five months ago while doing mission work in Haiti following some confusion over some property and his residency card.

Pye, a Christian pastor, runs an orphanage with his wife, LeAnn, in the southern city of Jacmel.

His wife, who is expected to give birth to their second child within days, had been fighting to free him since December, when he was jailed after a judge misread an identification card.

The couple released the following statement after his release.

We're pleased that Danny has been released from Haiti and will be back home with his family. It has been a very difficult ordeal but we're grateful for all of those who supported us in prayer and worked for Danny's release. Due to Leann's pregnancy, imminent delivery and Danny's imminent return, we're looking forward to some private time together.

Pye said he was told that he was being released because the judge had found no cause to hold him, essentially clearing him of wrongdoing.

He wrote a letter to his supporters following his release. It read, in part:

I am a free man. Never formally charged, and all accusations dismissed. My freedom came at a high price, yet at the same time free for me, but isn't that true of redemption with God as well? I am well, healthy, whole, happy, excited, looking forward to embrace all of you (some sooner than others.

I have been at a beautiful hotel, having a party with my kids in my children's home, 15 minutes outside Jacmel. I have not been able to sleep much yet, or even eat much yet, but all that will come soon. Words cannot express the joy it has been for the last 12 hours to sit, cry, and laugh with part of my family. Dozens of Church members have already hired transportation and come out just to see me, touch me, and cry over me in rejoicing.

I have a private plane on its way already to pick me up directly in Jacmel and take me to Bradenton/Sarasota with some close friends aboard. Leann and Riann wait for my arrival. I will be in Florida, God willing, for the birth of little Joseph, who is quickly causing great pain in Leann as I type this. I look forward to talking to each of you in a short while.

Thank you so much for your prayers on my behalf, and Leann's behalf, and all the support and love you have shown us in the past six months. It is what has sustained us, and brought healing, joy, and grace into our daily lives.

Once he touched down at Dolphin Aviation in a private plane Thursday night around 8:30 p.m., Pye hugged his family and thanked everyone for their support during his fight to get home.

"It feels great, thank you very much, thank you for all your support and love. And the tens of thousands of people that have been praying for us and loving on my wife and family," he said. It feels great to be back on American soil."

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MBTA drop-offs at local bars Has Some Voice Concerns

BOSTON – Some were asking if T riders are taking tax payers for a ride after an MBTA vehicle picked up a bar patron. The MBTA said people can take The Ride anywhere, but some said that’s a waste.

The pictures show The Ride outside Joshua Tree waiting for a pickup. The viewer who snapped them, who didn’t want to be identified, said a female patron attending trivia night Wednesday got in after about 15 minutes. The viewer thought this was a waste of tax dollars, especially in a tough time.

Monique Zubicki, who uses a cane because of a chronic medical condition, said she agrees.

“It seems like if you want to go out and party, you should dish out the cash for yourself honestly,” she said. “They’re using it to go out and party and it’s taking away from time it could be helping other people, like get to a doctor’s appointment or something that’s actually vital for their well being.”

Federal law requires public transportation to be accessible for the disabled.

Rather than retrofitting every train and bus, systems like the MBTA find it cheaper to use cars and small vans or “paratransit” for those who qualify.

The T released a statement saying it really has no choice in the matter and has to comply with federal law and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“People who use the paratransit mode of public transportation cannot be treated differently than those who use trains or buses,” it said.

Read More From WHDH-TV

Dogs Survive Japan Tsuanmi Stick Together

Full Moon Will Be The Biggest In 20 Years

CNN) -- If the moon looks a little bit bigger and brighter this weekend, there's a reason for that. It is.

Saturday's full moon will be a super "perigee moon" -- the biggest in almost 20 years. This celestial event is far rarer than the famed blue moon, which happens once about every two-and-a-half years.

"The last full moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993," said Geoff Chester with the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington. "I'd say it's worth a look."

Full moons look different because of the elliptical shape of the moon's orbit. When it's at perigee, the moon is about 31,000 miles (50,000 km) closer to Earth than when it's at the farthest point of its orbit, also known as apogee.

"Nearby perigee moons are about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser moons that occur on the apogee side of the moon's orbit," the NASA website says.

This full moon will rise in the east at sunset and should look especially big at that time because of what's known as the "moon illusion."

"For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects," according to NASA.

Even though it may look close enough to touch, Saturday's full moon will still be at a healthy distance -- some 211,600 miles (356,577 km) away.

As rare as it is, it may be worth a look. Miss it and you'll have to wait until 2029 to see it again.

Read More From CNN

U.S Cost Of Living Hits All Time High, Passing Pre-Crisis High

One would think that after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Americans could at least catch a break for a while with deflationary forces keeping the cost of living relatively low. That’s not the case.

A special index created by the Labor Department to measure the actual cost of living for Americans hit a record high in February, according to data released Thursday, surpassing the old high in July 2008. The Chained Consumer Price Index, released along with the more widely-watched CPI, increased 0.5 percent to 127.4, from 126.8 in January. In July 2008, just as the housing crisis was tightening its grip, the Chained Consumer Price Index hit its previous record of 126.9.

“The Federal Reserve continues to focus on the rate of change in inflation,” said Peter Bookvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak. “Sure, it’s moving at a slower pace, but the absolute cost of living is now back at a record high in a country that has seven million less jobs.”

The regular CPI, which has already been at a record for a while, increased 0.5 percent, the fastest pace in 1-1/2 years. However, the Fed’s preferred measure, CPI excluding food and energy, increased by just 0.2 percent.

“This speaks to the need for the Fed to include food and energy when they look at inflation rather than regard them as transient costs,” said Stephen Weiss of Short Hills Capital. “Perhaps the best way to look at this is to calculate a moving average over a certain period of time in order to smooth out the peaks and valleys.”

The so-called core CPI is used by the central bank because food and energy prices throughout history have proven to be volatile. However, one glance over the last two years at a chart of wheat or corn shows they’ve gone in one direction: up. And many traders say Fed Chairman Bernanke’s misplaced easy money policies are to blame.

Over time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has made changes to the regular CPI that it feels make it a better measure of inflation and closer to a cost of living index. It improved the way it averages out prices for items in the same category (e.g., apples) and also uses the often-criticized method of hedonic regression (if you're curious, you can learn more about that here) to account for increases in product quality.

In 2002, the BLS created this often-overlooked cost of living index in order to account for the kinds of substitutions consumers make when times are tough. It is supposed to be even closer to an actual “cost of living” measure than the regular CPI.

“For example, pork and beef are two separate CPI item categories,” according to the BLS web site. “If the price of pork increases while the price of beef does not, consumers might shift away from pork to beef. The C-CPI-U (Chain Consumer Price Index) is designed to account for this type of consumer substitution between CPI item categories. In this example, the C-CPI-U would rise, but not by as much as an index that was based on fixed purchase patterns.”

“As the cost of living increases, we are headed toward a bigger problem with the slowing of housing permits,” said JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at thinkorswim, a division of TD Ameritrade. “As the staples start to cost more, this could lead to a quick slowdown in the auto and technology sectors as an iPad is an easy thing to pass on if you are paying more for your gas and food and need to cut back somewhere.”

To be sure, it’s nearly impossible to get a perfect “cost of living” measure, and the BLS acknowledges this on their web site: “An unconditional cost-of-living index would go further, and take into account changes in non-market factors, such as the environment, crime, and education.”

Still, states will be cutting back services drastically this year at the very same time they are raising taxes in order to close enormous budget deficits and avoid a muni-bond defaults crisis. So while it may be the missing link to a perfect cost of living measure, one can assume that Americans will be paying more for unquantifiable services such as police enforcement and education, but getting them at a lesser quality.

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Barack H. Obama Elementary School To Close

The Barack H. Obama Elementary School in Asbury Park, N.J. will be shuttered this summer, largely due to low enrollment, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Bruce N. Rodman, the official who oversees the district's finances, determined that it was necessary for one of the district's elementary schools to close and the Obama school's enrollment had dropped 35 percent in the past 10 years, the newspaper reports.

The Bangs Avenue School elected in 2010 to change its name to Barack H. Obama Elementary.

At the time that the school acquired its new name, administrators took a lot of flak for ostensibly focusing on the name change instead of the plight of its students. But the city resident behind the movement, Myra Campbell, believed it would "send a subliminal message" to the students.

"Every time they walk through the school doors, there's going to be a certain amount of pride in where they go to school," Campbell told the Star-Ledger in 2009. "We now move forward in trying what we can to improve the academic skills of the students and also the social skills." At the time, another New Jersey school had already been renamed after the president.

About 1,000 students will be reassigned to local schools in the fall.

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Iran Citizens march in support of Arab revolts

Thousands of Iranians marched on Friday in Tehran in support of the revolts rocking Bahrain, Libya and Yemen, state television reported.

Chants backing the protests of majority Shiites in Bahrain, who are challenging the Sunni dynasty's 200-year-old grip on power, dominated the demonstration which unfolded in the capital after Muslim Friday prayers

"The Saudis are committing crimes and the US supports them," and "Death to America" chanted protesters.

"Death to Israel," cried others.

Slogans in support of the rebellion in Libya and protests in Yemen also rang out.

Tehran on Wednesday withdrew its ambassador from Manama "in protest at the mass killing of the people of Bahrain by its government."

Iran has also criticised the dispatch of Gulf troops to Bahrain to help confront the pro-democracy protests which have wracked the kingdom's capital Manama almost daily since mid-February.

Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, hardline cleric and head of the powerful Guardians Council, condemned the dispatch of Saudi troops to Bahrain after pronouncing Friday prayers.

"It is painful that when the authorities were about to be beaten, it called for help and asked Saudi Arabia to send in reinforcements. It is against international law."

He also called on Libyan rebels to pursue their struggle.

Read More From Yahoo News

New Bible Translation Draws Critics of Gender Neutral Language

– Thu Mar 17, 7:06 pm ET

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In the old translation of the world's most popular Bible, John the Evangelist declares: "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar." Make that "brother or sister" in a new translation that includes more gender-neutral language and is drawing criticism from some conservatives who argue the changes can alter the theological message.

The 2011 translation of the New International Version Bible, or NIV, does not change pronouns referring to God, who remains "He" and "the Father." But it does aim to avoid using "he" or "him" as the default reference to an unspecified person.

The NIV Bible is used by many of the largest Protestant faiths. The translation comes from an independent group of biblical scholars that has been meeting yearly since 1965 to discuss advances in biblical scholarship and changes in English usage.

Before the new translation even hit stores, it drew opposition from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an organization that believes women should submit to their husbands in the home and only men can hold some leadership roles in the church.

The council decided it would not endorse the new version because the changes alter "the theological direction and meaning of the text," according to a statement. Similar concerns led the Southern Baptist Convention to reject the NIV's previous translation in 2005.

At issue is how to translate pronouns that apply to both genders in the ancient Greek and Hebrew texts but have traditionally been translated using masculine forms in English.

An example from the translator's notes for Mark 4:25 to show how the NIV's translation of these words has evolved over the past quarter-century.

The widely distributed 1984 version of the NIV quotes Jesus: "Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."

The more recent incarnation of the NIV from 2005, called Today's New International Version, changed that to: "Those who have will be given more; as for those who do not have, even what they have will be taken from them."

The CBMW had complained in 2005 that making the subject of a verse plural to convey that it could refer equally to a man or a woman "potentially obscured an important aspect of biblical thought — that of the personal relationship between an individual and God."

The NIV 2011 seems to have taken that criticism into account and come up with a compromise: "Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them."

While the translators' former grammar teachers may not like it, the translators offer a strong justification for their choice of "they" (instead of the clunky "he or she") and "them" (instead of "him or her") to refer back to the singular "whoever."

They commissioned an extensive study of the way modern English writers and speakers convey gender inclusiveness. According to the translators' notes on the Committee on Bible Translation's website, "The gender-neutral pronoun 'they' ('them'/'their') is by far the most common way that English-language speakers and writers today refer back to singular antecedents such as 'whoever,' 'anyone,' 'somebody,' 'a person,' 'no one,' and the like."

Randy Stinson, president of the CBMW and dean of the School of Church Ministries at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the changes are especially important to evangelicals.

"Evangelicals believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of scripture. We believe every word is inspired by God, not just the broad thought," he said.

So if the original text reads "brothers" — even if that word in the original language is known to mean "brothers and sisters" (such as the Hebrew "achim" or Spanish word "hermanos") — many evangelicals believe the English translation should read "brothers."

Stinson said a notes section would be the best place to point out that the original word could be read to include men and women.

It's not yet known if the Southern Baptist Convention will reject the new translation the way it did the 2005 version. The nation's largest Protestant denomination still sells the 1984 translation in its stores. If it chooses to condemn the new version, that would happen at its national convention in June.

The publisher says the NIV 2011 will replace both the 1984 and 2005 versions.

Even while panning the new translation, the CBMW thanked the Committee on Bible Translation for being open about the process they used to develop it. That included taking comments from all sides of the gender debate.

And the new version doesn't always use gender neutral language. It takes reader sensibility into account by not using inclusive terms for some of the most familiar verses where that might sound jarring. For instance, Matthew 4:4 is rendered, "'Man shall not live on bread alone."

That's a change from the TNIV, where the same phase read, "People do not live on bread alone."

"I think that clause has entered into standard English," translator Douglas Moo explained of the move back to the more traditional "man." "People know it who don't know the Bible."

Moo said the translators hope that the phrasing of the new NIV is so natural that the average reader won't be aware of any of the gender language concerns that are debated by biblical scholars and linguists.

The group's website says its goal is "to articulate God's unchanging Word in the way the original authors might have said it if they had been speaking in English to the global English-speaking audience today."

While the change to the generic "man" in verses like Matthew 4:4 is applauded by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, linguist Joel M. Hoffman, author of "And God Said — How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning," said it is simply incorrect.

"'Anthropos' (the Greek word in the original text) means 'person,' plain and simple," he said. "It's as much a mistake as translating 'parent' as 'father.'"

He doesn't buy the argument that "man" is understood in English to refer to men and women.

"If you walk into a church on Sunday morning and say, 'Will every man stand up?' I would be shocked if the women stood up, too."

Read More From Associated Press/Yahoo News