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NEWS -- 2009.05.05.Tuesday

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  • James Martin
    1) Gathering Storm: Miss California Trying to Redefine Traditional Breasts for the Rest of Us 2) Democrats and the magic bullet 3) Out of Touch 4)
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2009
      1) Gathering Storm: Miss California Trying to Redefine Traditional Breasts for the Rest of Us
      2) Democrats and 'the magic bullet'
      3) Out of Touch
      4) Olbermann pressing on Hannity's waterboard offer
      5) The freedom to marry at the heart of Christianity

      6) Mel White on GAY USA
      7) 8-year-old Saudi girl divorces 50-year-old husband
      8) Church has a beef with Mormon beefcake calendar
      9) Islamic games suspended over Gulf row
      10) Billionaire Warren Buffett reveals the one American business he won't buy "at any price."


      CORRECTION
      From NEWS -- 2009.04.30.Thursday, I said --->
      My comment ---
      As a spokesperson for the gay community, Wayne Besen Needs to be on Biggest Loser, and he needs to take some debate lessons.

      Opps. That should have read -- As a spokesperson for the gay community, Perez Hilton needs to be on Biggest Loser, and he needs to take some debate lessons.

      Wayne Besen is an excellent spokesperson for the gay community, and he does not need to shed some fat.

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      EXTRA
      The Trevor Project
      http://www.thetrevorproject.org/home2.aspx

      Established in 1998 to coincide with the HBO airing of the award winning short film, Trevor, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, The Trevor Helpline is the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

      The Trevor Helpline is a free and confidential service that offers hope and someone to talk to, 24/7. The Trevor Helpline's trained counselors will listen and understand without judgment. If you or someone you know would like to talk to one of our highly trained counselors, dial 866-4-U-TREVOR.


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      1)
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-normoyle/gathering-storm-miss-cali_b_195087.html

      Brian Normoyle
      Actor, Writer

      Posted May 2, 2009 | 07:53 PM (EST)

      Gathering Storm: Miss California Trying to Redefine Traditional Breasts for the Rest of Us

      Miss California Carrie Prejean ostensibly lost the coveted first prize of the Miss USA Pageant due to an honest, but clumsily delivered, response to a question about same-sex marriage equality. Thanks, however, to the juvenile grandstanding and self-aggrandizing douchebaggery of Perez Hilton, she earned a seemingly more lustrous and lucrative crown: spokesperson for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). NOM, of course, is the political organization made infamous by the countless parodies of its "Gathering Storm" ad, in which one desperate-for-any-work actor warned America in barely perceptible English that a "storm is coming" in the form of full civil equality for gay and lesbian Americans.
      Prejean, for her part, has vowed "to do whatever it takes to protect marriage" and the newly crowned Queen of "Opposite Marriage" appears in NOM's latest ad entitled, "No Offense." She also reminded the nation at a NOM-sponsored press conference this week that her contemptibly ill-informed comments at the Miss America contest was "not about being politically correct, but about being 'Biblically correct.'"

      Oops! Heaven, we have a problem.

      A recent revelation -- and not of the Biblical variety -- surfaced this week that the prodigal princess had breast augmentation surgery, approved and funded by the Miss California Organization, just weeks before the Miss USA pageant. One has to wonder how the beauty queen has the credibility and moral standing to speak out against "unnatural" and "un-Biblical" marriage with the same breath that is weighted down by "unnatural" and "un-Biblical" implants filtered through $10,000 worth of "unnatural" capped teeth.

      Of course, Princess Prejean has a right to her religious convictions and no one should ever lose a beauty contest over speaking those beliefs in earnest. Miss California also has the right to do whatever she chooses within the privacy of her own bra, but she doesn't have the right to redefine traditional breasts for the rest of us.

      For many thousands of years, across every culture and continent, women have known traditional or "natural" breasts to be those that God -- or nature -- gave them. To think otherwise flies in the face of millennia of human history and spiritual doctrine. Prejean's Bible repeatedly reminds us we are made in God's perfect image while warning us against exchanging the "natural" use of our bodies for those deemed "unnatural." And, while one could argue the rights to privacy and personal freedom are inherent in our nation's founding democratic principles and that every American has a right to his/her own life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, organizations like NOM -- for whom she's now a spokesperson -- Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council repeatedly admonish us that life in America would be better if theology and biblical doctrine were the primary determinant of civil law and personal liberties.

      While someone else was footing the bill, Prejean made the choice to defy her God's perfect design and creation of her and to rebel against the intended and "natural" purpose of her mammaries: namely, the nursing of babies rather than the visual attraction sufficient enough to win a vanity contest. Moreover, if her teeth aren't capped, I'm betting they were braced; and I'd also put money down on the fact that Prejean has, at some point, performed other "unnatural" acts with her organs like chewing gum, wearing eye-glasses, enjoying a Diet Coke or two or even... um... er, well, you get the idea.

      So, Carrie, you may find full civil equality for all Americans to be "unnatural" and not "Biblically correct," but, frankly, neither are your Jugs for Jesus and your Caps for Christ. "No Offense."


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      2)
      San Francisco Chronicle
      Democrats and 'the magic bullet'
      David Sirota, Creators Syndicate

      Friday, May 1, 2009

      As counsel for the Warren Commission, Arlen Specter described a "magic bullet" that changed America. Four decades later as a U.S. senator, Specter is providing another history-altering magic bullet - one Democrats will either fire off in a starting gun, or use in their suicide.
      By leaving the Republican Party this week, the five-term Pennsylvania lawmaker eliminated the last Democratic rationale for inaction: the Senate filibuster. With Minnesota Democrat Al Franken expected to be seated soon, and now with Specter, Democrats will have the 60 Senate votes needed to overcome all parliamentary obstructions.

      This legislative magic bullet will force Democrats to fulfill their policy promises and commence an era of dominance, or fail and get annihilated at the polls.

      No longer can they blame Republicans for stopping bills to reform health care, tax, defense and trade policy. In command of the White House, the autocratic House of Representatives, and soon a filibuster-proof Senate, Democrats will have total authority to do whatever they want, and no scapegoat to fault. That means, as ABC News' Rick Klein said, "This is Democrats' turn to govern, no excuses" - and it means we're about to find out whether their pledges were genuine.

      Ever since the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, Democrats have guaranteed "real change" if we give them back control of government. They've made this pledge despite helping Republicans deregulate the financial system and plunge the country into the Iraq War. And at every turn, they've blamed the GOP, rather than themselves, for gridlock.

      When they temporarily took back the Senate in 2001 after Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords' party switch, they said the Republican House would stymie their priorities - a logical argument that came true. When they won both houses of Congress in 2006, they said George W. Bush would veto their agenda - again, a fair assertion that proved correct. When they won both Congress and the White House in 2008, they insisted they still couldn't do very much because their 58 senate votes couldn't overcome a filibuster - a less believable claim considering Obama's bully pulpit, but nonetheless at least mathematically valid.

      It has been like watching a 15-year version of an Indiana Jones film - every time we think the quest to find the ark will be completed, there's been another twist, putting off the promised conclusion just a little bit more.

      Of course, when Dr. Jones' adventure did eventually end and the ark was found and opened, it gruesomely melted the heads of those standing nearby as they euphorically screamed, "It's beautiful!" And, in fact, that's one possible outcome of Specter's announcement.

      Sixty Senate votes do seem beautiful ... until 10 bought-off, right-wing, and/or weak-kneed Democrats decide to keep helping Republicans make the upper chamber our nation's single most powerful obstacle to "real change." When that happens, 60 votes become an ugly flame that sears the electoral flesh off politicians who technically have the power to act, but whose subsequent failure to deliver exposes their dishonesty.

      The other possible outcome is actual progress. Even the most recalcitrant Democratic senators likely comprehend that in a 60-vote environment brimming with expectations, their continued alliance with Republican obstructionists could endanger their whole party and consequently their individual careers. They have to understand that it's one thing to vote against your party's universal health care promise when the GOP could already filibuster such a proposal - but it's quite another thing to cast a deciding vote against that promise when your party has all the power. That reality could forge a new cohesion necessary for results - and for an enduring majority.

      It all depends on how Democrats use the magic bullet Arlen Specter just handed them.


      http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/05/01/EDO117CAIA.DTL

      This article appeared on page A - 17 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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      3)
      New York Times

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/02/opinion/02herbert.html

      May 2, 2009
      Op-Ed Columnist
      Out of Touch
      By BOB HERBERT
      The incredibly clueless stewards of the incredibly shrinking Republican Party would do well to recall that it was supposedly Abe Lincoln, a Republican, who said you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

      Not only has the G.O.P. spent years trying to fool everybody in sight with its phony-baloney, dime-store philosophies, it's now trapped in the patently pathetic phase of fooling itself.

      The economy has imploded, the auto industry is in danger of being vaporized and more than half of all working Americans are worried that they may lose their jobs in the next year. So what's the Republican response? To build a wall of obstruction in front of efforts to get the economy moving again, and then to stand in front of that wall chanting gibberish about smaller government, lower taxes, spending cuts and Ronald Reagan.

      It's not a party; it's a cult. I'm no fan of Arlen Specter, but if I were a Republican, I wouldn't be shoving him out the door and waving good riddance. This is the party of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Newt ("I'm trying to rise from the ashes") Gingrich, and the dark force who can't seem to exit the public stage or modify his medieval ways, Dick Cheney.

      It is losing all credibility with the public because it is not offering anything - anything at all - that could be viewed as helpful or constructive in a time of national crisis. And it has been unwilling to take responsibility for its role in bringing that crisis about.

      Americans are aghast at what happened to the country while the G.O.P. was in charge. Iraq and Katrina come to mind, not to mention the transmutation of the Clinton surpluses into the Bush budget deficits and the collapse of the entire economy.

      Trickle down. Weapons of mass destruction. Torture. Deregulation. You name it. The Republican-conservative know-it-alls of the past several years (all-too-frequently with feckless Democrats following closely behind) brought destruction and heartbreak to just about everything they touched.

      And yet the G.O.P. behaves as though nothing has changed. Even in the face of a national economic nightmare, the party is offering nothing in the way of policies or new ideas that might give a bit of hope or comfort to families wrestling with joblessness, housing foreclosures and bankruptcies.

      It's a party that doesn't seem to care about anything other than devotion to a set of so-called principles that never amounted to more than cult-like rhetoric. Waging unwarranted warfare while radically cutting taxes for the wealthy and turning the national economy into the equivalent of a Ponzi scheme may be evidence of many things, but none of them have to do with the so-called conservative principles the G.O.P. is always braying about.

      When it came to looking out for the interests of ordinary working Americans, the party of just-say-no could hardly have cared less. Referring to the catastrophic ordeal of Detroit's automakers, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the banking committee, told us last November, "The financial situation facing the Big Three is not a national problem but their problem."

      And Phil Gramm, John McCain's top financial adviser during the presidential campaign, was enshrined in the foot-in-mouth hall of fame last summer when he said the country was experiencing "a mental recession."

      After awhile, it became all but impossible to overlook the madness of these true believers and the incalculable damage they had done to the country. Voters who hadn't sipped from the Kool-Aid themselves couldn't help but recognize that the G.O.P. was bizarrely detached from the real world.

      It still is. In the place of constructive alternatives to Obama administration policies, it has offered increasingly hysterical rhetoric. Mr. Gingrich warned on television that the Democrats' moves to stem the banking crisis "gives them the potential to basically create the equivalent of a dictatorship."

      Senator Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, described President Obama as "the world's best salesman of socialism." And Mike Huckabee, a former Republican governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate, said of the administration's economic policies: "Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff."

      This is not a party that can be trusted with the leadership of the country. John McCain was ready to have Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the Oval Office and reportedly wanted Phil Gramm to be his Treasury secretary. Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, has the strategic sense and attention span that you'd expect to find in a frat house on Saturday night.

      "I love the Oscars," he told GQ. "I'm looking for who's got what dress on, you know?"

      All the talk about the permanent marginalization of the Republican Party is silly. It will be back. Someday. But first it will have to stop fooling itself and re-engage with the real world.

      Correction: An earlier version of this column misstated the elected office held by Jim DeMint. He is a senator from South Carolina, not the state's governor.

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      4)
      Olbermann pressing on Hannity's waterboard offer
      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090429/ap_on_en_tv/us_tv_hannity_s_torture
      By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer
      Wed Apr 29, 6:36 am ET
      NEW YORK - The debate over torture is getting personal for two of cable TV's prime-time hosts.

      After Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity made a seemingly impromptu offer last week to undergo waterboarding as a benefit for charity, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann leapt at it. He offered $1,000 to the families of U.S. troops for every second Hannity withstood the technique.

      Olbermann repeated the offer on Monday's show and said in an interview Tuesday that he's heard no response. He said he'll continue to pursue it.

      "I don't think he has the courage to even respond to this - let alone do it," Olbermann said.

      Fox News Channel representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

      The two men are on opposite poles of a debate that has preoccupied the worlds of talk TV and radio. Hannity says waterboarding is a fair and necessary interrogation technique for suspected terrorists; Olbermann calls it torture, says it's ineffective and should not be done by Americans.

      Charles Grodin was challenging Hannity on the issue on Fox last week, and asked whether he would consent to be waterboarded.

      "Sure," Hannity said. "I'll do it for charity ... I'll do it for the troops' families."

      It wasn't exactly clear how serious the conversation was, since Grodin joked, "Are you busy on Sunday?" and Hannity laughed.

      "I'll let you do it," Hannity said.

      "I wouldn't do it," Grodin said. "I'll hand you a towel when you come out of the shower."

      Olbermann's offer was quick. Besides the $1,000 per second, Olbermann said he'd double it if Hannity acknowledges he feared for his life and admits that waterboarding is torture.

      "The idea of putting somebody in a position they have volunteered for, for charity, to respond to their own unsupportable claims, is in many ways priceless," Olbermann said.

      Olbermann, who hasn't missed any chance to criticize his ideological enemies at Fox, concedes TV competition plays a part in his offer. But he said it was sincere, because he believes Hannity has had a damaging role in the debate.

      "If you expose people to reality, even with someone who is denying reality, that can have a powerful and important impact," he said.

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      5)
      Bangor Daily News
      Bangor, Maine
      4/18/09

      http://www.bangordailynews.com/detail/104022.html

      The freedom to marry at the heart of Christianity

      By Rev. Marvin M. Ellison

      As a Christian theologian, I support marriage equality because I take the Bible seriously. More importantly, I take the God of the Bible seriously. The God I worship has a divine passion for justice that compels me to respect all neighbors and defend their human rights, including the freedom to marry regardless of the gender of the two people.

      This freedom to marry is important because my religious tradition teaches that love - the call to love and be loved - is at the very heart of what it means to be human. Love is also holy ground. "Where there is love," the tradition affirms, "there is God."

      Gay men and lesbians, like their heterosexual counterparts, fall in love, enter into committed partnerships, form families, and often raise children, as well as care for other family members. To deny gay couples the freedom to love and marry is morally wrong. It's a denial of their fundamental humanity as people created in the image of God. To honor same-sex couples with the freedom to marry civilly is one way, and a very important way, to recognize that gay men and lesbians are fully human and can model the best of loving, commitment partnerships.

      Because marriage equality is a deeply contested issue, our assumptions matter. I assume, first of all, that the institution of marriage has changed and will continue to change. Because of its checkered history, that's good news. Many traditional marriage laws and practices have been oppressive. Slaves were denied the freedom to marry and form families. Historically, marriage has been far less about love and far more about property and progeny. That love sometimes flourished in these matches is nothing short of miraculous. That abuse, control and lovelessness often reigned is no surprise.

      Second, I assume that marriage should change to fit our contemporary values of regard for women as co-equal with men and respect for the full humanity of gay men and lesbians.

      Third, in honoring the Christian mandate to seek justice and compassion in all things, I assume that any marriage changes should be viewed through the lens of biblical justice. Biblical justice is about right relation: correcting wrongs and restoring people to full dignity in community. Forty years ago, the social wrong was a law prohibiting interracial couples from state-licensed marriage. Now the issue is whether same-sex couples should have equal access to state-licensed marriage and its benefits, protections, and responsibilities.

      Christian support for marriage equality is based on the centrality of the biblical mandate for justice and compassion and on Jesus' own example of including the marginalized into the beloved community. On the biblical grounds of loving God and loving neighbor as self, including our gay and lesbian neighbors, it is a good thing to recognize the humanity of same-gender loving people and grant their right to civil marriage.

      Out of fear and uncertainty, some are tempted to draw a picture of love that is much too small. Our opportunity today is to draw a larger picture of love, commitment, and family that includes same-sex couples. Drawing that bigger, more inclusive picture of love and justice in Maine is sacred work.

      The Rev. Marvin M. Ellison, Ph.D., teaches Christian ethics at Bangor Theological Seminary, co-chairs the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine, and is author of "Same-Sex Marriage? A Christian Ethical Analysis" (Pilgrim, 2004).

      ----------

      Lots of comments at the URL.

      One writer, 4Him2day, doesn't seem to notice the irony of his moniker.

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      6)
      received from a friend --->

      One of the best telecasts ever of GAY USA on Sat. (Apr. 25) featured co-anchors Andy Humm and Ann Northrup in a half hour interview of Rev. Mel White, founder of Soulforce. Mel White and his son Mike White recently competed in "The Amazing Race".
      I never watched any of the series, and am sorry now I did not, because Mel White is an extraordinarily powerful, outspoken and articulate activist for the LGBT community and equal marriage rights. He strongly condemns the Pope and its archaic, dictatorial hierarchy always at the sacrifice of the people whom they are supposed to serve.

      I recorded the program and transcribed this portion verbatim for you:


      "If all the gay organists quite playing some Sunday, there would be silence in Christendom and nobody left to serve the mass in the cathedral. We are just everywhere and to say we are going to get thrown out of the church is absurd because we ARE the church -- we're at the heart of the church. That kind of self loathing -- I think they're just afraid to open it [the door] because once it's open , then they will find how healthy gay priests are ..... It's the history of the Christian church, starting with Jesus, that religion has rejected those who really have faith in the living, loving Creator."


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      This is heterosexual sickness at its worst (best?). Straight men going after little girls.

      Camel jockeys (men, of course) at large. Sick.

      --->

      7)
      8-year-old Saudi girl divorces 50-year-old husband
      By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Writer
      Thu Apr 30, 9:18 pm ET

      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090501/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_saudi_child_marriage

      CAIRO - An 8-year-old Saudi girl has divorced her middle-aged husband after her father forced her to marry him last year in exchange for about $13,000, her lawyer said Thursday. Saudi Arabia has come under increasing criticism at home and abroad for permitting child marriages. The United States, a close ally of the conservative Muslim kingdom, has called child marriage a "clear and unacceptable" violation of human rights.
      The girl was allowed to divorce the 50-year-old man who she married in August after an out-of-court settlement had been reached in the case, said her lawyer, Abdulla al-Jeteli. The exact date of the divorce was not immediately known.

      A court in the central Oneiza region previously rejected a request by the girl's mother for a divorce and ruled that the girl would have to wait until she reached puberty to file a petition then.

      There are no laws in Saudi Arabia defining the minimum age for marriage. Though a woman's consent is legally required, some marriage officials don't seek it.

      But there has been a push by Saudi human rights groups to define the age of marriage and put an end to the phenomenon.

      One Saudi human rights activist Sohaila Zain al-Abdeen was optimistic that the girl's divorce would help efforts to get a law passed enforcing a minimum marriage age of 18.

      "Unfortunately, some fathers trade their daughters," she told The Associated Press. "They are weak people who are sometimes in need of money and forget their roles as parents."

      It was not clear if the man received money for the divorce settlement. The man had given the girl's father 50,000 riyals, or about $13,350, as a marriage gift in return for his daughter, the lawyer said.

      The 8-year-old girl's marriage was not the only one in the kingdom to receive attention in recent months. Saudi newspapers have highlighted several cases in which young girls were married off to much older men or young boys including a 15-year-old girl whose father, a death-row inmate, married her off to a cell mate.

      Saudi Arabia's conservative Muslim clergy have opposed the drive to end child marriages. In January, the kingdom's most senior cleric said it was permissible for 10-year-old girls to marry and those who believe they are too young are doing the girls an injustice.

      But some in the government appear to support the movement to set a minimum age for marriage. The kingdom's new justice minister was quoted in mid-April as saying the government was doing a study on underage marriage that would include regulations.

      There are no statistics to show how many marriages involving children are performed in Saudi Arabia every year. Activists say the girls are given away in return for hefty marriage gifts or as a result of long-standing custom in which a father promises his infant daughters and sons to cousins out of a belief that marriage will protect them from illicit relationships.

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      8)
      Los Angeles Times

      http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-mormonbeefcake28-2009apr28,0,4599133.story

      Church has a beef with Mormon beefcake calendar
      'Men on a Mission' cost its publisher membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his degree from BYU. But he has plans for a new calendar -- with sexy Mormon moms.
      By Ashley Powers

      April 28, 2009

      Reporting from Las Vegas - A male model wearing a kilt of black vinyl strips, a red belt with a gold buckle and little else is flexing his muscles amid fake oil derricks and Roman columns in a photo studio. All chiseled pectorals and tanned thighs, he is playing Captain Moroni, a battlefield hero in the Book of Mormon who rallied troops with the Title of Liberty banner.

      Chad Hardy, who is running the photo shoot, adjusts the model's kilt. Captain Moroni lifts his chin, grips a sword and hoists the banner.

      "Flex your abs," Hardy reminds him.

      When the model crunches his stomach, Hardy shouts, "That's it!"

      Hardy, 32, is the creator of "Men on a Mission," a calendar series that sends up the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with photographs of hunky former missionaries in poses, characters and settings familiar to the faithful.

      Like adults of many religions, Hardy has questions about the faith he was raised in, but the entrepreneurial -- and very public -- way he questions it has made him a flashpoint for debate among Mormons.

      Hardy's first calendar, which has a shirtless Mormon for each month, was applauded by liberal-minded churchgoers when it was released in 2007. But as time passed and the Mormon Church faced unflattering publicity over a raid on a polygamous breakaway sect in Texas and its support for a gay marriage ban in California, others complained that the calendar was damaging the image of the faith.

      One of the kinder Internet posts about Hardy calls him "an attention whore who . . . can contribute to bad LDS stereotypes and raise public disdain of church members."

      Mormon officialdom has come down on him hard. He was excommunicated from the church, then barred from receiving his degree from Brigham Young University.

      Hardy is fighting back with lawyers and his own website (slogan: "Open Shirts, Open Minds"). He plans to release the third "Men on a Mission" calendar online this month, much earlier than usual, to help pay his legal bills.

      A calendar of Mormon mothers styled as sexy (though clothed) pinups is set for release this summer, and although Hardy expects what he calls "Mormon muffins" to outsell the men, he considers the original calendar "my gift to the world."

      "It was the perfect secret weapon," he says as a makeup artist dusts the male models' flab-free abs. "It's friendly. It doesn't tear down the beliefs of the church at all. Underneath, it makes people realize, 'Oh, they're sexy Mormons. They're real.' "

      Hardy grew up in Palm Springs, which had a small Mormon community. He went to church weekly and told his younger sister, Cherylyn, that he prayed every night for her to make good decisions. But "you're constantly wrapped in guilt," he says, recalling how, when he was a teenager, a church official asked whether he indulged in impure thoughts.

      While studying at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) and BYU's main campus in Provo, Utah, he felt out of place. "They were all trying to out-righteous each other. It's who can follow the rules the best," he says. He fell into a deep depression. "Those rules, I think, kept me from God."

      He left school four credits shy of a communications degree and worked in various cities in event planning and public relations. In 2006, after moving to Nevada, he founded AdVenture Vegas, a company that leads corporate team-building exercises.

      The inspiration for "Men on a Mission" was a TV report about a calendar called "America's Heroes," featuring Marines. Hardy told a friend he was thinking about making one that showcased Mormons, and her husband offered to help.

      "I felt it would shake people up a little bit," says Fred Brodsky, who runs a prop rental company, "and when you shake people up, that can translate into sales."

      Hardy scoured MySpace for potential models. He sent female friends to Mormon dances to look for prospects. They discovered Mr. June 2008. He met up with Hardy in a parking lot near a Mormon temple in Redlands, Calif., and shed his shirt for test photos. On film, Hardy says, the shy model came across as studly.

      The 2008 calendar's photo backdrops suggested where the men had served as missionaries. Mr. May, who served in Las Vegas, is framed by the Strip, but a smaller photo shows him in his missionary attire: starched button-down shirt, tie, slicked hair, schoolboy smile. "You know why people love this calendar?" Hardy says. "You go from dorky church boy to hunk."

      After the first "Men on a Mission," Hardy got more than 100 applications from Mormons eager to appear in the next calendar, many from men who understood its intended message.

      "I don't believe in perpetuating myths or stereotypes," one wrote. "I believe in breaking them, overcoming them and yes -- even parodying them. That's what is so great about this calendar! It parodies that square, asexual box of what a 'Mormon' is supposed to be."

      Hardy was emboldened. The 2009 calendar cover resembles a painting of the second coming of Christ. The shirtless model wears a rose-colored sash and white loincloth and is outlined in a celestial glow. Inside, Mr. September stands in front of a chalkboard with a diagram of the Mormon Plan of Salvation. Amid arrows and squiggles, the word "judgment" is clearly visible.

      Hardy expected scathing reaction to the calendars from offended Mormons and some awkwardness with family and friends. It was the church itself that stunned him. He figured a calendar that sold about 10,000 copies wouldn't merit attention from a church with 13 million members. But he traded messages with a local church official who said Hardy should give "careful consideration" to stopping publication.

      "Though we understand not everyone agrees with the project," Hardy replied, "the individual expressions of those involved have reshaped perceptions, removed walls, and shown . . . . acceptance and tolerance around the world."

      Last summer, he faced a two-hour church disciplinary hearing in Las Vegas. Hardy was excommunicated by a panel of church leaders. Mormon officials suggested it was for reasons other than the calendar, though Hardy said that was what the panel questioned him about.

      The next day, with his excommunication making headlines, he got 163 orders for the $15 calendar, which is sold in mall kiosks and online. That month, sales totaled nearly $23,000, compared to $440 the month before.

      "What can they do to me now?" Hardy recalls thinking. "I'm not afraid. Excommunication made me famous."

      Hardy had recently completed online the credits he needed to graduate from BYU. He participated in the university's commencement, and a photo shows him in a navy cap and gown, beaming between his parents. But last fall, the university said it couldn't grant him the degree: His poor standing with the church had violated the school's honor code. On his website ( www.chadhardy.com), Hardy posted the graduation picture -- with the word "DELETED" superimposed.

      This year, Hardy met with a dean who said he would reconsider the decision. In an audio recording of the meeting, which Hardy posted on YouTube, he is asked whether he has avoided alcohol, coffee, drugs, pornography and sex outside marriage. Hardy said he shunned them all while a student, but wouldn't discuss his life after 2002, when he left BYU's campus.

      BYU graduates must meet both academic and ecclesiastical standards, a university spokeswoman said, and in a letter to Hardy after the meeting, Dean Vernon Heperi said he had come up short.

      "In my view," the dean wrote, "the material related to your calendars is offensive and disrespectful."

      The returned missionaries are shown "in an inappropriate context" and the women in publicity shots for the "muffins" calendar are portrayed "contrary to the value of living a chaste and virtuous life." (Heperi did not return messages seeking comment. A Mormon Church spokesman declined to discuss Hardy or the calendar.)

      Hardy says he is considering legal action against the university. Meanwhile, he has forged ahead with the 2010 calendar. None of his models has faced excommunication, he said. But this time, only a handful of men wanted to pose.

      At the photo shoot, Hardy switches between directing models and doing telephone interviews. ("The church makes sex dirty," he is saying, "and we're making it beautiful.") He wears a graphic-print T-shirt, a camouflage hoodie and sneakers with the slogan "Born to Be Free." He is broad-shouldered, round-faced, blue-eyed and self-deprecating.

      Several brawny models sprawl in the loft, chatting over blueberry bagels and carrots. Brandon Romain, a 23-year-old BYU student, heard about the calendar from friends in Virginia. While working for the College Republican National Committee in Ohio last fall, he e-mailed pictures to Hardy. For weeks, the dark-haired, blue-eyed Romain hit the gym twice a day.

      "It takes a lot more preparation for the judgment to come," he says, anticipating criticism after the calendar is published. He has told only a few friends and his sister that he is posing. Hours before his flight to Las Vegas, he woke up wondering, "Man, should I really do this?"

      Mr. September 2009 tries to reassure him. "This wouldn't be noticed without the controversy," says Ken Church, a 24-year-old former substitute teacher in Utah who was overwhelmed by the fan mail he received. "Our faces are all over the world."

      Romain likes the idea of shattering stereotypes. "People think we have a bazillion wives and think we're a cult. They think we're all Peter Priesthood and Molly Mormon." Still, he didn't plan to tell his parents until after the shoot.

      "Some people think it's porn," says Shawn Perucca, the 27-year-old posing as Captain Moroni, who lives in Los Angeles and was a missionary in Paraguay. But models in Abercrombie & Fitch ads bare more skin, he says with a shrug.

      "I'm not going to lie, though," Romain says. "I kind of don't want to go back to Provo."

      ashley.powers@...

      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      9)
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/03/islamic-games-iran-persian-gulf

      Islamic games suspended over Gulf row
      a.. Robert Tait
      b.. guardian.co.uk, Sunday 3 May 2009 20.11 BST
      c.. Article history
      For millennia Iran has guarded the ­strategic waterway dividing it from its Arab neighbours as a symbol of national greatness that should be defended in name and deed.

      But now its insistence that it be known only as the Persian Gulf threatens to torpedo ambitious plans for a sporting extravaganza intended to promote Islamic harmony.

      Iran announced it was cancelling the Islamic Solidarity Games planned for October rather than bow to Arab demands that the Persian tag be dropped from the competition's medals and promotional material. Arab nations, led by Saudi Arabia, refused to compete unless the waterway was called the Arabian Gulf or simply the Gulf.

      The condition was too much for Iranian officials, who said they were abandoning the games after only 28 nations agreed to take part - compared with 55 who participated in the 2005 event in Saudi Arabia.

      "We must insist on our correct stance even if it leads to the cancellation of the games," Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told a conference marking national Persian Gulf day last week.

      The state-run English language satellite channel, Press TV, said the event had been cancelled but added negotiations were taking place in an effort to salvage it.

      Iran has already spent £6.7m preparing for the games, which were to feature an array of sports - including football, fencing, archery, basketball and weightlifting. The powerful speaker of Iran's parliament, Ali Larijani, said the name change demand risked harming regional stability.

      "Arabs pose themselves useless tests by changing the name of this large Gulf," he said.

      -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      10)
      Billionaire Warren Buffett reveals the one American business he won't buy "at any price."

      --->

      Wall Street Journal online
      Business Musings From Woodstock for Capitalists
      by Scott Patterson and Alistair Barr
      Tuesday, May 5, 2009
      http://finance.yahoo.com/insurance/article/107029/Business-Musings-From-Woodstock-for-Capitalists

      Buffett and Munger Play the Main Stage: Views on Newspapers, Triple-A Ratings, Complex Math and More

      Here are some highlights of Warren Buffett's and Charles Munger's remarks at the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholder meeting this past weekend.

      Mr. Buffett on Newspapers

      Mr. Buffett has long held himself out as a newspaper man. As a child, one of his first jobs was delivering newspapers. An Omaha newspaper Berkshire owned, Sun Newspapers, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 based in part on a tip Mr. Buffett provided. One of Berkshire's biggest investments in the 1970s was the Buffalo News, which it still owns.

      But his view on the future of the newspaper industry is dismal. "For most newspapers in the United States, we would not buy them at any price," he said. "They have the possibility of going to just unending losses."

      As long as newspapers were essential to readers, they were essential to advertisers, he said. But news is now available in many other venues, he said.

      Berkshire has a substantial investment in Washington Post Co. He said the company has a solid cable business, a good reason to hold on to it, but its newspaper business is in trouble.

      Mr. Munger called newspapers' woes "a national tragedy....These monopoly daily newspapers have been an important sinew to our civilization, they kept government more honest than they would otherwise be."

      A Washington Post Co. representative couldn't be reached for comment.

      Mr. Buffett on Insurance

      In response to a question about the worst possible development for Berkshire Hathaway's vast insurance operations, Mr. Buffett responded: nationalization.

      If inflation jumped and insurance policies became extremely expensive, pressure could rise on the government to nationalize the insurance industry, he said. "When people get outraged, politicians respond," Mr. Buffett said. It's highly unlikely that such a development would happen, he added. But he did note the example of Social Security, which is a form of a nationalized annuity.

      Mr. Buffett on Housing

      "In the last few months you've seen a real pickup in activity although at much lower prices," Mr. Buffett said, citing data from Berkshire's real-estate brokerage business, HomeServices of America Inc., which is one of the largest in the U.S.

      In California, medium and lower-price homes -- under $750,000 -- have been selling more, though there hasn't been a bounce back in sale prices, Mr. Buffett said. "We see something close to stability at these much-reduced prices in the medium to lower part of the market."

      Mr. Buffett on Moody's

      Mr. Buffett was asked about Moody's Investors Service, which gave a triple-A rating to billions of dollars of mortgage securities that subsequently lost value. Berkshire has a 20.4% stake in the company.

      "Basically, four or five years ago, virtually everybody in the country had this model in their heads, formal or otherwise, that house prices could not fall significantly," Mr. Buffett said. He later added that "it was stupidity and the fact that everyone else was doing it."

      He said that if Moody's had started to take a negative view on residential real estate, the ratings provider would have been hauled before Congress to testify about why it was hurting the U.S. economy with its bearish ratings. "They made a huge mistake, and the American people made a huge mistake," he said.

      A Moody's representative couldn't be reached for comment.

      Mr. Buffett on Treasurys

      Berkshire Hathaway had only one slide at this year's annual meeting. It displayed a Dec. 19 trade ticket showing a Berkshire sale of $5 million of Treasury bills. They were coming due on April 29 this year, roughly four months after Berkshire sold them. Berkshire sold the bills for $5,000,090.70. If that buyer had instead put their money in a mattress, by April 29 they would have been $90.70 better off, he said. Negative yields on Treasury bills show how tumultuous last year was, Mr. Buffett added. "We may never see that again in our lifetimes," he noted.

      Messrs. Buffett and Munger on Math and Theories

      Messrs. Buffett and Munger made clear their complete disdain for the use of higher-order mathematics in finance.

      "There is so much that's false and nutty in modern investing practice and modern investment banking, that if you just reduced the nonsense, that's a goal you should reasonably hope for," Mr. Buffett said. Regarding complex calculations used to value purchases, he said: "If you need to use a computer or a calculator to make the calculation, you shouldn't buy it."

      Said Mr. Munger: "Some of the worst business decisions I've ever seen are those with future projections and discounts back. It seems like the higher mathematics with more false precision should help you, but it doesn't. They teach that in business schools because, well, they've got to do something."

      Mr. Buffett said: "If you stand up in front of a business class and say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, you won't get tenure....Higher mathematics my be dangerous and lead you down pathways that are better left untrod."

      Mr. Munger on the Future

      "As I move close to the edge of death, I find myself getting more cheerful about the economic future," Mr. Munger said.

      Mr. Munger sees "a final breakthrough that solves the main technical problem of man," he continued.

      By harnessing the power of the sun, electrical power will become more available around the world. That will help humans turn sea water into fresh water and eliminate environmental problems, Mr. Munger explained. "If you have enough energy you can solve a lot of other problems."

      Write to Scott Patterson at scott.patterson@... and Alistair Barr at alistair.barr@...

      ----------

      "If you have enough energy you can solve a lot of other problems."
      My comment --
      Yeah, right. Like bigotry.

      ***


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