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Monthly Archives: June 2015

THE SOURCE OF ANTI-SEMITISM – A RABBI’S VIEW

Q&A Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau:

JEWS DON’T CAUSE ANTI-SEMITISM

ANTI – SEMITISM IS A WORLDWIDE MENTAL ILLNESS THAT CAN’T BE EXPLAINED IN A RATIONAL WAY BECAUSE THERE IS NO LOGIC TO IT

Elias Levy, Reporter CJN,

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Holocaust survivor Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was deported to Buchenwald during World War II. He was eight years old when American soldiers liberated the camp in April 1945. The former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, now chief rabbi of Tel Aviv and president of the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem, Rabbi Meir Lau is one of the best-known rabbinic and public figures in Israel. Rabbi Meir Lau was recently in Montreal, where he was the guest of honour at Académie Yéchiva Yavné’s gala evening, and he spoke to The CJN.

Q -You were clearly happy to come to Montreal for only a few hours to honour the Académie Yéchiva Yavné.

A -Yes. The Académie Yéchiva Yavné’s remarkable educational work has been based on excellence in teaching Jewish and Torah studies as well as the principal secular educational subjects. I was very impressed by the dynamism of the school’s directors, the great devotion of its teachers and the enthusiasm and seriousness of the students. The school took on the mission of ensuring the durability of a high quality, traditional Jewish education, which is indispensable to ensure the survival of the Jewish People.

Q – For you, Jewish education is the primary key to the future of the Jewish People.

A -In the Jewish communities where a traditional Jewish education based on transmission of the teachings and values of the Torah is strongly valued, the rate of assimilation of young Jews is much lower than that in Jewish communities that have turned their backs on the traditions that we inherited from our ancestors. Today, in several Diaspora Jewish communities, especially in North America, the rate of assimilation is frightening. A study on American Judaism carried out recently by the Pew Research Center shows that in the United States, one person out of four who was born Jewish has abandoned Judaism. This pernicious tendency is very worrying.

Q – As a Holocaust survivor, are you frightened by the delusional, vehement declarations of Iranian and Arab Holocaust deniers?

 A -Those Holocaust deniers don’t frighten me for one obvious reason: survivors of the Shoah, who had an official number on their upper left forearm, are still living among us. In Israel, during the summer, when you take a bus, you meet octogenarian men and women who have this distinctive symbol of a horrible memory on their arm. These last survivors forcefully personify the indisputable truth of that horrifying slaughter that decimated more than one-third of the Jewish People.

 

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On the other hand, what does worry me a lot is the reason that motivates these people to deny the reality that the Shoah happened. Why do the former Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his successor, Hassan Rouhani, continue to trumpet without the least embarrassment that the Holocaust was nothing but a “grotesque fable,” a “lying invention forged from start to finish by the Zionists”? After all, Ahmadinejad, Rouhani and their henchmen don’t care in the least whether my parents perished in Auschwitz or died a natural death. Those denying and pathologically anti-Semitic ayatollahs repeat such rhetoric because they are in the process of preparing a second Shoah.

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Q – Then you take very seriously the Iranian political leaders’ demagogic rhetoric that denies the Holocaust and advocates the destruction of Israel?

A -The fact that there has already been a first Holocaust, that its perpetrators, Hitler and the Nazis, were defeated and that the State of Israel was born from the ashes of that awful tragedy seriously discredits the macabre aim of the Iranian leaders to destroy Israel and throw all the Jews into the sea. That’s why these people never stop proclaiming that “the Shoah is only an invention of the Jews.” To “justify” their infamous genocidal plan, they must absolutely erase the past of the Jewish People.

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Q – What do you think about the new wave of anti-Semitism in the West, particularly in the European countries?

A – Anti-Semitism is a worldwide mental illness that can’t be explained in a rational way because there’s no logic to it. Some 3.5 million Jews lived in Poland before the Holocaust. A great many of them were very religious Jews who wore payot and shtreimels and spoke Yiddish. The Maskilim – those who promoted Haskalah [the Jewish intellectual movement in the 18th and 19th centuries that was strongly influenced by the European Enlightenment] – said at the time that if only those very pious Jews learned to speak Polish, dressed like non-Jews and became integrated into the majority Polish Catholic society, anti-Semitism would gradually disappear.

In Germany, however, many Jews were totally integrated into German society and made a notable contribution by distinguishing themselves brilliantly in the sciences, medicine, the arts, finance, including Albert Einstein, the Rothschild family, Walter Benjamin. According to the theory proposed by the Maskilim, the non-Jewish Germans should have lived in perfect harmony with their Jewish fellow citizens. However, when Hitler and the Nazis came to power, they sent those very patriotic German Jews to the gas chambers. They reserved for them the same fate as for the Jews of Poland. That proves to what point anti-Semitism is an illogical problem that can’t be treated in a rational manner.

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Q – Israel is very preoccupied with this new outbreak of anti-Semitism in the West.

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A – Yes, but you have to remember that anti-Semitism is not a Jewish or an Israeli problem. It’s the governments and the western nations, especially the Europeans, that have to urgently find solutions to contain this abject scourge in their own countries. The Jews are the victims and not the perpetrators of this awful sickness. As for the fight against the very virulent anti-Semitism that is rampant in the Arab Muslim world, it’s a futile battle that the Jews and the democrats who support them lost long ago.

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Q – The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, of which you were the head for several years, is today the object of harsh criticism coming from several sectors of Israeli society. They accuse the Chief Rabbinate of being dogmatic and intransigent in the management of some major issues, including conversion and recognition of religious institutions led by rabbis in the Conservative movement.

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A – It is not easy to be a rabbi in Israel. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel is faced with huge challenges today. What the critics of the Chief Rabbinate don’t understand is that this institution can’t make decisions on questions dealing with marriage, divorce, religious status of Israelis except with strict respect for halachic injunctions. One can’t “reform” the spirit of a Halachah that’s thousands of years old and constitutes the main pillar of Jewish identity in order to accommodate Israeli citizens who have a very “liberal” concept of Judaism that distorts the essence of Halachah.

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Q – Does this mean you have no concrete solution to settle those differences of opinion?

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A – Dialogue is the only way possible to settle these major differences of opinion. When I was chief rabbi of Israel, and today in my role as chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, I always counted on a mutually respectful dialogue. I regularly met with groups representing all streams of Israeli society. We spoke frankly and with respect. For me, there aren’t 30 Jewish peoples, but one single Jewish People that must be unified to face the great threats that daily weigh on Israel and the Jews still living in the Diaspora.

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Q – What do you think about the thorny question of young ultra-Orthodox Israelis enlisting in the ranks of the Israel Defence Forces?

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A -To think that the majority of ultra-Orthodox Israelis are fiercely anti-Zionist is totally wrong. For two years, the number of ultra-Orthodox young people who enlisted in the IDF has continued to grow. You can’t force them to join the Israeli army with coercive laws or threatening ultimatums.

Many of these ultra-Orthodox young people are very patriotic and ready to serve under the flag to defend Israel against its numerous enemies. You just have to address them tactfully and politely. To consecrate your life to study of our holy Torah is not a crime. To defend the Land of Israel is also an imperative mitzvah. Today, the great majority of ultra-Orthodox youths are conscious that these two great and noble moral obligations don’t have to conflict, but on the contrary, are very compatible. 

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Price of a new house in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) record — $783,995

That’s up 16 per cent as demand continues to outstrip dwindling supply

What $776,990 gets you in Caledon:

The Dufferin is a five-bedroom, 3,383 square foot detached home

on a 43-foot lot in Fieldgate Homes’ Lotus Pointe.

 

East Gwillimbury is hot. So is Brampton, Caledon, Vaughan, Markham and Richmond Hill.

The drive to buy a home with a backyard — and especially the Holy Grail of housing, a detached house — is requiring a longer-distance commute as the average price of new detached, townhomes, semis and link houses across the GTA hit another new record, $783,995, as of May.

That’s up 16 per cent in just a year, largely because demand for new houses continues to far outstrip dwindling supply, according to figures released Thursday by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD.)

The average price of new high-rise condos, on the other hand, remained the same — an average of $440,463 across the GTA — as sales dipped 12 per cent in May over a year ago. That’s still slightly above the 10-year average for new condo sales of 7,213 for the first five months of the year.

The wildly escalating price of new houses means the gap between the average cost of a low-rise house and a high-rise condo is now $343,492, according to the figures compiled for BILD by RealNet Canada Inc. That’s a new record high, up more than $100,000 just in a year.

“It’s alarming just how quickly that price gap has grown,” says BILD president and CEO Bryan Tuckey. “That seriously impacts the family with a couple of kids that wants to move from a condo to a house.

“Not only do they have to manage that gap from a financial standpoint,” by taking on a much bigger mortgage just to get a backyard, “but they are going to have a long drive.”

Increasingly, families are just going to find themselves priced out of the house market, including the resale market which is also seeing prices climb by double digits driven largely by fierce competition for existing detached and semi-detached homes across the GTA, Tuckey noted.

“Detached homes are still the No. 1 choice and, in a lot of cases, people seem willing to drive further to get the backyard and the 2,500 square feet,” says Phong Ngo, new homes manager for market research company RealNet.

Demand shows no signs of letting up: In May, sales of new low-rise houses were up 28 per cent year-over-year, to 2,442 homes, says Ngo. That brought total sales for the first five months of 9,499, well above the 10-year average for the same time period of 7,871.

But the number of houses for sale in the pre-construction or newly built stage — RealNet calls it “remaining inventory” — was just 5,198 homes in May. That’s less than half the 10-year average of 10,548 houses that have traditionally been available for sale, says Ngo.

That decline in inventory has been driven by a number of factors, top among them the lack of enough build-ready land serviced with roads and sewers.

If East Gwillimbury is hot, it’s largely because the York-Durham sewer extension, first approved decades ago, is finally being pushed north through the area so land is finally being freed up for building, says Tuckey.

The 404 extension opened nearby last year and a relatively new GO Train station has eased the commute to downtown jobs to under an hour each way.

Sales are underway for tracts of housing in nearby Queensville and if there was any doubt that houses remain in high demand, just consider Minto’s Queens Landing project which launched earlier this year in East Gwillimbury.

When the first 90 homes went up for sale last February in the semi-rural area, social media was buzzing. Some 7,500 people registered their interest in townhomes and detached houses on 36- and 43-foot lots, starting in the low $300,000.

By the Saturday morning sales were to start, the parking lot and roadway were jammed with interested buyers, some of whom slept in their cars to be first in line just to get a house.

 

Turning Big Data into Smart Data

In today’s interconnected world, its not enough to capture information. You need to understand it

                                                                               SIEMENS 

THE KEY ECONOMIC ASSET IS NOT CAPITAL – IT IS INTELLIGENCE – THE BEST INVESTMENT IN PERSONAL ECONOMIC AND GDP GROWTH – FOR THE PAST 50 YEARS

HERE IS PROOF

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Big Data is already here.

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One zettabyte­ thats a 1 with 21 zeros at the end-is 50 percent more than all the grains of sand

on all of the beaches on Earth. By the year 2020, the volume of digital data stored is expected to reach 40 zettabytes, a 50fold increase in the span of a decade that means the information collected for each man, woman and child will be the equivalent of the text contained in three million books.

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Collecting that data is one thing, but understanding itand using the resulting knowledge to optimize existing systemsis another. “What you really need are ways to structure big data more efficiently,” explains Eric Spiegel, President and CEO of Siemens USA. “What are the processes you can put in place to capture that data , analyze it and produce usable reports so that businesses can understand what they need to do differ­ ently? That’s the transition.”

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Welcome to the world of Smart Data. Take a wind turbine, for instance. In the era of smart data , Siemens sensors not only measure the    mechanical sensors not only measure the mechanical vibrations inside, but instantly compare them against a database containing the measurement values of 6,000 other turbines. Armed with that information, a service team can take immediate action once an anomaly is spotted, and carry out anticipatory maintenance before the system breaks down. This predictive capability is now being applied to smarter service and maintenance for trains , the electrical grid and gas turbine engines.

 In the case of a gas or wind turbine, or even a drive unit in the coolant pump at a power station, leveraging smart data could keep the lights on for thousands of residents. For trains, this could mean enhanced reliabil­ ity for commuters. And at research hospitals that use Siemens CT scanners, optimizing machines and the departments that use them can save lives. ·

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Turning massive, unstructured data volumes into smart data takes a unique blend of industry, device and analytics expertise. On the industry and device fronts , 168yearold Siemens continues to grow its indepth knowledge of the physical world by actually building equipmentno surprise from the company that literally invented the electric locomotive.

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“Its not enough to be an IT company; you need to be a technology company that has a deep domain knowledge,” explains Spiegel, who notes that the marriage of IT and industrial engineering means that nearly every device Siemens makes, from turbines to transmission lines, now has sensors and software inside. “Because we make those devices, we know how they should operate. That way when you get this big data, you understand how it can be used to make things run more effectively.”

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Enter analytics, where Siemens boasts more than 28,000 pieces of equipment worldwide that are each connected to maintenance centers located on several continents. Together these centers process and analyze more than 10 terabytes data every month – an amount expected to increase tenfold by 2020 – from industrial automation, power generation and countless other systems to extract value from it.

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Turning multi – sourced big data into smart Data that is action – oriented and predictive promises to create a significant competive advantage for those forward thinking businesses ready to adopt it. From the startup that is working with limited resources to the large corporation aiming to grow its market share, more and more companies are turning to smart data to identify what makes current operations sub optimal, and to develop solutions that lead to more efficient use of time and resources. In fact, some plants have already improved capacity 30 percent by utilizing smart data.

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“Customers don’t just want to buy a piece of equipment and a service contract,” Spiegel adds. “What they really want to know is how we are going to use these technologies to help them optimize their business.” With 60 global business units dedicated to doing just that, it’s no wonder that Siemens is perfectly positioned to thrive in the digital world – no matter how many zettabytes it holds.

 

 

 

 

‘RAISING THE BAR’ Slightly Out of Reach

ON POLITICAL, FINANCIAL, PERSONAL & PROFESSIONAL DISCIPLINE

A SHORT – SHORT COURSE IN RETIREMENT PLANNING

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 PART I

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WE ARE LIVING TO AGE 95

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WE RETIRE BETWEEN AGES 60 AND 65

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IT TAKES $100,000/YEAR TO SUPPORT A FAMILY OF 4

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$2,000,000 IN CAPITAL AT 5% WILL GENERATE $100,000/YEAR

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IF YOU DO NOT NEED $100,000 DO THE MATH

FOR YOUR NEEDS

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A FINANCIAL ADVISOR WHO SPECIALIZES IN RETIREMENT PLANNING

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‘Raising  The Bar’ 

Daniel H. Zwicker, Principal,
B.Sc. (Hons.) P.Eng. CFP CLU CH.F.C. CFSB

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Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/danzwicker

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A SHORT SHORT COURSE IN RETIREMENT PLANNING

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PART II

 

Why the future is bright and other lessons from 50 years of work:

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Mayers

At the age of 70, Peter Drake has retired for the second time after nearly 50 years as an economist. He reflects on what he’s learned.

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Peter Drake, 70, former deputy chief economist with TD Bank, says the most common financial mistake he sees is people not having a grasp of the big picture.

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By: Adam Mayers Personal Finance Editor, Published on Thu Jul 02 2015

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Over the course of nearly half a century observing the economy, Peter Drake has seen it all: Runaway inflation and no inflation. Mortgage rates at double digits and now at record lows. A handful of deep recessions, some Made in Canada to tame inflation and bring down high rates. Others caused by external forces.

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After a 35-year career at the TD Bank, Drake retired as deputy chief economist of Canada’s second biggest bank a dozen years ago. A few years later, he dived back in to a second career at Fidelity Investments where he led research in economics and issues around planning for and living in retirement.

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Now 70, Drake retired again this week.

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The big lesson from a lifetime of work? We should have faith in the future.

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“There will always be another economic or financial crisis,” says Drake, a Toronto native. “The odds are that it will get solved. What’s interesting is that at every crisis some people say it’s the end of the world. It never is. And others say it’s different this time. It never is.”In a Q&A he offered some other parting observations:

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Q Is it true we’re not saving enough for retirement?

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A Retirement is unique and that’s a crucial point. People put up their hand in seminars and say: ‘I don’t want a complicated answer. Just tell me how much I need to retire.’ My answer is I can’t tell you, because I don’t know how much you make or spend. And I don’t know what you want to do in retirement.

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You have to look at what works for you, not the average person. Nobody is average. We’re all individuals. It’s going to be a function of your ability to save and invest, what you want to do in retirement and where you want to spend it.

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Q How is retirement changing?

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A The big factor is longer life spans. The original notion was a couple of years of leisure before you died. Now it’s a couple of decades.

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On the financial side, you need the investing and planning that will finance that. But on the other side, you need to envision what you want out of retirement. This will help promote psychological satisfaction.

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Some people say, ‘How do I know what I want?’ Well, you make the plan based on your interests. You may discover some things are different in retirement, but if you have a plan it’s much easier to adjust. If you haven’t thought about them you may find it difficult.

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Q What is your retirement experience?

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A I left TD and worked part-time for a year and a half. Then, I was on my own for a year and a half. I didn’t enjoy that. I’d far rather work with a group of people who challenge you and people who will come up with ideas. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Q What is the most common financial mistake you see?

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A It is not having a grasp of the big picture — how much (people) spend and where they spend it. Getting the big picture isn’t difficult — it can easily be done with a simple spreadsheet. It does require some time and effort. The payoff is huge: knowing where you are is the only way to know where you are going.

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Q What trends do you see affecting household finances?

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A I would expect a gradual rise in interest rates over the next four or five years. I don’t think it will be a whole bunch and I don’t think that means a crisis for household finances.

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Q How will it affect things?

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A You would expect a modest rise in rates to cool house price increases. The same thing with personal borrowing. I don’t think it will take hold in a hurry. You’re seeing a trend toward five-year mortgages.

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Q What about jobs?

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A We have an aging population. Down the road we will see much stronger job growth and higher wage increases.

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Q How is the nature of work changing?

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A Millennials expect to be in a job for three years and then move on. So they could have many different jobs in a lifetime. They’ll have to manage their finances because there may be periods when they don’t have income coming in.

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There are implications for retirement planning too. Your work place pension won’t do it for you, so you should do your own planning.

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Hours of work and location are changing. That used to be pretty standard. One of the things that’s driving this is technology. Now you can work wherever you are.

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Q Is higher education worth the cost?

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A I don’t think we’ve devalued degrees. You need great qualifications to get a good job. There’s two parts to education. There’s learning to think and analyze and look at something critically. That should be taught through the humanities. Then there are specific technical skills.

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What’s happening is people will get a degree to get the basics and then get another degree that has specific applications. That will cost you and I as parents a lot more money. But we wind up with better educated people.

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Q Will young people be able to afford GTA real estate?

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A You always worry that the kids’ standard of living won’t be as good as yours. But I’m not sure that’s going to be the case. It’s going to be different, but I don’t think it’s worse.

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I watched the first development of the suburbs, Don Mills. That was the gold standard of the time. For young people the gold standard is different. It’s being in the metropolis and having access to all the things that the city has to offer.

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It means they will have less living space and some might see that as a lower standard of living. But in other ways, their standard of living is higher. They have technology which defines their social lives and friendship groups. They have access to urban attractions that are difficult to get to in the suburbs.

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Q Is this really it for you?

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A You learn never to say never, but my short-term goals are to spend as much time on my bike and canoe as possible over the summer. I have always been involved in music and I’ve been toying with learning another language. That’s a great stimulus.

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Q Any final thoughts on personal finances?

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A It boils down to paying attention to your own situation. There are all sort of general rules and products and marketing campaigns that suggest we do this or that. You have to look at yourself and say how do I make it work for me.

 

 

Obama’s Iraq quagmire

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The president finds himself dragged back into a war he was elected to end.

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President Barack Obama was elected on a promise of extricating the U.S. military from Iraq — what he called a “clean break.” More than six years later, he’s found there’s simply no escaping the pressure to send U.S. combat forces back.

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On Wednesday, the White House announced the U.S. would send 450 more American military advisers, on top of 3,100 already there. It’s the latest in a gradual return of U.S. forces, and the decision underscored Obama’s intent to rely primarily on airstrikes to help back Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State terrorist group, which controls large parts of Iraq and Syria

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But the move, which follows the embarrassing fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, drew immediate criticism from Republicans for not, at minimum, calling for U.S. troops to serve as spotters for air strikes on the front lines. Further exacerbating Obama’s political crisis, Democrats on the other side accused him of unnecessarily escalating U.S. involvement and risking “mission creep.”

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“The last thing he foresaw was the need to reintroduce troops into Iraq,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “You probably couldn’t have a more reluctant president to go down that road. But I think he is intent we don’t ignore the lessons of the first war.”

 

The political pressure to do far more was on display even before the official announcement was made.

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In a particularly stinging rebuke, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, accused Obama of lacking decisiveness and resorting to half-measures reminiscent of mistakes made during the disastrous Vietnam War.

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 “This is incrementalism at its best — or worst,” said the Arizona Republican, Obama’s White House rival in 2008 who spent seven years in a prisoner of war camp in North Vietnam.

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The Obama administration defended its approach — and at least for now seemed determined not to be railroaded into another ground war in the same place where 4,491 Americans died between 2003 and when Obama pulled U.S. forces out in 2011.

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When pressed on why the latest efforts do not include having American troops serve as spotters for airstrikes or sending Apache aircraft to back up the Iraqi troops, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters the president “has been very clear he’ll look at a range of different options,” but gave no sign such additional measures were imminent.

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Instead, he stressed that the White House was most concerned with building Iraqi capacity to take on the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, itself. “The U.S. military cannot and should not do this simply for Iraqis, and, frankly, Iraqis want to be in the lead themselves,” Rhodes said.

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Obama will deploy about 450 U.S. troops to Al Taqqadum air base in Iraq’s Anbar province, bringing to five the number of locations where U.S. forces are advising the Iraqis in the country.

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 The additional troops will have two missions, defense officials say: “advise and assist” the Iraqi commanders of a unit that will be charged with retaking the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah and reach out to local Sunni tribes to “facilitate” them joining the Shia-led Iraqi government’s fight against the Sunni militant group. The goal is for Sunnis to either join Iraq’s army or take up arms on their own as part of the fight against ISIL.

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“What we’re trying to do here bring the Sunnis into the fold – into the tent,” said Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren.

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So far the U.S. has trained more than 8,900 Iraqi troops, defense officials say, with more than 2,600 others in the pipeline. The challenge, they acknowledge, has been getting enough recruits from the Baghdad government to take full advantage of the American trainers already in Iraq. At one base in western Anbar Province, Al Asad air base, the American troops haven’t had any Iraqis to train for about three months.

Obama also authorized the “expedited delivery” of weapons and materiel to Kurdish and tribal fighters, the White House said, which American officials hope will get arms into the hands of fighters quicker.

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“Ultimately, these Iraqi forces will enable Iraq to better defend its citizens and retake its territory from [ISIL],” the Pentagon said in a statement.

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The decision effectively puts on hold a push north up the River Tigris to the ISIL stronghold of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city — possibly until next year. But the step does not represent a major shift in strategy, U.S. officials say, which also includes an ongoing effort to train and arm rebels to take on the militant group inside Syria, embroiled in a four-year civil war.

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It is for that reason that hawks pounced. Fred Kagan, a national security expert at the American Enterprise Institute, called the move “ridiculous” and unlikely to make any real difference on the battlefield.

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 Kagan, who supports embedding U.S. spotters with the Iraqis to improve the effectiveness of the air campaign, believes the president has yet to “recognize the situation has changed completely from what it was when he took office.”

“He came to office having made an ill-informed campaign promise that presumably reflected his beliefs at the time,” said Kagan, who helped devise the so-called “surge” of U.S. troops into Iraq in early 2007 to beat back the insurgency, which included Al Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to ISIL. “He stuck to his own timeline.”

 

Kagan said he believes the Iraqis can carry on the fight against ISIL, but “I think they need more assistance than we are providing.”

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“We have an interest in defeating ISIL whether [the Iraqis] are worthy or not, or whether they are standing up or not,” he added.

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McCain, in his remarks likening the approach to Vietnam, noted that three-quarters of the attack sorties in the U.S.-led air campaign are returning without dropping their bombs.

 “We will continue to see 75 percent of the combat missions flown return to base without having discharged their weapons, since we have no one on the ground to identify targets,” he claimed. “It is reminiscent of another war, another time many years ago, where under then-Secretary of Defense [Robert] McNamara this same type of strategy prevailed.”

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Rep. Scott Rigell, a Virginia Republican who represents one of the highest concentrations of military constituents, said he is fully aware that “the president faces a very difficult scenario. It is a complex set of forces we are up against, with different loyalties.”

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“Having said that, the president’s very public admission of not having a strategy this far into it is not what the American people want to hear,” he said. “Absent a clear plan to essentially piecemeal it without an overarching and underlying comprehensive strategy, I’d say it’s unwise at this point.”

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Obama’s new steps got a better reception from some in his own party who believe the militant group, which has gained adherents elsewhere in the region, poses a grave threat.

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“I think it is a reasonable one, but it needs to be accompanied by a renewed Iraqi commitment to include the Sunnis,” said Schiff, who opposes sending U.S. spotters to the front lines.

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He maintained that U.S. military assistance alone is not going to translate into successfully defeating the group, which capitalized on neighboring Syria’s ongoing civil war to push into Iraq. “We can send all the trainers we want and embed troops with Iraqi forces, but if the Sunnis don’t think they can be protected both from ISIL and the Shia militias, there is no way of successfully peeling them away from ISIL,” Schiff said. “We can win battles, but they won’t stay won in the absence of political change.”

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What he sees lacking in the new steps is a quid pro quo with leaders in Baghdad; namely, that in return they will make the necessary political changes to build a more inclusive Iraq.

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“I think we would be crazy not to use the leverage of our military assistance to compel the Iraqis to make the political and sectarian accommodations they need to,” Schiff said. “We should not be helping the Shia take on the Sunni.”

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Those who fear the U.S. is getting pulled into another ground war they believe is not America’s to fight were glum in the wake of the White House announcement.

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“It represents an escalation,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, an anti-war Democrat from Massachusetts, calling it “incremental mission creep.”

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“We are going to establish a military base. We are getting closer and closer to the front lines,” McGovern said. “This won’t be the last deployment. It will continue to increase.”

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BY BRYAN BENDER, NAHAL TOOSI AND PHILIP EWING

6/10/15 4:34 PM EDT

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THE BOTTOM LINE

OBAMA HAS NO INTEREST IN DISCHARGING HIS RESPONSIBILITY AS COMMANDER – IN CHIEF

TED

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TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less).

TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.

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Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

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TED (conference)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences run by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading”.[4] TED was founded in 1984 as a one-off event;[1] the annual conference series began in 1990.[5] TED’s early emphasis was technology and design, consistent with its Silicon Valley origins, but it has since broadened its focus to include talks on many scientific, cultural, and academic topics.[6]

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The main TED conference is held annually in Vancouver, Canada, and its companion TEDActive is held in Whistler, British Columbia[7][8] Prior to 2014, the two conferences were held in Long Beach and Palm Springs, California, respectively.[9] TED events are also held throughout North America and in Europe and Asia, offering live streaming of the talks. They address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture, often through storytelling.[10] The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can.[11] Past speakers include Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Richard Dawkins, Richard Stallman, Bill Gates, Bono, Mike Rowe, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners.[12] TED’s current curator is the British former computer journalist and magazine publisher Chris Anderson.[13]

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Since June 2006,[1] the talks have been offered for free viewing online, under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons license, through TED.com.[15] As of February 2015[update], over 1,900 talks are freely available on the website.[16] In June 2011, the talks’ combined viewing figure stood at more than 500 million,[17] and by November 2012, TED talks had been watched over one billion times worldwide.[18] Not all TED talks are equally popular, however. Those given by academics tend to be watched more online, and art and design videos tend to be watched less than average.[19]

Is Loblaws throwing its weight around too often?

Has consolidation driven up grocery prices for consumers?

The Competition Bureau has some questions for Loblaws.

 

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Canada’s Competition Bureau is trying to determine if Loblaw Companies Ltd. is using its buying power to browbeat suppliers and whether Canadians are paying more for groceries as a result. Steve Russell/Toronto Star

By: Francine Kopun Business reporter,

Published on Mon Jun 01 2015

Is Loblaw Companies Ltd. using its mighty buying power to browbeat suppliers and are Canadians paying more for groceries as a result?

That’s what the Competition Bureau is trying to determine, after ordering Loblaws to hand over reams of internal documents as part of an inquiry into how it deals with suppliers.

But the organization representing independent grocers in Canada says the problem is not limited to Loblaws – a majority of groceries in Canada are sold in stores belonging to two large, publicly traded companies: Loblaws and Empire Company Ltd., owners of Sobeys.

“This is not just a Loblaws issue. It’s indicative that we have an industry issue,” said Gary Sands, vice-president, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.

“We think this investigation underscores the need for a code of conduct in Canada to govern the grocery industry.”

In an affidavit filed in Federal Court, David Warford, a senior competition law officer with the Competition Bureau testified that some of the pricing protocols Loblaws asks suppliers to follow could result in higher wholesale prices paid by other retailers and, in some circumstances, higher retail prices for consumers.

“The Bureau also determined that, without restrictions, such programs and agreements would likely impact the incentives and conduct of suppliers to Loblaw, and the ability of other retailers to compete vigorously with Loblaw, particularly on price and product selection.”

Loblaws has been ordered by the Federal Court to turn over a vast amount of internal correspondence as part of the probe, including e-mails, calendars, appointment books, telephone logs, planners and diaries.

Central to the dispute are lengthy letters Loblaws sends to suppliers, outlining detailed pricing policies.

In a recent letter, Loblaws says suppliers selling products in “custom packaging” (for example bulk sizes) to one grocer must sell the products for the same price to Loblaws, even if the packaging is not bulk packaging.

Loblaws asks suppliers to bear a portion of the cost of ad-match – matching the lower price for a product at a competing store. Vendors that participate in a demonstration program at a competitor’s store must also participate in Loblaws demo programs.

But Loblaws is not the only major grocer bearing down on suppliers.

In a letter sent to all grocery suppliers dated Dec. 24, 2013, and signed by Dale MacDonald, senior vice-president, category management and national procurement, Sobeys suppliers were told to reduce prices following the acquisition of Canada Safeway.

“To support growing sales and to improve our internal productivity we expect to fully leverage our new consolidated scale. To accomplish this, we will require all suppliers to deliver a synergy savings rate of 1 per cent of cost of goods sold to Sobeys, incremental to current funding, effective November 3, 2013 onwards,” according to the letter.

Big grocers exacting concessions from suppliers is felt by independent grocers, said Sands.

Suppliers have to make up the money somewhere, and are more able to do so when dealing with smaller retailers who don’t have the buying power of a Loblaws, a Sobeys or a Metro.

While Sands said he doesn’t think it’s led to higher prices for consumers yet, he is convinced it could have an impact if left unchecked.

Sands said codes of conduct for the grocery industry have been enacted in the U.K. and Australia.

According to Warford’s affidavit, the inquiry was launched after certain Loblaw trade practices came to the competition commissioner’s attention during a review of the Loblaws acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. in 2013 and 2014.

A Loblaws spokesperson said the company is working diligently to meet with the requests from the Competition Bureau.

 

By: Adam Mayers Personal Finance Editor,

Toronto Star

Published on Tue Jun 02 2015

Hydro One’s billing mess shows how automatic billing plans can work against you

Automatic billing plans are easy and convenient, but beware. You pay first and settle disputes later..

Hydro One introduced a new billing system in May, 2013. What followed was erratic and sometimes incorrect bills for tens of thousands of its 1.3 million customers.

Some would get multiple bills at once and then nothing for months. Some got estimated bills for a year or more. Others found their bank accounts emptied as Hydro One realized its errors and took catch-up payments without telling them. When they complained nothing happened.

Provincial Ombudsman Andre Marin took up their case in Feb. 2014 and launched an investigation. He said long suffering Hydro One customers were victims of “egregious errors and baffling bills.”

Marin followed up last week with a new report in which he said many Hydro customers had been mistreated and misled. Thousands of them were trapped in a billing nightmare because the utility chose to lie about how serious the problem was, Marin said. As the problems got worse, Hydro One’s response was to become more deceitful. Rather than owning up, it covered up. The utility obstructed and evaded questions from his office, the minister of energy’s office, Hydro One’s board of directors and the Ontario Energy Board, Marin told reporters.

There are a couple of lessons from this story. It is a good illustration of the importance of the oversight of monopolies through agencies like the provincial ombudsman or the auditor general. It’s all too easy for a monopoly to become a silo of self-interest where the customer comes last.

Since you have nowhere else to go, they don’t have to treat you particularly well. A monopoly can brush your concerns aside because they are inconvenient.

Another lesson is that you should be careful to whom you give your approval for automatic billing plans.

Last February, my colleague Ellen Roseman wrote about a cottager whose Hydro One electricity meter had been read once in 2008 and once in 2010 – well before the new billing system. He had been paying monthly amounts based on estimates.

One day he got a bank statement showing that Hydro One had removed $11,907 from his bank account. The utility had finally taken an actual reading and decided to take all it believed it was owed. Since the customer had agreed to a pre-authorized payment plan they took it all out at once.

On one hand, pre-authorized plans are great because they’re convenient. By automating bill payments you can set it and forget it. The bill comes in and the money goes out. You can pay attention to more important things. No more worries about late fees.

For those who funnel spending through a credit card to gather points for a rewards program, automatic plans help the rewards add up. It works as long as you’re disciplined enough to pay off your bill every month.

The downside of these plans is that you’re giving up control of your bank accounts to a third party. If you read the fine print it will usually say that you agree to let the biller take out the amount the bill on a certain day each month. (This is a good reason to separate your credit cards from your banking. Your credit card agreement likely allows the issuer to recover the entire balance at its discretion. If the card is issued by your bank, they also have access to your accounts.)

The amount may end up in dispute, but you pay first and fight to get it back later. Sometimes, as in Hydro One’s case, getting it back or even getting a fair hearing can be difficult.

This is why every company you deal with likes automatic billing. They don’t have to worry about collecting. Even better, they can count on your inertia to maintain the arrangement in perpetuity. When you aren’t paying attention, you don’t notice service charges, rate changes or other fees. Or balloon bills – until it’s too late

Patricia White, executive director of Credit Counselling Canada, a non-profit debt consolidation agency, says the only automatic payment plan she has is for her local newspaper. The rest of the bills she pays as she goes.

She believes automatic plans can work for monthly payments that are fixed, such things as realty taxes, or home or auto insurance. Since they are reviewed annually, you can decide once a year whether to renew or cancel.

As for the rest of your bills, she recommends taking the few minutes each month to review them. It keeps you in touch with your spending and gives you a better fix on where the money is going and if something has changed.

“If you are going to use automatic payment plans use them carefully,” she says. “It’s much better to maintain control. Paying a bill every month forces you to pay attention and that’s a good thing.”

When utilities like Hydro One runs roughshod over their customers, it’s tough for consumers to fight back. But even there, opting out of automatic payment plans leaves you in charge and will help you spot problems at an early stage which makes them easier to resolve.

5 things to know about pre-authorized debits

  Make sure the agreement covers the amount to be withdrawn, the frequency of the withdrawal and a clear way to cancel.

  Don’t be pressured. If you feel uncomfortable, arrange for another way to pay, or take your business elsewhere.

  Make sure you have enough money in your account. If not, the biller may withdraw the funds at any point during the next 30 days.

  Check your statements regularly to ensure that it is working properly.

  Always keep a copy of the agreement.

Source: Canadian Bankers Association

 

God may be female, some Church of England clerics say after first women bishops ordained

John Bingham,

The Telegraph | May 31, 2015 

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Members of the clergy gather at Church of England's General Synod on Nov. 17, 2014 in London, England.

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Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images Members of the clergy gather at Church of England’s General Synod on Nov. 17, 2014 in London, England

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London — Support is growing within the Church of England to rewrite its official liturgies to refer to God as a female following the selection of the first women bishops.

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A growing number of priests already insert such words as “she” and “mother” informally into traditional service texts to try to make the language of worship more inclusive, it has been claimed.

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But calls for a full overhaul of liturgy have already been discussed informally at a senior level.

It comes after the Transformations Steering Group, a body that meets in Lambeth Palace to examine the impact of women in ministry on the Church of England, issued a public call to the bishops to encourage more “expansive language and imagery about God.”

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Hilary Cotton, chairman of Women and the Church, the group that led the campaign for female bishops, said a shift away from the traditional patriarchal language of the Book of Common Prayer is at an advanced stage in some quarters.

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“The reality is, in many churches up and down the country, something more than the almost default male language about God is already used,” she said.

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“The response you often get at one end is, ‘Why does it matter, because God is beyond all this?’ At the other end the reaction is: ‘You mustn’t, because Jesus calls God father.’ ”

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Cotton said that while congregations were experimenting with terminology, it was time for the issue to be considered by the Liturgical Commission, the body that drafts official service books.

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“Until we shift considerably towards a more gender-ful expression in our worship about God, then we are failing God and missing something,” she said.