July 30, 2016

Moody’s Max Hillary Contributor Mark Zandi: Economy ‘Resilient,’ Job Market ‘Incredible’

Yesterday’s news about the economy was the latest in a 7-1/2 year series of mostly regular disappointments. The government reported that nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at an annual rate of just 1.2 percent in the second quarter, half or less of what most alleged “experts” expected. Additionally, the first’s quarter’s originally reported 1.1 percent growth was revised down to 0.8 percent.

The economy has grown barely 1.2 percent during the past four quarters. So even before yesterday’s news, reasons to be impressed with the economy were hard to find. That didn’t stop Mark Zandi, who “just so happens” to have contributed the maximum allowable individual amount to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2015, from going way over the top with praise. As reported by the Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger shortly before the GDP report’s release, Zandi proclaimed that “It is amazing how resilient the U.S. economy has been,” and the “The job market is just incredible.”

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Over a Week Later, Forced Labor Decree in Venezuela Is Still Not News at AP, NY Times

Now we know why Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s de facto dictator, recently handed over responsibility for food production to the military: He’s going to need soldiers on farms and elsewhere in the food distribution chain to keep conscripted workers in line.

That’s because on July 22, now over a week ago, Maduro’s government decreed “… that any employee in Venezuela can be effectively made to work in the country’s fields as a way to fight the current food crisis.” Those words are from a July 28 Amnesty International press release. Amnesty correctly contends that the move “is unlawful and effectively amounts to forced labour.” Amnesty appears to have taken six days to respond because the first reports from the world’s press did not appear until Thursday. As of shortly after 9 a.m. Eastern Time Saturday morning, the Associated Press, despite having at least four reporters in Venezuela, still hasn’t covered Maduro’s order. Neither has the New York Times.

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Saturday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (073016)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:00 am

This open thread is meant for commenters to post on items either briefly noted below (if any) or otherwise not covered at this blog. Rules are here.

Positivity: The story of Poland’s majestic ‘underground salt cathedral’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Krakow, Poland:

Jul 27, 2016 / 03:49 am

Located just southeast of Krakow, the Wieliczka salt mine is famous for many things – most notably its underground chapels, made entirely out of rock salt.

In fact, the chapels are so stunning that they have earned the mine a nickname: the ‘underground salt cathedral.’

Officially opened in the 13th century, the mine is one of the oldest salt mines still in operation and is composed of numerous chambers chiseled out of rock salt, saline lakes, statues and chapels sculpted in salt.

Until now, the main visitor’s route through the mine, called the “Tourist Route,” has been walked by roughly 40 million tourists from around the world, according to the mine’s official website.

In a show of just how deeply the faith is rooted in the Polish people, the mine is also filled with several chapels carved completely out of rock salt, in order to provide miners with a way to practice their faith while underground.

Since miners typically worked under dangerous circumstances in the dark, away from their families, they created the chapels as places where they could pray and celebrate Mass before facing the challenges of the job.

The shrines were chiseled near the miners’ workplaces and at the major and minor shafts where tragic accidents had occurred.

While it isn’t possible to determine exactly how many chapels and shrines once existed in the Wieliczka mine, the most important are shown on the “Pilgrims’ Route,” which, unlike the regular tourist route, allows groups accompanied by a priest to register and celebrate Mass inside one of the chapels.

The most important chapel, which is the largest and contains the most statutes and carvings, is the St. Kinga Chapel, which is located about 330 feet underground.

The large space inside the chapel measures roughly 5,000 square feet of floor space. It is 36 feet tall, and is decorated with bas-relief carvings in rock salt depicting important scenes in Jesus’ life, such as the Nativity, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion.

It also contains carvings of important biblical events like the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents, and of saints. Two giant chandeliers made completely out of salt crystals hang from the ceiling, while an image of St. Kinga, also made entirely of salt crystals, sits behind the main altar.

The sculptures inside the chapel were carved over the course of 70 years, in large part thanks to a man named Erazma Baracza, an art lover and director of the mine.

Inside the main altar are two relics: one of St. Kinga, and one of St. John Paul II, who visited the mine three times during his life. Though he never went as Pope, the young Karol Wojtyla traveled to Wieliczka twice as a teen, and once as a cardinal.

Mass is still celebrated in the chapel every Sunday, as well as on special feast days or holidays. It is also used for special events such as weddings and sacred music concerts, seating about 400 people.

St. Kinga, the chapel’s namesake, lived during the 13th century and was the daughter of Hungarian King Bela IV. …

Go here for the rest of the story.