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18h30 UTC; FRIDAY, 27 APRIL 2012: In case you haven't heard by now, a group of American Catholic nuns are "flipping the bird," as it were, at demands by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI that they devote more of their time and resources in God's Name to "more pressing issues" like opposing homosexuality and gay marriage by insisting that they will continue to serve Him by ministering to the needs of the neediest among us (especially children and the poor), in line with His Commands (notwithstanding the Elmer Gantry crowd's attempts to rewrite Holy Writ to excuse "the Four Hundred" at the expense of the poor and suffering).

Which, IMHO, may be the single greatest show of defiance to the Papal Magisterium since Martin Luther's burning a copy of the papal bull Exurge Dominie ("Arise, O Lord") in the town square of Wittemberg, Germany in 1520, said bull having been issued in response to the emerging acceptance of Luther's challenging Church doctrines about salvation by merit (as in the Sale of Indulgences) as started with his nailing the 95 Theses on the front door of Wittemberg's Castle Church on 31 October 1517 ... and which would come to a head with the Diet of Worms before Holy Roman Emperor Charles II in the late summer of 1521. (BTW, the Diet of Worms was actually a synod in the German city of Worms called to question Luther on charges of heresay, challenging Papal authority, and promoting false doctrines, never mind what the name suggests.)

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Unlikely Sister Cities, at least for the time being: Wisconsin Dells in the United States and Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales (the latter sometimes shortened, in the interest of brevity, to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Llanfairpwllgwyn or Llanfair PG, that last one not to be confused with PG Tips tea or, for that matter, the Parental Guidance film rating; in any case, the full Welsh name translates as "St. Mary's Church in a grove of white hazel trees near the fierce whirlpool close to St. Tysilio's Cave by the red grove").

Common Bond: Both have town names as were chosen for the sake of touristic promotion.

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As if banking-houses didn't have enough bromides already to excuse potentially whimsical fees or charges as should have nothing to do with a decent banking relationship, along comes word that many of the larger banks are steering lower-income and socioeconomically-disadvantaged customers towards high-cost products and services solely to maximise fee revenue which they claim is being undercut by "new Federal banking laws," without going into clear specifics. Especially where such lack access to community banking-houses or credit unions which traditionally have better value for money in their account offerings.

Which, in any case, should be enough to suggest that the Postal Service, in its desire for new and innovative streams of revenue lost to e-mail and Teh Innerwebz, launch a "social banking service" as would operate through local Post Offices in especially lower-income and rural communities losing or otherwise lacking in access to decent banking services (and, for the most part, have high concentrations of The Unbankable), with a simple range of banking, money transfer, insurance and investment products and services.

Unless, however, Fox Business suggests returning to classical Morris Plan models of consumer banking and credit; when the first such banks were opened about a century ago, would-be borrowers, mostly industrial laborers, had to get character references from two people of equivalent earnings power to the borrower, and also had to purchase Installment Thrift Certificates in an amount equal to the face value of the loan sought, with the weekly payments going towards the loan. Within a few years, however, the character reference and thrift certificate requirements would be scrapped across the industrial-banking industry which the Morris Plan engendered. (The name refers to its originator, Arthur J. Morris [1881-1973], a lawyer who opened the first such bank, the Fidelity Savings and Trust Company in Norfolk, VA, in 1910.)

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As for Sean Hannity's recent notion that the poor should eat more rice and beans in response to proposed cuts in food-aid programmes "as a favour to the Nation," such isn't exactly a new concept: Some 125 years ago out Switzerland way, concerns were being raised in certain influential circles about factory workers, many younger people who moved from the country to improve their lives, not just working long hours for low pay, but also lacking the time and wherewithal to prepare decent, nutritionally-balanced meals.

Enter miller Julius Maggi, who had some friends in the Swiss Public Welfare Institute as came out with many of the first reports challenging the dietary shortcomings of factory workers, and suggested increased emphasis on legumes (peas and beans) to provide cheap, yet nutritious, meals among the emerging working-classes. Thanks to such connexions, Herr Maggi was challenged to come up with cheap, yet nutritionally filling, soup mixes based on legumes as would be easy to prepare, yet affordable to the working-classes ... and in 1886, introduced two instant pea soups and an instant bean soup onto the Swiss market, with much commercial success and support from social-welfare advocates. And before long, Maggi (since 1947 part of the global Nestle group) became known across Europe, with some modest sales in the United States, even adding new products from time to time, including Maggi Seasoning (similar to soy sauce, but made with glutimates; known in some countries as Maggi Arome or Maggi Wuerze) and Maggi bouillon (which, in 1907, was the first such brand in the world to be packaged in cube form, as well as granulated).

In case any of you may be looking for Maggi products yourselves, but can't quite find them locally (even at Walmart or Costco), click here for starters; hopefully, they should have what you require from the Maggi range.

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If there's one "reality" TV show as deserves boycotting among the Real Americans Among Us (as opposed to the simulation Fox News presents under that appellation) for its just being banally tacky and junky, I would have to nominate Keeping Up With the Kardashians on E!, which has just been renewed for three more seasons. After all, it's very possible that the Kardashians themselves are about to "jump the shark," if not already.



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