Couples from 50 countries give vows
An estimated 2,500 couples from more than 50 countries exchanged or reaffirmed wedding vows Saturday in a Unification Church ceremony held before more than 15,000 spectators in a stadium in Gapeyeong, South Korea.
The church’s founder, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, presided over the event, blessing the couples in the stadium, about 50 miles northeast of Seoul. Thousands more participated over the Internet and in ceremonies around the world, including 40 couples in Washington, a church spokesman said.
In the Unification Church tradition, known as the “Marriage Blessing,” or simply the “Blessing,” many married couples rededicate their vows alongside the newly married.
Unification Church ministers estimated that 165 people from the United States whose parents had been matched and married by Rev. Moon took part in Saturday’s event.
“This whole experience has been absolutely amazing. I mean really, really happy,” Chouchane Saemie of Britain told the Reuters news agency.
“The mass wedding leads all mankind to be one, removing the boundaries of ethnicities, religious and nationalities,” senior South Korean church official Seuk Joon-ho told the news service. “Our goal is making the world peaceful with forming new families.”
Rev. Moon, 92, founded the church, officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, in 1954.
He also started The Washington Times. The newspaper today is owned and operated by a fivemember board affiliated with the Unification Church.
The Washington couples joined in the ceremonies with a banquet at the Unification Church of Washington, hosted by the Rev. Zagery Oliver, the church’s pastor, and his wife, Fumi.
Other couples participating in the event were from New York and from San Leandro and Pasadena, Calif. or the other sweeps the table in November, I think sequestration will happen.”
Sequestration is the formal name for the automatic spending cuts.
Mr. Goure has watched Republicans and Democrats dig in.
“There is intransigence of both parties to the elements of any deal,” he said. “It’s all budget reductions on one side and mostly tax increases on the other.
“But also, it turns out tragically the United States Congress doesn’t care as much for national defense as was thought when the [ budget act] was struck. The assumption was neither side would dare risk national security. Turns out they would.”
Said a House Republican staffer involved in defense issues: “The president is the big obstacle. The president said a deal is a deal. Sen. Harry Reid [Nevada Democrat and majority leader] said a deal is a deal. We have to be honest with ourselves and realistic. It is near impossible to head off sequestration before the end of the year.”
The staffer said the first sign of prolonged deadlock was the supercommittee, the bipartisan group of senators and representatives that failed to reach a budget deal and was disbanded in November.
Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee, presented a 2013 budget last week that would, he said, head off automatic cuts.
But Senate Democrats dismissed the plan because it would cut domestic spending below figures mandated by the Budget Control Act.
A lingering hope has been that, after November’s elections, a lame-duck Congress would have the political freedom to reach a compromise.
Analysts say don’t count on
“It is little more than a dream to suggest that Washington can reclaim bipartisanship and a spirit of compromise in that brief period of time,” writes Mackenzie Eaglen, a former Pentagon official who analyzes defense issues at the American Enterprise Institute.
Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate staffer who advocates budget reform for the Center for Defense Information, said he sees “the lame-duck as a false hope for solving all the budget issues.”
“If the new Congress can be maneuvered into behaving itself in January, it will have many tasks, including doing whatever to the Pentagon part of the sequester that the economy and budget demand at that time,” he said.
“However, there is only one direction for the Pentagon budget in foreseeable economic and budgetary circumstances: It will go lower than the current and 2013 projected levels.
“I would say sequestration is highly likely, given the dysfunction in Congress that will continue after the elections,” Mr. Wheeler said.
A defense industry executive who maintains contact with congressional officials flatly predicted that “it’s going to happen.”
‘Not easy to prevent’
“Whether you have Obama or Mitt Romney as president, I think both of them are going to find it convenient to let sequestration happen,” the executive said. “And I don’t think Congress between now and an election year is going to reverse it. Then you’re going to have a lame-duck president or lameduck Senate or both. It will be too polarized to act. So sequestration is going to happen.”
Michael O’hanlon, a defense budget analyst at the Brookings Institution, said, “There is too much optimism that it will somehow be averted, perhaps in a lame-duck session, because the reality of it is too ugly to contemplate.”
He added: “I rate the prospects right at 50-50 and think that the fear of sequestration may have to get worse and more palpable before anybody will try to do anything. And even once they try, it’s not easy to prevent.”
A spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and a House Armed Services Committee member who voted against the Budget Control Act because of its defense cuts, called averting the automatic spending reductions “a tall order.”
“We still need to make the best case possible and make every effort to insulate the defense budget from additional cuts that are sure to damage the military,” said spokesman Joe Kasper.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in February presented his first round of budget cuts demanded by the Budget Control Act. He achieved spending targets largely by eliminating 92,000 Army and Marine Corps troops, retiring ships and aircraft, and delaying expensive new weapons systems such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
His 2013 base budget, minus war-fighting costs of $525 billion, is $5 billion less than 2012 spending and $45 billion less than what the Pentagon had planned to spend next year.
Because the budget act allows the president to exempt personnel, analysts believe a round of sequestration-dictated budget slashing would hit future weapons systems, not troops — who would be needed to fulfill operational contingencies in the Persian Gulf and the South Pacific.
Mr. Panetta has bemoaned the automatic defense spending cuts, saying they would produce a “hollowed out” military.
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