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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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This year’s survey works from a baseline of 1900 A.D., and makes projections out to 2050. Within that century and a half there’s some good news about the global human condition that ought to be kept in mind when remembering the bad news of the 20th century and the early 21st. For example: in 1900, 27.6 percent of adults in a world population of 1.6 billion were literate. In 2015, 81 percent of the adults in a global population of 7.3 billion are literate, and the projection is that, by 2050, 88 percent of the adults in a world of 9.5 billion people will be literate—a remarkable accomplishment.
Of the 7.3 billion human beings on Planet Earth today, 89 percent are religious believers, while 1.8 percent are professed atheists and another 9 percent are agnostics: which suggests that Chief Poobah of the New Atheists Richard Dawkins and his friends are not exactly winning the day, although their “market share” is up from 1900.
There were some 267 million Catholics in the world in 1900; today, the world Church counts 1.2 billion members, with a projected growth to 1.6 billion by the middle of the century. Yet in the last quarter of the 20th century Catholicism was displaced by Islam as the world’s largest religious community, as the global Muslim population grew from 571 million in 1970 to today’s 1.7 billion.
Read it all.
Three men from Brooklyn have been arrested and charged with trying to help the Islamic State, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court on Wednesday.
They had also discussed harming President Obama and carrying out attacks in the United States if they were unable to travel overseas. One of the three men was arrested while trying to fly to Turkey, where authorities say he planned to head to the border with Syria to meet with representatives from the Islamic State. Another of the men planned to follow him there next month, while the third man was helping finance some of these travel efforts.
These are the latest in a string of similar arrests, episodes that have highlighted the concerns of federal officials who have publicly worried that young people in the United States could be lured to join the militant group in Syria.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Globalization Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture Science & Technology Violence Young Adults * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Syria
Thirty-seven percent of Americans are satisfied and 61% dissatisfied with the position of the U.S. in the world today. These views are unchanged from last year, even after a series of significant challenges for U.S. foreign policy. Americans' satisfaction is a bit higher than at the end of the Bush administration and at the beginning of the Obama administration, but remains well below where it was in the early 2000s.
The results are from Gallup's annual World Affairs survey, conducted Feb. 8-11. Americans' satisfaction held steady in the past year, even as the U.S. was forced to deal with the rise of Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, a dispute with Russia over Ukrainian separatists in the eastern part of Ukraine, heightened tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians, and ongoing policy disagreements involving North Korea and Iran. The lack of change may be attributable to Americans' already high level of dissatisfaction with the nation's world position, with those events and the way the U.S. handled them serving to reinforce the dissatisfaction rather than to worsen or even improve it.
Americans have been more likely to be dissatisfied than satisfied with the position of the U.S. in the world since 2004, about the time it became clear that the U.S. military action in Iraq was running into problems that could -- and did -- lead to a prolonged U.S. commitment there. Satisfaction fell to a low of 30% in the final year of George W. Bush's administration and remained low in the very early stages of Barack Obama's presidency. Americans' satisfaction is modestly higher now than at that point, but has leveled off.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Psychology Sociology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy The U.S. Government Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
[Elon] Musk, [Bill] Gates and [Stephen] Hawking made headlines by speaking to the dangers that A.I. may pose. Their points are important, but I fear were largely misunderstood by many readers. Relying on efforts to program A.I. not to “harm humans” (inspired by on Isaac Asimov’s “three laws” of robotics from 1942) makes sense only when an A.I. knows what humans are and what harming them might mean. There are many ways that an A.I. might harm us that that have nothing to do with its malevolence toward us, and chief among these is exactly following our well-meaning instructions to an idiotic and catastrophic extreme. Instead of mechanical failure or a transgression of moral code, the A.I. may pose an existential risk because it is both powerfully intelligent and disinterested in humans. To the extent that we recognize A.I. by its anthropomorphic qualities, or presume its preoccupation with us, we are vulnerable to those eventualities.
Read it carefully and read it all (emphasis mine).
Maybe you’ve heard the famous story of the blind men and the elephant. The story is told from the vantage point of a king who watches as men grapple with the reality of the massive creature:
One man holds the tail, another its tusks; one person grasps the elephant’s ears, another touches its massive body. Each person insists the creature is as his perspective allows, which is why the story is often quoted in the interest of religious pluralism, even agnosticism.
Except, as Daniel Strange notes in his new book Their Rock Is Not Like Our Rock, the story demonstrates epistemic arrogance, for the king insists he sees the whole elephantine truth that all the world religions miss!
Given this story, when it comes to a theology of religions Strange insists one needs to reveal the foundation upon which they base their authority....
Read it all.
A couple of days ago, a senior African cleric was holding forth on the need to combine religious instruction with, in the broadest sense, sex education. Both at home and at school, declared Archbishop Henri Isingoma, boys must be taught about the higher purpose of sex as "the way God wanted to make the human race continue". Another acute problem, he added, was "ignorance of the responsibilities of men towards women." He was speaking in a webinar organised by a department of the global Anglican church, drawing in clergy and church workers from their own and other Christian confessions.
So...was this one more depressing display of the giant cultural gap between the liberal north and the traditional south, especially over sexuality, which is tearing apart the 80m-strong Anglican Communion, and many other religious bodies?
No, it was nothing of the kind, and that's what made the discussion more worthwhile. The topic was "gender-based violence" which is a catchall term that describes both domestic cruelty and the still-greater horrors that take place on battlefields when soldiers run amok and commit rape. Victims of GBV are mainly female, but they also include men and boys. And the striking thing was that on this exceptionally grave subject, "conservatives" and "liberals" plainly find it useful to talk and cooperate, and the talk goes well beyond platitudes.
Mara Luz, an Anglican church worker from Brazil, said 40% of women in her country experienced some kind of violence; there were well-written laws, but implementation was very poor, especially in remote areas.
Read it all.
Our world-wide flight from family constitutes a significant international victory for self-actualization over self-sacrifice, and might even be said to mark a new chapter in humanity’s conscious pursuit of happiness. But these voluntary changes also have unintended consequences. The deleterious impact on the hardly inconsequential numbers of children disadvantaged by the flight from the family is already plain enough. So too the damaging role of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing in exacerbating income disparities and wealth gaps—for society as a whole, but especially for children. Yes, children are resilient and all that. But the flight from family most assuredly comes at the expense of the vulnerable young.
That same flight also has unforgiving implications for the vulnerable old. With America’s baby boomers reaching retirement, and a world-wide “gray wave” around the corner, we are about to learn the meaning of those implications firsthand.
In the decades ahead, ever more care and support for seniors will be required, especially for the growing contingent among the elderly who will be victims of dementia, or are childless and socially isolated. Remember, a longevity revolution is also under way. Yet by some cruel cosmic irony, family structures and family members will be less capable, and perhaps also less willing, to provide that care and support than ever before.
Read it all (my emphasis).
“There’s Moore’s Law and there are Moore’s Outlaws,” he says. Goodman has worked for Interpol, the FBI, even the U.S. Secret Service, and through his new book "Future Crimes"
he’s feverishly trying to sound the alarm that we will soon be more vulnerable than we have ever been. Why?
“Our cell phones and computers are now online,” Goodman says. “But in the future it’s going to be our cars, airplanes, pacemakers, pets, elevators, prisons. Every physical object is going online because of something called 'the Internet of things.'”
Somewhere between 50 and 200 billion things will be connected soon, he says, and that will take the new crime paradigm to a terrifying level.
“Crime used to be a one-on-one affair. Go out and buy a gun or a knife if you’re a criminal, rob one person at a time,” Goodman says. “Now through technology it becomes possible for one person to reach out and touch over 100 million people.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
hina’s economy is slowing. Brazil is struggling as commodity prices plunge. Russia, facing Western sanctions and weak oil revenue, is headed into a recession.
As other big developing markets stumble, India is emerging as one of the few hopes for global growth.
The stock market and rupee are surging. Multinational companies are looking to expand their Indian operations or start new ones. The growth in India’s economy, long a laggard, just matched China’s pace in recent months.
India is riding high on the early success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a raft of new business-friendly policies instituted in his first eight months.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Stock Market Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia India * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called for a United Nations resolution allowing international forces to intervene in Libya.
There was no other choice, he told French radio. "We will not allow them to cut off the heads of our children."
Egyptian jets bombed IS targets on Monday in response to a militant video of the apparent beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians.
Rival militias have been battling for control in Libya since 2011.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Libya Middle East Egypt * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
As an October chill fell on the mountain passes that separate the militant havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a small team of Afghan intelligence commandos and American Special Operations forces descended on a village where they believed a leader of Al Qaeda was hiding.
That night the Afghans and Americans got their man, Abu Bara al-Kuwaiti. They also came away with what officials from both countries say was an even bigger prize: a laptop computer and files detailing Qaeda operations on both sides of the border.
American military officials said the intelligence seized in the raid was possibly as significant as the information found in the computer and documents of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, after members of the Navy SEALs killed him in 2011.
In the months since, the trove of intelligence has helped fuel a significant increase in night raids by American Special Operations forces and Afghan intelligence commandos, Afghan and American officials said.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy The U.S. Government Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Asia Afghanistan * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
I would be the only person she spoke to on the record about what happened to her, she said. It was just too harrowing — and “as a publicist,” inadvisable — but she felt it was necessary, to show how “crazy” her situation was, how her punishment simply didn’t fit the crime.
“I cried out my body weight in the first 24 hours,” she told me. “It was incredibly traumatic. You don’t sleep. You wake up in the middle of the night forgetting where you are.” She released an apology statement and cut short her vacation. Workers were threatening to strike at the hotels she had booked if she showed up. She was told no one could guarantee her safety.
Her extended family in South Africa were African National Congress supporters — the party of Nelson Mandela. They were longtime activists for racial equality. When Justine arrived at the family home from the airport, one of the first things her aunt said to her was: “This is not what our family stands for. And now, by association, you’ve almost tarnished the family.”
As she told me this, Sacco started to cry. I sat looking at her for a moment. Then I tried to improve the mood. I told her that “sometimes, things need to reach a brutal nadir before people see sense.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization History Psychology * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
On its face, taking the Iranian side in a sectarian war in which the Islamic State stands on the other side may make sense in an enemy-of-my-enemy way. What could be wrong with using Iran to kill the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, even if the price is keeping a few bad guys in power in Damascus or Sanaa? Unfortunately, lots.
There is no reason to believe that a Shiite version of the one-stop dictator shop that characterized U.S. diplomacy for much of the 20th century will work any better than the earlier Sunni compact that denied tens of millions their democratic aspirations and paved the way to today’s turmoil.
What eludes the Obama administration, as it did George W. Bush, is that the battle for the future of the Middle East is a war of ideas. Taking sides in the Sunni-Shiite sectarian war will not restore the illusory stability of old. Rather, the path to long-term stability means working with groups that eschew violence, respecting religious preferences without sacrificing minorities, pressing toward market economies that empower individuals and building toward a region that rests on the consent of the governed. There is no secret path to peace, not through Tehran, not through Riyadh, not at all.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East Iran * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The choice to respond in faith or not is right through the Bible. The choice of truth and error is right through the Bible. In the Old Testament, the Jewish scriptures, we see above all in the history of Israel and in the teaching of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 30:11 ff) and all those books that link in closely to that pivotal book of the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy alone the word ‘choose’ comes more than 20 times; it is fundamental to our understanding of what it is to relate to God and to the world.
We are those who have space, who have free will, who have choice – and then bear the consequences.
For these reasons, even more fundamentally than international law, freedom of religion is a fundamental human right – now enshrined in international law – and should be treated as equal, not subordinate, to other human rights. And for those of us who are Christians, let’s just be quite clear that the church, including the Church of England, has a poor record in this as in many other areas, but perhaps in the last 300 years has begun to learn a little of where it went wrong.
Because human beings are in the image of God, our religious beliefs are a core part of what it is to be human. They form us into who we are; they provide foundations for our deepest convictions, and motivations for our sincerest actions.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
It’s not an event unless it’s on video.
That appears to have been the case for terror suspect Amedy Coulibaly, who wore a camera on his body when he attacked a Jewish grocery store in Paris earlier this month, according to multiple news outlets.
The information, first released by CNN, supports an earlier report by French magazine L’Express that Coulibaly used a GoPro camera to record seven minutes of his raid. He then emailed a copy of the clip using a computer at the market before he was killed by police, according to L’Express reporter Eric Pelletier.
Read it all.
Fears about the impact of technology on the labor market are nothing new. In the early nineteenth century, a group of English textile workers known as the Luddites worried that new technologies like power looms and spinning frames would cost them their jobs. They protested by smashing the machines.
Today, anxiety that new technologies could destroy millions of jobs is as high as ever. In the midst of a major employment crisis, technology continues to reduce the labor needed for mass production, while the automation of routine legal and accounting tasks is hollowing out that sector of the job market as well. The science of robotics is revolutionizing manufacturing; every year, an additional 200,000 industrial robots come into use. In 2015, the total is expected to reach 1.5 million. Adapting the labor market to a world of increasingly automated workplaces will be one of the defining challenges of our era.
Yet no country can afford to ignore the transformation. Globally, some 200 million people are unemployed, up 27 million since 2008. There is a critical need to anticipate coming technological changes and provide the global workforce with the education and skills needed to participate in the modern labor market.
Read it all.
Looking down at the scrolling desert below it is hard not to be discouraged by the chaos of Somalia, and the violence in South Sudan. Even worse, any evening news broadcast will show hot spots of terror and militancy from Morocco to Afghanistan, and then beyond touching even the capitals of many nations where once Christendom reigned. Does this mean that Islam is overwhelming Christianity? I do not believe so.
Where the heart and soul of the Christian faith is embraced, there is life aplenty. It is where the people forget, and like the Jews of Jerusalem may well have to be carried off to Babylon in order to begin to remember again. Even in the places where there are brutal regimes and a spiritual desert, the river of God still flows and its life overwhelms the death of empty messages.
In some places, the church is attempting to modify its charter from the Lord Jesus and seeks to present another message. Sadly, it is neither respected or effective. What is effective is fidelity and the Power of the Cross.
Those from Christian origins who stray make a mistake in thinking that there is not a problem. Another mistake is assuming that there is nothing we can do about the struggle. Those grave errors are compounded when the Church fails to tap into the life that God offers.
Read it all.
The leader of the left-wing Syriza party Alexis Tsipras has said Greece is "leaving behind disastrous austerity", after his party claimed victory in the country's general election.
And the 40-year-old told jubilant supporters the "Troika" of the country's lenders "is finished".
He was speaking after the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who heads the conservative New Democracy party, conceded defeat to Mr Tsipras.
Partial election results suggest Syriza has secured 36.5% of the vote, compared to 27.7% for the New Democracy party.
Read it all from Sky news.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Credit Markets Currency Markets Euro European Central Bank Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Greece * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
I’ve never been a fan of global conferences to solve problems, but when I read that the Obama administration is organizing a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism for Feb. 18, in response to the Paris killings, I had a visceral reaction: Is there a box on my tax returns that I can check so my tax dollars won’t go to pay for this?
When you don’t call things by their real name, you always get in trouble. And this administration, so fearful of being accused of Islamophobia, is refusing to make any link to radical Islam from the recent explosions of violence against civilians (most of them Muslims) by Boko Haram in Nigeria, by the Taliban in Pakistan, by Al Qaeda in Paris and by jihadists in Yemen and Iraq. We’ve entered the theater of the absurd.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Economy The U.S. Government Foreign Relations Politics in General Office of the President President Barack Obama Terrorism * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Foreign ministers from 21 countries are meeting in London to discuss ways to co-ordinate their efforts to combat the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).
IS controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq and the US-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes since August.
But UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond insisted much more needed to be done.
He told the BBC that the countries wanted to find ways to halt the flow of recruits to IS, cut off its funding and "tackle the underlying narrative".
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Middle East * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Leonardo Maugeri, an associate professor at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and who predicted the current collapse in prices back in 2012, estimates world oil production capacity is about 101 million barrels a day. That’s nearly 10% more than expected demand next year.
Mr. Maugeri says U.S. shale and tight oil production is more resilient than many expected because of lower break-even costs and higher productivity levels. Service fees are also falling at the same time, as hedging still offers a cushion to shale producers until mid-2015, he said.
That resilience may force Saudi Arabia to keep up its price war well into the year before the strategy wrings out some of the oversupply.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
You can find the speakers brief bios here and the conference schedule there and the vision for the gathering here. You all know enough about a conference like this to know that there is much more to it than simply the presentations. Please pray for the speakers travel and ministry here (a number are serving in Sunday worship after the conference locally), the time to develop new friendships and renew old ones, for the Bishop and his wife Allison in their hosting capacity, and especially for the the Rev. Jeffrey Miller of Beaufort and his assisting staff, who has the huge responsibility of coordinating it all--KSH.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Secularism * South Carolina * Theology Apologetics Seminary / Theological Education
As 2015 begins, the global economy remains weak. The United States may be seeing signs of a strengthening recovery, but the eurozone risks following Japan into recession, and emerging markets worry that their export-led growth strategies have left them vulnerable to stagnation abroad. With few signs that this year will bring any improvement, policymakers would be wise to understand the factors underlying the global economy’s anemic performance – and the implications of continued feebleness.
In the words of Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director, we are experiencing the “new mediocre.” The implication is that growth is unacceptably low relative to potential and that more can be done to lift it, especially given that some major economies are flirting with deflation.
Conventional policy advice urges innovative monetary interventions bearing an ever expanding array of acronyms, even as governments are admonished to spend on “obvious” needs such as infrastructure. The need for structural reforms is acknowledged, but they are typically deemed painful, and possibly growth-reducing in the short run. So the focus remains on monetary and fiscal stimulus – and as much of it as possible, given the deadening effects of debt overhang.
And yet, the efficacy of such policy advice remains to be seen.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Credit Markets Currency Markets European Central Bank Personal Finance The Banking System/Sector The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- The U.S. Government Federal Reserve Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia India Europe * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Cheaper oil prices and a resurgent US economy are unlikely to be enough to pull the global economy out of a growth pattern that is “too low, too brittle and too lopsided”, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said on Thursday.
Despite what ought to be the benefits for many economies from sharp falls in oil prices, which has more than halved since the summer, and the strengthening US recovery, the world still faces “a very strong headwind”, seven years on from the financial crisis.
Speaking in Washington, Ms Lagarde said: “The oil price and US growth are not a cure for deep-seated weaknesses elsewhere.
“Too many countries are still weighed down by the legacies of the financial crisis, including high debt and high unemployment. Too many companies and households keep cutting back on investment and consumption today because they are concerned about low growth in the future.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life The Banking System/Sector Foreign Relations Politics in General * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Swiss National Bank's shock move today to stop intervening in the foreign exchange market all but guarantees the European Central Bank will finally introduce quantitative easing when it meets Jan. 22. Switzerland is surrendering before a wave of post-QE money fleeing the euro threatens to make a mockery of its currency policy. It's also capitulating as slumping oil brings global deflation ever closer.
t's an astonishing U-turn. Just two days ago SNB Vice President Jean-Pierre Danthine told Swiss broadcaster RTS that “we’re convinced that the cap on the franc must remain the pillar of our monetary policy.” He added, though, that it was "very possible" that QE would make defending the threshold more difficult. It seems highly probable that the ECB has winked about its policy intentions to its Swiss counterparts.
The ensuing whipsaw in the currency market is unprecedented. The franc immediately appreciated almost 30 percent against the currencies of the Group of Ten industrialized nations, and surged to a record against the euro...:
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Credit Markets Currency Markets Euro European Central Bank Stock Market The Banking System/Sector * International News & Commentary Europe Switzerland * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
A standing joke in Silicon Valley is that the smartest people go into online advertising, virtual currency, or dumb online games. And you surely have to wonder what has gone wrong when the industry’s heavy hitters and venture capitalists provide $1.5 million to seed a useless app such as Yo.
Fortunately, there are many tech start-ups that are solving real problems — and many entrepreneurs who care. The venture capital community is also beginning to see the light. Witness the recent decision of Google Ventures to back away from consumer Internet start-ups and focus more on health care and life-sciences companies, and Y Combinator, the most powerful start-up accelerator in the world, backing seven nonprofits in its latest class.
There is surely hope for tech. Here are seven companies that stand out....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Stock Market The Banking System/Sector * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The typical picture of a binge drinker may look as much like a middle-age man working long hours as it does a college fraternity boy partying late at night.
Doctors are increasingly focusing on that older population after years of placing a higher priority on experimenting adolescents and young alcoholics. Evidence is emerging that high-pressure jobs push millions of people toward binge drinking, and deaths from alcohol abuse escalate as people get older.
A new study from 14 countries published in the British Medical Journal found that people who work more than 48 hours a week are more likely to drink to excess -- defined as 14 drinks a week for women and more than 21 for men. And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in a report last week that six people die daily from alcohol poisoning, mainly those ages 35 to 65.
Read it all.
Declining population growth that shrinks the pool of available labor over the next 50 years will reduce by 40% the rate of growth in global economic output for the world’s 20 largest economies compared to the past 50 years, according to a new study.
The report from the McKinsey Global Institute says that to compensate for the drop in the growth of the labor force, productivity needs to accelerate 80% from its historical rate to keep global growth in gross domestic product from slowing.
Over the past 50 years, global growth increased six-fold, and average per capita income nearly tripled. McKinsey researchers estimate that around half the increase stemmed from gains in productivity and half from the growing labor force.
Read it all.
An adviser to Europe’s top court on Wednesday said the European Central Bank can legally buy large quantities of eurozone government debt to stabilize the currency area’s economy, delivering a key endorsement for the bank as it prepares another round of stimulus measures.
The opinion from the European Court of Justice’s advocate general, Pedro Cruz Villalon, comes in response to a lawsuit brought by German opponents of loose monetary policy claiming that the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions program, announced in August 2012 and widely credited with saving the euro, violates the European Union treaty. While the opinion isn’t binding on the court, the judges usually follow the advocate general’s reasoning. A ruling is expected in four to six months.
A negative opinion could have thrown the ECB’s next stimulus efforts into turmoil. ECB President Mario Draghi and other officials have been drawing up “quantitative easing” plans, in which the bank would buy large amounts of eurozone government debt, to boost the economy of the 19-nation currency area and prevent an extended period of deflation, a broad-based decline in prices that can have disastrous economic consequences.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues * Economics, Politics Economy European Central Bank * International News & Commentary Europe * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
A study of more than 86,000 users of Facebook has demonstrated the power of intelligent machines to predict an individual’s character based on what they have listed as their “likes”.
Researchers said the day when computers are able to judge a person’s personality accurately has almost arrived, and even suggested that science fiction films like Her, based on a man’s attachment to an intelligent computer, are closer than we think.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Law & Legal Issues * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Listen to it all from the BBC World service (about 3 minutes and 40 seconds).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The statistics on Syria's civil war are horrifying. Since March 2011 around 200,000 people have been killed and 6.5m people have become internally displaced. A new report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, published on January 7th, brought another grim figure: Syria has overtaken Afghanistan to become the biggest source of refugees in the world. More than 3m Syrians, or one in eight of its population, had fled the country by the end of June 2014, the most recent date for cross-country comparisons. In the six months since, another 300,000 have left.
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Emblematic of this, in the Gospel infancy narratives, is King Herod. Feeling his authority threatened by the Child Jesus, he orders all the children of Bethlehem to be killed. We think immediately of Pakistan, where a month ago, more than a hundred children were slaughtered with unspeakable brutality. To their families I wish to renew my personal condolences and the assurance of my continued prayers for the many innocents who lost their lives.
The personal dimension of rejection is inevitably accompanied by a social dimension, a culture of rejection which severs the deepest and most authentic human bonds, leading to the breakdown of society and spawning violence and death. We see painful evidence of this in the events reported daily in the news, not least the tragic slayings which took place in Paris a few days ago. Other people “are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects” (Message for the 2015 World Day of Peace, 8 December 2014, 4). Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion. These are dangers which I pointed out in my recent Message for the World Day of Peace, which dealt with the issue of today’s multiple forms of enslavement. All of them are born of a corrupt heart, a heart incapable of recognizing and doing good, of pursuing peace.
It saddens us to see the tragic consequences of this mentality of rejection and this “culture of enslavement” (ibid., 2) in the never-ending spread of conflicts. Like a true world war fought piecemeal, they affect, albeit in different forms and degrees of intensity, a number of areas in our world, beginning with nearby Ukraine, which has become a dramatic theatre of combat. It is my hope that through dialogue the efforts presently being made to end the hostilities will be consolidated, and that the parties involved will embark as quickly as possible, in a renewed spirit of respect for international law, upon the path of mutual trust and fraternal reconciliation, with the aim of bringing an end to the present crisis.
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Syrian-based terrorists are planning attacks in the UK similar to the one that killed 12 people at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Britain’s domestic security chief has warned.
Andrew Parker, director-general of MI5, said there had been more than 20 Syrian-linked terror plots against western targets in the past 14 months.
In one of the starkest assessments from any western counterterror chief since the Syrian civil war broke out, Mr Parker said on Thursday evening that organisations including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, were actively plotting attacks in the UK.
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Navigating the Internet used to mean painstakingly typing the exact address you wanted into your computer. The web browser and the search engine simplified that, giving us the Internet we take for granted today.
Now, across Silicon Valley, companies from tiny start-ups to titans like Google and Facebook are trying to bring the same simplicity to smartphones by teaching apps to talk to one another.
Unlike web pages, mobile apps do not have links. They do not have web addresses. They live in worlds by themselves, largely cut off from one another and the broader Internet. And so it is much harder to share the information found on them.
It is not just a matter of consumer convenience. For Google and Facebook, and any company that has built its business on the web, it is a matter of controlling the next entryway to the Internet — the mobile device.
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We now are in the sixth year of economic recovery since the end of the “Great Recession” in mid-2009, says the National Bureau of Economic Research, a group of academic economists that dates business cycles. But, if upbeat economic forecasts come true, this could be the first year that feels like a recovery. There would be huge implications. It would soothe Americans’ bruised sense of self-worth and alter popular psychology for the 2016 elections.
It has been a slog. Below, you’ll find some economic indicators comparing where we are now with the peaks of the last economic expansion, which ended in the fourth quarter of 2007. Generally, the numbers aren’t impressive. At best, they show modest gains from those previous peaks.
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The world’s churches have become an arena for the debate over whether it is better to tackle global warming by divesting from fossil fuel companies or by holding shares and engaging with energy groups to spur more climate-friendly business models.
The World Council of Churches, which represents around 560m Christians in 140 countries, has adopted a divestment strategy for its SFr16.7m investment portfolio. Its finance policy committee decided in July that fossil fuels should be added to the list of sectors in which the council would not invest.
“The use of fossil fuels must be significantly reduced and by not investing in those companies we want to show a direction we need to follow as a human family to address climate changes properly,” said Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary.
But the Church of England, which has an investment portfolio worth around £9bn, has opted for engagement. It announced last month it would use its stakes in Royal Dutch Shell and BP to urge the companies to cut their carbon emissions and invest more in renewables.
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What has fueled China’s remarkable economic growth that has lifted more than 500 million people out of abject poverty and positioned it to become the world’s largest economy?
In part, it’s been fueled by the pipeline of market mechanisms, modern technology and Western management practices that former paramount leader Deng Xioaping untapped in the 1980s.
But according to Yukong Zhao, a China expert at Siemens Corporation, these explanations are insufficient given the potential drags on the economy from government inefficiency and corruption, which President Xi Jinping is struggling to contain.
Zhao argues that Western learning and pro-growth government policies have set loose the real creators of China’s economic success—its people and the largely Confucian culture that makes them, in his words, “ambitious, hardworking, thrifty, caring for their families and relentlessly pursuing good education and success.”
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There are 31 in all--check them out.
Americans tend to lack imagination when it comes to breakfast. The vast majority of us, surveys say, start our days with cold cereal — and those of us with children are more likely to buy the kinds with the most sugar. Children all over the world eat cornflakes and drink chocolate milk, of course, but in many places they also eat things that would strike the average American palate as strange, or worse.
Breakfast for a child in Burkina Faso, for example, might well include millet-seed porridge; in Japan, rice and a putrid soybean goop known as natto; in Jamaica, a mush of plantains or peanuts or cornmeal; in New Zealand, toast covered with Vegemite, a salty paste made of brewer’s yeast; and in China, jook, a rice gruel topped with pickled tofu, strings of dried meat or egg. In Cuba, Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America, it is not uncommon to find very young children sipping coffee with milk in the mornings. In Pakistan, kids often take their milk with Rooh Afza, a bright red syrup made from fruits, flowers and herbs. Swedish filmjolk is one of dozens of iterations of soured milk found on breakfast tables across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. For a child in southern India, the day might start with a steamed cake made from fermented lentils and rice called idli. “The idea that children should have bland, sweet food is a very industrial presumption,” says Krishnendu Ray, a professor of food studies at New York University who grew up in India. “In many parts of the world, breakfast is tepid, sour, fermented and savory.”
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In the early 20th century Henry Ford combined moving assembly lines with mass labour to make building cars much cheaper and quicker—thus turning the automobile from a rich man’s toy into transport for the masses. Today a growing group of entrepreneurs is striving to do the same to services, bringing together computer power with freelance workers to supply luxuries that were once reserved for the wealthy. Uber provides chauffeurs. Handy supplies cleaners. SpoonRocket delivers restaurant meals to your door. Instacart keeps your fridge stocked. In San Francisco a young computer programmer can already live like a princess.
Yet this on-demand economy goes much wider than the occasional luxury. Click on Medicast’s app, and a doctor will be knocking on your door within two hours. Want a lawyer or a consultant? Axiom will supply the former, Eden McCallum the latter. Other companies offer prizes to freelances to solve R&D problems or to come up with advertising ideas. And a growing number of agencies are delivering freelances of all sorts, such as Freelancer.com and Elance-oDesk, which links up 9.3m workers for hire with 3.7m companies.
The on-demand economy is small, but it is growing quickly....
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Every December, Barna Group compiles its top findings and trends from research conducted in the past year. From legalizing marijuana to increasing secularization trends to America’s complicated relationship with sports—2014 was an interesting year.
1. Bible Skepticism Is Now Tied with Bible Engagement....
2. Young Adults Question the Value of Their College Degree....
3. Global Poverty Is on the Decline, but Almost No One Believes It....
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This streamlining should not be taken as a sign of decline. All of the “optimized” languages remain full languages in every sense of the term, as we know from the fact that I’m writing in one: An Old English speaker who heard modern English would consider it confounding and “broken.” That any language has all irregular verbs, eight tones or female tables is ultimately a matter of accident, not design.
Hopefully, the languages lost amid all of this change will at least be described and, with modern tools, recorded for posterity. We may regret the eclipse of a world where 6,000 different languages were spoken as opposed to just 600, but there is a silver lining in the fact that ever more people will be able to communicate in one language that they use alongside their native one.
After all, what’s peculiar about the Babel tale is the idea of linguistic diversity as a curse, not the idea of universal comprehension as a blessing. The future promises both a goodly amount of this diversity and ever more mutual comprehension, as many languages become easier to pick up, in their spoken versions, than they once were. A future dominated by English won’t be a linguistic paradise, in short, but it won’t be a linguistic Armageddon either.
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This year recorded the highest number of children caught in conflict zones who were directly and deliberately attacked. The targeting of children in conflict is not new, but it's rising at an alarming rate. In 2014, more children were killed, kidnapped, tortured, raped, forcibly recruited by armed groups and even sold as slaves than at any time in recent history.
The numbers are grim. In Pakistan, over 130 students — most of them 12 to 16 years old—were slaughtered in a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar earlier this month. In the Central African Republic, where 2.3 million children are entangled in a long-running sectarian conflict, as many as 10,000 children are believed to have been recruited as child soldiers, and more than 430 children were killed and maimed this year — three times as many as in 2013. When violence erupted in Israel and Gaza last summer, more than 530 children were killed, at least 3,370 children injured, and 54,000 children were left homeless, while countless others hid in fear from rockets, artillery and air strikes.
In Syria, where civil war, now approaching its fifth year, has created 1.7 million child refugees, there were at least 35 attacks on schools, killing and injuring hundreds of children. In Iraq, at least 700 children are believed to have been maimed, killed or even executed this year. In South Sudan, an estimated 12,000 children have been recruited and forced to fight in an ongoing civil war that has caused more than a million children to flee their homes. In Ukraine, 128,000 children have been displaced by violence.
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At once very much a man of God yet also a man of the world, the archbishop manages to combine both to put his evangelical faith into action, using his experience of business to push forward issues ranging from ethics in the City to payday lenders and poverty in the UK.
He has formed around him a team of expert advisers and cut through Lambeth Palace bureaucracy to ensure he has the people he needs to turn his vision into reality.
"It's a style of leadership nurtured in the business world. He doesn't mess around, and he has a very clear vision of where he wants to go," says Ruth Gledhill, contributing editor to Christian Today.
"His leadership has meant that you can feel a brightening and lifting of the atmosphere in church - and you think 'maybe we have got a future'.
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“Yet, at this time of great peril, I deeply regret that the British Government seems to be stepping back, rather than stepping up,” writes Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander in The Sunday Telegraph, as he juxtaposed the “no room at the inn” of the Nativity with the horrors being meted out on Christians in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and Sudan. “Just like anti-Semitism or Islamaphobia, anti-Christian persecution must be named for the evil that it is, and challenged systematically by people of faith and of no faith,” he exhorted.
And he pledged that an incoming Labour government will establish a Global Envoy for Religious Freedom along with a multifaith advisory council on religious freedom within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office: “Supporting the newly appointed Global Envoy, this will help ensure a strong focus within the Foreign Office,” he assures. And he lauded Baroness Warsi for her commitment to faith and human rights and “the leadership she showed and the seriousness with which she took her responsibilities”, which was, he submits, “widely recognised...”.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was so impressed with this homily that he dared to tweet it out to his 68.3k followers, which caused alarm and dismay to some condescending Tories, as though Justin Welby were being indelicately partisan and unacceptably inattentive to the constitutional constraints of his Office. He didn’t endorse any specific content: all he said was that it was “good debate”, yet this is inexplicably deemed to be “poor judgment by Lambeth Palace” (though the Palace didn’t tweet it: the Archbishop did).
We’ve been here before, of course. Last Christmas the tweeting was uncharitably critical of the Archbishop for not being “disciplined” in speaking about Jesus, which was laughably unjustifiable.
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Across the world, people who reject all religious belief or profess secular humanism are facing ever worse discrimination and persecution, but the existence and legitimacy of such ideas is becoming more widely known and accepted. That is the rather subtle conclusion of the latest report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, an umbrella body for secularist groups in 40 countries, which in 2012 began making annual surveys of how freedom of thought and conscience are faring worldwide.
In common with lots of other reports on the subject, it noted that many countries still prescribe draconian penalties for religious dissent, through laws that bar blasphemy against the prevailing religions or "apostasy" from Islam. Some 19 countries punish their citizens for apostasy, and in 12 of those countries it is punishable by death. In Pakistan, the death sentence can be imposed for blasphemy, for which the threshold is very low. In all, 55 countries (including several Western ones) had laws against blasphemy; the perceived offence could lead to prison terms in 39 countries and execution in six.
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(Alert readers are asked to note that the title above is the one used in the paper's National edition in print this past week--KSH.
A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.
Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years — allowing machines to mimic the human mind — are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.
And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago — and lower than any point in the 1990s.
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The terrorist attack on a Pakistani school Tuesday continues to evoke a global outcry. Even the Taliban in Afghanistan has condemned the Taliban group in Pakistan that took credit for slaughtering 148 people, of whom 132 were children. In Pakistan, tens of thousands of people held candlelight vigils nationwide, holding up signs saying “Enough!”
But the most touching and perhaps meaningful reaction took place in India, Pakistan’s longtime adversary and a victim itself of Pakistani-led terror over a territorial dispute between the two countries.
On Wednesday, Indian students in thousands of schools and colleges observed two minutes of silence or wrote messages in their scrapbooks for the young victims. “We also prayed for the quick recovery of the injured students and the grieving family members,” one school official told The Times of India.
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Global life expectancy for men and women has increased by about six years over the past two decades, according to the one of the most comprehensive studies of global health done so far.
The rise in global life expectancy is mainly the result of dramatic advances in health care. In richer countries longer lifespans are spurred by a big drop in deaths related to heart disease, while poorer countries have seen big declines in the death of children from ailments such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.
But there are worrying signs, too. While global deaths from infectious disease dropped by about 25% over the past two decades, the number of deaths linked to noncommunicable diseases has jumped by about 40%. Noncommunicable maladies, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, tend to be chronic in nature and often more expensive to treat.
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Comedian and actor Robin Williams, who died earlier this year, was the top search on Google during 2014.
The search engine has released its list of this year’s most searched for news events and top trending subjects. Williams’ death drew more attention than the World Cup (2nd), Ebola (3rd) or Malaysia Airlines (4th).
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The ruble meltdown and accompanying economic slump marks the collapse of Putin’s oil-fueled economic system of the past 15 years, said an executive at Gazprombank, the lender affiliated to Russia’s state gas exporter. He asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The higher interest rate will crush lending to households and businesses and deepen Russia’s looming recession, according to Neil Shearing, chief emerging-markets economist at London-based Capital Economics Ltd.
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Russia has lost control of its economy and may be forced to impose Soviet-style exchange controls after "shock and awe" action by the central bank failed to stem the collapse of the rouble.
“The situation is critical,” said the central bank’s vice-chairman, Sergei Shvetsov. “What is happening is a nightmare that we could not even have imagined a year ago...."
Lars Christensen, from Danske Bank, said the Kremlin’s actions have led to the “absolutely worst possible outcome” since the botched move is enough to do grave damage, without solving anything. “They should have let the currency go rather than killing the economy. Investment is in freefall, and I fear this shock is going to be even bigger than in 2008-2009. Nothing suggests that oil is going to rebound quickly this time,” he said.
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Yes we grieve, like all decent, democratic and humane societies should, over the tragedy that has visited Peshawar. But our grief also tells a story that cannot but discomfit those who repudiate everything that terrorism and terrorists stand for. It tells us that proximity alerts us to Islamist barbarism that distance tends to dull.
When 200 teenaged girls were abducted by Boko Haram and pressed into sex slavery in Nigeria, we barely took note of that crime. When the Islamic State militia massacred Yezidis, forcing survivors to take shelter in the barren Sinjar mountains where children died like flies, we merely took note of it. Earlier, when terrorists attacked a school in Beslan, Russia, in September 2004, leaving 385 dead, among them 186 children, we wondered what it was all about.
Just as the story of global trans-border terrorism does not begin with the devastatingly spectacular attacks of 9/11, the story of innocents being massacred in the name of jihad does not begin with the ghastly attack on the school in Peshawar. These are stories with prologues and preceding chapters; each day, each week, each month a new chapter is added to these stories.
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The findings suggest the supply glut that has sent prices tumbling could soon vanish as the oil majors delay big-ticket production projects — the lifeblood of future petrol supplies, heating fuels and chemicals.
Brent, the international benchmark, has fallen more than 45 per cent since mid-June amid surging US shale production, strong supply from the Opec cartel and weak oil demand in Europe and Asia.
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In the high-stakes contest between the United States, the biggest shale oil producer, and Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil exporter, America has blinked first.
The OPEC refusal to cut production at its November meeting was widely seen as the declaration of a price war against booming U.S. shale oil producers, which had sent their country’s oil production soaring. Saudis had watched as their market share dropped precipitously in the world’s biggest oil-consuming nation, and they wanted to send a clear message across the global energy market that they weren’t about to back off.
Oil prices have been in freefall ever since. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, sank another 3 per cent Friday to $61.85 (U.S.) a barrel, while West Texas intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, dropped 3.6 per cent to $57.81, extending its slide from well over $100 a barrel in the summer.
If the global oil standoff pits the industry stalwart Saudi Arabia against the surging U.S. rival, other global players are coping with the pricing fallout, including Canada. Oil companies around the world are being forced to revisit their spending and production plans for 2015, and in the offices towers of downtown Calgary, those changes are already well under way.
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By October, it was becoming clear to us and others that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Emirate allies could not afford to continue petro-pricing business as usual with sectarian wars exploding out of control, threatening the entire region.
In particular, they were infuriated that the Shia regime in Syria was being propped up by Iran and Russia. Moreover, Iran seemed to be getting closer to becoming a nuclear power with each month. Amid the chaos, the Islamic State terrorists had suddenly become a formidable challenge to the entire region, and they were getting increasing revenues from oil properties they had seized.
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...my colleague may be a bit too optimistic regarding just how close the economy is to full employment. It is true that the unemployment rate, at 5.8%, is within hailing distance of the Fed's projected full-employment rate, of between 5.2% and 5.5%. But there are many margins along which the labour market can adjust in addition to the unemployment rate. Participation rates can and should rise. So too should hours, effort, and productivity. Given the slow growth in wages over the last year it is hard to conclude that the American economy is close to maxxing out its labour-force potential.
That apart, I think my colleague is exactly right and the Fed is close to making a big mistake. The wires are alive this morning with reports from Fed watchers, who are presumably taking their cues from Fed officials themselves, writing that the Fed will almost certainly adjust its language in a more hawkish fashion at the December or January meeting and is on track for an initial rate increase in the middle of 2015. I cannot fathom what the Fed is thinking.
Set aside potential downside risks (from a Russian financial crisis, or renewed euro-zone troubles, or a Chinese hard landing, or lord knows what else) and just focus on the dynamics within the American economy. Almost since the Fed announced that it was officially targeting an inflation rate of 2%, as measured by the price index for personal consumption expenditures, actual PCE inflation has run below the target, and often well below. It remains below target now. It is possible that tumbling oil prices could so augment household incomes that the economy roars forward and inflation jumps back to target. I do not think it is particularly likely, for a few reasons.
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Fighting the "evil giant" of climate change and ending violence against women and girls should be among the key themes for new global development goals from 2015, the Bishop of Sheffield has told the House of Lords.
The Rt Rev Steven Croft said there had been "major" achievements as a result of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by world leaders in 2000.
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Google is shutting down its Google News service in Spain next week in response to new legislation that requires the search giant to pay for content from Spanish news organizations.
Richard Gingras, the head of Google News, announced the decision on Google’s Europe blog Thursday. “With real sadness,” he wrote, Spanish publishers will be removed from the site on Dec. 16.
The change to Spain's copyright law, which goes into effect in January, allows Spanish newspapers and other publishers to charge Google each time their content appears on Google News. The so-called “Google tax” applies to all news aggregation sites, including Menéame, Google’s Spain-based rival.
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“Where any of these fights on religious freedom are going to go, will in great part depend upon whether people of faith will stand up and speak now, or will they sit in silence. The outcome is up to you”
These were the words of Alan Sears, CEO, President, and General Counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who was in Rome recently for the Humanam Conference on the Complementarity of Man and Woman.
Founded in 1994, ADF is an American Christian nonprofit organization with the stated goal of "defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.”
Alliance Defending Freedom, is a network of attorneys dedicated to intrinsic values, such as the sanctity of life, religious freedom, and protecting conscience.
With 38 victories before the Supreme Court, ADF has actively defended public prayer, use of religious displays, such as crosses and religious monuments on public lands and in public buildings. The organization opposes abortion and has protected healthcare workers’ right to not partake in that which they find morally objectionable. ADF actively promotes marriage between man and woman.
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An exhaustive, five-year Senate investigation of the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects renders a strikingly bleak verdict of a program launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, describing levels of brutality, dishonesty and seemingly arbitrary violence that at times brought even agency employees to moments of anguish.
The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee delivers new allegations of cruelty in a program whose severe tactics have been abundantly documented, revealing that agency medical personnel voiced alarm that waterboarding methods had deteriorated to “a series of near drownings” [among many other things]...
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"We know the outbreak is still flaming strongly in western Sierra Leone and some parts of the interior of Guinea. We cant rest, we still have to push on," Nabarro told a news briefing in Geneva.
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Falling oil prices are putting a cloud over the one thing Mexico’s struggling government had been clinging to in its attempts to invigorate a sluggish economy — its historic energy reform.
The government had been planning to auction 169 oil and gas blocks next year. It was to be one of the most ambitious bid rounds the industry had seen in a country whose sector has been closed to private investment for nearly 80 years, and where production is at its lowest level in two decades.
But the oil price fall has sobered what one executive called the “frothy, crazy bidding environment” Mexico had been expecting, unsettling a government reliant on oil revenue for a third of its budget. Officials are hastily striking off shale and other fields that might now look unappealing to bidders. Long-awaited initial tender terms are likely to be published on Wednesday.
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First, the report makes it clear that there is no avoiding the need for the exercise of soft power, and in fact the exercise of hard power (from sanctions to the use of violence) is itself only effective as an addition to the impact of soft power. It is soft power in its many ramifications that makes it possible for this country to exert a benevolent and beneficial influence in the world around.
I saw an example of that when at the degree awards ceremony for Coventry University some two or three weeks ago, one of the best modern universities: 60 per cent of students were from overseas; they are a powerful source of earnings, and they will return home with a brilliant education and an exceptional experience of the UK, in most cases they will be our friends for life.
Secondly, the report points especially to the rapid increase in complexity and what it calls hypersensitivity in the modern world. There has been an introduction of information technology, with more than five billion mobile telephones around the world; we have the growth of access to the world-wide web, which means you can sit in Kaduna and look at what is happening in London, you can look at the shops in New York, you have access to cultural influences of the most extraordinary kind; and the possibilities of this both for governments and for non-state actors are ever more powerful with the advent of the sophistication of modern computers.
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Archbishop Welby says while the event in the Vatican was a unique event, bringing together so many different religious leaders, it's also crucial to build on that momentum with a programme of implemention and he says he believes the Global Freedom Network has the ability to do that.....
In the Church of England, he says, two dioceses are already very involved in teaching and training people in awareness of this issue to help people ask questions of how they invest, where they buy things from and where those goods might be made.....
In the modern slavery bill currently going through the British parliament, he notes, there are obligations on retailers to look at their supply chains....the Anglican leader also says he's been involved in running ethical funds and has seen first hand the impact that they can have on pressuring retailers to stop the use of slavery in the manufacturing supply chains....
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If the intention of the government of Sierra Leone today was to show the World Bank president, how effective its coordinating strategy has been in combating the Ebola virus, then Ebola must have had a different and shocking agenda.
As the World Bank chief arrived in Freetown today, the number of cumulative Ebola cases in the capital was fast making its way to an all time high of 2,223 – an increase of 396 new cases in the last thirteen days.
Figures for the country as a whole was even less flattering for the man who controls the World’s finances, as the total number of cumulative confirmed new cases rose to 6,132 – a massive 93 new cases recorded across Sierra Leone in one day, bringing the total number of new cases in the country to 691 in just nine days.
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Imagine that the bowls of heaven, which are filled with the prayers of the saints (us!), are what God pours out in order to reach those of “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” As we pray to extend His Kingdom, I imagine those bowls filling up. When they overflow, it is not hard to imagine the grace of the Kingdom pouring out of the bowls and into the dreams of those whose hearts are ripe. Of course we still do all we can to carry out mission, but in this season, more fruit with M**lims is coming from supernatural means.
Dumped fuel has a tremendous impact on the atmosphere. It is profound and negative. It should only be done when there is no other way to save lives. Joining in prayer for the extension of the Kingdom and the conversion of hearts and souls to Jesus Christ through all manner of means both natural and supernatural has a tremendous impact on the spiritual atmosphere. It is profound and life giving. It does not cost anything but time, and it pays tremendous dividends.
By the way…you might wonder why I chose to spell M**lim or Isl*m with “*” instead of just spelling it out. It’s because of search engines. Radical M**lims can Google for articles that mention both Christ and Isl*m looking for ways to identify those whom they view are committing apostasy. A simple thing like an * in the spelling is just a safety net for our brothers and sisters in Christ who came from a M**lim background.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, joined Pope Francis and other world Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish leaders in Rome today to sign a historic declaration to end modern slavery.
The ground-breaking Global Freedom Network – which launched with backing from Archbishop Justin and Pope Francis in March 2014 [link] – brings together faith leaders in a commitment to eradicate modern slavery by 2020 throughout our world and for all time.
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On 2 December 2014 the Global Freedom Network (GFN) will bring together faith leaders forming a historic initiative to eradicate modern slavery by 2020 throughout our world and for all time.
They will sign the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery to underline that modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity, and must be recognised as such by everyone and by all nations. They affirm their common commitment to inspiring spiritual and practical action by all faiths and people of goodwill everywhere to eradicate modern slavery. The signatories will be...
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Foreigners are dreaming big, but the locals seem a bit overwhelmed with all the interest in a new law that was passed legalizing marijuana in the last year.
The law allows Uruguayans to register to grow their own weed, or join growing clubs — cooperatives of up to 45 people — for personal consumption.
Under President Jose Mujica's maverick leadership, Uruguay went further than any country in the world: The government will plant, cultivate and ultimately distribute marijuana, too.
Mujica says decades of failed drug war policies necessitated a radical new approach to curb drug violence and addiction. If the government sells dope, the idea goes, the criminals can't. But the reality has proven complicated, and some advocates say the government has bitten off more than it can chew.
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Black Friday in the U.S.: like a regular weekend at the malls, only a little more so. Black Friday overseas: like Black Friday used to be in the U.S., including the shoving and fistfights.
Call it America's latest export.
As Americans hunkered down on their couches to score Black Friday bargains online, shoppers in other parts of the world took part in what had been a uniquely American experience: Risking life and limb for dirt-cheap sweaters and discounted TVs.
British police officers were called to stores across the country on Friday to quell surging crowds and fights over deals. Retailers had adopted American-style Black Friday discounts to get a jump on the Christmas shopping season, according to Reuters. Even Brazil got in on the act, with stores offering Black Friday deals.
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Artificial intelligence, once confined to the realm of science fiction, is changing our lives. Cars are driving themselves. Drones are being programmed to deliver packages. Computers are learning to diagnose diseases. In a recent book, the economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee describe these recent advances as examples of the beginning of what they call “the second machine age.”
The very name – the first machine age was the Industrial Revolution – suggests an epochal shift. And, indeed, if the predictions are to be believed, these technological advances could have profound implications for the way we live.
One common forecast is that as ever-more advanced robots substitute workers, the cost of labor will become less important, and manufacturing will move back to rich countries. Another is that increasingly intelligent machines will reduce the demand for advanced skills, and that the economic advantage of having these skills will decline as a result.
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The WCC Executive Committee welcomes and supports the statement of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA) and together with them reiterates a call in this time of serious tension for the city of Ferguson that its citizens, law enforcement officials, justice-seekers, and others respond in a non-violent manner. We also join the NCCCUSA in expressing appreciation to the churches and faith communities in St Louis, Missouri who have declared themselves to be “sanctuary churches” and “sacred spaces.”
The WCC Executive Committee believes that the current situation in Missouri underlines the deep-rooted problems of race relations and racial profiling in the United States of America. We stress that the human dignity of everyone must be respected regardless of race, ethnicity, or culture, and the critical importance of justice being seen to be done.
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It also needs to be kept in mind that apart from the pursuit of truth, each individual becomes the criterion for measuring himself and his own actions. The way is thus opened to a subjectivistic assertion of rights, so that the concept of human rights, which has an intrinsically universal import, is replaced by an individualistic conception of rights. This leads to an effective lack of concern for others and favours that globalization of indifference born of selfishness, the result of a conception of man incapable of embracing the truth and living an authentic social dimension.
This kind of individualism leads to human impoverishment and cultural aridity, since it effectively cuts off the nourishing roots on which the tree grows. Indifferent individualism leads to the cult of opulence reflected in the throwaway culture all around us. We have a surfeit of unnecessary things, but we no longer have the capacity to build authentic human relationships marked by truth and mutual respect. And so today we are presented with the image of a Europe which is hurt, not only by its many past ordeals, but also by present-day crises which it no longer seems capable of facing with its former vitality and energy; a Europe which is a bit tired and pessimistic, which feels besieged by events and winds of change coming from other continents.
To Europe we can put the question: “Where is your vigour? Where is that idealism which inspired and ennobled your history? Where is your spirit of curiosity and enterprise? Where is your thirst for truth, a thirst which hitherto you have passionately shared with the world?
The future of the continent will depend on the answer to these questions.
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A cyber snooping operation reminiscent of the Stuxnet worm and billed as the world’s most sophisticated computer malware is targeting Russian and Saudi Arabian telecoms companies.
Cyber security company Symantec said the malware, called “Regin”, is probably run by a western intelligence agency and in some respects is more advanced in engineering terms than Stuxnet, which was developed by US and Israel government hackers in 2010 to target the Iranian nuclear programme.
The discovery of the latest hacking software comes as the head of Kaspersky Labs, the Russian company that helped uncover Stuxnet, told the Financial Times that criminals are now also hacking industrial control systems for financial gain.
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Anglicans and Episcopalians from Communion provinces worldwide are being invited to share their thoughts on the ministry priorities and qualities of the next Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.
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SPIEGEL: Delivery is one thing. Why is Islamic State's message finding so much traction with young people?
Soufan: There are different motives that drive people to join this kind of organization. Most of today's IS followers were kids when 9/11 happened. You're dealing with a new generation that has a totally different view of global jihad. To them, al-Qaida is an assembly of old guys. I mean, look at Osama bin Laden's successor Ayman al-Zawahiri. He has no charisma. But IS now is new and modern, they succeeded in being the new guys -- at least relatively speaking. Nevertheless, Osama bin Laden is still their hero. His photo can be found on the websites of numerous IS followers. The ideology is the same, the strategy is different.
SPIEGEL: Are there any means for putting a stop to Islamic State's success?
Soufan: Our problem is that after 9/11 we never had a strategy that included fighting ideology, to counter their narrative. We had tactics designed to keep us safe, to disrupt their plans, to arrest and kill leaders, even to kill bin Laden. But there was no plan to counter their narratives. In 2004, bin Laden had around 400 fighters under oath. IS today has thousands fighters and followers in countries all over the world. This is an unfortunate failure.
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World Health Organization said Wednesday that 5,420 people had so far died of Ebola across eight countries, out of a total 15,145 cases of infection, since late December 2013.
On Friday, the UN health agency had reported 5,177 deaths and 14,413 cases.
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Oxford’s lexicographers keep watch over billions of words every month—from literary novels to academic journals to blogs—and at the end of the year they put their brainy heads together to select a single word that best embodies the zeitgeist. Out of this year’s haze of nominees and debate emerged four little letters.
Vape, a verb meaning to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device, beat out everything from bae to normcore. It was coined in the late 1980s when companies like RJR Nabisco were experimenting with the first “smokeless” cigarettes.But, after years of languishing, the word is back, needed to distinguish a growing new habit from old-fashioned smoking. According to Oxford’s calculations, usage of vape, which as a noun can refer to an e-cigarette or similar device, more than doubled between 2013 and 2014.
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“The upcoming OPEC meeting is going to be the most difficult one during this century,” said Mohammad al-Sabban, a former senior adviser to Mr. Naimi. “It seems that OPEC has forgotten how to cooperate.”
Within the group, officials are increasingly worried its divisions contribute to weaker prices. “If OPEC fails to reach an agreement,” one OPEC official said, “oil prices will keep on falling....”
A collective move to cut output could boost prices, but it would also rob OPEC members of revenue. It is unclear how long such vulnerable OPEC economies as Venezuela and Nigeria could afford to limit production without reopening the spigots.
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The number of deaths from terrorism increased by 61% between 2012 and 2013, a study into international terrorism says.
There were nearly 10,000 terrorist attacks in 2013, a 44% increase from the previous year, the Global Terrorism Index 2014 report added.
The report said militant groups Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and the Taliban were behind most of the deaths.
Iraq was the country most affected by terrorism, the report said.
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Investors’ long-term success may increasingly depend not just on the narrow financial performance of the companies whose shares they buy, but on how well they manage the ethical questions that will ultimately shape the outcomes for those companies.
While many asset owners look on responsible investing as an ethical obligation, the growing consensus is that it is also good business.
This view casts responsibility as a question of risk management. If you invest only in businesses with good human rights practices, engagement with local communities, clear accountability through the supply chain and clarity about exposure to resource scarcity, you are less likely to be caught out by an unforeseen problem such as protests over water rights or litigation following an oil spill, such as BP’s Deepwater Horizon debacle in the Gulf of Mexico.
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Liberia lies just north of the equator and is home to part of the last great rainforest in West Africa, where the Ebola virus thrives in tropical, humid conditions.
With their hospitals overwhelmed, special centers for the sick, called Ebola treatment units, are being built as fast as possible. One of them is run by an American relief-group, the International Medical Corps -- where Lara Logan, who is currently self-quarantined for 21 days, reported this story.
To get to the Ebola treatment unit, we traveled north from the Liberian capital along pitted roads toward the border with neighboring Guinea where this outbreak began. American virologist Joseph Fair, who's been here for most of the epidemic, came with us.
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A group of scientists including three Nobel laureates in medicine has proposed that U.S. health officials chart a new path to developing Ebola drugs and vaccines by harnessing antibodies produced by survivors of the deadly outbreak.
The proposal builds on the use of “convalescent serum,” or survivors’ blood, which has been given to at least four U.S. Ebola patients who then recovered from the virus. It is based on an approach called passive immunization, which has been used since the 19th century to treat diseases such as diphtheria but has been largely surpassed by vaccination.
The scientists propose using new genetic and other technologies to find hundreds or thousands of different Ebola antibodies, determine their genetic recipe, grow them in commercial quantities and combine them into a single treatment analogous to the multi-drug cocktails that treat HIV-AIDS.
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Dr. Robert Fuller didn’t hesitate to go to Indonesia to treat survivors of the 2004 tsunami, to Haiti to help after the 2010 earthquake or to the Philippines after a devastating typhoon last year. But he’s given up on going to West Africa to care for Ebola patients this winter.
He could make the six-week commitment sought by his go-to aid organization, International Medical Corps. But the possibility of a three-week quarantine afterward adds more time than he can take away from his job heading UConn Health Center’s emergency department.
“I’m very sad that I can’t go, at this point,” said Fuller, who’s helping instead by interviewing other prospective volunteers. Nine weeks or more “gets to be a pretty long time to think about being away from your family and being away from your job.”
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The demolition of this towering Protestant cathedral on the outskirts of the coastal Chinese city of Wenzhou on April 28 2014 marked the spectacular launch of a government campaign to curtail the fastest-growing religion in nominally atheist China. There are now about 100 million Christians in the world’s most populous nation, eclipsing the 86.7 million-strong membership of the ruling Communist party. According to western intellectual tradition, modernity is supposed to bring secularisation but in modern Communist China it has been accompanied by an extraordinary rise of religions formerly banned as “opiates of the masses”.
Perhaps most surprising, given its status as a “foreign” religion and its close association with an earlier era of gunboats and imperialism, Christianity (particularly the Protestant variety) has been the big winner in the competition for Chinese souls. If it continues to spread at its current pace, the country is very likely to be home to the world’s largest Christian population within the next 15 years. For China’s authoritarian leaders, who despise and fear any force not under their direct control, this seemingly unstoppable trend is very disturbing.
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On a dirt field between two tall plum trees, barefoot young women played a surprisingly ferocious game of kickball one evening this week. Sweating in the heat and humidity despite the approach of dusk, they battled with the pent-up energy of teens who have been stuck at home too long.
A crowd of 100, maybe more, gathered to watch. Huge speakers blared the Ghanain hip-hop of Sargo D, making conversation nearly impossible. The spectators stood closely together. Some danced, some moved more subtly to the music. Had there been food and drink, this gathering in Monrovia’s Capitol Hill neighborhood could have been a block party.
Barely six or seven weeks ago, it also would have been impossible.
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NYU's Pankaj Ghemawat discusses the top 10 countries that are wired and ready to make money. He speaks with Bloomberg's Pimm Fox on "Taking Stock." Watch it all.
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Archbishop Justin Welby said: “This week you have gathered to consider how our Anglican Communion can be more effective in working together and collaborating with other faith communities and secular partners to end modern slavery.
“It is a huge and daunting challenge – but it is a task that we must face. Evil will thrive if humanity stands by and does nothing while the most vulnerable suffer at the hands of traffickers and slavers.”
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The coastal city of Wenzhou is sometimes called China’s Jerusalem. Ringed by mountains and far from the capital, Beijing, it has long been a haven for a religion that China’s Communist leaders view with deep unease: Christianity. Most cities of its size, with about 9m people, have no more than a dozen or so visibly Christian buildings. Until recently, in Wenzhou, hundreds of crosses decorated church roofs.
This year, however, more than 230 have been classed as “illegal structures” and removed. Videos posted on the internet show crowds of parishioners trying to form a human shield around their churches. Dozens have been injured. Other films show weeping believers defiantly singing hymns as huge red crosses are hoisted off the buildings. In April one of Wenzhou’s largest churches was completely demolished. Officials are untroubled by the clash between the city’s famously freewheeling capitalism and the Communist Party’s ideology, yet still see religion and its symbols as affronts to the party’s atheism.
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Canada is following in Australia's footsteps and has suspended, effectively immediately, the issuance of visas to residents of the West African countries battling Ebola.
In a move that puts Canada at odds with the World Health Organization, the federal government said Friday it is suspending visa applications for residents and nationals of countries with "widespread and persistent-intense transmission" of Ebola virus disease.
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The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations called attention to the need for a greater response to the Ebola outbreak that has killed nearly 5,000 people in West Africa.
Samantha Power posted on Twitter early Monday, after spending a day in Guinea, that the "scale of need is staggering" and that the "most basic resources will help save lives."
She is on a multistop tour this week of the worst-hit countries, including Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Power also highlighted the efforts of those already working in Guinea to treat patients, build treatment facilities and educate people, including Doctors Without Borders and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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I turned to Dr. Elke Muhlberger, an Ebola expert long intimate with the virus — through more than 20 years of Ebola research that included two pregnancies. (I must say I find this the ultimate antidote for the fear generated by the nurses’ infections: A researcher so confident in the power of taking the right precautions that she had no fear — and rightly so, it turned out — for her babies-to-be.)
Dr. Muhlberger is an associate professor of micriobiology at Boston University and director of the Biomolecule Production Core at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (widely referred to as the NEIDL, pronounced “needle”) at Boston University. Our conversation, lightly edited:
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Smart, connected products offer exponentially expanding opportunities for new functionality, far greater reliability, much higher product utilization, and capabilities that cut across and transcend traditional product boundaries. The changing nature of products is also disrupting value chains, forcing companies to rethink and retool nearly everything they do internally.
These new types of products alter industry structure and the nature of competition, exposing companies to new competitive opportunities and threats. They are reshaping industry boundaries and creating entirely new industries. In many companies, smart, connected products will force the fundamental question, “What business am I in?”
Smart, connected products raise a new set of strategic choices related to how value is created and captured, how the prodigious amount of new (and sensitive) data they generate is utilized and managed, how relationships with traditional business partners such as channels are redefined, and what role companies should play as industry boundaries are expanded.
The phrase “internet of things” has arisen to reflect the growing number of smart, connected products and highlight the new opportunities they can represent. Yet this phrase is not very helpful in understanding the phenomenon or its implications. The internet, whether involving people or things, is simply a mechanism for transmitting information. What makes smart, connected products fundamentally different is not the internet, but the changing nature of the “things.”
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