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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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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
Now, three weeks into my son’s preschool career and we are already jockeying for a position next year. I’ve spent three paychecks from my part-time job, plus multiple hours of work-at-home time to get the necessary forms filled out and notarized so he can stay in the school.
Earlier this week, a friend dropped off her son’s registration packet with me to hold on to for registration day, since she will be out of town. I asked her how this whole registration thing will go down.
She told me that moms start lining up at 9 a.m. My eyes glazed over. Now I’m starting the registration process again. I am not a stay-at-home-mom, I’m an agent.
Of course, it could be worse. I could be paying for both school AND an admissions coach, who helps parents navigate getting into the best preschools in Manhattan, which cost upwards of $40K in tuition.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Education Marriage & Family * Economics, Politics Economy Personal Finance * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
The proposals are presented in a report written by Lord Green, a former British trade minister and HSBC chairman, and prepared with outside help from Christopher McLaverty, a former talent leadership chief at BP, an oil supermajor. As much as £2m ($3m) has been set aside to enact the “talent management programme”, which will provide 150 bishops with the means to study at INSEAD’s campus in Fontainebleau, France, over the next two years. The aim is that clergy, who often come into a high-profile post within the church with little training, are given more adequate preparation for their role, including the ability to build and manage a high-functioning support team. “Simply arriving at moments of appointment and then looking to see who might or might not, by a process of amounting to chance, have suitable preparation and gifting, is to abandon all responsibility,” Mr Welby wrote in support of the Green report.
Sending bishops to business school will kickstart a “culture change for the leadership of the church”, the report says. But it admits that the preponderance of phrases such as “talent pool” and “alumni network” peppered throughout the paper may put off more staunch theologians. Yet that hasn’t stopped the language of business breaching the pious institution. In an appendix of Lord Green’s report, the net promoter score (NPS), a loyalty metric developed by Bain & Company, a consultancy, is presented with a straight face as a hypothetical way of evaluating the benefit of the mini-MBA. With a fictionalised NPS of +75 (on a scale of -100 to +100), the church appears to be confident its plans will be well-received.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Education * Economics, Politics Economy * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
A handful of other congregations, including All Saints Anglican Church in Charlotte, NC, Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Raleigh, NC and Saint John’s Anglican Church of Americus, GA have also announced building plans. This summer All Saints’ Anglican Church in Springfield, MO and All Saints’ Anglican Church in Peachtree City, GA, completed and consecrated new church buildings.
The churches range from a modest colonial-revival brick building in the case of Restoration to a 30,000-square-foot gothic structure built for the congregation of St. Peter’s.
In addition to making the churches more visible in their communities and accommodating growth in the size of congregations, the new structures are allowing for new programs and events. St. Peter’s is partnering with Trinity School for Ministry to offer theological education far from the seminary’s Ambridge, Pennsylvania campus. Other congregations plan to use their news space for conferences, or to begin hosting programs such as Vacation Bible School which were impractical or not possible in leased spaces.
“Our new church is just the beginning of what we hope to build,” explained Fr. Andrew Rowell, associate rector of St. Peter’s Anglican Church.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market
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
‘Fixing our ... roads ... tremendously important’
“Education reform and infrastructure repairs are two of the most challenging economic issues we face. ... Fixing our crumbling roads system is also tremendously important as it directly impacts economic development, which leads to job creation and higher wages.”
— House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington
‘Drop in the bucket’ “It’s just a drop in the bucket to solving the problem. ... There’s many ways to do it, but this is just not going to deal with the real magnitude of the problem that we have.”
— Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington
Read it all.
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.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Economic historians have long supposed that Africa’s historically low population density shaped its development. Rulers struggled to exercise control over scattered populations, the theory goes. Malfunctioning states inhibited growth because property rights were insecure and infrastructure was worse.
But why was it that land in precolonial Africa was so abundant, and people were so scarce? A new paper* by Marcella Alsan of Stanford University blames the tsetse fly. The pest, much like the mosquito, lives off the blood of people and animals and in the process transmits disease, in this case a parasite that causes sleeping sickness. To domesticated animals, on which it likes to feed, its bite is fatal. Its prevalence, the paper argues, made it considerably harder for Africans to develop agriculture.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine History Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Politics in General * General Interest Animals * International News & Commentary Africa * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
It should have been a fun occasion – a boy’s birthday party at a tobogganing centre, complete with tea and balloons.
But the event has now turned into the focus of a public row between two families after the mother of the boy holding the party sent a formal invoice to the parents of his friend Alex for a “party no-show fee”.
The document, which included an invoice number, charged Tanya Walsh and Derek Nash £15.95 for the cost of their five-year-old son’s non-attendance at the event, held during the Christmas holidays.
And the Nashes are now being threatened with action at the small claims court if they refuse to pay up, while the mother of the birthday boy has banned her son from ever playing with Alex again.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family * Economics, Politics Economy * International News & Commentary England / UK --Scotland * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Environment Agency’s pension fund has urged BP and Royal Dutch Shell to invest in renewable energy and do more to tackle climate change.
The government-backed agency’s £2.5bn fund has teamed up with more than 150 other investors, including the Church of England and several large local authority pension funds. They have filed shareholder resolutions urging both oil companies to take more action on global warming.
“It was an easy decision,” said John Varley, chairman of the Environment Agency pensions committee. “We believe that it is vital to manage climate risk within investments and that all shareholders have access to clear information to assess how these companies are managing risk and protecting shareholder value.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Stock Market Energy, Natural Resources Politics in General * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Much of England is experiencing economic crisis. Our economy appears to be, in one sense, a tale of two cities – one being a growing and constantly improving London (and the south-east generally), and the other being most, but not all, other cities, alike in that they are each trapped in apparently inevitable decline.
Of course, London has many economic problems of its own. While on a national level entire cities are being cast aside and left to their own devices, one cannot walk the streets of London for long before realising that this national trend is happening at an individual level in this massive city. There is poverty around the corner from every multimillion and multibillion pound industry – individuals and families similarly trapped in apparently inescapable circles of despair.
This sketch of our current plight will not come as news to many. It is the reality we experience and see on a daily basis. And I believe that many of the prescribed remedies that so often accompany this diagnosis are deeply flawed.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Rural/Town Life Urban/City Life and Issues * Economics, Politics Economy Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Instead of being watched by the state through telescreens, we carry our own screens—ones that put more information at our fingertips than an entire government department could have compiled in Orwell’s day. Big Brother has been defeated by capitalist technology.
But if, like most of his contemporaries, he was too gloomy, Orwell got one thing uncannily right. In an appendix to his dystopian novel, he discussed how an idea could be made literally unthinkable if there were no words to express it. The illustration he gave was the word “free.” In Newspeak, “free” could be used only in the sense of “this field is free from weeds” or “this dog is free from lice.” The concept of political or intellectual freedom had disappeared, because no one could put it into words.
What an eerily prescient example to have chosen. In recent years this is more or less what has happened to the word “free.” In 1948, “freedom” still had its traditional meaning of a guarantee against coercion: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of worship. Since then, however, “freedom” has come to mean “entitlement,” as in “freedom to work,” “freedom from hunger,” “freedom from discrimination,” and so on. Thus, the notion that the state ought not to boss us around becomes harder to convey, and the politician who supports that notion is disadvantaged.
Read it all.
Four in 10 U.S. college students graduate without the complex reasoning skills to manage white-collar work, according to the results of a test of nearly 32,000 students.
The test, which was administered at 169 colleges and universities in 2013 and 2014 and released Thursday, reveals broad variation in the intellectual development of the nation’s students depending on the type and even location of the school they attend.
On average, students make strides in their ability to reason, but because so many start at such a deficit, many still graduate without the ability to read a scatterplot, construct a cohesive argument or identify a logical fallacy.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Philosophy Science & Technology Young Adults * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The SNB was not forced to act by a speculative run. No financial crisis forced its hand, and, in theory, the SNB’s directorate could have held the exchange rate and bought foreign assets indefinitely. But domestic criticism of the SNB’s large buildup of exchange-rate reserves (euro assets) was mounting.
In particular, Swiss conservatives disliked the risk to which the SNB was exposed. Fearing that eurozone government bonds were unsafe, they agitated to require the SNB to acquire gold reserves instead, even forcing a referendum on the matter. Though the initiative to require a fixed share of gold reserves failed, the prospect of large-scale quantitative easing by the European Central Bank, together with the euro’s recent slide against the dollar, intensified the political pressure to abandon the peg.
Whereas economists have modeled financial attacks well, there has been little study of just when political pressure becomes unbearable and a central bank gives in. The SNB, for example, had proclaimed loyalty to the peg just days before ending it. As a result, markets will now hesitate to believe central banks’ statements about future policy, and forward guidance (a major post-crisis instrument) will be much more difficult.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Economy Credit Markets Currency Markets Euro European Central Bank The Banking System/Sector Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Switzerland * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
How big a problem is family fragmentation? “Immense,” says Mitch Pearlstein, head of the Minnesota think tank Center of the American Experiment. “The biggest domestic problem facing this country.”
So big he went out and interviewed 40 experts of varying ideology across the nation and relayed their answers in his book Broken Bonds: What Family Fragmentation Means for America’s Future. That’s the good news. The bad news is that none of the experts is confident he has an answer, and neither is Pearlstein.
What is family fragmentation? The facts are easy to state. About 40 percent of babies born in America these days are born outside of marriage. That’s true of about 30 percent of non-Hispanic whites, more than 50 percent of Hispanics and more than 70 percent of blacks.
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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
For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.
The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.
“We’ve all known this was the trend, that we would get to a majority, but it’s here sooner rather than later,” said Michael A. Rebell of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College at Columbia University, noting that the poverty rate has been increasing even as the economy has improved. “A lot of people at the top are doing much better, but the people at the bottom are not doing better at all. Those are the people who have the most children and send their children to public school.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Education Marriage & Family Poverty * Economics, Politics Economy Personal Finance Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The San Francisco online ride-sharing company that is causing a storm among S.C. taxi companies and regulators is finding bipartisan legislative support of its efforts to keep operating legally in the Palmetto State.
The state Public Service Commission ordered Uber to stop picking up riders Thursday while regulators weigh the company’s request for a state taxi license.
But Uber drivers were defying the order with cars available Friday in the four S.C. cities where the company operates – Columbia, Charleston, Greenville and Myrtle Beach.
“We will challenge the order and remain committed to providing South Carolinians with greater opportunity and choice,” Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Travel * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Politics in General State Government * South Carolina * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Crumbling roads like the ones Gould encounters are found statewide, as well as many congested thoroughfares, according to a report released Thursday from The Road Information Program, or TRIP, a national nonprofit organization. Those conditions make the roads unsafe and cost state drivers $3 billion each year in lost time and additional operating, fuel and crash-related costs. The report said nearly half the state’s roads are in poor condition.
In the Charleston area, the report found poor road conditions cost motorists, on average, $1,168 per year: $294 in additional vehicle operating costs, $647 for fuel and lost time on congested roads and $227 in crash-related costs.
Gould said he has lost a lot of time commuting on congested roads, especially during rush hours. He avoids driving on Maybank Highway because of traffic snarls there, especially at the intersection with River Road.
Read it all.
We didn't question a Baltimore district court judge when she said she couldn't trust Heather Cook's judgment if released from jail pending trial. After all, the Episcopal bishop is charged with being a repeat drunk driver who recklessly took the life of a bicyclist on Roland Avenue last month, then left the scene. But we do wonder why Judge Nicole Pastore Klein allowed Bishop Cook bail at all, even one as high as $2.5 million. Does Ms. Cook suddenly become trustworthy if she wins the lottery?
Judge Klein took a gamble on the public's behalf and lost. Bishop Cook, whose attorney earlier in the week said she couldn't afford release, posted bail today through Fred Frank Bail Bonds, according to court records.
The scenario underscores why a recommendation submitted last month to legislative leaders proposing that the state's asset-based bail system be "completely eliminated" should be given swift and thorough consideration. Whether defendants are incarcerated before trial should be based on the likelihood they'll return to court and won't harm the public rather than on their ability to afford release.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Alcohol/Drinking Alcoholism Law & Legal Issues * Economics, Politics Economy Personal Finance * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The expansion of congregations suggests that the drop in religious affiliation is not as dramatic as it seems, and that a stealthy revival might even be coming. The growth may not yet offset disaffiliation, but it is part of the American religious pattern. Early colonists included the highly religious Puritans. But their children and grandchildren strayed, even forcing churches to loosen qualifications if they were to keep members.
In the century that followed, Methodists and Baptists began spreading Christianity largely through small groups, or “bands,” as the Methodists called them. They used nontraditional gathering places, including open fields, to bring their message to the masses. By 1850, 34% of Americans were church members, and by 1900 half were, according to Mr. Stark. By the early 1990s, nearly two-thirds of Americans were members of a congregation.
Fewer new churches these days are going up with drywall and spackling, but members are probably still stacking chairs and warming coffee on Sunday morning.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
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.”
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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...:
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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....
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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
Britain under the Coalition is a country in which the poor are being “left behind” and entire cities “cast aside” because politicians are obsessed with Middle England, the Church of England says today in a damning assessment of the state of the nation.
In a direct and unapologetically “political” intervention timed for the beginning of the General Election campaign, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, warn party leaders are selling a “lie” that economic growth is the answer to Britain’s social problems.
Questioning David Cameron’s slogan “we're all in this together” they condemn inequality as “evil” and dismiss the assumption that the value of communities is in their economic output as a “sin”.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Archbishop of York John Sentamu * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Rural/Town Life Urban/City Life and Issues * Economics, Politics Economy * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Entire regions of the country are trapped in an apparently inescapable economic downward spiral. It is "a tale of two cities", and turning the tide will come only through a commitment to solidarity, the Archbishop of Canterbury says.
"The hard truth is that [many cities and towns where there is long-term decline] are in what appear to be lose-lose situations," he says. "Already in decline, the road towards recovery and growth is made even more difficult. . . As the south -east grows, many cities are left feeling abandoned and hopeless."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Rural/Town Life Urban/City Life and Issues * Economics, Politics Economy Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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.
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Every month for about three years, Nina McCarthy followed the same routine after payday. She’d go into a Check Into Cash near her home in the Richmond area, and pay off an open-end loan for $700 or $800 – and then she’d take out a new one for the same amount, never accumulating interest in the process.
Then McCarthy’s overtime hours at work were cut. With rent, a car payment and a 3-year-old granddaughter to feed, McCarthy didn’t have $700 for Check Into Cash. McCarthy made a partial payment, but interest piled up rapidly, at a rate she recalls was 24.9 percent a month, or a nearly 300 percent annualized rate.
McCarthy estimated that she paid more than $1,100 on the bill in the first three-quarters of 2014, including payments that Check Into Cash began collecting directly out of her bank account. Then in September, she had a stroke. She closed her bank account and hasn’t made any payments since. When she went back to the Check Into Cash store on Friday, an employee directed her to the collection line that has taken over her account. McCarthy was told she still owes nearly $650 on the line of credit and doesn’t know when she’ll be able to pay it off.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Personal Finance * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
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.
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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.
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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
Serving as another indication of the public's perceptions of an improving economy, 45% of Americans now say it is a good time to find a quality job, up from 36% in December, and as high as this indicator has been since May 2007.
Gallup has asked Americans about their views of the job market on a monthly basis since August 2001, when 39% of Americans agreed that it was a good time to find a quality job. These views became less positive through 2003, but then turned the corner. By January 2007, 48% said it was a good time to find a quality job -- the highest Gallup has recorded. Positive views of the job market began to drop that year and dropped further with the onset of the Great Recession, reaching the all-time low of 8% in November 2009 and again in November 2011. Since 2012, these attitudes have been recovering, breaking through the 30% line in 2014 for the first time in six years, and jumping to 45% this month.
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PROFESSOR JAMES GRIMMELMAN: When you start experimenting on people, you start manipulating their environment to see how they react, you’re turning them into your lab rats.
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: The outrage that greeted that particular experiment far outstripped its practical implications.
DANAH BOYD: Why the controversy blew up at the time and in the way that it did is that we’re not sure we trust Facebook.
LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: There were tremors of ethical outrage when a major scientific journal revealed that the social media site Facebook had conducted experiments, altering what customers see on their own pages. The outrage was voiced across all forms of media, both traditional ones and digital outlets like YouTube.
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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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Oregon holds on to its title as "Top Moving Destination" and continues to pull away from the pack, while the Northeast loses residents for the third consecutive year.
Those are the key findings from United Van Lines' 38th Annual National Movers Study, which tracks customers' migration patterns state-to-state during the course of the past year. The study found that Oregon is the top moving destination of 2014, with 66 percent of moves to and from the state being inbound — that's a nearly 5 percent increase of inbound moves compared to 2013. Arriving at No. 2 on the list was South Carolina (61 percent inbound), followed closely in third by its northern neighbor, North Carolina (61 percent).
The District of Columbia, which held the top spot on the inbound list from 2008 to 2012 and ranked fourth last year, fell to No. 7 this year with 57 percent inbound moves. New additions to the 2014 top inbound list include Vermont (59 percent), Oklahoma (57 percent) and Idaho (56 percent).
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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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Every year, the American Time Use Survey asks thousands of Americans to record a minute-by-minute account of one single day. For many “prime-age” adults, those between the ages of 25 and 54, a significant chunk of time on weekdays is taken up by work. But for the almost 30 million prime-age Americans who don’t work, a typical weekday looks far different.
Nonworkers spend much more time doing housework. Men without jobs, in particular, spend more time watching television, while women without jobs spend more time taking care of others. And the nonemployed of both sexes spend more time sleeping than their employed counterparts.
One way to see these patterns is to look at what the “average” nonemployed person does with his or her time. That’s the view you see in the charts above. But averages are by nature a simplification, one that can sometimes obscure reality. For example, in the chart above, you can see that from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., about 10 percent of men are consistently spending time on education. That could mean that many men spend a small portion of their days — albeit at different times — on education, or it could mean that about 10 percent of men spend nearly all of their time on education.
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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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The substantial increase in middle-aged Americans seeking second careers in the pulpit has been a godsend for seminaries faced with overall declines in enrollment and budget shortfalls.
And for many pursuing a clerical career in their 40s and 50s, it is a dream come true, a chance to follow what they consider God’s call and do meaningful work in their later years.
But the realities of a shrinking clergy labor market, and seminary tuition costs outpacing inflation, leave some facing debts of $80,000 or more trying to find work in a relatively low-paying profession.
The burden is falling particularly hard on prospective minority clergy with the fewest resources, analysts state.
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Physician Praveen Arla is witnessing a reversal of health care fortunes: Poor, long-uninsured patients are getting Medicaid through Obamacare and finally coming to his office for care. But middle-class workers are increasingly staying away.
"It's flip-flopped," says Arla, who helps his father run a family practice in Hillview, Ky. Patients with job-based plans, he says, will say: " 'My deductible is so high. I'm trying to come to the doctor as little as possible. … What is the minimum I can get done?' They're really worried about cost."
It's a deep and common concern across the USA, where employer plans cover 60% of working-age Americans, or about 150 million people. Coverage long considered the gold standard of health insurance now often requires workers to pay so much out-of-pocket that many feel they must skip doctor visits, put off medical procedures, avoid filling prescriptions and ration pills — much as the uninsured have done.
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In the past, this season was marked by a greater interest in divinity, the family hearth and the joy of children. Increasingly our society has been turning away from such simple human pleasures, replacing them with those of technology.
Despite the annual holiday pageantry, in the West religion is on the decline, along with our society’s emphasis on human relationships. Atheism seems to be getting stronger, estimated at around 13 percent worldwide but much higher in such countries as Japan, Germany and China. “The world is going secular,” claims author Nigel Barber. “Nothing short of an ice age can stop it.”
In contrast, the religion of technology is gaining adherents. In a poll in the U.K., about as many said they believe Google to have their best interests at heart as God. Religious disbelief has been rising particularly among U.S. millennials, a group that, according to Pew, largely eschews traditional religion and embraces technology as a primary value. Some 26 percent profess no religious affiliation, twice the level of their boomer parents; they are twice as irreligious at their age as any previous generation.
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Washington went on to express his gratitude for the support of "my countrymen" and the "army in general." This reference to his soldiers ignited feelings so intense, he had to grip the speech with both hands to keep it steady. He continued: "I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them [Congress] to his holy keeping."
For a long moment, Washington could not say another word. Tears streamed down his cheeks. The words touched a vein of religious faith in his inmost soul, born of battlefield experiences that had convinced him of the existence of a caring God who had protected him and his country again and again during the war. Without this faith he might never have been able to endure the frustrations and rage he had experienced in the previous eight months.
Washington then drew from his coat a parchment copy of his appointment as commander in chief. "Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of action and bidding farewell to this august body under whom I have long acted, I here offer my commission and take leave of all the employments of public life." Stepping forward, he handed the document to Mifflin.
This was -- is -- the most important moment in American history.
The man who could have dispersed this feckless Congress and obtained for himself and his soldiers rewards worthy of their courage was renouncing absolute power. By this visible, incontrovertible act, Washington did more to affirm America's government of the people than a thousand declarations by legislatures and treatises by philosophers.
Thomas Jefferson, author of the greatest of these declarations, witnessed this drama as a delegate from Virginia. Intuitively, he understood its historic dimension. "The moderation. . . . of a single character," he later wrote, "probably prevented this revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish."
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The economic recovery is real, and even though it's not spectacular, it's getting there.
The good news is that the economy grew at a 5 percent annual pace in the third quarter this year, revised up from the 3.9 percent that the Commerce Department had previously estimated. It's the best quarterly growth since 2003, and, on the heels of the 4.6 percent growth in the second quarter, it's also the best six months the economy has had in that long. The even better news, though, is that this growth, unlike every other uptick the past few years, looks sustainable.
This isn't a blip. It's a boom.
Well, at least by the sad standards of this slow and steady recovery. The truth is that for all the hype and headlines about every little head fake, the economy has just been chugging along at the same 2 percent pace the past few years.
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I have two specific changes in mind.
First, we should all plan our annual giving to the church. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
Paul tells the Corinthians to think out the proportion of their income they are giving away (“a sum … in keeping with your income”) and then to lay some aside every week. Studies — and common sense — reveal that people who plan their giving to the church and give it every month or at other regular intervals end up being far more generous than those who give only when in church, or give episodically, impulsively, or even just at the end of the year. We will only become more and more generous as time goes on if we set “stretch” goals to achieve a couple of years from now, and then make deliberate plans to get there through planned monthly or quarterly giving.
Second, all people who attend Redeemer regularly should give to it, and not in a token way.
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The relationships between medical doctors and the pharmaceutical industry are subject to strict rules that require the public disclosure of payments for meals, trips, consulting, speaking and research.
No laws or regulations – including the new FDA directives –
require veterinarians to reveal financial connections to drug companies. That means veterinarians can be wined and dined and given scholarships, awards, stipends, gifts and trips by pharmaceutical benefactors without the knowledge of the FDA or the public.
Of the 90,000 veterinarians who practice in the United States, about 11,000 – or one of every eight – work in food animal production, according to a 2013 workforce study. Livestock and poultry specialists advise growers on health issues from insemination to birth to weaning to fattening to euthanasia. They also treat a variety of illnesses and injuries. Many train farmhands how to spot disease and administer drugs.
In some ways, the role of the veterinarian is more complicated than that of the medical doctor. For a veterinarian, the patient is the animal but the client is the owner.
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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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Flagging morale, desertion and factionalism are starting to affect the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, testing the cohesion of the jihadi force as its military momentum slows.
Activists and fighters in parts of eastern Syria controlled by Isis said as military progress slows and focus shifts to governing the area, frustration has grown among militants who had been seen as the most disciplined and effective fighting force in the country’s civil war.
The group hurtled across western Iraq and eastern Syria over the summer in a sudden offensive that shocked the world. Isis remains a formidable force: it controls swaths of territory and continues to make progress in western Iraq. But its fighters have reached the limit of discontented Sunni Muslim areas that they can easily capture and US-led coalition air strikes partnered with offensives by local ground forces have begun to halt their progress.
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What a strange week it’s been in Hollywood. Tuesday night we actually had a thunderstorm. For those who don’t know Southern California, that’s like saying House Republicans think our country might have a race problem. Or Woody Allen is considering property in Malibu. Or the new Missal really seems to be catching on. (“Under our roof,” translators? “Under our roof”?)
There was even lightning, for God’s sake.
Then yesterday, hack-beleaguered Sony Pictures actually stopped distribution of major motion picture “The Interview,” maybe forever, after the United States’ five major theater chains refused to show it for fear of a 9/11-style attack on any theater that did.
To say the Internet was not happy with this series of events would be an understatement. Hollywood writer/director/producer Judd Apatow called the chains’ decision “disgraceful” and wondered, along with many others, what’s next: “Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?” Many called it a sad day for creative expression, and feared that this forebodes a dangerous new self-censorship. Rob Lowe compared Hollywood to Neville Chamberlain (to which the nation of Czechoslovakia replied, “Mmm, Rob, I think not”). Newt Gingrich went so far as to call the hackers’ threat an “act of war,” forgoing the need for an act of war to involve an actual act. Forget the pesky details, there’s really never a bad time for a little preemption.
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Some nonprofit hospitals around the country don't ever seize their patients' wages. Some do so only in very rare cases. But others sue hundreds of patients every year. Heartland, which is in the process of changing its name to Mosaic Life Care, seizes more money from patients than any other hospital in Missouri. From 2009 through 2013, the hospital's debt collection arm garnished the wages of about 6,000 people, according to a ProPublica analysis of state court data.
After the hospital wins a judgment against a former patient in court, it's entitled to take a hefty portion of the patient's paychecks going forward: 25 percent of after-tax pay. For patients who are the head of household, if they tell the hospital or court that information, the hospital can seize only 10 percent of each paycheck.
But Heartland, through the debt collection company Northwest Financial Services, often sues both adults in a household — garnishing one at the 10 percent rate and the other at the full 25 percent of their pay. The hospital also charges patients 9 percent interest, the maximum allowed under state law.
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President Obama announced sweeping changes to U.S. policy with Cuba on Wednesday, moving to normalize relations with the island nation and tear down the last remaining pillar of the Cold War.
Under the new measures, the United States plans to reopen its embassy in Havana and significantly ease restrictions on travel and commerce within the next several weeks and months, Obama said. Speaking from the White House, he declared that a half-century of isolation of the communist country “has not worked.”
“It’s time for a new approach,” he said.
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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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Fair returns to savers, fair interest rates on loans and the aspiration to be a flagship credit union are among the aims of the Churches' Mutual Credit Union Ltd (CMCU) which has received formal authorisation from the regulatory authorities today. This has been a rigorous process undertaken by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. CMCU plans to begin to offer its services to those eligible for membership from February 2015.
CMCU has been formed for and with the help of the Church of England, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church in Wales. CMCU President, Canon Antony MacRow-Wood, said, "I am delighted at the news of authorisation. CMCU will help many, even in its first year of operation and, in due course, it should become a significant financial resource to the church and individuals throughout England, Wales and Scotland. CMCU will enable a virtuous re-cycling of money within the church community, through a combined portfolio of savings and loan products."
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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 is in the middle of a currency crisis. On December 15th its currency lost 10% of its value, having already lost about 40% this year. The central bank increased interest rates sharply, but instead of calming the market the hike was seen as a sign of desperation. The following day the rouble was at one point down a further 20% (and ended the day 10% lower). The central bank reckons that GDP could fall by 5% in 2015. Inflation is currently at 10% but is expected to accelerate rapidly. Russians are panic-buying; banks are running out of dollars. What’s gone wrong with Russia’s economy?
The problems were long in the making. Russia is highly dependent on oil revenues (hydrocarbons contribute over half the federal budget and two-thirds of exports) and over the past decade it has failed to diversify its economy. It is horribly corrupt, has weak institutions and no real property rights. The Kremlin distributes oil money via state banks to firms and projects which it selects on the basis of their political importance and their pro-Putin stance, rather than trusting the market to allocate capital to the most efficient firms. If you look at wealth, Russia is the world’s second-most unequal country. Its working-age population is shrinking fast.
Western sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s meddling in Ukraine have dealt a blow to the economy. But the proximate cause of the turmoil of the last few days is concern about Russia's corporate sector. During 2015 Russia’s firms must repay $100 billion-worth of foreign debt. But as the rouble falls, paying back dollars becomes more difficult.
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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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Six years after candidate Barack Obama vowed to make working for government “cool again,” federal hiring of young people is instead tailing off and many millennials are heading for the door.
The share of the federal workforce under the age of 30 dropped to 7 percent this year, the lowest figure in nearly a decade, government figures show.
With agencies starved for digital expertise and thousands of federal jobs coming open because of a wave of baby-boomer retirements, top government officials, including at the White House, are growing increasingly distressed about the dwindling role played by young workers.
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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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The American economy has stopped delivering the broadly shared prosperity that the nation grew accustomed to after World War II. The explanation for why that is begins with the millions of middle-class jobs that vanished over the past 25 years, and with what happened to the men and women who once held those jobs.
Millions of Americans are working harder than ever just to keep from falling behind; Green is one of them. Those workers have been devalued in the eyes of the economy, pushed into jobs that pay them much less than the ones they once had.
Today, a shrinking share of Americans are working middle-class jobs, and collectively, they earn less of the nation’s income than they used to. In 1981, according to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of American adults were classified as “middle income” — which means their household income was between two-thirds and double the nation’s median income. By 2011, it was down to 51 percent. In that time, the “middle” group’s share of the national income pie fell from 60 percent to 45 percent.
For that, you can blame the past three recessions, which sparked a chain reaction of layoffs and lower pay.
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Hours after five hostages escaped from the Lindt cafe, one of the remaining women switched off the lights inside.
Premier Mike Baird has asked Sydneysiders to go about their day as usual on Tuesday
There is an exclusion zone near the cafe, bordered by Pitt, Elizabeth, Hunter and King Streets.
NSW Police have activated Task Force Pioneer, which they use in terrorism related incidents.
A coalition of Muslim groups has expressed their shock and horror at the siege. They have urged calm.
Sydneysiders have united under the hashtag #illridewithyou offering company to Muslims wearing religious garments as they travel in the city.
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Disneyland has become a time capsule not of the romantic idea of 19th century Main Street or even the possibilities in Tomorrowland but of a time when Americans believed in a better future — and were willing to invest in it. A half-century ago, we put almost 1 percent of our economy into landing men on the moon, yet today we fall behind other countries in exploring space, supposedly because we cannot afford it.
We pay a huge price for our lack of investment and faith in the future of America. We pay for all the inefficiency of our decrepit infrastructure. We pay with minds that will never be fully developed and with scientific breakthroughs that will enrich other countries. And we pay with lives of daily grind and unpleasantness without hope of respite.
Would that as a people we thought like Walt Disney so we could make America into a happy place.
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Students and professors at Clemson University have designed a home where they say a family of four can live comfortably in the South using local materials and having almost no impact on the environment.
The home is called Indigo Pine, taking its name from two things South Carolina has in abundance: pine trees and the blue dye from the indigo plant.
More than 100 students and professors are helping design and build the home that the university will enter as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon 2015. Sixteen other schools also are participating.
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The euphoria occasioned by the economy adding 321,000 jobs in November indicates that we have defined success down. In the 1960s, there were nine months in which more than 300,000 jobs were added, the last being June 1969, when there were about 117 million fewer Americans than there are now . In the 1980s, job growth exceeded 300,000 in 23 months, the last being November 1988, when there were about 75 million fewer Americans than today.
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One day in 1967, Bob Thompson sprayed foam on a hunk of metal in a cavernous factory south of Los Angeles. And then another day, not too long after, he sat at a long wood bar with a black-and-white television hanging over it, and he watched that hunk of metal land a man on the moon.
On July 20, 1969 — the day of the landing — Thompson sipped his Budweiser and thought about all the people who had ever stared at that moon. Kings and queens and Jesus Christ himself. He marveled at how when it came time to reach it, the job started in Downey. The bartender wept.
On a warm day, almost a half-century later, Thompson curled his mouth beneath a white beard and talked about the bar that fell to make way for a freeway, the space-age factory that closed down and the town that is still waiting for its next great economic rocket, its new starship to the middle class.
They’ve waited more than a decade in Downey. They’ve tried all the usual tricks to bring good-paying jobs back to the 77-acre plot of dirt where once stood a factory that made moon landers and, later, space shuttles. Nothing brought back the good jobs.
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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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The danger of stimulus-induced bubbles is starting to play out in the market for energy-company debt.
Since early 2010, energy producers have raised $550 billion of new bonds and loans as the Federal Reserve held borrowing costs near zero, according to Deutsche Bank AG. With oil prices plunging, investors are questioning the ability of some issuers to meet their debt obligations. Research firm CreditSights Inc. predicts the default rate for energy junk bonds will double to eight percent next year.
“Anything that becomes a mania -- it ends badly,” said Tim Gramatovich, who helps manage more than $800 million as chief investment officer of Santa Barbara, California-based Peritus Asset Management. “And this is a mania.”
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A radical overhaul of the Church of England's leadership is under way.
A key report, still unpublished, sets out a programme of "talent management" in the Church. The report has been signed off by the two Archbishops, and a £2-million budget has been allocated. It was discussed by all the bishops in September, and the House of Bishops on Monday. A spokesman said on Wednesday that the Bishops "welcomed the implementation plan prepared in the light of those discussions. Details will be published next month."
The Church Times has seen the report, Talent Management for Future Leaders and Leadership Development for Bishops and Deans: A new approach, prepared by a steering group chaired by Prebendary the Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, the former HSBC chairman. It speaks of a "culture change for the leadership of the Church", and outlines a two-stage process.
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...the ECB is split over whether to embark on full-blown quantitative easing as a way to achieve growth. Such a policy is strongly opposed by Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann and other hawkish members of the bank’s governing council.
They believe the central bank’s existing measures, which include buying covered bonds and asset-backed securities and auctioning cheap cash to eurozone lenders, are enough to lift inflation to the ECB’s target of below but close to 2 per cent.
But analysts think the disappointing take-up at Thursday’s auction has weakened their hand. “The result reduces the strength of the ECB hawks’ argument that existing policy measures are enough,” said Nick Matthews, economist at Nomura.
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Here's a change in corporate human resources - more companies are hiring chaplains. These are the same kinds of people with religious training you find in the military or on college campuses. Chaplains work in companies to help people talk through office frustrations. Here's Lauren Silverman of our member station KERA in Dallas.
LAUREN SILVERMAN, BYLINE: Every week, Chaplain John Eaton knocks on the doors of employees at Purdy McGuire, an engineering firm in Dallas.
CHAPLAIN JOHN EATON: Hey Scott. How's it going, man?
SILVERMAN: How's it going is more than a greeting, it's part of Eaton's job. He talks with employees about anything - sports, church, problems at home. Scott Brown is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon faith. He likes the check-ins.
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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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The National Center for Health Statistics just released its latest data brief summarising the bleak news.
There were only 3.9m births in the US in 2013, according to the report, down about 1% from 2012. The general fertility rate also declined 1% in 2013 to another record low: 62.5 per 1,000 women aged 15–44.
The truth is, birth numbers have been in decline for six straight years, dropping 9% from its peak in 2007, according to the report.
If a slow economy is bad news for the birth rate, it also works the other way: declining fertility and birth rates are bad for the economy. Shrinking labor forces, weaker social security, and other consequences soon follow.
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Church giving is serious business. Scores of newsletters, workshops, and books are devoted to it, and consultants exist to advise institutions on how to maximize funds. A five-year study released last year estimated that "tithers"—Christians who donate 10% or more of their income to church or charity—contribute more than $50 billion a year. (And that’s not counting the many who give a smaller percentage of their income.) There's even crime associated with tithing: In March, Texas megachurch pastor Joel Osteen’s church was robbed of $600,000 in donations from a single weekend.
Somehow, though, the offering process, when ushers pass baskets down the rows and worshippers voluntarily drop in checks or cash, has remained basically unchanged since the 19th century. But who carries cash, let alone checks, anymore?
Luckily for churches, a wave of apps and other digital giving options have risen up to bridge the gap.
Call it the 21st-century offering plate.
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The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams has waded into the debate over withdrawal from the European Union insisting it could leave the UK “dangerously dependent” on the City.
He said leaving the EU would be a “deeply regressive” step and claimed Britain would have almost nothing else “distinctive” to offer outside it. Going it alone could turn the country into an “offshore financial facility”, he added.
The former Archbishop also said it was also becoming impossible to have a “reasonable conversation” about immigration in the UK at present.
And he suggested that hostility towards the EU was being fuelled by an increasingly assertive sense of English identity, partly as a response to Scottish nationalism.
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The origin of Christmas gifts lies in the Christian tradition that says God gave his son, Jesus, as a gift to bring us life; we reflect that generosity by giving gifts to each other. Of course, no gift, however pricey, can truly reflect the gift God gave the world in sending Jesus to share our suffering on the cross, bear the weight of our wrongdoing and offer us the hope of life.
However, our gifts can, in small ways, reflect and point to the self-giving love of God. But the most meaningful gifts are about expressing life, not luxury. This is especially true if, as money-saving expert Martin Lewis tells us, people feel pressured into tit-for-tat giving at Christmas – buying something equally as luxurious as what they’re given.
There is nothing wrong with giving something small, something that is meaningful and reminds the person that you care for them – something from a charity shop, perhaps. It also gives the recipient the freedom to buy you something similarly small but meaningful.
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The Methodist Church Hong Kong redeveloped another site in Wan Chai into a high-rise building in 1998 with New World Development, the builder controlled by the family of Cheng Yu-tung, according to the developer's annual report. The church currently uses some of the floors, while the rest is leased out by New World.
The Anglican Church plans to build two towers of 18 floors and 11 floors as part of a redevelopment near Lan Kwai Fong. The land currently has historic buildings, including the 166-year-old bishop's house and a church that was used by Japanese soldiers during the second world war as a training school.
In the deal reached and approved by the government in 2011, the Anglican Church will preserve the heritage buildings at its own cost. The two new towers will be used for facilities including a church, kindergarten and a medical centre, according to a June 2011 government document.
A representative of the church was unavailable for comment on the development.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged people to reject the culture of consumerism this Christmas and not to feel pressured to lavish expensive gifts on family and friends.
The Most Rev Justin Welby criticised “tit for tat giving” and said that small and meaningful presents gave just the same caring message as those that cost the Earth.
He said that shopping in charity shops, or donating time to loved ones or worthy causes, could be as equally well received and would prevent the sense of dread that accompanies the arrival of credit card bills in the New Year.
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Santa Claus is going to be bringing lots of presents in a couple of weeks, but lower health-insurance costs for most Americans won't be one of them.
People with insurance through an employer—that is, most people with health coverage—are paying "more in premiums and deductibles than ever before" as those costs outpace the growth of wages, a new report finds.
Total premiums for covering a family through an employer-based plan rose 73 percent from 2003 through 2013, while workers' personal share of those premium costs leaped 93 percent during the same time frame, the Commonwealth Fund report said. At the same time, median family income grew just a measly 16 percent.
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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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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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The Church of England said it was in the process of filing shareholder resolutions on climate change at BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
"The resolution is intended to challenge the companies to run their businesses so that they participate constructively in the transition to a low carbon economy", The Church of England wrote in a blog. (bit.ly/1tUBUlN)
The Church said it chose BP and Shell because they have the biggest carbon footprints of all the companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has advised cash-strapped families in the UK to show they care about loved ones by buying Christmas presents from charity shops or simply showing kindness.
The Most Rev Justin Welby said that although gifts have become an essential part of the festive period, it is not all about financial outlay and people should not feel pressure to match what others give them.
Writing in the Christmas edition of Radio Times, he said people can show they care with offers of babysitting, dinner invitations to the elderly or giving time to the local community.
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In a society where people are validated by numbers of likes and re-tweets and where weddings are grand spectacles, publishing images from the big day for the admiration of others is de rigueur. As with our culture at large, extreme weddings and ‘destination’ weddings are both more private and more public.
Throughout the past century, the trends of the elite have filtered down to the public who, inspired by media and commercial culture, adopt and adapt, mirror and modify. Unlike weddings in the past, where people married as a means of uniting families or property, or where weddings were about deferring to parents’ expectations, contemporary couples use weddings as sites for personal expression and distinction. Yet, even extreme or destination weddings incorporate the past in the present. Though weddings can be sites of resistance of traditional values or gender roles, they are rarely sites of rebellion. Ultimately, as couples publicly pledge their love, they pledge allegiance to convention and to the new.
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Barn No. 5 at Hilliker’s Ranch Fresh Eggs is about to become a state-of-the-art multiplex for hens. Two massive scaffolding-like structures, each the length of four school buses, are getting their final nuts and bolts, and in a few weeks, 8,000 cage-free chickens will come thronging and clucking into these new “aviary” roosts. Moving freely around the barn, they will perch on rows of shiny bars, nest on private mats, and quench their thirst from tiny water nipples. While one conveyor belt whisks chicken waste out the door, another one will collect the bounty – a nonstop supply of brown and white eggs.
The roosts, which line both sides of the barn, are replacing dense rows of wire cages that housed chickens for some 60 years. Frank Hilliker, a third-generation egg farmer in this dusty town north of San Diego, strolls through the barn, hoists himself up to the top of the roosting tiers, and surveys the chickens’ new domain.
“Those are privacy curtains,” he says, pointing down at a strip of tomato-red plastic flaps. “Inside is a little AstroTurf pad that they get to lie on, and that’s where they lay their eggs!”
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[Doug] Williams remembered telling Donnell: “You’ve got all kinds of ability. That little girl right there, you can find a way to feed her and make sure she goes to college, but there’s a price you’ve got to pay. Even when you don’t want to work, you’ve got to work.”
As Donnell intensified his drills and added muscle to his lanky frame, Davis also monitored his progress. Delana did everything she could to support them, working two part-time jobs and drawing money from a trust fund her deceased mother had left. Their needs were many; job opportunities were few in their hometown, Ruston, La.
“He never gave up,” Delana said of Donnell. “He was like: ‘I’m going to the league. That’s what I’m going to do.’ He kept working out consistently, just as if football was still on.”
Donnell finally agreed to seek part-time employment and applied to be a driver for Pizza Hut. He never delivered a single pie.
At Davis’s urging, the Giants signed Donnell on March 13, 2012. He spent his first season on the practice squad and competed primarily on special teams last year. He has broken out this season with 51 catches for 516 yards and a team-leading six touchdown receptions.
Donnell, 26, smiled broadly after a recent practice as he reflected on the uncommon path he and his young family had taken.
“My whole career, nothing has been golden,” he said. “Nothing has been paved out. I’ve always had to work for it, which is not a bad thing. My mom always told me, ‘What the Lord has for you, nobody can take from you.’ I believed in that.”
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Uber this week flunked its first test drive around Charleston's legal system.
Taft Navarro, the first known Uber driver to be cited in the region for violating local or state transportation rules, was found guilty Thursday in a Charleston County courtroom. He was required to pay the full fine of $437 for operating a ride-for-hire service at Charleston International Airport without the necessary permit.
Chief Magistrate David Coker's ruling might set something of a precedent for how similar violations will be handled at the airport in the future, Navarro said.
Read it all from the front page of today's local paper.
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A deadly fire is all that betrayed a suspected Chinese hacker group in Kenya believed to be trying to infiltrate banks, mobile money transfer networks, and ATMs.
So far, police have arrested and charged 77 Chinese nationals in connection with activities in an upscale Nairobi suburb. During the raids, police found soundproof rooms fashioned like military dorms that were full of computer equipment and outfitted with high-speed Internet connections, which is uncommon in Kenya.
The discovery of what police call a cybercrime command center comes as Kenya is experiencing a wave of computer crime, with criminal hackers carrying out phishing campaigns to extort money from citizens and launching attacks on banks. The arrests are a fortunate break for a police force struggling to contain the problem.
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The U.S. economy is on track for its strongest year of job creation since 1999, as employers last month ramped up hiring and wage growth posted a small—but potentially significant—pickup.
Nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 321,000 in November, the strongest month of hiring since January 2012, the Labor Department said Friday. Hiring was broad across industries, led by gains in the professional and business-services sector.
“The economy may not yet be a big mean jobs machine but it is just about there,” Joel Naroff, president and chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors Inc., said in a note to clients.
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The bills arrive as regularly as a heartbeat at the Vories’s cozy bi-level brick house just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. It’s the paychecks that are irregular.
These days, Alex Vories, 37, is delivering pizzas for LaRosa’s, though he has to use his parents’ car since he wrecked his own 1997 Nissan van on a rainy day last month. In the spring and autumn, he had managed to snag several weeks of seasonal work with the Internal Revenue Service, sorting tax returns for $14 an hour. But otherwise the family had to make do with the $350 a week his wife, Erica, brought home from her job as a mail clerk for the I.R.S.
“We just kind of wing it every month,” said Mr. Vories, whose unemployment benefits ran out at the end of 2013, 10 months after he lost his job answering phones at Fidelity Investments. Ever since, the family’s income has bounced up and down from one week to the next, like the basketball he and his two sons play with in their driveway, next to the Kentucky Wildcats pennant planted in their front yard.
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An old bit of wisdom – that gambling is only for people who never took math – may have finally hit home with Americans. According to surveys by researchers at the University at Buffalo, the number of gamblers and the frequency of their play have dropped since 1999 despite a recent proliferation of casinos and lotteries. Even more heartening, the largest falloff was among people under age 30 (from 89 percent to 78 percent).
Unlike their elders, perhaps the younger generation knows the odds are never in their favor when they are up against the “Hunger Games”-like gambling industry. Or perhaps the thrill is gone with so many more gambling joints now an easy drive away for most Americans – or just a click away in many places.
The survey, published in the Journal of Gambling Studies, did find hard-core gamblers are betting more money and that Internet gambling has gone up. But policymakers – who generally promote gambling – should take note of the decline in interest among young people.
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We’re all familiar with our Lord’s words that it’s “more blessed to give than to receive.” As it turns out, this maxim is not only true as a matter of faith, it’s empirically true, as well.
This is the subject of a new book, “The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose,” by BreakPoint favorite and Notre Dame Professor Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, a doctoral student at Notre Dame.
The book is based on research from Notre Dame’s “Science of Generosity” initiative. As Smith and Davidson write in the introduction, “By grasping onto what we currently have . . . we lose out on better goods that we might have gained . . .”
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The American middle class has absorbed a steep increase in the cost of health care and other necessities as incomes have stagnated over the past half decade, a squeeze that has forced families to cut back spending on everything from clothing to restaurants.
Health-care spending by middle-income Americans rose 24% between 2007 and 2013, driven by an even larger rise in the cost of buying health insurance, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of detailed consumer-spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That hit has been accompanied by increases in spending on other necessities, including food eaten at home, rent and education, as well as the soaring cost of staying connected digitally via cellphones and home Internet service.
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Across the country, laborers are hard at work lifting 700-pound shelves full of multivolume encyclopedias, propane grills or garden gnomes and dragging them across vast warehouse floors. Carefully trained not to bump into one another, the squat workers are 320 pounds and a mere 16 inches tall.
No, they’re not Christmas elves—they’re some of the most advanced robots that e-commerce giant Amazon now uses to ship its goods. In an exclusive video for TIME, photographer and videographer Stephen Wilkes captured these Amazon robots in action at the company’s Tracy, Calif., warehouse.
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What better time to talk to dead people for fun than the festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus? Ouija boards are flying themselves off shelves and under trees this Christmas, according to trends data released by Google. The company has recorded a 300 per cent increase in searches for the spirit-bothering devices, fuelled by a terrible movie that was effectively a feature-length ad for a board game, an appearance on The Archers, and the Victorian belief that if the dead could speak, they would use a plank of a wood and the alphabet.
Ouija, released in October in time for Halloween, was, by all accounts, a cliché-ridden turkey about a group of teenage girls who experiment with a board and get scared. It has a disastrous 7 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregating site, but became an occult hit, to the delight of its backers. Hasbro, the toy company behind Monopoly, pushed for the revival of the film, which had stalled in development, and partnered with Universal to make it happen. Its Ouija Game, including a glow-in-the-dark version, is – sure enough – the biggest seller online.
Read it all from the Independent. One C of E clergyman is concerned: ‘It’s like opening a shutter in one’s soul and letting in the supernatural,’ says Peter Irwin-Clark, a Church of England vicar who has witnessed the dark side of Ouija. ‘There are spiritual realities out there and they can be very negative.’
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Homeland security officials have issued their strongest warning yet that American service members may be targeted in the U.S. by the militant group ISIS, according to a report Monday.
A joint intelligence bulletin issued by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security said military personnel should review their social media accounts and remove anything that could draw the attention of “violent extremists,” specifically those from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), ABC News reports. The group has been targeted for months by a bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq, conducted by the U.S. and several other nations in the region.
“The FBI and DHS recommend that current and former members of the military review their online social media accounts for any information that might serve to attract the attention of ISIL [ISIS] and its supporters,” read the bulletin sent to law enforcement agencies. Some personnel said they had been urged to scrub their profiles by security officials in August.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Military / Armed Forces Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy The U.S. Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Next year, people born between 1981 and 1996 are poised to become the new workforce majority and will eventually remake the workplace in their own image. That means office culture is in for big changes. As a new survey shows, this generation is already chafing at today's traditional company structures.
Freelancer platform Elance-oDesk and Millennial Branding, a research consultancy, interviewed more than a thousand working millennials and 200 older hiring managers to arrive at what they call the "disjoints" in thinking between these two generations. The two groups often had different perspectives on what’s important.
Roughly two-thirds of hiring managers agree that millennials have more equal attitudes toward genders in the workplace. But the report suggests that gender-based discrimination—whether it comes to salary or assignments—is still rife. More than 20% of millennial women say that when they arrive at their new jobs, they feel like work is worse than they expected. Only 12% of millennial men feel similarly.
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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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction Globalization Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary South America Uruguay * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Leading U.S. CEOs, angered by the Obama administration's challenge to certain "workplace wellness" programs, are threatening to side with anti-Obamacare forces unless the government backs off, according to people familiar with the matter.
Major U.S. corporations have broadly supported President Barack Obama's healthcare reform despite concerns over several of its elements, largely because it included provisions encouraging the wellness programs.
The programs aim to control healthcare costs by reducing smoking, obesity, hypertension and other risk factors that can lead to expensive illnesses. A bipartisan provision in the 2010 healthcare reform law allows employers to reward workers who participate and penalize those who don't.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market The U.S. Government Politics in General * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Although Saudi Arabia and several of the Gulf states are also major oil exporters, they differ from other producers in two important ways. First, their cost of extracting oil is extremely low, which means that they will be able to produce profitably at the current price – or even at a much lower price. Second, their enormous financial reserves allow them to finance their domestic and international activities for an extended period of time, as they seek to transform their economies to reduce their dependence on oil revenue.
A further decline in the price of oil could have major geopolitical repercussions. A price of $60 a barrel would create severe problems for Russia in particular. President Vladimir Putin would no longer be able to maintain the transfer programs that currently sustain his popular support. There would be similar consequences in Iran and Venezuela.
It is not clear whether these countries’ current regimes could survive a substantial and sustained future decline in oil prices. By contrast, it is obvious that oil-importing countries would benefit greatly – as they already are.
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Filed under: * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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