Posted by Kendall Harmon




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Posted July 24, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

French President Francois Hollande said that the 19 countries using the euro need their own government complete with a budget and parliament to cooperate better and overcome the Greek crisis.

“Circumstances are leading us to accelerate,” Hollande said in an opinion piece published by the Journal du Dimanche on Sunday. “What threatens us is not too much Europe, but a lack of it.”

While the euro zone has a common currency, fiscal and economic policies remain mostly in the hands of each member state. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi made a plea this week for deeper cooperation between the euro members after political squabbles over Greece almost led to a rupture in the single currency.

Read it all.

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Posted July 19, 2015 at 12:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This is an all too little known tale--take the time to watch it all.

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Posted July 16, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christians have come lately and weakly to the causes of environmental healing and restoration. When environmental activists in the 1960s noted that Christianity bore a major responsibility for our environmental crises, the vast majority of Christians remained unmoved. In the curricula of leading institutions of theological education in the 1980s, ecological concerns barely made an appearance. Now, roughly 30 years later, it’s still not uncommon to find Christians who are either in denial or fail to see how the environmental problems of our day are distinctly theological concerns.

How can this be? How can one affirm God the Creator and at the same time degrade the health and vitality of God’s creation? We can offer many reasons to explain this contradictory state of affairs, but I believe that our problem goes to the manners and methods of theological practice itself, so that even when theologians turn their attention to ecological concerns, they often have considerable difficulty finding anything helpful to say other than “Come on, people. It’s time to take care of creation!” In other words, the problem is theology’s inadequate form and function. The destruction of the earth is, among other things, a theological catastrophe, and Christian apathy is a sign that theological reflection has lost its way.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchClimate Change, WeatherHistoryReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEnergy, Natural Resources* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 14, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Urgent action is needed to tackle climate change the General Synod pledged today in a wide ranging motion acknowledging that global warming is disproportionately affecting the world's poorest.

Members overwhelmingly backed a call for world leaders to seek to limit the global rise in average temperatures to a maximum of 2 C - widely considered to be the threshold above which the impacts of climate change will be the most severe.

The motion on combating climate change, the Paris climate change conference and the mission of the Church, included a pledge to draw attention to an initiative to pray and fast for the success of the Paris talks.

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, the Church of England's lead bishop on the environment, introducing the motion, said: "In the last 150 years we have burned fossil fuels that took one billion years to lay down in the earth. The earth cannot sustain this level of consumption. This is about our 'reading the signs of the times' and 'seeking the common good'.

Read it all.

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Posted July 14, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When big questions, like the future of Europe, hang in the balance, it can be tempting to toy with grand theories about the ways in which religion affects culture and economics. A famous one was put forward by Max Weber (pictured), who posited a link between capitalism and Protestant ideas of guilt and salvation. Such theories usually contain a grain of truth, but religious determinism shouldn't be pushed too far because there are always exceptions.

Still, as religious-determinist theories go, an interesting one was put forward by Giles Fraser, a well-known left-wing priest of the Church of England, in a recent radio broadcast. He suggested that behind the financial standoff between Greece and Germany, there was a theological difference (between western and eastern Christians) in the understanding of how humans are reconciled with God.

As Mr Fraser recalled, traditional Protestant and Catholic teaching has presented the self-sacrifice of Christ as the payment of a debt to God the Father. In this view, human sinfulness created a debt which simply had to be settled, but could not be repaid by humanity because of its fallen state; so the Son of God stepped in and took care of that vast obligation. For Orthodox theologians, this wrongly portrays God the Father as a sort of heavenly debt-collector who is himself constrained by some iron necessity; they prefer to see the passion story as an act of mercy by a God who is free. Over-simplifying only a little, Mr Fraser observed: "the idea that the cross is some sort of cosmic pay-back for human sin [reflects] a no-pain-no-gain obsession with suffering," from an eastern Christian viewpoint.

Read it all.

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Posted July 13, 2015 at 5:52 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Amit Singhal, Google’s search chief, oversees the 200 or so factors that determine where websites rank in the company’s search engine, which means he decides if your website lives or dies. His current challenge: figuring out how to spread that same fear and influence to mobile phones.

In a recent interview at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., Mr. Singhal laid out a widely held thesis for why smartphones are fundamentally changing how people are consuming information: Phones have small screens that are annoying to type on, and people have grown so addicted to their phones that they carry them everywhere and go to bed with them by their side. Also, in a shift with big implications for his company’s sway over the Internet, smartphone users spend the bulk of their time in mobile apps instead of the open web on which Google built its business.

Add it all up, and “you have to rethink what search means pretty much from first principles,” he said.

Read it all.

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Posted July 13, 2015 at 12:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Greece has received a tentative reprieve from exiting the euro, but the harsh austerity demands piled onto the recession-damaged country may still ultimately force it out the door, economists say.

Some of them think the chances of a Greek exit form the euro – Grexit – have not in any way diminished now that Greece and its creditors have tentatively approved a three-year, €86-billion bailout package that will boost Greece’s debt, increase taxes and trigger privatizations at what will likely be fire-sale prices.

In a note published Monday, Manulife chief economist Megan Greene said the deal, if approved by both sides and the national parliaments of the euro zone countries “will almost certainly be a failure for both political and economic reasons. The immediate risk of Grexit may be slightly lower following the summit conclusions this weekend, but the overall risk of Grexit is materially higher.”

Read it all.

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Posted July 13, 2015 at 11:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The fact that a formal Grexit may have been avoided for the moment is immaterial. Grexit will be back on the table when you have the slightest political accident — and there are still many things that could go wrong, both in Greece and in other eurozone parliaments. Any other country that in future might challenge German economic orthodoxy will face similar problems.

This brings us back to a more toxic version of the old exchange-rate mechanism of the 1990s that left countries trapped in a system run primarily for the benefit of Germany, which led to the exit of the British pound and the temporary departure of the Italian lira. What was left was a coalition of countries willing to adjust their economies to Germany’s. Britain had to leave because it was not.

What should the Greeks do now? Forget for a moment the economic debate of the last few months, over issues such as the impact of austerity or economic reforms on growth, and ask yourself this simple question: do you really think that an economic reform programme, for which a government has no political mandate, which has been explicitly rejected in a referendum, that has been forced through by sheer political blackmail, can conceivably work?

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Posted July 13, 2015 at 7:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Found here:
"What marks [sloth] is that it holds anxiety at bay by total absorption in an activity that raises no questions beyond itself ... Sin is present not merely in the ambition that remakes the world to suit its own plans, but in the sensuality that loses itself in immediate possibilities, in the sloth that absorbs itself in petty concerns and excuses its mediocre performance, and even in the disciplined pursuit of excellences that have been carefully defined by someone else.... "Those who find their work meaningless and who lack significant personal relationships will find much encouragement in a consumer-oriented society to devote themselves to new forms of gadgetry and to establish a firm decorative control over their limited personal environment. These evasions of freedom, along with the forms of indulgence more usually associated with 'sensuality', must be seen as genuine forms of sin ...

We must also identify a form of institutional sin that elicits sensuality or sloth from persons by demanding commitments that preclude responsible attention to the range of choices and responsibilities that they ought to be attending to for themselves. The 'up or out', 'publish or perish' career trajectories imposed by businesses, law firms, and academic institutions provide familiar examples of this sort of pressure ... Those who yield to these pressures are often pictured as ambitious, 'fast-track' achievers whose chief temptation would seem to be to emulate the pride of their seniors and superiors. In fact, however, their achievements are often expressions of sensuality and sloth. The rising executive or scholar abandons the difficult balancing of obligations that marks a life of freedom constrained by human finitude, and substitutes a single set of goals defined by outside authorities ... The over-achiever stills anxiety in precisely the way that Niebuhr describes the sensual evasion, 'by finding a god in a person or process outside the self'."


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spending* TheologyAnthropologyEschatologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

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Posted July 13, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Greece reached a deal with its European creditors Monday, pledging stringent austerity to avoid an exit from the euro and the global financial chaos that could have followed.

The deal calls for Greeks, already reeling from harsh measures and economic decline, to cut back even further in exchange for more loans without which its financial system would surely collapse. The deal, which still needs approval from Greece's parliament, will be the country's third bailout in five years.

To get to a deal, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had to overcome the fundamental mistrust of many of his allies among the 18 other countries that use the euro, known as the eurozone. Just a week earlier, at his urging, Greeks had voted in a referendum to reject many of the measures he agreed to Monday, and the deal forced him to renege on many of his election promises.

"We managed to avoid the most extreme measures," Tsipras said. "Greece will fight to return to growth and to reclaim its lost sovereignty."

Read it all.

Update: Politico also has a summary article on the deal there.

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Posted July 13, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget on Wednesday included a proposal to allow local control over liberalising Sunday trading.

The campaign in the 1990s for more Sunday trading was presented as a matter of freedom: “We should be able to shop on Sunday if we want,” but it was not about creating a more just society – it was about trying to find business advantage. A determined lobby successfully argued against total deregulation to preserve some of the value of a shared day off and some protection for retail workers and associated employees.

The legislation, which was passed in 1994, was a compromise which tried to balance rights and opportunities for all sections of society. That must still be the objective today.

Retail and associated workers are hardly well off, and it is they who will pay the price of longer opening hours on Sundays. While most of their bosses will still enjoy weekends off, many retail workers already find they have no choice over Sunday working. They have lost, for a large part, the premium payments they enjoyed at first. In addition, they will face more childcare costs, which will probably be more expensive on a Sunday, or lose precious family time.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 12, 2015 at 1:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A strict monotheist, Soubry wants us to worship the god of finance on a Sunday. All other gods must be smashed, smeared, ridiculed. Only the god of money deserves our true and unquestioning obedience. Well, I do wish she’d stop ramming her religion down our throats. I don’t want to be more productive. I want to lie about on the sofa watching rubbish TV. Or chat aimlessly to the people I love. Or just sit under a tree and do nothing. These are perfectly respectable things to do.

So why is Sunday special? The Christian answer is more complicated than expected. Early Christians moved their “day of rest” from the seventh day of the week to the first day, from Saturday to Sunday. Despite the fourth commandment mandating Saturday, ie seventh day, sabbath observance, this move was partly a way of honouring the resurrection, which happened “on the first day of the week”; partly about distinguishing Christianity from Judaism; and partly a way of colonising the posh Roman sun-worshipping day.

But it also conveniently distanced Christianity, and its new imperial friends, from all that dangerously redistributive stuff about the jubilee, to which the sabbath is fundamentally connected. For the seventh day of the week corresponded to the seventh day of creation, when God rested – and from this derives: 1) rest on the seventh day; 2) rest for the land on the seventh year (which on the Jewish calender is this year); and 3) the forgiveness of all debts – the jubilee – on the seventh times seventh year.

Read it all.


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Posted July 11, 2015 at 3:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Kevin Kruse’s Under God: How Corporate American Invented Christian America is an engaging and important book with a somewhat misleading central argument.

Kruse explains how many things Americans take for granted came to be: the presence of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, the adoption of “In God We Trust” as a national motto, the annual “presidential” prayer breakfast, and the presidential practice of ending speeches with “may God bless America.” Although “In God We Trust” has a longer history, many elements of American civil religion have their roots not in the American founding but in the more recent past.

Nor did expressions of public piety bubble up from the pews. Instead, a coalition of politically conservative business leaders forged ties with likeminded ministers, evangelists, and politicians to fight against New Deal liberalism, Communism, and immorality. Kruse describes their agenda as “Christan libertarianism.” Many individuals played leading roles in this cause: the Congregationalist minister James Fifield, Goodwill Industries founder Abraham Vereide, philanthropist J. Howard Pew, Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney. But the two foremost heroes (or villains, depending on your perspective) were Dwight Eisenhower and Billy Graham.

Read it all from Christianity Today.

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Posted July 11, 2015 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In recent days, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis have all spoken out on the vital issue of climate change. It is vital, because the long-term future of the Earth and its inhabitants is at stake. It is no less a matter than that.

The issue of climate change led to the landmark Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which set out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system. What is termed the Conference of Parties (COP) regularly reviews the implementation of the Rio action programme. The next COP will be held next December in Paris and, for the first time in two decades of UN negotiations, will seek to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, aiming to keep global warming below 2°C.

Read it all.

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Posted July 10, 2015 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The question is posed: Can the United States go on as it has been with a good portion of its working class almost entirely isolated from the promise of our country?

It is a yes or no question. A “yes” involves the acceptance of a rigid, self-perpetuating class system in a country with democratic and egalitarian pretentions — a system upheld and enforced by heavy-handed policing, routine incarceration and social and educational segregation.

A “no” is just the start of a very difficult task. The mixed legacy of the Great Society — helping the elderly get health care, it turns out, is easier than creating opportunity in economically and socially decimated communities — has left the national dialogue on poverty ideologically polarized. And many policy proposals in this field seem puny in comparison to the Everest of need.

But there is one set of related policy ideas that would dramatically help the poor and should not be ideologically divisive. How about a renewed effort to help the poor by refusing to cheat them?

Read it all.

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Posted July 10, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Church leaders, trade unionists, and politicians have expressed concern over government plans to relax the Sunday-trading laws.

Currently, large stores can open for up to six hours on Sundays, but the Chancellor, George Osborne, used his Budget speech on Wednesday afternoon to announce his plans to devolve responsibility for Sunday-trading laws to directly elected mayors and local authorities.

The move has come in for sharp criticism. The Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham tweeted: “Sundays are only day people who work in shops can bank on some time with their kids. I will oppose this all the way.”

The leader of the shop workers’ union USDAW, John Hannett, said that the Government should “honour the promise of a full consultation and parliamentary process for any proposed changes to the Sunday Trading Act....'

Read it all.

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Posted July 10, 2015 at 5:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The contours of a deal on Sunday are starting to emerge.

Syriza has requested a three-year package of loans from the eurozone bail-out fund (ESM) - perhaps worth as much as €60bn – and is reportedly ready give ground on tax rises and pension cuts.

Germany’s subtle shift in position comes as the United States, France, and Italy joined in a united call for debt relief, buttressed by a crescendo of emphatic statements by Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund.

"Greece is clearly in a situation of acute crisis, which needs to be addressed seriously and promptly. We remain fully engaged in order to find a solution to restore stability, growth and debt sustainability," said Ms Lagarde.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermanyGreece* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 9, 2015 at 6:22 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

More than 100 MPs in Angela Merkel’s conservative party group have already written Greece out of the euro, even as its government scrambles to cobble together a plan acceptable to creditors.

The size of the rebellion in her own ranks — the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union faction — limits the German chancellor’s ability to soften her position against Greece and all but kills off its hope of a huge debt write-off as part of the new bailout plan it needs to prevent a banking collapse.

Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, has been given until midnight tonight to submit plans justifying another multibillion-euro loan deal to keep Greece afloat or face a future outside the euro, with the EU already preparing humanitarian aid for the Greek people.

Announcing its intention yesterday to seek a three-year bailout, Greece said it wanted to make its €323 billion debt mountain “sustainable and viable over the long term”, code for the cut of 30 per cent demanded by Mr Tsipras.

Read it all 9requires subscription).

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermanyGreece* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 9, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It was a rough day for tech: The nation’s biggest airline, its oldest stock exchange, and its most prominent business newspaper all suffered technology problems that upended service for parts of Wednesday.

Government officials said that it did not appear that the incidents were related, or the result of sabotage, counter to an endless stream of jokes and conspiracy theories posted on Facebook and Twitter — and even the suspicions of FBI director James Comey.

“In my business, you don’t love coincidences,” Comey told Congress Wednesday. “But it does appear that there is not a cyber intrusion involved.”

Read it all.


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Posted July 8, 2015 at 4:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Archbishop of Canterbury has attacked plans by oil companies to begin drilling in the Arctic.

The Most Rev Justin Welby, who worked in the oil industry before he was ordained, said that he was concerned by how difficult it would be to contain and clean up an oil spill should there be an accident in the region.

Shell is expected to begin drilling in the Arctic this month after its plans were approved by the US government. A fifth of the world’s undiscovered gas and oil is believed to lie in the Arctic.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEnergy, Natural Resources* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 8, 2015 at 2:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A spokesman from Church House, Westminster, said: “The Church of England has always maintained that a common day of rest is important for family life, for community life and for personal well-being. Increased Sunday trading will inevitably lead to further erosion of shared leisure time when a majority of people can count on being able to do things together. It will have an impact on community activities of many kinds, amateur sport, contact across extended families and religious observance. It seems quite contrary to the objectives of the Big Society, which once helped to shape policy and which the Church of England enthusiastically supported. Any further erosion of shared community life, whether that is driven by central or local government, will be detrimental to all of us.”

Bishop Colin added: “Clearly we await with interest to see what the Chancellor is actually proposing but it would be very sad for many people if Sundays were to become just like every other day of the week in terms of shopping. Even with the current levels of shop-opening there is something different about Sundays for most people – and certainly for most families – with its change of pace and we would be unwise as a society to encourage that to disappear.”

Read it all.

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Posted July 8, 2015 at 11:34 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The German Red Cross said today it was willing to rush medical and other humanitarian aid to Greece as the country’s economy teetered on the brink of collapse.

“We are ready in every respect,” spokesman Dieter Schutz told Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper. “Pensioners, the poor, the sick and refugees” have been hit hardest, he said.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, who will chair the summit said: “I have no doubt that this is the most critical moment in the history of the EU. This will affect all Europe also in the geopolitical sense.”

President Hollande of France, the most optimistic of eurozone leaders on finding a solution, said: “What is at stake is the place of Greece within the EU and therefore the eurozone.”

Read it all (requires subsciption).

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Posted July 8, 2015 at 11:12 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Readers of Travel + Leisure ranked Charleston as the No. 1 city to visit in the U.S. and Canada in its 2014 World's Best Awards announced Wednesday.

Charleston landed the No. 2 slot in the publication's top 10 list of best cities in the world overall. Kyoto, Japan, took the leading spot by a fraction.

Cities are given numeric scores based on readers's ratings of sights and landmarks, culture and arts, restaurants and food, people, and value.

"We believe that Charleston encapsulates the authentic travel experience for which Travel + Leisure readers are looking," said Dan Blumenstock, director of hotel operations of Fennel Holdings and chair of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. "That readers ranked Charleston the best city in the U.S. and Canada is a testament to Charleston's viability as a world-class destination for travelers."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaTravel* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in GeneralCity Government* General Interest* South Carolina

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Posted July 8, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Shops across the country will be able to stay open for longer on Sundays, George Osborne will announce in this week’s Budget.

The Chancellor will use his first Budget as Chancellor in a majority Tory Government to begin a massive shakeup of Sunday trading laws that currently prevent businesses opening for more than six hours.

He said that “there is still a growing appetite for shopping on a Sunday” and that businesses need the change to ensure that they can compete with online retailers.

Read it all.

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Posted July 7, 2015 at 7:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There are, as many European and American writers have been commenting lately, sound geopolitical reasons to prevent the worst from happening in Greece. Migration issues, NATO issues, energy issues, terrorism, Russia: an angry, inflamed, suffering and radicalized Greece on a kind of Venezuelan path to national destruction could make life much more difficult for Europeans and Americans both. These considerations should be enough to command some attention and resources from policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic sufficient to avert worst case scenarios for the Greek people.

For Grexit to be a step forward rather than a step back, Western and Greek leaders need to become more creative and forward-looking. Washington needs to stop bleating platitudes about the evils of austerity and to start thinking hard about bolstering an alliance that remains critical to its global position; Brussels and Berlin need to move beyond anger at Greek tactics to a sober calculation of Europe’s interests; the Greeks need to reflect on the cost of being represented at a grave hour of national crisis by inexperienced politicians who none of their counterparts in Europe trust or respect.

But Brussels and Berlin (and Paris, Rome and Madrid) need to realize something else. Greece’s problems under the euro have been worse than anyone else’s, but Greece is not totally unique. There are deep design flaws in the euro and the common currency has not worked nearly as well as any of its proponents hoped. The discussion over the future of Greece needs to be delinked from the discussion over the future of the euro—but that doesn’t mean that the future of the euro doesn’t need to be discussed.

Read it all.

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Posted July 5, 2015 at 1:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...the risks have not been eliminated. The margin for error for the major banks and other financial institutions is narrow. Because they are still not strongly capitalized, modest losses from direct defaults and indirect losses from companies with business in Greece can threaten bank equity, causing bankers to cut back on lending. A few miscalculations in a major institution could have substantial repercussions. Making matters worse, central bankers have only a limited capacity to buoy the economy, as interest rates are still near zero.

The second channel through which risk and loss can spread from Greece is other heavily indebted countries, like Spain and Italy. So far, the financial markets have not panicked over the ability of these countries to repay their bonds. But a shift in the political situation – especially in Spain, where the left-wing Podemos party is doing well in the polls – could change that in an instant.

Finally, a Greek default and exit from the eurozone could unleash unpredictable political forces with a knock-on effect on the European economy. After all, it was the first wave of austerity in Greece that led to the election of Syriza, a left-wing party that few had expected would ever govern.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeGreece* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 5, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Greece's prime minister has put his political clout behind the "no" camp in a referendum to decide whether the country should accept the terms of an international bailout. But the people appear to be evenly split on the issue, according to two new opinion polls.

One survey, conducted by the respected ALCO institute just 48 hours before the referendum that could decide Greece's economic fate and future in the eurozone, gives the "yes" camp 44.8 percent against 43.4 percent for the "no" side, according to Reuters.

But a second poll, conducted by Public Issue and published in the ruling party's newspaper, reports a 0.5-percentage-point lead for those opposed to the bailout.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeGreece

1 Comments
Posted July 3, 2015 at 1:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nearly seven in 10 millennials, or 69% of those ages 18 to 34, say they have it harder than previous generations in securing a middle-class lifestyle. But the story doesn’t stop at younger Americans feeling they have it harder than older generations. Seventy-seven percent of seniors say that young people today have a harder time achieving a secure middle-class lifestyle compared with their counterparts 20 or 30 years ago. The share of seniors with this view is striking, particularly given that many of them have lived through the Great Depression, World War II, Stagflation, the stock market crash of 1987, and, most recently, the Great Recession.

More than seven in 10 Americans also believe that millennials have it harder when it comes to saving for retirement (81%); owning a home (76%); having a stable, decent-paying job (71%); and having stable, affordable housing (71%).

These are some of the findings from a recent Hart Research survey conducted for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s How Housing Matters Initiative. It also found that millennials are concerned about their housing situation and that many have had personal experience with housing distress. This has caused them to re-assess the feasibility of homeownership, with many millennial homeowners considering whether to rent in the future.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 3, 2015 at 11:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Today, a new "cloud tax" takes effect in the city of Chicago, targeting online databases and streaming entertainment services. It's a puzzling tax, cutting against many of the basic assumptions of the web, but the broader implications could be even more unsettling. Cloud services are built to be universal: Netflix works the same anywhere in the US, and except for rights constraints, you could extend that to the entire world. But many taxes are local — and as streaming services swallow up more and more of the world's entertainment, that could be a serious problem.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetMovies & Television* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in GeneralCity Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 1, 2015 at 12:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Almost on cue, there were three different news stories about abortion and Down syndrome around the time of the encyclical’s release. New blood screening, for instance, has resulted in a 34 percent increase in such abortions in Britain. Just a few days later, a Washington Post guest columnist argued such routine and systematic screening — not least because between 67 percent and 92 percent end up aborting — constitutes the formal “elimination of a group of people quite happy being themselves” under “the false pretense of women’s rights.” And then there was the story of the truly despicable company stealing the image of a child with Down syndrome for their Orwellian-sounding test kit named “Tranquility.”

You couldn’t ask for a more revealing practice of the throwaway culture Pope Francis so strongly decries. It doesn’t matter that people with Down syndrome are happier than those who are “normal;” our consumer culture’s tendency is to turn everything into a mere object or tool of the market, and when the object or tool is no longer useful, we simply discard it. These children don’t meet the quality-control standards of the consumer, and so the product simply gets thrown out as so much trash.

But one of the central themes of Pope Francis’s encyclical is that all creation has value independent of its value within a consumer culture. In response to my sharing the three stories mentioned above on social media, an old friend sent me a touching e-mail (parts of which are shared here with permission) about her sister with Down syndrome. She remembers that her family was initially sad and worried — but now, looking back, “it truly made no sense....”

Read it all from Charles Camosy in the Washington Post.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsMarriage & FamilyPsychologyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spending* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 29, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....the controversial law still faces a bumpy future. Here are five challenges the ACA will face during the next several years:

Healthcare costs are still too high. As many enrollees are discovering, the “Affordable” Care Act is somewhat misnamed. Healthcare costs continue to rise faster than wages or overall inflation, putting a financial burden even on people who have healthcare. A recent study by the Commonwealth Fund found that 23% of Americans who have healthcare coverage are “underinsured,” meaning their out-of-pocket spending on healthcare is more than 10% of their income in a given year. Deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs have been rising because consumers and businesses have been opting for plans with lower premiums—which usually require the patient to bear more of the cost before 100% coverage kicks in. The irony is that insurance has gotten more affordable, but actual healthcare hasn’t.

The ACA includes several long-term provisions meant to explore ways to lower costs, but they may not be nearly enough to offset other trends pushing costs up, such as the retirement of the baby boomers and the development of expensive new drugs. If Congress ever gets serious about improving the ACA rather that faux-repealing it, cost will be the thing to focus on.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinancePolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 26, 2015 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches says Christians must grasp the “unique ecumenical momentum” created by Pope Francis’ new encyclical on the environment. He also believes it’s vital to respond in a more practical and pastoral way to migrants in Europe who are radically changing our “reflection about who is in communion with whom”.

Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit was in Rome on Tuesday to attend celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the Joint Working Group of the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. Set up just before the end of the Second Vatican Council, the Group is holding a plenary session in Rome this week to begin its tenth round of ecumenical conversations.

In a message to Rev Fykse Tveit to mark the occasion, Pope Francis said we should be encouraged by the collaboration the Group has promoted, “not only in ecumenical issues, but also in the areas of interreligious dialogue, peace and social justice, and works of charity and humanitarian aid”. But he stressed that despite the many ecumenical achievements, “Christian mission and witness still suffer due to our divisions”.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEnergy, Natural Resources* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical Relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 24, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

How is it being used?

Last week, US government agency talks that were intended to create a code of conduct for the technology fell apart. Privacy campaigners walked out of the discussions, claiming that companies and government agencies were unwilling to accept that they must always seek permission before using facial recognition technology to identify someone.

Alvaro Bedoya, from Georgetwon University Law Centre in Washington DC, told New Scientist that “not a single company would support [the principle].”

Uses of the technology are becoming increasingly Orwellian. Tesco plans to install screens that scan customers’ faces, determine their age and gender, and show them a relevant advertisement.

In the United States, a company called Face First offers retailers the ability to "build a database of good customers, recognize them when they come through the door, and make them feel more welcome” (in other words, schmooze the big spenders). The product also sends alerts whenever “known litigious individuals enter any of your locations”. Another company, Churchix, uses facial recognition technology to track congregation church attendance.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPsychologyReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 24, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At the June 18 launch of the highly-anticipated encyclical Laudato Si (The Care for Our Common Home), Cardinal Peter Turkson acknowledged a critique that the Church is taking sides on scientifically still-debatable topics such as global warming, pollution, species extinction and global inequality’s impact on natural resources.

“The aim of the encyclical is not to intervene in this debate, which is the responsibility of scientists, and even less to establish exactly in which ways the climate changes are a consequence of human action” he said. Instead, the goal of the document is to promote the well-being of all creation and “to develop an integral ecology, which in its diverse dimensions comprehends ‘our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings,” the cardinal said, quoting the encyclical.

“Science is the best tool by which we can listen to the cry of the earth,” Cardinal Turkson said, noting that regardless of the various positions, studies tells us that “today the earth, our sister, mistreated and abused.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted June 21, 2015 at 3:55 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

People of faith need to focus on the moral and spiritual elements of the crisis brought about by rapid climate change, Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, said today in response to Pope Francis's encyclical on the issue.

In a statement issued from Cape Town, the Archbishop said:

"I would like to thank Pope Francis for this historic, ground-breaking letter. I look forward to studying it in more detail.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Culture-WatchGlobalizationScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEnergy, Natural Resources* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 19, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Archbishop of Canterbury has joined faith leaders in Britain pledging to fast and pray for the success of key international negotiations over climate change, in a new declaration warning of the “huge challenge” facing the world over global warming.

Representatives of the major faiths, including Archbishop Justin Welby, said climate change has already hit the poorest of the world hardest and urgent action is needed now to protect future generations.

In the Lambeth Declaration, which will be launched tomorrow, signatories call on faith communities to recognise the pressing need to make the transition to a low carbon economy.

The call comes ahead of the international climate change talks in Paris this December where negotiators from more than 190 nations will gather to discuss a new global agreement on climate change, aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 when current commitments run out.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEnergy, Natural Resources* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted June 17, 2015 at 6:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Inevitably fragilities remain. Europe is deep in debt and dependent on exports. Japan cannot get inflation to take hold. Wage growth could quickly dent corporate earnings and valuations in America. Emerging economies, which accounted for the bulk of growth in the post-crisis years, have seen better days. The economies of both Brazil and Russia are expected to shrink this year. Poor trade data suggest that Chinese growth may be slowing faster than the government wishes.

If any of these worries causes a downturn the world will be in a rotten position to do much about it. Rarely have so many large economies been so ill-equipped to manage a recession, whatever its provenance, as our “wriggle-room” ranking makes clear.... Rich countries’ average debt-to-GDP ratio has risen by about 50% since 2007. In Britain and Spain debt has more than doubled. Nobody knows where the ceiling is, but governments that want to splurge will have to win over jumpy electorates as well as nervous creditors. Countries with only tenuous access to bond markets, as in the euro zone’s periphery, may be unable to launch a big fiscal stimulus.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEuropean Central BankG20 Housing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Banking System/SectorThe U.S. GovernmentFederal ReserveForeign RelationsPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 15, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The decision by Apple, Walmart, Eli Lilly, Angie’s List, and so on was a business decision—even more, a marketing decision. Coming out in opposition to the Indiana RFRA law was one of the shrewdest marketing coups since E.T. followed a trail of Reese’s Pieces. The decision to #BoycottIndiana was not made because it was the politically courageous thing to do; it was made because it was the profitable thing to do. The establishment could express support for a fashionable social norm while exerting very little effort, incurring no actual cost, and making no sacrifice to secure the goal. It had the further advantage of distracting most people from the fact that corporations like Apple have no compunction doing business in places with outright oppression of gays, women, and Christians. Those real forms of repression and discrimination didn’t matter; Indiana’s purported oppression of gays did.

The public statements, often hyperbolic propaganda about the dire consequences of the Indiana law, were cost-free because gay rights activists have successfully argued that opposition to gay marriage is tantamount to racism. Through a powerful and concerted effort, gay activists have succeeded in convincing the establishment that gays are the equivalent of blacks in Selma, and that their opponents—particularly their Christian opponents—are Bull Connors. There can simply be no brooking bigotry! Democrats like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton conveniently forget their previous support for conjugal marriage, and none of their supporters seek to hold them to account. All that matters is that one now deny that there can be reasonable opposition to gay marriage, and affirm that those who maintain that view are rank bigots. Companies like Apple and Walmart eagerly joined the bandwagon once it was clear that the tactic had worked.

There is a deeper reason for corporate support, however. ­Today’s corporate ideology has a strong affinity with the lifestyles of those who are defined by mobility, ethical flexibility, liberalism (whether economic or social), a consumerist mentality in which choice is paramount, and a “progressive” outlook in which rapid change and “creative destruction” are the only certainties. The response to Indiana’s RFRA law shows very clearly that corporations have joined forces with Republicans on economic matters and Democrats on social ones. Corporate America is aligned with the ascendant ­libertarian portion of each party, ensuring a win for the political, economic, and ­social preferences of libertarianism. In effect, there is only one functional party in America today, seemingly parceled between the two notional parties but in reality unifying them in its backing by financial and cultural elites.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMarriage & FamilyMediaPsychologyReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in GeneralState Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 14, 2015 at 4:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

So what’s going on?

Twitter is at a crossroads when it comes to its evolution. While it aspires to be as big as Facebook, connecting fans to celebrities, sports fanatics to game information, and the media to, well, the media via short 140-character bursts can only grow this social media company so large.

With 300 million users, Twitter is still more than a billion shy of Facebook. And with ad revenue growth now slowing, investors want to know if there’s an actual plan in place or if all of this Facebook talk is just wishful thinking.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social Networking* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life

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Posted June 12, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S. cracking down on international football’s governing body looks like a recipe for geopolitical disaster. Fortunately, the only thing the world hates more than American unilateralism is corrupt officials compromising the integrity of the world’s most popular sport. These five facts explain the FIFA scandal and the geopolitical implications of this growing story.

1. Sepp Blatter

Nine FIFA officials were indicted last week by the U.S. Department of Justice for taking $150 million in bribes while awarding FIFA broadcast rights. This kicked off a Swiss investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 Russia World Cup and the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Since the story broke last week, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has managed to win reelection and then resign his post.

For years the worst-kept secret in sports was FIFA’s extensive ‘patronage’ system. Blatter is accused of using FIFA development money, earmarked for promoting soccer in impoverished nations, to secure votes and general support for his initiatives. FIFA generated nearly $6 billion over the last four years—that’s a lot of money to work with.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesSports* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceForeign RelationsPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 5, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Lasch was not out to define the future, or to shape it either. He was not even, for some extraordinary reason, out to get rich. He had come to describe the cultural carbon clogging the national carburetor. We weren’t going to be made okay by dieting or jogging or protest-marching, or even by opening up our souls. We might, if we paid careful attention to Professor Lasch, become more fully aware of what was afoot in our culture, and what effects it was producing. Light might break through. The rest was up to us.

What was amiss? Much, it seemed. The Culture of Narcissism grew out of Lasch’s earlier study of the modern family, Haven in a Heartless World, in which he had pointed to an alarming decline in the family’s authority. It seemed, on the basis of the more extensive scrutiny supplied in The Culture of Narcissism, that the culture itself was approaching bankruptcy. “Bourgeois society seems everywhere to have used up its store of constructive ideas.”

Liberalism had nothing to offer, said this disillusioned liberal, weary as he was of cultural libertarianism. “Psychological man” had become “the final product of bourgeois individualism,” liberated from past superstitions but seeking the meaning of life. He lives “in a state of restless, perpetually unsatisfied desire.” All of which was congruent with Jimmy Carter’s presidential perceptions. But no White House speechwriter could afford to go where Lasch now led, which was toward arraignment of the “therapeutic” climate that caused Americans to seek “personal well-being, health, and psychic security.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksChildrenHistoryMarriage & FamilyMediaMovies & TelevisionPsychologyReligion & CultureSociology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

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Posted June 1, 2015 at 2:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

But by themselves, they are not likely to change the culture of the organization, a fact made clear Friday by the re-election of long-standing FIFA President Sepp Blatter. So though he obviously rated the equivalent of a red card (a game-ejecting penalty), he’s still in charge.

Two years ago Mr. Blatter suppressed a critical internal report on evidence of vote buying and other corruption in FIFA, causing the author, former U.S. Attorney for New York Michael Garcia, to resign in protest.

Observers of FIFA have long suspected rampant vote-selling in the choosing of World Cup host nations, such as the surprising decision to award the 2018 tournament to Russia.

The call to play the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was even more stunning.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesSports* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal Finance* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 30, 2015 at 11:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized pace of 0.7 percent in the first three months of the year, according to government data released Friday morning, a tumble for a recovering nation that until recently seemed poised for takeoff.

The contraction, the country’s third in the aftermath of the Great Recession, provides a troubling picture of an economy that many figured would get a lift from cheap oil, rapid hiring and growing consumer confidence. Instead, consumers have proved cautious, and oil companies have frozen investment — all while a nasty winter caused havoc for transportation and construction and a strong dollar widened the trade deficit.

The numbers released Friday were a revision of earlier figures that had shown GDP growing in the first quarter at 0.2 percent. Markets had since expected the downward revision, in large part because of recent data showing the trade deficit at a 6½-year high.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 29, 2015 at 12:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Tricia Salese called her local pharmacy for a price check on her next prescription refill, she was stunned when the pharmacist told her the cost of her generic-brand pain medication had gone up again.

Salese, 49, started talking fentanyl citrate, the generic version of Actiq, a powerful painkiller, in 2010, and she takes three doses per day. Back then, she said, the price per dose was 50 cents. Now, the pharmacist told her when she called, it was going to cost her $37.49 per dose.

“I thought $25 [per dose for generics] was a lot. $37 is just-- What is this stuff made of? I mean, this is ridiculous,” Salese said.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenDrugs/Drug AddictionHealth & MedicineMarriage & FamilyPsychologyStress* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal Finance* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted May 29, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Few arrests can have provoked such Schadenfreude as those of seven senior officials of FIFA, football’s world governing body, early on May 27th at a swish Swiss hotel. The arrests are part of a wide-ranging investigation by America’s FBI into corruption at FIFA, dating back over two decades. The indictment from the Department of Justice named 14 people on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and paying bribes worth more than $150m. They are likely to face charges in a US federal court. As more people start talking in a bid to sauve qui peut, the investigation will with luck reach into every dark and dank corner of FIFA’s Zurich headquarters...

American extraterritorial jurisdiction is often excessive in its zeal and overbearing in its methods, but in this instance it deserves the gratitude of football fans everywhere. The hope must be that FIFA’s impunity is at last brought to an end and with it the career of the ineffably complacent Sepp Blatter, its 79-year-old president, who was nonetheless expected to be re-elected for a fifth term after The Economist had gone to print.

The evidence of systemic corruption at FIFA has been accumulating for years, but came to a head in 2010 with the bidding for two World Cups. When the right to hold the competition in 2022 was won by tiny, bakingly hot Qatar, against the strong advice of FIFA’s own technical committee, suspicions that votes had been bought were immediately aroused. Thanks to two female whistleblowers and the diligent investigative work of the Sunday Times, a wealth of damning evidence was unearthed involving a Qatari FIFA official, Mohamed bin Hammam, who allegedly wooed football bigwigs in Africa with a $5m slush fund.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesSports* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal Finance* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 29, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Opponents of payday lending have a new ally in the fight against predatory lenders: Leaders from the 15.7-million member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

“We cannot sit by idly while some of the poorest among us are preyed on by people simply looking for a quick buck with no regard for the devastation they cause in the lives of others,” said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

The ERLC is one of the founding members of the newly-formed Faith for Just Lending coalition, which launched earlier this month. Among other members are the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the National Baptist Convention USA, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and the PICO National Network.

“While representing distinct institutions with different histories and practices, these faith organizations hold a shared conviction that Scripture speaks to the problem of predatory lending—condemning usury and teaching us to respect the God-given dignity of each person and to love our neighbors rather than exploit their financial vulnerability,” the group stated in a press release. “They believe that just lending is a matter of biblical morality and religious concern.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPovertyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe Banking System/SectorPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 28, 2015 at 4:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The FBI director, James Comey, commenting on the arrests in Zurich yesterday of senior Fifa officials, identified rampant, systemic and deep-rooted corruption in the federation. “Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes became a way of doing business at Fifa,” he said. The raids by both the American and Swiss authorities were cynically welcomed by Mr Blatter’s team as a sign that it was cleaning up its act.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. The decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, as our sister paper The Sunday Times has diligently exposed, was secured by the rigging and purchase of votes. Despite clear evidence of wrongdoing, Qatar has held on to the cup. An investigation by Fifa’s ethics committee, a body created by Mr Blatter to soothe the many doubts about federation practices, was not published in full to spare the leadership embarrassment. On an almost daily basis, the absurdity of Qatar hosting the cup becomes apparent, from its treatment of construction workers to the extraordinary decision to switch the games to the winter in the midst of the European club season.

The Blatter years have been distinguished by a Machiavellian manipulation of the executive committee and of the broader football voting community.

Read it all (requires subscription) [my emphasis].


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesSports* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 28, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

United States law enforcement officials declared in forceful terms on Wednesday that their broad investigation of FIFA had only begun and pledged to rid the international soccer organization of systemic corruption.

The Justice Department, F.B.I. and I.R.S. described soccer’s governing body in terms normally reserved for Mafia families and drug cartels, saying that top officials treated FIFA business decisions as chits to be traded for personal wealth. One soccer official took in more than $10 million in bribes, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said.

The schemes involving the fraud included the selection of South Africa as the host of the 2010 World Cup; the 2011 FIFA presidential elections; and several sports-marketing deals

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesSports* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted May 27, 2015 at 4:58 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A different health care issue has emerged for Democrats, in sync with the party’s pitch to workers and middle-class voters ahead of next year’s elections.

It’s not the uninsured, but rather the problem of high out-of-pocket costs for people already covered.

Democrats call it “underinsurance.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinancePolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology


Posted May 27, 2015 at 11:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Express Scripts Holding Co. , a large manager of prescription-drug benefits for U.S. employers and insurers, is seeking deals with pharmaceutical companies that would set pricing for some cancer drugs based on how well they work.

The effort is part of a growing push for so-called pay-for-performance deals amid complaints about the rising price of medications, some of which cost more than $100,000 per patient a year.

Some insurers and prescription-benefit managers are pushing back by arguing that they should pay less when drugs don’t work well in certain patients. Drug companies are countering with pricing models of their own, such as offering free doses during a trial period.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 27, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Hundreds of former players have filed a lawsuit claiming all 32 NFL teams, their doctors, trainers and medical staffs obtained and provided painkillers to players — often illegally — as part of a decades-long conspiracy to keep them on the field without regard for their long-term health.

The lawsuit reprises some of the allegations made in a federal lawsuit last year on behalf of 1,300 former players against the NFL. That complaint was filed in May, 2014 and dismissed in December by Judge William Alsup of the U.S. Northern District in California. Alsup wrote that the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association was the appropriate forum to resolve such claims. That decision is being appealed.

The new lawsuit was filed Thursday in the U.S. Northern District of Maryland. It names each NFL team individually as a defendant and lists 13 plaintiffs, including Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Renfro of the Dallas Cowboys and Etopia Evans, the widow of Charles Evans, a running back who played eight years with the Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens and retired after the 2000 season. Evans died of heart failure in October 2008 at age 41.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesSports* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 23, 2015 at 1:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a world of driverless cars, U.S. auto sales would plummet, vehicle ownership falls 50% and opportunities in fleet management, tech and mapping arise.

In a society dominated by self-driving cars, U.S. auto sales might fall 40% and vehicle ownership could drop 50%, forcing entrenched automakers such as Ford Motor Co. and General Motors to adapt or die, according to a Barclays analyst report.

This shift will also create opportunities for tech startups and rental car companies.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologyScience & TechnologyTravel* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal Finance* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 21, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The law

“… must protect all. It must protect the rights of the defendants to have and to manifest their religious beliefs but it also recognizes that the rights of the plaintiff not to be discriminated because of his sexual orientation must also be protected. If the plaintiff was a gay man who ran a bakery business and the defendants as Christians wanted him to bake a cake with the words ‘support heterosexual marriage’ the plaintiff would be required to do so as, otherwise; he would, according to the law be discriminating against the defendants. This is not a law which is for one belief only but is equal to and for all. The defendants are entitled to continue to hold their genuine and deeply held religious beliefs and to manifest them but, in accordance with the law, not to manifest them in the commercial sphere if it is contrary to the rights of others [93 & 94].

As to the defendants’ argument that Article 10 (expression) meant that they could not be compelled to express or commit themselves to a viewpoint or to appear to give support to another’s views, she concluded that what the defendants had been asked to do “did not require them to support, promote or endorse any viewpoint” and did not engage Article 10 – and her view was that, even if she was wrong in that conclusion and Article 10 was engaged, any infringement of the defendants’ rights was justified under Article 10 (2) because they were prescribed by law, necessary in a democratic society and for the protection of the rights of others

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--Ireland* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 21, 2015 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A judge has ruled that a Christian-run bakery discriminated against a gay customer by refusing to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.

Ashers Baking Company, based in County Antrim, was taken to court by gay rights activist Gareth Lee.

A Belfast judge said, as a business, Ashers was not exempt from discrimination law.

The firm's general manager said they were "extremely disappointed" by the ruling and are considering an appeal.

Damages of £500 were agreed in advance by legal teams on both sides of the dispute.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--Ireland

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Posted May 20, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A "groundbreaking" cystic fibrosis therapy could profoundly improve patients' quality of life, say doctors.

Patients often die before their 40s as mucus clogs and damages their lungs and leaves them prone to infection.

A major trial on 1,108 patients, in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed a combination of drugs could bypass the genetic errors that cause the disease and may increase life expectancy.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust said it could "improve the lives of many".

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionHealth & MedicineScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life

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Posted May 18, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Baroness Shields, the former head of Facebook in Europe, is to become the UK's minister for internet safety and security in the new Conservative government.

The Telegraph understands the American-born entrepreneur turned technology evangelist is to lead the Government's effort to improve online safety in its war against child pornography.

She will also be involved in the UK's war on cybercrime and hacking, including the vital area of cybersecurity, with the aim of keeping the general public safe online.

Her appointment, as a Parliamentary under secretary in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is part of a push by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, to tackle the problem of illegal child porn online, and to ensure that images of abuse are blocked.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetChildrenGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesPornographyScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEurope* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 17, 2015 at 11:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Vicky and Sandhya Bhardwaj are expecting their first child in August. Once their son arrives, the couple will be living dangerously close to their financial edge.

Mr. Bhardwaj’s entire paycheque – he earns $73,000 a year – goes toward the mortgage payments on the four-bedroom, five-and-a-half bathroom Mississauga house they bought in 2011 for $747,000. Mrs. Bhardwaj’s salary of $55,000 covers everything else, from utilities, groceries, and gas and insurance on their cars, to the interest on their two lines of credit and credit card.

“I’ve made a spreadsheet of our expenses … and right now, we are $1,000 a month short for what we will need to live on, once my wife is on mat leave,” says Mr. Bhardwaj, 39.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryCanada* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted May 12, 2015 at 11:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The result was released on Wednesday: a 243-page investigative report, which included a 68-page scientific report and appendices. But, truthfully, all of it could have been boiled down to a single sentence: Tom Brady — one of the most accomplished N.F.L. quarterbacks ever — is more probably than not a cheater.

Nobody called Brady a cheater directly in the report — gathering direct proof of his involvement was hampered partly by his refusal to hand over his text messages and emails — but the investigation did find that “it is more probable than not that Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities.”

Just as it is more probable than not that the Patriots just can’t seem to follow the league’s rules.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaSports* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 7, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In “The Consuming Vision,” an essay about novelist Henry James, of all things, Jean-Christophe Agnew argues that the consumerist culture emerging in James’s time was a “world constructed by and for a consuming vision,” an “imagined world … in which imagination itself strives to gild, glaze, and ultimately commodify its objects.” This consuming vision becomes hegemonic in a world that comes to be seen as made entirely of commodities. “What modern consumer culture produces,” Agnew argues, “is not so much a way of being as a way of seeing — a way best characterized as visually acquisitive. In short, modern consumer culture holds up the cognitive appetite as the model and engine of its reproductive process.”

Agnew points out that the churn of markets assures that these sorts of characteristics are never stable in any given commodity or experience. Consumerism posits such meanings as free-floating, redeployable, highly contingent and not intrinsic to a good’s use value. (Soap might make me objectively clean, but will it make me feel clean, which is ultimately more important?)

Thus those meanings are always socially determined to a degree, and always require further labor to affix them to goods. Advertising has traditionally served the purpose of attaching the affective associations with products; social media now enlists the members of one’s social networks to assist in this process. We aid in the building of such ad hoc associations between feelings and goods (we are “prosuming,” making our consumption productive of symbolic meaning by broadcasting it), but this serves also to reinforce that the overall sense that the meanings are applied and withdrawn at social whim.

Pinterest is geared toward stimulating this acquisitive appetite for images without sating it.

Read it all (Hat tip: The Browser).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spending* General InterestPhotos/Photography

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Posted April 30, 2015 at 6:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One thing going on is that the major lifestyle and utility improvements of the past generation–really cheap access to communication, information, and entertainment–are overwhelmingly available to pretty much everyone. On the one hand, this means that recent economic growth assessed in terms of individual utility and well-being is much more equal then when assessed in terms of income. On the other hand, it means that access these benefits seems much more like simply the air we breathe then as a marker of class status, or achievement.

Thus a loss of the ability to securely attain enough of economic security to firmly hold the indicators of what past generations saw as middle-class life shows itself as a loss. And those who focus on security rather than on utility do not see these as offset buy the information revolution.

Read it all and please note it is a follow up to this article previously posted.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingPsychologyScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 27, 2015 at 3:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Fundraising site GoFundMe has closed the account that was set up to raise money for Aaron and Melissa Klein, Christians and former owners of a bakery in Gresham, Oregon, who were ordered by a judge Friday to pay a fine of $135,000 for declining to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian marriage ceremony.

"After careful review by our team, we have found the 'Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa' campaign to be in violation of our Terms and Conditions," Oregon Live quoted the site as saying in a statement.

"The money raised thus far will still be made available for withdrawal. While a different campaign was recently permitted for a pizzeria in Indiana, no laws were violated and the campaign remained live. However, the subjects of the 'Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa' campaign have been formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts. Accordingly, the campaign has been disabled," it added.

The account had received $109,000 when the site blocked it.

Read it all from the Christian Post.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingMarriage & FamilyPsychologyReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology


Posted April 27, 2015 at 1:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The global economy is awash as never before in commodities like oil, cotton and iron ore, but also with capital and labor—a glut that presents several challenges as policy makers struggle to stoke demand.

“What we’re looking at is a low-growth, low-inflation, low-rate environment,” said Megan Greene, chief economist of John Hancock Asset Management, who added that the global economy could spend the next decade “working this off.”

The current state of plenty is confounding on many fronts. The surfeit of commodities depresses prices and stokes concerns of deflation. Global wealth—estimated by Credit Suisse at around $263 trillion, more than double the $117 trillion in 2000—represents a vast supply of savings and capital, helping to hold down interest rates, undermining the power of monetary policy. And the surplus of workers depresses wages.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingGlobalizationPsychologyScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 26, 2015 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A couple of months ago I lost my mobile phone. I duly called AT&T, my telephone company, to order a replacement — and received a nasty shock.

“So you are living in Shanghai,” an assistant announced, quoting an entirely unfamiliar Chinese address. Baffled, I explained that I didn’t live anywhere near the Bund; my residence was in Manhattan, New York.

“No, you live in Shanghai,” the voice firmly replied. When I protested vociferously, the AT&T official pronounced the three words that we have all come to dread: “You’ve been hacked.” Somebody, somehow, had managed to break into the AT&T systems and switch my cellphone billing address from New York to Shanghai. Presumably, they were Chinese.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 24, 2015 at 1:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Take the case of former Charlotte, North Carolina, mayor Patrick Cannon. Cannon came from nothing. He overcame poverty and the violent loss of his father at the age of 5. He earned a degree from North Carolina A&T State University and entered public service at the age of 26 — becoming the youngest council member in Charlotte history. He was known for being completely committed to serving the public, and generous with the time he spent as a role model for young people.

But last year, Cannon, 47, pleaded guilty to accepting $50,000 in bribes while in office. As he entered the city’s federal courthouse last June, he tripped and fell. The media was there to capture the fall, which was symbolic of the much bigger fall of an elected leader and small business owner who once embodied the very essence of personal achievement against staggering odds. Cannon now has the distinction of being the first mayor in the city’s history to be sent to prison. Insiders say he was a good man, but all too human, and seemed vulnerable as he became isolated in his decision-making. And while a local minister argued that Cannon’s one lapse in judgment should not define the man and his career of exceptional public service, he is now judged only by his weakness — his dramatic move from humility and generosity to corruption. And that image of Cannon tripping on his way into court is now the image that people associate with him.

What can leaders do if they fear that they might be toeing the line where power turns to abuse of power? First, you must invite other people in. You must be willing to risk vulnerability and ask for feedback. A good executive coach can help you return to a state of empathy and value-driven decisions. However, be sure to ask for feedback from a wide variety of people. Dispense with the softball questions (How am I doing?) and ask the tough ones (How does my style and focus affect my employees?).

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 22, 2015 at 11:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, which includes the Palmetto State, got a first-hand look at the Boeing juggernaut during a two-day visit to the Charleston area last week.

“It’s really impressive,” he said. “What I don’t think is broadly known is the extent of which ... they’ve added to what was just a manufacturing and assembly facility, and this looks now to be a bigger part of Boeing’s future than it looked a couple of years ago. So I think that speaks well for Charleston’s economic capabilities and for its work force ... because they’ll tell you ... the biggest uncertainty about the whole venture down here was whether they could attract enough of a work force to do the things they can do up in Puget Sound. They’ll tell you they succeeded.”

Aside from Boeing’s growth, Lacker has witnessed other sea changes since his last official visit to the Holy City. In 2009, the Fed was still cutting interest rates to jump-start the then-wounded economy. Now, some believe the time is finally ripe to start raising them again.

Read it all from the local paper

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* South Carolina* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 19, 2015 at 2:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The baby boom generation is set to leave one last burden to its children and grandchildren – a wave of funeral debt.

The cost of paying for rising numbers of deaths as the unprecedented numbers of post-World War Two babies come to the end of their lives may be too much for many families, a report said.

It predicted that numbers of deaths in Britain, which have been falling for 40 years, will start to go up and increase by 20 per cent over the next two decades.

At the same time the price of a funeral is rising fast, thanks to higher costs for cremation, rising undertakers’ bills as funeral firms are faced with bad debts, and the increasing fees demanded by churches.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyAnthropologyEschatologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted April 17, 2015 at 2:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Even worse for Democrats, the Saez paper found that “information about inequality also makes respondents trust government less,” decreasing “by nearly twenty percent the share of respondents who ‘trust government’ most of the time:”

Hence, emphasizing the severity of a social or economic problem appears to undercut respondents’ willingness to trust the government to fix it — the existence of the problem could act as evidence of the government’s limited capacity to improve outcomes.

The findings of the Saez group are consistent with Luttig’s. Taken together, they suggest that even if Democrats win the presidency and the Senate in 2016, largely on the basis of favorable demographic trends, the party will confront serious hurdles if it attempts to deliver material support to working men and women and the very poor. Redistribution is in trouble, and that is likely to tie American politics in knots for many years to come.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 17, 2015 at 11:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Beer has its Budweiser. Cigarettes have Marlboro. And now, from Nevada to Massachusetts, pioneers in the legal-marijuana industry are vying to create big-name brands for pot.

When the legalization movement began years ago, its grassroots activists envisioned a nation where mom-and-pop dispensaries would freely sell small amounts of bud to cancer patients and cannabis-loving members of their community. But the markets rolling out now are attracting something different: ambitious, well-financed entrepreneurs who want to maximize profits and satisfy their investors. To do that, they’ll have to grow the pot business by attracting new smokers or getting current users to buy more.

To hear these pot-preneurs talk is to get a better sense of how the legalized future could unfold and just how mainstream they believe their product can become. Says Joe Hodas, chief marketing officer at Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, a Denver maker of pot food products: “I want to get that soccer mom who, instead of polishing off a glass of wine on a Saturday night, goes for a 5-mg [marijuana] mint with less of a hangover, less optics to the kids and the same amount of relaxation.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 16, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Shamar Theus, a 25-year-old working for Postmates, sits in his Ford Focus in San Francisco for about a minute before the first order comes in on his iPhone. Someone not far away wants 18 lb. of crushed ice, and Postmates is offering Theus $4.80 to pick it up and then deliver it. When he accepts the job, his phone guides him to the grocery store and then to the drop-off. “Everyone’s superbusy, overtaxed. So you bring stuff to people’s offices at 8 o’clock at night,” says Theus, who is wearing a smart watch and long black dreadlocks. “People have just reached a point where they’re so busy that they need to outsource these tasks.”

Same-day delivery, an iconic failure of the dotcom boom, is back–and not just for giants Amazon and Google.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationPsychologyScience & TechnologyTravelUrban/City Life and Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 15, 2015 at 11:22 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The global economy was more likely to enjoy a reasonable recovery over the next two years benefiting from recent falls in energy prices and exchange rate movements, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday.

The twice-yearly forecasts show India is expected to outperform China in growth for the first time in 16 years.

Although the fund has recently told countries they “could do better” to improve medium-term prospects, the World Economic Outlook is the first since 2011 to suggest economies are putting the 2009 financial crisis behind them.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaChinaIndia* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 15, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ever since the early 1990s, when it moved out of universities and was embraced by the general public, the internet has grown relentlessly. Only 2% of the world’s population was online in 1997. By 2014 the proportion had risen to 39%, or about 3 billion people (see chart below). But that still leaves another 4 billion who live an internet-free existence.

Most of the bereft are in the developing world, where only 32% of people are online, compared with 78% in rich countries. And those numbers disguise plenty of local variation. Just 19% of people in Africa were internet users in 2014. Like most infrastructure, the internet is easiest to provide in cities. People scattered in the countryside—even those in rich countries—must often do without.

Yet that may be about to change. Four technology companies are pursuing ambitious plans that could, eventually, provide reasonably fast, high-quality connections to almost everyone on Earth. Google dreams of doing so with a globe-circling flock of helium balloons. Facebook’s plan requires a fleet of solar-powered robotic aircraft, known as drones. And two firms—SpaceX, a rocket company, and OneWeb, a startup based in Florida—aim to use swarms of cheap, low-flying satellites. By providing an easy route to the internet at large, local telecoms firms should be able to provide high-speed, third- or fourth-generation mobile-phone coverage to areas far away from the big cities.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingGlobalizationScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 15, 2015 at 4:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Technology has cut its transformative swath through the media, transportation and hospitality industries. Insurance could be next.

Telematics, the long-distance transmission of computerized information, is a small but growing element of the insurance business. If adopted on a widespread basis, it could revolutionize the underlying risk-spreading methods used for generations, analysts say....

Progressive (NYSE:PGR) has been among the leaders in this area, permitting its customers to insert a "Snapshot" gadget into their cars in order to provide increasingly sophisticated information about their driving habits.

"It made more sense to price premiums on how you actually drive," said David Pratt, Progressive's general manager of user-based insurance.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPsychologyScience & TechnologyTravel* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 14, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Tumbling interest rates in Europe have put some banks in an inconceivable position: owing money on loans to borrowers.

At least one Spanish bank, Bankinter SA, the country’s seventh-largest lender by market value, has been paying some customers interest on mortgages by deducting that amount from the principal the borrower owes.

The problem is just one of many challenges caused by interest rates falling below zero, known as a negative interest rate. All over Europe, banks are being compelled to rebuild computer programs, update legal documents and redo spreadsheets to account for negative rates.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEuroEuropean Central BankHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEurope

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Posted April 14, 2015 at 5:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Armed with cell phones and a dizzying array of social media choices, half of this area's middle- and high-schoolers in a recent study admitted to social media abuse — from bullying schoolmates to spreading rumors to pressuring others to send sexual texts or pictures.

They also admitted to stalking their partners.

"It begins with the constant texting or the stalking on Facebook. 'Where are you?' and 'Who are you with?'" said researcher Poco Kernsmith, an associate professor of social work at Wayne State University.

What may seem like harmless teen jealousy can spiral into a dangerous relationship if left unchecked, said Kernsmith, whose research has centered on violence in relationships. She led a survey of 1,236 sixth- and ninth-graders at six metro Detroit high schools, a mix of high- moderate- and low-risk schools when measured with crime statistics and poverty levels.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingChildrenEducationHealth & MedicinePsychologyTeens / Youth* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 12, 2015 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

You may read the Episcopal Bishop here and and the Roman Catholic Bishop there.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentState Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted April 11, 2015 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Median per capita income has basically been flat since 2000, adjusted for inflation. The typical American family makes slightly less than a typical family did 15 years ago. And while many goods have become cheaper or better, the price of three of the biggest middle-class expenditures – housing, college and health care – have gone up much faster than the rate of inflation.

Equally important, Mr. Hirschl found a high degree of income volatility among most Americans in the four decades between 1969 and 2011. At some point in their working lives, a full 70 percent earned enough to put them in the top fifth of earners, and as many as 30 percent reached the equivalent of $200,000 in 2009 dollars, or roughly the top 4 percent.

Similarly, nearly 80 percent will at least temporarily plunge into a red zone, where their income drops near or below the poverty line, or they are compelled to gain access to a social safety net program like food stamps or collect unemployment insurance. More than half of Americans ages 25 to 60 will experience at least one year hovering around the poverty line.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryMarriage & FamilyPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted April 10, 2015 at 4:55 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Last year, a study found that about four out of every 10 people who received financial help from the government while buying their Obamacare health plans had no idea they were getting any assistance.

This tax season, many of those people may be in for a rude surprise when they're asked to pay some—or even all—of that money back....

"I wasn't very happy," said Mike Highsmith, 61, a retired US Airways flight attendant who learned after having his taxes done that he has to pay back every cent of the $6,624 in federal subsidies that helped pay the lion's share of his HealthCare.gov-purchased plan.

"This shocked me ... I didn't know this was coming."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 10, 2015 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Recently adopted net neutrality regulations soon could make your monthly Internet bill more complicated — and potentially more expensive.

Every month, consumers pay a small fee on their phone bills for a federal program that uses the money — a total of $8.8 billion raised nationwide last year — to provide affordable access to telecommunications services in rural areas, underserved inner cities and schools.

Now the fee could start appearing on broadband bills too, in a major expansion of the nearly two-decade-old Universal Service Fund program.Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetLaw & Legal IssuesScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General

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Posted April 9, 2015 at 11:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As I am in the US for the first time in many years, I find myself longing for the simplicity of Maua, Kenya, during Easter time. There Easter has none of the commercial trappings we find here. As I enter grocery stores, discount stores, and department stores I am shocked at the amount of space taken by the Easter candy, bunnies and stuffed animals, baskets, decorations, and new spring clothing. These items take more space than any grocery store has for all their goods in Maua.

I recently read that an estimated $2 billion will be spent on Easter candy this year in the US. Two billion dollars to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who asked us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty, house the homeless, care for the sick and imprisoned, and welcome the stranger.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsEaster* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spending* International News & CommentaryAfricaKenyaAmerica/U.S.A.

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Posted April 8, 2015 at 3:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Oil-related job cuts may start to slow: Energy firms announced plans to lay off 1,279 workers in March, down from 16,000 in February. But for oil patch states, other questions remain: the health of the service economy surrounding energy firms, the reliability of tax revenues, and so on.

Some of that uncertainty may be trickling through to the broader economy. Some 42% of all IBD/TIPP respondents still say the U.S. is in a recession in April, nearly six years after the economic recovery began.

Yet recent data has been fitful, making it hard to get a clear read on whether the economy is turning down or just taking a beating from temporary factors — the oil price plunge, severe winter weather, and the West Coast ports labor slowdown, for example.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. Government* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 8, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An influential group of bishops have called on Anglican churches to remove their investments from the fossil fuel companies that are driving climate change.

In a declaration and set of requests aimed at focusing the church’s attention on the “unprecedented climate crisis”, the 17 bishops and archbishops said investments in fossil fuel companies were incompatible with a just and sustainable future.

“We call for a review of our churches’ investment practices with a view to supporting environmental sustainability and justice by divesting from industries involved primarily in the extraction or distribution of fossil fuels,” they said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEnergy, Natural ResourcesPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted March 30, 2015 at 12:06 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A recent survey by private health insurance exchange EHealth highlights the pressure Americans are feeling. It found that more than 6 in 10 people say they're more worried about the financial effect of expensive medical emergencies and paying for healthcare than about funding retirement or covering their kids' education.

People who get health insurance through work and on their own have seen their costs rise dramatically over the last decade.

According to the Commonwealth Fund, a New York think tank, annual increases in work-based health plan premiums rose three times faster than wages from 2003 to 2013. Out-of-pocket costs have also been climbing.

"More people have deductibles than ever before," says Sara Collins, a Commonwealth Fund vice president. From 2003 to 2013, the size of deductibles has grown nearly 150%.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 30, 2015 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Raghuram Rajan got it started. On Jan. 15, the governor of the Reserve Bank of India jolted traders on Mumbai’s Dalal Street by cutting interest rates. The surprise was the timing of the announcement: Rajan wasn’t supposed to deliver a policy statement for another 19 days.

The weirdness continued that same day—in Switzerland, of all places. For three years, the Swiss National Bank had steadily bought euros on currency markets to keep the country’s franc from surging in value relative to the euro, and thereby choking off growth. Unorthodox, yes; but global financial markets had grown accustomed to the regular renewal of the bank’s stance. Without warning, however, the Swiss cut the franc’s tether. Swiss National Bank chairman Thomas Jordan also set the benchmark Swiss lending rate at negative 0.75%. In theory, a lower rate should put downward pressure on the franc; not enough in this case, as the franc’s value shot up by 18% in the days that followed. Many hedge funds bled red.

And on it went. The Danes cut interest rates four times in the span of a few weeks. As this issue of the magazine neared deadline, China’s central bank cut rates by a quarter of a percentage point and Poland slashed them by a half point. In the first 60 days of 2015, some 20 central banks had executed stimulus measures.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuropean Central BankStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryAsiaEurope* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 29, 2015 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The notion that Facebook and other social networks will suffer most deeply when the bubble bursts sounds plausible because it rehashes the last tech boom and bust, when advertising revenue run-ups at huge web portals (remember those?) turned out to be funded mainly by venture capital investments. In 2001, revenue at Yahoo — the largest portal, and something like the Facebook of its time — plummeted by almost $400 million when start-ups stopped spending during the bust. Yahoo has never recovered its former glory. Could Facebook face the same fate?

Probably not — or not yet, at least. On closer inspection, the theory that Facebook’s growth depends on unsustainable venture capital is mostly overblown, another strain of Facebook Second Guessing Syndrome. It’s a story that misses important facts about Facebook’s advertising business. For one thing, as Facebook’s executives have repeatedly pointed out, ads from app companies make up a small percentage of the company’s overall business. Most of the social network’s revenue comes from video ads and ads for large brands.
Continue reading the main story

The theory also misses two other points. Not all these ads are coming from unproved start-ups. And the ads are set to be adopted more widely because they actually work.

According to several app makers and observers of the industry, the ads are tremendously effective at leading paying customers to new apps. It’s the effort to reach these paying customers — and not venture funding — that is often the reason for all the money pouring into ads for apps.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingMediaScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 26, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of the U.K.’s most visible ethical investors – the Church of England – outperformed its investing benchmarks last year thanks in part to its significant underweight position in energy stocks, a trade that benefited from the precipitous fall in oil prices.

Its fund, the CCLA, with around £5.6 billion ($8.34 billion) under management as of Feb. 2015, runs assets on behalf of the Church of England, as well as charities and local government authorities. The firm has long taken an ethical and activist stance, recently encouraging Royal Dutch Shell PLC, for example, to put forward a shareholder resolution on Climate Change at its 2015 Annual General Meeting.

Thanks to its ethical bearings, the CCLA allocated 50% less to oil and gas stocks than its benchmarks across its equity funds over 2014, and has avoided exposure to pure play coal and tar sands stocks, according to Michael Quicke, chief executive of the CCLA.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingStock MarketEnergy, Natural Resources* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

With a few short-lived and unsustainable exceptions, the story of the last 30 years appears to be one of constantly falling interest rates and disappointing growth. Central banks try to keep stimulating the economy, but investment demand never really seems to gather pace in response to their efforts. Instead, investment seems stagnant and unresponsive to policy during normal periods, but shoots up during events like the dotcom and real estate bubbles, which then burst and leave everyone worse off.

People have been puzzling over this pattern for decades, but it took a speech by Larry Summers to the IMF in 2013 to really crystallise the whole picture, and bring it into the public eye. Ever since, it’s been known by the term he gave the phenomenon: ‘secular stagnation’. But he didn’t invent it. It was first coined by Alvin Hansen in the post-Depression 30s, when technological progress seemed to have ground to a halt.

The revival of the term could be misleading on a number of levels.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryPsychologyScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEuropean Central BankHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 25, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For middle-class Americans, it’s never been easier to feel consumed by consumption. Despite the recession, despite a brief interlude when savings rates shot up and credit-card debt went down, Americans arguably have more stuff now than any society in history. Children in the U.S. make up 3.1% of the world’s kid population, but U.S. families buy more than 40% of the toys purchased globally. The rise of wholesalers and warehouse supermarkets has packed our pantries and refrigerators with bulk items that often overflow into a second fridge. One-click shopping and same-day delivery have driven purchasing to another level altogether, making conspicuous consumption almost too easy.

Our stuff has taken over. Most household moves outside the U.S. weigh from 2,500 lb. to 7,500 lb. (1,110 kg to 3,400 kg). The average weight of a move in the U.S. is 8,000 lb. (3,600 kg), the weight of a fully grown hippo. An entire industry has emerged to house our extra belongings–self-storage, a $24 billion business so large that every American could fit inside its units simultaneously.

It would be one thing if all our possessions were making us happier, but the opposite seems to be occurring. At least one study shows that a home with too much stuff can actually lead to higher levels of anxiety. “These objects that we bring in the house are not inert,” says UCLA anthropologist Elinor Ochs, who led a decade-long study on hyperacquisition. “They have consequences.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spending* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted March 24, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For all its brutality, ISIS is often praised for its social media savvy and a passion among its members akin to that of a very famous Silicon Valley start-up, says one Muslim social media entrepreneur. The way to defeat the group’s extremism is by harnessing the creativity of entrepreneurs, he says.

Listen to it all (about 4 minutes).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationMediaReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

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Posted March 22, 2015 at 5:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To understand where this cyber-libertarian ideology came from, you have to understand the influence of “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” one of the strangest artifacts of the ’90s, and its singular author, John Perry Barlow. Perhaps more than any other, it’s his philosophy — which melded countercultural utopianism, a rancher’s skepticism toward government and a futurist’s faith in the virtual world — that shaped the industry.

The problem is, we’ve reaped what he sowed.

Generally the province of fascists, artists or fascist artists, manifestos are a dying form. It takes gall to have published one anytime after, say, 1938. But “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” was an utterly serious document for a deliriously optimistic era that Wired, on one of its many valedictory covers, promised was a “long boom”: “25 years of prosperity, freedom, and a better environment for the whole world.” Techno-skeptics need not apply.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryPhilosophyPsychologyScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 22, 2015 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The way to eliminate potholes, or at least diminish their number, is to keep the roads in good shape, with regular resurfacing. But far less is being done than required. And the same goes for the rest of the infrastructure in the US: not just roads, but ports and airports, bridges, railways and power grids, those boring basics that keep a country running. America, to believe the title of a recent television documentary on the subject, is falling apart – literally.

Not so long ago the opposite was true. The US was the shining future that had already arrived. It had the best technology, the most modern cities, the fanciest cars, the most up-to-date airports. The jewel in the crown was the interstate highway system, built in the 1950s and 1960s to knit a continent together.

Alas, sooner or later, youthful beauty fades. And so it is with America’s infrastructure. Many of those projects date back to the immediate post-war years, even to FDR’s New Deal to counter the Great Depression. More than half a century later, they’re in desperate need of overhaul or replacement.

Surveys merely confirm America’s relative slide.

Read it all from Rupert Cornwell.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryTravelUrban/City Life and Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentState Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 22, 2015 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On the one hand, scientists are excited about these techniques because they may let them do good things, such as discovering important principles about biology. It might even lead to cures for diseases.

The big worry is that CRISPR and other techniques will be used to perform germline genetic modification.

Basically, that means making genetic changes in a human egg, sperm or embryo.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 21, 2015 at 2:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Virtual reality is just getting started. A bunch of companies, including HTC, Samsung, and Sony have shown off headsets that immerse you in a virtual world, and Facebook's Oculus — credited with kickstarting the latest craze — has been selling a version to developers for some time now.

But most people have never tried or even seen a VR headset, much less been able to buy one.

That's going to change, fast. Business Insider Intelligence expects VR to be the next big thing in gaming, with 26.5 million units sold in 2020. That would give it a compound annual growth rate of nearly 100% — in other words, sales, on average, will double every year for the next five. So get ready to be immersed.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychologyScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life

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Posted March 19, 2015 at 5:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Rarely have investors lavished so much attention on a single word. After a two-day meeting, the Federal Reserve dropped the word “patient” from its monetary-policy statement. Why the fuss over this single word?

"Patient”, in Fed-speak, indicates that it will hold off increasing interest rates for at least two meetings. Now the word has been ditched, at subsequent meetings (most probably in June) we could see rates move off from rock-bottom for the first time since 2008.

The last rate-tightening cycle began over a decade ago. The Fed feels comfortable, it seems, with raising interest rates now that unemployment has moved towards 5.5%. The latest forecasts from the Fed show that it expects the economy to expand by 2.3%-2.7%, a slight fall from the projections in December but still one of the strongest in the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 18, 2015 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The thrift store has enjoyed something of a new life as of late, birthing chart-topping pop songs and becoming the shopping destination of choice for hipsters looking for vintage wares that are “authentic.” Of course, such stores, often run by Goodwill or the Salvation Army, serve a non-trendy role, too, as a shopping destination of necessity for America’s working class. It was not always thus.

“As early as the colonial era, writers, politicians, and other vocal critics denounced the sale of used goods,” writes Jennifer Le Zotte in New England Quarterly. Partly, it was born of a vague sense that such goods were sullied or unwholesome, but, writes Le Zotte, some of the opposition can be traced to anti-semitism (in this case, directed at Jewish-owned pawn shops).

One such illustration comes from “The Blue Silk,” a short story in the May 1884 Saturday Evening Post, in which the protagonist, Louisa, buys a pre-owned dress from the “Jewess behind the counter” of a resale store. When she wears it to a party, not only is she is socially ostracized for wearing the old dress of another girl, but she comes down with small-pox because of contamination from the resale store. The story neatly combined earnest bigotry with worries of the moral and physical dangers thought to accompany secondhand clothing.

Read it all from Caitlin Moniz and Zack Stanton in the Wilson Quarterly.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchCharities/Non-Profit OrganizationsHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal Finance* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 11, 2015 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a landmark ruling, a Barcelona judge has decided three sex workers should have been hired full-time by a brothel owner and ordered her to pay contributions to the government so the prostitutes will be eligible for national health care, disability insurance, unemployment benefits and government pensions.

The ruling issued in February - and made public this week - can be appealed and does not create a precedent for Spain's estimated hundreds of thousands of prostitutes, whose ranks are believed to have increased during the country's crushing financial crisis that started in 2008 and lingers with unemployment at 24 percent.

But advocates for sex workers said Tuesday that Judge Juan Agusti Maragall's decision is important because it recognizes the legal inability of some brothel workers to get benefits mandated for employees of companies.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesSexuality* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeSpain* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 10, 2015 at 3:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a country recently transfixed by the trial of a famous politician that revealed details of his orgy escapades, and where the president was found to be cheating on his live-in partner, an ad promoting extramarital affairs might not seem like such a big deal.

But even in famously libertine France, the latest advertising campaign — evoking the temptations of Eve with a partly eaten apple — for a dating website geared to married women looking for affairs has spawned a backlash and a national debate.

The ads for the dating website Gleeden, which bills itself as “the premier site for extramarital affairs designed by women,” were recently splashed on the backs of buses in several French cities. Seven cities decided to withdraw the ads, and opponents have mobilized against them on social media, providing the latest example of a prominent cultural divide in France about the lines between public morality, private sexual conduct and the country’s vaunted freedom of expression.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyPsychologyReligion & CultureSexuality* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* International News & CommentaryEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 10, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Putnam then goes on to explain, through the lens of accumulated social-science research, how important parenting and family structure are to life outcomes for children. Early childhood stimulation, appropriate role models, stable expectations and family dinners are all part of the environment needed to produce upwardly mobile adults, and almost all are lacking today for Americans from less educated backgrounds. Many people overcome dysfunctional families, but it is far easier to do so with adequate resources. Economic inequality thus becomes self-reinforcing through the mechanism of absent families.

Putnam points out that while both gender and racial equality have greatly improved over this period, the gains have been completely offset by widening class differences. College-educated Americans have been pulling away from their high school-educated peers within subgroups such as African-Americans, Hispanics and women. There is today a substantial upwardly-mobile black middle class that, like its white counterpart, has moved to the suburbs and segregated itself from the poor.

Back in the 1980s, the debate over black poverty was polarised between liberals who blamed structural (ie economic) factors such as the decline in manufacturing jobs, and conservatives who denounced permissiveness and shifting cultural norms for the breakdown of families. Putnam makes very clear that both of these causes are at work in the present crisis. The huge erosion of middle-class jobs in countless manufacturing industries has led to a decline in real incomes of 22 per cent since 1980 for high-school dropouts, and 11 per cent for high-school graduates. But culture also matters: while rising joblessness produces social dysfunction in all societies, the stresses of the Great Depression did not lead to an explosion of single-parent families because of cultural norms then in place, such as the stigmatisation of unwed parenthood and shotgun weddings. Conservatives who see family breakdown as a simple matter of cultural decay, however, have to explain the emergence of “helicopter parents” and steadily strengthening family bonds among the college-educated.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksChildrenHistoryMarriage & FamilyPoverty* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinancePolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 8, 2015 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Live at your full potential. Become a better you. Be happier. It’s your time. Live an extraordinary life. Achieve your dreams. Go beyond your barriers. You can, you will.

This is the therapeutic message of Joel Osteen, lifted right from his dust jackets. In contrast with the more classical and philosophically grounded evangelicalism of a Billy Graham or a C.S. Lewis, Ross Douthat termed Osteen’s brand of TV preaching “the gospel of self-help.” But notice it’s not the self-help of the Gospel; self-help is the gospel. The Gospel is the cask to deliver it, shucked and cast out as soon as the intoxicating wine of self-improvement is imbibed.

Contrast this with Pope Francis who, quoting St. Basil of Caesarea of the fourth century, recently referred to money as the “devil’s dung.” We can follow this line of thinking right back to the New Testament. St. Paul used an even stronger word: skubula. Some translations of the Bible use “filth” or “refuse” in its place in the third chapter of the letter to the Philippians. But that’s not what he said. The nearest English equivalent of the vulgar Greek word is…well, you can Google it. Paul, I suspect, wanted to make an unambiguous point: all of his worldly respect, progress, and prosperity – in short, all of his “self-help” – was all skubala compared to the Cross and Resurrection.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spending* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

0 Comments
Posted March 8, 2015 at 2:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mr. Cleary’s bill would put the cap at $1,400 and would have all of the sales taxes collected for motor vehicles applied to road and bridge improvements. The bill also seeks additional funding by closing other tax exemptions. And it would make long-term cost cuts possible by turning over local roads under state control to local jurisdictions, with funding assistance for their maintenance. Of the 41,000 miles of state roads, almost 45 percent are a mile or less in length.

Mr. Cleary estimates that his plan would raise $800 million a year, all of which would be directed to the specific purpose of improving the state road system. Indeed, the gas tax should be viewed as a user fee, by which motorists pay for the wear and tear on the state’s highways and bridges. It is evident that the gas tax hasn’t kept pace with the need, and that additional sources of revenue will have to be tapped.

Funding for a safe transportation system is a primary responsibility of the Legislature, and the evidence clearly available to the motoring public shows just how badly the Legislature has fallen down on the job. Lawmakers should take a simple, direct approach that will begin to address the specific problem of road needs, without getting sidetracked on issues of tax neutrality and agency restructuring. Keeping highways and bridges functional and safe shouldn’t be such a difficult problem for the Legislature to address.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchTravel* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceTaxesEnergy, Natural ResourcesPolitics in GeneralState Government* South Carolina* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 8, 2015 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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