Category : Economy

(Front page of yesterday’s NYT) As Gen X and Boomers Age, They Confront Living Alone

In 1960, just 13 percent of American households had a single occupant. But that figure has risen steadily, and today it is approaching 30 percent. For households headed by someone 50 or older, that figure is 36 percent.

Nearly 26 million Americans 50 or older now live alone, up from 15 million in 2000. Older people have always been more likely than others to live by themselves, and now that age group — baby boomers and Gen Xers — makes up a bigger share of the population than at any time in the nation’s history.

The trend has also been driven by deep changes in attitudes surrounding gender and marriage. People 50-plus today are more likely than earlier generations to be divorced, separated or never married.

Women in this category have had opportunities for professional advancement, homeownership and financial independence that were all but out of reach for previous generations of older women. More than 60 percent of older adults living by themselves are female.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Children, Economy, Health & Medicine, Housing/Real Estate Market, Marriage & Family, Psychology

(1st Things) Dan Hitchens on Richard Henry Tawney (1880–1962): A 20th Century Prophet

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a cult. Browsing in a secondhand bookshop, I picked up R. H. Tawney’s Religion and the Rise of Capitalism and, remembering a vague resolution to read it one day, took it to the counter. The fresh-faced student at the cash register was delighted. “It’s . . . amazing,” he said reverently. A few days later, finding myself in full agreement, I emailed a writer in whose work I perceived some Tawney-like themes to ask whether he knew the book. “I read it fifty years ago,” he replied, “and it changed my life.”

In recent decades, membership of his fan club has declined—too Christian for the socialists, too socialist for the Christians—but at one time Richard Henry Tawney (1880–1962) towered over British intellectual life. To his contemporaries he was a legend, “the greatest living Englishman,” according to the historian Sir Michael Postan. The Guardian declared in 1960 that his writings “will be read with delight as long as the English language is spoken.” Surveying Tawney’s contributions, not just as a historian, but as a writer, activist, teacher, and mentor, someone suggested to Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple that what Britain needed was “more men like Tawney.” The archbishop replied: “There are no men like Tawney.” To a generation that had run out of faith in free-market capitalism, he appeared to be that unusual thing, a prophet who actually knew what he was talking about.

Deeply earnest, prematurely bald, self-deprecating to the point of masochism, Tawney nevertheless exuded an unmistakable charisma that can still be experienced today in the texture of his prose—its beautiful cadences, smash-and-grab satirical raids, elegiac melancholy, pin-sharp analysis, metaphorical exuberance, and spiritual clarity. The supreme example is Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, based on the Holland Memorial Lectures he delivered at King’s College, London in 1922. The bestselling history book in interwar Britain, it owed its success partly to a widespread feeling that the reigning economic system had failed, partly to the national weakness for nostalgia: Tawney was one of those writers who located his ideals in a consciously romanticized past, and the book is above all a lament for a lost moral order.

From the twelfth through the sixteenth century, in Tawney’s telling, money was, at least to an extent, governed by Christian moral norms. Feudal lords might be merciless, guilds might be ­monopolistic, the papacy might be corrupt, but late-­medieval society still shone out with, in ­Tawney’s characteristically memorable phrase, “a certain tarnished splendour.” Widespread cruelty and oppression could not wholly extinguish the idea of social solidarity, of a world that made eternal salvation its ultimate goal and thus put money-­worship in its place. Peasant and lord, craftsman and merchant knew their duties to each other, and the strong were regularly prevented from exploiting the weak. In the institutions that fed the hungry and provided credit to the financially insecure; in the ecclesiastical or civil courts where usurers were excommunicated and fined; in the pulpits where avarice was denounced as a deadly sin, and in the confessionals where middlemen would have to repent of overcharging customers or not sharing their goods with the poor, medieval man was prevented from destroying his own soul and his neighbor’s livelihood.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, England / UK, History, Religion & Culture

(FT) New England ‘importing European prices’ in looming gas supply crunch

A European-style winter energy crunch is looming over New England in the north-east US, even as American natural gas producers export record volumes and a wave of fuel heads across the Atlantic.

Utility bosses in the region have called for emergency assistance from Washington to pre-empt a crisis, while lashing out at a century-old law that has cut New England off from some of America’s prolific shale output and left it more dependent on expensive imports.

On Friday, a vessel laden with liquefied natural gas will land in Massachusetts — but the federal law preventing foreign vessels sailing between US ports means the gas will come from Trinidad, not the US export plants along the Gulf of Mexico that are shipping record amounts of fuel abroad.

“You would think that charity would begin at home . . . that American fuel would go to American ports,” Joe Nolan, chief executive of Eversource Energy, one of New England’s biggest utilities, said in an interview. “We’re going to have to compete just like everybody else — in the global market.”

Read it all (registration or subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

(BBC) UK faces biggest fall in living standards on record

The UK faces its biggest drop in living standards on record as the surging cost of living eats into people’s wages.

The government’s forecaster said that household incomes – once rising prices were taken into account – would dive by 7% in the next few years.

It also expects the number of people who are unemployed to rise by more than 500,000.

It came as the chancellor said the UK was already in recession and set to shrink further next year.

But Jeremy Hunt said his Autumn Statement – which unveiled £55bn of tax rises and spending cuts – would lead to a “shallower downturn” with fewer jobs lost.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, England / UK, Personal Finance

(CNBC) 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck heading into the peak shopping season

Just as the holiday shopping season gets into full swing, families are finding less slack in their budgets than before.

As of October, 60% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck, according to a recent LendingClub report. A year ago, the number of adults who felt stretched too thin was closer to 56%.

“More consumers who have historically managed their budgets comfortably are feeling the financial strain, which will impact their spending behavior as we head into the holiday shopping season,” said Anuj Nayar, LendingClub’s financial health officer.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Personal Finance

A very hard winter for many: Some C of E bishops respond to the Chancellor’s Autumn statement

“Ahead of today’s statement one of our key concerns was to see benefits keep pace with inflation. So we welcome the Chancellor’s commitment in this regard but continue to call for the end to the two-child limit on Universal Credit, which hits some of the poorest families hardest.

“This is going to be a very hard winter for many. Our churches, in communities across the country, are already reporting alarming rises in demand for foodbanks and other services which have become a lifeline.

“It is heartbreaking to hear of people who just a year ago were donating to foodbanks but are now using them themselves.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Poverty, Religion & Culture

(Bloomberg) Record-low water levels are causing major shipping jams just as the US needs to export this year’s harvest.

The Mississippi River — the immense, quiet highway that courses down the middle of America, moving critical food, wood, coal and steel supplies to global markets — is shrinking from drought, forcing traffic to a crawl at the worst possible time.

With water levels at record lows, barges have run aground, causing traffic jams as boats wait for the US Army Corps of Engineers to dredge a path through the shallows. The problem has been building for months. Summer brought meager rain to much of the Plains and Midwest. Now it’s harvest time, when farmers bring in their grains and other crops, send them to market, and lay down fertilizer before the winter snows. The shriveled Mississippi has forced them to seek alternatives, all of them more expensive, like moving soybeans by rail to the Gulf Coast or shipping everything through distant West Coast ports. That will inevitably increase pressure on global food prices at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already sent them soaring.

The river is “low, been low and not getting filled anytime soon – so a bad situation getting worse,” said Jeremy Jack, who just harvested his crops on 11,500 acres of land in the Mississippi Delta. “We don’t have any soybean storage. Beans are in places where they shouldn’t be and losing quality.”

Read it all.

Posted in Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

(ITV) NHS nurses union announce first ever UK-wide strike in its 106 year history

NHS nurses are to strike over pay after members of the union representing close to half a million nurses across the UK were balloted.

More than 300,000 members were urged by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to vote for strike action in the union’s biggest strike ballot.

The walkout is the first UK-wide strike action in the RCN’s 106-year history.

Industrial action is expected to be held before the end of the year at some of the country’s biggest hospitals, including Guy’s and St Thomas’ opposite Parliament, the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, University Hospital Wales and Belfast’s Royal Victoria.

The results of the ballot come amid a growing threat of strikes across the health service.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

A prayer for the day from the Prayer Manual

Protect us, O Lord, and prosper us as we labour in our vocations, that our work may be done with Thy blessing and be crowned with Thine approval; through Him Who was numbered among the craftsmen, Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Frederick B. Macnutt, The prayer manual for private devotions or public use on divers occasions: Compiled from all sources ancient, medieval, and modern (A.R. Mowbray, 1951)

Posted in Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Spirituality/Prayer

(LA Times) How San Diego achieved surprising success housing homeless people

…as The Times reported in July, San Diego has dramatically outperformed its neighbors to the north. Despite San Diego’s tight housing market, 100% of its emergency housing vouchers issued since June 2021 have placed people into permanent housing.

Two factors may have helped San Diego succeed where other cities are struggling, housing advocates and experts across the country told The Times.

First, fewer people fall through the cracks in San Diego’s system. In other cities, applicants may shuffle among as many as four organizations. San Diego’s housing commission minimized the number of agencies and individuals whom clients have to deal with as they apply for vouchers, wait for approval, and — the hardest part — search for housing. In San Diego, most voucher applicants interact with at most two agencies before they are placed in a home.

Second, the city calculates how much vouchers are worth on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, rather than using a flat rate across the city, making the vouchers much more flexible.

Read it all.

Posted in Housing/Real Estate Market, Poverty, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Economist) Facebook and the conglomerate curse

In 1997, in his first letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, wrote that it was still “Day 1” for his firm. Day 2, he later explained, would mean stasis, followed by irrelevance. His rousing call to avoid complacency seems apt today. Silicon Valley’s five big tech giants, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft, have long been the bedrock of America’s stockmarket and economy, miraculously combining reliable growth and profitability. But after a torrid third quarter their market capitalisations have now collectively dropped by 37% so far this year. About $3.7trn of value has evaporated.

The law of large numbers made it inevitable that the tech giants would mature. Sales growth in the last quarter slowed to 9%—barely above inflation. As they have grown bigger, they have become tied to the economic cycle; a fact which the digital surge during the pandemic only temporarily masked. Penetration rates for smartphones, digital advertising and streaming are plateauing. With slowing core businesses, the giants are venturing onto each other’s turf, increasing competition.

Meanwhile, they are threatened by “conglomeritis”. The symptoms of this disease are bloating and egomania. Consider the recent orgy of spending on hiring, experimental ventures, vanity projects and building data centres. In March the five firms’ combined annual expenses reached $1trn for the first time, and the value of the physical plant of these supposedly asset-light businesses has reached $600bn, over triple the level of five years ago. Swollen costs and balance-sheets mean returns on capital have fallen from over 60% five years ago to 26%. Three of the five do not deign to pay dividends.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Science & Technology

(Church Times) Archbishops’ Council pledges £2 million to house vulnerable people

The Archbishops’ Council has pledged £2 million of its £25-million Social Impact Investment Programme to a fund that delivers supported accommodation across the UK, it was announced on Tuesday.

The second Social and Sustainable Housing Fund (SASH II), which is managed by Social and Sustainable Capital, allows charities and organisations to acquire and own portfolios of property to provide high-quality housing and targeted support to vulnerable people.

A first SASH fund in 2019 deployed £64.5 million to 20 organisations. SASH II aims to pool £125 million to help more than 30 organisations purchase 1000 properties, which it says would provide homes for 10,000 people over the life of the fund, including people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, fleeing domestic violence, experiencing mental illness or substance addiction, ex-offenders, asylum-seekers, and young people leaving care.

Current estimates suggest that as many as 200,000 people in the UK are living in temporary, transitional housing.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England, England / UK, Housing/Real Estate Market, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Washington Post) U.S. workers have gotten way less productive. No one is sure why.

Employers across the country are worried that workers are getting less done — and there’s evidence they’re right to be spooked.

In the first half of 2022, productivity — the measure of how much output in goods and services an employee can produce in an hour — plunged by the sharpest rate on record going back to 1947, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The productivity plunge is perplexing, because productivity took off to levels not seen in decades when the coronavirus forced an overnight switch to remote work, leading some economists to suggest that the pandemic might spark longer-term growth. It also raises new questions about the shift to hybrid schedules and remote work, as employees have made the case that flexibility helped them work more efficiently. And it comes at a time when “quiet quitting” — doing only what’s expected and no more — is resonating, especially with younger workers.

Productivity is strong in manufacturing, but it’s down elsewhere in the private sector, according to Diego Comin, professor of economics at Dartmouth College. He noted that productivity is particularly tricky to gauge for knowledge workers, whose contributions aren’t as easy to measure.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(FT) Faith at work: the entrepreneurs who connect the spiritual and professional

Melding faith and work is nothing new, of course. Victorian Britain, for instance, produced many high-profile business leaders with a strong religious bent: men such as William Lever of Unilever fame (Congregationalist), the tourism entrepreneur Thomas Cook (Baptist) and the “chemist to the nation” Jesse Boot (Methodist).

Nor is it a solely Christian phenomenon. Strong faith positions inspire a host of business ventures around the world, from providers of Islamic finance and Buddhist healthcare to purveyors of Kosher foods and Ayurvedic medicine.

Yet the rise of the modern “profit for purpose” movement, to use Murray’s phrase, is inspiring a new generation of religious believers to connect the dots between their spiritual and professional lives.

There is a logical confluence between the two, says Rachael Saunders, deputy director at the Institute of Business Ethics, a UK charity that promotes high standards of corporate behaviour. Founders of companies or people appointed to senior roles “naturally reflect” on the difference they want to make, she adds.

“People for whom faith is important are likely to immediately see that contributing to society can be part of that, either because of their faith teaching or because they’ve seen their faith community play that role of service,” she says.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Hard-up church-school head turns to his family to fill staff gaps

Spiralling costs and staff shortages have forced the head teacher of a church school in Devon to ask his mother to help out as a lunch supervisor and to rope his sister in to do the cleaning.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has warned that schools are “cut to the bone”. The association has released data from a survey of its members, suggesting that 90 per cent of schools will go into deficit in the next academic year, and half expect to go into the red in the next 12 months.

The general secretary of the NAHT, Paul Whiteman, told the Observer on Sunday. “There are no easy fixes left. This will mean cutting teaching hours, teaching assistants, and teachers.”

Last week, Steve Hitchcock, the head teacher of St Peter’s C of E Primary School, in Budleigh Salterton, told the APEX news agency that there was nothing left to cut. The school was “constantly asking parents for money, constantly asking local groups, constantly trying to get money from any source”.

The school’s energy bills had doubled in the past six months, he said, while real-terms income had fallen by nine per cent in the past decade. Rising costs and diminishing income has left the catering budget £38,000 in arrears, and meant that the school was unable to give catering staff a pay rise in line with inflation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), Economy, Education, England / UK, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(NYT front page) Disabled Workers Thrive in Tight Labor Market

The strong late-pandemic labor market is giving a lift to a group often left on the margins of the economy: workers with disabilities.

Employers, desperate for workers, are reconsidering job requirements, overhauling hiring processes and working with nonprofit groups to recruit candidates they might once have overlooked. At the same time, companies’ newfound openness to remote work has led to opportunities for people whose disabilities make in-person work — and the taxing daily commute it requires — difficult or impossible.

As a result, the share of disabled adults who are working has soared in the past two years, far surpassing its prepandemic level and outpacing gains among people without disabilities.

In interviews and surveys, people with disabilities report that they are getting not only more job offers, but better ones, with higher pay, more flexibility and more openness to providing accommodations that once would have required a fight, if they were offered at all.

Read it all.

Posted in Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(Church Times) C of E Pensions Board joins fight to force VW to open its books on climate lobbying

The Church of England Pensions Board has joined five other pension funds to bring legal action against Volkswagen AG (VW), after it refused repeated attempts to reveal crucial information on its corporate climate-lobbying activities.

The funds, four Swedish and one Danish in addition to the C of E board, are all part of the Institutional Investment Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) and the Climate Action’s 100+ initiative. These have asked the company repeatedly to clarify its lobbying position. VW discloses trade association memberships, but does not disclose how the goals of these associations align with its own climate goals.

The boards wanted to table an agenda item at VW’s AGM, seeking publication of a report setting out how the company’s lobbying of policy-makers matched its stated ambition to support the Paris Agreement goals by becoming a net-zero company. VW refused to table the item.

The investors say that they tried over several years to get information before tabling the amendment. The case, supported by the legal charity ClientEarth, will test whether VW has the right to refuse the agenda item.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, Pensions, Science & Technology, Stock Market

Church of England Pensions Board begins legal proceedings against German car manufacturer VW

The Church of England Pensions Board, together with Swedish public pension funds AP7, AP2, AP3, AP4 and Danish AkademikerPension, has filed a case against Volkswagen AG, after it refused repeated attempts to reveal crucial information on its corporate climate lobbying activities.

This is the first time investors have started European litigation on a climate-related matter. The case was filed this week.

The case will test whether VW has the right to refuse to include an item on the company AGM agenda proposed by VW’s shareholders at the 2023 AGM having previously refused investors shareholder resolutions. The group of investors are represented by German law firm Hausfeld Rechtsanwälte LLP and supported by legal charity ClientEarth.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

(NYT) As Inflation Stalks Europe, Leaders Shudder

The situation is arguably even more dire on continental Europe. The annual inflation rate in the European Union is now at its highest in decades — 10.9 percent in September, up from 3.6 a year earlier.

That is worse even than in the United States or Britain, and it is being driven largely by the bloc’s unique and anguishing withdrawal pains as it tries to punish Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, for his invasion of Ukraine by quitting its long dependence on cheap Russian gas.

As winter approaches, Europe’s united turn away from Russian energy is beginning to bite in households everywhere, eroding living standards and in some countries threatening to chip away at the united front for sanctions against Russia.

Mario Draghi, the departing prime minister of Italy and an architect of the continent’s united line against Russia, warned as much would happen if Europe failed to reach a deal to cap prices on the alternative gas imports.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Europe, Politics in General

(Bloomberg) Americans Reclaim 60 Million Commuting Hours in Remote-Work Perk

Americans who are working from home have reclaimed 60 million hours that they used to spend commuting to an office each day. They’re now using that time to get more sleep instead.

That’s the takeaway from a research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey to see what US workers spent their time on when they weren’t stuck on a crowded train or locked in traffic. The main findings: Employees spent fewer total hours working and substantially more on sleep and leisure.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(BBC) ‘Exploited’ foreign doctors worry about risk to UK patients

Doctors recruited from some of the world’s poorest countries to work in UK hospitals say they’re being exploited – and believe they’re so overworked they fear putting patients’ health at risk.

A BBC investigation has found evidence that doctors from Nigeria are being recruited by a British healthcare company and expected to work in private hospitals under conditions not allowed in the National Health Service.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has described the situation as “shocking” and says the sector needs to be brought in line with NHS working practices.

The BBC has spoken to several foreign medics – including a young Nigerian doctor who worked at the private Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital in 2021.

Augustine Enekwechi says his hours were extreme – on-call 24 hours a day for a week at a time – and that he was unable to leave the hospital grounds. He says working there felt like being in “a prison”.

The tiredness was so intense, he says, there were times he worried he couldn’t properly function.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Nigeria

(RNS) At new Minnesota facility, Amazon takes small steps to welcome Muslim workers

A new Amazon sorting facility in Woodbury, Minnesota, is taking its employees’ religious needs seriously, adding new “ablution stations” for ritual hand and foot washing and three rooms that people of any faith may use for prayer or meditation.

The 550,000-square-foot facility, which opened this month, employs about 300 Somalis and Somali Americans, many of them refugees from the generation-long civil war in the east African nation. Minnesota is home to as many as 80,000 Somali immigrants, more than half of those living in the United States. More than 99% of Somalians are Muslim.

A stop for packages moving between Amazon warehouses and their shipping destinations, the Woodbury center includes signs in Somali as well as translation services. Other accommodations for all employees include lactation rooms for nursing mothers and soundproof booths for phone calls.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Islam, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture

(NYT front page) Inflation Is Unrelenting, Bad News for the Fed and White House

Prices continued to climb at a brutally rapid pace in September, with a key inflation index increasing at the fastest rate in 40 years, bad news for the Federal Reserve as it struggles to wrestle the cost of living back under control.

Overall inflation climbed 8.2 percent over the year through September, according to the latest Consumer Price Index report on Thursday, a slight moderation from August but more than what economists had expected.

Even more worrisome, underlying inflation trends are headed in the wrong direction. After stripping out fuel and food — which are volatile and removed to get a better sense of the trajectory — prices climbed 6.6 percent over the year through September. That was the quickest rate since 1982.

Inflation has been rapid for a year and a half now, and it is proving stubborn even as the Fed mounts its most aggressive campaign in generations to slow the economy and bring price increases under control. Fast inflation has also triggered the highest Social Security cost-of-living adjustment in decades — an 8.7 percent increase in benefits to retired and disabled Americans, a move that was announced Thursday.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Federal Reserve, Politics in General, President Joe Biden

(BBC) Bristol warm places scheme welcomes first residents

New mothers and the elderly are among the first to take advantage of a warm spaces scheme to help people struggling to afford to heat their own homes.

Cafes, churches and libraries across Bristol are opening their doors as energy prices rise this winter.

The city council asked businesses and public buildings to join the scheme in the summer.

As well as warmth, many of the spaces are offering services like financial advice and homework support.

A cafe in the Wellspring Settlement community centre in Barton Hill is taking part in the initiative twice a week and is also providing food.

People are only asked to pay what they can afford, with the rest subsidised by the council.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England, Energy, Natural Resources, Housing/Real Estate Market, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Personal Finance, Stewardship

(ProPublica) How a Chinese American Gangster Transformed Money Laundering for Drug Cartels

Adm. Craig Faller, a senior U.S. military leader, told Congress last year that Chinese launderers had emerged as the “No. 1 underwriter” of drug trafficking in the Western Hemisphere. The Chinese government is “at least tacitly supporting” the laundering activity, testified Faller, who led the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military activity in Latin America.

In an interview with ProPublica, the now-retired Faller elaborated on his little-noticed testimony. He said China has “the world’s largest and most sophisticated state security apparatus. So there’s no doubt that they have the ability to stop things if they want to. They don’t have any desire to stop this. There’s a lot of theories as to why they don’t. But it is certainly aided and abetted by the attitude and way that the People’s Republic of China views the globe.”

Some U.S. officials go further, arguing that Chinese authorities have decided as a matter of policy to foster the drug trade in the Americas in order to destabilize the region and spread corruption, addiction and death here.

“We suspected a Chinese ideological and strategic motivation behind the drug and money activity,” said former senior FBI official Frank Montoya Jr., who served as a top counterintelligence official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “To fan the flames of hate and division. The Chinese have seen the advantages of the drug trade. If fentanyl helps them and hurts this country, why not?”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Mexico, Politics in General

(C of E) New £15 million fund to help churches with energy bills announced

The Energy Costs Grant will be distributed to dioceses to enable them to help Parochial Church Councils (PCCs) cover the increased cost of heating and lighting church buildings this winter.

Dioceses will also be able to use some of their fund allocation to make additional targeted hardship payments for clergy and other employed ministers to cover household bills, in particular energy costs.

The new funding comes after £3 million was made available earlier this year by the Church of England for dioceses to distribute to clergy and lay ministers facing particular hardship because of the cost of living crisis.

The Energy Costs Grant is accompanied by information aimed at helping churches to become more energy efficient and reduce their carbon footprint.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Foreign Relations, Parish Ministry, Russia, Stewardship, Ukraine

(FT) ‘A self-inflicted lockdown’: how the global the cost of living crisis puts lives on hold

When Sarah, a 29-year-old North American, quit her job in the film industry and came to study law in London, she hoped to put her life on a firmer financial footing. Two years on, that goal seems further away than ever.

Interest payments on a bank loan have gone up; she has lost weight having cut back on groceries; and feels isolated because going out costs too much. A soaring energy bill has forced her to move out of her previous flat-share.

And with earnings as a research assistant working out at £6.65 an hour, Sarah says it is “impossible to imagine” planning for the future.

“I’m fixing the problem directly in front of me, not building a long-term game plan,” she says. “Every relationship and facet of my life has been impacted . . . It’s as if you’re climbing a staircase and you don’t know if the next step is going to be there [or] if you’re going to fall through.”

Sarah is one of countless casualties of a global cost of living crisis that is forcing people around the world to put their lives on hold — forgoing social lives, scrapping house moves and weddings, hesitating to start a family or delaying retirement because of the financial pressures caused by high inflation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance, Psychology

(CT) Robert Tracy McKenzie reviews Bonnie Kristian’s book ‘ Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community’

In sum, we’ve always canceled social transgressors. We’ve always been drawn to simple answers to complex questions. We’ve always been susceptible to emotional manipulation. What is new is the speed with which vast volumes of information—true and false, balanced and distorted—can be generated with such astonishing ease. This trend only magnifies tendencies to which we are already prone. Gradually remade by the devices that mesmerize us, we become less and less willing to listen, less and less tolerant of dissent, less and less able to engage constructively and charitably with others in pursuit of a common good.

In recent years, writers across the spectrum have noted the detrimental effect of social media on our politics and connected political dysfunction to a larger epistemic crisis. Christian observers like Stetzer and Daniel Darling are among those examining how social media is corrupting Christian witness. What distinguishes Kristian is the sheer comprehensiveness of her examination and, above all, her demonstration that the knowledge crisis may harm the church even more than democracy.

At the heart of Untrustworthy is a clarion call for Christians to awaken to how this crisis is wreaking havoc on our churches and tarnishing our testimony. Kristian grieves over the division of churches; the estrangement of families; and, most poignantly, her pain while watching helplessly as a Christian colleague succumbed to the power of “fearmongering falsehoods.” When we can’t agree on basic facts, conversation becomes futile, intimate connection impossible, and real Christian community unattainable. “If we can’t talk to one another,” Kristian asks plaintively, “how do we worship together?”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, Philosophy, Psychology, Science & Technology

(FT) Fed-led dash for higher rates risks ‘world recession’, warns top EU diplomat

[Josep] Borrell, speaking at an annual conference of EU ambassadors, admitted that Brussels was “quite reluctant” to believe US warnings that Russia was going to invade Ukraine in February and had failed to analyse Russian president Vladimir Putin’s actions.

“We didn’t believe it will happen . . . And we haven’t foreseen neither the capacity of Putin to escalate,” he said.

Borrell added Brussels failed to understand what other countries wanted, and instead pushed its own ideas on them.

“We think that we know better what is in other people’s interests,” he said. “We have to listen more . . . to the rest of the world. We need to have more empathy.

“We try to export our model, but we don’t think how others will perceive this,” he added.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Federal Reserve, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General

(Unherd) How Turbo-Wokism broke America

So who does control the new American system? The answer isn’t broke woke-ists. It’s the monopolists who own the platforms where the woke-ists live. Elon Musk and Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett and Sergei Brin and Larry Page and Lorraine Jobs don’t care about mean tweets. They care about the hundreds of billions of dollars in their bank accounts, their lavish mansions and private jets, and pursuing rich person hobbies like colonising Mars. Their primary political goal, as a class, is to prevent the state from ever getting strong enough to tax their fortunes, break up their monopolies, or interfere with the supplies of cheap immigrant and offshore labour from which they profit. The more fractured, dejected, and heavily surveilled the America public is, the less likely a strong state is to emerge.

In the contest between the oligarchs and the fading Rooseveltian state, the woke is a useful tool— not an independent power. Its members are the foot soldiers of the Democratic Party, whose job it is to organise the dispossessed into groups that are narrow, factional, and divided enough that they can’t come together into a force that threatens oligarchical control. Its discontent with the Turbo-Capitalist order can be usefully turned against anyone who refuses to follow the ever-changing party line — beginning with the “deplorables” who are now regularly portrayed as murderous, undemocratic racists and fascists, and extending to JK Rowling and Margaret Atwood. The result is a closed circuit in which Turbo-Capitalist oligarchs and Woke activists make common cause against formerly independent institutions like universities, professional associations, and the press. All of these institutions rely on guarantees of individual and collective rights by the state, which the Turbo-Capitalists and the Woke seek to capture and use as an instrument to enforce their own privatised social bargain: everything within the Party, nothing outside the Party, nothing against the Party.

The unprecedented reach of the technologies that the new oligarchy commands has already destroyed the press and replaced it with a government-corporate censorship regime that has no parallel in peacetime America. Combined with what appears to be a healthy appetite for humiliating others, this power does not bode well for the future of social peace in America, or for the health of the next American Republic.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Politics in General, Psychology