Category : Economy

(C of E) Bishop Alan Smith welcomes the credit card gambling ban

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has welcomed an announcement from the Gambling Commission that consumers will no longer be able to use credit cards to gamble from April 2020.

“This marks a significant step in progressive policy-making, reducing the risks to gamblers,” he said, following the announcement.

“For too long people have been vulnerable through gambling with money they don’t have, using credit cards, additionally incurring the costs of borrowing alongside any losses.

“I have been calling for this change as consultation turned into consultation, while gamblers were facing the consequences of delay.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture

(America) How parishes can tackle the U.S. church’s money crisis

For the Catholic Church, this means starting with our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. But the road to the financial health of a parish also means seeing financial resources as a spiritual issue, and encouraging parishioners to contribute, as Christian disciples, relative to their means. We recommend three steps to get started.

Preach and teach about money more. The Bible has some great wisdom on how to handle money, and Jesus had more to say about it than any other issue. The pulpit needs to be leveraged to give parishioners insight on money and how giving can be an act of faith. Beyond the pulpit, parishes can host courses to help people get out of debt and more skillfully manage their money.

Talk about money more but ask for it less. Incessant, guilt-tinged “asks” for causes ranging from busted boilers to leaky roofs create the impression that all the church talks about is money. These asks take the form of second collections, special appeals, sales in the lobby and, of course, raffles, bake sales and bingo. These fundraisers create confusion, and parishes should wean themselves off of them. At Mass, pass the offering basket once, and, barring an extraordinary event, ask for additional financial support no more than once a year.

Lead by example. The Gospels say that people followed Jesus because he spoke as one having authority. Church leaders can speak with authority about money when we ourselves are giving at a sacrificial level through our gifts of time, talent or, when possible, financial resources. Our credibility is further enhanced when we are good stewards of the money we receive in offerings, honoring parish budgets, avoiding unnecessary debt and eliminating unneeded expenses.

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Posted in Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Stewardship

(FT) Half of UK universities commit to divesting from fossil fuels

Half the UK’s universities have pledged to sell their shares in fossil fuel companies after a years-long campaign involving protests, hunger strikes and petitions by students worried about climate change.

Some 78 of the UK’s 154 public universities have committed to at least partially divest from fossil fuels, including University College London, York, Liverpool and Exeter, which all said they would ditch oil and gas stocks last year.

According to People & Planet, the group that co-ordinated the students, £12.4bn of endowments across the higher education sector have dumped at least some fossil fuel stocks.

The divestment by universities is the latest sign of the growing influence of young climate activists. Last year, youth-led climate strikes took place across the world, inspired by teenager Greta Thunberg.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stewardship, Stock Market

(WSJ) As Jobs Cap 10 Years of Gains, Women Are Workforce Majority

Women overtook men to hold the majority of U.S. jobs for the first time in a decade, while employers added positions for a record 10th straight year, pointing to a growing and dynamic economy heading into 2020.

The number of women on nonfarm payrolls exceeded men in December for the first time since mid-2010, the Labor Department said Friday. Women held 50.04% of jobs last month, surpassing men on payrolls by 109,000.

“Increasingly, the fortunes of women in the labor market will determine the overall outcomes of the labor market because they will be the predominant share,” said Marianne Wanamaker, a labor economist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and former adviser to President Trump.

Overall, the economy added a seasonally adjusted 145,000 jobs last month, and unemployment stayed at a 50-year low of 3.5%. In one dark spot, wages advanced 2.9% from a year earlier, the smallest annual gain since July 2018. Stock-market indexes finished lower Friday after rising earlier in the day, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly crossing the 29000 mark.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(PS) Shoshana Zuboff–Surveillance Capitalism

As we enter a new decade, we are also entering a new era of political economy. Over the centuries, capitalism has evolved through a number of stages, from industrial to managerial to financial capitalism. Now we are entering the age of “surveillance capitalism.”

Under surveillance capitalism, people’s lived experiences are unilaterally claimed by private companies and translated into proprietary data flows. Some of these data are used to improve products and services. The rest are considered a “behavioral surplus” and valued for their rich predictive signals.

These predictive data are shipped to new-age factories of machine intelligence where they are computed into highly profitable prediction products that anticipate your current and future choices. Prediction products are then traded in what I call “behavioral futures markets,” where surveillance capitalists sell certainty to their business customers.

Google’s “clickthrough rate” was the first globally successful prediction product, and its ad markets were the first to trade in human futures. Already, surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, and ever more companies across nearly every economic sector have shown an eagerness to lay bets on our future behavior.

The competitive dynamics of these new markets reveal surveillance capitalism’s economic imperatives.

First, machine intelligence demands a lot of data: economies of scale.

Second, the best predictions also require varieties of data: economies of scope. This drove the extension of surplus capture beyond likes and clicks into the offline world: your jogging gait and pace; your breakfast conversation; your hunt for a parking space; your face, voice, personality, and emotions.

In a third phase of competitive intensity, surveillance capitalists discovered that the most predictive data come from intervening in human action to coax, tune, herd, and modify behavior in the direction of guaranteed outcomes.

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

(DM) George Pitcher–This Christmas, we have a golden opportunity to re-invent our political culture and our economy

If Mr Johnson is to be true to his word and consolidate his northern vote, finance must serve those nearer the bottom of the pile to address our North-South inequality.

It’s apt that this sea-change election fell just before Christmas, the time in our Christian calendar when we trace the start of our narrative – that Nativity story about displacement, refugees, insufficient accommodation, the cruel and casual oppression by a ruling class and a baby born in a stable.

The child we celebrate at Christmas-time would grow up to tell some Pharisees who tried to trick him over Roman taxation policy to ‘render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’.

Christians believe everything belongs to God. So some of the more rapacious models of capitalism we’ve suffered under, which brought about the financial crisis that cost the world so dearly, really won’t do today.

This Christmas we have a golden opportunity to re-invent our political culture and our economy.

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Posted in Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) The highest YouTube earner this year? An eight-year-old

An eight-year-old YouTube presenter has topped its list of high earners, making $26m last year.

Ryan Kaji (real name Gaun) made his toy review empire unboxing toys on YouTube from when he was just three. Now the eight-year-old has his face on toys and gets spotted in the supermarket.

A video from four years ago shows him woken from a toy-car bed by his parents, to find a giant egg with toys inside next to him. His speech is not yet fully developed – in the intro he says “welcomes to Ryan toy review”.

He plays with a series of toys that he retrieves from the egg, including a large racetrack that he puts toy cars on. Everything in the room, from his bed to the toys he plays with, is on the theme of the popular Pixar movie Cars.

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Globalization

(NYT) One Nation, Tracked: An Investigation Into The Smartphone Tracking Industry

For many Americans, the only real risk they face from having their information exposed would be embarrassment or inconvenience. But for others, like survivors of abuse, the risks could be substantial. And who can say what practices or relationships any given individual might want to keep private, to withhold from friends, family, employers or the government? We found hundreds of pings in mosques and churches, abortion clinics, queer spaces and other sensitive areas.

In one case, we observed a change in the regular movements of a Microsoft engineer. He made a visit one Tuesday afternoon to the main Seattle campus of a Microsoft competitor, Amazon. The following month, he started a new job at Amazon. It took minutes to identify him as Ben Broili, a manager now for Amazon Prime Air, a drone delivery service.

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Mr. Broili told us in early December. “But knowing that you all can get ahold of it and comb through and place me to see where I work and live — that’s weird.” That we could so easily discern that Mr. Broili was out on a job interview raises some obvious questions, like: Could the internal location surveillance of executives and employees become standard corporate practice?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(FT) Some of Brazil’s evangelical church preach the Bolsonaro revolution

Paulo Guedes, Mr Bolsonaro’s economy minister, was spotted in Congress recently wearing a bracelet with a Bible verse given to him by an evangelical pastor. “These guys support the president,” he beamed. Mr Guedes is leading his own crusade to bring the free-market economics he learnt from Milton Friedman in Chicago to his homeland. The Universal Church’s message that state handouts are no way to live is music to his ears.

The Sunday service featured on its giant screens the story of a believer who raised himself from scavenging on a rubbish dump at the age of 17 to the ranks of the bourgeoisie. Now a successful lawyer and the proud owner of three apartments, he was invited on stage by Mr Macedo to explain how his devotion to the church had transformed his life. His strict adherence to a rule that believers tithe one-tenth of their income to the church — even when eking out an existence on a rubbish dump — was emphasised repeatedly.

Mr Mendonça says the message is an entrepreneurial one. “The same things you hear at a seminar for people starting their own business — the need to believe in your potential and in what you do, to be creative and to take risks — are exactly the same” as the advice in church, he says.

The formula has worked for Mr Macedo. His personal wealth has been estimated by Forbes magazine at $1.1bn, making him one of the world’s richest religious leaders.

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Posted in Anthropology, Brazil, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

More Dorothy Sayers on her Feast Day–Why Work?

I have already, on a previous occasion, spoken at some length on the subject of Work and Vocation. What I urged then was a thoroughgoing revolution in our whole attitude to work. I asked that it should be looked upon, not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God. That it should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God’s image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing.

It may well seem to you – as it does to some of my acquaintances – that I have a sort of obsession about this business of the right attitude to work. But I do insist upon it, because it seems to me that what becomes of civilization after this war is going to depend enormously on our being able to effect this revolution in our ideas about work. Unless we do change our whole way of thought about work, I do not think we shall ever escape from the appalling squirrel cage of economic confusion in which we have been madly turning for the last three centuries or so, the cage in which we landed ourselves by acquiescing in a social system based upon Envy and Avarice.

A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand….

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Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Theology

(Local Paper front page) Modern warfare is now happening online. South Carolina’s defense contractors are on the front lines.

The military’s most frequent battles are not fought on land, by sea or in the air. They’re fought online, every day, and South Carolina’s defense contractors are trying to stay ahead of the enemy.

Katie Arrington, a former state lawmaker who was appointed in January as a consultant for the Department of Defense, said Charleston in particular is key when it comes to cybersecurity against China, terrorist groups and individuals attempting to undermine government security.

“We’re at war,” Arrington told The Post and Courier. “Cyberwar is real. To think this community isn’t exposed to what our adversaries are trying to do every day in the cyber realm would be remiss. Our cyberwarriors, the people who work in the Charleston defense contractor community, are the first layer of defense.”

That was the theme this week when more than 1,400 business leaders, military officers and government employees gathered in North Charleston for the Charleston Defense Contractors Association’s 13th annual conference to discuss the evolution of warfare. For decades, the federal government has looked to the private sector to come up with solutions. And cyberwarfare is now big business in the Palmetto State.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Corporations/Corporate Life, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Science & Technology

(NPR) Powered By Faith, Religious Groups Emerge As A Conduit For A Just Solar Boom

Minnesota winters are long, brutal and gray. Minneapolis resident Keith Dent has endured 38 of them. But over the last several years, he’s experienced what he calls a “reintroduction to the sun.”

In 2017, Dent helped install, and later subscribed to a massive community solar garden mounted atop Shiloh Temple — a majority black church in north Minneapolis. Today, the 630-panel array provides Shiloh itself, the nearby Masjid An-Nur Mosque and 29 local households with green energy.

The Shiloh project is among hundreds of community solar gardens cropping up nationwide working to solve an obstacle many face when trying to go green: the cost of installing rooftop panels, which for a typical household, runs north of $10,000. The project is also among a growing cluster of initiatives affiliated with faith-based institutions seeking to advance their missions of justice by bringing renewable energy to low income communities.

Dent says his utility bills have dropped noticeably since he first subscribed; “That extra $30 or $40 a month? That’s groceries, that’s gas, that’s ballet shoes,” he says.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Stewardship

(Guardian) Archbp John Sentamu–It’s time to act against the oil companies causing death and destruction

The legal system in Nigeria is cumbersome, costly and inefficient. Victims are rarely able to afford the means to justice and redress. While governments must accept a share of responsibility for this catastrophe, the onus lies largely with the multinational oil companies that dominate the scene. They drill and export the oil and gas. They own the inadequate and poorly maintained and poorly guarded infrastructure that have allowed oil spills and other forms of pollution to become systemic for people in Bayelsa.

All too often they do not respect their fundamental human rights and are getting away with a pollution footprint with global consequences, including climate change. Yet those who bear the immediate cost are the people of Bayelsa, where human life appears to be disposable in the pursuit of wealth.

Repentance, reparation and remedy for damage done for decades is long overdue. Too many people treat distant parts of the world like giant rubbish dumps. If you or I behaved like that in our locality, albeit on an infinitely smaller scale, we would be rightly prosecuted for fly-tipping.

We are all temporary tenants on this planet and will be held accountable for its management. Future generations will look at the state of their inheritance and will want to know who in the past benefited from its irresponsible exploitation and who paid the price for it. If there is still an opportunity for the present generation to make amends, we had better get on with it with the utmost urgency.

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Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Nigeria, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–I Was Once a Socialist. Then I Saw How It Worked.

I came to realize that capitalism is really good at doing the one thing socialism is really bad at: creating a learning process to help people figure stuff out. If you want to run a rental car company, capitalism has a whole bevy of market and price signals and feedback loops that tell you what kind of cars people want to rent, where to put your locations, how many cars to order. It has a competitive profit-driven process to motivate you to learn and innovate, every single day.

Socialist planned economies — the common ownership of the means of production — interfere with price and other market signals in a million ways. They suppress or eliminate profit motives that drive people to learn and improve.

It doesn’t matter how big your computers are, the socialist can never gather all relevant data, can never construct the right feedback loops. The state cannot even see the local, irregular, context-driven factors that can have exponential effects. The state cannot predict people’s desires, which sometimes change on a whim. Capitalism creates a relentless learning system. Socialism doesn’t.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Debating the decline of wedlock, again, in the shadow of the baby bust

Over the last 10 years, however — and again, I acknowledge that this is impressionistic — I think we have reached a third phase in liberal attitudes toward marriage, a new outworking of cultural individualism that may eventually render the nuanced liberalism my colleague describes obsolete.

This new phase is incomplete and contested, and it includes elements — in #MeToo feminism, especially — whose ultimate valence could theoretically be congenial to cultural conservatives. But in general the emerging progressivism seems hostile not only to anything tainted by conservative religion or gender essentialism but to any idea of sexual or reproductive normativity, period, outside a bureaucratically supervised definition of “consent.” And it’s therefore disinclined to regard lifelong monogamy as anything more than one choice among many, one script to play with or abandon, one way of being whose decline should not necessarily be mourned, and whose still-outsize cultural power probably requires further deconstruction to be anything more than a patriarchal holdover, a prison and a trap.

The combination of forces that have produced this ideological shift is somewhat murky — it follows a general turn leftward on social issues after the early 2000s, a further weakening of traditional religion, the cultural ripples from Obergefell v. Hodges, the increasing political polarization of the sexes and, of course, the so-called Great Awokening.

But it does not feel like a coincidence that the new phase tracks with the recent decline in childbearing. If the new liberal hostility to marriage-as-normative-institution is not one of the ideological causes of our latest post-familial ratchet, it is at least a post facto ideological excuse, in which the frequent prestige-media pitches for polyamory or open marriages or escaping gender norms entirely are there to reassure people who might otherwise desire a little more normativity (and a few more children) in their lives, that it’s all cool because they’re in the vanguard of a revolution.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology

(NYT) Suddenly, the Chinese Threat to Australia Seems Very Real

A Chinese defector to Australia who detailed political interference by Beijing. A businessman found dead after telling the authorities about a Chinese plot to install him in Parliament. Suspicious men following critics of Beijing in major Australian cities.

For a country that just wants calm commerce with China — the propellant behind 28 years of steady growth — the revelations of the past week have delivered a jolt.

Fears of Chinese interference once seemed to hover indistinctly over Australia. Now, Beijing’s political ambitions, and the espionage operations that further them, suddenly feel local, concrete and ever-present.

“It’s become the inescapable issue,” said Hugh White, a former intelligence official who teaches strategic studies at the Australian National University. “We’ve underestimated how quickly China’s power has grown along with its ambition to use that power.”

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Posted in Australia / NZ, China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(Seattle Times) Recompose, the human-composting alternative to burial and cremation, finds a home in Seattle’s Sodo area

One evening last week, around 75 people gathered in a vast Sodo warehouse for an event that may have been the first of its kind in human history: a housewarming party for a funeral home where bodies would not be burned or buried, but laid in individual vessels to become clean, usable compost.

It was an eclectic group (doctors, architects, funeral directors, state legislators, lawyers, investors), but they had come together to celebrate the first site for Recompose, the fledgling Seattle company that hopes to change the way people think about what happens after we die.

“You all have one thing in common,” Katrina Spade, founder and CEO of Recompose, told the crowd beneath the mammoth, curved wood ceiling. “You are all members of the death-care revolution.”

But for some at the party, it took a little time to get there.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology

(FT) Tough new global standards on mining waste storage under consideration

Some of the mining majors have already publicly released their own stringent standards but say implementation and assurance of stakeholders needs improving. There is also a wider challenge of getting smaller miners that do not belong to the ICMM to sign up to the standards.

The disaster in Brazil was the second major accident involving tailings dams within almost four years and has made some investors wary of owning mining shares and raised uncertainty among insurance companies. It is estimated there are about 3,500 active tailings dams globally and a recent review estimated one in ten have stability issues.

The draft noted investors have a role to play in limiting their financial support only to projects that fulfil the standards proposed and insurance companies should insist mining companies minimise the risk from tailings dams.

Adam Matthews from the Church of England Pensions Board representing PRI said “we are mindful that zero harm to people and environment has to be the objective and the standard has an important role to play to achieving a mining sector whose tailings facilities are operating to such a standard.”

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

(AI) Trinity School for Ministry expands campus, purchases local church

In the small town of Ambridge, PA, a renewal is taking place. Storefronts are being updated, old buildings are being refurbished to house new tenants, and new sidewalks have been poured. Trinity School for Ministry has a desire to support this renewal in a way that is helpful to the town and also helps to build community. To that end, Trinity School for Ministry is thrilled to announce that we have just purchased the Presbyterian Church of Ambridge, located just a few blocks from Trinity’s campus. “When the pastor from the church approached me to inquire whether we would be interested in buying the church, I knew that I had to explore this option,” stated the Very Rev. Dr. Henry L. Thompson, III (Laurie), Dean and President of Trinity School for Ministry. “We knew we needed a larger chapel/meeting space and we had been praying that God would help us to discern whether or not to build a brand new building,” Thompson added. “We received our answer— not surprisingly, this existing church met every one of my criteria that I had identified for a new building. God has given us such a tremendous gift.”

Opened in 1976, Trinity has a long history of working with the Ambridge and surrounding communities. Of interest is the fact that Trinity’s current chapel was a Presbyterian church, and when Trinity purchased it, half of the congregation began attending down the street at the church that was just purchased. “We feel like God has taken us full circle,” said Thompson, “and once again we are able to put new life into an older building.”

The recently purchased building will allow Trinity to move forward into the future as its residential student population continues to grow and its partnerships reach even further globally.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Housing/Real Estate Market, Seminary / Theological Education, Stewardship

(BBC) The shareholders fighting to make oil firms greener

They can also convince firms to stop lobbying that is “inconsistent” with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change globally.

One of the most successful activist groups has been Climate Action 100+, a global network of institutional investors that targets the world’s 100 largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters.

Its 370 members, which have $35tn (£27tn) of assets under management, include well-known names such as Aberdeen Standard, the Church of England Pensions Board and HSBC Global Asset Management.

In March, the group, working with others, forced the oil giant Shell to make a legally binding commitment to use a broader definition of greenhouse gas emissions in its carbon-reduction targets.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stewardship, Stock Market

(BI) The Big Issue is getting tough on modern slavery

Big Issue vendors remain vulnerable to being targeted by slavers, so we have beefed up how we are tackling modern slavery.

In a move designed to tie in with International Anti-Slavery Day, which took place earlier this month, The Big Issue has introduced a new e-training module for staff as well as a new Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking policy.

The Big Issue’s head of programmes and partnerships Beth Thomas explains more.

“At The Big Issue we recognise that we work with some of the most vulnerable members of society who are at risk of falling victim to crime,” she said. “It is no secret that human traffickers prey on people who are vulnerable and exploit their circumstances to win over their trust. With this in mind we have introduced a modern slavery policy and procedure aimed at helping all staff to be able to spot the signs of modern slavery.

“We believe that it is not only up to those who work on the front line but it is all of us to be aware of how to spot the signs as we go about our day to day lives. From taking our cars to be cleaned to having a manicure, everyone needs to be vigilant and know what do to do if they suspect modern slavery. To help staff with this we have incorporated a new training module into all staff and volunteer inductions.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(FT) WhatsApp hack led to targeting of 100 journalists and dissidents

At least 100 journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents had their smartphones attacked by spyware that exploited a vulnerability in WhatsApp, according to the Facebook-owned messaging service.

The victims of the attack, which was first revealed by the Financial Times in May, were contacted by WhatsApp on Tuesday.

Their phones were targeted through WhatsApp’s call function by customers of the Israel-based NSO Group, which makes Pegasus, a spyware program. Once installed, Pegasus is designed to take over all of a phone’s functions.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(NYT) Silicon Valley Goes to Therapy

“In Silicon Valley,” Mr. Seibel added, “we did not talk this much about mental health even three years ago.” He estimates that more than 50 related start-ups are coming onto the scene. His firm just funded three: Stoic; Quirk, an app that uses cognitive behavioral therapy to treat people with anxiety and depression; and Mindset Health, which creates hypnotherapy apps that it says can treat anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.

Mindset Health was founded by two brothers, Alex and Chris Naoumidis, who previously created a peer-to-peer dress-sharing app for women. When that app failed, the brothers felt overcome with anxiety.

“We fell into this period of mental health problems,” said Alex Naoumidis, 24.

The brothers tried some of the existing wellness apps — meditation products, mindfulness tools — but remained unmoored. Their father suggested in-person hypnotherapy. It gave them the idea for Mindset.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology, Secularism

(Bloomberg) Overrun by Tourists, American Cities such as Charleston, South Carolina, Are Taking Aim at Hotels

Developers feel unjustly singled out. Jim Brady is trying to develop a 135-room hotel in Portland, Maine, where city leaders recently required new hotels to pay into an affordable housing fund, arguing that hospitality workers are being priced out. “I recognize that you need to earn a livable wage, and there are sectors that pay lower incomes, and hotels are some of those, but so are food and beverage facilities and retailers,” he says. “It just seemed unfair to say hotels were the cause of the affordable housing crisis.”

In Charleston, a decades-long effort to nurture tourism without spoiling the city’s 350-year-old heritage reached a boiling point recently. Former Mayor Joseph Riley presided over the “Holy City” for 40 years until 2016, and since then the city’s politics have been rife with infighting, locals say. Mayor John Tecklenburg campaigned on a pledge to temporarily halt new hotel construction as a candidate in 2015 and continued the fight upon taking office. Members of the City Council viewed that as alarmist and pushed for less severe restrictions. Councilman Mike Seekings, who’s hoping to unseat Tecklenburg in November’s election, published an op-ed in Charleston’s Post newspaper citing a fundraising email Tecklenburg once sent to supporters that included the line: “Every property that has the possibility of becoming a hotel will become a hotel unless we act.”

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Posted in * South Carolina, Economy, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Sightings) Peter Sherlock–Religious Discrimination: The Australian Debate

Most submissions in response to the consultation draft of the bill agree that discrimination on the basis of religious belief—or its absence—should be prohibited. In this respect, the bill simply gives effect to article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, that everyone should have a right “to manifest … religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Moreover, in Australia, the national Constitution was written in the 1890s with a view to preventing religious interference in the making of laws. While Parliament still opens each day with the Lord’s Prayer, there arguably is a need for legislative protections against religious discrimination.

Several submissions, however, indicate significant opposition to the bill as it stands because its religious protections would facilitate other forms of discrimination. This includes, for the first time in modern Australia, the introduction of religious exemptions in discrimination legislation covering race and disability, paralleling those in sex discrimination legislation. Furthermore, the bill does not go far enough for some religious groups, who argue it would open them up to what the Catholic Church has described as “lawfare” in relation to employment practices at faith-based schools or agencies. The Sydney Anglican submission, for its part, dramatically argues that, as it is presently drafted, the bill would force the church to make its campsites available for hire for satanic black masses.

All the same, the debate surrounding the bill has largely overlooked two aspects of religious liberty. The first is religious harassment. This is a concept found in other discrimination laws, such as measures to define and prosecute sexual harassment. What will happen when conflicting religious beliefs and behaviors come into contact, including not only religious speech but religious dress, sounds, or rituals? How can the rights of people of no religion be protected? What are the limits of accommodation and respect?

The second regards the nature of power. We can glimpse this point in a unique provision of the bill: companies with a turnover greater than $50,000,000 would be prohibited from preventing its employees from expressing religious views that discriminate against others unless it can prove that such expression would lead to serious financial harm for the company. Discrimination which may lead to the harm of others is acceptable, in other words, unless it is going to cost a business a great deal of money. In modern Australia, money equals power; the widow and her mite would appear to have no protections whatsoever.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Atlantic) Why You Never See Your Friends Anymore

Experiments like this one have given social engineering a bad name. Nevertheless, Americans are imposing a kind of nepreryvka on ourselves—not because a Communist tyrant thinks it’s a good idea but because the contemporary economy demands it. The hours in which we work, rest, and socialize are becoming ever more desynchronized.

Whereas we once shared the same temporal rhythms—five days on, two days off, federal holidays, thank-God-it’s-Fridays—our weeks are now shaped by the unpredictable dictates of our employers. Nearly a fifth of Americans hold jobs with nonstandard or variable hours. They may work seasonally, on rotating shifts, or in the gig economy driving for Uber or delivering for Postmates. Meanwhile, more people on the upper end of the pay scale are working long hours. Combine the people who have unpredictable workweeks with those who have prolonged ones, and you get a good third of the American labor force.

The personalization of time may seem like a petty concern, and indeed some people consider it liberating to set their own hours or spend their “free” time reaching for the brass ring. But the consequences could be debilitating for the U.S. in the same way they once were for the U.S.S.R. A calendar is more than the organization of days and months. It’s the blueprint for a shared life.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(BBC) Church of Scotland considers selling half Aberdeen’s churches

Almost half of Aberdeen’s churches are being considered for sale as part of a “once in a generation” review.

The 10-year plan recommends 15 buildings for disposal, with 15 being retained and the future of a further three under consideration.

The Church of Scotland report said it aimed “to reshape the church estate”.

Rev Scott Rennie, planning convener for the Presbytery, said there were “many more” church buildings than needed and that “difficult choices” lay ahead.

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Posted in --Scotland, Church History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(FA) The Unwinnable Trade War–Everyone Loses in the U.S.-Chinese Clash—but Especially Americans

In late June, the leaders of China and the United States announced at the G-20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, that they had reached a détente in their trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump claimed that the two sides had set negotiations “back on track.” He put on hold new tariffs on Chinese goods and lifted restrictions preventing U.S. companies from selling to Huawei, the blacklisted Chinese telecommunications giant. Markets rallied, and media reports hailed the move as a “cease-fire.”

That supposed cease-fire was a false dawn, one of many that have marked the on-again, off-again diplomacy between Beijing and Washington. All wasn’t quiet on the trade front; the guns never stopped blazing. In September, after a summer of heated rhetoric, the Trump administration increased tariffs on another $125 billion worth of Chinese imports. China responded by issuing tariffs on an additional $75 billion worth of U.S. goods. The United States might institute further tariffs in December, bringing the total value of Chinese goods subject to punitive tariffs to over half a trillion dollars, covering almost all Chinese imports. China’s retaliation is expected to cover 69 percent of its imports from the United States. If all the threatened hikes are put in place, the average tariff rate on U.S. imports of Chinese goods will be about 24 percent, up from about three percent two years ago, and that on Chinese imports of U.S. goods will be at nearly 26 percent, compared with China’s average tariff rate of 6.7 percent for all other countries.

The parties to this trade war may yet step back from the abyss. There have been over a dozen rounds of high-level negotiations without any real prospect of a settlement. Trump thinks that tariffs will convince China to cave in and change its allegedly unfair trade practices. China may be willing to budge on some issues, such as buying more U.S. goods, opening its market further to U.S. companies, and improving intellectual property protection, in exchange for the removal of all new tariffs, but not to the extent demanded by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, China hopes that its retaliatory actions will cause enough economic pain in the United States to make Washington reconsider its stance.

The numbers suggest that Washington is not winning this trade war. Although China’s economic growth has slowed, the tariffs have hit U.S. consumers harder than their Chinese counterparts. With fears of a recession around the corner, Trump must reckon with the fact that his current approach is imperiling the U.S. economy, posing a threat to the international trading system, and failing to reduce the trade deficit that he loathes.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(BBC) Edinburgh hosts world summit on ethical finance

Scotland’s role as a global leader in ethical finance is being highlighted at a world summit in Edinburgh.

Senior representatives from more than 200 companies and organisations are attending Ethical Finance 2019.

Speakers include Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The summit aims to “help define and shape the transition to a sustainable financial system where finance delivers positive change”.

The event is being hosted by the Scotland-based Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI).

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Posted in --Justin Welby, --Scotland, Archbishop of Canterbury, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Scotland, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector

(Economist) Is The best way to eradicate poverty in America to focus on children?

Elderly residents of Inez, the tiny seat of Martin County, Kentucky, deep in the heart of Appalachia, can still vividly remember the day the president came to town. Fifty-five years ago, while stooping on a porch, Lyndon Johnson spoke at length to Tom Fletcher (pictured), a white labourer with no job, little education and eight children. “I have called for a national war on poverty,” Johnson announced immediately afterwards. “Our objective: total victory.” That declaration transformed Fletcher and Martin County into the unwitting faces of the nation’s battle, often to the chagrin of local residents who resented the frequent pilgrimages of journalists and photographers. The story never changed much: Fletcher continued to draw disability cheques for decades and never became self-sufficient before his death in 2004. His family continued to struggle with addiction and incarceration.

Today Martin County remains deeply poor—30% of residents live below the official poverty line (an income of less than $25,750 a year for a family of four). Infrastructure is shoddy. The roads up the stunning forested mountains that once thundered with the extraction of coal now lie quiet, cracked to the point of corrugation. Problems with pollution because of leaky pipes mean that some parts of the county are without running water for days. “Our water comes out orange, blue and with dirt chunks in it,” says BarbiAnn Maynard, a resident agitating for repairs. She and her family have not drunk the water from their taps since 2000; it is suitable only for flushing toilets. Some residents gather drinking water from local springs or collect rainwater in inflatable paddling pools.

The ongoing poverty is not for lack of intervention. The federal government has spent trillions of dollars over the past 55 years. Programmes have helped many. But they also remain fixated on the problems of the past, largely the elderly and the working poor, leaving behind non-working adults and children. As a result, America does a worse job than its peers of helping the needy of today. By the official poverty measure, there were 40m poor Americans in 2017, or 12% of the population. This threshold is extremely low: for a family of four, it amounts to $17.64 per person per day. About 18.5m people have only half that amount and are mired in deep poverty. Children are the likeliest age group to experience poverty—there are nearly 13m of them today, or 17.5% of all American children.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Poverty