Category : Economy

(WSJ) American Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class

The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.

Consumer debt, not counting mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion—higher than it has ever been even after adjusting for inflation. Mortgage debt slid after the financial crisis a decade ago but is rebounding.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

(USA Today) Co-living spaces: How millennials, Gen Z create affordable rent situations in big cities

After years of living alone and a six-month-long apartment hunt in New York City, 27-year-old Jade X found what she called the “holy grail” of living situations – roommates.

For two years, the hotel manager had been renting a $1,200-a-month one-bedroom apartment in a residential section of the Bronx, where she says she didn’t have any friends, felt little sense of community and “there was literally nothing to do.”

“I didn’t feel safe, and it really didn’t fit my vibe,” the free-spirited fashion design enthusiast said. “I liked the price of the apartment, but then again, you get what you pay for.”

After a friend recommended that she look into one of the metro area’s many communal living companies, Jade, who legally changed her last name to X, did some digging and quickly applied. Two weeks later, she moved into her new shared apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, that is operated by Venn, a network of shared homes and spaces in the neighborhood.

“Everyone who moves around New York City has their horror stories; but for the first time in my life, this was not one of them,” Jade said about moving into the two-story duplex. “After everything I’ve been through in New York, it was worth finding this in the end.”

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Posted in Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

(IPE) Church of England eyes private equity after 2.6% loss in 2018

Poor performance across all markets during 2018, particularly the last quarter, meant the £2.4bn (€2.6bn) Church of England Pensions Board (CEPB) slumped to a 2.6% investment loss for the year.

The loss was published in the board’s annual report this morning, and compared with a 9.4% gain in 2017.

CEPB’s public equities allocation lost 6.9%, and the board – which runs assets on behalf of four church pension schemes – cut its exposure to 65% of its £2bn return-seeking portfolio. The long-term target allocation is 35%.

Within its public equity allocation, the CEPB has also continued to reduce its allocation to UK equities, now 6% of the return-seeking pool.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Economy, Stewardship, Stock Market

(CT) Oren Cass’s New Book–‘Tis a Gift to Do ‘Undignified’ Work

In The Once and Future Worker, Cass turns high ideals into concrete proposals to actually heal the fractures splintering the American workforce.

The most compelling is the “wage subsidy.” Rather than luring large corporations to town with big tax breaks (like the Amazon HQ2 hysteria of 2017) or levying payroll taxes on low-income workers and then redistributing the money through entitlements, why not “pay for jobs” directly? What if a worker saw a “Federal Work Bonus” on her next paycheck, adding three extra dollars for every hour she had worked?

Cass also advocates building an educational system better suited to the four-fifths of students who do not complete the high-school-to-college-to-career path. Around two-thirds of Americans don’t have a four-year college degree. To better ensure that more of them can get good jobs and contribute to their communities, Cass proposes reinvesting in vocational training and shifting toward a more “tracked” form of schooling—similar to systems found in Europe—where students are grouped according to educational ability rather than lumped together in the same classroom.

Yet there’s one area that government policy can’t do much about: our cultural views about the value of lower-wage workers.

“Waiters, truck drivers, retail clerks, plumbers, secretaries, and others all spend their days helping the people around them and fulfilling roles crucial to the community,” writes Cass. “They do hard, unglamorous work for limited pay to support themselves and their families.” Why shouldn’t we admire those who do harder jobs for lower wages on a broad scale? We’re capable of doing this with police officers, teachers, and firefighters. Why shouldn’t the work done by trash collectors, housekeepers, and janitors deserve the same degree of respect?

For that, we need not just policy reform but a different story about work altogether.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Local Paper) Charleston-area churches, bookstores could feel Trump tariffs and so-called ‘Bible tax’

Christian book publishers and some Charleston-area faith leaders fear that a proposed tariff on Chinese imports could lead to a shortage of Bibles in the United States.

Millions of Bibles are produced in China annually and a 25 percent tariff recently proposed by President Donald Trump would make it more expensive to print the religious text, according to Mark Schoenwald, CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. That cost increase likely would be passed on to consumers, who would pay more for the world’s best-selling book.

If the 25 percent increase is reflected in the sticker price, a Bible that costs $15 today would cost $18.50 after the tariff takes effect.

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Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Books, China, Economy, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Church Times) Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) planned to persuade bishop ‘to take a less active role’ in claimant’s pastoral care

The Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) planned to pressure a bishop to withdraw pastoral support from a survivor of abuse because it might prejudice a claim, redacted documents seen by the Church Times suggest.

The survivor, Julian Whiting, alleges that he was abused by a pupil and two housemasters of the Blue Coat School in Birmingham. Neither adult was a cleric. Several years later, in 2012, Mr Whiting approached the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, who is President of Blue Coat, for pastoral help.

In a letter to a redacted recipient dated April 2013, the casualty-claims employee for EIG in Manchester states: “I feel we may need you to help persuade the Bishop of Birmingham to take a less active role in his pastoral care of a claimant which we feel could have a knock-on effect to the current outstanding abuse claims we have for a Julian Whiting.”

He then says of the Blue Coat allegation: “Importantly, he [Julian Whiting] has never pursued a formal claim. There has been a lot of email traffic, but the position is that until the claimant properly formulates the claim, we have rightly shown little interest in the matter.

“What has recently complicated matters is that the Bishop of Birmingham in his role as Blue Coats [sic] School President has met with Whiting to hear his story. Whilst I fully understand the position taken that there is a pastoral care aspect here, my concern is that a continued dialogue with the Bishop and Whiting could prejudice the positioning we have taken in respect of the two claims.” (Mr Whiting was also pursuing a claim that, in 2009, he was groped by a church employee at a social event at Lambeth Palace.)

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Has The Robot Apocalypse Been Postponed?

The best reason to doubt Yang’s story is contained in productivity statistics, which measure the output of the gainfully employed and which traditionally rise rapidly during periods of technological change — because even if workers are losing their jobs to the spinning jenny or the automobile, other workers should be increasing their productivity with the new technology’s assistance.

Lately this hasn’t been happening. Instead productivity growth in the developed world has decelerated over the last decade. To quote a recent summary, in mature economies “labor productivity growth rates halved from an average annual rate of 2.3 percent in the period 2000-2007 to 1.2 percent from 2010-2017.” Combine that with the slow, consistent trend back toward full employment in the American economy — again, not what you’d expect if the labor market were being upended by technology — and the story of our times looks more like stasis than automated revolution, more like the stagnation discerned by a number of heterodox thinkers than the acceleration of conventional wisdom.

Yang and I wrangled about just this question when he graciously came on our Op-Ed podcast, The Argument. He suggested that what we’re seeing in the statistics is that automation for now is just holding down wages and shunting people out of industrial occupations and into low-paying service sector work … and that come a few more breakthroughs and the next recession, when companies will inevitably seek roboticized efficiency, you’ll start to get far more significant disruption.

He could be right; he’s certainly right that automation has had some impact on middle-class jobs, influencing the populism roiling Western politics. But it seems equally plausible that the real state of things is captured by my colleague Neal Boudette’s update on the status of the self-driving car, long portrayed as a technological breakthrough poised to throw lots of people — from long-distance truckers to cabdrivers — out of work.

Read it all.

Posted in Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(Sunday [London] Times) Gambling, Africa’s new child plague

British betting companies and football clubs are “luring” hundreds of thousands of African children into an illegal gambling craze that Kenya’s government says is “destroying” their lives.

Using techniques banned in the UK, the companies appeal to youngsters by using cartoon characters and free branded merchandise. At a British company’s betting shops in the Nairobi slums, The Sunday Times witnessed children as young as 14 gambling freely, in breach of Kenyan law.

Tracey Crouch, who resigned as sports minister in protest at the government’s lack of action over gambling, said she was “deeply concerned” at the revelations, adding: “It is reminiscent of the way that tobacco companies are seeking new markets among young people in Africa.”

Top English football clubs, which have millions of fans in Africa, are closely involved in the promotional efforts. Arsenal sent its former star, Sol Campbell, to Nairobi for children’s coaching sessions with SportPesa, a Kenyan betting company that is its African sponsor. Hull City players went to a Nairobi shanty town, where they handed out SportPesa-branded wristbands and football strips to schoolchildren.

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Posted in Africa, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Sports

(FT) It has been a good week for climate change policy–Economists’ innovative ideas are quickly moving from radical to mainstream

What is most significant about this work is that both councils now explicitly endorse two rather radical ideas (even if sometimes as one option among several), and that they do so in order to take seriously the political economy of climate change policy. In other words, they have set themselves the task of designing good economic policy in a way that makes it politically acceptable nationally and politically effective globally.

The first proposal — clearly in response to the political trauma of the gilets jaunes protests in France — is that any revenues from carbon taxes should be returned to the private sector rather than enter the government budget to be used for other purposes. The French CAE has developed a concrete and costed proposal for direct cash distribution of carbon tax revenue, in the form of regular “carbon cheques” to households. Its preferred version, where the carbon tax varies with household income and between cities and the countryside, can make virtually below-median-income households better off…

Second, both groups have also raised the possibility of linking trade openness to trading partners’ efforts to combat climate change. The German report explicitly envisages a “carbon border adjustment”. This would be a tax on the CO2 content of imported goods. The joint statement lists a number of alternative trade tools to use against countries with only weak regulation of carbon emissions, or to incentivise those trading partners with strong climate commitments to stick to them.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Stewardship

(CT) An interview with Jeremy Everett–A New Recipe for Ending Hunger

What are the main reasons that hunger exists in America?

Underemployment is the biggest factor. If you’re employed but only making minimum wage, there’s no place in America where you’ll be able to pay for all your expenses. And underemployment is chronic, meaning that typically families have experienced some measure of unemployment for generations.

Educational attainment is another major factor. Beyond a high school diploma, in most cases you need an additional two-year degree or a technical degree to escape hunger and poverty. But if you’re living in hunger and poverty, you’re much less likely to get the education you need.

A third factor is family structure. Common sense—and simple math—says that two gainfully employed adults are going to be better than one. My wife and I have three kids. We both have graduate degrees, we are Anglo, and we grew up in middle-class households. We’ve had every advantage that anyone could have, outside of inheriting large sums of money. But despite all these advantages, raising kids was still difficult, and it’s difficult to pay the bills. Imagine being a single parent trying to work, take care of your kids, and make sure everybody gets to school on time and gets fed on a regular basis. You have to be superhuman to pull that off while getting an additional degree.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Poverty, Theology

(FT) Emma Howard Boyd–Climate change: is your equities portfolio too hot to touch?

Understanding green finance can be challenging, add in the prolix greenwash that pours on to the internet every day and no wonder many people decide it is all too difficult.

But it isn’t. The Committee on Climate Change’s recent reports showed that the world urgently needs to reduce emissions and take action to prepare for physical impacts that will get worse in just 11 years.

To prosper in this new reality, investors have to focus on whether their investments address these two basic points. That is green finance in a nutshell.

Helping investors obtain good information to do that is why the Environment Agency Pension Fund and the Church of England National Investing Bodies set up the Transition Pathway Initiative in January 2017.

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

(NYT) ‘The Town Hall of Hollywood.’ Welcome to the Netflix Lobby.

Dolly Parton recently held court there, big wig and all. Leonardo DiCaprio and John Kerry arrived at the same time last month. Cindy Crawford on the left, David Letterman on the right. And isn’t that Beyoncé by the espresso bar?

Welcome to the hottest see-and-be-seen spot in Hollywood: Netflix’s first-floor waiting room.

Scratch that. It’s a “lobby experience” and “creative gateway,” according to a design firm that worked on the space. An 80-foot by 12-foot video screen makes visitors feel like they are inside Netflix shows — visiting the “Narcos” cocaine lab, for instance, or sitting on the Blue Cat Lodge boat dock from “Ozark.” Another wall is covered by at least 3,500 plants, a living mural that includes red Flamingo Lilies, known for their big pistils.

Every era in Hollywood has a symbolic epicenter, a place that sums up everything, especially power and sometimes absurdity. Gifting suites at the Sundance Film Festival epitomized the overheated indie boom of the 2000s. The monolithic new Creative Artists Agency headquarters arrived on cue at the end of that decade and represented an increasingly corporate film business. Next came Comic-Con International, a sweaty July convention for superhero devotees that marked a turn toward franchises and fan communities.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Entertainment, Movies & Television

(EF) Thinking through how a biblical work ethic clashes with contemporary European life

In its report World Employment Social Outlook, published this year with data from 2018, the International Labor Organization (ILO), says that “a majority of the 3.3 billion people employed globally in 2018 experienced a lack of material well-being, economic security, equal opportunities or scope for human development”.

The volatility of employment is what leads the coordinator of GBG (the Spanish IFES Graduates group) and of the Lausanne Movement in Spain, Jaume Llenas, to consider, “the long-term commitment and the emotional involvement with people as the main challenges that the biblical work ethic poses to the current labour system”.

“Although the companies we work for ask us for teamwork and mutual collaboration, they foster superficial and utilitarian relationships, dispatch their workers without any relational consideration, and use and throw away workers following other very different principles”, he says. Furthermore, “this sharp contrast of values provokes the corrosion of the character, the destruction of the person”.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Evangelicals, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Spain

(Local Paper) From making fighter jets to food rations, war is big business in South Carolina

War is big business in South Carolina.

A Post and Courier analysis of five years’ worth of the most recent spending data from the Pentagon’s Office of Economic Adjustment shows $13.1 billion worth of Department of Defense contracts were performed or awarded in the Palmetto State.

Also: One out of every 12 jobs in the state can be traced back to the military.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy

(Techcrunch) Twitter updates hate speech rules to include dehumanizing speech around religion

Against a backdrop of rising violence against religious minorities around the world, Twitter today said that it would update its hateful conduct rules to include dehumanizing speech against religious groups.

“After months of conversations and feedback from the public, external experts and our own teams, we’re expanding our rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others on the basis of religion,” the company wrote on its Twitter Safety blog.

The company said it will require tweets that target specific religious groups to be removed as violations of the company’s code of conduct.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture

(PBS Newshour) The Epstein case is not an outlier. Child sex trafficking is ‘pervasive’ in the U.S.

Well, one of the important things to recognize is that, in the United States, the vast majority of sex trafficking cases actually involve American citizens.

From the federal data, we know that upwards of 80 percent of all confirmed sex trafficking cases involve U.S. citizens and up to 40 percent of those cases involve the sale of children. And so it’s an incredibly important American problem and one that’s happening in communities all throughout the country.

I think that one of the things that we’re hoping comes to light and that people are able to connect the dots between the Epstein case and child sex trafficking all across this nation is that it’s often very powerful men with means taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of some of our most marginalized young women and girls, oftentimes, kids who have experienced extreme childhood sexual abuse, kids who are from the child welfare system, runaways and homeless youth, and exploiting there vulnerabilities.

It’s actually a tactic that exploiters use, because they know that these are the kids that no one really cares about. They know that these are the kids who most often fall through the cracks and that, even if they do come forward, they are the kids who are least likely to be believed.

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Posted in Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Guardian) One Quarter of world’s biggest firms ‘fail to disclose emissions’ according to new research

About a quarter of the world’s highest-emitting, publicly listed companies fail to report their greenhouse gas emissions and nearly half do not properly consider the risks from the climate crisis in decision-making, new research has found.

The findings show the distance even the world’s biggest companies still have to cover to meet the goals of the Paris agreement on climate change, according to the group of investors coordinating the report.

The research covered a sample of 274 of the world’s highest emitting companies which are publicly listed, and therefore must make official disclosures of key financial data.

It was carried out by the Grantham Research Institute on climate change at the London School of Economics and commissioned by the Transition Pathway Initiative, a group of investors supportive of the Paris agreement, with about $14tn (£11tn) in funds under management.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization

(FA) Dani Rodrik–Globalization’s Wrong Turn And How It Hurt America

Today’s woes have their roots in the 1990s, when policymakers set the world on its current, hyperglobalist path, requiring domestic economies to be put in the service of the world economy instead of the other way around. In trade, the transformation was signaled by the creation of the World Trade Organization, in 1995. The WTO not only made it harder for countries to shield themselves from international competition but also reached into policy areas that international trade rules had not previously touched: agriculture, services, intellectual property, industrial policy, and health and sanitary regulations. Even more ambitious regional trade deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, took off around the same time.

In finance, the change was marked by a fundamental shift in governments’ attitudes away from managing capital flows and toward liberalization. Pushed by the United States and global organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, countries freed up vast quantities of short-term finance to slosh across borders in search of higher returns.

At the time, these changes seemed to be based on sound economics. Openness to trade would lead economies to allocate their resources to where they would be the most productive. Capital would flow from the countries where it was plentiful to the countries where it was needed. More trade and freer finance would unleash private investment and fuel global economic growth. But these new arrangements came with risks that the hyperglobalists did not foresee, although economic theory could have predicted the downside to globalization just as well as it did the upside.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, Politics in General

A Statement from InterVarsity Press on Counterfeiting Books

You may have seen the recent article in Christianity Today describing two of our books, Liturgy of the Ordinary and Delighting in the Trinity, which have been sold in counterfeit editions by re-sellers on Amazon.

As the article stated, in response to InterVarsity Press’s proactively filing a formal complaint through Amazon’s standard protocols and after Christianity Today had made contact with its media relations team, Amazon removed the re-sellers of the counterfeit editions from its store. We are grateful for Amazon’s response to our complaint and its expressed openness to hear directly from us if we encounter counterfeit editions in the future. We consider Amazon a valued trade partner and recognize the extraordinary place it occupies in the global supply chain for books.

We have recently invested in a new service which allows us to more closely monitor our data distribution and to routinely pull a report of who is controlling the Amazon buy button on each of our books.

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Books, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology

(CT) Amazon Sold $240K of ‘Liturgy of the Ordinary’ Fakes, Publisher Says

IVP estimates that at least 15,000 counterfeit copies of Liturgy of the Ordinary were sold on the site over the past nine months, their retail value totaling $240,000. That nearly cuts sales of Warren’s book in half; IVP reported 23,000 legitimate copies were sold over the past year. IVP also found evidence of counterfeiting on a smaller scale for one other title, Michael Reeves’s Delighting in the Trinity, which came out in 2002.

“I’ve been constantly thinking of the verse about, ‘Do not store up treasures where moths and rust can destroy, and where thieves can steal, but store up your treasures where moths and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot steal’ (Matt. 6:19–20), and it’s really hard to process,” Warren told CT last week, a day after she learned about the scope of the fraud when IVP officials called her at her home in Pittsburgh.

“It’s a huge loss of money for my family. Percentagewise of what I make as a writer, it’s an enormous amount of that.”

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Books, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues

(1st Things) Peter Liethart–Business as Communion

During a visit to Brazil in 1991, the Italian Catholic activist Chiara Lubich called for a new way of doing business. In a speech near São Paolo, she sketched a picture of “productive communion” and “a communion of goods . . . at a superior level.” She envisioned businesses using profits not only to grow but also to benefit the poor, businesses putting “the needs and aspirations of the human person, and the common good, at the center of their attention,” businesses guided not by self-interest but by “reciprocal love.” Businesses can become “a ‘meeting place’ . . . a place of communion.” Word of the proposal spread quickly in Brazil, sparking what has become a global network of hundreds of businesses that see themselves as part of an “Economy of Communion” (EoC).

Lubich was already well-known in Brazil as the founder of Focolare. Focolare began in Lubich’s hometown of Trent, Italy, during World War II, when she and some friends devoted themselves to caring for the poorest residents in that war-torn town. The movement lived by a “culture of giving,” in which each member gave what he could, even if the only “gift” was a need. Adherents sought to mimic the habits of the early Christians. No one was forced to sell property, but everyone saw property as a trust from God to be devoted to the common good. Some of the original focolarini sold their possessions, while others committed to regular donations. They aimed to fulfill the vision of Deuteronomy: There shall be no poor among you.

Focolare wasn’t just charity work. “Focolare” means “hearth,” and evokes the solidarity, intimacy, warmth, and security of family and home. The focolarini opened their homes to give Trent’s poor a literal place at the hearth. Focolare’s work involved transfers of property, but at its heart it was an effort to foster communion.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Theology

(AM) Andrew Symes–“We don’t do prosperity theology” – or do we?

Historically, among white British Christians there has probably been a more natural tendency towards emphasis on the stiff upper lip against adversity and even poverty rather than expectation of miraculous and abundant provision. There remains a suspicion of demagoguery; also, the huge improvement in living standards generally over the past 50 years has meant less fertile ground for the preachers appealing to those desperate for supernatural intervention in personal fortunes. As Joel Edwards comments:

“Most traditional evangelicals …who belong to affluent churches have less need of a God who acts vibrantly in the material world… the prosperity gospel and its audacious faith holds little cultural or theological attraction”.

But is this the whole story? Perhaps most challengingly from this book, experienced mission leader Eddie Arthur warns the British church against arrogance and complacency. We might not be taken in by the white-suited emotional preachers, but have we unwittingly swallowed other forms of prosperity teaching without realizing it?

Certainly we’re not immune from consumerism. When as lay people we drive half an hour to a large church, is it because of the “good teaching”, or the well-staffed kids work, excellent coffee, numerous programmes and sense of ‘success’? As clergy faced with powerful pressure to conform to new ethical norms, or making decisions about ministry, do we tend to prioritize personal comfort and steer away from sacrifice, rationalizing perhaps that the more godly approach is to keep quiet in the face of obvious wrong (for the sake of “continued opportunities for the gospel”) rather than speaking out?

Many Western Christians continue to be generous in their giving and humble and servant hearted in their leadership – these are good ways of counteracting greed and hunger for power in ministry. But as our affluence increases at the same time as the possibility of persecution and the temptation to avoid it through disobedience, the need is more pressing for us to learn from the disadvantaged and suffering parts of the global church which have not succumbed to the prosperity preachers.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Evangelicals, Psychology, Theology

(WSJ) American Suburbs Swell Again as a New Generation Escapes the City

APEX, N.C.—This Raleigh, N.C., suburb was declared the best place to live in America by a national magazine in 2015, around the time Lindsay and Terry Mahaffey were drawn by its schools, affordable housing and quaint downtown.

The couple found a sprawling five-bedroom house next to a horse farm for $782,000, half the cost they would have paid in the Seattle suburb they left behind.

Many other families had the same idea. Apex, nicknamed the Millennial Mayberry, is the fastest-growing suburb in the U.S., according to Realtor.com, and the town is struggling to keep pace with all the newcomers.

When Mr. and Mrs. Mahaffey took their eldest daughter for the first day of kindergarten, school officials told them they didn’t have a seat. Too many kids, they said. On weekends, the family thinks twice about going downtown—not enough parking. And the horse farm next door was sold for a subdivision.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

(FT) America’s new redneck rebellion–West Virginians are embracing an anti-corporate populism that can veer left as well as right

I drive five hours across some of America’s most breathtaking scenery to meet Mike Weaver. “Almost heaven, West Virginia” opens John Denver’s classic song “Country Roads”. Almost Heaven is also the name of the Washington-based yacht of Joe Manchin, the state’s Democratic senator, who berths in the capital when Congress is in session. 

You can inhale the song’s lyrics as you spin through the deep gorges, wide meadows and craggy mountain byways. The state is utterly bountiful. Few landscapes could be so misleading as to the condition of its people.

“Eat your rice Han Ling, don’t you know there are children in West Virginia who are starving,” said a Chinese mother to her child in a New Yorker cartoon a few years ago. That was obviously comic exaggeration. Nevertheless, a child in West Virginia has a greater chance of dying from opioids than of becoming a doctor. 

Many kids enter the school gates as “drug babies” — either having become addicted in the womb or as victims of parental overdoses. One small town, Williamson, with a population of just 3,000, shipped in more than 20 million opioid pills, mostly oxycodone and hydrocodone, in a seven-year period. West Virginia’s rate of resource extraction — timber, coal, gas and agribusiness, which are its principal industries — seems to be matched only by the inflow of prescription drugs.

The steep decline of the coal industry is partly to blame. But other businesses are flourishing. The state’s mountains are criss-crossed with pipelines from the big fracking companies. Farms have been bisected, and their water tables polluted, by the often poorly compensated land seizures. A number of locals told me that the state’s fastest-growing suicide rate is among its farmers. 

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General

([London] Times) Will Face-Reading AI Tell Police When Suspects Are Hiding the Truth?

Police could soon get help from an artificial intelligence system that reads the hidden emotions of suspects by scanning involuntary “micro-expressions”.

The technology analyses fleeting facial movements that researchers believe betray true emotions and are impossible to suppress or fake.

The system has been developed by Facesoft, a British company co-founded by Allan Ponniah, a consultant plastic surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital in northwest London, who first used AI to reconstruct patients’ faces.

The company, which has held discussions with police forces in Britain and India, describes micro-expressions as “emotional leakage”. The expressions were first linked to deception by psychologists in the 1960s, who noticed that suicidal patients sometimes lied to disguise strong negative feelings.

Read it all (subscription) and you may find more there; the company’s website ishere.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Psychology, Science & Technology

(NYT) Forget Tanning Beds. College Students Today Want Uber Parking

The millennial generation attended college in a golden era for student housing, as investors poured money into luxurious off-campus communities packed with resort-style amenities: rooftop pools, golf simulators, tanning beds, climbing walls.

The wow factor increased with every new development. Many universities amped up their campus dorms and amenities in an effort to bolster recruitment, with a few going so far as to put in “lazy rivers” for floating around pools.

“It was crazy to see what was going to beat the last new thing,” said Dan Oltersdorf, a senior vice president and chief learning officer at Campus Advantage, which manages about 70 off-campus student housing communities around the country. “You were just asking, what’s next?”

But as millennials move on and so-called Generation Z moves in, student housing is shifting away from recreational dazzle and toward amenities that reflect the gig economy: digital conveniences, ample spaces indoors and out for studying and collaborating, and cutting-edge fitness facilities to maintain wellness.

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Posted in Economy, Education, Science & Technology, Young Adults

(C of E) New study outlines impact of two child limit

Research on the impact of the two-child limit in tax credits and universal credit, conducted by the Child Poverty Action Group and the Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England, is published today.

All Kids Count: the impact of the two-child limit after two years, shows that parents affected by the policy are reporting that they have cut back on fresh food for children, are unable to cover essential utility bills, and are being obliged to withdraw older children from activities such as swimming lessons and school trips.

The report, with additional contributions from Women’s Aid, the Refugee Council, and the charity, Turn2us, includes analysis by the Institute for Public Policy research (IPPR) which projects that one million children who already live in poverty will be pushed further below the poverty line by the time universal credit is fully rolled out in 2023/24 as a result of the policy.

The research draws on a survey of more than 430 families and 16 in-depth follow-up interviews with a representative sample of survey respondents. Women’s Aid and the Refugee Council provided additional findings from interviews with survivors of domestic abuse and refugees.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Children, Church of England (CoE), Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General

(WSJ) Julie Jargon–How 13 Became the Internet’s Age of Adulthood–The inside story of COPPA, a law from the early days of e-commerce that is shaping a generation and creating a parental minefield

At 13, kids are still more than a decade from having a fully developed prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in decision-making and impulse control. And yet parents and educators unleash them on the internet at that age—if not before—because they’re told children in the U.S. must be at least 13 to download certain apps, create email accounts and sign up for social media.

Parents might think of the age-13 requirement as a PG-13 movie rating: Kids might encounter a bit more violence and foul language but nothing that will scar them for life. But this isn’t an age restriction based on content. Tech companies are just abiding by a 1998 law called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was intended to protect the privacy of children ages 12 or under. It’s meant to keep companies from collecting and disseminating children’s personal information. But it has inadvertently caused 13 to become imprinted on many parents’ psyches as an acceptable age of internet adulthood.

Researchers at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society interviewed families around the country over five years and found that they believed that websites’ age requirement was a safety warning.

“Across the board, parents and youth misinterpret the age requirements that emerged from the implementation of COPPA,” the researchers wrote. “Except for the most educated and technologically savvy, they are completely unaware that these restrictions have anything to do with privacy.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Teens / Youth

(Wash Post) The sky is falling for fast food, but not for Chick-fil-A. Here’s why.

[David] Portalatin says that industry experts agree that the biggest distinguishing feature for Chick-fil-A is the customer experience.

“The level of customer satisfaction is highly differentiated from many of their fast-food peers.”

Chick-fil-A’s customer service is legendary, prompting rafts of memes enumerating real and imagined over-the-top polite employee interactions.

Global restaurant consultant Aaron Allen says some of this is about the speed of the drive-through and a culture of saying “please” and “thank you.” Some of the positive customer-service experience can be linked to an embrace of technology. In 2016, the chain debuted what it called Mom’s Valet, which let parents order at the drive-through, then go inside where a Chick-fil-A employee would have a table ready.

More recently, the company launched a successful app, and it is routine for employees to walk the drive-through line taking tablet orders to expedite.

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Posted in Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(CNBC) Charitable contributions take a hit following tax reform

After years of strong growth, total charitable giving rose just 0.7% in 2018, according to a new report on philanthropy by Giving USA. When adjusted for inflation, total giving declined 1.7%.

Last year was the first time the impact of the new tax law, which eliminated or sharply reduced the benefits of charitable giving for many would-be donors, could be measured.

Altogether, individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations donated an estimated $427.71 billion to U.S. charities in 2018, Giving USA said. But giving by individuals fell, while contributions from foundations and corporations rose.

“We certainly do have a pretty stark picture that tax reform took effect and charitable giving declined,” said Laura MacDonald, the president of Benefactor Group and vice chair of the Giving USA foundation board. However, a volatile stock market, which took a dive near the end of the year, may have also played a role, she said.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Stewardship, Taxes