Category : Economy

([London] Times) Church of England blesses medicinal use of marijuana

The Church of England has given its backing to the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes and said it is happy to invest in the sector.

The Church Commissioners for England, who handle £8.2 billion of church assets, ban investment in companies that profit from recreational drugs but said for the first time that they would consider investing in companies that work with medicinal marijuana now that it is legal in the UK.

Edward Mason, head of responsible investment for the Church Commissioners, told the Financial Times: “We make a distinction between recreational cannabis and medicinal cannabis. We are content with it being used for proper medicinal purposes.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Stock Market, Theology

Saturday Food for Thought from Upton Sinclair–“I will work harder!” one of the very best descriptions of works righteousness in Literature

More and more friends gathered round while the lamentation about these things was going on. Some drew nearer, hoping to overhear the conversation, who were themselves among the guilty—and surely that was a thing to try the patience of a saint. Finally there came Jurgis, urged by some one, and the story was retold to him. Jurgis listened in silence, with his great black eyebrows knitted. Now and then there would come a gleam underneath them and he would glance about the room. Perhaps he would have liked to go at some of those fellows with his big clenched fists; but then, doubtless, he realized how little good it would do him. No bill would be any less for turning out any one at this time; and then there would be the scandal—and Jurgis wanted nothing except to get away with Ona and to let the world go its own way. So his hands relaxed and he merely said quietly: “It is done, and there is no use in weeping, Teta Elzbieta.” Then his look turned toward Ona, who stood close to his side, and he saw the wide look of terror in her eyes. “Little one,” he said, in a low voice, “do not worry—it will not matter to us. We will pay them all somehow. I will work harder.” That was always what Jurgis said. Ona had grown used to it as the solution of all difficulties—“I will work harder!” He had said that in Lithuania when one official had taken his passport from him, and another had arrested him for being without it, and the two had divided a third of his belongings. He had said it again in New York, when the smooth-spoken agent had taken them in hand and made them pay such high prices, and almost prevented their leaving his place, in spite of their paying. Now he said it a third time, and Ona drew a deep breath; it was so wonderful to have a husband, just like a grown woman—and a husband who could solve all problems, and who was so big and strong!

–Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, Chapter 1 (my emphasis)

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, History, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Poetry & Literature

An Important 2018 revisit–(NYT) Is the Algorithmification of the Human Experience a Good Thing?

Those sorts of edge cases are worrying, but at least in theory, they can be solved by tweaking the algorithms. In some ways, the harder question is what it means for kids’ experiences and development when the algorithm works correctly. Is it all basically fine?

The way YouTube treats videos for grown-ups gives some reason to worry. Guillaume Chaslot, a former Google engineer, recently conducted an experiment tracing YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. He found that, during the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States, users who viewed political videos were routinely steered toward ideologically extreme content and conspiracy theories.

Zeynep Tufekci, a University of North Carolina researcher, wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed article that Mr. Chaslot’s research suggested that YouTube could be “one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.”

Is that true? We don’t have empirical proof that it is. But we also can’t know for sure that it isn’t true, in part because companies like YouTube and Facebook tend to be pretty guarded with data that could be used to estimate the impact of their platforms. Facebook, to its credit, is bringing on social scientists and sponsoring research.

Still, it’s telling that companies like Facebook are only beginning to understand, much less manage, any harm caused by their decision to divert an ever-growing share of human social relations through algorithms. Whether they set out to or not, these companies are conducting what is arguably the largest social re-engineering experiment in human history and no one has the slightest clue what the consequences are.

Read it all.

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

(NYT) Trade War Starts Changing Manufacturers in Hard-to-Reverse Ways

…evidence is mounting that the conflict has taken an economic toll. The Commerce Department said Thursday that trade — both imports and exports — slumped in April, and data released earlier this week showed a sharp slowdown in manufacturing, amplifying a recent trend. The bond market in recent days has been sending signals that the trade war could be a threat to growth in the United States and globally. The impact could deepen if Mr. Trump follows through on his promise, made Thursday, to impose new tariffs on imports from Mexico.

And as the conflict drags on, there are signs it is beginning to reshape the global economy in more fundamental ways.

“There’s definitely lasting damage that has been done,” said Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s not going to mean the end of the world tomorrow, but it’s death by a thousand cuts. How competitive is America going to be in 10 or 15 years?”

Tariffs have not yet compelled businesses to return large-scale production to the United States, where labor and other costs tend to be much higher than in China and other overseas manufacturing hubs.

But trade tensions are accelerating a corporate trend of shifting supply chains away from China. In a recent survey of more than 200 corporate executives by the consulting firm Bain, 42 percent said they expected to get materials from a different region in the next year, and 25 percent said they were redirecting investments out of China.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

([London] Times) Jessikka Aro, the journalist who took on Russian trolls

“This has nothing to do with freedom of speech,” says Aro. “This is not normal political discussion. Saying, ‘Jessikka is a crack whore who needs to be killed’ is a crime in many different countries.”

Confident, passionate and highly articulate, Aro speaks fluent English and Russian. She has tried reporting her abusers to Facebook and YouTube, but mostly receives an automated reply saying that they haven’t violated community standards. The reality of moderating, she argues, can be too complex for an algorithm, and requires human brains. “In fact, some of this content violates both their own community standards and Finnish legislation. By not removing it, they are enabling state-sponsored Russian troll operations.”

She accuses the companies of putting profit before anything else. Facebook has even profited from the trolls, she claims, because they pay for visibility and sponsored posts to attack her.

“Their moderation and security guarantee goes against their business model, basically. But if they’re going to do business in our countries, if they’re going to take our data and use it to make money, then they should also take some responsibility. It’s wrong, and illegal, to send death threats to anyone. They should have put an end to this years ago, but it’s still going on. They don’t seem interested in investigating it voluntarily, unless the US Senate or special counsel Robert Mueller demands that they do.”

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(BBC) The prosperity gospel preachers getting rich from poor Americans and the Christians trying to thwart their efforts

Televangelists are not as talked about today as they were in the 1980s and 1990s, when many rose to fame and fortune through mushrooming cable channels.

But they have never gone away. Even after numerous press exposés, the rogue elements have often bounced back. Some have got even richer. Many have taken their appeals on to social media.

A number of those making the most persistent pleas for money tap into something called the prosperity gospel, which hinges on a belief that your health and wealth are controlled by God, and God is willing you to be prosperous. Believers are encouraged to show their faith through payments, which they understand will be repaid – many times over – either in the form of wealth or healing.

For followers, it is a way to make sense of sickness and poverty. It can feel empowering and inspiring amid despair. The hard-up donors are often not oblivious to the preachers’ personal wealth – though they may not know the extent of it – but they take the riches as a sign of a direct connection with God. If seed payments have worked for them, maybe they can work for you too?

And if the seeds never flourish? Some are told their faith is not strong enough, or they have hidden sin. In Larry’s case, he often interpreted small pieces of good fortune – a gift of groceries from a neighbour, or the promise of a few extra hours of work for his wife, Darcy – as evidence of fruition.

He estimates he gave about $20,000 to these operators over the years. A little here, a little there. A few years ago, he started tallying it all up.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Movies & Television, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Sunday [London] Times] Niall Ferguson–the world cannot afford another Thirty Years’ War: History suggests the US-China conflict will need a Westphalian resolution

The end of the Thirty Years’ War was not brought about by one treaty, but by several, of which the most important were signed at Münster and Osnabrück in October 1648. It is these treaties that historians refer to as the Peace of Westphalia. Contrary to legend, they did not make peace, as France and Spain kept fighting for 11 more years. And they certainly did not establish a world order based on modern states.

What the Westphalian settlement did was to establish power-sharing arrangements between the emperor and the German princes, as well as between the rival religious groups, on the basis of limited and conditional rights. The peace as a whole was underpinned by mutual guarantees, as opposed to the third-party guarantees that had been the norm before.

The Cold War ended when one side folded. That will not happen in our time. The democratic and authoritarian powers can fight for three or 30 years; neither side will win a definitive victory. Sooner or later there will have to be a compromise — in particular, a self-restraining commitment not to take full advantage of modern technology to hollow out each other’s sovereignty.

Our destination is 1648, not 1989 — a Cyber-Westphalia, not the fall of the Great Firewall of China. If we have the option to get there in three years, rather than in 30, we should take it.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Science & Technology

Best story of the week–the Retirement of Floyd, the North Carolina mailman, after 35 years

Make sure to follow the thread all the way until the end.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology

(FT) Financial groups in the front of fight against climate change–‘Policymakers essentially leverage the sector to help push for action’

The international Financial Stability Board was established by the G20 after its London summit in 2009. In 2015 it tasked Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg, the Bank of England governor and former New York mayor respectively, to lead the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

The cross-sector TCFD has since developed a standard for voluntary disclosures to help businesses align their climate change statements relating to governance, strategy (including scenario analysis), risk management and metrics. As the move towards a lower carbon economy gains pace, policymakers and investors are using the TCFD as the basis for making changes to disclosure requirements

We can see more climate-related litigation globally, particularly in the US. Shareholder activism is also growing: institutional investors led by the Church of England are encouraging energy and energy-intensive companies to increase their ambition over tackling climate change. In Australia, lawyers are debating the ambit of fiduciary duty after the publication of a lawyer’s opinion which argues that climate has to be considered in relevant business decisions, a debate likely to spread to other countries.

Regulatory changes in the EU and UK, which come into force in the next 18 months, will nudge large corporates, asset owners, institutional investors and asset managers to explain publicly how the financial risk of climate change is treated in their business strategy.

Read it all (subscription).

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

(Globe and Mail) Quebec hurtling toward religious symbols ban, which critics say would not only be discriminatory, but a nightmare to enforce

Bouchera Chelbi, a schoolteacher who wears a Muslim headscarf, sat in the ornate salon rouge of the National Assembly and spilled her heart out to the legislators before her. Quebec’s plan to restrict teachers’ right to wear religious symbols, she said, was going to hurt.

“As a woman, I don’t accept that you dictate to me how I can dress,” she told the MNAs.

Ms. Chelbi’s comments were both pointed and remarkable: After six days of committee hearings into Quebec’s disputed legislation on religious symbols, she was the first and only teacher in a headscarf to address politicians about it.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government heard 36 speakers at its hearings on Bill 21, which would forbid police officers, prosecutors, schoolteachers and other public servants from wearing religious items on the job. But it largely left out the people who would be the law’s direct targets, such as Ms. Chelbi.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–The Rise of the Haphazard Self: How working-class men detach from work, family and church

Their private lives are as loosely attached as their economic lives. Many of the men expressed the desire to be good fathers to their children — to be more emotionally expressive around their kids than their own fathers had been with them. But they expressed no similar commitment to the women who had given birth to those children. Some found out they were fathers only years after their children were born.

“Nearly all the men we spoke to viewed the father-child tie as central while the partner relationship was more peripheral,” Edin and her colleagues write. Naturally, if the men are unwilling to commit to being in a full family unit, the role they actually end up playing in their children’s lives is much more minimal than the role they really want.

The men are also loosely attached to churches. Most say they are spiritual or religious. But their conception of faith is so individualized that there is nobody else they could practice it with. They pray but tend to have contempt for organized religion and do not want to tie themselves down to any specific community.

“I treat church just like I treat my girlfriends,” one man said. “I’ll stick around for a while and then I’ll go on to the next one.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Men, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(1st Things) Josh Hawley–The Big Tech Threat

My thesis is that the evidence strongly suggests there is something deeply troubling, maybe even deeply wrong, with the entire social media economy. My thesis is that it does not represent a source of strength for America’s tomorrow, but is rather a source of peril. Consider for a moment the basic business model of the dominant social media platforms. You are familiar with them. You might think of it as akin to financial arbitrage. Maybe we’ll call it attention arbitrage. Users’ attention is bought by tech giants and then immediately sold to advertisers for the highest price.

Now arbitrage opportunities, as those of you familiar with markets know, are supposed to close. The market eventually determines that something is off. So how is it that this attention arbitrage in the social media market is preserved and renewed over and over again? That’s where things get really scary, because it’s preserved by hijacking users’ neural circuitry to prevent rational decision-making about what to click and how to spend time. Or, to simplify that a little bit, it’s preserved through addiction.

Social media only works as a business model if it consumes users’ time and attention day after day after day. It needs to replace the various activities we did perfectly well without social media, for the entire known history of the human race, with itself. It needs to replace those activities with time spent on social media. Addiction is actually the point. That’s what social media shareholders are investing in: the addiction of users.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Stock Market

(FT) Companies asked to come clean on climate lobbying

Susana Penarrubia, head of environmental, social and governance (ESG) integration at German fund manager DWS, says it too has questioned companies on their lobbying activities and plans to step this up for fossil fuel companies. “I am concerned,” she explains.

The 2015 Paris climate agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rises to below 2C from pre-industrial levels, along with other initiatives that push for more disclosure on climate risks, have placed the topic firmly on the agenda for investors.

Union Investment, the €323bn German asset manager, was among a group of European investors that last month wrote to 56 companies, asking them how they work with trade associations on ESG issues.

This followed a move by a group of investors with total assets of $2tn, led by the Church of England Pensions Board and Swedish pension fund AP7, which in October wrote to 55 European companies challenging them on their seemingly inconsistent approach to climate lobbying.

Read it all.

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

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The One-Income Trap: How Elizabeth Warren inspired a conservative policy debate

…there are many families that don’t want full-time day care just as there are many families that don’t want two full-time jobs, and their desire can be entirely reasonable. Great preschools are no easier to build than great high schools, and if you think your kids might be better off in the care of a parent or with some extended family member, then a system designed around a dual-income plus day care norm will likewise feel like a burden, or a trap.

The better way here, as I have argued with tedious frequency, would be for conservatives skeptical of the two-earner norm to make common cause with feminists skeptical of the corporate bias against female biology and for both to unite around supports for family life that are neutral between different modes of breadwinning. Don’t subsidize day care, don’t subsidize stay-at-home moms; just subsidize family life, and let the sexes figure out how best to balance work and life, their ambitions and their desire for kids.

The practical obstacles to this kind of feminist-conservative centrism may seem substantial, but the practical case for odd alliances is just as strong. As Lyman Stone recently argued in First Things, the evidence from Europe suggests family policies are most effective when they’re understood as part of a flexible pro-family consensus, rather than as attempts to impose a single normative model on women and families. In other words, a pro-family conservatism that simply rejects the two-earner household as a failed experiment won’t be able to establish a successful policy consensus. But neither will a feminism that writes off the aspects of traditionalism that reflect what many women want.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Theology

(CT) Sabbath Rest: Not Just for Grownups

I want my children to know that who they are cannot be reduced to any work they can or cannot do. I want them to know that they were loved before they existed. I want them to know they will always be loved, and I want them to know that love and grace are just part of who they are. I want them to know that love and grace are just part of who God is.

I need a different story, a story that plays out differently than work, reward, repeat. I need a story that makes room for work but insists that love and grace belong to me and my children no matter what work we can or cannot do.

In my work as a teacher, youth pastor, and parent, I’ve come to believe that I am not alone in my need for another story. Our world is short on grace. We’re also short on rest.

In the last decade or so, I’ve come to believe that the Sabbath provides us with just such a story. Through the Sabbath, God tells us another story. It’s a story that doesn’t do away with our work. It’s a story that puts our work in perspective. It’s a story of rest and grace, but it’s not always an easy story to hear.

Think about this. If you’ve been living your life by the work-reward-repeat cycle, and if that has gone relatively well for you, then rest and grace may upset the cart. Remember the story of the laborers that Jesus told (Matt. 20:1–16). The ones who started working at the end of the day received the same wages as the laborers who worked the entire day. Why? Because of grace. That’s not fair. And that’s the point.

Grace messes with us, especially if we’re hard-working types from anywhere who know how to get stuff done. Grace disorients us. But grace also provides us with an extraordinary promise: Before we existed, before we could do anything to earn it, we were loved.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Local Paper) Thousands of South Carolina teachers prepare to march on the Statehouse

An estimated 4,000 teachers and supporters will assemble on a school day today in Columbia to protest, march and speak for improved working conditions.

The teachers, organized by the teacher advocacy group SC for Ed, have been asking state lawmakers for higher wages, smaller classroom sizes, more mental health counselors in schools and full funding of the state’s promises to students.

Teachers are using personal leave days to go to Columbia for a single day, unlike at the weeks-long teacher strikes and walkouts that took place in other states like West Virginia and Oklahoma in 2018.

Seven school districts and a charter school have announced closures due to the mass exodus of teachers and a shortage of substitutes Wednesday. The affected schools serve a combined 123,000 students.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Children, Economy, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, State Government

(Local Paper front page) Population growth slowed in Charleston County, soared in Horry, Berkeley and Spartanburg

Some of South Carolina’s population growth hot spots have cooled, according to just-released census estimates, but new residents continued to pour in to Horry and Berkeley counties, the counties adjacent to Charlotte, and — perhaps surprisingly — Spartanburg.

The Palmetto State has been a fast-growing region for years and that continued through mid-2018. The state added 62,908 residents. More than 80 percent of the growth came from people relocating from other states, the Census Bureau estimated.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Census/Census Data

(Wash Post) Kay Coles James–I wanted to help Google make AI more responsible. Instead I was treated with hostility.

But the Google employees didn’t just attempt to remove me; they greeted the news of my appointment to the council with name-calling and character assassination. They called me anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ and a bigot. That was an odd one, because I’m a 69-year-old black woman who grew up fighting segregation.

Last week, less than two weeks after the AI advisory council was announced, Google disbanded it. The company has given in to the mentality of a rage mob. How can Google now expect conservatives to defend it against anti-business policies from the left that might threaten its very existence?

I was deeply disappointed to see such a promising idea abandoned, but the episode was about much more than just one company’s response to intolerance from the self-appointed guardians of tolerance.

It was symptomatic of where America is heading. Whether in the streets or online, angry mobs that heckle and threaten are not trying to change hearts and win minds. They’re trying to impose their will through intimidation. In too many corners of American life, there is no longer room for disagreement and civil discourse. Instead, it’s agree or be destroyed.

In 1961, at age 12, I was one of two-dozen black children who integrated an all-white junior high school in Richmond. White parents jeered me outside the school, and inside, their kids stuck me with pins, shoved me in the halls and pushed me down the stairs. So when the group of Google employees resorted to calling names and making false accusations because they didn’t want a conservative voice advising the company, the hostility was reminiscent of what I felt back then — that same intolerance for someone who was different from them.

Uncivil discourse is an illness in America. We can do better — we must strive to show the world what a pluralistic society should be, a place where people of different faiths and viewpoints are willing to engage and willing to listen to others, especially when they bring different ideas to the table. From those conversations come a deeper understanding and better policies — and ultimately a better, more civil society for all.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology

(MarketWatch) Former SEC lawyer sounds alarm on ‘the greatest retirement crisis’ in history

He pointed to a “woefully unprepared” U.S. population.

“In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly American’s, Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty.” he said in a podcast this week with the Peak Prosperity blog. “‘Too frail to work, too poor to retire’” will become the new normal for many elderly Americans.”

Siedle threw out some startling numbers to show just how much pensions are underfunded, a pervasive problem made worse by their inability to reach performance targets, which is typically set around 7%.

“Warren Buffett BRK.A, +1.41% himself has said that is an unrealistic return,” Siedle said in the interview. “Wall Street’s solution to every investor problem is, and will always be, pay us more fees.”

Investors then pay those higher fees for “ever riskier rolls of the dice,” in an effort to chase returns, which “has resulted, predictably, in worse performance.”

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pensions, Personal Finance, Personal Finance & Investing, Social Security

(NYT Dealbook) To Purge Some of Social Media’s Ugliness, an Unlikely Lesson From Wall Street

Although it won’t address all of Big Tech’s problems, a simple rule that bolsters the banking system could do a lot to clean up some of the uglier aspects of social media that Mr. Zuckerberg felt compelled to apologize for.

The concept is “know your customer” — or KYC, as it’s called on Wall Street — and it’s straightforward: Given concerns about privacy, security and fraud when it comes to money, no bank is allowed to take on a new customer without verifying its existence and vetting its background.

The idea of applying such a rule to social media has been floated before, but it has so far failed to take hold. Now may be the right time.

Consider this: Facebook has said it shut down over 1.5 billion fake accounts from April through September last year (yes, that’s a “B” in billion). That was up from the 1.3 billion such accounts it eliminated in the six previous months. To put those numbers in context, Facebook has a reported user base of 2.3 billion.

What if social media companies had to verify their users the same way banks do? You’d probably feel more confident that you were interacting with real people and were not just a target for malicious bots.

Read it all.

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

Archbishop Justin Welby: Britain’s housing crisis is a major challenge

Britain’s housing crisis is one of the major challenges facing this country.

Housing is becoming unaffordable for many families, making it hard for those on lower incomes to get through the month and pushing them into debt. People are living in poor quality, over-crowded or temporary housing, putting their health at risk. Families are forced to move away from the communities they have settled in, separating them from family and support networks and breaking up communities.

Meanwhile it’s the poorest who are suffering the most. It’s those with least who find themselves isolated, or having to move every time they start to get established. The stress piles up in ways many of us would find hard to imagine.

That is why I’m so pleased to be launching the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community. The commission will explore these issues by combining academic and industry expertise with the lived experience of those affected by them. It will draw on the wisdom of those taking innovative approaches to housing.

The Church of England is already doing much to alleviate current suffering and build better communities. We do this every day through our 33,000 social action projects around the country – from food banks and debt counselling, to helping people of different faiths build bonds of friendship. But we also do it just by being in contact with people; by simply being there.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture

(Quillette) Joel Kotkin–The End of Aspiration

Since the end of the Second World War, middle- and working-class people across the Western world have sought out—and, more often than not, achieved—their aspirations. These usually included a stable income, a home, a family, and the prospect of a comfortable retirement. However, from Sydney to San Francisco, this aspiration is rapidly fading as a result of a changing economy, soaring land costs, and a regulatory regime, all of which combine to make it increasingly difficult for the new generation to achieve a lifestyle like that enjoyed by their parents. This generational gap between aspiration and disappointment could define our demographic, political, and social future.

In the United States, about 90 percent of children born in 1940 grew up to experience higher incomes than their parents, according to researchers at the Equality of Opportunity Project. That figure dropped to only 50 percent of those born in the 1980s. The US Census bureau estimates that, even when working full-time, people in their late twenties and early thirties earn $2000 less in real dollars than the same age cohort in 1980. More than 20 percent of people aged 18 to 34 live in poverty, up from 14 percent in 1980. Three-quarters of American adults today predict their child will not grow up to be better-off than they are, according to Pew.

These sentiments are even more pronounced in France, Britain, Spain, Italy, and Germany. In Japan, a remarkable three-quarters of those polled said they believe things will be worse for the next generation. Even in China, many young people face a troubling future; in 2017, eight million graduates entered the job market, but most ended up with salaries that could have been attained by going to work in a factory straight out of high school.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance

Church of England bishops welcome introduction of online safety laws

Church of England bishops today welcomed the publication of a Government White Paper including plans to impose substantial fines against social media companies that breach their duty of care towards the vulnerable.

The Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, who in 2016 launched a campaign (#liedentity) to encourage a safer online environment, said: “The new plans unveiled today are an encouraging sign that the online world will start to be regulated to protect people like Molly Russell, 14, who tragically took her own life. We know that her family believe that social media was partly responsible for their daughter’s death.

“Research tells us that 4 in 10 people feel that tech firms fail to take their concerns seriously when they complain.

“It’s about time that social media companies are held responsible for their content and are accountable for their actions. No other organisation in the ‘real’ world has that freedom. We manage to regulate electricity, water companies, broadcasters, shops etc through consumer bodies, yet for years social media companies have been allowed to self-regulate. These new clear standards, backed up by enforcement powers will hopefully be the step change to start really protecting our children and young people online.”

The White Paper, which includes plans to hold individual executives personally liable for failings, follows the publication of a House of Lords Select Committee report on Communication.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Reuters) Shell to leave leading U.S. refining lobby over climate disagreement

Royal Dutch Shell Plc on Tuesday became the first major oil and gas company to announce plans to leave a leading U.S. refining lobby due to disagreement on climate policies.

In its first review of its association with 19 key industry groups, the company said it had found “material misalignment” over climate policy with the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and would quit the body in 2020.

The review is part of Shell’s drive to increase transparency and show investors it is in line with the 2015 Paris climate agreement’s goals to limit global warming by reducing carbon emissions to a net zero by the end of the century….

Shell’s review was welcomed by Adam Matthews, director of ethics and engagement for the Church of England Pensions Board, which invests in Shell and led discussions with the company over its climate policy.

“This is an industry first,” Matthews said.

“With this review Shell have set the benchmark for best practice on corporate climate lobbying not just within oil and gas but across all industries. The challenge now is for others to follow suit.”

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

(NYT Op-ed) Nicholas Kristof–is a small Seattle company showing that capitalism can have a heart?

Staff members gasped four years ago when Dan Price gathered the 120 employees at Gravity Payments, the company he had founded with his brother, and told them he was raising everyone’s salary to a minimum of $70,000, partly by slashing his own $1.1 million pay to the same level.

The news went viral and provoked a national debate about whether efficient capitalism could have a heart. Some Americans lauded Price for treating employees with dignity. However, on Fox Business he was labeled the “lunatic of all lunatics,” and Rush Limbaugh declared, “I hope this company is a case study in M.B.A. programs on how socialism does not work, because it’s going to fail.”

So I came to Seattle to see what had unfolded: Did Gravity succeed or crash?

There were bumps, no doubt about it. A couple of important employees quit, apparently feeling less valued when new hires were close to them in pay. The publicity forced Gravity, which processes credit card payments for small businesses, to hire additional people to handle a deluge of inquiries. Worst of all, Price’s brother, who owned a stake in the company, sued and alleged that Price hadn’t consulted him on decisions.

For a while, it wasn’t clear that the gamble was going to pay off.

But eventually it did: Business has surged, and profits are higher than ever. Gravity last year processed $10.2 billion in payments, more than double the $3.8 billion in 2014, before the announcement. It has grown to 200 employees, all nonunion.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

(America) What does Catholic Social Teaching say about the economy? It’s more complicated than you think.

The political common good is of interest to the church because it is an incomplete but real fulfillment of the eschatological unity to which we are all called. The comparison with the unity of Jesus and the Father calls attention not simply to outcomes but also to the character of relationships. “Gaudium et Spes” states that humans “cannot fully find themselves except through the sincere gift of themselves” (24). Finally, “Gaudium et Spes” challenges limited notions of the common good, expanding it beyond the local community or nation, making clear that we have rights and duties regarding the “whole human race.”

In its treatment of the role of the church in the contemporary world, “Gaudium et Spes” considers and distinguishes economic and political aspects of society, which it discusses in separate chapters. As the theologian David Cloutier notes, each has its own associated good. The treatment of economics focuses on the universal destination of goods, and the discussion of the political order centers on the common good. Here we find the oft-excerpted definition: “The common good embraces the sum of those conditions of social life whereby men and women, families and associations may more adequately and readily attain their own perfection” (74).

Lifted from its context, there is always the danger of reading “conditions” here as if they are purely external situations in which we pursue individual flourishing. But the context in the document makes clear that the common good is the collective work of the community. Individuals, families and groups “are aware that they cannot achieve a truly human life by their own unaided efforts. They see the need for a wider community, within which each one makes his or her specific contribution every day toward an ever-broader realization of the common good” (74). Awareness of this need drives the establishment of various forms of government or “political community” that exist “for the sake of the common good.” This expresses the ancient Catholic judgement that government is not a response to human sinfulness but an essential consequence of our social nature created by God.

Thus, Catholicism views the common good as a particular kind of good that concerns the whole of society. It corresponds with a particular form of agency: collective and political action. The common good is distinct from the economy but related to it as both address different aspects of social life.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Roman Catholic

(Archbp of York) Major global inquiry launches to address human and environmental impact of oil companies operating in Nigeria

A major investigation into the activity of oil companies launches in Nigeria today led by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

The Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission will look into the human and environmental impact of the activity of multinational oil companies operating in Bayelsa State, in the Niger Delta. Ultimately the Commission’s aim is for oil companies to agree to a global standard of behaviour, conducting their operations in Bayelsa as they would in Norway, Scotland or the USA.

Commissioners include Baroness Valerie Amos, former Under Secretary General at the United Nations, and John Kufuor, former President of Ghana, as well as a number of high-level experts including pre-eminent expert on the Niger Delta, Dr. Michael Watts.

The Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission has been convened by Henry Seriake Dickson, Governor of Bayelsa State, in the Niger Delta, one of the largest oil and gas producing states in Nigeria.

Oil companies operating in the state have for decades acted with impunity and with little regard for the environment and people, causing multiple oil spills and leading to environmental degradation and loss of human life.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Nigeria

(NR) San Antonio Violates the First Amendment to Punish Chick-fil-A

The San Antonio city council has voted to block Chick-fil-A from opening a store in its airport to punish it for donating to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army.

No, really. Here’s the report, from Fortune:

Don’t plan on getting a Chick-Fil-A sandwich next time you fly through San Antonio Airport.

The city’s district council approved a new concession agreement for the airport on Thursday that will bring in more local establishments and specifically bans the popular chicken sandwich chain. At issue, apparently, is the donation of money by the Chick-Fil-A to groups that have been accused of discriminating against the LGBTQ community.

The council was apparently reacting to a breathless Think Progress allegation that “in 2017, the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave more than $1.8 million to a trio of groups with a record of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.” The donations included more than $1.6 million of the FCA, $150,000 to the Salvation Army, and a small $6,000 gift to the Paul Anderson Youth Home. By Think Progress’s standard, a company is committing a terrible sin whenever it gives money to a traditional Christian ministry. After all, FCA is merely upholding traditional Christian teaching that sexual activity is reserved for a marriage between a man and a woman. The donation to the Salvation Army is apparently based on the Salvation Army’s past policies, since Think Progress admits that the Salvation Army currently has “a national policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The FCA and the Salvation Army (I’m not familiar with the work of the youth home) both do an immense amount of good in this nation. No one seriously questions the Salvation Army’s value, and the FCA is a fixture in the lives of hundreds of thousands of American youth. It provides a spiritual home for countless kids and often a community of friends they can find nowhere else. Does “inclusion” now demand that corporate donors exclude them from support? Apparently so. Here’s San Antonio city councilman Robert Trevino:

With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior . . . Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport. I look forward to the announcement of a suitable replacement by Paradies.”

This is Orwellian nonsense. This action isn’t based on any alleged mistreatment of gay customers. Instead it’s based on the notion that a person won’t feel “welcome” in an airport because they disagree with the charitable donations of a foundation connected to one of the airport’s vendors. That’s absurd. That’s more fake outrage. And it’s unsustainable for a free people in a pluralistic society. Should we only feel “welcome” in spaces where we know the owners share our faith?

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Local Paper) Charleston area recycling programs, while well-intentioned, face tough road ahead

Ron Brinson often fields questions about recycling when he’s making his Saturday morning rounds through the neighborhoods he represents on North Charleston City Council.

“They know that most, if not all, of this stuff ends up in a landfill, but for so many of our neighbors, recycling is instinctive,” Brinson said. “It’s a great ‘habit’ and we were all sorry North Charleston’s pickups in Dorchester County had to be suspended.”

The end of recycling in Brinson’s council district wasn’t unusual. In fact, it represents the current reality for the waste industry: It’s tough to find anyone to buy salvaged paper, glass and plastic these days.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–What Rural America Has to Teach Us

Everybody says rural America is collapsing. But I keep going to places with more moral coherence and social commitment than we have in booming urban areas. These visits prompt the same question: How can we spread the civic mind-set they have in abundance?

For example, I spent this week in Nebraska, in towns like McCook and Grand Island. These places are not rich. At many of the schools, 50 percent of the students receive free or reduced-cost lunch. But they don’t have the pathologies we associate with poverty.

Nearly everybody is working at something. Nebraska has the sixth-lowest unemployment rate among the 50 states. It has the 12th-longest healthy life expectancy. Some of the high schools have 98 percent graduation rates. It ranks seventh among the states in intact family structure.

Crime is low. Many people leave their homes and cars unlocked.

One woman I met came home and noticed her bedroom light was on. She thought it was her husband home early. But it was her plumber. She’d mentioned at the coffee shop that she had a clogged sink, so he’d swung round, let himself in and fixed it.

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Posted in City Government, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Race/Race Relations, Rural/Town Life