Category : America/U.S.A.

(PRC) Three-quarters of Black Americans say Black churches have helped promote racial equality

Though primarily places of worship, Black churches have long played prominent roles in African American communities, offering services such as job training programs and insurance cooperatives, and many of their pastors have advocated for racial equality. Today, around three-quarters of Black adults say predominantly Black churches have done either “a great deal” (29%) or “some” (48%) to help Black people move toward equality in the United States, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

That is lower than the share of Black adults crediting civil rights organizations a great deal or some (89%) but higher than the share who credit the federal government (55%), predominantly Black Muslim organizations such as the Nation of Islam (54%), or predominantly White churches (38%).

Majorities of Black adults, irrespective of the racial composition of their house of worship or whether they attend one at all, say predominantly Black churches have done at least some to help Black Americans. Even 66% of Black Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” – hold this view, according to the survey of 8,660 Black American adults conducted Nov. 19, 2019, through June 3, 2020.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(NYT) To Plug a Pension Gap, This City Rented Its Streets. To Itself.

The City of Tucson, Ariz., decided last year to pay rent on five golf courses and a zoo — to itself. In California, West Covina agreed to pay rent on its own streets. And in Flagstaff, Ariz., a new lease agreement covers libraries, fire stations and even City Hall.

They are risky financial arrangements born of desperation, adopted to fulfill ballooning pension payments that the cities can no longer afford. Starved of cash by the pandemic, cities are essentially using their own property as collateral of sorts to raise money to pay for their workers’ pensions.

It works like this: The city creates a dummy corporation to hold assets and then rents them. The corporation then issues bonds and sends the proceeds back to the city, which sends the cash to its pension fund to cover its shortfall. These bonds attract investors — who are desperate for yield in a world of near-zero interest rates — by offering a rate of return that’s slightly higher than similar financial assets. In turn, the pension fund invests the money raised by those bonds in other assets that are expected to generate a higher return over time.

If they can pull off the strategy, cities issuing these bonds can reduce their pension bills by an amount that’s the difference between what they earn and what they pay out. But as with any strategy based on long-term assumptions, there is risk.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., City Government, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(Yesterday’s NYT front page) A nursing home where vaccinations have finished offers a glimpse at what the other side of the pandemic might look like

But amid the clinking of silverware and the soothing sound of jazz, the losses of the past year could be felt at each table where someone was missing.

Good Shepherd shut down in March, even before the virus had been found in West Virginia. Residents went without visits with loved ones, outings to the movies, even fresh air.

“I felt really lost,” said Joseph Wilhelm, 89, a retired priest who said he had found it difficult to concentrate on prayer.

Twice, the nursing home tried loosening restrictions, only to shut down again.

Sally Joseph, 85, grew tearful as she told of being separated from her children and grandchildren. At Christmas, she looked out the window and waved at her grandson, who visited in the parking lot. “This is the hardest thing,” she said. “But then when I get weepy and feeling sorry for myself, I think, ‘Everybody in the world is having the same problem as I am.’”

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

Still more for Washington’s Birthday–George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it – It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

(Mount Vernon) George Washington’s Remarkable life

In June 1775, Congress commissioned George Washington to take command of the Continental Army besieging the British in Boston. He wrote home to Martha that he expected to return safely to her in the fall. The command kept him away from Mount Vernon for more than 8 years (with only one very brief visit while en route to Yorktown).

It was a command for which his military background, although greater than that of any of the other available candidates, hardly prepared him. His knowledge lay in frontier warfare, involving relatively small numbers of soldiers. He had no practical experience maneuvering large formations, handling cavalry or artillery, or maintaining supply lines adequate to support thousands of men in the field. He learned on the job; and although his army reeled from one misfortune to another, he had the courage, determination, and mental agility to keep the American cause one step ahead of complete disintegration until he figured out how to win the unprecedented revolutionary struggle he was leading.

His task was not overwhelming at first. The British position in Boston was untenable, and in March 1776 they withdrew from the city. But it was only a temporary respite. In June a new British army, under the command of Sir William Howe, arrived in the colonies with orders to take New York City. Howe commanded the largest expeditionary force Britain had ever sent overseas.

Defending New York was almost impossible. An island city, New York is surrounded by a maze of waterways that gave a substantial advantage to an attacker with naval superiority. Howe’s army was larger, better equipped, and far better trained than Washington’s. They defeated Washington’s army at Long Island in August and routed the Americans a few weeks later at Kip’s Bay, resulting in the loss of the city. Forced to retreat northward, Washington was defeated again at White Plains. The American defense of New York City came to a humiliating conclusion on November 16, 1776, with the surrender of Fort Washington and some 2,800 men. Washington ordered his army to retreat across New Jersey. The remains of his forces, mud-soaked and exhausted, crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania on December 7.

The British had good reason to believe that the American rebellion would be over in a few months and that Congress would seek peace rather than face complete subjugation of the colonies….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President

More from George Washington–His circular letter to the States, June 8, 1783

I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field; and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.

I have the honor to be, with much esteem and respect, Sir, your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble servant.

–George Washington
Head-Quarters, Newburg,
8 June, 1783.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

(Washington Post) A Washington’s Birthday quiz on the office of President

Every February, Americans take a day off of work to celebrate the presidents — the chief executives whose ideas, policies and foibles have helped to shape our history. So it’s only fitting that you take a moment to test your knowledge about these 44 prominent Americans with a 20-question quiz from “Presidential,” the Washington Post podcast that explores the presidents’ lives and legacies.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

George Washington’s First State of Union Address

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:

I embrace with great satisfaction the opportunity which now presents itself of congratulating you on the present favorable prospects of our public affairs. The recent accession of the important state of North Carolina to the Constitution of the United States (of which official information has been received), the rising credit and respectability of our country, the general and increasing good will toward the government of the Union, and the concord, peace, and plenty with which we are blessed are circumstances auspicious in an eminent degree to our national prosperity.

In resuming your consultations for the general good you can not but derive encouragement from the reflection that the measures of the last session have been as satisfactory to your constituents as the novelty and difficulty of the work allowed you to hope. Still further to realize their expectations and to secure the blessings which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach will in the course of the present important session call for the cool and deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

George Washington’s First Inaugural Address

By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty of the President “to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The circumstances under which I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

(National Archives) George Washington’s Birthday

Washington’s Birthday was celebrated on February 22nd until well into the 20th Century. However, in 1968 Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law to “provide uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays.” By creating more 3-day weekends, Congress hoped to “bring substantial benefits to both the spiritual and economic life of the Nation.”

One of the provisions of this act changed the observance of Washington’s Birthday from February 22nd to the third Monday in February. Ironically, this guaranteed that the holiday would never be celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, as the third Monday in February cannot fall any later than February 21.

Contrary to popular belief, neither Congress nor the President has ever stipulated that the name of the holiday observed as Washington’s Birthday be changed to “President’s Day.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

(NYT) After a Sluggish Start, the Vaccine Rollout Is Improving in Every State

On Jan. 1, just a quarter of vaccine doses delivered across the country had been used, compared to 68 percent of doses on Feb. 11. A handful of states have administered more than 80 percent of the doses they have received. And even states with slower vaccine uptake are making strides. Alabama, for example, where the share of doses used has consistently ranked among the country’s lowest, is in the process of opening new mass vaccination sites in eight cities.

“Every state is improving,” said Claire Hannan, the executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. “We still don’t have enough to vaccinate everyone over 75, so it doesn’t necessarily feel different for people who are trying to find the vaccine, but we are in a much better place now.”

Health officials acknowledge that it’s confusing to suggest that overall supply is limited, when federal data shows that many shots still seem to be sitting unused. But jurisdictions have said that they are working around the clock to close the gap between doses delivered and administered.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, State Government

A Thursday Morning Encouragement story about 2 American Heroes–(NBC) Louisiana Sanitation Workers Rescue Kidnapped 10-Year-Old Girl

“Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine recognized a car from an Amber Alert and took quick action — calling police and blocking the vehicle with their truck — to rescue a 10-year-old girl who had been kidnapped.”

Watch it all.

Posted in * General Interest, America/U.S.A., Children, Police/Fire

(SHNS) Terry Mattingly–Conspiracy theories shake up Protestant churches

Having reached the vice president’s chair in the U.S. Senate, the self-proclaimed QAnon shaman, UFO expert and metaphysical healer removed his coyote-skin and buffalo horns headdress and announced, with a megaphone, that it was time to pray.

“Thank you, Heavenly Father … for this opportunity to stand up for our God-given inalienable rights,” proclaimed Jake “Yellowstone Wolf” Angeli (born Jacob Chansley), his face painted red, white and blue, and his torso tattooed with Norse symbols that his critics link to the extreme right.

“Thank you, divine, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Creator God for filling this chamber with your white light and love,” he added, in a prayer captured on video by a correspondent working for The New Yorker. “Thank you for filling this chamber with patriots that love you and that love Christ. … Thank you, divine Creator God, for surrounding and filling us with the divine, omnipresent white light of love and protection, of peace and harmony. Thank you for allowing the United States of America to be reborn. Thank you for allowing us to get rid of the communists, the globalists and the traitors within our government.”

Many phrases in this rambling prayer would sound familiar to worshippers in ordinary churches across America, said Joe Carter, an editor with the Gospel Coalition and a pastor with McLean Bible Church near Washington. But the prayer also included strange twists and turns that betrayed some extreme influences and agendas.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

Time Magazine talks to Russell Moore

Often Moore has to tap-dance around the gap between his church’s beliefs and its behavior. He dismisses as a “manufactured controversy” the criticism of six SBC seminary presidents who in November released a public condemnation of critical race theory. “I don’t find any postmodern theory motivating those who are concerned for racial reconciliation and justice,” says Moore. “I find that what motivates such things is the Bible.” And while Moore has set himself apart from those who support the President, he declines to condemn those who opted to vote for Trump because they believed in the platform, not the man.

Moore thinks reports of the death of American Christianity are overblown. But as increasing numbers of Americans tell pollsters that they are not affiliated with any kind of religion, and in the wake of Trump, he wants the church to take a harder look at its priorities. “The biggest threat facing the American church right now is not secularism but cynicism. That’s why we have to recover the credibility of our witness,” he says. It’s one thing to dismiss the teachings of his faith as strange and unlikely, he notes, but “if people walk away from the church because they don’t believe that we really believe what we say, then that’s a crisis.” This is what he fears will be the legacy of an era in which people of faith put so much faith in a President. “There is an entire generation of people who are growing cynical that religion is just a means to some other end.”

Read it all.

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

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NBC) Lester Holt interviews the woman featured on the 2021 Toyota Super Bowl Ad, Jessica Long

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Marriage & Family, Russia, Sports

Tuesday Morning Mental Health Break–My Favourite Super Bowl ad this year–Jessica’s Story

Do take the time to watch it.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Marriage & Family, Russia, Sports

(Reuters) U.S. ‘deeply disturbed’ by reports of systematic rape of Muslims in China camps

The United States is “deeply disturbed” by reports of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region and there must be serious consequences for atrocities committed there, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

A BBC report earlier on Wednesday said women in the camps were subject to rape, sexual abuse and torture. The British broadcaster said “several former detainees and a guard have told the BBC they experienced or saw evidence of an organized system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture.”

Asked to comment, a State Department spokeswoman said: “We are deeply disturbed by reports, including first-hand testimony, of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.”

The spokeswoman reiterated U.S. charges that China has committed “crimes against humanity and genocide” in Xinjiang and added: “These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NLJ) Angela Franks–The Body as Totem in the Asexual Revolution

Legal theorist Helen Alvaré observes that the twentieth century saw a sea change in jurisprudence, whereby “certain forms of sexual expression achieved constitutional status and came to be identified with nothing less than a human being’s ‘identity.’”[1] Tracing this change, beginning with the early contraception cases Griswold v. Connecticut (1968) and Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), Alvaré shows how the Supreme Court gradually came to embrace a constructivist view of personal identity that was inextricably linked to sexual activity. We become who we are, that is, through our sexual choices.

This is especially true for women, the Court held, because of the possibility of motherhood resulting from said sexual choices. If women are unduly burdened by children, which might disincentivize them to engage in sexual relationships, what happens to their identity? This identity-formation-through-sex rationale is especially clear in the notorious 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the Court writes, women have “organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”[2] Without contraception and abortion, what happens to women’s self-definition? This idea is driven home by the purplest of legal prose in the decision’s famous “mystery of human life” passage:

These matters [of reproduction], involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.[3]

“While Casey’s soaring language is certainly subject to varying interpretations,” Alvaré observes, “at the very least it can be said that it firmly linked women’s ability to avoid childrearing following sexual intercourse, with her interest in forming her personal identity.”[4]

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Psychology, Sexuality, Supreme Court

(Bloomberg) U.S. Hits Milestone in Pandemic With More Vaccinated Than Cases

More Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine than have tested positive for the virus, an early but hopeful milestone in the race to end the pandemic.

As of Monday afternoon, 26.5 million Americans had received one or both doses of the current vaccines, according to data gathered by the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Since the first U.S. patient tested positive outside of Seattle a year ago, 26.2 million people in the country have tested positive for the disease, and 441,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. has been administering shots at a faster daily rate than any country in the world, giving about 1.35 million doses a day, according to data gathered by Bloomberg. While the rollout stumbled in its early days, in the six weeks since the first shots went into arms almost 7.8% of Americans have gotten one or more doses, and 1.8% are fully vaccinated.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(NPR) ‘Manage The Best We Can’: Latino Church Adapts To New COVID-19 Reality

Over the summer, Angel and Diana decided to restart in-person services. They were determined to do it safely but didn’t know how.

“We didn’t have any guidelines from our local government on how to do this,” Angel said. “So, we kind of had to figure it out on our own.”

They chose to follow guidelines from neighboring Larimer County.

In mid-June, Mosaic Church began worshipping again in person at a greatly reduced capacity while continuing to stream services online. They removed every other row of chairs and asked people to leave space between families.

“We ask everybody to wear masks. We bought gallons of hand sanitizer,” he said. “We’re just trying to manage it the best we can.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Remembering the remarkable Percy Julian

Percy Julian was one of the great scientists of the 20th century. In a chemistry career spanning four decades, he made many valuable discoveries, for which he was awarded dozens of patents, 18 honorary degrees, and membership to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences—only the second African American bestowed such an honor.

Yet Julian’s achievements as a trailblazer for Black chemists, while less well-known, are no less remarkable. Growing up when racial discrimination factored into every aspect of life for Blacks in America, from riding a bus to getting a job, Julian persevered to realize his dreams. And when he finally “arrived” as a successful chemist and businessman, he did not lose sight of the challenges that fellow Blacks still faced. He became a mentor to scores of young black chemists and, later in life, an inspiration for thousands as a civil-rights leader and speaker.

As the late Vernon Jarrett, one of the nation’s leading commentators on race relations, put it, “This man is Exhibit A of determination and never giving up. I think he’s a role model not only for blacks but for all races.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Austria, Education, History, Marriage & Family, Race/Race Relations, Science & Technology

(Bloomberg) Latest Covid Surge Appears to Flame Out Even in Worst Hot Spots

Even in the most devastated U.S. counties, the latest Covid-19 surge is receding, buying authorities time as they attempt to vaccinate about 330 million people.

Recent hot spots including Webb County, Texas; Maricopa County, Arizona; and Greenville and Spartanburg counties in South Carolina have seen cases trend downward in the past week, according to USAFacts, a nonprofit statistics aggregator used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the top-five hot spots with populations of at least 250,000, only Pinal County, Arizona, saw cases increase.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(Gallup) Americans’ Concern Grows About Government, National Discord

Americans are sizing up the nation’s greatest challenges a bit differently this month in the aftermath of a political insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump and the national rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.

Amid this backdrop, the percentage of Americans citing governmental leaders or behavior as the top problem jumped to 29% — the highest in almost a year — from 20% in December. Also, a record-high 12% cited national discord, up from 5% last month. At the same time, mentions of the coronavirus fell 11 percentage points to 22%, while mentions of race-related issues were essentially unchanged at 10%.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Sociology

(Deseret News) Boyd Matheson–America is a nation in need of grace

Read it all.

I liked this piece, but if you read it carefully, he never really got at the core of a biblical understanding of grace-undeserved favor from an unobligated giver. We need all of what he talked about, but this core idea most of all,+we have it not in our own strength to give it–KSH.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Theology

(Pew RC) More Americans than people in other advanced economies say COVID-19 has strengthened their religious faith

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause deaths and disrupt billions of lives globally, people may turn to religious groups, family, friends, co-workers or other social networks for support. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in the summer of 2020 reveals that more Americans than people in other economically developed countries say the outbreak has bolstered their religious faith and the faith of their compatriots.

Nearly three-in-ten Americans (28%) report stronger personal faith because of the pandemic, and the same share think the religious faith of Americans overall has strengthened, according to the survey of 14 economically developed countries.

Far smaller shares in other parts of the world say religious faith has been affected by the coronavirus. For example, just 10% of British adults report that their own faith is stronger as a result of the pandemic, and 14% think the faith of Britons overall has increased due to COVID-19. In Japan, 5% of people say religion now plays a stronger role in both their own lives and the lives of their fellow citizens.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(Gallup) U.S. Satisfaction at 11% in Early January

Before the Jan. 20 inauguration of Joe Biden as the nation’s 46th president, 11% of Americans said they are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. This is down from 16% in December and marginally lower than readings of 13% and 14% in July, August and September last year, while remaining a few percentage points above the all-time low of 7% recorded in 2008.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Sociology

Matt Taibbi on the Mainstream Media–The Echo Chamber Era

By any standard, the press had a terrible four years, from the mangling of dozens of Russiagate tales to scandals like the New York Times “Caliphate” disaster and the underappreciated Covington High School story fiasco. Still, many in the business can’t see how bad it’s been, because they’ve walled themselves off so completely from potential critics.

Coupled with the enhanced aggressiveness of Silicon Valley in removing dissenting accounts across the spectrum — Facebook is taking down six Socialist Workers Party accounts in Britain as I write this, a day after zapping a series of Antifa accounts — reporters at places like the Post, the Times, and CNN every day have less and less to worry about in terms of audience blowback, and they know it. Just in the first few days of the Biden administration, we’ve seen editorial decisions that would never have been attempted once upon a time.

The Post just tried to remove seven paragraphs of their own archived article about Vice President Kamala Harris, which contained a cringeworthy scene of Harris and her sister joking about prisoners begging for water, only to restore it after an outcry. CNN meanwhile ran a story that incoming Biden officials had to “build everything from scratch” with regard to Covid-19 policy because the Trump administration had no plan for vaccine distribution at all — not a bad or even a terrible plan, but literally a “nonexistent” plan, despite the fact that 36 million vaccines had already been delivered.

In this rare case, rival media organizations cried foul, with reporters from both Politico and the Washington Post blasting the report as untrue and a “gambit to lower expectations” by the incoming administration. In an atmosphere where editors really feared discontent from outside demographics or rival party politicians, a story like that, with an over-the-top-to-impossible premise, would never even be tried.

Read it all.

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

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Media

(Bloomberg) Pandemic Gets Increasingly Local as U.S. Cases Keep Dropping

U.S. Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are receding from recent highs, but discrete outbreaks are still raging in places such as the Texas-Mexico border and parts of Alabama. The pattern provides a preview of how the pandemic may look during the months to come.

The seven-day average of Covid-19 cases fell to 167,240, the lowest since Dec. 2, according to Covid Tracking Project data. For the first time since October, no state had more than 1,000 average daily cases per million residents, the data show.

But even as the U.S. enters its latest downswing and the vaccination push expands, the country is still a long way from herd immunity and there are dangerous hot spots across the country. Among the worst were Pennsylvania’s Forest County, where a prison outbreak has led to soaring cases; an Alabama county in the lower Appalachians; and a swath of border towns near Laredo, Texas.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(The Tablet) Alana Newhouse–Everything Is Broken And how to fix it

The vast majority of Americans are not ideologues. They are people who wish to live in a free country and get along with their neighbors while engaging in profitable work, getting married, raising families, being entertained, and fulfilling their American right to adventure and self-invention. They are also the consumer base for movies, TV, books, and other cultural products. Every time Americans are given the option to ratify progressive dictates through their consumer choices, they vote in the opposite direction. When HBO removed Gone with the Wind from its on-demand library last year, it became the #1 bestselling movie on Amazon. Meanwhile, endless numbers of Hollywood right-think movies and supposed literary masterworks about oppression are dismal failures for studios and publishing houses that would rather sink into debt than face a social-justice firing squad on Twitter.

This disconnect between culturally mandated politics and the actual demonstrated preferences of most Americans has created an enormous reserve of unmet needs—and a generational opportunity. Build new things! Create great art! Understand and accept that sensory information is the brain’s food, and that Silicon Valley is systematically starving us of it. Avoid going entirely tree-blind. Make a friend and don’t talk politics with them. Do things that generate love and attention from three people you actually know instead of hundreds you don’t. Abandon the blighted Ivy League, please, I beg of you. Start a publishing house that puts out books that anger, surprise and delight people and which make them want to read. Be brave enough to make film and TV that appeals to actual audiences and not 14 people on Twitter. Establish a newspaper, one people can see themselves in and hold in their hands. Go back to a house of worship—every week. Give up on our current institutions; they already gave up on us.

At the lowest point with my son—the moment when I was convinced something was deeply wrong, and that I would never be able to fix it—my husband found himself on a reporting trip, where he encountered the head of an illustrious yeshiva. I had been sending David desperate texts all afternoon, and at one point his own anguish became obvious. “What’s your son’s name?” the rabbi asked, and David told him it was Elijah. “Ah, the prophet of unlikely redemption,” he said, smiling. “With them, the good news is almost as hard as the bad.”

It took me a while, but I eventually figured out what he meant. Sometimes the task of rebuilding—of accepting what has been broken and making things anew—is so daunting that it can almost feel easier to believe it can’t be done.

But it can.

Read it all.

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

Andrew Sullivan–Joe Biden’s Culture War Aggression

Biden has also signaled (and by executive order, has already launched) a very sharp departure from liberalism in his approach to civil rights. The vast majority of Americans support laws that protect minorities from discrimination, so that every American can have equality of opportunity, without their own talents being held back by prejudice. But Biden’s speech and executive orders come from a very different place. They explicitly replace the idea of equality in favor of what anti-liberal critical theorists call “equity.” They junk equality of opportunity in favor of equality of outcomes. Most people won’t notice that this new concept has been introduced — equity, equality, it all sounds the same — but they’ll soon find out the difference.

In critical theory, as James Lindsay explains, “‘equality’ means that citizen A and citizen B are treated equally, while ‘equity’ means adjusting shares in order to make citizen A and B equal.” Here’s how Biden defines “equity”: “the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.”

In less tortured English, equity means giving the the named identity groups a specific advantage in treatment by the federal government over other groups — in order to make up for historic injustice and “systemic” oppression. Without “equity”, the argument runs, there can be no real “equality of opportunity.” Equity therefore comes first. Until equity is reached, equality is postponed — perhaps for ever.

Helping level up regions and populations that have experienced greater neglect or discrimination in the past is a good thing. But you could achieve this if you simply focused on relieving poverty in the relevant communities. You could invest in schools, reform policing, target environmental clean-ups, grow the economy, increase federal attention to the neglected, and thereby help the needy in precisely these groups. But that would not reflect critical theory’s insistence that race and identity trump class, and that America itself is inherently, from top to bottom, a “white supremacist” country. Biden just endorsed that with gusto.

The paradox, of course, is that to achieve “equity” you have to first take away equality for individuals who were born in the wrong identity group. Equity means treating individuals unequally so that groups are equal.

Read it all.

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

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy