Category : * Economics, Politics

(Church Times) MPs hear horror stories as the UK prepares to host conference on freedom of religion

The plight of Christians, Muslims, and humanists around the world was raised in a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday morning, in advance of an international conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) next week.

The session was opened by the Prime Minister’s special envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Fiona Bruce MP.

“Millions of people today are being denied their FoRB,” Ms Bruce told the gathering of parliamentarians. “FoRB violations are getting worse in severity and scale. Right across the world people are losing their jobs, education, homes, livelihoods, families, freedom, access to justice, even life itself, simply on account of what they believe.”

The international Ministerial Conference on FoRB next week will gather more than 500 politicians, faith leaders, and experts to share best practice on protecting religious freedom and to inspire more action to be taken.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Economist) How to win Ukraine’s long war

On the face of it, a long war suits Russia. Both sides are using huge amounts of ammunition, but Russia has vastly more. The Russian economy is much larger than Ukraine’s and in far better shape. In pursuit of victory, Russia is willing to terrorise and demoralise the Ukrainians by committing war crimes, as it did by striking a shopping mall in Kremenchuk this week. If needs be, Mr Putin will impose grievous suffering on his own people.

However, the long war does not have to be fought on Mr Putin’s terms. Potentially, Ukraine has vast numbers of motivated fighters. It can be supplied by the West’s defence industry. In 2020, before sanctions, the economies of nato were more than ten times bigger than Russia’s.

Ukraine’s turnaround begins on the battlefield, by stopping and reversing the Russian advance. Mr Putin’s generals will continue to have more weapons, but the sophisticated nato systems now arriving have longer range and greater accuracy. By adopting tactics devised in the cold war, when nato too was outnumbered by the Red Army, Ukraine should be able to destroy Russian command posts and supply depots. Ukraine scored a success on June 30th, when it used nato weapons to drive Russian forces off Snake Island, a strategic prize in the Black Sea. It should aim to impose a “hurting stalemate”, in which it takes back similarly symbolically important territory, such as the city of Kherson, imposing a heavy price on Russia.

If Russia starts to lose ground on the battlefield, dissent and infighting may spread in the Kremlin.

Read it all (registration or subscription).

Posted in Foreign Relations, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

Church Commissioners appoint planning specialist Jennifer Longstaff to aid affordable housing delivery

Longstaff will help drive forward the Church Commissioners’ ambitions for affordable housing delivery, particularly in rural areas, across the Church Commissioners’ land portfolio.

The Commissioners’ real asset portfolio includes significant landholdings, which have a critical role to play in supporting rural communities and maintaining their vibrancy across the country, including through the delivery of new housing.

A chartered member of the Royal Town Planning Institute, Longstaff has nearly 15 years’ experience working for Savills undertaking project development and securing planning permissions to support new developments, including rural housing.

At Savills, she managed several smaller development sites, as well as successful larger housing and mixed-use projects across the North of England. She also worked closely with the Church Commissioners’ teams as a development consultant on their rural housing projects across England, with great success.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Housing/Real Estate Market, Religion & Culture

(NYT front page) A More Muscular NATO Emerges as West Confronts Russia and China

Faced with a newly aggressive Russia, NATO leaders on Wednesday outlined a muscular new vision that names Moscow as the military alliance’s primary adversary but also, for the first time, declares China to be a strategic “challenge.”

It was a fundamental shift for an alliance that was born in the Cold War but came to view a post-Soviet Russia as a potential ally, and did not focus on China at all.

But that was before Feb. 24, when Russian forces poured across the border into Ukraine, and Chinese leaders pointedly did not join in the global condemnation that followed.

“The deepening strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests,” NATO leaders said in a new mission statement issued during their summit in Madrid.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Europe, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(World) Erin Hawley and Kristen Waggoner on the historic Dobbs decision–A victory for life and the Constitution

The U.S. Supreme Court’s courageous decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a win for life and the Constitution. That historic ruling finally reverses the court’s disastrous opinion in Roe v. Wade—a decision that made up a constitutional right to abortion and resulted in the deaths of more than 60 million unborn children. Because of the court’s ruling in Dobbs, states may now fully protect unborn life.

The Mississippi law at issue in the case, the Gestational Age Act, protects unborn children and the health of their pregnant mothers based on the latest science. It protects unborn life after 15 weeks of gestational age—a point in time when babies can move and stretch, hiccup, and quite likely feel pain. It permits abortions to save the life of the mother or for severe fetal abnormalities. Despite the modesty of Mississippi’s law, the lower courts struck it down because no matter what science showed, or how strong a state’s interest in protecting unborn life was, under the Roe regime, states may not protect life until viability—about 22 weeks of gestational age.

Dobbs is a win for life. Fifty years of scientific progress and innovation establish what the Bible has always taught: Life begins at conception. Ultrasound technology allows expectant parents to see the truth of Psalm 139: Children are fearfully and wonderfully made from the very beginning.

Under Roe v. Wade, moreover, the United States has been an extreme outlier in abortion law and policy. As the chief justice noted during oral arguments, the United States is one of only six nations, including China and North Korea, that allow elective abortions through all nine months of pregnancy. The Washington Post recently ranked the United States as the fourth most liberal abortion country in the world. Most countries do not allow elective abortions at all, and 75 percent protect life after 12 weeks of gestation.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Supreme Court, Theology

(WSJ) U.S. Held Secret Meeting With Israeli, Arab Military Chiefs to Counter Iran Air Threat

The U.S. convened a secret meeting of top military officials from Israel and Arab countries in March to explore how they could coordinate against Iran’s growing missile and drone capabilities, according to officials from the U.S. and the region.

The previously undisclosed talks, which were held at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, marked the first time that such a range of ranking Israeli and Arab officers have met under U.S. military auspices to discuss how to defend against a common threat.

The meeting brought together the top military officers from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan and came as Israel and its neighbors are in the early stage of discussing potential military cooperation, the officials said.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also sent officers to the meeting. The U.S. was represented by Gen. Frank McKenzie, then the head of the U.S. Central Command.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Science & Technology

A look back to 1985–George Scialabba: The Trouble with Roe v. Wade

From left to right, not many people have had a kind word for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that partially legalized abortion. Radical feminist Catharine MacKinnon called it “a study in male ideology” that “reaffirms what the feminist critique of sexuality criticizes: the public/private split.” Michael Kinsley, editor of “The New Republic”, called it “one of the worst things that ever happened to American liberalism” and warned that “there is a time bomb ticking away” inside it. Conservatives have, of course, registered disapproval often and loudly (sometimes explosively).

Roe v. Wade struck down a Texas law that made abortion a crime except when “procured or attempted by medical advice for the purpose of saving the life of the mother.” The court’s logic was not transparent (Kinsley calls it “a mess,” and many agree), but was essentially this: (1) A woman’s right to make reproductive decisions is part of a “right of privacy” implicit in the 14th Amendment to the constitution, which says that government may not “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (2) A fetus does not have a “right to life” or to “equal protection” because, according to the court, “the word ‘person,’ as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn.” (3) Constitutionally guaranteed rights may only be infringed when a “compelling” societal interest is at stake. In the case of abortion, society has two legitimate interests: to protect the health of pregnant women and to protect “potential life.” But these interests are not “compelling” from the moment of conception. The former becomes compelling only when the medical risks of abortion become comparable to those of normal childbirth, i.e. (as of 1983) during the second trimester. The latter becomes compelling only when the fetus becomes “viable,” or “capable of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb,” i.e. (as of 1973) during the third trimester. (4) What follows from all this, the court said, is that the state may regulate abortion during the second trimester, but only “in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health,” and may prohibit abortion during the third trimester “except where it is necessary . . . for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”

Roe raised a host of questions, of two kinds. First: is the court’s reasoning persuasive? Does the constitution really recognize a “right of privacy,” even though it’s not mentioned anywhere in the text? Why doesn’t the 14th Amendment apply to fetuses, even though they are not mentioned anywhere in the text? What is “potential” life? Why does the state have a “compelling interest” in protecting it, even at the expense of actual persons? And why does that interest become compelling at viability rather than at conception or birth?

Read it all.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Supreme Court

(The Verge) Amazon shows off Alexa feature that mimics the voices of your dead relatives

Amazon has revealed an experimental Alexa feature that allows the AI assistant to mimic the voices of users’ dead relatives.

The company demoed the feature at its annual MARS conference, showing a video in which a child asks Alexa to read a bedtime story in the voice of his dead grandmother.

“As you saw in this experience, instead of Alexa’s voice reading the book, it’s the kid’s grandma’s voice,” said Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s head scientist for Alexa AI. Prasad introduced the clip by saying that adding “human attributes” to AI systems was increasingly important “in these times of the ongoing pandemic, when so many of us have lost someone we love.”

“While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss, it can definitely make their memories last,” said Prasad.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Science & Technology

(ACNA) Anglicans React To Supreme Court Dobbs Decision

Today the United States Supreme Court ruled that “the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion,” overruling Roe v. Wade (1973). The decision will “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives … to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.” In the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a five Justice majority of the Supreme Court overruled both Roe and the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey.[1]

The inherent value of human life is revealed in the Scriptures, and this biblical commitment is reflected in the Anglican Church in North America’s Constitution and Canons which calls all members and clergy “to promote and respect the sanctity of every human life from conception to natural death” (Title II.8.3).

Archbishop Beach commented:

While this decision doesn’t end abortion in the U.S., it will lead to fewer children being killed through abortion. We thank God for this limited victory, and the Anglican Church in North America recommits itself to serving mothers so they can embrace motherhood and welcome their children. We also continue to point the way to God’s healing and forgiveness for all who suffer physically and emotionally from their abortion experiences.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Children, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Supreme Court

(Scotus Blog) Supreme Court argues that constitutional right to abortion did not and does not exist

The Supreme Court on Friday eliminated the constitutional right to obtain an abortion, casting aside 49 years of precedent that began with Roe v. Wade.

The decision by Justice Samuel Alito will set off a seismic shift in reproductive rights across the United States. It will allow states to ban abortion, and experts expect about half the states to do so.

In one of the most anticipated rulings in decades, the court overturned Roe, which first declared a constitutional right to abortion in 1973, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which re-affirmed that right in 1992. The decision followed the leak in early May of a draft opinion showing that a majority of the justices were privately poised to take that step. On Friday, they made it official.

The vote was 6-3. Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined Alito’s opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts did not join the opinion but agreed with the result and filed a separate opinion. The court’s three liberals, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, filed a joint dissent.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Supreme Court, Theology

(Guardian) Christians in Oxford asked to commit to protecting environment

The addition to the liturgy comes as the Oxford diocese announces plans to spend £10m improving the energy efficiency of its vicarages in an effort to hit net zero emissions by 2035. It is one of 10 dioceses to have divested from fossil fuel companies, making commitments not to invest in coal, oil and gas in the future.

At a national level, the Church of England has been criticised for not acting quickly enough to cut its links with fossil fuel companies. It began to cut ties to coal and other heavily polluting industries in 2015, then pledged in 2018 to divest by 2023 from high-carbon companies that were “not aligned with the goals of the Paris agreement”. But as the deadline approaches, the organisation has said it is still “engaging” with key oil and gas interests, rather than cancelling all of its holdings.

Chris Manktelow, of the Young Christian Climate Network, told the Guardian earlier this year that that was not good enough. “The church should be moving quickly and showing moral leadership, and is just not going fast enough. We are not happy with this response [to the calls to divest].”

On Wednesday, Greenpeace welcomed the Oxford decision.

“The diocese of Oxford is moving away from fossil fuels, which is essential, but this liturgical change goes deeper,” said a spokesperson. “Today’s lesson is that, in a climate and nature emergency, you need to make environmental considerations central to your project right from the very beginning and keep them in mind the whole way through. That sounds very much like wisdom worth listening to.”

Read it all and you can see the additional wording in the liturgy there.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Theology

(Economist) How to fix the world’s energy emergency without wrecking the environment

Energy shocks can become political catastrophes. Perhaps a third of the rich world’s inflation of 8% is explained by soaring fuel and power costs. Households struggling to pay bills are angry, leading to policies aimed at insulating them and boosting fossil-fuel production, however dirty.

Mr Biden, who came to power promising a green revolution, plans to suspend petrol taxes and visit Saudi Arabia to ask it to pump more oil. Europe has emergency windfall levies, subsidies, price caps and more. In Germany, as air-conditioners whine, coal-fired power plants are being taken out of mothballs. Chinese and Indian state-run mining firms that the climate-conscious hoped were on a fast track to extinction are digging up record amounts of coal.

This improvised chaos is understandable but potentially disastrous, because it could stall the clean-energy transition. Public handouts and tax-breaks for fossil fuels will be hard to withdraw. Dirty new power plants and oil- and gasfields with 30- to 40-year lifespans would give their owners more reason to resist fossil-fuel phase-outs. That is why, even as they firefight, governments must focus on tackling the fundamental problems confronting the energy industry.

One priority is finding a way to ramp up fossil-fuel projects, especially relatively clean natural gas, that have an artificially truncated lifespan of 15-20 years so as to align them with the goal of dramatically cutting emissions by 2050.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(Local Paper) Senate gun bill supported by Lindsey Graham addresses Charleston loophole

The Senate’s bipartisan gun safety bill, which has the backing of South Carolina’s senior Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, includes a pair of provisions that would address two issues of tremendous importance in the Palmetto State:

1. Closing the so-called “Charleston loophole” that allowed a young white supremacist to buy a gun on a technicality before going on a hate-fueled rampage inside a downtown Charleston church in 2015, and

2. Expanding the definition that determines which domestic abusers are barred from getting guns, an issue of significance in a state that ranks sixth-worst in the nation for women killed by men.

Graham was one of 14 Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who joined all 48 Democrats and two independents in advancing the bill June 21 for debate.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Senate, Violence

(Telegraph) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–The US recession is here, and central banks are still fighting the last war

The US is either in recession already, or probably will be by early autumn. This has sweeping consequences for the world’s dollarised financial system, for commodity demand, and for global inflation.

The New York Federal Reserve’s internal model is flashing an 80pc risk that the US economy will enter a sustained contraction in the second half of this year, much sooner than presumed just weeks ago. The chances of a “soft landing” have dropped to 10pc. If so, you can stop worrying about an inflationary spiral.

The institution’s “dynamic stochastic general equilibrium” model (DSGE) points to an outright fall in GDP of 0.6pc this year and a further fall of 0.5pc next year. It likens the current picture to the 1990 recession under George Bush senior, triggered by the First Gulf War.

Monetarists think the DSGE model understates the danger since it entirely ignores the role of money in the economy. It treats the abrupt switch from extreme quantitative easing to extreme quantitative tightening – a $2.4 trillion reversal, annualised – as mostly background noise. This New Keynesian blind spot on how QE works (through the banking multiplier) has misled the Fed before, and may be misleading the Fed now.

Read it all (registration or subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Federal Reserve

Archbishop Welby presents The Queen with Canterbury Cross for ‘unstinting service’ to Church of England

The Archbishop of Canterbury has presented HM The Queen with a special ‘Canterbury Cross’ for Her Majesty’s ‘unstinting’ service to the Church of England over seventy years.

The Archbishop made the presentation during an audience with Her Majesty at Windsor Castle today.

The Canterbury Cross was given to The Queen in recognition and gratitude for Her Majesty’s “unstinting support of the Church throughout her reign” and to mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year.

Archbishop Justin Welby gave the Cross as “a heartfelt symbol of the love, loyalty and affection in which the Church of England holds Her Majesty”.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CT) Supreme Court Rules Against Maine Policy Denying Christian School Aid

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a Maine policy covering tuition for private schools but not religious schools violates the First Amendment.

Maine offers the tuition assistance in rural districts that do not have public schools. The challenge involved two private Christian schools, Bangor Christian Schools and Temple Academy, which didn’t meet the state’s “nonsectarian” requirement for families to qualify.

The court said such a requirement infringes on free exercise protections and that there was “nothing neutral” about the program.

Read it all.

Posted in Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, State Government, Supreme Court

(I E) A new plant-based material can replace plastic food packaging for keeps

Interestingly, they observed a decline in the populations of these pathogens after the introduction of APFs. The researchers further deposited the antimicrobial fibers on avocados. They noticed that the APF coating prevented the growth of pathogens on the fruit and protected the same from spoilage and damage. Thus increasing the shelf life of avocados by about 50 percent.

Whereas plastic packets often release harmful chemicals into our food and take more than 400 years to biodegrade, the APF coating is a naturally derived biodegradable and non-toxic biopolymer that does not impact the quality of the edible it covers (a previous study also highlights that humans can digest pullulan). Moreover, according to the researchers, it can be easily washed off from a food item using water and takes only three days to completely decompose in the soil.

Excited with these results, Demokritou wrote, “What we have come up with is a scalable technology, which enables us to turn biopolymers, which can be derived as part of a circular economy from food waste, into smart fibers that can wrap food directly. This is part of the new generation, ‘smart’ and ‘green’ food packaging.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ecology, Economy, Science & Technology

(NYT) How a Religious Sect That Dominated a Company Unit Landed Google in a Lawsuit

Founded in 1970 by Robert Earl Burton, a former San Francisco Bay Area schoolteacher, the Fellowship of Friends describes itself as an organization “available to anyone interested in pursuing the spiritual work of awakening.” It claims 1,500 members across the globe, with about 500 to 600 in and around its compound in Oregon House. Members are typically required to give 10 percent of their monthly earnings to the organization.

Mr. Burton based his teachings on the Fourth Way, a philosophy developed in the early 20th century by a Greek Armenian philosopher and one of his students. They believed that while most people moved through life in a state of “waking sleep,” a higher consciousness was possible. Drawing on what he described as visits from angelic incarnations of historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Johann Sebastian Bach and Walt Whitman, Mr. Burton taught that true consciousness could be achieved by embracing the fine arts.

Inside the organization’s Northern California compound, called Apollo, the Fellowship staged operas, plays and ballets; ran a critically acclaimed winery; and collected art from across the world, including more than $11 million in Chinese antiques.

“They believe that to achieve enlightenment you should surround yourself with so-called higher impressions — what Robert Burton believed to be the finest things in life,” said Jennings Brown, a journalist who recently produced a podcast about the Fellowship called “Revelations.” Mr. Burton described Apollo as the seed of a new civilization that would emerge after a global apocalypse.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Washington Post Op-ed) China’s military expansion is reaching a dangerous tipping point

Top military leaders from the United States and China met last weekend at a forum in Singapore, where they attempted to manage mounting tensions between the superpowers. But throughout Asia, there’s growing fear that China’s drastic military expansion will soon result in Chinese regional military superiority, which could embolden Beijing to start a war over Taiwan.

That sense of urgency was palpable at last week’s Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual conference of diplomats, officials and experts from across Asia, organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. Over three days of discussions a common sentiment emerged: China is racing to become the dominant military power in Asia in the next few years — and if it succeeds, Beijing is likely to use force to attempt to subdue Taiwan’s democracy. Russia’s attack on Ukraine has dispelled any notion that revisionist dictatorships can be deterred by anything short of a superior opposing military force.

In recent years, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that China plans to achieve military parity with the United States in Asia by 2027. As the Chinese military advances in both technology and territorial presence, leaders in the People’s Liberation Army are now openly threatening to attack Taiwan and promising to fight anyone who attempts to intervene. Beijing is speeding up its plans, and the United States risks falling behind.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General

(NYT front page) Ravaging the Congo Basin’s Essential Rainforest, Raft by Raft

The mighty Congo River has become a highway for sprawling flotillas of logs — African teak, wenge and bomanga in colors of licorice, candy bars and carrot sticks. For months at a time, crews in the Democratic Republic of Congo live aboard these perilous rafts, piloting the timber in pursuit of a sliver of profit from the dismantling of a crucial forest.

The biggest rafts are industrial-scale, serving mostly international companies that see riches in the rainforest. But puny versions also make their way downriver, tended by men and their families who work and sleep atop the floating logs.

Forests like these pull huge amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air, making them essential to slow global warming. The expanded scale of illegal logging imperils their role in protecting humanity’s future.

The Congo Basin rainforest, second in size only to the Amazon, is becoming increasingly vital as a defense against climate change as the Amazon is felled. However, the Democratic Republic of Congo for several years in a row has been losing more old-growth rainforest, research shows, than any country except for Brazil.

In this lawless trade, the river is the artery to the world. In some places, where once-towering trees are prepared for the journey, the water itself is stained caramel from the bleeding sap of felled trees.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Africa, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Republic of Congo

(Bloomberg Top) US Faces a Fed-Triggered Recession That May Cost Biden a Second Term

Soaring prices are hurting Americans. The cure is going to hurt, too. It may take a recession to stamp out inflation — and it’s likely to happen on President Joe Biden’s watch.

A downturn by the start of 2024, barely even on the radar just a few months ago, is now close to a three-in-four probability, according to the latest estimates by Bloomberg Economics.

On Wednesday the Fed delivered its biggest interest-rate hike in almost three decades, as it takes the fight against inflation into overdrive. When central bankers try this hard to slow the economy down, they often end up tipping it into outright reverse.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Federal Reserve

(Economist) Beijing and Shanghai are still trying to get a grip on covid-19

Since the beginning of June, when the authorities in Shanghai lifted a months-long lockdown, many aspects of life in the city have returned to normal. The once-deserted freeways around China’s financial hub are again full of traffic. The white-collar workers who moved into their offices during April and May have at last returned home. The number of cases of covid-19 found outside quarantine has dropped to single digits. Just one was detected on June 13th.

But Shanghai’s officials are still on edge. Many residential communities reopened only to be locked down again when a positive case, or merely a close contact of one, was found in their vicinity. Residents continue to be taken away to quarantine centres if they live in the same building as someone infected. A case linked to a hair salon on a heavily travelled thoroughfare resulted in hundreds of people being whisked into isolation and several housing compounds being locked down. The city ordered most of its 25m residents into mass testing on June 11th and 12th.

This is what the new version of China’s “dynamic zero-covid” campaign looks like. Rolling “micro-lockdowns” and mass testing are meant to replace economically destructive citywide lockdowns. The strategy is supposed to be more targeted, finding and quarantining individual positive cases and their close contacts within hours. But calibration is proving difficult.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(NYT Op-ed) [Former Fed Chair] Ben Bernanke–Inflation Isn’t Going to Bring Back the 1970s

None of this implies that the Fed’s job will be easy. The degree to which the central bank will have to tighten monetary policy to control our currently high inflation, and the associated risk of an economic slowdown or recession, depends on several factors: how quickly the supply-side problems (high oil prices, supply-chain snarls) subside, how aggregate spending reacts to the tighter financial conditions engineered by the Fed and whether the Fed retains its credibility as an inflation fighter even if inflation takes a while to subside.

Of these, history teaches us, the last may be the most important. Inflation will not become self-perpetuating, with price increases leading to wage increases leading to price increases, if people are confident that the Fed will take the necessary measures to bring inflation down over time.

The Fed’s greater policy independence, its willingness to take responsibility for inflation and its record of keeping inflation low for nearly four decades after the Great Inflation, make today’s Fed much more credible on inflation than its counterpart in the ’60s and ’70s. The Fed’s credibility will help ensure that the Great Inflation will not be repeated, and Mr. Powell and his colleagues will put a high priority on keeping that credibility intact.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Federal Reserve, History

(Church Times) Bishops unite to condemn ‘shameful’ Rwanda plan for asylum-seekers

The Government’s “offshoring” policy, under which the first people are due to be deported to Rwanda as early as Tuesday, “should shame us as a nation”, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and 23 other bishops, have said.

The policy was included in the Nationality and Borders Act, which came into law in April despite objections and attempted amendments from bishops and other peers (News, 29 April). It was explicitly criticised by Archbishop Welby in his Easter sermon (News, 27 April), and reportedly by the Prince of Wales last week, who is said to have called it “appalling” in a private conversation.

Last week, campaigners failed to win an injunction against the policy in the High Court, which ruled that it was in the “public interest” for the Government to carry it out. An appeal on Monday was rejected for the same reason. A full hearing on whether the policy is lawful is due to take place next month.

In a letter due to be published in The Times on Tuesday, the full complement of bishops who sit in the House of Lords have written: “Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation.” The letter continues: “The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries.”

Read it all (registration or subscription).

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Rwanda

(NYT front page) Senators Agree On Framework For Gun Safety

Senate negotiators announced on Sunday that they had struck a bipartisan deal on a narrow set of gun safety measures with sufficient support to move through the evenly divided chamber, a significant step toward ending a yearslong congressional impasse on the issue.

The agreement, put forth by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats and endorsed by President Biden and top Democrats, includes enhanced background checks to give authorities time to check the juvenile and mental health records of any prospective gun buyer under the age of 21 and a provision that would, for the first time, extend to dating partners a prohibition on domestic abusers having guns.

It would also provide funding for states to enact so-called red-flag laws that allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed to be dangerous, as well as money for mental health resources and to bolster safety and mental health services at schools.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Politics in General, President Joe Biden, Senate, Violence

(FA) Richard Haas–A Ukraine Strategy for the Long Haul

With regime change in Kyiv unattainable, Putin has reduced his ambitions, focusing on controlling a slice of the south and east of Ukraine in an effort to enlarge and connect the territories he took in 2014. What he has not given up, however, is his belief that Ukraine does not deserve to be a sovereign entity. As a result, it is difficult to imagine Putin ending the conflict. If Russian forces fare poorly in their ongoing offensive in the Donbas, he will be loath to accept what many might view as a defeat in a war he started. Doing so could render him vulnerable to internal challenge and could come to define his legacy. If, on the other hand, Russian forces gain the upper hand, Putin will see no reason to agree to a cessation of fighting.

Further dimming the prospects of peace is the unlikelihood that any of the developments that could change Putin’s calculus will materialize. Take, for instance, criticism within Russia of the war. Ukraine claims that 30,000 Russian soldiers have already been killed in battle, whereas other assessments suggest that the number is half as high. Whatever the precise figure, it is surely larger than the Kremlin had imagined. In a normal society, that would sap support for the war. But because the government can so effectively control information and crack down against its opponents, domestic criticism of the war has been relatively muted so far.

What if the economic pressure mounts? For now, the sanctions are nowhere near the point of threatening to bring down Putin. Higher oil prices and the emergence of buyers such as India have helped offset reduced sales to the West. Europe, for its part, continues to import Russian gas. If it stopped doing so, Russia would be hard-pressed to sell the gas to others, but Europe is likely to keep buying. Worried about their economies, European countries will resist cutting off imports until they can be assured of either alternative supplies of gas or substitute energy sources—all of which will take years to materialize.

Then there is the prospect of pressure from China, which has so far stood by Russia. If the West persuaded Beijing to distance itself from Moscow, then Putin might realize that his invasion was costing him a vital partner. The United States and Europe should do what they can to drive apart the two powers, including offering incentives to China while also warning it that continued support for Russia would lead to a further deterioration of U.S.-Chinese relations. But even if they tried, their efforts still might fail, as Chinese President Xi Jinping would be extremely reluctant to do anything that would lead to Russia’s defeat or that would suggest that he erred in associating China so closely with Russia…..

Ultimately, what is probably required to end the war is a change not in Washington but in Moscow. In all likelihood, given Putin’s deep investment in the war, it will require someone other than him to take steps that would end Russia’s pariah status, economic crisis, and military quagmire. The West should make clear that it is ready to reward a new Russian leader prepared to take such steps even as it keeps up the pressure on the current one.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, Europe, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(FT top) US set for recession next year, economists predict

The US economy will tip into a recession next year, according to nearly 70 per cent of leading academic economists polled by the Financial Times.

The latest survey, conducted in partnership with the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, suggests mounting headwinds for the world’s largest economy after one of the most rapid rebounds in history, as the Federal Reserve ramps up efforts to contain the highest inflation in about 40 years.

The US central bank has already embarked on what will be one of the fastest tightening cycles in decades. Since March it has raised its benchmark policy rate by 0.75 percentage points from near-zero levels.

The Federal Open Market Committee gathers once again on Tuesday for a two-day policy meeting, at which officials are expected to implement the first back-to-back half-point rate rise since 1994 and signal the continuation of that pace until at least September.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Economy, Federal Reserve

(C of E) Sowing seeds: how a patch of wasteland became heart of community

In just a few years, a patch of once unused land in the middle of the Quarrendon estate in Aylesbury, Bucks, has been transformed into the beating heart of the community by the local church.

The once neglected scrap of land surrounding St Peter’s Church, has been turned into a multipurpose green space – simultaneously a community garden, an exercise site, a place to grow food, an outdoor classroom, and a tranquil spot in the centre of the estate.

In partnership with local organisations, St Peter’s regularly takes referrals from the local GP surgery, known as ‘social prescribing.’

It also welcomes schools, the local Adult Education Centre, and the Youth Offenders Probation Service – where young adults learn new skills in landscaping and horticulture to help get them back into employment.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Tablet) Why Queen Elizabeth II is a ‘missionary’ for Christianity

The Queen’s faith has been a “consistent” feature of her reign and since 2000 she has increasingly spoken about it, making her something of “a missionary” for Christianity, the former editor of The Tablet, Catherine Pepinster has said.

Speaking at a special Tablet webinar on the eve of the celebration of her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee about her new book, Defenders of the Faith: The British Monarchy, Religion and the Next Coronation, Pepinster said that it was when she was researching a previous book, The Keys and the Kingdom: The British and the Papacy from John Paul II to Francis, she realised what a significant figure Elizabeth II was in terms of religion in Britain.

Her new book looks at the Queen’s personal faith and also her public role as the supreme governor of the Church of England, with a special focus on the coronation and the future of the monarchy.

The author and commentator stressed that while the Queen is Defender of the Faith, she was also a defender of other faiths in a religiously diverse Britain.

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Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Reuters) ISIS affiliate suspected of R Catholic church massacre, Nigeria says

Nigerian security officials suspect extremists from Islamic State’s affiliate in west Africa were behind an attack on a Catholic church last weekend that killed dozens.

Forty people are now thought to have died after gunmen stormed St Francis Catholic church in Owo, Ondo State, on Sunday, and 61 survivors are still being treated in hospital, according to local authorities. The total is double an earlier estimate.

Nigeria’s National Security Council said on Thursday that the attack was the work of the Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap) group, apparently reinforcing fears that the militants, who have been restricted to the north-east for many years, are looking to expand their influence and reach to other parts of the country. Ondo, in the south-west, has long been considered one of the safer parts of the country.

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Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship, Nigeria, Parish Ministry, Pentecost, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence