Category : * Economics, Politics

(BBC) Dozens of world leaders attend the the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp at the Yad Vashem remembrance centre

The Fifth World Holocaust Forum is the largest diplomatic event in Israel’s history.

More than 40 dignitaries attended and laid wreaths, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, US Vice-President Mike Pence and the Prince of Wales, who is making his first official trip to the Holy Land.

In the opening address, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin thanked them “for your commitment to remembering the Shoah [Holocaust], for your commitment to the citizens of the world, to those who believe in the dignity of man”.

He said their countries should not take for granted the common values that people fought for in World War Two, such as democracy and freedom, saying that Jewish people “remember because we understand that if we do not remember then history can be repeated”.

“Anti-Semitism does not only stop with Jews,” he warned. “Racism and anti-Semitism is a malignant disease that dismantles people and countries, and no society and no democracy is immune to that.”

Read it all.

Posted in Defense, National Security, Military, History, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

(WSJ) Michael Helfand–Discrimination Without Discriminating? The Supreme Court next week will hear another challenge to an anti-Catholic law

In Trinity Lutheran v. Comer (2017), the justices took aim at Missouri’s Blaine amendment, which the state had invoked to withhold funding for a church-run school. By 7-2, the justices deemed Missouri’s denial a First Amendment violation because “Trinity Lutheran was denied a grant simply because of what it is—a church.” But the court focused on the discriminatory impact of the specific case, rather than the discriminatory intent of the Blaine amendment.

Espinoza involves a scholarship program the Montana Legislature created in 2015 to promote school choice. The state offered a $150 tax credit for donations to nonprofits that award scholarships to students attending any private ‘“qualified education provider,” a definition that initially included religious schools. But the law conflicted with Montana’s Blaine amendment, which bars “any direct or indirect” funding to religious schools. The state Department of Revenue redefined “qualified education provider” to exclude religious schools. That exclusion triggered a set of lawsuits arguing that the modified rule violated the First Amendment—a strong argument given Trinity Lutheran.

Then the legal fight took a strange turn. The Montana Supreme Court held that the program could not support institutions providing scholarships to religious schools. But it also found that the Department of Revenue lacked the authority to modify the program to exclude religious schools. Because the law authorized what the state constitution prohibited—funding religious schools—the entire law had to be struck down. That meant no private school received funding.

As a result, the law that discriminated against religious schools is off the books. Thus the most natural application of U.S. Supreme Court precedent—that a state may not exclude a religious institution simply because of “what it is”—does not easily apply. Given this peculiar posture, how might the justices decide the case?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(Daily Post) Boko Haram executes CAN chairman, Lawan Andimi

The Boko Haram sect has executed Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Lawan Andimi.

This was made known on Tuesday by Ahmed Salkida, a journalist known to have access to Boko Haram.

He tweeted: “To break some news items can traumatize. I’m battling with one of such. Reverend Andimi, abducted by Boko Haram was executed yesterday. Rev. Andimi was a church leader, a father to his children and the community he served. My condolences go to his family.”

Read it all.

Posted in Nigeria, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Local Paper) Senator posts racist email from a constituent to show bigotry is ‘alive and well’ in South Carolina

A routine campaign email turned into a teaching moment on race for a South Carolina senator.

Columbia Democrat Mia McLeod posted on social media a screenshot of a constituent’s email that referred to her by using a racial epithet and expletive. The constituent was responding to her “save the date” invitation to a Jan. 28 fundraiser.

“I was a bit taken aback, but not totally shocked,” McLeod, who is black, told The Post and Courier on Wednesday….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Race/Race Relations, State Government

(CC) China’s attack on the Uighurs and their Muslim faith

To coerce behavior in Xinjiang, the Chinese government has employed thousands of security agents along with high-tech forms of surveillance, in­cluding security cameras and facial recognition software. Because the Chinese press is censored by the government, news of these abuses has filtered out of the region largely through foreign journalists and independent researchers. China denied the existence of the internment camps until classified government documents were leaked last year; since then, government officials have described the camps as “vocational centers.”

China’s role as scheduled host of the 2022 Winter Olympics offers the world a chance to speak up for the Uighurs and apply pressure on the government to relent. So far, China’s economic clout on the world stage has rendered many nations hesitant to respond. The US shows no signs of making religious freedom for the Uighurs a key issue in trade negotiations.

The US Congress is, however, considering a bill that would direct the Trump administration to identify Chinese officials involved in the abuses and to deny them entry to the US and freeze their financial assets. The bill would also impose sanctions on tech firms that supply China with equipment used in repression and surveillance. The bill passed the House of Representatives and awaits a vote in the Senate. As modest as it is, such a law would be one of the more significant international efforts to hold Chinese leaders accountable for their brutal and systematic assault on a religious community.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

Stephen Freeman–Hidden from the Eyes of Modernity

The modern world is dominated by the cult of politics. There is no better way to describe how we imagine things to work. Regardless of our protests to the contrary, contemporary people believe in a secular world – a world that operates according to its own laws and principles (cause and effect) – and where those with power are those who are able to “make things happen.” Power is understood to be identical with coercion (or the “authority” to coerce) and wealth (the ability to pay people to do your bidding). The apex of this power is identified with governments. As such, we understand “politics” to be the primary means of controlling and shaping the world. This is life as cult. We are told (and agree) that the thing we call “government” controls and shapes the world, and that it is its legitimate role. Every protest to the contrary is met either with perhaps two verses of Scripture (if you’re a Christian) or dismissal as some sort of nut (perhaps an Amish nut of sorts).

Much of this cult has been created in the crucible of modernity itself. At its heart, modernity (and all of its political forms) teaches that the shaping and control of history is the proper role of government. It is the agent of change. If anyone resists this claim or refuses to participate, then they are charged with failing to take up their responsibilities. It is a cult that demands our participation (the very nature of a cult).

Malick’s film concludes with a quote from George Elliot’s Middlemarch:

“..for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

I would go further than Elliot. The hidden life is the only true life, and what is deemed “historic” is little more than propaganda. The propaganda does not serve the moment-by-moment reality that each of us necessarily inhabits. Rather, it serves to empower those who most want to do violence without the distraction of a conscience.

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–Has President Trump Made Us All Stupid?

Donald Trump is impulse-driven, ignorant, narcissistic and intellectually dishonest. So you’d think that those of us in the anti-Trump camp would go out of our way to show we’re not like him — that we are judicious, informed, mature and reasonable.

But the events of the past week have shown that the anti-Trump echo chamber is becoming a mirror image of Trump himself — overwrought, uncalibrated and incapable of having an intelligent conversation about any complex policy problem.

But in the anti-Trump echo chamber, that’s not how most people were thinking. Led by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, they avoided the hard, complex problem of how to set boundaries around militias. Instead, they pontificated on the easy question not actually on the table: Should we have a massive invasion of Iran?

A great cry went up from the echo chamber. We’re on the brink of war! Trump is leading us to more endless wars in the Middle East! We’re on the precipice of total chaos! This was not the calibrated language of risk and reward. It was fear-stoking apocalyptic language. By being so overwrought and exaggerated, the echo chamber drowned out any practical conversation about how to stabilize the Middle East so we could have another righteous chorus of “Donald Trump is a monster!”

This is Trump’s ultimate victory. Every argument on every topic is now all about him.

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., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

(EF) Boko Haram kidnaps Christian leader of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria

A leader of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) pleaded for help on a video released on Sunday (Jan. 5) after Islamic extremists with Boko Haram kidnapped him last week.

The Rev. Lawan Andimi was abducted by terrorists of the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP, known as Boko Haram before affiliating with the Islamic State) on Thursday (Jan. 2) in attacks on Michika County and a nearby area in northeast Nigeria’s Adamawa state, sources said.

Pastor Andimi, area EYN district chairman and chairman of the local chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, pleads with church leaders to ask Adamawa Gov. Ahmadu Fintiri to intervene for his release in the video. “I have never been discouraged, because all conditions that one finds himself is in the hands of God – God who made them to take care of me and to leave [me with] my life,” Pastor Andimi says.

“I am appealing to my colleagues, reverends, particularly my president, Rev. Joel Billy, who is a strong man, a man of compassion and man of love. He can do all his best to speak to our governor, Umaru Jibrilla [Fintiri] and other necessary agents for my release here.”

Read it all.

Posted in Nigeria, Terrorism, Violence

(PS) Shoshana Zuboff–Surveillance Capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

(NR) Yuval Levin–The Historian as Moralist: The remarkable life’s work of Gertrude Himmelfarb

The passing of Gertrude Himmelfarb, who died on December 30th at the age of 97, is a loss felt keenly by all who had the good fortune to know her.

To family and friends, she was known as Bea Kristol, and embodied character and decency, good humor, and good sense. To Americans with an interest in our country’s intellectual life, she might have been best known as the wife of Irving Kristol. This always suited her humility (let alone her pride in Irving), and you would surely gain some real insight into the aims of the original neoconservatives by reflecting on the fact that Irving Kristol’s wife was a scholar of Victorian England.

But as such a scholar — one whose life’s work spanned an amazing seven decades of wise, independent-minded, reliably fascinating, and brilliantly expressed historical analysis — Himmelfarb has never been sufficiently appreciated. There will no doubt be many remembrances of her unique mix of personal warmth and dignity in the days to come, from many who knew her far better than I did. But a reflection on the ambitions and significance of her work is very much in order too.

She was among the most important American historians of the last century. Her path-breaking work illuminating the intellectual life of 19th-century Britain not only helped transform our understanding of what the Victorians were up to but also provided a rich vocabulary for describing the place of the moral in the social and political lives of liberal societies. And in the process, she helped several generations of politically minded intellectuals in her own day understand themselves, their roles, and their goals more profoundly.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology

(FA) Will Iran’s Response to the Soleimani Strike Lead to War?

Perhaps the most provocative thing Iran could do is carry out a terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland or attempt to kill a senior U.S. official of Soleimani’s stature. This would be much more challenging for Iran to pull off than an attack on U.S. interests or personnel overseas but may be deemed by Iran as appropriately proportional. The last time Iran is known to have attempted an attack in the United States was in 2011, when American law enforcement and intelligence agencies foiled a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington by blowing up a restaurant. In that case, the plot was detected early on and easily foiled because of poor Iranian tradecraft. The episode suggested that Iran is much less capable outside the Middle East than inside it, an assessment that is buttressed by foiled Iranian bombing attempts in Denmark and France this year. So while Iran may try to conduct an attack inside the United States, it would need to get lucky to succeed.

If the Trump administration is smart, it will do all that it can to harden U.S. facilities and protect Americans while absorbing some of the inevitable blows to come. It should also reach out to Iran through U.S. partners that have good relations with the country, such as Oman, to try to de-escalate while also setting clear redlines in private to avoid an Iranian miscalculation. Finally, Trump should be satisfied to declare victory and boast that he got the upper hand on Iran by killing Soleimani—not take further military actions. But this type of restraint appears to run counter to Trump’s very nature. And even if he shows uncharacteristic self-restraint in the coming weeks, the desire for revenge in Iran, and the political momentum that desire is already beginning to generate, may inevitably draw the United States and Iran into a major conflict.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

(WSJ) Bernard-Henri Lévy–The New War Against Africa’s Christians

A slow-motion war is under way in Africa’s most populous country. It’s a massacre of Christians, massive in scale and horrific in brutality. And the world has hardly noticed.

A Nigerian Pentecostal Christian, director of a nongovernmental organization that works for mutual understanding between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims, alerted me to it. “Have you heard of the Fulani?” he asked at our first meeting, in Paris, speaking the flawless, melodious English of the Nigerian elite. The Fulani are an ethnic group, generally described as shepherds from mostly Muslim Northern Nigeria, forced by climate change to move with their herds toward the more temperate Christian South. They number 14 million to 15 million in a nation of 191 million.

Among them is a violent element. “They are Islamic extremists of a new stripe,” the NGO director said, “more or less linked with Boko Haram,” the sect that became infamous for the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Christian girls in the state of Borno. “I beg you,” he said, “come and see for yourself.” Knowing of Boko Haram but nothing of the Fulani, I accept.

The 2019 Global Terrorism Index estimates that Fulani extremists have become deadlier than Boko Haram and accounted for the majority of the country’s 2,040 documented terrorist fatalities in 2018. To learn more about them, I travel to Godogodo, in the center of the country, where I meet a beautiful woman named Jumai Victor, 28. On July 15, she says, Fulani extremists stormed into her village on long-saddle motorcycles, three to a bike, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” They torched houses and killed her four children before her eyes.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) China Sentences Wang Yi, Christian Pastor, to 9 Years in Prison

A secretive Chinese court sentenced one of the country’s best-known Christian voices and founder of one of its largest underground churches to nine years in prison for subversion of state power and illegal business operations, according to a government statement released on Monday.

Wang Yi, the pastor who founded Early Rain Covenant Church, was detained last December with more than 100 members of his congregation as part of a crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state.

While most of Mr. Wang’s parishioners, including his wife, Jiang Rong, were eventually released, Mr. Wang never re-emerged from detention.

As part of his sentence, he will also be stripped of his political rights for three years and have 50,000 renminbi, or almost $7,200, of his assets seized, according to the statement.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) Intruder in Monsey Screamed ‘I’ll Get You’ in Machete Attack on Jews

When he was caught, the intruder was still covered in the blood of his victims — five Hasidic Jews he had stabbed wildly with a machete at a rabbi’s home while candles on the Hanukkah menorah still burned.

He had concealed his face with a scarf when he burst into the home in this Hasidic community in the New York suburbs at about 10 p.m. on Saturday, the police and witnesses said.

“At the beginning, he started wielding his machete back and forth, trying to hit everyone around,” said Josef Gluck, 32, who was at the home of the Hasidic rabbi, Chaim Rottenberg, for the celebration of the seventh night of Hanukkah.

Mr. Gluck said the assailant screamed at him, “Hey you, I’ll get you” during the attack.

In terror, people fled the living room. Mr. Gluck recalled dashing into the kitchen, picking up a small child and then going down a back porch. Mr. Gluck returned, saw an older victim bleeding heavily and then tried to confront the attacker.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Terrorism, Violence

The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2019

You may find the full text there (click on the “show more” under the video link).

Posted in Christmas, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) On Christmas Eve in Hong Kong, Protests Are Still Going Strong

The night before Christmas was marked with tear gas and rubber bullets as police tried to disperse protesters gathered near the city’s harbor front, signaling a renewed escalation in the conflict after a few weeks of relative calm.

Hundreds gathered in the tourist-heavy neighborhood of Tsim Tsa Tsui to chant “fight for Hong Kong” and “five demands.” Around 9 p.m., riot police fired several rounds of tear gas near the Peninsula hotel, a luxury British colonial-era establishment that has been hit hard by falling numbers of tourists as months of protests drive the city into recession. As people fled, one protester threw an object at police, prompting one officer to fire rubber bullets.

An 18-year-old university student who identified herself as Rainbow Leung said she ran over after dinner to show solidarity with other locals fighting for their freedom.

“We want to support Hong Kong and stand against the violence,” Ms. Leung said. She canceled plans to attend an orchestra performance on Christmas Day to continue protesting. “The city is more important,” she added.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General

(NZ Herald) ‘This is mass rape’: China slammed over programme that ‘appoints’ men to sleep with Uighur women

In November, various Western media outlets reported that Han Chinese men had been assigned to monitor the homes of Uighur women whose husbands had been detained in prison camps.

The reports came out after an anonymous Chinese official gave an interview with Radio Free Asia, confirming the program but denying there was anything sinister about it.

As part of the “Pair Up and Become Family” programme, Han Chinese men stay with and sleep in the same beds as Uighur women.

According to the Chinese Government, the programme is designed to “promote ethnic unity”.

But to Rushan Abbas, a Uighur activist whose family members have been detained in the Xinjiang camps for more than a year, it’s nothing more than systemised rape – part of the Government’s brutal ongoing crackdown against the country’s ethnic minority.

“This is mass rape,” she told news.com.au. “The Government is offering money, housing and jobs to Han people to come and marry Uighur people.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Sexuality, Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

A BBC Article about the Struggle with Militant Islamism in Western Africa

The current French operation has been running since 2014, co-ordinating on security issues with Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

They are fighting a complex web of jihadist groups that Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou has described as having become “professionals in the art of war”.

An attack by jihadists on an army base earlier this month led to the deaths of more than 70 soldiers in Niger.

In November, 13 French troops died in a helicopter collision during an operation against jihadists in Mali, the biggest single loss of life for the French military since the 1980s.

Regional leaders have called for more international support to tackle the militants but there has also been rising anti-French sentiment and protests in some cities in the region.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Mali, Military / Armed Forces, Niger, Politics in General, Terrorism

The Flag in the Whirlwind: An Update from CT’s President Why our editor in chief spoke out against Trump, and why the conversation must continue

First, then, the flag. Numerous reporters have asked whether the ministry supports what was stated in the editorial. Was Mark Galli speaking on behalf of the institution? CT does not have an editorial board. Editors publish under their own names. Yet Galli has stood in the trenches for men and women of faith for over three decades. He has been an outstanding editor in chief. While he does not speak for everyone in the ministry—our board and our staff hold a range of opinions—he carries the editorial voice of the magazine. We support CT’s editorial independence and believe it’s vital to our mission for the editor in chief to speak out on the issues of the day.

As an institution, Christianity Today has no interest in partisan politics. It does not endorse candidates. We aim to bring biblical wisdom and beautiful storytelling both to the church and from the church to the world. Politics matter, but they do not bring the dead back to life. We are far more committed to the glory of God, the witness of the church, and the life of the world than we care about the fortunes of any party. Political parties come and go, but the witness of the church is the hope of the world, and the integrity of that witness is paramount.

Out of love for Jesus and his church, not for political partisanship or intellectual elitism, this is why we feel compelled to say that the alliance of [some of] American evangelicalism with this presidency has wrought enormous damage to Christian witness. It has alienated many of our children and grandchildren. It has harmed African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American brothers and sisters. And it has undercut the efforts of countless missionaries who labor in the far fields of the Lord. While the Trump administration may be well regarded in some countries, in many more the perception of wholesale evangelical support for the administration has made toxic the reputation of the Bride of Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Economist) Finland has slashed homelessness; the rest of Europe is failing

Tuya’s collection of bongs occupies an entire bookshelf in her immaculate little flat, though she does not smoke marijuana—she just likes the way they look. Her weaknesses, alcohol and pills, landed her in a homeless shelter in Helsinki for three years. But since 2018 she has had an apartment of her own, thanks to a strategy called “housing first” with which Finland has all but eliminated homelessness.

Akbar has no such luck. Last month the Afghan migrant stood in the mud of a camp outside Paris, brushing his teeth at a hose that served as a communal shower. For two months Akbar had been living in a tent city of 3,500 Asian and African migrants, hoping to apply for refugee status.

Tuya and Akbar are at opposite ends of Europe’s growing homelessness problem. Finland is the only European country where the numbers are not rising. In other rich welfare states, escalating housing costs are pushing more people into homeless shelters. In countries with weak social services, many end up on the street. And everywhere, migrants with the wrong papers fall through the cracks.

Statistics on homelessness are patchy, but dispiriting. In 2010-18 the French government doubled the spaces in emergency accommodation to 146,000, yet cannot meet demand. In Spain the number in shelters rose by 20.5% between 2014 and 2016. In the Netherlands homelessness has doubled in the past decade. In Ireland, the number in shelters has tripled. The German government estimates homelessness rose by 4% in 2018 to a record 678,000, most of them migrants. All this has thrown a spanner into governments’ plans. For years, they have been trying to shift from providing beds for the night to housing-first strategies like Finland’s. Instead they are struggling to keep people off the streets….

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Finland, Politics in General, Poverty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kendall Harmon–the myth of some kind of monolithic evangelical support for President Trump

I think one can clearly state the nature of the myth of some kind of monolithic evangelical support for President Trump.

The evangelical movement is quite broad and diverse and comprises nearly ¼ or so of the USA population.

In this movement in terms of the last election (2016) there were four groups.

In the first group are evangelicals who voted for Hillary Clinton with varying degrees of enthusiasm, either for her policy or party stance in terms of things like support for the disenfranchised. This also includes also a number who voted for her because they saw no choice but to vote against Donald Trump.

In the second group are evangelicals who voted for a third party, or stayed at home and didn’t vote because even though they opposed a number of the Democratic nominee’s proposals they were horrified by Donald Trump’s character and modus operandi and could not in good conscience support him.

In the third group were people who were adamantly opposed to a number of Hillary Clinton’s proposals, but who reluctantly concluded that the only way they could influence public policy was to vote for one of the two people who were going to win. They therefore held their nose and voted against Hillary Clinton but very much thinking that they were worried about Trump as a person and what his character would do to the office.

In the fourth group were people who enthusiastically supported Donald Trump. The reasons for this support vary a great deal under the surface, one of the most interesting being a who number felt that the culture war had been shoved down their throat during the Obama years, and actively wanted a person who would enable a kind of payback, even with his modus operandi.

The main distortion comes from the NEARLY COMPLETE FOCUS on group four, and even a minority of leaders among group four. There may be an occasional nod to group three, but often it is falsely implied that group three are enthusiastically behind the current President, whereas they are not at all but saw no alternative given the American two party system. Groups one and two are hardly even talked about.

Therefore the picture given of the movement as a whole is entirely false. I would like to say personally how sorry I am for the Hispanic, African American, and mainly younger evangelicals whose voices are nearly entirely silenced by the false picture–KSH.

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

Posted in * By Kendall, Evangelicals, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(A CT Editorial) President Trump Should Be Removed from Office

Let’s grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment.

But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.

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

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, History, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Theology

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

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

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

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

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

(AP) Among public, a great divide at moment of President Trump’s impeachment

“Any time you impeach a president, it’s a historic moment,” said Aimee Brewer, 49, a nurse from Monticello, Florida, who voted for Trump in 2016. “Being impeached is bad, but I don’t know if it’s going to be just a blemish or something bigger. Either way, I’m going to support him.”

She said of the Democrats: “They never really made a decent case against him. We needed a little more proof; it was all circumstantial.”

Concerning her support for Trump, she said: “I don’t necessarily like listening to him and reading his tweets, but I like everything else he’s doing.”

Mark McQueen, 46, is an informational technology engineer with the state government and a Democrat. “We are divided as a society,” he said. “Tensions are high across the land. I think people risk losing faith in the political process.”

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, President Donald Trump