Category : Consumer/consumer spending

(NYT) Get Ready for Another Energy Price Spike: High Electric Bills

Already frustrated and angry about high gasoline prices, many Americans are being hit by rapidly rising electricity bills, compounding inflation’s financial toll on people and businesses.

The national average residential electricity rate was up 8 percent in January from a year earlier, the biggest annual increase in more than a decade. The latest figures, from February, show an almost 4 percent annual rise, reaching the highest level for that month and approaching summer rates, which are generally the most expensive.

In Florida, Hawaii, Illinois and New York, rates are up about 15 percent, according to the Energy Department’s latest figures. Combined with a seasonal increase in the use of electricity as people turn on air-conditioners, the higher rates will leave many people paying a lot more for power this summer than they did last year.

The immediate reason for the jump in electric rates is that the war in Ukraine has driven up the already high cost of natural gas, which is burned to produce about 40 percent of America’s electricity. And supply chain chaos has made routine grid maintenance and upgrades more expensive.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Personal Finance

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The huge Proliferation of Gambling in America is the Symptom of a Deeper Cultural Malaise

….in rationalizing our gambling regime by making it ever more universal, we’re following the same misguided principle that we’ve followed in other cases. With pornography, for instance, where the difficulty of identifying a perfectly consistent rule that would allow the publication of “Lolita” but not Penthouse has led to a world where online porn doubles as sex education and it’s assumed that the internet will always be a sewer and we just have to live with it. Or now with marijuana, where the injustice and hypocrisy of the drug war made a good case for partial decriminalization, but stopping at decriminalization may be impossible when the consistent logic of commercialization beckons.

The reliability of this process doesn’t mean that it can never be questioned or reversed. Part of what we’re witnessing from #MeToo-era feminism, for instance, is a backlash against the ruthless logic of an unregulated sexual marketplace, and a quest for some organic form of social regulation, some new set of imperfect-but-still-useful scruples and taboos.

But it’s a lot easier to tear down an inconsistent but workable system than it is to build a new one up from scratch — and the impulse to rebuild usually becomes powerful only once you’ve reached the bottom of consistency’s long slope.

I’m not sure where we are with gambling’s cultural trajectory. But every time this playoff season served up another ad for Caesars Sportsbook, it felt like a sign that we’ve accelerated downward, with a long way yet to fall.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Gambling, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance, Pornography, Sports, Supreme Court

(Economist) Sports betting in America is exploding

In early february Jim McIngvale, a businessman from Houston, crossed Texas’s border with Louisiana to place a $4.53m bet on his phone. In making America’s biggest-ever online bet, Mr McIngvale is pinning his hopes on the victory of the Cincinnati Bengals, the underdogs, in the Super Bowl on February 13th. He is the boldest among tens of millions of Americans who will place bets this weekend. His staggering wager reflects a broader trend: the market for legal betting is surging in America—along with attendant risks.

Since the Supreme Court struck down a law that banned sports gambling outside Nevada in 2018, 33 states as well as Washington, DC have legalised it. Seven more states have legislation in the works. The betting landscape is rapidly changing: 45m more Americans than last year can now legally bet on the 2022 Super Bowl in their home state. Many more, like Mr McIngvale, can travel to a neighbouring state to do so.

In less than four years, $97bn has been wagered in legal bets across America, yielding over $7bn in revenue for gambling operators and $923m in taxes. In October 2021 alone, Americans put down a record $7.5bn, 87% of it online. That was an eight-fold increase on the same month in 2018. Experts anticipate that the sports-betting market will keep growing. By 2028 it is expected to be worth $140bn.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Gambling, Sports

(Bloomberg) American families are feeling the financial squeeze of soaring inflation

American families are feeling the financial squeeze of soaring inflation and a persistent pandemic as fractious Democrats return to Washington this week no closer to a deal on a tax and spending bill party leaders hoped would by now provide relief.

Despite gangbusters growth at a 6.9% annual rate during the final quarter of 2021, other economic measures tell a very different story. Average wages are falling behind inflation and consumer sentiment plummeted in January to the lowest in more than a decade.

More Americans are having trouble paying their bills than at any time since last March, shortly before the Biden administration began distributing stimulus checks and other relief measures. Hunger is rising again.

It’s an ominous start to a midterm election year for Democrats struggling to hold on to razor-thin majorities in Congress. President Joe Biden began his term with ambitions to address long-festering economic inequalities and lift prospects for the poor and middle class but an intra-party rift has halted progress on his centerpiece tax and social spending plan.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance

(FT) Gillian Tett om why we need to watch trucking costs fully to understand the US inflation problem

When America’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released data this month showing that consumer price inflation had surged to 7 per cent, many investors were shocked. No wonder: this marks the fastest jump since 1982.

But here is another number that should spark concern: 17 per cent. That was the annual inflation rate for overall trucking costs last month, according to a (deeply buried) section of the bureau’s data. For the long-haul trucking sector, the number was even scarier: 25 per cent.

That is bad news for business — and consumers — given that almost three-quarters of freight in America is moved by trucks. Or to put it another way, if you want to understand what lies behind that scary 7 per cent inflation number, don’t just track raw material, energy or cross-border shipping costs; watch those oft-ignored truckers too.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Federal Reserve, Travel

(NYT front page) Inflation Warning Signs Flash Red, Posing Challenge for Washington

The Federal Reserve’s preferred gauge of inflation climbed in August at the quickest pace in 30 years, data released on Friday showed, keeping policymakers on edge as evidence mounts that rapidly rising prices are poised to last longer than practically any of them had expected earlier this year.

The numbers come at a pivotal moment, as inflationary warning signals abound. Used car prices show signs of picking up again, costs for raw goods like cotton and crude oil are increasing and companies continue to experience pain from persistent supply chain disruptions.

That is stoking fears in Washington and on Wall Street that although rapid price gains will eventually fade, the adjustment could drag on for months. A longer burst of inflation raises the chances that consumers will change their expectations and behavior, paving the way for more permanent price increases.

It is a high-stakes juncture for policymakers. The Fed is preparing to withdraw some of its support for the economy soon, but it would prefer to do so only gradually, given the millions of Americans who remain out of work. The White House is trying to pass two big policy packages at the core of President Biden’s economic agenda, and Republicans have begun wielding every new inflation data point as an argument against more federal spending.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Federal Reserve, House of Representatives, Politics in General, President Joe Biden, Senate, The U.S. Government

(NYT) ‘Everything Going the Wrong Way’: Dollar Stores Hit a Pandemic Downturn

But dollar stores are not as well equipped for the surreal economy of today, when workers like Ms. Beadling are quitting in protest and a single coronavirus case on a container ship can cause a two-month delay in getting Chinese-made merchandise to the United States.

“This is another case of the pandemic laying bare the underlying vulnerabilities in how we’ve set up our economy,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an advocacy group that is critical of many large corporate retailers.

While just about every retailer is dealing with shipping and distribution problems, the dollar stores may have difficulty passing on the increased costs to price-sensitive customers.

Dollar Tree said it expected as much as $200 million in additional freight costs this year.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Globalization, Health & Medicine

(NYT) Cape Cod restaurant shuts down for a ‘day of kindness’ after customers make its staff cry

But since restaurants in the state were allowed to fully reopen on May 29, the treatment of the Apt Cape Cod’s 24 employees, many of whom are young and who include the couple’s two children, had gotten worse.

“It’s like abuse,” she said. “It’s things that people are saying that wouldn’t be allowed to be on TV because they would be bleeped. People are always rude to restaurant workers, but this far exceeds anything I’ve seen in my 20 years.”

Felt Castellano, 39, said that some customers had assumed that it would be business as usual, but had not grasped that restaurants were still grappling with staffing and supply shortages. That can mean that wait times are longer and that some items on the menu are not available, which she said has been a source of some of the verbal abuse toward the restaurant’s employees. When a group of diners didn’t get the table that they had requested, she said, they threatened to sue.

“I would say that it is its own epidemic,” she said.

The restaurant’s Facebook post resonated with many people online, who condemned the boorish behavior.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Psychology

(Archbp Cranmer blog) ‘Key limiting factors’: the end of stipendiary parish ministry

Which is absolutely laudable: a church without a mission is just a monument in memory of the Messiah. And a parish-based innovation which is overseen by qualified parish clergy is welcome if it leads people to Christ. But church leaders who have not submitted to a “long, costly college-based training” will have little theology and poor (or no) formation. You end up with a Wesleyan model of church (conveniently forgetting that the Wesleys were steeped in theology and had a profound understanding of Anglican orthodoxy), with all the inherent dangers of error and heresy being lay-preached. Reading Against Heresies: On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis and writing tedious 5,000-word essays on the definition of ‘Applied Theology’ is what helps to qualify you to teach, preach and minister effectively. Some eager disciples yearn to get out into the community and ‘do stuff’, but that stuff is far better done when it is led by people whose skills have been honed, mettle tested, and vocation discerned.

And who are all these lay leaders waiting to be ‘released’? Are they all wealthy or self-employed with a lot of spare time on their hands and the ability to labour for nothing, like parliamentary candidates for the Conservative Party?

Or perhaps there are no lay leaders waiting and yearning to be ‘released’ – and certainly nothing like the army necessary to birth and nurture 10,000 church plants.

Isn’t it a curious vision for renewing and reinvigorating the Church of England that the strategy is apparently to inculcate a new generation with the theology of the Free Church: you don’t need knowledgeable priests, you don’t need beautiful buildings, and you don’t need rigorous qualifications in theology: these are key limiting factors to mission. All you need is a passion for Christ and the ability to lead a Bible study. The rest is otiose.

Now, when will someone write a paper on the key limiting factors in the House and College of Bishops?

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Stewardship, Theology

(WSJ) The ‘Great Reshuffling’ Is Shifting Wealth to the Exurbs

A shift to the exurbs started years before the pandemic hit, according to data from the Brookings Institution, and the population of these more-remote places continued to swell with more white-collar workers even as the pandemic weakened. Why? These regions allow employees to be within commuting distance of cities as many firms ask workers to be back in the office for at least part of the work week. U.S. Postal Service data showed that between March and November of last year, 72% of those who filed for address changes in the Bay Area only moved as far as another Bay Area county.

The money stockpiled from leaving pricier areas, coupled with stimulus checks and enforced saving over the last year, are padding the bank accounts of these new movers. Rising credit scores are, in turn, enabling other major purchases such as cars. The new arrivals in the exurbs are finding they need their first or second automobile now that they are located in a more remote part of a metropolitan area. A January survey conducted by Engine Insights on behalf of Xperi DTS found 55% of millennials surveyed said car ownership was more important than ever.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Travel

(Bloomberg Green) Up to 20 Percent of Groundwater Wells Are in Danger of Running Dry

As many as one in five wells worldwide is at risk of running dry if groundwater levels drop by even a few meters, according to a new study appearing Thursday in the journal Science.

Wells supply water for half the world’s irrigated agriculture, as well as drinking water to billions of people. But the aquifers that wells draw from have been imperiled in recent years as intense demand and lack of government management have allowed them to be drained. The scale of the threat has been difficult to calibrate, however, especially at a global level.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara produced their analysis by compiling construction records for almost 39 million groundwater wells in 40 countries, including their locations, depths, purposes, and construction dates. They found that between 6% and 20% are no more than 5 meters deeper than their local water tables, “suggesting that millions of wells are at risk of drying up if groundwater levels decline by only a few meters,” the authors wrote.

One solution when wells run dry is to dig deeper, but that often leads to poor water quality, according to the researchers. Well construction is also expensive, meaning that digging deeper isn’t always an option.

Global warming and sea level rise due to climate change are also contributing to the problem.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(WSJ) U.S. Households Primed to Boost Spending After Brief Lull

Cold weather—including storms that shut down sections of Texas and other states—prevented many people from dining out, ordering food online or going to stores last month. Household incomes also likely fell from abnormally high levels in January, when the government distributed stimulus checks of up to $600 a person in most households under a $900 billion economic-relief plan approved by Congress late last year. That law also provided enhanced employment benefits of $300 a week for jobless workers.

A spending surge is likely in the offing. Millions of people each day are getting a Covid-19 vaccine, and many are starting to venture out in public and shop and travel. Meanwhile, the federal government this month is sending out yet another round of stimulus money—this time checks of up to $1,400, a part of another Covid-19 relief package worth $1.9 trillion signed by President Biden. The aid—along with other measures by lenders and landlords to suspend consumers’ monthly payments on debt during the pandemic—has left many households sitting on a pile of cash.

That combo—higher incomes and a rising number of people shielded from the worse effects of the deadly virus—is expected to unleash a burst of economic activity in coming weeks, as many Americans resume activities they have put off for a year.

“When they’re let out of the house, there is some pent-up demand, and they’re going to go out into the restaurants” as well as travel and shop, said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel Nicolaus & Co.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Health & Medicine

(FT) New Glencore Leader Pledges to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions dramatically going forward

At Friday’s event Glencore pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, including “scope 3” created when customers burn raw materials, to net zero by 2050.

It plans to do this mainly by placing its coal business into managed decline in which reserves are not replaced as they run down. 

By setting out a credible pathway to net zero, Mr Glasenberg believes Glencore will be able to hang on to a business it can milk for cash and not be penalised by investors. 

Coal accounts for about 10 per cent of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, and 5 per cent of revenue, so it is not a huge part of its business.

The move has met a positive response. While Glencore’s commitments require careful consideration, they are “significant”, according to Adam Matthews, director of ethics and engagement at the Church of England Pensions Board and co-chair of the Transition Pathway Initiative.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology

David French–The Crisis of Christian Celebrity

A person who doesn’t trust his own virtue takes affirmative steps to protect himself from a foolish fall. You don’t have to map out a full-blown “Pence rule” or “Modesto Manifesto” to take prudent steps to guard against your own fallen nature. This shouldn’t even be a matter of religious controversy. I’m reminded of these powerful and self-aware words from one of America’s most influential and thoughtful progressive atheists, Ta-Nehisi Coates:

I’ve been with my spouse for almost 15 years. In those years, I’ve never been with anyone but the mother of my son. But that’s not because I am an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am also a dude who believes in guard-rails, as a buddy of mine once put it. I don’t believe in getting “in the moment” and then exercising will-power. I believe in avoiding “the moment.” I believe in being absolutely clear with myself about why I am having a second drink, and why I am not; why I am going to a party, and why I am not. I believe that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel. I am not a “good man.” But I am prepared to be an honorable one.

The way I’ve put it in speeches to young Christians is simply this, “Make the easy choice so you don’t have to make the hard choice.” Saying no to the extra drink is much easier than halting a drunken flirtation.

And if a person gains fame, he cannot—he must not—believe the easy laughs, the shining eyes, or the copious flattery of starstruck fans. There are reciprocal responsibilities here. It would be far better if Americans didn’t treat celebrities (including religious celebrities) like Greek gods. It would be far better if celebrities didn’t start to believe that they belong on Mount Olympus.

Christian celebrities will continue to fall. But they don’t have to fall so often.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Entertainment, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(AP) Toilet paper limits, empty shelves are back as virus surges

Looking for toilet paper? Good luck.

A surge of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. is sending people back to stores to stockpile again, leaving shelves bare and forcing retailers to put limits on purchases.

Walmart said Tuesday it’s having trouble keeping up with demand for cleaning supplies in some stores. Supermarket chains Kroger and Publix are limiting how much toilet paper and paper towels shoppers can buy after demand spiked recently. And Amazon is sold out of most disinfectant wipes and paper towels.

A similar scene played out back in March, when the pandemic first hit and people hunkered down in their homes.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Health & Medicine

(Guardian) Americans have bought record 17m guns in year of unrest, analysis finds

Americans have bought nearly 17m guns so far in 2020, more than in any other single year, according to estimates from a firearms analytics company.

Gun sales across the United States first jumped in the spring, driven by fears about the coronavirus pandemic, and spiked even higher in the summer, during massive racial justice protests across the country, prompted by police killings of black Americans.

“By August, we had exceeded last year’s total. By September, we exceeded the highest total ever,” said Jurgen Brauer, the chief economist of Small Arms Analytics, which produces widely cited estimates of US gun sales.

The estimated number of guns sold in the US through the end of September 2020 is “not only more than last year, it’s more than any full year in the last 20 years we have records for”, Brauer said.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy

UK Faith leaders make call for environment-focused economic recovery

Marking the end of the first half of London Climate Action Week, representatives from UK faith groups have signed an open letter to the UK Government urging it to ensure that its economic recovery strategy is centred on the urgent need to reduce the impact of climate change.

In the letter, the signatories, some of whom are members of the ‘Faith for the Climate’ network, also commit to the goals of the Laudato Si encyclical – an initiative of Pope Francis – to advocate for and model positive initiatives to continue to tackle the Climate Emergency.

The open letter [begins]:

COVID-19 has unexpectedly taught us a great deal. Amidst the fear and the grief for loved ones lost, many of us have found consolation in the dramatic reduction of pollution and the restoration of nature. Renewed delight in and contact with the natural world has the capacity to reduce our mental stress and nourish us spiritually.

We have rediscovered our sense of how interconnected the world is. The very health and future of humanity depends on our ability to act together not only with respect to pandemics but also in protecting our global eco-system.

At the same time, less travel and consumption and more kindness and neighbourliness have helped us appreciate what society can really mean.

We have also seen yet again that in times of crisis, injustice becomes more obvious, and that it is the poor and vulnerable who suffer most….

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(LA Times) Californians are losing their fear of the coronavirus, setting the stage for disaster

“Public health, when it does its work best, it’s not telling people what to do. It’s telling people how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe so people can make their decisions about how to do that,” Bibbins-Domingo said.

Lockdown fatigue is not a new phenomenon. During the 1918 flu pandemic, San Franciscans threw their masks into the air when they thought the pandemic was over, not realizing a new deadly wave of flu would hit within weeks, said Chin-Hong at UC San Francisco.

“People are afraid that history is going to repeat itself,” he said.

California’s exuberant optimism that the worst of the pandemic was behind us was fueled by the state’s early success. While many people in California might not know someone who died, Chin-Hong said, in New York, it seemingly felt like everyone knew someone who died.

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Posted in Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, State Government, Theology

(FT) Data point to soaring US gun sales in June

A record 3.9m firearm background checks were conducted in June, according to new FBI figures that underscore the sharp rise in US gun sales since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd.

According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the number of firearm background checks conducted last month in the US was 71 per cent higher compared with the same time last year. The monthly figures broke the previous record, which was set in March, when 3.7m checks were conducted.

The latest figures cover a period in which the number of coronavirus cases increased rapidly in many states across the American south and west, including Florida, Texas and Arizona. They also take into account the period of widespread antiracism protests and civil unrest after Floyd was killed in late May.

The FBI database does not convey the total guns sold, however, because background check laws and other rules surrounding firearm purchases vary from state to state. Not all gun buyers in the US are subject to background checks.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy

(Moultrie News) Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, mandates face masks at select establishments, effective July 1

Mount Pleasant has joined neighboring municipalities in mandating that face masks be worn in certain public spaces, effective at noon on Wednesday. Just three days prior to the celebration of Independence Day.

On Monday afternoon, Mount Pleasant Town Council met for an emergency special council meeting that would consider requiring face covering in “certain circumstances.” Council voted in favor 6-2, two-thirds majority, to pass Ordinance 20037.

Councilmember Brenda Corley was not present for the vote. Council explained the reasoning for Corley’s absence was due to showing COVID-19 symptoms.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, City Government, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(Reason) J.D. Tuccille–The Pandemic’s Economic Carnage Looks Worse Than Expected

If you thought the economic toll wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic was only going to be horrendous, you may have been overly optimistic. A combination of voluntary behavior changes and government-imposed lockdowns that choked-off social and economic activity are now projected to have even worse consequences than economists initially feared. Life may start returning to normal sometime next year, but there will be lasting pain even if we avoid another wave of the virus.

“Global output is projected to decline by 4.9 percent in 2020, 1.9 percentage points below our April forecast, followed by a partial recovery, with growth at 5.4 percent in 2021,” Gita Gopinath, Director of the Research Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), wrote this week.

As depressing as the IMF’s numbers are, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is actually more pessimistic. The OECD predicts that, if we’re hit by only one wave of COVID-19, global economic activity will fall by 6 percent this year, with five years of income growth lost. A second wave of infections would drive world economic output down by 7.6 percent in 2020.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General

(RNS) Tara Burton–How millennials make meaning from shopping, decorating and self-pampering

[Millenial]…’values hold that the self is an autonomous being, the self’s desires are fundamentally good, and societal and sexual repression as not just undesirable but actively evil. These millennials, which in my new book I called “Remixed Millennials,” are at once attracted to moral and theological certainty — accounts of the human condition that claim totalizing truth or demand difficult adherence because the challenge is ultimately rewarding — and repulsed by traditions that set hard limits on personal, and particularly sexual or romantic, desire.

That, for better or for worse, is where corporations come in. Increasingly, companies have recognized that there is a gap in the needs of today’s Remixed: institutions, activities, philosophies and rituals that manage to be challenging and totalizing while also preserving millennials’ need for personal freedom. It’s the dot-com bubble for spirituality, a free marketplace of innovation and religious disruption. No sooner does something become a viral movement than an ingenious startup finds a way to re-create it at a more profitable price point. (Columbia Business School is currently hosting an incubator for “spiritual entrepreneurs,” offering a certificate in spiritual entrepreneurship for those who complete a 20-week course.)

Consumer-capitalist culture offers us not merely necessities but identities. Meaning, purpose, community and ritual can all — separately or together — be purchased on Amazon Prime.

As journalist Amanda Hess wrote in The New York Times, “Shopping, decorating, grooming and sculpting are now jumping with meaning. And a purchase need not have any explicit social byproduct — the materials eco-friendly, or the proceeds donated to charity — to be weighted with significance. Pampering itself has taken on a spiritual urgency.”’

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Uncategorized, Young Adults

(NYT) From China to Germany, the World Learns to Live With the Coronavirus

China is testing restaurant workers and delivery drivers block by block. South Korea tells people to carry two types of masks for differing risky social situations. Germany requires communities to crack down when the number of infections hits certain thresholds. Britain will target local outbreaks in a strategy that Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls “Whac-A-Mole.”

Around the world, governments that had appeared to tame the coronavirus are adjusting to the reality that the disease is here to stay. But in a shift away from damaging nationwide lockdowns, they are looking for targeted ways to find and stop outbreaks before they become third or fourth waves.

While the details differ, the strategies call for giving governments flexibility to tighten or ease as needed. They require some mix of intensive testing and monitoring, lightning-fast response times by the authorities, tight border management and constant reminders to their citizens of the dangers of frequent human contact.

The strategies often force central governments and local officials to share data and work closely together, overcoming incompatible computer systems, turf battles and other longstanding bureaucratic rivalries. Already, in Britain, some local officials say their efforts are not coordinated enough.

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Posted in Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(Local Paper) As COVID-19 wallops hospitality sector, Folly Beach restaurateurs develop safety strategy

Approximately 40 restaurants in the Charleston area have now closed temporarily as a result of an employee testing positive for the deadly disease, exposure to an infected guest or concern about the spread, although industry members reiterate many more restaurants are continuing to operate in the face of known cases.

Rich says the Folly Beach meeting, scheduled for the Loggerhead’s parking lot to facilitate social distancing, will cover table spacing, bar seats and employee masks. Rich believes strongly that every restaurant in the city needs to mandate masks for front-of-house workers.

“There’s no regulation on it, so everybody is doing something different,” he says. “We’re just going to tell everyone, ‘Hey, guys, this is what we recommend.’ We need to make sure somebody’s burger or beer isn’t as important as our health.”

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Posted in * South Carolina, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Health & Medicine

(FT) Digital ad market set to eclipse traditional media for first time

Digital advertising on platforms such as Google, Facebook and Alibaba is set this year to overtake spending on traditional media for the first time, a historic shift in market share that has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Excluding online ads sold by old media outlets such as news publishers or broadcasters, digital marketing is predicted to account for more than half the $530bn global advertising industry in 2020, according to GroupM, the media buying agency owned by WPP.

Separate forecasts released last week by Magna, part of IPG Mediabrands, also expect 2020 to be the year traditional media is upstaged.

The digital revolution in marketing under way since the millennium, when the internet accounted for under 2 per cent of spending, has transformed the ad market at a pace and scale that far outstrips the advent of television in the 20th century.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Media

Anglican Bishops warn of ‘Environmental Racism’

The Archbishop of Canterbury together with the Bishops of Salisbury, Oxford, Truro, Dover, Woolwich, Sherborne, Loughborough, Kingston, Reading and Ramsbury, and former Archbishop Rowan Williams have joined a list of eight archbishops and 38 bishops worldwide in signing an open letter stating that black lives are predominantly affected by the effects of climate change, as well as police brutality and the spread of COVID-19.

Published by the Anglican Communion’s Environmental Network, the letter reads (extract):

The world is slow to respond to climate change, hanging on to an increasingly precarious and unjust economic system. It is predominantly Black lives that are being impacted by drought, flooding, storms and sea level rise. The delayed global response to climate injustice gives the impression that #blacklivesdontmatter. Without urgent action Black lives will continue to be the most impacted, being dispossessed from their lands and becoming climate refugees.

We stand at a Kairos moment – in order to fight environmental injustice , we must also fight racial injustice.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(WSJ) Scott Gottlieb and Yuval Levin–New Rules for Covid Summer: Be Flexible and Vigilant

…public attitudes are now as mixed and contradictory as the epidemiology data. A forthcoming survey of 3,500 Americans conducted this month by our American Enterprise Institute colleague Daniel Cox found that 58% of Americans want public officials to “take all necessary steps to ensure the public is safe even if it means keeping businesses closed longer and hurting the economy.” But that is down from 78% in late March. Some 41% supported allowing businesses to open “even if it means putting some people at risk,” nearly double the 22% in March.

That explains what’s happening around the country, and also why so many people are uneasy. And it suggests that, along with ramping up testing and tracing, public officials need to focus on building public confidence and minimizing weariness.

That means, for example, encouraging (and practicing) sensible behavior that can reduce the spread. Wearing face masks is the simplest and most effective, along with efforts to practice hygiene and distancing when possible. Officials from the president down must avoid politicizing these measures. They are neither conspiracies against your dignity nor proof of your enlightenment. They are sensible ways of reducing infection and fear.

When local hot spots arise, mayors and governors must trace the outbreaks to their origin and be ready to curtail specific activities that are sources of spread. The public is clearly willing to follow focused guidance. But broad shutdowns are unlikely to be tolerated this summer—and therefore are unlikely to be proposed, regardless of what the epidemiology shows.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General

South Carolina announces 770 new cases of the novel coronavirus COVID19+6 additional deaths

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) today announced 770 new cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and 6 additional deaths.

This brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in South Carolina to 17,955 and those who have died to 599.

Four deaths occurred in elderly individuals from Cherokee (1), Darlington (1), Greenville (1), and Richland (1) counties, and two deaths occurred in middle-aged individuals from Greenville (1) and Horry (1) counties.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, State Government

GRR:Discouraging short term trend continues–South Carolina today announced 770 new cases of the novel coronavirus COVID19+5 additional deaths

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) today announced 770 new cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and 5 additional deaths.

This brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in South Carolina to 17,170 and those who have died to 593.

All five deaths occurred in elderly individuals from Aiken (1), Charleston (1), Lexington (1), Orangeburg (1), and Richland (1) counties

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Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, State Government

(Wa Po) The coronavirus pandemic isn’t ending – it’s surging

As restrictions are lifted around the world, the sense of urgency surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic has weakened. Hundreds of millions of students have returned to school; restaurants, bars and other businesses are slowly reopening in many countries. In parts of Europe, vaccine researchers worry that they will not have enough sick people for testing.

But this historic pandemic is not ending. It is surging. There were 136,000 new infections reported on Sunday, the highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic. There are more than 7 million confirmed cases so far. The number of deaths is nearing half a million, with little sign of tapering off, and global health experts are continuing to sound the alarm.

“By no means is this over,” Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s executive director, said Wednesday. “If we look at the numbers over the last number of weeks, this pandemic is still evolving. It is still growing in many parts of the world.”

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General