Category : Corporations/Corporate Life

(BBC) The shareholders fighting to make oil firms greener

They can also convince firms to stop lobbying that is “inconsistent” with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change globally.

One of the most successful activist groups has been Climate Action 100+, a global network of institutional investors that targets the world’s 100 largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters.

Its 370 members, which have $35tn (£27tn) of assets under management, include well-known names such as Aberdeen Standard, the Church of England Pensions Board and HSBC Global Asset Management.

In March, the group, working with others, forced the oil giant Shell to make a legally binding commitment to use a broader definition of greenhouse gas emissions in its carbon-reduction targets.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stewardship, Stock Market

(BI) The Big Issue is getting tough on modern slavery

Big Issue vendors remain vulnerable to being targeted by slavers, so we have beefed up how we are tackling modern slavery.

In a move designed to tie in with International Anti-Slavery Day, which took place earlier this month, The Big Issue has introduced a new e-training module for staff as well as a new Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking policy.

The Big Issue’s head of programmes and partnerships Beth Thomas explains more.

“At The Big Issue we recognise that we work with some of the most vulnerable members of society who are at risk of falling victim to crime,” she said. “It is no secret that human traffickers prey on people who are vulnerable and exploit their circumstances to win over their trust. With this in mind we have introduced a modern slavery policy and procedure aimed at helping all staff to be able to spot the signs of modern slavery.

“We believe that it is not only up to those who work on the front line but it is all of us to be aware of how to spot the signs as we go about our day to day lives. From taking our cars to be cleaned to having a manicure, everyone needs to be vigilant and know what do to do if they suspect modern slavery. To help staff with this we have incorporated a new training module into all staff and volunteer inductions.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(FT) WhatsApp hack led to targeting of 100 journalists and dissidents

At least 100 journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents had their smartphones attacked by spyware that exploited a vulnerability in WhatsApp, according to the Facebook-owned messaging service.

The victims of the attack, which was first revealed by the Financial Times in May, were contacted by WhatsApp on Tuesday.

Their phones were targeted through WhatsApp’s call function by customers of the Israel-based NSO Group, which makes Pegasus, a spyware program. Once installed, Pegasus is designed to take over all of a phone’s functions.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(NYT) Silicon Valley Goes to Therapy

“In Silicon Valley,” Mr. Seibel added, “we did not talk this much about mental health even three years ago.” He estimates that more than 50 related start-ups are coming onto the scene. His firm just funded three: Stoic; Quirk, an app that uses cognitive behavioral therapy to treat people with anxiety and depression; and Mindset Health, which creates hypnotherapy apps that it says can treat anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.

Mindset Health was founded by two brothers, Alex and Chris Naoumidis, who previously created a peer-to-peer dress-sharing app for women. When that app failed, the brothers felt overcome with anxiety.

“We fell into this period of mental health problems,” said Alex Naoumidis, 24.

The brothers tried some of the existing wellness apps — meditation products, mindfulness tools — but remained unmoored. Their father suggested in-person hypnotherapy. It gave them the idea for Mindset.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology, Secularism

(Sightings) Peter Sherlock–Religious Discrimination: The Australian Debate

Most submissions in response to the consultation draft of the bill agree that discrimination on the basis of religious belief—or its absence—should be prohibited. In this respect, the bill simply gives effect to article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, that everyone should have a right “to manifest … religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Moreover, in Australia, the national Constitution was written in the 1890s with a view to preventing religious interference in the making of laws. While Parliament still opens each day with the Lord’s Prayer, there arguably is a need for legislative protections against religious discrimination.

Several submissions, however, indicate significant opposition to the bill as it stands because its religious protections would facilitate other forms of discrimination. This includes, for the first time in modern Australia, the introduction of religious exemptions in discrimination legislation covering race and disability, paralleling those in sex discrimination legislation. Furthermore, the bill does not go far enough for some religious groups, who argue it would open them up to what the Catholic Church has described as “lawfare” in relation to employment practices at faith-based schools or agencies. The Sydney Anglican submission, for its part, dramatically argues that, as it is presently drafted, the bill would force the church to make its campsites available for hire for satanic black masses.

All the same, the debate surrounding the bill has largely overlooked two aspects of religious liberty. The first is religious harassment. This is a concept found in other discrimination laws, such as measures to define and prosecute sexual harassment. What will happen when conflicting religious beliefs and behaviors come into contact, including not only religious speech but religious dress, sounds, or rituals? How can the rights of people of no religion be protected? What are the limits of accommodation and respect?

The second regards the nature of power. We can glimpse this point in a unique provision of the bill: companies with a turnover greater than $50,000,000 would be prohibited from preventing its employees from expressing religious views that discriminate against others unless it can prove that such expression would lead to serious financial harm for the company. Discrimination which may lead to the harm of others is acceptable, in other words, unless it is going to cost a business a great deal of money. In modern Australia, money equals power; the widow and her mite would appear to have no protections whatsoever.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(BBC) Edinburgh hosts world summit on ethical finance

Scotland’s role as a global leader in ethical finance is being highlighted at a world summit in Edinburgh.

Senior representatives from more than 200 companies and organisations are attending Ethical Finance 2019.

Speakers include Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The summit aims to “help define and shape the transition to a sustainable financial system where finance delivers positive change”.

The event is being hosted by the Scotland-based Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI).

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Posted in --Justin Welby, --Scotland, Archbishop of Canterbury, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Scotland, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector

(Church Times) Good Money Week: Using money for good

“In the present state of mankind,” John Wesley declared in his celebrated 18th-century sermon on the use of money, “it is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends.”

Rightly used, he said, money could feed the hungry, provide drink for the thirsty, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the stranger. “It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death!”

He warned against excessive spending, however, and condemned the exploitation of workers. He called on Christians to be generous in their financial giving, and recognised that money could be misused.

The right use of money has been a Christian concern since the early days of the Church, and, between then and now, both the institution and individuals, in their earning, hoarding, or spending of money, have fallen short of the ideals taught. Today, no doubt, Wesley would be a leading campaigner against the consumer society, drawing attention to how irresponsible and excessive consumption has led to environmental degradation.

Churches and faith investors have, for many years, done their best to align their investments with acceptable beliefs and ethics, and, despite good returns promised, have avoided buying shares in, for example, arms companies, and the tobacco and gambling industries. They have monitored businesses in which they invest closely to ensure they are not exploiting the vulnerable or despoiling the planet.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Stock Market

(Economist) What companies are for

All this portends a system in which big business sets and pursues broad social goals, not its narrow self-interest.

That sounds nice, but collective capitalism suffers from two pitfalls: a lack of accountability and a lack of dynamism. Consider accountability first. It is not clear how ceos should know what “society” wants from their companies. The chances are that politicians, campaigning groups and the ceos themselves will decide—and that ordinary people will not have a voice. Over the past 20 years industry and finance have become dominated by large firms, so a small number of unrepresentative business leaders will end up with immense power to set goals for society that range far beyond the immediate interests of their company.

The second problem is dynamism. Collective capitalism leans away from change. In a dynamic system firms have to forsake at least some stakeholders: a number need to shrink in order to reallocate capital and workers from obsolete industries to new ones. If, say, climate change is to be tackled, oil firms will face huge job cuts. Fans of the corporate giants of the managerial era in the 1960s often forget that at&t ripped off consumers and that General Motors made out-of-date, unsafe cars. Both firms embodied social values that, even at the time, were uptight. They were sheltered partly because they performed broader social goals, whether jobs-for-life, world-class science or supporting the fabric of Detroit.

The way to make capitalism work better for all is not to limit accountability and dynamism, but to enhance them both. This requires that the purpose of companies should be set by their owners, not executives or campaigners. Some may obsess about short-term targets and quarterly results but that is usually because they are badly run. Some may select charitable objectives, and good luck to them. But most owners and firms will opt to maximise long-term value, as that is good business.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology

(Church Times) Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) planned to persuade bishop ‘to take a less active role’ in claimant’s pastoral care

The Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) planned to pressure a bishop to withdraw pastoral support from a survivor of abuse because it might prejudice a claim, redacted documents seen by the Church Times suggest.

The survivor, Julian Whiting, alleges that he was abused by a pupil and two housemasters of the Blue Coat School in Birmingham. Neither adult was a cleric. Several years later, in 2012, Mr Whiting approached the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, who is President of Blue Coat, for pastoral help.

In a letter to a redacted recipient dated April 2013, the casualty-claims employee for EIG in Manchester states: “I feel we may need you to help persuade the Bishop of Birmingham to take a less active role in his pastoral care of a claimant which we feel could have a knock-on effect to the current outstanding abuse claims we have for a Julian Whiting.”

He then says of the Blue Coat allegation: “Importantly, he [Julian Whiting] has never pursued a formal claim. There has been a lot of email traffic, but the position is that until the claimant properly formulates the claim, we have rightly shown little interest in the matter.

“What has recently complicated matters is that the Bishop of Birmingham in his role as Blue Coats [sic] School President has met with Whiting to hear his story. Whilst I fully understand the position taken that there is a pastoral care aspect here, my concern is that a continued dialogue with the Bishop and Whiting could prejudice the positioning we have taken in respect of the two claims.” (Mr Whiting was also pursuing a claim that, in 2009, he was groped by a church employee at a social event at Lambeth Palace.)

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Sunday [London] Times) Gambling, Africa’s new child plague

British betting companies and football clubs are “luring” hundreds of thousands of African children into an illegal gambling craze that Kenya’s government says is “destroying” their lives.

Using techniques banned in the UK, the companies appeal to youngsters by using cartoon characters and free branded merchandise. At a British company’s betting shops in the Nairobi slums, The Sunday Times witnessed children as young as 14 gambling freely, in breach of Kenyan law.

Tracey Crouch, who resigned as sports minister in protest at the government’s lack of action over gambling, said she was “deeply concerned” at the revelations, adding: “It is reminiscent of the way that tobacco companies are seeking new markets among young people in Africa.”

Top English football clubs, which have millions of fans in Africa, are closely involved in the promotional efforts. Arsenal sent its former star, Sol Campbell, to Nairobi for children’s coaching sessions with SportPesa, a Kenyan betting company that is its African sponsor. Hull City players went to a Nairobi shanty town, where they handed out SportPesa-branded wristbands and football strips to schoolchildren.

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Posted in Africa, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Sports

(FT) It has been a good week for climate change policy–Economists’ innovative ideas are quickly moving from radical to mainstream

What is most significant about this work is that both councils now explicitly endorse two rather radical ideas (even if sometimes as one option among several), and that they do so in order to take seriously the political economy of climate change policy. In other words, they have set themselves the task of designing good economic policy in a way that makes it politically acceptable nationally and politically effective globally.

The first proposal — clearly in response to the political trauma of the gilets jaunes protests in France — is that any revenues from carbon taxes should be returned to the private sector rather than enter the government budget to be used for other purposes. The French CAE has developed a concrete and costed proposal for direct cash distribution of carbon tax revenue, in the form of regular “carbon cheques” to households. Its preferred version, where the carbon tax varies with household income and between cities and the countryside, can make virtually below-median-income households better off…

Second, both groups have also raised the possibility of linking trade openness to trading partners’ efforts to combat climate change. The German report explicitly envisages a “carbon border adjustment”. This would be a tax on the CO2 content of imported goods. The joint statement lists a number of alternative trade tools to use against countries with only weak regulation of carbon emissions, or to incentivise those trading partners with strong climate commitments to stick to them.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Stewardship

(FT) Emma Howard Boyd–Climate change: is your equities portfolio too hot to touch?

Understanding green finance can be challenging, add in the prolix greenwash that pours on to the internet every day and no wonder many people decide it is all too difficult.

But it isn’t. The Committee on Climate Change’s recent reports showed that the world urgently needs to reduce emissions and take action to prepare for physical impacts that will get worse in just 11 years.

To prosper in this new reality, investors have to focus on whether their investments address these two basic points. That is green finance in a nutshell.

Helping investors obtain good information to do that is why the Environment Agency Pension Fund and the Church of England National Investing Bodies set up the Transition Pathway Initiative in January 2017.

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

(NYT) ‘The Town Hall of Hollywood.’ Welcome to the Netflix Lobby.

Dolly Parton recently held court there, big wig and all. Leonardo DiCaprio and John Kerry arrived at the same time last month. Cindy Crawford on the left, David Letterman on the right. And isn’t that Beyoncé by the espresso bar?

Welcome to the hottest see-and-be-seen spot in Hollywood: Netflix’s first-floor waiting room.

Scratch that. It’s a “lobby experience” and “creative gateway,” according to a design firm that worked on the space. An 80-foot by 12-foot video screen makes visitors feel like they are inside Netflix shows — visiting the “Narcos” cocaine lab, for instance, or sitting on the Blue Cat Lodge boat dock from “Ozark.” Another wall is covered by at least 3,500 plants, a living mural that includes red Flamingo Lilies, known for their big pistils.

Every era in Hollywood has a symbolic epicenter, a place that sums up everything, especially power and sometimes absurdity. Gifting suites at the Sundance Film Festival epitomized the overheated indie boom of the 2000s. The monolithic new Creative Artists Agency headquarters arrived on cue at the end of that decade and represented an increasingly corporate film business. Next came Comic-Con International, a sweaty July convention for superhero devotees that marked a turn toward franchises and fan communities.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Entertainment, Movies & Television

(EF) Thinking through how a biblical work ethic clashes with contemporary European life

In its report World Employment Social Outlook, published this year with data from 2018, the International Labor Organization (ILO), says that “a majority of the 3.3 billion people employed globally in 2018 experienced a lack of material well-being, economic security, equal opportunities or scope for human development”.

The volatility of employment is what leads the coordinator of GBG (the Spanish IFES Graduates group) and of the Lausanne Movement in Spain, Jaume Llenas, to consider, “the long-term commitment and the emotional involvement with people as the main challenges that the biblical work ethic poses to the current labour system”.

“Although the companies we work for ask us for teamwork and mutual collaboration, they foster superficial and utilitarian relationships, dispatch their workers without any relational consideration, and use and throw away workers following other very different principles”, he says. Furthermore, “this sharp contrast of values provokes the corrosion of the character, the destruction of the person”.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Evangelicals, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Spain

(Techcrunch) Twitter updates hate speech rules to include dehumanizing speech around religion

Against a backdrop of rising violence against religious minorities around the world, Twitter today said that it would update its hateful conduct rules to include dehumanizing speech against religious groups.

“After months of conversations and feedback from the public, external experts and our own teams, we’re expanding our rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others on the basis of religion,” the company wrote on its Twitter Safety blog.

The company said it will require tweets that target specific religious groups to be removed as violations of the company’s code of conduct.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) One Quarter of world’s biggest firms ‘fail to disclose emissions’ according to new research

About a quarter of the world’s highest-emitting, publicly listed companies fail to report their greenhouse gas emissions and nearly half do not properly consider the risks from the climate crisis in decision-making, new research has found.

The findings show the distance even the world’s biggest companies still have to cover to meet the goals of the Paris agreement on climate change, according to the group of investors coordinating the report.

The research covered a sample of 274 of the world’s highest emitting companies which are publicly listed, and therefore must make official disclosures of key financial data.

It was carried out by the Grantham Research Institute on climate change at the London School of Economics and commissioned by the Transition Pathway Initiative, a group of investors supportive of the Paris agreement, with about $14tn (£11tn) in funds under management.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization

A Statement from InterVarsity Press on Counterfeiting Books

You may have seen the recent article in Christianity Today describing two of our books, Liturgy of the Ordinary and Delighting in the Trinity, which have been sold in counterfeit editions by re-sellers on Amazon.

As the article stated, in response to InterVarsity Press’s proactively filing a formal complaint through Amazon’s standard protocols and after Christianity Today had made contact with its media relations team, Amazon removed the re-sellers of the counterfeit editions from its store. We are grateful for Amazon’s response to our complaint and its expressed openness to hear directly from us if we encounter counterfeit editions in the future. We consider Amazon a valued trade partner and recognize the extraordinary place it occupies in the global supply chain for books.

We have recently invested in a new service which allows us to more closely monitor our data distribution and to routinely pull a report of who is controlling the Amazon buy button on each of our books.

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Books, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology

(CT) Amazon Sold $240K of ‘Liturgy of the Ordinary’ Fakes, Publisher Says

IVP estimates that at least 15,000 counterfeit copies of Liturgy of the Ordinary were sold on the site over the past nine months, their retail value totaling $240,000. That nearly cuts sales of Warren’s book in half; IVP reported 23,000 legitimate copies were sold over the past year. IVP also found evidence of counterfeiting on a smaller scale for one other title, Michael Reeves’s Delighting in the Trinity, which came out in 2002.

“I’ve been constantly thinking of the verse about, ‘Do not store up treasures where moths and rust can destroy, and where thieves can steal, but store up your treasures where moths and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot steal’ (Matt. 6:19–20), and it’s really hard to process,” Warren told CT last week, a day after she learned about the scope of the fraud when IVP officials called her at her home in Pittsburgh.

“It’s a huge loss of money for my family. Percentagewise of what I make as a writer, it’s an enormous amount of that.”

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Books, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues

(1st Things) Peter Liethart–Business as Communion

During a visit to Brazil in 1991, the Italian Catholic activist Chiara Lubich called for a new way of doing business. In a speech near São Paolo, she sketched a picture of “productive communion” and “a communion of goods . . . at a superior level.” She envisioned businesses using profits not only to grow but also to benefit the poor, businesses putting “the needs and aspirations of the human person, and the common good, at the center of their attention,” businesses guided not by self-interest but by “reciprocal love.” Businesses can become “a ‘meeting place’ . . . a place of communion.” Word of the proposal spread quickly in Brazil, sparking what has become a global network of hundreds of businesses that see themselves as part of an “Economy of Communion” (EoC).

Lubich was already well-known in Brazil as the founder of Focolare. Focolare began in Lubich’s hometown of Trent, Italy, during World War II, when she and some friends devoted themselves to caring for the poorest residents in that war-torn town. The movement lived by a “culture of giving,” in which each member gave what he could, even if the only “gift” was a need. Adherents sought to mimic the habits of the early Christians. No one was forced to sell property, but everyone saw property as a trust from God to be devoted to the common good. Some of the original focolarini sold their possessions, while others committed to regular donations. They aimed to fulfill the vision of Deuteronomy: There shall be no poor among you.

Focolare wasn’t just charity work. “Focolare” means “hearth,” and evokes the solidarity, intimacy, warmth, and security of family and home. The focolarini opened their homes to give Trent’s poor a literal place at the hearth. Focolare’s work involved transfers of property, but at its heart it was an effort to foster communion.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Theology

(FT) America’s new redneck rebellion–West Virginians are embracing an anti-corporate populism that can veer left as well as right

I drive five hours across some of America’s most breathtaking scenery to meet Mike Weaver. “Almost heaven, West Virginia” opens John Denver’s classic song “Country Roads”. Almost Heaven is also the name of the Washington-based yacht of Joe Manchin, the state’s Democratic senator, who berths in the capital when Congress is in session. 

You can inhale the song’s lyrics as you spin through the deep gorges, wide meadows and craggy mountain byways. The state is utterly bountiful. Few landscapes could be so misleading as to the condition of its people.

“Eat your rice Han Ling, don’t you know there are children in West Virginia who are starving,” said a Chinese mother to her child in a New Yorker cartoon a few years ago. That was obviously comic exaggeration. Nevertheless, a child in West Virginia has a greater chance of dying from opioids than of becoming a doctor. 

Many kids enter the school gates as “drug babies” — either having become addicted in the womb or as victims of parental overdoses. One small town, Williamson, with a population of just 3,000, shipped in more than 20 million opioid pills, mostly oxycodone and hydrocodone, in a seven-year period. West Virginia’s rate of resource extraction — timber, coal, gas and agribusiness, which are its principal industries — seems to be matched only by the inflow of prescription drugs.

The steep decline of the coal industry is partly to blame. But other businesses are flourishing. The state’s mountains are criss-crossed with pipelines from the big fracking companies. Farms have been bisected, and their water tables polluted, by the often poorly compensated land seizures. A number of locals told me that the state’s fastest-growing suicide rate is among its farmers. 

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General

([London] Times) Will Face-Reading AI Tell Police When Suspects Are Hiding the Truth?

Police could soon get help from an artificial intelligence system that reads the hidden emotions of suspects by scanning involuntary “micro-expressions”.

The technology analyses fleeting facial movements that researchers believe betray true emotions and are impossible to suppress or fake.

The system has been developed by Facesoft, a British company co-founded by Allan Ponniah, a consultant plastic surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital in northwest London, who first used AI to reconstruct patients’ faces.

The company, which has held discussions with police forces in Britain and India, describes micro-expressions as “emotional leakage”. The expressions were first linked to deception by psychologists in the 1960s, who noticed that suicidal patients sometimes lied to disguise strong negative feelings.

Read it all (subscription) and you may find more there; the company’s website ishere.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Psychology, Science & Technology

(WSJ) Julie Jargon–How 13 Became the Internet’s Age of Adulthood–The inside story of COPPA, a law from the early days of e-commerce that is shaping a generation and creating a parental minefield

At 13, kids are still more than a decade from having a fully developed prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in decision-making and impulse control. And yet parents and educators unleash them on the internet at that age—if not before—because they’re told children in the U.S. must be at least 13 to download certain apps, create email accounts and sign up for social media.

Parents might think of the age-13 requirement as a PG-13 movie rating: Kids might encounter a bit more violence and foul language but nothing that will scar them for life. But this isn’t an age restriction based on content. Tech companies are just abiding by a 1998 law called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was intended to protect the privacy of children ages 12 or under. It’s meant to keep companies from collecting and disseminating children’s personal information. But it has inadvertently caused 13 to become imprinted on many parents’ psyches as an acceptable age of internet adulthood.

Researchers at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society interviewed families around the country over five years and found that they believed that websites’ age requirement was a safety warning.

“Across the board, parents and youth misinterpret the age requirements that emerged from the implementation of COPPA,” the researchers wrote. “Except for the most educated and technologically savvy, they are completely unaware that these restrictions have anything to do with privacy.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Teens / Youth

(Wash Post) The sky is falling for fast food, but not for Chick-fil-A. Here’s why.

[David] Portalatin says that industry experts agree that the biggest distinguishing feature for Chick-fil-A is the customer experience.

“The level of customer satisfaction is highly differentiated from many of their fast-food peers.”

Chick-fil-A’s customer service is legendary, prompting rafts of memes enumerating real and imagined over-the-top polite employee interactions.

Global restaurant consultant Aaron Allen says some of this is about the speed of the drive-through and a culture of saying “please” and “thank you.” Some of the positive customer-service experience can be linked to an embrace of technology. In 2016, the chain debuted what it called Mom’s Valet, which let parents order at the drive-through, then go inside where a Chick-fil-A employee would have a table ready.

More recently, the company launched a successful app, and it is routine for employees to walk the drive-through line taking tablet orders to expedite.

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Posted in Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

[Oxford] Bishop Stephen Croft–The Time is Now: The past, present and future of climate change

A [recent] report…by the European Academies Science Advisory Council concludes that almost 30,000 early deaths a year in the UK could be prevented by ending the burning of fossil fuels.

The substance of every single chapter of Wells’ book was worse than I expected it to be. The science is irrefutable. We are on a path to three or four or more degrees of global warming. Radical change is needed now to limit that warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees. We are currently failing. Even if we are “successful”, we are still talking about damage limitation.

Half of all British Co2 emissions come from 4 sources; inefficient construction, food waste, electronics and clothing. In the US, the same 4 categories account for 66 per cent of wasted energy.

Eliminating Co2 increase now is much easier than (theoretically) trying to remove it later. Wallace Wells makes this point forcefully and highlights the gap between theoretical, technological promise and current reality.

At the present rate of change, a MIT 2018 study shows that we will take 400 to years to get to fully clean energy. And while the cost of solar energy has fallen 80% since 2009, current technology proof-of-concept plants show we would need a billion Carbon Capture and Storage plants to reduce the carbon count by just 20ppm.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

Ethical Corporation profiles Edward Mason–‘Climate change is the biggest ethical issue the Church of England faces‘

[dward] Mason, who is nearly five years into his current job, is unabashed about how theological injunctions, such as promoting the intrinsic dignity and equality of every human being and the Christian concept of loving one’s neighbour, have played a central role in his employers’ investment policy.

From the get-go, the institution instructed those managing its investments to ensure that tobacco, pornography, armaments and other so-called “sin stocks” be excluded from its portfolios.

While this position remains as strong as ever, Mason has championed a more progressive, more positive approach to how the Church of England’s investment muscle might be flexed.

One important development under his tenure is the precedence now given to climate change, which he describes as “the biggest ethical issue that the Church of England faces as an investor”. Immediately on taking up his post, he helped spearhead a new climate change policy for the Church Commissioners, which was launched in 2015.

Climate change “really matters to Christians” for two reasons, Mason states: “One is that we are stewards of creation. And clearly climate change is damaging creation – it’s damaging our ecosystems, our biodiversity, all kinds of critical aspects of the natural world.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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