Category : Economy

(FT) Church of England fund becomes top world performer w yoy return on assets of 17.1%

The Church of England’s £7.9bn investment fund, which has in the past struggled to reconcile questions of morality and mammon, achieved its strongest returns in more than three decades last year, lifting it into the top ranks of the world’s best-performing endowment funds.

The Church Commissioners annual report discloses total return on assets of 17.1 per cent in 2016, with strong performances from global equities, private equity and timber.

Over 10 and 20 years, the fund returned 8.3 per cent and 9.5 per cent per annum respectively, compared with its target return of 5 per cent per annum above inflation. By contrast, returns from the Yale University endowment, top of the eight-member Ivy League, rose 3.4 per cent in the year to last June, with 10 and 20-year returns at 8.1 per cent and 12.6 per cent per annum respectively.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

(Church Times) C of E urged to pull out of fossil fuels

CHRISTIAN AID has challenged the Church of England to disinvest from fossil fuels, after it emerged that the Archbishop of Canterbury was involved in persuading a major investment fund to pull its own money out fossil fuels.

BMO Global Asset Management’s range of “responsible” funds will no longer invest in any company which has reserves of fossil fuels, it an­­nounced on Monday. Archbishop Welby is the president of the firm’s ethical advisory council, and report­edly played a key part in pushing through the change in policy, which will be implemented by 2020.

Christian Aid is now ques­tioning why the Archbishop cannot play the same part closer to home and pull the C of E’s own investments out of fossil-fuel reserves.

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

(WSJ DS) Betting markets started pricing in a small but rising probability that Donald Trump could lose the presidency

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

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Psychology

(Wa Po) Companies need workers — but people keep getting high

Workers at McLane drive forklifts and load hefty boxes into trucks. The grocery supplier, which runs a warehouse in Colorado, needs people who will stay alert — but prospective hires keep failing drug screens.

“Some weeks this year, 90 percent of applicants would test positive for something,” ruling them out for the job, said Laura Stephens, a human resources manager for the company in Denver.

The state’s unemployment rate is already low — 3 percent, compared to 4.7 percent for the entire nation. Failed drug tests, which are rising locally and nationally, further drain the pool of eligible job candidates.

“Finding people to fill jobs,” Stephens said, “is really challenging.”

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Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(Economist 1843) The Law of Unintended consequences Dept–Social media is enabling a golden age of scamming

On the face of it these seem like tough times for financial scammers. The crash of 2008 burned investors, exposed fraudsters and has forced regulators to toughen up. Yet dodgy “pyramid” investment schemes that promise huge returns before inevitably collapsing are going strong, especially those targeting women. In late 2015 British regulators jailed the leaders of a plot that had duped over 10,000 women. In June 2016 authorities in Belize warned of a scam sweeping the country. America, India, Mexico and Indonesia have seen similar stories.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(NPR) Can’t Pay Your Student Loans? The Government May Come After Your House

On Adriene McNally’s 49th birthday in January, she heard a knock on the door of her modest row-home in Northeast Philadelphia.

She was being served.

“They actually paid someone to come out and serve me papers on a Saturday afternoon,” she says.

The papers were from a government lawsuit that represents something more than just an unwelcome birthday gift — it’s an example of a program the federal government has brought to 19 cities around the country including Brooklyn, Detroit, Miami and Philadelphia: suing to recover unpaid student loans, like the ones McNally owes.

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Posted in Economy, Education, Personal Finance, The U.S. Government, Young Adults

(FT) Hackers prime second classified US cyber weapon

Criminal hacking groups have repurposed a second classified cyber weapon stolen from US spies and have made it available on the so-called dark web after the success of the WannaCry attack that swept across the globe on Friday.

The hacking tool, developed by the US National Security Agency and codenamed EsteemAudit, has been adapted and is now available for criminal use, according to security analysts.

As with the NSA’s EternalBlue, the tool on which WannaCry was based, EsteemAudit exploits a vulnerability in older versions of Microsoft’s Windows software in the way in which networked machines communicate with each other.

Microsoft issued patches for vulnerable versions of its Windows software over the weekend — though experts warn many organisations have yet to apply them.

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

(NYT) How Google Took Over the Classroom: Are Schools giving the company more than they are getting?

Schools may be giving Google more than they are getting: generations of future customers.

Google makes $30 per device by selling management services for the millions of Chromebooks that ship to schools. But by habituating students to its offerings at a young age, Google obtains something much more valuable.

Every year, several million American students graduate from high school. And not only does Google make it easy for those who have school Google accounts to upload their trove of school Gmail, Docs and other files to regular Google consumer accounts — but schools encourage them to do so. This month, for instance, Chatfield Senior High School in Littleton, Colo., sent out a notice urging seniors to “make sure” they convert their school account “to a personal Gmail account.”

That doesn’t sit well with some parents. They warn that Google could profit by using personal details from their children’s school email to build more powerful marketing profiles of them as young adults.

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Posted in Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Education, Science & Technology

(AP) South Carolina Gas Tax Increase Becomes Law After Senate Overrides Vet

The South Carolina Senate has voted to override Gov. Henry McMaster’s veto of the gas tax that raises money to fix roads, meaning the measure will now become law.

The final vote was 32-12. It came nearly two hours after the House also overrode the veto by 95-18 vote.

The move means the measure is now finally approved, and will officially become law on July 1

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Posted in * South Carolina, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, State Government, Taxes

([London] Times) RIP affordable funerals as costs rise by almost 50% in some places

Death is becoming increasingly expensive as councils capitalise on the two certainties in life — the other being taxes — to plug gaps in their funding.

Local authorities have increased cremation and burial fees by up to 49 per cent over the past year, research suggests, prompting claims that they are using stealth taxes on grieving families to make up for government cuts.

Fees have risen by more than inflation in eight out of ten council areas, the study by a price comparison website found. Watford council imposed the single biggest increase, raising burial fees by 49.1 per cent. It was followed by Newry, Mourne and Down district council at 41.1 per cent. Cheltenham borough council increased cremation fees by almost a third.

On average, burial fees rose by 5 per cent — more than double the rate of inflation — from £1,571 to £1,755. Cremation fees rose by an average of 4.6 per cent, from £683 to £714.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Religion & Culture

Irwin Stelzer-Important Ways the Economy is Changing

Perhaps the most consequential change has occurred in the labor market. For many years policymakers and employers have been operating with a substantial reserve army of the unemployed, or partially employed. Which allowed for stimulative policies designed to provide jobs for those actively seeking them, and as an incentive for others to come off the couch and resume the search in the hope that the skills they once possessed have not atrophied or become irrelevant. With the unemployment rate reported yesterday to be at its lowest level in a decade, the baby-boom generation retiring in large numbers, many the victims of opioid or heroin addictions, all the talk among businessmen I meet is of shortages of skilled labor. Auto dealers can’t find enough auto mechanics capable of handling complicated diagnostic equipment; builders tell me that a shortage of skilled workmen is constraining the number of homes being built; hospitals complain of a severe shortage of nurses and the teachers to train them. This means that an infrastructure program cannot increase the number of jobs, or the economic growth rate. Unless the output of the existing workforce increases — productivity rises, in the jargon of my trade. Which it isn’t, for reasons most analysts cannot explain.

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Posted in Economy

(FT) One suitcase, two lives: the rise of the weekly commuter

In his 1980 book The Third Wave, the futurist Alvin Toffler predicted the rise of the “electronic cottage”. The idea was that technology would become so ubiquitous that working from home would replace the 9-5 slog in a cubicle, in the process helping to “glue the family together again”. As Iain Gately, the author of Rush Hour: How 500 Million Commuters Survive the Daily Journey to Work, put it: “The power to work anywhere and everywhere — have laptop, will travel — or stay at home according to one’s mood, seized the imaginations of Generation X: every day could be a No Pants Day.”

Yet that future has not arrived. Smartphones and laptops may be everywhere, but they have not given many white-collar employees the opportunity to work full-time in pyjamas from log cabins.

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Posted in Children, England / UK, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Travel, Urban/City Life and Issues

(LA Times)-Cheryl Allen has a different narrative about-Living ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’-+it raises uncomfortable questions about the secular liberal elites

Take those elite-class Wives. Liberals typically assume the 1% consists of striped-pants tycoons off the Monopoly board who reliably vote Republican and want to cram retrograde religious ideas down people’s throats. In fact, as social scientists (Charles Murray in “Coming Apart”) and political analysts (Michael Barone, writing recently for the Capital Research Center) have observed, it’s the Democratic Party that’s the party of the 1%: the tech and finance billionaires, the media and entertainment moguls who cluster in expensive ZIP Codes around metropolitan Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington.

Those folks aren’t known for their church-going, and they vote in favor of liberal social and economic causes from abortion and immigration rights to sustainable energy to higher taxes. They contribute heavily to political campaign, and with their upper-middle-class epigones they run the culture, deciding who gets banned on Twitter, which kinds of “diversity” are allowed on campuses, and what television programs we’ll be allowed to see. Today’s overclass Wives typically hold Ivy League degrees, “lean in” to high-status careers, and stand with Planned Parenthood.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Movies & Television, Politics in General

(New Statesman) Rowan Williams on Stefan Collini: against the market in universities

Higher education has now joined the ­growing list of subjects (immigration, multiculturalism, nuclear armaments, freedom of speech) about which it is increasingly difficult, it seems, to have an informed public argument. A hugely ambitious and successful programme of government-sponsored “reform” has enshrined various assumptions in the debate: that HE is primarily an exercise in promoting national economic prosperity; that there are quantifiable criteria for judging the quality of research; that the academic profession is in constant need of guidance from outside in order to save it from self-indulgent, inefficient and irrelevant activities; and that the basic model of education in general and universities in particular is that of a product which has to be marketed to individual consumers (students) and is naturally to be assessed in terms of consumer satisfaction.

As any academic who has not spent the past decade on Mars will know, Stefan Collini has emerged as the most eloquent, ­witty and persistent critic of this deadly mythology. But this new collection of writings makes plain that he is not defending a lost, intellectually pure golden age of academic independence, still less a socially selective ideal or an abandonment of accountability. Even more than in his earlier works, these essays, especially the substantial historical survey of HE ideals (“From Robbins to McKinsey”) and the critique of the notion of the student as consumer (“Higher Purchase”), concentrate on showing the sheer incoherence of public policy documents, with their liberal use of what he nicely calls “the Mission Statement Present” and “the Dogmatic Future” as grammatical devices, “to disguise implausible non sequiturs as universally acknowledged general truths”.

Flannel about empowerment and the increase of purchasing liberty conceals a barbarous indifference to the notion that learning changes you, that this takes time, and that the point of the intellectual life is not productivity but comprehension, and the liberty to ask awkward questions. The proposal that the quality of teaching should be measured by levels of graduate salary is simply one of the more egregious versions of this indifference – as if the graduate who becomes a primary school teacher, a junior doctor, a development worker or, for that matter, a post-doctoral researcher in biomathematics has been taught less well than one who heads for a City law firm.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture

A Reflection on Saint Joseph the Worker for his Feast Day

ZENIT spoke with Father Tarcisio Giuseppe Stramare of the Congregation of Oblates of Saint Joseph, director of the Josephite Movement, about Tuesday’s feast of St. Joseph the Worker….

ZENIT: What does “Gospel of work” mean?

Father Stramare: “Gospel” is the Good News that refers to Jesus, the Savior of humanity. Well, despite the fact that in general we see Jesus as someone who teaches and does miracles, he was so identified with work that in his time he was regarded as “the son of the carpenter,” namely, an artisan himself. Among many possible activities, the Wisdom of God chose for Jesus manual work, entrusted the education of his Son not to the school of the learned but to a humble artisan, namely, St. Joseph.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Theology, Theology: Scripture