Category : Economy

(FT) ExxonMobil bows to shareholder pressure, vows to improve disclosure of impact assessment from policies to tackle warming

ExxonMobil, the world’s largest listed oil and gas group, will start publishing reports on the possible impact of climate policies on its business, bowing to investor demands for improved disclosure of the risks it faces.

The decision is the biggest success so far for investors who have been pushing companies to do more to acknowledge the threat they face from climate change and from policies that curb greenhouse gas emissions.

In a regulatory filing on Monday evening, Exxon said it would introduce “enhancements” to its reporting, including analysis of the impact of policies designed to limit the increase in global temperatures to 2C, an internationally agreed objective.

At Exxon’s annual meeting in May, investors controlling about 62 per cent of the shares backed a proposal filed by a group of shareholders led by the New York state employees’ retirement fund calling for an annual assessment of the impact of technological change and climate policy on the company’s operations.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

(Yorkshire Post) Andrew Adonis: Whole cities and towns are in grip of a social crisis

WE are in the grip of a social crisis. Half or more of the country have been left behind, while the rest of Britain went to university, modernised and globalised. This is not just about individuals and families, but communities, even whole towns and cities. The ultra-respectable Financial Times last month carried a heart-rending article by Sarah O’Connor, who had immersed herself in Blackpool and reported on what GPs there called SLS or “s*** life syndrome” — deep poverty, pervasive drugs, obesity, anti-depressants and mental illness, in a large, isolated town exhibiting alarming signs of disintegration, including the largest encampment in Britain of children expelled from school. It is euphemistically called a pupil referral unit. Even more euphemistically, it is run by an organisation called Educational Diversity, but it is basically a dumping ground for 330 children whom schools want nothing to do with. That is 330 who have been expelled from schools in one Northern town and sent to what is in many respects a giant training camp for the criminal justice system, in addition to hundreds excluded from school day by day for lower-level misbehaviour, who simply roam the streets.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Economy, Education, England / UK, Poverty, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Google’s DeepMind robot becomes world-beating chess grandmaster in four hours

“Many have become chess masters; no one has become the master of chess.” So said Siegbert Tarrasch, one of the most eminent players of the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 21st century, however, the foe appears at last to have been overcome, and what’s more it was managed in little more than the time between breakfast and lunch.

Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence algorithm taught itself hundreds of years of chess knowledge and tactics and then surpassed all previous human invention in the game — all in four hours. Its AlphaZero program was given the basic rules and worked out unique winning strategies by playing games against itself numerous times, according to details published by New York’s Cornell University. The research has yet to be peer reviewed.

Google’s DeepMind division said that it played 100 games against Stockfish 8, the world-leading specialist software, and won or drew them all, with each program given one minute to ponder each move.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Science & Technology

(Guardian) Why are America’s farmers killing themselves in record numbers? The suicide rate for farmers is more than double that of veterans

Since 2013, net farm income for US farmers has declined 50%. Median farm income for 2017 is projected to be negative $1,325. And without parity in place (essentially a minimum price floor for farm products), most commodity prices remain below the cost of production.

In an email, Rosmann wrote, “The rate of self-imposed [farmer] death rises and falls in accordance with their economic well-being … Suicide is currently rising because of our current farm recession.”

Inside the sunny lobby of the newly remodeled Onaga community hospital, where Joyce Blaske happens to work in the business department, Dr Nancy Zidek has just finished her rounds. As a family medicine doctor, she sees behavioral health issues frequently among her farmer patients, which she attributes to the stressors inherent in farming.

“If your farm is struggling, you’re certainly going to be depressed and going to be worried about how to put food on the table, how to get your kids to college,” she says.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Suicide

Christina Capecchi–The art of giving, the challenge of Advent

And so goes the drumbeat of commercialism: more, more, more.

All the while we Christians are called to answer Advent’s hushed invitation for less, less, less. To clear out our closets and turn off our phones, to resist the click-and-procure in favor of the wait-and-wonder. What a challenge it is to make space for the other, for the divine. Filling sets off all our bells and whistles; emptying requires discernment and allows for quiet.

Americans prefer the former. We have so much self-storage space, the Self Storage Association once pointed out, it is physically possible that every American could stand at the same time under the canopy of self-storage roofing.

I’ve been reflecting on the art of gift giving — what it can do for us, at its best, and what it neglects to do at its hastiest. The more you put in, the more you get out.

My neighbor recently showed me her favorite Christmas picture book, Holly Hobbie’s 2007 charmer “Toot & Puddle: Let It Snow,” in which a pair of best friends — who happen to be pigs — struggle to determine the perfect gifts for each other. Puddle labors in his attic, painting an image of the twosome in the woods. Toot, meanwhile, spends “every spare minute in his workshop in the basement” building a sled on wheels — one that will work with or without snow.

“He knew that the best present was usually something you made yourself, a one-of-a-kind thingamajig, not just a whatsit anyone could buy in a store,” Hobbie writes.

Indeed, the sweetest gifts require a commodity more precious than treasure: time.

Read it all.

Posted in Advent, Consumer/consumer spending, Personal Finance, Stewardship

(CT) Evangelical leaders warn of ‘devastating’ impact of GOP tax plan on the charitable deduction.

Evangelical leaders have raised concerns that the current reform bills in the House and Senate would reduce the incentives that compel givers to donate to churches and other nonprofits.

Currently, taxpayers must itemize their deductions in order to take advantage of the tax breaks for charitable giving. Since the proposed GOP tax reforms would increase the standard deduction, fewer Americans are expected to itemize as a result—dropping from 30 percent of taxpayers to just 5 percent, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Doubling the standard deduction means 30 million Americans would no longer benefit from a deduction for their charitable giving, a change that is predicted to reduce giving by $13 billion annually, according to Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes

Do not take yourself too seriously Dept–(Onion) Buick proudly Introduces its New Self-Buying Car

Posted in Economy, Humor / Trivia, Travel

What was that South Carolina Betterment Statute that Bishop Mark Lawrence referred to in his recent letter?

One of the good things about blogs is you can learn things from them which you can learn nowhere else. This past week is a case in point. In his letter of last weekend the Bishop said:

All parties to the case have previously discussed the timetable for a filing under the Betterments Statute. Legal counsel can give you best directions for how to proceed with that process (my emphasis).

And just what it this “Betterments Statute”? You can find it there and please note carefully its wording which includes among other sections the following:

SECTION 27-27-10. Recovery for improvements made in good faith.

After final judgment in favor of the plaintiff in an action to recover lands and tenements, if the defendant has purchased or acquired the lands and tenements recovered in such action or taken a lease thereof or those under whom he holds have purchased or acquired a title to such lands and tenements or taken a lease thereof, supposing at the time of such purchase or acquisition such title to be good in fee or such lease to convey and secure the title and interest therein expressed, such defendant shall be entitled to recover of the plaintiff in such action the full value of all improvements made upon such land by such defendant or those under whom he claims, in the manner provided in this chapter….

SECTION 27-27-30. Proceedings subsequent to judgment to recover value of improvements.

The defendant in such action shall, within forty-eight hours after such judgment or during the term of the court in which it shall be rendered, file in the office of the clerk of the court in which such judgment was rendered a complaint against the plaintiff for so much money as the lands and tenements are so made better. The filing of such complaint shall be sufficient notice to the defendant in such complaint to appear and defend against it. All subsequent proceedings shall be had in accordance with the practice prescribed in this Code for actions generally….

SECTION 27-27-40. Stay of judgment in first action; special verdict for betterments.

The court, on the entry of such action, shall stay all proceedings upon the judgment obtained in the prior action, except the recovery of such lands, until the sale of the lands recovered as provided in Section 27-27-60. The final judgment shall be upon a special verdict by a jury, under the direction of the court, stating the value of the lands and tenements without the improvements put thereon in good faith by the defendant in the prior action and the value thereof with improvements. The defendant in the prior action shall be entitled for such betterments to a verdict for the value thereof, as of the date when the lands were recovered from him and interest on such verdict from such date.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Bishop Mark Lawrence’s Letter to the Diocese of South Carolina following the recent SC Supreme Court Decisions

From here:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today legal counsel for the Diocese received written notification that both our motions for Recusal and for Rehearing were denied by the State Supreme Court.   The former was denied 5-0.   The latter was denied 2-2 with Justice Hearn abstaining and no fifth justice appointed to fill the vacancy.

For those parishes that are parties to the litigation, I encourage you, at this stage, to consult with your parish chancellor.  All parties to the case have previously discussed the timetable for a filing under the Betterments Statute.  Legal counsel can give you best directions for how to proceed with that process.  Our press release for this evening can be found here.

As you will remember, we began our week with our Annual Clergy Conference reflecting together on the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 and 12:9-10. Now this final ruling from the South Carolina Supreme Court coming as it does at the very end of the week presses us once again with the need to find comfort, strength, and courage from the Lord through these words of Holy Scripture. May I encourage you to revisit them—I believe they were prophetic in their timing for us. Meanwhile please know that I have spoken with our lead counsel, Mr. Alan Runyan, Fr. David Thurlow, President of the Standing Committee, as well as with Canon Lewis. A Standing Committee meeting has been called for this Tuesday morning, November 21, 2017.

I will write further to you and to the diocese once I have met with the Standing Committee and have more thoroughly examined the options before us. For now we will continue to stand forthright for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the faith once delivered to the saints!

Please continue to hold our Diocesan Leadership and Legal Counsel in your prayers.

Your brother in Christ,

–(The Rt. Rev.) Mark Lawrence, 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Parish Ministry, Presiding Bishop, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(NR) David French–The Enduring Appeal of Creepy Christianity

This is where faith has to trump politics. Defending predators in the Church — or going the extra mile to grant them the benefit of the doubt — for the sake of protecting a political advantage carries with it great costs. The church is already defined in the eyes of a hostile secular culture more by its quest for power than its faithfulness to scripture.

More importantly, this is where faith has to trump fear and uncertainty. We have to understand that there is no way around dependence on God. There is no formula for child-rearing. There is no foolproof guide to a happy marriage. No man can tell you how to secure your health or lead you to wealth. There is no community anyone can build that can protect its members from sin or temptation, and the utopian impulse itself can crack open the door to hell. Roy Moore’s world is a world built on fear. It’s a world that glories in its extremes.

It’s a world that’s destined for ruin, and before it goes down, it will consume and damage the most vulnerable among us — unless we end the cult of the Christian celebrity and the quest for certainty first.

Read it all.

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

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Chasing a new type of Buzz–Big Brewer Makes a Play for Marijuana Beverages

The U.S. distributor of Corona beer is chasing a new type of buzz.

Constellation Brands Inc. has agreed to take a 9.9% stake in Canopy Growth Corp. , a Canadian marijuana company, and plans to work with the grower to develop and market cannabis-infused beverages.

Canopy Growth is the world’s largest publicly traded cannabis company, with a market valuation of 2.2 billion Canadian dollars on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The C$245 million (US$191 million) deal gives Constellation a toehold in an industry that the brewer expects to be legalized nationwide in the U.S. in the coming years.

Read it all.

Posted in Alcohol/Drinking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Canada, Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Theology

(Local Paper Front Page) Southerners split on the economy, Confederate monuments and Donald Trump, new poll finds

While Southern whites and blacks agree all races should be treated equally and political correctness threatens their personal liberty, they are divided over views on economic opportunity, Confederate monuments and President Donald Trump, a new poll shows.

A survey of residents in 11 Southern states — released Wednesday by Winthrop University — collected views more than two months after hundreds of white supremacists and counter-protesters clashed violently in Charlotttesville, Va., over the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park.

Trump was criticized for blaming “both sides” at the rally, which was punctuated by a criminal charge against an alleged neo-Nazi for driving through a group of counter-protesters, killing one.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Sociology

(WSJ) What 500 Years of Protestantism Teaches Us About Capitalism’s Future

Five centuries ago this week, Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation by hammering his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

His legacy raises questions that resonate for investors today: Can Communist China become a rich country? And does the political swing towards populism threaten economic growth?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance

(Telegraph) Online porn gives boys a ‘warped’ attitude towards women, bishop Stephen Cottrell says

Pornographic content online gives boys a “warped” attitude towards women, a Church of England bishop has said, as he told Facebook it could not “shrug its shoulders” about its content.

Stephen Cottrell, the bishop of Chelmsford, said that it was “simply no good” for social media companies such as Facebook to say that they were “just a platform upon which others stand”.

“If they wished or if we made them, they could be a ticket inspector of that platform, offering proper control and management of content in all the various ways that our report outlines, such as the right to be forgotten, age verification, the removal of upsetting content, time out and so on.

“The technology is there. But they will not use it unless pressed,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pornography

(WBFO) In Buffalo, NY, Converting Episcopal Church of the Ascension into senior housing becomes confrontational

The fight over converting historic Ascension Church at Linwood Avenue and North Street into senior housing turned into something of a confrontation between Buffalo’s Preservation Board and its Planning Board during Monday’s Planning Board meeting.

The Episcopal Diocese and an affiliate want to convert the century-and-a-half-old church into 28 units of low-income senior housing, wading through regulations on three different levels of government and concern the rules for financing the project might change.

The project has been in the works for more than two years, as various approvals were sought and various design changes were made, shrinking the project and moving a new building.

Charles von Simson said it is still not worth building in his neighborhood and other residents agree.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Housing/Real Estate Market, TEC Parishes, Urban/City Life and Issues