Category : Consumer/consumer spending

(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

(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

([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.

Read it all (requires subscription).

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

(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.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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

Jerri Savuto–Easter Memories: Escaping the Commercial Trap

As I am in the US for the first time in many years, I find myself longing for the simplicity of Maua, Kenya, during Easter time. There Easter has none of the commercial trappings we find here. As I enter grocery stores, discount stores, and department stores I am shocked at the amount of space taken by the Easter candy, bunnies and stuffed animals, baskets, decorations, and new spring clothing. These items take more space than any grocery store has for all their goods in Maua.

I recently read that an estimated $2 billion will be spent on Easter candy this year in the US. Two billion dollars to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who asked us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty, house the homeless, care for the sick and imprisoned, and welcome the stranger.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Easter, Theology

Easter egg row: Church of England accuses National Trust of ‘airbrushing’ religion out of children’s egg hunt

It was also met with anger by the Archbishop of York, who said the decision to remove the word Easter from the egg hunt logo was tantamount to “spitting on the grave” of John Cadbury, the chocolate firm’s original founder.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “The Cadburys were Great Quaker industrialists. If people visited Birmingham today in the Cadbury World they will discover how Cadbury’s Christian faith influenced his industrial output.

“He built houses for all his workers, he built a Church, he made provision for schools. It is obvious that for him Jesus and justice were two sides of the one coin. To drop Easter from Cadbury’s Easter Egg Hunt in my book is tantamount to spitting on the grave of Cadbury.”

Read it all from the Telegraph.

Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Easter, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Globe+Mail) Michael Devillaer: Pot legalization: Canada doesn’t need another profit-seeking drug industry

First, the research is clear that the great majority of current drug-related harm and economic costs arise not from the misuse of illegal drugs but from legal, regulated drugs: tobacco and alcohol. The extent of harm and costs is enormous, and continues year after year.

The epidemic of opioid deaths that has been sweeping across North America had its genesis in the conduct of the legal pharmaceutical drug industry.

Second, we have a history of pan-industry failure to balance revenue interests with the protection of public health. Industries protect their revenue by disregarding existing regulations and opposing the introduction of new evidence-based reforms. They also have a history of breaking the law to maximize revenues.

Third, government has been reluctant to adopt evidence-based regulatory reforms, and the effectiveness of existing regulations is often compromised by permissive enforcement. Rarely-assessed penalties are typically insufficient to discourage recidivism. In sum, drug industry regulation is not simply less than perfect, it is seriously less than adequate, and contributes to the perennial high levels of harm from drug products.

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Posted in Canada, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

Do not Take yourself too Seriously Dept.–Church Hunters Episode I from John Crist and Aaron Chewning

Watch and enjoy the whole thing.

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Humor / Trivia, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(AP) Pakistan asks Facebook and Twitter to help identify blasphemers

Pakistan said Thursday it has asked Facebook and Twitter to help it identify Pakistanis suspected of blasphemy so that it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.

Under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, anyone found to have insulted Islam or the Prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said an official in Pakistan’s Washington embassy has approached the two social media companies in an effort to identify Pakistanis, either within the country or abroad, who recently shared material deemed offensive to Islam.

Read it all. Also, WWM has a look at Pakistan’s blasphemy laws there.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Religion & Culture

(AP) Besieged by Opioids, City of Everett Wash. says drugmaker knowingly let pills flood black market

As deaths from painkillers and heroin abuse spiked and street crimes increased, the mayor of Everett took major steps to tackle the opioid epidemic devastating this working-class city north of Seattle.

Mayor Ray Stephanson stepped up patrols, hired social workers to ride with officers and pushed for more permanent housing for chronically homeless people. The city says it has spent millions combating OxyContin and heroin abuse — and expects the tab to rise.

So Everett is suing Purdue Pharma, maker of the opioid pain medication OxyContin, in an unusual case that alleges the drugmaker knowingly allowed pills to be funneled into the black market and the city of about 108,000. Everett alleges the drugmaker did nothing to stop it and must pay for damages caused to the community.

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Posted in City Government, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Health & Medicine

Responses to the Washington Supreme Court Ruling (2): Jacob Lupfer

The plain truth is that the Washington religious liberty case is going to be resolved in favor of the proprietor of the business, as it should be.

We need to be as deferential as we can to the rights of conscience, especially as they pertain to small/family businesses. I wouldn’t want the state to harshly fine me if I declined to arrange flowers for the Westboro Baptist Church’s annual banquet.

Progressives are fighting a losing battle, and the optics of financially ruining a 72-year-old grandmother are terrible. If progressives are on the right side of history and we are just moments away from same sex unions being celebrated as marriages by virtually everyone of every faith, then find another florist and leave this poor lady alone.

Read it all.

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

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, State Government, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Responses to the Washington Supreme Court Ruling (1): Rod Dreher

Like I keep saying: this may not be the end of the world, but it is the end of a world. When the might of the State of Washington and the American Civil Liberties Union comes down on the head of gentle, grandmotherly, small-town florist, and seeks her ruin for declining to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, you know that we are dealing with a bottomless well of hatred. You know exactly what we are dealing with here. So, prepare. We are all going to be asked to pay the cost of discipleship. When I interviewed her last summer, Stutzman said to me: “If they can come after me, they can go after anybody.”

True. Expect no justice, tolerance, mercy, or love in these matters. The Religious Right Must Lose. Alliance Defending Freedom, the religious liberty legal organization representing Barronnelle pro bono, is taking tax-free donations to help pay for her defense. If the US Supreme Court refuses to hear the case, or rules against her, the Christian community nationwide will need to step up to pay her fine, and to reward her for having stood in the crucible and held firm, despite the contempt heaped on her head. Today its Barronelle Stutzman; tomorrow it might be you. And one day, it probably will.

I’ll say one more thing here. As regular readers know, I do not like Donald Trump and do not like the glee with which so many of my fellow conservatives view his trashing of longstanding rules and conventions of political behavior. Trump is tearing things down, but what will be left after he’s done that? Having said that, when I contemplate a system and a society that is willing to pour everything it has into crushing a little old Southern Baptist lady who arranges flowers for a living, I find that I have very little enthusiasm for defending that system. A society that would do this to a Barronnelle Stutzman is a corrupt and unjust society. At times like this, it is hard not to adopt a “let the dead bury the dead” attitude toward the whole.

Make sure to take the time to it all and watch the video.

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

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) 5 pastors confess their temptations to manipulate, control+cling to worldly significance

Joshua Ryan Butler, pastor of local and global outreach at Imago Dei Community in Portland, Oregon

I want to change the world. But in the process, I’m tempted to see people as a means-to-an-end rather than servants to be discipled deeper into life with Jesus.

When this happens, I find myself using manipulation and guilt as tools to mobilize volunteers. Instead, I want to emphasize the beauty and grandeur of Christ, and use the tools of celebrating who he is and what he has done to draw others to embody his love and serve the world””because they want to, not because they have to.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(BBC) Massive networks of fake accounts found on Twitter

Massive collections of fake accounts are lying dormant on Twitter, suggests research.
The largest network ties together more than 350,000 accounts and further work suggests others may be even bigger.
UK researchers accidentally uncovered the lurking networks while probing Twitter to see how people use it.
Some of the accounts have been used to fake follower numbers, send spam and boost interest in trending topics.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology, Theology

Generation X More Addicted to Social Media Than Millennials, Report Finds

We all know the stereotype: silly millennials, tethered to their phones, unable to accomplish the simplest tasks without scrolling their Instagram feeds, snapping their friends and/or tweeting inanely.

But a Nielsen report released last week shows that Americans from 18 to 34 are less obsessed with social media than are some of their older peers.

Adults 35 to 49 were found to spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes a week for their younger counterparts. More predictably, adults 50 and over spent significantly less time on social media, with an average of 4 hours 9 minutes a week on the networks.

Sean Casey, the president of Nielsen’s social division, said that the finding had initially surprised him, because “the going thought is that social is vastly owned by the younger generation.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology, Young Adults