Category : America/U.S.A.

60 Minutes latest story on the opiod crisis–Heroin in the Heartland

Federal and local authorities nationwide now consider heroin to be the biggest drug epidemic in the country. Not methamphetamines or cocaine, heroin.

Dealers, connected to Mexican drug cartels, are making huge profits pushing their poison into suburbs and small towns across the country. It’s basic economics: the dealers are going where the money is. And they’re cultivating a broad set of consumers: high school students, college athletes, teachers and professionals.

Heroin is showing up everywhere — in places like Columbus Ohio. The area has long been viewed as so typically Middle American that, for years, many companies have gone there to test their new products. A few years ago when we started reporting this story we went to the Columbus suburbs to see how heroin is taking hold in the heartland….

Read or watch it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine

(NYT Upshot) Whites Have Huge Wealth Edge Over Blacks (but Don’t Know It)

“I’m a person who studies inequality, who should really know how inequality looks,” said one of the psychologists, Michael Kraus, who researches the behaviors and beliefs that help perpetuate inequality. “And I look at the black-white gap, and I’m shocked at the magnitude.”

Black families in America earn just $57.30 for every $100 in income earned by white families, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. For every $100 in white family wealth, black families hold just $5.04.

If Mr. [Michael] Kraus, of all people, is taken aback by these numbers, what are the odds that most Americans have a good understanding of them? The answer, he and his colleagues fear, has broad implications for how we understand our society and what we’re willing to do to make it fairer.

Americans, and higher-income whites in particular, vastly overestimate progress toward economic equality between blacks and whites, the psychologists reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Americans believe that blacks and whites are more equal today than they truly are on measures of income, wealth, wages and health benefits. And they believe more historical progress has occurred than is the case, suggesting “a profound misperception of and unfounded optimism” regarding racial equality.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Theology

(Sunday [London] Times) ‘They’re here, then they just die’: opioid addiction kills 175 Americans a day

At first glance, Manchester, New Hampshire, seems a typical New England town. A pleasant, low-key sort of place, free of extreme poverty or urban decay.

You do not have to look far, however, to see something is amiss: this is a town firmly in the grip of the opioid crisis that is devastating America.

Dotted around the central squares and parks are small groups of people visibly suffering from addiction. Yesterday, hundreds of residents took part in a “rally for recovery” in the town centre, gathering to highlight the plight of their friends and neighbours.

On the walls of the Hope addiction recovery clinic, a few hundred yards away, are pictures from a kayaking expedition. Karla Gallagher, who works at the clinic, cannot look at it without becoming close to tears.

“We lose these people all the time,” she said, pointing to a picture of a smiling young girl on a canoe. “We lost her. One day they’re here and then they just die.”

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, State Government, Theology

(PewF FT) As U.S. marriage rate hovers at 50%, education gap in marital status widens

Half of U.S. adults today are married, a share that has remained relatively stable in recent years but is down 9 percentage points over the past quarter century and dramatically different from the peak of 72% in 1960, according to newly released census data.

The decline in the share of married adults can be explained in part by the fact that Americans are marrying later in life these days. In 2016, the median age for a first marriage was 27.4 for women and 29.5 for men – roughly seven years more than the median ages in 1960 (20.3 for women and 22.8 for men).

But delayed marriage may not explain all of the drop-off. The share of Americans who have never married has been rising steadily in recent decades. At the same time, more adults are living with a partner instead of marrying and raising children outside of marriage.

Marriage rates are also more closely linked to socio-economic status than ever before…

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, Marriage & Family, Sociology

(WSJ) Why Entitlements Keep Growing, and Growing, and . . .An interview with John Cogan

Mr. [John] Cogan has just written a riveting, massive book, “The High Cost of Good Intentions,” on the history of entitlements in the U.S., and he describes how in 1972 the Senate “attached an across-the-board, permanent increase of 20% in Social Security benefits to a must-pass bill” on the debt ceiling. President Nixon grumbled loudly but signed it into law. In October, a month before his re-election, “Nixon reversed course and availed himself of an opportunity to take credit for the increase,” Mr. Cogan says. “When checks went out to some 28 million recipients, they were accompanied by a letter that said that the increase was ‘signed into law by President Richard Nixon.’ ”

The Nixon episode shows, says Mr. Cogan, that entitlements have been the main cause of America’s rising national debt since the early 1970s. Mr. Trump’s pact with the Democrats is part of a pattern: “The debt ceiling has to be raised this year because elected representatives have again failed to take action to control entitlement spending.”

A faculty member at Stanford’s Public Policy Program and a fellow at the university’s Hoover Institution, Mr. Cogan, 70, is one of those old-fangled American men who are always inclined to play down their achievements. The latest of his is the book that draws us together in conversation. To be published later this month by Stanford University Press, it is a 400-page account of how federal entitlement programs evolved across two centuries “and the common forces that have been at work in causing their expansion.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Budget, Credit Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Medicare, Politics in General, Social Security, The U.S. Government

(TGC) Trevin Wax–Should We Pull The Plug On Cable News?

A steady diet of cable news reinforces the idea that everything is about politics, that everything is life or death, and that we should all devote our attention to the big news story every day. (Consider how news channels count down to big events, as if the entire country waits breathlessly for whatever the channel determines is most important!)

No TV 

Recently, I finished Andy Crouch’s The Tech-wise Familya book from a journalist and writer who I’ve long respected for his insight into faith and culture. Crouch is a brilliant commentator on society and culture. And he doesn’t have a television in the living room. The TV is in the basement. (The family turns it on so rarely that his daughter wasn’t even sure they had one!)

John Piper, a preacher and writer highly influential in American evangelicalism (especially among younger generations) doesn’t have a TV at all. He’s never had one.

Which makes me wonder: could it be that the reason Andy Crouch’s cultural analysis is so astute and Piper’s devotional and exegetical writing is so compelling is because they don’t spend time in front of the screen?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Movies & Television

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat on Michael Cromartie–The Apostle to the Media

Like many evangelicals, he ended up working in the peculiar outsider-insider world of conservative Washington, influencing the Republican Party’s counsels even as the wider establishment continued to regard his faith and movement as exotic, disreputable, possibly dangerous.

But more than most Cromartie did not accept this suspicion and mistrust as permanent or necessary. His great work, which occupied much of the last two decades of his life, was a distinctive exercise in dialogue and encounter: Twice a year, he invited prominent journalists, members of one of America’s most secular professions, into extended conversation with religious leaders, theologians and historians, the best and brightest students and practitioners of varied faiths. These conferences, held in Maine and Miami and Key West, Fla., were purpose-driven junkets, intended to prove that religious believers and professional media elites did not have to be locked in a cycle of misunderstanding and mistrust.

And in the discussion sessions that Cromartie ran they weren’t. There were tense moments and hostile interactions here and there, but for the most part when you were inside his conferences (or helping to choose the speakers, as I did for a while), you could imagine that pluralism could actually work, that religious views could advance by persuasion without encouraging intolerance, that the religious and nonreligious could argue and listen in good faith, that conservative believers could be taken seriously by the media and extend greater trust and understanding in their turn.

This little Arcadia was an extension of its presiding genius’s personality. I was not Cromartie’s closest friend, and for a deeper appreciation of the man’s distinctive qualities I recommend the many tributes in the last week from journalists who were closer — particularly Carl Cannon’s eulogy in RealClearPolitics, which captures Cromartie in full.

But he was a personal inspiration to me from very early in my career. Nobody in Washington was kinder to me as a novice journalist, nobody gave me more hope that my own peculiar vocation was worthwhile rather than quixotic, and few men I met in my D.C. years modeled the Christian virtues of faith and hope and charity so ebulliently, without the air of defensive irony that many of us weave around our unfashionable morality and metaphysics.

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) After Irma, Many Mobile Homeowners May Face Tough Choice–rebuild or walk away

Some of the homes hardest hit by Hurricane Irma in Florida are also the least likely to be insured.

Florida has more mobile and manufactured homes than any other state. These homes, which are built in factories rather than directly onto a lot, often house low-income residents and seniors seeking cheaper housing for their retirement.

The homes are also less likely to be insured than many other types of homes, with the Florida Manufactured Housing Association estimating as many as 50% of the homes may lack insurance.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Marriage & Family, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Personal Finance & Investing

(WSJ) In America Men, young adults and rural residents increasingly say college isn’t worth the cost

Americans are losing faith in the value of a college degree, with majorities of young adults, men and rural residents saying college isn’t worth the cost, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey shows.

The findings reflect an increase in public skepticism of higher education from just four years ago and highlight a growing divide in opinion falling along gender, educational, regional and partisan lines. They also carry political implications for universities, already under public pressure to rein in their costs and adjust curricula after decades of sharp tuition increases.

Overall, a slim plurality of Americans, 49%, believes earning a four-year degree will lead to a good job and higher lifetime earnings, compared with 47% who don’t, according to the poll of 1,200 people taken Aug. 5-9. That two-point margin narrowed from 13 points when the same question was asked four years earlier.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, Personal Finance & Investing, Rural/Town Life, Young Adults

(Washington Post Wonkblog) Christopher Ingraham–Here’s one marijuana trend you should actually be worried about

The latest federal survey data shows that while teen marijuana use continues to decline in the era of legal pot, adult use is rising. The percent of people over the age of 18 who smoke it in a given year has risen from 10.4 percent in 2002 to 14.1 percent in 2016. In other words, 46 million people got high last year.

In and of itself, the increase in adult marijuana use isn’t particularly alarming. Public-health researchers are typically more worried about adolescent drug use, which can derail a young person’s life. If more adults are smoking marijuana once or twice a year — even once or twice a month — it’s not really a huge concern.

More concerning, though, is the number of people who are getting high all the time — heavy users who smoke on a daily or near-daily basis. The federal data shows that those numbers are increasingly precipitously.

In 2016,  nearly 19 percent of people who used marijuana that year used it at least 300 days out of the year. That figure’s up by roughly 50 percent from 2002, when 12 percent of marijuana users consumed the drug daily or near-daily.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine

(CT) Jim Tonkowich –Ten Things We Should Have Learned Since September 11, 2001

3. We must develop a Christian worldview in order to survive.
In writing about the differences between the Western and Islamic cultures and worldviews, it is very tempting to assume that the Western worldview, derived from Christendom, is synonymous with a Christian worldview. Nothing could be further from the truth. Chuck Colson and other Christian worldview thinkers regularly critique the prevailing secularized and postmodern Western culture and worldview.

Our embrace of multiculturalism and the simultaneous denigration of the structures and values of our own national, political, and religious life will leave us without the intellectual tools and the corporate will to fend off threats like Islam. The often-rapacious commercial culture that feeds our consumerism will continue to make us the enemy of people who, at the same time, feel used by and envious of our way of life. And our willingness to tolerate dictators and gross human-rights violations in order to maintain trade will continue to plague us internationally.

The responsibility of the Christian is to be salt and light to the Islamic world and to the Western world that, while it still maintains vestiges of the Christian past that shaped it, continues to devolve into barbarism. A critical part of being salt and light is our worldview. Christians must develop biblically informed structures of thought and use those to critique and transform Western culture in such a way that it can meet the challenge of Islam.

4. Evil is real.
Following the attacks of 9/11, the morality of the attacks was debated at a major American university. One professor talked about being uncomfortable calling the terrorists evil. “After all,” she reasoned, “we’ve sinned too.” A student asked the professor whether the Nazis were evil. She responded, “That’s a difficult question….”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Islam, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(NYT) The Children of 9/11

“We’ve committed to filming every single 9/11 kid that wants to be filmed,” she said. So far, they’ve interviewed nearly 70 of the more than 3,000 children who lost parents in the attacks, many of whom she was able to reach through the organization Tuesday’s Children. The current participants range in age from 15 — children whose mothers were pregnant then — to 52.

“A lot of the kids felt as though they needed this now — they finally wanted to share their stories and to help other people,” Ms. [Delaney] Colaio said. “They don’t want the suffering to victimize them anymore.”

The project has been an “emotional roller coaster,” Ms. Colaio said. “What I’ve learned about myself is that it’s O.K. to not be O.K. all the time — I never cry, ever, but through this process, I’ve cried almost every week — and allowing myself to feel all of those feelings was a big personal growth that I’ve had.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Marriage & Family, Terrorism

(Post-Gazette) Work begins on wind chime tower at Flight 93 crash site in Somerset County Pennsylvania

About $40 million has been spent or earmarked to transform the field about 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh into a national park. The National Park Foundation, a charity that works to fund National Park Service projects, raised $6 million from 110,000 private donors to build the Tower of Voices.

Steve Clark, the park’s superintendent, said the tower will complete the memorial “in a most beautiful way.”

“The intent is to create a set of 40 tones, or voices, that can connote through consonance the serenity and nobility of the site while also through the dissonance recalling the event that consecrated the site,” said primary architect Paul Murdoch. Sunday’s groundbreaking included a “soundbreaking” during which a simulation of the wind chimes was played.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Terrorism

Billy Graham’s Address at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance in 2001

President and Mrs. Bush, I want to say a personal word on behalf of many people. Thank you, Mr. President, for calling this day of prayer and remembrance. We needed it at this time.

We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious, or political background may be. The Bible says that He’s the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles. No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock, and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tuesday morning. September eleven will go down in our history as a day to remember.

Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God.
Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God.

We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation, but today we need Him especially. We’re facing a new kind of enemy. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God. The Bible words are our hope: God is our refuge and strength; an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking now. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have. We’ve seen so much on our television, on our ”” heard on our radio, stories that bring tears to our eyes and make us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.

But what are some of the lessons we can learn? First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil. I’ve been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept by faith that God is sovereign, and He’s a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a mystery. In 1st Thessalonians 2:7 it talks about the mystery of iniquity. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Who can understand it?” He asked that question, ”˜Who can understand it?’ And that’s one reason we each need God in our lives.

The lesson of this event is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but secondly it’s a lesson about our need for each other. What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days. None of us will ever forget the pictures of our courageous firefighters and police, many of whom have lost friends and colleagues; or the hundreds of people attending or standing patiently in line to donate blood. A tragedy like this could have torn our country apart. But instead it has united us, and we’ve become a family. So those perpetrators who took this on to tear us apart, it has worked the other way ”” it’s back lashed. It’s backfired. We are more united than ever before. I think this was exemplified in a very moving way when the members of our Congress stood shoulder to shoulder the other day and sang “God Bless America.”

Finally, difficult as it may be for us to see right now, this event can give a message of hope ”” hope for the present, and hope for the future. Yes, there is hope. There’s hope for the present, because I believe the stage has already been set for a new spirit in our nation. One of the things we desperately need is a spiritual renewal in this country. We need a spiritual revival in America. And God has told us in His word, time after time, that we are to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way. But there’s also hope for the future because of God’s promises. As a Christian, I hope not for just this life, but for heaven and the life to come. And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven right now. And they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s so glorious and so wonderful. And that’s the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart.

This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if even one those people who got on those planes, or walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon last Tuesday morning thought it would be the last day of their lives. It didn’t occur to them. And that’s why each of us needs to face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will now.

Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us symbols of the cross. For the Christian ”” I’m speaking for the Christian now ”” the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering. For He took upon himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, our sins and our suffering. And from the cross, God declares “I love you. I know the heart aches, and the sorrows, and the pains that you feel, but I love you.” The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ has conquered evil, and death, and hell. Yes, there’s hope.

I’ve become an old man now. And I’ve preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago, and proclaimed it in many languages to many parts of the world. Several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, Ambassador Andrew Young, who had just gone through the tragic death of his wife, closed his talk with a quote from the old hymn, “How Firm A Foundation.” We all watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass of the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of the prosperity and creativity of America. When damaged, those buildings eventually plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet underneath the debris is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that old hymn that Andrew Young quoted: “How firm a foundation.”

Yes, our nation has been attacked. Buildings destroyed. Lives lost. But now we have a choice: Whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people, and a nation, or, whether we choose to become stronger through all of the struggle to rebuild on a solid foundation. And I believe that we’re in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. That’s what this service is all about. And in that faith we have the strength to endure something as difficult and horrendous as what we’ve experienced this week.

This has been a terrible week with many tears. But also it’s been a week of great faith. Churches all across the country have called prayer meetings. And today is a day that they’re celebrating not only in this country, but in many parts of the world. And the words of that familiar hymn that Andrew Young quoted, it says, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed for I am thy God and will give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand upon” my righteous ”” on “thy righteous, omnipotent hand.”

My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us as we trust in Him. We also know that God is going to give wisdom, and courage, and strength to the President, and those around him. And this is going to be a day that we will remember as a day of victory. May God bless you all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Evangelicals, History, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

Kendall Harmon for 9/11: Number 343

(You may find the names of all 343 firefighters here–KSH).

On Monday this week, the last of the 343 firefighters who died on September 11th was buried. Because no remains of Michael Ragusa, age 29, of Engine Company 279, were found and identified, his family placed in his coffin a very small vial of his blood, donated years ago to a bone-marrow clinic. At the funeral service Michael’s mother Dee read an excerpt from her son’s diary on the occasion of the death of a colleague. “It is always sad and tragic when a fellow firefighter dies,” Michael Ragusa wrote, “especially when he is young and had everything to live for.” Indeed. And what a sobering reminder of how many died and the awful circumstances in which they perished that it took until this week to bury the last one.

So here is to the clergy, the ministers, rabbis, imams and others, who have done all these burials and sought to help all these grieving families. And here is to the families who lost loved ones and had to cope with burials in which sometimes they didn’t even have remains of the one who died. And here, too, is to the remarkable ministry of the Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, who played every single service for all 343 firefighters who lost their lives. The Society chose not to end any service at which they played with an up-tempo march until the last firefighter was buried.

On Monday, in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn, the Society therefore played “Garry Owen” and “Atholl Highlander,” for the first time since 9/11 as the last firefighter killed on that day was laid in the earth. On the two year anniversary here is to New York, wounded and more sober, but ever hopeful and still marching.

–First published on this blog September 11, 2003

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Police/Fire, Terrorism