On November 19, the Acton Institute was pleased to welcome Marina Nemat to the Mark Murray Auditorium as part of the 2015 Acton Lecture Series. Marina was born in 1965 in Tehran, Iran, in what was at the time a relatively secular and free nation. (Granted, she lived under the dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – the Shah of Iran – but as we were reminded a couple of weeks ago by Jay Nordlinger, when it comes to dictators you have to grade on a curve.)  After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, she was arrested at the age of sixteen and spent more than two years in Evin, a political prison in Tehran, where she was tortured and came very close to execution.

Since 1991, Marina has lived in Canada. Her memoir of her life in Iran, Prisoner of Tehran, has been published in nearly 30 countries, and has been an international bestseller. In 2007, Marina received the inaugural Human Dignity Award from the European Parliament, and in 2008, she received the prestigious Grinzane Prize in Italy. In 2008/2009, she was an Aurea Fellow at University of Toronto’s Massey College, where she wrote her second book, After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed. Marina regularly speaks at high schools, universities, and conferences around the world and sits on the Board of Directors at CCVT (Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture) and on advisory boards at ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) and PEN Canada. She also teaches memoir writing, in Farsi and in English, at the School of Continuing Studies at University of Toronto and writes book reviews for The Globe and Mail.

We’re pleased to be able to share Marina Nemat’s presentation with you via the video player below; you can also check out her Radio Free Acton interview here.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Poll: Censorship More Popular Among Millennials
Joshua Gill, The Daily Signal

Forty percent of millennials believe the U.S. government should be able to censor speech that is considered offensive to minority groups, a new poll from Pew Research Center finds.

Young Greek women selling sex for the price of a sandwich, new study shows
Daniela Deane, Washington Post

Young Greek women are selling sex for the price of a sandwich as six years of painful austerity have pushed the European country to the financial brink, a new study showed Friday.

Bread for the World puts price tag on hunger: $160 billion in health care
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Hunger and food insecurity are so widespread in the United States they add $160 billion to national health care spending, according to a Christian advocacy group.

New Study Reveals Possible Wage Envy
Elise Daniel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

If you only needed $50 a day to live comfortably, would you be happier making $50 each day or $60? The answer might depend on how much your coworkers are making.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, November 30, 2015

PoorTaxImagine you’re a single mom with one child who receives $19,300 a year in government benefits. A local business offers to hire you full-time at an hourly rate of $15 an hour. At 2,000 hours a year (40 hours for 50 weeks) you would earn $30,000. Should you take the job or stay on the government dole?

The additional $10,700 a year certainly sounds enticing. But because you would lose your benefits and have to pay taxes, your disposable income would be about 31 percent less, around $20,700. By working full-time you’d only earn $1,400 a year more than when you were on welfare. That means you are working full-time to earn an additional 70 cents more an hour than when you were unemployed. Why bother?

That 31 percent is the effective marginal tax rate for low- and moderate-income workers will face, on average, in 2016. The marginal tax rate is the percentage of an additional dollar of earnings that is unavailable to an individual because it is paid in taxes or offset by reduced benefits from government programs. As the Congressional Budget Office points out in a statement of the obvious, that rate affects people’s incentives to work: “In particular, when marginal tax rates are high, people tend to respond to the smaller financial gain from employment by working fewer hours, altering the intensity of their work, or not working at all.”

As Robert VerBruggen notes, that marginal rate remains high well above the poverty line:

I’m not entirely sure, but it seems a safe bet that Chicago bluesman Willie Dixon wasn’t referring to the Internal Revenue Service when he wrote his classic “Back Door Man.” But, as it turns out, the IRS is serving as a convenient back-door resource for the progressive movement to name and shame donors to causes and organizations opposed by leftist shareholder activists.

The IRS is proposing rules that will grant nonprofit organizations the option of disclosing donors of $250 or more.

Currently, charitable organizations are required to remit a “contemporaneous written acknowledgment” (CWA) to donors contributing $250 or more in cash, goods or services. Donors reference the CWA when filing an IRS 990 form for charitable contributions. The proposed rules would grant organizations the option of collecting donors’ Social Security numbers rather than remitting a CWA, and subsequently sending the donors’ information to the IRS.

Readers shouldn’t take your writer’s word on such an important manner. A more authoritative source is the National Association of Nonprofits, an organization comprised of state associations as well as more than 25,000 individual members, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office. (more…)

tkIt sounds like the plot of a Hollywood production: Nuns dressing up as prostitutes to infiltrate brothels and rescue woman and children from sexual abuse. But the organization of religious sisters called Talitha Kum, which translated from Aramaic means “arise child” (Mark 5:41), is real—and they’re expanding across the globe.

Talitha Kum, also known as the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking in Persons, is a network within the International Union of Superiors General which originates from a project implemented in collaboration with International Organization for Migration and funded by the U.S. Government’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

John Studzinski, an investment banker and philanthropist who chairs Talitha Kum, said the network of 1,100 sisters currently operates in about 80 countries but is expanding to apply their unusual approach to 140 countries:

Studzinski said the religious sisters working to combat trafficking would go to all lengths to rescue women, often dressing up as prostitutes and going out on the street to integrate themselves into brothels.

“These sisters do not trust anyone. They do not trust governments, they do not trust corporations, and they don’t trust the local police. In some cases they cannot trust male clergy,” he said, adding that the low-key group preferred to focus on their rescue work rather than promotion.

“They work in brothels. No one knows they are there.”

The sisters were also proactive on trying to save children being sold into slavery by their parents, setting up a network of homes in Africa as well as in the Philippines, Brazil and India to shelter such children.

He said the religious sisters of Talitha Kum raised money to purchase these children.

“This is a new network of houses for children around the world who would otherwise be sold into slavery. It is shocking but it is real,” he said.

Studzinski said the network of religious sisters, that was in the process of expanding, also targeted slavery in the supply chain with sisters shedding their habits and working alongside locals for as little as 2 U.S. cents an hour to uncover abuses.

Read more . . .

(Via: Gene Veith)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, November 30, 2015

A Definition of Christian Charity
Cecil Bohanon, Indiana Policy Review

Kwang Jin Kim was born to a middle-class family in North Korea. In his book “Under the Same Sky” he gives a first-hand account of his family’s fall to destitution during the North Korean famine in the late 1990’s. Forced to sell all it had to get enough to eat, the family eventually splits up as they moved from relative to relative in a desperate attempt to survive.

Why George Washington Thought the Practice of Gratitude Was Essential for the American Character
Arthur Milikh, The Daily Signal

Our two greatest presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, respectively thought Thanksgiving sufficiently important to initiate its national celebration and to later revive this tradition.

Poll Watch: Democrats, Even Clinton Supporters, Warm to Socialism
Giovanni Russonello, New York Times

Fifty-six percent of those Democratic primary voters questioned said they felt positive about socialism as a governing philosophy, versus 29 percent who took a negative view.

A Review of “Thinking Biblically About Business Ethics”
Andrew Spencer, TGC

One challenge in developing a biblical business ethic for the 21st century is that the marketplace has changed since the books of the Bible were written. There are principles and analogies that can be brought forward, but the cultural distance is significant.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, November 27, 2015

Black-Friday-LineToday is the unofficial first day of the holiday shopping season. Here are five facts you should know about “Black Friday.”

1. The term “Black Friday” was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department’s traffic squad in the 1950s. According to Philadelphia newspaper reporter Joseph P. Barrett, “It was the day that Santa Claus took his chair in the department stores and every kid in the city wanted to see him. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season.” Barrettt first used the term in the city’s newspaper, the Evening Bulletin, in 1961 to refer to the traffic problems on that day. Local merchants complained to police commissioner Albert N. Brown about the negative association of the term, so Brown released a press release describing the day as “Big Friday.” By then it was too late; the media had already started referring to the day after Thanksgiving as  “Black Friday.”

2. Because so few people were aware of the origin of the term Black Friday, analternative explanation became popular: that it is the day on which retailers finally began to show a profit for the year (in accounting terms, moving from being “in the red” to “in the black”). The earliest use of this meaning, though, dates only to the early 1980s.