Category: Acton Occasional Series

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.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tomorrow, Americans celebrate a national holiday set aside to give thanks for the blessings of the preceding year. But there is more to Thanksgiving than you may realize. Here are five facts you should know about the holiday:

1. The Pilgrims who traveled on the Mayflower and landed on Cape Cod were not the first Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving. The “Feast of the First Thanksgiving” was held near El Paso, Texas in 1598 — twenty-three years before the Pilgrims’ festival. And at the Berkeley Plantation on the James River in Virginia, settlers celebrated Thanksgiving on December 4th, 1619 — two years before the Pilgrims’ festival. As historian Robert Tracy McKenzie, author of The First Thanksgiving, notes, the early Plymouth settlers celebrated in 1621 could more accurately be called the “First American Protestant Christian Thanksgiving North of Virginia and South of Maine.”

2. The first Thanksgiving at Plymouth was a secular event that was not repeated. (A Calvinist Thanksgiving occurred in 1623 and did not involve sharing food with the Native Americans.) 52 Pilgrims and approximately 50 Native Americans attended that celebration. According to participant Edward Winslow, the feast consisted of corn, barley, fowl (including wild turkeys), and venison.

Syrian refugees

Recently more than half the nation’s governors—27 states—have expressed opposition to letting Syrian refugees into their states. Many lawmakers in Congress are also considering legislation that would suspend the Syrian refugee program. Here is what you should know about the current controversy:

Why is there a new concern about allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.?

According to the French government, at least one of the terrorists in the recent attack on Paris is believed to have entered the country by posing as a refugee. The concern is that through inadequate screening procedures, similar would-be terrorists may be able to enter the U.S.

What is the Syrian refugee crisis?

For the past four years, Syria has been in a civil war that has forced 11 million people— half the country’s pre-crisis population—to flee their homes. About 7.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced within the country and 4 million have fled Syria for other countries. The result is one of the largest forced migrations since World War Two.

Are all the refugees fleeing Islamic State (ISIS)?

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, November 19, 2015

Gettysburg AddressToday marks the 152nd year anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Here are five facts about one of history’s most famous — and famously brief — speeches:

1. The Gettysburg Address was not written on the back of an envelope. Despite the popular legend that Lincoln wrote the speech on the train while traveling to Pennsylvania, he probably wrote about half of it before leaving the White House on November 18.

2. Much of the language and thematic content of the speech had been used by Lincoln before. The radical aspect of the speech was Lincoln’s assertion that the Declaration of Independence — and not the Constitution — was the true expression of the founding fathers’ intentions for their new nation.

3. There are five different versions of the speech. The most widely quoted one is the oldest.

4. Now regarded as one of the great speeches of history, the address was initially greeted with criticism by many newspapers. The Democratic Chicago Times called the address “a perversion of history so flagrant that the extended charity cannot regard it as otherwise than willful.”

5. “God” is the only proper name mentioned in the speech. The name of the battle is not mentioned.

Series Note: Jobs are one of the most important aspects of a morally functioning economy. They help us serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing both for the individual and for communities. Conversely, not having a job can adversely affect spiritual and psychological well-being of individuals and families. Because unemployment is a spiritual problem, Christians in America need to understand and be aware of the monthly data on employment. Each month highlight the latest numbers we need to know (see also: What Christians Should Know About Unemployment).

Positive news is marked with the plus sign (+) while negative employment data is marked with a minus sign (-). No significant change is marked by (NC).

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimates that there are currently over 80 federal programs that provide food, housing, healthcare, job training, education, energy assistance, and cash to low-income Americans. How do they fit together to serve the poor?

During a hearing on Tuesday about better coordinating welfare programs to serve families in need, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee provided the following chart (click to enlarge).

Confused? You’re not the only one. As Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) says,

What it shows is, in short, a mess. This system may have started out with good intentions, but it has become a confusing maze of programs that are overlapping, duplicative, poorly coordinated, and difficult to administer. I defy anyone to say this is the best way to address the human tragedy so many of our fellow citizens experience.

(Via: AEI Ideas)

china-popWhat was China’s “one-child” policy?

In an attempt to limit population growth, China implemented a policy in the late 1970s that forbid families from having more than one child (there were, however, no penalties for multiple births, such as twins or triplets). Over the years, though, numerous exceptions have been allowed and by 2007 the policy only restricted 35.9 percent of the population to having one child.

What is the new policy?

Starting next March, a change to current family planning law will be ratified that will allow families to have two children.

Why did China implement such a policy?