Category: Acton Occasional Series

7figuresFamily structure is one of the most significant, though oft-overlooked, factors that affect the economic fortunes of Americans. A new study from AEI titled “For Richer or Poorer” documents the relationships between family patterns and economic well-being in America and shows how radically it can affect income.

Here are seven figures you should know from the study:
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HitchingPost2_tnWhat is the Idaho wedding chapel story all about?

Same-sex marriage became legal in the state of Idaho earlier this month after a federal court ruled in the case of Latta v. Otter that the state’s statutes and constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. This ruling affected an anti-discrimination ordinance in the city of Coeur d’Alene, which was enacted last year to cover “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” (Since there is currently no similar state or federal non-discrimination laws, the requirement only applies in Coeur d’Alene or other Idaho cities with similar ordinances.)

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, two ordained Pentecostal ministers who run the for-profit Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, asked the city for clarification on how the change in the law would affect their business. The city attorney told them they were now required to perform same-sex ceremonies or face months in jail and/or thousands of dollars in fines.

How did the ministers respond?

Both ministers claim that performing perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples goes against their religious beliefs. So on behalf of the couple, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit and a motion for a temporary restraining order last Friday to stop city officials from forcing the ministers from being forced to violate their conscience or give up their business.

Is it true, as same outlets have claimed, that the Knapps were arrested for their views?
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Nobel-Peace-Prize-winners-012Who are the people who won the Nobel Peace Prize?

Malala Yousafzai, a 17-year-old Muslim girl from Pakistan, and Kailash Satyarthi, a 60-year-old Hindu man from India, jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize for their “struggle against the suppression of children and young people.”

What exactly is the Nobel Peace Prize?

The Nobel Peace Prize is an international prize awarded annually since 1901 by the Norwegian Nobel Committee according to guidelines laid down in Alfred Nobel’s will (“. . . to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”). The prize includes a medal, a personal diploma, and a large sum of prize money (currently, about $1.1 million).

What did Malala Yousafzai do to deserve the award?
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7figuresInformation on mortality — when we die, how we die, causes of death — is a key to understanding changes in the health and well-being of nation. The National Center for Health Statistics recently released a report on mortality in the United States based on the latest annual data (2012) that reveals the (mostly) positive changes in America’s health.

Here are seven figures you should know from the report:
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_70189222_464_unemployedSeries 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.

A 2011 study of the long-term unemployed published by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found that half of participants experienced shame and embarrassment that led them to isolate themselves from friends and associates. Among the long-term unemployed, 31.1 percent reported spending two hours or less with family or friends the previous day, versus 21.5 percent among short-term unemployed adults.

Because unemployment is a spiritual problem, Christians in America need to understand and be aware of the monthly data on employment. Each month I’ll highlight the latest numbers we need to know (see also: What Christians Should Know About Unemployment).
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hong-kong-44What is the protest in Hong Kong?

Pro-democracy activists in the city are protesting the Chinese government’s decision ruling out open nominations for the election of Hong Kong’s leader in 2017. According to the BBC, China’s leaders had promised direct elections for chief executive by 2017, but last month the top legislative committee ruled that voters will only have a choice from a list of two or three candidates selected by a nominating committee. This committee would be formed “in accordance with” Hong Kong’s largely pro-Beijing election committee and any candidate would have to secure the support of more than 50 percent of the nominating committee before being able to run in the election.

Who is leading the protest?

Various groups, though Occupy Central with Love and Peace — an organization that promotes universal suffrage — seems to be the most prominent. Occupy Central, led by Hong Kong law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, organized the unofficial referendum on political reform held in June.

Is Occupy Central connected to the Occupy Wall Street protests?

Yes. Both are part of the Occupy movement, an international protest movement that has promoted protests on six continents.

Why is the protest sometimes referred to as the “Umbrella Revolution”?
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Cover-ScrutonDuring student protests in Paris in 1968, Roger Scruton watched students overturn cars to erect barricades and tear up cobblestones to throw at police. It was at that moment he realized he was a conservative:

I suddenly realized I was on the other side. What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defence of western civilization against these things. That’s when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down.

Scrunton, an philosopher who specializes in aesthetics, is one of the most intriguing conservatives in England. In a recent interview for Prospect, Scruton talks about his new book, How To Be a Conservative.

Here are six quotes from that interview:
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householdairpollutionWhat is the world’s deadliest environmental problem?

Household air pollution. According to the World Health Organization’s latest report air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk, and the main cause is entirely preventable:

Around 3 billion people still cook and heat their homes using solid fuels (i.e. wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal and dung) in open fires and leaky stoves. Most are poor, and live in low- and middle-income countries.

Such inefficient cooking fuels and technologies produce high levels of household air pollution with a range of health-damaging pollutants, including small soot particles that penetrate deep into the lungs. In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for small particles. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children, who spend the most time near the domestic hearth.

Household air pollution (HAP) caused by the inefficient use of solid fuels results in 4.3 million premature deaths each year – almost three times as many as died from from AIDS. HAP is also an important contributor to ambient air pollution, which caused a further 3.7 million deaths in 2012. Additionally, more than 50 percent of premature deaths among children under 5 are due to pneumonia caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.

What is household air pollution?
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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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US CONSTITUTION iStock_000007427085XSmall-300x214Constitution Day is celebrated in America every year on September 17, the anniversary of the day the framers signed the document. Here are five facts you should know about the U.S. Constitution.

1. The Constitution contains 4,543 words, including the signatures and has four sheets, 28-3/4 inches by 23-5/8 inches each. It contains 7,591 words including the 27 amendments. It is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.

2. Thomas Jefferson did not sign the Constitution. He was in France during the Convention, where he served as the U.S. minister. John Adams was serving as the U.S. minister to Great Britain during the Constitutional Convention and did not attend either. George Washington and James Madison were the only presidents who signed the Constitution.

3. There was a proposal at the Constitutional Convention to limit the standing army for the country to 5,000 men. George Washington sarcastically agreed with this proposal as long as a stipulation was added that no invading army could number more than 3,000 troops

4. The Constitution’s iconic opening line was not included in early drafts of the document. The preamble originally started with individual states listed from north to south: “We the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts…” et al. The five-person Committee of Style is considered to have been responsible for composing much of the final text, including the revised preamble.

5. More than 11,000 amendments have been introduced in Congress. From 1804 to 1865 there were no amendments added to the Constitution until the end of the Civil War when the Thirteenth amendment was added that abolished slavery. This was the longest period in American history in which there were no changes to our Constitution. The Constitution has only been changed seventeen times since 1791.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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ebola-treatmentWhat is the Ebola crisis?

Over the past six months, the Ebola virus has been spreading through several countries in Africa. The result is a potential epidemiological, humanitarian, and global security threat. “The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has the potential to alter history as much as any plague has ever done,” says Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. President Obama said he has “directed my team to make this a national security priority.” And Dr. Kent Brantly, an American who was infected by Ebola, recently told the U.S. Senate:

The use of our military is a legitimate and defensible request because if we do not do something to stop this outbreak now, it quickly could become a matter of U.S. national security-whether that means a regional war that gives terrorist groups like Boko Haram a foothold in West Africa or the spread of the disease into America. Fighting those kinds of threats would require more from the Department of Defense than what I am asking for today.

What is the Obama administration’s goal and strategy for the Ebola crisis?

In his recent speech, President Obama laid out four goals: (1) to control the outbreak, (2) to address the ripple effects of local economies and communities to prevent a truly massive humanitarian disaster, (3) to coordinate a broader global response, and (4) to urgently build up a public health system in these countries for the future — not just in West Africa but in countries that don’t have a lot of resources generally.

To accomplish these goals, President Obama plans to:
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