Category: Acton Occasional Series

gmo-food1Last year, the House passed a bill to preempt states from imposing mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food (GMOs). But as Daren Bakst notes, “While it looked like the Senate was going to follow suit, in the last minute, the new Senate bill would actually effectively mandate the labeling of genetically engineered food.”

“In the Senate bill, there would be a national mandatory labeling requirement unless the Secretary of Agriculture determines that there has been substantial participation by labeled foods in voluntary labeling,” says Bakst. “The Secretary has to develop regulations to clarify the process, but there has to be at least 70 percent substantial participation after two years.”

Here is what you should know about GMOs and GMO food labeling: 

What are genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?
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7figuresA new survey by NPR and Harvard University reports the self-reported experiences of health care consumers across the country, in states that have (New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon) and have not (Florida, Kansas, Texas) expanded Medicaid, and in one (Wisconsin) that did not have to expand Medicare.

Here are seven figures you should know from the report:

1. When asked about its effects on the people of their state, more than a third (35 percent) of adults say they believe national health reform has directly helped residents, while a similar proportion (27 percent) say they believe the law has directly harmed residents. On a more personal level, most (56 percent) Americans do not believe the Affordable Healthcare Act (i.e., Obamacare) has directly impacted them. Among those who believe it had an impact, more say it has directly hurt them (25 percent), as individuals, than those who say national health reform has directly helped them (15 percent).

2. One-third (33 percent) of adults in the U.S. believe the health care they receive is excellent and just under half (46 percent) say their care is good, while just over one in six (18 percent) say it is fair or poor.

3. Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of adults in the U.S. believe the health care they receive has stayed about the same over the past two years, while less than a quarter (23 percent) believe it has gotten better or worse.
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What the story about?

Last week the Senate passed, and President Obama signed into law, a bill that would block imports “made with convict labor, forced labor, or indentured labor.”

The new law is enforceable under Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping multinational trade pact affecting 40 percent of the world’s economy.

What constitutes “forced labor”?

According to 19 U.S. Code § 1307, “Forced labor refers to all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty for its nonperformance and for which the worker does not offer himself voluntarily, including forced or indentured child labor.

Why weren’t such goods already banned?
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9024351-largeSeries 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).
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7figuresPew Research Center recently looked at the data from their 2014 Religious Landscape Study to highlight the affiliations, demographics, religious practices and political beliefs of various religious groups in the United States.

Here are seven figures you should know from the report:

1. The group that leans most heavily toward the Republican Party is Mormons. Seven-in-ten U.S. Mormons identify with the party or say they lean toward the GOP, compared with 19% who identify as or lean Democratic — a difference of 51 percentage points.

2. The group that leans most heavily toward the Democratic Party is the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Almost all (92 percent) identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, while just 4 percent say they favor the Republican Party — a difference of 88 percentage points.
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voting-2-27How are presidential candidates chosen?

Political parties are independent organizations that choose who will be their candidate at a presidential nominating convention. (For the purpose of simplicity, this article will focus mainly on the two major U.S. political parties, the Democrats and Republicans).  While many different types of people attend the conventions, they are formally a gathering of “delegates” — political party members chosen as representatives. The delegates (collectively known as the “delegation”) vote on who should be the party’s candidate.

For example, the GOP convention this year will have 2,472 official delegates. To win the nomination a candidate needs to have the votes of 1,237 (50 percent + 1) delegates.

How are delegates chosen?

Each party has two types of delegates, pledged and unpledged (non-binding). Pledged delegates are representatives of the individual state’s political parties and must cast a vote at the convention for a particular candidate, while unpledged can vote for any candidate.

What is a “Superdelegate”?
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iphone-passcodeWhat is the issue about?

In December, 14 people were killed and 22 were seriously injured in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. The two terrorists, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were later killed in a shootout with police. Law enforcement recovered Farook’s iPhone 5c, which they believe may contain information relevant to the terror investigation.

Farook’s iPhone is protected by a passcode set to wipe the contents of the smartphone after 10 attempts to log in with the wrong code. A federal court in California has ordered Apple to “provide reasonable technical assistance” by either creating a special version of the operating system that’s currently on Farook’s phone, in order to disable the 10-try maximum and allow a computer to connect to the phone and guess every possible passcode, or to provide an alternative means of accessing the phone.

The Obama administration defended the Justice Department’s request Wednesday, vowing that the government would solely use the new program on Farook’s phone.

Apple is currently refusing to comply with the request. Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a statement, “A Message To Our Customers”, in which he says, “The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”

What is the case against complying with the order?

Opponents of the order fear that it gives the government power over the smartphone’s encryption technology by building a “backdoor” to the iPhone. As Tim Cook claims,
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