Category: Acton Occasional Series

drinkable-book[Note: See this introduction post for an explanation of gleaner technology.]

Lack of clean drinking water is one of the greatest public health problems on the planet. Around the world there are 750 million people—approximately one in nine—who lack access to safe water, and millions will die each year from a water related disease.

But a new “drinkable book” may soon provide an inexpensive way for the poor to get potable water. While getting her PhD in chemistry, Theresa Dankovich invented both a bactericidal silver nanoparticle paper, pAge, and an environmental-friendly method to produce the silver nanoparticles, using cheap and benign chemicals and processing.

The pages contain silver nanoparticles, which are lethal for bacteria. Only very small quantities of silver are required due to the use of nanoparticles, which have a highly toxic effect specific towards microorganisms at low concentrations. At the low levels of silver used in the papers, a very small amount of silver is released into the drinking water, which meets the EPA and WHO recommendations.

Dankovich has used the pAge for paper in The Drinkable Book™, a collaboration with WATERisLIFE. Printed on the pages are instructions for using the paper and for preventing water from becoming contaminated.
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Relatives of a Palestinian woman, who medics said was killed in an Israeli air strike, mourn during her funeral in Khan YounisA year ago this month, Islamic State (also known as IS, ISIS, or ISIL) began a systematic program of capturing women and girls for the purposes of rape, forced marriage, and sexual slavery. Yesterday, the New York Times brought renewed attention to the war crimes in an article examining how IS enshrines a theology of rape.

Here are five facts you should know about how IS views and justifies the practice of sexual slavery: 

1. IS considers rape of sex slaves to be a form of worship — In the New York Times article, a Yazidi girl was was enslaved by IS claims:

“Every time that he came to rape me, he would pray,” said F, a 15-year-old girl who was captured on the shoulder of Mount Sinjar one year ago and was sold to an Iraqi fighter in his 20s. Like some others interviewed by The New York Times, she wanted to be identified only by her first initial because of the shame associated with rape.

“He kept telling me this is ibadah,” she said, using a term from Islamic scripture meaning worship. 

2. IS has an eschatological justification for sex slavery   
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climbing_in_bureaucracy__alfredo_martirenaWhen American’s think about the rule of law—if they ever think about it at all—it’s usually about how it’s lacking in foreign lands, such as Latin America or Africa. Corruption and bribery, the usual symptoms of a breakdown in the rule of law, aren’t much of an issue for us. We tend to feel secure that, with minor exceptions, our country is governed by agreed upon laws and not by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials.

In general, this is true. We benefit from a legal and political tradition that has valued and strengthened the rule of law. Yet there is one area that should still concern us. As economist John H. Cochrane notes, the “burgeoning regulatory state poses a new threat to our political freedom.”

Cochrane has written and important, and lengthy, essay on the rule of law in the regulatory state. While I’d recommend reading it in its entirety, here are six key quotes from the article:
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Unemployment-0306Series 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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Milton-Friedman-Pic-750x400Aristotle has often been described as the philosopher of common sense. Similarly, Milton Friedman, who would have been 103 years old today, could be described as the economist of common sense. Friedman’s writings are often so clear and straightforward (unusual for modern economists) that when reading him you often find yourself wondering how anyone could disagree. Even the uber-liberal Paul Krugman, admits that Friedman was “One of the most important economic thinkers of all time…”

In honor of his birthday, here are six quotes by Friedman on freedom and economics:
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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
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Yesterday Zack Pruitt explained why when “sanctuary cities” disregard the rule of law on immigration, humanitarian issues become clouded and morality is challenged. But what exactly are sanctuary cities?

This short video by The Daily Signal explains what they are and why they’ve become so controversial.

7figuresWhat do Americans think about the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment? The Newseum Institute attempt to find out in their annual national survey of American attitudes about the First Amendment. Here are seven figures you should know from the survey:

1. When asked to name the five specific freedoms in the First Amendment, 57 percent of Americans name freedom of speech, followed by 19 percent who say the freedom of religion, 10 percent mention the freedom of the press, 10 percent mention the right to assemble, and 2 percent name the right to petition. Thirty-three percent of Americans cannot name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

2. About half of respondents (51 percent) agreed that the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. Women (55 percent) are more likely than men (46 percent) to believe that America was created as a Christian nation. Also, those 50 or older (54 percent) are more likely to think that than their younger peers (37 percent).

3. 54 percent believe the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage will have no impact on religious freedom. Just under a third (31 percent) feel as though the decision would be harmful to religious freedom, while only 8 percent say it will be good for religious freedom. Republicans (50 percent) are more likely to see this as harmful than either Democrats (19 percent) or independents (24 percent).
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sweet-cakes-by-melissa-AP-640x480What is the case about?

In 2013, a lesbian couple went into Sweet Cakes, a bakery in Oregon, to order a “wedding cake” for their same-sex commitment ceremony. When the couple told the baker, Aaron Klein that it was for a same-sex ceremony, he told them he would serve homosexuals but that his religious beliefs would not allow him to participate by creating the cake for them. The couple filed a complaint with the Oregon Labor Commission, claiming Sweet Cakes and the Kleins discriminated against them because of their sexual orientation.

Last week, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian finalized a preliminary ruling ordering Aaron and Melissa Klein to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to the couple they denied service.

“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage. It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation,” said Avakian, a political appointee. In his ruling he notes he finds “no distinction” between refusing to serve a same-sex wedding and discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation.

“[Aaron Klein] denied the full and equal accommodation, advantages, facilities and privileges of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to Complainants based on their sexual orientation thereby violating ORS 659A.403,” claims the ruling.

How much were the Kleins ordered to pay the couple?

The Commissioner awarded the lesbian couple $135,000 in “damages for emotional and mental suffering resulting from the denial of service.”

What were the claims of emotional and mental suffering?
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independencedayJuly 4, 2015 will be America’s 239th Independence Day, the day Americans celebrate our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.

Here are five facts you should know about America’s founding document and the day set aside for its commemoration.

1. July 4, 1776 is the day that we celebrate Independence Day even though it wasn’t the day the Continental Congress decided to declare independence (they did that on July 2, 1776), the day we started the American Revolution (that had happened back in April 1775), the date on which the Declaration was delivered to Great Britain (that didn’t happen until November 1776), or the date it was signed (that was August 2, 1776).

2. After the War of 1812, the Federalist party began to come apart and the new parties of the 1820s and 1830s all considered themselves inheritors of Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans. Printed copies of the Declaration began to circulate again, all with the date July 4, 1776, listed at the top. Celebrations of the Fourth of July became more common as the years went on and in 1870, almost a hundred years after the Declaration was written, Congress first declared July 4 to be a national holiday as part of a bill to officially recognize several holidays, including Christmas. Further legislation about national holidays, including July 4, was passed in 1938 and 1941.
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greekbanks_3357117bWhat’s going on in Greece?

Greece is defaulting on a key debt owed to the international community—and the Greek government is putting the question of whether the country will default on even more government debt up for a popular vote this week.

How did Greece get into such a financial mess?

Too much debt. For the past twenty years the government of Greece has spent more than it has collected in taxes.

Wait, that can’t be all there is to it. The U.S. does the same thing, doesn’t it?

Yes, but the U.S. is a rich country with a good credit rating while Greece is not.

A good way to measure a country’s debt is to compare it to its GDP. The United States deficit averaged -3.03 percent of GDP from 1948 until 2014, reaching an all time high of 4.60 percent of GDP in 1948 and a record low of -12.10 percent in 2009 (low is bad). Greece averaged -7.19 percent of GDP from 1995 until 2014, reaching an all time high of -3.20 percent of GDP in 1999 and a record low of -15.70 percent of GDP in 2009. In other words, Greece spends about twice as much (as a percentage of its GDP) as does the U.S.

Let’s imagine two countries—Greece and the U.S.—as if they were persons: GDP would be the person’s “income”; the deficit would be “additional credit card debt”; and interest on the deficit would be like “interest on a credit card.”

The U.S. has a high income (16.7 trillion a year) and every year adds about 3 percent to the total it owes the credit card companies (the national debt). No one is too worried that the U.S. will default on its loans so the credit card companies give them a low interest rate (2.43 percent).

Greece, on the other hand, has a relatively modest income (242 billion, or 1/70 the size of U.S GDP) and adds a lot more to its debt every year (7 percent). Greece has a low credit score (i.e., the credit card companies aren’t sure Greece will pay off its debt) and so is charged a high interest rate (about 15 percent).

Now Greece is refusing to pay its creditors, causing financial turmoil throughout Europe.

If Greece is such a small economy why does it really matter if they default?
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