Category: News and Events

figure6A new report out of the U.K. shows just how muddled discussion on genetically modified crops really is. Late last week the U.K. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published: “Advanced genetic techniques for crop improvement: regulation, risk, and precaution.” Very broadly, this report set out to look at the “challenge of feeding a burgeoning global population, using few resources,” specifically the use of GMOs, as well as the “EU’s current regulatory regime for genetically modified organisms (GMOs).”

The report acknowledges that no single type of food can end the difficulties feeding the global population; however, “novel crops could play an important role in helping tomorrow’s farmers to produce more from less.” The report found major obstacles keeping innovations like this from wider use:

The EU’s current regulatory regime for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) threatens to prevent such products from reaching the market, both in the UK, in Europe and, as a result of trade issues, potentially in the developing world.

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Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 6.51.22 PMMuch attention has been given to Greece’s fiscal and political issues, but one European country may have even bigger problems: France. Writing in the American Spectator, Samuel Gregg discusses ‘Europe’s Real Time Bomb’ and how the challenges Greece faces are miniscule compared to France’s.

It’s no exaggeration to say that France is facing one of its most systematic crises since the Fourth Republic’s collapse in 1958. This time, however, there’s no man of destiny—no Charles de Gaulle—waiting in the wings to save France from itself. In fact, that’s part of France’s problem: a political class that, regardless of party, isn’t adept at imaginative thinking, especially concerning Exhibit A of France’s problems: its economy.

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Blog author: jballor
Friday, February 27, 2015
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Leonard Nimoy by Gage Skidmore 2.jpgAt the prodding of my friend Victor Claar, here’s a plea based on the significance of the Vulcan salute pioneered by Leonard Nimoy, who passed away today at the age of 83.

Mr. Spock would wish someone farewell by saluting them and saying, “Live long and prosper.” Other Vulcans or those in the know might respond, “Peace and long life.”

Things go in cycles, and we’ve been hearing a lot about “flourishing” lately. I’m a bit tired of it, frankly, and am making a plea for speaking about “prosperity” instead.

At least for today, that seems appropriate (and as long as we remember that, as the preacher of true prosperity put it, “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”).

For more on the religious heritage of the Vulcan salute, check out its origin story.

Blog author: dpahman
Friday, February 27, 2015
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Yesterday the FCC reclassified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, with additional provisions from Title III and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This was done for the purpose of ensuring net neutrality or open internet access, requiring ISPs to treat all data on the internet equally. Notably, yesterday’s Order also includes mobile broadband for the first time as well.

In a press release, the FCC claims,

Together Title II and Section 706 support clear rules of the road, providing the certainty needed for innovators and investors, and the competitive choices and freedom demanded by consumers, while not burdening broadband providers with anachronistic utility-style regulations such as rate regulation, tariffs or network sharing requirements.

I have expressed concerns in the past about the smattering of regulations available under Title II, far beyond what would be required for net neutrality. On the surface, the press release would seem to indicate that the recent Order was designed to attempt to prevent those further regulations from being available to the FCC: (more…)

Divestment-600-AEA-1Your faithful correspondent last week exposed the fossil-fuel divestment endgame of religious shareholder activists. As You Sow President Danielle Fugere sees her group’s activities as awareness-raising exercises for climate change, but AYS’s alignment with environmentalist and divestment firebrand Naomi Klein suggests they’d settle for nothing less than nationalizing oil companies. This week, I’m happy to report another group frequently called to task in this space, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, opposes the AYS divestment onslaught. Reporting in last week’s Wall Street Journal, Gregory J. Millman writes:

An organization of faith-based and socially responsible investors is pushing back against the call for divestment from fossil fuel companies. At its Winter Conference Wednesday, the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, which claims 300 member organizations controlling $100 billion in invested capital, called instead for more shareholder engagement with such companies.

“Divestment is one step but a blunt instrument that leaves investors with no voice at corporate tables,” said Laura Berry, executive director of the ICCR.

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Blog author: jballor
Thursday, February 19, 2015
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Graeme Wood’s excellent piece in The Atlantic has justly been making the rounds for the past week or so. It is well worth reading with a number of insights and points that strike at the heart of the contemporary conflict between modernity and religious violence. I commend “What ISIS Really Wants” to your reading. (Rasha al Aqeedi’s “Caliphatalism,” which looks more closely at the situation in Mosul, makes a great companion read.)
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Blog author: dpahman
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
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Image credit: Randall Munroe. Image linked to the surprisingly prescient source.

In his otherwise excellent work The Problem of Poverty, the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper, as a man of his time (the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries), commended the merits of colonialism as if there were not already people in other lands with their own calling to “till the earth” that God had made. While unfortunate for his time and context, recent events may open up a case in which colonization may be the Christian duty Kuyper believed it to be: Mars.

“[W]e must never,” writes Kuyper,

as long as we value God’s Word, oppose colonization. God’s earth, if cultivated, offers food enough for more than double the millions who now inhabit it. Is it not simply human folly to remain so piled up in a few small places on this planet that men must crawl away into cellars and slums, while at the same time there are other places a hundred times larger than our native land, awaiting the plow and the sickle, or on which herds of the most valuable cattle wander without an owner?

To be generous, we might say that at least Kuyper wasn’t exactly an alarmist with regards to the idea of overpopulation. But that would be quite generous.

In reality, that land was the home and those herds were the livelihood of real people, made just as much in the image of God as Western Europeans like the Dutch.

But what if there was a truly uninhabited land, just waiting for human cultivation to serve for the needs of others and the glory of God?

The present-day Dutch believe that Mars is just such a place. According to NBC news, (more…)

When asked by the BBC interviewer what he would say to the terrorists if they were sitting in the studio at that moment, the bishop replied:

I would say that any religion starts from a premise of a sanctity of life. And no matter what differences there are, this doesn’t justify by any means the taking of a life and especially so horrifically. I pray for them and I pray that somehow hearts are touched. I’m sure that not everyone there is this callous. I’m sure people’s hearts must be touched. The only hope we have is a sense of humanity again.

Who are the Copts? from the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre UK.

dead cupidForget the candy hearts, chocolate, the local Cineplex and bistro this weekend. St. Valentine’s Day somehow has been hijacked by Global Disinvestment Day, which means you should protest fossil fuels and encourage shareholders to submit proxy resolutions to leave oil, coal and gas resources untapped. Your significant others are guaranteed to love it because … Gaia.

Behind this movement are nominally religious shareholder activists such as As You Sow, as well as the World Council of Churches, filmdom’s The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and extreme-environmentalist rabble rousers Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. Figuring out the endgame of divestment advocates isn’t difficult – Naomi Klein laid it all out for us in a recent interview in Grist:

Another point I would make, [about] carbon pricing, is that when we make the argument that this is a rogue sector, that their business plan is at odds with life on earth, we are creating an intellectual and political space where it becomes much easier to tax those profits, to increase royalties, and even to nationalize these companies. This is not just about the fact that we want to separate ourselves from these companies, it’s also that we have a right to those profits. If those profits are so illegitimate that Harvard shouldn’t be invested in them, they’re also so illegitimate that taxpayers have a right to them to pay for a transition away from fossil fuels, and to pay the bills for a crisis created by this sector. It’s not just about dissociating ourselves from their profits, but potentially getting a much larger piece of them. [emphases added]

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Blog author: sstanley
Thursday, February 12, 2015
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FIW-Map-01RGB_0Global Democracy and freedom are under attack. Freedom House, a nonprofit organization which monitors freedom and advocates for democracy and human rights just released the 2015 “Freedom in the World” report. The results are not good. In his introduction, Arch Puddington, vice president for research says that “the condition of global political rights and civil liberties, showed an overall decline. Indeed, acceptance of democracy as the world’s dominant form of government—and of an international system built on democratic ideals—is under greater threat than at any point in the last 25 years.” The report offers several examples of how citizen’s freedoms are being trampled. (more…)