Category: News and Events

Writing on September 22 in the Wall Street Journal, Devlin Barret and Danny Yadron reported,

Last week, Apple announced that its new operating system for phones would prevent law enforcement from retrieving data stored on a locked phone, such as photos, videos and contacts. A day later, Google reiterated that the next version of its Android mobile-operating system this fall would make it similarly difficult for police or Google to extract such data from suspects’ phones.

It’s not just a feature — it’s also a marketing pitch. “It’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data,” Apple’s website says.

This would not protect all data, however:

Apple acknowledged it could still hand such data over to law enforcement that users back up on the company’s iCloud servers. And police can access some iPhone data without Apple’s help, because phone firms keep call logs and Apple doesn’t control data from third-party apps.

The FBI has not taken this news well, in more ways than one. Amy Schatz reports for re/code,

New encryption technologies on smartphones will make it harder for law enforcement to solve crimes or stop terrorists, Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey said Thursday in a speech asking companies including Google and Apple to reverse course. (more…)

Liggio

Liggio

Almost 20 years ago I was invited to speak at the celebratory banquet for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation (now Atlas Network) and the Institute for Humane Studies, then celebrating their 15th and 35th anniversaries respectively. I was an alumnus of both and six years into the launch of the Acton Institute (founded in 1990). Both organizations considered me “successful enough” to reflect at the banquet on how each had influenced my life.

It was an undeserved honor, of course, but such was my gratitude to these institutions, that I accepted. The room was full of luminaries of the free market movement, and I was very conscious that Acton’s work was launched from the shoulders of intellectual giants.

One such giant there in the room that night, was Leonard Liggio, who died this past Tuesday at the age of 81. In reflecting on my sadness at his passing this week, I thought I would share my public comments I made about Leonard that evening 19 years ago:

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that it was none other than the great connector himself, Leonard Liggio, who really brought me into the free market fold. He wasn’t the first to introduce me to classical liberalism—that was Robert Sirico, who at the time was not yet ordained and was only an expectant father. But it was Sirico who introduced me to Leonard and the rest is history. If I’m not mistaken, we first met the night of January 16, 1986. That date wasn’t coincidental, Leonard and I were introduced at a private showing of an uncut, unedited 3.5 hour Italian version of Ayn Rand’s We the Living which had just surfaced more than forty years after Mussolini had ordered it destroyed. (more…)

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Rev. Robert A. Sirico clears away the media hype surrounding the Vatican Synod on the Family and offers an analysis of its early work. He observes that nothing about the synod “challenges the dogma of the church related to the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, the use of artificial contraception, cohabitation and homosexual acts. What it did was soften the tone of these teachings.” But things got interesting.

An early report led critics to say that it “reflected the opinion of Archbishop Bruno Forte, a special secretary to the synod and a progressive, who prepared the final document and presented it to the media.” But Rev. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, notes that one of the more powerful, conservative cardinals, George Pell, called the report “tendentious and incomplete.”

What is really happening at this synod is an earnest effort by pastors of the church to determine how best to encourage people to live the Catholic faith. This is no easy task. A move too far in the direction of merely repeating old formularies will not work. A move away from what constitutes the very definition of what it means to be Catholic will not only erode the church’s self-identity and betray her founder’s mandate, it will also insult and alienate many Catholics who strive to live by the church’s teachings. This is what we pastors call the art of pastoral practice.

The practice is best modeled by Jesus’ encounter with the woman “caught in the very act of adultery” (John 8: 1-11). His interlocutors somehow thought that they could drive a wedge between his allegiance to biblical law and mercy. So they cast the woman before him and demanded that he say whether she should be stoned, as the law stipulated. The tension built as Jesus doodled in the sand. Finally he replied, “Let you who is without sin cast the first stone.”

The story does not end there. Jesus turned to the woman at his feet and delivered gentle, memorable words—a message that makes the whole story an encounter of faithful mercy: “Go and sin no more.” If this model—finding the balance between justice and mercy, which are often in tension—weighs heavily on the minds of bishops gathered in Rome, that will be an achievement for the church and its pastoral model.

Read “Beyond the Hype About a Vatican Upheaval” in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political LifeHunter Baker’s latest book, The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life, is now available from Christian’s Library Press, and has received praise from the likes of Robert George, Russell Moore, and David Dockery, among others.

Now, in his Book of the Month review for October, the inimitable Douglas Wilson adds his voice to the chorus, noting that, amid the chaos of secularism and its counterparts, “Baker reminds us that Christians in a society must learn to embrace their high calling”:

Secularism is completely bankrupt, and the more people we can get to talk regularly about this useful fact in public, the better I like it. People used to believe that secularization was part of the inevitable march of evolution. Now the ground has shifted, and people are just acquiescing to certain practical realities brought about by the mere fact of pluralism. But, as Baker points out, “There is nothing about that situation that guarantees a secular future” (p. 54). What the future will look like is always an idea, and unless there is divine inspiration for your eschatology, you need to be a little bit careful about your pronouncements. There is no historical inevitability to secularism at all. Baker is one of the few writers today who is willing to point that fact out.

The subtitle of this book is Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life, and his work ranges between a number of related themes. He talks about the crisis that higher education faces, he addresses whether social conservatives and libertarians can find any common ground, and what relevance the resurrection might have for political theory. Baker is an intelligent observer of the emperor’s parade, and he has the courage to comment on the emperor’s lack of suitable apparel.

Read the full review.

Purchase The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life.

Would Thomas Jefferson have anything to say about Americans suing the government in order to defend their first amendment rights? Kathryn Hickok, of the Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, Ore., thinks so. She wondered what Jefferson may have said to the Little Sisters of the Poor’s about their ongoing legal battle with the Obama Administration. In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services required employers to cover contraceptives and abortifacients or pay costly fines. Although this mandate does have exemptions for some, that does not include the Little Sisters of the Poor. For more background, see PowerBlog articles on both the HHS Mandate and the Little Sisters’ lawsuit.

In 1804, a nun from New Orleans was concerned that, after the Louisiana purchase, the government may interfere with her religious community’s ministries or might even seize their property. Jefferson assured her:

I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institution….The principles of the constitution and government of the United States are a guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you, sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.

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Rome Office director Kishore Jayabalan presents PoveryCure at the Sorrento "Liberty Camp"

Rome Office director Kishore Jayabalan presents PoveryCure at the Sorrento “Liberty Camp”

On October 8-9, the director of Acton’s Rome office, Kishore Jayabalan, and its operations manager, Michael Severance, traveled to southern Italy to present PovertyCure and The Call of the Entrepreneur, the original and latest of the Institute’s popular educational  DVD films.

About thirty university students and young business professionals gathered near the resort town of Sorrento to attend a week-long “Liberty Camp”, organized by Glenn Cripe of the Phoenix-based Language of Liberty Institute and co-sponsored by the Freedom and Entrepreneurship Foundation whose founder, Jacek Spendel, is a two-time Acton University alumnus. Liberty Camp is a traveling educational course, recruiting participants mainly from Eastern and Central European youth. The classical liberal curriculum in conducted entirely in English and focuses seminars on the foundations of economic and political liberty.

Countries represented at the Liberty Camp in Sorrento included the Ukraine, Albania, Poland, Georgia, Russia, Armenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
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exile-supply-pack-how-god-makes-(2)The Acton Institute’s new film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, was released earlier this year, and in the months since, has garnered heaps of praise from a variety of corners, most recently in Christianity Today, where Andy Crouch described it as “Christian popular culture that embodies theological and spiritual maturity—and childlike humility.”

Now, in addition to the DVD and Blu-Ray combo pack (which is on sale for only $35), you can expand your FLOW experience with a new Exile Supply Pack, which includes a host of additional resources, books, and tools for hosting or exploring the series with your friends, church, or organization.

The series itself does a fine job of setting up and kicking off a discussion about our role as Christians in the “the now and not yet,” but with these resources, you’ll be equipped with discussion and study guides, additional books on the topic of stewardship and discipleship, and other tools that will serve to promote and enrich that discussion on into the future.

You can order your Exile Supply Pack here. (more…)

Vladimir PutinOn Tuesday, Acton’s Todd Huizinga took part in a West Michigan World Trade Association panel discussion on “US and EU Sanctions on Russia: How They Affect You.” He was joined by three other panelists who focused respectively on the legal, economic, and political ramifications of the current Russian/Ukrainian conflict and the sanctions it has evoked.

Though each of the panelists focused on a different angle of the conflict, a common thread emerged: the desire of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his political regime to return Russia to a position of dominance on the world stage.

Signaling this desire for increased power was the Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory, Crimea, in March and its military intervention in Ukraine thereafter, among other events. While these are significant actions in their own right, they also serve a broader purpose in drawing attention from the international community. As Huizinga stated, “they test Western resolve to act.”

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Pontifical Urban College seminarians and faculty at the conference

Pontifical Urban College seminarians and faculty at the conference

On Tuesday Istituto Acton, the Acton Institute’s Rome office, completed its two-day PovertyCure conference for seminarians and faculty of the Pontifical Urban College in Rome. The conference served as part of the students’ pastoral formation before the academic year begins next week.

The event also marked the first full and official screening of the PovertyCure DVD Series in the Italian language. Episodes 1-4 of the DVD Series were shown on day one of the conference, Sept. 29, and Episodes 5-6 were featured the next day.

Chairman of the PovertyCure Advisory Council, Michael Matheson Miller, and Istituto Acton Director, Kishore Jayabalan, served as conference hosts, giving overviews of each DVD Series episode, the project, and Acton’s mission, and answering a variety of questions from the audience.

Rector of the Pontifical Urban College, Msgr. Vincenzo Viva, moderated the discussion, which gravitated towards such topics as the effects of paternalistic colonialism, the false correlations of high populations with high poverty, Malthusian predictions about overpopulation, the zero-sum fallacy, networks of exchange, import substitution/protectionism, global markets, and above all debate about the effects of international aid and secular humanitarianism.

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alec-logo-smI listen to National Public Radio nearly on a daily basis even though I know there are far-more productive ways to spend one’s time. On today’s “Diane Rehm Show,” the discussion was on the American Legislative Exchange Council, how much cash it received from bogeymen-of-the-left Charles and David Koch, and climate change. ALEC Chief Executive Officer Lisa B. Nelson appeared on the program and predictably endured rude interruptions from her host, and comical charges from fellow guests, Tom Hamburger, Washington Post national desk reporter, and Miles Rapoport, president of the progressive advocacy group Common Cause. Of course, the program featured a plethora of outraged NPR junkies who apparently have nothing better to do during the workday than burnish their liberalism on a publicly funded broadcast.

Boy, do progressives despise ALEC and the Kochs! For those in doubt, I recommend reading the shareholder resolutions submitted on an annual basis by religious activist investment groups Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow (many authored by the Center for Political Accountability’s Bruce Freed, who also authors the annual CPA/Zicklin Index). (more…)