Posts tagged with: Crimes

man-stealing-breadFive year ago, Roman Ostriakov, a homeless Ukrainian living in Italy, attempted to steal cheese and sausages worth $4.50 (€4.07). Before he could leave the supermarket, though, Ostriakov was caught and convicted of theft. He was ordered to pay a fine of $115 (€100) and spend six months in jail.

But Italy’s supreme court has overturned the conviction, writing:

The condition of the defendant and the circumstances in which the merchandise theft took place prove that he took possession of that small amount of food in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment, acting therefore in a state of need.

“For the judges, the right to survival has prevailed over the right to property,” says Massimo Gramellini, an editor of the Italian newspaper La Stampa. He adds that in America this would be “blasphemy.”

Gramellini is partially right. While the court was right to show mercy to Ostriakov, they’ve essentially set of precedent for legalized theft. While it may seem compassionate for the judges to allow those in need to have access to other people’s property, the result is likely to lead to greater harm of the poor.
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Banca_Monte_dei_Paschi_di_Siena_in_Pisa“Money has not only the character of money,” says Samuel Gregg in this week’s Acton Commentary, “but it also has a productive character which we commonly call capital.”

Like all medieval clergy, Olivi and Bernardine fiercely opposed usury. “Usury,” Bernardine wrote, “concentrates the money of the community in the hands of a few, just as if all the blood in a man’s body ran to his heart and left his other organs depleted.” Yet the same Bernardine also invested time in explaining why it was legitimate for creditors to charge interest on loans to compensate themselves for relinquishing the opportunity to invest their money elsewhere. In such circumstances, the lender had a right to be compensated for what amounted to foregone profits. “What,” Bernardine maintained, “in the firm purpose of its owner is ordained to some probable profit has not only the character of mere money or a mere thing, but also beyond this, a certain seminal character of something profitable, which we commonly call capital.”

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

isis persecutionWhat did Secretary Kerry say about Islamic State and genocide?

In a speech on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. has determined that the actions of Islamic State (aka ISIS) against Christians and other minority groups in Iraq and Syria constitutes an act of genocide.

My purpose in appearing before you today is to assert that, in my judgment, Daesh [Islamic State] is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions – in what it says, what it believes, and what it does. Daesh is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.

[…]

We know that Daesh’s actions are animated by an extreme and intolerant ideology that castigates Yezidis as, quote, “pagans” and “devil-worshippers,” and we know that Daesh has threatened Christians by saying that it will, quote, “conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women.”

[…]

The fact is that Daesh kills Christians because they are Christians; Yezidis because they are Yezidis; Shia because they are Shia. This is the message it conveys to children under its control. Its entire worldview is based on eliminating those who do not subscribe to its perverse ideology. There is no question in my mind that if Daesh succeeded in establishing its so-called caliphate, it would seek to destroy what remains of ethnic and religious mosaic once thriving in the region. 

Why does Secretary Kerry refer to Islamic State as “Daesh”?

Daesh is a loose acronym of the Arabic for “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham).

According to France 24, the term was first used in April 2013 by Arabic and Iranian media that were hostile to the jihadist movement and wanted to send the message that the group is neither truly “Islamic” nor a “state.” Daesh became a name commonly used by the enemies of the IS group, and was later adopted by the governments of France and the UK.

Why was the announcement made today?
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opm-hackWhat is the “OPM hack”?

The “OPM hack” refers to a massive data breach in which hackers, believed to be based in China, acquired personnel records of federal employees from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

What is the OPM?

The OPM (Office of Personnel Management) serves as the human resource department for the federal government. Among other duties the agency conducts background investigations for prospective employees, issues security clearances, and compiles records of all federal government employees.

How many records were stolen?

The OPM said that 4 million employees, both current and past employees, have been affected. But the American Federation of Government Employees, the union for federal employees, claimed Thursday that all federal employees and retirees, as well as one million former federal employees, had their personal information stolen. (UPDATE (7/10/15): The OPM has announced the records of  21.5 million Americans were stolen.)

The exact amount of data stolen, however, may be unknowable since, according to one U.S. official, “OPM officials and other authorities still don’t have a good handle on how much information was actually stored by OPM in the first place.”

What type of records were stolen?

Some of the records stolen were the Questionnaire for National Security Positions form, known as the SF-86 form. The 126-page form contains a plethora of information about an individual, including their Social Security number, birthdate, addresses, passport information, financial information, previous employment activities, connections to foreign nationals, etc.

When did the data breach occur?
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7figuresHomicide and acts of personal violence kill more people than wars and are the third-leading cause of death among men aged 15 to 44, according to a new report by the United Nations.

The Global Study on Homicide 2013 was released last week by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Here are seven figures you should know from the report:
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Interest-Rate-burdenUsury is the practice of making immoral monetary loans intended to unfairly enrich the lender. But what, for Christians, counts as an immoral loan?

For much of church history, any interest was considered immoral. The 12th canon of the First Council of Carthage (345) and the 36th canon of the Council of Aix (789) declared it to be reprehensible even for anyone to make money by lending at interest. But that view eventually changed, and today even the Vatican participates in modern banking.

Some Catholics have used this example to argue for other changes, such as contraception. As Jay Richards notes,
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davebratIn a piece today for the NYT Magazine, economics reporter Binyamin Appelbaum examines David Brat’s fusion of faith and free-market economics. Appelbaum finds that mixture problematic, to say the least, but it’s hard to sort out whether it is the religious faith or the free-market sympathies that Appelbaum finds more troubling.

In the opening paragraph, Appelbaum asserts that before Brat’s rise to prominence “there was plenty of skepticism about whether he merited the label of academic economist.” Who these skeptics are, who knew so much about Brat “even before” his “out-of-nowhere” victory, we are simply left to ponder. It seems some of his colleagues at Randolph-Macon College now harbor such skepticism. (Brat is running against a Randolph-Macon sociologist, Jack Trammell. Brat once wrote that “Capitalism is the major organizing force in modern life, whether we like it or not. It is here to stay. If the sociologists ever grasp this basic fact, their enterprise will be much more fruitful.”)

Brat’s academic record is a wortwhile question to take up, and one that there has been a great deal of interest in following his primary victory. I, like many others, wanted to find out more, and went in search of Brat’s publications (with the help of one of our interns). I’ve had a chance to look at a few, and even turned up the paper on Ayn Rand that had gained such notice. The Rand paper turned out to be a co-authored piece with a student, and something which barely qualified as a poorly-edited introduction to a conference presentation. It is certainly not a smoking gun for tracking down Randian sympathies.

The problem with Appelbaum’s piece isn’t that he is asking questions about Brat’s academic record. These questions should be asked. The problem is the tone of Appelbaum’s inquisition and his presumption against the coherence of Brat’s position. The sarcasm oozes from Appelbaum’s prose: Brat “is certainly not in danger of winning a Nobel Prize.” Likewise Brat has written “discursive papers devoid of math,” “cited Wikipedia as a source,” and “never been published in a significant journal.”
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