charlie-hebdoWhat just happened in Paris?

Today at 11:30 a.m. local time in Paris (5:30 a.m. ET), two gunmen wearing black hoods and carrying Kalashnikovs killed twelve people, including two police officers, and seriously wounded four others in an apparent terrorist attack on the offices of a French satirical news magazine that had published cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

The gunmen escaped and are currently on the loose and being hunted by French police. (The police say they are looking for three men.)

Why is it assumed to be a terrorist attacks by Muslims?

In an eyewitness video of the attack, the gunmen are heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) while the shootings took place.

According to a video shot from a nearby building and broadcast on French TV, one of the men shouted in French, “Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo.”

The attack is believed to be in response to a recent tweet by the publication of a cartoon of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, with the caption (in French): “Best wishes, by the way.”

France has raised its terror threat level following the shooting.

What is Charlie Hebdo?
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Arthur Brooks

Arthur Brooks

Arthur Brooks is not the first to notice the demographic deterioration of Europe (Acton’s Sam Gregg wrote about it in his book, Becoming Europe), but Brooks points out that Europe isn’t just getting old, but “dotty” as well. Brooks writes in The New York Times about Europe’s aging population, and its loss of vibrancy.

As important as good economic policies are, they will not fix Europe’s core problems, which are demographic, not economic. This was the point made in a speech to the European Parliament in November by none other than Pope Francis. As the pontiff put it, “In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a ‘grandmother,’ no longer fertile and vibrant.”

But wait, it gets worse: Grandma Europe is not merely growing old. She is also getting dotty. She is, as the pope sadly explained in an earlier speech to a conference of bishops, “weary with disorientation.”

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
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Does Economic Inequality Matter?
Bruce Frohnen, The Imaginative Conservative

It is tempting to laugh off or even sneer at all this hand-wringing over the inevitable fact of inequality. Indeed, “inequality” may be taken as a whiner’s word for “variety.”

Why Religious Colleges Should Worry About This New Ruling
Mark Bauerlein, First Things

Last month, the National Labor Relations Board issued an important ruling that promises to land in the courts. The ensuing decision may be as momentous as the Yeshiva case of 1980, which determined that tenured and tenure-track faculty members have managerial status and cannot unionize. The new ruling opens the way for more professors in post-secondary institutions to unionize, including religious schools.

Does Immigration Harm Working Americans?
David Frum, The Atlantic

Many economists say no—but they may be too glib.

Home Schooling: More Pupils, Less Regulation
Motoko Rich, New York Times

Until recently, Pennsylvania had one of the strictest home-school laws in the nation.

After a long fight, West Michigan Manufacturer, Autocam Medical LLC has finally received “permanent protection” from the controversial HHS Mandate or “abortion pill mandate.” In 2013, the company was told it had to comply with the mandate, despite owner John Kennedy’s and his family’s beliefs regarding the use of contraceptives and abortifacients. However, Hobby Lobby’s win in the Supreme Court last year reversed Autocam’s ruling and brought the case back to court. Yesterday, the District Court for Western Michigan guaranteed that the company will not have to comply with the mandate that violates deeply held religious beliefs. The Thomas More Society, who represented Autocam, released the following:

Federal Court Rules that Michigan Firm, Autocam, Not Required to Provide Abortion Coverage

Thomas More Society Wins Lengthy Lawsuit in Defense of Religious Liberty for Christian-Owned Business

(January 6, 2015 – Kentwood, MI) The Thomas More Society has won permanent protection for Autocam Medical, LLC, protecting its religious freedom to decline to provide abortion or contraceptive group insurance coverage for employees.  Yesterday concluded a long legal battle that took Autocam all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, which sent the case back down to the lower courts.  The District Court for the Western District of Michigan declared Autocam free from having to comply with Obamacare’s so-called “abortion pill mandate,” as decreed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”).

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Harvard-ObamacareThe ancient Greeks (or maybe it was Oscar Wilde) said that when the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers. Getting what you asked for can turn out to be deeply problematic, as the supporters of Obamacare on the Harvard University faculty are discovering. As the New York Times reports,

For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.

A prime example of part of Obamacare that the Harvard professors supported was the so-called Cadillac Tax, an excise tax scheduled to take effect in 2018. The purpose of the Cadillac Tax is to reduce health care usage and costs by encouraging employers to offer plans that are cost-effective and engage employees in sharing in the cost of care. The “incentive” is a 40 percent tax on employers—like Harvard—that provide high-cost health benefits to their employees. Now that the Cadillac Tax is being applied to them, though, the faculty are apoplectic:

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Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk

To kick off this special Summer/Fall 2014 double issue of Religion & Liberty, we talk with scholar Bradley J. Birzer whose new biography of Russell Kirk examines the intellectual development of one of the most important men of letters in the twentieth century. We discuss the roots of Kirk’s thought and how it developed over time, in a characteristically singular fashion. Kirk, the author of The Conservative Mind, was not easily pigeonholed into ideological categories – fitting for a man once described as “the most individual anti-individualist of his day.”

I want to thank Bradley Birzer, a Hillsdale College prof who is currently Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado Boulder, for offering Religion & Liberty an advance look at his forthcoming book on Kirk. A special thanks also to Annette Y. Kirk for her gracious help locating photos of her late husband in the archives of The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in Mecosta, Michigan, and sharing these with our readers. Be sure to check out the website of the Kirk Center for news about its academic programs and publications.

Kirk was a long time advisor to the Acton Institute. Here is the audio from his last public lecture, hosted by Acton in 1994, on “Lord Acton and Revolution.”

In this issue of Religion & Liberty, we review two new books. Economist David Hebert tells us that Russ Roberts’ How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life – An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness is a helpful reminder about the “limits of pure economics.” Even though the books and film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythic fantasies are phenomenally popular today, John Zmirak points out that his “bourgeois virtues were widely sneered at” by his contemporaries. He reviews The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom that Tolkien Got and the West Forgot by Jonathan Witt and Jay Richards. (more…)

Silvania_Sandi_Final_Vidnette_Remove_L_Side (1 of 1)_With_Text

The text reads: “Silvania holds a picture of her sister Sandi who was a biology major at university when she was killed by a roadside bomb. Exiled in Amman and barred from school, Silvania dreams of becoming a dentist.”

Jeff Gardner was frustrated. As a photo-journalist working primarily in the Middle East, he is witness to the violence towards Christians on a daily basis, but the rest of the world seems unconcerned. Gardner realized it wasn’t that people didn’t care, but that they just didn’t know. It truly was an “out of sight, out of mind” situation. Gardner set out to fix this.

In the fall of 2013, Gardner launched the Picture Christians Project. He hopes to a put a face on a particular group of persecuted Catholic Christians — the Assyrians, most of whom are members of the Syriac Catholic Church.

For more than a decade, these Christians have been driven out of their homeland in Iraq by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group by the hundreds of thousands.

Gardner told the National Catholic Register that he visited Jordan last year, and was struck by the situation for Christians in exile. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
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Genocidal Century: Culture of Death Leading to WWIII?
Paul Strand, CBN News

Co-authors John Zmirak and Jason Jones lay out the reasons that genocide and total war, eugenics and totalitarianism were able to triumph over the principles of humane civilization in the 20th century.

A strike against rent-seeking
George Will, Jewish World Review

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, so last year’s most encouraging development in governance might have occurred in February in a U.S. district court in Frankfort, Ky. There, a judge did something no federal judge has done since 1932. By striking down a “certificate of necessity” (CON) regulation, he struck a blow for liberty and against crony capitalism.

Libya violence: Militants kidnap Coptic Christians in Sirte
BBC

Masked gunmen in northern Libya have kidnapped 13 Coptic Christian workers from Egypt, just a week after seven others were abducted.

Cluster of Concerns Vie for Top U.S. Problem in 2014
Lydia Saad, Gallup

In 2014, four issues generated enough public concern over enough months for at least 10% of Americans, on average, to identify each of them as the nation’s most important problem. Complaints about government leadership — including President Barack Obama, the Republicans in Congress and general political conflict — led the list, at 18%. This was closely followed by mentions of the economy in general (17%), unemployment or jobs (15%) and healthcare (10%).

Cuba-food-vendorRemember when you bought that first thing – a car, maybe – with your own first income? Remember the feeling of pride it gave you? You’d scrubbed pots and pans in the diner kitchen all summer. Or maybe you were the “go-to” babysitter for everyone in your church. You earned that money, and  you bought yourself something.

Now imagine living in a world where that could never happen. You are told by the government that they will care for your every need, no need to pay for anything. Everyone will get the same things, and all will be well. We call this place “Cuba,” and that system has not worked. (See also, Soviet Russia, Bay-area communes and Shakers.)

With the U.S. sanctions against the island nations now lifted, Cuba is beginning to see economic life again. The Communist government also recently changed laws about self-employment.

Joan Perez-Garcia has always had a job – the government guaranteed him one – but he’s never made much money. That is changing. (more…)

SCLCLast June the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule change on carbon-dioxide emissions that would affect energy producers, especially in states that rely on coal-fired power plants.

The change is being sold as an attempt to curb global warming, though even it’s supporters grudgingly admit it won’t have much, if any, effect. The change is so small—equivalent to a roughly 6 percent cut in overall US emissions, a 1 percent cut in total global emissions—that’s it’s impact may not even be measurable.

One impact that can be measured, though, is the increase in average monthly electricity bills that will be caused by the change. Depending on who you ask, the increase could be anywhere from 6-7 percent (EPA estimates) to 80 percent (National Mining Association estimates).

While all Americans will be impacted by the increase, our most vulnerable neighbors—the poor, the sick, the mentally ill—will be most affected. As civil rights leader Charles Steele, Jr., president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, says, Christians should find increased energy costs due to this regulation deeply troubling:

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