Oskar Zepeda when he was active military.

Oskar Zepeda when he was active military.

It takes a special person to serve in the military. It takes a special person to come to terms with and overcome profound injuries caused in the line of duty. It takes a special person to track down child pornographers. It takes unbreakable men.

Aptly dubbed “HERO,” the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative is being developed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Special Operations Command in conjunction with the National Association to Protect Children. The idea grew out of a chance conversation between a child advocate and an FBI agent about equipping wounded elite soldiers with high-tech computer forensics training and law enforcement skills to assist federal agents in their fight against online child sexual exploitation.

The intensive training kicks off with four weeks at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, followed by six weeks of computer forensics training in Virginia and an embedded internship assisting HSI special agents with criminal cases and prosecutions.

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, July 25, 2014

When They Set Fire to Our Monasteries
Philip Jenkins, Aleteia

Day by day, we hear new horrors about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Now, believers living under ISIS control in northern Iraq must choose between conversion to Islam, payment of protection money, or death. Ancient churches and shrines are already in flames.

Sudan Christian Woman Spared Death Sentence Meets Pope in Rome
Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times

Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman whose death sentence in Sudan for refusing to renounce her faith set off an international protest, arrived in Rome on Thursday morning to a hero’s welcome and a private audience with Pope Francis.

The FAQs: Persecution of Christians in Iraq
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Last Friday, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gave Christians in Mosul an ultimatum: convert to Islam, leave the area, or die.

Need Some Summer Reading? Check Out These Five New Faith, Work & Econ Reads
Greg Ayers, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

A lot of rich, thoughtful books on faith, work, and economics have been published this year. Here’s five you’ll want to add to your summer reading list.

SurveillanceAs surveillance technology continues to cost less, we live in a world in which our activities are being increasingly monitored. And it’s not just the NSA doing it–even employers are utilizing surveillance technology in the workplace. The basis for this surveillance has been to catch employees abusing work time (e.g. scrolling through Facebook posts), to protect against sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits, and to discover if any company secrets are being leaked. It also helps deter workers from breaking the rules if they know they are being watched. Workplace surveillance is something that all employers will have to carefully consider. Take Ryan Tate, for example, the CEO of a Christian publishing firm who fired 25 employees over an anonymous email. In a recording of a business meeting that was leaked, Tate can be heard threatening to use electronic records to discover those involved.

Could employers, even Christian ones, be going too far in some cases? What happens if your employer discovers personal information that doesn’t have anything to do with work? And is this surveillance even legal, or is it an invasion of privacy rights? (more…)

Paul-Ryan-at-AEISocial mobility is a “key tenet of the American Dream” yet relative upward mobility has been stagnant, says Rep. Paul Ryan in his new 73-page proposal for reforming federal anti-poverty programs. Ryan acknowledges that there are many individual and social factors that affect upward mobility (e.g., family structure) but adds that “public policy is still a factor, and government has a role to play in providing a safety net and expanding opportunity for all.”

Expanding Opportunity in America includes recommendations for reform in reform five areas: the Earned Income Tax Credit, education, the criminal-justice system, regulation, and research on poverty policy. Listed below is a summary of Ryan’s recommendations for each of these areas:
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Hobby-Lobby-StoreWhen the Supreme Court ruled on the Hobby Lobby case, the near universal reaction by liberals was that it was a travesty of epic proportion. But as self-professed liberal law professor Brett McDonnell argues, the left should embrace the Hobby Lobby decision since it supports liberal values:

The first question was: Can for-profit corporations invoke religious liberty rights under RFRA? The court answered yes. HBO’s John Oliver nicely expressed the automatic liberal riposte, parodying the idea that corporations are people. It is very funny stuff.

It is not, however, especially thoughtful stuff. The court does not argue that corporations are just like real people. Rather, it argues that people often exercise faith collectively, in organizations. Allowing those organizations to assert religious-liberty rights protects the liberty of the persons acting within them. The obvious example is churches, usually legally organized as nonprofit corporations.

The real issue is not whether corporations of any type can ever claim protection under RFRA — sometimes they can. The issue is whether for-profit corporations can ever have enough of a religious purpose to claim that protection.

To me, as a professor of corporate law, liberal denial of this point sounds very odd. In my world, activists and liberal professors (like me) are constantly asserting that corporations can and should care about more than just shareholder profit. We sing the praises of corporate social responsibility.

Well, Hobby Lobby is a socially responsible corporation, judged by the deep religious beliefs of its owners. The court decisively rejects the notion that the sole purpose of a for-profit corporation is to make money for its shareholders. This fits perfectly with the expansive view of corporate purpose that liberal proponents of social responsibility usually advocate — except, apparently, when talking about this case.

McDonnell is right, of course. Support for religious liberty should transcend partisan political lines. And it used to be an issue that was championed by liberals. The fact that religious liberty is now despised and denigrated reveals a sudden, perhaps irrevocable shift in the nature of progressivism in America.

(Via: Rod Dreher)

FreeSpeechThe First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”) is for all Americans. I know that seems obvious, but the folks at Salon seem to need a reminder.

Jenny Kutner has taken offense to a group of Catholic women expressing their opinion. The topic is birth control. (Let me just say that good Christians disagree on this topic. I’m not discussing the legitimate use of artificial birth control here, but rather the right to express one’s opinion on the topic.) In response to the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Hobby Lobby, Buzzfeed featured a group of women holding signs that expressed why they chose to use birth control. About a week later, Buzzfeed featured another group of women who held up signs explaining why they chose not to use artificial birth control. And that’s when Kutner lost it. (more…)

“You are a slow learner, Winston.”
“How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.” – George Orwell, 1984

In a calculation that surely qualifies as “new math,” the government has created an equation in which $29,000 is equal to $69,000. Within the current welfare structure a single mother is better off making $29,000 per year in income and subsequent welfare benefits, than she is making $69,000 per year in income alone. This perverse incentive is what perpetuates the cycle of poverty and condemns impoverished moms to dependence on a paternalistic state. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and SNAP (food stamps) are all larger than ever before with no subsequent reversal in the level or scope of poverty.

The “Welfare Cliff,” an economic model developed by Gary Alexander, the Secretary of Public Welfare in Pennsylvania, shows the amount of net income a person would need to receive in order to match their current net income plus welfare benefits. This is called a cliff, as there are drastic drop-offs in welfare benefits as one increases their income. In this graph, “the single mom is better off earning gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income and benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income & benefits of $57,045.” In fact, if a single mother were to raise her income from $29,000 to just $30,000, she would lose nearly $10,000 in welfare benefits per year.

The incentives provided under this system replace the desire for individual development with the maintenance of the status quo.  A single mother is highly unlikely to spend the time, effort, or capital in order to gain skills that result in receiving a lower disposable income. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, July 24, 2014

Raise Your Voice for Religious Liberty
Jennifer A. Marshall, The Gospel Coalition

The backlash against simply participating in civil discourse about an important topic of public concern is alarming.

Making Kids Count
Mark Gordon, Aleteia

How does your state measure up in addressing children’s economic well being, healthcare and education?

The Perils Of Kleptocracy
John Hayward, The Federalist

Using government force to take what you want from others leads to conflict.

Professor Wins Lawsuit Protecting His Religious Freedom
The Keating Center

After seven years, Mike Adams won his lawsuit against University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). Professor Mike Adams, a criminology professor, sued UNCW in 2007 after he was discriminated against because of his conservative, Christian views.

SR-culture-index-2014-Scorecard_Poverty-and-Dependence.The Heritage Foundation has released their 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity, the first annual report that tells how social and economic factors relate to the success of individuals, families, opportunity, and freedom. Through charts that track changes, and commentary that explains the trends, the Index shows the current state of some key features of American society and tells whether specific indicators are improving or getting off track.

Here are a few highlights from the report:
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None of the prominent liberation theologians influential in Latin America had significant training in or exposure to the discipline of economics, says Carroll Ríos de Rodríguez in this week’s Acton Commentary.

This was odd given that their concern for the material well-being demanded at least some attempt to provide an economic explanation of underdevelopment and mass poverty. Instead of engaging in such economic reflection, many liberation theologians effectively married their theology to various renderings of what was then the fashionable dependency theory, which holds that that resources flow from a “periphery” of poor and underdeveloped states to a “core” of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former.

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