Blog author: bwalker
Friday, July 24, 2015
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With Pope Francis at the Helm, World’s Mayors Pledge to Fight Climate Change
Nadia Prupis, EcoWatch

At the Vatican on Tuesday, mayors from around the globe pledged to fight climate change and help the world’s poor deal with the effects of a warming planet, an oath that came during a two-day conference with Pope Francis—himself a dedicated climate activist.

Vatican newspaper: ‘Red-hot Earth’
CatholicCulture.org

The front page of the July 24 edition of L’Osservatore Romano featured an article on “still more alarming data on the overheating of the Earth.” The article, entitled “Red-hot Earth,” cited a new report from the National Centers for Environmental Information of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report found that “the first six months of 2015 comprised the warmest such period on record across the world’s land and ocean surfaces.”

Catholics from the Phillippines could raise 10 million signatures for Pope’s climate petition
Cat DiStasio, inhabitat

The Philippines is the world’s third largest Catholic country and the largest in Asia, and it’s also been the site of numerous natural disasters in recent years. Church leaders there are on board with the conclusions Pope Francis laid out in his historic climate change encyclical last month, which pointed to human action as the root cause of global warming. Catholic leaders in the Philippines have promised to raise 10 million signatures—half of the goal—on a petition to be presented to global political leaders at their climate summit in Paris this fall.

Pope pushing hard on climate change
Timothy Spangler, The Orange County Register

Pope Francis made headlines this week at a Vatican conference for the world’s mayors and governors. He linked the challenges caused by climate change to the increase in human trafficking that has been plaguing Europe in recent years. The pontiff is showing little sign of allowing his campaign against environmental disaster to fizzle out. He explicitly placed his hopes on the United Nations to provide leadership on these important humanitarian issues.

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gmo-labeling-balint-radu-jpgYesterday the the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599, known as the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.” The bill prevents states from requiring mandatory labeling for any products containing genetically modified food. Currently, Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont all have such laws. Whether or not this might be a blow to states’ rights, it’s certainly a win for common sense. Fewer people are being fooled by the propaganda and downright bad science surrounding genetically modified food.

The House Committee on Agriculture released the following statement from Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX):

Advances in technology have allowed the U.S. to enjoy the safest, highest quality, most abundant, diverse and affordable supply of food and fiber mankind has ever known. With the world’s population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, biotechnology is an essential tool for our farmers to meet this demand in an environmentally sound, sustainable, and affordable way. Unfortunately, proposed Federal and State laws threaten this innovation by generating a patchwork of differing labeling requirements, which will result in inconsistent and confusing information for consumers and interfere with interstate commerce. H.R. 1599 establishes a voluntary nation-wide marketing program that gives consumers access to consistent, reliable information while protecting advancements in food production technology and innovation.

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small-actions-change-the-worldAt a point in time where the election cycle invites everyone and their brother to “throw their hat in the ring,” Americans constantly jabber about which candidates might have the biggest national impact. What is overlooked is that local leaders are the ones who make the greatest impact in our daily lives.

Cheryl Dorsey insists that local communities must pay attention to their own leaders in order to thrive:

It’s imperative that the investment community and others support these entrepreneurs in the communities where they work. Markets are places where value is created. These social entrepreneurs look at disadvantaged youth, dilapidated houses, low-income neighborhoods and under-performing educational systems, and they see how they can create more value. We must change the climate for these leaders so they can put solutions into practice and to build markets where others ignore them. We need to build the investment and support system to help them go further, faster.

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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, July 24, 2015
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Little Sisters of the Poor Appeal to the Supreme Court
The Becket Fund

Today, for the second time in two years, the Little Sisters of the Poor must ask the Supreme Court to protect them from the government.

What it means to be poor by global standards
Rakesh Kochhar, Pew Research

In the Pew Research study, anyone living on $2 or less daily is considered poor. Food a Much Greater Share of Family Budgets in India Than in U.S.But what exactly does it mean to live on $2 per day? And how does that compare with the notion of poverty in richer countries?

By 2021, all New York State fast food employees will make $15 an hour
Catherine Garcia, The Week

New York’s Fast Food Wage Board announced Wednesday that it is recommending fast food chains with 30 or more stores nationwide increase employee wages to $15 an hour.

Why Words Matter For Defending Freedom
Frank J. Rocca, The Federalist

We can’t talk to each other if the words we’re using mean different things. Corrupt language steals freedom, even just by the act of redefining it.

A conference held in Washington earlier this month sought to forge relationships between leaders of secular and faith-based groups working to alleviate poverty.

Representatives from the World Bank Group, the German/British/US government development agencies, the GHR Foundation, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, Islamic Relief USA, American Jewish World Service, McKinsey & Company, and more gathered for the occasion. The Lancet, a leading medical journal, published an issue on the role of religion and faith-based development organizations in global health and released it at the conference.

It’s exciting to see secular organizations acknowledge the unique potential of religious groups to enact successful initiatives in developing nations. However, Acton’s previous research on the divergent development and world health strategies of secular and religious groups suggests that a successful merger will require more organic, bottom-up approaches than what the biggest development powerhouses are used to.

The shared goal to end extreme poverty and promote sustainable development is admirable, and it’s an important basis for building common ground among groups. But good intentions aren’t enough. Many of the largest secular development organizations, such as the World Bank, tend to adopt approaches that fall under the category of “social engineering,” coordinating and launching initiatives that are fundamentally at odds with religious groups’ insistence on the dignity and powerful potential of each individual. (more…)

Various forms of government intervention negatively affects economic vitality in many ways, however few policies impact the market as directly as wage laws. The $15 minimum wage law in Seattle dramatically influences determinants of business owners’ hiring practices. In many cases, wages are the highest economic cost in the production process, making hiring new employees a risky endeavor. Regardless of size, businesses of all scales must turn profits to stay operational and risk potential losses each time they hire new associates. Extra government mandates and regulations only make this natural market process more onerous.

While wage laws intend to immediately increase pay for the working poor, they severely hinder not only full time employment, but employment itself. Government mandated wage policies erect an artificial economic barrier that increases the supply of, but reduces the demand for, labor. Minimum wage mandates, contrary to their original intent, directly harm the groups they are designed to help. Government intervention in business typically aims to cure certain social ills, but the Utopian desire to cure humanity of all suffering leads to various economic distortions, sending false signals to consumers and producers. This is especially evident in wage policies.

Minimum wage laws primarily target the working poor, about 2% of the working population. Typical of intrusive government intervention, rather than having little to no effect, the laws have an active negative effect. As a labor demographic, the poor are least likely to possess marketable skills necessary to higher level employment and often rely on low-wage, unskilled jobs before developing their talents. When government forces business to pay above the market rate for unskilled work, this results in unemployment of the poor. Minimum wage laws price the poor right out of the labor market and rob them of work that may potentially lead to greater opportunity. African American communities particularly suffer from wage controls. Noble Prize economist, Milton Friedman, dispelled the incorrect perceptions of minimum wage laws in the 1960s and 1970s saying, “the most anti-negro law on the books of this land is the minimum wage rule.” The workers who retain their employment undoubtedly benefit from such wage increases, but at the expense of others. (more…)

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, in an article for www.mlive.com, discussed the recent charter expiration of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) and how that is a good first-step toward reducing the corporate welfare and crony capitalism that has infected American politics and economics:

If a man swipes your wallet, he’s a thief. We don’t ask whether the pickpocket ultimately spent the cash on a worthy cause. Yet, supporters of corporate welfare would have you believe that as long as the companies receiving welfare prosper, you shouldn’t care that the government snatched your money to make it happen.

The moral implications of cronyism are abundant. As public/private partnerships expand, the market system slowly transforms from free enterprise and competition driven by market forces to government control of who succeeds and fails based on loans or bailouts to favored groups and corporations. In an interview with the Acton Institute’s Religion & Liberty, Peter Schweizer discussed how cronyism is creating a moral crisis and how it is affecting the poor:

Our poverty programs get distorted by crony corporations. Just look at how the food stamp program has expanded over the years. Initially, it was a safety net to provide basic provisions, and most people agree basic safety nets are needed. The problem is that when the government started throwing around billions of dollars, the snack food and soft drink industry saw dollar signs. So they lobbied and got the regulations changed so that snack food and sodas are now covered by government assistance. It’s now a $10 billion industry for soft drink companies. Then it got expanded to include convenience stores, and now you’ve got the fast food industry lobbying lawmakers to let people use EBT cards at fast food establishments.

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htOne of the challenges that survivors of human trafficking face is that they often are unable to prove their identity. Traffickers take away driver’s licenses, visas, passports, even student I.D.s in order to control their victims.

In Australia, the Immigration Department is working to help trafficking victims by developing a special visa for trafficking victims (male and female) and their families who wish to remain in Australia. The old visa system, critics said, stigmatized victims.

Victims will now be able to stay on a temporary visa or a permanent witness protection visa, with an assistance notice from the Attorney-General’s Department, rather than a criminal justice stay certificate.
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Jenny Stanger, national manager of the Salvation Army’s Freedom Partnership, said the criminal justice stay visa had made it difficult for victims to find work, with some clients’ job interviews ending once they told their prospective employers the name of their visa. (more…)

1_123125_123090_2077062_2085126_030702_marriage.jpg.CROP.original-original“Why don’t we just get government completely out of the marriage business?”

For decades, if someone asked that question it would be a safe assumption it was coming from a libertarian. Shifting marriage to private contracts that didn’t require the government’s imprimatur has long been an issue championed by those who lean libertarian. But the rise of same-sex marriage—and it’s threats to religious liberty—have caused many others, especially Christian conservatives, to ask if that’s not the best solution to the problems that stem from state and federal government’s redefining of marriage.

The answer is no—privatizing marriage is a terrible idea. It’s rooted in the flawed assumption that marriage is essentially a religious institution, and that it should therefore be left in the hands of religious organizations. The belief is that by keeping government out of what is religious by nature prevents it from being politicized. What this perspective fails to realize is that marriage belongs to neither religion or the state. Marriage is both a pre-political and pre-religious institution that was instituted by God before any formal government or religious institutions were created.
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Blog author: bwalker
Thursday, July 23, 2015
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Ewart: Unholy alliances bolster the Pope’s climate change campaign
Stephen Ewart, Calgary Herald

You could, cynically, call it a marriage of convenience, but given the schism in their views of same-sex marriage — or issues such as birth control — it would add an awkwardness to the Pope’s two-day conference at the Vatican City with the select group of municipal politicians that concludes Wednesday. Cities including San Francisco and Vancouver — Mayor Gregor Robertson is the lone Canadian attending — have joined Francis even though they’re renowned for tolerance of lifestyle choices opposed by the Vatican.

Vatican Conference of Worldwide Mayors Overwhelmingly Backs Climate Change Science
Diane Montagna, Aleteia: Seekers of Truth

Equally troubling to some is the firm line the common declaration takes on climate change. It emphatically states: “Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality.” This appears to contradict statements in Laudato si’ , that the Church is not fully backing the science. The encyclical, which has a chapter dedicated to the “human roots of the ecological crisis,” clearly accepts the science of anthropogenic climate change — the first such papal document to so overtly endorse the science. But at the same time, it says the Church has “no reason to offer a definitive opinion,” knowing that “honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views” (n. 61).

Filipino Bishops Back Laudato Si’ With Statement
Zenit News Agency

The bishops of the Philippines on Monday released a statement on climate change, called “Stewards, Not Owners.” In the statement, the bishops commit to educating the faithful on the issues of climate change, and recall that “Laudato Si teaches us that the core of the matter of climate change is justice.” Here is the full text of their statement:

Pope: Encyclical Is More Than ‘Green’
Zenit News Agency

The culture of care of the environment is not only a “green” attitude, it’s “much more,” said the Pope. Therefore, he specified that to look after the environment is to have an attitude of human ecology. Ecology “is total, it is human,” he said. The Holy Father went on to explain that in the encyclical Laudato Si’, he pointed out “that man cannot be separated from the rest.”

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