baby girl ultrasoundThat’s the question raised by Slate writer Emily Bazelon. The premise Ms. Bazelon puts forth is that the growing movement to make sex-selective abortions illegal in the U.S. is based on racial biases towards Asians, who come from cultures where sex-selective abortions are most common. Bazelon states,

The International Human Rights Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum are publishing a new study that exposes banning abortion based on sex-selection for what it is: a way to restrict abortion, not to combat gender discrimination. The study looks at a large and recent data set (called the American Community Survey) and concludes that foreign-born Asian-Americans and Indians don’t have birth rates that skew toward boys. Actually, “Asian Americans have more girls than white Americans.” So much for a “widespread” suspect ethnic practice.

More truth-busting bits from the study: India and China aren’t the worst places in the world for skewed sex ratios at birth. That distinction goes to Liechtenstein and Armenia, followed by Hong Kong and Azerbaijan. Also, after Illinois and Pennsylvania banned abortion for sex-selection in 1984 and 1989, the ratios of boy to girl babies didn’t change—in other words, the law had none of the effect for which it was supposedly intended.


Did ‘Social Business’ Sink the Cardboard Bike?

Did ‘Social Business’ Sink the Cardboard Bike?

Jonathan Witt, research fellow at Acton, recently wrote a piece at The Federalist about “social business.” He argues that it might do more good to own and operate an ethical business that follows through on its contracts and “respects the dignity of employees and customers,” rather than trying to have a “social business.” Witt begins by talking about a cardboard bike. In 2012, Izhar Gafni became relatively famous by creating a sturdy cardboard bike that could be sold to the poorest around the world for $20. After two years and unsuccessful Indiegogo campaign, this potentially revolutionary project has failed to go anywhere. Witt argues that “social business” is to blame:

After talking up the virtues of a “social business model,” the start-up behind the bike, Cardboard Technologies, expended considerable energy trying to raising capital from Indiegogo donors uninterested in profit. The lack of a profit motive may have played a role. It also didn’t help that the price of the bike kept shifting—from $20 to $290 to $95 plus $40 shipping. Would-be investors had to wonder: Was the bike going to have a revolutionary everyman price, or wasn’t it?

CEO Nimrod Elmish tried to explain, saying the bicycle’s price will fluctuate depending on where you live, costing more for buyers in wealthy countries and nothing for those in developing countries. “We want to bring a social business model that will make [it] available to all,” Fortune quoted him as saying. “We don’t have a price tag, we have a value tag.”


Bible-and-NewspaperDo you know the name of the author and publisher of the Book of Ephesians? Do all Mormons practice polygamy? What about the two major branches of Islam?

Apparently, many journalists don’t know the answers to these questions either. (That first one was a real question asked by a journalist to Michael Cromartie, of the D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center.) Given how much religion informs the lives of most people on the planet, and our news, it is a bit astounding to realize that most journalists are only vaguely familiar with religions and religious topics, unless that is their “beat.” The Ethics and Public Policy Center is trying to help close the gap in knowledge for reporters by hosting a series of conferences (entitled the Faith Angle Forum) on faith and media.

Largely the brain-child of Cromartie, the conferences aim to bring together journalists and religious experts, creating what he calls “robust dialogue.” (more…)

AnthazShopIndiaFreedom to practice one’s faith and be a person of faith can be instrumental in enabling the poor to achieve some modicum of social and economic freedom, says Rebecca Shah:

Religion is no panacea, but aspects of religion can activate certain practices and partnerships among its adherents that can motivate and encourage economic development. If modern economics continues to yield an understanding of human development that ignores the role of religion, governments and development institutions will persist in acting as “one-eyed giants” who “analyze, prescribe, and act as if man could live by bread alone, as if human destiny could be stripped to its material dimensions alone” (“Development Experts: The One-Eyed Giants” in World Development). According to human development theorist Denis Goulet, development is more human and fuller when people are called to “be more” rather than simply to “have more.” There can be “authentic development” only when there is a “societal openness to the deepest levels of mystery and transcendence,” and when this yearning for mystery and transcendence is recognized and satisfied.

Read more . . .

My older son’s college psychology class was recently assigned the film A Beautiful Mind, about the Nobel Prize winning economist and schizophrenia sufferer John Nash. The assignment was to watch the film, dig into Nash’s biography, and report on how the film altered Nash’s story of mental breakdown and recovery.


We watched the film together as a family (my second viewing), checked out the biography by Sylvia Nasar from a local library, and generally geeked out on Nash and game theory at the family dinner table over the next few days.

An additional motivation for the interest was that my mom’s engineer brother, my Uncle Milton, was a classmate of Nash’s at Carnegie Tech in the 1940s, with the two reconnecting at their 50th college reunion. In our digging into the Nash’s biography, we learned something of particular relevance to Acton Institute friends and followers, something I probably should have known already but didn’t: Nash’s decisive contribution to game theory likely has Austrian economics in its blood line. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, June 9, 2014

West moves away from Russia as the country returns to Orthodoxy, Lavrov believes

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov states that Russia returns to traditional spiritual values and it is one of the reasons why the West distances from it.

Pope Francis sacks entire board of Vatican’s financial watchdog
Philip Pullella, The Independent

Pope Francis sacked the five-man board of the Vatican’s financial watchdog on Thursday – all Italians – in the latest move to break with an old guard associated with a murky past under his predecessor.

In Defense of the Phrase “Faith and Work”
Greg Forster, Hang Together

Recently I’ve heard several major leaders in the faith and work movement criticizing the fact that we call it the “faith and work” movement. I rise in defense of the phrase.

A happy epilogue for the Cold War
Phil Lawler,

One of the most enduring visual images of the Cold War—one of the early signs that the Soviet empire was doomed—was the sight of General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Polish strongman, literally shaking as he addressed the enormous crowd that gathered to greet St. John Paul II on his triumphant return to his homeland.

Unaccompanied minors being held in Texas by Border Security

Unaccompanied minors being held in Texas by Border Security

It has long been apparent that U.S. borders are far from secure. Border patrol agents are stretched thin, especially along the southern states, dealing with illegal immigrants, human traffickers and smugglers, and the drug cartels. Now, there is a new problem with no easy solution: children teeming into the U.S., many under the age of 12. According to The Washington Times,

The flood of young children pouring across the southwestern border is worse than the administration has previously acknowledged, and efforts to deal with unaccompanied minors are overwhelming the Border Patrol, distracting it from going after smugglers and other illegal immigrants, according to an internal draft memo from the agency.

The four-page memo, authored by Deputy Border Patrol Chief Ronald D. Vitiello and dated May 30, contradicts the administration’s argument that the border is secure enough to begin legalizing current illegal aliens already in the U.S.

According to estimates in the memo, about 90,000 children have been apprehended by law enforcement so far in 2014, up from 40,000 in 2013. Of course, these numbers are only the children that were apprehended; there were no estimates for how many unaccompanied minors actually crossed the border. The children are coming from Mexico and Central America and cite poverty and violence as the reason they are seeking life in the U.S. The journey is exceedingly dangerous, especially for girls, who face sexual assault at a much higher rate than boys. (more…)