Blog author: dpahman
Friday, February 27, 2015
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Yesterday the FCC reclassified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, with additional provisions from Title III and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This was done for the purpose of ensuring net neutrality or open internet access, requiring ISPs to treat all data on the internet equally. Notably, yesterday’s Order also includes mobile broadband for the first time as well.

In a press release, the FCC claims,

Together Title II and Section 706 support clear rules of the road, providing the certainty needed for innovators and investors, and the competitive choices and freedom demanded by consumers, while not burdening broadband providers with anachronistic utility-style regulations such as rate regulation, tariffs or network sharing requirements.

I have expressed concerns in the past about the smattering of regulations available under Title II, far beyond what would be required for net neutrality. On the surface, the press release would seem to indicate that the recent Order was designed to attempt to prevent those further regulations from being available to the FCC: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, February 27, 2015
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More Assyrian Christians Captured as ISIS Attacks Villages in Syria
Anne Barnard, New York Times

Continuing its assaults on a string of Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria, the Islamic State militant group has seized scores more residents over the past two days, bringing the number of captives to as many as several hundred, Assyrian organizations inside and outside Syria said on Thursday.

The Personnel Is Political: The Left’s Distorted Outlook on the Minimum Wage
Robert Tracinski, The Federalist

A priceless little gem of leftist thinking appeared yesterday at Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC blog, in which Steve Benen declares a triumph for the campaign to increase the federal minimum wage—in the form of private employers voluntarily raising their wages in response to market forces. Say what?

School Choice Metamorphoses From Vouchers to Savings Accounts
Rachel Alexander, The Stream

Teachers unions’ monolithic grip on education will inevitably disappear, Clint Bolick predicts, as technology makes them obsolete.

Christian Education Should Teach Students the Dignity of Work and the Doctrine of Vocation
David Leonard , Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

After ten years of teaching in higher education and interacting with students from a wide range of backgrounds, I’ve come to realize that most young people lack the resources for thinking clearly about their vocations. Unfortunately, this is also true at Christian universities and colleges.

Authenticity1Last week former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani set off a firestorm of debate and criticism by openly questioning whether President Obama “loves America.”

I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.

It would be easy to completely dismiss Giuliani’s comments as dumb, uncharitable, and partisan because the comment was dumb, uncharitable, and partisan. But I believe the mayor has an intuitive sense about something that he can’t articulate, and probably doesn’t understand.

The reality is that Obama and Giuliani both love America. Obama and Giuliani are both patriots. Yet their idea of what love of country means and what patriotism requires of them are likely to be significantly different. To understand this difference let’s look back to a comment from 2007.

As candidate for president in 2007, Barack Obama was questioned about why he did not wear a flag pin on his lapel. His explanation was that he had done so once but he believed it had become a substitute for “true patriotism” since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
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naziPew Research does an admirable job tracking global changes in religious practices and restrictions. In their latest report, they note that religious hostility has declined slightly, but Jews are suffering more than they have in years.

[T]here has been a marked increase in the number of countries where Jews were harassed. In 2013, harassment of Jews, either by government or social groups, was found in 77 countries (39%) – a seven-year high. Jews are much more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society than by governments. In Europe, for example, Jews were harassed by individuals or social groups in 34 of the region’s 45 countries (76%).

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stutzman-flowersChristian florist Barronelle Stutzman was sued last year for refusing to sell flowers for the purpose of a same-sex wedding. Last week, a Benton County Superior Court Judge ruled against her, stating that her religious beliefs do not “excuse compliance with the law.” The 70-year-old grandmother now stands to lose everything: her business, her home, and her livelihood.

Next came a settlement offer from the attorney general of Washington, who proceeded to dangle dollars in an attempt to tease Stutzman into submission. The offer: Reject your religious beliefs and agree to accommodate such requests, and life can go on as before (after paying $2,000 in penalties, that is).

Stutzman promptly refused, and did so quite stridently via letter. Joe Carter has already pointed to that response, but given the key themes and tensions that continue to define these battles, the following paragraph by Stutzman bears repeating:

Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money. I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important. Washington’s constitution guarantees us “freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.” I cannot sell that precious freedom. You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.

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Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, February 26, 2015
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Combat Flip Flops

Combat Flip Flops

Flip flops – those quick and easy sandals we slip on our feet to run a quick errand, go to the beach or walk the dog around the block. In many countries, flip flops are the most common form of footwear. Can these sandals fight ISIS?

Two former U.S. Army Rangers think so.

Matthew “Griff” Griffin and Donald Lee both served multiple tours in Afghanistan fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. These are the guys behind Combat Flip Flops. They still see it as their mission to defeat Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and they think they can do so more effectively with jobs than they ever could by dropping bombs.

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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, February 26, 2015
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Army of Assyrian Christians aims to fight Islamic State
Therese Apel, Crux

Assyrian Christians in the Nineveh Plain in Iraq, with the help of a group of Americans, are building a fighting machine to stand toe-to-toe with the Islamic State group to preserve their homeland, their history and their heritage.

Seven Reasons Conservatives Are Leading Criminal Justice Reform
Rachel Lu, The Federalist

One percent of the U.S. population is behind bars. We can do better than our current criminal justice system. And the Right is leading the way.

Minimum Wage for New York City’s Tipped Workers Will Increase to $7.50
Patrick McGeehan , New York Times

Continuing to push for higher wages for the state’s lowest-paid workers, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Tuesday that all of the waiters, waitresses and others who work for tips in New York City will soon get a raise of their minimum wage to $7.50 an hour.

Godly Radicalism
Greg Forster, First Things

At Anamnesis, Glenn Moots reviews and responds to an important new work in this debate, Godly Republicanism by Michael Winship. Drawing on Winship, Moots argues that historians have overlooked the religious roots of an important strain of Anglo-American republicanism because it arose in a place and manner that we wouldn’t expect.

and112812blogNear the top of the list of things I despise is companies that take advantage of the plight of the poor and desperate. But just above that on my list is something I hate even more: being poor and desperate. That’s why I loathe payday lending companies that charge usurious interest rates—and why I’m not yet ready to see them abolished.

Here’s how payday lending works. If you have a job (and pay stub to prove it), a payday lending company will allow you to write and cash a post-dated check. For this service the company will charge an absurd interest rate. A typical two-week payday loan with a $15 per $100 fee equates to an annual percentage rate (APR) of almost 400 percent. So if you need $100, you write the check for $115 and they’ll give you $100 in cash. Two weeks later they cash your check or you can renew or “rollover” the amount—for an exorbitant fee.

Why would anyone agree to such terms? Because they have no other choice. About twenty years ago I made some terrible choices and found myself in a serious financial bind. The amount I needed wasn’t much—about $200—but without it I wouldn’t have been able to pay my rent. I took out a payday loan that cost me $30 every two weeks. It took about eight weeks to get clear of the loan, resulting in a cost of $120 to borrow $200 for two months.

If you’re middle class and think of it in terms of interest rate, that repayment cost sounds appalling usurious. And it is. But as the poor will tell you, man does not live on APR alone. Having to pay an extra $120 was cheaper than having to find a new place to live. Yes, it was a bad deal. But it was better than all my other choices.

That is why I believe every serious critique of payday lending needs to be accompanied by a serious proposal to help those who are trapped by such “poverty problems.” An excellent example of an alternative approach is the one offered by Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Richmond, Virginia. One of their church members, Nina McCarthy, was initially trapped in the vicious payday lending circle:
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Fail-Debtors-Prison-Poor-TaxWhile payday loans can help some people out of a financial jam, they tend to prey on the poor and create a usury situation. Now that same predatory financial monster is moving into a new territory: bonds, courts fees and fines.

Take the case of Kevin Thompson, a 19-year-old who was fined for speeding and failure to renew his license. Although he had a job, he could not afford to pay the $810 fine the court handed down. What happens next sounds Kafka-esque: (more…)

7figuresEach year the International Bulletin of Missionary Research lays out in summary form an annual update of significant religious statistics. Here are seven sets of figures based on their latest report:

1. Global population by religion: Christians – 2.38 billion; Muslims – 1.7 billion; Hindu – 1 billion; atheists – 136 million; Jews – 14 million.

2. Membership by 6 ecclesiastical megablocs: Catholics – 1.2 billion; Protestants – 441 million; Independents – 407 million; Orthodox – 280 million; Anglicans – 92 million; Unaffiliated Christians – 110 million.

3. Number of Christians by 6 continents, 21 UN regions: Africa (5 regions) – 520 million; Asia (4 regions) – 368 million; Europe (including Russia; 4 regions) – 561 million; Latin America (3 regions) – 562 million; Northern America (1 region) – 229 million; Oceania (4 regions) – 25 million.

4. Christian organizations: Denominations – 45,000; Congregations – 4.7 million; Service agencies – 30,000; Foreign-mission sending agencies – 5,000.

5. Christian finance (in US$, per year): Personal income of church members – $35 trillion; Giving to Christian causes – $626 billion; Churches’ income – $249 billion; Parachurch and institutional income – $377 billion.

6. Scripture distribution (all sources, per year): Bibles – 80 million; Scriptures including gospels, selections – 5 billion; Bible density (copies in place) – 1.8 billion.

7. World evangelization: Unevangelized population – 2.1 billion; Unevangelized as % of world: 29.2 percent.