“Anytime you are going to throw money up in the air,” says Abraham Carpenter Jr., a farmer in Grady, Arkansas, “you are going to have people acting crazy.” Although “throwing money up in the air” is increasingly one of the main functions of the federal government, Mr. Carpenter is referring to a specific case in which the Agriculture Department “opened the floodgates to fraud.”

The compensation effort sprang from a desire to redress what the government and a federal judge agreed was a painful legacy of bias against African-Americans by the Agriculture Department. But an examination by The New York Times shows that it became a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stand to gain more than $130 million in fees. In the past five years, it has grown to encompass a second group of African-Americans as well as Hispanic, female and Native American farmers. In all, more than 90,000 people have filed claims. The total cost could top $4.4 billion.

From the start, the claims process prompted allegations of widespread fraud and criticism that its very design encouraged people to lie: because relatively few records remained to verify accusations, claimants were not required to present documentary evidence that they had been unfairly treated or had even tried to farm. Agriculture Department reviewers found reams of suspicious claims, from nursery-school-age children and pockets of urban dwellers, sometimes in the same handwriting with nearly identical accounts of discrimination.

Yet those concerns were played down as the compensation effort grew. Though the government has started requiring more evidence to support some claims, even now people who say they were unfairly denied loans can collect up to $50,000 with little documentation.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, April 29, 2013
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Is There a Distinctively “Christian” Way to Be a Bus Driver?
Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition

My sense is that often a singular question is being asked but multiple questions are being answered. The result is more confusion than clarity.

USCIRF Report on Religious Freedom in Syria
Mark Movsesian, First Things

Last week, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a report, Protecting and Promoting Religious Freedom in Syria, that describes the religious contours of Syria’s civil war and makes recommendations for US policy with respect to the conflict.

Rethinking Religious Liberty
Benjamin Wiker, Catholic World Report

Why religious liberty cannot mean the right to believe whatever we want.

Orthodox Bishops Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry
Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops

We, the Members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, kindly bring to your attention the urgent and very serious plight of the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Paul Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim, who were abducted this past week by “a terrorist group” in the village of Kfar Dael as they were carrying out humanitarian work.

Ronald Davis is homeless and living on the streets of Chicago. In this video clip he shares how he feels about the way other people treat him.

“No matter what people think about me, I know I’m a human first.”

When we see people like Mr. Davis on the streets our first tendency is often to wonder how he got into this situation or what, if anything, can be done to help him out of his plight. But Davis shows there is an even deeper need that is as powerful and as urgent as food or shelter: the need to be treated with dignity.

All too often we see the Ronald Davis’ of the world and our thoughts turn to big-picture policy questions (e.g., What can be done about homelessness in America?). But while such concerns should motivate us to find responsible solutions, that shouldn’t necessarily be our first thought when we are face to face with the men and women in our world like Davis.

We can think about the “homeless problem” when we’re in our cars or at our desks. While we’re on the street, confronted with a cup-shaking panhandler, we should be wondering how we can show them that we recognize their dignity. We should seek to let them know we realize they too were made in the image of Creator of the universe. We need to show them that whatever else they’ve lost—job, home, family—they still have their dignity. And that no matter what we might think of them, we know they’re a human first.

(Via: 22 Words)

There is such powerful interest in sports being a way out of poverty for many low-income males, especially black males, that we tend to forget about other things, like wisdom, that contribute to success. For many young men and women sports has given them and their families amazing new opportunities to quickly go from subsistence to wealth. However, for many athletes the lessons of stewardship, which are first modeled in the home, were never properly cultivated, resulting in them losing all of their earnings within a short time. Here are just a few recent ones from BusinessInsider.com:
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A recent CNBC article by Mark Koba notes the bleak outlook for 2013 college grads looking for work:

A survey released last week from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that businesses plan to hire only 2.1 percent more college graduates from the class of 2013 than they did from the class of 2012.

That’s way down from an earlier NACE projection of a 13 percent hiring rate for 2013 grads.

There is good reason for this bad news, however. As Koba notes, “One reason there may not be so many grads hired is that many employers don’t believe college graduates are trained properly.” He goes on: (more…)

Americans continue to be fed the false narrative that poverty causes crime rates to rise. While it is true that not having material needs met makes people vulnerable to do things like steal—even the Bible teaches that (Proverbs 30:8-9)—the ongoing reduction of morality and materiality is doing nothing but setting the stage for the failure of well-intended programs because we are missing core moral issues. One such idea is a New Haven, Connecticut plan to reduce crime rates by giving more welfare. The problems there were recently introduced in a New Haven News article:
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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, April 26, 2013
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How Do You Meet the World’s Needs Through Your Calling?
Greg Ayers, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

According to Jeremiah 29:5-7, one reason we as Christians work to fulfill the Cultural Mandate is for the benefit of others, not just for ourselves. Our work is intended for the shalom, the peace and prosperity of our surrounding culture.

Make business ethics less boring
Edward Hadas, Reuters

If finance is to be made more ethical, Nichols and other crusaders will have to offer something more substantial and detailed than eloquent but vague calls for virtue.

Nigerian gov’t allowing religiously related violence to destabilize country
Alliance Defending Freedom

Ongoing attacks and retaliations by Muslims and Christians in Nigeria’s violent, religiously-and-ethnically-mixed Middle Belt has left more than 100 dead and dozens of properties destroyed since March of this year.

Christian Critics of Capitalism
John Turner, The Anxious Bench

One major reason that more Christians are not critical of capitalism is a simple belief that it works pretty well compared to most economic systems.