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.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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Patricia Arquette’s passion is fabulous, says Elise Hilton in this week’s Acton Commentary, but she’s wrong on economics:

Ms. Arquette’s passion is fabulous, and I’m sure that’s what makes her a great actor. But she’s wrong on economics. The “women make 23 cents less than men” canard is far less accurate than Arquette thinks it is. Women are more likely to work part-time, to choose careers that pay less but offer more flexibility in scheduling (such as teaching) and often take time out of their paid career to care for children or other family members. Ms. Arquette: American women are okay. Really.

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

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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Islamic State ‘abducts dozens of Christians in Syria’
BBC

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 90 men, women and children were seized in a series of dawn raids near the town of Tal Tamr.

Getting a gun legally in Europe may be hard, but terrorists have little trouble
Griff Witte and Karla Adam, Washington Post

Europe, a continent long known for the rarity of gun violence, is confronting twin challenges that give the issue sudden urgency: a growing population of radicalized young men determined to strike targets close to home, and a black market awash in high-powered weapons.

How unemployment warps your personality over time
Danielle Paquette, Washington Post

Long periods of unemployment drain our bank accounts and weaken the economy. New research suggests extended joblessness could also dampen our personalities. And that can make it harder to find more work.

Supreme Court to hear religious freedom case
Ariane de Vogue, CNN

Samantha Elauf was apprehensive to interview for a sales job at retailer Abercrombie & Fitch in 2008 because the 17 year old wore a headscarf in accordance with her Muslim faith. But a friend of hers, who worked at the store, said he didn’t think it would be a problem as long as the headscarf wasn’t black because the store doesn’t sell black clothes.

One of the trailers used by Signal, International to house workers

One of the trailers used by Signal, International to house workers

While sex trafficking gets a lot of attention in the media, labor trafficking is actually more common. It largely affects middle-aged men, most of whom are looking for ways to support themselves and their families. Often faced with overwhelming poverty, these men make ill-informed and risky choices, hoping that what they are being told by potential employers is true.

In a landmark case, a Gulf Coast company, Signal International, has been ordered to pay $14 million in damages to men they had “hired” from India.

After more than four weeks of testimony and several days of deliberations, the jury found that marine construction company Signal International and its agents engaged in human trafficking, forced labor and racketeering, among other violations. (more…)

BronxRally120811Photo1New York City owns almost 1,200 public school buildings that sit empty on nights and weekends. To earn some extra income, the city rents out the empty schools to tens of thousands of community groups for any meetings that might be of interest to the community: Boy Scouts, drama clubs, labor unions senior citizen groups, etc. In 2011 alone, the NYC issued over 122,000 permits for using the schools.

But there is one group that is forbidden from using the facilities: churches.

According to the Becket Fund, “city bureaucrats decided that letting a church meet in an empty school would be unconstitutional. So it banned religious worship services—and only religious worship services—from its empty schools.”

The Bronx Household of Faith, an inner-city church serving one of the roughest neighborhoods in NYC, filed suit against this discrimination. That lawsuit, The Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York, has been ongoing for 20 years and has been to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals five times.

As Michael Stokes Paulsen argues, it’s time for the Supreme Court to settle the issue:
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broken-familyIn the 1970s, Paul Ehrlich tried to warn us: human beings were in trouble. We were reproducing so rapidly, Ehrlich opined, that millions of us would soon be starving.

Ehrlich got one thing right: we are in trouble. But he was completely wrong about overpopulation. Today, just the opposite is true. There aren’t enough of us human beings. And a lot of people are seriously disinterested in making more.

Nicholas Eberstadt calls this the “flight from family.” (more…)

religious-hostility-AMERICALiberty Institute, a legal organization in Plano, Texas, has released the report, “Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America, 2014 Edition,” featuring more than 1,300 cases of religious hostility, persecution and/or Constitutional violations of rights in the United States.

According to the report,

Hostility to religion in America is still growing. Because religion is so vital to a free and well-ordered society, our goal is to expose and document this growing hostility to help Americans confront and reverse it. The hostility is growing in the “Public Arena” of public places, government, and the workplace. it is growing in the “Schoolhouse” of education, from K-12 through higher academia. it is growing in the sector of “Churches and Ministries” where one might expect it to be safest. And it is growing in the areas of society that encompass the “Military,” which includes our veterans. The growth of hostility is undeniable and it is dangerous.

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