This image from the Flint Water Study shows water samples from a Flint, Mich. home. The bottles were collected, from left, on Jan. 15, Jan. 16, and Jan. 21, 2015.

This image from the Flint Water Study shows water samples from a Flint, Mich. home. The bottles were collected, from left, on Jan. 15 (bottles 1 and 2), Jan. 16, and Jan. 21, 2015.

What is the Flint water crisis?

Earlier this month Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan, declared a state of emergency in the County of Genesee and the City of Flint because of elevated levels of lead found in its general water supply. The governor declared the emergency because the contaminated drinking water poses a serious health risk to the residents of that area. The adverse health effects of lead exposure in children and adults are well documented, notes the Centers for Disease Control, and no safe blood lead threshold in children has been identified.

The crisis has been blamed on a failure of government at all levels. As Washington Post reporters Lenny Bernstein and Brady Dennis wrote, “Local, state and federal officials — including the top Environmental Protection Agency administrator in the Midwest and Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder — are accused of ignoring, denying or covering up problems that left thousands of children exposed to toxic lead in their drinking water for about 18 months.”

To date, four government officials—one from the City of Flint, two from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and one from the Environmental Protection Agency—have resigned over the mishandling of the crisis.

What caused the water crisis?

According to the U.S. Census, 40.1 percent of the population of Flint, Michigan is living in poverty, making it the second most poverty-stricken city in the nation for its size. The poverty of its residents combined with mandatory spending on former city workers (retirees from the city government are taking 20 percent of all city spending) has led to a financial crisis that has put the city into emergency receivership.

In an attempt to save money, the city council voted in 2013 to purchase water from the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) rather than from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD). KWA was not expected to be completed until the end of 2016, so the city decided to rely on its backup, the Flint River.

The Flint River, though, contains high levels of chlorine, which is highly corrosive to iron and lead—materials used widely in the pipes carrying water in Flint.

How did the lead get into the drinking water?
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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, January 25, 2016
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N. Korea tops persecution list for 14th year
Baptist Press

As North Korea once again held its spot for the 14th consecutive year as the most dangerous country for Christians, religious persecution on every continent has appeared to increase, according to a new report.

Who’d a-thunk it? Retailers like Wal-Mart make location decisions based on labor costs?
Mark J. Perry, AEI Ideas

To help better understand how “Wal-Mart’s scalpel targeted stores that have the highest minimum wages in the country,” consider the map above showing three Walmart stores along a 5-mile stretch of Interstate 880.

Adam Smith on Society’s Exploitation of the Rich
James R. Rogers, First Things

Donald Trump ascribing responsibility for his first two failed marriages to working “like, twenty-two hours a day” brought to mind Adam Smith’s invocation of the “invisible hand” in his 1759 work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Attention Bernie Sanders: Europe gave up on its socialist paradise years ago
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week

The thing that Bernie Sanders, and many of his supporters miss, is that European socialism isn’t what it used to be. It’s a lot less socialist than it used to be.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 22, 2016
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If the goal is to improve the economic fortunes of the least-advantaged workers and families, says economist Don Boudreaux in this short animated video, then the minimum wage is a terrible idea. On his blog, Boudreaux adds:

The minimum wage yields unfair advantages to families, such as mine, with teenagers who hail from middle- and high-income households, who are well-educated, whose parents and other relatives have social and business connections, and who have their own personal means of transportation. These advantages come at the expense – cruelly so – of minority and inner-city teens, of low-skilled immigrants, and of other workers who are poorly advantaged yet who, in most cases, need employment more than do those advantaged workers who manage to find jobs at the higher, minimum wage.

Blog author: jsunde
Friday, January 22, 2016
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OneNationUnderGod_CVRChristians continually struggle to find the right approach, balance, and tone in their political witness, either co-opting the Gospel for the sake of political ends or retreating altogether out of fear of the same.

In their new book, One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics, Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo pave a fresh way forward. Though I haven’t quite finished it, thus far the book offers a refreshingly rich assessment of political ideology as it relates (or doesn’t) to the Gospel and Christian mission.

In a piece for Canon and Culture, Ashford whets our appetites on this same topic, providing a clear overview of how Christianity differs from conservatism and progressivism, as well as where and how we might engage or abandon each.

From my own experience, Christians seem to have an easier time discerning these distinctions with progressivism, most likely due to its overt rejection of or disregard for permanent truths. With conservatism, however, we tend to forget that without a particular focus on transcendence, conservatism languishes in its own shortsightedness and folly. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 22, 2016
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GOP Field Bereft Of Free-Traders
Bill Watson, The Federalist

At no point is restricting trade through taxes or promoting it through subsidies a good economic policy. That’s not what Republican presidential candidates say.

Oldest Christian monastery in Iraq razed
Martha Mendoza, Maya Alleruzzo, and Bram Janssen, Associated Press

Satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press confirm what church leaders and Middle East preservationists had feared: The oldest Christian monastery in Iraq has been reduced to a field of rubble, yet another victim of the Islamic State group’s relentless destruction of heritage sites it considers heretical.

History and the Limits of the Climate Consensus
Philip Jenkins, The American Conservative

Acknowledging the science of global warming does not require accepting that it is immune to criticism.

The Economic Concept in Church Leadership No One Ever Thinks About
Kathryn Feliciano, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

What we find is not that the apostles have a higher calling, but rather that the early church was facing a problem—the apostles could not do everything by themselves.

Poverty-Inc-300x300Poverty Inc.an award-winning documentary that grew out of the Acton Institute’s PovertyCure initiative, tackles the question: Fighting poverty is big business, but who profits the most?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently interviewed Mark Weber, a co-producer of the film, and asked about how the documentary was being received:

Have you noticed different reactions from different audiences?

There’s one scene in particular that is perfectly indicative of the disconnect between the West and the rest. The physician and former aid consultant Theodore Dalrymple says, “I bought my first house on the proceeds of foreign aid. Aid has been very good to me. It’s aided me immensely. It’s allowed me to have an interesting life, to travel, no tax. It couldn’t be better.”

At most screenings — I’ll give the Minneapolis-St. Paul film festival as an example — a mostly white, liberal audience. You could just cut the tension in the room with a knife. That’s the norm; most people react that way.

But at predominantly African audiences — I’ll give the Africa Business Club at Harvard as an example — they played the film the opening night of the Africa Business Conference. When that scene comes up, the whole room was just uproarious, laughing and clapping and hooting and hollering and whistling. It wasn’t shocking to them. They all knew, and they were all thankful and appreciative of this guy for saying it out loud. Those different reactions are very revealing of different assumptions.

The film is not doing a whole lot more than trying to bridge that gap.

Read more of the interview here.

Enter at your discretion ... The 'Dark Money Zone'

Enter at your discretion … The ‘Dark Money Zone’

Poor Rod Serling. Had the Twilight Zone and Night Gallery host lived it’s assured he’d provide the voice talent for the audio book version of Jane Mayer’s Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right. He’d also have a steady gig lending his portentous phrasings to such addle-brained prose as the following from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility [readers may insert Serling’s “Submitted for your approval” at their discretion]:

Unchecked corporate cash in the form of political donations and lobbying expenditures has the power to exert undue influence over public policy and regulatory systems and threaten our democracy. Yet in spite of this power, most S&P 500 companies lack a formal system of lobbying oversight and don’t fully disclose how monies are being spent, particularly through third-party organizations like trade associations. Investors are concerned that lobbying expenditures may inadvertently be diverted to groups advancing agendas contrary to the stated missions of companies, setting up potential conflicts of interest and exposing companies to reputational risk.

Sigh. Mayer and ICCR are working both sides of their levitating, shaking bed of anti-First Amendment, anti-Citizens United paranoia with Mayer seeking political intervention on one side and ICCR haranguing corporate shareholders with proxy resolutions on the other. In the meantime, the Republic remains a bastion of the freedoms that conjure 24-hour night terrors for the author and the so-called “religiously motivated” shareholder activists.

The “dark money” bogeymen searched for under those quivering bedsprings share the last name Koch, and we just can’t have libertarian billionaires expressing free speech in the U.S. political system, according to Mayer, ICCR and a raft of other opponents that are hypocritically funded by progressive billionaires bearing names like George Soros, Bill Gates, Tom Steyer, Warren Buffett and Eric Schmidt – all noted by George Melloan in his review of Mayer’s book in the Wall Street Journal: (more…)