Signs of the Times

News, views, notes, and quotes

8 December 2014, No. 2

Correspondence. It’s gratifying to get words of encouragement from prayer&politiks readers. And also instructive. One friend  (thanks, Dave) wrote to say love your stuff, but added will you include some positive notes in “signs of the times”? It’s among the most common of human tendencies, to highlight the hard news and skirt the hopeful. Our letters to editors tend to be complaints more than compliments. We all tend to begrudge red lights more than we appreciate the green. Providentially, the same day I got the one note, another friend (thanks, Marty) sent a story of note (below).

Indigenous groups in Guatemala won a rare victory against corporate encroachment when the country’s legislature voted 4 September 2014 to repeal the “Monsanto Law” which would “have given the transnational chemical and seed producer intellectual property rights to crop seeds. . . . The law put in place stiff penalties for any farmer that was caught selling seed to another farmer without the proper permits.” You can find the full story at http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/guatemala-indigenous-communities-prevail-monsanto/ 

There was a different age. After Dr. Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine in 1955, he was asked by reporter Edward R. Murrow: "Who owns the patent on this vaccine?" Responded Salk, "Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?" —Paul Buchheit, “The Carnage of Capitalism” Read more ›

Signs of the Times: Annotated news, views, quotes and notes

27 November 2014, No. 1

Welcome to the premier of prayer&politiks, an online journal “at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action.” Welcome as well to the first issue of Signs of the Times, a weekly column featuring annotated news, views, quotes and notes, for discerning the times in which we live.

¶ The launch of this site on 27 November, “Black Friday” (in the US), is intentional, as it occurs at the edge of Advent, whose first Sunday is this weekend.

¶ For readers outside the US: The day after the celebration of Thanksgiving (since 1941 always the fourth Thursday of November) in our country has effectively become the start of the Christmas shopping season. The phrase “Black Friday” was originally a derogative term, beginning in the early ‘50s, for the practice of workers calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving in order to get a long weekend holiday. (At the time, the holiday was limited to the single day.) In the early ‘60s the phrase was used by the Philadelphia Police Department in reference to the traffic jams caused by shoppers. Since then the day has emerged as the nation’s busiest shopping day of the year, when merchants provide steep discounts—though some major stores are now opening on Thanksgiving Day itself.

¶ “In the spirit of the holiday,” announced a spokesman for the J.C. Penney Company, its executives planned “activities and giveaways including swag bags full of goodies, round-the-clock food to keep [salespeople] fueled for delivering excellent customer service, pep rallies to drive excitement and energy through the early morning hours of Black Friday.” Read more ›