Weekly Meanderings, 17 March 2018

Weekly Meanderings, 17 March 2018 March 17, 2018

Kris and I enjoy the NCAA tourney every year even if the scandals this year have kicked us in the shins. Seeing teams like Loyola and Marshall win make the tournament so much more enjoyable. And how about UMBC beating trouncing UVa?!

Buy “Local” but is it local? This makes me want to ask, Is anyone honest these days?

As local-food sales grow into a $20 billion industry, a USA TODAY Network investigation found that state-branding programs designed to inform consumers and support local farmers are deceptive and virtually unregulated.

These “buy local” programs purport to connect shoppers with food from their states by affixing logos and stickers.

Yet most state food-branding programs certify products as “local” even if half the ingredients come from another state or country. Many states have no minimum ingredient requirement.

Think of it like this: Coffee beans don’t grow in Utah. They must be imported. “But if you roast the beans here, you’re qualified for the program,”  said Wayne Bradshaw, marketing and economic development division director for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, which runs the Utah’s Own program.

The same is true for tea brewed in Alabama, peanut butter processed in Oklahoma and potato chips cooked and bagged in Virginia. The main ingredient can come from around the world or across the country.

Over the past four months, USA TODAY Network reporters reviewed food-branding programs in the 45 states that have them. They analyzed rules, enforcement actions, and the criteria each state requires to be considered local.

They found:

  • 18 states set no minimum on the percentage of locally grown ingredients a product must contain to get a state brand.
  • 20 states brand food as local as long as the company making them is headquartered within the state.
  • 36 states have no formal annual review process to check whether companies are following program rules. About two dozen states let companies sign up and call their food local without verifying the source of ingredients.
  • 40 states have no record of enforcement actions in the past five years and no record of removing specific companies from their programs.

Harriet Tubman:

The section of a Baltimore park that once hosted a Confederate monument was rededicated on Saturday in honor of famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

A tree-filled area of Wyman Park Dell, near Johns Hopkins University, was renamed the Harriet Tubman Grove as part of a ceremony marking the 105th year since her death. Residents gathered in the park on Saturday to celebrate her life and the renaming of the grove.
“It helps bring the community values to important places and helps to weave together the community,” Baltimore Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said, according to CNN affiliate WJZ. “This place is really interesting. Since the statues were removed, it has become a gathering place.”
Carmen Imes, name your champion: [HT: JS]

Last month, James Sire, retired senior editor for IVP and author of The Universe Next Door, passed away. The news of his passing got me thinking. I never met Sire, but his book, written before I was born, played a significant role in my development as an academic and was a symbol for me of the support I received from men along the way.

As a society, we’re at an important crossroads where women and men who have been victimized are speaking out against the abuse of power. I commend their courage. I am grateful for their message. With each one, I cry out for the end of abuse, assault, and harassment. But the danger with momentum like this is that we begin to wonder if any man in power can be trusted, if any are “on our team.” In the wake of these gut-wrenching stories, I cannot help but feel profound gratitude for the influential men who have treated me with dignity, shared their platform, given me leadership opportunities, and mentored me well.

At a time when innumerable women are voicing the ways in which they’ve been abused by men in power, it’s worth noting that not all men hog the podium. Some watch for ways to share their power. Some hand over the microphone. So while in France, women are “naming their pig,” I thought I’d name a few of my champions — those who have spurred me on and opened doors of opportunity.

Marilynne Robinson, reviewed (excellently) by James K.A. Smith:

That the English Puritan John Flavel constantly appears in this new collection of essays by Marilynne Robinson will surprise no one. He fits perfectly in the communion of Protestant saints that populate her essays, appearing alongside John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards and Oliver Cromwell. But there is a particular idea from Flavel that keeps recurring throughout this collection, and it tells us something about the burden of Robinson’s project. As she recounts again and again in different chapters, Flavel entertained the idea of a two-stage judgment: he “considers the thought that we might all be judged twice, once when we die and again when the full consequences of our lives have played themselves out.” The notion depends on a unique intersection of eternity and history. Appointed once to die, we face the judgment, but the judgment in eternity takes account of time’s arrow in history. It’s like your soul gets a callback when the repercussions of your life have played themselves out across subsequent generations. The end of your life is not the end of your responsibility.

Almost everything that is contrarian about Marilynne Robinson is embodied in this vignette: the revivification of an idea from a forgotten Puritan, anathema to contemporary sensibilities; the metaphysics of a cosmos with souls, eternity, and a personal God; the rather disquieting reminder that this God is not just a buddy on high, the Great Validator of our bliss, but a judge; and a deep sense of responsibility for the widening gyre that our speech and actions spin out with repercussions beyond our lazy half-conscious intentions, even beyond our lifetime. The whole thing is a Twitter buzzkill.

This is all vintage Robinson, almost to the point of being predictable. One could even worry that this is a shtick, that in the talks gathered here Robinson is regularly invited by the gatekeepers of elite intellectual culture to come and play the role of Christian curmudgeon, a kind of anachronistic conscience for the Whiggish university. Robinson is happy to play the role, and won’t be so gauche as to question its default progressivism. ….

But I sometimes worry that the invocations of God are a tad epiphenomenal. Her burden is to show that Christianity is not mutually exclusive to what any default Democrat would hold dear. And while she appeals to a Christianity that is trinitarian, historical, and orthodox—contrary to the Unitarianism that later won the day in New England—there is little in her rendition of Christianity that is scandalous. The compatibility of Christian claims with modern life is rightly extolled, but the exclusivity of Christian claims is effaced, or at least downplayed. She’s absolutely right that we shouldn’t reduce Jonathan Edwards to one sermon on hell; but that doesn’t mean he didn’t preach it.

[SMcK: My reading of Robinson is that she has no Christology and no soteriology. I like to read her, but her novels are much better than her essays and her theology is the weakest feature of her essays.]

Homo sapiens, Denisovans, Neanderthals:

We rarely portray Neanderthals, our close relatives, as telegenic. Museum exhibits give them wild tangles of hair, and Hollywood reduces them to grunting unsophisticates. Their skulls suggest broad faces, tiny chins and jutting brows.

But to mock Neanderthals is to mock ourselves: Homo sapiens had lots of sex with Homo neanderthalensis.

Neanderthal genes supply between 1 and 4 percent of the genome in people from homelands on several continents, from Britain to Japan to Colombia.

DNA from another human-like primate, the Denisovans, lurks in modern genomes, too. A molar and a chip of pinkie bone found in a Siberian cave provide what little information we have about this species.

DNA extracted from the fragments previously revealed cross-species breeding. Yet a new study in the journal Cell shows the ancient hanky-panky did not stop in Siberia: Humans who traveled across South Asia mated with a separate group of Denisovans as well.

“This is a breakthrough paper,” said David Reich, who studies ancient DNA at Harvard University and was not involved with the study.

“It’s a definite third interbreeding event,” one that adds to the previously known Denisovan and Neanderthal mixtures.

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