The passing scene: January 4, 2015

Scavengers by Adam Johnson for Granta.

Adam Johnson walked down the stairs of his North Korean tourist hotel because he did not trust the elevator, and discovered that most floors of were unoccupied and scavenged for furnishings in order to keep up appearances on the few floors on which the tourists stayed.  This is one of the glimpses his article provides of the reality of life in North Korea.

Remembering the Russian Orthodox Priest Who Fought the Orthodox Church by Cathy Young for the Daily Beast.

Father Gleb Yakunin, a Russian Orthodox priest who died on Christmas, fought for democracy, Christian values and freedom for all religions against Communist totalitarianism and Putinist corruption.  He was defrocked twice for protesting and exposing the ties of the Russian Orthodox church with the Soviet government.

Religion in Latin America by the Pew Research Center.

Pentecostalism is on the rise in a historically Roman Catholic region.  The worldwide spread of Pentecostalism may be the most significant religious development of our time.

Tayloring Christianity by Matthew Rose for First Things.

A Secular Age? by Patrick J. Dineen for The American Conservative.

Secularism in the USA does not war on religion, the way anti-clericalism has done in France, Mexico and other countries.  American secularists simply want religion to be an individual matter rather than the organizing principle of society.  In a way, American secular liberals are the ultimate Protestants.

A Tale of Two Cuomos by Greg Palast.

Greg Palast said the two Mario Cuomos are the governor in the 1980s who publicly demanded the closing of the Shoreham nuclear power plant and privately worked behind the scenes to shield its builder from criminal and civil penalties for falsifying safety reports.

U.S. Labor Intellectuals Sound the Alarm About Union Decline by Steve Early for Telesur [Bill Harvey]

Steve Early reviewed The Death and Life of American Labor by Stanley Aronowitz (an excellent book I am currently reading) and Only One Thing Can Save Us Now by Tom Geoghegan.  They both think that labor law, which in the New Deal era gave unions a legal status they didn’t have before, now works to prevent workers from switching unions or organizing new ones.  Unions need to join forces with broader community groups that represent the interests of working people.

Top Ten Acts of Test Resistance in 2014: the greatest year of revolt against high-stakes testing in U.S. history by Jesse Hagopian for I Am An Educator. [Bill Harvey]

These stories—and there are many more like them—tell of teachers who put the welfare of their students, as they understood it, ahead of their own careers and job security.  I have great respect for such teachers, and no respect at all for so-called educational reformers who think that financial rewards and punishments are the key to better schooling.

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