Too easily offended? The restaurant chain Red Robin is getting a lot of negative feedback for one of its ads. In the ad, the spokesperson says, “We even have a Gardenburger—just in case your teenage daughter is going through a phase.” Vegetarian groups are crying, foul. (They would never, of course, cry fowl.) Jasmin Singer, a spokesperson for a vegan activist group said, “Though I applaud any fast food chain that offers a veggie burger, and I hope … more do, the idea that not eating animals is reserved solely for teenage girls going through a phase is obviously meant to insult both vegans and girls.” She does make a pretty good marketing point: “Why is Red Robin insulting the very customers it’s reaching out to?” PETA (which does not stand for People Eating Tasty Animals) has weighed in, of course. The group claims that 13 percent of the American population is either vegetarian or vegan, and many of them will be upset by these ads. I had no idea vegetarianism made people so uptight.
Obama at Brandenburg Gate. I won’t pretend that President Barack Obama had an easy task this week when he gave a speech at Germany’s Brandenburg Gate. After all, this iconic spot is where Kennedy gave his famous “Ich ben ein Berliner” speech, and where Reagan told Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” It’s where Obama himself spoke to more than 200,000 people five years ago, as a presidential candidate. This week, though, facing declining approval ratings at home and a host of unresolved international crises abroad, the carefully staged event included only about 6,000 carefully selected attendees who heard the president call for a reduction of nuclear arms and the closing of the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo, Cuba—which he promised to do when he was elected. It was a speech underwhelming in both style and substance, though it could end up becoming iconic in its own way: as a symbol of the unmet expectations of the Obama presidency.
Muslim-Christian cooperation. In most of the rest of the world, Muslims and Christians are fighting, but in Kenya—at least for a while—they are cooperating. As the economy in Kenya has grown, so has the incidence of alcohol and drug abuse. So both Christian and Muslim leaders are working together to fight addiction and abuse. This is not the first time Christians and Muslims have been “co-belligerents” in culture war fights in Africa. In Uganda, Rwanda, and elsewhere, Muslims and Christians have fought homosexual activism. It will be interesting to see what happens to these alliances in the years ahead. Christianity is growing dramatically in some African countries, but so is Islam, and often the radical kind.
Bernanke speaks. The Federal Open Markets Committee met yesterday and at the end of the meeting Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke made a bit of news by laying out a road map for ending the bond buying program called Quantitative Easing. He said the Fed could begin “later this year” to scale back the $85 billion per month program. He said he was looking for the unemployment rate to fall to 7 percent or the inflation rate to rise above 2.5 percent as triggers. Currently, the unemployment rate is 7.6 percent. The Dow fell 200 points on the news, highlighting just how much the markets are being driven by Fed policy rather than economic fundamentals. Markets around the world are down this morning.
A few remembrances. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini was elected as Pope Paul VI on June 21, 1963, 50 years ago today. One of the great newspaper publishers of the 20th century, Eugene Pulliam, died June 23, 1975, 38 years ago this weekend. His grandson Russ Pulliam, is a member of WORLD’s board of directors and is a columnist for the Indianapolis Star, Eugene Pulliam’s flagship newspaper. Russ’s daughter, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, has in the past written for both WORLD and Christianity Today, and today is on the staff of Religion News Service.