Signs and Wonders
Basil growing at a hydroponics farm in Pahrump, Nev.
Associated Press/Photo by Julie Jacobson
Basil growing at a hydroponics farm in Pahrump, Nev.

Signs and Wonders: A good deal for everyone but taxpayers

Newsworthy

Insurance abuses. Insurance is one of the great ideas in human history. Though some limited forms of insurance have existed for thousands of years, the modern insurance industry started in the early 1600s in London, and it was indispensable to the flowering of exploration and entrepreneurship civilization has seen since. However, insurance also creates opportunity for abuse and fraud, and some of the great financial scams in history have been insurance frauds. That’s why a Bloomberg article published last week on crop insurance abuses is so important. The U.S. government heavily subsidizes crop insurance in this country. The article says the U.S. Department of Agriculture spent about $14 billion last year alone. According to Bloomberg:  “The arrangement is a good deal for everyone but taxpayers.” Because the government pays about 60 percent of the premiums, farmers take unnecessary risks and plant crops on unproductive land, knowing insurance will cover losses. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) said new legislation currently before the U.S. House of Representatives would make matters worse. Both Bloomberg and the CEI are calling for more scrutiny of the crop insurance program.

Mormon movement. Former NFL great Steve Young was one of the keynote speakers at a three-day conference in Salt Lake City exploring how the Mormon Church—officially, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS)—deals with homosexuality. The 32nd annual Affirmation International Conference attracted about 300 people. The Youngs said in a statement they are happy to be a part of the conference and “lend their voices to the healing work of making our families, our society and our church more welcoming places for our LGBT brothers and sisters.” It’s the latest example of Mormon movement on this issue. Officially, the LDS church teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that same-sex relationships are sinful. But according to Yahoo News, “the church launched a campaign earlier this year encouraging members to be more compassionate toward gay and lesbian members of the church. The church also threw its support behind a new policy passed this year by the Boy Scouts of America that opens the door for gay youth to join the ranks.”

Box office rebound. With kids settled back into their school routines, and the football season now underway, entertainment dollars flowed back to the Cineplex this weekend. It was a $100 million weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. That was up 37 percent from last week’s dismal showing, and up 30 percent from the same week a year ago. But the movies still weren’t any good. Another sequel—Insidious Chapter 2—took this week’s top spot. The critics have not been kind to this lame horror film. Still, it grossed $41 million against a $5 million budget, virtually guaranteeing we’ll see more insidious films in the future.

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Feels like home. Most contestants on the television show Survivor get their Warholian 15-minutes of fame and are never heard from again. Elizabeth Hasselbeck is an exception. She appeared as a contestant in 2001. She then leveraged her fan-base and her family contacts—she’s married to former pro quarterback and ESPN commentator Tim Hasselbeck—into a gig on the daytime show The View. It turned out, though, that she had some talent for the medium. She was the only relatively conservative voice on that program, and further developed her fan base there. This week, she moves to the popular morning show Fox and Friends, which she said “feels like home” for her. She replaces Gretchen Carlson, in part of a Fox News Channel shakeup. Carlson will anchor an afternoon one-hour program for Fox beginning sometime this fall. She fills an hour previously held by Megyn Kelly, who moves to prime time.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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