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Repaso: Easterly on institutions; Springsteen’s latest; Christianity in the Americas; interview; famous last words; FLW’s unbuilt projects; Half the Sky film

1. Easterly on the roots of hardship
Bill Easterly, economics professor at NYU, has a review of a new book on development economics in the Wall Street Journal, emphasizing the critical role healthy and inclusive institutions play in overcoming poverty. In what he says here (and particularly the part where I’ve added italics), I see this as a huge challenge for Latin America:

The arrival of “Why Nations Fail” is thus a hugely welcome event, since economists Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson take on the big questions and in doing so present a substantial alternative to the dominant thinking about global poverty. For Messrs. Acemoglu and Robinson, it is institutions that determine the fate of nations. Success comes, the authors say, when political and economic institutions are “inclusive” and pluralistic, creating incentives for everyone to invest in the future. Nations fail when institutions are “extractive,” protecting the political and economic power of only a small elite that takes income from everyone else.

2. Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball”
Last weekend my buddy Matty (who’s also a remarkable singer-songwriter and music guru in general) let me know I ought to check out The Boss’s new record, Wrecking Ball. “I got a sneaky feeling you’d really like it,” he texted. I got it and he’s right: it’s great. Here’s what Roger Nelson at had to say about it:

Originally written as acoustic folk tunes, Springsteen took this collection of songs to producer Ron Aniello, who pushed them into new sonic territory. Using samples, drum loops, trumpets, choirs and the guitar solos of Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, Wrecking Ball has a glossy and varied musical texture. Lyrically, it stands in a direct line with Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad, but this collection is an eclectic-electric mash-up of gospel, blues, Irish stomps, protest songs, big-stadium rock anthems and even a little rap. What was conceived in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger is transformed into a post-modern pastiche.

3. Christianity in the Americas
In December, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life published the latest data on the size and distribution of the Christian population in the Americas. There’s a cool  interactive map and a couple of charts, in case you’re a nerd like me when it comes to these kinds of things.

4. Mexico’s evangelical shift
Speaking of Christianity in the Americas, PRI’s The World took a look at the changing religious demographics of Mexico, with a visit to the town of Zongozotla in the central highlands:

It was once unheard of in Mexico to consider not being Catholic. But here in Zongozotla, where different faiths are gaining ground, spiritual shifts are possible—and underway. And while some members of the Catholic Church stress that change is needed to compete with the evangelical presence, it’s unclear whether Catholicism’s centuries-old traditions and hierarchies will be flexible to reverse its losses here.

5. Evangelicals on the rise in Latin America
How about one more while we’re at it? This is from Al Jazeera English, ahead of the Pope’s visit to Mexico and Cuba. This piece by Chris Arsenault provides some helpful background on the history of religion in the region, including Pope John Paul II’s visit, the liberation theology movement during the Cold War years, and recently, the rise of evangelical churches throughout Latin America.

6. Interview with undocumented student
In case you missed it last week, here is part one and part two of my interview for with Ricardo, an undocumented college student here in Phoenix.

7. Last words in Texas
Texas, as well all know, sends a lot of people to death row. Of the 1289 people who have been executed in the United States since 1976, over a third of them — 481 — have been in Texas. Another 317 are on death row in that state. Whatever you think of the merits of capital punishment, GOOD has an infographic with the most common last words said by death row inmates.

8. Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt projects
Katie and I recently got to see the FLW exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. It was really interesting, and while it’s cool that he lived in this area and some of his projects were built here, I really don’t know why I never visited Fallingwater when I lived in Pennsylvania. At any rate, we were both curious about the fact that so many of the renderings on display were for unbuilt projects. Lo and behold, the polis blog (a Repaso favorite, as you may have noticed) has a post taking a look at three of Wright’s unbuilt projects.

9. Half the Sky: The Movie
I’m looking forward to watching the Half the Sky documentary when it airs on PBS this October. I read the book a couple of years ago, and had this to say about it. Here’s the trailer for the film, laden with celebrities.

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

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