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Haitians finding home two years after quake

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Haitian quake survivors leaving camps for a place they can call home

By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It took almost two years, but Haitian earthquake survivor Sonya Mallebranche has a place she can call home again.

It's only three rooms, making it less than perfect, Mallebranche admits, especially for four adults and three toddler grandchildren. But Mallebranche, 51, finds it far better than living in a tattered tent in the fetid, dusty camp known as Petite Place Cazeau alongside hundreds of others displaced by the powerful Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that leveled much of the region around Port-au-Prince.

"I'm so much more comfortable. Now I can sleep peacefully. Now I have my family with me," Mallebranche told Catholic News Service Jan. 5 via cell phone from her new home.

U.S. scientists look to expand study of climate change

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Scientists with the U.S. Global Change Research Program want to broaden their research to include "climate-related global changes" in addition to climate change, according to a draft for a 10-year strategic plan.

A committee from the National Research Council, which reviewed the draft, labeled the proposed broadening as "an important step in the right direction," adding that further expansion could include global changes unrelated to climate.

"It is envisioned that with such an evolution, the Program can both continue to advance basic scientific understanding of global change and can actively support society's efforts to mitigate, adapt and otherwise respond to those changes," the committee stated through a press release.

Couple who turned farm to wetland faces huge tax bill

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Three years ago, John and Marilyn Saveson decided to turn 33 acres of their New Albany, Ohio, farm into a federally protected wetland to provide a permanent refuge for wildlife. The couple lives in a fast-developing area around the outskirts of Columbus and didn't want to see more suburbs and concrete smothering the land. But now, because of their ecological sensitivity, the elderly couple is facing a possible property tax bill totaling $56,119.

Spencer Hunt, a Columbus Dispatch writer, reported Dec. 26 that the Franklin County auditor's office says the land no longer qualifies for a farmland property-tax break as it once did. Since 1995, the state tax department has allowed land enrolled in the wetlands program to remain agricultural for tax purposes. In 2010, though, it began questioning whether farmland converted to wetlands should be taxed as agricultural because crops no longer are grown there, said an agency spokesman.

Indian state fears development will destroy identity, environment

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Development projects in Goa, India have many of its citizens concerned their state will lose its unique identity at the expense of growth.

Bosco de Sousa Eremita writes at CathNewsIndia.com, a division of Catholic News Asia, that a plan for the region’s land use over the next decade will violate environment regulations, while stripping the village-feel culture of an area once known for its beauty and serenity.

Pollution, people of color and the poor

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There are many arguments for why it is imperative we transition toward a sustainable future: energy efficiency, a relocalization of the economy and renewables. Often overlooked in the discussion are the deleterious impacts of pollution -- climate change, habitat destruction and resource depletion -- and the impacts here and now on the health and quality of life upon people of color and upon the poor.

Auto contest seeks 'green' popemobile designs

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By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A select group of young international designers will be submitting innovative mock-ups of what an eco-friendly popemobile should look like.

For the first time, the annual Autostyle Design Competition will have a special category for a popemobile, according to L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. The vehicle design must meet standards for low-emissions, as well as the Vatican's safety and security standards, it said.

From a pool of about 200 candidates, a commission will choose 12 student finalists who will then have seven to eight months to create a new popemobile design, said Sara Ferraccioli, marketing and communications officer for Berman, the Italian car-parts manufacturer sponsoring the competition.

Celebrating a deserved sainthood

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When I heard the news this week that Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha will be canonized a saint in 2012, I was very excited. Between 1994 and 2001, I was chaplain for Native American ministries for the Archdiocese of Detroit. In addition to biweekly liturgies, Kateri Circles and pastoral care, I had the privilege of participating in several Tekakwitha conferences, both at the national and at the state level. One of the great yearnings I heard at these gatherings was for the canonization of Blessed Kateri, the Lily of the Mohawk.

Blessed Kateri is the patron of aboriginal peoples not only in the United States and Canada but around the world. Further, she shares the patronage of ecology with St. Francis of Assisi. This is a great day for my friends in Indian country, for Americans, for aboriginal people and for those who are committed to the care of our home -- this good earth.

Bishops applaud new EPA standards on mercury reductions, power plant pollution

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Just in from the the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development:

WASHINGTON—“A new national standard to reduce mercury and toxic air pollution from power plants is an important step forward to protect the health of all people, especially unborn babies and young children, from harmful exposure to dangerous air pollutants,” said the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy chairman in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement of a new rule limiting hazardous air pollution.

Church agencies rush aid to thousands of Philippine flood victims

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By Catholic News Service

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines (CNS) -- Church agencies teamed with international aid groups and the Philippine government to assist tens of thousands of people left homeless in northern Mindanao by flash flooding caused by an intense tropical storm that left at least 650 people dead and hundreds more missing.

The country's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that about 135,000 people in 13 provinces were affected by Tropical Storm Washi, which unleashed floods and landslides as people slept in their homes across northern Mindanao late Dec. 16.

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