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NPR: Canadian tar sands 'last place to go' for oil

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This morning American Public Media's Marketplace ran a feature about companies trying to extract oil from tar sands north of the border in Canada.

NCR reported on the ecologically damaging process in an article by Sharon Abercrombie in May.

Here's a priceless excerpt with an exchange between Marketplace reporter Sean Cole and David Yager, a columnist for Oil Week magazine:

Two notes on Rome rally of altar boys (and girls)

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tAccording to an old Italian saying, only cani e americani move in Rome in August – dogs and Americans. The sweltering heat, however, did not deter an estimated 50,000 altar boys and girls, mostly but not exclusively German, from descending on the city this week for a massive rally with Pope Benedict XVI.

tThe gathering was billed as an “International Pilgrimage of Altar Servers,” part of an event organized every five years by a group called Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium.

“You are not only creating a festive environment in the square, but you are also filling my heart with joy,” Benedict told the youthful crowd in German. He went on to briefly explain the history of Saint Tarcisio, who was an altar server himself.

Two things about the event seem worthy of note.

First, for the first time this year, the female altar servers in attendance outnumbered the males. According to organizers, the balance was roughly 60-40 in favor of females. The official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, pointed to the turnout as a symbol of “the massive entry in recent decades of girls and young women into a role once reserved exclusively to males.”

Anne Rice, come on back

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Anne Rice is best known for writing about vampires, but she has me thinking lately about a Paul Simon song I loved as a kid.

Rice made headlines when she returned to her childhood faith in Catholicism back in 1998, and she's made headlines again this week by walking away from the church one more time. She says she believes in Christ with all her heart -- but belief in the church? That's another story.

Rice's posting on her Facebook page speaks for the frustration of many Catholics who have watched the church move into the messy culture wars that have roiled the nation for nearly fifty years. Immersion in the politics of division did little to burnish the pastoral credentials of such inside-the-Beltway creatures as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell; it is a path U.S. bishops should fear to tread. But no.

Says Rice: "I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life."

Knights of Columbus promise to aid every Haitian child who lost a limb in earthquake

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The Knights of Columbus Board of Directors approved a resolution this past weekend that would commit the organization to providing aid to every Haitian child who has lost a limb in the January earthquake. The new program- "Hope for Haiti's Children"- will provide prosthetic limbs and therapy over the next two years for the approximately 800 children who have lost an arm or leg in the earthquake.

The physical therapy and two-year treatment will be administered by Medishare, which operates the premier children's medical facility in Haiti, the University of Miami/Medishare hospital in Port au Prince. The estimated cost of all the prosthetic limbs and therapy is $1 million.

Conference participants included the Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight, Carl A. Anderson; Prof. Robert Gailey, PhD, PT, director of rehabilitation services for Medishare; Mike Corcoran, chief of prosthetics for Medishare; and Chris Lewis, president of the American Wheelchair Mission.

Tea Party reality, and its dangers

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A recent and riveting piece on the Mother Jones Website, a long profile/interview of U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, (R-SC), a staunch conservative who was recently taken out by a Tea Party -backed candidate, documents the chilling reality of the party and its adherents' off-the-wall conceptions.

Inglis describes his descent into the depths of party wrangling with a constituency that had no regard for truth much less civility. He describes scenes in which he is left speechless in the face of elaborate fabrications, and he describes his decision not to stoop to the fever of the moment by referring to Obama as a socialist because it would simply be a lie.

Here's a taste:

During his primary campaign, Inglis repeatedly encountered enraged conservatives whom he couldn't—or wouldn't—satisfy. Shortly before the runoff primary election, Inglis met with about a dozen tea party activists at the modest ranch-style home of one of them. Here's what took place:

Examination of the hierarchy continues

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Sr. Fran Ferder and Fr. John Heagle add to the growing examination of the culture of hierarchy in the Catholic Church, an examination occasioned by the horrific and ongoing tales of child abuse by clergy.

I doubt that people like Ferder and Heagle -- not to mention Fr. Tom Doyle or Richard Sipe or Mary Gail Frawley O’Dea or Eugene Kennedy or Fr. Donald Cozzens or the leaders of SNAP or any of the host of other long-time church observers, some schooled in the psychological disciplines, others deeply familiar with the workings of the hierarchy -- will be asked any time soon to a meeting in Rome to present their best insights into the abuse crisis.

But NCR retains a record of their insights and those of others over the long decades of the church’s nightmare, and the record continues to accumulate in efforts such as the online series Examining the Crisis.

Finding Christian community in 110 degree weather

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My walk home from work yesterday was hot. Clothes sticking to you, arms glistening, sun pounding you into the ground kind of hot.

The heat index was 110 degrees. My first thought as I walked outside through the office door was that I just wanted to be home.

Yet, on the way there I had an unexpected opportunity to slow down and appreciate the importance of building community — no matter the hot, sticky weather.

About halfway home (sometime after my polo shirt was seriously soaked through with sweat ) I was stopped by a voice calling out to me. Looking to my left I saw an older man sitting on his porch, holding a cool glass while gesturing at me.

The man didn't waste any time with introductions of pleasantries. As soon as I had walked close enough to hear more clearly he started to speak at a mile a minute, as if he thought I would walk away if he even took a breath. In truth, if he had given me the chance I probably would have blamed the heat and kept on my way.

But thanks to his persistence I found myself transported in time and space.

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