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Obama to visit Romero's tomb


The White House has confirmed that President Obama will stop at the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador during his upcoming three-nation visit to Latin America. The president will visit Chile, Brazil and El Salvador from March 19-23 to address mostly issues of economic and security cooperation.

The symbolic stop on Tuesday, March 22, at Romero’s grave on the eve of the national commemoration of his assassination in March of 1980, will serve as kind of solemn pause in the state visit to recall the 12-year civil war that devastated the small Central American country.

Ways the pentagon uses our treasure


As part of my own Lenten reflection, I’m writing about some of the weapons systems that the General Accounting Office has identified as boondoggles. Today we are looking at robots, drones, sensors, smart bombs and other types of artificial intelligence.

It is sort of like what Paul tells the Ephesians: These are things we have not seen and cannot imagine. So far we have spent about 15 billion on them. The initial estimate was $92 billion but now it’s gone up to $340 billion.

Because of this huge increase in estimated costs, future expenditures are unclear. The New York Times notes that some expensive communications systems have been replaced in the field by a simple, secure Web-based tool.

Research, both military and commercial, is certainly on the hunt for artificial intelligence. Particular to the budgetary and economic debates of the moment is their role in job creation.

These systems are capital intensive, that is, they utilize few skilled workers. The panels or motherboards that guide them are generally assembled by unskilled workers, young girls with small agile fingers who live in Mexico, Indonesia and China.

Christians upset that Gandhi may not be in Hell


A recent article in The New York Times might make even the most discontented Catholics feel better about their tradition.

While differing Catholic factions are struggling over the fate of their church, many evangelical Christians are wrestling over more cosmic concerns: namely the fate of non-Christian souls.

In his forthcoming, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, the youngish, charismatic pastor Rob Bell calls “the dogma that ‘a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better’” both “misguided and toxic.”

Bell, who has been called a “singular rockstar in the church world” and a “hipster,” seems to be accomplishing what most Christians -- including Catholics -- are finding nearly impossible: he is attracting the attention and devotion of Millennials. Many credit his popularity with his willingness to question entrenched evangelical convictions.

To Be or Not to Be Exceptional


Every now and again, the notion that America is "exceptional" comes back to haunt us. This is one of those times when it's popping up in the crazy quilt flurry of jabber about this country's role in the world.

At its worst, it's an appeal to blind arrogance, built on the pride that might makes right and that God underwrites our adventures as the Koch brothers back the crusade to crush unions.

It is a term so easily prone to misuse by a multitude of greedy, self-righteous causes that it deserves to be banished.

But since it won't likely go away, it's worth remembering that the basis for the pompous word has a kinder, gentler side.

The derivation is religious, of course, and drawn from the naive but innocent hope by those 17th century migrants to New England that they might establish a society that escaped the evils of Europe. They held the illusion that they could give birth to a Christian community as it was meant to be. Soon their own forms of intolerance and waywardness would testify against that idealism but somehow it never left our collective system. The belief that we are the light of the world lives on.

Big win for the Vatican in European crucifix case


In a big win for the Vatican in terms of church/state relations in Europe, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has reversed an earlier ruling and upheld the right of Italy to display crucifixes in its public school classrooms.

Though the Vatican was not formally a party to the case, it strongly supported the position taken by Italy and a coalition of other European states, mostly drawn from the majority Orthodox regions of Eastern Europe, in defense of Italy’s right to have crucifixes in the classrooms.

Kudos to NCR Contributor for Drawing Catholic League Criticism


Congratulations to NCR contributor Mary Gail Frawley ODea, whose recent online op-ed has drawn the wrath of Catholic League president William Donohue.

Rather than deal with the substance of Frawley’s O’Dea’s article, Donohue argues ad hominen that she is more interested in getting the Church to “adopt the liberal agenda on sexuality” than confronting the real reasons for “what’s going on.”

So what exactly is going on? Donohue lets us in on the secret: It is the “detour from orthodoxy” that caused more than 4,300 priests over five decades to rape and molest thousands of boys and girls in their parishes and other Church settings. Case closed.

Once again, Donohue supports his ill-founded contentions with not a whit of evidence. It is a badge of honor to join the number that have been subject to Bill Donohue’s bromides.

Celebs tweeting their prayers for Japan


From CNN:

The devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan and subsequent tsunami has not only media organizations but the Twitter-verse buzzing.

Celebrities like Alyssa Milano, P. Diddy and stars from "Glee" are tracking the news and tweeting prayers, hope and ideas on how we can help.

Katy Perry: "My prayers go out to anyone that is being effected by the disaster in Japan..."

Ryan Seacrest: “Glued to TV watching this unreal earthquake footage out of Japan. Sending prayers to everyone affected. Unbelievable.”

P. Diddy: “GOD BLESS everyone in Japan and anyone affected by this disaster- you are in every thought and prayer!!”

Justin Bieber: "Japan is one of my favorite places on's an incredible culture with amazing people. My prayers go out to them. We all need to help."

Ron Paul: Today's Anti-War Stalwart Balked at Key Moment


Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) spoke today in favor of a House resolution that would have required the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. “A message needs to be sent,” said the Texas Republican of the legislation, which was offered by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).

Paul, a libertarian, has a certain cache in liberal and left circles because of his seemingly staunch opposition to US military adventurism abroad. Five years ago, a Republican in the White House, Paul had an opportunity to really “send a message.” Instead, he blinked.

Facing intense pressure from the Republican leadership at the time, Paul voted “present” on a resolution in the House Foreign Relations Committee that would have forced a full scale debate on the war. Paul’s vote doomed the resolution, which never reached the House Floor. (NCR’s coverage of the 2005 committee action can be found here.)


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November 20-December 3, 2015


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