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How you can help victims of the Joplin, Mo., tornado

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From ABC News:

Rescue efforts are under way as residents of Joplin, Mo., try to pick up the pieces of their lives after a devastating tornado hit the city of about 50,000 and severe storms ravaged the Midwest this weekend.

At least 116 people have been reported dead in Joplin. Authorities say 25 percent to 30 percent of the city has been damaged by the tornado, which was reportedly one mile wide, with winds of nearly 200 mph.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Sunday evening and activated the National Guard.

Find out how to help this city, 160 miles south of Kansas City.

Morning Briefing

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The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Monday that will force California to greatly reduce its prison populations is raising concerns here over how many of those inmates will end up in county jails or released.

Rice High School Catholic School in Harlem Is Closing Over Financial Woes

St. Louis, Mo. Donors pledge $100,000 to Trinity Catholic High School

Dutch Catholic order hit by pedophile group scandal

Catholic hospital takes direct hit from Joplin tornado

Cruel and unusual punishment in our prisons

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I could not help but recall the quotation attributed to Fyodor Dostoevsky that "the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons" when I saw the story of the Supreme Court's ruling on prison in California. Thank God for Justice Kennedy. How sad that the four least compassionate U. S. Supreme Court justices are Catholics.

Here's the Times report of the ruling:

Conditions in California’s overcrowded prisons are so bad that they violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, ordering the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates.

Burglar led Into temptation by Catholics, tattoos

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What reads like a page out of a William Kennedy novel is actually a true story out of Brooklyn, written by a Michael Wilson for the Crime Scene section of The New York Times:

While politics is usually the matchmaker in these things, this time it had nothing to do with the strange bedfellows found at “The Beach.” On one side is a club of middle-aged and elderly Roman Catholic men, and on the other is a tattoo parlor that uses crucifixes in lieu of the t’s in its name. The mysterious stranger who brought them together: a deft burglar.

Alzheimer's and the fear of forgetting

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In the last few years of his life, my father dove deeply into a world of crossword puzzles, jumbles, and Scrabble. These were "mind exercises," he said, built to hold off the thing he feared most: forgetting.

Just a couple of months before he passed away, he called my mother desperately from his cell-phone. He'd pulled his car off to the side of the road, didn't quite know where he was, and couldn't remember the way home. That moment plunged him into a bout of depression and despair.

Archdiocese of Chicago reinstates suspended priest Fr. Michael Pfleger

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It's good to see that Cardinal Francis George and Fr. Michael Pfleger are beginning to sort our their relationship in a more respectful and wise manner.

According to the Associated Press:

The Archdiocese of Chicago has reinstated the priestly duties of the Rev. Michael Pfleger, the outspoken pastor suspended last month due to a disagreement over a proposed transfer from his South Side church.

Rest in peace, Robert Talib Douglas

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My friend Robert Talib Douglas, an inmate on death row in Pennsylvania, died last Friday without realizing what he spent much of his life fighting for -- a fair trial.

Ironically, it was not death by electric chair, Pennsylvania's original sentence for him, but pancreatic cancer that killed him. He was 55 years old.

Twenty-eight years ago, Robert was convicted of two crimes committed seven months apart -- the murder of his close friend Donald Knight (Aug. 28, 1980) and the robbery of TV salesman Harry Feldman (March 11, 1981).

The odds were against Robert from the outset. He was a black man with a criminal record from an isolated, crime-ridden community in northern Philadelphia. But in his fight for a fair hearing, he inspired many people, myself included.

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