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Pope stresses the importance of agriculture

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In his remarks prior to praying the Angelus on Sunday, Nov. 15 Pope Benedict talked of the importance that work, especially agricultural work, has for human life.

Addressing thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square, the pope recalled how this question was highlighted in that Sunday's reading from St. Paul, and that in Italy the second Sunday of November is dedicated to thanking God for the end of the harvest. "Although I know that in other areas the farming seasons are different, I would like to draw from St.Paul 's words to reflect particularly on agricultural work", he said.

Pennsylvania diocese awarded $275,000 for technology programs

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Exciting news today from the Johnstown, Penn. Tribune-Democrat:

Six schools in the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese will be expanding their technology programs, thanks to a state grant.

The diocese recently received a $273,000 competitive E-Fund grant, which was established by the state Department of Education, that assists in accelerating broadband deployment and creates collaboration opportunities between the schools. It also helps with purchasing services, hardware, technical assistance and distance education.

“We are the first nonpublic school system in the state to receive this funding, so that is quite significant,” said Don Layo, the diocese’s director of information technologies.

America, ever the same

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I learned this week that if you want a fresh perspective on American politics you need to help your daughter study for a high school history test.

My oldest daughter is taking Advanced Placement U.S. history, and asked me to help her study for a chapter test coming up. She'd written out key bullet points on index cards and handed me the stack to review with her. As I did, it became clear -- card after card -- that nothing changes in America, ever.

Is the Deficit Commission Serious?

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Kevin Drum of Mother Jones asks:

I've been trying to figure out whether I have anything to say about the "chairman's mark" of the deficit commission report that was released today. In a sense, I don't. This is not a piece of legislation, after all. ...

But the iron law of the news business is that if people are talking about it, then it matters. So this report matters, even though it's really nothing more than the opinion of Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. So here's what I think of it, all contained in one handy chart from the Congressional Budget Office

Morning Briefing

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Remembering the veterans

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We can't let this Veteran's Day come to a close without drawing your attention to a series of stories written by NCR contributor Judy Gross. Earlier this fall, Judy's piece Spiritual leaders in the battle zones about military chaplains appeared (subhead: Deployed and stateside, military chaplains minister amid myriad pressures).

Judy's next piece in the series is about military families and will appear in the Nov. 26 print issue. A taste:

New Congress means we have to work harder for social justice

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It has taken me some days to recover from the recent midterm elections. I had hoped that the Democrats could hold the House of Representatives as well as the Senate. This was not the case in the House.

Everyone can do Monday morning quarterbacking about why the Democrats did so poorly. My regret is that social justice issues, so important to many Catholics -- as they should be to all Catholics -- will now be put aside or even rolled back.

For example, the attempt to overthrow the Obama health insurance reform, to me, is an anti-social justice issue. How can anyone, especially Catholics, not support the effort to get some 40 million Americans -- many of them also Catholics -- needed health insurance?

With respect to job creation, it is clear that the private sector is not doing enough to produce jobs. If anything, many employers are selfishly laying off employees. As a result, we need more of a federal stimulus to create jobs.

The right to work is a social justice issue, but I’m afraid that nothing will be done along these lines with Republicans, many of them Catholics, who seemed to be unconcerned about the unemployed.

Why not torture when you can just cover it up?

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As he's been making the media circuit to promote his new book, former President George W. Bush has been repeatedly defending his administration's use of torture.

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly over at the Commonweal blog has a fascinating round-up of two reactions from journalists to Bush's interviews.

The common theme among the two? Torture is easy to pull off: The mainstream media won't pursue the story; no one will try to expose the cover up.

As O'Reilly puts it:

The failure of the Obama administration to follow through on its tough talk about restoring the rule of law is based on the same lesson the Bush administration learned: in terms of optics, there is no downside to covering up torture. And as long as you can get away with covering it up, there’s nothing stopping you from going ahead with torture.

What does this say about the U.S.' human rights record?

The most efficient ways to curb climate change

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You have $1 million to spend on abating climate change. How would you spend it to get the most for your money? On more energy-efficient technologies? On raising fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles? On research for wind power generation?

According to a recent paper by David Wheeler and Dan Hammer, climate change experts at the Center for Global Development, the best strategy would be to spend that money on a combination of family planning and girls’ education in developing countries.

Data in their paper shows tonnage of CO2 that could be abated for a one million dollar investment. Family planning and girls' education combined save 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide being hoisted into the upper atmosphere, while measures like an emphasis on solar energy or hybrid cars save only 35-40,000 tons apiece.

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August 28-September 10, 2015

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