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ëVati-con' Featured on CNBC Documentary

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It was the story that had everything: a beautiful Hollywood actress whose star was on the rise, a debonair Italian entrepreneur who purported to do both well and good, a former president and his billionaire buddy, a would-be president of the other party and, not least, Vatican intrigue.

Remember Raffaelo Follieri? Tonight CNBC premiers its documentary, part of its “American Greed” series, on the New York-based “real estate developer” whose business plan included buying up aging US parishes and converting them into “socially responsible” properties – such as day care centers and housing for the aged.

The promo for the show (a short advertisement for CNBC is, unfortunately, at the frontend of the clip) can be found here.

Turns out the business was a scam. Follieri, who once lived in the Trump Towers and maintained a Park Avenue office opposite the Waldorf Astoria, now resides in Federal prison.

Oh, but what a scam!

The Oscars 2010: Movies that Connect Us -- Part 2

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Sr. Rose Pacatte looks at Oscar nominated films for 2010 using the theme of "human connections" as lens through which to view them.

Best animated film of the year
I love the quirky humor of "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" and the depth of feeling in "Up," but in such a worthy category, on principle I would be happy to see "The Princess and the Frog" or "Coraline" win because the films are good and the protagonists are girls. There are so few heroines in animation that I like to celebrate them when I can. All of the stories in these films are about being connected in the family (or animal version of it) or the community. I didn't see "The Secret of Kells."

Achievement in directing
Any of these five directors: James Cameron ("Avatar"), Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") Quentin Tarantino ("Inglorious Basterds"), Lee Daniels ("Precious") and Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air") could walk away with the Oscar. My vote goes to Kathryn Bigelow for her intelligence, heart, and artistic restraint that she brought to "The Hurt Locker."

Best documentary feature

Mar. 3, St. Katharine Drexel, SBS, Founder

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Today is the feast of St. Katharine Drexel, founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

Katharine was born in Philadelphia in 1858 to Francis Drexel, financier and philanthropist, and his wife, Hannah Langstroth.

(Drexel & Co., the source of Francis Drexel's fortune, would eventually be part of Drexel Burnham Lambert.)

Hannah Langstroth Drexel died a month after Katharine's birth. In 1860, Katharine's father married Emma Bouvier.

17 Rules for a Sustainable Economy

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Kentucky farmer and poet Wendell Berry formulated these principles for a sustainable economy, one which focuses on community and the common good. A community economy is not an economy in which well-placed persons can make a "killing." It is an economy whose aim is generosity and a well-distributed and safeguarded abundance.

Wendell Berry is a strong defender of family, rural communities, and traditional family farms. These underlying principles could be described as "the preservation of ecological diversity and integrity, and the renewal, on sound cultural and ecological principles, of local economies and local communities:

1. Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth.

2. Always include local nature – the land, the water, the air, the native creatures – within the membership of the community.

3. Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors.

4. Always supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting products – first to nearby cities, then to others).

Washington Catholic Charities limits employee health benefits

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The law permitting same sex marriage goes into effect in the District of Columbia Wednesday, March 3. It prohibits any kind of discrimination against couples in a same sex union.

So, in advance of that, Catholic Charities of Washington, in order to avoid paying health care benefits to employees who may be in same sex unions, announced that it would no longer cover any spouse of an employee unless he or she is already enrolled in the health care plan. Employees got the news by e-mail March 1, and the policy is effective March 2.

The archdiocese could have done what the Archdiocese of San Francisco did years ago, namely, decided to cover “domestic partners” while expanding the definition of “domestic partner” to include a parent, sibling or someone else in a household. Instead, it eliminated benefits for all spouses.

Catholic social justice teaching has long advocated worker benefits such as health care. It is sad that this teaching was trumped in order to discriminate against a whole class of citizens. It is a decision the Archdiocese will someday come to regret.

Short photo essay from Haiti

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As Michael Sean Winters reported last week, the U.S. bishops' conference sub-committee on the church in Latin America established a special advisory committee to assess the on-going relief work in Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake.

As part of the effort, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of San Antonio is leading a group representing the conference to Haiti Monday through Wednesday. Here are some photos from that trip.

The Oscars 2010: Movies that Connect Us -- Part 1

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Forty-two feature films have been nominated in a variety of categories for the 82nd Academy Awards, which will take place at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles on March 7. In a throw back to the 1930s and 1940s, when anywhere between eight and 12 films were nominated for Best Picture, the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) decided in 2009 to expand the category to 10 feature films so that additional deserving films might be considered. For a film journalist this provides a banquet of stories to explore but makes it nearly impossible to predict a winner.

Human connection, and therefore human dignity and justice, is a theme that runs through many of the films nominated. Using this as a lens, here are my views on some of the 29 films that I have seen of those nominated as worthy of an Oscar.

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April 11-24, 2014

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