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The Story of Ly

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Vietnam: Day Four
Members of our interfaith delegation to Vietnam visited families in the urban area around DaNang yesterday, and the small group of which I was a part (Bob Edgar of Common Cause, Jim Winkler of the Methodist Board of Church and Society and myself) met Ly and her family at home. Ly is about eight years old, and her parents showed us proudly the certificate she had just received for excellent work in school.

Yet Ly – like her parents – is thin in the extreme; she could easily have been a “poster child” for poverty and malnourishment. Her mental ability is something of a miracle because she has an enlarged skull and large eyes that are very wide set. Her chest cavity is collapsed in ways that make it difficult for her to breathe. She is scheduled to go to the hospital in two days to get an assessment for possible surgery that would enlarge her chest cavity and improve her breathing. Her parents are clearly concerned.

The Horror in Jamaica

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This week, the city of Kingston, Jamaica was turned into a war zone. In an effort to apprehend a narco-trafficker, Christopher “Dudus” Coke, and extradite him to the United States, the Jamaican security forces have encountered those who have been bought off or scared off by this criminal and have taken up arms to defend him. More than thirty people have been killed in the fighting so far, which is ravaging neighborhoods, killing innocent bystanders as will as security forces and the drug kingpin’s bodyguards.

This weekend, in clubs along the East Coast, affluent, intelligent successful men and women will party with illegal drugs that come from Coke’s network. They are out to have a good time, but I hope they realize that whatever risks they wish to take with their own lives, they have no right to turn a neighboring country into a narco-state. Yet, the insatiable appetite of Americans for cocaine and marijuana is directly, indelibly responsible for the violence in Jamaica. The blood being spilt in the streets of Kingston is on the hands and on the consciences of the partyers in Midtown and Dupont Circle.

Repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' one vote closer

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Politics Daily is reporting that Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., "will vote to repeal the ban on gays serving in the U.S. military, pending a study by the Pentagon on the matter, saying that the policy requires some American service members to lie about themselves in order to serve their country. ...

"With Nelson's vote in hand, one more yes vote is needed to approve the language in the committee. Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) are the only remaining senators who have not announced how they'll vote."

All-Catholic Italian-Irish team bids to run New York

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer William Kennedy hails from Albany, N.Y., which is also the venue of many of his novels. Kennedy could not write a better script than an All-Catholic Italian-Irish team to run New York State.

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced his candidacy for governor a few days ago. Today he chose a tough-talking Irish mayor from Rochester, N.Y., who is also a former cop, as his running mate.

Things in Albany and throughout New York state are going to get very interesting and possibly the stuff of great novels.

Opposition to gay marriage declines

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Religion News Services is reporting on a recent Gallup poll that found opposition to gay marriage showing a slight decrease.

WASHINGTON (RNS) A slight majority of Americans continue to oppose same-sex marriage, but their opposition has decreased slightly in recent years, according to a new Gallup Poll.

Fifty-three percent of Americans polled oppose legalizing same-sex marriage, compared to 44 percent who favor it. But the opposition tied with the lowest rate ever measured by Gallup, from 2007.

In 1996, when Gallup first asked about the legality of gay marriage, 68 percent of Americans were opposed and 27 percent supported it.

In the most recent poll, Americans who said religion is “very important” in their lives opposed legal same sex marriage by 70 percent to 27 percent. Americans who said religion was not important supported gay marriage by a similar margin, 71 percent to 27 percent.

The latest national telephone poll of 1,029 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Critical time at hand in environmental disaster in Gulf of Mexico

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The most critical time in the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is at hand, as BP engineers armed with 50,000 barrels of dense mud and a fleet of robotic submarines are poised to attempt what they call a "top kill" maneuver to plug the gushing well a mile below the surface.

BP chief executive Tony Hayward said Wednesday morning that the company hadn't yet decided whether to go forward with the risky plan, which rather than sealing the well could possibly make the leak worse. “Over the last 12 hours, continuing through the night, we have continued to take pressure readings and establish flow pulse,” Hayward said on NBC's "Today" show. "I will review that with the team and I will take a final decision as to whether or not we should proceed."

BP officials said that the top kill maneuver “has been done successfully in the past, but it hasn't been done at this depth.”

The earth beneath our feet was toxic

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Vietnam: Day Three

On day three of this incredible journey, our interfaith delegation flew to DaNang on the central coast of Vietnam, site of the largest of the U.S. air base during the Vietnam War. This was the storage spot for barrels of Agent Orange, the herbicide sprayed by U.S. planes over a large part of Vietnam in an effort to defoliate the countryside during the war, and deny the Viet Cong the shelter and cover of the jungle.

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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