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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.

U.S. could step up dismantle rate of older nuclear warheads

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In a new initiative, the United States is likely to step up the rate at which it dismantles older nuclear warheads no longer deployed in the arsenal, officials and experts report.

The nation now maintains roughly one backup warhead for every warhead actively deployed, according to Hans Kristensen, who heads the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. The Defense Department has approximately 2,100 strategic warheads and 500 tactical warheads on active deployment, and almost an equal number in reserve, he said.

British Catholic bishops issue an election guide

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The general election in Britain is turning -- unexpectedly -- into a tight race, according to an article in today's Wall Street Journal. David Cameron's Conservative Party has had a substantial lead over the U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown's ruling Labour Party, but the latest polls show that lead dwindling.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, the British press was reporting that the Catholic bishops would be releasing an election guide that The Times of London said would "take a line that is economically to the left of centre but conservative on social issues such as marriage, education and care for the elderly."

The Telegraph called the 10-page document titled, "Choosing the Common Good," an endorsement of the Tories (i.e., the Conservative Party).

Manure becomes pollutant as its volume becomes unmanageable

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The Washington Post reported recently that the United States has significantly reduced human-sourced pollutants over the last 40 years that once left rivers and lakes dead, discolored and occasionally flammable, but now has "managed to smother the same waters with the most natural stuff in the world."

A March 1 feature story by David Fahrenthold pointed out that animal manure, a byproduct of the new breed of megafarms, has become an unlikely modern pollution problem, according to scientists and environmentalists. Livestock now produce three times as much waste as people, more than can be recycled for nearby fields.

That excess manure gives off air pollutants and "it is this country's fastest-growing large source of methane, a greenhouse gas."

What's more, it washes down stream then down river with rains, helping to cause the 230 oxygen-deprived "dead zones" that have spread along the U. S. coast. In the Chesapeake Bay, about one-fourth of the pollution that leads to dead zones can be traced to "the back end of cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys."

Religious meet in St. Louis to train for Apostolic Visation on site visits

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Mother Mary Clare Millea, Apostolic Visitator for Institutes of Women Religious, conducted an orientation workshop in St. Louis Feb. 26-28 for religious assisting with on-site visits of the Apostolic Visitation, according to a press her group released today.

According to the release, 78 women and men religious who will serve as on-site visitors to selected religious congregations were invited to attend the training session.

Sister Joan McGlinchey, MSC, Vicar for Religious for the Archdiocese of Chicago, served as facilitator for the weekend event.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, chairman-elect of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, and Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport celebrated the Eucharist for the assembly.

Questions about end of life directives

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In November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a revised ethical and religious directive. It states in part that Catholic health facilities have “an obligation to provide patients with food and water, including medically assisted nutrition and hydration for those who cannot take food orally.”

A Tulsa hospital is learning how this directives may play out: Catholic directive may thwart end-of-life wishes Bishops cite 'obligation’ for using feeding tubes at religious facilities

Mar. 1, St. David, Patron of Wales

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Today is Dydd G?yl Dewi Sant, the feast of St. David of Wales, a sixth-century monastic founder and bishop. St. David is venerated in the Catholic Church, in the Anglican Communion, and in the Orthodox Church.

It is a day to wear a leek or a daffodil, to eat cawl and drink water.

David was known as the Waterman because he and his monks drank only water, no beer, no wine. And they plowed without oxen. Every man his own ox, was one of St. David's rules.

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