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'State secrets' defense makes law a 'tool of oppression'


On Oct. 2, fourteen anti-torture activists picketed outside the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. to call attention to -- among other things -- the Obama administration’s use of the state secrets defense to dismiss lawsuits brought by men kidnapped and tortured by the U.S. government.

Instituted in 1953 during the Cold War case of Reynolds vs. the United States, the state secrets privilege allows the executive branch to refuse to produce evidence for a court case on the grounds that the evidence is secret and would jeopardize national security interests and foreign relations if disclosed.

The “privilege,” which was invoked only four times between 1953 and 1976, is fast becoming the Justice Department’s standard response to cases calling for investigation into government abuses of terrorism suspects.

Formerly used to exclude specific evidence from a trial, “state secrets” is now invoked to shut down cases altogether.

Detroit prelate wants Catholic assembly canceled


Perhaps it was only a matter of time.

The Archdiocese of Detroit has warned Catholics to stay away from a national conference of liberal Catholics to be held in Detroit next year. Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron, meanwhile, has call upon organizers of the conference to cancel their plans, saying they are in opposition to the Catholic faith.

Vigneron has his sights set on limiting the impact of the American Catholic Council, a movement aimed “to bring together a network of individuals, organizations, and communities to consider the state and future of our Church, according to the council’s web site.

Revised Rural Life Conference Study Guide on global climate change


The National Catholic Rural Life Conference, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, has revised their Study Guide, Global Climate Change: A Catholic Reponse. It's available at the NCRLC Web site.

The Guide uses a reflection/action methodology called Shared Christian Praxis. The process has five progressive movements, beginning with identifying where people are in their life experiences, then engaging them in critical reflection on their experiences and relating those experiences to the Story and Vision of our Catholic faith. This process concludes with outlining the dimensions for future actions -- by an individual, a group, or an entire community. The end result is meant not only to change attitudes but to change behaviors on behalf of solidarity with the world and with God's creation.

Israelis insist: Christians have it great in Jewish state



t“Holy Land” has long been a dicey bit of vocabulary for some Jews, who historically tended to see it either as a Christian way of planting a flag in the region, or simply as a circumlocution to avoid saying “Israel.”

These days, a new sensitivity has been added to the mix: Talk of a Christian exodus from the Holy Land, many Jews in Israel and elsewhere argue, obscures the fact that Christians have it better in Israel than virtually anyplace else in the Middle East.

tThat’s an important claim for Israel, not only because of its self-image as the region’s lone true democracy, but in light of the massive financial and military support that flows from the United States – where a perception of a hostile climate for Christians in Israel could have damaging political repercussions.

In Middle East, democracy is the 'Great Jihad'



tThere’s nothing like the realistic possibility of extinction to push people beyond euphemisms, forcing them to lay it on the line. That was the spirit of several presentations yesterday afternoon during the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, as Catholic leaders from the region described a future that might be paraphrased as “democracy or death.”

tThe disappearance of Christians from the Middle East also poses the real and present danger, speakers said, of exacerbating a “clash of civilizations” between Christian and Islam.

God in America


God in America: How religion shaped the American experience

This new three-part six-hour series premieres on PBS this week and takes on the enormous task of tracing the influence of Catholic and Protestant Christianity and Judaism on the American psyche, daily life and politics. In fact, the series suggests that the American identity and character is inherently religious.

Check your local listings; the broadcast dates and times can vary widely. Or you can watch full episodes online at your convenience:

Theology professor asks: Are tax cuts for wealthy morally wrong?


Over at The Washington Post's 'On Faith' blog today, University of Dayton theology professor Vince Miller asks a question sure to set interest some people: Are tax cuts for the wealthy morally wrong?

From the piece:

Catholic teaching on taxation is clear. It calls for "a reasonable and fair application of taxes" in which burdens are "proportioned to the capacity of the people contributing." The Bush-era tax cuts were unsustainable from the start. To date, they have burned a $9 trillion hole in our budgets, taking us from an era of surplus to record deficits. As our nation scrambles to respond to the deficits deepened by the economic crisis, we cannot afford them any longer. Indeed, "we" have never paid for them; instead we have left the deficits on our children's tab.

The new oil -- water


On Oct. 8, Newsweek magazine ran a feature story, "The New Oil -- Should Private Companies Control Our Most Precious Natural Resource?" The report begins with an account of how 80 million gallons of water from Blue Lake, an unpolluted source near Sitka, Alaska, will soon be pumped into waiting ocean-going tankers and shipped to a bulk bottling facility near Mumbai in India, there to be processed and sold to drought-plagued Middle East countries. The project is the brainchild of two companies -- One, True Alaska Bottling and S2C Global. The former has bought rights to bottle three billion gallons of water a year from Sitka's lakes; the latter is building the facility in India.

The transfer of water is nothing new, the report notes. Los Angeles gets its water from the distant Owens Valley near the Sierras; New York City from the Catskills. What's troubling critics is the transfer of so much water from public to private hands. Free markets, supporters say, are the way to solve the world's looming water shortages.


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In This Issue

November 20-December 3, 2015


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