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Defense contractor to remove Bible references

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Earlier this week I blogged about a U.S. military contractor placing Bible verses on rifle scopes.

Well, the contractor has decided to stop that practice.

"Trijicon Inc. also said it would take off Biblical references from all U.S. military products that are still in the company's factory and ensure future items do not have any inscriptions on them.

The rifle sights, in use by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, raised concern that the inscriptions break government rules barring proselytizing by American troops."

A way to 'do' grace before meals, not just 'say' it

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Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy once said: “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.” He was convinced there was a link between a carnivorous diet and peace. He told this story:

“Once, when walking from Moscow, I was offered a lift by some carters who were going to a neighboring forest to fetch wood. I was seated in the first cart with a strong, red, coarse cartman, who evidently drank. On entering a village we saw a naked, pink pig being dragged out of the yard to be slaughtered. It squealed in a dreadful voice, resembling the shriek of a man. Just as we were passing they began to kill it, gashing its throat with a knife.

“The pig squealed still more piercingly, broke away from the men, and ran off covered with blood. I did not see all the details, only the human-looking pink body of the pig and heard its desperate squeal, but the carter watched closely. They caught the pig and finished cutting its throat. When its squeals ceased the carter sighed heavily. ‘Do men really not have to answer for such things?’ he said.

Filmmaker Gerry Straub reports from Haiti

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Filmmaker Gerry Straub, who has created more than a dozen documentaries depicting the life of the poor around the globe, is currently in Haiti and will be phoning in reports during his time there.

His first report can be found under Haiti Dispatches on the front page of this site.

Straub began filming in Haiti in early December for a new documentary on the necessity of compassion. When the earthquake occurred he realized that the desperation of the moment in a country already poor beyond compare would have to be part of the story. So he hopped a plane with a group of doctors and nurses and made his way to Port au Prince on Jan. 21.

Straub has spent time in some of the most distressing locations in the United States, Latin America and Africa, but said the situation in Haiti at the moment is beyond anything he's ever seen. Each day I'll be posting the content of conversations we've had the day before. He has both a satellite phone and a cell phone and each works occasionally.

Some frank talk on Haiti

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New York Times op-ed writer, Nicholas Kristof, debunks popular, and tragic, myths about Haiti in yesterday's column. Like poor the world over, Haitians want jobs, as well as decent water, schools and health care. If Catholics want to help Haiti, our focus should be on adding jobs to the island, as the non-government organizations focus on health care and schools.

Kristof concludes:

"So in the coming months as we help Haitians rebuild, let’s dispatch not only aid workers, but also business investors. Haiti desperately needs new schools and hospitals, but also new factories."

Putting Your Money Where Your Senator Is

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If a relilgious group were to pour tons of money toward electing a Senator, that would be blasted as a blatant violation of the much-venerated "separation of church and state." It would be widely scorned as contrary to the first amendment of the Constitution which in essence struck a deal. You, religion, stay out of politics and we, government, favor no religion over another.

Until yesterday, the rough equivalent of that dividing line kept giant corporations from bankrolling political candidates. The Supreme Court's decision now allow the country's goliaths to spend whatever they want on politicians and parties that offer them the best deal. Favoritism, the very scourge that the church-state principle tries to prevent, thus becomes a staple of the electoral process, giving the biggest and wealthiest players an overwhelming advantage. All in the ludicrous name of "free speech."

If religions were permitted to do the same, to curry privileges by courting public figures, most of us would probably shudder until our teeth rattled. Yes, it happens even now, but to a limited degree. Imagine if the door were thrown open?

Jan. 22, Pope Benedict XV

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"I wanted to be called Benedict XVI in order to create a spiritual bond with Benedict XV, who steered the Church through the period of turmoil caused by the First World War. He was a courageous and authentic prophet of peace and strove with brave courage first of all to avert the tragedy of the war and then to limit its harmful consequences."

--Pope Benedict XVI at his first General Audience, April 27, 2005

Today is the anniversary of the death of Pope Benedict XV, born Giacomo della Chiesa in 1854. He reigned as Pope from September 3, 1914, until his death on January 22, 1922.

Legal, yes - but a hostile takeover of our government nevertheless

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The governance of our nation has been ripped from the hands of the people and it will now rest largely in the hands of narrower and vastly more powerful corporate interests. We've sadly watch the diminishment of democracy in our nation for many years now, the popular uprising that elected President Barack Obama not withstanding. Yesterday's Supreme Court action seemingly comes as one large exclamation point to the process of corporate poltical consolidation.

As the lights dim on popular self-governance, a political process so cherished by President Abraham Lincoln and memorailized in his words at Gettysburg --

"We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

-- let us reaffirm our commitment to the cheished values, embedded in our Constitution. Let us not give up in a worthy historic struggle to keep democracy alive.

The Other Winner on Tuesday

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There were two winners in the special election in Massachusetts this week. One of them, Senator-elect Scott Brown, arrived in Washington today and will soon take his seat in the U.S. Senate. The other winner comes from just up I-95 from Brown’s hometown of Wrentham, Massachusetts: Maine Senator Olympia Snowe.

Last summer, Snowe was the last Republican to leave the negotiating table when the Senate Finance Committee was drafting its bill. She had several concerns about the legislation, but chief among them was the public option, which is now no longer an option in any scenario. It was always a mistake to move forward without Snowe, and among all of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s mistakes, this was the greatest. Not only would Snowe have been insurance against the whimsies of Joe Lieberman and the principles of Ben Nelson, Snowe always brings something to the table that the others do not: the “bi-partisan” label.

Will the right oppose the court's blatant judicial activism?

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For years the political right has condemned what it calls "judicial activism," meaning virtually any ruling that defends the little guy against larger state or corporate interests, especially any ruling that overturns a precedent to offer such protection.

Mother Jones' David Korn now asks if the political right will be consistent and speak out against the precedent upsetting and potentially democracy crippling ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court today.

We'll wait with him.

Meanwhile, President Obama, back when he was senator from Illinois, seemed to understand what the nation would be getting in a Justice Roberts' led court.

Explaining his vote against the Roberts nomination, then-Senator Obama noted that Roberts "has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak."

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August 15-28, 2014

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