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Getting a fuller view of the disaster

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On day two of his time in Haiti, filmmaker Gerry Straub was able to get out and about a bit in Port au Prince. Amid the devastation he continued to be struck by the selfless work of medical teams from around the world. Read the full report here.

He was shaken a bit when one doctor became angry at the presence of a camera at a particularly difficult moment inside the hospital where he is staying. The event led to a conversation with another doctor who, in an attempt to console and place things in perspective, told him a chilling story about his first half hour at the hospital.

Gerry and I are having several conversations a day and we usually wind things up in the evening with an overview of the day and his experiences. I'll keep posting each day as long as he's there and the phones continue working.

Today's posting also includes links to an eight-minute clip of the footage he took in Cite Soleil in early December, before the earthquake and to his San Damiano Foundation's website, which contains information on his earlier work.

The Limits of Campaign Cash

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The Supreme Court’s decision to allow corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on federal campaigns is a bad decision. Quick question for the Catholic Answers crowd: If a corporation is an individual under the Constitution, and you drive one out of business, is it murder?

Seriously, about the last thing Washington needs is more special interest money running around. But, the effects of the decision remain to be seen and while some of them are foreseeably baneful, this is not the end of the world.

It turns out that the value of money is wildly overstated in political campaigns. As newspapers and magazines are learning, advertising revenue is not what it once was and the reason is that more and more people get their information off the internet. The same goes for television advertising: With cable channels of every variety, it is harder and harder to broadcast a message and advertising on channels that microcast is not nearly as expensive.

Diocese of Springfield, Mass., hyperventilates, sues city

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On the one hand, dioceses all over the country, especially in the Northeast, are closing parishes and Catholic schools at breathtaking speed reflecting many factors, including abysmal diocesan and parish planning.

On the other hand, there are some stunning Catholic churches being moth-balled.

An 8-0 vote by the City of Springfield Council to create an historic district thereby preventing demolition of Our Lady of Hope church is impressive. On a casual trip through Italy, one can visit beautiful churches-cum-museums in practically every town.

Back to Springfield, the usual freedom of religion crowd will no doubt start pounding the table and rallying around an empty building. Classic.

Ariz. law criminalizes undocumented immigrants

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New America Media reports that a bill moving fast through the Arizona Senate would allow local police to arrest and incarcerate someone for trespassing” into the territory of the state.

It would also sanction those providing sanctuary, including faith-based groups.

“The federal government is not doing its job so we’re going to do it,” said Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), author of the bill, which is called the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act.

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.

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August 15-28, 2014

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