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Independent judiciary threatened, Sandra Day O'Connor says

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Retired justice Sandra Day O'Connor yestereay said last week's Supreme Court decision striking down restrictions on corporate spending in elections will energize an "arms race" in judicial elections, threatening an independent judiciary.

O'Connor said the decision will effect an overwhelming number of states and localities that elect judges.

"In invalidating some of the existing checks on campaign spending, the majority in Citizens United has signaled that the problem of campaign contributions in judicial elections might get considerably worse and quite soon," O'Connor said at a symposium at Georgetown Law Center.

She noted that each election cycle brings new spending records in judicial races.

Vatican issues stamp for Haiti relief

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This from the Vatican Information Service this morning:

VATICAN CITY, 27 JAN 2010 (VIS) - The Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Governorate of Vatican City State has issued a special stamp, the sales of which will be used for the benefit of the people of Haiti, victims of the recent earthquake.

A communique made public yesterday afternoon (Jan. 26) explains that the stamp is dedicated to the 1500th anniversary of the shrine of Our Lady of Grace, better known as the shrine of Mentorella, located in the Italian region of Lazio.

The series of 900,000 stamps, each with a face value of 0.65 euros, will be sold for 0.85 euros, though their postal value will remain 0.65 euros.

The 0.20 euros surplus will be used to aid victims of the earthquake. According to estimates of the Governorate of Vatican City State, if almost the entire series is sold some 150,000 euros will be collected.

Jan. 27, St. Angela Merici, Founder

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Today is the feast of St. Angela Merici, founder of the Ursulines. She was born c. 1474 and died on Jan. 27, 1540.

In 1535, "Angela founded her company in Brescia . . . to enable women to live consecrated lives in their own homes and keeping their occupations. At a time when women were expected to choose between a husband or a cloistered life, it was a daring move! As the company required no dowry, it was open to women of all social backgrounds."

-- Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown, Ohio

Two experts insist: Interreligious dialogue lives!

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Recently I devoted both my “All Things Catholic” column and an op/ed piece in The Forward, a national Jewish weekly, to Pope Benedict XVI’s Jan. 17 visit to the Great Synagogue in Rome. Among other things, I suggested that the pope’s speech that day reflected a broad thrust in his approach to inter-faith relations, away from specifically theological dialogue in favor of social, cultural and political cooperation.

tLike usual, those pieces drew a wide variety of responses.

More $ For Student Loans

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Yesterday, the President proposed to lower the percentage of one’s income you must pay on your federal student loans. Currently, payments on student loans are capped at 15 percent of income, and the new rate would be 10%. It is a fine idea, and coupled with the President’s earlier proposal to get banks out of the student loan business, where they make a risk-free windfall at taxpayer expense, it shows the kind of below-the-radar good policies the administration is pursuing.

He needs to go further. I know that the centerpiece of his state of the Union speech tomorrow night is evidently going to be a freeze on domestic discretionary spending. But, he should find some programs to kill, preferably in the districts of those who opposed health care reform, and pump the money into additional funding for college loan programs. Acknowledging the need to restrain government spending should never entail eating your seed corn, and investments in America’s higher education system undoubtedly reaps rewards for years to come.

Jail time for SOA activists

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A press release from SOA Watch:

On Monday, January 25, 2010, U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth sentenced three human rights advocates to six months in federal prison for carrying a protest against the School of the Americas onto the Fort Benning military base in Georgia. This school, re-named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is a controversial U.S. Army training school for Latin American soldiers. ...

The "SOA 4" are:

Nancy Gwin, long-time activist from Syracuse, New York - sentenced to six months in prison

Father Louie Vitale, veteran and priest from Oakland, CA - sentenced to six months in prison

Ken Hayes, SOA Watch Council member from Austin, TX - sentenced to six months in prison

Michael Walli, a member of the Catholic Worker movement from Washington, DC refused to appear for the trial in Georgia. Walli had told the court during his November arraignment that he would not pay any bail and that he would not voluntarily return for the trial. "I walk out and it's goodbye" Walli told Judge Mallon Faircloth. Michael Walli made good on his promise and on Monday, Judge Mallon Faircloth issued a warrant for Michael Walli's arrest.

Flawed democracy, so let's put even more money into politics

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I'm still huffing about last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively taking the lid off corporate campaign spending. Some people who follow these matters more closely than do I think the ruling won't make matters much worse than they already are. Okay, maybe they are right; I suspect they are not. But who knows?

But I do want to share with you a few paragraphs from the great, and apparently, soon to retire, Justice John Paul Stevens who wrote for the dissenters:

Benedict and the Jews

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Pope Benedict's visit Jan. 17 to the Great Synagogue of Rome caused quite a stir in some quarters. NCR senior correspondent John L Allen Jr. wrote about visit, , and later tried to eplain it, Making Sense of Benedict’s Jewish Policy, and later to put it into context, A theologian-pope sidelines theology.

Over on Belief.net, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, comments on Allen's analysis, Making Sense of Benedict XVI. Read the full column, but here's the money quote:

With click of a mouse, Haiti aid grows

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Online, text giving fuels record fundraising -- more than $380 million

"Two weeks after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake leveled Port-au-Prince, U.S. relief organizations in Baltimore and beyond have collected more than $380 million for Haiti, an outpouring of support unprecedented for a foreign disaster.

With the images from Haiti still dominating news coverage and advances in technology allowing more ways to give, fundraising for Haiti has more than doubled the record pace set in the days following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported Friday. Given economic conditions at home, relief officials say, the response has been remarkable.

"It's clear that people are rising to sacrifice," said Mark Melia, deputy vice president for charitable giving at Catholic Relief Services, which is headquartered in Baltimore. "People are making large gifts that are not easy to make."

Relief organizations raising $5 million or more


  • American Red Cross $153 million

  • AmeriCares $6 million

  • CARE USA $9.2 million

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