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New budget increases money for nukes, analyst says

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At a time when President Obama has said the United States is pruning its nuclear weapons stockpile, the director of one of the nation’s most active nuclear weapons watch groups said yesterday that Obama’s new budget drastically increases funding for nuclear weapons production.

“The budget that was released just yesterday is a big, big step backwards,” said Jay Coghlan, the executive director of Nuclear Watch of New Mexico. “Just this coming year, it’s raising the nuclear weapons budget for the Department of Energy ten percent. But most particularly, it’s quadrupling, in some cases, the funding for new production facilities.”

Coghlan, who lives near the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and has been a nuclear weapons analyst for years, was speaking to Amy Goodman on the independent radio program Democracy Now!. You can listen to the full conversation, or read the transcript, here.

The increase in the budget for nuclear weapons is part of a trade-off scheme by Obama to secure U.S. Senate ratificiation of a new arms reduction treaty with Russia, Coghlan said.

Valentine's Day Preach-in/Teach-in on Climate Change

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Interfaith Power & Light coalitions and partner congregations around the country will be making climate change the subject of their worship services on Valentine Day's weekend, February 12-14.

Your parish or congregation can get involved by sending Valentine postcards to your legislators on "loving our neighbors by caring for creation" -- specifically in terms of passing strong climate legislation. When you sign up for the Valentine Day preach-in, you receive materials to help you educate or prepare a sermon for the second week of February. Visit Interfaith Power & Light

How NOT to Move Forward on Health Care

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are negotiating ways to move the much-maligned and nearly dead health care proposal through Congress. The two step process will involve the House passing the Senate bill, and the Senate passing changes through a process known as reconciliation. Reconciliation is a parliamentary procedure that allows bills to pass with a majority vote, avoiding the 60 vote hurdle of bills that are subject to a filibuster. But, reconciliation is controversial and is limited to budgetary measures. Most worryingly, this two-step parliamentary process reeks of the kind of “inside baseball” that afflicted the bill throughout 2009.

Haitian bishop meets with pope

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Bishop Pierre Dumas, president of Caritas Haiti, met with Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday to report on the devastation in his country, urging that churches be rebuilt and that they have charitable facilities alongside them.

In a news conference arranged by the Sant’Egidio community in Rome, Dumas also updated the damage to the church. He said 15 churches, including the Cathedral, were destroyed in Port-au-Prince. He also said that more than 45 nuns, 20 religious seminarians and 30 diocesan seminarians had been killed in the Jan. 12 earthquake in addition to the archbishop, vicar and chancellor of the archdiocese.

Parish priests are being encouraged to stay with their people in the tent villages that have materialized throughout the city and to celebrate Mass in those locations.

Sunday Masses are being celebrated in improvised locations near the destroyed churches, he said. The church is giving special attention to hearing confessions and to providing help for psychologically traumatized people.

Dumas said he also told the pope that the archdiocese's seminary must be rebuilt so the church can begin educating priests again.

The Catholic choice

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Last year around this time, I sat in church for the start of Catholic Schools Week next to my mother and sister. They were visiting L.A. from Florida, where most of my family (being good New Yorkers) moved a few years ago. They were part of a packed church -- always filled during this week with young parents and their four-year old children, investigating our parish school.

Dealing from the Bottom of the Deck

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Catholic conservative direct mail fundraiser Deal Hudson, possessor of a self preservation instinct the envy of cats everywhere, is at it yet again.

Way back in 2004 Hudson, who in addition to acting as publisher of the now defunct Crisis magazine served as chair of the Republican National Committee’s “Catholic Outreach” arm, successfully campaigned to have a junior staffer at the US Bishops Conference, Ono Ekeh, removed from his job. Ekeh’s sin? He publicly supported John Kerry’s presidential bid. Read about it here.

Now, Hudson, a thrice-married former Baptist minister, is after bigger fish. He’s promoting the calumnies that the American Life League (the most out there of the anti-abortion groups) and some wacky Santa Fe-based outfit which terms itself “Bellarmine Veritas Ministry,” have launched against John Carr, longtime head of the US bishops social justice office. Read about it, if you must, here.

Can they take this much attention?

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Religious brothers might want to seek advice from their religious sisters on this one. CNS is reporting that Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, wants to turn his attention to religious brothers. (See: Vatican preparing documents on prayer, brothers.)

Cardinal Rode said the numbers speak clearly "and something must be done."

While the numbers of religious in every category have dropped in the last 50 years, the number of religious brothers has decreased most drastically, he said, citing the example of the Christian Brothers who had 16,000 members in 1965 and have fewer than 5,000 today.

"We think one of the reasons for the decline in these vocations is due to a certain lack of attention on the part of the church" to brothers, who are mentioned only in passing in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and Vatican documents published later, he said.

Good luck brothers.

Time to End \"Don't Ask, Don't Tell\"

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Ever since President Barack Obama pledged to overturn the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in his State of the Union address, conservatives have been hiding behind the claim that politics should not dictate to the military, that military culture is unlike civilian culture, and that the military should not be an avenue for social policy.

Of course, if these objections sound familiar to any student of history, all of them were raised when Harry S. Truman desegregated the military by executive order. In 1948. An election year. You will also recall that this decision did not cost Mr. Truman the election.
What the conservative zealots and anti-gay bigots misunderstand is the basic sense of fairness that is an integral part of American culture and the American psyche.

Now, of course, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, has said that ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is “the right thing to do.” He pointed out that the issue was one of integrity, both the individual’s and the institution’s. So, there is no more hiding behind the military, and conservatives need to rethink that talking point about not interjecting politics into military considerations.

Food pantries, soup kitchens busier than ever

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A nationwide study released Tuesday by the Chicago-based hunger relief group Feeding America indicates a sharp uptick in the number of Americans relying on food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters for day-to-day survival, the Chicago Tribune reported today.

In Cook County, the report estimated that more than 678,000 people — including a quarter of a million children — received some form of emergency food last year.

The overall figure is a 36 percent increase compared with the findings of a similar study released in 2006.

NCR ran a similar story at the end of last week, citing Catholic Charities figures.

"Catholic Charities USA reported that in the last quarter of 2009 member agencies around the country experienced nearly twice as many requests for assistance to meet rent or mortgage payments and utility bills."

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