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Letter from Haiti

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In a letter written Jan. 15, two days after the Haitian earthquake, Lasallian Bernard Collignon described the "horror" he was witnessing in and among the communities in Port-au-Prince. (The following is a rough translation of that letter. The original French letter is below.)

Dear friends,

I just returned from a walk in downtown Port au Prince. What I have seen is unimaginable: thousands of people wandering the streets going nowhere carrying small bundles with their possessions. Decomposing corpses everywhere, single or in heaps. Now they are covered but they are still seen in the wreckage just off any road. This afternoon I saw something unbearable: a dumpster full of rotting corpses. I say a dumpster. Unbearable! The smell of decaying corpses is very strong.

Epidemics are certainly coming. People have transformed all public places into campgrounds. Some have small canvas shelters. Others have nothing.

How will world end? Hollywood says 'take your pick'

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Hollywood has always had a taste for disaster -- each generation of these films tells us something new about the way we fear our world will end. This year, it seems, random threats that annihilate everything are all the fashion. And they may indeed reflect a dark corner of our national psyche.

This weekend's box office saw Denzel Washington's new apocalyptic movie, "The Book of Eli," finish a strong second (with $38 million in tickets sold), behind sci-fi juggernaut "Avatar." That follows on the heels of two similarly-themed films this season, "The Road" (from the beyond-bleak Cormac McCarthy novel) and "2012," which plays global destruction as wide-screen spectacle. They all speak to our times in common ways.

Jan. 20, Blessed Basil Moreau, Holy Cross founder

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Today is the feast of Blessed Basil Anthony Mary Moreau, 1799-1873, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Please click here for information about the 2007 edition of Gary MacEoin's 1962 biography of Fr. Moreau, and for a link to a clip of Fr. Jim Gallagher's appearance on WNDU Sunday Morning, in which he talks about the founder and about the events this week at Notre Dame to celebrate the feast.

Amazon provides a Look Inside feature for MacEoin's book, Basil Moreau: Founder of Holy Cross. For examples of the sufferings Moreau endured, read about his relationships with Bishop Jean-Baptiste Bouvier and others in the hierarchy; about the financial shenanigans of Br. Marie Julien and others in the congregation; and about the bitter conflicts with Fr. Edward Sorin and others at Notre Dame and at St. Mary's. The constant turmoil finally led to Fr. Moreau's resignation from his position as superior general.

Gay bashing at Notre Dame

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As an alum and former writer for the student newspaper, I'm embarrassed to report that the Notre Dame Observer recently published an anti-gay cartoon, for which the editors have since apologized.

The Jan. 13 cartoon, "Mobile Party," depicted a conversation between two figures, in which the first one asks, "What's the easiest way to turn a fruit into a vegetable?" The second responds, "No idea." The punchline, in the third panel, is "A baseball bat."

According to the cartoonists' blog (since removed), the newspaper's editors changed the original punchline, which said "AIDS."

The cartoon evoked a strong reaction from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), alumni and some students. Two days later, the editors issued an apology and dropped the cartoon, and the managing editor resigned. Some are calling for the cartoonists and editors to be expelled.

NCR featured Haitian women's group decimated by quake

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I Just received this email from Beverly Bell, author of the NCR series, "Women: Birthing justice, birthing hope," which you have been seeing in the paper and on the web these past weeks.

You might recall that one of the women's profiles we published in December featured Hatian activist, Helia Lejeunesse, who has dedicated her life to fighting modern slavery.

Here is what Bell wrote me:

Greetings, Tom. I just learned that Helia Lajeunesse is alive, though the conditions on which she and other members of her anti-slavery group are living are very precarious. I have a note from her colleague in Commission of Women Victim-to-Victim. I wonder if you would want to update your readers who care about her through her beautiful words? I'm taking the liberty of sending it on, here:

Defense contractor has God in its sights

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Bible verses inscribed on scopes used by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan

One can surely imagine the the "No-God crowd" is not going to be happy with this story:

Combat rifle sights used by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan carry references to Bible verses, stoking concerns about whether the inscriptions break a government rule that bars proselytizing by American troops.

Military officials said the citations don't violate the ban and they won't stop using the telescoping sights, which allow troops to pinpoint the enemy day or night.

The contractor that makes the equipment,Trijicon of Wixom, Mich., said the U.S. military has been a customer since 1995 and the company has never received any complaints about the Scripture citations.

Atheists for Aid to Haiti

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We are all by now aware of the idiot remarks by Rush Limbaugh about the tragedy in Haiti. But, from Britain, via USAToday, comes a report that renowned atheist Richard Dawkins has set up a special website for non-believers to give to the relief effort. I am all for relief assistance, no matter what the source, but why did Dawkins, like Limbaugh, think that this tragedy should become a vehicle for making an unrelated ideological point?

It is especially amusing that one of the two relief agencies to which Dawkins will give whatever funds he raises is the Red Cross. Now, I understand that the Red Cross is a thoroughly secular organization these days, but its name indicates that its initial inspiration was a little bit Christian. Will Dawkins concede that Pope Benedict is on to something when he insists that if Western culture is ignorant of faith, it is ignorant of its roots? The organization could have been called the Red Parrot, or the Red Hospital, or whatever. But, it is called the Red Cross.

Caritas staff blog from Haiti

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Michelle Hough, a communications officer for Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organization for national Catholic charities, was sent to Haiti as a member of the international rescue staff to help with operations in the area.

Hough has been recounting her experiences through daily blog updates from Haiti.

A story about Hough is here: Caritas officer blogs experiences in Haiti

Her blog is here: http://blog.caritas.org/

Science supports gospel value of nonviolence

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Just after World War II, a new branch of science was born – ethology, the study of animal behavior. The first ethologist to come to prominence in the scientific community was Austrian Konrad Lorenz.

In 1973 Lorenz won the Nobel Prize, along with colleagues Karl von Frisch and Niko Tinbergen, for their discoveries concerning animal behavioral patterns. They discovered the phenomenon of imprinting, in which young animals socially bond to the first moving object they encounter.

Some of Lorenz’ views were expressed in his popular book On Aggression (1966), wherein he asserted that human aggressive impulses are to a degree inborn, and drew analogies between the aggression demonstrated in both human and animal territorial behavior. These assertions made decades ago have engendered considerable controversy. Some saw Lorenz’ views as an attempt to whitewash human atrocities like the Nazi persecution of the Jews.

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