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Hope for the world's remaining forests

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Frances Beinecke is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. She filed this report from the Copenhagen U.N. Climate Conference about the probable progress on reducing deforestation in the world.

"When I attended the U. N. climate talks in Bali in 2007, I realized that while the stage-crafted plenary sessions on emissions targets are a critical part of these negotiations, the quieter, sideline debates over specific details like financing or verifying reductions are just as important.

I expect the same will be true in Copenhagen. Negotiators will reach agreement on several key issues, and in turn, these agreements will become the building blocks of the final international treaty that will be signed in the coming months.

I believe one of those agreements will be about how to solve the crisis of deforestation--the source of 15 percent of the world’s global warming pollution. There are huge swaths of tropical forest in Africa, Asia, and South America that could continue to act as critical carbon sinks--but only if the financial incentives and the market values shift toward preserving forests rather than depleting them.

Single-issue bishops

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As landmark healthcare legislation makes it slow way through Congress, the U.S. Catholic bishops are in danger of finding themselves on the sidelines of history, regarded as a single-issue constituency with no view toward the greater good.

That's a growing view among many Catholic writers -- expressed clearly in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times by columnist Tim Rutten, a Catholic. Rutten joins an evolving chorus of voices who note that the bishops have the influence to help push through a change in public policy they have sought for decades: universal health care coverage. Instead, they have become enmeshed in abortion politics, threatening to undermine a bill that would help ten of millions.

Rutten quotes Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lt. Governor of Maryland, who spoke out on Tuesday: "As Catholics, are we so laser-focused on the issue of abortion that we are willing to join the 'tea-partyers' and the like to bring down the healthcare reform bill? And at the enormous expense of million of Americans who suffer every day" without healthcare?

Dec. 9, St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

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Beloved Juan Diego, "the talking eagle"! Show us the way that leads to the "Dark Virgin" of Tepeyac, that she may receive us in the depths of her heart, for she is the loving, compassionate Mother who guides us to the true God. Amen.

--from the homily by Pope John Paul II at the canonization of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

"The miraculous image, which is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shows a woman with native features and dress. She is supported by an angel whose wings are reminiscent of one of the major gods of the traditional religion of that area. The moon is beneath her feet and her blue mantle is covered with gold stars. The black girdle about her waist signifies that she is pregnant."

--from the Vatican's http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20020731_juan-diego_en.html> biography of St. Juan Diego

Obama carries our hopes - and prayers - with him to Europe

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The global nature of our fragile human family is front stage this week as delegates at the Copenhagen Climate Change conference rush now to come up with a document that will find a pathway to stave off the carbon emissions that threaten the future of the planet.

President Obama will appear at the conference on its last day, hopefully to place his signature on a document that achieves this aim. It is hardly clear this critically necessary document will emerge in time from the conference.

Pressure building for climate change script

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In Copenhagen, hundreds of government functionaries awoke on Wednesday feeling the rising pressure of a weekend deadline to hash out a realistic draft of a new climate agreement.

The pressure is rising
because the drafts need to be in decent shape before top ministers arrive to prepare for their bosses, including more than 100 heads of state, scheduled to close out the negotiations on Dec. 18.

Where is Senator Casey?

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Sen. Bob Casey is a hero to pro-life Democrats. Standing at the podium of the Democratic National Convention last summer, a podium that had been denied to his father, Casey spoke for the hopes of many progressive Catholics who are deeply committed to the Church’s social justice tradition, and see the Democratic Party’s platform as embodying that tradition, but who felt the Democrats got it wrong when they decided to exclude the unborn from their list of those whose cause deserved a champion. We knew we were not in the majority of the party, but at least we knew we had a seat at the table. Casey would be our spokesman.

Prayer vigil is held at Manchester medical center

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Catholics and other antiabortion activists held a prayer vigil outside Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire today, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Catholic hospital is in talks with Dartmouth Hitchcock Health to strengthen ties, and members of the group SAVE CMC are concerned that the merged hospital system will undermine the church’s ethical guidelines for healthcare.

Last month, Manchester Bishop John McCormack wrote a letter to priests of the diocese assuring them that he would not approve a deal that would jeopardize the Catholic identity of the hospital. The New Hampshire attorney general is reviewing the deal to ensure it protects the mission of each hospital.

Is health care reform stalled in the Senate?

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Our Washington corresondent, Jerry Filteau filed a report this morning (Stage set for Senate abortion showdown on health reform) saying that the U.S. bishops were firmly behind the the health care reform amendemnt that Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., proposed yesterday that would more clearly restrict the use of any public funds for abortion in the reform bill before the Senate. Filteau also reported that at least some pundits predicted that passage of the amendement was unlikely.

Now CNN is reporting that whether the Nelson amendment is passed or not, it could stall health care reform in the Senate. Without the amendment, the Democrats could use their filibuster proof majority. With the amendment, Democrats may abandoned the latest draft.

Read the CNN's analysis here: Abortion again roils health care debate

'Holy Death' sect, spreads, with drugs

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Among a small but growing portion of Los Angeles' vibrant Mexican spiritual community, a new but troubling object of worship is emerging: Santa Muerte, or "Holy Death." It is the latest, strongest and strangest sign of the powerful hold that the narcotics trade has on Latino culture.

A report in the Los Angeles Times this week outlines the still-developing worship services surrounding Santa Muerte. According to the Times, a handful of storefront churches have been set up in poor Latino neighborhoods to honor Holy Death, portrayed as a female grim reaper dressed in white with a skull for a face. Rites at these services that in some ways mirror Hispanic devotions to Mary.

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August 15-28, 2014

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