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Coup in Pakistan would be disaster for Afghanistan

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Writing in Toronto's Globe and Mail, Tarek Fatah offers a sobering analysis of events in Pakistan that could have dire consequences for the war in Afghanistan.

A military coup is unfolding in Pakistan, but, this time, there is no rumbling of tanks on the streets of Islamabad. Instead, it seems the military is using a new strategy for regime change in Pakistan, one that will have adverse consequences for Western troops deployed in Afghanistan.

A year after rogue elements of Pakistan's intelligence services disrupted Indian-Pakistani peace talks by staging the Mumbai massacre, the democratically elected government of President Asif Zardari is facing a putsch from within its ranks, engineered by the men who run Pakistan's infamous military-industrial complex.

The men who wish to replace Mr. Zardari represent the religious right-wing backers of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, adding a new obstacle in Barack Obama's war effort in Afghanistan.

Read the full article: A military coup in Pakistan?

Dec. 10, Thomas Merton

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My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.


Today is the anniversary of the death by accidental electrocution of Thomas Merton (1915-1968).

For anyone unfamiliar with his life and writings, here are his books.
In the Dark Before Dawn: New Selected Poems of Thomas Merton, includes "For My Brother: Reported Missing in Action, 1943", and many of his other early poems.

Send your good wishes, prayers to the people of Bethlehem

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As we prepare and celebrate Christmas in the security and comfort of our homes and communities, people in Bethlehem will again celebrate the season in a difficult climate. Concerns on violence, peace and security, and justice issues continue because of the Palestinian, Israeli conflict. Nonetheless, many individuals and groups persist in searching for non-violent ways to work for a peaceful and just future in that region of the world. Your wishes and prayers can help provide hope and, perhaps, break through feelings of isolation.

You are invited to e-mail Advent and Christmas wishes and prayers for justice and peace to our friends and peace organizations in Bethlehem. This invitation was initiated by Pax Christi International’s partners in Palestine – the Arab Educational Institute, Library on Wheels for Non-violence and Peace, the Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, the Justice and Peace Commission of Jerusalem and Wi’am Center.

Obama now in Oslo to accept Nobel Peace Prize

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In Norway today, President Barack Obama acknowledged criticism of his Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday but said he hoped it would subside if he succeeded in his goals, including cutting nuclear weapons and tackling climate change.

Speaking in Norway before collecting the prize, Obama also reaffirmed U.S. troops would begin transferring responsibility for Afghan security to local forces in July 2011 but said there would be no "precipitous drawdown."

Obama will accept the prize just nine days after ordering 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to break the momentum of the Taliban.

The Compromise in the Senate

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The focus of many Catholics has been on the debate over abortion coverage in the new health care reform bill. But, with the failure of the Nelson-Hatch amendment yesterday, that debate goes behind closed doors, either in the Senate or in the Conference Committee that will meet to reconcile the Senate bill with the one passed in the House earlier. Moving to the forefront of the public debate is a new compromise worked out by a group of moderate and liberal Democratic senators about the role of a public option in the reforms.

Essentially, the Senate is poised to set up something akin to the Federal employees health benefits system. The government will assemble a range of private and non-profit plans, negotiating with the insurance companies to lower costs. This is not the full-throttled public option that liberals sought. In exchange for their support, moderates agreed to allow people over 55 to buy-in to Medicare, which is a government-run program but one which Republicans have a hard time attacking because it is very popular with voters.

CNN to ponder faith and money

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I’m in New York this week, with part of the agenda being to tape a panel discussion for an upcoming CNN special on “Faith and Money.” The program is hosted by Christine Romans, and is scheduled to air on Dec. 19. (Coincidentally, that’s the last day of Hanukkah this year.)

I don't identify money management as a self-standing trend in The Future Church, but it's hard to imagine much of a future for any religious enterprise if it's broke. As the saying goes, the love of money may be the root of all evil ... but you sure do miss the money when it's gone.

tThe CNN program covers a vast range of topics, from the economics of Mega-churches (a segment driven by an interview with Joel Osteen) to the effect of church money on American politics. I was part of a panel devoted to trying to gauge the impact of the economic crisis on religious groups around the country.

tWithout stealing the show’s thunder, I can briefly summarize three points I tried to make:

An answer for global-warming skeptics

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Don't believe in global-warming? New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has a thought for you in a column titled: Going Cheney on Climate. He writes:

This is not complicated. We know that our planet is enveloped in a blanket of greenhouse gases that keep the Earth at a comfortable temperature. As we pump more carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases into that blanket from cars, buildings, agriculture, forests and industry, more heat gets trapped.

What we don’t know, because the climate system is so complex, is what other factors might over time compensate for that man-driven warming, or how rapidly temperatures might rise, melt more ice and raise sea levels. It’s all a game of odds. We’ve never been here before. We just know two things: one, the CO2 we put into the atmosphere stays there for many years, so it is “irreversible” in real-time (barring some feat of geo-engineering); and two, that CO2 buildup has the potential to unleash “catastrophic” warming.

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.

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