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The 'socially important' movie

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Nearly every Academy Awards season, the Oscar nominations bring to the forefront a small film deemed to be "socially important," a film of supposedly searing insight into the human condition, a film that - in short - cannot be ignored. These movies often tell us more about the Hollywood elite (i.e., Academy voters) than they do about any real social condition.

This year's anointed picture is "Precious," often described in reviews as a fairly brutal depiction of the life of an obese and illiterate black teenager who has two children by her father. Films like "Precious" garner critical attention and Academy nods not as films -- the acclaim is not really for script, plot, direction or cinematography. "Precious" is celebrated for what it allegedly reveals to us about the hidden sides of society we choose not to see. But does it?

Gotta Love the Tea Party Crowd

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One of the few nice things about losing power around noon on Saturday during the blizzard, and not getting it back until 1 a.m. the next morning, was that I did not have to decide whether or not to watch the Tea Party Convention on C-Span. I was especially torn about watching Sarah Palin’s address to the assembled Tea Partiers. The reason for this ambivalence is essentially hereditary: My father is a bit of an ambulance chaser. He likes to see what is going on and can’t seem to tear his eyes away from a car wreck. If you are stuck in traffic because of rubber-necking as people watch the remains of an accident on the other side of the road, one of those rubber-neckers is my dad. Watching Palin address the Tea Party crowd promised to have all the high drama and the bloody mess of a car crash.

Feb. 8, Bl. Jacoba de Settesoli

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St. Francis of Assisi asked that a letter be sent to "the beloved Lady Jacoba of Settesoli," informing her of his impending death and asking her to bring "a shroud of hair-cloth in which to wrap my body, and wax for the burial. I pray thee, likewise, that thou bring to me some of that food which thou wast wont to give me when I was in Rome."

But God had already revealed to Jacoba that Francis was dying, and now God revealed to Francis that Jacoba knew. "Do not write more, for it is not necessary."

An unusual Vatican event marks Kasper's (not-quite) swan song

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tBoth in style and in substance, a highly unusual Vatican meeting is taking place this week in the offices of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In terms of content, the Feb. 8-10 event brings together leading Catholic minds with their counterparts in the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed traditions, for a sort of “state of the union” consideration of the entire ecumenical project, meaning the effort to put the divided Christian family back together again.

That’s a departure from normal practice in two senses. First, the Vatican normally conducts ecumenical conversation in bilateral fashion, one church at a time. Second, those dialogues are usually focused on some specific topic – Mary, for example, or the Bible, or authority in the church. This time, the field is wide open.

Talk in Rome turns to new cardinals in 2010

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[updated]

tDespite a recent boomlet of conjecture about a consistory in late February or early March, the consensus in Rome these days seems to be that Pope Benedict XVI isn’t likely to create new cardinals until sometime later in 2010, perhaps as late as November. Between now and then, several other major events loom on the pope’s calendar: Trips to Malta in April, Portugal (Fatima) in May, Cyprus in June and the United Kingdom in September, as well as a Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in October.

tAs of today, there are a total of 182 cardinals, of whom 111 are under the age of 80 and hence eligible to vote for the next pope. In March, three more cardinals will turn 80, followed by one each in July and August, three more in September, and one each in October and November. Hence if Benedict XVI waits until November, there would be at least 19 slots for new voting cardinals – presuming, as most do, that Benedict intends to honor the limit of 120 set by Pope Paul VI.

tTwo of the ten cardinals who will “age out” in coming months, by the way, are Americans: Theodore McCarrick of Washington and Adam Maida of Detroit, both now retired.

Salvadorans paid 10 cents to sew $80 NFL jerseys

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I don't want to throw beer on your popcorn and potato chips today. But I want to share with you some information that seems timely and troubling.

According to a recent study, women trapped in Salvadoran sweatshops are paid 10 Cents to Sew $80 NFL football jerseys.

The jerseys have been sewn under illegal sweatshop conditions at the Chi Fung factory in El Salvador for at least the last four years, according to a new report by the National Labor Committee.

Often forced to work 12-hour shifts, workers were at the factory 61 to 65 hours a week, including 12 to 15 hours of obligatory overtime, which was unpaid. The workers were paid a below-subsistence wage of just 72 cents an hour, which meets less than a quarter of a family's basic subsistence needs for food, housing, healthcare and clothing.

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