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The end of era or the start of one?

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Do you remember this diplomatic incident from 2006? The U.S. mission in Havana installed a scrolling electronic sign to flash human rights messages in five-foot high crimson letters into Havana.

"The US described [the sign] as a way to convey information to the Cuban people but the real purpose was to irritate the Cuban government," explained said Dan Erikson, author of The Cuba Wars and an analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue think tank.

But in reality, he said, "It was basically a contest of which side could annoy the other the most."

Well, The Guardian of London is reporting that the sign has been turned off.

"The Obama administration is more interested in normalizing diplomatic channels and apparently did not see the sign as being conducive to that goal," said Erikson. He called the propaganda war surrounding the US mission in Havana as creepy, comical and slightly surreal.

The gift of the passion for reading

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Robinson Crusoe surprised by a lone footprint on a deserted island. Tom Sawyer lost in the cave with Becky Thatcher. Holmes and Watson afoot on the Baskerville moors. Frodo the Hobbit in the land of Mordor. Pippi Longstocking in the south seas. Mowgli stalking the fearsome tiger, Shere Khan, with Bagheera the panther at his side. The cat in the hat. The pit and the pendulum. The call of the wild. The white whale’s pursuit. Sighting Treasure Island off the bow of the Hispaniola.

All of us who were ever rebuked as children for always having our noses in a book have been to these places, known these unforgettable characters, shared in these larger-than-life experiences. These images from the world’s treasure of imaginative literature have long since passed from the page and into our hearts.

The passion for reading is one of the great gifts. If spirituality is all about recognizing, valuing and honoring the true pleasures of life, then reading good books takes an important place in this quest for a fuller, more fulfilled existence.

On Iran, do nothing

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Fareed Zakaria has a must read column in today's Washington Post about America's policy towards Iran.

He argues that what we are watching in Iran is essentially a coup in which the Revolutionary Guard and its allies in the military and political classes have grabbed power from the clerical regime. He notes the number of senior Iranian clergy who have not endorsed the election results that are widely believed to have been rigged in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad among other sources of evidence for a split between the clergy and the military.

Reappointments to international theology commission

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Just off the wire:

Three US-based theologians reappointed to international commission

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Three theologians who teach in the United States were appointed to second terms on the International Theological Commission, an advisory board to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The three, appointed to new five-year terms by Pope Benedict XVI July 25, are:


  • Sr. Sara Butler, a member of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, who teaches dogmatic theology at the New York Archdiocese's St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers.

  • Nigerian Fr. Peter Damian Akpunonu, a professor of biblical exegesis at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Chicago.

  • British Msgr. Paul McPartlan, a professor of systematic theology and ecumenism at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

Mustard

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Mustard -- Matthew 13:31

My sister turned 58 last week. She said she had visited my blog to see if I had written something about her. She is my only sister. There are seven of us, all boys except Mary Ann, the last to arrive and survive in a steady succession of pregnancies that was my father's pride and joy but, as we know now, wore our mother to a frazzle from 1942 until 1952. Our father was very Irish, married at age 36 after taking care of his mother, and he was in a hurry to have a big family, actually a baseball team, he said. My sister would have been in right field, but the whole idea fell apart when my mother miscarried number eight and my dad realized that seven was plenty and that having a daughter was better than a sports metaphor.

Christian martyrdom is 'today's story'

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According to the Associated Press, a 33-year-old woman and mother of three has been executed in North Korea on charges of distributing Bibles, which are banned in the communist country, and of allegedly spying for foreign nations. A July 24 report from the Investigative Commission on Crimes against Humanity, quoted by the AP, says that Ri Hyon-ok was executed in the northwestern city of Ryongchon bordering China on June 16, and that her husband, children and parents were sent to a political prison the day after her execution.

Defrocked Medjugorje priest backgrounder

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Today's Morning Briefing reported that Father Tomislav Vlasic, the priest who helped to turn the Bosnian town of Medjugorje into one of the Catholic Church's most visited shrines, has left the priesthood after being placed under investigation by the Vatican.

Here is some more information on the Vatican case against Vlasic.

Read the 1983 letter written by Vlasic to Pope John Paul II in which he first reports the Mary apparitions.

Desperate border migrants denied water by U.S. officials

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"Things are heating up here," the Rev. John Fife emailed me this week. Fife, along with twelve other Arizona activists, has been charged with littering for putting out life-saving gallon jugs of water along trails where migrants face death. This is urgent in June and July, when temperatures often hover well over 100 degrees.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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