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It takes a village to make a loan

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I have to confess, I was a bit upset by the lead story under the fold of The Wall Street Journal today: A global surge in tiny loans spurs credit bubble in a slum.

Microlending fights poverty by helping poor people finance small businesses -- snack stalls, fruit trees, milk-producing buffaloes -- in slums and other places where it's tough to get a normal loan. But what began as a social experiment to aid the world's poorest has also shown it can turn a profit.

That has attracted private-equity funds and other foreign investors, who've poured billions of dollars over the past few years into microfinance world-wide.

Microloans range from a few dollars to a few hundred. Tiny. The capitalists got involved with this "social experiment," becase its offers dependable returns. The granddaddy of all microlenders, the 30-year-old Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, reports repayment rates of nearly 98 percent.

Leave it to the capitalists to screw it up. The Journal article continues:

Honduras update

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Honduras: The coup continues and repression escalates

The Quixote Center delegation in Honduras reports that Aug. 11 -- a day on which the popular movements had called for large urban rallies -- did indeed produce very large protests against the coup government in both Tegucigalpa and in San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras. But it also produced increased repression.

Here is part of their firsthand report:

Catholic exemplar wrong on health care debate

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A couple of weeks back, I wondered why someone with such an illustrious reputation as Princeton Professor Robert George would agree to appear on the Glenn Beck show, especially after Beck had just that morning accused President Barack Obama of being a racist. But, hey, we all make mistakes and what with advance scheduling, and busy summer travel schedules, maybe Professor George did not know of Beck’s outrageous remarks.

Alas, the Glenn Beck appearance now appears mild.

The American Principles Project was founded by Professor George. Its Web site identifies him as "one of America's foremost scholars in the fields of constitutional law, ethics and political philosophy," although my conservative friends question his intellectual output and increasingly his intellectual rigor.

Reality check

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My 82-year old father-in-law is a retired dentist who stays active by helping the poor get access to doctors. Last Saturday, he told me he was worried: a volunteer health group was offering free care over four days at the Forum, a sports arena once used (and filled) by the Los Angeles Lakers. His concern: not enough people would show up.

Turns out this was not a problem.

As reported Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times, people camped out overnight to get a good spot in line and a shot at some decent health care. On day one of this four-day event, 1,500 people made their way into the Forum, where dozens of volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses and other medical professionals stood ready to help.

People were turned away, went outside and began camping out all over again for a better spot on the next day's line. These were not just what some might call the hard-core indigent: an unemployed grocery clerk was there, waiting for a desperately-needed root canal surgery; a former auto mechanic wanted someone to examine his chronic back pain.

What price have you paid for your faith?

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Today's "Morning Briefing" includes a link to an article in yesterday’s Washington Post about Fr. Miguel Lopez, a Mexican priest whose care of souls extends to a patch of that magnificently beautiful country that has been made exceptionally ugly by warring drug traffickers. I had to read the article twice it was so compelling. And, so humbling. What price have you or I had to really pay for our faith lately? This poor priest risks not only his life, but the life of his soul, confronting evil in one of its purer forms.

Corporate merger, Catholic-style

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The Catholic Knights and Catholic Family Life Insurance, two longtime Milwaukee-area fraternal organizations that offer life insurance, annuities and other financial products and benefits to members, said today they intend to merge.

The merger would result in a combined membership of 120,000, assets of more than $1.1 billion and about $4.8 billion of insurance in force. The merged organization, which will have a yet-to-be-determined new name, is to be headquartered in the 19-story Catholic Knights tower on Wells St. in Milwaukee.

Catholic Family, founded in 1868, was the first Catholic fraternal benefit organization established in the United States. Catholic Knights is 124 years old.

Pax Christi going to Honduras

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Just received a note from Pax Christi USA. Responding to requests from religious partners in Honduras, the Cahtolic peace group is organizing an "emergency religious delegation." Such international involvement lends protection to local groups of church workers and activists.

Pax Christi is looking for people to join the delegation. They will be in Honduras Aug. 18-25. For details visit the Pax Christi web site. You have to pay your own airfare and expenses.

A note on the web page suggests other delegations may be organized for later dates. Check it out.

A detailed proposal for bipartisan heatlhcare reform

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Amid the white-hot anger by many conservatives, including the gun-toting ones, concerning "health care reform," few seem to get into any specifics. Rather, they stay up in the clouds of pejorative words like "socialism," "big government," "death panels," and the like. I have asked some of these folks for specific proposals with which they are in disagreement. The ones with whom I chatted at length could give no specifics.

Joe Klein of Time magazine writes in the August 10, 2009, issue about how special interests "trump the common good," when it comes to health care reform.

Importantly, Klein highlights Oregon's Senator Ron Wyden (D), who offers the "best constructed health care bill. It addresses the major health-care issues, and importantly, has 14 bipartisan co-sponsors."

"It covers everyone and offers more choices, it reforms the health-insurance business, it alleviates the responsibility of employers, it has a robust cost-control mechanism, and it has been scored as revenue-neutral over 10 years by the Congressional Budget Office."

Here is the list of Republican co-sponsors of this Democratic health care reform proposal:

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