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U.S. Christians respond to Obama's call for peace in Holy Land

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A press release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says that Bishop Howard Hubbard, the chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, was among the signers of a letter sent to President Barack Obama today praising his Cairo speech and responding to his call to work for peace in the Holy Land.

The release said:

"The message of support expressed gratitude for President Obama’s efforts at reaching out to the Muslim world and for making Israeli-Palestinian peace a top priority of his Administration. But it also expressed grave concern over the “deteriorating situation in the Holy Land” and urged the Obama Administration to make real and concrete progress in achieving a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians."

Bishop Hubbard said, “I am deeply inspired by the President’s effort to bridge divides of culture and faith and to reach out directly to the people of the Middle East. Confrontation only breeds radicalism. For this effort at rapprochement to succeed, however, we need to see real progress on the ground towards peace with justice in the Holy Land.”

The Hottest Read in Hollywood

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Even more so than the rest of America, Hollywood is a place obsessed with the secret to success. Here, you’re confronted every day with how elusive a secret that can be: everyone knows a remarkable actor who can’t seem to get a break, a brilliant writer whose screenplays are among the most admired and least produced in town.

So it’s not surprising that a book about success is currently the hottest read in Hollywood. What’s shocking is the book’s message – the secret of success, it says, is other people, and tight-knit supportive communities like the local parish.

The hot read is Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers,” number one on the Los Angeles Times non-fiction bestseller list for all 27 weeks since it hit the stores. In it, the author looks at the factors that create exceptional people, societies and trends, phenomena that are “outliers,” beyond the statistical norm.

AJC Adviser Hails Obama Speech

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I spoke today with Rabbi James Rudin, senior interreligious adviser for the American Jewish Committee. He called the Obama speech “brilliant” and said the speech contained “some very important things that Muslims and/or Arabs need to her and sometimes don’t want to hear.”

Obama’s emphasis on America’s commitment to the survival and safety of Israel “needed to be said and said clearly,” Rudin said, “Because the President of Iran has gone on and on about wiping Israel off the map and denying the Holocaust.”

Rudin, also a columnist for Religion News Service, said the speech contained valuable history, including Obama’s acknowledgment of the U.S. overthrow of the government in Iran, which led to the Shah and abuses of human rights. He said he thought it valuable that Obama detailed for the world his own life experience, including his father’s connection to Islam and the fact that Obama lived in a Muslim culture as a child.

Obama’s emphasis on religion and the need for interreligious cooperation was significant, said Rudin, because so often religion is dismissed in international relations as irrelevant.

Alexia Kelley Joins the Obama Administration

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The Obama Administration makes a terrific appointment of Alexia Kelley to the Department of Health & Human Services as Director of Faith-based and Community Partnerships. There's no doubt that Kelley will play a pivotal role in the work of both the Faith-based office and HHS. A Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good press release, text below, includes the details.

From the press release:

Alexia Kelley, former Executive Director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, has been named Director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Alliance congratulates Ms. Kelley on this distinguished appointment, and we offer our deepest appreciation for her tireless service to Catholics in Alliance over the past several years. In her new position, Kelley will play a critical role in building partnerships with faith and community organizations.

Inspired by our faith’s teaching that health care is a human right central to serving the common good, Catholics will continue to be front and center in this critical effort.

Muslim Chaplain Sees Potential Turning Point

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President Barack Obama’s speech this morning in Cairo, combined with Pope Benedict XVI’s recent trip to the Middle East, may collectively mark a decisive turning point in relations between Islam and the West. That’s according to the first Muslim chaplain at an American Catholic university and a longtime veteran of Catholic/Muslim dialogue.

Imam Yahya Hendi, a native Palestinian who today serves as chaplain to Muslim students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., spoke to NCR by phone.

Medical bills underlie 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies

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The poor and middle class being financially destroyed by medical bills and our byzantine health insurance industry. The new American Journal of Medicine report is mandatory reading.

According to the study, "Most medical debtors were well-educated, owned homes and had middle-class occupations."
Medical bills are involved in more than 60 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies, an increase of 50 percent in just six years, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.

"More than 75 percent of these bankrupt families had health insurance but still were overwhelmed by their medical debts, the team at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University reported in the American Journal of Medicine. "Unless you're Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy," Harvard's Dr. David Himmelstein, an advocate for a single-payer health insurance program for the United States, said in a statement."

Obama's approach has promise of peace

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The thing that continually astonishes about President Obama is his self-assurance. The range of his speech in Cairo this morning is to political rhetoric what the Queen of the Night’s aria “The Vengeance of Hell Boils in My Heart” is to the soprano repertoire. Only the great attempt it. Only a virtuoso succeeds.

The most important parts of the speech were the twin and related themes of empowerment and hope. He spoke about seeking better times, better relations, better societies and called attention to the fact that his own personal story need not be unique. Still, it is difficult to underestimate the affect on the Muslim world, especially of the youth in that world, of hearing such words delivered by a man whose middle name is Hussein and whose skin color is the same as theirs. Few American Catholics failed to place a framed picture of President John F. Kennedy in their homes. President Obama, in his own personhood, defies the lies about America spread about by Islamic extremists.

Vatican Spokesman Praises Cairo Speech

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“Great appreciation” of the Holy See for the speech delivered today by President Barack Obama in Cairo was expressed by the Vatican spokesperson, Fr. Federico Lombardi. It was a “very important” speech, Lombardi told the ANSA news agency, “very significant,” not only in terms of relations between the United States and the Islamic world, but in view of international peace.

Inside the Search for Common Ground on Abortion Reduction

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Wendy Wright of the organization “Concerned Women for America” recently wrote in Human Events about a meeting she attended at the White House on May 15. The Obama Administration has convened a series of meetings to bring together those who disagree over the contentious issue of abortion in an effort to find common ground. I was at the same meeting Wright attended– but left with a completely different impression. In fact Wendy Wright’s depiction of the meeting is just plain wrong.

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