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No recess, no inertia

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"No Recess for Reform” was the mantra at a press conference and prayer meeting at the U.S. Capitol this morning. The event, sponsored by PICO, a faith-based community organizing network, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Sojourners and Faith in Public Life, was the kick-off of a campaign to pressure legislators to pass comprehensive health reform legislation this year.

During the congressional August recess, the coalition is planning a hundred meetings at the district offices of fence-sitting congressmen and senators. Additionally, the coalition will be running radio ads and collecting signatures for petitions. “The Good Samaritan was called upon to provide affordable, accessible health care,” Rev. Stevie Wakes of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kan., told the gathering.

A lifelong love affair

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A long and loving look at the natural world we inhabit can actually change us. We can become different persons. In his book The Universe Is a Green Dragon, physicist Brian Swimme points out that when you stand, for example, in the presence of the moon, you become a new creation. There is an actual physical interaction between the photons of light coming from the moon and the optical nerve cells in your body.

So who's defending adoption in wake of slasher movie, \"Orphan\"?

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The horror slasher movie "Orphan" open last weekend, raking in $12.8 million for Warner Bros. as the fourth most popular movie of the weekend.

An earlier outcry from adoptive parents offended by the premise that an older adopted child might be a homicidal psychopath resulted in the trailer line, "It must hard to love an adopted child as much as your own," being replaced. But the movie still reinforces the stereotype that it's risky to adopt an older child.

Gone too soon

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I didn’t know Lily Burk, never met her walking through our neighborhood. But when the 17-year old high school senior was murdered last Friday while running an errand for her mother, that death shook my home to its very walls.

This past Saturday, we were invited to the home of some friends, to view native Mexican arts and crafts on display and for sale -- proceeds were to go to a cooperative of women working in the remote and poverty-stricken Chiapas region of southern Mexico, the poorest part of a poor country.

The items had been brought back by a group of teenagers from a local private school. The students make an annual trip to Chiapas, to help the women’s group fix homes and build their small businesses.

In some ways, the gathering could have been the kind of Hollywood fundraiser that promotes snickers outside this town: a meeting of the comfortably middle class, doing what they do best -- shopping.

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.

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