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Will Earth survive the computer?

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Recent media attention to the new iPad from Apple reminded me of a friend who retired from the Environmental Protection Agency who once said to me: "The earth's life support systems will probably survive the automobile but probably not personal computers and all the other electronic equipment that proliferates now." She based her opinion on a United Nations University study released in 2006 which revealed a new understanding of the impact these necessary tools of the 21st century have on our environment.

According to this report, making the average personal computer requires 10 times the weight of the product in chemicals and fossil fuels. What's more, many of the chemicals used are toxic, while the use of fossil fuels in making computer and electronic components contributes to global climate change. The short life of today's electronic equipment leads to Himalayas of waste, the report says. That waste is then dumped into landfills or recycled, too often in poorly managed facilities in developing countries, leading to significant health risks.

Pius XII was 'totally anti-Nazi,' former aide says

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Italian news outlets reported yesterday that two documents about Pius XII’s role during World War II have been found in an English archive. One is a brief report of a conversation between Pius XII and an American diplomat in October 1943, in which Pius XII does not address the round-up of Roman Jews by the Nazis. The second, a year later, reports a session between Pius and a British envoy in which the pope discusses balancing criticism of the Nazi crackdown on Jews in Hungary with also speaking out against Soviet war crimes in Poland and the Baltic states.

The chubby Lord

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Something struck me yesterday as I was studying the emaciated figure of Christ on the crucifix behind the altar at my parish: Had the story of the incarnation taken place 2,000 years later, in our own time, that figure of Jesus would almost undoubtably be overweight.

Think about it. From the Gospel we know that Christ was an outcast who was economically impoverished. That means he probably ate only two types of food: cheap stuff and what was offered to him by the people he encountered on his journeys.

In his era the cheap stuff probably included lentils, beans and vegetables at market. In our era it mostly includes canned goods overpumped with sodium, juices which are mostly high fructose corn syrup and fast food sandwiches or hamburgers.

Even with all the exercise he did getting from place to place, I think it’s fair to say the difference in diet may have had the Lord looking a little more filled in.

Perhaps that’s just another sign of his solidarity with the trials of those who are forgotten by society.

Top ten stories in January

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Top-ten stories on NCRonline.org

The five parts of the five-part essay by Sr. Sandra Schneiders, Religious life as prophetic life form, took five of the top-10 most-viewed stories on the NCR web site in January.

If we pull Sr. Schneiders' essay out of the line-up, the top stories are:


  1. Mary Daly, radical feminist theologian, dead at 81

  2. NCR Today: The NCR group blog

  3. Mother Millea urges U.S. religious to comply with study

  4. Papal liturgist endorses 'reform of the reform'

  5. Bishop: 'Schneiders' analysis inspiring, challenging'

Cottle on the \"Dark Art\" of Polling

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Michelle Cottle’s essays over at The New Republic are always worth reading but her takedown of Republican pollster Frank Luntz’s new book is a must-read. (You don’t need to know the name of the book because after reading Cottle you won’t want to shell out the $24.99 to get it. In fact, I will give you $24.99 to read anything else!)

Luntz is a pollster and polling is, as Cottle calls it, a “dark art.” It is also the principal reason our politicians are so bland: They are afraid to go to the bathroom without having a pollster tell them the decision will sit well with the voters. More than that, polling is a principal reason our politics are so bad. They turn campaigns into marketing strategies, they ignore the fact that voters are, at any given time, motivated by a medley of concerns that change from morning to night and from yesterday to tomorrow. For example, I will bet, although I have never been polled on the subject, that my concern about rising food prices is higher after I go to the market. Just a hunch.

Attitudes toward Muslims and Jews linked

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On the most recent "Interfaith Voices," I interviewed Dalia Mogahead, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. She reported on a new poll of Americans that found that 43 percent admitted feeling prejudice toward Muslims. And that’s the percentage who admit it. Not surprisingly, Islam registers a much higher negative rating than other religions. Given the negative media coverage of Islam, and careless political language used by some public officials, that’s not surprising.

Charities merge and close

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For years the bylaws of most not-for-profit organizations contained a provision related to dissolution and transfer of assets. Rarely has this provision ever been invoked.

These days, however, it is employed, studied and used as more and more charities fold their tents and/or merge with other charities. Today's Wall Street Journal describes this relatively new phenomenon.

For many boards of directors, casting a vote in favor of closure is not a comfortable role to be in. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of charities which should close.

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In This Issue

January 29-February 11, 2016

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