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Meltdown hits poorest of global poor

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The economic meltdown is hurting the poorest of the world in the worst of ways. The UN agency, the World Food Program, has warned that millions of families in dozens of developing countries are coping with the economic crisis by going hungry, withdrawing their children from school, and cutting back on meals and health care. So after decades of progress, the scourge of global hunger is suddenly on the rise again.

Is the social-activist priest a relic?

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An inspiring story about the social-activist priest Fr. John Powis of Brooklyn is in this week's Village Voice.

Just wondering: Is Fr. Powis, now near retirement, a relic of the '60s? Is his brand of socially active priesthood -- he spent his entire life in the roughest sections of never-gentrified sections of Brooklyn -- a dinosaur? Are there still young priests who are captivated by this vision of living with and being of service to the poor in this country? The best cinematic treatment of the priesthood may well be Karl Malden's character in "On the Waterfront," whose fiery speech in the climactic scene offered a spirituality that saw Christ crucified anytime there was oppression.

Or is the focus of priesthood today on careerism, with the greatest emphasis placed on liturgy and sacramental ministry? Finding a large, comfortable parish? Not to let lay people off the hook: Has the increased wealth of American Catholics put us further removed from the people served by Fr. Powis?

The California mess

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I was driving by one of my favorite newspaper/magazine stores a couple of days ago. New owners had just taken over, and they no longer sell periodicals. They sell pot.

And this is not the first -- it joins another marijuana store already in progress, about a mile down the road. Now, I don't live in what you would call a cutting edge neighborhood in Los Angeles -- it is a pretty typical suburb with nice homes and decent schools. So how is this possible? Because California has become a place were nothing happens the way it is supposed to anymore -- and the story of the weed sellers in my suburb is a lovely cautionary tale.

As you may know, California has allowed the sale of marijuana for "medical" purposes for a few years now. And as you might have guessed, not everyone who manages to get a "prescription" really has an illness that only a smoke can cure. Understanding this aspect of human nature, people in neighborhoods like mine sought to adjust laws to cap the number (and locations) of stores dispensing the stuff.

When sleep leaves you tired

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The Wall Street Journal's Health Journal offered an excellent article on the fundamental and serious issue of sleep (June 9, 2009).

"Twenty percent of Americans sleep less than six hours a night, and nearly one-third have lost sleep worrying about financial concerns, according to the National Sleep Foundation, which recommends that adults get seven to nine hours. "Our society thinks sleep is for slackers," says Darrel Drobnich, the organization's chief program officer.

"Millions of Americans aren't getting enough sleep, and even those that are may not be getting the most restful sleep possible.

"But all that lost sleep is taking an insidious toll. Chronic, inadequate sleep raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes and obesity."

In early May 2009, I wrote an NCR story on the question of our physical health.

Sleep is critical to our physical health and wellness.

'The masses want the Mass'

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Arguing that "the masses want the Mass," the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is encouraging Catholics around the country to protest a possible decision by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to forbid member stations from broadcasting sectarian programming, including the Catholic Mass.

"People just want to have access to the Mass," Sister Mary Ann Walsh, RSM, director of media relations for the USCCS, wrote on the USCCB Media Blog. "The airwaves belong to us all, so church people aren’t asking any undue favor when they seek to have the airwaves they own be used for what they want."

Where celebrity and politics combine

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Michel Martin at NPR,s "Tell Me More" had a fun segment on President Obama's taking his wife on fancy date nights. There was the trip to New York for dinner in the Village and a Broadway show. Then, the trip to Paris with dinner at a Bistro in the 5th, albeit one that is hardly one of the more expensive Parisian culinary haunts.

Michel's male guest worried that Obama is setting the bar very high for husbands everywhere. Her female guest was way too philosophic about the whole subject. But, they did not focus on the political fallout from the trips which were attacked as overly expensive when the nation is struggling by several conservative pundits and politicians.

Two views on Neuhaus

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The NCR Book Club offering this week is Michael Baxter's review of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus' last book, American Babylon: Notes of a Christian in Exile, which Baxter says "is about being Christian in the United States."

Baxter writes: "While readily admitting that the American experiment has weaknesses, [Neuhaus] is clearly not ready to hand over its title as the last best hope of the West."

For another look at the Neuhaus book, check out a review by George Weigel, Neuhaus' longtime friend and intellectual companion. Weigel writes:

For [Neuhaus] was a radically converted Christian disciple who believed with the author of the Letter to the Hebrews that "here we have no lasting city," because everything about this city, about life here and now, is directed toward "the city which is to come" [Hebrews 13.14].

He was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit

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"He was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith." Acts 11:23

The bane of bus riders is having a dollar bill that won't flow into the slot because it is too wrinkled. The machine beeps loudly until you get it right, and the line of people behind you, especially those with automatic swipe cards, send a collective message for you to get with it. A crisp new dollar is hard to find. From printer to shredder, most paper money must live a rugged life, all those George Washingtons jammed into pockets, used in thousands of small transactions, folded and crumpled over and over before being retired.

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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