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Peace & Justice

Activists push for vote to halt weapons plant

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KANSAS CITY, MO. -- Peace activists here want a citywide vote on a ballot initiative that would compel the operator of a major new nuclear weapons production plant to cease nuclear work.

With just under 5,000 signatures in hand, activists petitioned the city government May 12 to place the initiative -- which would prohibit production of parts for nuclear weapons and instead recommend production of “environmentally sound energy or other environmental technologies” -- on a Nov. 8 ballot.

Vatican: Solidarity for global access to health care

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VATICAN CITY -- Global solidarity is needed so that every country can guarantee all of its citizens have access to health care, a Vatican official told the annual assembly of the World Health Organization.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, told the World Health Assembly that nations appear "stalled in the status quo where the rich people have higher levels of coverage, while most of the poor people miss out, and (even) those who do have access often incur high, sometimes catastrophic costs in paying for services and medicine."

The archbishop's speech to the assembly in Geneva was released May 18 at the Vatican.

Under Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, he said, the Catholic Church has called for "universal access to medical care."

"Despite the progress made in some countries, on the whole, we are still a long way from universal coverage," the archbishop said.

Petition asks city to halt nuke weapons production

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Peace activists here want a citywide vote on a ballot initiative that would compel the operator of a major new nuclear weapons production plant to cease nuclear work.

With just under 5,000 signatures in hand, activists petitioned the city government May 12 to place the initiative -- which would prohibit production of parts for nuclear weapons and instead recommend production of “environmentally sound energy or other environmental technologies” -- on a Nov. 8 ballot.

The initiative has raised questions about who has ultimate control of the facility.

Those backing the measure say the city has the power to prohibit nuclear weapons production at the site because of health concerns, even if an independent state agency technically holds title to the facility.

City officials, meanwhile, say that the agency, while the mayor appoints its members, is independent from city oversight.

Rerum Novarum still speaks to globalized economy

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WASHINGTON – The social challenges of Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical letter on social justice and the condition of labor, remain as relevant today as they were 120 years ago, said a top Vatican official and prominent U.S. labor leader.

John Sweeney, president emeritus of the AFL-CIO, and African-born Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, were the keynote speakers at a May 2-3 conference at the Catholic University of America in Washington addressing the current implications of Pope Leo’s landmark encyclical on Catholic social teaching.

Bin Laden killing poses moral questions

WASHINGTON -- As word got out that Osama bin Laden had been killed by a Navy SEAL strike team in Pakistan, television and the Internet quickly began to feature images of spontaneous celebrations outside the White House and at ground zero in New York.

Just as quickly, blogs and social media pages such as Facebook began to rage with debates: about the morality of bin Laden's killing and how it was accomplished and about the appropriateness of the celebratory atmosphere. Others questioned the meaning of the "justice" described by President Barack Obama in announcing bin Laden's death.

"We must be clear what we understand when President Obama says 'justice has been done,'" said Gerard Powers, director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, in an exchange of emails with Catholic News Service.

CUA conference focuses on workers' dignity

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WASHINGTON – "Workers in our country haven't had a raise in 30 years," AFL-CIO President Emeritus John Sweeney said in a keynote speech May 2 at a conference on "Rerum Novarum" at the Catholic University of America.

The two-day conference, organized by the university's Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, marked the 120th anniversary of "Rerum Novarum," Pope Leo XIII's landmark encyclical on the condition of labor, regarded as the starting point of modern Catholic social teaching.

52 arrested protesting nuclear weapons plant

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Fifty-two peace activists, most connected to Catholic Worker houses throughout the nation, were arrested here May 2 after blocking the gate to the construction site of what will be the nation’s first nuclear weapons production facility to be built in 33 years.

The acts of civil disobedience came 78 years and one day from the founding of the first Catholic Worker community by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, and were the culmination of a three-day “faith and resistance” retreat hosted by two Catholic Worker communities, which drew some 150 to this city.

The new facility, expected to cost $1.2 billion over the next two decades, is to replace an existing plant here. Health concerns at the current complex were stoked last month when the administrator of the General Services Administration confirmed that detectable levels of an unidentified carcinogen were found at that site.

WikiLeaks suspect now 'medium custody' prisoner

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FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- Suspected WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, whose treatment in custody has spurred protests from supporters and human rights groups, is now considered a “medium custody” prisoner and is allowed three hours of recreation a day, the U.S. Army announced this afternoon.

The announcement came at the end of a morning press tour of the facility here where Manning is being held.

Headed to prison, activist explains nonviolent witness

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A young sailor walks through his nuclear submarine, headed for the engine room. As he winds through the tight, crowded corridors he suddenly finds himself standing next to a nuclear missile launch hatch.

He reaches out an outstretched hand. Tentatively, he places it on one of the warheads.

Click. Something changes. The destructive power of a thermonuclear detonation is no longer an abstraction. It’s real. His hand is touching it.

Over the next few days, the sailor heads to his chaplain. He asks the same questions, over and over: What are we doing? How can we justify this?

Fast-forward thirty years. That ex-sailor, Mark Kenney, reports today to Duluth Federal Prison Camp for a six-month stint for an act of civil disobedience at Offutt Air Force Base. He walked about ten steps onto the property of the complex with three others after a vigil there Aug. 6.

The prison stint is the third Kenney’s served for protests at the base, which is the home of U.S. Strategic Command and responsible for the planning and targeting of the nation’s nuclear weapons.

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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