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Peace & Justice

Prominent South Korean hunger striker released

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Responding to international pressure, South Korean authorities released from prison on Wednesday a well-known film critic who waged a 60-day hunger strike to protest the construction of a South Korean naval base on the Korean island of Jeju.

Professor Yang Yoon-Mo, former chair of the Korean Association of Film Critics, was given a suspended jail sentence of one and a half years and two years probation.

Still unable to eat, Yoon-Mo, 56, is recovering in a Jeju hospital where he was visited today by Peter Kang U-il, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea and bishop of the diocese of Jeju.

Yoon-Mo protested a South Korean base where U.S. warships are expected to port. In the past, the South Korean Navy has admitted U.S. warships can visit the port but has denied it will be a permanent station for U.S. forces, or part of a missile defense program. Critics of the base say otherwise. Kyoungeun Cha of the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, writes that "Seoul plans to dock Aegis-equipped destroyers at Jeju. These warships are the main military component of the U.S. missile defense system." For more on the U.S.-South Korean alliance at Jeju see Cha's article.

Yoon-Mo was arrested April 6 while he and other residents of Gangjeong village impeded construction of the base by locking themselves to earth-moving equipment.

Religion professors discuss sources of violence

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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- There's a conventional wisdom when it comes to the difference between religious and secular institutions, says William Cavanaugh: "Religions are more prone than secular institutions to violence."

Just call to mind your history lessons of the so-called religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries. Or current images of violence in the Middle East.

But those images don't capture the whole picture, the DePaul University theology professor said in the opening presentation of the College Theology Society's annual convention here last night. In fact, he argued, "There is no good reason for thinking that religious ideologies and institutions are more inherently prone to violence."

Religious leaders call a strike on tobacco

Religious leaders are hoping to hit a home run in a campaign to get Major League Baseball players to ban tobacco use on fields and dugouts of the national pastime.

More than two dozen members of the coalition group Faith United Against Tobacco wrote May 30 to Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, focusing on the hazards of smokeless tobacco.

Monks' suit over caskets heads to trial

COVINGTON, La. -- A federal lawsuit brought by a group of monks fighting for the right to sell handcrafted caskets without a state license is set to go to trial Monday (June 6) in New Orleans.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval ruled in April that lawyers representing monks from St. Joseph Abbey near Covington could attempt to prove that a state law restricting casket sales to licensed funeral directors amounts to unconstitutional economic protectionism.

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.

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