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Activists fast, call for Guantanamo closure

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COMMENTARY

The Witness Against Torture (WAT) community, including many peace activists and Catholic Workers, just completed a twelve day Fast for Justice. The fast started on the 9th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. military’s Guantánamo Bay detention camp -- Jan. 11 -- and ended Jan. 22, two years to the day President Obama signed an Executive Order to close the facility.

The anti-torture activists chose only to consume juice and water as a witness to demand the closure of Guantánamo, Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, and other secret prisons, said WAT organizers.

Currently 173 men remain detained in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, many of whom have been cleared for release by the Guantánamo Review Task Force. The Center for Constitutional Rights and Amnesty International have demanded that the other men held indefinitely at the camp they be charged and given fair, open trials in federal court.

Cantor: Elections re-energized pro-lifers

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WASHINGTON -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said that after being out of power on Capitol Hill for the past couple of years, pro-life supporters in Congress and across the nation have been re-energized since last November's elections brought in "the biggest pro-life freshman class in memory."

"The tide has turned," Cantor said in remarks at the March for Life rally on the National Mall, held Jan. 24 to mark the 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Jan. 22 was the official anniversary date, but the March for Life was organized for the following Monday to allow participants to visit their representatives on the Hill after a noon rally and a march along Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court.

The many losers of winner-take-all-politics

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The weeks since the November elections could be a case study in the premise of Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson’s latest collaboration, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer -- and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class.

In November and December -- two years after the collapse of financial markets and with “the experts” arguing over whether the economy was still declining or was in a jobless recovery -- the center-stage political fight was not so much whether or not to extend tax cuts to the richest Americans, but how fast those cuts could be renewed.

The tax cuts were approved despite a president and a majority in Congress pledged to opposing them and polling data showing that most Americans opposed them.

How this could happen is the story of Winner-Take-All Politics.

Capitulation on tax cuts bodes ill for next round

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Would Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, applaud the tax package engineered by President Barack Obama?

Recall that presidential candidate Obama’s commitment to let the Bush-era tax cuts for the über-wealthy expire was not some winsome campaign pledge. No, the plan was a central plank -- right up there with ending U.S. combat operations in Iraq -- of his 2008 presidential campaign.

House vote gives hope for DREAM Act backers

WASHINGTON -- With a vote of 59 to 40, the Senate Dec. 9 kept alive hopes for passing the DREAM Act by tabling the long-sought bill that would give potentially millions of students who are in the country illegally the chance to go to college or join the military and legalize their status.

A day earlier, the House passed its version of the bill in a vote of 216 to 198 and the Senate was set to take up its somewhat different version on Dec. 9. Instead it was likely come up again for a vote the week of Dec. 12. Supporters were optimistic that by delaying the vote until the final days of the lame-duck session of Congress, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would have a chance of passage in the Senate.

Senate Republicans have vowed to not pass any other legislation until bills on tax cuts and funding government operations are addressed. The DREAM Act would have been subject to a filibuster, essentially blocking its passage. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid moved to table his own bill, rather than risk its failure.

Hope for effective antiabortion strategy

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Theologian Fr. Charles Curran has made a valuable contribution to the national conversation about abortion with his recent lecture arguing that the U.S. Catholic bishops’ approach to changing the law is deeply flawed. (Read the text of Curran's talk.)

Curran termed his lecture at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he now teaches, “A Critique from Within the Church,” a claim that some scoff at because in 1986 the Vatican revoked his license to teach theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington for taking issue with some church teachings regarding birth control and other cultural issues.

US Catholic bishops and abortion legislation

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The following is an abridged version of a chapter in Fr. Charles Curran’s newest book, The Social Mission of the U.S. Catholic Church: A Theological Perspective, which will be published in early January by Georgetown University Press. This text originally was given as a lecture sponsored by the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at Southern Methodist University in Dallas Oct. 28.

Ending the war in Afghanistan

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COMMENTARY

The strategy for ending the U.S. war in Afghanistan is unfolding.

An intense military campaign to force the Taliban to negotiate is taking place. Operations to control the situation in the nearby mountains of Pakistan have started. President Obama wants to end the war by the end of his first term.

The popular opposition and lack of enthusiasm for the U. S. engagement in Afghanistan is similar to three other major post-World War II military involvements: Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.

The United States no longer wins wars; that ended with World War II. Settlements are now negotiated with the goal of protecting U.S. interests. These were to a degree, accomplished in Korea and Vietnam. In the case of Iraq, it is still debatable.

Afghanistan might imitate the geo-political factors that terminated the fighting in Korea. In the election year of 1952 there was a highly attractive candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who sensed the opportune time for ending the struggle. Will similar factors come in to play in the election year of 2012?

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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