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Women Most Affected by Poor Economy: “The phrase ‘poverty in America’ still conjures up, for many of us, images of a homeless person begging on an urban street corner or a dilapidated shack in rural Appalachia.  But a report this winter presents a very different picture of poverty in the U.S.: ‘a working mother dashing around getting ready in the morning, brushing her kid’s hair with one hand, and doling out medication to her own aging mother with the other.’ The study released in January by the Shriver Report, ‘A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink’, examined the rates of financial insecurity among U.S. women.  The report notes that the average woman is paid 77 cents for every dollar the average man earns, and that closing this wage gap would cut the poverty rate in half for working women and their families. …Creating a more just, gender-balanced world will continue to require work at many levels. 

“Yet the more I engage in women’s realities here and around the world, the more I see how large-scale economic forces are undermining so much progress…. But the elephant in our neo-liberal, capitalism-on-steroids world is that when the economic floor drops low for everyone, it drops even lower for women. …There are no easy answers to the feminization of poverty, but a starting point is to become informed…and feel the inhumanity of the treadmill too many hardworking women are on today. There are some first-step things we can do to help, such as raising the minimum wage and putting pressure on our own workplaces to make sure the lowest paid workers are getting a living wage.  We can also use our collective clout as shareholders of publicly held investments to look critically at the egregious gap between the highest paid workers and the median salary.”

(From Sojourners, July 2014)
Racial Wealth Gap is Growing: “Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans face an economic ‘quadruple whammy,’ leaving them with little or no financial cushion as they age, finds a new study released May 19.  Titled ‘Beyond Broke: Why Closing the Racial Wealth Gap is a Priority for National Economic Security,’ the study used 2011 Census data to examine household worth for all ages.  It found that the medium net worth of households of color from 2005-2011 dropped 58 percent for Latinos, 48 percent for Asians, 45 percent for African-Americans – but only 21 percent for whites.  ‘You have the racial gap in pay, the gender gap in pay, the ageism gap in pay and predominantly single-income households,’ says Maya Rockeymoore, president of the Center for Global Policy Solutions, which commissioned the study.  ‘You’re looking at the intersection of all these disparities.’ Explaining the study’s title, Rockeymoore says, ‘African-American and Latino households are most likely to have zero assets or negative assets – no assets whatsoever.

“So when you’re in debt, that’s beyond broke.’ Major losses in home equity were especially hard on families of color, which have few if any of the other assets more common among white households, such as pensions and savings….’Beyond Broke’ stresses that most black and Latino households don’t have enough liquid assets to ‘cover their basic living expenses if they are without income for three months.’ …’The average liquid wealth of whites ($23,000 in cash reserves) is now over 100 times that of African Americans and more than 65 times that held by Latinos,’ said a press release announcing the study. Put another way, for every $1 in wealth held by the typical white family, African-American and Latino households retain merely 6 cents and 7 cents respectively.”

(From National Catholic Reporter, June 6-19, 2014)

Is “Information Economy” Sustainable?: “Many point to the paperless ‘information economy’ as the sustainable solution that will allow for continuous economic growth without overtaxing Earth’s ecosystems. Yet there is an active debate about this possibility as demand for Information-Communication-Technology infrastructure (ICT) grows at tremendous rates. Some research shows that the ICT will likely face real world limits to growth due to its rapidly increasing demand for electricity, its dependence on rare earth elements, and the likelihood of reaching ‘peak data,’ in which the radiofrequency spectrum required for wireless services will run out. Meanwhile, other research indicates that applications of these new technologies can result in an overall reduction in the use of energy and other resources. Much of the energy used by the ICT is hidden to consumers. Many think the recharging of their computers, tablets or cell phones as the energy involved in their computer usage. But as a recent report by the Digital Power Group points out, ‘Although charging up a single tablet or smart phone requires a negligible amount of energy, using either to watch an hour of video weekly consumes annually more electricity in the remote networks than two new refrigerators use in a year.’

“…Wireless technology is much more energy intensive than wired, as instead of all the electricity demands coming from central offices, wireless communication requires ‘power in three locations: central office, cell towers, and at the customer, multiplying the energy’ needed. …Another limit to ICT growth is its dependency on many rare earth elements (REE) such as neodymium, dysprosium and terbium. An i-Phone, for example, uses eight of these elements. Newer technologies tend to use increasing amounts of REE. The scarcity of these resources is hindering not only new ICT technologies but also a number of green technologies that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While some of these metals are not actually as rare as their name implies, they rarely are found in concentrated amounts, making them difficult and expensive to mine. …caring for the toxic and radioactive waste generated in their mining and processing is difficult and expensive…”

(From NewsNotes, Maryknoll Office For Global Concerns, May-June 2014)

Losing Bees to Pesticides: “On a fine morning last year at a Target store outside Portland, Oregon, customers arrive to a startling sight: The parking lot is covered with a seething mat of bumblebees, some staggering around, most already dead, more raining down from above. The day before, a pest-control company had sprayed a powerful insecticide on the surrounding Linden trees to protect them from aphids, but nobody warned the bees to stay away.  An estimated 50,000 perished.  The pesticide is from a fairly new family known as the neonicotinoids – neonics for short – developed a decade or so ago to replace organophosphates and carbamates, which are also highly toxic but dissipate far more quickly. Scores of plants – fruits, vegetables, ornamentals – are sprayed with neonics. 

“The chemical penetrates leaves and is taken up by the plant’s vascular system, making the plant poisonous to insects eating the leaves, pollen and nectar.  Alternatively, the plant’s seeds are soaked or the soil is treated with the chemical, with the same result.  This is convenient for keeping beetles off your roses; it is lethal for bees and other pollinators. And even if it doesn’t kill directly, as happened at the Target lot, sublethal doses interfere with the bees’ immune systems, making them vulnerable to pests.  They can also damage the bees’ ability to navigate back to the hive.  Several of the neonics, incidentally, are made by Bayer, the same Bayer that made the aspirin in your medicine cabinet.  Bayer is a German company; yet, since 2013, neonics may not be used on bee-attractive crops in Germany or in any other European Union country.”

(From Earthjustice, Summer 2014)

China Trade Growth Affects Environment: “China has seen a huge increase in industrialization and growth in exports since joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. As predicted by many environmental and labor groups, China’s lack of environmental regulations and heavy dependence on coal has resulted in a massive transfer of industrial production from the U.S., while China’s ecological problems are beginning to affect even the U.S., thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean.  Of greater concern is that the Chinese government’s current plans to diminish urban smog – which kills an estimated 1.2 million people each year – are likely to vastly increase global greenhouse gas emissions threatening the entire planet. In just the first seven years of its membership in the WTO, 2.4 million manufacturing jobs were moved from the U.S. to China, according to the Economic Policy Institute. China’s lack of environmental protections, which helped lower production costs, was a draw for many transnational corporations. 

“President Bill Clinton’s chief trade negotiator, Mickey Kantor, later admitted, ‘We made a big mistake’ by not including environmental safeguards in trade negotiations with China. But not only trade policies have contributed to China’s increasing pollution.  U.S. and multilateral financial institutions helped finance at least 20 coal power plants in China between 1994 and 2009, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.  The result has been a marked increase in greenhouse gas emissions, from 2.2 billion tons of carbon in 1990 to 9.9 billion tons in 2012.   While the U.S. and Europe proudly announce small decreases in their greenhouse gas emissions in recent years, the World Watch Institute and others estimate that about one-third of China’s emissions come from the production and export of cheap goods to the U.S. and Europe.”

(From NewsNotes, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, May-June 2014)

Christians Condemn Sentence of Sudanese Woman: “Sudanese Christians have condemned the sentencing of a Christian woman to death by hanging after she married a Christian man.  Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, refused to recant her Christian faith as ordered by the court.  A doctor who is eight months pregnant and currently in detention with her 20-month-old son, Ibrahim was charged with adultery last year.  Recently, the court added an apostasy charge when she declared her Christian faith in court. Born of a Muslim father and an Orthodox Christian mother, Ibrahim married Daniel Wani, a South Sudanese Christian with U.S. citizenship, in 2012.  Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a British religious freedom advocacy group, has called for the annulment of the sentence and the release of Ibrahim, while Amnesty International said adultery and apostasy should not be considered crimes.”

(From National Catholic Reporter, June 6-19, 2014)

Immigration Enforcement Policies Concerning: “According to the Immigration Policy Center (IPC), the Obama administration soon will reach the milestone of having deported two million people since the president took office in 2009. ‘Regardless of the exact date this symbolic threshold is reached, it is important to keep in mind a much more important fact: most of the people being deported are not dangerous criminals. Despite claims by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that it prioritizes the apprehension of terrorists, violent criminals, and gang members, the agency’s own deportation statistics do not bear this out. Rather, most of the individuals being swept up by ICE and dropped into the U.S. deportation machine committed relatively minor, nonviolent crimes or have no criminal histories at all. Ironically, many of the immigrants being deported would likely have been able to remain in the country had the immigration reform legislation favored by the administration become law.’

“The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has engaged in efforts for significant immigration reform, including enforcement policy, for many years; its position is that legislation which provides a path to citizenship for as many as possible of the current undocumented population living in the U.S. is best for immigrant families and communities. In late March, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB’s committee on migration, sent the following letter to Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security: ‘… [As] pastors who witness the human consequences of our broken immigration system every day, we are deeply troubled by the division of families caused by current immigration enforcement policies. In this regard, we urge you to take steps within your authority to limit these deportations in a way that protects immigrants who are no threat to the community and who might otherwise benefit from immigration reform legislation, and their families.”

(From NewsNotes, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, May-June 2014)

Education and the Poor: “Recently, the U.S. celebrated the 60th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education that declared unconstitutional state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students.  By winning the Brown case, Thurgood Marshall broke the rock-hard foundation of racial barriers between black and white schools in the U.S. But the civil right of equal opportunity for equal education never ensured the human right of equal access to it.  Thus the explicitly racial divide, reinforced by economic blight entrenched by white flight to the suburbs. Ten years later President Lyndon B. Johnson took a bulldozer to that new economic divide by declaring, in his January 1964 State of the Union address, an unconditional ‘War on Poverty.’  … Every war has multiple fronts. Johnson’s fight against poverty was a legislative one, which played out in states, cities, and school districts across the country.  Within two years Congress had passed the Civil Rights Act, the Food Stamp Act, the Economic Opportunity Act, and the Social Security Act.

“Each act was a legislative beachhead in the assault against U.S. poverty. The Elementary and Secondary Education act of 1965 represented a major shift in the way the U.S. conceived public education.  In this act, Johnson took direct aim at the economic infrastructure that barred blacks and other impoverished people from accessing equal education. Reauthorized seven times since its passage, Title 1 of the 1965 Education Act was conceived as a way to compensate for the educational deficit caused by childhood poverty in urban and rural areas. Federal funds were distributed to districts that met the highest bar of proof of impoverishment.” Initially 75% of students had to live in low-income households for the school to receive federal funding. President Clinton lowered that to 50% and President Bush to 35%. “It took less than 40 years to pull apart this pillar of Johnson’s War on Poverty. ...If we see [poor] children as fully human …We won’t allow Title 1 funding to drift from impoverished schools where it is needed to suburbs with only 35 percent of the children in poverty.”

(From Sojourners, June 2014)

Cardinal Defends Pope’s Criticism of Capitalism: “A cardinal adviser to Pope Francis staunchly defended the pontiff’s continuing critiques of the free market system June 3, saying the world’s economic system is founded on a ‘new idolatry.’ Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, chairman of a group of eight cardinals advising Francis on reforming the Catholic church, also bluntly critiqued global inaction in the face of growing income inequality and continuing conditions of poverty around the world. ‘A system has been built now as a new idolatry and it’s only the true God that has to be served and not worshiping idols, even if that idol is called market economy … or the idol of libertarianism,’ Rodriguez said. ‘The libertarianism deregulation of the market is much to the disadvantage of the poor,’ Rodriguez continued. ‘This economy kills.  This is what the pope is saying.’…Speaking in an interview after the event, Rodriguez said those who disagree with Francis’ critique of the market system have a ‘reduced experience’ of the world and are not in tune with the reality faced by impoverished people globally.

“‘Those who criticize the pope do not know the rest of the world,’ Rodriguez said in the interview. ‘They are merely reacting to the reality of the United States, where of course there is poverty … but the poor here are like middle class in other nations. This is the reality.’ Rodriguez, whose country, Honduras, is estimated to have some 60 percent of its population experiencing poverty, said many of the pope’s critics are not aware of the severe poverty faced by many in the developing world. … ‘For us, poverty is concrete people, concrete faces of people – people who suffer; people who are living in slums, people who are in prison, people who are deported, people who are in refugee camps,’ Rodriguez said. …Francis, Rodriguez said, ‘does not let himself be deceived by trickle-down economics. As someone who lived with the poor, Francis rejects such theory since facts speak another language and never have confirmed’ that trickle-down economics lead to benefits for the poor, Rodriguez said.”

(From National Catholic Reporter, June 20-July 3, 2014)
Help for Victims of Climate Change: “‘As with most natural disasters, climate-related emergencies cause more suffering and personal loss on those who live in poverty,’ Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, told members of the World Health Assembly in Geneva on May 21.  He said preventing or mitigating the impact of climate change on those who are most vulnerable ‘will require more than economic allocations and policy-setting.’  The world must promote a different culture guided by the values of compassion, respect, solidarity and a commitment to justice, he said. Archbishop Zimowski said climate change will affect the air, water and food supplies people depend on and aggravate ‘health problems that already exist,’ including climate-related diseases.  The world’s poor are the most vulnerable to climate change, he said, because they are the ones ‘who cannot afford protective structures to shield them from extreme forces of nature and who have little or no resources to arrange for temporary shelter and other basic necessities once their homes have been severely damaged or totally destroyed.’”

(From America, June 9-16, 2014)

Healthcare Reforms Might Be Saving 320 Lives a Year: “Health-care reform in Massachusetts might be responsible for saving 320 lives per year, according to a paper published Monday that credits the state’s implementation of universal health coverage in 2006 with a marked decrease in statewide death rates. The new research, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, supplies some of the first analysis of the effect of universal health care on longevity, and its results offer optimism for President Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act. Major parts of the president’s program are based on Massachusetts’ 2006 health-care law, which mandated that everyone in the state get health insurance and vastly expanded the poor’s access to Medicaid. … One death per year was prevented for every 830 adults who gained access to health care after 2006, saving about 320 lives per year, according to the paper. Overall, among adults between 20 and 64 years old, death rates in the Bay State dropped by 2.9 percent between 2007 and 2010, compared with a four-year period before the law was passed, the researchers reported. Mortality rates measure the number of deaths per 100,000 people.

“In particular, the state saw fewer deaths from diseases that doctors say are less likely to be fatal if caught early during regular health-care visits, including infections, cancer, and heart disease, the researchers said. Deaths from these diseases ‘amenable to health care’ went down 4.5 percent, according to the paper. The decline in the death rate was highest in Massachusetts’ poorer counties and among populations who were uninsured before the law was passed, the paper said. The improvement was twice as great for minorities as it was for whites, the researchers found. The researchers did not find any change in death rates for Massachusetts residents above 65 years old, the paper said. Massachusetts’ death rate was also compared with the rate in similar populations without a universal health-care law. In 513 counties in 46 states that did not have such a law, mortality rates did not change over the same period, the researchers found. ‘Reform in Massachusetts was associated with a significant decrease in all-cause mortality compared with the control group,’ the authors write.”

(From The Christian Science Monitor, May 6, 2014)

Immigration Officials Seek Help from Churches: “The surge of undocumented migrants into the United States from Central American countries – many of them families with children and many more unaccompanied minors – has so strained government resources that the Department of Homeland Security is reaching out to community nonprofit organizations to help care for them. In one of the latest incidents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement flew two planes carrying 270 detained immigrants into El Paso, Texas, June 7, processed them and released them. Churches and nonprofit organizations are cooperating with immigration officials to ensure that the families have access to food and services upon their release, said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, an El Paso organization that aids migrants and advocates on immigration issues. At a press conference June 9, Garcia said that immigration officials had reached out to El Paso groups in advance to warn of the influx of immigrants. 

“He praised the officials’ collaboration.  ‘We need your help; we want your help,’ he said they told him. ‘We want these people to be treated like human beings.’ U.S. Customs and Border Protection has seen an astonishing increase of Central American immigrants crossing the Southwest border illegally this year – many families and many unaccompanied minors.  The Border Patrol has detained 162,700 non-Mexican migrants this fiscal year through May. Of these, nearly 35,000 were unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.  This compares to just over 20,000 minors from [these] countries in all of fiscal year 2013. …Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been releasing families from custody because of a lack of detention facilities, but it has come under fire in recent weeks for its treatment of released migrants. In Phoenix, immigrant families were left at a Greyhound bus station with no resources. …Immigration authorities did not want to repeat the same mistakes in El Paso, Garcia said.”

(From National Catholic Reporter, June 20-July 3, 2014)
Bishops Support Health Care for All: “Two Catholic bishops in Virginia called on the state’s lawmakers to enact health care reforms that would cover and protect all people.  The statement from Diocese of Richmond Bishop Franics DiLorenzo and Diocese of Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde said, ‘Our advocacy is informed by the church’s teaching that, first, everyone has the right to life, and second, health care is a right – not a privilege – that flows from the right to life itself.’ The bishops emphasized the priorities of providing care to those who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but who live below the poverty line, as well as making sure that any health care reforms do not allow for taxpayer-funded abortions.”

(From U.S. Catholic, June 2014)
The Church and the Economy: “The world financial system ‘has been built as a new idolatry,’ charged Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, at a June 3 forum in Washington sponsored by The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies. During his keynote address, Cardinal Rodriguez issued a ringing endorsement of the church’s competency to critique economic systems.  Some of the church’s critics ask, ‘What is the hierarchy of the church doing in the economy? They know nothing about the economy,’ Cardinal Rodriguez said in his remarks at the forum, ‘Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case Against Libertarianism.’ The church knows about the economy because ‘we know about the human being,’ the cardinal said.  ‘The human being was not made for the economy, but the economy was made for the human being.’

“Pastors ‘smell like the sheep,’ he added, borrowing a phrase from Pope Francis, and said libertarians and economists could benefit by being closer to the people. …Libertarians argue for maximum individual autonomy and freedom of choice, emphasizing political freedom, voluntary association and the primacy of individual judgment. …While libertarians may say they embrace the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which holds that decisions are best made by the smallest or least centralized competent authority, they are silent on the subject, Cardinal Rodriguez said, ‘when it comes to banks and corporations.’… ‘Adam Smith never thought of this’ when he came up with his ‘invisible hand’ theory of the economy, Cardinal Rodriguez said.  ‘The invisible hand has become (a) thief.  That is the problem.  The hand has become so invisible it started stealing everything, corruption.’”

(From America, June 5, 2014)
Pope and Presidents Pray for Peace: “Pope Francis dived into the Middle East peace process in early June, urging the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to act with courage and end what he called the ‘spiral of hatred and violence’ during a historic prayer meeting at the Vatican. …At the beginning of the solemn ceremony June 8, Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, warmly embraced and joked together inside the pope’s Casa Santa Marta residence as a smiling Francis looked on. … ‘It is my hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a new journey where we seek things that unite, so as to overcome the things that divide,’ Francis said. The ceremony included musical interludes from a chamber orchestra and prayers from the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths (in Hebrew, English, Italian and Arabic).

“It ended with the leaders’ individual invocations for peace, a handshake as a sign of peace and the planting of a symbolic olive tree in the Vatican gardens….Prayers at the Vatican event were said in the chronological order of the founding of the three religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. …Peres described Francis as a ‘bridge builder’ who had touched people’s hearts regardless of their faith or nation during his visit to the Holy Land in May. He said both Israelis and Palestinians were ‘aching for peace.’ …It was the first time the two presidents had met publicly in more than a year, but the ceremony also marked the first time that Jewish, Christian and Islamic prayers were said together in the very heart of the Catholic church.”

(From National Catholic Reporter, June 20-July 3, 2014)
Supreme Court Rules ‘Straw’ Purchases of Guns Illegal: “The Supreme Court on Monday deemed ‘straw’ purchases of guns illegal, delivering a huge win to advocates of stricter gun controls.  In a 5-4 decision, the court concluded that one legal gun owner may not acquire a firearm on behalf of another – a practice known as ‘straw’ purchasing.  The case, known as Abramski v. United States, centered on a former police officer who sought to buy a Glock 19 handgun for his uncle.  Though both men were allowed to own guns, Bruce Abramski claimed on forms that he was the ‘actual transferee/buyer’ of the weapon and was later convicted of making false statements. Abramski argued that federal gun law – intended to keep guns out of the wrong hands – did not apply to his transaction.  The court, though split down ideological lines, disagreed. 

“‘No piece of information is more important under federal firearms law than the identity of a gun’s purchaser – the person who acquires a gun as a result of a transaction with a licensed dealer,’ Judge Elena Kagan wrote for the majority. … The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which backs stronger limits on firearms, hailed the ruling as a victory over the ‘corporate gun lobby.’ ‘This is a very big and very positive decision that will save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.  Once again the Supreme Court rejected efforts by the corporate gun lobby to undermine federal gun laws, reaffirming that sensible laws can have a big impact while being consistent with the Second Amendment,’ said Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.”

(From The Hill, June 16, 2014)
SJB Friars Commit to Refugees, Migrants and Victims of Human Trafficking: The Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province based in Cincinnati, Ohio, held their 2008 Chapter at St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana May 19-23. Of the many proposals passed, the Chapter delegates affirmed a resolution to learn more about the issues of migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking in order to better be able to respond to their needs. The resolution says:
 “We, the Franciscans of St. John the Baptist Province, commit ourselves to increase our awareness of issues surrounding refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking in order to develop more proactive Franciscan responses on the provincial, friary and personal level.”
SJB Friars Commit to Non-violence: The Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province based in Cincinnati, Ohio, held their 2005 Chapter at the University of Dayton, May 23-27. Among the many proposals that were passed, the Chapter delegates affirmed a resolution introduced by their JPIC Office in which they committed themselves to “continued conversion to a life of Franciscan non-violence in support of a consistent ethic of life.” The complete resolution follows.
“As Franciscans, we affirm the sacredness of all human life and the inherent value of all creation. In a world where violence is rampant, we wish to be a sign of hope, actively promoting the preservation of life, peace among people and nations, justice for all and reconciliation. We commit ourselves to continued conversion to a life of Franciscan non-violence in support of a consistent ethic of life.”