The Austerity Trap: “In February U.S. home prices showed an increase of 10.2 percent over the previous year, the largest percentage gain in seven years. Consumer spending is on the rise and federal tax revenue is up. Borrowing costs are at historic lows, and the federal deficit is shrinking faster than at any time since the end of World War II. How does Washington plan to respond to this economic basket of good news? By following Britain’s thus far disastrous lurch into austerity? Over the last three years a real-world comparative economic case study has played out as the Obama administration tried to revitalize the economy with what many economists complained was a too-timid stimulus package and tax cuts. Across the pond Britain attempted to provoke growth through budget-balancing that coupled public sector layoffs and social service cuts with higher taxes. The result: The U.S. economy grew about 2 percent each year, and its deficit was reduced as a percentage of G.D.P. by nearly half, from the sudden increase to 10 percent in 2009 to 5.3 percent in 2013.
“Britain, meanwhile, endured painful social disruption and a credit rating cut while managing to reduce its deficit from 4.8 percent to 4.3 percent of G.D.P….The nation currently wobbles on the edge of a triple-dip recession. …Despite these outcomes, some deficit hawks in Washington…remain starstruck by austerity, a bad idea whose time has not come. …According to the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline projections, federal deficits will continue to shrink over the next few years, falling to 2.4 percent of G.D.P. as early as 2015. Over a longer time horizon, total national debt threatens to rise by 2023 to what may be an unsustainable level, but only if nothing is done to adjust spending and tax revenue in the intervening years. While keeping that potential long-term fiscal threat clearly in mind, the optimal decision in the short term is to confront the nation’s persisting high unemployment and decaying infrastructure and spend more now.”
(From America, April 22, 2013)
Taming Medicare Costs: “For a quick glimpse of America’s health-care challenge, consider this: The nation spent $8,233 per person on medical care in 2010 – more than twice the average of other advanced economies, including Germany, Britain, Canada, and Japan. America doesn’t have bad health care, judging by life expectancies that are on par with other nations, but it does have notably expensive health care. And a lot of the payment burden rests on the U.S. government, through entitlement programs including Medicare for seniors and Medicaid for the poor. If this problem isn’t addressed as baby boomers retire, it’s a recipe for deep trouble for taxpayers and the U.S. economy. Medical costs are high and rising for reasons that go beyond the demographics of an aging nation. At the individual level, doctors and patients together are opting for a greater volume of health-care services. Some of that, economists say, reflects people buying improved health care as their incomes rise. Some reflects wasteful decisions that don’t improve health outcomes. And beyond the number of patients treated and the volume of care each receives, researchers see another factor: Hospitals and doctors in the United States have a pricing power that they simply lack in other nations.
“‘The reason the U.S. spends so much more per capita and as a percentage of GDP than other countries is not because we do that many more services …It’s because our prices are higher than anybody else’s,’ says Robert Berenson, a health-care expert at the Urban Institute in Washington. ‘Physicians’ incomes are at the high end …Nursing income is at the high end. Hospital executive salaries are way over the high end.’ Health care at all levels, from a consumer’s co-payment to the billions spent by government, now accounts for 18 percent of gross domestic product – almost $1 in every $5. That’s up from 7 percent of GDP in 1970. Several in-depth studies have concluded that as much as one-third of overall US health-care spending – and possibly of Medicare spending – is wasteful and does nothing to improve the quality of care. …The outlook isn’t all financial gloom. The growth of Medicare costs, per beneficiary, has slowed in the past few years. And although there’s no guarantee that trend will continue, many health policy experts say tallies of waste or overpricing are evidence that there’s considerable room for restraining costs.”
(From The Christian Science Monitor, April 2, 2013)
Florida Confronts Sea Level Rise: “In few places around the world are the effects of climate change more clearly visible than south Florida. Sea level has risen more than eight inches along the state’s coast – enough to damage roads and beachfront resorts. The city of Hallandale Beach, just north of Miami, has even been forced to spend $10 million to drill new wells for drinking water after saltwater seeped into six of its wells. The threat facing Florida is not unique: sea levels along the northeastern United States’ Atlantic coast have recently risen at a rate three to four times faster than the global average. Yet as low-lying communities across the country struggle to adapt, opponents in Congress continue to block action on climate change and local governments have been offered little financial help. …
“In recent speeches culminating in his State of the Union address, President Obama has vowed to take action to reduce the heat-trapping emissions that lead to sea level rise. UCS will continue to engage Florida’s residents about the threat posed by a warmer climate and what they can do about it – not just by adapting to the changes that are already happening but by pushing their legislators to take action and prevent even worse changes.”
(From Catalyst, Union of Concerned Scientists, Spring 2013)
Shell Proves No Match for the Arctic: “Capping a string of dismal failures in a year of thwarted attempts to drill in Alaska’s Polar Bear Seas, Royal Dutch Shell lost control of an enormous drill rig being towed near Kodiak Island on New Year’s Eve. The rig, more than 260 feet in diameter and carrying some 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel and other petroleum products, ran aground in rough seas after all four engines on its tow vessel failed. … The company’s efforts to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas - home to more than half our nation’s polar bears and critical habitat for endangered whales and other marine mammals – have been plagued from the outset. Last July one of Shell’s drill ships slipped anchor and nearly ran aground; in August the Coast Guard refused to certify as seaworthy the linchpin of Shell’s emergency plan: a spill-response barge that suffered 400 separate safety-related problems. A month later, a 30-mile-long iceberg forced Shell’s drill rig to flee one day after it started operations.
“Meanwhile, the containment dome Shell planned to use in the event of a blowout to capture spewing oil was, according to media sources, ‘crushed like a beer can’ during pre-deployment testing in placid Puget Sound. ‘Shell hasn’t even faced the worst weather conditions the Arctic has to offer,’ says [Chuck] Clusen, alluding to gale-force winds, subzero temperatures, 20-foot surging seas and winter pack ice. ‘If one of the richest companies in the world can’t buy its way to safety in the Arctic, it proves what we’ve been saying all along: This is no place to drill.’ The Obama Administration temporarily suspended Shell’s offshore Arctic drilling operations in the wake of the latest accident, but it has not ended oil exploration there. …Shell is intent on returning to the Polar Bear Seas, with plans to drill off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in other sensitive waters.” You can take action at www.stopshell.org.
(From Nature’s Voice, Natural Resources Defense Council, Spring 2013)
New Opportunities for Korea?: “It is estimated that North Korea holds as many as 200,000 people in a massive gulag system known as kwan-li-so. One in 10 North Korean citizens may be imprisoned, labeled as either a dissenter, or the child or grandchild of a dissenter, who needs to be punished in order to eliminate the seeds of bad families. While release or escape from these prison camps is rare, horrific testimony by defectors has been trickling out of North Korea for decades. The North Korean gulag is an organized network of concentration camps focused on working and starving prisoners to death. The conditions are believed to be among the worst in the world. …During these past six decades, the U.S. and other countries have responded with sanctions, giving North Korea the distinction of being the most heavily sanctioned nation in the world. Sanctions against international financial transactions with North Korea have meant to isolate and starve the leadership, yet it is the oppressed citizens of North Korea who are the most isolated and starved. When coupled with incentives and rewards for cooperation, sanctions may have a role in the conflict resolution progress.
“The key is to find the point where the value of the benefit exceeds the cost of compliance. The three principal sets of rewards are: (a) those that respond to economic needs, (b) those that respond to political needs for legitimacy and recognition, and (c) those that respond to needs for assurances and security guarantees. …Besides rewards for North Korea and South Korea to reconcile, the Obama administration needs to offer incentives and rewards for China to welcome a unified Korea on its border and to leverage its position as supplier of 90 percent of North Korea’s energy. China dislikes a North Korea with nuclear arms more than it dislikes a unified Korea. …the newly elected president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, is open to shared development with North Korea, using a softer, carrot-and-stick approach to economic aid with the North. …The changes in the actors in both North Korea and South Korea leadership, as well as membership of the UN Human Rights Council, provided new windows of opportunity. “
(From NewsNotes, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, March-April 2013)
Ecuador: Criminalizing Protest: “According to Amnesty, article 129 of Ecuador’s penal code allows up to three years of imprisonment for anyone who ‘illegally impedes the free transit of cars, people or merchandise’ on public roads. Based on its present content, no exceptions are possible – not even for minimal interference resulting from the exercise of human rights, such as freedom of expression, assembly and association. Until nuances are made in the laws to protect one’s human right to assemble and to exercise freedom of expression, authorities are using the legal system to suppress peaceful protests and opposition to extractive industry and natural resource projects. In most instances, these protests occur after the Ecuadoran state has failed to adequately consult communities affected by the projects. …on November 12, 2012, a judge ordered Manuel Trujillo and Manuela Pacheco, the president and a leader of the community of San Pablo de Amail, to serve jail time despite evidence that they were only exercising their right to protest the Hidrotambo Hydroelectric Project, which they have been peacefully protesting for years.
“Until now, however, the court never sentenced them to jail, but rather mandated alternative sentencing. The historical resistance and peaceful protest of this project by the community is noteworthy. In 2005, Ecuador’s National Council of Electricity (CONELEC) gave Hidrotambo S.A. an environmental license to proceed with the project. More than 70 indigenous and peasant communities live on the land where the project would take place. The livelihood of these people depends upon agriculture and fishing, which the project would completely disrupt. …Since March 24, 2012, the project has moved forward aggressively, without any legal authorization, with police and heavy machinery destroying homes and property located where the project is planned. Those who oppose the project have been detained by police who have entered private property without search warrants.”
(From NewsNotes, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, March-April 2-13)
Providing Clean Water: “According to UNICEF, 783 million people, or one in 10, lack access to clean, potable water. The World Health Organization estimates that one in three people deal with water scarcity, with a fifth of the global population living in areas where water is physically scarce, and a quarter in developing countries where limited infrastructures lead to shortages. Additionally, 2.5 billion people are without proper sanitation. ‘Not having access to sanitation allows opportunities for disease transmission, contamination of these water sources, in particular,’ said Christopher Seremet, a professional engineer and a technical advisor for water supply and sanitation for Catholic Relief Services …Among the waterborne diseases are cholera, dysentery and typhoid fever. Diarrheal diseases, a primary threat, result in more than a million child deaths each year. Providing clean water and proper sanitation facilities can demonstrably improve health conditions, amid numerous other benefits. Healthy children are more likely to remain in school, and steady water access can mean marked advances in agriculture and development.
“While statistics have improved, they remain daunting. UNICEF estimates that more than 2 billion people have gained access to clean water since 1990. The U.N. also declared it has achieved – five years ahead of its 2015 deadline – its Millennium Development Goal of halving the population without sustainable access to improved water sources, with 2 billion additional people gaining access since 1990. Debate, though, remains over possible double counting and what constitutes improved access; the U.N.’s 2012 report even admits the improvement is likely overestimated. Even with that goal met, more than 600 million people will remain without a reliable, clean water source, with the Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa regions unlikely to meet their drinkable water targets. The crisis also compounds globally in rural areas. In terms of sanitation access, estimates fall well short of providing 75 percent of the world with reliable facilities by 2015, expected to reach only two-thirds.”
(From National Catholic Reporter, April 12-25, 2013)
Franciscan Defies Gangs to Help Migrants: “In a brown friar’s robe and sandals, Tomas Gonzalez doesn’t look like a death threat-defying, government-challenging, hardcore migrant’s rights activist. But appearances can be deceptive. ‘Everything that has been done to migrants in this country is because Mexican authorities have given permission for it to be done,’ Gonzalez told migrants near Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala as he warned bluntly of abuses and human trafficking that often turn fatal. Gonzalez may look peaceful and harmless in his straw hat, but his defiant, tough-as-nails reputation has earned him the nickname ‘the tornado.’ Drug cartels have put a bounty on his meddlesome head. And authorities often prefer to look the other way where he is concerned. But Gonzalez, 39, keeps hammering away, demanding attention be paid to the crimes affecting migrants on a daily basis. A member of the Franciscan order, he and his colleagues run shelters where undocumented aliens are able to seek help on their secret trek through Mexico north to the promised land: the United States, which is at work on immigration reform.
“It was here in the town of Tenosique, just 60 kilometers (40 miles) from Guatemala, that Gonzalez founded his first shelter two years ago, a stone’s throw from the first stop on the freight route that sees thousands of Central American and South American migrants risk their lives to reach the U.S. border. The shelter is a place where migrants, already on a mission involving some desperation and high risk, can get a meal, a shower, treatment for injuries and a shoulder to cry on. ‘When we find out that a (Mexican) immigration agent has beaten, mistreated, raped someone or aggressively followed them; when we find out that criminals in cahoots with authorities charge a migrant $100 to be allowed to move on without being detained, we cannot remain silent,’ he told AFP….About 150 migrants pass through each day. …In Tabasco state, where it is common for migrants to be kidnapped and killed, speaking out can be a death sentence. And Gonzalez has had plenty of death threats from those who want his voice silenced.”
(From GMA News Online, April 10, 2013)
Alarming Hunger and Poverty Among African-American Children: “The U.S Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Agriculture have released new data revealing that hunger and poverty in America remain high, especially among Black children. The African-American and African-American child hunger and poverty rates are even greater than the national averages – sometimes nearly twice as high, states Bread for the World (BFTW), a D.C.- based organization specializing in hunger in America. BFTW has issued a special report on the numbers. According to the analysis more than one in seven Americans, or 15 percent of the entire population, live below the poverty line ($22,811 for a family of four with two children), according to the Census stats released in late 2012. Hunger closely mirrors the poverty figures: 14.9 percent of households in the United States (50.1 million Americans, or one in six) are food insecure – meaning that the people in the household are unsure of how they will provide for their next meal at some point during the year.
“Households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity. Around the country, nearly one in four children – 16.7 million – lives in a food insecure family. More than a quarter of all children under age five lived in poverty in 2011. The most recent food insecurity data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveal that 25.1 percent of African-American households are food insecure. Among African-American households with children, 29.2 percent are food insecure, compared to 20.6 percent of all U.S. households with children. Similarly, 27.6 percent of African Americans live in poverty. The African-American child poverty figures are particularly disturbing: 38.8 percent of children under age 18 and 42.7 percent of children under age five live below the poverty line.”
(From The Louisiana Weekly, March 11, 2013)
The Growing Wealth Gap: “In America, we honor the ideal of equality and the myth of equal opportunity – but the secret we refuse to acknowledge is the debilitating, dehumanizing effects of poverty. …There is a growing wealth gap between African-American households and white households. A Pew research study, for example, shows the dramatic change between 2005 and 2009. In 2005, the typical white household had a net worth of $134,992 (in 2009 dollars), while the typical black household had a net worth of $12,124 – 9 cents for each dollar the white household owned. By 2009, that fell to 5 cents, as the typical black household saw its net worth drop more than 53 percent, as compared to a drop of 16 percent for the average white household. And, alarmingly, 35 percent of black households in 2009 had a zero or negative net worth. …Black families have traditionally built wealth through homeownership, but since the mid-1990s we have witnessed a dramatic increase in bank mergers – and predatory lending. Local banks, now owned by large corporate institutions with little interest in community investment, increasingly close branches in poor communities, then check-cashing establishments fill the void in financial services.
“At the same time, our nation faces the loss of manufacturing and the dismantling of organized labor. The triple threat of regressive economic policy, unchecked expansion of large, unaccountable financial institutions, and the economic crisis of 2008 devastated parts of cities across the nation…The real victims of poor political leadership will always be children. More than 16 million children in America are living in conditions usually associated with developing countries. America now has the largest number of people in poverty in 52 years; more than 46 million people languish in a latrine of broken dreams and promises. The crisis is graver when the lens of race is added to the equation. Black children in poverty in America live a separate and unequal status; in housing and health disparities, underfunded schools, and food ‘deserts.’”
(From Sojourners, May 2013)
Real-World Solutions to Abortion: “Between 2008 and 2009, the Centers for Disease Control reported in November, the U.S. abortion rate fell 5 percent, down to the lowest point that decade. This new data is drawing the attention of people of faith whose thinking about unwanted pregnancies has become more nuanced – both in how to prevent them and what to do when they occur. Why did the rate drop? It’s not a matter of people being more cautious about becoming pregnant due to the recession; along with the overall decline, the number of abortions per 1,000 live births also dropped. … Noting that 73 percent of U.S. abortions are economically motivated, many evangelicals feel they must provide women with accessible, realistic alternatives, including medical, financial, and emotional support during pregnancy, along with day care and job training when needed. As Shane Claiborne put it in his book The Irresistible Revolution, ‘If I am going to discourage abortion, I had better be ready to adopt some babies and care for some mothers.’
“Especially effective programs pair each pregnant woman with a local family, which then serves as her ‘family’ to help out as needed – from baby-sitting to waiting for the tow-truck to come when her car won’t start so that she can get to work. … Reasons for the shift in approach to abortion and family planning include the maturation of the post-‘60s evangelical movement and its increasing expertise, as evangelicals have now spent decades adjusting their programs to the emotional and financial complexities of these issues. If the objective is to make abortion as rare as possible, then it’s logical that efforts shift to programs that accomplish that goal.”
(From Sojourners, March 2013)
It’s Pro-life to Ban Assault Weapons: “Some things seem naturally abhorrent –forceps to crush a cranium in an abortion, a needle to deliver a sentence intravenously on death row, and an assault weapon in the hands of the man on the street. Each instrument may have a purpose some time, somewhere, but as used above, each reflects brutality in our society. The Catholic Church opposes use of all three instruments to take a life. The church’s pro-life stand against abortion is undisputed. So is its pro-life stand in opposition to the death penalty. It can only be justified if there is no other way to keep a deadly criminal from hurting more people. And in the most recent – and all too common- threat to human life, the church opposes the growing preponderance of lethal weapons on the streets. It stands as another important pro-life position. The injustice of taking innocent life lies at the heart of the church’s pro-life position.
“There is no question about the innocence of pre-born children. And Americans are becoming more and more uneasy as we learn of people on death row eventually found innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. And surely, after the gunning down of primary grade children in Newtown, Connecticut, it is clear assault weapons stand out dramatically as a threat to innocent life. The U.S. bishops now call on people to support federal legislation to require background checks for all gun purchases, to limit civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines and to make gun trafficking a federal crime. The bishops also want a ban on assault weapons. …The church now sees that protecting innocent life also means limiting the means of taking it, that is, limiting weapons that pose a danger to anyone ….A pro-life stance is a noble one. Sadly it must confront the ignoble reality of abortion, the death penalty, and another threat to peace and human life, the preponderance of assault weapons.”
(From CathNews USA, April 5, 2013)
Pope Implores “Protection of Creation”: “Catholic greens had reason to sound exclamations of joy during the inaugural papal Mass on March 19. Starting with the announcement of the new pope’s name, Francis, there was speculation about whether Pope Francis would show the same sensitivity for nature as the saint who according to legend preached to the birds, loved the wild places and tamed the wolf of Gubbio. In his homily honoring St. Joseph, the patron of the universal church, for his care of the holy family, the new pope meditated on Joseph’s role as protector, using the Latin word custos (‘guardian’ or ‘warden’). …Four times in the homily he cited protection for creation as one of the virtues expected of today’s church. ‘Let us,’ he urged, ‘protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, protect creation.’ That means, he explained in his simple way, ‘protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as St. Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live.’
“Pope Francis continued to describe in detail a Christian ethic of care: ‘It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. …In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!’ He made a special plea to world leaders to join him in this ethic. ‘Please, I would like to ask all those with positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of good will: Let us be protectors of God’s creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.’ …On this day of the formal inauguration of his Petrine ministry, Pope Francis left no doubt that he believes, like his predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, that protection of creation is at the heart of the church’s work in the modern world.”
(From America, April 8-15, 2013)
A Pope of the Poor: “Washington does not quite know what to make of Pope Francis. …we have a humble, hopeful and holy pastor. Like his namesake, Pope Francis is likely to make the powerful uneasy. As he declared: ‘Francis of Assisi – for me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation …How I would like a church which is poor and for the poor!’ It would be hard to identify three priorities that draw less attention in Washington than poverty, peace and protecting creation. Official Washington is about helping the ‘middle class,’ confronting global enemies and economic growth, not lifting up the poor, seeking peace or caring for the earth. On parts of the left, secular deities are sexual freedom and unrestrained choice. On the right, many worship at the altar of unlimited economic freedom and the unfettered market. Both ideological orthodoxies reflect overwhelming individualism and neither focuses on the common good or protecting the weak. Pope Francis challenges the economic status quo because he believes it leaves too many behind; this inequality is a ‘social sin that cries out to heaven.’ …
“In facing this moral imperative, the nation must move beyond false choices where progressives focus primarily on better economic policies and conservatives mostly on stronger families. Poor children are helped or hurt by choices of parents and policies of government. Overcoming poverty requires greater personal and public responsibility, both subsidiarity and solidarity, the power of family and community and recognition of the responsibilities and limitations of market and government. The Catholic community should help end this stalemate. We teach the values of work, family and education. A ‘church for the poor’ serves and defends those left behind by a broken economy and failing public policies. At his inaugural Mass, Pope Francis made his priorities clear, calling us to be ‘protectors’ of ‘the poorest, the weakest, the least important.’ These may not be the priorities of Washington, but they are the moral test of our nation.”
(From America, April 22, 2013)
50 Years Since ‘Pacem in Terris’: “Just over 50 years ago, the earth as we know it came dangerously close to being engulfed in a nuclear fireball. In October 1962, the United States commanded the Soviet Union to dismantle and remove nuclear missile sites in Cuba. After the Soviet Union refused, the U.S. established a Cuban naval blockade. With the situation quickly escalating toward nuclear war, Pope John XXIII issued an urgent appeal for peace. In a letter to President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Blessed Pope John XXIII pleaded, ‘We beg all governments not to remain deaf to this cry of humanity. That they do all that is in their power to save peace. They will thus spare the world from the horrors of a war whose terrifying consequences no one can predict.’ A few days later, Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the missiles. The Cuban missile crisis had ended, but it had a profound effect on Pope John. Just months later in April of 1963, he issued his prophetic landmark encyclical letter Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth).
“Mindful of humanity’s recent close brush with nuclear war and the devastation conventional war causes, he wrote: ‘Hence justice, right reason, and the recognition of man’s dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race. The stock-piles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be reduced all round and simultaneously by the parties concerned. Nuclear weapons must be banned. A general agreement must be reached on a suitable disarmament program, with an effective system of mutual control.’ Tragically, Blessed Pope John’s appeal to justice, right reason, and consideration for human dignity and life is largely ignored when it comes to ending the arms race, banning nuclear weapons and moving toward verifiable multilateral disarmament of all weapons. Big money is a gigantic obstacle here. War making and war preparation is an extremely lucrative business. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, worldwide annual military spending is approximately $1.7 trillion. The U.S. spends about 41 percent of that amount.”
(From National Catholic Reporter, April 15, 2013)
Hope for Middle East Peace: “For the third time in two months, United States Secretary of State John Kerry visited Israel and the West Bank in hopes of restarting negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. According to Foreign Policy sources, ‘America’s top diplomat is just beginning what will be a long push to restart the peace process.’ While Kerry told press, ‘Nobody is entering this with any sense of naiveté,’ he later told staff at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, ‘I believe that if we can get on a track where people are working in good faith to address the bottom-line concerns, it is possible to be able to make progress and make peace.’ In his second meeting with Kerry in two days, Netanyahu stood next to him and said, ‘I’m determined not only to resume the peace process with the Palestinians, but to make a serious effort to end this conflict once and for all.’ However, recent reports have raised doubt on that statement. …
“In Ramallah, Kerry offered Palestinian President Abbas incentives for agreeing to restart talks. Palestinian officials told Ma’an News that Kerry offered to release all U.S. funds to the Palestinians to ensure Israel does not withhold Palestinian tax revenue in the future as well as allowing Palestinians to build more freely in Area C of the West Bank. Abba’s political adviser told the AFP that before agreeing to enter negotiations, the Palestinian president ‘wants to know, through a map to be presented by Benjamin Netanyahu to Kerry, what the prime minister’s view of a two-state solution would be, especially the borders.’ Former congressman and president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center Robert Wexler interprets the reluctance by both sides as determining the Obama administrations seriousness in restarting talks. He says, ‘Both parties are now seeking to ascertain is how persistent is the administration going to be? How much skin are Kerry and Obama prepared to put in the game? If both sides perceive that both Kerry and Obama are willing to bleed some, then the parties will become more accommodating.’”
(From Bulletin, Churches for Middle East Peace, April 12, 2013)
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.