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California prisoners assert their humanity with hunger strike

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Late last week, a group of California prisoners, many of them kept in maximum isolation units, ended their extraordinary 20-day hunger strike waged in protest of the cruel conditions of their confinement.

The strike, which began July 1 among inmates in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison, transcended the gang and geographic affiliations that typically divide prisoners. At its height, as many as 6600 prisoners from 13 California prisons were refusing food, leading some to describe the mass fasting as the largest inmate uprising since the 1971 revolt at Attica Prison in upstate New York.

On this day: Bl. Maria Klemensa Staszewska

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On this day, in 1943, Blessed Maria Klemensa Staszewska, an Ursuline of the Roman Union, died in O?wi?cim (a.k.a. Auschwitz), Ma?opolskie.

Helena Staszewska was born July 30, 1890, in Z?oczew, Wielkopolskie. She entered the Ursuline Convent at Rokiciny Podhala?skie near Rabka, and became Sister Maria Klemensa of Jesus Crucified. By the time the Nazis occupied Poland, she was the superior. She was arrested by the Gestapo in January, 1943 for "sheltering sickly Polish and Jewish children from Warsaw and assisting Jews escaping across the nearby Polish-Slovak border." Sister Maria Klemensa "perished in Auschwitz in July of that year."

Yvetta

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Sometimes I'm painfully aware that it's the poor who are the saints among us.

Yvette has been out of prison five years. While she was locked up, her child support bill mounted to something like $40,000. Of course, Yvette couldn't find a job. A judge threw her in jail briefly, but the prosecutor didn't press new felony charges. Thank heavens for a bit of common sense prosecutorial discretion.

As best I can tell, Yvette has a borderline personality disorder. This means she doesn't really relate to other people; she sees us mostly as cardboard figures. She doesn't understand that what she says should be grounded in fact and not what comes to her mind at the moment. I'm pretty sure it seems true to her. Equally, she is forever taken in by the stories of others.

The Crusades live on -- yikes!

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The shootings and bombings in Norway last week were horrific by any standard. But those murders, which the perpetrator, Anders Behring Breivik, tried to justify in his online writings, reveal something more than the acts of a madman.

They reveal a perverted version of Christianity, soaked in the same righteous Islamophobia that inspired the medieval Crusades. Breivik named Islam as a danger to European civilization and "Christendom." And he himself identifies as a modern-day crusader, a member of the Knights Templar.

On this day: Grandparents

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On this day we celebrate the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne.

Jesus' maternal grandparents are not mentioned in the Bible. The apocryphal Book of James, written in the 2nd century, relates the story of Joachim and Anne.

There are a few interesting details: Baby Mary could walk at the age of six months, and at the age of three she "danced with her feet" on the "third step of the altar" in "the temple of the Lord."

Noted law professor seeks to bar CUA from ending co-ed residences

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WASHINGTON -- A George Washington University law professor noted for his groundbreaking legal campaigns against smoking and obesity has declared war on The Catholic University of America's recent decision to change its co-ed residences on campus to single-sex housing.

The professor, John H. Banzhaf III, has filed a complaint with the District of Columbia Human Rights Office claiming that CUA President John Garvey violated the DC Human Rights Act's prohibitions against sex discrimination when he decided to place all incoming freshmen who live on campus in single-sex residences this fall. Over the next three years the rest of the current co-ed residences are to be converted as well, as new incoming classes follow the same pattern.

The notion of \"my country\"

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A young Mexican American middle school student in the Big Bear Valley Unified School District in California has filed a lawsuit supported by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). The lawsuit alleges that Coral Aviles, 13, was subject to racial harassment by her teacher because of her Mexican background and that the school and school district did not respond adequately, the Los Angeles Times reported.

According to Aviles, in June 2010, the teacher asked her if she was Mexican because she was wearing a soccer jersey with "Mexico" on it. Aviles replied that she was of Mexican background whereupon, according to Aviles, the teacher just lost it:

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