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The Golden Age of the Casino

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On the site where thousands of Bethlehem Steel workers produced the ribs of the Empire State building and the Golden Gate bridge now stands the glittering Sands Casino.

In order to get it there, local, state and federal politicians campaigned hard to win approval, as other officials had done elsewhere in pursuit of gambling revenues. And, like other successful efforts, the Bethlehem pitch also promised the winning combination of plentiful jobs and revenues for tax starved local governments. Opponents were swatted away like pesky flies.

The media in this corner of Pennsylvania keep close tabs on the reports of the "action" from Sands; in short, it's booming, with loads of busses arriving every day to take their chances. Nearly everyone insists they only wager a small, fixed amount and most say they come out even or ahead, claims that tend to contradict the findings of those who study such matters.

'Angry daughter of Christ' dies at 85

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Kip Tiernan, Boston’s much-loved and gritty advocate for social justice, who once described herself as "an angry daughter of Christ," died of cancer in her apartment on Saturday. She was 85 years old.

The founder of the nation’s first shelter for homeless women, Tiernan went on to create a myriad of agencies to assist the disadvantaged in Massachusetts. Daniel Berrigan and Dorothy Day were among her inspirations. After hearing Berrigan speak at a church in 1968, Tiernan said she felt as if a voice inside her head was saying, "‘I have just passed through a door and there is no going back.’”

Her words on how we treat the poor, spoken two decades ago, are still terribly relevant today:

“We should atone for what we have allowed to happen to all poor people in this state, in the name of fiscal authority or plain mean-spiritedness. . .We have as citizens too much to repent for, for what we have and have not done, to ease the suffering of our brothers and sisters who have no lobby to protect them.”

You can read her Boston Globe obituary here.

Won't automated drones just cause more war?

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Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer-prize winning columnist for The Washington Post, got me pondering this morning. His column was on the morality of targeting (and killing) perceived enemies using drones, those “robots of the air” that are remotely controlled. They are currently used by the United States in at least six countries: Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.

This is not warfare, Robinson contends; it is assassination. I agree: Assassination by remote control.

Clearly, we use drones because it is a way of striking a perceived enemy without endangering American lives. Those of a pacifist persuasion will naturally be opposed to using drones. But even if someone believes it is morally permissible to go to war, this method raises a lot of serious questions and Robinson raises several:


  • Given public outrage at the use of drones in Pakistan (because they’ve killed so many innocent people), won’t this method earn us new enemies?

  • Doesn’t this robot system increase the chance of deadly mistakes?

Editing Henri Nouwen

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Robert Ellsberg, editor-in-chief of Orbis Books, writes a moving essay about his professional and personal relationship with Henri Nouwen:

Henri Nouwen worked with many editors in his life. As it turned out, I was the last. I would not have foreseen this, 10 years before, when I first brought him the news that I had been offered a job at Orbis Books.

"Well," he said, "if someone were to ask me if you would be good for this job, I would say: 'Intellectually, nobody better; a perfect fit.' But, I don't know whether you have the human gifts for that kind of work -- being able to work with people, you know."

Vatican's point man for religious life: 'We've started to listen again'

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From time to time, Vatican officials are accused of living in a bubble, detached from the complex and sometimes harsh realities facing ordinary people. However accurate that may be in individual cases, it’s certainly not the story of Brazilian Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, 64, appointed in January as the new prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Consider these details from his biography:


  • Bráz grew up in a poor family in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, with four brothers and three sisters – the youngest sister, today 47, has Down’s syndrome. His father was a butcher.

  • His surroundings were so rural that when a child was born, the family had to travel by horse-drawn carriage for 25 miles to have the baby baptized. A priest visited their area once a month, so popular lay leaders were in charge of catechism, worship, and devotional life.

Drones: The new arms race

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Welcome to the 21st century version of the arms race -- drones. According to a story in today's Washington Post, development of drone technology has become all the rage in other countries given the "success" the U.S. has shown in their use in reconnaissance and in attacking targets.

As the story notes, the unmanned crafts are small, inexpensive compared to conventional weapons, deadly, and achieve their goals without the concomitant mess of soldiers coming home in body bags. Recent experience has also shown that few in the United States have been upset by the deaths of unknown civilians in rural Pakistan.

On this day: St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria

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On this day we remember St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria.

"Anthony Mary was born in Cremona, Italy in early December of 1502 to the noble family of Zaccaria. His family had given the city over the years, no less than eighteen governors. His father, Lazzaro, died young when Anthony was still an infant.

"His mother, Antonietta Pescaroli, a widow at 18 years of age, might have accepted any of the numerous suitors for marriage. With her great attractiveness, her gifted mind and vast wealth, there was every promise of a brilliant future ahead. However, she refused every offer so that she could devote her­self entirely to works of charity and the education of her son.

Morning Briefing

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Happy Independence Day

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A wonderful quote I'd never seen before, shared by my friend and fellow Catholic freelance writer Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda:

"Whereas nationalism involves recognizing and pursing the good of one's own nation alone, without regard for the rights of others, patriotism, on the other hand, is a love for one's native land that accords rights to all other nations equal to those claimed for one's own. Patriotism, in other words, leads to a properly ordered social love." --Pope John Paul II in Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium (Rizzoli, 2005)

Great food for thought on our country's Independence Day.

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