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Vatican advisor on Islam hails 'springtime' in Arab world

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Probably wisely, the Vatican has not officially had much to say about the popular uprisings sweeping across the Arab world. If those movements were perceived as being engineered or supported in the West -- perhaps especially by the leadership of the Catholic church -- it would doubtless be counter-productive.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that the Vatican and its advisors on Islam aren’t paying close attention.

Morning Brief

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When late night goes beyond wacky

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During sleepless interludes I sometimes tune in to those denizens of the late night airwaves who still manage to carve out a niche for themselves. As befits their location outside the mainstream, they're generally an odd lot, hepped up on obsessions with the end of the world, lost or nearly lost causes and pleas to save our souls.

You never know when something from the eccentric fringe might be the missing piece to a puzzle or raise a valid mystery. Those people who allegedly record the voices of dead people have an ounce or two of credibility. Every astrologer has to be right sometimes. And promoters of secret messages in the Bible are at least intriguing.

I can't take too much at a time but like it in small doses because it reminds me that those who occupy that wild and woolly territory use assumptions that are no less lamebrained than those used by dominant politicians in Washington. But the radio guys are more colorful and candid. To their followers, they are the voices of truth in a world gone mad, the misfits who will be vindicated in the end.

Donald Rumsfeld had 'Issues w/Various countries'

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Alexis Madrigal over at the Atlantic has uncovered a fascinating -- and, frankly, scary -- peek at what U.S. foreign policy really looked like when Donald Rumsfeld had power.

His find? A message the former Secretary of Defense sent in 2003 to then Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.

Look at the memo below -- which Madrigal says comes right from Rumsfeld's Web site. It defies explanation.

Half a dozen ways to defund health reform

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Conventional wisdom has it that the promise of the Republican-controlled House to cripple last year's historic Healthcare Reform Law by not providing funding to key parts of it won't go far. The Democratic Senate says it won't play along and the president said he would veto any such bill.

Still, the Republicans in the house have present a half a dozen measures to defund the healthcare law. And National Public Radio health correspondent Julie Rovner says there is still plenty of reasons to pay attention to those proposals:

Obama reversal on Defense of Marriage Act

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In a major policy reversal, the Obama administration said Wednesday it will no longer defend the constitutionality of a federal law banning recognition of same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Eric Holder said President Barack Obama has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. He noted that the congressional debate during passage of the Defense of Marriage Act "contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships - precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution's)Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against."

Read the full story here.

The federal budget cuts are a perverse values statement

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As I look at the budget reductions/eliminations voted on by the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives, it may be time to emulate the people of Wisconsin and take to the streets to protest these injustices nationwide.

Budgets are, in a real sense, a concrete statement of moral beliefs. If we Catholics champion justice for the poor, care about peace and want to preserve our natural environment, our community of faith needs to scrutinize these budget cuts, and protest loudly!

Now let’s be clear: reducing the deficit is a good idea, although there is serious question among knowledgeable economists about the wisdom of doing it now, before we recover a bit more from the recession.

But ultimately, deficit reduction will be necessary. The question is how? And what do we do? Raise revenue, or cut, or some combination thereof?

First, let’s look at the Republican legislation as outlined by the House Appropriations Committee:


  • No reform whatsoever to eliminate the tax cuts for the wealthy (just renewed in the recent lame duck Congress)

  • No attempt to go after corporations with tax shelters overseas

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