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If You Can't See 'Em You Tend Not to Feel for Them


A regular coffee drinker at my favorite lunch counter was trying to tell his friend that some kind of government rule he couldn't remember had forced companies to hire people who weren't qualified.

He saw me, a familiar face, and asked me if I knew what it was. "You may be referring to affirmative action," I ventured, "but ... "

"Yup, that's it," he said, turning to his friend with the new ammunition. "They had to take guys who didn't know from nothing over guys who deserved it. But they ended it a few years ago."

I listened with my head in my soup. My dejection wasn't aimed at him. It was the reminder that the war on poverty and the determination to right the wrongs against blacks and native Americans exist mostly as fragments of memory, consigned to a far distant past.

Recent official figures paint a bleak picture of poverty, and things are getting worse. More and more people straddle the line between bare economic survival and hunger pains. Unemployment and homelessness are frighteningly common.

Yet I suspect that for most affluent Americans, the specter of this suffering continues to recede into invisibility. Out of sight, out of mind.

The assassination of JFK: A parable for our times


Writer Jim Douglass says it is “no secret” John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a government job, CIA coordinated but involving people in other federal agencies.

The JFK Records Act passed in 1992 made it a crime to withhold information on the former president’s death. Anyone can consult files on the topic that are now stored in a huge building in Columbus Park, Maryland.

Douglass, a theologian, long-time peace activist and Catholic Worker, pored over these records while working on JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters (Orbis 2008), a heavily-researched tome with a hundred pages of endnotes.

This month Douglass has been lecturing throughout the northeast. On Wednesday he spoke at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. His talk “JFK, Obama, and the Unspeakable” will be published in the next issue of Tikkun magazine.

Will Latinos vote in the Midterm elections?


On Oct. 20 we had our weekly colloquium in the Department of Chicano Studies at UC Santa Barbara where I teach. Our speaker was Prof. David Ayon, who is affiliated with Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and who is an expert on Latino politics.

What he had to say was quite interesting and sobering.

Ayon believes that the Democrats will lose control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections and that the Republicans will gain over 50 seats. They only need 39 to become the majority party.

However, Ayon does not believe that the Republicans will win the Senate.

As for the Latino vote that is increasingly coveted by both parties, he does not believe that -- in an election year such as this, where it appears that it won’t be too close of a vote -- the Latino vote will be decisive, unlike two years ago when 10 million Latinos voted and represented about 10 percent of the national vote.

That vote count was a record high and it went overwhelmingly to President Obama and the Democrats. Obama won about 70 percent of the Latino vote. That made a difference in such states as Virginia, Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada.

Catholic church gets low marks for its 'message on homosexuality'


A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute has found that Catholics are the most likely (among the religiously affiliated) to say that messages coming from houses of worship on the subject of homosexuality are generally negative rather than generally positive: 47 percent of Catholics make this judgment. Only the religious unaffiliated are higher with this judgment at 65 percent.

Ecuador bishop criticizes Chevron


From an Oct. 20 press release:

LAGO AGRIO, Ecuador – In another blow to oil giant Chevron’s image, a prominent bishop who lives in the area of Ecuador where Chevron is embroiled in a multi-billion environmental lawsuit, has strongly criticized the oil giant for harming local residents with toxic contamination, it was learned today.

Gonzalo Lopez Marañon, Bishop of Seleuciana, made the criticism in a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent on “behalf of dozens of indigenous and farmer communities” in Ecuador who live in the area of rainforest where Chevron operated a large oil concession from 1964 to 1990. The full text of the letter can be found here.

Chevron is accused in the lawsuit, brought by 30,000 rainforest residents, of deliberately dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into rivers and streams in the area where the Bishop ministers to farmers and the surviving members of indigenous groups.

Oldest and most distant object in the universe discovered


Astronomers have discovered the oldest and most distant object in the universe - a galaxy so far away that its light has taken 13.1 billion years to reach the Earth.

The galaxy, which was spotted by Europe's Very Large Telescope in Chile, is the most remote cluster of stars, gas and dust ever measured.
It is so distant, scientists are observing it when the universe was in its infancy - aged just 600 million years old, or four per cent of its present age.

Dr Nicole Nesvadba of the Institute of Space Astrophysics in Paris said: 'Measuring the most distant galaxy so far is very exciting in itself, but the astrophysical implications of this detection are even more important.

'This is the first time we know for sure that we are looking at one of the galaxies that cleared out the fog which had filled the very early universe.'
Each time astronomers gaze at distant stars, they are looking back in time.

Light from nearby stars takes just a few years to reach the Earth. But light from remote galaxies takes billions of years to travel across the universe.

The College of Cardinals: An anachronism


I read with some interest -- and amusement -- the news that Pope Benedict had named 24 new Cardinals, including two Americans. (I was not amused, however, by the selection of Raymond Burke, formerly Archbishop of St. Louis, who insulted Catholic women during his tenure and interfered in our political system by denying communion to pro-choice Catholic candidates for office.)


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May 19-June 1, 2017