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America’s new tobacco crisis: The rich stopped smoking, the poor didn’t by William Wan: “Among the nation’s less-educated people — those with a high-school-equivalency diploma — the smoking rate remains more than 40 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, rural residents are diagnosed with lung cancer at rates 18 to 20 percent above those of city dwellers. By nearly every statistical measure, researchers say, America’s lower class now smokes more and dies more from cigarettes than other Americans.”

The Confederate flag largely disappeared after the Civil War. The fight against civil rights brought it back. by Logan Strother, Thomas Ogorzalek and Spencer Piston: “Southerners reintroduced these symbols as a means of resisting the Civil Rights movement. The desire to maintain whites’ dominant position in the racial hierarchy of the United States was at the root of the rediscovery of Confederate symbols.”

As Merkel calls on Pope Francis, is a partnership in the works? by John Allen: “On many fronts, Merkel would seem to embody an agenda more congenial to that of Pope Francis. She’s an ardent supporter of Paris and environmental protection, she’s defended a strong pro-immigrant position that saw Germany take in an estimated one million refugees and migrants in 2015 alone, and when she was in Mexico last week, she pointedly said that “putting up walls and cutting oneself off will not solve the problem.”” Read More


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I got pregnant. I chose to keep my baby. And my Christian school humiliated me. by Madeline Runkles: “My school could have made an example of how to treat a student who made a mistake, owned up to it, accepted the consequences, and is now being supported in her decision to choose life. But they didn’t. It is my hope that the next Christian school will make the right decision when the time comes.”

Forget ‘Left v. Right’ — look for ‘bright’ and ‘Catholic,’ cardinal says by John Allen and Ines San Martin: “Early in his career, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria, was seen as a conservative protégé of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, while today he’s mostly viewed as a progressive ally of Pope Francis. Rather than any fundamental shift in himself or the Church, Schönborn says, what that illustrates is the inadequacy of the categories of ‘left v. right’ to begin with.”

Pope Francis and workers in Genoa by  Michael Sean Winters: “It is always odd to me that some of our conservative friends believe the church belongs in the bedroom dispensing advice but should be silent in the board room. Also odd that the left welcomes the introduction of ethics into the world of business but thinks sexual relations are “personal” and beyond the reach of the church’s concern. No, human dignity is implicated in the decisions made in both rooms, and for the Christian, human dignity is always rooted in what has been revealed to us in Christ Jesus, in whom we discern our true vocation as children of God.”

Canadian Catholic TV network relies on young adults to evangelize the world by Michael O’Loughlin: “Salt + Light makes it a point to have a range of voices on staff, who over the years have come from more than 20 countries and have represented various traditions and understandings of the church in the world today.” Read More


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I’m a pro-life evangelical. Republicans are pushing a health care bill that isn’t. by Katelyn Beaty: “As it stands, the AHCA would create economic barriers that make it very difficult for women to choose to bring children into the world. A health care bill that prohibitively raises the cost of bringing life into the world is not pro-life.”

Why Democrats and Republicans (still) cannot agree on health care reform by Michael Rozier: “Republicans are trying to replace a health care system that is already built on a conservative framework. There is no way to make it more market oriented and keep the protections people now enjoy.”

The conservative mind has become diseased by Michael Gerson: “A conspiratorial approach to politics is fully consistent with other forms of dehumanization — of migrants, refugees and “the other” more generally. Men and women are reduced to types and presented as threats. They also become props in an ideological drama. They are presented as representatives of a plot involving invasion and infiltration, rather than being viewed as individuals seeking opportunity or fleeing oppression and violence. This also involves callousness, cruelty and conspiracy thinking. In Trump’s political world, this project of dehumanization is far along. The future of conservatism now depends on its capacity for revulsion. And it is not at all clear whether this capacity still exists.”

Gasping for life Syria’s merciless war on its own children by CNN: “Terms like “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” are bandied about on an almost weekly basis when it comes to Syria, abstract concepts that are often weighed down with convoluted language related to the geopolitical machinations of the conflict. Yet when you watch these children choking on what were likely their last breaths, you understand what evil is.” Read More


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Don’t be fooled: Assad is no friend of Syria’s Christian minorities by Bahnan Yamin, Samira Moubayed, Mirna Barq, and George Stifo: “Syrians right now, both Christians and Muslim, are the victims of a tyrannical regime on the one side and radical Islamist terrorists such as ISIS and al-Qaeda and other radical groups on the other. Yet the vast majority of Syrians inside Syria and throughout the world simply want a secular democratic country like we enjoy here in the United States, with equal rights for all citizens.”

Why We Must Support Human Rights by John McCain: “America didn’t invent human rights. Those rights are common to all people: nations, cultures and religions cannot choose to simply opt out of them.”

A Response to Fr. Sirico by Michael Sean Winters: “Until libertarians view the common good as more than the sum of individual desires sifted through market decisions, until they cure their allergy to government intervention to alleviate human problems, until they place the actual lived circumstances of people in front of their ideological commitments, they will not be able to wrap themselves, not even a little, in the mantle of Catholic social doctrine.”

Trump is waging a war on millennials by Catherine Rampell: “The rest of the Trump agenda could be broadly characterized as full-on generational warfare against the young. If enacted, it will rob millennials and subsequent generations of earnings, benefits, consumer protections and even — if you look far enough into the future — a habitable place to live.” Read More


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Trump’s 100th-day speech may have been the most hate-filled in modern history by Michael Gerson: “It is the job of responsible politics to prepare the way for new leaders, who believe that all of us are equal in dignity and tied together in a single destiny. But this can take place only if we refuse to normalize the language of hatred.”

Catholic Sen. Bob Casey tried unsuccessfully to stop the deportation of a mother and son. by Ashley McKinless: “On Wednesday, a woman and her 5-year-old son were deported to their native Honduras, where, the mother says, they face a death threat. The two had been held for over two years in the Berks County Residential Center, near Reading, Pa., as their claim for asylum worked its way through the courts and was ultimately rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the Supreme Court.”

The Faith Community & Climate Change: A Q&A with Dan Misleh by John Gehring: “The Catholic approach holds that we are concerned about both God’s good gift of creation and the impacts of environmental degradation on people, especially those most vulnerable: the poor at home and abroad.”

Trump’s populism has nothing to do with helping the people who voted for him by EJ Dionne: “What it shows is that all that remains of Trump’s populism is the part that focuses on hatred and division. Giving actual help to the people who voted for him is not part of the plan.”

Trump’s nifty plan to spend more and hurt poor people more — at the same time! by Catherine Rampell: “Who says President Trump isn’t a policy genius? He’s figured out a clever way to spend more government money just to stick it to poor people.” Read More


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Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 US election by Reuters: “A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.”

What does it mean to be a Christian rapper? A conversation with Sho Baraka by Olga Segura: “Many find it difficult to balance an affinity for rap, with its provocative themes and often profane language, and a life of faith. Baraka says, “I became so religious, I even stopped listening to secular music.”Eventually, he learned to reconcile these two parts of his identity. Hip-hop became a way to express his faith.”

How a Warming Planet Drives Human Migration by Jessica Benko: “Climate change is a threat multiplier: It contributes to economic and political instability and also worsens the effects. It propels sudden-onset disasters like floods and storms and slow-onset disasters like drought and desertification; those disasters contribute to failed crops, famine and overcrowded urban centers; those crises inflame political unrest and worsen the impacts of war, which leads to even more displacement.”

How Child Care Enriches Mothers, and Especially the Sons They Raise by Claire Cain Miller: “A powerful new study — which demonstrated long-term results by following children from birth until age 35 — found that high-quality care during the earliest years can influence whether both mothers and children born into disadvantage lead more successful lives.” Read More


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I told Paul Ryan what it’s like to be poor. I wonder if he remembers me now. by Tianna Gaines-Turner: “The structural changes Ryan envisions — sometimes referred to as “per capita caps” or “block grants” — are actually budget cuts that will devastate the safety net and harm families like mine.”

Fox serves up a fetid reminder that when you’re a star, you can still do anything by Michael Gerson: “A certain kind of Fox viewer will never find this persuasive. They think that boys will be boys, and men should be manly, and opponents are snowflakes, and women should just learn to lump it or leave. But it is hard for me to imagine how Christian conservatives — a major Fox demographic — could avoid choking on such rotted values. The way that women are treated in the workplace — or at home, or anywhere else — should reflect a belief in human equality and a commitment to human dignity. And the proper reaction when reading about the cases of O’Reilly and Ailes is revulsion.”

Is it time for a dramatic flourish from U.S. bishops on immigration? by John Allen: “Suppose it wasn’t just one cardinal who led brother bishops in celebrating a Mass at the border. Suppose it was all six residential cardinals in the United States – Timothy Dolan of New York, O’Malley of Boston, Donald Wuerl of Washington, Joseph Tobin of Newark, Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and Blase Cupich of Chicago? Suppose, too, the cardinals were joined by a good chunk of the archbishops who lead the other 30 dioceses in the United States – Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, for instance, and William Lori of Baltimore, not to mention the indispensable voice in American Catholicism on this issue, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles?”

End the death penalty for mentally ill criminals by Bob Taft and Joseph E. Kernan: “Legislators in six states — Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia — have proposed legislation to prohibit the death penalty for individuals with severe mental illness. As former governors of states that are grappling with this issue, we strongly support this effort to end an inhumane practice that fails to respect common standards of decency and comport with recommendations of mental-health experts.” Read More