Catholic bishops soften tone on same-sex unions

Boston Globe

‘We want a church that is . . . listening to and dialoguing with the contemporary world.’
By John L. Allen Jr.

Pope Francis attended a morning session of Monday’s synod at the Vatican. Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press
Pope Francis attended a morning session of Monday’s synod at the Vatican. Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

ROME — For the first time in a semi-official Vatican document, a summit of Catholic bishops from around the world convened by Pope Francis acknowledged Monday that relationships that don’t accord with Catholic teaching, including same-sex unions, can have positive moral value.

While the midterm report from a synod of bishops doesn’t signal any shift in Catholic teaching, it does suggest a mammoth change in tone in terms of how Catholicism relates to whole categories of people often estranged from the church, including gays and lesbians, couples living together outside marriage, and people who have divorced and remarried. Continue reading Catholic bishops soften tone on same-sex unions

Prospect of No Water Looms in Over a Dozen California Towns

Common Dreams

Over 37 million people now affected by historic drought
Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Eighty-two percent of California is now under Extreme or Exceptional drought conditions. (Photo: John Weiss)
Eighty-two percent of California is now under Extreme or Exceptional drought conditions. (Photo: John Weiss)

Over a dozen California communities now face running out of water within 60 days if urgent steps are not taken, and that list will only grow as the record drought of 2014 continues, according to the State Water Board.

Because of the severity of the crisis, the state has begun tracking communities that face critical water shortages and in the past month alone the number has risen from 8 to 14 towns, according to the list updated late last week.
Continue reading Prospect of No Water Looms in Over a Dozen California Towns

Detroiters Vow Resistance After Judge Rules There is No Human Right to Water

Common Dreams

Bankruptcy judge declines moratorium allowing water shutoffs to continue

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

The people of Detroit have pledged to risk arrest "in order to protect and uphold the human right to water in Detroit." (Photo: Detroit Water Brigade)
The people of Detroit have pledged to risk arrest “in order to protect and uphold the human right to water in Detroit.” (Photo: Detroit Water Brigade)

The people of Detroit are vowing resistance after a federal bankruptcy judge on Monday ruled that the city can continue shutting off water to its poorest residents if their bills cannot be paid.

Judge Steven W. Rhodes at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan declared that citizens have no implicit right to water, that he lacked the authority to issue a restraining order to stop the shutoffs and that doing so would be a financial hit to the city already in the throes of bankruptcy. “There is no such right or law,” Rhodes said. Continue reading Detroiters Vow Resistance After Judge Rules There is No Human Right to Water

The Foreign-Born Population from Africa: 2008–2012 American Community Survey Briefs, ACSBR/12-16

Africa Focus

By Christine P. Gambino, Edward N. Trevelyan, and John Thomas Fitzwater
Issued October 2014

[Excerpts only  – for full text, including maps, figures, footnotes, and downloadable tables, and more interesting reading visit http://tinyurl.com/n52tulc]

Introduction
According to the 2008–2012 American Community Survey (ACS), 39.8 million foreign-born people resided in the United States, including 1.6 million from Africa, or about 4 percent of the total foreign-born population. In 1970, there were about 80,000 African foreign born, representing less than 1 percent of the total foreign-born population (Figure 1). Continue reading The Foreign-Born Population from Africa: 2008–2012 American Community Survey Briefs, ACSBR/12-16

How We Punish People for Being Poor

Common Dreams
Rebecca Vallas

"If we are truly interested in building an America that is defined by opportunity, we must commit to enacting public policies that support rather than impede upward mobility," writes Vallas. (Photo: Quinn Dombrowski/flickr/cc)
“If we are truly interested in building an America that is defined by opportunity, we must commit to enacting public policies that support rather than impede upward mobility,” writes Vallas. (Photo: Quinn Dombrowski/flickr/cc)

This past weekend, I was part of a panel discussion on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry with New York Times reporter Michael Corkery, whose reporting on the rise in sub-prime auto loans is as horrifying as it is important.

In what seems a reprisal of the predatory practices that led up to the sub-prime mortgage crisis, low-income individuals are being sold auto loans at twice the actual value of the car, with interest rates as high as 29 percent. They can end up with monthly payments of $500—more than most of the borrowers spend on food in a month, and certainly more than most can realistically afford. Many dealers appear in essence to be setting up low-income borrowers to fail. Continue reading How We Punish People for Being Poor

Pharmaceutical Dumping Could Pose Risks to Wildlife, Scientists Warn

Common Dreams

Research published Monday finds drugs for treating humans and animals are seeping into wild environments, causing changes in ecosystems

Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Amphibians, most of which breed in water, are susceptible to the impacts of water-borne pharmaceuticals. (Photo: Carey James Balboa/Wikimedia/cc)
Amphibians, most of which breed in water, are susceptible to the impacts of water-borne pharmaceuticals. (Photo: Carey James Balboa/Wikimedia/cc)

What happens when the drugs used to treat humans and animals are disposed? Scientific studies published Monday in a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B reveal that pharmaceuticals, when flushed into land and water ecosystems, could pose risks to wildlife, from altering species’ behavior to changing fertility rates to death.

Pharmaceuticals can enter wild environments through a variety of routes, including dumping from drug manufacturers, as well as sewage. Continue reading Pharmaceutical Dumping Could Pose Risks to Wildlife, Scientists Warn

Mega churches: The hidden pillar of Nigeria’s economy

Exactly how much of Nigeria’s $510bn GDP mega churches make up is difficult to assess, since they are, like the oil sector, largely opaque entities.

Mail & Guardian
Tim Cocks

Bishop David Oyedepo, founder of the Living Faith Church, conducts a service recently in his auditorium in the Ota district about 60km outside Lagos. (Akintunde Akinleye, Reuters)
Bishop David Oyedepo, founder of the Living Faith Church, conducts a service recently in his auditorium in the Ota district about 60km outside Lagos. (Akintunde Akinleye, Reuters)

When a guesthouse belonging to one of Nigeria’s leading Christian pastors collapsed last month, killing 115 mostly South African pilgrims, attention focused on the multimillion-dollar “mega churches” that form a huge, untaxed sector of Africa’s top economy.

Hundreds of millions of dollars change hands each year in these popular Pentecostal houses of worship, which are modeled on their counterparts in the United States.

Some of the churches can hold more than 200 000 worshipers and, with their attendant business empires, they constitute a significant section of the economy, employing tens of thousands of people and raking in tourist dollars, as well as exporting Christianity globally. Continue reading Mega churches: The hidden pillar of Nigeria’s economy