Vatican Christmas concert will support refugees in Iraq, Uganda

Refugees photoPope Francis addresses the performer and organizers of the Christmas Concert in
the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Dec. 14, 2018. Credit: Vatican Media.

By Courtney Grogan

Vatican City, (CNA/EWTN News).- This Christmas it is particularly important to
support refugees and migrants, Pope Francis said Friday, ahead of the Vatican
Christmas Concert fundraiser in support of young refugee education.

“Christmas is always new because it invites us to be reborn in faith, to open
ourselves to hope, to rekindle charity,” Pope Francis said in the Clementine Hall of
the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

“This year, in particular, calls us to reflect on the situation of many men, women and
children of our time – migrants, displaced persons, and refugees – marching to
escape wars, miseries caused by social injustice and climate change,” the pope
continued.

Pope Francis stressed his particular concern for the “little ones” among migrants,
who face dangerous situations and “long marches on foot” when they should be
“sitting among the school desks, like their peers.”

“They too need training to be able to work tomorrow and participate as citizens,
aware of the common good,” he commented.

The Holy Father expressed gratitude for the work of two papal charities that support
young refugees in Iraq and Uganda. “Missioni Don Bosco” in Uganda and “Scholas
Occurrentes” in Iraq will both receive proceeds from the Vatican Christmas Concert
taking place in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall.

“Missioni Don Bosco” is an Italian Catholic charity supporting the education of
disadvantaged youth in developing countries. Their Salesian missionaries in Uganda
aid refugee families from South Sudan. One of their educational projects in the
Palabek refugee camp provides vocational training to 1,500 students, who also
receive one meal a day.

The Pontifical Foundation’s “Scholas Occurrentes” was founded by Bergoglio while
he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires as an initiative to encourage social integration
and the culture of encounter through technology, arts and sports.

On Friday, Pope Francis met with young Iraqi refugees supported by “Scholas
Occurrentes,” and the artists performing in the Christmas concert, and shared his
message on the importance of education and solidarity.

The pope drew a direct link between the Christmas story and the needs of child
refugees today. “When the violent anger of Herod struck the territory of Bethlehem,
the Holy Family of Nazareth experienced the anguish of persecution, and guided by
God, took refuge in Egypt,” he said.

“The little Jesus reminds us that half of the refugees of today, in the world, are
children, innocent victims of human injustices,” he continued.
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-christmas-concert-will-support-
refugees-in-iraq-uganda-41097

House passes farm bill and controversial rule on Yemen debate

Bill photoUS Capitol dome. Credit: Dan Thornberg/Shutterstock.

By Christine Rousselle

Washington D.C., Dec 13, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- An agriculture bill supported
by a coalition of Catholic groups passed the House of Representatives on
Wednesday with bipartisan support. During debate over the bill, lawmakers also
passed a controversial rule regarding debate on US involvement in Yemen.

The bill now moves to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

The “farm bill” concerns agricultural programs and food assistance. It is renewed
each year, and this process can sometimes be quite lengthy due to additions and
amendments added to the bill by members of Congress.

The version of the farm bill passed Dec. 12 was a compromise that eliminated some
of the more controversial aspects of an earlier version of the bill. Those controversial
provisions included expanded work requirements for people who receive
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds. That bill passed the
House of Representatives in June, but only had the support of Republican members.

SNAP is used by approximately 38 million Americans each year to purchase food
items. Currently, able-bodied SNAP recipients who are between the ages of 18 and
49 who do not have dependents under the age of six, must work or volunteer for 20
hours a week or participate in a job-training program in order to receive benefits.
The proposed bill would have upped the upper age limit of this requirement to 59,
but that provision was dropped in the compromise bill.

In a controversial procedural move, a mostly party-line passing vote on rules for
floor debate of the farm bill also included a provision that would block legislators
from forcing a vote on military aid to Saudi Arabia’s intervention in the Yemeni civil
war.

This effectively limits the Senate’s Dec. 13 vote to withdraw military aid from Saudi
Arabia to a symbolic gesture.

This amended bill passed by a vote of 369-47 in the House of Representatives, and
87-13 in the Senate. The Senate passed the bill Dec. 11.

The bill was praised by a coalition of Catholic organizations.

“Agriculture policies should promote the production and access of nutritious food for
all people, using the bounty from the land God has called us to tend and steward to
aid the least of our brothers and sister in this country and around the world,” read a
Dec. 12 letter to the House of Representatives signed by several Catholic
organizations, including the USCCB, Catholic Relief Services, and Catholic Charities
USA.
“We are pleased that the recently released Farm Bill Conference Committee Report
includes provisions that protect global and domestic nutrition programs and
strengthens rural supports and employment training programs,” they added.

The letter also stated support for the inclusion of two programs that contribute to
rural development, as well as the bill’s changes to international food security
programs. These changes will make the programs “more effective and allow them to
serve more people.”

The Catholic coalition expressed disappointment with other parts of the bill, including
subsidies to farmers and ranchers and a decrease in funding to conservation
programs. Each year, one of the hotly-debated points of the farm bill concerns
subsidies that are distributed to farmers, and critics of this say the money does not
always go to farmers who are in need of assistance.

The farm subsidies should be “prioritized” for struggling farmers, says the letter.

“It is disappointing that the Conference report does not take modest steps to limit
subsidy payments to farmers who are actively engaged in farming.”
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/house-passes-farm-bill-and-
controversial-rule-on-yemen-debate-78056

The Long, Brutal U.S. War on Children in the Middle East

children photo

When children waste away to literally nothing while fourteen million people face conflict driven famine, a hue and cry—yes, a caterwaul —most certainly should be raised, worldwide.

by Kathy Kelly

On November 28, sixty-three U.S. Senators voted in favor of holding a floor debate on a resolution calling for an end to direct U.S. Armed Forces involvement in the Saudi-UAE coalition-led war on Yemen. Describing the vote as a rebuke to Saudi Arabia and the Trump Administration, AP reported on Senate dissatisfaction over the administration’s response to Saudi Arabia’s brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi last month. Just before the Senate vote, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called current objections to U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia “Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on.”

The “caterwaul” on Capitol Hill reflects years of determined effort by grassroots groups to end U.S. involvement in war on Yemen, fed by mounting international outrage at the last three years of war that have caused the deaths of an estimated 85,000 Yemeni children under age five.

When children waste away to literally nothing while fourteen million people endure conflict-driven famine, a hue and cry—yes, a caterwaul —most certainly should be raised, worldwide.

How might we understand what it would mean in the United States for fourteen million people in our country to starve? You would have to combine the populations of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and imagine these cities empty of all but the painfully and slowly dying, to get a glimpse into the suffering in Yemen, where one of every two persons faces starvation.

Antiwar activists have persistently challenged elected representatives to acknowledge and end the horrible consequences of modern warfare in Yemen where entire neighborhoods have been bombed, displacing millions of people; daily aerial attacks have directly targeted Yemen’s infrastructure, preventing delivery of food, safe water, fuel, and funds. The war crushes people through aerial bombing and on-the-ground fighting as well as an insidious economic war.

Yemenis are strangled by import restrictions and blockades, causing non-payment of government salaries, inflation, job losses, and declining or disappearing incomes. Even when food is available, ordinary Yemenis cannot afford it.

Starvation is being used as a weapon of war—by Saudi Arabia, by the United Arab Emirates, and by the superpower patrons including the United States that arm and manipulate both countries.

During the thirteen years of economic sanctions against Iraq— those years between the Gulf War and the devastating U.S.-led “Shock and Awe” war that followed—I joined U.S. and U.K. activists traveling to Iraq in public defiance of the economic sanctions.

We aimed to resist U.S.- and U.K.-driven policies that weakened the Iraqi regime’s opposition more than they weakened Saddam Hussein. Ostensibly democratic leaders were ready to achieve their aims by brutally sacrificing children under age five. The children died first by the hundreds, then by the thousands and eventually by the hundreds of thousands. Sitting in a Baghdad pediatric ward, I heard a delegation member, a young nurse from the U.K., begin to absorb the cruelty inflicted on mothers and children.

“I think I understand,” murmured Martin Thomas, “It’s a death row for infants.” Children gasped their last breaths while their parents suffered a pile-up of anguish, wave after wave. We should remain haunted by those children’s short lives.

The Iraq children died amid an eerie and menacing silence on the part of mainstream media and most elected U.S. officials. No caterwauling was heard on Capitol Hill. But, worldwide, people began to know that children were paying the price of abysmally failed policies, and millions of people opposed the 2003 Shock and Awe war.

Still the abusive and greedy policies continue. The U.S. and its allies built up permanent warfare states to secure consistent exploitation of resources outside their own territories.

During and after the Arab Spring, numerous Yemenis resisted dangerously unfair austerity measures that the Gulf Cooperation Council and the U.S. insisted they must accept. Professor Isa Blumi, who notes that generations of Yemeni fighters have refused to acquiesce to foreign invasion and intervention, presents evidence that Saudi Arabia and the UAE now orchestrate war on Yemen to advance their own financial interests.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, Blumi states that although Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman wants to author an IPO (Initial Public Offering), for the Saudi state oil company, Aramco, no major investors would likely participate. Investment firms know the Saudis pay cash for their imports, including billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry, because they are depleting resources within their own territory. This, in part, explains the desperate efforts to take over Yemen’s offshore oil reserves and other strategic assets.

Recent polls indicate that most Americans don’t favor U.S. war on Yemen. Surely, our security is not enhanced if the U.S. continues to structure its foreign policy on fear, prejudice, greed, and overwhelming military force. The movements that pressured the U.S. Senate to reject current U.S. foreign policy regarding Saudi Arabia and its war on Yemen will continue raising voices. Collectively, we’ll work toward raising the lament, pressuring the media and civil society to insist that slaughtering children will never solve problems.

 

https://progressive.org/dispatches/the-long-brutal-u-s-war-on-children-in-the-middle-east-181129/

In Early Holiday ‘Gift to Polluters,’ Trump Guts Protections for 60 Percent of Nation’s Streams, Wetlands, and Waterways

pollution photophoto caption: The Trump administration unveiled a regulatory
rollback of the Waters of the U.S. rule, meant to protect
streams and wetlands from pollution and development. (Photo:
Laurence Arnold/Flickr/cc)

“Piece by piece, molecule by molecule, Trump is handing over
our country to corporate polluters and other industrial
interests at the expense of our future.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer

Sixty percent of U.S. waterways will be at risk for pollution
from corporate giants, critics say, following the Trump
administration’s announcement Tuesday that it will roll back
an Obama-era water rule meant to protect Americans’ drinking
water and all the waterways that flow into it.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the
Obama administration’s 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS)
rule would be redefined and no longer protect many of the
nation’s streams and wetlands.

“This is an early Christmas gift to polluters and a lump of
coal for everyone else,” said Bob Irvin, president of the
national advocacy group American Rivers. “Too many people are
living with unsafe drinking water. Low-income communities,
indigenous peoples, and communities of color are hit hardest
by pollution and river degradation.”
Under the Trump administration’s proposal, which Common Dreams
reported as imminent last week, streams that flow only after
rainfall or snowfall will no longer be protected from
pollution by developers, agricultural companies, and the
fossil fuel industry. Wetlands that are not connected to
larger waterways will also not be protected, with developers
potentially able to pave over those water bodies.

“The Trump administration will stop at nothing to reward
polluting industries and endanger our most treasured
resources.” —Jon Devine, NRDC

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler suggested that WOTUS
had created unfair roadblocks for industries, farmers, and
ranchers who wanted to build and work near the nation’s
waterways and were kept from doing so because of the potential
for water pollution.

But green groups slammed the EPA for once again putting the
interests of businesses ahead of the families which rely on
the rule that keeps at least 60 percent of the nation’s
drinking water sources safe from pollution while also
protecting wildlife and ecosystems which thrive in wetlands
across the country.

“The Trump administration will stop at nothing to reward
polluting industries and endanger our most treasured
resources,” Jon Devine, director of the Natural Resources
Defense Council’s (NRDC) federal water program, said in a
statement. “Given the problems facing our lakes, streams and
wetlands from the beaches of Florida to the drinking water of
Toledo, now is the time to strengthen protections for our
waterways, not weaken them.”

Ken Kopocis, the top water official at the EPA under President
Barack Obama, told the Los Angeles Times that the regulatory
rollback will create potential for the pollution of larger
bodies of water, even though they are technically still
covered under WOTUS and the Clean Water Act.

“You can’t protect the larger bodies of water unless you
protect the smaller ones that flow into them,” said Kopocis.
“You end up with a situation where you can pollute or destroy
smaller streams and bodies, and it will eventually impact the
larger ones.”

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch,
called the revised WOTUS rule a “steamroller” to environmental
oversight that American families rely on.

“Piece by piece, molecule by molecule, Trump is handing over
our country to corporate polluters and other industrial
interests at the expense of our future,” said Hauter.

“The proposed rule will take us back five decades in our
effort to clean up our waterways,” argued Theresa Pierno of
the National Parks Conservancy Association (NPCA). “We must
ensure clean water protections extend to all streams,
wetlands, lakes and rivers that contribute to the health of
larger water bodies downstream, and our communities, parks,
and wildlife that depend on them.”

“We will fight to ensure the highest level of protections for
our nation’s waters—for our health, our communities and our
parks,” Pierno added.

 

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/12/11/early-holiday-gift-polluters-trump-guts-protections-60-percent-nations-streams

Guatemalan migrant girl, seven, dies in US border patrol custody *Girl named as Jakelin Caal was arrested after crossing border *Father told US officials his daughter was sick and vomiting

Migrant photo     A US border patrol agent keeps watch on the US-Mexico border

US border control agents have reported an increasing number of large groups of immigrants, many with young children, turning themselves in. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Amanda Holpuch in New York

A seven-year-old girl who crossed a remote part of the US-Mexico border with her father last week died less than two days after being apprehended by the US border patrol in New Mexico, immigration officials have said.

The girl vomited and stopped breathing in the custody of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before being transferred to a hospital, where she suffered brain swelling and cardiac arrest, according to CBP.

The CBP commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, identified the girl as Jakelin Caal Maquin. “We welcome the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation and will review the incident operationally to learn from this tragedy,” McAleenan said.

The girl and her father, both from Guatemala, were traveling in a group of 163 people, including 50 children who were traveling without a parent, when they were apprehended at around 9.15pm on 6 December.

Four border patrol agents were on the scene, according to CBP and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, who said it was not unusual for a small group of agents to confront large groups of migrants.

The agents conducted a screening that included a health observation. Her father indicated his daughter was healthy on a form officials said was in English but would have been marked according to a Spanish interview with the father.

They were held in a small facility near the border before being transferred by bus to a border patrol station 95 miles away. At that facility, officials said people had access to food, water and restrooms.

On the bus, just before 5 am, the father told agents his child was sick and vomiting, then personnel at their destination were notified about the medical situation, officials said. Once they arrived, about an hour later, the father told agents his child was not breathing. Emergency medical technicians revived her twice before she was taken by air ambulance to a children’s hospital in El Paso, Texas.

Officials said later that morning Jakelin went into cardiac arrest, showed signs of brain swelling in a scan, was breathing by machine and had liver failure.

She died at 12:35 am on Saturday with her father on the scene, officials said.

“On behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child,” a CBP spokesperson said. “Border patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”

The CBP said it will investigate the incident and that an autopsy of the girl is expected.

The girl was suffering from dehydration and shock, according to CBP records seen by the Washington Post. The agency told the Post the girl “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days”. The CBP did not confirm those details to the Guardian.

In response to the death, the White House, CBP and DHS repeatedly emphasized that the journey to the northern border is “extremely dangerous” because of the threat of violence, trafficking, extreme weather and wild animals. They said people should arrive at designated ports of entry instead of at other places on the 2,000-mile border.

But migrant rights groups say the Trump administration is exacerbating those dangers by limiting how many people can present for asylum at designated ports of entry.

Journalists and humanitarian groups have documented the US government limiting how many people can present themselves for asylum each day at ports of entry in a practice known as “metering”.

And in October, the DHS’s watchdog, the office of inspector general, said there were documented incidents of people being turned away at ports of entry and told to return when it was less busy. The report said there was evidence “limiting the volume of asylum seekers entering at ports of entry leads some aliens who would otherwise seek legal entry into the United States to cross the border illegally.”

The Trump administration also tried to bar people from seeking asylum outside ports of entry, but a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the ban because he said the government could not prove it was legal. On Tuesday, the Trump administration asked the supreme court to reinstate the ban.

The White House deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley, said the girl’s death was tragic. She said: “If we could just come together and pass some commonsense laws to disincentivize people from coming up from the border and encourage them to do it the right way, the legal way, then those types of deaths, those types of assaults, those types of rapes, the child smuggling, the human trafficking … that would all come to an end.”

Cynthia Pompa, the advocacy manager for the ACLU border rights centre, said the number of migrant deaths had increased last year even as the number of border crossings fell.

“This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions. Lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant deaths,” Pompa said.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/14/guatemalan-girl-aged-seven-dies-in-custody-on-us-mexican-border

Five dead in Brazilian cathedral shooting, cathedral priest asks for prayer

killings photoCathedral of Our Lady of the Conception, Campinas, Brazil. Credit: Leticia Cardosa/wikimedia. CC BY 4.0 SA

Campinas, Brazil,(CNA).- A gunman killed at least four people people Tuesday, inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Conception in Campinas, Brazil. After opening fire inside the cathedral, the gunman took his own life.

The man entered the cathedral at the conclusion of a midday Mass on Dec. 11 and began firing, according to the Military Police of Campinas. In addition to those killed, at least four people were injured during the attack.

According to local fire department officials, the man was carrying two handguns, at least one of which was a .38 caliber revolver.

He reportedly committed suicide directly in front of the cathedral’s altar.

“At the end of the Mass, a person came in firing and took lives. Nobody could do anything,” the priest said.

Father Amauri Thomazzi, who celebrated Tuesday’s 12:15 Mass in the cathedral, published a video on his Facebook page, in which he requested prayer.

“To you, friends, I ask only that you pray for the [attacker]. He killed himself after the situation. He shot people and there were over 20 shots in here, then he killed himself. So we pray for him and for those who have been injured, there are some fatalities,” he said.

The names of the victims and the attacker have not yet been disclosed. On its Facebook page, the Archdiocese of Campinas also urged Catholics to pray.

“A shooting left at least five people dead and four others injured in the early afternoon of Tuesday, inside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Campinas, in the city center, according to information from the fire department. The motive is not yet known,” the Facebook post said.

“The cathedral remains closed for the care of the victims and the investigation of the police. Once we have more information, we will make it available. We count on the prayers of all in this moment of deep pain,” the post concluded.

Major Paulo Monteiro of the Campinas Fire Department told reporters that the motive for the crime is not yet known and that at the moment the main concern is the care of the survivors.

The wounded were taken to local hospitals; their condition has not been disclosed.

“Let us ask Our Lady Immaculate to intercede for this cathedral, for these people and for these families,” Thomazzi urged.
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/five-dead-in-brazilian-cathedral-shooting-cathedral-priest-asks-for-prayer-97639

Calling Promotion Betrayal of Planet, Groups Denounce Schumer for Giving ‘Fossil Fuel Servant’ Joe Manchin Top Spot on Energy Committee.

“Appointing Senator Manchin as ranking member of the Energy Committee is completely at odds with any plan for real climate action.”

Energy photo“This is the wrong choice at the wrong time for the Democrats,” said David Turnbull, strategic communications director with Oil Change USA. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

By Jake Johnson, staff writer

At a time when people throughout the U.S. and around the world are rallying behind bold solutions to the climate crisis and urgently warning that there is no time to waste, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) decided late Tuesday to betray his constituents and the planet, groups warned, by promoting “fossil fuel servant” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to the top Democratic spot on the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“Schumer is out of touch with the progressive voters who will continue to push for a Green New Deal in the next Congress.”
—Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth

“Appointing Senator Manchin as ranking member of the Energy Committee is completely at odds with any plan for real climate action,” May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, said in a statement. “Manchin has taken every opportunity to put Big Oil before the health and safety of communities and our climate.”

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, argued that the appointment of the pro-coal West Virginia senator to a top Energy Committee slot is a “stark failure of Chuck Schumer’s leadership” in the midst of dire scientific warnings that the world must cut carbon emissions in half by 2040 to avert planetary catastrophe.

“Schumer is out of touch with the progressive voters who will continue to push for a Green New Deal in the next Congress,” Pica declared, alluding to the demonstrators who have flooded the halls of Congress and faced mass arrests in recent weeks to pressure lawmakers to support ambitious climate solutions.
The West Virginia senator’s promotion—which was ratified Tuesday evening by members of the Senate Democratic caucus—came amid a wave of opposition from environmental groups, who adopted an “anyone but Manchin” stance in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s announcement.

“Not even this foolish decision can stop the groundswell of momentum that’s building for a Green New Deal.”
—May Boeve, 350.org

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—who is pushing for the formation of a Green New Deal Select Committee in the House—joined progressive advocacy groups in warning against the appointment of Manchin, who has raked in over $156,000 in campaign cash from the fossil fuel industry in 2018, and is reportedly still profiting from a coal brokerage company he helped run before entering politics.

“I have concerns over the senator’s chairmanship just because I do not believe that we should be financed by the industries that we are supposed to be legislating and regulating and touching with our legislation,” Ocasio-Cortez said during a press conference on the Green New Deal last month.

While corporate media outlets worked hard to blame Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—currently the ranking member on the powerful Senate Budget Committee—for not abandoning his post to block Manchin, commentators were quick to note that Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) all have seniority over Manchin and could have taken the seat, but chose not to.

Ultimately, progressives placed the blame squarely on Schumer for refusing to heed grassroots demands to appoint a climate leader over a fossil fuel puppet.

“This is the wrong choice at the wrong time for the Democrats,” said David Turnbull, strategic communications director with Oil Change USA. “Senator Schumer has failed in finding a ranking member for this committee that truly understands that the climate crisis requires us to take on the fossil fuel industry, not cater to its demands.”

While dismayed by Manchin’s promotion, Boeve of 350.org expressed confidence that “not even this foolish decision can stop the groundswell of momentum that’s building for a Green New Deal.”

“With the leadership of communities and support from truly progressive members of Congress,” she concluded, “we’ll fight tooth and nail for climate policy that transitions us off fossil fuels to a 100 percent renewable energy economy.”

 

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/12/12/calling-promotion-betrayal-planet-groups-denounce-schumer-giving-fossil-fuel-servant