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Nuclear Bomb Parts Plant Protest Monday, Kansas City, Missouri

Source:  Eric Bowers’s Photoblog, posted May 2, 2011

On Monday morning, May 2, a protest and willful arrest took place at the construction zone of the new National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) campus and nuclear weapons parts plant out at Missouri Highway 150 and Botts Road – the replacement site for the old, toxically contaminated Bannister Federal Complex that has been under investigation for causing chronic illness and death to workers exposed to hazardous materials in the manufacture of nuclear weapons parts. Peaceworks KC, a Catholic group, organized the protest with several dozen members willfully arrested at the site today for blocking one of the gates.

Additional controversy comes from the financing of the plant. According to the petition Peaceworks KC is circulating, the city of KCMO sold $815 million in municipal bonds which went toward financing the plant as part of a mandate to generate 2,000 jobs at the new plant that the city itself holds legal title to – a tad ironic given the former weapons parts plant at Bannister has been proven toxically contaminated and has caused many ill former workers to complain of illness or even die.

When I covered a similar protest back in August of 2010, protestors made it all the way through the grounds of the construction area, however with a quick closure of a chain link fence gate by watchful construction personnel, the willful arrests took place this time near the front of the construction area.

Note:  for additional information and photos, visit here.  Article and photos are by Joshua McElwee, joshua.mac@gmail.com, National Catholic Reporter. Office: 816.968.2261

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Sister Joins in Solidarity with Indigenous People of Panama

by Sister Edia del Lopez,   March 15, 2011

 

Sister Edia, who ministers with the indigenous Ngobe-Bugle people in Panama, recounts below their difficult but ultimately successful efforts to have the government revoke a law that they feared would lead to exploitation of their land by multinational mining corporations. Environmentalists also expressed concern about creating opportunities for open-pit mining in Panama’s rainy, tropical climate. Sister Edia’s reflection, a compilation of several pieces of correspondence from her, has been translated from her native Spanish.

 

I accompanied the Ngobe people during five days of continuous protest in late February. One day was especially terrible, with one person killed and many injured and detained during the repression by national police. There was a riot unit of more than 300 police against 1,200 people, all indigenous peoples and a few peasants, and among them, we, the Sisters of Mercy.

The Ngobe people started by taking over the main roads that connect Panama with Central America for five days, and the government tried to ignore the protest. The Minister of Finance and Economy said that they would take no responsibility for the deaths nor anything that has occurred in the clash between the indigenous people and the police. The government has the gall to declare that they had no knowledge of any repression and less of the deaths from this and other protests. It’s amazing.

Yet in response to the continued protests, on March 4th, the government announced that it would revoke the mining law. It also answered the call of the Ngobe-Bugle people to claim their right to make their own decisions as an indigenous people by agreeing to dialogue, with mediation from representatives of the Catholic Church.

Yesterday the coordinator of the high commission in defense of the Ngobe people’s rights and conservation of natural resources was to come to the table with the government and further their proposals that mining exploitation in the indigenous territory be prohibited and that mechanisms for authentic and on-going consultation be put in place. We do not know how the matter will go. For now we are alert.

There has been no real decision-making participation by the people as an earlier agreement had laid out regarding the rights of indigenous peoples. In addition, there is no creative mechanism of dialogue between the three parties involved with the Ngobe-Bugle: the General Congress supported by the government, the Traditional Congress not recognized by the government, and the Coordinator, who maintains leadership right now in the fight against mining in the country.

Our Church Missionary Team will meet as soon as both Congresses end on Thursday and see the way out of this impasse that has befallen our Ngobe brothers and sisters. We don’t see a solution, since you must dialogue and then make a proposal to the leaders of these three groups.

This situation is very worrisome for us who do ministry in the area and we ask for international solidarity in whatever way is possible.

You may read a press release from a Catholic diocesan ministry’s efforts to support the Ngobe people in their recent struggles at http://ngobemission.blogspot.com/2011/02/press-release-of-catholic-indigenous.html.

Cultural Survival – an organization that helps indigenous peoples around the world defend their lands, languages and cultures – has prepared an email message to send to President Martinelli to urge greater attention to the concerns of the Ngobe-Bugle people. You can access that at http://www.culturalsurvival.org/take-action/panama/support-ng-be-protesters-panama-send-email-president-respect-indigenous-people-l.

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Missouri public-sector workers under-compensated compared to private-sector counterparts, EPI study finds

A new Economic Policy Institute study released this week finds that full-time state and local government employees in Missouri are under-compensated by 15.7%, when compared to otherwise similar private-sector workers. By using a comprehensive database that is updated monthly by the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, the study provides an accurate comparison of public- and private-sector compensation in Missouri.

The analysis, Are Missouri Public Employees Overcompensated? by Labor and Employment Relations Professor Jeffrey Keefe of Rutgers University, controls for education, experience, hours of work, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship and disability. The study uses data collected primarily from the National Compensation Survey, and in accordance with standard survey practice, focuses on year-round, full-time public and private-sector employees.

Major findings of the study include:

On an annual basis, full-time state and local employees and school employees are under-compensated by 15.7% in Missouri, in comparison to otherwise similar private-sector workers. When comparisons are made for differences in annual hours worked, the gap remains, albeit at a smaller percentage of 15.6%.

Missouri public-sector workers are more highly educated than private-sector workers; 53% of full-time Missouri public-sector workers hold at least a four-year college degree, compared to 27% of full-time private-sector workers.

Missouri state and local governments and school districts pay college-educated workers on average 37% less than do private employers.

College-educated public-sector workers earn considerably less than private-sector employees. On the other hand, the roughly 3% of public-sector workers without high school diplomas tend to earn more than their peers in the private sector because the public sector sets a floor on earnings.

The study makes clear that public employees—like every other American worker—have in fact been victims of the worst recession since the Great Depression. In fact, severe financial problems as a result of the Great Recession have forced state, county and municipal elected officials across the country to make massive cuts in spending. As a result, tens of thousands of public-sector employees have been laid off and thousands more have been subject to forced furloughs, pay freezes and cuts in benefits.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States and around the world. EPI’s mission is to inform people and empower them to seek solutions that will ensure broadly shared prosperity and opportunity.

For more information, contact Phoebe Silag or Karen Conner at 202-775-8810 or news@epi.org.

To read the full briefing paper by Professor Keefe, go to http://epi.3cdn.net/eo17ed134785_k8m6b9790.pdf. or to http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/6834 and click on “briefing paper:.

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Father Jack McCaslin, Peace Activist

Editor’s Note:  Many of us involved in peace and justice activities know Father Jack McCaslin.  I recently received the following email, carrying a sad message.

Father Jack McCasln, 82, of Omaha, recently learned that he has lung cancer. He is at Alegent – Bergan Mercy Hospital and in need of our prayers.

For those less familiar with Father Jack McCaslin, he has been a veteran of the civil rights movement since 1965, the peace movement almost forever, and has been a voice for the poor and voiceless in Nebraska and the halls of D.C. all of his life. He was instrumental in starting and supporting several Catholic Worker communities in the Omaha area.

He is currently a major supporter and mentor for the folks at the Omaha Catholic Worker. He has served jail time for crossing the line at StratCom and he demonstrated at the SOA. Recently, he has been ministering to the elderly in nursing homes and visiting death row inmates.  He also lobbies for an end of the death penalty.

He’s been a strong advocate for reform in the Catholic Church and a member of ‘Call To Action.’ He loves being a priest, administering the sacraments, and serving people — especially the poor. For his entire life, he has been a person who puts the teaching of the Gospel into action.

Fr. Jack last crossed the line at StratCom on Aug 9 last year. Visit here for more information regarding this action.

For updates on Fr. Jack’s condition, please contact either Jerry Ebner or Mike Brennan at the Omaha Catholic Worker, 1104 N. 24th St. Omaha, NE 68102;  or at email: cwomaha@gmail.com; or by phone at 402- 502- 5887.  Additionally, information may be found online at: http://www.no-nukes.org/cwomaha.

Letters and cards can be sent to:
Father Jack McCaslin,
7323 Shirley Street #305
Omaha, NE 68124

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A Christmas Letter from Fr. Gillgannon

ditor’s Note:  Many of you know or are friends of Fr. Michael Gillgannon, a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who has served in Bolivia for more than 35 years.  At the time Fr. Gillgannon was mission there, La Paz was a mission of the Diocese.  The following  letter provides not only his greetings but his insightful assessment of and reflection on life and politics in Bolivia

DECEMBER 20, 2010

May the Blessings of the Lord Jesus be yours in these Nativity days and throughout the New Year of 2011.

This is my Christmas Letter to all of you, my friends and prayerful supporters of our mission work in Bolivia. It is also a thank-you letter for all of you who have been such generous donors to our work this year, and through the years.  Your generosity has given us the means of doing many basic programs which have some wonderful results.

The Campus Ministry program continues to grow and to have an even greater impact in the dialogue of faith-science-society in the newly changing intercultural and pluri-national country of Bolivia. And our new parish project with poor Aymara rural immigrants to La Paz, as we described to you before, has made some progress though it is slow work to gather the people in community. The two young women doing the pastoral tasks have been very committed doing catechetical formation and developing a plan for youth ministry. One is the only lay woman in a degree program of Catholic theology in La Paz. The other is studying psychology in the State University. Your support provides them with scholarships and catechetical materials.

Meanwhile, Bolivia continues its forward march to an uncertain future while building an inclusive democracy for all of its varied “nations” (36 Native peoples) and cultures. The new Constitutional structures (of 2009) are far from being in place and the Congress works daily to make the regulatory laws necessary to detail the changes. These changes, to “de-colonize” the culture and past colonial mentalities, will take time and are strongly opposed by many groups hoping to preserve their power and minority interests. All of this is very interesting and exciting to be a part of, and to see so much of our missionary work bearing fruit in the many young people we helped to educate. They are concerned. Well informed and studious. And they participate as active citizens.

Once again, we missioners, living with the people, lament the lack of understanding of these changes by the American Government and the American Communications media. Neither seems to do their homework, or to have on-sight observers to know what is really happening here. And why.  The foreign policy of Bolivia, and the majority of Latin American countries now, is to end all vestiges of the Monroe Doctrine and all economic and political dependencies on the United States. They look for partners in a new continental identity with new structures (a new bank and new currency as the dollar weakens) promoting the unity of Latin American countries.

For instance, they reach out across the Pacific to Asian countries for such exchanges as natural resources and technology transfers. They do not rule out private national or transnational investment. But they have learned from bitter experience to make new laws to protect themselves and their natural and human resources. They also force a new vocabulary on the governments, the media, and the intellectuals, of the developed countries. They will not accept the interpretations of the loaded words of “capitalism” or “socialism” as inherited verities of “explanation” for what they are about. And “democracy”, what does it now mean after 500 years of colonial powers excluding them (or controlling their elections), while hypocritically tutoring them?  They are quite skeptical of such models as the money-managed scandal called “democracy” in the 2010 elections in the United States.

Bolivia has a law of obligatory voting. Over 80% of the people voted in the 2009 elections, and 64% of those voted for the party of the president and his congress. Such democratic participation does not take place in the United States. Moreover, all elections occur on Sunday, not on a work day, so everybody can go to their neighborhood polling place to vote. Only official cars are allowed to drive. Election Day is a civic and community holiday of play and interchange with everybody in the streets.

Still other facts continue to cause confusion. The continuing brutal repression of workers and reporters in Honduras by the “democratically”  elected  government  there, recognized by the United States despite a military coup and a rigged election, only gives further reason for the majority of Latin American countries to doubt what “democracy” may now mean to the United States. Likewise, the attempted military coup in Ecuador in September which was encouraged by transnational business interests and the local opposition to the legitimate government of President Correa.

Bolivia’s new Constitution includes the separation of the Church and State. It is quite interesting to watch as the leadership of neither the Church nor the State has the experience to know what that might mean in practice, and in law. Education is looming as a big battle in 2011 as the previous agreements of 500 years meant that the State effectively paid for large parts of Catholic education, both for teachers and infrastructure. Many Bishops think defending Catholic Education means opposing the present government and all its programs. The result is that both the Church and Bolivian society are badly divided about various government policies, particularly the role of the State in education. But more challenging is the new responsibility coming for Bolivian Catholics to pay for their own projects and programs while experiencing ever decreasing support from wealthier foreign Churches. Sadly, the Bolivian Church has no plan, national or diocesan, to include faithful Catholics in the faithful financial support of their own Church and its many good works.

And the irony of this time of change is that Bolivia, and the rest of Latin America, have never had so much money in their governments, or in their pockets. Latin American poverty is still a terrible reality in every country. But Bolivia has ten billion dollars in reserves, five times what it had ten years ago. International prices of raw materials like gas and oil are part of the development but governments like Bolivia and Brazil are making historical changes in the distribution of wealth in their countries. They do this because they know their countries also have the greatest chasm of wealth between the 2% of the wealthiest and the 40% of the poorest, the majority of their populations.

We missioners who have had the good fortune to live through and accompany these changes from military dictators to inclusive democracies see Latin Catholic culture at a crossroads. It could become defensive of the institutional privileges of its colonial history and oppose the forces of historical change. Many of which forces are the fruit of Catholic values. Or it could make a magnificent contribution to the full human development of half-a-billion people who share the common Catholic and human values of Jesus. We work so the latter outcome will prevail as we celebrate these days of the Nativity. Please do include our work in your Christmas prayers and Masses.

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Best Deals for the Season

By Bob McGill, Migrant Advocate

Legal Aid of Western Missouri

 

A very happy Advent!

At last begins the season of renewal and expectation, return and change. Keeping these short, dark days holy is our deep, old human habit. We don’t feast arbitrarily or carelessly, but naturally tend toward and need a full experience of the annual axis.

The force of seasons, our adaptation to this way of living through time and environment, reveals the aberrance of the brief Christmas Shopping Season; of cybersales, product parades, and cold, dark ‘Black Friday’ morning. We are much, much older and heartier than our passing experiment with store-bought, mail-order renewal. Advent’s heavy pendulum begins its backswing and picks up speed.

Old traditions are new again. ‘Quality’ is the new quantity. ‘Handmade’ is the new gadget. ‘Peace’ is the new toy mêlée. ‘People’ are the new TV special. ‘Fairness and right’ are the new superdoorbuster price. If you missed the YahooNews reports on it, this is the surprising way fashionable people do Holidays 2010 (2011, 12, and on):

We’re celebrating the whole season, First of Advent on through Epiphany. Somehow we enjoy increased returns of holiday excitement—rather than a sense of rationing—when the observance happens every waking moment for a month rather than the quick, heated unwrapping fits during the few hours when some stores have closed.

We’re celebrating ‘Christmas past’, recalling the times that merited the name ‘holiday’, revisiting the people that made those holidays for us, mining their creative qualities, and fittingly reproducing them. This is our return.

We’re celebrating ‘Christmas future’. This is our expectation and change. If the recent chain of Christmases-in-a-box cut us off from merry Advents past, it has also given us the ability and responsibility to initiate new traditions and new stories.

More specifically, the surprising way faithful people do Holidays 2010’, as recommended by Children and Family Minister, Denise Dugan and Pastor Holly McKissick at Saint Andrew Christian Church in Olathe include:

  • ‘Reflect on the traditions, gatherings, foods, gifts, and outings that have meant the most to you over the years.’
  • ‘Identify the mental, financial and physical stresses that stretch you and wear you out.’
  • ‘Set a spending limit.’ And, ‘consider gifts of your time or charitable donations rather than purchasing unnecessary items that simply add to the excess clutter of our lives.’
  • ‘Slow down.’ ‘Attend worship; light advent candles; sing carols; pray.’

More specifically yet, a seasonal ad that you will not find in your Sunday paper insert:

Join the Migrant Farmworkers Project on Sunday afternoon, December 5th at Ten Thousand Villages in Overland Park for a benefit shopping day. A portion of all sales made at the store between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. will be donated to MFP. Your purchase of fair trade home décor, jewelry, and gifts made by artisans in developing countries will benefit families around the world, including Missouri’s migrant and seasonal farmworkers and your family.

Don’t camp out the night before. There will be no superdoorbuster-blowoutextravaganza-limiteightpercustomer-sorrynorainchecks prices. There will be no grabbing, pushing, elbowing or cross looks. There will be no hot new gadgets for 2011. And no one will depend on your purchase to float the global free market economy for a few more months. Our joy at seeing you again runs deeper than that.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade retailer.  They create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term fair trading relationships in places where skilled artisan partners lack opportunities for stable income. Product sales help pay for food, education, healthcare and housing for artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed.  To learn more, visit www.tenthousandvillages.com.

Fair Trade is about fair prices.  It’s about eliminating exploitative middlemen and sharing more of a product’s value with the people who made it.  Fair Trade is about being good stewards of the planet God gave us. And it can be a lot more.  Fair Trade contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.  U.S. persons of good have a special role to play in making trade fair and sustainable.  Readers (and shoppers) are encouraged to be in solidarity with artisans and farmers around the world.  To learn more about additional sources for fair trade products, visit the links below.

The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is the trade association that strengthens and promotes North American organizations fully committed to fair trade. The Federation is part of the global fair trade movement, building equitable and sustainable trading partnerships and creating opportunities to alleviate poverty.  Sources, including retail stores, in and beyond the Kansas City metropolitan area can be found here, www.fairtradefederation.org.

World’s Window, located in the Kansas City Brookside neighborhood, is a privately-owned retail store. Ever since the store opened in 1984, the owners have searched for the best in ethnic and contemporary folk art, clothing, and jewelry. They strive to purchase merchandise from fair trade organizations and from wholesalers invested in enhancing the lives of those who work with and for them. To learn more, visit www.worldswindowkc.com.

In Catholic Relief Services’ Fair Trade program, the idea of Fair Trade is a partnership between producers and consumers.  Visit www.crsfairtrade.org to learn more and to learn about their special fair trade program and catalog, “Work of Human Hands.”

 

 

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You Are Invited to a Party! A Coffee and Tea Contemplation Party!

By the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue.

Just as we have Red States and Blue States we have coffee drinkers and tea drinkers. As we know there are a great variety of teas to choose from and a good number of different coffees as well. Whatever our choice – and some of us drink both – we all drink to quench our thirst, to wake us up, to soothe and calm our nerves, or to provide an opportunity to gather with friends. Maybe it is time to come together around our favorite beverage and get to know each other in a new way!

We know that the future of our country depends on our bridging the gap between the opposing polarities that have been created among us. Most of us do not like the growing animosity and nay saying that has permeated our public square. We realize that in this environment we are not going to be able to move forward to really address the kinds of things most of us desire and hope for:

…to live in peace, nonviolently….to have our basic human needs met…to live where we             and our children and our children’s children experience the beauty of a healthy Earth.

Yet we know that we differ as to how to make this happen.

Perhaps we need to try a new way to come together.

That is why the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue (ICCD) is inviting you to a different kind of party. Not just a tea party or a coffee klatch but A Coffee and Tea Contemplation Party.

It is a party that honors and respects differences and believes that we are more alike than different and that we share a common dream for our future. It is a party simply to celebrate that in silence with each other. It is a party to help dissolve the barriers that keep us apart and open up some space where perhaps we can walk together into the future. It is a party that is rooted in the deep spiritual practice of contemplation.

Contemplation is a way of quieting oneself to see differently and to be aware of the stories that have shaped who we are and what we believe which often keep us from imagining something different. It is a spiritual practice that invites us to access the Divine within and among us.

ICCD invites you to hold a party—and ideally to hold 4 parties over a period of time—with people who think differently about things.  We believe that by coming together in this way something powerful happens to how we relate to each other. Like all parties this is not goal oriented nor does it have any specific outcome other than being with each other in a new way.

YOU ARE INVITED TO

A COFFEE AND TEA CONTEMPLATION PARTY

Who:            Anyone who believes that the future of our country is calling us to come together across our differences.

Why:             To experience the power of being in contemplative silence with each other.

Where:         Around kitchen tables, living rooms or any comfortable space where 2 or 5 or 10 people can gather.

When:          Any date you choose for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of the group.

If possible plan 3 more parties over a period of 2-3 months. For information as to how to organize the first party as well as the additional parties with their specific focus question go to www.engagingimpasse.org, click on Enter and look in the What’s New box on the President’s Message page, then click on How To Throw A Coffee and Tea Contemplation Party. On the site there are also a variety of reflections on many topics including contemplation as well as information about ICCD.

What to Bring:  An open heart and a willingness to respect those with whom you differ.

RSVP:             Please RSVP to iccdparty@gmail.com if you are going to hold a party or let us know on our Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue      Facebook page.

———————–

The Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue (ICCD) is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 2002 to educate, resource and organize people to reflect, analyze and act on the critical issues of our times through a process of communal contemplation and dialogue. ICCD relies on the generosity of those who share its desire for a better world for financial support of its important work.

©2010-2011 Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue

A Coffee and Tea Contemplation Party

8531 W. McNichols Road

Detroit, MI 48221-2500

www.engagingimpasse.org

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