Category Archives: Social

Social news, health and religion

Bill Donohue

Pope Francis Challenges Europeans – OpEd

Today Pope Francis addressed the European Parliament.

This was one of Pope Francis’ signature statements. He beckoned his audience to recover their religious moorings, focusing on the positive link between Christianity and Europe. This means an appreciation of what he called the “transcendent dignity” of the human person. Dignity is given recognition in the respect for inalienable human rights, and this, he stressed, extends to the right to profess one’s faith.

The communal aspects of Catholic thought were evident in the way Pope Francis addressed liberty. We are not “monads,” or disconnected atoms, nor are we “absolutes”; rather, we are “beings in relation.” Sounding very much like his two predecessors, he said, “unless the rights of each individual are harmoniously ordered to the greater good, those rights will end up being considered limitless and consequently will become a source of conf licts and violence.”

Speaking of violence, the Holy Father spoke out against Christian persecution. In an obvious reference to Muslims, he said, “Communities and individuals today find themselves subjected to barbaric acts of violence: they are evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified or burned alive, under the shameful and complicit silence of so many.”

Pope Francis also condemned “selfish lifestyles” and the Western “throwaway culture.” But he did not lash out against a market economy. Instead, he called for a balance between the pursuit of profit and the needs of workers. We need to find “new ways of joining market flexibility with the need for stability and security on the part of workers.”

Furthermore, we should embrace the Christian contribution to the “social and cultural formation” of Europe, he said, and not see it as a “threat to the secularity” of nations or the independence of its institutions.

Pope Francis has given many significant statements. This one is my favorite, thus far.

Fine-grained silica sand is mixed with chemicals and water before being pumped into rock formations to prevent the newly created artificial fractures from closing after hydraulic fracturing is completed. Photographer: Bill Cunningham, USGS

Follow The Sand To The Real Fracking Boom – Analysis

By James Stafford

When it takes up to four million pounds of sand to frack a single well, it’s no wonder that demand is outpacing supply and frack sand producers are becoming the biggest behind-the-scenes beneficiaries of the American oil and gas boom.

Demand is exploding for “frac sand”–a durable, high-purity quartz sand used to help produce petroleum fluids and prop up man-made fractures in shale rock formations through which oil and gas flows—turning this segment into the top driver of value in the shale revolution.

“One of the major players in Eagle Ford is saying they’re short 6 million tons of 100 mesh alone in 2014 and they don’t know where to get it. And that’s just one player,” Rasool Mohammad, President and CEO of Select Sands Corporation told Oilprice.com.

Frack sand exponentially increases the return on investment for a well, and oil and gas companies are expected to use some 95 billion pounds of frack sand this year, up nearly 30% from 2013 and up 50% from forecasts made just last year.

Pushing demand up is the trend for wider, shorter fracs, which require twice as much sand. The practice of downspacing—or decreasing the space between wells—means a dramatic increase in the amount of frac sand used. The industry has gone from drilling four wells per square mile to up to 16 using shorter, wider fracs. In the process, they have found that the more tightly spaced wells do not reduce production from surrounding wells.

This all puts frac sand in the drivers’ seat of the next phase of the American oil boom, and it’s a commodity that has already seen its price increase up to 20% over the past year alone.

Frac sand is poised for even more significant gains over the immediate term, with long-term contracts locking in a lucrative future as exploration and production companies experiment with using even more sand per well.

Pioneer Natural Resources Inc. says the output of wells is up to 30% higher when they are blasted with more sand.

Citing RBC Capital Markets, The Wall Street Journal noted that approximately one-fifth of onshore wells are now being fracked with extra sand, while the trend could spread to 80% of all shale wells.

Oilfield services giants such as Halliburton Co. and Baker Hughes Inc. are stockpiling sand now, hoping to shield themselves from rising costs of the high-demand product, according to a recent Reuters report. They’re also buying more sand under contract—a trend that will lead to more long-term contracts and a longer-term boost for frac sand producers.

In this environment, the new game is about quality and location.

Frac sand extraction could spread to a dozen US states that have largely untapped sand deposits, but the biggest winners will be the biggest deposits that are positioned closest to major shale plays such as Eagle Ford, the Permian Basin, Barnett, Haynesville and the Tuscaloosa marine shale play.

The state of Wisconsin has been a major frac sand venue, with over 100 sand mines, loading and processing facilities permitted as of 2013, compared to only five sand mines and five processing plants in 2010.

But with the surge in demand for this product, companies are looking a bit closer to shale center to cut down on transportation costs and improve the bottom line.

One of the hottest new frac sand venues is in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains, which is not only closer by half to the major shale plays, saving at least 25% per ton on transportation costs, but also allows for year-round production that will fill the gap in shortages when winter prevents mining in northern states.

“In the southern US, we can operate year round, so there is no fear of a polar vortex like that we saw last year with some other producers,” says Mohammad of Select Sands, which has two known producing frac sand mines in northeastern Arkansas, in the Ozark Mountains, and sells the bulk of its frac sand to producers in the Eagle Ford, Barnett and Haynesville shales, as well as in the new marine shale, Tuscaloosa.

Chicago-based consulting company Professional Logistics Group Inc. found in 2012 that transportation represented 58% of the cost of frac sand, while Select Sands estimates the costs between 66-75% today.

The competition is stiff, but this game is still unfolding, while increased demand is reshaping the playing field.

US Silica Holdings Inc. says demand for its own volumes of sand could double or triple in the next five years, and its three publicly-traded rivals—Emerge Energy Services Fairmount Santrol and Hi-Crush Partners have also made strong Wall Street debuts over the past two years.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Follow-The-Sand-To-The-Real-Fracking-Boom.html

Robert Reich

Why College Is Necessary But Gets You Nowhere – OpEd

This is the time of year when high school seniors apply to college, and when I get lots of mail about whether college is worth the cost.

The answer is unequivocally yes, but with one big qualification. I’ll come to the qualification in a moment but first the financial case for why it’s worth going to college.

Put simply, people with college degrees continue to earn far more than people without them. And that college “premium” keeps rising.

Last year, Americans with four-year college degrees earned on average 98 percent more per hour than people without college degrees.

In the early 1980s, graduates earned 64 percent more.

So even though college costs are rising, the financial return to a college degree compared to not having one is rising even faster.

But here’s the qualification, and it’s a big one.

A college degree no longer guarantees a good job. The main reason it pays better than the job of someone without a degree is the latter’s wages are dropping.

In fact, it’s likely that new college graduates will spend some years in jobs for which they’re overqualified.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 46 percent of recent college graduates are now working in jobs that don’t require college degrees. (The same is true for more than a third of college graduates overall.)

Their employers still choose college grads over non-college grads on the assumption that more education is better than less.

As a result, non-grads are being pushed into ever more menial work, if they can get work at all. Which is a major reason why their pay is dropping.

What’s going on? For years we’ve been told globalization and technological advances increase the demand for well-educated workers. (Confession: I was one of the ones making this argument.)

This was correct until around 2000. But since then two things have reversed the trend.

First, millions of people in developing nations are now far better educated, and the Internet has given them an easy way to sell their skills in advanced economies like the United States. Hence, more and more complex work is being outsourced to them.

Second, advanced software is taking over many tasks that had been done by well-educated professionals – including data analysis, accounting, legal and engineering work, even some medical diagnoses.

As a result, the demand for well-educated workers in the United States seems to have peaked around 2000 and fallen since. But the supply of well-educated workers has continued to grow.

What happens when demand drops and supply increases? You guessed it. This is why the incomes of young people who graduated college after 2000 have barely risen.

Those just within the top ten percent of college graduate earnings have seen their incomes increase by only 4.4 percent since 2000.

When it comes to beginning their careers, it’s even worse. The starting wages of college graduates have actually dropped since 2000. The starting wage of women grads has dropped 8.1 percent, and for men, 6.7 percent.

I hear it all the time from my former students. The New York Times calls them “Generation Limbo” — well-educated young adults “whose careers are stuck in neutral, coping with dead-end jobs and listless prospects.” A record number are living at home.

The deeper problem is this. While a college education is now a prerequisite for joining the middle class, the middle class is in lousy shape. Its share of the total economic pie continues to shrink, while the share going to the very top continues to grow.

Given all this, a college degree is worth the cost because it at least enables a young person to tread water. Without the degree, young people can easily drown.

Some young college graduates will make it into the top 1 percent. But that route is narrower than ever. The on-ramp often requires the right connections (especially parents well inside the top 1 percent).

And the off-ramps basically go in only three directions: Wall Street, corporate consulting, and Silicon Valley.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe the main reason to go to college – or to choose one career over another — should be to make lots of money.

Hopefully, a college education gives young people tools for leading full and purposeful lives, and having meaningful careers.

Even if they don’t change the world for the better, I want my students to be responsible and engaged citizens.

But when considering a college education in a perilous economy like this, it’s also important to know the economics.

Grasshopper

Grasshoppers Signal Slow Recovery Of Post-Agricultural Woodlands

Sixty years ago, the plows ended their reign and the fields were allowed to return to nature — allowed to become the woodland forests they once were.

But even now, the ghosts of land-use past haunt these woods. New research by Philip Hahn and John Orrock at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the recovery of South Carolina longleaf pine woodlands once used for cropland shows just how long lasting the legacy of agriculture can be in the recovery of natural places.

By comparing grasshoppers found at woodland sites once used for agriculture to similar sites never disturbed by farming, Hahn and Orrock show that despite decades of recovery, the numbers and types of species found in each differ, as do the understory plants and other ecological variables, like soil properties. The findings were published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

While several studies have examined the recovery of plant species at such sites, this is the first to examine the impacts of historical agriculture on animals.

The findings have implications for conservationists, land-use planners, policymakers and land managers looking to prevent habitat destruction or promote ecological recovery of natural spaces. Hahn and Orrock suggest new strategies may be needed in these disturbed environments.

The findings also challenge conventional ecological wisdom, in ways the scientists did not expect.

“Ecologically, grasshoppers are at the heart of the food chain,” says Hahn, a graduate student in Orrock’s laboratory. Orrock is an associate professor in the Department of Zoology. “They eat the plants and then they’re eaten by others: other insects, reptiles, birds.”

Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, the grasshoppers in the study served as a signal of the recovery of areas once used for agriculture. Building on past research that shows post-agricultural sites have poorer-quality soil and differences in the types of plant species that grow back, Hahn surveyed the plants, soil quality and grasshoppers found at 36 study sites.

He wanted to know whether earlier land use changed the numbers and types of grasshoppers found at each site and whether the relationships between the insects, plants and the environment were altered.

Sweeping through the plants in the understory with a tool called — fittingly — a sweep net, Hahn collected grasshoppers and recorded the types and numbers of those he found in both undisturbed and post-agricultural woodlands. He collected 459 of the hopping critters, representing numerous different types of grasshopper.

“The humble grasshopper, ubiquitous, yet cryptic,” Orrock reflects; they’re not as visible or well known as the popular deer.

The researchers found differences in the types of grasshoppers collected in each, related to the understory plants that grew and the hardness of the soil.

In remnant woodlands with no history of agriculture, more plant types equated to greater numbers of grasshoppers, an expected and traditional link between plants and the species that depend on them for food and shelter. This connection did not exist in areas once used as cropland, calling into question a long-held dogma of ecological relationships.

“It challenges what we know,” Orrock says. “If it’s true that the past influences ecological relationships in ways that we can’t predict, then all bets are off.”

The researchers say this is especially important as land use continues to change, with some areas of the U.S. converting wild spaces into new agricultural lands and others abandoning massive plots once used to grow food.

“We’ve wondered why it is — 60 years after we’ve stopped plowing — there are these legacy effects of land use on communities,” says Orrock. “Why has what we did so long ago lasted? Why hasn’t nature recovered?”

The boundaries can be so distinct in the woodlands they studied, he says, that it’s easy to tell within four meters where the plowline once ended.

“It’s remarkable how far the past reaches into the future,” says Orrock.

The knowledge, the researchers say, presents opportunities to do better. For instance, Hahn believes new strategies can be tried, like reintroducing once-native plant species to abandoned sites earlier on, or proactively working on restoring the health of the soil. Conversely, more conservation and management efforts could be spent promoting less habitat degradation in the first place.

“Before the research started, we thought most bad things could be undone in a decade,” Orrock says. “The good news is, at least we know where we are and it’s a start. We know business as usual might not work.”

China

Despite Reports China-Vatican Deal Not On Horizon Soon

By Dan Long

On the surface, Chinese news reports at the end of last week on a possible breakthrough in Vatican-Beijing ties looked very positive. After written contact between Pope Francis and President Xi Jinping over the past 18 months and the first papal flight over China in August, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Wenweipo newspaper reported last week that a deal is close on bishop appointments, the main stumbling block in establishing diplomatic ties.

But from what we know about the secret negotiations between both sides, this news represents little more than classic Communist double-think: although there is discussion and compromise, an agreement remains far from being a certainty.

What this surprising report really represents is a deliberate leak by the Communist party in a bid to increase pressure on the Vatican to accept its proposal while generating sympathy for its position so that when talks inevitably fail, Beijing can say that the Vatican is to blame.

That an unnamed Communist Party official leaked details of the secret talks to a pro-Beijing newspaper and that this was then reported on the mainland by the state-run Global Times indicates it is little more than a familiar Chinese gambit.

The actual substance of the Chinese compromise with the Vatican equates to exactly the same model that Beijing has proposed for “democracy” in Hong Kong. That is, a narrow choice of candidates pre-selected by the Chinese government. While this appears to be progress, it really represents little more than a new system with a veneer of choice designed to continue to sideline individuals seen as against the Communist Party, thereby maintaining its over-arching control.

With its appalling record on religious freedom and the fact it is one of only six countries that has failed to establish diplomatic ties with the Holy See — along with North Korea, Myanmar, Laos, Brunei and Vietnam — the onus is on China to compromise, of course. But these reports suggest it is ready to change very little.

Friday’s article in the Global Times dismisses any possibility that the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) might be abolished, a key concern of the Holy See which rightly views the CCPA’s appointment of bishops as illegitimate.

By lining up two experts to defend the role of the CCPA, the state-run Global Times has again reverted to the classic trick of painting Communist Party beliefs and desires as independently universal within China. The report even strays into outright fabrication in describing the CCPA as an “independent group” when it is clearly a state organ designed to oversee and control the Catholic Church in China.

Many Church observers will no doubt be eagerly awaiting a response from the Vatican. This is not only unlikely but hardly necessary given that the Pope himself has already indicated where the Church stands on this issue, which in turn points to the unlikelihood of a breakthrough anytime soon.

In August, on the papal flight back from South Korea while over Chinese airspace, Francis could not have been clearer: “We respect the Chinese people. The Church only asks for liberty for its task, for its work. There’s no other condition,” he said. “Then we should not forget that fundamental letter for the Chinese problems which was the one sent to the Chinese by Pope Benedict XVI. This letter is actual (relevant) today. It is actual. It’s good to re-read it.”

What Benedict’s remarkable open letter to China in May, 2007 essentially did was to remind everyone — particularly China and its government — of the Vatican’s position on the state of relations and of the Church’s role in any society. That is, that the Church should keep out of politics and instead concern itself with the well-being of ordinary people for the “common good”.

“In the light of these unrenounceable principles, the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities; at the same time, though, compliance with those authorities is not acceptable when they interfere unduly in matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church,” said Benedict.

In citing Benedict’s letter, Francis was saying that the Vatican’s position remains straightforward and unchanged, so it would seem highly unlikely that this situation would have altered in the past three months. Remember that Francis consults the Pope Emeritus before every foreign trip, and would no doubt have done so before leaving Rome for Seoul in August.

The pope’s consistency on this matter correlates with what Church representatives in the region continue to say in private regarding the situation with China.

The Church has been flexible with some countries known for persecuting Christians, most recently China’s neighbor Vietnam. After the Vietnamese government and the Vatican established a working group dialogue in 2009, two years later Archbishop Girelli was appointed as a non-residential special envoy who visits the country regularly. But this does not mean the Vatican is likely to enter a similar deal with China, quite the reverse in fact.

Critics of the process say the Vatican was too swift to build bridges with Hanoi and that religious freedom has not improved despite the agreement. It has no doubt learned from its experience with Vietnam, the key lesson being that principles should not be compromised for the end goal of diplomatic ties.

The Vatican will be expected to be much more cautious in the case of China which has shown far less flexibility and signs of improvement on rights and democracy-related issues compared to Vietnam. There’s also a lot more at stake: The Vatican will be keenly aware that a false move on China, the most populous country in the world, will open itself up to far greater criticism.

While the Vatican shows no sign of deviating from its position that it alone should be free to choose its own representatives on the ground in China, the government does not appear ready to relinquish control of the process, just as it has shown no sign of giving up control of any organ of influence or power — be it the judiciary, legislative branch or key sectors of the economy.

In August during his landmark first trip to Asia, Francis made a thinly veiled appeal to China when he assured that Christians were not “conquerors” threatening national identities.

But, within a paranoid government which has stepped up persecution against a vibrant and growing Church, the pope’s words are unlikely to gain much traction.

Although talks between Beijing and the Vatican, and Chinese compromise on the system of bishop appointments — however superficial — do represent positive steps in a difficult relationship, the prospect of a tangible breakthrough remains elusive. Don’t be fooled by the recent reports.

Dan Long is the pseudonym of a journalist based in Beijing who has reported on the region for more than a decade.

Google Mountain View campus garden

Yahoo Replaces Google As Default Search Engine On Firefox

(MINA) — Yahoo! replaced Google as the default search engine on Firefox browsers in the U.S., as Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer seeks out more partnerships to boost the Web portal’s traffic and revenue.

Google had been the automatic search option for the Internet browser, developed by Mountain View, California-based Mozilla Corp., since 2004. Under the agreement announced yesterday, Google, Microsoft Corp.’s Bing and other search services will be available as alternatives, No. 3-ranked Mozilla said in a blog post.

Mayer, who has been working to turn around the Sunnyvale, California-based company since taking the helm two years ago, is looking for ways to bolster Yahoo’s search business, which makes up about 40 percent of sales, minus revenue passed to partner sites. Earlier this year, Yahoo, which depends on Microsoft for its search technology, struck a deal with Yelp Inc. to deliver content from the review website.

“At Yahoo, we believe deeply in search — it’s an area of investment, opportunity and growth for us,” Mayer said in a statement. “This partnership helps to expand our reach in search and also gives us an opportunity to work closely with Mozilla to find ways to innovate more broadly in search, communications and digital content.”

Yahoo’s search service is under pressure, with the Web portal’s share of the U.S. search-advertising revenue projected to shrink to 5.6 percent in 2014 from 6.1 percent last year, according to EMarketer Inc. Google has maintained its leadership, claiming more than 70 percent of the market since 2010.

Only Half Of Patients Take Their Medications As Prescribed

Here is what we know: If people take medications prescribed to them, they usually get better. But only about half of all patients prescribed medication take it according to directions. Here is what we don’t know: We don’t know how to get patients to take their medications, despite many studies looking at the issue.

Researchers doing a review for the international Cochrane Library for health information reviewed 182 trials that were testing different approaches to increasing medication adherence and patient health. Even though the review included many of the best quality studies, there were no clear winning solutions. In fact, many of the studies had problems in their design.

“The studies varied so much in terms of their design and their results that it would have been misleading to try to come up with general conclusions,” said lead researcher Robby Nieuwlaat of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University. “Based on this evidence, it is uncertain how adherence to medication can be consistently improved. We need to see larger and higher quality trials, which better take in account individual patient’s problems with adherence.”

Most trials were unreliable casting doubt on the validity of the results instead. Out of 182 trials, only 17 were of high quality and each of these tested combinations of several different approaches, such as support from family members or pharmacists, education and counseling. Still fewer, only five of these 17 showed improvements in health outcomes for patients, as well as in medication adherence.

“This review addresses one of the biggest challenges in health care,” said Dr. David Tovey, Editor in Chief of the Cochrane Library. “It’s a real surprise that the vast amount of research that has been done has not moved us further forward in our understanding of how to address this problem. With the costs of health care across the world increasing, we’ve never needed evidence to answer this question more than we do now.”

The authors have now decided to turn to the research community to help understand the issues. They have created a database of the relevant trials and made this available to other researchers in the field in order to encourage collaboration and more in-depth analyses on smaller groups of trials.

“By making our comprehensive database available for sharing we hope to contribute to the design of better trials and interventions for medication adherence,” said Nieuwlaat. “We need to avoid repeating the painful lessons of adherence research to date and begin with interventions that have shown some promise, or at least have not produced repeatedly negative results.”

A parish destroyed by Boko Haram during its Oct. 29 seizure of Mubi, in Nigeria's Adamawa state. Credit: Diocese of Maiduguri.

Facing Boko Haram: Nigerians ‘Storm The Heavens With Prayers’

Boko Haram’s expansion has meant murders, forced conversion, and forcible expulsion from homes, causing Catholics in Nigeria to pray and to reach out to help and console the militant Islamist group’s victims.

“Brothers and sisters, there is no better time to storm the heavens with prayers and petitions than now,” Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos said during a national prayer pilgrimage Nov. 13-14.

Thousands of people have recently lost their homes and their loved ones due to Boko Haram, he said.

“Our darling innocent school girls from Chibok are still being held over six months since their abduction. Only God knows the psychological and physical trauma they are going through,” the archbishop said, referring to the more than two hundred schoolgirls who were taken by Boko Haram from their school in the northeastern Nigerian town in April.

The radical Islamist group Boko Haram began its deadly insurgency in 2009, killing over 4,000 people in 2014 alone, according to Human Rights Watch.

“There are still ongoing terrorist activities that are not only causing the loss of lives and so much havoc but are enjoying territorial expansion,” the archbishop continued. “Bombings and slaughter of innocent Nigerians, especially in the northeast, have become regular.”

He said active security solutions have not been found. He questioned whether leading Nigerians were serious about bringing “sanity and order” to the country, rather than “using the unfortunate situation as a political weapon.”

Boko Haram has been threatening to cross into Cameroon, which shares a 300-mile border with Nigeria. The Nigerian government’s inability to contain the group has drawn heavy criticism.

The emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi, an influential Muslim leader, has called on Nigerians to arm themselves for protection against Boko Haram.

“These terrorists slaughter our boys and abduct our girls to force them into slavery,” he said, according to BBC News.

Boko Haram took the town of Chibok on Nov. 13, and the Nigerian army retook the town three days later.

Archbishop Kaigama said parishes in the Maiduguri diocese have been closed, with the people “scattered and killed.” Thousands have been displaced from their homes in the Diocese of Yola.

“They have sought refuge and turned to the Church for consolation and support.”

Father Gideon Obasogie, communications director of the Diocese of Maiduguri, said that Boko Haram’s expansion in Nigeria has resulted in the forcible conversion of many Catholics, while thousands more fled their homes.

“A good number of our youth are forcefully conscripted, while the aged, women and children are converted to Islam. A lot of Nigerians are trapped and are forced to practice strict sharia law,” the priest said in a Nov. 19 report made available to Aid to the Church in Need.

Fr. Obasogie said this is the case in at least six communities along the federal road that links Maiduguri and Yola, in the state of Adamawa.

“All of these captured towns by our estimation are no longer part of the Nigerian entity because no one can go in, but those who would luckily escape have got stories to tell,” Fr. Obasogie said.

“The terrorists have declared all the captured towns as Islamic Caliphate. The people trapped are forced to accept and practice the strict doctrines the militants are out to propagate.”

Boko Haram overran the predominantly Christian community of Mubi Oct. 29, forcing over 50,000 people to flee. The Nigerian army said it recaptured Mubi last week, but the damage has been done.

According to Fr. Obasogie, over 2,500 Catholics have been killed in the diocese, and another 100,000 Catholics forced to flee. The diocese is now working to care for all internally displaced people regardless of their religious beliefs.

He said 50 churches and parish rectories have been razed. Dozens of churches and schools have been deserted, as have two convents.

Despite all the horrors of war, Archbishop Kaigama thanked God for his mercy and faithfulness.

“We may not have received everything we prayed for, but by his grace most of us are still alive and we have remained one people and one nation. Today, gauging the general despair and disillusionment in the land, we converge here again to cry on to the Lord for enduring peace and for God to stir strongly in the hearts of Nigerians the spirit to transcend narrow ethnic, religious, and political boundaries so as to always pursue the common good.”

He also reminded Nigerians to do good and avoid “religious externalism devoid of godliness,” as when people wish harm to their neighbor or “engage in bitter, hostile, antagonistic political, religious or ethnic struggles that lead to loss of lives and the destruction of property.”

Universal Health Coverage For US Military Veterans Within Reach, But Many Still Lack Coverage

Over a million US military veterans lacked healthcare coverage in 2012, according to new estimates published in The Lancet. While many people believe that all veterans are covered by the Veterans Affairs health care system, less than half (8.9 million) of the 22 million veterans in the US are covered by VA health benefits, and most veterans are covered by private health insurance. Uninsured veterans are more likely to be young, single, African American, and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, the authors of this viewpoint estimate that universal health coverage for veterans is within reach, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion and subsidies for private health care. According to the authors, 87% of currently uninsured veterans could be eligible for health coverage through the Medicaid expansion, via the subsidized private health insurance market, or by enrolling in VA health benefits. Uninsured veterans are more likely to be clustered in states that have rejected the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Of the top five states with the highest number of uninsured veterans, four [1] are states that have rejected the expansion (the fifth, California, has accepted the expansion, but is also the most populous state in the union).

“Largely on account of the Affordable Care Act, the goal of universal health coverage for veterans is closer than ever,” explains author Dave A Chokshi. “There remain political hurdles to achieving this goal, both in the false impression that the VA already provides universal coverage, and the decision by several states to reject the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. While eligibility for insurance is not tantamount to access to care, universal coverage is an important first step towards high-quality healthcare.”

[1] There are an estimated 126000 uninsured veterans in Texas, 95000 in Florida, 54000 in North Carolina, and 53000 in Georgia

Oregon's John Kitzhaber

Kitzhaber On Immigration: ‘As Oregonians, We Believe In A Fair Shot For Everyone’

Following President Barack Obama’s executive action on Immigration, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber said in a statement that the President ‘took appropriate action … showing leadership in moving this country’s immigration laws in the right direction.”

In the opinion of Kitzhaber, “As Oregonians, we believe in a fair shot for everyone. The President’s message reflects those values of fairness and honors basic human rights.”

In the statement, Kitzhaber also took time to address Republican concerns over the President’s actions.

“This isn’t the first time that a president has taken action on a national level,” Kitzhaber said, adding that “both Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush took similar steps.”

While welcoming the President’s executive action on immigration, Kitzhaber said this action is “only a stop gap.”

The Governor said, “It remains to be seen whether Congress will step up, do what’s right, and pass meaningful immigration reform, or whether it will continue to play politics with the lives of millions who have been living, working, and contributing to our communities for years.”

Suzanne Bonamici

Bonamici Says Obama Immigration Action ‘Meaningful First Step,’ But Limited

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) said in a statement  that President Barack Obama’s action on immigration “is a meaningful first step, but it is limited and temporary.”

Bonamici said that, “After spending more than a year urging Speaker Boehner to take up the Senate’s bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill, I am pleased that President Obama is taking action to bring millions of aspiring Americans out of the shadows to contribute to our country’s future.”

According to Bonamici, “Across NW Oregon constituents talk about the need for policy changes on immigration. Business owners need reform to eliminate uncertainty surrounding their workforce. Technology companies want an updated Visa process to keep skilled workers in the United States. And families long for the opportunity to build their lives and keep their relatives together.”

Bonamici noted that, “A bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill passed the Senate 511 days ago; it is long past time for the House to take action. It is our responsibility to address this important issue and pass permanent reform.”

US Cardinal To Undocumented: You Can ‘Come Out Of The Shadows’

By Elise Harris

The vice president of the U.S. bishops’ conference has said that charitable immigration reform must address the needs of both legal and illegal immigrants, encouraging the latter to come forward and receive help.

“Immigration (reform) should be more comprehensive, that is, we cover all immigrants, even the undocumented. We give people a chance to get their green card, a chance to come out of the shadows, so that when they work the money they get for themselves helps the culture too,” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo told CNA on Nov. 19.

“From my point of view, it’s important that immigrants come out of the shadows, particularly the undocumented ones. In my mind it’s one of the most important things we could do.”

Present in Rome for a Nov. 17-21 congress on the Pastoral Care for Migrants, Cardinal DiNardo, who is Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, offered his comments just one day before U.S. President Barack Obama revealed a major immigration reform package, issued by executive order.

In what is seen as a highly-contentious move, the president announced that he would stay the deportation of certain undocumented immigrant parents for up to three years, allowing them to work legally. Eligibility requirements include having lived in the U.S. for at least five years, having children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents, passing a criminal background check and agreeing to pay taxes.

Roughly 4 million people will likely qualify for this measure, while thousands of others will benefit from other changes. The president extended benefits of temporary residence to more children of undocumented immigrants, expanding the eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and extending their temporary stay from two to three years.

In addition, the president said he would increase border security resources and deport those who had illegally crossed the border recently. He said he would focus government enforcement resources on criminals and those who threaten security.

The executive order will mark the biggest change in immigration policy in three decades.

In his televised address, President Obama echoed Cardinal DiNardo’s sentiments in telling immigrants to “Come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”

The president insisted that his proposals did not amount to amnesty or straight-shot path to citizenship, although it will offer Social Security cards to those who qualify for the deferred deportation.

“What I’m describing is accountability – a common-sense, middle ground approach,” the president said.

“Mass amnesty would be unfair,” he stated. “Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character.”

Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle, chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, issued a Nov. 20 statement welcoming the announcement of deferred deportations, saying that the United States has “a long history of welcoming and aiding the poor, the outcast, the immigrant and the disadvantaged.”

Each day in the Church’s social service projects, hospitals, schools and parishes, the devastating consequences of the separation of families due to the deportation of parents or spouses can be seen, he said.

The bishop noted that the episcopal conference had asked the Obama administration to “do everything within its legitimate authority to bring relief and justice to our immigrant brothers and sisters,” adding that as pastors, “we welcome any efforts within these limits that protect individuals and protect and reunite families and vulnerable children.”

He urged President Obama and members of Congress to work together in pursuing permanent reforms to the U.S. immigration system that seek the best interests of both the nation and the persons who migrate to the country in search of refuge.

“We will continue to work with both parties to enact legislation that welcomes and protects immigrants and promotes a just and fair immigration policy,” the bishop said.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, issued a Nov. 20 statement, saying, “There is an urgent pastoral need for a more humane view of immigrants and a legal process that respects each person’s dignity, protects human rights, and upholds the rule of law.”

“As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, said so eloquently: ‘Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ! We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected, and loved,’” the archbishop said.

On the topic of improving the pastoral care of immigrants, Cardinal DiNardo explained that the Church already offers a lot of help. However, he said that a legal reform would help “lighten-up” the Church’s burden and allow greater focus on pastoral assistance.

“The Church always emphasizes the human person, so when we talk about the human person, we don’t ask if you’re an immigrant or whether you were born in the country,” the cardinal observed.

“You are a human person that has aptitudes, has a singularity, has an excellence and a dignity that we want to draw on,” he said, stressing that this vision is important to keep in mind when welcoming immigrants and helping them integrate into society.