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Issue Date:  March 25, 2005


Publishers asked for licenses

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is charged with preventing U.S. citizens and corporations from trading with enemies of the state, has been requiring U.S. publishers to obtain licenses to publish works from “sanctioned countries,” according to a report in the latest Foreign Policy magazine.

The crackdown has impeded publication in the United States of the memoirs of Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Prize-winning Iranian activist lawyer, and Cornell University Press’ Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba. Iran and Cuba are sanctioned countries. Foreign Policy said the foreign assets office is scrutinizing academic journals and university presses in particular.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press has reported that the average fine for corporations doing business with countries labeled as state sponsors of terror has dropped from $50,000 before the Sept. 11 attacks to less than $19,000 today.

Sex fixation called ‘devil’s work’

WASHINGTON -- The leaders of the Episcopal church in the United States and the Anglican church in South Africa said a global schism over homosexuality and distracts the church from its real mission in the world.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and his counterpart from Cape Town, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, blamed U.S. conservatives for making sexuality the “international focus” of the church.

“I think the endless fixation on sexuality is the devil’s work,” Griswold said. “So much psychic energy goes into this one area that issues of hunger and disease, poverty and civil war get overlooked.”

Ndungane, in Washington to push for action on international poverty relief and development programs, agreed. “It’s about time that we ... be energized as Anglicans in faith and action seeking to do God’s mission in the world,” he said.

Religion newsweekly honored

WASHINGTON -- “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly,” the PBS newsmagazine hosted by Bob Abernethy, has been honored with a 2005 Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Council for “Father Joe: Slum Priest.” The feature profiles Redemptorist Fr. Joe Maier, who has lived 30 years in the infamous Klong Toey slum in Bangkok, Thailand.

Transcripts and videos of the programs are available at

Taco Bell boycott called off

ORLANDO, Fla. -- In a victory for migrant tomato pickers in Florida, fast-food giant Taco Bell has agreed to a penny-per-pound increase in wages. The March 8 agreement between Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum Brands, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers ends a boycott that had won support from a number of Christian churches.

Labor leader Lucas Benitez said the agreement “establishes a new standard of social responsibility for the fast-food industry.” Yum Brands also owns Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, A&W and Long John Silver’s.

“We recognize that Florida tomato workers do not enjoy the same rights and conditions as employees in other industries, and there is a need for reform,” said Emil Brolick, president of Taco Bell. Previously, a typical tomato picker would have earned about 40 cents for each 32 pound bucket of tomatoes picked, a rate that had not changed since 1978.

Florida Catholic bishops had supported the workers’ negotiations, and since 1994, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the church’s domestic antipoverty program, has regularly funded the coalition’s grass-roots organizing efforts with grants of between $25,000 and $35,000.

-- CNS/Debbie Hill

The face of the Holocaust
Photos of Holocaust victims are displayed in the Hall of Names in the new Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The new museum, which opened March 15, replaces the old museum and takes a more personalized approach by presenting stories of 90 individuals. Avner Shalev, chief curator of the new museum and chairman of the yad Vashem directorate, said that as the last of the elderly Holocaust survivors die, there will be almost no opportunities to learn about the Holocaust at a personal level. "Our main challenge was how to build a pattern of meaningful remembrance for the third and fourth generation [after the Holocaust] without the suppport of the very personal encounters between those eyewitnesses who are able to deliver their experiences ... to youngsters arount the world," Shalev said.


Church denies excommunication

MANILA -- As Catholic bishops and their lay and Muslim partners intensify their fight against the government’s family-planning program, church officials deny they are excommunicating health care workers.

Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu would “advise” health care workers involved in the Department of Health’s Safe Pregnancy program, family-planning campaign, not to receive Communion or other sacraments, but he “could not deny them the sacraments,” the prelate’s secretary Fr. Agustin Ancajas said March 10 responding to media coverage of the issue.

Congress has been debating a bill that would provide incentives to participants of the health department’s family-planning efforts. The bill reads in part: “sustainable human development is better assured with a manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizens,” which they cite as the goal of the bill.

In a Feb. 18 pastoral letter, “Hold On to Your Precious Gift,” the Philippines bishops rejected as “myth” the theory that population growth stunts economic development. The Philippines has a population growth rate of 2.36 percent a year, one of the highest rates in Asia.

Canadians feel snubbed

TORONTO -- Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has rejected an invitation to attend a joint meeting of Canadian and American bishops next month, resulting in uncharacteristically pointed accusations by the Canadian church of a snub over the issue of homosexuality.

“The message it sends to us is that at the moment he does not want to be associated with the Canadians,” said Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, head of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The refusal of Williams, the spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, widens a global rift among Anglicans. Last month, primates of the communion’s 38 autonomous branches asked Canadian and U.S. churches to “voluntarily withdraw” for three years from its Consultative Council because of their acceptance of gay marriage and the ordination of gay bishops.

Pans and pita protests

RAMALLAH -- Waving pans and pitas (flat Arab bread) over their heads, thousands of unemployed Palestinians protested March 12 outside the legislative council building, demanding the Palestinian Authority act to open the Israeli-Palestinian border crossings to allow them to return to work in Israel.

“Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] -- We are hungry,” the protesters chanted, reported, a news Web site of the Yedioth Group, Israel’s largest media company. The unemployment rate among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is between 35 to 40 percent.

National Catholic Reporter uses the following news services: AsiaNews, Catholic News Service, Latin America Press, Pacific News Service, Religion News Service and UCA News.

National Catholic Reporter, March 25, 2005

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