Risks of popular anxiety drugs

NPR's All Things Considered, in an article by Susan Sharon, looks at the risks from the popular benzodiazepines:

The drugs first burst onto the scene in the 1950s and '60s and quickly became known as "mother's little helper," the mild tranquilizer that could soothe frazzled housewives' nerves. More than four decades later, benzos — including Valium, Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan — are used to treat anxiety, mood disorders and insomnia.

Dr. Michael Kelley, the medical director of the behavioral department at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine, says he doesn't go a single day without seeing somebody addicted to them.

He says when he first took the job 15 years ago, about 75 percent of the detox patients were alcoholics, and the rest were drug addicts. Now, he says, 90 percent of them are drug addicts whose drugs of choice often include the combined use of opiates and benzos; both are sedatives that can slow respiration.

"It's actually pretty rare to see somebody only using only one," he says — and that's incredibly dangerous.

"Benzodiazepines and the opiates both can cause death when you take too much of them," he adds. "But they potentiate each other — they make each other stronger. And so one plus one doesn't equal two; it equals three or four."

The article includes testimony from a woman a few years into her recovery, that has her journey through addiction, along with a provocative last line:

She still gets anxious but says she's learned to deal with life on her own terms, without relying on the medications she thought were her friends.

Noah the movie: eco-whacko?

Brook Wilensky-Lanford interviews Ari Handel, screen writer for the movie, Noah, on the environmental issues that some are calling eco-whacko, at Religion Dispatches. On Noah being an "environmental film":

Well different pieces of it came about at different times. When we first sat down with the text, you known God asks Noah to get two of every animal onto the Ark, and we said, well that’s a conservationist notion. He didn’t say every cute animal, or anything, but every single animal has value. To God. And that was appealing to us, because we believe that. There’s a line in the movie, “if any of this is destroyed, then a little piece of creation would be lost forever.” It’s a deep value created explicitly in the text.

Noah2014Poster.jpgYou know we didn’t make Noah a vegetarian because we wanted to add that “message.” It says in Genesis that you are allowed to eat green plants, and that’s it, and then after the flood suddenly now you are allowed to eat meat.

A real reading of Genesis is toward stewardship. In the Garden of Eden, God says he gives man the earth to “tend and keep it,” so to not have those ideas in there…it’s like a weird editing job. We believe those things and we are oriented that way, but it’s not like it’s artificially grafted onto the story.

Read more here.

More on the film on Episcopal Café Daily Episcopalian here.

Public protest in Holy Week

Marcus Borg writes at Day 1 about Jesus' public protest following the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday:

Two processions entered Jerusalem for the Festival of Passover that year. One happened every year while Judea was ruled by Roman governors, the most famous of whom was Pontius Pilate. Imperial cavalry and troops, displaying the pomp and power of empire, entered the city to reinforce the garrison permanently stationed there. Passover - which remembered and celebrated ancient Israel's liberation from imperial Egypt - was a politically volatile time.

The other procession happened only once: Jesus entered the city riding on a young donkey that symbolized a king of peace who would bring an end to war. The contrast to imperial power and violence was intentional and obvious.
170px-Christ_and_tradesmen.jpgBecause of the collaboration of temple authorities with Roman rule, it had become the center of an economically exploitative domination system and thus a center of injustice, as in the time of Jeremiah six centuries earlier. That was not what it was meant to be. The authorities understood that Jesus's protest and indictment were directed against them. It was too much. As Mark tells the story, it was the last straw.

Where is the church colluding with the domination system in our day?

A church responds to hate in Overland Park

An Overland Park Episcopal Church responds to hate as reported in Time. The Rev'ds Benedict Varnum and Gar Demo write:

St Thomas the Apostle lies within a mile of the sites where a shooter targeted Jewish communities yesterday, killing a man, a woman, and a teenaged boy from our neighborhood of Overland Park. Our members attend activities at the Jewish Community Center, and we have had members in residence at Village Shalom. Many of us know people who are affected, and some of us knew the victims and their families. For all its size and population, Overland Park is a small town; we know each other, and we care for one another.St%20Thomas.jpg

As we heard the first terrible reports, we determined to hold a vigil – to offer a place to come together immediately as a community. Rabbi Jacques Cukiekorn of Temple Israel helped us plan, with hymns and prayers from Judaism and Christianity. We announced by local news that we would open our doors, and hundreds came: families and neighbors, and dozens of youth who had put on school shirts and theatre shirts in support of the young man who had been killed.

But surely the most powerful moment came when a woman named Mindy Corporon explained who she was: the daughter of one man who’d been killed, and the mother of another – a teenage boy. Mindy spoke to our assembled neighborhood, thanking everyone for coming. She explained the random events that caused her father to be the one taking her son to this audition, as the rest of the family juggled sports and other activities, finally summarizing it with profound words: “We were in life; we were having life. And I want you all to know that we’re going to have more life, and I want you all to have more life.” These were the words of a woman who had lost both father and son only hours before.

Read it all here.
Today on KCUR Arthur Nemitoff, Rabbi, Congregation B'nai Jehudah and the Rev. Gar Demo, priest at St. Thomas the Apostle Church discuss "Coping With Targeted Violence In The Aftermath Of Shootings In Overland Park":
The day after a harrowing series of shootings at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom, Central Standard convenes community leaders to take the first steps toward healing and understanding. Do we find answers in spirituality? Ethics? Shared humanity and friendship? Tune in for this half-hour segment to hear how Kansas City's communities are responding to a tragic act of targeted violence.

For more information on St Thomas, go to Facebook

Court returns church building to Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin

Episcopal News Service reports that the courts have ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church in property matters in the Diocese of San Joaquin:

A California Superior Court has ruled that the 160-year-old landmark St. John the Evangelist Church in downtown Stockton, California, is to be used for the mission of the Episcopal Church.

In issuing the April 2 ruling, Stockton Superior Court Judge Roger Ross granted the Diocese of San Joaquin‘s motion for summary judgment, agreeing with previous court rulings that “all the parish assets and parish premises are held for the ministry and mission of the church and the diocese” and the wider church.

Recapping other rulings in the Diocese:

It is the latest church property to be returned to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin since theological differences purportedly split the diocese in 2007. Those differences resulted in legal cases concerning church properties still held by former members.

Altogether, other properties in Ridgecrest (St. Michael’s), Turlock (St. Francis), Bakersfield (St. Paul’), Delano (Hope and Redeemer) and Sonora (St. James) have also returned to the Episcopal Church. Another church property, St. Paul’s, Modesto was returned July 1, 2009 prior to litigation.

State and federal courts have consistently ruled that church properties are held in trust by the diocese for the mission and ministry of the wider Episcopal Church and that while dissenting members may leave, they cannot take property with them, according to Michael Glass, diocesan chancellor.

New play spotlights SC Episcopal bishop story

A new play, premiering in Charleston, South Carolina, tells the story of an Episcopal bishop murdered by one of his own priests in 1928. The play, written by Thomas Tisdale, is entitled "Truth in Cold Blood", and will debut in July, in conjunction with the Enthusiastically Episcopalian Conference.

The story of the murdered bishop runs something like this: Bishop William Alexander Guerry was ahead of his time with regards to racial equality, and was a fervent supporter of the Social Gospel movement. This confluence so angered one of his priests that the man stormed into his office on June morning with a pistol and shot him.

See an earlier Cafe post on this bishop here.


Bishop of Kansas releases a statement on OP shootings

The Rt. Rev. Dean Wolfe has released a statement on the shootings at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom in Overland Park, KS yesterday.

He says that the violence of Sunday is a reflection of the larger tide of violence that has overtaken the country.

On Sunday, the violence came to us. These are our neighbors. These are our friends. This is not somewhere strange and far away for us. These violent incidents happened in our diocese. My son played several basketball games at the Jewish Community Center when he was a student at Bishop Seabury Academy. We have friends who regularly participate in programs there. On Sunday afternoon the Jewish Community Center was filled with young people from a myriad of faith traditions rehearsing plays and auditioning for musical competitions. It says something about the way in which people of different faith traditions live and work so closely together in our community that a man intent on killing members of the Jewish faith went to a Jewish Community Center and a Jewish assisted care facility and took the lives of two Methodists and a Roman Catholic. Hatred makes everyone look like the enemy.

He goes on to identify the rise in violence as a public health issue, saying:

We can say we are shocked by these events. And we are. We can say we are saddened. And that expression does not even begin to communicate our profound heartbreak. What we cannot say is we are surprised. Shootings and violent incidents like this one occur almost weekly in the United States of America. When will it stop? What will the faith community do about it? This epidemic of violence has become a significant public health issue that calls for a response. What does it tell us when our children sound like old hands when it comes to tactics like “sheltering in place” or “locking down?” Due to the frequency of these shootings, our children have practiced these tactics for years. From the school shootings at Columbine, to the massacre of innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School, to the mass murder of people attending a movie in Aurora, Colorado, this has become the new normal. It is not acceptable.

Read the statement in its entirety here.

Bishop asked to pray at Prayer Breakfast

In another example of why you should always know how to pray off book, even as Episcopalians, President Obama closed the annual Prayer Breakfast today by inviting retired bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, to pray for the group.

+Gene chronicled the unplanned moment on Twitter, calling it as privilege.

The National Prayer Breakfasts are ecumenical events, gathering faith leaders across Christian denominations, and have been occurring since 1953.

Talking Points Memo has the story here.

Episcopal Church hosts interfaith vigil

St Thomas Episcopal Church in Overland Park, KS hosted an interfaith vigil of peace and remembrance last night, in honor of the shooting victims at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom.

Their rector, the Rev. Gar Demo, was joined by Rabbi Jacques Cukiekorn of Temple Israel, and their cantor, Adirah Leibshutz.

The Episcopal bishop of Kansas, the Rt. Rev. Dean Wolfe, also spoke, saying, "There are no words, but words are all we have."

Read more here.

UPDATED: Suspect in Kansas Shootings had supremacy ties

More information is now emerging on the situation in Kansas, and it points towards a hate crime.

The shooter has been identified as Frazier Glenn Miller, from Aurora, Missouri. Travelling under the alias of Frazier Glenn Cross, Miller has long been active in the white supremacist community. At one point, he had been jailed for three years for illegal weapons, and for plotting the murder of the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Shooting on the Eve of Passover

Three people were shot and killed after a gunman opened-fire at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom. Two others were unharmed.

The vigil will be held Sunday at 8 p.m. at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church, located at 12251 Antioch Road, in Overland Park.

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Harvard Divinity School Episcopal/Anglican Fellowship Tackles Capitalism and Christianity

For the past four years, the Harvard Divinity School Episcopal/Anglican Fellowship has brought together leading Christian scholars and practitioners for an ecumenical and academic summit. This year, the Episcopal/Anglican Fellowship put together a symposium called, "Christianity and Capitalism" based on student interest.

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Gene Robinson on the Archbishop of Canterbury and Amendment of Life

Former Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson, in his new column at the Daily Beast, weighs in on recent comments by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on the connection between violence in Africa and LGBT marriage equality:

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Rev. Matthew Wright on Second Axial Age Emergence

The Rev. Matthew Wright, a priest serving St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Brewster, NY, and a member of the Community of the Holy Spirit's Bluestone Farm, believes that in our interspiritual world, the Christian Wisdom tradition must be revived and reexamined. In the Contemplative Journal, Matthew writes that becoming aware of Wisdom in our own traditions in this second axial age is the key to union, consciousness, and belonging:

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Flashback: Stephen Colbert on Jesus with a wife

In the news this week, a scrap of papyrus suggesting that Jesus had a wife turns out to be not a forgery. And Stephen Colbert, "America's most famous Catholic," lands a new job as David Letterman's replacement. The Huffington Post offers a roundup of religious highlights from "The Colbert Report," including this clip from a couple of years ago, when the scrap of papyrus in question first came to light:

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The trouble with 'Christian Seders'

Episcopal Cafe blogger Ann Fontaine is not alone in questioning whether it is appropriate for Christian congregations to hold Seders during Holy Week. J. Mary Luti, a retired seminary professor and pastor in the United Church of Christ, is troubled by the idea also. She writes:

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How to make a proper Palm cross

Gathering today to make Palm Sunday crosses? In this video, origami artist Leyla Torres has her mother-in-law, Yvonne Sutton, show us how it's done:

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Why evangelicals ought to love the Book of Common Prayer

An American evangelical scholar looks at the Book of Common Prayer and likes what he reads.

Alan Jacobs, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Baylor University and former professor of English at Wheaton College, has written a history of the Book of Common Prayer as part of Princeton University Press's Lives of Great Religious Books series.

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The relationship between Christian charity and government welfare

Lately, it has become fashionable that churches and charities should replace government in funding and managing social services. Mike Konczal calls this "the voluntarism fantasy," saying that a "complex interaction between public and private social insurance… has always existed in the United States."

The Week:

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"Homeless Jesus" finds a home

The sculpture "Homeless Jesus" has been installed at St. John's Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan.

Grand Haven Tribune:

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CofE says why civil partnerships should remain in UK

The Church of England has officially submitted its reason why civil partnership should be retained now that same-sex marriage is legal in the UK.

Akin to the public comment phase for revised federal regulation in the US, the 12 week consultation period opened in January and closes next Thursday, April 17.

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Welby's assertion on massacre follows him "far, far away in America"

The Archbishop of Canterbury's comments linking progress toward LGBT equality in American churches to the massacre of Christians in Africa continue to reverberate.

The New York Times has filed a story that begins:

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Tutu calls for boycott and divestment of fossil fuel industry

The Guardian:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for an anti-apartheid-style boycott and disinvestment campaign against the fossil fuel industry for driving dangerous global warming, just days ahead of a landmark UN report on how carbon emissions can be slashed.

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The Atlantic takes note of nuns online

The Atlantic, arriving late to the party, asks whether social media can be used for evangelism in a nice profile of Sister Helena Burns, a Roman Catholic nun who is active online. Emma Green writes:

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No evidence "Gospel of Jesus Wife" was forged

The"Gospel of Jesus Wife" is not fraudulent, writes Lisa Wangsness of The Boston Globe. That's different than saying it is an authentic account of past events, which is a subject beyond my competency to determine, but it does put the controversial text back in play for students of the early church.

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The rise of "Bible skeptics"

"The American Bible Society’s latest State of the Bible survey documents steep skepticism that the Good Book is a God book," writes Cathy Lynn Grossman of Religion News Service. She quotes Roy Peterson, president of the society, who cites "incredible change in just a few years' time.

Among the findings:

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"What if we just SOLD the church?"

The Rev. Jon M. Richardson took to Facebook looking for some provocative feedback:

So: fun idea that came out of meeting with church staff today (that will probably be the latest in line of things that will get me run out of town on a rail...) --

What if - rather than trying to scrape by and earn income from irregularly renting the church out to others - what if we just SOLD the church, rented it one day a week from the new owners, and took the huge infusion of cash to establish a large endowment that would support an increased capacity for ministry???

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Episcopal conference on violence begins tonight

Violence in all its forms in American society (and what can be done) will be examined at the upcoming Episcopal conference Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: An Episcopal Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence which begins tonight in Oklahoma City.

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Archbishop of Canterbury "explains" comments

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby sat down for 15-minutes with the Anglican Journal late Tuesday evening, April 8. Marites N. Sison's article is entitled "Welby explains gays and violence in Africa remarks". From the interview:

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Holy Week prep

Quick question: as Palm Sunday looms, church staffs (be it a lone individual or a slew of people) have lots of prep work. We know about things like liturgies and bulletins, but what are the things you always do THIS week, before Holy Week begins?

Tune the organ?

Routine maintenance on the copier?

Shampoo the rugs?

(FINALLY) take down the rogue Christmas decorations?

How about outside the church: how do your communications change before Holy Week?

Easter message from the Presiding Bishop

The Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Easter Message from Episcopal News Service:

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Equal Pay Day - but not in church

Diana Butler Bass has started a lively conversation at her Facebook page about Equal Pay in the church. Butler Bass writes:

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Religion in US changing

The Economist reports on the state of Christianity in the US. The old made new and thoughts about commitment:

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Task Force Study on Marriage Report

The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage has issued the following report:

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Reconciliation in Rwanda

It's been twenty years since the genocide in Rwanda that set Tutsi against Hutu and killed thousands. Since then, Rwanda has been working hard towards reconciliation, both on a personal and national level.

One group in particular--Association Modeste et Innocente-- has been giving classes about what reconciliation and restitution means. This work has been chronicled on an individual level by the photographer Pieter Hugo, who took portraits of each survivor and the perpetrator she forgave.

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One Day in an Armed America

For a while now, the opinion writer Joe Nocera at the NY Times has been compiling daily accounts of gun violence in the US, in a blog entitled "Gun Report". Each day, he lists, in a stark litany, the people reported killed or wounded through gun violence in America, as well as some brief background on the issue.

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SCOTUS shoots down photography appeal

In the final stage of the court case, the Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of a case, brought by a New Mexico photography studio.

The owners of the photography studio declined to photograph the wedding of a gay couple, thus violating New Mexico's anti-discrimination laws. Thereupon, the owners of the photography studio decided to sue the state of New Mexico, claiming that their religious freedom had been infringed upon, as well as their right of artistic expression (though that last one was probably not envisioned by the writers of the Constitution.)

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Questioning priest reflects

The priest from the Church of England who asked +Justin Welby the now-famous question on the call-in radio show, has written some reflections on the moment on her blog.

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Bishop Payne Divinity School Honored with Virginia Historical Marker

On Saturday March 29th, members of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Petersburg, Virginia, along with representatives from the Virginia Theological Seminary, celebrated the dedication of an historical marker to remember the impact of the Bishop Payne Divinity School in Petersburg and throughout the Episcopal Church. Bishop Payne Divinity School, founded in 1878, served African-American men preparing for ministry before merging with Virginia Seminary in 1949:

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Bishop Marc Andrus of California responds to Archbishop of Canterbury's remarks on gay marriage and African violence

After suggesting on an LBC radio talk-in that African Christians have been massacred due to the acceptance of homosexuality in America, and more Africans may be killed if the Church of England accepts equal marriage, reactions to the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby's comments continue from around the world. The round-up at Thinking Anglicans has the latest analysis and reactions.

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Alan M. Gates elected bishop of Massachusetts

On Saturday, April 5th at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Boston, lay and clergy delegates elected Alan M. Gates of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, on the fourth ballot:

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Chinese Christians camp out to protect church from demolition

From the Washington Post:

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Is the Internet eroding our faith in God?

A new study suggests that the rise of the Internet has caused a significant drop in religious affiliation. From Technology Review:

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Response to Welby's comments on violence against gays in Africa

Simon Sarmiento at Thinking Anglicans presents a good roundup of response to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby's comments about who's responsible for violence against gays in Africa. Andrew Brown at the Guardian contends we cannot "yield to moral blackmail" on the issue:

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The world is challenged to forgive

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu are launching the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge, a free online program starting May 4, 2014, designed to teach the world how to forgive.


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Archbishop of Canterbury says African massacre sparked by gay acceptance "in America"

Updated, with this story from Anglican Communion News Service, which places the grave Archbishop Welby spoke of in South Sudan.

Archbishop Justin Welby suggested in a talk radio interview today that African Christians have been massacred due to the acceptance of homosexuality "in America", and that more may be killed if the Church of England accepts equal marriage.

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GTS embarks on the 'way of wisdom.'

Believing that the ways of academic specilization and business-style management is leaving the church bereft, the Dean and faculty of General Seminary are embarking on an experiment to integrate theological education with the daily, lived experience of the church. They are calling this exploration "The Way of Wisdom."

A statement from the faculty:

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The effects of income inequality on education and success in 18 charts

"Class haunts people from womb to grave, limiting their ability to flourish and pursue the good life as they define it. Confronted with the reality of our society’s entrenched class system, our national politics in its present state offers three responses. The first response is to deny reality altogether, usually in favor of an anecdote or two. The second is to accept that it exists, but pretend there is nothing you can do about it because those on the bottom are inferior (see Murray, Ryan). And the last response is to note it exists and offer lukewarm solutions that nibble around the margins of the problem without ever doing anything that might actually even things out."

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Are poverty and inequality becoming the new normal?

More than 46 million Americans live below the poverty line, and income inequality in the U.S. is at its highest level since the 1920s, according to NBC News, which recently produced an extensive report on the subject.

Writer Martha White notes a generational aspect to the problem of poverty and inequality:

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Will the Pope speak against Uganda's harsh anti-gay laws

Matt Ford of The Atlantic poses a question on the minds of many human rights activists: will Pope Francis speak out against the harsh anti-gay law, and increasingly homophobic tenor of public life in Uganda?

He asks that question while examining how anti-gay ideology has become so powerful in Uganda politics and exploring how the legacy of Uganda's Christian martyrs like St. Charles Lwanga are being used to advance homophobia.

He writes:

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