NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT: Urgent and possible

Marie Dennisby Marie Dennis
Pax Christi International Co-President

September 26 was the first International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The aim of the day is to enhance “public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination, in order to mobilize international efforts towards achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.”

A New Moment for Nuclear DisarmamentFor decades, faith-based and civil society organizations have sustained attention to the need for nuclear disarmament through serious research, creative organizing and effective advocacy. After a long hiatus, broken only by the slow step-by-step approach of U.S.-Russia bilateral negotiations, increased attention to the urgent need for nuclear disarmament is beginning to balance what, since the end of the Cold War, has been a singular focus on nonproliferation.

Multiple important events have taken place in the past year to reignite momentum toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Among them were several meetings of and a report from the Open Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament; two successful international conferences in Norway and Mexico on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, with another planned for Vienna in December 2014; movement, if very slow, toward a conference to establish a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East; and the Republic of the Marshall Islands lawsuits filed in The Hague and in California against all nine nuclear-armed nations (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea) for their failure to honor their disarmament obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). These efforts will continue.

The United Nations Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) was established by the UN General Assembly in November 2012 following widespread frustration at the lack of progress in other forums, including the Conference on Disarmament, which has not been able to negotiate any disarmament agreements since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996…

Read more by clicking here.

OBITUARY: Carol Ann Breyer, former state coordinator of Pax Christi Florida – PRESENTE!

Carol Ann Breyer, former state coordinator of Pax Christi Florida (left) with Sr. Simone Campbell. Carol Ann passed away  earlier this month.

Carol Ann Breyer, former state coordinator of Pax Christi Florida (left) with Sr. Simone Campbell in Washington in June 2014. Carol Ann passed away earlier this month.

Earlier this month, Pax Christi USA learned that we had lost one of our most effective and trusted regional leaders, Carol Ann Breyer of Pax Christi Florida. Carol Ann served as the state coordinator for Pax Christi Florida for a number of years and was a constant presence at national events and actions, including offering her leadership during Pax Christi USA’s project bringing election observers to Florida in 2004 and most recently, at Pax Christi USA’s leadership meeting in June in Washington, D.C.

“I know that Carol Ann will be missed but I’m sure that her spirit will continue to carry on within the work of PC-Florida,” stated Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA upon learning of Carol Ann’s passing. “She indeed has joined the cloud of witnesses that will continue to bring about peace through non-violent transformation.”

Carol Ann and Lee Breyer at the National Conference in June 2013.

Carol Ann & Lee at the 2013 National Conference.

All of us at Pax Christi USA are mourning Carol Ann’s passing and our thoughts and prayers go out to her husband Lee and all the members of Pax Christi Florida who were like family to her. Most of all, we give thanks for her life and for her witness, and we take strength from all she shared with us, continuing to work for the nonviolent reign of God which she deeply believed in. Carol Ann Breyer – PRESENTE!

We invite you to leave notes in the comments section below of your stories and memories of Carol Ann, or to post on our Facebook page. 

Here is the complete obituary which appeared in the September 28th issue of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

On September 12, Carol Ann died in her sleep in Savannah, GA, at a motel stopover en route to a retreat in West Virginia. She was born in Rochester, NY, to Caroline Gleichauf and Charles Strobel. She had two older sisters, Jean Kinzel (deceased) and Marilyn Murray. She is survived by Lee Breyer, her husband of 45 years, her sister Marilyn, three nephews and two nieces.

After the family moved to Baltimore, MD, she attended Mount St. Agnes High School and, on graduation, she went to the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. During her college years, she joined the Sisters of Mercy in Baltimore and continued her undergraduate education at Mount St. Agnes College. She earned her graduate degree at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. She continued post-grad studies at the University of Maryland and received her doctorate from Walden University in Educational Administration. Her religious assignments took her to Savannah, GA, Mobile, AL, and Washington, DC as well as Baltimore.

In 1969, Carol Ann and Lee settled in the Washington, DC area. There she was very active in the civil rights movement, working in the national office of the US Catholic Bishops in its Peace and Justice office, learning much from the then newly established Public Broadcasting Service, and was employed by Prince George’s Community College to help establish its continuing education program for adults. The couple were heavily involved in developing a number of small intentional communities dedicated to a renewal in the Catholic Church.

In 1979, she and Lee moved to Tallahassee, FL, where she worked at the Florida Department of Education, focusing on the establishment of the state’s community college system and also with Florida State University as a program evaluator. It was there that she became very familiar with the problems of people ‘living on the streets’ (through the local homeless coalition) and with those behind bars (at the local state prison).

Carol Ann took her compassion for justice and her commitment to nonviolence with her to Ellenton, FL in 2000. There she and Lee built Mercy-on-the- Manatee, a house that won awards for energy conservation (the FPL BuildSmart Gold Award) and environmental sensitivity (the Florida Native Plant Society’s Landscaping Award). Her passion for care of the environment caused her to be a very active volunteer in the Florida Master Gardener Program and the Sierra Club in Manatee County. Carol Ann was heavily involved in peace and justice issues her entire life and so she became the Florida State Coordinator of Pax Christi, the national Catholic Peace Movement, and was also instrumental in the creation and establishment of the Diocese of Venice Environmental Justice Commission. Shortly afterwards, she was active in the Earth Charter; South West Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice; Pace e Bene, the movement for a nonviolent culture of peace; as well as a member of Call to Action, a progressive organization in the Catholic tradition. Her interest in such groups involved both church and social reform issues and brought her to the Mary, Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community.

Among her proudest achievements was her role on The President’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities and the subsequent federal legislation extending justice to a previously neglected population. In all her activities, her signature quality was her advocacy for social justice for those living on the edges of church and society…with no exceptions.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 4, 4:00 pm, at St. Andrew United Church of Christ, 6908 Beneva Road, Sarasota, FL, 34238. This will be followed by refreshments and storytelling in Stewart Hall.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to:

  • Mary, Mother of Jesus Catholic Community, 6908 Beneva Road, Sarasota, FL 34238
  • Pax Christi-USA, 415 Michigan Avenue NE – Suite 240, Washington, DC 20017-4503 (or click here to make a gift in Carol Ann’s name securely online with your credit card)
  • Mercy Sisters of the Americas (South Central Community), 101 Mercy Drive, Belmont, NC 28012
Carol Ann and Lee Breyer in 2013.

Carol Ann and Lee Breyer in 2013.

ECONOMIC JUSTICE: Pax Christi USA signs onto letter against corporate inversions

from Americans for Tax Fairness

Pax Christi USA has signed onto the following letter to the U.S. Senate.

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Chairman Wyden:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Fairness’ 425 national and state organization members, we are writing to ask that the Senate quickly pass legislation that would stop U.S. corporations from shifting their address offshore, typically to a tax haven, in order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

This is an urgent matter. More than 75 companies have deserted America through a corporate inversion since 1983, according to the Congressional Research Service, and at least another dozen are in the works. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that such defections could cost $20 billion over the next ten years. But the damage could be far in excess of that given the recent stampede to invert, and the annual tax avoidance estimates for various companies that invert, which have been reported in the financial press.

Companies that invert do not actually leave America; they are simply changing their corporate address. The companies reincorporate abroad by buying a smaller foreign firm and then becoming a subsidiary of that firm. The new foreign parent is usually located in a tax haven country with a low tax rate, or it has a territorial tax system that facilitates even more tax avoidance than occurs under the U.S. tax system. The point of an inversion is primarily to increase profits by dodging U.S. taxes.

When corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes the U.S. government takes on more debt; American taxpayers, including small businesses and domestic firms, end up paying more; and American families and communities get fewer services and benefits. That’s why Congress must act to stop inversions now.

Companies that desert America continue to take advantage of the things that make the United States the best place in the world to do business – an educated workforce; a legal system to protect their investments and patents; protection by the strongest military in the world; use of public transportation systems to get products to market; access to millions of consumers; and for many firms, subsidies through federal research and government purchases of its products.

Some argue that legislation to clamp down on this tax loophole can wait until Congress considers a broader tax reform package. But a corporate tax overhaul may not stop inversions and, given the differences about tax reform between both parties, both chambers and within the business community itself, it is unlikely to take place anytime soon.

In the meantime, legislation is urgently needed to stop the hemorrhaging of precious tax dollars through this tax dodge. Our top priority is for Congress to enact the Stop Corporate Inversions Act (S. 2360), sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin and 22 other senators. This measure would end the current practice of treating inverted corporations as foreign companies even when they have not left the United States in any real sense.

We also urge action to stem “earnings stripping” for inverted firms, whereby a U.S. company borrows money from its new foreign parent in order to reduce its taxable income here at home and shift its profits offshore. Senators Schumer and Durbin have proposed legislation that would partially address this tax dodge.

We should no longer provide generous taxpayer-funded contracts and subsidies to  corporations that abandon America. Sen. Levin’s No Federal Contracts for Corporate Deserters Act (S. 2704) would ban firms that change their corporate address to a tax haven from receiving government contracts. Congress should also require that firms leaving here pay unpaid taxes on past profits held offshore. U.S. companies enjoy the privilege of deferring payment of their taxes on offshore earnings, which in effect grants them a no-interest loan from taxpayers that should be repaid if corporations re-incorporate elsewhere.

Demanding that corporations that desert America pay their unpaid taxes when they leave would be similar to the taxes that wealthy individuals pay on their unrealized capital gains when they renounce their U.S. citizenship. Corporations should be held to the same standard when they too renounce America and reincorporate in another country by requiring them to pay the taxes that they owe.

Thank you for considering our position.

IRAQ-SYRIA: The case against intervention

by Adrian Bonenberger, Commonweal

IraqCrisis-smallOn September 10, President Barack Obama delivered a widely anticipated speech addressing the alarming growth in the scope and power of the militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The president announced that in order to defeat ISIS, the United States would ramp up military intervention in the Middle East, arming insurgent groups in Syria and Iraq and using airstrikes to support allies in the region. The speech was important. For the first time since he announced a surge in Afghanistan at the beginning of his presidency—a surge in which I played a small role, as a company commander deployed to Kunduz Province—the president is publicly and deliberately committing the U.S. military to ongoing actions in that area. Tuesday, he made good on that promise, hitting Islamic State and Al Qaeda targets in Syria and Iraq with airstrikes and cruise missiles.

The civil wars in Syria and Iraq have provoked widespread outrage: anger at the unscrupulous and repressive leaders, Assad and al-Maliki, who have governed the countries so ruthlessly; horror at the brutal sectarian violence; grief for the shattered families, the refugees—over 2 million and counting—and the nearly two-hundred-thousand lives lost so far. The natural human response to such suffering is to try to end it as quickly as possible, by any means necessary. In this case, however, acting on that desire is the worst thing America could do. Recent historical evidence suggests that if we intervene, we are less likely to end the suffering than to compound it, stretching the killing out over decades instead of years…

Click here to read the entire article.

POVERTY: PCUSA joins effort asking President Obama to invest in child nutrition programs

From the Food Research and Action Center

Pax Christi USA has signed onto the following letter. 

Dear Mr. President,

slider_4The undersigned national, state and local organizations are writing to express our united support for effective and adequately funded federal nutrition programs for children. We are a diverse group of organizations representing anti-hunger, religious, education, health, nutrition, direct service, school food, pre-school and child care, after school, labor, industry and agriculture, organizations that are joining together to support increased access to nutritious meals and snacks and to protect the quality of those meals and snacks in pre-school, school-based and out-of-school time programs in the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

We urge you to continue your commitment to these programs and your efforts to reduce childhood hunger and improve child nutrition by including in your budget for FY2016 a significant investment in these programs so their efficacy in reducing hunger and boosting the health and well-being of children and infants can grow. Your enthusiasm for and commitment to new investments in these critically important programs will define the agenda moving into the reauthorization of the child nutrition programs.

We appreciate the support that you, the First Lady and your Administration have shown for protecting and improving access to quality nutrition for children, especially low income children, in this country.

Click here for more information.

IRAQ-SYRIA: Alternatives to bombing ISIS

by Rick Cohen, Win Without War

Whether it is called ISIS, ISIL, or simply IS, the Islamic State is clearly one of the more barbaric terrorist groups ever to appear on the international scene. Its grisly murder of two American journalists in a videotaped beheading prompted President Obama to elevate ISIL from his characterization of the terrorists as a “J.V. team” to a “cancer” that must be “degraded and destroyed.” Not long ago, Obama dismissed as a “fantasy” that providing military aid to the Free Syrian Army, an army of “an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists, and so forth” would render them ableto fight both ISIS and the Assad regime; now the president has reversed his position and is calling to arm the remnants of the moderate opposition.

n-US-AIRSTRIKE-large570

Dancing past his recent proclamations, President Obama gave a primetime speech to the nation calling for going after ISIL and other terrorist organizations wherever they might be, including the possibility of bombing ISIL in Syria. Citing the collaboration of other nations, including Albania and the Maldives (sounding like a revival of President Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing”), President Obama promised no U.S. combat troops would be engaged in fighting on the ground in Iraq or Syria, just in the air. Essentially, the antiwar president announced—vaguely, to be sure—the commencement of an open-ended war against ISIL that most observers suggest would be one heck of a very long campaign.

Why did the president reverse ground so quickly? He has been pretty steadfast in his reluctance to take military action until the recent 150 or so bombing sorties that U.S. forces have carried out against ISIL in Iraq. With the bravado of pronouncing the one-day-old new Iraq administration of Haider al-Abadi (which skeptics don’t think merits the president’s confidence) a major improvement over that of his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, and implying that Saudi Arabia (which always talks and never acts) and Turkey would be putting “boots on the ground” against ISIL, President Obama responded to the increasing war fervor in the U.S. and promised action…

Read the entire article by clicking here.

REFLECTION: Bombing Islamic State is fueling the violence

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

We need to do something!

With the barbaric Islamic State now controlling large portions of Iraq and Syria, and inflicting rape, torture and even beheading on those who do not conform to their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, it is imperative that they must be stopped.

So yes, we need to do something. But that “something” is not more violence and war. Answering violence and war, with more violence and war, is always part of the problem, not part of the solution.

fighters

Shortly after the start of the first Gulf War in 1991, St. Pope John Paul II wrote: “No, never again, war, which destroys the lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution to the very problems which provoked the war.”

There is a collective amnesia that continues to block government and society’s memory that we have been there, and done that, many times before. Therefore, the war machine keeps rolling on with the encouragement of hawkish politicians, pundits and the military-industrial-complex.

During a “Democracy Now” interview with Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, Khouri said the major problems that lead to the formation and growth of militant Islamic groups like the Islamic State, are brutal dictators – often backed by the United States – who rule much of the Arab-Islamic world, and a foreign military presence like the U.S. in Muslim majority countries.

Khouri said American led military action in the Islamic world is the best recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

And it stands to reason. Imagine how most people would react – including many Christians – to a foreign power bombing and killing their loved ones.

So, what would be a Gospel-based way of responding to this violent crisis?

The Gospel calls us to mount an active response to suffering based on love and nonviolence.

This means no bombs, no drones, no missiles.

The U.S. and other arms supplying nations need to stop flooding the Middle East (and world) with weapons. A total multilateral arms embargo is needed.

And the diplomatic tool must be vigorously pursued.

Yes, negotiations with the Islamic State are highly unlikely. But negotiating just settlements to the grievances of hurting populations in Iraq and Syria will dry up support for the Islamic State and other militant groups.

The U.S. and other wealthy nations need to provide adequate resources for the quick evacuation of Christians and other minorities who are in harm’s way.

And funds and supplies need to be massively increased to assist nations – like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey – that are being overwhelmed by Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

Finally, the U.S. and other industrial nations need to do their fair share in offering emergency asylum to these poor, frightened refugees.

Please email and call (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) your two U.S. senators and representative, and President Obama (202-456-1111) urging them to stop the bombing and start the nonviolent actions mentioned above.

It would do us all well to seriously reflect on the words of Pope Francis: “War is never a necessity, nor is it inevitable. Another way can always be found: the way of dialogue, encounter and the sincere search for truth.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.