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June 19th, 2004:

Gonna make you sweat

Via Amblongus and Lasso, I see that El Paso has been named “America’s Sweatiest City”, and that El Pasoans are not happy about it. I don’t claim to be an expert about this, but I’m scratching my head at the concept of a city with zero humidity being sweatier than Houston. Some time ago, the lead singer for the Mollys, a band out of Tucson, said “They say that living in Arizona is like living in an oven. True, but in my experience living in Houston must be like living in a dishwasher.” Hard to argue with that if you ask me.

Happy Juneteenth!

Norbizness reminds me that today is Juneteenth, the holiday which celebrates the news of the Emancipation Proclamation reaching Texas. He’s got some good linkage, so check it out.

Fiorenza opposes politicizing Communion

Good for Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, archbishop of the Houston/Galveston diocese, for stating that he does not favor making the Eucharist a political football.

Wading into a national debate that has entwined presidential politics with religion, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston said he does not favor denying Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.

In a column published in diocesan newspaper the Texas Catholic Herald, Fiorenza wrote that denying someone Communion would, in effect, excommunicate the person — a “very serious sanction” that requires “strict criteria before it can be imposed.

“The tradition of the church does not make a public judgment on those who wish to receive Holy Communion,” Fiorenza wrote in the June 11 letter. “The burden for judging one to be free of serious sin and worthy to receive the Eucharist is each person’s own conscience.”

He also said that denying Communion “would be counterproductive and, at the end of the day, would harm the pro-life movement.”

Catholic politicians with positions that differ from church teaching have become a hot topic in churches and on the campaign trail in recent months. Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry is Catholic and supports abortion rights. Some church leaders, most notably Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, have said they would deny Communion to him and other politicians with similar views.

“The reality is that it has only been in the current election year where there has been serious discussion of denying people Communion by some bishops,” said John Francis Burke, professor of political science at the University of St. Thomas. “You notice it is a few isolated bishops. It is not the majority.”

This week, Fiorenza was in Englewood, Colo., at a closed meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that ends today. At the meeting, the Task Force on Catholics in Public Life presented a progress report on its work on this issue. The task force, headed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington state, is scheduled to make its recommendations at the bishops’ annual November meeting after the presidential election.

In his letter, Fiorenza said he wished church leaders had waited for the task force report before speaking out. Fiorenza spoke out because Houston-area Catholics had asked him about his position, said Monsignor Frank H. Rossi, area diocese chancellor.

“What is significant about (Fiorenza) weighing in on the issue is that he is the past president of the (bishops) conference, so he has some stature nationally,” said Burke, who is also chairman of St. Thomas’ Social Justice Committee.

Fiorenza outlined church teaching on Communion in his letter. He also mentioned Pope John Paul II’s January 2003 “Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life,” which “emphasized the grave moral evil of abortion and legislation which supports it.”

The bishop said he hopes the current debate “will greatly influence Catholic politicians who support abortion to rethink their political position on this most serious of human-rights issues.”

Maybe we can finally put this issue to rest now.

Prosecutors turn towards Kenny Boy

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is nigh: Prosecutors seeking Lay indictment.

Federal prosecutors plan to ask a grand jury to indict Ken Lay on charges relating to the last few months he was at the helm of Enron as the company spiralled into its stunning 2001 collapse.

The indictments are expected within two weeks, according to lawyers close to the case.

For the past 2 1/2 years, the Justice Department’s Enron Task Force has been investigating Lay — the company’s former chairman — and recently the probe has picked up steam.

Over the past few weeks, witnesses about Lay have appeared before the Enron grand jury in increasing numbers. At the same time, prosecutors have been separately interviewing other witnesses and shoring up details about Lay.

Government lawyers have been playing their cards close to their vests, and lawyers for witnesses acknowledge that prosecutors could postpone the final presentation of the case.

Prosecutors are barred from speaking publicly about grand jury business, and Enron Task Force Director Andrew Weissmann would not comment for this story.

But the Houston-based grand jury has already heard five days of testimony this month, all focused on Lay. Enron Task Force prosecutors John Hemann and John Hueston, who are investigating Lay, have taken in witness after witness, including Lay’s Chief of Staff Steven Kean and ex-Enron General Counsel Jim Derrick.

Topics that prosecutors have been quizzing witnesses about include:

·Lay’s receipt of three memos or e-mails warning of financial trouble and fraud at the company within weeks of Jeff Skilling’s abrupt August 2001 departure as CEO.

·His public statements to investors and analysts.

·Lay’s attempt to find an alternative to having to substantially write down the “goodwill” or excess price paid for assets.

·His trades of company stock for millions of dollars in company cash in those last months.

Lay’s Houston-based lawyer, Mike Ramsey, said Friday that while he knows there is an active investigation into his client, he will be surprised if there’s an indictment.

“Indict him for what?” Ramsey said Friday. “I don’t know what they could charge him with.”

Lay’s lawyers have noted Lay has a good defense to insider trading charges because he held on to much of his Enron stock even as the company went bankrupt. And they said most of the millions in cash he borrowed from the company and paid back with stock was used to pay off other debt created by the fall of the price of Enron stock.

Andy Fastow, Ben Glisan, and Paula Rieker are potential witnesses against him. Stay tuned, the good part is coming up.