Current Comment

Deporting Roma People

France’s decision to expel Roma people (Gypsies) and bulldoze their encampments has drawn sharp criticism from human rights groups, the European Union and the Vatican. Roma represent the largest ethnic group in Eastern Europe, with almost three million in Romania and Bulgaria. Because both countries are now members of the European Union, Roma people can migrate without visas to wealthier countries.

Funds to assist Roma people are available through the European Union’s social fund. Critics of the Sarkozy government’s deportation policy (over 1,700 Roma have been expelled since July), like the European Union’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, have claimed that this money is not being used to help them. She caused an outcry in France by calling the deportations ethnic cleansing and comparing them with World War II Nazi roundups of Roma and Jews. She later apologized for the comment.


In contrast to France’s negative policies toward Roma, Spain, with approximately one million Roma, has invested in education to promote their successful integration. Most of its Roma are literate and have access to public housing and financial aid, provided they send their children to school and health care facilities. Despite many years of victimization, they have become part of Spanish mainstream culture. But much effort will be needed to persuade other countries, like France and Italy, that expulsions are not a solution. They painfully reflect a discriminatory attitude toward a marginalized population that has been deprived of its dignity for far too long. Funds through the European Union are available and should be used to help integrate Roma residents.

Reform Begins at Last

If the views of registered voters nationwide are accurately reflected in a New York Times/CBS poll conducted in September, then nearly half (49 percent) strongly or somewhat disapprove of the new health care bill. Other polls report even higher disapproval. Apparently neither the Obama administration nor health care reform advocates have been able to sell the American people on the merits of the reform. Surely the built-in delays in implementing the law have hindered advocates from making their case, for the law and its benefits have seemed more theoretical than real.

Finally, in September, some reform measures took effect. It is now illegal for insurers to deny health coverage to applicants with a pre-existing condition, for example, or to deny a customer’s claim for payment on the basis of an error made on the insurance application. Now insurers must allow customers to purchase coverage for their uninsured children up to age 26, a gain for unemployed young adults. Tax credits are available for qualifying small businesses to help them offer employees affordable plans. And the law prohibits insurers from gouging small employers by charging them much more (one executive reported an example of “18 percent more”) than they charge large businesses for the same coverage.

The law does not fully take effect until 2014, yet opponents’ efforts to repeal and diminish it have been under way since the bill was signed. At issue is whether voters’ experience of some benefits of the law now can build enough support to forestall its repeal or evisceration. If not, the health benefits lost will be more real than theoretical.

Hidden From the World

Did you know that Eileen Mary Nearne was a war hero? Neither did her neighbors. The soft-spoken 89-year-old woman died recently in her home in Torquay, England. That her body went undiscovered for several days and that she was being slated for a “council burial” (pauper’s grave) indicate the hiddenness of her life. And what a life it was. The French government awarded Miss Nearne the Croix de Guerre for her courageous actions during World War II. She helped operate a secret radio from Paris that facilitated weapons drops to the French Resistance, paving the way for D-Day. When she was captured by the Gestapo, the young woman was sent to the Ravensbruck camp, where she was tortured. After being moved to another camp, she escaped and linked up with American troops. It is a story that begs to be made into a novel, or at least a movie.

Not many of our friends or neighbors live lives out of a John le Carré novel. But Miss Nearne’s death and near anonymity in her neighborhood (one obituary noted that she was known mainly for her love of cats) show how little people often know about the quiet heroism of one another. A co-worker may be caring for an elderly parent, quietly. A neighbor might volunteer at her church, stocking the shelves of a food pantry, silently. The hidden quality of these actions somehow lends them greater dignity, since they are done with no expectation of public adulation. As Henri Nouwen once said, the key is performing acts that are “hidden from the world, but known by God.” That goes for both a reclusive World War II spy and the self-effacing parent of an ill child, both of them quiet heroes.

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8 years ago
I feel a little "uncultured" not knowing who Henri Nouwen is. But as I read this piece, I thought immediately of the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 1-8.  Jesus is pretty clear that when we "perform righteous deeds", "give alms", and pray, that we should do it quietly or even anonymously.  I cannot wait to read more about Miss Nearne.
Mike Evans
8 years ago
It would seem that all the anti-Obama vitriol has taken root in the bashing of the new health care law that will gradually take effect. In fact, some of those provisions could be speeded up if desired by Congress. The declaration that 49% of people opposed the law has been disproven many times over when the individual provisions are evaluated in separate questions. People are very much in favor of insurance for those with pre-existing conditions, for seniors struggling with the donut hole and finding adequate geriatric care, for families without dependent coverage, and especially for all those who cannot obtain any sort of affordable coverage because their employer does not offer it. Our church as a whole has not been above board in this discussion either and continues its silence with regard to the necessity for unemployment benefits extensions, food stamps and commodities enhancements, rent subsidies, programs for the homeless, disabled and elderly, and any new stimulus efforts to get our people re-employed and able to live without fear or loss of dignity again. Please reread Mathew 25 and then try to invent an excuse that Jesus would approve at the judgment.
Mary Pat Campbell
8 years ago
Yes, the reform began, and my parents in their 80's received a notice that their insurance company will no longer provide Medicare Addvantage, and so they must find a new company at higher cost. This is happening all over the country. What will happen to all these people, many who do not have the wherewithall to navigate the system. 
Cody Serra
8 years ago

To Lori C.: Your mother does have Medicare if she is over 65.  I do have it. I haven't had any problems taking care of my health condicions in many years, or access to good quality medical care.
It is a pity that still there is so much misinformation going around about the new Health Care law. The Advantage plans were a choice, a more expensive one...which not many seniors could afford.

Cody Serra
8 years ago

To Mari C.: Your mother does have Medicare if she is over 65.  I do have it. I haven't had any problems taking care of my health condicions in many years, or access to good quality medical care.
It is a pity that still there is so much misinformation going around about the new Health Care law. The Advantage plans were a choice, a more expensive one...which not many seniors could afford.

Tom Maher
8 years ago
Rasmussen Polling organization on passage of the Healthcare law in late March began weekly polling of health care law repeal.  Consistantly since the law passed a majority of at least 55% of likely voters favored repeal of this law.  Over the last six months the weekly Rasmussen poll for repeal of the Healthcare law has grown to over 60% in favor of repeal. 

This should be no surprise to people who were paying attention.  The law is exclusively the work of Democratic party insiders.  Only a select few of top Democratic party leadership knew of all the provisions contained in the law.  Even Democratic legislators did not know of all the provisions  of this law until this almost 2000 pages of legislation was passed.

Passage was by a bare minimum majority all of whom were Democrats.

Numerous  Democrats up for reeelction next month retired rather than hvae to explain their support for the healthcare law.  Almost no Democrats running for office this fall even mentions support for healthcare legislation. 

How likely is it for a law exclusively enacted and passed by Democrats to be supported by voting majority of the population who are not Democrats?  The answer : very little support.  It was very unwise of the Democratic establishment to attempt to pass sucha significant law with only Democratic support . 

Against the healthcare law are most Republicans, most independenta.  and quite a few conservative and moderate Democrats.   And a lot of these people are  strongly  for repeal of this law.  Thde repeal of the healthcare law is a major objective of the Republican nationwide ""Promise to America".  

For the immeadiate future the a change in congress will likely not be able to override a Presidential veto of a repeal of Helathcare law.  But the Congress will likely be able to not fund many of the provisions of the law sucha sthe enforcement by the IRS of the individule mandates and penalties.

Separately 21 states are suing the federal goverment over key fiancial provisons i rovisons of the law directed at states and individuals . 

The law was passed without majority support,  Now that many of its  provision are fianlly become known disaprpoval of this law has grown even more.  By years end it is possible that two thirds of the voting public will be for repeal of the law.  This is one of the most strongly disapporved  laws that was  ever enacted.   We will see in Novem?ber the strong public reaction to passage o?f this law with??out majority support. ??
Scott Tiernan
8 years ago

The European Union's justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, is not the first EU official to complain bitterly of the treatment of immigrants (legal and illegal) in France and Italy. She is also not the first one to oversimplify the problem- that native citizens are prejudiced against immigrants; and the solution- that governments need only to provide and promote a path to mainstream life for all immigrants.

Clearly, the officials in Brussels put the rights of disadvantaged immigrants (formal education, local language skills, affordable housing, legitimate job opportunities, family support, etc.) ahead of established French and Italian citizens and seem oblivious to the problems of uncontrolled immigration. Surely, they can not trust the French or the Italians to control immigration in their own countries.

When Italy joined the EU they understood they were joining an economic union that allowed the free flow of labor. If they had understood that Italy would lose control of its borders, they would certainly have insisted on more protections in the EU Constitution.  Part of the problem between Italy and the EU is the obvious prejudice of EU officials and some northern Europeans against the government of Italy and Italians in general. At best the officials in Brussels are very poorly informed of the situation in Italy with regard to the Italian government's response to illegal immigration, the arrival of foreign criminals and, the uncontrolled (uncontrollable?) arrival of economic immigrants from all parts of the world.  

The Roma are a special case. There is not room here to explain the Roma situation in Italy or even in the city of Rome.  The Roma existed in Italy before the EU.  You could devote an article explaining your statement above identifying a Roma people. Where do they come from?  How are they organized?  How are the Roma in Italy different from the Roma in Spain or Romania?  What is their history? Who are the Kings of the Roma?

 The city of Rome, Italy has worked for decades on integration of the Roma. Just before Romania joined the EU there were already about 25,000 Roma living in scores of camps and abandoned structures in Rome.  Some of these camps were legally recognized, many more were abusive. The mayor of Rome met with the leaders of the Roma in Romania in this time period and asked that they voluntarily limit immigration to Rome.

 If someone seriously wanted to address immigration issues in Europe they could start by allowing each member of the EU to develop their own immigration rules subject to some general EU guidelines.  Europe is not simply an ancient land where history unfolded.  It is a related family of populations with rich and unique cultural heritages expressing themselves in their own language and sensibilities. European culture is alive and has value. It is an exaggeration to sacrifice a rich and unique cultural heritage to accommodate unlimited economic immigrants.  How many immigrants can this particular society absorb without losing its identity? This is a proper question that may be best answered by each member of the EU.


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