Thursday, February 28, 2013

No pope there - Sequester over here

As the magical date of February 28 has come we find a strange phenomenon, a synchronized event:

  1. The Vatican is without a Bishop of Rome after Joseph Ratzinger abdicated and has left the papal Apartment(s).
  2.  As the work day comes to a close the U.S. Congress and the Administration failed to reach an agreement (again) which now means the government defaults into (a nebulous status) SEQUESTER (I think it's Latin for taking hostages).

As over there - so it is over here...  (Sounds like as above, so below: a motto often used by Catholic clergy).

Folks we are living in an historic time; actually it's a prophetic time!

*I think they are calling SEQUESTER - AUSTERY in Europe...   (So, that's what all those riots over there are all about?)
All the progressive minds in Washington look up to the enlightened Europeans, and just love to immitate them...



Obama Administration To Back Gay Marriage In Prop. 8 Case: Report

Obama Administration To Back Gay Marriage In Prop. 8 Case: Report

The Huffington Post | By Ryan J. Reilly Posted: 02/28/2013 2:50 pm EST | Updated: 02/28/2013 3:04 pm EST

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration will urge the Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage to resume in California, Pete Williams of NBC News reports. Thursday is the deadline for the administration to submit a friend-of-the-court brief in the Proposition 8 case, which will examine whether California voters had the right to ban same-sex marriage.

The precise language and scope of the amicus brief is unknown, but is expected to be filed later Thursday afternoon. It is unclear whether the brief will take the position that it is unconstitutional for any state to ban same-sex marriage or whether it will only speak to the specific circumstances in California, where voters narrowly voted to end gay marriage in 2008.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia filed an amicus brief earlier on Thursday urging the Supreme Court to strike down Prop. 8.

President Barack Obama has stated that he personally believes that same-sex couples should be allowed to be married but has also previously said the issue should be left up to the states.


SpaceX Primes 'Dragon' Capsule for Space Station Mission (Photos)

by Staff
Date: 25 February 2013 Time: 01:14 PM ET

Plasma Etch Inc "Systems"
Ultra Cleaning Solutions. Plasma Cleaners. R&D Labs Medical Nano Solar

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft With Solar Array Fairings in HangarCredit: NASA/Kim ShiflettThe Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, Dragon spacecraft with solar array fairings attached, stands inside a processing hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The spacecraft will launch on the upcoming SpaceX CRS-2 mission. Image released Jan. 15, 2013.


Vatican goes into slo-mo until a new pope is picked

Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY2:52p.m. EST February 28, 2013

The Catholic Church has complex rules for what can -- and mostly what cannot -- be done when there's no pope.

(Photo: USA TODAY)

No major decisions can be made until cardinals elect a new pope
Meanwhile, only three Vatican officials will function, to pastor to Rome, take confessions, and pay bills
Benedict, as pope emeritus, will rest at Castel Gandolfo, the papal retreat

The Catholic Church of more than 1 billion souls without a pope. The Swiss guards have locked the doors. Even the papal Twitter account has had all Benedict's 39 tweets deleted now that he's no longer @pontifex.

So who's minding the store?

Vatican operations essentially go as still as the characters in Sleeping Beauty — frozen in time as of 8 p.m. there (2 p.m. E.T) until the new pope is installed, likely before Easter.

Friday, the call goes out to the world's 208 cardinals — those who have not already arrived in Rome — to head for the Holy See. As early as Monday, they may begin meeting in advisory groups. Their first task: set the date for the conclave when the new pope will be chosen.

In the interim, the church's canon law spells out what must and what may not be done while the papacy is vacant. Since a pope hasn't resigned in 600 years, that means following the rules for after a pope has died, says John Thavis, author ofVatican Diaries, a book about 30 years reporting on the Holy See.

All the arrangements are set by the camerlengo (chamberlain of the Church) chosen by the pope. Benedict chose Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of State,for that role but there's little for him to do with no funeral to arrange.

All the cardinals and archbishops in the curia, the bureaucracy of the Church, lose their jobs on Feb. 28. It's a bit like all the U.S. president's cabinet resigning after a presidential election so the new head of state can name his team. But in the Holy See, many cardinals expect they'll be asked to stay on in the next papacy, Thavis said. In the curia, which dates back to the Middle Ages, "continuity is an extremely high value."

Meanwhile, Vatican offices will be run by secretaries who handle ordinary, minor duties. All serious or controversial matters await the next pontiff. But decisions that are made are provisional, waiting the new pope's confirmation, says Rev. Thomas Reese, author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics & Organization of the Catholic Church, and an analyst for The National Catholic Reporter.

Only three major officials keep their posts in the period between Benedict's resignation and a successor elected: The vicar of the diocese of Rome who cares for the city's pastoral needs; the major penitentiary who deals with the Holy See's confessional needs so there is always access to forgiveness; and the camerlengo, Bertone, who will deal with property and financial decisions for the Vatican for the time being.

During the period between popes, Bertone will report to the College of Cardinals. But the electors — the cardinals under the age of 80 — are limited in what they can do until they choose a new pope.

As of Thursday, there were 117 cardinals eligible to vote but only 115 are expected in Rome. An Indonesian cardinal is too ill to travel and Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien, embroiled in allegations of misconduct with men in the 1980s, said Monday he will not come to vote.

Between now and the secret conclave, Rome is slowly filling with cardinals shmoozing with each other about what the church needs most in a new vicar of Christ and who is the ultimate papabile — Italian for someone with the qualities of a pope.

Whomever wins should react with both surprise and humility: Public campaigning for the post has been strictly forbidden since the Fifth Century. Italian cardinals and those who serve in the curia have "home field advantage," Reese says. They can host private dinners in their apartments, out of the public eye.

On the eve of the conclave, the electors will move into a special Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, with 105 two-room suites and 26 single rooms built in 1996.

They can't move in now because room assignments will be made by drawing lots, Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi says. And besides, the rooms aren't ready. They're being aired out, cleaned and swept for communications bugs — a routine procedure, he said.

Once inside the Sistine Chapel, there will be no outside communications. In the age of Twitter, the world will still have to wait for white smoke and the sounding of the biggest bell at St. Peter's Basilica, to find out who is the new pope.

His Holiness Benedict XVI Roman Pontiff Emeritus will rest at Castel Gandolfo, the papal retreat, when someone new assumes the title of His Holiness the Pope and 10 more — Bishop of Rome; Vicar of Jesus Christ; successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, and Servant of the Servants of God.

For now, the busiest people in Rome may be the tailors at Gammarelli ecclesiastical tailoring shop. They're stitching up the vestments for the new pope in small, medium and large sizes so that whoever is chosen will fit right in.


A Mayoral Campaign Fueled by the Religious, Conservative Wing of the NYC Democratic Party

As the old saying goes, politics makes strange bedfellows, and that is certainly true in this year’s mayoral election. One dark-horse candidate is being backed by an alliance made from an odd coupling of religious Jews and Evangelical Christian Latinos to support his socially conservative yet resolutely Democratic agenda. In a city—and a mayoral race—where even Republicans tend to be socially liberal, a religious, right-wing Democrat is certainly a novelty. But Pastor Erick Salgado would like to be more than that. Mr. Salgado, who lives in Staten Island and claims his Iglesia Jovenes Cristianos, or Churdch of the Young Christians, now has “around twenty” congregations “in the New York area,” said Jews and Christians with conservative religious beliefs have been denied “the respect that they deserve” from the city’s dominant political party.

“We are Democrats; we don’t want to do this in another party, we want to do this here in this one,” he explained to Politicker when we spoke with him last week in a small campaign office a few blocks from one of his churches in Bath Beach READ MORE


UW-L professor questions effectiveness of 'sin taxes'

Erik Daily
Laci Wolter, manager at Holy Smokes on Rose Street, arranges liquor bottles on a shelf at the store. Despite promises from politicians that "sin taxes", like those on booze and cigarettes, can prevent use and offer a new pool of money for health programs, that's not necessarily true, said Adam Hoffer, assistant professor of economics for UW-L.

February 26, 2013 12:00 am • By PATRICK B. ANDERSON |

Adam Hoffer knows people who question so-called sin taxes can be stigmatized as “crazy radicals that don’t know what they’re talking about.”

But taxing booze, cigarettes and soft drinks isn’t always a great idea, says the assistant professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Hoffer co-wrote a column this month for U.S. News and World Report that raises doubts about the effectiveness of taxing tobacco and alcohol.

Such taxes heap more costs on low-income families without significantly deterring unhealthy behavior, Hoffer said.

Most of the money raised doesn’t go to health or prevention programs. Instead, Hoffer said, it gets lost in the shuffle of public funding.

“The policy makers in Madison have an idea of how much they want to spend on health care, regardless,” Hoffer said.

However, members of a Wisconsin anti-tobacco group say higher cigarette taxes have, in fact, curbed smoking, and they’re pushing for a similar increase for all tobacco products.

In the past six years, Wisconsin’s cigarette tax more than tripled, from 77 cents a pack to $2.52. Combine that with $1.01 for the federal government, and taxes account for well over half the retail price.

Politically safe ground

Hoffer started studying cigarette taxes as part of his doctoral dissertation at West Virginia University. His column points out a growing trend of lawmakers taxing unhealthy behaviors — expanding excise taxes to products such as candy and soft drinks.

Politicians look to sin taxes as a safe way to raise money without upsetting voters, Hoffer said. “You will see pitch forks and torches if some states try to increase their income tax or their sales tax.”

Taxing sin paints a rosier picture, he said: Hike the price on cigarettes to deter smokers, then funnel the money into health care and tobacco-prevention programs.

The problem is that sin taxes don’t always work as promised, Hoffer said. Nationally, about 20 cents of every dollar raised in cigarette taxes goes to the earmarked purposes.

Wisconsin’s cigarette tax goes into the state’s general fund, along with all excise taxes. Taxing cigarettes raised $587.8 million alone for the state in 2012. Less than 1 percent of tobacco taxes are spent on prevention programs.

“Lawmakers don’t want to label sources of money,” said Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers’ Alliance.

‘An arms race’

Money the state raised from the cigarette tax jumped by about $93 million when lawmakers last raised the rate in 2009, but three years later it had dropped by about $56.5 million. Cigarette sales are on a steady decline.

“Especially among youth,” said Laura Smith, a spokeswoman for Health First Wisconsin. “It’s definitely one of the most effective ways to lower smoking rates.”

The share of high school students who smoke dropped from 20.7 percent in 2008 to 13.1 percent in 2012, according to the Wisconsin Youth Tobacco Survey.

Health First is asking state lawmakers to tax other tobacco products like cigarettes, hoping higher taxes will lead to a similar drop. The group tried unsuccessfully to have Gov. Scott Walker include the measure in his 2013-15 budget proposal, and is asking other state lawmakers for help.

Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, said he would support such a plan. Tobacco companies roll out cigarette alternatives, and, because taxes are lower on the new products, people make the switch, Danou said.

“It’s an arms race,” Danou said.

Not a deterrent

Cigarette taxes may be a steady source of government revenue, but Berry said there’s little financial benefit in raising taxes on other vices.

For instance, the state raised about $9.2 million in 2012 from the excise tax on beer. Wisconsin taxes brewers and importers about 6.5 cents per gallon on beer sold in the state.

Even doubling that would pale compared to the $11 billion from income and sales taxes, Berry said.

“There’s not a lot of money in beer, wine and liquor,” Berry said.

That hasn’t stopped lawmakers in other states from taxing a whole new category of unhealthy products, including candy and soft drinks.

The soft drink industry spent $57 million on lobbying efforts in 2009, and “there’s a small army being raised to fight the 32-ounce soft drink ban in New York City,” Hoffer said.

Despite claims otherwise, most people paying sin taxes are not easily deterred by higher prices, Hoffer said.

“Whenever their price goes up, people hardly change their consumption whatsoever,” Hoffer said.

Higher taxes correlate to falling cigarette sales in Wisconsin, but the drop didn’t happen in a vacuum. There’s the 2010 law that prohibited smoking in bars and restaurants, and there’s also out-of-state competition. The cigarette tax is lower per pack in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

Meanwhile, Hoffer argues that increasing excise taxes disproportionately affects low-income residents, who are more likely to smoke and more likely to be overweight or obese.

“We’re taking away from the people’s ability to spend more on healthy food,” he said.


Report: Official Involved In Release of Immigrants Retired, Didn't Resign

Elise Foley

Gary Mead Retired, Did Not Resign, Immigration And Customs Enforcement Says

Posted: 02/27/2013 4:46 pm EST | Updated: 02/27/2013 6:58 pm EST

WASHINGTON -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials insisted on Wednesday that there was no connection between the retirement of Enforcement and Removal Operations Director Gary Mead and the release earlier this week of hundreds of undocumented immigrants from detention.

The Associated Press reported earlier Wednesday that Mead announced his resignation in an email on Tuesday, "hours after U.S. officials had confirmed that a few hundred illegal immigrants facing deportation had been released from immigration jails due to budget cuts." The report does not say outright that the two items were related, but it has been interpreted as such by some observers.

ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said Mead had announced his plans to retire "several weeks ago" to senior leadership at the agency. Mead will retire at the end of April, she said in a statement.

"The Associated Press’ report is inaccurate and misleading," she said.

The agency on Monday released "several hundred" immigrant detainees who were deemed low priority, either because they were non-criminals or low-level offenders. The move did not free them from deportation; all will stay in the removal process and could be deported based on the decision of an immigration judge. ICE cited looming budget cuts in its announcement that some immigrants had been released.

White House spokesman Jay Carney sought to distance the administration from the move to release the detainees, saying on Wednesday that the decision came from ICE.

UPDATE: 5:20 p.m. -- The Associated Press later tweeted a correction to its original report that Mead had quit:

The Associated Press ✔ @AP

CORRECTION: Homeland Security official retires after illegal immigrants freed: (previous tweet said he quit)

5 Psych Disorders Have Common Genetics

General PsychiatryLatest News| Videos

By Michael Smith, North American Correspondent, MedPage Today
Published: February 27, 2013

Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

For best viewing, click the bottom right corner for full screen.

Action Points
  • The findings in this study show that specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms are associated with a range of psychiatric disorders of childhood onset or adult onset.
  • In particular, variation in calcium-channel signalling genes seems to play a role in five psychiatric disorders.

Autism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia share common genetic underpinnings -- despite differences in symptoms and course of disease, researchers discovered.

In particular, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in two genes involved in calcium-channel activity appear to play a role in all five, Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues reported online in The Lancet.

The findings come from a genome-wide analysis of 33,332 cases and 27,888 controls in what the authors described as the largest-ever genetic study of psychiatric illness.

The results are "new evidence that may inform a move beyond descriptive syndromes in psychiatry and towards classification based on underlying causes," Smoller said in a statement.

The findings are especially important because of revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases, which have "reinvigorated debate about the validity of diagnostic boundaries," the authors noted.

Indeed, the findings confirm previous evidence of "abundant pleiotropy in human complex disorders" – meaning the same genetic variant plays a role in several diseases, argued Alessandro Serretti, MD, PhD, and Chiara Fabbri of the University of Bologna in Italy.

For instance, they noted in an accompanying commentary, calcium signaling, a key regulator of the growth and development of neurons, was expected to be highly pleiotropic, an expectation that "has now been confirmed."

But while some gene variants play a role in many disorders, there are almost certainly others that contribute to the "consistent diversity among disorders," Serretti and Fabbri argued.

"Many genes and polymorphisms are expected to confer a liability to individual psychiatric diseases," they wrote.

Nonetheless, they concluded, one implication of the study is that genetics "can contribute to prediction and prevention of psychiatric diseases, along with the identification of molecular targets for new generations of psychotropic drugs."

But that is not likely to happen soon, according to Randy Ross, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colo.

The study is a "beginning step to give us ideas that will eventually lead to new treatments," he toldMedPage Today.

In the long run, however, this study and subsequent research will change both diagnosis and treatment, Ross said, as psychiatric diseases are put on a biological footing.

The researchers found that SNPs (single-letter changes in the genetic code) in four regions were associated with all five disorders: two on chromosome 10, including the L-type voltage-gated calcium-channel subunit CACNB2, one on chromosome 3, and another calcium-channel subunit,CACNA1C, on chromosome 12.

The statistical significance of all four surpassed the cutoff for genome-wide significance ofP<5x10-8 and="" br="" colleagues="" reported.="" smoller="">
The calcium-channel gene CACNA1C has been previously linked to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder, they wrote, as well as to Timothy syndrome, a developmental disorder that can include autism.

The other calcium-channel gene has been linked to bipolar disorder in people of Han Chinese ethnicity, they added.

"Our results suggest that voltage-gated calcium signaling, and, more broadly, calcium-channel activity, could be an important biological process in psychiatric disorders," they argued.

The region on chromosome 3 includes more than 30 genes, Smoller and colleagues noted, but previous research has linked SNPs in the area to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression.

They cautioned that they compared models of cross-disorder effects with widely used goodness-of-fit measures, but different criteria might yield other results.

They also noted that diagnostic misclassification in the study cohort might produce "spurious evidence of genetic overlap between disorders," although such errors would have to be widespread to affect the results.

Another limitation: the members of the study cohort were of European ancestry, so it's not known if the findings apply to other populations.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as grants from the NIH, government grants from other countries, and private and foundation support.
The authors declared they had no conflicts.
The comment authors declared they had no conflicts.

Primary source: Lancet
Source reference:
Smoller JW, et al "Identification of risk loci with shared effects on five major psychiatric disorders: a genome-wide analysis" Lancet 2013; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)62129-1.

Additional source: Lancet
Source reference:
Alessandro Serretti, Chiara Fabbri "Shared genetics among major psychiatric disorders" Lancet 2013; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60223-8.


Woodward: White House Warned Me "You Will Regret Doing This"

Bob Woodward: 'Obama administration threatened me over budget assessments'


Published on Feb 27, 2013

Journalist Bob Woodward says President Obama's administration threatened him over his budget assessments. For more CNN videos, visit our site at 

...... .....

Jacob J. Lew Confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury

Jacob Joseph "JackLew (born August 29, 1955) is an American government administrator and attorney who is the 75th and current United States Secretary of the Treasury, serving since 2013. He served as the 25th White House Chief of Staff from 2012 to 2013. Lew previously served as Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton and Obama Administrations, and is a member of the Democratic Party.
Born in New York CityNew York, Lew received his A.B. from Harvard College and his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. Lew began his career as a legislative assistant to Representative Joe Moakley and as a senior policy adviser to former House Speaker Tip O'Neill. Lew then worked as an attorney in private practice before working as a deputy in Boston's office of management and budget. In 1993, he began work for the Clinton Administration as Special Assistant to the President. In 1994 Lew served as Associate Director for Legislative Affairs and Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, where he served as Director of that agency from 1998 to 2001 and from 2010 to 2012. After leaving the Clinton Administration, Lew worked as the Executive Vice President for Operations at New York University from 2001 to 2006, and as the COO at Citigroupfrom 2006 to 2008. Lew then served as the first Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, from 2009 to 2010.
On January 10, 2013, Lew was nominated as the replacement for retiring Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, to serve in President Barack Obama's second term.[2] On February 27, 2013, the Senate confirmed Lew for the position.


Have no fellowship

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Ephesians 5:11


Death for Preaching Christ in ‘Liberated’ Libya

February 22, 2013 By Raymond Ibrahim

Four foreign Christians—including one who holds American-Swedish citizenship—were arrested days ago in Libya. According to the Guardian, their crime is arousing “suspicion of being missionaries and distributing Christian literature, a charge that could carry the death penalty.”

Apparently the four Christians had “contracted a local printer to produce pamphlets explaining Christianity.” Proselytizing to Muslims—that is, preaching to them another religion—was banned even under the late Col. Muammar Gaddafi.

Libyans—strongly supported by U.S. President Obama in the name of “freedom”—got rid of Gaddafi but kept the distinctly anti-freedom law.

Discussing this case, Libyan security official Hussein Bin Hmeid, trying to justify the Islamic ban on free speech, observes: “Proselytizing is forbidden in Libya. We are a 100% Muslim country and this kind of action affects our national security.” Indeed, Muslim governments—most notably Iran’s—constantly suppress any talk of Christianity, claiming it threatens “our national security.” Such is the tribal mentality of Islam which everywhere declares: If you’re not one of us, you must be an enemy trying to subvert our way of life.

Is the flipside of this prevalent mentality also true—that if Muslims are not one of us, they must be trying to subvert our way of life?

Nor should the arrested Christians expect much sympathy from more “moderate” Libyans. According to Benghazi lawyer and “human rights activist” Bilal Bettamer, Christians should not offend Muslims by trying to share their faith: “It is disrespectful. If we had Christianity we could have dialogue, but you can’t just spread Christianity. The maximum penalty is the death penalty. It’s a dangerous thing to do.”

Indeed, like “blasphemy”—whether in the guise of Muhammad cartoons or movies—proselytizing to Muslims is one of the many forms of free speech to be specifically banned by Islamic Sharia. According to Muslim tradition, this ban goes back to the second “righteous” caliph, the 7th century Omar. After conquering a group of Christians, he stipulated any number of humiliating conditions for them to live by, including:

Not to produce a cross or [Christian] book in the markets of the Muslims….

Not to display any signs of polytheism, nor make our religion appealing, nor call or proselytize anyone to it.

As Muslims continue turning to Islam—all to Western praise and encouragement—expect the things of Islam to continue returning in big ways.

The Guardian report adds: “Libya, a conservative Muslim country, has no known Christian minority, and churches, the preserve of foreign residents, have seen few of the attacks seen in Egypt and Tunisia, where there have been church burnings.”

The Guardian reporter may have wanted to point out that, less than two months ago, on Sunday, December 30, an explosion rocked a Coptic Christian church near the western city of Misrata, in the very place where U.S. backed rebels hold a major checkpoint. The explosion killed two people and wounded two others.

And even though it is true that there are few church attacks in Libya, that is simply because there are few churches to attack in the first place—not because of some Libyan “tolerance” to churches. After all, one never hears of church attacks in Saudi Arabia. Yet that is not because Saudis are “tolerant,” but rather because they have nipped the church problem in the bud by not allowing a single church to exist on Saudi soil. Hence, no churches for Muslim mobs to attack, bomb or burn. Conversely, where there is a large Christian population, such as in Nigeria, which is roughly half Christian, Muslims are bombing churches on practically a weekly basis.

Finally, there is the rewriting of history that is foisted by Muslims everywhere, not to mention ignorant Westerners, as exemplified in this report. All of those quoted—including the writer—seem to think that Libya was born a Muslim country. Hence, in the words of Libyan “human rights” activist Bilal Bettamer, “you can’t just spread Christianity.”

What, then, do we do with real history? The fact is, although Libya is today practically entirely Muslim, it certainly wasn’t always so. In fact, before the 7thcentury Islamic invasions, Libya was predominantly Christian. The fact that Libya’s immediate neighbors to the west and east, Algeria and Egypt, were backbones of early Christianity—giving the world giants of theology like St. Augustine and St. Athanasius, to name but a few—certainly suggests that Libya was mostly a Christian nation, excluding some Berber tribes.

Yet Islam came and killed and converted them all to itself. And now, to keep them in line, it will kill any who try to proclaim a different message, especially the message of their conquered forefathers.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

'Behind The Scenes' At The Vatican: The Politics Of Picking A New Pope

Viking/Penguin Group
In his new book, The Vatican Diaries, John Thavis draws on his nearly 30 years of reporting on the Vatican.

John Thavis covered the Vatican from Rome for nearly 30 years while working for the Catholic News Service. In his new book, The Vatican Diaries, he describes a place much less organized and hierarchical than the public imagines.

Coming Up: Vatican correspondent John Thavis on Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, and his new book The Vatican Diaries, Wednesday on NPR's Fresh Air.


Saudi Arabia Continues Crackdown on Private Christian Worship

Monday, 25 February 2013 17:33

Written by Dave Bohon

Officials in Saudi Arabia are notorious for their intolerance of outsiders observing the Christian faith within Saudi borders, and on February 8 the country's religious police re-enforced that reputation when they arrested 53 Ethiopian Christians involved in a private prayer service in the Saudi city of Dammam, shutting down the service and hauling the believers off to jail.

According to the World Evangelism Alliance, a total of 46 women and six men were arrested in the raid, and three of the Christians, identified as leaders of the private house church, were charged with trying to convert Muslims to the Christian faith.

In December 2011, the Saudi religious police, known as the mutaween, arrested 35 Ethiopian Christians, 29 of them women, on charges of “illicit mingling” after the authorities raided a private prayer meeting in Jeddah. According to Human Rights Watch, some of the Christians were tortured, and the women were subjected to arbitrary body cavity searches.

In September 2012, a Saudi Arabian girl who converted to Christianity fled to Dammam, a Saudi center for petroleum and natural gas production and a major seaport. The girl was eventually granted asylum in Sweden last month, according to Dammam's Al-Yaum newspaper.

In its 2012 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) noted that Saudi Arabia continues to oppress non-Muslim religious observers, with Christians taking a big share of the abuse. “The Saudi government persists in banning all forms of public religious expression other than that of the government's own interpretation of one school of Sunni Islam,” said the report. It also “prohibits churches, synagogues, temples, and other non-Muslim places of worship; uses in its schools and posts online state textbooks that continue to espouse intolerance and incite violence; and periodically interferes with private religious practice.”

The strict form of Sunni Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia is Wahhabism, which has been tied to many of the most notorious acts of terrorism across the Earth. Nineteen of the terrorists tied to the deadly 9/11 attacks in the United States were Wahhabi Muslims from Saudi Arabia.

Said the USCIRF report: “More than 10 years since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the Saudi government has failed to implement a number of promised reforms related to promoting freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief.”

The report called Saudi Arabia a “country of particular concern” for its crackdown on religious freedom, linking it with such oppressive regimes as Iran, North Korea, China, and Sudan.

Dwight Bashir, the USCIRF's deputy director for policy, said that the crackdowns by the mutaween are coming even as the Saudi government does lip service to religious freedom. “During an official USCIRF visit to the Kingdom earlier this month,” recalled Bashir, “Saudi officials reiterated the government's long-standing policy that members of the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice, also known as the religious police, should not interfere in private worship.” Nonetheless, Bashir reported, “the past year has seen an uptick of reports that private religious gatherings have been raided, resulting in arrests, harassment, and deportations of foreign expatriate workers.”

Bashir recommended that “the U.S. government and international community should demand that any expatriate worker detained and held without charge for private religious activity in the Kingdom be released immediately.”

Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told that the latest arrests are part of Saudi Arabia's overall policy “to ban non-Muslim houses of worship and actually hunt down Christians in private homes.” Shea said that the nearly total silence on the part of the U.S. government over Saudi religious oppression has much to do with the strategic partnership between the two nations, charging that pressuring the Islamic government to change its behavior “has taken a backseat to oil and the war on terror. The Saudis are playing a double game — cooperating with the war on terror and working against the war on terror campaign.”

At least one U.S. lawmaker has sounded off on the behavior of the American ally. “Nations that wish to be a part of the responsible nations of the world must see the protection of religious freedom and the principles of reason as an essential part of the duty of the state,” said Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), who is a member of the the Caucus on Religious Minorities in the Middle East.

World Evangelism Alliance director Godfrey Yogarajah said his group is monitoring the situation in the Middle Eastern country closely, and called on Saudi officials to treat the latest detained Christians “with dignity and release them immediately as there is apparently no evidence for any offense against them. Arrest of believers for peacefully gathering for worship goes against the spirit of Saudi Arabia's promotion of inter-religious dialogue in international fora.”


Google Extends Social Web Reach to Counter Facebook's Rise

Tuesday, 26 Feb 2013 02:47 PM

Google Inc transformed the Internet by cataloging the Web's countless pages. Now it wants to keep better track of the Web's multitude of users.

The Mountain View, California-based company said Tuesday it would begin encouraging websites and mobile apps to accept log-in credentials via Google+, its social network.

The integration with third-party sites and apps, which Google hopes will help it track users as they surf across the Internet, represents the search powerhouse's latest effort to establish a foothold in the all-important social Web arena, and beat back competition from Facebook Inc, the sector leader.

Sites that have so far agreed to accept Google's social sign-in include The Guardian and USA Today's websites, as well as Fancy, the shopping site, and Fitbit, the personal fitness-tracking service and app, Google said in a blog post Tuesday.

Since 2008, Facebook has been able to gather massive troves of information about its users' activities even if they are not on Facebook because many popular apps, such as Spotify's music streaming service, allow users to log in with their Facebook identity, which results in data funneled back to the social network.

In response to Facebook's rise, Google has made its social Web efforts a top priority in recent years. But results have been mixed under the leadership of Chief Executive Larry Page and Vic Gundotra, the influential senior vice president spearheading Google's social networking efforts.

Launched in 2011, Google+ still lags far behind Facebook: it had 100 million monthly active users in December, according to comScore, compared to well over 1 billion for Facebook. But Google officials have downplayed the lukewarm public reception, saying they view Google+ more as an invisible data "backbone" that tracks individual users across its various properties, and less as a consumer Internet destination.

Over the past year the company has made changes to the log-in process at its YouTube subsidiary, for instance, in order to nudge the video site's 800 million users to sign in and leave comments with their Google+ accounts rather than anonymous handles.

Dr. Ben Carson - On Point withTom Ashbrook

February 26, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Dr. Ben Carson

We’re talking to neurosurgeon, Obama health care critic and new darling of the American conservative movement, Dr. Ben Carson.

Dr. Ben Carson (

Dr. Ben Carson is accomplished, conservative, and black. This month he stood up at the National Prayer Breakfast, one seat away from the President, and laid down a big political critique of the Age of Obama.

On taxes, on health care, on political correctness. Time for self-reliance, he said. Within twenty-four hours, the Wall Street Journal headlined its editorial “Ben Carson for President.”

Conservative media threw their arms around the big doctor. He’s still on a roll.

This hour, On Point: Dr. Ben Carson, conservative man of the moment, on America now.

-Tom Ashbrook

Dr. Benjamin Carson, neurosurgeon and the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008. (@realbencarson)


Sergeant Hagel Secretary of Defense

U.S. Army G.I. Chuck Hagel  circa 1967
Photo (Courtesy:

Senate Confirms Hagel

It's official Senator Chuck Hagel is the new Secretary of Defense after an arduous process. This will be the first time in history that an enlisted man fills the top post at the Pentagon. 

Just who is Chuck Hagel?

Secretary of Defense: Who Is Chuck Hagel?

Born October 4, 1946, in North Platte, Nebraska, the son of Betty (née Dunn) and Charles Dean Hagel, he had three brothers, Thomas, Mike, and Jim, until Jim was killed in a car accident at the age of 16. .Chuck Hagel graduated from St. Bonaventure High School (now Scotus Central Catholic High School) in Columbus, Nebraska, in 1964, and the Brown Institute for Radio and Television in 1966. After a stint in the Army, Hagel earned a BA in History at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1971.

Read more



Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Babylon is fallen

And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.

Revelation 14:8

And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

Revelation 18:2


Benedict XVI to Become 'Pope Emeritus'

Benedict XVI to Become 'Emeritus Pope'

Published February 26, 2013

Fox News Latino

An artist dressed as an angel poses for tourists in front of a huge Pope Benedict XVI poster in Cologne, Germany, on Tuesday, Feb.26,2013. The words on top read:'Thanks'. Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28th. The poster is used as advertisement for radio channel 'domradio'. .(AP Photo/Frank Augstein) (AP2013)

They both will wear white. They both will be known as pope. They both will be causing an unholy number of double takes.

Pope Benedict XVI will be known as "emeritus pope" in his retirement and will continue to wear a white cassock, the Vatican announced Tuesday, again fueling concerns about potential conflicts arising from having both a reigning and a retired pope.

The pope's title and what he would wear have been a major source of speculation ever since Benedict stunned the world and announced he would resign on Thursday, the first pontiff to do so in 600 years.

The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Benedict himself had made the decision in consultation with others, settling on "Your Holiness Benedict XVI" and either emeritus pope or emeritus Roman pontiff.

Lombardi said he didn't know why Benedict had decided to drop his other main title: bishop of Rome.

In the two weeks since Benedict's resignation announcement, Vatican officials had suggested that Benedict would likely resume wearing the traditional black garb of a cleric and would use the title "emeritus bishop of Rome" so as to not create confusion with the future pope.

Benedict's decision to call himself emeritus pope and to keep wearing white is sure to fan concern voiced privately by some cardinals about the awkward reality of having two popes, both living within the Vatican walls.

Adding to the concern is that Benedict's trusted secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, will be serving both pontiffs — living with Benedict at the monastery inside the Vatican and keeping his day job as prefect of the new pope's household.

Asked about the potential conflicts, Lombardi was defensive, saying the decisions had been clearly reasoned and were likely chosen for the sake of simplicity.

"I believe it was well thought out," he said.

Benedict himself has made clear he is retiring to a lifetime of prayer and meditation "hidden from the world." However, he still will be very present in the tiny Vatican city-state, where his new home is right next door to the Vatican Radio and has a lovely view of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.

While he will no longer wear his trademark red shoes, Benedict has taken a liking to a pair of hand-crafted brown loafers made for him by artisans in Leon, Mexico, and given to him during his 2012 visit. He will wear those in retirement, Lombardi said.

Lombardi also elaborated on the College of Cardinals meetings that will take place after the papacy becomes vacant — crucial gatherings in which cardinals will discuss the problems facing the church and set a date for the start of the conclave to elect Benedict's successor.

The first meeting isn't now expected until Monday, Lombardi said, since the official convocation to cardinals to come to Rome will only go out on Friday — the first day of what's known as the "sede vacante," or the vacancy between papacies.

In all, 115 cardinals under the age of 80 are expected in Rome for the conclave to vote on who should become the next pope; two other eligible cardinals have already said they are not coming, one from Britain and another from Indonesia. Cardinals who are 80 and older can join the College meetings but won't participate in the conclave or vote.

Benedict on Monday gave the cardinals the go-ahead to move up the start date of the conclave — tossing out the traditional 15-day waiting period. But the cardinals won't actually set a date for the conclave until they begin meeting officially Monday.

Lombardi also further described Benedict's final 48 hours as pope: On Tuesday, he was packing, arranging for documents to be sent to the various archives at the Vatican and separating out the personal papers he will take with him into retirement.

On Wednesday, Benedict will hold his final public general audience in St. Peter's Square — an event that has already seen 50,000 ticket requests. He won't greet visiting prelates or VIPs as he normally does at the end but will greet some visiting leaders — from Slovakia, San Marino, Andorra and his native Bavaria — privately afterwards.

On Thursday, the pope meets with his cardinals in the morning and then flies by helicopter at 5 p.m. to Castel Gandolfo, the papal residence south of Rome. He will greet parishioners there from the palazzo's loggia (balcony) — his final public act as pope.

And at 8 p.m., the exact time at which his retirement becomes official, the Swiss Guards standing outside the doors of the palazzo at Castel Gandolfo will go off duty, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church now finished.

Benedict's personal security will be assured by Vatican police, Lombardi said.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

“The Myth of Persecution”: Early Christians weren’t persecuted

SUNDAY, FEB 24, 2013 04:00 PM EST

The Romans did not target, hunt or massacre Jesus' followers, says a historian of the early church


In the immediate aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre, a modern myth was born. A story went around that one of the two killers asked one of the victims, Cassie Bernall, if she believed in God. Bernall reportedly said “Yes” just before he shot her. Bernall’s mother wrote a memoir, titled “She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall,” a tribute to her daughter’s courageous Christian faith. Then, just as the book was being published, a student who was hiding near Bernall told journalist Dave Cullen that the exchange never happened.

Although Candida Moss’ new book, “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom,” is about the three centuries following the death of Jesus, she makes a point of citing this modern-day parallel. What Bernall truly said and did in the moments before her death absolutely matters, Moss asserts, if we are going to hold her up as a “martyr.” Yet misconceptions and misrepresentations can creep in so soon. The public can get the story wrong even in this highly mediated and thoroughly reported age — and do so despite the presence among us of living eyewitnesses. So what, then, to make of the third-hand, heavily revised, agenda-laden and anachronistic accounts of Christianity’s original martyrs?

Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, challenges some of the most hallowed legends of the religion when she questions what she calls “the Sunday school narrative of a church of martyrs, of Christians huddled in catacombs out of fear, meeting in secret to avoid arrest and mercilessly thrown to lions merely for their religious beliefs.” None of that, she maintains, is true. In the 300 years between the death of Jesus and the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, there were maybe 10 or 12 scattered years during which Christians were singled out for supression by Rome’s imperial authorities, and even then the enforcement of such initiatives was haphazard — lackadaisical in many regions, although harsh in others. “Christians were never,” Moss writes, “the victims of sustained, targeted persecution.”

Much of the middle section of “The Myth of Persecution” is taken up with a close reading of the six “so-called authentic accounts” of the church’s first martyrs. They include Polycarp, a bishop in Smyrna during the second century who was burned at the stake, and Saint Perpetua, a well-born young mother executed in the arena at Carthage with her slave, Felicity, at the beginning of the third century. Moss carefully points out the inconsistencies between these tales and what we know about Roman society, the digs at heresies that didn’t even exist when the martyrs were killed and the references to martyrdom traditions that had yet to be established. There’s surely some kernel of truth to these stories, she explains, as well as to the first substantive history of the church written in 311 by a Palestinian named Eusebius. It’s just that it’s impossible to sort the truth from the colorful inventions, the ax-grinding and the attempts to reinforce the orthodoxies of a later age.

Moss also examines surviving Roman records. She notes that during the only concerted anti-Christian Roman campaign, under the emperor Diocletian between 303 and 306, Christians were expelled from public offices. Their churches, such as the one in Nicomedia, across the street from the imperial palace, were destroyed. Yet, as Moss points out, if the Christians were holding high offices in the first place and had built their church “in the emperor’s own front yard,” they could hardly have been in hiding away in catacombs before Diocletian issued his edicts against them.

This is not to deny that some Christians were executed in horrible ways under conditions we’d consider grotesquely unjust. But it’s important, Moss explains, to distinguish between “persecution” and “prosecution.” The Romans had no desire to support a prison population, so capital punishment was common for many seemingly minor offenses; you could be sentenced to be beaten to death for writing a slanderous song. Moss distinguishes between those cases in which Christians were prosecuted simply for being Christians and those in which they were condemned for engaging in what the Romans considered subversive or treasonous activity. Given the “everyday ideals and social structures” the Romans regarded as essential to the empire, such transgressions might include publicly denying the divine status of the emperor, rejecting military service or refusing to accept the authority of a court. In one of her most fascinating chapters, Moss tries to explain how baffling and annoying the Romans (for whom “pacifism didn’t exist as a concept”) found the Christians — when the Romans thought about them at all.

Christians wound up in Roman courts for any number of reasons, but when they got there, they were prone to announcing, as a believer named Liberian once did, “that he cannot be respectful to the emperor, that he can be respectful only to Christ.” Moss compares this to “modern defendants who say that they will not recognize the authority of the court or of the government, but recognize only the authority of God. For modern Americans, as for ancient Romans, this sounds either sinister or vaguely insane.” It didn’t help that early Christians developed a passion for martyrdom. Suffering demonstrated both the piety of the martyr and the authenticity of the religion itself, and besides, it earned you an immediate, first-class seat in heaven. (Ordinary Christians had to wait for Judgment Day.) There were reports of fanatics deliberately seeking out the opportunity to die for their faith, including a mob that turned up at the door of a Roman official in Asia Minor, demanding to be martyred, only to be turned away when he couldn’t be bothered to oblige them.

Moss cannot be called a natural or fluent writer, but she is thorough, strives for clarity and is genuinely fired up in her concern for the influence of the myth of martyrdom on Western societies. “The idea of the persecuted church is almost entirely the invention of the 4th century and later,” she writes. This was, significantly, a period during which the church had become “politically secure,” thanks to Constantine. Yet, instead of providing a truthful account of Christianity’s early years, the scholars and clerics of the fourth century cranked out tales of horrific, systemic violence. These stories were subtly (and not so subtly) used as propaganda against heretical ideas or sects. They also made appealingly gruesome entertainment for believers who were, personally, fairly safe; Moss likens this to contemporary suburbanites reveling in a horror film.

Today, polemicists continue to use the deeply ingrained belief in a persecuted — and therefore morally righteous — church as a political club to demonize their opponents. Moss sees a direct link between the valorization of martyrs and preposterous right-wing rhetoric about the “war on Christianity.” It’s a tactic that makes compromise impossible. “You cannot collaborate with someone who is persecuting you,” Moss astutely points out. “You have to defend yourself.”

Where she is less shrewd is in her belief that by exposing the “false history of persecution,” we can somehow purge this paranoid approach to political differences. One of the most enlightening aspects of “The Myth of Persecution” is Moss’ ability to find contemporary analogies that make the ancient world more intelligible to the average reader, such as the Cassie Bernall story. But that story has an additional lesson to offer, about the true believer’s imperviousness to unpalatable facts. Bernall’s family and church are unmoved by the schoolmates who were present at the shooting and who have debunked the “She said yes” legend. “You can say it didn’t happen that way,” the Bernalls’ pastor told one reporter, “but the church won’t accept it. To the church, Cassie will always say yes, period.”

Laura Miller

Laura Miller is a senior writer for Salon. She is the author of "The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia" and has a Web site,


Pope Benedict leaves amid a holy mess at the Vatican

Eric J. Lyman and Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY12:20a.m. EST February 26, 2013

Blunders, scandals and mismanagement are said to plague the Vatican, leaving the Catholic Church's next pope a challenge for the ages.

(Photo: AP)

A Scottish cardinal, denying allegations of 'inappropriate behavior' in British media, won't attend conclave
Some observers say church needs to modernize
Others see it returning to its roots and choosing an Italian successor to Benedict

VATICAN CITY — When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took the name Benedict XVI upon becoming pope, it was a nod to sixth-century St. Benedict of Nursia, who had lived for several years in a cave in Italy.

As Pope Benedict prepares to end his papacy this week, his critics say the challenges he'll leave to his successor are the result of him living in a cave of his own.

STORY: Pope changes conclave rules, allows earlier start

WATCH: Pope delivers final address

Benedict's intellect and successful role as a spiritual leader for the world's 1.1 billion Catholics is not in doubt, say Vatican experts and observers. But recent blunders and the poor handling of festering scandals indicate Benedict may have been far too immersed in scholarship and theology over his nearly eight-year tenure when what the church needed was a CEO.

"There was a time when the pope was a kind of king, and then, more recently, a spiritual leader," said Alistair Sear, a church historian in Rome. "Perhaps now we will see an age of the pope first and foremost as an administrator."

Just two weeks ago, Benedict, soon to turn 86, announced that he would be the first pope in 600 years to resign. In doing so, he departs a multibillion-dollar institution with hundreds of thousands of employees and a vast global network. Yet the Vatican has struggled through public relations crises over financial ineptitude, criminal allegations, bureaucratic fumbling and age-old interdepartmental conflicts.

Pope Benedict XVI leads the Ash Wednesday service at the St. Peter's Basilica on Feb.13.(Photo: Franco Origlia, Getty Images)

Among the latest developments challenging the church, and awaiting the next pontiff:

On Monday, Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien said he would not attend the March conclave to elect Benedict's successor as he denied charges of "inappropriate behavior" with priests. Benedict accepted O'Brien's resignation, though the Vatican said it was because the cardinal was nearing the retirement age of 75 and not because of the allegations in the British press.

On Friday, a German financier was named the new head of the scandal-plagued Vatican Bank, nine months after former president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was ousted by the bank's board. The bank has been under investigation for years on allegations of money laundering, and on Jan. 1 Italy's central bank said it would no longer process ATM transactions on Vatican grounds.

Last week, Italian newspaper La Repubblica said unnamed sources leaked a secret Vatican report that among other things discussed a sex ring among gay priests in Rome. The Vatican denied the claim, but the report remains confidential. The Vatican confirmed that Benedict on Monday met with three cardinals about the report, but the press office said the contents would be sealed until the next pope is named. During the meeting, Benedict acknowledged that the investigation revealed the "limitations and imperfections" introduced by the "human factor" in "every institution."

The pope recently pardoned his personal butler, who was convicted of theft of papal documents by a Vatican tribunal in October and sentenced to serve 18 months in the Vatican police barracks. Paolo Gabriele, 46, said he gave the documents to an Italian journalist because he thought Benedict wasn't being informed of the "evil and corruption" in the Vatican and wanted it exposed.

Robert Mickens, the longtime Rome correspondent for The Tablet, a United Kingdom-based Catholic newspaper, sees many of the scandals and bureaucratic flubs as indications that the church must modernize itself.

"The church as it exists today is anachronistic," he said. "It's an absolute monarchy in the 21st century, with a bureaucracy with roots that date back to the fourth or fifth century. It must be thoroughly reformed."

Not only do the matters threaten to darken Benedict's legacy, but they dramatically increase the difficulties facing his successor.

"The recent spate of problems is going to leave the next pope with the greatest challenges since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council," Mickens said, referring to the three-year process undertaken in the mid-60s to update the way the church related to the world.

Today's Catholic Church

On Thursday at twilight, Pope Benedict XVI will board a helicopter and fly off into retirement, the first pope in centuries to relinquish the position. Within days, the cardinals of the church will huddle in the Sistine Chapel to search their own ranks for a successor in what is known as a conclave.

Benedict has dropped small hints about his successor, referring to the spiritual crisis in Europe and the need for the next pontiff to be "vigorous." But Andrea Monda, an author and frequent commentator on church affairs, said it is a mistake to think cardinals will elect a successor to Benedict based on the candidate's nationality or age.

"I think they will look at the man," Monda said. "There are all these challenges and issues, but I think when the cardinals pray about who to vote for they will consider the man and whether he is right for the job and not on some external factor and whatever message that might send."

Experts are split on how the recent developments will influence the conclave, which could start between a week and three weeks after Benedict leaves the Vatican for nearby Castel Gandolfo, home to the papal summer residence.

Before Polish native John Paul II was elected, and followed by the Bavarian Benedict, the previous 45 popes dating to Adrian VI in 1522 were Italians. Some experts suggest the church would benefit from a return to its roots.

Mickens says the Italians might be better equipped to overhaul the church's administrative apparatus, known as the powerful Roman curia, which was relatively unsupervised under Benedict. Italians dominate the curia in terms of membership numbers, and its administrative style, language and decision-making process is decidedly Italian.

"The curia can reflect the best and worst aspects of Italy, and there is a belief that it could take an Italian to understand it and reform it," Mickens says.

'Venting and vetting'

Thomas Wenski, the archbishop of Miami, insists that the 2,000-year-old church is "not a fossilized relic" and that some contemporary efficiency, maybe a few MBAs on board, wouldn't hurt.

David Gibson, author of a biography of Benedict and Vatican specialist for Religion News Service, says the Vatican appears to be in chaos, and the church crumbling, "because it's a rare time when no one is in charge."

Yet Gibson says the unusual transition might just be a blessing. Normally a pope dies in office and the cardinals have a long to-do list of funeral activities and mourning before they turn to choosing a successor. Now, however, "suddenly the pope is on his way out and people are freer to say things they couldn't say before. This is a time of open liberty to talk about where the church needs to go. It's a time of venting and vetting."

"It's high season for reporting chaos," says Terrence Tilley, chairman of the theology department for Fordham University in New York. "There have always been rumors about money, power and sex in the Vatican. The question is not whether but how much. There's a lot of smoke, right now. Is there a spark? Yes. If it's a fire, is it a small campfire or a five-alarm conflagration? No one knows."

The media, especially European newspapers, have often been accused by the church of fomenting scandal where it does not exist and giving voice to anonymous church-haters or clerics with axes to grind.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a political scientist and senior fellow with the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, discounts the Italian media reports as no more credible than unedited blogs. "Where's the beef? Where are the facts?"

Some Catholics, however, say the weight of recent scandals is simply too much.

"I left the church today," says real estate adviser Daniela Heimbach, 36, a native of the Bavarian city of Augsburg, in Benedict's native Germany. "I can no longer support it because of all the issues. The church is not a modern institution."

Italian Catholics say they are similarly disheartened. "I want to focus on my relationship with God, but these problems keep barging in," says Anna Maria Benevento, 51, a paralegal.

Back in the USA, one Iowa Catholic, when asked about the church, said it will weather this storm as it has others.

"I don't blame the media. This is news," says Billy Shears, 57, Iowa Catholic Radio program director in Des Moines. But "this is an institution that has survived the centuries."

Contributing: Jennifer Collins in Berlin; Jose Manuel Krogstad, The Des Moines Register. Grossman reported from McLean, Va.



Jesuits Reestablished in 1814

August 7, 2009 By patmcnamara

On this day in 1814, Pope Pius VII issued the papal bull Solicitudo omnium ecclesiarum, which reestablished the Society of Jesus on a worldwide basis. Back in 1773, Pope Clement XIV, bowing to political pressure from Europe’s Catholic monarchs, dissolved the Jesuits. However, the order stayed alive in Prussia and Russia thanks to Frederick the Great and Catherine the Great, who allowed the Jesuits to operate in their boundaries. Both monarchs contended that the Jesuits provided a public service through their schools, and since they weren’t Catholic, the decree didn’t apply to them. (Seen above is Fordham’s Jesuit community in 1859.)


Monday, February 25, 2013

Hillary Clinton Is Making More Money Than Her Husband


Study: Plant-Based Diets With Nuts And Virgin Olive Oil Can Reduce Risk Of Heart Disease By 30%

Monday, February 25, 2013

Landmark study released at International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition held at Loma Linda University Health.

“This study is a prime example of the type of international research being shared at this conference of 800 academics, researchers, dieticians and others dedicated to advancing research about the benefits of plant-based diets,” says Dr. Joan Sabaté.

(PRWEB) February 25, 2013

People who eat a plant-based Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts or virgin olive oil can enjoy long-term benefits that can include a 30 percent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a landmark global study released today at the sixth International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition hosted by Loma Linda University Health.

The study, to appear in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved 7,447 individuals (55-80 years old) at high risk of cardiovascular disease but with no symptoms.

The results favor two Mediterranean diets (one supplemented with nuts, the other with virgin olive oil) over a low-fat diet for beneficial effects on intermediate outcomes that include body weight, blood pressure, insulin resistance, blood lipids, lipid oxidation and systemic inflammation.

The study, called “PREDIMED” for “PREvención con Dieta MEDiterránea” (Prevention with Mediterranean Diet) began in 2003 and was completed in 2011. Participants were followed for an average of 4.8 years.

“The aim of PREDIMED was to determine whether a plant-based Mediterranean diet, supplemented with either tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts or virgin olive oil, when compared to a low-fat diet, can help prevent cardiovascular diseases such as cardiovascular death, heart attack and stroke,” said Dr. Miguel Angel Martinez of the University of Navarra, Spain, a lead investigator of the study, which was released simultaneously in Loma Linda and Spain.

“What we found was that a Mediterranean diet offers a preventive efficacy that was also assessed on secondary variables, including death from all causes, and incidence of diabetes and metabolic syndrome,” added Martinez, a physician, epidemiologist and nutrition researcher.

The Mediterranean diet is a pattern of eating similar to the traditional dietary habits of people living in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, whole grains and nutritious fats, including walnuts and olive oil.

PREDIMED is a parallel group, multi-center, single-blind, randomized clinical trial conducted by 16 research groups in seven communities in Spain. Participants were given dietetic support and quarterly education sessions to ensure compliance. Energy intake was not specifically restricted in any intervention group. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups:

Low-fat diet (control group)
Mediterranean diet supplemented with virgin olive oil (50 ml per day); or
Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30 g mixed nuts per day (15 g walnuts, 7.5 g almonds and 7.5 g hazelnuts).

“This study is a prime example of the type of international research being shared at this conference of 800 academics, researchers, dieticians and others dedicated to advancing research about the benefits of plant-based diets,” said Dr. Joan Sabaté, chair of the International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition at Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health.

Sabaté served as principal investigator in a nutrition research study that directly linked the consumption of walnuts to significant reductions in serum cholesterol. His findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993.

“Twenty years ago we released a study showing the health benefits of nuts,” Sabaté said. “Now, the results of a trial, also released at Loma Linda, further demonstrate that a plant-based diet, infused with nutritious unrefined plant fats, can have long-lasting effects for heart health and a productive and a productive life.”

The Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition, held every five years, also features the release of research on such topics as the link between diet and longevity, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and how vegetarian diets can reduce weight.

For details, please visit or
Complete information on the Congress, including abstracts of the presentations, can be found at