Ebola Crisis Worsens, Gaza Talks Continue, Fighting Continues in Ukraine, Russia Retaliates Against Sanctions, Islamic State Pushes through Iraq and War Crime Charges for Former Cambodian Leaders

Debt Crisis, Third World andhttps://i2.wp.com/ingrid19thcenturyhumanities.weebly.com/uploads/5/3/1/1/5311173/6414099.pnghttps://i1.wp.com/www.world-crisis.com/images/uploads//Gazabama.jpgOn Wednesday, President Barack Obama called on African leaders to attack the health crisis, security challenges and government corruption that has crippled the continents economic advancement as he concluded the White House African Summit, the Associated Press reported, Obama, African Leaders Confront Continent’s Crises. Also in attendance was former President George W. Bush who launched a $15 billion HIV/AIDS initiative while in office and made public health issues in Africa a priority since leaving office. Bush’s institute partnered with first lady Michelle Obama to host a daylong event for the African leaders’ spouses. Bush, who lives in Dallas, said: “There’s not many things that convince me to come back to Washington. The first lady’s summit, of course, is one.” While Bush has his African legacy in his initiative, Obama has been trying to build his own and the U.S. African summit is seen as a symbol of that start as he brought 50 countries together for three days of talks. Moving away from humanitarian aid, Obama announced $33 billion in new U.S. commitment to bolster investments in Africa fr0m the private sector. According to the Associated Press: “African nations are still struggling with the HIV epidemic, malaria, and the current outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus. Government corruption remains a persistent problem. And a surge in violent extremism, particularly in North Africa and the Sahel region, has sparked international concern.” Obama added: “Today we can focus on how we can continue to strengthen Africa’s capacity to meet transitional threats and in so doing make all of our nations more secure.” During the private security session, leaders were expected to talk about Boko Haram, the Violent Islamic group that kidnapped 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria earlier this year. Meanwhile, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Bush, who hosted an event last summer in Tanzania, met with the African first ladies to talk about investments in education, health and economic development.

Meanwhile, back in Western Africa, on Tuesday global health experts stated that the Ebola outbreak is “out of control” and the international community has no organized plan to address it, Kathlenn Miles reports, Health Expert: ‘No Strategic Plan’ For Controlling Ebola Outbreak. Laurie Garrett, senior global health fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations, said Tuesday during a CFR conference call: “We’re now in a perfect storm. There is no strategic plan for how this epidemic will be brought under control. People believe that there’s a giant World Health Organization office in Geneva stocked full of specialized equipment and talented health care workers. Not only do we not have any such thing –- the WHO is essentially bankrupt.” Garrett added that the largest response group, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) who has 550 staff member on the ground, has issued plea after plea in recent days for assistance due to fatigue as more than 60 health workers have been infected with the virus. Garret said: “(health workers) in a state of seige — feeling that the population despises and loathes them. Rumors are rife that they are actually deliberately infecting people, cutting off people’s arms and selling them on some alleged international market, and even that there are health care workers who are cannibals.” The need now is for an agreed upon international leader to fight the epidemic and tale on the $1.2 billion deficit or face possible chaos, according to Garrett. WHO spokeswoman Christy Feig confirmed the deficit to HuffPost, while on Monday, the World Bank pledged $200 million to fight the epidemic leaving the WHO short $78 million. Garrett criticized the African Summit in Washington due to the act the 50 leaders at the summit should be discussing how to mobilize more health workers, and consider closing borders and canceling flights adding: “We should be taking advantage of this remarkable coincidental moment, but as far as I can tell, it’s not on the agenda.” The WHO will meet on Wednesday in Geneva at a special summit where experts will decide if the epidemic should be called an international public health emergency which, if designated, will force the international community to try to develop vaccines, implement border checks, give instructions to flight carriers and more. The Ebola virus, which is spread through bodily fluids, has killed 932 people since February in four West African countries and caused 1,711 cases making it the largest outbreak of the virus in history with no cure. The death rate is at 70 percent and its epicenter has shifted to Liberia and Sierra Leone from its outbreak in the forests of Guinea with two confirmed cases in Nigeria, according to Garrett. Additionally, Saudi Arabia officials said a man who tested for the Ebola virus died on Sunday after returning from Sierra Leone, where 286 people have died from Ebola, while hospitalized in Jiddah after showing signs of the viral hemorrhagic fever. While on Wednesday, Spain’s Defense Ministry said a medically equipped Airbus 310 is ready to fly to Liberia to recover a Spanish missionary priest who has the virus, but it is not known when the plane will leave, Bashir Adigun and Krista Larson report, WHO: Ebola death toll reaches 932; 1,700 cases. According to Dan Kedmey, Sierra Leone Dispatches Troops to Enforce Ebola Quarantine, Sierra Leone has dispatched 750 soldiers Wednesday to enforce new quarantine measures as the virus’ global death toll increase. Liberia’s president orders a 30 day state of emergency due to the Ebola outbreak late Wednesday, according to a radio broadcast. A Reuters reports in Monrovia reported that relatives of Ebola victims dumped infected bodies in the streets to avoid quarantines as forces are deployed to maintain order. While some of the numerous untested Ebola drugs will go into human trials to test safety and effectiveness this years, none will be available for widespread production for several years.

Switching to the ongoing Middle East crisis, talks in Cairo for an long term truce continued between Israel and the Palestinian side (Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestine Liberation Organization) as many Palestinians returned to devastation in Gaza but no fighting, according to CNN, Talks to extend Gaza truce under way in Cairo. From Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised his country’s troops for their performance, blamed Hamas for civilian casualties and hoped that the Cairo talks could allow for broader peace. On Wednesday, a Palestinian delegate, Qais Abdelkarim, told CNN that the delegations had yet to reach an agreement to extend the ceasefire. An Israeli government official, who asked to remain anonymous, told CNN Thursday regarding a ceasefire extension: “The current one is unconditional, and from our point of view, it can be extended unconditionally.” On Wednesday Obama weighed in on the matter: “I’m very glad that we have, at least temporarily, achieved a cease-fire. The question now is, how do we build on this temporary cessation of violence and move forward in a sustainable way? I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza.” Nasser Judeh, the foreign ministers of Jordan, which borders Israel and the West Bank, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “The problem is that — regardless of the blame game that’s taking place right now and it usually does happen after every Gaza escalation — it’s the people of Gaza who are suffering from the siege, from a disastrous humanitarian situation, civilian deaths, destruction. I think we all have to collectively think about how we can rescue them from this.” The United Nations reports around 520,000 Gaza residents were displaced which is 29% of the territory’s 1.8 million inhabitants, more than 10,00 homes were destroyed or severely damaged and the Palestinian Health Ministry reports nearly 1,900 Palestinians were killed in Gaza during the conflict with the U.N. estimating that about 70% of the dead were civilians. The immediate challenge for residents is to secure water, food and shelter. The U.N. says water is scarce and there is only two to four hours of electricity a day. Pierre Krahenbuhl, UNRWA’s commissioner general, told CNN: “We will be very closely following not only the needs of people who stay at our schools (which house about 270,000), but also those who are returning to their home and may find themselves in very difficult situations in the days and weeks to come.” Nachman Shai, an opposition member of the Israeli parliament, said talking isn’t the only thing Israel needs to do referring to the idea of disarming Hamas: “I’m not sure that we accomplished the mission. I think we have to do much more. If you ask me, the next phase in this mission is to build new relations between us and the Palestinians.” Netanyahu did agree with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that realignment could present opportunities to use the Cairo talks fro broader discussions: “I think he’s right that there are opportunities now, perhaps opportunities that we’ve not seen before with the realignment of important parties in the Middle East, to be able to fashion a new reality, one more conducive to the end of violence, the establishment of calm, sustainable peace, or at least a sustainable quiet that can lead to other things.” Palestininan negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN Wednesday that the conflict cannot be resolved through violence and Mohammed Shtayyeh, a senior negotiator for the PLO, states Israeli’s call to demilitarize Gaza is balckmail. Hamas leaders want to negotiate an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza or find another body to control the borders. U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told CNN’s Tapper: “We don’t negotiate with Hamas. We don’t talk to Hamas. But we certainly want to be there to support an effort to negotiate over these key issues that have been so troubling in the region for so many years.”

On Wednesday, as fighting continues not far from the Malaysian Flight 17 crash site in Eastern Ukraine, the Dutch prime minster has halted recovery efforts to find the remaining bodies as it is too dangerous. Donetsk City Council confirmed three people were killed and five wounded on overnight shelling in eastern Ukraine as government forces tighten their hold on the pro-Russian rebel stronghold, the Associated Press reported, 3 killed, 5 wounded in east Ukraine fighting. On the council’s website Thursday, a statement detailed that several residential buildings were damage 4 miles from the city’s center due to shelling. As rebels are pushed back by Kiev forces, many fear that Russian may intervene as Western Leader accuse Russia of massing troops at the border, a claim Russia denies. Meanwhile, Toby Sterling reports, Dutch premier halts search for Ukraine victims, Wednesday Mark Rutte, at a news conference, praised the efforts of the international recovery mission and promised victims’ families the search will resume when Ukraine is more stable. Rutte added that before the international team was able to reach the site due to fighting in the area the local authorities immediately after the crash conducted a thorough search of the area with 800 volunteers and found many bodies in the first days and have been identified in the Netherlands. As for the cause of the crash, Rutte said the investigation is continuing as the Dutch Safety Board spokesman on Wednesday states the preliminary findings due Aug. 17 won’t be ready for several weeks after that date. The reason, according to Wim van der Weegen via phone interview, is due to the difficulty investigators had reaching the site.

While Ukraine continues to struggles to end the fighting and the families of Flight 17 must wait longer to find their loved ones, Russia, who has been sanctions over its alleged action in Ukraine, has banned all Western Food imports in retaliation. Jim Heintz reports, Report: Russia to block US agricultural imports, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted an official of Russia’s sanitary oversight agency as saying all imports of agricultural product from the U.S. to Russia will be banned. President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered state authorities to make a list of agricultural products from countries who imposed the sanctions on Russia with a ban or limit for up to one year. On Thursday, Russia officially banned most food imports from the West in retaliation that will cost Western farmers billions of dollars and lead to empty shelves in Russian cities, the Associate Press reports, Russia bans Western food over Ukraine sanctions. The decisions by President Vladimir Putin shows he will no bow to international pressure over Ukraine and will strike back as Russia pursues its course in Ukraine. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in a televised Cabinet meeting that the ban covers all imports of meat, fish, milk and milk products and fruit and vegetables from the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway. He said: “Until the last moment, we hoped that our foreign colleagues would understand that sanctions lead to a deadlock and no one needs them. But they didn’t and the situation now requires us to take retaliatory measures.” Large cities may be hit the hardest like Moscow where imported food fills 60 to 70 percent of the market. Medvedev said Russia may carry their ban further and prevent Western carriers from flying over Russia on flights from Asia which would significantly swell the costs and increase flight times. The move is retaliation against EU sanctions levied on the low cost Russian airline Dobrolet. Medvedev hopes the ban will make the West revise their policy and stop trying to pressure Russia with sanctions. Another import from the U.S. will not be banned , according to Heintz, Edward Snowden Gets Permission To Stay In Russia For 3 More Years: Lawyer, as NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden on Thursday was granted permission to stay in Russia for three more years. Analtoly Kucherena, his lawyer, quoted by the Russian news agency as saying Snowden was not granted political asylum but residency for three more years.

Back in the Middle East, the Islamic State made another push into Northern Iraq leaving many Iraq’s the only two options, to flee their towns and villages or face Sunni militants who are notorious for beheading. According to Ahmed Rasheed and Michael Georgy, Iraq’s Yazidis Face Extremist Militants Or Perilous Mountains, the Yazidis of Sinjar are especially concerned since the Islamic state, deemed excessive by al Qaeda, see the minority ethnic group as devil worshipers making them prime targets for the sword. Witnesses and the United Nations reports that tens of thousands fled the weekend assault on Sinjar and are now surrounded after Sunni militants inflicted a humiliating defeat on Kurdish forces who held the town for three years. Residents said 50 people were killed after the Sunni militants, who declared parts of Iraq and Syria a caliphate, arrived in Sinjar late Saturday and 20 were killed trying to defend the town. Many panicked Yazidis tried to find water and food for their children before leaving in a rush to the surrounding mountains, while some did not escape. Vian Dakheel, a member of the Yazidi community parliament, said tearfully: “The innocent people of Sinjar were slaughtered. Men were killed and women have been taken as slaves by Islamic State fighters.” Dakheel said some could not withstand the weekend offensive and 70 children between one month and four died of thirst and hunger. The U.N. children’s agency said families fleeing the area needed assistance including the 25,000 children stranded in the mountains. While the Islamist State sets its sights on new territory, no sign Iraq’s bickering politicians will be able to share power anytime soon leaving the government powerless in countering the insurgency. Fortunately, as Reuters reported, UN Rescues Some Refugees From Sinjar Mountain, some of the thousands trapped by Islamic State militants on Sinjar mountain in northern Iraq have been rescued in the last 24 hours leading up to Thursday announcement by a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. David Swanson via phone from Iraq said: “We’re just receiving the information right now. We’ve just heard that people over the last 24 hours have been extracted and the U.N. is mobilizing resources to ensure that these people are assisted on arrival. This is a tragedy of immense proportions, impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Over the past couple of days, almost 200,000 people have made their way northwards to Iraq’s Kurdistan region, Dohuk governorate, or to disputed border areas inside Ninewah. We have also received reports that thousands more may have fled across the border into Syria, and are waiting to cross back into Iraq, but I have no concrete confirmation of that. Many of the displaced are in immediate need of essential life-saving humanitarian items, including water, food, shelter and medicine.” A spokesman for the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF in Geneva, Christopher Tidey, said: “We have received reports of dehydrated children and we know that at least 40 children have died.” Another group, Iraqi Christians, have long suffered more than any other group since the Islamic State took power as the region’s Christian population is around 5% and dropping, according to Yasmin Hafiz, ‘Vicar Of Baghdad’ Canon Andrew White Refuses To Leave Iraq, Despite Christian Persecution By ISIS. In Mosul, Iraq, Islamic State distributed flyers in July giving them three options: convert to Islam, pay a fine, or be killed. Many of their abandoned homes now say in black lettering, “Property of the Islamic State.” Canon Andrew White refuses to leave Baghdad, despite the danger, as St. George’s is Iraq’s last Anglican church. He estimates his numbers at 6,000 people, but in the last decade over 1,200 have been killed, CNN’s Arwa Damon reports.

On Thursday, a long over due ruling three and a half decades after the genocidal rule of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge ended has finally been handed down Thursday by a U.N. backed tribunal. Todd Pitman and Sopheng Cheang report, Cambodia tribunal convicts Khmer Rouge leaders, two top leaders of the former regime received life sentences for crimes against humanity during the country’s 1970s terror period that left 2 million people dead. The histroic verdicts were announced against Khieu Samphan, the regime’s 83-year-old former head of state, and Nuon Chea, its 88-year-old chief ideologue – the only two surviving leaders of the regime left to stand trial, Pitman and Cheang. The tribunal’s chief judge said both men were guilty of “extermination encompassing murder, political persecution, and other inhumane acts comprising forced transfer, enforced disappearances and attacks against human dignity.” The rulings can be appeals, however, Nil Nonn told the court that “given the gravity of the crimes” both would remain in detention. Nearly a quarter of the population died under the Khmer Rouge about 1.7 million people through a combination starvation, medical neglect, overwork and execution when the group held power in 1975-79. Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen called it “a historic day for both the Cambodian people and the court. The victims have waited 35 years for legal accountability, and now that the tribunal has rendered a judgment, it is a clear milestone.” According to the article: “The current trial began in 2011 with four senior Khmer Rouge leaders; only two remain. Former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary died in 2013, while his wife, Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith, was deemed unfit to stand trial due to dementia in 2012. The group’s top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.” khieu Samphan acknowledged the mass killings, but testified in 2011 he was a figure head with no authority. Nuon Chea, bother no.2 for Pol Pot’s trusted deputy, denied responsibility claiming Vietnamese soldiers killed Cambodians en masse. Due to poor health and advanced age, the case was divided into two trials in an effort to render justice before they die. Both men will be tried in September or October for charges of genocide, according to Olsen, and could take a year to complete. Survivors of the regime had mixed reactions to the verdicts. 54 year old Chea Sophon, whose brother was killed during the Khmer Rouge era and spend years in a hard labor camp building dams and working in rice fields, said: “The crimes are huge, and just sentencing them to life in jail is not fair. But what can I do? I just accept the verdict. Even if they die many times over, it would not be enough.” While a 58 year old female survivor, Khuth Vouern, said she felt a sense of relief that justice was served: “I have been waiting for this day for many years. Now, for the first time, my mind feels at least some degree of peace.”

Republican Border Bill Passes, Court Deals Blow to Unions, Ebola Comes to the U.S. and the U.S. Fails Internationally

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Late Friday, House Republicans passed a bill to address the U.S. Mexico border crisis by sending migrant youths back home without hearings meaning that more than half a million immigrants could be deported even though the Obama administration granted temporary work permits, according to Erica Werner, House OKs bill to address border crisis. President Barack Obama condemned the Republican action saying he would act unilaterally as best he could. The new bill, which tea party lawmakers enthusiastically support, provides $694 million and carries a companion measure to shut off a program created by Obama granting work permits to immigrants brought here illegally as kids. The second bill prevents the more than 700,00 people who’ve already gotten work permits under the program from renewing them making them subject to deportation. The sending bill passed Friday 223-189 with four Republicans voting no and one Democrat voting yes. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. explained, “It’s dealing with the issue that the American people care about more than any other, and that is stopping the invasion of illegal foreign nationals into our country. And we got to yes.” While Obama said no adding, “They’re not even trying to solve the problem. I’m going to have to act alone, because we do not have enough resources.” The move in the House came as the first day of lawmakers’ five week summer recess happened and Senators had already left Washington after killing their own legislation on the crisis. Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said, “It would be irresponsible and unstatesmanlike to head home for the month without passing a bill to address this serious, present crisis on the border.” According to Werner: “In the end Republicans only lost four of the most conservative members on the vote: Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Paul Broun of Georgia, Stephen Fincher of Tennessee and Walter Jones of North Carolina. The only Democrat to support the bill was moderate Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas.”The GOP plans met with protest from immigration advocates and Democrats with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., saying, “If you tell people that you think they’re criminals, that you think they’re simply bringing diseases, that they’re bringing drugs, then you treat them as invaders, they kind of think you don’t like them. They’re going to believe you don’t like them, and they’re not going to vote for you.” The bill adds $35 million more for the National Guard as well as increase spending for overwhelmed border agencies, add more immigration judges and detention spaces, and alter a 2008 anti-trafficking law to permit Central American kids to be sent back home without deportation hearings.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court upheld the 2011 law that ended collective bargaining for most public workers, sparked massive protests and led to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election and rise to national prominence, Scott Walker reports, Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Collective Bargaining Law. Thursday’s 5-2 ruling is a victory for Walker who is considering a 2016 run for president and re-election this year and marks the end of a three year legal fight over union laws prohibiting public worker unions from collectively bargaining for anything beyond base wage increases based on inflation. A federal appeal court twice upheld the law as constitutional and the high court ruled in a lawsuit, filed by Madison teachers union and a union representing Milwaukee public workers, that the law violated workers’ constitutional rights to free assembly and equal protection. Walker introduced the proposal shortly after taking office in 2011 causing teachers, public workers and their supporters to flood the Capitol for weeks in order to block the passage. In addition, Democratic state senators fled the state for two weeks in a failed attempt to block the bill’s passage. The law bars automatic withdrawal from members’ checks, require annual elections to see if members want their unions to represent them and requires public employees to contribute to their health insurance and pension costs, which help local governments and schools save money to deal with cuts to balance the state’s shortfall, according to Walker. Walker faced a recall in 2012, but became the first governor ever in U.S. history to defeat a recall. The union law has been challenged on several fronts since it was introduced, but withstood them all. The state Supreme Court decided to take the case on Thursday after a Dane County judge sided with the unions and ruled in September 2012 that major portion were unconstitutional.

Internationally, on Thursday and Saturday, hospital officials said a U.S. humanitarian aid worker and two American doctors who contracted Ebola in West Africa will be transferred to the United States and treated in a special high security ward at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Reuters reports, US aid worker infected with Ebola to be moved to Atlanta hospital: official. The aid worker will be moved in the next several days to a special isolation unit set up in collaboration with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which is one of only four in the United States. An American doctor infected with Ebola arrived in Atlanta on Saturday landing in a specially equipped plane at a military base then took to the isolation unit at Emory, Ray Henry reports, US doctor with Ebola arrives in Atlanta for treatment. it marks the first time a patient with Ebola has entered the country for treatment with a second American aid workers expected to arrive at Emory in days. U.S. based Samaritan’s Purse paid for the transport and confirmed to the Associated Press the patient was Dr. Kent Brantly. The ambulance took him to the hospital among a wide open Interstate with no traffic flanked by SUVs and police cars then the patient was taken into the building at Emory by people in white protective clothing. The hospital is down the hill from the CDC. Dr. Jay Varney, an infectious disease specialist at Emory charged with Brantley’s care, said the hospital’s isolation unit is well equipped to handle patients with the disease. He added, “Ebola is only transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. Unlike the flu, like influenza, which we deal with every winter, Ebola cannot be spread through the air.” Ebola has no cure. Dr. Philip Brachman, an Emory University public health specialist who for many years headed the CDC’s disease detectives program, said Friday: “That’s all we can do for such a patient. We can make them feel comfortable” and let the body try to beat back the virus.”

While treatment for the infected begins, the U.S. has issued a travel warning for Americans going to the three West African countries hit by the Ebola outbreak and the World Health Organization deals with the spread in West Africa. On Thursday, U.S. health officials warned Americans not to travel to the area, Mike Stobbe reports, US warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries. The advisory applies to nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the deadly disease has killed more than 700 people this year. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who announced the warning, said “The bottom line is Ebola is worsening in West Africa” adding that Ebola is “a tragic, dreadful and merciless virus.” The purpose of the warning is to limit U.S. travelers use of overburdened hospitals and clinics for injuries or other illnesses. Stobbe reports that the outbreak has a 60 percent fatality rate so far with no vaccines or specific treatment available. The CDC has 20 staffers at U.S. airports and border crossing to evaluate any traveler showing signs of dangerous infectious diseases, and isolate them when necessary. The agency is prepared to increase that staffing if needed, he said. Back in West Africa, World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan said Friday that the outbreak is out of control but can be stopped, Tom Miles reports, Ebola Out Of Control But Can Be Stopped: WHO Chief. Chan told the presidents of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast at a meeting in Guinea’s capital Conakry: “This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries. This meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response.” The death toll so far is at 729 including 60 healthcare workers and 1,323 cases overall. Chan added that “Constant mutation and adaptation are the survival mechanisms of viruses and other microbes. We must not give this virus opportunities to deliver more surprises. Moreover, public attitudes can create a security threat to response teams when fear and misunderstanding turn to anger, hostility, or violence.” The reason for the quick spread is due to cultural practices such as traditional burials and deep seated beliefs.

In Washington, while the CDC tackles a potential international debacle, President Barack Obama acknowledged on Friday that the United States conducted torture in the aftermath of 9/11 terror attacks, the AOL article reports, Obama: ‘We Tortured Some Folks’ After 9/11 And We Have To Take Responsibility For It. Obama said, “I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values. We crossed the line and that needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so we don’t do it in the future.” In addition, Obama told reporters at the White House that a Senate investigation into interrogation techniques used by thew CIA would be declassified in August. According to the new CIA Inspector General’s Office report, agency employees in 2009 hacked Senate computers used to compile the investigation leading many lawmakers on the Hill to call for CIA Director John Brennan’s resignations over the matter.

Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton confessed he could of killed Osama bin Laden, but decided against it due to the number of civilians who also would be killed just hours before the 9/11 attacks, Mollie Reilly reports, Bill Clinton, Hours Before 9/11 Attack, Said He ‘Could Have Killed’ Bin Laden. On Wednesday, Sky News host Paul Murray released a previously unreleased audio recording of Clinton talking to Australian businessmen on September 10, 2001: “Osama bin Laden — he’s a very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him, and I nearly got him once,” Clinton says in the tape, answering a question about terrorism. “I nearly got him. And I could have gotten, I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children. And then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.” The 9/11 Commission Report in 2004 identifies several operations targeting bin Laden in the 90s which prompted critics to accuse Clinton of not doing enough. During a 2006 interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Clinton defended his administration’s efforts saying: “I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president, we’d have more than 20,000 troops [in Afghanistan] trying to kill him.”

A First in 600 years: Two Living Popes Meet for Lunch at Castel Gandolfo

Popes

Well the time has come for the two to meet which marks a historic milestone that has not happened in 600 years and could be seen by some to be a problematic melding of two papacies. The historic meeting took place at Castel Gandolfo Saturday when Pope Francis traveled from the Vatican to south Rome to have lunch with Benedict XVI, his predecessor. The two men in white embraced with the pope telling a retiring one “We are brothers” and insist they pray side by side for the future of the Catholic Church reports the Associated Press. The year for the Catholic Church has stated with a bang with Benedict’s resignation and the election of the first Latin American pope leading to the meeting on Saturday with the image of the papal past embracing the papal future, praying and breaking bread together. Benedict, 85, has been living in the papal retreat since Feb. 28 when he became the first to resign in 600 years, while Francis, 76, made it clear he would not let Benedict hide from the world as he wanted and made it clear he would visit him. Benedict greeted Francis, wearing a white quilted jacket over his white cassock, on the helipad of the Castel Gandolfo gardens where they embraced and clasped hands making it clear that Francis is the new pope and Francis made it clear Benedict is a brother and equal. After leaving the helipad, Benedict gave Francis the right side of the car symbolizing the traditional place of the pope and Benedict sat on the left on their way to the palazzo to pray where Benedict insisted that Francis use the papal kneeler, but Francis refused saying “We are brothers” then they kneeled side by side. Francis also brought an icon of the Madonna for Benedict saying, “They told me it’s the Madonna of Humility. Let me say one thing: When they told me that, I immediately thought of you, at the many marvelous examples of humility and gentleness that you gave us during your pontificate.” With a simple reply from Benedict of  “Grazie, grazie.” Well wishers outside the main piazza chanted “Francesco! Francesco!” outside the villa but the crowd left after Francis’ helicopter left 2.5 hours later, according to the Associated Press, without either pope appearing at the balcony.

The Vatican respected the wished of Benedict to stay out of the spotlight so no to interfere with his successor’s papacy with no live Vatican television coverage and only a short video and still photo released after the meeting, while no details were given about what the two discussed many are speculating. Some speculations about what the men discussed include the rise of secularism in the world, the decrease in priesthood in Europe and the competition the Catholic Church faces in Latin America and Africa from evangelical Pentecostal movements. Benedict may have discussed pressing issues the new pope will have to deal with including unfinished business from the Benedict’s papacy such as the Vatileak documents last year that exposed corruption and mismanagement in Vatican administration and ideas on how to make management changes in the Holy See administration. Further questions have to be asked about the future of the Catholic Church and how they will deal with two living popes as one has resigned and the other reigning side by side. As the Vatican’s leading canon lawyer, Jesuit Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, explained in an article it would be inappropriate to call Benedict “emeritus pope” as he lost all of his power of primacy when he renounced the papacy, therefore the Vatican has originally said he would be known as “emeritus bishop of Rome” but Benedict chose to keep wearing the white cassock of the papacy and being called “emeritus pope.” The main question now for the Vatican is will Benedict influence the future pontiff and whether Catholics will favor the traditional style undermining his successor’s authority and agenda through allegiance to the old pope. This should not be a concern since in his last meeting with cardinals on Feb.28, Benedict pledge his obedience to the then unknown future pope. In their meeting on Saturday, neither address each other in formal titles but as friends.

The two are men are very different in their approach and style to the papacy. The Argentine born Francis has already made waves with his no papal regalia, simple black shoes, and paying his own hotel bill sending a message to the people that the pope’s job is to protect the poor. As the archbishop of Buenos Aires, the man now known as pope would celebrate Mass with prostitutes and drug addicts as his plan for Holy Thursday Mass this week will be to celebrate at a juvenile detention center washing the feet of 12 inmates echoing the humility of Jesus. The German born Benedict comes from the academic world as one of the leading theologian who spent more than 30 years in the Vatican where he was first the chief doctrinal watchdog and then pope. His main concern during his papacy was to remind people of their faith and bring back the traditions of the Catholic Church as well as the brocaded style of the papacy. his Holy Thursday included the foot washing of clerics at the St. John Lateran Basilica. It was best said by Civilta Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit magazine, whose article are Vatican approved said that, “They are two figures of the highest spirituality, whose relationship with life is completely anchored in God. This radicalness is shown in Pope Benedict’s shy and kind bearing, and in Pope Francis it is revealed by his immediate sweetness and spontaneity.”

A New Era in the Catholic Church?

Pope Francis Civil Unions

With the approach of holy week and the inaugural Mass of Pope Francis fast approaching, let’s watch the highlight and low-light reels for this week as big decision are coming for the Catholic church.

Pope Francis and GLAAD: Oh you knew it was coming. The surprising fact many may not be aware of is the fact the pope at one point supported civil unions for gay couples. The focus though for the LGBT communities had been his public stance on gay marriage, mainly that it’s a “destructive attack on God’s plan”, and his opposition to gay adoption that it discriminates against children. However according to Huff Post as recently as 2010 then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio suggested the church support civil unions as a compromise of sorts as at the time they were legal in parts before the gay marriage bill was passed in his home of Argentina. Although the bishops rejected his suggestion, Argentina passed the law making it the first South American country to do so. While some are optimistic about the new pope, some who knew him before are less. As Esteban Paulon, president of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transexuals, told the Times, “The reality, beyond what he may have said in private meetings, was that he said some terrible things in public…He took a role, in public, that was determinedly combative.” GLAAD President Herndon Gradick shared the same sentiment in a statement to Huff Post, explaining, “For decades the Catholic hierarchy has been in need of desperate reform. In his life, Jesus condemned gays zero times. In Pope Benedict’s short time in the papacy, he made a priority of condemning gay people routinely.” Oh by the way GLAAD the Pope does not only answer to God he has to answer to his congregation and the Curia so anyone in his position has an uphill battle ahead…give him some time cut the man some slack he has been pope for 2 minutes.

Pope Francis and Mislead Flock: As we all know or have seen, the pope traditionally holds Mass of the Lord’s Supper in St. Peter’s Basilica or the Basilica of St. John Latern reports Catholic News Service. This year, Pope Francis decided to do things his way and break with tradition by celebrating Holy Thursday of next week washing and kissing the feet of juvenile prisoners in Rome’s Casal del Marmo. The service typically includes washing and kissing the feet of 12 people commemorating Jesus’ humility towards his twelve apostles. The service is not atypical for the pope as in his former life as Argentine’s Cardinal Bergoglio he often held Holy Thursday ceremony in jails, hospitals or other locations associated with the poor and infirm according to Huff Post. According to Agence France-Presse, Pope Francis wants to narrow the gap between the laypeople and the Church.

Pope Francis and The Incredibly Shrinking Priesthood: As the congregation around the world becomes bigger even in the U.S., the problem of no one to lead these congregation has become increasingly apparent. In order to deal with the priest shortage, the Catholic Church has decided to look to former Anglican leaders to fill the void reports Huff Post. The number of men entering the priesthood in the U.S. has dropped about 20,000 since 1975 while the number of the faithful has increased by 17 million according to CBS. Allowing Anglican priests to convert was a way to solve the problem as seen by former Pope Benedict XVI who issued an edict in 2009 to create “a new structure to welcome some disenchanted Anglicans into the Roman Catholic fold,” Time notes. At a Vatican news conference last October, Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect for the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith, according to the New York Times, commented that Anglicans who wish to convert would now be able “to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.” The New York Times of course in an article about married Catholic priests raised some interesting questions as married priest were banned in 1123 by the First Lateran Council however married converts have been allowed since 1980:

First, are they doing as good a job as other priests? If the church has decided that celibacy confers certain gifts on priests, does it follow that married priests are worse at serving their congregations? Second, wouldn’t celibate priests be a little resentful of colleagues who get to serve the church and have sex too? And third, if the married priests are doing a good job and not provoking envy, why keep the celibacy rule for priests in general?

Still the transition has been smooth for many of the priest and even entire congregations to convert to Catholicism. Lewis, a converted Catholic priest who leads St. luke’s now Cathloci pareish in Bladensburg, MD., told PBS: “We left the Episcopal Church not because we were running away from the issues of the Episcopal Church. We left the Episcopal Church because we were running to the Catholic Church … The theology of Rome, the authority of Rome, the unity in the Holy See and in the bishops: that was appealing to us.”

Pope Francis Gives His First Sunday Blessing to a Crowd of 150,000

 

 

Pope Francis In St. Peter’s Square Offers Angelus Prayer To 150,000.

Pope Francis gave his first window appearance of his papacy with a spontaneous speech about the power of God’s forgiveness opting out of the traditional written speech on Sunday. As the Associated Press reports, he spoke in Italian beginning with “buon giorno” (Good day) and ending with “buon pranzo” (Have a good lunch) instead of greeting the crowd in several languages as his predecessors have done before. The crowd of more than a 150,000 cheered and laughed as the pope addressed St. Peter’s Square with humor and commentary. Francis did tweet the faithful in several languages saying: “Dear friends, I thank you from my heart and I ask you to continue to pray for me. ” Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi added that Francis will more than likely stick with Italian a language he is comfortable with and possible stick to his off the cuff style for now leaving the possibility open for other languages to be used in future public appearances.

The pope’s spontaneous off the cuff style has become a hallmark of his papacy in just the five days since the election. Earlier on Sunday, he appeared before the public from the side gate of the Vatican before delivering a six minute homily at the Vatican’s tiny parish church. Before entering St. Anna’s church to celebrate Mass, he shook hands with parishioners and kissed babies. After Mass, Francis put his security to the test when he ventured out into the street just outside St. Anna’s Gate as the traffic light at the intersection turned greened grasping outstretched hands with the occasional person placing a hand on Pope Francis’ shoulder. A few minutes later when the light turned red, Francis dashed back upstairs for his window appearance from his papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace. The studio window was opened for the first time since Feb. 24 the day his predecessor gave his last window blessing. The crowd cheered as the window opened to reveal Pope Francis and quickly died down as he began to speak with many of the faithful tearing up and waving Argentine flags which is the homeland of the world’s first Latin American pope. Francis who was elected March 13 has been staying at the hotel on Vatican grounds until his papal apartment in the palace is ready. Giant screens were set up for the crowd so they could see Francis close up and dozens of medical teams were on stand by for any emergencies. After the Mass, the pope stepped out from St. Anna’s church and waved to the crowd kept behind barriers across the street and then greeted parishioners one by one even having one young man pat him on the back. In his homily, Francis explained the core message of God which is mercy as God has the capacity to pardon without question and noted that people are far harder on each other than God is on sinners.

 

 

Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio Of Buenos Aires, Elected Leader Of Catholic Church

Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio Of Buenos Aires, Elected Leader Of Catholic Church.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio a native of Buenos Aires, has taken the name of Pope Francis as the 266th pope of the Catholic Church. On Wednesday, in his first public appearance after the papal election, on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica appeared the new pope Francisco in his white cassock to address the crowds more than an hour after the white smoke was released from the Sistine Chapel chimney at 2:05 EDT (7:05 p.m. CET). Speaking from the balcony, the pope gave his traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the “City of the World”) to the crowd of thousands in St. Peter’s Square as the crowed cheered, cried, and waved for the new leader of 1.2 billion Catholics. He prayed for the church, the papacy, and for his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Before he prayed for the crowd and church, he asked that the crowd bless him. Francis, a Jesuit priest was elected to the papacy after two days of conclave meetings and five ballots cast. Francis will be installed in the coming days, even though his papacy will be effectively immediately, but it’s not clear when the installation will happen as Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi announced on Wednesday that Tuesday March 19 the feast of St. Joseph would be a possible date. Lombardi said this before the white smoke later in the evening as he also said that the new pope will likely celebrate Mass with cardinals the morning after this election. The date of the installation will begin with a visit with cardinals to the grottos of St. Peter’s Basilica where the first pope St. Peter is said to be buried. There he will say,”I leave from where the apostle arrived” before proceeding to the square for the installation Mass where Francis will receive the Fisherman’s Ring made for his papacy as well as the pallium, a woolen stole to symbolize his authority. When Benedict was elected, 12 church representatives knelt in front of him at the installations including three cardinals, one bishop, a priest, deacon, married couple, a nun, and man from a religious order as well as two young people who had their conformation which will likely appear again at the papal installation of Francis as a symbolic pledge of obedience.  After the mass, the pope will be driven around St. Peter’s Square to greet the people from around the world and in the following days will visit the three main Roman basilicas aside from St. Peter’s: St Paul’s, St. John Lateran’s, St. Mary Major’s with the first visit St. Paul’s which is right outside the Vatican walls. The first few weeks, Francis will live in a temporary apartment away from the official papal residence while it is being renovated as the apartment was sealed after Benedict’s resignation and church rules say it cannot be reopens until a new pope is elected.

Statement by the President on His Holiness Pope Francis

On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy. As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years—that in each other we see the face of God. As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day. Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith. We join with people around the world in offering our prayers for the Holy Father as he begins the sacred work of leading the Catholic Church in our modern world.

 

Of New Pope Election, Vatican Spokesman Says There’s ‘No Reason’ Conclave Will Be Long

Of New Pope Election, Vatican Spokesman Says There’s ‘No Reason’ Conclave Will Be Long.

The papal conclave that will be held next week has had its share of rumors including competitions between Italian and non-Italian cardinals, cardinals who want access to classified Vatican documents, and several lists with names of potential papal candidates. On Saturday, one of few sources of official information on the Vatican hinted to reporters, according to Huff Post, about the mood inside the general meetings held before the conclave on Tuesday. As Rev. Fredrico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, explained in a brief statement to the the press there’s no reason to believe it will take long for a new pope to be chosen suggesting there may be a frontrunner or multiple frontrunners which could indicate that a new pope could be elected before Friday. If the past is a good indicator, this may very well be true as both Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II were elected in two days. On Saturday, despite rumors on Friday when the date for the conclave was announced and Vatican reporters suggested that Italian cardinals wanted an earlier date to influence the vote before all the cardinals had arrived, during a briefing with Lombardi he denied any huge discussions among cardinals about when to start voting according to the Huff Post. Including Saturday, cardinals have met a total of nine times in General Congregation during pre-conclave meeting to discuss church priorities and a conclave date which Lombardi commented on Saturday that the cardinals decided on March 12 for the conclave with a 10 to 1 margin. There will be no General Congregation on Sunday but will resume on Monday to discuss hopes for the new pope, regional development in the church and improving the curia which is dominated by Italian cardinals.

The spokesman for the Vatican also detailed the timeline for the voting process. Cardinals have already drawn lots for rooms on Saturday for Casa Santa Marta, a guarded Vatican residence, where they will stay during the conclave. Tuesday morning, they will move to the Sistine Chapel through the connected Pauline Chapel where the Mass Pro Eligendo Pontifice (“for the Election of the Roman Pontiff”) will happen at 10 a.m. proceeded by the oath of secrecy at 4:30 p.m. in the Sistine Chapel. After the oath, anyone not involved with the voting will be asked to leave, then the cardinals will listen to Maltese Cardinal Prospero Grech about conclave responsibilities and will vote up to two times. At 7 p.m. prayer will happen and 7:30 return to Casa Santa Marta. Aside from Tuesday, the cardinals will be voting four times a day until two thirds votes or 77 votes are received to elect the new pope. Every time their is a vote and whether the winning vote is taken will determine the color of the smoke which is white for a new pope and black for no pope elected. Before the white smoke can be released, the new pope must accept the position according to Lombardi who also says if the smoke is released at night then the Sistine Chapel chimney will be lit up. If no pope is chosen by Friday, then the cardinals on Saturday will reflect and pray resuming their voting for three days with one day break until the 34th voting round where the two top candidates will have a runoff. When the pope is chosen and white smoke rises, as when Benedict was chosen, the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica will ring which according to Lombardi took about 40 minutes between the two in 2005. On the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the senior cardinal deacon, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran will shout “Habemus Papam!” or “We have a new pope!” and will present the new pope with the white papal cassocks to give his first blessing as pope.