The Ever Growing Threat of Ebola, U.S. and Allies Bombard Syria and Iraq As ISIS Steps Up Attacks and Climate Change Takes Center Stage

Englehart cartoon: Ebola outbreakhttps://i2.wp.com/cdn.spectator.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/iraq-altered-final-new-words_se-275x413.jpg

A report issued on Tuesday by the U.S. Centers from Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 550,000 and 1.4 million people in West Africa could be infected with the Ebola virus by January 20, 2015 if nothing changes, Reuters reports, Ebola cases could rise to 1.4 million by January, CDC says. According to the report: “The top range of the estimate, 1.4 million, assumes that the number of cases officially cited so far, 5,864 according to the count kept by the World Health Organization, is significantly underreported, and that it is likely that 2.5 times as many cases, or nearly 20,000, have in fact occurred.” CDC says the projection is based on data available in August and an epidemiological model taking into account how many people each Ebola patient could infect and does not factor in the recent U.S. government Ebola relief effort that included 3,000 members of the armed forces to Ebola stricken areas. In a statement, the CDC said: “Extensive, immediate actions – such as those already started – can bring the epidemic to a tipping point to start a rapid decline in cases.”

While the world fights to contain the Ebola virus and eliminate the spread by containment, the U.S. and several of its allies try to fight a social disease that has spread throughout the world…extremism specifically the Islamic State also know as ISIS. Llazar Semini and Nicole Winfield reports, Pope denounces perversion of religion for violence, Pope France, on Sunday in Albania, denounced that extremist around the world are using religion to justify violence. The Vatican insisted no special security measures were taken even with the threat of ISIS , but Francis’ interaction with the crowd were reduced compared to his previous foreign trips. Albania’s Interior Ministry promised “maximum” protection from 2,500 police forces and beefed-up patrols at border crossings. In his opening speech, Francis told President Bujar Nishani, Albanian officials and the diplomatic corps that Albania’s inter-religious harmony was inspiring: “This is especially the case in these times in which authentic religious spirit is being perverted by extremist groups, and where religious differences are being distorted and instrumentalized. Let no one consider themselves to be the ‘armor’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression!” It was Francis’ first visit to a majority Muslim nation since the Islamic State crackdown on Christians in Iraq, with members of religious minorities being killed, persecuted or forced to flee their homes by militants. The Vatican has voiced mounting concern about the exodus of faithful from lands where Christian communities have existed for 2,000 years. Albania’s president, Nishani, thanked Francis: “There is no intolerance, extremism among us but reciprocal respect inherited from generation to generation,” he said. “From an atheist country, we have turned into a country of religious freedom.” In his homily, Francis paid his respect to those who sacrificed their lives for religious freedom: “Recalling the decades of atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, we can say that Albania was a land of martyrs. Do not forget your wounds, but don’t avenge them. Go forward, flying on the hopes of a great future.”

While the optimism for a religiously free world spreads , the Islamic State continues to advocate violence in the name of religion. The Associated Press reports, Islamic State group calls for attacking civilians, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani’s 42 minute audio statement sounds like a call to arms in response to Barack Obama’s coalition formation. A spokesman for the group, al-Adnani, said their fighters are ready for battle and encourage Muslims to attack at home and abroad. In addition, he said the group welcomes the possibility of a ground war with the U.S. and called on Muslims to kill civilians of nations that joined the coalition. In a statement released Sunday, al-Adnani said: “Oh, believer, do not let this battle pass you by wherever you may be. You must strike the soldiers, patrons and troops of the tyrants. Strike their police, security and intelligence members. If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that joined a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.” Militants in Algeria seized a French citizen on Sunday and later issued a statement saying it was in response to al-Adnani’s appeal. In a video that appeared on social media, a masked member of an al-Qaida splinter organization calling itself Jund al-Khilafah, or Soldiers of the Caliphate, said he would kill his captive within 24 hours if France did not withdraw from the coalition seeking to destroy the Islamic State group. Perhaps tapping into fears among Americans of the mission broadening, al-Adnani vowed the U.S. would be “drawn and dragged” into a ground war. “It will come down to the ground and it will be led to its death, grave, and destruction. … Know that our knife is sharp and hard. It cuts off the hands and strikes the necks.” Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Bram Janssen report, Clashes Between Iraqi Soldiers And Islamic State Leave Dozens Dead And Missing, Sunday that Islamic State militants in Iraqi army uniforms and driving stolen Humvees killed 40 Iraqi soldiers at Camp Saqlawiyah near the town of Sijir and captured another 68 in western Anbar province where the United States recently broadened their airstrikes, according to Gen. Rasheed Fleih. After the attacks, the Iraqi military withdrew 700 more troops stationed in the area, he said. Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement Monday that his government is committed to reinforcing military and police forces in Anbar and will increase airstrikes to target the pockets of militant fighters across the province. On Monday, the U.S. military said the airstrikes on Islamic State targets southwest of oil rich Kirkuk destroyed two military vehicles and a tank and damaged a Humvee. With the U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have retaken several small towns and strategic Mosul Dam, but the Islamic State fighters operate from cities with large civilian populations such as Fallujah and Mosul. In northern Iraq, Helgurd Hikmet, general director of the ministry overseeing the Kurdish forces, said that France, Italy and Germany were among countries providing training in the use of the new machine guns, mortars, rockets and demining robots the Kurdish fighters have received. Last week, the French joined in the aerial campaign, and a number of European countries have committed to arming the Kurds and providing humanitarian support for more than a million people displaced by the onslaught of the Islamic State group. Meanwhile, Turkey’s Prime deputy Prime Minster Numan Kurtulmus said Turkey is ready for the worst case scenario should more refugees steam in as the number of fleeing Syrians from the Islamic state group to turkey grew in the last four days since Thursday to 130,000, according to Desmond Butler and Suzan Fraser, Syria refugee flood to Turkey hits 100,000. The Islamic State in recent days has advanced into the Kurdish regions of Syria that border Turkey, where fleeing refugees on Sunday reported atrocities that included stonings, beheadings and the torching of homes. UNHCR spokeswoman Selin Unal said most of those coming across the border are Kurdish women, children and the elderly. She urged the international community to step up its aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey. Meanwhile in Monday night raids, the U.S. and five Arab nations attacked the Islamic State group headquarters in eastern Syria by land and sea based U.S. aircraft and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from two navy ships in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, according to Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns, Joint chiefs chair: ‘No safe haven’ for militants. U.S. officials said five Arab nations either participated in the airstrikes or provided unspecified support. They were Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Several hours after the Pentagon announced the airstrikes against Islamic State targets, U.S. Central Command said American warplanes also launched eight airstrikes “to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests” by a network of “seasoned al-Qaida veterans” – sometimes known as the Khorasan Group – who have established a haven in Syria. Central Command said that separate bombing mission was undertaken solely by U.S. aircraft and took place west of the Syrian city of Aleppo. It said targets included training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities. Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. informed Syria’s envoy to the U.N. that “strikes will be launched against the terrorist Daesh group in Raqqa.” The statement used an Arabic name to refer to the Islamic State group. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told The Associated Press, “There is confirmed information that there are casualties among Islamic State group members.” He added that missiles also targeted the towns of Tabqa, Ein Issa and Tel Abyad, as well as the village of Kfar Derian, which is a base for the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, a rival of the Islamic State group. Another activist, Mohammed al-Dughaim, based in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, confirmed that several airstrikes hit Kfar Derian in the early hours of Tuesday. He said there were civilians among the casualties.

While much of the world seems focused on the growing threat of pandemic Ebola and of equal threat ISIS, world leaders and activists took their concern over climate change to the street pushing for change now before its too late. Verena Dobnik and Michael Sisak report, Thousands march in NYC, around globe over climate, tens of thousands of activists walked through Manhattan Sunday to bring attention to and warn that climate change is destroying the earth with demonstrators around the world urging policy makers to take quick action. According to the report: “Organizers said more than 100,000 marched in New York, including actors Mark Ruffalo and Evangeline Lilly. They were joined in midtown Manhattan by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. On Tuesday, more than 120 world leaders will convene for the United Nations Climate Summit aimed at galvanizing political will for a new global climate treaty by the end of 2015. De blasio said, “My sense is the energy you see on the streets, the numbers that have amassed here and in other cities around the world, show that something bigger is going on, and this U.N. summit will be one of the ones where we look back and say it was a difference maker.” Ban agreed saying, “Climate change is a defining issue of our time and there is no time to lose. There is no Plan B because we do not have planet B. We have to work and galvanize our action.” The New York march was not the only one as similar event tool place around the world to raise awareness on climate change. In London, organizers said 40,000 marchers participated, while a small gathering in Cairo featured a huge art piece representing wind and solar energy. In Rio de Janeiro, marchers at Ipanema Beach had green hearts painted on their faces. Celebrities in London including actress Emma Thompson and musician Peter Gabriel joined thousands of people crossing the capital’s center, chanting: “What do we want? Clean energy. When do we want it? Now.” In New York, people from tornado ravaged Moore, Oklahoma where 24 people were killed last year and hundreds of people affected by Superstorm Sandy participated in the march. In Australia, the largest rally was in Melbourne, where an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets with banners and placards calling on their government to do more to combat global warming. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was a particular target of the protesters. Abbott’s center-right coalition has removed a carbon tax and has restricted funding for climate change bodies since coming to power last year. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary John Kerry on Monday opened a week of climate change talks in New York hopeful that the discussions will set the tone for upcoming negotiations on an international agreement, Michael Pearson reports, Kerry: New York climate summit to set agenda. Addressing business and government leaders attending Climate Week NYC that coincides with the U.N. summit Tuesday, Kerry said: “It’s about time that world leaders come to the United Nations to recognize this threat in the way that it requires and demands. And it gives me hope that this global summit may actually produce the leadership that is necessary to try to come together and move the needle, to take advantage of the small window of time — and I mean that — the small window of time that we have left in order to be able to prevent the worst impacts of climate change from already happening.” He urged participants to use their influence to steer world leaders toward committing to greater action on climate change in time for discussions on an international climate change agreement to be held in Lima, Peru, in December and in Paris in 2015. Some 125 countries will attend the session, according to the Climate Group, which is organizing Climate Week NYC. Ryan Gorman reports, Global warming likely to cause colder and snowier winters, scientists say, scientists now believe global warming is to blame for extreme cold snaps in North America during the winter months and will keep happening. The “polar vortex” that plunged Canada and the U.S. into historical cold last winter is said by researchers to have occurred because melting polar ice changes weather patterns, according to a study published earlier this month. A team of Korean and American scientist assert in a new study that the melting ices has caused the northern jet stream or upper level air flow to shift south and bring polar air with it. The article explains: “The polar ice is melting because warmer water is riding the Gulf Stream (ocean currents) from tropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean to an area north of Scandinavia. This causes masses of warm air to destabilize the normally strong polar air mass and send brutally cold air right at Canada and the U.S., according to Slate. As the atmosphere continues to warm, and ocean water temperatures rise, this effect will only become more pronounced, researchers argue. The surprising result of global warming, or climate change, will be colder, snowier winters across both countries. The Eurasian supercontinent also experiences this cooling effect, according to study co-author Seong-Joon Kim.”

Liberia Ebola Crisis Worsens, Ukraine Faces New Challenges, Gaza Talks Collaspe into Chaos and Islamic State Militants Up the Pressure

On Wednesday, acting on their president’s orders, riot police and soldiers used scrap wood and barbed wire to quarantine 50,000 people inside their Liberian slum in order to contain the Ebola outbreak that has killed 1,350 people and counting across West Africa, according to Jonathon Paye-Layleh and Wade Williams, Liberia Seals Off Slum To Control Ebola, Angry Residents Clash With Troops. The World Health Organization said the death toll has risen quickly in Liberia accounting for 576 of the fatalities, while 2,473 people have been sickened across West Africa making this outbreak larger than the caseloads of all the previous two dozen combined. The U.N. health agency warned of food shortages, water shortages, and other essential supplies in West Africa’s population centers. In West Point, a densely populated slum surrounded by floating sewage, suffers from government neglect in the best of times and mistrust of authorities with open defecation being a major problem. Drinking water is carried in wheelbarrows and people need the market for their food. Mohamed Fahnbulleh, a resident, said: “Why are you ill-treating people like this? How can we take this kind of government to be peaceful? It is not fair — We are human.” Days earlier, residents ransacked a screening center where people in contact with Ebola victims were being monitored causing dozens of potential carriers to be taken somewhere else in the city. In a national address late Tuesday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf imposed a nighttime curfew and ordered the quarantine of West Point and Dolo Town adding: “There will be no movements in and out of those areas. We have been unable to control the spread due to continued denials, cultural burying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the government. Fellow citizens, these measures are meant to save lives … May God bless us all and save the State.” Via telephone, Deputy Police Chief Abraham Kromah said, “Please remain law-abiding; throwing stones at police officers and security officers is not the best way out.” While counties and districts have been sealed off in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Guinea has imposed internal travel restrictions. The agency responded to shortages of food, fuel and basic supplies, by saying: “WHO is working with the U.N. World Food Program to ensure adequate food and supplies, but calls on companies to make business decisions based on scientific evidence.” Nigeria’s heath minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said Tuesday that a fifth person has died of Ebola, but all reported cases have been people in direct contact with a Liberian American man who arrived already infected. On Monday, Jonathan Paye-Layleh reported, 17 who fled Liberia Ebola clinic still missing, authorities were looking for the dozen or so patients who abandoned the Ebola quarantine center in Liberia’s capital during looting last weekend, even though several were still being tested and under observation. During the raid, 37 patients left possibly to return to their own communities, according to Information Minister Lewis Brown, however, 20 have been brought back to two hospitals. Meanwhile, the experimental drug from California based pharmaceutical company, ZMapp, was given to three Liberian health workers who contracted the virus are showing signs of recovery, officials reported Tuesday, Jonathon Paye-Layleh and John Heilprin report, Liberia: 3 receiving untested Ebola drug improving. In addition, two infected American received the treatment and are improving, while a Spaniard who also received the treatment died.

Turning our attention to a different kind of war, on Thursday, Nataliya Vasilyeva reports, 5 Ukrainian troops killed; fierce battles reported, five troops and two civilians were killed in the past 24 hours in rebel held areas of eastern Ukraine as government forces try to regain territory from pro-Russian separatists. So far, the conflict has claimed 2,000 lives and displaced 340,000 people from their homes. Ukraine celebrates Independence Day on Sunday, while government forces aim to achieve a breakthrough by that date. On Monday Ukraine accused rebels of killing dozens of civilians in an attack ear on a convoy fleeing a besieged rebel held city, according to Vasilyeva, Refugee Convoy In Ukraine Hit By Rocket Fire, Dozens Reportedly Killed. The rebels denied any attack, while the U.S. confirmed the shelling of the convoy but did not know who was responsible. Col. Andriy Lysenko, Ukraine’s National Security Council spokesman, told reports: “Many people were killed, among them women and children” between the towns of Khryashchuvate and Novosvitlivka adding: “We are not able to count the death toll at this point.” Oleksiy Dmytrashkivsky, a Ukrainian government’s military operation spokesman, told the Associated Press 15 bodies had been recovered from the smoldering vehicles and servicemen were collecting the body parts of at least 10 more people. Donetsk rebel chief Alexander Zakharchenko said no attack took place and Andrei Purgin, his deputy, said he had no information either: “If someone was killed, it wasn’t us but the Ukrainian military.” The U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told report in Washington: “We strongly condemn the shelling and rocketing of a convoy that was bearing internally displaced persons in Luhansk and express our condolences to the families of the victims. All sides must take every precaution to protect innocent lives. We are unable to confirm reports of who was responsible for the shelling and rocketing.” Residents of Luhansk have had no running water, electricity or phone connections for 16 days as fighting continues around the city and food is short in supply making it harder to secure food. Tensions have increased as Russia over the past week said it plans to send a massive aid convoy to help rebel held eastern Ukraine. A Red Cross spokeswoman in the region told the Associated Press that they are still waiting for security guarantees as 200 Russian aid trucks.

In the Middle East on Tuesday, Egyptian attempts to make a deal to end the month long conflict between Israel and Hamas has collapsed into heavy fighting Tuesday as Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets and Israeli responded with airstrikes across Gaza killing two people, Ibrahim Barzak reports, Egyptian cease-fire efforts collapse. The violence erupted hours before the temporary truce ended as Israel withdrew its delegation from Cairo Tuesday afternoon and quickly resumed its airstrikes following rocket fire. The two fatalities were the first since a temporary truce last Wednesday started. An Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said, “The Cairo talks were based on an agreed premise of a total cessation of hostilities. When Hamas breaks the cease-fire, they also break the premise for the Cairo talks. Accordingly, the Israeli team has been called back as a result of today’s rocket fire.” No one knows if the team will return to Cairo or whether Israel will continue to talk as Egyptian security officials are still pressing the two sided to agree to a ceasefire. So far, more than 2,000 Palestinians mostly civilians have been killed, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials, with tens of thousands displaced compared to 64 Israeli solider, two Israeli citizens and a guest workers dying.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, U.S. officials said military planners were weighing the possibility of sending a small number of additional U.S. troops into Baghdad as insurgents threaten to kill a second American captive in retribution for airstrikes that have pounded Islamic state militants, Lolita C. Baldor and Lara Jakes reports, Military Considering Sending Additional Troops To Iraq, Officials Say. The strike came hours after militants released a gruesome video Tuesday showing U.S. journalist James Foley being beheaded and underscored President Barack Obama’s promise Wednesday to continue attacks against the group. According to senior U.S. officials the number would be fewer than 300 additional troops. The militants threatened to kill Steven Sotloff, an American journalist who is being held captive, if the U.S. continues to conduct airstrikes. According to Baldor and Jakes: “Currently there are about 748 U.S. forces in Iraq, in addition to the approximately 100 troops that have routinely been assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation in Baghdad. Under the current war powers resolutions sent to Congress, Obama authorized up to 775 U.S. troops for security assistance, assessment teams, and advisers at two joint operations centers in Baghdad and Irbil.” Foley, a 40 year old journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, went missing in northern Syria while freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. Sotloff was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013 and freelanced for Time, the National Interest and MediaLine. Larak Jakes reports, Obama: US won’t stop confronting Islamic State, while the execution of journalist James Foley drew international condemnation as western nations stepped up their efforts to counter the militants, in capitals across the Middle East, Foley’s death was met with silence even in Syria and Iraq. On social media, people condemned Foley’s killing, but stressed the Islamic State has been committing atrocities against Iraqis and Syrians for years. On Wednesday, outside their home in Rochester, New Hampshire, Diane and John Foley addressed reporters: “We are just very proud of Jimmy and we are praying for the strength to love like he did and keep courageous and keep fighting for all the people he was fighting for. We pray for all the remaining Americans.” Obama, from Martha’s Vineyard, said: “Today, the American people will all say a prayer for those who loved Jim,” Obama said. “All of us feel the ache of his absence. All of us mourn his loss.” Since August 8, 84 airstrikes have been carried out in Iraq on Islamic State targets including security checkpoints, vehicles and weapons caches. The New York based Committee to Protect Journalist said more than 80 journalist have been abducted in Syria and estimates 20 are still missing. On Monday, Pope Francis endorsed the use of force to stop Islamic militants from attacking religious minorities in Iraq but said the international community not one country should decide how to intervene, Nicole Winfield reports, Pope Francis Endorses Use Of Force In Iraq To Stop Persecution Of Religious Minorities. Francis responded as follows to whether or not he approved of U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State militants: “In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.” However he said, in history, such excuses to stop an unjust aggressors has been used by world powers to justify a war of conquest in which entire people have been taken over. He added, “One nation alone cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor. After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It’s there that you must discuss ‘Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?’ Just this. Nothing more.” The Associated Press reported Wednesday, US mission to rescue hostages in Syria failed, that the administration disclosed that President Barack Obama sent special operations troops to Syria this summer on a secret mission to rescue American hostages, including journalist James Foley, held by Islamic State extremists, but they did not find them. Lisa Monaco, Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor, said in a statement: “The U.S. government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens. Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present.”

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.”

United States and Everyone Else: Money, Power and Politics

The Associate Press reported that five emerging market powers including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will launch their own version of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Harold Trinkunas, director of the Latin America Initiative at the Brookings Institution, said that the so called BRICS countries want an alternative to the existing world order which the U.S. dominates. At the summit Tuesday through Thursday in Brazil, according to the article Emerging nations plan their own world bank, IMF, the five countries will announce the $100 billion fund to fight financial crises much like the IMF and launch a World Bank alternative that will make loans for infrastructure projects across the developing world. The new bank called the New Development Bank will have all five countries equally invested in the lending, while the headquarter’s location is being heavily debated with some trying to keep China, the world’s second biggest economy, from dominating the new bank like the United States has with the World Bank. The countries involved cover vastly different economies, foreign policy aims and political systems from India’s raucous democracy to China’s one party state. The BRICS countries have shared the desire for a bigger voice in global economic policy and have all experienced economic sanctions imposed by Western powers or made painful budget cuts and met other strict conditions to qualify for emergency IMF loans. In addition, developing countries have been frustrated with U.S. Congress’ refusal to approve legislation to provide extra money to help the IMF make more loans to troubled countries. The money is part of broader reform to give China and other developing countries more voting power at the IMF. The IMF and the World Bank seem to be taking the new challengers in stride, the Associate Press reports. IMF spokeswoman Conny Lotze said: “All initiatives that seek to strengthen the network of multilateral lending institutions and increase the available financing for development and infrastructure are welcome. What is important is that any new institutions complement the existing ones.” Earlier in the month World Bank President Jim Kim said: “We welcome any new organizations … We think that the need for new investments in infrastructure is massive, and we think that we can work very well and cooperatively with any of these new banks once they become a reality.”

While the international community tries a new direction, the United States continues to grapple with the current status quo economics. On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen announced that the economic recovery is not complete and insists for that reason the Fed will keep providing support to boost growth and improve labor market conditions, Martin Crutsinger reports,  Fed’s Yellen says U.S. recovery incomplete, defends loose policy. During the delivery of the Fed’s semi-annual report to Congress, Yellen believe the Fed’s future actions will depend on how well the economy performs. If labor market condition improve quicker than anticipated, the Fed could raise its short term interest rate sooner. However, if the conditions become weaker, then low rates will last longer. Many economists believe the rate will not increase until next summer as it has been at a record low near zero since December 2008. In her testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Yellen said the economy is improving and the sharp downturn in economic activity during the first three months of the year was a result of temporary factors such as significant slack in the labor markets such as weak wage growth with the lowest unemployment rate since 2008. Because labor market conditions have not fully recovered from the recession of 2007-2009 and inflation remains below target at 1.8 percent for the 12 months through May, Yellen said the Fed will continue with the current policies of low interest rates to boost activity. She told the committee: “The Federal Reserve does need to be quite cautious with respect to monetary policy. We have in the past seen sort of false dawns, periods in which we thought our growth would speed, pick up and the labor market would improve more quickly and later events have proven those hopes to be unfortunately over-optimistic. We need to be careful to make sure that the economy is on a solid trajectory before we consider raising rates.” The unemployment rate has fallen from 6.7 percent in February to 6.1 percent reflecting strong job growth in recent months with an average of 200,000 jobs created a month over the past five months, the strongest since the late 1990s Crutsinger reports. The Fed has two goals to promote max employment and keep inflation down. Many critics argue the Fed is setting the stage for a bubble in asset prices like stocks and real estate that could deflate rapidly making the market unstable once the interest rates are increased. However, Yellen assured the committee that the Fed is aware of such risks and noted that the price of real estate, stocks and corporate bonds have risen appreciably, but remain in line with historic norms. The minutes of the Fed’s June meeting showed that the Fed has discussed just how it planned to reduce its massive holding of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities totaling $4.5 trillion which is four times the amount on the balance sheets when the financial crisis of 2008 hit.

While things are looking up for the overall economic picture according to the Fed, Congress continues to struggle to get their acts together on key issues. On Tuesday a critical highway trust fund bill was set for a vote in the House and the backers of the bill worried about defection from Democrats. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) told Huff Post Tuesday that he will not support the bill backed by House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), according to the article published, Critical Highway Trust Fund Bill Loses Support Of House Dem. His reasoning is two fold as the measure relies on accounting gimmicks to replenish the trust fund and lawmakers are abdicating responsibility by only funding the trust until next May. On Monday, two top conservative groups, Heritage Action for America and Club for Growth, opposed the measure and would score the vote for members with their primary complaint being the use of pension smoothing to allow delay in payments to pension funds from corporations resulting in higher corporate tax bills. While Welch agrees with the argument of pension smoothing, his preference is not to see the paring back of the highway trust fund to meet limited revenue streams, but to increase revenue to expand the fund. In addition Welch sees the idea as creating “a pothole in the pension system to fill a pothole in the highway” and sees his vote as protest to a short term solution rather than a long term one. However, he predicts that few Democrats will oppose the bill and his no vote will do little to stop the Camp bill from passing in the House before merging with the Senate’s version. On Monday, the White House came out in favor of Camp’s proposal. Unfortunately, Camp’s measure will be the last considered in the House before the highway trust fund runs out at the end of August. Even before then, states will make smaller, staggered payments on transportation projects as the federal government struggles to meet funding demands. Should the House fail to act, a substantial loss in transportation projects and jobs may result, according to Huff Post.

As Congress waits to find a long term solution to the crumbling transportation infrastructure, another hot button issue continues to be a thorn in the side of protestors and world leaders alike. The question on many peoples mind to seems to be when did America stop believing the words inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. If you don’t know, here’s a refresher:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

While many still hold true to these words, since let’s face it most of the people residing in the United States immigrated at one point or anther in history except the Native Americans, dozens if not hundreds of people choose to protest the transport of undocumented workers around the country especially the children. According to the Associate Press article, Arizona protesters hope to stop immigrant transfer, dozens of protestors on both sides of the immigration debate swarmed a small town near Tuscon on Tuesday after the sheriff announced that the federal government plans to transport 40 immigrant children to an academy for troubled youth. One group waved American flags, held signs and blocked a bus arriving with immigrant children. A few miles away, pro-immigrant supporters held welcome signs. Protestor Loren Woods said, “We are not going to tolerate illegals forced upon us,” while Emily Duwel of Oracle felt her town was misrepresented by a minority of people against the children staying here. She explained, “I’m just concerned about these children who have had to escape worlds of incredible violence.” Anger has spread throughout Oracle since the Sheriff warned residents last week of immigrant children from Central America crossing the border illegally would be placed at the Sycamore Canyon Academy. Protestors hoped to mirror the demonstration in Murrieta, California, where immigrant buses were blocked from entering. The sheriff is credited with stirring up the anti-immigrant protestors with social media and a press release Monday in addition to leaking information  about the migrants coming to local activist. Since the massive surge in unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally began more than a month ago, anger has been spreading and the influx of immigrants has become political fodder even though most consider it a humanitarian crisis. On the international radar, Pope Francis confronted the issue of undocumented immigrants by directing his address at the thousands of unaccompanied children that make up part of the influx. As Antonia Blumberg reports, Pope Francis: Immigrant Children Must Be ‘Welcomed And Protected’, on Monday the Pope delivered a message to the Mexico Holy See Colloquium on Migration and Development paying special attention to the migrant children who undertake the dangerous border crossing alone to escape violence in their own countries:

“This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected. These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin.”

In addition, Pope Francis noted the urgency of the problem as the numbers increases day by day with U.S. Customs and Border Protection reporting more than 50,000 unaccompanied migrant children crossing the Southwest border in 2014. Meanwhile, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin spoke at Mexico’s Foreign Relation Secretariat urging clergy and foreign ministers to protect young migrants.

“Whether they travel for reasons of poverty, violence or the hope of uniting with families on the other side of the border,” Parolin said, “it is urgent to protect and assist them, because their frailty is greater and they’re defenseless, they’re at the mercy of any abuse or misfortune.”

Outside of the church, the Pope called on international communities to step up to find solutions to this humanitarian crisis. On Sunday Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell met privately with dozens of governors of states that will host these children from Central America, Blumberg reports. The program started by the Obama administration will take effect in October and try to tackle the increase influx of child migrants. Burwell added, “We want to make sure they’re placed in a safe and supportive home or placement….but also, it should be somebody that is legal and somebody that will be responsible to see that they show up for the hearing.”

Honoring the Past and Embracing the Future

It’s official Pope Francis was formally installed as the Bishop of Rome on Sunday with less of the pomp and pageantry than the usual ritual even taking time to honor those that came before. Francis in another display of his humility toward the post, he arrived at St. John in Latern Basilica to honor a wildly popular past pope by blessing a plaque renaming a corner of the piazza outside the church after Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005. Arriving a half hour early, he gave the blessing after the mayor of Rome unveiled the plaque marked “Giovanni Paul II Square” in one section of the piazza which holds free rock concerts, political and labor rallies. The pope fashion was simple as he wore a plain white cassock and the Italian cardinal wore his red cape. The two hour long installation in the early evening was significant for the church due to the fact a pope is a pontiff because he is elected Bishop of Rome but not visa versa.

The basilica is Rome’s most ancient, with the foundation dating back to the early 4th century, and the ceremony stems from centuries of traditional ritual that modern popes have updated to the times, but Francis is sticking true to his own tradition of simplicity and humility. While most ornately dressed pontiffs in centuries past arrive in horse drawn carriage, Francis came through the side entrance of the basilica complex in an open topped white jeep. Before entering the doors, the vehicle stopped again and again so that the security team could pass babies to him to kiss. When the wind picked up, Francis took off his skull cap exposing his head to the wind and tussling his hair according to the Associated Press. Later Francis wore the peaked bishop’s hat and wearing cream colored vestments sat in the mosaic studded basilica chair known as the “Cathera Romana” which represents the post of Rome’s bishop. He then was handed the pastoral staff, symbolizing a bishop’s care for  his flock. During his homily, Francis said, “It is with joy that I am celebrating the Eucharist for the first time in this Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with great affection… those who love are able to understand, to hope, to inspire confidence; they do not give up, they do not burn bridges, they are able to forgive.”

Throughout the ceremony and well after, the pontiff surprised and delighted the crowd with his humility and continued to set news standards for the church. Francis during the ceremony updated the obedience pledge recited by Cardinal Valilini, who is the pope’s prelate, when professing obedience to the pope’s teaching and leadership replacing the pontiff as being “in an elevated position to govern” with the pontiff as “presiding over the Churches in charity.” In honoring John Paul, Francis also paid tribute to a pontiff who embraced his role as bishop of Rome as the late pontiff would visit Rome parishes, hundreds of them and poor neighborhood on the city’s outskirts on Sunday mornings. When Francis mentioned that John Paul “closed his eyes to this world” eight years ago this month, the new pope drew so much applause he could not finish his sentence the Associated Press reports. Francis may be the pope that decided whether or not the Polish Born Pontiff will receive the church’s highest honor, sainthood. The church process to certify the first miracle needed for John Paul’s beatification only took six years from his death until Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2001 which is the shortest time in modern history and the last formal step before sainthood according to the Associated Press.  The pope in his Vatican apperance on Sunday called for the faithful to “go into the piazzas and announce Christ our savior” to the people and “Bring the Good News with sweetness and respect” referring to the Gospel of course. John Paul, Benedict and Francis have all made shoring up flagging faith a priority of their leaderships. The new pope will be leading the Catholic youth pep rallies this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during a pilgrimage to his home continent.

Women as the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Church

 

Check out the Pope’s full address here.

As the pope blazes a new trail for the modern Roman Catholic Church, Francis continues to emphasize the importance of women and their role in the church despite taking the office only weeks ago as the Bishop of Rome becoming the first Latin American pope and the first non-European pope in 1300 years after Benedict XVI resign the first in 600 years. On Wednesday, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of women in the church as they were the first witnesses of Christ and play a special role in the spreading of faith. As many witnessed on Holy Thursday last week, the pontiff included women in the traditional foot washing ritual drawing criticism from traditionalist who believe the right has always been reserved for men. Many see the custom as a re-enactment of Jesus washing the fee of his apostles who are all men. Women as Francis explains have always played a special role as the “first witnesses” of Christ’s resurrection passing the belief onto their children and grandchildren. Francis told the thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square, “In the Church, and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord.” He even went further to explain that in the bible women were not recorded witnesses as Jewish law prohibited it at the time as they are not reliable witnesses. However, Francis did comments that, “In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role … The evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses. This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria.” This is the second time the pontiff has talked about the role of women as witnesses to the resurrection of Christ which is the cornerstone of the Catholic faith.

As for the role of women, Pope Francis addressed women in his Easter Vigil on Saturday and urge the faithful to  not fear change. Marinella Perroni, a theologian and leading member of the Association of Italian Women Theologians, according to Reuters had this to say:

“This is very encouraging. Pope Francis is taking up, with a stronger emphasis, the teaching of previous popes about the role of women in the foundation of faith and the resurrection of Jesus. The fact that the Pope acknowledges that the progressive removal of female figures from the tradition of the resurrection…is due to human judgments, distant from those of God…introduces a decidedly new element compared to the previous papacy.”

Several liberal reform supporters of the church call for the institution to ordain women as priests giving them a greater voice and more recognition within the church which the Vatican has said publicly that Jesus Christ chose only men for his apostles even though many female priesthood supports have said Jesus was conforming to the customs at the time. The 76 year old pontiff has set a new standard for the papacy as he continues to live as his name sake did St. Francis with humility and simplicity by shunning the ornate items of traditional dress, using informal language in his addresses, and choosing not to live in the regal papal apartments choosing instead to live in a simple residence. Many are hopeful that this new age of the Catholic Church can reform the Curia and many believe Pope Francis may even close the Vatican bank following the scandals at the heart of the Holy See which has damaged the church’s reputation.

Pope Francis: A Vessel of Peace and Humility

Pope Francis Foot Washing

Pope Francis has made quite an impression on the international community especially the billion of so faithful during his short time as Pope with his official duties starting with Holy Week. With his most significant break from tradition occurring on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of young women at a juvenile detention center which for most in the Curia is a departure from the strict rules that ritual involves men not women. In fact, no pope has ever washed the feet of women sparking a debate among conservative who feel it a questionable example and liberals who welcome the inclusivity. As Francis explained to the group of 14 to 21 year old at Casal del Marmo in Rome: “This is a symbol, it is a sign. Washing your feet means I am at your service. Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty. As a priest and bishop, I must be at your service.” A video released by the Vatican, demonstrates the 76 year old Francis kneeling on the stone floor pouring water over the feet of the youth then drying and kissing their feet. The group included black, white, male, female, and even tattooed feet.

Previous popes carried out the traditional ceremony in Rome’s St. John Lateran Basilica choosing 12 priests who represent the 12 apostles whose feet Christ washed during the Last Supper, but Francis has never followed the traditions even as cardinal. Before being pope, the pope as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio celebrated in jails, hospitals, or hospices as part of his ministry to the poor and marginalized in society especially women. Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, didn’t want to enter into a canonical dispute over the matter but did express that the ritual represent only men as Christ washed the feet of his apostles were all male. As the Associated Press reported, Lombardi wrote in an email saying, “Here, the rite was for a small, unique community made up also of women. Excluding the girls would have been inopportune in light of the simple aim of communicating a message of love to all, in a group that certainly didn’t include experts on liturgical rules.” Some believe the message was about Christ’s embracing love and ministering to everyone, while other believe that restricting the rite to men is in line with the church’s restriction on ordaining women since Christ’s apostles were male and that the ritual is more than washing feet. The ultimate message Pope Francis had for his young audience whom he greeted after the mass and gave each an Esster egg was, “Don’t lose hope. Understand? With hope you can always go on.” One young man asked the pontiff why he came to visit them and Francis responded simply that it was to “help me to be humble, as a bishop should be” as the gesture came “from my heart. Things from the heart don’t have an explanation.”

Pope Francis ended Holy week with his first Easter Sunday celebration with a passionate plea for world peace to an enthusiastic crowd of more than 250,000 people who came to see him in St. Peter’s Square. In his Easter message, he spoke of the long standing conflict in the Middle East, on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere and remembered the world’s neediest people. With physical gestures, he demonstrated his down to earth caring for all God’s children as he cradled a disabled child held out to him and delightedly accepted the gift the Associated Press reports. After the mass, the Pontiff took a ride through St. Peter’s Square in an open topped popemobile through the joyous crowd, kissing children, patting them on the head and overwhelmed with joy. The pope received a gift from one admirer in crowd who gave him a jersey of his favorite Argentine soccer team, Saints of San Lorenzo, as the crowd cheered in approval. In a moving moment to remember, Francis cradled and kissed a  disabled boy passed to him waiting patiently for the boy to give his greeting to him.

From the same spot he was introduced as pope on March 13, Francis gave his Easter speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica reiterating his concern for the poor and suffering as well as promoting peace and social justice. The Roman Catholic leader aimed the Easter greeting at “every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons”  and prayed that Jesus would inspire people to “change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace,” reports the Associated Press. The first pontiff from the Jesuits, an order with concern for the poor, and the first pope to name himself after St. Francis who renounced wealth and preached to the down and out lamented that the world is still divided by greed. The square was covered in a beautiful variety of flowers as Francis thanked florists from the Netherlands for donating them and advised people to let love transform their lives saying, “let those desert places in our hearts bloom.” Francis used the language of the Holy See to give his greetings in Italian as the pope stressed his role as the Bishop of Rome. The pontiff improvised his parting words to the world including those who were present and those linked by modern technology adding that he especially remembers “the weakest and the neediest” and praying that all of humanity be guided along “the paths of justice, love and peace.” Another departure from Easter Tradition, Francis will not be taking a post holiday vacation at the summer palace in Castel Gandolfo where Benedict XVI resides and has declined moving into Benedict’s former apartment in the Apostolic Palace which overlooks St. Peter’s Square instead he still resides in the Vatican hotel where the cardinals stayed during the conclave. Francis has demonstrated so far in his short time as Bishop of Rome that he has little desire to participate in the pomp and pageantry that comes with his position as the leader of the Catholic Church.