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.”

Pope Greets the Faithful As Holy Week Begin with Palm Sunday Mass







Over 250,000 of the faithful gathered waving olive branches and braided palm fronds in St. Peter’s Square to hear and get a glimpse of Pope Francis celebrating his First Palm Sunday Mass addressing the crowd reminding them to be humble and young at heart promising to attend the youth jamboree in Brazil in July. The crowd included a variety of people from tourists to Romans to pilgrims who celebrated the beginning of the Holy Week leading to Easter, Christianity’s most important day. The pope keeping with his unique style broke away from the homily text prepared for him to encourage the faithful to lead simple lives, resist temptation and overall remain optimistic in the face of adversity according to the Associate Press. Francis told the crowd that “Don’t let yourselves be robbed of hope! Don’t let yourselves be robbed of hope!” as the world deals with a crushing economic difficulties and employment crisis. At the end of the two hour Mass, Francis removed his red vestments and wore only his white cassock with skull cap when he climbed into the open top popemobile to meet the crowd. His security team has to work harder than ever as Francis leaned out to shake hands, kiss and pat the heads of infants his body guards passed to him. The Chief bodyguard, Domenico Giani, at one point was sent to give a message to the mother of a child the pontiff passed as the he appeared very tense then broke into a smile one he completed his task the Associated Press reported. The pope also climbed down from his vehicle to kiss a woman in the crowd and chat with her, while another man in the crowd leaned over the barricade to squeeze the pontiff on the shoulder which was unheard of with the reserved Benedict XVI. As an Argentine nun, Sister Emma, commented, “There is no doubt that there will be a new spring for the church, a renewal.”

Palm Sunday marks the day Jesus’ entered Jerusalem then later was betrayed by one of his apostles and sentenced to die on the cross. Francis presided over the Mass that took place on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica under a white canopy saying Jesus “awakened so many hopes in the heart, above all among humble, simple, poor, forgotten people, those who don’t matter in the eyes of the world.” As many of the cardinals sat on chairs during the ceremony, the pope talked about many of the evils afflicting the world including wars, `’economic conflicts that hit the weakest” as well as corruption. Since his election, Pope Francis has made it his mission to help the downtrodden and poor which keeps with the Jesuit tradition as the pope said in his homily that Christian joy `’isn’t born from possessing a lot of things but from having met” Jesus as that same joy should keep people young and “Even at 70, 80, the heart doesn’t age” if one is inspired by Christian joy the Associate Press reports. During the Mass, many of the faithful knelt on the hard cobblestones of the square when the Gospel recounts the moment of Jesus’ death so did Francis kneel on a wooden kneeler. A few olive trees were inserted in the dirt placed around the central obelisk in the square. Holy Week has just begun but there is already a planned change to the tradition with the new papacy. On Holy Thursday, the pope will wash the feet of young inmates at a juvenile detention center in Rome instead of the feet of priests in the basilica as a humble gesture of humility. Other appointments in public will include the Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum on Good Friday night and next Sunday Francis will celebrate Easter Mass in the square.

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.



Vatican Adjusts To New Pope With Humble Style

Vatican Adjusts To New Pope With Humble Style.

According to Reuters, the Vatican has already had several surprised from Pope Francis in his first 24 hours as pope being the first non-European in 1,300 years as well as breaking more rules than his predecessor did in eight years. With the idea of an unpredictable papacy, an age old institution that usually does everything by the book, Father Tom Rosica a Canadian priest who runs a Catholic television station has this to say: “We are going to have to get used to a new way of doing things.” There is indeed a feeling of change coming to the Vatican as Pope Francis demonstrated in his first words as pope. Instead of starting out with the traditional “Praised by Jesus Christ” or “Dear brothers and sisters”, he chose a rather ordinary start with “Buona Sera” in Italian to address the crowds in St. Peters Square. “I was stunned by what happened last night. I didn’t expect a pontificate to begin with ‘Buona Sera,'” Rosica said. Ont he morning after the election, the Varican tried to accomadate the needs of the new style papacy as Father Fedrico Lombardi, chief Vatican spokesman, explains to reporters about what to expect: “We have to have patience, we are starting something new. There are a lot of things we don’t know yet.” Before stepping out on the balcony of St. Peter’s Bascilica, Franscis decided instead of sitting in a throne like chair in the Sistine Chapel for the obedience pledge that he would come down to the cardinals and stand as they greeted him. He then an hour later decided not to take the limo waiting to take him to the Vatican residence for a meal as Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York explains, “And as the last bus pulls up, guess who gets off? It’s Pope Francis. I guess he told the driver ‘That’s OK, I’ll just go with the boys.'” The only difference between him and the cardinals now is he no longer wears the red robe but white. On Thursday morning the unorthodox papal behavior continued when Francis insisted on paying the hotel bill at the Church-run residences where the cardinals stayed for the conclave. A Vatican spokeman explained in a news briefing that: “He wanted to get his luggage and the bags. He had left everything there. He then stopped in the office, greeted everyone and decided to pay the bill for the room … because he was concerned about giving a good example of what priests and bishops should do.” Jorge Bergoglio certainly brought his reputation for frugality from his native Argentina and is the first pope to take the name St. Francis of Assisi a man who preached the virtue of living in poverty as a gesture of solidarity with the poor. Lombardi said he expects the pope to visit Argentina eventually and will attend World Youth Day in Brazil in July, a Catholic festival that takes place every two years in a different city. And what of Vatican security and their duties to the unpredictable pope? Lomardi could only respond with: “That’s a good question. Vatican security are at the service of the pope and will have to adapt themselves to the pastoral style that the pope will use. A pope’s personal style has to be respected.”

Oath Sworn By Cardinals Before Papal Vote (FULL TEXT)

Oath Sworn By Cardinals Before Papal Vote (FULL TEXT).

On Tuesday, March 12 the conclave to elect the next pope after Benedict began this morning, but before the voting could begin the 115 cardinals took an oath of secrecy in the Sistine Chapel. The oath was administer by the conclave’s presiding cardinal, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, which after reading the oath each cardinal elector touched the Holy Gospels and made a “promise, pledge, and swear” to uphold the oath. Here is the full text of the oath as provided by the Associated Press:


“We, the Cardinal electors present in this election of the Supreme Pontiff promise, pledge and swear, as individuals and as a group, to observe faithfully and scrupulously the prescriptions contained in the Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, published on 22 February 1996.


We likewise promise, pledge and swear that whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church and will not fail to affirm and defend strenuously the spiritual and temporal rights and the liberty of the Holy See.


In a particular way, we promise and swear to observe with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or lay, secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise and swear not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the election of the new Pontiff, unless explicit authorization is granted by the same Pontiff; and never to lend support or favor to any interference, opposition or any other form of intervention, whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree or any group of people or individuals might wish to intervene in the election of the Roman Pontiff.”

Pope Benedict’s Last Sunday Blessing From Window Draws 100,000 (PHOTOS) (VIDEO)

Pope Benedict’s Last Sunday Blessing From Window Draws 100,000 (PHOTOS) (VIDEO).

In these uncertain times we live in, no one can deny the powerful symbolism the pope has for millions of people around the world whether he leaves the world forever or with a heavy heart he is undeniably a symbol to the world. People can say whatever they want but that will never make people stop believing in something more and something bigger than ourselves. In a crowd of hundred thousand one girl stood out with a sign hoist above her head reading in Italian,””You are not alone, I’m also with you” that speaks to the true power of faith something that cannot waiver in truth or be denied by the world. On Sunday, the pope gave his final blessing on a cheering crowd in St. Peter’s Square explaining that his aging and health made him better suited for private prayer than to be the leader of the church. On Thursday, he will be the first pope in 600 years to resign from the papacy. Ten of thousands of the faithful have already asked for a seat in the square for his last general audience Wednesday as he gave his Sunday’s blessing from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Benedict seemed relaxed and energized by the crowd’s emotional welcome, applause, and many banners of Thanks held by the crowd. He told the crowd that God called him to dedicate himself to prayer and meditation which he will do in a renovated monastery in the Vatican. Of his approaching departure from the papacy, Benedict said,”But this doesn’t mean abandoning the church…On the contrary, if God asks me, this is because I can continue to serve it (the church) with the same dedication and the same love which I have tried to do so until now, but in a way more suitable to my age and to my strength.” Benedict explained that,”Prayer is not isolating oneself from the world and its contradictions” as he heard God’s call to prayer “which gives breath to our spiritual life” in a special way “at this moment of my life.” As the crowd continued to cheer, the pontiff turned away from his window and stepped down into the apartment. On Thursday, he will be taking a helicopter to the Vatican summer residence outside Rome while he awaits the completion of renovations on the monastery where he will live according to the Associated Press. No date has been set for the conclave of cardinals who will vote in secret on Benedict’s successor. According to the Associated Press one Portuguese priest in the crowd, Rev, Vilmar Pavesi said, “Now there will be two popes. There will be the pope of Rome, the elected pope, and there will be the bishop emeritus of Rome, who will live the life of a monk inside the Vatican walls.” Flags from many nations were represented in the crowd with a large number from Brazil. Benedict in one of his last tweets wrote in English Sunday that, “In these momentous days, I ask you to pray for me and for the church, trusting as always in divine providence.”

Pope Benedict XVI Resigned Partly Because Of Powerful Vatican Gay Lobby, Italian Paper Claims

Pope Benedict XVI Resigned Partly Because Of Powerful Vatican Gay Lobby, Italian Paper Claims.

Well I guess no organization no matter how rich and powerful can avoid conspiracies theories and scandal especially since one more won’t hurt the Vatican who is no stranger to accusations. Well with the resignation and looming retirement of Pope Benedict, many people are asking the question was the pope influenced by a secretive “gay lobby” inside the Vatican? The group reportedly making this claim is the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica. The popular paper on Thursday reported that Pop Benedict XVI made his decision to resign this month because of a report accusing Vatican officials of being under the influence of several intern lobbies including a gay one. The Irish Times reports that Benedict commissioned the report, written by a cardinal trio, after Vatileaks scandal last year concluded that various lobbies within the Vatican had broken the sixth and seventh commandment thou shalt not commit adultery and thou shalt not steal. The significance of the sixth has been historically tied to the doctrine that bans homosexuality. The 300 page report will be passed to the pope’s successor, while the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, has said that those involved will take responsibility for their actions and no follow up will be made to those observations. The Guardian has also reported that another paper Corriere della Sera also mentioned a disturbing report in their Italian daily publication after the pop announced his resignation. The allegation’s are only the latest in a string of theories and conspiracies about why the pope suddenly decided to resign which prompted the wild speculation in the first place. Benedict himself has only further ramped up speculation with his Ash Wednesday homily by referring to internal divisions according to the Washington Post:”I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the church, of the divisions in the body of the church.”