Astronomers have caught two big ancient galaxies in the act of colliding, shedding new light on the role such megamergers played in galactic evolution during the universe’s youth.
The colossal smashup will eventually produce one giant elliptical galaxy, researchers said, suggesting that most such behemoths formed rapidly in this manner long ago, rather than growing slowly over time by gobbling up a series of relatively small galaxies.
“I think at least 90 percent of elliptical galaxies at this mass were formed through this channel,” study lead author Hai Fu, of the University of California, Irvine, told SPACE.com.
Two galaxies becoming one
The merger is occurring 11 billion light-years away, meaning that astronomers are seeing the two colliding galaxies as they were about 3 billion years after the Big Bang that created the universe. During this epoch, “red and dead” elliptical galaxies full of old stars were common.
Fu and his colleagues initially thought the two merging galaxies were a singleton, dubbed HXMM01, when they saw it with the European Space Agency’s infrared Herschel space telescope.
But follow-up observations with a variety of other instruments, both on the ground and in space, revealed that HXMM01 is actually two galaxies on a collision course, separated by about 62,000 light-years at the moment.
The gas-rich two-galaxy system contains the stellar equivalent of about 400 billion suns and is churning out new stars at a fantastic clip — about 2,000 per year, researchers said. For comparison, just two to three new stars are born every year in our own Milky Way.
At this rate, the newly forming elliptical galaxy will exhaust its gas reservoirs and cease birthing stars in just 200 million years, going red and dead in what researchers describe as a surprisingly short period of time.
“The common thought was that massive galaxies form by accreting smaller galaxies and the growth, though rapid, would last more than 200 million years,” co-author Asantha Cooray, also of UC-Irvine, told SPACE.com via email.
“And the formation was expected to not be as efficient as we have observed,” Cooray added. “The 40 percent efficiency of star formation, the efficiency at which gas is converted to stars in one rotation of the system, was unexpected.”
Fu and his colleagues report their results online today (May 22) in the journal Nature.
The HXMM01 system’s startling efficiency explains how elliptical galaxies can go red and dead so fast, Fu and Cooray said. Ellipticals’ quick transformation had been a mystery, with some astronomers suggesting that their star-forming raw materials had been ejected by superpowerful phenomena such as quasars.
But this efficiency raises intriguing new questions, which Fu and his colleagues hope to tackle by further studying these ancient galaxies and their merging progenitors.
They want to “truly understand what is going on in those galaxies — why the star-formation efficiency is 10 times higher than normal star-forming galaxies,” Fu said. “That part is a total mystery right now.”
Oh boy, here we go… The superstitious mumbo-jumbo of the Catholic Church, and Christian idiots at large, discussing exorcism and the devil. When will human beings grow up, and more importantly develop their ability at critical thinking and common sense?
There are no devils you dummies. TGO
Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis’ fascination with the devil took on remarkable new twists Tuesday, with a well-known exorcist insisting Francis helped “liberate” a Mexican man possessed by four different demons despite the Vatican’s insistence that no such papal exorcism took place.
The case concerns a 43-year-old husband and father who traveled to Rome from Mexico to attend Francis’ Mass on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square. At the end of the Mass, Francis blessed several wheelchair-bound faithful as he always does, including a man possessed by the devil, according to the priest who brought him, the Rev. Juan Rivas.
Francis laid his hands on the man’s head and recited a prayer. The man heaved deeply a half-dozen times, shook, then slumped in his wheelchair.
The images, broadcast worldwide, prompted the television station of the Italian bishops’ conference to declare that according to several exorcists, there was “no doubt” that Francis either performed an exorcism or a simpler prayer to free the man from the devil.
The Vatican was more cautious. In a statement Tuesday, it said Francis “didn’t intend to perform any exorcism. But as he often does for the sick or suffering, he simply intended to pray for someone who was suffering who was presented to him.”
The Rev. Gabriele Amorth, a leading exorcist for the diocese of Rome, said he performed a lengthy exorcism of his own on the man Tuesday morning and ascertained he was possessed by four separate demons. The case was related to the legalization of abortion in Mexico City, he said.
Amorth told RAI state radio that even a short prayer, without the full rite of exorcism being performed, is in itself a type of exorcism.
“That was a true exorcism,” he said of Francis’ prayer. “Exorcisms aren’t just done according to the rules of the ritual.”
Rivas took the Vatican line, saying it was no exorcism but that Francis merely said a prayer to free the man from the devil.
“Since no one heard what he said, including me who was right there, you can say he did a prayer for liberation but nothing more,” Rivas wrote on his Facebook page, which was confirmed by his religious order, the Legionaries of Christ.
Fueling the speculation that Francis did indeed perform an exorcism is his frequent reference to Satan in his homilies — as well as an apparent surge in demand for exorcisms among the faithful despite the irreverent treatment the rite often receives from Hollywood.
Who can forget the green vomit and the spinning head of the possessed girl in the 1973 cult classic “The Exorcist”?
In his very first homily as pope on March 14, Francis warned cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel the day after he was elected that “he who doesn’t pray to the Lord prays to the devil.”
He has since mentioned the devil on a handful of occasions, most recently in a May 4 homily when in his morning Mass in the Vatican hotel chapel he spoke of the need for dialogue — except with Satan.
“With the prince of this world you can’t have dialogue: Let this be clear!” he warned.
Experts said Francis’ frequent invocation of the devil is a reflection both of his Jesuit spirituality and his Latin American roots, as well as a reflection of a Catholic Church weakened by secularization.
“The devil’s influence and presence in the world seems to fluctuate in quantity inversely proportionate to the presence of Christian faith,” said the Rev. Robert Gahl, a moral theologian at Rome’s Pontifical Holy Cross University. “So, one would expect an upswing in his malicious activity in the wake of de-Christianization and secularization” in the world and a surge in things like drug use, pornography and superstition.
In recent years, Rome’s pontifical universities have hosted several courses for would-be exorcists on the rite, updated in 1998 and contained in a little red leather-bound booklet. The rite is relatively brief, consisting of blessings with holy water, prayers and an interrogation of the devil in which the exorcist demands to know the devil’s name, how many are present and when they will leave the victim.
Only a priest authorized by a bishop can perform an exorcism, and canon law specifies that the exorcist must be “endowed with piety, knowledge, prudence and integrity of life.”
While belief in the devil is consistent with church teaching, the Holy See does urge prudence, particularly to ensure that the victim isn’t merely psychologically ill.
The Rev. Giulio Maspero, a Rome-based systematic theologian who has witnessed or participated in more than a dozen exorcisms, says he’s fairly certain that Francis’ prayer on Sunday was either a full-fledged exorcism or a more simple prayer to “liberate” the young man from demonic possession.
He noted that the placement of the pope’s hands on the man’s head was the “typical position” for an exorcist to use.
“When you witness something like that — for me it was shocking — I could feel the power of prayer,” he said in a phone interview, speaking of his own previous experiences.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, sought to temper speculation that what occurred was a full-fledged exorcism. While he didn’t deny it outright — he said Francis hadn’t “intended” to perform one — he stressed that the intention of the person praying is quite important.
Late Tuesday, the director of TV2000, the television of the Italian bishops’ conference, went on the air to apologize for the earlier report.
“I don’t want to attribute to him a gesture that he didn’t intend to perform,” said the director, Dino Boffo.
That said, Francis’ actions and attitude toward the devil are not new: As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio frequently spoke about the devil in our midst.
In the book “Heaven and Earth,” Bergoglio devoted the second chapter to “The Devil” and said in no uncertain terms that he believes in the devil and that Satan’s fruits are “destruction, division, hatred and calumny.”
“Perhaps its greatest success in these times has been to make us think that it doesn’t exist, that everything can be traced to a purely human plan,” he wrote.
Italian newspapers noted that the late Pope John Paul II performed an exorcism in 1982 — near the same spot where Francis prayed over the young disabled man Sunday.
Follow Nicole Winfield at http://www.twitter.com/nwinfield
I find it inconceivable that these schools didn’t have bunkers. How much can it cost to build a bunker? Dig a large hole, erect concrete walls, a concrete roof, basic ventilation, a few steps and a steel door; period.
Politicians should be ashamed of themselves – they aren’t worth their weight in cow manure. TGO
Refer to story below. Source: Reuters
MOORE, Oklahoma (Reuters) – Rescuers went building to building in search of victims and thousands of survivors were homeless on Tuesday, a day after a massive tornado tore through a suburb of Oklahoma City, wiping out whole blocks of homes and killing at least 24 people.
The death toll was lower than initially feared, but nine children were among the dead, including seven who died at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which took a direct hit in the deadliest tornado to hit the United States in two years.
Emergency workers pulled more than 100 survivors from the rubble of homes, schools and a hospital, and around 237 people were injured. Cadaver dogs sniffed through the scattered planks and bricks of ruined homes on Tuesday.
The massive tornado ripped through Moore on the outskirts of Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon, trapping victims beneath the rubble and tossing vehicles about as if they were toys. On block after block of residential neighborhoods, there was nothing left but mangled debris, and the town’s medical center was rubble.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said on Tuesday the death toll could rise. “There may have been bodies that may have been taken to local funeral homes,” Fallin said.
The National Weather Service upgraded its calculation of the storm’s strength on Tuesday, saying it was a rare EF5, the most powerful ranking on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with winds exceeding 200 miles per hour. Damage assessment teams determined it left a trail of destruction measuring about 17 miles by 1.3 miles wide.
The National Guard, firefighters from more than a dozen fire departments and rescuers from other states worked all night under bright spotlights trying to find survivors in the town of 55,000 people.
Plaza Towers Elementary School was one of five schools in the path of the tornado. “They literally were lifting walls up and kids were coming out,” Oklahoma State Police Sergeant Jeremy Lewis said. “They pulled kids out from under cinder blocks without a scratch on them.”
In the hours after the storm, many more people had been feared dead. At one point the Oklahoma state medical examiner’s office said the death toll could rise as high as 91, but on Tuesday officials said 24 bodies had been recovered from the wreckage, down from a previous tally of 51.
The earlier numbers likely reflected some double-counted deaths, said Amy Elliott, chief administrative officer for the medical examiner.
“There was a lot of chaos,” she said.
Thunderstorms and lightning slowed the rescue effort on Tuesday and made conditions tough for families left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird vowed at a news conference to search through every damaged building “at least three times,” as authorities urged people to stay away from the area to allow rescue workers to complete the search.
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak said the damage to property was likely to exceed that caused by the 2011 twister in Joplin, Missouri, which killed 161 people.
‘AS LONG AS IT TAKES’
President Barack Obama declared a major disaster area in Oklahoma, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local efforts in Moore after the deadliest U.S. tornado since the one that hit Joplin.
“The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them, as long as it takes,” Obama said at the White House.
Glenn Lewis, the mayor of Moore who was also mayor when a major tornado struck in 1999, said the whole town looked like a debris field and there was a danger of electrocution and fire from downed power lines and broken natural gas lines.
On Tuesday morning, a helicopter was circling overhead and thunder rumbled from a new storm as 35-year-old Moore resident Juan Dills and his family rummaged through the remains of what was once his mother’s home. The foundation was laid bare, the roof ripped away and only one wall was still standing. They found a few family photo albums, but little else.
“We are still in shock,” he said. “But we will come through. We’re from Oklahoma.”
Authorities warned the town 16 minutes before the tornado touched down just after 3 p.m., which is more than the average eight to 10 minutes of warning.
Shelters were opened for families who lost their homes and universities offered to house people. Albert Ashwood, director of Oklahoma’s department of emergency management, said it was too early to say how many people were left homeless, but clearly it was thousands given the extent of the damage.
Diana Tinnin, 60, was at home with her brother when the storm hit. Her three-bedroom, ranch-style home had no basement, so they huddled in a bathtub. “I lost my house. Everything fell on top of us.”
FIVE SCHOOLS HIT
U.S. Representative Tom Cole, who lives in Moore, said the Plaza Towers school was the most secure and structurally strong building in the area.
“And so people did the right thing, but if you’re in front of an F4 or an F5 there is no good thing to do if you’re above ground. It’s just tragic,” he said on MSNBC-TV.
Miguel Macias and his wife, Veronica, had two children at the Plaza Towers school and found 8-year-old Ruby first after rescue workers carried the girl from the destruction. But their son, 6-year-old Angel, was nowhere to be found, said Brenda Ramon, pastor of the Faith Latino Church where the family are members.
Ramon and several congregation members spent hours helping the family search for Angel and calling area hospitals. The boy was finally located at a medical center in Oklahoma City about five hours after the tornado hit.
“It was heart-breaking,” Ramon said. “We couldn’t find him for hours.” The boy had wounds to his face and head, but was not badly hurt, Ramon said. “Their little bodies are so resilient.”
Survivors of the storm suffered injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises to open wounds, impalements and open fractures, said Dr. Roxie M. Albrecht, the director of trauma and surgical critical care at the Oklahoma University Medical Center, which cared for 51 children and 35 adults.
Witnesses said Monday’s tornado appeared more fierce than the giant twister that was among the dozens that tore up the area on May 3, 1999, killing more than 40 people and destroying thousands of homes. That tornado ranked as an EF5 tornado with wind speeds of more than 200 mph.
The 1999 tornado ranks as the third-costliest tornado in U.S. history, having caused more than $1 billion in damage at the time, or more than $1.3 billion in today’s dollars. Only the devastating Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornadoes in 2011 were more costly. (Graphic http://link.reuters.com/gec38t)
Authorities urged people who want to help to donate cash to the Red Cross and other reputable charities rather than sending goods.
(Additional reporting by Alice Mannette, Lindsay Morris, Nick Carey, Brendan O’Brien and Greg McCune; Writing by Nick Carey, Jane Sutton and Claudia Parsons; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz, Grant McCool and Jim Loney)
Well, as expected, Super Bowl 50 goes to California. No surprise there… TGO
Refer to story below. Source: Jason Cole, Yahoo Expert
BOSTON – The San Francisco Bay Area has been awarded Super Bowl L, the NFL announced during league meetings Tuesday. It will be the second time the area has hosted a Super Bowl.
The game is scheduled for February 2016 at the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara. Levi’s Stadium will officially open in 2014 and reportedly is nearing the halfway point in its construction. The stadium is adjacent to the team’s training complex. It is also next to Great America amusement park and across from the Santa Clara Convention Center.
“It’s an awesome, awesome thing that they’ve allowed us to host one of the biggest games; the golden anniversary in the Golden State,” 49ers CEO Jed York said. “We’re just really, really excited.”
Niners CEO Jed York reacts following the announcement of San Francisco’s winning bid. (AP)The last time San Francisco hosted the Super Bowl was January 1985, when the game was played at Stanford Stadium between the 49ers and Miami Dolphins. The 49ers won that game, the second of the team’s five Super Bowl titles.
In addition, Miami came up short in its bid for Super Bowl LI, which was awarded to Houston.
“The vote didn’t really surprise me,” Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said. “I had hope because it was really a great bid put together and Miami is really a great place. Like I said to the owners, ‘Where would you rather be this time of year but Miami?’ I think most people probably feel that way. But that stadium is definitely the issue.”
Ironically, San Francisco’s bid for Super Bowl L beat South Florida’s hopes for an 11th Super Bowl game. Miami’s bid was hit hard when the Florida legislature refused to move on a possible referendum that would have provided $200 million in public funding as part of roughly $400 million improvements to Sun Life Stadium. The NFL has been pushing the city and team owner Stephen Ross for upgrades since the February 2010 championship in Miami, three years after the Indianapolis Colts’ Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears in the same stadium was hit by rain.
“I really believe the NFL wants to be in Miami, there is no question,” Ross said. “We have had 10 Super Bowls, the 11th would have been a record. Where would you rather be? I definitely think we can get there, but I think it is going to take a real public-private partnership to get there.”
The next two Super Bowls are scheduled to be played in New Jersey next February and in Glendale, Ariz., in 2015.
A devastating, mile-wide tornado touched down near Oklahoma City on Monday, killing at least 51 people and decimating homes, businesses and a pair of elementary schools in the suburb of Moore.
According to the state’s medical examiner, the death toll was expected to rise.
The schools—Plaza Towers Elementary and Briarwood Elementary—were leveled by the tornado. It was unclear how many children were in them at the time the twister hit, but according to KFOR-TV, at least seven children died at Plaza Towers, and as many as two dozen more were feared to be trapped inside the rubble. An Associated Press photographer saw rescue workers pull several children out alive. A makeshift triage center was set up in the school’s parking lot.
“This is war-zone terrible,” Jon Welsh, a helicopter pilot for KFOR who lives in Moore, said while surveying the damage from the air. “This school is completely gone.”
Emergency officials urged people to remain off the roads so rescue workers and first responders could reach people potentially trapped in rubble, as the National Guard was called in to help in the search for victims.
Three people were killed at a 7-Eleven in the path of the storm, CBS’ KWTV reported, including a man, woman and baby who took cover in a freezer but didn’t survive. KFOR reported a fourth person was killed there.
The funnel cloud could be seen for miles, creating a debris field several miles wide. According to the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla., the tornado was on the ground for approximately 40 minutes, and a tornado warning was in effect for 16 minutes before the twister developed.
Weather officials estimated the strength of the tornado to be an F4 or F5 on the Fujita Scale, the highest rating a tornado can achieve. The National Weather Service said the tornado’s preliminary classification was an F4, with winds up to 200 mph.
On May 3, 1999, a tornado outbreak near Oklahoma City produced 14 tornadoes—including an F5 in Moore—killing 36 people and injuring 295 others. A host on KFOR called Monday’s storm “the worst tornado damage-wise in the history of the world.”
The devastated area covered 30 square miles. Communication was snarled as landlines and cellphone towers were knocked down. A water treatment plant in Oklahoma City was also damaged.
President Barack Obama directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to prepare to get “all available assistance” to the disaster-hit area, the White House said.
The 106-acre Orr Family Farm was completely destroyed, killing between 75 and 100 horses, KFOR reported.
Families of potential victims were directed by the Red Cross to a website—safeandwell.org—for information about survivors.
Another, smaller tornado was spotted on the ground west of Meeker, Okla., north of Shawnee, on Monday.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives canceled its afternoon sessions so lawmakers and staffers could take shelter, the AP said.
The tornadoes came a day after powerful storms ripped through the center of the country, spawning at least a dozen tornadoes, killing two people and causing extensive damage from Georgia to Minnesota.
This article was written by the late (and great) Christopher Hitchens. Although Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, is no longer “in office,” the Catholic Church remains a haven for sexual predators. As such, the article is still relevant. TGO
Refer to story below. Source: Slate
Posted: February 12, 2013
Here’s a little thought experiment on practical ethics. Suppose that you are having a drink with a new acquaintance and the subject of law-breaking comes up. “Ever been in any trouble with the authorities?”
You may perhaps mention your arrest at a demonstration, your smuggling of excess duty-free goods, that brush with the narcotics people, that unwise attempt at insider trading. Your counterpart may show a closer acquaintance with the criminal justice system. He once did a bit of time for forgery, or for robbery with a touch of violence, or for a domestic dispute that got a bit out of hand. You are still perhaps ready to have lunch next Friday. But what if he says: “Well, I once knew a couple who trusted me as their baby sitter. Two little boys they had—one of 12 and one of 10. A good bit of fun I had with those kids when nobody was looking. Told them it was our secret. I was sorry when it all ended.” I hope I don’t seem too judgmental if I say that at this point the lunch is canceled or indefinitely postponed.
And would you feel any less or any more revulsion if the man went on to say, “Of course, I wasn’t strictly speaking in any trouble with the law. I’m a Catholic priest, so we don’t bother the police or the courts with that stuff. We take care of it ourselves, if you catch my meaning”?
Yet this is exactly what we are forced to read about every day. The happiness and the health of countless children was systematically destroyed by men who could count on their clerical bosses to shield them from legal retribution and, it seems, even from moral condemnation. A bit of “therapy” or a swift change of locale was the worst that most of them had to fear.
Almost every week, I go and debate with spokesmen of religious faith. Invariably and without exception, they inform me that without a belief in supernatural authority I would have no basis for my morality. Yet here is an ancient Christian church that deals in awful certainties when it comes to outright condemnation of sins like divorce, abortion, contraception, and homosexuality between consenting adults. For these offenses there is no forgiveness, and moral absolutism is invoked. Yet let the subject be the rape and torture of defenseless children, and at once every kind of wiggle room and excuse-making is invoked. What can one say of a church that finds so much latitude for a crime so ghastly that no morally normal person can even think of it without shuddering?
It’s interesting, too, that the same church did its best to hide the rape and torture from the secular authorities, even forcing child victims (as in the disgusting case of Cardinal Sean Brady, the spiritual chieftain of the Catholics of Ireland) to sign secrecy oaths that prevented them from testifying against their rapists and torturers. Why were they so afraid of secular justice? Did they think it would be less indifferent and pliable than private priestly investigations? In that case, what is left of the shabby half-baked argument that people can’t understand elementary morality without a divine warrant?
One mustn’t claim all that much for secular justice either, since Cardinal Brady and many like him have neither been dismissed by the church nor prosecuted by the civil power. But this dereliction on the part of the courts and police has mainly occurred in countries or provinces—Ireland, Massachusetts, Bavaria—where the church has undue influence on the bureaucracy. When are we going to see what the parents and relatives of the devastated children want to see and need to see: a senior accomplice of the cover-up actually facing a jury?
Pope Benedict’s pathetic and euphemistic letter to his “flock” in Ireland doesn’t even propose that such people should lose their positions in the church. And this cowardly guardedness on his part is for a good and sufficient reason: If there was to be a serious criminal investigation, it would have to depose the pope himself. Not only did he, as Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, protect a dangerously criminal priest in his own diocese of Munich and Freising in 1980, having him sent only for “therapy” instead of having him arrested. (The question of the priest’s later reassignment to assault more children, which the church continues to obfuscate, is irrelevant to the fact of Ratzinger’s direct and personal involvement in the original crime.) Not content with this, Ratzinger later originated, as a cardinal and head of a major institution in Rome, a letter that effectively instructed all bishops to refuse cooperation with any inquiry into what was fast becoming a global scandal.
Eighteen of Germany’s 27 Roman Catholic dioceses are now facing government investigations after a breach in what Germany’s justice minister has rightly described as “a wall of silence.” That wall was originally constructed by the man who now heads the church. The wall must be torn down. The fish—the ancient Christian symbol adopted by those who regard human beings as a shoal to be netted—absolutely rots from the head. I don’t think the full implications of this have even begun to sink in. The supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church is now a prima facie suspect in a criminal enterprise of the most appalling sort—and in the attempt to obstruct justice that has been part and parcel of that enterprise. He is also the political head of a state—the Vatican—that has given asylum to wanted men like the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. What, then, is the position when the pope decides to travel—as, for example, he intends to do on a visit to Britain later this year? Does he have immunity? Does he claim it? Should he have it? These questions demand serious answers. Meanwhile, we should register the fact that the church can find ample room in its confessionals and its palaces for those who commit the most evil offense of all. Whether prosecuted or not, they stand condemned. But prosecution must follow, or else we admit that there are men and institutions that are above and beyond our laws.
Not a single day goes by that at least one bomb doesn’t go off somewhere in a Muslim country. What a sewage pit these Muslim countries are; the reason – Muslims, what else? TGO
Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press
BAGHDAD (AP) — A wave of car bombings across Baghdad’s Shiite neighborhoods and in the southern city of Basra killed at least 40 people on Monday, striking at market places and crowded bus stops during the busy morning hours, officials said.
The attacks are the latest in a recent spike of bombings that has hit both Sunni and Shiite civilian targets over the past week. The bloodshed has raised fears of a return to the widespread sectarian violence of 2006-2007 that brought the country to the edge of civil war.
In the Iraqi capital, nine car bombs went off at bus stops, open-air markets and in the streets of Shiite areas, killing 27 people and wounding 116, according to police officials.
The deadliest attacks came in the northern Sabi al-Boor neighborhood and in Baghdad’s eastern suburb of Kamaliya. Seven people were killed in each of those attacks.
In the southern city of Basra, two car bombs — one near a restaurant and the other at the city’s main bus station — killed at least 13 and wounded 40, according to the provincial police spokesman, Col. Abdul-Karim al-Zaidi, and the head of city’s health directorate, Riadh Abdul-Amir.
The blast at the Basra bus station ripped through food stalls that serve falafel and eggs to travelers. Slippers lay scattered on the bloodstained pavement.
A Basra resident, Talib Dakhil, said he was at the station when the explosion went off. “This will not discourage us from continuing out life,” he said. “We will continue challenging terrorism, whatever happens.”
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts but such large-scale bombings bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq.
Hospital officials in Baghdad and Basra confirmed the casualty tolls. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
In Baghdad, Malik Ibrahim blamed the government and political parties for the bloodshed and the lack of security in the country.
“How long do we have to continue living like this, with all the lies from the government,” asked the 23-year-old Baghdad resident. “Whenever they say they have reached a solution, the bombings come back stronger than before.”
“We’re fed up with them and we can’t tolerate this anymore,” he added.
Tensions have been intensifying in Iraq since the country’s minority since Sunnis began protesting what they say is mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government, including random detentions and neglect.
The protests, which began in December, have largely been peaceful, but the number of attacks rose sharply after a deadly security crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in the country’s north on April 23.
Majority Shiites control the levers of power in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Wishing to rebuild the nation rather than revert to open warfare, they have largely restrained their militias over the past five years or so as Sunni extremist groups such as al-Qaida have targeted them with occasional large-scale attacks.
Associated Press writer Nabil Al-Jurani in Basra contributed to this report.
All of you Muslim apologists out there who steadfastly continue to support Muslims, in spite of their actions, and who are ignorant with respect to what Islam preaches through that unholiest of books, the Koran, just continue reading… TGO
Sam Harris -
Open the Koran, which is perfect in its every syllable, and simply read it with the eyes of faith. You will see how little compassion need be wasted on those whom God himself is in the process of “mocking,” “cursing,” “shaming,” “punishing,” “scourging,” “judging,” “burning,” “annihilating,” “not forgiving,” and “not reprieving.” God, who is infinitely wise, has cursed the infidels with their doubts. He prolongs their life and prosperity so that they may continue heaping sin upon sin and all the more richly deserve the torments that await them beyond the grave. In this light, the people who died on Sept. 11 were nothing more than fuel for the eternal fires of God’s justice. To convey the relentlessness with which unbelievers are vilified in the text of the Koran, I provide a long compilation of quotations below, in order of their appearance in the text. This is what the creator of the universe apparently has on his mind (when he is not fussing with gravitational constants and atomic weights):
“It is the same whether or not you forewarn them (the unbelievers), they will have no faith” (2:6).
“God will mock them and keep them long in sin, blundering blindly along” (2:15).
A fire “whose fuel is men and stones” awaits them (2:24).
They will be “rewarded with disgrace in this world and with grievous punishment on the Day of Resurrection” (2:85).
“God’s curse be upon the infidels!” (2:89).
“They have incurred God’s most inexorable wrath. An ignominious punishment awaits (them)” (2:90).
“God is the enemy of the unbelievers” (2:98).
“The unbelievers among the People of the Book (Christians and Jews), and the pagans, resent that any blessing should have been sent down to you from your Lord” (2:105).
“They shall be held up to shame in this world and sternly punished in the hereafter” (2:114).
“Those to whom We (God) have given the Book, and who read it as it ought to be read, truly believe in it; those that deny it shall assuredly be lost” (2:122).
“(We) shall let them live awhile, and then shall drag them to the scourge of the Fire. Evil shall be their fate” (2:126).
“The East and the West are God’s. He guides whom He will to a straight path” (2:142).
“Do not say that those slain in the cause of God are dead. They are alive, but you are not aware of them” (2:154).
“But the infidels who die unbelievers shall incur the curse of God, the angels, and all men. Under it they shall remain for ever; their punishment shall not be lightened, nor shall they be reprieved” (2:162).
“They shall sigh with remorse, but shall never come out of the Fire” (2:168).
“The unbelievers are like beasts which, call out to them as one may, can hear nothing but a shout and a cry. Deaf, dumb, and blind, they understand nothing” (2:172).
“Theirs shall be a woeful punishment” (2:175).
“How steadfastly they seek the Fire! That is because God has revealed the Book with truth; those that disagree about it are in extreme schism” (2:176).
“Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is worse than carnage… (I)f they attack you put them to the sword. Thus shall the unbelievers be rewarded: but if they desist, God is forgiving and merciful. Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God’s religion reigns supreme. But if they desist, fight none except the evil-doers” (2:190–93).
“Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. But you may hate a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. God knows, but you know not” (2:216).
“They will not cease to fight against you until they force you to renounce your faith – if they are able. But whoever of you recants and dies an unbeliever, his works shall come to nothing in this world and in the world to come. Such men shall be the tenants of Hell, wherein they shall abide forever. Those that have embraced the Faith, and those that have fled their land and fought for the cause of God, may hope for God’s mercy” (2:217-18).
“God does not guide the evil-doers” (2:258).
“God does not guide the unbelievers” (2:264).
“The evil-doers shall have none to help them” (2:270).
“God gives guidance to whom He will” (2:272).
“Those that deny God’s revelations shall be sternly punished; God is mighty and capable of revenge” (3:5).
“As for the unbelievers, neither their riches nor their children will in the least save them from God’s judgment. They shall become fuel for the Fire” (3:10).
“Say to the unbelievers: ‘You shall be overthrown and driven into Hell – an evil resting place!’” (3:12).
“The only true faith in God’s sight is Islam. . . . He that denies God’s revelations should know that swift is God’s reckoning” (3:19).
“Let the believers not make friends with infidels in preference to the faithful – he that does this has nothing to hope for from God – except in self-defense” (3:28).
“Believers, do not make friends with any but your own people. They will spare no pains to corrupt you. They desire nothing but your ruin. Their hatred is evident from what they utter with their mouths, but greater is the hatred which their breasts conceal” (3:118).
“If you have suffered a defeat, so did the enemy. We alternate these vicissitudes among mankind so that God may know the true believers and choose martyrs from among you (God does not love the evil-doers); and that God may test the faithful and annihilate the infidels” (3:140).
“Believers, if you yield to the infidels they will drag you back to unbelief and you will return headlong to perdition…We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers… The Fire shall be their home” (3:149-51).
“Believers, do not follow the example of the infidels, who say of their brothers when they meet death abroad or in battle: ‘Had they stayed with us they would not have died, nor would they have been killed.’ God will cause them to regret their words… If you should die or be slain in the cause of God, God’s forgiveness and His mercy would surely be better than all the riches they amass” (3:156).
“Never think that those who were slain in the cause of God are dead. They are alive, and well provided for by their Lord; pleased with His gifts and rejoicing that those they left behind, who have not yet joined them, have nothing to fear or to regret; rejoicing in God’s grace and bounty. God will not deny the faithful their reward” (3:169).
“Let not the unbelievers think that We prolong their days for their own good. We give them respite only so that they may commit more grievous sins. Shameful punishment awaits them” (3:178).
“Those that suffered persecution for My sake and fought and were slain: I shall forgive them their sins and admit them to gardens watered by running streams, as a reward from God; God holds the richest recompense. Do not be deceived by the fortunes of the unbelievers in the land. Their prosperity is brief. Hell shall be their home, a dismal resting place” (3:195–96).
“God has cursed them in their unbelief” (4:46).
“God will not forgive those who serve other gods besides Him; but He will forgive whom He will for other sins. He that serves other gods besides God is guilty of a heinous sin… Consider those to whom a portion of the Scriptures was given. They believe in idols and false gods and say of the infidels: ‘These are better guided than the believers’”(4:50-51).
“Those that deny Our revelation We will burn in fire. No sooner will their skins be consumed than We shall give them other skins, so that they may truly taste the scourge. God is mighty and wise” (4:55-56).
“Believers, do not seek the friendship of the infidels and those who were given the Book before you, who have made of your religion a jest and a pastime” (5:57).
“That which is revealed to you from your Lord will surely increase the wickedness and unbelief of many among them. We have stirred among them enmity and hatred, which will endure till the Day of Resurrection” (5:65).
“God does not guide the unbelievers” (5:67).
“That which is revealed to you from your Lord will surely increase the wickedness and unbelief of many among them. But do not grieve for the unbelievers” (5:69).
“You see many among them making friends with unbelievers. Evil is that to which their souls prompt them. They have incurred the wrath of God and shall endure eternal torment….You will find that the most implacable of men in their enmity to the faithful are the Jews and the pagans, and that the nearest in affection to them are those who say: ‘We are Christians’”(5:80-82).
“Those that disbelieve and deny Our revelations shall become the inmates of Hell” (5:86).
“They deny the truth when it is declared to them: but they shall learn the consequences of their scorn” (6:5).
“We had made them more powerful in the land than yourselves (the Meccans), sent down for them abundant water from the sky and gave them rivers that rolled at their feet. Yet because they sinned We destroyed them all and raised up other generations after them. If We sent down to you a Book inscribed on real parchment and they touched it with their own hands, the unbelievers would still assert: ‘This is but plain sorcery.’ They ask: ‘Why has no angel been sent down to him (Muhammad)?’ If We had sent down an angel, their fate would have been sealed and they would have never been reprieved” (6:5–8).
“Who is more wicked than the man who invents falsehoods about God or denies His revelations?” (6:21).
“Some of them listen to you. But We have cast veils over their hearts and made them hard of hearing lest they understand your words. They will believe in none of Our signs, even if they see them one and all. When they come to argue with you the unbelievers say: ‘This is nothing but old fictitious tales.’ They forbid it and depart from it. They ruin none but themselves, though they do not perceive it. If you could see them when they are set before the Fire! They will say: ‘Would that we could return! Then we would not deny the revelations of our Lord and would be true believers’” (6:23-27).
“But if they were sent back, they would return to that which they have been forbidden. They are liars all” (6:29).
“Had God pleased He would have given them guidance, one and all” (6:35).
“Deaf and dumb are those that deny Our revelations: they blunder about in darkness. God confounds whom He will, and guides to a straight path whom He pleases.” (6:39)
“Their hearts were hardened, and Satan made their deeds seem fair to them. And when they had clean forgotten Our admonition We granted them all that they desired; but just as they were rejoicing in what they were given, We suddenly smote them and they were plunged into utter despair. Thus were the evil-doers annihilated. Praise be to God, Lord of the Universe!” (6:43-45).
“Those that deny Our revelations shall be punished for their misdeeds” (6:49).
“Such are those that are damned by their own sins. They shall drink scalding water and be sternly punished for their unbelief” (6:70).
“Could you but see the wrongdoers when death overwhelms them! With hands outstretched, the angels will say: ‘Yield up your souls. You shall be rewarded with the scourge of shame this day, for you have said of God what is untrue and scorned His revelations’” (6:93).
“Avoid the pagans. Had God pleased, they would not have worshipped idols… We will turn away their hearts and eyes from the Truth since they refused to believe in it at first. We will let them blunder about in their wrongdoing. If We sent the angels down to them, and caused the dead to speak to them,… and ranged all things in front of them, they would still not believe, unless God willed otherwise… Thus have We assigned for every prophet an enemy: the devils among men and jinn, who inspire each other with vain and varnished falsehoods. But had your Lord pleased, they would not have done so. Therefore leave them to their own inventions, so that the hearts of those who have no faith in the life to come may be inclined to what they say and, being pleased, persist in their sinful ways” (6:107-12).
“The devils will teach their votaries to argue with you. If you obey them you shall yourselves become idolaters… God will humiliate the transgressors and mete out to them a grievous punishment for their scheming” (6:121-25).
“If God wills to guide a man, He opens his bosom to Islam. But if he pleases to confound him, He makes his bosom small and narrow as though he were climbing up to heaven. Thus shall God lay the scourge on the unbelievers” (6:125).
This is all desperately tedious, of course. But there is no substitute for confronting the text itself. I cannot judge the quality of the Arabic; perhaps it is sublime. But the book’s contents are not. On almost every page, the Koran instructs observant Muslims to despise non-believers. On almost every page, it prepares the ground for religious conflict. Anyone who can read passages like those quoted above and still not see a link between Muslim faith and Muslim violence should probably consult a neurologist.
Just when I thought Muslims couldn’t be any more f*cked-up than they had already proved to be, they exceed the lofty “standards” they’ve already set… Their obsession with Muhammad makes the obsession that dumb-ass Christians have with Jesus child’s play. TGO
Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press
CAIRO (AP) — The pale, young Christian woman sat handcuffed in the courtroom, accused of insulting Islam while teaching history of religions to fourth-graders. A team of Islamist lawyers with long beards sang in unison, “All except the Prophet Muhammad.”
The case against Dimyana Abdel-Nour in southern Egypt’s ancient city of Luxor began when parents of three of her pupils claimed that their children, aged 10, complained their teacher showed disgust when she spoke of Islam in class. According to the parents, Abdel-Nour, 24, told the children that Pope Shenouda, who led the Egyptian Coptic Church until his death last year, was better than the Prophet Muhammad.
Blasphemy charges were not uncommon in Egypt under the now-ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s regime, but there has been a surge in such cases in recent months, according to rights activists. The trend is widely seen as a reflection of the growing power and confidence of Islamists, particularly the ultraconservative Salafis.
“Salafis are the engineers of these stories,” said Abdel-Hamid Hassan, a Muslim and the head of the parents’ council at the primary school where Abdel-Nour teaches. Hassan’s daughter was among several students who denied any wrongdoing by Abdel-Nour.
“If the pope himself came here from the Vatican and tried to spread Christianity among us, he would fail. We learn about our religion starting from the age of 5,” he said, alluding to the allegation against Abdel-Nour, since withdrawn, of “spreading Christianity.”
Criminalizing blasphemy was enshrined in the country’s Islamist-backed constitution that was adopted in December.
Writers, activists and even a famous television comedian have been accused of blasphemy since then. But Christians seem to be the favorite target of Islamist prosecutors. Their fragile cases — the main basis of the case against Abdel-Nour’s case the testimony of children — are greeted with sympathy from courtroom judges with their own religious bias or who fear the wrath of Islamists, according to activists.
The result is a growing number of Egyptians, including many Christians, who have been convicted and sent to prison for blasphemy.
In at least one celebrated case, the offense was clearly provocative: Seven Coptic Christians living in the United States received death sentences in absentia for producing an anti-Islam film that sparked waves of protests by ultraconservative Islamists in front of U.S. embassies across the Arab world on Sept. 11, 2012.
But rights groups say the vast majority of blasphemy cases are merely attempts by Islamists to crack down on their opponents.
“Islamists are using the law to hunt down critics to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Christians are the weakest,” said Medhat Klada, a Switzerland-based Coptic Christian activist whose organization Copts United tracks such cases. “The numbers of Christians implicated is unprecedented,” he added.
Many believe that restrictions on freedoms are more severe under Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s first freely elected president, than during his predecessor’s 29-year reign.
Under Mubarak, “you might have had 50 cases, which means a case or two a year on average, but now you have like 10 cases in a year,” said Mamdouh Nakhla, who leads The Word Group for Human Rights and focuses on Christian-related persecution.
Freed Tuesday on nearly $3,000 bail after almost a week in detention, Abdel-Nour is due to stand trial on May 21. Her family refused several requests by The Associated Press to speak to her. Her father, Ebid Abdel-Nour, said: “She is innocent. God be with us. She can’t talk because she is in very bad condition.”
Emil Nazeer, a Christian activist who visited her, says she is suffering a “nervous breakdown.”
Rights advocates see cases like Abdel-Nour’s as politically motivated persecution. They say the verdicts tend to be harsher in southern Egypt, where Islamists are particularly powerful and Muslims are more conservative.
“Any move or word by a Christian is enough to get the rumor mill working,” said Amr Ezzat, a prominent researcher in Islamic groups at the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). “Rumors quickly spread in villages or the towns where the radar of Islamist activists detect them and turn them into a rallying cry under the pretext that Islam’s supremacy is endangered.”
Salafis advocate an uncompromising and literal interpretation of the Quran, believing society must mirror the way the prophet and his immediate successors ruled in the 7th century. Some Salafi-based political groups are at odds with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group from which Morsi hails, while others are avid supporters of his government.
Part of the Salafis’ antagonism toward Christians is rooted in the belief that they were a protected group under Mubarak’s regime while they, the Salafis, were persecuted. Now empowered, they may be out to exact revenge on the Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people.
The Egyptian Federation for Human Rights, led by former judge Naguib Gibrael, detects a trend in the number of lawsuits and court rulings leveled against Christians and school teachers in particular over the past year.
Gibrael, a lawyer who is representing Abdul-Nour, says it’s his 18th case defending Christians — several of them teachers — detained over insulting Islam. He says his 17 other clients received three to six years in prison. They go to appeals courts, hoping for retrials or lighter sentences.
Another rights group, the EIPR, said it chronicled at least 36 blasphemy cases in 2011 and 2012, including more than 10 convictions, and that Christian school teachers were frequent targets.
“Teachers are an easy target,” said Gibrael. “Any two students can say anything about their teachers. Islamist teachers collect signatures, and quickly Islamists move a case, then terrorize the court by holding protests and besieging the court building until the judge issues a verdict. I have seen it all,” he said.
In Cairo, public figures who have lately faced blasphemy accusations or trials like movie star Adel Imam were all cleared, thanks to media attention, lobbying by rights groups and heavy police presence.
In rural areas, according to EIPR researcher Ishak Ibrahim, even those acquitted or otherwise cleared of blasphemy accusations face social or administrative punishment, with some forced by villagers to leave their homes, pay a fine or get demoted or suspended by their state employers.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood likes to project itself as a more moderate Islamist group when compared to the ultraconservative Salafis, but they still play a role in the blasphemy cases.
The top Brotherhood leader in Luxor, Abdel-Hamid el-Senoussi, is a lawmaker and the head of the legal team representing the families whose children testified against Abdel-Nour.
He acknowledged that two investigations by the school found no justification for the children’s claims, but said he does not trust those findings.
“They just want to avoid discord. But we prefer to get to the bottom of it,” he said. “Even if the court clears the teacher and rules that she is innocent, she must be fired from the school.”
“There are people who want to mess up with the ship of the nation and this teacher is one of them,” he said.
For him, the penalty for contempt of religion is not harsh enough. “I prefer 10 years imprisonment and, in case the judge clears the defendant, a fine that goes toward the upkeep of places of worship.”
“Anyone who insults religions must be punished to deter further assaults,” he said.
AP writer Haggag Salama contributed to this story from Luxor, Egypt
By Catherine Hornby
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis warned the Catholic Church to not close in on itself at a Mass to mark Pentecost Sunday attended by more than 200,000 people, urging the faithful to be open and present in a new and changing world.
The Church should ask itself daily whether it is resisting new challenges and remaining “barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new,” he said.
“Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control,” Francis said in his homily in front of a packed St. Peter’s Square, adding that change can bring fulfillment.
The Pentecost Mass marks the day the Church says the Holy Spirit descended on Christ’s apostles, or disciples, and is regarded as the birthday of the Church.
Francis warned of the threat of an institution which is “self-referential, closed in on herself,” and spoke of the courage to “take to the streets of the world” and reach “the very outskirts of existence”.
Later he toured the square in an open-top white vehicle, greeting cheering crowds and kissing young children.
Since his election in March as the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Francis has been urging Church leaders to go out into their communities and help the poor and suffering, rather than focusing on internal politics.
Morale among the faithful has been hit by a widespread child sex abuse scandal involving Catholic priests and in-fighting and careerism in the Church government or curia.
The 76-year-old former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires has given clear signs he will bring a new broom to the papacy, favoring humility and simplicity over pomp and grandeur.
He has set up an advisory board of cardinals from around the world to help him reform a Vatican administration which has been held responsible for some of the mishaps and scandals that plagued the eight-year reign of his predecessor Benedict.
At a vigil on Saturday evening, Francis said Catholics must become courageous and seek out the people who need help the most rather than sitting around, dissecting theology.
(Reporting by Catherine Hornby; Editing by Jon Hemming)
More bombs, more dead people – all Muslims of course. Oh, and did I mention, these people were killed by other Muslims. What it basically boils down to is that these morons are still tribal. So you have on tribe wanting to destroy another.
Muslims are not only barbarians, they are mentally crippled barbarians. They have about as much common sense as a toad. TGO
Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press
BAGHDAD (AP) — A string of attacks killed at least 16 people in Iraq on Saturday, while gunmen abducted eight policemen guarding a post on the country’s main highway to Jordan and Syria, the latest in a wave of violence to grip the country.
The shootings and bombings follow three days of attacks that killed 130 people in both Shiite and Sunni areas in scenes reminiscent of retaliatory attacks between the two groups that pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006-2007. The spike in bloodshed in recent weeks has raised fears the country may be heading toward a new round of sectarian conflict.
Tensions have been worsening since Iraq’s minority Sunnis began protesting what they say is mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government, including random detentions and neglect. The mass demonstrations, which began in December, have largely been peaceful, but the number of attacks rose sharply after a deadly security crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq on April 23.
Majority Shiites control the levers of power in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Wishing to rebuild the nation rather than revert to open warfare, they have largely restrained their militias in the past five years or so as Sunni extremist groups such as al-Qaida have frequently targeted them with large-scale attacks. But the sharp jump in attacks on Sunni areas, including bombings on Friday that killed at least 76 people, has fueled concerns of renewed retaliatory killings.
In Saturday’s deadliest attack, gunmen broke into the house of an anti-terrorism police captain in the southern suburbs of Baghdad, killing the officer and his family in their sleep. Police officials identified the dead as Cap. Adnan Ibrahim, his wife and two children, aged eight and 10.
The attackers fled the scene, and killed another policeman who tried to stop them at a nearby checkpoint.
Meanwhile in the western Sunni province of Anbar, gunmen kidnapped eight policemen who were guarding a post on the main highway linking Iraq to both Jordan and Syria, according to two police officials.
Earlier in the day, security forces and gunmen clashed in the area after police tried to arrest a Sunni tribal sheik suspected of being behind the killing of three army intelligence soldiers stopped by gunmen near a protest site in the city of Ramadi last month. Iraqi authorities had offered a bounty for the arrest or information leading to the arrest of the sheik, Khamis Abu Risha, and two other people they say were linked to the killings.
The fighting near Abu Risha’s house north of Ramadi left three people wounded. No arrests were made. Later, gunmen deployed near the main entrance of Anbar Operations Command headquarters in Ramadi, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad.
Hours later, Ramadi police said a bomb placed under stalls in a small stadium exploded, killing four people who were watching a local soccer match.
Shortly before sunset, a car bomb went off near a small market in in the town of Latifiyah south of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding 12.
Elsewhere, in the predominantly Shiite city of Basra in southern Iraq, gunmen shot and killed a Sunni cleric, Assad Nassir, as he was leaving his house, police said.
Two Iraqi soldiers were also killed and two others wounded when a roadside bomb struck a group of soldiers arriving to inspect the scene of a blast that took place earlier in the northern city of Mosul.
A security official said a roadside bomb hit a police patrol in the northern suburbs of Baghdad, killing one policeman and wounding two others.
Health officials confirmed the death tolls. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
The guy on the left is kidnapper and the other two are his brothers. The kidnapper deserves the worst kind of agonizing pain and suffering which any human being has ever endured. TGO
Refer to story below. Source: Good Morning America
By ALEX PEREZ, MATTHEW JAFFE and ALYSSA NEWCOMB | Good Morning America
The two brothers of accused kidnapper Ariel Castro — who is charged with kidnapping and raping three women for more than 10 years — described him as a “monster” and distanced themselves from the alleged crimes, saying if they had known what was happening behind closed doors, they would have reported it to police.
Castro’s two brothers – Pedro and Onil — were initially taken into custody with their brother but released Thursday after investigators said there was no evidence linking them to the alleged crimes against Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 27.
The brothers told CNN in an exclusive interview that their brother is a “monster” and since they were arrested with him they have received death threats.
“I hope he rots in that jail,” Onil Castro, 50, said. “I don’t even want them to take his life like that. I want him to suffer in that jail to the last extent. I don’t care if they even feed him. What he has done to my life and my family’s.”
“I can’t go nowhere because they think I’m a monster, too, and I’m not,” Pedro Castro, 54, said. “And it just keeps going over and over in my head that people are just thinking that I did this.”
The brothers said they fear people will still believe they are connected to the alleged kidnappings.
“People think Pedro has something to do with this. Pedro don’t have nothing to do with this. If I knew I would have reported it, brother or no brother,” Pedro said.
Pedro said whenever he visited his brother’s home it was filled with background noise.
“If not the radio, the TV. Something had to be on at all time in the kitchen. So, I couldn’t hear nothing else, but the radio or the TV.”
Pedro told CNN he did not visit the home much, but when he did he was not allowed past the kitchen.
Ariel Castro, 52, was arraigned Thursday in an Ohio court on charges of kidnapping and rape. Bond was set at $8 million. He has not entered a plea.
In the early hours of the investigation, Onil and Pedro’s mugshots were distributed along with Ariel’s connecting them to the grisly details behind the imprisonment of the three women and Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, who was fathered by Ariel Castro, DNA tests revealed.
“I could not never think of doing anything like that. If I knew my brother was doing this, in a minute I would call the cops,” Pedro Castro said.
New cellphone video has emerged during the tense moments Cleveland police arrived at Castro’s home and pried open the front door, freeing DeJesus and Knight. The women’s first glimpse of freedom was caught on video by Ashley Colon and Jasmina Baldrich as they were driving down Seymour Street when they noticed the commotion and pulled over.
Moments earlier, Berry and her daughter Jocelyn escaped the home and made that frantic call to 911. Colon and Baldrich saw Berry tell her dramatic story for the first time to arriving police officers.
“We heard everything. She was saying we are in danger. Please protect me and she kept grabbing him,” Colon said. On Sunday, attorneys for the three women issued statements on their behalf thanking authorities and neighbors for support.
Michelle, Amanda and Gina “are extremely grateful for the generous assistance and loving support of their families, friends and the community” and thank authorities “for the tireless efforts of numerous law enforcement officials.” attorney James Wooley said.
Wooley then read statements directly from all three women.
Berry said, “Thank you so much for everything you do and continue to do. I am so happy to be home with my family.”
DeJesus said, “I am so happy to be home and want to thank everybody for all your prayers. I just want time now to be with my family.”
Knight said, “Thank you to everyone for your support and good wishes. I am healthy, happy and safe and will reach out to family, friends and supporters in good time.”
In response to numerous media requests, the attorneys said the women “will not be participating in any interviews” at this time due to the pending criminal investigation and prosecution and, more importantly, Wooley said, because they want privacy “so that they can continue to heal and reconnect with their families.”