Pat Condell is one of a handful of people I know who aren’t blinded by religion and who also has the gonads to speak out against it; and we’re specifically talking about Islam, that barbaric belief system that over one billion people around the globe are poisoned with.
This video is a couple of years old, but it is still relevant today. Come to think of it, it will probably be relevant 500 years from now, seeing that Islam is still in the Bronze Age and will more than likely continue to be. TGO
ABU DHABI (Reuters) – A militant Islamist website has created a series of posters calling for attacks on France and for the assassination of President Francois Hollande in reprisal for the country’s policies in Mali and the Central African Republic, the SITE monitoring service said late on Monday.
In addition to assisting Mali in its war against Islamists, France sent troops four months ago to the majority Christian Central African Republic, where predominantly Muslim “Seleka” rebels seized power a year ago. The Seleka have since been pushed back by Christian “anti-balaka” – “anti-machete” in the local language – militia.
The al Minbar Jihadi Media Network, a well-known Islamist website, created six posters as part of a campaign it dubbed, “We will not be silent, O France,” SITE said.
The forum’s “Media soldiers for the support of Islam” designed the posters, which can be downloaded and printed by visitors to the site.
France’s troops in the Central African Republic, around 2,000 soldiers, are supporting a 6,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission.
“To our lone-wolves in France, assassinate the president of disbelief and criminality, terrify his cursed government, and bomb them and scare them as a support to the vulnerable in the Central African Republic,” one of the posters said.
Hollande has said his troops would work to stop the Central African Republic splitting in two and to disarm rival fighters.
A source in the French president’s office said that while the government was very alert to the threat of attacks, they were not a new phenomenon.
“This is not the first time there have been threats,” the source said. “There were others during the Mali intervention and even before, so we took precautionary measures.”
“Just because they (threats) are being publicized does not mean that they are new… Sometimes they are more dangerous when they are not publicized.”
Al Minbar Jihadi Media Network publishes news for various al Qaeda affiliates and other jihadists and has had an online magazine since July last year.
A French-led offensive in January 2013 drove out Islamist militants who had seized control of northern Mali. Small groups of fighters loyal to Islamist groups including the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and al Qaeda in the Maghreb still operate in the desert region, carrying out periodic attacks.
Kidnappings and killing of French nationals has since then taken place as a form of reprisal.
Two French journalists were abducted and killed in Northern Mali in November, with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claiming responsibility.
(Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Omar Fahmy; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Hugh Lawson)
HAVANA (AP) — Melba Hernandez, one of two women who helped Fidel Castro launch his revolutionary battle with a failed 1953 attack on a military barracks, and who was later named a “heroine of the Cuban Revolution” has died at age 92.
A message from the Communist Party’s Central Committee published Monday in the party newspaper Granma said Hernandez died the previous night of complications from diabetes.
“She is one of the most glorious and beloved combatants of the revolutionary quest, (and an) imperishable example of the Cuban woman,” it read.
With her crown of snowy white curls, Hernandez was occasionally seen at official events in her later years, accompanied by one or the other of the Castro brothers. Fidel stepped down due to ill health in 2006, passing command to his younger brother Raul.
Born on July 28, 1921, Hernandez was five years older than Fidel Castro and remained faithful to him throughout her life.
At the time of the July 26, 1953, assault on the Moncada Barracks in the eastern city of Santiago, Hernandez — like Castro — was a young attorney who had grown increasingly fed up with government corruption under Fulgencio Batista, who seized power in a 1952 coup.
She signed on to Castro’s assault plans and obtained 100 uniforms for the attackers from an army sergeant who later joined the movement.
She and the only other woman involved in the operation, Haydee Santamaria, sewed insignia showing military ranks onto the uniforms. At a farm in the hours before the operation, the women ironed the uniform slacks and shirts.
The assault failed miserably, with many of the attackers killed by government soldiers and the rest, including Castro, arrested. The women, who were waiting nearby to provide medical assistance to their comrades, were also jailed. Santamaria’s brother Abel was tortured and killed in prison.
Hernandez and Santamaria were freed months before the men and organized support rallies for those still jailed. They also distributed writings by Castro that were smuggled from behind bars — essays that helped rally sympathy for the revolutionaries.
Castro corresponded frequently with Hernandez when he was in prison, giving instructions on helping run his July 26 Movement. After the remaining rebels were freed, Hernandez traveled to Mexico with the group, including her new husband and fellow revolutionary Jesus Montane, to help organize a guerrilla army.
She did not, however, join the band that sailed from Mexico to launch an uprising in Cuba’s eastern Sierra Maestra.
A member of the rebels’ national directorate, Hernandez became a member of the guerrilla army’s Third Front. Batista fled the country Jan. 1, 1959, and Castro took power soon after.
Hernandez later helped found the Communist Party of Cuba and served as ambassador to Vietnam and Cambodia.
She also was secretary-general of the Organization for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, a group founded in Cuba in 1966 to support independence struggles in developing nations.
In 1997, Hernandez was among five women from around the world who received human rights awards from Col. Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, long an ally of Cuba.
The University of Havana granted Hernandez an honorary doctorate in international relations in July 2007. “Melba has been one of the greatest exponents of Cuban diplomacy,” National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon said at the ceremony.
The announcement in Granma said Hernandez was to be cremated and her ashes interred in a cemetery alongside the remains of other participants in the Moncada attack.
Montane died in 1999 and Santamaria in 1980.
Associated Press writers Peter Orsi and Anne-Marie Garcia contributed to this report.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – About two dozen Iraqi women demonstrated on Saturday in Baghdad against a draft law approved by the Iraqi cabinet that would permit the marriage of nine-year-old girls and automatically give child custody to fathers.
The group’s protest was on International Women’s Day and a week after the cabinet voted for the legislation, based on Shi’ite Islamic jurisprudence, allowing clergy to preside over marriages, divorces and inheritances. The draft now goes to parliament.
“On this day of women, women of Iraq are in mourning,” the protesters shouted.
“We believe that this is a crime against humanity,” said Hanaa Eduar, a prominent Iraqi human rights activist. “It would deprive a girl of her right to live a normal childhood.”
The UN’s representative to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, also condemned the legislation. Mladenov wrote on Twitter the bill “risks constitutionally protected rights for women and international commitment”.
The legislation goes to the heart of the divisions in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, as Shi’ite Islamists have come to lead the government and look to impose their religious values on society at large.
It describes girls as reaching puberty at nine, making them fit for marriage, makes the father sole guardian of his children at two and condones a husband’s right to insist on sexual intercourse with his wife whenever he wishes.
The legislation is referred to as the Ja’afari Law, named after the sixth Shi’ite imam Ja’afar al-Sadiq, who founded his own school of jurisprudence.
The draft was put forward by Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimari, a member of the Shi’ite Islamist Fadila party, and approved by the cabinet on February 25.
It must now be reviewed by parliament, but the draft could very well languish, with national elections scheduled for April 30, and vocal opposition among secularists.
Shi’ite religious parties first attempted to pass a version of the law in 2003 under U.S. occupation, angering secular Iraqis and prompting protests. Since then, amid Iraq’s turmoil, the tug-of-war has continued between Iraq’s secularists and Islamists.
Iraq’s current personal status law enshrines women’s rights regarding marriage, inheritance, and child custody, and has often been held up as the most progressive in the Middle East.
The proposed new law’s defenders argue that the current personal status law violates sharia religious law.
“This is the core of the freedom. Based on the Iraqi constitution, each component of the Iraqi people has the right to regulate its personal status in line with the instructions of its religion and doctrine,” said Hussein al-Mura’abi, a Shi’ite lawmaker and Fadila party leader.
(Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy. Editing by Ned Parker and Andrew Roche)
PRETORIA (Reuters) – Track star Oscar Pistorius, on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, wept and vomited into a bucket in a South African courtroom on Monday after hearing graphic details from her autopsy.
Pathologist Gert Saayman was interrupted several times by the 27-year-old Paralympic and Olympic athlete’s sobbing and retching but the defense team argued against an adjournment, saying a break would not improve his state of mind.
Earlier, Judge Thokozile Masipa imposed a broadcast blackout on Saayman’s testimony out of respect for Steenkamp’s family and to prevent children from accidentally hearing its contents.
“Broadcast would compromise the privacy of the deceased, hurt the interests of the Steenkamps and be against the morals of society,” Saayam said when he took the stand to ask for a temporary broadcast blackout of a trial that has so far been shown in its entirety on live television.
Masipa, who has been presiding over the week-long trial, extended the ban to live reporting on Twitter.
Pistorius, nicknamed “Bladerunner” for the special prosthetics he wears in competition, admits he shot 29-year-old Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, but argues that it was a tragic case of mistaken identity and that he thought she was an intruder who had broken in to his luxury Pretoria home.
In his testimony, Saayman confirmed that Steenkamp was hit in the head, arm and hip by three shots fired through the locked door of a toilet cubicle. A fourth round fired by Pistorius missed.
Saayman also disclosed Pistorius was using ‘hollow-point’ rounds, ammunition designed to disintegrate on impact with tissue to cause maximum damage.
Her right upper arm was shattered, the hip wound could well have been fatal, while that to her head would have incapacitated her immediately, he added. No blood was found in her airways, suggesting she breathed only a few times before dying.
In between bouts of sobbing and retching, Pistorius sat with his head bowed, covering his ears with his hands and a white handkerchief in an attempt to block out Saayman’s testimony.
Saayman is the first expert to testify at the trial, which has so far heard several witnesses who reported hearing a woman screaming before a volley of shots in the early hours of February 14 – Valentine’s Day – at Pistorius’ home.
The killing stunned South Africa and the millions of Pistorius supporters around the world who admired the athlete as a symbol of triumph over physical adversity.
He had his disabled lower legs amputated as a baby but – running on carbon fiber prosthetic “blades” – made it to the semi-final of the 400 meters at the London 2012 Olympics competing against able-bodied sprinters.
If found guilty of murder, he faces at least 25 years behind bars.
(Additional reporting by Lynette Ndabambi, Writing by Ed Cropley, Editing by David Dolan and Angus MacSwan)
HILLA, Iraq (Reuters) – A suicide bomber driving a minibus packed with explosives killed at least 45 people and wounded 157 on Sunday in the southern Iraqi city of Hilla, police and medical sources said.
The attacker approached a main checkpoint at a northern entrance to the largely Shi’ite Muslim city and detonated the minibus, a police officer said on condition of anonymity.
At least 50 cars were set ablaze with passengers trapped inside and part of the checkpoint complex was destroyed, the officer said.
Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda have been regaining ground in Iraq over the past year, particularly in the western province of Anbar bordering Syria.
No one claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack, but the deputy chairman of Hilla provincial council, Aqeel al-Rubaie, accused al Qaeda of being behind the bombing.
Rubaie said the local government had received tips that al Qaeda-affiliates hiding in farmland north of Hilla were plotting a strike.
He said the violence was a spillover from fighting in neighboring Anbar, where the Shi’ite-led government has been battling the al Qaeda faction the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) around the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
“We have evidence that al Qaeda terrorists are standing behind the suicide attack today and since the breakout of fighting in Anbar, al Qaeda has stepped up attacks in Hilla,” Rubaie told Reuters.
“We can’t separate today’s attack from Anbar’s fight.”
The scene of the attack was strewn with debris from the checkpoint, and the shells of burnt out cars littered the road.
“I was sitting inside my kiosk when suddenly a horrible blast threw me outside and hurled my groceries up in the air. I saw cars set ablaze with people burning inside,” said Abu Nawar, owner of a makeshift kiosk made of palm tree leaves near the checkpoint.
Police were using cutting equipment to break into the blackened vehicles and lift out the bodies, the police officer said.
“A policeman thought the minibus was suspicious and he asked the driver to pull over for a check, but the vehicle exploded,” the officer said.
Bombings and other attacks killed almost 8,000 civilians in Iraq in 2013, the deadliest year since 2008. Violence has not abated in the early months of 2014.
Relatives of the casualties lined up outside the Hilla morgue to claim the bodies of their loved ones. Inside, family members cried and wept as they struggled to recognize the bodies.
“I want to keep my son’s shoes forever, I loved him so much, they broke my heart,” said Um Muthanna, who identified the charred body of her son, Muthanna Abdul Hussein, a cameraman for state television, from his shoes and socks.
Muthanna was killed along with a second cameraman from Iraqiya state television, Khalid Abid.
The death toll rose as some of the wounded died in hospital and more bodies were discovered at the bomb site, police said.
In a separate incident, on the border of Anbar province and western Baghdad, a group of gunmen attacked an army check point in the Sunni area of Abu Ghraib, killing four soldiers, police and medical sources said.
In northern Iraq, three North Oil Company employees were killed and seven wounded when gunmen in a car fired at a bus ferrying NOC employees near Tuz Khurmatu, close to the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, according to a police official.
ISIL militants and other armed groups linked to the fight in Anbar have been carrying out attacks in northern Iraq as they try to divert government troops from Anbar and exploit openings made by the concentration of security forces in the west.
(Reporting by Ali al-Rubaie in Hilla; Additional reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud in Kirkuk and Kareem Raheem in Baghdad; Writing by Ahmed Rasheed, Editing by Ned Parker and Rosalind Russell)
From the ancient Egyptian astronomer Hypatia to modern-day astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, physicists throughout history are getting the artist’s treatment in a new set of illustrations honoring the thinkers’ contributions to science.
Dr. Prateek Lala, a physician based in Canada, has recently crafted playful images using the names of famous scientists to show, in logo form, what they gave to theoretical physics. Called “science typographies” or “logotypes,” some of the more striking images include Isaac Newton’s apple and Edwin Hubble with the Hubble Space Telescope that eventually flew his name into space.
Lala started making his images in 2013 after speaking with a friend about the ways in which people learn, and how to get everyone interested in scientific research. After getting some inspiration from other word artists, Lala crafted logos for researchers in a wide number of scientific fields. He posted his creations on the website Visual.ly, and people responded.
“I started out with well-known scientists who I thought had made the most significant contributions to their fields, and whose surnames lent themselves well to design concepts related to their discoveries,” Lala told Space.com via email. “I received some feedback and suggestions from friends and site users on Visual.ly, and slowly expanded the repertoire. The history of science and the biographies of scientists have always fascinated me. Scientific discoveries are rarely made by solo efforts, and reading about collaborations between researchers and their academic ‘pedigrees’ provided a lot of grist for the mill.”
Lala also created three astronaut typographies to celebrate Neil Armstrong, the first person on the moon; John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth; and Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station.
Hadfield’s illustration substitutes the space station for the “H,” puts a maple leaf in place of the “a,” and features a lightning bolt on the “d,” paying homage to the popular cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” that Hadfield recorded from orbit.
Lala’s typographies attracted the attention of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, Canada, and the artist produced a poster for the fall 2013 issue of the institute’s magazine.
“This has turned into a continuously ongoing process, and I come up with a few new images every week,” Lala said. “So far, I’ve depicted about 110 physicists, mathematicians and chemists, and about 60 biologists and physicians. The 55 images chosen for the poster published by the Perimeter Institute were selected for their relevance to theoretical physics. I’m always happy to receive new suggestions!”
Lala’s logotype project is ongoing, and if there is enough interest, he might consider using some of the images for T-shirts or coffee mugs. You can see more of his work on Visual.ly: http://visual.ly/science-typography-01
A tiny space rock barely missed Earth today (March 6) in the third of back-to-back-to-back asteroid flybys over the past 24 hours, coming six times closer than the orbit of the moon.
The 25-foot-wide (8 meters) asteroid 2014 EC came within 38,300 miles (61,600 kilometers) of our planet at 4:21 p.m. ET (2121 GMT) today, NASA officials said. For comparison, the moon orbits Earth at an average distance of 239,000 miles (385,000 km).
“This is not an unusual event,” Paul Chodas, a senior scientist in the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. “Objects of this size pass this close to the Earth several times every year.”
But today’s close encounter was special in one sense — it came just one day after two other space-rock flybys. On Wednesday afternoon (March 5), the 100-foot-wide (30 m) asteroid 2014 DX110 zipped within 217,000 miles (350,000 km) of Earth.
“A third asteroid, 2014 EF, which is closer in size to today’s 2014 EC, passed Earth at about 7 p.m. PST (10 p.m. EST) Wednesday, with closest approach about twice as far from Earth as 2014 EC’s closest approach,” NASA officials wrote in an update today.
There was never any danger of an impact by the asteroids during these flybys, researchers said. The odds that 2014 EC will ever hit Earth are currently estimated to be 1 in 2.7 million.
2014 EC was just discovered on Tuesday night (March 4). It’s about half as wide as the space rock that exploded without warning over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013, generating a powerful shock wave that injured 1,500 people. (Most of the wounds were caused by shards of flying glass from broken windows.)
The Russian meteor got worldwide attention, alerting the public and policymakers to the very real dangers posed by asteroid strikes, scientists say. Many researchers are pushing for more money and new instruments to aid the hunt for near-Earth asteroids; just 10,660 have been detected to date, out of a total population thought to number in the millions.
Scientists Scanned A Woman’s Brain During An Out-Of-Body Experience — And What They Found Was Amazing
It may sound like the plot of the Twilight Zone, but a psychology graduate student at the University of Ottawa says she can voluntarily enter an out-of-body experience. This was a lucky break for scientists, who were able to scan her brain during the episode.
Usually out-of-body experiences are a part of, say, a near-death experience. A patient may float above their own body as surgeons work on them. These experiences are usually attributed to the drugs in a patient’s system, or the hormones released into their system by trauma.
A unique experience
The study — which only involved this one person — was published Feb. 10 in the journal Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, a peer-reviewed open access publication. The researchers are members of the School Of Psychology at the University of Ottawa.
According to the paper, this woman enters her out-of-body state right before sleeping, visualizing herself from above. She started doing so during naptime in preschool, they write. She currently only does it sometimes.
The researchers wrote in the paper:
She was able to see herself rotating in the air above her body, lying flat, and rolling along with the horizontal plane. She reported sometimes watching herself move from above but remained aware of her unmoving “real” body…
She told the researchers:
I feel myself moving, or, more accurately, can make myself feel as if I am moving. I know perfectly well that I am not actually moving. There is no duality of body and mind when this happens, not really. In fact, I am hyper-sensitive to my body at that point, because I am concentrating so hard on the sensation of moving. I am the one moving – me – my body. For example, if I ‘spin’ for long enough, I get dizzy. I do not see myself above my body. Rather, my whole body has moved up. I feel it as being above where I know it actually is. I usually also picture myself as moving up in my mind’s eye, but the mind is not substantive. It does not move unless the body does.
The brain out of the body
The researchers did a fMRI before and after asking her to enter her out-of-body state to find out what that looked like in the brain. They compared these to when she was imagining, but not actually entering, the state.
Interestingly, the pathway that seemed to be activated during her out-of-body experience is also involved in the mental representation of movements.
Andra M. Smith and Claude Messier, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2014
Brain regions activated by the out-of-body experience include the supplementary motor area, the cerebellum, the supramarginal gyrus, the inferior temporal gyrus, the middle and superior orbitofrontal gyri.
Some parts of her brain involved in interpreting vision were turned down in activity, as shown below:
Andra M. Smith and Claude Messier, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2014
Brain regions inhibited by the out-of-body experience include the visual cortex.
She didn’t have any specific emotions surrounding this experience, and i t seems to be a kind of hallucination she can turn on at will.
Even if there is no soul stuck in our bodies, this woman isn’t making this up. There’s obviously something happening in her brain that is making her experience the world in a different way — but researchers can’t yet say exactly what it is. Plus, this study was about one woman’s out-of-body experience, not all out-of-body experiences.
Still, the changes they observed could be similar to how the brain can be trained using meditation. The researchers even suggested that this could be something many kids can do, but that with practice could be carried into adulthood.
Interestingly, the researchers suggested that this kind of experience may be much more common than we thought. The woman in question actually “appeared surprised that not everyone could experience this,” the researchers wrote.
They compared it to synesthesia — the condition in which people hear colors or smell sounds — which was thought of as “out there” but has become widely accepted in the last few decades.
Interesting stuff… TGO
Refer to story below. Source: Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Patsy Cline’s classic country song “I Fall to Pieces,” has nothing on this one.
Scientists said on Thursday they have observed for the first time an asteroid breaking apart, crumbling into at least 10 pieces in sort of a celestial, slow-motion train wreck.
The rocky asteroid, named P/2013 R3, was one of the innumerable objects populating the crowded asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, roughly three times further away from the sun than Earth.
Asteroids have broken apart many times over the eons, but never before have scientists been able to witness it.
This time, however, scientists first noticed the dramatic events using ground-based telescopes in Arizona and Hawaii and then got a better look using the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.
“After looking at the asteroid belt for a couple of hundred years – the first one was discovered in 1801 – to find a new thing like this is really exciting,” David Jewitt, a UCLA astronomer who led the research, said in a telephone interview.
The findings were published in the scientific publication Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The asteroid was probably around 2,000 feet in diameter, and no more than about 3,280 feet in diameter before it began to disintegrate, Jewitt said. The break-up unfolded over a period of several months last year, he added.
The Hubble telescope detected at least 10 fragments – each having comet-like dust tails. The four largest pieces each had a diameter of up to about 1,300 feet.
The scientists do not think the asteroid was destroyed in a collision with another object in part because the way it is breaking apart – fragments drifting slowly at around one mile per hour – does not suggest a violent impact.
In addition, the 10 fragments did not all emerge at one time, as they would in an impact, with their appearance staggered over many months, Jewitt said.
They also think it is unlikely the asteroid fell to pieces due to the pressure of interior ices warming and vaporizing because at 300 million miles (480 million km) away from the sun it simply would be too cold for that to occur.
Instead, they said the break-up was probably the result of the subtle but inexorable effect of sunlight over many, many years causing the asteroid to spin at a slowly increasing rate until it became unstable and ruptured. This phenomenon, known as the YORP effect, has been debated by scientists, but never previously reliably observed.
“This is a really bizarre thing to observe – we’ve never seen anything like it before,” added Jessica Agarwal of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany. “The break-up could have many different causes, but the Hubble observations are detailed enough that we can actually pinpoint the process responsible.”
When hit with sunlight, objects radiate heat back into space. If an object is perfectly round, that phenomenon would not affect its structural stability. But the irregular shape of asteroids – often shaped like a big potato tumbling through space – means that when sunlight is radiated back into space, it exerts a torque on them, leading to a spin.
“That net force due to sunlight is very, very weak. But on long time scales, it can push asteroids around,” Jewitt said. “So this is probably the way asteroids die in many cases. They spin up and blow themselves apart. And in the process, they make dust and debris that populates the inner solar system.”
A good friend of mine and fellow blogger, GhostRider, believes that the video version of Shakira singing ‘La Tortura’, is sexier than the live version I posted the other day. You be the judge… TGO
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is coming under increasing criticism that he simply doesn’t get it on sex abuse.
Three months after the Vatican announced a commission of experts to study best practices on protecting children, no action has been taken, no members appointed, no statute outlining the commission’s scope approved.
Francis hasn’t met with any victims, hasn’t moved to oust a bishop convicted in 2012 of failing to report a suspected abuser, and on Wednesday insisted that the church had been unfairly attacked on abuse, using the defensive rhetoric of the Vatican from a decade ago.
Victims’ advocates said his tone was archaic and urged Francis to show the same compassion he offers the sick, the poor and disabled to people who were raped by priests when they were children.
“Under Pope Francis the Vatican continues to deny its role in creating and maintaining a culture where upholding the reputation of the church is prioritized over the safety of children,” said Maeve Lewis, executive director of the Irish victims’ support group One in Four.
To be sure, Francis adores children like a father — it’s on display every Wednesday during his general audience — and he has continued to defrock pedophile priests. But unlike Pope Benedict XVI, he has rarely spoken out about abuse, indicating it clearly has not been a priority in his first year as pope. Instead, he has focused on introducing the world to his merciful vision of the church and reforming the Vatican bureaucracy.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Wednesday the upheaval of those reforms had delayed getting the commission off the ground. But he said there was no doubt it would, and that it would eventually propose new initiatives to protect children and be a model for the church and society at large.
“I’m waiting for it, and I hope with all my heart (and I know that qualified experts have been contacted in an exploratory way to see if they would be available),” Lombardi said in an email.
Francis has only spoken out a few times on abuse and his toughest words weren’t even pronounced. Francis apparently scrapped his prepared Dec. 2 speech to bishops from the Netherlands, who have been dealing with revelations that some 20,000 children were sexually abused in Dutch Catholic institutions over the past 65 years. Instead, Francis spoke to the bishops off-the-cuff.
On Jan. 31, Francis did mention his new sex abuse commission in a speech to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex abuse cases. In his final words before imparting his blessing, he said children must always be protected and that he wants his new sex abuse study commission to be a model.
“For a year we’ve been saying that while Pope Francis is making progress on church finance and governance he’s done nothing — literally nothing — that protects a single child, exposes a single predator or prevents a single cover up,” said Barbara Dorris of the main U.S. victim’s group SNAP.
Francis was asked about protecting children by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview published Wednesday.
Francis acknowledged the “profound” wounds abuse leaves and credited Benedict with having turned the church around. Benedict in 2001 took over handling abuse cases because bishops were moving pedophiles around rather than punishing them. He updated the Vatican’s in-house norms and in his final two years as pope defrocked nearly 400 priests himself.
But Francis then got defensive: “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that has moved with transparency and responsibility. No one has done more. And yet the church is the only one that has been attacked.”
The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has said that while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he never dealt with a case of sex abuse, and indeed the scandal has yet to explode in Argentina on the scale that it has elsewhere, including in neighboring Chile. But the online database BishopAccountability.org has cited several cases of Argentine bishops siding with abused clerics and imposing gag orders on victims — practices that were common in the U.S. before American bishops changed their tune amid the explosion of cases in 2002 and resulting avalanche of lawsuits.
Buenos Aires native Sebastian Cuattromo, for example, says he approached Bergoglio’s archdioceses in 2002 seeking help to get out of a confidentiality agreement he accepted when he settled with a religious order for abuse he suffered as a 13 year old. He said he wanted the church to know the facts after learning that his abuser had fled to the United States. He said he received no reply, though the abuser was eventually convicted.
In an email, Cuattromo said the archdiocese’s dismissive attitude to him and victims in general was evidence of “a clear situation of power which, at least in Argentina and Latin America, the Catholic Church hierarchy continues to enjoy.”
Terrence McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org said it was “breathtaking” that Francis had made the church the victim of the scandal, rather than express sorrow to the hundreds of thousands of victims or acknowledge the complicity of bishops in covering up the crimes.
“It is astonishing, at this late date, that Pope Francis would recycle such tired and defensive rhetoric,” McKiernan said in a statement.
Lombardi stressed that Francis’ response was understandably brief given the wide-ranging nature of the Corriere interview. He said the pope’s defensive tone should be taken as a recognition that the church had made progress but that it often felt “frustrated” that its work hadn’t been recognized.
“At the same time, it’s clear that there’s an immense job to be done for the past, present and future,” Lombardi said. “The pope knows this well.”
The Vatican has in the past decade overhauled its internal procedures to make it easier to oust rapists. But it still has no blanket policy telling bishops to report abusers to police or risk being sanctioned themselves, and to date no bishop has been punished for a cover up. In addition, the harshest penalty the church hands out is to essentially fire the abuser.
Follow Nicole Winfield at http://www.twitter.com/nwinfield
WASHINGTON (AP) — NASA is plotting a daring robotic mission to Jupiter’s watery moon Europa, a place where astronomers speculate there might be some form of life.
The space agency set aside $15 million in its 2015 budget proposal to start planning some kind of mission to Europa. No details have been decided yet, but NASA chief financial officer Elizabeth Robinson said Tuesday that it would be launched in the mid-2020s.
Robinson said the high radiation environment around Jupiter and distance from Earth would be a challenge. When NASA sent Galileo to Jupiter in 1989, it took the spacecraft six years to get to the fifth planet from the sun.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute astronomer Laurie Leshin said it could be “a daring mission to an extremely compelling object in our solar system.”
Past NASA probes have flown by Europa, especially Galileo, but none have concentrated on the moon, one of dozens orbiting Jupiter. Astronomers have long lobbied for a mission to Europa, but proposals would have cost billions of dollars.
Last year, scientists discovered liquid plumes of water shooting up through Europa’s ice. Flying through those watery jets could make Europa cheaper to explore than just circling it or landing on the ice, said NASA Europa scientist Robert Pappalardo.
Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb said going to Europa would be more exciting than exploring dry Mars: “There might be fish under the ice.”
NASA’s Europa website: http://1.usa.gov/1lxcQCd
Seth Borenstein can be followed at http://twitter.com/borenbears
On July 4, 2012, scientists around the world waited with bated breath for the announcement that the long-awaited Higgs boson particle had been discovered. The finding — the result of the biggest and most expensive experiment in history — was set to either confirm reigning models of particle physics, or reveal gaps in scientists’ understanding of the universe.
A new documentary follows six scientists during the launch of the machine that made the discovery possible, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a gigantic particle accelerator at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), in Switzerland, as they attempt to recreate the earliest moments of the universe. “Particle Fever” captures the scientists’ sense of excitement and foreboding leading up to the discovery of the Higgs, the particle that explains how other particles get their mass.
“I knew this big event was coming, and I wanted it recorded,” said producer David Kaplan, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. “I knew it was going to be extremely dramatic scientifically, and also emotionally, for all of my colleagues,” Kaplan told Live Science.
The film, which opens March 5 in New York and March 21 in Washington, D.C., stars a group of theoretical and experimental physicists united by a quest to probe the nature of the universe, using the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. The LHC collides two beams of protons (particles that make up the nuclei of atoms) at near light-speed around the 17 miles (27 kilometers) of the machine’s ring. The collisions produce new particles, which could reveal the composition of space itself.
The film opens during the first test of a single proton beam in September 2008. Viewers meet Fabiola Gianotti, the former spokeswoman for ATLAS, one of the two LHC experiments that detected the Higgs, as well as experimental physicists Monica Dunford and Martin Aleksa, both at ATLAS, who rose to prominence throughout the course of the experiment. Mike Lamont, the LHC’s beam operation leader, also features in the film. Lamont faces the formidable challenge of ensuring the LHC’s successful launch and operation.
But to understand why scientists need the LHC, one first has to understand the hypotheses it is putting to the test.
Supersymmetry vs. multiverse
The Standard Model of particle physics, finalized in the 1970s, seeks to explain the origin of matter and forces in the universe. The model predicts the existence of a few fundamental particles, including the Higgs boson, theorized by British physicist Peter Higgs in 1964. Finding the Higgs confirms the existence of the Higgs field, and this field gives all other particles their mass.
An extension of the Standard Model known as supersymmetry suggests a highly structured and symmetrical universe, in which every particle has a supersymmetric twin that has yet to be discovered. Another, somewhat radical hypothesis suggests the known universe is part of a much larger, chaotic multiverse, in which the laws of physics are random.
The film pits Kaplan and Stanford theorist Savas Dimopoulos, proponents of supersymmetry, against the young Princeton theorist Nima Arkani-Hamed, a supporter of the multiverse idea. The LHC offers the chance to test these hypotheses for the first time. If supersymmetry proves itself, physicists are on the right track. On the other hand, “We may fall off a cliff,” and find that the fundamental laws of physics turn out to be random, Kaplan said.
Biggest experiment in history
The beam test went off successfully in 2008, but a few weeks later, a catastrophic explosion in the facility vented liquid helium, damaging many of the magnets inside the LHC.
“The whole film changed,” said director Mark Levinson, who added he didn’t know how long it would take to fix the damage, and whether the film would have a happy ending. Fortunately, repairs were completed, and the collider was up and running by November 2009.
Fast-forward to July 2012, and the discovery of the Higgs. The particle observed by the LHC confirmed what physicists had long suspected, but also brought up new questions.
Most supersymmetry models predict a Higgs boson with a mass of about 115 gigaelectronvolts, or GeV, whereas multiverse models predict a heavier mass of about 140 GeV. The Higgs observed by the LHC was about 125 GeV — smack in the middle, which doesn’t confirm or rule out either theory. Instead, it merely narrows down the possibilities.
It’s like being lost in the woods, and then getting a hint of the broad direction you should go, Kaplan said, adding, “At least you know which way to start walking.”
In the next step, scientists will collide protons at higher energies, to see if even more particles are created, as predicted by supersymmetry. The LHC was shut down for upgrades in 2013, with plans to reopen it running at twice the power in 2015.
The filmmakers hope “Particle Fever” gives audiences an appreciation of particle physics, and gets them excited about learning more. As Kaplan said, “We want people to come out thinking physics is awesome.”
Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 6:07 p.m. ET, to correct references to untested “theories” to “hypotheses” or “models.”
Pat Condell is awesome. Too bad most others in the west, who are equally disgusted with Islam, don’t have the testicles to speak up against it. Oh, that’s right, Islam is a religion, and we can’t offend religions, right? WRONG! TGO
NEW YORK (AP) — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is back on top of the list of the world’s richest people.
Forbes magazine announced its ranking of the world’s billionaires Monday.
Gates, who led the list for 15 of the past 20 years, won the spot back from Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu, who had topped the list for the past four years. Gates’ net worth is estimated at $76 billion; Slim Helu follows at $72 billion.
Spanish clothing magnate Amancio Ortega, known for the Zara retail chain, maintained his third-ranked spot and came out ahead of famed U.S. investor Warren Buffett, who ranked fourth. Larry Ellison of Oracle came in fifth.
Forbes says a record 1,645 billionaires made the list this year, with an average net worth of $4.7 billion. That’s up from 1,426 billionaires last year with a net worth of $4.2 billion. Total net worth of this year’s list was $6.4 trillion, up from $5.4 trillion last year.
The magazine said that 1,080 of the billionaires were self-made, 207 inherited their wealth and 352 inherited a portion but are still growing it.
The largest net worth gainer on the list was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who more than doubled his fortune to $28.5 billion as the value of his company’s stock soared. He ranks 21st on the list.
The social media giant helped bring a few notable newcomers to the list, including Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton, who recently sold their business to Facebook for $19 billion.
Forbes said 268 billionaires were new to the list, beating out a prior high of 226 newcomers in 2008. And a record number of women made the list this year, with 172 women joining, up 25 percent from last year.
Altogether 100 people dropped out of the rankings, while 16 passed away.
The U.S. was the country with the greatest number of billionaires at 492, followed by China with 152 and Russia with 111. Billionaires from four new countries joined, adding Algeria, Lithuania, Tanzania and Uganda to the geographic mix.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Gunmen stormed Pakistan’s main court complex in Islamabad on Monday, cutting down fleeing lawyers before blowing themselves up in a rampage that killed 11 people. It was the worst terror attack in years in the capital, which has largely been spared the violence raging in many parts of the country.
The bloodshed undermined the government’s efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the main militant group, the Pakistani Taliban, just days after the organization announced a one-month cease-fire for the talks.
The Pakistani Taliban denied responsibility for the attack. But the violence underscored the difficulty of negotiations when numerous militant groups are operating in Pakistan. And it raised questions of whether the Taliban can control some of their factions that may oppose talks.
The attack stunned the capital, a normally quiet city of wide, tree-lined boulevards that is home to diplomats, generals, aid workers and government officials. It was the deadliest attack in Islamabad since a 2008 truck bombing at the Marriott Hotel killed 54 people.
In an assault that lasted roughly 20 minutes, gunmen swarmed through the narrow alleys between the complex’s buildings, hurling grenades and firing automatic weapons wildly, witnesses said. Gunmen broke through a door to one judge’s chambers and shot him to death, while other victims were mowed down in the cafeteria.
One lawyer, Momin Ali, described it as a scene from hell, with attorneys and judges fleeing for their lives amid explosions and gunfire.
“My colleague was shot, and there was no one to help him. When I reached him, he was bleeding and crying for help,” he said.
In the confusion afterward, it was unclear how many attackers were involved and whether any escaped.
At least two were suicide bombers who rushed in, threw hand grenades and started shooting, then detonated the explosives on their bodies, said Islamabad Police Chief Sikander Hayat. One blew himself up outside the office of the lawyers’ union president, the other outside a judge’s office, he said.
Lawyer Murad Ali said he saw several attackers brandishing automatic weapons head toward a courtroom and shoot a female lawyer. Ali’s hands were splattered with blood from helping remove four of the dead.
Another lawyer, Sardar Gul Nawaz, said the attackers had short beards and wore shalwar kameez, a traditional Pakistani outfit of baggy pants and a long tunic.
Police Inspector Khalid Mahmood Awan said the two suicide bombers were the only attackers. Awan, chief of the Margala police station near the court complex, said that the two carried out their shooting rampage, then, after an exchange of fire with police, blew themselves up.
Police searched the compound afterward and found no other gunmen. But others put the number higher.
One intelligence official, after examining the scene, said the attackers operated in three groups of four each. When the job was done, the survivors escaped in three waiting vehicles, he said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Police official Jamil Hashmi put the number of attackers at six to eight, and numerous witnesses spoke of seeing more than two.
The dead included one judge, three lawyers and a policeman, said Dr. Ayesha Essani, spokeswoman for the hospital where the dead and wounded were taken. She said 29 people were wounded.
A little-known group identifying itself as Ahrar-ul-Hind claimed responsibility in a telephone call to an Associated Press reporter. A spokesman for the group, Assad Mansour, said it was not part of the Pakistani Taliban, nor bound by their cease-fire. There was no way to independently verify their claim.
After the assault, body parts and blood were mingled with shattered glass on the ground in the compound, which is a warren of judges’ chambers, lawyers’ offices and restaurants and businesses catering to the legal community.
On any given day, the walkways around the offices are bustling with clerks and clients, prisoners being led around in chains and families of suspects waiting for their loved ones to appear in court.
Islamabad has in recent years been spared the bombings and shootings prevalent in other parts of Pakistan, such as Peshawar, near the tribal areas, or the port city of Karachi.
The attack is likely to severely test the government’s desire to pursue peace talks. The process has proceeded in fits and starts but seemed to get a boost on Saturday, when the Pakistani Taliban announced a one-month cease-fire after the military pounded their hideouts with airstrikes.
A spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban, as the Pakistani Taliban is formally called, said in a telephone call to an AP reporter that the group was not involved in Monday’s assault and restated his group’s commitment to the cease-fire.
Interior Ministry Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, speaking in Parliament after the attack, said it wasn’t enough for the militants to disassociate themselves from the attack. They must condemn it as well, he said, while vowing to bring the culprits to justice.
Analysts said that while some in the Pakistani Taliban may want to negotiate a peace deal, other factions or militant groups may not.
Mansur Mahsud of the Islamabad-based FATA Research Centre, which studies the tribal areas where these militant groups are based, said the government will probably respond with more airstrikes.
“The government has made it very clear that they will tolerate no attacks and if the attacks are carried out, then they will retaliate in the same manner,” he said.
Associated Press writer Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Asif Shahzad contributed to this report.