Ronald Ayers

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Vatican celebrates Knights of Malta’s 900 years

In Catholic News, General News, World News on February 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm


English: Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Squa...

English: Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square, Rome (2007). Polski: Papież Benedykt XVI podczas Audiencji Generalnej na Placu św. Piotra w Rzymie (2007). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Knights of Malta, one of the most peculiar organizations in the world, marked its 900th birthday Saturday with a colorful procession through St. Peter’s Square, a Mass in the basilica and an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, himself a member of the onetime chivalrous order drawn from Europe’s nobility.

The Knights are at once a Roman Catholic religious order, an aid group that runs soup kitchens, hospitals and ambulance services around the globe, and a sovereign entity that prints its own passports and enjoys diplomatic relations with 104 countries — yet has no country to call its own.

Some 4,000 people — volunteers in neon orange civil protection suits, children in red berets and members each draped in a black cloak with a white, eight-pointed Maltese Cross on the front — processed through St. Peter’s Square and into the basilica for the Mass marking the 900th anniversary of the order’s recognition by the Holy See.

After the Mass, which was celebrated by the Vatican No. 2, Benedict came to the basilica for an audience during which he thanked the order for its service and urged it to continue providing health care for the world’s neediest while staying true to its Christian ideals.

The order’s work, he said, “is not mere philanthropy but an effective expression and a living testimony of evangelical love.”

The order traces its history to an 11th century infirmary in Jerusalem set up by a monk to care for pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. During the Crusades, as the order’s humanitarian efforts spread, it took on a military role to protect pilgrims and Christendom as a whole from Muslim attacks. In February 1113 Pope Paschal II recognized the order with a papal bull establishing its sovereign status by saying it was independent of both lay and other religious authorities.

During its heyday, would-be members had to prove nobility through all eight great-grandparents. Such requirements are now largely relaxed except in some European countries. Still, the order’s members are drawn from some of the world’s wealthiest Catholics, who fund its health clinics, homeless shelters and old folks’ homes in 120 countries and rally for special appeals when disasters strike.

Sixty of the 13,500 members are so-called “professed knights,” who make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and live like monks, albeit without being ordained priests.

The order’s international legal status is entirely unique, a sovereign entity that prints its own stamps, coins, license plates and passports, yet has no territory over which it rules. Its forces once occupied Cyprus, Rhodes and Malta, but Napoleon expelled the order from Malta in 1798, depriving it of the final patch of land ove it ruled.

Nevertheless, the order still enjoys many of the trappings of a small country: U.N. observer status and diplomatic relations with 104 countries, most of them in the developing world where such ties can smooth the delivery of humanitarian aid. But the United States, for one, has no relations, precisely because it’s a stateless state.

In his speech Saturday, Benedict affirmed the sovereign status that the order enjoys. He acknowledged its peculiar nature, saying the order’s guiding spirit “aims not to exercise power and influence of a worldly character, but in complete freedom to accomplish its own mission for the integral good of man, spirit and body … with special regard for those whose need of hope and love is greater.”

Source: Associated Press



Most Americans Reject Abortion

In Abortion News, General News, Health News on February 7, 2013 at 4:02 pm
ABORTION // Fetus & Moron

ABORTION // Fetus & Moron (Photo credit: 666isMONEY ☮ ♥ & ☠)


NEW HAVEN, Conn – A new survey shows that most Americans support strict regulations on abortion, with half of Americans saying that abortion should never be permitted or permitted only in rare cases.


“After four decades of legalized abortion in this country, Americans have had ample time to understand that abortion has terrible consequences,” said Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, which commissioned the poll.


“They understand abortion’s true legacy – a child loses life, and parents lose a child. And after witnessing the effects of abortion for the past 40 years, Americans are not legally or morally comfortable with that legacy,” he said Jan.9.


The Marist Institute for Public Opinion conducted the survey of 1,246 adults in the continental U.S. from Dec. 4-6, 2012. It claims a margin of error plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.


The poll found that more than 8 in 10 American’s — 83% — favor significant restrictions on abortion.


Of that 83%, 10% of respondents said abortion should never be permitted, 12% said abortion should be allowed only to save the life of the mother, and 34% said abortion should be allowed only in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.


The cases make up a very small portion of abortions sought in the U.S., where abortion is generally permitted and more than one million legal abortions take place each year.


A 2005 report published by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research organization formerly associated with abortion provider Planned Parenthood, found that only 1% of women seeking abortion said they did so because the child was conceived in rape, and even fewer sought abortion because the child was conceived in incest.


The report did not record the number of women who said they sought an abortion because their lives were in danger, though 12% cited physical health problems as a motivation.


The Marist poll found some support for legal abortion. About 27% of respondents said abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy at most; 6% would limit abortion to the first six months of pregnancy, while 12% said abortion should be available at any time.


The survey found that 43% of respondents describe themselves as pro-life, while 57% say they are pro-choice. Among Catholics, whose faith rejects abortion, only 45% say they are pro-life. About 59% of practicing Catholics say they are pro-life, compared to only 25% of non-practicing Catholics.


About 58% of Americans say abortion is morally wrong. Respondents generally rejected the idea that laws must choose whether to protect the unborn or pregnant mothers, with 84% saying that laws can protect both.


Anderson said, “It is time for our country to chart a new course on this issue – a course that protects both the mother and the child.”


Source: National Catholic Register








JJJ Plea Deal Includes “Significant Jail Time:” Report

In Democrats, General News, Political News on February 7, 2013 at 3:28 pm
English: Sandi Jackson and Jesse Jackson

English: Sandi Jackson and Jesse Jackson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A reported plea deal is in the works for former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., and it involves “significant jail time.”

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reports the deal offered up by federal prosecutors is being considered by Jackson, who has been under investigation for months because of alleged misuse of campaign funds. Sneed reported in November that Jackson has been active in the probe against him and has told the feds everything he knows.
A source close to the investigation told Sneed this week that “significant” time in a federal prison is definitely part of the deal.
The deal comes after news broke Monday that federal investigators also are taking an independent look at the finances of Jackson’s wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson.
Sandi Jackson was asked by Illinois‘ State Board of Elections to explain a $69,000 discrepancy between her campaign finance reports and those of her husband. The former alderman told NBCChicago in December she blamed the conflict on clerical errors made by transitioning staff members and said amendments to her reports were being made.
Jackson resigned late last year as Illinois’ 2nd District Congressman amid a federal probe and after months away from his political duties as his staff said he battled bipolar depression.
Less than two months later, Sandi Jackson stepped down effective Jan. 15 as alderman for the 7th Ward.
Source: Chicago Suntimes

‘Civil Disobedience’ Would Expose HHS Mandate ‘Tyranny”

In Catholic News, General News on February 6, 2013 at 4:09 pm
Ken Cuccinelli

Ken Cuccinelli (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)


Virginia’s Attorney General Advises Citizens to Risk Jail to Protest It 


By Brian Farga


RICHMOD, Va. – Citizens should defy the federal government’s contraceptive mandate, even to the point of going to jail, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said in a recent radio interview.


Cuccinelli, a Catholic who is running this year for governor of Virginia, told conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace that civil disobedience would expose the “tyranny” behind the federal law that would compel religiously affiliated organizations and private businesses to cover contraception, abortifacients and sterilization in their employee health-insurance plans.


“My local bishop said he told a group, ‘Well, you know, I told a group I’m ready to go to jail.’ And I told him, ‘Bishop, don’t take this personally – you need to go to jail,” said Cuccinelli, one of the first state attorneys general to file a federal lawsuit against the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Carre Act.


Cuccinelli’s spokesman Brian Gottestein said the attorney general was not available for comment because of the busy state legislative session.


Cuccinelli spoke about the issue in a subsequent interview with the Washington Times.


“I’m certainly not advocating that people go to jail, but religious liberty is why a lot of people came to this country,” Cuccineli said. “If our government is driving so many people to be contemplating this kind of civil disobedience, I think there’s a good reason to double check and ask, ‘Have we gone too far here?”


A Spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to comment on his remarks, However the attorney general’s statements are in line with the March 2010 USCCB document that warned catholics to be prepared to engage in civil disobedience if the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate was not rescinded.


“Some unjust laws impose such injustices on individuals and organizations that obeying the laws may be justified,” the bishops wrote in the message, which was formatted for use as a parish bulletin insert. “Every effort must be made to repeal them. When fundamental human goods, such as the right of conscience are, are at stake, we may need to witness the truth by resisting the law and incurring its penalties.”


The bishops also cited a passage from Rev. Martin Luther King’s 1963 “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” in which the civil rights leader noted St. Augustine’s proverb “An unjust law is no law at all.”


Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said in November that the Catholic Church would “not obey” the “immoral” mandate and that the Church was prepared for a lont-term fight.


Source: National Catholic Register



British PM’s party split as first gay marriage vote passes

In General News, World News on February 6, 2013 at 12:58 am
English: David Cameron, Prime Minister of the ...

English: David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and leader of the Conservative Party (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


By Andrew Osborn, Reuters


Britain’s parliament voted heavily in favor of legalizing gay marriage on Tuesday, but Prime Minister David Cameron’s authority in his own party took a blow as his Conservatives split in two over the measure he had championed.


In the first of several votes required for its passage, the lower house of parliament backed the legislation by 400-175, but more than half of Cameron’s 303 lawmakers voted against or abstained, signaling deep unease with it and his leadership.


During a debate that lasted more than six hours, many Conservative MPs denounced the legislation, saying it was morally wrong, not a public priority, and unnecessarily divisive, threatening a corrosive legacy of bitterness.


Conservative lawmaker Gerald Howarth told parliament that the government had no mandate to push through a “massive social and cultural change”.


“This is not evolution, it’s revolution,” added Edward Leigh, another Conservative member of parliament, saying marriage was “by its nature a heterosexual union”.


Although the vote went Cameron’s way, many analysts believe he will now have to address a deep seam of discontent running through his party.


He made a last minute televised statement ahead of the vote, arguing gay marriage would make society stronger.


“I’m a big believer in marriage. It helps people to commit to each other, and I think that’s why gay people should be able to get married too,” he said.


He later hailed the result of the vote as “a step forward for our country”.


Cameron is trying to perform a tricky balancing act: to reconcile his desire to show his party is progressive, with the views of many in it who are uncomfortable with such a reform.


Amid talk of a possible leadership challenge to Cameron, many Conservative lawmakers say the prime minister is sacrificing core party values on the altar of populism.


“He hasn’t got a lot of political capital left in the bank,” Stewart Jackson, a Conservative MP who opposes the gay marriage bill, told Reuters before the vote. “He has to deliver some authentic Conservative policies very soon.”


Such talk is rife among some Conservative lawmakers and follows a spate of articles in the British press in which a handful of MPs raised the possibility of ousting Cameron, a prospect most commentators regard as far-fetched before the next election in 2015.




Conservative MPs’ grievances are many: that Cameron is “arrogant”, that he is too fond of the European Union, that the party’s policies have been diluted by its coalition partner after Cameron failed to win the last election outright, and a nagging fear that he will not win the next one.


The gay marriage initiative has infuriated rank-and-file party activists and a protest letter signed by 25 past and present chairmen of local Conservative associations warned that members were starting to resign over the issue.


Justin Welby, the newly elected Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the world’s 80 million Anglicans, used his first comments after being confirmed on Monday to reiterate his own opposition to gay marriage.


Faced with strong opposition from the Anglican and Catholic churches, the law would not force them to conduct gay marriages, but critics say gay people may launch legal challenges.


A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times on Sunday showed 55 percent favored legalizing gay marriage, while 36 percent opposed it. However, the same poll showed the issue was not one that concerned most voters.


The new law proposes legalizing same-sex marriage in 2014. It would also allow civil partners to convert their partnerships into marriages.


Gay marriage supporters say that while existing civil partnerships for same-sex couples afford the same legal rights as marriage, the distinction implies they are inferior.


In a sometimes emotional debate on Tuesday, several gay MPs from different parties took to their feet to commend the bill, describing the prejudice they had suffered growing up.


“Millions will be watching us today,” said Nick Herbert, a gay Conservative MP. “Not just gay people but people who want to live in an equal society.”


The vote was warmly welcomed by Cameron’s junior coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, and by the opposition Labour party, while gay rights group Stonewall called the result “a truly historic step forward”.


Tuesday’s vote in the House of Commons was “free”, meaning MPs were able to vote according to their conscience, rather than under party orders.


The bill is still many stages away from becoming law, and some of its opponents called on Cameron after the vote to consider amending it to appease their concerns, promising they would try to frustrate its progress through parliament.




Peter Kellner, president of pollster YouGov, said he felt the parliamentary rebellion would hurt the Conservative party.


“For Cameron, gay marriage is part of his attempt to persuade the voters that his party belongs to modern, 21st century Britain,” he wrote on the pollster’s site.


“But the divisions that the gay marriages bill has unleashed … threaten to send an altogether different message: that the Tories are divided, out of touch and prone to quarrel over issues of little concern to most voters.”


With the next election still two-and-a-half years distant, there is a risk that internal party splits over issues like gay marriage could fester and turn what for now is only talk of a possible leadership challenge into the real thing.


“David Cameron has split the Conservative Party in half on gay marriage and failed to win a majority of Tory MPs. Labour win,” Jackson, the Conservative MP, wrote after the vote.


Source: Reuters


Schools Question Whether to Accept Funds From Walmart, Walton Family Foundation

In Economic News, General News, Gun Laws on January 30, 2013 at 12:08 am
This is a selfmade image from the english wiki...

This is a selfmade image from the english wikipedia. The photographer has uploaded it as GFDL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In the wake of the December 14 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the relationship between the Walton Family Foundation, one of the leading funders of education reform in the United States, and Walmart, the largest seller of guns in the country, has led some educators and school administrators to question whether they should continue to accept funds from the foundation, reports.


Members of the Walton family own more than 48 percent of Walmart, the retail giant founded by Sam Walton in 1962, while the Walton Family Foundation has awarded nearly $313 million for charter schools and school choice since 1997, more than any other private foundation or donor. But with Walmart’s revenue from the sale of guns and ammunition having increased 76 percent and 30 percent, respectively, between April and October, a growing number of educators and school leaders are voicing concern about the relationship between the two. “It’s a moral issue,” said Andrew Sweigard, principal of the Academy of New Media Middle School in Columbus, Ohio. “Can we take funding from a company that is liked to a potential disaster in our schools? Do we want to associate ourselves with guns?”


Indeed, Walmart has faced growing public pressure to stop selling semi-automatic firearms since the tragedy in Newtown, with almost three hundred thousand people having signed petitions calling on the company to limit its gun sales, reports. But while some of its competitors have suspended the sale of military-style firearms, approximately 30 percent of Walmart stores continue to sell them.


In Columbus, debate about Walmart and Walton family donations has divided the faculty of New Media Middle. Located across from a stretch of boarded-up apartments, the charter school received $30,000 in startup funds from the Walton Family Foundation in 2010 and an additional $220,000 in 2011. The middle school has no security guard and its doors are unlocked. Sweigard has met with his staff since the Newtown shootings to discuss updating the school’s security policy.


Meanwhile, some members of the faculty question whether the financially struggling school is in a position to pass up gifts from its largest funder. “It’s not up to me to criticize their financial decisions,” Mike Stuckey, a math teacher told Bloomberg. “That’s part of running a business.”


Dudley, Renee. “Schools Hit by Morality of Wal-Mart Guns Funding Charity.” 1/22/13.


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