Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.”
(Psalm 2:6)

Holy Hill Of Zion

Dear Friends,

Greetings. If the information contained below is true, believed, received, and acted upon, it could have a truly profound affect upon the world in which we live.

Even if true, it would take a fundamental break with thousands of years of preconceived ideas and beliefs.

ASK Books

The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot

In this large world in which we live, no man is ever an island. Each of us is constantly coming in contact with others from whom we learn many valuable teachings that cause us to change our minds on some important occasions. In regard to the discovery of the site of the Temples in Jerusalem, I have had the pleasure and the good fortune of being brought into the company of many of the top historians and archaeologists of Jerusalem over the period of my professional career as a historian and theologian. My first visit to Jerusalem in 1961 set my mind on solving the problems that affected the true geographical comprehension of early Jerusalem throughout all its periods of history. I watched closely how Professor Benjamin Mazar and Meir Ben Dov (his assistant at the time) went about their professional duties and this was a great learning experience. Both of them were more than willing to answer questions for me in the many private times that I could learn from them. I later met Professor Mazar's son, Ory, who was the first to recommend to me that the Temples of Solomon and Zerubbabel were located on the Ophel mound just to the north of the original Mount Zion on the southeast ridge. He said that his father was leaning in that direction at the time of his death. After a study of six months, in 1995 I wrote a preliminary report that suggested strongly that this theory was indeed correct for the two earlier Temples. I was then under the impression that Simon the Hasmonean (along with Herod a century later) moved the Temple from the Ophel mound to the Dome of the Rock area. Mr. Bill Lavers in England in reading closely the texts in Josephus mentioned that Herod stated dogmatically that his Temple (though enlarged to be double in size of the former Temple) was still located in the same general area as that of the former Temples. This was also pointed out to be by Dr. James Tabor and David Sielaff (My historical and compositional editor). 

But then I noticed the eyewitness account of Eleazar who led the final contingent of Jewish resistance to the Romans at Masada. He stated that the Roman fortress which had long been in Jerusalem was the only structure left by 73 C.E. With this key in mind, I came to the conclusion in 1997 that all the Temples were indeed located on the Ophel mound over the area of the Gihon Spring. It then became clear that the dimensions of the Temple (with its unique shape and characteristics) was not the Haram esh-Sharif. We then began to draw (as would an architect) the Temple at its location over the Gihon Spring. I had the good fortune of having a professional artist, who was also interested in biblical matters, draw what Josephus stated in his writings. My thanks go to Lydia Cooper who provided the pictures showing how the Temple and Fort Antonia looked in relationship to one another. The illustrations she provided help make the matter much clearer to those who have only a limited amount of study into these historical and geographical matters.

This book is a result of my concluding research that shows that the Temples of God in Jerusalem were indeed located over the Gihon Spring and not over the Dome of the Rock. What has been amazing to me is the vast amount of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian records that remain available from the first to the sixteenth centuries that clearly vindicate the conclusions that I have reached in this book of research. Any information that you readers may have or discover that either support or detract from the conclusions that I have made in this book, would be greatly appreciated by me.

Selected Reviews

"This is an unexpected, exceptional analysis of the historical and archaeological data of the Temples of Jerusalem. This new explanation of the venue of the First and Second Temples provides the solution to heretofore incongruous statements in Josephus with the evidence of the biblical and archaeological records. Not only a work of significant scholarly impact it may well serve as the awaited stimulus for the building of Jerusalem's Third Temple by shifting our collective focus from the Haram esh-Sharif to the area of the Gihon Spring."

- Dr. Michael P. Germano, Editor, Professor Emeritus Ambassador University, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and who holds earned doctorates from the University of Southern California and the University of La Verne.

He has completed post-graduate study in anthropology, archaeology, and theology at Southern Methodist University and Texas A&M University at College Station in Texas. You can contact him at PO Box 2494 Cullowhee, NC 28723-2494. It is my pleasure to recommend his excellent BibArch Web Site that explores the world of biblical archaeology. It is fully scholarly and is at

"When I first read of Ernest L. Martin's thesis that both the 1st and 2nd Jewish Temples, those of Solomon and Herod, were located south of the presently accepted Dome of the Rock location--down in the area of the ancient City of David over the Ophel spring, my reaction was short and to the point--impossible, preposterous!! Having now read his arguments I am convinced this thesis, however revolutionary and outlandish it first appears, deserves careful, academic and critical consideration and evaluation. I am not yet convinced that Martin has ironed out all the problems or handled all the potential objections, yet he has set forth a case that should be heard. His arguments regarding the size of the Fortress Antonia, based on Josephus and other evidence we have about Roman military encampments, must be addressed. He also makes a most compelling argument based on Luke, writing a decade or so after the 70 C.E. destruction, and obviously wanting to report on the lips of Jesus an accurate prediction of the state of things regarding "not one stone left upon another" in the post-War city of Jerusalem. Historians of the Byzantine, Islamic, and Crusader periods are more qualified to judge his arguments from subsequent epochs, however, my initial reading of Martin's presentation has left me with the same impression--all of this evidence needs to be reexamined in the light of this radical proposal. Martin's thesis is so bold, so utterly non-conventional, and so potentially upsetting, radically altering central aspects of the theological, historical, cultural, and political understanding of Jerusalem and its holy places, it should not be ignored. I hope Martin's book will begin a most interesting debate and critical discussion of all relevant issues."

- Prof. James D. Tabor, Dept. of Religious Studies, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223.

Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.”

It would seem this verse may be more prophetic then at first realized.


Our introduction from last week read.. “With the recent announcement by Pope Benedict VI of his resignation from the throne of St. Peter, along with the Prophecy of the Popes by St. Malachy, there has been much speculation concerning what could be the final Pope and his place in End Time Bible prophecy.

There has been considerable speculation amongst non-Catholic Christians, especially in the West, and particularly in the US, that the next Pope could either be the anti-christ or the false prophet talked about in the book of Revelation.

We, at 'People of the Keys', do not believe this to be the case, unless something very unusual should happen concerning the Catholic Church and its transcendence into a more prominent role in world leadership.”

We wanted to now add.

There is a strong belief amongst some Christians that the “seven” hills of Rome represent the “seven mountains” of Revelation chapter 17. Also that the anti-christ will rule from Rome. We, at 'People of the Keys', do not believe this to be the case and have therefore included this week a study of Revelation 17, and an extract from our study on Daniel 11. See below.

Chapter 17


This is one of the most important chapters in Revelation, exposing and analyzing for us the relationship between the religious/commercial system and the government, or, as John so aptly describes it, the "fornication" between the "whore" and the "kings of the earth." this chapter is mainly background", giving us an historical analysis of the system so we can understand how God sees it and why he so utterly destroys it in the 16th, 18th and 19th chapters.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>"And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication." (17:1,2)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>"So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast (the same beast described in chapter 13), full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns." (17:3)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in">“<FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour (royal colours), and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, (Precious stones have always represented the power of every economic system from the ancients' to today.) having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." (17:4,5)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>To fornicate means to have unlawful sex, and here it means spiritual fornication with the Devil; putting his kingdom (Babylon, the system) first in your life and serving it instead of serving God's kingdom. As James said, "ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world (the system, Babylon) is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world (the system) is the enemy of God." (Jm.4:4)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>Babel (or Babylon) was the first city man built after the flood and later in this same chapter it says this woman, Babylon, "is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." (17:18) Babylon represents the great worldwide, age-old, commercial centers of materialism: the cities of man.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>There are two women in Revelation representing two kingdoms:</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>(1) New Jerusalem, the kingdom of Christ (Chap.12),</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>(2)Babylon, the whore, the system, the kingdom of the Devil. </I></FONT> </P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>People are working for and building in one or the other.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>New Jerusalem is the "glory of God" (21:11) but Babylon is the glory of man--man's greatest achievements being his cities. That's what he brags about more than anything else, his big buildings and his big cities.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>As Toynbee, the historian said, "Cities are man's festering sores on the body politic! The curse of civilization is its cities." They have always been the mother of all abominations of the earth. It is these centers of commercialism that are responsible for all man's wars which are always fought for the "love of money" or economic purposes and power, the power of possession of other cities. "from whence come wars and fightings...come they not hence, even of your lusts?" (Jam.4:1)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>It is these centers of industrialization based on the production of war goods and idols that have polluted not only the entire earth, air and sea, but also the hearts, minds and souls of the inhabitants of the earth with the "filthiness of her fornication”. Man's idolatry pollutes everything "for the love of money (material things) is the root of all evil”. (1Tim.6:10)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>"And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration." (17:6)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>The whore has two forms, religious and commercial, but really it's all the same goal, "for the love of money”. In her religious form she's been responsible for all the martyrs of history, and in her commercial form for all the millions slain in war, as it says in chapter 18:24, "in her was found the blood of martyrs, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth”.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>When John "wondered" at her, it means he was astonished. So the angel said, "Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.” (17:7)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>First, an explanation of the beast: "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is." (17:8)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>"And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth." (17:9) A beast in prophetic symbolism represents earthly government. Daniel's vision of the four great beasts arising from the sea in Daniel, chapter 7 represented four kings and four kingdoms. (Dan.7:17,23) "was, and is not, and yet is" means the beast is past (was), future (is not, in other words the beast is not yet complete but will be in the future), and present (yet is).</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>"The seven heads (of the beast) are seven mountains." Mountains represent great world kingdoms. The ancient kingdom of Babylon during her world reign was called "the destroying mountain" (Jer.51:24,25) and prophecy referring to Christ’s earthly kingdom during the millennium calls it "the mountain of the Lord's house”. (Isa.2:2)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>These seven mountains then, are the seven major world powers through which the beast has manifested himself and through which the whore, by sitting on top, a ruling position, has controlled the world.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>"And there are seven kings: five are fallen." At the time when this prophecy was given, 90 A.D., five of the seven major world powers had fallen:</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>1) Egypt,</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>2) Assyria,</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>3) Babylon,</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>4) Medo Persia, and</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>5) Greece.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>"And one is": Rome was in power at the time of the prophecy and was the sixth. "and the other is not yet come". This is the final government of the antichrist, the seventh. "and when he cometh, he must continue a short space." (17:10) This is the short reign of the antichrist world government, only seven years according to Daniel 9:27. (See our study "Daniel 9",)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>"And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition." (17:11) The beast himself is of all seven empires since he bears them up. But what it means by saying the beast is the eighth is a bit difficult to understand. It seems to indicate that all seven empires will come and go and the beast will be the eighth empire just before itsperdition', or destruction.

The only thing I can think that this could possibly mean is that maybe before the Great Tribulation, before the abomination of desolation, the seventh empire is not yet really the antichrist empire because its leader hasn't been fully possessed by the Devil. Though he is the head, or king', of the seventh world government, he hasn't become the antichrist. But at the point of the abomination of desolation (in the very middle of the last seven years, leaving 3-1/2 years to go) he is fully possessed of the Devil and he becomes a new man, the antichrist, with a new government, totally of the Devil. Although it would be the very same head, seventh head, it would now also become the eighth, and a new government.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>"And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast." (17:12) Since they had received "no kingdom as yet" in 90 A.D., they couldn't have been on any of the first six heads. So they must be on the seventh, and if they are, then these ten kingdoms must definitely be here today.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>In his predictions of these ten Endtime kingdoms, the prophet Daniel said a little horn, or eleventh horn, rising after the ten horns, will pluck up three of them by the roots, thus taking all of them over. (see our study "Daniel 7")</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>After the conquest of these three horns and the establishing of antichrist governments within their countries, they could indeed, as it says here in the next verse, "give their power and strength unto the beast" (17:13), uniting with the beast to form the nucleus of the antichrist kingdom. Whoever these ten kingdoms are, though, should become clearer within the near future.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>"These (ten horns) shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful." (17:14)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>The whore in verse 2, sits "upon many waters," which is interpreted in verse 15: "the waters...where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations and tongues"--showing the oppressive weight of the system on its miserable masses.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>"And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire...and the woman (whore) which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." (17:16,18)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>Now we have said that the whore is the religious/commercial system. We could just as well have said she represented the economic system--because they are both worshipping the gods of mammon, money and materialism. Jesus himself said "no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve 1) God and 2) mammon (worldly riches)." (Mt.6:24)</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>The real religion of much of mankind has always been "the love of money" and "worship of the works of his own hands." but in the ancient kingdoms it was cleverly disguised in the form of supernatural religion. Even back then, materialism was the real god and so-called religion was only the way the rich controlled the masses. In fact, the temple of the god was often the place where they regulated all trade and commerce.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>Today, the god is still money, but "education" and "science" have replaced spiritual religion with intellectual religion. Together, the god of finance and the religion of education and science make up the modern whore of the false worship system. It is this that really runs things, not the kings or government.</I></FONT></P> <P STYLE="margin-bottom: 0in"><FONT FACE="Arial, sans-serif"><I>In ancient Egypt, which though a dictatorship still allowed property to be privately owned (capitalism), pharaoh appeared to be the foundation and fountainhead of all authority and power, but in actuality, authority rested somewhere else. Pharaoh claimed his authority from his religion, his whore, for the religion taught that pharaoh was the living offspring of the sun god, Ra, who also happened to be thenational god' of Egypt and as such deserving of the allegiance of all Egyptians under penalty of law.

The religion taught patriotism and nationalism, which is what kept pharaoh in power, so actually the religion was in control of the land, not pharaoh, just as the multinational and international bankers, the high priests of today's whore of capitalism, control the governments of today!

Every great empire has used religion to control their masses. They all had compulsory state religions which taught obedience to the state and were enforced by law. In the ancient kingdoms it was compulsory worship of a national god; today it is compulsory education which teaches you nationalism, patriotism, and how to fit into your slot in the great national worship of paper money.

So apparent has this religious influence and control been, that in his study of the same the historian Toynbee said, "if there is ever going to be a world empire it will need a compulsory world religion to keep it in power." Why, because brute force doesn't make man a willing slave. He has to have something that captures his heart and mind, plays on his fears, self-preservation instincts, etc., and instills a deep seated patriotism in him so that he is willing to live, fight and die for the state, the whore's beast hence religion, or today, education. So as the prophecy says, the whore "ruleth over kings", for they too have to submit to her if they want to keep their people in subjection.

And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. (17:16-17)

Take the United States for example, which exemplifies the whore today. The US is bankrupt and is only kept going by the power of investment from outside countries, and now that it seems the crash has begun in earnest, brought about by her own selfish, exploitive, wasteful, warmongering economy that has overextended itself in order to keep the rich rich, the US is bringing about her own downfall!

What the antichrist will eventually do is replace many forms of false religion with the worship of one false religion, the worship of this abomination of desolation or image of the beast. The whore will still be here, only in another form, and it will so completely control the lives of people that Revelation 13 says no one will be able to buy or sell unless they have a “mark” with a number in their right hand or forehead which will link them with a worldwide credit system controlled by this image of the beast. They will be literally "joined to idols" (Ho.4:17), committing physical as well as spiritual fornication with the whore and in total bondage to the system.

What most people don't realize is that the system is spiritual, it's based on the big lie of selfishness, pride and rebellion against God, and the only way to fight it is with the spiritual weapons of God's truth. We need to be attacking and making changes where it really hurts, in people's hearts, really changing people's spirits, bringing them out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.


He (the anti-christ) shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.” Daniel 11:45. The anti-christ is not going to rule from Rome, he is going to rule from the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

The “glorious holy mountain” is Jerusalem’s Mount Moriah. That doesn't necessarily mean that the Antichrist waits until this point to set up his headquarters on Mount Moriah; it’s just an acknowledgment of what he most likely did three and a half years earlier when he broke the covenant, placed the image of the Beast in the Temple area (Daniel 11:30-31), sat in the Temple claiming to be God, and abolished all religions other than worship of himself (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)—these events triggering the Great Tribulation.

See the “Studies” section on this web site for a more complete explanation.


Time (Edited from longer article.)

Second Act

By Howard Chua-Eoan

Monday, Feb. 25, 2013

The pilgrimage had seemed rather random, but its significance is finally clear. On April 28, 2009, while visiting the earthquake-stricken city of L'Aquila in central Italy, Benedict XVI paid a visit to the nearby tomb of Celestine V, a 13th century Pope who reigned for only five months. After pausing in silent prayer, Benedict left his predecessor a gift: his pallium, a liturgical vestment he received when he started his pontificate in 2005. Celestine's claim to fame--and infamy--was his resignation from the office of the papacy, choosing instead to return to a hermit's life. For that, the Roman Catholic Church eventually made him a saint. For the same act--the so-called Great Refusal--Dante Alighieri damned Celestine to the torments of the Inferno.

Benedict may well have reflected on Celestine's dual fate before announcing, two days before Lent, that he would resign on Feb. 28. "The Pope must have felt very lonely in taking this decision," says a well-placed member of the Curia, the secretive bureaucracy that runs the Vatican. "After all, there is no one higher up than him to defer the choice to. Above him, there is only God." The papal announcement, delivered in Latin, stunned the church. Here was a Pope, in the ultimate exercise of free will, giving up his throne and his role as the Vicar of Christ. The last time that happened was 1415, when Gregory VII resigned as part of a negotiated deal to end the schism that had divided the church between rival papacies for close to 40 years.

There is no existential crisis to resolve this time. But Benedict's abdication may transform the church he has ruled for almost eight years of both intractable controversy and burgeoning growth. He cited his physical condition, at age 85, as a reason for stepping down, and his brother Georg indicated that doctors have advised the Pontiff to give up transoceanic flights. The Pope has lived with a pacemaker since before ascending to the throne, and the Vatican acknowledged that its battery was recently replaced as part of regular maintenance. But unless Benedict's health deteriorates rapidly, he will not only see the election of his successor but also watch the new Pontiff take his first steps in the job. That convergence is likely to have huge implications--and perhaps complications.

Though he couched his declaration as an exercise in Christian humility--a confession of human frailty from one of the most powerful men on the planet--the act is also one of great political opportunity, one that may reform the way the church is governed even as it preserves Benedict's conservative agenda. In his way, Benedict may be the last Pope of a model that the world is familiar with--the kind expected to serve till death--and the first in what could be a dramatic new way of administering a spiritual empire of more than 1 billion living souls.

The Ãœber-Pope

The Papacy of benedict XVI will likely pale in comparison to that of his predecessor, the charismatic John Paul II--the Polish-born Pontiff who faced down the communist bloc and contributed to its collapse and whose global travels revitalized the appeal of the Catholic Church. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI helped his friend John Paul run the Vatican as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith--the historical successor to the Holy Office of the Inquisition. As John Paul's successor, the German-born Pope inherited the great Pontiff's messes, including, most significantly, the cover-ups of the priestly molestation cases that continue to haunt the church around the world. He quickly caused a few rumbles of his own: verbal gaffes that riled Muslims and Jews, a declaration that condoms would not help counter the AIDS crisis in Africa. But benedict's reputation was based on erudition and efficiency, and his papacy has managed to clarify and anchor many of John Paul's beliefs in carefully thought-out encyclicals and policies--including conservative doctrines on contraception and the role of women in the church that have alienated liberal catholics in the U.S. and Europe. Still, Benedict's departure may be his--and John Paul's--greatest legacy, a fundamental change to the succession of St. Peter.

Ratzinger ran a critical sector of the Vatican hierarchy while John Paul, who died on April 2, 2005, lingered in extremis as the absolute ruler of the Catholic Church. His last years were excruciating, as the once athletic Pontiff slowly and publicly withered away in the throes of what was believed to be Parkinson's disease. Since then, Benedict has emphatically asserted that a Pope may resign if, as he said in Light of the World, a collection of his wide-ranging interviews with the journalist Peter Seewald published in 2010, "he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office." In that case, Benedict said, "he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign." But he added, "One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on. But one must not run away from danger and say someone else should do it."

Benedict is stepping down, but it is quite possible that he is entering a phase of even greater influence without having to deal with the onerous duties and hazards of the papacy. Past discussions of papal resignation presumed a Pontiff with serious health problems--as John Paul II painfully exemplified. But while Benedict has been slowed by age, he has not been incapacitated by it. And even after resigning, he is likely to exude, if not exert, influence by virtue of prestige. It will be a rare moment in history when a Pope has to share the stage with a Pope emeritus--one with a reputation for intellectual acuity, daunting scholarship and, most intimidating of all, the ultimate insider's knowledge of the bureaucracy.

Indeed, the social dynamic of a retired Pope living a short distance from the reigning one--or at least a mobile-phone call away--is a situation no one really quite knows how to handle. Who has precedence when they are both in the same room? Presumably, the ex-Pope will still have the intellectual acumen that led the Cardinals to elect him in the first place, a mind empowered with the God-given talent to discern proper doctrine, infallible or otherwise. Has the power of that intellection been vacated as well? And will a church of believers who invested so much in the persona of the former and still living Pope be able to share its enthusiasm with the new Pontiff? "The former Pope in the Vatican will be a formidable weight on the shoulder of his successor," says Andrea Tornielli, Vatican correspondent for La Stampa and a historian. Decisions on matters as weighty as foreign travel and the subjects of encyclicals to the appointment of papal courtiers, Curia bureaucrats and household staff could be affected.

The new Pope will be indebted to Benedict XVI. The conclave that will elect a successor is scheduled to start on March 15, and even though he won't be in the Sistine Chapel when the voting takes place, Benedict is bound to influence the outcome. This sort of informal influence has proved powerful in other cultures--particularly premodern Japan, where retired shoguns and Emperors continued to make pivotal decisions. Thus, just by watching from the sidelines, Ratzinger will be subtly able to champion his conservative theological and social policies--an über-Pope of sorts. Says Tornielli: "I can hardly imagine Ratzinger's successor, with Ratzinger still living, reversing one of Ratzinger's decisions. Not because he is still [in the Vatican] but because he is still alive. It opens a whole range of problems that are not so easily resolved." The resulting continuity of the old Pope's agenda may contribute to the future shape of the global Catholic Church, the consistency of its theology and social policies and how future Popes will rule in this new century.

Benedict's Specifications

By choosing to step down, benedict has introduced a whole new calculus into the choice of the next Pope. "I think the Cardinals who come here are going to look at the papacy differently because of this," says John Thavis, former Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service, the news agency of U.S. bishops. "It doesn't mean that every Pope will have to resign at age 85, but it will mean a future Pope might resign at age 75. It could bring the Cardinals to look at much younger candidates because they know that resignation is an option."

Benedict has also already stacked the deck of the College of Cardinals so that it is likely to elect a new Pope of mind and spirit similar to his. Popes usually hold at most one consistory a year--the ceremony at which they announce the appointment of Cardinals, the prelates who elect a new Pontiff--traditionally when the old one has died. In 2012, the Pope held two consistories, which together helped Benedict raise the number of Cardinals he has created during his reign to 90; 67 of them are eligible to cast ballots for his successor, which is more than half of the 117 who will vote in the next conclave. The Vatican has been very careful to say Benedict will not be meddling in the election of the next Pope. But he doesn't have to do a thing. "People say he will not have an influence on the conclave," says Tornielli. "Of course he will. Cardinals must be free when they choose, but of course they will be less free with [Ratzinger] still living." Even a historic choice from Latin America, Africa or Asia is likely to produce a Pope tailored to the conservatism set in place by Benedict.

While every Pope has the opportunity to surprise, the next one will be elected by a conclave trying to divine God's vision while keeping one eye on the retired Pope. Francesco Clementi, author of the 2009 book Vatican City, envisions two scenarios: "A breakaway Pope, an African or Asian, who even if in theological and cultural continuity with Ratzinger will be able to carry out reforms because he is external to the Roman circle; or a continuity Pope, a European who knows how to work the Curia machine and might carry out his reforms with patience and, as it befalls to a young Pope, with time on his side."

Benedict's successor will inherit a long list of problems. The wounds from the priest sexual-molestation scandals are deep, and it may take generations to win back once fervently Catholic nations like Ireland. While Benedict did more than John Paul II to try to make amends for the crimes, he was too much a part of the compromised bureaucracy to truly cleanse the organization. Meanwhile, the church's center of gravity is shifting as the number of Catholics grows in Asia (up 11% from 2005 to 2010) and Africa (up 21%). Responding to the social and political demands of Catholics from those continents will be a challenge for a church still comfortably headquartered in Europe. One fascinating development: some of the most fervid volunteers for Benedict's goal of re-evangelizing secular Europe come from the Philippines and several nations in West and Central Africa.

Meanwhile, the Vatican faces severe challenges in Latin America, where evangelical Protestantism continues to attract new followers and erode the number of Catholics. According to the polling service Latinobarómetro, Latin American countries were 81% Catholic and only 4% evangelical in 1996. By 2010, Catholics had dropped to 70% while evangelicals had risen to 13%. The Protestantism that has caught on there has a decidedly charismatic flair--one that ironically was inspired by John Paul II's infatuation with the Catholic charismatic movement. However, it was the freewheeling Protestant ministries that successfully capitalized on the trend in Latin America, while Benedict focused on policing attempts by local churches--many with leftist enthusiasms--to alter the Catholic liturgy.

Liberal Catholics in the U.S., meanwhile, were just as dissatisfied with many of the messages coming out of Rome. Many--including congregations of American nuns--are beginning to experiment with autonomy, much to the chagrin of the Holy See. The Vatican has faced these challenges either through stern talk and threats of discipline, in the case of the rebel nuns, or Benedict's less than fully realized re-evangelization policy in Europe.

Administratively, Benedict has attempted to make the workings of the Vatican Bank more transparent, a move that apparently upset elements of the Curia. Meanwhile, money-laundering investigations of the Holy See's finances by Italian officials have left the Vatican concerned about its sovereignty. That is enough to put the fear of God into St. Peter's.

The Twilight of Ratzinger

For a man known for efficiency, Benedict will leave a few things undone. He will not preside over the entire Year of Faith he declared in October; he will not publish an encyclical on faith that he started preparing. Perhaps he just ran out of time--or perhaps these items weren't even supposed to have been on his schedule. Fate intervenes unexpectedly even for Popes. Benedict may have been spurred to consider retirement, says Tornielli, when he fell during the night, away from the eyes of the press, during his March 2012 trip to Mexico and Cuba. By autumn, work was reportedly being done on the former convent in Rome that he would move into after he abdicated. He may have been planning to announce his resignation as early as September 2012. But that turned out to be the height of the so-called Vatileaks scandal, in which an Italian journalist published a book based on documents provided by the Pope's butler. The revelations, which began last February, exacerbated the ongoing Vatican Bank scandal. And from August to October, the legal proceedings against the butler, Paolo Gabriele, absorbed the Vatican. The case must have pained the Pontiff: Gabriele said he was concerned Benedict was not getting the information he needed to run the church. The scandal must have contributed to Benedict's conviction that it was truly time to go.

The Pope who will once again become Joseph Ratzinger is not leaving behind a church in deep crisis. But it is not an untroubled one. He must be looking forward to resting from it. Yet even as the Catholic world wonders if a new Pope must constantly look over his shoulder at the old one, Ratzinger must know that he will always share responsibility for the church he leaves behind.


The Telegraph

Cardinal's resignation 'worst crisis since Reformation'

The sudden departure of Cardinal Keith O'Brien over allegations of "inappropriate" behaviour with priests is the worst crisis to hit the Catholic Church in Scotland since the Reformation, an eminent historian has said.

Prof Tom Devine has said Cardinal Keith O'Brien's resignation is the worst crisis for Scotland's Catholic Church since the Reformation 

Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

By Simon Johnson and John Bingham

26 Feb 2013

Prof Tom Devine, a Roman Catholic academic, said that despite the lack of proof, he is concerned by the lack of a denial in the cardinal's resignation statement.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the historian said the cardinal's departure places the onus on his accusers to "step forward into the public domain" to answer questions about their alleged ordeals.

Prof Devine compared the crisis with the Reformation, Scotland's formal break with the Papacy in 1560, only hours after the Pope decided Cardinal O'Brien should resign with immediate effect.

Yesterday the cardinal, Britain's most senior Roman Catholic clergyman, disclosed that Pope Benedict XVI had agreed that he should step down as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh with immediate effect.

He also announced that he would not take part in the conclave to elect a new pope, where he was to have been the only British cleric with a vote.

The cardinal, a fierce opponent of gay marriage, was accused in a Sunday newspaper of inappropriate behaviour with three unidentified priests and one former priest.

He denies the claims but said he did not want to become a distraction during the election of a new leader for the Catholic Church.

His decision to miss the conclave is thought to be unprecedented. It has put pressure on several other cardinals accused of failing to act against child abuse to join him in standing aside from the vote.

His resignation statement said: "For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended."

Prof Devine, senior research professor at the University of Edinburgh and a Catholic, "My first reaction is one of personal sadness about the turn of events and also of human concern for the Cardinal; his terrible suffering at this time can only be imagined.

"Keith O'Brien has been a courageous leader of his flock, well respected and liked by many beyond the Catholic community and a doughty champion of his church who has spent a lifetime as pastor and teacher proclaiming its principles without fear or favour. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

"The imprecise anonymous allegations against the Cardinal are not accepted, legal advice has been sought and nothing has yet been proven.

"Nonetheless, and surprisingly perhaps, there is no denial of the charges in the formal announcement of resignation today; that must be a cause of concern.

"This is probably the gravest single public crisis to hit the Catholic Church in Scotland since the Reformation and its effects in the short term are incalculable.

"Many of the faithful in Scotland will be stunned by the seismic turn of events and left demoralised. But some perspective is necessary. The Church is very much more than Episcopal hierarchies no matter how eminent.

"The powerful resilience of a global faith, now one sixth of the earth's population and still growing in numbers, which has endured for more than two millennia through many vicissitudes, much more fundamental menacing than this personal tragedy, should not be underestimated.

"Moreover, in the cause of transparency and indeed fairness to all, it is now time for O'Brien's anonymous accusers to step forward into the public domain. If Catholicism in Scotland is to move on from this tragic affair a number of serious questions urgently require frank and honest answers from all concerned. The nation's Catholics deserve nothing less."



Planet of sound: Meteor blast resonated around Earth

By Matt Smith

February 28, 2013

Meteor explodes over Russia

(CNN) -- The meteor that exploded over the steppes of southwestern Russia sent a low-frequency rumble bouncing through the Earth, giving scientists new clues about the biggest cosmic intruder in a century.

The big boom over Chelyabinsk on February 15 also produced a wave of sound thousands of times lower than a piano's middle C -- far below the range of human hearing, according to the international agency that watches for nuclear bomb tests. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization said that sound wave showed up on sensors from Greenland to Antarctica, making it the largest ever detected by its network.

Scientists then used that wave to calculate the size of the small asteroid that plunged to Earth, said Margaret Campbell-Brown, an astronomer at Canada's University of Western Ontario.

The duration of the wave -- about 32 seconds -- let scientists estimate the energy of the blast at between 450 and 500 kilotons, the size of about 30 early nuclear bombs

Over 100 tons of material falls daily

From there, Brown said, they could calculate the size of the fireball; and using an estimate of the meteor's speed from the numerous dashboard and mobile-phone cameras that captured the scene, it was "first-year physics" to figure out the approximate size and weight, she said.

The latest estimate is that the Chelyabinsk meteor was about 56 feet (17 meters) across, weighed more than 7,000 tons and was moving about 18 kilometers per second (40,000 mph) when it blew apart, she said.

Opinion: A meteor and asteroid: 1 in 100 million odds

"In terms of things we have observed, this is the largest since Tunguska," Brown said, referring to the suspected meteor that flattened a Siberian forest in 1908.

The nuclear test monitors pick up "infrasound", or low frequency, waves from about 20 meteors a year -- "if conditions are right, perhaps as small as a pea," she said.

Russian authorities say more than 1,500 people were hurt, mostly by flying glass, when the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded in spectacular fashion. Amateur video footage showed a bright white streak moving rapidly across the sky before exploding with an even brighter flash and a deafening bang.

Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, said scientists believe the object originated in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It was the Apollo group of asteroids, which circle the sun in oblong orbits, that occasionally cross Earth's.

Cooke said scientists expect to study the Chelyabinsk event for months. But the dozens of fragments that have been found so far point to a fairly common, stony asteroid with traces of nickel and iron.

"The composition is not at all unusual as far as meteorites go," he said. "It was just very big."



Did UFO 'hit' Russian meteorite blasting it to smithereens? Conspiracy theorists’ extraordinary claim after new footage emerges

Theory is based on analysis of several different pieces of footage

U.F.O. watchers claim object seen close by could be a U.F.O.

They suggest alien 'guardian angels' blasted rock to minimise threat 

Reports of a surge in UFO sightings in the Urals before the strike


PUBLISHED: 12:00 EST, 28 February 2013 | UPDATED: 02:43 EST, 1 March 2013

The meteorite that crashed on Russia was hit by an unidentified flying object causing it to explode and shatter over the Urals, it has been claimed.

The bizarre theory is based on analysis of blurry footage of the space rock as it streaked across morning sky above the city of Chelyabinsk.

U.F.O enthusiasts insist a small 'object' can be seen colliding with the meteorite on its trajectory through the atmosphere, despite the fact there were no reports of Russia launching missiles to down the celestial intruder, they claim. 

The meteorite exploded in the atmosphere on 15 February with a force as great as 30 Hiroshima nuclear bombs, causing extensive damage in Chelyabinsk and injuring around 1,200 people, many from shattered glass.

Alien enthusiasts have have seized on the unexplained images as evidence that 'we were saved by a UFO'

Estimated by Nasa to have been 55ft-wide and with a weight of some 10,000 tons, the meteor is thought to have exploded above the Ural mountains with a force equivalent to about 500kilotons.

Nuclear installations in the Urals remained undamaged by the fallout.

'At first, we also believed that the Chelyabinsk meteorite was just an ordinary meteorite, a cosmic body,' said Alexander Komanev, coordinator for the Russian UFO community in Yekaterinburg.

But on at least three films of the space rock 'you can see how an object catches the meteorite', he said.

This minuscule oblong-shaped object "flies into it - and the meteorite explodes and falls'.

He stressed: 'Such a number of videos, made from different angles, leads us to believe that something has blown up the meteorite...'

He claimed that in the weeks before the meteorite, there was an upsurge in UFO sightings in the Urals, followed by none at all since the incident.

Footage seen ahead of the incident two 'glowing bowls'  seen flying in the sky at night over the village of Chabry.

Separately in day time, similar objects were seen over Chelyabinsk, it is claimed.

On both occasions they moved across the sky, disappeared, and then returned.




Sources report sometimes local police departments lead attacks

Published: 2/27/03


LONDON - India's constitution assures the nation's citizens of religious freedom, but Christians who are trying to spread their faith say there's only one problem with that.

"In many cases, that provision is ignored," said Gospel for Asia Development Director John Beers.

The result is predictable: persecution.

International Christian Concern reported recently that local police departments in India are sometimes leading the anti-Christian attacks.

Beers said because India's culture still is rooted largely in traditional religions, Christian missionaries and preachers in India "expect to face persecution."

"The students training for ministry know they will be beaten," Beers said.

It happened in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh just recently. A pastor was attacked and beaten in his church, and the congregation was threatened by the mob during a Sunday service.

The church's sponsoring missions agency, which asked not to be identified to protect the safety of the congregation, said local Hindu groups were angry about the church's outreach.

"This kind of persecution happens frequently and much worse in many parts of India. The attackers carried out the assault because we had just finished an outreach in the area surrounding his church one month ago and it affected some of the villagers deeply," the mission leader told WND.

"It was cold there, many people in our group were showing the love of God to them by providing blankets for the very poor. Some of the people were so touched that they wanted to know this God that we serve and some of them accepted Christ into their lives and became Christians," the leader said.

Hindu nationalists also stoke the fires of persecution by claiming that any Christian activity is carried out by American or British missionaries.

The mission leader says that isn't the case.

"These benevolent, Christian people were all Indians, and the event was planned by them, not Americans," he said.

He suggested fear drives as much of the persecution as "nationalism."

"I can only assume their motive, like many in the past, was fear based on loss of control over the people," the mission leader said.

"Religious persecution is many times rooted in politics, not fear of religious freedom. I am not sure if this was the first time he was attacked but I do know that there have been other similar stories in the same region but, as I said before, this happens quite frequently in many parts of northern India," the leader said.

"I'm also not sure if this was an organized attack against all Christian churches in the area, but every once in a while, the Hindu extremists do organize much like they did in Orissa several years ago when Christians were beaten and even killed, houses and churches burned," he said.

Gospel for Asia Vice President Daniel Yohanan doesn't downplay the impact of persecution, but he says that people in the Far East and Asia approach religious issues differently. He says to understand why Christians in India would endure persecution, the Eastern view of religion and the purpose of life must be understood.

In the East, he said, people think their "entire purpose is to find forgiveness of sin."

"That's why people go on pilgrimages; that's why they go to the temple," Yohanan said.

"They know they're sinners. ... They've never heard about Jesus. If you ask someone if they know Jesus, they say Jesus doesn't live here. Go to the next village," Yohanan said.

"When they finally hear what Jesus did for them on Calvary, for them, persecution is a minor thing," Yohanan said. "It's worth it to go through persecution if they can be forgiven of their sin.

"They say they'll give their life if they can have a new life in Christ," Yohanan said.

"In the West we have believers whose faith doesn't change their entire life. It may change what they do on Sunday, but not everything. Over there they say that Christ forgave them."

In America, he said, "we've lost a theology of suffering."

"Because of our prosperity, we see suffering as an absence of God's blessing in our lives," Yohanan said. "In the Bible, Joseph was in prison for 13 years and in the perfect will of God, but in America we don't see it that way."

In highlighting the differences between the American and Indian view of persecution, Yohanan voiced what many Indian Christians say when asked about being persecuted.

"Wow! Christ forgive me - the very thing I've been looking for my whole life. Changed my entire life. I don't care if I have to face persecution," Yohanan said.

He said that while India has the most unreached people groups, it also has few resources devoted to missions.

"It's one of the most neglected areas," he said.

"When you think about reaching the Dalits, the poor, and poverty, you find that India is probably one of the most significant areas for mission that we have, because the harvest is so plentiful there," Yohanan said.

"There are over 500,000 villages who have never once had a Christian witness in the village. They've never heard the name of Jesus."


Digital Journal

Age of Eve: Return of the Nephilim Is a New Romance Novel from BroadLit with a Paranormal Twist

Los Angeles, California (PRWEB)

February 26, 2013

Fallen angels, voodoo magic, and intense passion combine in the first paranormal romance novel from Quantum Leap co- creator D. M. Pratt. BroadLit, a company introducing a new slant on romance, is publishing today, February 26, 2013, the first novel in award-winning D. M. Pratt's new romantic thriller series Age of Eve: Return of the Nephilim. The series introduces readers to a passion of mythological proportions that will captivate the reader's body, mind and soul. At BroadLit's online romance hub a downloadable free chapter is available.

The first book in Ms. Pratt's paranormal series introduces the heroine. Eve Dowling, a talented writer for a successful magazine that covers New Orleans society events, is leading an exciting life filled with friends, family and work--until it is turned upside down by a fateful encounter with a stunningly handsome mystery man who ignites her most sensual fantasies. When Eve awakes naked, sexually ravaged and alone in the garden of one of New Orleans' most historic homes, she begins her search to uncover who this mystery man really is. She tracks him through the dark side of Old Algiers with the aid of one of its most famous Voodoo priestesses to an abandoned sanitarium in the heart of the swamplands surrounding New Orleans. It is there she first confronts two creatures, first described in ancient Hebrew and Christian texts as the Nephilim or "fallen sons of God," who vie to possess her body and soul and keep her from true love with her mystery man. Is Eve's battle with the Nephilim to save her mystery lover--and her own life--real or imagined? Does Eve really hold a key to saving humanity from a loveless existence? Or is it all simply a nightmare dream? And Book One in this series is only the beginning.

Nancy Cushing-Jones, BroadLit's Chief Publishing Officer, is pleased to announce this latest romance series acquisition. "I had never heard of Nephilim until I read Ms. Pratt's novel and now I hope to never meet a Nephilim in real life--meeting two of them on the printed page is enough excitement for me!"

According to Ms. Pratt, "Female empowerment has been my battle cry since I started writing as a teen, and has continued throughout my professional writing career. I wrote several books and screenplays in the early '90s and was told that a female protagonist who didn't get saved by a man would never happen in reality, much less in a movie. I actually remember being asked when a guy was going to save her. Now much has changed thanks to the huge success of female driven, strong, heroine-based stories in literature and films today. I'm thrilled by these changes because I believe women are the salvation of the planet."

Take the Nephilim pop quiz and read an interview with the author of Age of Eve on

Ms. Pratt is a five-time Emmy nominee, a Golden Globe nominee and short listed for the Academy Awards for her live action short film Girl Friends. She has received the Lillian Gish Award from Women in Film, The Angel Award, The Golden Block Award, and six B.E.N. Awards. As Co-Executive Producer and Head Writer for the ground-breaking series Quantum Leap television series Ms. Pratt wrote 25 episodes and co-wrote an additional 15 episodes. She made her directorial debut on Cora Unashamed for the BBC's Masterpiece Theatre's The American Collection, which aired on both PBS and the BBC.



Editor's note: Barbie Latza Nadeau is Rome bureau chief for Newsweek Daily Beast and is a frequent contributor to CNN. She has lived in and reported from Italy for Newsweek since 1997.

(CNN) -- The only thing certain about the results of the Italian elections held February 24 and 25 is that the country is headed for a new phase of utter and chaotic uncertainty.

While there may be clear winners in terms of ballot counts, there is no clear majority in the powerful senate, which means that no one has a clear enough mandate to actually govern the country. In short, Italy is right back where it was in November 2011 when Silvio Berlusconi resigned amid a flurry of sex and financial corruption scandals. But is that back to square one? That would be an optimistic outcome. In many ways, things are far worse.

Italy has actually used up many of its final chances in this electoral season. Not only has the country chosen not to embrace continuing austerity under technocratic leader Mario Monti, which is necessary by any calculation to actually start moving Italy out of the recession.

It has also opted to give a great deal of parliamentary power to the anti-establishment Five Star protest movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo who, aside from not actually being a candidate, vows to bring a referendum on Italy's continuing involvement in the eurozone currency among other things. He now stands to have the largest party in the lower house. None of his candidates have any parliamentary experience, which is likely why he won so much support.

"We'll see you in parliament," Grillo tweeted as the final results clearly proved that he had indeed tapped into the country's discontent.

But perhaps the most astonishing feat of these elections is that Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the center-left Partito Democratico, somehow squandered weeks of a well-established lead in the polls. And, to none other than comeback king Silvio Berlusconi, who managed to beat all the odds and climb from a dismal 16 percent in the polls in December to nearly knocking out his center-left rival all together.

Since his resignation in November 2011, he has been convicted of tax fraud (he is appealing) and he is awaiting a verdict in a sleazy trial in which he is accused of paying an underage alleged exotic dancer for sex on no less than 13 occasions. Berlusconi has denied the allegations.

His winning campaign promise was as anti-austerity as it comes. He vowed not only to abolish the property tax on primary residences that his successor Mario Monti reinstated when he took the helm. He also promised to reimburse Italians for the property taxes they paid last year. The money, he says, will come from taxes on secret Swiss bank accounts held by wealthy Italians.

The electoral outcome is cloudy at best, and nothing short of chaos at worst, and will most likely lead to another round of elections. There are few scenarios in which either Bersani or Berlusconi could form alliances with Grillo or Monti to form a strong majority to actually lead the country. Monti did not fare well enough to give Bersani the boost he needs, and he has vowed not to do business with Berlusconi.

And Grillo has promised his populist following that he won't join forces with any established political parties, meaning he has no goal other than to be a strong opposition. And who can blame him? He has much more power in his now very strong kingmaker position.

Italy is headed for serious instability at a time when the country is already on its knees. Unemployment is forecast to reach 12 percent next year, according to the European Commission. And the economy is expected to shrink by at least 1 percent in 2013. Political instability is never good for investors, and Italian voters have just ensured an uncertain future by failing to reach a decisive vote.

But things could have been different.

Bersani could have possibly led his party to a far stronger showing if he had allowed Matteo Renzi, the 38-year-old mayor of Florence and center-left darling to run in his place. Instead, the two dueled it out in an ill-advised primary race late last year in which Renzi - and the center-left -- ultimately lost after Bersani sold the party faithful on experience over optimism.

Berlusconi actually admitted he would have never put his name on the ballot if Renzi was running.

And Berlusconi, whose center-right party has strong support among the wealthy entrepreneurs of Italy's productive regions, also passed up an opportunity to make a better showing for the center-right.

By refusing to give up power and pass on his party reigns to Angelino Alfano, his sometimes protégé, he lost the opportunity to attract a younger, stronger center-right vote.

Instead, the duel between Berlusconi and Bersani ended up a somewhat embarrassing battle of silly promises and, ultimately, broken dreams for Italians who will find that however difficult they thought things were, they are bound to get worse.

Now Italy is in a limbo they haven't seen in decades. Having just endured 15 months of technocratic tough love with austerity measures, they have now seemingly squandered the chance for democracy. What comes next is anyone's guess, but it won't be pretty.

"This is a case of gridlock," James Walston of the American University of Rome told CNN. "Nothing could be worse for Europe."


The Telegraph

Ken Clarke: All 'right-thinking citizens' should support secret courts

All "right-thinking citizens of Middle England" should support secret courts, ministers insisted, as campaigners dismissed last-minute Government concessions as "nothing more than tinkering around the edges".

Ken Clarke  Photo: REX

By Wesley Johnson, Home Affairs Correspondent

28 Feb 2013

Ken Clarke, the minister without portfolio, said the Government had "gone to extreme lengths to meet every practical legal objection" to the controversial measures proposed in the Justice and Security Bill.

But campaigners said changes, including an annual report and a five-year review, made before the Bill reaches report stage next week do little to address its "fundamental unfairness".

In a strongly-worded attack on campaigners, Mr Clarke said: "Of course these amendments will not reassure the Bill's hardline critics, who prefer silence to judicial decisions on allegations of kidnap and torture, and are prepared to accept that millions of pounds could go without challenge to individuals who could be terrorists.

"These final amendments should now resolve all right thinking citizens of Middle England that this is a sensible, worthwhile Bill which they would give their support to."

He admitted the plans to hold more hearings in national security cases behind closed doors in so-called closed material procedures were not ideal, but said they offered "the only practical means of delivering justice where otherwise there would be none".

But Tory MP Dominic Raab, a fierce critic of the proposals, said: "This is a grubby piece of legislation that has - bit by bit - been made marginally less offensive, but still erodes the basic principles of British justice."

The legal charity Reprieve added that the changes were "nothing more than tinkering round the edges".

"These amendments make minor modifications to the road towards secret courts, but they do nothing to address the fundamental unfairness of the provisions at the heart of this Bill," a spokesman said.

"It is simple common sense that a system of justice which puts the Government above the law is one that should be rejected - MPs must vote against these plans when they return to the Commons."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, added: "A facelift won't save this ugly Bill - and certainly not the botched attempt of last-minute amendments.

"Our Government seems prepared to make any desperate misleading statement to pass a law that would prevent bereaved families of neglected soldiers and victims of police abuse gaining access to open justice forever more."

The Government also made a number of amendments last month, including allowing a judge rather than a minister to decide if a case should be held in private.



The Independent

Cornwall councillor Collin Brewer resigns over saying disabled children should be 'put down'

Mr Brewer says it is unlikely he would run as a candidate in May elections


28 FEBRUARY 2013

A Cornwall councillor at the centre of a row over comments he made about disabled children has resigned.

Collin Brewer yesterday apologised for saying disabled children should be "put down" because they cost the authority too much money - but had refused to resign.

Mr Brewer, an independent Cornwall councillor, said his remarks at an event at County Hall in Truro were designed to "provoke a debate".

Mr Brewer told the BBC it was unlikely he would run as a candidate in the May elections. "I was wrong, I admit it," he said.

"I will continue to apologise," he said.

Mr Brewer made the remarks to a disabilities charity at an event designed to allow councillors to meet equal opportunity organisations and understand the issues they face.

Mr Brewer reportedly approached a stall run by Disability Cornwall at the event, and was told about the work of the charity.

He responded by saying: "Disabled children cost the council too much money and should be put down."

The veteran council member was been met with a storm of criticism from disabled people, their carers and campaigners - including former glamour model Katie Price, whose son Harvey is disabled - after the comments received widespread attention this week.

Disability Cornwall called for Mr Brewer to resign and a spokesman for disabled charity Scope described Mr Brewer's outburst as "outrageous", saying: "To hear such an ill-judged and insensitive statement from a councillor is deeply disturbing and demonstrates that they are clearly not fit for office."

Mr Brewer had initially refused to resign saying his comments were "a flippant remark".

But he has since reconsidered his position. Asked in an interview with BBC Radio Cornwall whether those offended by his comments would be pleased with his decision, Mr Brewer said: "I know they will be.

"This is my first indiscretion - not that there's any excuse for that."

He said he had received messages of support from at least half a dozen councillors who contacted him over his remarks.

"They know this is against my character," he said.

"I was wrong - I admit it. I will continue to apologise."



Listen up! Red wine can stop you going deaf

DRINKING red wine can stop you going deaf, researchers claim.

Published: February 22, 2013

Look after your hearing by drinking red wine

Tests have found that a chemical called resveratrol, which is found in red grapes, can help protect against noise-induced hearing loss.

Rats given the compound before being exposed to loud noise for long periods were found to be less likely to suffer long-term damage.

Resveratrol may also fight the development of Alzheimer's, cancer and other age-related conditions, according to study leader Dr Michael Seidman of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

He said: "Resveratrol is a very powerful chemical that seems to protect against the body's inflammatory process as it relates to ageing, cognition and hearing loss."

Hearing loss affects nearly one in five people and hearing steadily declines with age.

Dr Seidman, whose study is published in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, added: "By giving animals resveratrol, we can reduce the amount of hearing and cognitive decline."


Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?” Job 38:22

Fox 59

Teen goes viral, lands job after walking miles for job interview

by Kent Erdahl - Reporter -

What started out as a miserable day battling an icy 10-mile walk for a job interview, ended with a job offer and social media fame for an Indianapolis teen.

It was all thanks to a chance encounter along the way.

Art Bouvier decided to delay the opening of his restaurant, Papa Roux Cajun Cooking, due to the snow and ice. It was when he was salting down his sidewalk that he noticed a young man, 18-year-old Jhaqueil Reagan, walking toward him with a determined look on his face.

"He came walking through the parking lot and cutting the corner to get down westbound on 10th Street and he says, 'Excuse me, can you tell me how far it is to 10th and Sherman?'" said Bouvier, who also goes by Papa. "I looked at the ground, it's all ice, and I said, '10th and Sherman? That's about six or seven miles away. You're not going to get there anytime soon in this weather. You'll probably need to take a bus, and he said, 'Okay, thank you sir.' And he just kept going."

Not only was 10th Street icy, it doesn't have a sidewalk for an extended stretch on the east side. Papa said that's why he was surprised to run into Reagan again while driving down 10th Street 20 minutes later.

"I said, well how come you're not on the bus?" Papa said. "He said, 'I can't afford the bus until I get a job.'"

Reagan told Papa that he was walking to a job interview for a minimum wage job at a local thrift store. Though Papa knew the interview was at 10th and Sherman, he soon found out that Reagan was actually living at 42nd and Post, nearly 10 miles away.

"I'm thinking to myself, here's a kid walking almost 10 miles in the ice and slush and snow for the hope of a job at minimum wage," Papa said. "That's the kind of story your parents used to tell, my parents used to tell, up both ways in the snow."

Papa gave him a ride the rest of the way, gave him money for lunch, and told him he'd try to see if he could find room for him in his kitchen if he still needed a job after the interview.

Papa then shared Regan's story on Facebook. Within a few hours he had more than 7,000 likes.

"More likes than I have friends," Papa said. "It's been shared 1,200 times. I have no explanation for that."

On Friday night that promise became reality. Papa, called Reagan and offered him a job. He also offered to pick him up and bring him in for his first shift.

"I'm lucky I met him," Reagan said. "I'm really lucky I met him."

Reagan said it's been hard finding opportunities. He was forced to quit school two years ago when his mother died. He completed his GED while staying home to care for his siblings.

Now that he has a job, and a following on Facebook?

"It's crazy. I don't even know. It's really crazy," Reagan said. "My heart's just racing right now. I'm just too excited, just excited to start."

"I can show you the ropes tonight if you want. We're really busy in there," Papa said to Reagan.

"Thank you very much," Reagan said.

Reagan's story inspired an outpouring of support on Facebook. Several people offered to buy him a bus pass in order to make it to his new job, but that won't be necessary. After seeing the story on Fox59, a representative with IndyGo offered him a complimentary one year bus pass.


Until next week...keep on believing.

Almondtree Productions

And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.”
(Luke 17:6)