Daily Archives: May 22, 2011

Report blames society for sexually abusive priests

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, Karen Terry of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Bishop Blase Cupich, from left, take part in a Washington news conference releasing the findings of a study on clergy sex abuse. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP / May 19, 2011)

A study commissioned by Roman Catholic bishops ties abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the U.S. to the sexual revolution, not celibacy or homosexuality, and says it’s been largely resolved. The findings are already under attack.

While more boys than girls have been abused, the report said, that is probably because priests had greater access to boys.

Los Angeles Times | May 18, 2011

By Mitchell Landsberg

Sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the United States is a “historical problem” that has largely been resolved and that never had any significant correlation with either celibacy or homosexuality, according to an independent report commissioned by Catholic bishops — and subjected to fierce attack even before its release on Wednesday.

The report blamed the sexual revolution for a rise in sexual abuse by priests, saying that Catholic clerics were swept up by a tide of “deviant” behavior that became more socially acceptable in the 1960s and ’70s.

As that subsided, and as the church instituted reforms in the 1990s and 2000s, the problem of priests acting as sexual predators sharply declined, according to the study by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

“The abuse is a result of a complex interaction of factors,” said Karen Terry, a John Jay criminal justice professor who led the research team. One major factor, she said at a news conference in Washington, was social turmoil in the 1960s and ’70s that led some priests “who had some vulnerabilities” to commit child sexual abuse. She said Catholic seminaries had done a poor job of preparing priests “to live a life of chaste celibacy,” as their vows demanded.

The report found no evidence, however, that celibacy itself contributed to sexual abuse. “Given the continuous requirement of priestly celibacy over time, it is not clear why the commitment to or state of celibate chastity should be seen as a cause for the steady rise in incidence of sexual abuse between 1950 and 1980,” it said.

It also found no evidence that homosexuality was to blame. While more boys than girls have been abused, the report said, that is probably because priests had greater access to boys. In fact, it said, the incidence of sexual abuse in the priesthood began declining not long after a noticeable rise in the number of gay men entering Catholic seminaries in the 1970s.

News of the report’s findings leaked out late Tuesday with an account by Religion News Service, and reaction from critics was swift and harsh. Advocates for victims of child sexual abuse expressed outrage that the report emphasized social factors, which they saw as an attempt to shift blame. A conservative Catholic group objected to the report’s exoneration of homosexuality as a cause of the abuse.

William Donohue, the outspoken president of the conservative Catholic League, noted on the group’s website that the report found that 81% of abuse victims were male and 78% were beyond puberty. “Since 100% of the abusers were male, that’s called homosexuality, not pedophilia or heterosexuality,” he said.

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-founder of the website BishopAccountability.org, which chronicles abuse cases and acts as an advocate for victims, said the report failed to take the church hierarchy to task for the abuse crisis, and seemed intended “to decriminalize the bishops’ response to child molestation.”

“But I guess what is surprising me,” she said, “is the fact that they’re also chalking up the rape and abuse of tens of thousands of children to a vulnerable priesthood responding to social turmoil.”

Speakers at the Washington news conference, held by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said church leaders did not try to shape the research, and that the report did not let anyone off the hook.

“None of what is included in this report should be interpreted as making excuses for the terrible acts that occurred,” said Diane Knight, a Milwaukee social worker and chairwoman of the bishops’ National Review Board. “There are no excuses. There is much that the church has to learn from this report and much of it is difficult. The bottom line is that the church was wrong not to put children first for all those years, all those decades.”

David Finkelhor, a sociologist who directs the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said he briefly reviewed the report Wednesday morning and was largely impressed by the breadth and depth of research.

However, he said, “I do think they are unfortunately going to get lambasted on some things, and it may be more of a question of tone and emphasis than actual substance.” Chief among those things, he said, is the lack of emphasis on “the terrible mishandling of this whole phenomenon by the bishops and the church hierarchy.”

Finkelhor said he accepted the report’s finding that child sexual abuse by priests had dramatically declined in recent years. Some U.S. dioceses have done a good job of instituting programs to safeguard children, and society as a whole has gotten better at dealing with sexual abuse, he said.

While critics argue that the abuse being committed today simply hasn’t been reported yet, and might not be for decades, Finkelhor said he thought that was much less likely than in the past.

“I think frankly we’re much better now at flushing out abuse early on,” he said. “I think young people feel much more comfortable coming out and talking about it.”

Four more years! (Of the Patriot Act …)

After little debate, a bipartisan deal is set to extend some of the post-9/11 law’s most controversial provisions

Salon | May 21, 2011

By Justin Elliott

The administration has been officially quiet and ambivalent, but it’s clear that their real position is to undermine any serious attempt at reform.

On Thursday, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders agreed to a deal to extend key provisions of the Patriot Act for four years, a significant decision that generated little press attention or sustained political debate.

Certain sections of the Patriot Act, which originally passed Congress a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with near-unanimous support, have long been criticized by civil libertarians in both political parties.

But the Obama administration and its allies on Capitol Hill have been eager to renew about-to-expire provisions that expanded domestic intelligence collection and wiretapping powers. As the AP put it, “The idea [of the deal] is to pass the extension with as little debate as possible to avoid a protracted and familiar argument over the expanded power the law gives to the government.” A vote is expected within several days.

To find out more about the provisions that are set to be extended, I spoke with Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute who closely follows technology and civil liberties issues.

What is actually going to be extended for four years?

There are three expiring provisions. First, there’s the “lone wolf” provision, which was actually part of a different law. That’s a change to the definition of an agent of a foreign power under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). FISA is a special framework for gathering foreign intelligence in the United States, which is much broader than the electronic surveillance powers that apply to criminal investigations. It has traditionally always been limited to agents of foreign powers — meaning someone who had a link to a foreign government or a foreign intelligence agency. The lone wolf provision allowed that framework to be applied to people who do not have a tie to any foreign group.

Then there’s the roving wiretaps provision. This is for situations like on “The Wire” where the drug dealers would swap cell phones every few weeks to try to frustrate surveillance. In the criminal context, there’s been this ability to get what are called roving wiretaps since the 1980s On the criminal side, the authorities are allowed to get these when there’s evidence a target is trying to frustrate surveillance. So whenever the target is using a payphone or a different cell phone, that’s all covered by the warrant. They don’t have to go back to a judge to show probable cause all over again. On the FISA side, the Patriot Act added the ability to do roving wiretaps without the requirement that a target be identified by name.

The third is known as Section 215, the business records or “tangible things” provision. It allows investigators to get an order from the FISA court permitting them to compel the production of any tangible thing that is relevant to an investigation. It’s pretty unlimited in scope. Any record or other thing that pertains to a suspected agent of a foreign power or someone in contact with them is under the law considered to be “presumptively relevant.” That means the judge has no discretion to deny such requests. The records don’t have to belong to anyone who is thought to be guilty of anything.

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Democrats, Republicans agree to four-year extension of Patriot Act powers

opednews.com | May 22, 2011

By Patrick Martin

Spokesmen for Democratic and Republican congressional leaders announced Thursday a bipartisan agreement to extend three key domestic spying powers established by the USA Patriot Act for another four years.

The agreement meets the demands of the Obama administration and the Justice Department for a “clean” extension, that is, one that does not make any concessions to concerns over the infringement of civil liberties, particularly in relation to the authorization to seize the records of libraries and other institutions.

The deal was worked out between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky) and House Speaker John Boehner (Republican-Ohio).

Reid formally unveiled the agreement by filing a cloture petition Thursday afternoon that will force a vote on Monday to bring the legislation to the Senate floor on Monday. Assuming the Senate passes the legislation extending the Patriot Act provisions, the House would vote shortly afterwards, ahead of a May 27 deadline.

When the USA Patriot Act was first enacted in 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, most of the new spy powers given the federal government were enacted permanently. But three provisions were established with expiration dates, supposedly because of their potential for abuse.

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Australian city facing coldest May in 40 years

BALLARAT is currently on track to record its coldest May in more than 40 years.

thecourier.com.au | May 23, 2011


Ballarat Victoria, Australia – With snow likely to fall as low as 1000m above sea level tomorrow, the region is in the midst of being battered by back-to-back cold fronts.

Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said it would be some time before local residents would see another 15 degree day, and could expect snow as early as the first week of June.

“The highest parts of the Grampians could get a little bit of snow this week but more likely sleet, and then the first weekend of winter could be the next time we see a cold burst come through that’s capable of bringing snow.”

Mr Dutschke predicted that the upcoming winter would be colder and drier than average, and said people should prepare to rug up right away.

“Tuesday and Wednesday this week are looking like being the coldest days, with the temperature unlikely to exceed 10 degrees and may stay colder nine,” he said.

“There will be very little chance for warming because we’ll be stuck in southerly winds, but then it should start to dry out.”

While temperatures reached 17 degrees on Friday and Saturday, that was after 12 consecutive days of 13 degrees or less.

The average maximum temperature for the month is set to stay around 12 degrees, which would make it the coldest May since 1970.

Mr Dutschke said the extra chill could be attributed to the decline of the La Nina weather pattern.

“There’s been a dramatic change in weather of the past month, going from wet and humid to dry and cold,” he said.

“And now that we’re moving out of La Nina, we just don’t have the same moisture in the atmosphere like we did over the last 10 months when La Nina was at its peak.

“The heavy rain shut off in about March and the rain we’ve had this weekend has been the most since then.”

So far this month Ballarat has recorded 35mm of rainfall, still well short of the May average of 65mm, but already more than the 33mm recorded last May.

The city has endured 390mm of rainfall to date in 2011, well above the 240mm average for the first five months of the year.

The Government is Spying On You Through Facebook Right…Now

In our ongoing effort to keep you safe we’ve decided to read your email without your consent.


Your Democratically Elected Government.

singularityhub.com | May 18, 2011

Democratically elected governments spy on citizens

by Aaron Saenz

Controlling information and spying on citizens were hallmarks of totalitarian regimes in the 20th century. Today, even moderate democracies are getting in on the action. In the last decade, as communication has shifted from traditional landlines, phone calls, and postal service to cell phones and email, governments around the world have struggled to maintain their ability to hunt down criminals and dissidents. As the world went wireless, intelligence gathering agencies have adapted and upgraded wiretapping skills, and major telecommunications companies have helped them do it. Nokia, Sprint, Ericsson, Facebook, Google – think of a business that helps people talk and exchange information and you’ll think of a company that has helped law enforcement agencies look through private data in search of the bad guys. Not such a big deal, right? I mean, we all want to hunt down the bad guys. Yet it’s becoming clear that not only is the loss of our privacy considered acceptable collateral damage, but giving backdoor access to governments make a business’ data more vulnerable to the bad guys as well.

In many areas of the globe, such as the US, UK and EU, to name a few, governments may monitor a citizen’s communications when they are suspected of a crime. There are legal/judicial hurdles that must be cleared for such observations to be installed but once they are cleared governments are legally allowed to spy. Such wiretapping has been going on since before the phone was invented. Now, however, much of our communication doesn’t pass through telephone wires but through the servers of corporate giants like Google. This proved to be both a hindrance and a large opportunity to information gathering and law enforcement agencies. They didn’t have direct access to those lines of communication, but the new medium allowed for automated detection and recording. By requiring companies like Facebook, Google, Sprint, etc to grant them automated backdoor access to their technologies, government agencies all around the world suddenly had the means to browse through billions of communications. Email subject lines, mobile phone GPS locations, call histories – all this digital information could be scanned, sorted, and stored for future use. And boy is it used. Sprint-Nextel provided US agencies with 8 million requests for cell phone GPS location information in 2008-2009 alone – and that’s just one mobile company. In an interview with Russia Today, Julian Assange, head of WikiLeaks recently stated that other tech companies, such as Facebook, are so accessible to US intelligence agencies that they act as de facto information gathering sources – see the video below for more:


A quick reality check, neither WikiLeaks nor Russia Today are particularly fond of US government activity, and it’s not surprising that both would critique the US government for invading online privacy. Yet it goes beyond one nation.

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Zuckerberg: Kids under 13 should be allowed on Facebook

“My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook’s founder sees the social networking site as a tool with educational potential. That of course means getting kids Facebooking at an early age.

FORTUNE | May 20, 2011

By Michal Lev-Ram

FORTUNE — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may be a college drop-out, but the billionaire 27-year-old is passionate about education reform. That’s why he took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the heated topic (and why he thinks young people can benefit from social networking sites) at a recent summit on innovation in education.

Last year Zuckerberg pledged $100 million to the school system in Newark, New Jersey. At the NewSchools Venture Fund’s Summit in Burlingame, Calif. earlier this week, Zuckerberg told interviewer (and venture capitalist) John Doerr that improving education and making the Internet more open are two of his favorite dinnertime topics.

Dressed in his signature T-shirt and jeans, Zuckerberg was uncharacteristically unguarded about his private life during the conversation, which lasted about an hour. He referred to his girlfriend of seven years, medical student Priscilla Chan, several times throughout the interview. He also shared anecdotes from his own education and upbringing, gave advice to other entrepreneurs and talked about why he wants kids under 13 to be on Facebook.

“Education is clearly the biggest thing that will drive how the economy improves over the long term,” Zuckerberg said. “We spend a lot of time talking about this.”

It’s no surprise that Zuckerberg thinks the field of education–along with shopping, health, finance and other industries–will become much more social in the coming years.

“In the future, software and technology will enable people to learn a lot from their fellow students,” he said. For example, students could see each other studying online in the hopes it would encourage more of them to study for tests.

Zuckerberg said he wants younger kids to be allowed on social networking sites like Facebook. Currently, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that websites that collect information about users (like Facebook does) aren’t allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13. But Zuckerberg is determined to change this.

“That will be a fight we take on at some point,” he said. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.”

But just how would Facebook’s social features be used by younger children?

“Because of the restrictions we haven’t even begun this learning process,” Zuckerberg said. “If they’re lifted then we’d start to learn what works. We’d take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe.”

Here are a few other opinions and anecdotes Zuckerberg shared at the recent summit:

– Every year Zuckerberg sets a personal challenge for himself. His latest one is learning Chinese (he works with a tutor and regularly holds discussions with Mandarin-speaking employees at Facebook).

– The young CEO gets upset when the media focuses on him instead of the entire Facebook management team. He says he spends 25% of his time recruiting both inside and outside Facebook and never hires someone he wouldn’t want to work for himself.

– Zuckerberg started coding in sixth grade, after he got his first computer. His first program? A virtual pet-like game starring Yoda (the goal was to keep Yoda alive).

– The best part of going to Harvard was the other students. According to Zuckerberg: “If I had the chance to go back to Harvard and finish, I just think of how many more awesome people I would meet.”

Pope John Paul II sculpture criticised for resembling Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini, left, and the statue of Pope John Paul II Photo: AFP

“How could they have given such a kind pope the head of a fascist?”

A giant sculpture of the late Pope John Paul II has come under attack by Romans who believe the structure looks more like Benito Mussolini than the popular former pontiff.

Telegraph | May 20, 2011

By Nick Squires, Rome

The highly abstract sculpture, which portrays John Paul in an ecclesiastical robe with his arms outstretched in a gesture of welcome, was unveiled this week in the large piazza outside Rome’s main railway station, Termini.

Gianni Alemanno, the mayor of Rome, described the work as “modern and evocative”.

With its bald head and beetle brow, the statue, which now dominates one of Rome’s biggest squares, bears distinctly Churchillian features, although Romans were struck more by its resemblance to Benito Mussolini.

“How could they have given such a kind pope the head of a fascist?” said 71-year-old Antonio Lamonica. His wife called it “ugly, really ugly.” Antonio Stampete, a Rome city councillor, said: “Installing this outside Rome’s most important travel hub, where thousands of Italian and foreign tourists arrive every day, is embarrassing”.

The Vatican itself has criticised the work, despite the Pontifical Commission for Culture approving the original sketches.

L’Osservatore Romano, the Holy See’s official mouthpiece, saying the 16-ft high bronze sculpture’s hollow form meant it resembled a “sentry box”.

The newspaper said it bore little resemblance to the Polish Pope, who died in 2005 and was beatified in a lavish ceremony in St Peter’s Square on May 1.

But L’Osservatore Romano said the sculpture looked as though it had been gashed by a bomb explosion and that the Pope’s head was “excessively round”.

There was only a distant similarity between the sculpture’s features and those of the Polish pope, the newspaper said.

“For people exiting the railway station, it appears like an enormous but indistinct monument rather than an unmistakable homage to John Paul II,” the newspaper said.

In an online poll by Corriere della Sera, more than 90 per cent of readers said they did not like the sculpture.

The railway station is a focus for drifters, the homeless and illegal immigrants and many locals predicted that it will be only a matter of days before the sculpture is used as a sleeping shelter or as a place to dump beer bottles and other rubbish.

The sculpture, by Oliviero Rainaldi, an Italian artist who has worked for the Vatican for more than 30 years, was unveiled on Wednesday to mark what would have been John Paul’s 91st birthday.

The sculptor defended the work, saying he had wanted to create something contemporary, rather than a realistic rendition “in the style of the 19th century”.