AMERICAS: USA: NEW STAMP TO HONOUR MOTHER TERESA-
ASIA: IRAQ: CHRISTIANS FACE MORE VIOLENCE-
EUROPE: POLAND: SKI SLOPES WITH A PAPAL BLESSING-
Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, stressed that USPS should issue a stamp on Diwali to honor the feelings and contributions of about 2.5 million Hindus living in USA and about one billion spread worldwide. It was long overdue, he added.
USPS announcement says that Mother Teresa “had been a citizen of India since 1948″ and she “served the sick and destitute of India and the world for nearly 50 years”. She is buried in Kolkata (India).
Diwali is the most popular festival of Hinduism, which is the oldest and third largest religion of the world whose ultimate goal is moksha (liberation). USPS, whose history goes back to 1775, handled 202.7 billion pieces in FY 2008 and its revenue was $75 billion. John E. Potter is the Postmaster General and Carolyn Lewis Gallagher is Chairman of USPS Board of Governors.
Mosul (AsiaNews) - Attacks continue against Christians to push them to flee from Iraq. Yesterday afternoon Zhaki Homo Bashir, a Christian deacon, was hit by gunfire from a group of unknown criminals. The man had just entered his shop located in the district of al Jadida. Seriously injured, he was transported to hospital. AsiaNews published the news yesterday of the kidnapping a college student from an Islamic group. News has also reached the agency in recent days that another Christian was killed on Christmas Eve; Basil Isho Youhanna was hit by gunfire in front of his house in the neighbourhood of Tahrir, in northern Mosul. In recent weeks there has been an increase of killings of Christians and attacks on churches and convents. All the violence is part of a project of "ethnic cleansing" against the Iraqi Christians, reported to AsiaNews by Msgr. Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk. The national government and the local governorate are powerless before these attacks, while the different ethnic groups Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen - with the possible infiltration of extremist cells – are all blaming each other.
According to local sources, since 2003, the year of the fall of Saddam Hussein, at least 1960 Christians have been killed in Iraq. Their presence has been reduced by at least half because of the exodus to other quieter areas of the country (Kurdistan) or abroad.(source: http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=17239&size=A
The London Telegraph reports that it is not often that you get to ski on slopes that have received a papal blessing, but that is one of the pluses of a winter holiday with a difference in the Polish resort of Zakopane.
The late Pope John Paul II hailed from these parts and during his years at the helm of the Catholic church in Kraków, he liked to retreat to the nearby Tatras and have a quick schuss with the best of them.
Slightly bizarrely during what turned out to be the most memorable of the three days I spent in Zakopane last February, I ended up teaming up briefly with a British man of Polish ancestry whose brother had actually skied with Karol Józef Wojtyla, as the pontiff-to-be was then known.
We had joined forces as part of an intrepid group that, despite thick snowfall and a chilling wind, had decided to brave Zakopane's most challenging run – the six-mile descent from its highest peak, Kasprowy Wierch.
As we made the dramatic ascent of the mountain in one of Europe's longest – and oldest – cable car rides, we looked up at the ominously heavy-looking clouds and prayed that the spirit of John Paul II would be with us – or at least that we would receive divine guidance.
Our prayers were answered – with guidance taking the form of Alan Garcia, a passionate skier and entrepreneur who in 2005 set up Sunshine World, a company specialising in affordable winter holidays to Zakopane for British skiers and snowboarders.
The afternoon spent coming down from Kasprowy Wierch – initially through the powder, then back on piste, then along winding paths through a wonderfully snow-laden fir tree forest – was the highlight of the holiday. "The best day's skiing for many years," declared Julian, my British-Polish friend with the papal connection.
(edited from : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/snowandski/6911471/Zakopane-Poland-skiing-with-divine-guidance.html
Mike Hermanstorfer told how his wife Tracy went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing in a hospital delivery room on Christmas Eve.
Doctors performed an emergency caesarean section to try to save the baby's life but then had to give Mr Hermanstorfer the heartbreaking news that his son had not survived either.
As the father held his son in his hands, he felt the boy begin to move.
And at the same time Mrs Hermanstorfer, 33, began to breathe again.
"My legs went out from under me," her husband said. "I had everything in the world taken from me and then, suddenly, everything given to me. It was the hand of God."
Doctors at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said there was no logical explanation for the recovery of the mother or her baby.
"She was dead," maternal foetal medicine specialist Dr Stephanie Martin said. "She had no heartbeat, no breathing, no blood pressure. She was as grey as her sweat suit and there were no signs of life.
"The baby was basically limp with a very slow heart rate. We did a thorough evaluation and can't find anything that explains why this happened."
Mr Hermanstorfer said his wife had begun to feel sleepy as she was being prepared for the delivery.
Doctors and nurses began CPR in an attempt to restart her heart. Mr Hermanstorfer recalls a doctor telling him: "We have been unable to revive her and we're going to take your son out."
They began a caesarean section to remove the baby and did not use anaesthetic on the assumption that the mother was dead.
Some of the medical team stayed with Mrs Hermanstorfer to continue efforts to resuscitate her, while others began massaging baby Coltyn.
Mrs Hermanstorfer said she recalled nothing of the incident. She plans to tell Coltyn about his birth when he is old enough to understand: "I'll tell him that he had a tough time coming into this world; that he's my miracle baby."
Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner in charge of development and humanitarian aid, attributes the disastrous situation to the terrible potential of climate change.
"Large parts of the Horn of Africa have had less than 75 percent of normal rainfall this year, having already endured a series of severe droughts. The population can no longer cope with such extreme and protracted hardship which often comes on top of conflict situation. As a result, more than 16 million people desperately need help," he said in a statement released by ECHO.
Initial optimism occasioned by forecasts of El Nino rains were thwarted when November proved largely dry. El Nino refers to a periodic warming of temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, far from East Africa's shores but with impacts on the country's rainfall and weather patterns.
Samuel Mwangi, acting assistant director of Kenya's national weather forecasting services explains that El Nino has been linked with greater rainfall during the annual "short rains" in East Africa, between October and December.
Priscah Nzilani a domestic worker in Nairobi's Eastlands area and a single mother of four says she has nothing to be cheerful about as she ushers in the New Year. She is wrought with worry about the demands the forthcoming year will place on her family.
"Since 2007 the cost of food has been increasing steadily, reaching levels that are out of reach for most Kenyans. The failed rains brought with them more troubles with the cost of electricity reaching a record high. We also had consistent water shortages which continue to persist and we are forced to dig deeper into our pockets to buy water at an extra cost. With this kind of scenario how does one find it in their heart to be cheerful about the New Year?" she pauses.
Nzilani adds that with the failure of the much anticipated El Nino rains, there is no reprieve for Kenyans.
"I am worried that my earnings as a domestic worker will not suffice to feed and educate my children as well as meet their other basic needs. We have been surviving by skipping meals and at this rate I think we shall have to make do with only one meal a day," she says with a forlorn look on her face.
ECHO warns that if the December rains are below average, parts of Kenya may suffer irreparable damage.
ECHO regional information officer Daniel Dickinson told IPS, "In the face of the unfolding drought situation, ECHO is providing 50 million euros in humanitarian aid to vulnerable drought-affected people in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. The rains have failed and people have exhausted the coping mechanisms which they had and urgently need help."
Kenya's minister for special programmes, Naomi Shaban, issued a similar warning in mid- December over the worsening food security situation across the country.
Speaking as she flagged off relief food worth $80,000 donated by Telkom Kenya and World Vision Kenya, Shaban said ten districts across the country are facing an imminent crisis in relation to food insecurity.
"Unfortunately, the country has experienced another season of failed rains which is expected to increase the current levels of food insecurity. Although Kenya's food security is still on the borderline, many districts are at risk of sliding into an acute food and livelihood crisis. This situation is made worse by high food prices," Shaban explained.
In Kenya, Dickinson says it is estimated 3.8 million people currently rely on humanitarian aid and the situation is worsening. with acute malnutrition above 20 percent in five districts.
The government of Kenya has increased its monthly spending on relief food to $1.3 million per month to assist those facing starvation. In early 2009, the government declared the unfolding food security situation a national disaster, stating that 10 million Kenyans were unable to access food.
In Ethiopia, ECHO reports indicate with several consecutive crop failures, the nutritional situation in that country has deteriorated badly and is expected to worsen further.
The story unfolding in Somalia is similar, with the situation aggravated by ongoing conflict. In Uganda, ECHO indicates 2.2 million people in northern Acholi and Karamoja regions face food insecurity.
According to Famine Early Warning Systems Network (which issues alerts on food insecurity) poor rains in November have revised prospects for widespread food security improvements that were expected to manifest toward the end of December in Kenya.
Those set to be adversely affected include pastoral households who already face unrelenting prices for food, an outbreak of cholera and heightened conflict over limited pasture and water in drought conditions.
However, Mwangi says sections of the country have experienced increased rainfall as predicted, which means good harvests will be recorded in certain areas.
"It must be pointed out that the poor performance of rainfall is not widespread across the country. There are areas that will still record good harvests from the rainfall received during the season.
In Coast, Northeastern, Eastern and Central Provinces, the rainfall was characterised by heavy storms in the second half of the month. This significantly enhanced the total rainfall amounts recorded in these provinces," Mwangi says.
It is not clear whether good harvests in these areas will cover the predicted shortfalls in the rest of the country.(SOURCE: http://allafrica.com/stories/200912310022.html
Feast: December 31
31 December 335 at Rome, Italy
Feroleto Antico, Italy
St Sylvester, whom God appointed to govern his holy church in the first years of her temporal prosperity and triumph over her persecuting enemies, was a native of Rome and son to Rufinus and Justa. According to the general rule with those who are saints from their cradle, he received early and in his infancy the strongest sentiments of Christian piety from the example, instructions, and care of a virtuous mother, who for his education in the sound maxims and practice of religion, and in sacred literature, put him young into the hands of Charitius, or Carinus, a priest of an unexceptionable character and great abilities. Being formed under an excellent master, he entered among the clergy of Rome and was ordained priest by Pope Marcellinus, before the peace of the church was disturbed by Diocletian and his associate in the empire. His behaviour in those turbulent and dangerous times recommended him to the public esteem, and he saw the triumph of the cross by the victory which Constantine gained over Maxentius within sight of the city of Rome, on the 28th of October 312. Pope Melchiades dying in January 314, St. Sylvester was exalted to the pontificate, and the same year commissioned four legates, two priests, and two deacons to represent him at the great council of the Western church, held at Arles in August, in which the schism of the Donatists, which had then subsisted seven years, and the heresy of the Quartodecimans were condemned, and many important points of discipline regulated in twenty-two canons. These decisions were sent by the council before it broke up, with an honourable letter, to Pope Sylvester, and were confirmed by him and published to the whole church. The general council of Nice was assembled against Arianism in 325. Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret say that Pope Sylvester was not able to come to it in person on account of his great age, but that he sent his legates. Gelasius of Cyzicus mentions that in it "Osius held the place of the Bishop of Rome, together with the Roman priests Vito and Vincentius." These three are named the first in subscriptions of the bishops in the editions of the acts of that council and in Socrates, who expressly places them before Alexander, patriarch of Alexandria, and Eustathius, patriarch of Antioch. St. Sylvester greatly advanced religion by a punctual discharge of all the duties of his exalted station during the space of twenty-one years and eleven months; and died on the 31st of December 335. He was buried in the cemetery of Priscilla. Pope Sergius II translated his body and deposited it under the altar in a church dedicated to God in his memory. Mention is made of an altar consecrated to God in his honour at Verona, about the year 500; and his name occurs in the ancient Martyrology called St. Jerome's, published by Florentinius, and in those of Bede, Ado, Usuard, &c. Pope Gregory IX, in 1227, made his festival general in the Latin church; the Greeks keep it on the 10th January.
After a prodigious effusion of Christian blood almost all the world over, during the space of three hundred years, the persecuting kingdoms at length laid down their arms and submitted to the faith and worship of God crucified for us. This ought to be to us a subject of thanksgiving. But do our lives express this faith? Does it triumph in our hearts? It is one of its first precepts that in all our actions we make God our beginning and end, and have only his divine honour and his holy law in view. We ought, therefore, so to live that the days, hours, and moments of the year may form a crown made up of good works, which we may offer to God. Our forgetfulness of him who is our last end, in almost all that we -do, calls for a sacrifice of compunction at the close of the year; but this cannot be perfect or acceptable to God unless we sincerely devote our whole hearts and lives to his holy love for the time to come. Let us therefore examine into the sources of former omissions, failures, and transgressions, and take effectual measures for our amendment and for the perfect regulation of all our affections and actions for the future, or that part of our life which may remain.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God;
all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.
He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.
The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.
He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God;
who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
(John bore witness to him, and cried, "This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'")
And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.