Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Easter, Passover, Ramadan Services Being Eased; Rel. Leaders Bend Rules to Cut COVID-19 Deaths

Churches, synagogues, and mosques are closing to contain the coronavirus global pandemic, as religious leaders are bending holy rules while families create new rituals that respect social distancing, the Yahoo News website reports today (March 31, 2020).

Public celebrations for Holy Week festivities -- including Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday -- will pivot to livestream.

And considering the rapidly evolving situation of the pandemic, a Vatican decree called "In time of COVID-19" outlines resources to amend April holidays, including Easter.

Some churches are holding "drive-thru" services and the Catholic Church is permitting the consumption of meat on Fridays during Lent, except on Good Friday.

Tampa, Fla. Pastor Arrested for Holding Services; Broke Stay-at-Home Law to Cut COVID-19 Spread

Law enforcement officials arrested the pastor of a Tampa, Florida megachurch yesterday for violating a safer-at-home order that was in place to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the CBN website reports today (March 31, 2020).

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne turned himself into authorities yesterday afternoon in Hernando County, where he lives.

He was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order. Bail was set at $500. He was released after posting bond.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said, "His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week in danger."

Monday, March 30, 2020

Pope on COVID-19: We Are All in the Same Boat; Compares It to Jesus, Apostles on Boat in a Storm

As the world grapples with the spread of the coronavirus, Pope Francis delivered a homily of hope on March 27, comparing the pandemic to a storm that can be overcome only by coming together in faith, the Religion News website reports today (March 30, 2020).

"We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other," he said during his homily in front of a rainy St. Peter's Basilica, before an empty square and a single priest.

Amid this pandemic, Francis said, we "have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this."

Francis drew from the day's Gospel lesson -- found in the fourth chapter of Mark -- which relates the story of Jesus and His apostles being caught in a storm while on a boat. The pope said the story can offer spiritual guidance about how to face the coronavirus pandemic.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Fauci: Millions of US Virus Cases, 200K Deaths; US Now Reports Over 124K Cases, 2,100 Deaths

Dr, Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's foremost infection disease expert, said today (March 29, 2020) the U.S. will certainly have "millions of cases" of COVID-19 and between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths, according to the Newsmax website.

"We're going to have millions of cases," he told CNN's "State of the Union."

"What we do know is that we've got a serious problem in New York. We have a serious problem in New Orleans. And we're going to be developing serious problems in other areas."

The U.S. is currently reporting more than 124,000 coronavirus cases and more than 2,100 deaths.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

US Might Experience Another Great Depression; Nation May See Repeat of 2008 Economic Crash

If the U.S. is on the verge of another Great Depression because of the coronavirus -- as seems likely -- that would happen because millions of ordinary working people can't show up for work in jobs that keep this country running, the Alternet website reports today (March 28, 2020).

Congress and President Trump reacted to this by passing a $2 trillion stimulus that expands unemployment benefits, will send a check to most American households, and provides $500 billion in industry bailout money.

This bill is expected to mute some of the worst economic effects of the coronavirus.

On the other hand, it may just be a repeat of the 2007-8 economic crash and stimulus, in which corporations and the wealthiest Americans recovered nicely but the rest  of the nation never regained its economic footing.

Friday, March 27, 2020

US Has More COVID-19 Cases Than Any Country; Surpasses Italy and China with Over 85,000 Cases

The U.S. overtook China, Italy and the rest of the world for the highest number of confirmed cases of coronavirus at 82,404 yesterday, the Newsy website reports today (March 27, 2020).

This morning, Johns Hopkins University had upped that number to more than 85,000.

China had nearly 82,000 cases, and Italy had a little more than 80,500.

The case count continues to change by the hour, as testing becomes more widely available.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Trump's Wish to Open Economy by Easter Is Nuts; Dr. Fauci: Virus Force Must Determine "Timeline"

President Donald Trump said this week that he would like to reopen the U.S. economy by Easter (April 12) -- but the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the globe is becoming worse, not better, the Huff Post website reports today (March 26, 2020).

Dr. Anthony Fauci -- the country's top infectious disease expert -- pointed out yesterday that the virus is determining "the timeline" for the pandemic.

"You've got to be realistic," Fauci said, when asked when states could expect to see a reduction of infections. "You've got to understand that you don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline."

"You can't make an arbitrary decision until you see what you're dealing with. You need the data," added Fauci, who -- like other medical professionals -- has urged Americans to "hunker down" and practice social distancing to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Women in NYC Now Give Birth Minus Husbands; Hospitals Bar Spouses' Presence Due to COVID-19

Women giving birth at two leading New York City hospital networks are being told they must labor without spouses, partners, or doulas by their side -- leaving the expectant mothers upset and frightened about their upcoming deliveries -- the NY Times website reports today (March 25, 2020).

The New York City hospital network New York-Presbyterian yesterday instituted one of the most restrictive visitor policies in the country for women giving birth, barring spouses, partners and other family members or outside support people, such as doulas, from the delivery room, in an effort to protect mothers and children during the coronavirus outbreak.

And last night, Mt. Sinai Health System announced it would also bar partners and other visitors from its labor and delivery rooms, beginning today.

"We do not take this decision lightly, but these are unprecedented times that require unprecedented steps to protect our patients, their families and their new babies," Lucia Lee, a spokeswoman for Mt. Sinai said in a statement.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

NJ to Jail People Violating Stay-at-Home Order; Can Only Leave Home for Med. Care, Food, Gas

The governor of New Jersey warned today (March 24, 2020) that "folks need to be jolted," so his attorney general is threatening jail for people who leave their homes in violation of the governor's order yesterday, according to t he WND website.

Gurbir Grewal, the state's attorney general, said those who violate the stay-at-home order could be jailed or fined up to $1,000.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed executive orders that ban unapproved social gatherings and close all "non-essential" businesses.

All  retail "storefront and/or brick-and-mortar premises" are shuttered, and "all recreational and entertainment businesses must close to the public." People are allowed to leave home only to seek medical care or to get food or gasoline.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Italy Records 793 Coronavirus Deaths in One Day; Italy Remains Worst COVID-19 Affected Country

Italy has recorded 793 new deaths from coronavirus in one day, adding 6,557 new cases have been detected, the WND website reports today (March 23, 2020).

Despite extensive measures to prevent the disease from spreading, Italy remains the worst affected country in the world.

The figures represent the highest day-to-day rise in the number of deaths. It brings the total number of deaths to more than 4,500, while the number of known cases is 53,578.

More than 60 percent of the latest deaths occurred in the northern region of Lombardy, whose hospitals have been reeling under a staggering case load that has left intensive care beds hard to find and respirators in dire supply.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Orth.Priest Arrested in Greece for Holding Mass; Greece Halted Church Services Due to COVID-19

A Greek Orthodox priest was arrested in Greece yesterday for celebrating mass in a church, following the suspension of religious office ordered by the country during the coronavirus outbreak, the Euro News website reports today (March 22, 2020).

Metropolitan Seraphim of Cypher Island off the Greek coast had celebrated religious office on Friday night, ahead of the Greek Orthodox Easter celebration starting on April 19.

After individual denunciations, the metropolite was interviewed by the police yesterday and was given a notification of the Greek government and Church of Greece amid the coronavirus crisis.

Since the first death of COVID-19 in Greece on March 12, the government adopted a strict lockdown to stop the spread of the virus, closing schools, businesses and public places, and banning public gatherings of more than 10 people.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Sens. Sold Millions in Stocks Prior to Virus Crash; Attended Closed-Door Briefing on Fatal COVID-19

Two Republican senators defended themselves yesterday against heavy criticism -- including demands that they resign -- for selling millions of dollars in stocks before the coronavirus-induced market meltdown and other closed-door briefings on the outbreak, the Reuters website reports today (March 21, 2020).

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr sold some $1.7 million worth of stock on February 13 in 33 separate transactions after offering public assurances the government was ready to control the virus.

Senator Kelly Loeffler also sold millions of dollars in shares in the weeks after lawmakers were first briefed on the dangers of the virus, according to public filings.

Media reports about Burr and Loeffler -- who have denied any wrongdoing -- prompted calls they leave office and other sharp criticism. Their unethical acts of greed will most-likely hinder their chances of being re-elected to the senate.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Harvard Puts Off Graduation Due to Coronavirus; Students Will Receive Degrees in Mail This Spring

Given the coronavirus pandemic raging around the globe, Harvard University will postpone its 369th Commencement Exercises, University President Lawrence Bacow wrote in an email today (March 20, 2020), according to The Crimson website.

Thousands of family members, faculty, and alumni from around the world typically crowd Harvard Yard to take part in the traditional Commencement Exercise.

Bacow wrote in his email, "No virtual gathering can possibly match the splendor of our usual festivities, but will come together online on Thursday, May 28, to award degrees so that everyone will graduate as expected."

He added, "Each school at Harvard will also host its own special online event and afterwards deliver diplomas through the mail."

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Italy Surpasses China's Coronavirus Death Toll; Italy Now Has at Least 3,405 COVID-19 Deaths

Italy today (March 19, 2020) hit a grim milestone, surpassing China for the largest number of coronavirus-related deaths, at 3,405, according to the Washington Post website.

The novel coronavirus continued to spread globally, with Italy announcing a record number of deaths yesterday and Spain reporting a similar alarming death-toll spike today.

New numbers out of Iran are also grim.

But news from China today may offer a glimmer of hope, as the country reported no new locally transmitted cases the previous day for the first time since the outbreak began there late last year.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson Share Comforting News; Released from Hospital for COVID-19, Recovering

Oscar-winning actor, national father figure, and all-around treasure Tom Hanks and spouse Rita Wilson have a positive update to share with fans, the Observer website reports today  (March 18, 2020).

Neither's  condition has worsened since the two tested positive for the coronavirus last week while they were in Australia.

The pair were in Australia shooting Baz Luhrman's Elvis Presely biopic when Hanks revealed on Instagram that they had contacted the coronavirus.

The couple were released from the hospital this week and went into self-isolation. Their infections have not worsened and their symptoms have stabilized, indicating a recovery in these cases.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Russia's Const. Court OKs Putin Rule Until 2036; Allows Him to Run for President in 2024 & 2030

Russia's Constitutional Court has approved constitutional amendments that could enable President Vladimir Putin to stay in power for another 16 years, the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website reports today (March 17, 2020).

The court's March 16 announcement comes three days after all Russian regions approved the controversial bill on amendments to the constitution.

The legislation sets Putin's previous presidential term count back to zero because of the sweeping changes to the constitution, which sparked protests in Russian cities.

Putin's current term -- his second consecutive six-year term -- is slated to end in 2024. The existing constitution prohibits presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms, but the amendments would enable him to seek a fifth overall presidential term in 2024, and a sixth in 2030.

Monday, March 16, 2020

US Hospitals Fear Shortages Due to COVID-19; Coronavirus Pursues Italy Path with 28K Cases

As doctors in the U.S. have watched Italy's health care system buckle under the sudden strain of the coronavirus, the magnitude of the problems that could be heading to the U.S. have begun to sink in, the Time website reports today (March 16, 2020).

The crises Italian medical staff have been facing -- overwhelming conditions, choosing which patients get treatment, and desperately working to expand their manpower -- are all things that hospitals in the U.S. could encounter if the virus continues on its path, doctors say.

As of today (March 16), the U.S. had more than 4,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, only a fraction of the approximately 28,000 cases in Italy.

"When you look at the projections, there's every chance that  we could be Italy," U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told Fox News today.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Pope Sends a Spiritual Message on Coronavirus; Explains "United to Christ,We Are Never Alone"

Addressing believers worldwide today (March 15, 2020), amid growing concerns at the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis reminded them that "united to Christ, we are never alone," the America Magazine website reports.

Speaking from the library of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace at midday, Francis noted that "in these days Saint Peter's Square is closed, and so I greet directly all those who are connected by the means of communication."

The square has been closed for the past week as a result of coordinated decisions taken by the Italian and Vatican authorities to prevent crowds gathering in the square for papal audiences and thereby avoid the risk of people being infected by coronavirus.

Pope Francis said that, "united to Christ we are never alone, we form one body, of which He is the head." He explained that "it is a union that is nourished with prayer, and also with spiritual communion in the Eucharists, a practice that is much recommended when it is not possible to receive the sacrament..."

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Syria's Ongoing Civil War Is Now in Its 10th Year; Pres.Assad Still in Power,Over 380K People Killed

As it enters its tenth year, the civil war in Syria is anything but abating, as foreign powers scrap over a ravaged country where human suffering keeps reaching new levels, the Worthy News website reports today (March 14, 2020).

When protesters in March 2011 demanded their rights and regime change, they likely never imagined it would trigger a reaction that has led to the 21st century's biggest war.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is still in power and there is no indication that he will leave his position any time soon.

More than 380,000 people have died, dozens of towns and cities have been razed to the ground, and half of the country's entire population has been displaced.

Study:Large Drop in Practicing Christians in US; Only 25 Percent of Practicing Christians in 2000

A study by the Barna Group shows that the percentage of practicing Christians in the U.S. has nearly dropped in half over the last two decades, the Christian Post website reports today (March 14, 2020).

Today, only 25 percent are practicing Christians.

Since 2000, many have either become "non-practicing" Christians or left Christianity altogether.

While fewer Americans are going to church, the percentage of adults who read the Bible and pray has remained steady over the last two decades.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Largest Cath. Church in N. America Ends Masses; Coronavirus Sways Basilica of the National Shrine

The largest Catholic church in North America today (March 13, 2020) suspended all masses and confessions until "further notice" due to the impact of the deadly coronavirus, according to the Daily Caller website.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. announced today that it will "suspend the public celebrations of Mass" as well as confessions, beginning March 14 until further notice.

The shrine's cafeteria, gift shop,and bookstore will be closed and no tours will be offered, but the basilica will remain open for "daily private prayer" between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

"We. at America's Catholic Church, pray for all affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of the United States under her title of the Immaculate Conception, to intercede for us during these unprecedented times." the basilica statement said.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Churches in Md.,Va.and DC Close for 2 Weeks; Washington National Cathedral among Closed

Episcopal churches in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia -- including the Washington National Cathedral -- are suspending worship services for two weeks because of the coronavirus, the Washington Post website reports today (March 12, 2020).

Bishop Mariann Budde, who oversees 88 congregations in Maryland and D.C., said buildings would be almost completely closed until March 25.

Bishop Susan Goff, who oversees the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, said 170 churches in the Virginia suburbs would also be closed.

The bishops said the last time churches canceled services en masse because of health concerns was for the flu of 1918.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Greek Orth.Church to Continue Holy Communion; Exists without Blemish Despite Coronavirus Flare

Greece's Orthodox Church said yesterday that Holy Communion, the partaking of wine from the same chalice and bread for atonement from sins, would continue despite the coronavirus outbreak, the Reuters website reports today (March 11, 2020).

Debate has raged in deeply religious Greece on whether it would be prudent for the Church to continue the ritual, where worshippers sip from the same spoon.

The Greek Orthodox Church attempted to put a stop to the chatter: "This cannot be the cause of the spread of illness," the Holy Synod, the ruling body of the Church, said in a statement.

Senior members of the Church have told  Greek media Holy Communion -- representing the blood and body of Christ -- was without blemish. "Whoever attends Holy Communion is approaching God, who has the power to heal," Metropolitan Seraphim told Greece's Alpha radio.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

All of Italy Is Quarantined by PM Joseph Conte; Coronavirus Deaths in Italy Now Number 463

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte imposed a quarantine on the entire country of Italy beginning today (March 10, 2020), restricting movement and banning public gatherings, according to the RT website.

The move was announced by Conte last night, and came as Italy's death from the coronavirus rose by almost 100.

The number of deaths jumped from 366 to 463 yesterday, while the total number of cases grew from 7,375 to 9,172.

The restrictions took effect this morning. They include a blanket ban on all public gatherings, sporting events, and movement all over Italy. Closures of schools and universities across Italy have been extended to April 3, 2020.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Dublin Cancels St.Pat's Day Parade Due to Virus; 21 People Diagnosed with Coronavirus in Ireland

Dublin in Ireland has canceled its traditional St. Patrick's Day parade due to the global COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, the Euro News website reports today (March 9, 2020).

Two more cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the Republic of Ireland today, bringing the total number to 21.

In Northern Ireland, five people were diagnosed with  the virus yesterday, bringing the total number to 12.

Ireland's Health Minister Simon Harris said the coronavirus outbreak is very serious and the situation would "require not just a whole of government approach, but a whole of society approach."

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Pope Prays for Those Suffering from Coronavirus; Recorded Today's Angelus to Avoid Large Crowds

Pope Francis, who has been suffering a cold for over a week, today (March 8, 2020) offered prayers for all those who are facing difficulty due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Crux website.

"I am close in prayer to all people suffering from the current coronavirus epidemic and to all those who care for them," he said.

Francis spoke from the library of the Vatican's apostolic palace, where he recorded this week's Sunday Angelus instead of giving it from a window looking down into St. Peter's Square, as he usually does, in an effort to avoid drawing large crowds due to the current coronavirus outbreak.

The Vatican itself identified its first case of the COVID-19 virus last week.

Friday, March 6, 2020

US-Taliban Afghanistan Peace Deal Is Dubious; Attacks by Taliban, US Airstrike Threaten Deal

The Pentagon has played down a wave of attacks by Taliban fighters and a retaliatory U.S. airstrike against the insurgent group this week, amid concern that fresh violence in Afghanistan will derail the fragile, high-stakes peace deal the Trump administration reached with the militants last weekend, the Washington Times website reports today (March 6, 2020).

The U.S. forces conducted an airstrike on March 4 to drive back a Taliban assault on an Afghan government checkpoint in the nation's southern Helmand province.

The renewed violence points out a number of vulnerable links in the accord to end America's longest war and fulfill President Trump's promise to bring U.S. troops home.

These links include a lack of central Taliban control over its militants; the weakness within the government in Kabul; and the continuing threat from jihadist groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Russia, Turkey Reach Ceasefire Plan for Idlib; Avert All-Out War for Syrian Hostile Province

The leaders of Russia and Turkey have agreed to a ceasefire plan for Syria's Idlib province to prevent the escalation of fighting there from spiraling to an all-out war, the RT website reports today (March 5, 2020).

The ceasefire followed hours-long talks in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Russian and Turkish troops will be carrying out joint patrol missions along Idlib's M-4 highway.

Both Moscow and Ankara remained committed to maintaining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria as part of the ceasefire.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Greece Uses Tear Gas on Migrants from Turkey; Greece,EU Say Turkey Is Trying to Blackmail EU

Greek riot police and troops used water cannon and tear gas today (March 4, 2020) against hundreds of migrants as they made another attempt to cross the border from Turkey to Greece, according to the Reuters website.

Greek soldiers also fired warning shots into the air.

A Greek army vehicle equipped with loudspeakers informed the migrants in Arabic and other languages that the border was shut.

Greece and the EU (European Union) accuse Turkey of goading on the migrants in an effort to blackmail the EU into offering more money or supporting Ankara's geopolitical aims in its conflict with Syria.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

NZ Bishop: Coronavirus Due to Neglecting God; Humanity Strayed Away from God, Upsets God

A Pentecostal pastor in New Zealand is making waves around the world for his comments about coronavirus this week, saying that God sometimes allows "pestilences and plagues and famines" to affect nations, the Daily Caller website reports today (March 3, 2020).

Bishop Brian Tamaki claims that humanity has "strayed away from God." and that may be part of the spread of coronavirus.

"There have from time to time been judgments on nations, and it's clear right through the Bible, the word of God, that sometimes God allows those pestilences and plagues and famines," Tamaki said.

"Satan has control of atmospheres unless you're a born-again, Jesus-loving, bible-believing, Holy Ghost-filled, tithe-paying believer," he said. He also warned about invisible "Satanic spirits."

Monday, March 2, 2020

Turkey Destroys 100 Syrian Tanks, 2 Army Planes; Revenges Syria Killing Dozens of Turkish Soldiers

Turkish forces have destroyed Syrian air defense systems, more than 100 tanks, and two army planes, the Reuters website reports today (March 2, 2020).

The operation was in retaliation for a Syrian air strike that killed dozens of Turkish soldiers last week.

Tensions in northwest Syria have escalated sharply, as fighting between Turkey-backed rebels and Russian-backed Syrian government forces risks bringing the two regional powers into direct confrontation.

Diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions have fallen short of achieving a ceasefire in the Idlib region of northwest Syria -- the country's last major rebel stronghold after nine years of civil war.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Luxembourg Makes Public Transport Free for All; Is 1st Country in World to Provide Free Transport

Luxembourg -- Europe's richest country -- today (March 1, 2020)  became the first country in the world to make public transport free, according to the Euro News website.

It applies to all trams, trains, and buses, and will be available to tourists as well as residents. 

"The introduction of free public transport is an important social measure," said Luxembourg's minister for mobility, Francois Bausch.

Buses are only used for 32% of trips to work, ahead of trains at 19%. By comparison, in Paris, almost 70% of workers use public transport.