The conservative German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been elected the new pope of the Catholic Church succeeding Pope John Paul the second. Taking the name Pope Benedict the Sixteenth, Ratzinger becomes the leader of one billion Catholics around the world. At the Vatican, the College of Cardinals signaled they had selected a new pope shortly before 6 p.m. local time on Tuesday. That’s when white smoke began bellowing out of the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel. Bells soon began to ring. St. Peter’s Square quickly filled with pilgrims. And 30 minutes later Ratzinger was introduced to the world. The new pope described himself in his remarks as a “simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.”
Ratzinger is widely viewed as a conservative, hard-line Catholic theologian. He strongly opposes abortion, any increased role of women in the church, birth control and homosexuality–which he once described as a “intrinsic moral evil.” Since 1981 he has served as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — the body charged with upholding doctrinal purity in worldwide Catholicism. During last year’s presidential campaign here in the United States, Ratzinger suggested Catholic politicians who supported abortion rights should not be given communion or receive the votes of Catholics. Senator John Kerry, who is Catholic, was never mentioned by name but was the obvious target of Ratzinger’s remarks. At the same time Ratzinger has been credited with being a vocal critic of war and capital punishment. Two years ago he questioned if any war could still be considered a just war. The group Catholics Against Capital Punishment credited Ratzinger with playing an “instrumental” role in strengthening the Church’s opposition to capital punishment.
On Capitol Hill, the confirmation of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations suffered a surprising setback on Tuesday. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had scheduled a vote on Bolton and it was widely believed that he would be approved on a strict party line vote of 10 to eight. But during the committee meeting, Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio broke party ranks and admitted he had concerns about the emergence of new allegations levied against Bolton. Republican Senators Chuck Hagel and Lincoln Chaffee also supported delaying the vote. The committee will now spend three more weeks investigating a series of new allegations that Bolton abused his authority at the State Department and in other capacities. One new accusation that emerged this week came from a Dallas businesswoman who said Bolton once chased her through the halls of a hotel in Kyrgyzstan. At the time the woman–Melody Townsel–was working with US AID and Bolton was working as a private attorney for a contractor in Kyrgyzstan. Bolton may now be forced to come before the committee again to testify. Bolton’s confirmation would be blocked if any Republican on the committee votes against him.
The ousted president of Haiti — Jean Bertrand Aristide — held a rare press conference Tuesday in South Africa where he is living in exile. He maintained that he is still the elected president of Haiti despite being ousted in a U.S.-backed coup 13 months ago. “”I’m still the elected and the only elected president of the country, echoing the voice of eight million Haitians who asked for ending that repression, and to have national dialogue and by that, we’ll be organising free, fair democratic elections,” Aristide said. During this rare press conference Aristide said several steps must be taken in Haiti before truly fair elections could be held including the release of his supporters from jail.
Meanwhile law students at the University of California, Hastings, along with Haitian and U.S. attorneys are filing a petition tomorrow with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of Haiti’s former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune who is in jail.
Human Rights Watch has called on the Bush administration to allow human rights monitors from the United Nations be allowed to visit detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Meanwhile on Tuesday, the U.S. released 18 detainees, mostly Afghans, from the jail. One of the prisoners–Abdul Raheem — met with reporters after his release and called for the release of the other detainees. “Many innocent Afghans are in custody of the Americans in Guantanamo,” said Raheem. “They should be released, and we want the government of Afghanistan to decide on their fate not the Americans.”
In Washington, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that two reporters should be jailed for contempt of court if they refuse to name their sources. The Justice Department has been seeking testimony from Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine in its investigation into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Both news organizations plan to now appeal to the Supreme Court. The reporters face up to 18 months in prison for not naming their confidential sources.
On Capitol Hill, Congress has passed sweeping new legislation targeting internet users who share copyrighted material online. The tech news site CNET reports that under the bill, anyone who distributes a single copy of a movie before it is released could be sentenced to three years in jail. Fines for sharing copyrighted material would jump to $250,000. Overall the bill dramatically lowers the bar for online copyright prosecutions.
And a new investigation by Mother Jones magazine has revealed that ExxonMobil has spent at least $8 million funding a network of groups to challenge the existence of global warming. The magazine has identified 40 think tanks, media outlets and other organizations including the American Enterprise Institute, the Annapolis Center For Science-Based Public Policy, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Media Research Center. The report also names a list of so-called experts that have been paid to publicly question global warming. The list includes Steven Milloy who is a columnist for FoxNews.com. Two groups run out of his home have received $90,000 from Exxon Mobil. Mother Jones also reports that less than a month after President Bush took office, an Exxon-Mobil lobbyist named Randy Randol sent a memo suggesting certain climate experts from the Clinton administration should be “removed from their positions of influence” A year later the Bush administration blocked one of the scientists–Robert Watson–from his post at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The magazine’s report comes as environmentalists are preparing to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Earth Day on Friday.