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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Pope John Paul II used to beat himself with a belt and sleep naked on the floor to bring himself closer to Christ -

Reading - Pope John Paul II used to beat himself with a belt and sleep naked on the floor to bring himself closer to Christ -

Pope John Paul II used to beat himself with a belt and sleep naked on the floor to bring himself closer to Christ, a book published Wednesday says.

The late pope had a particular belt for self-flagellation and brought it with him to his summer residence, according to the book, "Why he is a Saint: The True story of John Paul II."

"As some members of his own entourage were able to hear with their own ears, both in Poland and in the Vatican, Karol Wojtyla flagellated himself," the book says, using the name the pope was given at birth.

"In the closet, among the cloaks, a particular pant-belt hung from a hook, which he utilized as a whip and one which he always had brought to Castel Gandolfo," the book says.

The book was written by a Vatican insider, Slawomir Oder, with Italian journalist Saverio Gaeta of the Catholic weekly Christian Family. Oder is head of the Vatican committee investigating whether John Paul II should be declared a saint. John Paul died in 2005.

The evil albino monk in Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" may be the best-known example of self-flagellation these days, but the practice is not unusual in Catholicism -- or nearly as extreme as it is shown in the movie.

"When members or former members [of Opus Dei] see the monk go at it in the movie, they just burst out laughing, it's so nutty," said the Rev. Michael Barrett, a priest of the Catholic Opus Dei sect.

In actual Catholic self-flagellation, "there is no blood, no injury, nothing to harm a person's health, nothing traumatic. If it caused any harm, the Church would not allow it," he wrote on Opus Dei's Web site when the movie came out in 2006.

"This voluntarily accepted discomfort is a way of joining oneself to Jesus Christ and the sufferings he voluntarily accepted in order to redeem us from sin. 'The Da Vinci Code's' masochist monk, who loves pain for its own sake, has nothing to do with real Christian mortification," Barrett said.

Mother Teresa is among famous Catholics who self-flagellated in some way, Barrett said.

Catholics are not alone in choosing to inflict pain on themselves for religion reasons. Some Shiite Muslims lash themselves until they bleed when marking the mourning period of Ashura, while fasting is practiced by people in several religions, including Jews on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

David Gibson, a journalist who worked for Vatican Radio when John Paul II was pope, pointed out that the pontiff wrote an apostolic letter -- essentially a papal position paper -- on suffering in 1984.

"Christ did not conceal from his listeners the need for suffering. He said very clearly: 'If any man would come after me ... let him take up his cross daily,' " the pope wrote, quoting the Gospel of Luke.

Jesus, the pope wrote, "suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished.

"In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ," says the letter, Salvifici Doloris, On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering.

"John Paul was a product of a very Old World Polish Catholicism," said Gibson, who now writes on religion for Politics Daily.

"He was a very disciplined man and a very rigorous man in his personal spirituality," he said.

The authors of the new book clearly approve of any whipping the pope did of himself, he added.

"Even though it's going to weird people out, it's obviously seen by his postulators as a sign of his holiness," he said, using the technical term for the person who investigates a person's qualifications for sainthood.

He said the idea is not as bizarre as it might sound to contemporary ears.

"The idea of fasting, renouncing something, giving up your Starbucks latte so you can send money to Haiti -- you can't simply look down your nose at it without rejecting a lot of other ideas about self-sacrifice," he said.

The authors of the book based it on interviews with 114 "witnesses" and access to unedited documents in the Vatican's archives, according to the publisher, Rizzoli.

The book is available only in Italian, but the publisher is having it translated into Polish and other languages.

Faulty gas pedal, at the centre of Toyota’s massive recall of 2.3M vehicles - manufactured at a plant in Ontario -

Reading - Faulty gas pedal, at the centre of Toyota’s massive recall of 2.3M vehicles - manufactured at a plant in Ontario -

A faulty gas pedal, manufactured at a plant in Ontario, is at the centre of Toyota’s massive recall of eight models and some 2.3 million vehicles.

Toyota's suspension of U.S. sales on an unprecedented scale to fix faulty gas pedals deals a blow to the automaker's reputation for quality and endangers its fledgling earnings recovery.

The suspect parts are made by a Canadian subsidiary of U.S. supplier, but they are also found in its European-made vehicles, an official with the automaker said Wednesday. Toyota said it hasn't decided what to do there.

The problem part is manufactured at a plant in Ontario by supplier CTS Corp., based in Elkhart, Ind., according to a report Toyota handed to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week.

CTS has not replied to a request for comment sent earlier this week.

Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. announced late Tuesday it would halt sales of some of its top-selling models to fix gas pedals that could stick and cause unintended acceleration. Last week, Toyota issued a recall for the same eight models affecting 2.3 million vehicles.

Toyota is also suspending production at six North American car-assembly plants, including two in Canada, beginning the week of Feb. 1. It gave no date on when production could restart. The Japanese automaker produces the Corolla and Matrix at its plant in Cambridge, Ont., and the RAV4 at its plant in Woodstock, Ont. The company employs about 5,900 people at the two Canadian plants.

The timing could not be worse for Toyota. Two years ago, the company beat out General Motors Co. to become the world's largest automaker. Now just weeks into 2010, it is stopping some sales in its biggest market, the U.S., at a time when it desperately needs to sell cars here after reporting its first-ever annual loss last year.

The sales and production halt involves several best-selling U.S. models, including the Camry and Corolla sedans and the RAV 4 crossover, a blend of an SUV and a car. RAV 4's sales surged last month.

In addition, the problem could spread to Europe, where a similar accelerator part is being used, said Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi. She declined to give the number of vehicles affected. The company was studying possible responses there, including a recall, she said.

"For Europe, the number and models potentially concerned are under evaluation," said Philippe Boursereau, spokesman for Toyota France.

Toyota's report says it first received reports in March 2007, of gas pedals being slow to come back in the Tundra pickup, and fixed the problem in February 2008.

Starting in December 2008, similar problems were reported in Europe with the Aygo and Yaris models. Toyota said it lengthened a part and changed the material to fix the problem, starting in August 2009.

The latest problem emerged in North America, culminating in the decision for the recall earlier this month, Toyota said in the report.

John Wolkonowicz , a longtime auto analyst with IHS-Global Insight, said Toyota is fortunate in that it has a loyal customer base — primarily baby boomers who have been buying Toyotas for decades. That, he said, will help minimize the sales impact in the short term.

"But it will further impede their ability to get the younger buyers that they so dearly want to get into the Toyota fold," Wolconowicz said.

Toyota has said it was unaware of any accidents or injuries due to the pedal problems associated with the recall, but could not rule them out for sure.

The sales halt calls into question the aggressive growth strategy pursued under former President Katsuaki Watanabe, a cost-cutting expert, who led the Japanese automaker to the No. 1 spot in global vehicle sales in 2008, analysts say.

Hitting that milestone coincided with a 437 billion yen ($4.86 billion) loss during its last fiscal year, marking the worst performance in the company's 72-year history.

The automaker said the U.S. sales suspension includes the following models: the 2009-2010 RAV4, the 2009-2010 Corolla, the 2007-2010 Camry, the 2009-2010 Matrix hatchback, the 2005-2010 Avalon large sedan, the 2010 Highlander crossover, the 2007-2010 Tundra pickup and the 2008-2010 Sequoia large SUV.

"This action is necessary until a remedy is finalized," said Bob Carter, Toyota's group vice-president and general manager.

Toyota spokesman Mike Goss said most workers were expected to be at their jobs during the assembly line shutdown. Workers will receive additional training or work on improvements to their assembly processes. They can also take vacation or unpaid leave, he said.

About 300 workers who build V8 engines at a Toyota plant in Huntsville, Ala., will be affected, said Stephanie Deemer, a spokeswoman for the plant. Goss said the shutdowns will also affect engine plants in Georgetown, Ky., and Buffalo, W.Va.

Toyota dealers said they were concerned the move would hamper sales. They hoped parts to fix the problem could be distributed quickly.

John McEleney, who owns a Clinton, Iowa, Toyota dealership, said the sales stoppage affects about 60 per cent of the inventory on his lot. He said he was hopeful Toyota would come up with a fix soon — especially because the longer a vehicle stays on a dealer lot, the more money a dealer pays in interest fees.

"Short term, it's going to be difficult," he said. "It will certainly set us back, but I think the impact will be very short lived."

Mamoru Katou, analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research, said Toyota was likely reorganizing production plans, such as switching suppliers, and shipping in parts from Japan.

"The problem is extremely serious," said Katou. "The models are precisely those Toyota had been preparing to sell in big numbers."

Toyota expects to sell 2.19 million vehicles in North America in 2010, up 11 per cent from 2009, according to sales targets released Tuesday. Globally, Toyota said it was planning sales of 8.27 million vehicles this year, up 6 per cent from 2009.

But those numbers have not figured in the U.S. sales stoppage, Takeuchi said.

The automaker's problems in the U.S. may be an extension of the spate of quality problems that plagued Toyota several years ago in Japan, its home market, during the aggressive growth strategy pursued under Watanabe.

In 2006, the Japanese government launched a criminal investigation into accidents suspected of being linked to vehicle problems, though nobody was charged. Watanabe later acknowledged overzealous growth was behind the quality problems.

Watanabe was replaced last year by Akio Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota's founder.

Tuesday's announcement follows a larger U.S. recall months earlier of 4.2 million vehicles because of problems with gas pedals becoming trapped under floor mats, causing sudden acceleration. That problem was the cause of several crashes, including some fatalities.

About 1.7 million vehicles fall under both recalls.

The auto company said the sales suspension wouldn't affect Lexus or Scion vehicles. Toyota said the Prius, Tacoma, Sienna, Venza, Solara, Yaris, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser and select Camry models, including all Camry hybrids, would remain for sale. Those vehicles contain gas pedals produced by a different North American supplier from the one whose parts are involved in the current sales halt, Toyota has said.

Toyota sold more than 34,000 Camrys in December, making the midsize sedan America's best-selling car. It commands 3.4 per cent of the U.S. market and sales rose 38 per cent from a year earlier. Sales of the Corolla and Matrix, a small sedan and a hatchback, totalled 34,220 last month, with 3.3 per cent of the market and sales up nearly 55 per cent from December of 2008.

Read more - http://www.wheels.ca/Article%20Category/article/784056

Lt govnr South Carolina "people on government aid are like stray animals who breed' -

Reading - Lt govnr South Carolina "people on government aid are like stray animals who breed' -

The lieutenant governor of South Carolina is taking heat for comparing people on government assistance to "stray animals" and saying the government should stop "feeding" welfare recipients who do not meet certain requirements because "they breed."

The lieutenant governor of South Carolina is taking heat for comparing people on government assistance to "stray animals" and saying the government should stop "feeding" welfare recipients who do not meet certain requirements because "they breed."

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, a Republican, was arguing for fundamental changes to welfare to break the "cycle of dependency" at a town hall meeting in Fountain Inn, S.C., on Friday, when he said:

"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. ...

"They will reproduce," Bauer said, "especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."

The remarks set off a firestorm in the Palmetto State. "Everyone should be offended at the comparison of our school children to stray animals," House Democratic Leader Harry Ott said in a statement released over the weekend. "Mr. Bauer should immediately apologize to the people of South Carolina for these remarks."

Bruce Ransom, a political science professor at Clemson University's Strom Thurmond Institute, called the comments "shocking" and said they do a disservice to the thousands of welfare recipients who are in dire need of government help.

"There are many people who legitimately need that assistance," Ransom told FoxNews.com. "He's not only saying that they (welfare recipients) are dependent, but that they're undeserving."

While Bauer raised a "legitimate argument," Ransom said, "he didn't need to compare those individuals to stray animals."

"The way he framed his points was terrible," he said.

In an interview with FoxNews.com, Bauer, a second-term lieutenant governor who is running to succeed Gov. Mark Sanford in November, said he didn't intend to offend anyone. But he acknowledged he could have found better words to convey his meaning.

"The metaphor I used was well-intended," he said, "Will I use it again? No. Do I wish I had used a better one? You betcha I do."

Bauer has called for welfare recipients to receive mandatory drug tests and to attend parent-teacher conferences if they have children in school. Parents whose children benefit from subsidized school lunches should stop receiving government assistance if they fail to attend such meetings, he says.

The lieutenant governor said he intended in his remarks to stress the need to "break cycles of dependency." He said he was approached afterward by a black minister who asked him to he deliver the same speech at his church.

"He said 'you are right on the money,'" Bauer told FoxNews.com. "This was a diverse crowd and nobody there had a problem with the message.

"We've got to really look at every dollar we're spending. A hand-out is basically relief without any demand for change," he said.

Bauer also addressed public criticism of his remarks in a posting on his Facebook page Saturday.

"At a forum this week, I spoke out in favor of finding ways to break the government's cycle of handouts and dependency," Bauer wrote. "I believe government is 'breeding a culture of dependency' which has grown out of control, and frankly, amounts to little more than socialism, paid for by hard-working, tax-paying families."

"I feel strongly that we can and should help our neighbors who are truly needy," he added, "However, there's a big difference between being truly needy and truly lazy."

Bauer wrote that he will continue to push for such requirements even if they are perceived as "politically incorrect" by the media.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that roughly 15 percent of South Carolinians live below the poverty line. As of October 2009, about 20,648 South Carolina families were listed as welfare recipients -- totaling $3,979,701 in government assistance, according to the South Carolina's Department of Social Services. That figure is an increase from 2008, when 16,382 were listed as receiving cash assistance from the government.

The Associated Press reported that Bauer, who comes from working-class roots and who grew up in a single-parent household, benefited from subsidized school lunches himself.

Bauer was sworn in as South Carolina's lieutenant governor in 2003 after having served in the state Senate for four years.

Read more - http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/01/27/south-carolina-andre-bauer-welfare-comments-controversy/