Pope Benedict XVI Dies at 95

The Vatican press office has announced that Pope Benedict XVI died on Saturday inside the Vatican City at the age of 95.

According to the office, Pope Benedict XVI is already ailing due to his old age. His health was already faltering, eventually leading up to his death.

Earlier this week, Pope Francis publicly shared that Pope Benedict XVI was already struggling due to his health. The Vatican announced that Pope Francis would preside over the late pope’s funeral this Thursday at St Peter’s Square.

Born Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria, Germany, on April 26, 1927, the late pope received extensive training as a theologian. When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, the congregation elected him to become the next pope, primarily due to his knowledge and 25 years in service as the top enforcer of orthodoxy inside the Vatican.

As a result, Pope Benedict XVI became the first German to hold the papacy since the 11th century. Pope Benedict XVI was remembered as the most conservative pontiff. His decision last 2013 shook the world and changed the face of the papacy in modern times.

“Here is a man who in prayer discerned his own limits and said, ‘I can go so far, I do not have the physical strength to go further, and therefore I resign,’ as he explains in that interview book. He had a sense of peace that he had made the right decision,” said Gerard O’Connell, a Vatican correspondent.

Meanwhile, after he resigned from his post, Pope Benedict XVI received criticisms from other people, saying that his resignation affected the course of the Vatican. Other critics also slammed other policies made by Benedict.

“They’re sympathetic with Benedict, but they saw that really he was not able to push through some big items on his agenda. They see Benedict as perhaps a frustrated pope, frustrated in his ambitions, frustrated in part by his own top officials, and I think that’s where we’re seeing some more open criticism than we ever saw before,” said one Vatican Diaries author John Thavis.

“Pope Benedict came into office knowing more about abuse than any other Catholic official on the planet, and I think many victims and many Catholics had some real hope that he would clean house, and he clearly didn’t,” added David Clohessy, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests executive director.

“With Pope Benedict XVI, we saw the reverse — we saw the pope obliged to defend his advisers who were attacked, and the outcome was that the pope was overexposed and eventually was forced to resign,” adds Massimo Franco, another author.

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The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI

The late pontiff shocked the world because of his announcement. Benedict stepping down from his post marks the first time since the 15th century that a candidate deliberately relinquished the papacy.

“I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After repeatedly examining my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” he wrote.

“I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

“For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on April 19 2005, in such a way, that as from February 28 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”

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The pontiff’s legacy

Ratzinger was ordained in 1951. He taught theology afterward. Eleven years, the Second Vatican Council chose him as its theological adviser. Working as the adviser of a high office in the Vatican allowed Ratzinger to usher reforms within the 20th Century Catholic Church.

The pope at the time, Pope Paul VI, appointed him as the archbishop of Munich in 1977. After several years, Pope John Paul II made him the head of the congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, or the theological watchdog of the Vatican.

Holding significant power and influence in the Vatican’s hierarchy, Ratzinger enforced highly conservative doctrines. For instance, he strictly ruled out the possibility of female priests, same-sex marriages, and priests who chose to marry.

Meanwhile, he also cracked down on homosexuality and released a public document in 1986, calling it an “objective disorder and an intrinsic moral evil.”

When he became pope, Pope Benedict XVI campaigned against abortion, birth control, stem-cell research, and divorce.




Avatar Sequel Needs a Stronger 2nd Week

Box office experts and producers anticipate greater ticket sales as Avatar: The Way of Water enters its second week.

The Avatar sequel movie didn’t live up to experts’ and production’s expectations when it premiered last week. The total revenue from domestic ticket sales was about $134 million. However, the initial week of ticket sales fell $1 million shy of Disney’s forecasted $135 to $150 million range.

Furthermore, it fell well short of the $175 million domestic sales that box office experts predicted—the Batman movie from Warner Bros. and the most recent Avatar movie tied for fifth-best openings in 2022. Numerous experts are already questioning James Cameron’s $2 billion worldwide box office target due to the film’s lower-than-anticipated first-week sales.

The Avatar movie earned $600 million last Thursday, or about one-fourth of director James Cameron’s budget. According to analysts, the second week of the Avatar movie will determine its financial success.

According to some commentators, a movie’s second opening week performance and how long it stays in theaters are related. According to analysts, the second week saw a 50% to 70% decline in most film attendance.

“I think ‘Avatar 2’ will continue to slay all day through the year and into the next. The drop will be sizable, sure, but not like a traditional Marvel drop as Cameron’s film is really the only game in town for families for weeks, if not months,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst from the Exhibitor Relations.

“In the big picture, I’d expect a leggy box office run whose story won’t be told on opening weekend alone. This is not a comic book blockbuster with an apparent rabid fan base to front-load sales. James Cameron’s films have historically engaged general audiences deep into their theatrical windows. However, it’s worth considering that the box office climate has changed even since his previous Avatar film in 2009,” said Shawn Robbins, BoxOffice.com chief media analyst.

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Avatar does not have a competitor

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the next big movie from Disney, will come out on February 17. This would provide Avatar: The Way of Water a window of time without a serious rival. It should so have the attention of all die-hard Marvel fans. Additionally, about 5% of all ticket sales each year are for Christmas and New Year’s events. Before Covid, holiday sales weeks often ranged between $400 million and $600 million.

Box office earnings have decreased as a result of the pandemic. Sales of tickets have reduced by 35% since 2019-ish. However, as nations loosen their prohibitions on Covid, the last week of this year should help films grow in popularity and generate considerable income. Avatar mainly received favorable reviews from critics, with some claiming that it deserves to be considered one of the year’s top films. Reviews were nonetheless positive despite many feeling that the film’s three hours were excessive.

“This second weekend has long been destined for deflated numbers due to Christmas Eve, but that’s why it’s so critical to view the film’s run based on the strength of weekdays and weekends combined over the long holiday corridor,” BoxOffice.com chief analyst Shawn Robbins said.

“There have been a number of pre-determined headlines about this sequel for years, but let’s wait and reserve judgment based on what the global numbers tell us over the next couple of weeks,” he added.

“James Cameron is no stranger to the importance of the long game when it comes to the box office. His films [have previously relied] heavily on the currency of audience excitement building over time rather than an opening weekend pop,” said Comscore social media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

“I like difficult. I’m attracted by difficulty. Difficult is a fucking magnet for me. So I go straight to difficult. And I think it probably goes back to this idea that there are many smart, gifted, talented filmmakers out there that just can’t do the difficult stuff. So that gives me a tactical edge to do something nobody else has ever seen because the gifted people don’t fucking want to do it,” said Cameron.

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A favorable feedback

Many critics were drawn to the three-hour-long Avatar film, praising its graphics and music composition. Others, however, have a different viewpoint and add that the lengthy run duration impacts the script.

“The sequel to Cameron’s 2009 box office hit, ‘Avatar: The Way of Water,’ is simply bigger and better than its predecessor in every regard,” said Eric Francisco, a movie reviewer.

“It demands the biggest screen you can find so that its most potent elements — from its impossible scale and skillful spectacle to its more complete range of emotions and thematic romanticism — can be completely absorbed,” he added.

“As is the case with most of Cameron’s films, what elevates his work is the bravado of his execution, allowing magnificent beasts and scenery prime real estate on the screen, while large-scale battles have tight spatial and rhythmic coherence.”

“Both never fail to inspire awe. The bioluminescent creatures and caverns aren’t just a dazzling visual to distract us. They work in tandem with the storytelling to create a revelatory experience.”


Biden Officials Criticize Southwest Airlines Due to Massive Flight Cancelations

Senior Biden administration officials chastised Southwest Airlines for canceling more than 70% of its flights on Monday due to the snowfall that ravaged numerous regions across the country.

Southwest Airlines stated that widespread cancellations and flight delays would continue for the next week. This prompted the Department of Transportation to become concerned about interstate passengers, even though other airlines have previously said that they are gradually recovering from the severe weather that began more than a week ago. For example, Southwest Airlines canceled almost 60% of its flights on Monday, adding that it would only run one-third of its scheduled flights over the following three days.

According to FlightAware, the weather caused more than 17,000 interstate flights to be canceled. The enormous volume of snow, cold air, and ice posed substantial challenges for airport and airline crews. Southwest Airlines revealed plans to restrict the number of flights available during the New Year’s holiday. This might have an impact on carrier pricing and costs. While some airlines showed genuine issues, regulators claim Southwest Airlines is exaggerating its difficulties.

“USDOT is concerned by Southwest Airlines’ disproportionate and unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays as well as the failure to support customers experiencing a cancellation or delay properly,” said the Department of Transportation.

“As more information becomes available, the Department will closely examine whether cancellations were controllable and whether Southwest is complying with its customer service plan as well as all other pertinent DOT rules.”

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Southwest Airlines scrapped too many flights

Airline companies have indicated that their operations would be impacted over the holidays. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines, and United Airlines are among them. Several of them specified a proportion of canceled flights. However, Southwest Airlines had the highest rate of cancellations among all carriers. For example, Delta Air stated it has canceled around 9% of its flights, United Airlines 5%, and American Airlines 1% of all flights. On the other hand, Southwest Airlines canceled 70% of its scheduled flights.

“It’s all hands on deck to ensure our customers are cared for during the holiday travel season, including when severe weather hits. Critical to our preparations was sizing the airline for the resources we have available and operating conditions we face, as well as being able to react quickly to get our customers on their way once the weather clears,” said American in a press release.

Southwest Airlines COO Andrew Watterson indicated that the carrier is canceling scheduled flights in large numbers in order to stabilize operations. Southwest Airlines had already delayed two-thirds of its flights and canceled one-third of them, according to FlightAware. Many passengers are disappointed by the company’s declaration. As a result, the company’s executives apologized for the inconvenience.

“Part of what we’re suffering is a lack of tools. We’ve talked an awful lot about modernizing the operation and the need to do that. And Crew Scheduling is one of the places that we need to invest in. We need to be able to produce solutions faster,” said Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan.

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Crews are struggling

The crew is one of the most affected stakeholders in the present airline challenges. According to unions, many pilots and flight attendants are already sleeping in airports due to a lack of hotel rooms. Furthermore, airline cancellations compel teams to remain within the airport since they cannot travel appropriately in dire weather circumstances.

“Our customers struggled with it just as our thousands of flight attendants did. Unfortunately, these are issues that you can’t solve with holiday pay; this is time and quality of life that we will never get back,” said Lyn Montgomery, the Transport Workers Union of America Local 556 president.

“Temperatures have fallen so low that our equipment and infrastructure have been impacted, from frozen lav systems and fuel hoses to broken tow bars. Pilots have encountered frozen locks when trying to re-enter the jet bridge after conducting walk arounds,” announced United Airlines.

The bitter weather hampered operations at several airports. Weather delays most flights by an average of 81 minutes. The situation, sometimes known as a bomb cyclone, occurs when an abrupt change in atmospheric pressure affects the air and humidity conditions in the vicinity. This week, New York has been badly impacted, with inches of snow covering the streets. The death toll has risen to 50, as patients needing emergency medical assistance could not be evacuated to a medical institution.

“Bombogenesis, a popular term used by meteorologists, occurs when a midlatitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours. A millibar measures atmospheric pressure. This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters. The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system is a process called bombogenesis, which creates what is known as a bomb cyclone,” writes the National Ocean Service.

“Some were found in cars, some were found on the street in snowbanks. We know there are people who have been stuck in cars for more than two days,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Citizens have been fighting the snow storm, frequently stuck inside cars and houses, while hundreds have been left without power as high winds destroy electricity infrastructure.

Eco-friendly Houses in the US

Many Americans are considering eco-friendly and secure techniques like solar-powered houses and heat pumps due to rising electricity expenses and deteriorating inflation.

Connecticut resident Josh Hurwitz powers his home using solar energy. Josh considered three factors before settling on an environmentally responsible approach. First, he sought to reduce his carbon impact. Second, to conserve money, and third, he needed to continue having electricity whenever his city experienced a blackout. Josh said that although finishing the setup would have been expensive, the savings he would experience after 15 years of paying off it would have made it worthwhile.

“You have to make the money work. You can have the best of intentions, but if the numbers don’t work, it doesn’t make sense to do it,” he said.

Thankfully, the state of Connecticut offers financial incentives to residents who switch to eco-friendly housing. In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act, which encourages eco-friendly dwellings like solar-powered ones, may be implemented and enforced by the federal government with the assistance of eco-friendly infrastructure. By 2024 to 2035, the law is expected to inspire 26% of American houses to adopt green practices. Additionally, the government will pay for 30% of the batteries that will be used to store the energy generated by the solar panels in each home, as well as over 30% of the cost of the system.

“The main thing the law does is give the industry, and consumers, assurance that the tax credits will be there today, tomorrow and for the next ten years. But, unfortunately, rooftop solar is still expensive enough to require some subsidies,” explained Clean Energy States Alliance executive director Warren Leon.

Eco-friendly living would be expensive. Leon clarifies that tax credits could be enough to pay the first expenditure. For instance, Hurwitz constructed his solar power system in 2020 and took advantage of a federal tax credit. In addition, several contractors provide a package where they pay the initial sum and then receive government reimbursement. The owner is responsible for covering installation costs after it is finished. Costs would be high. A long time after installation, though, the investment would start to pay off.

“Will this growth have legs? Absolutely! With utility rates going up, it’s a good time to move if you were thinking about it in the first place,” said Veronica Zhang, the portfolio manager of Van Eck Environmental Sustainability Fund.

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Another eco-friendly ways

Other residences are also considering utilizing a home heat pump to be eco-friendly. Turning eco-friendly would also appeal more to homeowners if government advantages and incentives existed. An air conditioner and conventional furnace system are both replaced with a heat pump, a single piece of equipment. When coupled with solar panels, the technology can cool a house while benefiting the environment. Going green is increasingly widely practiced due to deteriorating inflation and rising energy costs. More than 87% of American homes, according to SaveOnEnergy.com, claim that their energy costs have gone up.

“These incentives are not only saving you money now and in the long run on your utility bills, but they are putting our economy on track to reduce consumption of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. It’s a win-win,” said the Environmental Law Clinic at Case Western Reserve University School of Law director Miranda Leppla.

Heat pumps are useful, according to the nonprofit Rewriting America, which assists communities in electrifying their houses. The efficiency of eco-friendly heat pumps is three to five times greater than that of conventional furnace systems, and they can adjust to different climates. From $8,000 to $35,000 is how much a heat pump typically costs. Depending on the size of the house and the kind of heat pump, there are several pricing ranges. On the other hand, Rewriting America claimed that by using heat pumps to reduce their carbon footprint, homeowners might save hundreds of dollars annually.

“While there’s an upfront cost, millions of homeowners would save money with a heat pump over the life of the device. You’ll save even more with the federal government covering a chunk of the upfront cost,” said Joshua Skov, a consultant and instructor at the University of Oregon.

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The government giving incentives to eco-friendly houses

According to International Energy Agency head Faith Birol, the US government is putting money into eco-friendly practices. As an illustration, the Inflation Reduction Act raises the subsidies for those who switch to environmentally friendly methods. According to the IEA, more investment is required for the US to meet its climate targets.

“Today, it’s about 1.3 trillion US dollars, and it will go up to about 2 trillion US dollars. And as a result, we are going to see clean energy, electric cars, solar, hydrogen, and nuclear power slowly but surely, replacing fossil fuels. And why do governments do that? Because of climate change, because of the greenness of the issues? Not at all. The main reason here is energy security,” he said in an interview.

“Energy security concerns, climate commitments, industrial policies — the three of them coming together is a very powerful combination,” he added.

“Energy markets and policies have changed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, not just for the time being, but for decades to come. Even with today’s policy settings, the energy world is shifting dramatically before our eyes. Government responses around the world promise to make this a historic and definitive turning point towards a cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy system,” Birol added.