Blog Posts by Claudine Zap

  • Pope’s call first thought to be a prank

    Pope Francis at his inauguration Mass. (Getty Images News)

    Pope Francis is known for his informal style. This has charmed the masses, but doesn’t work so well over the phone.

    According to a story in the Daily Mail, the pontiff rang a Vatican receptionist directly, which is apparently a papal no-no. The disbelieving man thought the call was a prank, and said, “Oh, yes? And I’m Napoleon.”

    Luckily, Francis has the patience of a saint, and he convinced the man he was the real deal.

    The pope wanted to be connected with Adolfo Nicolas, the superior general of his old Jesuit order, according to the Mail.

    He told the disbeliever, “I really am Pope Francis. Do not worry, Andreas, just connect me with Father General, I would like to thank him for the charming letter.”

    The receptionist realized his error, because who else talks like that?

    A Vatican expert explained that the pope doesn’t usually make his own calls—that's done through a secretary. But the humble man hailing from Argentina, known for cooking his own food, living in his own apartment and

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  • Broken heart may have led Pope Francis to priesthood

    Jorge Bergoglio in Argentina in 2009 (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

    A broken heart led Pope Francis to the priesthood. At least, that’s what a 76-year-old Argentinian woman claims, Sky News reported.

    The old flame, Amalia Damonte, told Argentine TV that Jorge Bergoglio, as he was known then, declared his love for her in a letter. “He said that if I didn't say yes [to his marriage proposal], he would have to become a priest. Luckily for him, I said no.” The future pope was 12 or 13, she recalled.

    The two grew up in the same neighborhood in Buenos Aries, where Damonte still lives.

    Although she turned down her admirer, the old friend remembers him fondly. "He had a crush on me. ... We used to play on the streets here. It was a quiet neighborhood then. He was very nice," she said.

    "We were 12, 13 years old, no more than that," she added. "He was a proper guy."

    That the new pope is the first South American to lead the Church has led to interest in his background. Like most of the world, Damonte was as shocked as anyone else by his selection. The

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  • Gun battle: Dianne Feinstein and Ted Cruz debate assault weapons ban

    The assault weapons ban passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday in a vote along party lines–-but not without a fight.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and gun control advocate, had a fierce clash with newcomer Ted Cruz, a freshman senator from Texas. The two had a tense debate that caught the interest of the Web.

    The tea party partisan wanted to know from the senior senator if she would “deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights” to apply the same guidelines of banning weapons in the Second Amendment to the banning of books in the First Amendment?

    Directing his question at Feinstein, he asked, "Would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?"

    Feinstein, a Stanford graduate, appeared visibly annoyed and responded, “I’m not a sixth grader. Senator, I’ve been on this committee for 20

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  • Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez may not be embalmed for eternity after all

    The glass-topped casket of Hugo Chavez lying in state at the military academy in Caracas, March 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Miraflores Presidential Press Office)

    Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who died on March 5, was larger than life. But he may not be preserved in death.

    Officials are now saying the embalming process may not have been started soon enough to conserve the body, NBC News is reporting.

    The South American communist leader died last week after a two-year battle with cancer. An endless stream of mourners have filed past his glass-topped coffin to get a glimpse of their former leader lying in state wearing a green uniform and red beret at the Caracas military academy. The government had publicly declared that the body of the late president would be embalmed “for eternity.”

    Officials wanted to treat him ““just like Ho Chi Minh, like Lenin, like Mao,” according to Venezuela’s acting president, Nicolas Maduro.

    But that may not come to pass. According to NBC, Maduro announced in televised remarks, "Russian and German scientists have arrived to embalm Chavez and they tell us it's very difficult because the process should have started

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  • ‘Anti-Bloomberg bill’ passed in Mississippi

    NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Photo courtesy The Week, Yahoo! News)

    A bill that bans local regulation of portion size and calorie counts for restaurants has passed in Mississippi, a state with one of the highest obesity rates in the country.

    The so-called "anti-Bloomberg bill," labeled as such because these are all measures New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has championed, was introduced by state Sen. Tony Smith. The bill's author told the New York Daily News, "If we give government a little more control of our personal rights—where does it stop?" The bill also bans local rules that would forbid children's toys to be handed out with meals.

    The first such ordinance was passed in Santa Clara County in California. A study that looked at the effect of the regulation, which requires fast-food chains to offer a healthier option if they give away toys with meals, showed restaurants promoted the healthier options over the fat- and salt-laden versions.

    Still, in an opinion piece for CNN, Smith noted that a judge had already invalidated Bloomberg’s limit on

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  • Controversial ad campaign appears on San Francisco buses

    Bus ads many believe are anti-Muslim have roared into San Francisco. The campaign, sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), includes one running on 10 of the city's Muni buses with an image of Osama bin Laden, the burning twin towers and the tagline, “That’s his jihad. What’s yours?”

    The ads supposedly quote from extremists. One attributes a statement from the militant group Hamas, which reads: "Killing Jews is worship that brings us closer to Allah."

    AFDI had beat back an attempt by New York City’s transit authority to block a similar campaign in that city’s subway system. Comparable ads have run in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

    San Francisco officials have condemned the campaign, but they have allowed them to run. The $5,000 the group paid to Muni will go to the Human Rights Commission to study discrimination against the Islamic community, according to the city.

    "These offensive ads serve no purpose than to denigrate our city's Arab and Muslim communities,"

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  • Colin Powell’s Facebook page hacked

    Colin Powell (Getty Images News)Even Colin Powell isn’t safe from hackers.

    The former secretary of state saw his Facebook page overtaken by a hacker who posted anti-Bush comments, and focused some negative energy Powell's way, too.

    The Washington Post picked up and posted some of the comments before they were deleted, including: “YOU WILL BURN IN HELL,BUSH” and “KILL THE ILLUMINATI!”

    The hacker seemed intent on battling Powell for his page, posting, “PUT A CURSE ON THE FINGER WHICH YOU USE TO DELETE THESE POSTS!!!”

    Powell was apparently able to gain the upper hand, posting later in the day, “I'm happy to report that the hacking problem has been fixed. We have been working with fb this morning and they took immediate action to remedy the situation.”

    The retired four-star general is the latest Bush administration alumnus to be hacked. Both former Bush presidents had their email compromised, including some images of George W. Bush’s artwork.

    The blog Naked Security seemed to think there was a link between the two

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  • Time to spring forward: Five facts about daylight saving time

    A clock hangs in Plantation, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    Here's everything you wanted to know about the time change this weekend.

    When is it?
    The time change begins on Sunday, March 10, at 2 a.m., when clocks are moved forward by one hour.

    Why 2 a.m.?
    The time change is set for 2 a.m. because it was decided to be the least disruptive time of day. Moving time forward or back an hour at that time doesn’t change the date, which avoids confusion, and most people are asleep, or if people do work on a Sunday, it’s usually later than 2 a.m.

    Do all states observe daylight saving time?
    Hawaii and most of Arizona don’t observe the time change. U.S. territories that don’t go on daylight saving time include American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

    Why do we have it?
    The idea is to save electricity because there are more hours of natural light. Studies have shown the savings to be fairly nominal—the time change leading people to switch on the lights earlier in the morning instead or cranking up the air conditioning, for example.

    What is

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  • NRA representative banned from using a gun

    An array of guns (iStockphoto)

    A National Rifle Association representative has been barred from carrying a gun.

    Richard D’Alauro, the NRA field representative for New York City, had 39 guns removed from his home under an order of protection coming after a domestic dispute, reports the New York Daily News, back in 2010.

    Last October, after pleading guilty to a charge of harassing his wife, The NRA official was banned from purchasing or carrying arms for one year. His gun rights will be reinstated and his firearms will be returned to him this October.

    Maribeth D’Alauro, who divorced her husband after the incident, told the News she had suffered “years of domestic violence” but was “too afraid to ever call the police on him.” She described him as a “bully” who used the same confrontational tactics as the NRA leaders do in political situations.

    Richard D’Alauro’s lawyer, John Ray, said an NRA representative without a gun is “of no significance whatsoever,” because gun ownership is not a requirement of NRA employees.

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  • Some insect wings found to have natural antibiotics

    Cicada (Photo courtesy of iStockphoto)

    Cicadas can’t exactly carry around Purell to keep their wings clean. But scientists have discovered that the locustlike insects have something even better: wings that naturally kill some bacteria on contact.

    The clanger cicada turns out to be something of a clean freak. The journal Nature reports that it keeps some bacteria away through the structure of its bumpy wings: teeny tiny spikes that kill bacteria by ripping them apart.

    Here’s how it works: The insect’s wings are covered by a hexagonal layer of nanopillars—the spikes. When bacteria land on the wing’s surface, they stick to the spikes and stretch into the crevices between them. If the bacteria are soft enough, the strain is too great and they tear. (This system doesn’t work on bacteria with more rigid membranes).

    According to Nature, this is one of the first natural surfaces to have such a power—a power that could be used for even more good.

    Scientists are suggesting that the findings could be potentially used to keep public

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