Pope John Paul’s Path to Sainthood: A Rush to Judgment?

Time has just published my piece on how victims of sexual abuse are criticizing the beatification of John Paul II.

When hundreds of thousands of Catholics gather in Rome Sunday for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, not everyone will be celebrating. For the victims of sexual abuse by predatory priests, the ceremony — a major step towards sainthood — is too much too soon for a Pontiff they say failed to adequately confront the crimes committed by members of his church. “It’s the rubbing of salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of thousands of victims,” says David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “The signal that his beatification basically sends to church employees across the globe is that no matter how many children are harmed because of your inaction, your clerical career won’t suffer.”

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Is Windows Nokia’s Lifeline?

My story on Nokia’s platform troubles is up on Time.

Nokia’s Stephen Elop certainly has a way with words. In February, in what might have been the most brutally honest corporate memo in decades, the recently installed CEO compared his company to an oil worker trapped on a burning drilling rig, facing a terrible choice. “He was surrounded by flames,” Elop wrote. “Through the smoke and heat, he barely made his way out of the chaos to the platform’s edge. When he looked down … all he could see were the dark, cold, foreboding Atlantic waters.”

Call it the parable of the burning platform. The Finnish mobile-phone manufacturer that had once been able to comfortably claim that its distinctive ringtone was the most listened-to melody in the history of music is watching its dominance go up in smoke. Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, Nokia’s share of the smart-phone market has dropped from 51% to 27%, according to the research firm Gartner. In the midrange, phones carrying Google’s Android operating system have just surpassed Nokia’s smart phones in sales. And a host of low-priced Chinese competitors are nipping at its heels. Brand loyalty is at an all-time low. Like the oil worker, Elop, who had joined Nokia from Microsoft in September, needed to make a dramatic decision. And like the oil worker, he decided to jump.

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Hundreds More Die at Sea Fleeing North Africa for Europe

My piece on the terrible death toll from the Mediterranean immigration crisis was published in Time.

Of the more than 200 people who packed themselves onto a 40-foot boat for a dangerous journey out of Libya and across the Mediterranean earlier this week, only 51 are alive today. The rest are gone, swept into icy waters after their boat capsized during a rescue operation early Wednesday morning. The death toll is possibly the single biggest loss of life since unrest in North Africa drove thousands of migrants to flee to Europe. But it represents only a fraction of those who have died since the crossings began. Like the tip of an iceberg, Wednesday’s tragedy, which took place not far from the Italian island of Lampedusa, points to a larger problem looming underneath.

For every 25 migrants who have arrived safely in Europe, it’s likely that one didn’t make it, according to figures from advocacy group the Italian Refugee Council. Crammed onto treacherously overcrowded boats that are barely seaworthy, the passengers are given little or no food or water before being pushed off — without a compass to guide them — and pointed towards Europe. Even before this latest accident, at least 480 people have died or been lost at sea since the uprisings in Tunisia and Libya began, releasing a flood of migrants who are either taking advantage of dropped emigration barriers or fleeing the fighting and feared economic chaos. “Sadly, this number is the minimum,” says Christopher Hein, president of the Italian Refugee Council. “It includes only the ones we know about.” The number of lives lost in any given shipwreck or accident range from a few individuals to dozens at a time. The number of those lost in Wednesday’s accident — most of them sub-Saharan Africans — may have topped 250.

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The Brief, Bizarre Start of Berlusconi’s Sex Trial

Time has just published my piece on the media circus surrounding Berlusconi’s 7-minute sex trial.

The television vans had lined up early Wednesday morning. Telephone cables had been laid. Permissions had been secured. More than 150 journalists, from as far away as Russia and New Zealand, had been accredited. They lined the benches in the Milan courthouse and stood four deep in the back, waiting for the start of the trial of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on charges of paying an underage prostitute for sex and abusing his office to cover it up. “It feels like a circus,” said Beppe Severgnini, a columnist for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, who was attending the hearing. “Collectively, as Italians, we feel like clowns. And it’s not a nice feeling.”

At 9:38 a.m. local time, eight minutes behind the scheduled start, a bell rang and everybody stood as the judges walked in. Seven minutes later, court was adjourned. The date for the continuation of the trial was set for May 31. Journalists swarmed forward to glean what news they could from the lawyers. “We certainly thought there would be more substance,” said Paul Hobbs, who had flown in from London for Television New Zealand. “We thought they’d have at least read out the charges.”

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Italy’s Troubling Immigration Deal with Gaddafi

Time has just published my piece on the human cost of Italy’s immigration deal with Gaddafi.

The young Eritrean woman was exhausted, famished and dehydrated after spending four days in March lost in the Mediterranean Sea. She had been on a fishing boat with nearly 300 African migrants, crammed so tightly that she couldn’t move. But when Helen saw her rescuers, she couldn’t help but feel a little worried. The last time she had seen an Italian military ship, things had not gone well.

Twenty years old and six months pregnant, Helen is one of the more than 22,000 people who have arrived in Italy by boat since unrest in Libya and Tunisia lifted restrictions on emigration, even as fighting and fear of economic chaos drove many to flee. She’s also part of another group: those who have made the dangerous, difficult journey before, only to be turned back by those they thought would be their saviors.(See exclusive photos of Libya’s rebels.)

From May 2009 until the beginning of the chaos in Libya, Italy outsourced its immigration control to Libya’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. During that time, Italian ships intercepted at least 1,000 people and returned them to Libya. Many of them likely were political refugees whom Rome had an international obligation to accept. Helen’s story and those of others interviewed by TIME last week provide a window into a European approach to immigration control in which some of the world’s most vulnerable people were sent back to a brutal dictatorship with the knowledge that they would almost certainly be mistreated.

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The Father, The Sun, and the Holy Spirit

The Atlantic has just published my piece on Pope Benedict’s plans to green the Vatican.

To say I was standing in the shadow of St. Peter’s would be to some extent getting things backward. To be sure, from my vantage on the curved roof of the pope’s audience hall in Vatican City, the bronze dome of the basilica next door loomed large. But the main attraction for me lay in the full glare of the sun: 2,400 solar panels, curled over the sweep of the hall’s roof, which were busy transmuting photons into electrons—generating electricity and preventing, according to the Vatican, some 230 tons of carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere this year.

Yet if the high-tech power plant seemed anachronistic atop an institution better known for swinging censers and festooned Swiss guards, its importance was clear: for the Vatican, the solar panels signify a path forward, silicon monocrystals on which the heir to Saint Peter could continue to build his Church.


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