Francis ushers in new style of papacy
VATICAN CITY — On his first day as shepherd of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis picked up his luggage at a Vatican hotel, personally thanked each member of the staff and even paid his own bill. Then, at his first Mass, he delivered a short, unscripted homily — in Italian, not the Latin of his predecessor — holding the cardinals who elected him responsible for keeping the church strong.
Pope for barely 12 hours, Francis brushed off years of tradition and formality Thursday with a remarkable break in style that sent a clear message that his papacy is poised to reject many of the trappings enjoyed by now-retired Benedict XVI.
That was hardly out of character for Francis. For years, as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentine pastor took the bus to work, kissed the feet of AIDS patients and prayed with former prostitutes, eschewing the luxurious residence that would have been his due as archbishop of Buenos Aires.
But now he is pope — the first from the New World and the first Jesuit — and his style both personal and liturgical is in a global spotlight.
On his first day, he couldn’t have signaled a greater contrast to Benedict, the German academic who was meek and generous in person but formal and traditional in public.
Republicans: For deficit deal, Obama must tone down attacks
WASHINGTON — Polite yet firm, Senate Republicans told President Barack Obama on Thursday to tone down his political attacks and prod Democratic allies to support controversial changes in Medicare if he wants a compromise reducing deficits and providing stability to federal benefit programs.
Participants at a 90-minute closed-door meeting said Obama acknowledged the point without yielding ground — and noted that Republicans criticize him freely. “To quote an old Chicago politician, ‘Politics ain’t beanbag,’” the president said.
The discussion came as Obama wrapped up a highly publicized round of meetings with rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties and both houses of Congress in hopes of building support for a second-term agenda of deficit reduction, immigration overhaul and gun control.
Obama met separately with Senate Republicans and House Democrats as legislation to lock in $85 billion in spending cuts and avert a government shutdown on March 27 made plodding progress. Separately the two parties advanced rival longer-term budgets in both houses.
No breakthroughs had been anticipated and none was reported in the closed-door sessions, although Obama told reporters before returning to the White House, “We’re making progress.”
Samsung reveals new iPhone challenger
NEW YORK — Samsung Electronics is ratcheting up its rivalry with Apple with its new Galaxy S 4 smartphone, which has a larger, sharper screen than its predecessor, the best-selling S III.
Samsung trumpeted the much-anticipated phone’s arrival Thursday at an event accompanied by a live orchestra while an audience of thousands watched the theatrics unfold on a four-level stage at Radio City Music Hall. Summoning up a touch of Broadway, Samsung employed 17 actors to demonstrate the new phone’s features in a series of scripted vignettes.
The Galaxy S 4, which crams a 5-inch screen into body slightly smaller than the S III’s, will go sale in the U.S. sometime between the end of April and the end of June.
In the U.S., it will be sold by all four national carriers — Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA — as well as by smaller ones US Cellular and Cricket. All told, Samsung plans to offer the Galaxy S 4 through 327 carriers in 155 countries, giving it a wider reach than Apple’s iPhone 5.
Samsung didn’t say what the phone will cost, but it can be expected to start at $200 with a two-year contract in the U.S. That’s comparable to the iPhone 5.
By wire sources