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  • Far-Left Mayor of New York City Takes Formal Oath of Office
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 1:58 pm by Becket Adams

    Comments (244)

    NEW YORK (TheBlaze/AP) — Bill de Blasio took the oath of office administered by former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday, formally becoming the 109th mayor of New York City while pledging to pursue a sweeping liberal agenda.

    “Big dreams are not a luxury reserved for a privileged few but the animating force behind every community, in every borough,” he said in his speech.

    Far Left Mayor of New York City Takes Formal Oath of Office

    Bill de Blasio takes the oath of office to become mayor of New York City (AP)

    The moment was the pinnacle of de Blasio’s unlikely political rise as a symbol of restoration for the city’s Democrats, who outnumber Republicans 6-to-1 in one of the nation’s most liberal cites yet have not controlled City Hall since 1993.

    De Blasio, 52, was first sworn in 12 hours earlier at a brief modest ceremony outside his home in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. Flanked only by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and their two teenage children, he was administered the oath by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, signed the official paperwork and, with a broad smile, paid the requisite $9 fee to the city clerk.

    The events at City Hall were conducted on a far grander scale.

    Clinton was joined by his wife, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Another possible presidential candidate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also sat nearby, as did former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, just hours into his first day as a private citizen after spending 12 years in office.

    Thousands of people braved cold New Year’s Day temperatures to salute the new mayor, who is slated to hold a receiving line in City Hall after the ceremony. Two other Democrats were also sworn in to hold citywide offices: Letitia James as public advocate and Scott Stringer as comptroller.

    De Blasio thanked his family, supporters and the city for “taking on the elite” and pushing for change.

    “When I said we would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed … as one city.”

    The celebrities in attendance were not just confined to the political world: Singer Harry Belafonte opened the event, while actresses Cynthia Nixon and Patina Miller had starring roles. Scores of “everyday New Yorkers” took part, including 11-year-old Dasani, who was featured in The New York Times’ multipart series on homelessness from which de Blasio has repeatedly said he has drawn inspiration.

    One speaker, Reverend Fred Lucas Jr., used his time speaking to slam the country for its “racial inequality,” at one point referring to New York City as a “plantation.”

    “Sound forth the trumpets of heaven proclaiming a new Emancipation Proclamation in New York City,” the reverend added. “For your divine leadership, emancipate every New Yorker from the shackles of fear, futility, and frustration.”

    “Help us to be mastered by only the masters of love and compassion,” he continued. “Let integrity never stand on the auction block or be sold to the highest bidder. Free us from the shackles of partisan politics, political correctness, and personal egos and agendas.”

    De Blasio, an unabashed progressive who touts his Brooklyn roots, takes office at a crucial juncture for the city of 8.4 million people.

    As New York sets record lows for crime and highs for tourism, and as the nearly completed One World Trade Center rises above the Manhattan skyline, symbolizing the city’s comeback from the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, many New Yorkers have felt left behind during the city’s renaissance.

    De Blasio reached out to those he contended were lost during the often Manhattan-centric Bloomberg administration, and he called for a tax increase on the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten.

    “We do not ask more of the wealthy to punish success,” he said. “We do it to create more success stories.”

    He also pledged to improve economic opportunities in minority and working-class neighborhoods and decried allegations of abuse under the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy. He and his new police commissioner, William Bratton, have pledged to moderate the use of the tactic, which supporters say drives down crime but which critics claim unfairly singles out blacks and Hispanics.

    Far Left Mayor of New York City Takes Formal Oath of Office

    Bill de Blasio gives the thumbs up whilst standing with his family (from left) Chiara de Blasio, Dante de Blasio and wife Chirlane McCray after being sworn in as mayor of New York City after midnight January 1, 2014 in the Park Slope neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City (AP)

    His tenure will be closely watched by liberals throughout the country eager to see how the nation’s largest city may be reshaped.

    De Blasio’s inauguration culminates a remarkable political journey. For more than a decade, he was a political insider, working not just for the Clintons but also for Cuomo and former Mayor David Dinkins. He was then elected to the City Council, representing his home neighborhood for two terms.

    He served as public advocate, the city’s official watchdog, and used the obscure and underfunded post to launch his mayoral bid. He was mired in fourth for much of the primary before the candidacies of several better-known opponents – including Christine Quinn and Anthony Weiner – imploded. He then coasted to a general election rout over his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, a former deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani.

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    • Hit-And-Run Victim Wants to Find Driver for a Surprising Reason
      Posted January 1, 2014 at 1:31 pm by Liz Klimas

      Comments (37)

      Gregory Adams from Tacoma, Wash., was the victim of a hit-and-run incident in September. As a result of his injuries, Adams’ life changed dramatically.

      Now, several months later, Adams is seeking out the person who hit him and fled, but it’s not for reasons you might think.

      Instead of seeking justice or revenge, KOMO-TV reported that Adams wants to say “God bless you.”

      gregory adams

      Gregory Adams is asking for the public’s help to find a person who hit him in a car in September. He wants to forgive them to their face. (Image source: KOMO-TV)

      While Adams told the news station “there is no good reason” for someone to hit another person and drive away, ”it’s nothing that can’t be forgiven.”

      Considering that Adams now lives in a rehab facility as he recovers from severe injuries, lost his lawn care business and was the the victim of theft since the accident, such forgiveness might seem like a tough pill to swallow.

      But he told KOMO there are reasons he might be more apt to forgive.

      gregory adams

      Image source: KOMO-TV

      “Things haven’t always been peaches and cream,” Adams said of his life. “I did 17 years in prison. From the ages of 17 until I was 34.”

      Adams served the time for attempted murder and armed robbery.

      “So that’s why I’m willing to forgive because I’ve done a few things in my past,” he said.

      Watch KOMO-TV’s interview with Adams:

      Adams is hoping the public can encourage whoever hit him to come forward. He also told the news station that he doesn’t think police ever received surveillance footage that could lead to the identity of the driver that hit him after he had purchased M&Ms from a gas station.

      In addition to offering his forgiveness, Adams told KOMO he wants to ask the driver “how has your life been since September 8th?”

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      • MSNBC Segment Claims a ‘Majority Of Tea Party Members’ Support Raising The Minimum Wage – But Do They?
        Posted January 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm by Mike Opelka

        Comments (195)
        Do Tea Party Members Support Raising The Minimum Wage?

        (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

        Do a “majority of Tea Party members” and “Tea Party activists” support raising the minimum wage? According to a segment on MSNBC, the answer is “yes.” However, if you actually ask leaders of some of the largest Tea Party organizations that question, the answer is a resounding, “No!”

        Currently, the national minimum wage stands at $7.25 and hour. Of course, states are allowed to set rates above $7.25 and hour (recently 13 states have), but no matter where you live, a company cannot pay an hourly employee less than the minimum wage. 2013 saw a push to bring the topic to the front and several national protests demanding that the minimum wage be increased.

        Where one stands on the topic of raising the minimum wage appears to be one that defines on which side of the political spectrum you fall. For the most part, Democrats support a substantial raise to base hourly pay.

        On Monday, MSNBC’s Morning Joe program did no less than two segments on raising the minimum wage. During the discussion in the show’s third hour, the panel of mostly liberal-leaning contributors and guests raised the issue.

        Do Tea Party Members Support Raising The Minimum Wage?

        Image: MSNBC.com

        About 1:38 minutes into the segment, former congressman and frequent MSNBC contributor Harold Ford stated, “Chuck Todd said the majority of Tea Party members support an increase in the minimum wage.”

        Do Tea Party Members Support Raising The Minimum Wage?

        Image: MSNBC.com

        A little further into the video, around 4:55, Bloomberg.com columnist Margaret Carlson makes the statement that there are a “majority of Tea Party Activists who are for an increase in the minimum wage.”

        In the case of both statements, Ford’s and Carlson’s, no survey or formal data was referenced. Efforts to contact Ford, Carlson, and Chuck Todd for verification or validation of these claims have met with no response.

        While we waited for MSNBC and their contributors to respond to our questions, TheBlaze reached out to the largest Tea Party organization in America, Tea Party Patriots. Co-Founder Jenny Beth Martin watched the video and sent the following response to the statements made on “Morning Joe”:

        Tea Party Patriots support free markets. In fact, it’s one of our three core values. This means that we believe that employees and employers have the right to make agreements and enter into contracts without government interference, dictates, and mandates. History shows us that when the minimum wage is increased, unemployment rises. Therefore, the advocates of the minimum wage increase are actually advocates of fewer jobs and less opportunity, and Tea Party Patriots will never support policies that kill jobs and opportunity for our fellow Americans.

        It seems fairly clear that the Tea Party is not in lockstep with the Democrats on this issue.

        In fact, TheBlaze did find one minimum wage survey that mentions the opinions of Tea Party members. The polling, done by the Public Religion Research Institute in November of 2013, found that 57% of Tea Partiers opposed raising the minimum wage.

        Watch the entire segment from MSNBC:

        MSNBC also appears to be positioning the argument about the minimum wage as something of a wedge issue for the 2014 midterm elections. The network not only made the case for a substantial increase in the minimum pay, but they did so almost every hour on Monday. Starting at 6 a.m. TheBlaze monitored MSNBC’s daytime programming on 12/30/13 and noted segments talking about raising the minimum wage happened in every individual show on the network’s schedule, and in many cases, in every hour of each program.

        Additionally, a search for the term “minimum wage” on MSNBC’s site produced links to 442 stories. Included in the most recent stories was a poll asking, “To what should the minimum wage be raised?” (The question here seems to skew answers by assuming that it must be raised.)

        Do Tea Party Members Support Raising The Minimum Wage?

        Image: MSNBC.com

        The results of the survey appear to show that raising the minimum wage is not exactly a slam dunk issue for Democrats.

        With 38% of all responses, the single largest reply to the MSNBC survey was, “It shouldn’t be raised.”

        Do Tea Party Members Support Raising The Minimum Wage?

        Image: MSNBC.com

        Of course, you can make the argument that 62% of MSNBC’s respondents want the minimum wage raised; they just disagree on how much to raise it.

        In the fall of 2013, Gallup did some polling on the minimum wage and found 72% of individuals support elevating the minimum wage. However, asking small business owners if they would support raising the minimum from $7.25 an hour to $9.50 and hour, only 47% said yes. Additionally, 60% said that the increase would hurt small business owners.

        Where do you stand on raising the minimum wage? Participate in our Blaze Poll and feel free to comment below.

         

        Follow Mike Opelka on Twitter – @Stuntbrain

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        • Palestinian Ambassador Dead After Apartment Explosion
          Posted January 1, 2014 at 12:20 pm by Associated Press

          Comments (123)

          PRAGUE (AP) — The Palestinian ambassador in the Czech Republic died on Wednesday after an explosion in his apartment in Prague, officials said.

          Ambassador Jamel al-Jamal, 56, was at home with his family at the time of the blast, according to Palestinian Embassy spokesman Nabil El-Fahel. Al-Jamal was seriously injured and rushed to a hospital where he died, according to police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova.

          Palestinian Ambassador in Czech Republic Dies After Apartment Explosion

          In this Oct. 11, 2013 file photo Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic Jamal Al Jamal is pictured in Prague, Czech Republic. (AP Photo/CTK, Krumphanzl Michal, File)

          The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the explosion occurred when the diplomat was moving an old office safe box. It was not immediately clear how the explosives got there, and the ministry said the blast was being investigated.

          Zoulova said police experts were searching the apartment, and he declined to comment further.

          Martin Cervicek, the country’s top police officer, told the Czech public television that nothing was immediately found to suggest that the diplomat was the victim of a terrorist attack.

          Prague rescue service spokeswoman Jirina Ernestova said al-Jamal was placed in a medically induced coma when he first arrived at Prague Military Hospital. Dr. Daniel Langer, who works there, told public television that al-Jamal had suffered serious abdominal injuries.

          Palestinian Ambassador in Czech Republic Dies After Apartment Explosion

          Policemen observe the situation near the residence, right back, of Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic Jamal Al Jamal, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/CTK, Katerina Sulova)

          Ernestova said a 52-year old woman was taken from the scene of the explosion to a different hospital in Prague after suffering from shock. She was not immediately identified.

          The ambassador’s apartment is in Prague’s Suchdol neighborhood. It’s part of a new complex that includes a new Palestinian Embassy and the ambassador’s residence, El-Fahel said.

          He said the new embassy has not been opened yet and the ambassador spent only two nights in the new residence. Al-Jamal took office on Oct. 11 by presenting his credentials to President Milos Zeman.

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        • At Least a Dozen People Sent to Hospital After Apartment Fire in Minneapolis
          Posted January 1, 2014 at 12:19 pm by Associated Press

          Comments (14)

          MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A billowing fire engulfed a three-story building with several apartments near downtown Minneapolis early Wednesday, sending more than a dozen people to hospitals with injuries — some critical — ranging from burns to trauma associated with falls.

          An explosion was reported about 8:15 a.m., and within minutes a fire raged through the building, said Robert Ball, a spokesman for Hennepin County Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics, amid sub-zero temperatures, responded to find victims on the ground, some with injuries that suggested they may have fallen multiple stories.

          “It’s not clear whether people were pushed out of the building from the explosion, or whether they fell or jumped out of windows to escape,” Ball said.

          “It’s not clear…whether they fell or jumped out of windows to escape.”
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          No fatalities have been reported, but authorities weren’t sure whether any residents were still inside the building. Its roof had partially collapsed, making it too dangerous for firefighters to enter and sweep the premises, said Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief Cherie Penn.

          At Least a Dozen People Sent to Hospital After Apartment Fire in Minneapolis

          Crews battle a Minneapolis apartment fire on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. The billowing fire engulfed a three-story building, sending 13 people to hospitals with injuries ranging from burns to trauma associated with falls. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)

          Penn said 14 people were taken to hospitals, and six were considered to be critically hurt.

          Ten victims, including three in critical condition, were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center suffering from burns, broken bones or both, hospital spokeswoman Christine Hill said.

          Penn said victims also were taken to Fairview University hospital, where a spokeswoman said she couldn’t release any information.

          Officials said it wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fire. CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman Becca Virden said there were no natural gas leaks in the area.

          Plumes of thick, whitish-gray smoke could be seen rising from the building Wednesday morning, which has a grocery store on the ground floor and two levels of apartments above it. Flames could be seen through third-story windows, and the frigid air was filled was the acrid smell of smoke.

          Abdikadir Mohamed, whose uncle owns the grocery store, watched the scene in silence, struggling to put his thoughts into words.

          “This is bad,” he said.

          Firefighting efforts were hampered by the cold weather. As firefighters aimed their hoses at the flames, water gushed from windows and doorways, forming icicles on window frames and leaving the street slick and icy.

          The facade of the building and trees out front were also coated with a layer of ice.

          Ball said the frosty conditions were creating an additional set of hazards for the 55 firefighters on the scene.

          “While heat-related illnesses are common for firefighters, now you combine that with the rapid onset of frostbite or hypothermia when they come out and they’re wet and exposed to bitter cold temperatures,” he said.

          At Least a Dozen People Sent to Hospital After Apartment Fire in Minneapolis

          Firefighters work the scene where a fire engulfed several apartment units in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, in Minneapolis, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. Authorities say at least 13 people have been hurt. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Elizabeth Flores)

          Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said the fire was essentially out by late Wednesday afternoon. He said none of the fire crew members was hurt, saying they did a great job under “extreme conditions.”

          Abdi Warsame, a Minneapolis City Councilman-elect for the area, said the victims were members of the city’s large Somali community. He called on other residents to come together to support the victims.

          Outgoing Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak told reporters he was “deeply concerned” about the fire.

          “I’m also deeply grateful for the firefighters and other crews who came out here and kept it from getting worse,” he said.

          A mosque that is next door to the gutted building appeared to escape any obvious structural damage. Abdisalam Adam, the imam at Islamic Civic Society of America & Masjid Dar Al-Hijrah, watched the firefighting efforts and said he was praying for those affected by the fire.

          “It’s devastating and very sad,” he said.

          The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it was monitoring the fire in case the mosque was targeted, said MN-CAIR board member Zuhar Ahmed.

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          • What Are Glenn Beck’s New Year’s Resolutions?
            Posted January 1, 2014 at 11:40 am by Glenn Beck

            Comments (88)

            Editor’s Note: The following message was written by multimedia personality Glenn Beck and first appeared on glennbeck.com.

            Hello America,

            I hate New Year’s resolutions.

            A yearly classic of my own is vowing to lose weight and get in shape. I say that just about every year, and, well, the camera speaks for itself – I fail every year.

            Glenn Beck Shares 2014 New Years Resolutions

            Glenn Beck speaks on his weekday radio program Nov. 20, 2013. (Photo: TheBlaze TV)

            Why do I fail?

            For starters, it’s easy to say ‘I’m going to get serious about dieting and health‘ during the Christmas break as my tummy sits comfortably stuffed with turkey, cookies, cake… and more cookies. Dieting sure sounds easy when I’m full. The problem occurs the next day, when I awake to find myself hungry again. ‘What’s one more cookie?‘ Fat Glenn reasons. Skinny Glenn tries to respond, but it’s too late, Fat Glenn is already too busy chewing a mouthful of Snickerdoodles and peanut butter blossoms. And so goes my endless, lopsided struggle with fatness.

            My love for cookies and most fattening foods, however, is not the only reason for my frequent resolution failures. I am beginning to think the reason my New Year’s goals always fail is because as much as I joke about my weight – I’m not exactly on the verge of needing a crane lift to pry myself off the couch. Yes, I would like to lose weight, but it’s not a matter of life and death (at least not yet anyway). There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, but I believe the real reason I hate most resolutions is because they are meaningless. How does the world change if I weigh a few less pounds (insert gravity/axis joke here)? Truth is, I fail because I haven’t been choosing goals with any real meaning.

            This year I have set the bar much higher: I want to be a better man.

            That may sound cliché, but there’s much more to it than meets the eye. As I ponder this new resolution, a particular Bible verse keeps popping up in my head. It’s found in the Book of Joshua, when Joshua says to the Israelites: Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.

            To consecrate means to set yourself apart from evil and prepare to be used by God. It’s a spiritual cleansing of all the junk in your life. Once you do this, it opens the door for God to draw closer to you and work wonders. When Joshua said this to the Israelites, they were camped near the Jordan River a night away from entering the promised land. They probably had no idea how they were going to cross the raging river and defeat the enemy.

            Furthermore, what did Joshua ask the Israelites to do just hours before ‘go time’? He didn’t tell them to sharpen their swords, do extra push-ups, or whatever else ancient warriors did before battle. No, he asked them to consecrate themselves. They did just that  – and God halted the waters of the Jordan and led the Israelites to victory in Canaan.

            Heading into 2014, I’m not going to limit my goals to reigning in my mockable-yet-relatively-insignificant weight fluctuations. Instead, I’m going to consecrate myself and be a better husband, dad, and boss.

            I will serve more than I am served. I will help more people in need. I will be less cynical and highlight as many stories of decency, hope, and love as I can find. I will be an encouragement to others rather than a stumbling block. I will love my neighbor as myself.

            I’m as guilty as the next guy for falling short on these simple things. But this year, I’m recommitting myself. And I firmly believe, if we all do the same, we can expect to see the Lord work wonders among us in 2014.

            Here’s to a great year!

            Laus Deo,

            Glenn Beck Shares 2014 New Years Resolutions

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          • The Bible-Themed Museum the NY Post Calls the City’s ‘Weirdest’ Ran Out of Money and Is Set to Close
            Posted January 1, 2014 at 11:10 am by Sharona Schwartz

            Comments (58)

            A Brooklyn Bible-themed museum that the New York Post has called the city’s “weirdest” and that Gothamist calls “bizarre” is set to close over financial woes.

            Torah Animal World describes itself as the place to find “an amazing display of real animals mentioned in the Torah, expertly preserved in true-to-life poses.”

            According to the Post, the privately-run museum houses “every animal mentioned in the first five books of the Old Testament.” There are no live growling creatures on site, however. Instead, the museum houses 350 stuffed (via taxidermy) and preserved specimens of biblical animals.

            The Bible Themed Museum the NY Post Calls the Citys Weirdest Ran Out of Money and Is Set to Close

            Inside the museum that has more than 350 specimens of animals mentioned in the Bible (Photo: Torah Animal World)

            “My real goal was to create a zoo in Brooklyn,” Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, who owns the museum, told the New York Times earlier this week. “But we didn’t want any wild lions getting loose in Borough Park, so we did the next best thing and used taxidermy.”

            A New York Times correspondent who visited described the museum:

            Outside, a 10-foot-tall image of a giraffe looms over the doorway, next to a fiberglass moose head.[...]

            Upstairs, taxidermied ducks and geese swoop over tall birds, like an ostrich. In the back, visitors can sit among animals that appear in prayers, including a white-tailed deer.

            “All the animals died naturally, either in zoos or gaming reserves,” Deutsch told the Post. “We don’t kill any animals for our exhibits.”

            While the New York media used adjectives like “weirdest” to describe the venture, the museum offers the educational opportunity to bring the Bible to life, “to give children a taste of that authentic fire-and-brimstone flavor,” Gothamist wrote.

            The Bible Themed Museum the NY Post Calls the Citys Weirdest Ran Out of Money and Is Set to Close

            Animals on display at Torah Animal World (Image: NY Curbed)

            “A kid who is learning in school can come here and, in an hour, get to see the animals of the bible. Get to see the birds of the bible. He can see the creepy animals of the bible,” Deutsch told the Post. “This is the only place for them to go and see the animals in a biblical context.”

            Deutsch values the collection at $1.5 million which includes the $40,000 elephant head that he paid for himself. Other animals have been donated.

            “I tried to work through the terrible economy that we’re in, but it just came to a point that we now had to make a decision to sell it,” Deutsch said. “We accumulated a lot of debt doing this.”

            Tours include an explanation of where in the Bible each animal is named, and visitors are allowed to touch the displays, which also include the ibex, peacock, buffalo and emu.

            One animal that is not displayed: the pig, perhaps the most iconic unkosher animal.

            “You know, a bakery sells not what the baker likes, but what the customers want to eat. And in a certain sense, you have to be sensitive to what people want to see or not want to see,” Deutsch explained.

            He prefers not to sell the museum he opened in 2008 and is hoping for something seen frequently in the Bible…a miracle.

            “If a sponsor came along and helped us, we would not sell,” he said.

            Deutsch says he would need one million dollars to keep running, otherwise he will have to move the stuffed animals to another branch of the museum in New York’s Catskills Mountains.

            The real estate blog Curbed called the house which is now listed for sale “the funkiest listing in recent memory.”

            (H/T: JTA)

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            • ‘Horrific’: The Chilling Banner Reportedly Seen in Egypt
              Posted January 1, 2014 at 10:45 am by Sharona Schwartz

              Comments (101)

              A disturbing banner was reportedly displayed in Egypt last week which read, “Extermination of the Muslim Brotherhood, sons of Zion and Egypt’s Jews, is an obligation.” An image of the sign is being shared on social media, and TheBlaze verified the translation with an Arabic speaker.

              Maher Hamoud, editor-in-chief of The Daily News Egypt, posted an image of the banner on his Twitter feed on Tuesday evening, calling it “fascist”:

              Horrific: This Chilling Banner Was Reportedly Seen in Egypt

              Source: Twitter.com/MaherHamoud1

              While Hamoud offered no further details about the black banner, the Elder of Ziyon blog (EOZ) reported that the sign was put up in response to last week’s bombing of the government security office in the city of Mansoura, north of the capital Cairo, that killed 15.

              Local residents reacted with fury to the attack, with many blaming the Muslim Brotherhood.

              “The Muslim Brotherhood is an international terrorist organization. They are responsible for what happened in Mansoura,” schoolteacher Hamada Arafat told AFP. “They are now adopting tactics like Al-Qaeda.”

              But the Muslim Brotherhood has denied involvement and condemned it, Ahram Online reported.

              The blog Angry Arab called it a “horrific banner.”

              “Think about this for a second: Someone in Mansour went to a print shop and paid to create a large anti-semitic banner (or the print-shop owner did it himself.),” EOZ wrote on Friday. “It then took considerable effort to hang the sign in a public street. It was that important for someone or some group to put out a public antisemitic message in Egypt.”

              “Jews are always the scapegoats. Although in modern times it is more fashionable to use the Jewish state to fill that role,” EOZ added.

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              • TheBlaze’s 10 Most Interesting and Inspiring Interviews From 2013
                Posted January 1, 2014 at 10:30 am by Billy Hallowell

                Comments (22)

                Looking back at 2013, TheBlaze spoke with many fascinating news-makers, religious leaders and entertainers. Among the common themes addressed in these exchanges were faith, American culture and overcoming and coping with personal challenges.

                Below, we’ve selected 10 of the most fascinating interviews of the year (in no particular order). While not all of the individuals featured are “celebrities,” each has an informative or inspirational message or story worth revisiting as we begin the new year.

                Dr. Ben Carson, Neurosurgeon

                Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon renowned for his stellar medical career, received an elevated level of attention after he delivered a pointed speech at the National Prayer Breakfast back in February, addressing a plethora of social and political issues from a conservative perspective just feet away from President Barack Obama.

                TheBlazes 10 Most Interesting and Inspiring Interviews About Faith, Cuture    and Beating the Odds

                Dr. Benjamin Carson speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton February 7, 2013 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly used the occasion to call for unity and common ground Washington politics. (Credit: Getty Images)

                In an interview with TheBlaze last year, Carson shared his motivation for delivering that message, the president’s reaction to it and his views about the purportedly unspoken rule that African Americans should refrain from criticizing Obama. Read the entire interview here.

                Joel Osteen, Christian Preacher

                Famed preacher Joel Osteen is oft-times criticized for being too soft on theology, but he made it clear to us that he believes embracing Jesus is essential. Just being a moral person, Osteen argued, isn’t enough — in the end it’s all about the connection one has with Christ.

                TheBlazes 10 Most Interesting and Inspiring Interviews About Faith, Cuture    and Beating the Odds

                Televangelist and best-selling author, Joel Osteen, right, and his wife, Victoria, left (Credit: AP Photo/Jessica Kourkounis)

                “To me, it’s very good to be a moral person — that’s very commendable. But our message is about a relationship with Christ,” he said. “You know, to me, that’s when you have salvation, your connection with the Creator of the universe.”

                Experiencing God and the love of Christ, he says, opens up the human heart and allows people to enjoy “a new level of really being able to love people.” Read the full interview here.

                Jason Roy, Lead Singer of Building 429

                Singer Jason Roy is anything but coy when it comes to speaking his mind on a wide array of issues. The lead voice behind Building 429, a Christian band that has quickly become known as one of the most successful and popular in the faith-based music industry, spoke with TheBlaze last year about his group’s latest record, “We Won’t Be Shaken” and he also shared his candid social and political views.

                TheBlazes 10 Most Interesting and Inspiring Interviews About Faith, Cuture    and Beating the Odds

                Building 429 lead singer Jason Roy (Image source: @JasonRoy429 on Twitter)

                “I heard Rick Warren say that he doesn’t have a problem [with gay people] having the same rights as a married couple. I completely agree with that. I don’t understand why someone who lived with someone else [for] years — [why] they cant inherit their belongings,” he said of gay marriage. “While I do believe that the Bible specifically says that the act of homosexuality [is a sin], I’m not going to cast a stone, because I sin a 1,000 times a day.”

                Here’s more.

                Ann Romney, Wife of 2012 Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney

                Ann Romney, 64, spoke with us this past fall about her book, “The Romney Family Table,” her family and life following the contentious 2012 presidential campaign.

                TheBlazes 10 Most Interesting and Inspiring Interviews About Faith, Cuture    and Beating the Odds

                Former Republican presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and wife Ann Romney sit ringside before Manny Pacquiao takes on Juan Manuel Marquez in their welterweight bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 8, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Credit: Getty Images)

                She described how “The Romney Family Table” grew from a personal project to a much larger endeavor.

                “I wanted to leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren. It started off as just a small project and kind of grew,” she told TheBlaze of the cookbook and family story. “It started off as just being a collection of recipes, and then it changed to a story.”

                Romney, a devout Mormon, also told TheBlaze about the importance of her religious views in her everyday life and the parenting process. Read what she had to say here.

                Steven Sharp, Ex-Wrestler and Inspirational Dad

                He was once a tough guy — a wrestler who hoped to make a career out of throwing other guys around the ring. Now, Steven Sharp is a stay-at-home dad and a loving caregiver.

                TheBlazes 10 Most Interesting and Inspiring Interviews About Faith, Cuture    and Beating the Odds

                Sharp during his wrestling days (Image credit: Twitter/@disableddad)

                Due to a medical error, his daughter, Samantha, experienced a lack of oxygen to the brain during her delivery on Feb. 2, 2006. His wife, too, had complications during the natural birth when the baby became “stuck,” resulting in a condition called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Now, he delivers around-the-clock care to the young girl.

                “She doesn’t speak. She never will. She doesn’t walk, she doesn’t laugh, she doesn’t cry,” Sharp told TheBlaze.

                Read his harrowing story.

                Elizabeth Smart, Kidnapping Victim and Advocate

                This year, Elizabeth Smart for the first time shared all of the grisly details about her nine months in captivity after she was abducted from her bedroom a decade ago. Of particular note, she told TheBlaze about the surprisingly positive impact the horrific scenario had on her faith.

                TheBlazes 10 Most Interesting and Inspiring Interviews About Faith, Cuture    and Beating the Odds

                In this May 7, 2013, file photo, Elizabeth Smart talks with a reporter before an interview in Park City, Utah. (Credit: AP)

                “My parents have always raised me believing in a kind and loving God who cares about each of his children here on earth,” she told TheBlaze. “When I was kidnapped and being told that all of these things were done because God commanded it — it made my personal faith stronger, because I knew God would never demand these things.”

                Read more about her story here.

                Frank Newport, Editor-in-Chief of Gallup

                With so much talk of faith in America being on the decline, Frank Newport’s views on the matter provided a more positive assessment of what is actually going on when it comes to theology in the U.S.

                Part of the intrigue surrounding Newport’s research comes from his assertion that religion in \ America is actually much healthier than many critics allege.

                TheBlazes 10 Most Interesting and Inspiring Interviews About Faith, Cuture    and Beating the Odds

                Gallup’s editor-in-chief Frank Newport (Photo Credit: Frank Newport)

                In an interview with TheBlaze, he spoke about Gallup’s intensive research, as presented in his book, “God Is Alive and Well.” Rather than agreeing with some critics that faith is dying, Newport took a very different view.

                “Faith and religion is very much alive and well — a key point is, it’s changing,” the researcher told TheBlaze. “The way people manifest their religiosity has changed over time. That’s not unusual.” Read his perspective here.

                Rion Paige, Singer

                Thirteen-year-old Rion Paige captivated the country when she showed up to audition for “The X Factor.” Rion suffers from arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a disease that has left her wrist joints deformed. She’s also nearly blind in her right eye. Singing, though, has been her therapy, as she is using it to both confront and process her struggles.

                TheBlazes 10 Most Interesting and Inspiring Interviews About Faith, Cuture    and Beating the Odds

                Singer Rion Paige (Photo Credit: Rion Paige’s Official Facebook)

                TheBlaze spoke with her last year about her faith and how she stays so positive.

                “It sounds like it’s really complicated, but not, honestly: I go to church,” she said. “I let God do it through me. It’s not something I try to do — it’s something that comes out of me.”

                Read Rion’s full story.

                Tullian Tchividjian, Christian Pastor

                Tullian Tchividjian, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is forcing Christians to take a profound look at the way they’re living their lives — and embracing faith. His latest book, ”One Way Love,” even encourages readers “to get drunk on grace.”

                TheBlazes 10 Most Interesting and Inspiring Interviews About Faith, Cuture    and Beating the Odds

                Pastor Tullian Tchividjian (Credit: Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church)

                Sure, that phrase may sound odd on the surface, but Tchividjian, grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham, believes that Christians need to recapture the heart and soul of the faith. Rather than focusing on rigid rules and a tough-to-cook-up recipe for “being good,” he hopes to see the church return to its grace-centered roots.

                “I think the main premise is that we are exhausted people. Everybody I’ve talked to is exhausted. People are exhausted spiritually, they’re exhausted relationally, they’re exhausted emotionally, they’re exhausted physically,” he said. “And they’re not exhausted because their life is busy; they’re exhausted because, through their busy life, they’re trying to secure meaning, worth, significance, purpose.”

                Read Tchividjian’s complete interview here.

                The Barbi Twins, Former Playboy Models

                Shane and Sia Barbi, both 50, became familiar faces after posing for Playboy Magazine in 1991. Their meteoric rise tossed them into the Hollywood limelight, as they were regularly seen with A-list actors and were among the most famous models of the 1990s. But where are they now?

                TheBlazes 10 Most Interesting and Inspiring Interviews About Faith, Cuture    and Beating the Odds

                The Barbi Twins (Image source: YouTube)

                In an interview with TheBlaze, the twin sisters opened up, sharing their past struggles with bulimia and self-image and, perhaps most shockingly, they detailed their views on the Christian faith and the nation’s political schema. While they were once pop culture icons, they are now involved, to varying degrees, in animal activism and current affairs.

                Read it here.

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                • Dubai Set a Record With Its NYE Fireworks Show — Here’s Video of the Whole Thing
                  Posted January 1, 2014 at 10:13 am by Liz Klimas

                  Comments (51)

                  Leave it to Dubai, one of the most opulent cities in the world, to ring in the new year with a record-setting bang.

                  The United Arab Emirates city put on what the Guinness Book of World Records deemed was the largest fireworks display of all time.

                  UAE-NEW YEAR

                  Fireworks explode over Palm Jumeirah in Dubai on January 1, 2014 to celebrate the new year. Dubai kicked off New Year with a dazzling bid for a new world record to cap those the Gulf city state already holds for its mammoth property developments. The glittering fireworks display that lasted around six minutes spanned over 100 kilometres (60 miles) of the Dubai coast, which boasts an archipelago of man-made islands and Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. (KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)

                  The show, which took about 10 months of planning, included a half a million fireworks and lasted about six minutes. Some of the city’s most notable landmarks were featured in the display, including Palm Jumeirah, World Islands, the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab, according to Guinness.

                  “The scale of this record attempt is truly impressive and will ensure all eyes are on Dubai,” Alistair Richards, Global President of Guinness World Records, said in a statement ahead of the record-breaking attempt.

                  dubai fireworks

                  Image source: YouTube

                  dubai fireworks

                  Image source: YouTube

                  Although setting off 500,000 fireworks took less than 10 minutes, the show as a whole lasted 30 minutes with music and lighting effects. Watch the footage, skipping to 29:40 to see the start of the fireworks:

                  The performance was designed and coordinated using 100 computers by Fireworks by Grucci, a U.S. pyrotechnics firm. Hundreds of experts ensured the event went off without a hitch.

                  The previous record for largest fireworks show was set in 2012 in Kuwait with 77,282 fireworks.

                  (H/T: NPR)

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                  • Take a Long Look at This Picture…It’s One of the Last Ones the Photographer Took Before He Collapsed on the Field and Died
                    Posted January 1, 2014 at 9:52 am by Jonathon M. Seidl

                    Comments (71)

                    When the Texas A&M Aggies pulled off an improbable comeback against Duke during Tuesday night’s Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome, Associated Press photographer Dave Martin stormed the field as quickly as possible to get pictures of the celebration. Little did he know that one of his best shots would end up being one of his last.

                    After snapping pictures of the A&M chaos, Martin — 59 — collapsed and died on the field from an apparent massive heart attack.

                    Take a long look at this amazing picture, which ended up being one of his last:

                    AP photographer Dave Martin collapses and dies on the field aftr taking picture of Texas A&M celebration

                    FILE – This Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, file photo, photographed by Associated Press photographer Dave Martin, shows Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin as he is dunked in the closing seconds of a 52-48 win over Duke in the the Chick-fil-A Bowl NCAA college football game Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Atlanta. Martin, a longtime Associated Press photographer based in Montgomery, Ala., died after collapsing on the Georgia Dome field at the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. Martin was 59. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File) AP Photo/Dave Martin, File

                    “Dave Martin was an excellent photojournalist, a consummate and dedicated professional and a wonderful person,” AP Vice President and Director of Photography Santiago Lyon said. “Wherever his work took him he made many friends and will be deeply missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”

                    The AP published details of how the man known as “mullet” rose to prominence:

                    Martin began his photographic career at the Lakeland Ledger in Lakeland, Fla., in 1982 before joining the AP as a staff photographer in Montgomery in 1983. In 2004, Martin was named the AP’s regional photo editor for the South.

                    Martin was at nearly every major news event in the South over the past 30 years, taking memorable images during Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf oil spill and the tornadoes that sliced through Alabama in 2011. He also traveled around the world for the AP, covering Super Bowls, Olympics, Ryder Cups and other sporting events, as well as political conventions, and conflicts in Afghanistan, Haiti and Iraq.

                    Known as “Mullet” to his many friends and colleagues, Martin built strong working relationships with AP member photographers and editors around the region, particularly those in Alabama.

                    AP photographer Dave Martin collapses and dies on the field aftr taking picture of Texas A&M celebration

                    In this Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, photo, AP Photographer Dave Martin, second from right, works during the first half of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons, in Atlanta. Martin, a longtime Associated Press photographer based in Montgomery, Ala., died after collapsing on the Georgia Dome field at the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. Martin was 59. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

                    “He was so driven to tell stories through pictures that he’d do most anything it took to be in the right spot to get the best photo, whether it was standing on a beach during a hurricane or wading into polluted waters during an oil spill,” Jay Reeves, AP’s Birmingham correspondent and a longtime colleague of Martin’s, told the AP. “He covered wars and a revolution, sports and tornadoes, the Alabama Legislature and presidents, and he typically had the best picture no matter what the event.”

                    He leaves behind a wife and two children.

                  • Birth Control Mandate in Health Care Law Blocked Hours Before Implementation
                    Posted January 1, 2014 at 9:37 am by Liz Klimas

                    Comments (54)

                    Story by the AP; curated by Liz Klimas.

                    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has thrown a hitch into President Barack Obama’s new health care law by blocking a requirement that some religion-affiliated organizations provide health insurance that includes birth control.

                    birth control

                    Photo credit: Shutterstock

                    Justice Sonia Sotomayor late Tuesday night decided to block implementation of the contraceptive coverage requirement, only hours before portions of the law would have gone into effect on New Year’s Day.

                    Her decision, which came after federal court filings by Catholic-affiliated groups from around the nation in hopes of delaying the requirements, throws a part of the president’s signature law into temporary disarray. At least one federal appeals court agreed with Sotomayor, issuing its own stay against part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

                    Sotomayor acted on a request from an organization of Catholic nuns in Denver, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged. Its request for an emergency stay had been denied earlier in the day by a federal appeals court.

                    The government is “temporarily enjoined from enforcing against applicants the contraceptive coverage requirements imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” Sotomayor said in the order.

                    Sotomayor, who was in New York Tuesday night to lead the final 60-second countdown and push the ceremonial button to signal the descent of the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball, gave government officials until 10 a.m. EST Friday to respond to her order. A decision on whether to make the temporary injunction permanent or dissolve it likely won’t be made before then.

                    Sonia Sotomayor

                    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor pushes the Waterford crystal button that signals the descent of the New Year’s Eve Ball in Times Square on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 in New York. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

                    “The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people,” lawyer Mark Rienzi said. “It doesn’t need to force nuns to participate.”

                    Under the health care law, most health insurance plans have to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives as preventive care for women. That means the coverage is provided free of charge.

                    Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the birth control requirement, but affiliated institutions that serve the general public are not. That includes charitable organizations, universities and hospitals.

                    The requirement prompted an outcry from religious groups, which led the administration to try to craft a compromise. Under that compromise, insurers or health plan administrators must provide birth control coverage, and the religious institution itself is not responsible.

                    But the administration’s compromise did not satisfy some critics, who called it a fig leaf.

                    The nuns would have to sign a form authorizing their insurance company to provide contraceptive coverage, which would still violate their beliefs, Rienzi said.

                    “Without an emergency injunction, Mother Provincial Loraine Marie Maguire has to decide between two courses of action: (a) sign and submit a self-certification form, thereby violating her religious beliefs; or (b) refuse to sign the form and pay ruinous fines,” Rienzi said.

                    The White House did not comment on the order Tuesday night.

                    The Little Sisters operate homes for the elderly poor in the United States and around the world. They were joined in their lawsuit by religious health benefit providers, Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefits Trust.

                    Sotomayor’s decision to delay the contraceptive portion of the law was joined by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which also issued an emergency stay for Catholic-affiliated groups challenging the contraceptive provision, including the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and Catholic University.

                    But one judge on the three-judge panel that made the decision, Judge David S. Tatel, said he would have denied their motion.

                    “Because I believe that appellants are unlikely to prevail on their claim that the challenged provision imposes a `substantial burden’ under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I would deny their application for an injunction pending appeal,” Tatel said.

                    The archdiocese praised the appeals court’s action in a statement.

                    “This action by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is in line with the rulings of courts all across the country which have held that the HHS mandate imposes a substantial and impermissible burden on the free exercise of religion,” the archdiocese said. “These decisions also vindicate the pledge of the U.S. Catholic bishops to stand united in resolute defense of the first and most sacred freedom – religious liberty.”

                    Daniel Cronin, Timothy Dolan

                    Cardinal Timothy Dolan, left, Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaks with Hartford Archbishop Daniel Cronin, at the USCCB’s biannual meeting Wednesday, June 13, 2012, in Atlanta. This national gathering was the bishops’ first since dioceses filed a dozen lawsuits against an Obama administration mandate that most employers provide health insurance covering birth control.  (AP/David Goldman)

                    The Supreme Court already has decided to rule on whether businesses may use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees. That case, which involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees, is expected to be argued in March and decided by summer.

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                    • They Didn’t Give a Flute: Musician Says Customs Agents at JFK Airport Destroyed Every One of His 11 Handmade Instruments
                      Posted January 1, 2014 at 9:21 am by Sharona Schwartz

                      Comments (215)

                      A professional flutist says that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents smashed every one of his 11 instruments upon landing at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport last week, saying they were made of agricultural material that is not allowed into the U.S.

                      The music blog Slipped Disc reported that Boujemaa Razgui – whom it described as a “flute virtuoso” – had built all of the instruments by hand.

                      Musician Says Customs Agents at JFK Airport Destroyed Every One of his 11 Handmade Instruments

                      Flutist Boujemaa Razgui (Image: KRON)

                      Razgui, a Canadian citizen and native of Morocco who holds a U.S. Green Card, was returning home to New York from Morocco over the Christmas holiday when Customs agents opened his luggage for inspection.

                      “I told them I had these instruments for many years and flew with them in and out,” he told Slipped Disc on Tuesday. “There were 11 instruments in all. They told me they were agricultural products and they had to be destroyed. There was nothing I could do. The ney flute can be made with bamboo. Is that agricultural?”

                      “Bouzemaa was both upset and unwilling to risk a confrontation with the US authorities,” Slipped Disc reported, adding that the blog had sent the flutist’s contact information to major media outlets hoping for wider coverage of the story.

                      The director of a music ensemble who asked not to be named told the blog, “I can’t think of an uglier, stupider thing for the U.S. government to do than to deprive this man of the tools of his art and a big piece of his livelihood.”

                      Slipped Disc explained that Razgui travels with a variety of flutes all personally built by him in order to create sounds for different ethnic musical genres and time periods. The bamboo ney flute is often heard in Middle Eastern musical compositions.

                      According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protections website, bamboo is divided into different categories, some of which are permitted, others not. Customs writes, “In general, bamboo that is not thoroughly dried and is therefore still capable of propagation is prohibited entry into the United States. Bamboo that is thoroughly dried and split or cut lengthwise (rendering it incapable of propagation) will be inspected upon entry and released.”

                      “Unsplit dried bamboo canes/stakes/poles also are allowed entry into the United States after inspection,” Customs writes, adding that “Bamboo furniture, bamboo cloth, and other manufactured products made of bamboo do not require fumigation and will be released upon inspection.”

                      The flutist’s difficulty in traveling to the U.S. with the tools of his trade is reminiscent of challenges that have faced musicians who wish to travel with or import other instruments, including guitars and pianos, due to regulations over endangered wood and ivory forcing musicians to carry documentation over their instruments’ provenance or risk having them confiscated.

                      The controversy escalated when Gibson Guitars’ factories and offices in Memphis and Nashville were raided in 2009 and 2011 by agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service who seized wood pallets and guitars.

                      TheBlaze reached out to Customs and Border Protection to try to learn more about what happened at JFK Airport but did not receive an immediate response.

                      (H/T: RT)

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                      • ‘I Really, Really Like Women’: Top NFL Quarterback Addresses Gay Rumors
                        Posted January 1, 2014 at 8:55 am by Jonathon M. Seidl

                        Comments (157)

                        Aaron Rodgers is one of the most elite quarterbacks in the NFL. With that success comes plenty of scrutiny, and the scrutiny around him this week has not focused on his public play but rather is private life.

                        A little-known website published a story speculating the Packers quarterback was gay after a falling out with his live-in, male assistant and some odd tweets from that assistant. But on Tuesday, Rodgers put any speculation to rest.

                        “I’m just going to say I’m not gay,” Rodgers told ESPN Wisconsin’s Jason Wilde during Rodgers’ weekly radio interview. “I really, really like women. That’s all I can really say about that.”

                        Aaron Rodgers during weekly radio show says hes not gay

                        CHICAGO, IL – DECEMBER 29: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the second quarter during a game at Soldier Field on December 29, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. David Banks/Getty Images

                        The relevant portion of the show is below:

                        To be fair, the rumors weren’t that convincing to begin with. They centered on an anonymous source and some sketchy texts as well as the rumor from this summer that a big name sports star was about to come out of the closet. But even the prone-to-juicy-gossip sports site Deadspin wasn’t buying it.

                        “Aaron Rodgers is a much better authority on whether Aaron Rodgers is gay than that one guy you know whose brother lives in Green Bay,” author Tim Marchman wrote.

                      • Prof. Says He’s Deciphered the Most Ancient Hebrew Engraving Found in Jerusalem — and Its Message Is a Little Unexpected
                        Posted January 1, 2014 at 8:12 am by Sharona Schwartz

                        Comments (175)

                        Historians believe they have decoded the oldest inscription ever found in Jerusalem, made up of just eight letters carved on the remains of a large clay jar.

                        The message is believed to have been written some 3,000 years ago during King Solomon’s reign and is believed to be 250 years older than any other engraving ever found in the area.

                        The inscription was discovered in July during archaeological excavations south of the Temple Mount in an area called Ophel, but the meaning of the message had stumped researchers to now. The dig was directed by Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology

                        Haaretz reported on Wednesday that scholars had speculated initially that the letters were written during the 10th century B.C. in an ancient language that was not Hebrew.

                        However, Prof. Gershon Galil of the Bible Department at the University of Haifa wrote in the Hebrew journal “New Studies on Jerusalem” that he believes the eight letters were in fact in early Hebrew and included the word for wine, or “yayin.”

                        Galil believes that the words engraved on the jug classified the type of wine that was stored inside. A cheap wine.

                        The Most Ancient Hebrew Engraving Found in Jerusalem Has Been Deciphered. Its Message Is Surprising

                        A sketch of the ancient engraving (Image: New Studies on Jerusalem)

                        The Bible scholar suggested that laborers recruited for one of King Solomon’s building projects in Jerusalem would have drunk the poor quality wine, known as “lowly.”

                        If it was written in the middle of the tenth century, that would be “after King Solomon built the First Temple, his palaces, and the surrounding walls that unified the three areas of the city — the Ophel area, the city of David, and the Temple Mount. These tremendous infrastructural projects contributed, Galil said, to the sudden need for copious quantities of poor-quality wine,” the Times of Israel wrote.

                        Galil contends that the first of the eight letters on the inscription was the last letter of a word that had been broken off which he believes referred to the date. The middle letters referred to the low quality wine, and the final portion referred to the place of the wine’s origin. Due to letters having broken off at the end of the message, it is unknown where the wine was produced.

                        The message attests to the literacy of at least some of the population and to the organization of the ancient kingdom, specifically that someone was categorizing wines according to date, quality and place of origin.

                        “This wine was not served on the table of King Solomon nor in the Temple,” Galil wrote. “Rather it was probably used by the many forced laborers in the building projects and the soldiers that guarded them.”

                        “The ability to write and store the wine in a large vessel designated for this purpose, while noting the type of wine, the date it was received, and the place it was sent from, attests to the existence of an organized administration that collected taxes, recruited laborers, brought them to Jerusalem, and took care to give them food and water,” Galil added.

                        “Scribes that could write administrative texts could also write literary and historiographic texts, and this has very important implications for the study of the Bible and understanding the history of Israel in the biblical period,” he said, as translated by the Times of Israel.

                        The Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote that like with many archaeological finds, this too could spark controversy.

                        “Galil’s interpretation is sure to add fuel to the archaeological fires regarding the magnitude of David and Solomon’s kingdom,” Haaretz wrote, adding: “Some archaeologists believe that Jerusalem was a small, unimportant town, contrary to its biblical description. Galil and others view the Bible as a reliable historical document. For them, the inscription is proof of a significant, well-administered kingdom that received goods from afar and expanded during Solomon’s time from the City of David toward the Temple Mount.”

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                        • ‘Her Life Is Ruined’: Woman Sues Police Over Arm Amputation
                          Posted January 1, 2014 at 7:19 am by Billy Hallowell

                          Comments (70)

                          A mother of three is suing police in Allegheny County, Pa., claiming that they used excessive force during an arrest and that their actions and failure to treat her injuries led to the amputation of her arm.

                          Amy Needham Sues Police Over Arm Amputation

                          Image source: Shutterstock.com

                          Amy Needham, 35, claims that police entered her home on April 2, after she didn’t show up to a preliminary hearing on a charge that was reportedly later reduced to disorderly conduct, broke down the bathroom door, shocked her with a Taser and put on tight handcuffs before hauling her off to jail, The Daily Mail reported.

                          While all of this may seem like standard fare during an arrest, Needham’s attorney, Marvin Leibowitz, claims that his client also suffered from something called “compartment syndrome” as a result of tight handcuffs.

                          The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains that this condition “occurs when pressure within the muscles builds to dangerous levels.” It leads to a decrease in blood flow, which, in turn, causes a lack of nourishment and oxygen to muscle and nerve cells.

                          Needham was in jail for about one week following her arrest and, during that time, she reportedly requested to see a doctor 16 times — requests that her attorney said were denied. When she was finally hospitalized, her arm was amputated above the elbow.

                          Now, she’s suing over the incident, seeking tens of thousands of dollars in damages.

                          “She feels that her life is ruined,” Leibowitz told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I think she’s having psychological problems. You’re 35 years old and you lose your arm.”

                          Needham, who works in a restaurant and has children between the ages of 5 and 9, is seeking more than $75,000 in damages, claiming that she was treated with excessive force, cruel and unusual punishment and battery and negligence, the Post-Gazette reported.

                          The county has not responded to the lawsuit, but Sheriff Bill Mullen said that there was nothing extraordinary about Needham’s arrest.

                          “Normal practice for us is if they’re injured we take them to the hospital because the jail won’t take them,” Mullen told the Post-Gazette. “This will all be played out in the courts.”

                          (H/T: Daily Mail)

                          Featured image via Shutterstock.com

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                          • Has Pope Francis Really ‘Abolished Sin’?
                            Posted January 1, 2014 at 6:35 am by Billy Hallowell

                            Comments (160)

                            The Vatican clarified on Tuesday that Pope Francis has not “abolished sin” as at least one journalist has claimed.

                            In a statement to Vatican Radio, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that the notion that Pope Francis has abandoned the notion of human sin is simply incorrect.

                            “Those who really follow the pope daily know how many times he has spoken about sin and our (human) condition as sinners,” Lombardi proclaimed.

                            Has Pope Francis Really Abolished Sin?

                            Pope Francis celebrates a New Year’s Eve vespers service in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. (Credit: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

                            As Reuters noted, the debate over sin began after Eugenio Scalfari, a well-known intellectual who is also the founder of the La Repubblica newspaper, spoke with the pope in a private conversation last year and later wrote about his experience.

                            Scalfari has advanced the argument that Pope Francis has “abolished sin” through his words and actions, though the Vatican denies that this is the case.

                            The journalist posited that the pontiff no longer believes in sin, because’s God’s love and mercy are eternal, Reuters reported.

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                            • Philosopher Reveals His Predictions for the Future of Christianity in America
                              Posted January 1, 2014 at 12:30 am by Billy Hallowell

                              Comments (218)

                              TheBlaze’s Carly Hoilman contributed to this report.

                              Contrary to critics who fear for the future of faith in America, Christian philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig has a relatively positive view about what’s in store in the coming decades.

                              While much ado has been made about the growth of atheist activism, Craig said that, intellectually speaking, the New Atheism movement lacks much of the ideological chops that its Christian counterpart has built.

                              Philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig Reveals His Predictions for the Future of Christianity in America

                              Dr. William Lane Craig (Credit: ReasonableFaith.org)

                              “Over the last 50 years or so — since the late 1960s — there has been literally a renaissance of Christian philosophy in my field of expertise, which is philosophy,” Craig told TheBlaze. “The face of Anglo-American philosophy has changed over the past generation to where Christian philosophy now represents a very significant minority — a respected minority — within the philosophical community.”

                              While some might argue that philosophy is academic and, thus, somewhat cut off from the mainstream, Craig said that this revolution in academia will bode well for the greater societal culture as well.

                              “This then trickles down to popular culture over the next generation,” he added, dismissing atheist activism as “a pop cultural phenomenon that doesn’t have the kind of intellectual muscle and staying power that this philosophical renaissance has.”

                              In the end, Craig believes that Christian scholarship will have a more profound impact than the ideas being posited by the New Atheists. He said that he’s seeing events and movements on college campuses that corroborate his beliefs on the matter.

                              “I think this movement within philosophy to a renaissance of Christian thinking is the brightest hope for what’s happening in American culture today in terms of religious impact,” Craig said. “The university is the single most important institution influencing American society in the long run, so I am very optimistic about the future of the American university, and of philosophy in particular, and therefore American culture.”

                              As for whether atheists are on the rise and whether society is secularizing at a rampant rate, Craig was equally skeptical. He questioned some of the research surrounding the “nones” — the nearly 20 percent of Americans who are unaffiliated with a particular faith — and said that there’s “good grounds for considerable skepticism” when it comes to whether American society is increasingly becoming more atheistic.

                              He isn’t the first to question this notion, as Gallup’s Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport has maintained that religion in the U.S. is actually much healthier than many critics allege.

                              Craig also drew a distinction between mainline denominations, which he said are in “free fall,” and those that have “remained true to biblical orthodoxy.” While the former are struggling to maintain membership and adherents, he said the latter are seeing figures grow.

                              “I think again, over the long run, the picture for biblical Christianity is very positive. And as this revolution in Christian philosophy begins to make itself felt in popular culture over the next generation, I think the picture will get even brighter,” he added.

                              Despite his optimism, Craig’s comments didn’t come without noting that there are other culturally significant sectors where he believes Christians need to get involved — particularly in Hollywood. Entertainment’s impact is profound on the culture and he said it’s an “open question” where things will go on that front.

                              Read more about Craig and his work over on ReasonableFaith.org.

                              Featured image via Shutterstock.com

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                              • Willie and Korie Robertson Discuss A&E Controversy (Kind of) for the First Time During New Year’s Eve Interview
                                Posted December 31, 2013 at 11:55 pm by Jason Howerton

                                Comments (76)

                                “Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson and his wife, Korie, sat down with Fox News hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Bill Hemmer during the network’s “All-American New Year” special Tuesday night to discuss the future direction of the show and the recent controversy surrounding the family’s patriarch, Phil Robertson.

                                Willie and Korie Robertson Talk A&E Duck Dynasty Controversy for First Time

                                Fox News

                                It was somewhat assumed that the Robertsons, who appeared live via satellite from Steamboat Springs, Colo., would be specifically addressing the comments on homosexuality that sparked the uproar. That didn’t happen.

                                When asked what he thought about A&E’s decision to suspend and then reinstate his father, Robertson said the family is just “glad to be back to work.”

                                “A&E and us are fine. The Robertsons, we’re looking forward to getting back to making some funny shows, and it’s a new year. So we’re ready to break in a new year and start it all over again,” he added.

                                The rest of the interview was fairly light.

                                “Who breaks their [New Year's] resolution first?” Hasselbeck asked.

                                Robertson said he’s “not big” on resolutions, and his wife agreed that it’s hard to break a resolution if you don’t even make one.

                                Watch the rest of the interview via Fox News below:

                                (H/T: Mediaite)

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                                • The Absolute Weirdest Stories of 2013
                                  Posted December 31, 2013 at 11:30 pm by Liz Klimas

                                  Comments (22)

                                  Every year will have its list of the most heartwarming, most viral and most noteworthy stories of the year. This list is no different, except we’ve chosen to look back on some of the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) oddities of 2013.

                                  Weird, by definition, is something unusual or strange and that, for our purposes, is likely to at least cause you to furrow your eyebrows in angst, awe, confusion, amazement and the like.

                                  Here’s a list of some of the weirdest stories — in no particular order – that came out of this past year.

                                  Harlem Shake

                                  You thought you forgot about all the Harlem Shake-tastic hoopla until now, didn’t you?

                                  Here’s a refresher to show how the Harlem Shake is the epitome of odd:

                                  Let’s not forget, the Harlem Shake instigated a federal investigation in one case and lost miners their well-paying jobs in another.

                                  The reaction of children to trend sums it up nicely:

                                  ‘What Does the Fox Say?’

                                  Speaking of tunes that will get stuck in your head for weeks and are just plain weird, watch this video:

                                  The “Fox Song” by Ylvis, as it’s commonly shortened, was so popular in 2013 that it was the YouTube’s most viral video of the year with more than 311 million hits to date after only being posted in September.

                                  Miley Cyrus… and her teddy bears

                                  It was the twerk seen around the world. Miley Cyrus’ performance at the MTV Video Music Awards with singer Robin Thicke was not only eyebrow raising, it had some covering their eyes all together.

                                  Miley-Cyrus-VMA

                                  Miley Cyrus performs — before stripping down to far less clothing — during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., Aug. 25, 2013. (Getty Images)

                                  And the giant teddy bears…just weird.

                                  ‘Sharknado’

                                  What do you get when a tornado picks up sharks congregated together by a hurricane? A sharknado.

                                  Thank you SyFy Channel for this original movie that made a severe weather even more terrifying and yet comical at the same time. Lucky for “Sharknado,” it got so much social media traction for the outrageous plot that it actually might go down as a cult classic someday.

                                  Knockout game makes disturbing resurgence

                                  In the knockout game, which spread across the country after a New Jersey news report went viral, a target is chosen at random and beaten for no reason at all. It’s a senseless trend to add to the “what is this world coming to” list.

                                  The mystery of the fence-like webs

                                  Spotted on Peruvian Amazon rainforest trees, scientists did not know what created these strange structures at first.

                                  A few months later, they were a bit closer to identifying the structure’s purpose and the critter that makes it. Scientists who collected samples saw a tiny spider hatch from the egg sac at the center of the structure. Still, researchers have yet to identify the spider.

                                  Strange noises in the sky

                                  An earthquake? Electromagnetic activity? What could cause the eerie sound that some were calling “sky trumpets” in Terrace, British Columbia?:

                                  This wasn’t the only case either. Other reported noises had been heard in the sky with another witness saying it sounded like “the planet is in pain.”

                                  World Trade Center wailing

                                  Speaking of strange sounds, the sound of a wind storm whipping around One World Trade Center, sitting on the site where terrorists attacked the original six-building complex on Sept. 11, 2001, was downright haunting:

                                  And then there’s the face that some see in an art installation made from two steel beams mangled together from the 9/11 wreck. The face is said to be at a point a plane hit one of the towers.

                                  world trade center face

                                  A close up of the top of the structure shows what some have made out to be a face. The image has been called the “angel of 9/11.” (AP/Mary Altaffer)

                                  Chilling photos capture ghostly experiences

                                  A father believes his son, killed in the massive Moore, Okla., tornado, showed up in this photograph taken on the Fourth of July.

                                  child in photo

                                  Image source: McCabe Family/KWTV-TV

                                  Another family thinks they captured the hand of a woman who died in their home 100 years ago.

                                  ghost hand

                                  Image source: Peaches Geldof/Instagram

                                  The ‘humanoid of unknown classification’

                                  A documentary film titled “Sirius” claimed to have found and DNA tested a “humanoid of unknown classification” earlier this year.

                                  humanoid

                                  Image source: YouTube

                                  While a story like this is likely to cause some skepticism, Garry Nolan, director of stem cell biology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, said “it is human — closer to human than chimpanzees.”

                                  Watch the documentary’s trailer:

                                  Let us know in the comments the story you think was the weirdest of them all — or contribute your own ideas.

                                  Featured image via Shutterstock.

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                                  • This Texas Mom Will Probably Never Leave Her Sleeping 4-Year-Old Daughter Alone in the Car Again
                                    Posted December 31, 2013 at 11:00 pm by Liz Klimas

                                    Comments (55)

                                    A Texas mom says she quickly ran into an apartment complex to pick up one of her children. But when she returned her car where she had left her sleeping 4-year-old, it was gone.

                                    It had been towed.

                                    According to KHOU-TV, Brandy Taylor immediately called 911.

                                    “Some wrecker truck people came and towed my car with my little girl in the back seat, and I was trying to get my other baby and they left with it,” Taylor told the news station.

                                    tow truck tows child

                                    The tow truck driver said he didn’t see the sleeping child in the back. (Image source: KHOU-TV)

                                    Police found the tow company had taken the car with the sleeping girl a few miles away from the Harris County apartment complex. When questioned, the tow truck driver said he had taken pictures of the car in the complex parking lot, but he didn’t look inside.

                                    The apartment complex has signs warning about restricted parking and the potential for towing posted, but the mother felt she would be safe parking for the few minutes it would take for her to pick up her second child.

                                    tow signs

                                    Image source: KHOU-TV

                                    The 4-year-old that was towed along with the car ended up sleeping through the whole thing and was not harmed.

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                                    • Ball Drops in NYC’s Times Square, Ushering in 2014
                                      Posted December 31, 2013 at 10:59 pm by Jason Howerton

                                      Comments (31)

                                      Story by the Associated Press; curated by Jason Howerton

                                      A sea of horn-tooting, funny hat-wearing revelers cheered (and some even smooched) as the famed crystal ball dropped in freezing New York City’s Times Square to ring in 2014, capping a world-wide wave of celebrations that included a dazzling 30-minute fireworks show in Dubai and a deluge of confetti in London that tasted as good as it looked.

                                      Bronx-born U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor led the 60-second countdown and pushed the button that unleashed the shimmering orb with 2,688 crystals, a role usually filled by the New York City mayor. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on his last day in office, was sitting the celebration out after 12 years on the job, while newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio took the oath of office just after midnight at his Brooklyn home.

                                      Kerrie McConaghy, 20, a university student visiting Times Square from Armagh, Ireland, was dancing and jumping up and down, donning a big blue top hat.

                                      “It’s unbelievable here,” she said. “The lights, seeing the ball, hearing the music, all the people. It’s amazing.”

                                      “TV doesn’t do this justice,” she said. “You have to be here to believe it.”

                                      Watch Live Coverage of New Years Eve Bash in NYCs Time Square

                                      NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 31: New Year’s Eve revelers gather hours ahead of midnight at The New Year’s Eve 2014 Celebration in Times Square on December 31, 2013 in New York City. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

                                      The annual New York celebration, which this year featured performances from artists such as Miley Cyrus, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Blondie, has become part endurance sport because post-9/11 security measures force spectators into pens at least 12 hours in advance, with no food, warmth or bathrooms.

                                      “We’ve got adult diapers. We’re wearing them right now,” said 14-year-old Amber Woods, who came with friends from the New York City’s suburbs to experience the event for the first time. They entered their corral at 10 a.m. Tuesday. For nourishment, they brought lollipops and popcorn. For the cold, they did a lot of jumping in place.

                                      “Every time I say, it’s the last. But then I come back,” said Yasmina Merrir, a 42-year-old Washington, D.C., resident attending her fourth Times Square ball drop. In 2009, the cold was so bad, she got hypothermia. Her legs swelled up like balloons.

                                      Merrir was fasting and not drinking anything to deal with the lack of restrooms. As for the cold, she recommended vigorous dancing for as long as you can stand on your feet.

                                      “At a point,” she said, “your brain is not working anymore.”

                                      Watch Live Coverage of New Years Eve Bash in NYCs Time Square

                                      Looking from the Marriott Marquis hotel, fireworks erupt from One Times Square as the Waterford Crystal ball that will mark the new year is raised into position at six hours before midnight for New Year’s Eve celebrations in New York Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

                                      On the other side of the Atlantic, London welcomed 2014 with a mixture of futuristic fireworks and torch-lit tradition. The city’s mayor said this year’s explosive display came packed with peach-flavored snow, edible banana confetti and orange-scented bubbles. The evening also included scratch-and-sniff programs, LED wristbands and fruit-flavored sweets.

                                      In Russia, where two suicide bombings in two days killed 34 people, eerily empty busses lumbered through the streets of Volgograd, where authorities canceled mass events for New Year’s Eve and asked residents not to set off fireworks.

                                      President Vladimir Putin, in his New Year’s Eve address to the nation, vowed that the fight against terrorists will continue “until their destruction is complete,” Russian news agencies reported.

                                      In Dubai, a Persian Gulf city known for glitz, glamour and over-the-top achievements like the world’s tallest skyscraper, officials sought to break another record by creating the largest fireworks show.

                                      The Dubai skyline was a canvas for a dazzling 30-minute show. The display capped off with six minutes of fireworks that engulfed the city’s man-made, palm-shaped island, with its fronds and trunk shimmering in thousands of lights. Organizers had promised that the fireworks would form a flying falcon, a sunrise and the United Arab Emirates flag.

                                      More than 260 people were injured by firecracker blasts and celebratory gunfire in the Philippines, a nation marking the end of a year of tragic disasters, including a Nov. 8 typhoon that left more than 6,100 dead and nearly 1,800 missing.

                                      “Many here are welcoming the new year after losing their mothers, fathers, siblings and children so you can imagine how it feels,” said village chief Maria Rosario Bactol of the Anibong community in Tacloban, the city worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan. “I tell them to face the reality, to move on and stand up, but I know it will never be easy.”

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                                      • ‘Looks Like Weimar Germany’: The Viral Photo Out of Connecticut That’s Giving Some Gun Owners Chills
                                        Posted December 31, 2013 at 10:32 pm by Jason Howerton

                                        Comments (844)

                                        A now-viral photo showing a long line of Connecticut residents waiting to register their guns and ammo is circulating across the Internet — and it’s sending chills down the backs of some gun owners.

                                        Connecticut gun owners are rushing to register certain firearms and ammunition that will be considered illegal contraband in the new year.

                                        Under a wide-ranging gun control law passed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, they have until Tuesday to submit the paperwork with the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.

                                        “Holy crap. Looks like Weimar Germany,” Twitter user @votermom said of the photo.

                                        “Another disgusting picture from Connecticut . . .men waiting in line to register guns with the government,” user @chipwoods commented.

                                        “First, they came for the guns,” @PaulRReyes added.

                                        “Life is too short to live in a state that does this to its residents,” Twitter user @lancemfisher declared.

                                        And there are plenty more comments where that came from.

                                        State police say they’ve had people lining up early in the morning to turn in applications to keep high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and guns considered assault weapons under the new law.

                                        While the Connecticut Citizens Defense League believes the law is unconstitutional, it has been reminding gun owners of the deadline to make sure they don’t become felons on Jan. 1.

                                        The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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                                        • VIDEO: The Hilarious Steelers Fan Who Celebrated His Team’s Playoff Berth Too Soon
                                          Posted December 31, 2013 at 10:07 pm by Jason Howerton

                                          Comments (32)

                                          It’s always a good idea to wait until the final whistle blows before celebrating a win, or in this case, a potential playoff berth.

                                          Hilarious Steelers Fan Celebrates His Teams Playoff Berth Too Soon

                                          (YouTube)

                                          A Pittsburgh Steelers fan was caught on video ecstatically dancing as the Kansas City Chiefs lined up for a potential game-winning field goal on Sunday that would have secured the Steelers a playoff berth.

                                          “Get me on video baby!” the man says while he dances around. “I told you it can happen!”

                                          Kicker Ryan Succop ended up missing the 41-yard field goal, allowing the San Diego Chargers to win in overtime and crush the Steelers playoff hopes.

                                          The man’s excitement immediately turned to despair and disbelief as his buddies poked fun at him for celebrating too soon. In a development that made the guy’s agony even worse, the NFL later admitted that the refs missed a key penalty that would have given Succop another chance to kick the field goal, only from five yards closer.

                                          There’s always next year.

                                          Watch the entertaining video below:

                                          (H/T: Bleacher Report)

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                                          • Former First Lady Barbara Bush Hospitalized in Houston
                                            Posted December 31, 2013 at 9:40 pm by Associated Press

                                            Comments (31)

                                            HOUSTON (AP) — Former first lady Barbara Bush has been hospitalized in Houston with a respiratory-related issue, her husband’s office said Tuesday night.

                                            The statement from the office of former President George H.W. Bush said Mrs. Bush was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital on Monday.

                                            Former First Lady Barbara Bush Hospitalized in Houston

                                            In this Dec. 23, 2013 photo, former first Lady Barbara Bush left, and former President George H. W. Bush look on during a ceremony at President Bush’s office in Houston. Former first lady Barbara Bush has been hospitalized in Houston with a respiratory-related issue, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. A statement Tuesday night from the office of her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, said she was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital on Monday. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, James Nielsen)

                                            “She is in great spirits, has already received visits from her husband and family, and is receiving fantastic care,” the brief statement said.

                                            Just last week, Mrs. Bush, 88, and her husband, the 41st president, honored a Houston businessman and philanthropist with a Points of Light Award, a volunteer service award started by the former president.

                                            The Bushes’ home is in Houston.

                                            Mrs. Bush had a reputation for bluntness when her husband was president. Her son, George W. Bush, was the 43 president.

                                            The Bush family matriarch had heart surgery in March 2009 for a severe narrowing of the main heart valve. She also was hospitalized in November 2008, when she underwent surgery for a perforated ulcer. In 2010, she was admitted to the hospital after having a mild relapse of Graves disease, a thyroid condition for which she was treated in 1989.

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