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Pope Uses Christmas Eve Message To Urge Respect For Migrants

Pope Francis strongly defended immigrants at his Christmas Eve Mass on Sunday, comparing them to Mary and Joseph finding no place to stay in Bethlehem and saying faith demands that foreigners be welcomed.

Francis, celebrating his fifth Christmas as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, led a solemn Mass for about 10,000 people in St. Peter’s Basilica while many others followed the service from the square outside.

Security was stepped up, with participants checked as they approached St. Peter’s Square even before going through metal detectors to enter the basilica. The square had been cleared out hours earlier so security procedures could be put in place.

The Gospel reading at the Mass in Christendom’s largest church recounted the Biblical story of how Mary and Jesus had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered for a census ordered by Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus.

“So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away, but driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones,” Francis said.

Even the shepherds who the Bible says were the first to see the child Jesus were “forced to live on the edges of society” and considered dirty, smelly foreigners, he said. “Everything about them generated mistrust. They were men and women to be kept at a distance, to be feared.”

Franco Origlia via Getty Images
Pope Francis kisses the Baby Jesus as he arrives at the St. Peter’s Basilica for the Christmas Eve Mass.

“NEW SOCIAL IMAGINATION”

Wearing white vestments in the flower-bedecked church, Francis called for a “new social imagination … in which none have to feel that there is no room for them on this earth.”

The 81-year-old pope, who was born of Italian immigrant stock in Argentina, has made defense of migrants a major plank of his papacy, often putting him at odds with politicians.

Austria’s new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has aligned himself with central European neighbors like Hungary and the Czech Republic in opposing German-backed proposals to distribute asylum seekers around EU member states.

In elections in Germany in September, the far-right and anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party made significant gains, with electors punishing Chancellor Angela Merkel for her open-door policy and pushing migration policy to the top of the agenda in talks to form a coalition government.

Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League, whose leader Matteo Salvini often gives fiery speeches against migrants, is expected to make gains in national elections next year. A law that would give citizenship to children born in Italy to migrant parents is stalled in parliament.

In his homily, Francis said, “Our document of citizenship” comes from God, making respect of migrants an integral part of Christianity.

“This is the joy that we tonight are called to share, to celebrate and to proclaim. The joy with which God, in his infinite mercy, has embraced us pagans, sinners and foreigners, and demands that we do the same,” Francis said.

Francis also condemned human traffickers who make money off desperate migrants as the “Herods of today” with blood on their hands, a reference to the Biblical story of the king who ordered the killing of all newborn male children near Bethlehem because he feared Jesus would one day displace him.

More than 14,000 people have died trying to make the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean to Europe in the past four years.

On Christmas Day, Francis will deliver his twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and to the World) blessing and message from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

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21 things you should make your kids pay for – The Globe and Mail


The Globe and Mail

21 things you should make your kids pay for
The Globe and Mail
A blogging mother of three thinks the way to teach children about money is to have them pay a lot of their own expenses. Not the mortgage or groceries, but movies, toys, treats and things they broke or lost. Older kids should pay for clothes

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Martha Stewart, Stranded in Florida, Spent Her Bomb-Cyclone Day Blogging and at the Spa – W Magazine


W Magazine

Martha Stewart, Stranded in Florida, Spent Her Bomb-Cyclone Day Blogging and at the Spa
W Magazine
After spending the holidays in Vermont, Martha Stewart continued her voyage away from her usual home in Westchester, New York all the way down to Florida, where she's been putting in her time both on the treadmill and in the hot tub. This sounds ideal

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FinalPrice raises $4M for subscription-based travel booking platform

Look out HotelTonight. Oh, and Booking.com, Expedia, Skyscanner, Hopper and a few others. Coming out of LA there is a new kid on the block. FinalPrice, a new subscription-based travel app, has today both launched and announced its $4 million fund-raising from Almaz Capital, Sistema VC and private investors.

For an annual $99 charge, the offer here is that users get access to the best hotel, flight and rental car deals out there. But why on earth would anyone pay to book this stuff? Well, by levying a subscription FinalPrice does not need to make money on every sale (unlike other free providers), which should mean users get access to lower prices for higher quality travel options.

The startup also claims it is applying AI to its curated list of offers based on each persons preferences and travel history, but then doesnt everyone claim that these days? That said, users can send previous itineraries to FinalPrice and it will instantly learn their preferences.

FinalPrice founder Peter Kutis says that since most of the U.S. market is moving to a subscription plan, from Netflix and Spotify to Amazon and dry cleaning: We want to become the Amazon Prime of travel. A subscription approach to travel offers better prices and better loyalty. No more spend more to save more, last minutes deals, or excluded taxes. You dont have to be Genius traveler to get fair prices. All the commissions we get from the suppliers are returned to customers as a discount or cashback.

FinalPrice claims that users who spend $10,000 traveling with it will save around $2,500 in comparison to the best available public price via other services.

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Apple cuts App Store affiliate commission from 7% to 2.5%

Apple just sent an email to members of the App Store affiliate program saying that App Store commissions will be reduced from 7 percent to 2.5 percent on May 1st thats a 64 percent cut. While this change will have no effect on App Store users, it has some implications on the App Store ecosystem.

Many websites from the Apple community link to App Store downloads with a unique referral ID in the link. When customers buy apps or in-app purchases using this link, Apple gives back a small cut to its affiliate partner. Developers still get 70 percent of the sale while partners get incentivized.

For a $1 app, this affiliate commission is just a few cents. But it can add up if youve built a serious audience. And I know this because Ive experienced this myself.

Back in 2009, when the App Store was just a few months old, I started a website called iAppstore.eu with a friend of mine (I know, its a terrible name). It was a sort of a directory with recommendations about the best app for something in particular. It wasnt particularly original, but we thought people would save time and money by looking at our recommendations as most of the interesting apps were paid downloads.

The iPhone was slow and heavy, the App Store was a brand new thing. But it was fascinating. Apple had created a brand new playing field overnight. There was no Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp or Uber. Independent developers were still experimenting, half of the apps were broken in some way or another and the App Store was a tiny place.

Our little website got something like 15,000 readers per month. And we made hundreds of euros in the first few months with App Store commissions and a Google ad near the bottom of the page. It wasnt anything groundbreaking, but it was a fun little way to make some money as a kid who didnt want to work during summer break. This is probably how I learned that you could make money on the internet and ended up applying for TechCrunch years later.

Very quickly, bigger websites started to get serious about App Store reviews, app prices dropped massively and our website faded away. I dont think App Store commissions are a good business model and Im glad I didnt stay in this business for too long, but there are still a ton of small and big websites that rely on these commissions.

If Apple drastically cuts this revenue stream, the company could end up alienating people writing for those sites. But it could also indicate that some bigger App Store changes are coming soon.

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This Blogger Was Late to the Instagram Game. Now, She's the Boss Lady of a Social Media Strategy Business. – Entrepreneur


Entrepreneur

This Blogger Was Late to the Instagram Game. Now, She's the Boss Lady of a Social Media Strategy Business.
Entrepreneur
I have to get on Instagram.” I hired a photographer off Craigslist, but my first two photo shoots were complete disasters. I thought I looked so hideous that I almost wanted to cry. I picked another photographer, off Craigslist again, and she made me

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Cowboys 2018 free agents: Who will stay and who will go … – Blogging The Boys (blog)


Blogging The Boys (blog)

Cowboys 2018 free agents: Who will stay and who will go …
Blogging The Boys (blog)
The NFL calendar rolls along, and before you know it free agency will be here. Well, you'll have to wait until March 14th, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not too far away. Before we begin dreaming about players from other teams we'd like for

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This Woman Housed More Than 450 Victims Of Sex Trafficking

In a country known for its sex trafficking industry, one woman is standing up for trafficked girls, taking them in and giving them a shot at a brighter future.

For the past 18 years, Iana Matei, a psychologist in Romania, has been providing shelter, psychosocial support and education to women and girls who are victims of sexual exploitation, Al Jazeera reported in a recent feature.

“I don’t know if I am courageous, but I do know that I am angry,” Matei told the news outlet. “I’m angry at the people who do this, who beat up a young girl, rape her and force her into prostitution. And I’m angry at society for turning a blind eye.”

Matei’s organization, Reaching Out Romania, has helped more than 470 girls who were victims of trafficking, according to the website. They offer girls shelter, psychological and medical assistance, and most importantly, a community. 

“Reaching Out Romania is like a family,” Stephan, Matei’s son, said in the video above. “My mom looks into their lives and sees hope — she shows the girls there’s hope.”

Some of the girls are only 14 or 15, coming from dysfunctional homes where they have already suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse, according to Women News Network. Matei provides them with long-term care, helping them return to school, or if they are older, to find a job, according to the website.

Many of the girls in Matei’s shelter are brought by police or child protection services, but sometimes Matei takes them from pimps and traffickers herself.

“It’s dangerous because anything can happen,” Matei told Al Jazeera. “The traffickers don’t expect you to challenge them. When I kidnap one of their girls, they’re in shock. Some of the girls think I am a madam initially. They’re so used to people exploiting them. They can’t believe someone would want to help them.”

The Hope Narrative
Iana Matei and some of the girls staying in her shelter.

There are around 2.4 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, according to the UN. Romania is one of the worst countries in the European Union when it comes to trafficking, with more than 3,000 victims reported between 2010 to 2012.

“When we came here, I was expecting that there was this man or gang or somebody that was stealing girls off the street,” said Matthew Ninaber, film producer for The Hope Narrative, in the video. “But it wasn’t that at all. It was the mom that would sell her kid, it was the dad who would get rid of his daughter because it was the best way to make money.”

Extreme poverty is a major driver behind trafficking, according to the UN, with parents forced to sell their children in order to provide for the rest of the family.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Romanian students dressed as caged brides raise awareness of the risks of human trafficking and sexual exploitation faced by young girls, in Bucharest.

When Matei first opened her shelter in 1999, it was the only one of its kind in the country, according to the New York Times. Still today, people all too often see the girls not as victims but as prostitutes, she told f news outlet.

“They come from dysfunctional families, they need therapy… Lack of love is the common factor,” Matei toldWomen News Network. My goal for the future is to close the center, because nobody needs it.”

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The Coolest Teen Astrologers Are on Tumblr – The Ringer (blog)


The Ringer (blog)

The Coolest Teen Astrologers Are on Tumblr
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“I really had no intention of using it as some sort of career or moneymaking thing or anything like that,” Elwood said. “But it very quickly became a big thing. The more I got into it, the more I learned, the more I enjoyed it.” The teen astrologists

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Interesting comments on Dez Bryant from Jerry and Stephen Jones – Blogging The Boys (blog)


Blogging The Boys (blog)

Interesting comments on Dez Bryant from Jerry and Stephen Jones
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A hot topic for the Cowboys this offseason is the future of Dez Bryant. Bryant's production has been slipping the past few years, and this year he had the most drops of his career, making him a target of invective from parts of the fanbase. Part of the

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