VATICAN CITY (AP) — Ailing Pope Francis, who is making limited public appearances due to persistent pain, drew attention to the plight of homeless people in winter, including a Nigerian man who froze to death not far from the Vatican. Francis on Sunday asked for prayers for the man named Edwin, who he said was 46, and who was “ignored by all, abandoned, even by us.” A day after the Vatican said that Francis, 84, was suffering again from sciatica, a nerve inflammation that can affect the lower back and legs, the pope skipped celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. But he appeared in the Apostolic Palace library to give his blessing.
COLUMBUS, OHio (AP) — Data shows that prosecutors will face an uphill battle in winning a murder conviction against the Ohio officer who shot and killed Andre Hill. Columbus Police Officer Adam Coy was indicted Wednesday by a Franklin County grand jury following an investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s office. Coy, who is white, shot Hill, a Black man, on Dec. 22 as he walked out of a garage holding a cell phone. Historical data compiled by criminologist Philip Stinson shows that of 96 criminal cases against officers concluded nationally since 2005, 44 resulted in convictions and 52 in acquittals.
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Foreign Ministry says it is expelling diplomats from Sweden, Poland and Germany, accusing them of attending a rally in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as international tensions grew over the jailing of the Kremlin’s most prominent foe. The announcement came as the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the treatment of Navalny represents “a low point” in the relations between Brussels and Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the diplomats took part in what it called “unlawful” rallies Jan. 23. Tens of thousands of people across Russia took to the streets that day to protest Navalny’s arrest. European officials immediately denounced the move.
The school reopening debate is presenting an early test of President Joe Biden’s allegiance with powerful teachers unions. As teachers unions in some areas demand vaccines before returning to in-person instruction, the CDC’s director on Wednesday said teachers do not need vaccines to reopen safely. Some believed the CDC’s position would drive a wedge between Biden and teachers unions, but unions say that’s not the case. Even those demanding vaccines say shots would not be required if schools were taking other steps to make buildings safe. But they say schools have failed to update ventilation systems and take other important steps, making vaccines critical.
When sisters Gita and Kavita Pullapilly graduated from Notre Dame with degrees in finance, their immediate post-graduation plans didn’t include producing award-winning films. “I ended up getting a job in finance … but just really felt like that maybe wasn’t where I was supposed to be,” Gita, a 1999 alumna, said. “I found that journalism was an avenue to what I really ended up wanting to do, which was storytelling in a medium that was visual in particular.” Gita’s educational journey from Notre Dame to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism ultimately paved the path to her current job as executive producer of the forthcoming public television program “Lifecasters,” which will have its world premiere Wednesday at New York’s Lincoln Center. Gita said the project, produced by her personal production company, Sunny Side Up Films, aims to “inspire and engage the country” through three short films by award-winning filmmakers that showcase the stories of three “amazing artists who came from different backgrounds to achieve their goals and dreams.” “[The subjects] all had to face these enormous challenges … but took interesting routes to be able to achieve their goals … and that to us was really exciting,” Gita said. “We kind of want to champion people who did these different things who have yet to be recognized for it at the national scale.” The success of Sunny Side Up’s last film, the Emmy-nominated documentary “The Way We Get By,” placed the production company on the radar of filmmakers across the country, Gita said, and that public exposure opened doors for working with well-known directors and producers on “Lifecasters,” including “Anchorman” director Adam McKay, producer Shira Piven and Oscar-nominated documentary filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. “Coming out of the gate with this project, we really wanted the best of the best filmmakers so they could set the model for what we kind of stand by,” Gita said. In the case of McKay, who has a strong background in comedy as the creator of the humor site Funny or Die, Gita said “Lifecasters” represented a unique filmmaking opportunity that allowed him to explore the story of musician and former prisoner Wayne Kramer in “The Beast and the Angel.” “We loved the idea of giving [McKay] a creative platform to do something that wasn’t comedy but something that was very personal for [him],” she said. To round out the “Lifecasters” lineup, Bognar and Reichert profiled one of the oldest female professional dancers in the country in “Sparkle,” and Gita and her husband, Aron Gaudet, produced “The Gambling Man,” which tells the story of an 80-year-old retired doctor who composed an award-winning symphony. Although the project took two years of hard work, Gita said the end result of “Lifecasters” made all the time and effort worthwhile. “For us as storytellers, our job is to engage and entertain an audience, so we’re very excited to have … these artists share their stories,” Gita said. “We hope we can become a voice for people across the country to find ways to accomplish their goals.” That aspiration to inspire audiences comes from a lifelong desire to use knowledge and talents to promote a worthy cause, Gita said. “When we were at Notre Dame, both Kavita and I would try to figure out how as Domers we could give back … and we’re so fortunate and so proud that from our education we were able to develop a voice and storytelling techniques … and that we were able to hone our skills at Notre Dame.” Kavita said her experiences in both finance and filmmaking have demonstrated the value of a Notre Dame education in the real world. “It’s great that Notre Dame gave us the opportunity to explore and really develop our skills but allowed us the well-rounded education to really explore what we wanted to do in life,” Kavita said. “It speaks a lot to the Notre Dame experience that it goes beyond what our majors were and really [helps] us become amazing, contributing individuals.” Although her sister and brother-in-law take creative direction of the Sunny Side Up’s endeavors, Kavita said she appreciates their work from the unique perspective as a producer and the company’s chief operating officer. “I’ve always been kind of behind the scenes … but I loved the process of thinking and creating from an idea and developing it into an artistic endeavor that really engages people, their minds, their imaginations, their feelings,” Kavita said. “I started working with Gita and Aron full-time in August 2011, and I’ve been loving it ever since.” Even though they ended up choosing different career paths than initially intended, both Pullapilly sisters still use the fundamental business knowledge they acquired as Notre Dame undergraduates in operating their production company. “The business side is critical through the entire process of the concept to finishing the film to getting it out into the world. Every aspect of what needs to happen has a huge business component behind it,” Gita said. “Our film company is committed to finding creative avenues to make the films we want to make and get them out as economically viably as possible.” “Lifecasters” will premiere nationally Feb. 7 on PBS. The second major project from Sunny Side Up Films, a feature film titled “Blue Potato,” will be released later this year.
Parents listed Notre Dame as the No. 4 “dream school” for their children in the Princeton Review’s annual “College Hopes and Worries” survey, marking the second consecutive year the University has held that place. The Princeton Review website states “dream colleges” are schools parents wish their child could attend if cost and admission were not contributing factors, and the 2013 list ranks Notre Dame behind Stanford University, Harvard University and Princeton University. Students ranked their own top-10 dream colleges in a different list, and Notre Dame was not included in that set. University spokesman Dennis Brown said the admissions department takes such rankings “with a grain of salt” due to differences in methodology, but this one reflects Notre Dame’s unique appeal to parents. “I think that [the ranking] reflects the basic tenets of the University: a commitment to undergraduate education, a sense of community and an ongoing commitment to faith and religious identity,” Brown said. “The combination of things that Notre Dame offers … is unusual in a lot of different ways, and some parents take comfort in that.” Notre Dame is the only religiously-affiliated school on either list, and Brown said the University’s dual emphasis on faith and academics is ideal for many interested families. “For people whose faith is important to them, the fact that you can come to a place like Notre Dame and practice your faith, … yet still at the same time get a world-class education, is crucial,” Brown said. “You can be a part of a broader University community that will pay dividends throughout your life in terms of the alumni network and the bonds created in the residence halls.” Robert Mundy, director of admissions, said it is “hard to predict” whether the ranking will affect Notre Dame’s future applicant pools, but trends in the past decade have shown parents are becoming more involved in their children’s college selection processes. “Students are ultimately making the decisions, but the influence of the parents has increased,” Mundy said. “Whether it’s generational or financial or due to another factor, parents are getting more actively involved in where [their children] apply and actually attend.” Mundy said comparing the parents’ impressions of a university to those of their children can be an interesting and informative way to interpret such a ranking. “Your parents’ impressions or expectations about your college experience are a little different than your own impressions, and I saw that clearly as I looked through the rest of the Princeton Review survey results,” he said. “It’s all about looking for different things, which depends on which role you’re speaking from. … There’s no disputing that parents have a different view [than students].” Notre Dame’s policies on aspects such as dorm life and parietals are seen differently by parents and students, Mundy said, and this may have contributed to the discrepancies on the two Princeton Review lists. “I really do believe that the nature of the Notre Dame family strikes a chord with the parents, and that’s clearly tied to our mission,” Mundy said. “Things like that appeal to parents in a different way than they appeal to students.” While he said there is no way to determine what the ranking will mean for Notre Dame’s popular perception and future applicant pools, the parents’ increased influence on their students’ college decisions make this “good news all around.” “Obviously, the students are the ones who sit down for dinner every night with their parents, and if they have a positive impression [of Notre Dame] in their minds, that can affect them either apparently or subliminally,” Mundy said. Brown said such rankings serve as “good starting points” for prospective parents and their students but are not weighted heavily in the admissions office. “College surveys are of some use, but people who are serious about their college choice are going to dig in deeper,” he said. “While we’d rather be ranked than not, at the same time we recognize that they’re … just a starting point.”
The University is again challenging a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that requires Notre Dame’s insurance plan to cover contraceptives, according to a report in The South Bend Tribune.Notre Dame is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to grant the University an exemption to the mandate, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, in light of a recent Supreme Court decision, the Tribune reported. The Supreme Court ruled Jan. 24 that the nonprofit organization Little Sisters of the Poor and other similar religious groups do not have to cover contraceptives until the Sisters’ lawsuit is resolved.“There is no legitimate basis upon which an injunction could be granted to the Little Sisters of the Poor but denied to Notre Dame,” the University said in its motion, according to the Tribune.A federal appellate judge in Chicago will hear oral arguments in Notre Dame’s case Feb. 12, the Tribune reported.“If government is allowed to entangle a religious institution of higher education like Notre Dame in one area contrary to conscience, it’s given license to do so in others,” Paul Browne, vice president for Public Affairs and Communications, said.Tags: Contraception, HHS Lawsuit, HHS Mandate, Notre Dame, Supreme Court
Junior Becca Blais was awarded the Truman Scholarship, an award given to college juniors with plans to attend graduate school who then work to make a difference through public service, according to a press release from the Truman Scholarship Foundation. Blais, who currently serves as student body president, is a political science and peace studies major, originally from New Smyrna Beach, Florida. “I’m incredibly honored to be named a Truman Scholar,” Blais said in an email. “I am excited for all of the opportunities in store ahead, and I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for everyone who has supported me in this process.”The 62 new Truman Scholars were selected from among 768 candidates, according to the release. Tags: Becca Blais, truman scholarship
Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared in the print edition of The Observer on March 20.Notre Dame will award Sister Norma Pimentel — head of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley — the 2018 Laetare Medal, the University announced in a press releaseSunday.Each year, Notre Dame awards the Laetare Medal to an American Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.”According to the release, both of Pimentel’s parents immigrated from Mexico to the United States and she spent much of her childhood traveling between the two countries. After completing her final vows and entering the Missionaries of Jesus, she worked closely with immigrants, who were often brought to the sisters’ convent.Pimentel said this experience shaped her understanding of her faith in concrete ways.“Scripture comes to life and our faith becomes flesh,” she said in the release. “It is not until you find yourself in front of the face of the immigrant child or mother that you will understand this. It is a moment of realizing we are all one human family.”Since 2008, Pimentel has directed charitable programs for the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, including “emergency food and shelter, housing assistance, clinical counseling and pregnancy care to all four counties in the Rio Grande Valley.”University President Fr. John Jenkins said Pimentel has lived out the call to recognize Christ in the marginalized through her work with refugees and migrants.“Jesus said, ‘when I was a stranger, you invited me in.’ Sister Norma Pimentel has given her life to welcoming Christ in the immigrant and refugee,” Jenkins said in the release. “In awarding her the Laetare Medal, Notre Dame celebrates her witness of seeking and generously serving Christ in the most vulnerable.”Pimentel said in the release that she was grateful to receive the 2018 Laetare Medal.“I am truly honored to receive this award,” she said. “This year’s Laetare Medal brings forth the cries of the suffering for the world to hear. I would like to thank the University of Notre Dame for this recognition and for being a voice for immigrants in our midst.”Pimentel will be awarded the medal on May 20 at commencement.Tags: 2018 Commencement, Commencement 2018, Immigration, Laetare Medal, Sister Norma Pimentel
Tony nominee Jonathan Groff has never been shy about showing off some skin for the sake of art. For real, thanks to Spring Awakening, his adorable bubble butt is permanently etched into our memories. And did you see his hot and heavy sex scene in the second season of Starz’ Boss? Whew! But anyway, Groff is once again stripping down and doing the dirty on HBO’s Looking and, according to E! Online, we’re not going to want to miss it. Groff also said that the series’ female director of photography, Reed Morano, was dazzled by his sex scene-shooting prowess. “We were in bed and there she was in bed capturing what was happening,” he revealed. “She said, ‘This is the hottest sex scene I’ve ever experienced shooting.'” So, is Groff going to be showing us his O-face? Of course! And he said it took “years of practice.” Jonathan, you playful dog, you! Pardon our blushing. Jonathan Groff View Comments Star Files In the show’s next episode, titled “Looking for the Future” and airing February 16, Groff’s Patrick and Raúl Castillo’s Richie have a racy bedroom romp. “We’re both very comfortable with our bodies, very comfortable with each other and we were very comfortable being naked together from the beginning,” Groff told E!. “That builds a lot of trust. We built a lot of trust between us so you could really go there and we totally went there in that scene.”