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Pope Slams Gay Marriage. Where's The Tweet?

So far Benedict XVI's new @Pontifex on Twitter has avoided controversial topics.

LA STAMPA, LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), AFP

Worldcrunch

VATICAN CITY - The Pope's regular Christmas season schedule is underway, with Friday featuring the lighting of the Christmas tree in St Peter's Square and the release of the text of Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace.

The pontiff's annual message covered familiar ground: human dignity, religious tolerance, economic justice and, of course, peace itself.

But there were other ideas that not all "people of good will" necessarily share, including some notably strong language on gay marriage, as a debate rages on legalizing same-sex unions in traditionally Catholic countries like France and Uruguay.

Laws granting legal status for gay unions, he said, "actually harm and help destabilize marriage" by obscuring its specific nature as a union between man and woman that forms the basis of society, La Stampa reports. "These principles are not truths of faith, or a derivation of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, identifiable with reason and are therefore common to all mankind."

Strong stuff, though hardly surprising. Still, this combative "message of peace" raises a question from the real BIG papal news of the week: His Holiness' hopping (and hoping) on Twitter.

Though it has since topped one million followers, Benedict's @Pontifex account has been quiet since firing off his first seven tweets on Wednesday with plenty of 140-character eloquence, but little edginess:

Offer everything you do to the Lord, ask his help in all the circumstances of daily life and remember that he is always beside you

— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) December 12, 2012

Amidst all the online giddiness about a tweeting Pope, no one asked when or if he will cover more controversial ground on the network. A former professor of theology, Benedict is known for his sharp prose.

His message Friday said that gay marriage, abortion and assisted suicide are an "offense against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace." Wow, that would work as a tweet, and is well within Twitter's 140-character limit; and anyone with any experience tweeting knows: such provocative messages are the way to get lots of followers, which is after all what Popes are about. The problem is that such clarity is how you lose them too...

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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