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Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

A New Mexico Archbishop urged Catholic faithful to stop venerating a ‘spiritually dangerous’ folk saint of death called La Santa Muerte.

John Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe, said worship of La Santa Muerte, or Our Lady Of Holy Death, contradicts church teaching because it glorifies death, a characteristic associated with Satan, who the Christian scriptures say “comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.” Wester believes that people may be seduced into worshiping La Santa Muerte either because they mistakenly believe that it is a church-sanctioned saint, or because they are simply searching for answers. (RELATED: Faith, Drugs, And Human Sacrifice: A Mexican Folk Religion Has Texas Police Worried)

“It’s really wrong. I think in part, it’s (because) people are looking and searching. It’s a symptom of a search looking for answers,” Wester told The Associated Press.

“Our devotion is to the God of life,” he added.

La Santa Muerte, often depicted as a robed skeleton carrying a scythe in one hand and a globe or scales in the other, is an occult saint popular in Mexico with adherents also in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, California and elsewhere in Latino communities in the U.S.

Devotees touch the figures of Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) before the central altar asking for favors during the main celebration in the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Devotees touch the figures of Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) before the central altar asking for favors during the main celebration in the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

While some depict the folk saint as a benign if bizarre figure to whom the poor direct prayers and offerings of candles, fruits and sweets in exchange for provision and fortune, there is a very real dark side to worship of the folk saint. The FBI reports that members of Mexican drug cartels often pray to the figure, asking it to bring harm to law enforcement and rivals. In some cases, cartel and gang members have murdered people in ritualistic killings as offerings to La Santa Muerte.

“For U.S. law enforcement agencies, the rise of a criminalized and dark variant of Santa Muerte worship holds many negative implications,” said Dr. Robert J. Bunker, PhD in an FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. “Of greatest concern, the inspired and ritualistic killings associated with this cult could cross the border and take place in the United States.”

“Over half of the prayers directed at her include petitions to harm other people via curses and death magic,” Bunker added.

While Wester and a few other Catholic bishops in the U.S. have openly denounced La Santa Muerte, Bishop Walter F. Sullivan and Andrew Chesnut, author of Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint, said no other high-ranking Catholic clerics in the U.S. have done so. Chestnut believes they have avoided denouncing the demonic figure because it might contradict their messaging about migrants.

“In Latin America, church officials rebuke Santa Muerte almost weekly,” Chestnut told AP. For more U.S. bishops to attack worship of La Santa Muerte, he said, would risk portraying Mexican migrants as “dangerous and all connected to drug trafficking.”

Wester, however, remains resolute in his stand against La Santa Muerte, whom he said is “spiritually dangerous.”

“It should be completely avoided,” Wester said. “It is a perversion of devotion to the saints.”

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Attorney General William Barr delivered a report of the special counsel’s Russia investigation to Congress on Sunday.

Barr sent a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, who could soon release details to the public.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said on Twitter that Barr sent a “very brief” letter to lawmakers at around 3:35 p.m. EST.

Mueller delivered a comprehensive report of his 22-month investigation to the Justice Department on Friday. The hand off signaled that the investigation was over and that Mueller would be issuing no more indictments in the probe. (RELATED: Mueller Submits Report To The Justice Department)

Barr said in a letter to the Judiciary committees on Friday that he would provide Congress with Mueller’s conclusions from the investigation, which focused on whether members of the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election and whether President Trump obstructed justice.

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein spent much of Saturday and Sunday reviewing Mueller’s report, which one official described as “comprehensive.”

U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The Justice Department is not required to provide the entire report to Congress. Instead, regulations governing special counsel’s investigations require only that the attorney general inform Congress about decisions to issue indictments or decline indictments.

Mueller indicted 37 individuals and three Russian companies during the investigation. Six Trump associates pleaded guilty or were charged in the probe, though none were charged with conspiring with Russia.

Barr’s delivery marks a significant milestone in the investigation, but it will now touch off a new waiting game for a release of more details from the probe. Democrats have already said that they are unwilling to settle for a mere summary of Mueller’s findings. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has said he will subpoena the Justice Department for the report, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has suggested subpoenaing Mueller himself.

Some Republicans, likely emboldened by the belief that the report undercuts theories of collusion, have also said that they support Mueller’s findings being made public.

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Charles Kolb | Deputy Assistant to George H.W. Bush

If only Christopher Hitchens were still alive!

The Vanity Fair and former Nation journalist died of esophageal cancer at age 62 in December 2011. He would have a field day with today’s strange new world: the 2016 election, the Clintons (whom he detested), Trump’s presidential antics, Brexit (born a Brit, Hitchens became an American citizen), social media, artificial intelligence, and the 2020 presidential candidates.

Hitch was a great debunker. His irreverence was exceeded only by his intelligence, his eclectic reading, and his remarkable memory. He seemed to know just about everything, and his book titles trumpeted his strong verdicts. Bill Clinton was skewered in “No One Left to Lie To,” and his slim, scathing volume about Mother Teresa was titled “The Missionary Position.” There was, however, one unassailable Hitchens Hero: novelist and essayist George Orwell.

Hitchens’s 2002 book, “Why Orwell Matters,” is worth reading today. Hitchens praised Orwell as a relentless champion of liberty and equality whose vision embraced “a society of free and equal human beings.” Orwell despised communism and fascism, and his novels “Animal Farm” (1946) and “Nineteen Eighty-Four”(1949) warned about the danger of “Big Brother” governments that adopt authoritarian tactics against the governed.

Orwell never knew the Internet, but he surely would have been concerned about how social media platforms operate, with business models heavily reliant on algorithms that maximize profits by freely mining individual data at the expense of privacy. And that’s the problem: a Faustian bargain that says “give us your personal data in exchange for free services.” Governments now justify enhanced surveillance in exchange for enhanced security. As Hitchens wrote, Orwell believed deeply that “there should be no utilitarian tradeoff between freedom and security.”

To her credit, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recognizes the dangers described by Orwell, and that is why she pledges to break up the big data-driven tech companies if she becomes president. Warren is not alone. The pushback is already starting: the European Union has adopted internet rules (the General Data Protection Regulation) that strengthen individual privacy, is pursuing vigorous antitrust enforcement, and has levied substantial fines against Facebook and Google. We can expect continued congressional hearings that will examine these firms’ business practices, their privacy protections, and their profits.

Hitchens probably would have panned Warren’s fake populism (“I’m a gonna get me a beer”) and her ludicrous Cherokee-heritage claims (“my papaw had high cheekbones”). But the irreverent journalist and the consumer-oriented senator probably would have agreed on curbing social media platforms, enforcing antitrust laws, and forcing changes to existing business models that mine “free data” while offering inadequate privacy guarantees. Warren deserves credit for pressing these issues.

Machines governed by algorithms (mathematical problem-solving formulas that impose a set of rules designed to seek, identify, and capture patterns) now impact increasing aspects of contemporary life. This development is not inherently bad. Algorithms drive a significant portion of daily stock-market trading. Driverless cars use algorithms to process information faster than human brains. Algorithms now fly planes and track our Internet activity, including our daily movements based on our cellphone locations.

Edward Snowden’s massive data dump revealed that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress when he told Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) that the government was not collecting personal data on American citizens. The government was scooping up everything it could find and relying on algorithms to search that information for potential terrorist threats.

When algorithms become linked with the brave new emerging world of artificial intelligence, however, there is the potential for both good (health care, fraud prevention, driverless cars, airport facial recognition) and bad (China’s plans to use AI for political monitoring through a “social credit system” that tracks citizens and bolsters Communist one-party political control).

Along with Hitchens and Orwell, Elizabeth Warren worries about tradeoffs between freedom and security. We need to tame the use of algorithms and make them work for us, not against us. What makes us human is our personal interaction with other humans, not with machines.

“Orwellian” is now applied to situations involving official government deception, extensive secret surveillance, and evading reality through lies and misleading information. George Orwell and Christopher Hitchens are no longer with us, so we need crusaders like Elizabeth Warren (and others) to ensure that our world remains governed by humans and not by machines responding to impersonal mathematical formulas.

Charles Kolb served as deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy in the Bush White House from 1990-92.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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Chris White | Energy Reporter

Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand delivered her presidential campaign kickoff speech in front of the Trump International Hotel Sunday as she struggles to stand out among an increasingly crowded field of candidates.

Gillibrand spent the bulk of her speech excoriating President Donald Trump for being a “coward” who crafted a career building “a shrine to greed, division and vanity,” referring to hotel she was standing beside. She also applauded those who attended her speech for being “brave.”

“The people of this country deserve a president worthy of your bravery,” Gillibrand said, referring to the audience. “A president who not only sets an example, but follows yours. Your bravery inspires me every day, and that is why I’m running for president of the United States.” (RELATED: 2020 Democratic Hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand Can’t Even Get Her Home Delegation To Back Her) 

She added: “He (Trump) demonized the vulnerable, and he punches down. He puts his name in bold on every building. He does all of this because he wants you to believe he is strong. He is not. Our President is a coward.” Gillibrand and other female 2020 candidates have struggled to make a name for themselves as their male counterparts continue to soak up most of the media attention.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announces he will not seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination with his wife Jill (R) at his side in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington October 21, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announces he will not seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination with his wife Jill (R) at his side in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington October 21, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Polls show that former Vice President Joe Biden and self-avowed socialist Democratic Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are leading in Iowa. The two septuagenarians are so far besting the likes of Gillibrand and Democratic California Sen. Kamala Harris as they compete to see who can knock off Trump come 2020. Some Democratic operatives believe the media are giving preferential treatment to Gillibrand’s male opponents.

“I feel like the media is always captivated by the person they seem to think is a phenom: Bernie, Trump, Beto. But they always seem to be white men who are phenoms,” Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic political consultant, told reporters March 15. “In a year where we have more choices than ever, more women and more persons of color than ever, none of them seem to be deemed a phenom.”

Gillibrand has garnered one endorsement from a sitting member of Congress since announcing her 2020 run. Democratic New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney is the only member of Congress who had endorsed Gillibrand as of March 18. Democratic New York Reps. Sean Maloney and Kathleen Rice opted to endorse her rival, former Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, instead.

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Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter

Three individuals were jailed Saturday in relation to the setting of a Tulane University student’s dorm room door on fire.

Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office general counsel Blake Arcuri said 21-year-old Robert Money and 20-year-olds David Shelton and Naima Okami faced aggravated arson counts, The Advocate reported Sunday.

The incident allegedly happened at Peyton Lofton’s door Saturday morning, according to The Advocate. A sign that seemed to say “I AM NOLA BUILT” was slightly burned.

Lofton, who is an officer in Tulane’s chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), claimed it was politically motivated in a statement.

“It’s a sad day in America when radical activists are lighting dorm room doors on fire because they disagree with you politically,” Peyton said in a statement, posted by YALiberty on Twitter Saturday.

University police said it was unclear why the perpetrators allegedly burned the door, WWL-TV reported. YAL officials said Lofton was recently doxxed by an “anti-YAL social media account.”

“If a socialist student is your neighbor, the answer is to engage and discuss the issues, not shame them online and light their door on fire,” YAL President Cliff Maloney said in a statement, also posted for the group’s Twitter account.

Lofton confirmed to The Daily Caller News Foundation over Facebook Messenger that there were no injuries.

The situation caught Donald Trump Jr.’s attention.

“Wonder if the media will report this horrible crime against a campus conservative?” Trump Jr. said on Twitter Saturday.

Money and Shelton are Tulane students while Okami is attending Brown University, WWL-TV reported. (RELATED: Man Accused Of Punching Conservative Activist At UC Berkeley Pleads Not Guilty)

Bail is set at $10,000 each for the perpetrators, according to The Advocate.

YAL is a libertarian organization with several chapters across the country.

Tulane University and YAL did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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William Davis | Contributor

Alabama has officially decided to “mutually part ways” with head basketball coach Avery Johnson.

The Crimson Tide announced its decision in a press release on Sunday. Johnson had been Alabama’s coach for four years, and finished his career with a record of 75-62. (RELATED: Avery Johnson Could Be Out At Alabama, Says Report)

“After meeting with Coach Johnson, we made the decision to mutually part ways,”  Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne said. “This was not an easy decision, and we thank him for his contributions over the past four seasons. We wish Coach Johnson and his family the very best.”

Johnson handled his departure with the same class that he displayed over his four years at Alabama. (RELATED: Nick Saban And Bill Belichick Photographed Together At Alabama’s Pro Day)

“This was an opportunity of a lifetime, and we truly enjoyed our experience at Alabama,” Johnson said.  “I also want to thank my family for all of their support and contributions to the program.”

I had the opportunity to meet Coach Johnson a few years ago when I was a student. He’s a class act and a good basketball coach, but he couldn’t get the program over the hump. Best of luck to him and his family.

The question now becomes who Alabama hires next. We have an incredibly talented roster returning, and a good recruiting class. This is clearly one of the best open jobs in the country right now, but Alabama has to get this hire right.

Many fans are going to want the Crimson Tide to look at Rick Pitino, but that seems unlikely given all of his baggage. Alabama alum Steve Prohm has been solid at Iowa State, although he appeared to deny interest in the job.

Regardless of who Alabama hires, it’s time for this program to finally start living up to its potential. Alabama basketball is a sleeping giant, but it has to wake up now.

It’s now or never.

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The TV ratings for March Madness are huge.

According to a release from March Madness TV on Twitter, the Friday primetime slot across CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV hit a 28-year high of 7.7 for the tournament. Streaming numbers on March Madness Live were also up 20 percent from 2018. (RELATED: The March Madness Bracket Has Been Released)

Duke playing in primetime obviously helped the numbers, but these ratings are outstanding. It initially looked like the ratings were going to take a substantial dip after Thursday. Clearly, that wasn’t a trend that would actually hold. (RELATED: Watch Wisconsin Beat Kentucky In The 2015 Final Four)

You know that things are going good in America when college basketball TV ratings hit a near three-decade high. Our founding fathers would be proud as hell.

The other thing worth noting that’s so impressive is the fact these games haven’t been particularly close, but people keep watching. That’s a great sign.

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Make sure to keep tuning in for all the action as we go down the stretch this beautiful Sunday and into next week. Trust me, you’re not going to want to miss one second of the action.

God bless this beautiful country!

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Andrew Wilford | National Taxpayers’ Union Foundation

Newly-announced presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has been criticized in recent weeks for being light on policy specifics. Of course, it’s hard to blame him for holding back on policy specifics when his primary electorate is hammering him for acknowledging some pretty basic realities about our debt crisis back in 2012.

Back in 2012, when he was in the middle of a primary challenge against then-incumbent Rep. Silvestre Reyes, O’Rourke stated that the size of the federal government was “extravagant” with an “out-of-control debt” and that “significant” spending cuts were necessary. That was true then, and it’s only become even more accurate as spending discipline has continued to slip.

It’s true that we are running trillion-dollar annual deficits and that the national debt has blown past $22 trillion in total debt. Unfortunately, that’s small potatoes compared to what’s on the horizon. Social Security and Medicare are going to blow our short-term budget problems out of the water as the baby boomer generation retires — these two programs alone are projected to run a deficit of $82 trillion over the next 30 years.

That’s a huge crisis in two programs that Americans contribute to from their paychecks and count on for their retirement. Unfortunately, it’s next to impossible for politicians to propose meaningful reforms to Social Security and Medicare without needing to look for work come next election cycle.

Instead, it’s become a common refrain on the left that the debt only became an issue on December 22, 2017, when President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) into law. That ignores the clear reality that we are in a debt crisis because our government overspends, not because we are undertaxed.

Even if the TCJA had never passed, our debt-to-GDP ratio would have gone from 76.65 percent in 2017 to 111.23 percent in 2027; with the tax reform law, the debt-to-GDP ratio was projected to increase just 3 percent by 2027, to 114.2 percent. An easy way to spot a dishonest partisan is when they blame the $1.43 trillion TCJA for our current debt crisis, but are mum on the $1.66 trillion bipartisan spending bill signed just a couple months later.

O’Rourke deserves praise for making tough statements while running for Congress in 2012. The candidate has been under attack from more extreme elements of the left due to his habit of taking positions that go against the tenets of democratic socialism — for example, refusing to back Elizabeth Warren’s tech breakup plan, making positive statements about capitalism and the power of the market, and seeming hesitant to endorse a single-payer plan. All of these heresies have led many on the left to suggest that O’Rourke doesn’t actually believe anything, a refrain that has been dutifully parroted by mainstream outlets.

Unfortunately, because of this pressure from the left, his spokesman has since felt the need to walk those statements back somewhat. For a primary electorate obsessed with denial of impending crises, the irony of a major candidate being savaged for acknowledging that Medicare and Social Security are in danger of not being solvent by the time millennials are ready to receive benefits from them is thick enough to choke on.

Beto O’Rourke was right to point to the need for Social Security and Medicare reform. It’s too bad that he’s stuck with an electorate that would rather engage in “deficit denial.”

Andrew Wilford (@PolicyWilford) is a policy analyst with the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to fiscal policy analysis and education at all levels of government.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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Yanet Garcia brought some serious fire to Instagram Sunday.

The Mexican-born star posted a video of herself in a skimpy bikini, and it’s not too hard on the eyes at all. (SLIDESHOW: These Women On Instagram Hate Wearing Clothes)

In fact, this might be one of the most scandalous things that you’ll see all day on Instagram. It’s that great. (SLIDESHOW: 142 Times Josephine Skriver Barely Wore Anything)

Take a glance below. I think you’ll know what I mean once you do. (SLIDESHOW: 71 Times Samantha Hoopes Stripped Down)

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Watching Garcia just dominate the web is one of our favorite things to do here at The Smoke Room. It never gets old. (SLIDESHOW: This Blonde Bombshell Might Be The Hottest Model On The Internet) 

While you’re here, I suggest you enjoy a few more times that she lit up Instagram with scandalous posts.(SLIDESHOW: 60 Times Abigail Ratchford Wore Almost Nothing)

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Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

A megawealthy German family with stakes in recognizable businesses like Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Panera Bread announced they will donate roughly $11 million to charity in reaction to new knowledge about how their family business profited off of the Nazi regime during World War II.

German newspaper Bild reported Sunday that the family’s ancestors Albert Reimann Sr. and Albert Reimann Jr. took advantage of forced laborers under Nazi control. Family spokesman Peter Harf confirmed Sunday that the Reimanns had recently received information that confirmed Bild’s report, which detailed the family’s business operations during World War II, reported Sky News.

The family has not decided what organization will benefit from the donation and will release the report, which they first commissioned in 2014, when it is ready, Harf said according to The Associated Press. Harf is also a managing partner of the Reimann’s JAB Holding Company. (RELATED: Democratic Senate Candidate Mark Kelly Returns $55,000 Check For Speaking In United Arab Emirates)

“We were all ashamed and turned as white as the wall,” Harf said of the family’s reaction to the revelations. “There is nothing to gloss over. These crimes are disgusting.”

Peter Harf, chairman of the board of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer, attends a shareholders' meeting in Brussels April 26, 2011. REUTERS/Thierry Roge

Peter Harf, chairman of the board of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, attends a shareholders’ meeting in Brussels April 26, 2011. REUTERS/Thierry Roge

Reimann Sr. and Reimann Jr. died in 1954 and 1984, respectively, and the family believed they knew the extent of the company’s connection to the Nazis through a 1978 report, according to the AP. But the University of Munich historian they hired found that their predecessors used French prisoners of war and Russian civilians as forced labor. Forced laborers made up about 30 percent of its industrial chemical company’s workforce in 1943.

Before the Nazis took control of Germany, the Reimanns donated to The Schutzstaffel, also known as SS, a paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler.

The family now has controlling stakes in Pret a Manger, Keurig Green Mountain, Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Caribou Coffee Co., according to the AP.

Many organizations have gone back and investigated their connections to the Nazi regime in World War II’s aftermath. A yearlong internal review by the AP itself released in May 2017 concluded a photograph exchange agreement the news organization made with Nazi Germany did not aid the regime.

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