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You knew this was coming. Still . . .

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If you think the digital revolution has been an unalloyed joy, Google has some good news for you. Everyone else -- buckle up for a bumpy ride.

According to a report in The New York Times, engineers at Google up in Silicon Valley are hard at work on developing a car that drives itself. You just climb inside, press a button, enter in some destination information, and sit back.

On Israel, synod walks line between criticism and bashing

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Rome

From a PR point of view, one quietly expressed worry by Vatican officials heading into the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East was that it not turn into a platform for bashing Israel. The concern is based on the fact that the tiny Christian minority of the region, anxious to prove its Arab credentials, is often outspokenly supportive of the Palestinians and thus critical of Israeli policy.

Read NCR's full coverage of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East: Index of stories from the Synod.

Religious freedom synod's signature issue

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tIt’s only day one of the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, but already its signature issue has come into focus: Religious freedom, seen as the cornerstone of a healthy democratic society, and as a universal cause rather than special pleading for the region’s embattled Christian minority.

tFreedom of conscience is “not so much a right to be claimed for Christians,” said Patriarch Antonios Naguib of the Egyptian Coptic church this morning. Instead, he said, it’s a “universal right, which Christians and Muslims defend together for the common good.”

Beyond exodus, a Christian influx in the Middle East

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tWhile pundits and activists sound alarms about an “exodus” of Christians out of the Middle East, raising questions about whether Christians may be an endangered species in the land of Christianity’s birth, the Synod of Bishops this morning heard a reminder that there’s an opposite, if not exactly equal, movement of Christians into the region.

tOf the sixteen nations that make up the Middle East, seven have actually seen significant spikes in their Catholic population since 1980: Saudia Arabia, Bahrein, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Yemen. All are part of the Arabian Peninsula.

Pope sketches 'positive secularism' for Middle East

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tWhile emphasizing that the primary purpose of the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East is pastoral, Pope Benedict XVI yesterday sketched a vision of “harmonious development” for the region that the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera summarized as “positive secularism” – premised on justice, peace, and respect for the human rights of all peoples and religions.

tThe pontiff spoke in the context of a homily for the synod’s opening Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The working calendar begins today with the table-setting speech “before the discussion” by the synod’s relator, or general secretary, Patriarch Antonios Naguib of the Egyptian Coptic church.

Morning Briefing

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Pope condemns violence 'in God's name'

Protest Against Catholic DVD At Archbishop's Home

Catholic parishioners urged to think green

More Cuban political prisoners to be released, Catholic Church says

Andrew Cuomo Accuses NY Gov Rival Carl Paladino Of Being Homophobic , “Carl Paladino is simply expressing his views that he holds in his heart as a Catholic,” campaign manager Michael R. Caputo told the paper. “Carl Paladino is not homophobic, and neither is the Catholic Church.”

Not your ordinary 'Mike'

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The New York Post reports that a family's uncared-for painting could really be a lost piece by Michelangelo:

This unfinished painting of Jesus and Mary could be a lost Michelangelo, potentially the art find of the century.

But to the upstate family on whose living-room wall it hung for years, it was just "The Mike."
When the kids knocked the painting off its perch with an errant tennis ball sometime in the mid-1970s, the Kober clan wrapped it up and tucked it away behind the sofa.

There it remained for 27 years, until Air Force Lt. Col. Martin Kober retired in 2003 and had some time on his hands. His father gave him a task -- research the family lore that the painting was really a Michelangelo.

A delight for the eyes: ìThe Kings of Pastry\"

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“A crème puff is very basic, and you have to dress it up, but not to be different from what it is.”

In the wide world of cooking reality shows on television, and food movies in general, “The Kings of Pastry” is a small but mighty contribution.

This 85-minute documentary film by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus is a first-time inside look at a competition between professionals, Meillerus Ouvrieres de France.

In this case, the competition is to find the best pastry craftsmen of France. Previous winners are known by the prized “tricolores” red, white, and blue collar on their chef garb and judges come from this elite group and other renowned chefs.

The film follows pastry chef finalists Jacquy Pfeiffer (co-founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School), Regis Lazard, and Philippe Rigollot (from Maison Pic, France’s only three start restaurant owned by a woman).

Despite the title of the film and the fact that women chefs do not figure in this particular competition held every four years, one imagines that there must be some great female pastry chefs in France.

Middle East synod is unique, and here's why

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

tIn broad strokes, one Synod of Bishops in Rome is pretty much like another one – the same procedures, the same structures, often the same faces and same issues. Yet there are several features which make the Oct. 10-24 Synod for the Middle East unique, which were highlighted this morning by Archbishop Nikola Eterovi?, a Croat who heads the Vatican department for synods of bishops, in a briefing for reporters.

Read NCR's full coverage of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East: Index of stories from the Synod.

Ad orientem

tFor one thing, this is clearly a synod ad orientem, meaning directed to the East. Of the 185 bishops taking part (out of a total of some 270 participants), 140 come from the 22 Eastern Catholic churches in union with Rome, meaning that just 45 represent the Latin Rite. In most synods, the bishops and other participants from the East are almost a footnote – this time around, they’re the main act.

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