St. Joseph’s Day

St. Joseph’s Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Joseph, is the feast day for St. Joseph – which falls on March 19th each year. Saint Joseph is believed by Christians to have been the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the step-father of Jesus Christ.  In Poland and Canada, it is a Patronal Feast Day and is Father’s Day in some Catholic countries such as Italy and Spain. In Switzerland, it is a public holiday.

History of St. Joseph’s Day

On some Western calendars, St. Joseph’s Day was clearly marked on March 19th by the 10th century. By the late 15th century, the custom was adopted by Rome. In 1570, Pope St. Pius V extended its use to the entire Roman Rite. From the late 19th century through the middle of the 20th century, a feast day had been established to honor St. Joseph as the spouse of the Virgin Mary. It was originally celebrated on the 3rd Sunday after Easter but was eventually moved to the Wednesday before and re-titled The Solemnity of Saint Joseph. However, this celebration was abolished by Pope Pius XII in 1955.

St. Joseph’s Day Customs & Traditions

St. Joseph’s Day is celebrated all over the world. In Sicily, participants usually wear red and build what is known as “St. Joseph’s Table.” This table is often decorated with flowers and candles, and people place wine and foods on it that are considered lucky. Some of these lucky foods include fava beans, lemons, and foods that contain sawdust. All of these foods have symbolic meanings. Fava beans were the only things that survived a drought during the Middle Ages in Italy – which is why it is considered lucky. Breadcrumbs are worked into the recipes of the dishes because St. Joseph was a carpenter and the breadcrumbs represent sawdust. Some people place fish and seafood on the altar as well. However, what is not placed on St. Joseph’s Table is any dish which contains meat. That’s because this holiday occurs during Lent.

In Sicily, it is also believed that if a woman manages to sneak a lemon off of St. Joseph’s Table on this day, then she have better luck finding a husband. It is also customary for people to wear red on this day and to indulge themselves with doughnuts and crème puffs. In Italy, Spain and Portugal, St. Joseph’s Day is Father’s Day.

Since New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States was a major port of entry for Sicilian immigrants during the late 1800s and has a large Sicilian population, this holiday is celebrated by the whole city. On St. Joseph’s Day. St. Joseph’s Tables are built both for the public and by private individuals. These altars are then filled with a variety of different food – just like the celebrations in Sicily – however, these foods usually have somewhat of a Cajun twist to them. Afterward, all of the food is then usually donated to the poor. New Orleans also has a variety of parades and marching bands performing on the streets during this day.

In Switzerland, it is a public holiday in some of the cantons. The cantons which observe this day include Valais, Schwyz, Uri, Ticino, and Nidwalden. On these days, banks and schools are usually closed but many businesses may still be open. While this holiday was traditionally popular in Switzerland, it has begun to lose much of that popularity over the last several years and fewer people are observing it in this country.

St. Joseph’s Day is also traditionally celebrated in many other American communities, particularly those who have large Italian populations. This includes cities such as New York, Syracuse, Buffalo, Jersey City, Chicago, Gloucester, Providence, Kansas City and St. Louis. In Providence, some people will wear red clothing on this day – much in the same way that people will wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.

In parts of New England and the Midwest, American with Polish ancestry will often celebrate this holiday as an imieniny. Known as Dzien Swietego Jozefa, Polish-American parishes will hold St. Joseph’s Tables in solidarity with the Italian parishes. Since this holiday falls on Lent, no meat is served on these altars.


Stephen Hawking, ground-breaking physicist, dead at 76

Dr. Hawking delivered an address at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre in April 2016.
Dr. Hawking delivered an address at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre in April 2016.

Stephen Hawking, the British physicist whose scientific achievements, decades-long battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and best-selling book “A Brief History of Time” helped make him the most celebrated scientist since Albert Einstein, died at his home in Cambridge, England, his family said in a statement early Wednesday. He was 76.

Dr. Hawking, who was emeritus Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, a chair once held by Sir Isaac Newton, was often called the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein. His most important work — which brought together quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and the general theory of relativity — marked a startling extension of Einstein’s greatest discovery, relativity.

Dr. Hawking focused his research on what are now known as black holes, dying stars that have collapsed upon themselves, forming centers (“singularities”) of such density and with such immense gravitational force that nothing, not even light, can escape. In a 1965 paper, a colleague, Roger Penrose, had done the theoretical work to demonstrate that singularities could exist.

Dr. Hawking took this framework and applied it to the origins of the universe as a whole, treating the entire universe as if it were a singularity and showing that “time has a beginning.” His name then became linked with the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe, and his work became a major support of the theory, which is now the generally held view on the origins of the cosmos.

Dr. Hawking’s groundbreaking advances in cosmology, the science of the nature of the universe, early on earned him renown among scientists. What made him a household name was his tragic illness. He was first diagnosed as having amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 1962, just as he was beginning graduate studies.

ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, afflicts the spinal cord and those parts of the brain that control motor functions. As the affected cells degenerate, muscular atrophy leads to paralysis. However, other functions of the brain, such as memory and reasoning, remain unaffected.

Dr. Hawking’s doctors told him he had two years to live. He proved them spectacularly wrong. Demonstrating an indomitable, even heroic, will, Dr. Hawking carried on with his work and is believed to have been the longest-surviving patient to have ALS.

Almost immediately Dr. Hawking was required to use a cane, then crutches, and eventually a wheelchair. As he lost use of his arms, he was unable to work out equations on a blackboard. He was called upon to produce prodigious feats of memory to deal with the mathematics involved in theoretical physics. As Werner Israel, a colleague, once noted, Dr. Hawking’s “achievement is as though Mozart had composed and carried an entire symphony in his head.”

His arms and legs were not the only parts affected by the disease.. By the mid 1970s, only family members and close associates could understand his increasingly slurred speech. Even that form of communication was denied him when a near-fatal bout with pneumonia in 1985 necessitated a tracheotomy, which left him voiceless. He could, however, laboriously type out words with his left hand — and, in fact, had for several years been using a computer keyboard to facilitate communication.

A computer-controlled voice synthesizer was then developed for Dr. Hawking, and it was by machine that he communicated for the rest of his life.

“It was a bit slow,” he once said with characteristic humor, “but then I think slowly, so it suited me well.” As his muscular control further deteriorated, eye twitches were eventually employed to control the synthesizer.

This remarkable medical history combined with Dr. Hawking’s scientific eminence to make him a worldwide celebrity. People magazine described him in 1995 as “almost a character of science fiction, a disembodied intellect above and beyond the flesh.”

That disembodied intellect was also one of the world’s best-selling authors. Since its publication in 1988, “A Brief History of Time,” Dr. Hawking’s introduction to cosmology for lay readers, has been translated into 40 languages and sold some 10 million copies. Presumably, he could have sold 20 million: Told by a publisher that “each equation I included in the book would halve the sales,” Dr. Hawking “resolved not to have any equations at all,” but did end up including Einstein’s E=mc2.

Dr. Hawking’s wizened, 90-pound frame, slumped in a computer-equipped wheelchair, became a familiar media image. The director Errol Morris made a film of “A Brief History of Time,” starring Dr. Hawking. When the publisher of his first book, an esoteric work titled “The Large Scale Structure of Space-time,” changed the author credit on its dustjacket from “S. W. Hawking” to “Stephen Hawking,” sales jumped. A character on the ABC series “Lost” was named “Hawking,” a nod to the scientist. He appeared on an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”and was a “guest voice” on “The Simpsons.” “We were in awe of him, said Matt Selman, one of the show’s writers. “He was unbelievably cool.”

Dr. Hawking published four children’s books, written with his daughter, as well as the best-selling “The Universe in a Nutshell,” in 2001, and “The Grand Design,’ written with Leonard Mlodinow, in 2010, among other titles.

“I want my books sold on airport bookstalls,” Dr. Hawking once said.

Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford, England, on Jan. 8, 1942 — the 300th anniversary of the death of Galileo Galilei, the father of modern science. Dr. Hawking dryly noted in his 2013 autobiography, “My Brief History,” that some 300,000 other babies were born the same day and “I don’t know whether any of them was later interested in astronomy.” He was the son of Isobel and Frank Hawking, a physician specializing in research into tropical diseases. “My father would have liked me to do medicine,” Dr. Hawking later recalled. “However, I felt that biology was too descriptive and not sufficiently fundamental.”

Although Dr. Hawking did not learn to read until he was 8, he did well enough in secondary school to win a scholarship to Oxford University. While there, he won the University Physics Prize yet later estimated that during his three years as an undergraduate he spent perhaps 1,000 hours actually studying — or roughly 60 minutes a day. Capitalizing on his small frame, he was coxswain on his college crew team. He also began to display the mischievousness that would mark him for the rest of his life. A favored tactic in later years when he heard an annoying statement was to run his wheelchair over the speaker’s toes. At Oxford, Dr. Hawking was, in the words of his biographers, Michael White and John Gribbin, “a graffiti-daubing sluggard.”

His sluggardness put Dr. Hawking on the cusp between a First- and Second-class degree. In such cases, an oral examination is prescribed. Asked by his chief examiner what his plans were, he replied, “If you award me a First, I will go to Cambridge” (a First was required for the program he had applied to there). “If I receive a Second, I shall stay at Oxford, so I expect you will give me a First.”

Dr. Hawking did go to Cambridge and began graduate work in cosmology. Earlier that year, he had begun to exhibit symptoms of his illness. “Lay off the beer” was the advice of the first doctor he consulted. Soon enough Dr. Hawking was diagnosed. The fact that he was in theoretical physics — a discipline consisting of mathematical calculations rather than experiments — meant that he could expect to continue working. In addition, as colleagues later noted, his illness might even be seen to have expedited his work, freeing him from the standard bureaucratic chores of academe and mundane domestic tasks.

That was little consolation to Dr. Hawking, and he entered into a state of depression, secluding himself and listening to music, particularly the operas of Richard Wagner. He found himself thinking: “How could something like this happen to me? Why should I be cut off like this?” Yet, as he later recounted, the memory of a boy dying of leukemia in the next hospital bed while Dr. Hawking was undergoing the tests that diagnosed ALS acted as a powerful corrective.

“Clearly there were people worse off than me. At least my condition didn’t make me feel sick. Whenever I feel inclined to be sorry for myself, I remember that boy.”

An even more important factor in bringing Dr. Hawking out of his depression was Jane Wilde. He had met her at a family New Year’s Eve party shortly before his disease was diagnosed. They married in 1965. As his disease worsened, she devoted herself to his care.

The early years of Dr. Hawking’s battle with the disease, along with this marriage, inspired the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything.” Eddie Redmayne won a best actor Academy Award for his portrayal of the scientist.

The couple later had three children: Robert, Lucy, and Timothy. Dr. Hawking once said that his greatest regret about his illness was “not being able to play physically with my children.”

The Hawkings divorced in 1995, and later that year he married Elaine Mason, who had been his nurse for a number of years before she and Dr. Hawking married and whose first husband had designed the voice synthesizer he employed. They divorced in 2007.

His three children released a statement to the British media early Wednesday, according to the Guardian newspaper: “He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.

“He once said: ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him for ever.”

In 1965, Dr. Hawking received his PhD for his work on black holes, contained in his thesis, “Properties of Expanding Universes.” He was made a fellow of Cambridge’s Gonville and Caius College. It was an especially exciting time in cosmology, as such astronomical discoveries as pulsars and quasars opened new avenues for Dr. Hawking and his colleagues to pursue.

Over the next few years, he built a reputation for himself as a gifted — and somewhat brash — theoretician. He and Penrose worked further on singularities, predicting in 1970 that black holes could in fact be detected. This later was borne out experimentally. Then came what one writer has called “Hawking’s Eureka Moment,” a flash of insight that transformed cosmology. “One evening in November 1970,” he later recalled, “I started to think about black holes as I was getting into bed. My disability makes this rather a slow process, so I had plenty of time.” The realization came to him that the surface area of a black hole can remain constant or increase, but can never decrease.

Hawking’s Law of Area Increase, as this became known, raised numerous problems, however, problems that led to the formulation by Dr. Hawking of a breathtaking menage a trois among quantum mechanics and relativity (the two greatest achievements of 20th-century physics) and thermodynamics, a field of 19th-century physics. Dr. Hawking argued that, against all previous assumptions, “black holes are really not black after all. They have a temperature, an entropy and produce radiation just like any other thermodynamic body.”

“It is unlikely that there has ever been a more powerful demonstration of the self-consistency of physics,” the science writer J. P. McEvoy has written, “than this formulation, which became known as Hawking Radiation.”

In March 1974, shortly after the announcement of Hawking Radiation, he was made a fellow of the Royal Society. Dr. Hawking was 32, one of the youngest scientists to be invested in that august assemblage.

Seven years later, Dr. Hawking weighed in again on his first research interest, the origins of the universe. At a Vatican conference, he delivered his “No Boundary Proposal,” in which he applied quantum theory — which seeks to explain the transfer of energy among matter’s most basic building blocks — to the origins of the universe, arguing that space and time were finite but without boundary or edge. Dr. Hawking went on to use the No Boundary Proposal to develop quantum cosmology, further refining the application of quantum mechanics to the singularity at the Big Bang.

It was this turn in his work that led Dr. Hawking to write “A Brief History of Time.” Other books by him include “300 Years of Gravitation,” “Black Holes and Baby Universes” and, as joint editor, “General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey,” “Superspace and Supergravity,” and “The Very Early Universe.”

When Dr. Hawking announced in 2004 that he’d made a mistake in his calculations about black holes, that information can in fact escape from them, it drew worldwide headlines.

“I’m sorry to disappoint science fiction fans,” he announced at a conference in Dublin that year, “but if information is preserved there is no possibility of using black holes to travel to other universes.” Provoking laughter from the audience he added, “If you jump into a black hole, your mass energy will be returned to our universe, but in a mangled form, which contains the information about what you were like, but in an unrecognizable state,”

Dr. Hawking made headlines in 2007 with a different form of travel. He took off from Cape Canaveral in a specially designed Boeing 727 and experienced zero gravity for eight 25-second periods.

“It was amazing,’ Dr. Hawking said of the experience of floating in air. “I could have gone on and on. Space, here I come.”

Dr. Hawking was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards, among them the Wolf Foundation Prize, the Maxwell Medal, the Fundament Physics Prize, and Albert Einstein Award.

“If you understand how the universe operates,” he wrote in “My Brief History,” “you control it, in a way.”

Five people die in NYC helicopter crash, but the pilot survives

By Joe Sterling, Brynn Gingras and Holly Yan, CNN

New York (CNN)The fatal New York City helicopter crash that killed everyone on board except the pilot may have been caused by a passenger’s piece of luggage, the pilot told investigators.

The pilot said one of the passenger’s bags may have inadvertently hit the emergency fuel shutoff button, leading to the crash that killed five passengers, a senior law enforcement official said.
The National Transportation Safety Board will try to determine the cause of the Sunday evening crash, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The NTSB tweeted that an investigation team of 14 people would arrive Monday morning.
The passengers were on a Liberty Helicopters chopper that had been chartered for a private photo shoot, authorities said.
“One of the most difficult parts of the rescue were that five people were tightly harnessed,” Fire Department of New York Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. “People had to be cut out.”
The pilot was able to free himself and was rescued, Daniel Nigro said.
In an audio recording of a mayday call to LaGuardia Airport, the pilot can be heard saying that the helicopter was experiencing engine failure.

Company had 3 crashes in 11 years

The pilot was the sole survivor the the helicopter crash Sunday evening.

Liberty Helicopters describes itself on its website as “the largest and most experienced helicopter sightseeing and charter service in New York City.”
The company has “a fleet of 10 state-of-the-art Airbus helicopters (formerly American Eurocopter),” according to the website. “We have been in business and flying safely for over 30 years,” the website says.
This is the company’s third crash in 11 years, according to CNN affiliate WABC-TV. In August 2009, nine people were killed after a helicopter and a small, private plane crashed into each other over the Hudson River. Investigators said the helicopter was flying too high.
Two years before that, in July 2007, a Liberty sightseeing chopper carrying eight people dropped into the Hudson river. An off-duty paramedic on board helped everyone escape, WABC reports.
The Federal Aviation Administration said on Twitter that the helicopter went down in the river near Roosevelt Island at 7 p.m. ET. The FAA identified it as a Eurocopter AS350.
The helicopter was upside down and submerged when emergency responders reached it, authorities said.
Police said the chopper was in the water around 23rd Street and called for a barge with a crane to pull it out.

Crash investigation

First responders carry a person to an ambulance after the helicopter crashed into the East River.

The NTSB will likely look at three things: the pilot’s training, experience and immediate response during the crash; what, if anything, on the helicopter caused the crash; and what environmental factors may have contributed to the crash, said Gary C. Robb, an aviation attorney based in Missouri.
Robb says the NTSB would then release a preliminary report, and a probable-cause accident report would follow detailing what happened during the crash.
John J. Magers filmed the crash as it took place and posted the video on Twitter. He said he thought something was strange when he saw the helicopter flying low before it crashed into the East River, so he started shooting video.
“I saw it coming down toward the water. Thought it was unusual, but didn’t expect it to crash,” Magers told CNN. “My thoughts are with those killed.”

Russia says it has successfully tested advanced hypersonic missile

Radina Gigova

(CNN)Russia’s Defense Ministry says it has successfully tested one of the “invincible” missiles that President Vladimir Putin said earlier this month could deliver a warhead at hypersonic speed and pierce US defenses.

“A MiG-31 fighter crew of the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted a combat training launch of a hypersonic missile of the Kinzhal high-precision air missile system in the designated area,” the ministry said in statement Saturday.
“The hypersonic missile confirmed its technical operational performance and timing data of the Kinzhal missile system,” the statement said.
The Russian Defense Ministry has released what it described as footage of the Kinzhal launch. The video appears to show a military jet carrying a missile. Some parts of the missile are blurred.
The weapon, designed to eliminate targets on the ground and at sea, hit its assigned target at a training ground, the ministry said, and described the launch as “normal.”
Russian military personnel have been trained to carry out day and nighttime flights with the weapon in any weather conditions, the ministry said.
The ministry said that, due to the high flight characteristics of the MiG-31 aircraft and advanced high-maneuverable hypersonic technology, “the Kinzhal has no analogues in the world” — a claim US officials have downplayed as “election rhetoric” ahead of Russia’s presidential vote on March 18.

Russian Aerospace Forces conduct a training launch of Kinzhal hypersonic missile

In an annual address to the Russian Parliament, Putin said Russia had developed a new, nuclear-capable cruise missile with “unlimited” range that is able to elude air defense systems. He also said Russia had developed an “invincible” missile that can deliver a warhead at hypersonic speed.
“Russia still has the greatest nuclear potential in the world, but nobody listened to us,” said Putin. “Listen now.”

Putin touts new nuclear-powered missile

Putin touts new nuclear-powered missile 01:38
Talking to reporters while en route to Oman on Sunday, US Defense Secretary James Mattis expressed skepticism at Russia’s claims of having developed such high-tech missiles, saying such technology is “still years away.”
“I saw no change to the Russian military capability, and each of these systems he (Putin) is talking about that are still years away, I did not see them changing the military balance,” said Mattis. “They did not impact any need on our side for a change in our deterrent posture.”
While Putin may have been boasting about Russia’s resurgent military might in order to bolster his image as a strong leader at home and on the global stage, Mattis said the show of force is still against Russia’s own interests.
“Let me talk about the end state. How many years away they are, how much money they want to put into this arms race that they are creating with themselves,” said Mattis.
“At the end of the day, they can sink all that money in; it does not change my strategic calculation,” he said. “I just assumed it would all happen at great expense to the Russian people. It does not change anything.”

Target in Putin's nuke video looks like Florida

Target in Putin’s nuke video looks like Florida 02:25
A US official with knowledge of the latest Russian military assessment also expressed doubt to CNN that the weapons Putin described were even close to being operational. If Russia ever attacked the United States, it would be met with overwhelming force, said the source.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said department officials watched Putin’s address and the weapons presentation, which featured an animation of a nuclear strike against the United States.
“That’s certainly something that we did not enjoy watching,” she said. “We don’t regard that as the behavior of a responsible international player.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry has launched a web page seeking the public’s help with naming its new arsenal.