Low-key departure as pope steps down and hides away

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict slips quietly from the world stage on Thursday after a private last goodbye to his cardinals and a short flight to a country palace to enter the final phase of his life "hidden from the world".

In keeping with his shy and modest ways, there will be no public ceremony to mark the first papal resignation in six centuries and no solemn declaration ending his nearly eight-year reign at the head of the world's largest church.

His last public appearance will be a short greeting to residents and well-wishers at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence south of Rome, in the late afternoon after his 15-minute helicopter hop from the Vatican.

When the resignation becomes official at 8 p.m. Rome time (02.00 p.m. EST), Benedict will be relaxing inside the 17th century palace. Swiss Guards on duty at the main gate to indicate the pope's presence within will simply quit their posts and return to Rome to await their next pontiff.

Avoiding any special ceremony, Benedict used his weekly general audience on Wednesday to bid an emotional farewell to more than 150,000 people who packed St Peter's Square to cheer for him and wave signs of support.

With a slight smile, his often stern-looking face seemed content and relaxed as he acknowledged the loud applause from the crowd.

"Thank you, I am very moved," he said in Italian. His unusually personal remarks included an admission that "there were moments ... when the seas were rough and the wind blew against us and it seemed that the Lord was sleeping".


Once the chair of St Peter is vacant, cardinals who have assembled from around the world for Benedict's farewell will begin planning the closed-door conclave that will elect his successor.

One of the first questions facing these "princes of the Church" is when the 115 cardinal electors should enter the Sistine Chapel for the voting. They will hold a first meeting on Friday but a decision may not come until next week.

The Vatican seems to be aiming for an election by mid-March so the new pope can be installed in office before Palm Sunday on March 24 and lead the Holy Week services that culminate in Easter on the following Sunday.

In the meantime, the cardinals will hold daily consultations at the Vatican at which they discuss issues facing the Church, get to know each other better and size up potential candidates for the 2,000-year-old post of pope.

There are no official candidates, no open campaigning and no clear front runner for the job. Cardinals tipped as favorites by Vatican watchers include Brazil's Odilo Scherer, Canadian Marc Ouellet, Ghanaian Peter Turkson, Italy's Angelo Scola and Timothy Dolan of the United States.


Benedict, a bookish man who did not seek the papacy and did not enjoy the global glare it brought, proved to be an energetic teacher of Catholic doctrine but a poor manager of the Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy that became mired in scandal during his reign.

He leaves his successor a top secret report on rivalries and scandals within the Curia, prompted by leaks of internal files last year that documented the problems hidden behind the Vatican's thick walls and the Church's traditional secrecy.

After about two months at Castel Gandolfo, Benedict plans to move into a refurbished convent in the Vatican Gardens, where he will live out his life in prayer and study, "hidden to the world", as he put it.

Having both a retired and a serving pope at the same time proved such a novelty that the Vatican took nearly two weeks to decide his title and form of clerical dress.

He will be known as the "pope emeritus," wear a simple white cassock rather than his white papal clothes and retire his famous red "shoes of the fisherman," a symbol of the blood of the early Christian martyrs, for more pedestrian brown ones.

(Reporting By Tom Heneghan; editing by Philip Pullella and Giles Elgood)

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Shares, euro rebound, Italy bond sale in focus

LONDON (Reuters) - Reassurance from the U.S. Federal Reserve about its stimulus program helped stabilize the euro and European shares on Wednesday, as Italy prepared to test the reaction to its inconclusive election in the bond market.

Italy will auction up to 6.5 billion euros of new 5- and 10-year bonds at around 1000 GMT after gridlocked elections reignited fears about the euro zone debt crisis.

"Markets have started to price in risks of ungovernability of the country in the coming months, with possible domino effects on the rest of the euro area," said Newedge economist Annalisa Piazza.

"Political instability is expected to prevail ...and even a grand coalition government would be seen only as a temporary option, probably not able to continue the so-much needed reforms process."

Having fallen sharply on Tuesday following the Italian stalemate, European shares <.fteu3> rebounded 0.4 percent as trading resumed with 0.8 percent rises in Milan's FTSE MIB <.ftmib> and Spain's IBEX <.ibex> the leading the gains.

The mood was helped after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke defended the U.S. central bank's monetary stimulus on Tuesday, easing financial market worries over a possible early retreat from bond purchases.

The euro also regained ground, rising 0.2 percent to $1.3085 having hit a seven-week low of $1.3017 on Tuesday.

In the bond market Italian yields, which rise as prices fall, inched up again, while German government bonds , a favourite of risk-adverse investors, also added to this week's hefty gains.

"Italy remains the centre of attention and I can't see it getting any better," one trader said. "Supply will be the main focus and ... it could be a bit of a problem."

(Editing by Anna Willard)

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Yahoo CEO right to cut remote work


  • Raymond Fisman: Marissa Mayer needs to revive Yahoo, and face time at the office is key

  • Fisman: Granted, this goes against Utopian vision of everyone working from cafes

  • Fisman: In-person work means innovations, avoids misunderstood directives

  • He says more jobs will get done and it'll encourage those who work in a half-empty office

Editor's note: Raymond Fisman is the Lambert Family professor of social enterprise at the Columbia Business School. He is the co-author, with Tim Sullivan, of "The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office."

(CNN) -- When Yahoo's relatively new CEO Marissa Mayer decreed that workers would be required to show up at the office rather than work remotely, the immediate backlash from outsiders was mostly on the side of the angry Yahoo employees who were losing the comfort and convenience of telecommuting. Inside the company, reactions were mixed.

It struck a deep chord, contrary as it was to the techno-utopian impulse that has helped define Silicon Valley: the idea that someday soon we'll all be working in coffee shops or at kitchen tables, with broadband connections replacing in-person interactions.

Mayer may have been extreme in her demands for face time at the office, but it's the right call for a leader who is working to turn around one of the Internet's laggards.

Raymond Fisman

Raymond Fisman

First, let's consider what's at stake for the company and what Mayer is hoping to accomplish. Yahoo is famous for having bungled its position as a one-time Internet leader. Mayer was brought on specifically to revitalize the benighted company after the departure of Jerry Yang; the firing of Carol Bartz, and the departures of another CEO who inflated his resume and an interim director. All the while, Yahoo has been a company in search of a direction.

What does the end of telecommuting have to do with giving the company a sound footing? The reasons go well beyond the obvious issue of reining in slackers who have taken advantage of Yahoo's reportedly lax monitoring of work done from home.

Talk Back: Is Yahoo wrong to end telecommuting?

Jackie Reses, Yahoo's head of human relations, has it exactly right in the memo she wrote to employees about the policy: Personal interaction is still the most effective way of conveying a company's direction, and keeping tabs on what different parts of the organization are up to. And that's what Mayer has to do with all of Yahoo's 11,500 employees to succeed.

What do in-person meetings accomplish that e-mail can't? Part of the answer lies in time use surveys of CEOs that go back nearly 40 years.

Management scholar Henry Mintzberg was among the first to track how top managers spend their time in the early 1970s. Much to his surprise, he found that around 80% of their time was spent in face-to-face meetings; the subjects of his study had few stretches of more than 10 minutes at a time to themselves.

More recent time use studies by researchers at Harvard, the London School of Economics and Columbia have found that little has changed. Despite the IT revolution, business leaders still spend 80% of their time in face-to-face meetings.

The reason is that there's only so much that one can glean from a written report or a spreadsheet. To cut through the hidden agendas, and office politics, most of the time you need to look someone in the eye and ask them, "Really? How exactly would that work?" It is this probing and questioning that allows effective managers to gather the scraps of information needed to understand what's really going on.

Similarly, all the way down the organizational chart, person-to-person interactions are crucial to ensure that an organization's change of direction isn't misrepresented or garbled in its retelling.

The bland proclamations made in reports and e-mails are given clearer meaning through the way they're communicated in the "high fidelity" that only personal interaction will allow. In-person meetings can also help teams avoid misunderstandings: As one of our friends who runs a virtual workplace puts it, with e-mail exchanges alone, everyone starts to get a bit paranoid.

Finally, the Yahoo memo notes that it's hard to innovate via e-mail exchanges or the occasional agenda-filled meeting. New ideas spring up through chance encounters in the cafeteria line and impromptu office meetings. It's an assertion that's backed up by academic research highlighting the importance of physical proximity in driving scientific progress.

Work at home? Share productivity tips

Yet there are rarely benefits without cost. Lots of tasks are easily managed from a distance. A large number of the affected Yahoo employees are customer-service representatives who aren't going to be driving innovation at the company anyway.

In one study of telecommuting at a Chinese online travel agency, customer-service reps were both happier and more productive when working from home -- probably Yahoo service reps aren't any different from their Chinese counterparts in this regard. And every Yahoo employee surely has some aspects of their jobs that could be done just as well at the kitchen table as in an office cubicle.

But it's hard to create a norm of "physically together" if the office is always half-empty. And once it becomes that way, the half that have been showing up will be less and less inclined to bother. Finally, such a shocking and provocative directive will most certainly have the effect of imbuing the organization with the sense of urgency it needs to get the job done.

Will Yahoo employees come around to appreciating the change? Not necessarily the ones that liked to sleep in or work on a startup on Yahoo's dime, but it may be welcomed by the ones already showing up. Will it be damaging to morale? Possibly, though it may help Yahoo employees to remember that, if they're successful, the change is likely to be temporary.

But the job of the CEO isn't to maximize worker happiness. It's to make sure they get their jobs done. And in driving change at Yahoo, Mayer thinks they need to show up at the office.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

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The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Raymond Fisman.

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Kelly easily wins Democratic race to replace Jackson Jr.

Former state Rep. Robin Kelly easily won the special Democratic primary Tuesday night in the race to replace the disgraced Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress, helped by millions of dollars in pro-gun control ads from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's political fund.

A snowstorm and lack of voter interest kept turnout low as Kelly had 52 percent to 25 percent for former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson and 11 percent for Chicago 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale with 99 percent of precincts counted.

Kelly will formally take on the winner of the Republican primary in an April 9 special general election in the heavily Democratic district. In the GOP contest, less than 25 votes separated convicted felon Paul McKinley and businessman Eric Wallace.

Kelly framed her win as a victory for gun control forces.

"You sent a message that was heard around our state and across the nation," Kelly told supporters in a Matteson hotel ballroom. "A message that tells the NRA that their days of holding our country hostage are coming to an end.

"To every leader in the fight for gun control ready to work with President (Barack) Obama and Mayor (Rahm) Emanuel to stop this senseless violence, thank you for your leadership and thank you for your courage," she said.

Halvorson told supporters to rally around Kelly as the Democratic nominee. But Halvorson also made it clear she believed her biggest opponent was the mayor of New York, whose anti-gun super political action committee spent more than $2.2 million attacking her previous support from the National Rifle Association while backing Kelly.

"We all know how rough it was for me to have to run an election against someone who spent ($2.2) million against me," Halvorson said at Homewood restaurant. "Every 71/2 minutes there was a commercial."

Bloomberg's Independence USA PAC was the largest campaign interest in the race and dominated the Chicago broadcast TV airwaves compared to a marginal buy by one minor candidate.

Beale also called Bloomberg's influence "the biggest disservice in this race."

"If this is the future of the Democratic Party, then we are all in big trouble," Beale said.

Bloomberg, an Emanuel ally in the fight for tougher gun restrictions, called Kelly's win "an important victory for common sense leadership on gun violence" as well as sign that voters "are demanding change" in a Congress that has refused to enact tougher gun restrictions, fearing the influence of the NRA.

But as much as Bloomberg sought to portray the Kelly win as a victory over the influential NRA, the national organization stayed out of the contest completely while the state rifle association sent out one late mailer for Halvorson.

Be it the TV ads or a late consolidation toward Kelly in the campaign, the former Matteson lawmaker made an impressive showing with Democratic voters in suburban Cook County, where the bulk of the district's vote was located, as well as on the South Side.

Despite the size of the field, Kelly got more than half of the votes cast in the two most populated areas of the district. Halvorson won by large percentages over Kelly in Kankakee County and the district's portion of Will County, but those two areas have very few votes.

The special primary election, by its nature, already had been expected to be a low-turnout affair — an expedited contest with little time for contenders to raise money or mount a traditional campaign.

Adding to the lack of interest was the fact that there were no other contests on the ballot in Chicago and most of the suburban Cook County portion of the district. Few contests were being held in Kankakee County and the portion of Will County within the 2nd District.

Turnout was reported to be around 15 percent in the city and suburban Cook. More than 98 percent of the primary votes cast in Chicago were Democratic, as were 97 percent of those cast in suburban Cook.

On the Republican side, the unofficial vote leader was McKinley, 54, who was arrested 11 times from 2003 to 2007, mostly for protesting, with almost all of the charges dropped. In the 1970s and '80s, McKinley was convicted of six felony counts, serving nearly 20 years in prison for burglaries, armed robberies and aggravated battery. He previously declined to discuss the circumstances of those crimes but has dubbed himself the "ex-offender preventing the next offender" in his campaign.

Records show McKinley also owes $14,147 in federal taxes, which might explain his answer at a forum when asked if he would cut any federal programs. "Certainly," he said. "The IRS."

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World powers and Iran end talks, sides to meet again

ALMATY (Reuters) - World powers ended two days of talks with Iran on Wednesday with no sign of a breakthrough, and the two sides have agreed to meet at expert level in Istanbul next month and to hold further high-level negotiations in Kazakhstan in April.

At the talks that ended in the Kazakh city of Almaty, the six world powers - France, Germany, the United States, China Russia and Britain - offered to lift some sanctions if Iran scaled back nuclear activity the West fears could be used to build bombs. Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons.

Hopes of a significant easing of the deadlock in the decade-old dispute were dented when Russian media cited a source close to the talks as saying there had been no clear progress.

"So far there is no particular rapprochement. There is an impression that the atmosphere is not very good," Interfax news agency quoted the source as saying shortly before the talks ended.

Iran said the expert-level talks between the two sides would be held in Istanbul on March 18 and another round of political negotiations in Almaty on April 5-6.

Russia's negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, said the Istanbul meeting would take place on March 17-18 and gave the same dates as Iran of April 5-6 for the Almaty talks.

The meeting in Almaty that ended on Wednesday was the first between the world powers and Iran in eight months. Western officials described the first day of the talks as "useful". Iranian state television described the atmosphere in the discussions as "very serious".

The outcome will be closely watched in Israel, which has strongly hinted that it could attack Iran's nuclear sites if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop Tehran's uranium enrichment program.

Iran says Israel's assumed nuclear arsenal is the main threat to peace and denies Western allegations it is seeking to develop the capability to make atomic bombs. It says it is only aiming to produce nuclear energy so that it can export more oil.

In their latest attempt to break years of stalemate in the dispute, the powers are offering Iran a relaxation of some of the sanctions that are taking a heavy toll on its economy.

Western officials have confirmed the offer includes some limited sanctions easing if Iran closes a underground site where it carries out its most controversial uranium enrichment work.

Diplomats had seen scant chances of a conclusive deal with Iran before a June presidential election - with the political elite preoccupied with domestic issues - but they had hoped to hold follow-up talks soon.

(Additional reporting by Yeganeh Torbati in Almaty, Zahra Hosseinian in Zurich, Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow, Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Marcus George in Dubai; Writing by Timothy Heritage and Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Pravin Char)

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Bernanke to face Fed critics in testimony to Congress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke faces the first of two days of congressional testimony that will subject the Fed's controversial bond-buying program to tough scrutiny and gauge his confidence in the resilience of the U.S. economy.

Coming just a week after the Fed's meeting minutes sent U.S. stocks reeling by suggesting the central bank could pull back its economic stimulus earlier than had been expected, and a day after another sharp stock market drop, investors are certain to hang on every word.

Beginning with the U.S. Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, the scholarly Fed chief will be quizzed by some bitter critics of the aggressive steps he has championed to spur growth. On Wednesday, he will appear before the House Financial Services Committee.

"His opinion remains that there is still not enough growth, that high unemployment is a cyclical issue, that there is not enough inflation," economists at TD Securities in New York said in a note to clients. "He will keep the pedal to the metal deep into 2013."

The Fed chairman's prepared testimony is scheduled to be released at 10 a.m. (1500 GMT) on Tuesday, followed by a lengthy question-and-answer session. By tradition, he will issue the same statement on Wednesday before facing the House panel.


Lawmakers in both chambers will seek his comment on the likely impact of $85 billion in across-the-board government spending cuts that are set to take effect on March 1.

Bernanke is likely to repeat his line that the indiscriminate axe they take to the budget will hurt the recovery, and argue that it would be better to cut the deficit over time and avoid the risk of a near-term fiscal shock.

Lawmakers will also question him about the Fed's bold bond- buying program, which has tripled the size of the central bank's balance sheet to $3 trillion since 2008.

The Fed, which cut overnight interest rates to near zero more than four years ago, is currently buying $85 billion a month in government and mortgage-backed bonds to keep longer- term borrowing costs low and spur the economy's recovery. The Fed has said it would continue to purchase bonds until it sees a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market.

That still appears a long way off. In January, the jobless rate ticked up a tenth of a percentage point to 7.9 percent.

Many Republicans have criticized the Fed's aggressive easing of monetary policy for risking inflation and asset bubbles, and for facilitating excessive government spending by keeping the nation's borrowing costs low.

Some of the same concerns have resonated within the central bank.

Minutes of the Fed's January 29-30 policy meeting, released last week, showed that a number of officials felt the potential risks posed by buying bonds could warrant tapering or ending the program before hiring picks up. However, several others argued there was a danger in halting it prematurely.

Financial markets are keen to find out where Bernanke stands. Expectations that he would offer reassuring words, coupled with fears that Europe's debt crisis could grow worse, led on Monday to the biggest drop in the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note since November.

"You are probably going to hear a message that does not lean so heavily on the costs" of bond buying," said Michael Feroli, an economist with JPMorgan in New York.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Jan Paschal)

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AP source: Tom Brady gets 3-year extension

Tom Brady will be a Patriot until he is 40 years old.

Brady agreed to a three-year contract extension with New England on Monday, a person familiar with the contract told The Associated Press. The extension is worth about $27 million and will free up nearly $15 million in salary cap room for the team, which has several younger players it needs to re-sign or negotiate new deals with.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the extension has not been announced.

Sports Illustrated first reported the extension.

The 35-year-old two-time league MVP was signed through 2014, and has said he wants to play at least five more years.

A three-time Super Bowl champion, Brady will make far less in those three seasons than the going rate for star quarterbacks. Brady currently has a four-year, $72 million deal with $48 million guaranteed.

Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are the NFL's highest-paid quarterbacks, at an average of $20 million and $18 million a year, respectively.

Brady has made it clear he wants to finish his career with the Patriots, whom he led to Super Bowl wins for the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons, and losses in the big game after the 2007 and 2011 seasons. By taking less money in the extension and redoing his current contract, he's hopeful New England can surround him with the parts to win more titles.

Among the Patriots' free agents are top receiver Wes Welker and his backup, Julian Edelman; right tackle Sebastian Vollmer; cornerback Aqib Talib; and running back Danny Woodhead.

Brady has been the most successful quarterback of his era, of course, as well as one of the NFL's best leaders. His skill at running the no-huddle offense is unsurpassed, and he's easily adapted to the different offensive schemes New England has concentrated on through his 13 pro seasons.

The Patriots have gone from run-oriented in Brady's early days to a deep passing team with Randy Moss to an offense dominated by throws to tight ends, running backs and slot receivers.

Brady holds the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season with 50 in 2007, when the Patriots went 18-0 before losing the Super Bowl to the Giants. He has thrown for at least 28 touchdowns seven times and led the league three times.

Last season, Brady had 34 TD passes and eight interceptions as the Patriots went 12-4, leading the league with 557 points, 76 more than runner-up Denver.

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Gorgeous weather brings blooming beauties

Posted: 7:55 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25, 2013

By Evan Borders – KTVU.com


The weather in February recently has been beneficial to Tulips, as is evident at the bountiful bunch that are blooming in San Francisco at Pier 39′s annual ‘Tulipmania’.

The pier has been importing bulbs from Holland for years now and puts on walking tours for guests. They were planted this year in November and December since they thrive in temperate climates and need a period of cool dormancy to bloom.

Even though the pier ended their ‘Tulipmania’ walking tours on Feb. 24th, they are still expected to be in bloom for about two or three weeks.

Pier 39 is located at 2 Beach Street in San Francisco. For more information, go to pier39.com.


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Vatican 'Gay lobby'? Probably not


  • Benedict XVI not stepping down under pressure from 'gay lobby,' Allen says

  • Allen: Benedict is a man who prefers the life of the mind to the nuts and bolts of government

  • However, he says, much of the pope's time has been spent putting out fires

Editor's note: John L. Allen Jr. is CNN's senior Vatican analyst and senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

(CNN) -- Suffice it to say that of all possible storylines to emerge, heading into the election of a new pope, sensational charges of a shadowy "gay lobby" (possibly linked to blackmail), whose occult influence may have been behind the resignation of Benedict XVI, would be right at the bottom of the Vatican's wish list.

Proof of the Vatican's irritation came with a blistering statement Saturday complaining of "unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories," even suggesting the media is trying to influence the papal election.

Two basic questions have to be asked about all this. First, is there really a secret dossier about a network of people inside the Vatican who are linked by their sexual orientation, as Italian newspaper reports have alleged? Second, is this really why Benedict XVI quit?

John L. Allen Jr.

John L. Allen Jr.

The best answers, respectively, are "maybe" and "probably not."

It's a matter of record that at the peak of last year's massive Vatican leaks crisis, Benedict XVI created a commission of three cardinals to investigate the leaks. They submitted an eyes-only report to the pope in mid-December, which has not been made public.

It's impossible to confirm whether that report looked into the possibility that people protecting secrets about their sex lives were involved with the leaks, but frankly, it would be surprising if it didn't.

There are certainly compelling reasons to consider the hypothesis. In 2007, a Vatican official was caught by an Italian TV network on hidden camera arranging a date through a gay-oriented chat room, and then taking the young man back to his Vatican apartment. In 2010, a papal ceremonial officer was caught on a wiretap arranging liaisons through a Nigerian member of a Vatican choir. Both episodes played out in full public view, and gave the Vatican a black eye.

Pope Benedict XVI


























In that context, it would be a little odd if the cardinals didn't at least consider the possibility that insiders leading a double life might be vulnerable to pressure to betray the pope's confidence. That would apply not just to sex, but also potential conflicts of other sorts too, such as financial interests.

Vatican officials have said Benedict may authorize giving the report to the 116 cardinals who will elect his successor, so they can factor it into their deliberations. The most immediate fallout is that the affair is likely to strengthen the conviction among many cardinals that the next pope has to lead a serious house-cleaning inside the Vatican's bureaucracy.

It seems a stretch, however, to suggest this is the real reason Benedict is leaving. For the most part, one should probably take the pope at his word, that old age and fatigue are the motives for his decision.

That said, it's hard not to suspect that the meltdowns and controversies that have dogged Benedict XVI for the last eight years are in the background of why he's so tired. In 2009, at the height of another frenzy surrounding the lifting of the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying traditionalist bishop, Benedict dispatched a plaintive letter to the bishops of the world, voicing hurt for the way he'd been attacked and apologizing for the Vatican's mishandling of the situation.

Even if Benedict didn't resign because of any specific crisis, including this latest one, such anguish must have taken its toll. Benedict is a teaching pope, a man who prefers the life of the mind to the nuts and bolts of government, yet an enormous share of his time and energy has been consumed trying to put out internal fires.

It's hard to know why Benedict XVI is stepping off the stage, but I doubt it is because of a "gay lobby."

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John L. Allen Jr.

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Chicago could see 6 inches of snow in Tuesday storm

Abundant sunshine and temperatures close to 50 degrees in the past few days teased sober Midwestern sensibilities.

Encouraged perhaps by spring training photos, some people deliberately ventured outside. Some even hopped on bicycles for spins. Maybe they dared to think that spring could break a little early this year.

But on Tuesday morning, for the second time in less than a week, a blustery mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow is forecast to hit the Chicago area. Accumulations could reach 6 inches.

Sure, weather predictions being what they are around here, many will shrug off the warnings and be brazenly optimistic. But it might be best to recall the adage that those who ignore history are sure to be victimized by it.

Chicago has plenty of late-season snow history and, regardless of what materializes, the prudent will keep their salt dry, snow shovels handy and snowblowers primed for the next couple of months.

National Weather Service records from 2011 show that 54 of the previous 139 years — nearly 40 percent — experienced at least one day with an inch or more of snowfall on or after March 25. A total of 17 of those years brought multiple days with more than an inch of snow to Chicago.

One year, 1926, included six days when more than an inch of snow fell after March 25.

And, like some cruel trick, the later in the season the snow falls, the heavier and deadlier it tends to be. On the other hand, it also generally melts faster.

Among the grimmest of those late snowfalls was the deadly storm of April 15-17, 1961, when a rainy low-pressure system stalled and kept looping over the Chicago region. It transformed cold rain into nearly 7 inches of snow. Six people died from the storm's effects; four were victims of snow-shoveling heart attacks.

That storm remains the latest major snowfall of 6 inches or more in the Chicago area.

More recently, the area was hit with nearly 2 inches of snow on March 27, 2008. On March 29, 2009, 1.2 inches accumulated. A week later, more than 2 inches of snow fell.

Tuesday's forecast, which calls for heavier snow north of Interstate 80 and winds whipping up to 35 mph, weighed on Jason Marker's mind while he stood at the Downers Grove Metra station Monday.

"I have a job interview tomorrow," said Marker, 30, of Downers Grove. "It's going to be tough getting there because I have to ride my bike."

Still, he said the winter has been a moderate one so far, "but maybe it will catch up with us tomorrow."

Ashley Feuillan and Bernard Thomas, also of Downers Grove, will be commuting in opposite directions Tuesday morning. Thomas commutes to a job in Aurora, which he starts at 7 a.m. Feuillan hops the train to Columbia College Chicago three times a week.

Both said they plan to leave earlier Tuesday.

"I actually like the snow," said Feuillan, 24, "but it can be a hassle when you're trying to get someplace."

Rather than focusing on what could be a nasty storm, Thomas, 40, kept an upbeat perspective.

"It hasn't been a bad winter," he said. "We haven't really had any big snowstorms."

If the forecast is accurate, Jake Weimer could receive a little relief.

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