Pope Benedict headed for Facebook
VATICAN CITY, May 22 (UPI) -- Vatican officials said Pope Benedict XVI will soon have a Facebook account as part of the Roman Catholic Church's online outreach program.
Jesuit priest Father Federico Lombardi, head of Vatican Radio and the Holy See press office, said the online push will also involve a new Vatican Web site, www.pope2you.net, that is scheduled to begin operations Sunday to mark the church's World Communications day, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.
The Vatican created a YouTube channel for the pope earlier this year as part of the Web-based effort.
Lombardi said the online push is partially modeled after U.S. President Barack Obama's use of the Internet during his election campaign and since taking office.
Archbishop Claudio Celli, who leads the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said there will be an iPhone application tied to the pope's Facebook account that will allow users to send and receive virtual postcards featuring the pontiff and quotes from his speeches.
"The pope is inviting us to promote a culture of dialogue, of respect and friendship, especially among young people. We think this pontifical council itself has to use new technologies to promote new relationships around the world," Celli said. "We must take advantage of what the new technologies are offering us at this very moment."
Preschool charged for picnic grass use
LONDON, May 22 (UPI) -- A London local council charged a preschool $185 to use a patch of grass for its annual picnic due to fears the festivities could harm the lawn.
Parents and teachers at the Norwood Grove preschool in London's Croydon borough said they have used the patch of grass outside of the school gates for their picnics for the past 16 years free of charge, but this year the Croydon Council demanded $185 to cover potential damage to the grass, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.
The school serves a total of 37 students between the ages of 2 and 5.
"This is a little party in the park -- we are not going to have loud music playing," principal Joan Runcorn said. "It is always well supervised by me and my staff, with the parents here as well. What I want to know is what do we get for that money we pay the council?"
A council spokesman defended the decision to charge the school.
"For fairness, and in the best interests of public safety, it is essential that we treat all applications even-handedly, with appropriate charges being made and checks in place to ensure that event organizers have the necessary risk assessments and insurance," he said.
Drive-in theaters a relaxing alternative
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., May 22 (UPI) -- Some Florida residents say they choose to take in a drive-in movie theater experience because of the openness.
Miami resident Jerry Durden said drive-in theaters, where the numbers have increased amid the struggling U.S. economy, offer a nice alternative to normal film theaters for parents, The Miami Herald reported Friday.
"It's easier to bring kids to the drive-in," said Durden, who has a 5-year-old son and his 1-year-old daughter. "Instead of them screaming in the movie theater."
Allie Huffman, 21, said sitting in one's car instead of cramped movie theater seats also aids those not tall enough to see over certain film-goers' heads.
"You don't have to worry about somebody being too tall and sitting in front of you," she told the Herald.
Don Sanders, who helped produce the documentary "Drive-In Movie Memories," said the resurging entertainment activity offers a "community" feeling to those in attendance.
''You get a sense of community that people long for,'' he told the Herald.
'Humiliating' preschool teacher fired
SWANSEA, Wales, May 22 (UPI) -- Education officials in Wales said they fired a nursery school teacher who was accused of forcing children who wet themselves to remain in their soiled clothes.
The administrators in Swansea, South Wales, said Elizabeth Davies, 48, was fired from the Hafod Primary School after 20 years of experience teaching children from the ages of 3 to 6, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.
The firing came after parents accused Davies of forcing children who accidentally wet themselves to remain in their dirty clothes and stand on newspapers until their parents arrived to bring them home. She was also accused of spraying children she found to be "smelly" with air freshener and allegedly forced some children to wash their hands in pure disinfectant.
"She was an experienced teacher but the way she treated some children was disgraceful," one mother said. "It was humiliating for little children and it caused a lot of tears. A lot of children have accidents at one time or another -- they should be comforted rather than punished."
Davies was initially suspended with pay while education authorities investigated the case. She was dismissed after a disciplinary hearing and her appeal of the ruling was dismissed.