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00h UTC; THURSDAY, 14 FEBRUARY 2013: Reader, something as may be worth thinking when you see the new adverts for Best Western hotels and resorts showing the owners thereof as being just ordinary people like you and me, as if to reinforce the message that each property so branded--be it as Best Western, Best Western Plus or Best Western Premier--is independently owned and operated, and has a genuine concern for the traveller's welfare, be it for business or leisure:

You're actually paying for the name, whether you know it or not. And more likely than no, the licensing fees that individual property owners so affiliating pay for using the Best Western appellation are passed on to guests. Especially where the Best Western Plus or Best Western Premier variants come into play.

So, if you're conscious about value for money in your accomodations, consider independent, family-run hosteleries who don't have to contend with licensing fees, the savings likely to be passed on as lower rates and better service for you. Especially so in the shoobie traps.

Not even Ripley would be surprised to learn where the shock announcement of the resignation of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI due to failing health and advancing age came at the heighth of the every-12-years Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela, perhaps the world's single biggest gathering of humankind; some 30 million pikgrims gathering at the junction of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers near Allahbad, India for an opportunity to cleanse themselves of all sin by bathing in the Ganges.

And speaking of the Holy Father, the Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican was his final hurrah, at least in public; when he leaves the Throne of St. Peter on the 28th, he'll retreat to a modest little apartment at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome, then to a small apartment within the Vatican for his final days. However, given his age (85), he's ineligible to vote in the conclave of the College of Cardinals as will decide his successor, which is open to all such under 80 years.

So much for Pat "700 Club" Robertson insinuating on air the other day that Islam was "not so much a religion as an economic and political system:" Isn't he really insisting on such motives for Bible-Believing Christianity, or at least the perversion thereof being promoted by certain of his pseudoreligious drookies in such guises as the John Birch Society and the "Tea Party" in its several permutations?

Finally, a suggestion to think about ahead of the Congressional Spring Recess, when many Senators and Congressmen are likely to convene "town meetings" with their constituents to discuss topics of interest: If your Congressional deputation is of that ilk under "Tea Party" influence and manipulation, may I suggest asking him/her at any "town meeting" you may be able to attend how they expect the poor to empower themselves without the State's help, as seems to be among their articles of faith (cf. the Afrikaans expression 'n Volk red homself--"a people rescues itself"--as became the rallying-cry of the Afrikaner Economic Movement which begat South Africa's apartheid regime, not to mention the motto of the Reddingsdaadbond, the Rescue Action League, which sought the socioeconomic and cultural empowerment of especially poorer Afrikanerdom by packaging such as a Mission From God).

And if they actually know of viable models therefor in the "here and now" as are producing the desired results.

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