September 29 - October 5, 2008 
 Weekly News In Review
 Vol 3, Issue 27
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The Weekly News In Review newsletter is a service provided by Understand The Times that is a compilation of the news articles posted on our site during the previous week.


 September 26 - Mideast peace takes center stage at United Nations
 Article: Israel And The Last Days

UNITED NATIONS - The key international players trying to promote peace in the Middle East meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Friday as the U.N. Security Council opens a high-level debate on Israeli settlements.

Israel is awaiting a new government, the Palestinians are seriously divided, and President Bush is looking for an agreement by the end of the year, although both Palestinians and Israelis have expressed doubt about achieving that goal.

"This meeting, which took place at crucial time in the peace process, and on the eve of the meeting of the Quartet, provided an opportunity to discuss the European Union's enhanced role in the peace process deepening relations between the European Union and the Palestinian Authority," the EU said in a statement.

But a group of leading aid agencies, including CARE, Save the Children and Christian Aid, issued a report Thursday warning the Quartet process was failing and called for more action and less words.

"The Quartet has fundamentally failed to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground. Unless the Quartet's words are matched by more sustained pressure and decisive action the situation will deteriorate still further. Time is fast running out," David Mepham, director of policy for Save the Children UK, said in a statement.

As late as last month Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held out hope of talks succeeding. "God willing, with the goodwill of the parties, and the tireless work of the parties, we have a good chance of succeeding," Rice said after seeing Israeli and Palestinian leaders and summoning top negotiators for a joint status report.

Israeli President Shimon Peres told the General Assembly in his address Wednesday that despite "stagnation and regression and failure" in the peace process, "Israelis and Arabs are marching toward peace."

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 September 29 - Rick Warren, Interfaith Activist
 Article: One World Religion

There has been a lot of talk about the risks that Warren has taken - inviting the pro-choice Obama to address a decidedly pro-life gathering on the topic of AIDS, for example. Another risk he is taking - more subtle, perhaps, but equally profound - is around religious diversity.

Last week at the Clinton Global Initiative, Warren was asked how "the church" could help to solve poverty. His response was to rattle off the numbers of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians in the world - in that order - and make a plea that the public and private sectors take seriously "the faith sector as the third leg of the stool of successful development".

Warren consistently used the language of a religious pluralist. He spoke of "mosques, temples and churches" as central to the life of villages in the developing world. He underscored the fact that there are huge numbers of people of faith in the world, and huge numbers of houses of worship in places where clinics, banks and schools don't exist. Those people of faith can be trained to be the arms and legs of any development plan, and those houses of worship can double as clinics, banks and schools.

This is a big deal, because it signals an important turn in the American Evangelical tradition - from viewing people of other faiths primarily as lost souls requiring conversion to viewing them as partners in the plan to make earth more humane and just. "Progressive Evangelicals" like Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo (read an interview here with Campolo on interfaith cooperation), have long been involved in interfaith efforts, but the mainline of that tradition has always been more wary. That could be changing.

That approach is American pragmatism at its best: a visionary leader engaging all possible partners in his plan to transform earth.

When I asked Warren to name something that he admired about Muslims, he answered without hesitation: "you people are not afraid to talk about God, he said with a smile. It's always, 'God willing', or 'God bless', or 'Thanks be to God.' That's something I admire, because I come from the same place."

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 September 30 - Scientists: Climate-Change 'Time Bomb' About to Go Off
 Article: Signs Of The Last Times

There's a ticking time bomb underneath the oceans, and it's about to go off, some scientists say.

A Russian research ship trawling the Arctic off Siberia's northeastern coast has found huge amounts of methane bubbling up from the seafloor, according to reports in London's Independent newspaper and the Canadian Press wire service.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, trapping 20 times as much heat as carbon dioxide. While there's little of it in the atmosphere, there are gigantic frozen deposits of it, called methane clathrates, trapped in rocks in seabeds all over the world.

One of the leading global-warming doomsday scenarios involves all that methane thawing out as sea temperatures rise, then rushing to the surface and into the air, creating a runaway warming scenario. Now there's some evidence that's beginning to happen.

"For the first time, we documented a field where the release was so intense that the methane did not have time to dissolve into the seawater but was rising as methane bubbles to the sea surface," Swedish researcher Orjan Gustafsson, aboard the Russian ship Jacob Smirnitskyi, told the Independent in an article published last week. Huge methane releases may have been responsible for mass extinctions in Earth's distant past.

"It's a time bomb because, as the permafrost thaws - and we don't know how fast it will thaw - it's going to slowly and maybe catastrophically at some point, release all that methane that's trapped underneath as a solid," Marianne Douglas, head of the Canadian Circumpolar Institute, told the Canadian Press.

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 October 4 - EU leaders to discuss bank crisis
 Article: One World Government

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is hosting a mini-summit in Paris at which he hopes a common European approach to the world financial crisis will emerge. Mr Sarkozy will be joined by the leaders of Britain, Germany, and Italy.

He is expected to propose better co-ordination between EU governments ahead of next week's G8 meeting in the US. France wants countries to agree to intervene where necessary to protect European banks, but has denied reports of plans for a US-style rescue plan.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon - describing the world as being "on the edge of the abyss" - said France would propose measures to unfreeze credit and co-ordinate economic strategies.

He held talks with Mr Sarkozy before the EU leaders' meeting and said that although the EU was a more complex organisation than the US, Europe needed to take "concerted collective action".

The BBC's Alasdair Sandford, in Paris, says one source is quoted as saying there may be a call for greater co-ordination of deposit guarantee schemes. But he adds that after the recent divisions, it is far from clear what will emerge.

But before leaving for the meeting, Mr Brown said a fund created by the European Investment Bank to be spread over two years to provide loans for small businesses should be made available immediately.

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We hope the Weekly News In Review has been a blessing to you.

Roger Oakland

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