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Weekly News In Review

December 11 - 17, 2005
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The following articles were posted at this past week:

Pope Invites Methodists to Join Catholic-Lutheran Agreement
Bob Larson Is Going to the Vatican
School Okays 'Christmas Witch,' Menorahs; Rewrites 'Silent Night'
Mice Created With Human Brain Cells
Faithful Claim Miracles Coming From Weeping Mary
Russia to Boost New Weapons Spending
Iran: We Could Win Nuke War

Article: Ecumenical Movement - Protestants Uniting with Roman Catholics

December 10, 2005 - Pope Invites Methodists to Join Catholic-Lutheran Agreement

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Methodist leaders on Friday (Dec. 9) to join a landmark 1999 agreement between Lutherans and the Vatican that overcame centuries of disagreement on the nature of salvation. In his first official meeting with top-ranking officials of the World Methodist Council (WMC), Benedict urged the council to endorse the Joint Declaration, a 1999 Catholic-Lutheran accord on how humankind achieves salvation.

"Should the World Methodist Council express its intent to associate itself with the Joint Declaration, it would assist in contributing to the healing and reconciliation we ardently desire, and would be a significant step towards the stated goal of full visible unity in faith," Benedict told the delegation led by WMC President Bishop Sunday Mbang of Nigeria.

Martin Luther sparked the 16th century Protestant Reformation by challenging the Catholic doctrine of "justification," which holds that good works are essential to attaining salvation. Lutherans held that salvation was God-given and achieved by faith alone.

In the 1999 compromise, both sides agreed that salvation is achieved through God's grace, which is reflected in good works.

Bishop Michael Putney, a Vatican negotiator for Catholic-Methodist relations, said he expects the council to endorse the declaration at its worldwide conference in Seoul, South Korea, next summer.

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Article: Ecumenical Movement - Misc.

December 11, 2005 - Bob Larson Is Going to the Vatican

I have always expressed my appreciation for the way the Catholic Church has maintained the tradition of exorcism. Even the late Pope John Paul II performed at least three known exorcisms, one in St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. While many Protestants have shied away from embracing deliverance through exorcism, Catholics have kept the practice alive. The way that Catholics do exorcism has some differences as to style, but the basic fundamentals are the same. In fact, I have encouraged our Do What Jesus Did (DWJD) healing and deliverance teams to read the Rituale Romanum, the ancient Catholic rite of exorcism. It is filled with majestic, biblical language that boldly confronts Satan and his demons.

Of course, as a Protestant and evangelical Christian I have some theological differences with Catholics. But I've always made it a practice to embrace all Christians who share a common faith in Christ and a desire to defeat the works of the devil. I stand alongside my Catholic brothers in Christ who dare to do what many Protestants won't do - cast out demons! I believe in the Last Days before the return of Jesus Christ that all those who believe in spiritual warfare need to join together as a worldwide spiritual army, regardless of our theological differences. That's why this breakthrough is such an answer to prayer.
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Article: Perilous Times

December 8, 2005 - School Okays 'Christmas Witch,' Menorahs; Rewrites 'Silent Night'

Secularized Lyrics 'Mock' Christian Christmas Carols, Says Liberty Counsel

The "war against Christmas" rages on...The school's "Winter Program" features a secularized version of the traditional Christmas carol "Silent Night" with the following lyrics:

Cold in the night, no one in sight;
Winter winds whirl and bite.
How I wish I were happy and warm,
Safe with my family out of the storm.

"At the same time the school has changed the religious songs to secular," Staver says, "their so-called 'Winter Program' has included decorating classrooms with Santa Claus, Kwanzaa, menorahs, and even Labafana -- a term I'd not even heard of until this year." Labafana, he says, is "apparently a Christmas witch."

"Our opponents in this Christmas campaign are not debating us anymore on the law," he admits. "They agree with us that the law allows Christmas. They are trying to say that, in fact, there's no problem going on in America."

The Liberty Counsel president says the law is clear that Christmas is constitutional. But he notes that "when a public school intentionally mocks Christian Christmas songs by secularizing their content, they cross the line from a neutral position -- which the Constitution requires -- to a hostile position, which the Constitution forbids."

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Article: Cloning and Genetic Engineering

December 13, 2005 - Mice Created With Human Brain Cells

Add another creation to the strange scientific menagerie where animal species are being mixed together in ever more exotic combinations. Scientists announced Monday that they had created mice with small amounts of human brain cells in an effort to make realistic models of neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

Led by Fred Gage of the Salk Institute in San Diego, the researchers created the mice by injecting about 100,000 human embryonic stem cells per mouse into the brains of 14-day-old rodent embryos. Those mice were each born with about 0.1 percent of human cells in each of their heads, a trace amount that doesn't remotely come close to "humanizing" the rodents.

"This illustrate that injecting human stem cells into mouse brains doesn't restructure the brain," Gage said. Still, the work adds to the growing ethical concerns of mixing human and animal cells when it comes to stem cell and cloning research.
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Article: Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days

December 13, 2005 - Faithful Claim Miracles Coming From Weeping Mary

Nearly 4 weeks since a statue outside an area church appeared to be crying tears of blood, many of the catholic faithful say they're beginning to see miracles. They're reporting everything from improved health to resolved legal problems. Something that's drawing even more visitors to the church.

Where they once came out of curiosity, they now come with individual concerns. Their hearts heavy with burdens they plan to leave at the alter, in hopes the Virgin Mary will hear their prayers.

"I do believe in God and I do believe in miracles and I believe this is a stepping stone to a miracle. It will happen", says one believer.

Since tears of blood first appeared on this statue outside the Vietnamese Catholic Martyr's church in late November, many of the faithful say their prayers and petitions are being answered.

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Article: Wars and Rumors of Wars

December 15, 2005 - Russia to Boost New Weapons Spending

Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Wednesday that 70 percent of next year's state defense order would be spent on the procurement of new armaments and military hardware, the Interfax news agency reported.

"The state defense order will amount to 237 billion rubles ($8.27 billion) next year, which is nearly 54 billion rubles ($1.88 billion) more than this year. This will allow the spending of 70 percent of the funds on the procurement of new armaments and military hardware or comprehensive upgrades of the hardware currently available in military units," Ivanov told reporters in Moscow.
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Article: Wars and Rumors of Wars

December 16, 2005 - Iran: We Could Win Nuke War

Supreme Iranian ruler Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said last Friday that the Muslim world would win a nuclear exchange with Israel, aggravating fears Tehran's quest for atomic weapons indeed has one purpose: the annihilation of what it calls the Zionist "cancer."

"[The] application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel - but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world," Hashemi-Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by the government-controlled Iran Press Service.

The spiritual leader, who wields ultimate power in Iran, made the comments during a prayer service in Tehran. It was the first time an Islamic leader of such prominence openly suggested a nuclear attack against the Jewish state, media analysts told the IPS.

Iran has been pursuing atomic weapons in defiance of international demands.

Concerns over Iran's nuclear efforts grew exponentially last month when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a conference in Tehran that Israel should be "wiped off the map."

In an interview with Ynet Thursday, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he has no doubt Iran will act to completely destroy the Jewish state if its nuclear program is not halted.

Iran's leaders are "saying very clearly what the Iranians will do if they have a nuclear bomb " they would like to destroy the State of Israel," Shalom said.

Speaking to Fox News a day earlier, US President George W. Bush said his administration also views Iran as a true existential threat to the Jewish state.

"I'm concerned about a theocracy that has got little transparency, a country whose president has declared the destruction of Israel as part of their foreign policy, and a country that will not listen to the demands of the free world to get rid of its ambitions to have a nuclear weapon," Bush told his interviewer.

"I called it part of the 'axis of evil' for a reason," the president added.

But neither Israel nor the US are keen to utilize military force in order to thwart Iran's destructive intentions, and have therefore turned to Europe, which enjoys amicable ties with Tehran, to diplomatically resolve the issue.

European officials vowed to deal with Iran's worrying behavior at a European Union summit that opened in Brussels Thursday, warning that the continent's patience with Tehran is wearing thin.

However, the most serious punitive diplomatic measure being discussed is Iran's exclusion from the 2006 World Cup soccer tournament scheduled to take place in Germany next summer.

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Yuval Steinitz insists the solution lies in the threat of "brute force."

Steinitz told CNS News Thursday he recently conveyed to officials in Washington that Iran can be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons without the use of force, but only if the West is prepared to make it clear to Tehran that it is in fact prepared to use overwhelming military force.

"It's the only chance [to make them back down]," Steinitz said, warning that "if Iran becomes a nuclear power, it will become a global nuclear superpower."

But Tehran has been hearing and defying Western threats for years. How the US and Europe could now convince Iran of their seriousness without actually initiating armed hostilities remains unclear.

Meanwhile, a report published by the US Army War College this week said neither military nor diplomatic efforts were going to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Entitled "Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran", the report pointed out that "given Iran's extensive nuclear know-how and capabilities, it is unlikely that the United States or its allies can deny Iran the technical ability to covertly make nuclear weapons."

The authors instead suggested that Israel try to set an example by first dismantling its nuclear capabilities.

They admitted, however, that Iran would likely not follow suit, leaving Israel without a deterrent in the crosshairs of a regime with both the desire and the means to annihilate the Jewish state.

The suggestion smacked of the traditional Western position that Israel risk the lives of millions of its Jewish citizens for the sake of "peace" efforts with little or no chance of success.


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