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Weekly News In Review

December 18 - 24, 2005
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The following articles were posted at this past week:

Seeing Mary all over again
Cal. State University 2, Christianity 0 - Christian Group "not permissible"
Military chaplains told to shy from Jesus
Palestinian Authority Claims Western Wall is Moslem Property
Britain will be first country to monitor every car journey
Creating First Synthetic Life Form
Iran Interested in Russian Weapons
Canada Legalizes "Sex Clubs" - "14-year-olds will be exploited"

Article: Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days

December 18, 2005 - Seeing Mary all over again

A week before last Monday's celebration of the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, CNN broadcast a story on a statue of the Virgin Mary near Sacramento that appeared to be shedding tears of blood. In August, a New Orleans funeral home billboard attracted crowds after Mary's profile was spotted in the photo. In April, thousands flocked to an expressway underpass in Chicago to witness an image of the virgin that officials believe was a stain created by salt runoff. Hokey or heartfelt, bizarre or sublime, these sightings are a reflection of a contemporary revival in the cult of Mary.

Devotion to the virgin is nothing new to American Catholicism. Each wave of Catholic immigrants brought along their own iconic images of the mother of Christ: Italians revered Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Our Lady of Pompeii; Poles favored Our Lady of Czestochowa. But by the 1950s, the assimilation and upward mobility of Catholics led to a decline in old country devotional Catholicism, and in the 1960s, the reforms of Vatican II sought to refocus attention away from localized "folk" worship and onto the rites and rituals of Rome. While "Marian" devotion never disappeared, it declined significantly over the last 40 years.

But a combination of Mexican immigration, popular feminism and a growing need among spiritual seekers to make
God more accessible has led to a resurgence in the presence of the figure of Mary. By the end of the 20th century, Mexican migrants had carried their Virgin of Guadalupe to all corners of the U.S. and her likeness engaged non-Latinos and non-Catholics as well. For many, Guadalupe may represent little more than ethnic kitsch, but others appear to be sincerely drawn to her.

Many theologians have noted that Guadalupe, like so many other images of the Virgin Mary, represents a more tender, compassionate side of God. While deeply skeptical of "and even annoyed by" the parade of recent apparitions, Father Thomas A. Thompson of the Marian Library at the University of Dayton in Ohio nonetheless believes that the current revival in Marianism is, in a sense, a popular attempt at recalibrating a collective sense of the divine.

Bible-centered Protestants, of course, long have been skeptical of Catholics' reverence for Mary. After all, the New Testament makes only passing reference to her. Still, in March, Time magazine reported that the "long-standing wall around Mary" in the Protestant world "appears to be eroding." Beverly Roberts Gaventa at Princeton Theological Seminary has urged a wholesale Protestant reexamination of the mother of Jesus. "We are a lot more interested now in biblical characters who are women, and we've talked about all the others," Gaventa said. "It might be time to talk about Mary as well."

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Article: Perilous Times

December 20, 2005 - Cal. State University 2, Christianity 0 - Christian Group "not permissible"

( - For the second time in two weeks, Christianity is on the losing end of a decision made by officials from the California State University system. Some students from Cal State at San Bernardino have been told that forming a Christian group is "not permissible" at the university because it restricts membership based on religious beliefs and sexual orientation.
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Article: Signs of the Last Times

December 21, 2005 - Military chaplains told to shy from Jesus

To pray -- or not to pray -- in Jesus' name is the question plaguing an increasing number of U.S. military chaplains, one of whom began a multiday hunger strike outside the White House yesterday.

"I am a Navy chaplain being fired because I pray in Jesus' name," said Navy Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt, who will be holding 6 p.m. prayer vigils daily in Lafayette Park.

The hunger strike is intended to persuade President Bush to issue an executive order allowing military chaplains to pray according to their individual faith traditions. The American Center for Law and Justice has gathered 173,000 signatures on a petition seeking an executive order.

Seventy-three members of Congress have joined the request, saying in an Oct. 25 letter to the president, "In all branches of the military, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Christian chaplains to use the name of Jesus when praying."


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Article: Israel and the Last Days

December 12, 2005 - Palestinian Authority Claims Western Wall is Moslem Property

The Palestinian Authority's Office for Religious Affairs claims that the Western Wall, revered by Jews for generations as the last structural remnant of the Second Holy Temple, is Moslem property.

The Palestinian Authority's official website, echoing the claims of its Religious Affairs office, also attempts to negate Jewish ownership of the Western Wall.

The PA office claims Moslem ownership of the Western Wall by referring to the wall on its website as the Al-Boraq Wall. According to Moslem legend, the wall is the place where Mohammed tied his horse, named Boraq, before ascending to heaven.

Moslem tradition holds that Mohammed rose to heaven from the Temple Mount, though that idea is not mentioned anywhere in the Koran, the central text of the Moslem faith.
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Article: One World Government

December 22, 2005 - Britain will be first country to monitor every car journey

Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.

By next March a central database installed alongside the Police National Computer in Hendon, north London, will store the details of 35 million number-plate "reads" per day.

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Article: Cloning and Genetic Engineering

December 19, 2005 - Creating First Synthetic Life Form

Work on the world's first human-made species is well under way at a research complex in Rockville, Md., and scientists in Canada have been quietly conducting experiments to help bring such a creature to life.

Robert Holt, head of sequencing for the Genome Science Centre at the University of British Columbia, is leading efforts at his Vancouver lab to play a key role in the production of the first synthetic life form -- a microbe made from scratch.

The project is being spearheaded by U.S. scientist Craig Venter, who gained fame in his former job as head of Celera Genomics, which completed a privately-owned map of the human genome in 2000.

The work is an extreme example of a burgeoning new field in science known as synthetic biology. It relies on advances in computer technology that permit the easy assembly of the chemical bits, known as nucleotides, that make up DNA.
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Article:  Wars and Rumors of Wars

December 23, 2005 - Iran Interested in Russian Weapons

Iran is interested in developing military-technical cooperation with Russia, the country's ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Ansari, said on Friday.

"Until now, our cooperation has mostly been established in the sphere of trade," the ambassador was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying. "But the Iranian government now wants to strengthen cooperation with Russia in the field of energy, in particular nuclear energy. We also intend to develop military-technical cooperation."

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov earlier confirmed Russia's intention to continue military-technical cooperation with Iran.
He said that, "Russia is supplying Iran with conventional armaments and military hardware such as armored vehicles and air defense equipment of a limited range. This is ordinary commercial trade and we are not going to end it."

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Article: Signs of the Last Times

December 21, 2005 - Canada Legalizes "Sex Clubs" - "14-year-olds will be exploited"

OTTAWA, Ontario, December 21, 2005 ( - The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that group sex in publicly accessible venues is legal.

In a ruling handed down this morning, Canada's Supreme Court has declared it is legal for clubs to provide opportunities for group sex. As long as consent is given, the area is somewhat private, and no payment is directly involved, partner exchanging or "swinging" and group participation in sexual acts is not considered illegal.

"The decision is certainly in line with the tendency of this court to throw out any restrictions to behavior," said Gwen Landolt, vice president of Real Women of Canada. "The courts are gradually reducing public concern about morality and behavior that is offensive. Judges don't have legitimacy."

"There is a real trend to break down moral principles in Canadian society. Those principles have been built based on human experience about what is in the best interest of society."

With sex clubs now protected by Canada's supreme court, the potential social repercussions are staggering. The age of sexual consent in Canada is 14. Canadian teenagers can now legally participate in group sex offered by clubs (so long as alcohol is not sold on the premises).

In general, case law has defined an indecent act as that behavior which either offends the community or has the potential to cause harm to the community in some way. According to Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, group sex neither offends nor harms the Canadian public.
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