In the News: 12/13/06

A Family at Cross-Purposes MONTREAT, N.C. — It is a struggle worthy of the Old Testament, pitting brother against brother, son against mother, and leaving the famous father, the Rev. Billy Graham, trapped in the middle, pondering what to do in the debate over where he will be buried.

66% Think U.S. Spies on Its Citizens Two-thirds of Americans believe that the FBI and other federal agencies are intruding on privacy rights as part of terrorism investigations, but they remain divided over whether such tactics are justified.

Blogs for Shoppers Shoppers scratching their heads for gift suggestions are seeking advice from a cadre of bloggers who are up on the hot products in their fields and have started offering reviews.

Tattoos to strip clubs, holiday gift cards go offbeat Sellers of more offbeat potential gifts — from tattoos to travel — are looking to cash in on the popularity of gift cards and certificates. Card and certificate sales are expected to hit a record $24.8 billion this holiday, up 34% from 2005, says the National Retail Federation and BIGresearch.

More Americans clean their plates of ‘bad’ food Faster than you can say, “Hold the mayo,” food has become America’s great obsession. Folks want to think the food they eat is doing good things for their bodies, whether or not it is. While changing eating habits is hard, many Americans are doing it.

Critics: ‘Left Behind’ game glorifies violence Critics say Left Behind: Eternal Forces glorifies religious violence against non-Christians.

Christmas-related conflicts cut into holiday cheer ‘Tis the season for eggnog, office parties and conflict over Christmas.

Bill would allow the blind to hunt in Texas, with laser sightsOnly in Texas! A lawmaker in this firearm-friendly state wants to help more people get the chance to shoot live animals even if those people are blind.

Faith’s purchasing power Nearly 12% of Americans spend more than $50 a month on religious products, and another 11% spend $25 to $29, according to a national survey of 1,721 adults by Baylor University, out in September.

ComScore: MySpace tops Yahoo in November The online hangout MySpace got even more popular in November, beating Yahoo in Web traffic for the first time. Continue reading

In the News: 12/12/06

Are BlackBerry users the new smokers? Are BlackBerry users the new smokers? The same compulsive behavior is blinding users of mobile gadgets — cellphones included — to their rude ways. It’s time to push back.

Rabbi Feels Wrath Over Removal of Yule Trees SEATTLE, Dec. 11 — A local rabbi is receiving hate mail and angry phone calls, his attorney said Monday, after officials at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport removed Christmas trees over the weekend.

More Than One Way To Make the Grade Getting good grades in college these days is supposed to be easier than ever. But there are signs of grade deflation in the future.

Stop Denigrating Grade-Grubbers, Authors Say Authors Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman explain in the “Professors’ Guide to Getting Good Grades in College” why it is not bad to be a grade-grubber.

Mich. Universities Seek Delay on New Law LANSING, Mich. — Three universities asked a federal court in Detroit on Monday to delay a new state ban on public affirmative action programs until after this year’s admissions and financial aid cycles.

‘Grinch’ poised to ring in the big 5-0 He may have been about as “cuddly as a cactus and as charming as an eel,” but the Grinch definitely has enduring appeal.

Firms seeking sober festivities Party carefully. That’s the new motto from employers who are trying to curb drinking at office bashes by limiting drinks.

Distracted driving big cause of crashes Distracted driving is emerging as nearly as serious a factor as speeding and impaired driving in research on traffic accidents, and safety analysts and state legislatures are trying to combat it.

World’s oldest person dies at 116 Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bolden, recognized as the world’s oldest person, died Monday in a nursing home, the home’s administrator said. She was 116. Bolden was born Aug. 15, 1890.

Vatican unearths St. Paul’s tomb, now hopes to look inside Vatican archaeologists who have recently identified the final resting place of the Apostle Paul now hope to find traces of his remains inside the white marble sarcophagus.

Vehicle mileage estimates get realRatings for ’08 models, especially hybrids, will drop in new EPA tests. That 55-mile-per-gallon hybrid car you’ve been eyeing may end up being a 44-mpg hybrid if you wait for the 2008 model.

Major breach of UCLA’s computer files Personal information on 800,000 students, alumni and others is exposed. Attacks lasted a year, the school says.

Texas is sending fewer to death row HOUSTON — Texas may lead the nation by far in the number of executions carried out each year, but figures released last week suggest that support here for the ultimate punishment may be on the wane. Continue reading

In the News: 12/11/06

Inquiry Sought Over Evangelical Video A military watchdog group is asking the Defense Department to investigate whether seven Army and Air Force officers violated regulations by appearing in uniform in a promotional video for an evangelical Christian organization.

What I’ve Learned By Kofi A. Annan. All my life since has been a learning experience. Now I want to pass on five lessons I have learned during 10 years as secretary general of the United Nations that I believe the community of nations needs to learn as it confronts the challenges of the 21st century.

Return Fraud Earns Retailers’ Wrath Are you a serial returner? By that I mean, do you routinely return items, especially holiday gifts? If so, be forewarned. Some retailers have resorted to using a computer database to track customer returns and catch fraudulent or excessive returns.

Christmas, pagans and religious divergence America prides itself in allowing, even demanding, freedom of religion — until that religion doesn’t feel like a religion.

Dolls lose their innocence Dolls lose their innocence Thongs, high heels and caked-on makeup. ‘Penthouse’? No, your child’s dollhouse.

Cleric installs married priests in N.J. An excommunicated Roman Catholic archbishop continued his defiance of the Vatican on Sunday when he ordained two married men as priests.

Seattle’s airport removes Christmas trees to avoid lawsuit from rabbi All nine Christmas trees have been removed from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport instead of adding a giant Jewish menorah to the holiday display as a rabbi had requested.

Bumpy time for Meals on Wheels Meals on Wheels, which has delivered food to the elderly and disabled since 1954, is experiencing shortages of volunteer drivers.

Mich. man’s Christmas lights spell out ‘Bah-hum-bug’ Jason Lee insists he’s not declaring war on Christmas, despite what the multicolored lights on his front lawn spell out.

Man gets stuck while trying to slide down chimney like Santa Claus A man who was locked out of his house in this Denver suburb tried to get in by sliding down the chimney early Friday, but he got stuck and had to be rescued, authorities said.

Elephants wed at Indian beach resort to amuse tourists Two captive elephants were dressed up as bride and groom for a mock-wedding ceremony to amuse guests at a beach resort in southern India, hotel staff said.

Bob Walters: Gay cause reignites passions California certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of visceral political issues — illegal immigration, gay marriage, abortion rights, prison overcrowding, gun control and taxes, to name but a few of the more obvious. Continue reading

In the News: 12/10/06

Contentious Movement Credits Rev. Moon PARSIPPANY, N.J., Dec. 9 — The renegade Roman Catholic archbishop who was excommunicated by the Vatican after he installed married priests as bishops acknowledged Saturday that the Rev. Sun Myung Moon was supporting his crusade against mandatory celibacy.

Romney Pledged in ’94 to Seek Gay Rights BOSTON, Dec. 9 — Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is facing new questions about his beliefs on gay issues after the emergence of a letter he wrote during his 1994 U.S. Senate run, in which he promised to be a stronger advocate for gays than Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D).

Let Everybody Play One of the most important things that government could do to reduce drug use, fight the obesity epidemic and deal with a host of other youth problems is quite simple: Include more kids in organized after-school sports.

Report: Princess Diana driver was drunk New DNA evidence proves the driver of Princess Diana’s car was drunk on the night of her fatal crash in a Paris underpass.

Walk Thru Bethlehem today is church tradition Roman soldiers patrol the village. Shopkeepers haggle in the marketplace. A rabbi gives lessons in the synagogue. Musicians stroll and animals bray as news of the Messiah’s coming spreads among the villagers.

‘Tis better to regift than to receive regift (verb): to give an unwanted gift to someone else; to give as a gift something one previously received as a gift.

More bands finding venues on the Web Not desiring — or willing to wait for — a major record deal, more artists are distributing their music online.

Negotiating the black-white divide Latinos are finding they can win by refusing to choose sides. Continue reading

In the News: 12/9/06

Uploading American Politics By Raul Fernandez Technology won the 2006 elections for the Democrats. No, not electronic voting machines, but the power of the Internet, fueled by innovative applications that let citizens create and publish their own content. The Internet not only changed the balance of power in the House and Senate, it also helped sack the secretary of defense. Welcome to viral democracy.

Ancient ‘Gospel of Judas’ Translation Sheds New Light on Disciple Marvin Meyer, who is on the nine-person Codex Advisory Panel assembled by the National Geographic Society, fielded questions and comments about the first modern translation of the ancient “Gospel of Judas” released Thursday by the organization.

Cease bureaucratese, Washington state says The average person may find it tough to understand state government, but Washington state officials want to deploy changes to facilitate state personnel ceasing to employ acronyms, jargon and legalese that routinely pervade interfaces with constituents.

Top cop in Utah-Ariz. towns wrote to polygamist leader pledging love The chief law enforcer in two Utah-Arizona border towns is accused of misconduct after writing a letter pledging love and allegiance to the leader of a polygamous sect, who was on the FBI’s most wanted list at the time. “I love you and … know that you have the right to rule in all aspects of my life,” Fred Barlow wrote in the October 2005 letter to Warren Jeffs.

Naughty Christmas “Pornaments” are not nice, say Florida protesters The selling of sexually explicit tree ornaments called “Pornaments” at a chain of novelty stores across Florida has led a Miami lawyer to ask stores to stop sales, or else face legal action.

Secret Agent Espionage is a secretive business, but these classics are the best spy stories ever told.

How Syria May Hold Key to Iraq The Baker panel sparked calls for the U.S. to engage Syria, raising the possibility of a policy shift that could put Washington on a collision course with Israel.

Planetary triple play on deck Sunday Stargazers will get a rare triple planetary treat this weekend with Jupiter, Mercury and Mars appearing to nestle together in the predawn skies. About 45 minutes before dawn on Sunday those three planets will be so close that the average person’s thumb can obscure all three from view.

McKinney introduces bill to impeach Bush In what was likely her final legislative act in Congress, outgoing Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney introduced a bill Friday to impeach President Bush.

Alcohol cited as leading killer of Finns Alcohol is now the leading killer of Finnish adults, with consumption reaching an all-time high last year in the Nordic nation.

Winter WonderSlam returns Former dcTalk leader tobyMac brings his highly successful, and now annual, Winter WonderSlam tour back home this week. This year he has asked a crew of Christian “crossover” artists along for his all-star, uh, sleigh ride (couldn’t resist).

Owner claims scrap wood holds Virgin Mary image Cheatham County plumber Kevin Morgan says he never dreamed he would find the Virgin Mary in a piece of scrap wood.

Andres Oppenheimer: Mixing God and politics in Latin America When Venezuela’s leftist populist President Hugo Chavez cited Jesus Christ repeatedly in his election victory speech earlier this week, he joined a growing number of Latin American politicians who are embracing religion — or at least pretending to do so.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Messing around with Christmas Like many, I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God, my Savior, this month. I know what it’s about. My family knows what it’s about. I want to get out of work early and set up a crèche. And I sure as heck don’t want to have a political debate about it.

Where are those weapons of ‘mas destruction? A long story short: the war on Christmas wanes. Continue reading

In the News: 12/8/06

BlackBerry Orphans The growing use of email gadgets is spawning a generation of resentful children. Katherine Rosman on furtive thumb-typers, the signs of compulsive use and how kids are fighting back.

Are Parents Perpetuating the Chore Wars? Many parents think they’re tuned-in to the gender politics of the Chore Wars, the household battle over who does what. But new research suggests that sons and daughters are still treated differently.

Canadian Prime Minister Loses Bid to Revisit Gay Marriage Law TORONTO, Dec. 7 — Canada’s House of Commons rejected a move Thursday by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reopen debate on a national law permitting same-sex marriages.

Christmas spending will hit almost $800 per person, group says This year, Americans celebrating Christmas will fork over $795.86 each, up 5% from last year.

Woman gives birth on plane heading to Chicago from Mexico; mother and baby doing fine A 42-year-old woman gave birth to a healthy girl late Wednesday aboard a plane destined for O’Hare International Airport.

Plan B pill now readily available A month after distribution began, the over-the-counter version of the morning-after pill is now available at pharmacies nationwide.

Major music labels test unrestricted MP3 files After years of selling online music digitally wrapped with copy and playback restrictions designed to hinder piracy, major music labels are testing an unrestricted version.

Poll: ‘IM-ing’ divides teens, adults There’s an “instant messaging gap” between teens and adults. And the division is wide.

TSA may let non-fliers go to gates The Transportation Security Administration is testing whether it can ease a post-9/11 policy that bars people from meeting relatives at the gate.

‘Merry Christmas’ regains favor as holiday greeting ‘Happy holidays’ draws scorn as political correctness gone too far

‘Restoration’ after the fall Fellow evangelicals seek to help the Rev. Ted Haggard address the behaviors that snared him in a scandal.

Skaters rock a slim style BACK in the proverbial day — 1990 or so — skateboarding and hip-hop became linked in the public imagination because of the cultures’ shared affinities: baggy clothing, backward baseball caps and in-your-face attitude. Nowadays, though, skateboarders are returning to their punk rock roots. Skinny is the new phat .

MySpace to block predators The popular online hangout MySpace.com said Tuesday that it would develop technologies to help block convicted sex offenders, the News Corp.-owned website’s latest attempt to address complaints about sexual predators and other dangers to teens. Continue reading

In the News: 12/7/06

Manliness is next to godliness Brad Stine’s daylong revival meeting, which he calls “GodMen,” is cruder than most. But it’s built around the same theory as the other experimental forums: Traditional church worship is emasculating.

Lawsuit Challenges Academic ‘Freedom’ A student sues her college claiming she was penalized for not agreeing with professor’s views on gay adoption.

NYC Wants to Ease ID Changes for Transgender Residents New York City is planning to change its rules for official documents to make it easier for transgender residents to change their listed sex on IDs.

College Students Learn Patterns of Weight Gain, Study Says Doctors say it is good news that the number of pounds gained in college is less than the widely believed 15, but bad news that “Generation XL” kids seem to be learning patterns of gradual weight gain that could spell trouble way beyond graduation.

U.S. Higher Education: Pay More, Learn Less A new study found that students at some of America’s most prestigious universities failed basic tests on American history and civics.

Iraq Panel Proposes Major Strategy Shift A panel of prominent elder leaders yesterday offered a stinging assessment of virtually every aspect of the U.S. venture in Iraq and called for a reshaping of the American military presence and a new Middle East diplomatic initiative to prevent the country from sliding into anarchy.

Mars Photos May Indicate The Recent Flow of Water Photographs of the Martian surface taken by an orbiting spacecraft have revealed powerful evidence that liquid water occasionally flows on the Red Planet’s surface, an unexpected finding that suddenly increases the odds that the planet may harbor some kind of life.

Executive Summary Of the Report The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved.

Conservative Rabbis Allow Ordaine d Gays, Same-Sex Unions NEW YORK, Dec. 6 — A panel of rabbis gave permission Wednesday for same-sex commitment ceremonies and ordination of gays within Conservative Judaism, a wrenching change for a movement that occupies the middle ground between orthodoxy and liberalism in Judaism.

Hillary’s too vane to be president It didn’t matter much that Sen. Clinton is a fickle leader — until Obama came along.