World Report, Week 23, 2014

Written by WMCN Editor on . Posted in World

WORLD News Service – June 13 2014

Google Shuns Porn in Ads, Apps

PCUSA to Consider Labeling Israel An “Apartheid” State

Boy Scout Troop 412 Breaks Camp: One Georgia troop pitches its tents with Trail Life following the Boy Scouts’ ruling last year on gay members

Playing Defense: Behind the scenes in a blue state legislature, pro-life lobbyists go door to door for votes

Need an Immune System Boost? Try a Three-Day Fast

Catholic Church Wins Hiring Case at European Rights Court

Ireland Investigates Death of 800 Babies at Home for Unwed Mothers

Brazilian Soccer Star Belongs to Jesus

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

                                                                                                                                   

Google Shuns Porn in Ads, Apps

By Kiley Crossland

(WNS)--Google is cracking down on sexually graphic content with two recent policy changes, one implemented in March and one that started last week. The new rules take steps to eliminate explicit material in Google’s advertisements and apps.

Google will no longer accept advertisements through Google AdWords that promote graphic depictions of sexual acts, according to an email the company sent to advertising accounts last week. Morality in Media, a national organization opposing pornography, published the letter. The new policy will restrict ads containing or linking to explicit content.

The policy revision came after a May meeting in Washington, D.C., between Google and anti-pornography advocates including Morality in Media, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family. “We are grateful that they are realizing that their profits from porn are not worth the devastation to children and families,” Morality in Media said in a statement released last week. The group said other organizations, like Facebook and Comcast, have also taken steps to clean up explicit content on the internet. 

Google’s advertising approval process includes three status labels: approved; approved (non-family); and approved (adult). Non-family and adult ads don’t appear if someone has the Google SafeSearch filter activated. Under Google’s new policies, more ads will be given a non-family or adult label or be disapproved. Google says the change will affect all countries.

In March, Google also beefed up its policies for apps sold through Google Play, prohibiting those containing or promoting sexually explicit or erotic content, icons, titles, or descriptions. Since the announcement, Google has taken down several apps that violate the new policies.

Anti-pornography activists still encourage Google to eliminate graphic content from Google Search, Google Images, and YouTube.

PornHarms.com, an offshoot of Morality in Media, named Google one of its 2013 and 2014 Dirty Dozen organizations for contributing to sexual exploitation in the nation. When the site announced the 2014 list prior to Google’s recent policy changes, Morality in Media said, “Google’s empire thrives on porn. … We encourage Google to improve their efforts to protect children and all who wish to be porn-free.”

Other organizations on the 2014 Dirty Dozen list include Verizon, Barnes & Noble, and Cosmopolitan magazine. 

PCUSA to Consider Labeling Israel An “Apartheid” State

 

By Ryan Hill

(WNS)--The majority of American Protestants, especially evangelicals, stand behind Israel in its conflict with Palestine. This weekend, one denomination may break that trend, antagonizing supporters of the tiny, Jewish state.

The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA) will open its 221st General Assembly in Detroit on Saturday. One church committee has proposed divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, three companies that sell equipment to Israel for what the committee calls “non-peaceful” activities, including bulldozing some Palestinian buildings with missing permits and running security blockades in disputed territory.

At the last General Assembly in 2012, PCUSA commissioners voted 333-331 not to divest from this trio. Next week’s gathering could flip that margin, selling the church’s shares in phones, printers, and front-end loaders.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee, describes the denomination’s multiple attempts to talk the three companies out of deals with Israel as futile. “It’s the effect of a gnat on a water buffalo,” she said. The PCUSA’s holdings are trivial anyway, she said. In the event of divestment, each company will probably be glad to have the church out of its ear.

But the conversation in Detroit about Israel and Palestine will go beyond divestment. Commissioners will vote on whether to abandon hopes for a two-state solution, condemn the occupation in Palestine, and label Israel an “apartheid” state. This antagonism toward Israel has upset many American Jews. In a June 4 letter to the PCUSA, 25 rabbis condemned a congregational study guide called Zionism Unsettled that remains for sale on the denomination’s website. Written by a group with PCUSA sponsorship, the document defines Zionism as racist imperialism and a “false theology.”

Some PCUSA commissioners with Presbyterians for Middle East Peace plan to vote to preserve support for Israel and boot Zionism Unsettled from the church’s online store. A victory for the PCUSA left seems likely, but LaBerge noted, “It is a church meeting–anything can happen.”

According to a 2014 Pew Research study, 61 percent of Protestants sympathize with Israel more than with Palestine, and only 8 percent of Protestants go the other way. Four out of five white evangelicals have greater sympathies for Israel than for Palestine and think God gave Israel to the Jewish people., compared to 55 percent of all Christians and 40 percent of American Jews.

The PCUSA General Assembly ends June 21. 

Boy Scout Troop 412 Breaks Camp

 

One Georgia troop pitches its tents with Trail Life following the Boy Scouts’ ruling last year on gay members

By Blake Adams

(WNS)--For Boy Scout Troop 412, it was a pretty straightforward decision to switch to Trail Life, the new Christian scouting organization launched in the wake of the Boy Scouts of America’s decision last year to strike its ban on gay members. After letting its charter with the BSA lapse in January, Troop 412 continued to meet regularly at Summit Baptist Church, in Kennesaw, Ga. In February, Troopmaster Brian Mullins got word his troop had a new charter: BSA Troop 412 became Trail Life Troop 0412.

The change altered little on the outside. Each meeting still opens with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, and the troop has monthly campouts that include worship services if it’s a Sunday. Eight members dropped out of the troop during the transition. But at a meeting earlier this week, troop leaders, parents, and scouts all voiced a new feeling of relief.

The altered membership standards were “probably the catalyst” for the change, said the troop’s charter organizational representative, Lewis Miller. But for a while the troop felt constrained when it came to expressions of faith. “What has bothered us for some time, for example, is that at summer camps we were told not to pray in the mess hall in the name of Jesus,” he said. On Monday, scouts and leaders alike enjoyed their newfound freedom to preach and practice their faith openly without fear of offending someone.

Another factor in the decision to switch was the BSA’s emphasis on awards and ranks. “If we get them to Freedom [Trail Life’s highest award] but not to Christ, we have failed,” Scoutmaster Gregg French said.

Nationally, Trail Life has experienced solid growth in the four months since it formed on Jan. 1. It has 350 active troops chartered and another 300 in process. The organization hopes to have 10,000 members in 40 states by the end of the year.

But Trail Life has not picked up as many disgruntled ex-Scouts and ex-troops, like 412, as some social conservatives expected. So far, 40 percent of Trail Life’s new members have no previous ties to BSA, suggesting the organization is marketing to a different demographic than the Boy Scouts, according to Richard Matthews, Trail Life’s legal counsel, who previously worked in the BSA’s legal department for 11 years.

In the wake of the controversy, BSA hasn’t suffered a mass exodus but hasn’t been able to stop its slow bleed in membership either. Some polls predicted a 12 percent drop in BSA membership between 2012 and 2013 because of the controversy, but the decrease maxed out at 6 percent. In 2011, membership dropped 4 percent. BSA now has fewer than 2.5 million members, down from 5 million in the 1950s.

And many of those who left BSA last year might have done so for reasons unrelated to the controversy. BSA membership dues increased from $15 to $24 the same day the new policy on homosexuality went into effect. “There are many factors that go into a family’s decision to join Scouting, and it’s impossible to point to any single factor that influences our membership numbers,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith told The New York Post. The last fee increase was in 2010, and prompted a slight decline in membership that year as well.

Trail Life’s Matthews sees BSA’s new membership standards as the final straw in a history of growing concerns, rather than the main reason for the new organization’s creation. For example, some people were concerned about corporate sponsorship, Matthews said. Others worried about reportedly lavish executive compensation packages and the cost of the new Jamboree facility in Fayette County, W.Va. The latest projection puts the cost for the 10,600-acre park that includes miles of zip lines, a whitewater rafting circuit, and a technology center at $439 million by the end of 2015, Reuters reported last year.

But Troop 0412, at least, has broken camp and headed down the trail. The leaders closed Monday’s meeting on their knees in prayer. They then gestured to boxes of BSA badges and t-shirts from their former troop and invited the boys to take whatever they wanted. As the boys looked it over, one joked, “It’ll make good fire starter.”

Playing Defense

Behind the scenes in a blue state legislature, pro-life lobbyists go door to door for votes

By Emily Belz

(WNS)--Kathleen Gallagher had gotten up at 6:45 a.m. to drive from her home in Schenectady, N.Y., to the state legislature in Albany where she is a lobbyist for the New York Catholic Conference. In a blue state that can be an unrewarding job. Gallagher does not fit the stereotype of a Catholic pro-life lobbyist. On this Tuesday in early May she’s wearing a skirt and jacket, and just above her ankle is a recent (small) tattoo with the first initials of her husband and children. One of her colleagues suggested a visible tattoo might not be “work appropriate,” but she thought a tattoo of her family’s names couldn’t be more appropriate to her work.

Jason McGuire, an evangelical pastor who heads up New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and its affiliate New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation, had gotten up at 3:30 a.m. along with his teenage son who has been working with him to drive from his home near Rochester to Albany. McGuire and Gallagher aren’t on the same side on every issue, like gun control, but they are allies on abortion. On this Tuesday, the duo is tracking a bill scheduled to be voted on in committee to remove many abortion restrictions in New York. They will work most days in Albany until the legislature wraps up its session, likely in June.

While red state legislatures are busy passing restrictions on abortion, some blue state legislatures are trying to loosen them. Pro-life lobbyists in blue states, instead of seeking restrictions, typically have to work on blocking laws. Last year, California’s legislature passed a law allowing nonphysicians—physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners—to perform first trimester abortions. The outcome on a similar bill, the Women’s Equality Act (WEA), was different in New York last year, thanks to a closely divided Senate and the lobbying effort from the state’s pro-life groups.

The New York Senate—by one vote—blocked the bill, which had an abortion provision as one point in its 10-point agenda. The abortion provision would have expanded the legality of late-term abortions; allowed nonphysicians to perform abortions; and removed criminal penalties associated with botched abortions and second-degree abortions, where someone would commit an abortion without the mother’s consent. New York currently offers legal protections to babies in the womb who are older than 24 weeks. The bill would have allowed an abortion at any point in the pregnancy for the sake of the mother’s life or health, including emotional health.

In the split Senate, the lobbyists needed the votes of two Democrats to block the bill. One Democratic vote was a former pastor from the Bronx, Rubén Diaz Sr., who is unabashedly pro-life. The other Democratic vote was a Jewish senator from Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, who votes conservatively on a number of issues but not necessarily on abortion. Felder declined an interview on the subject. McGuire said Felder had been nervous about how his vote would play with the rabbis in his community.

This session, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to pass the WEA again, but he has not pushed it as hard as he did last session. Despite continuing pressure from NARAL Pro-Choice New York, Cuomo faces reelection this year, so he is unlikely to push a controversial abortion bill. Democrats last year insisted on keeping the abortion provision tied to the other uncontroversial items, like an anti-trafficking measure, but they have recently shown willingness to pass portions of the WEA separately.

ON THIS TUESDAY IN MAY, McGuire and Gallagher have another abortion bill to worry about. They need nine votes to defeat the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) in the Senate Health Committee. The RHA is essentially a stand-alone version of the abortion provision in the WEA, but strikes more regulations on abortion than the WEA. It also calls abortion a “right,” a concern to the pro-life lobbyists because that terminology could threaten conscience protections for healthcare professionals. The bill has trodden water in the health committee for seven years.

Over coffee and pastries, Gallagher and McGuire meet in a conference room with their staff and volunteers to map out the day. They focus on the Senate Health Committee hearing at noon, but parse other committee schedules to see if anything has snuck past their attention. Stephen Hayford, on staff with New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, mentions a bill increasing the number of physician’s assistants a physician could supervise.

“I did look at it and I was OK with it,” said Gallagher. “It’s about supervision. It doesn’t allow them to do things on their own.” McGuire jumps in to ask whether loosening such regulations might “open the door” for abortion providers.

“I don’t think so,” said Gallagher.

“OK, I just haven’t looked at it,” McGuire said.

Gallagher has forgotten to make copies of a bill that they will pitch to legislators that day. McGuire’s colleague Hayford has copies ready for her.

“You’re going to talk, we’re going to print the copies,” McGuire said to Gallagher, laughing.

They all pray and go separate ways, with Gallagher and McGuire on duty to visit the office of each senator they need to vote “no” in the health committee. In the elevator, a woman cordially greets Gallagher, and after we exit Gallagher identifies her as the former top lobbyist for Planned Parenthood. The friendliness is “ebb and flow,” Gallagher said.

The Gallagher-McGuire duo circled the halls of the legislative offices, and dropped into each office on their list. They had some anxiety that the senators who would vote against the RHA might not show up to the hearing because of an annual memorial for fallen police officers scheduled at the same time. In each office they double-checked whether the senator would be at the hearing or send a proxy. At one Republican senator’s office, they met with a staffer and pulled up NARAL Pro-Choice New York’s website that showed his boss as an “undecided.” The staffer was bemused, and assured the duo the senator would be voting “no” on the bill.

Some legislators in the Republican caucus describe themselves as pro-choice, so getting uniform Republican votes against an abortion bill isn’t a given. But this is also an election year, and while the Catholic conference doesn’t get involved with campaigning, McGuire’s group has a political action committee that is swinging into gear. Throughout the day, several senators made a point to speak with McGuire.

Next, the duo had a meeting with a senator to pitch their draft of a bill, which would tighten health inspections of abortion clinics. Normally, they would never dream of pitching a bill with more abortion restrictions to a New York legislator, but recent events in New York opened the possibility. An April report showed that the state health department had neglected to inspect eight of the 25 abortion centers under its purview over the last twelve years. Both Democratic and Republican legislators decried the health department’s negligence. The health department told me that it would reinspect all 25 centers and have the goal of inspecting them every four years. Soon after the duo’s initial pitch to a senator to introduce legislation on the matter, a Republican assemblywoman introduced her own bill that would require inspections of abortion centers every two years and a report on the inspections.

By the time Gallagher and McGuire finished their pitch, the health committee hearing was about to start. They slipped into the hearing room, where an overflowing crowd surrounded a table of senators. Senate Democrats began by discussing the RHA, saying it was “well past time” to move the bill to the floor. One of their colleagues, the pro-life Democrat Diaz, piped up—Diaz is not on the health committee, but came to the hearing to speak anyway.

“They are killing our babies, they’re stopping the growing of our communities,” said the senator from the Bronx. “This legislation is not only a menace to our minority community but also a threat to our women. ... It will move New York state in the opposite direction of ‘safe, legal, and rare.’”

Democratic Sen. Diane Savino said the bill would not expand late-term abortions, and Diaz shot back that it would.

“If you don’t support a women’s right to choose, there’s nothing I can say to you,” Savino said to Diaz.

Republican Sen. Greg Ball jumped in: “No one is even suggesting the overturn of Roe v. Wade. The only extremists in this room are the legislators who are supporting this.”

After more heated discussion, the chair of the health committee, Republican Kemp Hannon, was demure in announcing that he would vote “no.” “There are many technical problems with this bill,” Hannon said. He took the roll call; the bill failed, with exactly the nine votes needed despite the police parade happening outside the window of the hearing room. Felder, the Brooklyn Democrat, remained silent during the hearing, but provided a key vote against the bill.

“That’s all we get around here, is victory by one vote,” said McGuire.

As the senators spilled out of the hearing room, McGuire thanked each one who voted “no.” Then McGuire stood in the hallway holding the pink purse of the head of a Rochester pregnancy center while she did a TV interview. It was past lunchtime, and the lobbyists decided to assess the vote at the only eating establishment past security in the capital, Dunkin’ Donuts, which turned out to be the great crossroads of state politics. Several of the senators from the committee passed through the Dunkin’ Donuts and greeted Gallagher and McGuire, offering thoughts about the hearing or tips on their jobs.

One sat down and told Gallagher to be “more aggressive” and set up events with families to highlight the extreme stance Senate Democrats were taking on abortion. After he left, Gallagher laughed to herself about a senator telling a Catholic lobbyist to be more aggressive on the abortion issue. Senators’ interest in highlighting the extreme position of Democrats could possibly be related to the election this fall. But both Gallagher and McGuire are hopeful that a few Senate seats will change this year so they can block abortion bills with more than one vote.

“It can get discouraging at times,” said McGuire. “But the biggest thing you can do is hold back the flood ... while this generation becomes more and more pro-life.”

“I always used to say, as a lobbyist, the most important thing a person could do was write a letter to your legislator,” Gallagher said. But she has revised that: “The most important thing we can do is talk to your neighbor.”

Need an Immune System Boost? Try a Three-Day Fast

 

By Mark Russell

(WNS)--University of Southern California (USC) researchers published a study last week suggesting that fasting may put the immune system into overdrive by activating stem cells.

Studying the effects of fasting on cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy produced the unexpected result. Fasting not only protected healthy tissue, but also allowed the body to recycle old and damaged white cells. When the patients resumed eating, their white counts returned to normal. Where were the new white cells coming from?

That was the question Valter Longoand his team at USC set out to answer. Longo, director of the USC longevity institute and a member of the USC Norris Cancer Center,  compares the recycling of old white cells to throwing excess cargo overboard during a crisis. Prolonged fasting triggered the body to regenerate the lost cells. The process reduces an enzyme called PKA and stimulates stem cells to shift into a regenerative mode. Fasting also lowered IGF-1, a growth hormone which Longo had previously shown to be linked with aging, tumor growth, and cancer risk. 

“We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem-cell based regeneration of the hematopoietic system,” Longo said in a statement. The prolonged fast in this study lasted three days and limited participants to between 400 and 1,000 calories a day. 

Chemotherapy can save cancer patients’ lives, but it takes a toll on normal tissue as well. This collateral damage is thought to be significantly lessened by pre-treatment fasting, which causes normal cells go into a survival state and stop multiplying. Chemotherapy attacks actively dividing cells. Fasting has no effect on the cancer cells, which are already dividing at an unnatural rate. The end result: Cancer cells are killed and the normal cells are spared.

During chemotherapy, patients’ white cells, red cells, and platelets drop after treatment. This new information suggests fasting not only protects normal tissue but cycles patients’ immune cells in a way that causes them to be replenished with new ones after the patients begin eating again.

Calorie restriction has long been known to promote longevity in lab animals, and some humans have tried it in hopes of extending their lives. The underlying mechanism remains unknown, but Longo’s research could begin to provide the answer. The effect may not depend on constant calorie restriction, but on periodic 72-hour fasts.

If fasting has such a profound effect on the immune system, what might be going on in the rest of the body? “We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system,” Longo said.

Fasting has long been a part of many religious traditions and considered spiritually beneficial. This new study suggests that it may have a more holistic effect. Medical experts advise fasting should never be done without consulting a doctor first.

 

Catholic Church Wins Hiring Case at European Rights Court

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--The European Court for Human Rights ruled June 12that the Roman Catholic Church can base its hiring and firing decisions on its beliefs and conduct policies.

The split, 9-8 decision upheld the Church’s 1997 decision not to renew the contract of Fernández Martínez, a former priest, after he opposed the doctrine of priestly celibacy. Martínez, a high school religion teacher in Spain, took the case from a local Spanish employment tribunal all the way to Europe’s highest rights court. All rejected his claim that the Church violated his rights.

The human rights court majority ruled that the religion teacher was “voluntarily” part of a group that, “for reasons of credibility,” had “a duty of loyalty towards the Catholic Church.” By voluntarily entering into the contract, he was “limiting his right to respect for his private life.” Martínez’s teaching position was also “very close” to the “Church’s proclamatory mission.”

Therefore, the Church had a right to not renew his contract if he publicly opposed its doctrines.

Lawsuits over sexuality and sexual conduct policies at schools are becoming more common in the West. “If government can dictate who teaches a particular religion, then government can dictate what the content of that religion is,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which submitted third-party briefs in the case. Churches “must be able to require their teachers to show loyalty to church beliefs,” Rassbach said.

In a somewhat ironic dissent, Russian Judge Dmitry Dedov called the Catholic Church’s policy “totalitarianism,” adding that “the celibacy rule contradicts the idea of fundamental human rights and freedoms.” He did not state where he believed those human rights come from.

The European Court of Human Rights is not part of the often ultra-liberal European Union. The Council of Europe entered into the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in 1953. The Council is made up of 47 countries of the greater European and Mediterranean regions, including all 28 EU nations. But it also includes more conservative members, like Turkey.

The court has a varied past on religious liberty. Article 12 of the ECHR still mentions marriage as between a man and a woman only, and the court ruled in 2012 that gay marriage is not a “human right.” But the decision created a mixed ruling for religious institutions, leading London’s Daily Mail to denounce English officials’ promise to protect religious freedom when legalizing gay marriage as “worthless.”

 

Ireland Investigates Death of 800 Babies at Home for Unwed Mothers

By Courtney Crandell

(WNS)--Ireland's government launched an investigation in early June into the high mortality rates and mistreatment of babies who died decades ago in homes for unmarried mothers, plunging the country into a painful examination of the past.

The investigation followed the revelation that hundreds of children died at a former “mother and baby” home run by the Congregation of the Bon Secours Sisters in western Ireland. Historian Catherine Corless found records showing that 796 children, mostly infants, died in the home in Tuam, which operated from 1925 until 1961. Corless said the child death records suggest that a former septic tank filled with bones is the final resting place for most, if not all, the children.

Charlie Flanagan, minister for children and youth affairs, called the discovery “deeply disturbing” and announced June 4 a “cross-departmental initiative” to determine the appropriate course of action. Archbishop Michael Neary, head of the Tuam archdiocese, welcomed the investigation and promised a memorial service and plaque for the children as well as re-interment of their remains on consecrated ground. He also said the Sisters have a moral imperative to “act upon their responsibilities in the interests of the common good.” On June 8, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin also called for a country-wide investigation into the homes.

Ireland had about 10 mother and baby homes run by different orders until the 1960s. Typically, the women’s families and wider society shamed and rejected them because of their out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Babies born inside the institutions were denied baptism and, if they died from the illness and disease rife in such facilities, also denied a Christian burial. Throughout Ireland in the first half of the 20th century, church-run orphanages and workhouses often buried their dead in unmarked graves and unconsecrated ground.

Amid the outcry, Prime Minister Enda Kenny promised an extensive inquiry into the homes and acknowledged that for decades, children born out of wedlock were treated as “an inferior subspecies.”

“This was Ireland of the 20s to the 60s—an Ireland that might be portrayed as a glorious and brilliant past, but in its shadows contained all of these personal cases, where people felt ashamed, felt different, were suppressed, dominated,” he said. “And obviously the question of the treatment in the mother and babies homes is a central part of that.”

The inquiry, which will include one Protestant-run home, will examine high mortality rates, burial practices, illegal adoptions, and whether vaccine trials were conducted on the children. Kenny’s government already authorized police and government record-trawling efforts into the Tuam home.

In 2011, journalist Martin Sixsmith wrote The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, later made into the Oscar-nominated film Philomena, detailing a woman’s 50-year search for her son. As a teenager pregnant out-of-wedlock, Lee gave birth to her son in a convent. He was taken from her 3 years later and adopted by an American family. According to Sixsmith, babies born in the homes frequently went to the United States in exchange for “donations.” 

“The mothers were told they were moral degenerates,” Sixsmith wrote after the Tuam discovery. “The nuns said they would burn in hell if they spoke to anyone about their children or what had been done to them. That sense of guilt and shame remained with the girls for life.”

Death records in County Galway, which includes Tuam, showed that the children, mostly babies and toddlers, died often of sickness, disease, deformities, and premature births in the home during the 36 years it operated. A 1944 government inspection recorded evidence of malnutrition among some of the 271 children then living alongside 61 unwed mothers. Elderly locals recalled that the children attended a local school—but were segregated from other pupils—until they were adopted or placed, around age 7 or 8, into church-run industrial schools that featured unpaid labor and abuse. The building, which had previously been a workhouse for homeless adults, was torn down decades ago to make way for new houses.

Records indicate that the former Tuam workhouse’s septic tank was converted specifically to serve as the body disposal site for the orphanage. Locals discovered the bone repository in 1975 when two boys broke away the tank’s cement cover.

The inquiry follows four other fact-finding investigations in Ireland, including examinations of the cover-up of child abuse inside industrial schools and by priests in Dublin, Cork, and the southeast county of Wexford.

Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said a commission must be granted full power to compel witnesses to produce evidence and supply documents. “Uncovering the dark history of how we treated unmarried mothers and their children is vital for us to truly acknowledge and understand our past,” she said in a statement. “This is the missing piece of the jigsaw.”

Brazilian Soccer Star Belongs to Jesus

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--As his native Brazil hosts the month-long World Cup tournament, soccer star Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite wants you to know that he is a Christian.

Ricardo, better known only as Kaká, is a 32-year-old Brazilian who plays for AC Milan in Italy. Though left off this year’s World Cup team, Kaká has played in the last three World Cups for Brazil, winning it in 2002. He grew in popularity and won FIFA’s highest honor, the Ballon d'Or, in 2007.

“I never imagined reaching the place that I reached, conquering the things that I conquered,” he told I Am Second, an evangelism ministry that tells celebrity faith stories. “As a soccer player, I won everything I could.”

The video hit YouTube on Wednesday as part of the ministry’s World Cup initiative. I Am Second is just one of many international organizations this month to use soccer balls featuring the colors of the wordless book, a witnessing tool that uses colors to tell the gospel story. Kaká has often proclaimed his faith at the height of his accomplishments, even donating the Ballon d'Or to his church. When he won the UEFA Champions League with AC Milan in 2007, he ripped off his shirt. But instead of the traditional shirtless roar, he revealed an undershirt that read, “I Belong to Jesus.”

Kaká allowed I Am Second to use his story in the World Cup campaign, accompanied by Luke 5:1-11, which tells the story of Peter, James, and John leaving the occupation that defined their lives—fishing on the sea of Galilee—to follow Jesus. The soccer star dedicated his life to becoming a professional player at age 15 in a sports-crazed Brazilian culture that rivals high school and college sports in the United States. Soccer is king, if not god.

In a moment of “meditation on God’s word,” though, he said he realized that Jesus is the true first place. “Even though I am playing against others, and it is important to get there and win, I believe Jesus is much more important than all of that,” he said.

Kaká and his wife, Caroline Celico, began dating as “childhood sweethearts” in 2002 and married in 2005. Kaká, a kind of international Tim Tebow figure, and Celico both say they were virgins. But the couple has had some rocky moments. Celico, 26, was ordained by Brazil’s Reborn in Christ Church as a pastor. The couple left the megachurch in 2010, reportedly because of the way it treated and regarded money. Celico told a Brazilian television station in 2012 that she was somewhat dissatisfied with organized churches, saying that “our church is our house.”

On the field, Kaká has struggled to return to form after knee surgery. He is “learning many things,” he said, especially about the love of God in raising his two young children. “I’m not afraid of anything,” he said. “I learned to live each day waiting for God’s daily bread and by having faith that things could change in any given moment.”

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Seattle Pacific University Student Stopped Gunman, Saved Lives

 

(WNS)--Officials are hailing a Seattle Pacific University student as a hero for his role in subduing a 26-year-old gunman who came to the small Christian college campus June 5 to kill as many people as possible. Friends describe Jon Meis as quiet, gentle, outdoorsy, and deeply committed to his faith. When Aaron Ybarra entered the Otto Miller Hall at about 3:30 p.m., armed with a shotgun, knife, and rounds of ammunition, Meis was working as a building monitor, sitting at a desk near the door. When the gunman paused to reload his weapon, Meis unleashed the can of pepper spray he always kept with him. While Ybarra was disoriented, Meis tackled him to the ground and restrained him in a choke hold until police arrived and put him in handcuffs.  Police say Ybarra, who was not a student at Seattle Pacific, was obsessed with the Columbine High School massacre, in which two students killed 15 classmates and injured 21 others in 1999. He had even visited the Colorado school.

Should Truancy Officers Be Keeping Track of Teachers?

 

(WNS)--Public school teachers are absent from their classrooms an average of 6 percent of the time, according to a recent study released by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). “We may be missing one of the most obvious ways to improve teacher quality,” Nancy Waymack from the NCTQ told me. Schools could improve education simply by ensuring regular teachers show up for work. Of the teachers in the 40 districts surveyed during the 2012-2013 school year, 16 percent were “chronically absent.” This means they missed 18 days or more, equaling about one in 10 days of a normal school year. Teachers in Cleveland averaged 15.6 absences per year. In Indianapolis, they missed an average of six classes. According to the Center for American Progress, paying for substitute teachers adds up to at least $4 billion annually.

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

Muslim Militants Storm Church, Kill 30 in Central African Republic

 

(WNS)--Muslim gunmen rampaged through a Catholic church compound in the capital of Central African Republic on May 28, killing up to 30 people with gunfire and grenades.

Witnesses said the attack happened at the Church of Fatima, where several hundred civilians had sought refuge from mob violence now ravaging Bangui’s streets. “We were in the church when were heard the shooting outside,” the Rev. Freddy Mboula told the Associated Press. “There were screams and after 30 minutes of gunfire there were bodies everywhere.” Another priest at the scene, Rev. Paul Emile Nzale, confirmed about 30 people were killed in the attack. An AP reporter counted at least 20 bodies at one city hospital, where they were taken because the morgue was closed. A second hospital confirmed another three bodies. The church attack is blamed on Muslim fighters whose Seleka coalition was ousted from political power about five months ago. The brutal Muslim rebel regime seized power by force in March 2013. 

                 

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The West Michigan Christian News desires to glorify God while providing global, national, and local news to the West Michigan community. The West Michigan Christian News is a non-denominational, Christ-centered, advertiser-supported monthly newspaper published in Grand Rapids, Michigan by Manna Media Inc. It is unabashedly biased in its Christian presentation of news and views. It is also dedicated to the promotion of Christian unity by focusing on the 95 percent of the Christian faith on which all Christians agree while refusing to get drawn into controversies about the 5 percent on which we might differ.

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