Current Events

Homeschooling Under Attack in California

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on March 7:

“A California appeals court ruling clamping down on homeschooling by parents without teaching credentials sent shock waves across the state this week, leaving an estimated 166,000 children as possible truants and their parents at risk of prosecution… The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that California law requires parents to send their children to full-time public or private schools or have them taught by credentialed tutors at home… the appeals court said state law has been clear since at least 1953, when another appellate court rejected a challenge by homeschooling parents to California’s compulsory education statutes. Those statutes require children ages 6 to 18 to attend a full-time day school, either public or private, or to be instructed by a tutor who holds a state credential for the child’s grade level.

“‘California courts have held that … parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children,’ Justice H. Walter Croskey said in the 3-0 ruling issued on Feb. 28… Parents can be criminally prosecuted for failing to comply, Croskey said. ‘A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare,’ the judge wrote, quoting from a 1961 case on a similar issue…

“Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute… said the appellate court ruling has set a precedent that can now be used to go after homeschoolers. ‘With this case law, anyone in California who is homeschooling without a teaching credential is subject to prosecution for truancy violation, which could require community service, heavy fines and possibly removal of their children under allegations of educational neglect,’ Dacus said…”

The ruling by the Second District Court of Appeal has been posted on In reviewing the case, it should be noted that the court allows for a very limited and extremely burdensome exception for those (like those adherents of the Amish faith and practice) who set forth facts in detail proving that it would be against their religious conviction to have children taught in public schools. The court demands a very detailed and convincing description. The mere statement to the effect that homeschooling is “against my sincere religious conviction, based on the Bible,” would not be sufficient.

Governor Schwarzenegger and Others Blast Ruling on Homeschooling

WorldNetDaily wrote on March 7:

“California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today blasted a court ruling that endangered homeschooling and homeschoolers statewide. ‘Every California child deserves a quality education and parents should have the right to decide what’s best for their children,’ the governor said in a prepared statement. ‘Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children’s education.’

“The comments came after a state appellate court ruling essentially concluded California state law allows no option for parents to school their children at home… ‘This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don’t protect parents’ rights then, as elected officials, we will,’ he said.

“The governor’s office said the ruling from the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles concluded ‘all children ages 6 to 18 must attend public or private school full-time until graduation from high school or be tutored at home by a credentialed teacher.’ The ruling resulted from a case involving the family of Phillip and Mary Long, who earlier described for WND their concerns with the public school district’s advocacy for alternative sexual lifestyles and the promotion of a faith in evolution…

“James Dobson, founder of the Focus on the Family powerhouse Christian publisher, called it ‘an imperious assault on the rights of parents.’ ‘How dare these judges have the audacity to label tens of thousands of parents criminals – the equivalent of drug dealers or pickpockets – because they want to raise and educate their children according to their deeply held values?’ he said.”

On Tuesday, March 11, 2008,  the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell issued a press release on behalf of the California Department of Education. In the statement, O’Connell wrote: “I want to assure parents that chose to home school that California Department of Education policy will not change in any way as a result of this ruling. Parents still have the right to home school in our state… some parents choose to send their children to private schools or to home school, and I respect that right.”

It is interesting what this rather political statement does not say. It does not recognize the rights of parents to have their children taught by uncredentialed teachers–a practice which the Court of Appeal explicitly denied. IF the California Department of Education wants to grant such a right, it would be in conflict with the holding of the Court of Appeal. Unless the Court of Appeal’s decision is repealed by the California Supreme Court, or the United states Supreme Court, or unless California law is AMENDED, the Court of Appeal’s decision is binding on all lower California courts. This means, parents in violation of the Court of Appeal’s findings could still be sued and convicted of crime–regardless of what “practice” the California Department of Education may claim to endorse or support.

Will Other States Accept California Ruling on Homeschooling?

The Christian Science Monitor stated on March 10:

“A court ruling that California parents ‘do not have a constitutional right’ to home-school their children has touched off anger and bewilderment throughout America’s home-schooling community and prompted a denunciation from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“For a movement that has gained greater accommodation in recent years, a state appellate court decision last month is a setback that, if not overturned on appeal, could force some 166,000 home-schooled students in California to enroll in conventional schools. It may also prod California and other states with vague or nonexistent laws on home schooling to be more specific about what is allowed and what is required of home-schoolers.

“California’s education statutes, for instance, do not mention ‘home schooling,’ but officials have allowed the practice for decades. The appellate court, however, found that the state’s laws have not been changed to allow home schooling since a case back in 1953 erected a major roadblock to the practice…

“‘I could see this [ruling] being a real strong impetus for home-schoolers in California to get the legislature to change their laws…. Or I could see it being perhaps the beginning of other states wanting to look more closely both at their laws and current enforcement,’ says Kimberly Yuracko, a professor at Northwestern University’s Law School in Chicago.

“The number of students nationwide who are home-schooled is not known because 10 states are so hands-off they require no reporting at all, nor do parents always comply with reporting requirements. Estimates range from 1.1 million to 2.5 million home-schooled students, and the numbers are rising. About half the states require more than simple notification from parents or guardians, such as testing, curriculum approval, or home visits. But such rules are dwindling – either explicitly or by lax enforcement, say experts. Home-school advocates worry the California case could bring more regulation or enforcement, or both…

“California law stipulates two main exemptions to compulsory public school: enrollment in a full-time private school or instruction from a credentialed tutor. Some home-schoolers enroll their children in independent study programs at private or public charter schools that allow students to work mostly from home. Officials have also allowed parents to declare their home a private school, a process requiring once-a-year filing of a short form. In this case [decided by the appellate court], the parents had enrolled their children in a private school under an arrangement that kept the kids at home except to take year-end tests. School officials said they visited the home about four times a year. Writing for the appellate court, Justice H. Walter Croskey derided this arrangement as a ‘ruse’…”

President Bush Vetoes Bill Against Waterboarding

The Associated Press reported on March 8:

“President Bush said Saturday he vetoed legislation that would ban the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods such as waterboarding to break suspected terrorists because it would end practices that have prevented attacks… based on the margin of passage in each chamber, it would be difficult for the Democratic-controlled Congress to turn back the veto. It takes a two-thirds majority, and the House vote was 222-199 and the Senate’s was 51-45…

“But waterboarding is the most high-profile and contentious method in question. It involves strapping a person down and pouring water over his cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning. It has been traced back hundreds of years to the Spanish Inquisition and is condemned by nations around the world and human rights organizations as torture. The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 includes a provision barring cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment for all detainees, including CIA prisoners, in U.S. custody. Many people believe that covers waterboarding…

“The military specifically prohibited waterboarding in 2006. The CIA also prohibited the practice in 2006 and says it has not been used since three prisoners encountered it in 2003. But the administration has refused to rule definitively on whether it is torture. Bush has said many times that his administration does not torture. The White House says waterboarding remains among the interrogation methods potentially available to the CIA.”

The Daily Mail reported on March 10 that “George Bush caused international outrage last night after refusing to ban torture by the CIA.”

“U.S. Economy Has Entered Recession”

Reuters reported on March 12:

“The U.S. economy has ground to a halt and probably already is in recession but faces higher inflation this year than thought just a month ago, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday. A dismal run of economic data including two months of job market contraction, a declining factory sector and shrinkage in the dominant service sector, has led analysts to downgrade the already grim economic assessment they gave a month ago…

“Economists dropped growth expectations to none at all for the first three months of this year from the anemic 0.2 percent they forecast last month. The poll also showed a median 60 percent chance of an outright recession, which likely started in the current quarter if not late last year. That was up sharply from 45 percent last month and in January. ‘The evidence has built to the point that it is now beyond a reasonable doubt that the U.S. economy has entered recession,’ said Scott Anderson, a senior economist at Wells Fargo & Co. in Minneapolis… with the economy reeling amid the worst housing slump since the Great Depression and resulting financial market turmoil, some analysts say monetary policy may not be enough to cure what ails it.”

The Associated Press reported on March 13:

“Widespread concern about the outlook for the U.S. economy pushed the euro to a new record and the yen to 12-year highs against the U.S. dollar Thursday, while gold and oil prices also surged… The dark economic outlook has raised expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will continue to cut interest rates — even as the European Central Bank sticks to a tough anti-inflation stance and signals that no rate cuts are on the way for the 15-nation euro zone from its current 4 percent level. Lower interest rates can jump-start a nation’s economy, but can also weigh on its currency as traders transfer funds to countries where they can earn higher returns.”

In other words, the economic world will move away from the U.S. dollar and embrace other currencies, such as the euro.

“What Can Europe Expect From the Next White House?”

On March 11, Der Spiegel Online published the following in-depth analysis of the three remaining presidential candidates in the light of a possible European and especially German future. The magazine stated:

“Obama, Clinton and McCain have one thing in common: They have recognized that maintaining the status quo in Washington is not an option. They know that one of their main challenges will be to reestablish fundamental confidence in the United States…

“President Bush, who may well be the worst president in the history of the United States… has brought the country’s reputation to an all-time low worldwide. In the eyes of much of the world, the America of George W. Bush is no longer a beacon of democracy. Instead, it stands for contempt for international law (because of the US’s unilateral war in Iraq), torture at Abu Ghraib, bending the law in Guantanamo and selfish environmental policies that do more harm than good to the world’s climate… Less than half of the populations of all Western European countries, 30 percent of Germans and only 8 percent of Turkish citizens have a positive view of the United States… When George W. Bush began his first term in January 2001, 78 percent of Germans still had a positive view of the United States.

“… the three presidential candidates… differ when it comes to their foreign policy proposals designed to repair America Inc. At first glance, the differences seem minor, but upon closer inspection they are significant — and they offer a surprising, but not always pleasant, outlook for German politics.

“Whether the Republican… or the Democrats… come into power, they will want Germany, as a NATO partner, to assume more responsibility, especially in Afghanistan. While Berlin has managed to fend off the urgent requests coming from a weakened Bush administration, this will become much more difficult when it is dealing with any new US commander-in-chief. Obama, the inexperienced candidate… recently said that it is unacceptable that the Americans and the British are bearing the brunt of ‘the dirty work’ in Afghanistan. If he becomes president, Obama will demand that the German military, the Bundeswehr, which has been stationed in the relatively safe northern part of the country until now, ultimately participate in combat missions in the south… Afghanistan experts believe that it is naïve to think that the Taliban can be defeated, no matter how many NATO troops are deployed to the region. Air strikes, the only effective weapon against the radical Islamists, who often hide in villages, also exact a high civilian death toll and fuel hatred among the population…

“Unlike Bush… McCain is opposed to allowing interrogation methods that border on torture. As a former POW in North Vietnam, McCain knows what torture means. Like his Democratic opponents, he would probably close the detainee camp at Guantanamo. Nevertheless, his worldview remains shaped by his military career. ‘We can afford to spend more on national defense,’ says McCain, as if the United States weren’t already spending more on defense today than the rest of the world combined. McCain also hasn’t ruled out a military strike against the regime in Tehran, although he has said that it wouldn’t be his ‘preferred option.’ …

“If terrorists were to attack the United States or concrete plans of such an attack became known, all three would strike back without hesitation. Even the charismatic Obama, who normally comes across as gentle, almost a pacifist, insists on the right to ‘unilateral American action.’ In the fight against al-Qaida, Obama says he would insist ‘that Pakistan crack down on the Taliban, pursue Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants.’ If necessary, the senator from Illinois would even use US Special Forces to eliminate current targets.

“Environmentalists should be overjoyed by the three American presidential hopefuls’ environmental policies. Obama, Clinton and McCain all sound as if they had been coached by a member of the German Green Party. All three have very similar ideas about reversing the Bush administration’s course, which has been deaf to environmental concerns, and make climate protection a top priority… When it comes to environmental policy, however, the least convincing of the three is McCain, who initially said that he would repeal the tax breaks for large corporations and the wealthy approved by his party, but then changed his mind.

“The Democrats are playing to voters’ fears triggered by the recession. Both Obama… and Clinton create the impression that they can use protectionist measures to bring back the jobs the United States has lost. They must know that they are merely creating illusions among trade unions and factory workers…

“Those who plan to vote for the Democrats support a phased, but clearly scheduled withdrawal [from Iraq]. Clinton and Obama agree that a ‘victory’ for US troops in Iraq is impossible. Those who plan to vote Republican will be supporting McCain’s statement that the US presence in Iraq could last ‘another 100 years’… McCain claims the surge is experiencing ‘success,’ citing the decline in American casualties. The Democrats counter that despite the fact that some parts of the country are now relatively peaceful, the overall situation remains dramatic, the struggle is shifting to new targets selected by the terrorists, like Mosul, and the relative calm in Baghdad is the work of radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who has chosen, for the time being, to respect the cease fire he proclaimed.

“It seems unlikely that McCain’s strategy of aggressive action in Iraq will sit well with voters. Despite the Pentagon’s considerable PR efforts, only 39 percent of Americans today believe that the troop surge is working and has been successful. More than 60 percent continue to see the war as a ‘mistake,’ and about half support withdrawing from Iraq as quickly as possible. In this respect, Obama has an advantage over Clinton. While she voted in favor of the war resolution in the Senate in October 2002, he was opposed to the Iraq invasion from the start on the grounds that it was in violation of international law.

“Berlin will also see additional burdens coming its way on the issue of Iraq. All three remaining presidential candidates want to ‘internationalize’ the Iraq conflict, and they are likely to ask allies for substantial financial and logistical contributions — perhaps even troops.”

To summarize, a substantial improvement of US.-EU relationships under a new U.S. President is, realistically, not to be expected. And the Bible says that it will not happen. For more information, please read our free booklets, “Europe in Prophecy” and “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America.”

“The Magic Is Over”

The International Herald Tribune reported on March 13:

“Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister of France and a longtime humanitarian, diplomatic and political activist on the international scene, says that whoever succeeds President George W. Bush may restore something of the United States’ battered image and standing overseas, but that ‘the magic is over.’… Asked whether the United States could repair the damage it has suffered to its reputation during the Bush presidency and especially since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Kouchner replied, ‘It will never be as it was before.’

”’I think the magic is over,’ he continued, in what amounted to a sober assessment from one of the strongest supporters in France of the United States.”

“Progress” on U.S. Missile Shield Deal with Poland?

Reuters reported on March 10:

“President George W. Bush pledged on Monday to help modernize Poland’s military as part a U.S. effort to secure agreement for basing components of a global missile defense shield in Eastern Europe… The Bush administration wants to put the interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic as part of a system it says is meant to protect against long-range ballistic missiles from ‘rogue states’ such as Iran and North Korea. Russia has insisted, however, that the shield could pose a threat to its security, and Putin has warned that Moscow will target its missiles at the system if it is deployed in Eastern Europe, Russia’s former sphere of influence.”

“The European Airbus March on America”

Der Spiegel Online reported on March 10:

“Last week, the US Defense Department announced it was awarding the second-biggest contract in its history to a consortium that includes the European Airbus Group, leaving domestic aviation giant Boeing on the outside looking in. A political flap among politicians of all stripes quickly ensued, with calls for the contract to be reviewed and warnings that US national security may be at risk. On its surface, the deal looks simple enough — the contract is for several hundred in-flight refueling aircraft. But days of protest have made it clear that the issue at stake is more one of production locale than logistics — and the formula of global economic power.

“In Chicago, home to both Boeing’s headquarters and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, the Senator recently said that he could not believe that ‘an American company that has been a traditional source of aeronautic excellence would not have done this job.’ His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, said that she was ‘deeply concerned about the Bush administration’s decision to outsource the production of refueling tankers for the American military.’ Her fellow Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, agreed and wondered aloud about the ‘national security implications of using an aircraft supplied by a foreign firm.’

“Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate John McCain was surprisingly cautious in his remarks. He merely said that he was ‘interested to learn how the Air Force came to its contract award decision here and whether it fairly applied its own rules in arriving at that decision,’ adding that he wanted to examine the details of the deal before commenting on it. Nevertheless, the Republican Party base is incensed. Many consider the contract award to be unpatriotic…

“Boeing is currently considering a legal challenge to the Airbus deal. But should the court come to the conclusion that everything about the contract was perfectly legal, it could provide Americans with an unmistakable confirmation of something experts have been saying for years: that the competitiveness of the US economy has declined dramatically.

“Almost everything Americans need in their lives today is imported… Until now, the job of outfitting the US Armed Forces was sacrosanct — and reserved for domestic manufacturers. The Pentagon’s decision to award portions of the Air Force contract to a European company is thus both a provocation and a violation of a taboo… German Chancellor Angela Merkel did refer to the US Air Force deal as a ‘huge success.'”

Gaza Rocket Breaks Lull

Reuters reported on March 11:

“A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel on Tuesday just hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited the area and cautioned residents not to expect a lull in Palestinian attacks to last. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the rocket strike, the first against Israel since Sunday, saying its ‘battle against occupation is continuing.’ Such attacks have tailed off sharply since Israel ended a Gaza offensive eight days ago and Egypt stepped up truce mediation efforts. Israel has not raided the Gaza Strip since the five-day assault that killed some 120 Palestinians… Olmert said Hamas has ‘created a reality in which there is no way to protect Israeli civilians except to hit back at those who hit us, and sometimes to hit back disproportionately so their pain will be enough to deter them from continuing to fire.'”

AFP added on March 13:

“Israeli warplanes hit Hamas-run Gaza on Thursday after militants rattled the Jewish state with rocket fire… The violence flared within hours of an Israeli operation on Wednesday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, where undercover special forces killed four Palestinian militants, including two senior commanders.”

Germany Condemns Israel’s Plans for New Settlements

AFP reported on March 10:

“Germany on Monday condemned Israel’s plan to build hundreds of new homes in occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank, calling it unacceptable and a threat to the Middle East peace process… Authorities in Jerusalem said on Monday they planned to build a new Jewish settlement of around 400 homes in the annexed eastern part of the city, which Palestinians want as the capital of their promised state… The announcements followed Thursday’s attack on a Jewish religious school in west Jerusalem in which a Palestinian gunman shot dead eight people.

“The international community has never recognized Israel’s claim to east Jerusalem and Palestinians have demanded a halt to settlement activity in all areas occupied in the 1967 war… German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Israel on March 16 with several cabinet ministers for a high level visit.”

Serbia’s Government Dissolved–“Most Important Election” Ahead

Reuters reported on March 10:

“Serbia’s coalition government, torn by division over the loss of Kosovo, was formally dissolved on Monday, opening the way for an early parliamentary election. The decision was taken at a brief cabinet session following Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica’s Saturday announcement that the government could not stay in office owing to disunity over the conflicting goals of defending Kosovo and joining the European Union…

“President Boris Tadic must now disband parliament and set a date for the election, probably on May 11. It will be the most important election since voters ended the era of the late autocrat Slobodan Milosevic in 2000… Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said he hoped for a victory for pro-European parties in Serbia’s upcoming election.”

Pledge of Allegiance Un-British?

Times on Line reported on March 11:

“Lord Goldsmith, the peer charged with carrying out a review for Gordon Brown, suggested children take oaths of allegiance to mark accession from being a student to becoming a UK citizen – an idea which appears similar to that held in America, where children stand at attention to the US flag with their right hand over the heart… However, plans for school pledges caused an immediate backlash from head teachers, the Scottish government – which has its own education powers – and a leading Liberal Democrat peer. ‘This is a half-baked idea…’, John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said. ‘Schools will reject it as an un-British idea imported from America, which does not fit into their ethos or culture’…

“The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister very much welcomes Lord Goldsmith’s review of citizenship. It has a number of interesting proposals in it and no doubt there will be a debate about them. ‘He thinks this is a good issue to have a debate about. He has said we need to do more to entrench the notion of Britishness in British society.”

Former German President Warns of Dangers for German Political System

The Guardian wrote on March 6:

“Roman Herzog, a former German president and ex-head of the constitutional court, called for changes to the constitution and the electoral system to counter the drift towards government paralysis… Put plainly, the danger of minority governments will grow… Herzog raised the spectre of the Weimar Republic, the ramshackle democracy between the wars which collapsed in chaos and runaway inflation, paving the way for Adolf Hitler… The core of the problem is the long-term trend of erosion of support for the two big national parties, the CDU and the SPD… They now struggle to muster 70% support between them, while the fringe parties – the free market liberals of the FDP, the Greens and the Left – each take up to 10%. Neither of the two big parties can rely on a single junior partner to form a majority.

“For the entire post-war period, German democracy has been a three-party system, morphing into a four-party arrangement with the rise of the Greens in the 1980s. That has now changed. Herzog warned that the entrenchment of the hard left in German politics is likely to be mirrored by the emergence of a stronger extreme right, turning Germany into a six-party system. ‘The possibility of a sixth party, which would not need to be neo-fascist, cannot be quite excluded.’…

“Herzog called for a national debate over how to change the constitution and electoral laws to streamline the system. A British-style system… would ‘never’ be tolerated by the Germans, he said, because a majority of parliamentary seats could be secured from a minority of the popular vote.”

Coming–A European Army

On March 10, the International Herald Tribune published an article by Bernard Kouchner, France’s minister of foreign and European affairs. In his article, Kouchner outlines the goals of a European Defense Force. It is coming–but the Bible shows that ultimately, it will not be limited to just humanitarian, peaceful or “defense” purposes. The article stated:

“For months, for years, we have been deeply distressed, yet powerless, with respect to the tragedy in Darfur. Two weeks ago, despite the troubles in Chad, Europe gave itself the means to protect the victims and to rebuild their villages in eastern Chad. At the behest of France, and thanks to the efforts of our European partners, the European Union… launched its Eufor operation. This is no small achievement. I’ve just returned from Goz Beida in eastern Chad, and I will never forget the enthusiastic welcome the European soldiers received from displaced persons and refugees.

“The launch of an autonomous EU operation in Africa, led by an Irish general with a Polish deputy and bringing together troops from some 15 countries, illustrates how far we have come in building a European defense. It is now desired and supported by nations that until very recently remained skeptical. We have been working to build a European defense since the 1990s…

“No one can deny that this is a major asset for peace in the world. The approximately 15 civilian and military operations that Europe has already conducted since 2003 in the Balkans, in Africa, in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and as far away as Indonesia, largely attest to this. In each of them, the EU was guided by a single ideal: to save lives, to avert war, and to work for reconstruction and reconciliation when the international community had been unable to prevent conflict. Each time we did so with a concern for effectiveness and pragmatism, with or without direct support from the Americans.

“Our vision of relations between the EU and NATO is that they should be founded on this same pragmatism. In some cases, the EU has used its own military means, as it did in Congo in the past and is doing in Chad and the Central African Republic today. In other situations – Bosnia, for example – the EU benefited from NATO support. Now, in a growing number of crises, the EU and NATO are deployed together on the ground. That is sufficient to show that there is not competition but rather complementarity between the two organizations. How could it be otherwise when 21 of the 26 NATO allies are members of the EU, and 21 of the 27 EU partners are members of NATO?…

“The EU presidency, which France will assume on July 1, must allow us to open new perspectives in the field of security and defense, to fight against terrorism and proliferation more effectively, to reinforce our energy security, and to prepare the implementation of permanent structured cooperation open to all 27 member states, as made possible by the new treaty. We will resolutely strive toward that aim.”

Catholic Church Defines Modern “Deadly” Sins

Reuters reported on March 10:

“Thou shall not pollute the Earth. Thou shall beware genetic manipulation. Modern times bring with them modern sins. So the Vatican has told the faithful that they should be aware of ‘new’ sins such as causing environmental blight. The guidance came at the weekend when Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, the Vatican’s number two man in the sometimes murky area of sins and penance, spoke of modern evils… The Vatican opposes stem cell research that involves destruction of embryos and has warned against the prospect of human cloning…

“Girotti also bemoaned that fewer and fewer Catholics go to confession at all. He pointed to a study… that showed that up to 60 percent of Catholic faithful in Italy stopped going to confession… 30 percent of Italian Catholics believed that there was no need for a priest to be God’s intermediary and 20 percent felt uncomfortable talking about their sins to another person.”

On March 10, the Telegraph published an article on the subject, with the headline, “Recycle or go to Hell, Warns Vatican.” With biting irony and sarcasm, the paper pointed out how “mortal” or “deadly” these sins are–according to Catholic teaching, that is:

“Failing to recycle plastic bags could find you spending eternity in Hell, the Vatican said after drawing up a list of seven deadly sins for our times… The ‘sins of yesteryear’ – sloth, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, wrath and pride – have a ‘rather individualistic dimension’ [Girotti said]

“The new seven deadly, or mortal, sins are designed to make worshippers realise that their vices have an effect on others as well. According to Roman Catholic doctrine, mortal sins are a ‘grave violation of God’s law’ and bring about ‘eternal death’ if unrepented by the act of confession. They are far more serious than venial sins, which impede a soul’s progress in the exercise of virtue and moral good…  Girotti said genetic modification, carrying out experiments on humans, polluting the environment, causing social injustice, causing poverty, becoming obscenely wealthy and taking drugs were all mortal sins.”

Let’s note a few things here. First of all, there is nothing in the Bible, delineating between “mortal” and “not-so-mortal” sins. Sin is sin, and every sin leads to eternal death, if not repented of and forgiven by God. Confession to a priest is definitely NOT a procedure endorsed by the Bible. Rather, we need to confess our sins to God and obtain forgiveness from HIM. If we have sinned against another human being, we are to go to the offended person–not a priest or a minister–and reconcile with him or her.

Finally, the Bible does NOT teach that the penalty for sin is being tortured for all eternity in an ever-burning hell. Such a hell simply does not–and will not–exist and is an invention of the human mind. Pagans taught this false concept, and the Catholic Church absorbed it from them–NOT from the Holy Scriptures.

For further information, please read our Q&A on “Confession,” as well as on “Mark 9:43-48.” You may also want to watch Norbert Link’s sermon on the topic of sin, which is posted on Google Video, titled, “Bible Study – Sin: How Do You Look At It?”

“Tsunami That Devastated Ancient World Could Return”

AFP wrote on March 9:

“‘The sea was driven back, and its waters flowed away to such an extent that the deep sea bed was laid bare and many kinds of sea creatures could be seen,’ wrote Roman historian Ammianus Marcellus, awed at a tsunami that struck the then-thriving port of Alexandria in 365 AD. ‘Huge masses of water flowed back when least expected, and now overwhelmed and killed many thousands of people… Some great ships were hurled by the fury of the waves onto the rooftops, and others were thrown up to two miles (three kilometres) from the shore.’ Ancient documents show the great waves of July 21, 365 AD claimed lives from Greece, Sicily and Alexandria in Egypt to modern-day Dubrovnik in the Adriatic… The tsunami was generated by a massive quake that occurred under the western tip of the Greek island of Crete, experts believe…

“Researchers in Britain have taken a fresh look at this event and have come up with some worrying news… The last tsunami to hit the eastern Mediterranean occurred on August 8, 1303. According to research published in 2006, a quake off Crete of about 7.8 magnitude hit Alexandria 40 minutes later with a wave nine metres (29.25 feet) high.”

The new study warns that “Repetition of such an event would have catastrophic consequences for today’s densely-populated Mediterranean coastal regions.”

Our Contaminated Drinking Water and Our Use of Drugs

The Associated Press reported on March 10:

“A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans… the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines… — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health… In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky….

“How do the drugs get into the water?

“People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue… The AP’s investigation also indicates that watersheds, the natural sources of most of the nation’s water supply, also are contaminated…

“Contamination is not confined to the United States. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. Studies have detected pharmaceuticals in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe — even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea. For example, in Canada, a study of 20 Ontario drinking water treatment plants by a national research institute found nine different drugs in water samples. Japanese health officials in December called for human health impact studies after detecting prescription drugs in drinking water at seven different sites.

“In the United States, the problem isn’t confined to surface waters. Pharmaceuticals also permeate aquifers deep underground, source of 40 percent of the nation’s water supply. Federal scientists who drew water in 24 states from aquifers near contaminant sources such as landfills and animal feed lots found minuscule levels of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs…

“Perhaps it’s because Americans have been taking drugs — and flushing them unmetabolized or unused — in growing amounts. Over the past five years, the number of U.S. prescriptions rose 12 percent to a record 3.7 billion, while nonprescription drug purchases held steady around 3.3 billion… Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes… There’s evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

“Human waste isn’t the only source of contamination. Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals. Water sampled downstream of a Nebraska feedlot had steroid levels four times as high as the water taken upstream. Male fathead minnows living in that downstream area had low testosterone levels and small heads.

“Other veterinary drugs also play a role. Pets are now treated for arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and even obesity — sometimes with the same drugs as humans.

“Recent laboratory research has found that small amounts of medication have affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. The cancer cells proliferated too quickly; the kidney cells grew too slowly; and the blood cells showed biological activity associated with inflammation… Also, pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females…

“’We know we are being exposed to other people’s drugs through our drinking water, and that can’t be good,’ says Dr. David Carpenter, who directs the Institute for Health and the Environment of the State University of New York at Albany.”

Commercial Cloning Continues…

The Associated Press reported on March 5:

“Alcalde, a hulking black bull, is quite the stud. He sires up to 40 calves a year, most of them top-grade fighters, even though in human terms he would be almost 80 years old and is nearing the end of his life. Victoriano del Rio, a fifth-generation breeder of fighting bulls, cringes at the thought of losing an animal with such good genes. So he is going to clone him — an unprecedented marriage of modern technology and the Spanish-speaking world’s ancient, beloved pastime…The Spaniard is not alone in the adventure. Rancher Jose Manuel Fernandez in Mexico plans to replicate Zalamero, another aging bull that achieved the rare feat of dodging death in the ring…

“Both breeders have hired ViaGen, a cloning company based in Austin, Texas, to do the job. The technique is essentially the same one used in 1996 to copy the sheep Dolly, the world’s first cloned mammal. It involves inserting the nucleus of a somatic cell from the bull — any cell that is not a sperm cell — into a cow egg cell that has been stripped of its nucleus. The egg undergoes electrical and chemical stimulation to make it divide and grow into an embryo. This is then implanted in a surrogate cow to be carried to term.

“ViaGen spokesman Ben Carlson confirmed the orders from del Rio and Fernandez, but would not comment on pregnancies or expected birth dates. Carlson said the breeders would pay standard cattle cloning prices: $17,500 for the first calf, $15,000 for the second, $12,500 for the third and $10,000 for the fourth and beyond. ViaGen has cloned about 300 mammals, including show pigs, rodeo horses and bucking broncos, since its founding in 2002.

“But this is the world’s first attempt at cloning the breed that takes on matadors in the deadly minuet of bullfighting, the breeders said… But questions abound. It’s one thing to pass on a carbon copy of a fighting or stud bull’s DNA, quite another to expect the new animal to mimic its template.”

… While Robots Replace Humans…

The Associated Press reported on March 5:

“At a university lab in a Tokyo suburb, engineering students are wiring a rubbery robot face to simulate six basic expressions: anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise and disgust. Hooked up to a database of words clustered by association, the robot… responds to the word ‘war’ by quivering in what looks like disgust and fear. It hears ‘love,’ and its pink lips smile… the country [of Japan] is perhaps the closest to a future… where humans and intelligent robots routinely live side by side and interact socially.

“Robots are already taken for granted in Japanese factories, so much so that they are sometimes welcomed on their first day at work with Shinto religious ceremonies. Robots make sushi. Robots plant rice and tend paddies. There are robots serving as receptionists, vacuuming office corridors, spoon-feeding the elderly. They serve tea, greet company guests and chatter away at public technology displays. Now startups are marching out robotic home helpers…

“For Japan, the robotics revolution is an imperative. With more than a fifth of the population 65 or older, the country is banking on robots to replenish the work force and care for the elderly. In the past several years, the government has funded a plethora of robotics-related efforts, including some $42 million for the first phase of a humanoid robotics project, and $10 million a year between 2006 and 2010 to develop key robot technologies. The government estimates the industry could surge from about $5.2 billion in 2006 to $26 billion in 2010 and nearly $70 billion by 2025…

“Japanese are also more accepting of robots because the native Shinto religion often blurs boundaries between the animate and inanimate… To the Japanese psyche, the idea of a humanoid robot with feelings doesn’t feel as creepy — or as threatening — as it might do in other cultures… Japan is already an industrial robot powerhouse. Over 370,000 robots worked at factories across Japan in 2005, about 40 percent of the global total and 32 robots for every 1,000 Japanese manufacturing employees… A single robot can replace about 10 employees… meaning Japan’s future million-robot army of workers could take the place of 10 million humans…

“The ‘Child-Robot with Biomimetic Body’ is designed to mimic the motions of a toddler. It responds to sounds, and sensors in its eyes can see and react to people. It wiggles, changes facial expressions, and makes gurgling sounds. The team leader… is working on artificial intelligence software that would allow the child to ‘learn’ as it progresses… the key is to make robots that look like human beings.”

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