Is Bush driven by survivor guilt?

"I've heard the call," Bush is quoted as saying by George magazine. "I believe God wants me to run for president." Writer Aaron Latham talkes to Bush's "close personal friend" Charles Bacarrise, who says, "He felt a call to public service. … There was a call that he is trying to answer. A call to run for president. It shook him." Bush, writes Latham, is remarkable because "he really means what he says about religion. After the lip service paid to faith by Reagan and Clinton, it takes some getting used to." But Latham is unwilling to accept either Bush's religious or political feelings for their face value. Instead, he sees everything as tied to the death of Bush's sister, Robin, who died of leukemia just before her fourth birthday. "Actually, around 40 is when it usually happens: The real bite of survivor guilt clamps down in midlife. Or so I am told. I was 41 when it knocked me head over heels. You take stock. You ask yourself what your sister would think of the use you have made of your life. The life she never had. When George W. Bush was 39, he experienced what he calls a 'spiritual awakening.'" Nice theory, but Latham seems to ignore the fact that not all Christians converted because of survivor guilt—we realized we were guilty of something much, much bigger.

Child pornography becoming bolder, more accessible, and more abundant

"The world of child pornography has undergone a sea change in the last few years," write Wired News's Lynn Burke. There's a flood of new images floating around thanks to digital cameras, dissemination has become a snap thanks to the Internet, and thousands of child pornographers are meeting together pretty much out in the open, thanks to community sites like and AOL. "They're finding validation out there," says the U.S. Custom Service's Layne Lathram. "They say, 'Wow! Look! I'm not so bad, I'm pretty mainstream.'"

U.S. State Department is investigating arrests of Christians in China

"Certainly we find the reports deeply disturbing," says State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. "According to the available information so far, the people arrested have done nothing more than to peacefully practice their religion." More on the arrests of 130 members of the Fangcheng Church is available from The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Thief of pope's skull wants $5,400

The skull of Pope Benedict XIII was stolen back in April (see the last item in this Weblog), and now the person who has it wants a ransom. "I honestly believe this is no joke," says the mayor of the town where Benedict was born. One attempt to recover the skull and lure the person out has been unsuccessful.

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