Weblog promises that it doesn't go out looking for denominations fumbling over how to deal with homosexuality. In fact, these stories can all start to sound the same: Minister violates church law, minister brought to church trial, church jurors decide church law doesn't mean what it says, minister let off the hook, other churches upset, journalists ponder possible "schism" in the denomination.

Well, the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s recently reinstated minister, Stephen Van Kuiken, won an appeal after being convicted last year for performing gay marriages. The ten-member Synod of the Covenant, which oversees churches in Ohio, Michigan, and parts of Kentucky and Indiana, voted 6-4 in favor of Van Kuiken. The ruling could be appealed to a higher court. The panel said the PCUSA does not specifically bar ministers from marrying gay couples and does not call for disciplining ministers who do.

What the PCUSA's Book of Order does say is that marriage is "between a woman and a man." However, the church does allow ministers to bless same-sex unions, provided they are not called weddings.

"I don't think it will be ultimately upheld," said Tom Sweets, pastor of the 800-member Madeira-Silverwood Presbyterian Church, which brought the complaint against Van Kuiken. "The decision was made on wordsmithing; it's Bill Clinton's 'whatever the definition of "is" is.'"

For those unfamiliar with the Van Kuiken story, here is a recap with the help of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

  • In 2002, the General Assembly's highest court holds that ministers can bless same-sex unions, but that marriage is between a man and a woman.

  • In May 2003, Van Kuiken found guilty of performing gay marriages and given a "rebuke," the mildest punishment the court could use.

  • In June 2003, Van Kuiken was booted for performing more gay marriages.

  • Last February, Van Kuiken was reinstated as a Presbyterian minister, because the court that stripped him of his pastorate and church membership did so while Van Kuiken was appealing his previous guilty verdict.

  • Now, the original verdict has been overturned because the church does not overtly bar ministers from performing same-sex marriages.

The panel spent much of its time debating semantics, according to the Toledo Blade. "While the Book of Order states that same-sex marriages are 'impermissible,' for example, the wording refers to whether ministers 'should' or 'should not' perform such ceremonies rather than 'must' or 'must not.'" Church law and other judicial rulings "fail to define the performance of a same-sex marriage by a minister as an offense subject to disciplinary trial," the panel said. With this ruling, word games over the definition of marriage are now over, Van Kuiken says, though marriage is still defined as between a man and a woman. (Does this remind anyone else of the Monty Python line, "Let's not bicker and argue over who killed who"?)

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"This was really a landmark decision," Van Kuiken told the Associated Press. "Even if this is appealed to the highest court, it has established a precedent that will allow the Presbyterian church to move forward." He told the Enquirer, "We are making room at the table of Christ both for our gay brothers and lesbian sisters as well as for those with progressive Christian convictions." Van Kuiken obviously believes he is on a more advanced path than the rest of the denomination. After the ruling, he resigned from the PCUSA to become pastor of The Gathering, a non denominational church formed by members who left his former congregation.

The four dissenting panel members said the ruling is "an improper and unjustified attempt to rewrite the clear and unambiguous meaning" of marriage in the Book of Order. The church's General Assembly will likely debate the issue this June.

More Articles:

UMC debates homosexuality:

  • Methodists weigh gay acceptance at legislative gathering | Elected representatives are gathered in Pittsburgh for a 10-day General Conference where they decide, change and uphold church laws. (Scripps Howard News Service)

  • Church court reviews gay pastor's case | The case of an openly lesbian pastor from Ellensburg who won acquittal on charges that she violated the United Methodist ban on gay pastors was before the church's top court yesterday. (Seattle Times)

  • United Methodists debate gay clergy ban at conference | The United Methodist Church, America's third-largest denomination, will hold the line on its ban against gay clergy this week, said the Rev. Larry McCutcheon, superintendent for the Charleston district. (Charleston Post and Courier, SC)

  • Measures on homosexuality considered | The United Methodist Church's highest judicial body and its main legislative branch are slated to take up separate measures related to controversies over homosexuality at the denomination's national meeting in Pittsburgh today. (The Courier-Journal, Louisville)

  • Methodists debate homosexuality | United Methodists who advocate broader acceptance of homosexuality came to their church's national legislative meeting with low expectations. (Associated Press)

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Gay marriage:

Anti-gay marriage rally in Seattle:

  • Message sent from heaven? | Gay marriage leads to a total meltdown of morality in this country. The not-so-sturdy foundation of traditional marriage will be bulldozed. Divorce will rise, Social Security will fall and polygamy will spread across the land. On Saturday, that message reverberated throughout Safeco Field in Seattle (Everett Herald, Wash.)

  • M's, Safeco getting calls criticizing marriage rally | The calls had been coming all week — to the office of the Seattle Mariners as well as to Safeco Insurance, which holds the naming rights to the ballpark where the baseball team plays. (Seattle Times)

  • Thousands protest gay marriage in Seattle | Thousands of people protested gay marriage at a rally Saturday at the city's baseball stadium, facing hundreds of chanting, shouting counter-protesters. (Associated Press)

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Church life:

  • Court backs church on reincarnation expulsion | A Danish regional high court has upheld the expulsion of a Lutheran church member, Steen Ribers, because of his support for what he describes as "Christian" reincarnation. (Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Dissenters form breakaway parish | Conservatives in the diocese led by the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop have left to form a breakaway parish. The new parish does not consider itself part of Robinson's diocese. It has joined the national Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (Associated Press)

  • Converted 1915 church satisfies body and soul | This was a run-down Catholic-turned-evangelical church in the small, citrus-growing town of Fillmore when graphic designer Mick Haggerty bought the property three days after the Northridge earthquake. (Los Angeles Times)

  • A home away from home | Rain was not the only reason why there were glistening faces at the Bethel Hispanic Pentecostal Church of God in New Britain Sunday afternoon. Many churchgoers shed what they called tears of joy as they celebrated the long-awaited opening of their new church, which has called several lots home during the past 15 years. (New Britain Herald, Conn.)

  • As one church moves on, another gets an opportunity | Metropolitan Baptist Church, which recently held a ceremonial groundbreaking for a church facility in Prince George's County, has begun selling off its properties in the District neighborhood that has been its longtime home. (Washington Post)

  • 'A spiritual adventure' | Former businesswoman turned priest is driving force behind new church (Washington Post)

  • St. Mark church, CSS professor and referee honored for local peacemaking | Men as Peacemakers recognize those who pursue peace in everyday life, in ninth annual ceremony. (Duluth News Tribune, Minnesota)

  • Church holds initial service | A newly formed Inland parish of the Armenian Apostolic faith meets for the first time. (Press-Enterprise, Calif)

Orthodox church split with Greece:

  • Orthodox Church split with Greece | The spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians has suspended relations with the head of Greece's Orthodox Church -- a move that could lead to severed ties between the two churches. (Turks.US)

  • Turf war | Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios has chosen to pour more oil on the flames of the recent spat between the Phanar and the Church of Greece. The spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians appears to be heading for conflict with the Greek government, unless it plays into his hands. Vartholomaios's stand raises questions over the solidity of his judgment and his intentions, which appear, at least in part, to have politically expedient objectives. (Kathimerini, Greece)

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Missions & ministry:

  • Overcoming the power of pornography | Wichita churches have started support groups and men's bible studies that focus on sexual addiction (The Wichita Eagle, Kansas)

  • Duty to his God and country calls minister to serve in Cuba | The Rev. Graham Harbman will soon leave his family and church to go to Cuba as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. A former Hackettstown resident, Harbman has been a chaplain for four months with the New Jersey National Guard. (The Express Times, Penn.)

  • Directing the faithful | A devout couple brings isle Christians together through an annual directory (Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

  • Still on a mission | Heather Mercer, who was imprisoned by the Taliban for three months in 2001, says she is thankful for that time. Mercer, a 27-year-old Baylor University graduate, spoke about the effect of missionary work in the Middle East. "I really believe your local church can change the world," she told the congregation. (Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, Texas)

  • Walkers brave cold to assist, feed poor | Church fund-raiser one of nine across region (Detroit Free Press)

  • IFCJ donates over 1 million nis to Beersheva | The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ or Keren L'Yedidut) recently presented a donation of more than one million shekels to the city of Beersheva. The donation will go towards maintaining existing city-run projects, as well as new and innovative projects aimed at assisting new immigrants and low-income families in the city. (Arutz Sheva, Israel)

  • A stitch in time saves lives | Lutherans quilt for refugees (Poughkeepsie Journal, NY)

  • Bible quiz has kids jumping | Seated in chairs equipped with sensors that show who leaves their seats first, contestants respond to questions posed by a quizmaster. The first students to jump from their chairs have 30 seconds to answer--which often means spouting a precise quotation. (Chicago Tribune)

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  • Calling becomes passion for missionary from Petersburg | Ida Lawson has returned to the city of her childhood. God willing, she won't be here long. Her heart, and most of her belongings, are thousands of miles away, in the Holy Land, her home of 10 years now. Lawson left the United States to become a Christian missionary in the Middle East, following the irrepressible call of God, she said. (Petersburg Progress Index, Virginia)

National Day of Prayer:

  • Putnam resident behind Day of Prayer | With giant yellow compaction equipment and wheel loaders lining his parking lot, Juan Carlos Salcedo might seem an unlikely coordinator of the National Day of Prayer, which last year is said to have reached 3 billion people worldwide. (The Journal News, New York)

  • World Day of Prayer observances planned | At least four local observances of the World Day of Prayer are scheduled this week as Christians from throughout the world will gather at courthouses, city halls and outside statehouses to pray for leaders worldwide. (Shamokin News Item, Penn.)

  • Church group opts out of joining National Day of Prayer events | A Utah Valley group of several faiths will not participate in an event through the National Day of Prayer Task Force this year after learning the group doesn't allow LDS Church members to conduct prayer services. (The Daily Herald, Utah)

  • A prayer for praying | Coordinators of national observance would like more participants this year (The Kansas City Star)

  • Fremonters to gather in prayer for nation | A local event, which starts at 7 p.m. May 6, is planned at Fremont Alliance Church, 16th Street and Luther Road. Area residents are invited to gather for worship and prayer. (Fremont Tribune, Nebraska)

  • 'Let freedom ring' — City, borough observe National Day of Prayer | This will be the 53rd annual National Day of Prayer, where people of all faiths gather to pray for the country and its leaders. Although a joint resolution of Congress established the event, which President Harry S. Truman signed into law in 1952, organizers trace the day's history back further. (The Daily Courier, Penn.)

  • Local events planned Thursday for National Day of Prayer | The National Day of Prayer tradition predates the founding of the United States when the Continental Congress issued a proclamation setting aside a day of prayer in 1775. In 1952, Congress established an annual day of prayer, and in 1988, that law was amended, designating the National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday in May. (Huntsville Item, Texas)

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  • Uniting in prayer, liberty | Americans will be asked this Thursday to take time to pray at least five minutes for what is being called "The Freedom Five," or the "Five Points of Prayer: Government (including the military), media, education, church and family." (East Valley Tribune, Arizona)

  • Pastors' focus is teens on National Day of Prayer | Youth pastors from several churches decided to bring together Christian teens from all Onslow County high schools to worship together Wednesday at First Baptist Church on Gum Branch Road. (Jacksonville Daily News, NC)

  • 40,000 pray for Africa | A crowd of about 40 000 people gathered at Newlands Rugby Stadium on Sunday to join millions of others across the continent in a day of prayer for Africa. The services were witnessed by about 20 million Africans in live television broadcasts. (Cape Times, South Africa)

  • City ground zero for prayer day | As many as 10,000 Christians are expected to gather at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday for a National Day of Prayer event organizers hope will put this city on the map -- religiously speaking. (Daytona Beach News-Journal)

George Bush's faith:

  • 'Frontline' explores Bush's faith, its role in U.S. politics | Now, with a "born-again" Christian in the White House, many people are focusing on the role of faith in governing a democracy. (Herald-Leader, Lexington, Kentucky)

  • 'Frontline' takes balanced look at Bush's faith | The Bush seen here may startle those who've doubted either the authenticity of his faith-based convictions or his political smarts. What can be difficult sometimes, as "The Jesus Factor" makes clear, is distinguishing between the two. And how much that should matter. (Cox News Service)

  • George W. Bush: a muddy morality | It will not come as news that the ethical beliefs of the current President of the United States are confused, contradictory, fuzzy and often bizarre. But sometimes the value of logic is all in the showing (Globe and Mail, Canada)

  • The president and his church | Bush is at odds with Methodist teachings on war (The Kansas City Star)

  • Bush's religious expressions draw praise and criticism | Bush arguably has been the leading advocate of this revival, particularly with his "faith-based initiative" designed to give religious institutions a stronger position in tackling poverty and other social problems. (Times Record News, Texas)

Religion & politics:

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  • Catholic candidates' faith on trial | The question of how Catholic politicians should balance their faith's demands and their public responsibilities has taken on new life this year with the presidential candidacy of Democrat John Kerry, a Catholic who backs abortion rights, and a pivotal Senate race in Colorado that includes three Catholic candidates. (Denver Post)

  • A conundrum for Catholic politicians | Should Senator Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican and a highly visible and outspoken Roman Catholic politician, be barred by his bishop from receiving Communion? (New York Times)

  • God save America … | The race for the White House will be decided by fundagelicals. That's good news for twice-born George Bush (John Sutherland, The Guardian)

  • It's time to level the faith-based playing field | the widespread perception persists that it helps to be not only faith-based but based in the right faith too. (Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune)

  • Evangelicals denounce PM over 'scary' remark | The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has demanded an apology from Prime Minister Paul Martin and the Liberal Party for portraying Conservative candidates in the upcoming election as "scary" evangelicals. (CanWest News Service)

EU and Christianity:

  • Polish leader proposes Christian addition to EU text | Aleksander Kwasniewski, the president of strongly Catholic Poland, on Monday proposed adding a reference to Christianity in the text of a planned European Union constitution. (EUbusiness, UK)

  • Pope salutes European Union's new members | Pope John Paul II on Sunday hailed the entry of 10 new nations, including his native Poland, into the European Union and said it must rediscover its Christian roots to deal with diverse cul tures and religions. (Associated Press)

  • Malta should help Europe rediscover Christian roots | Archbishop Joseph Mercieca yesterday called for Malta's contribution to help Europe rediscover and embrace its Christian roots. (Valletta Times, Malta)

  • Prayers for the New EU | Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders kicked off last night's European Union (EU) Enlargement festivities in Dublin by offering prayers for Europe. (Zaman, Turkey)

  • Pope: New EU needs Christianity | Pope John Paul on Sunday welcomed the 10 new nations of the European Union but said the bloc could only face the challenges of the 21st century if it defended its Christian roots. (Reuters)

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Christian/Muslim violence in Nigeria:

  • Police: 80 killed in Nigerian violence | Fighters of a predominantly Christian tribe attacked a Nigerian town dominated by a rival Muslim ethnic group, razing homes and mosques and killing at least 80 people, Nigerian police said Tuesday. (Associated Press)

  • Nigeria town 'calm' after clashes | Police in central Nigeria say they have restored order to a town where land clashes between Muslims and Christians left at least 67 people dead. (BBC)

  • Scores die in Nigerian violence | Nigerian police said they had recovered 67 corpses yesterday after new fighting between rival Christian and Muslim tribes in a remote farming town in central Nigeria. (Reuters)

  • Scores dead in clashes between rival tribes | Clashes between rival Nigerian tribes of Christians and Muslims have killed more than 100 and wounded 1,000, a Nigerian Red Cross official said. (Los Angeles Times)

  • More than 100 dead in Nigeria feud | Clashes between rival Nigerian tribes of Christians and Muslims have killed more than 100 and wounded 1,000, a Nigerian Red Cross official said. (GEO, Pakistan)

  • 100 die in communal fighting in Nigeria | More than 100 people were killed and 1,000 wounded in fresh ethnic and religious fighting in central Nigeria, the country's Red Cross reported yesterday. (The Guardian, UK)

Religious violence in Indonesia:

  • Religious war breaks out in Spice Islands | A week of sectarian fighting in Ambon has killed 37 people, reviving fears the Maluku islands could plunge back into the Muslim Christian bloodletting of three years ago that killed up to 9,000 people. (China Post, Taiwan)

  • Religious war flares in Indonesian islands | A week of sectarian fighting in Ambon has left 37 people dead, reviving fears the Maluku islands could plunge back into the Muslim-Christian bloodletting that killed up to 9,000 people three years ago. (Associated Press)

  • Indonesian police arrest wife, child of Christian leader | Police have arrested the wife and daughter of Alex Manuputty, an exiled Christian leader seeking self-determination for Indonesia's troubled Maluku archipelago, media reports and police said Sunday. (Associated Press)

  • Ambon, Indonesia - sectarian violence resurfaces | On 25 April 2004 fresh sectarian violence broke out in Ambon, the Maluku provincial capital. The violence flared up after some 25 members of the separatist Maluku Sovereignty Front (FKM) celebrated the 54th anniversary of the proclamation of a South Maluku Republic (RMS). This was the worst violence since an agreement in February 2002 ended three years of sectarian fighting in which some 5,000 persons died. (Reuters)

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  • Maluku Islands police chief replaced following Ambon violence | The police chief of Indonesia's embattled Maluku islands has been replaced following days of deadly violence between Christians and Muslims in the provincial capital of Ambon. (Voice of America)

  • Moluccas police chief replaced | The head of police in Indonesia's troubled Moluccas Islands, Brigadier General Bambang Sutrisno, has been replaced. (BBC)

  • 37 dead in sectarian violence | Violence between Muslims and Christians that has left at least 37 dead in the east Indonesia's Ambon city has subsided but sporadic gunfire and explosions were heard overnight, residents said today. (AFP)

  • Sectarian violence eases in Ambon | Violence between Muslims and Christians that has left at least 37 dead in Indonesia's Ambon city has subsided but sporadic gunfire and explosions were heard overnight. (The Age, Australia)

  • Military Mastermind behind Ambon? | The clash involving the pro-separatist Maluku Sovereignty Front (FKM) and those claiming themselves as supporters of the unitary republic in Ambon has aroused suspicion that the military masterminded the major outbreak of violence in the capital of Maluku. (Laksamana, Indonesia)

  • Ambon activist's family arrested | Indonesian police have arrested the wife and daughters of a Christian separatist leader in the eastern city of Ambon, following days of religious fighting there, officials said on Sunday. (Reuters)


  • Third Day wants you to go to the polls and vote | It's funny how most mainstream rock acts support Democrats while nearly every Christian act supports Republicans. (The Wichita Eagle, Kansas)

  • Band entertains packed PSL church | Christian band Jars of Clay fills PSL church with fans from state, beyond (Fort Pierce Tribune, FL)

  • Sounding the call to salvation | She used to dream of being a backing vocalist for Luther Vandross, Madonna or Whitney Houston. Now Kelly Chapman is out front on her own, singing the praises of a higher power. (Plain Dealer, Cleveland)

  • Jazz artists seek the divine, scholar says | Ten years after walking away from jazz to find deeper meaning in her life, pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams released the 1964 album "Mary Lou Williams Presents: Black Christ of the Andes" on her Mary record label. (Hartford Courant)

  • Even faithful pirate music | Christian tunes being stolen by teens at nearly same rate as secular songs (Dallas Morning News)

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  • Heavens hold off rain for Grace | The daylong rain let up by showtime for Grace 2004. The weather wasn't much concern for the hundreds, armed with chairs and rain gear, who attended the 4-year-old Christian music festival Friday night in downtown Pensacola. (Pensacola News Journal)


  • Fremont man pens novel as he battles cancer | "The Mending String" tells the story of a straight-laced minister, Clayton Loverage, who has all the answers for his congregation but can't seem to connect with his teenage daughter. (Tri-Valley Herald, Calif.)

  • New Testament book aimed at all Christians | In writing "An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation," David deSilva, an Ashland Theological Seminary professor, produced a book that he feels can be used not only by seminarians, but also by pastors and Christian leaders. (Mansfield News Journal, Ohio)

  • 'Vows of silence' and 'Priests': Sins of the fathers, cont. | Roman Catholics have come to no consensus on whom to blame for the sexual-molestation scandals that have rocked their church since 2002. (New York Times)

  • 'Memoirs of a Breton Peasant': The village atheist | Jean-Marie Déguignet was in his 60's, well beyond the life expectancy of a 19th-century Breton peasant, when he began writing his memoirs. He had much to tell. Born into rural poverty in 1834, he escaped Brittany by joining the French Army in 1854 and, over the next 14 years, was engaged in wars in the Crimea, Italy, Algeria and Mexico. (New York Times)

  • US publishing giants locked in holy row over religion | America's two bestselling religious publishing houses are going head to head in a battle for hearts, minds and souls of the country's 100 million believers. (The Scotsman, UK)

  • Four books ask whether an old hatred is experiencing new growth. | A few weeks ago, a relative of mine told me that she had just concluded that an era had ended in American Jewish life, and not for the better. From now on, she said, American Jews would feel more comfortable if they became quieter about their identity. (Washington Post)

  • Reagan's bedrock moral values | Hand of Providence highlights events that shaped Reagan's faith (Human Events)

  • Chemist adds novel to accomplishments | Fremont man finishes Christian novel (The Argus, CA)

  • Is the end really near? Book series creating quite a stir | Most folks at the VIP reception had one of Jerry Jenkins' apocalyptic books. Maggi Garrison had three. She balanced them on her forearm and flipped through the top one to show me the fresh autograph on the title page. (The Arizona Republic)

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  • God, we hardly knew Ye | God is omnipotent yet has bowel problems. A guy's guy, he loves the smell of barbecued meat, but is also noted to have breasts full of milk. Contrary to contemporary opinion, love isn't really his strong suit. (Globe and Mail, Canada)

  • Book calls for 'God-centered' worship | Essays put forth argument for strictly obeying Bible's instruction on prayer, services (Knight Ridder Newspapers)


  • Feeling religious, along with life's rhythms | The chaos of life, the random slings and arrows of fortune, the unpredictability of fate, the fear of disaster and nothingness, propel us to construct physical and emotional scaffolds to hold the whirling universe in check. We create order out of disorder, giving to life rhythms and habits to tame its awful incongruities. There are many ways to do this, but perhaps religion does it best. (New York Times)

  • Lessons from the Dalai Lama | Christians have much to learn from this vibrant 69-year-old who so often seems to giggle (Lorna Dueck, Globe and Mail, Canada)

  • Prescription for health: Forgive freely | In late life, people fare best when they shed grudges and hurts of the past, says U-M researcher (Ann Arbor News, Michigan)

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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