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Taliban, South Korea Start Direct Talks

Also: U.S. missionary killed in Honduras, WEA announces Iraq branch, a commercial cross fight, and other stories from online sources around the world.

Just links today.

South Korean hostages | Crime | Religious freedom | Middle East | Church and state | Education | Life ethics | 2008 campaign | Democrats' gay debate | Australian politics | Internet obscenity | ELCA synod | Anglicanism | Church life | 20/20 on Billy Graham | Art, entertainment, and media | People | Michael Gerson | Red Cross | Other stories of interest

South Korean hostages:

  • Talks begin for hostage release | Face-to-face negotiation likely to break ice in 3-week-long crisis (The Korea Times)

  • Taliban, Koreans negotiate on hostages | Two top Taliban leaders and four South Korean officials met face-to-face for the first time Friday to negotiate the fate of 21 members of a church group held hostage for three weeks, an Afghan official said (Associated Press)

  • Taliban and Korean team begin talks over hostages | Afghanistan's Taliban began the first round of face-to-face talks with a South Korean team on Friday over the 21 hostages the group is holding, an Afghan official said (Reuters)

  • Taliban demand $1million for each hostage | A high-ranking Afghan source said earlier that the kidnappers have demanded $1 million as ransom for each Korean national. But now it seems that kidnappers are likely to reduce the demand for ransom (The Korea Times)

  • 3 charged for misinformation on hostages | The file explained the hostages went to Afghanistan for missionary purpose, not as medical volunteers as they had said. The file contained photographs of them singing hymns inside a Mosque. It instantly spread to not only domestic Web sites but also foreign media's sites. However, the pictures were taken in 2005, long before this trip, which was actually to provide medical service (The Korea Times)

  • God is not responsible | My earnest hope is to see you Korean hostages in Afghanistan come back home safe. I hope you will come back and make your hard-earned lessons known. I hope you will graduate from your naivety with the help of Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins (Kim Heung-sook, The Korea Times)

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Religious freedom:

  • Christians who helped convert held in Egypt | Police have detained two Egyptian Christians who helped a man who converted from Islam to Christianity, one of their colleagues said on Thursday. The two men, named as Adel Fawzi and Peter Ezzat, also offered legal help to the family of a man who died during a police raid on his house this week, said Nader Fawzy, the president of the Middle East Christian Association (Reuters)

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Middle East:

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Church and state:

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  • Wren cross case closed? | The cross's display in the chapel may finally settle the controversy at William and Mary (Daily Press, Hampton Roads, Va.)

  • Parent sues district over school prayer | The Crofts argue that the Texas Education Code's minute of silence, passed in September 2003, is a form of state-sanctioned prayer in schools (Carrollton Leader Star, Tex.)

  • Also: Intent of school day's moment of silence debated | In court, state argues law has secular intent; dad sees religious aim (The Dallas Morning News)

  • God and class | God was never expelled. Prayer was never expelled. "Put God back in schools?" He never left (Editorial, Waco Tribune-Herald, Tex.)

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Life ethics:

  • Group sues over stem cell petition on Granholm site | A Christian activist organization charges in a federal lawsuit that Gov. Jennifer Granholm's online petition to promote embryonic stem cell research discriminates against those opposed to it (Detroit Free Press)

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2008 campaign:

  • A non-believer - say it isn't so | You can be gay, black or even a woman, but America will not tolerate a president who has no religion (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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Democrats' gay debate:

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Australian politics:

  • 'Too many Christians' in parliament | There are too many Christians in parliament and they don't reflect the make-up of modern Australia, Democrats leader Lyn Allison said (The Australian)

  • Arch-rivals spread own kind of Word | God may be neither Liberal nor Labor, as John Howard conceded, but that did not stop the Prime Minister or his opponent Kevin Rudd from invoking Christian values as they made their election-year pitches directly to Christian voters in a webcast beamed live last night to hundreds of church gatherings around the nation (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • PM adds to Catholic collection plate | Prime Minister John Howard has responded to the Catholic calling, a day after addressing Australia's Christians, by pitching an extra $15 million into World Youth Day's collection plate (AAP, Australia)

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Internet obscenity:

  • Federal effort on web obscenity shows few results | A program that has monitored sexual Web sites for illegal material over the last several years has not resulted in a single prosecution (The New York Times)

  • PM's net porn war | Porn websites and chat rooms used by child-sex predators will be blocked from home computers under radical moves to protect young internet users. Australian families will have access to free internet filter systems under a $190 million Howard Government crackdown (Herald Sun, Australia)

  • ISP-level filters 'unworkable' | Internet service providers have labelled the Federal Government's radical plan to force them to filter web content at the request of their users as unworkable (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Veto for parents on web content | Internet service providers will be forced to filter web content at the request of parents, under a $189 million Federal Government crackdown on online bad language, pornography and child sex predators (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Howard pitch for family vote with internet filter | Prime Minister John Howard has made a strong pitch for the Christian and family vote with a $189 million package to provide a free internet filter for every Australian family in a bid to fight pornography and foul language online (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

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ELCA synod:

  • Gay clergy debate survives | ELCA assembly to continue discussions today (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

  • Lutherans deferring debate on same-sex unions | Lutherans meeting at Navy Pier on Thursday voted to defer discussion on whether to bless same-sex unions to a task force preparing a social statement on human sexuality for the next churchwide assembly in 2009 (Chicago Sun-Times)

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  • Sydney bishops snub Anglican chief in gay row | Sydney's Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen, and his five assistant bishops have delayed responding to the Archbishop of Canterbury's invitation to the Lambeth Conference , saying they hesitated to sit at the same table as those who supported the consecration of gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Why All Saints' split | Carl Barringer, of St. Patrick's Anglican Church, said he has seen new commitment among the people at the church since it was organized in late 2006 (The Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro, Tenn.)

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Church life:

  • Wynnbrook pastor resigns unexpectedly | The Rev. Brad Hicks announced his resignation Wednesday night as senior pastor of Wynnbrook Baptist Church, which has more than 4,000 members (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)

  • Church won't hold funeral for gay man | Kin scramble to find new site after Arlington clerics renege on offer (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Gay pastor sparks uproar | A controversy has erupted among the Christian community over what they claim is an attempt by a self-confessed gay pastor to set up a church here. For the past week, protest e-mail and SMSes have been sent to Rev Ou Yang Wen Feng, a Malaysian pastor who serves at the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in New York. He has been back here for about a week (The Star, Malaysia)

  • Sides feud over 'God's land' in Seoul | The battle for control of the Yanghwajin Foreigners Cemetery, the most sacred site for Protestants in South Korea, escalated after a Korean church took over the cemetery chapel from a mostly foreign congregation and claimed it as its own (International Herald Tribune)

  • Moravian Church celebrates 550 years | Decades before Martin Luther took a stand against the Catholic Church, a man named John Hus was burned at the stake after he railed against practices of Roman Catholic clergy (The Columbus Dispatch)

  • Court approves diocese's payments for legal expenses | U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Louise DeCarl Adler Thursday approved payment of $421,000 to a San Diego law firm and an accounting agency assisting the Catholic diocese in its Chapter 11 reorganization case (San Diego Union-Tribune)

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20/20 on Billy Graham:

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Art, entertainment, and media:

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  • Multifaith farewell for French cardinal | Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, a convert from Judaism who sought to bring the faiths closer during his extraordinary life, is carrying on the mission in death — with a funeral rich in symbolism that includes a Jewish prayer read by a Nazi death camp survivor (Associated Press)

  • The conservative revolutionary | Brilliant, blunt and bold, French Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger was the quintessential John Paul II bishop, an evangelical Catholic who saw conversion of culture as the order of the day (John L. Allen Jr, The Wall Street Journal)

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Michael Gerson:

  • The world according to Matthew Scully | Not the Mike Gerson I know (Peter Wehner, National Review Online)

  • Present at the creation | The only person the speechwriter Michael Gerson made look better than President Bush was Michael Gerson. The birth of a Washington reputation, as witnessed by a White House colleague (Matthew Scully, The Atlantic)

  • A date certain on Darfur | There are two benchmarks that will help answer whether the momentum is real. (Michael Gerson, The Washington Post)

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Red Cross:

  • Drug company sues Red Cross over trademark use | Johnson & Johnson has filed a lawsuit against the American Red Cross, alleging the charity is violating a long-held trademark by selling products such as humidifiers, toothbrushes, and combs under its own brand (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)

  • Johnson & Johnson sues Red Cross over symbol | The red cross symbol is an icon of relief from disaster. For months, it has also been the subject of a festering disagreement between major American institutions: the health care company Johnson & Johnson and the American Red Cross (The New York Times)

  • Red Cross sued for use of cross emblem | Johnson & Johnson, the health-products giant that uses a red cross as its trademark, sued the American Red Cross on Wednesday, demanding that the charity halt the use of the red cross symbol on products it sells to the public (Associated Press)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Preaching to the choir | Evangelicals worry about the behavior of their brethren (W. Bradford Wilcox, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Christianity in China | There is a natural "ceiling" for Christianity among Chinese people (John Derbyshire, National Review Online)

  • The face of God | What Benedict's Jesus offers (Peter Steinfels, Commonweal)

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Our most recent Weblogs include:

South Korea Orders All Aid Groups Out of Afghanistan | Plus: Military ministry video faulted, all eyes on Christian voters (in Lebanon), and other stories (August 9)
Afghanistan Kidnappers Kill Hostage as South Korea Debates Mission Work | Plus: Malaysia changes course on Shari'ah courts, remembering Tammy Faye, a church is attacked by Christian terrorists, and other stories from online sources around the world (July 26)
Taliban Kidnaps South Korean Christians | Plus: Priest freed in Philippines, Israeli cable to drop Christian network Daystar, and more (July 20)
Zimbabwe's Mugabe Accuses Priest Critic of Adultery | Plus: Whether evangelicals can recover from a Catholic's fall, the escalating cost of abuse, and many other stories from online sources around the world (July 19)
Tablet Is 'Proof' for Jeremiah Passage | Plus: A Ghanaian pastor's shocking magic trick, Time on Democrats' religious outreach, what to watch next in the Holsinger debate, and more. (July 12)

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