News Bites

  • Boss Man. In two benefit concerts, Bruce Springsteen, solo on acoustic guitar, raised nearly $1 million for Robert Coles' DoubleTake Magazine, whose mission is to encourage community-service efforts, saving it from ruin. Thanks, Bruce!
  • Class Act. "This union and its members do not laugh," wrote United Steelworkers president Leo W. Gerard to the president of media giant Viacom, " your plans to produce The Real Beverly Hillbillies, a show which hopes to pluck an impoverished family from rural America, plop it down in a ritzy mansion, then ridicule the family's efforts to survive in their new surroundings."
  • Take the First. Religious freedom in Afghanistan is perilously at risk unless the U.S. government presses for greater human rights protections, warned the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
  • The Plus Side. An HIV-positive Zambian woman talked with President Bush during a private meeting in April to address his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Princess Kasune Zulu, a World Vision AIDS worker, started a school for children orphaned by AIDS and hosts an educational radio show called "Positive Living."
  • Operator? Jim Carrey's recent movie, Bruce Almighty, published God's direct telephone number; unfortunately God appears to be on a party line. Homes and businesses with the same phone number were deluged with calls from jokesters and soul seekers.
  • Bright Ideas. More than 20 Iraqi religious leaders, representing Christians as well as Shiite and Sunni Muslims, recommended in May that international institutions increase their humanitarian assistance by cooperating more with Iraqi religious groups and social institutions, including women's and youth organizations.
  • Write Stuff. Swedish journalist Agneta Lagercrantz won the 2002 John Templeton Award for the "European Religion Writer of the Year." Her award-winning articles included a story on Christian retreats for long-term prisoners and an article on the development of "spiritual counseling." The Templeton Award honors journalists who write about religion in the secular media with accuracy, impartiality, and with a spirit of ecumenism.
  • New South. The North Carolina Senate was the first state legislative body in 2003 to pass a moratorium on death row executions. The vote calls for a halt to state executions for two years while a thorough examination is made of its death penalty system.
  • Bum's Rush? Police officers in Kissimmee, Florida, dressed up as homeless people to catch drivers committing traffic offenses. Homeless advocacy groups have proposed that the police should help solve the local homeless problem rather than using it as part of "Operation Vagrant."

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