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Mark's Notebook

I like the idea of free elections. There is only one thing wrong with them: you don't know in advance how they will come out.
- Josef Stalin

All Articles - December 2005

Paradoxical Resolutions

Saturday 31 December 2005, 3:48 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Found while looking for other things ...

"The Paradoxical Commandments were written by Kent M. Keith in 1968 as part of a booklet for student leaders. For more than thirty years, the Paradoxical Commandments have circled the globe. They have been put on walls and refrigerator doors, featured in speeches and articles, preached from pulpits, and shared extensively on the web. They have been used by business leaders, military commanders, government officials, religious leaders, university presidents, social workers, teachers, rock stars, parents, coaches, and students. Mother Teresa thought the Paradoxical Commandments were important enough to put up on the wall of her children's home in Calcutta."

At a time when we make New Year's resolutions, these might form a useful template.

The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down
by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001


2006 to be delayed a wee bit

CNN News

Friday 30 December 2005, 9:20 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Get ready for a minute with 61 seconds. Scientists are delaying the start of 2006 by the first "leap second" since 1998.

The adjustment will be carried out by sticking an extra second into atomic clocks worldwide at the stroke of midnight Coordinated Universal Time, the widely adopted international standard, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology said this week.

"Enjoy New Year's Eve a second longer," the institute said in an explanatory notice. "You can toot your horn an extra second this year."

On the U.S. East Coast, the extra second occurs just before 7 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Atomic clocks at that moment will read 23:59:60 before rolling over to all zeros.

Deciding when to introduce a leap second is the responsibility of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, a standards-setting body. Under an international pact, the preference for leap seconds is December 31 or June 30. The first leap second was added on June 30, 1972.


The Lord's Resistance Army

Christianity Today

Friday 30 December 2005, 5:16 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by J. Carter Johnson in Kitgum, Uganda

Why the children of Uganda are killing one another in the name of the Lord.

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is one of the larger terrorist organizations in the world. It has killed more people than many other violent groups, yet few Westerners have ever heard of it, since nearly all its violence is perpetrated in the border region between Uganda and Sudan in East Africa.

On a continent plagued with endless guerilla warfare, where war crimes are standard fighting fare, the LRA stands apart as an especially odious group. LRA crimes against humanity are so repulsive that its only former ally, the Islamic government of Sudan, jettisoned its relationship with the LRA to improve Sudan's international relations.

What began in 1986 as a rebellion against the Ugandan government has metamorphosed into a military millenarian cult. Its reason for existence is to perpetuate the power of its leader, a ruthless witchcraft practitioner named Joseph Kony, who envisions an Acholiland ruled by a warped interpretation of the Ten Commandments. He uses passages from the Pentateuch to justify mutilation and murder. He promotes a demonic spirituality crafted from an eclectic mix of Christianity, Islam, and African witchcraft.

Any resemblance to these religions is superficial: While the army observes rituals such as praying the rosary and bowing toward Mecca, there is no prescribed theology in the conventional sense. Kony's beliefs are a haphazard mix from the Bible and the Qur'an, tailored around his wishful thinking, personal desires, and practical needs of the moment. Jesus is the Son of God. But instead of saving the world from sin through his sacrificial love on the Cross, he is a source of power employed for killing those who oppose Kony. The Holy Spirit is not the Divine Comforter, but one who directs Kony's tactical military decisions.

Despite dabbling in the Bible and the Qur'an, Kony's real spiritual obsession is witchcraft. He burns toy military vehicles and figurines to predict the course of battles from their burn patterns. He uses reptiles in magic rituals to sicken those who anger him or to detect traitors in his midst. He claims to receive military direction from spirits of dead men from different countries, including Americans.

The rest of the article contains graphic descriptions of brutality, mostly descriptions of children required to kill other children, or be killed themselves.


How to Help

Here are key Christian and charitable organizations that work with the victims of the lra conflict in northern Uganda.

Far Reaching Ministries

World Vision

Save the Children


Jesuit Refugee Service

Write your congressman: www.house.gov/writerep

Here is another article about what American Christians can do to help resolve the LRA conflict.


Mix and match churches

Friday 30 December 2005, 5:04 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

This article by Neela Banerjee in the New York Times indicates that a number of Christians, particularly youth, are comfortable participating in multiple churches.

As examples, it tells about teenagers who attend a traditional church with their parents, then another more contemporary church service or youth group with their friends.

Particularly in the case of youth, but also more generally, it is my opinion that it is healthy for believers to expose themsevles to more than one Christian tradition. I grew up in the Lutheran church, but while in high school, I started attending a Pentecostal church that was part of the Charismatic movement. In later life, I believe I am now more informed by having participated in both traditions. I can see the validity of both points of view. I can understand why people can become comfortable with a church or tradition that they've been associated with for a long time. And, most importantly, it's easy now for me to allow others to enjoy their own tradition, without having to consider them suspect in order to bolster my own beliefs.

Of course, as I read the article, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. The other shoe, of course, being that religious leaders don't like for people to attend more than one church. And why would that be? Well, of course, they don't want to risk your money going to another church. Anyone who tries to say it's any more than that is fooling himself.

"Some critics, particularly conservative evangelicals and the ministers of various denominations, decry such practices as a consumerist approach to faith." OK, so I should keep going to a church, perhaps my parent's church, even if it puts me to sleep, if I disagree with what is being taught or how, or if I disagree with how the church is being run. Not.

"If families spread their loyalties around, it's been my experience that they don't benefit as well as they could," said Peter Beringer, a youth pastor at Pulpit Rock Church, which has about 1,000 adults in attendance every Sunday. "They don't seem to have relationships in the church that are as deep. From what I have seen of students who have done this, they find it easier to disengage and be the kid on the fringes."

I couldn't disagree more. The kids who are on the fringes are the ones who attend only one church, and that just barely. Why would someone who wants to stay on the fringe attend two different churches? Perhaps if they are dragged to both by their parents. But even in that case, the kids are getting double the exposure to the message, and they are likely getting that message in two different ways ... perhaps one of those ways will be effective at reaching to them.

Even the terminology Mr. Beringer uses, "families spreading their loyalty," confirms that each church wants to keep you close by to retain your loyalty, that is, for the well-being of the church, not to further your spiritual well-being. A church that is concerned about your spiritual condition will want you to be exposed to the gospel in as many settings as possible, so that perhaps the message might take root.

And when families attend multiple churches, it is usually the case that one is the "primary" church where strong relationships are formed, and the other is a church where other spiritual needs are met. In time, perhaps the roles of the different churches in one's life might reverse, and the formerly "primarly" church will take on a more secondary role. But this doesn't necessarily mean that personal relationships are being sacrificed. It simply means that new relationships are being formed.

News of subtle significance

New York Times Op-Ed

Friday 30 December 2005, 4:27 pm
Keywords: News Articles , Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

by William Falk

Developments that may have slipped your notice in 2005:

Scientists took ice cores from ancient glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. Bubbles of air trapped in the ice provided a sampling of the atmosphere going back 650,000 years. A study, published last month in the journal Science, found that the level of carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases that can warm the planet, is now 27 percent higher than at any previous time. The level is even far higher now than it was in periods when the climate was much warmer and North America was largely tropical. Climatologists said the ice cores left no doubt that the atmosphere is being altered in a substantial and unprecedented way.

The rapid melting of the Arctic and Greenland ice caps, a new study finds, is causing freshwater to flood into the North Atlantic. That infusion of icy water appears to be deflecting the northward flow of the warming Gulf Stream, which moderates winter temperatures for Europe and the northeastern United States. The flow of the Gulf Stream has been reduced by 30 percent since 1957, the National Oceanography Center in Britain found.

This year, scientists developed a vaccine against human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that is the primary cause of cervical cancer. The vaccine produced 100 percent immunity in the 6,000 women who received it as part of a multinational trial. As soon as the vaccine is licensed, some health officials say, it should be administered to all girls at age 12. But the Family Research Council and other social conservative groups vowed to fight that plan, even though it could virtually eliminate cervical cancer. Vaccinating girls against a sexually transmitted disease, they say, would reduce their incentive to abstain from premarital sex.

American Web giants Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have all grabbed a piece of the lucrative Chinese market - but only after agreeing to help the government censor speech on the Web.

Statements by new C.I.A. Director Porter Goss seem to confirm the widespread suspicion that Osama bin Laden is hiding in the mountains of northern Pakistan but that President Pervez Musharraf, fearing the reaction of Islamic militants, is not eager for him to be captured within Pakistan.

A new study found that dormant infections can be activated when certain parts of the body, particularly the feet and the nose, get wet and cold. This confirms mom's notion that getting a chill can lead to a cold.


Angry Chihuahuas attack officer in Fremont

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Friday 30 December 2005, 1:33 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

A pack of angry Chihuahuas attacked a police officer who was escorting a teenager home following a traffic stop, authorities said.

The officer suffered minor injuries including bites to his ankle on Thursday when the five Chihuahuas escaped the 17-year-old boy's home and rushed the officer in the doorway.

The officer was treated at a local hospital and returned to work less than two hours later, Veteran said.


Katrina Victims Salvage Holiday Spirit

Yahoo News, AP

Friday 30 December 2005, 12:07 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Mary Foster, Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS - The congregation of First Emmanuel Baptist Church drove from Baton Rouge, Houston and other points far and wide on Christmas, then walked past collapsed buildings and piles of storm wreckage to worship in their old church for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

Cheryl Anderson was only too happy to get up at 2 a.m. Christmas morning to begin cooking in the tiny kitchen of the trailer she shares with her husband, son and three grandchildren. Even the location, on the grounds of Metairie Cemetery, where her husband works, didn't bother her.

Anderson, 46, floated away from her house on a door when the water hit 9 feet. She spent two days on an overpass, then took shelter at the Superdome before being evacuated to Birmingham, Ala. Her family was scattered across four states and it took her months to find them.

"I didn't think I'd live to see this Christmas," Anderson said. "Now we're having everything like a regular Christmas ó the gumbo, the ham, all of it. Everything except a tree. That won't fit in the trailer."

"You get 14 feet of water in your house and it don't leave much," said Harold Hansford, who had managed to salvage a few Christmas decorations from the attic. This year his house is decorated with the marks painted on by rescue workers as they made their way through the neighborhood looking for people and bodies.

"I never imagined Christmas like this," he said. "Not much left, but we'll be back."


Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

New York Times Op-Ed

Thursday 29 December 2005, 10:30 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

In this op-ed in the New York Times, Timothy D. Wilson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, argues against our "annual ritual of introspection." His studies show that "too much analysis can confuse people about how they really feel." He shows that people who analyzed their relationships by "gut feeling" predicted the relationship's success better than those who listed specific factors within the relationship. Another study shows that "that when people are depressed, ruminating on their problems makes things worse." A third study showed that "participants who were given an opportunity to do a favor for another person ended up viewing themselves as kind, considerate people," but those who were asked to reflect on the favor did not view themselves as being so kind.

Dr. Wilson has this to say about the kind of debriefing procedure we underwent when we returned from Mississippi:

For years it was believed that emergency workers should undergo a debriefing process to focus on and relive their experiences; the idea was that this would make them feel better and prevent mental health problems down the road. After 9/11, for example, well-meaning counselors flocked to New York to help police officers, firefighters and rescue workers deal with the trauma of what they had seen.

But did it do any good? In an extensive review of the research, a team led by Richard McNally, a clinical psychologist at Harvard, concluded that debriefing procedures have little benefit and might even hurt by interrupting the normal healing process. People often distract themselves from thinking about painful events right after they occur, and this may be better than mentally reliving the events.

Oops ... no chimney

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 10:28 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Happy cacophony

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 10:19 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Tis the season to be nasty

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 10:13 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Americans concerned about commercialization of Christmas

Yahoo News

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 9:36 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

More Americans are concerned about the commercialization of Christmas than about restrictions on public displays of religious symbols, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said they were troubled by the commercialization of the holiday, while just 35 percent expressed concern about opposition to public religious displays.

In fact, 56 percent of respondents said they were not concerned at all about the controversies surrounding the displays, according to the poll.

If given the choice, a majority of those surveyed said they would prefer being greeted with "Merry Christmas" rather than "Season's Greetings" when they entered stores over the holidays. However, 45 percent said the greetings were of little consequence to them.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051222/ap_on_re/religion_briefs \

Condom-covered Madonna embarrasses Catholic weekly

Yahoo News

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 8:43 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

"Another issue may be Catholic priests' unfamiliarity with what condoms look like."


'Santa Pope' woos Vatican crowds

BBC News

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 8:40 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

At a chilly St Peter's Square, the Pope draped a red cloak over his shoulders and covered his head with a red velvet hat lined with white fur.

Vatican officials said the hat, known as a camauro, has been part of the papal wardrobe since the 12th century. But it has not been worn in public since the death of John XXIII in 1963.

Although missing Father Christmas' trademark white furry bobble, the pope's timely discovery of the long-forgotten camauro seemed as much a nod to the season as to the chilly weather.


Western states suffer flu first

San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 12:20 pm
Keywords: News Articles , Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

By Barbara Feder Ostrov, Mercury News

California today is expected to join Utah as the two U.S. states with "widespread" influenza cases reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, state health officials said Tuesday.

Flu season typically hits the Eastern part of the country first before heading westward in January and February. This year, that pattern appears to be reversed, and while "it is indeed unusual, we don't know why," said California Department of Health Services spokeswoman Tacey Derenzy. "That's why we say the flu is unpredictable."


Rare birds mystify scientists

San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 12:17 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Lisa M. Krieger, Mercury News

Pacific storms have blown thousands of rare sea birds into the Bay Area, many of them weak, emaciated and seeking refuge in rain puddles of suburban yards and parking lots. The small birds, called red phalaropes, ordinarily live many miles off the Pacific coast and are rarely seen on land.

Since the afternoon of Christmas Day, they've been sighted in Los Gatos, Palo Alto, San Francisco, even Campbell's percolation ponds at Budd Road and San Tomas Expressway. Most abundant on the coast, a flock of 1,200 was reported near Half Moon Bay.

Normally they are wary of humans. And they only come on land in the Arctic, where they briefly breed and raise their young. But many of these are weary, allowing people to approach closely. Some have been killed by cats and gulls. Along Highway 1, hundreds were reportedly struck by cars.

"They were emaciated, with anemia and low protein levels," suggesting long-term starvation, said Marie Travers of the Peninsula Humane Society. But the Bay Area's rich estuaries could offer badly needed food and rest.



Tuesday 27 December 2005, 3:43 pm
(Link to this article alone)

"Learning to shrug is the beginning of wisdom."
- Fortune from Ho Chow, where we ate last night

Yesterday we went to after-Christmas sales at Valley Fair in Santa Clara. The shopping center might have another name now, but for those of use who've been here since the 1950's, it will always be Valley Fair. Mary didn't want to go into Nordstrom or Macy's, where we probably would have found the best sales.

I did buy this little USB-powered keyboard vacuum cleaner just because it was half price and my keyboard has lots of food in and on it. The verdict is out so far ... it cleaned the top of the keyboard just fine, but I think I'll still have to take all the keys out to get to what's underneath. There is an attachment that looks like a one-inch piece of flexible heat-shrink tubing, but it won't reach between the keys.

The mall wasn't as busy as we expected it to be. I brought Mary in the secret back entrance and we parked on the street because the lines to get into the parking lot were too long.

Since Mary didn't want to go into Nordstrom, I didn't get to shop at the half-yearly men's sale. Will have to go back there later this week. Like many others, I shop for others before Christmas, for myself after. But since we won't see my brothers or sisters until next weekend at the earliest, there is still time to shop for them ... it has happened before (getting them something at after-Christmas sales, that is).

Rove Implicated In Santa Identity Leak

The Onion

Tuesday 27 December 2005, 12:18 pm
Keywords: Humor
(Link to this article alone)

WASHINGTON, DCóThe recent leak revealing Santa Claus to be "your mommy and daddy" has been linked to President Bush's senior political adviser and deputy chief of staff Karl Rove.

The identity of the mythical holiday gift-giver, previously known only in grown-up circles, was published in the popular Timbertoes cartoon in the December issue of Highlights For Children. Jean Abrams, a conservative firebrand known to have close ties to Bush appointees in the Department of Education, revealed "Santa" to be a code name for anonymous parental gift-giving.

Abrams and several other children's-magazine journalists, including Ranger Rick's Kristin Brittany and Cricket managing editor Shaina Belowitz, have testified before a federal grand jury on the source of the leak. Sources say that Randall Polk, Washington bureau chief for Weekly Reader, named Rove after serving eight days in jail for refusing to divulge his sources.

The motivations behind the leak remain unclear, but some political observers have characterized it as a calculated act of retribution against Fairfax, VA second-grader Madison Harris. Harris, 7, wore an antiwar T-shirt to her elementary school during a Nov. 2 visit by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.

"The shirt, decorated with doves and the word 'peace,' angered White House ideologues, who felt that Harris had undermined a tightly orchestrated visit," independent political media watchdog Ellen Applebee said. "An aggressive attempt to hit Harris where she lived was set in motion."


Retiming traffic lights helps eight South Bay commutes

San Jose Mercury News

Tuesday 27 December 2005, 12:07 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Gary Richards, Mercury News Staff Columnist

Santa Clara County road engineers recently completed the first major retiming of traffic signals on local expressways and adjacent streets in 11 years, 139 lights from Capitol Expressway in East San Jose to Oregon Expressway in Palo Alto.

Since Roadshow was born 14 years ago, badly timed traffic lights have been the No. 1 complaint. In a county survey three years ago, more than seven of 10 people said that improving traffic light synchronization was the most pressing need on the eight expressways.

A nasty spot will remain at Montague Expressway and First Street -- that signal is not tied into the new synchronization plan because timing has to be linked to VTA's nearby light-rail stop. Another crunch point is on San Tomas at Highway 17, where needs on state, county and city roads can conflict.

As a separate project, San Jose retimed 409 signals on city streets during the past two years and engineers were hoping for up to a 20 percent reduction in travel time and the number of red lights drivers regularly hit. They got much more than they expected -- as much as a 45 percent decline, according to a city follow-up report.


South Dakota Makes Abortion Rare Through Laws And Stigma

Washington Post

Tuesday 27 December 2005, 10:31 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls has one clinic day, the one day a week when the only facility in South Dakota that provides abortions could take in patients. The day changes depending on the schedules of four doctors from Minnesota who fly here on a rotating basis to perform abortions, something no doctor in South Dakota will do. The last doctor in South Dakota to perform abortions stopped about eight years ago; the consensus in the medical community is that offering the procedure is not worth the stigma of being branded a baby killer.

South Dakota, those on both sides of the abortion debate agree, has become one of the hardest states in the country in which to obtain an abortion. One of three states in the country to have only one abortion provider -- North Dakota and Mississippi are the others -- South Dakota, largely because of a strong antiabortion lobby, is also becoming a leading national laboratory for testing the limits of state laws restricting abortion, both opponents and advocates of abortion rights say.

In 2005, the South Dakota legislature passed five laws restricting abortion, after a bill to ban abortion outright had failed by one vote in 2004.

A 17-member abortion task force, made up largely of staunch abortion opponents, issued recommendations to the legislature earlier this month that included some of the most restrictive requirements for abortion in the country. The report states that science defines life as beginning at conception and recommends a law that gives fetuses the same protection that children get after birth, thus banning abortion.

State law forbids any public funding for the $450 procedure, even in the case of rape or incest. Beyond cost, there is the distance. It's a long slog here from places like Rapid City, about 350 miles away in the western part of the state. For some women, the only way to do it -- and not pay for a hotel room -- is to make the 700-mile trip in one day.

Many doctors in South Dakota say they have no personal objection to performing abortions but cannot risk their careers and community standing by offering the procedure.


For Some Victims of Katrina, The Bulldozer Is the Answer

Washington Post

Monday 26 December 2005, 8:41 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post Staff Writer

In suburban, working-class, mostly white St. Bernard Parish, where the destruction was so complete that just 10 of 25,000 houses are inhabitable, there is a headlong rush to the wrecking ball. More than 300 houses have been tagged for a mass demolition project that will begin in the coming weeks, as soon as a monumental tangle of paperwork is unraveled. Yet that's just the start in a parish where the water rose so high -- 17 feet in some parts -- that nearly every house is considered a candidate to be knocked down.

Oil refinery workers and fishermen and suburban commuters line up each day, offering their stucco and brick and wood frames to be pulverized. The homeowners' enthusiasm is bolstered by assurances that they will be allowed to rebuild, a contrast with the situation just upriver in New Orleans, where leaders of the city's rebuilding commission have discussed abandoning parts of the city that suffered the worst flooding.

Ronnie Nunez offered his house to the parish as a guinea pig for its demolition project, helping officials determine exactly how long it will take to scrape away a house and how much it will cost -- probably about $5,000 per house, reimbursable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, parish officials say.


Little progress in Pass Christian

Mississippi Clarion-Ledger

Friday 23 December 2005, 8:43 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Lorinda Bullock

No water, piles of debris leave residents frustrated

PASS CHRISTIAN ó Progress is a word that has taken on many meanings here. To some, it's the area's first gas station reopening three months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed 80 percent of this coastal city. To others, it's getting clean water, which many of the 6,500 residents won't see for a while because the city's water system was virtually destroyed. Some residents view progress as finally getting to move into FEMA trailers, while others continue to camp out in tents.

Dan Ellis, a local historian, said he will acknowledge progress when he can leave his apartment in Eureka Springs, Ark., find the debris removed from his yard in Pass Christian and have a permit in his hand to rebuild the house he lost. "Every time I started going back, there was so little change," he said of the tons of debris that remain to be cleared.

City Alderman Donald Moore said a large number of Pass Christian residents won't or can't come back because of the lack of clean water, infrastructure and one of the most coveted items in town ó a building permit. With 80 percent of the city in ruins, you can't just pass out building permits, zoning director Peggy Johnson said.

Nearly 3,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, she said. So far, 193 building permits have been processed and, of those, about 160 issued. The office has approved 300 FEMA trailer permits.

One couple is living in a trailer they received three months after Katrina destroyed their house. "I got a brand new trailer, and it leaks. The heaters don't work, and the doors don't lock."


Pearlington Community Fears Losing Relief Center


Friday 23 December 2005, 6:34 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Trang Pham-Bui

Hundreds of people in Pearlington turn to the relief center at Charles Murphy Elementary for all their necessities, from washing their clothes to picking up groceries.

Paula Buhr has been in charge of the operation since mid-September.

"There's still people with no trailer, and there's people that don't have anything to put in the trailers," said Paula Buhr.

But the days may be numbered for the large relief operation. Buhr says Hancock County School Superintendent David Kopf told her she has until Thursday to move all the volunteers, supplies and donations off the school property. "He said that the people are pulling out and they don't want the liability of the volunteers here on the school property," said Buhr.

Buhr says three months after Katrina, the need in Pearlington is just too great to send the volunteers away. She says she's asking for churches and people in the community to give the volunteers another place to set up. In the meantime, she's hoping leaders in the school district will change their minds.


Habitat team to build homes for Gulf Coast victims

Poughkeepsie Journal

Friday 23 December 2005, 6:27 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Larry Fisher-Hertz

Hardly anybody lives in Pearlington, Miss., anymore. Some people from the Hudson Valley hope to change that soon.

The little Gulf Coast town (official population: 1,684) was leveled by Hurricane Katrina, its inhabitants scattered to makeshift shelters, motel rooms and mobile homes provided by emergency workers.

The rebuilding of Pearlington has begun, and local volunteers from Habitat for Humanity will soon join the effort. Starting Feb. 12, about 20 men and women, led by Rich Taylor, director of the local Habitat chapter, will spend about a week building more-suitable emergency housing for the people of Pearlington.

Habitat for Humanity, a nationwide nonprofit agency, typically builds full-sized homes for low-income families who otherwise could not afford a home of their own. The homes the volunteers will build in Mississippi will be a little smaller.

"These are basic, 450 square-foot, one-story houses," Taylor said. "They're not designed to be permanent, but the idea is to get people out of some of the places where they're living now. Some of these people are disabled, and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) put them in mobile homes that aren't handicapped-accessible."


One man's experience

Chickasaw Journal

Friday 23 December 2005, 6:13 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Pat Burgess, Chickasaw Journal

Rod Scheidel decided he would stay in Bay St. Louis in their townhouse and ride out the storm to protect their possessions if the worse happened.

"I will never forget the howling sound of the wind and of trees snapping," Scheidel said, "I hear it in my sleep." After the wind stopped, the water came. Scheidel had weathered many storms before, but the area had never flooded.

"I expected the wind, but not the water," said Scheidel, "it was coming from the back from Waveland and from the front from the beach. "I knew I was in trouble when the streets began flooding. Water was coming into the house from under the door."

Eventually the water receded. When it was safe to go outside, 90 percent of the buildings were gone. "There was a one-and-a-half to two-block strip of houses left," said Scheidel. "We were saved by the seawall, but all around was devastation, mud and debris."

There was no communication. Phone lines and cell towers were blown away. It would be a long two-week wait before help came to the area. "The neighbors and I sat on the corner of our street day after day waiting for help to come," said Scheidel.

"The first help we received was from churches. I don't know what we would have done without them. They were wonderful."

By this time, the house they previously shared was reeking with mold and mildew. There was no electricity. The Red Cross provided tents. The family slept outside in the tents for almost two months, fighting flies and mosquitoes.

They received their food from make-shift food distributors set up in parking lots. They protected their salvaged belongings while waiting for further assistance.

Then came Hurricane Rita ...


Hancock looks at shortening volunteer lifeline

South Mississippi Sun Herald

Friday 23 December 2005, 6:05 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

HANCOCK COUNTY - The hordes of volunteers, whose kindness has served as a lifeline for thousands of residents here since Katrina, could soon be leaving.

The county has fashioned a plan that could have some of the groups, and their free meals, gone in less than a month. The plan is designed to have all the free goods and services shut down in 90 days. The recovery plan, first made public last week during a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, outlines what free goods and services will end, and when.

"We're not trying to phase anything out, it's just about getting back to normal," said Bryan Adam, director of the county's emergency management agency.

Thousands of volunteers and faith-based groups have come to Hancock County to help, and by now, locals know where to find food, cleaning supplies and donated clothes. Some of those groups already are headed in that direction.

Christian Life Church in Orange Beach, Ala., has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars in free supplies from the Kmart parking lot in Waveland, but the group is making plans to shift its focus. "We've gutted out about 40 or 50 homes already, and we plan to eventually move from giving away supplies and food to manual labor; helping people rebuild their homes," said Jimmy Blackwell, who leads the church's relief effort.

The concern is this: With so many volunteers in the county, local businesses, hoping to reopen, will struggle trying to sell many of the same items being offered for free.

But many people are still without transportation, making it difficult to get to the grocery store in Diamondhead, the Wal-Mart Express in Waveland, or one of the few restaurants that have reopened.

"If we still have just two grocery stores open, then people will still need some things," he said. "We are going to work with the volunteers to make it a smooth transition."


A place to call home

Lincoln Courier

Friday 23 December 2005, 5:59 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Gaye Maxson

While Joann Nicodemus spent six weeks as a volunteer relief worker at Hurricane Katrinaís ground zero in Waveland, Miss., she made a list of things she looked forward to doing again.

"Turn on a faucet.

"Take a hot shower.

"Not wear a hat.

"Sleep in a bed thatís not on the ground.

"Sit on a couch and watch TV.

"Flush a toilet."

Nicodemus worked at a distribution center in a strip mall parking lot in Waveland, Miss. The town at ground zero had been destroyed by the 35-foot storm surge.

"You canít wrap your head around it," Nicodemus said. "(Survivors) came back to nothing. Not even any debris. That went inland for a quarter mile. Then you go inland, and those people lost everything, but their yard was filled with a stack of debris. Nothing can prepare you for it."

The strip mall was gutted and the parking lot had become a street fair of stations for food, first aid and supplies. Stations were run by various religious and governmental organizations as well as by individuals like her. The Rainbow Family Ė a self-professed non-organization from the hippie counterculture of the 1970s Ė was serving three square meals every day to anyone who came while musicians provided music to sooth the soul. Seventh-day Adventists, Mormons, Methodists, Episcopalians and others worked together helping refugees who came back day after day for food and supplies from the piles of donations.

A couple with a recreational vehicle offered Nicodemus shelter. When they left a few weeks later, she found a tarp to sleep under, and later a tent Ė without a fly. "I have a degree in outdoor rec, so it was pretty much up my alley," Nicodemus said. "Everybody that was down there was either in an RV or a tent. Those were pretty much your only options."

"I came back to my life. I have all my stuff. Iím going to a place where houses are intact. (The folks in Waveland) are still waiting in line for a trailer from FEMA. There are no gas stations, no stores, no houses, no jobs. And winter Ė winterís coming. I wish I could be back there helping them."


Caretaker pursues trailer for handicapped family

South Mississippi Sun Herald

Friday 23 December 2005, 5:53 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Anita Lee

BAY ST. LOUIS - The road home after Hurricane Katrina has been chaotic for the mentally handicapped Holden family and their caretakers. The Holdens know a hurricane destroyed their house, but they do not understand why they can't go home.

Their caretaker, Barbara Foreman, has been trying for months to get the Holdens a FEMA trailer.

Because the Holdens are mentally handicapped, Foreman thought they would go to the head of the list for temporary housing. But they're still waiting.

They visited the FEMA Disaster Relief Center in Waveland a week ago. They've been there a dozen times or more. This day, they sat once again to face a FEMA worker who checked their information in the computer. He had Foreman down as a Spanish-speaking renter, rather than an English-speaking homeowner. The information will be corrected only after she brings in proof that she owned her home.

FEMA determines whether someone needs a trailer and if it can be placed on their property; the agency contracts with Bechtel to deliver and set up trailers.

This is what one of the FEMA workers told Foreman: "It's a slow process. It's coming. What can I tell you? I submitted every piece of paperwork you gave me. Once it comes to us, it goes to Bechtel, then it's out of our hands. You need to go talk to (Rep.) Gene Taylor or (Sen.) Trent Lott. Once it comes election time, you can boot them out."

Sid Melton, FEMA's mobile home operations chief in Mississippi, said Maryetta Holden's file does not indicate that she and her children are mentally handicapped.

The Holdens had flood insurance because the house is in a flood zone, but the insurance company has not agreed to pay their claim, so there's little money for repairs.

Barbara Foreman plans to persevere with the insurance claim and FEMA. But she often feels overwhelmed. "All I get is promises and stalls," Foreman said. "It's not that I haven't been trying. I've sure been trying."


Repairs, revenue top needs in Bay St. Louis

Mississippi Clarion-Ledger

Friday 23 December 2005, 5:35 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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By Cathy Hayden

Although city services and most utilities have been restored to every place where a connection is viable, about 30 percent of Bay St. Louis homes and 80 percent of the businesses were wiped out.

Economic Director Buz Olsen had no estimate on lost tax revenue, but one of the biggest hits was Casino Magic, the city's only casino, which brought in $250,000 a month in taxes. The Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District is especially hurting because of the lost tax base.

The city has issued 1,800 building permits since Katrina hit on Aug. 29, so Olsen knows residents are trying to rebuild. His office is in one of four trailers the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moved in about a month ago to house city services, including the mayor's office and public works. Along with the trailers, the corps provided chairs, desks, pencils and "everything to get you back to normal," Olsen said. "They didn't say they'd pay the electric bill."

Few damaged businesses have reopened. No fast-food restaurants and only a handful of gas stations are open.

Bay St. Louis had four grocery stories before Katrina. Now the only grocery shopping is in a Wal-Mart that partially has reopened. Otherwise, everyone is driving to Gulfport or Slidell and Mandeville, both across the state line in Louisiana. "Everybody in the city is almost on equal ground. Everywhere you go, you're standing in a line for gas, groceries and food," Olsen said.

He estimates of the 8,209 counted by the U.S. Census pre-Katrina, Bay St. Louis has lost about 30 percent of its residents, or about 2,700.

Although the five-campus Bay St. Louis-Waveland school district started back Nov. 7, only about half the 2,300 students are attending. The schools were the last Coast district to reopen. Bay High has the highest attendance, 59 percent, with Waveland Elementary at 38 percent. Most students are scattered among one of 68 portable classrooms that FEMA supplied.


No room for good cheer in FEMA trailers

Columbus Dispatch

Friday 23 December 2005, 5:27 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Mike Harden

WAVELAND, Miss. -- Throughout the storm-hammered Mississippi Gulf Coast, 25,371 travel trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are occupied by hurricane survivors who will spend the holidays in confines for which the word cozy is laughably euphemistic.

FEMA trailers are about half the size of a standard mobile home. The oven space in the kitchen range is slightly smaller than a legal pad. The bathtub is the size of an old-fash- ioned washtub ó about 2 feet by 3 feet.

Because the hot-water tank holds only 5 gallons, showering requires certain precautions. "You wet your body," one resident said, "then shut off the water to soap up, then turn it back on to rinse off." The next in line must wait 25 minutes for more hot water.

It is not the fear of another Katrina that drives FEMAville residents to distraction, it is the 13-pound Thanksgiving turkey that wonít fit in the oven. It is dashing outside in a chilly downpour to fetch the food theyíre keeping in plastic storage bins because there is no room inside. It is the 40-mile drive to Picayune for groceries, the routine trips to the coin-operated laundry.

Last weekend at a nearby park, at a holiday party for the storm-displaced, church members distributed live Christmas trees. They had the most gracious of intentions but the worst judgment about available square footage.


The future of Bay St. Louis could be prefabricated

South Mississippi Sun Herald

Thursday 22 December 2005, 6:28 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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Associated Press

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. - The neighborhoods of Bay St. Louis could eventually contain hundreds of ready-made houses, said Bill Dennis, the architect who leads the area's design team. "I think these homes will play a big part in rebuilding on the Coast," Dennis said. "There's just not going to be enough builders to do all the construction that needs to be done."

The homes would be built in a factory in another part of the country and shipped to the area. It takes about four months to assemble the homes onsite.

A 1,000-square-foot house on the rubble-filled Ballentine Street is the first to appear in Bay St. Louis. It was built by Allen Associates in Santa Barbara, Calif., and delivered on trucks. The company is designing them to match the traditional feeling of Bay St. Louis homes.

Prefab homes tend to cost about 40 percent less, per square foot, than regular homes and they often are a better quality structure, Dennis said. "The construction is going to be much stronger than a stick-built house, because it has to be sturdy enough to travel on a truck," he said. "Also, the materials are usually inside during production, and not on a lot, exposed to the elements."


Hurricane drives couple north

Ironwood, MI Daily Globe

Thursday 22 December 2005, 6:23 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Diane Montz

IRONWOOD -- Bob and Irma Rondeau fled hurricane Katrina in their Honda Accord on Aug. 27, with little more than an attache holding their important papers.

Two days later, that was all that was left of their life in Bay St. Louis, Miss.

It was nearly two months before the retired couple returned to their acre of waterfront property in Bay St. Louis. A partial concrete slab and battered 400-year-old live oak tree are all that remains of their spacious home, once filled with furnishings collected in their world travels, and surrounded by gardens they created over nearly 30 years.

"We said, 'we're going to flee.' Thank goodness we did," Irma Rondeau said. Fifty-two of their neighbors and friends died in the storm.

Katrina swept ashore in a 30-foot wall of water that destroyed Bay St. Louis and adjoining Waveland, as well as other Mississippi Gulf Coast communities. Waterfront homes like the Rondeaus' took the storm's first fury.

Bob Rondeau said an aerial survey shows new artificial reef offshore underwater, believed to have been created by debris sucked out to sea by powerful undertow currents during the storm.


Florida santas carry cheer to Mississippi

Orlando Sentinel

Thursday 22 December 2005, 6:15 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Debbie Barr

John and Jan Williams of Apopka last week played Santa and Mrs. Claus to more than 1,200 schoolchildren and their siblings in the Hancock County school district of southern Mississippi, which was leveled by Hurricane Katrina in August.

The Williamses, who didn't have the luxury of flying reindeer, traveled about 580 miles to the town of Bay St. Louis, Miss., driving a 17-foot U-Haul and a Ford Explorer stuffed with presents.

There, the couple spent more than four hours at Bay High School distributing more than 2,000 gifts to the parents of district students and their siblings, as well as to teachers and staff. The couple also raffled off two new mountain bikes.

The Williamses, members of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Apopka, headed up a community drive through the church that provided holiday gifts to children 1 through 18.


Florida deputies help Waveland

Orlando Sentinel

Thursday 22 December 2005, 6:09 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Maya Bell, Sentinel Staff Writer

Thanks to a $20,000 check from the Orange County Sheriff's Office, Christmas came a few days early for the Police Department of Waveland, Miss., the town all but wiped off the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

The donation, contributed mostly by Orange County deputies, was delivered Tuesday to Waveland police Chief James Varnell.

Waveland department personnel have plenty to be grumpy about. Katrina took their station, patrol cars, communications system, uniforms and weapons. The storm also left 25 of them without homes or personal belongings.

Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary was among the first to send help, dispatching officers to patrol the devastated community, keep order and assist in search-and-rescue efforts. He also sent eight refurbished patrol cars his office had planned to auction.

But the aid didn't stop there. Deputy sheriffs and their families also sent tactical uniforms, boots, clothing, personal-hygiene products, bedding and other essentials that Waveland officers and civilians needed to get back on their feet.


Mucking offers storm relief

Ironwood, MI Daily Globe

Thursday 22 December 2005, 6:00 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Diane Montz

A week spent mucking out flooded homes in Mississippi's Gulf Coast communities changed the lives of both storm victims and volunteers from Cornerstone Church.

"We've been changed," said Lois Tauer, one of eight people from the Ramsay church who traveled south in a two-vehicle caravan Nov. 4-13. "I know I've been changed. It changes you -- not that it has to, but you'd have to be awful hard-hearted not to be changed."

Otto Jensen, youth pastor at Cornerstone, said their ministry was simple. Wearing masks and double gloves, the volunteers hauled the contents of flood-ravaged homes to the curb. They emptied refrigerators untouched for 10 weeks. They removed sodden carpeting, sagging ceilings and moldy drywall.

They stripped homes down to a skeleton of 2-by-4 lumber framing enclosed by exterior siding on top of a concrete slab. In addition to the stench of mold, rotting upholstery and food, they encountered cockroaches and lizards. When the mucking crew was done, the pressure-washed, bleached interiors of the home looked like new construction, Rice said.

Gulfport's Church of the Good Shepherd provided a home for the Cornerstone volunteers, furnished with army cots and one shower for 10 people. Free lunch at a FEMA tent, where the food included Southern regional cuisine, helped the volunteers cut their out-of-pocket costs.

It was hard work that required no particular training. "We weren't a crew of highly specialized people," Jensen said. "We were housewives, a youth pastor, students."

Working in Long Beach, Pass Christian, Waveland and Gulfport, they gained skills on the job. "We can muck out a house," Tami Rice said. Jensen noted, "We're good at the destruction phase."

Because there was no power in the houses they were mucking out, work days ended around 5 p.m. when it got dark. The workers were too tired to do much more than clean up, eat, talk about their day and share devotions before turning in for the night.


Migration strain

Hattiesburg American

Thursday 22 December 2005, 5:48 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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By Rachel Leifer

The repercussions of South Mississippi's shifting population are definitely palpable, if not yet precisely quantifiable. It can be felt in the Bay-Waveland district's sparsely attended schools and in the snaking grocery store lines in Hattiesburg, in Gulfport's legions of temporary workers and the soaring real estate market in Wiggins.

Flanked by hurricane-devastated Hancock County and St. Tammany Parish, La., Pearl River County's population may have shot from about 52,000 to about 110,000, said county emergency management director Bobby Strahan.

"Law enforcement calls have doubled, fire calls have doubled, EMS calls have doubled," he said.

Meanwhile, Gulf Coast communities hope to regain their lost residents. Tracking population changes in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties has been nearly impossible between the thousands who have left and the thousands of temporary contractors and relief workers who have come in, officials said.

School enrollment in Hancock County offers some sense of how population levels have changed - but many residents are retirees without young children, school officials noted.

Enrollment in the hard-hit Bay-Waveland School District - which was the last Mississippi district to resume classes on Nov. 7 - is at about 50 percent of pre-Katrina levels, said Dominica Favre, assistant to the superintendent.

"We're kind of thinking more families could be back after Christmas," said Favre. "People are finding places to stay, and there are more and more FEMA trailers every day."


Three generations huddle to make a post-Katrina Christmas

Northeast Booster (MD)

Thursday 22 December 2005, 5:43 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Mary T. Robbins

It's an unusual Christmas for Julie Keith and son Jeremy after escaping from Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi gulf coast. They now live under crowded circumstances with Julie's mother.

In September, daughter Julie Keith, 42, left her ravaged mobile home in Bay Saint Louis, Miss., with her daughter Ashleigh, 14, and son, Jeremy, 7.

"It's hard for everybody," acknowledged Julie's mother, Lil Trumbull, 78. "It's a disaster and you can't expect everything to be sweetness and light when it maybe wouldn't be even under normal circumstances."

Keith, a 1979 graduate of Towson High School, is grateful for the hospitality, but would like one thing for Christmas - privacy.

"I don't know how long it's going to take for things to be rebuilt in Mississippi, and what we will do." she said.


God the refugee

The Guardian

Thursday 22 December 2005, 5:24 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
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by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor

In generation after generation, in an un-newsworthy way, people sit up straight and realise God was born to a refugee family, modelled pure love, and was killed by a violent society so we all might enter a relationship of intimacy with Him. And in generation after generation, that astonishing discovery leads to a turnaround in the way people live and think.


Banning Christmas - For Real


Thursday 22 December 2005, 5:08 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
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By Andrew Santella

Liberal plots notwithstanding, the Americans who succeeded in banning the holiday were the Puritans of 17th-century Massachusetts. Between 1659 and 1681, Christmas celebrations were outlawed in the colony, and the law declared that anyone caught "observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting or any other way any such days as Christmas day, shall pay for every such offense five shillings." The Puritan disdain for the holiday endured: As late as 1869, public-school kids in Boston could be expelled for skipping class on Christmas Day.

Quakers, too, took a pass, reasoning that, in the words of 17th-century Quaker apologist Robert Barclay, "All days are alike holy in the sight of God." As late as 1810, the Philadelphia Democratic Press reported that few Pennsylvanians celebrated the holiday.

Observance of Christmas, or the lack thereof, was one way to differentiate among the Christian sects of Colonial and 19th-century America. Anglicans, Moravians, Dutch Reformed, and Lutherans, to name just a few, did; Quakers, Puritans, Separatists, Baptists, and some Presbyterians did not. In 1867, Reformed Church minister Henry Harbaugh protested that Presbyterians in his Pennsylvania neighborhood "spend the day working as on any other day. Their children grow up knowing nothing of brightly lit Christmas trees, nor Christmas presents. God have mercy on these Presbyterians, these pagans."


The Christmas He Dreamed

Washington Post Op-Ed

Thursday 22 December 2005, 4:17 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
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By Harold Meyerson

The white Christmases that Irving Berlin dreamed of weren't the earliest ones he used to know. He spent his first five Christmases in czarist Russia, and his only recollection of that time, at least the only one he'd acknowledge as an adult, was that of watching his neighbors burn his family's house to the ground in a good old-fashioned, Jew-hating pogrom.

So it's no surprise that when Berlin got around to writing his great Christmas song in 1941, nearly half a century after his family had fled the shtetl of Mohilev for New York's Lower East Side, it was flatly devoid of Christian imagery. It is, for all that, a religious song. It's just that Berlin's religion was America.

The success of "White Christmas" paved the way for a whole new genre of Christmas songs. Two years after Berlin's ballad first appeared, came "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Two years later came "The Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire"), and a year after that, "Let It Snow." By then the American Christmas song was about staying warm in winter, about staying connected to loved ones and traditions. It also practiced separation of church and song.

Many of those Christmas songwriters, of course, were Jewish and the children of immigrants; their deepest drive was to demonstrate beyond all doubt that they were assimilated, cosmopolitan, American. A Jew married to an Irish Catholic, Berlin raised his three daughters as nominal Protestants. Who better to write a non-Christian Christmas song? (Berlin's may have been an extreme case, but in the middle of the 20th century, Jewish assimilationism was so pervasive that it gave rise to the following crack: What's the difference between Reform Jews and Unitarians? Unitarians don't have Christmas trees.)

Berlin kept Christmas in the public square and, more than anyone before or since, sent it out over the public airwaves. But it was an American, not a Christian, Christmas. And by the crass index of number of recordings sold, and the not-so-crass index of number of spirits touched, Berlin's nonsectarian holiday has been the predominant version of Christmas in this country for the past 60 years.


Student allowed to share Christian message (after threat of lawsuit)

Dallas Fort-Worth Star-Telegram

Thursday 22 December 2005, 1:43 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
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by Eva-Marie Ayala, Start-Telegram Staff Writer

MANSFIELD - A fourth-grader who was initially told he could not share candy canes with religious messages did so at his class party Thursday morning.

Jaren Burch, a student at Tipps Elementary School, intended to bring the sweets with a story that told how they related to Jesus. Campus officials said he couldn't bring them with religious stories attached and a First Amendment discussion began.

On Wednesday, the Liberty Legal Institute, which was called by the Burches, sent the district a demand letter to comply with the student's First Amendment right to religious expression.

"Schools need to stop acting irrational and being overly paranoid," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of the Plano-based nonprofit organization. "The law itself is that schools cannot push religion but students themselves can be free in their religious expression."

"It was not a district policy but had been a practice, or guidelines for principals, to try and be sensitive to students from all different backgrounds and religions at this time of year," he said. "In this particular case, we determined that we've gone a little too far with those guidelines."


Christmas doesn't need special protection

Concord Monitor

Thursday 22 December 2005, 1:32 pm
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by Ken Braiterman

"War" is too strong a word to describe what my father went through trying to raise Jewish kids in public school in the 1950s, but the Christmas celebration in our school in Baltimore certainly created a conflict for him. Teaching a 5-year-old that he and his neighbors are the same as people, equal as citizens, but different, is a hard job for a Jewish parent when the child's entire world transforms itself for weeks in honor of Christmas.

My father, Marvin Braiterman, was an intense (but not orthodox) Jew who felt commanded by the Bible to teach his religion diligently to his children. He was also a civil rights lawyer who, had he been there, would have included the First Amendment somewhere in the Ten Commandments.

He had nothing against people who lit up their homes, or merchants who decorated their stores, or TV stations that showed Christmas specials. All that was free speech and the free exercise of religion, protected by the First Amendment. He understood the beauty and power of Christmas for Christian believers, and also the vital role its traditions play in the lives of families who are not religious.

He wanted his children to learn about that when we were old enough to understand it, after we had a firm footing in our own tradition. But how could he explain the song we learned in second grade that said, "Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord?" Christ is not our lord, he told us. He is the neighbors' lord. But the neighbors believe in the same God we do. We just don't believe God had a son. Christmas is not our holiday. We have Hanukkah.

Because my school was half Jewish, we had both a Christmas and a Hanukkah play to promote tolerance, understanding and brotherhood. My father didn't think either one had any place in the public school.


Battles rages over celebrating holidays

Yahoo News

Thursday 22 December 2005, 1:24 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

Fox News anchor John Gibson wrote a book "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse than You Thought."

Bah humbug, said radio talk show host Bill Press, author of "How the Republicans Stole Christmas." "People have been saying 'Happy Holidays' for a hundred years at least," he said. "This is nothing new. It just celebrates the diversity of America."

He blames politics. "It is all by design," he said. "The more people are talking about who's saying 'Happy Holidays' and who's saying 'Merry Christmas,' the less people are talking about Karl Rove, torture, Tom DeLay, the war in Iraq and other hot issues.

The debate has become comic grist. "Every time you say 'Happy Holidays,' an angel gets AIDS," warned television comedian Jon Stewart.


Most Americans like Christmas cheer

Washington Times

Thursday 22 December 2005, 1:15 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
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By Jennifer Harper

It's nearly unanimous: 97 percent of Americans say they are not bothered by public references to Christmas according to a new Gallup poll released yesterday.

The practice also doesn't offend those of other faiths -- or no faith. The poll revealed that only 8 percent of non-Christians and 5 percent of those with no faith were perturbed by displays or advertisements which mention "Christmas" rather than a generic or secular equivalent.

The finding was "surprising, and perhaps counter to the inclusive rationale for saying 'happy holidays,'" the survey stated.


City Bars Christian Hip-Hop Dancers from Performing

San Diego Union-Tribune

Thursday 22 December 2005, 1:08 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
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By Shannon McMahon, Union-Tribune Staff Writer

CHULA VISTA Ė At the city's annual holiday celebration, a rabbi lighted a menorah. A dance troupe performed a traditional prayer to the gods. But six young girls were told they they couldn't perform because they were wearing shirts emblazoned with a silver cross and the words "Jesus Christ" on the front.

The "Jesus Christ Dancers," a group of 8-to 12-year-olds who describe themselves as Christian hip-hop dancers, were scheduled to make their citywide debut at the Dec. 3 holiday festival. Moments before the group was to take the stage, employees from the city's Parks and Recreation Department barred them from performing, saying they did not want to convey a religious message in the show.

In a council meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Steve Padilla said city staff members turned the dancers away "out of an overabundance of caution." "We sent the wrong message to a very important segment of our community," he said. Padilla then apologized on behalf of the city.

Dance instructor Lita Ramirez said that she described the group as a Christian hip-hop dance troupe when she sought permission to enter the festival. "There was a Hawaiian prayer dance that was allowed to perform," Ramirez said. "There was seductive belly dancing and songs saying 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' and 'Little Drummer Boy' and 'Feliz Navidad.'" A tree-lighting ceremony, sponsored by the mayor's office, followed the event. During that ceremony, the mayor introduced a rabbi, who lighted a menorah.

"The city created a holiday event and then they turned around and the only person who wasn't invited was Jesus," said Dean Broyles, an attorney.


Homesick 'Katrina Kid' finds a welcome

San Jose Mercury News

Thursday 22 December 2005, 11:36 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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By Dana Hull, Mercury News

In his baggy shorts and navy blue school T-shirt, Troy Adam blends in with other students at Bellarmine College Prep -- until you hear his to-die-for Louisiana drawl.

Troy, 14, is a "Katrina Kid," one of thousands of Gulf Coast teenagers who fled Hurricane Katrina and are now adjusting to a new school, new teachers, new friends and an entirely new life thousands of miles from home.

Troy's parents had just closed on their new house in Chalmette, in St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans, when Katrina hit. The family evacuated with just a few changes of clothes and Yeager, their Jack Russell terrier. They drove west for days, sleeping in rest stops along Interstate 10 because motels were booked or did not accept pets. They arrived, anxious and exhausted, at the East San Jose home of their extended family.

Bellarmine College Prep, the all-boys Jesuit school, took Troy as a student, waiving the $10,800 yearly tuition fee. Bellarmine then set the family up in a house it owns on Elm Street, right near campus.

Bellarmine's faculty and staff immediately comment on Troy's unflagging politeness. Everything is "Yes, ma'am" and "No, sir," phrases rarely muttered in the corridors of most California high schools.

"He's a great kid. He's so polite," said John Scherbart, a religion teacher who arranged for Troy to speak at the school's Thanksgiving prayer service. "I asked Troy if he could share his story, and he told it very profoundly and very sincerely. He had the auditorium riveted."

Troy's parents flew home to check on their house in early October, as soon as the parish let residents back in, for the unpleasant job of throwing out rotting food and soiled possessions. The ground floor of the house was five feet deep in mud and muck; the upstairs bedrooms are fine. "It smelled like when you go to the zoo and visit the reptile exhibit."

Rebuilding is far from easy. Their homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage, an enormous bone of contention among Katrina victims. They are almost tapped out financially. And though they are eager to repair their house, every electrician, plumber and contractor in the New Orleans area is booked solid for months.

"FEMA's giving out trailers, so we're waiting to get a trailer on our lot," said Troy. "But there's no grocery store open yet, so it's kind of hard to actually go back."


Santa's watching you; who's watching Santa?

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 9:03 pm
Keywords: Humor
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Dazed By Disasters

Christianity Today editorial

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 12:27 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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The late Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin is reported to have said, "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." Of course, a little emotional anesthesia right now may be understandable, given the extraordinary natural disasters the world has faced. Starting with the Florida hurricanes in 2004, to the devastating Asian tsunami a year ago and hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma last fall, Christians have given repeatedly, often putting overmatched government bureaucracies to shame.

Then, in Pakistan, more than 73,000 people perished and 100,000 were injured when an earthquake struck on October 8.

Yet after a brief burst of coverage, the media have moved on to other topics. Many American Christians apparently have, too. "Some people probably are becoming numb to these tragedies," Richard Stearns of World Vision told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "What we call 'compassion fatigue' may be setting in."

Christian workers in far-away Pakistan report that giving for earthquake relief is inadequate. Perhaps 80 villages in hard-to-reach Kaghan Valley have yet to see an aid worker, and the tent shelters and hospitals hastily set up in other areas provide the homeless with scant protection during the onset of winter.

"The [nongovernmental organizations] are facing significant funding crises," workers reported in a dispatch. "Entire villages and economies have collapsed, and it seems the West is already bored with it all."

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) warns that the risk of natural disasters worldwide is rising due to growing populations, increasing urbanization, inadequate infrastructure, and poverty.


Santa Robs Texas Bank

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 12:20 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

A man dressed as Old St. Nick walked into a Wachovia Bank in Arlington, Texas early Tuesday and told the teller he had a gun. No weapon was produced, and no one was injured in the heist.

He was wearing a red Santa jacket with white fur around the wrists and collar and black buttons, khaki pants and white tennis shoes. He had the matching hat ó red with the fur brim.

During the robbery, he pulled the Santa hat over his eyes and looked out through two holes cut into the hat.


Alaska Man Builds 16-Foot Snowzilla

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 12:17 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Anchorage, Alaska (AP) -- With the help of his kids and neighbors, Billy Ray Powers built more than just a snowman ó they've dubbed his 16-plus-foot-tall creation "Snowzilla."

After using up all the snow in the family's yard, they turned to neighbors' yards and carried buckets on sleds. They hand-packed the snowman like an ice-cream cone.

It took a month to complete the project.


Seagate to Acquire Maxtor

San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 12:06 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Therese Poletti, Mercury News

Seagate Technology, the world's largest disk drive maker, plans to announce today the purchase of its struggling rival, Maxtor of Milpitas, in a stock deal valued at about $1.9 billion, according to sources familiar with the transaction.

The deal would increase Seagate's manufacturing scale, which would help bring production costs down.

While the disk drive industry has been rebounding in the past year, due in part to the huge demand for more storage in consumer electronics devices, Maxtor has not benefited as much as Seagate or their other big rival, Western Digital of Irvine.

But after Apple Computer unveiled its iPod nano in September -- an ultra-thin digital music player that uses a flash memory card to store songs instead of a mini disk drive -- investors grew nervous again about disk drive stocks. Seagate was one of the suppliers of small disk drives for earlier iPods.


The Poor Need Not Apply

New York Times Editorial

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 10:58 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Federal loans to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina have been flowing to wealthy neighborhoods in New Orleans but not to poor ones.

The government has processed only a third of the 276,000 home loan applications it has received. And it has rejected a whopping 82 percent of those, a higher percentage than in previous disasters, on the grounds that applicants didn't have high enough incomes or good enough credit ratings.

The Bush administration encouraged poor people to apply for low-interest loans to rebuild their homes while keeping rules that would make it clearly impossible for most of them to qualify. It has engaged in the worst kind of cruelty - one that encourages the poor to think help is on the way, then swats down anyone who actually requests the promised assistance.



Teach, Don't Preach, the Bible

New York Times Op-Ed

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 10:47 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Bruce Feiler

In the landmark 1963 Abington case (which also involved Pennsylvania public schools), the Supreme Court outlawed reading the Bible as part of morning prayers but left the door open for studying the Bible. Writing for the 8-1 majority, Justice Thomas Clark stated that the Bible is "worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities," and added, "Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistent with the First Amendment."

Though the far right may complain that this academic approach to teaching the Bible locks God out of the classroom, and the far left may complain that it sneaks God in, the vast majority of Americans would embrace it.

The Fourth National Survey of Religion and Politics, completed in 2004 by the University of Akron, shows that only 12.6 percent of Americans consider themselves "traditionalist evangelical Protestants," which the survey equates with the term "religious right." A mere 10.7 percent of Americans define themselves as "secular" or "atheist, agnostic." The vast majority of Americans are what survey-takers term centrist or modernist in their religious views.


Mark says: I think these figures are suspect. The problem may be terminology. "Evangelicals" don't always consider themselves "mainstream" or "traditionalist." The combination of "traditionalist evangelical" may be unfamiliar to the poll respondents. Also, may traditional Catholics consider themselves part of the "religious right."

ACLU Objects to Wellington's Nativity Scene

Palm Beach Post

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 8:08 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Dwayne Robinson, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Wellington has added a Nativity scene -- along with a Santa Claus, reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and dreidels -- to its holiday display. The crŤche was donated, while the other items cost about $5,000.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, while acknowledging that the display probably meets the "silly standards the U.S. Supreme Court may have set 20 years ago" of having nonreligious components accompanying religious ones, has objections.

For one, Wellington opened up its Community Center as a public forum when it included the religious symbols of Christianity and Judaism and now must allow other religious groups, ranging from Wiccans or Buddhists, to also place emblems, the organization argues.

"It is one of the loveliest Nativity scenes I've ever seen," Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said. "What the city ought to do is donate it to a church."


Activist Judge Cancels Christmas

The Onion

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 7:50 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

In a sudden and unexpected blow to the Americans working to protect the holiday, liberal U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt ruled the private celebration of Christmas unconstitutional Monday.

In addition to forbidding the celebration of Christmas in any form, Judge Reinhardt has made it illegal to say "Merry Christmas." Instead, he has ruled that Americans must say "Happy Holidays" or "Vacaciones Felices" if they wish to extend good tidings.

Within an hour of the judge's verdict, National Guard troops were mobilized to enforce the controversial ruling. Said Pvt. Stanley Cope: "We're fighting an unpopular war on Christmas, but what can we do? The military has no choice but to take orders from a lone activist judge."

"Why did the bad man take away Christmas?" 5-year-old Danny Dover said. "I made a card for my mommy out of paper and glue, and now I can't give it to her." Shortly after Dover issued his statement, police kicked down his door, removed his holiday tree, confiscated his presents, and crushed his homemade card underfoot.


'Happy Holidays' also has religious meaning

Chicago Tribune

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 7:41 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Nathan Bierma

While the White House, along with other government officials and retailers this year, opts to use the word "holiday" as its generic, non-religious alternative to "Christmas," linguists point out that the word "holiday" itself has religious etymological roots. In fact, religious references are buried in the histories of many words we now use without thinking about their history.

It's less than obvious that the word "holiday" has the word "holy" in it, as in "holy-day." It began in Old English as two words, "halig daeg" ("holy day") that were combined into one as early as 1,000 years ago, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

"The names of the days of the week commemorate the sun (Sunday) and the moon (Monday), and then five pagan gods: Tiw [Tuesday], Odin [or Woden, "Wednesday"], Thor [Thursday], Freya [Friday], and Saturn [Saturday]," Geoffrey Pullum writes. "If we were to start obsessively analyzing all of these names for religious links to object to, we would have our work cut out forever."


In Iran, religious freedom means keeping your mouth shut

National Review

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 7:11 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

A few weeks ago in Iran, an Iranian convert to Christianity was kidnapped from his home in northeastern Iran and stabbed to death. The vigilantes who took him tossed his bleeding body in front of his home a few hours later, a stark warning against any who would follow his example.

Ghorban Tori is the fifth Protestant pastor assassinated in Iran in the past eleven years. Three of the five were former Muslims, making them subject under Iranian law to the death penalty for having committed apostasy.

Tori's murder came just days after Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called an open meeting with the nation's 30 provincial governors, and vowed to crack down on the burgeoning movement of house churches across Iran.

"I will stop Christianity in this country," Ahmadinejad reportedly said.


Christmas Quotations

Christianity Today

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 6:22 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

From the human perspective, when you compare God to the other gods of the other religions in the world, you have to say our God is really sort of odd. He uses the most common of people, people that aren't any different from any of us here; he comes in the most common of ways, when by his Spirit an anonymous young woman is found to be with child. And the strangest thing is that he comes at allóhe's not the Above-Us-God, too holy to come down. This God's love is so immense that he wants to come down. And he has proven his love by the fact that he did come down and touch our ground.

James R. Van Tholen, Where All Hope Lies

We do not believe that the virgin mother gave birth to a son and that he is the Lord and Savior unless, added to this, I believe the second thing, namely, that he is my Savior and Lord.

Martin Luther, Sermon on the Afternoon of Christmas Day 1530

Do you want to see the humility of God? Look in the manger and see him lying there. Surely this is our God. Seeing an infant, I wonder how this could be the one who says, "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" I see a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. Is this the one who is clothed in the beautiful glory of unapproachable light?

Listen! He is crying. Is this the one who thunders in the heaven making the angels lower their wings? Yes, but he has emptied himself in order to fill us.

Guerric of Igny, Liturgical Sermons

Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin's womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked "No Entrance" and left through a door marked "No Exit."

Peter Larson, Prism (Jan-Feb 2001)


Jar-Jar's Bible

Christianity Today

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 6:11 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

I'm not sure if this is a joke or what, but this article by Nate Anderson in Christianity Today claims that the American Bible Society has translated "De Nyew Testament" into Gullah, an English Creole language spoken by 250,000 Americans in Georgia and the Carolinas.

We Fada wa dey een heaben,
leh ebrybody hona ya nyame.
We pray dat soon ya gwine
rule oba de wol.
Wasoneba ting ya wahn,
leh um be so een dis wol
same like dey een heaben.
Gii we de food wa we need
dis day yah an ebry day.
Fagib we fa we sin,
same like we da fagib dem people
wa do bad ta we.
Leh we dohn hab haad test
wen Satan try we.
Keep we fom ebil.

Is this for real?

Amid Devastation, Mounds of Toxic Waste

New York Times

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 5:54 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by John Schwartz

There is so much storm debris in Louisiana that some of it has to be destroyed again.

Bulldozers feed tree limbs and the jagged shards of homes into a trailer-size grinder. The manufacturer calls this machine the annihilator. It can chew iron sewer covers as if they were Necco wafers, and it transforms the chaotic mixture to something resembling mulch. It can reduce the volume of debris by two-thirds. It is part of an effort by the Army Corps of Engineers to make the most of landfills that have to accommodate an unprecedented onslaught of debris.

Dump trucks will be feeding the annihilator for some time to come. The pile so far is made up of debris cleared from roads, ditches and levees. Demolition of ruined homes here in Plaquemines Parish will not start until next month.

There have been 222,000 refrigerators, washers and dryers gathered, and more than a million containers of hazardous waste have been plucked from land and sea. There are fuel and lubricants, pesticides and solvents, medical waste, paint cans and more, and mystery fluids that must be categorized before disposal.


In Mississippi, Canvas Cities Rise Amid Hurricane's Rubble

New York Times

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 5:32 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Eric Lipton

PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss., Dec. 18 - A stone's throw from the Gulf of Mexico, on a muddy gravel lot that used to be a Little League field, a makeshift village has emerged for some of the many families who, as winter approaches, are still homeless because of Hurricane Katrina.

The tent city here is one of three set up in recent weeks along the Mississippi coast, making room for families now that the emergency shelters have closed and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working through a backlog of some 5,000 families still on waiting lists for government-supplied travel trailers or mobile homes.

In Pass Christian, the need is especially dire. The city hall, the two public libraries, the local supermarket, a senior citizens' home and the schools are all either severely damaged or nothing but rubble. The work of clearing debris and the crushed remains of about 2,000 houses is far short of the halfway mark. As a result, construction of large amounts of new housing is still months off.

With the nighttime temperatures dropping as low as the 30's, local officials are trying to offer an alternative for families who want to stay in the area and would have few choices other than to sleep in cars.

The tents, built by the Navy Seabees at a cost of $1 million, can be heated and cooled, and have plywood floors and walls that create an 18-by-32-foot wooden box inside the exterior fabric.

Free meals, financed by the federal government, are served in a giant white tent. The toilets are portable, without running water, and are lined up near a tractor-trailer that serves as a shower house.

His tent "is a bit like a tomb," said Dave Frisby, 55, a handyman whose home and tools were washed away by Hurricane Katrina. "It can be depressing."

At another tent city in Long Beach, five miles east of Pass Christian, the entire inventory of Robert Stover's possessions consists of a mattress on the floor, a Bible, a few donated books and a plastic bucket that he turns upside down and tops with a small pillow to create a chair.

Desperate for work, Mr. Stover, 45, a former plumber at an area hospital, found a job at a cigarette distribution warehouse. But it is in Gulfport, miles away, and he has no car, so he spends three hours each day walking to work.


Hackers Break Into Computer-Security Firm's Customer Database

Washington Post

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 4:34 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Brian Krebs, Washington Post Staff Writer

Guidance Software -- the leading provider of software used to diagnose hacker break-ins -- has itself been hacked, resulting in the exposure of financial and personal data connected to thousands of customers.

Hackers broke into a company database and made off with approximately 3,800 customer credit card numbers. The Pasadena, Calif.-based company said the incident occurred sometime in November.

Guidance stored customer records in unencrypted databases, and indefinitely retained customers' "card value verification" (CVV) numbers, the three-digit codes on the back of credit cards that are meant to protect against fraud in online and telephone sales, according to Colbert and the notification letter sent to customers.

Merchant guidelines published by both Visa and Mastercard require sellers to encrypt customer credit-card databases. They are also prohibited from retaining CVV numbers for any longer than it takes to verify a given transaction. Companies that violate those standards can be fined $500,000 per violation.


New cue sheets added to database

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 4:14 pm
Keywords: Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

I've recently synchronized the cue sheet database with most of the web sites that have cue sheets. This adds about 200 new cue sheets since early October. These are not cue sheets posted on this site, but cue sheets posted on other sites, and I've recently cataloged them.

Some people have asked for a way to see which are the most-recently posted or added cue sheets from other sites. Unfortunately, I don't have a mechanism for tracking that. There are several ways of doing this and I'm trying to figure out which would be the fastest. One way is to compare an older database with the newest one, and add a field that flags the cue sheets that have been added since the older database was saved. This would have to be done ahead of time, because doing such a comparison in real time would slow the web site down.

Here is a brief summary of the cue sheets added (by site, not necessarily by choreographer):

  • Shibata - 62
  • Voelkl - 43
  • Idaho - 30 (in addition to 150 added in September)
  • CRDA - 27
  • Tennant - 17
  • Hurd - 16
  • Langer - 14
  • Ward - 10
  • other sites - 42

You can see all the various cue sheet sites and their statistics here:

The Christmas Kerfuffle

San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 9:58 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

(The most coherent discussion I've seen yet.)

By Cinnamon Stillwell

Upon leaving a San Francisco shop last week, I wished the clerk a cheery "Merry Christmas," only to be met with a surly "Happy Holidays" in return. With that simple exchange, our positions at opposite ends of the political spectrum were revealed.

The celebration of Christmas has indeed been overshadowed by politics in recent years, to the point where every greeting is pregnant with meaning. And even non-Christians are swept up in the Christmas kerfuffle.

As a member of the Jewish faith, I've never once felt intimidated, bothered or offended by Christmas. In fact, I grew up celebrating Christmas and still do to this day. Not the religious aspects, but rather the festive trappings of the holiday. I also light the menorah candles each year to mark Hanukkah. While this might earn me the disapproval of traditionalists on both sides of the fence, I confess it simply to illustrate that one holiday need not endanger another.

Yet the political battle over Christmas rages on. Conservatives are upset over what has been dubbed the "war on Christmas," while liberals accuse them of overreacting to what is essentially a non-event. But who's right?

All across the country, city halls, chain stores, and public squares are erecting "holiday trees" in lieu of Christmas trees. Nativity scenes are being banned in town squares, public buildings and even some malls. The singing of Christmas carols such as "Silent Night" in public schools and caroling in public parks and public housing are becoming rarities. Court cases brought by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have taken the clause that never appeared in the constitution to ridiculous levels -- and chipping away at Christmas is just one of the results.

Why is it that Christmas is the only holiday that must be downplayed so that other religions feel more "included"? We don't insist on calling the Muslim holiday of Ramadan by any other name, nor do we impose such restrictions on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. In all fairness, we would have to label all religious and cultural occasions "holidays," not just Christmas. I wonder how long it would take for members of other religions to express their outrage? Yet when Christians fight back, as they are now with a concerted campaign to stem the anti-Christmas tide, they are ridiculed or vilified by their opponents.

This double standard when it comes to Christians can be seen in many spheres. A friend was shopping recently in one of those cute little neighborhood stores San Francisco prides itself on when she noticed that the man ringing her up was wearing a T-shirt that read, "So Many Rightwing Christians, So Few Lions." No doubt this was intended to be humorous, but the message has serious implications. Simply substitute the words "Jews," "blacks" or "gays" and the outrage would be immediate. But when it comes to Christians, such offensive rhetoric is somehow acceptable. There's even a term for it -- Christianophobia.


Read the Bible in a Year

Monday 19 December 2005, 3:39 am
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Recently I finished reading the Bible that I've had for about 2-1/2 years. I bought a new Bible so that I can read it again in a different translation. (I just finished the New International Version/NIV, and I'm starting the New American Standard Bible/NASB.)

Anyway, I've used this as an opportunity to put together a more coherent reading strategy than I used the first time. Also, having been exposed to several different such strategies lately helps me appreciate how different people might find different strategies useful.

So ... here's the Bible reading schedule that I'm now starting. The page includes links to other Bible reading schedules and links to sites that discuss different English Bible translations.

I hope you enjoy it!


America's Most Popular Christmas Music

New York Times

Sunday 18 December 2005, 2:03 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Judy Rosen

Mannheim Steamroller has sold more than 27 million albums, more than Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M. or Eminem, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Producer Chip Davis has racked up these astonishing sales figures operating out of his home base in Omaha, Neb., releasing all his records on his own label, American Gramaphone.

"Chip Davis owns Christmas," says Sean Compton, programming vice president of Clear Channel Communications, which owns more than 1,200 commercial radio stations. "He is the Christmas king." Years ago, Mannheim Steamroller surpassed Elvis Presley as the top-selling Christmas artist of all time; even those who've never heard of Mannheim Steamroller have most likely heard its music. This year, more than 160 radio stations around the country have switched to an all-Christmas music format during the holiday season, some beginning as early as the first week of November. Mannheim Steamroller dominates those radio playlists, with as many as 15 songs in regular rotation on some stations. If you've wandered down a department-store aisle in the last few weeks, Davis's versions of "Silent Night" or "Deck the Halls" have probably drifted into earshot. The music is strange: a hodgepodge of rock rhythms, blipping synthesizers, Renaissance instrumentation and orchestral extravagance - a big, bright and, even by Christmas standards, fearlessly schlocky sound that Davis has called "18th-century classical rock." In Davis's reworked carols, the showy time-signature changes and keyboard passages of 70's progressive rock rub up against lutes, cornemuses and other 15th-century instruments; classical piano filigrees and gusty Muzak strings rise over a thudding backbeat.


This Year, the Meaning of Dec. 25 Is Twofold

Washington Post

Thursday 15 December 2005, 10:27 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Sue Anne Pressley, Washington Post Staff Writer

The first night of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, falls on Christmas Day for the first time since 1959 and for only the fourth time in 100 years.

For kids and retailers, there should be no argument with the dual fete because it means a bonanza in some cases: double the presents.

But in some households, there may be a few debates: Will it be mashed potatoes with that big meal or potato latkes?

Perhaps the best thing about the holiday coincidence is the obvious point: fewer people left out of festivities that day.

Interfaith families appreciate what the two holidays share: Both are happy social occasions, they say, and both emphasize the beauty of lights. The central story of Hanukkah is the miracle of the lights, when oil that seemed sufficient to light a temple menorah for one night managed to last for eight.

"Both Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrations of joy. In fact, having them together, except for the fact that people might have to race around from one table to another, might be a way of underscoring our common ground: 'Let's bring everybody closer together.' "


If you donít want to be merry, then to hell with you.

The Call (Woonsocket. RI)

Thursday 15 December 2005, 10:13 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Jim Baron

I celebrate Christmas. I am happy at this time of the year and I wish you merriment as well. Thatís all. Whatís to be bothered about there? Iím not saying that you have to celebrate Christmas, too. I am not insisting that you recognize Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal savior, and mark this as the time of His birth.

Iím just saying be merry. If you donít want to be merry, then to hell with you. Just donít blame me because youíre miserable. This is Christmastime and I wished you a merry one. You can wish me a merry whatever holiday you are celebrating and I will accept that sentiment in the spirit in which you offered it. Even if I donít personally celebrate Chanukah or Kwanzaa or whatever, I am not going to get insulted if you wish me a happy one. Iím going to consider it a token of brotherhood and good cheer and say something nice back to you.


Happy A'Phabet Day

Dayton Daily News

Thursday 15 December 2005, 9:57 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Jeff Bruce

"No L Day." Get it?

If nothing else, all this fuss about how to greet one another, address our Christmas, er, holiday cards or name the, uh, national illuminated pine tree should remind us what a great thing it is to live in America.

You take your life in your hands in some corners of this planet should you question the accepted theological norms. Try out a cheery "Merry Christmas" in Tehran or a hearty "Happy Hanukkah" in Damascus and see how long it takes before you discover the validity of your personal beliefs in the afterlife.

We're spoiled. You have to enjoy a highly elevated quality of life for something this silly to rise as a serious topic of conversation.


Getting Around, Made Easier

New York Times

Thursday 15 December 2005, 4:04 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

This article about Global Positioning System navigation, by Michael Marriott in the New York Times, notes that

In some instances, roofers helping to rebuild homes and businesses in Hurricane Katrina's wake have been using hand-held G.P.S. devices to locate job sites in areas where street addresses have been blown away, workers say.

Travel Light, but Well

New York Times

Thursday 15 December 2005, 3:56 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Mary and I might be doing some traveling next year, and the references in this article by Michelle Slatalla might come in handy.

It's interesting what some consider "cheap" travel. On our road trip from San Jose, California to San Antonio, Texas last July, we tried really hard to stay at what we called "flea bag" motels along Route 66. These were usually about $30 per night.

But Ms. Slatalla considers $20 cheap for rubber rain boots from Target. Sigh. I would buy that kind of stuff at Goodwill if I couldn't find it at the Dollar Store. On the other hand, it really is hard to find a decent umbrella for less than $25.

The article is really more suited to air travel than road travel, but we intend to do a fair amount of both.

From the article:

Internet sites - like Packinglight.com, Orvis.com and Travelessentials.com - sell a wide array of travel gear. I saw lightweight luggage ( Magellans.com's eight-pound rolling tote is $129) and a hemp fanny pack ($14.95 at Goodhumans.com ) and even foldable travel high chairs ($19.99 at Burlingtoncoatfactory.com).

I resisted the urge to buy an adorable little travel sewing kit ($3) at Walkabouttravelgear.com and instead focused on the more pressing need to make my husband's huge collection of electronic equipment fully operational in Paris. Walkabouttravelgear.com's comprehensive guide, "Solving the Riddle of International Electricity," included a voltage and adapter index with a pull-down menu to enable customers to shop by country.

The Wind-Defying Auto-Open umbrella from Hammacher Schlemmer is attractive and sturdy and has a "patented vented mesh system" to "eliminate umbrella inversion" on windy days. At Hammacher.com, I found a collapsible one-pound version ($24.95)

Oops ... Mixed-Up.com was down for a few hours

Thursday 15 December 2005, 3:43 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Oops ... some PHP files were being redirected indefinitely, which spawned thousands of processes and slowed down the web server until my ISP shut down the site.

I've reverted things to an earlier December version that runs well. You shouldn't notice any change.

I was trying to speed up searches by using a more efficient method. Back to the drawing board ...


It's OK to say Merry Christmas

Tuesday 13 December 2005, 10:20 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Order Your "Merry Christmas" Bumper Sticker Today!


Retailers and governments heed the wrath of Christians

Los Angeles Times Commentary

Tuesday 13 December 2005, 10:07 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer

For the third year in a row, Christians nationwide have mobilized to put the holy back in the holiday. And they are winning battle after battle.

Their most publicized victories have come in the retail realm, where they have urged stores to acknowledge that the December shopping frenzy is not just about scoring a cheap DVD player, but also about celebrating Christ's birth.

But they haven't stopped at the mall door.

At least 1,500 attorneys have volunteered to sue any town that tries to keep Nativity scenes out of its holiday displays. About 8,000 public school teachers stand ready to report any principal who removes "Silent Night" from the choir program.

The volunteers are armed with a seven-page memo that lays out the case for Jesus in public school concerts, for creches in the classroom and for mangers in city parks (as long as the religious references are balanced with secular songs and decorations).

That message has even made its way into politics. After a decade as a generic holiday tree, the twinkling conifer at the Capitol is a Christmas tree once more, thanks to a request by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).


FEMA Ordered to Extend Hotel Stays

Washington Post

Tuesday 13 December 2005, 3:46 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post Staff Writer

A federal judge in New Orleans yesterday ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to continue paying the hotel bills of thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees until as late as Feb. 7, criticizing the government for inaction 15 weeks after the storm.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval ordered the disaster response agency to pay for storm victims' rooms for at least two weeks once a decision is made on granting them rental housing assistance or until Feb. 7, whichever comes first. The agency had planned to stop subsidizing hotel rooms for evacuees on Jan. 7, in an effort to push them into longer-term housing, which it says is better for them and less costly to the government.

Duval's order applies to thousands of the estimated 85,000 evacuee households whose housing aid applications FEMA has not yet processed.

In a 27-page order, Duval issued a stern rebuke to FEMA and the Bush administration for responding sluggishly to a catastrophe that has killed more than 1,200 people and displaced hundreds of thousands of people from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

FEMA is paying for about 42,000 hotel rooms in 47 states and the District in a program that has cost about $350 million so far. The agency last month announced a Dec. 1 deadline for ending the hotel program and moving evacuees into a rental assistance program, but extended it to Dec. 15 after widespread criticism.


FEMA Expands Hotel Aid Of Evacuees

Washington Post

Monday 12 December 2005, 11:03 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Associated Press

Evacuees from hurricanes Rita and Katrina may remain in hotels at the government's expense while their applications for rental assistance are processed, officials announced Saturday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency continues to pay for an estimated 42,000 hotel rooms in 47 states and the District. FEMA recently pledged to continue paying hotel bills until Jan. 7, after its previous Dec. 1 deadline was met with widespread criticism.

FEMA has spent about $325 million on its hotel housing program since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, followed by Rita on Sept. 24. At the program's height, FEMA was housing 85,000 families in hotels.


Residents Fight Shift in Zoning for Gulf Coast

New York Times

Monday 12 December 2005, 10:53 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Eric Lipton

Some residents of the Mississippi coast intend to ignore a plea from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that new homes be elevated on stilts.

The conflict between FEMA's request and resident desires demonstrates a broad clash here along the Gulf Coast over whether to cede large swaths of land to nature, to rebuild much as it was, or to rebuild homes, at a higher price, with more robust foundations and on structures that raise them above the ground.

In Mississippi, elected officials from Long Beach, Pass Christian and unincorporated sections of Hancock County have decided to allow residents to rebuild, at least for now, according to the existing flood maps. In Jackson County and communities including Waveland, D'Iberville and Bay St. Louis, local officials have agreed to add about four feet to the required minimum elevations in existing flood zones, but have declined, so far, to expand the flood zones according to FEMA's recommended boundaries.

In communities that have resisted, elected officials say they fear now is the worst time to radically increase land-use standards, forcing residents who have already lost almost everything to dig deeper into their pockets to rebuild.

Raising a new house off the ground to comply with the proposed FEMA standards would cost $2,000 to $30,000 depending on the value of the house and the type of foundation required to meet the potential flood intensity. The work could be as simple as an elevated foundation or as complex as reinforced, deep-set structural columns that would support a house entirely on tall stilts. How high the house would be off the ground would depend on its location, but the heights would be from a few feet to 20 feet, with more typical range being 8 to 14 feet.


The (Urban) Legend of the Candy Cane

Sunday 11 December 2005, 2:00 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Claim: Candy canes were created to symbolize Jesus, their shape representing the letter "J" and their colors standing for the purity and blood of Christ.

Status: False.


A candymaker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols from the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.

In fact, the strongest connection one can make between the origins of the candy cane and intentional Christian symbolism is to note that legend says someone took an existing form of candy which was already being used as a Christmas decoration (i.e., straight white sticks of sugar candy) and produced bent versions which represented a shepherd's crook and were handed out to children at church to ensure their good behavior.


Christians scramble to aid earthquake victims before worst of winter hits

Christianity Today

Thursday 8 December 2005, 4:08 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Deann Alford

Evangelical ministries are hurriedly responding to Operation Winter Race, a U.N. effort to gather and distribute aid to Kashmir and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province before snow and ice cut off devastated mountain villages from transport trucks and helicopters.

A magnitude 7.6 earthquake and aftershocks devastated these regions on October 8. By mid-November, the U.N. reported more than 87,000 dead and 100,000 injured in about 11,500 square miles of some of the world's most rugged terrain. Len Stitt, director of Shelter Now Pakistan, said at least as many people as died in the earthquake may now perish from illness and exposure to harsh winter weather. Children are most vulnerable. Some 3 million people are homeless, the U.N. reports.

Stitt said that Shelter Now has supplied 8,500 tents equipped with stoves, blankets, and mattresses. Shelter Now has employed 54 Pakistanis in unaffected Peshawar to build 1,200 Quonset-hut-style tents from layers of parachute and rubberized plastic fabric and pvc pipe. Each tent, which costs $135, can house an average six-person family for at least six months.


'Podcast' Is the Word of the Year

Yahoo News, Newswire

Tuesday 6 December 2005, 8:15 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Only a year ago, podcasting was an arcane activity, the domain of a few techies and self-admitted "geeks." Now you can hear everything from NASCAR coverage to NPR's All Things Considered in downloadable audio files called "podcasts". That's why the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary have selected "podcast" as the Word of the Year for 2005. Podcast, defined as "a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player."

Runners-up for the 2005 Word of the Year include: bird flu, ICE, IDP, IED, lifehack, persistent vegetative state, reggaeton, rootkit, squick, sudoku, trans fat.


Mark says: I still haven't listened to one! However, I have lots of mp3 files of messages from Calvary Chapel San Jose, and I recently bought two versions of the Bible on mp3 (New King James version and New Living Translation, each available in the Calvary Chapel bookstore for about $2).

Study Concludes Beethoven Died From Lead Poisoning

Washington Post

Tuesday 6 December 2005, 7:49 pm
Keywords: News Articles , Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer

By focusing the most powerful X-ray beam in the Western Hemisphere on six of Ludwig van Beethoven's hairs and a few pieces of his skull, scientists have gathered what they say is conclusive evidence that the famous composer died of lead poisoning.

The work, done at the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago, confirms earlier hints that lead may have caused Beethoven's decades of poor health, which culminated in a long and painful death in 1827 at age 56.

"There's no doubt in my mind . . . he was a victim of lead poisoning," said Bill Walsh, an expert in forensic analysis and chief scientist at Pfeiffer Treatment Center in Warrenville, Ill., who led the study with energy department researcher Ken Kemner.

Still a mystery, however, is the source of Beethoven's lead exposure, which evidence now suggests occurred over many years. Among the possibilities are his liberal indulgence in wine consumed from lead cups or perhaps a lifetime of medical treatments, which in the 19th century were often laced with heavy metals.

Beethoven developed serious health problems in his early twenties, which grew worse over time and reflected many of the symptoms of lead poisoning, including severe stomach problems.

The composer was deaf by his late twenties, a problem of questionable relevance because deafness has only rarely been associated with lead poisoning.


We know terrorism, and this ain't it

Washington Post

Tuesday 6 December 2005, 3:48 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press

Saddam, dressed in a dark suit and white shirt and clutching a Quran, complained that he and the seven other defendants were tired and had been deprived of opportunities to shower, have a change of clothes, exercise or go for a smoke.

"This is terrorism," he declared.


Some retailers give the word 'Christmas' a nod

USA Today

Monday 5 December 2005, 8:26 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

The American Family Association cited 10 retailers (Kroger, Dell, Target, OfficeMax, Walgreens, Sears, Staples, Lowe's, J.C. Penney and Best Buy) for omitting Christmas in ads. It urges shoppers to go where Christmas is recognized.

Chains that are giving Christmas a nod:

  • The Catholic League says it scored a victory when it pushed Wal-Mart to have a Christmas category on its website, which had Kwanzaa and Hanukkah gift sections.

  • Federated Department Stores ó owner of Macy's and Bloomingdale's ó is making sure its Christmas message is heard after consumer backlash last year over a supposed policy forbidding employees to wish shoppers "Merry Christmas."

  • Ads for Dillard's department stores say: "Discover Christmas. Discover Dillard's."

  • Christmas songs and trees are two of the things Victoria's Secret won't be bashful about in its lingerie show airing Tuesday on CBS.


And now it's Christmas

Salt Lake Tribune

Friday 2 December 2005, 8:38 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Robert Kirby, Tribune Columnist

And now it's Christmas, celebrated throughout America by maxing out credit cards and brawling over parking spaces at the mall.

Let's not kid ourselves. Giving gifts is what Christmas is all about. Without this blatant materialism, Christmas would be just another Thanksgiving where everyone sat around and ate and pretended to be grateful.

The most expensive Christmas gift I typically give goes to my wife. Not because she demands it, but because she deserves it. No one, not even God, has put up with more crap from me than she has.

The coolest gifts are the ones that you don't have to budget for. You can always afford them.

  • Forgiveness: We all have someone in our lives who could do with a nice box of this under the tree. Whatever it is, let it go.

  • Apology: It can be painful, but maybe it's time to start budgeting for it.

  • Kindness: How about being a little nicer to people you have to be around, people you might previously ignore because they're on the periphery of your life?

  • Empathy: Here's where you start giving gifts to people you don't even know - a street bum, some kid in Iraq, even criminals. Just once try seeing them as your brothers and sisters.


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Last updated Tuesday 16 June 2015