Rite Aid, wrong tactics
Rite Aid is digesting a bitter pill. The nation's third-largest drugstore chain is yet another high-flying corporation to face an accounting scandal.
Fortune magazine in 1998 hailed Rite Aid as one of "America's Most Admired Companies." A year later, the company's stock sold for over $50 per share, compared to less than $13 four years earlier. Then the company revealed it had inflated its earnings in the late 1990s by $1.6 billion. By last month, shares went for under $3 each.
Federal regulators say four former executives are to blame. The "portrayal of Rite Aid as a profitable company was a ruse and a mirage," according to a 37-count criminal indictment against the executives. "The deception was accomplished through massive accounting fraud, the deliberate falsification of its financial statements, and intentionally false filings."
Three former executives, Martin Grass, Franklin Brown, and Franklyn Bergonzi, face the most serious charges, including conspiracy to defraud, making false statements to the government, tampering with witnesses, and obstructing various investigations.
Still, Rite Aid survives. The company boasts annual revenues of over $15 billion and runs 3,500 stores in 28 states. "Rite Aid is a much stronger company today than it was two years ago," said current CEO Bob Miller.
Putting stock in an old sock
Would you buy a used car from a used sock? A financing company called 1-800-BAR NONE is betting that some car buyers will. The company acquired the rights to Pets.com's old sock-puppet mascot and plans to use it in ads this month to pitch car financing for people with bad credit. The puppet was a cult favorite in a series of TV ads that peaked with an appearance during Super Bowl 2000. Then the stock market bubble burst. Pets.com, once a Wall Street darling, fell into the penny stock category and went out of business in November 2000. "It is not often that a company will adopt the mascot of a defunct company," said Christina Duffney of The Direct Marketing Association. "Such a company runs the risk of being associated with a business that wasn't a success." But 1-800-BAR NONE is taking that risk. The new sponsor's message: Everyone deserves a second chance.
Survey says: Confused collegians
- 37% of all college students said they would be "likely to try to evade the draft."
- 71% disagree with the statement that U.S. values are superior to the values of other nations.
- 57% believe the policies of the United States are "at least somewhat responsible" for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
- 79% believe the U.S. "has the right to overthrow" Saddam Hussein.
- 60% believe "developing a better understanding of the values and history of other cultures and nations that dislike us is a better approach to preventing terrorism than investing in strong military and defense capabilities at home and abroad."
- 79% do not believe Western culture is superior to Arab culture.
- 61% say that they generally have a favorable opinion of Islam.
The "temporary" UN agency set up 50 years ago to administer Palestinian refugee camps is asking UN members to donate funds to rebuild camps damaged by Israeli military action and to close a funding gap. The United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) runs the Jenin camp, along with 58 others in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. Those camps were set up more than 50 years ago when Jewish settlers displaced longtime Palestinian residents in newly designated Israeli territory. The camps are hotbeds of restive protest against Israel and-more recently-terrorist activity, including suicide bombing missions targeting Israelis and hatched largely in Jenin.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) called the UNRWA request "brazen" while "buildings and warehouses under UNRWA's supervision are allegedly being used as storage areas for Palestinian ammunition and counterfeit currency factories." At the same time, the Kuwaiti daily newspaper, Al-Watan, reports that Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat deposited into his personal bank account $5.1 million meant for humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees. UNRWA's 2001 budget called for $311 million to administer 59 camps, which house a total of 1.2 million refugees. But the UN provided $285 million last year, leaving the agency with a $26 million shortfall. | Mindy Belz
Beijing's once-serene, tree-lined embassy district is becoming the Berlin Wall of North and South Korea. Despite tight Chinese security, 23 North Koreans have managed to force their way into the South Korean consulate in China's capital. Two more took refuge in the Canadian embassy. A diplomatic furor erupted last month when Chinese police chased a South Korean man with false papers into the South Korean consulate and punched and kicked South Korean diplomats before dragging the man away. Amnesty International accuses China of rounding up 1,400 North Koreans from refuge in northeast China and sending them home. With starvation and political oppression at all-time highs inside North Korea, as many as 300,000 North Koreans have crossed the border into China illegally. The influx puts China in a dilemma over its small communist cohort: China has a treaty with North Korea requiring it to hand over illegal immigrants; but it also has an obligation under UN and other international standards to determine whether the illegals should receive political asylum. | Mindy Belz
'Victims, not criminals'
Cambodian police arrested 14 girls on June 20 who were illegally trafficked into Cambodia for sex. A charity organization was providing shelter for the young women after they were rescued during a May 23 police raid on a brothel in Phnom Penh's red-light district. But when police discovered the girls had entered Cambodia "illegally" (never mind against their will), they secured warrants for their arrest and transferred them to Prey Sar prison on the outskirts of the capital. Three were released on bail four days later pending trial. Police officers from the Minors Protection Section of the Anti-Trafficking Unit at the Ministry of Interior conducted both the rescue operation and the subsequent arrests. Cambodian authorities say the girls are all more than 18 years of age, but Human Rights Watch said observers present during the arrest and charity workers who sheltered them say some of them are as young as 12. Age, according to Human Rights Watch researcher Sara Colm, is ultimately irrelevant: "The point is that they are victims, not criminals." | Mindy Belz
India's state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp. is finalizing plans to buy a 25 percent stake in Sudan oil operations from Canadian-based Talisman Energy. Talisman has been the only North American firm to participate in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co. It runs the Sudan project and produces 230,000 barrels of oil per day in the heart of war-torn territory that has been the site of many government atrocities. Talisman's activities in the region made it the target of boycotts from U.S. mutual funds, along with protests from Christian groups and human-rights organizations. The deal, slated for completion by July 31, would sell a 12-million-acre concession owned by Talisman and a 930-mile pipeline to the Red Sea. Malaysia and China are other partners in the oil venture. Fighting between the Islamic regime and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, which favors self-determination and the rights of Christians and other minorities, increasingly centers on the oil region. Talisman and other energy firms have extended oil development as the National Islamic Front burned out villages and crops of locals (see "The politics of starvation," July 28, 2001) in the Western Upper Nile, where oil pumping is based. Government helicopter gunships used Talisman airstrips as a base of operations for attacks on civilians in the region that have displaced 150,000-300,000 Sudanese in Western Upper Nile between January and April of this year alone, according to a UN report. The sale, rumored at $750 million, will net Talisman a handsome profit over its original 1998 investment. But experts say that is half a billion less than what the company said it would consider a year ago-a drop related to the bad publicity and divestment campaign. "Their exit is an unambiguous victory for those who refuse to accept the oil-driven destruction of Sudan," said Smith College professor Eric Reeves. | Mindy Belz
Middle East met Deep South on June 25 as Alabama primary voters defeated a five-term lawmaker who was a vocal critic of Israel. Rep. Earl Hilliard, the first black congressman from Alabama since Reconstruction, lost the runoff by 12 points against Artur Davis, a 34-year-old, Harvard-educated lawyer. Mr. Davis also is African-American, but the two men differed sharply on other questions of ethnicity. Mr. Hilliard, the incumbent, supported a variety of Arab causes during his tenure, even visiting Libya in 1997 over the objections of the Clinton State Department. Earlier this spring, he was one of just a handful of lawmakers who refused to support a resolution backing Israel in its war against terrorism. That stance vaulted the little-known Mr. Davis into national prominence. Jewish groups across the country poured money into his campaign, and by election day he had raised almost $100,000 more than the incumbent. Mr. Hilliard tried to portray his opponent as a Republican in disguise, and black leaders nationwide-from the Rev. Al Sharpton to the Congressional Black Caucus-rushed to his aid. But voters didn't buy it, as Mr. Davis noted in his victory speech: "Racial division and religious bigotry have no place in the 7th district. We are one people. We are one community, and anyone who comes into this city to divide us is going to be sent back home." | Bob Jones
My way, or a clogged highway
Republican Senators are fuming at Democratic delays in approving judicial and executive-branch nominees. John McCain got so fed up last week that he announced he'd halt the entire nomination process unless the Senate quickly approved a new member for the Federal Election Commission (FEC). One catch: The nominee Mr. McCain is fighting for is a Democrat. Sen. McCain and other champions of new campaign-finance restrictions were infuriated by a recent 4-2 vote by the FEC that essentially gutted the limits on soft-money donations under the McCain-Feingold bill. By law, the commission is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, but Karl J. Sandstrom, a Democratic appointee, voted with the Republican members to weaken the soft-money limits. In May, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle recommended Ellen Weintraub to replace Mr. Sandstrom, who is serving only until his successor is named. The McCain-Daschle alliance hopes that Ms. Weintraub, a Washington lawyer, will have fewer scruples about protecting free speech than Mr. Sandstrom, who has been forced to defend his vote against bitter criticism by his own party. The White House says it is taking Mr. Daschle's recommendation "very seriously," but a spokesman points out that Ms. Weintraub's name surfaced only six weeks ago. Meanwhile, scores of President Bush's nominees have been held up for 10 times that long. If Sen. McCain makes good on his threat, they may have to wait a lot longer. | Bob Jones
Romney's seven-year hitch
In politics, as in literature, it may be true that you can't go home again. Not if you're going home to be governor, anyway. After a successful stint as chairman of the organizing committee for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Republican Mitt Romney turned his attention to Massachusetts politics. His deep pockets and glittering resumé quickly cleared the GOP gubernatorial field. Even Jane Swift, the state's acting governor, announced she wouldn't run against him. Mr. Romney's resumé may have impressed the GOP, but his tax returns thrilled the Democrats. They discovered that although Mr. Romney had kept a home in Belmont, Mass., for more than 30 years, he filed his taxes as a Utah resident in 1999 and 2000, when he was overseeing the Olympics. Because state law requires seven years of residency in Massachusetts prior to a gubernatorial bid, Democrats say Mr. Romney is ineligible for office. They made their case before the state Ballot Law Commission on June 24. Mr. Romney corrected his returns in April, after deciding to run for governor. He says he provided his accounting firm, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, only with his financial information, and that the accountants incorrectly listed him as a Utah resident. | Bob Jones
Pledging a battle for the Pledge
The federal court ruling that killed the Pledge of Allegiance in western U.S. classrooms spawned a stack of pledges from Washington: a pledge from the White House to fight the ruling; a pledge from lawmakers to propose a constitutional amendment; a pledge from one Democratic senator to punish the "atheist lawyer" who penned the ruling.
The decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would bar public-school teachers this fall in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington state from leading students in the Pledge of Allegiance. In a symbol of defiance of the court, indignant lawmakers marched to the front of the Capitol and recited the Pledge; the Senate approved 99-0 a resolution condemning the court. Democrats and Republicans seemed to compete for most-colorful soundbite-"just nuts," said Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle; "our Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves," said Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.).
Meanwhile, President Bush's judicial nominees-45 of them-are spinning their wheels in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Republicans hoped the case would showcase the problem of a politicized court and pressure the Democrats to act on the nominations (see Flash Traffic). House Speaker Dennis Hastert said, "It's time for the Senate to move forward and confirm some common-sense jurists." Senate Republican leader Trent Lott emphasized that the Pledge battle "highlights what the fight over federal judges is all about."
It also highlights the unsettled state of religious-freedom rulings in the federal court system. The anti-Pledge judges cited as a foundation for their ruling a Supreme Court decision restricting graduation prayers. "This is the Supreme Court reaping what it sowed," said Christopher Landau, a former law clerk to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, a dissenter in the graduation-prayer case, in The Washington Post.
The Pledge case originates with atheist Michael Newdow, a lawyer and emergency-room doctor in Sacramento, who sued the Florence Markofer Elementary School on behalf of his 2nd-grade daughter, who he said did not want to hear the pledge recited (recital is strictly voluntary, per an earlier Supreme Court ruling). Parent Kathleen Doncaster, whose daughter also attends the school, thinks Dr. Newdow has too much time on his hands: "He needs to get a hobby."
Evidently, filing nuisance lawsuits is his hobby. In 1997, the California man filed a case in Florida seeking to strike the words in God we trust from U.S. currency. Dr. Newdow's victory last week may be money in the bank. The dissenting judge in the 9th Circuit case, Ferdinand F. Fernandez, said that if the decision were to stand, "'God Bless America' and 'America the Beautiful' will be gone for sure, and ... currency beware!"
Opportunity for some
Washington state college students are free now to use state assistance to attend any school of their choice-even religious schools-though younger students are still denied that freedom. That's due to a state Supreme Court ruling last month that held Washington's constitutional ban on public money for schools under "sectarian control" applies only to K-12 students. The ruling stems from a case involving the state's Educational Opportunity Grant program. It provides annual grants of $2,500 to about 1,000 needy students. Just over one-third of them go to private colleges, some with religious affiliations. The ACLU and Washington State University professor Mary Gallwey sued the state in 1995 over the program. They complained that some of the schools require mandatory religion courses and chapel attendance. Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Assemblies of God churches ran some of the schools. The court was untroubled: "The Supreme Court has upheld neutrally applied state educational aid that is significantly more invasive and linked with religion than the EOG program, which, as already noted, contains myriad easily administered religious safeguards," Justice Barbara Madsen wrote in the 6-3 decision. School-choice supporters, though pleased by the relief for college students, remain troubled over the state's constitutional "Blaine Amendment." They say the U.S. Congress forced the amendment on the state-barring aid to any school under "sectarian control"-in exchange for admission to the union in 1889. They argue that the amendment was born of anti-Catholic hostility, and violates U.S. constitutional guarantees of free exercise of religion. Kevin J. Hasson, president of the religious liberty organization Becket Fund, vows to turn attention now to battling so-called Blaine amendments in Washington and 35 other states that could block development of voucher programs even though they received a green light from the Supreme Court last week (see Free at Last). | Chris Stamper
Body piercing: A sticky issue
School district officials in Florida are concerned about body piercing, and they want to make sure students get the point. Florida's Lee County School Board last month extended its school dress code to include a ban on body piercing, even in areas normally hidden under clothes. The unanimously passed ruling includes tongues, navels, and other body parts, replacing a previous rule covering only exposed areas. Principals said the policy is necessary as a safety measure. "The principals felt that the adornments were a safety issue and that adornments other than earrings did pose a potential student safety issue," according to a June 7 memo by Superintendent John Sanders. He wrote that students might try to grab the baubles dangling from piercings. "It's a point where it becomes disturbing," board chairwoman Jane Kuckel said. "It's difficult because it's a fad." Tulsa Public schools banned visible body piercings last July. Pierced ears are allowed, but sagging pants, strapless tops, and some tattoos are also forbidden. Officials late last year said only occasional infractions had been reported. Some say piercings are part of a student's right to control his own body-and the debate has crossed over into the abortion issue. In Vermont, legislators proposed requiring parental consent before minors could get holes drilled in them. But pro-abortion Democrats worried that this could set a precedent for parental notification on abortion. | Chris Stamper
Wireless networks may become a new publishing tool. Newspapers could soon begin reaching cell phones and personal digital assistants, which means a new venue for news and advertising. Wireless could become the third leg of the industry, next to print and the Internet, William Dean Singleton, chairman of the Newspaper Association of America, told a conference last week. "Newspapers are in a perfect position to be the source for mobile updates, whether that's a sports score, a wreck on the Cross-Bronx Expressway, or breaking global news," the publisher said. New technology could mean new readers for newspapers. Daily newspaper circulation slipped from 58 million in 1995 to 55.7 million in 2000. Sunday circulation fell from 61.5 million in 1995 to 59.4 million in 2000. The trade group tried a test run of a wireless service and was pleased with the results. Still, wireless news is at least two to five years away from becoming mainstream, according to Melinda Gipson, director of new media business development for the association. "It's not at the point where it justifies the cost," she said, "but it's something to keep your eyes on."
The distinction between workplace and home, largely a creation of the Industrial Revolution, continues to blur for many Americans. The number of people working at home three or more days a week grew nearly 23 percent in the last decade, from 3.4 million in 1990 to 4.2 million in 2000, according to U.S. Census figures. Some rural areas find the trend even more popular; South Dakota has 6.5 percent of its residents telecommuting. Millions of others work from home once a week or so and even more will try telecommuting instead of taking a sick day. The estimated number of Americans who spend any part of their week working at home jumped more than 42 percent in two years, from 19.6 million in 1999 to 28 million in 2001, according to the International Telework Association and Council. Tim Kane, Telework's president, says that most telecommuters live in areas with dense populations and notorious traffic congestion. More than two-thirds of telecommuters surveyed by the group said they're more satisfied working at home. "They're saying, 'This is three hours I don't need to be in the car, and I could be with my kids, pick up the dry cleaning, or whatever,'" he said. The drive for telecommuting may be fueling the rise in high-speed Internet access. Roughly 24 million Americans, or 21 percent of all Web users, now have high-speed connections at home, according to a Pew survey.
When will tech recover from the 2000 crash and 2001 economic slowdown? Not for a while, say experts. Intel, Apple, and Oracle have issued earnings warnings, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq index dropped over 25 percent between January and June. Meanwhile, many people aren't buying new computers now. The business world has also become much more skeptical about technology spending. Gartner analysts forecast that information-technology spending would increase a slim 1.5 percent this year. Another research firm, Giga Information Group, predicted corporate spending would stay flat. Consumers are becoming stingy too, as PC makers expect weak back-to-school sales. "There's just so much resistance to spending," said Michelle Johnson, head of solutions marketing for Volera Inc., a Novell subsidiary. "If it's a new technology the CTO (chief technology officer) or CEO hasn't seen before, it's called into question." Venture capitalists, who poured millions into untested high-tech ventures, were among those hit hardest by the tech decline. Such funds plunged by an average of 27.8 percent in 2001, a gruesome reversal of previous double-digit gains. Many analysts expect more pain to come. "The next two to four years are going to be tough sledding," said San Francisco venture capitalist Chip Adams, a principal at Rosewood Capital.
There's no link between the popular vaccine MMR and autism or bowel disease, according to British experts. They looked at five decades of research and concluded that no connection exists. Lead investigator Dr. Anna Donald said the research covered 2,000 separate studies involving millions of children. The British Medical Association commissioned the review after the number of British toddlers receiving the vaccine for mumps, measles, and rubella began dropping. "The science is very rigorous and this really does give a green light to MMR," she said. The battle over vaccinations isn't over, however. What some call a global panic continues, particularly in the United States and Britain. Autism has skyrocketed in recent years and many blame vaccines. The condition affects 1 in 250 children, according to the National Institutes of Health. Rep. Dan Burton called for more research funding to prevent the statistic from "becoming 1 in 25 children." The CDC's Roger Bernier testified that about 97 percent of school-age children have had the MMR vaccine. As a result, only about 100 measles cases are reported annually.
Reined-in free radicals
Antioxidants may reduce the risk of contracting Alzheimer's disease. Two studies suggest that nuts, leafy green vegetables, and other foods rich in vitamin E and other nutrients could help fight off dementia. The studies appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and researchers say more definitive work lies ahead. Antioxidants like vitamin E block the effects of oxygen molecules, which damage cells. Such "free radicals" have been linked to cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease. Martha Clare Morris of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, who led one of the studies, described a high vitamin E diet: whole-grain cereal for breakfast, a sandwich with whole-grain bread for lunch, and a dinner including a green leafy salad sprinkled with nuts. Alzheimer's is on the rise, along with an aging population. The Alzheimer's Association has predicted that over 14 million baby boomers will have the disease by mid-century.
After the St. Louis Cardinals found pitcher Darryl Kile was dead in a Chicago hotel room on June 22, a preliminary autopsy revealed that the 33-year-old athlete had died of a treatable heart ailment. His death has given new prominence to a common health problem. Most Americans who die of heart disease are 65 or older. Yet researchers say 80 percent of heart-disease deaths in younger people occur during the first attack. Half of such sudden-death cases had no previous symptoms. "A very substantial proportion of patients with heart disease never have a clue, and he might have been one of them," said cardiologist Eric Topol, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. In Mr. Kile's case, an autopsy showed the ballplayer had 80 percent to 90 percent narrowing of two of three main arteries to his heart. (His father died at 44 following a heart attack and blood clot in the brain.) But such extensive blockage in a 33-year-old man is considered unusual, Robert Bonow, president of the American Heart Association said; the problem itself is not. Atherosclerosis kills more than 15,000 Americans each year, according to the group, and contributes to nearly three-fourths of all U.S. deaths from cardiovascular disease. Dr. Topol said Mr. Kile may have been a good candidate for daily aspirin and drugs called statins to keep his cholesterol down and his arteries clear. Both are relatively inexpensive treatments and millions of people use them. The cardiologist also said Mr. Kile's life could have been saved with an angioplasty and stent procedure. "This is happening every day, but it's just that people are not as visible as Mr. Kile," Dr. Topol said. "We have a lot of work to do to get the medical community and the patients to heighten awareness and to get the appropriate diagnostic workup-and not just once" for people with strong risk factors. Mr. Kile's death sent the entire baseball world into public mourning. He leaves a wife and three young children.
Ask but don't tell
United Methodists in the Pacific Northwest have come up with a novel way to flout their denomination's law that bars "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from serving as pastors: Hear and see no evil. It all began at an annual church conference last summer when the Rev. Mark Williams of Woodland Park United Methodist Church in Seattle declared for the record that he was "proudly" a "practicing gay man." He was living with a partner. Pressed by conservative pastors to enforce the law, Bishop Elias Galvan months later filed formal charges against Rev. Williams. But not until this spring did the bishop's nine-member investigating committee start its inquiry. The committee confronted Rev. Williams with the obligatory question that he declined to answer. With that, the committee dismissed the charges, saying there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a trial. The decision could not be appealed. Rev. Williams remains a pastor in good standing. The episode left many United Methodists wondering whether church law can ever be enforced anywhere its opponents are in charge. | Edward E. Plowman
Sources in the Church of England last month leaked to The Times of London and other media that the next Archbishop of Canterbury will be a liberal, Rowan Williams, 52, Archbishop of Wales. He would replace the retiring George Carey, a keep-the-peace conservative. (Britain's monarch selects the titular leader of worldwide Anglicanism, based on strong recommendations from church leaders.) The report generated a barrage of protests by conservatives from across the far-flung 70-million-member Anglican Communion. Archbishop Williams is known for his support of the homosexual agenda, and he has ordained at least one priest he knew had a homosexual partner, according to a prominent evangelical in the church, Rev. David Holloway. He warned the selection of Archbishop Williams would split the church and the Anglican Communion. The vast majority of Anglicans in the global South, where the church has its greatest strength, are moral conservatives. Some observers said the protests have shocked government officials so much that the Williams name may be withdrawn in favor of someone less controversial. | Edward E. Plowman
Growing pains in the PCA
Formed in 1973 in a split from mainstream Presbyterianism, the conservative 308,000-member Presbyterian Church in America is still growing (with about 50 new church startups each year). Delegates at the PCA general assembly in Birmingham last month took steps the majority hoped would promote continued growth. Pastors and other leaders of larger PCA churches in recent years have complained that some PCAers are theological nit-pickers. The majority voted in effect to allow ordination candidates greater latitude in belief, as long as any differences aren't out of accord with "fundamental" doctrinal standards. And, to prevent a "small minority" from exercising "inordinate influence," they voted to increase to 10 percent the number of presbyteries needed to request denominational discipline of a minister. In other action, the assembly condemned the use of women as military combatants and inclusion of women as conscripts. Delegates also cautioned churches and members against use of the TNIV Bible, and called on the International Bible Society to refrain from further gender-neutral translations. | Edward E. Plowman
No other way, unless ...
Faced with increasing unrest among conservatives over theological uncertainty in the 2.5-million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), delegates to the denomination's annual general assembly last month voted overwhelmingly to approve an eight-page defining statement on the lordship of Christ. It describes Him as "the only Savior and Lord" and says "no one is saved apart from God's gracious redemption in Jesus Christ." But it left wiggle room for universalists and other liberals who believe God may provide other ways to salvation: "We neither restrict the grace of God to those who profess explicit faith in Christ nor assume that all people are saved regardless of faith." | Edward E. Plowman
The 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention last month took note of the homosexual-abuse scandal wreaking havoc in the Catholic Church, but they cast no stones. They recognized in a resolution "our own fallenness and the need to prevent such appalling sins from happening within our own ranks." The measure called on spiritual leaders to hold each other accountable, seminaries to emphasize integrity in ministerial training, churches to cooperate with civil authorities in the prosecution of abuse cases, and authorities to punish abuse by clergy and counselors "to the fullest extent of the law." Frank Ruff, Catholic bishops' liaison to the SBC, expressed appreciation for the "sensitive" wording and tone of the resolution. It wasn't a condemnatory "putdown," he said. In another resolution, the messengers lowered the boom on the new gender-revised TNIV Bible. Rejecting it as an unreliable translation, they urged the SBC-operated Lifeway bookstores not to sell it. | Edward E. Plowman
President Musharraf of Pakistan announced new laws to ban the teaching of militancy and extremism in the country's 8,000 Islamic religious schools, or madrassas. Clerics who violate the laws will go to prison for two years. Many senior leaders of Afghanistan's former Taliban regime graduated from madrassas in Pakistan. Eritrea, formerly part of Ethiopia, recently ordered the closure of all churches not belonging to the Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran denominations. Muslims and the Orthodox make up 50 percent and 40 percent of the population, respectively. Some observers blame the move on pressure from these groups aimed at halting evangelical growth. | Edward E. Plowman
Catholic bishop Edmond Carmody of Corpus Christi, Texas, sent a stern message last month to Catholic political candidates: Talk the walk. He banned Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez from speaking at churches in the Corpus Christi Diocese. Mr. Sanchez, a Catholic, was raised in the diocese. The ban also applies to John Sharp, the Democratic candidate for governor, who also is a Catholic. Both candidates say they personally oppose abortion but support its continued legalization. But that's being "schizophrenic," the bishop said. "That's saying, 'In my own home, I respect life, but when I'm in public office, I'm going to go with the pack.'" Under the diocese's guidelines since 1999, Catholics who say they support abortion cannot hold church positions or speak at any Catholic institution in the region. | Edward E. Plowman
Man knows not his time
Kenneth S. Kantzer, a towering but humble figure on the evangelical theological scene for decades, died on June 20 following surgery for injuries suffered in a fall in Victoria, British Columbia. He was 85. The genial Harvard-educated theologian taught at Wheaton College, was dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) 1963-78, editor of Christianity Today 1978-82, and professor and administrator at Trinity College and TEDS 1982-90. Under his leadership as dean, TEDS grew from a small denominational school (Evangelical Free Church) to become a large seminary with worldwide influence. His writings and teaching helped to shape the modern evangelical movement. Said veteran church history professor John D. Woodbridge: "Along with Dr. [Carl F.H.] Henry, Dr. Kantzer helped generations of young theologians understand that they could and should serve Christ with their minds and not yield to prevalent forms of anti-intellectualism abroad in conservative Protestantism." | Edward E. Plowman