Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

News highlights from around the world

Issue: "False witnesses?," Oct. 5, 2002

Bootleg cigarettes?

Online cigarette sales are booming, and Philip Morris is smoking mad. The tobacco giant last week filed lawsuits against more than a dozen websites that sell smokes in cyberspace.

Forrester Research predicted last year that online cigarette sales will top $1 billion this year, as buyers seek to avoid rising state taxes. The Marlboro maker alleges that websites resell cigarettes sold in overseas markets and use the Marlboro brand without permission. The company demands profits from the sales and wants the owners to post court-approved admissions of guilt. It sees tax authorities as natural allies.

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"We are aware of 600 sites out there selling cigarettes," Philip Morris spokesman Brendan McCormick said. "But there's a limit to what we can do on our own, which is why we're working with law-enforcement officials."

Low visibility

Police in Pakistan last month hurriedly removed signs identifying churches set up in private homes, and fortified church and school buildings and other Christian sites with sandbags. Authorities posted police outside many church buildings and, according to some church leaders' accounts, advised pastors and others to buy guns for self-defense.

Officials enacted the measures in major cities after police found marked diagrams of two churches and a Christian school, along with weapons and explosives, during the arrest in Karachi of two suspected members of an Islamic extremist group behind several deadly attacks. Just days earlier, a leader of another violent group arrested in Lahore told investigators his al-Qaeda-trained group had targeted six churches in Punjab province for attack.

The officials said police removed signs from in front of house churches as a security precaution. Some church members suspected a darker motive: to make it more difficult for outsiders to connect with the Christian faith. But most church leaders say the threats are real. Violent incidents, including attacks on two churches and a Christian school, have left 30 people dead and about 100 injured since President Pervez Musharraf began cooperating with the U.S. anti-terror campaign. U.S. FBI agents are in Pakistan, assisting police in tracking down terrorists.

Christians are a small minority; an estimated 97 percent of Pakistan's population is Muslim. | Edward E. Plowman

Carey's coda

The worldwide Anglican Communion is in danger of falling apart. So warned outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey in his farewell address as president of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in Hong Kong last month. It was Archbishop Carey's toughest talk in his 11 years as titular head of the world's estimated 70 million Anglicans.

He said the Communion "is being steadily undermined by dioceses and individual bishops taking unilateral action" in matters of sexuality and other "sensitive matters that threaten our common life." He was referring to liturgical blessings of same-sex unions, ordination of noncelibate homosexuals, and hassling of traditionalists and other conservatives by some bishops.

The usually diplomatic evangelical named names. He said Canadian bishop Michael Ingham-an ACC representative-and his New Westminster diocese in the Vancouver area had gone down that path, along with certain other bishops and dioceses in North America.

Archbishop Carey said he would submit a resolution to the ACC. It would call on dioceses not to take unilateral action or adopt policies that would strain "our communion with one another," but to confer with superiors and leaders of other dioceses and to weigh "the impact of their decisions within the wider Communion." ACC members gave him a long standing ovation.

Steamed, Bishop Ingham accused Archbishop Carey of abusing his office, using unethical tactics, and encouraging discrimination against homosexuals in the church. Such discrimination is the result of placing unity of doctrine and belief above human rights, he said.

As ACC adjournment approached, members voted unanimously, with one abstention, to approve Archbishop Carey's resolution. Even Bishop Ingham voted for it, although he complained that it didn't appear to recognize "autonomy of the local church" or diocese "to determine priorities for mission in the local context."

Archbishop Carey shot back. Autonomy, he said, means separate churches. "This council has been about interdependence." Further, he chided, the bishop had not consulted widely about his issue: not with the primates' meeting, the ACC, or the Archbishop of Canterbury. Such consultation is "one of the central planks of Anglican unity," he insisted.

Few conservatives expect liberal bishops to pay him much heed. | Edward E. Plowman

A fighting Illini

This new Miss America is different. Some of her predecessors, like her, have been outspoken Christians. But eloquent and energetic Erika Harold, 22, who as Miss Illinois was crowned Miss America 2003 last month, also is a proactive pro-life, pro-abstinence, politically astute conservative. She is headed for Harvard Law School next fall, and her goal is eventually to run for public office.

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