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Issue: "50 family-friendly movies," June 28, 2003
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Persian protest

Iranian protesters completed a full week of round-the-clock street demonstrations aimed at bringing down the Islamic republic. Launched under the banner Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, the protests in recent days have acquired a more varied face: Mothers, sisters, and members of Tehran's revered academic class are joining the campaign to topple the theocratic regime-a campaign until now composed mostly of feisty male undergrads. "It has become almost routine for us to go out at night, chant slogans, get beaten, lose some of our friends, see our sisters beaten, and then return home," wrote one Iranian student. According to the protesters, Iranian riot police are being augmented by "Afghan-Arabs" (al-Qaeda trained fighters), as many regular officers defect to the freedom fighters' side. Riot police used tear gas and iron chains and guns against the demonstrators. They also arrested organizers and charged several with having previous criminal records. Support for the student cause is also growing outside Tehran. Iranians living in the United States used satellite TV channels to beam images of the protests back to residents of Iran. Many said they took to the streets after seeing the bootlegged coverage. Meanwhile, President Bush stepped up a campaign to bring down Iran's nuclear program. The president last week petitioned the International Atomic Energy Agency to begin intrusive inspections of potential nuclear sites in Iran after an IAEA report indicated Iran may be in violation of energy-development norms.

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Rebuilding Iraq

U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein's top aide, a prize investigators believe may lead them directly to the deposed Iraqi leader. Abid Hamid Mahmud Tikriti was No. 4 on the U.S. most-wanted list, but many believe his role as Saddam's presidential secretary made him second in power only to Saddam's son Qusay. The capture was one more plus in a week when U.S. officials had to work to overcome bad news from Baghdad. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pointed out to reporters that Iraq's water system is operating now at 80 percent of capacity; Basrah, the second largest city, has power 24 hours a day, while Baghdad has electricity about 18 hours a day; lines at gas stations, Mr. Rumsfeld said, are disappearing. Meanwhile, U.S. forces responded to continuing attacks with air and ground raids on Fallujah, Tikrit, and parts of Baghdad. Civil administrator Paul Bremer admitted he has too little manpower but said, "I don't accept the proposition that we don't know what we are doing." One thing that would quickly ease both manpower and morale dilemmas: Employ more Iraqi opposition members. Local opposition governments operated successfully in both the north and south of the country before the war, but as yet U.S. chiefs have refused those officials a meaningful role in rebuilding their country.

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'Dangerous times, deadly times'

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said last week that he would introduce a bill to make Canada the third country (with Belgium and the Netherlands) to recognize same-sex marriages. Meanwhile, the largest U.S. Protestant denomination pledged to fight to keep the United States from becoming the fourth. The Southern Baptist Convention-which reports 16 million members-passed resolutions opposing homosexual marriage, as well as ones approving abstinence education and supporting President Bush's $15 billion program to fight AIDS worldwide. The Rev. Jack Graham, SBC president and pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, told 6,000 SBC annual convention messengers (delegates) on June 17 that we live in "dangerous times, deadly times" with terrorism and technological advances such as cloning threatening humanity. He argued that evangelicals should respond not by "retreating into some Christian subculture," but should instead "penetrate the darkness of our culture" with the teachings of Christ. He vowed, "We will not retreat or run from the battle." Some pastors have retreated or run from confronting homosexuality and heterosexual adultery: They have either overlooked the sin or treated the sinners as subhuman. But in recent years the Southern Baptist Convention has emphasized programs to rescue marriage. Last week the SBC introduced an initiative to rescue homosexuals who realize their lifestyle is destructive and desire to change.

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Doing harm

Bucking the physician's motto to "first do no harm" no matter the potential benefit, the American Medical Association endorsed doing fatal harm to cloned embryos for the sake of medical research. At its annual meeting in Chicago, the organization adopted a policy that calls "therapeutic cloning" ethical. Such a procedure would create human embryos, harvest their stem cells for research on diseases, and thereby destroy the embryos. The Bush administration opposes such cloning, and the U.S. House earlier this year passed a bill to ban it. While the 260,000-member organization of doctors adopted the policy without debate, some AMA members weren't happy about it. The action was "totally inappropriate," said Dr. John McMahon of Helena, Mont., who pointed out that "a number of us believe that human beings start with two cells."

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