Justice Samuel Alito (pictured) joined the Supreme Court in January. Though he may not be joined by another Bush nominee, he still makes the court more conservative, said litigation expert Walter Weber, "because he is more reliably faithful to the constitutional texts than Sandra Day O'Connor." Alito's presence may prove pivotal: On the partial-birth abortion ban and racial preferences in schools, O'Connor was the swing vote in previous 5-4 rulings, striking down the former and upholding the latter. In both cases, Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the conservative minority. The court will rule again on both issues this term. If Alito sides with the Kennedy bloc, Weber said, "he could make a huge difference" on two issues of key concern to conservatives.
No Shaq, no problem. In a league infatuated with new stars like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, Kobe Bryant reminded the league how potent he could be, dropping 81 points on Toronto on Jan. 22, shy only of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in the league record book.
Sports managers forever searching for the right mix between veteran experience and youthful energy might study the three professional championship teams of 2006:
- Pittsburgh Steelers second-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger set an NFL record by becoming the youngest quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl-but veterans like running back Jerome Bettis did much of the heavy lifting.
- The Miami Heat's duo of veteran center Shaquille O'Neal and dynamic young scorer Dwyane Wade proved too much for the Dallas Mavericks.
- The St. Louis Cardinals found veteran direction from manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, but young bloods Adam Wainwright, the closer, and Yadier Molina, the catcher, spurred the team to an unexpected World Series win.
With two major Christian-themed movies slated for release, 2006 seemed like it might be the turning point for Hollywood recognizing Christian films. It wasn't so simple. The Nativity Story, New Line Cinema's portrayal of the birth of Jesus, grossed nearly $8 million its first weekend-good enough for fourth place. After two months in theaters, the FoxFaith-distributed One Night with the King still needed significant sales to break even. But while the two major releases fought for attention, a church-produced Christian-themed sports film, Facing the Giants, managed to make over $9 million by December on a shoestring budget.
In Baghdad terrorists ambushed a car in January carrying Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll, kidnapping Carroll and killing her translator, Allan Enwiyah, 32. After 82 days, Carroll, 28, was released March 30. Weeks later, Lt. Jake Cusack, a Marine Corps intelligence officer, helped piece together information that led to the May 19 capture of Carroll's kidnappers. The raid, said Cusack, showed that U.S. forces are actively engaged in cracking down on insurgents who use kidnapping as a weapon of terror: "To have a nice link between crime and punishment for something this globally visible sends a message about our overall ability to hunt down kidnappers, period, not just kidnappers of prominent citizens."
Left for dead by many Louisiana pundits, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin emerged from questionable handling of Hurricane Katrina and racially divisive comments that followed to win reelection as the city's mayor. His "Chocolate City" remarks may not have hurt him after all-Nagin won reelection by winning a great majority of the city's black vote.
No one except God knows how many Christians there are in China, but 100 million-out of the total population of 1.3 billion-is a more and more agreed-upon estimate. What's new in the unofficial spread of Christianity is that it's reaching business leaders and other urban professionals, posing a difficult problem for a government used to persecuting uneducated rural people.