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Associated Press

Oil deal?

Issue: "Your right to vote," July 31, 2010

BP had initial success on July 15 in stopping for the first time since April the world's worst oil spill, but Senate Democrats are raising the prospect of more public-relations trouble for the oil company. Four U.S. senators are calling for the State Department to investigate whether the London-based company pressured Britain to free Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing that killed 270. They say a $900 million exploration agreement BP reached with Libya in 2007 might have influenced the British and Scottish governments to release al-Megrahi. "If BP is found to have gained access to Libyan oil reserves by using a mass murderer as a bargaining chip, then make no mistake, any money it makes off that oil is blood money, pure and simple," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

No subjects here

As Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, he frequently crossed out words and replaced them. Such edits provided historians with insights into the thought process of the Founding Father as he tried to put into words why the colonies sought a break from England. But Jefferson took extra pains to remove one word: Blotting it out, he wrote the word "citizen" over it to form the phrase "our fellow citizens," and historians have long debated what was hidden by the blot. But thanks to spectral imaging technology, scholars at the Library of Congress announced on July 2 that they have uncovered what was hidden-and it's not equivalent to "citizens." Jefferson originally addressed the people of the 13 colonies as "subjects"-showing just how powerful British colonialism weighed on the minds of the New World's top revolutionaries and wordsmiths.

Let voters decide

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle staved off same-sex civil unions when she vetoed last­minute legislation that would have legalized them. In a July 6 veto statement, Lingle, a Republican, criticized last-minute passage of the bill and said she objected to it because a civil union "is essentially marriage by another name." She denied that her decision wasn't about religion but said voters should decide-not "one person sitting in her office or . . . members of the majority party behind closed doors in a legislative caucus." The American Civil Liberties Union has promised to take her veto to court.

Found and lost

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On July 8 Nagla al-Imam and her two children were singing. On July 12 they disappeared. A controversial attorney and human-rights activist in Egypt, al-Iman made public her conversion from Islam to Christianity in the last year. In an interview broadcast by Free Christian Voice, she described being arrested and beaten by Egyptian security forces for her change of faith. She said an officer took her by the hair and bashed her head against his desk. Later al-Imam published on YouTube a video of herself singing with her two children-an Arabic spiritual song about suffering-displaying facial bruises and a broken tooth. Four days later Al-Tarek, the TV station that helped to make her broadcasts, reported that it had been unable to contact al-Imam, and friends said neither she nor her children could be found. Al-Tarek also reported its office in Egypt had been vandalized by Egyptian security.


Delegates for the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly elected Cynthia Bolbach, an elder from Arlington, Va., to serve as the denomination's new moderator. Of six candidates, Bolbach was the only one to express complete support for same-sex marriage: "Those in favor of the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in our life together-and I include myself in that group-believe that we fail to satisfy the gospel imperative of inclusiveness as we continue to exclude gays and lesbians from leadership in our church."

The 2010 General Assembly took other actions regarding the denomination's decades-long debate over human sexuality: PCUSA commissioners meeting in Minneapolis voted to send to local presbyteries for ratification a constitutional amendment deleting the PCUSA's standard for church officers to exercise "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." But it turned aside attempts to convey the PCUSA's blessing upon same-sex marriages. "Leaders of the PCUSA are still confused about the biblical teaching that channels sexual expression through the marriage of man and woman," said Alan Wisdom of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. "But we can take comfort that people in local Presbyterian churches do uphold the teaching. They have proven that in four votes over the past 14 years to confirm the 'fidelity and chastity' standard for church officers. It is unfortunate that we will have to summon them again to defend that biblical standard in another set of presbytery votes."


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