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Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

Honored

and other news briefs

Issue: "Biblical callings," Dec. 4, 2010

A 25-year-old Army staff sergeant on Nov. 16 became the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since 1976. President Obama awarded the nation's highest medal of valor to Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, 25, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In 2007 when Taliban fighters unleashed a barrage of AK-47 and rocket-propelled grenades from two sides at his unit, Giunta ran forward, entering enemy areas alone to return fire and single-handedly to rescue one wounded U.S. soldier who was being dragged away by the enemy. He killed one Taliban fighter and wounded another. Although his friend died, Giunta's quick actions, according to Defense Department officials, helped his unit fight off the attack without suffering more casualties. "It is a great thing," said Giunta, who was shot twice in the attack, of the award. "But it is a great thing that has come at a personal loss to myself and so many other families."

Don't ask

Cindy McCain drew accolades and then scorn from homosexual activists after appearing in an ad against bullying gay teens. In a celebrity shot for the No H8 Campaign, McCain said, "Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future. . . . They can't serve our country openly." She goes on, "Our government treats the LGBT community like second-class citizens." Gay-rights campaigners praised McCain for standing against her husband, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is leading a filibuster against repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy-until Cindy McCain explained that she supports her husband's stand on the repeal. Huh?

Don't tell

Opponents of the military's long-standing ban on homosexuals openly serving in the armed forces have jumped on a leak of a yearlong Pentagon study, not due until Dec. 1, which suggests that the risks of overturning the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy would be isolated and minimal. The report's authors apparently will argue that objections to openly gay service members will abate as troops live and serve with them. But missing in that assessment is the threat to religious freedom if such a reversal occurs. Already the Southern Baptist Convention, the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church in America, the Presbyterian Church in America, and the Rabbinical Alliance of America have issued warnings against ending the policy. Chaplains need the endorsement of their sponsoring denominations to serve, and, if those are withdrawn, the military will begin to process out those chaplains. Two days after the leak, the Supreme Court issued an order on Nov. 12 that allowed the continued enforcement of DADT while the Justice Department appeals a lower court ruling that found the policy unconstitutional.

Graphic warnings

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In case smokers aren't convinced that cigarettes carry serious health risks, the government has a new plan: Put a picture of a corpse with a toe tag on cigarette packaging that reads: "Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease."

That's one of 36 warning labels the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing for cigarette packaging. The FDA will choose nine of the labels next June and require cigarette makers to begin using the labels by October 2012. The move comes a year after a new law gave the FDA power to regulate tobacco products. Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services, said the labels would spur smokers to quit and discourage new smokers from beginning the habit. The graphic images include a man blowing smoke out of a hole in his throat and a corpse with his chest sewn shut, presumably after an autopsy. Several tobacco companies are protesting the labels in a federal court.

Convicted

After two and a half years of investigation, the House Ethics Committee convicted Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., on 11 of 13 counts of ethics violations, including leaving income and holdings unreported on his tax documents. The conviction won't result in much penalty for the 80-year-old lawmaker, who already lost his chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. But House ethics hearings are rare-the last one was in 2002.

Boehner day

Newly empowered House Republicans unanimously voted for current Minority Leader John Boehner to be the next Speaker of the House on Nov. 17. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., will serve as Majority Leader. Meanwhile current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi easily won the post of Minority Leader, beating out her Blue Dog challenger, Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., who garnered 43 votes to Pelosi's 150. With half the Blue Dog Democrats not returning to the next Congress, Shuler's 43 backers included more liberal members, reflecting discontent within the Democratic caucus.

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