Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kidney Donor Fired From Her Job Just Weeks Before Surgery

A Phoenix woman, scheduled to donate a kidney next month, is now out of a job.Amy Donohue said she failed to meet sales goals, and was fired from her job at Gannett Local on Tuesday, just weeks before she was scheduled to donate a kidney.
“I just thought, ‘I can't believe this,’" said Donohue.Donohue decided in January to donate one of her kidneys to Anu Dwivedi.Dwivedi struggles with chronic kidney disease. She was recently placed on a transplant list -- and was told the wait could be six years. Her daughter, Kirti, decided she couldn’t sit and wait, so she started a Facebook page to raise awareness and try to find a donor.Donohue had met Kirti in person once, and the two kept in touch via Facebook and Twitter. It was through social media that Donohue learned about Dwivedi’s need for a kidney donor.Donohue said it was an easy decision to become a live donor.“She said, ‘I have two kidneys and you have one mom. Let’s do this,'” said Kirti Dwivedi, recalling the initial phone conversation that began the donation process. “It’s amazing. How do you say, 'Thank you?'”Kirti said she was shocked when she learned Donohue lost her job."Amy is donating a kidney to my mom and she lost her job because of spending time testing for it. It's really hard to understand how that could happen, and it's hard not to feel guilty or upset," said Kirti Dwivedi.Amy estimated she used about seven sick and personal days in the past couple of months to go through testing. She had held her job for approximately seven months."I take full responsibility. How can I not say I've been distracted? I've got a big thing going on in my life," said Donohue.She said while she does not want her job back, she wishes her company had handled her situation differently, considering the circumstances."Sometimes, accommodations need to be made for people when something huge is going on," said Donohue.Kirti said her mother's insurance is covering the costs for Amy's testing and surgery, so she does not believe that played a role in Amy's firing.CBS 5 News called and emailed Gannett Local on Wednesday afternoon, receiving only an automated response saying the request was being "routed to the appropriate department."Both women said job offers for Amy have started to come in. Donohue said she’s not sure what she’ll do next.The kidney donation is scheduled for mid-April. Amy says she has no regrets.

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U.S City Cuts Funding For Veterans Parade

BAY RIDGE (PIX11) -- Many of them paid the ultimate price for their service to our country, but now the City wants war veterans to cough up money for their own honorary parade.

Due to severe budget cuts, some local legislators are cutting the funding to the Annual Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade. "It's a shame really; we should remember the families and those lost. I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed," said Prisco DeAngelis, a Korean War Veteran who organizes the parade every year. De Angelis says they are short twenty thousand dollars.

The Parade, which travels down 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge, is the longest running memorial parade in the nation, 144 years consecutively.

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Journalist Says "Kids Truly Are All Right"

(CNN) -- Stop anyone on the street who looks, say, older than 40, and ask whether teenagers are doing better or worse than a decade or two ago. Odds are she or he will say worse -- and be wrong.

Hollywood writer and director Lisa Cholodenko was correct: The kids are all right. In fact, according to a massive study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teenagers are doing better on a bunch of important measures, even as they've increased in number and diversity.

Every time I talk to parents, I am moved by how few know this. Or, if they've read about it, how they don't believe it. Peter Benson, president of the Search Institute, a youth development think tank, also runs into this skepticism.

"If we did a poll of American parents," he says, "and asked, 'How many times have you seen research about adolescent pregnancy showing that kids are being more responsible?' the vast majority would say, 'I've never seen that.' But if you ask them how many times they've seen stories about kids sexting pornography, they'll say, 'I see something on that every day.' "

Few measures of teen well-being are as remarkable as the decline in teenage girls getting pregnant and giving birth. According to a newly released study by the National Center for Health Statistics, 39 of every 1,000 girls ages 15-19 gave birth in 2009, a historic low. Experts attribute this in large part to the wider availability of information about, and access to, reliable contraception as well as a small decline in the proportion of teens having sex.

Other positive markers are found in the CDC's 2010 report. Since 1990:

• The proportion of high school students who smoke has declined, and so has the proportion of those who drink.

Few measures of teen well-being are as remarkable as the decline in teenage girls getting pregnant and giving birth.

• Fewer underage teenagers are driving. Fewer teenagers drive while drinking or ride with drivers who are drinking. More students report wearing seatbelts and significantly fewer are involved in fatal car crashes.

• Firearm-related deaths have declined. So has the percentage of high school students who fight or carry a weapon.

• The percent of high school students who have seriously considered suicide has declined. So has the proportion of suicides.

One serious problem, according to the CDC, is that more teens are getting fatter. A lot fatter. But aside from that, they appear to be taking better care of themselves than the generation that preceded them.

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Christian Student Sues School After Being Suspended For Sharing Faith

A former student at a high school in Southern California recently filed a lawsuit against the school district after he had been suspended for sharing his faith.

About a year ago, Kenneth Dominguez, 16, was disciplined by Gateway East High School in San Diego County and was prevented from bringing his Bible to campus.

The lawsuit was filed after the Grossmont Union High School District refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing, according to Brad Dacus, president and founder of Pacific Justice Institute, which is representing Dominguez.

Dominguez is a new believer. He surrendered his life to the Lord during Christmas break in the 2009-2010 school year.

When he returned to school in January, he began to tell his peers about his Christian faith.

He was "on fire" and "excited about his faith," sharing "what happened to him and what God had done," Dacus explained to The Christian Post.

But his grace sharing period came to a halt when an administrator reprimanded him. The school official told Dominguez that he was not allowed to share his faith because of the "separation of church and state."

According to Dacus, Dominguez had not created any disruption when he was testifying about his faith to fellow students. He didn't shout or preach out loud and he limited his talk to lunch breaks and the hallways, and not the classroom.

Additionally, there has been no record of any student or anyone else complaining, Dacus noted.

After being warned by the administrator, Dominguez continued to discuss his faith and bring his Bible to school. He was then told that he could not bring his Bible to campus either. A two-day suspension soon followed.

Defending the student, attorney Michael J. Peffer, who heads PJI's Southern California office, contended, “No student should be forced to leave his faith and Bible at the gate when he enters school grounds. We are looking forward to this opportunity to vindicate Mr. Dominguez and protect students throughout California.”

The incident doesn't come as a surprise to PJI attorneys. Among the 4,000 requests for legal assistance received last year alone, Dacus said many of them dealt with public school religious freedom issues.

"Particularly in a state like California where the teachers union has such great control over what goes on in public schools, we see a lot of hostility and bigotry against Christian students, sometimes under the cloak of 'tolerance,'" he lamented.

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Technology Changing The Way Christians Study The Bible

Posted on Mar 30, 2011 | by Michael Foust EDMOND, Okla. (BP)--When pastor Dennis Newkirk stands before his congregation at Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla., to begin a sermon, he gives a nod to technology. While "open your Bibles" may have been sufficient a decade ago, Newkirk also encourages members to "open" their iPhones, iPads, smartphones and tablet computers.

When it comes to the Bible, there's plenty of "apps for that."

"At first when the iPhones and iPads came out, people were hesitant to bring those into church because people kind of looked at them like they were text messaging during the service," Jeff Wilson, communication and innovation pastor at Henderson Hills, told Baptist Press. "What [Newkirk] has done is he has legitimized what we're trying to do. It's given the people the freedom to be able to go through and open that and do that without having any type of negative connotations."

It's an acknowledgement that as technology changes, Christians also are changing the way they study the Bible. There are Christian apps on every smartphone platform, but among the two most popular platforms -- Android and iPhone's iOS -- there are literally hundreds of Bible and Christian-themed apps, helping believers with everything from Scripture memorization to lesson preparation to Bible study to witnessing. Many churches and Christian ministries have their own "apps." Some of the apps allow users to listen to or watch sermons. ("App" is short for "application" and is another word for a software program.)

The most popular Christian app, by far, is the YouVersion Bible app, developed by a multiple-site-campus church known as The free app -- downloaded more than 13 million times -- offers several translations and allows users easily to post verses directly onto Facebook and Twitter. Users can search for keywords or follow a suggested Bible reading plan. The app also allows churches to upload a pastor's sermon notes -- something that Henderson Hills Baptist is doing. That means Henderson Hills members who have the app can read the biblical text and the sermon notes, all on their smartphone or tablet computer. Users also can write their own notes on the app.

"We're encouraging that," Wilson said. "We are seeing more and more people who are doing it."

Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist North Mobile (Ala.), has several Christian apps on his iPhone. A C.S. Lewis app gives him a daily quote from the famous author. A Scripture memorization app helps him commit verses to memory. Litton uses Olive Tree's free Bible app to read Scripture. He teaches a men's discipleship group by using either his iPad or iPhone.

Apps, Litton said, are helpful because they are handy, quick and easy to use.

"In between those moments of in-depth studying, if I am thinking about a text, one of my apps will help me while it's on my mind," Litton told BP. "That's been practically day to day how I have used them the most."

Litton also has downloaded apps from other churches.

"It helps me keep up with what they're doing," he said. "A lot of guys put their podcasts or their services on apps."

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Do You Give Your Tithe At Church With A Tax Deduction In Mind?

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

Do you donate more or less to your church knowing that it's tax deductible? If that income tax deduction went away, what then?

That's one of the concerns probed in a new survey of church giving. The third annual "State of the Plate" survey of 1,507 church pastors, staff and leaders tracks the impact of the economy on churches and church practices on financial integrity.

Among the findings:

  • Giving is up: 43% of churches saw increased giving in 2010, up from 36% in 2009
  • The decline has stabilized: 39% of churches said giving was down in 2010, 38% last year.
  • December offered a boost: Christmas-time generosity often puts church budgets over the top and most churches (64.6%) said that giving met or exceeded expectations.
  • Small churches -- those with under 250 in weekend attendance -- suffer more and these are where 80% of American churchgoers attend.

Matt Branaugh of Christianity Today International, one of three sponsors of the survey, ties giving to employment. Branaugh says:

As unemployment accelerated in 2008, we saw it in 2009 giving levels. Now unemployment has stabilized to some degree. I think that's helped.

Also influential, churches nationwide were coached this year in effective fund-raising and proper financial accounting practices. Church finance expert Brian Kluth and Dan Busby of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, co-sponsors of the survey, toured 13 cities talking about accountability and best practices.

The EFCA is leading a commission to look at changes in regulations for non-profit charities and churches -- and fretting about potential changes to tax laws. The survey asked about this with an alarming question:

If the charitable tax deduction were significantly reduced or eliminated, what impact do you feel this would have on the future giving at your church?

While nearly all (91%) said it would have an impact, only 30% thought it would be a significant impact.

Kluth acknowledges,

I don't think it's on the radar screen of a lot of churches. But reality is that it could affect our giving. If the tax deductibility went away, I think you'd see softer numbers in December although, from a spiritual perspective it should not matter."

But Dan Busby of the ECFA says 41% itemize their deductions and it's hard to imagine that cuts wouldn't dampen giving. At a press conference today, he told USA TODAY's Alicia McCarty,

Those who give even remotely generously are those that tend to itemize their deductions. Thus they are the ones that would be impacted... People don't give solely for tax reasons, but it does play a part.

Kluth concluded,

We need to encourage generosity not for the sake of the budget but for the faith journey.

THINK ABOUT IT: If you couldn't deduct your giving to church, would you still give? Would you give as much?

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National Movie Theater Chain Rejects Easter Ad From Church

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. — An Orange County church hoping to promote its upcoming Easter services through multi-screen advertising at local theaters had its ads pulled by the company because the content included the name of Jesus.

“We were told we could promote our Easter services with a commercial that featured the date, time and place with some fun bunnies and eggs thrown in,” Pastor Mike Fabarez, senior pastor, of Compass Bible Church in Aliso Viejo, Calif. “But for us, Easter isn’t about springtime fun, it’s the most important day in Christian history, and we won’t water that message down. It’s unfortunate that what our country was founded on has now become ‘too controversial.’”

Fabarez said he was told by officials with NCM Media Networks that the ad, which some viewers might find offensive, violated its content policy. Among the prohibited content were topics that included such things as nudity, political messaging and gambling. The pastor said he saw nothing on the list that mentioned religion or Christianity.

The 30-second ad was produced by the church and features short one-liners about what some conspiracy theorists believe may have happened to Jesus Christ some 2,000 years ago, and ends with “find out what we believe about the resurrection at Compass Bible Church.”

The church planned to spend $5,000 on the ad campaign, but their money was returned. The annual event, held at the Bren Center at the University of California, Irvine, draws more than 5,000 people.

Since being turned down by the movie media group, the church has posted the ad on You Tube, where it had generated more than 2,300 views in just five days.

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Oil Prices Rise To &106.77 A Barrel In U.S

NEW YORK (AP) -- The price of oil rose to a 30-month high on Thursday as fighters loyal to Moammar Gadhafi pushed back rebels from key areas in eastern Libya.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude rose $2 to $106.27 a barrel in midday trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. At one point it hit $106.77, the highest it's been since September, 2008. In London, Brent crude rose $2.03 to $116.98 per barrel.

Battles between Gadhafi's troops and rebels have seesawed back and forth in Libyan ports and towns since mid-February, with the price of oil rising more than $20 a barrel since then. Energy consultants Cameron Hanover said traders are beginning to view the Libya uprising as a standoff for now. 'Without control of the air, Gadhafi's troops have been unable to hammer home their gains. And, without strong and well-trained ground forces, the rebels seem incapable of holding onto their gains. Optimism that Libyan oil might return to the market, seen earlier this week, was dashed."

Libya's oil exports, which went mainly to Europe, are shut down. The rebels have said they plan to start shipping oil again, although how soon that could happen is unclear. Libya exported only about 1.6 million barrels of oil a day, or 2 percent of global consumption, but energy traders worry that unrest will spread across the region to disrupt shipments from OPEC countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudis are the biggest oil producers in the world, supplying about 8.4 million barrels a day. Iran produces more than 4 million barrels a day. Anti-government protests in those countries so far have been limited, although unrest continues in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen.

Meanwhile the Saudis are making good on a promise to make up for the deficit of Libyan oil. "Saudi Arabia is beginning to supply European oil companies with crude oil to help alleviate the shortfall from Libya," said Addison Armstrong, senior director of market research at Tradition Energy. "Saudi Arabian Oil Co. has sold three shipments of light, sweet crude for March and April delivery: two to Austrian oil company OMV AG and one to BP."

Gas pump prices continue to rise along with the price of oil. The national average in the U.S. on Thursday hit $3.606 for a gallon of regular, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. That's 23 cents higher than a month ago and 81 cents above a year ago.

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Japan: 1,000 bodies Untouched Near Troubled Nuclear Plant

TOKYO, March 31, Kyodo

Radiation fears have prevented authorities from collecting as many as 1,000 bodies of victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami from within the 20-kilometer-radius evacuation zone around the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, police sources said Thursday.

One of the sources said bodies had been ''exposed to high levels of radiation after death.'' The view was supported by the detection Sunday of elevated levels of radiation on a body found in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, about 5 km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The authorities are now considering how to collect the bodies, given fears that police officers, doctors and bereaved families may be exposed to radiation in retrieving the radiation-exposed bodies or at morgues, according to the sources.

They initially planned to inspect the bodies after transporting them outside the evacuation zone, but the plan is being reconsidered due to the concerns over exposure.

Local residents have been forced to leave the zone since the current nuclear crisis began unfolding at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant, which is leaking radioactive materials as its cooling systems for its reactors and nuclear spent-fuel pools have been knocked out by the disaster.

Even after the bodies are handed over to the victims' families, cremating them could spread plumes containing radioactive materials, while burying the victims could contaminate the soil around them, according to the sources.

The authorities are considering decontaminating and inspecting the bodies where they are found. But the sources said that cleansing decomposing bodies could damage them further.

Victims can be identified through DNA analysis of nail samples, but even then considerable time and effort must be taken to decontaminate the samples, according to experts.

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Ancient Lead Codices May Have Clues To Last Days Of Jesus' Life

British archaeologists are seeking to authenticate what could be a landmark discovery in the documentation of early Christianity: a trove of 70 lead codices that appear to date from the 1st century CE, which may include key clues to the last days of Jesus' life. As UK Daily Mail reporter Fiona Macrae writes, some researchers are suggesting this could be the most significant find in Christian archeology since the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947.

The codices turned up five years ago in a remote cave in eastern Jordan—a region where early Christian believers may have fled after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. The codices are made up of wirebound individual pages, each roughly the size of a credit card. They contain a number of images and textual allusions to the Messiah, as well as some possible references to the crucifixion and resurrection. Some of the codices were sealed, prompting yet more breathless speculation that they could include the sealed book, shown only to the Messiah, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. One of the few sentences translated thus far from the texts, according to the BBC, reads, "I shall walk uprightly"--a phrase that also appears in Revelation. "While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism," BBC writer Robert Pigott notes, "it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection."

But the field of biblical archaeology is also prey to plenty of hoaxes and enterprising fraudsters, so investigators are proceeding with due empirical caution. Initial metallurgical research indicates that the codices are about 2,000 years old--based on the manner of corrosion they have undergone, which, as Macrae writes, "experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially."

Beyond the initial dating tests, however, little is confirmed about the codices or what they contain. And the saga of their discovery has already touched off a battle over ownership rights between Israel and Jordan. As the BBC's Pigott recounts, the cache surfaced when a Jordanian Bedouin saw a menorah—the Jewish religious candleabra—exposed in the wake of a flash flood. But the codices somehow passed into the ownership of an Israeli Bedouin named Hassam Saeda, who claims that they have been in his family's possession for the past 100 years. The Jordanian government has pledged to "exert all efforts at every level" to get the potentially priceless relics returned, Pigott reports.

Meanwhile, biblical scholars who have examined the codices point to significant textual evidence suggesting their early Christian origin. Philip Davies, emeritus professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, told Pigott he was "dumbstruck" at the sight of plates representing a picture map of ancient Jerusalem. "There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind Linkthat the walls of the city," Davies explained. "There are walls depicted on other pages of these books, too, and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem."

David Elkington, an ancient religion scholar who heads the British research team investigating the find, has likewise pronounced this nothing less than "the major discovery of Christian history." Elkington told the Daily Mail that "it is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church."

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