Friday, April 22, 2011

U.S And China To Hold Human Rights Talks

Beijing (CNN) -- China and the United States will hold two days of talks on human rights in Beijing next week, the State Department said Friday.

Michael Posner, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, will lead the American delegation to China on Wednesday.

The meetings follow a crackdown on Chinese dissidents in recent months.

The U.S.-China discussions will focus on human rights developments in China, particularly on "forced disappearances, extralegal detentions, and arrests and convictions, " according to the State Department.

Officials will also discuss other issues such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression and minority rights.

The announcement of the bilateral meeting comes nearly three weeks after Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained at the Beijing airport.

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Can Japan Afford To Rebuild After Tsunami and Earthquake?

Salt Lake City Utah To Put Up Donation Meters To Help Homeless

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and police Chief Chris Burbank unveiled new public donation meters downtown as part of a new program to curb panhandling.

City officials say instead of putting a quarter in a meter to pay for parking, people can put that quarter into a special meter to benefit Utah's homeless. An event Thursday unveiled the name of the program, H.O.S.T. (Homeless Outreach Service Team), at Main Street and South Temple. H.O.S.T. is a collaboration of city officials, the Downtown Alliance and participating businesses to collect money for homeless service providers around the city.

"We're hoping that people will recognize that there's a better way to give," said Becker. "And we've worked with all the service providers and with our police departments so that we are plugging special meters."

Bright-colored, refurbished parking meters are now in several places along sidewalks downtown for easy public access. People can drop in their spare change and all the contributions will go directly to the Pamela Atkinson Foundation for distribution to local service providers. Mayor Becker says there are too many people in need throughout the community, and is hoping these meters will make it easier for locals who want to help.

"We're hopeful this will be a great way for people to participate in helping the homeless and still not having to feel uncomfortable about dealing with panhandlers," said Becker.

If this pilot program is successful, advocates are hoping to expand throughout the valley.
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Church Bribing Worshipers With 3D TV's and 3D Nintendo DS's If They Come To Church

ELK RIVER, Minn. -- The Crossing Church in Elk River has many seats to fill Easter weekend and they have a very unique way of doing it. They are bribing people with 3D televisions and Nintendo 3DS portable video game consoles.

"I have no problem bribing people with crap in order to meet Christ," Pastor Eric Dykstra said.

The bribes maybe working. While other churches are struggling with attendance Crossing has grown from just 200 people to more 3,000 in just six years.

There is hope their $8,000 giveaway this weekend will bring in more. But Dykstra says the prizes are more than just gimmicks. They are tools to get people in the door.

"It's awkward to say 'hey come to my church.' It just feels weird and you don't want to twist somebody's arm so to kind of alleviate some of that weirdness what we've done is said hey if you bring your friend to church they might potentially win a 3D television, a 3DS or a 3D movie ticket package," Dykstra said.

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Florida City Considering Banning Feeding The Homeless

St. Petersburg, Florida -- The City of St. Petersburg may consider a ban on feeding the homeless in downtown parks.

The move comes after a ruling by the Federal appeals court last week that a similar ban in Orlando is not unconstitutional.

Now, councilman Karl Nurse would like to bring the ban based on the Orlando ordinance to St. Petersburg.

It would essentially forbid the feeding of 25 or more people in downtown parks. The only exception would be if the person were to get a permit. Even then, they would only be allowed to feed in one particular area twice a year.

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330 lbs Bomb Found Near Church In Indonesia In Good Friday Terrorist Plot

Thursday, April 21st 2011, 11:09 AM

Indonesian authorities disrupted a chilling Good Friday terror plot Thursday, digging up a massive bomb buried atop a gas pipeline near a church.

The country went on "high alert" following the discovery, deploying troops to churches and other locations, officials said.

The sinister terror plot was uncovered when authorities rounded up 19 terror suspects, who alerted them to the bomb.

The 330-pound explosive device had been placed atop an underground gas pipeline about 100 yards from a Roman Catholic Church outside Jakarta that can hold up to 3,000 people.

Investigators said they believed the bomb was set to go off during Good Friday celebrations when the church would be packed.

It's Easy To Mock and Ridicule Jesus Christ and The Christian Faith But Not Others

By Cal Thomas

Published April 22, 2011|

Mocking Jesus of Nazareth is nothing new. Whether it is today’s Lady Gaga or a “Hunky Jesus” contest in San Francisco, Jesus has been the subject of ridicule by those who do not know Him.

Even on the day we call Good Friday, the day he hung on a cross for the sins of others (not His own, for He had none), He was ridiculed. “Come down from the cross and then we’ll believe,” some shouted. They wouldn’t have believed if He had, because they refused to believe all the other miracles He performed before their eyes.

Lady Gaga’s latest attempt at blasphemy is called “Judas” from her “Born This Way” album. In the “song” she sings she’s in love with the betrayer of Jesus. Nice. It is a “Springtime for Hitler” moment without the humor.

In San Francisco, a gay group employs the cross, the crown of thorns and men with beards as part of their "contest." I’ll leave the rest to someone’s twisted imagination.

It has always been something of a curiosity to Christians that Jesus wasn’t mocked then – or now – for what He did. He demonstrated compassion and concern for the poor and forgiveness to prostitutes and tax collectors who repented.

Rather, He was mocked for the darkness He revealed in each of us and the refusal by many to come to the Light, because they (and we) prefer to remain in darkness rather than be cleansed by the light. Perhaps this mocking has something to do with the way a few who claim to be His followers misrepresent Him. That may be worth mocking, but He isn’t.

Today’s mockers would never dare to speak ill of Muhammed. They might have their throats slit, or their homes blown-up.

A cartoonist, who did something as innocent as portraying Muhammed in a bear costume, received death threats.

Others have been the victims of more than threats. They have been murdered because they “offended” some self-appointed defender of Islam. No wonder people are afraid to mock Muhammed. Jesus is always a safe target, because His followers are unlikely to retaliate, just as He did not retaliate when false charges were brought against Him.

For the atheists and other unbelievers who enjoy mocking events holy to Christians, I recommend setting aside on the calendar a special day for them to enjoy and celebrate. Let it be April 1, because “the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

As for mocking Jesus, I give you this verse from Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

Christians Flock To Jerusalem For Good Friday


JERUSALEM - Christian pilgrims filled the cobblestone alleyways of old Jerusalem to mark Good Friday, commemorating Jesus' crucifixion in the city two millennia ago.

Thousands of international visitors and local Christians retraced Jesus' last steps down the Via Dolorosa, which is Latin for "Way of Suffering."

The route ends at the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and his resurrection two days later on Easter Sunday.

"All my life I've been waiting for this wish — I've been wishing for one day to come here in Jerusalem to worship. I wanted to step where my lord stepped," said Roshan Futsom, a pilgrim from Toronto, Canada.

"This is a special energy, a special love. I cannot explain," said another pilgrim, Miodrag Ivanovic of Belgrade, Serbia, who was on the Via Dolorosa with a large wooden cross on his shoulder.

Jerusalem's walled Old City was crowded Friday with adherents of different churches and faiths. The calendars of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches coincide this year, so the sects are marking the holy week together. This has required careful arrangements to avoid conflicts among the many ceremonies and processions of each church.

Jews are currently celebrating the week long Passover festival, and the city's Jewish Quarter was also full of visitors Friday.

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AAA Seeing A Rise In Calls From Drivers Who Have Run Out Of Gas

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With gas prices pushing $4 a gallon, a lot of people are trying to stretch their dollar at the gas pump, but some of them are trying to stretch it a little too far.

Since the beginning of March, AAA has seen an 18 percent increase in the number of roadside calls for people running out of gas.

“I never put a lot in because I can’t afford to fill it up,” Leo Greek, a stranded motorist, said.

He says he’s not even sure how much it would cost to fill up his truck these days because he hasn’t done it for a while. He gets only what he needs and today he underestimated.

“It’s frustrating,” Greek said. “I can’t believe it has to be that expensive, but I know everybody’s going through it.”

According to AAA, gas prices in the Pittsburgh area have gone up 26 cents per gallon in the last month.

“Before it was more absentminded than anything else,” Jim Krebs with Brighton Service said. “But now, I believe that’s what it is. I believe people are like, ‘Man, I got to buy something else so I’m not going to put gas in the car. I should be able to make it,’ and they don’t.

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Europe Facing Worst Drought In More Than A Century

The Dutch have banned barbecues, camp fires and outdoor smoking this Easter, while the Swiss are forecasting potentially the worst drought in Europe for more than a century.

Either way, prayers in Europe this Easter holiday weekend are as likely to call for rain as anything else -- with serious fears over the wheat harvest, its impact on already sky-high global food prices and, of course, devastating brush fires.

A year ago, it was Russia that bore the brunt of global warming, and with the price of benchmark wheat futures jumping by more than a fifth since the spring in the global market hub of Chicago, farmers everywhere are busy scanning the skies for soothing signs.

Traditional Easter fairs in the east and the north of the Netherlands have been cancelled because of the risk of fires posed by the extraordinarily dry weather affecting northern Europe, Dutch news agency ANP said.

In the eastern half of the country, one of Europe's biggest traders, outdoor family barbecues, smoking and camp fires are a strict no-no.

In the Swiss canton of Zurich, officials began moving trout this week from the river Toess before their habitat dried up.

This year threatens to bring "one of the most significant droughts since 1864," the year when records began in Switzerland, said Olivier Duding, a climatologist from Swiss weather service Meteosuisse.

The drought in western Switzerland over the last 12 months is as severe as those recorded in 1884 and 1921, Meteosuisse said.

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