Monday, April 25, 2011

National Weather Service Issues Red Flag Warning For West Texas As Wifd Fires Rage On

Dallas (CNN) -- Hot, dry weather returns to Texas this week, whisking away the limited relief scattered thunderstorms brought to firefighters in parts of the Lone Star state over the weekend.

In a trifecta of potentially bad news for fire crews, the Texas Forest Service said a low-pressure system will push temperatures into the 90s, humidity to 10% or less and winds up to 45 mph on Monday and Tuesday.

The conditions have prompted the National Weather Service to issue a red flag warning for a large portion of west Texas, urging residents to avoid the use of open flames and to avoid activities that may generate sparks.

Because of the hot temperatures, bone-dry conditions and high winds, "accidental ignitions will have the potential to grow quickly into dangerous wind-driven wildfires," the weather service said.

The system will bring with it a chance of precipitation. However, rain accompanied by thunderstorms can be a mixed-blessing for firefighters, since lightning can ignite new fires.

One such fire scorched nearly every inch of a 10,000-acre north Texas ranch, about 70 miles west of Fort Worth.

The Cormack family has raised cattle near Strawn for a quarter century, but now are coping with the loss of 15% of its herd and nearly all of its grazing land.

"Its something you can't really explain. This is home," Justin Comack told CNN's Patrick Oppmann. "I know a lot of people think ... it's just land, but you know this is my backyard and we ran cattle out here since I was a baby."

Some of the cattle were nearly incinerated by the fast-moving flames. All Cormack can do is number the carcasses with green spray paint, take their pictures and log their GPS locations, hoping the family eventually will be compensated for its losses.

Even for the surviving cattle, the road will be tough -- many suffered burns and may have to be put down.

Grazing land has become a precious comodity, with most of the landscape charred following the fire.

"We've been really lucky that we have friends all over and people, strangers that come together and donate as much hay as they can," according to brother Jake Cormack, who said he's looking for grass leases to feed his herd until "we can get over this hump."

The Forest Service responded to 17 new fires over the weekend, but the blazes were slowed by storms that brought softball-sized hail and reports of tornadoes.

The largest of these new fires is the Pipeline fire in Tyler and Hardin counties. Covering some 7,101 acres, it was caused by an oil well flare. National Park Service personnel were involved in the fight against the blaze and it is now 90% contained.

Wet weather over the past few days helped firefighters maintain control over many of the fires burning in the state, the Texas Forest Service said.

The largest of them is the 207,660-acre Rockhouse fire in Jeff Davis County, which is 75% contained as of Sunday night. Firefighters had to abandon the fight against the conflagration in the Davis mountains, according to an update from the Forest Service, because of concerns about safety and a lack of reliable communications. The agency said the difficult terrain made use of bulldozers impossible and aerial resources had proved ineffective.

The PK Complex of fires burning west of Fort Worth is now 50% contained, assisted by significant rainfall, the Forest Service said. On Sunday, crews worked on constructing lines through the 126,734-acre fire. The also burned pockets of vegetation around the fire's perimeter.

Read More From CNN

1,700 Year Old Skeletons Of Christians Martyrs Found In Italy

Daily Mail

22nd April 2011

Two skeletons discovered in a crypt in an Italian cathedral are those of Christian saints who were martyred in ancient Rome, experts have claimed.

Scientists say all the evidence suggests the bones do belong to Chrysanthus and Daria, who were killed in 283AD for spreading Christianity.

Legend has it that the Roman empire had the celibate husband and wife killed after they converted Romans to the early religion.

The remains have been kept in the crypt of the cathedral in Reggio Emilia, a city in the north of Italy, since the 10th century.

The altar at the church had not been disturbed since 1651 but in 2008 the cathedral was renovated

Workers found more than 300 bones in one of the sealed crypts.

The skulls were packed inside a pair of silver-and-gold busts deep in a cathedral vault which they had been transferred to nearly 500 years ago.

Experts quickly descended on the crypt so that the bones could be tested and dated.

Ezio Fulcheri, from the University of Genoa, led the team on what was one of the first scientific investigations into saintly relics.

He conceded there was no way to identify the skeletons with complete certainty but said 'all of the evidence we have gathered points toward the relics having belonged to Chrysanthus and Daria.

'This has been a very rare opportunity to be able to study bones and other relics that relate directly back to a legend that has been passed on for almost 2,000 years.

'The completeness of the skeletons is also rare for martyrs of this era, implying that these relics were protected and venerated in their entirety at a very early point in history.'

The team concluded after DNA tests that the bones belonged to a woman probably in her 20s and man in his late teens.

Tests revealed that the bones were still fusing together at death which suggested to the experts that although both sets of bones were of skeletons, neither was fully developed.

The age of the female skeleton suggested that they were still a virgin, as Daria had been.

They believe that the couple lived a generally healthy life 'with very little physical stress' before they were killed.

Testing suggests they were from an affluent background because their bones showed signs of lead poisoning - common to aristocrats in ancient times.

There was also very little wear and tear on the bones which suggested that they had not been involved with any physical labour.

A single rib was taken from each body and ground into a fine powder for a carbon dating test which showed the bones dated back to between 80AD and 340AD.

All the characteristics of the bones tied in with descriptions of the lives of the Christian saints.

The team's findings have been filmed for a documentary, EXPLORER: Mystery of the Murdered Saints which was broadcast last night by National Geographic.

Senior producer and writer Max Salomon told the Catholic News Agency: 'This is the first time that we can really test the authenticity of what is believed to be the body of a saint. For us, it was really a privilege to have a seat at that table and see its risks.'

He was impressed that Church leaders were willing to risk the relics not being authentic and were prepared to take the consequences.

'In a sense, it’s a very modern thing for the Church to do, to embrace science and take on the risks of asking scientific questions,' he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Lorenzo Ghizzoni of Reggio Emilia had acknowledged the findings could be a major problem.

'We might discover that these relics are fake. That would be a huge problem for us,' he said.

'If we find out we have bones like that, then we have to throw them out, destroy them. That would certainly be a scandal for the faithful.'

The two bodies represented an extraordinary opportunity because there were almost two complete skeletons, giving a lot of material to work with. Often relic bones are progressively removed and kept as spiritual tokens.

In the documentary, University of Turin anthropologist Allesandra Cinti said: 'These results confirmed two fundamental facts for us.

'They confirmed their antiquity and the fact that they were both from the same time period. We were able to relax, let out a sigh of relief and say okay, maybe it's actually them.'

According to the legend, Chrysanthus was the only son of a Roman senator from Alexandria who grew up in Rome and converted to Christianity.

His father, unhappy at the move, arranged for him to marry a high priestess called Daria in the hope he would cast off his new religion.

But the plan backfired when Daria too embraced Christianity and the couple worked together to convert thousands more to the faith.

Authorities in Rome arrested them for proselytising and they were buried alive in a sand mine in the city in around 283AD.

Read more:

High Court Rejects Quick Review Of Obama Care

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court rejected a call Monday from Virginia's attorney general to depart from its usual practice and put review of the healthcare law on a fast track. Instead, judicial review of President Barack Obama's signature legislation will continue in federal appeals courts.

The justices turned down a request by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a leading opponent of the law, to resolve questions about its constitutionality quickly. The Obama administration opposed Cuccinelli's plea.

Only rarely, in wartime or a constitutional crisis, does the court step into a legal fight before the issues are aired in appellate courts. Hearings already are scheduled in May and June in three appeals courts.

The case still could reach the high court in time for a decision by early summer 2012.

Justice Elena Kagan apparently took part in the court's order Monday, as there was no announcement that any justice sat out. There had been questions about whether she would participate because she served as Obama's solicitor general when the law was passed. Kagan indicated in Senate testimony last year that she played no role in the administration's planning and handling of challenges to the law.

So far, five federal judges have ruled on challenges to the law. Two Republican appointees, in Florida and Virginia, have declared it unconstitutional in whole or in part. Three Democratic appointees, in Michigan, Virginia and Washington, DC, have upheld it.

Cuccinelli filed suit on behalf of Virginia, while 26 states joined in a separate lawsuit in Florida claiming that Congress exceeded its authority in requiring citizens to buy health insurance or pay a penalty starting in 2014. In asking the high court to pluck the healthcare cases from the appeals courts before decisions were rendered there, Cuccinelli said delay imposes a "crippling uncertainty" upon the states.

In December, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson in Richmond declared that the heart of the sweeping legislation -- the requirement that citizens buy health insurance or pay a penalty starting in 2014 -- is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida came to the same conclusion in January in striking down the law in its entirety. Both rulings have been put on hold pending appeals.

In the meantime, the federal and state governments have begun to put in place other parts of the law, including changes in payment rates under the Medicare system for older and disabled Americans and a provision allowing children up to age 26 to remain on the parents' health insurance policies.

Read More From One News Now

Court Trial Held In Michigan For Pastor Who Burned Q'uran

Washington Times

DEARBORN, Mich. — Controversial Florida Pastor Terry Jones, a Koran-burning advocate who has sparked Muslim outrage worldwide, including deadly riots in Afghanistan, held court to a media throng as he defended himself in a trial here that pitted his free-speech rights against fears of public violence in the nation’s largest Arab-American community.

The hearing was a legal rarity — a jury trial after Rev. Jones declined to pay a city-ordered peace bond that the county prosecutor said was needed to cover security costs associated with the minister’s planned protest near the nation’s largest mosque on one of Christianity’s holiest days, Good Friday. The estimated cost of the bond was $46,000. The pastor of the tiny Florida congregation has pledged to return next week if today’s protest is thwarted by the trial.

A three-man, four-woman jury was quickly impaneled at District 19 court in Dearborn late Thursday afternoon after Rev. Jones, who said he would continue with his plan to protest outside the Islamic Center of America, refused to pay the bond request and asked for trial.

Rev. Jones, who carries a firearm and accidentally discharged it in his rental car following a Detroit television station interview Thursday night, represented himself in court. He and co-defendant Marvin Sapp, also a pastor in his church, dressed casually in black Harley-Davidson T-shirts as they gave opening statements asserting their First Amendment right to peacefully protest in public. The city, which declined their permit, had offered the two the option of demonstrating in designated “free-speech zones,” including outside city hall, but they declined, calling such spaces unconstitutional.

The Rev. Jones, 59, who leads the small Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., told the court that he would carry out his plan, even if the jury rejected his bid and he was arrested.

“We are not criminals. We have respect for the law. We are coming there in peace,” Rev. Jones told the jurors, adding that it was his right to speak against “the radical element of Islam, which does exist, otherwise we could not have this problem.”

He pledged that he would not burn a Koran or engage in other provocative acts. He said the plans now call for just four members of his group Stand Up for America Now to occupy a grassy public median area across from the mosque. He added that his concern about radical Islam was broader than simply any activities in Detroit, adding that he had no animosity for people there.

“Obviously we do have a problem — maybe not in Dearborn or this mosque. We are not accusing them. We are simply speaking out on the issue on jihad, Sharia,” said Rev. Jones, who urged jurors to be open-minded, even as much public sentiment was against him.

The case, overseen by Judge Mark Somers, the son of Christian missionaries to India, was watched by free-speech advocates nationwide and monitored by the Michigan ACLU along with other religious and legal group.

The ACLU decried the violation of Rev. Jones’ rights on Thursday.

“We should combat hate speech with more speech,” said Rana Elmir, a spokeswoman for the Michigan ACLU. “I disagree vehemently with Rev. Jones’ message, but I believe wholeheartedly in his right to express himself.”

The case has led local news coverage this week and rallied churches in the heavily Arab suburb of Detroit that serves as corporate home to Ford Motor Co. and other auto-industry concerns. Church leaders, including local imams, pastors and rabbis, have held services geared at bringing residents together as media covered Rev. Jones’ every move.

Prosecutors said in trial Friday morning that Dearborn law enforcement officials had received more than 300 death threats after residents learned that Rev. Jones and his followers had advertised plans for their event. They said the city feared violence if Rev. Jones’ group was allowed to assemble.

Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad told the court he denied four permits from other groups that eventually pulled out of Friday’s planned protest – not simply Rev. Jones’ group. He testified that he did so to maintain public safety in the heavily trafficked area, which includes several other churches conducting Good Friday services. He said local church leaders told him that they were considering cancelling their Holy Day events.

From intelligence gathered by his investigators, Chief Haddad said, “There is a strong likelihood that … violence would occur.”

Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran said the case was not simply about free speech rights but rather safety.

“We’re not here to suppress open speech or prevent someone for saying what they want to say, nor are we here because we don’t like the message that this defendant brings,” he told the jury. “We are here because the conduct of the respondents will likely respond in a breach of the peace. It will be a fracas, a riot. “

While one traffic officer noted the heightened traffic and safety concern of such a demonstration, Rev. Sapp questioned whether such inconvenience was enough to squelch his group’s rights.

Prosecutors showed videotape of Rev. Jones condemning the Koran for crimes against humanity and Rev. Sapp lighting the Muslim holy text on fire at their church in Gainesville in a March ceremony called “International Judge the Koran Day.”

“I was the one with the lighter,” Rev. Sapp testified matter-of-factly as the female court reporter, wearing a Muslim headscarf, typed away.

Read More From Washington Times

Christ Centered Commercials Target MTV In Outreach Campaign

By Chelsea Schilling
© 2011 WorldNetDaily

Sex, drug addiction, suicidal thoughts, alcoholism, loneliness, peer pressure and social angst – it's all part of an onslaught of hopelessness many teens experience today, but one group is using an in-your-face approach to deliver a critical message to America's young adults:

God loves you and He wants to help.

It's a revelation of hope in a venue young viewers might least expect – an outreach campaign called Groundwire splashed on television networks such as MTV, VH1, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming and Comedy Central and flanking popular radio broadcasts across the nation.

Young adults see or hear Groundwire's 60-second Christ-centered spots and contact the ministry's coaches for help every day.

"Really the reason we're doing this is because I really believe that heaven and hell are real-life issues and that people can have the opportunity to go to heaven," Sean Dunn, founder and president of Groundwire, told WND. "Even beyond that, I am convinced that there's a God in heaven who loves every person on the face of the earth and wants to be a part of their life."

Dunn, an author and 42-year-old husband and father of four in Castle Rock, Colo., has ministered to youth for more than 20 years. He founded Groundwire eight years ago.

"I'm absolutely convinced the reason God put me on the earth is to share hope with young people who are struggling," he said. "There's a huge diversity of issues: from the cutter, the suicidal person, the addict, to those callers who say, 'Something's missing. Something just doesn't make sense in my life. I don't know what it is.' to just people who say they need someone to talk to."

And the outreach is working.

Dunn said Groundwire is averaging about 4,100 Internet chatters a month. Through its most recent media buy in Atlanta, the campaign just topped 28 million impressions a week. The ministry has added 14 million viewers and listeners every month since April 2010 and currently has nearly 5,000 Facebook fans.

"We have coaches in Korea, Australia and India to handle the middle of the night," he said. "It's the only 24-hour-a-day spiritual help line in the world. We see people come to faith on a daily basis."

Palestinian Policeman Opens Fire On Jewish Worshipers Killing One

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded the Palestinian Authority take “harsh steps” against those responsible for today’s West Bank shooting death of the nephew of a minister of his Likud party.

Palestinian authorities told the Israeli military earlier in the day that a policeman opened fire at “suspicious movement” in the area of the Jewish shrine called Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus, an army spokesman said.

Netanyahu called the shooting a “criminal act against Jewish worshippers on their way to prayer.” The army said in an e-mail the Israelis had failed to inform soldiers of their intention to enter Palestinian-controlled territory as required by law. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that “a slip-up in security coordination can’t justify an incident like this.”

Tensions have been rising in the West Bank since the stabbing to death in March of an Israeli family in their Jewish settlement home. Two Palestinians were arrested in connection with that attack.

After the funeral, Jewish settlers and Palestinians threw stones at one another near the West Bank town of Hawara and a Palestinian car was torched, an army spokeswoman said, speaking anonymously according to regulations.

The casualty of today’s shooting was the nephew of Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat, said Or Doron, a ministry spokeswoman.

Livnat said a Palestinian gunman masquerading as a policeman killed her nephew, according to the daily Haaretz. An army spokeswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a preliminary investigation found that the Israelis had refused to stop at a Palestinian checkpoint at an entrance to Joseph’s Tomb.

Investigation Begun

Barak called for the Palestinian Authority to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident. Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said by telephone they are investigating.

The West Bank is controlled by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and the Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas. Israel has conducted peace talks with Abbas, while Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S., and the European Union, refuses to recognize Israel or any agreements signed with it.

Read More From Bloomberg

China: 30 Christians Arrested For Trying To Hold Easter Church Service

Google News

April 24, 2011

BEIJING — Up to 30 members of a Chinese evangelical church were arrested on Sunday for trying to hold an Easter service in defiance of the officially atheist government, a member of the clergy said.

A large number of police began to gather early Sunday in the Zhongguancun area of Beijing where the Shouwang Church had said it would hold an outdoor service to mark the holiest day of the Christian calendar.

"Between 20 and 30 followers were taken away by police," senior pastor Jin Tianming told AFP by telephone from his home, where he is under house arrest. He said there were several police officers posted outside the building.

He added that the members of the congregation who were arrested had been taken to different police stations and that none had so far been released.

Jin had said before the planned gathering that the church considered Easter an important occasion and would stick to its decision to hold a service.

"This is our uncompromising position and a matter of faith. If they arrest our followers, this is the price we are willing to pay," he had said.

Police declined to comment on the arrests when contacted by AFP.

The defiant stance of the Shouwang Church, one of Beijing's biggest unofficial Christian groups, comes amid a severe crackdown on government critics that has seen scores of people detained, disappeared or facing charges.

Authorities evicted Shouwang from its previous place of worship, a rented office space, in November and blocked the congregation of about 1,000 people from entering new premises purchased with church funds, Jin said.

China's communist government has long frowned on religion and imposes controls on faith by requiring groups to register for government approval to gather, despite an official policy stipulating religious freedom.

Shouwang, which means "to keep watch", was established in 1993 and has sought government registration since 2006, Jin said, but has been repeatedly refused.

On April 10, nearly 170 church followers were rounded up by police after trying to hold an outdoor service in western Beijing's Haidian university district. Nearly 50 were detained a week later.

Most followers were released after up to 24 hours in custody.

The US government has repeatedly criticised China's overall rights crackdown, while the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, an autonomous government board, last week condemned the actions against Shouwang.

"Beijing has again responded with ruthless intolerance to peaceful religious activity," Leonard Leo, chair of the commission, said in a statement that also urged China to stop detaining members and allow Easter services.

Jin said before Sunday's service that all church leaders were under house arrest and would unlikely be able to leave their homes for the service.

Authorities have cracked down hard on dissidents, activists and rights lawyers since anonymous Internet appeals emerged in February calling for "Jasmine" protests each Sunday around the country.

The campaign was aimed at sparking public calls for government reform similar to those that have rocked the Arab world, but no public demonstrations have been reported in China.

Jin said Shouwang had no links with the calls for "Jasmine" protests.

In numerous Internet postings, other unregistered Christians in China voiced support for the Shouwang church.

About 15 million Protestants and five million Catholics worship at official churches in China, according to recent official data.

But an estimated more than 50 million others are believed to pray at "underground" or "house" churches like Shouwang, which refuse to submit to government regulation.

Read More from Google

Italian Entrepreneurs To Create PerfumeThat Smells Like Human Blood

Apr 20, 2011 – 8:20 AM
AOL News

A new blood-inspired perfume may soon have an ideal group of early adopters: vampires.

Last week, a pair of Italian entrepreneurs, Antonio Zuddas and Giovanni Castelli, debuted Blood Concept, a provocative fragrance line based on the four major human blood types: A, B, AB and O.

While the line forgoes incorporating actual blood, the Italian duo nonetheless claim that each scent is evocative of the blood type it represents.

"Blood Concept is just a celebration of human life through an interpretation of its evolutionary process," Zuddas told AOL News. "To be more accurate, it's an interpretation of the evolution of our most important element, the blood in our veins."

In keeping with the hematic theme, the four scents come in 1.35-ounce vials with red droppers, and the website includes background images of swirling blood.

While the Milan-based designers concede that Blood Concept may make some squeamish, they maintain that their perfumes have nothing to do with blood lust.

"No splatter, no vampires ..." Zuddas said.

Not so fast.

Merticus, a 32-year-old Atlanta man who self-identifies as a vampire, intends to sample the fragrance line.

A founding member of the Atlanta Vampire Alliance and Vampire Community News, Merticus favors O-positive as his drink of choice. As for which scent he'd prefer to wear -- or detect on a donor -- he's keeping an open mind.

"I find the black cherry, pomegranate and patchouli infusions of B and the raspberry, rose hips, and birch infusions of O equally intriguing," Merticus said via e-mail. "Hopefully I'll be able to sample them in the flesh soon."

An antique dealer by daylight, he plans to travel to Italy in September, where, he told AOL News, he may drop by the Blood Concept offices and pick up a few vials.

Read More From AOL News