Friday, July 1, 2011

Giant Statue Of Jesus Unveiled In Peru

One of the world's tallest statues of Jesus Christ has been inaugurated in Peru despite high level opposition and Facebook campaigns mocking it.

President Alan Garcia formally opened the monument, known as Cristo del Pacifico or Christ of the Pacific, on a hill in the capital Lima.

He personally helped fund the cost of the statue to the tune of around 100,000 Peruvian soles (£22,000) and has said it will "bless and protect Lima".

But he has faced strong criticism from several quarters, with many seeing it as a vanity project he chose to pursue before leaving office at the end of July.

Susana Villaran, the Mayor of Lima, condemned the lack of consultation over the statue and labelled it "a plastic copy of the Christ of Corcovado" in Rio de Janeiro.

Architects have also questioned whether it may violate building codes and historians objected to the fact that it has been erected at the location of a 19th century battle against Chile.

A number of Facebook groups were formed to oppose the statue with one attracting 4,000 members and users suggesting joke names such as Cristo de lo Robado, loosely meaning the Christ That Was Ripped Off But others founded Facebook groups supporting the project and a poll by a Peruvian consulting firm found 51 per cent of Lima residents giving approval to the monument compared to 37 per cent against.

The statue, which was built in Brazil and shipped to Lima, is 37 metres (122ft) tall when its 15 metre (49ft) pedestal is taken into account.

By comparison a statue of Christ unveiled in Poland last year stands 36 metres (118ft) including its crown, making it the tallest such statue not including any base.

If the pedestal is included then a statue of Christ in Cochabamba, Bolivia, completed in 1994 is the tallest at 40m (133ft) followed by Christ the Redeemer in Rio at 38m (125ft).

Read More from Telegraph

U.S Air Force And Navy Still Flying Hundreds Of Missions Over Libya

Air Force and Navy aircraft are still flying hundreds of strike missions over Libya despite the Obama administration’s claim that American forces are playing only a limited support role in the NATO operation.

An Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that since NATO’s Operation Unified Protector (OUP) took over from the American-led Operation Odyssey Dawn on March 31, the U.S. military has flown hundreds of strike sorties. Previously, Washington had claimed that it was mostly providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and tanker support to NATO forces operating over Libya.

“U.S. aircraft continue to fly support [ISR and refueling] missions, as well as strike sorties under NATO tasking,” AFRICOM spokeswoman Nicole Dalrymple said in an emailed statement. “As of today, and since 31 March, the U.S. has flown a total of 3,475 sorties in support of OUP. Of those, 801 were strike sorties, 132 of which actually dropped ordnance.”

A White House report on Libya sent to Congress on June 15 says that “American strikes are limited to the suppression of enemy air defense and occasional strikes by unmanned Predator UAVs against a specific set of targets.” The report also says the U.S. provides an “alert strike package.”

Dalrymple named the Air Force’s F-16CJ and Navy’s EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft as the primary platforms that have been suppressing enemy air defenses.

However, those F-16s are not solely drawn from units based in Spangdahlem, Germany, or Aviano, Italy. The service has reportedly deployed U.S.-based units to Europe to conduct these operations.

Earlier this month, Malta Today reported that two F-16s from the 77th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, made emergency landings on the island. The 20th Fighter Wing is based at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.

The AFRICOM spokeswoman did not address why U.S.-based units were deployed for the mission.

The Navy’s Growlers are based at Whidbey Island, Wash.

However, those may not be the only strike aircraft flying over Libya. Last week, Air Force F-15E crews attending the Paris Air Show, along with their public affairs officer, said they could not talk about their activities in Libya during Odyssey Dawn because they are not able to comment on “current operations.”

AFRICOM couldn’t immediately say when the last U.S. strike sortie over Libya was flown.

The fact that the U.S. is conducting strike missions over Libya should not come as a surprise, said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the service’s former intelligence chief.

“It’s no surprise to me that we’ve been participating, because we’re a member of NATO,” Deptula said.

What is different now, he said, is that sorties are planned differently under NATO control. Deptula said it is not particularly surprising that additional units would be brought in to support those operations.

The revelation comes as a debate rages in Washington over the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which calls for the president to ask Congress for permission to deploy American forces into combat longer than 60 days. If the Congress does not grant that permission within that span, U.S. forces must be withdrawn within 30 days.

“It’s not necessarily a violation of the War Powers Resolution,” said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap, now associate director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, and visiting professor of the practice at Duke University School of Law. “[But] it does raise questions about the scope and intensity of our participation versus how it’s been represented.”

Others disagreed. The president is in clear violation of the War Powers Resolution, said Robert Turner, co-founder of the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia. Under the legal definition of hostilities, even providing logistical support or intelligence data qualifies as such, he said, never mind firing missiles from Predator UAVs or F-16 fighters.

However, the resolution itself is unconstitutional because treaties are effectively part of the Constitution the way the framers wrote the document, he said.

“Legally, this is his discretion, but he is in clear violation of the statute,” Turner said. “The reason he’s not bound by that is because the statute is clearly unconstitutional.”

Read More from Air Force times

Obama Administration Stops Deportation Of Illegal Immigrant /Same Sex Partner

The federal decision to stop deportation proceedings against a Venezuela-born New Jersey man who legally married his same-sex partner in the United States -- effectively recognizing gay marriage -- is an "abuse of executive authority" by the Obama administration, immigration experts told

Henry Velandia, a 27-year-old professional salsa dancer from Caracas now living in New Jersey, legally married U.S. citizen Josh Vandiver, 30, in Connecticut last year, but due to the Defense of Marriage Act -- a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman -- Vandiver was not allowed to sponsor Velandia for a green card in the same way a heterosexual person could for his or her spouse. The Department of Homeland Security nevertheless decided to drop deportation efforts against him Wednesday.

Velandia told that Wednesday's ruling was a "big, uplifting moment" and the product of a year's worth of hard work on behalf of the couple's attorney, Lavi Soloway.

"I can now be with Josh, my husband, in this country without fear of being torn apart," he said on Friday. "It's like our first day building up our life together. But we know the fight is not over. We're going to keep fighting for marriage equality for all the couple who are in the same situation."

But Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, said the decision is misguided prosecutorial discretion that could "destroy the credibility" of immigration law in the United States.

"This is another instance of the Obama administration's abuse of executive authority on behalf of select groups of removable aliens that it thinks are sympathetic to make a run around Congress and provide amnesty to as many illegal aliens as possible," Vaughan said. "These people are props for the administration, which is uncomfortable in its mission to enforce immigration laws. What they're really doing here with this policy of discretion is giving a free pass to huge numbers of people who have been living here illegally."

President Obama reiterated during a news conference on Wednesday that he had instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court. He said he supported gay equality, but repeated his position in support of civil unions instead of marriage. At the same time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is urging its agents to consider a lengthy list of factors in determining whether to move ahead with deportation proceedings -- in a move to crack down on illegal immigrant criminals, but give agents leeway to dismiss cases against those who haven't committed non-immigration crimes.

But by stopping the deportation proceedings against Velandia, the federal government is effectively giving same-sex couples a "status that is not recognized in federal law or in many states," Vaughan said.

"The administration doesn't care about the larger effects," she said. "It's aiming to score political points. And what people don't realize is that they are offering the same thing to lots of other people who are a lot less sympathetic. In reality, it's going to prevent the removal of a lot of many other more troubling individuals, including criminals and repeat immigration violators. It just destroys the credibility of immigration laws."

David Boaz, an executive vice president at Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank, said the Obama administration is now in an "awkward position" since announcing it will not continue defending the marriage act in court while promising to enforce existing federal law.

"It becomes difficult to see how you really enforce a law if defendants know that you won't defend its constitutionality if they challenge it in court," he said. "They're probably thinking we can always reopen the deportation case if, ultimately, the courts make it clear that this is the law and it should be enforced."

Boaz said he doesn't expect an imminent decision either way. "I think we're going to get judicial resolution on this, but it could take a couple of years," he said.

United Church Of Christ To Vote To Eliminate God The Father From Their Constitution

TAMPA, Fla., July 1, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- Meeting at General Synod 28 in Tampa, Florida this weekend -- July 1-5, 2011 -- the historic United Church of Christ will vote on an amendment to eliminate God the Father from Article 5, lines 9-10 of its constitution.

The Constitution of the denomination has remained unchanged in its theological core since the United Church of Christ's founding in 1957, and remains the covenant connection with the basic truths of Christianity that keeps many churches affiliated who are otherwise alienated by the denominations very liberal agenda.

According to renewal leader David Runnion-Bareford, "Rejecting God as Father in an age of fatherlessness is unthinkable. God acted toward us in amazing grace when He offered to be our Father through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ who offers us life in his name. This is not something we as humans made up in some other time. Rejecting our Father is act of arrogant rebellion in the name of cultural conformity that only further alienates members, churches, but more importantly God himself. We call the delegates to reject the change for God's sake."

Read More From Christian News Wire

New Al-Qaeda Video Encourages Muslims To Attack U.S Churches

(One News Now)With the recent airing of an al-Qaeda video that encourages Muslims to attack religious institutions, Christian churches are being warned.

In a video released by al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn, the American-born Muslim asks jihadists to quickly obtain guns and carry out terrorist attacks against the West. He states that Muslims are placed in the region to "do major damage to the enemies of Islam, waging war on their religion, sacred places, and things and brethren."

"That's very troubling," admits Steve Amundson of the Florida Security Council. "Adam Gadhan lived here in Southern California for a number of years. He studied under Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi at the Islamic Center of Orange County, which is in Garden Grove."

Gadahn's statements to U.S. Muslims follow the death of Osama bin Laden. In response, the Christian Emergency Network has issued a warning for churches in the United States, and Amundson advises Christians to stay alert.

"Churches, just like everybody, I tell them to be vigilant; be aware of your surroundings," he urges. "Don't walk around like everything's okay, because we're in different times now, and it's time for Americans to be vigilant, be aware, [and] be alert because something could happen."

Churches are also advised to have an emergency team ready and to regularly conduct emergency drills.

Read More From One News Now

2,000 Yr Old Ossuary Stone Chest Discovered In Jewish Tomb

(Jerusalem Post) Researchers from Bar-Ilan and Tel Aviv universities published a study this week confirming the authenticity of a recently obtained ancient ossuary with unique historical implications that was plundered by antiquities robbers.

The 2,000-year-old ossuary, a stone chest used for secondary burial of bones, belonged to a daughter of the Caiaphas family of high priests.

The front of the ossuary bears an Aramaic inscription from the time of the Second Temple saying “Miriam Daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, Priests of Ma’aziah from Beth Imri.”

The high priest Yehosef Bar Caiaphas is known for his involvement in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, but the prime importance of the inscription is the discovery that the Caiaphas family was related to the Ma’aziah priestly course, one of the 24 divisions of Kohens that took turns maintaining the schedule of offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem.

This is the first reference to the Ma’aziah course in an epigraphic find from the Second Temple period, which was the last of the twenty-four priestly courses that served in the First Temple.

The list of courses was formulated during King David’s reign and appears in the Bible in I Chronicles 24:18.

The ossuary was discovered by antiquities robbers who looted a Jewish tomb of the Second Temple period.

Three years ago, it was acquired by the Antiquities Authority Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery.

Since the ossuary was not found in a controlled, archeological excavation, and due to its extraordinary historical significance, the authenticity of the artifact was tested by Dr. Boaz Zissu of the Department of the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University and Prof. Yuval Goren of the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University.

The examinations determined that the ossuary and its inscription are genuine and ancient, and came from a burial cave in the area of the Valley of Elah, in the Shephela.

This week the research was published in the Israel Exploration Journal, Volume 61, confirming its authenticity and summarizing the importance of the find.

The Antiquities Authority has expressed distress that this important find, stolen from its original provenance, was removed from its exact archeological context, so it is not possible to know the full story of the burial cave.

The ending of the inscription “from Beth Imri” can be interpreted to mean that Beth Imri is the name of a priestly family – the sons of Immer as described in Ezra 2:36-37 and Nehemiah 7:39-42, whose descendants include members of the Ma’aziah course.

The second possibility is that it refers to the place of origin of the deceased or of her entire family, which may have been preserved in the name Beit Ummar, a village in the North Hebron Hills.

In that village and in nearby Khirbet Kufin, remains of a Jewish settlement were identified from the Second Temple era and the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

Read More From Jerusalem Post

2 Houston Texas Schools Criticized For Having Prayer During Graduation

( public high schools in Spring are being criticized for including prayer in their graduation ceremonies earlier this month.

Klein Independent School District is currently reviewing its graduation policies, after Americans United for the Separation of Church and State issued a letter Wednesday calling on Klein High School and Klein Collins High School to no longer include prayer in school events. Student volunteers at each of the schools offered invocations and benedictions at the June 4 ceremonies.

The letter states:

“Graduation is an important rite of passage for young people and all students should feel welcome regardless of their views about religion,” said Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan. “It’s a matter of simple fairness and decency for school officials to recognize that we live in a diverse society and to include everyone.

“In addition,” Khan continued, “the law is absolutely clear on this issue. Public school officials offer students a poor model of citizenship when they flout the Constitution and the plain rulings of the Supreme Court.”

The high court ruled in 1992 in Lee v. Weisman that public schools may not impose prayer and or other forms of religious worship on students and their families during graduation.

In 2000, the high court ruled against school-sanctioned student-led prayers before football games in a Texas case called Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe.

“The school district takes its legal obligations very seriously, especially regarding the Constitution,” said Judy Rimato, Klein ISD spokeswoman. “We will be reviewing our policies regarding graduation ceremonies.”

On June 3, a day before the Klein ISD graduations, a federal court ruled that a valedictorian at a San Antonio public school would be allowed to offer a prayer at her graduation. Gov. Rick Perry had also voiced his support for the move.

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