Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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Billy Graham's last rally

[ ] = my comments

Billy Graham leads 'last' rally

The most famous Christian evangelist in the US, Billy Graham, has addressed what may be his last mass prayer rally.

Mr Graham, who is 86 and suffers from prostate cancer, won a standing ovation from over 50,000 people in New York.

He is thought to have preached to more people around the world than the late Pope John Paul II, and is credited with starting evangelism in the US.

US President George W Bush has publicly thanked Mr Graham, who he says turned his life around.

Thousands who could not get to see Mr Graham watched him lead the rally on giant screens erected outside the park, in the borough of Queens.

Mr Graham told reporters earlier in the week that the New York mass meeting could be his last one.

Avoiding politics

The man known as "America's pastor" urged the audience to put their faith in Jesus and show love, not hate.

"The greatest need in the world today is for the transformation of human nature to make us love instead of hate," Mr Graham told the crowds. [On this point, I can agree with him.]

He looked frail as he spoke to the crowds, but made light of his afflictions, which include cancer, fluid on the brain and Parkinson's disease.

"I'm sure I must be an anti-climax," he added. "My sermons are shorter than they used to be."

Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham, who is poised to take over his father's ministry, caused controversy shortly after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks by describing Islam as a "wicked and violent" religion.

The BBC's religious affairs correspondent Jane Little, in New York, says that while other preachers have got involved in politics, Billy Graham has tried to focus on spreading the gospel.

PBS accused of 'agenda'

CPB Leader Accuses PBS of Touting Agenda
By JENNIFER C. KERR, Associated Press Writer Fri Jun 24, 1:31 PM ET

WASHINGTON - It's home to Big Bird, Arthur, Bill Moyers and Jim Lehrer — and not normally a source of great controversy. But these days, PBS finds itself at the center of a political uproar over whether public television promotes a liberal agenda.

The man alleging the bias is Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, a Republican who heads the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB provides federal funding to public broadcasters including the Public Broadcasting Service, which receives about 15 percent of its operating budget, or $48.5 million, from the corporation.

PBS has denied the charges of a liberal slant. But following the criticism, it moved this month to hire an ombudsman to review its programs and announced a revision of its editorial practices. Among them: a requirement that commentary and opinion be labeled as such.

Democratic lawmakers worry that Tomlinson is angling to turn public TV into a spokesman for the GOP — contrary to the mission of the corporation, which Congress set up in 1967 to shield public broadcasting from political influence.

As CPB chairman, Tomlinson has failed miserably, says Sen. Byron Dorgan (news, bio, voting record), D-N.D., a longtime supporter of public broadcasting.

"What Mr. Tomlinson has been doing is very destructive to the interests of public broadcasting," Dorgan said. "The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be better off with a fresh start with somebody who is not spending their time claiming that the public broadcasting system is unfair."

Adding to the Democrats' unease: the new president of the corporation, Patricia S. Harrison. She was co-chair of the Republican National Committee from 1997 to 2001.

Harrison was named to the post Thursday, the same day that the House voted to rescind proposed cuts of $100 million to the corporation's budget for next year. Public broadcasting supporters had mounted a furious lobbying campaign against the cuts, bringing Clifford the Big Red Dog and other PBS characters to a rally on Capitol Hill.

PBS says the proposed cuts would have severely impacted "Sesame Street," "Clifford," "Between the Lions" and other popular children's shows.

"That federal funding really acts as a spark plug that causes all of this other money to be attracted," said John F. Wilson, senior vice president of programming at PBS. "Without that, it's sort of like taking the keystone out of an arch and expecting the arch to stay up."

Even with Thursday's action, PBS still might end up with less money than in its current budget. The legislation would eliminate $23 million for the Ready-to-Learn program, which subsidizes children's educational programming and distributes learning materials.

Public broadcasting advocates also say $82 million is set to be cut from satellite upgrades and a program to help public TV stations switch to digital technology.

Critics scoff at the notion that public broadcasting can't survive without the federal help.

"These stations are fat and happy. They're sitting on millions, if not billions of dollars, in property and equipment and very large salaries. These people are not going anywhere," said Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group.

Graham says broadcasters could easily make up the money with alternative sources of revenue. For example, he said, the producers of PBS' children's programs could give to public broadcasting a share of the robust profits they reap from merchandise — the toys, the videos, the books — associated with the shows.

Donations could also make up some of the difference, says Graham. He said donations increased the last time public broadcasters found themselves in a big brawl with Congress over funding.

Back in 1995, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for an end to federal money for the corporation, but the effort eventually fizzled in the face of strong public support for PBS and the more than 1,000 public television and radio stations that CPB funds.

More than a dozen senators sent a letter to President Bush this week and urged him to fire CPB's Tomlinson because he "seriously undermines the credibility" of public broadcasting.

Through his spokesman, Tomlinson declined repeated requests for an interview. In a statement, the chairman said he had no intention of stepping down. The White House also expressed support for him.

Tomlinson has specifically targeted Bill Moyers, complaining that his work is not balanced. After protests from Congress, the corporation's inspector general launched an investigation into Tomlinson's hiring of a consultant to keep track of the political leanings of the guests on "Now with Bill Moyers."

Moyers, who was White House press secretary during the Johnson administration, has since left "Now" and will host the program "Wide Angle" this summer.

Tomlinson served two years as director of the Voice of America in the Reagan administration and became chair of the CPB board in September 2003.


On the Net:

Public Broadcasting Service: http://www.pbs.org

Corporation for Public Broadcasting: http://www.cpb.org

The result of Iran's elections and what it may mean for the future

Hardline Mayor Wins Iran Presidential Race

By KATHY GANNON, Associated Press Writer 3 minutes ago

TEHRAN, Iran - The hardline Tehran mayor steamrolled over one of Iran's best-known statesman to win the presidency Saturday in a landslide election victory that cements conservative control over the nation's political leadership.

The outcome capped a stunning upset by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who many reformers fear will take Iran back to the restrictions imposed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The Interior Ministry gave Ahmadinejad 62.2 percent of the vote over his more moderate rival, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had nearly 35.3 percent. The ministry posted a notice in its headquarters declaring Ahmadinejad the winner of Friday's runoff. The rest of the ballots were deemed invalid.

The figures were based on more than 90 percent of the estimated 23 million votes cast, or nearly 49 percent of Iran's 47 million eligible voters. In last week's first round of the presidential election, the turnout was close to 63 percent.

The victory gives conservatives control of Iran's two highest elected offices — the presidency and parliament — and gives a freer hand to the non-elected theocracy, which holds the final word on all important policies.

Clerics led by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have true power in Iran, able to overrule elected officials. But reformers, who lost parliament in elections last year, had been hoping to retain some hand in government to preserve the greater social freedoms they've been able to win, such as looser dress codes, more mixing between the sexes and openings to the West.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore indicated the result would not change the U.S. view of Iran, and what it considered to be a fundamentally flawed election that refused to accept scores of candidates, particularly women.

"With the conclusion of the elections in Iran, we have seen nothing that sways us from our view that Iran is out of step with the rest of the region in the currents of freedom and liberty that have been so apparent in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon," Moore said.

Ahmadinejad supporters will go to mosques to hold prayers and "thank God for this great victory," said his campaign manager Ali Akbar Javanfekr. But he said no street celebrations are planned.

The streets of Tehran were quiet before dawn. State television announced the results in its dawn bulletin, but there were no immediate outdoor celebrations.

Ahmadinejad, the 49-year-old mayor of the capital, campaigned as a champion of the poor, a message that resonated with voters in a country where some estimates put unemployment as high as 30 percent. He struck the image of a simple working man against Rafsanjani, a wealthy member of the country's ruling elite.

"The real nuclear bomb that Iran has is its unemployed young people," said Ali Pourassad, after casting his vote for Ahmadinejad at a polling station set up in the courtyard of a mosque in the middle-class south of Tehran. "If nothing is done to create jobs for our young people, we will have an explosion on the streets."

But Ahmadinejad also vowed to return Iran to the principles of the Islamic Revolution more than a quarter-century ago. Such comments and reports about his inner circle of supporters — members of the Revolutionary Guard, the vigilantes who enforce public dress codes and some of the most hard-line clerics in Iran's theocracy — frightened Iran's reformers.

Ahmadinejad (pronounced "Aah-MA-dee-ni-JAHD") had not been expected even to make the runoff. But he squeaked ahead of his rivals into the No. 2 spot in last week's first-round vote. There were accusations that Revolutionary Guards and vigilantes intimidated voters to sway the vote in his favor.

Going into the first round, the 70-year-old Rafsanjani had been considered by far the favorite. But he was battered, placing first with only 21 percent in that round.

During Friday's voting, the reformist-led Interior Ministry reported "interference" at some Tehran polling stations. A ministry worker who was at a polling station reminding officials to watch for violations was arrested after he got in an argument with representatives of one of the two candidates, ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani said.

An Interior Ministry observers' group reported 300 complaints of violations in Tehran, said group leader Ibrahim Razini.

In the eyes of most, Rafsanjani — who was president from 1989-97 — represented the status quo. Backers felt confident he would continue the many social changes introduced by outgoing President

Mohammad Khatami, including youth-supported freedoms such as dating, music, and colorful headscarves for women.

Ahmadinejad's surprising strength alarmed moderates and business groups at home and was watched with concern by international officials. Ahmadinejad would likely be a tough negotiating partner in Iran's talks with Europe over its nuclear program, which the United States contends aims to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran says the program aims only for producing energy.

He has criticized Iran's current negotiators as making too many concessions to Europe — particularly in freezing the uranium enrichment program — and he was expected to put Iran's nuclear program into the hands of some avowed anti-Western clerics.

The pragmatic Rafsanjani has appeared more willing to negotiate on the nuclear program. But a Foreign Ministry spokesman Friday underlined that the suspension is temporary and that enrichment will eventually be restarted no matter who wins the election.

But for many Iranians, the biggest issue was an economy that has languished despite Iran's oil and gas riches. Iran's official unemployment rate is 16 percent, but unofficially it is closer to 30 percent — and the country has to create 800,000 jobs a year just to stand still. In the fall, another million young people are expected to enter the work force.

Ahmadinejad, the son of a blacksmith, presented himself as the humble alternative to Rafsanjani, whose family runs a large business empire. He has promised Iran's underclass higher wages, more development funds for rural areas, expanded health insurance and more social benefits for women.

"Every vote you cast is a bullet in the hearts" of the United States, said Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the Guardian Council and considered a leading supporter of Ahmadinejad.

"What they (Western countries) have is not democracy, but rule of trickery. It's parties and capitalists who get the vote of the people in their own favor to fill their pockets," he told worshippers at Friday prayers. [I hate to say it, but I think he's got a point there. How ironic.]


Associated Press correspondents Brian Murphy and Ali Akbar Dareini contributed to this report from Tehran.

Also, I am currently constructing a possible letter to my pastor regarding the dominionist threat. I plan to post it at some point and get your input.

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