February 15, 2007

World News

Study Finds Children Plagued by
Unwanted Exposure to Porn
BY ERIN ROACH                                                                                    ©2007 Baptist Press
capPeddlers of online pornography are stalking children with images of naked people and people having sex, according to a new study that found an increased number of children and teenagers being exposed to unsolicited pornography on the Internet.
The study, which appears in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, found that 42 percent of Internet users ages 10 to 17 said they had seen pornography online during the past year, with 66 percent of those saying they had not sought out the images.
Overall, 34 percent of minors responding to a telephone survey of 1,500 Internet users ages 10 to 17 said they had experienced unwanted exposure to online pornography.
The journal noted, “More research concerning the potential impact of Internet pornography on youth is warranted, given the high rate of exposure, the fact that much exposure is unwanted, and the fact that youth with certain vulnerabilities, such as depression, interpersonal victimization, and delinquent tendencies, have more exposure.”
Teens report that such images “pop up all the time” when they’re on the Internet, especially when they use file-sharing programs to download non-pornographic images, when they’re talking online with friends, when they visit chat rooms and when they play games online, the Associated Press said February 5.
It’s so common now, who hasn’t seen something like that?” Emily Duhovny, a 17-year-old told AP. She added that “more than anything, it’s just annoying.”
Sharon Hirsch, a University of Chicago psychiatrist, told AP that exposure to online pornography could lead children to earlier sexual activity. “They’re seeing things that they’re not really emotionally prepared to see yet, which can cause trauma to them,” she said.
Researchers said filtering and blocking software is effective to an extent, but peddlers are finding new ways to navigate around such prevention methods.
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Final Defendants Sentenced in Baptist
Foundation of
Arizona Fraud Case
BY ADELLE BANKS                                                                                ©2007 Religion News Service
The final defendants in the lengthy Baptist Foundation of Arizona fraud case have been sentenced, with some receiving harsher penalties than expected.
On February 2, Maricopa County Superior Judge Kenneth Fields sentenced five people linked to the foundation, The ArizonaRepublicreported.
Donald Dale Deardoff, the former foundation treasurer, was sentenced to four years in prison, despite a prosecutor's recommendation that he be sent to county jail for one year. He was also ordered to pay $159 million in restitution.
The hearing marked the last chapter in fraudulent activities involving investments of mostly elderly people. Investors believed their money would help Baptist causes, including the building of churches. But state investigators determined that foundation executives had created a Ponzi scheme, using new investors' money to pay off previous investors.
Many investors were able to recover some of their money after authorities took action. The Republic reported defense attorneys had argued that their clients expected leniency because they cooperated in the conviction of former foundation president William Crotts and former legal counselThomas Grabinski. But the judge made a different determination, declaring all their crimes felonies rather than misdemeanors.
"You were in a position of trust," he told Richard Lee Rolfes, a former secretary and financial consultant for foundation subsidiaries. "I can't justify a misdemeanor." Rolfes and three other defendants were sentenced to three years' supervised probation and ordered to pay restitution totaling $440,000.
Christian Leaders Commit to Tackling `Scandal' of Poverty
BY ADELLE BANKS                                                                            ©2007 Religion News Service
Christian leaders from the country's broadest-ever ecumenical group have issued a statement condemning the "scandal of widespread poverty" and calling for action by the public and private sectors to combat it.
"As leaders in Christian Churches Together, we believe that a renewed commitment to overcome poverty is central to the mission of the church and essential to our unity in Christ," they said in a Feb. 9 statement.
The statement was released at the conclusion of the formal launch of Christian Churches Together, which includes five "families" of Christian faith groups (Catholics, evangelicals and Pentecostals, Orthodox, mainline Protestants and racial/ethnic churches).
Some of the 36 founding members who gathered in Pasadena, Calif., for the Feb. 6-9 meeting noted the rarity of such a broad group of Christians working together. The poverty statement calls for working with other faith groups as well as individuals and families, and the public and private sector.
"We believe substantial success in reducing domestic poverty requires an overall framework that insists that overcoming poverty requires both more personal responsibility and broader societal responsibility, both better choices by individuals and better policies and investments by government, both renewing wholesome families and strengthening economic incentives," the statement reads.
The leaders cite four objectives to address domestic poverty: strengthening families and communities; reducing child poverty; combating racism and ensuring full-time work provides a "realistic escape from poverty and access to good health care"; and strengthening the educational system, particularly public schools.
The denominational executives pledged to continue addressing the issue at their 2008 annual gathering in Washington.
Survey Says Canadians Have Most Tolerant
Attitudes Toward Muslims
BY RON CALLIG                                                                                        ©2007 Religion News Service
Canadians have the most tolerant attitudes toward Muslims among citizens of 23 Western countries, according to a new international study that measured levels of Islamophobia in each nation.
More than 32,000 respondents from 19 European countries, plus Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, were asked the question: "Would you like to have a person from this group as your neighbour?"
Of the nearly 2,000 people surveyed in Canada, only 6.5 percent said they would not like to live beside a Muslim. Respondents in Greece (20.9 percent), Belgium (19.8), Norway (19.3) and Finland (18.9) were most likely to answer "No" to the question.
Results in the United States and Britain were 10.9 and 14.1 percent, respectively. The average percentage of negative responses in all Western countries was 14.5 percent.
The study, called "Love Thy Neighbor," was co-authored by economists Vani Borooah of the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and John Mangan of the University of Queensland in Australia. "There can be little doubt that, in the past decade or so in Western countries, there is an increasing awareness of, and a hardening of attitudes towards, people who are `different,'" the authors state.
Less than 5 percent of respondents from Canada said they wouldn't want to have a neighbor who is Jewish, an immigrant or someone of a different race. Gays were more likely than any other group to be shunned. Just over 17 percent of Canadians said they would not want a gay neighbor. The overall percentage for Western nations was 19.6 percent.
The poll stands in contrast to a survey conducted in Canada in January, which found that only 53 percent of respondents had favorable opinions of Arabs, the lowest total among all other ethnic groups listed.