May 22, 2009

1514 RNS News

The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors

Marijuana Reaches New Potency, Data Shows

BY ART TOALSTON                                                                                                         ©2009 Baptist Press    

capMarijuana continues to become more potent and to cause mental impairment and traffic fatalities, according to a report released by the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy May 14.
"[L]evels of THC -- the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana -- have reached the highest-ever levels since scientific analysis of the drug began in the late 1970s," an ONDCP news release stated, sparking another round of marijuana-related media reports.
The federal agency also noted:
"According to the NIDA [National Institute for Drug Abuse], heavy marijuana use impairs a person's ability to form memories, recall events, and shift attention from one thing to another. THC also disrupts coordination and balance by binding to receptors in the cerebellum and basal ganglia, parts of the brain which regulate balance, posture, coordination of movement, and reaction time. Through its effects on the brain and body, marijuana intoxication can cause accidents. Studies show that approximately 6 to 11 percent of fatal accident victims test positive for THC. In many of these cases, alcohol is detected as well.
"Other recent studies show marijuana use can be a risk factor for the onset of schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals, and may be associated with other mental disorders, including depression and anxiety," the Office of National Drug Control Policy stated.
Federal data on the potency of marijuana is gathered through the Potency Monitoring Project conducted by the University of Mississippi's pharmacy school.
"According to the latest data on marijuana samples analyzed to date, the average amount of THC in seized samples [numbering 1,500 from law enforcement raids and eradications] has reached a new high of 10.1 percent. This compares to an average of just under 4 percent reported in 1983 and represents more than a doubling in the potency of the drug since that time," the Office of National Drug Control Policy reported.

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Majority of Americans Call Themselves `Pro-life,' Poll Says

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                           ©2009 Religion News Service

For the first time since pollsters posed the question in 1995, a slim majority of Americans consider themselves "pro-life," a new Gallup poll shows.
Fifty-one percent of respondents describe themselves as "pro-life,'' while 42 percent said they are "pro-choice."
The findings were based on answers to Gallup's annual Values and
Beliefs survey, which was conducted in early May. Last year, 50 percent of respondents described themselves as "pro-choice" and 44 percent as "pro-life." The previous high-water mark for the "pro-life'' category was 46 percent, reached in 2001 and 2002.
Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, hailed the findings and said younger members of the anti-abortion movement contribute to the shift. "One cannot attend the pro-life rallies that I attend across the country and fail to notice the youth, the energy and the commitment of the men and women, boys and girls in attendance," he said.
Pollsters found comparable shifts in views about abortion's legal status. Almost the same percentage of Americans say the procedure should always be illegal (23 percent) as say it should always be legal (22 percent). In the previous four years, more Americans favored unrestricted abortion.
The abortion shift reflects a change among Republicans surveyed. The percentage of Republicans who called themselves "pro-life" rose from 60 to 70 percent in a year. There was basically no change in the views of Democrats.
The change in "pro-life" identification occurred across Christian affiliations, with a seven-point increase among Catholics and an eight-point increase among Protestants.
The survey is based on telephone interviews of 1,015 adults between May 7 and 10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

N.H. Governor OKs Gay Marriage, With Religious Exemptions

BY DANIEL BURKE                                                                                       ©2009 Religion News Service
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said on May 14 that he would sign legislation legalizing same-sex marriage as long as religious groups would be not be forced to "violate their deeply held religious principles."
State lawmakers said a bill with those protections could reach Lynch's desk within weeks, thus making New Hampshire the sixth state-- and the fourth in the past two months--to allow gay marriage.
Lynch, who had opposed gay marriage, said in a statement that "my personal views on the subject ... have been shaped by my own experience, tradition and upbringing. But as Governor of New Hampshire, I recognize that I have a responsibility to consider this issue through a broader lens."
New Hampshire's openly gay Episcopal bishop, V. Gene Robinson, testified before a state Senate committee in April in favor of gay marriage, telling lawmakers that "not doing the right thing will ... cost you, not just in the next election but also in your soul's self-respect."
Robinson and his longtime partner were joined in a civil union, which New Hampshire legalized in 2008, last June. Mike Barwell, a spokesman for Robinson, said under the gay marriage laws passed by New Hampshire's Senate and House of Representatives, civil unions would automatically convert to marriages next year.
Lynch proposed that religious organizations, associations and societies--as well as individuals and non-profits managed, directed or supervised by a religious group--not be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges to gay couples as a result of the gay marriage bill.
Lynch also said the proposed legislation should not require fraternal benefit societies--such as the Knights of Columbus, a
Catholic group--to change their admission standards. "It will make clear that they cannot be forced to act in ways that violate their deeply held religious principles," Lynch said of the proposed law. "If the legislature doesn't pass these provisions, I will veto it."

Pope Ends Holy Land Trip, Returns to Rome

BY MICHELE CHABIN                                                                                       
©2009 Religion News Service

Pope Benedict XVI concluded a Holy Land pilgrimage infused with hope but dogged by controversy on May 15 with a visit to the church where Christians believe Jesus was buried after his crucifixion.
Stopping at the venerable Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Benedict prayed that the dwindling Christian community in the Holy Land "will always draw strength from the empty tomb of the Savior."
The large stone church, which was built in the 4th century, is shared by several Christian denominations that sometimes clash over jurisdiction. In a show of respect, the heads of the different churches greeted the pope at the entrance of the church, whose locked doors were opened by the Muslim man who safeguards the church's keys.
"Sent out into the world ... we shall find the strength to redouble our efforts to perfect our communion, to make it complete, to bear united witness to the love of the Father who sends the Son so that the world may know his love for us," the pope said.
The vast majority of the city's indigenous Christians live in East Jerusalem, which was under Jordanian rule until 1967. Though ethnically Palestinian, they nonetheless enjoy all the social benefits afforded Israeli citizens, even though most have not accepted Israeli citizenship.
In a message directed at Israeli authorities, the pope asked that "the aspirations" of Jerusalem's Christians, "whatever their religion," be respected: "a life of religious freedom and peaceful coexistence" and "unimpeded access to education and employment."
At a farewell ceremony at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport, the pope said it had been "deeply moving" to meet Holocaust survivors at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. The encounter, he said, brought back memories of his visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp three years ago.
The German-born pope reiterated that the Holocaust "must never be forgotten or denied," but did not say, as many Israelis had hoped, that the wartime church could have done more to resist the Nazis and save Jewish lives. Mindful of the resentment his visit generated among some Israelis, who were angered by his endorsement of a Palestinian homeland and lack of an apology at Yad Vashem, the pope told Israeli President Shimon Peres that "I want to put on the record that I came to visit this country as a friend of the Israelis, just as I am a friend of the Palestinian people."