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Dispatches In Brief

Bootleg cigarettes?

Online cigarette sales are booming, and Philip Morris is smoking mad. The tobacco giant last week filed lawsuits against more than a dozen websites that sell smokes in cyberspace.

Forrester Research predicted last year that online cigarette sales will top $1 billion this year, as buyers seek to avoid rising state taxes. The Marlboro maker alleges that websites resell cigarettes sold in overseas markets and use the Marlboro brand without permission. The company demands profits from the sales and wants the owners to post court-approved admissions of guilt. It sees tax authorities as natural allies.

"We are aware of 600 sites out there selling cigarettes," Philip Morris spokesman Brendan McCormick said. "But there's a limit to what we can do on our own, which is why we're working with law-enforcement officials."

Low visibility

Police in Pakistan last month hurriedly removed signs identifying churches set up in private homes, and fortified church and school buildings and other Christian sites with sandbags. Authorities posted police outside many church buildings and, according to some church leaders' accounts, advised pastors and others to buy guns for self-defense.

Officials enacted the measures in major cities after police found marked diagrams of two churches and a Christian school, along with weapons and explosives, during the arrest in Karachi of two suspected members of an Islamic extremist group behind several deadly attacks. Just days earlier, a leader of another violent group arrested in Lahore told investigators his al-Qaeda-trained group had targeted six churches in Punjab province for attack.

The officials said police removed signs from in front of house churches as a security precaution. Some church members suspected a darker motive: to make it more difficult for outsiders to connect with the Christian faith. But most church leaders say the threats are real. Violent incidents, including attacks on two churches and a Christian school, have left 30 people dead and about 100 injured since President Pervez Musharraf began cooperating with the U.S. anti-terror campaign. U.S. FBI agents are in Pakistan, assisting police in tracking down terrorists.

Christians are a small minority; an estimated 97 percent of Pakistan's population is Muslim. | Edward E. Plowman

Carey's coda

The worldwide Anglican Communion is in danger of falling apart. So warned outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey in his farewell address as president of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in Hong Kong last month. It was Archbishop Carey's toughest talk in his 11 years as titular head of the world's estimated 70 million Anglicans.

He said the Communion "is being steadily undermined by dioceses and individual bishops taking unilateral action" in matters of sexuality and other "sensitive matters that threaten our common life." He was referring to liturgical blessings of same-sex unions, ordination of noncelibate homosexuals, and hassling of traditionalists and other conservatives by some bishops.

The usually diplomatic evangelical named names. He said Canadian bishop Michael Ingham-an ACC representative-and his New Westminster diocese in the Vancouver area had gone down that path, along with certain other bishops and dioceses in North America.

Archbishop Carey said he would submit a resolution to the ACC. It would call on dioceses not to take unilateral action or adopt policies that would strain "our communion with one another," but to confer with superiors and leaders of other dioceses and to weigh "the impact of their decisions within the wider Communion." ACC members gave him a long standing ovation.

Steamed, Bishop Ingham accused Archbishop Carey of abusing his office, using unethical tactics, and encouraging discrimination against homosexuals in the church. Such discrimination is the result of placing unity of doctrine and belief above human rights, he said.

As ACC adjournment approached, members voted unanimously, with one abstention, to approve Archbishop Carey's resolution. Even Bishop Ingham voted for it, although he complained that it didn't appear to recognize "autonomy of the local church" or diocese "to determine priorities for mission in the local context."

Archbishop Carey shot back. Autonomy, he said, means separate churches. "This council has been about interdependence." Further, he chided, the bishop had not consulted widely about his issue: not with the primates' meeting, the ACC, or the Archbishop of Canterbury. Such consultation is "one of the central planks of Anglican unity," he insisted.

Few conservatives expect liberal bishops to pay him much heed. | Edward E. Plowman

A fighting Illini

This new Miss America is different. Some of her predecessors, like her, have been outspoken Christians. But eloquent and energetic Erika Harold, 22, who as Miss Illinois was crowned Miss America 2003 last month, also is a proactive pro-life, pro-abstinence, politically astute conservative. She is headed for Harvard Law School next fall, and her goal is eventually to run for public office.

Miss Harold, a 2001 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Illinois who was homeschooled through fourth grade, is known for her campaigns promoting teen sexual abstinence. She spent a year working with Illinois-based Project Reality to champion abstinence education programs among educators, legislators, and thousands of students. She vigorously challenged as a failure the "safe-sex" views floated by the educational establishment.

Using abstinence as her main platform issue, she won the Miss Illinois 2002 competition. She happily added the state's stand against teen violence to her platform; this was the issue highlighted in her win at the Miss America pageant. Along the way, she took time out this year to work as liaison to collegians for Illinois state senator Patrick O'Malley, a staunchly pro-life Republican, in his failed bid to win the gubernatorial primary.

Miss Harold, her three siblings, and her parents are members of 700-attendee Urbana Assembly of God, where her parents are lay leaders. Pastor Gary Grogan describes her as an exemplary Christian who "perseveres" in the face of adversity and disappointment. | Edward E. Plowman

Schulz shunned

It's final: Rev. Wallace Schulz won't be returning to the microphone as speaker on the popular weekly Lutheran Hour radio broadcast. The radio ministry is affiliated with the discord-ridden Lutheran ChurchÐMissouri Synod (LCMS), which Rev. Schulz serves as second vice president. His dismissal last month ratcheted up the tension over theological and polity issues in the largely conservative LCMS ("Here they stand," Sept. 7).

He "would not agree to stipulations deemed necessary for his return to service," said Rodger Hebermehl, executive director of Lutheran Hour Ministries. He declined to describe the nature of the stipulations or discuss Rev. Schulz's severance package. It is generally believed the stipulations would have isolated Rev. Schulz from some of his duties and prerogatives as an elected officer of the LCMS. Reached by WORLD, Rev. Schulz politely declined comment.

Rev. Schulz rejected a Lutheran Hour request last February to recuse himself from voting on discipline charges against LCMS district president David Benke for his participation in a multi-religion memorial service at Yankee Stadium following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. When Rev. Schulz suspended Rev. Benke last June, he "polarized" and "negatively affected" the Lutheran Hour ministry, Mr. Hebermehl claimed. In turn, the ministry suspended Rev. Schulz as broadcast speaker, but offered to reinstate him provided he agreed to the stipulations. | Edward E. Plowman

Don't touch that dial

It's the telecom equivalent of the "do not disturb" sign, and it may soon go national. Regulators from the Federal Communications Commission are considering a national version of the do-not-call lists that restrict telemarketing calls. The concept is already underway and popular in many states.

Once the registry starts, Americans could call a toll-free number to sign up, adding their phone numbers to a list. Telemarketers would be required to respect the members' request to be left alone. The Direct Marketing Association opposes the measure, saying it is a bureaucratic response to a problem that industry self-policing could solve.

Federal regulations already force telemarketers to stop ringing up people who ask to be put on a do-not-call list, but each consumer must ask each telemarketer, who in turn keeps his own list. The FCC now plans to review its decade-old telemarketing rules, and is holding a public-comment period on how to balance marketers' rights with consumer privacy. It is also considering how to work with the Federal Trade Commission, which is planning its own do-not-call list.

Tens of thousands of people have already signed up for various state-mandated lists. The trend started with a Missouri law and spread to 21 other states. In Oklahoma, repeat violators of the do-not-call list face up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Wilderness walk

More than 700 doctors, nurses, and patients-some of them seriously ill-fled into dense central African jungle and underbrush last month. They had escaped a massacre at a missionary medical center in Nyankunde, in the northeastern corner of the strife-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.

Remarkably, after walking about 115 miles in over a week, with little food or water, the group reached the town of Oicha, having lost no one on the journey, mission sources in London said. Missionaries and UN workers rushed to assist them.

Among the escapees: 75-year-old Canadian missionary Marianne Baisley. She had refused evacuation on a plane that took other expatriates out of Nyankunde on Sept. 13, after warring tribal fighters ransacked the medical facilities.

Survivors said more than 1,000 people died in eight days of inter-tribal conflict over valuable mineral deposits in the area. Reports indicated 2,000 people might still be alive amid the ruins, "with nothing left" and cholera spreading. Among those listed as dead was Salomon Isereve, lead chaplain at the Evangelical Medical Center, reportedly tortured and burned alive.

The London-based Church Mission Society, an evangelical Anglican group that has been in the region for more than 125 years, is among the mission groups that work in Nyankunde. Mission leaders said they would return. | Edward E. Plowman

Driven away?

People in the African nation of Rwanda have been converting to Islam in large numbers since the state-sponsored genocide of 1994, The Washington Post reported. In that bloodbath, extremists among the ethnic Hutu majority killed an estimated 800,000 minority Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

Although Rwanda remains the most Roman Catholic nation in Africa, researchers say, Muslims now make up 14 percent of the population of 8.2 million-twice the pre-1994 percentage.

Citing a loss of confidence in the church and its leaders, the Muslim converts typically point to the documented complicity of some Roman Catholic and Protestant clergy in the killings. In contrast, they say, Muslim leaders and families protected and hid those who were fleeing. | Edward E. Plowman

Shariah showdowns

After 30-year-old Amina Lawal gave birth out of wedlock in Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria, police arrested her, and an Islamic court sentenced her to death for fornication.

Under Shariah law, which prevails unconstitutionally in 12 northern states, once her infant daughter is weaned Ms. Lawal is to be buried to her neck and then stoned to death. A higher court rejected her appeal in August, and last month the governor of her home state refused to intervene.

President Olusegun Obasanjo's jittery regime said that although it considers Shariah criminal law unconstitutional, it will not intervene, either. Ms. Lawal's volunteer legal team plans a second appeal. The high-profile Miss World beauty pageant is scheduled to be held in Nigeria on Nov. 30, but some beauty queens are threatening to pull out if Ms. Lawal's sentence stands.

Meanwhile, an Islamic court sentenced a Nigerian couple to death by stoning for having an affair. It was the first time in Nigeria that a man was sentenced to death for adultery. Ahmadu Ibrahim and Fatima Usman, both 30, originally had been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to adultery. Mrs. Usman had become pregnant with Mr. Ibrahim's child. They appealed to a higher court, but their appeal backfired. This court, in the central town of New Gawu, ruled their sentence had been too lenient, because Shariah prescribes death for adultery. | Edward E. Plowman