Religion Today Daily Headlines - February 4, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - February 4, 2013

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • HHS Announces Changes to Contraceptive Mandate, But Proposal Met With Skepticism
  • U.S. Senate Shoots Down Bid to Halt Sales of F-16s, Tanks to Egypt
  • Attack on U.S. Embassy in Turkey Leaves Two Dead
  • Friends Play Key Role in Determining When Teens Take First Drink


HHS Announces Changes to Contraceptive Mandate, But Proposal Met With Skepticism

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday proposed accommodations for religious groups concerning the controversial contraceptive mandate, but many religious and conservative organizations say the proposal does not go far enough, the Christian Post reports. Religious organizations have protested against the mandate ever since it was announced that they would have to offer employees insurance that provides access to birth control and abortifacient drugs. The current provision allows for a very narrow exemption for some religious groups, but Christian-owned companies like Hobby Lobby and schools like Wheaton College are not exempt and have filed lawsuits against the federal government. The new deal basically provides broader exclusions for religious organizations and tries to seek a middle ground between religious concerns and the goal of Obamacare to provide near-universal contraceptive coverage. But a number of conservative groups spoke out Friday against the new proposal, saying the accommodations did not directly address the concerns of those with a moral objection to the contraceptive mandate. "There must be no religious 'test' by the government as to who, and what type of entities, are entitled to a conscience," said Marjorie Dannenfelser of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List. "After over a year of litigation, our clients and many others like them were hoping for much, much more from the administration," said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

U.S. Senate Shoots Down Bid to Halt Sales of F-16s, Tanks to Egypt

The U.S. Senate on Thursday defeated an amendment that aimed to prevent the Obama administration from transferring F-16 fighter jets and Abrams tanks to Egypt, reports. A vote to block the measure proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) -- an amendment to the debt limit bill -- passed by a 79-19 vote. In a strongly worded floor statement, Paul questioned the wisdom of providing the advanced weaponry at a time when "many see Egypt descending into chaos." He based his argument on the Egyptian government's conduct, President Mohammed Morsi's radical Islamist views, and the possibility that the weapons could be used in a future conflict against Israel. "I think this is particularly unwise since Egypt is currently governed by a religious zealot, a religious zealot who said recently that Jews were 'bloodsuckers' and 'descendants of apes and pigs.' This doesn't sound like the kind of stable personality that we would be sending our most sophisticated weapons to." Egypt has received a total of 240 F-16s since a first order in 1980, the year after the Egypt-Israel peace agreement was signed. The 20 F-16s referred to by Paul were pledged in December 2009, when President Hosni Mubarak was still in power. Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract to build 16 F-16Cs and four F-16Ds, and the first four planes were delivered last week. In November 2011, General Dynamics Land Systems announced it had won a $395 million contract to produce 125 M1A1 Abrams tank kits for Egypt, with deliveries due to begin in July 2013.

Attack on U.S. Embassy in Turkey Leaves Two Dead

A blast outside the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, killed at least two people, the U.S. State Department confirmed Friday, CBN News reports. According to a police official, a suicide bomber set off an explosive at the embassy entrance. The bomb apparently went off inside the security checkpoint, and Turkish TV reported that two security guards died. "We can confirm a terrorist blast at a checkpoint on the perimeter of our embassy compound in Ankara, Turkey, at 1:13 p.m. local time, or 6:15 a.m. EST," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Kurdish rebels and Islamic terrorists are active in Turkey, as well as al Qaeda-linked militants. "We are working closely with the Turkish national police to make a full assessment of the damage and the casualties and to begin an investigation," Nuland said.

Friends Play Key Role in Determining When Teens Take First Drink

Best friends might play the biggest role in influencing when teens have their first sip of alcohol, according to new research reported this month in the journal Pediatrics, reports Jim Liebelt. In the study, having friends who drank and had access to alcohol was the most important factor in predicting when a kid started drinking -- trumping a teen's own troublemaking tendencies and family history of alcoholism. The reasearch team analyzed the age which kids had their first taste of booze against five variables: two separate measures of disruptive behavior, a family history of alcoholism, a measure of poor social skills and whether their best friends drank alcohol. "When you start drinking, even with kids who come from alcoholic families, they don't get their first drinks from their family," said Samuel Kuperman, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Iowa. "They get their first drinks from their friends. They have to be able to get it. If they have friends who have alcohol, then it's easier for them to have that first drink." Among teens who reported trying alcohol, nearly four in 10 said their best friends also drank.

Publication date: February 4, 2013