Franklin Graham: Putin right on gay 'propaganda' law

Written by Peter Smith on .

Decision 2014 03 CoverA month after defending Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson's comments against homosexuality, evangelist Franklin Graham is now affirming Russian President Vladimir Putin's signing of legislation in 2013 that effectively bans the "propaganda" of homosexuality to minors.

Rev. Graham, who is scheduled to preach a three-day revival in Pittsburgh in August, commented on Russia's legislation in a cover story in the most recent issue of Decision, the magazine of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Franklin Graham heads the organization, which was founded by his evangelist father.

The article cites recent controversies over Russia's hosting of the Winter Olympics but likely went to press before Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region. 

Rev. Franklin Graham wrote:

"To be clear, I am not endorsing President Putin. To survive in the KGB and rise to power in Russia, you have to be tough. His enemies say he is ruthless. To some, he is a modern version of a czar. His personal life has its own controversies.

"Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue—protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda—Russia’s standard is higher than our own?"

Rev. Graham contends that during the Cold War, "America held the high moral ground" in the Cold War standoff with "godless communism."

But "times have changed!" Rev. Graham said, citing protests by President Obama and others to the legislation.

Rev. Graham wrote: "In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues. Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda."

Critics of Russia's legislation say that, under the guise of protecting children, it muzzles free speech and advocacy for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people: “With the stroke of a pen, the authorities have endorsed debilitating restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, in the name of so-called ‘traditional values’,” said a Human Rights Watch statement.


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Jewish groups apart on Holocaust education bill

Written by Peter Smith on .

The change in a key word -- from "may" to "shall" -- has led to differences between Pennsylvania's Jewish communities over a Holocaust education bill pending in the state Senate.

The House version, passed last year, would allow school districts to teach on the Holocaust, genocide and human rights violations and require state Department of Education to establish curriculum guidelines within a year and make continuing-education programs available for schoolteachers who would teach the subject.

But an amended version, which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee without opposition in December, would mandate all the state's 500-plus districts to teach the subject. 

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is supporting the mandate.



"Teaching about the Holocaust and other genocides is already 'voluntary' and has landed us in the current sorry state of affairs: one where students are graduating without the faintest understanding of these subjects," Philadelphia federation president-elect Bud Newman told the Jewish Exponent.

But with the House wary of imposing curriculum mandates, particularly unfunded ones, others are calling the original version a worthy compromise.

 "All the Jewish federations we have talked to would love to have the mandate to require all kids to be taught about the Holocaust," said Hank Butler, executive director of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition. "However, after five years of negotiations (on such legislation), we need to move the bill forward."

Gregg Roman, community relations director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, agreed. "Our solution is fully funded, and the onus is on the state to pay for this training" of teachers who would teach the subject, he said.





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Yinzerpedia: Swimming holes, recycling schedule and Pittsburg

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

Pittsburghers are a curious bunch.

Each week on message boards, forums and social media platforms, dozens of questions are asked on everything from where you work to your Burgh confessions to the best box gutter repair.

The insightful answers — those that aren’t complete snark — act as a helpful guide to 21st-century Pittsburgh, and we want to feature some of each week’s more helpful and interesting exchanges. Please do join the ongoing discussion in our comments below.

And yes, we’re affectionately calling this feature “Yinzerpedia,” because it takes the principle of crowdsourcing site Wikipedia, but the "crowd" for our purposes is all of yinz.

Question: Does Carnegie flood easily? (March 12)

A relative suggested the questioner avoid living in Carnegie due to flooding dangers. But as the commenters point out, Carnegie is no more prone to flooding than any other city neighborhood when more than an inch of rain falls in a few hours.

In our archive, we found little evidence of Carnegie’s flood risk being higher than other areas. It was hit hard in September 2004, but then again so was most of the region.

Question: What do you think of Tom Wolf for governor? (March 10)

Tom Wolf Pam Panchak Post Gazette

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf speaks during an endorsement announcement in the courtyard of the County Courthouse. (Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette)

The Democrat is leading early polls among challengers to Tom Corbett, and he’s apparently getting attention of some voters.

Adding considerable funds from his own bank account is likely helping on that front, as Post-Gazette politics editor James O’Toole wrote earlier this year:

He sought to give his campaign an instant jolt of credibility with the news that he would spend $10 million of his own money on the effort. That's real money in a primary in which some better known rivals have discussed primary budgets in the ballpark of $5 million.

Question: Are there swimming holes near Pittsburgh? (March 10)

rock furnace trail flickr eLeSeA

Rock Furnace Trail near Ford City. (Flickr/eLeSeA)

After this grueling winter, the thought of it being warm enough in the Pittsburgh region to enjoy a swimming hole is inspiring. And that is perhaps why the topic came up on Reddit this week. 

A few contributed helpful suggestions, and one person linked to, which appears to be a great resource.

We plotted suggestions from the thread and that site on the map below. Hang onto it for a summer day when the weather is nice.


Question: Is it recycling week in Pittsburgh? (March 8)

If this guide isn't the easiest to decipher, the following is a rather simple alternative:

A similar resource was among those produced at Steel City Codefest last month, though it’s evidently not yet fully developed.

Question: When did Pittsburgh get an “H”? (March 10)

The Pittsburgh Press 1918

The answer is a little gray.

Pittsburgh was spelled Pittsburgh when incorporated in 1794. But as Rich Gigler wrote on the 1991 centennial of the name change, “Pittsburgh got the ‘h’ officially kicked out of it 100 years ago today.”

From 1891, when a federal report ordered all burghs to become burgs, until 1911, we were Pittsburg. The question arose on our Facebook page because the 1918 story about Daylight Saving Time still ran in a paper called The Pittsburg Press.

This might come as a surprise, but newspapers can be stubborn.

Question: Is the Sportsworks section of the Science Center open to adults? (March 11)


(Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette photo)

Indeed it is.

But as one Redditor correctly notes, not for the 21+ nights:

“Aside from rock climbing there's a ton of stuff there that would be a bad idea to pair with drunk people: running, hockey sticks, baseballs…”

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Francis: Different priorities, not doctrinal change

Written by Peter Smith on .

From what I can tell from interviewing numerous people over Pope Francis' first anniversary in office, he still has a broad swath of admirers, and they tend to come in two categories: Those hoping he'll change some of the church's approaches to sexuality and those emphasizing that he hasn't done such a thing amid his conciliatory words.

In fact, the latter group argues, Francis is calling everyone to repentance, not affirming such things as gay unions. Yet according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, a stunning number of Catholics expect change in their church on hot-button issues. By the year 2050, more than half of Catholics say, the church will allow married priests and artificial birth control. And 42 percent expect woman priests. All those numbers are up at least a little from before Francis' papacy. Also, more than a third of Catholics expect the church to recognize gay marriages. And in all those categories, even more American Catholics think the church should do those things than think it will.

But Francis' own words would indicate those with such expectations should brace themselves for disappointment. I've been reading through his apostolic exhortation, the "Joy of the Gospel," which is filled with ringing phrases about identifying with the poor and evangelizing through the power of "attraction" rather than obligation.

But there's also this:



"All revealed truths derive from the same divine source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel." Briefly put, it reflects how Francis may be putting some of these issues a little lower on the ladder of priorities rather than changing them.

Still, the shift in tone is notable. If anyone's going to get the fire-and-brimstone treatment from Francis, it's not going to be those who don't conform to the church's sexual and marital standards. Francis marshals the words of the ancient St. John Chrysostom to denounce the financial greed of modern globalization: "Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs."





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Google executive visits Pittsburgh, discusses Internet freedom, power and digital literacy

Written by Mila Sanina on .

It may be hard for you to imagine the world without Internet, but did you realize that 4.5 billion of people still do not have online access? It's hard to imagine the Internet without Google. But did you know that there are more than 30 countries where Google services have been blocked?

And it's a rare occasion to witness a Google executive speak about internet freedom in a theater nearly 100 years old. But that's exactly what happened on Tuesday evening in Pittsburgh: Google's Global Head of Free Expression and International Relations Ross LaJeunesse spoke at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, which opened in 1914, in East Liberty as part of the event organized by the World Affairs Council.
photo 2 4
His talk was titled "Freedom and Power in the Digital Age," he spoke on information security, freedom of information online and the rise of splinternets that emerge when governments worldwide are trying to control access to information on the web.
Mr. LaJeunesse began his speech with an anecdote about his niece who was born in the world where internet is a given and where she wants to swipe her television screen because that's how it works with the devices she is familiar with, she does not know look at the world as pre-internet or post-internet. It's just internet.  
The Google executive made a strong case in favor of free Internet, arguing that it's what people want even if their government doesn't and it's in line with Google's mission, which is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
"We live in the world where information is the most valuable commodity." And authorities worldwide are realizing how powerful this freedom can be, LaJeunesse said. He cited just a few cases of how a blog post, a YouTube video, a picture changed the world in a past few years: Bassem Youssef, a satirist known as "Egypt's Jon Stewart," started his comedy on YouTube, Martha Payne, who posted photos of her school lunch on her blog, inspired movements like hers worldwide. 
Everyone has a stake in free Internet, Mr. LaJeunesse argued. "If a company says it's not an Internet company?  I'd sell the stock."
Of course, these days when Snowden revelations bring more surprises every day about how connectedness makes us vulnerable, there are plenty of concerns about privacy and data protection online. LaJeunesse did not dispute that, but said that Google treats these things seriously. "It cannot afford doing otherwise, we realize that competition is just one click away."
But there is also need for digital literacy, parents need to make sure their kids understand what appropriate and not appropriate to post online, how to encrypt your data and protect yourself, LaJeunesse said. 
"We have to teach our kids how to be better citizens."
LaJeunesse confessed that he is not on Twitter and chooses to read his Sunday edition of the New York Times in print. He said that the beauty of technology is that people have choices. You can opt out or opt in depending on your comfort level. 


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