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Westboro plans to picket Mandela funeral

Westboro Baptist Church tweet announcing their plans to picket Nelson Mandela's funeral service (Credit: Westboro Baptist Church)A memorial service for Nelson Mandela will be held today in Johannesburg, South Africa.  The city's 94,000-seat soccer stadium will be filled.  President Barack Obama and his wife are among the 53 heads of state expected to attend.  Celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and Bono will be there as well.  Today's event is a fitting tribute to a man one diplomat called "the hero of the planet."

However, not everyone is coming to eulogize the South African leader.  Westboro Baptist Church has announced plans to picket today's service.  It also released a YouTube video in which Timothy Phelps, the youngest son of founder Fred Phelps, delivers the church's indictment against Mandela: he is in hell today for divorcing his wife and for fighting against AIDS, a disease Westboro Baptist considers "the divine recompense of God."  The video concludes: "Thank God for killing Nelson Mandela and dropping him into an eternity of torment for his blasphemous and unrepentant sins against his Creator.  Amen."

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President Obama is not allowed to have an iPhone

President Barack Obama checks his BlackBerry as he walks along the Colonnade to the Oval Office, March 18, 2010 (Credit: White House/Pete Souza)President Barack Obama is permitted to use only a BlackBerry, even though iPhones and Android devices are far more popular.  The reason: encryption is stronger on the BlackBerry than on other cellphones.

Perhaps we should share his concern: according to The Washington Post, the National Security Agency gathers nearly five billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.  Analysts use the data to find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose relationships among people using them.  They are looking for unknown associates of known intelligence targets, but critics warn that these techniques violate our personal privacy.

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'Tips for Jesus' sweeping the country

A server at Crudo's in Phoenix, AZ holds up a receipt showing an outrageously generous tip from a patron supporting the Tips for Jesus movement (Credit: @TipsforJesus via Instagram) My first job was at a Dairy Queen, where I earned $1.62 an hour.  "Dip cones" were my vocational specialty; chopping onions was less fulfilling.

I wish "Tips for Jesus" had been operating in those days, and not only for the money I might have received.  You know a ministry is making an impact when Huffington Post headlines, "'Tips for Jesus' Shows Outrageous Christian Generosity."  During my Dairy Queen days, my non-Christian friends would have been more impressed by this initiative than anything I could say to them.

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Son born to rich parents sues hospital after impoverished life

A Japanese baby crawling in a studio, surrounded by toys, looking up with a surprised look on his face (Credit: chihirock via Fotolia)A truck carrying "extremely dangerous" radioactive material was stolen yesterday in Mexico.  Meanwhile, the pope called believers to pray for 12 nuns in Syria taken from their convent.  But there's even more to fear out there, as the following news items show.

A man born to wealthy parents in Japan was accidentally switched by a worker in the hospital nursery and has spent decades living in poverty.  He proves that a rich family is no guarantee of financial security.  Celebrity is no guarantee of safety, as Paul Walker's tragic death last Saturday proves.  A Harvard degree may not guarantee status, as the school is being accused of "grade inflation" after its dean admitted that the most frequently awarded grade in its undergraduate college is an "A."

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Will Hobby Lobby destroy ObamaCare?

Hobby Lobby store front at night in Stow, Ohio (Credit: user DangApricot via Lobby continues to make headlines that have nothing to do with the Christmas shopping season.  Its founders are contesting the Affordable Care Act's requirement that they cover abortion-causing drugs in their employees' insurance.  The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, with a ruling expected next June. The Denison Forum is interested in the outcome of this case because it could impact all ministries, including our own.

Supporters of the ACA say Hobby Lobby's case could destroy the legislation.  If an employer can decide which procedures to cover and which to exclude based on personal religious beliefs, the whole concept of requiring minimum medical coverage falls apart.  Hobby Lobby supporters counter that all citizens, not just churches, have a First Amendment right to freedom of religion.  If corporations such as Starbucks and Google can advance gay rights, companies like Hobby Lobby can act according to their religious convictions.

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