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Cultural Commentary

Learning from James Gandolfini's death

A photo of James Gandolfini is displayed in the window of a restaurant in Little Italy, New York in tribute to the actor (Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer)James Gandolfini was known to the world as Tony Soprano, the mythical mob boss who won three Emmy Awards.  The announcement of his death made global headlines yesterday.  He was only 51 years old.

If such a successful, wealthy star cannot guarantee himself another day, who can?

Gandolfini joined the ranks of Whitney Houston, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Heath Ledger, all celebrities who were even younger when they died.  On the other hand, Betty White and Clint Eastwood are still stars at the ages of 91 and 83, respectfully.

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Will the courts allow Christian businesses?

A store hours sign, in a Michigan Hobby Lobby store window, showing that Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays (Credit: MLive)Will Hobby Lobby, despite the religious objections of its owners, be forced to provide abortion-inducing drugs to its employees?  If so, what will come next for Christian business owners?  If not, what are the consequences?

Hobby Lobby is one of America's largest retail companies, with revenues exceeding $2.28 billion.  Last Saturday, the company's president was honored with the "Courage in Business Leadership" award by the Faith and Freedom coalition.  Steve Green was recognized as a result of Hobby Lobby's battle with the Obama administration over the company's refusal to provide abortion-causing drugs in its healthcare plan.

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Chicago's shocking ads to reduce teen pregnancy

A shocking new ad from the Chicago Department of Public Health featuring a boy that appears pregnant, seen here at a bus stop (Credit: Chicago Department of Public Health/ABC)Imagine you've just boarded a bus or train in Chicago.  Amidst the jostling for seats, you glance up.  Plastered overhead is a picture of a pregnant teenage boy, with swollen belly and sullen face.  The tagline: "Unexpected?  Most teen pregnancies are.  Avoid unplanned pregnancies and STIs.  Use condoms.  Or wait."  The campaign is sponsored by the Chicago Department of Public Health.

American leads the industrialized world in teenage pregnancyOne out of three girls in our country becomes pregnant before the age of 20, 89 percent out of marriage.  Given the enormity of this challenge, public health officials are doing whatever they can to respond.

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Is new Iran president good news for Israel and U.S.?

A supporter of moderate cleric Hassan Rohani celebrates his victory in Iran’s presidential election along a street in Tehran June 16, 2013. Rohani won Iran’s presidential election on Saturday, the interior ministry said, scoring a surprising landslide victory over conservative hardliners without the need for a second round run-off. (Credit: Yalda Moayeri)Dr. Hasan Rowhani is fluent in Arabic, English, French, German, Russian, as well as his native Persian.  He has a master's and doctoral degree from the University of Glasgow.  He once helped negotiate a suspension of Iran's nuclear enrichment program.  He also supported public demonstrations that were staged after the rigged 2009 presidential election.

Now he is the president of Iran, the nation with perhaps the greatest ability to impact Israel and the West.  Time calls his victory a "surprise landslide."

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What Supreme Court ruling on genes means to you

From left to right, the structures of A-, B- and Z-DNA (Credit: Richard Wheeler via en.wikipedia.org)Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that naturally-occurring DNA may not be patented.  The methods by which genes are isolated may be patented, as may applications of knowledge gained from genetic research.  But the Court found that genetic materials themselves are "products of nature" that may not be patented.  However, synthetically created "strands of nucleotides known as composite DNA (cDNA)" are "patent eligible," since they do not occur naturally.

Why does this ruling matter to you today?

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