National Briefs

VeggieTales Makes a Comeback on Netflix

(WNS)–Thanks to the success of small-budget indies like God’s Not Dead, big-budget TV miniseries like The Bible, and the return of Old Testament movie epics like Noah and Exodus, much has been reported in the last couple of years about the growing power of the Christian purse in Hollywood. Yet the starkest example of the entertainment industry’s newfound interest in building bridges to churchgoers may be a property that’s been around for decades: VeggieTales. Now owned by DreamWorks, the faith-inspired anthropomorphic vegetables have gone through multiple incarnations since their debut in direct-to-consumer videos in 1993, including leaps to the big screen and broadcast television. Nov. 26 marked yet another milestone as the characters premiered in a 22-minute, Looney Tunes–style cartoon series on Netflix titled VeggieTales in the House.

Pro-life Website Reveals Abortion Coverage in Obamacare Plans

(WNS)–Pro-life advocates published a new website Nov. 20 that seeks to provide the transparency on abortion coverage that Obamacare insurance plans lack, the site’s authors say.  The website, Abortion in Obamacare, contains healthcare research conducted by the Family Research Council (FRC) and the Charlotte Lozier Institute. The organizations launched the site after a video surfaced of Jonathan Gruber, a key architect of Obamacare, calling the law’s lack of transparency a “huge political advantage.”  Arina Grossu, director of the FRC’s Center for Human Dignity, said, “By launching we are attempting to do what the Obama Administration has not been willing or able to do for the 2015 new enrollment.  That is, to inform Americans about abortion coverage in Obamacare plans and expose the great difficulty in obtaining this information.”

‘Tis the Season for the Public School Scrooge

(WNS)–The latest social media meme pokes fun at the annual debate over Christmas: A photo shows a roadside stand selling cut pine trees with a sign that reads, “Christmas trees, $5.00 per foot. Holiday trees, $10.00 per foot.” The trend of removing Christ’s birth from the reason we decorate our homes, buy gifts, attend concerts, and take two weeks off from school in December continues. But administrators’ logic for deleting Christmas from school life is becoming increasingly absurd.  In Montgomery County, Md., the public school board voted 7-1 last month to remove all religious references from school breaks and substitute secular names for the holidays—“winter break” for Christmas, “spring break” for Easter, and a generic “no school for students and teachers” for Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, The Washington Post reported.  The county’s official school calendar listed several Christian and Jewish holidays as the reason for school closure, but the new holiday titles will take effect beginning next school year. The change came because of ongoing complaints from the Muslim community that Muslim holidays are not included.
Abortion Rate at Lowest Level Since Roe v. Wade

(WNS)–The abortion rate in the United States has declined to its lowest point since abortion’s legalization in 1973, according to an annual report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   Forty-seven states reported 730,322 abortions in 2011 to the CDC (California, Maryland, and New Hampshire didn’t report their data). According to those reports, the abortion rate has fallen by 14 percent since 2002, to 13.9 abortions for every 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. The abortion ratio also declined significantly: In 1980, 359.2 babies were aborted for every 1,000 births. In 2011, the ratio declined to 219 for every 1,000 births.  The cause for the decline may come from multiple sources. CDC partly credits contraceptive availability because most abortions stem from unplanned pregnancies. “Because unintended pregnancies are rare among women who use the most effective methods of contraception, increasing access to and use of these methods can help further reduce the number of abortions performed in the United States,” the report states.
Transgender Student Wins $75K in Legal Fight Over School Bathroom

(WNS)–A Maine county court has ordered a public school district to pay $75,000 to the family and attorneys of Nicole Maines, a transgender student who was asked to stop using the girls’ restroom.  The financial award is the conclusion to a case that has spent several years in state courts. The parents of Nicole, a transgender “girl,” sued the Orono school district after it asked Nicole to use a unisex faculty bathroom—a segregation that amounted to discrimination, they said.  Nicole, who was born a boy and used to go by the name Wyatt, wore girls’ clothing as early as age 3. Nicole’s parents, who legally changed his name from Wyatt to Nicole during grade school, supported the behavior, and by third grade, teachers referred to the student as “she.”  The $75,000 award will be split between the Maines family, their attorneys, and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, a Boston legal advocacy group that assisted the family.
Matthew and Grace Huang Leave Qatar

(WNS)–Matthew and Grace Huang left Qatar Dec. 3, heading for Los Angeles and a reunion with their two sons.  A Qatari appeals court cleared the couple on Saturday of any wrongdoing in their adopted daughter’s death almost two years ago. But as they tried to leave the country, officials stopped them. Authorities had accused the Huangs nearly two years ago of starving their child.  The scene in a Qatari courtroom grew emotional as the Huangs sobbed and hugged friends and family members after a judge declared their innocence and said the prosecution had no case against them.  But despite the judge’s order freeing the couple, Qatari authorities blocked the Huangs from leaving the country on Sunday and confiscated their passports at the airport. U.S. officials, including Sec. of State John Kerry, urged Qatari officials to allow the couple to leave the country and reunite with their two young sons.  Matthew Huang had begged the U.S. government to secure their release.

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