CULTURE DIGEST: Casino mogul funds Gingrich
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is staying in the race despite dismal support largely because of money he is receiving from a casino mogul.
The gifts concern Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who said "gambling money is terribly corrosive." He added, "Normally, when you give $10 million, you expect something in return."
Sheldon Adelson had his first big score as co-owner of the annual computer trade show COMDEX. When Adelson and his partners sold COMDEX in 1995, his profits exceeded $500 million.
By then Adelson was heavily invested in the gambling industry. He owned casinos in Las Vegas and Macao, a former Portuguese colony -- now part of China -- and gambling mecca for the Far East. His holdings expanded to gambling resorts in the Philippines, and he took his company public in 2004. Forbes estimated his net worth in 2011 at $23.3 billion, making him the 16th-richest man in the world.
Adelson has supported Gingrich's nonprofits for years, but in the past two months alone, he and his wife Miriam gave at least $10 million to super-PACs associated with Gingrich. Nearly $4 million went to buy advertising in South Carolina alone.
The Adelsons claim they simply like Gingrich's policies, especially his support of Israel. The Adelsons have been longtime supporters of pro-Israel causes. Since 2007, their family foundation has given $100 million to Birthright Israel, which funds trips to Israel for Jewish youth.
But it's also true, Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton said, that Gingrich has been a longtime friend of gambling. When Gingrich was speaker of the House, he "gutted" a House commission investigating the gambling industry by refusing to give it subpoena power, Throckmorton said. Gingrich also fought attempts by the IRS to tax as income the meals casinos provide their workers.
"Gambling destroys families," Throckmorton said. "So while none of this is illegal, it is ironic, to say the least, that Gingrich is courting evangelical and family values voters with money that comes directly from the gambling industry."
PREGNANCY CENTER SIGN LAW STILL WRONG -- The Austin, Texas, City Council repealed an ordinance that pregnancy help centers had challenged in court as a violation of their freedom of speech and religion, but it approved another one the pro-life organizations protested.
In 2010, the council approved a measure that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to display signs saying they do not provide abortions or contraceptives or make referrals for those services. The ordinance did not require abortion clinics to display signs indicating what services they do not provide.
The council repealed the law Jan. 26, citing federal court rulings against similar ordinances in other cities. It then voted 6-0 to require signs that no longer use the words "abortion" and "birth control" but indicate if the centers provide medical services at the direction of a licensed health care professional, according to The Austin American-Statesman.
Lawyers for the four pregnancy centers affected by the ordinance said they will amend their lawsuit and proceed with it. They also said they would ask a federal judge to block enforcement of the new law.
"Pregnancy centers, which offer real help and hope to women, shouldn't be punished by political allies of the abortion industry," said Matt Bowman, legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund. "The city should recognize that using a sleight-of-hand to force pro-life centers to post the message the city wants does not solve the First Amendment problems with the law."
Federal judges have blocked enforcement of laws similar to the original Austin ordinance in New York City; Baltimore, Md.; and Montgomery County, Md.
Many pro-life pregnancy centers offer such free services as pregnancy tests, ultrasound exams, prenatal care, child birth classes, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence education, post-abortion counseling and material assistance. Abortion clinics typically do not provide many of these services.
VA. SENATE APPROVES ULTRASOUND BILL -- The Virginia Senate has passed legislation requiring women to have ultrasounds before undergoing abortions.
The Senate's 21-18 vote Feb. 1 effectively guarantees the bill will be enacted. The Republican-controlled House of Delegates likely will approve the measure quickly, and Gov. Bob McDonnell has said he would sign it into law, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Pro-life advocates received a setback in a Senate committee the same day, when a 7-7 vote blocked progress of a ban on abortions after 20 weeks based on evidence unborn children feel pain by that point in the pregnancy.
Under the ultrasound proposal, a woman is not required to view the image of her unborn baby.
The narrow Senate majority on the ultrasound measure consisted of 19 Republicans and two Democrats. The parties are equally divided -- 20-20 -- in the Senate.
Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said her organization is "very pleased that the state Senate has recognized the need to update our existing informed-consent practice with the most advanced medical technology available, including an ultrasound," the Times-Dispatch reported.
The pain-capable abortion ban failed Feb. 2 in the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee when a Republican member abstained.
In the House, a committee approved a prohibition on state funding for a low-income woman whose unborn child is diagnosed to have "gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency," according to the Times-Dispatch.
TAIWAN CRACKDOWN ON SEX-SELECTION ABORTIONS WORKS -- Taiwan's crackdown on sex-selection abortions protected about 1,000 female unborn babies from death last year.
Government statistics showed 108 male babies were born for every 100 females in 2011, Taiwan health officials said Jan. 31, according to the Agence-France Presse (AFP) news service. In 2010, the male-female birth ratio was 109-100. The worldwide sex ratio typically is 104-106 males to 100 females.
"That's the same as 993 female [babies] saved last year," Lee Tsui-feng of Taiwan's Bureau of Health Promotion said of the decline in the ratio. "The strict measures have paid off."
The Asian country's health officials instituted stronger checks last year on sex-selection abortions, although the practice has never been legal. Sex-selection abortion has become common because of a historical desire in the culture for male children, according to AFP.
EUROPEAN COUNCIL FAVORS EUTHANASIA BAN -- Euthanasia and assisted suicide should be outlawed in every European country, the Council of Europe has decided.
Those acts "must always be prohibited," said the council, which seeks to harmonize human rights laws among 47 member countries, The Telegraph reported Jan. 28. Belgium, The Netherlands and Switzerland permit physician-assisted suicide.
The decision came in a 34-16 council vote on an amendment to a nonbinding resolution. The council's decision will serve as an important impediment to assisted dying promoters in Britain, The Telegraph said.
Compiled by Warren Cole Smith of World News Service and Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).