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Associated Press
Kabul, Afghanistan – July 25, 2007 – Afghan police discovered the bullet-riddled body of a South Korean hostage Wednesday as the Taliban released eight other captives who were taken to a U.S. military base, officials said.
Because of a recent spike in kidnappings – including an attempt against a Danish citizen Wednesday – police announced foreigners were no longer allowed to leave the Afghan capital without their permission.
The male South Korean victim was found with 10 bullet holes in his head, chest and stomach in the Mushaki area of Qarabagh district in Ghazni province, the region where 23 South Koreans were kidnapped last week, said Abdul Rahman, a police officer.
A police official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation, said militants told him the hostage was sick and couldn’t walk and was therefore shot.
Two Western officials said some of the 23 hostages had been released. One of the officials, who asked not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to share the information, said six females and two males were taken to the main U.S. base in Ghazni.
An Afghan official involved in the negotiations earlier said a large sum of money would be paid to free eight of the hostages. The official spoke on condition he not be identified, citing the matter’s sensitivity. No other officials would confirm the account.
Foreign governments are suspected to have paid for the release of hostages in Afghanistan in the past, but have either kept it quiet or denied it outright. The Taliban at one point demanded that 23 jailed militants be freed in exchange for the Koreans.
The South Koreans, including 18 women, were kidnapped July 19 while riding a bus through Ghazni province on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, Afghanistan’s main thoroughfare. Fourteen Koreans apparently remain in Taliban hands.
South Korea has banned its citizens from traveling to Afghanistan in the wake of the kidnappings. Seoul also asked Kabul not to issue visas to South Koreans and to block their entry into the country.
The South Korean church that the abductees attend has said it will suspend at least some of its volunteer work in Afghanistan. It also stressed that the Koreans abducted were not involved in any Christian missionary work, saying they provided only medical and other volunteer aid to distressed people in the war-ravaged country.
Two Germans were also kidnapped last week. One was found dead and the other apparently remains captive. A Danish reporter of Afghan origin escaped a kidnap attempt in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Danish Foreign Ministry said.
The unidentified man “was close to being caught but managed to get away and reach a local police station,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ole Neustrup said. The Dane was first reported to be German but that report was false, Khan said.
The series of recent kidnappings prompted the Afghan government to forbid foreigners living in Kabul from leaving the city without police permission.
Police said officials stationed at checkpoints at the city’s main gates would stop foreigners from leaving the capital unless they informed officials 24 hours in advance of their travel plans, said Esmatullah Dauladzai, Kabul’s provincial police chief.
Elsewhere, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said a soldier was killed in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday by a rocket-propelled grenade. ISAF didn’t release the soldier’s nationality, but the majority of troops in the east are American.
Britain said one of its soldiers was killed and two others injured when an explosion struck their vehicle in southern Helmand province on Wednesday.
The U.S.-led coalition said 20 suspected Taliban militants were killed Wednesday after a failed ambush on coalition and Afghan troops in Kandahar province.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

RNS
By Gwen Filosa and John Pope
New Orleans — Closing one of the most sensational chapters in post-Katrina New Orleans, Dr. Anna Pou said she fell to her knees and thanked God when she learned Tuesday (July 24) that a grand jury had refused to charge her with murdering patients in Memorial Medical Center in the days after the hurricane struck.
Speaking in a voice choked with emotion, Pou did not smile or gloat over the end of an ordeal that began when she and two nurses were arrested a year ago.
“This is not a triumph, but a moment of remembrance for those who lost their lives during the storm and those who stayed at their posts to serve those in need,” she said.
Pou still faces four civil suits in connection with the deaths, but her colleagues cheered the end of the criminal case. So did the Louisiana State Medical Society and the American Medical Association, both of which issued statements saying Pou, who never was charged in the deaths, should not have been arrested.
Pou “courageously performed her duties as a physician under the most challenging and horrific conditions,” the state society said in a statement. “The decisions she made were in the best interests of the patients.”
Arrested with Pou, a head and neck surgeon who specializes in reconstructive surgery, were nurses Cheri Landry and Lori Budo. State Attorney General Charles Foti accused the three of murder in the deaths of nine patients in LifeCare Hospital, a section of the Uptown medical center reserved for frail patients.
Foti, who contended the three had administered lethal injections of painkillers and sedatives, turned over the case to Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan. The grand jury was sworn in in March, but Jordan said he did not start presenting the case until May.
Originally, the three women were accused of killing four patients, but that number grew to nine. Thirty-four patients were reported to have died before the hospital was evacuated.
Landry and Budo were given immunity in return for their grand jury testimony.
“I think justice has been served with due process,” Jordan said Tuesday. “I think the grand jury did the right thing. The grand jury considered all the evidence — carefully considered. They concluded no crime had been committed.”
Since the storm, Pou has worked at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. Her boss, Dr. Daniel Nuss, who had recruited her, called the grand jury’s decision “a huge, huge leap forward.”
“Knowing the three people, I knew that the charges were egregious,” Nuss said.
Pou and the nurses were among the medical personnel on hand at Memorial Medical Center during and after Katrina. The eight-story, 317-bed facility became an island surrounded by 15 feet of floodwater. Although it was envisioned as a haven, the hospital lost electricity and became sweltering as the temperature inside hit 110 degrees.
The investigation elicited outrage from the New Orleans medical community, which organized a protest last week to mark the one-year anniversary of Pou’s arrest. More than 1,000 people showed up in support of Pou and the fragile health care system that is still recovering post-Katrina.
Memorial Medical Center has been closed since the storm, and it has a new name. The 81-year-old hospital, known for 67 years as Southern Baptist Hospital, was sold last year to the Ochsner medical empire and was renamed Ochsner Baptist Medical Center.
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

RNS
by Adelle M. Banks
Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the founder of the humanistic stream of
Judaism, died Saturday (July 21) in an automobile accident.
Wine, 79, was vacationing in Morocco at the time.
Described by the Humanist chaplain of Harvard University as “the
greatest American religious leader you never heard of,” Wine founded the
movement of Humanistic Judaism in 1963 and the Society for Humanistic
Judaism in 1969. The society has more than 30 congregations and
communities led by rabbis or lay leaders in the U.S. and Israel.
Wine gained national attention when Time magazine featured his
fledgling congregation in 1965. More traditional Jewish leaders thought
he was leading a 1960s craze but the movement went on to have an
international federation and an institute that trains Humanist rabbis.
“He had a creative, new vision for what role religion and humanism
could play in American life,” said Greg Epstein, the Harvard chaplain,
who was trained by Wine.
A Detroit native, Wine was the founding rabbi of the Birmingham
Temple in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills, Mich. Like the
movement Wine led, the congregation celebrates Jewish culture but does
not link it to a belief in God.
“He created the idea of a congregation of proud atheists and
agnostics,” Epstein said. “He did that without acknowledging the moral
authority of any god. He did that with a nervy assertion that only human
beings can determine what the moral basis for an ethical community ought
to be.”
Epstein said Wine was an atheist who did not dwell on that
description.
“His focus was on being positive and talking about what he did
believe in,” Epstein said.
Wine was the author of several books, including “Humanistic
Judaism,” “Judaism Beyond God,” and “Staying Sane in a Crazy World.”
“Rabbi Wine was a visionary who created a Jewish home for so many of
us who would have been lost to Judaism,” said Rabbi Miriam S. Jerris,
president of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis.

Copyright 2007 Religion News Service

RNS
by Michelle Rindels
The Vatican is appealing to U.S. officials to commute the
death sentence of a Georgia man convicted of killing a police officer in
1989.
Saying that a number of key witnesses have recanted their
testimonies, the Vatican embassy in Washington sent a letter to Georgia
Gov. Sonny Perdue, requesting clemency for Troy Anthony Davis, 38.
“In the name of Pope Benedict XVI, I am respectfully asking you to
commute Troy’s sentence to life in prison without parole,” wrote Vatican
diplomat Monsignor Martin Krebs.
Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Mark MacPhail, a
Savannah police officer.
His execution was originally scheduled for Tuesday (July 17), but is
on hold while the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles weighs the case.
The board must rule by Oct. 14.
The Vatican is joined by civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John
Lewis, D-Ga., in petitioning for clemency for Davis.
“As a man of faith, I am sure I know what God wants you to do. Do
justice. Commute the sentence of Troy Anthony Davis,” Lewis said at a
clemency hearing last week.
While he was present at the scene of the murder, Davis says that he
wasn’t responsible for the murder. Seven witnesses have recanted or
contradicted testimony implicating him, according to Davis’ lawyers.
The Board of Pardons and Paroles has received thousands of letters
on Davis’ behalf. A representative said they will treat the Vatican’s
request like the others.
“The board has to base its decision on facts,” spokesman Scheree
Lipscomb told The Associated Press.
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service