Clergy-led prayer ban at 9/11 event criticized

Posted Sept. 02, 2011, at 9:14 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 02, 2011, at 10:45 p.m.

NEW YORK — Christian conservatives are condemning Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to bar clergy-led prayer at the 10th anniversary commemoration of the terrorist attacks, calling the program an insult. Others wonder whether the mayor is trying to dodge the potentially thorny issue of including a Muslim representative.

The mayor’s office says the annual event focuses on relatives of Sept. 11 victims and has never included clergy invocations. Bloomberg has said it would be impossible to include everyone who would like to participate.

Evelyn Erskine, a Bloomberg spokeswoman, said the program was designed in coordination with 9/11 families and included readings that were “spiritual and personal in nature.” Six moments of silence were planned for personal reflection and prayer. Police and fire chaplains who work with the 9/11 families will attend.

Turkey expels Israeli ambassador over flotilla incident

JERUSALEM — Turkey said Friday it was expelling the Israeli ambassador and suspending military agreements with Israel, signaling a deepening rift between the former strategic allies in the aftermath of last year’s deadly Israeli raid on a Turkish ship leading an aid flotilla to Gaza.

The crisis with Turkey comes as Israel faces strained relations with Egypt over a deadly border incident last month, and it raises the prospect of Israel’s increasing isolation in the region at a time of tumultuous change.

Turkey announced its move ahead of the publication of a U.N. report that found that while Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip was legal, its commandos had used “excessive and unreasonable” force when they boarded the vessel, the Mavi Marmara, and killed nine Turks in clashes with activists.

Israel has rejected a Turkish demand for an apology and payment of compensation to families of the dead despite heavy pressure from Washington. Turkey had made the apology a condition for improving diplomatic ties and set the release of the U.N. report as a deadline.

CDC: 2 children sickened by novel swine flu strain

A new strain of swine flu has shown up in two children in Pennsylvania and Indiana who had direct or indirect contact with pigs. The virus includes a gene from the 2009 pandemic strain that might let it spread more easily than pig viruses normally do.

So far, there’s no sign that the virus has spread beyond the two children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday.

The new strain is a hybrid of viruses that have infected pigs over the last decade and a gene from the H1N1 strain that caused the pandemic two years ago. It is the first combination virus to turn up in people since the pandemic, said Michael Shaw, a lab chief at the CDC. It’s classified as an H3N2 virus.

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