Christians, here’s why we’re losing our religion

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Recent research indicates that the number of people who do not consider themselves a part of an organized religion is steadily on the rise.

Interestingly enough, though the number of those religiously unaffiliated is increasing, there is little to no trend in the number of those who express atheist or agnostic beliefs. People aren’t saying they don’t believe in God. They’re saying they don’t believe in religion. They are not rejecting Christ. They are rejecting the church.

This begs the question, “Why are we losing our religion?”

Some may be losing their religion, but I challenge the notion that faith in general is waning.

I believe, instead, the trend of people who don’t identify as part of an organized religion speaks to an increasing wariness of labels in our culture. Those labels carry baggage for many who might have been hurt by the Church or let down by religion.

You see, religion alone can only take a person so far. Religion can make us nice, but only Christ can make us new. Religion focuses on outward behavior. Relationship is an inward transformation. Religion focuses on what I do, while relationship centers on what Jesus did. Religion is about me. Relationship is about Jesus.

In order to become a new person, we need Christ. Only through an active ongoing relationship with Jesus can we become transformed and overcome the labels that bind us.

In fact, I’ve struggled with what people think of my label: pastor. For many, this label carries emotional baggage.

When I meet someone new, I get to talk to him or her like a regular person. We joke around, talk about our families, and then the inevitable happens. “What do you do for a living?” When I answer this question, I typically get one of two responses. I either get an onslaught of Christianese phrases — “Oh, praise the Lord! What a blessing, brother Craig!” or I get stonewalled, and the conversation dies as quickly as it started.

One time when this happened, the person I was talking with politely shared that he didn’t like religious people. I chimed in that I didn’t like religious people either. His mouth nearly dropped to the floor. I explained that religion is about rules, but being a Christian is about relationship.

Now I’m not saying is that religious organizations are useless. Obviously, I’m a part of one. I am the pastor of a church and truly believe what Bill Hybels asserts: “The local church is the hope of the world.” But in order to reach the current generation and generations to come, we must change the way we do things. That’s why we like to say, “To reach people no one is reaching, we have to do things no one is doing.”

As churches, we don’t have the liberty to change the message, but we must change the way the message is presented. We have to discover our “altar ego”—and become who God says we are instead of who others say we are.

Peeling off the labels that cling to our reputation brings great freedom for us as individuals and as the global body of believers known as the Church. Only when we push past those artificial constraints can we truly become who God created us to be.

For example, many people think churches are “all about money.” The think that churches just want people to give to them but that they rarely give back.

Besides investing in our communities and helping the poor, our church moved beyond the labels and status quo to embrace generosity in a way that some have called crazy. We’ve created and given away millions of YouVersion Bible Apps every month—more than 85 million to date. We give away our weekend teachings to hundreds of churches every week, for free. Rather than selling products our church creates, we give away as much as we can. More than 100,000 pastors and leaders downloaded more than three million resources last year.

Despite the lack of religious affiliation the research shows, the interest in these spiritual resources has never been greater. As a church, we don’t see these research trends as a threat, but as an opportunity for us to do more.

First magic mushroom depression trial hits stumbling block

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The world’s first clinical trial designed to explore using a hallucinogen from magic mushrooms to treat people with depression has stalled because of British and European rules on the use of illegal drugs in research.

David Nutt, president of the British Neuroscience Association and professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, said he had been granted an ethical green light and funding for the trial, but regulations were blocking it.

“We live in a world of insanity in terms of regulating drugs,” he told a neuroscience conference in London on Sunday.

He has previously conducted small experiments on healthy volunteers and found that psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms, has the potential to alleviate severe forms of depression in people who don’t respond to other treatments.

Following these promising early results he was awarded a 550,000 pounds ($844,000) grant from the UK’s Medical Research Council to conduct a full clinical trial in patients.

But psilocybin is illegal in Britain, and under the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances it is classified as a Schedule 1 drug – one that has a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical use.

This, Nutt explained, means scientists need a special license to use magic mushrooms for trials in Britain, and the manufacture of a synthetic form of psilocybin for use in patients is tightly controlled by European Union regulations.

Together, this has meant he has so far been unable to find a company able to make and supply the drug for his trial, he said.

“Finding companies who could manufacture the drug and who are prepared to go through the regulatory hoops to get the license, which can take up to a year and triple the price, is proving very difficult,” he said.

Nutt said regulatory authorities have a “primitive, old-fashioned attitude that Schedule 1 drugs could never have therapeutic potential”, despite the fact that his research and the work done by other teams suggests such drugs may help treat some patients with psychiatric disorders.

Psilocybin – or “magic” – mushrooms grow naturally around the world and have been widely used since ancient times for religious rites and also for recreation.

Researchers in the United States have seen positive results in trials using MDMA, a pure form of the party drug ecstasy, in treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

“What we are trying to do is to tap into the reservoir of under-researched illegal drugs to see if we can find new and beneficial uses for them in people whose lives are often severely affected by illnesses such as depression,” Nutt said.

The proposed trial would involve 60 patients with depression who have failed two previous treatments.

During two or three controlled sessions with a therapist, half would be given a synthetic form of psilocybin, and the other 30 a placebo. They would have guided talking therapy to explore negative thinking and issues troubling them, and doctors would follow them up for at least a year.

Nutt secured ethical approval for the trial in March.

In previous research, Nutt found that when healthy volunteers were injected with psilocybin, the drug switched off a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex, which is known to be overactive in people with depression.

“Even in normal people, the more that part of the brain was switched off under the influence of the drug, the better they felt two weeks later. So there was a relationship between that transient switching off of the brain circuit and their subsequent mood,”, he said. “This is the basis on which we want to run the trial.”

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Five die in Christian-Muslim clashes in Egypt

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Five Egyptians were killed and eight wounded in clashes between Christians and Muslims in a town near Cairo, security sources said on Saturday, in some of the worst sectarian violence in Egypt for months.

Christian-Muslim confrontations have increased in Muslim-majority Egypt since the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 gave freer rein to hardline Islamists repressed under his rule.

Four Christian Copts and one Muslim were killed when members of both communities started fighting and shooting at each other in El Khusus north of the Egyptian capital, the sources said. State news agency MENA put the death toll at four.

An angry crowd smashed shops belonging to Christians, residents said. A Reuters reporter saw a burned-out Coptic day care center and several damaged shops belonging to Christian traders. An apartment inhabited by Muslims was also burned.

Residents said the violence broke out on Friday when a group of Christian children were drawing on a wall of a Muslim religious institute.

A Reuters reporter saw what looked like a swastika drawn on the wall. Muslim residents said it had offended them because it looked like a cross.

“I saw the kids drawing on the wall after afternoon prayers so I grabbed them and told them to remove what they’d just written,” said Mahmoud Mahmoud al-Alfi, a Muslim resident.

Then another man arrived and started beating the children, drawing a large crowd, he said. The situation escalated when someone drew a gun and fired into the air, killing one boy with a stray bullet.

“Suddenly the area was full of weapons,” Alfi said, while weeping Muslim women sat nearby in front of a house, showing pictures of a man they said had been killed during the clashes.

The president’s office expressed condolences to the victims and vowed to fight any sectarian violence.

“The presidency … totally rejects any attempt against the unity and cohesiveness of Egyptian society and will decisively confront any attempt to spark sectarian strife among Egyptian people, Muslim and Christian,” according to a statement.

Muslim leaders were also quick to condemn the sectarian violence which comes as Egypt struggles with a severe economic crisis and high inflation after two years of political upheaval.

Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, of Egypt’s leading Islamic authority Al-Azhar, urged measures to prevent the situation from escalating and to “preserve the national character which characterises the Egyptian people, Muslims and Christians,” MENA said.

“The sectarian riots which happened in El Khusus are unacceptable and grave,” Saad al-Katatni, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood political party, said on his Facebook website. “There are some who want to set Egypt ablaze and create crises.”

President Mohamed Mursi, a Brotherhood leader elected in June, has promised to protect the rights of Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 84 million people.

TIGHT SECURITY

On Saturday the situation was calm but tense in the small town where Muslims and Christians live close to each other but in separate streets. Security was tight with police vehicles parked in the main streets.

Police detained 15 people, a security source said.

In a Christian neighborhood dozens of angry young men gathered at noon on Saturday, chanting “with our blood and soul we sacrifice ourselves for the cross”. The crowds left after a priest came and asked them to leave to calm tensions.

“There are people who want to cause sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians,” said a Christian man who gave his name as Kameel. “I’ve been here longer than 30 years and I have never seen any violence or extremism in our area.”

Sectarian tensions have often flared into violence, particularly in rural areas where rivalries between clans or families sometimes add to friction. Love affairs between Muslims and Christians have also sparked clashed in the past.

Since Mubarak was ousted by a popular uprising, Christians have complained of several attacks on churches by radical Islamists, incidents that have sharpened longstanding Christian complaints about being sidelined in the workplace and in law.

As an example, they point to rules that make it harder to obtain official permission to build a church than a mosque.

Last month, a court sentenced a Muslim to death for killing two people in a dispute with Christians in a southern town.

In October 2011, 25 people, most of them Coptic demonstrators, were killed in clashes with troops in Cairo.

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Evangelical Christianity, Catholicism Labeled ‘Extremist’ in Army Presentation

A U.S. Army Reserve Equal Opportunity training brief describes “Evangelical Christianity” and “Catholicism” as examples of “religious extremism,” according to the Archdiocese for the Military Services and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, who shared a copy of the documents with The Christian Post.

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“The number of hate groups, extremists and anti‐govt organizations in the U.S. has continued to grow over the past three years, according to reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They increased to 1,018 in 2011, up from 1,002 in 2010 and 602 in 2000,” reads the first page of the slide presentation labeled “Extremism & Extremist Organizations.”

Listed alongside “extremist” groups and organizations like the Klu Klux Klan and al-Qaida, the U.S. Army slideshow has “Evangelical Christianity” as the first bullet, followed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Ultra-Orthodox Judaism and farther down on the slide, Catholicism.

According to the training documents, “Extremism is a complex phenomenon” that is present in every religion due to “some followers that believe that their beliefs, customs and traditions are the only ‘right way’ and that all others are practicing their faith the ‘wrong way,’ seeing and believing that their faith/religion superior to all others.”

Alliance Defending Freedom provide slides from the Power Point presentation used by the U.S. Army Reserve in training soldiers on religious extremism.

(Photo: Alliance Defending Freedom via The Christian Post)
Alliance Defending Freedom provide slides from the Power Point presentation used by the U.S. Army Reserve in training soldiers on religious extremism.

“Men and women of faith who have served the Army faithfully for centuries shouldn’t be likened to those who have regularly threatened the peace and security of the United States,” retired Col. Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said in a statement that included a link to controversial Power Point presentation. Crews reportedly was alerted to the training material by a concerned soldier.

There are no dates on the slides to indicate when the training might have been presented to soldiers, but the Army Chief of Chaplains office has said that the training was an isolated incident and the slides were not sanctioned by the U.S. Army Department. A separate Army spokesman told the Navy Times that the materials were presented last year to soldiers and once discovered, were discarded.

“The archdiocese is astounded that Catholics were listed alongside groups that are, by their very mission and nature, violent and extremist,” the Archdiocese for the Military Services said in a statement, as reported by World Magazine. Roman Catholics make up 20 percent of active-duty members of the military, while other faith groups and denominations, such as Muslims, Buddhists and Southern Baptists, are less than 2 percent of the U.S. military.

“It is dishonorable for any U.S. military entity to allow this type of wrongheaded characterization. It also appears that some military entities are using definitions of ‘hate’ and ‘extreme’ from the lists of anti-Christian political organizations. That violates the apolitical stance appropriate for the military,” added Col. Crews.

One “anti-Christian political organization” in question is the Southern Poverty Law Center, cited as a source in the training documents. The SPLC has drawn criticism from conservatives over its designation of faith-based organizations as “hate groups,” such as the case with nonprofit, pro-family organization the Family Research Council. On its current list of 1,007 “known hate groups operating across the country,” the SPLC cites the Washington, D.C.-based group as “anti-gay” due to its biblical views on marriage and sexuality.

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As Predicted, James Holmes Was Taking Violence-Linked Antidepressant Drugs

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It likely comes as no surprise to those who have been following the disturbing trend of mass shooters over the years, but a new Los Angeles Times report has confirmed that Holmes had been taking the prescription psychotropic drugs Zoloft and Clonazepam (Klonopin) — one of which is the same drug that the Colombine Eric Harris was on.

For months now the alternative news media has been predicting that Holmes was most certainly on antidepressant drugs as we know 90% of school shootings have links to psych meds, but until now it has only been announced that certain prescription medication was seized (and listed as Vicodin by some sources). Ultimately, we received a large degree of flak and downright hate for predicting that Holmes was on these drugs like to aggression and suicide, but it’s simply following a very blatant pattern.

As the LA Times reports, the following prescription medication was found:

“…prescription medication for sertraline, a generic version of Zoloft used to treat depression, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder; and Clonazepam, usually prescribed to treat anxiety and panic attacks”

In my article from when the incident happened, I immediately wrote a piece about how Holmes was most definitely on hardcore pharmaceuticals based on previous trends. At the time, it was being reported that he was taking Vicodin, but there was no doubt in my mind that he was on at least one antidepressant-type drug. I’ve since updated the piece with a link to the confirmation, but you can see in many of the comments individuals were very doubtful that Holmes was on any type of drug.

As more information comes out on the case, it will likely reveal an increasingly deep history of prescription drug abuse on behalf of Holmes. Just as the Columbine incident continued to develop into a horrific story of drug abuse and an obsession with mind alteration, it appears this case will follow a similar trend.

Prescription drug abuse that is found with antidepressants, that even at normal levels have been linked to violence, suicide, and aggression.

Side effects for the baseline drug Prozac alone include:

  • Suicidal behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Violent actions and reckless behavior

And once again, these were side effects that up until 2005, when Harvard psychiatrist Martin Teicher blew the whistle on the cover up, were completely hidden from the public. As detailed in the USA Today article on the subject, Teicher explains how Prozac manufacturer Eli Lilly & Co. lied for 15 years denying the very real link between Prozac and suicide. In his own words, Teicher said that the public was being treated like ”guinea pigs” in a mass experiment.

And the Klonopin Holmes was on is even more dangerous, and as Paul Joseph Watson details, has been called the world’s “deadliest drug” by certain publications. It has been linked to substantial aggressive and violent behavior, and that’s just the beginning.

People and websites like Mike Adams of NaturalNews, Alex Jones & crew of Infowars, World Net Daily, Lew Rockwell, and myself have all done the research and held their ground on the issue even amid the ‘political correct’ assault over the issue in which people actually decided to attack us over publishing the trends. And now, these websites are enjoying record traffic and credit as they reveal their predictions were 100% accurate.

Meanwhile, Big Pharma continues to pump these drugs out and promote them for young children. Yet no one blames Big Pharma for providing a potential ‘tipping point’ for these deranged individuals.

China reports 2 more cases of new bird flu virus

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Shanghai has reported two more cases of human infection of a new strain of bird flu, raising the number of cases in eastern China to 18. Six of the people who contracted the virus have died.

Health officials believe people are contracting the H7N9 virus through direct contact with infected fowl and say there’s no evidence the virus is spreading easily between people.

Shanghai’s government said Saturday the latest victims are a 74-year-old peasant and a 66-year-old retiree. The city has been ordered by the agriculture ministry to halt its live poultry trade and slaughter all fowl in markets where the virus has been found.

The capital cities of the neighboring provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu also have suspended sales of live poultry. Both provinces have reported H7N9 cases.

China bird flu sends Europe, Asia stocks down

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China’s newest strain of avian flu, which has killed at least six people, has sent stock markets downhill. Local stocks were first to suffer, with shockwaves heading across Asia and into Europe. The news mainly hurt tourism and travel-related shares.

Shares in Chinese airlines declined to their lowest in nearly four years following the news of six deaths from the H7N9 bird flu virus.

The deaths are more than a third of the 14 confirmed human infection cases in China. Most of the affected were on the eastern coast near Shanghai. Mass slaughter of poultry has been ordered in the region and all live poultry markets are closed.

Earlier in the week Shanghai issued a level 3 flu alert, the second lowest stage of four.

The number of flu victims has been low, it’s believed, due to the fact the H7N9 virus cannot be transmitted from human to human. The WHO says no such cases have been registered so far.

Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines Co. which deploys around 78 per cent of its capacity on the domestic market, was down 10.6 per cent on Friday, the stock’s biggest one-day decline since April 27, 2009.

European airlines are also down over the flu fears. Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, IAG and Ryanair fell by between 3.3 and 4.7 per cent.

The sector is reacting to fears of a new pandemic of bird flu in China, which would hurt air traffic,” a Paris-based airline sector analyst told Reuters. “For now, investors are pricing in a bad scenario, although if you look back four years ago, Chinese authorities did a good job dealing with the pandemic back then, and the airline sector didn’t suffer much.”

In Hong Kong, the overall index closed at a four-month low, led by falls in airline shares over fears of reduced demand for air travel. Shares of Air China dropped 9.8 per cent, which was company’s worst single-day loss in nearly four years.

People are worried the new bird flu would develop into a disaster like SARS [‘Severe acute respiratory syndrome’, which killed thousands in 2003],” Davin Wu, a transportation analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG, told Bloomberg. “At least leisure travelers will be cutting back their trips to China.

Analysts say the situation will only improve as the Chinese flu danger is over.

Though geopolitical analyst and author William Engdahl told RT that it is way too early to start the alarm, as the symptoms of the H7N9 are rather common.

“I think it’s way too early. WHO lists the symptoms of H7N9 as pneumonia, severe cough, fever and shortness of breath. These are symptoms that can apply to a myriad of illnesses. 6 people have died in China in a population of 1.3 billion, but we haven’t conclusive proof of what exactly they died of. They may have had severe pneumonia and other respiratory complications and simply died of those. But because doctors identified this H7N9, they claim it’s the death owing to the bird flu” he said.

He supposes that the pharmaceutical industry might be flaring up the hysteria and influencing health organizations.

“It’s interesting WHO is again recommending ‘Tamiflu’, a company that Donald Rumsfeld has huge interest in. And it was involved when he was Secretary of Defense, buying loads of this Tamiflu to American soldiers. Look in detail what happened during the 2008 flu hysteria. WHO was corrupt to the top levels. The scientific advisory board of the WHO was influenced. Most of the members were receiving money from the big farm industry. The farm industry was sitting on the recommendation meetings to tell Margaret Chan of the WHO to declare a pandemic. They changed the definition of pandemic in April of that year to include only geographical spread of certain symptoms which were the common cold,” Engdahl told RT.

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Embassies remain in N. Korea after warnings to evacuate

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Foreign embassies seem to have no immediate intentions to withdraw their staff from Pyongyang, despite the North Korean government warning they could not guarantee safety and suggesting they evacuate.

Currently, about two dozen countries have embassies in North Korea. Most of the represented governments have already made it clear they had no immediate plans to withdraw personnel; some suggested the advisory was just a ruse to fuel growing global anxiety over the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

We believe they have taken this step as part of their country’s rhetoric that the US poses a threat to them,” a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

North Korea’s proposal of evacuations was sent to all foreign embassies on Friday. It has left an uneasy feeling in the air.

We are very worried by inciting of tensions, even though it’s verbal so far,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. “We would like to understand the reasons behind the proposal to evacuate the embassies, whether it’s a decision of the North Korean leadership or a proposal. We were told it’s a proposal.”

So far no embassy has announced moving its staff.

The security of the German embassy and its exposure to danger are continually being evaluated,” the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “For now, the embassy can continue working.”

‘No particular developments in Pyongyang or other cities’

South Korea’s presidential office said Saturday it had detected no noticeable developments in its review of the latest situation in the North.

It was determined at the meeting that for now, there are no particular signs of changes or developments in Pyongyang or in any other cities,” a South Korean official was quoted by Yonhap news agency.

Western tourists returning from Pyongyang confirm the situation on the ground is calm, with life going on as normal.

We didn’t feel frightened when we were there,” said Tina Krabbe, from Denmark, arriving in Beijing after five days in North Korea.

Athletes attend a torch-lighting ceremony for the 5th International Martial Arts Games on Chongchun Street in Pyongyang April 3, 2013. (AFP Photo / KCNA)

Athletes attend a torch-lighting ceremony for the 5th International Martial Arts Games on Chongchun Street in Pyongyang April 3, 2013. (AFP Photo / KCNA)

 

The embassy warning on Friday coincided with reports that North Korea had loaded two intermediate-range missiles on mobile launchers and hidden them in underground facilities near its east coast. North Korea has repeatedly issued threats it aims to hit South Korea and the US.

Geopolitical analyst at 21stCentury Wire.com, Patrick Henningsen, admits that “there is a very real danger for the embassies” in the DPRK, as well as danger for South Korea and other nearby countries.

But the big question is how this hyped up at the beginning, had it to do with nuclear threat from North Korea,” he noted to RT. “I can’t help but remember that in the run-up to the Iraq war everyone was asking whether Saddam Hussein would use chemical weapons or not, but no one actually asked the question if he really had them in the first place,” the expert observed.

In his view, “there is no nuclear threat or inter-ballistic missile threat to the US” from North Korea and the whole situation is “very much overhyped in a Cold War theatrical sense.”

At the same time, Henningsen observed, “the pivot towards Asia from United States is very real.” Since the beginning of the Korean crisis, the Philippines have already approved the use of more bases for the US. Besides that, “there was a deal to decommission some of the Okinawa sites in Japan,” and now, thanks to the conflict it “might be off the table.

The military-industrial complex needs reason to exist,” the analyst pointed out. “And I believe the North Korean threat – be it theatrical or real – gives us that reason, gives a pre-text for the expansion of the military economy from the US side,” he concluded.

Tensions in the region have flared up since February, when North Korea conducted its third nuclear test. The launch was condemned by the UN and much of the international community, prompting the UN to approve a new round of sanctions in early March.

Pyongyang reacted to sanctions by threatening to launch a nuclear strike on the US.

Last week, Pyongyang declared it had entered a state of war with its southern neighbor following an earlier decision to withdrawal from the 60-year armistice that ended the Korean War.

North Korea had previously threatened to pull out of the 1953 armistice if the South did not halt a joint annual military exercise with the US.

On Friday, South Korean media reported that its northern neighbor had positioned two medium-ranged Musudan missiles on mobile launchers along the country’s east coast.

South Korea responded by deploying two battleships capable of intercepting and destroying ballistic missiles.

The US for its part has bolstered its missile defense system in the region by deploying interceptor missiles and warships.

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China kills market birds as flu found in pigeons

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China announced a sixth death from a new bird flu strain Friday, while authorities in Shanghai halted the sale of live fowl and slaughtered all poultry at a market where the virus was detected in pigeons being sold for meat.

The mass bird killing is the first so far as the Chinese government responds to the H7N9 strain of bird flu, which has sickened 16 people, many critically, along the eastern seaboard in its first known infections of people. The first cases were announced Sunday, while two more were reported Friday, both retirees who were seriously ill.

Health officials believe people are contracting the virus through direct contact with infected fowl and say there has been no evidence so far that the virus is spreading easily between people. However, scientists are watching closely to see if the flu poses a substantial risk to public health or could potentially spark a global pandemic.

The Agriculture Ministry confirmed late Thursday that the H7N9 virus had been detected in live pigeons on sale at a produce market in Shanghai. The killing of birds at the Huhuai market in Shanghai started Thursday night after the city’s agricultural committee ordered it in a notice also posted on its website.

State media on Friday ran pictures of animal health officials in protective overalls and masks working through the night at the market, taking notes as they stood over piles of poultry carcasses in plastic bags. The area was guarded by police and cordoned off with plastic tape.

Experts urged Chinese health authorities to keep testing healthy birds, saying the H7N9 virus can infect birds without causing them to become ill, making it harder to detect than the H5N1 bird flu virus that is more familiar to Asian countries. H5N1 set off warnings when it began ravaging poultry across Asia in 2003 and has since killed 360 people worldwide, mostly after close contact with infected birds.

“In the past usually you would see chickens dying before any infections occurred in humans, but this time we’ve seen that many species of poultry actually have no apparent problems, so that makes it difficult because you lose this natural warning sign,” said David Hui, an infectious diseases expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The city of Shanghai also announced a suspension of the sale of live poultry starting Saturday, city spokesman Xu Wei said at a news conference.

Pigeon is a common type of poultry in Chinese cuisine and the birds are sold live in markets around the country. Chinese also raise pigeons as pets, but those tend to be a different type.

Hui said the pigeons were probably infected by wild or migratory birds, whose droppings can carry viruses. He said they were likely not the only species of poultry to be carrying the virus.

While health officials caution that there are no indications the virus can be transmitted from one person to another, scientists who have studied its genetic sequence said this week that the virus may have recently mutated into a form that spreads more easily to other animals, potentially posing a bigger threat to humans.

The latest death from the virus confirmed by the government Friday was a 64-year-old farmer in the eastern city of Huzhou. Authorities said Thursday the virus also killed a 48-year-old man who transported poultry for a living and a 52-year-old woman, both in Shanghai. Several among the infected are believed to have had direct contact with fowl.

Guidelines issued Wednesday by the national health agency identify butchers, breeders and sellers of poultry, and those in the meat processing industry as at higher risk.

Experts identified the first cases on Sunday. Some of the 16 confirmed cases fell ill several weeks ago but only now are being classified as having H7N9. The official Xinhua News Agency said six cases have been confirmed in Shanghai, six in Jiangsu, three in Zhejiang and one in Anhui.

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Sixth death from H7N9 bird flu reported

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East China’s Zhejiang Province on Friday morning reported that a man has died from the H7N9 bird flu, bringing the death toll from the new deadly strain to six in the country.

The city has reported three infections to date, and two have died, the Health Bureau of Zhejiang Province said Friday.

According to the health bureau, the 64-year-old man surnamed Zhang, who is a peasant farmer of Huzhou City, died at hospital after rescue efforts failed on Thursday night and it was confirmed he was infected with the H7N9 strain.

So far, 55 people who had a close contact with Zhang have shown no abnormal symptoms.

China has confirmed 14 H7N9 cases — six in Shanghai, four in Jiangsu, three in Zhejiang and one in Anhui, in the first known human infections of the lesser-known strain.

Shanghai authorities on Thursday reported four deaths, with Zhejiang now reporting two.

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