Everyone likes a winner: Bush has been using images of the Iraqi soccer team in his advertising and inserting them into his speeches. But according to Sports Illustrated, Bush is one fan the team can do without: “How will [Bush] meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?” asks midfielder Ahmed Manajid.

Jim Yardley of The New York Times reports on the latest incident of religious persecution in the Chinese countryside. Last week, he writes, an American Buddhist group that spent $3 million renovating an 800-year-old temple said that soldiers and police officers took control of the temple, arresting its spiritual leader Yu Tianjian, also known as Living Buddha Dechan Jueren, and forcibly removing 70 Chinese and a small group of Americans. An embassy spokesman said American officials plan to meet with China’s Foreign Ministry about the matter.

“I think that the cigarette smoking focuses [the human capability for denial] in a wonderfully metaphorical way: how do we deal with the fact, existentially deal with the fact that our lives come to an end. Smoking, in a way, I think pushes that to the forefront. It makes you deal with it or makes you deny it.” Filmaker Ross McElwee, whose latest documentary Bright Leaves examines North Carolina’s tobacco culture, speaks with Dave Davies of NPR’s Fresh Air.

It’s a cutesy story, but at least Elizabeth Biddlecombe manages to avoid phone-call-to-God jokes in her Wired report on religious text messaging. Cell phones, she reports, are now being employed to send prayers to the Hindu god Ganesh; to transmit “The Pope’s Thought of the Day”; to make daily micro-donations to charity from British Muslims; and, in China, to be burnt in effigy in honor of the cell phone owner’s ancestors.

Who will the Republicans appease? A new press narrative forming around the party — that the Bush campaign is pushing its solid base of conservative evangelicals to the side to appeal to more moderate swing voters — is strangely familiar. And it’s happening in slow enough motion that we can see G.O.P. leaders squirm away from the new spin, pushing forward talking heads from the Christian Coalition to testify that they don’t mind their new, “understated role.” But for each of these peace-makers, Anne-Marie O’Connor of The Los Angeles Times, finds a Janice Crouse, a leader of Concerned Women for America, who warned that Bush should worry more about losing the support of his evangelical Christian voters in the crucial swing states. “‘The gays and pro-abortion people are saying you’ve got to add a plank,’ Crouse said. ‘If the president adds that plank, they will nail him to it.'”

“‘Invisible souls helped me to come to power…..Now, the Government is being run by the grace of God….Our contribution is nothing,'” India’s Chief Minister Uma Bharti said yesterday, crediting divine intervention for her election with a three-fourths majority to the Madhya Pradesh Assembly. Her opponents countered her holy campaign with the argument a “‘Sanyasin clad in saffron’ cannot do anything and the state would face ‘problems.'” Read more.