Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Nifty 50 Books," July 1, 2000
  • Two years ago Mayme Puccio, a 54-year-old grandmother living in the New Jersey suburbs, horrified her family by purchasing a dilapidated house that had been a hub of drug trafficking in Paterson, N.J. She named the house "Trinity Retreat" and now spends her days there helping battered women and drug addicts. "There is nothing beyond redemption, not even a crack house," said Ms. Puccio.
  • Indiana State Trooper Ben Endres's religious convictions cost him something he didn't gamble on: his job. When ordered to serve as a gaming agent on the Blue Chip Casino riverboat, Mr. Endres refused, explaining it was against his Christian beliefs, and offered to transfer to another district, even pleading to do janitorial duty instead. But supervisors stood by their order and promptly fired the eight-year police officer for disobeying. "I've got three boys I'm trying to raise for the Lord. What am I going to tell them, that Daddy works in the casino?" said Mr. Endres. He would have received a $1,800 bonus had he complied. COURT: States may not interfere in international commerce
    One foreign policy only
    State and local governments cannot have a foreign policy. So the Supreme Court ruled in striking down state-imposed trade sanctions in a June 19 decision overturning one state's efforts to restrict trade with Burma (also known as Myanmar). A Massachusetts law barred state contracts from going to any company doing business in Burma, largely because of the country's repression of democracy movements and the persecution of Karen Christians. The justices ruled unanimously that the state's Burma law intruded on the federal government's authority over international commerce. Repercussions of the law extend beyond Massachusetts. Already Miami-Dade County officials in Florida have acknowledged that the court decision means an end to their anti-Cuba policy, which prohibits the county from doing business with anyone who has dealings with Cuba. Assistant County Attorney Robert Cuevas said the ruling means the county can no longer prohibit the use of public facilities by Cuban artists or deny contracts to companies with ties to Cuba. Miami-Dade officials put the policy into effect in 1996 as a protest of communist rule in Cuba, which sends thousands of immigrants into Miami-Dade County each year. Even before the Supreme Court ruled, the policy had a price tag: Miami-Dade lost the Latin Grammy Awards to Los Angeles and lost out on hosting the 2007 Pan Am Games because of it. But Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas promised to obey the court: "While disappointed with today's decision, we will, of course, follow the law." BRITAIN: 58 illegals found dead
    Risking it all
    On a hot summer day last week at the British port of Dover, a lone customs officer performing a routine check on a Dutch truck loaded with tomatoes discovered the bodies of 58 people. The officer found only two people alive inside the refrigerated carrier. The survivors described how the passengers-all illegal Chinese immigrants-had screamed and banged on the doors of the truck. Their desperation mounted, they said, as companions began to pass out and die, apparently of suffocation. Police arrested the truck's Dutch driver, along with another man suspected of working with a Chinese criminal gang to gain illegal passage for the would-be immigrants. Known as "snakeheads," gang members reportedly charged over $20,000 a person to smuggle the people from Fujian Province in China. While European and Chinese officials vowed to crack down on the illegal trade, one question remained unanswered: Why would the Fujian residents risk so much to leave home behind? QuickTakes
  • Violence against Christians continued in Indonesia's Maluku Islands last week. In a massacre on Halmahera, Muslim fighters killed at least 150 people. A church where Christian villagers had taken refuge in Duma was destroyed, as well as hundreds of homes, according to Newsroom. Church workers said it was one of the worst incidents on record in the long-running conflict, adding that women and children had been kidnapped.
  • Two British Christian human-rights organizations, along with the U.S. Committee for Refugees, issued reports last week with identical conclusions: Jihad in Indonesia, they say, is aided by members of the Indonesian military. The groups also accused the media of "political correctness" in portraying both sides as equal transgressors. "There has been an inaccurate portrayal of the conflict as if both sides have been equally aggressive and at fault for the violence that has taken place," said Wilfred Wong of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which sent a team to the region last month. The London-based Jubilee Campaign reported similar findings.
  • A young Christian preacher and evangelist working in India's Punjab state was found stabbed to death by construction workers near his rented house. Ashish Prabash was known in the community for showing the Jesus film and working with Campus Crusade. To the south, India's leading opposition party, the Congress party, has demanded a judicial probe into a recent series of bomb blasts that have destroyed churches in Andhra Pradesh. All are believed to be the work of Hindu militants. "Critical thinking" is not enough
    Darwin disclaimer tossed out by court
    A Louisiana public school district's disclaimer that accompanies its teaching on evolution must go. The disclaimer distanced the school district from the evolution vs. creation debate and urged students to "exercise critical thinking" on the matter of origins. But a federal appeals court found that to be a violation of the separation of church and state, and the Supreme Court last week refused to reverse that decision. The Tangipahoa Parish school board in 1994 voted to require teachers to tell students about to study the theory of evolution that the theory was "presented to inform students of the scientific concept and not intended to influence or dissuade the biblical version of creation or any other concept." The disclaimer drafted by the school board also said: "It is the basic right and privilege of each student to form his-her own opinion or maintain beliefs taught by parents on this very important matter.... Students are urged to exercise critical thinking and gather all information possible and closely examine each alternative toward forming an opinion." Three parents of students sued in federal court, and a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the disclaimer, saying it had the effect of promoting religion. It did not bar a disclaimer per se but ruled that the one created by the Tangipahoa Parish "is not sufficiently neutral." In their appeal, lawyers for the school board said the disclaimer encouraged diversity. "The central message of the disclaimer resolution is that there are no outsiders or insiders, no one who is favored or disfavored, on the issue of life's origin, but persons of all viewpoints are full members in the school community." The No Coment Zone
  • Millionaire high-tech investor Ralph Nader, the presidential candidate of the Green Party, last week asked a federal court to stop several companies-including AT&T, Anheuser-Busch, and Sun Microsystems-from sponsoring this fall's presidential debates. The FCC has approved such corporate sponsorship. Financial disclosures from Mr. Nader, a self-styled consumer advocate, reveal that he is worth almost $4 million. He owns nearly $1.2 million in stock in Cisco Systems and smaller amounts of five other technology-related companies.
  • Leftist firebrand Lenora Fulani quit as co-chair of the presidential campaign of Reform Party hopeful Pat Buchanan, saying the ex-Republican is too socially conservative. Ms. Fulani and Mr. Buchanan are on the opposite end of the political spectrum on many issues, but agree on international trade and foreign policy.
  • Christian music singer Michael English surrendered to authorities on drug charges and was immediately released on bond. The 38-year-old singer faces 12 counts of fraudulently obtaining the prescription drug hydrocodone, a sedative similar to codeine. Police raided Mr. English's Nashville apartment in February after an investigation showed he and a friend were having numerous prescriptions filled by doctors.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Indiana Pacers in game 6 of the NBA Championship series last week, capturing the NBA title. Hundreds of Lakers fans "celebrated" by torching two police cars, vandalizing downtown L.A. businesses, and setting dozens of small bonfires in city streets. Police arrested 12 fans, and at least another dozen suffered minor injuries. Former Lakers star and current Lakers Vice President Magic Johnson condemned the violence: "That takes away from what happened here tonight."
  • Procter & Gamble is standing by its decision to keep its ads off Laura Schlessinger's television show. (WORLD, June 3.) Representatives from pro-family groups had met with P&G management in mid-June, asking the company to reconsider its stand. Company spokeswoman Gretchen Briscoe said that the company is squeamish about Dr. Laura's views not only on homosexuality but on divorce and mothers working outside the home, preferring "to avoid those kinds of controversies." P&G spends nearly $3 billion a year on advertising, including spots on such controversial shows as Fox's Ally McBeal.

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