Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Daniel of the Year 2002," Dec. 7, 2002

Picking Labor's lock

A prominent Conservative Party member will replace one of three retiring liberal politicians on the Oslo panel that awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize to former President Jimmy Carter and the 2001 prize to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Just before Mr. Carter accepted the award on Dec. 10, Parliament added Kaci Kullman Five to a five-member selection panel that has just one other right-of-center member. The shakeup ends a lock on the panel by Norway's Labor Party, which lost to Conservatives in parliamentary elections last year.

Broken hearts, but not broken spirits

With the recent increase of stories about intolerance toward Christians in the Islamic world, it's easy to forget about China. Nicholas D. Kristof provides a bracing reminder in The New York Times: "Ma Yuqin abruptly chokes and her eyes well with tears as she recounts her worst memory: As she was being battered in one room, her son was tortured in the next so that each could hear the other's screams, as encouragement to betray their church. 'They wanted me to hear his cries,' she said, sobbing. 'It broke my heart.'" Mr. Kristof's piece emphasizes the courage of the Chinese Christians and shows how their perseverance plays out in the providential scheme of things. Today, he reports, "with foreign missionaries banned and the underground church persecuted, Christianity is flourishing in China with tens of millions of believers." Mr. Kristof notes that stiff spines and pressure from the West is having another effect: "Citizens of China are becoming less afraid of the government than it is of them." He shows with specific detail the toughness of Ma Yuqin, whom he had assumed would demand anonymity in his article. "'No,' she said firmly, 'use my name. I'm not afraid. The police are afraid of foreign pressure, but I'm not afraid of them.'"

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The housing market has been strong lately, but not this strong. The Detroit News reports that rap star Eminem's former home in Warren, Mich., up for bid on eBay since Nov. 14, has drawn 289 bids, with the highest being $11,000,600. An appraiser's estimate of the actual value of the 1,300-square-foot home: $91,000. "It amazes me," current co-owner Roland Fraschetti told the paper. "We're trying to find out more about the bidder." Mr. Fraschetti says other bids have been in the six- and seven-figure range.

Making a list; checking it twice

Santa Claus is coming to town--but not before a background check. Many shopping malls are taking a closer look at employees before they don the red suit and turn on the charm. "Even the elves are fingerprinted and drug-tested," said Nancy Conley, marketing director at Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, Wis. The concern is serious. Missouri-based Santa Plus says it investigates the more than 500 Santas it places in 250 malls in 46 states. Pre-employ.com, which specializes in background checks, found that about 70 of 1,000 shopping mall Santa and Santa helper applicants had committed misdemeanors or felonies in the last seven years. The offenses included indecent exposure, soliciting prostitution, and drunk driving.

Sending out the clones

Voting 271 to 154, the European Parliament endorsed a "universal and specific" ban on human cloning. The French and the Germans, who wanted human clones for medical experimentation but not for the purpose of live births, lobbied heavily against the Parliament's action. Spain, Italy, and the United States have pressed for the ban at the United Nations level.

Spending their inheritance

Identity theft is on the rise, and the Associated Press reports that for some victims the thieves are their own relatives. AP reporter Martha Irvine profiles one college student whose father opened four credit cards in her name and without her knowledge--and accumulated $50,000 in debt. Another woman found out that her father put common bills like utilities in her name. Nationally, according to Federal Trade Commission reports, 6 percent of last year's 86,168 cases of identity theft involved family members. (The overall number of identity theft cases has increased this year, with 117,139 cases reported through Sept. 30.) "These people don't go in with the intention of screwing up their kids' credit," said Howard Dvorkin, president of Florida-based Consolidated Credit Counseling Services. "The problem is, old habits are hard to break." Experts say those worried about identity theft should ask credit agencies to notify them when new accounts are opened in their name.

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