Dispatches > The Buzz

The buzz

Issue: "Iraq: The other caucuses," Jan. 31, 2004

Iraq Terrorists continued their assaults on U.S. soldiers and Iraqis last week. In separate incidents on Jan. 22: Mortar rounds killed two U.S. soldiers and critically wounded another outside a tactical operations center; gunmen attacked a minibus carrying nine Iraqi women to their jobs as laundry workers at a U.S. military base, killing four of the women; gunmen killed two Iraqi police officers and wounded three others at a checkpoint.

But even as the number of casualties in Iraq mounted, churches have benefited greatly from the stability brought by the U.S. presence. New churches are emerging all over the country, and hundreds of Iraqis now worship in already-existing churches where dozens once did. Church leaders are concerned, however, by the Shiite push for elections that could lead to an Islamic state (cover story, p. 16).

Politics President Bush delivered his State of the Union address to Congress last week and used the speech to defend the war in Iraq and to lay out his legislative priorities. Mr. Bush stressed that it was right to send troops to Iraq, regardless of opposition from some allies: "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people." He also called for more funding for abstinence education, said the tax cuts enacted under his administration should be made permanent, and railed against judges who "have begun redefining marriage by court order." The president also asked Congress to keep growth in discretionary spending under 4 percent a year, something he and the GOP Congress have been unwilling to do so far (story, p. 21).

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Campaign '04 Caucus-goers in Iowa dealt a severe blow last week to former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) finished first in the caucus, followed by Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.). Dr. Dean finished a distant third, and U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), finishing fourth, dropped out of the race. Rep. Gephardt also announced that his political career would end when his congressional term expires next year (story, p. 22).

Judiciary Using his constitutional power to make recess appointments, President Bush last week put Charles Pickering on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals until a new Congress convenes next year. Senate Democrats had blocked a vote on Mr. Pickering's nomination to the post, and the judge said he would continue to fight for a permanent spot on the bench. His best hope: The GOP gains enough Senate seats in November to break the Democrats' filibuster (see p. 9 and story, p. 24).

Religion Spurred on by the consecration of openly homosexual Bishop V. Gene Robinson and other liberal advances in the Episcopal Church, conservative Episcopalians met in Dallas last week to form the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes. The group says it will be a "church within the church" and will "constitute a true and legitimate expression of the worldwide Anglican Communion." The charter provides that congregations in the network will come under the authority of a network-approved bishop-even if they are currently in a liberal diocese-a move liberal bishops vow to oppose (story, p. 25).

Marriage The Ohio Senate last week approved a bill that both defines marriage as between a man and a woman and bans state benefits to the domestic partners of unmarried state employees. The Ohio House had earlier passed a similar measure, and Republican Gov. Robert Taft indicated last week that he would sign the bill, which passed the Senate by a narrow 18-15 vote.

Deaths China-born Jonathan Chao-popular educator, researcher, missions strategist, and one of the world's foremost authorities on the church in China-died this month of lymphoma in Covina, Calif. Years ago, Mr. Chao began establishing clandestine contact with leaders of the fast-growing separatist but outlawed house-church movement in China. He served as an intermediary in providing them with theological training and other resources and was able to keep Christians in the West informed about the growth, needs, problems, and travails of the much-repressed house churches and their leaders.

Mr. Chao was raised in Japan and educated in the United States-at Geneva College (Pa.), Westminster Seminary, and the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Ph.D. in Sinology. He wrote books on Chinese church history and lectured at a number of North American colleges and seminaries.

In 1965 he co-founded the China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong and went on to lead other theological colleges and seminaries in Hong Kong and Taipei, Taiwan. In 1978 he founded the Chinese Church Research Center in Hong Kong, renamed China Ministries International in 1987, and served as its president until his death. He was 65.

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