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Pakistan president Gen. Pervez Musharraf

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Tough love," Aug. 18, 2007

Pakistan

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf decided Aug. 9 against declaring a state of emergency in Pakistan, despite a death toll of more than 360 people in a wave of suicide attacks and clashes between militants and security forces that began with a bloody army assault on a pro-Taliban mosque in Islamabad in early July. The U.S. ally in the war on terror, embattled at home over military rule and pressed by the West to do more to apprehend al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, surprised friends and foes by saying he will press ahead with plans to hold elections.

Bridge fallout

Minneapolis police said divers would spend another week probing the twisted rubble in the murky Mississippi before cranes begin removing debris from the I-35 bridge collapse Aug. 1. Navy and FBI divers joined Minneapolis law enforcement working to recover the bodies of eight missing people. Officials confirmed five others killed and more than 100 injured when the traffic-packed bridge buckled during rush hour. At least eight remained hospitalized, with one in critical condition a week after the collapse.

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged legislative action to repair some 70,000 bridges around the country rated structurally deficient. President Bush warned lawmakers against raising the federal gas tax to repair the nation's bridges.

Pentagon

A Defense Department Inspector General's (IG) report released last week recommended "corrective action" for seven military officers, including four generals, for improperly participating in the filming of a video that promotes the evangelical Christian Embassy. A Campus Crusade for Christ affiliate, Christian Embassy has held Bible studies and discipleship meetings in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill for 25 years. In 2004 the group filmed portions of a promotional video inside the Pentagon, interviewing some uniformed officers in identifiable areas of the building. The IG probe was prompted by attorney Mikey Weinstein, head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Investigators concluded that the seven officers "improperly endorsed and participated with a non-Federal entity" and that one of them, now-retired Pentagon Chaplain Ralph Benson, "provided a selective benefit" for Christian Embassy.

Lebanon

A loss by one of Lebanon's key Christian political figures in Aug. 5 parliamentary elections could spell the beginning of the end for the country's fragile power-sharing government. Amin Gemayel, a former president and the head of one of Lebanon's most powerful Maronite Christian families, conceded defeat by a mere 418 votes in the Christian stronghold of Metn north of Beirut. The victor was little-known Kamil Khoury, who won support from pro-Syrian opposition. Gemayel, 65, was running in his home district, seeking to replace his son, Pierre Gemayel, who was gunned down in November in an attack blamed on Syria.

Darfur

Finally: a UN resolution calling for use of force that even the French can support. France's deputy UN ambassador Jean-Pierre Lacroix said his country "is prepared to contribute" to a 26,000-strong, African-led peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region called for in last month's UN action. The U.S. voted for the resolution, but former UN ambassador John Bolton told WORLD he would not have supported it, as it potentially cedes too much control to the Sudanese government, one instigator of Darfur's genocide.

Weather

An EF-2 tornado touched down amid a heat wave in Brooklyn and Staten Island Aug. 8, New York's first twister since 1889. High winds and torrential rains from the cyclone flooded parts of the subway system, tore roofs off buildings, delayed flights at three airports, and were blamed for at least one death.

Firefighters in Montana predicted another six weeks of blaze unless it rains, with thousands of homes under threat. "We are prepared for the worst, and people should pray for the best," Gov. Brian Schweitzer said.

Guatemalan baby bust

U.S. presses for reform

By Alisa Harris

Unscrupulous extortionists run a Guatemalan baby business, pressuring mothers to give up their babies and even switching already-adopted babies for others before the children leave for the United States. Should Americans seek to adopt elsewhere?

The State Department says yes. Guatemala doesn't measure up to the department's new Hague Adoption Convention standards: The country has no public authorities to determine a child's adoption eligibility, no accreditation for adoption service providers, and no regulation of adoption fees. Unless Guatemala reforms its system, the U.S. government will stop adoptions from there in 2008.

Katherine Holliday, Children's House International coordinator for Guatemalan adoptions, disagrees with the discontinuation: "Guatemalan adoptions have been sensationalized." Holliday admitted "ugly things" occur, but she said the country's economic and health-care system often leaves mothers with no option but to give up their babies.

The Guatemala legislature recently accepted the Hague Adoption Convention. Later this month the United States will require a second DNA test for Guatemalan adoptees, to ensure that the properly adopted child leaves Guatemala-a step Holliday said her organization has long advocated. The test will add two weeks to the 8-9 month adoption process, but Holliday said, "If it'll keep two or three sleazeballs from operating, then that's good."

Americans adopted more than 4,000 Guatemalan children (second only to China) last year. Holliday fears with negative coverage, families may adopt elsewhere: "They've read the newspapers and they're too afraid," but "the babies aren't going away."

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