Dispatches > The Buzz
A young Iraqi refugee in Syria

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Survivors," Sept. 29, 2007

Iraq

Acknowledging that bureaucratic roadblocks have choked efforts to process Iraqi refugees into the United States, the Bush administration appointed two officials to coordinate refugee resettlement issues: former U.S. ambassador to Haiti James B. Foley and immigration law expert Lori Scialabba. UN officials estimate over 750,000 Iraqi refugees currently live in Jordan and 1.4 million in Syria; most have been unsuccessful in obtaining asylum in Western countries. A law passed by Congress granting asylum to Iraqis who have worked as U.S. Army translators also has been slow to aid Iraqi refugees who say they qualify under the statute. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Iraqis-at least 30,000 Christians among them-have taken refuge in northern Iraq from violence in Baghdad and other cities. After enduring violence at the hands of Muslims in the south, many are finding protection and help from Kurdish Muslims in the north: "This is not paradise, but in this part of the world it's very easy to get enemies when what we need are friends," said Assyrian priest Emanual Youkhana.

Politics

If Fred Thompson is trying to woo social conservatives, that job became more difficult last week. The Associated Press on Sept. 19 obtained an email from James Dobson to friends in which the influential Focus on the Family founder says that Thompson "has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent 'want to'" and will not get his support. Dobson pointed out that Thompson also opposes a constitutional amendment to defend marriage, supports McCain-Feingold campaign finance restrictions, and "can't speak his way out of a paper bag" in campaign appearances.

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A Focus on the Family spokesman confirmed that Dobson sent the email, emphasizing that Dobson made the comments as an individual and not as head of the organization. The Thompson campaign, however, had some reason to celebrate last week as two polls-from Harris Interactive and Rasmussen Reports-showed Thompson moving ahead of Rudy Giuliani to become the GOP front-runner. A third poll, from Gallup, had Giuliani eight points ahead of Thompson.

Transition

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns resigned Sept. 20 in order to run for the Nebraska Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel in 2008. State and national GOPers welcomed the news: "Johanns is the 800-pound gorilla," said Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.). "People like Mike."

Marriage

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders on Sept. 19 triggered a storm of citizen protest when he endorsed a city council measure supporting gay marriage. Sanders had pledged to veto a 5-3 council vote aimed ultimately at overturning California's same-sex marriage ban. But in a dramatic reversal, and weeping before reporters, he revealed publicly for the first time that his daughter is a lesbian. "I decided to lead with my heart," Sanders said. The mayor's U-turn angered many among the 62 percent of San Diegans who in 2000 voted for Prop 22, which affirms traditional marriage. Now, with even leaders in California's most conservative city capitulating on the issue, one national group is looking to socially conservative Hispanics to fight for marriage in the bellwether state.

China

Beijing pastor Cai Zhuohua was released Sept. 10 after serving a three-year sentence for possessing 200,000 pieces of Christian literature, including Bibles. According to the China Aid Association, Cai was not allowed to read the Bible while incarcerated, but instead had to work 10-12 hours a day making soccer balls for next year's Olympic games. A court convicted him for "illegal business practices" in a country where only the state is allowed to print and distribute Bibles. As both a pastor and gifted businessman, Cai's case garnered him worldwide support, including that of China's intellectual elite. He now has to report to security officials once a month, and they have warned him not to continue his religious activities.

Cycling

Tour de France champ Floyd Landis lost his high-profile-and expensive-doping case Sept. 20 when the arbitrators upheld the results of a test that showed the 2006 champion from the United States used synthetic testosterone to fuel a comeback victory. The decision means Landis, who repeatedly denied the charges, must forfeit his Tour de France title and is subject to a two-year ban, retroactive to Jan. 30, 2007. He can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport-or become the first person in the 105-year history of the race to lose the title because of a doping offense.

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