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Lake Acworth in Georgia

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Reinventing Hillary," Nov. 17, 2007

Climate

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue announced that he will host a prayer service to ask for relief from the drought gripping the Southeast outside the state Capitol Nov. 13-unless it rains. "The only solution is rain, and the only place we get that is from a higher power," said Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley. Perdue along with governors of Alabama and Florida met with federal officials in Washington to resolve water-sharing conflicts as the Southeast continues its driest period on record.

In Mexico it's the water that won't go away. Thousands were trapped on their rooftops a week after flooding in Chiapas and Tabasco states killed 19 and caused an estimated $5 billion in damages.

Justice

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The U.S. Senate prepared to confirm Michael Mukasey as the next U.S. attorney general after the Judiciary Committee endorsed his candidacy in an 11-8 vote Nov. 6, ending speculation that the Democrat-controlled panel would block the nominee over his refusal to clearly define torture. President George W. Bush nominated the longtime federal judge last month, but confirmation hearings bogged down when Mukasey declined to comment on the legality of waterboarding, a CIA interrogation technique.

Election Day

Parents in Utah won't get to take advantage of the nation's first school-voucher program that would have awarded state grants for children's private-school tuition regardless of family income. In a Nov. 6 referendum, Utah voters rejected the program passed by the state legislature earlier this year. Teachers unions spent millions to persuade voters to reject the Parents Choice in Education Act, saying it would drain public-school resources. The program's supporters said the vouchers represented less money than the state currently spends on children in public schools, but its defeat is a blow to school-voucher efforts in other states.

Meanwhile, a handful of other local elections drew national attention as well, with three states holding high-profile gubernatorial contests that had candidates touting faith and dodging scandal.

Immigration

Stiff new enforcement against illegal immigration in Oklahoma has sparked protest from immigrant-rights groups and several Catholic priests, who call the measures inhumane. Under authority of a new law, police can detain illegal immigrants for deportation and charge citizens with a felony for transporting or harboring them. The law also requires prospective employees to verify their legal status and blocks illegal immigrants from receiving state benefits.

The Rev. Michael Chapman of Oklahoma City and the Rev. Don Wolf of Duncan say such provisions violate the state's longstanding heritage of illegal immigration. "Sooners" broke the law in 1889 when they entered the state and claimed free land under cover of night before the official start of the Land Run. Oklahoma has long celebrated that history as a point of state pride.

GOP state congressman Randy Terrill, who introduced the enforcement bill, says the country and state have changed since 1889, and he plans to push for even tougher enforcement next legislative session. The law has already pressed thousands of illegal immigrants to leave Oklahoma voluntarily, making it a potential model for other states.

China's big trade

China's big trade

It was a long-awaited day for Chinese investors. PetroChina, the state-owned energy conglomerate, went public with an initial offering of 4 billion shares on the Shanghai exchange. By the end of its first day trading Nov. 5, the stock tripled in value-a record for a mainland stock exchange and for the oil industry. At more than $1 trillion, that's more than Exxon Mobil and General Electric combined. PetroChina is now the largest publicly traded company in the world (and with only one-fourth Exxon's revenue)-a triumph for China's stock exchange, which vaulted ahead of Britain to become the third-largest exchange in the world.

But along with its growing energy platform come questions about China's oil import practices. In Sudan, China's largest African trade partner, China underwrote oilfield development that resulted in land confiscation from the south and inflamed civil war. Now the Sudanese government, despite the stipulations of a two-year-old peace deal, is with Chinese encouragement refusing to share oil revenue with the south, leading to last month's breakdown of a partnership government. To become a world-class energy trader, China will also have to clean up its energy ethics.

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