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The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Out from the shadows," Dec. 22, 2007

Crime

When gunfire rang out at New Life Church, Don Couchman first thought the youth group was performing another crazy skit. "But within seconds, I realized it was real," said Couchman, 61, a New Life elder.

Couchman was in a campus chapel when Matthew Murray, 24, launched his assault on the Colorado Springs megachurch. "All of a sudden, four teenage girls were rushed into the chapel," Couchman said. "One was screaming, 'Don't shoot me! Don't shoot me! I don't want to die!'"

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Murray's Dec. 9 attacks on New Life, and on a Youth With a Mission training center in Arvada, Colo., claimed four lives. Going forward, even families not directly affected will need care: When Couchman told his own family about a New Life church-wide meeting set for Dec. 12, his grandson Noah, 5, asked, "Will the man with the gun be there?"

Campaign '08

GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee received an endorsement Dec. 11 from Jim Gilchrist, one of the founders of the Minuteman Project, a controversial group that has mobilized volunteers to help federal officers round up illegal immigrants in south Texas and other border states.

The endorsement confounds conservatives who labeled the come-from-behind candidate "soft" on immigration. It came after the former Arkansas governor unveiled a "Secure America" plan that advocates construction of a sophisticated border fence but also provides a 120-day window for illegals to register with the government and leave the country without penalty.

Huckabee made a swing through key Southern states before settling into Iowa, where he leads in GOP polls heading into Jan. 3 caucuses. Not so long ago an underdog, Huckabee's rise comes despite rival Mitt Romney outspending him 20-1 in Iowa and despite lagging endorsements from key religious right figures.

Religion

Televangelist Creflo Dollar doesn't plan to explain himself to the Senate Finance Committee anytime soon. Sen. Charles Grassley, the committee's ranking Republican member, asked six televangelists to explain how their lavish lifestyles and posh ministry headquarters squared with their groups' federal tax-exempt status. Dollar told Grassley to obtain a subpoena for the information or refer the matter to the IRS.

Two organizations complied with Grassley's request: Joyce Meyer Ministries and Kenneth Copeland Ministries. Benny Hinn Ministries said it would send information by Jan. 30. Two other groups did not provide information by the Dec. 6 deadline: Paula White Ministries and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries.Grassley said he was willing to give ministry leaders more time to compile information, but added: "I want and expect full cooperation."

Weather

A powerful ice storm hit the central United States last week, killing at least 12 people, causing power outages for almost a million homes and businesses, and closing down numerous schools, roads, and airports.

In Oklahoma, where more than 400,000 people were without electricity, authorities said power could be out for a week. In other areas, tree branches falling under the weight of ice accumulation caused severe damage to homes. "It is a pretty ugly sight right now," Jason Murray of Larned, Kan., told the Reuters news service. "It looks like a tornado passed through."

Lebanon

A car bomb in suburban Beirut killed a senior Lebanese army general and his bodyguard last week. Brig. Gen. François al-Hajj, who had been part of a summer offensive against the terrorist group Fatah al Islam, was considered a top candidate to become the next army chief of staff.

Politics

Republicans held onto two House seats in special elections last week brought on by the deaths of GOP lawmakers. Rob Wittman won 62 percent of the vote to defeat Democrat Philip Forgit in Virginia, while Bob Latta defeated Democrat Robin Weirauch in Ohio with 55 percent to 45 percent. Both parties had poured resources into the Ohio race, and both claimed victory: Republicans for holding the seat and Democrats for making it close in a GOP-leaning district. The race was Weirauch's third attempt to win the seat.

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