Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "The other campaign," Feb. 9, 2008

Wounded warrior

Marine 2nd Lt. Andrew Kinard spent most of 2007 in hospital beds and operating rooms. He spent the evening of Jan. 28, 2008, seated in Laura Bush's box at the State of the Union address, a guest of the president. Kinard, a former Naval Academy rugby player, went to Iraq in September 2006. Weeks later, an IED exploded beneath him, shearing off both his legs. As doctors fought to save him, Kinard's hometown church, First Baptist of Spartanburg, S.C., rallied around his family. The marine, who has since learned to walk on prosthetic legs, credited his survival to "the divine power of prayer." Of his night as President Bush's guest, Kinard told the Spartanburg Herald, "I'm just very honored to have been invited to represent these men and women who have been injured in combat."

Flood protection

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers won a battle in court on Jan. 30. U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval dismissed a class-action lawsuit against the Corps over the breaching of New Orleans' levees after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. Duval chastised the Corps for "its failure to accomplish what was its task," but said the 1928 Flood Control Act protects the federal government from lawsuits over flood-control projects. The plaintiff's attorneys said they would appeal the ruling.

Border ID

U.S. citizens may need more time to cross the border after new rules on identification went into effect last week. Under the new rules, people will have to show a passport, a driver's license, or other proof of citizenship at border crossings instead of simply declaring that they are citizens. Jayson Ahern, deputy commissioner with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told the Associated Press that the new rules are necessary for national security. "In the post-9/11 world," he said, "oral declarations are simply not enough to secure the country's borders."

Money to burn

Are soaring tuition prices due to tremendous financial needs at America's colleges and universities? Not at some of them. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, of the Senate Finance Committee has looked into the finances of higher education and not liked what he found. While tuition prices have exploded, so have some university endowment funds. "Tuition has gone up, college presidents' salaries have gone up, and endowments continue to go up and up," said Grassley. "We need to start seeing tuition relief for families go up just as fast." On Jan. 24, he and Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., sent a letter to 136 schools that have endowments of $500 million or more, asking how they are using their growing endowment funds to make education more affordable for students.

Some numbers

Current world population: 6.7 billion

World Christian population: 2.2 billion

World population increase per day: 219,000

Net Christian converts per day: 79,000

Fastest-growing Christian population: China with 16,500 per day

Christian martyrs in 2007: 175,000 (or 480 per day)

Christian martyrs in 1970: 377,000 (1,033 per day)

As reported by the International Bulletin of Missionary Research and digested by religion scholar Martin Marty

Tending north

Security is better in Baghdad, but al-Qaeda is on the move

By Mindy Belz

Attacks on schools, churches, and other "soft targets" in Iraq have increased, even as reports of overall improved security cannot be denied. A Pentagon briefing last month gave the first detailed account of progress on the ground from December 2006 to December 2007. The slideshow accompanying the presentation noted an IED explosion rate of 1,600 in 2006 compared to about 600 in 2007 and tracked al-Qaeda in Iraq's movement from central Iraq and Baghdad to scattered pockets north of Baqubah in Diyala province, and from Tikrit up to Mosul.

In those pockets militants remain capable of deadly attacks. In Baqubah a suicide bomber posed as a merchant, carrying an electric heater on top of a cart Jan. 22. Just outside a two-story schoolhouse the cart, laden with explosives, detonated. At least one bystander was killed and 21 injured-including 12 students, eight teachers, and a policeman.

Panicked parents rushed to the school. "I can't think of any reason to target students," said 15-year-old Mohammed Abbas, his wounded head in a bandage as his father stood near his hospital bed. "We did not expect that explosions would reach our school." The same day a roadside bomb exploded near a girl's school in Baghdad, wounding a 7-year-old boy.

The trend, along with church bombings in January and attacks on funerals and social gatherings, suggests al-Qaeda in its own dispersed state is picking vulnerable targets away from U.S. crosshairs-targets that can most undermine public confidence.

Targets in the north are also increasingly likely to affect religious and ethnic minorities. The new area of unrest is situated near the ruins of ancient Nineveh and the birthplace of the Assyrian church. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) on a recent trip to Iraq met with minority representatives in Mosul and later told WORLD: "This may be the most dangerous area of Iraq at the moment."

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