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Damian Dovarganes/AP

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "The waiting game," March 22, 2008

Homeschool ban

A California appeals court has snatched away the right of tens of thousands of Californians to school their children at home. According to a Feb. 28 ruling, it is illegal for parents without a state teaching credential to homeschool their kids.

"Parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children," 2nd District Court of Appeals Justice H. Walter Croskey, 75, wrote in a decision reversing a lower court ruling that upheld homeschooling as constitutional. Re: Rachel L. involves the Long family of Los Angeles, whose eight children are or have been enrolled in Sunland Christian School, a private homeschooling program.

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About 166,000 students in California are homeschooled. The court refused to stay Croskey's opinion pending appeal. That means the ruling is immediately binding, said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, the Sacramento public-interest law firm that will represent the Longs and Sunland before the California Supreme Court, which could overturn the ruling.

"The language in this decision is so broad that on its face, it would apply not only to people doing traditional home-schooling, but also to people whose children are enrolled in independent study programs connected with public, private, and charter schools," Dacus said. "It could be enforced against any homeschool family in California where the teaching parent is not credentialed."

Hug nation

President Bill Clinton popularized the head-of-state hug. Apple's Steve Jobs made it cool to seal the deal with a hug. On March 6 he embraced venture capital head John Doerr, who will manage a $100 million "iFund" for software development.

But hugs are not for children, according to the Mesa, Ariz., school district. A policy banning student hugging prompted dozens of Phoenix-area students to protest with a giant group hug across the street from the junior-high campus where a 14-year-old received detention for hugging a friend after school. Officials compromised: Hugs of no more than 2 seconds now are permitted under the handbook.

Do it again

Sen. Hillary Clinton's resurgence in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination has ignited talk that the party may hold repeat contests in Florida and Michigan, states earlier disqualified from the process for holding their contests too early. Sen. Barack Obama has confirmed his willingness to participate in such do-overs, which would give some 2 million Democratic voters a second chance to weigh in.

But funding for a repeat caucus in Florida and primary in Michigan presents a problem. Elected officials in both states have refused to pledge public money, placing the bulk of the economic burden on the DNC or the campaigns. The greatest benefactor of such a drain on Democratic coffers? Sen. John McCain.

McCain's hurdle

President George W. Bush narrowly defeated Democratic opponent Sen. John Kerry in Ohio in 2004 to retain the White House with high turnout among social conservatives-energized by an Ohio state marriage amendment then on the ballot.

Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values, a pro-family organization in Ohio, was one of the chief proponents of the Ohio marriage amendment, which passed with 62 percent of the vote. He told WORLD that McCain faces a similar dynamic this fall: "He can't win Ohio without winning the values voters."

But winning social conservatives may not be easy for McCain: The senator's opposition to a federal marriage amendment banning gay marriage represents a major hurdle in the state, according to Burress: "He's got serious, serious problems with values voters." That's why Burress pulled the lever March 4 for Republican Mike Huckabee, who pulled himself out of the race later that day.

Atheists in time of war

Author Christopher Hitchens, who wrote the best-selling God Is Not Great, was a bit startled during a Feb. 28 panel discussion he moderated in New York for the opening of Brett Morgen's documentary film Chicago 10. Among notable journalists (Dexter Filkins of The New York Times, Sebastian Junger, Vanity Fair's William Langewiesche, and MTV News' Suchin Pak) who gathered to discuss the Vietnam-era film, Pak observed that young people are not as passionately anti-war now as their counterparts were over Vietnam. Key cultural difference between 1968 and 2008: "Our audience is more religious and conservative than we assume," she said. "I really hate to hear that the young are becoming more Christian," a startled Hitchens replied. "If that's true, that's the worst news of the night!"

No green peace

Environmentalist fanatics set fire to a row of "built-green" model homes in Woodinville, Wash., a suburb 15 miles northeast of Seattle. The blaze wrought an estimated $7 million of damage.

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