Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Shattered dreams," April 5, 2008

In a letter to principal Asan Zamad, the ACLU warned against violating the Establishment Clause: "At a minimum, the school must discontinue recruiting volunteers for Friday Prayers, and must not be involved in promoting or providing special treatment to groups providing religious instruction after school hours."

Reversal

A California appeals court announced March 27 it is vacating a ruling that declared most forms of homeschooling unlawful in the state. The Rachel L decision will not go into effect, and the 2nd District Court of Appeals instead will rehear the case, with a new round of briefings due in late April and oral arguments and another decision to follow.

Stormy spring

At least 13 people died in storms that swept across parts of Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Arkansas on March 19.

Flooding closed major roadways, including parts of Interstate 70 in Ohio, and officials warned that rivers would continue to crest: In Missouri at least five people died and more than 500 homes were evacuated.

At least five people died in a multiple-car accident, and several people drowned in flooding in Missouri and Ohio. Rescue workers saved a man clinging to a tree in the Ohio River after his truck was swept away. Knight Township Fire Chief Chris Wathen said the man showed signs of hypothermia, but would recover: "But I do think it was fair to say he was within minutes of losing his life."

Peace perhaps

Uganda and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army look ready to sign a final peace deal to end one of Africa's longest conflicts on April 5, about a week later than a Kampala deadline but defying predictions that the two sides would begin fighting again.

Progress has slowed because of the rebels' demand that the International Criminal Court (ICC) drop war crimes indictments against their leader Joseph Kony and two deputies-indicted for 21 counts of war crimes and 12 counts of crimes against humanity, which include murder, rape, and enslavement. Uganda, meanwhile, wants to try Kony and his deputies in its national courts.

Both sides signed documents outlining the final agreement and implementation timetable on March 25 in Sudan's southern town of Juba, where talks have been held. "We have completed all the negotiations successfully. We have moved from enemies to be brothers and sisters again," said Ugandan Interior Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.

Man for all seasons

With the March 19 passing of the British actor Paul Scofield, the world lost one of its greatest performers. A 60-year star of stage and screen, the publicity-shy thespian became famous for letting his work stand on its own. Scofield's best-known vehicle was A Man for All Seasons, the 1966 film dramatizing Sir Thomas More's conscience-driven showdown with King Henry VIII over church authority. Scofield's low-key performance as the 16th-century martyr earned him a Best Actor Oscar and brought More and his faith to life for a generation awash in cinematic rebels without causes.

It wasn't the only time that Scofield placed his talent at the service of Christian drama. His portrayal of the suffering ghost in Franco Zeferelli's Hamlet (1990) spoke painful volumes. He also recorded T.S. Eliot's Christian poem cycle Four Quartets and starred in a BBC radio production of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia.

Homes sweet homes

Sales of existing homes rose 2.9 percent in February, the first such increase in seven months and a rare bit of good news for a housing market stuck in the mud of foreclosure and falling values. The upward swing surprised analysts, who had predicted continuing declines. But within the positive shift is further evidence of long-term trouble: The median home price for those February sales fell 8.2 percent from a year earlier, the sharpest drop since economists began keeping records in 1968.

The upward tick in sales also stems from a 60 percent jump in foreclosures and double the number of bank seizures from a year ago, both of which have glutted the market with under-priced inventory. Such figures pressed the Fed to slash its short-term interest rate by three quarters of a point to 2.25 on March 18. The sixth cut since the end of last summer, it moved the rate 3 percentage points below where it stood in September.

Courts battle

In a close-to-home rebuff of the international justice system, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled March 25 that neither President Bush nor the International Court of Justice, a judicial arm of the UN with its seat at The Hague, has the authority to order a Texas court to reopen a death penalty case involving a foreign national. The justices held 6-3 that judgments of the World Court are not binding on U.S. courts and that Bush's 2005 executive order for courts in Texas to comply is not binding.

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