Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Save our cities," April 19, 2008

Bonjour Afghanistan

It's often said that going to war without France is something like going duck hunting without your accordion. Now NATO and U.S forces in Afghanistan will find out just how important French fighters are. President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed that he intends to send a new battalion of French troops to eastern Afghanistan, enabling U.S. forces to reinforce Canadian units in the more volatile Kandahar province.

A French battalion amounts to 700-800 troops, and Sarkozy also has indicated France might send 200 special forces to Afghanistan. They would be involved in command operations and training the Afghan army, and would augment more than 2,000 French troops in the area.

Trade trends

Liberalism's favorite punching bag-free trade-took another hit last week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced that she would push the House to change "fast track" rules that require Congress to vote on trade deals within 90 days after a president submits them. The particular target: a trade agreement between the United States and Colombia.

That agreement also became a hot issue in the presidential race when it was revealed that Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's chief political strategist, had met with Colombia's U.S. ambassador and, as a lobbyist, worked to advance the trade deal. Clinton opposes the deal, and Penn last week resigned from her campaign. Another close Clinton adviser also supports the pact: her husband Bill.

Haiti hunger

UN peacekeepers chased hungry Haitians with rubber bullets and tear gas after they stormed the presidential palace April 8 demanding the resignation of President René Préval. Residents huddled indoors as riots over soaring food prices-which have increased by 40 percent in the last year-turned into looting. The U.S. Embassy suspended visa services and routine operations April 9 because of the violence after buildings were pelted with rocks.

Turneround

He once labeled Christianity a "religion for losers," but on April 1 Ted Turner announced that he is joining forces with three Protestant denominations to fight malaria in Africa. The goal of the $200 million partnership with Turner's United Nations Foundation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the United Methodist Church is to stop deaths from malaria, which claims the lives of more than 1 million people a year. The 69-year-old CNN founder says he regrets saying anything negative about religion: "As I get older, you know, I get more, you know, more tolerant."

Talking Turkey

Turkey's secular elite is on a mission to ban the country's ruling party from politics, claiming that the Islamist party could take the secular nation down a path it has worked hard to avoid. Judges of the Constitutional Court unanimously decided on March 31 to take up the case for shutting down the AK party and barring Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and dozens of other lawmakers from politics.

Meanwhile, the fourth trial hearing against the murderers of three Christians one year ago has been postponed for a month because court clerks failed to file a request to replace judges accused of bias in the case.

Selling low

Struggling to find a bottom, the housing market dipped further in February, according to a report last week from the National Association of Realtors. The group's index of existing home sales hit its lowest level in eight years and was 21 percent below the level for February 2006. "The question was whether things were starting to stabilize," Global Insight economist Patrick Newport told the Canadian Press. "Apparently they're not."

Also unstable: Plans for a federal bailout of lenders and homeowners in bad mortgages. The White House announced a plan to expand an existing mortgage insurance program to help 100,000 more borrowers. Leading Democrats want to insure 1.5 million more borrowers, potentially putting taxpayers on the hook for tens of billions of dollars.

Remembering deep wounds

Remembering deep wounds

Virginia Tech on a grim one-year anniversary

By Jamie Dean

On April 16, Virginia Tech students in Blacksburg, Va., will return to the university's Drill Field, where hundreds gathered on the same night one year ago to grieve the 32 students and professors gunned down in the deadliest shooting spree in American history.

University officials have canceled April 16 classes and announced a schedule of on-campus activities for a day of remembrance: In the morning students will gather for a public reading of the names and biographies of the slain. At sundown students will hold a candlelight vigil on the Drill Field, where they held a similar event one night after the shootings last year.

In late March, university officials announced new safety measures the school has established since last year: More than 20,000 students and faculty have subscribed to "VT Alerts," a messaging system that notifies subscribers of campus emergencies via several formats, including email and text messages.

Workers have installed locks in all general assignment classrooms that may be locked from the inside. (Classrooms in Norris Hall, where gunman Cho Seung-Hui killed 30 people, couldn't be locked from the inside.)

As the grim anniversary approaches, J.R. Foster, campus minister for Reformed University Fellowship, told WORLD he thinks students are anxious about the day. Foster noted the concerts, sporting events, and ceremonies held over the last year to help students move forward, and he said some have been helpful.

But with the anniversary, "I think there are many students who realize now there are deeper wounds of the heart that concerts and games will not heal," Foster said. "I will urge my students to cling to the gospel's hope of a new heavens and a new earth where such atrocities are no more."

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