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The Buzz

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Issue: "Unify and conquer," June 14, 2008

Unlikely ally

In February, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled homeschooling illegal in California and then swiftly granted a rehearing. Since then, numerous friend-of-court briefs have poured in ahead of new oral arguments slated for June 23. The California Teachers Association (CTA) argued that allowing parents to homeschool without a teaching credential will breed "educational anarchy." But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger disagreed, saying "homeschooling has a long and positive history in California and across the nation."

Conservatives do not regard Schwarzenegger as an ally, which is why his "strong opinion in favor of homeschooling shows just how mainstream the pro-homeschooling opinion really is," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which is representing the homeschooling program at issue in the case. The CTA opinion, Dacus added, "makes it very clear that the teachers union has absolutely no respect for the rights of parents."

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The same four California justices who in May legalized gay marriage on June 4 denied a motion to stay their ruling pending the outcome of a November ballot initiative that would make such marriages illegal. The conservative Alliance Defense Fund had asked the court to halt gay weddings until voters decided on an initiative that would amend the state constitution to recognize only traditional marriage.

Attorneys general from 10 states had filed a friend-of-court brief arguing that a failure to grant the stay would lead to legal chaos surrounding the recognition of gay marriages in other states, particularly if California moves ahead with such weddings only to have voters reject them in November. But the majority disagreed and denied the stay without elaborating on its reasons. That means California clerks will begin issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples on June 17.

Food fight

With a June 27 election runoff approaching, Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe lashed out last week at Western aid groups. The aging dictator accused some groups, CARE International in particular, of interfering in the country's politics and ordered CARE to suspend aid operations that reach about 500,000 Zimbabweans.

Kenneth Walker, CARE's Africa communications director, denied the charges of political meddling, telling the Associated Press, "We have a very strict policy against political activity." Smaller aid groups reported a similar crackdown.

The Mugabe regime also briefly jailed opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, his rival in the presidential election. "Mugabe is determined to turn the whole country into a war zone in order to subvert the will of the people and steal the June 27 election by any means possible," Tsvangirai said during a campaign stop before his arrest.

New phases

Sen. Barack Obama credits a sermon by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, as the inspiration for the title of his 2006 political memoir The Audacity of Hope. But it was the audacity of a Catholic priest that proved the last straw in Obama's 20-year relationship with Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

Obama withdrew his membership from Trinity on May 30, several weeks after distancing himself from Wright and his incendiary preaching. He permanently severed ties with the church after Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest and Chicago activist, railed against Sen. Hillary Clinton from the church's pulpit in mid-May.

Pfleger said Clinton thought she was entitled to the Democratic presidential nomination because she's white. He added that racism is America's greatest addiction, and that "America is the greatest sin against God."

Obama-who invited Pfleger to a faith forum on the campaign trail last year-withdrew from Trinity, saying: "Our relations with Trinity have been strained by the divisive statements of Reverend Wright, which sharply conflict with our own views." The senator rejected calls to denounce the church, saying: "It's not a church worthy of denouncing."

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, the senator clinched enough Democratic delegates on June 3 to gain his party's nomination. Now Obama faces a host of major decisions, including whether to give defeated rival Hillary Clinton the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket, as a new phase of the campaign begins.

Unknown origins

Premier Exhibitions, a company that has made millions of dollars through its plasticized human "Bodies" exhibits, agreed May 29 to stop using bodies of undocumented origins in its New York display after an investigation found that some of the bodies may have been prisoners who were tortured and executed in China.

According to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, "despite repeated denials . . . [Premier Exhibitions] had no way of knowing the true source of their human exhibits and no meaningful documentation to support their claims that the bodies had been donated for such a use." As part of the settlement with Cuomo's office, Premier will refund those who paid to see the New York City exhibit.


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