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The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Left behind," June 28, 2008

China's thirst for oil

China's need for energy is growing faster than any other country's, according to a June 9 report by International Crisis Group. With record economic growth creating demand that outstrips supply, China's state-run oil firms are buying into oil stakes around the world, often in countries shunned by Western firms, like Sudan. In a global climate of short supply and high prices, however, China's oil development means it is expanding the world supply, benefiting consumers. Surprisingly, the study found, most Chinese-backed joint ventures produce oil that is sold on the open market, not shipped back to China: "Beijing's idea of energy security is showing signs of evolving from a mercantilist approach based on distrust of international markets . . . to a more open approach favoring international energy markets and cooperation."

Teaching violence

A federal investigation of a Saudi-funded school reveals that its textbooks condone violence against apostates, adulterers, and polytheists, but the State Department has said it has no plans to close the Virginia-based Islamic Saudi Academy. It came under scrutiny last year when the U. S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended it close until the Saudi government kept its promise to excise textbook passages promoting violence. The school and Saudi embassy refused to give the commission textbook copies, but the panel collected 17 textbooks containing passages that justify intolerance, violence, and murder.

Taking a stand

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On June 16 at 5:01 p.m., the California Supreme Court's ruling legalizing gay marriage took effect, and homosexual weddings began across most of the state. A handful of county clerks, however, shut down all civil ceremonies rather than wed same-sex couples. Clerks in Kern, Butte, and Calaveras counties are issuing same-sex marriage licenses as required by law, but are no longer solemnizing vows of any kind, citing strains on staff and budget. Near Sacramento, the Sutter County clerk-recorder's office is both issuing licenses and performing ceremonies, albeit with a mainly reluctant staff. Assistant clerk-recorder Cindy MacMillan told WORLD that most of her staff will issue licenses to same-sex couples, but have refused to perform same-sex weddings, saying to do so would violate their rights of conscience. A couple of staffers refuse to do either, MacMillan said: "They want nothing to do with it at all."

Zimbabwe at the brink

At a June 17 Nairobi press conference, Zimbabwe's civil society representatives spoke out on their country's current political crisis ahead of a June 27 runoff election. "ZANU-PF and Mugabe intend to attempt to reverse the people's verdict," said Takura Zhangazha, director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, charging Robert Mugabe's regime with "murder, torture, illegal arrests, and disappearance of people."

Observers readily believe that the military is now running the country, said Goden Moyo, executive director of Bulawayo Agenda: "We believe that the military is in charge. It is positive that we are under coup. The coup is against the opposition."

Moyo said that on June 27 Mugabe will "win using manipulating, coercion, and structures of violence" or he will "wage war against the people of Zimbabwe."

Two on the panel have been imprisoned since March 27 elections. One lost his home in a midnight militia raid. "The world must act, there is no need for this quiet diplomacy," said panelist Maureen Kademaunga.

The natural

Barack Obama met privately with about 30 prominent Christian leaders and authors earlier this month, just after he resigned as a member of Trinity Church over controversial statements made from its pulpit, in an effort to better understand the concerns of religious people and perhaps attract their votes. Franklin Graham, T.D. Jakes, and Max Lucado were among those at the Chicago gathering, where topics reportedly ranged from politics to theology. The attendees agreed not to share specifics about Obama's remarks, but a spokesman for Graham told the Associated Press that he asked the Illinois senator whether he believed Jesus was the only way to God (Obama's response was off the record).

Obama has made a point throughout his campaign of reaching out to Christians. Obama religious outreach adviser Joshua DuBois is a professing evangelical with connections to the Assemblies of God. Douglas Kmiec, a pro-life Catholic legal scholar who worked in the Reagan administration and served as an adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign, endorsed Obama for president. Kmiec, who also attended the meeting in Chicago, wrote earlier this year that "an audaciously hope-filled Democrat like Obama is a Catholic natural."

High court overreach

In a decision that outraged conservatives, the U.S. Supreme Court declared on June 12 that terror-war detainees at Guantanamo Bay may petition federal courts for their release. In Boumediene v. Bush, the high court ruled unconstitutional a provision in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that strips enemy combatants of habeas corpus rights, or the right to challenge the legality of their detention (see "Trial of the century," June 14/21). In a dissent joined by justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Antonin Scalia, chief justice John Roberts called the majority's opinion "overreaching," and "egregious," an attempt to usurp constitutional power over the fate of enemy combatants.

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