Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

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Issue: "NextGen worship," July 26, 2008

Iran: test fires and misfires

Did it work? If Iran's two episodes of test-firing medium- and long-range missiles over the Persian Gulf July 9 and 10 were meant as a provocation, then the United States has replied by sending its No. 3 diplomat from the State Department to meet with Iran's top arms negotiator in Geneva. The scheduled July 19 talks are the highest-level contact between the two nations since 1979. Undersecretary of State William Burns will attend to underscore the urgency of Iran halting its nuclear enrichment program and avoiding threatened retaliation from Israel.

Arabic-language television claimed the missiles were launched from an undisclosed location in the Iranian desert, with a range of about 1,250 miles-or capable of reaching Cairo, Athens, Istanbul, New Delhi, and Jerusalem. But subsequent reports showed Iran had doctored the missile photos and exaggerated their capability.

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A bill to stop a cut in doctor fees paid by Medicare seemed headed for defeat in the U.S. Senate after its July 4th recess. Democrats were one vote short of the 60 needed to block a Republican filibuster over the measure, which the House had passed overwhelmingly.

Then there was a stir in the Senate chamber that became a rousing ovation: An ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, in a surprise return to the Capitol for the first time since undergoing brain surgery, made his way to the floor to break the impasse. Accompanied by presidential hopeful Barack Obama, Kennedy voted "aye," then returned to Massachusetts to resume his cancer treatment. His dramatic return-which Democratic leaders had carefully staged-prompted nine Senate Republicans up for reelection this year to change their position and support the bill. It passed with 69 votes. President Bush promptly vetoed the measure, but it passed both houses with veto-proof majorities and his veto was easily overriden on July 15. At issue: whether the fees Medicare pays to doctors would be cut by 10.6 percent. Democrats instead want to cut payments to private insurers who provide coverage under Medicare Advantage.

Taking the campaign abroad

Sen. Barack Obama begins a week-long overseas tour July 21 with stops in Jordan, Israel, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. At the end of that week, the Democratic presidential contender is expected to visit Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a congressional delegation. The group is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani. While the trip is meant to shore up the candidate's foreign policy bona fides (polls show voters view Sen. John McCain more favorably on questions of national security), he may have overstepped the boundaries for someone not yet in office when his campaign asked that he be allowed to give a speech in Germany July 24 before Berlin's historic Brandenburg Gate. German Chancellor Angela Merkel balked at the request, and her spokesman said no German politician running for high office would dream of staging a campaign event on the Mall in Washington.

Returning home?

A California juvenile court on July 10 ended its oversight of the "L" family, the people at the center of a controversial case in which a state appeals court first outlawed homeschooling then granted a rehearing, reversing itself. Since that reversal, homeschooling has proceeded as before in California. Now the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), which represents Sunland Christian School, the homeschool program in the case, said the juvenile court's action should make a rehearing moot, and effectively end the matter. "The lower court's jurisdiction was a major premise on which the children's court-appointed attorneys have been pushing for their forced enrollment in public school," said PJI attorney Matt McReynolds. "Therefore the case should be over. It's certainly not clear that's what the appeals court will do, but according to jurisdictional principles, that's what we believe should happen."

Not helpful enough

Marcia Walden, a licensed counselor in Georgia, took the government to court July 14. Her complaint: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered Walden "removed" from her contract counseling position over her refusal to counsel an employee seeking help with a same-sex relationship. According to Walden, a female CDC employee sought her counsel last August, and Walden, a Christian, told the woman that to help her would conflict with her religious beliefs; therefore, it would be unfair for Walden to serve as the woman's counselor. Walden alleges she referred the woman to a colleague, who was able to see her immediately. But the client filed a complaint against Walden, charging that she was "homophobic." A week after the initial incident, the CDC ordered Walden removed from the counseling contract and her contractor fired her. Alliance Defense Fund filed suit on Walden's behalf in U.S. district court-the latest in a series of legal clashes pitting homosexual preference against citizens' religious rights of conscience.

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