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The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "Two-ring circus," Sept. 6, 2008

Remembering Katrina

Hoping against another hurricane landing, President Bush made his 13th post-Katrina visit to New Orleans to mark the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The president, who visited sites where recovery efforts are ongoing, called the city's resurgence "impressive" but noted, "there is still a lot of work to do." Kevin Brown couldn't agree more. The executive director of Trinity Christian Community has been knee-deep in Big Easy recovery efforts, particularly in the neighborhood of Carrollton. While over 90 percent of Carrollton residents have returned to rebuilt homes-Brown said government officials "still haven't figured out how to connect with the grassroots people who are actually getting the work done." The city hasn't rebuilt public schools in Carrollton, but has rebuilt them in the lower Ninth Ward, where only 11 percent of residents have returned. But even that has a silver lining: Community and national groups have launched a chain of charters in the neighborhood, setting them up wherever they can find space. "Carrollton now has more charter schools than any place in the country," Brown said. The downside: Some kids have to travel to get to school. The upside: "I think the education is improving as a result."

Conference on covering Islam

The annual conference of the Religion Newswriters Association, an organization that promotes the importance of religion reporting, this year features covering Islam, thanks to grants from the Henry Luce Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Speakers for the Islam-focused portion of the event on Sept. 17 will give presentations on the rise of Muslim women in leadership roles and the increased participation of all American Muslims in civic and interfaith life. Later, during the main portion of the conference, which runs Sept. 18-21 at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza in Washington D.C., a panel will discuss credible Islamic sources for journalists to quote. RNA associate director Tiffany A. McCallen says the goal of the event is "to train the nation's religion reporters to write about religion with balance, accuracy, and insight." One Nation, a nonpartisan group representing American Muslims, is chief sponsor of the conference's Islam program.

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(Note: The above article has been corrected to reflect that the name of the organization holding the conference is the Religion Newswriters Association and that One Nation is a nonpartisan organization.)

Storm watch

A dog clung to a fence to escape rising water in Charlotte, N.C., Aug. 27, as the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay swept through the southeast. The dog was not injured, but storm watchers prepared for a Gulf Coast landing of Hurricane Gustav, which killed 23 people in the Caribbean.

A moral evil

On the Aug. 24 episode of NBC's Meet the Press, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic Democrat, claimed that a precise definition about when life begins has been "an issue of controversy" throughout the history of the church. She said "doctors of the church" have been unable to definitively settle the matter. Au contraire, say Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, both of whom issued official refutations of Pelosi's misrepresentation. In a statement posted to the archdiocesan website, Chaput wrote, "Nancy Pelosi is a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills. Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them." The statement went on to denounce as "gravely evil" both abortion and "the evasions employed to justify it." Wuerl's public statement called every abortion "a moral evil" and asserted an unchanging historical precedent for that position dating back to the first-century church.

Surviving Spanair

The first of 18 survivors of the worst plane crash in over a year, 6-year-old Roberto Alvarez Carretero, left a hospital in Madrid Aug. 25, five days after a Spanair jet bound for the Canary Islands crashed during takeoff, killing 154 people. A catastrophic week for Madrid-based Spanair continued, however, as that same day yet another MD-82 operated by the airline was forced to turn back due to a technical problem. A Spanair jet also flying to the Canary Islands was diverted Aug. 24 because of a problem with a backup generator. In April, the Federal Aviation Administration inspected American Airlines MD-80s and found wiring bundles had been improperly wrapped and attached inside wheel wells, forcing the airline to cancel over 3,000 flights. Plane manufacturer Boeing and aviation officials continue to investigate the cause of the Madrid crash.

Driving for autism

Thanks to 17-year-old Girl Scout Natalie Pope of Crestwood, Ky., motorists in the Bluegrass State are commuting with a license plate decorated with blue, yellow, and red puzzle pieces and the words "Autism Awareness." Natalie appears to be the first her age to both create a specialty plate and organize the effort to issue it-a task usually attempted only by organizations, since it requires 900 prepaid plates at $28 each before transportation officials will manufacture and sell them.

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